Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Words Fail Me

(Read the title aloud, then consider the cover art. Aren't there people whose job it is to catch these things?)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Team

We woke up yesterday morning to the sound of screaming. Possibilities raced through my mind. Political protest? Horrible car accident? The rapture? I stumbled into the living room and laid out on the floor (my back has been killing me since I literally spent five hour crammed in a closet-sized space,hunched over a fried DLP light engine, with two other techies) and waited for Mandy. She came into the room and gave me a few stretching suggestions while the tone and ferocity of the screaming rose a few decibels. As I stretched my horribly out-of-shape body, Mandy looked out the window and yelled, "It's a race! There are supporters on the corners cheering the runners on!" I groaned and got up to look out the window at all of the runners. There they were, hundreds of racers plowing through the cool October drizzle, cheering and having, what seemed to be, a good time.

Later, as breakfast was prepared, the conversation kept coming around to running and wanting to get back in shape again (mostly me). And not some flabby shape, a nice, taut, visually pleasing shape. An idea is starting to form. It's very nebulous right now, but I hope it will coalesce into something concrete by, oh, around next May.

So, here's the idea. We're looking for feedback, ideas, and participants. Please comment, email, or call.

We'd like to get a group of people interesting in running (not walking) the Riverbank Run in Grand Rapids May '08. We want to create a team name, t-shirts, running support, playlist ideas, etc. The trick to doing this is to get other people interested and training. The other thing Mandy and I need is a liaison in Grand Rapids, or at least closer than an 18 hour drive, who can coordinate efforts there. Let us know soon.

If I'm going to run, anyone can do it. A couple years back I went from not being able to to run a mile, to running two 5Ks with respectable times. We have six months to get prepared. If that's enough time for people to recover from massive back injuries, it should be enough for us. We need ideas for a team name, t-shirt designs, playlist ideas, where and how to hold the necessary after race gathering, etc.

The sooner we get started the better prepared we will be. We still plan on being back in GR around Thanksgiving time, and hopefully we can plan an hour or two to meet with those of you who would like to join in on the fun!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Science - Visualizing the 10th Dimension

I haven't posted anything science-related to the blog in a while and when I happened across this nifty little animation on VideoSift I thought I would change that. This is a cool, 10-minute video demonstrating a way of thinking of higher-order dimensions. It really reminds me of Edwin Abbott's classic "Flatland" 1884 novella. Flatland is a little book (you sometimes see it in the checkout line at Barnes and Nobel) that describes dimensions via the perspectives of little people living only in one dimension or another. Here's a link to the electronic version of the book, so you don't have to spend the $15.00 Barnes and Nobel wants you to pay for a book that is in the public domain.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sailing in Maine - Photo Collection Online

After much delay, Mandy and I have finally gotten around to sorting the pictures from our sailing trip in Maine. We've uploaded them to our Flickr stream and have made them available at the links below. These images are released under a creative commons license, so you may do what you wish with the images, so long as you credit us and don't sell them without asking either of us.


The main photo collection can be found here: Main Collection
Sailing and boating photos can be found here: Sailing
Pictures of people can be found here: People
Images of landscapes we traversed can be found here: Landscapes
And images that don't really fit into a particular category can be found here: Miscellaneous


Convoy Part 2: The Drive

Note: This is the now months-overdue second part of the story of us moving all of belongings out to Denver. If you'd like to read the earlier installment, you can find the prologue here and part one here. You can also search and read old entries by using the left hand navigation table to search the archive.

Saturday, June 23rd
Hamilton, OH
7:00AM (EST)

Awake now. Not happy about this. Awake and unhappy. Must move. Cats. Cats biting face. Biting. Biting.

Saturday, June 23rd
I-275, about 30 miles west of Hamilton, OH
8:30AM (EST)

Slowly coming to. Casey helped* us attach the car the carrier and we're underway. The keys have been dropped off at the Shadow Creek lease office and we're slowly making our way down I-275 towards Indianapolis. And by slowly making our way, I mean not moving very fast down the road. The Suck's highest speed seems to be somewhere between "Sucks" and "Slam-My-Fist-Through-The-Windshield Slow." It seems to be topping out at around 60MPH... downhill.

[*Read: Did everything]

Saturday, June 23rd
I-275, about 31 miles west of Hamilton, OH
8:31AM (EST)

An identical 27-foot U-Haul pulling a similar-sized car just passed easily going 70mph. It must be this truck. Man, I sure hope we don't get passed like that again.

Saturday, June 23rd
I-275, about 32 miles west of Hamilton, OH
8:32AM (EST)

We just got passed like that again.

Saturday, June 23rd
Harrison, OH (Exit 1 - I-74)
9:20AM (EST)

Stopped off to eat at a Cracker Barrel. We're both exhausted, but now happily filled with carbs of all shapes and sizes. I also procured a much-needed cup of coffee. With caffeine surging through my veins I will be able to put another hundred or so miles behind us. I never appreciated the "Trucks, RVs, and Campers" welcome sign on the Cracker Barrel lot until today. The Suck is massive and a bear to maneuver in and out of parking lots, so the big lot at Cracker Barrel was a nice thing to find.

Saturday, June 23rd
West of Indianapolis, IN (I-70)
10:10AM (EST)

Just discovered The Suck wasn't fully gassed up before we left. We've only gone a hundred or so miles and had to put gas in it. Since it wasn't full the last time, we can't gauge the gas milage yet, but it's not looking good. Not so much.

Saturday, June 23rd
Somewhere in IL (I-70)
12:10PM (CST)

Refilled. Gas mileage so far: 5/mpg. Yes. We are able to drive 5 miles for every $3.20 of gas we pump. It costs aprox. $150 to fill the tank. At 5mpg, the gas alone should cost somewhere around $900. That woke me up.

Saturday, June 23rd
Somewhere in Missouri (I-70)
3:10PM (CST)

An alarm just went off on the dashboard of The Suck. It read "Check Guages!" and made an annoying beeping sound that is played through the car stereo speakers. We checked the gauges and everything looked fine. It went away about 30 seconds after it started. Odd.

Saturday, June 23rd
Somewhere in Kansas (I-70)
5:10PM (CST)

I picked up a flier on some hotels throughout the West. One of the places looked pretty good, so I called and reserved a room for around $50/night. The nice thing is it has easy access to the highway, a large parking (in which to stow The Suck), and free internet. So, I will write more when we get Laurence, KS. Woot!

Saturday, June 23rd
Lawrence, Kansas (I-70)
7:10PM (CST)

The hotel had a tiny a parking lot. Not a big one. I pulled the truck in, found out that it was too small to actually turn The Suck around without backing up, tried backing up, failed, tried again and again. Luckily this dude came whipping into the parking lot and walked up to the cab saying, "Hey! I used to be a truck-driver. Need some help." "Yes. Yes we do."

He had the thing turned around in about 5 minutes. It was amazing to watch. He did it with about 10 inch clearances on every corner of the truck / car.

We went into the hotel and found it's the wrong hotel. The conversation went like this.

"Having some trouble with that truck, eh?"
"Yeah, you noticed?"
"Ok. We have a reservastion under Fox."
"No you don't have a reservation or no my last name is not Fox?"
"No reservation."
"I just called here and reserved it."
"Do you have a reservation number?"
"No, I was in a giant, rattling, stinking truck with no pen. I didn't write it down."
"Sorry, no reservation."
"Ok..." I pull out the ad and show it to him, "This is your hotel, right?"
"It's our hotel, but the number is wrong."
"It's wrong?"
"Who's number is it then?"
"I have no idea."

So, I call the number and it turns out to be a different hotel in the town. For some reason, the hotel had changed it's name and telephone number.

Saturday, June 23rd
Lawrence, Kansas (I-70)
10:00PM (CST)

We've finished eating a delivered pizza from Pizza Hut. It was so good. I'm guessing the perception of quality of the food is due more to our being very hungry than any actual objective goodiness of the food. So tired... so we sleep.

Sunday, June 23rd
Denver, CO

We've arrived! Several things have happened, but I'm so late in returning to this post that I've forgotten most it. It mostly involved driving, filling up the gas tank over and over, and various warning lights blinking on and off on the dash. In couple years, I'll probably get around to writing the unpacking story. Oh! Doesn't that sound like fun? Reading an endless blog post about people unpacking. Man oh man! We do know how to keep our reader's interest here and DropMyStraw.

Epilogue: We arrived safely. Nothing was damaged in transit. We even successfully talked U-Haul into refunding nearly several hundred dollars due to all of our inconveniences. In retrospect, I'm still glad we decided to do it the way we did. Moving all of our belongs across the country makes for a much better story than it does actually experiencing it. If end up moving back to GR, I'm not sure how we will accomplish the task. I think we'll either sell everything we own and just drive home in our car, or we'll bite the bullet and let one of those crazy moving companies move us.

Our lease is up in December of '07, so it looks like we'll be moving somewhere here in the city. We just can't get enough of it, apparently.

Friday, October 05, 2007

How incredibly infruriating....

(Image Source:

If you haven't heard, a 32 year old woman from Minnesota was found guilty of illegally file-sharing 24 songs. The jury decided that each song was worth $9,250! So, she must pay $222,000. I think that her lawyer sucked! He took the stance that she did not do it, which was proven by her MAC and IP addresses, password protected PC, and email addresses over the years using the nickname that she used on KaZaA. One side note, I hate KaZaA, but I digress.

What really pisses me off about this is the music industry once again bullying people of who OWN songs and how we take away money from the artists when we copy and share. Um no, not so. It seems that they must forget that the industry usually gets anywhere from 70-90% of the profits...are we still bitching about the artist not getting any money. Also, how can you own the bits in my computer and then charge me over $9000 per song.

Richard Gabriel, a lawyer and spokesperson for the recording industry, was quoted as saying ""This does send a message, I hope, that downloading and distributing our recordings is not okay." Nice gloating on his part. Way to take down a 32 year-old-woman downloading 24 songs, boss! You sure did show her!

