Posted September 30, 1998 at 9:00 am | No Comments
Have you seen the new twenty dollar bill yet?  I sure was surprised when I got one today from the ATM.  Apparently it has some sophisticated new anti-counterfeiting measures built in, such as a band that glows green under ultraviolet light and a large, complex watermark.  Doesn’t it look silly though?  Check out that giant “20” in the bottom right-hand corner on the back.  It reminds me of monopoly money. Also, the picture of Andrew Jackson looks a lot like a caricature. 20dollars.jpg (19492 bytes)

Now that they’ve come out with new counterfeit-resistant bills in denominations of 100 dollars, 50 dollars, and 20 dollars, what is a poor counterfeiter to do? These days, one’s counterfeiting options are becoming severely limited. That’s why you, the aspiring counterfeiter, have to strike now, before it’s too late! Start creating counterfeit ten-dollar bills. Remember, the ten is one of the only remaining susceptible denominations. In fact, the recent rash of redesigned bills will make the ten that much easier to counterfeit — instead of thinking that your 10 dollar bill is suspect, shopkeepers will assume it’s one of the “new 10’s”.

To help you out, I’ve created a template for you to use to create your counterfeit bills. Simply print out the following two images, cut them out along the lines, and staple them together back to back. Voila! A new ten-dollar bill. Just remember: if you get caught, you didn’t get this from me.

Front of bill:
billfront.jpg (28870 bytes)
Back of bill:
billback.jpg (29896 bytes)


Posted September 28, 1998 at 9:00 am | No Comments

The Carnegie Mellon Technical Opportunities Conference (TOC) is held once a year in September. Over 160 companies attend the conference each year, setting up booths throughout the University Center and trying desperately to snatch up the graduating CS majors. For tips on succeeding at the TOC, check out Ethan’s new page.

College job fairs are a nice idea. They offer students a chance to present their credentials to prospective employers, while giving companies the opportunity to recruit qualified employees. Students offer résumés, employers advertise their company with brochures and merchandise giveaways, and both parties are able to benefit in the end.

Why doesn’t CMU extend this idea from the professional domain to the social and hold an annual “Woman Fair”? Women would set up booths at which they would advertise their desirability by distributing brochures, pens, stickers, and small flashlights. Males attending the fair would wait in line at the booths to present a “résumé” summarizing their accomplishments and character attributes. Later they would be invited to “interviews” via e-mail. I think that this idea could really catch on. Naturally, there could also be a “Man Fair”, but this wouldn’t work as well given CMU’s social climate.

Great Race

Posted September 27, 1998 at 9:00 am | No Comments

Today I was racer number 10,736 in the Great Race.  I’m kind of proud of that, since it takes some dedicated slacking to be assigned that high a number.  I didn’t register until 4:30 PM on the day before the race, and the registration booth closed at 5:00.  As we stood at the starting line I saw everyone looking at my high number and I knew that they were thinking, “man, that guy must be a huge slacker.”

Anyway, I’m not going to bother talking about the race, because it would be boring, and I’ve already wasted your time talking about races in two other updates this month.   Instead, I’d like to share with you some of Ethan’s ideas for “Extreme Races”:

  • The Great Smoking Race
    This is like the Great Race, except that you are required to smoke while you run.   There are two options, a 5K and a 10K.  In the 10K race you have to smoke two packs of cigarettes before you are allowed to finish; in the 5K you only need to smoke one pack.
  • The Substance Abuse Triathlon
    This special triathlon has three stages.  In the first stage, you swim 1000 meters, taking a deep bong hit after every two laps in the swimming pool.  In the second stage, you ride four loops on a four-mile bicycle course.  At the halfway point of each loop, you shout your drink order to a race official, who relays the information to the race bartender at the end of the loop.  As you pass by the line at the end of the loop, you grab the cocktail you ordered from the bartender and drink it while continuing to ride.  To prevent spilling, the bartender would mix of the drinks in plastic water bottles.  Finally, in the third stage, you run five kilometers while smoking a pack of cigarettes, just as in the Great Smoking Race.
  • Super Stretch-A-Thon
    Before a race starts, the racers are typically standing near the starting line and stretching.  The idea behind this competition would be to intimidate all of your competitors by showing them that you are familiar with more stretches than they are.   This may involve inventing innovative new stretches, such as the “upside-down leg-behind-head backwards arm circles” or the “two-person squatting crossed-arm ankle extension”.  This competition ends when one racer has scared off all of the other racers with his superior stretching ability.

