Monday, April 30, 2007

In the Style of Don

After 5 solid months of bloggage, a pattern has emerged. I don't think it's a bad pattern, nor is it a rut. I won't be changing my style any time soon. It's just as fun to self-criticize as it is to rip on my friends. So, here we go... my template:

"So", meandering preface obliquely related to the topic.

"Needless to say", something that doesn't need to be said.

Paragraph feigning introspection, but basically full of false modesty.


Awesome, Possibly Unrelated, Blatantly Plagiarized Photo

Inside joke only Phi Psis will get.

Build up.

Build up.

Momentum-killing (albeit amusing) aside.

Build up.

Anticlimactic punch line.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Twinkle Toes

They say that women like a man who can dance. They also say that throwing a coin into a fountain will make your wish come true. They also say that you should brush your teeth every night.


This dancing is, in my opinion, just a fad. I've watched a lot of movies, and the first documented dancing I've ever witnessed has been from the Renaissance era (Heath Ledger, A Knight's Tale). Aristotle didn't do no Salsa. Nobody danced by walking like an Egyptian until the '80s, least of all the pharoahs.

I just don't get this whole idea of dancing. Sure, I dance when somebody sings "Blister in the Sun", because that's the sort of song to which you can just flip out. Jump, kick, spin, skank, go crazy! What's the appeal of small-scale undulations to a song that just goes "bump bump bumpity bump"? Techno music is stupid, but that's another story entirely.

In conclusion, boys and girls, the only truly pure form of dancing is The Robot. I rest my case.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

In the Style of Jenks

I've been ripping a bit on my good friend the Jenksster recently. The Jenksster deserves it, of course, and to be honest I think he enjoys it. Thus, it is with his blessing that I present to you "A Day in the Life of The Jenksster". I leave it to you to figure out which bits are direct quotes, and which are satirical

Another Tuesday night. Another sprint practice. Another show of domination by yours truly. The numbers were nothing spectacular so I won't bore you with them here.

This morning I went to work and ran a PCA MALDI-TOF chromatography spectroanalysis on a drug that will cure all disease. The chemicals weren't coalescing as expected, so I gave them the evil eye; that got 'em into line.

Tomorrow is Karaoke night. I think I'll wear my tightest pair of pants. My tailor is making a small fortune off of me, as massive quads tear through the seams every week.Yet another ProTour squad has contacted me to be their star sprinter. I'm not sure if it's because they want a rider who can win every race he enters, or if it's because they want my throngs of screaming fans to please the sponsors. Either way, I had to say no, because I wouldn't want to ride any bike but my beloved Fuji.

Little known fact: One of the reasons I'm so good at bike racing is that I breathe different air than everyone else. Just by being within a certain radius of me, the air I inhale becomes rarefied and pure. True story.Anatomists, physicians, and anthropologists all want to study me. I am a rare case indeed; where my shame gland should be, I actually have a second awesome gland.

This got me pondering...
If I fell in the forest, and nobody was around, would I still make a sound? No, because I would never be in the forest; Mountain Biking is stupid.

Could God himself create a boulder so heavy that I could not lift it? Don't be silly. I am, after all, the son of Zeus.

Nobody has ever said "If Jenks cannot go to the mountain, bring the mountain to Jenks." They never had any reason to. I've always just ridden to the mountain, then ridden over the mountain, then won the sprint at the other side.

Don't hate me because I'm flashy and sure of myself. Hate me because I'm better than you.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Damn you, blog

I'm trying to write up a term project. The project was successful, but the writeup is proving to be rather difficult. No biggie, this has happened before. My rule of thumb is to just plow ahead, then worry about revisions later.

So I'm writing up this project, and I realize rather abruptly that I've written a long blog post. Short paragraphs, informal sentence structure, trying to turn an itemized list into a story.

Damnit, blog, damnit.

My Man-Crushes, episode 3

This is a post about my good friend Mandloff. It is my hope that the following discourse will simultaneously honor him and irk his girlfriend Mer. It's not that I don't like Mer, it's just that I enjoy getting on her nerves a little.

Mandloff joined Phi Kappa Psi a year after I did. We would frequently have lunch together in the student center with a group of mutual friends while he was pledging. I would make a point of threatening to haze him, and he would promise to haze me right back. Since I still have no idea how to haze, and since he'd graduated from a military boarding school, there was no way I was going to actually follow through on my threats.

During one such lunch, we noticed that a small group had set up a table in the student center to advertise their opinion about the sacrilege and evils of homosexuality. Being snide, holier-than-thou bastards, Mandloff and I responded the only way we knew how: we walked up to the table hand in hand, and satirized their homophobia until they made us leave.

Manloff and I are still in regular contact, thanks to the wonders of the interweb. The best part about our conversations is that they are both cerebral and immature. It's perfectly legitimate to make jokes about genitalia, provided that the jokes have SAT vocabulary, obscure pop culture references, and at least four hundred words.

Truly an innovator, Mandloff is the source of such great terminology as "ass-hat", "MEGAPIXELS!!!", and of course "Big Money Poker! 20 Dollar Buy-in!". I'll go so far as to say that he's the most-plagiarized Phi Psi, as his jokes and catch-phrases are blatantly stolen by the less-funny (I readily confess to this crime... and I'm a repeat offender).

