52 States in 8 Months

American Cooking: Hamburger Helpers

Posted in Meals, USA by Ulf on March 31, 2009

When I told you how cheap ground beef is in the US, I bought about 2.5kg of it. I didn’t want to make 2.5kg of Klopse or a similar amount of Spag Bol. Therefore I bought a few “Hamburger Helpers“. Really tasty :-)

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Have you noticed the different cooking instructions for high elevations? They tell you to increase the simmer time from 16 to 19 minutes in altitudes between 3,500ft and 6,500ft. However, they don’t tell you what to do in higher altitudes. Luckily we didn’t bring this to our 10,023ft breakfast :-).

The cooking instructions here in the US also differ from those we have in Europe. There are no weights given. I’ve never seen a kitchen scale here in the US. Everything is measured in volume. The units are either cups (or fractions thereof) or spoons. And luckily the designers of Hamburger Helpers make sure that one set of measurement cups is enough for you:

For the “Classic Cheddar Cheese Melt” recipe I needed 1 3/4 = 1+1/2+1/4 cups of water and 1 1/3 = 1 + 1/3 cups of milk. I needed no fraction of a cup twice. Very considerate of you, Hamburger Helper guys!



Trucks with balls

Posted in USA by Ulf on March 30, 2009

During our Christmas holiday, Pingu and I saw a pickup truck with testicles. It looks pretty funny when driving, so I do fully understand why people install them beneath their cars:


Recently I’ve also seen a car with balls here in Newark:

I just read that the Florida senate doesn’t like these balls, but I’m note sure if the bill also passed their house. Maybe people should install hearts or support-our-troops-pendants below their cars and see if the lawmakers also want to prohibit them. Considering the normal road distance, one probably can’t tell the difference ;-).

Airtight plastic bottles are not … “chocolate-tight”

Posted in Newark by Ulf on March 29, 2009

A few weeks ago our fridge was smelling like hell. And it got worse from day to day. Then on one day after we returned from the pictures (we saw “The Wrestler“, an emotional movie with many ups and downs up to the last minute), I could not fall asleep. The reason was simple: I drank some chai (tea with milk) at about 9pm. How could I do something stupid like that?

Anyway, I decided to clean our fridge that night. This was what caused the problem:

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There was a bottle of chocolate milk in the lower right-hand side corner of our refrigerator. None of my room mates claimed to own it. It was a month behind its best-before date, so I can only assume that it was a left-over from a room-mate that left in the end of last year. It might already look ugly on the pictures, but trust me, the smell was even worse. Cleaning a toilet after some party is very nice compared to this ;-).

Although it was a plastic bottle, it started leaking out. In fact, only the chocolate came out and not the milk, so it was a very viscous substance. Therefore it was not easy to clean the fridge. I really had to rub it off which took quite some time (even with some chemical cleaning stuff from Iñaki).

I really wonder why the chocolate came out. Was the pressure inside the bottle so high (unfortunately I didn’t measure it)? But why would the water stay inside then? Were the plastic seams at the bottom of the bottle getting worse? Or was the chocolate-like stuff in fact some chemical which could just diffuse through plastic? Maybe it was only some decomposition product which could leave the bottle? (The whole stuff reminded me a bit of the acid grog from Monkey Island.)

After the cleaning I also checked the fridge for other things that were behind their best before-date. This is what I’ve thrown away aside from the chocolate milk:

  • a bottle of grapefruit juice,
  • a glass of sweet relish,
  • some dry sausages,
  • two sorts of cream cheese,
  • some butter,
  • a box of white turkey,
  • a bottle which said “eggs” (I’ve never seen eggs from a bottle before, one always learns new things…),
  • a bottle of orange juice which was almost empty
  • and finally some “Nestle La Lechera” (whatever that is).

At about 4 o’clock in the morning, I finally went to bed. I slept-in immediatly, so I guess that the tea lost its effect after 7 hours. Note to myself: Ulf, do not drink tea after 3pm. Unless you want to clean a frige.

