the new hotness

I don’t even have a penis, but I totally know this is true.

now this is cool!

Science and technology are cyclical – new science demands better technology, and better technology enables new science. Organizations such as NASA and its partners, such as research universities, other government labs, and private aerospace firms, are constantly developing new bits of hardware and software to support and advance science. And off-shoots of these new technologies regularly find their way into the hands of consumers. I’m sure most people have heard the stories of Velcro and Tang, two inventions that weren’t widely used until NASA adopted them into the manned space program. But there are tons of other “spinoffs,” from swimsuits to seat belts.

Today, I heard about some very cool panoramic camera technology used for the Mars rovers, the Gigapan robotic camera mount. It drives a digital camera and takes photos to assemble a high-resolution panoramic image. At under $400, professional and amateur photographers can easily purchase an Earth-based model for mounting their own cameras.

But the awesome story about this technology came out this past week – someone brought their Gigapan to the Presidential Inauguration. Not only is that a great panoramic shot of the proceedings, but the image is clear enough to resolve individual faces in the crowd from significant distance. Unbelievable. People are exploring this image and finding gems, like Yo-Yo Ma taking a picture with his iPhone. And this is just a special camera mount and a digital SLR. But we probably wouldn’t have it if we hadn’t needed it for the Mars rovers.

For more about NASA spinoffs, check out this site. It’s very cool to discover that your life would be very different without these advances.

korean-mexican… fusion?

For years, Nick and I passed a Korean restaurant in College Park. We never ate there because our favorite Korean noodle house is just down the street… and it was inside a sketchy Days Inn. Finally, we ate there a year or two ago and it turned out to be quite good. Lots of side dishes, and what it lacked in atmosphere it definitely made up in quality and quantity of food and good service. And then it closed.

I saw a new Korean restaurant pop up in Riverdale last year and wanted to try it. A review on Yelp mentioned that it was actually the one from the Day’s Inn, reopened in an old Mexican restaurant. So tonight we finally got to check it out. The food is still outstanding. We got a BBQ eel that was amazing. I could eat that every day. However, the new location is even weirder and sketchier than the old one. They haven’t redecorated much from the old Mexican theme, so it’s stucco and bull horns with a few paper lanterns and Korean movie posters. Three large televisions show news and random video. It’s also a nightclub with a cover (!!!) after a certain time of night.

It took three different people to take our order before the kitchen actually received it. The first waiter did not speak Korean, so he had to get a waiter who spoke Korean to make sure he knew what we wanted. But that waiter did not understand English, and didn’t understand what we wanted. So a third person, who spoke perfect English, finally came out and took our order yet again. Mind-boggling. As soon as our ordering was done… the band arrived. A roving, serenading Mexican ensemble in mismatched Mariachi garb, playing music like “Cielito Lindo” and “Guantanamera” at the tables. They stuck around for several songs, egged on by the Korean owner who kept demanding, “¡Una mas!” I have absolutely no idea if they were expected or a random band of musicians (perhaps thinking they were at the real Mexican restaurant next door), but it was awesome.

in which i upgrade my phone (finally)

I last purchased a phone in early 2006, a well-rated Motorola e815. This was (and perhaps still is) the best phone I’ve ever used – everything was well-organized and just made sense to use. It was unfortunate that my e815 started having hardware issues that reset it regularly, especially at the most inopportune moments. I loved it anyway, and used it for almost three years. But I knew that I needed a new phone.

Since I spent over two months away from home in 2008, it made sense to look at smartphones that could offer me real support for web browsing, email, IM, GPS, etc. I started looking for the perfect smartphone in January. I decided I wanted a Helio Ocean, and waited for the new model to come out. Months passed, the company delayed release… and then was acquired by Virgin Mobile. It’s basically dead now, so I’m glad I waited. But this left me still looking. I also liked the iPhone, but it isn’t a good match for me. Mainly, AT&T gets very poor signal at work and in several locations I routinely visit. That’s a pretty big issue. T-Mobile also lacks coverage at work. So I was stuck with Verizon and Sprint.

I started watching for a device with the right combo of features. Mostly, I wanted support for WiFi, GPS, web browsing, IM, and a good interface. I looked at every device that came out – the LG Dare, the Blackberry Storm, the HTC Touch Pro – and nothing had it all. I was really bummed and feeling desperate. I’d been looking for 11 months and still remained empty-handed. But then… Verizon quietly released the Omnia. It’s a touchscreen device with WiFi, GPS, a 5 megapixel camera and camcorder, a fully-featured web browser, and a whole host of applications like Microsoft Office and Flickr uploader. I finally bought mine tonight, and it’s pretty fun. It’s running on our home WiFi, but I also have EVDO coverage all over the nation for quick web browsing and whatnot.

