Friday, October 31, 2008

Physics and Bullets

I'm trying to add weight to my rifle so that I can increase it's accuracy and precision without destroying my right shoulder. So I started to think about how much weight I should add. And then I remembered my physics.

My rifle weighs about 8 lbs (3.6 kg) and generates a bullet muzzle velocity of 3000 feet per second. I'm not absolutely concerned with the actual force that the gun exerts on me, inasmuch as I am about the final velocity of the gun (since acceleration equals the change in velocity with respect to time, and initial velocity is zero). It's this backwards movement that makes it hard to aim and hard to fire accurately.
So, if momentum is conserved in that the bullet's forward momentum is equal to the rifles backward momentum, calculating the momentum of the bullet will have the same absolute value of the rifle's momentum. 3000 feet per second equates to 914 meters per second, and a 130 grain bullet is equal to 8.43 grams. Multiplying those two together and using kilograms, I get the bullet's momentum to be 7.699 kgm/s, which means that a rifle with a weight of 3.6 kilograms moves backwards at 2.139 m/s. Increasing the weight of the rifle will decrease the actual velocity of the rifle, although the momentum will still be equal. I want the rifle to move at 1.5 m/s, so I should increase the weight of the rifle so that it weighs 5.13 kg or 11 pounds.

For right now I think I'm going to remove the recoil pad, put lead shot in a sock or sturdy cloth bag, and see if the rifle performs better. It can't hurt, but it's crushingly difficult to hold the rifle steady out past 100 yards. I can shoot from a sitting position groups that are .3 inches at 25 yards. But that's like saying you can hold your breath for 15 seconds; it's not very impressive. But, that kind of accuracy should theoretically hold out so that the groups I shoot at 100 yards would be about 1 minute of arc, or a 1" group. But it's just not happening. The rifle is too light for me to hold steady; my idea of aiming is to wait for the crosshairs to flit across the bullring upon which I squeeze the trigger quickly lest the rifle's line of position moves down 4 or 5 inches from where I want the bullet to impact. Even if I hold steady, the bullet either strays, or goes off target completely.

It's unreasonable to demand a lower end hunting rifle that can shoot bullets all day long into a .5" ring at 200 yard, but if a rifle can't shoot at least a 3" group with good ammunition at 100 yards(and admittedly a group like that isn't considered great at 100 yards), then you have a serious problem on your hands. And unfortunately, I managed to hit a cardboard box that was 16"x24" twice at 100 yards. Tomorrow I'll get the lead out and see if it improves my performance.

Napoleon Dynamite

Apparently this guy has never seen Napoleon Dynamite! Otherwise, he'd have known just how dangerous those things are.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Kunming Guyi 2006 Jingmai Spring

This tea has really changed since I first tasted it.  It could be my dry storage or it could be the additional months added to the bing.  Whatever the reason, the taste has gone from strong medicinal camphor with a sweet finish, to more refined tastes.  This sheng starts off with a prominent green taste that melds with a smooth creamy taste and mild sweetness. Camphor is still present, but it's more of an accent.  

The bitterness of the first few infusions has given way to an assertive astringency that eventually yields to a green tasting tea with mild sweetness, and progresses to an creamy, airy sheng in later infusions.  In other words, the tea's tastes gradually progress.

Caffeine-wise, this'll blow your head off if you're not careful. 

So to sum up the tastes in three words: astringent, green, sweet.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Classical Halloween

I'm trying to decide what would be a perfect mix CD for Halloween music. So far I've got Hector Berlioz's Simphonie Fantastique and Night on Bald Mountain which scared the hell out of me as a kid when I saw it on Disney's Fantasia, Ave Satani from The Omen, Mozart's Requiem (At least the Dies Irae portion), Mussorgsky's The Hut on Fowl's Legs, Chopin's Mazurka No.3 in F#m Op 59, Vivaldi's Winter from The Four Seasons, Toccata and Fugue in D minor by Bach, Der Erlkonig by Schubert, Palladio Allegretto by Karl Jenkins (which you'd recognize as the DeBeers' commercial music), Arnold Schoenberg's Serenade Op. 24 (He of the Second Viennese School and the 12 tone chromatic scale), Franz Liszt's Mephisto Waltz
and finally Chopin's sublime Fantasy Impromptu.


Today I got to help 'volunteer' for a librarian at a middle school. They were planning for a book sale and most of the books and crap (and some of the stuff really was crap that had no educational value) were in cardboard boxes. The librarian showed me where it all was and said, "You can just set them on the tables with the tablecloths. I really don't care." I was tempted to say, "I really don't care either," since I'd planned on biking and lifting weights but somehow got roped into doing this instead. So I dutifully unloaded the boxes and glanced at some of the titles. I noticed that some of the titles were far below a middle school reading level. Then again, I had no idea what the average reading level for the school was.
So I worked my way from one table to the other while the librarian chatted on the phone until I'd finished my handiwork and stepped back to take a look at it in all of its stacked book glory. God it was hideous. My display would've sent Christopher Lowell into tears, yelling, "EEEEEEeeeee! And with all the decorating information out today! No excuse! No excuse!" As a matter of fact, when I told the librarian that I was done with the display, she walked into the room and took a step back, shielding her eyes from all the ugliness overwhelming her sight.

