Saturday, February 28, 2009

Violin Troubles

I ordered new synthetic strings for my grandfather's violin and a snake humidifier.  I bought the humidifier as an afterthought, since I've noticed a crack develop in the back which has to be caused by extremely dry winter weather we've had.  That crack and the seams were also starting to widen, so for the past couple of days I've been frantically pumping moisture into the room where the violin is stored to get the humidity level up to 60%.  I was hoping the wood would swell back to normal, the crack would close, and the seams would tighten.  No such luck.  With a humidifier running for 11 hours out of the day, the moisture never got about 30%.

This rainy weather's been a godsend.  Right now, it's the right humidity for the violin, so I've had it out all day in attempts for the wood to absorb some of the water vapor.

When I was practicing, I realized just how much work the violin needs.  It needs a new bridge to be cut and reset, new strings, new tuning pegs, the crack repaired, possibly the seams repaired, the top needs to be refinished, and the nut maybe replaced.  So I started grumbling about it, and then I picked up my bow and noticed that it didn't have much bite to it.  Which means the hair needs to be replaced.  I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop, like picking up the instrument and having the strings pull the neck off the body and cause the top to splinter into wood fragments.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Worst Books Never Written

Sometimes ideas for books go off like a rocket.  Other times they run off like a stray dog.  And then there are those ideas that explode like a hand grenade.  This is a list of the worst books never written.

"Natural Childbirth: Out Will Come Baby, Placenta and All"

"The Mysterious Case of Gray Fox and the Exploding Ta Tas"

"Home Butchering 101 with introduction by Dwight K. Schrute"

"A Modest Man" by Steve Jobs

"Horton Hears a Gunshot"

"How to Make Millions while Scrubbing Toilets"

"Irritable Bowel Syndrome Be Not Proud"

"Guns, Guitars, and Gonorrhea: A Rocker's Life"

"Passive Resistance" by Ted Kaczynski

"Thriller! Michael Jackson's Guide to Lovemaking feat. Lisa Marie Presley"

"30 Years Below the Belt: Musings of a Smalltown Urologist"

"Billy Mays' Lessons to Singing the Blues"

"Layman's Terms to Genius Translation Dictionary"

"National Mycophile Order's Field Guide to Slime-Molds"

"Jane Austin-Now in L33t Speak!"

"Khaki: All About that Ubiquitous Tan Color"

"Famous First Words of Celebrities and Politicians"

"Napoleon Bonaparte: Distinguished Crepe Lover"

"America's Famous Toxicologists"

"Robin Leach's Guide to Speaking Welsh"

"Spandex Tights and Neon Lights-The Gripping Story of Right Said Fred"

"An Introduction to Self-Medication" by Jack Kevorkian

"A Children's Guide to Chewing Tobacco Production"

"Grey's Anatomy Coloring Book for Kids-Now Including Pathology Slides"

"Richard Smelton: World Record Gum Wrapper Collector"

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Daily Tar Heel has real competition

While online perusing the rag fondly known as the DTH, also fondly known for its half baked attempt at coherence and unbiasness, someone had the audacity to send links to a similar website titled the Daily Tar Hole.  Here they take the fatted calf branded "DTH" and tan its hide.  Do the people at the Daily Tar Hole attempt faux pleasantries at the people they dislike, or hide thinly veiled attacks that editors don't bother correcting? No! They tell the news like it should be reported!

For too long, I say, we Carolina alumni and students have had to put up with the DTH.  Do we need to be reminded like scolded children that it's our civic duty to register to vote so we can decide who will be elected on the town council of Chapel Hill (AKA The Parking Lot Mafia)? No! Do we need editorials complaining that students don't attend open Board of Trustees meetings, when the directions, time, and place aren't published in the said paper? No!  Do we need to have idiotic articles on bathroom graffiti, gay table meetings, or the importance of abolishing holidays so as no one is offended? I say no!

