Thursday, February 24, 2011

Portable storage

When we were preparing the lab for renovation, I came across this case:
Any guesses as to what this is? I'll give you a hint: It's just a bit over 3.5" on each edge of the square. Give up? Well, here it is, modelling two floppies from my collection:
That's right -- it's a 3.5" floppy disk carrying case. [Given that one of those is an AOL install disk, I feel it's important to mention Jonathan/Yoni's truly impressive AOL CD collection, which I do not believe has ever been featured on this blog. The quantity of CDs he's gathered is so huge it's probably quickest to count them by weight.]

But, it gets better. When I first opened the case, it wasn't carrying my diskettes. It was carrying this:
A shaped-just-like-a-diskette (SJLAD). Much like the shaped-just-like-a-PCMCIA-cards (SJLAPCMCIAC) that used to be included with all laptops before they invented USB and integrated NICs/WiFi adaptors. However, my netbook has a modern version of this, the shaped-just-like-an-SD-card:
It's to stick into the SD slot on the computer when travelling, to minimize the amount of gunk that gets into it. The SJLAD [and SJLAPCMCIAC] was for the same purpose:
and also included these helpful instructions:

It's kinda cool how although the physical size and storage capacity of portable storage devices has changed over the years, we always seem to need the SJLA____. I wonder what the next one will be...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What to do with all your plastic bags

I recently found myself surprised with how many plastic bags I had hoarded in the two+ years I have been in Boston. But of course - the knowledge that the number was ridiculous is certainly no reason to throw any out - but it did encourage me to think of creative ways to avoid a hoarder diagnosis. In particular - I needed a way to use up my plastic bags and avoid getting so many new ones and all this with relatively minimal effort.

There are many ways make large bags from by crocheting thread from plastic bags. These would be extremely labor intensive, both in making the yarn and crocheting. You could instead iron a few bags together into durable sheets - but then you still have to do a lot of old fashioned sewing to make it useful. You can also make large grocery bags from from a long list of random materials, but then you wouldn't have used the plastic bags at all.

Enter: the plastic bagsket

It does take a lot of effort to make.

But it works really well. To see detailed instructions of how to make it, see my alternate resume.

Update: When checking out - the confused bagger started to stuff the bagsket inside of a plastic bag as the bag itself were groceries ... recursive nightmare.

Note that I have finally gotten with the times here and made my defacto picassa album for this blog public. See all the photos I ever uploaded to the blog in one place here. You can also click any of these photos to see larger versions, and the entire album.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

To be a mad scientist

If you're planning on being a mad scientist, it's important to look the part:
Extra points to anyone who can guess what I was doing with this get up.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Stupid Spammers

I received this email today:
If your salary is lower, than you deserve due to a lack of a degree, we can help you to change this situation. To receive your customized diploma you should leave your NAME & TEL. PHONE # (with country-code) on the voicemail and we will get in touch with you ASAP. Stay competitive in a tough job market. Call us!

I find this hilarious, not because I already have a degree and am working toward a higher level one, but because I have an academic email address.  The spammers are spamming .edu email addresses about getting fake custom diplomas.

Stupid spammer.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The experience of driving to California in a Ferrari

When driving to California in a Ferrari, its 0-60 in 3.70 seconds and the rest of the trip in 2.04 days.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


I got a surprise when I turned my computer on in the morning this past Friday.  My graphics card was dead.  I should have picked up on the clues, such as the dead or funky pixels on the monitor (I had thought they where due to the monitor).  Although my computer is 4.5 years old it still is excellent for my purposes.  I do not game so the performance requirements of my PC are simply that the computer runs well and fast.  So I bought a new graphics card and 2 gigs of ram (something I have been meaning to do for a while and this seemed the opportune time).  My old card was a NVIDIA GeForce 7900, it has 256 Megabytes of memory and was OK for most things except CAD.  Since CAD is something I do often I decided to get a better card specifically a EVGA GeForce 9500 GT, which has a gig of memory.  It is only two years newer than my old card but still it is more than sufficient for my needs.

So much fun to pull new computer components out of a box, and knowing that soon your computer will be be much better than it used to be.

My old card (on the right) versus my new card (on the left), I was actually surprised that the new card is so much smaller than the old one.

The 9500 GT in my computer.  It was surprisingly easy to get it working.  All I needed to do was turn on the computer and run the CD that came with the card to install the drivers and I was done.

Time for the RAM.  Here you can see two one gig sticks of RAM, and you can see one of two additional DIM slots (the area inside the black tab between the two white tabs, and behind the farther white tab).

