Saturday, 21 April 2012

The Pepsi Challenge

Rob and I did a blindfolded taste test to see if we could tell the difference between different kinds of soda. We each took a randomized series of 14 samples each. (The only rules we had were that each soda must occur once, and must never occur twice in a row.)

Here's how we did. Correct guesses are in green, while those that are way off are in red.

Rob's results:

Pam's (regular)
Pepsi Max
Coke, Diet Coke, Diet
Coke (regular) Pam's (diet)
Pam's (diet) Pam's (regular)
Pepsi (regular) Pepsi (regular)
Coke Zero Coke (regular)
Pam's (regular) Pepsi Max
Pepsi Max Pam's (regular)
Pam's (regular) Pepsi Max 
Coke (regular) Coke Zero
Pepsi Max Pepsi (regular)
Pepsi (regular) Pam's (diet)
Pam's (diet) Pam's (diet)
Coke Zero Coke Zero

Logan's results:

Pepsi Max
Pepsi (regular)
Coke, Diet Coke, Diet
Coke (regular) Coke (regular)
Pam's (regular) Pam's (regular)
Pepsi Max Pepsi (regular)
Pepsi (regular) Pam's (diet) 
Coke (regular) Pepsi Max 
Coke Zero Coke Zero
Pepsi Max Pepsi (regular)
Pam's (diet) Pam's (diet)
Coke, Diet Coke, Diet
Coke (regular) Coke (regular)
Pepsi Max Pepsi Max
Pepsi (regular) Pepsi (regular)

To be fair, I drink about six times more soda than Rob does, so my junk food palate is more refined.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Useful Bookmarklets

Bookmarklets work in all modern browsers.
Create a new bookmark and paste the bookmarklet JavaScript into the address field. You activate the bookmarklet by clicking on it.

Here are a few bookmarklets I use. I got them from

KeepTube is a video ripper for most popular video sites.


ClipNabber is similar. Use it if KeepTube runs into problems.


Dirpy is for when you want to rip YouTube audio. You can clip part or all of the audio with the simple interface.


Bookmaplet brings up a small window with Google Maps displaying the location when you select an address from a block of text.


Make PDF generates a PDF file from the page you're viewing.


Edit Website lets you change the way the current page appears, temporarily at least.


Search Site brings up a small window to perform a Google search just for the site you're on.


PDF Newspaper generates a beautifully laid out PDF of the page or article you're reading, including all sections/pages of the article.

javascript:location.href=''+escape(''+escape(document.location.href)); automatically creates a shortened URL link for you to copy.


Monday, 25 January 2010

GC900 Phone & Features

I finally sold my trusty Sony-Ericcson P900 and iPod touch and got a convergence device.

This is the LG GC-900.

There are fairly obvious features:
  • 8 megapixel camera
  • 720x480 video
  • 3 inch touchscreen (800x480 pixels)
  • Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS
  • MicroSD-expandable
All of this means that instead of a camera, an iPod and a GPS unit (still got my TomTom) I've got a single device.

However, I discovered after mucking around in the menus that there are a bucketload of hidden features:
  • 120 frames per second high-speed video (slow-mo)
  • 8 frames per second low-speed video (Benny Hill mode)
  • 3GP video support up to 720 pixels wide (DVD resolution)
  • MS Office document support
  • Support for Flash games
  • Integrated email
  • 1.5 GB built-in memory, up to 32 GB memory card
  • Second video camera
  • Digital FM tuner
  • In-camera video editing
  • Multitasking (multiple apps in memory)
I had the P900 for five years. It looks like I'll have the GC900 for about that long too.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Harold Bloom's list of the Western Canon

I've always watched tons of films, but most of them were the kind of trashy popular fare you normally see the glazed masses herding into at multiplexes. I stumbled across 1001 Films You Must See Before You Die and crossed off the ones I'd already seen. 168. In the last three years, I've brought that number up to 314, and in the process seen every Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Woody Allen film (there are now 40 Allen films). The scale and ambition of the project captured my imagination and drove me to read a lot more subtitles than I ever thought I would. And the 686 remaining films will be just as rewarding.

I noticed that I didn't read much anymore. In fact, I dragged The Annotated Lolita around North America and Europe for two years and only got 200 pages in. Then I found Harold Bloom's list of the Western canon (found at the end of his book The Western Canon), comprising over 1500 works that essentially are Western culture. I crossed off just 68 I had already completed. (One was The Bible; another was The Complete Works of Shakespeare.) I'm reading Byron and Gibbon now, at a rate I haven't achieved in ten years. I don't expect to finish this list for decades, but it's a journey that makes me want to read.

I use Excel (Windows, Segoe UI font) spreadsheets. Here are the my public Dropbox links for both the 1001 Films and for the 1571 books:

1001 Films

1571 Books

I use conditional formatting to keep track of my numbers: entering '1' in the grey column turns it grey and adds 1 to the total. The orange column is for items I have but haven't watched/read yet, and works the same way. (Also: the additional list in the film file are those films that were in the 1001 at some point, but later taken out.)

Thursday, 8 October 2009

The Twisting Tale of the Statue of Liberty

In the 1860s, French sculptor Frédéric Bartholdi visited Egypt and upon seeing the Suez Canal, imagined a huge statue-shaped lighthouse representing a robed Egyptian peasant woman towering over the Canal like the Colossus of Rhodes.
He made plans of his design, but Egyptian leader Ismail the Magnificent was spending too much money modernizing his country to put up statues.

Bartholdi kept nursing the idea, making a small bronze in 1870 using his mother as the model. Then he noticed that America's centennial was coming up in 1876. It might be an opportunity to see his vision through, so he started asking people for money. It was a statue of 'Libertas', he told people, the Roman goddess of liberty.

It was slow going. 1876 came and went with only part of the framing done. In 1878, Bartoldi finished the head and arm and put them on display in America, charging people 50 cents to climb up a ladder and peer out the top. Then he shipped them back and did the same thing in Paris. He held a lottery. He was running out of ideas, and he still only had half a statue.

Meanwhile in America there was little progress. Congress allocated land near Ellis Island to build on, but repeatedly voted down funding for the base. Bartoldi started shopping the idea around to other U.S. cities, with no luck.

Finally in 1885 the statue's French funding was complete, and the structure was shipped over in 350 crates. It languished in a warehouse, as there was nothing to put it on at its location.
Newspaperman Joseph Pulitzer, tired of Congress' failure, raised money from 120,000 subscribers to build the base for the statue. After fending off advertisers wanting to put laxative billboards on the structure, he completed funding.

In October 1886, the gleaming copper statue was assembled and officially opened by President Cleveland. It operated as a lighthouse until 1902.