Prank #5: Mutton but Trouble 
Iíve talked about a few different pranks before. Now hereís one where I was on the receiving end.

Once upon a time, I was an undergrad at Georgia Tech. For a few quarters (we didnít have semesters at the time) I lived in a house in Home Park just off campus with 4 other students: 2 girls, 2 guys. The guys, Jeff and Cory, were the ones that pranked me.

One day, I was working on a class project and needed some files that were located back on a computer lab at campus. I shut down my computer and left the house for a bit, then came back once I had the stuff I needed. I hit the power switch on my computer and waited for Windows95 to boot. After a few seconds, I realized something was going horribly, horribly wrong. A pastel pink color was loading as the background color of the desktop. Then a sheep in fishnet stockings appeared in the middle of the screen. Finally, I was greeted with a start-up sound of a sheep saying, "Ba-a-a-a-a! I love you, Jeffrey! Ba-a-a-a-a!" After Windows finished loading, all I could see were different shades of pink all over the place including the Start Menu, window frames, etc. To make matters worse, any time I moved the mouse cursor over anything I heard "Ba-a-a-a-a!!!"

Turns out, Cory and Jeff had discovered a website (that still exists to this day) called Mutton Bone that sells inflatable sheep. As poor college students, they couldnít afford to actually buy one for a prank (thank goodness) but they could swipe the website graphics and reuse them. Once they had come up with the idea for the prank they covertly prepared all the content and then spied on me to see when I left the house and finally infiltrate my room and desecrate my computer.

Jeff has the uncanny "stupid human trick" of being able to not just Ba-a-a-a, but actually talk like a sheep. So that skill worked great for making all the sound effects with a microphone. When they actually did the prank, Cory and Jeff modified all the system theme colors to appropriate shades of pink, added the sheep sounds for all the different GUI and system events, and replaced my background image with the "Love Ewe."

I quickly destroyed all digital evidence of the crime, but for your enjoyment I have recreated a visual of the prank as best I recall. If you want to hear the audio, be sure to ask Jeff to talk in his "sexy sheep voice" next time you see him. Oh, and I still owe those guys big time.




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Gibberish 
As a kid I remember my friends and I occasionally pretending to talk other languages that we had heard but didn't actually understand. Basically, we would recreate similar phonetic sounds to the foreign language but not actual meaningful words. If a school teacher caught you doing this, you risked being scolded for being culturally insensitive. However, I wondered isn't it equally likely that other cultures do the exact same thing with English? If everyone does it then it's not so bad, right? (Famous last words.)

A few months ago, I happened across a Youtube video where a guy ponders what it might actually sound like to hear a non-English speaker talking in English gibberish. He challenges other Youtubers to provide a video example, and he also gives several examples of gibberish in different languages he has heard. Check it out here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6C5EZmyJ9ik

If you follow the 'related links' to the video, you can find some responses. There are a couple decent ones mixed in with some garbage. However, a friend of mine just recently sent me this next video that is from an Italian musician that made a gibberish English rock song. It's quite entertaining and the best example I think.

http://boingboing.net/2009/12/17/gibber ... -song.html

[edit update for broken link above]
Adriano Celentano & Raffaella Carrà - Prisencolinensinainciusol

You can hear a few actual words that the musician likely had overheard from English songs. Honestly, I think I can understand the gibberish song better than some recent songs released in the states. :)


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Cooking in the 80's 
These recipes are dedicated to my favorite childhood movie. :)

Fettuccine-a-1981

1/2 pound Fettuccine
1 stick butter
1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and ground white pepper to taste

(Simultaneously cook fettuccine and prepare sauce.)

Boil fettuccine in large pot of water until done.

In large pan, melt butter. Slowly add cream and stir slowly until hot. Carefully add 1/2 cup of the cheese while continuing to stir. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When fettuccine is done, drain and add noodles to sauce and carefully mix. Serve and sprinkle with remaining cheese as desired.

Garnish with medallions of Mamma Frateliís Broiled Beef Tongue.

Serve with a glass of water.

