My Zunivers

28 June 2008


We're going. Tonight before I go to sleep I need to pack up the computer. Tomorrow is clean-up, drive, and start moving in day. Sunday is finish moving in day.

I took one last drive tonight, retracing my old route home from our friends' house in Bath. That route was where I honed my nighttime driving skills, which I practiced before daytime driving (due to low traffic at night), and it passes through the first place I ever needed to stop for a train.

I will be going to a conference next week, so I will be interwebbed. My wife might be unconnected, mostly because I don't want the Cable Guy coming and screwing around with my computer without my supervision. I find that my computers always work brilliantly as long as nobody else goes under the hood but become ill when anyone else tries to set up anything.

I have nothing profound to say. I do want to thank all of you who helped us loading and packing today. You know who you are. And you all know better than to pose the stuffed rabbits in the box. I hope.

Sometime soon we'll be sending e-mails to everyone with our new address and phone number.

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26 June 2008

Tantrums and Trials

My kid threw what is probably her first tantrum.

We've been packing this week, and the kid has been a little edgy. If I were ten and half months old and my world was being disassembled around me, I'd probably be a little concerned, too. Kids aren't just all about eating and toys. They might prefer what they learn by putting things into their mouths, but they notice a lot of what's going on around them. For the kid, this edginess is keeping her awake longer. Monday and Tuesday she went to bed late, skipped a nap, and it showed.

The kid was being clingy with her mother on Tuesday. No amount of me or my sister was helping her. She wanted mommy. She wanted mommy now. She didn't want mommy to nurse her, she just wanted her mommy to hold her. At some point in the evening, my wife did hold her. My wife was using the computer at the time, so she let the kid type to her grandmother on the instant messenger. The kid likes that, but she has to stop eventually.

My wife made the kid stop typing, and the kid threw a total and complete fit. She screamed and wailed and arched her back (yes, that started this weekend). My wife put the kid on the floor and she was kicking and flailing and screaming and whining and hollering and writhing. It was so shockingly pitiful that I laughed at her. I thought about when I was a wee kid, and I used to get upset, and I would shake my fist and growl as loud as I could, my face turning bright red as every muscle in my body clamped down and shook. One day, my dad had enough of that, and he did it back to me. He looked like a complete idiot, and I laughed. My laughing stopped when he pointed out that I looked like the same kind of idiot, but I did it every day and he did it just that once. I stopped.

Obviously this technique doesn't work on a ten month old, but ten moth olds aren't widely known for having such fits. Two year olds are, and this one is almost the size of a two year old. So who knows, right? I do. Laughing at the kid didn't work. Boobage did. I lose again. But at least I know I'm not a boob.

In other baby news, the kid is now seriously interested in Crawling. Specifically, she is voluntarily going from a sitting position to a prone position, and then making a real effort to get her legs under herself. Along the way she gets distracted by toys and such-- a Good Thing because she then holds her weight with one arm instead of two.

I'm hoping that next week while I'm at the conference the young one will take some time to hammer down her crawling skills, so that when I get home to my new home I will have a newly mobile baby getting into... nothing. That actually means everything. This is our first child, you see. I like to pretend we're naive new parents and that we think we can do things like baby-proof. Most people think we're that dumb, so we might as well save ourselves trouble and play the part.

I see baby gates in my near future.

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25 June 2008

If You Paint Them Right

Just look and you'll get the idea.

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24 June 2008

The SLR Problem

Carry around a digital SLR and you're a magnet that attracts everything wrong with amateur photographers you know. That's my experience, anyway.

People don't want to talk about composing images, beyond thirds and diagonals and other so-called rules that every good photographer I can name breaks repeatedly. They don't want to talk about photographers or photographs, least of all you, yours, themselves, or theirs. Unless the person is a seriously misguided practitioner of some other art-form, you won't get any conversation about emotion or aesthetics.

What will you get? You'll get a lot of talk about lenses. A lot. Sharpness here there and everywhere, no thought that maybe pictures often aren't sharp because of, oh, a camera picking too long an exposure or a digital sensor being an itty-bitty interpolated piece of crap. You'll probably hear a good bit about how much better pictures look from digital cameras, a clear sign the person has never seen a photo bigger than 11x14. The last real photographs I perused were 20x30 and bigger Giclee prints showing new detail as close as I could see. Try that with a digital camera. If it works, let me know where you got your 500 megapixels.

