packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
2011-01-04 12:41 pm

Not back yet, but just wanted to post this...

SCENE: Robin (i.e. packbat) and David are playing chess in the ASME lounge. Ben enters.

Ben: Who's winning?

Robin: (mumbling)

Ben: Well, he's moved twice, so clearly he's winning.

Robin: I'll just tie it up then. [moves piece]

Ben: Tie goes to Black.

[beat. Robin looks up at Ben.]

Robin: This isn't affirmative action, man!
packbat: Wearing a open-frame backpack, a pair of sunglasses, and a wide, triangular grin. (hiking)
2010-09-06 08:26 pm

Bike 2: The Sequel

So: yesterday I got out a bicycle, unfroze the chain with generous doses of both machine and elbow grease, pumped up the tires, and took it out on the bike trail for a shakedown ride. Guess what I did today?

Differences:
  • The chain was in much, much worse condition. Fortunately, after giving up one or two times, I hit up the Googletubes and found an essay about fixing frozen bike chains, claiming (a) you should set it upside down, and (b) you should use two pairs of pliers, one to grip either side of the frozen link. With these alterations, and much sweat, the chain was freed.
  • The front brake calipers were dodgy - one half wouldn't rebound from the wheel. Fortunately, oil and time (somehow) repaired this.
  • I forgot to pump up the tires the first time I took it out. Fortunately, I realized this close to my house, and walked it back.
  • Did I say "the front brake calipers were dodgy"? I meant the entire braking system. As I told Dad, the only sound worse than the front brakes was the rear brakes.
  • Instead of a rear reflector, I had a broken headlamp.
  • Instead of a kickstand, I had nothing.
  • Half the tape on the right handlebar was loose.
  • I took a different trail, one that was all paved. But much, much lumpier, as it happened - once I was jounced so badly I lost footing on the pedals.


All in all, damaged sprocket notwithstanding, I think the other bike is better - still, this makes two rideable bicycles ready to go. And a pleasant weekend, too.
packbat: Coming into the finish line after a mile race - the announcer can be seen behind me. (running)
2010-09-05 11:28 pm

You have unlocked "Medium" difficulty bicycle. Do you wish to ride it (Y/N)?

This morning I thought I might ride out the trail again, and I pulled a bike out from under the tarp. I had been riding my three-speed, but I'd busted up the rim (quite a while ago, actually), and it's not a good idea to ride on dented rims.

That said, it is entirely impossible to ride with a frozen bike chain. Fortunately, I had most of a jar of bike lube and an extra-large dose of TLC* to apply, and after well over three hours, the bike was in rideable condition, and I took it out to the trail to run down to Bethesda to buy some ice cream** and a new wireless hub.

More than one person told me that the bike looked like it was in great shape, so I must have done something right. :)

(Sadly, one of the sprockets on the rear derailleur is missing one or more teeth, so I may not get away without spending some money.)

Anyway, it was quite an experience. First, this bike is very much a road bike - it bogged down in gravel quite badly. Second, it's a ten-speed with a very funky derailleur system, so I had the devil's own time getting away from fifth gear for uphills and slow starts. Third, the controls are arranged quite differently (drop handlebars, down tube shifters), which left me quite nervous and timid. Third, I'm not really fit enough to take the bike to where it should go - I was struggling to keep it moving and moving in the right direction, even.

But it was pretty good, nonetheless. Tomorrow, I'll take out the other rust monster and see how I can make it run.

* TLC = Tender Loving Care. With a pair of pliers and a lot of sweating, I must say.

** Sadly, the ice cream shop (Giffords) was closed when I went by, so I ended up buying a Dunkin' Donuts iced tea and bagel.
packbat: Wearing a open-frame backpack, a pair of sunglasses, and a wide, triangular grin. (hiking)
2010-07-26 10:04 am

Austin, Day 8: Departure

(So, so belated...)

The morning of our departure was relatively tame. I read more of my Gettysburg book, finished the main body of the work. We went to a Chinese restaurant, Pei Wei, for lunch, finished packing (I'd loaded my bag the previous night), and I played through Wily's castle in Mega Man 2 on Difficult again. I had just made it to the second final boss and figured out how to hurt him when we had to leave for the airport. Ah, machts nichts.

At the airport, we got through security in minutes and found our gate, where I sat down with the book I had decided on for the plane trip home: Michael Lewis's Moneyball.

Only five things were permitted to interrupt it. First, I got dinner at a (mediocre) burrito place in the airport. Second, boarding. Third, taking pictures out the window during the flight. Fourth, disembarking. And fifth, finishing it. It was one of the fastest and most engrossing reads I'd opened in some time.

At home, I saved all my photos to my computer, and am planning to copy them out onto my external hard drive (separate from the automated backups, I mean). Digging through to make a proper album will take a bit (and does anyone know a good free Mac utility for stitching together panoramas?), but that is all to come. Right now, I'm home.

Okay, not right now, as the location line will tell you, but still.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (quarter-rear)
2010-07-21 12:36 am

Austin, Day 7: Wind-down

First, a quick thing-I-forgot from yesterday: Dad got out a couple of his old board games, including "Dispatcher", for me to look at and maybe take back to Maryland. (Quick aside: by "maybe" I mean "definitely".) Now, "Dispatcher" is a game which is generally not liked, and for good reason: it's got innumerable tiles, rigid and complex synchronized events, randomness, timed events, and a brilliant scoring system involving demerits you cannot possibly avoid. Even as someone who played "Rail Baron" over the board, I find it a bit cumbersome. But I really like it, and would love to make a proper computer version with forecasting and automated movement. (Quick aside: by "make" I mean "have".)

Anyway, back on track: slow start this morning. There were only two major events I found cameraworthy today: luncheon at Taco Cabana followed by a quick revisit to Fry's for flash memory, and dinner at my uncle's house. It was a relatively pleasant day, but not a lot doing.

Some highlights:

  • I had a good conversation about how one would write the aforementioned "Dispatcher" computer game on the way up to my uncle's house.
  • I played more Mega Man 2 - enough to find that I'm not quite good enough to make it through Dr. Wily's castle on Difficult. Quickman keeps annihilating me. I will have to wait to discover whether I am right when I suppose that Dr. Wily cannot be beaten on Normal.
  • We drove past an IRS building which had been in a plane crash - a lot of damage to the one side of it.
  • My uncle's house is quite beautiful - up a dangerously steep driveway, mind (there's stains which look like someone punctured their oil pan on it earlier), but open and airy with a great view off the balcony.


In any case, the flight leaves at 4:15 tomorrow, so we have time to run a small load of laundry to minimize stress on facilities at home.
packbat: Leaning on a chain-link fence, looking to my left (your right) with a neutral expression. (spectator)
2010-07-20 02:13 pm

Austin, Day 6: Revenge of the Tourism Mode

(This is yesterday's entry - I guess I'm falling further behind with each...)

Back in Austin, and the first place to start - as they say in all the old encyclopedias - is a good breakfast. So Grandma and I left Dad at the house and went to Randall's, which is reputed to have very good bagels ... and did, in fact. And some donuts as well. A pleasant breakfast, in all.

After that, Dad got a call from an old friend of his, Dr. S, and arranged to meet her at the Texas State History Museum that noon. Dad & I went, leaving Grandma behind, and found a great parking space just around the corner from the entrance. Sadly for my ambitious shutter finger, photography at the museum is restricted to the lobby and outside, so I was only able to take about 75 photos there. It was good, though - Dr. S shared some wonderful info with us, e.g. talking about the condition and shape of the different saddles and what they meant in terms of purpose.

After wrapping that up, we noted that we had just enough time to walk a couple blocks to the Capitol Visitor's Center and pick up a new tourist guide and map for Grandma. (We didn't, quite, although we received no ticket.) We once again got to going the wrong way at the capitol, though - in this case, by going inside at all, as the visitor's center was in a separate building. We took care of it, though, and walked by the Governor's Mansion as well. There had been a traveling exhibit at the history museum mentioning that the building had been set on fire by a (presumably unknown) arsonist - something which a tour guide driving past the museum had joked about earlier - and so it was covered in scaffolding that obscured our view. It was also surrounded by trees, which obscured our view far more.

On the way back, we went up Guadalupe ("The Drag") to check out the buildings on the segment near the university.

That was our midday, so we ate a late lunch on our return and Dad went out on a trail run while I played Mega Man 2 and printed some baseball scorecards. (Dad's journal includes many running reports, and will include that, if that's your thing.) Then Dad and I went out again, this time to the Round Rock Express ballgame.

It was an interesting game, and a fun one to keep score at. The scorecards I'd gotten (the Enhanced Vertical from baseballscorecard.com) worked well, except where we spilled soda on them, and there were plenty of events, thanks mostly to the spectacular failure of the bottom-ranked Round Rock team. Let me put it this way: in the bottom of the fourth, the Express got a run and a grand slam ... to tie it up. And then gave away five more runs to lose 10-5 to the New Orleans Zephyrs.

But hey - there's no such thing as a bad ballgame, in my book.

And, apropos of nothing, and as thanks for either reading or just scrolling past these big entries, a picture.

A photograph of an amusingly-shaped toothbrush holder.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (quarter-rear)
2010-07-19 01:22 am

Austin, Day 5: Not In Austin

Today (okay, yesterday) began at Grandpa's house, where we had a quick breakfast and headed out early to pick up kolaches and meet Grandma at her sister's house. Where I met Dad's cousin, and he showed me Everquest 2, and let me try it out.

That took up until we left for dinner. I'm making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS.

The dinner was nice as well, although I may have done better to choose something besides the grilled fish - it was awfully oily. After that, we had the long ride home and I watched the last half of the Mythbusters moon hoax episode before retiring.
packbat: Wearing a open-frame backpack, a pair of sunglasses, and a wide, triangular grin. (hiking)
2010-07-17 10:18 pm

Austin Day 4: Unlike a Bat out of Austin

...in that we actually left Austin, rather than loitering under the bridge all day.

Okay, so it's a silly title. Anyway, Dad & I went out La Grange way, planning to drop off Grandma at the McDonalds with my great-aunt (her sister) to hang out while the two of us went on to see Grandpa at his farm. However, first: the Central Texas Museum of Automotive History!

As you might imagine, it was glorious. They had a Jaguar XK, a Jaguar XKE, a Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing, a Porsche Spyder, a Corvette Stingray, a Chevrolet Bel Air convertible ... I used up over 100 photos on my digital camera's card and continued onto the iPhone before I finished photographing all the amazing cars they had there. I was forced to resort to copying photos onto my father's netbook to clear space.

Twice, actually. Because after clearing it at Grandpa's house, we walked around (taking more photos) and then went on a driving tour around the area, viewing places like the schoolhouse Grandpa attended (which, interestingly, had been moved bodily several miles to be the Sunday school of a local church). We then went up Monument Hill, where I was resorting to on-the-fly deletion of old pics just to be able to capture more of the sights.

Finally, we picked up some excellent BBQ on the way back (before Monument Hill, now that I think of it), and whiled away the evening watching the very good White Sox - Twins game on the telly. I think all of us are a bit tired, so we're drifting separately to bed so we can rise reasonably early in the morning.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (quarter-rear)
2010-07-17 12:43 am

Austin Day 3: Minimum Tourist Mode

Today was relaxation and shopping. The morning began with a Macy's where Grandma wanted to get sheets - I wandered the mall, taking a few photos and looking at the game stores - and proceeded from there out to a Frys with the facade decorated like the keyboard end of a grand piano.

After that was lunchtime, where we discovered that Google Maps on my iPhone doesn't know about Grandma's favorite Schlotzsky's. Grandma and Dad each had sandwiches; I tried their Mediterranean pizza. (Much to my irritation, Dad decided he wanted the free dessert from answering a survey and called the number before the food even arrived. Given that this got us a free Cinnabon, though, I'm inclined to forgive.)

From Schlotzsky's, we went to the Target near Grandma's house for a few essential supplies. Thence home, where I spent the afternoon productively with her NES. (I seem to have picked up some mad Mega Man 2 skills somewhere - I rocked all the way into Wily's castle twice, first on Normal and second on Difficult. Defeating Wily, that will require a little more time.)

Anyway: tomorrow, we'll be heading out to visit Grandpa, stopping by the historic automobile museum on the way. Update may be delayed.
packbat: Leaning on a chain-link fence, looking to my left (your right) with a neutral expression. (spectator)
2010-07-16 10:07 am

Austin, Day 2: Maximum Tourist Mode

Stage 1: The H.E.B.

After setting out the sprinkler (conveniently equipped with a timer), we went down the street to the local grocery for certain (in)essential supplies: fruit, salad, bread, milk, yoghurt, ice cream, chocolate milk, soda, Gatorade, &c. For documentary purposes, I took my camera and many pictures.

Stage 2: Inner Space Cavern

When planning something to do in the noon and afternoon, we accidentally found opposite the guide page for the automotive history museum an entry for a cave with a mark next to it. As it was not too far away, Dad and I opted to head out, leaving Grandma at home. The caves were discovered during core sampling for a bridge on I-35, and turned out to be both impressive as a tourist attraction and a magnificent geological and paleontological site. (Several students from various universities were going through the cave as we were heading out from the end of our tour.) Our guide was informative and entertaining (e.g. teaching us the difference between stalactites, which go down from the ceiling, stalagmites, which come up from the floor, and stalagpipes, which are the handrails), and I ended up giving him a tip at the end of the trip. Then buying a shirt, a guidebook, and a map from the gift shop,

Stage 3: The Takeout Chinese Place

Upon our return from the cavern, we tackled the question of "what do we want to eat?" As it was early yet in the trip, we decided the logical thing was to buy takeout from the local Chinese restaurant, which served quite large quantities.

Technically, it's also a sit-down restaurant ... but none of us wanted to eat there. Not shown in the pictures I will eventually upload, for example, is a bucket, catching a drip.

Stage 4: The State Capitol Building

Lunch complete (around 3 p.m.), there was a gap where we watched TV and discussed possibilities. In this gap we came up with three things worth checking out: the state capitol, the Congress Ave. Bridge bats, and BookPeople (my suggestion, having recalled [livejournal.com profile] fadethecat's remarks on the place). Some research proved that we could make it to all three places without running into closures, so we headed out around 6:30 for downtown.

I love the architecture of the Texas State Capitol. I like the landscaping, even, but I particularly like the very open, naturally-lit spaces throughout - from the highest points to the lowest. And this open-ness was accomplished without any sacrifice in navigability (unlike certain buildings I could name). I expended an absurd number of pictures swooping through doorways into the open spaces.

Amusingly, all the way off in Maryland, a pizza delivery person was calling for directions to a residence ... calling my dad, here, as his cell phone was the listed one. It became even stranger when Dad's distinctive ringtone sounded and we realized that he'd dropped it, purely thanks to this.

Also amusingly, we spent several minutes wandering these sunlit halls looking for the exit before realizing it was two floors above us. We straightened ourselves out, however, and took a couple pictures of the library/archives building next door before returning to the car.

Stage 5: The Congress Ave. Bridge Bats

From the capitol, we drove straight down Congress Avenue to cross the bridge and turn into the Austin American-Statesman parking lot, where small plastic signs advertised bat parking. Grandma had been foresightful enough to equip us with beach chairs, so we set up comfortably on the lawn and waited.

Unfortunately for me and my camera, the bats have been flocking out from under the bridge quite late in recent days - and though I could see an hour after sunset, the camera could just about pick up the streetlamps and that's all. After Dad caught a few shots which could be argued to show a bat or two, we folded and went back north and west to seek the fabled bookstore.

Stage 6: BookPeople

This is a nice bookstore. A large bookstore, with nicely arranged shelves and tables of discounted and recommended books. It is from the latter that I found volumes to take home: Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Infidel and Michael Lewis's Moneyball.

A pleasant day, in all.
packbat: Wearing my custom-made hat and a smirk. (hat)
2010-07-14 10:49 pm

In Austin!

After packing last night, I went to bed far too late and woke up at 7 to be ready to go by 8. The plan to get to Austin was straightforward: Dad & I had tickets for an 11:30 flight to Tampa Bay (where we would get a 3:15 transfer to Austin), so we needed to be on the subway by 9 to catch an early enough shuttle. We beat that time by a good margin: in fact, we were in Greenbelt by 9 and caught an earlier shuttle to make BWI with hours to spare.

Where, in exchange for travel vouchers, we opted to catch the direct flight from BWI to Austin at 3 instead. This meant a long wait at BWI - long enough to get bored, buy a $5 "Motor Trend" magazine, get bored with it, walk the entire length of the concourse, buy a slice of pizza, play with my iPhone, and get quite bored. Finally, we boarded the 3:00 flight, where I, to my great pleasure, found myself seated next to a most interesting and entertaining person, one Linnea Duff. In the midst of discussing teaching methods, graphical interpretations of calculus, the administrative policies of the Boy Scouts of America, the history of social justice in the United States, and other subjects and sundry, we exchanged URLs. Dad & I disembarked at Austin as she went on, so I bade her farewell, snatched up my carry-on, and departed with Dad to pick up the checked luggage (which had come in half an hour earlier on the Tampa flight).

Grandma picked us up at the airport, and we spent a little while trying to repair a broken remote and watching "Man Vs. Food" on cable. After, we met up with my aunt, uncle, and cousin to go to Tres Amigos for some tasty, tasty dinner. Finally, we watched an episode of "Big Brother" that Grandma had wanted to record and separated to our various beds.
packbat: Wearing a open-frame backpack, a pair of sunglasses, and a wide, triangular grin. (hiking)
2010-06-30 10:09 pm

Austin 14-21!

A quick message (via iPhone, because the DSL modem at home is on the fritz): I will probably be visiting Austin, TX for a week starting on the 14th!

Does anyone have advice on things to do and see there? I heard great things about the Congress Avenue Bridge bats, but I can't say I recall much else.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (quarter-rear)
2010-04-24 10:13 pm

99.2 °F

I feel simultaneously terrible and 0.7 F° short.
packbat: Wearing my custom-made hat and a smirk. (hat)
2010-04-18 09:08 am

FE Exam yesterday!

For those of you who are not engineers: professional licensure in engineering is a four-step process - first, you obtain an engineering education (currently a Bachelor's degree, although I have heard a rumor that this will grow to a Master's in a decade or so); second, you take the eight-hour Fundamentals of Engineering exam to become an Engineer-In-Training; third, you obtain five years working experience in a position of responsibility; and fourth, you take the eight-hour Principles and Practice in Engineering exam to become a P.E.

The first I completed some time ago, and the second ... well, it will be approximately 120 days before I know, but I think I did well!

...and then I went home and slept like a log. (After checking the Interwebs, of course.) (:
packbat: Coming into the finish line after a mile race - the announcer can be seen behind me. (running)
2010-03-14 01:13 pm

Repairs!

My phone WiFi has been broken for some time, so I decided to break out my bike and ride to the Bethesda Apple Store.

After a day and a half of rain.

Brilliant, I am not.
packbat: Coming into the finish line after a mile race - the announcer can be seen behind me. (running)
2010-02-20 10:34 pm

Moving snow

This afternoon, I was digging out the snow leaning against the basement windows, but the geometry of the area meant that I needed to take snow out around the corner of the house to have space to dump it out.

Now, I had two ways of doing that. Either I could just carry every shovelful a good forty feet (twelve meters) to where I could throw it out, or I could use a ex-shower-curtain folded in half to drag it. Now, the choice was obvious ... except that the path around the house was lumpy and uneven, and so the snow was continually rolling off the plastic. So - after a moment of frustration - I had a bit of an obvious idea: scape and pile the snow to make the path gently sloping and smooth!

This worked out to be quite straightforward, in fact - the only major kink was that there were a couple places where a pile of snow was needed to fill in holes. Fortunately, I had all the snow that I was supposed to be moving ...

... most of which went into the piles. Net result: I removed the pile of snow by paving a path around the corner of the house. In the end, I was even dumping piles of snow right in the middle to cover over a morass of mud.

Ah, well. The snow was removed ... just not as far as I expected.
packbat: Coming into the finish line after a mile race - the announcer can be seen behind me. (running)
2010-02-14 12:47 am

Game Night!

(Forgot to mention until today: the heat pump got fixed Friday! Forgot until today, but not to mention: shipped the application for the FE exam that's due Tuesday in Baltimore!)

So, this afternoon I got a call from J.-no-longer-from-school (yay graduation!) suggesting that we have a Game Night at T's house. Being the kind of guy I am, the answer was most definitely "yes", I threw some snacks into a grocery bag, and caught a ride out to College Park ...

... where we discovered that some streets aren't plowed very well after two blizzards back-to-back!

On the bright side, I got to pitch in with the crew pushing a mildly clueless BMW-driver out of the ditch by the road. (I actually contributed one factor which may have helped much: pushing the front wheel out so it could pull the rest.) It was a really good thing that I have those great new waterproof hiking boots, because I was standing in a big snowdrift ... in my sneakers, with my boots in the closet at home.

The gaming was good, though! We started off with "Da Vinci's Challenge", which is this very patterny game where you try to get particular shapes for points - we frustrated L. quite a bit by talking when she wanted to discuss strategy with her teammate, though, which made things very awkward. After that, we played an unusual trivia game I've forgotten the name of - everyone writes up guesses, but then you ''bet'' on the guesses you think are actually probably right. We wrapped up with Puerto Rico.

I actually caught a ride home with L., who lives nearer my house than J. (Funny: three of us in the same area, and we all three go to College Park instead! Next game night might be closer, I imagine.) Fortunately, the street had been plowed while we gamed - although not all the way down to the street.

Ah, well. Fun night, anyway!
packbat: Leaning on a chain-link fence, looking to my left (your right) with a neutral expression. (spectator)
2010-02-10 12:46 am

Admittedly, it is a very Applish kind of fiery crash.

Does anyone know why, when a MacBook Core 2 Duo running 10.5.8 crashes hard - so hard that even a Vulcan nerve-pinch is ineffective - that the iTunes will keep playing until it finishes the song?
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (quarter-rear)
2010-02-09 11:45 am

Positivity!

bliumchik i.e. [livejournal.com profile] maggiebloome had a tasty, tasty post+links about the sort-of self-destructive anti-ego thing which a lot of women do to avoid seeming too self-confident establish their femininity ...

... and that reminded me of an entirely different self-destructive anti-ego thing that I do, when I don't get things done that I wanted to have done. The thing is, I have this self-image of this feckless, flaky ass who blows off important assignments and mooches financially and emotionally off everyone he meets ... but the whole basis for this persona is that I'm ADD. I don't concentrate well, and I don't have the tools established to work around it (other than "be so clever that you can solve the problem in fifteen minutes or less"...). And given that I'm the only person I have ever met who has given any weight to the ass-hypothesis, I suspect the truth is closer to "my organization skills need a little work".

The self-destructive part, then, is whinging about being a horrible person who deserves to die (a total lie, for the record), rather than doing that little bit of work. Because I can - I have the technology - and everything else is just that I haven't, yet.

Abrupt transition!



Reply to this post, and I'll tell you one reason why I like you. Then repost this [if you like] and spread the love.

Except! Amendment!

Reply to this post with something you like about yourself. No cop-out complinsults please! I know you've got it in you! And if you don't I will still do the original meme above, so no pressure or anything, but try. For me.
packbat: Wearing my custom-made hat and a smirk. (hat)
2010-02-07 08:47 pm

Power returns

Okay, so strictly speaking, it returned five hours ago ... but it's back!

No heat, though. And we're still so socked in with the weekend blizzard (over 20 inches) that school's closed tomorrow. And another five inches of snow is on its way Tuesday/Wednesday.

...yay, electricity!