Some strange picture from our holiday.

Posted in Las Vegas to El Paso by Ulf on March 28, 2009

Please have a look at the following picture.
What is most remarkable about the scene you see?

Who is this?

Posted in Europe by Ulf on March 27, 2009

My father just sent me this picture. It shows someone who was driving a bit too fast with my car on the Autobahn. Actually, my car is used to driving a bit too fast, so I guess this is just fine ;-).

The only interesting question is: Who is it?
I mean, Fabi claims that he ran into a speed camera, but seriously: I do not recognize Fabi on this picture!

My first CAD drawings

Posted in University stuff by Ulf on March 26, 2009

Varsha (an Indian Ph.D. student in our group) and I have started taking some self-guided tutorials on CAD software, especially SolidWorks. This is what we created so far:
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The first two pictures show some part which we created when we followed a step-by-step tutorial (the second picture is the drawing for the part from the first picture). The third image finally shows a part which we created completely on our own. That means that the tutorial only told us how the resulting part was expected to look like, so we created it :-). The calculated weight and inertias of our part exactly match those of the desired solution :-).

Jan-ken-pon, Ching-Chang-Chong or simply Chifoumi

Posted in Uncategorized by Ulf on March 25, 2009

rock_paper_scissorsI recently asked myself where the game “Ching-Chang-Chong” comes from. I was a bit disappointed when I read that the German title of the Wikipedia page is in fact “Schere, Stein, Papier”. When we were young, we never called it like this! The game is called “Ching, Chang, Chong”, and there’s an end to it!

However, I was quite astonished when I realized that this game is really played all around the world! Here in the US they know it as “Rock-paper-scissors”, or RPS. My Korean office mate knows it and both the Chinese office mates know it. Another Korean here in the lab knows it, too, but he said it would be more common to give one’s choice not by making a gesture with the hand but by moving the feet (widening them means scissors, doing a step means paper and putting them together means stone, I think). The children in Turkey also play RPS, but:

Neither the Indians nor the Pakistani know it! (Well, one of the Indians did, but all the others did not). Maybe the British were to much focused on cricket when they colonized that area.

Some other stuff about Chifoumi:

  • The French Wikipedia page on Pierre-feuille-ciseaux mentions a 2005 Jan-ken-pon match that decided about whether Christie’s or Sotheby’s would organize the auction of some paintings. Christie’s won because they took the scissors. This was an obvious step if one considers that they were going to sell paintings (like paper).
  • There are many videos on YouTube about Rock Paper Scissors. Watch this one, and that one.
  • The Finnish Wikipedia page about Kivi, paperi ja sakset mentioned this picture:


Lots of smoke.

Posted in University stuff by Ulf on March 24, 2009

A few weeks ago when I went home rather late, there was a gas truck in front of our lab. I wonder how the poor people in McKinly lab could use their exit (the wheelchair ramp in the center, it is full of smoke on the third image).


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In the morning I also saw some smoke which I think was not necessary:


Goodbye old bicycle!

Posted in Newark by Ulf on March 23, 2009

Last week on Sunday I dismantled the old bike. I could fix the rear fender to my current bike (the front fender unfortunately was too small). I also removed the tires and the front wheel since they still seem to be alright.

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Now I only have to find a place to get rid of the scrap metal which was made in China.

PS: Some pieces of my current Korean bicycle also break apart. The front gear changer broke off (non-repairable), and as I told you some time ago, one of the rear sprockets is also broken. Then a screw from the rear gear changing mechanism came off. However, after I found the cogwheel, I was able to repair it.
At least I can still drive it safely, everything else doesn’t matter.

Kid’s Cutlery — by British Airways

Posted in Newark by Ulf on March 22, 2009

A few days ago I discovered some miniature forks and knives in our shared kitchen (just two of each). Seems like someone has stolen them on some British Airways flight. I put some normal forks and knives next to them. Compare yourself: