packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
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)
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?

  • 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)
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)
(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)
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)
(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 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)
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) 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)
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)
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 [ 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.

In Austin!

Jul. 14th, 2010 10:49 pm
packbat: Wearing my custom-made hat and a smirk. (hat)
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)
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.

99.2 °F

Apr. 24th, 2010 10:13 pm
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (quarter-rear)
I feel simultaneously terrible and 0.7 F° short.
packbat: Wearing my custom-made hat and a smirk. (hat)
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.) (:


Mar. 14th, 2010 01:13 pm
packbat: Coming into the finish line after a mile race - the announcer can be seen behind me. (running)
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)
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)
(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)
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?


Feb. 9th, 2010 11:45 am
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (quarter-rear)
bliumchik i.e. [ 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)
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!
packbat: Leaning on a chain-link fence, looking to my left (your right) with a neutral expression. (spectator)
Ah, the disorganized list. What greater bloggoriffic staple could there be?

  • Our house has a heat pump for both winter and summer ... and it's dead. Capacitor's blown, and wires of the condenser fused together. Whole new unit's needed, and won't arrive before, well:

    Joy to the world.
  • I got a lucky break (alluded to in the prior post) with respect to a presentation I am to deliver; I now have a fair bit of time to actually produce that which I must present.
  • The slide of the zipper on my leather jacket is brokened. However, the buttons on my blue slacks are fixted.
  • I would be interested in purchasing this tee-shirt, should it ever be for sale.
  • I am once again a TA for Heat Transfer Transfer Processes! (So called because the processes can transfer mass, as well ... and I have now taught you the entire mass-transfer curriculum of the course.) I come better equipped this time, as I have Asked A Professor For Advice On Running Discussion Sections. (Also, my student guide on the solution of nonlinear algebraic equations is much improved!)
  • Prof. Orzel gave a talk today on campus!
  • I reread The Moonstone (excellent! --although Ms. Clack danced a merry jig on one of my berserk buttons) and read for the first time World War Z, which my mom kindly lent me after I bought it for her (rollicking zombie fun!). I also read The Silent Tower by Barbara Hambly, and am now jonesing for the #2 in the series.

I fear I may pass out before finishing, s
packbat: Coming into the finish line after a mile race - the announcer can be seen behind me. (running)
I swear, there is no conceivable explanation for how I can be as stupidly lucky as I have been my entire life.

I am seriously tempted to start invoking absurd excuses for this.

In other news, hello! Don't follow those links if you value your time!
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (quarter-rear)
I apologize for the perfunctory and belated nature of this notice, but ...

... I have a problem. My life habits are ill-suited to being a regular Internet denizen - like an alcoholic, I invariably binge, rather than partake, and I find myself interrupting or putting off things I need to do, like working, sleeping, eating, to refresh, archive-trawl, and read and comment.

Given this, I'm dropping all of it - webcomics, weblogs, Wikis, and fora - for the foreseeable future, and I will probably never be active in the way I was. There is a chance that I may revive a few of the less busy feeds, the more idiosyncratic and compelling feeds, to read in small bits at irregular intervals - I was thinking Plan B, possibly Thirteen Ribbons - but this blog and the other will probably fall fallow, and my Twitter, definitely.

Be well.

(P.S. My final bookmarks file.)
packbat: (nanowrimo09)
This is the future-posted National Novel-Writing Month post.

Current status info.

My goal of this month is to write a story about a young man who gets superpowers he is entirely unprepared for. He is not a hero, nor is he a villain. As for what he will become – I do not know. He has fallen into a sea he has never seen and where he swims will be up to him and the tides.

I am titling it "Momentum", as the concept is deeply relevant to the premise. I am titling the chapters after basic physics concepts because I'm that much of a geek. I have no idea if I'll make 50,000, but if you'd like to follow along, just ask.
packbat: Leaning on a chain-link fence, looking to my left (your right) with a neutral expression. (spectator)
From a couple people:

You know how sometimes people on your friends list post about stuff going on in their life, and all of a sudden you think "Wait a minute? Since when were they working THERE? Since when were they dating HIM/HER? Since when???" And then you wonder how you could have missed all that seemingly pretty standard information, but somehow you feel too ashamed to ask for clarification because it seems like info you should already know? It happens to all of us sometimes.

