Changes to the Blog (or Accepting Money from Readers with PayPal)

Today, I think we’ll forego the usual apology about not blogging for a while, and cut straight to the chase: there’s gonna be some changes ’round here. First, you may have noticed the rather snazzy new theme. The old one was too minimalist. Anyone who has seen my apartment knows that I’m not a total slob, but I am far from minimalist. This new theme is clean, neat, and fits my style much better. The fonts are pretty sweet too. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Second, a while ago, one lovely commenter suggested I add a donate button to my site. I did a little research, and got scared off by tales of people adding donate buttons to their sites, and having their funds frozen. Granted, PayPal can’t take money away (that is to say, the worst that would happen is I would make no money at all), but words like “freeze” and “bank account” in the same sentence scare me, especially when the sentence in question refers to my “bank account” being “frozen.” So I put the idea on hold. Today, however, I ran across that same comment, and thought to myself, “Let’s monetize!” So I called PayPal, and got the word directly from the horse’s mouth.

No, a personal, not non-profit blogger can not use the PayPal donation button to collect donations on their site. However, rather than accepting “donations,” you can use a “Buy Now” button, which I presume goes through different internal PayPal channels, and which allows you to accept an arbitrary amount of money from arbitrary people without having your bank account arbitrarily suspended. Brilliant! Then you can use the “Donate” button image for your “not donation” button, and away you go!*

So, if you’ve been itching to give me your money, but you’ve been frustrated that you haven’t been able to, now is your chance! That shiny button up at the right hand corner will take you to a page where you can enter your own “Item price” and give me some money. I will be eternally grateful! And I’ll be more likely to blog more often if I’m getting money from it.

On the other hand, if you feel that I’m a sell out, and that I’m being ridiculous asking for money from you in exchange for the meaningless drivel that I post on the Internet for all eyes to see… don’t donate. For one thing, I’m not asking for your money, I’m giving you the opportunity to give me some money to encourage my ramblings if you’d like to. If you don’t want to donate, you don’t have to. I might not love you as much as I do now, but I won’t hate you… not that much, anyway.

As always, you’re encouraged to express your feelings on these changes in the comments. I welcome your feedback; it helps me figure out what you people do and don’t like to read on the Internet.

And, because I don’t say it enough, thanks for reading.

*To be perfectly clear, these are not “Donations,” in the sense that they are not tax deductible, and they do NOT go to a charitable organization. They go to me filling my face with food, paying my bills, and buying an expensive private jet so I can travel to the Bahamas while sipping Champagne and eating fois gras. You are giving me money, you’re not donating it to any particular cause or organization. Just so we’re clear. (And so PayPal doesn’t smite me.)

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I Made Spammer Chili

Part of my job as a sysadmin is to maintain the wiki for the department for which I work. Before I started moderating the wiki, it was configured to allow people to create their own user accounts and post whatever they liked. As you may have guessed, this led to a lot of poorly worded pages on topics such as penis enlargement, miracle diet cures, and cheap life insurance.

One such page contained a recipe for chili. I’m not sure what the SEO (Search Engine Optimization – basically, make Google like you) tactic was here, but I thought it was pretty awesome. If someone’s going to spam your wiki, they might as well leave delicious recipes while they do it. They threw in a link at the bottom to the effect of “Oh, and by the way, check out my webpage about cheap life insurance,” so I suppose their ploy was to increase their page rank and try to make it look authentic. In future, they should probably not target websites owned by university physiology departments to post their chili recipes.

On the assumption that creating something toxic by mixing innocuous kitchen ingredients is very unlikely, I decided to actually make the chili that I found on the wiki. I didn’t have any other dinner plans… why not? What follows is the original text, unmodified except for my annotations, which are in italics.

Note: If you’re the spammer who wrote this on our wiki, please feel free to let me know. I do believe you relinquished your rights to this article when you posted it on our site without permission, but I’ll give you credit if you want it. If you are not a spammer, and this is your original recipe, please contact me and we’ll figure it out.

*     *     *

Great Chili

Cold wintry weather makes us extended for comfort foods and chili is one of the most well-liked. A lot of people settle for canned or deli chili since they think they do not have time to make it ‘from scratch.’ Nonetheless, prepared chili just does not have exactly the same amount of satisfaction as the homemade variety.

I have to say, I have been feeling rather “extended” for comfort foods lately.

