ECG Responses

Posted December 3, 2001 at 5:54 pm | 1 Comment

I got this e-mail from my mom today:

Sent: Monday, December 03, 2001 6:37 PM
Subject: your mom reads the NYTHi Dan,

If someone asked me what I first thought would get you a story in the New York Times, I probably wouldn’t have guessed this.  But then, I also wouldn’t have guessed that it would occur in your first semester of graduate school either.

So, do you get extra credit for your Human-Computer interfaces class for this site?

Love, Mom

Well, crap.  I was hoping she wouldn’t find out about the New York Times article (cached version HERE).

Ah well.  I have made a personal resolution that the next time I make the Times, it will involve significantly fewer pictures of dildos.

My ECG research collaborators and I have been receiving numerous letters about our work recently.  My favorite letter came from a woman who took offense at the idea of sexual robotics:

Sent: Tuesday, November 27, 2001 5:05 PM
Subject: erotic computation

Dear Sara,
Don’t you have anything better to do with your time than try to create sex robots named Veronica? There is already an overabundance of lame sexist shit in this world without the hopes of adding to it in the form of robotic playthings. Maybe you don’t see the obvious misogynistic intent with your work, but I sure as hell do.
A little FYI, Sarah: Women already feel sexually worthless due to fake representations in the media. They really don’t need some big-titted suck dick robot as competition.Yours Truly,

To me this letter was amusing on two levels.  First, it was funny that Carmel didn’t realize the whole thing was a hoax.  Second, while I used fairly formal and scientific language on the ECG web page, Carmel went right into talking about “big-titted suck dick robots.”

Sara, being the diplomat that she is, wrote Carmel back with a very polite apology, explaining that the ECG also had plans to make male sex androids.  I told Sara that it would have been funnier had she replied with, “actually, our suck dick robots have average sized tits.”

“Yeah,” Sara replied, “if you look at the pictures on the page, that’s actually true.  And really, this Carmel woman must not be very impressive if she’s worried about robotic competition.”

Dennis and I were discussing Carmel’s letter, and I told him that I didn’t agree with Carmel’s viewpoint.  “Actually,” I said, “I think that female sex robots might be empowering to women.”

“Well, sure,” Dennis agreed, “they wouldn’t have to suck dick anymore.”

“No, but it goes beyond that,” I continued.  “See, if men had these sex robots to constantly fulfill their raw sexual urges, they might eventually find something missing, and turn to human women for love and companionship.  So there would be more meaningful relationships, instead of dysfunctional ones that only last because of the sex.”

“Yeah, I guess,” said Dennis.  “Maybe you should change the name of your research group to the ‘Big-Titted Suck Dick Robots Group.’  It does have a nice ring to it.”


Posted November 19, 2001 at 5:54 pm | No Comments

This is the most beaver I’ve
seen at MIT so far.

I really need to get off my ass and start writing things on my web page again.  The problem is that when people have been waiting for four months for an update, I feel like it had better be damn good.  Maybe it’s time to settle for something mediocre and just get on with it.

So, to get things rolling again: I’m now a grad student at the MIT Media Lab, and I just started a new research group.  You should check out our web page (cached version HERE).  I promise it’s not boring.


Posted July 19, 2001 at 5:53 pm | No Comments

SPAM: as American
as apple pie.

We are so accustomed to using the word “spam” to refer to unsolicited junk e-mail that we often forget that the same word also refers to a canned luncheon meat.  SPAM, a distinctive chopped pork shoulder and ham mixture, has traditions deeply rooted in our American heritage.  Developed in 1937 by J.C. Hormel, SPAM was the first canned meat product that did not require refrigeration.

SPAM’s 1937 product launch was accompanied by a high-profile advertising campaign.  A character named “Spammy the Pig” was prominently featured in George Burns and Gracie Allen’s network radio show, and the so-called “Miracle Meat” was the subject of one of the earliest singing radio commercials.  Sung to the tune of “My Bonny Lies Over The Ocean,” the radio jingle’s lyrics were:

Hormel’s new miracle meat in a can.
Tastes fine, saves time.
If you want something grand, ask for SPAM!

