An odd chain of dreams

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Last night was a long string of odd dreams. They were all strung together to make one big, even stranger, dream. I can only remember a few of the specific subdreams so that's what you'll get.

Making nails for MITOC. I was with a bunch of other people and we were all learning to make nails from found iron as a part of some MIT Outing Club activity. The process was fairly simple: find some pieces of soft iron and start hammering them together until they formed one big block. Then you hammer the block of iron until you get a big sheet which you cut the nails out of. I was having some really good luck because I found a few nice pieces of iron in the dirt where we were working. After a little while it turned out that a few of the pieces of iron that I found were actually plastic so I got rid of those and got back to work.

Somewhere along the way the cutting nails bit turned into me being a blacksmith in the early dark ages but since I'm a Materials Science major by day I knew all sorts of things about steel and metal that the rest of the blacksmiths did not know and I was teaching them all these things about smelting and alloying and annealing.

Then there were a few other sequences that I forget

Eventually there was another transition, but this time it went from blacksmithing to scuba diving in the Arctic. I don't remember much of the transition except that it involved looking at a diving mask and reading the instructions for changing masks in freezing water. So I'm up scuba diving with these two other guys and there are icebergs around. Then one of the other guys discovered this broken outboard motor floating in the water which I thought was really neat at the time. Then I discovered some ice throne carved into the side of one of the icebergs and decided that I needed to put the outboard motor on the throne.

Then, all of the sudden, I was a Ninja Turtle and I had retrieved some magic talisman from that iceberg, which gave me all of these special powers. I distinctly remember being in Shredder's palace or base or whatever and taunting him with all the special powers that I had and he was trying to trick me and get the talisman away. I remember a particular instant where he lunged at me and I dodged and he ended up in the koi pond. When he fell in the koi pond I realized that I wasn't actually a Ninja Turtle, just an actor in a suit playing a Ninja Turtle, so I used the carefully hidden stones in the koi pond to make it look like I was walking on water (talisman magic) and went out to make fun of him. Then he stole the talisman, and some other stuff happened.

When I went inside to get the talisman back, I stopped at a little newsstand and borrowed a pen to write something down in my notebook.

A few sequences later, I discovered that I was taking a break from tending to my fish tank. I then got back to working on my fish tank. There are a lot of small details that I remember about this part, but suffice it to say that it was a much larger tank than my real one and I was in the process of constructing a castle in one of the corners for my fish.

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Punch Drunk Love

I just watched Punch Drunk Love (yeah I know that it's been out for a while) and I really liked it. I tried watching it once before and didn't make it very far (this was a while ago) but this time I set out to watch it clear through and it turns out that it starts to get really interesting just after I gave up last time. Interesting character that Barry, a little on the psychotic side but I like him.

Good movie.

Word Banter

I feel like wasting time with pointless banter and, since this is my blog, I have every right to do so. Whether or not you want to read this is up to you and doesn't matter. Now that the disclamatory bit is out of the way, on to the banter.

You might be wondering why I chose the word banter to describe this writing (or you might not care) and I'll tell you. I chose the word banter is because I am just going to play with words and thoughts; this is because I haven't got anything useful to say. This is going to be one of those "How 'bout that local sports team?" or talking about the weather kind of entries. For that matter, let's start with the weather.

I stepped outside earlier this evening to make a phone call (the cell reception in my room is hideous) and I noticed that it's a beautiful evening out. The truth of the matter is that I stepped outside a few times because I was playing phone tag with someone. Anyway, it's a little on the cool side, but quite far from cold and the sky is very clear. So I was looking at the stars a little, it was quite pleasant.

DIFFERENT TOPIC: Yeah, that needed to be bold. Anyway, I was reminded by the last sentence of my previous paragraph (ooh, I'm getting all meta and stuff) of how much I like the word pleasant. Just so that we're clear:

From Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) [web1913]:

  Pleasant \Pleas"ant\, a. [F. plaisant. See {Please}.]
     1. Pleasing; grateful to the mind or to the senses;
        agreeable; as, a pleasant journey; pleasant weather.

