Monday, August 9, 2010

Several Completed Projects

Well, the thank you gifts for last years holiday in Pennsylvania are nearly ready (I am just sort two more black and gold, so my dear wife just told me). I was knitting much of the holiday and was able to finish one. I guess we will be sending them to my MIL when I get the second one done.

The holiday went well. We and the children had much fun and were busy most of the time. We went swimming off Presque Isle in Lake Erie, boating on Pymatuning Lake, and spent a day at Kennywood Park. Makes me want to find similar attractions here around Raleigh, NC to entice our family to come down for a visit.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Automobile Control Research Opens Door To New Safety Features

NC State has developed computer vision programs that can keep a car in a lane on a highway. Dr. Wesley Snyder says they have gone even farther, "our program maintains an awareness of multiple lanes and traffic in those lanes.” (See the NC State Newsroom article linked in the title for more details)

How will traffic look in five to ten years if most of the cars we encounter on the road have such "auto pilot" controls or safety systems? I was tempted to think in idyllic terms, but I'm not so sure. To many drivers out there want to be ahead of everyone else. We see them passing the queue in the exit lane only to signal and squeeze/merge in at the last minutes just to be a few car lengths ahead of where they were before. I'm often tempted to write a traffic simulation. Then I think about what behavior I would need to model to make it a good predictor of actual traffic patterns. It always comes down to observing that lawfulness is inversely related to a selfishness or "self-importance" factor.

My computer traffic model dreams are almost always sparked by an interchange or intersection that seems to be poorly designed. Occasionally it is a tangent to answering how we as a driving community can exert social pressure upon badly behaved drivers to make them conform to driving laws and courtesy. Ah, a proverbial "tail-pipe" dream. Yes, sucking in the exhaust from the big belching behemoths called SUV's may contribute to these fanciful cogitations of cordial commuters.

Okay, NC State University, here is my challenge to you. Build a computer vision program that recognizes the cars and their license plates, combine it with observing the speed and noting unsafe driving actions of the other vehicles and add wireless Internet access to post these driving statistics to twitter. Then we can enjoy driving again as our cars with your computer vision identify hazardous drivers and give us a heads up display. It only needs one graphic, like the yellow first down line for football, just project the clearly visible words "stupid driver" onto the cars that have logged bad behaviors in twitter.

Then again perhaps yellow is not the best choice in this pine pollen drenched state.

--John <)B^D≈

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Knitting Olympics : One Row Scarf and A Hat (Toque) to Match

Somehow I found myself caught up in the Olympic spirit while visiting The Yarn Harlot's site. I had browsed to her site to read the one row scarf pattern; then I ended up joining her 2010 Knitting Olympics.
--Interuption. I'll have to come back and finish this later.--

It is/was a knit-along of individuals. We selected our project to be a personal challenge to complete in 17 days. Start with cast on at the opening ceremony (swatches could be done as "training" before the opening of the Olympics) and then complete before the end of the closing ceremony on Feb 28, 2010. I chose a stocking hat and a simple one row scarf. I completed the hat but not so much the scarf. It was only half the length I had intended so I figure it as a gold in one event and no medal in in the second event.

So, I'll add one medal to this post. And a sincere Thank you to Stephanie and Franklin.

--Jack <)B^D≈

Friday, February 19, 2010

Parking in the wrong spot

I think I took a wrong turn today. My friends were commiserating about how some people seem to be self absorbed and feel entitled to disobey rules made for safety as well as courtesy. They were speaking of people who parked in the middle of where they aren't suppose to park. These poor parkers were causing inconvenience to many other and were even impairing public safety.

I began my reply but then, like driving onto a patch of ice, my control of direction was stripped from me. I was researching lists of virtues and even found the scouts oath/promise and laws we teach our boys and girls. At some point in reading them I was convicted of failing to following what I was reading. I will recount my sliding path for you. Perhaps we can learn to spot the icy patches in our lives.

Decency has become less and less common. Good sense is no longer using it's middle name, common. Face it! We live in a "Me, now!" world where every one is taught to stand out and not be common.

Is it time to morn the death of these two family members? Which of their siblings still survive them?

