How research gets done

This morning I had a lab for my class in hearing and perception of sound, at the Research Laboratory of Electronics on the MIT campus. We were doing a lab on “perceptual audio encoding”, which required us to take measurements in soundproof chambers. The place seriously looks like it hasn’t been changed since the 60s. Just when I was thinking, “Hey, this place couldn’t be more outdated even if it had a slide rule!”, I found a slide rule. Here is that slide rule:


And here are some other great futuristic items from the 60s!

March 23, 2007. academics, sound. 1 Comment.


“Lay-tex”, “Lay-tek”, “Lah-tek”, … I dunno, for some reason I thought LaTeX and LaTec (I think I made this one up) were pretty much the same thing. Like maybe LaTec was the open source version of LaTeX, or something. I mentioned this to Brent the other day (he’s writing his thesis in LaTeX), and we looked it up, to settle it once and for all! And here is what the always-correct Wikipedia says (now):

LaTeX is usually pronounced [ˈleɪ.tÉ›k] or [ˈlÉ‘.tÉ›k] in English (that is, not with the [ks] pronunciation English speakers normally associate with X, but with a [k]). The last character in the name comes from a capital χ (chi), as the name of TeX derives from the Greek τέχνη (skill, art, technique); for this reason, TeX’s creator Donald Knuth promotes a /tÉ›x/ pronunciation (that is, with a voiceless velar fricative as in Modern Greek, or the last sound of Scottish “loch” or German “Bach” or Arabic “Ø®”). Lamport, on the other hand, has said he does not favor or discourage any pronunciation for LaTeX.

So they are one and the same! My mind can be at ease once more.

March 23, 2007. academics, computers/programming. No Comments.

Seattle food

I’ve been remiss in posting because I went to Seattle from Wednesday to Monday (photos). It was an awesome trip, a really fun time with Ian and family. Susie’s wedding was just right in so many ways. And… we ate a lot of food. Yummy food!

Here are some (!) of the places we went:

Six Seven restaurant on the waterfront, for the 25 for $25 thingie. For my dinner, I chose:

Blue C Sushi (in University Village)
Great conveyor-belt sushi, and not expensive. They charge by the subway-line-coded plates. This place is super Tokyo-d out, with videos of Shibuya and Roppongi Hills flyovers projected onto the walls, authentic subway announcements audible from the bathroom stalls, and even those special high-speed hand dryers they have in Japanese restrooms! (boingboing post about those dryers) I had two cream puffs for dessert the first time we went there.

Trophy Cupcakes

Trophy Cupcakes made the cupcakes for Susie’s wedding. They have peanut butter and jelly cupcakes and, for St. Patrick’s Day, Guinness cupcakes with green Bailey’s icing. And they have normal flavors too. The cake is super-moist and even the huge amounts of icing are highly appetizing.

Fresh Flours Bakery

When I showed Jennifer the Fresh Flours website, she could immediately tell that the baker was Japanese. (“I know my Japanese muffin papers!”) Ian and I split a chocolate croissant and a red azuki bean bun, and I had an Earl Grey with the fattest (hand-packed!) tea bag I’ve ever seen.

Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria
Big family dinner here. My favorite was the Lasagna pizza (“Pomodoro San Marzano, rosemary ham, fresh ricotta and mozzarella, fresh basil, Grana Padano.” Pomodoro Grana… molto buccismo… TASTY!)

611 Supreme

I had a phase when I hated crépes, but I think that was because I had some that tasted like puke when I was a kid. Now, I like them! I had “[something] d’oeuf”, which was a huge crépe with two eggs sunny-side up, Gruyére, and spiced potatoes on top. Also had the best coffee I had in Seattle (from Vivace), served in a French press, with cream in a little glass jar.

Beecher’s Handmade Cheese

These fine cheese people have an open view to their cheese-manufacturing bonanza along the side and back of the shop.

Pike Place Market
All I ate here was dried strawberries and a sample of the pickled asparagus (for Bloody Marys). And I saw a little fish-throwing.

Places for next time:
Salumi Artisan Cured Meats
Cupcake Royale

March 22, 2007. family, food, travel. 1 Comment.

Wheatstone bridge

W-H-E-A-T-S-T-O-N-E… bridge!! Wheatstone bridge.

Simple, and very useful!

March 14, 2007. academics. No Comments.

Sky Blue Sky

wilco albumWilco has a new album coming out on May 15. I was lucky enough to hear it today; I really like it.

My friend John was blogged about in Wired yesterday! I considered creating a “corn” category in his honor. But, you know, I can’t do that!

One more thing: my votes paid off.

March 13, 2007. friends, music. No Comments.

Saturday shopping trip

Things I learned while shopping, mostly to do with hosiery:

March 12, 2007. Boston/Cambridge. No Comments.

I look like “V”!

My impression of “V” from V for Vendetta:

anita as V

(Thank you, Ian, for taking this lovely picture of me!)

March 10, 2007. comics. 4 Comments.

Talking Mylar balloons

1010 balloon

The topic today in sensors class was piezoelectric sensors. Joe P showed us a wonderful application for them: as both a microphone and speaker in a Mylar balloon.

The Responsive Environments Group has a page on the project:
Interactive Balloons

There is a great video on that page: Joe talking to a balloon, and then two balloons talking to each other.

March 9, 2007. academics, media lab. No Comments.

Using an oscilloscope

By far the best thing I learned today was from watching Mark Feldmeier show me how to get my scope to do what I want. I’ve been twiddling knobs on these things for months now, and for some reason only just learned how to get the scope to:

I had always thought that turning the dials on the scope just changed the display parameters, but Mark told me that it actually affects the accuracy of the readings, since you are indeed adjusting gains inside the scope itself! The lesson: If you want to measure values from your signal, make the signal as big as you can on the screen.

I also learned what a Butterworth response is, yeehaw!

March 8, 2007. academics, media lab. 1 Comment.

Yogurt update

If you saw my previous post on Yoplait Whips!® yogurt, you might be wondering if it was just a weird container I got, or if it’s always like that. I was wondering that, anyway.

Today I had my second one — KEY LIME — and it had the exact same consistency as the last one, but probably much less gross since it wasn’t also brown:

key_lime_whips key_lime_whips_closeup

And, oh dear, it was SO tasty. No kidding. Like candy you can breathe. Highly recommended.

March 8, 2007. food. 3 Comments.

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