Monday, December 31, 2007

Upvert DVD Player

A while back I spotted a Philips 1080i DVD player at Walmart for $40. It was small, thin silver box that I found it intriguing but wondered if we should replace our current standard DVD player.

I meant to someday test out the a player to see if it really made a difference in viewable screen size. Well, my wife surprised me by getting me one for Christmas. So I got to test it out and it does increase the viewable movie on our TV by approximately 18%.

My test involved Lord of the Rings: Return of the King Extended Edition with the 1st DVD being played in the old DVD player and the 2nd in the newer DVD player. I then used a ruler to measure the increase in height of the picture. The movie still does not fill the entire screen so I guess that occurs when HD or Blu-ray movies are displayed.

Hopefully, I will be able to test this out soon.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


I was reading Peggy Noonan's column in the Wall Street Journal from December 21, 2007 and came across this line about how Americans now feel, "The lives they lead are good, and comfortable, but they sense deep down that the infrastructure of our good fortune is in many ways frail,"

This statement seems so true to me even though her column was about Mike Huckabee and a commercial he made. As an American, I feel we are very fortunate and prosperous but uneasy that this state of existence cannot last if we do not change our habits and behaviours.

What am I doing over Christmas break? Well raking leaves, fixing things, studying, cooking, and looking at rocks.

Recently, someone brought me a vaporizer I gave them last year. It was not working like it should and they wanted me to look at it. Well, after taking it apart, the heater elements were caked in the material shown. Just a guess, but it could be salts, calcium, and other minerals from the tap water. I used a pair of pliers and a screwdriver to break it away from the element.

The next picture is from a rock taken from a quarry. It has a small section of pyrite that has started to oxidize. The ruler is showing centimeters.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Reading the Wall Street Journal today on page A6, there is a half page ad from AMD. Using Yoda who says, "Amaze you we will." Yoda tapped the force and AMD stock almost rose 4% but he will need to do more to pull them out of the swampy muck. Yahoo Finance is showing they lost $4 a share.

You can learn more about AMD's new ideas at where more information about their code-named Spider project. It seems to be a gaming platform that uses ATI graphics technology they acquired in their merger with a new processor called Phenom. Cool name for a gaming processor.

They also mentioned Youngwoong Jang who won an award for an eight minute film, Mirage. More info can be found at He is from School of Visual Arts in New York City and they appear to use AMD Dual Core Opteron computers for development.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


It seems every time I go to the U.S. Post Office there is a line to mail packages. Granted not everyone there is mailing maybe they are there to pick up something or get a money order or what not. What triggered this post is that the automated postal machine has hardly anyone using it.

I guess that is good for me in that I got to mail my package pretty quickly using the automated machine. The one thing I would change is if I could type in the address so it could be printed on the label. While I was preparing my package after generating the label another person used the machine while it seemed like there maybe 13 people in line to get personal help.

Afterwards I visited WalMart and used their automated check out system. It worked well which is great since something always seem to mess up on that system (e.g. cannot read UPC, UPC not is system, some sort of attendant override needed).

Sunday, December 09, 2007

My First Cartoon

Here is my first cartoon that was inspired by reading the Wall Street Journal one day. I need figure how colors work on Corel Painter Essentials which would allow me to draw the sky.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Picture of Evergreens

Here is a digital picture of some trees I drew. This is a fragment of the larger picture but it did not turn out so well.

Friday, November 30, 2007

More Blooms

Well, the first two blooms on the top of the plant closed up. Three blooms toward the middle have now opened up as can be seen in the picture.

Here is a closeup of one of the blooms. Needs to be in focus.

A side view of the bloom can be seen here which shows the curling pedals

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Flowers of the Queens Tears Plant

The flowers have a orange center with the petals having a light green center and the edges are blueish-purple. Two flowers are out now with five more to go.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Queen Tears Plant

My aunt gave me a plant a while back so I put it in the sun room. Recently, a red stalk has appeared that will form blooms. This plant is watered by pouring water into the center of leaves that form a conical cup. The first picture was taken about 4 days before the next one.

[EDITED: Okay, I need to do my research before posting. It appears this plant is a Billbergia nutans or "Queen Tears". The pictures I am finding on the internet look very much like this plant.]