     2. Cheerful; enlivening; gay; sprightly; humorous; sportive;
        as, pleasant company; a pleasant fellow.

Yeah, I'm talking about definition 1. It's such a great word, pleasant in and of itself (self-referential now, how do you like that?). Oh and it turns out that grateful can be used as an adjective in a manner synonymous with pleasant (athena%dict grateful says so). So yeah, pleasant is a good word, I like it.

One might point and say that my fondness for the word pleasant is transient and will pass soon; history will likely show that to be an accurate prediction. My fondness for specific words is often a transient thing, but it is often the case that I keep coming back to a select few over and over again. As to what the choice words that I keep returning to are, I can only give a few examples and time will tell on the rest. Keen is probably the best example of a word that I keep coming back to and then forgetting and then coming back to and so on.

I like words, they let me say things.

The Magnificent Seven: pretty good

I've been on a real movie watching binge this evening. I started with Transformers: The Movie, moved on to Roujin Z, then Ghost in the Shell, Metropolis and finally The Magnificent Seven. Whole lot of movie watching, some of them are pretty good movies though.

Anyway, The Magnificent Seven is a remake of Akira Kurosawa's masterwork Seven Samurai as a western. They do a very good job of taking the story and a lot of things from the original and bringing them to the new style; it's very noticeably the same story. There are, however, a number of changes that have been made, probably for the slightly different setting and audience. The last time that I watched The Magnificent Seven I had not recently seen the original and didn't see the significance of the changes. Having seen the original in the past few months and watching the remake now shows me that the differences are really very significant and as such I can only say that The Magnificent Seven is pretty good compared. Please remember that I consider Seven Samurai to be one of the greatest movies ever made.

Transformers: The Movie

I'm sitting here watching the Transformers movie and remembering how great a movie it really is. I would rank it up there as one of my favorite movies, right up with Seven Samurai and Forrest Gump. I don't care if it's a kids cartoon; the themes and emotions portrayed are incredible. I suspect that I, or someone else, could write a truly incredible paper about the various elements of this movie, but for now, I'm going to provide a running commentary.

The interpersonal (interrobot?) interactions are quite impressive. The relationship between Megatron and Optimus Prime is one of mutual respect and almost seems to have elements of friendship. The battle between the two of them portrays an interesting dynamic, Megatron's unwillingness to use a weapon at the outset and Primes unwillingness to finish off Megatron. It takes the intrusion of Hot Rod to snap them both back to reality and bring a conclusion of the conflict.

Unicron is an interesting figure, some sort of God figure or Devil figure. I am not sure what to make of him, but he sure is something, world eating power giver that he is. The bit about Megatron becoming Galvatron at Unicron's hands is a very Faustian soul selling kind of thing.

Megatron/Galvatron exemplifies self-centered greed and a lust for power. Also, Galvatron 0wnzes. Starscream on the other hand is just a dick.

They do a pretty darned good job of making the Autobots into stereotypical good and the Decepticons into stereotypical evil. This is all done without going over the top or seeming cliche.

I'm not sure what role the two humans play in the whole thing. Daniel and his father may only be there to add a human element to the movie, or they may serve some other role; it'll take some thinking.

The transformation of Hot Rod over the course of the movie is a coming of age thing. In fact, as I think about it, this movie really has every important story element, except for romance. I blame the lack of romance on the plurality of central characters and that the transformers are androgynous. Actually, I take it back, there are elements of romance between RC and Hot Rod, but just barely.

I should stop now, or this post will turn into an essay. Also, I want to sit back and enjoy the movie. Suffice it to say that Transformers: The Movie is great and it's one of very few movies that I can watch over and over again.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I have just finished reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig and to say that I was moved would be to make a gross understatement. I started to choke up a few chapters before the end and spent the last two in tears; this book has struck a very powerful chord with me and I would have a very hard time explaining why to anyone that has not also read the book. The chord that this book has struck is a very deep one indeed. I am at a loss for further words.

