Friday, November 28, 2008


I avoided the woman who happened to give birth to me like the plague at this year's Tyndall Clan Thanksgiving reunion, and I spent most of my time yukking it up with my uncle, sisters, and other relatives.
  1. Several highlights: eating 3 pounds of food, inducing a coma to which I succumbed at 3 in the afternoon.
  2. Me having to recount what a Naval Flight Officer or Radar Intercept Officer is, why I want to join the Navy, my test scores for the ASTB, how I haven't been able to effectively contact my selection officer because his voicemail stays full, what my parents think of me joining the military ("You'll get yourself killed in Iraq!" "Why can't you go back to school and become an orthopedic surgeon?!")
  3. Playing with my uncle's DSLR Canon and talking about how point-and-shoot cameras suck.
  4. Seeing my little sister in her power walking outfit from an obesity awareness 5K race.
  5. Playing Hide and Go Seek with my little cousins.
  6. As my other sister's boyfriend was leaving, yelling out "So long, eldood!"
  7. Seeing a picture of my grandfather wearing a hat geezer style.
  8. The great disappointment when I saw my great aunt 8 times removed had her hair cut. It previously was a 'do that looked like Little Richard's locks and I always looked forward to seeing her. And the hair.
  9. Major bummer when my mom didn't say one of her airheaded comments. i.e., "I believe bluebirds truly are the bluest blue in nature!" with misty eyes, or "There was nothing wrong with Ho Chi Minh" apart from him killing a bunch of people through a war, or my personal favorite "The ambi-ahnce of this room is ruined! Fung shue!"
  10. The lack of Neese's liver pudding. Dammit, if there's one thing in America that we all should fight, breathe, and die for it's gotta be this. But no liver pudding makes for a miserable Thanksgiving with the Tyndalls and Hills. Sheesh!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Christmas Stories revisited

I did a post on the true meanings of Christmas two years ago or more. I think I'm going to repost them, but with pictures through the eyes of a child (AKA me) illustrating the stories.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Chawang 2006 Yunnan Silver 50 gram tuocha

I've let my yixing rest entirely for a day in the hopes that my shengs would taste fresher instead of a mishmash of all the shengs I've brewed in it. A tuocha is a portion of tea that is compressed to have a mushroom cap shape. The tea that I bought has an insane compression. I usually use a knife to pry off flakes of compressed tea, but for this tuocha I had to stab the head with my knife and tear off a single portion of pu'er. I was deathly afraid of stabbing myself, which I've done before, and I didn't care to repeat have a cut finger. But now that there's a portion of the tea pried off, wedging the knife in to the surface should be a lot easier compared to penetrating a rock hard layer of tea.

I have no idea the amount of tea leaves I used in my yixing, but it's enough for the wet leaves to fill it up halfway. tea notes as follows:

5 second infusion: Keemun like character, nothing bad. It's not sweet nor bitter, but predominantly middle range with an orchid like taste.

10 second infusion: darker tasting start, no change in the middle, abrupt finish. No more keemun taste. Fruit component coming in later. I'm still not convinced that this is a good sheng, maybe an adequate one.

18 second infusion: start same as above. Dark, vegetal, some pleasant bitterness similar to raw veggies. The finish/aftertaste is fantastic. Lingering, light, and refreshing.

25 second infusion: still the same start. Light, fruity finish, possibly peach.

30 second infusion: same except the finish and aftertaste are more noticeable.

35 second infusion: the same as above

45 second infusion: the darkness of the start has lightened up a little. Now it resembles a Keemun taste, but lighter, contrasted with the heavy mouth feel of the tea. The sweet finish is still very much present, perhaps diminished a little bit, and slower to begin. The tea leaves have now opened up fully and there are few whole leaves in the bunch. I expect the flavor to drop off dramatically.

55 second infusion: light and orchid. The "finish" I've been tasting is really an aftertaste. It's only present after I've consumed the entire cup of tea, and it's lighter and not quite as blatantly fruity.

2 minute infusion: very light taste, woods and orchids. It only took a minute for me to realize that this is what hot water tastes like when I pour it out of my yixing to clean it. The sweet aftertaste is still there, but coming through in wisps. I think this tea is finished.

Overall, I'll have to give it a few more sessions before I decide if I should buy more or not. The aftertaste is extremely sweet. I hope it's not caused by ethylene glycol, haha. But the predominant character of the tea is just so-so. It's just sort of dark and green tasting, but without much complexity or range of good flavors. What can I say? This tuocha cost me 2 cents per cup to drink, so I wasn't expecting too much from it. And I was not disappointed.

Update: I've had several sessions with this tea and can fully understand its low price and why it won a silver award for some sheng pu'er tasting in China. The tea itself is really nothing to write home about, having a little bit of a keemun character to the baste notes but there is a distinct fruit component to the tea that is vibrant, sweet, and refreshing which appears when the leaves unfurl. I'm giving the pu'er the benefit of the doubt and attribute the taste to the leaves, but at the same time I wonder if it's been enhanced, though I have no idea how to detect it. The fruit component comes into play when the leaves fully open up, so if the tea were intentionally modified, I think the factory would have to add the flavoring to the insides of the leaves, and then roll and compress them, so that when the leaves fully open up the flavoring agent would be released. That does not sound very feasible at all given its low price, but then again I've only seen pictures of a handful of factories producing pu'er. Ultimately, though, this tuocha is very decent based on its fruit component and its price. I would not hesitant to order several more.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Dream I had

Saturday night I had a dream that I was running. And I was so fast I was running at the same speed as cars around my neighborhood. When I woke up Sunday morning, I put on my running shoes and went outside but had to tell myself, "Hang on, that was all a dream." But a good one.

Tickling the New Yorker's Funny Bone

Tickling the New Yorker's funny bone by taking all the Shouts and Murmurs writings they've had over the years and condensing their tone and humor into a stand up routine. Solid gold.

