Can anyone really tame it?

My wife has the following note taped to the cabinet above her computer - I'll ask her about it and post what it really means, but for now, just revel in the confusion.
Order wild asparagus from NME

Would you mind terribly if I consumed your soul?

The local religious place where my friend is chaplain (a chaplain?) has the most polite MAILER-DAEMON I've ever met. After getting her e-mail address wrong, here's the reply it sent me -
Hi. This is the qmail-send program at w1307.hostcentric.net.
I'm afraid I wasn't able to deliver your message to the following addresses.
This is a permanent error; I've given up. Sorry it didn't work out.

Logic puzzle o' the day

There are 2 men in a boat. They have three cigarrettes, but no lighter. How do they smoke?

"Lumpy"? "Leper"?

M.Bro and I spent all of Friday evening and well into Friday night watching the first season of "The L Word" on DVD - which I imagine will continue most of this afternoon, since we have four episodes left to watch. I'd read good reviews, but we don't have Showtime and I'd never seen it before - after the first episode, M.Bro asked, "These good reviews were all by men, weren't they?"

On trial

Tonight is my first night at the Cronometro thursday night time trial series. Brent and I (and maybe Jordan, if he stops being whiny and decides to actually ride the $1000+ wheelset he just bought) are going to warm up on the way to Paoli, and then throw down with the Cronometro dorks in their aero helmets and skinsuits. It's only a 10 mile TT, so I'm shooting for sub-27:30.

If everything goes according to plan, I'll build a larger coalition of employees as the weeks go by. It's been suggested that we could accomplish the same objective in a lot less time by just measuring our penises.

Update: I posted a short race report a few minutes ago.

Awkward much?

A company is here cleaning the second-floor windows at work today, and I have a window-cleaner-guy dangling from the ceiling four feet away from me, on the other side of the glass. I don't know how to handle this - do I make eye contact? Is it rude not to wave or give him a thumbs-up? Does he resent me or pity me for my desk-job?

How do you split a trophy between three people?

At my summer job, I do general customer service for a bike company(via phone and online) and dealer support. Today, Brent, Adam and I provided some above-and-beyond-the-call customer service for which we deserve some recognition.

About 30 minutes ago, a customer called the customer service line in tears - her downhill bike's rear disc adaptor (a proprietary part) had broken, no dealer near Boston had one in stock, and she is leaving for a race this afternoon. Brent (the home-office sales rep for Mass) and I brainstormed, and Brent realized that Adam (the travelling rep for the Boston area) might be going to the same race as Ashley. Our plan was to overnight him the adaptor and have him bring it to the race for her. After a call to Adam, it turns out that we didn't even need to do that - Adam has the part in his basement! We called Ashley and told her where to meet him Saturday morning - and she cried again. That's customer service, baby.

Is someone getting the best of you, Dave?

If you blindly played me the first 20 seconds of the new Foo Fighters single, which I heard on the radio for the first time tonight, my guesses would be -

#1 - Bryan Adams (that's right - BRYan, not Ryan)
#2 - Aerosmith
#43 - Foo Fighters

C'mon, Dave Grohl - you're my last tenuous link to Nirvana! Don't get all mainstream-ey and lame!

Max-o-Mania - not quite there yet

Hello internet friends -

As some of you know, M.Bro and I are racing the five-races-in-three-days Max-o-Mania triathlon series at the end of July. Before we qualify to race, however, we need to raise $1000 for the Lion’s Eye Research Foundation.

And we really need your help, because we only have a few more days to do it.

LERF is a non-profit organization that specializes in early eye screenings for children, eye-and-tissue organ donation, and glaucoma research. We’ve donated the first $100 ourselves and raised another $350 so far, but we need to raise the last $550 by Wednesday, June 1st. And like that one lady that sings that one song, we ain't too proud to beg, sweet darlin'.

No donation is too small (or, for that matter, too big) – we appreciate and LERF appreciates anything you can spare. Checks can be written to “Ultramax Events” and mailed to us at the address below, or you can donate with a Visa or Mastercard through Paypal (www.paypal.com) or by contacting us at one of the phone numbers below. If you donate through Paypal, please send your donation to brozek[at]polisci.wisc.edu, and Jason will get your contribution to the right place. If you’d rather donate with a credit card over the phone, we’ll submit your card # and donation through Ultramax’s secure server.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Jason and Missy Brozek

1317C Tompkins Dr
Madison, WI five three seven one six
six zero eight - four four two - one one four two

Two races, two reports, lots of pictures

My race reports from this morning's trail run and mountain bike race, accompanied by many fine photos, are up on my other blog. Short version: I choked on mud, and may or may not still have some in my ear. Nope, I'm clean.