Wyatt Hill, &c.

This weekend I went and did a bunch of camping and hiking and such with my good friends Max, Riad, Sam and Hippo. I could go into an incredible amount of detail as to all the stuff that we did, but I've been writing other things for a while and I am all writinged out. Suffice it to say that a good time was had.

Whiteface and Passaconoway

I set out yesterday to climb Mount Whiteface and Mount Passaconoway up in that New Hampshire state thing. I planned it as a two day hike where I'd get as far as I could, set down with my sleeping bag, sleep and then finish. I had myself loaded out with altogether too much gear because I wanted extra weight such that I can go about beating myself into shape faster.

At any rate, I got to the parking area at around 11:30a yesterday and got going on the Whiteface bit. Along the way there were a few places where the melting snow/ice was flowing down the trail (sometimes under ice sheets) and it was absolutely beautiful; pleasant sound as well. The path had a fairly low grade for a while and then nearer the top it got pretty steep. The steep bits were pretty icy at times and I had to use trees to haul myself up a couple of times. There are a number of rocky ledges on the upper parts of Whiteface that afford some spectacular views of the region. I could see Washington at a few points and that's an impressive looking mountain (well, not just looking if you know anything about it). Eventually I reached the southern summit of Whiteface, which has a great view south and is mostly just a rock face (probably where the mountain name comes from). From there I proceeded across the real summit and over to Passaconoway. I started up the last bit of Passaconoway at about 4:30p and then stopped at Camp Rich (just a snow covered tent site) at about 5:00p. I dropped anchor, so to speak, and hopped in my sleeping bag for a long night. I'm not quite sure why but I wasn't able to sleep and at around 2:00a I decided to go on. It was a full moon so there was plenty of light to go by, and I had a flashlight for the hard bits. I finished up Passaconoway, which has a pretty disappointing summit, and headed down. I made it back to the car by 5:20a, an hour before sunrise, and then got home just a little after 8:00a.

I would rate Whiteface as pretty good with some fun scrambles and some great views. Passaconoway would likely get a rating of not really that great unless you just want to hike in the woods uphill. Also, hiking by moonlight is really quite nice.

That's two four-thousand-footers down and forty-six to go.

Classical vs Quantum Fingernail growth rate

So, myself, Max and co. hop on the subway and head towards Porter Square to get us some sushi at Kotobukiya, this marvelous inexpensive sushi place at the Porter Exchange. Along the way, Max and I start to discuss issues of fingernail growth; following is an approximation of the ideas that we came upon:

Max suggested that if his fingernails were to grow twice as fast he could bite his nails twice as fast. From this, I disagreed saying that he could bite his nails twice as often. There was then agreement that the nails could not be bitten off twice as fast, but Max introduced as an alternative that they could be bitten off in chunks twice as large in size. From these two methods of dealing with nails that grow twice as fast comes a simple theory. Suppose there is a frequency with which nails may be bitten (we'll call it w because it's like a little omega) and suppose that there is a size, or amplitude, of bitten off nail chunks (we will call this a), then we can say that their product will be a constant (say C, just because) that is proportional to the rate of fingernail growth. This theory can be written in the form w*a=C; this is what we will call the fundamental theory of classical fingernail growth.

Max then theorized a non-classical form of fingernail growth when he stated that he would like to have quantum fingernails. This led to a discussion of how quantum fingernail growth would work. Our best theorization of the matter is that since everything is a probability distribution you can never know how long your fingernails are or how fast they are growing unless you bite them. As such you will not know how long your nails are until you bite them, but then you will not know how long it will take until you need to bite them again.

Postscript: I do not encourage biting one's nails; personally I use nail clippers. Nail biting was just the context that the conversation took at the time.