"Hi everybody, it's great to be here tonight. Before we get started, did you notice the vending machine they have out in the hallway? That thing is amazing! Ya put in your quarters, pick out the pieces of lint, make your selection and an honest to god arm comes out and picks your drink up and gives it to you! That's nuts! And to think that the vending machine industry is dead these days. I would gladly pay all my money just to see that thing in action! I know the bigwigs at the vending places had someone working on this all night. 'What have you got? A spring loaded cannon that shoots the drinks out? No good, too many lawsuits. What have you got? A see through vending machine that shows the process of getting your drink to you? Ehhh, too voyeuristic! Hey, what have you got? A robotic arm that chooses your drink? Well now, that's more like it!'
And hey, what's the deal with this magazine? Is it a New Yorker on the front cover, or what? It looks like nobility to be honest. And believe me, most New Yorkers are as far from nobility as possible. To most New Yorkers, you know you're noble when you can get a cab anywhere, anytime, make reservations when you feel like it, and have a secret parking space that's all yours. Now that is nobility! Sure, you could wear your crowns and capes and the scepters and all, but parking spaces? Now that's power.
I was on a date last night and I noticed that my very lovely date had the latest New Yorker magazine in her purse. I was about to comment if she'd read the article on designer solar panels becoming in vogue, but then I realized, 'Wait a minute! What's the deal with women putting these magazines in their purses!' Purses aren't meant to carry magazines! That's why you have back pockets! Or if push came to shove, you could carry it with your hands! And then as the date progressed, I saw her rummaging around in there. So I said, 'Hey, what's in that thing?' and she said, 'Oh, just a few things. Just some things.' Well, a few things does not weigh five pounds. See, that's why it's called a purse. Women put so much stuff in there that when they have to lift it, it's so heavy that they strain and purse their lips trying to keep it on their shoulders. And then when it reaches critical mass they shove it off to their boyfriends to carry so that they can have both hands free while the poor schmuck schleps behind the girlfriend just trying to keep up. And then inevitably asks the girlfriend, 'Hey, whuddya got in this thing?' And you know the rest. 'A few things.' You see this all the time in New York. I didn't understand what was going on at first. I thought sailors were just walking around out of uniform carrying their seabags until I realized that it was boyfriends carrying their girls' ginormous purses! I passed a guy carrying a hot pink zebra striped purse that was the size of Macy's. All I could do was shake my head as I went past, 'oooh, not good, not good. Next is your hair and shoes.' You know that little whipping motion you make when a girl's got a guy to do everything she says? No matter how ridiculous? I think we should change that to just the motion of picking up a purse. Y'know, just to let the guy in question know that he's practically submitting himself to a relationship that involves the lifting of heavy stuff. 'Hey, how's Bob and his girlfriend?' 'Oh, his girlfriend's great, but Bob is [and then you make the lifting motion of the purse]. And when I saw how heavy the purse was, I asked Bob and said, "Bob, just what is in that thing?" And then he said-'" Eh, but you know the rest. A. Few. Things." [Insert slap bass riff, keyboards, weird mouth popping sounds, and studio audience laughter]

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Truth about Duttas

Well, the truth has come out. My grandfather fondly calls dogs "duttas" as I've mentioned in my post about the words my family has created. But tonight he reminisced to my sister about where exactly it came from. Growing up, my family has never questioned dutta. It just was. Questioning dutta was like questioning how a hammer became called a hammer. It was ultimately pointless. But my grandfather revealed all. He had a little dutta growing up that he called "Daniel Doodle," which is exactly the kind of name I would expect my grandfather as a child to give a dog, possibly along with Plumbob Dipsy. Eventually he just shortened the name to "dutta," and became so fond of the dog that he began to call all duttas duttas as a tribute to his Dutta. And know you know the rest of the story.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Chunming 2007 Yunnan Pu'er Seven Color Spring

Today I had the pleasure of trying this small 100 gram bing of sheng. It's fairly mild and benign, but it still has a good taste to it, not unlike the Kunming Guyi 2006 JingMai Spring bing I have which is considerably bigger (350g) and has a bigger kick to it. Camphor and menthol tastes are there along with a little sweetness, but the overly medicinal taste and sweetness of the Jingmai bing isn't present. At first when I tried this tea two days ago I kept thinking that I was tasting the Jingmai's flavor that had seeped into the yixing clay. I scrubbed, scrubbed, scrubbed, and soaked the teapot, rinsed it out, and kept trying to brew the tea and taste drastic differences between it and the teas I'd already had. No such luck.

Still, it's not as sharp as the Jingmai, and a nice light fruit note contrasts with the very heavy mouthfeel of the tea. The finish is very clean, with maybe a little sweetness lingering on the back of the tongue. The last infusion hasn't yielded very much change from the first infusion, apart from a slight reduction in astringency. However, there was not much astringency to begin with.

Overall, I like this little bing. I think its small size may have contributed to some slight aging that took the edge off any bitterness or astringency, which is still very much present in the Jingmai bing. It's not strong in taste nor caffeine, but the flavor that is there is good and simple. I'm beginning to wonder if all spring cakes are supposed to have a camphor taste to them (who knows? Maybe that's when the camphor leaves start to fall in Yunnan), but I'll obviously have to have more spring teas to determine that for certain. However, I don't think I would save a bing of this tea for later drinking. It's pleasant and mild enough that you could drink it immediately.

Nov. 15th: I've had a total of 11 infusions of this tea, and it's still good. The tastes have gotten lighter, with the fruit and camphor fading into the background, but a simple green sweetness pervading throughout the tea. It kills me how I can spend so little on tea leaves that will last for two days of continued brewing, and spend 4 times as much on chopped store brand tea leaves that will last for 2 steepings.

21 Nov: The same tasting notes as the last time. Using enough leaf to fill the teapot up halfway, there's a rustic sort of taste to it that I can't pin down. I can taste the camphor of the tea leaf, the bitterness, and the sweetness, but there's an underlying taste that's hard to describe in the first three infusions. It smells somewhat like the leaf. Later infusions make me think this is a similar tea leaf and recipe to the Kunming Jingmai spring bing. It's heavily mentholated with camphor, and a nice taste underneath it, but it's not quite as sweet as the Jingmai bing. Still, I like it.

29 November: 15 second rinse

5s infusion: mild and timid at the start of the cup yielding a satisfying taste with wonderful aftertaste that is sweet, but with rustic, woodsy tastes lingering.

5s infusion: bitter with "chewy" feel and wood note. Mild sweetness.

mid-cup: same taste with sweetness poking around. Mild astringency.

Bottom: sweet, sour, same tastes as above.

15s infusion: too long, mostly middle tastes with bitterness and no sweetness. I've used too many leaves. Instead of a good strength, the tea is overwhelming, coating my mouth, and hard to taste subtleties of subsequent cups.

~I've removed several of the leaves from the teapot and the familiar taste is coming back with camphor and menthol in the aftertaste.

22 December 2008: Using enough leaf to fill the yixing up to the lid has yielded 5 very wonderful infusions. The sheng really hit its stride in the 3rd and 4th infusions with ephemeral sweetness that is impossible to describe. It's sweet, but with a chewy texture to it. Very good stuff.

28 December 2008: I've finally polished off this bing. I have enjoyed its camphor taste and creamy sweetness but the fruit tastes I noticed in earlier tastings have diminished, perhaps caused by the lack of aged pu'er or tips, in the center of the bing. I don't really think this would be a great candidate for aging; it's already tame and enjoyable as is. I wouldn't say this sheng knocks my socks off, but I really enjoyed the chewiness and creaminess of the tea.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

It was a dark and stormy night (Really BAD story)

This is about on par with the average fiction story in The New Yorker. I wonder if I could make a career out of shitty writing.

It was a dark and stormy night. I was banging away on my typewriter in my office, writing up the report and the sad ending to the Lehman case. Crazy kook thought he could get away with a jewelry racket by using fruit as a cover. But his cover was eventually exposed, along with his innards. That was a messy ending. I take one last drag off my Chesterfield and start to cough my lungs out. Damn cigarettes. I make a memo to myself "Try chewing tobacco." My lungs need a break, along with the rest of me, but when you play this game there aren't any breaks, just broken bones and flattened noses. Hard work is what pays, and it keeps me in the gin, hold the tonic.
I shuffled over to the safe where I keep my files and guns and put the Lehman case in the back, hoping it'll gather dust and cobwebs that will never have to be removed again. I hate endings that way, especially when you're hired to protect the guy. Well, it wasn't that simple. I was also trying to find out what his jig was and keep him from hurting himself. If I'd only seen that banana peel in time and yelled for him to watch out, well, I'd be in a warm bed with a bottle of scotch getting a foot massage from a real knock-out. But that ain't for me. I never catch the guys who do it, I just help the police when they show up. If it weren't for me, those coppers would still be trying to spell the witnesses' names right and consulting a dictionary. This is how I make my living, but life ain't too good right now. It's cold November, but it's just warm enough to make it rain and not snow.
I put on my overcoat and hat, pat my pocket where I load my gun, and I head for the door. I see my secretary every night doing her nails and gabbing on the phone with her friends. One of these days I'm sure she'll get married, but between us it's strictly business.
"Night Ms. Moneypusher. I'm going off duty tonight."
"I thought you were always off duty each night?"
"No, each night I'm not fit for duty" I say with a grin. I barely make it out past the glass door that has my name on it when I see a dame dressed in black coming up the stairs looking worried. She must've seen me come out of the door to my office because she asked, "Excuse me, sir, are you Sam Chesterfield? The famous private eye?"
"It depends on who's asking, miss. Though that's the nicest query I've got in a while. Most of the questions asked to me end with a punch to the gut."
"Well, I was wondering if you could help me. I'd rather not talk about it out here, though, could we go into your office?"
"Sure, sure, I'll lead the way."
I trudged my feet in front of her and opened the door, cursing that I didn't become a lawyer like my old man. Damn, he would've been proud of me. And I would've too.

I got a good look at the dame. Dames, it was always dames. Dames thinking that their husbands were cheating, were gambling the rent, or that they had the wrong kind of friends that a man and husband should have if you get my meaning. But this dame was different. She had money and I could tell by my reflection in her diamond studded watch. Her nails had been chewed on, probably by her, and I saw a beautiful shiner underneath her rouge.

"Forget what I said, Ms. Moneypusher, I'll be working late tonight. You can go on home."

The dame went and sat down in the chair opposite my desk and took out a cigarette from a silver case. She nervously flicked the light and I offered her one of my matches. She was damn good looking, too good looking to come into my office. Dames like this don't have no husbands that cheat on them, or at least they wouldn't report them. Money is nice to have in a marriage, and if your husband likes having a mistress for the home and a wife for the public, well it's not something that hasn't been done before. Her hair was flax, and reminded me of my old flame Dana. Sometimes when I get lonely in the night, I reach out for Dana, and remind myself that she's never coming back. I sure do miss that old Golden Retriever.
"The reason why I'm coming here is because of my husband," the dame sighed.
"Oh yeah? What for?" I said.
"I think he might be missing."
"Well, what's he do?"
"He owns and runs the Chicago newspaper and several smaller papers in the area."
"Holy smoke! Are you telling me that your husband is the famous millionaire Fred Dulcet? And that he hasn't been reported missing by the police or the news?"
"I am, Mr. Chesterfield. I haven't had contact with him for quite some time. He was always away on business, or so he claims, but you know," and here she leaned in, "I always thought there was another woman. It wasn't until I went up to New York to visit my sister that we thought going to Gramercy Park near my hotel would be a fun afternoon. And then I saw him with another woman. He recognized me, I'm sure, but he made no face, didn't even look at me or speak to me, and I pretended I didn't recognize him either, but I was burning up inside. I..."
"Coulda killed him?"
"Well...not killed, but certainly given him a good licking. I felt like I put up enough just by being his wife and I didn't see why he should enjoy the company of other women, when he's rarely at home to enjoy my company."
"Well, we can come back to that later. What happened after the park?"
"I went back to my hotel, and when I'd finished the trip I came back home only to find out by our butler that he hadn't been home, nor rung, nor sent a letter to let us know where he was. I called the office to see if his secretary knew where he was, but she said that he was going away on a personal trip and he didn't leave any instructions. This was about a month ago. I haven't heard anything from him or about him, and I have every reason to suspect that he is dead."
"Huh, well, maybe he ain't dead at all. Maybe he's just having a time with his floozy, off at Niagra or on a big boat somewhere out in international waters where he can gamble all his money away. You take it from me, Miss Dulcet, I've tracked a lot of husbands. And they always come back, sometimes they're sorry and they never do it again, other times they go out the next month and repeat the whole thing over again. You listen to me, Miss, just go on home, get a good night's rest and call his office again. The secretary probably got her shorthand mixed up and his letter to you probably got lost in the mail."
"I'm afraid not, Mr. Chesterfield, because I received a letter just yesterday that had only this in it" and with that she held up a small, rusty key.
"Looks like someone forgot to give it back to you when they decided to quit cooking for you."
"I think not, Mr. Chesterfield, I'm afraid this is blood."
I took the key from her and turned on my light. It was blood alright, and who ever handled it had bled pretty good all over it. Blood was caked on it and flaking off.
"Did anyone else handle this, Miss Dulcet?"
"No, only me, but I didn't handle it with my barehands once I realized what was on it."
I gingerly used my pencil and put the ugly thing on my blotter. I hate bleeders. And this case didn't seem like it was going to end with a man who had all of his blood in him. I pulled out my magnifying glass and started looking at the teeth. I had to flake off some of the dried blood, but there were scratch marks all over the insides of the teeth, like someone in a hurry tried to open something locked. Or considering what was all over the key, tried to lock themselves in.
"Tell me, Miss Dulcet, did your husband have any lock boxes or safe deposits?" A shake of the head. "Well, safes or vaults at home? Closets or small rooms where he kept valuables hidden and locked?" Another shake. "Luggage claim?" Another no. "Miss Dulcet, have you ever seen this key?" No. "Well, I'll need a list of who saw your husband last and I'd also like to drop by your house tomorrow afternoon to have a look around." "I already have a list, since I also tried to contact everywho who he knew." I smiled, this dame was sharp AND a knockout. I took the list and put it in my safe, put on my hat and coat and said, "Well, I'll walk you out, Miss Dulcet." As we passed by my secretary's empty desk I lowered my voice and mummured, "You do realize that we have to notify the police. One month and nobody's noticed, that'd be awfully fishy if he did end up hurt or worse and you didn't report it." "Oh, please, Mr. Chesterfield," she gasped, "his affair would ruin his reputation, and I somehow know that woman will be exposed in the papers as his mistress! These things always have a way of getting out!" "That could be, Miss Dulcet, but we'd be taking a mighty big risk by not doing it. Whaddya say we assume that he's off somewhere having a good time with a bird? That way we can at least plead ignorance to a magistrate or a court."
"Oh, Mr. Chesterfield! You don't think we'll have to testify or anything, do you?"
"Could be, Miss, could be. In my line of work, I usually end up testifying against more than for. And Miss Dulcet, I'm rather tired of seeing the same police sergeants and judges question my work and how I got my proof. But I don't break laws for my job, Miss."
"Well what do you break laws for, Mr. Chesterfield?"
"Heh, maybe another time, huh? My standard rates and expenses will apply."
"Thank you, Mr. Chesterfield, and there will be a bonus for you if you do find my husband. I care for him deeply, and I don't want to see him hurt, but I am fearing the worst."
"Sure thing, Miss Dulcet. Well, here we are."
"Thank you."
And with that the dame took off in a chaffeured Cadillac taking up half the damn block. Me, I took off on foot for Tom's Diner where I do my best thinking and eating. Funny how those go hand in hand. I couldn't figure it out. What angle was this dame playing? Did she really expect me to believe that this was the only time he'd been gone or that this was the first time she'd known about him having a mistress? Women had a knack for knowing these things, wives especially. Half the time, when I had to show a woman in my office the in flagrante proof of her husband storing his eggs in another hen's nest, they'd yell, "I knew it!" and attempt a divorce. The other half would storm out of the office in disbelief and refuse to accept that it was their husband playing pattycake with a new playmate. But none, absolutely none, showed surprise on their faces. This little dame knew her man was footsying around, and probably turned a blind eye to it every once and a while, after he'd given her a new diamond ring, but something had to be different for her to actually seek out seedy old me and not the police. There was something else to this whole thing. And a millionaire like that not having any keys to a vault or safe, but out of the blue drops a bloody key that looks like it's to a padlock. Something wasn't right, but I had other things to think about. Namely my stomach.

The New Yorker Rejects Me

I was eagerly awaiting my electronic rejection of "The Hypochondriac" piece that I submitted to the Shouts and Murmurs section of The New Yorker. I got it today:
Dear sir,

We’re sorry to say that your piece, ‘The Hypochondriac,’ wasn’t right for us, despite its evident merit. Thank you for allowing us to consider your work.

Best regards,

The Shouts Dept.

I was fully expecting a rejection. I'm not a syndicated writer, and I'm not a producer or writer of a television show. Those are really the key factors in getting published in any section of the New Yorker. Hell, they no longer accept unsolicited nonfiction, and no matter how brilliant a fiction writer you may be, your work isn't going to get published in The New Yorker, because they won't take a chance on an unknown writer. I think this is probably why The New Yorker hasn't won an Ellie in 10 years or more. I know the piece I wrote isn't riveting or "death-by-laughter," but I thought it would hold a candle up to the lame-ass columns they usually have. But I do have to ask myself, "What could I write that is sure to get published in either the Shouts and Murmurs or the Fiction section?" And the answer dawned on me. I should write horrible poetry, generic and trite fiction, and humor writings that only capture the attention of people. I suppose that was my problem; I was trying to make people laugh with my piece!
Of course, of course. Laughter is so uncouth. I should aim for a chuckle. No, that might be overdoing it. I think a winning Shouts and Murmurs submission would have people reading it with blank faces while thinking to themselves, "Boy, this is funny." But what would the subject be? It can't be anything too odd or a rarity, because that could be construed as humorous. I know, I'll do some sort of humor piece on the flag, or America, or politics or the economy and the bailout. Something like that. Heck, when I make the big time, all I have to do is mindlessly write pieces and my name will ensure that they'll get published in a regular rotation, because people will assume that my rise to fame was not a fluke but the product of being continually funny.

The fiction section could pose a problem. All the pieces I've read in the New Yorker have been boring. Extremely boring. Apathy inducing, even. And they all avoided large vocabularies. Too flashy. And they also avoided plots. Too gimmicky. And there was also no character development. Too whatever. It's all been done before! I keep forgetting that the New Yorker is the trendsetter here for writing. By rejecting all good works of writing, they are setting a new trend! Bad writing is now good writing, and sloppiness is king. I've got it. I'll do some detective story. I'll even start it off with "It was a dark and stormy night," and include some convoluted self-doubt by an unnamed character, a cryptic ending, and a non-existent plot or conflict. Solid gold!

