The (Drive)way of a Samurai

Larry Ellison’s Japanese fetish is well known. He owned at different times yachts named “Ronin”, “Katana” and “The Rising Sun”. According to “The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison” Larry often flies to Japan for Sakura Matsuri. And now he is building himself a $60 million 3000 sq. foot replica of a 16th century Japanese warlord’s mansion.

The house will be built using traditional materials and without nails (good idea earthquake-wise), but I doubt that any warlord had a house that big, especially with an amazing master bath that will include “.. boulder that will be part of the master bathroom shower. The 30-ton stone (yes, that’s 60,000 pounds) was recently moved into place with a rented high-rise crane that was brought to the site expressly to move the “shower rock.” ”

A house like that needs a driveway to match. Larry wants it paved with natural hand cut stone. The stone is quarried in Japan and China (Larry chose China because the labor is cheaper there) and for some reason needs to be cut on site. This means that the architect needs to provide a template for each and every stone. It would take months to do this by hand, but luckily a CIS student helped him, making Larry’s driveway his CS270 Project. Random, but not too random, concave and convex, angles not too sharp, 5 to 9 sides to a stone – this is not as simple as it seems :

By the way, is it just me or does Mr. Scorpio from “The Simpsons” look very much like the samurai in question?

Z-Ray Vision

Man: “Psst, you want to buy organ? Fresh and cheap, ready for transplant.”
Fry: “Ooh, what’s this?”
Man: “Ah, is x-ray eye. See through anything.”
Fry: “Wait a minute, this says z-ray.”
Man: “Z is just as good! In fact is better, is two more than x!”

Futurama episode 1ACV07 – My Three Suns

Well, you all know that I consider Canon Powershot G2 and G3 the best digital cameras a normal person can actually afford. You also probably know that I pay close attention to naming schemes. So here’s a little story with a surprise ending for you.

The granfather of the camera I like so much was Pro 70, which was the first camera to have a flip screen.

The next one was called Powershot G1. It was a very popular and well designed camera. It’s sensor was very sensitive to IR radiation which makes it probably the best digital camera for infrared photography. The biggest complaint was the color of the body. Most photographers hate silver plastic.

Next up was Powershot G2. It was almost identical to G3 with slight changes to UI and optics. Most G2s were made out of the same ugly silver plastic, but there was a special all black edition. I was lucky enough to buy a black G2. I had to order it from Canada.

Powershot G3 was the next camera in G series. Again, slight changes in UI, optics and more significantly a 4 megapixel sensor. Again, silver. Will they ever listen?

Now, the next camera is called Powershot G5. It has a 5 megapixel sensor which according to reports is a bit crappier than the one in G3. At least they dropped the silver plastic.

But wait, what happened to Powershot G4? Did it suffer the fate of Netscape 5? The rumour floated around that G4 was trademarked by Apple. Well, Apple has a Powermac G5 also.

The correct answer appears to be this:
“The word “four” is read as “si” in Chinese Mandarin and “shi” in Japanese, a close homonym for the word for death in both languages and in the Cantonese dialect spoken in Hong Kong. “

Hmm, I wonder how those Powermacs sold in Japan and China.

Yagi Decorated

You know, most New Yorkers don’t look up much. No matter how cool everything is around them, they don’t want to look like tourists. But I am secure enough in my New Yorkedness to walk around looking at skyscrapers and taking pictures with my touristy looking camera.

This hideous yagi antenna is on a top of one of the old art deco buildings on 46th street. By the way, it turns out that it named “after Hidetsugu Yagi (1886-1976), Japanese electrical engineer” and not baba Yaga as I thought. Actually it should be called “Yagi-Uda” because he invented it with the help of Dr. Shintaro Uta.

Looks like nobody cared much for Dr. Yagi’s work in Japan at the time. Of course, they regretted it after they discovered that it was used by the Allies as a radar antenna. This reminded me about how Pyotr Ufimtsev’s dense paper titled “Method of Edge Waves in the Physical Theory of Diffraction”, which was completely ignored by the Soviet military scientists, gave Denys Overholser, a Skunk Works radar specialist, all the theory needed to build F117 stealth fighter.

Indeed, yagis are very useful. You can extend the range of wi-fi networks with a yagi made out of Pringles can (gotta build one) and I’ve heard of a guy that made a yagi for his cell phone, so that he could access weak cell networks while biking across America. They may not look very good, but they have a kajillion uses in radio and tv.

Too bad there is no book about Dr. Yagi on Amazon, but here is a rather interesting site about Japanese inventors. Here’s Dr. Yagi’s statue and here’s an iteresting quote that I’ve found: “US War Crimes Commission witnessed that Professor Hidetsugu Yagi was the first Japanese “to speak proudly of his work instead of denying it all.”