…the (much bigger) SwashBot2!
Stick with the video for more explanation of the concept.
…the (much bigger) SwashBot2!
Stick with the video for more explanation of the concept.
These are my Not Very Useful Dice.
The “crooked in every sense” red six-siders are oddly satisfying objects. They’re classic, if rather large, sharp-edged casino dice, except for the obvious.
I haven’t thrown them enough times to see what kind of result distribution the crooked d6s give. In the aggregate they’re probably actually quite fair, since they’re all somewhat close to cubic and they have the proper numbering scheme, with opposite sides adding to seven.
(I think they’re actually likely to throw a bit low, since the smaller sides on four of them are all ones, plus one two and one six. Frankly, I just want to try sneaking them onto a craps table some day. If you want some of your own, try searching for “crooked dice“; a set of six shouldn’t set you back more than $US15 delivered.)
The other three dice are perfectly fair. Just… not very useful.
The blue one’s a d24, a tetrakis hexahedron (one of two possible shapes for a d24 - the other is, of course, the deltoidal icositetrahedron). In gaming, you actually can use a d24 to quickly determine on which hour of the day some random event takes place. But you can also do that in various other ways on the rare occasions when you have to - like, for instance, a d4 to determine the quarter-day and a d6 to pick the hour of that quarter.
So the d24’s appeal remains… specialised. Dungeons and Dragons used to use d24s for a few things, but it doesn’t any more. (D12s seem to have been similarly deprecated.)
I think the d30 has a certain… machismo.
It’s hard to top that, if you don’t have big brass ones.
The d30 can also be substituted for by other dice, though I don’t think there’s any terribly elegant way to do it - perhaps a rolling-pin d3 (itself substitutable by a halved d6) for tens, plus a d10 for units. This isn’t something you’re likely to need to do very often, though, since d30s are almost as unpopular as d24s. People use them now and then to represent some sort of boost (lucky artifact, you’re the son of a god, you bought the DM a pizza) for what would normally be a d20 roll. That’s about it.
Lou is probably royally sick of the sight of his d100, since he spent ages trying to make the darn thing work right, and it still doesn’t, really.
The main problem with a 100-sider is that it’s basically a golf ball, and so any sort of fair roll will take ludicrously long to settle compared with the normal “d100″, which is just a pair of d10s, one for tens and one for units.
To address the rolling-across-the-room problem, Lou made his d100 hollow and partially filled it with teardrop-shaped metal weights, which slow its roll considerably, and also make it usable as a very small maraca. The d100 is still really only a curiosity, though, and may or may not be biased in favour of the more-widely-spaced numbers nearer its equator.
Companies like Chessex, Koplow Games and Lou Zocchi’s Gamescience make a number of other impractical novelty dice. The d5, d7, d14 and d16, for instance, and even the majestic d34. Unfortunately, though, most of the weird-numbered dice that I don’t already own are of the pyramids-stuck-together trapezohedron type, which as the side-count rises makes them look more and more like a spinning top rather than a die. The d34 has a particularly severe case of this disease.
I’m still tempted to acquire them, though, so I can have a whole Crown Royal bag full of dice that nobody can use.
If you’re at all interested in the aesthetic appeal of dice, by the way, allow me to highly recommend sleight-of-hand grandmaster Ricky Jay’s book “Dice: Deception, Fate, and Rotten Luck“, a slim volume which alternates gambling - and cheating - history with a lot of gorgeous pictures of decaying six-siders.
Behold, the “Virtual Wall“!
It’s a “barrier made up of plasma laser beams depicting pedestrians” to alert drivers to people crossing, more effectively than could a normal red light.
A magnificent idea, with only two minor drawbacks.
One, there’s no way to make lasers do this, and two, there’s no way to make lasers do this. I know that technically speaking that’s only one drawback, but I thought it was such a big one, it was worth mentioning twice.
