A List

I was cleaning my room when I found this list in a pile of papers:

It’s my handwriting from the last couple years, and it looks faintly familiar, but for the life of me I have no idea what it means or why I wrote it.

… can anyone help figure this one out?

Hooray robots!

A number of people have asked me about building the robot sketched in yesterday’s strip. You’re definitely welcome to, and I’d love to see the results.

There are a couple engineering details that might trip you up. Rotating the webcam is one of them — I don’t make this explicit, but the idea in the blueprint was that there would be a servo inside the robot rotating the retaining magnets, which could be powered off the main battery. In practice, it might be better to put the servo on the outside and power it off the webcam battery — or, if you can find one cheap, simply use an omnidirectional camera.

The reason this is necessary is that I don’t think the internal robot, which is holding the webcam, will spin easily on hard surfaces. This is also the reason the robot uses Mechanum wheels instead of a simpler and cheaper design with a powered wheel on each side and castors or bearings on the front and back. If anyone has any ideas for making the robot spin more easily, I’d love to see them. Or perhaps you can try building the simpler design and see how quickly and reliably it can turn. If it works, it eliminates about half the cost of the project.

If anyone sends in any interesting material on this, I’ll be happy to put it up on a wiki somewhere so other people can tweak the design and develop a how-to. As far as I know, no one has built a robot quite like the one in the comic, so it’d be a great project.

Possible additional feature: cover the robot with little flaps or ridges, add some tweaks to protect the camera, and it becomes amphibious.

Edit: I’ve covered a few additional questions, including why the camera isn’t inside the ball, in this comment.

Two Female Leads

Quick, name a few recent popular movies where the two top-billed stars are female.

Here’s a miscellaneous survey I just did, tallied by gender of top billed/second billed star:

  M/M M/F F/M F/F
20 biggest movies of 2007 10 10 0 0
20 biggest movies of 2006 11 7 0 2
20 biggest movies of 2005 11 7 2 0
20 biggest movies of 2004 10 9 1 0
20 biggest movies since 1977 15 5 0 0
IMDb Top 20 of All Time 15 5 0 0

There were about 110 movies with a male lead and 5 with a female lead. Of the second-billed females, nearly all are written as love interests of the first-billed man. There were over sixty movies in the sample with two male stars top-billed. The only movies with two top-billed female roles, on the other hand, were The Devil Wears Prada and Scary Movie 4.

My cousin has been working on tallying (by hand!) all movies with two top-billed female stars. She reports that there are staggeringly few of them, and the roles fall mainly in two genres: mother-daughter bonding movies and horror films.  Hollywood is not creating female heroes.

Suppose we had a generic Michael Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer movie with some evil organization (say, a shadow government headed by Dick Cheney or whatever) bent on destroying something (say, the internet). Who would you rather see battling their way through the system to stop them — another basic Bruce Willis/Denzel Washington/Vin Diesel character? Or River Tam, Sarah Connor, Lola from Run Lola Run, or Beatrix Kiddo? Not only could the film industry suck less in the examples it sets, we could have some awesome movies.

Notes: If anyone wants to expand my list into a more comprehensive and authoritative survey, I’d love to see the results. I did my tally by hand, using The Numbers for the basic lists and stars, plus IMDb and Wikipedia to get a consensus on billing order.