Sunday, April 27, 2008


I read "Blink" a few weeks ago. As was "The Tipping Point" this work is extremely well written. The reasoning is excellent and it is presented in a very straightforward manner. I did however, prefer "The Tipping Point" as the material itself I found more compelling. I would highly recommend this book as well as the previous, though.

I guess I don't feel as I have as much 'take-away' from this piece. Can I effectively manage the subconscious super-analytic snap decision brain-power we all have...?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


The portrait of me you see to the left was painted by Mary Quian, an artist I formerly worked with on MK:Deception and Armageddon. I think she must have painted almost everybody in the PD department at the Midway Chicago studio at one point or another.

Among other things, she was responsible for creating the "Falling Cliffs" level in Deception; very cool. My understanding is she moved on to character design and modelling after that.

She is a very talented 3D artist and has a strong passion for painting.

I can't say enough about how cool it is to be able to work with so many talented individuals in the video game development business.

Check out her website:

Friday, March 14, 2008

Nick is slamming random keys with oversized mits on

I just got a link from a friend with whom I worked with at Midway Games.

Nick is a consummate techie. Check out his site if you are also so inclined.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Tipping Point

I am currently reading "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell. It is mesmerizing.

The premise of the book is that change can happen sort of non-linearly, or as he describes it, geometrically; much like a virus.

He presents a variety of examples and suggests some elements that facilitate this sort of change in a way that is easy and entertaining, but also approachable for general readers like myself.

Here is his own description of the book.

I have the book in paperback, and according to the heading, it is a national bestseller. This is not at all surprising to me.

I highly recommend reading this book.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

History of the U.S. Economy in the 20th Century

I justed finished listening to the second lecture on audiobooks for this series on the history of the U.S. economy. The professor is fantastic. I previously have listened to 20 previous lectures relating to macro and micro economics.

This series delves into how some of the institutions we have today came into being and gives some color to the notion that some of these institutions that we hold as universal really have not been around very long.

You can download the audio to your ipod etc. It's not free but it is worth a listen if you have some time.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Medieval Times

Taki, Cheryl, and I decided to squeeze in a trip to Medieval Times for the matinee show on this Superbowl Sunday. The big upside is there probably wasn't their normal crowd. We were joined by another family and the kids all had a great time. The food was served without utensils. Cheryl didn't much care for that but Taki and I enjoyed eating chicken, ribs, and potatoes with our fingers. We got to eat our soup by sipping it from the pewter bowl too.

Fortunately, I was still able to get in front of some video to see kickoff. I'm back off to see the second half.

Shown below: Taki and Cheryl looking good in their stylish crowns.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Active Velocity Control Bait Casting Reel for Fishing

I had, a few years ago, been thinking about fishing with baitcasting reels. One big advantage that I enjoy is being able to control the speed of the line coming out with my thumb.

One disadvantage is the spool can spin too fast causing a nasty "birds nest" of line on your spool. Another disadvantage is the cast distance is minimized by the techniques used to not allow that to happen.
The common technique is to use mechanical braking to minimize the spool speed again at the expense of cast distance.

A few years back, Shimano came up with a technology that uses a computer to "shape" the braking pattern so the braking can be non-linear and tuned to the time of the cast. So I suppose it would allow faster spin rates at the beginning then, as toward the end of the cast, it could increase the braking, thus helping cast distance while still minimizing backlash.

Check out this site for their description of this cutting edge tech:

These reels are pricey, I plan to get one this spring. The tech is so compelling.

I think the next big step in this process is to come up with a way that the reel could actively adjust the speed of the spool. The difference is somewhat analogous to passive versus active suspension in autos. The current state of Shimano technology is still passive, computer controlled non-linear brake shaping. With Active Velocity control, the reel needs to adjust the braking in a non-linear fashion, but also in a way that can actively in real-time, adjust braking. This will help when discontinuities in the velocity occur which can minimize massive backlash.

What is backlash?
In mathematically I suppose backlash is when the spool velocity (w) exceeds the line velocity (v) divided by the radius of the spool. (radius in not constant)

w > v / r

So if we can electronically brake the spool we just need to apply the braking when the above equation true until

w = v / r

The solution
If somebody were to build a computer to calculate the optimal spool velocity and compare it to the actual one, braking when the actual spool velocity exceeds the optimal one, backlash would disappear. A nice side benefit is that the spool can then be engineered mechanically, such that the more spin resistance is minimized, the further the reel will cast.

Measured inputs
We will need to measure the following values.
Actual spool velocity.
This problem has already been solved in many ways, even in current fishing reels. One way would be to use an opticoupler like ones found in computer mice.
Spool radius.
This also has been addressed in current fishing reels. Abu-Garcia has a line trolling computer that has the user enter the percent amount that the reel is filled with line, when all the line is in. Then, by counting the spool revolutions, they can presumably estimate the current spool radius.
Line speed.
Here we need to measure the speed at which the line is actually coming off the reel, independent of the spool speed. The technique that first comes to mind would be to manufacture a metered line with very small metering distances. Maybe the opacity levels are toggled with the metering. Then using light detection techniques as the line passes through the eyehole portion of the spool used to evenly wind the line onto the spool, the speed could be measured, taking care to handle aliased velocities by the lengths of the metering.

Applying the solution. In order to successfully create a product using active braking, a good deal of design must be undertaken. The majority of the work is in measuring accurately and cost effectively, those elements listed above.

result: a better mouse trap