Why don't you just sleep on a cot at the store?

I'm right to be annoyed that M.Bro's boss snapped at her for "not being available on [her] cell phone enough", right? I mean, if a boss expects to be able to reach you when you're not at work or home, then that boss needs to pay for the cell phone herself. There is nothing about Missy's job that would necessitate being available at all times. Sure, it's nice if you happen to be there when she calls, but if you're not on the clock, then does she have a right to be pissed when you're not in reach?

Star Wars questions

I have two questions -

1) Why are there only two Sith at a time? If they're just Jedi that have turned to the dark side, then why aren't there hundreds of Sith like there are hundreds of Jedi?

2) "Princess" Leia? Am I to understand that Senator Bail Organa, champion of democracy and Empire-hater extraordinaire, not only allowed Alderaan to become a monarchy in the 20 years between III and IV, but also accepted the throne? Even if that's the case, Leia tells Vader in episode IV that she's a representative of the Imperial Senate. Does that strike you as nepotism? What sort of a weird government does Alderaan have anyway? A British-style democracy with a figurehead monarch? Would that make Prince Harry the U.K.'s ambassador to the U.N.?

Star Wars Episode III review

Spice, T-Bone and Herr Goebbels will not enjoy this movie, although that’s not going to stop me from forcing them to see it next weekend at the PS Dept Second-tier-nerd Extravaganza. They won’t like it because it’s not a good film – a good film has well-written dialogue, a well-paced plot, and solid acting all around. This movie, on the other hand, had clunky dialogue, a last-20-minutes-heavy plot, and scenes carried entirely by Natalie Portman.

That said, however, I loved it. I loved it in spite of all of those things, because unlike Spice, T-Bone, and Herr Goebbels, I appreciated it as part of the Star Wars mythology. Spice isn’t going to get a chill down her spine when Padme tells Anakin she’s pregnant, T-Bone isn’t going to be giddy when he notices that Anakin’s ship has the same cockpit window that the TIE-fighters in later episodes, and Herr Goebbels isn’t going to clap after Darth Vader takes his first raspy breaths. It made me excited to come home and watch A New Hope again (which I'll be doing right after posting this) – mostly just so I could re-watch the scene where Darth Vader comes into the rebel blockade runner’s hallway for the first time. Even though the acrobatics will be a letdown, I’m stoked to watch the Obi Wan-Darth Vader lightsaber duel in the hangar, and the Luke-Vader duel on the Death Star – even though I don’t really have any new information after seeing Episode III, I’m pretty sure the scenes will be very different to me.

George Lucas had a pretty tough task – as I commented on the drive back to MV’s house this morning, it’s not like there was a lot of wiggle room in the plot. Count Dooku and General Grievous were almost non-entities - other than fight scenes, I don't think they had more than 30 seconds of combined screen time. The separitist army was something new, but it was also really just a B-plot for Palpatine's evil-ness (which you could see coming off him in rays - like stink in a comic strip). There were about a half dozen questions/loose ends that Lucas had to answer/tie up, and with the exception of punting on Qui-gon's ghost, I thought he did a pretty solid job.

My one-line review: poor film, fantastic movie experience.

Also, at M.Bro’s suggestion, I’m going to make an iron-on shirt that says “Beam me up, dark Vader!” – let me know if you want one.

The Sith do indeed get their revenge

It's 3:09 a.m., and unlike 3:09 a.m. six years ago and 3:09 a.m. three years ago, I'm not disappointed. I'll write more later - we're leave for Madison in four or five hours, and I'm so tired that I can't think of a clever way to write how tired I am. Beam me up, dark Vader!

Photoblogging part deux




"Gee-sin" and niece-in-law Anya.




"I shoot rays of adorability from my eyes. I can stun from 20 yards - 30 if the wind's at my back."




My parents are building a cabin and lake (that's right - building the lake) on some property near their house. My dad built the dam in the background to block runoff from the higher ground to the west. The ground under the water is slimy, which he tells me is a good sign. I suggested running a hose from the house to fill it faster, but no one wanted to string six miles of garden hoses together. Eventually the water level will be near the top of the dam, and will extend 1/8 mile down the narrow, snakey valley to the west.