Poetry will be easy. All I have to do is look outside my window and instant poetry. I just have to remember to make the indentations of the text all askew. That's artsy.
The solid red
falls upon the gold
the red does not wish
to land upon the ground
Major bummer

And let's see what else I see.

Solid beast of steel

I conquer

of and to my abode

you shall ride

Ride, ride, ride damn you

And I also see a street:

Black river path

whence came the men with their guns

pus, pestilence, apoplectic

Rah rah rah
Of course like any good writer I will of course proof-read and edit my works, but as of right now, you can start sending me accolades for my poetry. I know it will make it in.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Teapot size

I haven't been able to get my head unwrapped from this problem. I've heard from several different people that large yixing teapots used for a gongfu type brewing result in tea that's subpar. I'm not completely sure why that is though; the most immediate answer is something to do with the temperature, in that small pots hold in the heat better than bigger, roomier pots. But I'm just not convinced. I've learned about this in Biology and I've done the math. Objects with a large surface to volume ratio lose heat quicker than objects with a smaller surface area to volume ratio. Take for instance my little yixing pot which is 180 ml/cc. V=.75pi*r^3 and Surface area=4pi*r^2. For the sake of simplicity, and the fact that I have no clue what kind of equation would give me a graph of my teapot's shape, I'm assuming the teapots are spherical. With this I get a ratio of 5:6 (or 5/6). But if I use a teapot that is considered to be a good size, 120 ml, I get a ratio that's approximately 1. All that really means is that the surface area is the same amount as the volume, but it will lose heat faster because it's has more surface exposed compared to its volume. This ratio and reasoning also explains why small animals have high metabolisms. But I'm not completely sure how this could be a benefit to teapots. For right now I'm going with the two-fold assumption that: yixing teapots are traditionally small which allows for large leaf to water ratios producing better brews of tea, and the small size was originally intended for the use of one teapot per person.

The Conductor

There's no way this story will work in a written medium since there's absolutely no spoken word, and most of the gags are visual. Still for posterity, and the hopes that I can actually act this out with the New York Philharmonic in Carnegie Hall. I got the story from watching a conductor conduct Mussorgsky's "The Hut on Fowl's Legs" by jumping up and down, punctuating accents with fist pumps, while the musicians sat and stared at their sheets of music, oblivious to the fact that they might get an errant left hook by the conductor.

The setting is a crowded music hall. The musicians are tuning up. The conductor walks out from the wings, and the audience erupts in applause. This is the legendary Pyoter Janovich. He acknowledges his audience, smooths his long hair back, and taps the baton on his stand for the orchestra to be silent. A woman in the clarinet section sneezes and all the musicians shift their chairs away from her. He bares his teeth and contorts his face into animal fury. The woman turns bright crimson and slinks down in her seat. Janovich shakes his head and regains his composure. He attempts to adjust the light on his conducting stand while standing on the base, sending several thousand volts through his body. He is flung back, helped up by the audience members to the stage, and his hair is on end. He licks his fingers and uses them to extinguish his eyebrows. He gingerly taps the light with his baton and it cuts on. He is then ready to begin conducting "Witches' Sabbath" of Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique. He juts his jaw out and begins by lightly trembling his fingers and baton, surprise marking his face. He starts swaying his body to the cellos. He quiets the brass section. He gently stirs the strings, flicking his baton with their slow descent down the musical scales. He starts bobbling his head to the sound of piccolos, and performs a jumping jack to the whole orchestra's forte. He resumes the head bobbling, which is joined by his arms and legs to indicate the bassoons, contrabassons, brass and piccolos. He grabs his stand and begins head banging to conduct the repititious notes of the orchestra. He looks grave as the orchestra descends into the ringing of the church bell portion. He again has the surprised look on his face as the tubas mark the start of midnight. He performs the "reach out, grab, pull towards" as the higher brass begin to join in. He moves his hands to the music as the other portions of the orchestra begin to join in. He punctuates with a punch in the air as the brass interrupts the strings! His hair is all over the place. He puts himself on auto pilot and begins looking around the audience. He spies an attractive brunette staring at him. He smiles and turns back to the orchestra. He sighs and looks at his watch as the orchestra begins a slow crescendo. He performs the "aw shucks" arm movement as the strings begin to be more prominent than the rest of the orchestra. He begins tap dancing with an idiotic look on his face as the violin section begins hitting their strings with the back of their bows to make the sound of skeletons dancing. He points to a musician and gives the thumbs up. He turns back to the brunette who is still looking at him and slyly waves at her in time to the vibrato of the piccolos. His attention is snapped back to the orchestra with a forte by the brass. He quickly turns back away and wiggles his eyebrows at the woman, again in time to the piccolos' vibrato. He begins swaying from side to side! The brass begin playing the motif from the beginning! He grabs his conductor's stand and begins clicking his heels together! The piece is over! He is finished conducting, and turns around to the applause of the audience, bowing low with his hair touching the ground. Coming out of his bow, his hair has fallen over in his face, and he attempts to untangle it while getting the orchestra to stand up for the audience. He stumbles, tripping over his conductor's stand and crashes into the first violinist.


Starbucks was going to report their 4th quarter results yesterday and I was expecting a pretty big loss in profit. I was not expecting their profit to be down by 97%, or to go from $158.5 million to $5.4 million. That's insane. Still, perhaps if they had good coffee at cheap prices, instead of disgusting coffee that costs 3x more than McDonald's, then they wouldn't have suffered so much. And the CEO isn't fooling anyone by saying that the company's going to rebound after this. The poor economy is probably going to last throughout most of next year, and I fully expect Starbucks to reduce prices, drastically reduce the number of stores concentrating in big cities, and to have more food along with coffee.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Daten zum Abschluss

The report I mentioned earlier conducted by a Dakota dermatologist postulating a high risk of lead blood levels in game killed by hunters is refuted by the CDC of all public health organizations. The CDC helped organize a cohort study of 740 people in the same region of North Dakota (the cohort, I guess) and they accounted for a common confounder (socioeconomic background and more importantly housing) in lead studies. As you can expect, the study found older people and people who worked with lead to have higher lead-blood levels. And it also found a significant increase in lead-blood levels with people who ate wild game. The only problem was that people usually ate several types of wild game, so it was hard to account which wild game had the most impact (I'm guessing birds since the shot used in shotgun shells is uncoated and very hard to find due to the small size), but there was a significant increase in the lead-blood levels among participants who had recently eaten game.
The study did note that the cohort had lower lead-blood levels than the average person, but they conclude that careful cleaning practices could reduce amounts of ingested lead, and that there's an unknown effect of children eating wild game since children are more susceptible to lower lead levels in their development stage.

