Orthogonal Thought | Random musings from the creator of Cooking For Engineers and Lead Architect of Fanpop





Jury Duty

Posted 30 April, 2007 at 8:31pm by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Life) 3 comments

So, I'm up for jury duty this week. According to the instructions, I'm supposed to go to http://www.sccsuperiorcourt.org/jury/juryinfo.html where it's supposed to give me info on when and where I'm suposed to go, if my group number is called. Problem is, most of the groups are told to check in again around noon the following day. I don't work in my county — I work in San Francisco, about am hour north of where I live. So, I drive up to work, and, in trepidation, load the website to see if my group has been called up. Today, the website wasn't updated at the times it said it would be updated, so I called the telephone number to find out that I'd have to check again after 5:00pm (for the next day). I checked again for tomorrow, and I have to check tomorrow around noon. . . again. Then I read the rest of the page to find out where the courthouses are and find out there's a chance that I could get called to San Martin. I didn't even know where San Martin is. After looking it up on a map I find out it's between Morgan Hill and Gilroy (far) - probably 1 hour 40 minute drive if there's no traffic. So, now I'm just crossing my fingers that I don't drive up to work tomorrow only to drive back down.

Collapsing Freeways

Posted 29 April, 2007 at 10:50pm by Michael Chu

Collapsed 580This morning (at 3:42am), a tanker truck carrying 8,600 gallons of gasoline hit a guard rail, rolled-over, and exploded. Somehow the driver crawled out and walked off the freeway and found a taxi fueling up at a nearby Arco gas station at around 4:30am. The driver was taken to a hospital where he was treated for second degree burns. Meanwhile, the big news was unfolding - the gas tank that had exploded was still burning and temperatures had risen beyond 1,000°F, and at points going beyond 2,700°F. The truck happened to be positioned on what is called "The Maze" - a series of overpasses that interconnect the Bay Bridge into San Francisco (I-80), with I-880 and I-580 - and was burning on southbound 880 directly underneath the westbound 80 to 580 overpass. The heat was high enough to soften the giant steel screws holding the 580 in place above the 880 causing them to buckle and releasing a large section of the freeway to fall down onto the lower layer. The burning inferno continued and was able to melt some of the steel. The amazing thing is, no one was killed in this amazing disaster - which is incredible since this interchange is the busiest section of freeway in the San Francisco Bay Area. So far, the only injury related to the accident was the driver. (He has second degree burns on his hands, face, and neck, but is expected to live.)
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Collapsing Freeways

Food Book Titles

Posted 28 April, 2007 at 8:29pm by Michael Chu

What's with the titles of these food books? One of the books that I'm reading right now and the previous two food books I finished reading have incredibly long names. Well, actually, they have fairly short names with incredibly long subtitles. For example, the book I'm reading now is titled Educating Peter: How I Taught a Famous Movie Critic the Difference Between Cabernet and Merlot or How Anybody Can Become an (Almost) Instant Wine Expert. The previous food books I read were Toast: The Story of a Young Boy's Hunger (okay, that one's not bad) and Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany. As I understand it, this is an old trick in the book publishing business that's becoming popular again (especially with non-fiction books). It's sort of a book world's version of search engine optimization. By adding a descriptive subtitle, it helps in two main ways: it explains the purpose of the book to the casual browser and it provides keywords that will pull up the book in a title search. Because the descriptive subtitle is so long and complex, the author usually chooses a simple main title of one or two words that are easy to remember.

If I came out with a Cooking For Engineers book, I wonder what the title/subtitle would be. Anyone have any ideas?

Movies This Week (4/27)

Posted 27 April, 2007 at 5:41pm by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Movies) No comments

I thought I'd start a weekly routine of providing my two cents on movies that I've seen this week (since last Friday). This week I saw Blades of Glory (3/5), Charlotte's Web (3/5), Laurel Canyon (3/5), The Nativity Story (2/5), and A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash (3/5). Here's my run down on each one:
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Movies This Week (4/27)

Stephen Hawking in Space?

Posted 27 April, 2007 at 11:02am by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Current Events) 2 comments

Honestly, I think this is super-cool. Yesterday Stephen Hawking, the most famous (and probably most brilliant) astro-physicist and cosmologist in the world, survived (actually, enjoyed immensely) two zero-gravity dives in the "Vomit Comet" (a modified 727 designed to fly up into the atmosphere and then dive while accelerating to mimic free-fall). Stephen Hawking is just about completely paralyzed (able to control his blinks and right cheek, with the help of a computer system he can control his wheelchair, write, give speeches, and even effectively tell jokes complete with comedic timing (I had the pleasure of watching a speech he gave to Intel in 2005). Apparently, one of Stephen's life-long dreams has been to go to outer space and Richard Branson (the eccentric entreprenuer who founded Virgin-fill-in-the-blank) is working with him to assess if his health will allow him to ride on Virgin Galactic's sub-orbital space flights which should begin sometime around or after 2009. Richard Branson is known for his amazing and sometimes outrageous business stunts to get media attention, but helping a paralyzed comological genius attain space flight is just plain cool.

See a video of Stephen in zero gravity.

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Stephen Hawking in Space?

A small kitchen

Posted 26 April, 2007 at 10:06pm by Michael Chu

I have a small kitchen, and, usually, I wish I had a bigger one. It's 9-ft. by 10-ft. including cabinets/counter, refrigerator, and stove/oven. That doesn't leave much floor space and only about 9-ft. of total counter space (3-ft. of which are usable at any given time). We use this kitchen to cook our food normally (sometimes I step outside to the grill on the balcony), wash dishes, bake bread, and run Cooking For Engineers out of it. As a result, it can get quite messy.

Since I can never remember where we stashed our mop, I usually wipe down the floor by hand when I get around to cleaning it. The Pergo floor makes it easy to clean up and it's one of the few times where I'm thankful the open floor space is only about 40 sq. ft.

Richard Gere is a wanted man - and not in the good way

Posted 26 April, 2007 at 10:00am by Michael Chu

Apparently, Richard Gere participated in an AIDS awareness event in New Delhi and, while showing off some moves from his movie Shall We Dance, kissed his co-host Shilpa Shetty (Bollywood actress) more than once. This pissed off some Hindu groups and, now, there's a court order for his arrest having found him guilty of violating public obscenity laws in Indian. Potentially three months in jail, fined, or both if he's arrested. Imagine what the penalty would have been if Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" occurred in India! (I guess it would be Justin Timberlake fleeing for his life…)

Richard Gere Kisses Shilpa Shetty

Prozac for Rover

Posted 25 April, 2007 at 10:34pm by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Current Events) 2 comments

At first I thought the idea of Reconcile, a beef flavored prescription medication for dogs that is being referred to as "puppy Prozac", was ludicrous. Reconcile treats "pet separation anxiety" (for the pet, not the owner). I couldn't help thinking that in our world of looking to drugs to fix all our problems (I'm not saying drugs are not useful, I'm just saying that there's a tendency for people to seek a quick solution to a problem and often that's going to be a drug.), now we've got drugs for our pets too. After thinking about it for a moment, I realized that "pet separation anxiety" is a real issue. Growing up, I remember going on vacation for a couple days with my parents and coming home to find out from the neighbors that my dog had whined and cried every night. Would Reconcile be a good option? Maybe. This ABC News article suggests that medication could be the best course of action when accompanied with behavioral training. My hope is that it's not abused and used as a substitute for loving, playing with, and training your dog.

Addictive Spiciness

Posted 24 April, 2007 at 10:06pm by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Food) No comments

In Chinese, there is a word for a particular type of spiciness. That word is "ma" (as in "ma la"). It literally means numb. ("Ma la" is numbing spiciness.) Sometimes, the food is so spicy that it numbs your mouth, and when your mouth ceases to be numb and can feel again, it burns. It burns sooo bad. The only thing that can be done at that point is to eat more of the spicy food to numb the mouth. Sweat starts to bead on the forehead, the tummy feels warm (borderline between uncomfortable and extremely comfortable), and a rush fills your head — you want more. Always more.

Kryptonite Found! I doubt it…

Posted 23 April, 2007 at 11:56pm by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Current Events) 4 comments

Okay, this post is going to reveal just how geeky I can be. I'll try to keep it short though. So, Reuters reported today that geologists in Serbia discovered a mineral with the chemical composition of LiNaSiB3O7(OH) (see Mindat.org for details). When Dr. Chris Stanley of London's Natural History Museum searched for "sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide", he discovered that this was the scientific name printed under the display of the rock which Lex Luthor stole from the Metropolis Museum in 2006's Superman Returns. So, now a bunch of news sources are reporting that the white, powdery substance (which doesn't contain fluorine) is kryptonite. Now, here's the geek stuff - my first thought was, huh, that's silly. Then I thought, well, what if the introduction of fluorine allows the compound to form large green crystals. Then I thought, what if it's not the fluorine or the "sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide" that's kryptonite, but what if kryptonite is a chemical element or compound that is as yet undiscovered and undetectable by current technology and the mineral in the movie contained not just sodium, lithium, boron, silicon, hydrogen, oxygen, and fluorine but also kryptonite (which turns the powdery white substance into a large crystalled green mineral). That means, they didn't actually find kryptonite, they just found a mineral that could be doped with "unknown chemical substance" to form green kryptonite.

Okay, go ahead and poke holes in it…