But what's a guy like me to do? Arrange books in alphabetical order? Arrange them by subject? Color-coordinate them? Actually those are pretty good ideas, but too bad I didn't think of those when I was actually bringing the books out of boxes.

Tomorrow I get to volunteer again, but this time it's something worthwhile that I'm actually good at doing. I'll be helping kids with their math practice problems and generally overseeing.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Yixing the Day After & Before the First Cup

Yesterday I cracked open my bing of Kunming Guyi factory's 2006 Jingmai Spring sheng pu'er. I like it; it's sweet and medicinal so far. But I used it in my little yixing teapot and the camphor scents of that specific tea seem to have lingered in the pot which makes for an interesting cup of Xiaguan Tibetan Flame brick!

I decided to also read online about the different ideas for maintaining yixing teapots. The information tag I got with my purchase was laconic. It simply said, "heat water, add one teaspoon to pot, steep 1 minute. Empty tea leaves when done and rinse teapot with water."
Very little information as to where the clay was sourced, how it was made, what benefits it has over porcelain, and all that jazz.
I found this odd, considering this is Chapel Hill; all the health food stores have massive poster displays on stands that go into great length with details and photos on where you're buying your food from, the farmer's name, the farmer's region's troubles with politics or threats of logging, and why buying this farmer's crop will allow him to have an extra goat or three chickens more. And then I wonder if all the store's chains have this poster display with the same amount of ink and paper, and then I wonder if the potato farmers have the same displays for them along with the bok choy farmers, and then I begin to wonder if perhaps the store would've saved money in the long run by simply buying the farmer a goat or three chickens with the amount of money spent on paper and ink and just have a handwritten sign saying, "GOOD FOOD."

So, buying something food related that doesn't have a display that goes into great depth about the digestive problems of the crops' earthworms is mighty suspicious. So, to the internet I went to find out more about the care of yixing.

And the amount of info I found was large. On youtube, I found a video of a guy boiling a teapot in water, and then adding tea leaves to season the pot. After all of this, he put toothpaste on a toothbrush and with some elbowgrease gave that pot a good, clean, fresh feeling. Hmmm. Another tea blog had a simple "rinse three times, brew a pot of tea, rinse teapot and let dry" for its advanced seasoning and maintenance advice, and offered that seasoning an yixing teapot closes its pores and makes it similar to a porcelain teapot. And one upscale site had a bunch of monotonous made-up advice which I've paraphrased: "One should first take into mind what sort of teapot would go best with a type of tea. Upon meditation and discovery upon the type of tea corresponding to the shape of the yixing, or as the Chinese are found of saying, Eyashwong, you must then put the teapot in a larger pot boiling water and place tea within the boiling pot, but take care! One must not make the resulting tea bitter or this shall affect the taste of the Eyashwong! When it is finished, one must then put on kidgloves or use all natural, unsealed bamboo tongs such as the type used in the Ming Dynasty (which we conveniently happen to have for a mere $45) to remove the teapot. But do not touch it with the bare hands! The oil of the hands might stick to the yixing, or Eyashwong, and forever mar the enjoyment of your teabags!"

For right now, I've decide to ignore all the advice except for the blog that said to rinse, brew, and enjoy. I drink tea to relax and enjoy it.

Monday, October 27, 2008


For whatever reason, a small bronze statue of a bodhisattva sits in my parents' yard. I sometimes wonder if this sort of eastern religious decoration works both ways with people in India and Thailand hanging up pictures of notable Christian figures and decorating their walls with crucifixes.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Synesthesia of shapes and tastes

I've never studied culinary arts or anything like that, so I'm unaware as to how people objectify and quantize tastes, but I always think of a cartesian graph with a y axis representing the melange of flavors in a drink or dish (lower coordinates represent heavy, dark tastes, and higher coordinates represent lighter, delicate tastes) and the x axis representing the time that the flavors progress. I'm sure this sounds confusing, but it gives me a better understanding and physical expectancy of the taste of something.
Here this inverted airfoil shape represents the way everyday average coffee tastes to me. The first part of the shape is the actual start of the way I taste coffee: the coffee's taste gradually becomes more apparent, hence the roundness. The middle portion of the shape represents the majority of the tastes in the coffee. The coffee that I'm drinking now is mostly bitter without any sugar in it, so the tastes that I'm getting are dark and heavy which is why the bottom portion of the shape is bowed downwards. The last portion of the shape represents the coffee's finish. I'm tasting a lingering bitterness, so the last portion is tapered and ends in a slanted point.

The only problem with this tasting shape is that it doesn't give you an exact idea of the flavors that you can expect. Bitter chocolate would have a similar shape to coffee; however, they're completely different in tastes. But, I think it does a decent job at describing the character of food and drink.