So what does this mean? There's probably an increased risk of having higher blood levels than people who don't eat wild game, but this depends on the amount of wild game you eat. And, you might have to work with lead and eat a lot of wild game in order to get dangerously high lead-blood levels.
The report does also mention that a previous study done on lead levels in wild game were focused primarily on ground venison. The meat you use to grind is not high quality. As a matter of fact, if the deer were harvested humanely with a chest shot, the ribs and brisket would have a large amount of lead in them (assuming lead flakes off from the bullet), so you can see the problem with trying to assume that all venison would have the same amount of lead as the meat close to the entrance and exit hole. Ultimately if you use copper jacketed bullets or completely lead free bullets, like Barnes XXX, your exposure to lead will be very low.

Independent, dependent, and confounding variables

My little sister is taking a poli sci class and needed help with her project so I took a chance and said I'd work with her. This was a *slight* mistake on my part; it'd been so long since I'd had to worry about interpreting graphs and data and correlations since my epidemiology class. But I still walked her through it and explained the importance of the independent variables, and the dependent variables. I wanted her to test a null hypothesis of the political ideologies between those who felt strongly about religion and the general population. For some strange reason she wasn't requested to account for confounding variables (that might come later, though) with regards to who followed what religion and their political ideology. Can you see the problem with this?
I think age might be a confounding variable, but I'm not sure (it's hard to definitively identify confounders). Is it really age or religion that decides political ideology? I think being old, and religious makes you more likely to follow a conservative ideology, and being young makes you more likely to follow a liberal ideology regardless of religion. Yet, your religion might have an influence on your ideology. So, the only way to tell if age is confounding or not would be to have the religious groups stratified (this way you could see if younger members of differing religions follow liberal ideologies and older members of differing religions follow conservative ideologies) or to have a case-control type study (limit the people who answered the questions to being a certain age group). Can you think of anymore sources of error?

Thursday, November 6, 2008


I measured the grouping today of the Remington Premier Accutip. My first group was 1" to the right and 1" high, caused by the wind, and my second group was 1" low and 1" to the left, caused by a dirty, heated barrel. My third group was all over the place (about 3") from the wind and a dirty, heated barrel. My first group was .48 MOA, my second group was .605 MOA and my third group was 3.73 MOA. I'm still amazed that I was able to have 6 inch groups miraculously narrow down to less than an inch wide group just by changing ammo. To cap it off, I was able to hit a soda bottle that was 2 inches wide at 100 yards.

Bullets and Paper and Elevation and Polymer Tips

This post is really for my benefit and records since this will be easier to find than any paper I might accidentally throw away.
I finally finished sighting in my rifle today. David E. Petzal once said something to the effect that practicing shooting in big calibers is useful only if you figure out what you're doing wrong, or if you become monumentally better. He makes a very good point. Big calibers are finicky; if a barrel's too light, your shots will begin to scatter when the barrel gets warm; if the rifle's too light you can expect your accuracy to decrease as much as the stock market. And even if you handload your own ammunition, practicing with a big caliber is EXPENSIVE. The point he was making is to practice with a .22 to develop good shooting skills which cross over fairly readily with a big caliber.

Thankfully I used a mattress this time to sight in my rifle which was more stable than sitting. And I figured out a huge problem I was having while sighting my rifle in. The area where I was putting my target to sight in at 25 and 50 yards was flat. Virtually flat, maybe 3 to 6 inches difference in height, but flat enough that it wouldn't change the trajectory of a bullet. But because I couldn't maintain a line of sight on this flat part out to 100 yards, I had to dogleg the target down to an area where I could actually see it. And it wasn't until the saw my 4th grouping which made me gaze at my rifle with all the affection of an ingrown toenail that I realized the target's true altitude and my position's true altitude did not equal each other. The target was probably 8 feet below my position.

The point of sighting in a rifle is to position the correct amount of arc for the bullet's trajectory so that it will hit a target at a desired distance while at an equal height to the rifle. This is done by aiming the rifle at a slight upward angle so that the bullet has a small velocity in the vertical direction, which is accomplished by making the reticles on a scope aiming slightly lower than the rifle barrel. My problem was that I was aiming down towards the earth. By a LOT. A foot give or take would not make an appreciable difference in aiming, but this was enough to make my bullets go whizzing over the target or smack the top portion of the box I was using as a backstop. When shooting downhill, if you were to fire at at a target, your bullet's point of impact would change because it's no longer in an arc trajectory, but it would go the way all things go if you throw them flat or down: at 9.8m/s/s.

You can see this in the picture I drew in GIMP. Conversely the same is true for shooting uphill: you still aim low, because you're giving the bullet a higher vertical velocity, so it travels farther up than the point of impact that your scope would show. I still think this would be a great trick question to have on a physics exam.

Anyway, the altitude was enough for me to realize why I was sometimes trouble sighting in at 100 yards while I was getting accurate shots at 25 and even 50 yards. So I moved the targets to an area I thought was about even with my shooting position. And it worked! It was extremely windy today, but I was able to squeeze off some shots in between gusts. The wind did throw my bullets to the left and right, but the two groups I had were within an inch of the bullseye. And the groups themselves were about 1 minute of arc or better. That's not even telling what I could have done with a clean, cold barrel and an actual benchrest instead of a makeshift bedroll. The ammo I used was Federal Fusion with a flat tipped bullet, and the accuracy just wasn't there. Bullets would string, get thrown, and occasionally shoot a 2.73" ring, but nothing impressive considering how darn expensive the ammo was.
I was disappointed. Plus I had an atomic wedgie that was giving me a stranglehold from all the squatting and kneeling I was doing. But atomic wedgies aside, I used the Remington Premier Accutip and shot my first MOA group for the first time in 4 years. I was extremely pleased. For the second time in my life I felt like I knew exactly what I was doing and felt confident about myself. I also couldn't deny the resemblance of the ammo to Hornady's SST 130 grain. And neither could most of the hunters on the internet. The word is that this ammunition is actually made by Hornady for Remington. Looking at my grouping, I can believe it. The groups I made with Hornday are very similar to Remington ammo.