A few of the commenters on the Yanko Design page have pointed out that you can’t make a laser beam that’s, I don’t know, fatter in the middle, or something, unless you put optics out there in the display area. You’d either have to do that, or otherwise cause the lasers to scatter more light from one part of their beams than from another. This can’t be done unless you blow something like smoke into the beam, and somehow magically make it hang there in the air in the shape of the image you want to create.
There are “displays” that do something rather like this with drops of water…
…metered out by solenoids in a sort of a giant skinny inkjet print head. But you can’t do that with lasers unless you’re happy with your images zooming across the display at the speed of light, which is generally a little too quick for motorists to notice.
I know that most designers are not blithering idiots, but there seems to be an endless supply of things like this, and that idiotic Gravia lamp, trying to persuade me otherwise.
Surely the absolute bedrock of design has to be making sure that what you’re designing can actually exist in the real world. If you can actually get good marks in a design course by pulling the basics of your product out of your fundament and then concentrating on the packaging and presentation, aren’t you really just doing marketing?
Behold: A way to automatically calibrate a projector to put a full image onto an arbitrarily aligned screen.
Even, thanks to the non-zero size of the image source, if that screen is facing slightly away from the projector.
This system can only lay as many pixels across the screen as the projector’s lens would manage anyway, of course, but if the Carnegie Mellon researchers do manage to turn this into a real-time system, the image will be able to follow the screens around pretty much seamlessly.
So it’ll be kind of like a real-world version of those augmented reality systems in which video images of specially printed objects “grow” extra stuff:
A spammer has just used my e-mail address as the return address for a good-sized run of spam. Gee, it’s fun when that happens.
In case this is all new to you: There is nothing verified about the From: or Reply-To: lines in an e-mail. A sender can put whatever they like in there. Spammers do this as a matter of course, generally picking some address out of the same list to which they’re sending the spam, or picking something relevant-sounding like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
It seems, at least, that Internet users are now savvy enough that they don’t send outraged messages to these bogus reply addresses any more. Or maybe the people who’re prone to do that are all now just behind good enough spam filters that they never get to see that “I” sent them 300 porn spams today. So that’s a relief.
But I’ve still ended up with the thick end of three thousand “backscatter” bounce messages from moronic mail servers that don’t check to see whether, perchance, incoming obvious spam might just possibly not have a genuine reply address. Nope, they (a) accept the mail, even though they could tell instantly that it’s for an address that doesn’t exist, and (b) then cheerfully send an error e-mail. And they send that error e-mail to the Reply-To address, because how could the Reply-To for “Hot replica watches from 2008″ or “ivagra ciails” possibly not be real!?
What mail servers should do in this situation is check the recipient before they accept the message, and reject message delivery if the recipient does not exist. Then an error gets sent directly to the sending mail server.
Backscatter will still exist even if every mail server got this right, but it’d be restricted to far rarer things like “I’m out of the office” messages, and other kinds of autoresponder systems.
The backscatter bounce flow seems to have slacked off a bit, now; it’s down to about five bounces a minute. And it’s not terribly onerous for me to MailWash all of those bounces out of existence. Actually filtering backscatter bounces is a bit tricky - in essence, you probably do want to receive bounces from messages you actually sent, and backscatter bounces look very much the same - but manually deleting them with some sort of header-preview tool like MailWasher is no big deal.
Mixed in among the thousands of bounces, though, were a few other things, one of which I’d never seen before.
For every few hundred nonexistent-address errors, you see, there are a few “please confirm your subscription” messages. Those are from mailing list servers that treat anything sent to email@example.com as a subscribe request, even if it’s an ad for porn or watches or pharmaceuticals.
This does no real harm - it’s just another darn message in among the bounces - unless the list is one of the old-style ones that don’t require a subscribe confirmation.
Here’s a new one, though. This spammer sucessfully UNSUBSCRIBED me from a mailing list!
I’m a subscriber to Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox list, which is administered by Sparklist. It’s normal for mailing list unsubscribe requests to not require a confirmation, and clearly Sparklist don’t spam-filter unsubscribe messages. So when the spammer sent some piece of crap or other to firstname.lastname@example.org, “from” email@example.com, it cheerfully unsubscribed me.
