Monday, June 20, 2022

How to find the dangerous areas of a city you don't know

Thursday, November 25, 2021

How to be ridiculous in Hungarian, Estonian, Georgian and Chinese

I've started to pick up on a few fun ways to be ridiculous is other people's languages, it can be super fun so I wanted to share. Rather than take forever putting them in separate SEO optimized posts, with audio clips - I'm going to give the cliff-notes version of them all here.

The easy way to be ridiculous

A lot of other countries use their words a lot more literally than we do. For example if they say "great" they really mean something is actually great. If you speak English from the US - imagine telling somebody a cake they baked is "good" no way - it would almost be offensive; "good" to us has taken on a meaning "not good" we just don't want to say it. "Thanks" in American English it is just a hair away from being sarcastic; and if you say "thanks very much" it might not mean a whole lot of thanks. I enjoy this way to talking and so adopting this manner of speech is my favorite way to be ridiculous in other languages.

Lots of languages have slang terms that evolved from English, you usually have to dig for them since they don't appear in official translations and won't often be taught in schools. It is often funny how the local grammar mixes with English; and even funnier when you say it because nobody will expect it.

Be ridiculous in Georgian

Mariam's Georgian company got acquired by a company from the US and her new boss said something she did was "phenomenal." In Georgian the literal translation is ფენომენალური (penomenaluri) where the P and Ph are very similar phonologically and "luri"is a common Georgian suffix. I never once heard a local say this word in two months of living in Georgia. It is reserved only for the most phenomenal situations; like if St. George himself descended from the sky in front of you. People almost always smile when you use it - but be careful because the word is so powerful that you might sound sarcastic if you don't use it properly.
If you compliment food - Georgians will refuse to accept, often denying that it is truly "penomenaluri" - but if you compliment a landscape view, or refer to Georgia in general as penomenaluri then you will make friends quickly. To use it - point at a thing or answer a question with "es penomenaluria" which means "it is penomenaluri"

Hello in Georgian is გამარჯობა (Gamarjoba), and the best most normal response is "Gaumarjos" but folks will often respond "Gamarjoba" instead - especially to foreigners when it is assumed they don't know Gaumarjos. You can also alternatively say Gagimarjos. Gaumarjos is also used as "cheers" when drinking so it is jovial to say. Here is how to have a whole ridiculous conversation with someone you are just passing by:

You: Gamarjoba
Them: Gamarjoba
You: Gaumarjos
Them: * usually they will laugh here and stop, but if they respond gaumarjos, then it is peak ridiculous to respond gagimarjos

Words change in Georgian depending on how many people you are speaking to - by adding the letters "at" so Gamarjoba is to say hello to one person and Gamarjobat is to say hello to two or more. Except that "garmarjoba" is the exception where "officially" you should always say "Gamarjoba" even if saying hello to multiple people. Probably 90% of people will say it "correctly" but spend some time traveling around Georgia where people are so friendly and everyone says hi - then you will definitely hear "gamarjobat"
To be ridiculous - ignore the exception and say gamarjobat when saying hi to multiple people.

Note: I am of the opinion that there is no "wrong" way to speak - since language is a kind of big collaborative art project. Fun discussions to have if someone wants to argue with you.

Tbilisi Georgia

How to be silly in Hungarian

Hungarian is already a little silly for English speakers. To say hello, people say "szia" which sounds just like "see yah!" in English. Note that Szia is to say hello to one person, sziestok for two people. Then they use the English-derived "Hello" for both hello, and more frequently for goodbye, kind of like the Italian "Ciao." You you can say "see yah" for hello and "hello" for good bye; can't get any sillier than that... but actually you can get significantly sillier still:

Just conjugate "hello" in the form for multiple people by adding "stok" like Szia->Szie-stok, so hello becomes "hello-stok" when greeting to multiple people. Note: this is a kind of teenager slang from the 90's that for sure nobody uses anymore, but if you do - then it is absolutely penomenaluri  (thanks Kristof).

Budapest Hungary

Surprise people in Estonian

This one is hard - it is difficult to get Estonians to show emotion about anything - but one way to that sometimes works is to give way over the top thanks in true USA style. Literally translating our casual "thanks very much" into "suur äitah teile." In sentiment - this again goes way over the casual way we use it in the US - but that is kind of the point.

Another way is to use the Estonian/English slang phrase for "what the heck" which literally translates to "what a hedge" but you can really easily say it with a lot of emphasis "Mida hekki" which is awesome, almost like you are singing. Interestingly in Finland they say "mitä helvettiä" which is "what the hell" ... so rude.

Kõrvemaa Bog Estonia

How to be silly in Chinese

People teach you to say Hào chī when complimenting food, but it is much funnier to go way over the top and say it is Měiwèi 美味. One benefit of this is that the tones make is super easy to be emphatic about it, you say it kind of like you are stamping your foot on the last syllable.

