May
18
2009
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Wolfram Alpha = interesting new tool

Have you heard about Wolfram Alpha? If you haven’t, you should definitely check it out! It’s a new search tool that uses massive databases to give you useful information. If you’re looking for data or statistics, this looks like a great place to go. Need to solve a math or science problem? Wolfram Alpha is much better than a calculator.

I’ll be in Rothenburg ob der Tauber for one day this summer, so I tried punching that in. It shows me a map, gives me the population, local time, temperature, etc. Lots of great stuff, all on one page.

However, when I tried “history of Rothenburg ob der Tauber,” Wolfram Alpha told me that it does not support Latin.

I don’t support Latin either. Oh well.

I think the name “Wolfram Alpha” is funny. But I also think it looks like a useful tool, one which I will use in spite of the funny name and the obvious prejudice again Latin!

Written by in: Shameless Academic |
May
13
2009
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Overcoming Self-Discipline Problems

Leo at Zenhabits has a great article today called 6 Small Things You Can Do When You Lack Discipline. I like this article a lot because Leo articulates something I’ve been thinking for a while–that discipline is all about motivation.

I experienced this problem recently when I was trying to exercise. I got up early and did an exercise video 5-6 times per week. The video wasn’t my favorite, but I liked how I felt after I finished it–energized and ready for my day.

The problem was that I had to get up early to exercise, and it was dark outside when I got up. For 6 weeks I kept it up, but every morning was a battle. I hated getting out of bed in the dark, but it just wasn’t practical for me to exercise later in the day.

Eventually, I stopped. I was more motivated to sleep (while it was dark) than I was to exercise. When I get back from traveling this summer, I will have a different schedule. I should be able to get up a little bit later and exercise in the morning light. I’m hoping that this change will make it easier for me to stay motivated about exercising. We’ll see!

Right now, I’m looking for little ways to incorporate movement and exercise into my travel schedule this summer. There’s definitely motivation–our hosts feed us like every meal is our last one! My friend Amy is also interested in exercising, so I am hoping that we can encourage each other to move around and keep our metabolisms working.

Written by in: Shameless Academic |
May
07
2009
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Coupon Fiasco–the KFC Lie

When I saw the coupon for a free KFC meal, I knew that it was probably too good to be true. I knew that KFC would be drowned in a tsunami wave of people bearing coupons.

But, I thought I would try it anyway. So I printed 2 coupons (1 for Tim and 1 for me) from the official KFC website. I followed the rules.

Today, I gave Tim a coupon and asked him to stop by while he was out running errands. I figured we could split the meal for supper. When he arrived at KFC, there were several other customers there with coupons. The manager was rudely refusing to honor the coupons, insinuating that they were fakes.

At first, I just thought that our local KFC has an incompetent manager. But it turns out that the entire company is refusing to honor their own coupons. If customers want the free meal, they have to mail in the raincheck forms. In other words, customers will have to jump through hoops to get the company to honor its promise.

I understand that this was certainly a logistical nightmare for KFC. However, their marketers should have known that this would happen. Any time a restaurant offers free food, people will take advantage of it,  and an entire meal is just too much to pass up. I feel sorry for the employees working at the individual restaurants, but not for the people who planned this campaign. They didn’t do their homework. Someone should be fired.

The manager’s behavior today reinforced my existing conception that KFC has bad service. But now, I know that the company cannot be trusted to keep its promises. I rarely ate at KFC before, but I certainly have no intention of doing so now. I don’t do business with companies that lie to me.

Written by in: Shameless Academic |
May
05
2009
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Warning: This post may be hazardous to your health

If you like desserts, you probably should not read this post. Stop right now, or it might be hazardous to your health! I’ll put the break here so that you can’t see what’s coming without clicking. Maybe that will save you. Go away and pretend that you like brussels sprouts.

