Monday, July 30, 2007

The Growing List of Wedding Cliches

I continue to be amazed by how uncomfortable I am during wedding ceremonies. Today's was only 30 minutes of ceremony, but I still fidgeted like there was embrocation oil in my boxers.

So nothing from any wedding ceremony has yet to move me, to reach down my throat and pluck my heart strings. However, the wedding I've attended have served as examples of what I want to avoid, and I'm storing this information in the back of my mind for some point in the distant future.

Today I learned that my wedding will not have the following things*:
  • The wedding party walking the aisle with the accompaniment of Green Day's "Time of Your Life", as reproduced by a flute and an electric piano.
  • Reading the traditional marriage contract out loud. It is in Aramaic. Aramaic is a dead language. Leave it alone.
Worst of all, every time my mind wandered (ie, 90% of the ceremony), it wound up reliving the split-second when I drifted left instead of right going into the last corner of this morning's race, boxing myself in and probably costing myself upgrade points, cash, and bragging rights. I'm happy with every other bit of the race, why do I keep focusing on that millisecond?

*scientists have determined that the probability that I will have any influence on what cliches do or do not occur during my wife's wedding is 0.02%

Friday, July 27, 2007

General NinjaDon S. Patton

Listen closely, soldiers, for battle is imminent. Look to the man on your left, then look to the man on your right. One of those men won't be coming home. But it is a small price to pay for victory!

I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his right to sing karaoke. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his right to sing karaoke.

First of all, you must know your foe. This the face of the enemy:

The Johnsonite is obnoxious, yes, but he is not without mercy. Prisoners can expect three square meals a day and regular visits from the Red Cross.

The Johnsonite army compensates for individual weakness by traveling in hordes. Indeed, in previous battles their foes have been overwhelmed by the superior numbers of the Johnsonites. I promise you, troops, we won't let that happen.

Here's the layout of the battlefield. Pay particular attention to the bullseye... It is the land once occupied by a proud and strong empire of Cyclists, now occupied by Johnsonites. The bullseye will be the site of our glorious victory.

First, we will storm the front entrance, driving the Johnsonites to the back of the bar. This is the red arrow.
Eventually, our surprise-based advantage will succumb to the Johnsonites' sheer numbers... but this is part of our plan. When our momentum fades, Sergeant AngryMark will sound his Cyclocross Cowbell, signaling the attack from our reinforcements. The undergrads, who had been upstairs lying in wait since dinnertime, when minors could still enter the bar, will swarm the enemy's rear flank. This is the blue arrow.

We can expect the Johnsonites to put up a brutal fight. It would be folly to guarantee victory, even after the Hidden Undergrad Gambit. This is why we have infiltrated a secret agent among their ranks. His (or her) identity is concealed in the following photograph, but know this: he (or she) is as ruthless as his (or her) hair is spiky.

Above all else, remember that we must succeed. If we can't keep America singing, then the terrorists have won.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Modest, Poorly Thought Out Proposal

If you read this blog, odds are good that you've asked me my opinion on doping, or that you yourself have been asked. First of all, let me tell how how much I love hearing these questions when they're phrased along the lines of "What's wrong with your sport? Why are they all cheating?"

Heaven forbid I ask you about the doping scandals in baseball, football, soccer, tennis, or even golf. While we're at it, let's not talk about all the cheating in NASCAR.

So cycling is the most tested sport in the world. The penalties for being caught are steep, and the penalty for doping itself is sometimes death. And yet the cyclists keep doing it. Looking at this as a cost/benefit problem, it's clear that the cost is pretty high, but not high enough to prevent cheating.

My proposal: Remove the incentive from victory.

By putting a strict, below-the-poverty-line salary cap on the professionals, we could force them to get second jobs. Work in a bike shop. Sell insurance by phone. Beat hippies with a stick. Whatever.

The second job would provide the professionals with a means to survive... and this income would not be contingent on excelling at bike racing. The idea is that they would still race, because racing is awesome and they are naturally competitive people. However, doping, and the resultant winning, wouldn't result in any more cash-money. Prestige, yes, but no dollar-dollar-bill-y'all.

Sponsors would still get their names plastered all over newspapers and TV and interwebs, so they'd be happy. Racers would still race for a win, because it's in our nature... I've seen people crash each other to win plastic trophies in a cat 5 race.

Doping would still exist... hell, amateur triathletes have been known to dope! So you'd still need testing. However, the cost/benefit analysis would be shifted, not by increasing the cost (which has been pretty clearly shown to not work), but by decreasing the benefit. Ipso facto ergo and voila, much less doping.