SPAM sales boomed during World War II, since SPAM was not rationed like beef.  It became a prime staple in American meals, and was also used to feed our armed forces.  Nikita Khrushchev acknowledged SPAM’s role in the survival of the Russian military: “Without SPAM,” he once said, “we wouldn’t have been able to feed our army.”

Look out Nazis,
here comes SPAM!

Oh beautiful, for spacious SPAM…

Today SPAM resides alongside Pez and Coca-Cola in its status as an American commercial icon.  More than five billion cans of Spam have been sold since 1937, and there are now many varieties of SPAM, including Low Sodium SPAM, SPAM Lite, Smoke Flavored SPAM, and Turkey SPAM.

The birthplace of SPAM is a small town in southern Minnesota called Austin.  Austin houses the corporate headquarters of Hormel, as well as the meatpacking plant where SPAM is manufactured.  Austin is also home to the SPAM museum and the J.C. Hormel nature center.

My friends and I visited Austin last weekend to attend the SPAM Jam, an annual celebration of SPAM.  According to the festival’s promoters, it brings in more than 20,000 people from 37 states and 5 foreign countries.  The event includes carnival midway games, an assortment of SPAM foods, a SPAM recipe contest, a visit from the SPAM-Mobile, and a variety of live music acts, including a performance by the “SPAMETTES”. We were there specifically for a five-mile race called the “Hog Jog,” and we decided that it would be only fitting to dress up in SPAM running costumes.
We weren’t content to dress up as cans of SPAM, however; there were already several Hormel employees at the SPAM Jam dressed this way. We wanted to dress up as the luncheon meat itself. We decided that tight pink Spandex uniforms would be the most appropriate matches for the gelatinous grayish-pink substance.

After the race, we strike winning poses in our SPAM suits.

Unfortunately the outfits had a tendency to be misinterpreted. As we left the hotel for the race, I asked the desk clerk if she liked our costumes.

“What exactly are you?” she asked. “Are you jugglers?”

“No, we’re SPAM,” I told her, and proceeded to explain our rationale behind the pink Spandex. Never having eaten SPAM, I asked her what she thought of the taste.

“SPAM is kind of salty,” she said. “Not so good plain. But my grandmother had this way of making it that wasn’t so bad. She would chop it up and put it in cream of mushroom soup, and then she’d spread it on toast, top it with grated cheese, and broil it.”

“Wow,” I replied, making an effort to keep down my breakfast, “she should have entered the recipe contest.”

The woman dismissed my idea, explaining that it was too common a recipe.  I hadn’t yet realized how many different ways SPAM was prepared.  At the SPAM Jam, we saw an astounding array of ethnic dishes and American classics made with SPAM, including SPAM gyros, SPAM kebobs, SPAM corn dogs, SPAM egg rolls, SPAM croissants, SPAM Rangoon, SPAM fried rice, SPAM burgers, barbecue SPAM, SPAM tacos, and SPAM pizza.

I stand beneath the SPAM Jam entrance gate in full costume.

So although I couldn’t bring myself to actually eat any SPAM at the SPAM Jam, I was endowed with a new appreciation for the convenience, versatility, and ingenuity of this unique food item that has graced our grocery aisles for decades, helping us overthrow the Third Reich and putting to good use all of the really disgusting parts of the pig that would otherwise be thrown away.


Posted June 15, 2001 at 5:52 pm | No Comments
The evening after graduation, I rented out the Panther Hollow Inn for a party and bought the first 60 pitchers of beer. I had won a cash prize in the Motorola Software Solutions Competition, and decided that there was no better use for the money than to convert it directly to Yuengling. A remarkable number of people showed up.  There were even some distinguished guests from out of town, like Vince, Kristi, Alison, Fiona, and Ethan. We blew through the 60 pitchers in record time.

It was a great opportunity to say goodbye to all my friends before they skipped town, but unfortunately I was a little too inebriated to do this very effectively. Things took a turn for the worse when Vince bought me a double shot of Wild Turkey, a drink that has been aptly described as the portal to hell.


Nevertheless, the party was great fun, and I wish that I had thought to do it earlier in the semester. I received the largest toast I’ve ever seen — there must have been more than a hundred people raising their glasses. I learned that there’s really no faster way to gain popularity than to provide free beer.