With KyleBro's help, I broke ground on some mountain bike trails near the lake. It's a long-term project, made longer-term when the weed-wacker's string broke on a tree stump. Knock it off with your Nebraska stereotypes - it's actually going to be a pretty challenging trail.




More trail-building at the lake




This four feet of trail took three hours to build, then we knocked off for the night.




MBro's family has a creek (pronounced "crick" if you live there) near their house - this is a car wreck from 1954 that is forever preserved on the south bank.




Before living at the crick-house, MBro lived at this house, which is now abandoned. And a little scary.




The front of the house




Better photo of the window and decorative woodwork around it




This is a barn. People store farm stuff in them. Or cows.




MBro has a scar on her arm from the corner of this tin door. Ask her to see it.

Blogspital

Blogging will now be coming to you from the St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Lincoln, NE. Photos from the last few days are being developed at Walgreen's as I type, so there will be photo-blogging later this afternoon.

Down on the farm

Please join me for a guided tour of my boyhood home...



The original house was built in the early 20th century by my great-grandfather after he immigrated from Poland. It's obscured by the tree, but the taller center portion of the roofline was the original house. My parents built on a living room and bedroom (to the left in the photo) when I was six or seven, and the expanded kitchen and garage (to the right) when I was fifteen or sixteen. My sister is young enough not to remember the original house, and my brother is young enough not to remember when there was only one addition.





This is the gazebo in the front yard that Missy and I had our wedding ceremony under. I hewed it from a single piece of wood.





Behind the gazebo and across the road - yes, it's a real-live functioning farm. My dad and his brothers farm just under 2100 acres of corn and soybeans on about 25 quarter-mile plots of land. Unlike the gorgeous winding paved roads in Wisconsin (built to get milk to the market), almost all the non-highway roads in Nebraska are gravel and set up in a one-mile grid system to allow farms to be split up into manageable quarter-mile plots of land.





This is the machinery shed, aka "the building". My parents' house isn't the central farm location for their corporation - at my grandparents' former house (where my uncle now lives), there are three other buildings this size and a much larger building that serves as a machine shop - (creatively, "the shop"). I spent many hours as a youth at "the shop", but unfortunately came away with no knowledge of how to fix my own car.





Wouldn't this look great in black and white?





My parents' outside dog, Daisy, who had to be tied to her doghouse last night. My grandparents and various other relatives were over last night and Daisy, in her boundless exuberance, would have knocked them down like so many bowling pins. The inside dog, Holly, is significanly smaller and yippier, and I refuse to encourage that sort of behavior by blogging pictures of her





The kitten commune sans adults. In person, it's a seething mass of adorableness.





KyleBro, on his very first solo drive to school, to play bass clarinet at the high school graduation ceremony.





MomBro (USPS employee)





KimBro (college student, future counselor) in foreground, DadBro (farmer) in background.

Brave New Farm

My parents have a herd of cats on their farm - semi-domesticated cats, not livestock cats. Four of these cats, all of which had a litter of kittens between one and two weeks ago, are raising the 14-18 kittens in a commune. They share feeding, bathing, education, driving to soccer practice - just the craziest thing I've ever seen. I'll post photos if I can, because it really has to be seen to be believed.

Update: Here's the photo -


Neblogska

After a rain-soaked, wind-blown 9 1/2 hour drive through southern Minnesota (the high point of which was hearing The Current through an actual radio), M.Bro and I are at my parents' house in Nebraska. There will be Nebraska-related blogging all week long!

Coincidence? Or bungled CIA operation?

Two strange things happened to me over the last 12 hours, and I strongly suspect a poorly-executed CIA operation. The junior operative in charge of my file is probably facing a disciplinary hearing as I type this.

#1) Upon arriving home last night, my answering machine was flashing "9". Like any normal person's would, my stomach sank - nine messages can only mean some sort of emergency, right? Wrong. Eight of the nine were filled with beeping - yes, just beeping. According to the caller ID, they were all unknown name/number and came in between 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. Hmmm, we thought, but decided not to worry about it since they had stopped almost two hours earlier. This morning at 6:33, however, the crazy beeping returned - every ten minutes until I took the phone off the hook. Shorted-out wiretap? Frankly, I don't know what else it could be.

