Category Archives: Funny

No Swimming, Wading, Dog-Bathing or Skateboarding

A very specific sign outside the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton.

A very specific sign outside the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton.

If the rather disparate ideas of swimming, wading, dog-bathing, or skateboarding in an empty, frigid, December fountain plaza in the middle of an Ivy League campus ever occur to you:  please don’t.

First of all, the nice people in charge here at Princeton have put up a very explicit sign forbidding such conduct.  (Note the word PROHIBITED is in all-caps.)

Second, they’ve erected an enormous procession of Chinese Zodiac-themed statues overlooking the potential location of your chicanery.  Leering and toothy, these figures seem like they have been placed here just to ensure, in case you’ve missed the sign, that the bejesus will be scared out you.  Any crazy thoughts of splashing around in the waterless fountain will safely subside after you glance up from your frolic to notice twelve sets of beady eyes and bronzed teeth (is the rabbit the scariest of them all?) staring at you.

However you look at it, it’s a little weird, a little NQR.

Just in case you missed the sign.

Just in case you missed the sign and feel like taking a dip.


Architectural Masterpiece on Post-It Notes

Although I certainly appreciate how far my boy has come in his artistic endeavors since the episode, earlier this summer, now known as “Offspring of Lightning and Pure Darkness,” something rather NQR about these architectural sketches remains, be it the choice of media (Post-It Notes? — come on, kid!) or the presumption of fabulous wealth certainly necessary to fulfill this lovely dream of a house, either personally or on behalf of a rather childish and bourgeois clientele if, in his mind, he has designed this home for some third party rather than for himeself.  As such, I’ll share these sketches and give my ballpark for the associated costs (though I’m no home contractor myself!), not as a way to crush his dreams but more with the mind to preserve these little images, someday to show them to him when and if he does ever build a home of his own.

First, the overview (found under the work-light of his bunkbed desk, left here exactly in situ):

What rich client wouldn’t want to see the creativity here, the artiste’s obviously taking oreintal inspiration from the trivet tile from a Moroccan souq and the cartouche of the architect’s own name, made sentimentally in 4th grade art?

Next, a slightly closer view of the work-in-progress, here focusing on the kitchen — to include vintage ‘egg chairs’ along with a marble countertop, plus a supplementary sketch, ala Frank Lloyd Wright, for the patterning of tilework — yielding up in rough estimate a very preliminary construction cost of perhaps $80,000.  Second floor layout seems to allude pleasantly to the shape of a coffee-mug, perhaps in the artiste’s thinking a way to ‘welcome the day’ with Folger’s in his cup.

Sketch of the kitchen, along with some very rough initial ‘thoughts’ on the layout of the second floor.

Next, the indoor pool with a ballpark construction cost-estimate of $200,000, including the slide from the master bedroom.

Indoor pool, with slide coming from bedroom closet (see bedroom diagram below).

Next the master bedroom, with slide to the indoor waterpool coming out of the closet, estimate for cost:  $40,000?

Bedroom: interesting features include woodwork behind bed (in the closet?) sliding doors that lead to a ‘padio,’ window overlooking indoor pool.

Next, the connection between the two levels of the house.  Looks like there is a hallway and at least one set of stairs.  Hard to assign a cost to this segment of the house, but since it must be built we can arbitrarily say, maybe, $10,000?  If the roof of the pool, shown here, is glassed-in or decorative, then maybe another $30,000 should be added.

Concept is unclear in this sketch, presumably will be thrashed out in more detail in the final blueprint.

An alternate, more costly version, including a curving stair, probably runs closer to $25,000.

Another (competing?) concept for the stairs between the two levels of the house, this one more expensive and showing some antebellum influences. Architect’s shorthand for “Bird’s I” amusing. . .

Next, the rather boxy but efficient layout of the complete first floor.  Discounting the cost of the kitchen and the pool (which were figured above) the remainder of this probably comes to another $250,000 in construction and design costs.

Complete diagram for first level of the house: tennis/basketball court, pool, kitchen, and a rather open-concept living area testify to the owner’s enthusiasm for Sport.

Finally, and blurrily (whether it was laughter on the part of the photographer or sudden furtiveness at the sound of approaching steps outside the architect’s door, I can offer no valid excuse for taking such a poor photo) the living room.  Given its rather empty and square construction, this one portion of the building project probably does not require a separate cost estimate, although I strongly suspect that a large flatscreen TV is intended to remedy the architect’s childhood bitterness at always having owned the smallest and oldest TV on the block.

The least ‘clear’ of the early sketches for this building project, a close-up on the quadrant of the lower-level designated to serve as ‘living room.’

TOTAL COST ESTIMATE FOR CONSTRUCTION:  $355,000 – $500,000 depending on improvements to the lot, municiple fees, etc.

TOTAL VALUE PRESERVED FOR (FUTURE) ARCHITECTURAL CAREER:  Priceless, baby.