Having graduated, Mandloff has decided to join the army. This act alone is enough to earn the mancrush, and here's why: Knowing the risks and the cost, he is standing up for what he believes in.

Warning: any comments that go up about the legitimacy or merits of the war in Iraq will be promptly deleted. The only thing that matters is that Mandloff believes he will be fighting for America's interests, and for that he has earned my respect.

I think we live in a generally soft society. It seems there was a threshold-crossing sometime between WWII and the Korean war, after which the idea of a military became a bad idea. That a soldier is someone to be pitied, that there is always a diplomatic answer to a martial conflict.

The stress of a soldier's life must surely have increased since the 40s. It used to be that no matter how much was at stake, all parties recognized the rules of war. Civilians are off limits, soldiers must be uniformed, the rights of a POW, etc. The Western World seems to recognize that war is inevitable, but that boundaries can be imposed; our enemies don't seem to recognize those boundaries (although they will scream bloody murder if the West responds in kind... but that's another diatribe entirely). It has become acceptable, even popular, to poo-poo someone who volunteers for the service.

Is Mandloff committing suicide by joining the Army? No, and I'm sure he'll thank you to stop treating him as such.

His preparations for his military career have impressed me. He's gone from a Maru-like sedentary lifestyle to a Dietz-like commitment to fitness (by Dietz-like, I mean that he exercises, but not at the expense of frequent visits to Rally's). He's expressed a great deal of curiosity in exercise physiology, and he retains technical information like a sponge. His political rants are no less ranty than they have been, but they've taken on a more practical hue. I think Mandloff is growing up.

He's going to be a great leader... he's led in the past, but I sincerely doubt that frat presidency will be nearly as trying as the life of a combat officer (then again, I don't think the Iraqis have anyone as obnoxious as Mark Starr on their side. If they do, we don't stand a chance).

Most of us talk the talk. We can speculate about how we'd handle ourselves in extreme circumstances. We can debate the merits of this policy or that. We're intelligent people, for the most part.

Mandloff is one of the few who walks the walk.

Monday, April 23, 2007


One of the labs we toured was the Bio-Inspired Robotics Lab. Its Awesome knob went all the way up to 11. I spent 45 minutes in this lab, just playing with toys.

Veni, Vidi, Vivimus et Vincemus

Sweet, I just gave this post a title that a half-dozen people will understand, and maybe three will get the joke. Perhaps only one will know that at its core, the title is an incredibly obscure shot at a man named Fluffy.

My time in Cleveland was short but sweet. I got to hit Chipotle with BJO as soon as I arrived, then went with BJO, Nick, Cac, and Rob to McNulty's and Paninis (two of the "hot spots" of Cleveland's collegiate bar scene). I'd forgotten how dead the Cleve is; on its worst week, Harvest Moon still has two or three times as many people on a Thursday night.

I woke up early on Friday, because for some reason Case BME's seminars are all at 8:30. So glad to be graduated. My advisor was kind enough to recognize my contribution, which sort of lent me some much-needed credibility through the rest of the day. We did the lab-tour thing, we got blindsided by a lunchtime journal club, and we met with some of my old profs. Good times.

Ran with Rob in the afternoon... since when does Cleveland have nice weather? The pace was a little faster than the jogs in Florida with my 14 year old cousin, but the Florida jogs were characterized by a whole lot less whining. Just saying.

After dinner at the Wink (mmm, burgers and Chimay), I was walking past Paninis and saw somebody's commuter bike: Javelin 'cross bike, full Dura Ace, Bontrager Race Lites with Mud 2 tires. Some people have too much money.

After a sweet insurance-lowering seminar on Saturday (I got a Junior Firefighter sticker and watched a tub of burning propane), I hit the gym with Beardo and Dennhardt. Beard has made impressive progress towards his goal of being a lean mean facial-hair-growing machine, and Dennhardt's sister is still hot. I spent the rest of the day preparing a presentation for Tuesday's class, then stopped by the 24-Hour Softball Tournament, where I had the pleasure of catching up with a lot of old friends.

At one point on Saturday, I found my frat-life mingling with my grad-life. Via the magic of the interwebs, the following conversation took place:
PhiPsiSean: "I'm going to spend all night working the grill"
Don: "Aren't you vegetarian? How are you BBQ-Guy?"
Sean: "I volunteered for the irony... in fact, I'm probably going to have a couple of burgers tonight"
Don: "Why?"
Sean: "Right now, I'm sorta more poor than vegetarian"
[Don conveys this conversation to AngryMark]
Mark: "Tell your friend that I'm going to punch him in the face"
[Don is not sure if NTW was kidding or not...]

All in all, I give the weekend a thumbs up. Overall highlight: Phi Psi Burgers! If you've never had them, then you don't even know...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

I Support Team Slipstream

As a fan of bike racing in general, it's hard to have a favorite team... I want the most exciting, most aggressive rider to win, and I don't care what sponsor is on his kit.