We need the truth to be published!  We need the blunt truth to be revealed to the light!  The Daily Tar Hole has this truth.  It has things that students would find interesting and somewhat informative.  In other words, it has the news.

Problems with Fernal Humidity

This crazy weather is playing havoc with my body.  Usually I'm used to the humidity being around 40% or so in the winter and going up past 100% in the summer.  For spring and fall, the humidity ranges somewhere those values.  But this winter's been colder and drier than past winters.

Humidities have varied from 10-30% which is awful for tea and violins.  My skin and hair are dry beyond belief and I keep having to retune my violin.  I'm only wondering what effect this will have on my pu'er.  For right now, I have a humidifier running in my room for the violin, tea, and my sake, but I'll be grateful when warmer, moister weather comes back.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Benefits of Driving: An Epistemological Article

The benefits of driving are many.  Driving's primary purpose is to convey a warm, living body from one specific geographic region to another specific geographic region.  Unfortunately, brains are not required for this mode of transportation which results in several vehicles manned by the people with nothing between their ears but dust and fluff, to veer across several lanes of traffic to head towards an exit ramp only to decide that they were perhaps better off on the inside lanes and so swerve through several lanes of traffic to get back to their original position while enduring a gauntlet of horns, hand signals and tire squeals.

But, if a body is possessed of a brain then the transitory phase where the body is being transported between specific geographic regions is uneventful, save for the occasional traffic detours and inexplicably horrible smells that accumulate near roadways.

But of course this primary purpose of driving assumes that a body has a definite starting point from whence to drive, and a definite ending point where the body will arrive.  Transitory points in between can be numerous, especially if the body is throwing a wingding of a party and needs several types of chips, dip, and wine.  However, sometimes a body is possessed to drive from one geographic region to an unknown destination.  Reasons for this are multi-faceted and range from the brain temporarily shutting down so that a body forgets where their final destination is, to a sense of daring and exploration that can be deduced by a body uttering the phrase, "Hey honey, do you want to try and find that store that's having that big sale?"

A brain shutdown is detrimental to driving.  Its symptoms present as forgetting where the final destination of a body is determined to be, a body forgetting that it is in a vehicle with windows, and belief that a shortcut can be found when it is a widely known falsehood.  But ultimately, all brain shutdowns lead to forgetting the purpose of driving.

Forgetfulness of the destination is vocalized by a body stating: "Hey, where the heck is the place we're looking for," "Wait, did we want to go there," and "Wait a second! This is the wrong way!"

A vehicle has several strategically placed windows to allow a body to use its vision to perceive its surroundings.  This also allows other bodies in other vehicles to peer into a singular vehicle and perceive another body.  A brain shutdown leads to the mistaken belief that no other bodies in the surroundings can perceive a body while it is within the confines of the vehicle.  This is physically demonstrated by a male body inserting finger(s) into his nose with aplomb, while a female body on the street or in another vehicle views through the vehicle's windows at the male with disgust.  Occasionally, if the male body glances around and sees other bodies looking at him from the surroundings, the male's brain will awaken and perceive that there are other bodies that can view the male from the vehicle's windows.  The male quickly removes the finger(s) from the nostril(s).  

The rarest symptom of a body's brain shutting down is the belief that a shortcut can be found, despite knowing that shortcuts do not exist on a stretch of road.  Indeed, this is also the deadliest symptom since it waylays a body several miles off the beaten path and into the boonies.  A typical conversation between cognizant bodies and a body with a shut down brain driving might proceed as:
"Hey. Where are you going?" "I believe this is the right way." "Well, I know it's not the right way. Turn around." "You don't know! You don't know anything!" "I know it's the truth that we're headed the wrong way because you're mistaken! Turn around before we get captured by some in-bred rednecks!"
A shut down brain can be awakened either with a logical argument on the behalf of the cognizant bodies in determining what they know from what they believe or by stumbling across rednecks who proceed to tell the body "Golleee! Yew shore are headed in the wrawng deerection!" with the knowledge that the body in the vehicle is headed in the wrong direction.  Sometimes rednecks withhold this knowledge and give mistaken beliefs "Well, I reckon if you follered them iron hoss tracks it should lead you to whurr you need to go. Heh heh" because they are assholes.