Improbable Research – Kansas vs. Pancake

Reblogged from:  http://www.improbable.com/airchives/paperair/volume9/v9i3/kansas.html

 

Kansas Is Flatter Than a Pancake

by Mark Fonstad 1, William Pugatch 1, and Brandon Vogt 2

1. Department of Geography, Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas
2. Department of Geography, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona

In this report, we apply basic scientific techniques to answer the question “Is Kansas as flat as a pancake?”

Figure 1. (a) A well-cooked pancake; and (b) Kansas. 1

While driving across the American Midwest, it is common to hear travelers remark, “This state is as flat as a pancake.” To the authors, this adage seems to qualitatively capture some characteristic of a topographic geodetic survey 2. This obvious question “how flat is a pancake” spurned our analytical interest, and we set out to find the ‘flatness’ of both a pancake and one particular state: Kansas.

 

A Technical Approach to Pancakes and Kansas

Barring the acquisition of either a Kansas-sized pancake or a pancake-sized Kansas, mathematical techniques are needed to do a proper comparison. Some readers may find the comparing of a pancake and Kansas to be analogous to the comparing of apples and oranges; we refer those readers to a 1995 publication by NASA’s Scott Sandford 3, who used spectrographic techniques to do a comparison of apples and oranges.

One common method of quantifying ‘flatness’ in geodesy is the ‘flattening’ ratio. The length of an ellipse’s (or arc’s) semi-major axis a is compared with its measured semi-minor axis b using the formula for flattening, f = (a – b) / a. A perfectly flat surface will have a flattening f of one, whereas an ellipsoid with equal axis lengths will have no flattening, and f will equal zero.

For example, the earth is slightly flattened at the poles due to the earth’s rotation, making its semi-major axis slightly longer than its semi-minor axis, giving a global f of 0.00335. For both Kansas and the pancake, we approximated the local ellipsoid with a second-order polynomial line fit to the cross-sections. These polynomial equations allowed us to estimate the local ellipsoid’s semi-major and semi-minor axes and thus we can calculate the flattening measure f.

Materials and Methods

We purchased a well-cooked pancake from a local restaurant, the International House of Pancakes, and prepared it for analysis by separating a 2-cm wide sample strip that had not had time to desiccate. We collected macro-pancake topography through digital image processing of a pancake image and ruler for scale calibration (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Pancake cross-sectional surface being digitized.

We made another topographic profile from the sample, using a confocal laser microscope. The importance of this research dictated that we not be daunted by the “No Food or Drink” sign posted in the microscopy room. The microscope collects one elevation point every 10 mm and has a maximum surface diameter of 2 cm (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. When viewed at a scale of 50 mm, a pancake appears more rugged than the Grand Canyon.

We measured a west-east profile across Kansas taken from merged 1:250,000 scale digital elevation model (DEM) data from the United States Geological Survey. In general, the spacing between adjacent elevation points on the landscape transects was approximately 90 meters. We extracted surface transects and flatness estimates from the Kansas and pancake DEM data using a geographic information system.

Results

The topographic transects of both Kansas and a pancake at millimeter scale are both quite flat, but this first analysis showed that Kansas is clearly flatter (see Figure 4).

Figure 4. Surface topography of Kansas and of a pancake.

Mathematically, a value of 1.000 would indicate perfect, platonic flatness. The calculated flatness of the pancake transect from the digital image is approximately 0.957, which is pretty flat, but far from perfectly flat. The confocal laser scan showed the pancake surface to be slightly rougher, still.

Measuring the flatness of Kansas presented us with a greater challenge than measuring the flatness of the pancake. The state is so flat that the off-the-shelf software produced a flatness value for it of 1. This value was, as they say, too good to be true, so we did a more complex analysis, and after many hours of programming work, we were able to estimate that Kansas’s flatness is approximately 0.9997. That degree of flatness might be described, mathematically, as “damn flat.”

Conclusion

Simply put, our results show that Kansas is considerably flatter than a pancake.

Notes

1. The photograph of Kansas is of an area near Wichita, Kansas. It may be of significance that the town of Liberal, Kansas hosts the annual ‘International Pancake Day’ festival.

2. To pump up our cross-disciplinary name-dropping, we should also mention that recently some quick-thinking cosmologists also described the universe as being “flatter than a pancake” after making detailed measurements of the cosmic background radiation.

3. “Comparing Apples and Oranges,” S.A. Sandford, Annals of Improbable Research, vol. 1, no. 3, May/June 1995.

 

© Copyright 2003 Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)


Offspring of Lightning and Pure Darkness

So, my ten year old son asked me to take him to the local library last week to get some ‘how to draw’ books.  He chose five:

“Wildlife Sketching”
“Drawing Life in Motion”
“How to Improve at Drawing”
“Drawing Birds,”

. . . and, with a little nudge from me, “Michaelangelo and His Drawings.”
(The proud parent never knows when his well-timed hint might cause latent genius to flower.)

We returned with books in hand and my boy immediately locked himself in his room for the better part of a day, working away feverishly, burning through several pencils, scattering eraser dust and crumpled printer paper all around him like some sort of gigantic nest.

The product of all this work?  A couple of nice sketches of robins, a rabbit or two in motion, a deer, a bit of birch forest, an attempt at a hand (with no noticeable Sistine influence) and, in true NQR fashion, this lovely gem . . .

Do ten year-old artists go through a ‘black’ period?

The brushstrokes are nice, though I’m not sure whether the pronounced black splotches under Night Fury‘s wings(?) are some sort of black webbing or armpit hair.


Have Faith in Your Delivery Man

Just in case you have a very special package to deliver . . . does a sender get to choose between delivery via the Old Testment smiter of a God or the New Testament lamb?

A good name . . . perhaps a little presumptuous?


Fugcikles

Grocery list from my refrigerator, addition in bold courtesy my 9-yr old.

Although it’s certainly NQR, without looking at the previous, empty box from the freezer I must admit I had trouble spelling this one too!

Nice try, son, but you’re not taking home the blue-ribbon at the spelling bee this week.


Spam Filters Have No Sense of Humor

A little less vitriole, a little more humor. Maybe watching politics from afar (hanging out in New Jersey) lets one enjoy a better perspective.

The gubernatorial recall election in my home state (Wisconsin) is no laughing matter.  It’s making national headlines because the incumbent, Scott Walker, did some slightly sketchy things in order to break the power of the public-service unions in the state.  This has had very real effects on people, including my in-laws, who are state employees and who regularly feel the hair on the backs of their necks rise at any mention of Scott Walker.

As such, I contrived to make-up the following (mock) email, sending it to my in-laws from a (mock) email address that looked like a real donation site.  The only hint that it was a forgery and a joke was a link to the donation site that led to a dead-end page on this website, revealing the joke.  I thought it was pretty clever and was relishing the trauma, the cussing, the frantic phone calls to the in-laws’ credit card company, that it might generate.  No dice.  It seems their spam filter caught it and sequestered it.  What is this world coming to, if we’re no longer allowed a little harmless fun over the internets?  It’s no big deal.  But’s also a little strange.  A little NQR.

 

Dear NAME,

Thank you for the anonymous donation in your name to our “Support Scott Walker Re-Election Campaign.” This is an electronic receipt confirming your credit card payment for the following items:

5/8/2012 3:28:09 PM

Bill to: Ship to:
Address


Qty. Description Unit Total
1 Donation – Anonymous, Scott Walker Campaign Support Fund, sub-category anti-union slush accounting pool $175 $175
Subtotal: $175
Shipping: $0.00
Sales Tax: $0.00
Grand Total charged by Scott Walker Campaign Support Fund: $175

The invoice number is: 801151.
The AuthorizeNet transaction id for this payment is: 4364520142.

Thanks again for your payment,

The Staff
Scott Walker for Re-Election
http://justiceagainsttheunions.org

Please do not reply to this message as it was sent by an automated process from an unmonitored email address by your website’s hosting company. Replies will not be read.


Terrible Product Name – Fierce ANL Fuse

Found this one just now, while searching for a car adaptor for my kids’ Wii video game system.

Since, earlier, I posted some weird company names from the Middle East — Butt Sweet House, Mohammad Ibrahim Law Firm (which advertises using its acronym), and Coq Magique — I thought it would only be fair to show an American counterpart.  What’s more, there is absolutely no reason, no language barrier, no cultural misunderstanding, that should allow such a name as this to ever, ever hit the market.  Pure copywriting failure.

The image speaks for itself.  Enjoy.

"Fierce ANL Fuse" proudly sold at a Best Buy near you.


Hovercat

I’m tempted to write nothing to accompany this, the NQR factor being quite obvious on its own.  Saw it on a message board while walking into class today.  Had to take a picture.  Had to share.  (Hovercat controlling my mind with his beady and unflinching stare?)

Hovercat: fine print reproduced below.

— My choice of overlord matters to me.  With Hovercat I can be sure that I am choosing a reliable source of guidance for myself and for future generations.

— FACT:  Plagued by red lasers?  Hovercat is committed to finding and punishing those responsible.  Finally, leadership we can believe in.

— As a sign of Hovercat’s eternal generosity, kindly take a mustache.


Middle East Water Issue

I think I’ll tell this Not Quite Right story through pictures, rather than words.  Just a few clarifying details upfront:

1.  This is not your standard Middle East water problem.

2.  No children were harmed in the process of taking these photographs.

3.  Mughsayl Beach is located about 40km southwest of Salalah, Oman, about as near to Yemen as a person can safely venture now days.

 

My son, Wesley, checking out one of many 'attractions' at the Mughsayl Beach

 

I join Wesley. We can see down into the hole to a rather frightening depth and can feel a breath of air on our hands.

 

Ya, Allah! -- a better scare than any ride at Great America!