In conclusion, this is the worst idea ever, and I just wasted 5 minutes of yours. And you can never get them back.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Flirting With Shakira

Shakira is hot. She sings like a Kermit impersonator, but she is hot. Moving on...

It has come to my attention that there is documentation of a courting ritual, by which Shakira's favor is earned. This documentary is available on YouTube, so you know it's accurate.

Just how wooed is Shakira? In her own words:
"Oh baby when you talk like that
You make a woman go mad"

Well damn. That's pretty freakin' wooed. Her suitor, a certain Mr. Wyclef Jean, has said something that has driven her mad, and not in the "Mariah Carey's nervous breakdown" way, but in the "Tag Bodyspray just-plausible-enough commercials" way. I wish I had the ability to make a woman go mad. Perhaps if I study the words that initiated this effect?

"I never really knew that she
could dance like this
She makes a man wants to speak Spanish
Como se llama (si), bonita (si),
mi casa,
su casa"

Okay, so Wyclef used the formal "su" instead of the familiar "tu". Well done, Wyclef. Truly, you are a gentleman. Still, I don't think that that's the only thing that has driven the lovely Shakira mad.

I guess all I have to do to charm the womens is reproduce Wyclef's poetry. Odds are good, of course, that my audience will speak only the Queen's English, and so I'll have to translate from Mr. Jean's elegant Spanish... thanks, 6th grade Spanish class with Senora Quintana.

Allow me to set the scene. The lights are dim, the Karaoke is loud, and the Johnson and Johnson interns have spilled just enough beer on me to really accentuate my cologne. I spot a girl across the bar. I walk up to her, and whisper in her ear:

"I never knew that you could dance like this. You make a man want to speak English. What is your name? Pretty. My place? Your place?"

It's freaking foolproof. Feel free to try it yourself.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


The main entrances to my apartment building are sealed with electronically-controlled latches, not magnetic attraction. In other words, the mechanism by which the doors are locked is purely mechanical, much like the stick up Will's ass.

Big Brother is trying to watch me

It's no secret that to get into my building, all you have to do is yank the door open. The apartments themselves are locked via a traditional bolt, but the main entrance is magnetically sealed, and the magnet isn't particularly strong. If I'd forgotten my ID card, or if I felt particularly lazy, I could just brute-force my way into the building.

Perhaps because some residents complained, or perhaps because there's too much money floating around the Rutgers bureaucracy's coffers, the Office of Graduate Housing has installed cameras outside the entrances to each building.

There are a few questions that immediately come to mind with respect to the utility of these cameras. First of all, what use is a picture of a thief once he's escaped with my laptop and bicycles (I don't really own much else of value)? Second of all, what use is a picture of the back of the thief's head?

The camera is located outside the building,
behind you when you open the door

Most importantly, I'm really not sure if I'm cool with being recorded by security cameras in, or even just near, my home. What business is it of the administration to know when, how often, and with whom I enter the building? Who are they to judge me if, for example, I choose to bring home a morbidly obese prostitute of questionable gender... hypothetically speaking.

This will all probably amount to nothing. That doesn't mean I have to like it.

On the bright side, at least the cameras look a little bit like HAL.

Monday, July 23, 2007

I am not sorry that this is a race report

Usually I try not to write race reports. A lot of racers' blogs are so freaking repetitious, so cookie-cutter, that it discourages me from writing my own. However, I'm so happy with how my race went yesterday that I'll write a little about it.
AngryMark HUNGRY!!!

It was a 15 mile race on a 4-corner, 1 mile, pancake-flat course. My nerves were on edge going in, because my last two races have been absolutely abysmal, to the point where I deny that the North Jersey Classic in Park Ridge even happened. Surely it was all just a bad dream. Still, bad dreams can shake one's real-world confidence, and everyone else around me at the start looked so much fitter than me.

This was downright silly.

After surfing the front 1/3 of the pack for the first few laps, watching attack after attack get caught, I was feeling pretty good. A group of 3 went off the front, including two guys on the same team. Instead of chasing, the pack just started looking at each other, and the gap grew. Recognizing that this attack had potential, I shifted up, sprinted like someone had lit a fire under my ass, and bridged up to the break.