A picture taken minutes ago from when this post was written shows a multicolor blooms forming. I wonder if they will open?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Trilobites in Louisville

After finding a trilobite imprint in a rock I dug up, my cousin recommended I start breaking the rock apart to see if there were any more. Sure enough, another one appeared that had been partial sheared off. I then tried extract more of it from the rock which worked pretty well. At that point I should have taken a picture but instead I started to try and break that part of the rock away from the main section. When I was hitting on the rock, the force of the impact caused the tail and part of the center of its back to break away thus leaving the image shown below. The rock is like a mudstone and crumbles very easily.

After publishing this post earlier, I did some more research and found that trilobites are arthropods. Their bodies are divided into three sections: cephalon, thorax, and phygidium. In the picture below, I labeled part of the spine breaking away but that was the thorax. They do have spines but in the sense of pointed parts that stick out to fend off predators.

The Trilobite imprint below has been further revealed after using a small awl and hammer to remove pieces of it. It looks like this relatively large trilobite was squished and twisted when it got buried in this mud. I will need to get ruler next to them next time I take a picture.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Whad Ya Know in Louisville

Public Radio's Whad' Ya Know show visited Louisville again and we were there. Our tickets were very close to the stage which was pretty crazy. This show was not a sell out like last time which was somewhat disappointing. Also last time they brought a bottle of Woodford Reserve at the beginning of the show and the host, announcer, and band were all drinking it during the show. It appeared to me that half that bottle was gone by the end of the show. This show a bottle was brought out at the end and only half of it was left so maybe it was being drunk off stage. I can see why this is one of their favorite cities to visit!

The Courier Journal's Bob Hill was interviewed first and he did well in his exchange with the host. It would have been nice to mention that Bob has a local radio show on WFPL about gardening or that he runs a plant nursery. Bob did bring some gifts of some bottled water with a unique name that is produced in Kentucky.
Later local chef Dean Corbett prepared a meal during the second part of the show and the smell was pretty good. It sort of reminded me of being in a Chinese restaurant. Dean was invited to do some imitations which he did (Bill Clinton, Steve Beshear (governor elect)). The one of Steve Beshear was quite good.

Laura Lee Brown was interviewed later in the show and she is one of the main people behind building a new 62 story building in Louisville. She is a decedent of the founder of Brown-Forman who makes Woodford Reserve (sponsor of this show). The theater might be named after the family as well. Our seats were pretty close as I already mentioned in that I am pretty sure on the bottom of her shoe it said Made in Italy on it. The last guest was Chris Morris who is a distiller at Woodford Reserve. He made two Mint Juleps for the Michael and the quiz participate.
Here are some pictures from after the show. I did not take any during the show because I was not sure if that was allowed. There was some sort of announcement before the show about taking flash photography because they were filming the show. I noticed a remote control camera on the stage so it appeared to be being recorded. There were several photographers roaming around taking pictures during the show.

Above pictures shows quiz contestant looking out into theater, Michael Feldman looking to greet members of the audience, and Jim Packard (in background in red).

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Kentucky vs. Seattle

My wife and I attended an exhibition game of University of Kentucky versus Seattle yesterday. While the outcome was no big surprise with Kentucky winning, it was a pleasant Saturday evening with dinner before hand not far from the arena. I took a few pictures.

Here are the two teams warming up before the game started.

This picture shows a Kentucky player scoring on the inside.

Here is an outside shot going through the hoop.

During a long TV timeout, the cheering squad brings out the big K and then the wildcat mascot is raised up before to get the crowd standing to raise the cheer.

At the end of the game, the pep band plays "My Old Kentucky Home" while the cheer leading and pep squads sway back and forth. Kentucky won the game 82-63.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Watermelon Thumping

Watching the PBS show Wired Science on KET 2 this evening I saw a number of interesting stories about science including ones on digital paleontology and the Wired Science expo showing some neat advances in robotics. The show prompted me to go to the website and I found a story about watermelon thumping. Groups are doing research on using sound analysis to determine if a watermelon is ripe.

Here is the link:

It is a pretty cool idea but I think I will stick with tendril analysis. Of course, what am I going to do in the store when buying a melon?

Pulled up the watermelon patch today and dumped about 5 underdeveloped melons in a ditch. The plastic was folded up for next year and the watermelon vines will be turned in to mulch. Having three days of frost just killed all the green on those vines and grape leaves have turned brown as well.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Last of the Watermelons

I picked the last of the watermelons last month. They turned out to be sweet. I cut them up, deseeded them and then gave them away to be used at different social functions.