A circle would have a mellow start, a middle that has a wide range of flavors, and a finish that doesn't linger. A square would have an abrupt start, a wide range of flavors in the middle, and a quick finish. A half-rhombus flipped on its side would have an abrupt start, a distinct middle, and a finish that tapers.

How do you objectify your tastes?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Gourd and Vine Yixing

I picked up an yixing teapot at A Southern Season. I'd never given much thought to the details of the teapot display, since I assumed that it was really just a display and not for sale. They should consider moving it to their tea section, because the first thing people are liable to see when they walk in the door is the coffee section with its 40-some glass jars filled with different types of various coffees, and not the teapots tucked away into a wooden, partitioned wall. I walked up and down the length of the display and recognized teapots from different tea cultures and countries. I recognized yixing easily, and I recognized some of the Japanese teaware including the distinctive teapot with a handle and their cast iron kettle.
I paused to look at the ubiquitous glazed porcelain British teapots in lime and coffee-brown when I glanced upwards to find harlequin glasses with a strangely shaped teapot. I didn't recognize this, so I read the placard to find that the tea set was part of Moroccan tea culture. This jogged a dusty memory of me being in France and seeing street vendors "pulling" tea in a rather sketchy and unattractive neighborhood, where nearby a entrepreneur was roasting corn in a shopping cart that served as a grill.
I moved back to the yixing pots. I was disappointed in them. I had no reason to doubt their authenticity, but quite a few seemed to be for the sole purpose of buying them for display or for use while serving tea to guests. And, most of them were just too big for me and meant to be sold with a gongfucha ceremony set.
All of them were at least 8 ounces, most close to 10, and didn't captivate me. I did see one that I liked, a horse, but it didn't come in a small enough size for me, and if I had a well-paying job, I certainly would have purchased the fu dog yixing teapot set that I saw. But, I decided to go with the gourd and vine yixing. It's small enough for two, and simple in design compared to the others I saw. I do wish A Southern Season had smaller teapots with less whimsical designs at lower prices to be more inviting to people who are not familiar with tea in general. I think I'll probably get a smaller plain yixing when I buy more tea online to dedicate solely to shu pu'er. But for right now I'll enjoy discovering the best way to make tea with one of these.

After some more reading online, I think the clay is actually Duanni and not Zisha based on the beige and cobalt oxide hues of the teapot. And it seems there's a small crack on the bottom handle that I didn't notice before, but I think the crack is superficial and seriously doubt that it'll cause the handle to come apart.

PS I also forgot to mention that the company I bought the teapot from certifies that it is lead free and genuine yixing. I'm not sure just how many lead-laced, faux yixing pots make their way into the US market, but I figure my recommended daily value of lead should be kept to a minimum.

Visiting Chapel Hill

Friday, Lara and I went up to Chapel Hill to see KK and Sarah Lizabeth. We flapped our gums with Kristina for awhile and heard how her research was going, and then went to lunch with Sarah. After lunch, we went to A Southern Season to pick up some cheap wine and an yixing teapot for me. I found both in a roundabout way, and afterwards we headed towards supper and Late Nite with Roy. TOO BAD it was incredibly hot and lacked wattage for the sound system or else I might've enjoyed it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

2006 Menghai Yue Chan Yue Xiang

Right now I've got a mug full of this stuff and my initial impressions with the taste are as follows: the first steeping is yielding a taste that is earthy and not unlike whole-grain bread. Overall it has a very heavy mouth feel.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Xiaguan 2007 Bao Yan

This tea is a nice reminder that you don't have to spend big bucks for high quality products. $5 for 250 grams of tea is not a hefty price, especially when I wouldn't hesitate to pay twice the price for the same tea. The one word to sum the taste up is: rich. This is a nice, rich, thick tea that is reminiscent to me of a mulled cider. A little spice, some sweetness, but mostly a rich, dark, soothing taste.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pu'er tea.

I know I did a basic info post about pu'er tea on the beginning of my blog, most of the info I learned from a shaving forum and Wikipedia. I bought loose leaf pu'er from A Southern Season and enjoyed it. Looking back, it was probably a type of shupu, which is a pu'er that's artificially aged by storing tea in dampness and heat. Compared to others' experiences, my first one with this tea was good: I liked it. It was woody, earthy, not bitter at all, and overall complex. My best description would be if you were to go into a forest in the fall and attempt to taste the scents that fallen leaves give off. So, after hearing a lot of good things about shengpu or raw pu'er, I decided to buy some from I've never had a shengpu before, which is green tea from the old tea trees that has not undergone fermentation processes, so I didn't spend a whole lot of money on the tea. Overall, I bought a 2006 bing (cake) of Jingmai Spring, a brick of 2006 Menghai Yue Chen Yue Xiang, and a brick of 2007 Xiaguan Tibetan Flame Brick. The first two are raw, and the Xiaguan is shupu. And the great thing about buying this type of tea? You can get decent tea for roughly 30 cents per 5 grams. And since you can steep it multiple times, you can have about 5 cups of good tea for about 6 cents per cup. But because I bought everything on sale, I'm getting about .05 cents per cup.

