Friday, November 30, 2007

Not With a Bang


In the future, my posts will (hopefully) be better thought out and not just random ramblings because i have to. i'm still going to try to post frequently, but i'm not going to force it. Thank you for your patience.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Reading List Meme

i'm not normally high on memes. This one, though, piqued my interest (found here). So here you are, a random list of books (compiled by who knows who) showing which ones i have read or started. Sadly, the ones i have read are a very small subset. i don't currently have any on my reading list because i tend to keep a very short reading list. i'm open to your input though: which of the books am i absolutely missing out on? Here are the rules.

Bold those you’ve read.
Italicize books you have started but couldn’t finish.
Add an asterisk* to those you have read more than once.
Underline those on your To Be Read list.
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
  • Crime and Punishment
  • Catch-22
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • Wuthering Heights
  • The Silmarillion
  • Life of Pi: A Novel
  • The Name of the Rose
  • Don Quixote
  • Moby Dick
  • Ulysses
  • Madame Bovary
  • The Odyssey
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Jane Eyre
  • A Tale of Two Cities
  • The Brothers Karamazov (currently reading for a second time)
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies
  • War and Peace
  • Vanity Fair
  • The Time Traveller’s Wife
  • The Iliad
  • Emma
  • The Blind Assassin
  • The Kite Runner
  • Mrs. Dalloway
  • Great Expectations
  • American Gods
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
  • Atlas Shrugged
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran
  • Memoirs of a Geisha
  • Middlesex
  • Quicksilver
  • Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
  • The Canterbury Tales
  • The Historian
  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  • Love in the Time of Cholera
  • Brave New World
  • The Fountainhead
  • Foucault’s Pendulum
  • Middlemarch
  • Frankenstein
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Dracula
  • A Clockwork Orange
  • Anansi Boys
  • The Once and Future King
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • The Poisonwood Bible
  • 1984
  • Angels & Demons
  • The Inferno
  • The Satanic Verses
  • Sense and Sensibility
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray
  • Mansfield Park
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • To the Lighthouse
  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles
  • Oliver Twist
  • Gulliver’s Travels
  • Les Misérables
  • The Corrections
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
  • Dune*
  • The Prince
  • The Sound and the Fury
  • Angela’s Ashes
  • The God of Small Things
  • A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present
  • Cryptonomicon
  • Neverwhere
  • A Confederacy of Dunces
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything
  • Dubliners
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  • Beloved
  • Slaughterhouse-Five
  • The Scarlet Letter
  • Eats, Shoots & Leaves
  • The Mists of Avalon
  • Oryx and Crake
  • Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
  • Cloud Atlas
  • The Confusion
  • Lolita
  • Persuasion
  • Northanger Abbey
  • The Catcher in the Rye
  • On the Road
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  • Freakonomics
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
  • The Aeneid
  • Watership Down
  • Gravity’s Rainbow
  • The Hobbit*
  • In Cold Blood
  • White Teeth
  • Treasure Island
  • David Copperfield
  • The Three Musketeers

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Triptych Challenge

Triptych is a word from the greek words for three and fold. In normal usage, it means a work of art that is divided into three parts. i, however, am going to subvert the word for my own usage. My triptych challenge will be a game for you with the following rules: i will give you three themes. Your challenge is to come up with some work of art (book, song, video game, ...) that incorporates different subsets of those themes.

For example, if i give you Ocean, Music and Death, you might come up with Mr. Holland's Opus (music, not ocean or death), Crime and Punishment (death, not ocean or music), The Red Violin (music and death, not ocean), and Titanic (ocean, death and music).

The challenge is to come up with one example for every subset (A, B, C, AB, AC, BC, ABC, and, for good measure, none). One point for each subset. Bonus points would be given for completing all subsets as well as for constraining your answers to one genre (different amounts for different genres - could be movies (broad) or 19th century Russian novels (narrow)). i don't know that i'll actually give out points, but if i did, that's how i would score it - well, that and points via whim.

So here is your first set of themes: Royalty, Food and Sleep. Good luck! i'll post a comment later with what i come up with.

It's hard to come up with themes that are diverse enough to not overlap too much (so it's hard to find one without the other, like ocean and whale) but not so diverse (or narrow) that it's impossible to find anything that really has all of them, like aliens, dolphins, and rain (except for something like Douglas Adams' books).

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


i'm sure you've noticed that you recall some things much easier than others. At least i do. Maybe you recall everything perfectly. If so, remind me never to play Trivial Pursuit with you. If you're like me, though, you depend on some combination of association and indexing for most of your recall needs.

Most of us are familiar with free association games. If you are asked to say the first word that pops into your mind when hearing the word red, you might say apple. i might think fire truck. Someone else might respond with 650 nm (if you ever play this game with Techers, be prepared for some really random associations). Even better is playing non-sequitur, where you have to say a word that is not related to the word just said by someone else. It's actually very hard to keep up, especially if you're trying to be fast, and reveals the power associations have in our brains.

