TV Remote? There's an App for That

I lost count of how many times I have sat down to vegetate in the front of the TV only to discover the remote control missing. The couch eats them and the kids take them to random locations. And of course, trying to operate a DVR or DVD player without the remote is not possible, so I spend the next half hour frantically scouring the house looking for one. Then it occurred to me that I always know exactly where my iPhone is (because it’s mine and I’m careful with it), and it is usually in my pocket. [Read More]

Screwed Up Poker

Every so often I have the pleasure of playing low stakes poker with some friends. Usually we play Texas hold ’em or some variant of it. It’s a tough game to play (at least for unskilled people such as myself), so often near the end of the night when we’re tired (or drunk), we switch to a much simpler game called Screw Your Neighbor. © Steven Depolo, Attribution 2.0 Generic [Read More]

RC Car? There's an App for That

There was a time while I went to school when I lived and breathed electronic projects. I got a degree and then spent the subsequent years doing absolutely nothing with it and forgetting most of what I learned. Enjoyably, over the last year I’ve been exposed to a series of iPhone electronics projects through the wonderful iPhone & iPad Electronics Projects book by Mike Westerfield. By far my favorite project in the book has been hacking an RC car to control it with my iPhone. [Read More]

The Chicken or the Egg?

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? As philosophical questions go, this one is pretty lame as it is straightforward to answer. Paleontologists are always hip to answer this question. But since I don’t know any hip paleontologists, I’ll answer myself. The answer is clearly egg. The chicken gene evolved about 70 – 90 million years ago (according to a 1989 paper by Cracraft and Mindell, which I’m too lazy to actually find and read but found a recapitulation by Vandergon and Reitman). [Read More]

Is Black a Color?

What is Color? This seems like a silly question. We are all familiar with colors and have been taught about them since kindergarten. But chances are that unless you have studied the physics of light you will be hard pressed to provide a concise description of what a color is. You probably remember there being some set of primary colors (there were three, right?), and that they mix to form other colors. [Read More]

VisLies 2013

The IEEE Visualization conference is just wrapping up, and this year I had the distinct pleasure of helping Bernice Rogowitz and Georges Grinstein in bringing back the Vis Lies event. It’s my favorite activity at vis that was disappointingly missing the past two years. I’m happy to say that it is back and as much fun as ever. For those who haven’t had the distinct pleasure of attending, Vis Lies is a meeting where we share examples of lying and confusing with visualization. [Read More]

The Three Birthday Problem

A while ago one of my aunts posted that 3 of her Facebook friends were having a birthday that day. It seems like a remarkable coincidence, but is it? This observation is reminiscent of a well known problem in probability that yields a surprising result. The Conventional 2 Birthday Problem The conventional probability theory known as the birthday problem or birthday paradox concerns the probability that, given a group of N people, at least two such people in the group have the same birthday. [Read More]

Lego Mechanical Computer

Not long ago I was part of a discussion about using mechanical things to demonstrate computing concepts (such as building a learning Tic-Tac-Toe game out of matchboxes). This got my head spinning on different ways to use mechanical devices to compute things, whether or not such computation is useful. I figured I had enough Legos lying around the house to make something interesting. I started by thinking of some of the more famous early computers, such as Pascal’s calculator and Babbage’s difference engine. [Read More]

Upping My Geekiness Quotient

I think it is time to up my geekiness quotient. I know; I’ll start a blog. I don’t even really know what I blog is. I think it is something pretentious people do to make themselves feel smarter by writing incoherent crap that nobody else reads. In that case, blogging is definitely for me. I figure this is a good place to showcase any hobby-like activities I do and a good place for you to ignore them. [Read More]