Friday, December 31, 2010

Martha’s dubious pot advice

Yesterday I added an adorable 2.5-quart yellow dutch oven to my batterie de cuisine. The pot, produced in China by the minions of Martha Stewart Collection (a subsidiary of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia), appears to be of good quality. However, the accompanying instructions are… conflicted:

Duct Whisky’s top posts of 2010

It’s that time of year. Since Scotch Tape & Duct Whisky only began in September, there isn’t that much to draw from, but who cares? It’s not like all five of you were reading since day one. Bob, you have some catching up to do.

Top 10 posts, in my judgment:

  1. On the repeatability of NCAA football games
  2. Battle of the Christmas Tree Cluster
  3. On keeping people from dying
  4. Confessions of a market manipulator
  5. Foursquare’s SMS interface is a festering heap of targ manure
  6. The dumbest thing I read today
  7. Zeugmax
  8. God Hates Figs
  9. On imitating the masters
  10. Slide show: Wildwood/Cape May 2010

Top 5 posts by page views:

  1. Basic Instructions on Brian May, Ph.D.
  2. Audi’s Olde World Restaurant (Johnstown, PA)
  3. 10 Things I’ve Done That You Probably Have Not
  4. Salted water for boiling
  5. Cape May: Sunset walk at the Meadows

The review of Audi’s Olde World Restaurant deserves a special mention. The other four posts on the list got a lot of page views because I linked to them from places that get a lot of traffic. This was not the case for the Audi’s review. That page is widely read because… wait for it… people search for restaurant information on the Internet. As I mentioned in the review, Audi’s launched with no web presence. As of this writing, they actually have a web site, which has no menu, and which only lists their hours for Monday–Thursday. Maybe they can resolve to make it useful in 2011.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

50 years ago…

Via the LA Times, half a century ago, Caltech triumphed in a nationally-televised athletic contest:

Rarely had a Rose Bowl seen such flawless execution.

The preparation was inspired, the key players unwavering and a national television audience enthralled.

Fifty years ago this Sunday, an intrepid interloper made an uninvited, unprecedented and unforgettable appearance in the so-called Granddaddy of Them All.

Caltech made the Rose Bowl.

A small band of ingenious Caltech students made it happen, surreptitiously altering a University of Washington halftime flip-card routine so that it would spell out "CALTECH" in what became known as the Great Rose Bowl Hoax of 1961.

We have to take our victories however we can get them.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Battle of the Christmas Tree Cluster

ChristmasTreeClusterCaptain’s Log, Stardate 4712.25. Old Earth date December 25. Christmas Day. On a routine mission to resupply the mining outpost at 58 G. Monocerotis VI, near the Cone Nebula, our science officer, Mr. Spock, picked up an unusual reading. A magenta star, connected to a quantum filament. Such… objects… are of strategic importance to the Federation, as they can serve as a… portal… to another quadrant of the galaxy.

We set course for the Christmas Tree Cluster to investigate.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Word of the Day: Apodizing

Via PC Gaming Tips, “An apodizing phase plate coronagraph for VLT/NACO”:

Abstract: We describe a coronagraphic optic for use with CONICA at the VLT that provides suppression of diffraction from 1.8 to 7 lambda/D at 4.05 microns, an optimal wavelength for direct imaging of cool extrasolar planets. The optic is designed to provide 10 magnitudes of contrast at 0.2 arcseconds, over a D-shaped region in the image plane, without the need for any focal plane occulting mask.

Apodizing, of course, means “if you take cool extrasolar planet pictures with our coronagraph, they’re sure to end up on APOD.”

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Quote of the Day: Apps for Cats Edition

Via TUAW, a game for cats does what it says, but it isn't truly free:

The game does what it advertises, however it's extremely easy for your pet to accidentally make an in-game app purchase unless you've disabled that feature in your settings.

This actually relates to something I find pretty offensive about Apple’s app store.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The (priceless) sound of silence

By now you’ve all read the hilarious reviews for the $6,800 AudioQuest K2 terminated speaker cables. But it raises the question—what do people listen to with these fancy cables? The answer is in plain view.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

10 Things I’ve Done That You Probably Have Not

Based on John Scalzi's list, with the same caveats.

  1. Skipped an art history lecture to have ice cream with Whit Diffie.
  2. Been run off the sidewalk by Stephen Hawking. I have no idea how he got a license to drive that chair.
  3. Seen the aurora borealis and Omega Centauri from the same place.
  4. Helped a town clean up after a tornado.
  5. Put an endangered Whooping Crane in a headlock.
  6. Attended the U.S. Space Academy (“Space Camp”).
  7. Appeared on the Discovery Channel.
  8. Been administered Immunoglobulin G.
  9. Watched a SpaceShipOne launch from the back yard. On my birthday.
  10. Drove my car stupid fast on an abandoned WW2 airstrip, with grass growing through the pavement and cattle wandering across the course.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Tale of Two Almae Matres

Congratulations to the Penn State women's volleyball team, who defeated Texas in straight sets in the NCAA semifinals, and will try for their fourth consecutive national championship on Saturday.

