Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Open Tabs 5: The Clever Sub-Title

I seem to have accumulated a couple of interesting links, mostly about food, recently. Allow me to share them.

* The Ka-Pow bar! This is awesome. So, chocolate bars are made by grinding cacao beans, extracting cocoa butter, then remixing them in a different proportion, with added sugar, milk solids, vanilla, almonds, whatever. These geniuses substituted finely-ground COFFEE for the cocoa in the remix stage. I am in awe. But it’s been 80 degrees in the shade here, and there’s no way I’m going to have them shipped to me from OR right now. So, I will either wait, or track down a source of food-grade cocoa butter for my own nefarious purposes.

* Making perfect french fries. Basically it comes down to using acidulated water to strengthen the pectin in the potato, holding it together better during cooking. Also useful for potato salad, actually. They do a similar investigation with potato chips (you may call them “crisps” if you prefer being wrong)

* Speaking of french fries: Cooking Issues also takes on the quest for French Fry Supremacy (Part 1, Part 2)

You’d think that after reading all that about french fries and seeing electron microscope pictures of french fries and even seeing some dude *sand* a french fry, that I’d know how to make the perfect fries. Sadly, I don’t. But that’s OK, I need to be doing less deep-frying.

But it’s not all about food!

* Abandonware by An Owomoyela is an awesome spec-fic short story up on Fantasy Magazine’s site

* Speaking of fiction, Chuck Wendig, esq posted Part One of Codpiece Johnson and the Hamsters of Anamnesis, part of an ongoing saga of being careful what you say online.

* Hoist Sail for the Heliopause and Home, interactive fiction by Andrew Plotkin. I haven’t actually played more than a minute or two of this one, but it looks fascinating.

* NYTimes article on pot shops in Colorado. This subject is interesting to me: I don’t really have any interest in the drug itself, but I do think that a looser set of restrictions would do a lot of good for US society. The country’s various stabs at Prohibition have been uniformly bad for us, and this time our country’s drug habit is in the process of destroying Mexico. Finding another solution seems incumbent upon us.

* This is an older Times article on the various custom-order items available on the internet, including custom-tailored shirts. I’m really hoping to be able to buy shoes this way. I can walk into a shoe store, state my size, and be presented with at most two pairs of shoes that fit me. There are those reading this who are snorting at my broad spectrum of choice compared to the waste land that shoe stores are to them. Vans’ is among a number of stores that come close, but they don’t let you specify width! The “customization” is all about selecting color. I suspect that the answer is likely to be a machine that makes them on demand.

* On a related note, I keep trying to remind myself to visit the Harvard Book Store’s books on demand machine.

Monday, June 28, 2010

There Goes My Appetite

I admit that many of my food choice decisions are made on the basis of “Awesome” as opposed to “Good”. Friendly’s has a cheeseburger now where the bun is a pair of grilled cheese sandwiches. So awesome. I should have known better than to look up the nutrition information *sigh* (1500 calories, not including the side of fries)

On the other hand, if I skipped lunch and split it with someone else, it might actually be reasonable. Or, if I didn’t eat anything else all day except coffee and celery...

No, no. I must focus. The Double Down, by contrast, looks practically like a salad with its 540 calories!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Getting Back Into (Mathematical) Shape

I've recently been reading a fascinating article entitled, The Mathematician's Lament. By coincidence, I also had an article about solving Boltzman's equation up in another tab. Both of them have started me thinking: back in grad school, I had to do a reasonable amount of math on a regular basis. Calculus, algebra, geometry. Nothing really difficult, but it kept me in practice.

Now, though, I don't use much of it. A lot of statistics and some discrete math, but not much else. I'd like to keep in practice, but it's tough to find a place to get interesting puzzles to play at. Googling mostly turns up stuff aimed at kids: the "make math fun!" dreck that the Lament laments. I have all my old math textbooks (especially discrete math)  Anyone have any suggestions? (feel free to pass along the link to this post to anyone who might)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Farmer's Market

L. and I went to the farmer’s market this evening, and there was a stand selling seafood -- the proprietor drives down to the coast in the morning, then drives back with a haul of fresh cod, scallops, and lobsters. I bought a 1lb bag of scallops, which smelled absolutely delicious: sweet, really, and very faintly of the sea. I grilled them on skewers with just a brushing of canola oil and a sprinkling of salt. Fantastic. That plus a loaf of garlic bread, a bunch of carrots, and a jar of pickled beets, makes for a nice haul.

We’ve been impressed by how well the market is doing this year. The samosa stand in particular is just doing phenomenally well. Thanks to the warm weather, all the stands already have lettuce and other greens. Hell, we’re already a couple weeks into a very early strawberry season!

Looks look we’ll be eating very well this summer...


Just a quick reminder that I’ve moved discussions of my writing elsewhere. There are happenings! I’m sending stuff out, and it’s getting rejected. OK, that’s ... that’s all the happenings. But still.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


This chess set may be the most awesome thing you see all day. It’s pretty remarkable, but at the same time well within reach of a dedicated group of students armed with some good reference books. (... and $30k worth of legos and computers) It would not surprise me if they said that building the robots took more time than programming them.

The biggest surprise to me, actually, is that they were able to use Bluetooth to control the robots. My experience with Bluetooth in Lego Mindstorms was mostly negative: short range, few control channels. My guess is that they must have the robots listening on shared channels, and prefacing commands with some kind of ID string: that would also explain why so many of the movements are sequential.

Post-match battery charging must be a royal pain in the ass. I also wonder what kind of corrections are needed during a long match: Sensor error and actuator slip accumulate, so that over time, as a robot moves its internal position can get wildly out of sync with its actual position and orientation. With a more sophisticated sensor suite it’s not a trivial task. It must be very difficult with the equipment they appear to have.

Anyway: my hat is off to Team Hassenplug. That’s pretty damn cool.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

New Mac 2

It arrived!

I am somewhat in awe of the Mac transfer program: all of my programs and settings were transferred perfectly, even my ssh keys and volume settings. I’m not entirely happy that I had to sit and wait three hours to get to use it, but it’s like my old machine was transformed into a newer, faster one.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

New Mac

I just ordered a new Mac laptop to replace one that is plainly on its way out. (It gave good service, but its time is nearly up)

I am told that it is easy to transfer my files and applications to another Mac, but having not done so I’m wondering if any of you have done so: did you have any problems? Was there anything you wished you’d done beforehand? What did you do with the old laptop?

The Kindle Lives!

I’d been getting increasingly frustrated with my (1st-gen) Kindle: half the time I’d pick it up, and it would be dead, frozen. I’d turn on the radio, and it would freeze. I’d written it off for a while, and then realized that all of these problems were at least loosely consistent with a dying battery. One $20 replacement later, and it works like a charm!

To celebrate, I finally picked up a book that’s been recommended to me a dozen times: H. Beam Piper’s “Little Fuzzy”. They were right to recommend it, it’s really good!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Psst! Over Here...

Just a quick note: I'm moving my writing posts over to my new Wordpress blog. I figured it was a bit more professional, and let me post more varied stuff over here without worrying about de-emphasizing my writing. There's a permanent link over on the right hand side, and a list of the most recent few posts.