My Zunivers

31 July 2006

Sermons and Snacks

Alternate title: "One Of My Worst Puns Ever"

Yesterday I was assisting a new underling in the church audio-visual world with the proper use of a mixing console (some of you know it as a "sound board") for live mixing in an acoustically dull (meaning there's not much happening that requires a mix; a mute button for the solist would have been nice) space. This lad's dad was preaching, which led to great tangents of conversation with the lad.

At the beginning of the sermon the lad's dad brought up Pheidippides for some reason, surprisingly one that had not much to do with I Corinthians 9, II Timothy 4, or Hebrews 12, at least not that I noticed. Of course, I wasn't exactly paying attention.

I leaned over to the lad and said "I have pretzels [gesture right hand]. I have melted chocolate [guesture left hand]. If I dippa these [gesture right hand], I get chocolate covered pretzels."

The world will now self destruct.

29 July 2006

Glassworking

The Banana Factory opening the Lehigh Valley's first glass studio, and to top it all James Harmon will be the creative director. That rocks! The studio will be rented to artists and will host lessons and, hopefully, special events where people like me but with more money can go watch glassblowers do their work.

I can't exactly afford the ~$500 for an eight week evening glassblowing class, but life's like that. And as much as I've always dreamed of blowing glass-- I'm constantly told I'm full of hot air, so I'd like to compare my "get the balloon that no one else can inflate blown up" talents to some real lungs-- I really don't have any artistic talent. Or physical dexterity. I can imagine myself accidently throwing eight pounds of glowing hot borosilicate into someone's head. It wouldn't be pretty. It wouldn't have been anyway.

28 July 2006

My Wife Says I'm A Picky Eater

This has nothing to do with food, though.

I think the structure discussed here is kind of cool.

This article gives me an example of not-quite-correct journalism.

The galaxies within the newly found structure are packed together four times closer than the universe's average.

Somewhere on my bookshelf I have a book where Terrence Dickinson points out, correctly, that if a person were randomly dropped into 99.99% (or some number of nines) of the known universe, the person would see nothing but absolute darkness wiht an unaided eye. That's how empty the universe is. (Considering how many people I know, even scientists, believe the claim that the Sun looks like just another star as seen from Pluto, another myth, I'm surprised that they squawk so much about hearing that the universe is pretty dimly lit overall. That's a discussion for another day, though.) So I don't think that this structure has galaxies packed four times more closely than the universe's average. The local group beats that by a lot. I think it has galaxies packed four times more closely than the average closeness in the places that actually have galaxies.

I know I'm being picky here, but the ideas I'm grappling wiht right now in my research have to do with the differences between local densities and sysztem densities, so it's on my mind.

And of course I'm fillling in the information just one way. It could read

The galaxies within the newly found structure are packed together four times closer than the universe's average [overall density of packing].

or

The galaxies within the newly found structure are packed together four times closer than the [density of packing found over the observable regions of the] universe's [sic] average[d].

One of those is right and one is wrong. Scientists don't tend towards descriptions that are rather dry and wordy just for fun. They do it so you can actually know what is going on.

I'm also sad that the article seems to contrast the opinion that the gas bubbles are the result of dying stars and that the gas bubbles are proto-galaxies. My guess is that both are correct.

Breastfeeding Again

I once wrote a post here about breastfeeding in public, how I find nothing sexual about it, and how I think prudes just need to get over themselves. It was received well by my female readers at the time. Of course, that post wasn't only about breastfeeding, but also about the cattiness of some pregnant women and mothers of young children. Since most of my female readers are my friends and since I don't waste much time being friends with catty women, this is all self consistent and cool rather than revealing.

Reading CNN today, I can't help but notice that Baby Talk has stirred up quite a bit of, well, something. On the August 2006 cover there is a suckling baby and more than a bit of boobage.

The CNN article is, of course, standard unenlightening this-side that-side bullcrap that we expect from major news media. It contains all the buzz-things-- poll results (a whole quarter of Baby Talk readers are bothered by the cover), discussions of how breastfeeding is a "personal matter" (with no explanations to why a personal matter can cause such an uproar without being more than a personal matter), discussion of celebrities (including nursing bras they wear, as if we give a hoot or it matters to the debate), men are visual so don't show them your body parts (seeing does not facilitate sexual stimulation, it is sexual stimulation, they say; I hadn't known), and so on.

And what would an article about breastfeeding be without that most trite of breastfeeding phrases, "whipping it out"? "Whipping it out" sounds really cheesy to me, as if breastfeeding women are standing at the edges of town at high noon practicing the quick-draw with their six shooters but managing to repeatedly pull out their breasts instead. I only tolerate it simply because of its similarity to "whipping a dead horse," which I think is exactly what is being done when the breastfeeding controversy reaches a point where someone must use the term "whipping it out."

I personally think that I should get a copy of this issue of Baby Talk, frame it, and carry it with me everywhere I go. When I hear someone complaian about women breastfeeding in public I'll hold up Baby Talk and say "Did it look like this?" If there is less skin than shown then I wouldn't be bothered. And I woudl like to read the article. I notice that CNN says basically nothing of the baby Talk issue's content.

If you really think breastfeeding is so sexual, go pour through the porn industry's offerings and find all the pictures of breastfeeding women that are published to excite men. I hope that the amount you find tells you something.

27 July 2006

What I Did Today

I went to school and had cake.

I went to a practice talk by our REU student and had fun.

I met with my adviser.

I came home.

I read.

I ate pork with lots of mushrooms.

I proved that 1/x is linear in x. There went that research idea.

I got online to sulk.

I realized why I should have known geometrically that my idea showed that 1/x is linear in x.

I got more depressed.

I discovered (via StatCounter) that this blog is on the first page of Google results when searching for itching perenium.

I wondered what that implied about my research.

25 July 2006

Telephone Problems

Anyone know how to hot wire an ancient Western Electric household NID? I mean the kind with wires that are so old nobody can tell what colors they are anymore? The kind intended for hard wired phones? The kind with a big cap in the middle that you unscrew to find a sandwhich of materials unknown? The kind that's never heard of RJ-11 and would pee itself if someone said RJ-45 in its presence? The kind that probably doesn't even know it is a NID?

(FYI: No, it's not in my apartment, it's in my Dad's house.)

24 July 2006

Lub-dub

My dad is in the hospital with some heart issues, so I'm going to go see him tomorrow. I hate hospitals, even the not-so-smelly ones like St. Luke's (which is not where my dad is staying, although I did visit there right after my friend had a baby. While I was there everyone kept asking me if I was okay. I was in a hospital, okay, so I was not okay, okay? Some of us just get creeped out by hospitals! Deal with it, even if "it" is funny looks on my face, like I'm high... or constipated...), but I like him enough that I'll go.

I talked to Dad on the phone today and he's been bored out of his mind. He's not supposed to move around a lot. When we talked the best guess we could come up with for the reason behind this minimal motion business was that they forgot to put the stabilizers in the nitroglycerin patch. After all, the hospital can afford to lose a cardiac patient or two from a heart attack, but losing a whole room full of equipment in a violent explosion is more than they can stand. And think of the lawsuits! (Now you can guess where I get it from.)

Tomorrow he'll be even more bored than the past two days. He's gettin' the ol' heart scoping up the groin and he'll need to stay flat for at least a few hours afterwards. That means that one of his main sources of entertainment, playing with the bed controls (once again, you can guess where I get it from), won't be an option. And if the TV is in the wrong place it won't be an option either, which is too bad because the Brady Bunch marathon is finally over.

All jesting aside, I do hope Dad gets better soon. I shamelessly solicit your get-well comments, too.

23 July 2006

The Only Thing They Forgot

is that Italian food hardly qualifies as food. The synthetic version is about as edible as the real thing.

Update: The article on Barney is pretty good.

22 July 2006

My Night

After my wife went to bed, my life went somethign like this...

Snack. Then a second snack.

Dig through piles of music and find nothing worth listening to. End up with U2's Joshua Tree on just to see how long I can listen without puking. Bullet The Blue Sky pushes me over the edge. I then listen to Vangelis' Mythodea for a while. (You all say "What? Who? What?" I giggle.) Now I'm listening to-- you guessed it-- Beethoven's Missa Solemnis and I'm actually happy with it. Except that I listen to parts of this stinking mass every day. After the Gloria I might pull out Roch Voisine's chaque feu... (European album) for a little French pop action. You know, hit songs like "Je resterai la." Yes, I own a French pop album, even if half his albums are in English. So sue me. At least I didn't buy Edith Piaf like most French nerds, although I do have two Francis Cabrel albums (Samedi soir sur la terre and Hors saisons).

I then went to Amazon to add a book to my wish list, and it won't add.

So I went to look up it and a few others in the library catalog, and the university library catalog is down.

So I went to look up those books in the public library catalog, and the public library catalog is down. In fact, half the public library's website doesn't even work.

And now I'm stuck her listening to Roch Voisine going on and on... J'ai l'espoir que ta route croise la mienne, que dans un soir de doute tu reviennes. J'ai l'espoir que ta route croise la mienne, que quelque part tu m'écoutes que ta peau, se souvienne, and I'm thinking to myself "Gee, Roch, that's great, but I don't swing that way, so I think you got the wrong guy. My peau doesn't really like souvienning guys like you, or any guys." I know that sounds dirty to you who don't know French, and who do, but no matter what your level of French if you're finding me totally perverted then consider yourself lucky that I'm not making fun of this line from a song on the Canadian release of the album-- "Juste comme un homme." The level of puns I made in that last statement, between the translated and untranslated words with and without certain parts of the context here and in the songs, is probably a fractal, which amuses me greatly. It also means that not a single one of you laughed, even on the inside.

Back on topic, at least Mourir les sirènes has bagpipes.

On second thought, I think I'll break out the Francis Cabrel now. Except that now I'm thinking puns, and that song of his Hell Nep Avenue, a title-pun that I've found most amusing since I first got it.

Or maybe I'll go to bed.

21 July 2006

Lame Joke

After giving his patient a checkup, the doctor declares he has bad news and worse news.

"What is the bad news?" asked the man.

"You have cancer," says the doc.

"If that is the bad news, what could be worse?" he than asked.

The doc replies, "You also have Alzheimer's."

