Happy 2k5

Well, it is now no longer 2004. Moving into 2005 I have forgone making any New Year's Resolutions, mainly because I tend to be making resolutions all the time and I don't have any particular ones that I feel like implementing for the specific purpose of the new year.

I spent last evening attending a party at the apartment of a friend of mine. The party was ok and I got to meet some new people and see old ones that I had not seen in quite a long time. I got to spend New Year's Eve with some of the people that I wanted to spend it with and that's what counts.

Let's do a little bit of prognosticating while we're at the new year point. I expect this year will have some interesting effects on the course of my life hereafter. I will be graduating later this year, which means that by the end of the calendar year I'll either be going to grad school or be off trying to "find my fortune". We'll see how things work out.

Running at 6SPM

So there's this wonderful thing called the Saltine Challenge. The challenge is simple but different people seem to have different versions of it but certain aspects are universal. The basic premise is to eat as many Saltines as possible in 60 seconds. Some people say that 6 crackers is impossible, others say 8 is impossible and some just try to eat as many as they can; I fall into the last category. Important to the challenge is that you are not allowed to have any other food or drinks within the span of the challenge. Also, only crackers that have been fully swallowed count; if you try to put 8 in at once but don't finish swallowing, you get 0; if you're on your 5th cracker when time runs out, only 4 count.

Back in the day, some friends and I got together at Quuxfield (Riad, Amrys and Rodin's apartment at the time) and amongst other things undertook the challenge. Back then, Riad managed to get 6 down in a minute, I was able to get 5 and I think that hippo managed 4.

Anyway, I was eating some Saltines (Nabisco Premium to be specific) and I decided to give the challenge another go. This time I managed to get down 6 crackers in one minute, thus pulling in a rate of 6 saltines per minute (6SPM).

How many can you manage?

If Chins Could Kill

I was in Barnes & Noble recently and I found Bruce Campbell's autobiography If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor (I know that I mentioned this is an earlier post, but it deserves a full entry).

So yeah, anyway, it's a really awesome book. Basically, it's a good behind the scenes look at the film and television industry and gives you the impression that Bruce Campbell really is a good guy. Truth be told, I grabbed the thing because I'm a pretty big fan of the guy's work and turned out to really enjoy reading the book. It's got a good colloquial feel to it and I was able to get through it in two sittings (long sittings because I read slowly, but two nonetheless). Sadly, it's been rather a while since I last finished a book, but I guess that's kind of a testament to how much I enjoyed this book.

So yeah, I highly recommend this book for any Bruce Campbell fan, B movie fan, Sam Raimi fan, film buff or anyone else looking for a good read.

Snow Biking Rules!

Nokian Extreme 294

When I realized there was a bunch of snow on the ground (and got off my lazy ass) I made a quick run into Cambridge and retrieved my bike. Upon returning home I ate dinner and then fitted my bike with the fancy new winter tires that I bought myself a few days ago. Incidentally, the studs are aluminum with silicon carbide tips and the rest of the tire is nice and high quality too. I have, of course, been wanting to go snow biking for months and months and months, so I had to go immediately (~7p).

Initially, I found the tires to be incredibly impressive, managing to hold on to a recently plowed road quite well (we're talking half an inch of packed snow with another inch of powder on top); I tried skidding out just for fun and managed to fishtail about a foot or two before I regained traction. From there I decided to bike into town via the old railbed path near my house. Approaching the entrance to the pathway I saw a large pile of plowed up snow and said to myself, "let's launch over it!" Sadly, this three foot tall snow pile was mostly soft powder, so instead of jumping off the top of it, my front tire plowed right into it and stopped dead. Now, anyone who has ever slammed on the front brake of their bike at high speeds will know what happened next: I went flying over my handle bars. Luckily there were a few inches of snow on the ground beyond the snow pile and I got a nice soft landing, making the whole experience awesome instead of painful. Oh man, it was totally sweet. So then I got up and set off for town.

Turns out the traction of studded tires isn't quite so good in four inches of powder; the powder provides a barrier between the tires and anything solid and doesn't have any cohesion of its own. Also, four inches of powder provides a ton of friction and impedance to motion. The end result was a very slow and involved trek to town that probably took about forty or fifty minutes (to the usual twentyish). I am quite certain that the traction was better than my onroad tires and expect that it was better than my standard offroad tires in the powder (because of the treading style, not the studs) but it still wasn't all that great and I was sliding a little on turns and spinning my tires a little on each peddle. Eventually, I made my way to Concord center.

At that point, I aimed myself at Emerson field and set about trying to do some fishtailing on a giant field of snow. Here, however, my tires outperformed expectations and held tight to the grass underneath the powder, thus defeating my fishtail-with-soft-ground-underneath-to-catch-my-fall plan. So defeated, I made some snow angels. Then I biked over the high school, hauled myself up the hill and biked down it, not much more interesting than without snow. I was getting kind of exhausted so I lay around for a bit. Then I got myself a hot chocolate and a honey bun at Cumberland Farms (because it was the only place open) and headed back home. I stopped a couple times on the way home to lay down in the snow and eventually got home (~10p).

Snow biking is so much fun. Hopefully there will be bigger plowed piles of snow and hopefully the snow will start to thicken to something that my tires can better adhere to than this powder. Also, I need to find people and go sledding.

