Thursday, April 23, 2009

Deep Thoughts

Saying someone is a night owl is kind of redundant.  I mean, when's the last time you've heard someone say, "Look at that ocean whale!" or "See that land elephant?"

Monday, April 20, 2009

Top Alternative Rock Songs of the 1990's

  1. Pearl Jam "Evenflow"
  2. Alice in Chains "Rooster"
  3. Monster Magnet "Space Lord"
  4. Red Hot Chili Peppers "Give it Away"
  5. Soundgarden "Black Hole Sun"
  6. Better than Ezra "Good," "In the Blood," "Desperately Wanting"
  7. Collective Soul "Heavy," "Gel," "December"
  8. Stone Temple Pilots "Interstate Love Song" "Big Empty"
  9. Weezer "Buddy Holly"
  10. No Doubt "Spiderwebs," "Just a Girl" (not exactly a fan of Gwen Stefani's voice, but the guitar riffs are pretty catchy)
  11. Bush "Machinehead
  12. Spacehog "In the Meantime"
  13. Smashing Pumpkins "Bullet with Butterfly Wings"
  14. Live "Lightning Crashes," "The Dolphin's Cry" "All Over You"
  15. Soundgarden "Rusty Cage
  16. Foo Fighters, "Big Me," "I'll Stick Around"
  17. Butthole Surfers "Pepper"
  18. Third Eye Blind "Jumper"
  19. Days of the New "Down Town," "Touch, Peel, and Stand"
  20. The Refreshments "Banditos"
  21. 311 "Down"
  22. Harvey Danger "Flagpole Sitta"
  23. Eve 6 "Inside Out"
  24. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones "The Rascal King," "The Impression that I Get"
  25. Nirvana "The Man Who Sold the World" "Heart Shaped Box" "Lithium"
  26. Red Hot Chili Peppers "Under the Bridge"
  27. Presidents of the United States of America "Lump," "Peaches" (Deadly orchard ninja swift-as-the-wind attack!)
  28. Crash Test Dummies "Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm"
  29. Blessed Union of Souls "I Believe"
  30. Burlap to Cashmere "Eileen's Song"
  31. Jars of Clay "Flood"

Friday, April 17, 2009

Not the worst day, but pretty high up there.

Who knew my day could start off with such innoccuous words: "Hey, we're going to Raleigh. Want to come with us?"  I knew it was for my sister's wedding and all the preparations going into, so I'd figure we'd talk numbers with some of the venues for the dinner, reception, and the catering service.  No big deal, right? I'd get to eat some cake, see how big 1200 square feet is, and note the colorful ambience of the dining feng shui.

Except none of that happened. Well, I can't say that; I did get to eat a tiny amount of cake.

My sister and mother kept getting into arguments over the whole thing.  It first started off with a squabble over the dining venue, but that soon resolved thanks to some well-placed sniffs by my mother. Then we moved on to the catering service and sampled the different cakes and tried to pair them with the different mousses.  My sister decided on several patterns for linens and things and chose a navy and ivory color scheme. I asked her, "Are you sure you want me to appear in uniform at your wedding? I'll be in full dress blues and they're black."  The woman organizing the catering fawned, "Ohhhh, you're in the Navy! I was a CTM for 6 years!" and she seemed impressed that I was going to OCS in a week. It's a small world, I guess when it comes to previous service.  Right now I'm not sure black will go with a navy color scheme, so I might wear a regular ol' navy blazer with matching slacks.

After the catering, the catfight reached feverpitch when we headed towards the museum to look at the room for the reception area.  It sort of looked like the room my highschool prom was held in. Drab carpet, wood panelling that comes in rolled up sheets, and lighting that could cause epileptic seizures.  My sister did not like it for the aforementioned reasons.  My mother was convinced that it was absolutely gorgeous and that all it needed was a little sprucing up.

The tension was palpable.  If I were to make an analogy, I'd say it was equivalent to someone taking a mallet and banging away on 100 crates, with 10 of the crates filled with TNT.  I was expecting my sister to blow her capillaries and my mother to flip her lid.  Or my sister to throw a hissy fit and my mother to hem and haw.  Or my sister to throw a hoot 'n' a holler and my mom to kiss the wampus cat.  Or my sister to wring the 'possum's neck and my mom to stamp in the muscadine jelly. Or however those Southern US phrases go regarding losing your temper.