Teavana Keemun

I finally finished Teavana's Keemun. My overall impressions changed each time I drank it, swaying from grudgingly drinking it to sipping with aplomb. I guess my tastes change from week to week. When I first got it it had a distinct smoky taste, with an overall leathery tone to it. I still think the lady who sold me the tea used the tea scooper previously on lapsang souchong and got quite a bit of the dust in my keemun. Eventually the tea's taste changed as I dug further into the bag, but predominantly to a bland, woody, tannin cup character with wet leaves that smelled like a delicious keemun. The overall body was creamy and had a very heavy mouthful even though there wasn't a large amount of dust in the mix. But after finishing the last little bit of the tea and viewing the leaves at the bottom of my mug infuser, I'm beginning to wonder exactly what I paid for. It mostly seems like I got a bunch of stems with tea leaf bits on it and some tea dust. Bummer.
Overall my tasting notes for this were:
start: creamy
middle: orchid, flowery (but very subdued and altogether bland)
finish: slightly tannic, pine smoke.

And after all of this, no matter how many tea leaves I used, the taste never changed for the better. Major bummer.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sketchy Old Bicycles

I visited my grandparents today and Granddaddy rode his bike again, but this time Hope and I were with him. He began shouting, "Oh, cuss! The brakes don't work! [Ernie of Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street laugh]." Hope and I ran after him and caught him at the edge of the pasture, and he had that grin on his face that totally said, "Children, that was a Shady MacDougal for the brakes DO work! Hee hee hee!"
And I finally figured out what model his bicycle is. It's a 1972 Schwinn Collegiate without the chainguard. Either the bike was sold like this or he decided he didn't need it.

We also took my grandmother's bike back to my house. Unlike my grandfather's bike which had oxidation and some light pitting, I think my grandmother's bike needs a complete overhaul. Tomorrow I'm stripping it down to it's frame to make sure it's still safe to ride, and I need to degrease EVERYTHING. The most curious part of the bike is that it has a rear wheel hub that has a small chain coming out of it. I wasn't sure what it was; I guessed that it was just some sort of coaster brake, but that seemed strange to me because it has rear and front caliper brakes, and a shifting lever. But, I have absolutely no idea how the shifting system could actually work considering there's no cassette, no derailleurs, no jack squat. It would be kind of funny if by shifting into higher gears with the Archer shifting system that you'd engage some sort of flywheel which would make going up hills easier, but that's just the inner dork in me poking its argyle sweater clad body around the corner.

UPDATE: So it's not exactly a flywheel, but the rear hub is actually an internal gear hub as shown in the diagram that uses epicyclic gearing. I guess shifting by pulling on the shifting lever would change the gear out of a low input gear with large secondary output gears, to a high input gear with small secondary output gears. I'm not absolutely sure how the gears would engage and disengage, but I've got a feeling that there might be some sort of ratchet and pawl type system that would allow all the gears to push together and lock together when you have the highest gear selected, and all the gears separated when you have the lowest gear chosen. I'm not sure; I'd have to take it apart to see how it works, but the only advantages it seems to have is that you'd be able to shift while standing still (which you can't do with a derailleur system) and because it's sealed, you wouldn't have to worry about dirt and grime causing accelerated tooth wear. The disadvantages are that a bicycle requiring more gears and cogs (such as a road bike) would have to have a lot of input and secondary output gears for the rear hub which would end up being pretty heavy, and it would be hard to actually take it apart and put together again if you needed to replace a gear.
And the thing that blows my mind? This type of gear system was developed in 1898 according to Wikipedia. That's 7 years before a derailleur system was developed. I'm not saying it's more advanced than its rival, the derailleur, but it's certainly more complex, and more intricate, and involves more moving parts. What kind of guy would look at a bicycle and think, "Hmm, if I had gears apart from that measly cog at the rear wheel, then I could go anywhere!" and then devises a complex device to engage different types of gears enclosed in a tube? Seriously, if I'd been there, I would've gone, "Dude! Just put a bunch of chain rings on the bottom bracket and cogs on the rear wheel and devise some sort of simple lever that will move the chain from gear to gear!"
Once again, this is a perfect example of simple being better.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Taking the ASTB

So I took the ASTB today at 1. I was incredibly nervous over the entire thing, and got a massive lump in my throat when the test started. That soon went away when I got into test-taking mode. The hardest part of the test was the time limit: some of the sections had more time than was needed, while others I needed more time to finish the questions and double check my work.
I didn't think a whole lot about where the testing center was going to be, but it was practically in the center of the office. While I was taking the test, I could hear a lieutenant through the walls next door having a conversation with someone over the phone: "So! I hear you want to join the Navy! Yeah...uh huh...well, perhaps you can explain this hit-and-run. I've got it right here on your police records! Well...You need to explain it in full detail! Fire hydrant? So it was your friends? They lied, huh? Guilty. The judge didn't believe you? Police didn't either, huh. Well. I'll see what I can do, but I won't make any promises."
After I finished, I got my scores back immediately and the secretary saw them and told me, "So, you want to be a pilot, huh?" "No sir, NFO" "Well, you've got the scores for it. You did good." When I was leaving, I figured the score I got out of 100 instead of the 9 point grading scale that the Flight Officer Flight Aptitude Rating uses, and I wasn't thrilled with the result: 78. Driving back through traffic, I debated whether I should retake the ASTB or just take the Officer Aptitude Rating. The only problem with retaking the OAR or ASTB is that there's a lifetime limit of three tests, but the Navy doesn't accept your best test scores. They only accept the most recent test scores. But, I remembered my selection officer giving me information that I read through which detailed the actual distribution of grades for the different ratings. I was floored when I found out that my Academic Qualification Rating and Flight Officer Flight Aptitude Rating were at the upper end of the bell curve and that only 7.2% of the people who took the test scored higher than I did.
Sometimes it's heartwarming to know I'm not such a screw up.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Fez