#2) After failing to tap my phone, apparently Big Brother turned his sights on my laptop. (which is where they should have gone in the first place - I only talk to my parents and telemarketers on my phone, and rarely do I reveal national security secrets to them.) When I booted up my laptop this morning, I clicked my name on the login screen and went to the bathroom while my desktop loaded. When I sat back down, I immediately thought I was drunk. "But I don't otherwise feel drunk," is what I thought. "And I haven't been drinking." The screen was oriented left to right instead of top to bottom - yes, completely sideways. The start bar was on the right-hand side of my screen, the icons were rotated 90 degrees, and (the craziest part) my pointer moved with the new orientation - left was up, down was right, slavery was freedom, cats were dogs - crazy. I (slowly) got the pointer over the start button and rebooted - only to have the screen now come up exceptionally large. Like Gulliver in Brobdignag, everything was far too big for me. Fortunately, unlike the sideways screen, I know how to fix icons and text that are too big.

Everything seems to be fine - for the moment. I'm listening very closely for double-clicks when I use the cell phone though.

Policy Analysis Market

I spent all afternoon reading news stories from July-December 2003 about the rise and very-quickly-subsequent death of DARPA's Policy Analysis Market. Someone should write a book about it - if no one volunteers by the time my dissertation is finished, maybe I'll take one for the team. Or, now that I think about it, my advisor did suggest taking on a dissertation side project to avoid burnout - so how does "All Bets Are Off: The Rise and Fall of the Terror Futures Market" strike you? It should sell, what with "terror" in the title and all.

Oh, blinker - lightbulb of mystery

When you flick your turn signal on, are you signaling your actions? Your intentions? Your aspirations?

This is the kind of conversation M.Bro and I have in the car. It turns out that I signal what I'm going to do, while she signals what she'd like to do.

Junk piled on crap stacked on junk

This makes me have a sad face.



May 6, 1954 - Roger Bannister breaks the 4:00/mile barrier, a time said to be physiologically impossible for the human body. Click here to watch an old-timey news reel of the run. The current record is barely 15 seconds faster - Hicham El Guerrouj, from Morocco, ran a 3:43.13 in Rome in 1999.

Zoom Rival

There was a new Eastbay catalog waiting for me when I got home. I wonder if $20 for a pair of spikes would be a good investment for the Fleet Feet track program I'm doing? It's been years since I've worn track spikes - I wish I would have just kept the ones I raced with in high school. The Zoom Miler is certainly a trendier and flashier spike than the Zoom Rival, but there's no way I can spend $90 on a pair of shoes I'd wear for an hour a week. I like the red/white Rivals, but as you can see on the link, they're also available in white/gold and black/chrome.



Man, I wish you could see the html code for this post - it's a mess.

Edited to add: The consensus on TNO seems to be "no" - although they're ignoring the fact that I really want them.

Parallel Markets

I think I had a little flash of genius on the drive home from Dissertateurs sans Frontieres tonight. I've often thought an experimental online market for conflict (a la the Iowa Electronic Market) would be an interesting project, but I didn't really have any justification for it - I'm looking at real markets, what use do I have for a fake one? It hit me around the Monona exit - some of the biggest problems I've been struggling with (what political events are markets most sensitive to? How do they respond? What do those responses look like?) might be answered with a parallel market system. That is, by looking at how an online experimental market and a real-life market anticipate and respond to the same real-life events. It not only helps me get at answers to important questions, it might point to some of the static in the real-life market's signals. And it would be a fun funding proposal to write! And, I hope, clever and novel enough that the proposal might actually be read!

I'm at the stage in the new idea process where everything looks rosy and I haven't started to see the potential problems or obvious pitfalls - just let me enjoy it for a few more minutes.

Age/Sex-adjusted timing

There's some interesting stuff going on at this weekend's Lake Monona 20K run.

Free cheese!

I just got a free extra slice of brie because the cute barista burned my baguette - score!

Fallen Idol

Oh good christ - I'm gonna be watching this tonight, aren't I? How shameful and sad. For me.

Well _this_ tattoo is useless!

This story, taken from Ann Althouse's blog, entertains me for multiple reasons - partly because I like to imagine goths with silly tattoos, but mainly because of the final couple paragraphs -
Revelation was actually a thinly disguised political tract, with the names of those being criticized changed to numbers to protect the authors and early Christians from reprisals. "It's a very political document," Dr. Aitken said. "It's a critique of the politics and society of the Roman empire, but it's written in coded language and riddles."

616, for example, is the Roman Emperor Nero according to the story. And what about the passage about 69 tall fools being massacred by 69 pale ghosts? Well that's just the biblical author's thinly-veiled dislike for frat guys coming through in the text.

