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(no subject) [Sep. 17th, 2003|10:40 pm]
[Current Mood |curiouscurious]

Just a thought: does anyone else eat corn on the cob helically, or is it just me?

I'm sure it's much more efficient than consecutive rings - even if you do need two passes to get all of it (a double helix! :D) :p.
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Hooray for: [Sep. 16th, 2003|11:55 am]
[Current Mood |whimsical]

An assortment of things,Collapse )
not least a pictorial explanation of my previous entry!
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From the Encyclopaedia Galactica, 2978 edition: [Sep. 2nd, 2003|11:05 pm]

Urbanised insects: An Overview

...Perhaps the most unusual of all is the Mosaic Wasp (Vespula tesserae), a species of the genus that is now widespread throughout the Galaxy wherever the climate, vegetation and local sapient life-forms combine to produce jam sandwiches at picnics. In contrast to the cellulose-based nests of its evolutionary relatives, V. tesserae is closer to the "potter" wasps in its style of building. However, instead of using mud the wasp has adapted to assembling refuges out of small pieces of broken glass (frequently found in combination with the jam sandwiches, a subject which has yet to be adequately researched). These fragments are held together with the same linseed-oil-based putty used by indigenous hominids for the same purpose, and indeed individuals of the worker caste may frequently be seen during the summer months excavating holes at the corners of windows to obtain additional building materials.

This species is clearly one of the most dependent on the products of (albeit primitive) industry for its survival yet studied. Curiously, populations have been observed in uninhabited areas to collect crystals of transparent minerals for construction purposes, but so far the question of whether this is a reversion to the ancestral behaviour pattern or merely a case of the natural resembling the artificial remains undecided.

A distinct subspecies (V. tesserae var. fulgor), noticeable by its mirror-like wings, has been identified that seems to nest exclusively near high-grade optical equipment manufacturing facilities. The known reproductive potential of the genus Vespula suggests that there would be intense competition for such rare habitats; however, research has been hampered by a series of (fortunately extremely localised) fires that has occurred near the known colonies, in every case destroying the collected data. The anecdotal evidence which has been obtained indicates that the wasps seem to be aware of such an event in advance: some adopt a characteristic wings-raised posture at either end of the transparent red cylinders that frequently dominate the structure of their nests, while others line the evenly-curved floor of their homes wing-to-wing. The sight is said to be dazzling, and often distracts the researchers from their work, thus explaining why objective results have so far never been recovered.
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Here we are again,/Happy as can be... [Aug. 20th, 2003|11:10 pm]
Well, I am finally back home (and have been for about 10 days now...) and am finding it exactly the same as I remembered - nearly. What is depressing, though, is that it seems to be finding me exactly the same as it remembers me, too; I have no idea whether I have changed or "grown up" at all during my Gap year, but I have a suspicion that I haven't. Any differences between me in Britain and me in Australia melted away once I left the southern hemisphere, and now I can hardly believe some of the things I found myself able to do there. Oh well...

In other news, I found a nice paradox by the expedient of exploding a toasted sandwich maker: having not been used for about 10 years, it was rather greasy and so my sister volunteered to clean it. She did a very good job of it, taking about twenty minutes over it, and at the end we left it to dry for a while before switching it on. It made a slight fizzing sound, which I attributed to a drop of water boiling off a heating element; then, just as I was preparing the sandwiches, a swarm of orange sparks shot out of the back accompanied by a loud bang. Slightly puzzled by this, I replaced the fuse and tried again, whereupon the same thing happened without bothering to buzz first. Looking at the machine again, I noticed a small burnt-looking hole in the cable and the stainless-steel spring surrounding it, and pronounced it officially deceased. When I told my sister this, she looked crestfallen (she had also been looking forward to a toasted sandwich) and said, "But if I'd known it was going to do that then I woudn't have bothered cleaning it!".
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Eschatology [Jun. 11th, 2003|10:37 pm]
[Current Mood |Wistful]

Well, the deadline for Pentagoon was yesterday afternoon, and we finally handed in the report (60 pages long, including appendices); as per erica_freak's request, I have put the PDF version on my website, along with some QuickTime movies of it climbing up stairs, down stairs and over an obstacle (a multimeter) on my website, which has now moved to www.davidwyatt.me.uk (the previous one will expire when I leave UNSW). The robot behaved itself remarkably well in the presentation, and I observed that for that section our group had been given the joint highest mark (8.5/10) - not that it matters for me anyway, but it's nonetheless quite nice :).

So many things seem to be coming to an end as I reach the end of my time here. I am in the process of saying goodbye to all the people I have met, and being taken out to meals by a fair proportion of them; I also yesterday returned a side panel of BLUEsat that I had been lent at the beginning of session and had failed to do anything useful with. The last Robocup Junior committee meeting I will attend happened today, and tomorrow I will finally return a sleeping bag I borrowed to take to New Zealand over Easter. So many things, all neatly folding themselves up and leaving me more and more alone.