This hurt... a lot. By the time I caught the break, I was losing peripheral vision, and my heart was doing a drumroll. We never got our act together, and we got caught.
DK raced a few hours before getting on a 15 hour flight...
that's hardcore

Mark and I took turns counterattacking each others' unsuccessful moves, which was fun... but unsuccessful. There wasn't a single break that didn't have one of us in it.
DanFlan got crashed, but still said,
'I got to ride my bike, so I'm happy'

When the solo 1-lap-to-go break crashed himself out (yes, this actually happened), Mark found my wheel in the subsequent reorganization. I tried to lead him out, but he's enough of a lone-wolfie that he found a better wheel and sprinted for 3rd. More importantly, I had the wherewithal to contest the sprint myself, and I got 7th!
Me, AngryMark, and Jim post-race

Why is this a big deal? I've already won a 4/5 race (albeit in Cleveland, which is honestly just not on the same level). I didn't do anything spectacular today. This won't even get me any upgrade points. Why do I care?

Almost exactly 6 months ago, while training with Will, I drove him crazy with questions about pack dynamics. How does one get into the draft after being out in the wind? How does one avoid half-wheeling without braking? How does one allow or prevent the re-entry of another racer into the draft? I thought that after taking a turn on the front, I'd have to drop back to dead-last, like the pack is a giant paceline. 6 months ago. Seriously. Recall how happy I was when I simply finished a race.

Now, on days when I feel even semi-good, I'm treating the race like a plaything, toying with other teams' pacelines (sorry Van Dessel, but you were pissing me off) and surfing the pack pretty intuitively. It's partially a question of fitness, but mostly a function of newfound confidence by which I am simply floored.

In the race report I sent my coach, I concluded with the following: "i am a very happy guy. there is absolutely nothing i would've done differently"

There was more to the day than just my little 4/5 race. For example, the kids' races down the home-stretch were pretty hotly contested. Those little gremlins pedaled like fiends... until about 5m to go, when they noticed the neck-level tape stretched across the finish line. Not wanting to be clotheslined for winning, they would stomp on their brakes, locking out the rear wheel. Every age-group's race finished in a skid.
#75 won his race at about 150rpm

Since the race was a fundraiser for the local fire department, the organizers put on a firefighter's race. The poor bastards had to race 3 miles in their full turnout gear, just as if they were going into a burning building. Most were on WalMart-worthy mountain bikes. Oof.
The firefighters' race

In conclusion, I will simply say: I am a very happy guy.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Karaoke's Silver Lining

AngryMark has better sideburns than you

The rumors are true. Johnson and Johnson interns are ruining karaoke. They had the potential to be great, but indeed they are not. They are microphone hogs, they are bathroom-blockers, and they seem to have committed themselves to homogeneity. Their song selections show that they don't understand the fundamental difference between irony and poor taste.

I submitted a song selection to be sung by "Rutgers Cycling Team". A bunch of our guys had gone home, but there were still enough of us to rock out. As we started singing Say It Ain't So, I realized that between the 4 of us, there were 2 microphones. Where was the third mike?

Then I heard it. A rhythmic "uh, uh, rutgers cycling, let's hear it". Two of the J&J guys had hung on to a mike and were rapping. Milky Manchester, being a very hands-on Karaoke Guy, turned their mike off.. but we still wanted a 3rd mike for ourselves, as is our Constitutional right. Look it up.

Will, who was mikeless, asked them to hand it over. They said no, so Will and I started making fun of them on my mike... very passive-aggressive, but funny enough.

For reasons I'm not sure of, right around "I can't confront you" (how fitting, right?), Jay and I simultaneously decided to get aggressive-aggressive. I gave Will my mike, and the two of us went over to the J&J guys and demanded their ill-gotten mike.
Will and his "cowbell" during Don't Fear the Reaper

Now, Jay and I are not very imposing figures. Our combined weight is about 280. We had just been singing rather goofily, which is not particularly intimidating to most people. Still, we flipped the switch from "fun" to "intense", and we got right in the J&J guys' faces. They surrendered the mike.

We almost got in a fight over a microphone. How ridiculous is that?

There certainly was a silver lining too all of this, though. How bad can a night be when there's good beer, great friends, karaoke, and Tour de France coverage on a bigscreen? From Vino's attack with 4k to go until Hunter's winning sprint, we screamed at the TV to the confusion of everyone in earshot. It was great.
Jay and Mike sing as Jenks listens/watches the Tour

Thursday, July 19, 2007

"There's enormous evidence that man and dinosaurs have always lived together"

I know I've already talked about this... but now there is a target for my ire and ohmygod I am so pissed off.

Kent Hovind. You smarmy little zealot. You luddite little demagogue. You schlemiel.