A sense of daring and exploration is another reason for driving without a predetermined destination.  Sometimes this final destination is elusive, with a body being unable to name it unless the body actually sees the destination and determines that is where they want to be.  And sometimes the final destination is vaguely known, but the transition from one destination to another is unknown.  All of these require a sense of exploration and a good idea of direction.  If a body does not possess a curiosity for the unknown, they will simply give up and say, "Heck, let's figure out where we want to go before we drive aimlessly around."  But ultimately knowledge is gained by not having a final destination for driving.

The benefit to this is that a body will save a bundle of money otherwise spent on frittered gas.  The downside is that they might not see things they believed to exist, but did not know existed.  This is exemplified by my belief that there are weirder people out there than I can possibly imagine.  I came to know this by driving aimlessly around Cameron Village and seeing a man wearing coke bottle glasses with military medals pinned on a baseball cap, driving a remote control tank.  I believed that there are odd people out there, but after seeing one, I know that there are odd people out there, and this knowledge cannot be refuted.  And, my driving without a final destination finally gained a purpose.

But a body might not find anything by driving without a final destination, and they then would know that driving without a purpose is a waste of time.  This could be proven to be conditional however, if future purposeless drives come across a serendipitous final destination.  However, knowledge gained by the purposeless drives could indeed be considered to be the "final destination" if not a physical destination.

The benefits of driving are numerous as demonstrated in the above essay.  Knowledge, beliefs, and embarassing situations can all be discovered by one.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

2007 Yiwu Yongpinhao 4735 Fall Harvest

This sheng pu'er is quite enjoyable. Light, fruity with freshness, but darker fruit flavors, including a grape note and tannin character are present in the tea.  This is quite possibly the lightest sheng I've had so far: in a literal sense.  Packing my 120 ml yixing full of leaves yields tea that lacks a thick texture.  The complexity of the tea makes sipping enjoyable.  The lighter muscatel tastes are first noticed and closely followed by the darker tannin taste.  I personally enjoyed lightly breathing in with some of the tea on my tongue, much like tasting whiskey, because it actually enhances the flavor.  Succinctly, this tea reminded me of a lightly oxidized formosa oolong. 

This sheng is pretty forgiving with regards to brewing methods.  I was able to use 10 seconds in between each infusion, and the amount of leaves used varied from enough to fill the pot halfway when wet, to the leaves pushing the lid off and out.  But increasing the leaves to that extreme only seemed to make the tea somewhat stronger.  

I will be ordering more of this tea. It's not excellent enough for me to rave over it, but it's good enough that I could drink it every day and be satisfied.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Deep Thoughts

Everyone talks about curlicues.  But what about the vastly underrated curliezees?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

NPR (Narcoleptic Public Radio)

"And that was Artie Shaw playing 'Stardust,' for Mr. and Mrs. Robert Fanning in Wakiki, Illinois followed by Paganini's first caprice...played by Rudolf Lipschitz, slowed down of course to half tempo for our listeners...And now for something exciting [sounds of frog chirps, grunts, and croaks] No, listeners, that was not recorded at a muddy swamp in the flats of Louisiana.  Though it may sound like frogs, it was actually recorded here in our very own studio by famed biologist Luke Thatcher.  How are you...Luke?"

"Why....Hello and good morning. I am doing well, in case you were wondering."

"Well, no I wasn't actually wondering I was just going through a conversation initiation formality. But I'm glad that you are well. What can you tell us about your work and upcoming book 'Bombastic Bombadils?'"

"Yes, the S. frons bombadil. Quite a fascinating being. I've spent my life studying it in its natural habitat and throw everything you thought you knew about these frogs out the window!  My research team and I have stumbled upon the most important discovery of the millenia.  Contrary to what most people think, the S. frons bombadil does NOT attempt mating calls during the lunar cycle when the moon is at its apex, but it attempts them solely during spring tides."