Beer and Differential Equations

Posted September 26, 1998 at 9:00 am | No Comments

Suppose that a friend of yours is in the process of learning Spanish as a second language. Since he’s just learning, he’s nervous, and speaks haltingly with lots of pauses and stuttering. But watch what happens when you give him a few alcoholic beverages. Immediately he’ll loosen up and start speaking fluently and gracefully. Why? Because the alcohol has helped him conquer his fear of making mistakes. Instead of agonizing over his grammar and pronunciation, he’ll simply let the Spanish flow. Naturally, he’ll make errors here and there, but he’ll still give the impression that he’s an experienced speaker of Spanish.

The other night, we realized that the situation is much the same with mathematics. After all, what is mathematics but a stylized, rigid, highly structured, formal language? In order to speak the language of mathematics smoothly and rapidly, it’s necessary to overcome any apprehensions you might have of the invalidity of your arguments. This is where the alcohol comes in.

beerdiffeq2.jpg (9534 bytes) To test this hypothesis, we went to Casey’s house to do our differential equations homework, since we knew that he had a case of Killian’s in his fridge. We then worked on our homework while consuming varying amounts of beer.These are the statistical findings:

Time Spent on Differential Equations Homework
vs. Amount of Beer Consumed

Time Spent on Differential Equations Problem Set (hours)

beerdiffeqgraph.gif (2952 bytes)

Amount of Beer Consumed (Ounces)

As you can see, there is an inverse correspondence between the amount of beer consumed and the time that was spent on differential equations homework. I didn’t drink any beer, and it took me six hours to complete my problem set. One of my friends (whom we’ll call “Brendon” to protect his identity) drank one beer, and spent only four hours on the problem set. Another anonymous gentleman, whom we’ll refer to as “Ethin”, drank two beers, and spent 3 hours on the homework.

In conclusion: are you having trouble in Matrix Algebra or Set Theory? No problem! Just kick back a few cold brews and everything will become much clearer.As a final note, please keep in mind that this experiment did not take into account all relevant data. For instance, the following were disregarded: percentage of the problem set completed before falling asleep, overall correctness of the problems completed, and eventual grade on the homework assignment. Further study may be in order.

diffeqbeer.jpg (13567 bytes)

Beer and the Texas Instruments TI-92:
a powerful problem-solving team.

Other Monzies

Posted September 24, 1998 at 9:00 am | No Comments

Today I’d like to offer a tribute to other Monzies on the WWW. “Other Monzies?” you may be asking incredulously, “how could there be more than one Monzy?” Such is the wonder of the internet.

    This website is a disgrace to Monzies everywhere. I’m just including it for completeness. If you speak German, send this guy some e-mail and complain. If he’s going to register a top-level domain name he should set up his site properly.
    This one isn’t much better, but it has potential. Apparently Monza is some sort of German automotive company. Maybe they’ll fix up their site soon.
    This is the home of the Monza autodrome, a prime location for auto races since 1922. Each year the Monza autodrome hosts the immensely popular Italian Grand Prix.
    This page describes what’s going on in the lively southern Italian village of Monza. I don’t speak Italian myself, but thanks to the power of the Babelfish Translator (featured in my September 11 Update), we can understand the thoughts of the Monza city officials perfectly:
    The Communal Administration of the City of Monza, engaged
  • to render the own structures more and more efficient and
  • to offer integrated services,

with its SITUATED OFFICIAL it wants to contribute to:

  • to maintain and to disclose the own identity,
  • democratically to widen the spaces of autonomy and every creativity of single visitor,
  • to indicate and to constitute for its concittadini a sure port after one navigation without guideline.

Noble goals for a noble city, if you ask me.

    Coming to visit me at college? Why not stay at Al Monzo’s Palace Inn? It’s located in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, just minutes from the heart of downtown Pittsburgh, and offers the best of classic “Old World” charm and modern conveniences. “Our rooms and facilities,” Al Monzo claims, “have been tailored to meet the demanding needs of the professional traveler. From the time of your arrival, our gracious staff will be pleased to assist in making your stay most enjoyable.”
    This website was pointed out to me by my uncle, Russell Aminzade. I saved it for last because it’s definitely the most interesting. Robert Monzi, the site’s owner, is an actor and model who was featured in the July 1998 centerfold of Playgirl Magazine. At his website, he sells autographed nude pictures of himself. What a great idea! I should do the same. Look for a Monzy Vs. Monzi page here before too long.

