Date: June 9th, 2015
Category: Video Games
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“really rough, kind of abusive engineering games”

Here’s an interview with Zach Barth about the completely unexpected game TIS-100 he came out with while in the middle of working on Infinifactory. I’m almost done with TIS-100 (currently being abused by red X’s) and by this point it should go without saying that it’s awesome. So far the hardest challenge was actually getting it to run on my Mac, initially it only had PC support. Of course right after I figured out the weird world of Wineskin and actually got it going he went and added Mac and Linux support! Oh well, at least now I have the environment set up to play some of these other indie games I’ve been wanting to try that always seem to be PC-only.

Date: May 5th, 2015
Category: Video Games
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INFINIOBSESSION

Zachtronics, makers of all-time favorites Конструктор and SpaceChem is back with INFINIFACTORY:

The game is SpaceChem + Minecraft + Portal, which is pretty much the formula for my destruction.

By the way, did you know that Zach Barth of Zachtronics also made a little game called Infiniminer? Today if somebody looked at that game they would say “what is this, some low rent rip-off of Minecraft?” but in fact Infiniminer came first and is credited (including by Notch himself) as the inspiration for Minecraft’s infinitely deformable voxel world.

Date: April 29th, 2015
Category: Geekism
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What’s the deal with Ruby?

I’m playing with this Cucumber testing thing and I have to say as my first introduction into Ruby it’s left me pretty non-psyched. I’m a C++ guy so I was hoping there’d be a C++ version of all this stuff, which at first it seems like there is, but then you read the fateful line "Cucumber-Cpp uses the wire protocol at the moment, so you will need Cucumber-Ruby installed and available on the path." So my options are pure Ruby or some unholy mix of Ruby and C++, not exactly two great tastes that taste great together. Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound, let’s try the pure Ruby way. Those guys with funny spiky hair can’t ALL be wrong.

At first they lull you into a false sense of security. “Look at these test specifications! So human readable!” They even lighten the mood with some jokes. “Your product manager could write these!”

Scenario: Squaring a number
    Given the number is 4
    When I press the square key
    Then the answer should be 16

Cucumber sucks that test spec in and helpfully gives you some Ruby code you are supposed to fill in to actually implement those tests. Well, once you put your files into the directory structure that it expects. But I remember from reading about Rails that everything is going to be like this so I’m ready:

Then /^the answer should be (\d+)$/ do |arg1|
  # verify that answer actually equals 16
end

OK, so since this is a verification I guess I am supposed to return true if the answer actually comes out to the desired 16. Wrong, if I do that I get some internal error in Cucumber, “LocalJumpError”. No big deal, off to the documentation then for how to write test steps. I am suddenly paralyzed with fear. Why does it just say TODO TODO TODO? Isn’t Cucumber like a real thing? There are like 10,000,000 search results for “cucumber testing” and at least the first few pages aren’t talking about the vegetable. How can the official docs on the official site not even tell you how to signal that a verification failed? Isn’t that kind of important? Maybe in the Ruby-verse all the tests always pass so it hasn’t come up. The wiki can’t be bothered to tell me either, but it does recommend that I should randomly copy and paste code from the examples like a caveman. Fine. I found an example that looks like what I want to do:

@result.should == expected_result

Whoa, what is that “should ==” business? Is that some Ruby magic? If I stupidly just paste the code in, I get undefined method 'should'. After many more googles I find out that “Cucumber, like most other testing frameworks, fails when it encounters an Exception.” Maybe in the Ruby world a failed test is signalled by an exception, but where I come from return false; always seemed to work fine. Anyway, after reading even more stuff (including the very helpful Cucumber: An Introduction for Non-Rubyists) I come to understand that that ’should’ thing comes from some Ruby gem called RSpec I have to install. Actually most of the sites I can find talk like I should obviously already know what it is and I should already have it installed. {sunglasses emoji} Bro, do you even RSpec? A lot of this Ruby stuff is like that. Anyway, RSpec conveniently monkey-patches, like, the universe so you can make your simple boolean tests throw exceptions instead of just returning false by putting the word should in uncomfortable places. Because that’s what you want.

[SINKING FEELING INTENSIFIES]

Great. OK, update Ruby, install gem, install the gem I want, copy paste the code… STILL NO SUCCESS. Now it tells me:

DEPRECATION: Using `should` from rspec-expectations' old `:should` syntax without explicitly enabling the syntax is deprecated. Use the new `:expect` syntax or explicitly enable `:should` with `config.expect_with(:rspec) { |c| c.syntax = :should }` instead.

