Kamilah Taylor
WolframAlpha - days until Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 release date

I know this is random after two months of silence, but I'm so excited about the movie and the harry potter conference and other wonderful madness going on that when I did this search on Alpha, I had to make a widget.




Disclaimer: I work for Wolfram Research, Inc.
Kamilah Taylor
From npr.org
Japan's earthquake was terrible, the tsunami was really terrible, but the impending nuclear disaster is much worse. As my readers know, I went to Japan nearly 2 years ago. It was my first trip to Asia and I was struck by the people. Even in the chaos of the subway, there was an order. Everyone always seemed perfect. It was as if even if they're lives sucked, they were still going to put themselves together and look perfect. That's why I felt worried when it seemed like Japanese officials were understating the risk at the nuclear plants, and that when they started to ramp up the rhetoric to say that there actually was a high risk, it seems pretty scary.

On the NY Times, I found interesting features that explain exactly what's happening in with the nuclear reactors and puts it in context with similar past nuclear disasters.

So what now? The Japanese have pulled through so much that I'm sure they'll pull through this too, but in the meantime, I started to think about donations. Unfortunately, after the Haiti debacle, this has kind of left a bad taste in my mouth, so I'm looking out for different ways of helping. NPR has a link to appropriate ways to help. From experience, I'd guess that Japan is more organized than Haiti...but I do wish it didn't feel like I'm putting my money into a black box and hoping that it goes where it needs to.
TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images
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Kamilah Taylor
One of our favorite pastimes when we were in Japan was finding hilarious Engrish - which wasn't hard at all. Here are some food themed ones for an amusing Friday read.

4. Bar Soul Blood, Kobe, Japan. Now I don't know why this place was called Bar Soul Blood, but I do know it was pretty hilarious. Also awesome: the picture of Michael Jackson. I think the it was pretty much the most expensive glass of coke I've ever had though...but the ambiance was awesome!





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Kamilah Taylor
There's a depressingly low amount of advice online on how to communicate with your iRobot Create robot on Mac OSX, so here's my tech tip of the day.

First there's connecting to your Create over bluetooth. This isn't too hard, simply open the Bluetooth Explorer, find the Create (it'll have a name like ElementSerial), pair and then connect. Easy. Of course, don't forget to plug the BAM bluetooth adapter into your Create and turn it on before.

Next there's the issue of sending commands. iRobot recommends that you use RealTerm, but unfortunately that's not an option for us Mac users. So I went through a series of free options. The one that I wanted to like the most was using the screen command in the terminal. Unfortunately, I could connect but I couldn't type and send commands once I was connected. This happened when I tried some other free programs too (including the every popular ZTerm), so that was a bust.

The key was trying Serial Bridge. Now this isn't a free program, and I really wanted a free program, but it had a 30 day trial, so I figured I'd try it out. It's actually a combination of Serial Bridge + Apple's Apple Script. This, after some configuration, worked out perfectly! As an added bonus, Apple Script is super easy.

  1. Download SerialBridge, fill out the form to get the code for a free trial, and Install. This is a dmg so it's pretty straightforward.
  2. Open SerialBridge and go to File to create a new connection. I just called mine New Connection.
  3. Make sure the settings are 57600 baud, 8 data bits, 1 stop bit, 0 flow. Save and you're now connected!
  4. Next I worked off one of the example files that came in SerialBridge. Just edit the byte list to one of the examples that come with your Create. For example, byte list = {128, 132, 139, 2, 0, 0} turns on the Play LED on the Create and turns off all the other LEDs. You can delete or comment out the rest of the file, comments are pairs of (* and *).
  5. Now, press the run button in the Apple Script editor. Success!
Once I got this working, this got me thinking that there must be a free way to send Apple Script files over a serial port connection. Do you know of any? I've fiddled around with a couple of stuff but nothing's worked so far.
Kamilah Taylor
Continuing the theme of custardy pies, this pie is ridiculously easy to make. It barely requires any baking (just the curry infused graham cracker crust, easy as pie)! I stumbled upon this recipe after getting a request for a banana cream pie. Not being a huge fan of bananas, I was looking for a twist on a standard banana cream pie and found this recipe. As a Jamaican, everything's better with rum, especially some good Appleton Estate Rum.
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Kamilah Taylor
Music I'm eagerly anticipating: Adele's 21. You can actually hear the entire album online courtesy of npr. I love Adele's voice and her previous album, 19, was one of my personal albums of the year.

In a bit of a guilty pleasure, I'm also really curious to see what Lady Gaga has done with her new album, Born This Way. Apparently the first single will be released on February 11th , which (not coincidentally) is 2 days before the Grammy's [she will of course be performing the song at said award show]. Stefani Germanottta is, if nothing else, a publicity genius.

Edit: Apparently today was my day for finding new music. Check out PJ Harvey's Let England Shake, also courtesy of npr. The album comes out on Feb 15th. I sort of stumbled upon this and am unfamiliar with her previous music, but I love love love the track Written On The Forehead, which samples the classic reggae song Blood and Fire by Niney the Observer while Harvey croons about the end of the world...you have to check it out!
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Kamilah Taylor
Mmm pie. Pumpkin pie is such a quintessential fall pie that I thought this was an excellent second pie. I was very happy with the filling, but wasn't thrilled with this crust paired with this pie, which lead to 2 more pies. The recipe is from my favorite baking site, joyofbaking.com.
Now the crust is what you call pate brisee, french for short dough, because of the high ratio of fat to flour. The most important thing to remember is that butter needs to be really cold. I didn't have access to a food processor when I was making this, so I actually used a frozen stick of butter and then grated it using a cheese grater. This allowed me to be able to combine the flour with the butter and ice water without over mixing, which leads to a tough less flaky crust.
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Kamilah Taylor
Blueberries...a fruit that I don't care for particularly on its own, but add them to something and they're amazing. What's great about them is that you feel no guilt when using them because they're supposed to be so good for you. I've read that they can enhance memory, reduce blood sugar, and even reduce depression! I started this blueberry experiment last summer, with fresh blueberries. It involved Blueberry Zucchini Bread (because zucchini was in season too) and Blueberry Pancakes (because I never need an excuse to eat pancakes).

From Drop Box
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Kamilah Taylor
#comcastsucks This just in, Comcast is still as infuriating as ever. Guess what? I don't care if you claim to have ended a special, if you're still advertising it ON YOUR MAIN PAGE then you should honor it. Period. Would it really have hurt you that much to honor your advertised $19.99/month? Was it worth it to insist upon $29.99/month? I was actually going to suck it up and go with you as my internet provider again and possibly even a cable provider and you lost my business.


Edit: I just realized that it's worse than I thought, the site says this special is valid till 3/31/11 if you click terms and conditions. For shame!

Kamilah Taylor
Champaign's best kept International food secret: World Harvest. I'm continuously amazed at the stuff I'm able to find there, surprising since sometimes when you're out in the middle of cornfields, you don't expect to find: