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Mike Lawton
Math, money, and mountains.
Math, money, and mountains.

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One of my goals for this year (and years going forward) is to learn a new skill. Take classes, read books, practice, blog, really dedicate the year to getting as good as I can. And then next year, pick something new to learn.

So here's my list of things I'd like to learn. I'd like your opinion: which one should I do first?

-Speak French
-Play the banjo
-Blacksmithing/iron working
-Charcoal painting
-Write a novel
-Create an app
-Wood carving
-Home brew beer
-Make a short film

2013: Mike Learns A Thing, Part 1

Average North American weight (1): 180 pounds, or 81.6 Kg
Average body fat (2): 20%
--> 180 x 20% = 36 pounds of fat

Modern diesel car (Volkswagen Passat TDI) fuel efficiency (3): 35 MPG or 15 Km/L

Conversion of animal fat to bio-diesel (4): 7.6 pounds = 1 gallon/3.8 Liters of bio-diesel
i.e.: 1 pound = 0.13 Gallons / 0.5 Liters

(36 pounds of fat) x (0.5 L/lb) = 18 Litres of fuel
(36 lbs) x (0.13 gal/lb) = 4.68 gallons

18 L x 14 Km/L = 252 Kilometers
4.68 gal x 35 MPG = 163.8 Miles

Conclusion: A 2012 VW Passat TDI gets about 250 Kilometers (or 160 Miles) per Zombie.

Something to keep in mind next time you're shopping for a car.

(PS: Please forgive a few rounding errors.)



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Finally some new product support for my old Nintendo! This is awesome!

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I do love a good probability mind-bender.
I've been away from the internet in general for a while, but I wanted to share a math puzzle I heard recently. There are several problems that involve two envelopes, but this one is my favorite. As with all my favorite puzzles, it doesn't rely on tricky or intentionally deceptive wording—I'm stating the premise as clearly as I can:

I pick two real numbers through some process unknown to you. It might be random and it might not. Maybe I always pick "3" and "100". Maybe I roll two dice. Maybe I write C code by mashing a keyboard until it compiles and prints two numbers (or produces Windows ME). Maybe I always use 0 for the first number, and for the second I call my aunt and ask her for a negative real number, which I multiply by the estimated number of protons in the universe. (At this point, my aunt is used to that kind of call from me.)

I put these two numbers on slips of paper and put them in two envelopes. I thoroughly shuffle the envelopes, and then you choose one via a fair coin toss. You open it and look at the number. You are now given the option (as in the infamous but very different Monty Hall problem) of switching to the other envelope.

Your goal is to pick the envelope with the higher number. Can you come up with a strategy that guarantees you a better-than-even chance of winning?

It has to do better than 50% no matter how I picked the numbers--if your strategy includes the rule "switch if the number is a 2", it's wrong, because I could always be picking 2 and negative 100, and in that scenario your strategy will fail at least 50% of the time. This means your strategy must work even if I have guessed what your strategy is and am cherry-picking numbers specifically to defeat it.

I cannot emphasize enough that you do not know anything about my process. Not only do you not know the numbers, you don't know which random distribution I am picking them from—or whether it's even a random distribution at all—and there is no deductive basis for estimating the odds that I'm using any particular method. (This gets at what is sometimes called the difference between risk and uncertainty.)

I'll post again tomorrow with the correct answer and a bit more about the puzzle.

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Finally figured out how to connect my Instagram account to this fancy new Google+ thing, using Dropbox, Picasa, and a couple third-party apps. Details here:
Instagram Photos (372 photos)
372 Photos - View album

/Seen on Reddit, copied from 4chan:/

Aladdin: In one scene, Genie calls Al's clothes "so 3rd century." Genie has been in the lamp for 10,000 years, so there's no way he could know of the fashion trends which have happened since he's been trapped. Which means the latest Genie could have been trapped in the lamp is in the 3rd century. If he spend 10,000 years in there, it is now AT LEAST the year 10,300 AD when he gets out.

Conclusion: Aladdin takes place IN THE FUTURE. A post-apocalyptic world where only Arab culture (and some Greek) survived. It has been so long that the name "Arabia" has been corrupted to "Agrabah." The Muslim religion has atrophied to the point where there are no mosques, Imams, or prayer mats, but people still give praise to Allah in moments of happiness. Amazing technological marvels left behind by the previous civilization, like sentient flying carpets or genetically engineered parrots which comprehend human speech instead of just minim it, are taken for granted by the locals or considered "magic."

The Genie proves this by making impressions of ancient, long-dead celebrities like Groucho Marx, Jack Nicholson, etc.

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The painful truth about Movember.

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Well I'd say this is a "huge success"... nerdwink

Well, well, looky here... Google+ now lets me use my personal domain! One less account to manage.
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