ARE. YOU. EVEN. SERIOUS. I look up more about this RSpec deal, and found out that some member of the CADT decided that monkey-patching the universe was maybe not web-scale (yay!) but that the right solution is to release a new version of RSpec that breaks all the code in the universe (boo!). And nobody in the Cucumber-verse has bothered to update the documentation to reflect this. Ha ha, fooled you, you weren’t paying attention! There is no documentation so it can’t be wrong! But they sure didn’t update the example code.

Finally I got past all that stuff and needed to parse some XML. So I googled “ruby xml” expecting it would say like “just include the standard boring XML module and parse your standard boring XML in the standard boring way”. WRONG! You get to choose! There is something called Nogokiri? There is something called REXML? And there is something called XmlSimple? At this point I don’t even remember which of these I decided to use. I do remember that whichever one I fatefully picked just has just one method for parsing, to which you pass a string. Somehow even this gives me problems! Dude, I’m just trying to parse some XML, how can you be suddenly saying File not found in /usr/bin? Answer: Inside that method it LOOKS AT YOUR STRING TO TRY TO GUESS IF IT IS A FILENAME OR A BLOCK OF XML. And yes, the first time I tried it, it guessed wrong.

At this point, I have spent about twice as much time composing this post complaining about Ruby as I have spent actually using Ruby. If things continue like this, well, it’s going to be fun.

Date: May 24th, 2014
Category: Geekism
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BY YOUR COMMAND

I know I’m the last kid on the block to say that Project Euler is awesome, but Project Euler is awesome. It’s a set of really concise and well defined math/programming puzzles that start from basically Fizz Buzz and sloooowly ramp up the difficulty until things become fairly ridiculous. The neat thing is that all the puzzles are designed so that if you approach them right, they can be solved with less than one minute of compute time, so when you realize that your initial solution is O(N!N!N!), there is still hope. As you solve each problem, you get access to a message board with spoilers for that problem, and it’s always fun to compare your 200 line C++ monstrosity to the 5 lines of C64 BASIC submitted by some guy in Belarus that finds the answer in .0000001 seconds.

For extra trendiness points they have gamified everything with levels and achievements. I’ve done 100 problems so far, which makes me a CENTURION.

centurion

Date: January 13th, 2014
Category: Regular
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I can’t wait for Nest+

nestplus

Date: November 18th, 2013
Category: Geekism
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There are no printers in the spirit world

OK, The Night Watch is the funniest nerd thing of all time. I can totally relate to this because not only am I lucky enough to have participated in the debates about the socioeconomic implications of Helvetica Light, but I have also found the comment late at night that says “DOES THIS WORK LOL” in the most haunted part of the code. In fact… I wrote it.

Date: July 1st, 2013
Category: Geekism
3 msgs

I sense a great disturbance in the force…

…as if millions of feeds cried out and were suddenly silenced. Today is the day that Google Reader goes away, leaving many people searching for alternatives. There are plenty of these: jwz says to use Newsify, an iOS app. This Metafilter thread frequently mentions Feedly, a web-based reader.

I’m still using this antique. Hey, if it ain’t broke, right? Well, at least I know all the ways it’s broke. How’s that. But some people may not be satisfied using software that was written when Bob Barker was still the host of The Price Is Right. In that case, I have a forward reference for you: Feed on Feeds on GitHub! This is an effort to blow the dust off the code, bringing the dependencies up to date, closing some horrible security holes, and even adding a few new features. I haven’t participated in this or even tested it out myself but the project looks pretty active.

Date: June 14th, 2013
Category: Geekism
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The End of Days

Remember this?

And the beast shall come forth surrounded by a roiling cloud of vengeance. The house of the unbelievers shall be razed and they shall be scorched to the earth. Their tags shall blink until the end of days.


from The Book of Mozilla, 12:10

Here is a quote from the release notes for the beta of Firefox 23, to be released this August:

Dropped blink effect from text-decoration: blink; and completely removed <blink> element

Well, it’s been nice knowing you all.

Date: April 23rd, 2013
Category: Regular
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Beijing girl, embarrassed to let go

Jenny’s cousin Brandon is here visting from Taiwan and posts little stories like this to Facebook. When auto-translated they take on an almost poetic quality, and just enough of the meaning comes through to keep them intelligible:

A wonderful experience, with the mother in a New York subway station to buy a ticket today, when you are trying to put all my loose change into the machine, Chinese beauties from the side of a tall, long hair all of a sudden the bear hug me … … Tender lip with I cheek distance only 15 cm of affectedly sweet Beijing cavity, with I said “alas Hey you in do what,” I dear mother in aside hand plug Pocket see silly has eye,, and not for Vault by lure and the are Hong Kong Taiwan man and has wife of I, now not think is Aventure and immediately touch pants of purse and the phone are also stable, quietly whispers eyes with points melancholy of said “you found wrong people has, I not Yu wins”…… Beijing girl, embarrassed to let go

Date: February 22nd, 2013
Category: Geekism
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Latency

Abrash and Carmack on latency. This, among I’m sure many other real world limitations, is what turned this exciting concept into this somewhat less exciting reality.