Still, sometimes a team does something ballsy to set itself apart. Ballsy like enacting an expensive, unprecedented anti-doping policy. Ballsy like running two teams, domestic and Euro, and being aggresors in their races. Ballsy like wearing Argyle kits.
photo courtesy Devich

So, I'm a bit of a fan. I also like Quickstep... but I'm not going to go out and buy whatever it is that Quickstep is selling. Maybe in a worst-case scenario I'll be using Predictor's product, but I don't really like Robbie McEwen or Leif Hoste.

Slipstream, as it happens, isn't a sponsor; Slipstream is the team's owner. I can't buy their product, because their product is the team. What I can do is buy the presenting sponsor's product...

Team Slipstream, presented by Chipotle. I support them, because I eat their burritos. I suggest you do the same.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Recovery and Just One More


When you first start riding, it is customary to ride 3 or 4 times a week, as hard as you can each time. Then somebody who's been around the block a few times tells you to ride more often (duh) and tells you that to go fast, you have to go slow (whaaa?).

The basic idea actually is pretty intuitive; working hard does damage to your muscles, leaving bits of flotsam and jetsam floating around. To get the gunk out of your muscles, you use the muscles themselves as pumps... you ride very easy, and as your muscles contract, they push the poisonous floaters out of the interstitial fluid and your muscles can heal more easily. Better healing yields better muscles, which is good.

But nobody ever tells us how dreary recovery is. I enjoy the social aspect of slow laps around campus, but I much prefer the company of my friends when we're trying to destroy each other. When the weather's bad, I have to do a recovery ride indoors... ugh.

In trying to explain my distate for recovery rides to a friend, I asked him, "what is your favorite sport?". My anonymous friend's response is the inspiration for the following analogy:

Imagine that you're in a loving relationship with the perfect girl. The catch is that your relationship will only work if you also sleep with her hideous, boring, mildly-retarded sister. And when the weather's bad, you have to be sober for it. Don't worry, you only have to see the ugly step-sister on Monday nights, 'cause you've been racing all weekend.


Just One More

Yesterday marked the final Tuesday night Devil Takes The Hindmost (aka Elimination, aka Miss-N-Out, aka some crazy name that Will came up with) sprint workout with the Hermes team. ProfessorAndy had the great idea of doing a series of Kierins (next Tuesday: the Madison! next Wednesday: the hospital!), in which he would act as the motorbike. Every two laps, he would ramp up the speed, then pull off the front to let the rest of us duke it out.

Jenks, being a damn good sprinter, won from the front, then from the middle, then from the back. He pretty much won at will. And was a complete tool about it. Yesterday I learned where the fine line is between confidence and hubris. It is under my good friend Jenks.

Sprinting with the group is so much better than sprinting alone. It's just so easy to soft-pedal the acceleration when you're by yourself, but when a gap opens in front of you there is no hiding from the truth. Ouch. I f'in buried myself to stay with the go-fast guys, but I think I held my own.

HardTailJay missed the first few sprints, but he was kind enough to join me in my second set, the Sunset Sprints on the desolate but well-lit road behind my apartment. "I dunno, Jay, I'm pretty burned from the Kierins... let's do 4 and see how I feel".

200m out. Coast, turn, coast, trackstand. 200m back. Lather, rinse, repeat. After 4, I said "just one more". After 5, I said "just one more". Jay laughed at me, but we got in 10 good efforts.

I was grateful for his presence, because we really pushed each other. It was unspoken, but it was there... neither of us wanted to lose. The efforts were brutal, and the sideways glances were subtle but telling. I'm surprised we didn't start bumping elbows.

At the bar last night, I informed Jay that I would be writing a post about him, called "Just One More".

"Oh?" he replied. "Is this about my drinking? 'Cause I do not have a drinking problem!"

Typical Thought Process

Having survived today's particularly hard workout, I've been trying to cram as much food down my gullet as possible. This will aid me in recovery. More on that topic tomorrow.

After coming back from the bar (carbs in the form of Irish Stout!), I was faced with the following decision: Ice Cream or Cereal?

Surely this is not enough detail... the Ice Cream in question is Cookie Dough. The Cereal is Honey Bunches of Oats. Does that help portray the depth of my dilemma?

So, what it's come down to is this: Cereal is healthy and full of nutrivites. Ice Cream is full of delicious.

I figure I'll just eat a lot of Ice Cream. Like, a LOT. It may not be as efficient a calorie source as cereal, but efficiency be damned! I want me some delicious!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

These Things Happen to Collar-Poppers

It's one of those days where I could use a laugh, as I'm sure is the case for many of you. So I got a little nostalgic for Cabo San Lucas.

During my sophmore and junior spring breaks (lo, these many years ago), I was fortunate enough to go to the American Leadership Academy, aka Cabo Alpha, aka Fully-Comped Week in Paradise. A rather successful alumnus of Phi Psi hosted about 150 undergrads a week in a hotel on the beach, which he purchased and refurbished for the explicit purpose of running leadership academies. His home, or rather his compound, was just down the road, next to Sammy Hagar's compound.