Lucky me that I happened to be in the middle of the whole thing.

My sister drove back with her fiancee to visit her future father in law, and I drove back with my mother.  Guess what our topic of discussion was?

In essence, the day boiled down to: "This is my day, this is what I want to do!" "No, I think this would be better, yes this would be much better if we did it this way!"

Oh yeah, and if my day wasn't bad enough already, I got blatantly checked out by two gay guys and was ignored by every single girl I saw.  This seemed to amuse my sister greatly.

Headed towards Newport

I got word from my officer recruiter that my final selection letter came through and I've got a class date of April 26th for OCS. And it only took me 3 years to get here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Current Sign of the Apocalypse

Former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich is seeking court permission to appear in a reality television show based in the jungles of Costa Rica.

And now for the betting odds: 
1:10 that he attempts to control his coiffure with a comb fashioned from a seashell.
1:2 that he smuggles in Snickers and refuses to share with everybody because he "has this [expletive] thing and it's [expletive] golden. [He's] not going to just [expletive] give it away. [Expletive!]."
1:1.5 that he's called an a**hole, d*****bag, and whiner by his fellow contestants.
1:1000 that the fellow contestants fashion a Blagojevich voodoo doll from his hair and burn it.
1:1.25 that when he's voted off the island, he refuses to acknowledge his dismissal and goes straight to the TV cameras and declares that there is a reality TV show conspiracy against him.

Yunnian 2008 JianCheng 1094

I've almost finished off the Yongpinhao Yiwu Fall Harvest brick, so I decided to unwrap a new bing.  And the Yunnian 2008 JianCheng 1094 Wild Green bing is pretty good!  The compression was light enough that I could pinch off pieces of the bing and separate the leaves with ease.  The leaves are all whole which I'm starting to prefer over the mixed compression of tea leaf fragments, half leaves, and whole leaves.  The whole leaves seem to make the earlier infusions much more palatable than tea mulch.

I used enough leaves to fill the yixing 1/4th full and rinsed the leaves once.  All the sequential infusions taste very similar to the Yongpinhao Yiwu fall brick.  I haven't decided if this is caused by the proximity of the bing's storage to the brick, or if the leaves are from a similar plantation.  I can't really recall the brick being very aromatic, though...

Whatever the reason for the taste similarites, whether it's a storage error or just circumstance, I enjoy the taste of this bing.  Grape, muscatel, and a slight malt character mesh together to remind me of red wine.  These notes on tasting are all tentative since I'm thinking the bing's tastes will change with future tea sessions.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter readings and visitations

Easter came and went at the ol' beach. I got sardines for Easter! Yippee!

I had fun running out on the beach and avoiding all the women with no teeth and plenty of tattooes.  Interesting combination there.

I reread Michael Crichton's "Timeline" and noticed that its writing wasn't up to par. Not that anyone would claim Crichton is a literary genius, but he writes good books that are a cut above most of the sci-fi, thriller, action paperback novels.  Plus, it's sort of hard to read the same novel again, especially when you know exactly what happens and how it all ends.

But I also started reading a Robert Ludlum novel titled "The Scorpio Illusion."

I tried reading it Friday night, but I fell asleep after a few pages.  I woke up around 4AM Saturday morning because the windows were rattling, the wind was howling, and the roof sounded like it was going to collapse.  I though, "Great. The roof is going to collapse and kill me before my life has even started. My tombstone'll probably read 'Graduated from UNC. Pretty much all the best has been spoken for.'" Then lightning started crackling all around the city, ambulances and fire engines with sirens blaring raced to put out fires, and thunder kept crashing that made the whole house shake. Then I realized that I'd be content with only having to worry about the roof collapsing.