People are super nice in China - so as soon as you say more than three words in Chinese people will compliment you saying that your Chinese is great, or sounds great. The humble way they teach you to respond is saying "Nǎlǐ nǎlǐ" meaning "where where" kind of like saying "hey obviously you aren't talking about me." This is a tad funny - but MUCH better is to say "it isn't" Bùshì and follow up with saying your Chinese is Mǎmǎhǔhǔ 马马虎虎. This translates literally to Horse Horse Tiger Tiger but it is silly idiom to mean "so so" or "a clumsy person" so people will always crack up if you say that describes your Chinese aptitude.

This isn't something you say out loud - but in text "3Q" means thank you, because the mandarin way to say 3 is "Sān", and reading Sān-Q phonetically sounds like "Thank you" with a Chinese accent.

Shanghai China

What to teach other people to say in English:

It is nice to learn local slang - but to be fair I try to teach folks some words that came to English from my part of the country, the greater New York City area, and donated by my own immigrant family's native language Yiddish.

The word is Schlep.

And the thing I like about "schlep" is that it doesn't just describe to haul or carry something - it describes how you feel about the act. You definitely do not want to be schlepping anything - and if you have to then you will do it begrudgingly. Also a versatile word, you can schlep yourself too and whether it is across an ocean or from the couch to answer the door - if you have to schlep there then you really didn't want to. Now there are a few select people out there who know only three to four words of English, and one the words they know is schlep.

Lower Mystic Lakes in Medford (basically Boston, USA)

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Fly with bird wings on the moon at the Icarus Theme Park

It is said that if people were to fly like birds, our wings would need to be at least *6.7m wide (about 2ft). People also talk about strapping on wings and flying like a bird on Saturn's moon Titan; because the gravity is very weak, and the atmosphere is 50% thicker than on Earth.

Titan is pretty far - but I think this experience should be possible on Earth's moon, where there is 1/6th earths gravity; and if you build a nice dome then you could pressurize the air to earths pressure. I can't say for sure - but I think (with enough effort) human-powered short flights should be possible; or at least wing assisted giant leaps will be possible! (Kind of what chickens do).

            Photo by GerhardLipold form PxHere

One limitation is arm muscles which are a bit weak compared to our leg muscles. For example the human powered helicopter AeroVelo Atlas and Aeroplane Gossamer Eagle both used leg power. For thrust we might might benefit from using giant fins like with freediving in water, but bigger. And then wings would be for lift and control.

Photo by Jean-Marc Kuffer

I imagine a giant domed play area with trees you could fly up to and "roost" on, then glide down. In an environment where exercise is crucial for maintaining muscle mass - this could be a super fun way to go about it. A dream.

While we're at it - some other sports that could be super fun on the moon - freestyle diving into a deep ball pit, where you kind of fall in slow motion and have lots of time to do cool spinny tricks. Also - trampoline jumping where you can go crazy high, comparatively limited risk to breaking your neck. Basket ball could be fun - dunking on impossibly high baskets, though I imagine that dribbling would get annoying fast.

*These people are Payal Marathe, who wrote this in Yale Scientific and everyone quoting her, I haven't found any other source.

Friday, August 07, 2020

Overdue update on my airless bnb

 You may recall that around this time last year, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the moon landings, I hosted an AirBnb at tranquility base on the moon:

It was a great success, and I had one of my friends stay and write an amazing review.

Next I bent our own "no pet" rules to allow my friend to stay with his outer-space trained macaque monkey.


It turned out to be a great decision because Luke left a great review for the the Eagle at Tranquility Base:


Unfortunately this update is to inform everyone that after several months online and two five star reviews, airbnb took down the listing saying it thought it was posted "by mistake"

Headphones attached to a solar panel

So I soldered a pair of headphones to a solar panel and with it you can listen to lights!

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

The floppy disk credit card

Lansey brothers followers will know that we love our credit card designs. My newest one has been particularly fun.

The date and name on the card comes from the "Michelangelo" computer virus which would only be active on that date.

Note the magnetic strip is completely toasted, but there are enough places now that don't require magnetic strips so it still works.

Since everybody loves gifs, here is a gif of the card:

Monday, June 01, 2020

KEEP CALM and SET SCE TO AUX T-Shirt design

I made another T-Shirt design, this one inspired by the time Apollo 12 was hit by lightening, all the telemetry data went haywire - and one "steely eyed missile man" John Aaron knew that "Set SCE to AUX" would fix the problem.

You can grab a T-Shirt on Teespring or Redbubble here:

I'm releasing the files with a creative commons license here:

Note, the technically that command from John Aaron was during lift off (thanks Aryeh) which is presumably why other shirts include the whole Saturn V rocket in the graphic, but personally I like the lunar module since it is has more similar proportions to the crown, and also looks more awesome and interesting than the command module.

To hear the whole story watch this video from Scott Manley - who incidentally is my favorite of the space vloggers.

The image of the lunar module was vectorized from scan of an this Apollo 11 media kit:

I am using this font (which you will need if you open the SVG). Love that capital "M".

Sunday, May 31, 2020

(CC) University of Wikipedia T-Shirt Design

I made a "University of Wikipedia" logo. The establishment year is 1973 [Citation Needed], an impossible year, but you need to think a moment to realize how impossible it is. I pulled together the rest of it with inspiration from a few logos from real universities and of course the actual wikipedia logo and branded font. Happy to say it looks real enough to have fooled actual people into thinking it was real.

