An Example of Why I Love my Wife

6 February 2012 by

I recently received the following volley of emails from my wife while she was waiting to board a plane.

Subject: Animal plane
Maureen to: Toby
02/02/2012 08:39 AM

You know Frontier is the airline with the talking animals commercials…i’ve been excited all morning to find out which animal would be on my plane….but I can’t see it due to the sun!!! it’s either a lemur, a leopard cub, or a skunk.  Maybe I’ll ask the pilot, ha…


Subject: Animal planes
Maureen to: Toby
02/02/2012 09:00 AM

Update…possibly a white tiger cub????!!! Still hard to say.


Subject: Re: Animal planes
Maureen to: Toby
02/02/2012 09:06 AM

Oh my gah its a BADGER!!!

Put This in Your Pipe and Smoke It

3 November 2011 by

Dang, it looks like good old alcohol exceeds cannabis in both dependence and harm. Also, avoid heroin.


A Day at Worlds of Fun

26 September 2011 by

Worlds of Fun serves as a sort of litmus test of that moment when the line representing the child’s urge to repeat peak experiences crosses the line representing the adult’s growing sense of restraint. The crossing of these lines occurred for me several years ago. I found that despite being a free agent in the park, I could not fulfill my dream of riding multiple roller coasters in rapid succession. To put it better, I could, but I no longer cared to do so. It tasted of both wisdom and disappointment. Such is life.

My wife, who has perhaps a greater lust for life than me in some aspects, has also found that her lines have crossed. Maureen expressed to me on several occasions her intentions to ride the “Patriot” coaster as many times as possible. Please consult the list of our rides in order ridden below to see what actually occured.

Spinning Dragons
Fury of the Nile

Between “Spinning Dragons” and the Fury, I rode the “Fjord Fjairlane” with my sister. It is so relaxing as to be considered a negative ride in terms of nausea. I nearly talked Maureen into “Le Taxitour” at one point. We noted that neither of us actually like driving. The “Boomerang” took a lot out of both Maureen and I.

If you are young and there is an amusement park that you wish you had one low-attendance day to exploit, I recommend you do it. Go with one friend who shares your interest. Go without the restraints of your youth group or parents. Go before your lines cross. Go in October.

Gilding the Lily

27 April 2011 by

I recently read “Anathem” by Neal Stephenson. In this fiction, a society of cloistered mathematicians live in isolated communities with only occasional contact with the surrounding world. Upon contact with the outside world, the mathematicians often express surprise that humanity at large is still iterating designs on objects and methods that have existed for milennia. One example in the book is a gas stove. The hero of the book is flummoxed that although the outer society has been heating food through all of recorded human history, the basic gas stove is still failure prone, dangerous, and generally poor. The few objects that the mathematicians rely on are of frozen designs so highly perfected that they seem almost magical to outsiders.

Every time I have to replace a toothbrush, the toothbrush I just finished with is no longer available at any of my local stores. There are hundreds of shapes and configurations of toothbrush available to me, but none are the one that just satisfactorily cleaned my teeth for 3 months. This has always confounded me. Surely, by now, there ought to be One Toothbrush. Maybe 3 or 4 are needed to account for the variations in the human mouth.

Likewise the sedan type automobile should have converged on one exterior shape almost a hundred years ago. This shape has been known since very early in the existince of the car.

So often, what I hear referred to as “design” is really just figuring out a new shape for an object. It is a zero sum game in which a new appearance is considered a success. A new appearance for a mass produced object is wildly expensive to implement. It is indefensible from the perspective of the function of the object. Take for example, the recent debacle with the malfunctioning antenna of the iphone 4. Macintosh computers, considered a champion of “design”, sold an expensive product that had a significant failure in the backbone of it’s core function. But it was pretty.

In the worst cases, the visual design iteration will actually hamper the function or integrity of an object. This problem is currently rampant in the world of bicycles. “Concept” bicycles, amost without exception these days, feature some kind of hubless wheel. Even if this were readily achievable for a reasonable cost, which it isn’t, it would actually make a bicycle worse in a number of ways.

What is it about us that fails to recognize when something is as good as it is going to get? Why can’t we stick with what works?

I much enjoyed the book and highly recommend it.

FRC 2011 Greater Kansas City Regional

9 March 2011 by

Tomorrow is the first day of the 2011 Greater Kansas City Regional of the First Robotics Competition. If you have any interest in attending, more information can be found at:

An agenda in PDF is available here.

I’m also going to try to keep a stream of photos coming out of the pits to my flickr account.