I couldn't sleep so I started reading some more of the Ludlum book.  I noticed that he'd written "The Bourne Identity," so I was expecting a good read.  The book is about some woman who sees her parents beheaded so she goes completely apecrazy and decides to kill every single government in the world so anarchy can reign.  Sounds like a good plot, right? But "The Scorpio Illusion" went a little something like this: "Dammit, Chesterfield, we need to know where this Bajaratt is! She can blend in with any culture! She knows over a thousand languages including ancient Latin and Occitan! She can hack into any secure government connection through a regular phone line and figure out all our secrets! And when she displays her sign, it means she's going to destroy all of us!" "*gasp* But surely you don't mean!..." "YES I DO! She's going to steal all the nuclear warheads in the United States, wire them together and trick the entire legislative branch of the USA to sit on them until they explode while deceiving all the military planes to attack cities!" "By God...we've got our work cut out for us."

And that's when I threw the book across the room and decided to read the Michael Crichton paperback about using quantum foam to travel in time because it was a lot more plausible.

My sister flew to New York to study pieces in museums as part of a trip for her art class. She was flying back Saturday night, and was planning to go back home to visit my grandparents.  I was charged with the task of driving my grandparents back from the beach. I really don't know why, unless it's some sort of old-fashioned rule, but whenever I drive, my grandfather always sits in the passenger seat while my grandmother sits in the back.  

And all of my grandparent's idiosyncracies come out to play while I'm driving them and they're in the car.  My grandfather will start to sniff the air like a dog, gaze around, and say, "Do you smell that? I smell something stinky...Shore wish it didn't smell so bad!"  I'll be driving and my grandmother won't be able to hear me when I talk to her, and she'll remind me that she only hears well enough when you're actually facing her, but when I'm driving I don't want to turn my body around so I can see her face to face, so I'll usually opt to yell at the top of my lungs.  My grandfather will gaze at the gear shifting lever, and start wiggling it to make sure it's in the "right" position. He recently did this while we were going 70MPH on the highway, and when I glanced at him, he looked at me and said, "Hm. Good. It's in the right position."  My grandfather will claim I'm driving incredibly fast, and I'll inform him that I'm driving the exact speed limit.  My grandfather and grandmother will start arguing about whether they need to stop for gas, whether they should pick up groceries while they've got the car out, etc.  It's just crazy.

And when we finally all got back home, my sister and aunt were all sitting around and talking, and my grandfather started mentioning someone he knew named "Flatus Jones."

Looking back on all the Easters I've had, this has to be the strangest one so far.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Failed Jump?

I took my sister's Fuji road bike to my local bike shop to get the brake cables replaced.  There's the possibility that it might need more than just that, but based on how much wear the drivetrain has, I doubt it was ridden very much at all.  The chainrings have minimal wear, the cassette's cogs' teeth are all nice and square, the chain is still good, the brake pads are fine.

While I was in the bike shop and staring at the clipless pedals and wireless cyclocomputers, a guy came in to pick up his bike.  The repairman brought it over, and I glanced at it.

It was a hardtail mountain bike complete with disc brakes and other accoutrements.  The thing that really struck me was the chain was all jacked up, the crank arms were all sorts of bent out, and the rear derailleur was in several pieces, dragging on the ground by its cable.  The repairman told the guy, "You definitely need a rear derailleur and bottom bracket, and probably a new chain."

I kind of felt like asking the repairman what happened, but I think I know.  The guy was riding his little mountain bike on a trail and figured he'd attempt to get airborn off a ramp, or do some sort of a jump.  He stood up on the pedals with the crank arms horizontal, and when he landed the rear tire either collapsed, crushing the rear derailleur, or he lost control and fell on his right side which would also crush the derailleur.  The bottom bracket spindle/axle probably couldn't handle the force of a 170lb guy accelerating towards the earth at 9.8m/s/s and then suddenly stopping, so I'm guessing it probably snapped.  I think BMX bikes are designed to do jumps and stuff like that. Mountain bikes are designed to take spills and everything, but probably not the type this guy had.

Anyway, I thought it was kind of cool seeing that much wreckage on a bike. Personally, when I go to pick my bike up tomorrow, I'm hoping to see a guy with his road bike in pieces arguing with the repairman, "Whaddya mean you can't fix this?! This cost me 4 grand!"