You can get the T-Shirt or stickers etc. from
Wikipedia University on Teespring (my favorite for tee-shirts)
Or Wikipedia University on RedBubble  where you can also get stickers, mugs etc.

If you want to go and DIY your own Wikipedia University thing then I am releasing the original files with a creative commons license CC BY-SA 4.0:

Here is the PDF and the SVG:

Would love to hear if you used it! Please share in comments or by email.

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

How to reserve a ticket to Chingaza Parque from Bogota

Chingaza Nacional Parque is beautiful and only a 1.5 hour drive from Bogota. Information about how to gain entrance and hike in the park is conflicting even from official sources. With much effort and a bit of luck we managed to have an awesome trip there - and in this post I'd like to explain how you can too.

Getting in to Chingaza:

There are two entities interacting with tourists in the park:
  • Parques Nacional, they control reservations for entrance to the park, and also the entrance to the park. They have offices in Bogota where you can visit and get a free map of the park and marginally accurate information.
  • Corpochingaza runs the hostel/hotel in the park, and arranges for (expensive) guided hikes.
To get into the park, you need to have either a reservation with Parques Nacional or a reservation with Corpochingaza. If not - you will be turned away.

To create a reservation with Parques Nacional: create an account on this website, choose a random hiking trail "tourist attraction" with availability because according to folks at the gate you are allowed to hike on any trail.
The website states clearly that you need to make your reservation 15 days in advance, and I heard this repeated by Parques Nacional at the gate - but it is definitely possible to use the website to make a reservation fewer than 15 days in advance. You will receive information about how to pay with banco-colombia, but it seems possible to pay with cash at the gate.

To create an overnight reservation with Corpochingaza: there are various phone numbers floating around, but you seriously just want to send an email to with the following information:
  • Fechas (dates): Entrada (checkin) **/**/**. Salida (checkout) **/**/**
  • Nombre: full names of everyone in your party
  • Pasaporte: Passport numbers for everyone in your party
The Corpochingaza hostel/hotel is at Monte Redondo and they have shared dorms and two private rooms. To confirm your reservation - Corpochingaza will reply to your email with a vague bill and payment instructions with an impossibly short deadline. But there seemed to be no communication between Parque Nacional a the entrance, and Corpochingaza further inside the park. So despite not missing the deadline to pay and therefore not having a truly confirmed reservation - we told Parques Nacional at the gate that we had a reservation for the night with Corpochingaza and they let us in (after paying the entrance fee). It was possible to confirm the details with corpochingaza and pay cash on site. It turns out that there were zero other guests that Sunday night in February.
Dorms are $55.000 COP and private rooms are $150.000 per night.

Lagunas de Siecha. Photo credit: trekcolombia
One of the main attractions is the Lagunas de Siecha (shown above), three glacial lakes nestled in the mountains. To get there from Bogota you go to the Piedras Gordas gate and visitor center. I recommend you rent your own car instead of taking an organized bus tour, since you will want to get out and take pictures along the way. We rented from this AVIS location for about $100.000 COP/day. An economy car should get you there - I wouldn't recommend a mini because of the potholes.

Hiking in Chingaza:

There are only a few trails on the official Chingaza map, the ones labeled as "tourist attractions" on the reservation website - but there are numerous well marked trails surrounding the official ones. The park requires you to hire a guide from Corpochingaza for some of the longer trails - but the prices are exorbitant ($40usd/person) - and you apparently hire them by messaging the same gmail email address ( which given their slow and unclear responses makes me think it would be difficult to organize. They don't seem to police the trails though - and despite the website making it very clear that only 40 people can go on a trail per day - at the gate we were told that once inside the park we can go on any hikes that don't require a guide (and if not too late in the evening). But when we went it was super foggy - so they might be better about stopping folks from walking on the guide-only trails when you can actually see more than a dozen meters ahead.

Here is a quick description of the trails:

  • Sendero Lagunas de Siecha: This is a short, 3 hour hike to the 3 lakes. The trailhead is in the less convenient Siecha entrance.
  • Sendero Cuchilas de Siecha: This is a long 5 hour hike with a trailhead at the Piedras Gordas station. I highly recommend this hike - including a hike all the way around the largest lake, which follows the ridge and includes a few short bouts of serious climbing. Google maps doesn't have the trails marked, but the trail follows those marked in openstreetmap fairly closely. This trail is supposed to require a guide, but it is super easy to follow in the red zone, and a little trickier to follow in the blue zone (shown below)
  • Sendero Lagunas de Buitrago: This is a long - but not difficult 2 hour hike and it doesn't require a guide. It definitely connects to the Sendero Cuchilas de Siecha and I think making a big loop out of it would probably be really nice (though very long).
  • Sendero Laguna Seca: This is one hour hike in a pretty nice flat-ish area, very pretty but it is in kind of a valley so the views are not as sweeping.
  • Sendero Suasie: 1.5 hour hike for the short loop, and a longer loop with unknown distance. The longer loop is supposed to require a guide, but there isn't anyone there to stop you from going on the longer hike. The short hike is very well marked and goes through some spectacular low-lying rainforest.

More pictures: