An interesting study?

Posted by me on Monday, the 29th day of October, anno domini 2007 at 4:10 PM, local time.

So, today at work, I noticed that I am often a mere fives of inches away from my laptop screen. I am pretty sure I don’t actually need to be that close (at the moment I am at least 20 inches away), but over the course of the day I just seem to get closer and closer. Eye fatigue? I don’t know. For another data point, I noticed as I walked down the aisle that I was not the only one with this curious malady.

Perhaps someone should do a study? Average distance of face from laptop screen, screen resolution, average dpi, age of participant, and whether they wear glasses (could be good to know?).

Interestingly enough, I want to get a laptop with almost twice the horizontal resolution as the ones I currently have… in only 1 extra inch of width. Good idea? Hmmm…

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Tea Time!

Posted by me on Monday, the 3rd day of September, anno domini 2007 at 10:36 PM, local time.

When I was little, I hated tea. Absolutely hated the stuff. Looking back, I think it was because the first tea I tried was iced tea, which I still hate, and then some black tea that my mother drank often. It was too bitter for me, so I gave it up.

Much, much later, when I went to China, some of my friends made me go to the Tea House of the Bridge of the Nine Turns (I’m not quite sure how the turns add up to nine, either):

Anyway, it was very touristy, but fun. If you are ever in Shanghai, I would recommend it. Its in the Old Quarter (read: Tourist Trap), right next to the YuYuan Gardens. They had some nice flower blossom teas, where the flower blooms before your eyes inside the glass teapot. I’ve been looking for those teas ever since. (I think I finally found where I can buy them: Target)

Later, when I got back state-side (always wanted to say that…), I tried some Jasmine green teas and found them to my liking as well. Since then, I’ve tried many green teas and like most of them. Plain green tea, Jasmine tea, Chamomile tea, etc. Also, I found some Bavarian Black tea that is quite good as well. Recently, I bought a box of black tea, and discovered, once again, that black tea is quite bitter, and needs sugar at the very least. Then its OK. Up in Houghton, on a recent trip, we went to a tea house on main street, and had a lovely afternoon tea. With Lemon Curd! I do like Lemon Curd…

Anyway, tea is good. I do try to have afternoon tea on the weekends when I can (a good excuse to have slices of French baguette with Lemon Curd or jam or something).

So, that’s all I have to say about tea.

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Mistborn 2! Out at last!

Posted by me on Monday, the 27th day of August, anno domini 2007 at 12:19 AM, local time.

Just a brief update: Last week sometime, Mistborn 2: The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson came out. I didn’t get around to buying it under Thursday, since the week was rather busy, but I got it finally late last week, spent way too much time reading it that night, and then finished it up Friday after work. It was very good! I was very happy with how it went. For a while as it went along, I was quite afraid the author was going to spite me by having things turn out differently than I hoped for, or at the very least waiting until the final book to resolve things to my satisfaction. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the author did not take that simple way out as a cliffhanger or something like that. By the end of the book, most of the plot lines were tied up nicely, and while there is certainly one plot thread (the main danger to the kingdom really) that is still open and needs resolution, all the minor sideline threads are finished up quite nicely.

The first book was much the same. Pretty much all the main internal conflict was resolved and there was just the one problem left for the next books. Now, I just have to wait one year (the guy is already finished with the book, I think, or close to it) for the final exciting chapter! In the meantime, I think most of my readers would probably enjoy the Mistborn books, if you haven’t already read them.

As an aside, I often find, after ready a great long book, that I suddenly feel like I need to find another book to read right away that will engage my interest as fully and enjoyably as the book I just finished. This might be part of the reason that over the years I have read so many books, one after the other. It is only when I get to a book that I don’t enjoy as much, start to get bogged down, and slow way way down in my pace, sometimes where the book sits on my nightstand for weeks or months without being touched, that I stop for a couple months from reading books so quickly. This is rather sad, but I guess its ok, since I do have a lot of other hobbies that I like to do, and sometimes I think I might read too much anyway. :-)

Luckily, with this book, I have no such problem. No offense to the choosers of books, but lately it has been Book Club books that have given me the most trouble. I really should finish that last one… It’s not very long anyway, and surely at some point here Andy will schedule book club. (*hint* *hint*)

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Integrals on the Wall

Posted by me on Wednesday, the 22nd day of August, anno domini 2007 at 9:51 PM, local time.

or, Singing in the Shower

So, I’ve noticed I sing a bit in the shower. And I’m not talking like pop songs, here. I’m talking opera solos. Its kinda crazy. I’m usually a low baritone or medium bass, but in the shower, with no pressure and no mocking friends, I can actually hit a moderately high falsetto (by which I mean a rather low contralto…). Of course, it’s hard to remember the words to the songs, mostly because they are all in Italian or some such. “When the foeman bares his steel” and “When a felon’s not engaged in his employment”, along with “La donna รจ mobile” and “Largo al factotum” are typical.

Anyway, as cliche as it is to sing in the shower, what else am I supposed to do? It’s not like I can work out math problems on the shower walls in the steam… not that I haven’t left a few integrals on the wall from time to time…

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Losing a song in the sea of opera

Posted by me on Friday, the 17th day of August, anno domini 2007 at 12:02 AM, local time.

I listen to a lot of opera. It’s great stuff. Lots of very memorable songs and overtures, arias, etc. But sometimes, I think I listen to too much opera without concentrating on it. Later, I will find a particular tune is in my head and I know its from an opera, but can’t for the life of me remember what it is. I replay a bunch of the operas I listen to frequently over and over, hoping to happen across the familiar song, all to no avail. A year goes by. More. I begin to fear the worst: I will never hear the song again, except in my head, imperfectly reproduced by my horrible memory.

Then, by chance, one day your friend Jim starts humming a tune, then says , “Isn’t that a great piece from that opera we just saw?”

“What?” I say.

“Yeah, don’t you remember, when Cherubino sings his declaration of love for all women to the countess and hilarious hi-jinks ensue?”

“What?” I say.

Then he brings out Pam’s sheet music for “Le nozze di Figaro”, pages to Act II, scene II, and points out the notes, humming as he goes. “See?”

“Damn it Jim.”

Seriously. Good thing we went to see that opera (which I have to review on my blog yet… how long ago was that?). Otherwise, I may never have found that song again. Even though I have a nice recording of Figaro, and listen to it from time to time (more so since going to see the thing, but that’s a different story).

Anyway, lots of opera, lots of good songs. A pity I can’t remember where they all come from!

*Note: I’ve paraphrased Jim’s actual words. Mostly because I can’t remember what exactly was said, but also because it’s slightly funnier this way. Sorry Jim. Thanks though!

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Planarity: a great time waster

Posted by me on Thursday, the 16th day of August, anno domini 2007 at 11:48 PM, local time.

So, a friend at work forwarded me a link to this website with a simple flash-based game on it. All you have to do is move nodes around to show that the given graph is planar. Simple at first, then there are 200 nodes and not enough room to see anything at all… I would say that levels in the 7-10 range are the best. Actually challenging, but still doable.

It’s worth taking a look at anyway, especially if you are bored and have nothing else more productive to do for a while.

But, it’s not my fault if you get stuck on that website for an hour. I warned you.

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“These are your father’s parentheses”

Posted by me on Tuesday, the 31st day of July, anno domini 2007 at 11:58 PM, local time.

Wow. Sorry guys, I know how you all hate it when I make a blog entry saying how awesome dinosaur comics or xkcd happen to be today, but seriously folks, this is why I love xkcd: I just read it and had to comment.

Seriously, with lines like “These are your father’s parentheses. Elegant weapons, for a more… civilized age.”, while an Obi-wan stick-figure carries out a stack of parentheses to a bewildered Luke, few things could make me laugh harder. This is just great stuff!

Wow, three new posts in under an hour. Now I’m just tired and should go to bed. Goodnight!

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Downtown Rochester

Posted by me on Tuesday, the 31st day of July, anno domini 2007 at 11:48 PM, local time.

So I was downtown this past weekend, at the bookstore (as usual), and noticed a few things.

Downtown Rochester was actually pretty busy! It was in the early evening on a Saturday, so probably lots of people going to restaurants or whatever. But there were tons of people walking around downtown, eating on the sidewalks, siting on the benches talking, looking at books in Barnes and Nobles. It was nice.

I also went by the old Extraordinary Bookseller shop to see if they had changed their hours or whatnot. Nope, still like 11am-6pm weekdays only or something like that. A couple months ago, we all noticed that they had downsized drastically, and a nail salon or something took up most of their space on 1st Avenue. I think they still have a little nook there yet, but I haven’t been in there since they shrunk. However! I saw a sign that said what actually happened was that they were moving! So, my main worry of what had happened to all the great old books they had that could not possibly have fit into what was left of the store is now laid to rest! I tracked down where they said they moved to, and walked 3 blocks to get there. Apparently they are now located in the lower floor (we’re talking basement level here) of the old Barrister Hall on 1st St N. They were closed when I was there (it was Saturday evening after all), but there was a rudimentary sign on the window that indicated they really were there now. I’ll have to go check them out sometime in their new location. Maybe they have the whole basement of that place and they can fit even more bookshelves and books! Wouldn’t that be exciting! Probably the rent is a lot cheaper as well. It can’t have been cheap on what has pretty much become the new main street of downtown Rochester (1st Ave W). So that is good news I think.

Also, Kristen’s Knits is now open again. They relocated further down 2nd St S from their old location, but now they are in a huge old Victorian house, with ample parking (always a problem at the old place). I think their hours are longer now, also. Weekdays 10am-6pm, Thursdays open till 8pm, and Saturday 10am to 3pm. Apparently they are in the old Restless Leg Syndrome House. Where will I go if I get Restless Leg Syndrome? No where, apparently. One nice thing is that its closer to downtown proper now, actually walkable, I think. Also, its right across from Just Rite Foods, so that’s kinda cool, too.