Apart from sighting in, I learned the importance of having the rifle butt firmly on my shoulder, or else the rifle would immediately begin to shift, throwing the bullet off. Learning to call shots was also very important and helped me feel better at shooting. I also got enough sense to know if there's a distinct breeze or gust, that it's best to wait until wind dies down before taking a shot. Ammunition is important. My rifle sent low end ammunition into 6 inch groups at 100 yards (from a prone position, unfortunately), but drove the high end stuff into tight groups which I was proud of. For future reference, further on down my hunting experiences, I'll need to determine which brand of polymer tip/spitzer ammo my rifle prefers, but for now I'll continue feeding it Hornady SST and Remington Accutip in 130 grain.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Data and Conclusions

I read an article on MSNBC that said people eating wild game that had been shot with lead bullets are more likely to have higher lead blood levels. But not a word is given to how the study was conducted. Did they compare blood samples of the subjects prior to eating game and after eating game? Or did they just compare blood samples of hunters and eaters of all things wild and hairy to a control group? If they did the latter, they have a slight problem.

Hunters are probably exposed to lead more than the average person. They handle lead bullets, they clean their gun barrels that are dirty with burnt gunpowder, lead dust, and copper fouling, they might even make their own bullets and ammunition. And, even if this wasn't enough, another story on the same site goes on to say that "Copper or copper-jacketed bullets fragmented less than bullets designed to mushroom quickly," and reduced the actual spread of lead.

There's just one thing absolutely wrong. Most bullets are designed to mushroom quickly. And most of these bullets are copper-jacketed so that they retain a large amount of their weight, which translates: the bullet expands but stays mostly intact, lead and all. There probably is lead remaining in some of the meat from the expansion of the bullet and the lead brushing off into the muscle. But it's likely limited, as the study shows, to the area where the animal was shot, and even if the bullet did expand out to the 18 inches as claimed as the extreme in the report, bone would stop the fragments which would remain in the offal.

As for the bullets that explode into tiny fragments? I've only heard of that happening to magnum calibers fired at a short range (which magnums aren't intended to do) where the bullet doesn't penetrate effectively, but literally explodes and leaves a shallow wound on the animal. Nasty stuff indeed.

So, as my old Epidemiology professor famously once said, "So now that we have all this data, what does it mean? Well, nothing really." And I think that sums up this report nicely.

The Day After

Obama beat McCain in the election, though McCain did extremely well considering he didn't have the media on his side or the amount of money for advertising and campaigning like Obama had.
I'm more excited about the state races. Bev Perdue and Kay Hagan, for the win! Now let's see if they can do as good a job as they say they can.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

An Election for the Ages

As I'm watching CNN and MSNBC, I keep seeing reporters yammering away about pundits, canvassing, and the electoral college, I'm absolutely bored in the false sense of drama they're creating. The LEAST they could do to make it interesting is to predict worst case scenarios if McCain or Obama wins (You know, Obama requiring the nation to watch his televised speeches every night and applaud at appropriate moments while Joe Biden makes idiotic, sexist remarks, and McCain going moose hunting with Sarah Palin who shows him how to properly gut a bull moose while wearing a bikini).
And the commentors? Terrible! It gives me the impression that they only read the past three months' worth of headlines just so they can mindlessly utter soundbites. What we need to do here is to get rid of these worthless commentators who could make even WWII sound dull and trite. What we need are three brave souls who are used to the excitement of a fiery paced bicycle race...

Bob Roll: And welcome back sports fans, we are here outside of Washington, D.C. waiting on the results of the election, since Versus decided to start doing coverage of the election. And joining me today are Paul Sherwin...

Paul: Hello Bob.

Bob: And Phil Liggett.

Phil: How are you, Bob?

Bob: Great, great. Now, gentlemen, Versus decided to put me up as the lead commentator since I'm the American on board. I say me being lead commentator could be pretty interesting. What do you guys have to say? [flashes toothy grin]

Paul: I would have to agree with you, Bob. It's often hard for me to tell what you're thinking or why you're thinking of whatever it is the thing that you're thinking of.

Phil: Bob, given your proclivity towards humor, this possibly the most entertaining political commentary we have witnessed.

Bob: Great, great, fantastic. Now, Obama and McCain. They're both great guys and I had the chance to meet them before the start of the race, I mean, election. What do you think it'll take for them to win.

Paul: Well, I believe Obama is doing the smart thing by trying to elect his campaign as a platform that will result in change for America. However, McCain is saying the same thing with his campaign which might confuse some of the voters who will have to resort to the ol' coin toss to determine which one they vote for.

Bob: Talk about throwing your vote away. Phil, did you get a chance to talk with some of the voters before they entered the poll?

Phil: Yes I did, Bob, and they didn't want to talk to me. They thought I was attempting to sway the vote, and some thought I was asking for advice on who to vote for. One lady even sneezed on me!

Bob: Wow, that really shows determination and strong feelings if she was sick with a cold and still dragged herself to the polls.

Phil: No, I think she was attempting to bless me through some sort of ritual. Not really familiar with the religious incantations she was muttering.

Bob: that's some bad juju, Phil. And now let's go to Paul to see what the candidates' training habits are like.

Paul: Well, Bob, this schedule is demanding for the riders, I mean, candidates, so they'll be getting quite a good bit of calories and consuming plenty of water. Gordon Brown as an MP and Chancellor of the Exchequer made this mistake during a session of Parliament, and as a result of underhydration had a serious case of hardened bogies which required immediate manual extraction. This of course was caught on live video, and was embarassing.

Bob: So drink enough water and your nose will be booger free. I'll have to remember that one. And now let's cut to live footage of the polls.

[camera switches to polls with people coming in and out]

Phil: And now for the viewers at home we are seeing people go in and out. Rather exciting...We don't know who they are voting for. That's the fun of course...WAIT I think I see a woman actually voting through the poll curtains! We can't make it out, but she is definitely voting for a presidential candidate! She is marking on the electronic ballot with an provided pen! And she is done!

Paul: Well, that certainly was interesting, but for now we'll cut to a commercial break. When we get back, Bob Roll's prediction on what Sarah Palin would look like cycling! Only on Versus.

