Thursday, December 31, 2009

A useless tool

Some time ago I came across this ridiculous vernier caliper knockoff that was so preposterous I needed to buy it:

As any of you who've used one of these things knows, a true vernier caliper is a precision measuring tool which has perfectly machined grooves which line up just right, to allow measuring fractions of a millimeter to great accuracy, see this Wikipedia page for some details.  But since these measurements depend on precisely machined and assembled stuff, they can be expensive.

Check out the close-up of the measurement reading window:

You'd get far better accuracy using a traditional ruler!  Well, for those interested, this baby is available at the bargain price of $3.95 at  But for the life of me I can't figure out those positive ratings - this thing is really, truly, a magnificent piece of garbage.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Strange Kitchen Untensil

My grandma has recently given me a number of things including this very strange kitchen implement.
Click to see the larger version. Please help me find out what it is. I'd like to throw it out/ give it away but I'm afraid that its some incredibly useful thing, for all I know it makes chocolate when you know how to use it. Those little wheel things spin around smoothly.

Also, apparently can openers have not changed by the slightest amount in many years. The white one is recent, the khaki one is probably ten years old.

In other news, I found an ugly shower curtain in my apt so I'm giving it away on craigslist. I can't figure out why nobody wants it. See the ad here.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Elevator out of service

Half of the six elevators in the Marshak Science Building at CCNY have been out of service for a while.  For most of the summer the unusable elevators had this sign on their doors:

This sign is still on one of the elevators.

At some point, I guess someone got hopeful and put up this sign:

This sign is on another elevator.

Now, either someone has a great sense of humor, or the sign-making people are clueless, but I think this sign, currently on the third out-of-service elevator, is brilliant:

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Parking Lot After Winter

It looks like a beach from all the sand - but its actually the parking lot out back my apartment after a winters worth of sand spilling.

We haven't had much snow yet this winter -

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Chanuka Science Show

Last Sunday, at the annual Chanuka party at our aunt and uncle's house (great party, as usual!), there was an "Open Mic." So, there were guitars and singing.  But people thought we were joking when we said that we'd brought a science experiment...
I think my chemistry might have been a bit off (please, someone correct me if that's the case), but, with the help of my lovely assistant (thanks, Stacy!), I hope I put on a good show.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Who would win in a fight, bricks or mortar?

Many of you have seen the mysterious case of the worn out bricks on that road, 95 which goes out of NY. I can't find the exact place I took this photo, but here is the general area on street view.
Here is my theory.
The mortar is stronger than the bricks, the bricks gets washed away by wind, sand and water. The mortar sticks around longer because it is stronger.

Any other ideas or reasons why this could be happening?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Taller Children

A month or so ago I was walking to the Graduate Center from Cardozo Law School and saw these guys (Nick Fitzhugh, with crew Juanma Diaz and Sridhar Gouni), taking videos or people in front of the Flatiron building.  When I asked what they were filming for, they said they were filming people smiling for a project at the NY Film Academy.  So I figured I'd help them out.  Unfortunately, I wasn't quick enough on my feet to make a funny face or anything but I show up at around 24 seconds in:

I'm not "arty" enough to "get" this video, but it's still pretty cool.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Wikipedia Donation

I donated $20 to Wikipedia today - it went through as anonymous, you can see my donation here. It was in honor of Dror, who is one of the founders of the Hebrew wikipedia. His picture (copied below, he's on the bottom right, wearing a red shirt, behind the guy taking a picture) is on the main donate site. See his picture and donate here.