...bracket after bracket was finally closing, if clauses were finally ending, repeat loops halting, recursive functions calling themselves for the last few times...
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Oh, and I forgot to add: [Jun. 4th, 2003|09:14 pm]
[Current Mood |Persistently pleased]

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After Magritte (or not as the case may be) [Jun. 4th, 2003|03:01 pm]
The problem with having achieved the above is that I am now feeling slightly manic, possibly as a result also of having carried a box of (chicken) eggs (the 20th century going economically peculiar again: the box of 12 eggs I bought, while it was reduced to clear (for no terribly apparent reason - it was best before the 14th June and not damaged in any way), was cheaper than all but the very cheapest type of boxes of 6 eggs) under my arm through most of UNSW in the sunshine; oh well, it's near enough for me. I'm sure a few good pages of involved technical description will bring me back down to earth, though...
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Pentagoon works! [Jun. 4th, 2003|02:46 pm]
[Current Mood |Paternal pride]

The five-legged robot, Pentagoon, that I have been devoting approximately the last 3 months to constructing and then programming actually now functions at a low approximation to what we intended it to do, rather than not at all! Having at very long last put all the legs together and written the necessary control software for both the local leg "ganglia" and the "central nervous system" (including the extraction of several irritating problems that disappeared when you tried to look to see where they were happening (turns that sending the debugging information was having enough of a delaying effect to solve the problem, but it had the side-effect of giving the robot a reaction time of about 1s to bumping into things - not terribly utilificacious...), subsequently dubbed "Heisenbugs"), it can climb up or down (but not both at once, as yet and probably never unless someone gives it the ability to detect when it is just about to drive off the edge of something) a not-very-steep flight of steps.

Nonetheless, *assortedly divers alarums and excursions*!

Especially since we have found no proof that anyone else ever to have *built* such a robot; all we know is that Hans Moravec says (but has now lost the reference saying that) Hitachi originally had the idea in the early 1980s.

I cannot, and do not attempt to, claim more than half of the credit for doing this; I have been working in a team with another (far more highly-talented) comp:sci: to build it, and without him I probably would not even have tried to do so; especially since the professor in charge never believed we would manage it and instead wanted us to make a Killough platform, which would all-in-all have been extremely mundane by comparison (you can even buy a kit developed by Carnegie Mellon university! Where's the challenge in that?). Nonetheless, even half the credit is enough to make me feel quite pleased. Now, of course, all we have to do is write the report on it...

I am feeling so excited I have even put up a picture of it, and even a movie. The latter is slightly out-of-date, in that it does not have quicker reflexes, but at least it shows it working!
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Aoteroa [Apr. 21st, 2003|11:02 am]
Bother't identidem; but excuses am I in possession of, currently: I am in New Zealand (Christchurch, to be precise) on holiday! Have I been aroundwardly travelling in a campervan a friend from Win: Coll: with, and thus do I apologise for not in communica being... (not that I am at it terribly good anyway!) I am now of the opinion that holidays cost far too much, though, especially when you cannot cook your own food; they don't even have any very worthwhile minerals around here, excepting "Goodletite", a mix of ruby, fuschite and tourmaline which apparently only to be found in one specific locality (and is not terribly cheap at that, even when bought from the only supplier (a mad Dutchman)). Jetboating also to be overrated, even "Hamilton turns" (named, of course, not after the physicist but the inventor of the jetboat engine (unless they were one and the same?) - it's just like "Asteroids" :p. There is at least an official wizard here, one of the few other eclunktric people I have met, who even used to be the Wizard of UNSW (morphic fields!). Then will I return to Sydney far too early on Wednesday, there to continue non-work-type activities in the company of my friend including, but not limited to, negotiating the arc as opposed to the flat of the Harbour Bridge...

Therefore will I be more responsive hereafter, not quite at the moment I am afraid. I wish to all those to who it has just ceased to be the day (oh well, never mind...) a very happy Easter and hope you have a nice holiday!
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Cooking yet more... [Apr. 7th, 2003|06:21 pm]
[Current Mood |pleasedpleased]

I have been advised to curtail to a slightly greater degree than hitherto my depositions to this electronic repository, and thus I will attempt to be more concise (or, at least, not inclusive) than usual.

I like chopping almonds! Last night I made toad in the hole, chocolate biscuits and Easter (not Scotch, I'm afraid, but I didn't want to end up with a spare egg white and the contents sounded more exciting) shortbread (i.e. containing chopped peel and chopped almonds), and to save money I decided to buy unchopped almonds and chop them myself :). It was actually quite satisfying the way that I started with a pile of large round things that would occasionally shoot out when I tried to chop them and ended up with a pile of small pieces of almond (plus a liberal distribution of same around the kitchen) - I heartily recommend it to work off aggression (and surplus almonds). Pictures are on my (updated) website, if you want to look...

Oh, and the results of the cooking were nice too :). (I mean, you would have thought that "I like cakes" would be short for "I like eating cakes", but in my case it seems "I like cooking cakes" would do, too.)

And on Saturday I went to Canberra by coach, which was interesting; it is a planned (like Milton Keynes) capital (unlike Milton Keynes), so all the major buildings are separated by enough trees that you cannot actually see anything apart from the building at which you are - a most peculiar design, I would say. I went to a couple of museums, including the National Museum of Australia (rather too much like the Millennium Dome in terms of trying-to-feel-good-about-our-national-identity-through-hi-tech-exhibits-and-heavily-designered-displays but better (which is not hard!)) and the Australian War Memorial. Is it just me that finds it odd that the Australian War Memorial fulfills the functions of both the Imperial War Museum and the Cenotaph, and that the Australian Museum [of Natural History] sells butterflies in glass cases and Perspex keyrings containing scorpions in its gift shop? Oh well, never mind...

Tomorrow I get to go and teach high-school students about robot football and (hopefully not!) have my robot roundly beaten at their robots' hands ball-holding appendages; the last time I did that one particular pair of students sat and smiled at me in a very patronising way for the entire time without actually doing anything annoying about which I could feel properly irked at them. I said I didn't want to be a school teacher!

I've got 5 nice silver-plated printed circuit boards for Pentagoon's legs now, too :D.

I shall stop this here, before it gets any longer than it was supposed to be - bother. But how does one conclude such an exposition? Probably just by stopping...
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