Saturday, June 30, 2007

funny doors

today i had some great bad door locking moments. the first involves a change room in a mall. i entered the change room and couldn't figure out how to lock the door. i looked at the handle, nothing. i look around the handle, nothing. then i look up and notice a lone screw, sticking up at the top of the door, about half a room above my head. here it is:

what would you do with a screw like this? well, i turn it, and it starts going in. then i turn it the other way, and it starts coming out. but neither action actually locks the door. here's my sister and i, filming an interaction with the door.

and now here's the mechanism (shot from above, door in locked position):

the second door locking problem is even more amusing, but i didn't take any pictures because my sister somehow convinced me not to. i go into a bathroom stall in a ukranian cultural center in new jersey, and i can't lock the door. the alignment of door latch to lock is all wrong, and so the door cannot be locked. i puzzle for a moment, conclude that this door must be broken, and go to the next stall. the same thing! so i try a third stall. the same thing, again! i can't lock the door. is this some kind of sick joke? i can't find anyone to ask, but i'm sure it must be.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

i am not a wirestripper

i am not a wirestripper.

and i never will be. after ruining about a foot of speaker wire while trying to strip it with an inferior tool and my perpetually shaky hands i've concluded that i am not a wirestripper, and never will be. and don't ever ask me to remove a splinter from your body, or operate on you, because i assure you, i'll likely regret it more than you, as you'll be dead.


for me, this is one of those don norman moments, when at first i think i'm an idiot then realize that the tool i'm using was never built to do any task well, certainly not on first use.

here is a picture of the cheap cheap wire stripper i picked up from home depot (neha warned me that i should get the nicer one and i retorted "it's just wire stripping." how i eat my tasty words).

notice that the gauge adjustment, unlike any sane tool, is this screw you can move continuously along an axis (inside the left handle). that's right, there aren't even notches for recommended position given wire gauge. now, this gives this stripper the benefit that it can cut hypothetical 16.5 gauge wire (actually, such wire does exist but come on). how does this item continue to sell! are people's hands just so much softer than mine that the inexactness of their stripping tool can be offset by their ultra sensitive hands, which feel the prick of the insulation and thus strip without losing any copper? do they also feel my leg shaking under the table as the displaced air moves over their hands?

show me these people! i want to worship their hands.

now let's look at a reasonable wire stripper, courtesy youtube

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Thursday, June 14, 2007


just bought the new feist cd, and it's wonderful. her voice has such range, and the supporting music is catchy. i went to check out one of her videos (my moon my man) and it is so much fun. very playful and well choreographed. check it out:

on the other hand, i find mushaboom's video a little too over the top, even for me:

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

mine eyes

if you're wondering what those beautiful retinas are doing on my blog, you can likely deduce the answer: they are my retinas! what healthy retinas, wouldn't you say? i certainly have no idea, but that's what my doctor says.

let me answer some questions that i know some of you will ask: no, i don't feel weird posting my retinas. these pictures are amazing. the eye is a fantastic structure, and these photos confirm that indeed my eyes are also fantastic.

if you know me, you might know that i am extremely disturbed by the idea of eye damage. i can't wear contacts for fear of hurting my eyes, and any time i see eye damage on tv or in movies i shudder and literally freak out. i jump up and down and cringe and just hurt hurt hurt

my classic example of eye damage in a film that freaked me beyond belief: demolition man. recall the beginning, when wesley "always bet on black" snipes escapes the prison using the warden's eye to pass the retinal scan. freaky! ugh! just the thought of it makes me quesy. but but but i decided to google the movie to find out what others say about the eye scene. i was so heartened by this find, which describes the scene as factually void:

Factual error: Simon Phoenix uses the warden's removed eye to escape from the cryoprison. The eye is on a spike, which would have not only destroyed the shape of the retina, but blocked the scanner from reaching it as well. There's no way the retinal scanner would have let him pass.

this makes me feel good, to a certain extent. sure, any crazy criminals who have seen this movie and need to get into my retinal-eye-scan-locked fortress might think of pulling a wesley snipes on me... but it's more likely that they'll think through the problem and realize that taking out my eye in tact is likely a difficult job. and so maybe they'll let me live.. at least leave my eyes alone!

Thou hast no speculation in those eyes
Which thou dost glare with!

--Macbeth. ACT III Scene 4.

Monday, June 04, 2007

what's that word i'm looking for!

googlin around for a concept is hard! here's the concept:
why is it that a computer user would more readily listen to another human telling them to do something than a computer telling them the same thing?
now, before you send me all your answers to this question, that's not what i'm looking for! i have many seemingly reasonable answers to this question. i am interested in literature that discusses this idea, or some abstraction of it, either empirically or theoretically.

so i googed for a while and then concluded that i needed to invest in some human capital (sorry server farm, you don't push the right buttons all the time). i go scrounging about on berkeley's econ department page and find first one professor (a nobel prize winner who is really old) and then another, both of whom probably know the keywords i need to find the literature i'm looking for. but i don't want to email professors, this is a huge waste of their time. i want to email their students :)

but in econ, it seems, you don't list your advisor, and you certainly don't list your students! so i email the non-nobel econ prof and cross my fingers. no response. also no response from a psych prof who does behavioral psych.

sigh. i thought my phd-to-be-in-cs-street-cred would count for something, a lil hit of information, some breathing room... nothing.

so i pick up the goog again and keep whacking away at the concept. i just need the right words. back in high school i read some em forster, and his quote (the one that's always quoted) seems quite apt at this point in my adventure:

Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.

so here the beast is passion? the monk the prose? well, i am certainly a beast as is my concept, and stupid google monk is refusing to see the beast, being afraid of conceptual understanding. i need to build a bridge.

and so, like all diligent elves, i muck about until i make the connection. but it shouldn't be so hard! and guess what? i have no idea what i did to make the connection, but i now know the key words i needed: advice-taking. there's a whole literature on advice-taking, and i found professor yaniv at the hebrew university of jerusalem and emailed him and he and his graduate student were so kind as to send me more information and offers of help.

the world
if you google hard enough

ps all the links here were found by taking the words linked and googlin. the google monk one is soo good, especially if you think about the invaders as the beast, that the video is posted here:

i realize i could actually write about this beast/monk idea in some detail with respect to concept discovery and google, but i think the video does the connection some justice.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

you know you haven't got enough sleep when..

i moved the other day. largely a painless move, but my room is a bit noisy and last night i drank a cappuccino too close to bedtime. this resulted in absolutely 0 sleep for me last night.

today, i've been semi with it. i needed to setup a new water bill account and was flabbergasted that it cost $120 just to set up the account. getting all uppity, i finally looked back and saw that it was only $12.

just now i sent a txt msg to my phone from my computer. then i heard my phone beep and grabbed it thinking that someone had txted me (always like getting an sms). guess who it was from? me!

i need sleep.