One other thing I noticed around Rochester lately: all the strip malls are getting renovated. They all did look pretty bad, so I guess they needed it. I think some of them will look pretty nice once it’s all done. I wonder if it will help them get more businesses to flesh out the vacant premises. I hope so, I guess. More little shops is always good, I think.

That’s pretty much it. Though I must say the 1st St promenade demolition looks pretty much finished and now they are repaving things for walkways and planters and benches and whatnot. It might actually be usable by winter! That would be kind of amazing actually. We shall see. Also, since it will connect Peace Plaza with Annenberg Plaza, there should be quite a nice area there that is walking only with hopefully lots of nice art and nice stuff to do.

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Broken Weltanschauungen

Posted by me on Tuesday, the 31st day of July, anno domini 2007 at 11:27 PM, local time.

Please, no one hate me.

From time to time, I come across a worldview, that just seems broken to me. I feel slightly bad using that terminology, but there it is. (Many feel that worldviews are something that can not be inherently “broken”, just different… If you choose to view things that way, then the worldview I am about to describe is just so contrary to my own worldview, that I have to describe it as broken to make my own worldview seem self consistent. There. Feel better? Anyway…)

So, I have heard phrases like, “Oh, I am really excited about seeing this new French film, you should see it.” When I inquire as the subject matter of the film, I merely get “I don’t know… it’s French” as the only response.

For all I know, the film could be great. Or it could suck. But this has nothing to do with its “Frenchness”. Or it shouldn’t have anything to do with it. But if someone uses “Frenchness” as the only reason for seeing a movie, (or “Japaneseness”, or “German”, or what-have-you) then the worldview of that person seems a bit broken to me. I think the movie should be judged on its own merits.

What’s ironic is that such Weltanschauungen are likely caused as a backlash of an older worldview that some people call “Nationalism”. By deciding that America is such an evil nation, or run by evil people, or whatever, then deciding that all things not-American are obviously better than all things American. Its a simple leap from that point to saying that because it is “French” it is more worthy of being seen than another movie that is “American”. A further irony is that most movies made in America are made by people with a similar worldview as those not wanting to watch American movies because they are American.

Anyway, maybe I’m wrong. Certainly there are degrees here, but if ever you start thinking about how you’d like to do something merely because its French, then maybe you should rethink things a bit, and start objectively analyzing your motivations. Unless you happen to be French. Then its OK. =)

I don’t mean to offend anybody with this, just making an observation about people, and I was trying to figure out why I got mad when such people made such statements. I think I know why. Their Weltanschauungen are broken, and it makes me sad to see a broken Weltanschauung.

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Treacle, or, what not to put in the refrigerator

Posted by me on Saturday, the 28th day of July, anno domini 2007 at 12:47 AM, local time.

So, last week, Jim and Pam held a pot luck at their place to bide the time until we all tromped down to the Galleria Barnes & Nobles to wait in line and buy our Harry Potter books. The thought was that people should bring Harry Potter related dishes to the pot luck. I don’t know that a whole lot of them were really mentioned in the books, but there was Butterbeer, Shepherd’s Pie, ice cream, etc.

I attempted to make Treacle Tart, which, is apparently Harry Potter’s favorite desert (or so the books lead us to believe). First of all, for those of you who don’t know, treacle is a byproduct of the sugar making process, also known as molasses. However, as it turns out, the Bri’ish make Treacle Tart not from molasses at all, but from another byproduct of the sugar making process, Golden Syrup.

After a lot of searching around town, I finally found some golden syrup at the local Hy-vee. Great place, that Hy-vee. Anyway, right on the jar in big letters it says: “Do not refrigerate golden syrup!” With the exclamation point and everything. (That’s a lie. There is no exclamation point… But it should have one!) So, I was mixing everything up and it was going great, except that I was late for the pot-luck. So I walked over to Jim and Pam’s house and baked the tart in their oven, as they are nice understanding people and weren’t currently using their oven anyway. After it finished baking and cooling, before any of us thought to eat it, it was time to go get book wristbands (trip 1 to Barnes and Nobles that night). Not thinking at all, before we left, I was like, oh I should probably put this in the fridge till we get back…

Well, when we did get back, we completely forgot to eat the tart. Then after trip 2 to actually go wait in line and get our books, I don’t think it was on anybody’s mind to eat anything more when we got back, and so it slipped my mind again.

Three days later, it was still in Jim and Pam’s fridge. We tried it. Rock solid. With some prying and sharp knives, we managed to get some out of the pan and try it, and it wasn’t too too bad, but I don’t think it was quite what the Bri’ish, or Harry Potter, usually ate when they ate Treacle Tart (for a variety of reasons, mostly mistakes on my part, including the refrigerator bit). Anyway, later when I was trying to clean out the dish, I almost gave up. Some of that stuff was almost permanently embedded in the glass pie pan.

Long story short, don’t put treacle in the refrigerator. It’s just not a good idea.

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