Friday, April 28, 2006

Matrimorphobia and Patrimorphobia

I've been thinking lately that I'm turning into my mother, which has caused me to invent a new word:
Matrimorphosis, noun. The process of turning into one's mother.
This word lead me to its male-parental counterpart:
Patrimorphosis, noun. The process of turning into one's father.
Of course, many people, me included, fear these processes, so 2 more words are needed:
Matrimorphobia, noun. The irrational fear of turning into one's mother.

Patrimorphobia, noun. The irrational fear of turning into one's father.

The Earls of Hazzard

Who ordered that?

The Freedom Tower

Ground was broken on the Freedom Tower yesterday. Only 1776 more feet to go.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Caprica: Birthplace of the Cylons

Yesterday, the Sci Fi Channel announced that it will develop a new series called Caprica. The series will be a prequel to my favorite currently running show, the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica; it will take place about 50 years before Battlestar and chronicle the breakthrough in robotics that will lead to development of the Cylons and, ultimately, the near-total annihilation of the human race. The show is to be executive produced by Battlestar EPs Ronald D. Moore and David Eick---24 screenwriter Remi Aubuchon will pen the pilot---which leads me to believe that the series will focus on character drama and which has me feeling optimistic about the show. As Ketan so succintly put it, "Yay!"

There's no word yet on when the series will debut, but I'm guessing it will be sometime in mid-to-late 2007.

A Stolen Aphorism

Here's an aphorism I stole from Todd:
People say you write things down so you can remember. Really, you right things down so you can forget.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Movie Review: C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America

(This review contains no significant spoilers.)

Last weekend, Nick, Lisa, Greg, Alison and I watched C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America. The film, written and directed by an African American film professor from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, is a mockumentary; it takes a Ken-Burns-style look at American History since the Civil War, but it is set in a universe where the South won the "War of Northern Aggression." As a result, slavery, racism, and sexism have not only continued in the South, but spread across the country and beyond. The movie is sometimes funny, often thought-provoking, and always discomforting. What really made the flick one worth seeing were the mock advertisements for products and services available in that universe. The most horrifying part was learning, in the epilog, just how many of these advertised goods were extrapolations of real-world products and services.

Overall, I give it 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Let's Flybar, Baby!

That's it. I'm giving up biking, lifting, and martial arts so I can devote all my time and energy to extreme pogo-sticking.

It's Promtastic

If you are planning a wedding, do not---repeat, do not---go visit the tuxedo-rental facility during prom season. Not only will you be forced to wait forever to talk to the salesfolk, but you'll be surrounded by awkward high-school boys making bold statements like, "Dude, I would look so hot in that white tux!" and their mothers asking questions like, "What color is Kaitlyn's dress?"

Movie Review: Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

(This review contains no significant spoilers.)

I've now seen Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, twice: once on the big screen and once on the DVD that Alison gave me. Being a longtime fan of both Wallace and Gromit, especially Gromit, I greatly enjoyed the film. The movie takes place in a caricature of England in the 1950s and 1960s, and it is loaded up with all the W&G trademarks: Rube-Goldbergery, exaggerated characters, subtle sight gags, and a ridiculous chase sequence at the end. Plus, there's an entire warren of oh-so-cute rabbits.

Overall, I give it 8.0 out of 10.

Movie Review: Thank You For Smoking

(This review contains no significant spoilers.)

A couple of weekends ago, Lisa, Greg, Alison, and I saw Thank You For Smoking, a ficitional film about the tobacco industry's principal lobbyist. It was quite good. In particular, the screenwriter, director, and lead actor did a good job of making the viewer cheer for the main character while simultaneously abhorring his job and his industry.

Overall, I give it 7.5 out of 10.

Optimus Prime Lives!

Apparently, in 2001, a US Army National Guardsman legally changed his name to "Optimus Prime." I guess he must somehow be more than meets the eye.

Friday, April 21, 2006


It occurs to me that someone browsing through my music collection might mistakenly get the impression that I like it when women are unhappy.

Star Trek XI: Felicity and Sydney Get Lost on an Impossible Mission

In a move that certainly surprised me---and I don’t think I’m the only one---Paramount has tapped J. J. Abrams to produce and direct the next Star Trek film, to be released in 2008. That’s number 11, for those keeping track. Or number XI, for track-keepers in Rome. Abrams is most famous for creating and producing Felicity, Alias, and Lost; his current project is writing and directing Mission: Impossible III. It appears that previous Trek honchos Rick Berman and Brannan Braga will not be involved in any way, which is good news to me, since the 2 of them ran the franchise into the ground. The fact that most of Abrams’ projects have been successes is encouraging.

So now you want to know about the plot of the film, eh? Apparently, Paramount is copying the back-to-the-beginning approach used in Batman Begins and the next James Bond film, a remake of Casino Royale: the story will follow the first meeting of Kirk and Spock at Starfleet Academy and, I can only assume, some adventure that proceeds therefrom. Kirk and Spock, as well as any other characters from the original series, will have to be recast, which will no doubt spark outrage among the trekkies/trekkers of the world. I don’t know what to think of this development, except that I can’t help wondering if and how Christopher Pike will be involved. Anyone out there care to voice an opinion?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

1 Gear and 118 Minutes of Torture

I've recently been fascinated with the ideas of (a) getting back into mountain-biking* and (b) taking up single-speeding (as mentioned in an earlier post). To investigate whether I'd really like doing either of these things without spending the time and money required to acquire my own single-speed bicycle or mountain bike, I rented an SS MTB from my local shop. (Apparently, they keep this bike on hand for this exact purpose.) You might believe this experiment was unscientific, since I varied 2 parameters (terrain and number of gear ratios) at once, but I believed I could decouple the effects of the 2 changes. Thus, I was doing 2 experiments simultaneously.

So, Saturday morning, I headed off to Patapsco Valley State Park. (Alison suggested that, to fit in with the MTB crowd, I should do the ride wearing cargo shorts, use lots of multiples of 180 in conversations, and call everyone "Dude!" I declined to follow any of her suggestions.) The ride was extremely arduous---not only because of the very limited gear selection, but also because I haven't ridden over anything rougher that recently-mown grass in about 8 years---but very enjoyable as well.

Here's what I learned about SS MTB-ing from my adventure. (Not all of these lessons apply strictly to the particular type of riding I was doing).
  • It's very stupid to do squats, dead lifts, calf extensions, and ankle curls the night before performing this experiment. Bad Michael! Bad!
  • When renting a bike, you need to ensure that the brakes, especially the front brakes, have been correctly adjusted so that you can actually stop, should such a crazy idea enter your head. This is an especially good idea if 1 or both of your brakes are hydraulic discs, which require more than a trail-side knob-twist to put right.
  • You need to be able to clip out very quickly with very little warning. I think this happens more when single-speeding, since you are always in the wrong gear.
  • You will get lots of practice pushing your bike up steep inclines. Surprisingly, doing so can yield heart rates approaching 160 beats/minute.
  • Even if you fall frequently and often resort to pushing the bike, you feel pretty bad (in a Leroy Brown kind of way) because you are riding a single-speed.
  • Interval training is built-in with single-speed mountain-biking, because you are either (a) near your maximum heart rate due to climbing in a way-too-large gear or (b) descending at velocities beyond where pedaling is effective (and thus coasting).
  • A suspension fork, if it works well, allows you to worry less about choosing your line or lifting the front wheel over obstacles; instead, you can just plow on.
  • White-tailed deer are very graceful and surprisingly quiet when bounding through underbrush.
  • The simplicity of velocity control on a single-speed bike---if you want to go faster, pedal faster--- is quite compelling.
  • Single-speeding frees up that part of you brain that would otherwise be used for shifting, anticipating shifts, and fussing with unruly derailleurs for other things, like choosing your line (or composing blog entries, in real time, about what you are learning).
  • The back-to-basics nature of single-speeding is stylistically compatible with the getting-in-touch-with-nature that might attract you to mountain-biking.
  • Said feeling of communing with nature is quickly destroyed by a squealing rim brake. Fortunately, a little trail-side adjustment can put that to rights.
* I've always thought that "mountain biking" is a poor name for the kind of riding usually denoted by that term, since (a) you can ride over smooth terrain or even roads in the mountains and (b) you can ride over very rough terrain in the flat-lands. I prefer the term "all-terrain biking." Some people use this second, more accurate term, but it is far less common, which is a shame.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Monkeys on Parade

OK, my title is a little misleading; this post isn't about a parade of monkeys. It's disappointing, I know. However, I do have a parade of monkey-related news bits for you. Sadly, none of these monkey-related stories actually have monkeys in them, but still...
* You may be interested to know that Nesmith's mother invented Liquid Paper. No joke.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

New Urbanism

On the way back from my self-inflicted torture session, I heard a neat NPR piece on a new-urbanist housing development in Atlanta. New urbanism is a movement in urban/city/community planning to return communities to the way they were in the pre-automotive era; it mixes residential, commercial, and recreational areas together and emphasizes walkability. I think it's an interesting idea, though I'm not sure how well it works in practice. Give the NPR article a listen and let me know what you think. I'm particularly interested to hear what those of you in who both (a) live in an experimental community and (b) are studying city planning---you know who you are---have to say about this.

The Fish that Walks

Animals like this "walking" catfish, as well as transitional fossils such as Archaeopteryx and Australopithecus, make me wonder how people can doubt that evolution occurs.

96 Minutes and 28.7 Miles of Torture

96 minutes and 28.7 miles of torture: that's what I did for "fun" after work today.

Monday, April 10, 2006

One Ring to Find Them

I'm sure you're all curious to know how the wedding planning is going. Pretty well, actually. I think we have a good handle on the situation. Please be aware, though, that I reserve the right to freak out about it later. Our latest nuptuals-related accomplishment? I bought Alison's wedding band. Here's a photo:

The metalurgists in the audience may be interested to know that the band, like the engagement ring, is platinum. No ruby this time, though.

Human Evolution Ongoing?

You might be interested in this Wired article discussing published evidence that humans are still subject to selection , and "not just for things like disease resistance but [also] for cognitive abilities." Check it out.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

More Evanescent than Evanescence

My recent post mentioning Evanescence got me thinking about just how goth the band's lyrics and song titles are. Here are the topics of their songs, roughly in decreasing order of prevalence:
  • Death
  • Dying
  • Love gone bad
  • Death
  • Submission
  • Hatred
  • Sleep (probably a metaphor for death)
  • Death
So, with that in mind, I'd like to suggest a little game. Below, I've listed several true Evanescence song titles and several over-the-top names that I've just made up on the spot. Your job is to pick out the real ones. And don't cheat by looking at my last post or poking around online! Ready?
  1. Undone
  2. Nightmare
  3. Tourniquet
  4. Love is a Stranger
  5. Bleeding Heart
  6. My Last Breath
  7. Breathe no More
  8. Unfortunate
  9. Haunted
  10. Love is Stronger than Death
  11. Death is Stronger than Love
  12. Everybody's Fool
  13. Going Under
  14. Almost Human
  15. Taking Over Me
  16. The Burning Circle
  17. Thoughtless
  18. Whisper
  19. Crybaby
Here are the answers. You might need to copy and paste them into an editor to read them: 3, 6, 7, 9, 12, 13, 15, 17, 18

Are you up for the bonus round? If so, please submit your best more-goth-than-the-goths-are song titles via the comment link below. As always, the author my favorite suggestion(s) will win ...well, nothing of any value.


Alison's favorite songs by Evanescence---still not a Christian band, by the way---are "Breathe no More*," "Going Under," and "Taking Over Me." Meanwhile, my favorites are "Haunted," "Farther Away," and the band's cover of Korn's "Thoughtless." I don't know; this could be a deal-breaker.

* You could be excused for thinking that "Breathe no More" and "My Last Breath" are the same song, but they aren't. What they are, is evidence that this band is more than a bit goth.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Nothing Fails Like Prayer

A recently published clinical trial has found that praying for post-operative patients does no good whatsoever. Gee, there's a surprise.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

I Should have Arrived on an Old Steel Fixie

Today, I went on my first group ride of the season. Since this was my first ever ride with this group, it was hard to know which riders would be my speed. The guy organizing the ride decided that I belonged with the AA group. (For those of you keeping score at home, that’s the fastest group.) I tried to disabuse him of the impression that I was in any kind of biking shape, but he insisted that I looked fit and was riding a Seven, so I must be fast. Thus, I headed out with the fast group, which turned out to be a bit of an exercise in humility. Maybe I should have though of this outcome before I acquired such a shmancy bike.

Cranking it Up to Eleven

Brian---Biostats Brian, that is---brought back a souvenir from his trip to Rick's Coast. He relates the story with surprising humor here.

Y'know what ELSE I can't stand?

Radio Shack. By the way, you should totally check out Todd's screed (or is it a diatribe?) on this subject. I completely concur with him...but I digress. Here is an account of my uber-irritating Radio Shack experience.

Usually when I go into Radio Shack it is because Michael wants to look at something, so to amuse myself while I'm waiting for him I often look at the cell phones. I am not planning to buy a new one or anything. I am perfectly happy with Alphonse (Yes, I have named my phone. See why I don't belong in Radio Shack?), but they one of the few things I enjoy browsing for in Radio Shack. Sue me. Anyway, Radio Shack seems to have some of the most aggressive salespeople EVER. I am always instantly accosted the second I glance toward the cell phones. I just say I'm not interested or whatever and Michael is done before I can get really annoyed at them because, as Todd mentioned, Radio Shack never has what you want so Michael is often done quite quickly.

Well, this one particular day Michael was taking a little longer than usual. I was, as expected, accosted by a salesman as soon as I started looking at the phones. I said I was just browsing, not intending to buy. He then said, "OK, but if you do want to buy anything, let me know because there are different pricing plans for new and returning customers, and this phone is blah, blah, blah." So, basically he completely ignored me and continued to give me his spiel. Fine. When he finally paused for breath, I politely interrupted and said, "Well, thanks, but I'm really just looking," to which he replied in a very snotty tone, "Oh yeah? Well, I'm just talking. I's my job." I was floored! I mean, how are you supposed to sell something if you are so incredibly rude to your customers? It wasn't like he was some young kid, either. This guy had gray hair. Freak!

So, I just turned and walked away to tell Michael I would be waiting outside. It was either that or hiss at the guy and scratch his eyes out, but I have short nails so I chose option A. I HATE that store and I refuse to buy anything there ever again.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Muffy Story #2: Eau de Bounce

Muffy and my mom live in a northern state where it is cold for many months out of the year. This often confuses Muffy because if it is pretty and sunny outside then she wants to go sit on her back porch. She doesn't quite grasp that if it looks nice outside, it is not necessarily warm outside. My mom's house has bay French doors leading out onto the patio and there is a step that runs along them where Muffy loves to sit and watch the world go by. However, on days when it is sunny but cold, Muffy will beg to go out and then very shortly thereafter beg to come in. Of course, within 10 minutes or so she will have forgotten that it is cold outside and she will once again want to go out because, "It's sunny out Mom! Let's go sit on the step!". In, out, in, get the idea.

Well, one day when Muffy was a puppy, we were having an "in, out, lather, rinse, repeat" kind of day when suddenly she stopped begging to come in. Frankly, we didn't really notice. We were probably just grateful that she had decided to stay put for a while. Well, when she finally did come in some time later, we realized when we picked her up that she smelled...oddly clean. In fact, she smelled like fabric softener! This was somewhat disturbing since the fabric softener, along with all of the other laundry implements, is kept in the basement where, to our knowledge, Muffy had never been.

A few days later, when it was again sunny and cold, we figured out how Muffy got her new perfume. The dryer exhaust vent is situated on the side of the house directly above the step where Muffy likes to sit. She had figured out that it was warm and was sitting there on cold days when she wanted to be outside. She still does it to this day. In fact, my mom has admitted to doing a load of laundry specifically so that Muffy can have her space heater on cold days.

Two Too Many, Two

Remember my post about monowheels/monocycles? Well, here's a cool page cataloging the history of these contraptions. Be sure to scroll down to see fun photos.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Steel is Real

Biking geeks and materials-science nerds---I'm a card-carrying member of both groups---may be interested to know that Reynolds, the 100-plus-year-old tubeset maker, has introduced a new steel alloy and tubeset, which they call 953. The new 953 has some interesting and useful properties:
953 frames should be available from Independent Fabrication** later this spring. I'm sure longtime fans of steel (Masta, for example) are rejoicing at this news. The corrosion issue has always kept me away from steel frames, but this is a steel tubeset that I could be excited about.

* No steel alloy is truly stainless. These alloys are more correctly called "stain-resistant" or "corrosion-resistant."
** IF is Seven Cycles' smaller, slightly less buttoned-down sibling in the family of greater-Boston-based builders of custom titanium/carbon/steel frames.

"Fixie" is Fun to Say

Since I started cycling in 1992, I've owned a number bikes ranging from modest to extravagant. My current baby is a Seven Cycles Axiom road bike. The Seven lies at the extravagant end of the continuum; it has a custom-fit-to-me titanium-alloy frame and 20 gear ratios, each of which I use. However, over the last few years, I've become fascinated with single-speed bikes. A single-speed drivetrain not only imparts beauty and durability to the bike, but also engenders a sense of oneness between the rider and the machine. Plus, riding a one-speed bike challenges and improves the rider's fitness.

So now I'm considering building up a single-speed mountain bike or, for the ultimate in simplicity and bike-rider unity, a fixed-gear road bike. That may sound---or be---crazy, since a single-speed or fixie would make almost any ride more difficult. But hey, If I wanted getting around to be easy, I'd just drive my car, right?

Monday, April 03, 2006

Locutus of Bug?

Believe it or not, the principal investigator on a couple of my recent projects wants to submit a proposal to this DARPA solicitation, which is covered for layfolks by the Beeb here. Sounds DARPA-ish, doesn't it?