Oh, megapixels! In really bad cases you'll also get to talk about megapixels. HOw many is that camera of yours? My stock answer is "Enough." It beats a conversation about how much better it would be to have 20% more pixels. And when it gets really bad, you'll be talking about zoom x's. How many x's is my zoom? I don't give a crap. In 35mm language it's about a 50 to 200. Call it 4x, I guess. Saying it that way doesn't mean anything to me. 20mm to 80mm is the same range of focal lengths, but unlike 50mm to 200mm, for the first half of the x's of a 20mm to 80mm will have everyone's noses looking fat. That is what we photograph, after all. People. And remember the rule to put the eyes in the middle so you can enjoy the view of what was over their heads and wonder why on earth your pictures of your friends usually do not look quite right.* Unless they are tilted, black and white, and slightly blurry, of course. That's perfection.

Anyone who wants to talk about any of the things that matter about photography isn't going to do it because they see you holding your camera. They'll do it with you any time. So if you've never heard someone talk about photography before, and the person suddenly wants to talk to you because you're holding your camera, be ready to change the subject so you don't go insane. I'll teach people everything I know, if they ask. Otherwise, I have no expectation that anyone know a lot about photography. My hope is that people get what they want out of it, memories or whatever. All I really want out of it is to take pictures in peace and quiet.

[*Actually, this annoys me greatly. It's as easy to avoid as to do. If you look through a camera and see a person, you'll probably get the eyes in the middle. If you look and see a picture of a person, you'll just as quickly get everything, including the surroundings, at a more tasteful place. I kick myself every time I mess this up. I did it this weekend.]

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One More for the Grocery Store

After tonight's rain, I decided to go to the grocery store for one last late-night trip. I've been going to Redner's at night for a couple of years, taking care of grocery business. Tonight I didn't have much business to care for. We needed a couple of things to make meals for the rest of the week. I also needed a couple of nighttime snacks (for me, suppers) to last the week. And I wanted to say goodbye to my store-friend.

When I got to the parking lot, I saw a street sweeper making its rounds. Happiness! I like sweepers. The landscaping has been redone at the curve into the parking lot, but when I parked I noticed that a cart return corral thingy had been returned to the second full row of parking spaces. More happiness! One time I bumped a shopping cart with the car, and it traveled a good long way across the parking lot only to en up in that corral. The cart collecting guys, who happened to be on their rounds, cheered for me that night.

In the store, I saw the familiar items in all their proper places. I headed for produce for an onion. I picked up a Life Water (Vitamin Water was more expensive and has more crap in it anyway). I walked around slowly, taking in the place, picking up pizza flavored Pringles, something I discovered in that store (and down to 89 cents tonight, the old sale price!). I bought some store brand ground ginger as momento to Redners. Just a couple weeks ago I threw away my nearly empty container of pepper from Jewel in Wheaton; I might still have soemthing from Kroger in Atlanta.

I checked the meat section out of habit, and was at first annoyed by the lack of sale prices. Then I remembered I didn't need meat anyway, probably a first for a trip there. For snacks, I got some tortellini and some chicken wings, two of my favorite snacks (and cheaper there than anywhere else). The wings that caused the Great Wing Sauce Incident of 2006 are no longer sold, so I settled for name brand local stuff. And I picked up some frozen broccoli, because unless I miscalculated we needed one meals worth of vegetables. Add meat, milk, and bananas and this was a typical "we have most of what we need but there are a few things..." midnight trip. Heck, I should have gotten bananas.

Just a few weeks ago the store put in new credit card readers. Now you can't scan until after the cashier pushes the button. Then you sign. Then you approve the amount, by hitting a button on the lower left of the touchscreen (the green button on the old readers was on the right, and you hit it before you signed the paper slip). These units still confound me, that's how ingrained my scan and hit the green button habit has become.

When I drove away, I said goodbye to the light post that I once nearly ran into. Hey, it was raining, and It was the middle of the night, and the lights on top were out, and I wasn't paying attention! The street sweeper was gone. Leaving the parking lot, I looked over to the pet store, the former Royal Palace Buffet (hibachi coming soon) and the new CiCi's next door. And as I drove up the hill on MacArthur Road and watched the wisps of fog coming off the road, I remembered the time last year, in similar weather, when Sylvia's rotor broke when I got to the top of the hill. This time I didn't need to coast across three lanes into a parking lot and then walk home carrying my groceries.