Yay!

in which i digress

I’m still being busy, but I wanted to post about a few recent tidbits. I’ll be back on a plane (of course) later this week to visit friends out in OKC again – hopefully, they will not have the killer death flu and send me home to faint in the bathtub. Like last time.

1. A film that rocks my socks. Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections – see it! Nick and I were fortunate to catch a screening at the AFI Silver with a panel of experts afterward, but you can also get the movie on Netflix, order a DVD, or catch it on Starz. They’re even taking the movie on tour for community screenings! This film is about the perils of electronic voting, and considers both the history and the future of democracy with such voting procedures in place. I’m certainly not a fan of electronic voting machines, and my eyes have been open to this issue for several years. But it’s nice to see a documentary touring the country, alerting people to the risks and energizing the public to do something about it.

2. Another film that rocks my socks, but for totally different reasons. My friends, I am talking about Hamlet 2. It is awesome. I like musicals. I like Hamlet. And a Hamlet-inspired (sort of) musical with a song entitled “Raped in the Face”? Uh, yeah. Genius. Well worth seeing, if you like High School Musical but would prefer a little more sacrilege.

3. Why you should follow your mechanic’s advice. When we purchased the Gizmo in 2005, we had my family’s mechanic check it over. He recommended that we replace the tires and the battery, as they were original to the car and probably wouldn’t last much longer. We replaced the tires, but never really got around to the battery. It started just fine for over three years after that mechanic’s diagnosis, through three winters with nary an issue. Until now. We ended up stranded at our house with a dead battery, and had to beg my brother to take us to the auto parts store to pick up a replacement. It works now, but it was a fiasco and disrupted our plans. So, um, follow your mechanic’s advice!

4. How Cricket scared the shit out of us. I’m still getting used to having a new kitty around the house, with different behaviors and trouble-making skills than the other cats. Each one is just totally unique. Cricket fell asleep in one of our cat hammocks on Saturday night, adorably propped up on his back for a good snooze. I was talking to him, and he didn’t respond. I went over and started petting him and talking louder… and nothing. He seemed completely unconscious, though his breathing seemed normal, so I screamed for Nick and ran to change clothes for a trip to the kitty ER. By the time we came to scoop him up, he was awake and normal. So apparently he was… very, very asleep? Our other two cats are never caught unawares. They cannot be handled during sleep without waking them immediately. And Cricket did it again today – he conked out in another hammock and it took me almost a minute of prodding to wake him fully. I read that this is probably just REM sleep (and he does have eye movement and twitching, just no consciousness), and that some cats are very hard to wake during REM sleep. And apparently, REM sleep was discovered through the study of cats! But still, please reassure me that other cats can sleep this soundly. It is scary.

Cheeses: UnieKaas Reserve and Kashkaval

UnieKaas Reserve: “Specialty cheese Gouda lovers have waited a lifetime for something this special, this pure. UnieKaas Reserve is the authentic naturally-aged Dutch Gouda that is worth the wait. Because it is aged for at least 18 months, under perfectly natural temperature and humidity conditions, UnieKaas Reserve is able to maintain its unique smooth and spicy flavor profile-time and time again. An excellent grating cheese, try it on potatoes gratin. Pairs well with hearty breads and beers.” [Source: Best Cheeses]

I picked up this cheese from the bits-and-pieces bin, so I didn’t know much of anything about it. It was firm, dark, and a little oily, all of which suggested it would be a tasty aged cheese. My first thought when I tasted it was, “This tastes like an aged gouda.” Guess what? It is an aged gouda! It’s very nutty and sharp, but slightly creamy. It lacked the crunchiness of other aged goudas I like. I’d purchase again, but it’s nothing extraordinary. Made with pasteurized cow’s milk. Purchased at Whole Foods in Silver Spring.

Kashkaval: “Mild, soft but firm cheese, (not unlike mozzarella, which is made from water buffalo milk), this cheese is made from sheep’s milk, and tends to be yellow in hue. This is because the cheese is warmed up in hot water and then pressed into certain shapes. Kashkaval cheese is reminiscent in taste of cheddar cheese, although the latter is made out of cow’s milk. Kashkaval is usually not aged for long times. The cheese loaves come in various sizes, the two main ones being 1 kg and 9 kg, and is produced mainly in Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece.” [Source: Everything2]

This cheese is halfway between a cheddar and a gouda, creamy like cheddar but with a bit of the nutty, tangy flavor of an aged gouda. It has a slightly peppery flavor, and it also has a characteristic sheep’s milk flavor. Kashkaval is tasty enough, but not as strong in flavor as other similar cheeses that we adore. Made with pasteurized sheep’s milk. Purchased at Whole Foods in Silver Spring.