It's always been a secret dream of mine to own a fez.  If I had a red fez with a gold tassle, I'd have it made.

Keemun gongfu style

So I tried the keemun with a gongfu style type of brewing. I used about 5 grams of the tea, spring water, the trusty, dusty, musty ol' mug infuser, and a lot of patience for the kettle to warm up. I coaxed 4 infusions out of the fernal leaves with steepings of 5, 10, 15, 20, 30 seconds. Unfortunately, this tea is bland. I didn't detect any sort of keemun character to it, save for a slight floweriness and tannin character. Mostly it just had a heavy mouth feel as if I added cream to it. I wouldn't say the tea wasn't enjoyable, but it lacks flavor and depth and doesn't demand your attention, which was perfect because it allowed me to read the N&O without worrying if I was missing any flavor nuances. I'd like to have a small amount of this tea on hand for those times that I want tea in the morning instead of coffee, but the teavana price is really too much for the low quality of the tea.

And I also re-read the tea ceremony. It sounds absolutely ridiculous, "Put the used tea leaves in a clean bowl for your guests to appreciate the tea you have used. They will smell the tea leaves and compliment you on your choice of excellent tea," and relaxing at the same time.

Lung ching gongfu cha

When I say gongfu, I'm not referring to the actual Chinese tea ceremony, but I'm referring to the specific brewing style that they employ in their ritual, which is using a lot of tea leaves with short steeping times. If I used an actual gong fu tea ceremony for brewing my tea, I would have to get up at 6AM in order to leave the house at 8. An English type of brewing would be to use 1 teaspoon of tea per 6-8 ounce cup and to steep for about 3 minutes if it's a black/red tea. Gongfu brewing style is to use about 3-5 grams of tea per 100 ml and to steep for about 5 seconds, and then add an additional 5 seconds steeping time for each infusion after the first.
So, I filled my little mug infuser up halfway with lung ching, covered the leaves with water, and then steeped for 5 seconds. While I wasn't expecting the increased complexity of the tea, it was a nice benefit. I also wasn't expecting the tea to take on an extremely vegetal taste. I just think I got bad tea; it smells fairly green while dry, but it also has a sweet, honey type smell that reminds me of hay. I think all of this translates into a grassy taste in the cup. Which translates into me not buying anymore of this swill. I'll be trying keemun with the gongfu brewing next.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Lung Ching nastiness

Last night I went to Target to get some dogfood and drinks.  I saw a large 10 liter tank of springwater while I was ther and figured, "What the heck? Tea's supposed to taste better with this stuff, and it's on sale for $2.5o. I'll get it."  
So I heated the kettle filled with spring water and using about a single layer of tea leaves on the bottom of the mug infuser, an English style of brewing tea, I steeped the lung ching from teavana for 2 minutes. BLEAH! It increased the flavor alright, but it made the grassiness of the tea enhanced, while the nutty taste portion of the tea was subdued in the background.  It reminded me too much of sencha, a Japanese tea, which is very vegetal, but sometimes has an oily, seaweed, or even fishy taste.  There's absolutely nothing wrong about these tastes, but drinking a piping hot mug of warm seaweed is even more effective than ipecac.
I really wish I hadn't bought so much tea from teavana.  My last resort for this tea is to brew it using a gongfu style. More on that later.

Friday, October 10, 2008

What happened to talking about the weather?

Yesterday while Lara and I were sipping oolong tea in The Tipsy Teapot, an older gentleman sat down across from us.  He asked us if we were students, and we made small talk for a little bit.  Then he started shaking his head in shame for the turnout that Sarah Palin had at ECU and mentioned in a supercilious tone that she took 6 years to get a college degree and had transferred to different universities (and he claimed he was taking online classes from UCLA for some sort of religion studies).  He then leaned in and said, "Now, I'm not sure what y'all's political leanings are...but that's just not right to start bombing people and calling them evil.  That's just not right at all."  I felt like pointing out that most genocides have happened that way, and not US wars or conflicts, but it would've fallen on deaf self-righteous ears.  There was no way in hell I was going to mention to this guy that I was planning on joining the Navy because I love my country and constitution and defend his right to sit in an armchair and moan about how the country's changing for the worse.  I mean, c'mon, as soon as those geezers signed the Declaration of Independence and finalized the constitution, you know there was one person out there saying, "Dammit! I should have my own rights that cannot be violated by a federal government since all men are created equal! The states and local governments should have all the power!" and another person screaming, "This is an absolute tragedy! We shouldn't have provisions for local and state governments! We should have a strong federal government to dictate and ensure the needs of the people so that everyone's rights are not infringed upon!"
I know the idea of the country headed towards hell is not a new concept.  But still, whatever happened to polite conversations?