I will miss these late night trips. If I can go to the store late at our new place, I will. But it won't be the same store. It definitely won't be the same chain. And the reason I'll miss it is that I get too attached to places. I guess I make up for all the people who are happy being transient. When I grew up I never knew I'd be one of those weird people from up near Allentown. Now I've lived almost six years across a narrow moat from the city, and I don't particularly want to go. Sucks.

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23 June 2008

A Reason to Like Kids

At Burger King today, I had a conversation with my friend Emma. Emma is almost five, and lots of fun. Of course, I don't remember the conversation exactly, so I'm going to re-write it to highlight the major themes.

Emma: "Did you see the fluke? Did it scare you?"

Me: "See the what?"

My sister: "Huh?"

Emma: "The fluke. It scared us but everything was okay."

Me: "You said fluke?"

Sister: "Like fluke?"

Emma: "Yeah."

Me: [thinking hard] "A fluke is a kind of fish."

Sister: "It is?"

Emma: "Nooooo."

Me: "You didn't see a fish?"

Emma: "Nope."

Me: [going on the theory that "fluke" was an adult predicate adjective that had become a toddler noun] "Can you tell me about the fluke?"

Emma: "It was really loud and it scared us."

Me: "Hmmmmm...."

Sister: "Where was it?"

Emma: [concerned at our confusion] "It was at our house."

Me: "And what did it look like?"

Emma: [looking somber] "It was big... and brown. Black. And dark! And then it flashed and there was a loud noise. BOOOOM!" [giggles]

Me: [realizing I saw thick clouds to the north when I woke up] "I see. The thunderstorm was a fluke."

Emma: "Did you see the fluke."

Me: "No."

Emma: "Oh, okay."

And that, dear friends, is an example of why I like kids.

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21 June 2008

The Links

I've added a link to passive aggressive This website is an absolute hoot. This is my favorite that I've seen so far.

I updated Jordana's blog link. She changed blog services 18 months ago, halting work on The Pregnant Waddle and starting up Seize the Mommy! For some reason I kept forgetting to link to the new blog. This has, of course, set up habits among our gang of college friends, like not expecting to read her blog right after mine. Rest assured this isn't about you, it's about Doing the Right Thing.


The Ice Cream Party

Most of you who know me might not have thought about it, but I'm a weird combination of introvert and people person. I like people, singular, a lot more than I like people, plural. Everywhere I go I know a lot of people, like some sort of social butterfly, which I am definitely not. That's actually because people mean a lot to me. I've spent twenty-five years bemoaning my "lack" of friends, but when I take stock of reality I find that the number of social interactions I have sometimes astounds the social butterflies I do know. I pretty quickly scare away people who don't like me, and for some reason everyone who is left gels inside me, quirks and craziness and differences and all.

Thursday we had some time to have friends from school visit for a few hours. If you didn't make it, no worries. I understand that life is like that. You're still my friends; you just missed the fun! We had six containers of ice cream, two liters of root beer, and fourteen ice cream toppings (including two kinds of fudge, two kinds of whipped cream, and a couple fresh fruits). About ten people stopped by, ate some ice cream, and had a friendly time together. There were a few people there who I had not seen for quite a while. Because we let our guests bring guests, I even got to meet one or two new people! So the fun was fun. It was a good way to say goodbye, even if I run into some people next week. (I need to use computers on campus to finish my data analysis. I worked form home for how many years and now my last week there I need to go to campus? Feh!) Thanks for coming, or wanting to, or pretending to want to, or whatever you did! It's not really about the event as much as about having been a good friend.

The worst part of the night, I admit, was afterward. My old officemate Mike stayed behind and chatted until well after midnight. It was fun to talk, as always. We talked about the future, as well as some of our pet topics of conversation. Before the party, he actually helped me change my car's headlights. If that man had a dollar for every time he unexpectedly helped me do something with my car, usually by accompanying me to the vehicle for some reason and then ending up involved, he'd be ahead by a spicy chicken combo meal at Wendy's. Three out of four times that's what he got when we went.

Mike and I met during orientation and have spent a lot of time together since then. That makes saying goodbye to him particularly hard. We had the usual male friendship, one started by having similar interests and shared activities that ended up with us chattering away like little old ladies and getting to know a lot about each other. We both like airplanes, cameras, and music, even though we have different tastes. We both like the same periods of history and are interested in our family trees. We both have a natural distrust of people but still give them all a chance. We're both pessimists. Our regular greeting was something along the lines of--

Me: "How's life?"

Him: "The same."

Me: "That bad?"

Over six years he was always a genuinely nice person. That's not to be superficial. He really is one of those friends I've had who defines nice. He drove me random places, drove my wife to the airport in Philadelphia once, gave us presents, picked up newspapers for me, loaned me lunch money practically every week... heck, he took me to get my driver's license. I returned what favors I could, but I always felt a step behind. I never really do tit-for-tat with being helpful. I just try to help everyone I can. Mike does the same thing.

For the past few years, we ate together once or twice a week or more, and saw each other frequently. I think the longest we went without talking was three weeks one summer. Every time we parted, we would roll through our plans for the near future and figure out when we'd see each other again. Dropping him off on Thursday was hard because it was the last time. For the first time in years that I pulled up to his apartment building, we didn't really have anything to say. He is moving Saturday, and we don't know when we'll see each other again. I'm sure we will, but we couldn't do what we've done for years and close by talking about when. I had misty eyes driving home.

I hate saying goodbye. There's no bright spark to it. It seems too final. I usually say "See you sometime." That's what I told everyone who was leaving on Thursday. That's what I told Mike. That's what the rest of you will hear from me. I might be a pessimist, but I'm not when it comes to friends. I'm not trying to delude myself into thinking I can keep life from changing, but I can still believe that life in the future has a chance to reconnect with the past. It's called hope. It's what compresses a line. It's the only thing that makes leaving bearable.

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18 June 2008

On Working

It turns out that my research work was dead-on and my adviser either told me the wrong thing to do or I didn't understand him right. My colleagues have come to my rescue and told me the proper way to proceed. And I feel like a total douche. All this stuff is in the journal articles we have. I read those and didn't get it. Then I had one person say about fifty words to me and now I basically know how to do it. I hate science. Or not. I don't know. I guess that at the end of the day extroverted visual learners get to run the show. A normal day in America. Someday we introverted ear people will get our chance.

It doesn't help, of course, that of two projects I've been doing for the past few months, I need to release one completely (having shown without much doubt that one needs to use special methods I no longer have time to implement) and I'm bored sick of the other, which I need to finish before I move. Then I get to move and go to a conference. What I'm not seeing here is a chance for a few days off.

In other news, one must remove the front fascia to change the headlights on my car. That's almost as bad as putting the battery behind the left front wheel. It's a very close almost.

If I weren't so depressed I would right now be on location taking some night pictures for my collection of photographs that I never show to anyone. I did get a brilliant picture of some subtle crepuscular rays tonight. I had perfect light on a tree, too, but the wind was a little too high.

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15 June 2008

One for the Nerds

Does anyone know why the Xeon processors on the cluster can run my program five times faster than Pentium 4? It's a little bit freaky. I started a program that I expected to take a few hours like it does at home, and it took an hour and half.

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The Dodge Stratus

This is a public service announcement.

There are two completely different cars called the Dodge Stratus (and Chrysler Sebring). One is a four-door sedan. The other is a coupe. The two are completely different vehicles. To be a little bit flippant, sedans are Chrysler vehicles and coupes are Mitsubishi vehicles with a Chrysler body. To make things worse, for many (maybe all?) of the years when both were produced, the sedan and coupe both had a 2.4 engines. The engines are quite different. Some of the blocks have multiple heads with the same number of valves and cams and crap as incompatible heads for the other blocks.

A lot of the internet ignores the fact that the sedans and coupes are completely different cars. Look up reviews for a Stratus and be amazed at how often the reviewed "Stratus" is either the coupe or the sedan, but the difference between the two is not mentioned and which one is being reviewed is practically taken for granted. Also, "a Stratus with a 2.4L engine" is not the way to talk about these cars. There are many kind of Strati with 2.4L engines.

Even some large auto parts companies didn't make distinctions between the sedan and coupe, or the different blocks and heads, in searches for engine parts. The items for the different cars get mixed together, and without already knowing what you have they are as easy to sort through as list of, say, all the parts made of metal on all the different models from Ford. To figure out what exactly our car is, I finally ended up using the VIN. That itself was hard enough to find, given the number of people who want to take your money to tell you where your car has been.

After yesterday's incident, the car shop people were nice enough to replace the timing belt tensioner that messed up. My wife reported that the mechanic who did the work yesterday felt quite bad about the (literal) slip-up. It is, after all, the sort of thing you get fixed in part so you don't get stuck by the road somewhere. I asked my wife pass along a message to the shop that he's done good work on our cars in the past and not to fire him. Actually, his future was one of my first thoughts when the car stopped, and not because I saw him suffering a horrible death. That man can fix cars. Seeing him at the shop I always got a sense that he takes pride in doing his work well. Every garage should be so lucky.

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Speaking of Funding

Stephen Hawking is a mite bit pissed off about the state of research funding in Britain. I don't blame him.

A particularly interesting quote in that article, however, is from physicist Brian Cox, who quite straightforwardly what most academic scientists in the US want to say about our own government but don't.

“The notion that scientists will make a more valuable contribution to the economic and social wellbeing of the world if their research is closely directed by politicians is the most astonishing piece of nonsense I have had the misfortune to come across in a long time,” Cox said.

It makes me want to head down to DC and do some lobbying again.

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14 June 2008

No, I'm Not Quite Totally Cracked Up... Yet

Dear Camera,

I ignore you. You sit around my apartment in your case. That's no fault of yours. You can't move without my help.

For the past ten months, I've looked for things for you to photograph. I tend to do this while I'm driving, when I even do it. I rarely find anything worthwhile, either. You came to my life at a bad time. I've been in the same surroundings regularly for the past six years. I'm sure there are things to see, but my brain has become numb. So really, the problem is me. I can't blame you for what I don't try to see. I can't blame you that you're home on the rare occasions I do see something.

In the next few weeks I might start paying more attention to you. It will be bittersweet. I will see new things. I will be tempted to use you to capture the new rather than the interesting. Knowing myself in that situation, I'll pay too much attention to an object and not enough to composition. I need to remember this activity is my fault, not yours. At the same time, however, I will at least be looking. Poets have griped about astronomers while staring at their own feet all night. You will not get that from me. While I'm trying to sort the interesting from the new, you can be there with me. I hope to take you on more trips around town. We can watch more sunsets, spending more time in the warm evening light. We can find shapes and forms, land and object. I can feel, and you can help me turn feelings into photos. I can be confused and insecure, and we can keep our secrets on the hard drive where nobody else will look for them. And of course the kid will still be around. I know you do see a lot of her, but you treat her well. She wants to put you in her mouth, which is a good start for an infant.

I guess what I really want you to remember takes fewer words. I'm sorry I've given you such a banal life so far. The future might hold better things. We can hope and dream. Well, I can at least. You can sit around being a lump of metal and glass and plastic, coming to life at a touch and fueled by sparks from my mind. Even so, I can't write music I enjoy. I need you as much as you need me.


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Atypical Friday

Wake up too early to watch baby for a while while your wife takes the car to have its timing belt replaced.

Go to campus to talk to your research adviser. Ask him how you're supposed to tell which number is correct for something, given that there is a huge amount of wiggle room, and he looks at you like you have three heads for asking because the answer is so clear. Retell for him the amorphous guessing game described in the journal. Have him tell you that sounds like a very precise definition and ask why you what part of "make a graphs until you get one sort of like this" isn't quantitatively precise.

Give up and go home. Talk to your sister who was nice enough to drive you. First highlight of the day, regretting only that you didn't have time to hit the lunch buffet at the Indian restaurant.

Spend time at home doing research, ignoring loud noises. Enjoy grumpy-fest from teething child while your wife goes to pick up the car. Good riddance, though, it's about time she got teeth.

Cook dinner and eat.

Set off for a nice relaxing evening.

Five miles from home the car stops working, in a way strangely reminiscent of timing belt failure. After pondering for five seconds, remember a stopping place at the bottom of the hill and coast there to be able to stop off of the road. My cars have always been nice enough to die at the top of a hill, something I appreciate about them.

Have your friends pick you up, take you to their house to do your laundry anyway, watch a movie with you, and then drive you home. Thanks, guys. Second highlight of my day, regretting only that I wasn't in a better mood.

