Monday, November 29, 2010

When a cup isn't a cup...

Here's a piece of trivia that I found interesting, and frankly, a bit strange.

You likely have seen that many food packaging labels in the U.S. describe serving sizes in units of cups. You're also likely to have come across cup unit measurements in various cooking/baking recipes.

However, what you're not likely to know is that these sizes are not the same. A cup used for nutrition labeling is dictated by U.S. laws to be 240mL, or roughly 8.115 customary fluid ounces. This is a little more than 1.44% more volume than the standard cup used in all your favorite recipes.

And, I thought I'd throw this out at you all as well... a Japanese cup is defined to be only 200 mL. I'd be interested to know if Japanese cookbooks refer to this smaller volume cup, the traditional one, or some other definition altogether.

Isn't it about time that we just standardize the definition? Seems silly to me the way things are today (not that I've ever noticed the distinctions).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Norwegian Deer

I once hit a deer
Or should I say, she once hit me
She showed me her fur
Isn't it clear, Norwegian deer

A deer jumped out in front of my car while I was on the way home late one night a few weeks ago. That wasn't the problem, as I was a fairly good stopping distance away from it. The problem, as it turns out, is that deer come in twos, threes, and more. As I slammed on the brakes, two more deer jumped out in front, and a third jumped into the side of my car.

I think I hit it just as much as it hit me. Let me just say that I was freaked out, and I felt really bad thinking I had just killed a deer. But, all the deer just ran off like nothing happened. I guess they're a lot more robust than I had thought. It wasn't like I was going fast, but then again, it hit my car hard enough to dent it a little bit and leave me some of its fur.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Neat Little Problem

I found this problem to be both interesting and sort of cute. So, I'm sharing here. There are at least two solutions that I know of (ignoring isomorphisms). I didn't find it too difficult, but who knows what everyone else thinks of it.

You have 10 visually indistinguishable balls lined up in front of you. Let's mark then ball #1 through #10. Two adjacent balls have been deemed special. Your job is to determine which balls are the special ones.

You are given a single consultation with an oracle to help you out. The oracle accepts a specific type of query, which is of the form: How many of the balls in this list { ... } are special? You are allowed to submit two questions at once, and you will receive two answers at once.

For example, if the special balls are #1 and #2, a valid consultation with the oracle would be:

1) How many of the balls in {#1, #2, #3, #9} are special?
2) How many of the balls in {#1, #5, #6} are special?

The oracle's response in this case will be Question #1 = 2, Question #2 = 1.

Notice that you are not allowed to formulate Question #2 based on the response of Question #1. Both questions must be submitted simultaneously.


Monday, November 01, 2010

A Birthday Idea and a Request for Participation

Last Thursday, I attended a workshop at the Stanford Institute of Design ( It was really quite interesting and I felt that I learned a few things about how to better think. We were broken up into teams and worked on how we could improve the gift giving experience.

Anyway, one idea that came out of our team discussions seemed interesting enough to perhaps try. So, here I am calling out to my friends to see if they would be willing to entertain this idea. I think it could be fun and possibly improve our lives.

So, normally we receive gifts when it's our birthday. There are a couple problems with this tradition as I see it. The first one is that we need to remember others' birthdays, which I suppose is less of a problem these days with help from Facebook. Another problem is that when we get inundated with gifts all at once, we usually don't really get to fully enjoy them all. A third problem is that we have to shop for gifts throughout the year since birthdays are usually a bit scattered.

The idea that I'd like to try out is this... instead of receiving gifts on our birthdays, we should be giving them out. So, on my birthday I will give out birthday gifts to everyone in my gift-giving circle of friends and family. I will then expect to receive gifts on all of their birthdays. This solves all three of the problems I mentioned. Also, I do believe that receiving gifts spread out over the year will marginally improve the happiness levels in our lives.

The question now is... who's in?