I wasn't moderate or conservative in my political views by any means when I arrived at UNC.  But there seems to be some sort of rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth liberal foothold in students' ideology that just doesn't mesh with the whole idea of trying to keep an open mind in institutions of education.  I got sick of hearing about why the war on drugs should be discontinued and we should all be allowed to shoot up whenever we feel like it, and have someone else pay our medical bills when we overdose or get cancer from harmful drugs, or why the war on terrorism will only create more enemies and the only way we can prevent terrorism is to somehow make friends with everybody in the entire world which will miraculously dissolve ethnic and racial disputes that have lasted for hundreds of years, or why partial birth abortions should be legalized because it's unfair to tell women what to do with their bodies, or why anarchy would be the perfect society because there wouldn't be any burdens placed on us by the government and we could all devolve and resort to hunting-gathering and use  a bartering system or whatever it is that anarchists do without some sort of national infrastructure and monetary policy.
I was sick of it.  Oh, sure, there were crazy conservatives and libertarians who voiced viewpoints I didn't agree with, but none were as vocal as those crazy liberals who seemed to be convinced that only they knew the righteous path to peace and prosperity.  They also had some sort of hearing problem too, because when I said, "I don't believe in that" they heard, "I'm an idiot. Please insult me and my intelligence for my beliefs."

What happened to simply accepting that someone else has a different viewpoint and moving on?
Granted, I'm not sure what would've happened exactly if I'd said to the man, "I'm sorry, but I don't share your views," but I'll have to remember to try that next time.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

New Yorker Murmur and Shouts submission

I'm thinking about submitting one of my stories to the shouts and murmurs section of The New Yorker but I'm not sure which one I should actually submit (they only accept 2 submissions per year), so I've decided to include a nifty voting poll on the side of the blog to see which story you think is my best.

Clouds of Suspicions

So, the WADA and other anti-doping officials and organizations decided to retest blood and urine samples from the Tour de France, since several of riders had hematocrit levels higher than the normal upper limit of 49%. They got a little antsy, especially when Ricardo Ricco and his teammate Leonardo Piepoli were implicated in using a new generation of erythropoietin known as CERA (continuous erythropoitin receptor activator) which has a very long half life, but only requires a small dose to be effective. So they came up with some tests to actually detect CERA, and Stefan Schumacher was one who tested positive for the new generation of the drug. I hadn't really expected Schumacher to test positive; the doping officials stated that about 30 riders were under suspicion for having high hematocrit levels or trace amounts of drug metabolites which weren't enough to signal a definitive positive (if there even is such a thing as a definitive positive), but still enough to be detected. However, I didn't really expect Schumacher to be doping. Granted he did win 2 stages in the Tour, but the announcers didn't seem as fascinated or surprised with this accomplishment as they did with Ricco.
It's hard to actually gauge who dopes and who doesn't: a cloud of suspicion is usually proven right. The announcers never mentioned that Schumacher tested positive for amphetamines outside of competition or that he popped a positive for an amphetamine that was in an inhaler which was prescribed to him. Interestingly, Jan Ulrich also tested positive for amphetamines before becoming implicated in Operation Puerto, but he was further cleared due to lack of proof.
But the Tour de France looked pretty good this year: everyone looked tired coming across the lines (Marcus Burghardt gasped out answers to reporters' questions after winning the 18th stage) and the finish was close between Cadel Evans and Carlos Sastre, two riders who have had solid reputations of showing cycling talent and promise at young ages.
Lance Armstrong has always been under suspicion of doping, and that's unlikely to change considering the French's unsatiable hatred of him, especially since he's making a comeback. Apparently having a VO2 max off the charts, producing infinitesimal amounts of lactic acid despite heavy workloads, and solely training for the Tour de France year round instead of doing professional circuit tours isn't a good enough answer for the Tour organizers. Who knows.

