What's davintosh? Mostly just the random ramblings of a hopelessly distractible… Hey, what's that?

The VogaBike

Filed under: Bikes,Cool Technology,Fun! — dave @ 1:20 am 2007/07/31

A couple of weekends ago I bumped into something online that made me dig up some sketches I’d made years ago (1985 or ’86 I think). Back then I was wanting to build a record-breaking human-powered speed machine. I reasoned that the pedaling action on standard bikes was less than efficient, but the rowing action would allow the power of the legs, back and arms to work in unison to generate the horsepower to scoot along at much higher speeds. Of course, in rowing there is a return stroke that nullifies some of the efficiency gains, but I think that putting the back and arms into the mix more than compensates for the momentum loss in the return stroke.

Back then, the incentive for the project was a contest promoted by a magazine (can’t remember which) that offered a $10,000 award to the first person who could hit and sustain 60mph in a human powered vehicle. Being newly married (or about to marry… Can’t remember exactly), and about to quit my job to start college, that cash would’ve been great seed money. Unfortunately, life got in the way, and the prize money was claimed long before my ideas even got off my sketchbook.

I still think the rowing motion has a lot more potential for speed than pedaling, and I’d still like to revive the idea and build a row-powered bike, just for fun. Digging around a bit online led to the realization that my idea is not original, and others have actually built such creatures, some being mass manufactured & marketed. Of course, some embodiments of that idea are better than others, and some are just downright screwy. One of the better ones that Google brought to light for me is the VogaBike. This machine is truly brilliant. The Italian geniuses at VogaBike seemed to have come up with dead-simple solutions to a lot of the problems that I had encountered in trying to design a row-powered bike.

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So slick I just might have to borrow a few of their ideas. ;)

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This Message Will Self-Destruct In 10 Seconds

Filed under: Cool Technology,Links — dave @ 4:13 pm 2007/07/30

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Here’s a service I’ve wished for on a number of occasions; WillSelfDestruct.com, where you can send an anonymous email that can only be viewed a specified number of times or for a specified amount of time. You just enter the recipient’s email address, a subject, your message, and how you’d like to have it viewed. You can also enter your name, or an alias if you like.

When you hit Send Message, it goes to the recipient, who gets a link to a web page containing your message, along with a counter telling them how long it will be available. Through some kind of trickery, the text can’t be copied or printed. Pretty slick. Might even make them wonder about their sanity.

Not that I’d ever use such a service or anything. Nope. Not me. Maybe my evil twin Skippy, but not me. Nuh-uh.

The RoadBoat

Filed under: Cars!,Cool Technology — dave @ 2:27 pm 2007/07/25

Here’s an interesting human-powered vehicle. Christened the RoadBoat — a cute play on names, since it’s powered by four “rowers”, but travels on the road — it was designed and built to set a record for a trans-Canada ride back in 2001.

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We intend to establish a Guinness World Record for traveling from Halifax to Vancouver using only the human power found in a rowing stroke (plus the mechanical advantage of gearing, of course … )

Apparently things went awry early on, and the team decided to bag it. One of the rowers, Kevin Thompson, had this to say about the attempt:

After traveling through the province of Nova Scotia it was determined that the record would not be broken due to lack of averaging an adequate speed to complete in record time. Subsequent to the first day mishap which resulted in a minor accident, the RoadBoat was unable to achieve the necessary average speed, safely, to complete the crossing and it was therefore decided to end the journey early.

Funny they don’t mention anything about that first-day accident on the RoadBoat 2001 rowingacrosscanada.com website. The failure probably stings a little still. The current site, www.rowingacrosscanada.com, is still active, and it looks like a second attempt may be in the works, but there are no details at all. Makes me curious what kind of monstrosity they’ll build for that!

I stumbled across this looking for info on vehicles that are propelled by a rowing motion. While a bit extreme, this thing is kinda cool. There are also a few photos of the building process here. Not much detail, but it looks to be built from all aluminum tubing. And to support four rowers and a stoker/steerer, it’d have to be pretty beefy.

The MI Speedball

Filed under: Cars! — dave @ 1:18 pm 2007/07/22

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I’m not quite sure whether to poke fun at this idea or applaud it for being a great idea. In 1956, Mechanics Illustrated published plans to build a car from mostly plywood, oak, and mahogany strips, using a motorcycle engine for power. On the one hand, I love the concept; light weight, readily available parts, build it in your garage…

But on the other hand, this thing — as designed and described in the article — has some serious issues. A frame made from oak and plywood? Can you say “severe body flex?” And the brakes… The motorcycle rear hub mounted inboard with a welded shaft going to the left rear wheel? The whole frame & drivetrain seems pretty lacking to me.