Also does it seem weird to anybody else that when I make a video call using Glass, the other party doesn’t see me, instead they see what I see? When I’m talking to somebody what I’m looking at is generally not that interesting, unless you like fidgeting, doodling, or pacing.

Date: January 15th, 2013
Category: Geekism
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As if by magic

Having recently replayed this classic game and then completing all the “homework” from this excellent book, I was left wondering how things really work down at the silicon level. The game I’m sure is a much simplified version of reality, and the book starts at the level immediately above the game. I looked at a few Wikipedia pages and whatever “Electronics 101″ class notes I could find, but all I managed to learn is that in the real world 1) everything needs to be grounded and 2) resistors are involved somehow? I think?

All that said, when I found this blog post by Ken Shirriff today, it was as if it was made just for me! The post zooms in on the actual silicon of the 6502 processor, showing in detail exactly how the overflow flag is calculated. Ever used an Apple II or an Atari 2600? These microscopic wires lit up every time the processor added two numbers.

So from the book, I know how to build an entire computer using only NAND gates. And now from this blog post, I KNOW HOW TO MAKE NAND.

Date: December 6th, 2012
Category: Regular
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New World Record – best opening lines of a spam message

Dear Mr. Managing Director,

Have a nice day to you.

I received your contact information from a mold friend of mine.

Date: November 16th, 2012
Category: Regular
1 msg

This is how you diplomacy in 2012

Date: June 5th, 2012
Category: Geekism
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Advanced and Persistent

Alternate universe? I meant Cyberpunk novel. My email program will now warn me if and when a state-sponsored attack on my account is suspected. That’s pretty astounding. Seems like the Internet cold war is rapidly heating up. Great time to be a security researcher though!

Date: June 4th, 2012
Category: Geekism
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So Refreshing

I love this dialog box from Screenshots of Despair. I would love to see the grief counseling available if you click “help me decide”. Here I have a counterpoint, a message of renewal that my IDE shows me several times a day:

Date: May 31st, 2012
Category: Geekism
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.lol

We are definitely living in an alternate universe. There is no way that in the normal universe the father of the Internet would register the .lol domain.

Date: April 25th, 2012
Category: Regular
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New New New New thing confirmed as newest thing EVER

Unigy Pulse

There it is, the new new new new thing, following in the footsteps of the new new new thing, the new new thing, and the new thing. You’ll never guess what’s next!

Date: November 23rd, 2011
Category: Geekism
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At least I can still wave my knols. What?

Oh how quickly things change. Remember this post? It’s SO FOUR MONTHS AGO. First they announce that you can no longer feed your posts to your book as notes. Great. And streaming your buzzes to your circles? HA! WHAT buzzes?

So what to do now. Make a pipe that firehoses everything to a planet? Kind of old fashioned. Tweet shortlinks to pinboard? Two more services I’d have to sign up for. Maybe what I need to do is make my own plugin that can push each post to my plus… of course I’d have to use the graph to post notes to my wall for friends who aren’t in my circles. Bah, too much work.

BEST IF READ BY:
DECEMBER 1 2011
12:00 AM

Date: September 23rd, 2011
Category: Otherwhere
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Lao-ies but Hao-ies

Plain old Chinese internet radio is so old and busted. Jenny’s new thing is this station that plays Chinese and Taiwanese pop songs from the 80’s and 90’s. It’s pretty much the best thing ever! Here’s one of the songs we just heard:

Date: August 12th, 2011
Category: Otherwhere
4 msgs

Bangalore!

They threatened to send me several times before, but I just printed out my boarding pass so I guess this time is real. I am going to Bangalore, or is it Bengaluru… well really ಬೆಂಗಳೂರು in the language I’m more familiar with as a way to make funny little faces.

┌─┐
┴─┴
ಠ_ರೃ

I’ll be there for Independence Day, then two weeks of work. I’m not sure what to do with my weekends, I’m told I should see the Palace of Mysore (or is that Mysuru?) but have few other ideas. Maybe they’ll have some suggestions when I get there!

Date: July 22nd, 2011
Category: Video Games
1 msg

Losing is fun.. what about playing?