As it turns out though, the continued hot weather has triggered the watermelon plants to start a second growth that has produced more watermelons. I think at least one more watermelon will mature to be harvested if the hot temperatures keeps up for the next several weeks.

Here are some pictures of the last Crimson Sweet melon picked. It weight 7.6 pounds and had a good red color.

The last Charleston Gray melon weighed 9 pounds.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Drawing Easel

After my first drawing class at the University of Louisville, the instructor said it would be nice if we had desk easels. So I tried to make one and here is what I came up with.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Idea Festival - Ray Bradbury Speech - End of Festival

Well, I must say it was fun volunteering at the Idea Festival and meeting all the nice people and staff of the festival. Hopefully, I will be able to do it next year. I got to attend the dinner and speech of Ray Bradbury after collecting tickets at the door for about an hour. Since this was the last event there was not a whole lot to do except packing up some of the supplies used at the booths. We packed up Festival ID badges and T-Shirts. After the talk, we handed out posters to people who attended the presentation.

It was a pleasant surprise to be able to attend the event at the end. Things were not too busy and pretty laid back after we collected the tickets. I have not read any of Ray Bradbury's books but I did see Martian Chronicles as a child. Did not really understand it though. Ray was a very energetic speaker and it was even more a surprise since he is 87 years old. He spoke about how he became a writer and what events influenced him. He encouraged everyone to become passionate about something and follow that passion. At times he seemed possessed about getting this point across, I guess he knows his time on this Earth is limited and this is his chance make one last impression on society. It was a good motivational speech. I did not get to hear all of the speech or the Q&A since I had to prepare for poster handout.

I did not take any pictures and probably should have. The Teleportic system did not seem all that 3-D to me. Ray did use his arms a lot in the presentation, I think for the benefit of that device. He did answer questions from our site and he could hear the audience but I am not sure if he could see them. The Teleportic system looks like a screen sloped at 45 degree angle from a side view. The screen starts at the top and slopes downward toward the back.

All and all a good festival and I am glad I am now aware of it now.

Idea Festival - Steve Wozniak Speech

My volunteer experience at the Idea Festival was helping out with the keynote speech event at Kentucky International Convention Center. I enjoyed Steve Wozniak's speech as he shared his engineering and development experiences. His talked about making circuits and the influence of the Silicon Valley around him. His engineer father and engineer friends, availability of technology companies and his school giving access to advanced classes were the reasons he gave in part to his success in electronics. Steve talked about building digital counters and trying to reduce chip count which reminded me of digital logic design class in my college studies. He also talked about building prototypes and programming using punch cards at the University of Colorado. His attraction to the school was seeing snow there. I think if he had to drive in snow that love would have worn off quick.

He shared a number of Steve Jobs stories: how they met, selling to Atari a breakout game, selling a color video terminal, and the early days of Apple corporation. The stories about working long hours on issues and designs tells of the engineering problem solving life.

Steve is now 57 years old and does not appear to do computer development any more. He told a Google audience he might code scripts or use C programming language from time to time. He said once he reached a certain age, family considerations and other interests kept him from developing. Also he pointed out that he was quite a shy person and product development helped with a feeling of empowerment. It was good to see that he now gives public speeches despite being shy.

At the end of the speech, he was given a personalized bottle of Woodford Reserve to mark his visit to the area. He thanked the presenter but said something about having trouble getting it on the airplane and also that he did not drink.

I watched the last part of the speech from the hallway through the open doors going into the exhibit hall next to the stage. Out in the hallway, it was amazing to see the number of people coming out to talk on cell phones. There was also quite a number of people going to the bathroom. All this movement did not seem affect the speech though. I had an interesting angle to view the speech from, see picture below.

Attendance was very good and I hope the festival did not lose money on the event. The number of tables for the dinner seated maybe 864 people. It appeared that maybe 3-4 tables might have had open seats at the back of the room.

I had heard Steve talk about technology on This Week in Tech podcast. He talks quite quickly and ran a little over time on his speech. I did not get to hear the whole speech or the question/answer time afterwards. We were handing out Woz posters at the end to attendees of the event.