Your lecture is called "100 Reasons Why Evolution is So Stupid". Well you know what, Kent? You're so stupid. In fact, your mom is so stupid. There, I said it.

2 Hours of Nonsense

I'll concede that you raise some interesting points. For example, I wonder how it is that not all celestial bodies rotate in the same direction. And I am somewhat curious about how the ages of strata in core samples are determined by scientists.

Okay, we've gotten the requisite "Your lecture isn't all crap" paragraph out of the way.

I'm not going to pick you apart point by point. Let's not kid ourselves, that's way below the level of this blog... and I've written posts about the etiquette of portajohn use. Instead, I will simply quote you.

"There's enormous evidence that man and dinosaurs have always lived together... Dinosaurs have always lived with man, they used to be called dragons and man killed most of 'em"

Wow. Just wow.

"There is no geologic column, and they know it. This fella says 'if the geologic column exists... unfortunately, no such column exists'. it doesn't exist!"

By the way, even as you quoted that textbook, you showed the original text on the screen. It said:
"If there were a column of sediments deposited continuously since the formation of the earth, the entire history of the planet could be reconstructed. Unfortunately, no such column exists. Where sediments are missing, a break in the sedimentary record occurs. Breaks result in gaps in the record that may range from a few years to hundreds of millions of years."

You read elementary school textbooks as if they are the source of scientific information. Then you find "inconsistencies" and harp on them as proof that the science is wrong. ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEXTBOOKS. I can just imagine citing a 6th grade Life Sciences textbook in my next paper. "The frequency of Action Potentials from the Golgi Tendon Organs is proportional to the rate of angular displacement of the joint [How Our Bodies Work]"

Worse, you score so-called victories for yourself by attacking the Straw Man. We know when this happens because you smirk and say "I'm sorry, but that's just stupid", signaling that the debate on this topic has come to a close because you've found one of those inconsequential inconsistencies. Back in my fraternity days, Mark the Communications major actually improved chapter meetings by calling us on such shabby forensics. Leave the poor Straw Man alone, Kent. Hasn't he suffered enough already?

The underlying problem is that Evolution Science is not a religion, but a science. Science is dynamic, a conglomeration of testable hypotheses and evidence that builds an ever-improving understanding of reality. Religion, on the other hand, cannot be imperfect... isn't that the nature of faith?

We definitely agree on one thing. It's the imposition of one realm onto the other that causes problems.

Also, your webpage is full of stupid. And your mom is fat.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Day of General Goodness

El Parto Uno

Yesterday started off with a 75 minute lecture to a group of high school seniors. My talk was titled "Generalization in Motor Control". It went well.

In fact, my talk didn't just go well. It went superwell. I've spent the past few minutes looking for metaphors by which to describe the wellness with which the talk went.

If this was prison, I'd be able to trade my lecture for cigarettes. If this was a 1980s action movie, the lecture would be my witty pre- or post-violence one-liner. If this was a RPG, my lecture would give me +10 defense against orc-sword attacks.

Figurative language, baby. Don't leave home without it.

The reason I'm so excited about this is that it's further confirmation of this whole "I want to teach" idea. For me, lecturing is genuinely fun, and exhilerating. After years of taking classes taught by Professor Uninspiring and his colleague Dr. Unintelligible. It is reassuring to me that I am neither.

El Parto Dos

Bicycle riding is fun. Riding with a group is even more fun. Riding in a group of 17 is unheard of in these parts, and it was fantastic. When we hit Washington Rd., there were fireworks, with early attacks, well-timed bridges (nicely done, Jenks), and the explosive sounds of people going "POP!" halfway up the climb.

A big Thumbs-Up to SpikyHairWill, who waited for me when I paused on the descent to fix a silly little mechanical. He and I chased hard to get back into the group. We chased for 15 miles. We never found the group. Apparently they'd split into short-distance and long-distance subgroups, neither of which did the loosely agreed upon medium-distance route that Will and I rode. So, again, thank you to Will, without whom that ride would surely have sucked.

We found the short-distance group in Bound Brook, which resulted in more fireworks on the way back to Highland Park. Alessandro and Will launched the first attack (drafting off an 18 wheeler, I might add) while I was chatting with Harold. In the ensuing carnage, Alessandro, Craig, Will, and I rode the legs off each other. I had a chip on my shoulder, since this was my first ride with Alessandro since hiring him as my coach. The ride was aggressive and brutal, just like I likes it.

El Parto Tres

Aaron half-jokingly asked me to help him write a toast for an upcoming wedding (that is, this weekend) in which he is best man. After Seds' unexpectedly perfect toast at Diak's wedding, I've been wondering if I have what it takes to write a good toast.

It turns out that I do.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

How's Your Face? It's Killing Me!

Enough depth. Let's make fun of Rob's face.

Rob had a viral infection. He claims that it was of the airborne "common cold" variety, but I'm not counting out the possibility that it was an STD, because that would make the story that much funnier.

The virus spread. He got over the "cold" pretty fast, but the virus lingered. Its new home? The left trigeminal nerve, which is aka'ed as the nerve that makes the left side of your face work.

The left side of Rob's face stopped working. It lost sensation, and it lost motor control. He couldn't even blink or produce tears. Half of his face was paralyzed.

This is called "Bell's Pallsy", and it's also called hilarious.

A certain amount of time has to elapse before it's the sort of hilarious you can act on. Before that turning point, you have to be all "aw, poor Rob" and "aw, how's your face doing?" After a few weeks, though, you can be like "Dude. Awesome" and it will be funny, because your friend's face is impotent.

We are now well into the it's-okay-to-laugh period. And so, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present to you: Rob and his Paralyzed Face

Before you call me a horrible person, don't worry, this is a temporary condition and Rob's back to normal now.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Are You There, God? It's Me, NinjaDon

Yes, it was a reference to Judy Blume and her preteen-girls' coming-of-age opus. Yes.

There's a great article about religion that I've read a few times now. It is a good read, and I recommend it:

Bloom, Paul. "Is God an Accident?" Atlantic Montly, 296(5): 105-112, Dec 2005"

I'm posting this link knowing that there are people in my audience whose faith is important to them. Believe me, the purpose of this isn't to try to shake your faith, nor do I ever intend to do that, in person or in blog.

So, indulge me. Suspend your religious beliefs - temporarily, of course. Then read the article, which asks the question: why does every people, from the Far East to the Amazon Basin to Vatican City, have a belief system that includes something supernatural?

more later...

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Anecdotal Evidence

So yesterday was Friday the 13th (by the way, happy Bastille Day!). Will wrote a well thought out, if mildly ridiculous, post on the utter stupidity of Friday the 13th superstition. What can I do but agree?

And yet, there is anecdotal evidence to support the claim that Friday the 13th CURSED!!!

That would've worked better if you'd read it with the "ed" getting it's own syllable, Shakespeare-style. Friday the 13th is curséd!!!

I got on a NYC-bound train, and was pleased to realize that it was the express train. "Ooh," thought I naively, "I will get there early!" My next thought was "wow this is a lot of highschoolers packed into one train".

At Metropark, the train stopped and waited for police to arrive. The police yelled at the highschoolers in my car for a few minutes, then left. Delay: 10 minutes.

Somewhere in North Jersey, the train stopped again, this time in the middle of nowhere. There was an announcement, a train had broken down in a tunnel, we were waiting for it to be cleared. Delay: 15 minutes.

Just before Newark Airport, a pack of conductors came charging down the aisle, and I overheard "there they are, they'll know who did it". Then we got to wait at Newark Penn Station (not to be confused with New York Penn Station... seriously, who came up with these names?) for the police to arrive again. This time they escorted one of the kids off the train. Apparently he'd somehow defiled the train's bathroom... I guess (I hope) it was with something run-of-the-mill like vomit. Delay: 20 minutes.

So finally I get to Penn Station (the NYC version), at which point I call my friend to ask where we'll meet. "Well, I'm in a Starbucks." That doesn't exactly narrow things down, does it. "I'm on 42nd Street". Um, Penn Station is at 34th street... what the hell? "I'm at Grand Central Station".

My friend, being from not-NYC, had taken a train in to Grand Central Station. The fact that I was coming in by train must've gotten translated into "the same train station I came in to". An honest mistake.

Okay, I'll just hop on the subway up to Grand Central Station. Except, Grand Central is also (in fact, is primarily) a bus terminal. I, being from not-NYC, translated "Grand Central" into "bus"... which meant that I hopped on the C train up to the Port Authority, almost a mile away from Grand Central. I'd wandered around the Port Authority for 10 minutes, looking in vain for the landmarks my friend was describing. Seriously, an honest mistake!

Okay, I'll just hop on the subway to Grand Central. Oops, it doesn't exist. Taxi!!!

