At the bottom of our stairs we have a big blank wall. We used to have a copy of the Declaration of Independence there– mostly because we bought it on a trip to Washington, D.C. years ago and didn’t really have a place to put it, and the big blank wall suggested itself. But in a tragic accident yesterday, the Declaration was destroyed and now we’re left with a big blank wall again.

So we’ve been talking about what to put there, and at dinner the idea came: create a huge photo montage of thousands of our family pictures, arranged to make up a larger image. I think these are called “photomosaics”.

Anyway, a few minutes of hunting around and a bit of configuration work on my laptop, and I have the software I need to generate these cool pictures.

First, scan and index all 14,000 digital photos in our archive. Unfortunately not all of them are family shots: there are pictures of house projects, computer parts, random photos the kids took, and so on. But I’ll worry about cleaning that up later.

Second, pick a good candidate photo. I grabbed one at random from our album:

Third, run the software against the photo using the index data. The result is pretty sweet:

Although it’s hard to see at this resolution, the end result is a huge image made up of thousands of smaller photos. Here’s a zoom on one area of the mosaic (the bottom of the cookie, to be precise):

All of this in about thirty minutes. Now I can get serious and do some better indexing, and find a master photo that would be really fun.

Remember that scene in Return of the Jedi where Han Solo gets thawed out of the carbonite after being locked up in there for a couple of years, and he falls to the ground and as he slowly sits up he says with a groan, “I feel terrible”?

Well, that’s pretty much been the past four days for me. I laid in bed all day Friday, only moving to lurch to the bathroom now and again. Saturday was another day in bed– man, I got sick of that bed. Sunday I was feeling a little better so I moved to the family room couch for a change of scenery. And now it’s Monday, and I thought I’d be better and the week would start all happy, and instead I’m doing my best to get some work done in between a few naps because I feel so lousy.

And I’m eating a bowl of chicken soup, longing for a big slice of greasy pepperoni pizza. Sigh.

Maybe tomorrow.

So this morning my old friend Aron wrote to me and a couple other people:

My friend Greg Helding is running for mayor here in Racine. He is the only Republican in the race– although party affiliation means very little locally.

Anyway, one of our local news sites is doing a straw poll and the votes can come from anywhere. Please click on this link and vote for Greg Helding.

This smelled a lot like ballot-stuffing to me, but I’m always one to play political games. So I went to the web site:

It looks like Greg is holding onto a tight lead in the straw poll, probably because I voted for him several times. I was going to look into hacking the system and placing ten thousand votes for Greg via a web script, but the poll is running on Blogspot, which is owned by Google and locked down pretty well. In a few minutes of poking I wasn’t able to find a quick way to game the system.

Still, I couldn’t resist adding a few comments to the blog. Most of the comments already in there were really boring things like

I take great comfort in knowing that Racine can count on as fine a person as Jim Spangenberg. His selfless contributions throughout the years serve as a model of the “Good Citizen”.

Yeah, yeah. Yawn. It’s time the heavyweights came to the party:

I’m shopping for some RAM for a few servers I administer, and came across this awesome customer review:

Pros: Works as expected in my Dell Precision 390 with Windows XP x64.

Cons: It’s not free.

That’s certainly a drawback. Pesky computer stores.

Just got back from a one-day business trip to Los Angeles.

When I left Denver it was 15 degrees and snowing; the interstate was a twenty-mile stretch of ice, and we had to wait 45 minutes to de-ice the plane before takeoff.

When I arrived in Los Angeles it was crystal clear, sunny, and 65 degrees. Perfect.

Ahh, California… love to visit, wouldn’t want to live there.

“I find that a great part of the information I have was acquired by looking up something and finding something else on the way.”

— Franklin P. Adams

Laralee is awesome. For the past three days she’s been doing some spring cleaning, including crazy things like dusting the baseboards and even shampooing the carpets. Without her I’m sure those things would never happen, and our house would be a disaster.

I was reading the New York Times and saw a graphic showing the current national unemployment level, which is 8.1%.

What the heck kind of graph is this? Without an x-axis there’s no way to tell if this is over the course of the last year, the last month, or maybe even since lunch. And without a y-axis we don’t know where it started– was there zero unemployment sometime recently that I didn’t know about?

Come on guys, I know not everyone is a mathematician like me, but really, can’t you do a little better than this?

I just heard Leonard Nimoy’s rendition of “If I Had a Hammer”. It’s not quite as bad as “The Bilbo Baggins Song” but wow, it’s so awful it’s going to leave a scar.

What has been heard… cannot be un-heard.

A few weeks ago I had a million-dollar idea.

I love Mario Kart on the Wii. It’s hands-down the most fun video game I’ve played in a decade, and the whole fam gets in on the action. The only problem is there are only thirty-two race courses, and after a few months of playing you get to know the courses pretty well and have a nagging need to drive on something different.

I don’t know how much planning and programming goes into creating a race course for a game like this, but I would think Nintendo could put together a team of a handful of programmers and have them crank out a new course every month or so. Heck, they could probably do it in their spare time if the game engine is built right.

The Wii has a network connection and can jump onto the internet (so you can play other Mario Kart fanatics around the world), so Nintendo would then make these add-on courses available for purchase and download over the net. Say they charge five bucks, or even a dollar, to get these courses. With a million players out there like me, all willing to pay a buck to get something new, Nintendo just made a cool million. Certainly that would pay for the development time for the course!

As a bonus, allow people to download new characters and vehicles for free.

Repeat monthly or whatever, and you’ve got a sweet revenue stream. You keep your players happy, rake in the dough, and expand the game into something much bigger than what you can pack on a single DVD game disc.

How about them apples, Nintendo?

At dinner tonight I decided to eat left-handed. As it turns out, using your “wrong hand” to do everyday tasks (like eating or brushing your teeth or combing your hair) can not only improve your overall dexterity, but can help your brain… making you smarter in a way, I suppose. So lately I’ve been doing little things here and there with my left hand. I suppose it has the added benefit that if my right arm ever gets cut off I’ll be a little ahead of the curve adapting. Heh.

Laralee noticed my little trick right away (probably because I was having a hard time getting food in my mouth, and kept dropping it) and asked the kids if any of them saw something different about me. They kept guessing, and came up with some interesting ones:

  • Dad got a haircut! (It’s true, but it was three days ago.)
  • He’s wearing shorts. (Also true, but kind of meaningless.)
  • His nose is pierced. (Not true.)
  • His nose is smaller. (Possible, but probably not true.)
  • His eyes are blue. (Not so; they’re still green.)
  • The closest they came was when Alex mentioned that I was tilting my head kind of funny while I was eating. It was probably because I was having a hard time getting the fork in just the right position. It’s surprisingly hard to be ambidextrous at dinner!

    Anyway, after we finally revealed the big secret, we decided that we’ll make mealtimes more interesting in the future. Several options were bantered about:

  • Chopsticks Night. We’ll all eat with chopsticks, even if dinner is mashed potatoes and corn.
  • Left-handed Night. Duh.
  • Learn a Language Night. Laralee will learn the Spanish words for each of our food items and we’ll learn them; I’ll do the same in German.
  • Yoda Night. Speak like Yoda, everyone must.
  • I suggested that in addition to learning Spanish and German food words, we spend one night each week learning phrases on as many languages as possible. Those phrases will be:

  • Yes.
  • No.
  • Hello.
  • Goodbye.
  • Please.
  • Thank you.
  • I don’t know (insert language here), but I do know Bob.
  • That last one is a tribute to Sarah, who knows how to say that in at least half a dozen languages.

    Regardless of how all this turns out, dinners should be much more interesting!

Sweet. We’ve been invited to a Pi Party next weekend. It will, of course, be on March 14 (3/14… get it?) and we have to bring a pie for dinner and a pie for dessert. We’ve decided that pizza is very much like a pie, so that’ll be the main course and we’ll make some Toll House pie (think huge chocolate chip cookie) for dessert.

I’ve got to get cracking on memorizing pi, too… there will be a contest to see who knows the most decimal places, and right now I only know seventeen. I’m going to see if I can work up to fifty by Pi Day.