It's Just a Mutual Cycling Hatred

The Tour de France organizers and Lance Armstrong have had a long lasting hateful relationship.  After his 1999 tour which he won after beating cancer, the organizers got together in a French cafe, sipping wine and munching on baguettes, and began talking: "Sacre bleu! Thees American's performance in le Tour was too good! He must be doping!" "But Francois, he has not tested positive for anytheeng!" "He must have feegured out a way to fool the tests! Ahh, thees American is so clever!"

And so they redesigned the tours to put Lance at a disadvantage, and made it well known that they'd like to see someone different win the Tour. But that didn't happen for a long time. As a matter of fact, it didn't happen at all for seven years.

During that time Lance was accused of doing various doping practices to give him an edge, but the accusations were countered with the arguments that he produces very little lactic acid, his VO2 max is insanely high, and he generally just trains for the Tour de France year round while racing the smaller tours that lead up to the Tour de France, as opposed to his competitors who race year round.  Tour organizers have gnashed their teeth and whined that he was ruining the sport because there was no competition, while Lance pointed out that he was handedly kicking everybody's asses which is a great feat in itself.

But through a lack of solid evidence, or a really good legal defense team on Armstrongs' behalf, none of the accusations really stuck.  But that doesn't mean he hasn't had his share of detractors and haters.  

So it made sense that when a French anti-doping agency drug tester showed up at his house recently and requested a urine sample, Lance wanted to make sure the guy was really with the anti-doping agency.  For all Lance knew, this guy could've been with a tabloid and had vials of recombinant erythropoietin ready to dump in his blood and urine samples and take them to the press for the story of a lifetime.  And, it's not like Lance is best buddies with labs testing for drugs. One lab claimed to have retested his blood from 1999 and it tested positive for erythropoietin, but Lance threatened to sue for defamation, and the lab was kinda sorta lacking definitive evidence, and they kinda sorta quit claiming it.

The only problem I have is that Lance wanted to shower while his assistants checked the drug tester's credentials.  Bad move, Lance.  I know getting pushed around isn't a lot of fun, but he should've stayed within sight of the drug tester at all times.  That way, nobody can accuse him of taking some sort of masking agent prior to providing the samples.  He tested negative, by the way, but that won't make much of a difference to his detractors.

As far as his prospects for the Tour de France go, I expect him to get smoked by all the younger guys.  He's a good cyclist, but I think the younger guys will all edge him out.  But hey, he's not racing to win, right? He's racing to raise awareness for cancer, so I expect him to have a lot of breakaways, drop back, and not win any stages.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I done got my hair did

After dropping off a jacket, gloves, and fabulous scarf for my mother, I went to get my haircut.  Haircuts are what I consider a two week commitment. If you don't get a lot of sleep, and your entire face is sagging in the morning, you can only expect to get made fun of for just a day. If you wake up with a stupid tattoo you can expect to get made fun of for as long as you live.  Even if you get it removed, people will still bring it up, "Hey Johnson! You remember when you got that tattoo of a machinegun wielding zombie unicorn? HA HA HA!" Bad haircuts last for about two weeks and you can expect to get made fun of for that long.

And it seems like most of the time women who get their haircut only get an inch or two taken off. And they always say, "Do you notice anything different about me?" to their friends. Their girl friends will always notice and say, "Oh my gosh! You got your hair cut! It looks great!" Their guy friends usually don't pick up on it, and say, "Uh, new shoes?" and then when they're informed that they should've noticed the haircut, they'll sort of blindly stare at the hair and say, "Yeah, you did get a haircut!"

When guys get haircuts, it's usually pretty apparent. Mostly because they either keep procrastinating on getting the haircut, so they'll come in to work or school with two inches of hair missing. Or they get such a hack job that it's pretty obvious they got a haircut.

For me, I always get bad haircuts and the next two weeks I'm always clipping stray locks of hair, shaving my neck, or trimming around my ears or levelling my sideburns because the barber or stylist forgot.  It never fails; they'll comb my hair or wet it down so much that all the mistakes don't show up until the next morning when I look in the mirror and say to myself, "I tipped that guy waaay too much."