"Well," sighs the patient, "at least I don't have cancer."

[Thanks, Dad! You made my day :)]

20 July 2006

What Is The Religious Right?

I was going to post this over at This Party but we've been neglecting that blog for a while and nobody reads it. Chicken and egg. Mmmmm! I like chicken omelettes! I usually put in a lot of basil and some onion, and mushrooms and cheese.

Anyway, what answers do you have for the title's question?

One answer put forward to me recently was "People who don't support abortion or gay marriage." While I would agree that those are two opinions held by the "religious right," I also know that there are people who agree with one or both of those statements, especially Anglo-Catholics, who would probably kill themselves if they were told that having those two views put them in the same "religious right" bin as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.

I also know that many define the "religious right" as "Christian fundamentalists," but there is more to it than fundamentalism as a belief. A fundamentalist view of the Bible does not mandate things like a pledge to the American flag saying "under God" or removing evolution from schools (the pre "teach the controversy" goal). Having a "fundamentalist Christian worldview" might be a part of being in the "religious right" but that can't be all of it, unless you wrap up how beliefs are applied as a part of the worldview and then necessarily connect the beliefs to the applications. (This might be too strict a requirement, though. Ethics has never been my thing, I'm an epistemology-metaphysics kind of guy, so philosophers might say I'm pushing too hard.)

I've heard many definitions that define the "religious right" as "conservatives" who are religious. But "conservative" is itself a poorly defined term, so I'm not buying it. And a few definitions I saw included pointing out that conservatism was the political right, which basically means that they used several sentences to say that the "religious right" is the "religious right in politics." That's of no bloody use.

I bring this up because I think the term "religious right" is one used more often by those who see themselves as not being a part of it than those who supposedly are (whoever they are), and they get away with using it only because nobody bothers to question exactly what it means. In other words, it's merely rhetoric that cannot accurately explain the real world but that gets swallowed without question as part of discussions of culture.

At the same time, though, rhetoric has the same power as any other art. We might not be able to solidly define something but that doesn't make the thing unreal or incomprehensible. Maybe the "religious right" is something that we broadly know what it is even though we can't define it, just like "conservative" and "liberal"? Do we really "know," or is it rhetoric that gets interpreted, like a painting where we each have our own interpretations and, dare I say, emotional responses?

19 July 2006

Bye-Bye Buildings

Thanks to Alysia (why don't I have a link to her blog here? I'll work on that), I now have heard that the inevitable is coming true. They're taking down my old dorm Saint Hall and its sister Elliot Hall at Wheaton. (Okay, the "sister" part is a reflection of when I lived there. They were all mens dorms for a time, and then they used to switch between being women's and men's based on the genders of the people in charge. I think two and three years before I was there Saints was the women's dorm and Elliot was the men's dorm. I don't know about before then or since I've graduated.)

I lived on Saint 3 for five semesters. We who lived there used to complain about the places where the plaster was falling off the walls, true, but many of us had a great sense of community, the kind that can only come from being the "farthest" dorms from the main part of campus, the smallest dorms on campus, the closest to the physical plant (and thus the first to be awakened by snowblowers and lawnmowers in their seasons), the closest to the train tracks.... And that second toilet in the north bathroom, the one that threw out its contents in ahuge swilring whoosh, was a fun gag for newbies and visitors. The Toilet of Doom, we called it, an artifact of the unbalanced water pressure between the north and south bathrooms. If you wanted a shower, go north. If you wanted to take a dump, go south, or to the first toilet in the north. Come to think of it, we had more facilities per person than almost any dorm on campus. I never had to wait for anything.

We had a narrow hallway that was really great for soccer. The goals were the fire alarm bars on the doors at each end of the hall. These bars were hooked up only to a buzzer on the door, not to the whole building alarm system, and the GRA had a key for them, so they were great fun. It was the kind of place when RAs didn't tell you there was going to be a fire drill or a raid from our sister floor (the venerable Elliot 3) but did tell you not to get in the shower because you'd regret it. In fact, the RA rooms doubled as floor lounges, so we got to know the RAs really well. Durak games were quite common my second year. And the whole dorm settled down to a quiet lull before midnight, leaving me and my roommate, both night owls, with plenty of quiet time to study and enjoy some classical music (he was the producer for the college station's classical program, so we had full access to the library's CD collection). Rumor had it that Saint and Elliot were for druggies, losers, and weirdos, but a quick look back reveals that only the last point was correct. The druggies were in Terrace, College Avenue, Crescent, and Michigan apartments and the losers were in the other dorms (except Williston).

Saint and Elliot had many of the single rooms on campus, but most people who wanted a single room put down other dorms as their first choice. I knew many people who moved there involuntarily and then liked it so much that they stayed for two or more years. In fact, I ended up there because I was the sophomore part of a sophomore-junior pair, a rare combination and the lowest point one could be for upperclass housing (because there was a junior the upperclass housing was our only choice). My roommate and I stayed because our double, like all but two doubles in each building, was actually a pair of single rooms with an open doorway between them at one end. One look at our laundry and bathing habits tells you that this arrangement was a Good Thing, and we held onto that same pair of rooms the next year. My final year we ended up with a house that was one person smaller than anticipated. I was the short straw for that situation, slotted for Jordana's Husbandlet's spot (he was finished in December) in the spring, so, having planned on living single on Saint 3 anyway before the offer came up, I spent one last semester in a single room. And being one of the only returnign Seniors that year, I indeed got the room I wanted, the single right next door to my old double.

