My Zunivers

30 June 2006

The most exciting thing

about days of heavy rain at camp is...

When the rain cancels the music festival your wife was going to attend while you were gone and your wife decides to take a road trip to Illinois instead.

People, I am not kidding.

22 June 2006

What's Prison For?

Today I found this article about textbooks at Juvenile detention centers. One sentence, though, struck me as rather odd.

[Juvenile detnetion] centers commonly prohibit the unsupervised use of hardcover books and basic school supplies like pencils out of concern the youths could use the items for violence.

Child welfare advocates, however, say the rules can create a prison-like atmosphere that discourages rehabilitation. "Any facility ought to be safe and secure enough for kids to have books," said Betsy Clarke, president of the Juvenile Justice Initiative.

So, this makes me wonder, what is prison for? I've been told that prison is for rehabilitation, so why is a prison-like atmosphere something that discourages rehabilitation? Or is someone here trying to bring up that old-fashioned notion that prisons are for punishment?

Hey, I Was There

Yesterday morning, before it happened.

Chunks of highway blown out! Eeeegad!

21 June 2006

The Way West (Camp is also west)

Traveling to Colorado on SAturday was an amusing experience. We were up at dawn's butt crack to get to the airport in Allentown, where we sat at the gate for a while and sat in the plane for a while and then took some sort of parabolic arc to Philadelphia, flying time 14 minutes. Then we got to go on the Big Plane with the drink cart and the movie. Landing in Denver four hours later I came to 0 for 4 on good US Airways landings. Perhaps Peter can explain.

The rental car ended up being a four cylinder Sebring sedan. Standard gasoline in Colorado seems to be 85 octane. I guess there's no need to put more burny stuff in the tank than can be burned in the local air. We had time to kill since the conference didn't start until Sunday, so we checked into the dorm at Univresity of Colorado and then went for lunch in Boulder. I had planned ahead on this one. Parking in Boulder is free on weekends and after 6:00, and I had in my hands the address for a Mongolian Barbeque.

Having filled our tummies, we decided we should use some of our free time to see some mountains. The Flatiorons above Boulder block out the view of the Big Mountains farther west. So we figured we'd haul up to Estes Park and look around. When I say up, I mean up. Boulder is about 5,200 feet above sea level. Estes Park is something like 7,500 feet above sea level. Yummy thin air.

The drive into Estes Park was spectacular. Lots of big mountains and rock formations and such all over. Having declared myself the leader of this tour, and being the one with the rental car contract, I decided we should partake of the visitor's center in Estes Park. In the creek next to the visitor's center was a female elk, splashing around and eating tree branchs or something. My first elk. In the visitor's center I picked up an area map, and I realized that Rocky Mountain Naitonal Park was only a few miles away, so why not?

After paying for our gaggle to get through the gate (a one week pass goes for $20) I pulled over to look at the map. As my companions ogled the landscape, not even aware of what was to come next, I realized that the road I was on was the road, Trail Ridge Road, that I had heard goes Freaking High. And when I saw that Freaking High meant above 12,000 feet, I figured we just had to go. But first, we made a stop by a small set of waterfalls. You know, one of those small sets of waterfalls that's bigger than the mountain behind my house? Yes, that kind.

There were a number of places to stop and get nice views of the land below. My ill prepared companions (read: not overweight) were feelign increasingly poorly padded as we went from air conditioning to vent to windows down to windows up to running the heater, stopping along the way every here and there to take pictures. One of our party kept saying "I want to eat that snow," referring to the sparse snow left on the mountains.

High altitudes have strange effects on people, especially people who had been barely above sea level not twelve hours earlier. We forged on. I lost my ability to hold the map and drive at the same time, needing to concentrate actively on the driving. My companions were feeling a little woozy. I was enjoying the combination of apline tundra (I love the Arctic, you see, and this was like the Arctic), no guard rails to protect us from falling thousands of feet if I screwd up on a corner, and the fact that it's impossible to screw up on a corner when 5500 RPM give you a mere 30 miles per hour. We saw elk waling along a ridgeline and the continental divide (unless I'm reading the map wrong). It was quite nice up there on the mountain. I could enjoy it form the car with ease, although getting out of the car and walking for a minute had me ourt of breath and dizzy. I recommend that road to anyone who wants to get high. Take that any way you like and it will be true. As a side note, you can enjoy alpine tundra at a better altitude by going to the White Mountains in New Hampshire.

Upon recovering our senses at a reasonable altitude, we returned to Boulder. Boulder! What a fascinating town. While I was in the bathroom after our lunch at the Mongolian Barbeque, my companions were witness to Boulder's nude bike ride to protest oil., the "Less gas, more ass" campaign. Many communities had such an even the previous week, but apparently Boulder's denizens had some other hippy convention to go to so they rescheduled. Rumor has it that there are regular Thursday bike rides where sometimes over 300 people ride all over town in a big herd yelling "Happy Thursday" for a few hours.

Downtown Boulder isn't very big, but it has more character than any city or town I've ever seen. A few blocks of Pearl Street are a pedestrial mall. Weird art (I particularly liked the map of the area). Funky people. All over the place. Small stores. People sitting around playing guitars and such. Open air cafes. Coffe shops. A whole bunch of bars, some with kitchens open and some only open for drinks. Live music pouring out of restaurants that basically just open up in front and spill onto the sidewalk. (The Attic on Walnut had hamburger night on Monday; $5.00 half pound gourmet burgers with fries). There's a bookstore or two. And did I mention that this was at 11:30PM? On Sunday!? My only real comment was "My wife will have one of two reactions. She either won't believe me or she'll be really pissed off that she missed this." The Boulder area and the UC campus are very pedestrian and bike friendly, too. Bike paths, bike lanes, and polite drivers who actually yield to pedestrians. I really like Boulder. A lot.

The UC campus gets a little bland after a while. A person can only take so much stone the color of the local dirt and so may statues of buffalo. A region called The Hill lies off campus, and it's the college strip. Food and such. A change of scenery from campus. Another excellent diversion is watching a thunderstorm at sunset as it rolls off the mountains and down onto the peidmont from a rock outcropping on Lookout Mountain.

If you decide to go have fun in Cheyenne, Wyoming, change your mind. I went there to say I did, not because there's any reason to go. If you like the high plains version of West Virginia hicks then I guess it's your sort of town. Maybe. If you like a long drive on an interstate through ranch land then maybe you'll enjoy the ride up and back from Boulder.

Yesterday I gave my presentation to a rather uninterested and uncaring audience of about twelve people. Here I was, Mr. Theoretical Physicist, stuck between two qualitative biochemistry talks. At least the fill-in session chair was able to ask a token question. But bah-humbug. I just got stuck in a bad session, and because of that nobody who was at the conference who would care about the presentation, and trust me there were a number of them, some quite famous, heard it. Oh well.

I bought souveniers for my family. Those will get distributed. I'll be seeing my sister Friday when I go down to camp, and she can play Santa Claus for me.

Oh. Camp. (Forwarning: the tone here is resigned and mildly depressed, not ranty and angry.)

I saw camp from the airplane tonight, flying into Philadelphia. I've changed my mind about not wanting to ever live in Boulder, but I haven't changed my mind about camp being more fun than I had. Now I get to go to camp next week and have to work with people I don't know, and I'm honestly not looking forward to it. Camp isn't just the place, it's the people and the purpose. The new peopel have given me some bad impressions already. A long bulleted list of what will be going on, for example. And they are "don't answer e-mail" kind of people. Great. I hate those people. People who put their e-mail address on their contact information, say "e-mail if you have questions" and leave off the part about how questions don't get answered that way. That bugs me almost enuogh that I'm thinking of not going.

The key word there is almost. That means it's not enough itself but there are a great number of things that will push me totally over the edge. For example, if at the daily flag rasing (a very trashy camp ritual that has rightfully been done away with by my regular week's Australian director) involves putting up the flag before praying, I'll probably call my wife and ask her to come pick me up right away. Dispite what some Christians think, Patriotism and Christianity are not the same thing and I refuse to convolve them. Requiring that I participate in certain activities, like challange courses or playing certain games, is another no-no.

The reason I like my regular people so much is because they not only understand that church camp is a ministry but they also understand that ministry is not something you dictate to others how to do only after they commit to help. Unfortunately our Christian culture sucks with this. For most people ministry is necessarily about "geting out of your comfort zone" (one of those long buzzwords that helps us remember our german protestant roots) and so everything you don't like doing is pinned down as exactly what you should do. That's about the worst possible way I can think of to run a Christian organization because it basically takes people's natural talents and throws them out the window.

I think that there should be a sharp distinction made between on one hand overcoming unfamiliar or uncomfortable challenges that arise as part of doing what one is good at doing and on the other hand throwing "I can do all things through Christ" down the throats of people who are being forced to do what they are not good at doing or should not be doing. My regular people, unlike about 98% of the Christian (evangelical and fundamentalist protestant) community, make that distinction. For many Christians, especially those in leadership, the problems of those they lead are seen as challenges that individuals must overcome rather than, say, poor leadership putting up a barrier to people ministering by constantly shoving thorns in their sides or poorly placed people doing things that others could do better.

That's actually why I'm apprehensive about the next week at camp. Unlike if I had been there this week, I don't feel assured that those In Charge will respect me for knowing what I know about myself. I'm an extremely complex person and I know it, understand it, and can use it, but that requires freedom that not all social structures provide. Dumb people don't get that, and most people are dumb.

On a positive note, it at least shows you how good my friends really are :)

So I like Boulder. If any of you ever want to go when it's not camp week, let me know. I like my regular camp week more.

I'll see some of you for real tomorrow; on Friday I'll be leaving for camp.

16 June 2006

Mass Translation

It's worth mentioning that I'm amused by the talk of new translations of the Roman Catholic liturgy. A long time ago, back when the New International Version of the Bible was translated, people had this big emphasis on translating thought-for-thought instead of word-for-word (or as close as possible given the structural differences between teh languages). It always amused me that someone else could take a text and decide what the author, dead for centuries, was thinking. THe main amusement is from the fact that people can't do that.

My translation philosophy for ancient texts is between the two but nearly literal. I play with the structure but not the words. (See my translations of portions of The Descent of Ishtar and Annals of Sennacharib, found somewhere in my closet, for examples.) That's why I love the English Standard Version (called by some Wheaton people the Ryken Standard Version), a recent Bible translation, so much. It's got things as literal as possible while paring down the sentence structure into more simple modern English. The NASB, the word-for-word king of translations, often seems to try hold word order as much as possible, leading to convoluted structures in sentences that end up being long enough to be confusing with simpler structures. I love my ESV.

Anyway, the text used for liturgy in most RC churces today was tainted by thought-for-thought translation. I never really thought about it until the news this week that a more literal translation is under the microscope for adoption in the US. Why didn't I give it thought? From choral music I know or am familiar with most of the texts for standard masses, but I know them in Latin, not English. And I've never bothered attending a Roman Catholic church (that whole "our communion is only for us" thing pisses me off). So I've never thought of the fact that week after week Roman Catholics everywhere say "We believe" instead of "I believe" (Credo) or "Holy, Holy, Holy, God of power and might" instead of "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts" (Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus Dominus Deus sabbaoth; some people would even say that "hosts" is an excessive stretch).

I've been looking over the liturgy tonight and finding lots of places where I can now understand why so many Roman Catholics I know have so little a clue about what the liturgy says-- their translation doesn't say what the Latin says. So I think that the new translations are a step in the correct direction. At the least it could get the thougthful laity thinking.

FYI

Things will be sparse here for a while. Over the weekend and early next week I'll be in Colorado and have some e-mail and computer access. The following weekend and week I'll be working at camp. So I might or might not post in the next five days, and I'll probably post the two days after that, and then you won't hear from me for at least a week.

The moral of this story is save your bandwidth and don't check my blog twice a day. You won't find anything new for but a few of those times, and every command sent over the internet uses electricity. If you really need to read something, go over to Nick's blog (link on sidebar) and wade through posts and links dealing with the ECUSA General Convention. Most of you aren't that deperate, but as a wanna-be quasi-evangeliclal anglo-catholic partial fundamentalist, I'm keeping track of the event. If that's not your cup of tea then go brew something you like.

I'll see you locals when I'm back home and you long-distance people whenever the heck I see you.

14 June 2006

Moo and Flap

Once upon a time, my family had to decide between beef and chicken for dinner. We had steak-like things and chicken breasts, but not enough of either to feed everyone. My parents decided that we should just make them both. I remember munching on my potatoes and, as my dad came into the room, he announced "We have chuck and cluck." I was confused, and then he explained. "Seafood with beef if surf and turf, sicne one's form the water and the other is on the ground. So I'm calling beef with chicken chuck and cluck, since chuck is a kind of beef and chickens cluck." I remember being hilariously amused by this thought.

The name "chuck and cluck" continues to this day at any family event involving both beef and chicken. I bring this up because tonight I had a small piece of beef and small piece of chicken, neither enough for my dinner, and so I cut them both up to made chuck and cluck stir fry. It took me until I was almost done eating to realize that, one, hardly anybody makes such mixes of meat (Chinese three-delight is often beef, chicken and shrimp, but my mix had no shrimp), and, two, among those who do many probably do not call it chuck and cluck. All along I had been using that name for it.

13 June 2006

Soiled Jerseys and Keystones Askew

Why are the people in my area of Pennsylvania full of crappy attitudes and bad driving? Because this is actually New Jersey!

How do I know that? Look here. The chart at the bottom lists one area as "Newark NJ-PA." Let's disregard the farmland and rolling hills between, say, Newark and Clinton. Oh no, those don't matter. Newark extends from where it is alllll the way to Hazelton. Yep. A little birdie told me so.

That said, if Newark extends into PA, how the fudge does Allentown extend into New Jersey?

Je deteste le projet perpetuel

I've sent the Stupid Presentation to my advisor. You all might remember the Content-Free Poster, which is in my office if you haven't seen it. It wasn't really content-free but that was its name, the Content-Free Poster. Along with putting the final touches on the paper for Project I, the Content-Free Project (and I'm sure I'm not done with it bceause it does need to be reviewed), I've also been preparing a presentation on Project II, le projet perpetuel. Project II acquired that name because it's taking forever and a half. Three months ago I presented what I had up to that time, and three months later (that would be now) I have two more points to show for it.

I've had to modify the presentation from March to contain what I'm going to do to get more points sometime like July 2009. That's nice and all, but those extra two points took about nine days. In fact, the points I presented in March took about 30 days, even though I had simulations running for many days since last November. If I could get the beowulf cluster to work, I'd have been done by last February (intentional tense dissonance), brute force. But now I need to talk about this fancy-pants method for getting more points, and that's more programs that I need to play with. So next week I need to talk about that method. That's no problem except that I don't want to talk about it until I try it, and I can't try it until I have code. But I don't have time to write code, so I need to get code. And I have a source for almost the code that I need, but today was day number three, not in a row, that he said he'd send it and then forgot.

You can see why this is le projet perpetuel. I've been working on it since November and have nothing worth publishing. That's not because it's impossible, it's because there are these nitty little things, like taking a month and a half to explain to my advisor that the fancy-pants method would possibly be useful and taking a week beating up a cluster (and two weeks editing my source code to run on that cluster) without getting it to run, then running on my home computer for a week to get a couple of points brute-force to show what I was talking about, plus maybe two weeks of harping on it to get it noticed and then weeks to get the code for the fancy pants method, did mention I still haven't gotten it?, and then maybe a week or two editing and debugging that and then figuring out how to use it, not to mention figuring out how to debug it because it has parallel programming crap coming out it's wazoo. And on top of just doing the work to finish the project, I need to spend more time working on it, writing the Stupid Presentation covering what I'm going to do, which would not be too bad except that there are people who will hear me next week who heard me in March and will wonder why in Sam Hill I haven't just done it already. And so on.

This is why I hate science.

12 June 2006

Quantum Mechanics SU(X)

Well, I still think that joke is funny.

(Embarassing moment as my adviser walks by my office and stops by to talk. What's he doing down here?)

While reading some of the finer points in the rules of Mornington Crescent, like trump nine moves to Haymarket (except when played after a twirlie or a long haul, but I'll spare you the complete details), I was reminded of a card game popular in college called Durak.

Actually, it wasn't popular in college, it was popular in my dorm, Saint. And actually it wasn't popular in Saint, it was popular on my floor of five semesters, Saint 3. The only floors on campus with fewer people were Saint 1 and Elliot 1, although Saint 2 and Elliot 2 and 3 were running for that record, as well as Evans 1. ("Wait, what?" many Wheaton people say. "There was an Evans 1?" No, there is an Evans 1.) And come to think of it, I think Durak was only popular among fewer than ten of the guys on Saint 3, the RA included, and only during one of my years there. I was not one of those who played, but since the RA's room was also the floor lounge, I witnessed many a game of Durak over mixed drinks (like Sprite and Coke; I know that you all were told that Saint was for Druggies, Losers, and Weirdos but you were only right about the last item) and debate on the Topic of the Night.

Anyway, for those interested in Durak, the rules can be found places like here.

For those who prefer Mornington Crescent, you can always get us started here in the comments and we can maybe have a good time. Just start off with a valid handle, okay? And no tipping left, at least not to open (house rules).

10 June 2006

Big News

Finding backpacks for someone my size is just as bad as finding shoes. They seem to all be tall and skinny or short and fat. Every pack I can find that comes long enough has a hip belt that is too small, and every pack that I can find with a big enough hip belt is too short. I'm amazed that there is so much out there for the person with a 20 inch torso and a 46 inch waist and the 24 inch torso with a 36 inch waist. Doesnt' leave those of us with 23 inch torsos and 44 inch waists very many options. Perhaps there are some models out there, but three quarters of online retailers are more interested in a pretty picture to sell things than in giving measurements, and oddball companies come on page 729 of most searches.

So I think I'm going to cry. And then I'm going to buy a buttload of silnylon, some nylon thread, some silicone sealant, and some aluminium tubes, and just make myself a fricking backpack. Anyone who has seen my woodworking will now groan loudly.

Wish me luck tomorrow. I'm running some sound equipment for a wedding at my church, and it's, well, as "Aaaaargh!" as usual for such an event. This is my first wedding since 1997 and I had forgotten how much I don't like it. Highlights include a soloist who is worried about whether she was singing in baalance with the keyboard, as if I can't turn her volume up and down, and patching together a series of cords and adapters to get a female 1/8 inch output run across the room to a female 1/4 inch input (not a standard run for our equipment). I hope that works. The worst part, though, is that it's time consuming. Two and a half hours tonight, and then at least four tomorrow. My pay rate is whatever I get since I'm doing it on behalf of the church, not freelance (my rates are cheap, $20 an hour, but I've never had to charge anyone because I don't advertise and therefore have no work), and this isn't the kind of church where money flies hither and yon in large bundles.

In the end it will be a rewarding experience, but right now I'm in the lead-up so I'm just cranky, cranky, cranky about it. And being tall and fat while trying to relax by shopping for items not made for tall and fat people isn't helping.

09 June 2006

Little Bits (An Update)

--A friend came to visit recently twice. He's a fellow that went to college with my sister-in-law, and he has been on Road Trip 2006. He was here last week Thursday into Friday and this week Tuesday into Thursday. He got to head off to the Pub for the Weekely Cheep Dinner twice with us and the Fiziks Boyz. And he makes a really mean lasagna with lots of kick. The sight of a Jewish vegetarian handling hot sausage was my week's worth of visual irony (and I'm sure I can find something about service for friends in there, too). (PLEASE stop thinking what I think you're thinking, perverts!) It was really great having him here, as he's just as much fun and just as smart as my gang of college friends. Had he gone to my college and had we met him, he would have fit right in. I can even forgive him for liking Atlanta.

--Sam the Eagle made it safely to Houston, and his adventures continue.

