Maxed Out: On the Road to Redmond


Reading time ( words)

I don’t know about you, but I never know what’s around the corner. As a simple example, a couple of days ago as I pen these words I received a call from my old chum Ken Coffman. Ken is the author of a number of books (technical, fiction, and science fiction), including one I recently read, “Hartz String Theory,” which is best described as "A maze of clever plots converging into a great tale of mystery."

In addition to his books, Ken – who describes himself as a "polymath wannabe" – is a member of the technical staff at Fairchild Semiconductor, co-author of multiple patents, and an accomplished musician. 

Now the full reason for Ken’s call is shrouded in mystery. All I am at liberty to say at this time is that it involves an agreement between Fairchild and Microsoft. It seems that Ken is in charge of creating "A cool, memorable event for the engineers." As part of this extravaganza, he's invited yours truly to give a talk at Microsoft's main campus in Redmond, Washington.

This occasion, which will take place on Wednesday 28 September, will also feature a musical performance by Patrick Leonard, the well-known pianist, songwriter, and musical producer who has worked with stars like Madonna, Elton John, Jewel, and Pink Floyd.

I've never visited Microsoft in Redmond before, so this will be jolly exciting. Quite apart from anything else, I'm going to be very excited to discover just what it is that I'm going to talk about. Ken told me that the talk can be on any topic of my choosing.

He may live to regret these rash words!

Don’t Get Sucked In

You cry, “Don’t get sucked into what?” Well, I have seen this video on YouTube that left my heart pounding and my hands gripping the sides of my seat.

Now, I’ve seen videos of people base jumping. They hurl themselves off cliffs or tall buildings and – after falling for a while – release their parachute and (hopefully) sail peacefully down to the ground. This is not one of those videos.

But here, Jeb Corliss is wearing something called a “wing suit” that makes him look a bit like a flying squirrel. After throwing himself off the top of a cliff, he starts to glide…which is a gentle way to describe someone who continues to plummet downward while gaining a forward motion of somewhere between 140 and 200 miles per hour.

There’s one part of the video where Jeb rockets along no more that 15 to 20 feet above the ground before managing to access a canyon to continue his decent. I tell you, I honestly believe that he came very close to wiping out – if that had been me I would be having nightmares about it to this day.

Do You Have a Few Free Moments?

The problem with YouTube and similar Web sites is that there is just so much amazing stuff out there. Over the last few days, I have run across or revisited some thought-provoking images; some scary images; some “feel-good” videos; and the list goes on. So if you have a few moments free to fritter away (check to make sure your boss isn’t standing behind you), you might want to peruse and ponder the following: 

The Most Useless Machine Ever

Flash mob at Copenhagen Central Station

Amazing Flying Jellyfish Robot

Bizarre Tattoos and Piercings (not for those with weak stomachs)

Flying with a Bird

Jetman Flying in the Grand Canyon

Rollerman and his 31-Wheel Luge Suit

Darth Vader in the Death Star Canteen

Grocery Store Wars (One of the funniest Star Wars spoofs I’ve seen)

Bizarre Architectures (I would LOVE to live in some of these)

Amazing Hairstyles (You think you’re having a bad hair day?)

They’re Made out of Meat! (Two alien robots talking about us)

Amazing Electronic Trick (I have no idea how this is done)

Girl Takes Photo Every Day for 3.5 Years

Guy Takes Photo Every Day for 6 Years

Of course I’ve been sucked into my own trap, because while checking these links I’ve seen a whole bunch of related items that are calling out to me.

So I’m going to hand the task over to you. What is the most amazing video or image collection you’ve seen recently? E-mail me at max@CliveMaxfield.com to let me know, and I’ll gather any and all suggestions together and share them in a future column.

Until then, I’m afraid I have some videos to watch – these little rascals don’t download themselves, you know!

Clive (Max) Maxfield is founder/consultant at Maxfield High-Tech Consulting. He is the author and co-author of a number of books, including Bebop to the Boolean Boogie (An Unconventional Guide to Electronics) and How Computers Do Math featuring the pedagogical and phantasmagorical virtual DIY Calculator. To contact Max, click here.     

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