Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pound of Dice

This past year I started playing Dungeons and Dragons.  I have been playing in a campaign for about 7 months.  My character is a 6th level elven sorcerer.  When I first told some people about this, the main reaction was "wow what a nerd".  Well I guess sitting around a table playing a game with 6-8 friends is nerdy, hear that all you jocks who probably don't read this blog, your are all nerds to.

However, starting this week we are taking a break from our regular campaign and I will be DM'ing a campaign.  In this campaign I will also be playing some characters, who will technically be NPC's.  The first character is a Half-Dragon Goliath Barbarian.  This effectively means he is incredibly good at smashing things, is hard to hit, can breath fire, and can fly.  But enough about that.  Dice.  D&D runs with dice, the dice decide if you are successful, and than how successful you are and how much damage you do on attacks.  I had bought a set of polyhedral dice when we first started playing.

The DM requires a lot more dice than for a regular character.  So I went online to buy some more dice.  This being the internet I easily found more dice.  In fact a pound of dice.

Now that is a lot of dice.

Collection of d4, d6, d8, d10, d12 and d20's.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Crummy Choices on CITI Course

I recently took an online course about how to ethically run experiments with human participants. Some of the questions were pretty funny.

Some helpful info
Thus, if you are asked to complete a CITI Program course for someone else or if you provide or receive quiz question answers:
  • Don't do it unless, you have explicit written permission from your IRB or compliance office!
  • Don't put your employment, academic status and reputation at risk!
Now for the question:
Select the appropriate statement then click the Submit button:
Some of the questions on the quizzes were quite difficult, like this one:
If found guilty of committing research misconduct, what consequences might Terry face?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Why you should skip expensive wine

A friend of mine (A. Green) held a small wine tasting event where the guests guessed the price of each wine as they tasted them. She bought the wines and arranged the tastings but did not guess. The participants were pretty educated, but not wine experts. I did not participate, and there were no plans to graph the results until I discovered the data so hopefully these are completely unbiased.

Creative Commons photo by Dalem

Below we see that there is no correlation between the actual cost of the bottle and the price that it tastes. The conclusion? Save your money and don't buy wine over $15!

In case you are curious, below you can see all the data points.

Thanks to alert blog-previewer Eli we have the following relevant links about how the price of the wine can actually change how good it tastes for you.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

There, I fixed it

Well, I didn't fix it, but I saw this at the Brooklyn Brewery, on a temperature monitoring panel:
I imagine one of their fancy, integrated temperature sensors broke, so they just replaced it with a $40 off-the-shelf probe thermometer.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Don't Mind Me I'm Just QWOP'ing Along

QWOP, the ridiculously hard pointless game.  Well me and some friend had a marathon, to see who could actually beat it before they ran out of patience.  I present to you...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Credit Card Image Designs part 3-4/?

I've been trying for a while now to get a ridiculous image on my credit card. See tries one and two. Each time they seem to reject it for one reason or another.

I think they rejected this one because of this clause:
Any photo that might result in non-acceptance or other problems at the point of sale
My plan was to tell the cashier "no, its the center oval that turns blue if stolen" or "it is only starting to turn blue because you are holding it"  and then mutter something about how low-tech it is not to tell the difference between another person just holding it and actually having stole it.

Anyway - I have high hopes for the card below that still has a chance to make it past the capitalone sensors!

Edit: Card rejected ... an appeal has been submitted.
Edit: Appeal rejected

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Week of Me

Well we have made it, a week of me.  That's right I now hold the blog record for consecutive posts SEVEN.  Yep, I had ulterior motives.  Not only did I want to make it up to our loyal readers for a missed month but I wanted the record, MWAH HA HA HA!!!  But its not all bad, you got the posts I should I have posted and some bonus posts.  Also, I have now helped with the poorly represented Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday by increasing the number of post on those days.  Plus since that 5th anniversary post I have been working tirelessly (literally) to makes sure that the 4-5 AM time slot is represented, come on I dare you to see how many times I have posted between those times since October.

Speaking of October and our fifth anniversary.  Since then and until recently I missed almost no posts, this is just another thing I have been doing for you loyal readers.  Let us see how many other records we can break here today.  Eli holds the record for number of comments in one post at 16, I think we can beat this with all you loyal readers saying what you think about this momentous event.  Although, I think it is silly to try and break Yoni's 29 image in one post record (here at least).  I will however point out that in this week I have posted 29 images so far, so I will post one more and call it a day.