Upon getting home, pat yourself on the back for getting such a nice curve from that five hour simulation, then start another one because it's not quite right. Get ready to send your results to your adviser and say "Look, I can make the number change by 5% and get the graphs I'm supposed to get at the value. Once gain, how do I use this exceptionally precise method to find the value?"

Sit around with stupid TV programming because it's summer at PBS. Stupid TV programming usually motivates work, but you don't feel like it.


For a preview, the atypical Saturday might contain a whole lot of bickering with an auto shop.

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13 June 2008

Twirly Twirly

Twister is a movie. It's not the worst movie, as movies come. It's not the best, either. It certainly isn't a good depiction of scientists. One of the only things that made me really unhappy with the movie was the scene at the end where they do the "tie ourselves own and we're all right" thing. Totally screwed up, enough that I need to try really hard to get over it. They should have died.

I was reminded of that scene tonight when I was looking at pictures of the damage from a tornado this week at Kansas State, where I went to do some research back in January. This one caught my attention. Yes, that's exactly what it looks like-- a piece of tree sticking out of a tire. I don't know where that car was. I did notice that the physics building was on the damage list, and a lot of the pictures I found showed nearby buildings in various states of disarray, although mostly intact. They build things tough out there for this very reason.

My advice for all of you-- don't mess with tornadoes.

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12 June 2008

Why Not to Converse With an Infant

My kid was kind of tired at one point this evening. Normally she's a very Upright Child. She has been since she was a couple of weeks old. Back then you had to hold her up and hold her head up, otherwise it was Screamfest 2007. She eventually started holding her own head up, and now she holds her whole self up. When she's tired, she will lean on something, though. She'll lie down in your arms or on your lap, or even just lean on you and fall asleep like she did to my sister last week.

Recently, when the kid is tired she spends a lot of time babbling. A lot of that babbling has, for the past couple weeks at least, been a "loyduh-loyduh-loyduh" sound with some tangents to work on other sounds. This week she's been going on tangents to match a sound that one of us big people makes to her. So tonight she was taking a rest, cradled in my arms on the rocking chair, and we had something of a conversation....

Kid: "Loyduh-loyduh-loyduh-loyduh... loylduh-loylduh... mah-mah." [stops and smiles at me]

Me: "I'm not Mama. I'm Daddy. Daddy." [kid looks at me seriously]

Kid: "Dah-dah. Dah-Dah. Dah-dah." [big smile]

Me: "Almost! Daddy. You need to say 'Daddy-- Dah-deeeee.'"

Kid: "Dah-dah. Dah-Dah. Dah-dah." [little smile]

Me: "Try 'Dah-deeeee.'"

Kid: [pauses, then smiles] "Doh-doh. Doh-doh.
Doh-doh. Doh-doh."

My Sister: [laughs hysterically, probably thinking about how often she wants to tell me the same thing]

Kid: [claps hands and squeals]

Me: "Funny. Very funny."

Kid: [huge grin] "
Dah-dah-doh-doh. Daaaaaah-daaaah-doooooooh-doooh."

Me: "Yes. I get it. Go play on the floor."

In other news, saying "bye-bye" makes the kid start waving and then start looking around for someone leaving to whom she should direct the wave. Upon finding a leaving person, she directs her wave at the departing person. But that's not all. To make this backward thing even more amusing, if someone is holding her and she's the one leaving, she will sometimes strain and stretch to keep looking at the room so she can see who is leaving!

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09 June 2008

Some Things

A friend gave me a program that has some tricks in it to speed it up. It is speedy! I've been able to do in five minutes what took three hours during the past week. I should buy him a gift.

The weather is hot, but it's not too bad. Guess who hasn't been complaining? Anyway, tomorrow's forecast is up to 98, probably due to somebody realizing that the low would not be as low as expected. I've got around 76 now, and I doubt that the extra 6 degrees will come off before sunrise, so even the new forecast is too low. That of course means that the air is more humid than originally forecast.

I'm trying to teach my wife the finer points of nursing old air conditioners through hot weather. She's actually paying attention. Today we had one overheat, and she actually was asking me how one tells and what to do about it. I feel so useful.