I’m not sure where the flower in my ear
came from.  I don’t remember that part.

Winner of the charming facial expressions contest.
Carnegie Mellon isn’t renowned for its party scene, but I’ve had some great times here. It makes me wonder what things will be like in grad school. I’m hoping that the fun will be out there somewhere, even at MIT.

It appears that the flower has now switched ears.
That nametag I’m wearing is also a mystery.
I’m glad someone was there to take pictures.


Posted June 10, 2001 at 5:51 pm | No Comments

Golden Shears winner David Fagan
holds the coveted trophy
high for the 13th time.

When Adam Fass came back from New Zealand, he brought with him an issue of Shearing, the “magazine for all in the shearing world.”  This 40-page publication contained a variety of fascinating shearing-related articles.
One article described the achievement of Rodney Sutton, whose “lifelong dream came true” when he broke the world shearing record at Turangi in December.  “The 33-year-old from Reporoa trained solidly for months to achieve the level of fitness needed to take on the record,” wrote Shearing correspondent John Hart.  “The record involved shearing one lamb every 38 seconds for nine hours to break the record set my Alan McDonald in 1993.”

The article goes on to describe the extraordinary feat in exhaustive detail.  “As the drama of the afternoon unfolded,” Hart writes, “it became gradually apparent that the frequency of lambs caught and dispatched was slipping, even though there were still a few going at that 37 second pace — mainly the bigger lambs, strangely enough, that seemed to suit Rodney’s style more than the little wrigglers.”

Fortunately, the magazine also contains lighter fare, should one become overwrought after reading such an intense shearing story.  This clever cartoon gave me quite a chuckle.
And when I saw this beautiful set of shears in the center ad spread, I was practically drooling.  “With its own handy carry case,” the ad copy reads, “Sunbeam’s NEW Regal Gun is one out of the box for smoothness.  Armed with a third bearing at the back joint, it reduces vibration to give the smoothest shear ever.”

Smooth Operator: the new 3-Bearing
Regal Gun Handpiece from Sunbeam.

Ass Morpher

Posted June 7, 2001 at 5:51 pm | No Comments

I find the PantsCam humorous because it is such a flagrant abuse of technology.  It combines a great deal of sophisticated software and hardware engineering effort with recent innovations in lightweight portable computing, wireless networking, and object-oriented design for web-driven applications.  It then produces a result so fundamentally stupid and useless it’s enough to make a grown programmer cry.

In a similar spirit of exploitation of complex advances in technology, I present my latest web creation, the Ass Morpher.  Morph away!


Posted June 5, 2001 at 5:47 pm | No Comments

Chicks totally dig sashes, cords, and medals.

Graduation has come and gone, and it was a bittersweet experience.  It’s difficult saying goodbye to the people with whom I’ve shared so many life-defining moments.  The four years I’ve spent here have shaped who I am and who I will become.

I apologize for sounding like a commencement speaker, but it’s difficult not to wax nostalgic when leaving behind a place full of wonderful memories.  Today I was looking back on the more than three years of updates I’ve amassed, and I was glad that I had chronicled the time I spent at Carnegie Mellon.  Personal web pages like this one may be an exercise in self-indulgence, but I think that one day I’ll be grateful for having kept such detailed accounts of my college escapades.

I’m thankful to those who have shared in my antics by reading along.  I hope that you’ve caught some smiles on the way, and I hope that you’ll continue to follow my adventures as I transition to an exciting new stage in my life.  Whatever my future brings, you can be sure that it will be recounted right here on

Believe it or not, these men
have degrees in science.

Monzy Videos

Posted April 23, 2001 at 5:46 pm | No Comments

Sorry I haven’t updated in a while — my research advisor imposed a temporary hiatus on my web page authoring activities until I complete my senior thesis.  That should be done soon, but to hold you over while you wait, here are some electrifying Monzy MPEGs, arranged chronologically.

Ground-breaking research on the
electrolytic properties of Mountain Dew.

This clip is four years old — it shows some of my antics in the high school physics classroom.You can hear Moon, Jawed, and Geoff in the classroom as well.
Here’s a clip that’s a little more recent — it shows me at a party at Steve’s place last summer in Los Angeles.  The lesson I learned from this video is that you shouldn’t let Steve videotape you when you’ve had too much to drink.