Boy Scout Law:

A Scout is

     trustworthy, loyal,

     helpful, friendly,

     courteous, kind,

     obedient, cheerful,

     thrifty, brave,

     clean, and reverent.

The Girl Scout Law:

I will do my best to be

     honest and fair,

     friendly and helpful,

     considerate and caring,

     courageous and strong, and

     responsible for what I say and do,

and to

     respect myself and others,

     respect authority,

     use resources wisely,

     make the world a better place, and

     be a sister to every Girl Scout.

I was about to join in the lamenting of the poor parking practices of people I didn't know. It suddenly occurred to me I wasn't being friendly or kind, nor was I brave or helpful. The world we live in is far from perfect. We continually hear news of tragedy and horror. It is difficult to be brave and extend an invitation to be friendly to a stranger. It is easier to be courageous in a group, like in a social mixer for "bus stop neighbors" at a local café or bookstore.

A discussion of weather and the recent snow could lead to talking about narrow roads and limited parking. One could lament that there is barely enough space for three cars at the bus stop and that each driver would need to be good at parallel parking.

I don't often have to Parallel Park and I realized a short time ago my skills had nearly disappeared. I have since made an effort to practice and I can again triumphantly smile at the 6 inch gap between my tires and curb. I must remember, however, no to gloat about it because I do drive a Saturn and it is uncommonly well suited for those short parking spaces that are often the only ones available.

--Jack <)B^D≈

Friday, January 15, 2010

Paws in pants

Paws in pants
Originally uploaded by Off Jumps Jack
Anyone who's seen the animated move, Up, knows of he "cone of shame." This is our dog back when he was a puppy and had just come home from being fixed. He looks quite happy without the cone of shame.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

How do you Soar?

I once was programmer, database administrator and systems analyst. My career moved up a notch to network administrator and database programmer. I again upgraded to network field engineer. Then I became a network professional in a large team that managed one of the top three global, financial, data networks.

Stress can be much like the heat of the sun, get too much and your health may suffer.

Now I am happy and more fulfilled as a senior helpdesk analyst.

I really like being able to directly help people.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Tornado Outbreak - May 31, 1985

May 31, 1985, is a day that has changed me; forever. Thunderstorms never bother me much; I can still sleep through the biggest and noisiest of them. But when they bother me now, it is a sign to my wife and children to stay close and be ready to seek shelter. After that day I will forever know when the conditions are just right for a tornado. I know it in my bones.

I mean that it is my body that seems to recognize the conditions before I even think about it. It is strange when your brain has to figure out why your body has released adrenaline. It all comes back in a heart beat and I remember and I know what to look for and what to do if I see the signs.

I was in Albion, PA, shopping at the IGA with my mom when the weather turned. The heavy rains and winds had stopped and I was suddenly very edgy and just wanted to leave. I don't know what my mom saw in my face when I suggested we hurry up and leave, but she stopped with her list still incomplete. We checked out and left the store before the rain started up again. We were barely half a mile out of town when I saw what I thought was the thickest column of gray smoke I'd ever seen rolling across the sky. It was just visible in the top left corner of the windshield and I followed the column to the left and finally recognized it as a tornado. It met the ground not more than 1000 feet south of the road we were on; a raised roadway that was about 30 feet above the fields on either side as we approached the ridge ahead.

It passed us. The radio hadn't mention more than severe thunder storms. I wanted to race back into town to warn people. But I realized there was nothing I could do.

An hour or so later I returned to town to help, so much was just flattened and I couldn't figure out which street was which except by knowing the relative position to State Street and the Bessemer and Lake Erie railroad. I remember seeing one house standing in the middle of a four block area that once had some forty houses or more and many trees. It was alone and I recognized it as the home of my high school chemistry teacher. They were all safe. I helped them repair their home in the following days.

That day Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, New York, and Ontario had been hit with the most tornadoes in one day in recorded history. "In that one day, the Commonwealth suffered more deaths from tornadoes than were recorded from 1916 to 1985!" There were 12 deaths in my home town and over 80 across the tri-state area. More than 40 tornados were confirmed, with about five reaching the highest Fujita scale rating of F5.

The day the twisters came an article appearing in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 20 years later.

National Weather Service - Cleveland, Ohio Office information on the May 31, 1985 Outbreak.

A Map of some of the tornadoes