About two years ago I sat at the picnic table under the trees on our fair Saint-Elliot quad looking up at my old windows and knowing that I'd probably never sit there to see them again. I thought it would be another year or two before the dorms were removed, but apparently this summer is the time. Little noise was made about it except for a note or two in the newsletter for parents, not one of my regular reads. The name of Saint-Elliot has been given to some apartments recently acquired by the college (the buildings at the corner of President and University, behind Bethany Chapel), which takes the names a bit further from the parts of campus named for McCully but keeps them alive. So we who loved the place are left with only memories, which are the most important part anyway.

I'll miss you, little dorm. I hope the ground on which you stood goes to some good use.

Quiet Times

Even though you folks have been reading, I haven't been posting much worth your leaving comments. Just random balabberings about life and how much I like some of it and hate the rest. (I won't bother you with details the program I'm writing right now as a precursor to Project III.)

So how about this-- _________________

Discuss.

Ahem. That out of my system, anyone want to play Mornington Crescent. Or am I the only person so inclined among us? Or am I the only person here who even knows what in Sam Hill "Mornington Crescent" is?

17 July 2006

The Wedding: I Survived

This weekend's wedding went really well. The Rehearsal was good, since it was a small affair overall. I arrived at the church almost an hour early, which was no problem because about a minute later the groom's brother also arrived. The groom's brother is the youth pastor at the church and he gave me a full tour. I really like the facility. The church is located in an industrial area off route 61 just south of Leesport, PA, and the whole place is quite contemporary. There's lots of space and an usine nouvelle styling to the architecture. The church is quite new, in fact. They started services in the past year and this was the first wedding. So we got things mostly set up that afternoon.

That evening we had the rehearsal dinner, a nice family-like affair at the groom's parents' house near New Tripoli. Family it was, really. Besides the bride, groom, and pastor we had the bride's mom, stepfather, brother, and sister (the maid of honor), the groom's mom, dad, and brother, and me. I've always been like family at their house, with access rights to even the "messy" rooms and as much ability to make a run on the fridge as the boys. In fact, it was the hospitality there that inspired the rule I give my friends now-- The first time you come over we ask you what you want, the second time you're over you ask us for what you want, and the third time you're over you can go get it for yourself. So I felt right at home among old a new friends, including doing some butt kicking at Balderdash. (Poonac, people. It's all about the poonac.) After the rehearsal dinner the groom and his brother and I went mini golfing at Bear Rock Junction in New Triopli, on a course that kicked our butts. You locals really should go out there and give their courses a try. Very technical holes. I got home just before midnight and packed my bags in case I didn't make it home Friday night.

Friday I got up early and went back to New Tripoli to meet Mr. Groom and run errands. His car was in the shop (tie bar) so we grabbed his parents minivan and headed off into the wilds of Schuylkill County. We had a few things to do, including picking up some items from the happy couple's apartment, hanging signs to direct reception goers (the wedding was in Leesport but the reception was just outside of Saint Clair), buying things that needed to be bought for said signs et al, taking my rental tux back into the shop for advice on the wrong-sized-vest SNAFU, grabbing lunch, predecorating some cars, transporting a few things down to the church, and then back to the groom's house for supper, not all in that order exactly. We also had lots of time to talk about the whole range of normal subjects and some not so normal ones.

I had a groom to calm once we were home, so we ended up playing a game of MechWarrior (the tabletop miniatures version) for a few hours after dinner. In fact, the groom is selling a good chunk of his collection and gave me a big pile of game pieces. Good ones, too :) It was late enough when we were done that I was glad to have packed my bag. I stayed on the couch downstairs and tried to sleep. Although I did get a few hours of sound sleep I was sitting up late remembering all the other times I had been in that room and in that house. I've spent quite a lot of time there in the past 17 years. At most it was only a few days every few months (this sleepover was the first in six or seven years) but all of my memories are good ones. Good times included games, water battles, playign army, movies, the dogs, water battles, applesauce birthday cake, smoke and flames, getting headaches from model glue and paint, baseball cards, water battles, playing army, and so on. It was good to be there with my pal for one last sleepover.

Saturday morning it was game time. The cereal and muffins were out, hair and clothing getting prepared, bags being finally packed, tuxedos partially donned (well, mine was partial, since I was driving the groom and myself to Leesport, it was humid and hot and the car doesn't have AC), a few random relatives arriving, and then a run for the doors so we would have plenty of time to get there. And it's good we had it. Forty minutes on 22 to go from Lenhartsville to Route 61. Somebody at PennDot decided that dispite the torrential rain showers and the fact that it was a weekend, Saturday would be a great day to start a construction project that blocked one lane (or two) each way for the crane. Sigh. We got there half an hour later than we expected but we were still early. My wife also got there, dropped off by her family, directly from Maryland (Friday was the end of the Tennessee Camping Expedition 2006, Air Conditioned Cabin Version). She took her position by the sign-in table, I threw on my tux, straightened some ties and collars on everyone else's, stayed out of the argument about which side the guys' flowers go on, and followed around the groom to make sure that he didn't leave or become a nervous wreck or deck anyone for saying something stupid.