About 2 hours after we were supposed to meet, I finally found my friend in Grand Central Station. We had Thai. It was delicious.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Worst. Karaoke. Ever

There needs to be an "undo" for karaoke nights. Or a way to bribe the bouncer to keep certain people out of the bar.

Maybe it would've been better if anybody but me, Will, and Jay had shown up (I'm talking about cyclists. It was a pleasure to have Dani and BeardedMegan for company). Or if the Johnson and Johnson d-bags had been able to appreciate the performance of anyone who wasn't from their group.

Fortunately, Will and I rocked so hard ('Shout' and 'I Want You to Want Me', respectively) that the bar couldn't help but rejoice with us. Rocked, my friends.

For the first time EVER, we made the decision to pull the plug early. Like a DNF in a bike race (yes, it all comes back to cycling analogies), it was a necessary evil, a decision made for the right reasons but questioned interminably thereafter. We left the bar just after midnight. I got food at the 24-hr Dunkin Donuts.

I regret nothing...

...except singing 'Do You Love Me'; never again.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Spotted on Today's Commute

Being an Engineer, I live and work on Busch Campus (aka "The Cool Kids' Campus"). However, a lot of the things I need to do, like sing karaoke or get race reimbursements for my teammates, require trips across the Raritan River to the College Ave Campus.

I really like this commute. There's a hugemongous curb after the pedestrian bridge (which I can now ride down on my fixie), but other than that it's scenic and rolling and pleasant.

Today's scenery was a little unusual. Gather 'round, childrens, while I tell you all about it.

  1. First there were the kids on fixies. They must've been 15 or so. Sure as hell, they were cooler than me, because their bikes were brakeless, their bars were un-taped, and the flowing of their oh-so-emo hair was unchecked by helmets. They were Busch-bound on the pedestrian bridge, and our paths crossed at the very narrow section. Lacking any faith in other human beings' ability to control a bicycle, I slowed and got as far right as possible. When they noticed me a good 2 seconds later, they moved to their right... but they didn't (or couldn't?) slow. One of them clipped the wall with a pedal, but managed to stay upright. Color me impressed.

  2. Then there was the family swimming in the Raritan, where the canal spills into the river. Weird, but I was a little jealous... until I realized that 80 fafillion infectious bacteria had just crawled up their excretory orifices.

  3. I met Will with his long-overdue reimbursement check (thanks, RU-Screw). As I locked my bike up, we heard a shout - a lady, on her cell phone, was backing her van up and stopped a few inches short of a little old man. Onlookers, including Will and I, were dumbstruck and befuddled, not to mention flabbergasted. Then the old man broke the tension with a comic (albeit unintentionally so) outburst: "Women drivers!!!"

  4. On the return trip, I was treated to a second oddball-sighting on the pedestrian bridge. I looked down at the river and saw a new family had waded in... and this one had fishing rods. They were about 50m from the shore. I think they were planning on fly fishing. No news on whether they caught anything, but you will be updated as soon as information becomes available.

  5. So finally I got back to Busch. I was climbing up the hill from the pedestrian walkway to the main road when I saw something barreling towards me. Some crazy guy (sans helmet, of course) on a BMX bike was flying down the descent, riding in the shoulder of his lane. No problem. He starts drifting left. Um, okay, still not a problem. Now he's in the wrong lane, and a car is headed straight for him. Oh shit. It is only in the last possible second that the dives to his right, off-roading briefly to get on the pedestrian path. This is when I started breathing again.

I'll tell you what, though, it's nice to get out of the lab.

An Analogy for Stage 3

If you watched Stage 3 of the Tour, you saw something special. I don't claim to be an expert on the bike game, nor on the history thereof, but I do know an extraordinary performance when I see one.

If you'd like, you can watch the following video, which shows the final kilometer-or-so of the 237k day. I strongly suggest watching it, even if you have no idea what the hell is going on. It just looks cool. Listen to the excitement in the commentators' voices as they realize what Cancellara (the dude in yellow) is trying to do. If that doesn't pique your interest at least a little, I don't know what will.

Enough of my readers don't know the ins-and-outs of cycling well enough to fully grasp the degree to which this was an unusual, unpredictable, unprecedented* result. That's okay. Nobody's perfect.

It is for you, my dear friends, that I have come up with an analogy for what you just saw:

It's a soccer game between Brazil and Piscataway High School. For 80 minutes, the Brazilians juggle, do tricks, play practical jokes on each other, etc... Eessentially play Globetrotter (pardon the mixed metaphors). 80 minutes in, it's still 0-0. Well damn, if this ends in a tie, it's going to be scandalous! That PHS could tie Brazil, what a coup! So Brazil starts applying pressure. 85th minute, 0-0. 90th minute, 0-0. The desperation becomes obvious. The Brazilians have clearly miscalculated.