Pizza? Now that’s what I call a taco!

We began the day with calamity – the faucet knobs on our shower stopped working. We rushed off to Home Despot and took care of that with reasonable success (water turns on and off, yay, etc.). We had a quick lunch at Burger King, where I ordered the Loaded Angus Steakburger. I couldn’t really tell what it was, but it sounded exciting. I discovered these amazing contents within its buns: a giant meat patty far too large for the sandwich, cheese, bacon, fried onions, and mashed potatoes with bacon bits, cheese, and chives. Mashed potatoes? And fries on the side? It was tasty, I’d admit, but my stomach is really uncomfortable now. It was so goddamn rich and heavy and fried and carb-loaded. Mmph.

This got me thinking, as I often do, about the ridiculous fast-food phenomenon of combining multiple foods in often comical ways. Like… Taco Bell’s Crunchwrap, which is a layered and loaded tostada, wrapped in a tortilla, then grilled. Or the Pizza Hut P’Zone, which is some strange hybrid of a pizza and a calzone. I finally had one of these last weekend, while watching the closing ceremonies of the Olympics, and it was pretty gross. It was greasy and dry at the same time, and not particularly flavorful – but what flavor it did have was not pleasant.

But mostly, it just makes me think of this SNL gem:

If only Burger King had given me a tote bag full of chili.

And speaking of P’Zones, I have to link to this video: 2007 Douchebag Awards

set phasers to FUN!

We spent yesterday at Star Trek: The Experience, alternating rides and drinks at Quark’s like professional Trekkies. The whole thing is set to close on September 1, so a major reason to visit Vegas was to go again before it’s gone. The Hilton decided not to keep the attraction, and didn’t renew the contract, so that’s it. It’s a really fun place to go, with two rides, a large museum of memorabilia, shops, and Quark’s bar and restaurant. Where else can you drink a Warp Core Breach in a large smoking bowl? I have consumed more alcohol in the last two days than I have all year.

I was looking forward to buying some t-shirts and maybe a Tribble, but the Star Trek Convention this month totally cleaned out the gift shops! They have so little merchandise left, they closed all of the stores but one, and moved the remaining stuff into the smallest shop. So I had to settle for a keychain and a phaser water gun (see entry title). We each bought one of the ticket packages that includes all-day ride admissions, photos on the bridge of the Enterprise and in the Borg chamber, and a backstage tour. We are going back for our tour today! We did already learn about the best (nausea-inducing) place to sit on the Klingon ride, so we did our last two rides in the back corners and got jostled around much more. Whee!

Today, I think we’ll be giant nerds in the early afternoon, then switch over to being girlie girls. We’re headed out to do more shopping. We already all bought matching shoes (they were on sale!) and formed a dangerous gang of Trekkie shoe whores.

ka-pow!

I am so ready to be in Vegas. It’s too bad I don’t even leave until Saturday. Night. Frozen cocktails now, please. I am totally not not-drinking this weekend, even if it makes me a little sick. I earned it!!

Work is busybusyinsane, with everyone in and out of town and deadlines still rushing towards us. My office had been leaking and they seem to have fixed it – about a fifth of the ceiling was water-damaged and some of my posters were ruined during a storm earlier this year. I got the facilities people to paint the ceiling, which was a huge hassle in both scheduling and preparation. The painter came and went, and we had a little interaction, and when I returned afterward… he’d left me a note in magnetic poetry. It said:

I think you are beautiful
me fresh?
laughter
have a happy

I am so traumatized. I don’t want some random guy to hit on me through creepy magnetic poetry! I have two sets of magnetic words – one set that’s girly, and one about forensics – so I suppose I should just be grateful that I didn’t get something like will you sleep with my wicked switchblade friend. Which could be assembled from my magnets. *shudder* I avoided my office for days, since he said he would come back to make sure I was happy with the painting job. Our janitorial staff is also occasionally freaky – my officemate collects Winnie the Pooh stuff, and one of the janitors would stop by and tell me, “Tell her I’m going to take the bounce out of her Tigger.” Now, I know this is just the plot of an old kids’ movie. But how scary does that sound? And he’d stick his head in and tell me that almost every day. My officemate was totally creeped out.

fangirl squee!

If you haven’t seen it yet, I strongly recommend a screening of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. It’s back up for a few days (the “watch it right now” link is sponsored by Hulu) and it’s fantastic. This is what Joss Whedon was doing during the writer’s strike. Watch it.

Yay!