And then we realized we didn't have the ring.

Oh, if only life really was so much fun!

The rings were there and the people were there and it was time to get the show moving, but we started late to wait for relatives trapped on 22 in the traffic. The wedding was nice and calm, as was the tear-down time afterwards. We all went up to the reception and had a good time. I deferred the toast to the bride's stepfather, but right before that I threw in a few words about the groom and our friendship since forever ago. I could have told embarassing stories, but all of the embarassing stories I have about him are either not the kind of thing to be said in polite company (I know some particularly good ones that involve genitalia) or are things that you only understand knowing both of us, so I defaulted to a few kind words for them both-- kind words that later forced me to dance, but hey, it was worth it.

The band played as we were there. The band even played Folsum Prison Blues, the greatest Johnny Cash song ever (I've had many people argue that this is not true; I think they're dumb or, if the option they support isn't Man in Black or Ring of Fire, lying). The bride's stepdad pulled out the accordian and jammed with the band. Polka time! I got to see some cousins and aunts and uncles (of the groom) that I haven't seen in ages. There were leftovers to take home. (I came clean on my promise not to let the groom's brother and cousins do anything to his car. His brother did help, but I get off on a technicality. It was his mom that had us do it, and I'll never tell someone to disobey his own mother! And I never said that I wouldn't do anything to the car.) There was merriment all around, but also a relief that things were finally winding down. My wife and I were the first seriously involved people to leave, hopefully not too early, and we had a relaxing drive home. I didn't want to take 22, so we went 209 to 309.

So my best friend finally got married. It was one of the happiest times in my life, right up there with when my little brother was born and when I finished my last exam. After I give those two crazy kids time to get their sex over with, to be blunt about it, we'll go over to visit them or have them over here or something. I know they are very interested in the fall concert that my choir is doing (Orff's Carmina Burana), but we should see them before then.

Sometime soon I'll write a post about a serious subject. I've mostly been talking about my life for the past two months, but life is winding down. I'll have more time to think now that the month of insanity is over. It's gone by so fast, too. Four weeks ago I was in Colorado wondering whether I'd survive it. I survived and I even got some work done last week. Now it's back to the races, if I can survive the weather. The forecast for tomorrow is 99 here. I can't work well when it's hot. Fall and winter, my productive times, are fast approaching, though, so what I really need to do is set up to take advantage of that. Even so, I'll still have more time now for thinking.

12 July 2006

Wedding Bells Are Coming

My good buddy's wedding is on Saturday, and the rehearsal is tomorrow. Don't ask why. (I say that because nearly everyone I have talked to about it has said "Not on Friday?")

I remember my wedding rehearsal well. Actually I don't. I hadn't eaten anything all day, and the church wedding coordinater didn't help any. She annoyed the crap out of me. I recall she was a little too focused on telling me what to do and a little unfocused on telling my wife what to do, which was annoying the crap out of me because I had been to half a dozen wedding rehearsals and a few more weddings, mosly behind a mixing console but there paying constant attention, and knew how everything worked, to within minor details. In fact, I've been involved as an attendant in one other wedding since, and the wedding coordinaters there, plural, treated the menfolk similarly. I guess I've just been cursed with having too much wedding knowledge for my own good.

Come to think of it, I just really hate wedding rehearsals.

Rehearsal dinners, on the other hand, rock, and that will be tomorrow also. I consider them a reward for having attended the rehearsal and have happily attended every one to which I was ever invited, except for one. I was in high school then and didn't value free food as much, I guess. That and my mom had to drive and we had other things to do.

Friday I will be doing who knows what exactly. I think we need to pick up some tuxedos. We also need to decorate the church sometime before Saturday. And I need to be a voice of reason to my friends to calm down, something that many people can't seem to do before their weddings. I talked to the groom last night for just a few minutes and he's got the usual jitters, or anxiousness, or whatever. There might be some unusual stuff, too, but last night wasn't a good time or place for me to check on that. At any rate, we do need to calm them down. If they don't have paper to-do lists then I'll have to make sure that they make them, mostly so that I and other well-wishers can steal them and work on things for them, sticking our noses in their business for their own good, of course. I'm not above such interference. (Actually I'd never do that, but it's fun to imagine me being socially aggressive, isn't it? I have these fantasies where I'm outgoing and charismatic enough to pull such stunts. Verily, a good shave would get me more than halfway there, but I'm too lazy for that.) And this calming down also includes making sure there aren't any parties that are too terribly wild. Yeah, I kill a good party. (For real.) Live with it.

I'm also going to get some work done over the next few days. My afternoons and evenings are tied up, but my late mornings and late nights are open, and I'm out fo movies to watch. Although I still have half the commentary tracks left to cover for the Lord of the Rings trilogy ("Oh, no!" my wife will interject. "That box of DVDs is on the desk again"), my content-free paper has hit a major snag, I still can't get my perpetual project running on the cluster, and because of those two things Project III has no place in my schedule. I'm sure I'll keep myself busy doing something. But I might not post anything here. We'll see.

