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September 2007
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September 30, 2007

Fracture

Filed under: Movies — Bob @ 6:39 pm

FractureWe watched the film Fracture starring Anthony Hopkins last night. I was unsure what to expect, but we’d heard good things about the film from friends. It was most certainly not another Hannibal Lecter flick.

Without giving too much away, I’ll say it was a great game of cat-and-mouse between the Deputy District Attorney and the fellow who kills his wife in cold blood. The end is quite good although rather predictable after the significant climax where Anthony Hopkins’ character won’t be prosecuted for attempted murder.

Parts of the story are quite clever though, for example the hiding place for the gun that committed the crime was a nice touch. Like all good plot twists, it was obvious from the start except it wasn’t obvious at all.

Seen this film? What did you think of it?

Winter in Vancouver

Filed under: Commentary,Food & Wine — Bob @ 6:11 pm

FireplaceIt’s been pouring rain today in Vancouver, seems winter has come a bit early. We decided to settle indoors for the day, built a fire for the first time this season, and watched Ken Burns’ The War on PBS. I was going to work on my latest robot project, but laziness and some obligations for the day job got in the way.

The War has been quite amazing. The episode we’re watching now included the story of the battle for Herken Forest, outside Aachen, Germany. It is quite a stunning story, I’d never heard about it before. In fact the entire series has been about incredible stories I haven’t really heard about before. I’ve learned a lot about World War II through this documentary, and I thought I already knew a lot.

Eileen made an amazing beef bourgogne for dinner too. Yum!

September 29, 2007

Another Hockey Season!

Filed under: Hockey — Bob @ 9:05 am

I’m watching the NHL season opener game right now, its between the Los Angles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks. To spice things up, its being held in London, England. Apparently they had to ship over a scoreboard, the boards and various other equipment. The game got off to a late start due to lighting issues.

We’ve also been attending a couple of Canucks pre-season games. We have new seats this year, still sitting behind the home goal although in row 10 (about 5 rows closer I think). The picture here is from our seats during the game against the Ducks, taken using the crappy little camera built into my RAZR phone.

I think I need a better camera. I probably need a better phone. I definitely need a phone with a better camera! Sadly the iPhone isn’t available in Canada yet, and I’m likely way too much of a cheap-skate to fork over $100 per month in charges. Although yes I would spend $500 on the phone though. I think the difference is that I don’t mind the one-time expense, but honestly I don’t get $20 per month of usage from my phone today, and paying five times as much just seems stupid.

Anyways, both Eileen and I are happy the hockey season as started again!

September 25, 2007

Pete’s Foo

Filed under: Robots — Bob @ 9:02 pm

Pete Mile’s FooOne of the really fun parts of Robothon is the opportunity to get really good, up-close views of the fantastic robots made by other people. In this case, I’m highlighting Foo made by Pete Miles (that is, Mr. Roboto, if you read Servo magazine).

Pete has spent a lot of time making Foo walk very smoothly, as you can see in this movie. Although it walks slowly, it is very stable. In the background, if you listen very carefully, you can hear Pete explaining his challenge in programming the walking gait.

Biped walkers always get a lot of attention because they look really cool. Watch the movie and tell me if you agree or not!

September 24, 2007

Robothon 2007

Filed under: Robots — Bob @ 7:12 pm

Robothon is over for another year and it was quite exciting. I only took two robots this year: The Thin Man and Velox, both were for the mini sumo event. I opted to not take any other robots simply because I haven’t spent any time improving them so it was unlikely they’d do well.

The Thin Man took first place in the mini sumo event this year (beating my friend and long-time nemesis Dave Hylands), while Velox suffered some sort of mental break that is likely a shorted wire or toasted component. Given the terrible state of its wiring, I’m not surprised. If I want to run it in a future event it’s going to require whole new sensor and processor boards. I already have a design for both though, so it shouldn’t be too hard.

The Thin Man got quite a bit of attention as it was never beaten by any other robot. One significant improvement for this year was to program four different start modes: start straight, start with a left turn, start with a right turn, or pause a little longer before going straight. I didn’t use the fourth mode but the first three worked really well. The rules of mini sumo dictate that the winner of the previous round places their robot first, which is typically a big disadvantage.

It appears other people didn’t know I could change my start program (perfectly legal and even recommended by Pete Miles in his book if I recall correctly) so they would place their robot where they though my robot wouldn’t go. But The Thin Man went right at them anyways, even when I had to turn first. It was like magic!

My micro sumo robot AL also got quite a bit of attention even though Robothon doesn’t run an event for that class. I take it every year anyways because it is a great demonstration of how even small sumo robots can be well made, very fast and very aggressive.

Once again I was very intrigued with the Robo-Magellan event and will start my own project very soon. I have some sketches done for some parts, and as soon as I have something worth showing I’ll blog about it.

I’ve uploaded quite a few pictures from the event here. Enjoy!

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