Friday, June 30, 2006

William Hung Cooking Show!

Check out today's RB, which today is the William Hung Cooking Show, Episode 5.

William Hung Cooking Show, Episode 5, on RB

The kid pictured above is genius for his age. He executes his character VERY well (without ever really cracking a smile) and the jokes are pretty sophisticated for what you'd expect out of someone who looks like that. Sure, the script may have been written by someone else, but he still does a good job.

Pretty strange (and if you're in the right mood, funny) stuff.

Lyrics: "Jews for Jesus Blues" (by Clem Snide)

These lyrics really need to be on-line. Additionally, this is a really good song, even without the funny lyrics.

(keep in mind that this is a relatively slow song played with a traditional blues country background. The singer has a slightly twangy country voice. There's a name for this style of music, but I don't know it; however, it's much funnier that this particular song is sang in this style)

"Jews for Jesus Blues" by Clem Snide
I was searching for something I could not describe
So I stared at the sun 'til the tears filled my eyes
Well, I thought I was empty, so I paid the cost
But now that I'm found, I miss being lost

Well, I opened my heart, and I let Jesus in
With the promise that I would be free of my sin
But I only felt guilty that he died on the cross
Now that I'm found, I miss being lost
Now that I'm found, I miss being lost

Well, I don't want to suffer, and I don't want to die
I want the clouds parted and endless blue sky
But someone up there has a different plan
Now that I'm saved, I wish I was damned
Now that I'm saved, I wish I was damned
Now that I'm saved, I wish I was damned!
Now that I'm saved, I wish I was . . .

Thursday, June 29, 2006

I made a playlist by mistake...

So today I was in the mood for the new version of "It's a Mistake" on Colin Hay's Man @ Work album. I typed in "mistake" into iTunes and it listed every song in my collection that matched. It ended up making for a fun little playlist.

  • "It's a Mistake (New Recording)" by Colin Hay off of Man @ Work

  • "But Now I Know" by Asya and Chloe off of Tomatomistake

  • "Sexy Mistake" by The Chalets off of Check In

  • "Beautiful Mistake" by Better Than Ezra off off How Does Your Garden Grow?

  • "Honest Mistake" by The Bravery off of No Brakes

  • "Mistaken I.D." by Citizen Cope off of Citizen Cope
So isn't that fun?

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George and Kim have a "The Knot" Page!

Isn't that cute?


I think Mark and Rachel's page was better. The "How it Happened" was very descriptive and memorable... Unfortunately, I don't remember it. Though I'm sure I'll remember George and Kim's... So maybe it wasn't that memorable.

Has "TheKnot.com" really become engrained in our culture so much that it's just common to have a page there?

"Talk to you soon"

I have problems with this phrase, especially when people end e-mails with it...

It intimidates me.

Lately I've been seeing it more often than usual. I just don't know what to do with it.

I'm afraid to get into it, because I'm pretty sure I'm just going to come across sounding stupid, but the bottom line is that it confuses me. There are some situations when it confuses me more than others.

And that's all I'll say for now.

Talk to you soon.
--Ted

Well, that was the second voice mail... I guess that's it.

UPDATE: Got an e-mail from the voicemail woman. She says she's still interested in someone from her past so now is a hard time for her to date. Interpret that however you may.

Still no news on WTF with coffee woman.

Remember the woman from Am I Stupid? She was the one where I excused myself from being late by making up a story about saving the lives of two people and then refusing to take them to the hospital because, "I have to meet a girl."

Well, I talked to her later that week (Wednesday), and I apologized for making her feel gullible. She said that no apology was needed and described the whole thing as pretty "clutch." I thought her use of the word "clutch" was pretty cute, and (to my horror) I ended up saying that out loud. Oh, well...

Anyway, this was before going to San Antonio. I told her that I'd be out of town from Thursday to Monday, but I would like to take her out for bowling (this is something she mentioned she liked to do once upon a time ago, and I was excited about bowling too) the next week. She said that would be great, and I agreed to call her Tuesday night when I got back (I can only call her after 8pm because she has Sprint, and thus I must abide by "night and weekend minutes"; stupid Sprint)... Over the weekend we exchanged an e-mail, and she mentioned that bowling should be fun, so I figured that was a confirmation that she was looking forward to my call. So on Tuesday I called, but then I realized I had waited too long that night and it was during her Sex and the City time, so I called during a commercial and left her a voice mail. I didn't hear back from her, so I called last night too, this time not during a SatC. Still no response.

Now, there's an unwritten rule that you never leave more than two voice mails. More contact that two voice mails is considered stalkerish. It's better to just cut your losses.

But I don't get it... What went wrong?

A similar story... I went out on a date with someone about a month ago. The date was alright, but it ended early, and I headed home and stopped at a coffee shop on the way. In the coffee shop I ran into a woman with whom I went to high school. I hadn't seen her in a long while, and she really looked great. I was expecting to just say hello. She had two very intimidating looking girlfriends with her. She came over, seemed excited to see me, touched me on the elbow, asked if I had her number, and told me to call her sometime for coffee. Well, okay. That's more than I bargained for; I didn't even ask for that. So I called her a few days later... But that week she was moving. So I said I'd call her back next week... I did, but that week her mom was going into surgery... and she says, "Well, I see you on-line all the time, so why don't I just IM you sometime." OUCH. That's effectively, "Don't call us, we'll call you." (oh, and I have not heard from her) I just didn't understand. We saw each other for two minutes, I didn't ask for her number, she pushed it off on me and ASKED me to call. WTF?

I've had a couple of other strange mixed-message experiences lately. I have a feeling that some of it may have to do with me, but a lot of it may have to do with a sudden fear in the other people that they simply don't have time to date. But I don't think I come off like I'm looking for a whole lot here, and yet I don't think there's anything about me that makes it look like I'm not okay with entertaining the idea of a relationship.

Anyway, I just keep on plugging along, and that's fine with me. The experience has been really helpful. I've learned a lot about me, about people, and about dating in general. It just would be nice if for once things seemed to make intuitive sense. :)

Maybe I'll end up getting a response to my voice mails...

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Oscillating Fan

Something I found...
I have an oscillating fan at home; it looks like it's saying 'Noo...' so I like to ask it questions that a fan would say 'no' to. "Do you keep my hair in place?" "Do you keep my documents in order?" "Do you have three settings?" Liar! My fan fuckin' lied to me! Now I will pull the pin up. Now you ain't sayin' shit!"

Hilarious. In fact, it was included in a set of quotes that are also equally hilarious:
Foosball messed up my perception of soccer. I thought you had to kick the ball and then spin 'round and round. I can't do a back flip, much less several... simultaneously with two other guys... that look just like me.

I have a cheese-shredder, which is its positive name. They don't call it by its negative name, cause no one would buy it: sponge-ruiner. Because I wanted to clean it, and now I have little bits of sponge... that would melt easily over tortilla chips.

I like cinnamon rolls. That's why I wish they made, like, a cinnamon roll incense. 'Cause I don't always have time to make a pan. Perhaps I'd rather light a stick, and have my roommates wake up with false hopes.

I want to get a vending machine, with fun sized candy bars, and the glass in front is a magnifying glass. You'll be mad, but it will be too late.

