Mo Basic, Mo Betta.

While Mrs. Tanshanomi and I were shopping at OfficeMess, I was struck by the incongruence of this overhead projector among all the multifunction laser printers, netbooks, and USB peripherals. I’m not sure if I was surprised that the once-ubiquitous technology had been pushed into a small corner in the back of the store, […]

Neutrinos with Syrup, Old School Gaming

Scrabble, re-imagined.

Scrabble is not exactly a hot property in college dorms and hipsters’ lofts nowadays because: 1) kidz 2day r bad at da rite n spell thang [thx 2 txtng]; 2) some researchers claim that the effective written vocabulary of literate native English speakers is actually shrinking [these findings are hotly debated, even though […]



While digging through a box of old magazines in my basement, I ran across this copy of MacUser, which I probably picked up at a newsstand almost exactly 20 years ago.
Continue reading 2011-20=7

AT Book Club, Cause and Effect

Parkinson’s Laws: Is Bureaucratic Inefficiency Inevitable?

Work expands to fill the time available. Once expanded, the reverse is not true. C. Northcote Parkinson (1909-1993), a British history professor, first articulated this famous adage in a 1955 essay in the London Economist, demonstrating why a bureaucracy’s growth is self-perpetuating. While initially intended as a somewhat satirical criticism of England’s mid-century colonial bureaucracy, the basic concept is easy to extrapolate to other areas of life: a person’s belongings expand to fill the storage space available, and network traffic always expands to fill bandwidth, simply because users will come up with things to do with it that they wouldn’t if it were not available. Parkinson’s Law has, indeed, proven to be a serious and valid explanation for many social and psychological phenomena, most of which do not paint a very pretty picture of human nature.
Continue reading Parkinson’s Laws: Is Bureaucratic Inefficiency Inevitable?

Hack-It-Yerself, Prototypes and Experiments

Homemade Robo-Mower is Geektastic

A couple of summers ago, I sighted this wonderful example of DIY innovation a few blocks from work on my evening commute. I stopped and snapped a couple of pics with my crappy cell-phone camera and briefly talked with the remote-wielding inventor.

I’m surprised I haven’t seen more like this. It’s really not […]


Sponge Candy: Just Say No.

As the twentieth century dawned, Buffalo, New York had it goin’ on: eighth largest city in the US; major rail, manufacturing and banking hub; host of the extravagant 1902 Pan-American Exposition (a major success except for that part when President McKinley got assassinated). Thanks to hydro-electric power from nearby Niagara Falls, Buffalo boasted the most pervasive electric power grid anywhere in the world and was nicknamed “The City of Light.” It was also known as the “The Queen City,” a reference not only being second in population within the state, but also a not-so-subtle implication that New York City owed Buffalo some of the credit for the state’s unmatched significance in the nation.

There’s nothing quite so awesome coming out of Buffalo lately, is there? The shocking reason for this is that chocolate-coated demon — SPONGE CANDY.
Continue reading Sponge Candy: Just Say No.

Admin, Sponge-a-rific!

Atomic Toas-…er, ‘Sponges’ Changes Focus.

Pure sponge pr0n!

We like computers. We like spacecraft. We like airplanes and science fiction. But it should be obvious that none of these areas, even in combination, have the same rich depth of inspiration we all find in sponges. Sponges can hold an audience’s interest long after posts about alternative power and […]

Tech Theory

Grayscale Is Still Cool Like Jazz

Last week, my lovely wife surprised me with a new toy I had been jonesin’ for quite a while — an Amazon Kindle. For $139, it’s an amazingly competent piece of technology, and I probably don’t need my flame suit on to declare it the best e-reader on the planet. It’s greatest strength lies in the two things it does not have: a color LCD screen and the swiss-army-knife, do-everything aspirations of iOS and Android operating systems. The Kindle focuses on doing one thing extremely well: displaying the most readable, visually pleasing grayscale image around. It knocks that one clear out of the park. And grayscale is a very, very attractive thing when done well. At least, I’ve always thought so.
Continue reading Grayscale Is Still Cool Like Jazz

Airborne Awesomosity, Military-Grade Awesome, Old School Gaming

Honest, Sergeant — It’s OPFOR Training!

If you actually want to read the names and specs, click for a hi-res image.

Being one of the nerdier, more bookish and generally less useful guys in my Army unit, I was assigned to be a member of my battalion’s OPFOR Recognition Team. About once every month or two, I’d be sent to a training room somewhere on post to spend a half-hour or so looking at fuzzy pictures of armor and airplanes, flashed onto a screen from a carousel slide projector. For each one, I’d hurriedly scribble down its model number or NATO code-name, and the country of origin. It wasn’t terribly exciting competition, but it got me out of the hanger for a few hours, and we won a lot, which made my superiors happy. To help me learn all those vehicular data points, I was given two sets of playing cards Graphic Training Aids, one featuring armored vehicles, the other aircraft.
Continue reading Honest, Sergeant — It’s OPFOR Training!

A-T Exclusive, Old School Gaming, Prototypes and Experiments

Embassy: Not quite “Atomic Toasters: The Game”

A mock game during alpha testing. Yellow, at the top of the photo (actually playing the smaller, light brown pieces) is leading, 4-2-2-1 going clockwise.

“The crowed streets of Alpsylvania’s capital are thick with spies and intrigue. Four foreign embassies struggle to thwart threats to their security and gain the upper hand over their adversaries through superior intelligence-gathering operations…and perhaps even dare to send a secret agent to assassinate a foreign Ambassador?

Last Friday, I asked everyone about the relevancy of low-tech board games. In a moment of self-indulgence, I used a diagram of a home-made game I’d created as the lead-in photo. I told myself at the time that I didn’t want to feature any particular game people might know well, which might lead the comments in one direction or another. But I must admit that I was also hopeful that it might pique somebody’s interest in my stillborn endeavor. Skitter and Mr. [alphabet soup] took the bait, so I hereby present to you the public debut of Embassy.
Continue reading Embassy: Not quite “Atomic Toasters: The Game”