I guess the appeal for me is just that it conforms to some of the basic ideas that I’ve had for a project of this kind that I’d like to put into flesh someday; using off-the-shelf or salvage yard components to build a zippy little two-seater like the Locost or Stalker V6. But using laid up cedar for the body panels… That just may have some possibilities! But I’d definitely forego the wood frame. Definitely.

One of the neatest features on the Speedball is headlights that lay back for aerodynamics, but snap to attention when you pull a lever. And that’s not all; when in the upright position, the right headlight pivots in concert with the front wheels to throw light in the direction you’re turning. Not sure how steady the light would be on this buggy, but it might be an interesting feature to commandeer. Then again, would it really be worth the amount of work it’d require? Maybe not.

The Modern Mechanix Blog has high-res scans of the pages, along with an OCR’d version of the text. Here also is a pdf of it.

The Digital Movie Experience

Filed under: Cool Technology — dave @ 1:36 am 2007/07/21

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A couple of weeks ago Caleb and I went to see Ratatouille (great, great movie, by the way), and much to my surprise the theater (the Carmike 7)had installed Christie digital projectors. Wow! What a difference that made! The colors so bright, the details so crisp… Everything was just so… clear. Add to that the elimination of the little signal blip (or whatever they call it) that tells the operators when to switch reels, and the elimination of the annoying little dirt specks you see on the screen.

I realize the digital theater projectors aren’t all that new, but I don’t get out to movies very often, and that was my first exposure to it. When I first heard about them I thought, “oh, no big deal”. But after seeing it for myself, all I can say is, “Wow!” It’s like the difference between an old CRT monitor on a scuzzy old PC and a snazzy new 24 inch iMac. There’s just no comparison.

Tonight, Ian & I went to the Century theater to see Transformers (should’ve waited ’til it hit the cheap theater). I was hoping the Century had also updated their projectors, but they’re still using film. They still charge more than the Carmike though; go figure. The difference was was a real letdown after Ratatouille from a digital projector. I am forever spoiled.

“Strange Things Done In The Midnight Sun…”

Filed under: Fun! — dave @ 8:36 am 2007/07/18

Last Sunday morning we had a guest speaker at Central; Bob Thune, senior pastor of Southwest Community Church. Pastor James is out of town, and Bob happens to be the brother of Senator John Thune, who happens to attend Central.

Bob’s sermon was very good and all (listen here), but the thing that got me rolling this morning was a poem he shot from the hip while doing a sound check.

There are strange things done ‘neath the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold.
The arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold.
The northern lights have seen queer sights
But the queerest they ever did see,
Was that night on the marge of Lake LeBarge
When I cremated Sam McGee.

Of course I didn’t remember all of that, only the last line. But I had never heard the poem before, and I wanted to find out more about it; being the geek that I am, to Google I went. Holy cow; how have I not heard that poem before! The poem “The Cremation of Sam McGee” was written by Robert Service and published in 1907. And the story surrounding the writing of the poem is at least as interesting as the poem itself.

While the character and the events in the poem are purely fictional, it was based in part on some factual events. According to the Wikipedia article about the poem, while visiting the Yukon Territory, Service heard a story from a doctor there about how the doctor had once cremated the remains of an unnamed prospector after finding him dead & frozen while making a house call. Later, Service happened across the name of Sam McGee while working at a bank in Whitehorse, Alberta. Service contacted McGee to ask permission to use his name in the poem, which resulted in making “Service famous and McGee the subject of ridicule.” The Wikipedia information is backed up in part by an article on UpHere.ca

One of the first links Google returned was an NPR page about the poem; they even had the audio of Johnny Cash reciting it. Give that a listen here or click through to read the poem in its entirety.

Oh; it’s also interesting to read some of Bob Thune’s writings. Found some of them on Musings Link

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Elijah Page

Filed under: Personal Growth,The Deep,The World — dave @ 8:11 am 2007/07/12

It’s a little strange, all the hand wringing going on in Sioux Falls this week over the execution of Elijah Page. It was scheduled for last night, and they went through with it. No last minute reprieve, no last minute change of mind. But also no last words & no apologies to the victim’s family. He was pronounced dead at 10:11 last night.

