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August 2006 – Stephen Skory

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Month: August 2006

Jeongseon, South Korea

Jeongseon, South Korea

My brother is in Korea to teach english for a year. A few days ago he was told exactly where he'll be teaching, Jeongseon, Kangwon-do province, South Korea. Sensing a challenge, I went ahead and tracked down this moutnain town.

The image on the left is a Google Earth image of the area around Jeongseon. It's a mountainous area - the town appears to be jammed in between 1000 meter peaks at a 180 degree bend in the river (what river?). It also appears to be small - it's smaller than 2 miles from end to end. If you'd like to find Jeongseon, go to 37° 22'36.52" N, 128° 39'54.46" E.

Here's the most detailed map I can find of Jeongseon. It's pretty much in the middle of the map. Unless you can find one nearer, the closest city I can find to Jeongseon for weather reports is Yongwol, about 25 miles away.

Oh, and even though you're probably hip to this tip, Adam should be posting stuff about Jeongseon & more at Skorea.

Top Fuel Cycling

Top Fuel Cycling

With all recent news about doping in cycling (and everywhere else), including the whole Floyd Landis debacle, I think that it's high time to institute Top Fuel Cycling. What? Top Fuel?!

Here it is: Throw all doping controls out the window. Anything that doesn't kill you (immediately) is allowed. EPO, testosterone, human growth hormone, amphetamines, and many more. Finally, there will be no question about who's on the stuff and on the clear.

On the flip side, there will be a league for cyclists who aren't on anything. In fact, they'll be forced to live like an average american. They'll need to eat cheetos, or maybe the league will be sponsored by the Lance snack company. It will be in their contract that half their calories have to come from Lance snacks. The other half from soft drinks and beer. To top it all off, this league will be followed by a TV crew filming a reality series. Each week someone will be kicked off by a judging panel, made up of Lance Armstrong, Lance Bass, and David Hasselhoff.

Galaxy Family Tree

Galaxy Family Tree

A small part of the tree.

Above is a part of what I've been working on lately. It's a small part of the galaxy family tree that I've derived from a large simulation. In the simulation there are several ingredients that are thrown in the 'box.' Relevant to this are the dark matter particles, which coalesce into consituents of galaxies. The dark matter particles have unique id numbers. Using a some code I didn't write, I process the simulation data and make a list of galaxies along with the particles in each galaxy. Then, using some code I did write, I track particles and galaxies over a number of time steps, which builds a relational mapping. Then, I use Graphviz to make a nice tree, as you see above.

Inside each box are either three or four data values. The top grid shows what percentage of the particles in that group came from no group, the middle grid shows both the number of dark matter particles that are in the group and the position of the group, while the bottom grid shows the percentage of the particles that go to no group. The simulation takes place inside of a 3D box with length 1 on a side and periodic boundaries (which means the distance between 0.9 and 0.1 is 0.2, not 0.8). The colors of the box correspond to its ranking in size, red is the largest, green the smallest. The numbers next to the arrows are what percentage of the parent group goes to the child group.

The goal of this is to get an idea of how the galaxies form over the course of the simulation. Of course the simulation tries to mirror reality, so this family tree may be worth something.



Currently in my apartment I have three large, high quality maps on my walls. Two of them are from Raven Maps: California, and Southern California. The third is late 1940's-era (it may have been printed much later than that) USGS topographic map of the central San Francisco Bay Area made up of two 7x4 foot sheets. I have more in my closet. Clearly, I like maps.

San Diego & area

Click for a larger view.

Over at Rand McNally, they have a custom map store where you can choose your own area to map, at about 10 scales (from neighborhood to state level), and they will print it out in poster format, up to 48x60 inches. But it's not cheap. That size, their largest, costs nearly $400. You can also choose to receive a custom booklet for that map with a street index.

Alas, if you can’t run Internet Explorer on Windows, you cannot use their custom map web interface. They should at least make it Firefox compatible, because IE is a bad idea all the time.

To the left here I've previewed the map I would like you to give me. It covers all parts of San Diego that I ride my bike at with sufficient detail of the smaller streets that are important. I would like it in the largest size, with the street index, too. With a cool wall map like this, I can plan out new rides much more easily than on a computer. San Diego county is nearly four times larger than Rhode Island (11,700 km2 to 3400 km2), with much more interesting geography. Help me discover it's wonders!

It's only your money. We're talking about my geographcial edification here!

(p.s. Yeah, okay, there's actually no http://map.a.licio.us/, but there should be.)

Security for Dummies

Security for Dummies

Today a bunch of "Islamic fascists" were arrested in London for plotting to blow up 10 transatlantic flights using liquid bombs. My parents are currently in Wales, and I think they were planning on returning in a little over a week. Who knows if their flight might have been targeted? It's unlikely, but there was (and still is, I suppose) a non-zero probability of something happening to any flight.

After watching the evening news tonight on several networks, I've come up with some comments on airport security guidelines & related topics:

  • On both networks I watched (CBS, NBC) there were dozens of clips of passengers throwing their liquid items into the trash, and then airport workers collecting huge bags full of discarded items & throwing them into dumpsters. If liqud bombs were a real concern, wouldn't the contents of the trash be treated with more respect than that?
  • I subscribe to the Crypto-Gram newsletter written by Bruce Schneier. One of the things he's written about over the last few years is airport security. Specifically, how they (being the 'experts' at DHS/TSA) react to security threats. Usually, they act after the threat has been identified, or sometimes, after the second time. Responding after the threat is identified is like taking a final exam a second time, except people die. What's needed is more comprehensive security that responds to a broad range of threats, not silly movie plot scenarios.
  • I can't resist. Here's my movie plot scenario: If a terrorist is willing to die, surely they're willing to undergo some elective surgery. I don't think it would be impossible to implant some explosive device inside a human body. It would not be very comfortable, and would probably lead to infections after a while, but the bomber needs only to be able to tolerate it long enough to get on the airplane. Right now (and until someone attempts this) people are only put through the metal detector. Careful engineering could certainly prevent any kind of detection by that crude device.
  • Airline perks are going to make a comeback. Now that you can't take anything onto the airplane, the airline will have to supply diversions and food, or else they face very bored & unhappy passengers. The alternative is to start filling the cabin with N2O.
  • A coworker today theorized that the endgame in all of this is a plane full of passengers in hospital-like paper gowns handcuffed to the seats. Passengers will be supplied with absorbent underwear for the longer flights. Children will be put in cages. Do you think this can't happen?