Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Packing Heat

Last Sunday some friends and I went paintballing.  The largest game we have ever put together with 22 players in total.  In the past whenever I went paintballing I had to pull the barrel of my gun off to fit it into a bag.  I have always found this annoying, because I have to also pull off my sling, and then putting it all back together is always a pain.  So this time I searched for a convenient alternative

I found it in my guitar case.  It fits the gun perfectly and this does make sense, because guitar cases are shaped almost exactly the same as rifle cases.  Since I am already posting about my paintball gun, I might as well give a good pictures of my setup.

For those of you who know something about paintball.  I have a Tippmann 98 Custom (pre anti-chop), a five point adjustable stock, a weaver rail with red dot scope, a barrel mounted rail with bi-pod, a three point tactical sling, in this picture I have my 14 inch barrel mounted, but I also use a 21 inch and I run a remote line.  For those of you who don't know anything about paintball, Blah blah blah blah gun blah blah.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

My penguin autostereogram was featured in a forum

My autostereogram made out of penguins was featured about a month ago on this forum.

Now most people find it really difficult to recognize what this is a picture of but these internet-forum-people had an especially hard time. The directions given didn't really help:
"Squint into the image, you will see a 3D effect....."
They had some great comments, I copy a few of the best ones here below:
  • All I can see is penguins and splodges.
  • Now I'm seeing Dracula.
  • Now it looks like a building, castle maybe?
  • I couldnt see anything at first apart from penguins, but now I can see aliens!
  • Quote:
    Originally Posted by blackdahlia View Post
    I see naked women dancing.
    Yes, but concentrate on the picture now.
  • Quote:
    Originally Posted by Syl View Post
    Hey Glen, you're not subliminary trying to show us the artwork that got taken off last week are you?
    No , it looks like a camel or something.... You can't mistake the two...!

  • I see a tropical fish.
  • OK, just had anther look in the hope that being tipsy might give me a second sight....nope, just penguins and smudgy marks still.
  • I can see Michael Jackson... I think

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Does Geni.com read this blog?

A while ago I blogged about Geni.com's emails, specifically the "We've found your relatives in other trees" emails.  I suspect they read this blog, since now those emails announce "We've found your relatives in other family trees" [emphasis mine].
Shame, though. Could have been really neat to find my orangutan relatives!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Iron Overdose

I have recently been watching a ton of Iron Chef America and The Next Iron Chef.  This has led me to two conclusions.  First, some of these people can really cook and second, I could could do some of that.  So this had led to some experimentation.  I have decided to begin trying to make things from scratch that I would have normally just buy.  I got inspiration from an episode where a chef was making Ravioli.  So I made some pasta dough and started rolling.  If I had a pasta machine this would not have taken that long, but since I don't skip ahead an hour and a half.

 I rolled the dough thin then cut out circles using a small bowl as template.  The dough circles have a diameter of about three inches.  In the end I got 33 circles, about twice what is in this picture.

 The filling was ricotta cheese and basil.  In retospect I wish I had added some spinach, but I didn't know that there was spinach in the house.

 I spooned some filling into the dough circles and by hand crimped them.  This took a while, but by the end i had developed a decent technique to get as much filing in as I could.

Here is a tray of finished ravioli, it is rather obvious that they are hand made but I don't really care.  I made a simple tomato based sauce, cooked the ravioli in water and presto.  I did not cook all the ravioli at once, and I cooked the last couple in the sauce itself.  All very tasty, but they really sucked all the moisture out of the sauce and it was a bit try.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ants! (Update)

First of all, my grand ant plans from last week will have to wait for another location. It turns out that Aptima has a clause in its employee handbook explicitly prohibiting employees from fostering ant mills...
I was able to study them further with the help of white poster-board making ants very visible. Here are a few things that I learnt:
  1. Their nest is about a 3 minute ant walk from my office. I know this because from the time the first ant noticed food it took about six minutes before he returned and a few ants ventured out attempting to follow the first ant's trail.
  2. Ants like things they can chew quickly, like reeses peanut butter cups, not things that are harder to chew like hershey's milk chocolate. This "like" manifests itself rather indirectly as follows:
    -Food chewed off quickly allows each ant return faster to the nest, bringing out more ants at a much faster rate than food chewed slowly.
  3. These ants do not follow their trails very closely. Since the food source is very spread out, it makes sense for the ants to diverge a bit from their trails in order to get more food. Army ants (the kinds that can make ant mills) target more precise areas and so need to follow their trails very closely.
  4. These ants cannot swim. This is great because it means that my ant-moat works! (see photo). I will next try to make a dry version of ant protection so that I don't need to keep cleaning out the dead ants every week.

Now I will show you two videos
This is an ant mill, where the ants follow their scent in a circle. Warning: in the words of a reddit commenter it seems that the cameraman developed spontaneous Parkinsons before taking it. Also, these are probably army ants in this video.

With this one the cinematography is great, but the commentary and soundtrack are ridiculous ... extremely ridiculous. You would think you were watching a special on UFO's. He calls the ant colony a "city state." That said, it is amazing how complex things can be built with collaboration among stupid agents following stupid rules.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

We Demand New Variables!!!

This post is something that has been on my mind for a very long time.  In the sciences there are a number of symbols that are used a lot. Here are a few of them. 
αa πnηh µuUψ rγyxzλYXZ2 tτTI1lij νvV ωwW κk φσQθϑ εE ρpPζ   I have grouped them this way to demonstrate my issue with them.  In this pristine setting I have a problem telling some of these apart.  Now think about a classroom with a teacher with bad handwriting, while you try desperately to copy the notes.  Additionally, many of these are used for very different things across disciplines.  On top of that some of these just love showing up intertwined.  Nu and v just love hanging out, as do Rho and p.  As do Epsilon and E in fact σ = Eε.  Now when you add in all the different professors notations for matrices, some like brackets, some like curved brackets and some like parentheses. Then you add in notations for vectors, scalars, time derivatives, partial derivatives, subscripts, and superscripts. I have had these include lines over and under, dots above, apostrophes, and tildes.  I have had problems that have derivatives, partial derivatives, regular and capitol letters of x, y, z, u, v, w and p as well as Nu and Rho.

At the end of the list I have added Zeta, because I have had no two professors every draw it the same and once it took me two lectures to figure out that the squiggly the teacher was drawing was Zeta.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Marshak Elevator Fun

Last week I blogged about the temporary signs in the new Marshak Hall elevators at City College.  In a comment there, Jonathan/Yoni suggested that I make a "very temporary" sign surrounding the existing one.  So, I did.

First, I measured the existing sign, which got me some strange looks in the elevator. Then, I used Inkscape to draw the existing sign, as well as the changes I wanted to make:

Our lab has a big printer for printing posters, and things like that, so I printed the "very temporary" addition out on it and trimmed out the center:

With a few pieces of masking tape on the back, I was ready to go!  I rode up to the 13th floor, held the door open with my backpack, and attached the sign:
My first attempt was a little bit big.  And, what I hadn't noticed at first was that the actual "temporary" signs were a bit off-scale and the bottommost arrows were pointing too high; my sign was closer to the positions of the buttons!

Anyway, I rode the elevator up and down for around 15-20 minutes to see people's reactions.  I don't have the hidden camera/microphone supplies of the Improv Everywhere guys, so you'll have to take my word for the reactions. Most people either didn't notice or didn't react. Some people thought it was funny (one or two camera phone pictures were taken) and some people got very confused.  I needed to leave the elevator eventually because some guy noticed I kept riding the thing up and down (also, I was getting a bit motion sick).

I printed a second sign that got the width right, but I still need to adjust the color and height.
I don't know how long these ultimately stayed up for, because I eventually got a bit dizzy again (and I also had work I needed to do...).

The really strange thing, though, is that I think someone else might have been pranking the system at the same time! I noticed that some floor signs outside the elevator had been covered:
This was on the actual 5th floor. But, if you push the button labelled "5" on the permanent label, the thing will actually take you to the 4th floor, so I guess that's the subtle confusion they were going for.

I'm thinking this might have had a better effect if I covered the existing sign, but that might seriously confuse innocent people and the sign would probably have a mush shorter half life.  Maybe I'll give it a shot anyway, though (April 1st isn't that far away...).  I'd love to hit all 3 elevators at once (maybe I'll rope my labmates into helping out), so, if anyone has any ideas for other symbols to mix up in the labels, let's hear 'em (someone already suggested The Artist Formerly Known As Prince's strange symbol).  Also, if anyone has ideas for a way to cheaply and inconspicuously record people's reactions, let me know, too.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Chain Mail

This Sunday I attended a chain mail class taught by a friend of mine.  It was officially around three hours long, I was there for seven hours.  These are the results.

This is an example of the four in one weave.

 This is the box chain weave.

Not sure what this is actually called but it is basically a circular expanding weave.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Another Marshak Elevator Update

So, the out-of-service Marshak Hall elevators, previously appearing on the blog here and here, are finally completed!
The "Brand New Elevators" have shiny new metal doors:
and the insides are pretty nice as well.

Of course, not everything is perfect.  First of all, they just took the other three elevators out of service to upgrade them. So, if we're lucky, by this time next year, there's a chance that all six will be working.  And, they haven't quite worked out the button labeling, either:
It's been about a month since they came online, and the "Temporary" signs are still up.  Considering that the elevators were "temporarily" out of service for a whole year, I don't have high hopes for this sign being replaced any time soon.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Ants and Aptima Facilities

Really impressive little creatures. I thought that they had been contracted out by my the maintenance people in my building because those ants are quite good at gathering on-mass to collect crumbs that I drop. Then- once all the crumbs are gone they promptly leave the area. Really you won't find a single ant on the floor if there are no crumbs left.

But then I caught them going through my trash:

Apparently they find empty yogurt containers irresistible. The next day I kept a watchful eye for the ant-highway after I threw out my yogurt container... two hours later, still no ant-highway.
Then I started hearing a lot of rummaging going on inside the trash can - and - the ant highway was on the hidden side of the trashcan! And yes, these ants are heavy enough to quietly rustle thin plastic garbage bags.

This of course is an excellent opportunity for me to test a few things, like, can ants swim? When I'm next back in the office I will place the trash can in a baking tray filled with water to supply a nice moat.

If I have time, I will also build a little white paper bridge across the moat so that I will be able to see clearly when they have a highway. I plan to test a few things like:

How do they know when I've thrown something tasty out?
  • They know what time I throw out my yogurt
  • They hear me throw it out
  • They just smell it from inside the crack in the wall
  • They constantly have scouts that roam around randomly everywhere all the time and report back when they find something
The last one is the most likely in my opinion. I hope to catch how many scouts they send over the bridge on camera to get some idea for this.