Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Nightmare of the Wilted Plant and Flying Salad Greens

On Monday of last week, I had a nightmare that one of my houseplants was wilting. I laughed at the thought of that as a nightmare, which woke me up, only to discover that I'd overslept by an hour.

That morning I went to an interesting workshop by Dr. James Zull, from Case Western Reserve University, on deeper learning. That night, my parents, LA and I went to Thai Cafe, in Durham. This time I had the Massaman Shrimp, which was quite wonderful.

Thursday, I had lunch with AE outside the Refectory. I discovered what happens when you eat salad greens without dressing on a very windy day. It's very important to note the wind direction unlesss one wants the leaves plastered to oneself.

Last Friday, I went to a talk on modeling transparent fish liver bile ducts using Amira at the Friday Visualization Forum.

That afternoon, LA and I microwaved a valentine peep. They deflate about as quickly as they expand. Yes, I'm afraid that a peep was harmed during the production of the content for this blog. If you are concerned, be sure to check out peepresearch.org.

That night I had dinner with AE, JH and GM at Chai's, followed by coffee at Shade Tree Coffee. The coffee artist has a new foam design, which is rather pretty.

JH decided to mask his identity with a book, borrowed from AE, titled, "Stalking the Riemann Hypothesis" while GM successfully disguised himself with a mere drinking straw.

Sunday night, NP came over for dinner. I made my shrimp and bacon over pasta dish, which I thought turned out well. He built this cool looking bridge out of geomag after dinner. I'd also made brownies for dessert. At my mom's suggestion, on four of the brownies, I put Necco thin mints just after I took them out of the oven. They melted in a nice odd sort of way and were pretty good. I like topping them with my standard drizzled semi-sweet chocolate blobs better, though.

Later that night, I watched part of the closing ceremonies of the Olympics. They had this cool fan generating 125mph sustained winds with people floating over it as if they were in the free fall that sky divers do before opening their parachutes. It was a wild thing to see in a stadium, especially when they started wearing fake snowboards and other accessories.

It's a Bargain!

There's been a lot of talk today on various blogs about Apple's announcements for new products, including the $99 leather iPod case. They say that it's waay too expensive for what you get. Well, they've got it at all wrong. You see, for $99 you get this somewhat unexciting piece of leather. For just a little bit more, you get an iPod! Is that a deal or what?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Bad Timing

It's time to interrupt the regularly scheduled program of month old events and tell you all about what happened yesterday.

Yesterday started out to be very good. At lunchtime, I went to the Visualization Forum in the Levine Science Research Center, for a talk on combining Macromedia Flash with XML. That was combined with a free lunch of chicken gyros and a lemon. I was worried that I was going to be late, because I got lost in the Hudson Engineering building. They've added a ramp to the front of the building, so I went in a different door from the one I used when I was a student. That was the building in which I took Algorithms and Operating Systems.

Later that afternoon, I went to a tutorial on the ViewsFlash surveying tool. It seems pretty cool, actually, and DF did a great job teaching us.

After work, I went over to practice guitar with JJ and EB. At first my chording hand seemed to not be cooperating at all and later it was clear that my timing was way off, particularly on John Denver's Country Roads. Playing faster and faster doesn't help if you're playing with other people. After carefully analyzing my playing and the songs, they suggested that I try practicing just downstrokes rather than a more complicated strumming patterns. Also it does seem like I need to learn the words of the songs well enough to get a better sense of the melody. Fortunately, Brown Eyed Girl is just four beats per chords. In any case, I had a really good time and I think JJ and Biscuit, did, too.

Afterwards, JJ, JA, EB, MP and I went to the new restaurant across from Nana's, Thai Cafe. LA had recommended it to me earlier in the day, so I suggested that we try it out. I tried their Pad Thai with shrimp and I was very pleased.

After dropping JJ and EB off at JJ and JA's house, I headed home. I was on 147 and about to merge with I-85 when a deer jumped out right in front of me. I braked and then I saw that there was another jumping between me and the first deer. It was so close that there was nothing I could do. It was horrible. The good thing is that I was ok. It made me thankful that I was in a full-sized van, because I'm betting it would have gone through the windshield of a sedan.

I immediately went into shock and was shaking uncontrollably. It is so sad and traumatic to hurt an animal involuntarily. It makes me wonder even more how anyone could do it intentionally.