My actual Alertbox e-mails have a different unsubscribe address, leave-alertbox-[seven-digit-number]Y@laser.sparklist.com, which probably isn’t in any spammer’s database, and would be unlikely to be generated randomly either (yes, spammers send spam to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org…). But I just tried unsubscribing by e-mailing plain old email@example.com, and it worked just fine. So I reckon that’s the button the spammer pressed.
I just subscribed to Alertbox again, so there’s no real harm done there, either. But it was a pure fluke that I noticed the lone “Alertbox unsubscribe confirmation” message in the middle of the thousands of bounces and other messages. It didn’t even come from the same address as the subscribe confirmation messages, so whitelisting that address wouldn’t have helped me. If this had been some mailing list that was essential for my job, or something, I could have missed a few issues before I noticed.
Thanks again, spammers! You’re doing a heck of a job!
Behold: The SwashBot! (via)
It’s based around swashplate-type linkages, and it’s another fine CrabFu product (previously). It’s not as steam-y or track-y as CrabFu’s usual products, and it’s also not yet mentioned on the CrabFu site.
That cat’s clearly dealt with things a lot scarier than this.
[UPDATE: It’s become a fad!]This theremin has what sounds like a pretty nasty Stylophone sawtooth waveform, as opposed to the classic, more mellow, otherworldly-violin…
…but it’s a theremin nonetheless.
Musical cats do not, of course, usually show any awareness that there’s a connection between what they’re doing and the noises that’re being made. The cat walks down the piano because that’s how you get to the windowsill; the cat plays the theremin because it enjoys bopping the interesting springy wire.
I knew that people occasionally sold allegedly-haunted paintings or dolls or whatever on eBay. Big deal; people sell all sorts of goofy crap there, now and then.
But “haunted dolls” appear to be becoming a mainstream product, now. There are more than a hundred of the darn things on ebay.com right now. And a “Completed Items” search shows that this isn’t just some nutty seller who never gets a sale. People buy these things quite routinely, for average prices around $US30. Occasional outliers, with unusually florid all-caps gibberish in their descriptions and unusually blurry product shots, sell for more than a hundred bucks a doll.
Given that the dolls probably come from thrift stores and so cost close to nothing (old dolls are cheaper, and they look creepier! It’s a win-win!), this looks like a pretty neat business to be in.
To realise your $US25-plus of profit per item, you do apparently need to write at least a thousand words describing all the creepy stuff each doll is supposed to do. But I’m sure a certain amount of copy-and-paste will pass unnoticed by the extremely sophisticated customers for these items. And it’s not as if anybody daft enough to buy one in the first place is likely to demand a refund on the grounds that the doll they received is insufficiently imbued with otherworldly energies.
This is a pretty new market, though. I’m sure there’s some room to optimise the business.
How about haunted rocks?
I mean, they’re millions of years old; just imagine how much more haunty-ness they’ve soaked up over all that time!
Get ‘em while they last!
While I was reading about the astounding inability of an Indian sorcerer to kill a skeptic with his magical powers, I thought about the time some nut at a party claimed to have eldritch magical powers, and I’d better look out or she’d curse me.
I invited her to do her worst.
It’s been, I don’t know, maybe fifteen years now, and I remain not noticeably more cursed than several other people who were there at the time.
Back there at the party, though, I was slightly worried.
I knew that curses weren’t real, and that even if they were real this eighteen-year-old hippie-wannabe probably wasn’t a very high-level magic user.
(And she also, like, totally wasn’t paying attention to the Threefold Law! OMG!)
But I also know that monsters are not lurking in the dark. And yet, when I’m going for a walk in the middle of the night… I’m kind of worried about monsters.
Not muggers. Monsters.
Likewise, I wasn’t really worried that the girl trying to curse me would decide to get the job done in a more straightforward way, by stabbing me or cutting my car’s brake lines or something.