Hmmm....that is an interesting thought. This is totally the appropriate time to protest this kind of litigation. Other than not buying from the big record labels what should we do??

[Matt: I thought I'd throw this link into the discussion: A very in depth collection of Wired articles expanding on the trail Mandy is ranting about (not unreasonably, I must add) and all of the details that went into it. My stance on large corporations suing their customers over downloading music that helps them makes money is well documented in the annals (or is it anals?) of DropMyStraw. It really does suck that people like the defendant have to take the wrap (sp?) for the rest of us to wake up and realize how utterly and truly fucked up our copyright, patent, and, for that matter, legal system has become--how desperately we need to take action to reform the creative substructure of our culture. For a totally non-jaded, unbiased, totally objective blog that delves into the very real and troublesome issues of copyright reform, I can't offer a better link than Sorry for the interruption.]

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Grandma Updates & The UK

Quick Grandma Update: She is doing much better than expected. It turns out the initial diagnosis of heart attack + stroke was a little off. It turns out she had neither. Why she was found unconscious, with a dresser drawer on her back, and a broken hip, we're not exactly sure yet. In any case, and in spite of her broken hip, she's doing better. Tomorrow she goes in to have surgery to pin it all back together. This is a bit risky, due to her age and such, but it has to be done. I will post news as I get it.

(Our temporary office in the UK)

UK: So, yeah, I flew out to the UK for 5+ days. It was a fun yet baffling ordeal. England is a land of many different peoples and geography. In my mental preparation for the trip, I substituted Canada for the UK, so I'd have some idea what to expect. My thinking was: It will be just like America, only slightly, vaguely different. This assumption was incorrect.

My trip was essentially an exercise in learning how the business works, how to deal with the Brits, and whether or not I like them and they like me. At the end of the week, we were both mutually satisfied in the possibilities of a future relationship so they decided to make me a good offer and I decided to accept.

(Me, stuck in the Houston airport due to a delayed Continental flight)

In lieu of writing up a long explanation of my adventures, I have come up with something quick and easily digestible. A top 10 list. But, before I start, here's the obligatory Pulp Fiction quote.


But, you know what the funniest thing about Europe is?


It's the little differences. I mean, they got the same shit over there that they got
here, only there it's a just a little different.



1. Cost

They use pounds sterling as their standard of currency, but they don't readjust for its strength against the US dollar. Right now, the ratio of dollars to pounds is about 2:1. That means, if you brought a pound back to the states and converted it into American dollars, you'd get $2. Their pound is worth two of our dollars. However, everything still costs the same in pounds. In short; it is so friggen expensive.

Example: A t-shirt costs 20 pounds, just like how in the states it would cost $20. Except, the 20 pounds is really worth $40. A coke still costs 1.50, but it's 1.50 in pounds. So, it's really $3 when you convert.

2. No Ice-Machines in the Hotels

I thought my hotel had an ice-machine. It didn't. I asked several coworkers if this is odd. Their response was, "Ice Machine? As in... a machine made out of ice or a machine that makes ice?" To which I would respond, "I'll take that as a no."

3. No Clock in the Hotel Room

Same as above, except dealing with clocks and the lack thereof. No clocks in hotel rooms. That made my getting adjusted to the time change all the more strange confounding.

"'Ello, front desk!"
"Yeah, can I get a wake up call in one hour."
"In one hour, did you say?"
"Yes. I want to take a nap, but you don't have any clocks in your rooms."
"Ah yes! One hour it is. G'bye!"

4. Trouser-Press

While the Brits have no problems with their hotels having neither clocks nor ice-machines, they do find it neccessary to have trouser-presses in each room. This is a machine that lets one iron their pants. This should tell you everything you need to know about England. They don't care so much about arriving places on time, so long as their pants are ironed and ironed well.

5. Driving on the Left Side of the Road

Yes, yes. Americans always say it's strange. They always carry on about how it's bizarre and unnatural. For once, I completely agree with the status quo. It's so strange. Imagine riding on the left side of car, where the steering wheel is on a US car, while the passengers drives you at break-neck speeds down the left lane of a tiny highway. It would be unnerving enough, let alone being ridiculously tired and jet-lagged while it's happening.

6. Tea Not Coffee

It's true.

7. Everything is Old

I ate lunch in a pub that was older than the United States of America.

8. Everyone Manages to be Cheerful and Depressed at the same Time

Pink Floyd calls it, "Quiet Desperation." It's also true. I don't know how they manage to pull it off. It's very disoncerting and funny at the same time.

9. Everyone Swears

Nice old lady at the grocery store trying to using cash register, "Oh fuckin' hell."
Receptionist at the hotel, "There's not much 'round 'ere. You are in the fuckin' hills, aren't you?"

10. No food. Just Beer.

These blokes go out, every night it seems, drink 3-5 pints of really good beer, and go to sleep about 1-2AM. Then they're back at work at 7:30 bright-eyed and ready for work. This may give some insight into how they manage that whole cheerful-yet-depressed thing.

And to wrap up this post, here is a video I meant to post while I was in England, but forgot about it until I got back home. Enjoy!