I like an escalator because an escalator can never break. It can only become stairs. You would never see an "Escalator temporarily out-of-order" sign. Just "Escalator temporarily stairs. Sorry for the convenience." We apologize for the fact that you can still get up there.


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Yes, but is it Teddy's 80's Night?

Tonight I've been invited out with a group of people that I don't know to go to Skully's, and my ambassador to that group happens to be out of town. It's only through a strange twist of fate that I ended up having contact with them without her as a middle man.

Every Thursday is Scully's "Alternative Ladies Eighties Night." Women get in free (and receive a long stem rose at the door). (oh, and Thursday is one of the 21+ nights)

I think it would be fun to go out, plus my ex-girlfriend is in San Diego now so there's no chance of awkwardly bumping into her. However, I've got to get up early tomorrow, and I'm not sure I really want to go out dancing with a group of people with whom I've never really had spoken word. I can think of someone who I might take with me, but I've really never gone out with her either. The woman with whom I'm going to Cedar Point tomorrow (hence the early wake-up) might enjoy something like that, but I'm still weirded out a little by the whole thing. Plus, I'm not sure how she feels about 80's music other than the Beastie Boys. Would alternative 80's be too much of a stretch?

Going a different way, there's a couple that I lost in the breakup. Since the ex is out of town, there's a chance I might be able to convince them to come, because I think they might have a good time. It still leaves me in a strange third-wheel position... but it's better than an awkward unicycle.

I know. I'm making this unnecessarily complicated. Does it seem so wrong to want to have someone else around the first time I go out with a big group of unfamiliar people? (note: they're unfamiliar people who I think I'd end up liking, which is even more important for me not to come off as uncomfortable and un-fun)

Should be a cool night tonight too. 60's and 70's!

How to write good

I stole the previous post from someone else, and I'm not feeling bad about it, so I'm going to steal something else from the same source (if it was a blog, I would link to it)...

How to write good
How to write good

1. Avoid alliteration. Always.
2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They're old hat.)
4. Employ the vernacular.
5. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
7. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
8. Contractions aren't necessary.
9. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
10. One should never generalize.
11. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
12. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
13. Don't be redundant; don't use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
14. Be more or less specific.
15. Understatement is always best.
16. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
17. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
18. The passive voice is to be avoided.
19. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
20. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
21. Who needs rhetorical questions?
22. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

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Square One in bed with Ann Arbor?

Remember the TV series Square One? It was a show that taught mathematics to kids, and boy was it fun.

MathMan

However, as Wikipedia explains, it has a dark underbelly that makes me feel dirty just thinking about. I can't believe I was subjected to this at a young age...
University of Michigan athletics

The number of references to the Michigan Wolverines that appeared in the show leaves little doubt that the people behind the show counted fans of the school among their ranks.

  • The show would occasionally feature a segment about estimation in which a Michigan cheerleader would place a small object (e.g., a hamburger, a playing card, or a ping pong ball) in the corner of the playing field of Michigan Stadium. The viewer was then asked to estimate how many of the same object it would take to fill (or cover the field of play of) the stadium.
  • Mathman was a walking green head in a Wolverines football helmet.
  • In one Dirk Niblick segment, his mother posed a riddle about probability which mentioned a drawer full of maize and blue socks (Michigan's team colors are maize and blue).
  • Another Dirk Niblick episode called "Do Not Fold, Spindle or Tape" had Dirk's old college friend Wrongway wearing a GO BLUE! shirt backwards. "GO BLUE!" is a Wolverines battle cry.
  • Among other sightings of U of M logos, a member of a ship's crew during an episode of Mathnet staged in Monterey, California wore a cap commemorating a Michigan championship victory.

What a let down!

Go Bucks.

Another book to collect dust on the headboard...

So today I was reviewing an old Amazon.com shopping cart (mulling over whether or not to order some new shaving supplies), and I noticed that The Bachelor Chronicles by Ron Geraci ("a dating memoir") was in stock (only 2 are left at Amazon). I was surprised to see this because it's not supposed to be published until July.

So I had a few errands to run up north anyway, so I stopped by BN and picked up a copy. I'm actually a little excited about it. It looks like it should be a good read. From the back cover:
For the last four years, "This Dating Life" columnist Ron Geraci has chronicled his romantic (mis)adventures in the pages of Men's Health, offering readers a no-holds-barred look into one man's bare-naked dating life. His mission was simple: he dated whomever he could find in order to fill that month's dispatch and revealed everything--the good and bad, funny and catastrophic, triumphant and painful. The Bachelor Chronicles is Geraci's hilariously frank confession of his wild ride from struggling writer in the frenzied world of magazine journalism to his rise as the "male Carrie Bradshaw" with the scars to prove it.

From the women he maniacally dated (lots) to the ones he enraged (even more) and enthralled (okay, you win some), Geraci's story careens through an insane New YorK City landscape that includes countless prospects, one lesbian, two therapists, a high-priced matchmaker, possible liposuction, incredible and not-so-incredible-but-at-least-frequent sex, dating addiction, destroyed relationships as an occupational hazard, blossoming alcoholism, porn, waking up in apartments where no sane man should find himself, perverse mating schemes, noble motivations, desperate loneliness, and the near-constant yearning for a stable life with one woman. Part cautionary tale, part dating survival guide, The Bachelor Chronicles is an emotionally naked, frequently hilarious peek into the male mind and modern romance by a guy honest enough to tell it like it is.

I've already laughed out loud once in the first three pages.

Hopefully I actually remember to read the thing rather than letting it sit next to The End of Faith and Genome and Coevolution and Sync...

It's too bad there isn't an audiobook form. I have a feeling it would really be funny. However, I haven't been listening to many of them lately either. I did (for the first time, really, ever) actually use my iPod for MUSIC today... So maybe a print book is best for me now...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

No bottle opener? Just use another beer!

This is fascinating. Here is a way to open a bottle of beer with another bottle of beer. As long as you have one beer left in your fridge, you'll never need another bottle opener. Check it out:


Oh, YouTube, you're so good to me.

UPDATE: I tried it. I managed to get the bottle to fizz a little, but I think that's just because I managed to bend some of the crinkled metal on the cap. I was using two Sam Adams bottles. I'll have to keep trying another time. Meanwhile... I have a beer to drink...

Unless it's Bender, it just isn't that cool

Bender, from _Futurama_
I am tired of people bragging about working for robotics companies. I'm especially tired of people who KNOW BETTER bragging to OTHER PEOPLE WHO KNOW BETTER about robotics companies. (for example, engineers who blog about it or put it in AIM profiles, both of which they know will primarily be ready by other engineers)

It just isn't that cool. Well, scratch that. It's not any more cool than about a thousand other things that happen at companies that do not have "robotics" in their name.

We use robots to keep the public interested in technology. They're cute and cuddly and have exoskeletons that really show technology at work. Of course, no one really cares about what really makes robotics cool -- the controls involved -- and similarly few of the robots people build at home have any interesting controls (and thus are pretty crappy robots that are little more than powered Slinkies). Really the things that make robots cool to engineers have NOTHING to do with robotics themselves. Those things are involved in all technology, under the covers, doing great things and being taken for granted by the layperson. Thus, there is nothing special about robots, and if you're actually involved in professional robotics, you shouldn't brag about the robots but rather brag about the problems you have to solve to make them work.

Bragging about working for a robotics company is just so pedestrian. You're doing a disservice to your profession, and you're pissing me off.

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Bored? Check out the robogames...

Check out Monday's Rocketboom (a vlog, so dial-up users beware), which shows off a few of the artistic robots found at this year's robogames.

The three that are covered are a steam powered walker (very Wild Wild West), a music bot, and a snake bot that apparently is meant for cuddling up to like a pet...

The snake bot sort of creeps me out. Well, the inventor's description of it being "like a pet"... Well, let me just quote:
. . . if you pick it up and move it, it won't fight you; it's very soft; it's very deceiving to touch. You can get close to it. Do whatever you want with it. It doesn't feel like a rigid machine. It's more like a pet. It's not a robot.

CREEEEEEEEPY... (and does "deceiving" make any sense at all?)

I just worry that someday the snake bot inventor will build a woman who "won't fight you." He'll explain, "It doesn't feel like a rigid woman. It's more like a lover. It's not a robot."

This just goes to show a servomotor can be a dangerous thing in the wrong hands.

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Meeting with the Army Investigator Today

Last night I received a telephone call from an investigator who works for the army. He is doing a background investigation on Matt, a guy I knew in college, who is apparently moving into a position that requires a security clearance.

This is actually pretty common in my field. In fact, when I was getting my "SCI with polygraph," Matt was one of my references. Matt and I had a little bit of a falling out just before he graduated from college, so I was a little surprised he picked me for a reference, but since he did it for me, it makes sense that I'd do it for him. Plus, it's not like I'm going to try to keep Matt from getting his clearance.

Anyway, like I said, this is pretty common in my field. Engineers are often asked to do work for the government either as a government employee or a contractor. In fact, another friend (George) just received a card giving him no-questions-asked entry access to any military base anywhere across the country. This is one of the reasons why being a native born U.S. citizen was actually something that they said would benefit me in graduate programs.

This depresses me more than a little bit. It's bad enough to know that much of the work I do now will go toward military applications (even though it's general enough to be applied anywhere); it sucks to be reminded that there are few other engineering options that don't lead you to the military (especially during and after graduate school). You know all of that stuff about the military-industrial complex? It's all true. It's getting worse as more non-military jobs go overseas. This leaves a huge supply of technology designers with nothing left to do but work on military tech. This creates a larger and larger military hammer with government just looking for nails to swing it at. It's all true. It really sucks.

It's just so much bullshit. We're told to communicate to young people about engineers doing something noble... They build bridges and technology and improve the quality of life around you... However, in the end the engineers in this country just build technology that's made to kill people. That's not something that I can be proud of. Sure, they'll say something like, "Your efficient target selection algorithm is going to save thousands of lives of American citizens and soldiers," but what they really mean is, "We're going to kill everyone else, and we're really really trigger happy." I just can't be excited about that.

Really, I wouldn't have a problem building technology for the military that would help do some social good -- like restoring infrastructure in New Orleans -- but when asked for a military clearance to even do the work, there's a good chance that the work isn't going to involve doing something good... it will probably involve taking someone out.

So that's crappy. But what can I do? I got involved in engineering because I was sold the above-mentioned bullshit about doing a social good... and now it's too late for me to do anything else.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A lesson in talking to women?

So today I wore one of my new graphic tees from Threadless. It is a white shirt that has the classic "I (heart) NY" on it, except that the red (heart) is made up of the words "Have Never Been To".

Throughout the day, going from airport to plane to airport to plane to airport, it got quite a few chuckles and comments. (note: my "I French Kissed Kelly Kapowski" shirt also got a good reception at Rudy's in Austin, but otherwise it seemed to go unnoticed; the shirt with a hippo on it shrugging and saying, "I was never really that hungry hungry" started out strong but then no one seemed to care the rest of that day) I was pretty proud of it. It was a good choice for a day-of-airports, and it was a funny shirt regardless.

Now, we (Alan and I, two single guys) had a 1.5 hour layover in Memphis before boarding our final plane. During this time, we stopped to get something to eat. There was a woman in front of us. She looked like she was a little younger than us, but not much. She was alone and was just as confused by the ordering mechanism at this particular airport pizza place as we were. (note: the place claimed it was "New York's Favorite," which both Alan and I were skeptical of... However, keep in mind that "I have never been to NY") Anyway, while standing behind her, she sneezed. Here's how the conversation should have gone...
20-something Woman: (sneeze!)

Ted: Gezundheit.

20sw: Thanks. (reads shirt and smiles) Are you going to New York?

Ted: (smiles) No, we're heading back to Ohio; what about you, where are you heading? You're not from NY, are you?

20sw: Oh, no, I'm not from NY. (smiles) I'm visiting home in Maryland for a couple weeks. (picks up pizza) Otherwise I go to school in Atlanta.

Ted: (holding his own pizza at this point) Oh, so are you traveling with anyone else?

20sw: Nope. It's just me.

Ted: Would you mind if we joined you while we both wait?

20sw: No. That'd be great.

(blah blah blah at table with woman who will probably never see again)

See? This would have been nice for everyone involved. Alan and I would meet a random female at the airport, and there's a chance that she'd actually be heading our way (to Columbus) so we might end up getting that much closer to actually making a friend. And she would have gotten someone to keep her company while she traveled alone. In fact, I'm pretty sure the shirt question was a cry for help begging for company... Heck, maybe the SNEEZE was!!

However, I was slow to realize any of this (I think Alan realized all of this far earlier than I did, but I was the one in the witty conversation starter of a shirt) and instead things went more like this...
20-something Woman: (sneeze!)

Ted: Gezundheit.

20sw: Thanks. (reads shirt and smiles) Are you going to New York?

Ted: (smiles) Oh, no. I've really never been there. I hope to someday. I guess I'll just throw away the shirt when that happens.

20sw: (nods awkwardly, turns away, turns back partially, and then turns away)

Ted: (continues waiting for pizza)

20sw: (goes off to 2-seat table and sits alone... eventually she finishes pizza and heads down the terminal in the same direction as the gate that leads to the plane that will take Ted and Alan to Columbus)

Ted: (to Alan) Now, a smoother more suave Ted would have asked if we could join her.

Alan: Yeah, I was kind of wondering why you didn't.

Ted: Well, she ended up sitting down at a 2 seat table anyway. If there was room for three chairs, I would have definitely done it.

I have to learn how to read these signs quicker...

Oh, well. Earlier in the weekend, something a little better went on. We went up to Austin to meet Mark and Rachel and Sutke. All the boys (Mark, Sutke, Ted, Alan, George) then went out to 6th street to have a few drinks, a little chat, and some good times in honor of George's upcoming wedding. While at Logan's, one of the bars there, I noticed a woman with blond hair who came in with another woman. That other woman was chatting with some friends she bumped into, and the blond was standing by herself waiting off to the side. She looked a little bored. So I figured I'm an Ohio boy in Texas... Why don't I do something about this? The trouble is, I NEVER do ANYTHING like this... Really, no one with me (except Sutke and maybe a younger less married version of Mark) ever does anything like this. So I'm flying completely blind here... But I think it turned out OK.
Ted: Has anyone ever told you that you look like Jewel but without the bad teeth?

K: Huh?

Ted: Jewel, the singer.

K: Oh, yeah, (nods) I have heard that before. (smile)

Ted: (dreading what he's about to say) You're very pretty.

K: Thanks. (smile)

Ted: Do you go to school around here?

K: Yeah, I go to UT.

Ted: When do you graduate?

K: Next year. I'm a year behind. I took a year off, and I'm really regretting it.

Ted: (some comment gesturing to the group of guys and saying that we're all from Ohio and so this all is new to us or something... in the end, probably not a good thing to bring up... but I was running out of material and yet the momentum was high so something had to come out)

(at this point, the friend who was ignoring the blond comes over and lets her know that they (the two of them) are going to another bar)

K: I guess we're going now.

Ted: (nods and starts to turn away)

K: I'm Karina; what's your name? (extends hand for a shake)

Ted: I'm Ted. (shakes her hand) It was nice to meet you.

(Ted rejoins table of guys who seem proud; I mention that her name was Karina, to which Sutke responds (with a laugh), "Get it and forget it!")

Now, in retrospect, there were better ways to close that conversation. If I was a Texas boy, I'm sure that the words "telephone number" may have come out of my mouth. I was a little surprised that a name was volunteered (oh, and they really did head to a new bar rather than just moving into a different section of Logan's)... so, again, I just wasn't good at thinking on my feet.

However, some interesting things to notice...

Personally, if I hear a man tell a random woman that she's pretty, I get all creeped out. However, most people who give advice on meeting people in bar scenes suggest that straight out compliments work and that women appreciate them. This seems to support that idea. Just tell her that you think she's pretty; there's little harm that can be done there.

In the end, I ended up feeling more confident about myself (which helps me when I actually talk to women who aren't random), and I think she went from feeling left out by her friend to feeling attractive and interesting. I ended up feeling like I actually did something good by talking to her... I THOUGHT I'd feel slimey or creepy afterwards... but I ended up feeling like I did a "good deed."

Regardless of how things turned out, I'll never see that woman again. This is probably going to be the case in my home town as well. There really was absolutely nothing to lose.

So all of that was fascinating to me. Probably my biggest liability is my lack of confidence; who knew?

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Why are there bubbles on my very red left arm?

5 days in San Antonio and all I have is this lousy sun burn.

This weekend was pretty action packed. A lot happened. As it happened, I had a lot to blog about, and I was sure I would later... but now I seem to have lost all memories of those moments.

Now that I carry a Fisher Space Pen with me really everywhere I go, I really need to start carrying my Cahier notebook with me too. Anna does this with a Pocket Moleskine. She ends up jotting down any random thought she has, even if it's pretty stupid, and they all end up coming in handy later. I just worry that I'll look a little silly scribbling something down every time I think of something I'd like to blog about...

For example... Do you ever hear a music track in your head for whatever is going on at the moment? You could almost make up a soundtrack for the movie that is your day. Well, I do that A LOT, and blogging has just added narration to that. Really, in order to really capture what I'm thinking, I'd need a voice recorder to record long monologue commentaries that I could type out later... However, not only do I think I'd look really dorky doing that, but I think I'd be doing it nearly non-stop. It just doesn't seem like a good idea.

Anyway, my point is that I'd like to blog about the weekend, but I'm afraid my general explanation about what stuff went down would be pretty boring. All of the really exciting stuff that would be perfect to blog about... escapes my memory, but I know it was once there. Oh, well...

Was that actually a comedy?

At the end of our last full day in San Antonio, we all thought it would be a good idea to wind down at the Alamo Draft House for a late movie that was fun and would put us to bed in a happy upbeat mood.

( For those who were not aware, there is a chain of movie theaters in Texas that go under the Alamo Draft House name. In each of them, patrons enter the theaters ($8 for adult/$5.50 for student) which look a lot like normal movie theaters, except that every other row has been removed and replaced with a small table accessible to the row immediately behind it. Menus with food and drinks are left on the tables along with white sheets of paper and a pencil. Orders can be made at any time before or during the movie by writing the order on the sheet and placing the sheet (usually folded for extra stability) in such a way that it sticks up from the table and thus beckons the server to pick it up. It's a fun setup for a movie theater. )

We decided to go see The Break-Up. I had heard bad reviews about it. I had heard that this movie would disappoint Vince Vaugn fans. However, I still wanted to see it, and I still was under the impression that it was a comedy. Everyone else wanted to see it too, so it seemed like it was a good idea.

There were about three funny parts of the movie. Those were the three parts that they showed during the previews... However, during the previews they were funny because they had no context. When the context was added, they were just AWKWARD because they usually were during a fight that no one would ever want to witness even as a fly on the wall.

That being said, I'm not sure it was a bad movie. I really felt like it communicated its message well. I really felt like I was right there experiencing the break up with the characters. In fact, I found myself frequently holding my head with my hand in some funny introspective way thinking back on past break ups that shared some common features. In fact, sometimes I think my last big breakup MAY have a lot more parallels to that movie than I want anyone to point out to me. Watching that movie scared up the worry that if there are a lot of parallels there, then maybe I haven't lived the end of the movie yet... maybe I'm somewhere in the middle. <?> Whenever this thought surfaces and freaks me out, I just try to remind myself that there's a good chance I'm not in that movie at all... and that calms me down a bit.

That brings me to some other thoughts I've been having lately. I really think I'd like to be friends with my most recent ex. We'll probably see each other at a wedding or two this summer, and it would be nice if we wouldn't have to avoid each other until eventually having a conversation that sounds scripted (from a boring script). Plus, you know how you share different things with different people? Heck, do you know how sometimes you share the same things with different people but in different ways? The information "lives" between the two people in a way that's unique to those two people. In fact, sometimes you can't just get something off your chest... you have to get something off your chest in a particular way that can only be done with a certain person. Well, I miss having her as one of those outlets. She's one of the only ones still left who actually KNOWS people who might come up in my stories (including me!), so those stories have the potential to be even more entertaining to her and she might have more useful input.

The trouble with forming a friendship with an ex, especially an ex like this, is that it's hard to convince the person that subjects that will inevitably come up in the conversation aren't being brought up as part of some other agenda that involves the ex. And for similar reasons, it's hard to believe that the ex is going to reciprocate such openness.

It just sucks to lose someone who knows so much. It's hard enough when people move away, but there's still visiting and long distance conversations that go on. It sucks even more when people don't move away and yet contact is even more sparse with them than the people who did move away. It's almost... worse?

"I can't get to sleep; I think about the implications..."

I love the acoustic version of "Overkill" that is available on Colin Hay's Man at Work album. It's a great song, and this acoustic version really is cool.

Colin Hay is the old front man of Men at Work (to remind you: Men at Work singles).

Alan introduced me to this song, but I think he was introduced to it from the television show Scrubs, which features some great music. (note: I think that Colin Hay was originally introduced to me by Grey's Anatomy, another great source of great music)

Someone else's Chinese dinner...

I read this on a LiveJournal blog. I would link to the blog, but it's an elite spot...
Chinese for dinner

My fortune cookie tonight:
"A tub and a rub will change our day."

wtf #1: tub and a rub?
wtf #2: OUR day?
I think my fortune cookie was totally hitting on me.

Hilarious.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Take my shirt, please...

UPDATE: George's fiancé Kim was a fan of the shirt, it's size, and it's freeness, so she now has a new shirt... Thus, the shirt is out of my hands. Sorry, ladies; you'll just have to go around without a shirt.

I need someone to take this shirt off my hands:
It's a women's medium.

I received it in the mail by accident. I'd rather give it away than contacting the company to explain that they sent me an extra shirt. I feel a little bad about this because it looks like they're all sold out of this shirt (and may not ever get any more). However, I still feel like I'd rather give it away to someone I know than send it back to the shirt place.

More Freeze Frame...

(this is a follow up to Rocket Freeze Frame)

Anna likes to snap random shots at people. The orange auto-focus of her camera tips people off though, so sometimes they're quick to respond, but very rarely are those people quick enough. Here's an example -- Whitney (click for larger version):
This is one of those shots for which Jenn would probably have a caption contest (or something similar). I think this was supposed to be a bad shot, but it ended up being sort of strangely flattering and even angelic. It reminds me of something out of a movie about a guy whose vision puts a heavenly light around some gal for whom he's smitten, or something like that. Like I said, I think you could have a pretty satisfying back-story/caption contest behind a picture like this.

( it's actually exciting that Anna's little pocket camera was able to capture every strand of Whitney's hair without blur )

Just another example of how many fun frames go by moment by moment that you'd never remember if you didn't have a way to freeze a picture of the time at that instant.

The flip books that are our lives...

22 years old, blood pressure: 195/94

Last night I met a guy named Rich.
Rich is probably one of the funniest people I've met in a long time. He has more energy than a can of Red Bull being chased by a Real Bull. Every explanation has hands flying. Usually he grabs something he's been chewing on and gestures violently with it. It's fun to watch.
(notice the banana tattoo)

Rich apparently went to a see a doctor about what he thought might be a hernia. It turns out it wasn't a hernia; it was something else. However, the real story is about the nurse who came in to take his vitals. She comes in... He's already nervous enough about hospitals and things. He's trying to make jokes to calm himself down. She rolls the blood pressure machine in. She puts the cuff around him; he jokes about it making his arm fall asleep... etc. etc. She then takes Rich's reading and LEAVES THE ROOM for 30 seconds, enough time for her go out in the hall and say, "Holy @!%#!!" She comes back in and says something like, "I have never seen a 22 year old's blood pressure that high!"

Rich is 22. Rich's blood pressure was 195/94. It should probably be something closer to 120/80. So Rich is on medication... for the rest of his life... starting at 22.

Isn't that NUTS?!

On another note, I have a very large nose, and it depresses me...
Happy Thursday, and have a good weekend, and wish Rich well.

Bruce, You Disappoint Me...

Today's NPR song of the day: A Classic Breakup Song Gets Its Answer (by Bruce Warren)

  • Song: "Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken"
  • Artist: Camera Obscura
  • CD: Let's Get Out of This Country
  • Genre: Pop
Now, this is a fine song. It's a fun song. (you can stream it from the link above) However, it's another one of those songs that the average NPR listener has already heard on NPR. It's old news. Thus, IMO, it's really not SotD material.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

"[Wavelet transform] me to the moon... And let me play among the stars..."

Earlier this week, this was written on a facebook wall by a Professor in ECE (who teaches one of the harder digital signal processing courses).
sorry, karaoke didn't really happen the way i had hoped. so i baked cookies instead. no, actually, i didn't bake cookies. but my housemate is baking cookies and it smells good. no, actually, it doesn't smell good yet but it might soon. maybe i should go back to sleeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

His picture from his school web page:
I'm pretty sure he's about 36. In this particular case, he was writing on the wall of a 22-year-old female mechanical engineer.

Something just doesn't seem to fit here. I don't have a problem with any of this. I actually think it's a little refreshing. It just seems unique.

Rocket Freeze Frame

So while checking out today's RB, I accidentally paused the feed at a funny spot...
This just goes to show that life really is made up of a string of awkward and amusing moments. Pause it anywhere and there's a good chance you're going to find something that looks... well... exactly like this.

There was a comedian who once said that you're not allowed to make fun of people for the faces that they make during sex. I think there must be a corollary to that rule about general expressions you make that were never intended to be frozen forever in still picture form. (sorry, Amanda)

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More Jargon, Please...

So whenever I start feeling okay about being a doctoral student in electrical engineering, I happen to talk to a doctoral student in something else... and you know what they say? Things like...
  • protease inhibitor
  • dopamine receptor
  • psychoanalysis
  • post-modernism
  • ecocriticism
These things can come up in normal conversation. They use them because these are the right words to use. They sound very impressive. You know what words I could use?
  • robustly uniformly globally asymptotically stable
  • input-to-state stable
  • negative Jacobian
  • positive definite Hessian
  • real eigenvalues
  • contraction mapping
I think those things sound pretty impressive too. However, there's no way they can come up in normal conversation. There's no way they can be acceptable.

Richard Feynman used to talk about this. Newscasters would deliver political news unscathed--with all of the abstract topics and all of their wordlustitude... Then the same newscasters would talk about science and would say things like, "Basically, the object gets really hot until its inside start moving so quickly that magic happens and it gives off light!" It's frustrating, to say the least. How can you criticize magic?

So because no one cares to hear about the details of what I do... the wordy details... I'm stuck with saying, "I make robots behave like animals," and people think I'm a retard.

Then I tell them about the quals process in ECE, and they compare it to their quals process, and they don't even think I'm a real PhD student after that.

It's frustrating.

On the other hand, if I'm lucky, I catch them wondering about how something man-made works, and I'm able to talk about the technology with the same rigor as they talk about their "neural tubes" or "synaptic circuits"... and finally I seem useful. Unfortunately, usually the only one wondering about how something man-made works is me. :(

Only two months ago?

Earlier tonight I was talking to someone who was hoping that an ex-boyfriend would come around to her side of the argument between them, and it made me think of LT.

I can't believe it's only been two months since she Gave Teddy Her Notice. After three years, two months have flown by. I think that probably speaks for itself about whether or not she made the right decision.

The woman I was talking to mentioned that she wants something from her ex of which she thinks his previous ex (of six years) caused him to have a really bad opinion. I said some rhetoric about guys coming around, and I believed it, but now that I think back on it... whenever I talk to someone who is 2 years younger than me some sort of defensive mechanism goes up. It's silly, I know, but I guess still waters run deep. It's just a little surprising to me; for some reason I just felt like I had grown out of the period of my life where I carry strange baggage with me. I guess not.

Earlier in the night I needed something to distract me from my computer, so I turned on Sex and the City. I was also surprised by a little part of me that reacted to the image of Big and Carrie in a fight. Those angry facial expressions... They were too familiar.

I'm sure all of those things will fade with time. After all, it's only been two months. However, it just feels like it's been much longer, and I guess I'm a little upset that there are evidently parts of me that don't also feel that way.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Crawl like a bug...

Alan just put some photos of me on Facebook from Senior Crawl 2004. He was courteous enough to let me tag the ones that weren't SO bad...

Why am I most embarrassed about the shorts I'm wearing?