Please copy the topics below, erase my answers and put yours in their place, and then post it in your journal! Please elaborate on the questions that would benefit from elaboration. One-Word-Answers seldom help anyone out.

first name: Robin. I, like my siblings, have a gender-neutral name, and like (at least one of) my siblings, that means occasionally getting mail with the 'wrong' honorific. (As you can see by my scare quotes, I 'care' about this. For the record, the correct honorific is "Mr".)

age: 770 Ms - or about 24 years 5 months, if you like the merely standard units of measure.

location: Near DC on the Maryland side - convenient to the bus lines and Metrorail, which explains why I don't have a driver's license. (Which explains why I have disposable income - can you say "car insurance"?)

occupation: Graduate research assistant at the University of Maryland, College Park, doing research in two-phase cooling for power electronic systems. From the back forward: "power electronic systems" are, for example, the thing that turns your AC into DC or vice-versa; "cooling" is taking the waste heat off the device (it's not 100% efficient) so that it may be dumped into (probably) the air somewhere else; and "two-phase cooling" means doing the above by making a liquid boil, later to be condensed elsewhere. This is something which is an active area of research because it's kind of a messy problem (like turbulence in fluid flow) and the best solutions are of the plus-or-minus-30% strength. Which works in steam power plants, but not in microelectronics.

partner: Romantic? None so far.

kids: In light of the previous question, I am quite glad that the answer here is "none" as well.

brothers/sisters: One each. The sister is a twin, and yes, I've been asked if we're identical. I don't get it either. (The brother is older, and makes me look boring.)

pets: None. My parents had a guinea pig when I was young, and my sister had a rabbit some time later, but I've never been responsible for another living being. (I did quite poorly just caring for a plant!)

3-5 biggest things going on in your life: Largest is the research project, presumably, and second is my schoolwork. (I'm actually pretty stressed these days thanks to an incomplete from last semester I'm having trouble tying up. The class I'm in now is pretty chill.) There on down, it gets pretty minor-scale - the novel I started for Nanowrimo is the biggest thing, and I'm ... not really diligent about working on it.

parents: Both living, and both with a Web presence. I'll mention my father's (done!), as he comments on this blog from time to time. Oh, and is a fierce blogger himself. Pretend that I said that when I mentioned him.

some of your closest friends: There are a couple from my Scout troop that I've been absolute rubbish keeping in touch with (K and W), and then there's several from school with whom I'll banter in the ASME lounge, exchange books, and occasionally play board games (particularly J, J, and T). Other than that, I get on decently with my parents, hang out with my brother, and exchange communications with quite a few people on the Web of Lies (as my mum would call it).

I believe that's better than one-word answers, anyway! Toodles!
packbat: Coming into the finish line after a mile race - the announcer can be seen behind me. (running)
Screenshot )

Yes, I just spent hours of my life 'painting' a virtual car with a virtual skyline and a Maryland flag. But that's not the ridiculous part.

No, the ridiculous part is that I didn't plan on putting that Maryland flag on my hood. I was only making it so that I could put it on the license plate.

Second screenshot )

P.S. Many thanks to, for Maryland flag information.
packbat: (nanowrimo09)
Sick today - no writing. (Broke 10k yesterday at the College Park write-in, though!)
packbat: (nanowrimo09)
I'm falling further behind, but I've discovered the writing war trick at my brother's insistence - more updatage in the future, probably after I've finished this chapter.
packbat: Coming into the finish line after a mile race - the announcer can be seen behind me. (running)
More Nano tomorrow - studying for test today.

1741 words

Nov. 1st, 2009 06:00 pm
packbat: (nanowrimo09)
Back from the write-in with my quota - barely.

A question I forgot to ask: does anyone want to read f-locked posts of the Novel So Far? I'm thinking I'll go with the classic make-a-filter option if anyone is interested. (For what it's worth, my brother - who wrote 5074 words - seemed to enjoy it.)

1040 words

Nov. 1st, 2009 03:37 pm
packbat: (nanowrimo09)
60% of one day's wordcount, and I've kicked things off with a literal bang. Unfortunately, I've a headache, $2.50 of iced coffee I don't want, 1/3 of a brownie I don't want, and a bit of a block.

I guess I just need to remind myself, as the Bard once said, to "lay on - and curst be he who first cries, 'Halt, enough!'"
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (quarter-rear)
broken laptop

And I just got a stack of CDs to import, too.

New jacket!

Oct. 4th, 2009 04:39 pm
packbat: Wearing my custom-made hat and a smirk. (hat)
Went to Value Village today to get some cheap new-to-me slacks for work. And while I was there, I found a pair of leather shoes in my size and ... this.

A black leather biking (?) jacket on a hanger hooked over the top of a white door.

Only twenty bucks, too! There's a seam with a few stiches loose in the lining, but the zipper is intact and the snap-closures don't stick.


(In other news, eating spaghetti with a spoon is ... less than elegant. Also, Interviewing Leather is still a great read.)
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
(This is [personal profile] electrickeet's fault, by the way.)

So, what was I doing at 09-09-09 09:09 (GMT-09)?

Let's see ... order of magnitude distance estimate, convert to time, divide by reciprocal six ... correct for error in watch time ... I believe I was on the fourth floor of physics, panting heavily, having just run up from the basement two buildings over carrying a 2/3rds complement of Standard College Student Backpack Items trying to make class lecture before it started.
packbat: Coming into the finish line after a mile race - the announcer can be seen behind me. (running)
Warning: I went running with a stopwatch today. The following is almost certainly only interesting to [ profile] zhurnaly!

I mean it! It's just a bunch of splits! )

Only other interesting thing - I weighed myself on their scales, got 73.1 kg, which is a little higher than usual for me.


Apr. 5th, 2009 01:07 pm
packbat: Leaning on a chain-link fence, looking to my left (your right) with a neutral expression. (spectator)
For those of you not following the Twitter filter (does that link work?) - went to an exhibition game yesterday at the Washington Nationals stadium downtown - they beat the Baltimore Orioles 4-5, with (amusingly) all five Nats RBIs credited to one ballplayer, Josh Willingham. Grand slam in the first, fielder's choice single in the seventh. It was fun - I got the Grande Nachos at the Bullpen Burrito, which were delicious.

Now to go to school and write computer programs! ...after lunch!
packbat: Coming into the finish line after a mile race - the announcer can be seen behind me. (running)

What was your favorite subject in elementary or primary school? Does it have anything to do with your life now?

View other answers

As a homeschooled kid, "elementary or primary school" is a bit ill-defined, but at a guess ... mathematics, probably geometry and algebra.

Engineering is pretty math-heavy, I must admit.


Mar. 22nd, 2009 03:16 pm
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (iphone)
Guess what I just dropped US$428.33 on?*

(Does anyone have a favorite Livejournal app, by the way?)

* Note: included case, Bluetooth headset, and extended warranty.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (swing dismount)
From [ profile] baxil, with his modifications:

Comment to this post, and I will list five things I associate with you. They might make sense or they might be totally random. You're encouraged to post that list, with your commentary on each item, to your lj (or just add a reply back at me).

Extra Baxilian addition: If you have a mental association with me that nobody has mentioned yet, add it to your five-things request and I'll write some bonus commentary.

Swing Sets

I like swings. I would consider this a fairly awesome date.

I'm not sure when or where my earliest experiences were, but I know we had a swingset in the back yard of the family house when I was a kid, and I seem to recall a swingset at the park down the street, too. I think both of them are gone, now. So is the swingset in the icon, at K's house, but the swing in the icon - the brown thing I'm holding on to is the seat of a tree swing - is still there and still a lot of fun. Without the swingset to climb on for extra height, though, it'll be a little harder for me to fall off at the highest point off the ground and knock my wind out. Again. Pity.


n. Not believing in any gods.

Now, this is not the definition you will from Messers. Merriam and Webster, should you ask of them - they will tell you that it is the positive belief that there exists no deity (and yes, they use the singular). It is also slightly different from the definition common at the once-IIDB, now FRDB (Freethought and Rationalism Discussion Board) - while that definition may be worded identically through sloppiness, strictly speaking, they refer to the negative belief, lack of belief, that any gods exist.

That said, provided that you interpret all three of these definitions reasonably, by which I mean avoiding the stupid, stupid idea that beliefs have to be infinitely certain, all three apply to myself. I positively believe that no people with power over the laws of nature exist ("in my opinion nothing occurs contrary to nature except the impossible, and that never occurs" - Sagredo, "Two New Sciences" (1914 translation), Galileo Galilei), and I decidedly don't have faith in any such creatures.

I made a post for [ profile] convert_me a while back talking about the history of my opinion - I won't bother to repeat it here.

Magic: The Gathering

My dad, my sibs and I got into MtG early - not beta-early, but Unlimited Edition and Arabian Nights expansion early. Back then it was a great game, a lot of fun, though I stank at it - now, with the tremendous backlog of expansions and extra rules and so on that it has acquired, not so much (though I stink much less, now).

Still my favorite collectible trading card game, though.

Writer's Block*

* The LJ thought-prompter, not the creative affliction.

The LJ Writer's-Block feature quite often has interesting prompts - certainly better than Sturgeon's-Law percentages. Today's, for example, is "What do you think happens to us when we die?", a question of deep interest to many people that normally wouldn't occur to me to answer.

I normally don't put a great deal of effort into answering the Writer's Block questions, though. I expect if I were answering today's I would merely reiterate my support for the physicalist position - that you are (mostly) the operation of your brain, and if your brain data is destroyed, so are you. A more thorough response would invoke some of the evidence for the position - from Phineas Gage to the neurophysiology of near-death experiences and hallucinations.


I've always been a bit of a rules-lawyer and I've always loved paradoxes (growing up, we had both of Martin Gardner's Aha! books, and at least one Raymond Smullyan - The Lady Or The Tiger? - I read all three often), so when I first heard of the game of Nomic (probably through my older brother), I was hooked. A game where you could change the rules! Nay, a game where you were encouraged, nay, required to change the rules, not just one where there was no-one to stop you! The very language of Suber's Initial Ruleset appealed to me.

And, of course, no-one in my circle of meatspace acquaintances was interested in playing. So the desire persistent, unfulfilled, until that fateful day when [ profile] active_apathy decided she wanted a game. And by January 23rd, there was [ profile] nomicide, and we've been off and running (with occasional stumbles) ever since. </plug>

Edit: That's January 23rd, 2007, for reference - over two years, now!
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (wtfcu)
Have you ever been scrolling through your old Livejournal entries and hit one that made you just go, "what the bleep"?

Walking Man

Feb. 1st, 2009 05:57 pm
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (cctrail)
It was a gorgeous day today - ~15 °C, clear, calm - so this afternoon I went on a walk! The general idea was to scout out the potential bike-to-school path, which is south on Sligo Creek Trail, then north on Northwest Branch, so I walked to and about a mile down the former before I turned around.

On the way back, I timed myself over the "1.0 mile" between the two road crossings. From which, I calculated that xkcd was right about the velocity of a walking pace (except that 1.5 m/s is 6 kph - but I walk briskly). And also determined that 1 km ≅ 0.622 miles, which is almost correct.

Go me!
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Earth:Harmless/WikiGuide)
As you probably do not know, I have recently been trying out Google Reader as a way of tracking my weblogs. (My "Shared Items" page.) What I have discovered, in the experiment, is that Google Reader acts like the ever-multiplying tabs in the more-slowly-multiplying Firefox windows that keep haunting me, only on speed.

So, back to "Morning Coffee". At least that way, I can say "eh" and ignore the huge pileup of old posts.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (darwin has a posse)
As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I am involved in a "Formal Debate" on the FRDB. Round 1 is up.

Peanut Gallery if you want to make observations over there.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (darwin has a posse)
From my IRA trust co., a letter dated Dec. 29 (arrived a few days ago):

Dear IRA Investor:

In an uncertain market environment—like the one we've experienced over the past several months—it's more important than ever to continue to focus on your long-term goals such as retirement. That's why we would like to remind you that you have until April 15, 2009 to maximize your retirement savings by making a contribution to your IRA account(s) for the 2008 tax year.

From my IRA trust co., a Year-End 2008 Mutual Fund Statement (arrived today):

Activity Summary
This QuarterYear-to-Date
Beginning Value$3,402.22$0.00
Market Fluctuation-945.52-1,523.30
Ending Value$2,490.88$2,490.88
Net Change-$911.34$2,490.88

Of course, the real punchline is that they're doing a good job. (:


Dec. 30th, 2008 05:16 pm
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (cctrail)
Finally went out to ride my bike again today. Last Friday, I'd walked to the local bicycle shop to waste my money on invest in various essential biking accessories, but the combination of bad weather, intersemester schedule lapse ("Are you staying up until 2 a.m. or something?" "Err..."), and the bicycle shop being closed Mondays meant I put off actually riding until today.

First, I went out to pump up the tires (first taking Dad's running stuff off the handlebars). Whereupon I realized I had no clue how much air they needed. So: up the stairs to my laptop and the Webbernets, which promptly informed me that (1) my bike was worth less than a meal at Taco Bell and (2) I needed to know the size of the tires. Back down the stairs, borrow a ruler, 1-1/8 inches is about 28 mm, and - back up the stairs - assuming 35 kg load per tire (reasonable) that makes 80 psi. Back down the stairs.

Then the helmet. I do most shamefully confess - after ten minutes of irritating helmet-adjusting, I simply gave up, pulled everything tight that could be tightened, and said, "Good enough".

(I also skipped putting on my LED taillight. Ironically, the headlight, which I did put on, was absolutely useless.)

After all the aggravation, I was quite glad to walk it out along the sidewalks to the nearest bike trail. And I was ecstatic to be riding again. There is very little I enjoy more than cycling - the effort required to maintain a pace my hindbrain reads as fast is quite easily within even my untrained capacities, even on (slight) uphills.

That said, I was feeling a little woozy after the first 1.5 miles, so I stopped in at a gas station to buy candy and energy drink. After that, I was doing quite well.

Anyway, in the end, I skipped the bicycle shop. After all, it was a cheap, old bike, and I was going to meet with some of me bro's friends (my acquaintances) and play "Left 4 Dead" at the internet cafe this evening. I'll go some other day.

Much fun, today.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (darwin has a posse)
I have just watched my first bad movie. I've seen good movies before, I've seen great movies before, I've seen decent movies before, and I've seen one truly terrible movie before, but I've never actually seen a merely bad movie until today.

Man, I want my two bucks back.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (filler)
  1. The last time I looked at my flist was November 5th. My pants are so bankrupt, they're getting a $1b injection of capital from the U.S. Treasury.
  2. Feeling decidedly under the weather.
  3. If you haven't checked it out before, try out Kaspall. It's a great fantasy-mystery, and the artist is doing humorous little "Character Q&A" comics for vote incentives!
  4. 2+2=4. I have a truly ingenious proof of this, but this bullet point is too small to contain it.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)

It's hard to ignore the fact that today is Election Day in the U.S. If you went to the polls today, tell us what it was like. Long line? Free stickers? Hanging chads? We want the details.

View other answers

At Woodlin Elementary School in Maryland, lines were much like last election's - about an hour at 7 a.m. opening, according to reports from my siblings and mother, and forty minutes or so around nine a.m. when my dad ([ profile] zhurnaly) and I went. Campaigning was light - other than road signs, there was only a representative from the teachers' union (I think) with a slate of endorsements. ([ profile] zhurnaly asked her about the local slots initiative - creditably, the union had no stance and she didn't feel too good about it.) (Oh, and I took one of her sheets to help me decide on the school board race where I was still dithering.)

Attitudes were cheerful. The PTA had a bake sale running. The electronic voting machines read my touchscreen inputs correctly (and thank goodness they'll be gone next election!). It might start raining later, but it was fairly nice when we went.

Oh, and we got free stickers. [ profile] zhurnaly gave me his as a joke.


packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)

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