Stolen from "Hognoxious" on Slashdot.

Overheard in a museum:

Boy: Mister, how old is that dinosaur skeleton?

Curator: [after some mumbling and finger counting] 60 million and four years, eight months and sixteen days.

Boy's mother: How can you know so accurately?

Curator: Well, in the training course they told me it was 60 million years old. That was when I joined, which would be back in January 2006...

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SR-71 Blackbird 
SR-71 Blackbird

I recently went to the Air Force Armament Museum in Fort Walton, FL. It's definitely worth checking out if you are ever in the neighborhood. It's completely free, though I recommend giving a donation.

The coolest thing at the museum is definitely the retired SR-71 Blackbird on display out in front of the museum. Here is a pic I borrowed from an article about the museum:

It was cool to actually be able to get so close to the plane. One thing that was interesting is just how light the materials were. It felt very hollow away from leading edges. It even seemed a bit fragile and would probably easily dent. I guess if nothing can catch you, it doesn't matter if you're fragile. :)

Also, the heat expansion joints were quite prominent. I've often heard how the Blackbird leaked fuel through the joints until the skin heats up from supersonic flight and seals tight. The joint separation was smaller closer to the center of the plane and progressively got larger out towards the wings. I guess the heat makes the plane bow outwards.

The other interesting thing is that there are actually quite a lot of seams, welds, and ripples in the skin. It's not perfectly smooth like an expensive sports car. That matte black paint really gives the impression of being perfectly smooth in the press photos though. I guess those small imperfections don't have any significant affect on the plane at Mach 3+.

Here is a recent story from a real SR-71 pilot on Gizmodo. It's actually an excerpt from a book. Be sure to read the story about the speed check from an air traffic controller.

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Thoughts on AT&T Femtocell 
I think the AT&T Femtocell is incredibly misguided technology (at least for smart phone owners). On the surface, it looks kind of cool. Essentially, it is like a tiny cell tower that you can connect to your existing internet connection. Voice calls and data are routed via a 3G connection to the Femtocell and then converted to internet protocols and sent to AT&T servers. The advantage of the Femtocell is that you can get cell coverage where you might otherwise not get it such as in a deadzone, like a building with thick walls. There are also advantages in that a private Femtocell connection will be available when all the regular cell bandwidth is used up by other users (e.g. cities like New York).

So why is it misguided? On the one hand I think customers will be upset that they need to pay $150 to fix a problem that AT&T should probably be fixing for free. However, that's not the problem that I have with the Femtocell. The issue that bugs me is why use the Femtocell at all when everyone already owns WiFi access points?

For instance, iPhones can already communicate with WiFi for internet data connections. The iPhone will seamlessly switch from 3G to using a trusted WiFi AP with no impact on the user. Also, we already know that iPhone apps can use the headset speaker and microphone and they can be used effectively with VOIP applications (e.g. Skype). So instead of a $150 Femtocell box, AT&T should be working with Apple (and other cell phone manufacturers) to create software that will automatically switch from cellular to encrypted VOIP for voice calls. As mentioned before, they've already got the internet data switching working. And the iPhone is more than powerful enough to process VOIP data.

The only negative I can think of is that maintaining an open WiFi connection is probably a big drain on a cell phone's battery. For instance, I believe the iPhone closes the WiFi connection whenever it can (especially when the screen is turned off). If cellular service is not available and the phone is sleeping, then no incoming calls will be able to be received. Also, some WiFi APs might not have bandwidth of a quality good enough for VOIP. This might necessitate a feature where the user can select which WiFI APs are trusted for voice to VOIP re-routing. (Perhaps too confusing for the average user.)

However, I think a lot of folks are in a situation where they receive 1 or 2 bars at home, just good enough to receive a call. However, if you don't stand in the "magic spot" the call gets dropped. I think people in this scenario could benefit a lot from a WiFi-only solution rather than the Femtocell. Finally, WiFi VOIP would have an immediate effect on reducing AT&T's cell bandwidth whereas the Femtocell will only have an effect as quickly as they are sold.

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Tilt to Live 
I am excited to report that a previous student of mine from the GA Tech College of Computing Video Game Design class has released his first commercial game. It's called Tilt to Live and it's available for iPhone on the App Store. It's a fast-paced arcade style game involving tilting of the phone to steer around avoiding baddies and collecting weapons/power-ups. It is lots of fun and very intuitive.
Tilt to Live is only $2. IMO, definitely worth it. Buy it now and show your support for GT-educated game developers! And if you like it, be sure to tell all your friends.

Tilt to Live Video Trailer - Direct Link

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Confusion Say... 
Here are some things I find confusing.

Mimosa, Samosa, Samoa

Spicy filled pastry, champagne cocktail, or country/Girl Scout Cookie? I always have to think carefully to make sure I get these sorted out. :) You would think it's a good thing that these words don't regularly come up in conversation, but I think that's the source of the problem.

"Could/Should/Would of/have"

I'm aware that "Could of/have" is a common grammatical mistake and will generally recognize it when I'm writing. Yet somehow I can never be 100% certain which is correct. So I hit up Google every single time. :-P I shouldn't even bother given all the grammatical mistakes I don't catch.


I at least can remember which is correct. That doesn't mean I won't say the wrong one before it's too late. (Hint: "Irrespective" is the source of the confusion.)

Words that I only read

More an embarrassment than a confusion, there are certain words that only seem to show up in what I read but are never spoken or heard...until that fateful day when it fits perfectly into a conversation and I mangle the pronunciation. When I was younger I have been burned by "genre" (I pronounced it "Gen-Air" ), "superfluous" ("SUPER-flu-us!" ), "timbre" (is not what a lumberjack says), "Euler Angle" (it should be spelled "Oiler" ), and "Bezier Curve". The last, I have heard botched worse than I have managed myself (e.g. "brassiere" ).

Tornado Warning / Tornado Watch

Is it a WARNING that conditions are ripe for tornadoes and we're currently WATCHing a live tornado or is it a WARNING that a tornado has touched down and we're WATCHING out for the possibility of them forming? I can never keep it straight. So if you find me wrapped around a tree branch, you'll know what happened.

Now I could make up some clever mnemonic to avoid confusion, but even those can cause trouble. :)

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