My van was making odd noises and I pulled off to the side of the road. Fortunately, there is a really wide shoulder where 147 merges with 85. I put on my blinkers, called home and my parents headed for me. My mom suggested that I might want to call 911 and let them know. When I called, I didn't know how bad it was, so I said they didn't need to come by to write a report. It was about 10 minutes from our houses, but they had to go past me, exit and get back on in the other direction. Once they arrived and saw the damage, I called the police back and asked them to come after all. My van was a mess. That took quite a while.

As you can see, the grille is completely broken, the turn signal light is broken, my ham radio antenna is gone. The air conditioner condenser is pushed in, but it's hard to tell how bad that is inside. The driver's side door makes a noise when you open it, so the fender may need replacing. My dad has been working on trying to get it driveable so we can take it places to get estimates.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Evacuation on a Warm Summer 's Day in January

Tonight I'm babysitting FIFO to distract him from his desire to tear something up while my parents are out for the evening. This is a perfect opportunity to write more about my not so recent adventures in between bouts of petting and general adoration.

Perhaps the most exciting event of January was the fire in the library. We were nearing the end of the lunch portion of an interview with a candidate for one of the open positions within CIT when the fire alarm started going off. Fortunately, it was in the new Bostock part of the building, so we heard the polite request to leave and not use the elevator instead of the excruciatingly loud buzz in Perkins. I actually haven't heard the Perkins one, but if it's anything like what we had in my building at IBM, it's awful.

We were on the second floor, so my boss headed for the stairwell. They are rated for four hours in Bostock and it's a fully sprinklered building, so it's safe. Besides, what are the chances that it could be a real emergency in a brand new building? Then we noticed that the fire safety people were running upstairs. We smelled smoke. During a drill, you don't tend to observe either of those things.

They didn't seemed to know where the problem was, but we somehow came to the conclusion that I should leave the building. Fortunately, PW and MG suggested that we go through the old part of Perkins to leave. It's sort of a windy path through special collections to get out, particulary since the first floor of Perkins is closed for construction. By the time we got out and back around to the outside of Bostock, the alarm had stopped so we could go back in.

Our offices, which are in the basement, smelled horrible and it was hard to breathe in there. We thought we would grab our laptops and go work somewhere else. As we were leaving, the alarms started going off again. The elevators weren't working again yet, so we had to go around again. Note that I said that we would grab our laptops. I did not say anything about grabbing my purse, keys or anything useful like that. In fact, my boss had gone in to get my laptop, but in my infinite wisdom, I decided I needed to go in to turn off my lava lamp, in case I wouldn't be back for a while. Unbeknownst to me, I ended up locking my keys in my cubical in the process.
I didn't realize any of this until I'd gone back outside to the main quad.

So, I had to wait outside the building for the alarm to go off again. You can see in the picture what it looked like at the time, with the firetruck between Bostock Library and the Old Chemistry building, but you'll have to imagine the flashing lights. After I got back into my cube, got my stuff and started heading home to work from there, I was interviewed by a reporter from Duke's student newspaper, the Chronicle. You can read the article. I also made the quote of the day on their masthead page, saying "At least it's nice out," she added. "Better being evacuated when it's 70 degrees outside."

It turned out that this all resulted from a malfunctioning air handler on the fourth floor and all the smoke got to the basement via an elevator shaft.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

New Toy

I'm still a month behind, but I will catch up soon, I promise. This was one problem that I used to have when writing hardcopy journals, when I was a kid. I would get behind. It was easier back then, because I never had anything terribly interesting to write about except for food. Wait..

When I got back to work after my brother's visit, I traded in my 4th generation "photo" iPod for a new 5th generation video iPod. Watching video on it is just incredibly cool, although I, to this day, have not found anything that I would want to watch on a regular basis. I barely even watch television as it is. I almost hesitate to say that I am looking forward to more content's being available for it, but I already have enough to do. The screen is just so nice and I am looking forward to the audio recorder's becoming available for the new model, so I could try recording some guitar playing with which I could play along on my own. I know I'm not the only one looking forward to their availability.

I'm hoping to get some software that will allow me to convert my AVI files produced by my Canon SD500 camera to iPod video, but I haven't gotten around to finding something good and free yet. From what I've heard at work, some of the software is a lot better than others.