Worse Than Belching

Trying to get condor to run my jobs on the cluster is worse than belching, but that's not what I'm here to talk about. I have no problems with any heartburn or acid reflux type condition. But I do have something weird that happens to my upper GI.

When I eat food, I don't feel full until I am very, very full. Yesterday I went to the Chinese buffet for some lunch, and when I left I felt like I was starting to get full. But this adds to another problem. My brain very quickly starts to ignore steady sensory input, even from my stomach or bladder or whatever. (This is really annoying when I have a sore throat or an ear infection. Unless the pain gets worse quite quickly, the pain just disappears even though the problem is still there. And then I get this "don't show off" attitude from doctors and nurses.) So even though my stomach hadn't gone down by half an hour after the buffet trip, I lost all sensation of being full. A number of hours after lunch I ate supper but much of lunch must have still been in my stomach because by the end I felt fuller than at lunch. A number of hours after that I had a snack or two (I have a major midnight snacking habit) and I didn't feel full anymore. But that doesn't mean my stomach wasn't too full, it just means it wasn't as full as it had been earlier.

In the end I ended up going to bed with a very full stomach and not knowing it. That is very bad news, because when I sleep with my stmoach full I always have problems with vomiting in my sleep. I never puke my guts out all over the bed, but at some point in the night, often when I'm laying on my back, a good size flood of highly acidic junk pops on out. Surprise! I wake up with a severe burning feeling all over inside my throat and larynx, and often with residual highly acidic crap, usually smooth but sometimes slightly chunky, that needs to be removed from my larynx and lungs. I don't like burning gunk in my lungs so I cough reflexively, a lot, which is really hard when the burny crap is blocking some of my aiflow. (I have breathing control that helps this, though, thanks to having grown up with athsma). And this is followed by burning that sometimes lasts for hours, although gargling with a baking soda solution helps, at least in the places I'm willing to let the solution visit. We're talking stomach acid that's acidic enough that I can feel it tingling when I get it on my hands. I always take some antacid after these episodes. And sometimes I have pain in my stomach from the process, just like after any regurgitation episode.

This has happened to me probably six times in the past year and half. I've had people tell me "Why don't you take acid reflux medication?" and the answer is "For something so rare? For something that I can control by simply going to bed with my stomach less than burgeoning? For something that isn't really acid reflux? I don't think so." But I do think that I'm going to have to permanently give up all-I-can-eat food sources, if they really do turn off my feeling-full sensations that well. And I'll stop talking about it, too, since this topic is close enough to eating disorders that nobody really wants to hear about it.

09 July 2006

A Few Random Updates

There's a string of thunderstorms that has moved through the area tonight, all in a nice little line right over me. Lots of lightning and fun. A few minutes ago there were some really close lightning strikes. I didn't see the flashes, since I was staring at the computer screen, but the phone rang. Really close lightning makes our phone ring. It's kind of cool because there's rapid beeping from the phone and then BOOM! Of course, it is a little unfcomfortable having the phone ring while I'm using the dial-up connection on the computer. But if that's the most that freaks me out about strong storms then maybe I'm at heart a storm chaser who got lost along the way.

I got a message on MySpace today from someone from the old homeschool group. That was cool. It's interesting to catch up with random people I haven't seen for ten or more years.

Yesterday I went to a wedding up in the Bronx and a reception somewhere out on Long Island. It was a good time. The wedding itself was fun enough, mainly the antics of the groomsmen who were, it seemed, wasted. The reception was a good one for Big Hungry Guys who Love Food-- all kinds of food before dinner and all kinds of food at dinner, and the flaming, pyrotechnic laced desert carts that came in after the wedding cake. I had meat from every standard animal except sheep/lamb. My inner sociologist was tickled pink by people watching at the reception. There were old friends and current friends and other friendly people there. My adviser was there (the groom was a Ph.D. graduate from our research group) and it's really funny to see an older gentleman busting a move or two, especially because he managed to do it without busting himself. So I had a pretty good time. I only hope that next weekend's wedding is a little more tame. And it will be. I can only handle so much of that in a month. But next weekend I'll remember to actually take my present to the wedding.

I was away for a long while, though. I left here at 12:30 and got home at 03:30. I do need to talk to Jeff about his driving habits, however. I drove within three miles per hour of the speed limit for my entire drive home, just to check the timing from the online directions, and he passed me on I-78 in New Jersey. The drive home was much more relaxing than the drive there, since New York City traffic settles down quite a bit in the middle of the night. Oh, and Jeff, your horn sounds really cute. I'd think about an upgrade to something with more honk than beep... or a big rainbow decal for the back door. When you honked as you passed my first thought was Care Bears. And then Barney.

Speaking of months, did I mention that over the course of four weeks my wife and I will have been at home together for four days? I'm soon going to start missing her. The fact that I've missed all of her phone calls and that I've been away or asleep at reasonable hours to call back doesn't help.

07 July 2006

Boring Friday

Having dropped off my wife at her parents' house yesterday so that she could go "camping" with them in Tennessee (in an air conditioned cabin with cable TV), and having survived the trip home from there unscathed, even if it did take two hours too long due to a combination of bad logistics and a navigational error or two, I am now alone on Friday and somewhat bored.