Friday, January 13, 2012


Prepare to be amazed by a blast from the past.  I took a welding class about 3-4 years ago.  That's right this blog post has literally been years in the making!  The class was offered by a local vocational school and was geared as adult continued education.  I learned arc weld, MIG weld, brazing, and how to cut steel with an oxyacetylene torch.
 This was my basic welding setup.  I had an auto-darkening helmet, this meant that when I struck an arc the goggles immediately darkened so I wasn't blinded, but when I wasn't welding I would be able to see what I was doing.  Additionally, I am wearing a welding coat, its treated cotton.  Also, thick leather gloves.  On the right is a wire brush for cleaning up welds and on the left is a welding hammer, its to clear off slag.

This is my brazing and oxyacetylene cutting getup.  Same shirt and and gloves but wearing brazing goggles.  On the theme of a long time coming, I was clearly way ahead of the times.  Watch out guys, we're dealing with a badass over here.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Master of Engineering Part 3

At about 11:30 at night while working on the final project for my combustion course (analysis of a RD-180 rocket engine), I recieved this email.
Dear Graduate Student,

Rutgers Counseling, ADAP (alcohol and other drug assistance program) and Psychiatric Services office, located at 17 Senior Street, is available to help you resolve the many pressures you face as you juggle your classes, research, teaching, jobs and family responsibilities. Please, if you need help, get completely confidential help from this office.

After the inexplicable crazy laughter ended, I leaned over to my friend Sergey with whom I was working on the project and said "But who has the time."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dinner Party

You may have figured it out by now, but if not, I was way to busy during the conclusion of my last semester to blog.  Now you may ask, but what about the last week in December, you where done with classes.  Well that was the last night of Chanukah and the night I had my traditional (as in the traditional food, not a traditional party) Eastern European dinner party.  For years my friends have heard about these foods, so I decided it was time for them to have some.

This was my second themed dinner party after the Soup Party (which I think I blogged but can't find now).  I made Challah, Tzimmes, Chulent, Vegy Kishka, Kasha Varnishkas, Potato Kugel, and Gefilta Fish and not the jarred stuff.  It was fun telling people the names of stuff than saying eat it and find out what it is.

 Orange stuff in the middle of the table is the vegy kishka, and next to it is a bowl of kasha varnishkas.

 Now you can see the challah and a better look at the kishka and kasha varnishkas.  Also, you can see some dreidel spinning going on as it was the last night  of chanukah.

 In addition to the dreidels some of Moshe's toys made it to the table.  You can see the little toy train on the table.  some of the track came out as well and there was some dreidel spinning on those.

The shoe pile.  In the end about 20 people came to the party (although not all at once, max was probably about 12-15).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Aryeh Cooks: Pumpkin Bread

For Thanksgiving I decided to make pumpkin bread, clearly this post has been a long time coming.  The pumpkin bread is a dessert bread, so really a cake.  This is also the first recipe for a baked good that I created.

The recipe:
3.5 cups of flour (all purpose is best)
1 cup of sugar
2/3 cups of brown sugar
1.5 cups of pecans
1 can of pumpkin puree (29 oz, enough for two 9" pies)
4 eggs
5/8ths of a cup of oil
1.5 teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of vanilla (I use vanilla sugar, but vanilla extract is fine)
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of ginger
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
2 greased 9"x5"x3" loaf pans

Start by putting the pecans into your oven on a baking sheet at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes.  After they cool down give them a course chop.  Leave the oven on.

Mix all the other dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl (leave the pecans separate).
Its interesting how artistic a bunch of spice can be.  Also, if you place spices on a plate like this you can smell them in different combinations.

Next beat the eggs together until they become a lighter yellow.  This incorporates air bubbles that can expand when the bread is baked.  Mix the beaten eggs and other liquids with pecans.  If you haven't added the pumpkin puree to the liquids, do so.  Mix the liquids together well.

It should become thick and gloppy, but not as much as a finished batter would.

Now mix the liquids into the solids.  Just mix long enough to bring the batter together.  Pour out into the greased loaf pans.
This is a double batch which is why there are four pans.  The batter has a very rich orange color which remains through the baking.  Bake for an hour, then pierce the bread with a knife or toothpick if it comes out clean it is done baking, if not bake longer until the knife or toothpick comes out clean.

At the Thanksgiving table.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Master of Engineering Part 2

Yesterday I posted about my getting my Master of Engineering Degree.  I showed you a bunch of the design work that I did.  Here is some of the construction that I did.

 This is my setup to cast the rubber sealer head out of urethane rubber.  In the bottom right is the mold that I printed using FDM, above it is a spray can that holds a silicon release agent that I sprayed into the mold, to the immediate left of that is the hardener that hardens the urethane which is in the tin in the center.  The scale I used to ensure that I had the correct ratios of the urethane and the hardener.