And then there's Caltech men's basketball.

Conference play in the N.C.A.A. Division III Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference begins after the holiday break. Caltech’s losing streak sits at 297, according to the athletic department.


A basketball in [Coach] Eslinger’s office is covered in autographs—not from players, but from the five Nobel laureates currently on the faculty. Pointing to a photograph of the team he inherited, Eslinger counted 5 among the 17 players who had played high school basketball. There were more valedictorians than starters.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


The Animal Welfare League of Arlington is offering FREE KITTEHS. But…

Yet for every cat that’s adopted, two more come in, according to a staffer.

THEN WHY THE HELL ARE YOU TRYING TO ACCELERATE THE RATE OF ADOPTIONS?! For the love of Ceiling Cat, their exponential rate of increase will soon result in an unfathomable outbreak of brain-eating kittehs, which we are ill-equipped to handle!


Friday, December 10, 2010

If we go by the book, hours could seem like days

Seen on


There’s an old joke: Guy walks up to a diner with an “Open 24 Hours” sign, late in the evening. The proprietor is turning off the lights and locking the door. The guy says, “Hey, I thought you were open 24 hours.” The owner says, “Yeah, but not in a row.”

Apparently that’s how they record weather records in Madison. Their 24-hour record snowfall was spread over 5 days.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

FAIL FAIL #7: Classic FAIL!

I love the FAIL Blog. But sometimes they FAIL to realize that the subject of their derision is in on the joke. This is the seventh in an investigative series exploring FAIL Blog FAILs. This is the first installment to examine a so-called "Classic" FAIL!

epic fail photos - CLASSIC: Spice Rub Name FAIL

Look, I’ll be the first to make fun of Paula Deen when she deserves it, but this is clearly a double entendre. Do you really think that she and her minions came up with a dry spice rub for pork, and somebody came up with “Butt Massage” without giggling?

Newsflash for my friends at FAIL Blog: You know that sports bar, Hooters? The name doesn’t just refer to owls! Srsly! “Hooters” is another word for boobies!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A very special episode of Hoarders…

or: The article that didn’t bark

The Johnstown Tribune-Democrat reported a fire at the home of Chandan Vora yesterday:

A Johnstown firefighter was injured battling a fire Monday that caused heavy damage to the basement of a home on the 500 block of Robb Avenue in Kernville.

Firefox is in dis array

Downloadsquad reports that Mozilla has adopted two real, live baby firefoxen:

However, I take exception to this claim from the article:

Right now, in true soulless coder fashion, they're only known as "cub #1" and "cub #2"

If they were named by proper soulless coders, they'd be cub[0] and cub[1].

Monday, December 6, 2010

Word of the Day: Wurstmeister

From an excellent New York Times article titled “If Only Laws Were Like Sausages”:

“With legislation, you can have hundreds of cooks — members of Congress, lobbyists, federal agency officials, state officials,” Mr. Feder said. “In sausage making, you generally have one person, the wurstmeister, who runs the business and makes the decisions.”

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Occasional WTF #10: Now with organic chemical-free mineral resources!

Seen on an enameled cast iron dutch oven:


(Click to embiggen, but it’s not very legible.)

The green tag reads:

Enamel is Organic – No Chemicals!

Enamel manufacturing uses pure natural mineral resources such as iron, quartz, clay, feldspar, borax, soda ash and potash – making enamel 100% recyclable.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

On bookmarks

I was reading a book before bed, and when I was done I put my bookmark in the book.

But the bookmark didn’t stick out. I flipped back to the bookmark and pulled it out slightly, so it was visible.

I realized that I view a bookmark as the progress bar for the book.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I love the FAIL Blog. But sometimes they FAIL to understand the thing they’re making fun of. This is the sixth in an investigative series exploring FAIL Blog FAILs.

white trash repairs - Did You Chain Up the Lock?

The commenters on the site did a good job of explaining this one. There are different parties who need access to the site. It could be forest rangers, emergency responders, utility companies, landowners, landscapers, lessees, etc. Each of them provides and maintains their own lock and key, and they don’t have to coordinate key exchanges with the other parties. I’ve seen setups like this on Palomar Mountain, albeit with somewhat fewer locks.

Even the caption gets it wrong:

Can you hold on for a fortnight? I need to find the right keys.

Well, no, the locks are “wired in series” and you only need one key. That’s the whole point.