Let me back up. There was a logistics error in my return trip yesterday that involved the combination of toll roads and no cash (and a temporarily missing ATM card). Toll roads plus no cash equals back roads. Back roads in an unfamiliar place, in this case eastern Maryland and Deleware, means lot of wiggling around confused. Back roads in Southeast Pennsylvania mean lots of fun driving but lots of the unexpected. Let's just put it this way-- I made it from Baltimore to Elkton to Newark to Kennett Square, with some wandering southeast of Newark, before I had a clue where I was. Kennett Square gave me a good starting point for a Plan which is why I nearly killed myself makign ahard left turn way too fast upon seeing a sign directing me toward the town. (One thing I hate in Maryland, besides their lack of understanding that low beams are not intended to illuminate the entire county, is that they don't have those signs at crossroads with arrows, town names, and distances, but instead have signs with arrows and road names. I know geography more by the things labeled on rough maps, the towns, than things not labeled, road names, so that really gets me worked up whenever I'm wandering down there.) I took PA-82 from Kennett Square, knowing where it went, and was mortified upon reaching Geigertown to find that The Bride is still Gone, leaivng The Detour to be Followed. Upon entering Birdsboro about an hour after I had expected to be home, I still had another hour of driving to do because I took the Long Way from there.

Of course, I now have snagged Deleware. Eat that, sister!

So, back to Friday, I have little to do. Tomorrow there's a wedding and associated reception up in the Bronx, so I can't spend the whole night out or anything. Gas is expensive, so I'd like to stay within 30 miles of home. I like ice cream but I hate traffic, so the Oley Turnpike Dairy and Dairy Queen are both out. Ritas is nearby but has long lines. And I've already had enough carbs today to kill a horse. I'll eat out next week sometime at one of my regular You Aren't A Dork Even If You Eat Here Alone places, so I won't do that tonight. I was going to go hiking today, but I slept too late due to last night's driving fiasco and the caffeine I used in preparation for it. The Lehigh Valley Velodrome, that constant source of summer entertainment, postponed tonight's event until September and so has nothing happening tonight. Sitting by the airport with binoculars would get me in trouble. The new Pirates of the Caribbean movie is coming out today and chances are that people I know are going to go see it but I really don't feel like calling everyone to try to find out. I could go to Blockbuster and get a couple of movies, but what? The Kutztown Festival is crowded and not really much of a night event. I hate Dorney Park and wouldn't go even if it was free. It is First Friday in south Bethlehem, but I spend enough time there.

So Grump.

Next week I need to Get Work Done. Hooray. And my best friend for ages is getting married next weekend. Double and this time sincere Hooray! So right now it's only today for which I have No Plans and am thus Totally Bored.

In other odd news, one of my good friends is recoving from scarlet fever. For the uninitiated, this is not a dreadful disease these days. It is merely a skin reaction to toxins from Group A beta-hemolytic streptococcal infections, and it is completely cured with proper antibiotics. If untreated it can lead to rheumatic fever. Strep infections can be pretty dangerous, for sure, especially the fast growing Group A kinds, but they generally aren't deadly in these modern times because we have happy antibiotics. I encourage anyone with strep to actually take the complete course of their antibiotics no matter how much better they feel after only one or two days, just to do us all the favor of not breeding resistant strains. Anyway, I wish my friend the best as he recovers.


06 July 2006

Armegeddon Flowchart

See it here.

I'm dissatisfied only with the fact that there is not enough death and destruction. And it's less ominous than the original.

03 July 2006

An Anthem

Something like a third of the American population has a clue about the first verse of our national anthem. I've seen some studies in the past two years that show that the number who can recite it flawlessly ("by the dawn's early light", "whose broad stripes" and so on) is something less than 10%.

The poll that I'd like to see, though, is the one about how many verses the national anthem has.

Every year sometime between the day before Memorial Day and Labor Day, and maybe on Thanksgiving, my church goes through a round or two of forgetting that Christianity isn't patriotism. I no longer participate in saying pledges to flags and such (I'm currently okay with my country, but my country isn't a piece of cloth; on top of that there are other hokey pledges sometimes said in Christian settings that I don't say because Christianity isn't a piece of cloth either and the Bible isn't the totality of God's revelation), or singing the patriotic songs in church, simply because I don't support the pathetic notion on display that America Is God's Country. The patriotic elements themselves don't show this, but it is the reason those in charge choose to include them. Either that or blind patriotism. Neither is in my opinion healthy and I don't want to encourage anyone.

You people can go elsewhere to rant about how much you don't like Christians and Bush and such because that's not what I'm here for. I am here to educate my church about their national anthem.

If you're going to sing it in church, folks, at least know this about it-- there are more than two verses. Yep. you see, whenever this song gets sung at our church, everyone talks about that mysterious second verse, the one we don't often hear, and how we're going to sing it. "Woo-hoo!" you think. Open the hymnal and there is is, both verses to The Star Spangled Banner.

I would have no problem with pointing out that we're singing the second verse except for the fact that there are four verses... and this is actually the fourth, not the second. I've never found a hymnal with all four verses.

