Alkahest my heroes have always died at the end

July 30, 2006

Plumbing issues resolved

Filed under: Personal — cec @ 5:41 pm

Went to the hardware store, couldn’t find the precisely the right single plumbing connector and had to get three separate pieces instead.  Meaning, of course, that I now have twice as many joins and twice as many opportunities to leak.  I put the pieces together, connected them to the filter, and no leaks!

Apparently, plumbing is like my day job.  The solution to most problems is a hardware upgrade.

Too much water in my name?

Filed under: Personal,Plumbing — cec @ 2:05 pm

In graduate school, I had a Chinese friend who used to say that he was destined to have plumbing problems because there was too much water in his name. Both his family name and his given name referenced water. This excess of water meant that he would always have plumbing problems.

I sympathize with this notion. A few years ago, when I moved into my house, I installed a reverse osmosis filter in our kitchen for drinking water. When we came back from vacation, we found that the connection to the water tank was leaking. I spent a bit of time tightening up the connection, but it still leaked. This weekend, I got back to trying to fix it. So far, I’ve been to the hardware store twice, replaced the compression fitting three times and still it leaks. I’m heading to a larger hardware store this afternoon to find a replacement for the entire fitting – we’ll see if that works. If it doesn’t, then I may have to replace the entire tank.

Considering the number of plumbing issues we’ve had in this house so far, I’m starting to wonder if I have too much water in my name too.

July 25, 2006

Run for your lives!

Filed under: Funny,Personal — cec @ 10:56 pm

Run for your lives! This is not a drill. My mother is loose in the blogosphere (hi mom!). To friends of mine noticing random, anonymous comments in their blogs, it’s not my fault – I swear.

That is all. I now return you to your regularly scheduled Internet slack.

Time to switch to digital?

Filed under: Photography — cec @ 10:44 pm

I like taking pictures. When it comes to outdoor/wildlife photography, I like taking lots of pictures. K and I went on vacation to Yellowstone for two weeks, getting back at the beginning of June. I wound up with 22 rolls of 36 exposure slide film. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s almost 800 slides. Considering the number of “37 exposure” rolls I took, I feel safe calling it 800.

Now, unless you want to come to my house where I can show some of the better slides, the majority of people won’t see these pictures in their current form. To make them more accessible, I needed to get the good shots scanned. So, a short check list:

  1. Get 22 rolls of slide film back from the developer [Check – received mid June]
  2. Put 800 slides into transparancy holders so they are easy to look at on the light box [Check – took two nights]
  3. Go through 800 slides to determine which are worth scanning [Check – took another two days]
  4. Scan 120 or so “good” slides [Check – finished tonight after three nights of scanning]
  5. Color correct the images in the GIMP [ ]
  6. Remove dust from scans because my slide scanner doesn’t have an infrared channel [ ]
  7. Upload the results and put ’em online [ ]

After all of that, I can’t help but wonder if it is worth the time and money to shoot slides as opposed to digital. On the other hand, everyone needs a hobby to keep them out of trouble.

July 24, 2006

I get the strangest email…

Filed under: Funny — cec @ 9:52 am

After 5+ years of doing image compression research back in the 90s, I get the strangest email requests. These usually come from students who are trying to get out of doing their own homework. Today’s example came with the subject line “plz help me.” I almost deleted it as spam, but decided to take a look.

respected sir,
i am ******** **** and i am student of final year of
electronics engineering i have given a project of image compression
using JPEG and DCT in MATLAB if u can help me plz help me in this matter i
shall be very thankful to u in this regard ihave just given very short
time i have just left 3 days for it.if u can plz help me if u have code of the image compression plz give me i shall be very thankful to email
address is ********
if u know abt or u have than
plz help will wait 4 ur response.plz help me.if u have some report
on it plz do forward to me.i shall be very thankful to u in this regad.
i realy need the code and REPORT or some documentation abt it plz do
forward me.plz help me.plz

July 19, 2006

Password security question

Filed under: Security — cec @ 11:00 am

I wonder if these folks have read the recent article in the NY Times regarding prosopagnosia?

The company Passfaces has a password replacement technology that uses the brain’s ability to recognize faces. The idea is that the user selects a set of faces. They are then presented with a series of options where each of their faces is hidden in a group of other faces. By correctly selecting their faces, they authenticate themselves. The company says that using Passfaces will reduce calls to a help desk because people can remember faces for years without seeing them. There’s a demo which allows you to test how easy the system is.