--My trail maps came today! The money I put down included a platic bag to hold them all. The guidebook is impressive, especially because it shows things by distance going different directions on the trail. While the things are the same, the descriptions are sometime different depending on the direction. There is also a great introductory section with information on local geology/geography history along the trail and in southeast and central Pennsylvania. There's nothing really deep. It's basically the nerdy little bits of the sort that I drone on about to houseguests who almost always care not to hear it (which is why I try not to get statrted on the subject). But there's still things in there for me to learn. So now I have Places to Explore and more brain tat to bore you people :)

--Lots to Do! I'll be back from Colorado in two weeks, which means I have less than two weeks to get my presentation ready. I've also got a paper to finish and a program to start writing for Project III, as well as le projet perpetuel which will require some scavanged code from a former research group member. We have an undergrad for the summer so I'm helpeing her get set up, and my fellow research group members are working on modifying current group programs for their own variations of Project III.

06 June 2006

Joe Versus the Volcano

Actually, it's Me Versus the Centipede. And the little rascal is winning. I saw her up on the wall a while ago, and she evaded my deadly slapping maneuver. She's been hiding out behind the desk and the poster above the desk, darting from hideout to hideout. I've been cathing glimpses in the corner of my eye as I surf the web, a hundred legs zipping here and zipping there on the wall. I'm sorry I need to say it, but this is one time I wish I was dealing with a silverfish. Centipedes are one of the only things I hate more than silverfish. Centipedes and anything else that bites and can move faster than I can. Scorpions and vipers coem to mind as potentially being worse, as well as nasty jumping spiders and were-rabbits.

In other news, I bought a set of trail maps this evening. Hooray! Now I can go about planning hikes that I'll never have time to take. My wife can't come with me due to her bum knee (which the doctor told her was, one, not a genetic problem at all, and, two, imaginary numbness since there is nothing in a knee to make it numb; this doctor also sent one of my friends home twice while he was having a fatal reaction to nuts, so I don't trust him worth a wink, but he's what you get when you're a student at our school). And no matter how hard I try, every day of my life this summer is full of one annoying mid-day activity that needs to be done for an hour or less smack-dab in the middle of what could be the better part of a day spent wandering among the trees and birdies. I'd include babbling brooks but we really don't have those where I plan to hike.

Anyway, once the maps get here, and I got the bigger set because the profits go towards helping the trails and it might be fun to go off to some other place that I can't see from home, I'll be able to imagine myself gliding softly through forests, making merriment and doing all those other elf-like things that Peter says I don't actually do. I mean, if I'm not actually going to be hiking, I might as well make up good fantasies. The other fantasy is the one where I can get all the backpacking equipment I want for cheap so that I can actually go out overnight. My size is a factor, severly limiting my choices in packs and footwear and slightly annoying my choices in tents and sleeping bags. Right now it's small hikes only, me in my Nikes with a little generic Jansport daypack carrying food and the half a ton of water that I need every stinking hour outside of winter. I'll add all the gear to the list with the other things I want and won't ever get. But at least I have maps on the way, nice shiny maps. Sorry they were so expensive, honey.

And I think I'm the only person on Earth with a demagnetized compass. It might, however, be pointing me to the centipede. Stupid vermin.


02 June 2006

Folk Weather

What's up with folky climate prediction? Why do even scientists I know participate?

"It was a hot summer so we'll have a cold winter" is one of my favorites, due to another folk prediction that says "It was a cold winter, so we'll have a hot summer." Consider this-- If it were really true that X winters led to Y summers and then that Y summers led to X winters, we would not have Y winters and X summers. Even if the pattern were more complicated, there would still be a cycle. There isn't a predicatable cycle, though. Many models have looked right at first but then they always go wrong somewhere, sometime, in predicting a phenomenon that continues to look like dumb luck. Yes, we know, for example, what Pacific Ocean currents usually do to the weather in the US and Canada. But that's only what the currents usually do, not what the currents always do. And even then it's a crapshoot from year to year about whether the currents will do their thing or not. Local climate is indeed a natural phenomenon, but statistically it still looks like a crapshoot.

This reminds me of all the studies that show no statistical significance in most events commonly thought to increase during full moons. Weekends have been shown to have a much higher effect than full moons on things like emergency room visits, traffic accidents, and impatience at the grocery store. People who work in the emergency room, on the beat, or at the stores think differently, but they are wrong. When confronted with the thought that this phenomenon has been studied and shown insignificant, those same people say that the studies really are right, except for the situation that they personally deal with. Cops will say that it might be true that the people in the grocery store are no crankier, but they will insist that the crime correlation exists. Grocery store workers will concede that maybe the crime doesn't actually change, but the people in the store really are crankier. Everyone else's personal experiences are subject to questioning, but how dare someone say that mine are?