"This is very interesting. Now, how come no other researcher has discovered this?"

"My team and I have scratched our heads over that one.  Apparently no one else finds them very interesting since they're so numerous in the US, they eat anything, and their habitats always involve lots and lots of mosquitos. And they have a tendency to smell like low tide and mud. But to me, I like that smell.  It's the smell of publication in scholarly journals!"

"I share your sentiments.  How is this discovery you found important?"

"Well, it goes against what we thought before! It's extremely important! I mean, this whole mating pattern is very important to their survival! It might mean I get to have my own office now and a salary of 25K a year!"

"My, if I could use a new-fangled term to describe this...that is 'cool.'  Luke, thank you for your time...My name is Anna Eisen of 'Exciting Discoveries in the Field of Science,' and thank you for listening.  Up next we have the Finnish electrical guitar virtuoso Yggdrasil Jorgensen describing his eclectic musical stylings of Paganini."

Friday, February 13, 2009

Navy PRT

Today I took the PRT and was handed a letter describing a need for me to have bloodwork done to determine if I'm eligible for a medical waiver or not. Oy.

When I first walked into the office, a girl was ahead of me, waiting her turn to talk with the LT.  I got my weight and height measured and drove over to the highschool to do the fitness test.  "Say, Lieutenant, I wouldn't be able to swim the PRT, would I?"

"Ehhh, nope. You can swim, bike, run, but none of those are actually guaranteed except for the run, because it's not that hard to find a mile and a half to mark off.  An exercise bike and a pool are kinda hard to come by."


That was sort of my last hope if I didn't pass this PRT.  Because my best time for the 500y freestyle was 6 minutes, which is 20 seconds under the time needed to achieve the highest PRT score.  The LT asked me if I swam for UNC, which I replied that I didn't; but I did swim 3-8 miles a day in college.  His eyes bugged out at that, and he said, "No wonder you wanted to know if you could swim the PRT!"

Pushups and situps and the foot grab went ok, but I had to urinate very badly.  I'd been drinking water all day and when I pulled into Raleigh, I was hot and very thirsty, so I went to a drugstore and got the cheapest bottled water they had.  And it wasn't until I got to the track that I realized just how much water I'd had.  Unfortunately, all of the doors to the bathrooms by the track were LOCKED so I got to run 1.5 miles wondering if I squeezed my legs tightly it might put less pressure on my poor bladder.  My original plan was to run a 1:50 per 400 meters, because 1:50 isn't exactly booking it, but it would cut an entire minute off the run from 12 minutes to 11 minutes.  That idea went to hell as soon as the first lap since I ran a 1:37 in no pain.  My first mile time was a 7:35 and I sandbagged the last two laps to get an 11:48.  I know what I'll be doing for the next couple of weeks: distance running.

Anyway, I finished with a good time and scored and overall good "low" on the PRT.  The LT said my application was being reviewed mid-February and that I'd probably be shipped out mid-April to OCS.  Good deal.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Corruption of our youth

Katie dropped by the other day to pick up her compost bin and she casually mentioned in between throws of the tennis ball to our beagle that she used one of my writings as an example for her class.  "Which writing," I said. 
"The one where you describe taking the dog to the pound.  The first part was factual and the second part was an example of writing."

I was kind of taken back.  I felt like that piece was something that'd be read on NPR, because it's so drawn out over a mundane task.  Whenever my mother's driving, she always has NPR on and they're always droning on about some famous orchestral piccaloist from the 1970's writing his memoirs of the Oregan Symphony.  Or something close to that.  I mean, I don't call it Narocelptic Public Radio for nothing.  Actually, I now have a new topic for my next writing.

But anyway, it's fine that she used it as an example of illustrative writing, because it does get the job done.  Then we started talking about her upcoming wedding and how she wants me to wear my full dress uniform, and also how her students are somehow fascinated with me.  "Wow! He writes really good stories! And he's going into the Navy? COOL!"

