January 21st, 2005


Fry Day

Another busy day at work. Spent about an hour and a half sharing a PC screen with a customer in Colorado, poking at his video server until it agreed that it had a high speed internet card. Am now looking at another machine somewhere in Wisconsin, I think. Or maybe it's LA. They all look the same over the Internet.

Meanwhile, this weekend I'll test out the new exercise bike. UPS did their best to try to destroy it in transit, and ignored my request to hold it for me, instead dumping it on the apartment's office staff. I assembled it Wednesday night, and it seems to be working.

Went to SIGGRAPH last night and saw the 2004 computer graphics/animation winner clips. Most of them very well done, some highly amusing, a couple downright scary. One fun thing is the major studios put together 3-minute clips which showed some of the layering, lighting and 3D tools they used in movies like Lord of the Rings 3, Shrek2, Spiderman2, Polar Express, Bad Boys II, Van Helsing and The Day After Tomorrow. Some clown at that latter movie company put the theme from Hawaii-50 underneath the computer gen of a tidal wave hitting NYC.

My favorite one was a student entry called Attack of the Note Sheep, which starts by showing a page on which a calculus student is taking very complex notes in the lecture hall, with the prof droning away in the background. She begins to doodle little sheep. The sheep start to graze on her notes, erasing them as they go. So she draws a cage to pen one in. Then she draws a ledge for one to fall off and go splat. Then the old Acme 1-ton weight on a pulley trick. At the end of the clip the camera zooms out and we see about a dozen sheep all captured or killed in various cartoon ways.

NASA Lord of the Rings Talk At Foothill College Wednesday Night

NASA Ames Research Center Astronomer Jeff Cuzzi will present Exploring the Lord of the Rings: Cassini at Saturn, a non-technical, illustrated talk, Wednesday, Jan. 26, at 7 p.m. in the Smithwick Theater at Foothill College. Admission is free and the public is invited. No background in science is required for this talk, which will interest everyone who enjoys the latest news of exploration at the frontiers of astronomy. Arrive early to locate parking. Parking is $2 (eight quarters). For more information, call (650) 949-7888.

After a seven-year journey, the Cassini spacecraft arrived at Saturn in 2004, to start a four-year tour of the planet, its icy moons, and its vast ring system. A probe from Cassini called Huygens is now exploring the haze-shrouded giant moon called Titan.

One of the world's experts on ring systems around planets, Dr. Cuzzi will describe the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft and the plans for this fascinating mission. He will highlight the most exciting results from the first few months of Saturn system exploration, with an emphasis on what we are learning about the complex structure and composition of Saturn's ring system and how such a dramatic set of rings may have originated. Cuzzi is a research scientist in the Space Science Division at NASA's Ames Research Center and serves as the Interdisciplinary Scientist for Rings & Dust on the Cassini-Huygens. He was a "ringleader" in planning all the ring images taken at Saturn, Uranus and Neptune by the Voyager spacecraft in the 1980s.

The lecture series is co-sponsored by the Foothill College Astronomy Program, NASA Ames Research Center, SETI Institute and Astronomical Society of the Pacific.