7 Quick Takes (6/15/2012)

— 1 —

The Turing Test answers have been revealed, but there’s more analysis (and thus, more graphs!) to come over the weekend.

Statistical fun times will pause on Monday, though, for a special announcement.

— 2 —

It’s been a while since I mentioned  my overcoming-gnostic-hatred-of-the-physical-through-cooking project, but it is still ongoing.  This week I made the Easy Little Bread recipe from 101 Cookbooks and it was indeed both easy and little.  I didn’t have any rolled oats, so I substituted steelcut oats with no ill effects (and I think a nice texture).

Mmm… acceptance of physical instantiation.

Let no one say that philosophy doesn’t have real world consequences.


— 3 —

Oh, and speaking of delightful making, I recently discovered the tumblrs Nerd Babies and Cosplaying Children.  I really like how many of the costumes are simply done by just top-stitching over the kind of shirt you can find at a thrift store.

And then there are costumes like these:

It’s totally legit to go to the baby shower of a friend and bring them cyberpunk onsies, right?


— 4 —

Getting to costume children (and give them the skills to costume themselves) seems like one major benefit of having kids.  If you’re looking for another way to get them to think creatively, you might like Conti and Caroland’s exam where you have to cheat.

Conti and Caroland teach a course on cyberwarfare, and they wanted their students to be able to think like an intruder in order to design better security systems.  So they told students that they would be tested on the first 100 digits of pi in a few days, and, since it was of no use to memorize the number, they were expected to cheat.  Collaboration was encouraged, and if you were caught, you’d get an F.  Among my favorite solutions:

One student hand wrote the answers on a blank sheet of paper (in advance) and simply turned it in, exploiting the fact that we didn’t pass out a formal exam sheet.

Another just memorized the first ten digits of pi and randomly filled in the rest, assuming the instructors would be too lazy to check every digit. His assumption was correct.

(Via Schneier on Security, of course)


— 5 —

And sometimes the antagonist you’re trying to outwit to be secure may not even human or deliberately malevolent.  “I’ve Got the Monkey Now” an essay from The Daily WTF tells the story of how a simple computer error check led the marketing department of Harvard School of Business Press seriously astray.


— 6 —

When you run into problems, it helps to think like a supervillian, so my hat’s off to the mayor of the small Italian town of Viganella.  For 83 days out of the year, the surrounding mountains cut the villagers in the valley off from the natural light of the sun.


— 7 —

The last bit of good news may not sound as epic as that last take, but I’m pretty excited about Pop Warner’s decision to radically limit how much time young football players can spend on collisions in practices.  I’m pretty staunchly opposed to football, since serious brain damage seems to be baked into the design of the game, so this change doesn’t satisfy me, but it’s a big improvement.  I don’t buy the argument that pro players are adequately compensated for the risk of dementia and early death by their salaries and stardom (especially when their reduced brain function often leads them to waste their earnings) but no one should be arguing that the fun of high school football is worth a bevy of concussions.


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  • Bravo on the breadmaking!

    • leahlibresco

      It was a bit of an adventure. I started the yeast going and then ran out to buy flour. While I was there, I realized I didn’t know if we had bread pans, so I called my housemate to confirm. The trouble is, she just assumed I’d be willing to use any baking pans, and if I’d used our large pyrex dish, I probably would have been making flatbread, just as a matter of volume.

      So while the bread rose, I ran to three different stores in our neighborhood to find pans. Can’t complain though, the one that I finally bought them at was also having a free hummus tasting.

      • Joe

        Your efforts put me to shame. I insisted that a bread maker be put on our wedding registry, because I wanted to literally provide my wife with her daily bread and here it is 8 months later and I have yet to take it out of the box!!! Bravo to you in deed!!

  • Anonymous

    This has probably been my favorite 7 Quick Takes so far!

  • Alex

    If you need more recipe ideas, http://www.joyofbaking.com/ has never led me astray. It’s my go to site for baking recipes.

  • I saw this child cosplay on Reddit yesterday.

  • I am super impressed by the mirror on the mountain.

  • deiseach

    Congratulations on the bread-making – it looks great! I hope, too, you slathered it with proper butter and none of those healthy diet spread things 🙂

    Oh, my heart goes out to the Italian village (not). While I appreciate the ingenuity and sheer outrageousness of the mayor’s solution, he should try living in my part of the world; the region is called the “Sunny South-East”, and it’s June, which makes it summer time. So we should be baking in the heat and light, right?

    Ha! Here is today’s weather forecast: 12°C Current: Rain Wind: SW at 41 km/h Humidity: 87% All last week, the forecast was using phrases like “torrential downpour”. All next week, it will be raining – except for Sunday, when it is expected merely to be overcast instead.

    Try finding a solution for conditions more like “natural sunlight only 83 days of the year”, Mr. Mayor 🙁

    • leahlibresco

      Fear not, I put on a thin layer of apricot preserve and then slathered it with herb and garlic goat cheese.

  • but no one should be arguing that the fun of high school football is worth a bevy of concussions.

    As someone who played (and greatly enjoyed) high school football, I wonder if you might share some statistics here (specific to high shool, not the NFL)? I feel like I learned more from high school football than I did from my entire high school academic education, so I have a difficult time balancing the risk/reward in my own head.

    We can’t just categorically avoid everything that comes with some danger attached, or we end up not living our lives at all- but in the hypothetical world where I have a kid who wants to play high school football, it seems like I’d need to look really carefully at the actual injury rates to see whether or not the learning opportunity was justified. (I do view football, especially the low levels, as a learning opportunity. This is no doubt a reflection of my own experience, but I wonder how many others have the same experience? Most kids who play high school football aren’t going to move onto the next level, and they know it)

    • leahlibresco

      I don’t have them at hand, but as best I recall the danger is that there’s poor concussion screening, so a lot of the kids get small concussions (seeing stars, but not blacking out) and then keep playing or practicing and taking hits, which can amplify the damage. I remember they did some before and after the season memory tests and saw a drop for football and not as much for other sports, but I don’t have the citation at hand, and I don’t remember if it was HS or college.

      Also, you can be my dad, and lose a kidney playing hs football, but that’s problem isn’t typical (though it is why my parents picked a school district without a football program).

  • TGAP Dad

    Many years ago when I was in my third (of too many) year of college, I was having issues with self-esteem, depression, parents imminent divorce, etc. I decided to make some bread. My brother recommended the book Beard On Bread. I read through the beginner’s recipe and made my first loaf that night. I found that bread making this way is therapeutic. Over thirty years, and thousands of loaves later, I still have that book. To my wife and kids, the smell of bread baking is the smell of home. My potato bread (page 50) is a hit at home and with both of my extended families. It still retains its therapeutic properties after all these years. If you’ve any inkling at all to make bread, get this book and never look back.
    (And please, if you have a bread machine, throw it out!)