Update: from a poster on Ann Althouse's blog that sounds like he knows what he's talking about -
It all depends on whether Nero's name is being transliterated into Hebrew as Nero or Neron. Adding a final "n" was common practice in that period. And then once transliterated into Hebrew, the values of the letters of Nero(n)'s name were added together to arrive at the sum of either 616, or 666, respectively. This practice is known as gematria - a way of deciphering information from ancient Hebrew texts based on commonalities in the numerical significance of certain words.

Given the variant spellings of the name in first century Hebrew, it's not surprising alternate traditions arose. I don't think there is yet any way to determine which one is first, just guess work. Simultaneous strikes me as logical. And this, after all, is a 3rd century text fragment. Not an original.

That guy

I know this guy! He goes to my gym!

I'm with this person of normal intelligence

You know what I think would sell? Anti-anti-establishment t-shirts - either for the ironic goth or the normal ironic person. I have a couple ideas in mind -

"You laugh at me because I'm different
I laugh at you because I'm insecure"

"Go ahead and turn away
I'm probably not going to do a trick"

Charlie White

Instead of pushing everything 18 inches down on this page, I posted some of Charlie White's photography here.

This little boy doesn't like it, but you will. Check it out, yo.


Hurricane Bob and the Boston Marathon

"Hurricane" Bob, a columnist for Xtri.com, raced the Boston Marathon on April 18. I kept getting sand or something in my eyes while I was reading the race report - stupid sand making my eyes water.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

I wonder how many years of training it would take me to qualify for Boston? My qualifying time is 3:17, which would be 7:31 miles. For comparison, my 5-mile Crazylegs pace was 7:34/mile. Can I shave :03/mile and run another 21.2 of them?

Ze legz - zey iz craaaazy, no?




My Crazylegs report is up on my racing blog. A race report from the John Muir 3-hour will be up sometime this afternoon. Right now - breakfast, and lots of it.

Update: My John Muir race report is up now too.

There are also photos from the John Muir race up at Printroom.com. They're copyrighted, though, so I can only put them here as links -

Mark
Eric
Shelley
Lee
Chuck(note: on a cyclocross bike!)
Jess
Some jackass on an ugly bike
Chuck again

Dueling Pianos: Review

We spent Friday night at the members-and-their-guests-only Nakoma Country Club (motto: Leave your bluejeans at home. Seriously.) for dinner and Dueling Pianos. The Scrapbook Superstore had a guest teacher, Sue, in town from Minnesota, so this was ostensibly a business dinner. That means, I suppose, everything was deductible for Rita, and everything was on the store!

The pre-show entertainment was Michael (the husband of M.Bro's boss) trying to buy us massive quantities of alcohol. With two races the next day, I passed. M.Bro was polite, but still ended up with three or four cosmos over the course of an hour. He's a pusher.

The pre-show downer was trying to have a conversation with guest-teacher Sue. Sue, belying her reputation as a good teacher, seems to confuse conversations with interrogations. "Do you have kids, Sue?" "Yes - three boys." "Oh, (blah, blah, stock conversation about how hard it is to raise boys)!" "Yes - three boys."

(It turns out, though, that Sue really is a good teacher. M.Bro told me last night (after Sue's two Saturday classes), that she got rave reviews. Crazy-talk, I say. "Now you fold the paper." "Why do we do that, Sue?" "To make it folded.")

Dinner - cashew-crusted chicken breast with wild rice and scalloped potato soup. "How is yours, Sue?" "Fine." The highlight of dinner - UW football coach and athletic director was sitting two tables ahead of us. When I asked him how his fish was, he glared at me. "How's your fish, Barry?" "Fine."

I wasn't sure what to expect for Dueling Pianos. Well, that's a lie - I kind of expected Dueling Banjos on piano. It turned out to be a comedy show built largely around audience participation. They sang requests, had awfully scripted little bits of banter, and got people from the first few table to dance and sing on stage. Their piano/singing performance was top-notch, but I think their show was stymied by the wealthiness and general disdain of their audience. Many, many people walked out during the show. "I, say, Nancy - one of those young men has a vulgar mouth. What say we have them fetch the Bentley and we'll off?" "Fine."

One of the things that really struck me throughout the night is that wealthy middle-aged women are exceedingly thin. They're like teenagers with their taut abs and trim legs. M.Bro and I came up with a list of possible explanations, including plastic surgery, social-network expectations, the selection effect, and having plenty of time for the gym by not having to work.