Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Way Toys Work

This is a cool little book by a couple of guys who dissected various toys, like super soakers, the magic 8 ball, the etch a sketch, etc., and they layout the mechanical construction and principles of physics and chemistry that make these toys work, with a little history added into the mix as well, and some tips about how to make some of these toys yourself. Did you know newspapers have changed their ink formula in a way that means silly putty doesn't work with them anymore? No wonder they are going out of business!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Go Figure!

This is just a book of data -- weather data, how to keep score at bowling, how many drinks make you legally drunk, efficiency of different home heating methods, etc., etc., etc. It's kind of interesting... but also kind of boring. It's the kind of book that would have been handy to have around pre-Internet... but now, well, it's fun to thumb through.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Handbook of Artificial Intelligence

Man. I've been lugging these three big volumes around since I bought them at Johnson's Books in Springfield, MA in 1989. Finally I finished reading them! They basically form a survey of the most interesting Artificial Intelligence software before 1981, which makes them of meaningful historical import. It's kind of sad to see how little the field has managed to advance in the last 30 years, though. Like many foolish coders, I've long had a vision of how to code up an intelligent entity... I wonder if I'll ever get around to it?

Clash of the Titans (1981)

Oh, man, I love this movie, I don't care what Lee Sheldon says. I still remember watching it at the Denville theater with Steve Massuli when it first came out. I know of no other film that captures the magic of Greek mythology this completely. I watched it with my daughter, who was mostly fascinated, and who got SO VERY ANGRY at the cruel Calibos. This brought back a memory, and a strange realization. One of my good friends as a child had some eccentric habits, and had trouble connecting with other kids. He loved to memorize stories, plots, and dialog from fantasy adventure shows he saw on TV and at the movies. When we played Dungeons and Dragons together, his character was a thief, who he named Calibos. This always seemed a little strange to me, since Calibos was such a villainous character. But... thinking about it now, I wonder if there was more of a connection than I realized. Calibos is an outcast due to his deformity, living in the swamp, harboring rage at the world and the Gods because of how they made him. Maybe it was just a coincidence, but maybe my friend related more to Calibos than I could see when I was just a boy.

Best moment watching the movie with Emma -- at the end, when the Medusa head makes the mighty Kraken turn to stone, and then crack and crumble, she smirked and said, "Oh -- *that's* why they call him the "crackin'!"