<grossGeneralization apologiesTo="Dan" >Our brains are made up of billions of neurons, each with many connections to other neurons via synapses. When a neuron is activated, it communicates its activation to its synaptically connected neurons, which may or may not activate them as well. The more a certain activation pathway is used, the more likely that it will be activated in the future.</grossGeneralization> i like to think that association works the same way, but on a larger scale (i think that makes it homologous, but i'm not absolutely sure. Maybe analagous is a better term?). On this scale, your brain is made up of a bunch of different words or concepts, with connections of varying strength to other words or concepts. So when you hear the word house, you might think of a door and see an image of your own house, which reminds you of other houses you have lived in, and so on down rabbit trails and off on tangents. i think that tangents, then, could be explained as particularly strong associations down which you are easily led (or just enjoy following). Some humor, as well, could be defined as finding somewhat obscure associations and raising our awareness of them. As with neurons, these connections between words/concepts grow stronger the more we use them together and weaken over time if not used.

Personally, i find that i do free association very well, particularly in the context of multiple choice questions. It's a big part of the reason i do well on standardized tests (honestly not that great of a skill - i don't have standardized tests at work, and Gavin didn't come with one either). Over time and repeated practice, i have learned to 'trust my gut' when faced with a question that i might not know a lot about. As long as i have run across the information asked for, it is possible that i will lean towards the correct answer. This is by no means infallible, but i tend to do better than random, even when i don't really know anything about the subject. i just have these faint associations calling out, "Pick me!" The more information given, the better we tend to do (in general), because we have a greater number of possible paths to light up the correct answer (as long as our initial associations are good - it's easy to pick up bad associations). That isn't always true, though, because sometimes the information might be given in order to lead us off the mark. Framing a question differently can often lead to different answers. A Pavlovian response is also the product of a strong association that may not be based in any rational method. When i hear a fire alarm, i think doughnuts. i can feel the tangents pulling me all over the place. Must. Stay. On. Track.

Indexing is a much less commonly used idiom for memory recall. It might not really be used at all, but i'm going to manipulate the term until it means what i say it means. When i say indexing, i think of databases (there goes that association thing again). One of the most common ways to speed up the response time of a database is to use indexes. <grossGeneralization apologiesTo="DBAs, anyone who actually reads this" >When a database table is created, it doesn't know how you want to search it. For example, i can create a table called Friends, and it has fields for first_name, last_name, and coolness (no, i don't rate my friends like this, it's a much more complex algorithm). When i want to find all friends with a coolness greater than 5, the database has to go through each record in the table to compile my list. Alternatively, i can tell the database to index the coolness field. The database will then keep a separate structure of the coolness values, along with which rows they relate to. It gets a bit complex in implementation, but the basic idea is that searching that separate structure is much faster than searching the entire table. </grossGeneralization>

i think that our brains index as well. As an example, think of the rooms in your house. You likely can come up with a comprehensive list fairly quickly. Yes, there is association going on here. Maybe it's all association under the hood. But when coming up with lists, some constraints make it easier than others. It's easy to think of boy names that begin with B - Brian, Bill, Bob, Bart, ... But try to come up with a list of boy names where R is the second letter (admittedly a smaller pool) - Arthur, Brian (by looking at my previous list), and i quickly degenerate into trying random sets of syllables (Dray... Draw... Drew - that's a name!). i can feel my brain stuttering. i can't constrain my search set well, so it feels like i need to examine each name out of all boy names to see if the second letter is R. i simply don't index names by second letter. i suppose you could say i don't have strong second-letter associations, but i find it slightly easier to think about it as indexes. i think a lot of memorization falls under the indexed category - the strongly associated set. Presidents of the USA. Noble gases. Elementary particles.

So, let's outline some different questions that apply to association and indexing to different degrees:

Free Association:
Question: Name 5 words you associate with green
Difficulty: easy

  • Grass
  • Oscar the Grouch
  • Go (traffic signal)
  • Felt
  • Gavin's Bumbo
A lot of variation here

Constrained Free Association:
Question: Name 5 blue things from college
Difficulty: medium

  • Blue Books
  • Tommy
  • Merzbacher
  • Jackson
  • The paper around those white erasers
Easier once i came up with a theme (textbooks - basically turning it partially into an index)

Question: Name 5 things that aren't associated with movies
Difficulty: medium-hard (mental thrashing)

  • Computer monitors
  • Sudoku
  • Log cabins
  • Leap frog
  • Gardening
It's hard to come up with things that aren't associated in some way. i'm not satisfied with the list i came up with, and i ended up not using a lot of the ideas that i did think of. It's so easy to come up with association paths ( sudoku -> crosswords -> didn't they make a movie about crossword aficianados? If not, then -> scrabble, and i know they made a movie about big scrabble tournaments).

Simple Indexing:
Question: Name 5 authors in your bookcase
Difficulty: easy

  • Isaac Asimov
  • Orson Scott Card
  • David Eddings
  • Frank Herbert
  • JRR Tolkien
For this one, i almost look through my shelves to make the list. i know more or less where the particular authors are located, and it's basically an exercise in 'looking' at the shelves in my mind.

Bad Indexing:
Question: Name 5 book titles that include the word Free
Difficulty: hard-impossible

  • ?
  • ?
  • ?
  • ?
  • ?
i am pretty much terrible at this sort of thing. Doesn't work for me at all.