This comes up because it give me an answer as to why even scientists play folk forcaster. We all deal with the weather.

01 June 2006

Auto Racing Is Cool

On the day before Memorial Day I was at my dad's place. My sister and brother were there. Much to my wife's displeasure, the day before Memorial Day is a day of 1100 miles of auto racing, the Indianapolis 500 for IRL and a 600 mile race at Lowe's in Charlotte for NASCAR. These races are both longer than the cars are really meant to go, making them exciting. Most IRL races are 300 miles or less, and most NASCAR races are 500 miles or less.

My sister and I were close to praising the virtues of the mind that auto racing highlights. Close, but not quite on it. We both understand that racing is a thinking sport. I call it a sport for lack of a better word, and because they're all buff. It's layered, too. If you want to see a boring event where cars go in circles, that's what you get. If you want to see crashes inturrupting cars going in circles, that's what you get. If you want a hyped up drama, that's what you get. If you want to see technical points in engineering and strategy, that's what you get. You get what you look for. We take arather nuaced look.

Racing is best live. My sister and I would go to a races if we could get cheep tickets. It's loud. Very loud. You can meet all kinds of people, from white trash republicans to ritzy rich republicans. Sometimes democrats go, too. Medium tracks are the most fun, in my opinion. Small tracks are slow, quite slow for IRL and demolition derbies for NASCAR. Large track races have lower, more equal accelerations between the cars, especially in NASCAR. Crashes are far more ominous live, though. On TV it's like a video game. At the track it's wrenching sounds of metal and concrete. I've seen a few dragster engines blow, and I saw a stock car bite a wall backwards. The sound is delayed by the distance, of course, especialy for medium and large tracks.

Anyway, the day before Memorial Day was a good day for our favorite drivers. I'm the IRL guy and cheer for team Penske, as any good Reading native should (although it's heresy up here in Andretti country). Castroneves dropped out in an accident before the halfway point. Hornish got himself a black flag for driving in the pit with the fuel nozzle attached to the car. Alcohol spurted everywhere. Chaos erupted. Water flew all over (the alcohol fuel burns clear and smokeless). But Hornish was running fast and came out in the top four by the restart with ten laps remaining. After passing Michael Andretti he tried for a pass on Marco Andretti and missed, but after dropping back, far enough that I gave up on it, he managed to come around Marco on the final straight to win. I did the Happy Belly Dance.

NASCAR confuses me a little more and I wasn't exactly watching that race. There's this hunk named Kasey Khane that my sister keeps track of, and he won the Coca-Cola 600. My sister didn't want to do the Happy Belly Dance, so I did it for her. I don't think I've done the Happy Belly Dance since Castroneves and de Ferran were 1-2 in the Indy 500 a few years back. Sucks to be an auto racing fan without cable.

Oh, to actually see the Michigan Indy 400 live! How happy that would make me I cannot express. I mean, it's not like I can go to Nazareth anymore. (I was only there once, though, for a NASCAR Busch race. The year I was going to go to the IRL race and then didn't I would have been Happy Belly Dancing.)

I'll just sneak in here that I'm finally reading Roger's Version by John Updike. I just finished my fourth pass through The Sum of All Fears, my favorite Tom Clancy novel and one that anyone who saw the awful movie by the same name that was "adapted" form the book should read, to see how good the movie could have been. I have an itch to read Debt of Honor again now, and I've never in the past ten years lost my tiny urge to re-read The Cardinal of the Kremlin. Tom Clancy comes up because I think I've read 12 of his books and now I'm on my 11th Updike book, which means that I need to give Updike some more time. Of course, Tom Clancy may have another Ryan book coming out at the end of the summer, adn I still haven't read Teeth of the Tiger. I also need to finish The Cult of Personality Testing and something else that I was workign on but never finished... what was that? I'll figure it out.