Remembering Kaye Gibbons

Kaye Gibbons was arrested on Sunday for trying to illegally obtain prescription drugs. While I was reading the N&O article, it mentioned one of her books, Ellen Foster, which rang up a distant and dusty memory lodged between how fast you'd have to jump off a pool's starting block to clear the flags, and bits of the fundamental theorem of calculus. I remembered the book because it was assigned to my English class in 10th grade as part of our summer reading.
I cracked the book open; I attempted to crack the spine. I began reading the book; I promptly threw it against the wall.
It's a good book, as it's well-written from the view of a 12 year old white trash girl living somewhere in eastern North Carolina in the late 1940's. And you would absolutely love it if you enjoyed Death of a Salesman. In the book, the girl is sexually and physically abused by her father, and she goes to live with different, terrible people until she lands herself in a foster home where she's finally happy. There was no catharsis at the end, which is why I probably hated it so much. But it is well-written.
I can only question our teacher assigning the book at the start of the semester instead of something more enjoyable like Heart of Darkness or All the King's Men or even Ethan Frome. Now those were the light-hearted books I enjoy!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Writing Exercise

My writing prompt from this website is:

Write a reflection or short fictional piece about this woman. Where is she? What year is it? What is she thinking? Try this in the form of an interior monologue.

Like I'm supposed to recognize some sort of raving lunatic socialist. Sheesh.

"Jana Ulrich was born to a mother and a father in the most natural way that was common to those bearing the Ulrich crest. She was born whilst her mother stood underneath a tub filled with hind's milk. This was done of course so that the baby would smell fresh for several weeks after being born, since Ulrich's produced a vast amount of sebaceous oil to keep their skin supple and moisturized. No mere silver spoon was slipped into her mouth at an early age, but of an 18 carat golden spoon which she swallowed when she threw her first tantrum. Upon her pubescence, she entered womanhood as all lady Ulrichs have: by having a visitation from Aunt Flo.

Aunt Flo was a wizened handsome woman from Bavaria who would explain all the niceties of being an Ulrich lady. How an Ulrich lady must excuse herself from the table, how she must discreetly pick her teeth, and how she must properly swoon if overcome with emotions. But most importantly, an Ulrich lady had to know the correct manner in the arrangement of flowers, for it was a large and rather ornate flower arrangement that saved a younger Aunt Flo when she attempted to slide down the banister and fell precipitously only to have her fall broken by wildflowers.

Jana dutifully undertook her studies and presented herself as an Ulrich lady when she adequately understood everything that was to be expected of her. Her flower arrangements were a success in all of Thuringen, and she was able to support herself solely on these arrangements. Her true fame began when she crossed several different strains of wildflowers into a new breed which featured double stamens and cross-eyed pistils that had an uncanny semblance to her own strabismus visage."

Bullets and Paper in living color

This is really for my benefit, but if you find the following post entertaining, interesting, or if by reading it, it passes time, then more power to you. All the targets were at a 100 yard distance.

The first target was with Winchester 130 grain powerpoint. All the A's represent the 3 shot group. I know I flubbed the first shot; I flinched. But the more I shot with my lead-loaded rifle, the less I noticed the recoil, and the more I was able to put the reticules on target and my finger on the trigger without jerking the gun away. The only explanation I can think of for why the bullets were so high is that I have no idea. A dirty barrel, a hot barrel, wind, and fatigue all seem like pretty good reasons, but poor excuses, as to why my shots went far and wild. But, the Winchester ammo just doesn't seem right for the gun. I sighted in at 25 yards and I consistenly got a flyer on the second or third shot. According to the grumpy gun guru David E. Petzal, this is caused by ammo that's designed for a gun with a longer or shorter barrel than the one you're firing it from. This results in the bullet leaving the gun at a speed that's above or below the optimal speed for the barrel, so the barrel vibrates inconsistently. So, Winchester with it's stringed group of 5.5" is out.

The H1 and H2 are Hornady 130 grain SST and I called the 2nd shot as being low. I was right, but I was astounded that it was only 1 inch away from the first shot. My gun might like this ammo.

The second target is when I used Remington's reduced recoil loads with 115grain bullet. The first group was ok since it was 1 MOA. The other groups were not ok and were incredibly inconsistent. I haven't had good luck with this brand. The reduced recoil is great, but since I added weight to my rifle, I wasn't able to notice the recoil nearly as much firing 130 grain bullets. And since my bad luck with deer and these lighter, slower bullets, and the group I got with them, I'll probably discontinue buying these.

And finally the last target is the one I shot with the Remington 150 Express. The group is not bad, but it is off the mark by about 2 inches to the right. The overall group size is about 2.5". If I bragged about this group size that I was able to get while sitting, people would probably pat me on the head and say, "Not bad, but you need more practice." It's not perfect, but it would get me a deer. And while I look at it, I realize that this group was produced while the barrel was relatively clean, cool, and comfortable to hold.

While I go over these targets, I realize that I tried to sight in my rifle in possibly the worst way possible. I attempted to shoot a target from a sitting position instead of from sandbags, I didn't clean my barrel after every group or so, which would result in the point of impact varying because of the bullets pushing copper fouling and burnt powder out of the barrel, my barrel got beyond being cool when I fired groups which explains the wild shots and the good first group, and on top of that there seemed to be a breeze downrange that pushed my shots to the right which I confirmed by shooting a group at 25 yards after attempting to sight in my rifle at 100 yards. The 25 yard group was an inch to the left of the mark instead of the right.

I'm going back out again (ugh) on Monday to get the true zero on this finicky rifle set with good ammunition, sandbags, a cleaning kit with brush, and lots of patience for the barrel to cool in between groups.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Bullets and Paper

I added a solid pound of weight to my rifle and the beast is finally tamed. No longer does it kick me, but instead gives me a push when I pull the trigger. But I'm starting to wonder about my ammunition. I shot Winchester 130 grain and Remington 115 grain and 150 grain, but the absolute best grouping I had was with Hornady 130 grain. Go figure, but the Remington 150 grains grouped at about 3". Hornady's grouped in at 1.5" (or I guess I could say 1.5 MOA). And the Winchesters grouped in at 8". Yikes.
Monday I'm going to repeat this but actually use sand bags to prop the rifle up and see if it makes any difference in accuracy among the ammo brands.
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