This speech got me to look for more info on Steve Wozniak and his speaking engagements. It looks like he charges $30000-50000 for a speech. At the speakers website, they provide a sample video which appears to be a speech given to Sharp printer sales people. There is also a Charlie Rose interview on the web where he is promoting the iWoz book.
Here is a link ( to his speech to Google employees with a book signing. It is very similar to the speech he gave to us. He does customize his speech to the audience somewhat but his core stories about development can be found in most of the speeches.

NOTE: I did not use a flash on my still frame pictures and thus got blurring pictures. Sort of knowing this would happen, I took Quicktime movies with the camera in low light conditions to get some better images. The pictures I am posting were frame grabs of these movies.
Afterwards, Steve sat at the Borders books table and signed iWoz copies. I was able to take this picture from the floor above were he was. It was interesting in that the picture of him signing a book for the guy in the suit. After signing the book, the guy gave him the poster to sign as well, which at first seemed to surprise Steve. Maybe he did not know there was a poster but we had quite a few left after the dinner. The signing line was long with maybe 100 people or how ever many people it takes to stretch down the hallway to the exit. From what I observed, he seemed very friendly and easy going.

You can learn more about Steve Wozniak at his web site ( I found the letter section to be educational as he responds to questions and stories from the general public. It is always good to see public figures do that on their websites. Unfortunately, he appears to have stop posting after 2006. Maybe because he was writing his book and then promoting it after September 2006.

One last note, another volunteer had to quickly prepare a menu to be placed on the 108 tables. I was asked to help him prepare them using the computers at the Geek Squad exhibit and print them with the Lexmark printers. We eventually got it done and delivered but we had some help printing them from a visiting Lexmark engineer. I did not get his name but he was very friendly and helpful. He was some sort of sales engineer for the inkjet printer group. He said their popular product was the wireless inkjets that just need to be plugged in and people can start printing with them.

This picture shows the view from the audio/video control area that was off to the side of the room.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

IdeaFestival - Louisville KY

Well, I have been volunteering at the idea festival and was working there this morning. First, it is difficult to finding parking downtown and realize the value at working at companies that have free parking lots!

I thought the crowd was pretty good for a weekday morning. My time was spent getting people badges and tickets they had signed up for. The Lexmark representative was having a quite a few issues getting the wireless printer to work at the Geek Squad exhibit and I was very tempted to go help them out. It looks like they eventually got it working.

I got see several film crews making reports and WFPL (89.3) did a live airing of the State of Affairs show. That was neat to watch the small crew of 5 people put on that show.

Did not get to go to any presentations but there appeared to be quite a few people going.

Find out more information check out:

Friday, September 07, 2007

Another Watermelon

Another Crimson Sweet Watermelon was picked and it turned out to be excellent. The melon weighed in at 10.2 lbs. It had good color and was sweet to the taste.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Visit to Chicago

We visited the Museum of Science and Industry a while back during a visit to Chicago.

Great place to visit and the weather was very nice. It was in the 80s during the day. I had visited the museum when I was a child and remembered the u-boat. It was outside and at the end I got a plastic replica of the u-boat made by a small machine.

Well, things have changed and yet stayed the same. The u-boat was given an exhibit hall in 2004 and what an exhibit it is. You walk down a series of hallways with documentation and images showing the scenes for World War II related to the battle in the Atlantic with u-boats and allied shipping.

You then come out of the hallway and are greeted with this large boat in a very large room. It is like a holding pen with its concrete shell to protect against bombings. Watch the movie Das Boot to get an idea of what this facility was like.

We got our tickets a head of time on the Internet which was good since the tours had sold out for the day when we got there. We had a good tour guide who had some pretty good jokes. Too bad we could not take any pictures because the guide said people were selling them on the internet and the boat was now copyrighted. It was neat to see the inside and it is hard to believe that almost 60 people had to live there for months at a time.

The exhibit has a lot to offer with more displays around the submarine with some of them interactive. It was too bad we did not have time to study all the exhibits but we had spent time looking at other things at the museum like the trains, the Boeing 727, the chemistry and energy exhibits, and eating lunch. I wish I had time to look at the geology exhibit.

I took a picture of the dents in the submarines nose. I wonder how those dents got there.

At the end of the U-505 exhibit do not forget to look at the monitor on the ceiling that shows how they moved the submarine into its underground chamber.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Watermelon Harvest

The first of the watermelons were harvested yesterday. I think this is the latest I have ever began picking the melons. Two were picked a Crimson Sweet (striped one) and the a Sugar Baby (more solid green). Both weighed 9.4 lbs.

