## Tuesday, December 20, 2016

### Popcorn

I really like popcorn.  I often find myself watching TV just as an excuse to eat popcorn.  I've gone months where I had it every night.  A while ago I decided to buy an air popper.  I've built up quite a recipe around the air popper, and I'd like to outline it here.

Why an air popper?
Air poppers are like $20 and the popcorn is much cheaper than the microwave bags. They are a bit faster than a microwave, and you can never burn it. There is nothing to clean because you only put dry popcorn in them, the oil is added afterwards. Air Popper I did a fair bit of research into air poppers, as I tend to do before buying anything. Long story short, they're all the same, and you should get a cheap one. This one is about$20.  It has a built in measuring cup, you dump the dry kernels in the top, and plug it in.  Set a large bowl next to it, and wait a few minutes.  The last 10 or so kernels never pop, so give up on them.  Unplug and that's it.

Kernels
A few people recommended Orville Redenbacher for air poppers.  I started out buying at the grocery store, but you can get a giant jug on Amazon for cheap

Bowl
It sounds silly, but you do need a large bowl.  I always ate popcorn straight from the bag, so I didn't have one.  I just got a 7 L one from Walmart.  Make sure it's at least 6 liters.

Salt
You can just use regular salt, but finer salt will stick better.  Generally you'll waste tons of salt no matter what.  After much research I found this movie theater style salt which is great, and will last like 30 or so bowls.

Salt Shaker
You can just use any regular shaker.  But I'm generally looking for one that has a few, well-separated, smaller holes.  The popcorn salt is much finer, so it comes out very fast of normal sized holes.  This is the best I've found so far, it works, but the holes could be a bit smaller.

Oil
You need oil, basically to make the salt stick.  I've just been buying this generic popcorn oil.  Don't expect much flavor from the oil, it's basically just soybean oil.  I've heard coconut oil is the best flavor, but it's difficult to spray on.

Sprayer
It's basically impossible to drizzle oil evenly.  I bought this spray bottle, which is crazy expensive, but is designed for oil.  There are cheaper oil sprayers but the reviews say they clogged, whereas I've been using this one for months and it's fine.  A word of warning, they spray in a flat fan pattern, which means you have to move the sprayer as you spray.

## Saturday, November 19, 2016

### This just in: Lightning bugs have different flash patterns based on species and sex

https://legacy.mos.org/fireflywatch/images/MOS_FFW_Firefly_Flash_Chart.pdf

Thank you for subscribing to bug facts

How many fireflies would it take to match the brightness of the Sun?

## Saturday, October 1, 2016

### Body Cameras Are Betraying Their Promise

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/09/body-cameras-are-just-making-police-departments-more-powerful/502421/
In case after case, police departments say officers did not have their body cameras activated when it counted. It can seem as though incidents where body-cam footage helped secure an indictment—such as in Marksville, Louisiana, last November, or as in Cincinnati last July—are more rare than the cases where they don’t.

These are breaches of protocol—incidents where events didn’t happen as the law would require. Often, these violations are never significantly punished. This is the second major threat to body-camera accountability: If there’s not significant discipline for officers who fail to follow local policies—as the officers failed in D.C., Chicago, and Charlotte—then it doesn’t matter what’s in the policy.

### Will Raccoons Trump Rats as the Ultimate Urban Mammal?

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2016/09/raccoons_are_taking_over_urban_environments.html
And I heard from a friend who works in the State Department about a raccoon that snuck into her building while it was under construction, and then walked across ceiling tiles until it got to her office and hung out above her desk, visible through the mesh-type ceiling panels, perhaps attracted by the scent of her sandwich.

## Saturday, September 3, 2016

### Replacing a modded Xbox with a Raspberry Pi, as a classic game emulation station

As you're likely aware, I'm a big fan of using orginal Xboxes modded to allow playing various NES and SNES (and sometimes N64) games.  Xboxes are cheap, and the software that runs on them has a pretty good UX.  That being said, they are getting pretty long in the tooth, and while the finished product is pretty slick, the process of modding them is annoying enough that I pretty much refuse to actually do it.  They are also rather huge and unwieldy in the age of tiny single board computers that are more powerful and draw far less power.

