bassleri froglet pictures

Some pictures of the five A. bassleri froglets that successfully morphed. All were from the 2nd clutch – it’s generally accepted in the dart frog community that practice makes perfect – quality of offspring often improves as the parents mature. It looks like the Cyclop-eeze I fed them as tadpoles (to supply xanthins and help them color up) did it’s job!




Yes, I know I’m posting a lot of frog pictures. You should expect the behavior to continue…

Working the young one

The woodcock are coming north; Dinah and I have been out in the evening looking for them. Last night wasn’t too productive – I bumped one, she bumped (stopped to flush, though) a double, and we finished the night with a hard point and steady to wing on a single. Wednesday night was a lot better – we moved over a dozen birds. Regardless, it’s a great time to be in the fields, swamps and pondsides. A short list of things that caught my attention:

a raft of ring-necked ducks with a male hooded merganser tucked in the center

a trio of mallards deep in some flooded puckerbrush

pterodactyls nesting


the wintergreen smell of birch sap

the cinderblock splash of a beaver sounding the alarm

the smell of sweet fern and the sound of gravel underfoot


the clink-tinkle of Dinah’s bell

spring peepers starting the evening chorus

no bugs yet!

Patent Number 2,292,387

Long-time readers of my blog know that I’m fascinated by Hedy Lamarr (originally – Hedwig Kiesler). In honor of Ada Lovelace Day (today!) I though I’d post a short run-down of the patent she and her collaborator, composer and pianist George Antheil,  filed in 1942. The title on the patent was “Secret Communication System” and it outlines a way to radio-control a torpedo in a way that makes jamming very difficult. The scheme the movie star and the composer came up with is what later came to be know as frequency-hopping spread spectrum. Wikipedia says, succinctly:

Frequency-hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) is a method of transmitting radio signals by rapidly switching a carrier among many frequency channels, using a pseudorandom sequence known to both transmitter and receiver. *

If you’re camped on one frequency while trying to transmit control info to your torpedo, you’re a sitting duck – your signal can be swamped by a transmitter on your target. If you are hopping from frequency to frequency in a way that your adversary can’t predict, but the receiver in the torpedo can, you’re in much better shape.

The mechanism K and A used to sync the transmitter and the receiver was one that had been used to control musical instruments and would be used a couple decades later to load programs on computers – paper tape!


An interesting wrinkle – based on the tape above, I gotta believe that the frequency change interval is variable – perfectly understandable, given the one-to-one communication; it’s also a feature that would make an adversary’s job tougher.

Keeping the 2 tapes – one on the warship with the transmitter and one on the torpedo with the receiver – synchronized is essential.

Clearly the rolls have to start up at exactly the same time. In the invention each roll has an extra track and in that track is just one perforation inserted as a start marker. When the system was first armed (switched on), a little pin passed through this start perforation, restraining the roll from playing. The two pins were operated by an electromagnet, one at the ship end and one at the torpedo end. when the two electromagnets were switched on, that is when the device was armed, the pins appeared and were used to hold back the rolls. The electromagnets were connected together by two wires that ran from the ship’s transmitter equipment to the torpedo’s receiver. Once the torpedo was fired, the wires broke, breaking the circuit that operated the electromagnets, the two pins that held the roll withdrew and the rolls started playing at exactly the same instant… *

Additionally, they have to run at the same speed – not quite as big a trick as starting the run at exactly the same time.

It’s an excellent idea – perhaps a bit ahead of its time, but feasible (I think) given the tech of the day. It didn’t go anywhere though. Why? Two thoughts come to mind. The obvious explanation is that Kiesler and Antheil were outsiders. I can hear it now, “A movie star and a guy who writes ‘modern’ music have an idea for a torpedo remote control system? Haw, haw – tell me another.” Less obvious is an objection that may not have been apparent to Hedy. Hedwig Kiesler’s first marriage was to Friedrich Mandl, an Austrian arms dealer and manufacturer. The Germans were pioneers of electrically propelled torpedoes – Hedy may have heard discussion of them before her escape from Mandl and Austria in 1937. The problem was that the US used torpedoes powered by compressed air – no source of electricity to power the receiver.

In the overall scheme of things though, she and Antheil had a great idea – cheers, Hedy!

Found objects

You can keep your sissy bottled water – this is the real thing. Canned water:


And via everyone’s favorite Design Student, fun with rotomolding (I include this just because my jaw still drops when the phone bings for an incoming text message and what appears is a snippet of video taken minutes before):

Patches, I'm depending on you, son…

Two items of note.

My Nerd Commando P8tches arrove yesterday:


A fun and interesting bit of work – well done John “Tikaro” Young and Kenn “Wappenbee” Munk! I understand the Japanese are way ahead of us in the ‘point your cell phone at a barcode and get info’ race (we in the US lag in most cell apps, it seems); I’m counting this as continuing to get my feet wet with ubicomp.

Via my Fickr contacts feed, a great patch designed by Gi for Esther Dyson. Dyson is in Star City training as a backup cosmonaut.

The design:



Huzzah, Gi!

Collapse links

Something to cheer us all up on a Saturday morning. First up, Dmitri Orlov’s Social Collapse Best Practices (a talk to the Long Now Foundation – audio and video ava).