Recorded at the height of the Budweiser craze.

His midichlorian count is off the charts!

As the Jeopardy! game show enters its 18th season, it is adding a major new component called the Jeopardy Clue Crew.  The Clue Crew will be composed of four roving correspondents who travel the world visiting landmarks and historic locations to tape video clues for the show.The show’s producers are carrying out a round of open auditions to find the members of the Clue Crew, so I decided to try out.  The application consists of a three-minute video tape that explains why you would make a good member of the Clue Crew and demonstrates your ability to read some sample clues.

Here’s the audition video I sent in… but be prepared for a painfully high cheese factor.

Boong-Ga Boong-Ga

Posted March 7, 2001 at 5:45 pm | No Comments
It seems that arcade games with unconventional interfaces are the latest cultural phenomenon in Japan.  The most popular of these games is Dance Dance Revolution, in which players “dance” to the music by hitting four large buttons with their feet in order to match arrows displayed on the screen.  Another such game is Samba De Amigo, in which players shake a pair of maracas in time to Latin-flavored music.  I admire these games because they bridge the interactivity gap between the player and the game screen, breaking down the traditionally static nature of video games by introducing a performance element.  They also appeal to a broader spectrum of people, making a visit to the arcade a more social activity.
While video games that reach the American market are traditionally targeted at adolescent males, Japanese video games have long offered a diversity of experiences suitable for both sexes and a variety of interests.  There are games that simulate dating, cooking and the operation of a train; there is even an upcoming PlayStation title that lets players simulate being on a diet.  But a game that was recently presented at the Tokyo Gaming Convention simulated an activity I thought I’d never see in a video game: ass spanking.
That’s right: Boong-Ga Boong-Ga (“Boong-Ga” is Japanese for “Spank ‘Em”) is a game that features a woman’s shapely rear as an input device.  A video screen displays the face of the woman to whom the exposed cheeks presumably belong.  She reacts when players pick up the pointing finger controller and jab her in the posterior as hard as possible.  It’s unclear to me how exactly one would excel at Boong-Ga Boong-Ga, but apparently those who figure it out are rewarded with a novelty keychain shaped like a pile of feces.  The game also dispenses a card at the conclusion of gameplay; according to the company literature, this card “explains your sexual behavior.”

The Engrish phrases on the side of the arcade machine make the game even funnier:

the heck.!!
it’s just waiting
for the stress of
city life Give a shot

The official brochure explains how “the face expression of the character will change as they scream and twitch in pain.  The funny face expressions will make people laugh and relieve the stress.”  The brochure also lists the many characters that players can choose to spank, including the gangster, the mother-in-law, the prostitute, and the child molester.  Oh, those child molesters… they’re always adding to the stress of city life.

These costumed characters were used to
Boong-Ga Boong-Ga at the
Tokyo Gaming Convention.  One is a poking
finger, the other a poop keychain.
Only in Japan…


Posted February 6, 2001 at 5:45 pm | No Comments
It wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without Sweethearts, the tiny pastel conversation candies that fill the drugstore shelves in early February.  Today, Sweethearts are a Valentine’s Day icon, selling more than 50 million boxes a year, but the phenomenon grew from more humble beginnings.  It all started in 1866, when a man named Daniel Chase came up with the idea of cutting a Necco Wafer into the shape of a heart and hand-lettering a few different sayings.
Today the candies are machine-printed with more than 125 different sayings, including some that date back to 1902,  such as “Mine,” “Be True,” “My Man,” “Marry Me,” and “Sweet Talk”.But as times change, so do our words of affection, and Necco must keep pace.  In 1988, the company began introducing hip new sayings at a rate of approximately five per year.  And so the eighties brought us the “Let’s Do Lunch” heart, and the nineties gave us “Page Me” and “Email Me”.
Since contemporary candy heart sayings are a reflection of the courting practices of my generation, each year I make a point of stopping at the drugstore for a box of candy hearts and reading the new phrases.  This year’s crop seems to reflect a disturbingly cynical approach to romance that I’m not sure I approve of.  Perhaps I’m just old-fashioned, but I found some of this year’s candy hearts a bit too candid for my taste.
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