Here can be a fast and simple recipe that can satisfy your family’s craving for warmth with out taking up hours of one’s time. It can be ready totally inside a huge skillet in about 45 minutes or use a crock pot to let it simmer until dinner time for much more flavor.

Fantastic. Because my family is craving warmth, but I don’t want to take up hours of one’s time. Also, it’s so frustrating when other recipes aren’t totally inside the skillet; when they’re only two thirds inside the skillet it really drives me crazy.

6 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of lean ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon minced garlic – Really? Come on, now: you won’t even TASTE the garlic. Three cloves of it. Also, I panicked a little because I forgot the garlic, so it ended up being less “minced” and more “haphazardly chopped.”
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1 16 ounce can of kidney or pinto beans in chili sauce (chili beans) – I didn’t use chili beans, I just used regular black beans. Also, I could only find a 19oz can.
  • 1 14 ounce can of diced chili ready tomatoes (or use plain diced tomatoes and enhance salsa to 3/4 cup) – Diced, canned tomatoes. That’s 398ml, for those of us who use metric.

Delicious ingredients.

Peel and chop the onion. Crumble lean ground beef or turkey into a large skillet. Add the chopped onion and cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, till the onion is tender along with the meat is light brown.

Skillet? Forget that: pot. For one thing, there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that this thing is going to fit “totally inside” the skillet. This recipe makes a lot of chili. Also, I love it when onions are tender.

Everything cooked in my kitchen gets olive oil and salt. Yes, sometimes even deserts. So I put olive oil in the bottom of the pot before cooking the meat and the onions. Also, you might think that you’d want to cook the onions by themselves first, but you totally don’t, because they’re fine this way. This is also the step where I opened the beer.

Doesn’t look like much yet, but just wait.

Skillet Option:

Pour the cooked mixture into a large colander to drain all liquid. Return the meat and onion mixture for the skillet. Stir in the spices, salsa, chili beans, and tomatoes. Bring to a low boil more than medium heat. Decrease heat to low and simmer for about thirty minutes, stirring occasionally.

Colanders are for the weak; I didn’t drain jack squat. Besides, it’s like mamma always said, “Beef juice is good for you.”

Serve immediately or retailer inside a covered container in the refrigerator until prepared to eat. Reheat on top in the stove in a skillet or sauce pan, stirring often, or use individual serving bowls and put inside a microwave for 1 to two minutes.

It smells delicious. Seriously, it does.

Crock Pot Option:

While the meat and onions are cooking, combine salsa, chili beans, tomatoes and spices in a crock pot. Right after draining the liquid from the meat and onions, add the mixture to the ingredients inside the crock pot. Stir well. Cook on low for 2-3 hours, then decrease heat setting to warm until time to eat. Stir just before serving.

Variations:

Rather of celery salt, add 1/2 cup of chopped celery towards the meat and onion mixture whilst cooking.

Add 1/2 cup chopped red or green bell pepper to the meat and onion mixture even though cooking.

Chili-Mac Variation:

Add 1 cup water and 1/2 cup rotini or penne pasta to cooked meat mixture before draining. Continue cooking over medium heat until pasta is tender. Drain and continue with either the skillet or the crock pot alternative.

Vegetarian Variation:

In a ten inch skillet, saute the onion and spices with 1/2 cup celery, 1/2 cup of bell pepper, and 1/2 cup sliced carrots in 4 tablespoons of olive oil.

Add:

   1/2 cup of vegetable stock
   1 cup of rotini or penne pasta

Bring to a low boil and simmer until pasta is tender, stirring occasionally, Combine cooked ingredients in a large soup pot (or crock pot) with salsa, chili beans, and tomatoes.

Add:

   1 16 oz can of black beans with liquid
   1 can of whole kernel corn with liquid

Stir nicely and simmer more than low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally (or cook in crock pot on low for 2-3 hours, then lower heat to warm until ready to eat).

Garnishes:

   Shredded Mexican style or Cheddar Cheese
   Finely chopped raw onions
   Sliced Jalapeno Peppers or Banana Pepper Rings
   Corn Chips
   Oyster or Saltine Crackers

Here is also some information about getting Cheap Life Insurance (Link Omitted because I’m not actually a spammer.)

Chili and Glutenberg gluten free beer. Delicious combination.

*     *     *

The verdict? This chili was freaking amazing! I don’t know anything about chili, but whatever this was, it was flavorful, delicious, and really freaking good. I’ll totally make this again, but not any time soon because I have SO many left overs. This made deleting around 100 spam pages totally worth it (which I had to do individually because Mediawiki isn’t down with the whole “making it easy for you to delete posts” thing because that discourages creativity and also spammers).

