Mike Beversluis

Monday, June 30, 2008

Gallery of Sawn-I-Half Cameras


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Let them eat nutraloaf

Yeah, the Supremes can go ahead and worry about the death-penalty and hand-gun bans, but does "nutraloaf" violate the Eight Amendment: Can prison food be unconstitutionally bad? Yes, I imagine, but nutrialoaf does not sink to quite that low:

Even unsympathetic courts seem willing to concede that Nutraloaf is pretty disgusting, but after reading through the court filings in these cases, I couldn't shake a nagging question—just how bad is it? Nutraloaf is made differently in different prisons. Vermont's penal cookbook calls for a combination of vegetables, beans, bread, cheese, and raisins. I recently spent $15 on a nearly identical dish at a vegan cafe in New York—and it didn't even have raisins. In a spirit of legal and culinary adventurousness, I decided to make some Nutraloaf of my own.

He should have named the cafe, so that they could advertise their food as constitutionally legal. Anyway, he makes a bunch, and then serves it to guests at a dinner party. Which is cruel and unusual.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Jeff Vader

Eddy Izzard: The Death Star Canteena [language]


Everything's linear

If you'd like to be a physicist, but want to skip 6-10 years of graduate school, here's a short-cut: Read the above headline while putting your hands up to block the sides of your vision and then go "La la la..." If you don't want to pretend that everything is a simple harmonic oscillator, you can try to add a cubic or quintic term to the restoring force. Then work out the math. Anything higher-order than that you usually do numerically. Ta da.

Anyway, here's a neat story about the 728-ton stabilizing tuned-damped oscillator at the top of a skyscraper in Tapei. Check out the video of it during an earthquake.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Chinese custom officials get reviewed in real-time as they process you... I wonder if the boxes are hooked up to anything, but, still imagine this at the DMV.


Deep Thoughts

I watched the post-war noir The Third Man, the film with the famous Orson Wells Cuckoo Clock Speech:

"In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed — they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

Anyway, I think you could write an essay about how The Third Man is the anti-Casablanca, with Wells as the anti-Bogart, Alida Valli as the anti-Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotton playing the anti-Victor Lazlo, and the Major Calloway character as the anti-Captain Louis Renault. If Casablanca is romantic and idealistic, The Third Man is broken and cynical. Which makes sense since Graham Greene wrote the story. They should shown them back to back. Also, Ebert is quoted in that wikipedia article about how appropriate the Zyther soundtrack sounds. It doesn't, and often jarringly so.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Terminator 2.1

Terminator 2 Sweded: Low Budgment Day

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Going out West

Somehow I look at this and think the East Coast got off easy. But very cool graphic.

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Monday, June 16, 2008


When audiophile is synonomous with sucker: $499 Ethernet cables

N.B.: That's kinda always true. Do click through for the amazon reviews.

Going by depreciation rates, stereos are like jewelery or designer shoes for men. That all said, I have a fancy stereo. As always, understanding a problem isn't the same as solving it.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Flashy new technologies

I don't understand how it works, but here is a washing machine based on a design developed at the University of Leeds that works with just a tiny bit of water. And here is the website of the "Xeros" company which builds it.

Apart this, for indulging in irony

"The University's vision is to secure a place among the world's top 50 by 2015."

aim that I would imagine is shared by more than 50 universities.

Friday, June 06, 2008

You are here


Thursday, June 05, 2008

All swans are grey in the dark

Lots of interesting ideas and some odd ones too: Nassim Nicholas Taleb: the prophet of boom and doom, by Bryan Appleyard, From The Sunday Times, June 1, 2008

I liked this one:

Every year he puts a few thousand dollars aside for contingencies – parking tickets, tea spills – and at the end of the year he gives what’s left to charity. The money is gone from day one, so unexpected losses cause no pain.

But a little less this:

He was educated at a French school. Three traditions formed him: Greek Orthodox, French Catholic and Arab. They also taught him to disbelieve conventional wisdom. Each tradition had a different history of the crusades, utterly different. This led him to disbelieve historians almost as much as he does bankers.

But, crucially, he also learnt from a very early age that grown-ups have a dodgy grasp of probability. It was in the midst of the Lebanese civil war and, hiding from the guns and bombs, he heard adults repeatedly say the war would soon be over. It lasted 15 years. He became obsessed with probability and, after a degree in management from the Wharton business school at Pennsylvania University, he focused on probability for his PhD at the University of Paris.

For the non-mathematician, probability is an indecipherably complex field. But Taleb makes it easy by proving all the mathematics wrong. Let me introduce you to Brooklyn-born Fat Tony and academically inclined Dr John, two of Taleb’s creations. You toss a coin 40 times and it comes up heads every time. What is the chance of it coming up heads the 41st time? Dr John gives the answer drummed into the heads of every statistic student: 50/50. Fat Tony shakes his head and says the chances are no more than 1%. “You are either full of crap,” he says, “or a pure sucker to buy that 50% business. The coin gotta be loaded.”

The chances of a coin coming up heads 41 times are so small as to be effectively impossible in this universe. It is far, far more likely that somebody is cheating. Fat Tony wins. Dr John is the sucker. And the one thing that drives Taleb more than anything else is the determination not to be a sucker. Dr John is the economist or banker who thinks he can manage risk through mathematics. Fat Tony relies only on what happens in the real world.

I think this is less profound than it appears. It's the hidden variable theory of smartness. Exactly what's the recipe to become Fat Tony and not Dr John? By being cynical? Going around pointing out that the emperor has no clothes isn't of much use in a nudist colony. That's Socrates gig, anyway. As to not getting fooled or taken as a sucker, well, don't bet on coin tosses - hard to cheat an honest man, etc, etc.

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

That's not a knife

Pardon the car-kick - I fall off the wagon once in awhile, but -- Dayamm (that's an Ultima GTR, mit turbos, sans rear cover).

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Monday, June 02, 2008


This one is just about perfect: 1967 Porsche 911.

And while I'm in never-never land, here's an all-aluminum Ford block with repoped Ardun heads. Just nestle it in between the rails of '32 highboy roadster, and well, that'd be pretty sweet...