Now the question is, when Brazil scores the inevitable goal, will it be Ronaldinho? Caca? Poopoo?(ie, which famous forward/midfielder will score?) The commentators speculate idly, as the 91st minute, then the 92nd pass, and it's still 0-0. Suddenly their tone changes, and they predict that Piscataway will somehow hang on.

Finally, in the 95th minute, the ref is getting ready to blow his whistle. A PHS player clears the ball, and it reaches the Brazilian goalie. The goalie dribbles past every PHS player, all the way to the 5 yard line, dances around the PHS goalie, and scores.

What?!? The goalie? Really?

If you're more into politics than sports (you know who you are), then instead, it may help to think of things this way:
The notoriety of the 2000 presidential election peaked during the ballot counting in Florida, at the end of months of campaigning. Now imagine if the recount had found that in a surprise turn of events, Winston Churchill had won the state as a write-in candidate.

I'm amped just thinking about it. DanFlan's probably right, this weekend's races will probably be full of Cancellara-wannabes, which could make the tactics, um, complicated.

*We're not counting Eddy Merckx in this one.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

All Your Spoilers are Belong to Us

Poor Jenks. All he wants to do is watch the rerun of the day's Tour de France stage when he gets home. If you can't watch it live, at least you can watch it as if it were live, by simply avoiding cycling-related websites that might spoil the ending.

It's tough. I would compare it to Odysseus, lashed to the mast and listening to the Siren's call. Except Jenks isn't lashed to the mast. In fact, the websites are only a click away, and I'm sure that to some degree, every day involves some internal negotiations... "I just want to know who won, I don't need to read about the details".

Days like today must be really tough for him. One person asks "where can I get live coverage of the Tour", and next thing you know there are emails flying around like:
  • "The ending is SICK!!"
  • "It's pretty amazing to see the
    power in his seated attack!"
  • "Holy crap!"
No, nobody told him who won, or what made this one of the most exciting final 10k I've ever seen. But damn, guys, this must be killing him! We should ease off, if only out of pity.

You can't spell Oratorial without Oral, kinda

I'm a decent engineer, but by no means am I the engineer to end all engineers (clearly that's Jenks). Similarly, I can fake my way through a toast or a presentation, but I'm no Chamberlain (Neville, not Wilt).

You know what? I'm not going to describe today's presentation, except to tell you that my audience was 6th-9th graders and my topic was Limb Control. There's no video record of my talk, there are no witnesses in the audience to corroborate any claims I might make, and frankly, it's boring to write "I'm awesome".

Seriously, though, I'm awesome.

How awesome, you ask? To demonstrate the non-linearity of the dynamics and control of the elbow joint and the non-intuitiveness of joint stiffness control (yawn), I got a volunteer to do The Robot.

My presentation involved doing The f'in Robot. You wish you were there.

Monday, July 09, 2007


Damn it feels good to be a gangsta. I've been bashing my head into a wall (figuratively, of course... I'm way too much of a wimp to do that for reals) for a few days now, trying to automate a process in my software. None of the variable sizes matched, none of the matrices were simple nx1's, and I needed to nest a bunch of loops.

Translation: COMPLICATED. I'm normally pretty good at picturing my matrices as spatial objects... it's probably one of the only reasons I've been able to keep my head above water as an engineer. These bastards, though, were 116x23x3 (and some were 115x20x3, and some were 117x22x3, etc) and they needed to be reshaped to 100x1x3.

So not only did I need to reshape the matrices, the process needed to be completely automated to handle the different matrix sizes. Another layer of complexity in an already complex process.

Oh, and by the way, the 20 to 1 reduction of dimensionality isn't necessarily a simple ensemble-averaging. So that'll be fun to play with.

Long story short: after hours of staring at the monitor, wondering why the code wasn't working, I WIN!

edit: I know, I know, that this is unnecessarily jargony. Nobody cares about the technicalities inherent in this level of detail. Still, this is one of those things...