I have some general concerns with the amount of entropy in such a solution, but the article presents a different challenge. Prosopagnosia is a disorder (or perhaps just a condition) where the person is unable to recognize faces. The NY Times article notes that researchers have found that as much as 2.5% of the population has prosopagnosia. This suggests to me that they would be unable to use Passfaces.

Oh, and the demo? I went back to Passfaces about 6 months after I first set up their demo – easily within the 2 year timeframe they note. I didn’t recognize a single face. I wonder if I have prosopagnosia? 🙂

July 18, 2006

somehow i’m not surprised…

Filed under: Uncategorized — cec @ 10:53 pm

So, a “Which Tarot card are you” quiz isn’t my usual thing. I blame labrown

The magician
You scored 59 change, 74 wellbeing, 71 wisdom, and 87 truth
The magician represents the conscious mind. With focus on an idea or goal, the conscious mind sets into action these ideas and brings them forth to the material world. The magicians hands are stretched forth, one to the sky holding a wand, and the other pointing to the ground below. This is suggestive that as is “as above, so below”. The table in front of him has all the tools to make this possible. The wand, cup, sword, and pentacle, which are representative of all the suits to the tarot cards. The mage has an undergarment of pure white, showing his pure wisdom and is held shut by the serpent around his waist. The outer garment is red, symbolic of desire and passion, which has no belt holding it shut so it can be removed if necessary. The flowers in the garden represent things as well. The red roses are symbolic of desires, and the white lilies represent pure thought, untainted by desire. This card is under the vibration of the number 1.

some extra words:

taking action
doing what needs to be done
realizing your potential
making what’s possible real
practicing what you preach
carrying out plans
producing magical results
using your talents

acting consciously
knowing what you are doing and why
acknowledging your motivations
understanding your intentions
examining the known situation

having singleness of purpose
being totally committed
applying the force of your will
feeling centered
setting aside distractions
focusing on a goal

experiencing power
making a strong impact
having vitality
creating miracles
becoming energized
feeling vigorous
being creative

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

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You scored higher than 99% on change
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You scored higher than 99% on wellbeing
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You scored higher than 99% on wisdom
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You scored higher than 99% on truth
Link: The What tarot card resembles you Test written by KamikazeParrot on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the 32-Type Dating Test


Filed under: Personal — cec @ 3:46 pm

Took the morning off and went blueberry picking. An hour and a half later and we had about 8 pounds. Perfect for making blueberry pancakes, muffins, etc. Now the only question: “are 5 quarts of blueberries enough?”

July 13, 2006

Random recent pictures

Filed under: Photography,Wildlife Rehab — cec @ 10:57 pm

My life as the husband of a wildlife rehabilitator…
A client…

baby possum

A client turned pet (don’t ask)…

Luke the boa constrictor

Pyramid of baby turtles (no, this isn’t posed)…

baby turtle pyramid

A recent delivery – I wonder what the poor driver thought…

rats - the new frozen meat

but at least it had dry ice in it…

fun with dry ice

July 12, 2006

About Alkahest

Filed under: Uncategorized — cec @ 8:44 pm

Why Alkahest?

It’s mainly a joke, but on a couple of different levels. Alkahest is a mythical substance, thought by alchemists to be the universal solvent. The universal solvent was the one substance that could dissolve anything (which leads of course to the obvious question about what you keep it in). It was also thought to either be or be useful in making the philosopher’s stone. Calling a blog Alkahest implies at least that you are willing to take on a large number of different subjects as opposed to specializing. In modern chemistry, water is known as the universal solvent. Given the number of water/plumbing related problems (and therefore posts) I have, this amuses me. Finally, a blog really needs some title other than its URL.

Who am I?

I’m not attempting to be anonymous, but also tend not to use my name on this blog. I used to be the IT Security Officer at a major university, but in August of 2007, I left to join an engineering company where I am a Senior Research Engineer. Don’t know what that means?  Join the club – I’ll tell you when I find out.  I tend not to refer to my former university or my current employer too often, mostly because it’s a personal blog. That said, it’s trivially easy to find out who I am and where I work.  [cec: is this still true?  I’m not certain it’s still easy to find out where I work.]

I have a doctorate in computer engineering and have studied topics including: neural networks, video compression, biological modeling, micro-electromechanical systems, computational chemistry, parallel computing and Internet security. Currently, I’m interested in social issues such as wage growth, social security and social equality; as well as photography and learning to play the guitar.

My wife, K, is currently a wildlife rehabilitator which means that I’m also a general handy man, cage builder, and computer support person.

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