Monday, November 26, 2007


So i've been trying to do this whole NaBloPoMo thing without mentioning it, but i am, as of now, admitting defeat in that particular endeavor. Things have just been too busy lately, with preparations for a trip and holiday events. You can view this post as the result of a brain washed clean. Have you ever done a cleansing fast, where you only, say, drink juice for a week along with a few other things to clean out your system? i feel kind of like that - there's nothing left anymore. Sorry. Maybe tomorrow will be better. Thankfully, you only have to endure a few more days of this. i don't think i'll be doing it (NaBloPoMo) again.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


In a week, Michelle and i will be taking our first major trip with Gavin. We're flying across the country to Georgia to see her parents, with a trip up to Tennessee (driving) to visit her grandparents. i'll also be traveling to Virginia for some training for work. So we're combining work with vacation and flying long distances in a plane with driving long distances in a truck. i'm sure it will be an adventure. Hopefully we'll all stay sane.

The trip to Virginia will mark the first time i've really been away from Gavin for more than just the work day. i am not looking forward to that part, especially because Gavin has been developing so rapidly, changing daily. i know that he'll be different in those few days. Hopefully he won't develop too much - i'm kind of selfish about that, i suppose.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Photo Organization, Revisited

We recently purchased Photoshop Elements in order to be able to do some more advanced editing to our photos. It happens to come with a photo organizer, so i thought i'd try it out. So, the last couple times i downloaded photos from our camera, i used it rather than Picasa. i took Adam's suggestion and started keeping the photos in folders by year, month, and day taken. i'm trying out the Edits subfolder as well, but it's kind of hard, as Elements automatically saves any (quick) changes you do to the same folder with an _edited-x added.

Anyways, i'm glad to say that it has been working out pretty well. i like the organizer in Elements better than Picasa's because it allows me to visually see my tags and drag them onto sets of photos. It is much quicker than manually tagging every photo (maybe there's a better way in Picasa, but i don't know it). i can also get the tags to automatically show up on Flickr when i upload them, so that's a plus as well. Picasa makes it easier to do simple edits to your photos (like lightening, color temperature, straightening, ...), but i'm pretty sure that i'll learn how to do them properly in Photoshop, and i'll have better control that way.

One other drawback to the Photoshop organizer was that it ran a little slow. That, however, was taken care of by a recent (today) RAM upgrade: 1 to 3 GB. It amazes me how quickly prices drop on computer components, especially memory. i would definitely recommend, if your computer seems a bit slow, to first make sure you have enough RAM. That is the easiest way to speed up your computer. Remember, though, that your computer can't address more than about 3.5 GB, unless you're running a 64-bit OS (this useless bit of trivia brought to you by the fact that i read random technical blogs).

Friday, November 23, 2007


i like to read. Actually, i love to read. i grew up with a book in my hand (literally - my mom made me to put the book down when i was in the car because i couldn't get home from a mile away. i was 13). i can still sit down with a good book and not look up for multiple hours.

i think it was last year that Sony introduced the Sony Reader, a digital device utilizing e-ink. That means that the display is much more readable than a regular computer screen and doesn't fatigue your eyes. It sounded pretty cool, but was a bit expensive and used a proprietary format for the books that you bought. Plus, it was a first-generation product, and i'm not an early adopter. i like to know what is out there, but i'd rather wait a few generations for a product that has been developed with some real-world feedback.

Well, Amazon just released the Kindle, a similar product with more features and such. You can check out the link if you want specifics, but the things that jumped out at me were that it is wifi enabled (it will also log on to phone networks as well, at no charge), has some internet connectivity (wikipedia, certain newspapers and blogs) and has a keyboard for annotation and full-text search.

It looks really cool, but again, it's a bit out of my price range. Plus, the books you buy for it aren't that much cheaper than buying the physical books. Since i am in a city with one of the best bookstores in the world and can find plenty of used books to read for significantly cheaper than the new price, i'm not sure how many books i would be willing to buy in electronic format. There are a lot of public domain books that i could read for free, but i like some of the newer books as well.

So i guess i'll wait another generation or so, to see if prices come down and functionality gets better. Hopefully, there are enough early adopters to push the development of the devices. The good news is that the Kindle is currently back-ordered, so at least there should be some good feedback. Here's hoping...

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Happy Thanksgiving everyone! i'm extremely thankful that i can spend it with my family - my wife and son as well as my more extended family. It's always great to be with them. i can't believe how blessed i've been with the relationships and love present between me and my parents, me and my siblings. i wouldn't trade any of them for anything.

i'm also thankful that there are other people who appreciate my nerdiness. Thank you for reading this blog, and yes, for laughing at with me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Gavin does not communicate well yetkk,v mb

But he seems to enjoy the keyboard.

vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv ............................................................,z ZZZZ .l nkkjhf b b........ ////////////////////////////////////.................................kkkkkkjjjjjjd c

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is really cool. i check it way too often (there are numbers and graphs everywhere!), and i've noticed that a few people have found my site by searching for something like fun things to do with my wife or wife fun. i'm pretty sure they end up here. i imagine that's not what they had in mind. Poor guys.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Things i (have done || do)

  • Biking to work is not nerdy. Figuring out how much the wind affects you while riding is.
  • Watching your child develop is not nerdy. Thinking that the second derivative of his cognitive abilities (w.r.t. time) is positive is.
  • Liking math is not nerdy. Laughing at (or making) jokes about second derivatives (see above) is.
  • Knowing words is not nerdy. Assigning numeric values to them (with your own private algorithm) is.
  • Liking puzzles is not nerdy. Having already seen and solved all the ones in this post is.
  • Watching science fiction movies is not nerdy. Discussing the geophysical impossibilities in a Vin Diesel film on the ride home from the theater is.
  • Celebrating pi day is not nerdy (ok, maybe it is). Celebrating pi day at 1:59 AM is. Not having to look up what time to celebrate it definitely is.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Does anyone have any tips and tricks they use for keeping their digital photos organized? We have quite a catalog of photos, and it's hard to keep them organized. i do have some things i do to try to stay organized, but i always fall behind.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The last one

Why is it considered impolite to eat the last one of something? It could be the last piece of pie, the last pickle in a jar, even the last chip in a bowl. It seems to take on some psychic weight, as people avoid it and wait for it to, what, disappear on its own? Sometimes someone will even make a general request for someone to take the last one, but they won't be the one to do it. Maybe the most prominent case in my own life is Michelle's family. When i lived with them, they would leave the last spoonful of peas in one dish and the last slice of ham in another. i ended up finishing most of the dishes off. i'm not sure who finishes them off now. Sometimes it seemed like if there were twenty-five skittles in a bowl, and i took twenty, whoever was eating the skittles with me would take four. i realize that it isn't a big deal. It's just a minor pet peeve of mine. And i do behave in the same manner myself, from time to time. So, the next time you see one of something left on a platter, ease everyone's righteously abstaining angst and just take it.

Friday, November 16, 2007


i live a wonderful life. i have a family that i absolutely adore (including extended). i work at a job doing something that interests me with a lot of freedom for exploration and learning, and it isn't too demanding on my time. i have great friends. i live in a great house in one of the best cities in the country, with weather that is just about perfect for me. i am loved by an Awesome God.

Overall, i have a very comfortable life. But what if there is something better than comfortable? It seems like i learn and grow the most when i am placed in situations that are not comfortable for me. Maybe it's getting up in front of a group of people to give a presentation. Maybe it's dealing with loss: loved one, house.... i have found that often those difficult times draw me into closer relationship with the people around me - i realize that i can't do things alone. Looking back at the events in my life, it definitely seems that those have been the most rewarding times.

Yet i continue to approach life in such a way as to maximize my current comfort level. Maybe it's partially my personality. i'm the even-keeled one, the perfectionist who doesn't like doing things that are too hard becaus i might fail, the person who magnifies risks and minimizes rewards. i tend to prefer staying at my own level of comfort/happiness/joy rather than risk the temporary hardship that may result in a higher overall level in the future. i'm a local maximizer. Actually, that might be a good way to look at it (if you're a nerd). If i'm acting as some algorithm (neural net, ...) that is trying to find a maximum, my randomization factor is pretty low. That is, the amount that i'm willing to jump away from my current local maximum is fairly small, so i end up just crawling right back to the same local maximum rather than finding another one. Occasionally, i'll take a larger jump (or be pushed), but it is fairly rare. Thankfully, i have relationships with people who are willing to give me that push once in a while. The Lord is quite willing to do that as well. (Aside: you should check out Over the Rhine. As i'm typing, a song of theirs comes up in iTunes called, appropriately, "Changes Come". Their music is beautiful, and their lyrics are top notch. Oh, and Karin Bergquist can sing, too.)

i can analyze all this to death, but will i actually do anything about it? i'm not actually sure, because i don't want to just jump for the sake of jumping. Maybe part of it is just being aware and receptive to opportunities that may stretch me, rather than dismissing them immediately. One thing i'm sure of is that i don't want to stagnate - to stop learning, growing, feeling. i don't think i've been terrible at it to this point, but i do think i could improve in stepping outside my comfort zone. We'll see what actually happens...

Thursday, November 15, 2007


If you had to choose one cuisine to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be? First of all, what qualifies as a cuisine? i'm going to say that it will be regional. i still have a problem, though. Going to this page on Wikipedia, it seems that there are way more regions than i want to deal with. Who knew there's a Utah cuisine? Apparently, it includes such fine delicacies as fry sauce and jello salad. i think i can cross that off my list. i think i'm just going to have to make up a list of cuisines that i can identify as distinct.

My first instinct is to make good food one cuisine and bad food another. Then my choice is easy. Good food, all the way! But i'll try to be a little more conventional about it. Here goes:

  • American - um, what exactly qualifies as American? Philly cheese steaks? New England clam chowder? Pulled pork? Large hunks of beef? Cheap knock offs of every other known food? I'm not even going to try to break it down further - tex mex, southern, northwestern...
  • Mexican
  • South American - i hate to do this to an entire continent, but i really couldn't tell you where a particular dish is from.
  • Chinese - unfortunately, i don't know that much about real Chinese food (or, i suppose, about most of the other foreign cuisines). i only know about the americanized version of it. So that's what i'll use.
  • Indian
  • Thai
  • Japanese
  • Vietnamese
  • African - again, sorry to the continent of Africa.
  • Mediterranean (including Greek)
  • Italian - i've actually been to Italy, so i at least have some idea of what this might actually consist of.
  • German - ditto
  • French
  • Spanish
  • British - bangers and mash!
  • Russian
  • Oceanian - i really have no idea what this is, so i'm not actually including it (you don't see it here).

Now we have a list that i can start to narrow down. i'll start by removing ones that i haven't eaten enough to really have a good idea of what i would be getting myself into (or aren't distinctive enough in my mind). That would be South American, African, French and Spanish (really, it's probably all but American, but bear with me). Next is the ones that i just don't prefer on a regular basis. Although beer-battered fish is excellent, it is not enough to save British food. Also, let's remove German and Russian.

Let's see, that leaves me with: American, Mexican, Chinese, Indian, Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, Mediterranean, Greek and Italian. i think i may be betraying my tastes at this point. Let's just say that if it were food of a continent, Asia would win hands down. But let's narrow down some of those cuisines. i think the first two i would remove would be Chinese and Japanese. i'm also going to remove Mexican, because it just doesn't do it for me.

Now we're down to American, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Mediterranean, and Italian. Let's break it down a little.

American: This would be the easiest because of the wide range of foods, but i'm going to disqualify it because i'm not sure where to cut it off. Besides, it's the boring choice. Maybe it would be the one i actually chose if this were a real choice, but it's not.

Indian: i love Indian food. Excellent range of possibilities, from various curries to great vegetable dishes. Also, excellent rice, and it might be the only Asian cuisine to regularly feature potatoes. i have to say, though, that my favorite thing about Indian food is the naan. A good, hot piece of naan is a great addition to any Indian dish. i'm already making myself hungry. i also love spiciness, and Indian is about as full a spice as you can get. It just builds and builds. No noodles though, and i do like noodles.

Thai: Definitely some excellent noodle dishes. Pad se ew, drunken noodles, pad thai - all excellent dishes. i also think their curries are the best, even though there is less variety in them than the indian ones. They also feature excellent rice dishes. Oh, and i can't forget the thai iced tea. i realize that it has been heavily influenced by European culture (condensed milk) but it is so good. Lacking in the bread department, though. Also, excellent spiciness.

Vietnamese: Pho just might be my favorite food of all time. It's definitely my favorite soup, and there's something so comforting about a big bowl of pho (it's one of Michelle's comfort foods, and she hadn't had it until college). They have some other soups that are quite good as well, and some excellent beef dishes. i've also had some very good curry and noodle dishes, but not many. i think, though, that my addiction to pho has left me lacking in a well-rounded view of Vietnamese cuisine. i haven't had anything particularly spicy from a Vietnamese restaurant, but i've heard that many times the winner of the annual Portland hot eating contest is Vietnamese. So i'm probably missing something there. Pho!

Mediterranean: Definitely some good food going on here. Gyros, hummus, tabbouleh, ... all excellent. Also, good pitas are nearly as good as naan. Definitely some great meat - particularly the lamb. Good rice, but i don't like it quite as much as i like the asian rices. Greek salad is excellent as well. And baklava is a much bigger plus than the desserts (that i know of) from Asia. i just want to mention that Burger Continental will always have a place in my heart. i don't know of any noodle dishes, though. Also, not very spicy (to my knowledge).

Italian: When i think of Italian food, i think of pasta and pizza. To be sure, there are many other foods served in Italy, including some excellent fish/seafood dishes, but they are much less prominent in my mind. i definitely like pasta, and it is served with many different sauces and much variation. i've also experienced some varied pizzas - much more so than in the US (shredded potatoes on your pizza?). The Italians also make some good bread. They're also the only cuisine on the short list with a prominent wine presence. No (or minimal) spiciness, though. Oh, and i can't believe that i almost forgot that they are the only option here that uses cheese in any significant quantity! i really like cheese.

Now that i've done all this, i have to choose one? But i like them all! Well, Mediterranean is the first to go - i just like the others better. Then, i think, i'd have to eliminate the Italian. It's hard to do, but i think it's true. That leaves Thai and Indian. That's a hard decision. i had one idea earlier, but then i stopped and had dinner - a dinner which happened to be the other option. And it was very good. i think, though, that i'm going to have to go with Indian food. i think what i prefer about Indian to Thai is the variety in vegetable dishes - it may just be my experience, but i haven't had that many strong vegetable-centric Thai dishes. And the naan. i don't know that i can begin to tell you how much i like naan. And it goes so well with so many of the other dishes. Again, this is probably making a decision on far too small a sample size. i'm very glad i don't have to make the decision for real. And i'm glad i live in a city where there are excellent restaurants for any of my current culinary inclinations.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Blog Updates

i've been doing some formatting updates and such on this blog. Really, the look of things haven't changed, but now i have more control over layout and such. It requires that i start using more tags rather than assuming that Blogger will do it, but that's really a small price to pay for the few pixels that i now control that i didn't before.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


We've determined that i'm nerdy - that is not a question at this juncture. So, what do i like and do that are not nerdy?

Actually, my life as it stands today is fairly low in (obvious) nerdy content. Sure, i write software, but that stays at work - i'm not one of those people who love coding in their spare time. i enjoy playing the guitar, and lately i've been taking a lot of photos. i love spending time with my wife and son. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of my life, given my introverted track record (see: high-school, college - i was once told that i was pretty introverted even on the Caltech scale of introversion), is the number of friends i have. Sometimes i feel like i have too many friends - i just can't spend the time to get to know them all as well as i might like. That's just weird to me (and probably weirder to Adam). Not only that, but pretty much none of my local (Portland-area) friends are friends because we share a love of math or anything similar. i'm pretty sure a few of my friends think i'm smart because someone told them so (hearsay, i tell you!), not because i've ever proven it. Of course, i'm still fairly quiet, so that helps in the perception (in that i don't prove myself not smart/nerdy).

Given all that, there is always a strong undercurrent of nerdiness in my life. i don't often reveal it in day-to-day life, but it's always there, and occasionally i have to express it. Usually this ends up being a comment or conversation with Michelle, who, thankfully, also enjoys the nerdier side of the world. i also greatly look forward to any time we can spend with classmates from Caltech, but it's hard to make that happen very often. So this blog has been an excellent way for me to let it all out. You've been treated to a very large helping of the part of my life that doesn't get expressed as much elsewhere. Thank you for listening.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Biking in the wind, part 2

So, i worked out the whole biking in the wind thing to include the fact that i'm moving as well and came up with some new numbers. These are a little better (for my ego) than the previous ones. i assumed that i was traveling 10 mph, which seems reasonable. i won't bore you with the new equations. Here are the results:

  • θ = 0º, V = 0 m/s
  • θ = 5º, V = 8.9 m/s (20 mph)
  • θ = 10º, V = 14.0 m/s (31 mph)
  • θ = 20º, V = 21.1 m/s (47 mph)
i will not vouch for the accuracy of these numbers. i haven't done any physics in a long time.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Baby Gifts

We were recently pointed to these by Amy, and it got me wondering... What is the nerdiest gift you can give to a baby/young child? Also, will you confess to actually owning any of them?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Biking in the wind

Since i've been biking to work a lot, i've noticed that biking into the wind seems to be just as hard as biking up a hill. Often times, i'll wonder why it seems like my legs just don't have the power they should, and then i'll look around and see that the trees are swaying. Sometimes, i look up and there's no wind, and that is somewhat disheartening. Overall, though, i can definitely feel the effects of the wind.

So how strong of a wind equates to what grade of a hill? Seeing as how i've taken a couple of physics courses, i'm going to try to figure it out myself. Let's see (feel free to close your browser now)...

First, the hill - let's determine the extra energy i get when powering (or puttering) up a hill.

If my mass is m and i'm going up the hill at an angle θ and velocity v, then the height increase in time t is:

h = v*t*sin(θ)

Now, the potential energy equation is PE = m*g*h. g is the gravitational acceleration = 9.8 m/s^2. So the additional energy i've gained is:

E = m*g*v*t*sin(θ) = 9.8*m*v*t*sin(θ) (m/s^2)

So, let's leave that for now. Now we need to determine the energy lost from wind resistance. The drag equation is:

D = (1/2)*ρ*(V^2)*A*Cd
  • ρ is the density of air ≈ 1.2 kg/m^3
  • V is the wind velocity
  • A is the cross-sectional area of me and my bike. i'm going to say that my bike and i present a 1m by 1m cross section (i'm short, but really wide), so A = 1 m^2
  • Cd is the drag coefficient, which is apparently 0.9 for a bicyclist

So that's a force, but we need energy, so i'm going to use E = F*d, and d = v*t, so we get:

WE = 0.5*1.2*(V^2)*1*0.9*v*t = 0.54*(V^2)*v*t (kg/m)

Equating the two equations, we get:

0.54*V^2*v*t (kg/m) = 9.8*m*v*t*sin(θ) (m/s^2)
V^2 = 18.1*m*sin(θ) (m^2/kg*s^2)
V = √(18.1*m*sin(θ))

The final equation units comes out to m/s, which is good. At least the units are right. Let's try some actual numbers in there to see what kind of results we get.

Since i'm already a massive square, let's also assume i'm 100 kg, for ease of use.

V = √(1810*sin(θ))

For different values of θ:

  • θ = 0º, V = 0 m/s
  • θ = 5º, V = 12.6 m/s (28 mph)
  • θ = 10º, V = 17.7 m/s (40 mph)
  • θ = 20º, V = 24.9 m/s (56 mph)

That seems a bit extreme. Really, though, the V should include my velocity on my bike, and should be balanced out by my riding through no wind on the other side (there will still be drag). So maybe it would kind of work out closer to what i think should be the case. But i'm too lazy to work all that out right now. And i need to go do some other things. So maybe next time.

The other explanation is that i'm just a wimp (oh no, wind!). That's definitely possible.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Caltech Basketball!

What's this? A documentary about Caltech basketball? i'm shocked! i might just have to find and see it. It's funny, because it's about the 05-06 team, which is all students from after i graduated. i played my senior year, so the freshmen then would have graduated in 05. And there's a new coach. So i don't recognize anyone (actually, i think i do recognize at least one of the seniors, but it would be from prefrosh weekend or going to visit Michelle during her senior year). It even has a page on Rotten Tomatoes. Hopefully i'll be able to find it.

Just for the record, all the talk about not winning a game since 1985 means conference games, not all games. When i played, we won twice, just not any games that actually mattered.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


As i've mentioned, i like xkcd. You, too, might like it if you like:

If you like all the above (and understand the comics)? Well, i just hope you're married to a Techer. Or someone else equally as nerdy.

Believe it or not, i did narrow down the list from what it was originally. i removed a couple that were even nerdier than the ones listed. i'm pleased that there are now a prime number of list items.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

First Impressions

We all know that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. Looks can be deceiving and all that. Here is one example from my own life.

It was my freshman year at Caltech, and all of us frosh were going through rotation. In my rounds, i occasionally noticed a particular freshman who struck me as rather odd. i need to clarify something here. All of the students at Caltech can be referred to as odd (unless a few slip by the admissions office). We are a strange bunch, full of equations and witticisms founded in differential equations and quantum mechanics. A good portion of the students have poor personal hygiene and are not the best in social situations. So, when i say someone struck me as odd, that is from the frame of mind where the aforementioned is normal. This classmate seemed to be something else entirely. In fact, he seemed to be trying to stick out. i'm a little fuzzy on the exact details, but i seem to remember a name tag identifying him as a reporter or private eye from some 40's movie (Sam Spade?).

So, i had noticed him a few times. Rotation ended, and all us frosh were picked into the various houses. Well, it turned out that this guy was going to be a mole, same as me! And there he stood, as we all played in the flooded courtyard, in his slacks and t-shirt and sunglasses, trying to avoid getting wet (at least at first). i must admit, though, that was a significant change from his normal garb - the omnipresent trench coat and fedora. i mean, come on, who is this guy trying to be?

It turns out that he was just being himself - all that stuff is just part of the package. In the coming years, i actually got to know him, and he's one of the most interesting people you will ever meet. He loves math and numbers, but he's also a connoisseur of literature and video games and movies. He's always good for a rousing conversation on any subject. He's also one of the most caring people i know and values his friends highly. Thank you, Tim, for letting me get to know you and getting to know me. i'm very thankful for your friendship. i'd go on, but i'm pretty sure this post has gotten sappy enough already.

There you have it. Next time you happen across a guy in a trench coat and fedora... try to avoid eye contact - he might decide that you're his next victim. But really, i often need to be reminded that people don't fit in the boxes i have all prepared for them. i also need to be reminded that it's ok to be myself, even if i'm odd and quirky.

(For the record, Tim's hat and coat are much more Humphrey Bogart than The Matrix)

Sorry, Tim, if i totally butchered all the details of rotation week. That is how i remember it, but it may be totally different than what actually happened. i would not swear to any of it (except the hat and coat, of course).

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Shack

My dad started writing a book a couple of years ago. It started out as nothing more than a gift for his kids, so we would have some insight into his thoughts and experiences. He wrote a story of a man who spends a weekend with God dealing with his personal issues and hurts. We read it and thought it was good. So he started giving it to a few friends to read, and the response was pretty amazing. At some point, he sent a copy to a friend of his who has published books of his own, and that friend saw that it was good. So they started working on it - editing, revising, rewriting where necessary. They formed a publishing company to publish The Shack, and it is now available to the public!

i love the book. It is a story of the freedom and love we can experience in Christ. It touches on fundamental questions of the relationship between man and God and pain and forgiveness. i'm not going to post a full-scale review here because there are plenty out there (and they're written much better and more glowingly than anything i'd output). But i do think you should read the book. You might also want to check out his website.

We've all been amazed at the responses by people who have read the book. It was released without any marketing, but it seemed like everyone who read it would buy a case to give out to others. They'd tell their friends. They'd post about it on their blog. It was viral marketing, the kind marketers wish they could artificially create and control. Now it can be found on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. They are just starting with their third print run. There are plans for a hardback version in time for Christmas. As of this writing, it is #353 on Amazon's list of best-sellers. i'm astounded and amazed and in awe and flabbergasted.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Et Cetera

Michelle wants you all to be aware of Alley Assassin from 2002. Her alley, swamp, consisted of all girls and absolutely dominated, and she herself registered 2.0 kills, under the pseudonym Michelle Swann. She said she didn't want to become a master assassin because then she'd have to be paranoid about being a target, but the site lists her as a target already, so i'm not sure what's up with that. It turns out that my co-workers should really be afraid of her, not me. But i'll let them believe whatever they want as long as it keeps me safe. Besides, i may just call on her to give me some help.

i was recently pointed to this excellent song (thank you Dan). Created by a professor at Caltech, David Politzer (Nobel prize in Physics, 2004), it is a song that, if i may say so, resonates deeply with my nerdy core. If it doesn't make much sense to you, you can be thankful that you aren't a complete nerd. If you find it hilarious, well, there's not much i can do for you. Except join you.

Happy third luniversary to my son, Gavin! At three months old, he continues to amaze me, and i love him more all the time.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Yard Work

Yard CuttingsYesterday, i decided to finally do something about our back yard. We basically hadn't touched it in, oh, a year and a half, so it was a bit overgrown. The picture is of the back yard, after i got through. i didn't think of taking a before picture until partway through, so you won't be able to compare. The pile in the middle is all from three bush/tree monstrosities - we're going to have to take it all to get recycled. In the foreground are some yard debris bags. i filled over seven of them. Our front yard still needs some work as well, but it is better maintained because it is actually visible to the rest of the world.

Our back yard isn't very large, but it has no grass at all, just a lot of plants. And all of the plants grow like weeds during the spring/summer (and you should see the weeds grow). When i went out to slaughter everything, the roses were between six and seven feet tall, and every plant was competing to take over the yard. So the desolation that is currently our back yard will look nice and healthy by May and will probably be overgrown again come next fall.

Technically, doing yard work once every year and a half for a couple days works out great on the efficiency scale. Let's see... 16 hours/1.5 years works out to about 105 seconds per day. Not too bad. In real life, however, the cost is much higher in terms of time spent keeping up/time enjoying. Even if we were able to enjoy it for 3 months, that would be 10 minutes per day. Not to mention that the slash-n-grow technique results in suboptimal results even for those 3 months. A well-tended garden looks much nicer than one on its way from bare to out of control. Hopefully we'll be able to stay on top of it a little better this time.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


i've been biking to work for a few months now. At first it was sporadic for various reasons (mostly that Michelle was still driving to work and could drop me off in the morning). But for the last month or so, i've biked to work every day (that i went in to work) but one. It's far enough that i shower once i get to work, but not really far enough that it is impressive (to me).

Despite my consistency, i still seem to be the slowest biker on the road. i occasionally pass people (maybe 2/week) but i get passed much more frequently (3-5/day). i don't have the fastest bike and i don't claim to be in great shape, but it is kind of depressing. i told Michelle about my troubles and she didn't seem to think much of it -- until i mentioned the fact that i get passed regularly by people on mountain bikes. At least i haven't been passed by a pedestrian yet.

i like biking to work. i get some exercise, which is hard to come by otherwise. Portland is also one of the best cities in the country for bikers. There are bike lanes going everywhere downtown and some pretty good bike paths for longer trips (or so i've heard). i'm pretty sure that there is an ordinance saying that whenever new roads are constructed, at least x% must have a bike lane or wide enough shoulder for a bike to ride safely. So it's a good place to own a bicycle. Now if i can only convince my legs that they don't get tired quite so fast...

Friday, November 2, 2007


i work in IT, and since our group is fairly typical, there tend to be a fair number of pranks that happen. Or, at least, a fair number of pranks that get talked about. To be fair, there are a few pranks that are pulled off, but most of them are so lame that they aren't even fair pranks. Most of the ideas revolve around waiting until someone leaves their laptop alone without locking it, and then sending an email to their boss (or their boss' boss) telling them how much they are loved. Or installing some program that changes their desktop background every 30 seconds. Or setting their screen saver to come up after 2 seconds of inactivity. The last two haven't even happened, that i'm aware of, just been talked about. Oh, there's also the class of 'disconnect some wire so the person can't use their mouse/talk on their phone. Really, i would call most of what goes on around here hijinks, not pranks.

Our boss (let's call him B) actually comes up with, and pulls off, the best pranks. i have a fairly gullible coworker (let's call him G) who is most often the victim of these pranks. Once, for example, G was about to go on vacation to Vegas for a week. At some point during his last day before the vacation he got pretty frustrated with something and swore loudly. Across the cubicle divider from him is someone who didn't appreciate that. G realized that. Soon after the incident, he left for Vegas. When he got to Vegas, he had a voicemail from B saying that a complaint had been filed with HR and he needed to call B about it soon. He freaked out (thought he was going to lose his job) and called B, who directed him to another manager (M) because "i don't think i can be objective in this." So G called M, who was also in on the prank, and M led him about for a little before breaking the news to him. Thankfully, G is good-natured about it all.

So there have been a few good pranks, but so far no one (including me) has really stepped it up besides B. i'm not that much of a prankster, though if i'm going to pull a prank, i do have my standards. My main goal is to prevent people from pranking me. So far, it seems to be working. The others on my team seem to think that any prank they pull on me will be revisited on them in mutated and larger form. i think they're intimidated by stories about pranks from Caltech and assume that i am heir to that legacy.

And they don't even know about Alley Assassin.

Thursday, November 1, 2007



It's the greatest question ever. It's asked by children and world leaders. It's the most important question for children. It's a great way to learn. i don't know if there's a single statement that it can't be used as a response to (there might be some questions it might not be appropriate for). It's ambiguous.


You should never stop asking it. You never have to stop asking it. There is no perfect answer. It's a question that always digs deeper. It's a question where having a good answer indicates understanding rather than just knowledge. If you can't answer it, maybe you're just repeating dogma handed to you. It cuts to the heart of a person's questions about their own statement.


Because i said so!

Why? i don't know...