Here, for you ignoarmuses, are all four verses. Enjoy them. Read them and know about them. There's a story in there, you know, and lots of fluffy sentiment that only poetry can express. Don't shortchange yourself. Note that the song is about a flag, as the title suggests, but also about a guy who hopes as he sits a prisoner. Think about what the poem says as a poem, not just as the fluff you want to pull out about your own religious convictions. Note the history.

The Star Spangled Banner
Francis Scott Key, 1814

O say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen thro' the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when free-men shall stand
Between their lov'd home and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!


Happy 230th Birthday, America!

Alone with Others

The thing that's probably most annoying about my sleep problems is that I'm alone, a lot. Intorvert that I am I need some down time every day or i go completely insane. Hours on end of nighttime boredom, however, becomes a bit tedious. My week at camp was okay, like I said, but late at night, in the rain, when I couldn't find anyone to talk to... that was very rough. Every day I get up feelign like crap to a world that's already moving around doing its own thing. Then I wake up and feel better in the evenings just in time to watch the rest of the world fall slowly away around me until it's just me, a computer, two TV channels, some stuffed animals, and a fridge.

Right now I'm doing my regular evening thing, sitting here until I'm tired enough to go to bed. I often write in my blog at this time of day because it's one chance to think about life and the universe. So that's a positive thing. On the downside, though, I find that learning dialectically is efficient and enjoyable. It's hard to have aything "di" by oneself.

I've been kind of hungry for hours now, some of it from not having enough food around that I feel like cooking (there is probably 25 pounds of meat in the freezer) and some of it from being bored and lonely. I'm completely out of snacks right now. Among foods I wouldn't mind having now are something nice from a Chinese restaurant, Chunky Monkey ice cream, chicken strips or wings, pretzels or Pringles, a doughnut, fried shrimp, or pizza. Notice anything? When I'm lonely I eat junk food. And when I didn't have dinner and I'm lonely I don't really know what to do because I don't know how much of what I should eat to take care of what I need and not just make me fat and make me sleep poorly.

Besides my slightly annoying belly (and since I can actually feel something I think I do need at least some food), I've tonight been pondering the stories all over the news the past few days that tell us, surprise, people are more disconnected and lonely these days. I've read at least five different stories on the topic, all covering a recent study about how people have fewer close friends on average now than 20ish years ago. Some of the blame goes to the connecting technology that we have at our disposal all the time. Such technology gives us more contacts and so fewer contacts with any deep meaning.

In my pondering over these articles I noticed something that none of the stories that I read discussed. The fact that other people wire themselves up means that the damage affects anyone they know, not just themselves. If someone I know spends three hours a day using an instant messanger for small talk with ten people at once instead of having deep conversations with one or two people then the fact that I don't spend three hours a day IMing small talk does not improve the situation at all. The fact that I don't have a cell phone that gets used for five minutes of nonsense in the middle of every conversation I'm trying to have does not mean that my conversation with someone else will not be inturrupted by five minutes of cell phone nonsense. Building relationships and communities is a two-way thing, after all.

This is a no brainer conclusion but there's a wealth of sociology to be done on the subject because it is quite subtle. The curious thing is why people would do this to themselves and to others. I don't care if it's the technology that I talked about or other community-degrading elements of society like commuting hours every day to and from work. I'm not going to go all Santorum on you and say that the Donna Reed style family is the basic building block of culture, save the family rah-rah-rah beat the homos rah-rah-rah women barefoot and in the kitchen rah-rah-rah, but I will say that Guy Montag had a less than ideal marriage in Fahrenheit 451 beacuse of his wife's obsession with that [censored] wall. People need people, even if it's only to hate their guts.

I know from my continuous late nights alone that being alone is not a good thing. I also know this from my daily life. A cell phone rings and the other person just has to answer it no matter what we're doing or talking about. And the conversations are almost always things that can be put off until later or even skipped entirely. But I, the one really there in the room, must be inturrupted for this distance-nonsense. (If you're thinking "If it bothers you so much then get your own cell phone and do it to them" then you're missing the point. I'd turn the bloody thing off except when I was expecting a call that was coming for some good reason.) And then there's trying to talk to people who are using the internet but can't or refuse to concentrate on real people around them because the blogs or articles or IM conversations are just that much more important than real people. And have you ever tried to have a meaningful conversation with people who are watching TV, which is always so worth telling dull real people to shut up?

"What's that?" you say. "TV?" Yes, in fact, TV. Half a century ago sociologists observed in great detail as the spread of TV and telephones degraded relationships. It's all there, go look it up.

Dispite the damage done then and now, and dispite the fact that we should know better than to accept technologies (or work commutes or whatever) without examing the potential consequences, people do it anyway, alienating themselves from some other people who would benefit from knowing them and who they would benefit from knowing. That's where the research is needed, to pick at people's minds and see what's going on within them. What's interesting is not things like why people do what they do (people get cell phones to keep in touch with others, for example) as much as why they do what they do clueless about the harm that can come both for themselves and for others.

I guess I'm going to ehad off to sulk now.

01 July 2006

Really Bad Math Joke

Why are mathematicians always happy?

They don't want to dampen their spirits.

.

.

.

Okay, nevermind, unless you get it.