It did need a bit of salt, but I put salt on everything, because I’m basically just like that alien in Star Trek the Original Series that kills people by sucking all the salt out of their bodies, except I do that with food and not always people.

I haven’t tried the crock pot or vegetarian varieties, but I imagine you can’t go wrong with the base recipe.

Overall, this chili was amazing, and I’m really glad I made it. And I haven’t died yet, although I have been getting this strange urge to help those poor displaced members of African Royalty who really need me to help them save their money. I mean, they’re going to give me a cut out of the goodness of their hearts, and it really is so tragic.

So I ask you, dear sir or madam, to please try this most delicious wonderful recipe of chili. And also to click on the following lnik for to view startling new informations about how you may enlarge your penis all naturally with no extra charge. Click here to lern more.

20 Volumes of Questionable Content Later…

Before I launch into some not-quite-but-almost-pointless algebra, let me explain why I’m calculating the number of years it will take for the Questionable Content books to catch up with the comic itself. First, I love QC. I was never that kid who watched cartoons on TV in the morning, or read comics in the paper at breakfast, but I do read QC every morning. Sometimes I check it on Saturday because I’m CONVINCED it’s Friday, and OMG WHY DIDN’T JEPH POST A COMIC IT’S FRIDAY WHAT’S WRONG??!!!!111!!!111 Second, I own both the QC books, because I love supporting artists and getting books I love signed by the authors. With this in mind, the other day I wondered to myself, “Self, if each QC book only has 300 comics in it, and if the current comic number is 2112, won’t it take a long time for the two to catch up? Doesn’t that mean that my bookshelf will be FULL of QC books in a few years?!” The answer, of course, was to put on my math hat, put pen to paper, and start working out a problem I could probably have done more quickly in high school*.

Because I haven’t blogged in a while, and because I thought this exercise would be fun to blog about, I’m going to walk you through the steps of figuring out exactly how long it will take, and how many volumes there will be. If you don’t want to come along for the ride, skip ahead to the second to last paragraph and weep because you’re depriving your brain of a chance to grow.

The approach I used is to come up with an equation for the comic number based on the week. Yes, I could have done it with the number of days, and maybe it would be a teensy bit more accurate, but that would entail carrying around a 1/7 that I don’t feel like dealing with. For our purposes, this is good enough. Hopefully most of you remember the equation for a straight line:

If not, let me refresh your memory. m is the slope of the line, b is where you started, and x and y are where you are on the line. For this example, I want y to give me the number of the comic from x, which is the number of weeks since the starting point when the number of comics was b. (Remember that when you’re adding things, they have to have the same units!) So this is pretty much what the equation looks like in words:

The starting time in which we’re interested is the launch date of the second book, because I already have my volume 2, and I want to know how many additional volumes I’ll have to buy. The first book was launched 20 weeks ago, when the comic number was 2012 (dun dun duuun…) so our starting number is 2012. There are 5 comics per week, so we plug those into the equation and get:

So that tells us the number of the comic on the Friday of any number of weeks since the book was released. Now we want to be able to ask how far along the next book is on any week after the launch date of the second volume. So we work some similar magic, and calculating that there are 319 days between the launch of the first and second volumes, which – divided by 7 – is 45.6 weeks. Since the second volume contained 299 comics, we can divide that by 45.6 and figure out that there are about 6.57 comics per week in “book time.” The second volume ended at 599, so that’s our starting number, and we get:

Then all we have to do is set the equations equal to each other and solve! Hooray math!

That means that 900 weeks – or 17.31 years – from now, the QC books will finally catch up to the comics… assuming that Jeph keeps the series going for that long. But how many volumes is that? Well, we know how many weeks it takes to make one volume, and we know how many weeks there are in a year, so let’s make a ratio that can tell us the answer:

That will be $354.96 in total, which is $20.51 a year. Remember that this is in addition to the number of volumes already published, and that you can’t have 0.72 of a volume, so the actual number of volumes will be 22.

Ok, so here’s the sad part where I tell you that none of this works in real life. We’re assuming that it takes the same amount of time to prepare and publish each volume, which I can’t believe is actually true. Maybe the time per volume will average out to 45.6 weeks, but we have no reason to believe it will. Also, as I mentioned before, we’re assuming that the comic will continue for another 17 to 18 years, which would be awesome, and is certainly possible (the oldest American comic strip is Katzenjammer Kids, at 114 years old – thank you Wikipedia,) but will it? I guess we’ll find out. In the meantime, I want a plush pintsize. You know, because WHO DOESN’T?!