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Page was convicted and sentenced to death in 2002 for his part in the murder of Chester Poage near Spearfish, SD. In 2005, Page fired his lawyer and dropped his appeals to stay his execution or have his sentence commuted to life; essentially giving up and wanting to commit state-sponsored suicide. The execution was scheduled for August of 2006, but got delayed on a technicality. Having that technicality now sorted out, the state is once again ready to pull Page’s plug, so to speak.

I guess I’ve never really had much concern over the death penalty. It’s been part of human civilization for centuries, and when properly administered, I think it works as a good deterrent to serious crime. But there are times I have trouble with the death penalty, when there are questions about the guilt of the condemned. But in Page’s case, he’s admitted to what he did, what he did was beyond horrible, and even he agrees that the death penalty is his just desserts.

Part of me says that Page’s punishment fits his crime, so let’s just get it over with and put it behind us. But another part of me says, “Not so fast.” And that part of me seems to be in agreement with the people who are doing the most hand wringing this week. They tend to be a very vocal group, acting as self-appointed consciences for those don’t oppose the death penalty or are ambivalent. What I find curious is that the vast majority of that very vocal group tend to be just as strident in their support of keeping the practice of abortion legal in the US.

There seems to be an amazing disconnect in these people; they will bend over backward in support of “a woman’s right to choose”. They say that what a woman does with her body is her business, and since that unborn baby is inside her body, she can decide what to do with it. Period. Anybody disagreeing with what she does with her body is worse than… well just really bad. The abortion doesn’t harm anybody else in the process, they tell us, so why should anybody bother? And besides, they say, everybody knows that bringing an unwanted life into the world is just cruel — just look at how bad things are — we’re doing this kid a favor by putting it out of its misery before the misery starts. And as for any rights that the baby might have, “pish posh,” they say. “What rights?”

What I’d like to ask these people is how that differs — aside from the obvious — from Elijah Page’s situation. Page wants to end his life… It’s his body, so what he does with it is his business. Nobody else is harmed by his wish to be put to death being fulfilled. Besides, he is guilty — by his own admission — of crimes that the State of South Dakota says are worthy of the death penalty.


In Page’s case, I’d like to say, let’s get it over with, but I hesitate. I personally know the forgiveness offered through Christ’s sacrifice, and I pray that Elijah Page has had a chance to learn of that forgiveness — and if not, that he’ll have that opportunity soon. A deathbed conversion does have a place in Christianity, and has good Biblical support; consider Jesus’ comments to the thief hanging on the cross next to his. “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”Luke 23:43.

We as humans like to categorize our sins, rank them according to our perception of their severity and how many sins we’ve committed, then compare our standing on that scale to others. And to some it makes sense to try to counterbalance their sins with the good things — anti-sins. But the problem is that our own categories and our own rankings are not God’s. We don’t know the mind of God, although we like to think we do. “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23. “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” James 2:10. What the Bible tells us is that in God’s eyes, a sin is a sin. If we screw up in one place, we might as well have screwed them all up. Why? Because sin is disobedience to God, and God expects his followers to be blameless in His sight.

So, if that’s true, we’re all in trouble, right? Yes and No. It is true that none of us can achieve God’s favor by our own efforts. That is the sad truth. But if we admit our shortcomings — our sin — and by faith we trust in God’s mercy and the sacrificial substitutionary death of Christ Jesus, we can see God’s favor. That is the one hope that we all have, the one hope that Elijah Page had, and the one thing that I pray he was able to understand before his death.

Page was a very fortunate man in knowing the day and the hour of his death. For the rest of us, that is unknown. Don’t risk losing your eternal life in exchange for what little you think can be gained in this life by thumbing your nose at God. It’s a terrible gamble with terrible consequences for those who choose wrongly.

The Burma-Shave Booklet

Filed under: Fun!,Old Things — dave @ 3:37 pm 2007/07/08

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A while back whilst browsing through a neighbor’s garage sale, I picked up a really spiffy copy of a Haynes Guide for Yellowstone National Park, printed in 1959. Aside from some dented corners and some kids’ scribbles on the cover, it’s in beautiful shape. Flipping through the pages when I got home, I discovered a bonus hidden inside; a Burma-Shave booklet. Volume X to be exact, printed in 1942. It’s a tiny little thing, about 2″ x 2″, printed on cheap paper that had yellowed badly over the years, but it’s still very much readable. The booklets were likely included in a package with a can or jar of Burma-Shave, as they had product use instructions printed inside, and as a bonus, 44 of the Burma-Shave roadside jingles.

