Tuesday, May 24, 2011

New Toys

I got some new toys a couple months ago, and I stuffed a picture into a draft post here.  Which has languished.  I've got five minutes before my self-imposed no-work-during-lunch time is up, so I figured I'd just post a quick summary.

On the left is a Mio heartrate monitor watch.  Your arm presses on the back, and you apply to fingers to the front, and it counts beats.  It also works just fine putting one finger on the back plate, and two fingers of the other hand on the front.  My heart races in the middle of the day for some reason, so now I'm recording it over time, to have a little more insight.  This works well.

On the right is the Garmin GTU-10.  This is a GPS receiver with built-in GSM.  It monitors position and uploads that to a web site.  It'll email you if the tracker goes outside a "geofence," too.  So far, it's doing a lousy job of tracking my location -- inside buildings it's useless, of course, but outside it seems to only get a fix when I'm standing still for sixty seconds.  Fun trick, but you're better off with an android phone and an app.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New Toy

It arrived today, my new 1933 Underwood Portable.  It's pretty awesome; every part of it has a heft and importance.  The case is in good condition, the typewriter is completely functional, and there's even a ribbon in it.  I'll need to re-ink the ribbon -- I remember doing that as a kid, but not how -- but it's ready to go.

This one's got the glass-top keys, and it's pretty swanky.  Each one's got a piece of glass on top of the letter -- dunno how they applied it.  The interesting thing to me is that this is a full-circle thing.  The more things change, the more your smartphone has a glass-top display, too.  Both glass-top displays are detecting your finger presses and converting it to text input, right?

This thing's been in an attic for a while, I think.  It smells like stale books, and an unused leather luggage set, and maybe the wooden slats above the ceiling that have been absorbing a little humidity and convected sunlight heat from the roof.  Since years.

So, what's my project gonna be?  I have no idea.  I can get an Arduino to detect what letter's being typed.  I'd love to feed an epaper display through the thing.  The machine is nice and open, so LEDs under there would make a wonderful glow.  I've already gotten a palmtop computer to tweet over wifi -- so it's easy enough to make it do that.  I'm determined to not compromise its functionality at all, no drilling, sawing, dremeling [sic] or otherwise breaking it.  This is gonna be interesting!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Denis Dutton at TED

I just watched a fascinating talk by Denis [sic] Dutton at TED, 2010 in Long Beach.  He makes a really interesting case for Homo sapiens' innate appreciation of beauty being explainable by natural selection.  As an ecologist, it's got my mind wandering in all sorts of fun directions, now.

Is our appreciation of beauty just runaway selection based on a sensory bias?  Can part of it be explained as an honest badge of fitness?  Does "beauty" only make you happy because those who are drawn to it are more likely to have offspring that live to reproductive age?  And if you like the feel of a well made tool in your hands, it might actually be a heritable trait.