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Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Posted by admin in Cooking - (Comments Off)
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup raisins
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  2. In large bowl, cream together butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until fluffy. Stir together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Gradually beat into butter mixture. Stir in oats and raisins. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased (greasing the pan makes the cookies spread too thin) cookie sheets.
  3. Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown. Cool slightly, remove from sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

 

Computer Lights Show

Posted by admin in Building | Computers - (Comments Off)

Back in college I occasionally did DJ gigs. It was a lot of fun and I did some pretty neat things to make it easier. I had a remote control for my WinTV card and I remapped the buttons to control WinAmp, so I could control the music while I was dancing on the floor. Another thing I did was build some lights for inside my computer case.

When I originally built it, the lights were controlled by the internal serial port, and I wrote some software to advance the lights. I was even able to integrate the sound volume into it and had some rudimentary beat detection going so that the lights would change on the beat. Unfortunately, the system slowly degraded over time. The first problem was that the beat detection didn’t work when I upgraded from Windows ME to Windows XP. The next problem was that the external power supply died. Finally, I switched to Linux, so the software I had written to control it wouldn’t work.

In January 2007 I cleaned things up quite a bit. First, I connected the power to the computer’s power supply, thus removing the dependence on an external plug. Next, I set it up with a 555 timer chip and inserted a potentiometer to vary the speed of the flashing. I had to replace a light bulb, but the refurbishing took only a few hours. Now it seems to be working fairly well. See the pics and the video. There are 5 lights throughout the case, and they flash in order.

The circuitry is very simple. I have a decade counter which increments every time it gets a pulse. Each time it increments it turns on a different transistor, which powers a different light. On pin 6 it goes to the reset pin so that the decade counter only counts 1-5 over and over again. The 555 timer provides the pulse to the decade counter. If you want more details about the circuitry, contact me.

Video of the computer lights show in action (Windows Media Video (WMV) format, no audio)

 

Bob Baddeley Memorial Fountain

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At the lab a model of the campus additions was placed on display in each of the buildings so that people could get an idea of how the campus was going to change. One day I made a little addition to the model. It stayed up for at least 4 months and moved from building to building. Take a fast look at workbootsnerd.com for an insight on the construction process.

The addition was the “Bob Baddeley Memorial Fountain,” and it was placed right in the middle of the display. It was made out of green cellophane taped to a piece of colored cardboard that was taped onto the piece of paper labeling it the memorial fountain, which was then taped to the display. I managed to get the scale believable, and the fountain just blended in with the rest of the display. At first I was sure it would disappear and I would get in trouble. After a few days, the display disappeared from my building. Later I got a message from a friend in another building asking me if I knew about it, because the display had been moved to his building and he had recognized the name. I knew about the display moving to two other buildings after that, and I never heard from anyone about it. I walked by it a few months later and it was still there.

I have been asked why it’s the Memorial fountain, as I’m not dead. My answer is two-fold: if I had been discovered by the wrong people, I might have been dead, and this way I can say it was a joke ahead of its time. I was also asked why I used my real name. In retrospect, I should have picked a more clever name, like a famous scientist or a random person. Oh well,

Audio Switch

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I have a set of speakers that I embedded into my coffee table. This actually made a lot of sense because it moved the speakers to the center of the room and away from the apartment walls and increased the stereo effect, as well as saving room in the cramped apartment. The speakers serve both my computer and my Playstation2. The speakers only have a single 1/8” plug, though, so I built a switch using a tin of mints (the mints were horrible anyway) that accepts the speaker plug and the plugs for the computer and the Playstation2. It’s a cute little thing and does exactly what I needed.

Steadicam

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My digital camera needed some accessories, and the steadicam seemed like a perfect addition. Built out of simple parts from a hardware store (and a pie plate from ShopKo), this steadicam makes sure that while I’m taking video the camera stays level and steady.

The pictures should be pretty self-explanatory as far as building it. We were making two at once, so there’s twice as many parts as you’ll need. The parts can be acquired at most hardware stores. The purpose of the pie plate is to create a wide surface so that the steadicam can be set down and used like a tripod without tipping over. It works surprisingly well. One thing that is different from the pictures is that we discovered that the plastic screws were too wobbly, so we went with metal screws instead. The plastic wing nuts are still fine, though.

Composite to S-Video

Posted by admin in Building | Computers - (Comments Off)

With the projector in my apartment, I have a VGA cable and an S-Video cable running as inputs. However, my Playstation2 cable only has composite video output. It turns out that composite can be hacked into s-video fairly easily. By running the composite video signal to both the brightness and color parts of the s-video you get a usable video feed. It’s not great quality, but it’s better than nothing. I also managed to find a Playstation2 cable that had s-video out, so it’s no longer an issue, but for a while I needed a solution.