Clever little idea, those Burma Shave jingles. The company leased space from farmers all over the country & placed signs along the highways and byways everywhere. It was always one verse per sign, with a number of signs spaced out in a row so passersby would read them in sequence as they drove by, with the Burma-Shave logo ending the series. I can imagine that most travelers would take notice of these signs, especially back in the days before radio signals covered the country and before every car was decked out with multimedia entertainment.

Click through to see the entire booklet, and a transcription of the jingles.
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PowWeb: My New Home

Filed under: About This Site,Computers — dave @ 11:31 pm 2007/07/02

Aaaaahhhhh….. That’s the contented sound of me being happy that things are transferred (mostly) to my new web host (www.powweb.com), and things are working. My web presence is pretty minimal, so the headaches were pretty minimal, but headaches there were. But all in all, pretty painless.

I came to the point where I had to dump the old web host (which will go unnamed; email me if you’d like to know who to avoid) because of some ongoing issues with the server my site was hosted on. The biggest issue was that the server is on a couple of blacklists, which makes us guilty by association of being an open relay. So lots of messages that we’ve sent through the domain have ended up in various junk bins across the interwebs. Both domains are still listed on those blacklists, but I’m hoping that this move will help rectify that, plus I’m working with the blacklist operators to get us removed. Ick.

I did a bit of homework on my new host; not enough, mind you, as there were still a couple of unexpected unpleasantries waiting for me in setting up the site. One pleasant surprise is that the neighbors sharing the same server (as reported by a reverse IP lookup) seem to be above the board. There might be others, but time, and more testing, will tell.Powweb is one of the low cost hosts that offers way more disk space and bandwidth than I will ever need; 300GB disk space and 3,000GB per month data transfer, for the low, low price of $5.77 a month (or under $70 a year), for the first year. Subsequent renewals will cost $7.77 a month, but hopefully the price will drop before it’s time to renew.

One of the things they brag about is their home-brew control panel (in place of cPanel or one of the other panels.) It’s ok, but not terribly intuitive. Guess I’m spoiled a little, and have become accustomed to getting things done in cPanel, and I just have to find my way around. Time.

One of the things that was really disappointing with Powweb is how difficult they’ve made it to host multiple sites on one account. They don’t make a big deal of being able to host an unlimited number of domains, but it is mentioned. What isn’t mentioned is that when you add multiple domains, they all point to the same htdocs directory. You can buy the use of a tool — The Domain Redirect — to make it happen, for $7.95 a month. Good grief; it costs more than an entire separate account would cost.But thankfully, there’s more than one way to skin a cat; there are literally thousands of others using Powweb, and many know a lot more about server configuration than me and are willing to share their knowledge. It took about 15 minutes to track down a post in the forums that showed step by step how to sete up the .htaccess file to do what I needed it to do. Sweet! I love geeks!

Another disappointment is that with their InstallCentral auto-installer, you can only install one instance of any of the open source script packages they offer. With the old host you could install WordPress blogs until you ran out of disk space — not sure why you’d want to, but I do know I’d like to have more than just one on the site! I’m sure there is a way to cheat around this limitation; I just need to track down the trail blazer(s) in the forums and pry their secrets from them.

The next hurdle was getting WordPress set up to for davintosh.com and getting the content transferred over. That turned out to be fairly easy as well; export a current xml archive of the content & save to disk, then reimport it on the other end. The biggest hiccup in the process was getting the domain names remapped and pointed to the new server. davintosh.com is registered with Dotster, so I did that first, thinking I could do daveandyvonne.com later. But the way things were configured, davintosh.com ended up being more or less a branch off of daveandyvonne.com, so that needed to be in place before the wp-admin stuff would work. I must’ve installed, uninstalled & reinstalled WordPress ten times trying different things before giving up, updating the registrar for daveandyvonne.com, and just waiting for the new server location to show up. It wasn’t very long; much less time than I remember from the last dns change I made two years ago.

Now the big waiting game is for the domain name registration to transfer. daveandyvonne.com is registered with an outfit in Turkey right now, and is about to expire in a couple of weeks. While it’s not a big hassle to keep it current there, Powweb offers a free domain name with the package, and simpler is better. I’ve started the ball rolling to get the domain name transferred, and I’m waiting with bated breath to see it happen without a hitch. Last time was a bit of a nightmare; please oh please oh please let it go through with no problems!