If you’re curious about how I typeset the equations for this post, I used LaTeX, which is a typesetting language commonly used for research papers, among other things. I created the images to insert here with an online LaTeX equation generator. If you want to learn LaTeX (it’s really a great language for math and for any other sort of writing,) the LaTeX Wikibook is really fantastic.

*For the record, my calculus is skills are sharp as tacks. I can double integrate ANYTHING… ok, not anything, but you get my point. #mathjokes

The End of a Blog Hiatus, The Start of a Year

It seems that, once a year, I end up taking a break from blogging. Most of the time the reason is that I’m overwhelmed with school work, and that is usually followed by a few weeks of responsibility-shirking that I call “vacation.” Well, this year’s blogging hiatus is now officially over. You can resume sleeping soundly, breathing easily, and eating a steady diet.

So, in the tradition of the blog hiatus, I’ll start off this blog post by telling you what I’ve been up to when I wasn’t blogging.

Toward the end of the semester, I decided to move out in January. I started looking for apartments, I visited a number of apartments in the McGill Ghetto and the Plateau (two areas near McGill where lots of students live,) and found absolutely nothing I liked. Rumors about the McGill Ghetto being largely full of expensive apartments in relative disrepair are all true. Most of the apartments I saw were small, cramped, and got hardly any outside light at all. Of course, on my budget, I knew that finding an apartment with a workable kitchen and plenty of sunlight was a long shot, but if you’re looking for nice apartments, I’d start looking somewhere other than the ghetto. Sunlight, as I’ve discovered recently, is very important to me. If I don’t get enough light, particularly in the morning, my day starts out bad and goes downhill from there. Some people might call it seasonal affective disorder, but I think that’s horse-puckeys, because I love winter and fall. I’d prefer to call it “there’s tons o’ clouds out there; it feels like night ALL THE TIME and it’s making me FRICKIN’ UNHAPPY!” Anyway, a 23 watt CFL bulb on a timer that comes on at 7:30 when I need to get out of bed seems to help. Now I need a poster of the Bahamas or something to put up in my room.

I haven’t been building that many things recently. I had a bit of a panic last semester when I realized that I was completely lost in two of my classes, and that I hadn’t been studying enough for another class. I spent the last two or three weeks of the semester studying like hell, and if I do say so myself, it was totally worth it. I haven’t gotten the grades back, but I’m proud of my effort anyway. For the first time since high school, I actually completed my goal of starting to study two weeks before the exam. I’ve never been one to study very much, but ever since high school my study habits have all but bottomed out. A professor in CEGEP once told me that the further you get in your education, the more you realize that it’s what you did during the semester – not what you did right before the exam – that determines how well you do in the end. Every year since then, when I’m making a valiant effort to stuff too much information into my already over-crowded brain, his words ring in my ears. It’s too late, I hear myself saying, I should have done this before. Well, this year I learned an extension of that lesson: even though what you did during the semester counts more than what you do at the end, you can still work double time and succeed, provided you catch yourself early enough.

Another lesson I learned this semester is that I can’t study at home. I suspect this is true for many people. It’s not that there’s so much going on at home, or that I’m easily distracted at home, but when I’m at home, my mind doesn’t want to do school. School work happens at school, and sleep and projects happen at home; that is how my mind works. So expecting myself to study at home is torture: half of me is frustrated because I won’t study, and the other half just wants to go to sleep. So the solution, it turns out is to study at school. And because I’m lucky enough to work in a lab at McGill, I study in the lab, which affords me a nice, quiet place to work. Coffee helps too. Admittedly it was expensive, but for about two weeks before my last two exams, I bought an OMG WTF sized coffee at Starbucks every day before I started to study, which was my reward and daily caffeination. Say what you want about caffeine: I frickin’ love it*.

In the next few days, I plan to write a New Year post (as is tradition here at Worldgnat’s Blog**,) a post about some project I’m working on (there are many, which haven’t been touched in months,) and a compiler comic. I’ll probably go back to my old schedule (one post on Wednesday, and one some other random day during the week.) I hope you all had a Merry Winter Holiday, that you’ll all have a Happy New Year, and if you don’t believe in holidays or new years, then I hope you didn’t and won’t have either of those, and that their non-existence was and will be merry nonetheless. I leave you with this holiday picture of me sitting in front of a Christmas tree, wearing an apron and a blue Christmas hat with Vulcan ears attached that I made myself (the ears AND the hat. From scratch. Hell yeah.)