However, if you do look at the list of athletes who have tested positive for minor drugs, such as amphetamines found in inhalers, a lot of them have tested positive for definitive performance enhancing drugs. Justin Gatlin tested positive in his younger years for a banned amphetamine which he claimed was in an inhaler that he was prescribed. He didn't provide a medical waiver for it, nor did he nor his coach attempt to talk to the "doctor" who prescribed the inhaler to determine if the medicine was on a banned list. Some years later, Gatlin tests positive for testosterone or an androsteroid which he claims his massage therapist used some cream that had corticosteroids in it which caused a positive test. And how about that Tim Montgomery? He was implicated in the BALCO scandal even though he never tested positive and recieved a two year ban which ended his athletic career. Now he's doing hard time for selling heroin in Virginia. Marion Jones, you say? Her husband C.J. Hunter, a shot putter and coach for UNC-Chapel Hill, attempted to make it into the 2000 Olympics at Sydney. He failed no fewer than 4 drug tests for nandrolone, but blamed it on dietary supplements he obtained from BALCO. Sensing a tarnished image, Jones decided to shack up with Tim Montgomery who also obtained performance enhancing drugs from BALCO and was strippedo of all medals and titles he'd won. So what's a gal to do at a time like this? Why, start training under coaches who have known to provide the best drugs and results for athletes! She trained under Trevor Graham, Charlie Francis, and Steven Riddick, all who have been accused of providing drugs for their athletes. All of Trevor Graham's athletes were implicated in using performance enhancing drugs. Charlie Francis is famous for setting up a doping regimen for Ben Johnson so he could do well in the 1988 Olympics. And all but two of Steven Riddick's athletes tested positive or were implicated in the doping scandal.

As of right now, the IOC is re-testing samples from the Beijing Olympics. I can only wonder how many Chinese athletes, weightlifters, cyclists, track-and-field competitors and marathon runners will test positive. Just because an athlete is under a cloud of suspicion doesn't necessarily mean that they're doping or cheating in some way. But honesty, if it looks like shit and smells like shit, what are we supposed to think?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Wig Maker

My sister wants a wig for her birthday. So I figured it would be apt to do a story on wigs.

Dear sir,

I am requesting to you, most honorable wig maker, a proposition of making me the finest flaxen wig known to man. It should be of a brazen color to match my britches, waistcoat, and whatever few teeth I have remaining. I most respectfully request that it be completed and delivered a fortnight prior to the upcoming Perfumist's Tester's Ball. This time, however, I could do without the cup holding device amongst the strands of the wig.

Mr Peter Hoggarth, Esq

Dear Mr Hogwash,

I regret to inform you, most kind sir, that you have an outstanding balance of £30 caused by the latest delivery of one of my finest wigs. I believe it was the luxury model made of real horsehair with a series of ventilation holes that allowed a breeze to be blown throughout the whole wig for cooling purposes, since you commissioned it for a falconer's party.

Most sincerely,
Mr James Gurling, Gent

Dear most honorable Mr Gelding,

I must confess that one would be correct in stating that I have not paid the aforementioned outstanding balance for the wig, but one must also take into account the fortitude and audacity that a wig maker must have for constructing such an ingenuous device as that ventilation system, especially since the wig was not commissioned to have this system. I am afraid that this was merely a ruse to increase the monetary value of the wig and charge thus accordingly. Until you agree to the price I put forth for the wig, then I shall not pay it.

Most regretfully and sincerely,
Mr Peter Hoggarth, Esq

Dear Mr Hogarse,

I shall confess to you that my meanings of the ventilation system were not to be construed as a means of forcing a higher price of the wig, but rather as a loyal service to a dear customer of mine. The monetary value of the wig was not increased as a resulting effect of the ventilation system, but rather stayed the same. My offer cannot be placed any lower or else I would have to send my children out to work in the turnip fields to make ends meet. However, if you could but procure the wig and return it to my shop, I would gladly accept the commission for your newest wig and have it ready in time for your ball.

Most humbly your servant,
Mr James Gurling, Gent

Dear most serviceable Mr Gurly,

I have dreadful news and regret to inform you that had the wig been of a good quality that it might have survived the falconer's party. As it were, the ventilation system and the low quality of the hair and build made the wig stick straight up in the air, much like the bristles of a brush. Regrettably, one of the falcons assumed that my wig was a furry beast and proceeded to swoop in low and snatch the hideous thing off my head. I could procure the wig for you, but it would be in a rather compacted and stained state. As you see my position, I feel that I should not pay for the wig due to its lower quality and certain characteristics of it that were not requested by me, the customer. I also implore you to start on the wig for the Perfumist's Tester's ball with godspeed for I lost yet another tooth today.

Most regretfully, soberly, sincerely, sanely,
Mr Peter Hoggarth, Esq

Dear most befuddled, confused Mr Hogswit,

I am afraid that I cannot accept those circumstances as a means to renege on payment of the wig that required use of my trade, time, and material for which I devote myself wholly to. The material was horse hair from a nag of mine known as Mrs Fiddlefaddle who has produced many a good hank of hair for my wigs. If you are questioning the quality of her hair, I'm sure that she would answer to it by merely allowing you to feel a hank of her honey hued horse hair. I am however, accepting your commission and beginning work on the wig since I feel that my explanation of circumstances will be made clear to you and you will follow through on payment to myself so that I can continue upholding this fine trade and servicing other gentlemen and blithering idiots such as yourself.