No, I was worried that Everything I Knew Might Be Wrong, and that her wiggly fingers and fixed stare were, against all reason, actually cursing me.
(If I’d been Sanal Edamaruku, the Indian rationalist with the evil magician dancing around him lighting fires and sprinkling water, I would have had more grounds for concern about mundane physical attacks. There are any number of ways you could poison someone while performing these sorts of rituals, for instance. So I’d want to be pretty sure that my “attacker” had enough faith in his powers to not feel any need to help ‘em along.)
I worry about curses and monsters because, of course, I have an active imagination. Nature, nurture, continued consumption of appropriate entertainment products… for one reason or another, I’m good at making stuff up.
Take this too far and you can end up going a bit strange, but it’s my belief that a solid dose of imagination is a very useful thing to have, even if it does leave you more concerned about things that go bump in the night than you ought to be.
Good old-fashioned imagination seems to be in disturbingly short supply these days, and people are suffering for the lack of it.
Most kids seem to be very good at imagination, but if you don’t exercise your imagination, it’ll atrophy just like anything else. You have to keep… imagining. Reading helps, but reading Newsweek does not help nearly as much as reading Analog.
If your imagination has atrophied, it seems to be the case that you’ll slowly forget what it’s even like to imagine something. By itself, this is just sad. But it’s also dangerous, because every now and then you’ll still find yourself imagining stuff, without realising that’s what you’re doing.
Perhaps it’ll happen because you’re drunk, or over-tired, or on nitrous at the dentist. Perhaps you’ll just have a little burp of creativity, despite your best efforts to think about nothing but real estate prices and the next election. However it occurs, you’ll be so unprepared for it, so un-used to having strange and unusual thoughts, that you’ll assume whatever you’ve just imagined must really be happening.
And this, I theorise, is how people become convinced that Jehovah really has impressed an image of Jesus in a tortilla, or that their new $200 audiophile power cord really does make a difference to the sound of their hi-fi, or that there really are ghosts in that creaky old house. Or any number of much more dangerous things.
I don’t think people reach these conclusions because they’re crazy. I think they reach them because they’re excessively sane, no longer possessing a mental immune system sufficiently sensitised to fantasy to recognise it when it comes along.
Someone who’s been raised in a sterile bubble to protect them from illness will be easy prey for any germ that manages to penetrate the plastic. And people who’ve expelled all fictional foolishness from their minds can, just as paradoxically, end up believing far more ridiculous things than those of us who are completely ready for the inevitable zombie/alien/robot apocalypse, or can tell you exactly what a B’omarr Monk is without looking it up, or who dress up as orcs and wizards on the weekend.
Just when I thought that the guy who
1: threatened to sue me when I cancelled his eBay listings which featured pictures ripped off from my review of the ETime Home Endoscope
2: declared that it didn’t matter, because the endoscopes “break down all the time” so he didn’t care about not being able to sell them
3: cussed me out in comments on that post, registering two abusively-named commenter accounts to do so
4: created a whole BLOG dedicated to abusing me, the regrettably-no-longer-existent dansdataisanarrogantwanker.blogspot.com
5: took pictures of himself sticking the ETime product up his bare bottom (NSFW picture archived here!), text in which declared “This is Dan testing out the new pencam! I love it up my ass!”
6: then gave up and actually took his own damn pictures of the product in question like he should have in the first place, for some reason now not featuring his bare bottom, and resumed selling ETime products on eBay as if nothing had happened
had ceased to provide me with amusement, this turned up:
To: Dan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I hope to put the past behind and ask how much it would cost to advertise our ehe pencams listings on your pencam review page?
( link to our ebay store )
I can pay by paypal.com
Well, gee, I don’t know.
What do you think, faithful readers? Does Wayne strike you as the kind of solid, ethical businessman I should be advertising?
I mean, you’d all be fine with buying stuff from him, right?
This blog is now located at howtospotapsychopath.com!