Precision in packaging

Szechuan peppercorns


Sichuan peppercorns, oh yeah! Raven of Made with Molecules after eating them wrote, “There’s a war in my mouth.” They create a riot of numbing and tingling sensations, particularly if you can get relatively fresh ones (i.e. not stale from sitting around in a Whole Foods bulk bin). Raven links to an abstract about the particular anesthetic-sensitive potassium channels inhibited by hydroxy-alpha-sanshool, one of the components of sichuan peppercorns that make them so exciting.


Science aside, we recently found some in a local asian grocery store, and were particularly struck by the packaging. American packaging often has annoying disclaimers about how contents are packed by weight and may have settled. These peppercorns were not only weighed, but the precision of the scale is indicated! If only all packaging was so straightforward. I was going to complain that the package doesn’t say what kind of peppercorns were inside (sichuan peppercorns are not related to other peppercorns) but then realized that the Chinese characters are specific to these “flower peppers” even if the English words are more general. In any case, the reddish husks are recognizable through the bag.

Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories: Year 3

Evil Meggies

Happy birthday to us! Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories is now three years old.

To celebrate, we’re rounding up our most interesting projects from this past year.

Quick projects and observations:

Magnet tricks
17 cool magnet tricks

moneyDensity.kopi
The monetary density of things

Cheap calendar 2
Cheap Perpetual Calendar

Parts Tray-14
Contact Lens Case Small Parts Tray

Simple LED Projects:

lanterns - 11
Quick, easy, temporary, and beautiful LED garden lights

RoboGames Awards (on)
RoboGames Awards

LED Ghostie
LED Ghosties for Halloween

Food Hacking:

Dry Ice Martini
The Hungry Scientist Handbook

Decoder 2
South Indian Restaurant Menu Decoder

 

"That's no melon!"
“That’s no melon!”

Grillin 2
Hot Dog Bun Grilling Jig

LOLHearts - 34
Improved Custom Message Hearts

Apple Pie
Now that’s an Apple Pie!

Caprese - 16
Eyeball Caprese

Fractal Snowflake Cupcakes - 24
Fractal Snowflake Cupcakes

 

CandyFab

CF6k
The CandyFab 6000

Papercraft

Harley Sleeps
Cardboard Cat Chaise

EdgeLitCard - 49
Edge-Lit Holiday Cards

Hex Boxes5
Hexagonal Stacking Boxes

frabjous - 01
Making a Frabjous

Electronics Projects

Interactive LED Dining table
Interactive LED Dining Table Circuit

 

Color distortion
Giant seven segment displays

DarkPumpkin - 11
Dark detecting jack-o’-lantern

SolarCircuits - 06
Simple Solar Circuits

Soft Circuit Merit Badge14
Soft Circuit Merit Badge

Kit Projects

Meggy Rainbow
Meggy Jr RGB

VideoPeggy - 09
Video Peggy in action

Peggy 2 RGB
Peggy 2 RGB

2313Card - 1
ATtiny2313 breakout boards

Card1.1Top
Revised ATmegaXX8 boards

Crafty Projects

d12 Bag
DIY d12 Handbag (of Holding)

Meggy Jr RGB Cozy-21
Meggy Cozy

no-sew iPhone cozy14
No-sew iPhone Cozy

fabric klein bottle
Fabric Klein Bottle

Seat recovery
Reupholstery with Used Denim

Missile Command Skirt 24
Missile Command Circle Skirt

Fishbowl cat quilt29
Fishbowl Cat Quilt

Maulie-25
Turning Mollie into Maulie

Bicycle lunch bag
Bicycle Frame Lunch Bag

Acrylic Nesting Bracelets-1
Sinusoidal Bracelet Design

Microcontroller Projects

Time exposure
Tennis for Two, a video game from 1958

stockpumpkin - 11
Scariest Jack-o’-Lantern of 2008

mignonette - 09
70 bits of gaming goodness

Serial Port Added
AVR Serial Communication

lissajous-dark - 07
POV Lissajous figures

Mobius Circuit - 21
Single sided circuit board

bulbdial_1
A Bulbdial Clock

Geek Design

Snowflake generator
Vector Snowflake Application

Kindling
The Amazon Kindling

Pi (squared) trivet - 9
Pi Pie Trivet

lego - 2
Lego Kitchen Crafts

Binary Birthday
Binary Birthday

(Whew!)