 Here is the urethane cast into the mold.

 This is the partially constructed sealer.  The urethane hadn't hardened yet (it took a week) and I had not threaded the other three posts yet.  You can see the load cell in place.  I don't have a lot of pictures of the construction because when you are machining things to a few thousandths of an inch precision you can't really be thinking about getting pictures of it.  Plus my hands tended to be covered with cutting fluid, so I really didn't want to be grabbing for my camera all the time.

 This is the completed product during testing (about 1:30 AM on a Sunday if you where interested).  For the testing I just pressed down with the device on a slab of concrete and had a friend operate a valve with a pressure gauge on it.

Here it is tipped on its side so you can see it in all its glory, minus the counterbored holes on the bottom that I didn't have time to do.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Master of Engineering Part 1

Some of you may have noticed that I have failed to post for some time.  I have a good reason for most of it.

Over the course of the past month I have completed my Master of Engineering degree.  I completed my final courses, and successfully defended my research.

Here is some of what I did this past semester while working on the ANDERS for Bridge Decks Project.  The part of the project I was associated with was the bridge repair part.  My job was to design and redesign components for the robot.
 This is where the project was when I first became involved, the robotic arm would be attached to the robot and the drill would drill holes in the road.

These where the first two things I designed.  On the left is a device that can be pressed against the concrete around the hole that was drilled (the black part is rubber) and sealant would be pumped into subsurface cracks in the concrete to repair it.  On the right was a design for a two part epoxy mixing device.  Two different components would be pumped in from the top and forced to mix as they run through the device.

This is what my first design was modified into.  The change was for ease of construction and because it used materials I already had on hand.  It is effectively the same thing as the previous design with an added load cell to measure how much force the unit would be pushing down on concrete with.

Now we are moving on to the next part of the project.  The whole drilling and sealing system.  I decided that it would be most efficient if we where to use the same screw rail being used to actuate the drill to also actuate the sealer.

The next step was to improve upon the design of the drill mounting.  I took advantage of existing mount points on the motor housing inside the drill to shorten the end effector.  Additionally, you will note an intermediate design for the sealer attached to the design.

I wanted to see how compact I could make the entire end effector.  So I removed the load cell (large short cylinder mounted between the drill and the screw rail) and moved it to the robot arm.  With this removed i could make is as compact as possible.  However, I also needed to invert the motor that powered the screw rail (black, silver and gray cylinder) because otherwise it would hit the ground.  Additionally, if you look between the previous design and this one you can see a small black ring attached to the backside of the plate holding the screw rail together.  This is how the end effector connects to the robot arm. You can see from the placement that in the compact design it is much closer to the inertial center of the end effector.  This means that it would be much easier for the robot arm to rotate it the 180 degrees necessary to switch between the drill and the sealer.

My adviser did not like the compact design so he asked me for a combination of the compact and non-compact design (also not liking a number of intermediate designs).  The result is above.  The load cell has been moved but the screw rail and its motor are in-line with each other.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Lighting a nook

We had a small, dark, strange alcove in our bedroom.
Stacy decided it would make a nice reading nook, if only we could light it. So, with some expert advice from my father, a bit of work,
and, I think, a decent amount of mess,
I hung, and wired a new lighting fixture and switch.
Now, there's plenty of light in our reading nook:

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Art with Machine Learning

The other day my friend Nathan pointed me to the a Google+ post of Mohit Muthanna here.
Take all the pixels of a photograph, and rearrange them so that the final image looks like an artist's palette -- something to which you can take a paintbrush and recreate the original image.
Below is an example of an image he made, using k-means to cluster the pixels.
But why stop there? I decided to try going ahead and automatically paint the image with the palette. If you were to do this by painting every pixel with average color for its cluster, then this is just a form of  posterization (a cute way to do image compression).

Sierra Nevada CA

Instead I chose to use the original pixels, but to replace each pixel with a random pixel from the same cluster. The difference is admittedly subtle ... but it sometimes looks nice. Note that the pallet used to paint each picture is usually shown below it.

Sierra Nevada CA

I tried several non-random ways to paint the picture too, such as shifting pixels inside a given cluster

and sorting the pixels in each cluster by brightness (top to bottom).

Below are a few more examples, 

NJIT Library

Sierra Nevada CA



Last Shuttle Launch


The code to do all this was written in Matlab, with the help of M. Chen's K-Means function. I'd be glad to give anyone the code, just email me.