One of my many personal failings is that I’ve never been able to figure out how to play Dwarf Fortress. Remember Cypher staring into The Matrix? Playing Dwarf Fortress is kind of like that, except instead of seeing blonde, brunette, redhead you see dwarf, goblin, carnivorous trout. But every once in a while something comes along that makes me think I should try again, like this great article in The New York Times Magazine: The Brilliance of Dwarf Fortress.

The most amazing part is the dedication of Tarn Adams, the developer. He’s got a doctorate in Math from Stanford, but plans to spend the rest of his life working on his game, which is appreciated by few, but is possibly the most intricate game ever created. He works on the game every day, and pays his basic expenses with the few donations he receives. His living conditions would be considered a nightmare by many, but for some is nirvana: he works from 3PM to 6AM every day, in a room with boarded up windows, living on barely more than just soda, coding and brainstorming game features with his brother, Zach.

Somebody on reddit had this to say about the complexity of DF. In most games, you have hit points. Each time you are hit by a bad guy, your hit point total goes down, and when it reaches zero, you die. Dwarf Fortress is different:

In Dwarf fortress, you have individually modeled bones, internal organs, fingers, toes, facial features, and a circulatory system. And that’s just what we can see; I suspect much more. If bitten by something with paralytic venom, the diaphragm (eventually) stops filling the lungs and the dwarf dies minutes later after blood oxygen levels fall too far.

Date: July 11th, 2011
Category: Geekism
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Transitive property?

My blog connects to my book, so every post becomes a note, eventually. Also, my blog connects to my buzz! So every post I blog is automatically buzzed! Finally, as of today, my buzz is even connected to my plus. So the question is: when I blog a post, and it is buzzed, will plus stream it to my circles?

note: if you do not understand this it may not yet be 2011 where you are

Date: June 21st, 2011
Category: Geekism
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Top 10 most surprising domain names that actually work

I was shocked today to find out that http://ac/ actually works. I found some other working two letter domain names, here is the whole list:

http://ac/
http://ai/
http://bi/ (looks like whoever put this up is as surprised as me)
http://dk/
http://hk/
http://io/
http://tm/
http://uz/

And as if that wasn’t enough, here is the grand prize winning crazy domain name that actually works:

http://xn--o3cw4h/

Of course you can’t publish a top 9 list, nobody wants to read a top 9 list, so to make it an even ten I add this gem:

http://nyan.cat/

Date: June 10th, 2011
Category: Geekism
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Decompiling E. coli

This post by bunnie gets my vote for blog post of the year. First he shows you where to download the genetic code for the super-resitant form of E. coli found on German bean sprouts. Then he shows you where to download a database of genes known to code for drug resistance. And then:

Now that we have this list, we can answer some interesting questions, such as “How many of the known drug resistance genes are inside O141:H4?” I find it fascinating that this question is answered with a shell script:

cat uniprot_search_m9 | awk '{if ($3 > 99) { print;}}' | cut -f2 |grep -v ^# | cut -f1 -d"_" | cut -f3 -d"|" | sort | uniq | wc -l

Date: June 9th, 2011
Category: Regular
1 msg

Hail!

Hail! by minutillo
Hail!, a photo by minutillo on Flickr.

Decent sized hail in Nate’s back yard yesterday.

Date: May 17th, 2011
Category: Geekism
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NO WAY

This is completely insane. I mean I get the whole “Turing Equivalence” thing, but still. Fabrice Bellard, who has written some pretty important bits of computing infrastructure, has created a fully functional x86 emulator in JavaScript! It boots up Linux and lands you at a root prompt. There’s even a compiler – and Emacs! It runs pretty well for me, with Chrome 11 on a Windows i7 laptop.

Date: May 8th, 2011
Category: Regular
1 msg

Joe Wong!

We randomly caught Joe Wong on Dave some time ago, “LOL”ed, and have been following his appearances ever since. Judy somehow knew he was doing a charity show in Rhode Island tonight, so we went! All new (to us) material and as you can see we even got to meet him after the show.

Here’s that first appearance on Dave that we liked so much:

Date: April 13th, 2011
Category: Geekism
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C++11 FDIS

Does that sequence of letters, numbers, and plus signs mean nothing to you? Then don’t click here.

Date: March 28th, 2011
Category: Video Games
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QWOPnGIRP

If you haven’t already heard of QWOP and GIRP I apologize for making you aware of them.