Dror has been previously mentioned on this blog from wikimania.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Think green

I don't know about you, but I hate it when, at the bottom of their emails, people include trite little things like:
Consider the environment before printing this email
Save a tree and don't print this email
Don't print this email and we'll save a whale/rhino/unicorn -- Won't someone please think of the children?!
In any case, I usually try ignore such things, but I got an email yesterday ending with the stupid line
Think green before you print this email
Now, really I had no reason whatsoever to print the email.  But I felt this was a special occasion, so I actively "thought green" and printed the sucker out:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Truth in advertising

We just got back from an excellent cruise to the Bahamas celebrating Stacy's step-mother's birthday.  We were on a brand new ship, the Carnival Dream.  This new ship was HUGE.  It is only 88ft shorter than a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.  Here's a to-scale comparison:

This was the first proper cruise to the Bahamas this ship was on, and they were filming a commercial while on the cruise.  The actors dancing to imaginary music, or looking romantically out over a balcony, or pretending to have fun on the waterslides (which were actually a lot of fun) were very diverse in terms of ethnicity and age.  Here's an example of an older ad I found on Youtube:

However, they were not so diverse in terms of weight: All the actors are good looking and thin.  From the actors we saw, you'd assume that all cruisers look like this:

When, in actuality, the vast majority look like this:

Here are two examples of people from the ship.  And these are not the fattest - they could walk on their own two feet, and the ship didn't list when they moved around.  In the second one, use Stacy as a point of reference:

Carnival's slogan is "Carnival: The Fun Ships."  Stacy suggested maybe they should be "Carnival: The Fat Ships."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Ohms at MIT, Part 3/3

This is the last of the three part series, Part I, Part II.

I think these co-ohms were inspired by Spaceballs the movie.

My personal favorite is this one.

Very clever anthropomorphism with this one!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Half a time zone

The answer I was looking for to my puzzle last week is:
They all have half a time zone
While time zones are regularly set up in hour increments, a few places have time zones that differ by 30 (and one, by 45) minutes.  So, Tehran is 8.5 hours ahead of New York, for example, in UTC+3:30.  And Kathmandu is UTC+5:45.
For the examples in the puzzle: Labrador, Canada is UTC-3:30, Bombay is UTC+5:30 and Darwin Australia is UTC+9:30.  Beaver, USA varies in time zone (depending on which Beaver), but always is UTC-*.00.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Labrador, Bombay and Darwin

Aryeh posted a puzzle last week, this time it's my turn:
What do Labrador, Bombay and Darwin have in common
[Update (thanks Yoni)] but not in common with Beaver.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Puzzles Part 2

Well no one seemed to look at the first puzzle (from Stargate Atlantis by the way) and as NotElon pointed out the second problem is a topological impossibility. However, me and some fellow engineers found a valid solution that involves no crossing lines. We decided to electrify the gas and water lines into the house that otherwise would not have been able to get power. Now you may say but the gas lines are already electrified (to prevent corrosion which is why you should never ground to your gas piping), well yes they are, we are just raising the voltage a bit. Also, once the water gets into the house you will want to have some sort of ceramic length of pipe sufficiently long to prevent the voltage form arcing through the water, or your morning wake up shower may be a little extra jolting.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Ohms at MIT, Part 1/3

While touring a certain dorm at MIT I came across a nice creative work of art.
They were inspired by a certain physics major who used to live in the room, and she really liked the Greek letter Omega and the Units of resistance, the Ohm. For a period of time she would get these little pieces of art slipped under her door by a secret admirer. The identity of this great artist is still unknown but his work will now be published online here.

There are 7 in total, which I will be posting in 3 posts, along with my critical commentary. Thanks to Amber for mailing me the photos.

What we see here is a depiction of the MIT dome, famous location of MIT hacks.

Perhaps the artist has some Spanish influences. By the change in the style of pen I would guess that the "ho(h)mbre" note was added later by another artist. I personally don't approve of this addition because there is no clear "ohm" shape in the person.

