Space oddity

Many years ago I awoke in the dead of night in a cold sweat, with the certain knowledge that a close relative had suddenly died. […] In fact, the relative is alive and well […]. However, suppose the relative had in fact died that night. You would have had a difficult time convincing me that it was merely coincidence. But it is easy to calculate that if each American has such a premonitory experience a few times in his lifetime, the actuarial statistics alone will produce a few apparent precognitive events somewhere in America each year. We can calculate that this must occur fairly frequently, but to the rare person who dreams of disaster, followed rapidly by its realization, it is uncanny and awesome. Such a coincidence must happen to someone every few months, but those who experience a correct precognition understandably resist its explanation by coincidence.

After my experience I did not write a letter to an institute of parapsychology relating a compelling predictive dream which was not borne out by reality. That is not a memorable letter. But had the death I dreamt actually occurred, such a letter would have been marked down as evidence for precognition. The hits are recorded, the misses are not.

Thus Carl Sagan in his 1979 book Broca’s Brain. Continue reading

Nature photography

I got a lot of great responses to my recent piece on features of C# I somewhat regret; thanks all for those.

As promised, today on fun-for-Friday-FAIC I’ve posted some fabulous adventures in nature photography from my recent trip to Lake Huron. Click on any image for a larger version. These were either taken by me or my friend Amber, who graciously loaned me her Canon DSLR, and taken with either the Canon or my GoPro.
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Defying gravity

No tech today, but some fun for Friday.

The 2015 Moisture Festival is over; if you’re not familiar with the festival, it’s a month-long celebration of old-timey and modern vaudeville, comedy, variety, burlesque and circus arts at multiple venues here in Seattle. Hundreds of artists come in from around the world, and often end up staying in my spare bedroom to cut down on their costs. This year I had the pleasure of spending a week with one of the world’s greatest jugglers, Niels Duinker, during the festival and I thought I’d post some links to his videos. When I was a college student I taught myself to juggle, but that was before all the great youtube tutorials that are now available.

Here is Niels on how to do three — start here if you’ve never juggled before.

Back in the day I got a few pretty solid four ball patterns going but I never managed to get more than eight throws with five, or six throws with three in one hand. Maybe I’ll give it another shot!

Melting aluminum

Today another in my ongoing, seldom-updated series of posts about building my own backyard foundry. Today I’ll describe how the final step works: actually melting and pouring the metal. First, see my previous post on how to make a green sand mold.

Start by assembling all the equipment you’ll need in one place, on a day with no chance of rain. (Click on any photo for a larger version.)

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Casting: making a green sand mold

Today another episode in my seldom-updated series about building a home aluminum foundry.

The technique I use for casting aluminum is called “green sand” casting not because the sand is green (though the sand I use is in fact slightly olive coloured) but because the sand is moistened with water and clay rather than oil. I made the sand myself; it’s a mixture of about ten parts olivine sand to one part finely powdered bentonite clay, and then “tempered” with water until it feels right. (Use a spray bottle set to a fine mist and stir the sand as you temper it.) It should feel like perfect sand castle building material: wet enough to hold its shape but not so wet that you can squeeze water out of it. If you can make a “snowball” of sand with a fist and break it cleanly in half, that’s probably good. Continue reading