Today was sort of a milestone in new haircuts, though. A new milestone of low, that is.  I got into one of the unisex, family style, no-need-for-an-appointment hair cutteries and sat down and said, "Yeah, I'd like a quarter inch taper with about two inches on top."
The person cutting my hair said, "Ok, how do I do that?"

So I had to direct her on how to cut my hair with clippers and a guard. Lame.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

This Bike's a pain in the

So I've had my grandmother's bike for a long time now. Longer than is really necessary, but what with everything that's been going on in my life, it's somewhat understandable that I haven't fixed the Schwinn Breeze just yet.

When I first decided to fix it, I figured the most important thing it needed was rust removal and a new paint job.  But just to be sure, I dismantled the entire thing and found rust all in the rims, the ball bearings were completely shot, the fork was frozen, the actual Sturmey Archer shifting lever was about to fall apart, and the 3 speed hub drained something that looked like tar, and the spokes were about as stiff as you'd expect cooked linguini to be.

In short, I screwed myself over saying I could fix it.

If the amount of problems with the bike wasn't large enough, I'm also coupled with the Schwinn problem.  They made some interesting sized components on their bikes, with the ultimate result that you could only use parts designed solely for Schwinns.  This obviously wasn't a problem when Chicago based Schwinn was top dog bicycle manufacturer in the 50's and 60's. But they went bankrupt and reorganized, and they're not the same company anymore (which means they produce different bikes that have universal components).

I supposed I could replace all the parts, but that presents a problem in itself.  The tires on the Breeze are 26x1 3/8 and are designed for an S6 rim. I was able to locate the tire size through an obscure online bike parts dealer, and found out that although the size was correct, the tire would not fit an S6 rim. And as of right now, I haven't been able to find anyone who carries tires exclusively for the S6 rim.  The crank is one piece and it just sort of "fits" into the bottom bracket shell, which is the hole that the crank arms come out of.  I took it apart and everything looked good, so I packed the cup and cone containing the ball bearings with grease.  And I tried rotating the crank arms expecting them to go whizzing in glorious circles with no evidence of friction.  They made about a half revolution before I heard a crunching sound, and the entire thing started grinding metal on metal.  I opened it up and looked at the ball bearings and noticed that they didn't really seem to roll at all.  They just sort of pushed up against the inside of the cup and froze.  I'm deathly afraid that the bottom bracket shell is some insanely weird size and that no one makes the cup and cone ball bearings anymore.

The wheels are a pain too.  The ISO rim size is 597mm which is absolutely obscure and with the way the frame is designed, if I replaced the original wheels with a bigger size, there might not be enough clearance, and the front wheel would rub against the weird down tube.  But the original wheels are scary enough. There's extensive pitting on the inner rim, and I'm afraid that they'll soon buckle.

And then there's the internal hub.  It's a Sturmey Archer 3 speed, and it was possibly great at one time.  Now it seems to have trapped all the world's evils and dust in its inner cogs.  I took it apart and tried to blast out the old, thick grease with air and WD-40.  Black gobs of sand flew almost everywhere, but they seemed to mostly land on my face.  Apart from the crud, and all hyperbole aside, all it needs is some sort of motor oil to function adequately.  I don't expect the bike to be ridden much, so I'm betting the cog teeth won't catastrophically fail.

I mentioned all of this to my parents.  "Well, just buy what you need, and we'll reimburse you," they said.  I can only imagine what a bike mechanic would say when I tell him, "I need two wheels with an S6 rim."  Possibly, they might say, "We don't carry those, and they're not made any more," or they could be feeling generous and say, "We might be able to scavenge wheels that are in good shape for you," but the most likely response would be, "We'll have to custom make those wheels. It'll be very expensive. It might come to $400 total."

The point is the bike's not worth enough to try and repair it.  A Schwinn Breeze in good condition would probably cost $10-15 just because they were very common, they were mass produced during a long time span, and they're bicycles that are built with the main purpose of getting you from point A to point B with no regards for speed.

Right now I'm just tempted to scavenge a track frame and fork, put some drop handle bars, buy decent wheels with a track hub, put a scavenged drivetrain on there, and a brake, and just give it to my grandmother and say, "Ta da! I got you a new bike!"

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