"Christmas" is illogical. Nevertheless, live long and prosper.***

*Just so you know, it’s been at least a week and a half since I’ve had a drop of coffee.

**I should give my blog some hip-looking acronym like WBg. People might think that there was some purpose behind the name other than “I need a name to give my blog a name and the handle that I use everywhere on the Internet seems appropriate. Also: consistency FTW.”

***Yes, that is a Questionable Content “Baking is Science for Hungry People” apron. You should go buy one and bake in it.

Don’t Panic: Five Things You Should Always Have With You*

Packing for a camping trip is stressful, especially when you’ve only been camping three times, and when each of those times, you’ve had experienced campers making packing suggestions for you. Oh yeah: and leaving less than a week between when you decide to go camping and when you actually go camping makes things even more stressful. So while I was packing for a camping trip, for which I would end up being sort of pretty much prepared, I caught myself packing a book. Why the hell are you packing a book for a camping trip? I thought to myself. From the paranoid part of my mind came the response: 1) Rain, 2) Car rides, 3) reading in the open air is fun, 4) what if you can’t sleep (you won’t be able to anyway, but what if staring at the tent becomes painfully boring?) … need I go on? So the “we have too much stuff” part of my brain shut up and let the rest of me pack***. But it got me thinking: there are some things that I try to always carry with me, and it would be cool to make a list. So here they are:

  1. Swiss Army Knife – My Swiss Army Knife is always in my pocket, unless I’m going through airport security, and even then it’s in my checked luggage, and will be returned to its home when I leave the airport at my destination. You never know when you’ll need one of these. Well, actually, you do: ALL the FREAKING TIME.
  2. Pen – In our world, we always need to write things, and it’s useful to have a writing implement. Whether you’re writing notes for a class, jotting down a brilliant idea, or penning your phone number on a scrap of paper for a particularly attractive stranger, having a pen will improve your life. Unless that stranger actually turns out to be a serial killer, but the chances of that are pretty slim. I think.
  3. Wallet – Seriously: If you don’t have your wallet with you, then what are you doing? Wallets have money, ID, and all sorts of useful things that can get you where you want to go. Besides, you can put all those gift cards you’ve forgotten to use for the past three years in a prominent place in your wallet so that the next time you’re in <some store x> you’ll remember to use your gift card! Brilliant!
  4. Book – To all the reasons listed above, add waiting rooms (or waiting for things in general;) car, bus, and metro rides; and the fact that you’ll read more that way.
  5. Camera – You never know when you’re going to want to take a picture of something awesome. Some people will scoff at this one, saying it’s a new “trend” that only exists because of cell phones with cameras in them, but I can honestly say that I’ve always run into things I’ve wanted to take pictures of, and only with the advent of camera phones have I been able to actually take those pictures. Yup: I remember the days before cell phones, kids.

It doesn’t matter if you carry these items in your pockets, your backpack, your purse, your manpurse, or dispersed throughout one or more of these carrying cases, as long as you have the items with you. Because trust me, you’re going to need them.  I know, right now you’re saying “When am I ever going to need a Swiss Army Knife? I don’t ever do anything that would require me to have a small knife, a little nail file, tiny tweezers, or a beige plastic toothpick,” but one day – maybe this week, probably this month, certainly this year – you’re going to run into a situation where you need one, and you’ll think “Damn! He was right!”

Yes. Yes, I am right. because I’m the person giving you free advice over the Internet. And people giving you free advice over the Internet are always right****.

*No, don’t carry a towel with you: any task that would ordinarily require a towel can be accomplished, in an emergency, with a creatively employed shirt.**

**Yes, I stole this blogging style from Wil Wheaton, because it is brilliant.

***Come to think of it, I stole parts of this style from Wil Wheaton too, but I stole them from his book. Well, his blog posts which were in his book Just a Geek. Great book, especially if you’re a geek.

****Ok, maybe not so much. But I’m right. This time. I’m pretty sure. I think.

Where Am I?!

You may have been asking yourself “Where has he been?! It’s been an entire week or so since his last blog post!!” You would be right to ask yourself that question, and I’m going to provide you with an answer. I’ve been around.

A Roomba/Create rather precariously carrying my laptop. I made sure to drive it slowly so my computer didn't fall off. It's safe to say that this was the smartest vacuum cleaner in the building.

A lot has happened since we last talked, so try to keep up. First, I started working at McGill as a research assistant, as I said  I would be. I haven’t started any of the actual machine learning stuff though; right now I’m getting used to writing simple behaviors for the Roomba (e.g. move until you hit something, find a wall and crawl along it, etc) so that we can use the sensor data collected during the behaviors to try some simple learning algorithms. It’s been a lot of fun so far. I’ve been riding my new used bike to work, which has been fantastic. It’s an oldish, classic looking bike with an awesome front lamp that’s powered by a dynamo. I’m planning to put a capacitor in the lamp as well so it will stay lit while I’m stopped at traffic lights, but I’m waiting on that for now.

Yes, that's correct, I did model it after a Fender Telecaster. (Fender, please don't sue me: this is a one-off and a modified design. Also, immitation is the finest form of flattery, and you should think this is as awesome as I do.)

Plans for the one uke to rule them all are almost complete! I’m building a solid body ukelele with pickups I made from popsicle sticks (which actually work quite well,) and I’m hoping to have it finished by the end of the summer, but right now I’m still in the drawing/planning stage.

Feast your eyes on that delicious cake and pastry cream. You know you want it.

Several weeks ago I made a cake with two duck eggs and a goose egg, and then filled it with pastry cream made from one goose egg. It actually wasn’t as good as cake and pastry cream made with chicken eggs; the goose eggs lack a certain element of taste that cakes want, but the texture was the same. They were whiter than cakes or pastry cream with chicken eggs though, since duck and goose eggs have lighter yolks. Either way, it was a delicious excuse to eat cake. (Like you need an excuse to eat cake. Sheesh.)

They were delicious. And having eight of them for practically nothing made them taste that much better.

A few weeks before that, I made spring rolls. Once I realized that using a sushi roller for the wrappers was a horrible idea (they stick to the bamboo like no one’s business,) it actually went quite well. They weren’t entirely what I was hoping for, but they were very good nonetheless. The mayonnaise sauce I made was delicious though, and I’m proud to say I made it with no instruction at all.

It’s finally spring, and spring is rapidly turning into summer. Things are blooming, people are sneezing, and there are more people out on bike paths than I think I’ve ever seen. I saw some business guys in their suits riding along the bike path discussing business things, so I’m hoping this means biking will be the trendy thing to do in the next few years. Maybe Montreal will become another Holland. I’m not convinced it’ll go that far, but we can always hope.

So that’s it for my little summer update. I’m hoping to post some of the cool projects that have been rolling around in my head as soon as I can get them going. Until then, here’s an awesome picture of a tulip tree.

This is a tulip tree down the street from my house. It's pretty startling, especially since it has no leaves. Apparently the leaves develop after the flowers bloom and die.

Happy Valentine’s Day: Computer Processed Love

For whatever reason, despite the fact that I’m not sure whether I like or dislike Valentines Day, I like to write a relevant post on the 14th of February. All this month I’ve been trying to come up with something to post about, but couldn’t really think of anything interesting. Finally, right before I went to bed last night, I had an idea. Every morning, I ride the 24 bus down to McGill through downtown Montreal. Being a fairly large city, I figured there would be plenty of Valentine’s decorations littered throughout the city. And since I’ve been playing around with image processing in Python, specifically extracting and analyzing the colors of images, why not swirl this into some sort of video project? I decided to record a video of the down-town portion of my bus ride, convert the videos into a sequence of jpeg images, select only the images with a certain density of red, and recompile it into a Valentine’s Day montage of sorts, with the hope that my algorithm would pick out most of the Valentine’s stuff, as well as some interestingly non-Valentine’s stuff.

Unfortunately it was raining, and the windows of the bus were a bit dirty, but I think the result is pretty cool. Enjoy, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

For those who are curious about how the program works, it calculates how many red pixels (a high red value, low green value, and low blue value) there are and “how red” they are, and only takes images with a certain value or higher. I used Python and the Python Imaging Library. I made two silly mistakes: 1) I used an iPhone camera, which isn’t terrible, but even the video feature on my still camera would probably have been higher quality, and 2) I had the phone turned vertically and now the aspect ratio is all weird! I flipped the video the right way round, but it still bugs me a bit.  PS: I cheated for one set of images. If you can find it or guess which it is, you get a virtual cookie.