And here are all four sticks in place.  No installation or anything for this step.  This brings the grand total to 4 gigs of ram which is the most Windows XP can use anyways.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Aryeh Cooks: Fortune Cookies

Surprise! An Aryeh post on a Thursday.  Today is the Chinese New Year, welcome year of the rabbit/hare.  A friend of mine who has been taking Chinese for a year decided to throw a party.  He asked for people to bring a foodstuff, preferably a Chinese foodstuff.  So I decided to make fortune cookies, which I feel definitely qualifies for an Aryeh Cooks (although my mother did make fortune cookie hamentashen for Purim a bunch of years back).  The recipe is very simple,

2 large egg white (I bought a container of egg whites, this is far easier than separating eggs yourself, plus you do not have to deal with the chalaza)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon of water
1/2 cup of flour (all purpose)
1/2 cup of sugar
1.5 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine the liquids into a medium sized bowl, and beat together until frothy.  Then mix the dry ingredients together in a separate container.  Finally beat the dry ingredients into the liquids.

The next step is to spoon some of the batter onto a greased baking sheet.  About a tablespoon per cookie.  Pour the batter onto the baking sheet and then using the back of your spoon spread the batter out until it is about a four inch circle.  Start with only two or three (I will explain later).

Then put them into a preheated 300 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes or until about 1/2 inch of the outside edge is golden brown.
Now comes the hard part.  The cookies will be soft and malleable for about 20-30 seconds after coming out of the oven, you need to shape them in this time frame (this is why you should start with fewer, until you get the hang of it).  Using a spatula pull off a cookie, flip it over and put a fortune on top.  Then fold the cookie in half by bringing the outside edges together so it looks like a half circle, you don't want to literally fold the cookie in half because it will break.

For the next step most recipes recommend folding it down over a cup, however I find this to be stupid because the gap between the two sides of the cookie will be to big.  I used the edge of an empty oatmeal box.  So take the cookie and force the center of the bottom of the half circle over the edge of the box so that the two sides are folded down into the shape of a fortune cookie.  I managed to do this step free hand with varied success. After the cookie is shaped put it into a muffin tin (or something similar) for the cookie to cool in its shape.  If you don't do this you will need to hold the cookie until it cools or it will spring open and lose its shape

And remember, you need to do this for every cookie on your tray in about 20 seconds (I got up to six at a time) and yes the one in the top right is broken, this was as a result of trying to get a picture of the last step.

You can also add some color to your cookies.  You can do this by adding food coloring to the batter.

I made regular, blue, green and red cookies.

 In the end I made about 50 cookies with a quadruple batch of batter.  This is not a difficult food to make, however it is deceptively time consuming.  You can only bake as many cookies as you can shape in 20-30 seconds at a time and with a 10-15 cook time it adds up.  If you have help you can probably drastically decrease the time required.  Although if you are only making one batch of cookies it shouldn't take you more than about an hour.

But what about the fortunes you ask.  Well I wouldn't be a Lansey if I gave people boring fortunes.

The fortune is on the left and the right is the corresponding back of each fortune.  Also, yes that is BLOOD (red food coloring) on the "Help I am stuck in a fortune cookie machine!!!" fortune and yes that went into the red cookie.  I will also take suggestions as to what the fortunes can be in the future.  Also, don't forget to suggest future foodstuffs to be given the Aryeh Cooks treatment.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011


Last week Eli and I had a joint double post about building a cold smoker.  In the first part we used a length of paracord to measure a 4" diameter circle.  I carry an approximately four foot length of paracord with me pretty much every day.  I know this may seem a bit weird, but I have some reasons (even if you think my reasons are still weird).  The first is that paracord is incredible cool stuff.  It is sometimes called 550 cord because it can hold up 550 pounds of static load before breaking.  Additionally, it consists of 7 internal strands each being able to take approximately 80 pounds.  The second is knot tying.  It is amazing how useful knowing some decent knots can be, although I didn't stop at just a a few.  I sat down and taught myself a rather large number of climbing knots and am now working on fishing knots.  Having a short length of rope to practice with is rather helpful, as well as a thing to do when I am bored.  The third reason is probably the most out there and it is survival.  I watch a lot of survival shows (real survival shows, not survivor) and one thing that is always useful is cordage.  Now to be clear I do not expect to find myself in a survival situation in central NJ but it never hurts to be prepared.  I wont sit here giving you all the reasons for why rope is useful stuff, but I will finish with one final reason.  I have made a modification to the paracord I carry.  I have added marks to it, one every inch.  So I know basically have a flexible measuring tool with me at all times, sure the precision isn't high but I can still measure better than I would be able to without it.

 I use the carabiner as both something to tie my knots to and also as a convenient way to secure it to a belt loop.

 This particular knot I have tied at the moment is a double figure eight knot.

Here you can see the one inch marks on the paracord.