Staples Easy Button Hacking

Posted by admin in Building | Computers - (Comments Off)

For a project at work I needed a solid button that would be easy to press. It turned out that the Staples Easy Button was a perfect match for what I needed; heavy, easy to locate without looking for it, a great size, and it was just a single button. I opened it up and removed the speakers and disconnected the majority of the inner workings, rewiring some bits so that I could run a wire out of it and into the serial port of a computer. Then I could use the button as an input device. It worked perfectly.

Here is a step-by-step gallery that shows how to dismantle the button, remove the speakers (you could leave them in, but what’s the point? Why not take out the free speaker for use somewhere else?), tap into the switch, and re-assemble.

We start by removing screws. Keep removing screws until you can pry the speaker out. Cut the red wires and remove the speaker. Reassemble the button most of the way. Remove the resistor on top. Also cut the black and white wire coming from the battery case. Cut the traces to the chip (the black mound). Solder wires at the points shown on the images: there’s one point where the resistor used to be, and one point that’s just a bare hole. Then solder the other ends of those wires to the black and white battery wires. Now reassemble completely. You can now tie or solder wires to the pads where the batteries go and use the button for whatever application you have.

Coconut Shrimp

Posted by admin in Cooking - (Comments Off)

These will turn out fantastic. They’re best served warm or right off the frying pan.

This isn’t a recipe so much as a process.

  • Remove the shells from the thawed, uncooked shrimp. Traditionally, the tail part is left on, but it’s annoying at eating time, so you can take the whole shell off if you want.
  • Rinse off the shrimp an remove most of the excess water, but leave them damp.
  • Heat a frying pan to medium heat and put about two tablespoons of butter in. Have lots more butter available.
  • Prepare a shallow bowl with flour in it.
  • Beat two eggs into a second shallow bowl and put that next to the flour bowl.
  • Put coconut flakes into a third shallow bowl and put that next to the egg bowl.
  • Put a paper towel between the coconut bowl and the frying pan.
  • Put a paper towel after the frying pan.

You should have an assembly line that looks like the following:

  • Shrimp
  • Flour bowl
  • Egg bowl
  • Coconut bowl
  • Paper towel
  • Frying pan
  • Paper towel

Put about 15 shrimp through the assembly line. First dip them in the flour bowl, then dip them in the egg batter and let the excess drip off, then roll them in the coconut, and place them on the first paper towel if you don’t have room in the pan. Put the shrimp in the pan for about 2 minutes on each side. Watch the butter and add more as necessary to make sure there’s enough that it doesn’t start burning. Also watch the coconut flakes that fall off. They have a tendency to burn after a while, and then they stick to the new batches of shrimp and look bad, so occasionally you may have to just wipe the pan clean and start over with new butter. After the shrimp are lightly brown, take them out of the pan and put them on the far paper towel so they can dry off a little (that is, so the excess butter can soak into the towel).

Serve immediately.

 

Carrot Cake

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350* until toothpick is clean, about 40 minutes

  • Main cake:
    • 3 cups grated carrots (about 6)
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 cups white sugar
    • 2 teaspoons baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 4 eggs
    • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
    • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple with juice
    • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • Frosting
    • 3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
    • 1 (8 ounce) package Neufchatel cheese
    • 1/2 cup butter, softened
    • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1 cup chopped pecans

The vegetable oil may seem like a lot, but don’t worry about it.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9×13 inch pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine grated carrots, flour, white sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in eggs, oil, 1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, pineapple and 3/4 cup chopped pecans. Spoon batter into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.
  4. To Make Frosting: In a medium bowl, combine confectioners’ sugar, Neufchatel cheese, 1/2 cup butter or margarine and 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla. Beat until smooth. Spread on cooled cake. Then sprinkle 1 cup chopped pecans on top.

 

Meringues

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Meringues are hard but really soft cookies, like solidified marshmallows. The most appealing part of them is the texture. They only require 4 ingredients that you probably already have.

  • 4 egg whites (WHITES ONLY. ANY yolk will prevent the whites from whipping. Be very careful)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites and a pinch of salt until they are stiff. Very stiff. There is a remarkable transformation you’ll see when they turn frothy and then get harder and harder. This will take a few minutes of strong beating.

Beat in the granulated sugar, then sprinkle in the powdered sugar a little at a time. Keep beating until you get thick, white, foamy peaks. The more foamy the better. If you can take a teaspoon full and drop it on the counter and it doesn’t spread much but instead stays pretty tall, then you’re good.

Pour tablespoon full amounts onto a baking sheet. Try to drizzle them onto the sheet so that you get maximum height.

Bake in the oven at 250F for 1 1/2 hours. They’ll look slightly darker than when they started and will be very hard. Let them cool, then take them off the pan.