Mountains are amusing me again. Big ones this time. 8,000 meter ones. (For Americans, thats 26,250 feet or so.) I read an interesting account of the first expedition to Lhotse Middle. I've also been reading up on Broad Peak, K2, and Annapurna. These choices are actually motivated by being the only 8,000 meter mountains besides Everest whose names I can spell. Welcome to the Himalayas, where can sneeze while saying names like Kanchenjunga and still say them right! (And yes, I did spell that via cut and paste.)

I'm still confused about the Firefox spell checker. It knows names like Lhotse and Kanchenjunga but it does not know the word inbox! There's something insane about that.

Reading this stuff on mountaineering takes me off on tangents about rock climbing. Those tangents end quickly when they end up talking about locations where the weather is less than cold, like California. That happens often enough. I'm beginning to think that El Capitan is the paradigm of American rock climbing. Seriously, people, talk about some other place. There are other cliffs to climb.

I'm also feeling the urge to watch Cliffhanger.

I went to the mall today with my wife. I behaved, spending a lot of time pushing the kid around in her stroller. It's a nice stroller, one that my wife spent well over 200,000 hours selecting (according to her own count). The wheel assemblies are a little flimsy, so our massive child sort of weighs down the axles or something. It's like pushing a stroller through a quarter inch of sand. But the thing turns on a dime, nicely flexing as it goes. Actually, the flexing makes turning easier than going straight because of the way the weight shifts, unloading a pair or two while not making the loaded wheels much harder to move.

The kid and I got to enjoy our balcony view of an argument down on the first floor, which was fun. We joined a loose gathering of maybe ten or twelve people taking in the sight of morons yelling and screaming at each other in the middle of the mall. There was lots of posturing and gesturing and head bobbing, along with some colorful language.

We also found lots of mirrors in department stores, and generally enjoyed charming anyone who would look at the kid, which was mostly pregnant women and old people. Others tended to look at me as if shaggy bearded men have no business pushing little girls around the mall in a stroller.

I have new Silly Putty! I bought a two-pack this week. It's delightful.

I would go to bed if I were cooler. My productivity goes down in the summer because my sleep goes down. I won't sleep well until the next time I can have a night that's 65 and dry. Oh, well. Worse could happen. I could be attacked by spider monkeys, trip over a can of paint, or get hosed down with fifteen cans of Easy Cheese. So life's alright.

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07 June 2008

Life as Usual

There isn't much happening here, really. I've got simulations running. My kid sprouted two more teeth in the past week or so-- at the same time. She's now got three on top and two on the bottom. We're moving in a couple of weeks. I can't play computer games when I'm running simulations at home, and I'm doing two projects at once so I need to run some things at home. I'd pick a fight with some Shakespeare lovers except that I'm tired of being an invisible martyr for pointless causes. Let them eat casserole. I'm trying to figure out how to get my generation, and the one after me, to recognize the injustice inherent in the system. I'm worried that being a scientist will take time away from that, but I have no other way to pay the bills given that I don't even have a plan for my generation. I'm sulking to myself that I can't go hiking this weekend-- again. This time it's the weather, which will be hot enough that my apartment is nearly unlivable during the day. I hope you losers who hate winter enjoy it! And I'm reading a book or two right now that will stimulate a post or two eventually, which means not now.

Life as usual.

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04 June 2008

One for the Doomsayers

American kids are just getting worse and worse. Not only do they have more problems now than they ever have since prayer and the Bible were taken out of schools, they're starting to lie about it more!

(FYI: I'm being facetious.)

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03 June 2008

Speaking of Queen...

my latest personal fad will probably subside now that I figured out exactly what makes their music appealing to my ears. Things like four part harmony, experimental cuts, and the like are part of a good deal of the music from the 1970s. Queen has those, along with a huge slice of showbiz cheese--huge -- but they are not alone in any of that. (See for example Kansas, Billy Joel, Kiss, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer.)

After paying really close attention to which Queen songs stand out to me, and which parts of songs stand out to me, I've concluded that the reason for the appeal is the guitar. I don't like the songs that have too little guitar, or most of the later songs that all full of synthesizers and crap like that. Particularly good sounding solos can be found in "Don't Stop me Now," "Brighton Rock," "Play the Game," "Hammer to Fall," and "The Prophet's Song." The guitar and its associated electronics also work well as an accompanying instrument.

It's odd that I'm liking the guitar part of a band. I'm not really one for guitars.

Speaking of Kansas, I've got to look up some more of their stuff....

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