Sincerely, most poor, servitude, humble, harrier,
Mr James Gurling, Gent

Dear most respectfully lowly, wormlike, and whiney Mr Galling,

I am most glad that you were able to understand the writing in my last letter and began work on my latest commission. Perhaps a barber has trimmed your eyebrows in betwixt letters? I am enclosing my head measurements for the wig at the ball, and hope that it will be of a higher quality than the fiddlefaddle horsehair ventilation system wig which I am sending back to you in a box. Upon looking at the horsehair wig, I am glad to say that I can see no difference between it and the other wigs you create. If anything, it passing through the falcon seems to have improved its looks. I'm sure you will be able to sell this wig at the 100 pounds sterling price that you so desired whilst netting a £98 profit.

Most respectfully, kind, gentlemanly, esquirely,
Mr Peter Hoggarth, Esq

PS I shall not request a fee for the falcon improving the wig's looks. Graciously accept this as a thank you from me.

Most pompous, honorable heinous cheapskate Mr Hoggut,

I recieved the foul thing that you called a wig. Good news! I was able to restyle it in a proper form befitting the Perfumist's Tester's ball and the malodorous aura it emits will certainly test the perfumists. However, the reshaping and restyling of the wig was rather timely, and I'm afraid I shall have to most regrettably request that you pay the original price of the wig with an additional surcharge of £40, or else a most regrettable brick might find its way through your most regrettable window.

Most honorable, upright, law-abiding,
Mr James Gurling, Gent
PS The head measurements you gave me for the commissioned wig did not match my notes that I made of your head when you were fitted in my shop. Thus, I went with my notes, and the circumference of the wig is a mere 40 inches, which should be a tight fit for your head.

Dear money-grubbing, swindling, thieving, scoundrel,

I recieved the beastly thing that you say is a wig. I was sitting in the veranda enjoying the good humours of the afternoon and was notified of the presence of the wig by the aroma a half-mile away. What was remarkable was that the wig was downwind, yet one was still able to smell it. In addition to the vexing problem of dealing with the scent of the wig, one cannot help but notice that the wig is rather LARGER than the measurements I gave to you in my letter. I cannot wear this malodorous thing to the ball, so I am enclosing a stately sum which will hopefully change your mind, you little dimwit for brains, and provide an impetus for you to begin work on the commissioned wig with the PROPER measurements.

Most irritated,


The stately sum I found in your letter were slugs of lead with the words: "Genwine Sovreign" and had a crude picture of what appeared to be a horse's arse. Perhaps a self-portrait of yourself? If so, the picture is far more flattering than the real personification of it. However, I was unsure about this strange currency. I was afraid it may have been a Welsh type of specie, so I took it to the banker to verify its authenticity. Why, imagine my surprise when I discovered that counterfeiting money is a capital offence! I was so flustered over the affair when questioned that I'm afeared I may have implicated you in this matter! I then believe I blustered about the manner of lax payments for my service, and some sort of promise was given as a retribution or reimbursement of my services. Perhaps a retributive reimbursement? One cannot be sure. Until further correspondence Mr HOGGARTH, IDIOT,

Most thankfully innocent and sincere,
Mr James Gurling, Gent

From: Central Criminal Court-Crown Court, London, England

To: Mr Jabs Guiling, Goat

Dear snake in the grass,

I shall get you. I do not care how long it takes, or if the Old Bailey has hundreds of guards and windowless gaol cells, but I SHALL GET YOU.
Sleep tight, don't let the Peter Hoggarths, Esqs stab you in the middle of the night.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Causal Inference

Once again, just because there are two things that coincide with each other doesn't mean they have any effect on one another. The only way to actually determine if an infant sleeping with a fan provided any sort of benefit or not would be to randomly assign fans to a test group. However, like the debate over smoking's deleterious effects, this is unethical to actually force subjects to do something which might be dangerous to their health. But, there is no validity to this kind of study in the article, since it's based on a hypothesis and the results of the study do not prove or disprove the hypothesis. After all, the infants of families that have fans simply might be less likely to suffer from SIDS.
I could also argue that for infants in households that have dogs or cats, the infants are less likely to suffer from SIDS. There might be some actual valid reason for why this might be, but more likely than not, having dogs or cats would not directly affect an infant's susceptibility to SIDS, and it would just be a random chance that families more susceptible to SIDS would have fewer pets.

On another note, this is about as good as CNN reporting that scientists are worried that redheads might disappear, as if heterozygosity can't occur. Sheesh.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


There were some SOB's (sketchy old bikes) in my grandparents' stables on Monday so I put myself up to the task of cleaning and tuning them up. My grandfather's bike is a '72 Schwinn cruiser style bike with a serious heft to it (it's a solid steel frame instead of steel tubing) and a serious coating of rust. I used a dremel with a steel brush to get most of the rust off and I put new tires on the bike, degreased the chain and rear derailleur, cleaned the chainrings and the cassette, and the rims. Now it just needs polishing and some more cleaning to actually get the final bit of rust off the handlebars and look decent. But it works! Ultimately, I'm going to pour something down the rear derailleur and try to blast air into it to knock all the caked grease off of the springs and levers, but so far so good. When I rode it, it felt really smooth, and the 2nd chainring is actually kind of large for a cruiser type bike. Hopefully I can educate myself on putting pictures up on google blog, and I'll definitely take before and after pictures of my grandmother's bike.
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