I have a few Pi 3s so I'd figured I give RetroPie a shot.  This will be less of a how to, and more of a review/comparison to modded Xboxes.

What you need

This is probably the biggest draw back of the Pi vs Xbox.  An Xbox can be had for $40 pretty reliably, or probably free from somewhere. They generally come with everything you need to play, including at least one controller. The Pi costs$40 by itself.  You then need a power adapter, a HDMI cable, a case, and an SD card.  Then you'll need controllers, 2 SNES knock offs will cost $30, or you can use XBOX360 ones if you want wireless and joysticks, but that'll bump the cost up$70 more.

## Tuesday, February 16, 2016

### Kids, forget console gaming—play the FBI’s browser-based game instead

It basically looks like a prequel to the world's first-ever video game. The player uses the left- and right-arrow computer keys to move a running goat to avoid blocks. The blocks apparently represent violent extremists. Hit the block, and the goat explodes.

## Saturday, February 6, 2016

### Nerdwriter1

I've been watching these videos for a while now.  They're interesting discussions of a variety of topics.

## Saturday, January 30, 2016

### Why did crime plummet in the US?

http://www.vox.com/cards/crime-rate-drop/crime-rate

I thought this was a very good compilation of the various proposed reasons for the huge drop in crime in the 90s, and some debate for and against each.

## Friday, January 29, 2016

### Listen to Wikipedia

http://listen.hatnote.com/
Listen to the sound of Wikipedia's recent changes feed. Bells indicate additions and string plucks indicate subtractions. Pitch changes according to the size of the edit; the larger the edit, the deeper the note. Green circles show edits from unregistered contributors, and purple circles mark edits performed by automated bots. You may see announcements for new users as they join the site, punctuated by a string swell.

## Sunday, January 10, 2016

### Powerball Odds

So there is a lot of Powerball talk, and I am again intrigued by the possibility of a positive expected value for a lottery.  If you remember I wrote a post about Megamillions a few years ago, when the jackpot grew to $640 million. The result, after taking into account both taxes and multiple winners, was that it still wasn't worth playing. I decided to quickly do the same thing for this latest Powerball jackpot. In a separate post, I made a model to predict the ticket sales based on jackpot amount. This was quite a bit of work, so I'm not doing that here. I'm just going to use the data for the latest drawing (Jan 9th, 2016) to see if that one drawing had a positive expected value in retrospect. To begin, the expected value of the non jackpot prizes is$0.32, or about $0.28 if you include tax on the$50,000 and $1,000,000 prizes. Note here, I'm ignoring the "Power Play" thing, which increases the payout for the nonjackpot prizes, but costs an extra$1.

Now we need to look at the jackpot.  The estimated upfront payout was $587,662,740. After taxes that's$340,844,389.  The odds for Powerball recently got way harder, which is why this jackpot is so large.  This drawing had 440,321,172 tickets sold.  Doing the Poisson distribution we see the probability of various numbers of winners based on the odds and tickets sold:

 0 22.1594% 1 33.3922% 2 25.1595% 3 12.6377% 4 4.7610% 5 1.4349% 6 0.3604% 7 0.0776% 8 0.0146% 9 0.0024% 10 0.0004% 11 0.0001% 12 0.0000% 13 0.0000% 14 0.0000% 15 0.0000%

The odds for no winners (which is what happened) was 22%.  This is due to the much lower odds of a jackpot in general.

Adding up the adjusted jackpot shares gives a total of $176,335,787. This could be thought of as the true jackpot value after adjusting for taxes and the possibility of splitting the jackpot. Multiplying by the odds of winning gives an expected value for the jackpot of$0.6035.  Adding the nonjackpot expected value gives a total Powerball expected value of $0.88. The ticket costs$2, so it's not even half the value.

Some thoughts:  The odds were just increased in Oct 2015, and this is the first huge jackpot after that change.  More will follow, so it is possible that the expected value will improve as people get over the hype of a billion dollar jackpot.  However, it is worth noting that even if the jackpot doubled, and ticket sales remained constant the expected value would still be below the ticket price.

I haven't gone into details for the math here.  The calculations and commentaries are the same as the Megamillions post.  So please see that for more discussion.