Stickers for the Organic Gardener

Organic Gardening Stickers


The influence of the Slow Food movement is increasing, and gardening is getting ever more popular. Even the tech bloggers are posting about local pollinators and getting beehives. In this environment, it is fitting that a new use has been found for our Now Slower and with More Bugs stickers, which were first seen in the wild back in December 2007. If you find a good use for them, we’d love to see pictures in the flickr auxiliary!


(Thanks, Lorien!)





Organic Gardening Stickers


Photos by Lorien Tersey

South Indian Restaurant Menu Decoder Ring

For years, we’ve enjoyed eating out at South Indian restaurants– they often have exceptionally interesting food. They are almost invariably vegetarian, so it is generally safe– even for non-carnivores –to order anything off of the menu.


But here’s the rub: the menus tend to be terse. Many of them have only a list of items, without description at all (Tirupathi Bhimas has an excellent example). It’s not clear if this is because they don’t expect “outsiders” to want this kind of food, or perhaps some other reason, but restaurants with clear descriptions of the menu items are the exception, not the rule.


Moreover, the waiters aren’t always trained to give explanations to non-Indians. If you ask what the difference between a dosa and a rava dosa is, you might hear that rava dosas are crispier. But your waiter may not know that rava means wheat or be able explain that in a rava dosa semolina replaces the rice flour. And that won’t help you if you don’t already know that a dosa is a large crispy crepe made with a fermented batter of rice flour and ground lentils. The semolina in a rava dosa does make it crispier, and a little thicker than a regular dosa. It also takes a little longer to cook, so you can expect it to come out of the kitchen a bit later than a regular dosa.

That little bit of trivia may stick in your mind for a short while, but will you remember it the next time you are at the restaurant? (Will we?) And what if you can’t remember what uthappam is? Some restaurants include more information on their website than they do on their printed menu (Saravanaa Bhavan [pdf] and Udupi Palace are good examples) but it would be a hassle and require planning to print out their online menu to take with you.





Decoder 1

So you need a decoder ring! Or at least a wallet card. With a little help from Wikipedia (check out their page on curry!) and the glossary in my copy of 1000 Indian Recipes, we’ve put together a South Indian Restaurant Menu Decoder Wallet Card (800 kB PDF) for your enjoyment, education, and dining pleasure. You can print it out– single sided so no hassle –and it compresses to standard business card size: 3.5″ x 2″. You can also not print it out, and just view it on your iPhone. (And if you’ve never been to a South Indian place, isn’t this a good time to try one?)





Decoder 2


A note on spelling and vocabulary: India is big. Many ingredients and dishes have different names in different regions, languages and dialects. Spellings vary a lot. I have used some of the more common variants, and tried to use multiple versions where the variance seems significant to me. I used versions that I have seen on menus in my area. I have not included all of them. If it sounds similar, it probably is.


A note on my definitions: I tried to include enough information to be useful, not so much as to be tediously accurate. My translations are gleaned from lots of sources, including my own experience and experimentation. Space considerations for the wallet card have led to some compromise on absolute accuracy. But I’m not Indian or I wouldn’t be writing this, so if you see something that’s blatantly wrong, please let me know.


We’d love to see wallet decoder cards for other kinds of restaurants, so let us know if you make one! Korean? Pakistani? Where else do we need one?

Improved Custom Message Hearts

LOLHearts - 34

In some ways, we really like candy message hearts. They make good ammo, you can stamp them with your own messages, they make halfway decent sidewalk chalk, and they do bizarre things if you cook them.

On the other hand, you may or may not like the way that these things taste. (To us, many years ago, they compared very favorably to the other varieties of sidewalk chalk that we had tried.) In either case there is certainly some room for culinary alternatives.

Read on and learn how to make your own highly edible custom cookie message hearts.

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Binary Birthday

Binary Birthday

I am this many.

Have you ever heard of the unary number system, i.e., base-1 numerals? That’s the formal designation of tally marks– a means of representing a number symbolically by using symbols, where the number represented is equal to the number of symbols. While easy to grasp, it’s also a rather inefficient system, so we don’t find too many uses of them in modern life. One of the places that we do (almost) always use the unary system is on birthday cakes, where a birthday cake has one candle per year. This is fine for small numbers, but positioning, lighting and blowing out candles becomes impractical past a certain point.

Here’s a better way: A binary birthday candle. It consists of a single candle with seven wicks, where the wicks that are lit represent the birthday individual’s age in binary. This single candle design works flawlessly to represent any age from 1 to 127, never requiring anyone below the age of 127 to blow out more than a mere six candles at a time.
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