They are both a little bigger than a volleyball.

This is the view from inside the Sugar Baby melon. It has a good color and few seeds.

This is the Crimson Sweet melon cut open.

Louisville Hike and Bike

I participated in the Louisville Hike and Bike yesterday morning. Wow, a lot of people showed up for this than I have seen at past events. It was tricky riding in that large of group of cyclists that varied in different skill levels. It was good that there was a staggered start with the racers up front. I had a pretty good ride and got to some people it as been a while I have ridden bicycles with.

Scene about 30 minutes before ride started with people visiting the different tents with bicycle related information.

Picture above is of the main stage and tent where they were beginning to get people to do warm up exercises.

Toyota was a sponsor and they had some of their popular models out on the Great Lawn for display. Since the hood of the Toyota Camry Hybrid was up I took a peek inside. I was disappointed to not see a visible oil filter. One of the great features of the Toyota Camry we have is that the oil filter in the front of the engine compartment and it slopes down about 45 degrees. This filter configuration allows the filter to be changed easily and without a lot of mess. Maybe the non-hybrid engine has the different configuration.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Fort Morgan Beach

Here are some pictures I took at Fort Morgan beach. Not a lot of people around but it was pretty hot outside at the time. Sea birds were following a school of fish that was being driven onto the beach by another school of larger fish. I took a lot of pictures but not all of them were in focus of the birds flying around.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Restoring the Headlight Lens on a Toyota Camry

Our Toyota Camry has had a clouded headlight lens for several years now and it bothered me every time I would be either washing or working on the car's engine. It could be compared to someone having cataracts in their eyes. So after the success I had with the Internet fixing the sticking accelerator I looked for a solution for this. I found that a number of people were wet sanding their lens with different grades of sand paper used with water and/or rubbing compound. The pictures they showed of the before and after looked impressive but it was taking them hours to repair the lens based on what I read.

So I went to Autozone to look for ultra fine sandpaper (1000-2000 grit) to see if removing some layers of the plastic lens would in fact fix the cars problem. I found the sand paper but in the same section of the store I found a product from CCP called 5 Minute Headlight Restorer for about $12. Well, 5 minutes sounds a lot better than hours sanding so I bought it.

What the kit consists of is a circular plastic plate with a metal shaft, a number of sponge pads with rubbing compound on them and some instructions. You will need a drill, a clean rag, window cleaner, paper towels, and spray bottle with water. First, you need to clean the lens with the window cleaner and paper towels getting the surface clean and smooth. Next, put the bit in the drill and remove the paper from one the circular sponge pads to reveal its adhesive side. Stick the adhesive side to the plate. Mist the pad to get it damp but not too wet. I used a cordless drill to do this work. Next light press the pad to the lens and let the drill spin the sponge on the lens. I worked the sponge back and forth across the lens until I had covered the surface of the lens. I did this several times stopping every so often to make sure the sponge was still damp and if not misting it some more. A white film developed on the areas I had treated and I after finishing with the drill, I took the spray bottle and rinsed the lens. I then took the dry rag and cleaned off the lens.

It was quite a difference. The lens looked a lot more clear. See the pictures. I did the other lens with the same sponge and it cleaned the film off it as well.

The directions said if the film was inside the lens then it would need to be replaced. Luckily, the lens I was treating had the film on the outside.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Visit to Fort Morgan, Alabama

Recently, we took a vacation to Fort Morgan, Alabama with family and enjoyed the beach, food and sites of this Gulf of Mexico city. I was amazed at all the drilling platforms in the Gulf we could see from the beach, especially at night.

I was able to make some drawings for my young nephews with the paper and crayons on hand. Our first image is a wake up picture with a sun rising over the ocean which has a sea serpent, shark (complements of my nephew), and fish swimming in it.

This next picture entitled "Fun At the Beach" which shows a picture of the house we rented which was called "Beach Escape". The image of the house is pretty accurate but the surroundings were created with artistic license. The beach house was on a street that was in sight of the beach and the ocean was about 200 meters from the house.

I had brought a bottle of sparkling grape juice and used it to encourage my nephew to eat his vegetables during meals. So I told him he could have some "magic" grape juice in a glass. This image shows how the grape juice made to when it gets to the glass.

Here is an image to encourage my nephews to go to bed. It is a caterpillar sleeping with the moon and some flowers around.