Every night, we would go downtown and drink unholy amounts of beer. Every morning, we would wake up in the hotel, drag ourselves to the seminar room, and nurse hangovers while being lectured on everything from "corporate management" to "how to get into med school" (it seems that in both cases, it is best to know people). The chief negotiator for Anheuser-Busch, whose lecture cost is in the 10s of thousands, taught us how to negotiate.

I could go on about the inherent awesomeness of Cabo. About the kayaking and the volleyball and the endless supply of beer and the weather and the womens. The Bulldogs and the ATVs and the networking and the Substitute Pimp. The list goes on, although most of it would consist of inside jokes (El Duque!). There is one specific story, however, that is worth telling.

The story is about a good friend of mine... let's call him Sketchy, to protect his identity. Sketchy's a good friend, a charismatic guy without a shy bone in his body. It was, then, no surprise when Sketchy made a friend...

What was surprising was that this happened, not five minutes later...

While a picture is worth a thousand words, a video would've been much better. Sketchy's friend and her new friend weren't just kissing, they were making out so violently as to knock over furniture. I'm so glad Patrick was there to capture this Kodak moment.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Visual Perception...

...or, things that Don finds cool but doesn't feel like actually writing about.

This is convenient, because this guy Stuart Anstis, a professor at UCSD, has described things in detail. All you have to do is click the links and observe the cool optical illusions.

The term 'Optical Illusion' may be a bit of a misnomer here. This isn't a silly "do you see the young woman or the old woman?" or "do you see two faces or a candle-holder?" illusion, although those are very informative in the right context. This is actually a collection of images or movies that reveal how the neural pathways from the eye to the brain translate vision into perception.

Your rods and cones react to light. Each of them sends off a neural impulse when excited by a photon. The process by which each of these gazillions of impulses is encoded into one recognizable image is not at all trivial. In fact, the experiments that have been conducted to explore these hidden layers of cognition have only begun to reveal the truly beautiful mechanisms of the mind. Just enjoy the links.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Get Off The Road, Lance!!!

Remember the good old days? Back when only homosexuals and American Gladiators were clean-shaven and spandex-clad. Back when Armstrong was an astronaut or a musician... or a stretchy toy.

Remember when Rutgers athletics were a state-wide embarassment? When the football team went 1-11 for the season, and when the basketball teams both performed like the guys' team does now. Those were the days.

At least cars were predictable back then. They'd see a dude on a bike, give him about 12 inches of buffer, and pass at full speed. If they were pickup trucks, the pass would involve a revving of the engines, and sometimes a honking of the horn (to the tune of "Dixie"). If you held your line, the 12 inches of clearance would be maintained, and aside from the cumulative life-shortening effect of dozens of sphincter-clenching stresses every day, nobody would be any worse for wear. It was a well-established detente.

This year has brought a marked change to what had been an acceptable status quo. Rutgers Football won the Texas Bowl. Rutgers Women's Basketball went to the Championship game. The Rutgers community collectively slayed the dragon that is Don Imus.

Now cars treat us differently. When we wear our kits, they recognize that we are ambassadors of all that is Rutgerdom, and they treat us like James Gandolfini himself was riding shotgun. The buffer has grown from feet to yards, and the speed differentials during passing are far tamer.

When they honk, it's to say "Woo! Rutgers!" When they roll down their windows, it's to give the ol' fist-pump, not the finger. People actually cheer for le Train Rouge.

Maybe Rutgers is a bit of a flavor-of-the-week, but it's kind of nice. It's possible that these nice drivers are really only saying "We don't think you're Nappy Headed Hos!" Clearly they've never seen FarmerAndy without a helmet on.

Going from Rodney Dangerfield to Tony Soprano in the span of a few months has been a pleasant change. There is, however, a further wrinkle to this story, which is why I'm even bothering to write this blog post (aside from the potential for taking a shot at FarmerAndy).

People are stupid. I'm sorry to break the news to you so abruptly. People are flippin' MORONS. This was, of course, evidenced by their driving style before the Rutgers Athletic Renaissance. Alas, sporting success and general goodwill have had no effect on people's abilities to do things like anticipate decisions or foresee consequences.

So, let's do a little case study. I call it the Pump Fake. The Scarlet Train is traveling down some road, about to make a left onto a side-street (let's say Blackwells Mills and Van Cleef). So we're going East on Blackwells Mills. There is significant oncoming (Westbound) traffic, so we cruise to a stop, close enough to the centerline to allow Eastbound cars to come around us to the right. When a gap opens, we will make our left.

But a Westbound car sees the Rutgers kids and thinks "Hooray! Rutgers! Local Sporting Squadron!" He slows dramatically, allowing us to make our turn. There is a significant pause, during which we stare at him blankly. Is he stopping for us? Is he going to speed up? Does he even see us?

Now our hand is forced. There is no way we're going to wave him on (if you happened to wave a car on at this very intersection on Wednesday, please pay attention), because being on 20lb bikes means we're very much at the mercy of the 2-ton hunks of metal. We're not going to out-polite this guy without putting ourselves in further danger. So we start clipping in, preparing to make the turn.

During the pause, the driver has grown increasingly confused. "Why are the skinny kids not turning? Jerks! Okay, I'll go." So he starts going. Until he sees that we're clipping in and rolling into his lane. So he brakes. But we saw him start to roll, so we brake. And so on.

Meanwhile, the cars behind this moron are thinking "What is this moron doing? I'm late for my very important business meeting!" The temptation to pass him grows over time. If they try to come around him, the situation will beceome exponentially more complicated.

Eventually, somebody goes for good, and order is restored. But in those few seconds of confusion, we were put in an unusual position of unnecessary risk, just because somebody saw Rutgers and decided to be nice. Weird.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Dental Hygiene and Washing Machines

It's become apparent recently that my priorities are shifting. No longer do I live the rock-star lifestyle of a Cat5 cyclist -slash- overworked undergrad -slash- trust-fund baby. In fact, it seems that my life has become rather monkish... Of course, I'm still a Cat5, I'm now an overworked grad, and my 8-figure inheritance is still sitting pretty in the bank... it's just that now I drink lots of Belgian beer, which is brewed by monks.

As I grow older, wiser, and let's face it, sexier, I've found that my personal hygiene has merited more and more attention. For example, I've stopped using dish-soap as shampoo, because that's just not what classy people such as myself are known to do.

Thank heavens for Facebook. Through it, I recently got back in touch with a friend of mine from high school (go Bears!). When she mentioned that she is now attending Dental school, I realized that I had stumbled across the perfect opportunity to educate myself (and thusly you, my beloved audience) about some of the finer points of oral hygiene.

Without further ado, I introduce to you a new segment here on TheNinjaDon:

Ask the Future Dentist

this week on Ask the Future Dentist, we ask some tough questions...
  1. Do you recommend up-down brushing, circular brushing, or some combination thereof?
  2. What is your preferred bristle material? Do you like horse-hair, or the more traditional boar fuzz?
  3. What is your favorite nickname for a kid with braces? There's a kid in my school with braces, and I'm looking for some new material for the mockery.
  4. I'm worried that I might have OCD. Is it bad to brush your teeth as often as 3, 4, or sometimes 5 times a week?
and the Future Dentist responds...
  1. Hold your toothbrush still and move your head back and forth vigorously against the bristles.
  2. If oral hygiene is important to you, which it should be, I would recommend purchasing a brush made of human hair - it is durable and absorbent and doubles as a feminine hygiene product [I won't tell you which ;) ].
  3. Brace Face is a classic, also spice up your repertoire with Train Tracks, Train Wreck, Jaws, Radiohead (man they suck), or the less commonly used "Walking Aberration before G-d's eyes"
  4. The good news is you don't have OCD. The bad news is, you have syphilis

Thanks, Dr. Mel!

Does anybody want to go see this with me? I'm not sure it's going to be released everywhere, but supposedly it's opening in NYC on the 4th.
Kurt Vonnegut died last night at the age of 84.

So it goes.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Don Imus

For whatever it's worth, I don't actually want to write this post. I don't want to join the throngs of screaming morons, and I know that every time anybody talks about Imus, his notoriety and power grow like Beetlejuice or Voldemort or something. There's no such thing as bad publicity.

First of all, let me state that Imus is a total sleazebag, worthy of the sort of profanities that I don't feel comfortable putting on the blog. I don't understand what could've possessed him to call the Rutgers Women's Basketball team "nappy-headed hos", at least not in normal conversation.

Could it be that this wasn't an accident? That Imus brought this up in a move calculated to increase his notoriety, to make him a household name after a decade of obscurity? Could it be that after the wild success of Howard Stern, the precedent has been set for playing to the shock-hungry crowd's desire to inject some controversy into their 2 hour bumper-to-bumper commute?

Here's what gets to me... the outrage. As far as I'm concerned, the only people entitled to outrage are the team, maybe their families. Certainly not the athletic department or the university... we've gotten more coverage from this affair than we got for the Championship game. I've seen interviews with "the man on the street", with a NYC councilman who's trying to ban the n-word, and of course with Al Sharpton. Everybody's got a soapbox - mine is this blog - but unlike bloggers, the microphone-seekers are in it for personal gain, which we must not forget.

The outrage is especially disconcerting in the college community. There's a whole discourse begging to be written about Political Correctness and college life. Fortunately, it's already been done before. One of my favorite shows, Penn and Teller's Bullshit, has taken a magnifying glass to the culture of PC that pervades campuses. Penn put it best:

"We're all offended, all the time, and we don't have a fucking right not to be offended ... Americans believe everybody deserves freedom to move up in the world. That's a great thing. But if moving up means spending four years in a beer commercial run by politeness police, maybe you should think twice."

So there it is. I've outed myself as someone with no tolerance for PC. I don't think I'm a racist, and I don't think I'm at odds with the Womens BBallers. It just seems insane to me that there will be an "Emergency Protest" on College Ave today, as if this is a time-pressing issue. Then again, maybe it is; in a few days, people will forget about the offensive words of an attention-seeking old man, and the loud-mouths on campus will lose their bully pulpit. Can't have that, now can we?

I, for one, plan on protesting Don Imus the best way I know how, because I do find his statements distasteful and offensive. I will not listen to his radio show. Like most other Americans, I will protest with my wallet (indirectly, I suppose), and just like a week ago, soon nobody will remember Imus, that he has a radio show, or that he's even alive.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Dissecting Success

So, things went well today. Really well. I'd been stuck on a seemingly simple task for a while now, and I fixed it. You don't want to know how.

There was an easy way to do this project, and there was a hard way. I took the easy route at first, because it was more important to me that the project be successful than efficient. Now that I'm past the initial stage of the solution, where the "blank page" stares at the programmer with scorn, the hard version has become much more appealing. For reasons I won't go into, it is better now to have an elegant, streamlined code than one that is simply functional. Like a fine Italian, um, anything, my project has become a well-oiled, aesthetically pleasing machine.

Pretty... nay, Beautiful

Even running smoothly, this program is enough of a beast to chew up a lot of processing time. Every time I tweak a parameter, it takes about 5 minutes to simulate 30 seconds' worth of experimentation. Needless to say, this leaves me with plenty of time for useless contemplating.

I had a conversation recently with a particularly artistic friend of mine. It is clear that our minds operate differently, whether by training or by breeding (cue the "nature vs nurture" debate in the comments section... I'm looking at you, my "theory of mind" expert friend). While I will never be able to see through the eyes of an artist (or even someone with healthy color vision), I can at least analyze my own thought processes.

Well, at least you'd think I could. It seems I don't have the vocabulary, or the self-awareness, to describe whatever it is that's happening. It'd be nice to tell you that I somehow "see" the logic, that everything arranges itself in my mind's eye like some sort of multi-dimensional abstract puzzle. That I'm some sort of savant.

Alas. At best, I was so lost in my own code that I was barely aware of the people around me, let alone of what was going on in my head - it was an odd state of semi-conscious rush. Most of the time, though, I fought. It was a tooth-and-nail, no-holds-barred fight, and I trash-talked, cursed, and bullied until the damn thing worked. I basically threw a quiet tantrum.

I sort of wish that the process was as elegant as the result, that I was some tranquil renaissance man rather than a thrashing toddler with an aptitude for simulations. It doesn't really matter, since the end product is totally sweet. The lesson, I suppose, is to stay away from me when I'm at work, because that's where Mr. Hyde lives.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


Big thanks to FarmerAndy and Blake for finding this poster, and to Aaron for scanning it. The only explanation I can think of is sleepwalking. It would explain my morning grumpiness, I suppose. Oooh, or perhaps he's a long-lost twin? Or my evil twin? Or am I the evil twin?

Seriously, this freaks me out a bit...

No, it's not me. I promise.

Alert Merriam-Webster!

Oh how I wish that the credit for this groundbreaking new word could go to me. Alas, I must give credit where it is due... this term was innovated by none other than his Royal Highness, King of the Hermes.

Blogtercourse (noun) - The excessive exchange of blog comments, or in some cases, entire posts, by two consenting bloggers.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Time Trials are Stooopid

I couldn't decide on the title; it was going to be "Time Trials are Stoopid" or "The Race of Truthiness"... or "Contre le Stoopid", but that's a little too French.

The Hermes crew put on their Sandy Hook Time Trial (TT) today. Unlike most bike races, this race is done one-by-one, rather than in pack. This means that there's no hiding from the wind, and there's no tactics... you go fast, you turn around, you go fast again, and then you puke.

I've decided that TTs are highly correlated to stupidity. Certainly there is TT-induced stupidity, just as anyone working very very hard is going to deoxygenate their brain and handicap their decision-making skills. This explains some of the behavior I observed during the race, including (but not limited to):
  • Missing the Turn-Around... how much louder/more visible did Pluto and I have to be?!?
  • Nearly missing the Turn-Around... It never fails to amaze me how poor these peoples' handling skills are
  • Spitting on Don... dude in the 55+ category acknowledged my instruction "Turn-Around in 50 yards, at the cone!", then spit on me. Malevolence? Blindness? Short-term memory loss? What the hell?!?
However, this isn't just a case of hard efforts yielding diminished brain-power. No, no. I contend that Time Trials are inherently linked to stupidity. The very decision to partake in a TT must surely be the root cause of a great deal of bad decision-making and irrational thought.

For one thing, this race had an Eddie Merckx division... like the Cannibal, these racers (myself included) race on the same bikes we'd use in regular bike races. No aerodynamic gear beyond what you'd use in a crit. No extra money. No competing with the $5,000 CAD-desgined wind-tunnel-tested frame, $2,000 wheelset, $1,500 component bikes (no lie... plus a lot of them had custom paint-jobs). Why the hell would anyone with no TT-dedicated bike not want to race in this division? Who thinks to themselves "I want to race, but only if I can severely handicap myself"? (I know there're exceptions, Jenksy, and I salute you Cat 3 Cup-ers)

Now let's not forget the TT bikes themselves. As I've said, these things cost a gajillion dollars. Without a doubt, they are sexy pieces of machinery (it's true!), and the very nature of TTing rewards the use of high-zoot equipment to shave seconds off your time. But dude... when you're unfit, or even grossly overweight, and your position looks like crap, your priorities are waaay off. And don't give me that "I used to be fit, and while I'm out of shape now, what's wrong with riding the same equipment as before?" nonsense. A lot of the slower guys were riding brand-new P3Cs and S-bend bars and other "flavor of the week" components. I call shenanigans!

So you've finished your race. Do you go out with your team to a local eatery? Do you go for a jog (crazy triathletes)? Perhaps thank the race director for stressing out for weeks just so you can ride your bike by yourself (as opposed to training, which for you probably involves riding your bike by yourself)?

No. You bitch. You bitch to the officials about minor time discrepancies. You bitch to the race director about the officials. You bitch to the race director about the volunteers not holding your hand at the turnaround (perhaps we should also wipe your bottom at the port-a-johns?). You bitch to the race director about the weather. You bitch about your fitness. You bitch, you bitch, you bitch, as if a complaint is the only thought you're capable of producing.

In conclusion, Time Trials are stoooopid. And no, it has nothing to do with my disappointment in my own performance today.


In other news, did anyone watch the U.S. Open today? (SPOILER ALERT!) How awesome was that?!? Beautiful attack by Tuft, gutsy effort by McCarty to hang on for 2nd, surprising sprint by the dark-horse Rite-Aid guy... what a finale.

Friday, April 06, 2007

What is the Half-Life of Shtick?

This morning I presented my research to an undergrad class. I've done what is more or less the same presentation four times now. Being research, the presentation is dry by definition. There are ways to spice it up with pretty pictures and whatnot, but presenting scientific findings is really contingent on one thing:

How smooth are you?

Fortunately, I'm very smooth. Not in real life, mind you, but in the setting of a short lecture, where my audience is semi-captive and semi-conscious, I have the uncanny ability to keep them entertained and attentive.

Rewind 7 (yes, SEVEN) hours. Walking back from Karaoke with Will, the topic of gimmicks came up. Plastic cups as fake breasts; done to death. Flipped-out screaming ad-libbed rants; approaching done to death (you know who you are). Mr. Roboto; somehow played-out after just 2 performances.

Fast-forward back to my lecture this morning. Sitting in the classroom, waiting my turn to present, I asked myself, "will I make the same joke as I have at the previous three conferences?"

The joke goes like this: "Hi, my name is Don, I'm from Rutgers University, and today I'm going to talk to you about my research into the Effect of Ice-Cream Consumption on Graduate-Student Happiness. We found that the more I eat, the happier I am. [pause for laughter] But you probably want to hear about my work with the use of Force Myography blah blah blah..."

Seems lame, but the audience is so accustomed to "Hi, my name is ____, and I'm going to talk to you about [read the Title verbatim]" that my little gimmick wakes them up. Seriously, it gets 'em every time.

This morning, though, I simply couldn't do it. I couldn't bring myself to use the same lame joke again. I knew, of course, that nobody in that room had heard it before, so it wasn't yet overused for them... but it just seemed so played out, in spite of its previous success.

The shrinks out there could probably explain in technical terms why our own experiences can overwhelm our perception of a concept that is, at least rationally, completely fresh. In fact, I'm pretty sure the term is hysteresis (which has nothing to do with hysteria or hysterectomies).

The big, important questions are: Are we hyper-sensitive to our own gimmicks? Are we sacrificing good shtick for no reason?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The One That Got Away

My Grandfather, my cousin, and I woke up at Freakin-Early o'clock to go fishing. Not just girly "stand on a pier for a while" fishing, but real, manly, deep-sea fishing. The kind of fishing where you stand on a boat for a while.

Apparently, conditions on this trip were not optimal. The current was running the wrong way, there wasn't enough wind, the rods were rigged for "guppy" fishing rather than "drift" fishing, and the boat was overcrowded. Of course, I wouldn't have realized any of this if people hadn't complained about it all morning.

I try to look at fishing as a Zen sort of experience, where you can turn your brain off and meditate. Long distance solo road trips, late night walks between campuses, and mindless internet surfing marathons serve the same purpose. Fishing doesn't work quite as well, though, because there's a goal, a metric for comparison. Didn't catch fish today? Oh, you must be frustrated. You'll never hear that after a yoga class. Did you achieve Nirvana and oneness with everything today? Poor dear.

So I didn't exactly center my root chakras today. That said, I did find out that indeed, I am all that is man. I caught 3 fish. Not only did I catch them, I also humiliated them. As I reeled them in, I talked trash, quoted Rocky 4, and made use of the fact that "fishes" rhymes with "bitches".

It's worth mentioning that my cousin Sol caught 5 fish, whereas I only caught 3. Also, 4 of his 5 were "keepers", whereas I was 0 for 3. Also, his legs are hairier than mine.

Three Last Names, One Fish-Terrorizing Bloodline

Let This Be a Warning to All Fish

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

My Pledge to You

I've set some guidelines for myself in the past, and it looks like they could use an update. Please note that I posted the Portapotty debacle not 5 minutes ago; too short a time for anybody to have mocked me. I am so ashamed of the post that I'm now writing this apology... but I put too much time into it to simply erase it.

So, it's time to set some boundaries on my topics. Some of these are old, and some are reactions to Portapotty-gate.

I'll avoid these... but I may be tempted
  • Politics
  • Religion - especially those other than my own
  • Bike Racing... just kidding
Seriously, OFF f'in LIMITS
  • Womens
  • Students/Grading/Teaching
  • All thing related to the Chamois area
    • Chamois cream
    • Saddle Sores
    • Urination
    • Defecation
    • Grundle Discomfort
    • Womens

Gedanken Experiment - Portapotty Etiquette

Now that we're back in the racing groove, we're getting reused to all of the finer points of the bike game that fade from memory in the offseason. Things like number pinning, 6am DunkinDonuts meetings, and of course the early-morning use of freezing portapotties.

This post is about portapotties. Perhaps I am a bit of a nancyboy, but putting my bare arse on chilly plastic just gets my goat. So much so that I've put a considerable amount of time into thinking of ways to make the whole experience more pleasant. Way too much time.

I used Newton's Law of Cooling to model heat transfer, because Isaac Newton could beat up your dad. The equation works like this:

After the Romeo and Juliet ordeal, I will not bother explaining this in any detail. You get it or you don't.

The idea here is that your derierre will warm the plastic toilet. The longer you sit, the closer the toilet gets to the temperature of your posterior. Then, when you stand up, the cold air will chill the toilet, and its temperature will approach that of the environment, i.e. nipples-could-cut-glass cold.

I'll assume the following things:
  • everybody weighs the same (haha, you wish, Willis, you fatty mcfatfat)
  • everybody's butt-skin is the same temperature, 80* F
  • everybody takes the same amount of time on the toilet
  • everybody takes the same amount of time to doff and don clothing
  • no males are using the portapotty to pee (on pains of death, or at least cussing)
Certainly there are a lot of potential problems here. The womens need the portapotties to urinate, spending less time on the toilet but just as much time messing with clothing. The biggest assumption has to be the bit about clothing. Some people visit the portapotties before getting into their kits, and their turnaround time is rather fast, while others are already in bibshorts/jerseys or skinsuits and have multiple layers to deal with... which should immediately foreshadow one of my conclusions.

Rather than choose my r values in a manner that even approaches scientific rigor, I'm just going to arbirtrarily choose them. We'll assume that the ambient temperature is 33* F. Let's further assume that the first poor schmuck to arrive at the venue will use a toilet with the same temperature as the air. If, after 5 minutes, the toilet has almost reached butt-skin temperature, then the temperature of the toilet will look like this

and the r value for butt-to-toilet (rb) will be 0.05 (sec^-1). One last assumption... let's assume that the r value for air-to-toilet (ra) is 3/4 as big as ra. It makes sense, I think.

So if everybody takes 5 minutes to do their bizness on the toilet, and 2 minutes to take off, then put on, all their clothing, then the temperature of the toilet will look like this

Notice that the peaks are near 80*, but the valleys are a chilly 60*. Your buttocks will not be pleased.

If, however, there is only 1 minute of not-on-potty time allotted per person, then the valleys will be closer to 70*, as in the following...

Rather than rush the whole disrobing/re-robing process (you don't want to snag your skinsuit!), we could just spend longer on the toilet. 8 minutes of "on" time doesn't look much different than 5, but if we bump the time up to 15 minutes, we buy ourselves an extra 30sec of "off" time without losing too much temperature.

If you take 15 minutes in the portapotty before my race, though, I will be forced to kill you. No jury would convict me.

In conclusion, get the hell out of the portapotty. Do your business, and then get out. Try to go while still in jeans, but if you're already in your kit, futz with the top layers after getting the hell out. The longer you take in there, letting the toilet seat get all cold, the more I want to hurt you. Some people may think that a pre-warmed toilet seat is creepy, but it is a valuable commodity on a cold morning. So GET OUT.

Some people write blog posts about the events of their day. Others write race reports. Some geeks write about the mathematics of aerodynamics and power. I write about toilets.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Amateur Hour

Conference in Maryland. I went. I presented. I left. There are pictures...

RURehabLab: (l to r) Adam, Tiff, Dr. C, me, Kim, and Mike

Pretty Slides

Biomech Geeks, Unite!

" a result of Longitudinal Contraction..."
"It's about this big, actually" (thanks, Will)

It was a decent experience. By no means the biggest or best of my career, but alright. There's not much to say about it, either in anecdotes or in grand sweeping conclusions. Okay, you've twisted my arm... one grand sweeping conclusion.

Whoever decided to award the "Excellence in Reseach Design" prize to a tenured professor with a large, successful lab is a moron. I never expected to win this award (and we're not going to go in to my feelings on the "Best Presentation" award), but that this was the outcome of the weekend just boils my blood. Forget the fact that this guy's version of stastical analysis was to qualitatively glance at bar graphs. Forget the fact that 90% of his presentation was identical to 2 others, both of whom were his students. What gets me is that this award should have gone to someone who needed it. PhDs should be disqualified automatically, let alone PIs. Does he need a $200 gift certificate? Does he need this on his resume? No, but any 5th- or 6th-year grad would give their right arm for it. It's a sham, and frankly, it really turns me off to the whole small startup conference idea.