Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Dude, You Can Let Go Now

Alison and I were quite the social butterflies last weekend. Observe:
  • On Friday, we went to a picnic with, among others, Nick and Amy.
  • On Saturday, we went out for dinner with Lisa and Greg.
  • On Sunday, we went to a going-away party for Alison's friend Kelly, where I got to meet, among others, Timily*.
Anyway, one of the guys who was there with his girlfriend---not one mentioned above---made me somewhat uncomfortable when I shook his hand. The handshake went like this:
  • Clasp hands.
  • Shake, shake.
  • I relax my hand, because this is the time when a normal handshake ends**. He holds on.
  • He keeps holding on for at least two seconds longer, so now I'm standing in a bar holding hands with this guy.
  • He finally lets go.
Weird, eh?

* In the spirit of Bennifer, Tomkat, and Brangolina, I've decided to refer to these two by just one name. Unfortunately for Alison and me, neither "Michison" nor "Alichael" sounds very attractive.

** I don't think I have some unusually brief idea of the typical handshake duration, because I've shaken hands with hundreds of men and a similar number of women over the course of my life.

38 Miles and 124 Minutes of Torture

I went out for my more-or-less-weekly butt-kicking---read: group ride---today. We ground out about 38 miles at an average pace of about 18.4 miles/hour. According to my heart-rate monitor, I expended 1348 kilocalories on the trip. My only comment: ugh!

Crash Bang Boom

If, after an ugly crash, your cyclist friend's primary concern is the condition of his bike, you can relax; he's OK. If, on the other hand, he shows no interest in the state of his ride, you should worry.

RNA Strikes Back

Yesterday, Dr. E. Monkey over at Neurotopia pointed out a neat article showing that RNA may be inherited and may be expressed in later generations. (Click on his title to see the article.)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


I've been using this word as a more entertaining synonym for "madden" for years:
encraziate, noun. 1. To drive crazy. 2. To make intensely angry.
The adjective form is, of course,"encraziating."

My All-Star Star Trek Crew

Tim has recently acquired the first season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine on DVD, so I've been watching the series as well. The last two Trek series (Voyager and Enterprise) and the last two films (Insurrection and Nemesis) were so underwhelming---don't get me started on why---that I had completely forgotten that The Next Generation and DS9 were actually quite good. I'm not sure how to feel about the upcoming eleventh movie.

Anyway, the DVDs got me thinking about whom I would select, from the cast of characters of all the series, as members of a sort of all-star crew for a Trek show. So, here is my list. Please note that I haven't chosen these characters because they are the best at their particular jobs, but because I find them the most entertaining.
  • Captain: Jean-Luc Picard. He's clearly the smartest of the Captains. And he's much less likely to let his libido get the better of him than Kirk is.
  • First Officer: Benjamin Sisko. Yes, he was a first officer, though that was only shown in the first few minutes of DS9. Sisko makes a commanding leader, but I don't think he'd rankle at playing second fiddle. I thought about putting James Kirk in this position, but I just don't think you'd want a Kirk working under you. And you certainly wouldn't want a Kirk wannabe like William Riker.
  • Science Officer, Second Officer: Spock. He's still probably my favorite character from any of the series. Besides---warning: racial profiling follows---you really need a Vulcan at your science station. Just remember to keep your thumb out when performing the Vulcan salute.
  • Tactical Officer, Security Officer: Worf. Despite his pomposity, he's an interesting character. Plus---warning: stereotyping imminent---it's a no-brainer to put a Klingon at Tactical. Just don't leave him unsupervised with all the ship's weapons at his disposal.
  • Chief Operations Officer: Data. I had to include Data or any Trekkies reading this post would hunt me down and kill me.
  • Navigator: Seven of Nine. Despite the naysayers out there, the former Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One was a very compelling character. If she hadn't been oversexualized and hadn't been the central character of so many episodes, I think she would have been better received. She was never a Navigator, but I'm assuming that her experience at Astrometrics prepared her for the position.
  • Conn Officer: Pavel Chekov. I'm mostly including him so he can say things like "nuclear wessels" and explain how all innovations have been Russian, but the mop-top is also a plus. I know, he was actually the Navigator, but I'm sure he can handle the conn.
  • Chief Engineer: Montgomery Scott. You could certainly argue that Geordi La Forge and Miles O'Brien are more skilled engineers, but, if you are putting together an all-star Star Trek crew, you need someone who can say things like "I'm givin' ya all she's got, Cap'n" and "She can't hold together much longer" with a Scottish accent.
  • Chief Medical Officer: Emergency Medical Hologram, Mark I. Certainly The Doctor has some severe limitations as head of medicine, but he was the most interesting character during the first three seasons of Voyager, and he offers interesting storyline options. Plus, his relationship with Seven was very interesting. Just remember to turn him off when you leave Sickbay.
  • Civilian: Quark. Quark is always neck deep in whatever is going on behind the scenes, so he is a great source of storylines.
  • Recurring Character: Elim Garak. Garak is my favorite recurring character from any of the series. He's just so deliciously deceitful.
Please note that there is explicitly no position of Acting Ensign. I've also left out the Counselor position. Further, you'll notice a scarcity of characters from Voyager and a complete lack of ones from Enterprise; I don't think that's a coincidence. Lastly, I seem to have chosen very few women. I'm not sure why that is. Maybe I can work Jadzia Dax in there somehow; with eight lifetimes of experience, I'm sure she could lend a hand.

So, do you agree with this selection? Whom would you select for the All-Trek Team?

Can We Watch the Trek Marathon on G4?

I believe that I've discovered the two, reciprocal explanations for the success of my relationship with Alison:
  • I've never forced her to watch any Star Trek.
  • She's never forced me to go shoe shopping.

Can I Get Extra Cilantro on That?

I was recently reminded that Alison dislikes cilantro. She doesn't like cilantro, for crying out loud! I'm afraid this could be a deal-breaker.

Road to Mountain

On Saturday, I went for my first group mountain-bike ride of this millennium. Among the attendees was Keith Bontrager, mountain-bike pioneer and the man who started the eponymous bike-component company. I chatted with him and the others about how I am coming from a road-biking background and how mountain biking, while still a form of cycling, is very different in many ways. Here, for any aspiring mountain bikers in the audience, is a summary of the things I've learned on my own about off-road riding as well as Keith's comments on the subject:
  • Being able to clip out of your pedals with zero notice is a necessary skill, unless you don't mind bruising and are immune to embarrassment.
  • There's frequently a sudden and urgent need to downshift in order to climb a slope that appears out of nowhere. This need is often accompanied by an urge to swear.
  • When climbing, it is important to balance your weight distribution. You need to keep weight on the rear wheel to maintain traction---this often means climbing seated---but you also need weight on the front wheel so you can steer. Under no circumstances should you position your center of gravity behind the rear axle, unless you believe you have no further need for your occipital lobes.
  • When descending, it is important to keep your weight back and your arms firm but relaxed. Otherwise, you may get an unexpected extreme close-up of the trail in front of you.
  • It's important to leave at least a meter between you and the rider ahead of you, because all the points above apply to him, too.
By the way, an informal survey I conducted (visually) of the 6 riders and bikes on the ride may provide some insight into the current state of mountain biking:
  • Only one bike (mine) had only front suspension; the others all had front and rear suspension. No bike was rigid front and rear.
  • Only one bike (not mine) had rim brakes; the others all had disc brakes.
  • All but one of the bikes had principally aluminum frames; the remaining bike (not mine) was mostly carbon fiber. No bike was steel or titanium.
  • Our apparent ages ranged from early twenties to late fifties.
  • All of us were male.
Take that for what it's worth.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Rant: Drivers Endangering Cyclists AGAIN

I forgot to mention that, in the evening of the same day that I almost got hit by the school bus in the morning, I had another close call with another large vehicle. Mike, Chris, and I were heading back toward my house after a group ride. We were riding in that order and more-or-less single-file on the campus of a local community college, where the speed limit is around 20 mi/hr, when an Expedition-sized SUV blew past us on our left and then immediately turned right just in front of us. The truck turned sharply enough that I could see that it almost completely unweighted the right-side tires. Mike, who was riding in front was just a couple of feet from being flattened and was, therefore, irate. I was none too please myself.

By the way, Chris took the opportunity to tell us the story of how he was once almost run over by an ambulance. Oh, the irony.

Area Man Wants Something Made Out of Titanium

Brain---K State Brian---pointed me to this highly amusing audio clip from The Onion's Radio News. My favorite part is the quotation from the area man himself. I can't help but feel that this article was written with me in mind.

Ah, the Bachelor Lifestyle

Alison has gone out of town for a few days to visit her broken-hipped grandmother, her mother, and, most importantly, Muffy in Florida, where all retired people are legally required to reside. So I'm living the bachelor lifestyle this weekend: sitting around in my underwear all day, eating cold pizza over the sink, watching hours of sports on TV, and playing poker with the boys while drinking cases of beer. Hah! Actually, yesterday, I worked on 2 of my bikes, went for a 3-hour bike ride, monkeyed with some of my new electronics, watched a bunch of The Simpsons on DVD, and read a bit of my latest sci-fi novel. Today, my plans are to futz with the electronics some more and lift weights. Oh, and blog a bit. Yep, I'm going hog-wild.

Let's Go to War and Cut Funding for Military Research

I found out at work the other day that, because the US has spent over 250,000,000,000 dollars in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and because the total cost of the war in Iraq is expected to be around 2,000,000,000,000 bucks, the 2007 budget for military (and other government) research is expect to be reduced dramatically. Not only do I think it's stupid to cut funding for defense research during a military conflict, but I'm also annoyed because this move will directly impact my own funding situation.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Mortal Kombat (Aliens Among Us Mix)

Do you ever wonder if extraterrestrials are living among us and surfing the web? If they were, what do you think they'd make of stuff like this?

Itsy-Bitsy, Teeny-Tiny Houses

Almost a year ago, I heard a cool NPR story about the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, which sells---you guessed it---tiny houses. And I mean, really tiny; most of the models range from 70 to 160 square feet, through Tumbleweed does offer a couple of monsters with 500 square feet. The smaller ones are designed to fit on trailers, which somehow seems less cool to me. The minimalism of these little houses fascinated me at the time, and it still does. I don't think I could live in one, but I would like to put one in my back yard to serve as a bike shop, tinkering lab, study, and general retreat-from-the-outside-world. Today NPR broadcast another story on the tiny-house movement, including one Katrina survivor's plans to sell her own "Gulf Coast" model to other hurricane survivors waiting to rebuild. You should check out the article(s), and be sure to visit Tumbleweed's site to see how cute the little houses are.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

They Call Him Flipper, But He Calls Himself Whistle-Snort

New research shows that dolphins call each other by name, making them the only nonhuman animals to do so. I'm just glad they haven't developed opposable thumbs.

I Loves Me Some Whedon

When writing my last post, I came across these highly amusing quotations in the 'Pedia's article on Joss Whedon:
  • "It insults me that people take my work seriously. I just wanted to meet chicks."
  • "Remember, always be yourself. Unless you suck."
  • "[Y]es, I have a feminist agenda, but it's not like I made a chart."
  • "I'm counting on the Internet to destroy the music industry. That's its first job. Then I'd like to see it take on the movie world. I would have lived on the Internet as a kid. I would have been not me, which is what I wanted to be all my life."
  • "Very occasionally, if you really pay attention, life doesn’t suck!"
  • "I likes me some cheese."
  • "Does this series finale make me look fat?"
  • "I'm not a control freak. I am a control enthusiast."

The Physics of the Buffyverse

Fans of Joss Whedon who are also science geeks---plenty of overlap there---might be interested to hear about this new book.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Black Pearl

I'll conclude my torrent of bike-photo posts with pics of my principal road bike: a 2004 Seven Cycles Axiom custom 3/2.5-titanium frame with 2004 Seven 5E fork, 2004 Shimao Dura-Ace components and (in these photos) 2000 Mavic Ksyrium SSC wheels.

Yes, I know the Black Pearl isnt actually black, but neither are black pearls; the bike gets its name from the gray shine presented by the unpainted brushed titanium.

The Dreadnought

Having posted photos of my most recently purchased bike, it only seems fair to put up a few shots of the rest of my fleet. Here're some pics of my commuter/back-up bike: a 1998 Cannondale CAAD3 frame, with a 2000 Cannondale/Time Slice fork, 2000 Shimano Dura-Ace components, and (in these photos) ~2002 Velomax Circuit wheels. The only original part is the frame itself.

The Dreadnought got it's name because I bought it to be the "battleship" I took racing.

The Black Sheep: 27 Gears Could Be OK Too

Single-speed mountain bikers represent a subculture within mountain-biking, which itself is a subset of cycling. As a result, SS MTBs aren't generally stocked by shops, especially examples in my size (usually the smallest or second smallest manufactured). However, geared MTBs with similar or identical geometry are stocked. Even my size is often available, if I don't specify a model. So, in the process of trying gearies for size, I came across a a 2004 Cannondale F2000 SL, in my size. Because it had sat on the floor, unsold, for 2 years, it was marked down by about 25 %. It was kitted out with an Optimo Mountain frame, a nice Headshok fork, Shimano XT and XTR components (including XT hydraulic disc brakes), and tubless wheels/tires. Plus, it was painted a very cool matte black. So, after much encouragement from my bride-to-be, I decided that it represented a fast and cost-effective way for me to get back into mountain-biking, and I bought it. Thus, this bike is by far the larges impulse purchase of my life. I've decide to name this bicycle the Black Sheep, since my 2 road bikes (and Alison's own) almost certainly look down their noses at it, thinking it an uncouth, inelegant, country bumpkin. Plus, it's black.

Here are some photos of the bike with the few modifications I've made:

I still haven't given up on my single-speeding plans, just postponed them.

A Film That's Sure to WoW You

In a continuation of the recent trend of making computer/video games into motion pictures,* Warner Brothers' Legendary Pictures will develop a film based on World of Warcraft, the massively popular MMORPG. Do any of the gaming geeks in our regular audience---you know who you are---care to comment?

* See also Doom, Bloodrayne, Halo, and probably a few I've forgotten.

Rant: Blogger's Outages

Blogger seems to be down quite frequently, which really chaps my hide. What I have to say is very, very important---much more important than what you have to say, for example---and I need to have access to my soapbox.

Rant: Drivers Endangering Cyclists

So, I'm riding my bike into the lab this morning, when a school bus begins to pass me. It was a little closer than I would have liked, but I can understand: school busses are wide, and it seems reasonable for the driver not to want to stray into the opposite lane. Then, before it had even completed the pass, it began to slow and pull to toward the curb to pick up a student waiting on the sidewalk. Apparently the driver couldn't wait the for the three extra seconds if would have taken to let me pass the student before he stopped. So I almost got hit by a school bus. Aren't their drivers supposed to be trained to operate the vehicles safely? Apparently, it's only the safety of their passengers that matters.

Come to think of it, this situation is very similar to two of the times I have been struck, glancingly, by cars: each time, as I approached an intersection riding along the right side of the right lane, the car passed me, then immediately slowed and turned right, hitting my front wheel or bar. Luckily, I haven't been seriously injured in any of these collisions, since they took place at low speed. In one case, however, considerable damage was done to my bike. (It was the same bike that I was riding this morning, in fact.)

I should mention that all 3 of these events occurred in broad daylight, and I was wearing brightly colored clothing. It seems that the rules that protect motorist don't apply to people operating extremely energy-efficient, non-polluting vehicles.

Monday, May 08, 2006


I've decided to appropriate one of Scott's malapropisms as if it were my own neologism:
affectionado, noun. An aficionado who looks on his subject with more-than-usual affection.

I Expect Doc Ock Any Day Now

What's the latest DARPA-funded robotics project to catch my eye, you ask? You can see the answer in this article about robotic tentacles. (Be sure to check out the nifty videos.) Each tentacle has pressure sensors along its length and a camera in the tip. The pessimist in me can help but wonder if a cyborg scientist-gone-evil like Doctor Octopus is around the corner? On the other hand, the optimist in me is pleased to see that, finally, elephants who've had trunkectomies can hope for functioning protheses.

Ninja for Hire

Once again, Brian has pointed out something interesting. Check out this video of a self-described urban ninja. It's pretty impressive.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Bender Bending Rodriguez

It appears that some researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas have built prototype artificial muscles powered by alcohol. Can an "alcoholic, whore-mongering, chain-smoking," gambling robot like Bender Bending Rodriguez be far behind?

Jelly-Bean Power, Activate! Form of a Cyclist!

Jelly Belly, maker of "gourmet" jelly beans and title sponsor of the Jelly Belly Pro Cycling Team, has recently begun marketing Sport Beans, which offer all the high-glycemic-index fun of the various energy gels (Gu, Clif Shot, PowerGel, and the like), but without all the mess. Plus, they have electrolyte content comparable to the various 'ades (Gator and Power) and are fortified with vitamins. Mmmmm, super-sugary. Now, it looks like some sciency folks at UC Davis will be clinically testing the effectiveness of the Beans o' Sport. Crazy, eh?

The Prisoner Returns

It looks like Christopher Eccleston, who stared as the ninth Doctor in the first season of the revival of Doctor Who, is set to play the lead in another re-imagining of a British cult series. Yep, according to Outpost Gallifrey, The Prisoner is coming back, and Eccleston will play Number Six, who should not be confused with the Number Six from another recently re-imagined cult series. The original 17-episode series aired in 1967 and chronicles the abduction of an unnamed character after he attempts to resign his position as a secret agent. The new series has a commitment of 6 episodes; I don't know when it will air, but I would guess sometime in '007. Sadly, the Welsh resort of Portmeirion will not be used as the Village. Instead, a more exotic location will be employed. I just hope the penny-farthing number tags and logo are still used.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Boobtastic and Boobtacular

I can't recall whether Alison invented these synonyms or inspired me to create them:
boobtastic, adjective. Buxom, busty, full-bosomed.
boobtactular, adjective. Boobtastic.


Brian's suggestion that he is a peerless couch-on-lyer reminded me of my dad's use of "potato," short for "couch potato," as a verb:
potato, verb. To relax lazily, especially while supine on a couch or recliner, and often while watching TV or reading.
Here's an example: Alison was out of town, so I potatoed all weekend long.

Harnessing the Power of Pee

Brian pointed out this fun article on some Singapore-ian researchers---Singaporian researchers---some researchers in Singapore who've built a 1.5-volt battery out of urine.

Sushi Ga Suki Desu Yo

Have you ever tried eating sushi with a fork? It feels very strange.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Less Squirrelly Squirels

Do you think that, by systematically running over squirrels that try to out-maneuver automobiles, we are breeding squirrels that can distinguish between autos and predators? If so, then, given the short length of a squirrel generation, shouldn't we have seen significant improvement by now?

Green Hillbillies

Did it ever occur to you that Green Acres was the exact opposite of The Beverly Hillbillies?