Magnifico! <SMOOCH>


Mamma Fratelliís Broiled Beef Tongue

1 Tongue

Marinade:
1 Cup red wine vinegar
1/2 Cup olive oil
2 tomatoes
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
Ĺ tsp. ground mustard
1 tsp. sugar
2 Tbs. brown sugar


Use a double-edged switch blade to remove the skin and gristle from the tongue (a paring knife will do in a bind).

Grab your favorite blender and hit puree. Drop the two tomatoes in one at a time. Mix in the remaining marinade ingredients.

Place the skinned tongue in a glass baking dish, pour marinade over, and let sit covered in refrigerator overnight.

Wrap piano wire tightly around a baking dish to create a small grille. Make sure that itís really tight so that when plucked you hear either an A Sharp (A#) or a B Flat (Bb).

Place the seasoned tongue on the piano wire. (Note that the piano wire may contain toxic heavy metals that could leech into the meat. Therefore, this recipe is best served as a last meal where long term health consequences are moot.)

Broil tongue in oven (on piano wire grille) at medium-hot setting for 20 minutes, or until fully cooked. Baste with remaining marinade at half-way point. Slice and serve.



Rocky Road! Pie

1.5 cups crushed Oreos
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 pints Swensenís Chocolate Ice Cream, softened
3 Baby Ruth Candy Bars
1 cup miniature marshmallows
Chocolate Syrup

Combine Oreos and butter in small mixing bowl. Press crust onto bottom of 9-inch pie plate. Freeze for 5 to 10 minutes.

Hold Baby Ruth (still in wrapper) chest high and drop onto hard floor. Do this several times. Remove battered and misshapen candy bars from wrapper and further crumble them up into small pieces.

Combine ice cream, masticated Baby Ruth, and marshmallows in large bowl. Pour into pie plate with crust. Freeze until firm. Drizzle with chocolate syrup before serving.


Thanks for checking out my Goonies inspired recipes!

Next week: Bullet Hole Matzo Balls and The Chocolate Truffle Shuffle Shake!




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iPhone Doom Controller Mod 
Doom (by id Software) just recently came out for iPhone. Doom is one of my favorite classic games so I had to download it. The iPhone is definitely a popular platform for games, but First Person Shooters (FPSs) generally donít work all that well due to not having discrete controls such as mouse/keyboard or joystick and buttons. I have found that I tend to get overwhelmed with multi-touch controls for FPSs.

John Carmack, lead programmer at id, tried some new control schemes to get Doom to work on the iPhone. One interesting approach he implemented is a virtual steering wheel to control the direction the character is facing. I tried it out and found that control mode to be very promising. It worked much better than the virtual joystick approach other iPhone FPSs have used. That is, it worked nicely when I was casually exploring a level. However when things got more hectic, I found it easy to accidentally turn the steering further than intended. This happens when your thumb inadvertently crosses over the axis of rotation and causes a large and disorienting jump in your facing angle.


An image of Doom with steering mode configured.

This problem might be able to be reduced by placing a "dead zone" in the middle of the steering wheel. (I suspect there is already a very small "dead zone" in place.) Along this train of thought, I came up with a little "mod" that sort of fixes the problem. I temporarily stuck one of those no-slip rubber feet that come with various electronics such as external hard drives right in the middle of the virtual steering wheel on my iPhone screen. This created the "dead zone" that I desired, but also gave me a tactile point of reference so that I always have a good idea what might current steering angle is. This significantly improved my performance in the game, but still nowhere close to as well as I can do with keyboard/mouse on a PC.



These two images show my "steering nub" mod


I think similar stick-on barriers could help with other aspects of FPS control too. Although, ultimately I think that certain game genres really need discrete tactile controls.


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My Lottery Winnings 
Over the years, I have kept meticulous records of my lottery expenses and winnings/income. While I'm not a millionaire, I think I've done pretty well. I have collated my records and put them into a chart which I think explains my winning strategy.



As you can see, I keep my expenses very low and only play the games with a high expected outcome. While it's true that I haven't won any money recently, I am hopeful for another windfall in about 15 years.


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