Resonant Rock Tumbling of Insanity

This morning (~1p) I was awoken by a very distinct, solid hum that appeared to be coming from nowhere. I sat up to see if I could place the sound and it got much quieter, almost disappearing. I figured the sound must have gone away, so I lay back down to go back to sleep and the hum returned. After a little bit of moving and curiosity, I managed to determine that the sound reached a maximum right where I lay my head and was otherwise mostly non-existent, which was very curious and made it very difficult to track the sound. This led me to believe that there was some sound nearby hitting a resonant frequency of the region where I sleep, so I went hunting for the hum, which seemed to be vaguely coming from upstairs. As soon as I got to my brother Joe's room, the source of the humming because quite obvious, his new rock tumbler. The rock tumbler's motor was operating at a frequency which, when placed above that particular corner of my room, caused a very loud resonance right where I try to sleep. Having figured out the source and having gotten about nine hours of sleep anyway, I don't really mind but it was pretty unpleasant waking up to a really loud hum and wondering if I was going crazy because it only existed when I tried to lie down.

Merry Xmas 2k4

Once again it's Christmas, and I've gotten some presents and some things. I presume that many of you have also gotten stuff, even those that celebrate other holidays.

I'd like to take a moment now to discuss the matter of gift giving/receiving. I think, at this point, I've moved into a new phase of gift giving and receiving. I don't like it when people tell me what they want or hint at what they want and I don't like it when people ask me what I want. This sort of knowledge defeats the entire purpose of gift giving. The point is that the giver is supposed to select a gift that is appropriate for the receiver based on how well the gift giver knows the gift receiver. In the end, it really is the thought that counts.

Now I think that I'll talk about some of the gifts that I received; if you gave me a gift, read or don't but be forewarned that this is for my edification and not yours.

Halo 2: I had not yet purchased Halo 2 but I had played it and it was pretty decent. In fact, I've been wavering on the line of considering buying it for a while but not really wanting to spend the $50 to get it. Receiving Halo 2 as a gift is the perfect solution to this problem and I was quite pleased to receive it. What's even more pleasing is that I did not know that I was going to receive it and received it after having dismissed attempts to find out what I wanted. Also, the giver of this gift, managed to employ misdirection and had me expecting Transformers related DVD things. I was so misdirected that when I saw the single-DVD sized present I was worried that I had been given a copy of Transformers: The Movie, which I already own, but then I was pleasantly surprised by Halo 2. So Halo 2, surprised me and good.

Whitewings: These are some fancy paper laminate airplanes. As a materials science nut, I like to think of them as a paper/glue composite airplanes. Anyway, the point is that they're airplanes and the assembly required is all fancy and complicated but they also fly really well. It's the fun of models combined with the fun of paper airplanes. Sadly, I knew that I was going to be getting them, which takes away a portion of the fun. If I had received this gift without knowing that I was going to receive it, it would have been a spectacular gift, however, having known that I would be receiving it, it is only a pretty neat thing to have.

Books: I don't read books very often. Books are a horrible gift to give me. If I receive a book as a gift, one of two things will happen: either the book ends up on my shelf and I don't read a word from it or I start reading to humor the gift giver, make it a short distance in and then stop. The fundamental problem here is that I don't like reading books and I don't know what sorts of books that I like. I think that I should retract the statement that books are a bad gift for me and replace it with almost all books are a horrible gift for me. Occasionally, I come across a book that I think looks really cool and then I buy it, sometimes I finish them and sometimes I don't but those books would make good gifts for me. The only way I read a book is if it somehow strikes me as really cool, is by one of a very small set of authors or I have sought it out for other specific reasons. Examples of case one include House of Leaves, which I am kind of reading now and is just so weird that I had to read it (and should get around to finishing at some point), or Bruce Campbell's autobiography If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, because Bruce Campbell is awesome and I saw it in Barnes & Noble yesterday. The second case is pretty much limited to short stories by H. P. Lovecraft that I haven't read yet. Case three is the hardest to predict and wouldn't work for gifts anyway but includes things like Hagakure, The Iliad, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, The Art of War and other random things. So yeah, books, not a good gift to give me.

There was also other stuff but those serve to best illustrate the point I want to make. I got some good stuff but I ended up disappointed and bitter because of the whole affair and the fact that it tells me that only my brother, Dave, knows me well enough to get me a good present. At least one person in my family can give me a decent gift; it's better than none.

Cellphone Numbers: Technological True Names

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of a true name, basically, if you knew the true name of a spirit you could use it to invoke said spirit and have power over said spirit. An example you may recognize is that of Beetlejuice, saying the name "Beetlejuice" thrice invoked him or dismissed him and so on and so forth.

It occurred to me recently that a cellphone number is very much conceptually akin to the mystical concept of a true name. If you have someone's cellphone number you can call them anywhere and theoretically invoke them as well. You are granted power over an individual by being able to contact them at any time. Also, just as with summoned demons, if you invoke people for stupid reasons they will take it out on you.

Hello Concord, long time, no see

I'm back home in Concord for Xmas break and it's looking like things are going to shape up to be both boring and entertaining. I've already gotten in contact with a few people that I haven't seen in quite a while (Pat Steele, Michael Caroll, Geoff Williams) and will probably spend some time hanging out with them during my stay in Concord. Also, within in the past few weeks I remade contact with Ellen Webber and have hung out with her a few times and may very well try to do so more in the future. Also Janet Ryu's family now lives in Carlisle so I'll probably spend some time doing stuff with her too. And, of course, there's always Max. Basically, there are a moderate handful of people to hang out with in the Concord area and I intend to exploit this fact as best as I can while I'm home. I may even try to look up some other people too.

Of course, hanging out with other people is all fine and dandy if they're around however, unfortunately, most of the people that I just mentioned are busy this week or not in Concord yet. This leaves me with my good old friend, the internet, which gets pretty boring pretty quickly. Anyway, if any other Concord people are around and read this, look me up.