Date: March 12th, 2011
Category: Otherwhere
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SPACE… Space…. space……

Enterprise

The National Air and Space Museum has two locations: the main one on the National Mall, and another with some bigger stuff called the Udvar-Hazy Center. We went to the main branch some years ago, but — ahh — never uploaded the pictures? Bad blogger! Bad! Anyway, on a recent trip to visit one of Jenny’s highschool friends (ObPlug: visit Woodlands Restaurant! Try the Pani Puri!) we hit the other branch. Since it’s the National Air and Space museum the stuff you see is the Real Deal™. Like, they don’t just have some random test Gemini capsule, they have Gemini 7. And they don’t just have some random B-29, they have the Enola Gay. And of course, the main attraction for me, the Space Shuttle Enterprise.

Date: March 12th, 2011
Category: Regular
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2 feet + 2 months =

January 12th 2011:

Blizzard of 2011

Today:

Last remains of blizzard of 2011

Date: March 9th, 2011
Category: Geekism
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Vi Hart is the best person

OK, Vi Hart is my new favorite person. Her mission: to reveal the inherent awesomeness of math. Her video series Doodling in Math Class is incredible. This episode even sneaks in a Dinosaur Comics reference. Not convinced yet? How about a paper on Computational Balloon Twisting? Or how to slice an apple into a cube… and then slice that cube into hexagons with star shapes inside? Musical instruments made of paper and fire? A Möbius Music Box? She has even been covered by The New York Times. The list of things she has produced seems to just go on and on to infinity, filling in all the space between math and art.

Date: March 4th, 2011
Category: Geekism
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IE6 Countdown

Remember back when IE was dead and Microsoft said IE6 was going to be the final version ever? Oh, how times have changed. Now they are on a campaign to try to get users to please, PLEASE upgrade away from IE6! The site has all the modern “tweet this” and “like this” buttons and even has a snippet of code you can put on your site to show IE6 users an “error message”.

(OT: I wonder if that map will be quietly updated in a few days to stop referring to Taiwan as a country)

Date: March 3rd, 2011
Category: Otherwhere
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Sydney!

Just got back from Miami, and it looks like my next destination will be Sydney to help sell the new new new thing, which incorporates the old new new thing and is compatible with the old new thing.

And then once I get back from that, I get to start on the new new new new thing which will be, by the time it’s finished, the newest thing EVER.

Date: February 25th, 2011
Category: Video Games
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Scariest Mii Ever

Scariest Mii Ever

…and the one on the right is kind of creepy too HEYOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Date: February 21st, 2011
Category: Regular
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Jenny finally got her Prius!

Finally got it!

Date: February 20th, 2011
Category: Video Games
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So I guess I was 11?


click play for appropriate bg music!

Tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of the release of The Legend of Zelda for the original NES. This reminded me of one of my crowning achievements in the field of video gaming. I got Zelda right after it came out, and a friend and I worked together to beat it pretty quickly. We were then surprised by the Second Quest, which starts the game over from the beginning with the levels all switched around and some of the rules changed. We got stuck in the second dungeon, and decided to take the unprecedented step of CALLING NINTENDO. This was back when you could call and talk with “Game Masters” for free. So we called in, described our situation, and got this answer: “Sorry, we can’t help you. We haven’t got that far yet!”

Oh and here’s my favorite bit of Zelda trivia. Hold on to your seat, cause this is kind of like finding out that the clouds and bushes are the same. Are you ready? All the dungeons in Zelda fit together like a giant puzzle. There’s some more detail and discussion about this at incredible revelation at MetaFilter.

Date: February 10th, 2011
Category: Geekism
1 msg

Come, let Us go down, and confound their speech

These guys now have an app that lets you translate spoken words and phrases between different languages! Universal Translator in your pocket, right? Not quite. We tried it out and it does a decent job translating English to Chinese, but the results translating Chinese to English are just so hilariously wrong as to make the app useless. Jenny was trying to speak slower and slower and more carefully to get it to be able to translate ANYTHING and eventually got frustrated and told it (in Chinese) “Talking to you is like talking to a wall!” the app dutifully translated:

"THUNDERBIRD. RESTAURANT. POWER CONVERTER."

Date: January 18th, 2011
Category: Video Games
3 msgs

SPACECHEM – End of the Line

Finished the game, finished all the challenges. Completely excellent! If you liked The Codex of Alchemical Engineering or KOHCTPYKTOP, then the $20 for SpaceChem is totally worth it.

Date: January 13th, 2011
Category: Regular
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I CAN HANG THE FRYING PAN

Jenny got a deep fryer for Christmas (thanks Yvonne!) and went out looking for videos on how to use it. I’m going to say… she succeeded:

Here’s another video from the same guy: