Monday, June 6, 2016

A Bicycle's Eulogy

It's official. The bike of my upbringing has finally gone belly up.

This has been my horse, my cruiser, my motorcycle. So many memories. All the sweat and soreness, all the struggles up the BYU hill, all the trips to the library. Learning to let go, adjust the brakes (hate that chore), take the tires off, adjust the seat height, and change inner tubes. Crashing outside J Dawgs. Granted, I'm not totally broken up about it, but this bike has been a part of many parts of my life for quite a while.

The problem becomes: what do I do with it now? Sentimentality says to keep it. Practicality says to dispose of it. Frugality says to break it down and keep the parts worth keeping. We don't have a garage. It doesn't seem very sightly to just leave it outside, exposed to the elements, though it would be an interesting observation experiment to watch it rust and degrade back to the elements. Suggestions?

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Signs of Change

Just a hunch, but I think things might be a little different in the near future. Just judging by a few
scenes I've noticed around. You'll have to take a look and tell me what you think.

Let's visit this apartment...or maybe live there.
Cream puffs. Home made!
That's a pretty post. New bed!
Ooo, sparkly...

Pretty, pretty flower.
Who is that?

Hey, he makes me smile.

Yeah, I think he's kind of important.

Yep, I think I could get used to this. Change is scary and we naturally resist it. But I think this will be a good change. At least, so I've been told. goes! New people, new experiences. Level up. :)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Statistics on the Theme of a Christmas song

I had an interesting experience at a certain nursing home yesterday. Seeing as I am considering entering the field of geriatric research (read: I'm mucking around on an Alzheimer's project my mentor was kind enough to let me join in on), I figured I should probably get over my aversion to the elderly. Hence the nursing home excursion in the first place. But I digress. While we were there visiting with a real peppy lady, a group of young adults came in to sing Christmas hymns. Mind you, they were stressing the hymn part pretty strongly; they were not there to carol. At least, this was the sentiment expressed by the spokesman. I found his attitude rather amusing, and apparently so did this lady, because when asked what hymn she would like them to sing, she went with "Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!" The leader fellow was obviously a little put out, but the rest of his troop promptly burst into such an energetic intro that our recipient had to turn down her hearing aid. Having finished, this fellow again asked if there was a hymn she'd like to hear. Her response: "Over the river and through the woods." Again, the poor fellow was disappointed, but the group was evidently tired of the same 5 hymns in every room and so again obliged. However, as the song progressed, more and more dropped out. By the end, it was my roommate and I who triumphantly brought in the end of the song. Needless to say, we only did one verse of that one.

Which brings me to my point. I was really surprised that people didn't know this little gem of a song. It's pretty short (especially if you only do one verse) and it's pretty simple. Admittedly, it is a little antiquated and, according to Wikipedia, was originally written as a Thanksgiving song, which explains why it isn't often sung. But I was still taken aback to find such a small percentage who knew it. So, being the inquiring scientific mind that I am, I deigned to design a study (read: I asked the people I interacted with today whether they knew the song). The results: no one, apart from my roommate in the original instance, could actually sing the song through one verse.

[Note to the reader: the next paragraph is dripping with sarcasm and hyperbole.]
Although I know you will agree that this study embodies the essence of good science, some caveats do exist (my statistics professor ought to be so proud). I will admit that my sample size is dismally small (n=a dozen and a half or so - I know, real precise) and was selected in a rather biased manner, i.e. only my roommates and academic friends were considered. Nevertheless, I must conclude that I am one of the few left in the population in possession of this knowledge, granted I could only sing one verse with confidence. Thus, I thought I would take it upon myself to disseminate this valuable piece of Americana and enrich your holiday season. I have fond memories of listening to this on a Disney sing-along cassette tape during my childhood and would be miserly of me if I didn't let you in on the creation of your own fond memories.
For those of you unfamiliar with this relic.
♫Hurrah for old techno toys!♪
Tell me this doesn't make you smile?

In other news, despite my above animation, I am looking forward to the termination of my statistics course with great anticipation. Only one more hurdle - the final, which, fortunately but unfortunately, has been divided into 3 parts. Wish me luck!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Vault Discovery: A Word on Merging

I discovered a piece a wrote at the beginning of the summer and never posted. So here it is.

Originally composed June 19:

I recently participated in Summerfest and found it to be rather enjoyable - the food, the rides (Samantha and I have made excellent progress toward Tilt-A-Whirl expertise), and the fireworks display were all superb.

Intense concentration - or maybe the handle was dirty...


Your other left!

Thanks for taking the pictures mum!

Notwithstanding, it was my experience in the parking lot which inspired this piece.

Merging. It's actually a fairly simple concept. Two lines become one. I recall that when I was being initiated to the road by my father, he explained that it should work like a zipper - or a "zip" as they call them across the pond. In any case, this being an object I was quite familiar with, the simile stood as an adequate explanation and I was confident that the general population was also equally well-versed in the fly-securing book-enclosing apparatus. Thus, one driving phenomenon could be checked off as a worry free occurrence.

Alas, experience has dictated otherwise. I don't know how other people's zippers work, but mine always follow the same pattern: one left tooth, one right tooth. One left tooth. One right tooth. Repeat previous sequence until all teeth have been assimilated. It's a very simple pattern. Merging should work in precisely the same way. Yet in this advanced age, people seem to want to complicate the pattern. One left car. One right car. Three left cars. One right car. Twelve left cars. Three right cars. One left car. Five right cars. I don't know about you, but I am hard-pressed to find the pattern. And can you imagine what your zipper would look like if it tried the same antics?

To those of you privileged to be instructing the next generation of vehicular operators, I have a simple request: covey the merging pattern. And the rest of us could do to take a lesson from the past, when times were slower. Can you imagine if driving were like it used to be?

Clip courtesy of The Andy Griffith Show

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Greatness long overdue

The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, #1)The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is definitely a classic for a reason. I admit, I began it in large part to placate my sister and to check off one of those "I can't believe you still haven't read that" books off my list. I don't know exactly what I was expecting, but I guess I was expecting it to be a little bit more geeky. A conversation I once had sums it up really nicely: it's not fantasy, because it's written to be more believable; the elements of "magic" are not over-the-top impossible, but in a future state of our universe could be seen as plausible. However, they serve more as thematic elements, extensions of the better part of human virtue. It is also written with the air of a historian; Tolkien was really fleshing out the history, culture, and language of a land that he had invented so completely that it could very well exist. Thus it would be more like historical fiction. However, this it cannot be, as that genre is usually rooted in actual historical fact, and as much as we wish it were true, Middle Earth does not actually exist anywhere but the imaginations of we the readers. Thus we concluded in that conversation that The Lord of the Rings is fictional history.

I'm not sure whether I consider it a pro or con, but Tolkien spends and extraordinary amount of time describing the scenery, painting the environment with words descriptive, but not overly flowery. If I had attempted to read this when I was younger, there is no way I would have gotten through it. Those kinds of passages take a lot of concentration for me, especially when they matter so much to the story and the experience of Middle Earth as a whole. I don't know if it was because I wasn't paying attention well enough by that point, but after Lóthlorien, I got really directionally challenged as pertained to descriptions of the compass rose. But as it ultimately doesn't affect the fate of the quest, I contented myself to understand that Mordor lies ahead and it is to that destination that the fellowship is reluctantly moving.

The hobbits are characterized extremely well, especially if one reads the introductory material. They may seem simple folk, but their motivations and culture are nonetheless engaging and understandable and do not give the impression of flat stereotypes. It is interesting that they can be at once so old in years, at yet so young at heart.

The passages pertaining to characterizing Aragorn are exquisite. He is given such an air of mystery, yet you know that behind the shadowy façade, there are incredible depths. He knows so much and has such strength yet reserve, such patience. What I want to know is when he found time to gain such experience and knowledge. And when he sleeps. It seems like he never sleeps. But I guess that is one of the signs of greatness in any good literary leader. Anyhow, when we are first introduced in Bree, I was practically screaming at the hobbits to trust him. Why would they not? Couldn't they feel the good intentions radiating from him? But then, I'm coming from a biased hindsight position.

Getting to Rivendell was a delightful journey, probably the most compelling for me. Glorfindel is such a fantastic character who plays really well off of Strider. It is awesome to see how men and elves really can work together and each can contribute equally to the success of all. The bit where they came across the trolls added a nice levity to an otherwise grave situation and is a nice cameo to The Hobbit who came before.

The council of Elrond was one of my favorite parts. All the elements of the story are woven together in such a way that you get the entire picture of just how grave the situation of the world has become. Yet it isn't pedantic or dull, one character after another droning on and on about what happened in their region. It is all tied together beautifully, centered around the issue at hand and what is to be done with the Ring.

I particularly enjoyed the incident at the pass of Carradras. It was so artfully thought out, and really adds to the validity and characterization of the Ring itself. The concept that the landscape itself is taking sides in preparation for the great conflict to come is beautiful. Along that same vein, the incident in the forest with Tom Bombadil was incredibly intriguing. That there could be anyone so impervious to anything but his own affairs when such a polarizing effect is going on in the rest of the world is interesting. Yet it would take just such a person to be able to care for a place such as the forest, so confusing and befuddling to those with a narrow view of their desired direction of travel. Moria was a good episode, and much as I hate to admit it, the film adaptation was playing through my mind throughout, particularly the soundtrack; that part is very well done, I might even venture to say better than the book.

Tolkien is so enthralled with his scenery and languages that he often fails to develop his characters. Legolas and Gimli were two such characters; it's almost as if he forgot they were part of the fellowship until he decides to through some racial/political bits in and they uses them to spar. You don't get a good sense of where they have come from or what is most important to them.

The songs got a bit longwinded at times. But that's me being picky. In point of fact, I'm rather impressed that everyone is so well-grounded in their traditions and can use that method to transmit their histories to others. It makes me wish we in the real world knew so much about where we have come from and could recount it more artfully than to recite dates, names, and places.

Overall, it is a great book. Great themes: friendship, standing against evil, treachery and betrayal, the corrupting influence of ultimate power, and the virtue found in simple things. Despite my poor initial motivations, I am better for having read it.

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Monday, June 9, 2014

A Desert Adventure

Last week I went shooting with my father. Having amassed a variety of bottles, buckets, and jugs, we decided to go out into the land around the lake so we could cause explosions without fuss. As we're driving around scouting out suitable set up locations, Dad commented that the road seemed rougher than usual, but we didn't make much of it. We finally pulled into an open area next to an old rusted truck that had been deserted long ago and Dad got out to check a hunch. Sure enough, we had a flat.

As we were struggling to figure out how to get the spare off (it was bolted pretty securely to the underside of the bed), pushing off thoughts of succumbing to the same rusty fate as our new-found relic, another truck came by. They were from the County and were sent to look for a particular landmark or some other such business. They asked if we were shooting and would we please not shoot them until they had come back in about 15 minutes. We assured them that we would be occupied at least that long with the tire. We'd made no progress by the time they returned, and they offered to lend a hand. After banging around themselves, they were at as much of a loss as we were. They then offered to drive us into town to either get the old tire repaired or replaced. They seemed nice enough guys, but in Dad's words, we had four choices:

1. We could both get in their truck and leave our truck and all our munitions unattended in the middle of nowhere.

2. Dad could go with them and leave his daughter, the truck, and all our munitions in the middle of nowhere.

3. He could send his daughter with the two complete strangers and stay with the truck and all our munitions in the middle of nowhere.

4. We could send them on their way and be stuck with the truck and all our munitions in the middle of nowhere.

After some consideration and a glimpse of garments on stranger #2, Dad decided the guys were reasonably trustworthy and opted for choice #3. So the tire and I hopped in the rescue vehicle and took off down the road. I knew this was going to be even more of an adventure when I realized as we were driving away that I had left my phone in my car at the parents' house. So I had to content myself with sending positive brain waves back to my dad so he wouldn't worry too much and the consolation that I was armed.

About an hour later, I had found out quite a bit about Carlos and John - schooling, family, occupation, some entertaining anecdotes, and thoughts on travel and history. We'd visited 3 tire shops. At Walmart we learned that the tire was blown so repair was out of the picture, but despite 3 or 4 technicians blatantly sitting around, they were "busy" with 3 cars in front of us so it would take 1.5 hours to fix. No way were were going to sit around for that long, we moved on to a local Joe who, despite advertising "tires" on his building, actually orders in all his tires so he couldn't help us. Third time the charm, Big O Tires fixed us up with an $80 tire in about 10 minutes, the computer taking longer than the actual tire replacement. Back in the "limo," my chauffeurs kindly offered to stop wherever else I wanted - "drink? a show? the airport?" - and after a laugh were back on the road to the lake.

Meanwhile, Dad had taken shelter in the 14" of shade on the north side of the truck lying on the table we brought to put our guns on, worrying that getting back in the truck would cause it to shift off of the jack. I later pointed out that if the truck was going to come off the jack, all the banging around trying to coax the spare off would probably have done it. But water under the bridge. Carlos and John helped us get the new tire on and made sure we were all set before leaving. Come to find out, while we were gone, another car came up to shoot and had also suffered a flat tire. So Carlos and John trotted off to help them. I couldn't help but laugh; I guess they were destined to be the tow truck for the day. I didn't feel real sorry for the other car though - why would you drive a little lime Ford Focus into the wilderness?

Anyway, 2.5 hours later, we were finally able to get some shooting in.
(Yes, this was from a different shooting trip, and yes, my aim has much improved since then.)

Lessons learned:
~ Always prepare for the unexpected. Translation: have tools with you when striking out for the desert
~ Bring water (peanut butter crackers alone tend to do more harm than good) and
~ If you want to practice aim, it might be better to go to a range.

But if your goal is to make things explode, red food dye in water in a salsa bottle is a great way to vent any frustrations from life.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Another enchanting review of Charlie Bone

Charlie Bone and the Invisible Boy (The Children of the Red King, #3)Charlie Bone and the Invisible Boy by Jenny Nimmo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once again, Charlie Bone has proven an enjoyable diversion. The question of invisibility must always come up in any good magical series, and the treatment of the theme here was fascinating. I've never thought about it before, but there is something inherently deceitful about hiding one's presence, be it in darkness or actual disappearance. Thus, powers of invisibility could be seen as evil and undesirable, which angle I've never considered.

It's also interesting to consider that this is the second time that misfortune has befallen a character just because he was curious. It's interesting that these curious characters also seem to be fairly helpless when it comes to resolving their situation. Ollie didn't do anything to help, yet it was pretty clear that he wasn't being watched very closely, so it would have been fairly simple for him to play a more active role in his rescue. To me, curiosity and cleverness seem to go hand in hand, so he ought to have been more forthcoming with suggestions for a solution.

Pros: I am SO glad they have finally started making up with Billy. I could sense all along that he really belongs on the good side. But upon closer reflection, I realize that Billy has needed to engage in this development to realize that even though he is small and alone and scared, he still has the power to resist the opposition and make a difference. He's not just a weaselly little spy whose services are given to the force which provides the best benefit.

While it was a bit frustrating, the Yewbeam castle encounter for Patton was a really good move; I hope this means that he will become a more active force who is in control of his endowment. His taking a stand against his sisters has been really fun to watch. I'm not sure how I feel about the attempt to test his "relationship" with Julia. I think there is enough instability in Patton's life and it would be really good to just allow that to be the one good thing in his life, perhaps even the significant driving motivation.

Cons: I was surprised by the coat-turning of Scarpo; that was unexpected, but definitely not unwelcome. However, I wish that the wand would have been a more prominent presence if it was going to be introduced as belonging to Charlie and being so powerful. It needed to be more important to the plot development and conflict that it was. As it stands, it was almost more trouble than it was worth, what with letting Scarpo and the mouse out and the havoc it wreaked on the city, etc.

I wanted the explanation and denouement of Mr. Boldova's situation to be more clear. All of a sudden, he just appears with his memory intact from the Aunt's burning house? I'm not convinced. And how was it so easy to kill a shape-shifter? We can just electrocute them? It seems that, if that were a way to kill her, she would have been more wary of being next to such appliances, especially when she is intimately aware of Patton's endowment.

Cons notwithstanding, this was still a plausible plot line and an entertaining story.

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