If you still have a job, or if you still have some savings, what do you do with all the money? The obvious answer is, build up inventory. The money will be worthless, but a box of bronze nails will still be a box of bronze nails. Buy and stockpile useful stuff, especially stuff that can be used to create various kinds of alternative systems for growing food, providing shelter, and providing transportation. If you don’t own a patch of dirt free and clear where you can stockpile stuff, then you can rent a storage container, pay it a few years forward, and just sit on it until reality kicks in again and there is something useful for you to do with it. Some of you may be frightened by the future I just described, and rightly so. There is nothing any of us can do to change the path we are on: it is a huge system with tremendous inertia, and trying to change its path is like trying to change the path of a hurricane. What we can do is prepare ourselves, and each other, mostly by changing our expectations, our preferences, and scaling down our needs.

Something that I don’t see discussed enough is what a severe downturn (or depression or collapse, as we run up the intensity scale) means for social order. The last big bust didn’t exactly bring out the best in a lot of people – I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect folks to just accept being dealt a bad hand in a crooked game (mmm – long pork!). I don’t read Salon much any more, but this article – We’re on the brink of disaster – caught my eye.

Take China. So far, the authorities have managed to control individual “mass incidents,” preventing them from coalescing into something larger. But in a country with a more than 2,000-year history of vast millenarian uprisings, the risk of such escalation has to be on the minds of every Chinese leader.

On Feb. 2, a top Chinese party official, Chen Xiwen, announced that, in the last few months of 2008 alone, a staggering 20 million migrant workers, who left rural areas for the country’s booming cities in recent years, had lost their jobs. Worse yet, they had little prospect of regaining them in 2009. If many of these workers return to the countryside, they may find nothing there either, not even land to work.

Under such circumstances, and with further millions likely to be shut out of coastal factories in the coming year, the prospect of mass unrest is high. No wonder the government announced a $585 billion stimulus plan aimed at generating rural employment and, at the same time, called on security forces to exercise discipline and restraint when dealing with protesters. Many analysts now believe that, as exports continue to dry up, rising unemployment could lead to nationwide strikes and protests that might overwhelm ordinary police capabilities and require full-scale intervention by the military (as occurred in Beijing during the Tiananmen Square demonstrations of 1989).

And then there’s climate change. This New Scientist article talks about the implications of a 4°C rise in global average temperature.

If we use land, energy, food and water efficiently, our population has a chance of surviving – provided we have the time and willingness to adapt. “I’m optimistic that we can reduce catastrophic loss of life and reduce the most severe impacts,” says Peter Falloon, a climate impacts specialist at the Hadley Centre. “I think there’s enough knowledge now, and if it’s used sensibly we could adapt to the climate change that we’re already committed to for the next 30 or 40 years.”

This really would be survival, though, in a world that few would choose to live. Large chunks of Earth’s biodiversity would vanish because species won’t be able to adapt quickly enough to higher temperatures, lack of water, loss of ecosystems, or because starving humans had eaten them.

Things are not disconnected – it’s all interrelated. Assuming we haven’t already passed some climatological positive feedback tipping point, the current economic meltdown may moderate our output of greenhouse gasses. On the upheaval front – China, India, and Pakistan share borders and possess nukes. Pakistan is the loosest of cannons, but China has a long history of civil fun ‘n games (I believe it’s called ‘losing the mandate of heaven’). A Pakistan/India nuclear exchange would kill a lot of people and put a lot of dust in the air – what kind of feedback effects would a south Asia nuclear nightmare cause? If climate change continues, the Indian monsoon becomes unreliable and there’s instability to the north – what then?

I don’t know if it’s an American thing, or whether this goes on worldwide, but some folks rub their hands in eager anticipation of an impending apocalypse. Just so I’m clear – if you think a post-collapse landscape looks like a Frank Frazetta painting with you in a starring role – grow up. If statistics and experience are any guide, it looks like you (and me) face down in filthy stagnant water or curled up in a cold, damp corner with a high fever and bloody diarrhea.

Have a nice day!

Update – two other posts on the specifics:

A great article on Iceland – the whole financial mess writ small – Wall Street on the Tundra.

In reply to the Santellis of the world – the foreclosure mess in Cleveland. Yes, some people were incredibly irresponsible (see Irvine Housing Blog), but even in those cases it takes two to tango. Some lending practices, though, were just short of theft/fraud.

In other instances, mortgage brokers would cruise neighborhoods, looking for houses with old windows or a leaning porch, something that needed fixing. They would then offer to arrange financing to pay for repairs. Many of those deals were too good to be true, and interest rates ballooned after a short period of low payments. Suddenly burdened with debt, people began to lose homes they had owned free and clear.

As early as 2000, a handful of public officials led by the county treasurer, Jim Rokakis, went to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and pleaded with it to take some action. In 2002, the city passed an ordinance meant to discourage predatory lending by, among other things, requiring prospective borrowers to get premortgage counseling. In response, the banking industry threatened to stop making loans in the city and then lobbied state legislators to prohibit cities in Ohio from imposing local antipredatory lending laws.

Déjà Vu All Over Again

In a semi-successful effort to rouse myself from a ‘holy crap, the world is scary’ funk, I brought another simmering project to a boil. I’m calling this a double EP (too short for an album, in my mind) – for historio-educational use only, please allow me to present Déjà Vu All Over Again.  Right-clicking on the front cover will allow you to download a zip file.





[All hail COOP, whose Bloodclot mix remains my fave road music.]