Kung Fu Movies

Posted September 20, 1998 at 9:00 am | No Comments

I love old Chinese kung fu movies like Drunken Master because of the overzealous Foley editors.  Whenever anyone in the film moves around, a swishing sound is heard.  When contact with another object is made, a loud crack or bump is generally heard.  For example, if I were in an old kung fu movie and I were reading a book, you would hear “swish – bmmp – sssh – chck – fssssh – bmmm – fsssh” as I picked it up and turned the pages.  The subtitles are another really neat aspect of old kung fu movies, since they tend to contain incredibly imaginative uses of grammar, particularly involving contractions.  They also offer innovative spellings.  When you combine these features with puns that are lost in translation, you can get some fantastic results.   Here’s an example dialogue:

Wong Kei-ying: Regard that firl!  She is good, not bad.

Wong Fei-Hong: I will have her to embrace me.

Girl: Unrighteous sex maniac!  Don’t you know who I’m?

Wong Fei-Hong: No, I do not know who you’re.

Girl: I am too angry!  Now I must beat you with many-fisted swan of tiger.

Movie Dialogue

Posted September 19, 1998 at 9:00 am | No Comments

Every time I see a movie with sharp, witty dialogue (like Clerks or Pulp Fiction) I feel kind of stupid.  Why?  Because it makes me realize that my friends and I never have very intelligent conversations.  For instance, consider last evening’s movie: The Last Days of Disco.   It was the story of the loves and careers of a group of young professionals seeking fulfillment amidst the dwindling disco scene of the early 1980’s.  In one memorable scene, they performed an in-depth analysis of the Disney film Lady and the Tramp:

What a depressing conclusion — despite her refinement and grace, Lady is ultimately seduced by a shiftless, vulgar street rogue.  Meanwhile, the loyal and considerate Scottish Terrier who stands by Lady throughout the course of the film is marginalized, ridiculed, and regarded as old-fashioned.

You’re ignoring the significance of the Tramp’s character transformation.  True, at the beginning of the movie he was an indolent drifter, but through his love for Lady he learned lessons of commitment and responsibility.

I disagree.  Perhaps the Tramp changed on a superficial level, but I don’t see him as fit for his ultimate role of father and family provider.  Think of the message projected to generations of young females: instead of looking for reliable husbands, they’ll seek out reckless scamps who live life on the edge.

If my friends and I were to have a conversation about Lady and the Tramp, it would sound more like this:

That movie had talking dogs in it.

Ha!  Talking dogs.

They were eating spaghetti.

Ha!  Spaghetti.

I like spaghetti.

My main consolation is that the people in the movie have all their dialogue scripted out and rehearsed in advance, whereas we have to come up with stuff on the fly.  It’s kind of a shame, though — wouldn’t it be neat if everyone could always come up with really snappy conversational zingers, one after another, just like in a TV sitcom?   The only real drawback to that sort of world would be the laugh track.   Imagine how eerie it would be if every time one of your friends made a witty rejoinder you’d hear a chorus of laughing voices coming from nowhere.

Coding Frenzy

Posted September 17, 1998 at 9:00 am | No Comments

Dude, I love it when you have one of those coding frenzies where nothing goes wrong.   Have you ever had one of those?  I think that programming is sort of like bowling: you have your good days and your bad days.  On your bad days, you have all these stupid linker errors and shit, which are the programming equivalent of gutterballs.   And then when it compiles and you get some kind of fucking segmentation fault, that’s like one of those 7-10 splits.  But on your good days, you just hit F7 and BAM!  Sort of like getting a turkey.  How come they don’t have programming shoes?  They have shoes for bowling, and it’s not as if bowling is really much more athletic.

So anyway, check out some of my programming projects if you’re interested:

  • WebAmp is a WWW interface to a WinAmp-powered “jukebox”.  At my research lab, I hooked up a computer to the local network and filled its hard drive with MP3s.  I then hooked it up to some big speakers so that it could function as our group’s “jukebox”.  Only one problem remained: in order to control the jukebox, we had to leave our computers.  Solution?  A web page through which we could control WinAmp on the jukebox computer.  The WebAmp interface is essentially an image map which sends messages to a CGI script on the jukebox computer.  These messages are processed by the script and an appropriate message is posted to WinAmp’s window procedure.  WebAmp currently resides here.  But remember: this thing is active!  Don’t fuck with it too much or you’ll annoy us while we’re trying to listen to music.
  • New Alice modules.  Naturally, these will only work if you’re running Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer on a Windows PC and you have the latest version of the Alice plug-in installed on your machine.  Not familiar with Alice?   It’s a rapid-prototyping tool for interactive 3D graphics on the web, developed here at CMU by my research group, Stage 3.