Famed blogger Eli has created his own version of this man which I share with you below:

Friday, November 06, 2009

You can tune a piano

For Stacy's birthday this week I made sesame crusted yellowfin (ahi) tuna, following Alton Brown's recipe and directions (part 1, part 2).  Really this food should bear the legend: Warning: Crunchy raw real dead tuna to avoid prosecution, as the tuna is barely seared on the outside.
Anyway, after sourcing and finally purchasing the fresh tuna (not an easy endeavor to find a whole hunk kosher fresh tuna of good quality), I cut and marinated the pieces:

And got the chimney going:

This thing gets super hot, in a very concentrated space:

The recipe itself is actually really easy.  After the marinade, roll in sesame seeds

to coat the outside

Sear for a few seconds on each side

Ogle the results:


And eat:

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Puzzling Puzzles

Recently I watched a TV show in which the main characters come to puzzle to get a device they want. The puzzle consists of a three by three matrix and nine stones with the number 1-9 written on them. They come to the conclusion that what they need to do is arrange the stones so that in every direction including the diagonals the value of the stones sum to 15, where if they where wrong when they tried to open the compartment that the puzzle was the key to they would be poisoned.

Last week I was in the mood for a good puzzle while bored in an engineering project management course so I decided to take a crack. After a couple of tries consisting of an initial random guess then working out from there I struck on a strategy and found a solution that was almost perfect except that one of the diagonals summed to 12, so I did it once more and found a solution. However, I looked at it and came to the solution that the characters only had a one in eight chance of getting the exact solution with only the center stone fixed. The reason for this is that the rotation or flipping about the center lines will also give a valid solution, so that there is a set of eight dependent solutions. I find this funny because they where talking about the same question having been on a MENSA exam (which caused me to take a mental workout exam on the MENSA website, also a fun endeavor). In this case the center stone/number was given to fit into the center slot and my solution ended up with that value in the center. I have two challengers for you readers find a solution to this problem and determine if there are multiple independent solution sets (where the center values are different between the two sets). The second one is a different puzzle entirely that was given to me by a friend who had gotten it in class (he was told that anyone who solved it would not have to take the classes final and that only one person had done it in the past). It goes as such, you have three houses and three utilities. The objective is to connect all three houses with all three utilities without crossing any of the lines as it is in a 2-D world.
Good Luck to all (just don't spend to much time on the last problem). Plus bonus points to anyone who knows what show this is from.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Browns Stages of Productive Syntax

Notice that that Early I goes from 1.01 to 1.49, and Late I goes from 1.50 to 1.99, with Stage II starting at 2.0 etc.
I find it very interesting that they would have chosen a discontinuous scale whereby children with a reasonable "MLU" of say, 1.995 would not not lie in any of these categories. In fact there are uncountably infinite numbers between 1.99 and 2.00, something that these child linguisticitians are apparently not aware of.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The new Googleism, Google Suggest

Back in the day googlism was a site which allowed you to find out what google thinks of you, your friends or anything. Now you can use Google suggest (graduated from Google labs).
Just go to and type in a few words and see what comes up:

It shows what people are searching for, what people are really thinking about in America and the English speaking world!

Starting with politics, this goes to show what everyone already knew, most of what is written is slander, with very little positive!

My favorites in the politics category: Republicans are Happier, democrats are destroying america, obama is god, george bush is an alien.

My favorites in the people category: the pope is the Antichrist, Michael Jackson is still alive, Brittney spears is fat, French people are Italian people in a bad mood.

My favorites in the things category: banks are more dangerous than armies, my apartment is infested with koalas . . .
Apparently a lot of people are wondering: Italy is located where and in what continent. The ones wondering in part of what country Italy is, are in for a surprise. I'm glad though that they are at least trying, perhaps they will learn some geography from Google!

Lastly my it is only appropriate to see that people are searching for "Google is going to take over" the world!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ye Old Blog Post

A while back (have kept managing not to post), me and some friends went to the New York Renaissance Fair. It was tons of fun, I even dressed up.

I borrowed the clothing from a friend (notice the sword).

The friend I borrowed the stuff from and his wife. He made the chain mail himself.

Me with a silly hat on, makes me sort of miss the hair.

We spent a ton of time hanging out with the blacksmiths, the sword type thing was drawn from the same kind of railroad spike being held next to it. Also, it is super bendy.

This is one of the blacksmith apprentices with the BFW (bonus points if you can figure out what it stand for).
Some of the cool things they make.

Whats a day at the Renaissance Fair without a bit of jousting.