You know what, I've written about this before. This software, these few dozen lines of code, they're but a drop in the bucket of the overall project, and the final writeup won't even mention the work I've put in. Writing about it now, even if just on my blog, was a little therapeutic. Oh well. At least it wasn't as bad as Will's post.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

I am officially Flantastic

Since I was at a conference for my birthday, the celebration of the anniversary of that momentous day had to be postponed until July. July! Honestly, who would even want to be born in July? You've got to compete with the 4th of July for attention. For that matter, pretty much every other month has holidays to distract from the potential awesomeness of a birthday... Halloween, Christmas, Cinco de Mayo, to name a few.

June, on the other hand, is the ultimate month vis a vis birthdays. What do I have to contend with? D-Day? Summer Solstice? Bah!

Fortunately, my friends are great, and they would not be deterred by the July-ness of my party. We met up at Harvest Moon for Karaoke, and the rest is history... nebulous, uncertain history, but fortunately there was a camera.

(I would like to take this opportunity to request that everyone related to me, by blood or marriage, stop reading this post. While this request is certainly futile, maybe it will help if I give you a link to click on? Please go play sudoku)

The Karaoke:
The reincarnation of Mr. Roboto by the World Champions

Mike, Jay, and I rock out

Will has a black belt in Karaoke Kwon Do

Rocking out with Erik aka Milky Manchester

The Culprits:
Megan tried to kill me. Observe the Car Bombs...
tastier than an IED, but just as deadly

Rob and Laura

Jay, Dan, and Jen

Adam surprised me with a Boilermaker

Rutger the Bouncer... didn't actually buy me any drinks,
but he saved me from a beating a few months ago...
and that's another story for another time

Dr. Mel, of Dental Hygiene fame

I believe Jay bought this round

The Progression:
Started the night as a Rockstar

Things started getting hazy

I'm not sure what the story is here.
I just wanted this photo to be public

Then things got REALLY bad

I would've written this post chronologically, with some sort of explanatory narrative, but let's not kid ourselves... there are just too many holes in my memory. There are also a lot of photographs I didn't post because I couldn't help but wonder "when did this happen?" and "who is this person?"

The biggest mystery, though, is why I woke up next to a pineapple.

(I didn't actually wake up next to a pineapple)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

My Man-Crushes, episode 4

Yesterday at the Hall of Fame race, I DNF'ed, which means I "Did Not Finish". You know who didn't DNF? Jay #1.

Jay F'ed, alright. Jay really is an F'er.

Over the past few months, Jay has proven himself to be a tough sonofabitch. When he flatted at Danville and his CO2 cartridge screwed the pooch, he walked to his car to inflate the tire... when his wheel slipped out of the dropout and he had no tools on him, he walked back to his car to fix it... when his front tire flatted, he walked back to his car to change the flat.

The above story is all from the same race. The poor bastard almost doubled the winner's time, finishing dehydrated and hallucinating. If that's not tough, I don't know what is.

Jay chases back after yet another flat

When I finished the Neshaminy race, rolled back to the car, and saw a tube on the ground, I knew immediately what had happened.

"Quit" is just not in this guy's vocabulary... which is not surprising, because he mostly communicates in grunts.

Jay races singlespeed. On a Kona Unit. With a Rigid Fork.

Jay is capable of the Jew-Fro... and has proven it.

Jay has a high-quality sock collection.

Jay's taste in beer in unmatched.

Jay's taste in Jenks' mom is matched only by me.

For these, and other unbloggable reasons, Jay and I have realized that we're pretty much the same person. It's a little unnerving sometimes. So basically, this post boils down to my man-crush on myself.
We coordinate outfits before going out in public

Of course, there are some key differences between us...

One of us is man enough to shave his legs.

One of us has a bike with 3" larger wheels and 300% hotter paint.

One of us had the cojones to liberate the team's beloved mascot MacChouff from a local eatery

One of us went to grad school, and one of us co-owns a lucrative construction company.

Now here's the real story of why Jay has earned my undying man-crush. After the HPCX race in November, we were both pretty knackered. I went to my car and grabbed a bottle of Endurox. Jay rolled over and offered me a swig from a bottle of Pepsi.

"No thanks," I declined, "I've got Endurox." Soda is a good fall-back if there's no Endurox, but I was good to go.

"Well, unless your bottle has Guiness in it, you might want some of this". I could've cried, I was so happy.


Oh Jay. I hate your guts, because you keep beating me in races. I hate you because your pickup line is "Hi, I'm Don's friend". I hate you because you know the Beastie Boys' "Paul Revere" by heart.

Observe Jay's accessories: Brown-bagged microbrew in one hand, MacChouff the elf in the other. Nice.

But mostly I hate you because no blog post could possibly capture the depth of my man-crush. Jay Number One indeed.