You might also want to check out my new merchandise page by clicking the button on the left.

Keyboardless Web Surfing

Posted September 15, 1998 at 9:00 am | 1 Comment

My desk is right next to my bed, so some mornings I’ll reach over to my computer to check my email without actually sitting up.  It’s kind of fun, but it’s pretty much impossible to use the keyboard, since you can’t see any of the keys and your angle is all wrong.  However, this gave rise to an interesting game: trying to get to a particular website using only the mouse.  If you start out at a web index like Yahoo, it’s not that difficult to eventually arrive at most sites by simply browsing the directories.  But what if you start at a site like Metacrawler?  This gave me an idea for an even better game: starting out at the official  Microsoft web site, attempt to arrive at a site containing pornographic material.  It doesn’t seem like it should be that difficult: follow an external link, find an external link from that site to a slightly less reputable site, and so on… but so far I’ve been unable to do it.  So that is my challenge of the day: using only the mouse to click on links, can you navigate from Microsoft’s site to a porn site?  If you figure out how, send me e-mail or post to the guestbook listing the links you followed, and you’ll win a special prize.  Using bookmarks or the navigation toolbar is not allowed.

Sleeping Bag Weekend

Posted September 14, 1998 at 9:00 am | No Comments

Every few weeks, the Carnegie Mellon Department of Admissions hosts an event called Sleeping Bag Weekend.  Prospective students come to visit the campus and room with current CMU students for the evening.  They generally sleep on the floor of a dorm room in a sleeping bag; hence the name of the event.  From the standpoint of a CMU student, the best part of Sleeping Bag Weekend is the opportunity to mess with the minds of the “baggers”, as the prospective freshmen are commonly called.  Sometimes the students take this a little too far, however.  In one incident last year, some students became annoyed with their bagger and tied him up headfirst inside his sleeping bag.  This wouldn’t have been all that bad except that the bagger felt threatened and decided to escape while the sleeping bag was still covering his head.  He was afraid to go back to the room, so for about an hour people kept reporting sightings of a bagger running around the dorm with a sleeping bag over his head, continually crashing into things.

Last year, the residents of our dorm came up with a number of elaborate ways of messing with baggers, but being the nice guys that we were, we never used any of them.  If you’re looking for some great pranks to play on baggers, you’ve come to the right place.

  • The Drug Addict Game
    The idea here is to give the bagger a really warped impression of the school by pretending that everyone does drugs all of this time.  Keep talking about the prices and sizes of various shipments of drugs that you’re expecting to receive.  Also perform detailed comparative analyses of the merits of a wide variety of different drugs.   If you have trouble doing this you might want to do some research first by watching a movie like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.  Remember: when you’re together with the bagger, never talk about anything except drugs.  Especially avoid the topic of academics.
  • Code Fight
    This game has a similar base concept.  You want to give the bagger a warped impression of CMU, only this time you want him to believe that everyone here is a huge nerd.  At various points throughout the evening, someone on the floor screams “CODE FIGHT!” at the top of their lungs.  Everyone on the floor runs to their computers as fast as they can, echoing the call by screaming “CODE FIGHT!” as they start up their compilers.  The person who initiated the code fight then announces a coding goal; for example: “PRIORITY QUEUE IMPLEMENTATION OF A HEAP SORT!”  Everyone then starts coding frantically, and whoever finishes the target task first is the winner.  It’s important that you completely ignore the bagger whenever a code fight is in progress.
  • Bizarre Cult
    Temporarily remove everything from a few rooms in your dorm.  Move the stuff into other rooms for storage.  This includes furniture, light fixtures, clothing, books, everything.  Then lock the rooms with the stuff and don’t let the baggers see them.  Cover the windows in the empty rooms with black drapes so everything is completely dark.  Then get everyone in your dorm to wear long flowing black robes and carry wooden staves.  Have them congregate in the empty rooms and sit in circles and chant for hours at a time.  This works best if you make up a fake language to speak in.  If the bagger says anything or tries to go to sleep, reprimand him harshly in the made-up language.  If he continues to protest, burn his sleeping bag in a ritualistic manner.
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