And now her students want me to come to her class to talk about the Navy. Weird.  It's strange to think that I might possibly have some sort of influence on impressionable, malleable minds, and I worry what our future would be like if I became a teacher in my later life.

I can just see it now: kids bragging about how much wool socks they got for Christmas, young men learning to wetshave and sharpen straight razors, children saying to each other, "I'll take none of that lip, McGuff unless you want the ol' 1-2!" and school dances filled with students doing the foxtrot.

The Apocalypse

This week's sign of the apocalypse.  Joaquin Phoenix leaves the film industry to go into a career of hip hop artist while looking eerily like the unabomber.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Kunming Chuncheng 2006 Arbor Yinhao Tuocha 50g

I took off the paper of this tuocha and smelled the leaves with anticipation.  Hmm, tobacco-ish and tea-like! So far so good, but when I tried this, I started to gag.  This tea is incredibly astringent and tastes awful, even after 5 infusions! I never form a full opinion of a tea after just one tasting session, but this one left a very strong impression on me.  Maybe, just maybe, some age will tame it out, but for right now I can't drink it.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

It's an H of a Day

I went to visit my grandparents today with the expectation of going to the Old Folks' Home with my grandfather to play music for them.  But he didn't feel up to it and I spent 4 hours longer then I anticipated at their house.

My grandfather and grandmother are always happy to see me when I visit.  I usually play the violin with my grandfather who assumes because I have natural talent on the violin that I should automatically know every single fiddle song there is. "How about Pony Boy? Love Lifted Me? Danny Boy? No?"  So out of 7 or so visits I've made there, we've played "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" at least 21 times since it's the only song I know.  He always gives me this look when I shake my head because I can't recognize the song he's playing.  It's a look that says, "I sure don't understand what his teacher sees in him! He can't even recognize his alma mater song!"  He always asks me what songs I play on the violin which truthfully I can only play the one.  The rest of the time I practice scales and try to build up muscle memory to get the correct notes.  But I can tell he doesn't really think much of scales or learning all of the notes on the violin's fingerboard.  

My grandmother views me as something a little less than a technical genius.  "Do you think you can reprogram my computer? I've forgotten my password and I need my email and things to work."  I'm the least competent computer person I know.  When something goes wrong on my computer, I start slamming my head against the wall, revive, and then see if the problem's fixed itself. If it hasn't I start offering sacrifices and libations in the form of computer chips and contact cleaner to the computer.

Today she asked me to look at her telephone. I glanced at it and immediately said, "Oh, the LCD is burned out or there's maybe a short or something in there," which set her off: "Oh, do you think you could fix it? Do you know of anyone who could fix it? We really need the caller ID to work."  My eyes glassed over and I stammered out technobabble: "OH, well I think they don't repair telephone handsets these days. It's all market leader loss examples with people buying cheap phones and throwing them away when they wear out, though I guess you could buy a new one and get a long distance circuit including your circle of friends."  I'm not saying that she has high expectations for me to keep up with technology, but if a bomb fell off one of the jets stationed near the chAir Force base and landed in their backyard, my grandmother would call me up and say, "Dear, a bomb fell in our backyard marked 'HE' and I just know you can come over and defuse it without us having to get the police and ATF agents involved who'll trample over my begonias. Will you?"

But today was a back and forth day between my grandfather and grandmother:
"It's fernal cold outside. I'm fernal cold in here."
"Well, turn the gas logs on."
"No, they bother you. I'll just sit here and freeze."
"I think the television's loud enough."
"I can't hear you, crazy!"
"WHAT?! I NEED TO TURN THE TV DOWN TO HEAR YOU! what did you say?"

My grandfather really summed up my worst fears when he turned to me and said, "You'll have this to look forward to when you get old" as my grandmother yelled into the telephone "There's something wrong with our PHONE! We need it repaired!"

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