I used to look at cookbooks, but they never seemed to yield amazing recipes for things that I ought to eat, like vegetables. Instead, I was magically drawn to the dessert section. More often than not, I would find a new dessert recipe that I had to try. This was bad. That’s why I rarely look at cookbooks anymore.

Enter blogs. I wasn’t looking for blogs about cooking, but somehow they found me. It’s Pioneer Woman’s fault, really. When I found her blog, I spent 2+ hours reading her Black Heels to Tractor Wheels series, and she was so funny that I had to sign up for her feed.

Pioneer Woman talks a lot about cooking. I don’t think I’ve actually tried any of her recipes yet, despite her insistence that I should do so today. So I would say that she hasn’t done any damage yet, but she is definitely an accomplice. See, Pioneer Woman introduced me to Bakerella and Smitten Kitchen.

First I saw Pioneer Woman’s beautiful food photos. These photos tempted me even when she made things with ingredients I despise, like red peppers and mushrooms.

The temptation became utterly irrational during the Bakerella series. It’s a good thing that I don’t have a little girl, or I’m positive I would have made Hello Kitty cake pops. Since I have no little girl and no upcoming children’s birthday parties, I finally convinced myself that cake pops had an extremely high work-to-satisfaction ratio. With that thought I narrowly escaped the temptation.

Then Smitten Kitchen came along. I thought I was safe, because the first post that I saw on her site was for pickled grapes with cinnamon and black pepper. I almost didn’t read any further.

Unfortunately for me, the next post was about cinnamon rolls. I had been wanting a new recipe for cinnamon rolls, so I actually printed out the recipe. This was getting dangerous.

Then I scrolled down further and found the chocolate caramel crack(ers). I was not going to make them because I didn’t have saltines or matzo crackers. The matzo crackers would surely be expensive, and I didn’t want to make them with saltines. I don’t know why.

Then one day I went to Walmart and there, on a clearance cart, were matzo crackers. At first, I just saw the gigantic box. There was no way I was buying $7 worth of matzo crackers. But then I found the smaller box, just under $1. I gleefully purchased the matzos and made the crack(ers). I should have known better, especially when so many comments said that they are addicting.

It’s also SK’s fault that I made bagels, even though I didn’t use her recipe. She reminded me that I love homemade bagels, so it’s still her fault. Actually, now that I think about it, Pioneer Woman contributed to the bagel problem.

The last thing in the world that I need is more desserts and starches. And that’s why I say that these blogs are worse than cookbooks! Cookbooks have relatively few tantalizing pictures. Compared to blogs, they’re very boring.

Like the cookbooks, these blogs don’t offer me vegetables. Oh no! They present desserts in all of their delightful glory. They extol the virtues of homemade breads. They insist that I must try their recipes at my earliest inconvenience. They practically push me out the door to buy the ingredients. I can’t help myself.

Whatever you do, you must not read blogs like the ones I have just mentioned. They look innocent, but they might kill you.

Written by in: Shameless Academic |
May
01
2009
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Goats at Google. What will they think of next?

A garden at the White House, swine flu, and now goats at Google. Apparently the world has gone agrarian. Why didn’t someone warn me?

Apparently, Google is renting a herd of goats to eat the grass near one of its buildings. There’s plenty of discussion out on the web about whether using goats instead of lawn mowers is actually environmentally and economically friendly. It seems pretty obvious that goat droppings are not employee friendly, but I’m not sure whether the new goat pasture is actually beside the building or just near it.

But my big question is: why are they renting the goats? Why not buy a herd and just leave them there? I guess then you would have to pay a shepherd all of the time? Renting goats. That just sounds incredibly strange.

And why not sheep? Aren’t sheep the traditional grass cutters? Besides, if they had sheep, then they could sheer the sheep, and sell genuine Google wool products. And they could milk the sheep. I had sheep cheese in Slovakia last summer, and it was pretty good!



I have to admit, though, these baby goats are much cuter than the sheep.

Written by in: Shameless Academic |

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