Maybe this is why I don't have photos taken of me. Hindsight is 20/20.

Part 2: ...or just stupid?

In "Part 1: Am I Crazy...?" I mentioned two TAL stories that I listened to on the way to the office. The first piece made me feel more than a little uneasy, but for some reason I was more comfortable having the uneasiness than being blissfully ignorant. I have some satisfaction in finding out more about the mess that is being human. Anyway, the second piece, which was very uplifting, helped me forget all of that... and it also helped me forget something else that I realized today IN HORROR.

Recently I met a woman who I find interesting for lunch. Due to some complications involving a last minute change to her schedule, I ended up having to be a little late, and I ended up being later than I expected. For some strange reason I thought it would be a good idea to come up with a COVER STORY so I could open up our first meeting with a LIE just to smooth over me being late. So I took a lot of creative license and said that on my way to the coffee shop, a car ahead of me had plowed into a guard rail, burst into flames, and I had to use pieces of metal from the back seat of my car to pry open the doors and save the passengers before the burning car would do more harm to them. I claimed that they asked me to take them to the hospital, but, as if we were in Good Will Hunting, I wasn't able to help them because, "I had to see about a girl." (I'm holding my head in my hands right now) Now, what makes this even worse is that SHE BELIEVED ME. I ended up having to break it to her that, "None of that actually happened." (I'm beating my head against my hands) She blushed and explained that she was really gullible... (read: "I hate you") (beating my head with a closed fist)

I'm not that dumb of a guy. What possibly made me think that any of this was a good idea? No one says, "Open with a lie; she'll love that!"

I think I'm in over my head. Maybe I'll give a call tonight and try to smooth things over. I think everything AFTER the lie went well. It would have been a little bit more reassuring if she was more smiles and giggles...

Oh, bugger...

Part 1: Am I crazy...?

When driving to the office today, I put in one of my This American Life CD's. I had stopped this one in the middle of a piece by a man asked to interview some people with schizophrenia. This survey was a part of a research study, and he was asked to be the interviewer because someone had heard him on the radio and liked his interview style. He knew nothing about the disease, and he felt like he came out of the survey (after meeting all of these people) knowing even less. Sometime during the process, he decided to give himself the survey, and he started to realize that he wasn't "doing so well" on the test. He was afraid to add up the scores because then he would remember whatever the result was for the rest of his life, and that would end up bothering him to no end. Then he imagined what reports from his doctors would be like if he was a schizophrenia patient. This was an odd thing to listen to, because every time I smiled at something slightly amusing, I got a little depressed at the same time because the reason I smiled was that some part of me could relate.

The next story picked me up. It was a story about a Christmas event at Barney's that had nothing to do with Christmas at all. Barney's had made the decision to honor famous dead people through Christmas, and instead of having a Santa Claus they hired an actor to be a Christmas Freud. "Patients" would sit down on his chair and get psychoanalyzed by an actor FOR CHRISTMAS. On top of this, the "doctor's officde' was a Barney's window, so people would pile up outside the window to watch (though they could not hear anything). Personally, I think it's brilliant. Anyway, the piece was given by the actor who played the faux Freud. He had a friend who sat outside listening to the things that the watchers would say. They would say things like, "Is that Professor Higgins?" and "Do you think he's a real shrink?" That last one was particularly funny, and the actor makes a good point -- Can you imagine a real shrink saying, "Yes, next week we'll be having our session in the window at Barney's. You seem a little resistant; do you want to talk about it?"

Brussels Swarmanoid PostDoc

I got this in the mail today... It's for a post-doctoral position building a SWARMANOID.

I'm not kidding.
PostDoc position available
IRIDIA
Institut de Recherches Interdisciplinaires et de
Développements en Intelligence Artificielle
Université Libre de Bruxelles
Brussels, Belgium
http://iridia.ulb.ac.be/

Swarmanoid project:
Postdoctoral research position available

Start date: October 1st, 2006, or later.
Position will remain open until a suitable candidate is found.


The Swarmanoid project is a Future and Emerging
Technologies (FET-OPEN) project funded by the
European Commission. The main scientific
objective of this research project is the design,
implementation and control of a novel distributed
robotic system. The system will be made up of
heterogeneous, dynamically connected, small
autonomous robots. Collectively, these robots
will form what we call a swarmanoid. The
swarmanoid that we intend to build will be
comprised of numerous (about 60) autonomous
robots of three types: eye-bots, handbots, and
foot-bots.

The Swarmanoid project is the successor project
to the SWARM-BOTS project, and will build on the
results obtained during the SWARM-BOTS project.
Information on the SWARM-BOTS project can be
found at the following address:
www.swarm-bots.org.

Another one bites the dust!

Can no one stay single?! NO ONE?!

More details later... Maybe...

A new blog?

I found a new blog to add to the RSS aggregator. These are from two of the recent entries, and I find them both funny:

Chicago
Afterwards we went out for drinks and updates. I proceeded to give him some amazing relationship advice: If you really want this girl to like you, you must convey total disinterest. Does she have a best friend? You should probably make out with her. Actually, maybe that's your problem. If you like this girl so much, you should have started dating her best friend. At which point Seth made a mental note to never ask me for relationship advice again and probably thought something akin to the not-religious person's version of "may God have mercy on your black and withered soul."

Revolving Door
Guys go first. Just a friendly reminder. I understand that I'm not in Texas anymore, so I don't expect much in the way of "gentlemanly behavior" (though I always appreciate it). With the exception of not giving up your seat to a pregnant lady or helping someone with a stroller down the subway stairs, lapses in etiquette hardly upset me (seriously, those are less about etiquette and more about being a jerk). But for some reason, (and maybe it's because I already don't like you?) if you give me your best, "I'm a gentleman" shrug and say "after you" while waiting in front of a revolving door, I will know your heart is in the right place but I will think you are retarded.

You think you go to a big school?

Graduates set record as largest class
Ohio State Universty's President Karen A. Holbrook presided over the 376th commencement ceremony for the class of 2006, evoking emotions and applause speaking to the record-setting 7,643 graduates along with 35,000 guests.

Some things to note...
  • Those numbers may not include the students who decided not to walk that day and instead will be getting their diplomas by mail.
  • Everyone who did walk that day got their diploma on the football field. OSU prides itself on having live diplomas during graduation.
Later down in the article, they mention that some of the students were nervous before graduation. I don't remember being nervous, and I don't see why you would be. Sure, there are some cases where people find out that they flunked a critical class the previous week and will walk but will not actually receive a diploma, but given that you know you're going to graduate... I don't see what the big deal is. I was happy to be done with the whole thing.

Monday, June 19, 2006

A relatively good day... with a so-so ending.

So today was a relatively good day. I got some work done... not as much as I wanted to, but I definitely got some done. Tomorrow I'm going to get up much earlier. I think that's the ticket. Yeah. Today actually was a very nice day. The weather was extremely comfortable in the evening, and it was a little hot during the day. There were hardly any major clouds. Not the rain that I expected.

Before I went to the office, I headed to physical therapy. The arm is healing pretty nicely after surgery. I really have almost 100% of my motion. I told Tony some funny stories, and we laughed, and everything was happy. Well, I mentioned I was going to a bachelor party later this week in San Antonio. Tony asked if it was mine. I said it wasn't. Later I said something else about women that clearly indicated I was single. Tony cocked his head to the side like a dog who just heard the word "waffle" and wanted to know more. I explained to him about being single (the last time he saw me for long enough to talk about this stuff was well before the surgery). He felt bad about the bachelor party comment. I said he didn't have a need. Tony's a good guy.

Anyway, he gave me a whole laundry list of weight bearing exercises to do. I'm SOOO THRILLED that I'm finally doing some weight bearing stuff. I'm still not doing curls with the arm, but I'm back to push ups, rows, extensions, and lots of other fun stuff. I'm THRILLED. So I left PT feeling AWESOME. I think I broke out some Jamie Lidell and sang, "Music Will Not Last," at the top of my lungs (well, I did in my head; in reality I think I just bobbed a little).

I got into the office to find Jorge there. He, Brandon, and Nicanor went to the ACC controls conference in Minnesota this weekend. Apparently they did some good networking. Jorge was really in a mood to wax poetic about the virtues of networking before applying for faculty jobs in engineering. You see, Jorge is my age. Before Kevin joined the group, we were the youngest ones in the group. However, Jorge got his BS in 2003 and his MS in 2004 (he was on a combined program, actually, so that was pretty speedy). I don't know when he took his quals. Anyway, he's on schedule to get his PhD by 2007. He'd like to stay longer, but I think the boss is kicking him out. Anyway, because Jorge's been moving at a good clip and has been marketing his stuff really well, he's sort of the senior grad student in our group. (holy crap; someday that's going to be me...) Thus, I think he's feeling like he's got some responsibility to pass on some advice. That's fine with me; I like Jorge. Plus, he does have some good things to say.

As he was talking, he said some things I had been thinking lately... Primarily about the importance of presentations and writing in grad school. I would always stress to the younger engineers I used to TA that they would need to write well in order to be productive in industry, but I never really thought about the impact on writing (and presenting) on the academic track. It's huge. It's everything. It's all about the marketing and the presentation (at least in our field). So I really dug what he said about that.

That got me thinking about some other things too. Lately I've been feeling more okay about being an Electrical Engineer. You see, after being around EEs so often (where we all have much of the same skill set), it's hard to figure out why it's special to be an EE. I've been starting to talk to other grad students in and out of the sciences, and I'm starting to realize that maybe engineers aren't as lowly as we feel when compared to some other disciplines. We're not so bad.

Anyway, so around 6pm I left the office and headed to Polaris. I needed to continue my massive wardrobe replacement, and I want to have nearly all of it done by the time I go to San Antonio. I think George (and Sutke?) will appreciate it especially if I show up in completely different threads than they're used to. I'm looking forward to it. (San Antonio is Thursday to Monday)

I hit Polaris, got something to eat, and headed to Buckle... Because I really had no choice, I let two of the high school girls dress me. After the fiftieth pair of jeans they handed me to try on, I reminded them that I can't trust them because they work for "the man." They didn't seem to appreciate that. Oh, well...

Anyway, by the time I was making my purchase, one of the girls asked me if I had been shopping all day. I said that I hadn't and I just got off work. "Where do you work?" I explained that I was a grad student. "Oh, my dad works at OSU. He's like the assistant treasurer so I'll get half my tuition off." Yep, high school, as expected.

Now, here's where things started to get strange. I've been wearing a shirt all day that has an _Office Space_ quote on it ("Someone has a case of the Mondays"). I knew I would be on campus most of the day, so I figured I'd have a little fun and wear a Monday shirt. Anyway, there was an _Office Space_ trademark on it. The high school girl read the trademark and said, "Office Space... Oh, my **MOM** LOVES that movie!" YOUR MOM?! YOUR MOM?!! So yeah, that made me feel old. The other girl then says, "No, I like the movie too," but she looked like one of those high schoolers who is in to "vintage" movies... I guess the _Godfather_ of my day is the _Office Space_ of hers.

So I left there... And after discussing different cuts, washes, and materials (and knowing a little bit about what I was talking about), I headed to Sephora to ask about shaving product that would be a little gentler on my face (which needs to be shaved every day). So then I talked about scrubs, astringents, and lots of other things... Then, for kicks, I asked about hair product, and I think I knew more than her about men's hair product... (which is funny because I really don't wear much hair product) On my way out of the mall, I called two of my guy friends to ask them about a particular fashion scenario (involving light tinted shirts and undershirts underneath them)... and basically came out of the mall feeling on the gay side of metrosexual. Oh, well... I'm 25; it's about time I grow up and start learning how to dress and groom myself.

So I still had to go to Meijer to return something. On my way out, I bought a grape soda. The kid at the register (he maybe was 14 or 15; MAYBE he was 16) read my shirt and started reciting to me PARAGRAPHS from the movie. ("Oh, you're one of them," I thought) I guess I deserved it. I stared at him for a while, hoping he'd stop and give me my change. I said, "Yeah, that sounds about right." He then EXPLAINED TO ME THAT IT WAS FROM THE MOVIE. YEAH, KID, I KNOW. I WORE THE SHIRT. GIVE ME MY SODA AND MY CHANGE!

Let me say something about the shirt. For one, I wore it for the people I saw on campus. I got a few smiles from people, which made them sort of give me a thankful look for giving them that fun memory, and that's exactly what I wanted. I used my chest space to brighten someone else's day. That's a good thing. I wasn't shooting for the Meijer kid response... but I guess I shouldn't have been surprised by it.

So I headed home. Now it's 10:30pm. I should hang up my clothes... Wash the test product off of my hands from Sephora... set my alarm for "early..." and cozy up to the Daily Show and the Colbert Report before heading off to bed. That's the plan.

And now a few lyrics from the song that inspired "Music Will Not Last," Matthew Herbert's "The Audience"...
I am nervous you are calm
I see lines upom your palm
I am close we are near
Though the ending is not here
We are seperate we are one
The division has begun
You are my future i am your past
Even music will not last

So move with me
With me removed

You and us together
Together in this room
You will not remember
This passing moment soon

House Party?

Does anyone else think it's really strange that Fox is advertising Tuesday's two hours of House REPEATS like it's the next big thing on TV?

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Why do I want to see _The Lake House_?

Is there something wrong with me?

The Wainwrights and My Muse Blues

CREEPY UPDATE: Just after I posted this, I received an e-mail from my sister with the subject, "Today's Inspirational Thought." The content of the e-mail was a cute little phrase that is on a shirt that I ordered ON FRIDAY. At the instant I realize this, a DHL guy arrives at the door with... yes... my shirt.

On top of that, the person who was packaging the order happened to accidentally also give me a Felix the Cat shirt in women's medium. Could this be my muse? Eventually I'll find someone to whom I can give this shirt; would she be my muse?

So who out there wear's a women's medium T-shirt? (see it here)

After last night's muse blues, it seems eerily relevant that today's "This I Believe" on NPR is about having a muse...
I believe in the power of inspiration, in the mysterious gift of creation -- creation with a small "c," that is -- creation as in one's work, hauling in the day's catch. When I write a song, I'm happy for a few days and it's not just because I've been reassured that I still have a job, though that's certainly part of it. Mostly I'm happy, I think, because I've experienced a real mystery. I haven't the slightest idea how it happened or where or from whom or what it came. I'd prefer not to know.

The piece is by Loudon Wainwright III, father of Rufus and Martha (all three who are popular singer/songwriters). As it closes, they play his song, "Muse Blues," which is all about writer's block.

Monday Videos!

Thanks to today's RB for these...

5 year old scores perfect on DDR

Japanese Rube Goldberg machine (makes a bowl of ramen)

He's doing what? When? Why?

So I just found out something pretty exciting.

And that's all I'm going to say for the moment.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

I need a muse...

I think it's supposed to rain tomorrow. I'm actually hoping on it a little bit. I think I'm going to go into the office (WHAT?!) tomorrow. It's usually so depressing working at the office. I work in a small office with two other desks in it. I have no windows. My office is a bit like a prison cell. If you turn the lights off, it's much like solitary confinement. I abandoned it nearly all of last quarter because most of the time it would be filled with undergraduate engineers taking one of the non-EE classes that one of my officemates TA'ed. I felt sorry for my officemate. This was the class where the students take the V=iR they learned about in physics and turn it into the V=iZ that people use in the real world. It doesn't sound difficult, but if you give a non-EE enough time to think about it, they'll find all sorts of ways to get screwed up. Anyway, I'd vacate the area, and the students could use my desk. I came in this summer and found it COVERED in eraser gunk. <sigh>

Anyway, it's hard to work in the office when it's so nice outside. However, in theory it should be much easier to get productive in the office.

I've been working on this manuscript for the next paper for far longer than I should be. I get a message from my adviser, who is currently out of state on sabbatical... As usual, the message has no subject and is very short and to the point.
Ted: How is that work coming along? Kevin

I'm too embarrassed to tell him the truth. I'm getting stuck at the dumbest parts, like the ABSTRACT and the introduction... I'm actually getting stuck at a much more fundamental level. I'm getting stuck at coming up with the structure of this very strange paper. I know he'll just want me to get something down -- that will let us just work from there. However, in this particular case, I have a lot of mixed feelings. There are a number of different audiences for this paper, and I feel bad every time I start settling on one of them...

(aside: Notice how he signs his name, "Kevin?" I still have trouble calling him by anything other than his "Professor" name. I have the same problem with "Tom," the EEOB professor who works with us; however, "Tom" is even less formal than my adviser. I should just bite the bullet and start whipping out the "Kevin")

So far here's what I've got for the abstract. I write so crappy when I lack motivation. I'm so unhappy about this...
Optimal foraging theory (OFT) suggests that natural selection should favor animal behaviors that maximize long-term net rate of energy gain with an infinite time horizon. Such behaviors will bring the anima sufficient energy for survival while also providing enough time for other tasks, such as reproduction or predator avoidance. The standard model for long-term net rate of energy gain is derived from fitting a parameterized curve to empirical data. Here, we develop a foraging model from basic probability theory and show that its long-term net rate of point gain is equivalent to the one used by classical OFT. We then show how a different cost function with greater analytical tractability can be derived from this model that puts similar pressures on increased energy gain and decreased foraging time but does so in a way that allows the forager a finite lifetime. This function may provide alterate explanations for observational deviations from classical OFT. Finally, we explore a function describing a foraging efficiency in this model, which may be useful in some engineering applications. In both of these cases, we derive algorithms for solving the classic prey preference and patch residence-time problems that are analogous to the ones used in classic OFT.

CRAP.

So tomorrow I'm going to hunker down at the desk... and work. I'll probably bring my laptop since I've gotten so used to working at it, but working at the PC might be less cramped. <sigh>

Additionally, I'm worried about the lesson plans I need to put together for GK-12. Recently a piece of rubber on my JumpDrive broke and I lost it (probably in a Meijer parking lot, actually). There was nothing really important on this except for the first lesson plan I put together. It should be easy to put together again, but it just makes me want to do it less. I also want to experiment with building different types of barometers for this particular lesson... I want to do well with this GK-12 thing; I just worry about having the energy to put a lot of effort into it.

So I really need a muse. I need some positive motivation. Right now all the motivation is that negative kind that just makes me want to take a nap.

It's really frustrating because I have done all of the "hard" work. I have all of the analytical stuff done. I have some really good work that could whip the pants off some poor EEOB researcher who dares criticize OFT. I just have a hard time framing what I want to say.

It's so strange to be a writer. I've always told students about the importance of writing in engineering jobs, and I believe that, but doing engineering in academia takes things to a completely different level. All of your work, regardless of how strong the actual research is, is only as good as how you present it and what journals you release it in. It's all about the message. It's all about the writing.

I never imagined myself as going into a career of writing. In some ways, it's a little exciting... However, I've gone my whole life thinking that writing was just a tool in the toolbox. I never knew engineering would be the tool and writing the one thing that was constant.

And thus, again, I need a muse... and fast... my adviser's waiting.

Dating advice.... for women... from TED?!

UPDATE: I did a search and found the article on-line. If you're interested, read the whole thing here.

So today I ran into an article written by Ron Geraci, who has been called the "male Carrie Bradshaw," and I thought parts of it were particularly relevant. Its title:
WHY I WON'T COMMIT... YET

One die-hard bachelor who's been on hundreds of dates reveals his reasons for staying single--and 10 things women should do on a date.

Now, I'm not going to say that I'm some dating expert. However, I thought these three were pretty good points. They all have a common theme.

Express open-minded interest in something I bring up that you have no interest in at all. I’m doing this for you constantly, so reciprocate just a little. Instead of saying, “I don’t watch television, so I’ve never seen that show and don’t know anything about it” try, “I’ve heard about that show but haven’t seen it—what’s interesting about it?” See how easy?

If I talk on and on about myself, don’t immediately assume I’m an egocentric conversation hogger who never shuts up. It might be because you’re letting uncomfortable silence persist after responding economically to my questions. Say something interesting. If I don’t let you finish your sentences, label me an ass and move on.

Ask me one question. Just one question about me or my life. Don’t spend three hours responding to my questions, talking enthusiastically about your own life, or waiting to be entertained. Asking a question that indicates you have some interest in my life, and letting me answer it, will put you in the top 3 percent of great dates. And the more questions you ask, the greater your chances that any guy, die-hard bachelor or not, will fall hard and give up anything to be with you.

Okay, I think I should go work on a manuscript (compuscript?)... But I'm not much in the mood.

Maybe I'll go to see a movie.

Alone.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

"I loved you first, I loved you first"

On hour 1 of today's Weekend America, they did a segment on Regina Spektor, who also happens to be MySpace's featured artist right now (previews or full versions of her songs are available at the latter two links).

From Weekend America:
Pop Music Pick: Regina Spektor
Alan Light joins host Barbara Bogaev with some new pop music. He brings a new record from Regina Spektor, a new singer songwriter who grew up in the Bronx as the daughter of two Russian immigrants, and fell in love with music. We hear a track called "Samson."


If you would like to hear "Samson," it was recently an NPR song of the day and is available for streaming from there.

I just want to point out that I knew about her before all of this. I thought she was a big thing before she became the "next big thing."

Just another reason why I need to start making mix tapes of my own just as a tribute to my own prescience. Yeah...