Friday, January 30, 2009


Today I am going on an overnight faculty retreat. I am looking forward to it, although this might not be a great week. After travelling to recruit students on Monday, I think that I would prefer not to travel more this week.

My friend Aminal Beast brought to my attention that Frogurt from Lost actually appeared in season 2. She is correct that I hadn't realized that. I can't figure out how this affects my prediction that he would die as soon as I found out that his name is "Neil." I think that the bottom line is this: Skye was right - my prediction may not have been that impression. Aminal Beast thinks that the key knowing when people are going to die is not when a minor character gets a name, but when someone is being annoying. Based on this theory, Bad Z has been predicting Charlotte's death for months (I'm surprised she didn't celebrate more). Aminal Beast then used this theory to conjecture that Rose and Bernard are going to die next (Snoop didn't think that they were important enough to the show to warrant killing).

The EV is in the shop getting ready for an upgrade. I can't wait.

Skye and I went to a charitable organization last night to get trained to volunteer there. It was NOT a good training. Here are my tips on how to give a bad training based on last night:

  1. Give several pages of typed bullet-pointed handouts, and proceed to read the bullet points to people even though they could read it themselves
  2. Describe policies and safety, but do not actually describe what the volunteers will do.
  3. Evade questions you do not know the answer to
  4. Explain many things in great detail to overwhelm people

I've been playing basketball, but my skills haven't yet materialized as I predicted. They are coming along, though. I was supposed to play today, but I cancelled due to achy joints and a jammed finger. I think that I need new basketball shoes. That, or I am getting old.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


My old friend Kermit is made famous by bacon.

Skye and I watched Scrubs again last night. I am afraid that I think that the series "jumped the shark," as the kids are saying nowadays. It is also no longer "the bees knees." It still has its moments, but I agree with the 1397 who think that The Musical was the turning point. Skye disagrees with me, and I should note that she has 5249 people who agree with her.

Since the musical, the show seems to almost literally be a parody of itself. At one point, Dr. Cox goes through the list all of the characters and lists off why the character is funny to the viewer (e.g. Ted is the "sad sack," Cox is really commits to his jokes, etc). This seemed to me like it could have been a scene found in Mad Magazine. I do not want my TV shows to do this.

Speaking of Mad, there was a character in Angel named "Groo" (short for The Groosalugg). The name, and to a lesser - but still significant - extent, the character reminded me of one of Tsjaz's favorite comic books: Groo the Wanderer. I think that it must not have been a coincidence.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Republicans and Musicals

The Republicans are driving me nuts. They are opposing the stimulus package for stupid reasons (read: they are lying about why they aren't supporting it):

  1. The bill does not contain enough housing funds.
  2. The bill does not specify how funds will be allocated to states.

I suppose that those are the only two things that are clearly deceptive. There are a couple of more reasons that seem reasonable to disagree with at first glance, but might not hold up under closer inspection:

  1. The Republicans did not like the family planning provision in the stimulus package, and President Obama removed it. The sad part is that there is evidence that this would save the government money (and possibly prevent abortions), since it would prevent unwanted pregnancies - especially among the poor. I'm going to give the Republicans a pass on this on the basis of consistency, since they do tend to oppose anything that allows other people to have sex more easily.
  2. The Republicans opposed re-sodding the National Mall. I'll give them a pass on this, too, since it does sound kind of stupid. However, it would create jobs, since I don't think that it is going to be Pelosi and Boehner getting their hands dirty on the Mall.

I get the sense, though, that these are all just excuses. What I would like to hear is: "We Republicans are opposing this stimulus package because we believe that government spending is wrong in most cases. We would all be better served by using the money for tax cuts (Ed. comment: they would say ' tax relief') than spending. We will continue opposing this bill until it contains at least 70% of the money going toward tax cuts/relief."

I would respect that. I personally think that government spending is a smarter way to stimulate the economy (see below), but I am open to a debate on this.

Another, more cynical, reason I would also respect more is this: "We Republicans are opposing this stimulus package because we want to demonstrate that President Obama is weak, thereby helping the Republicans re-gain office in 2012." Again, I don't like it, but it might be more honest.

Since no one asked, here are my reasons why I believe government spending is smarter right now than tax cuts*:

  1. It is a more efficient way of getting money into the economy. 100% of government spending goes into the economy, while some unknown (but less than 100%) of tax cuts go into the economy. I certainly wouldn't spend all of my tax break.
  2. Tax cuts now will make it almost politically impossible to do the right thing later on. Our debt is out of hand (thank you, W.). I believe that we should start paying it down once we get our economy back on sound footing. This will require money, and we can't really sell bonds to pay off the debt (for somewhat obvious reasons). We will have to do some combination of cutting spending and raising taxes, and I doubt that either will be enough alone. A temporary tax cut now will amount to a "tax hike" once it is reversed, and no one likes to hike taxes. By keeping tax levels the same now, we will have to raise taxes less later on.

Skye and I started watching Scrubs again last night. After a long while of Buffy and Angel, I had forgotten how enjoyable Scrubs is. We saw the musical episode last night. Skye really liked it, but I did not. I am not crazy about musicals to begin with, and I felt like most of the songs were shoehorned into the episode. That is, a song about how doctors can diagnose anything by looking at "poo" had nothing to do with that episodes plot. Similarly, songs describing characteristics of characters we already know are not enlightening (although they may have been fun to write, and they were definitely fun to watch for Skye): we already knew that Turk and JD were in guy-love, so I didn't feel like we needed a song about it. Worse yet, a running joke about Turk thinking that Carla was Puerto Rican was ruined by writing a song about the running joke. In fact, Turk and Carla were having some interesting problems with their relationship, and Turk even sang that they should be singing about their relationship problems instead of the running joke. I couldn't have agreed more.

One factor that is going on here is that I can't get away from comparing the Scrubs musical to the Buffy musical. In Buffy, the songs brought long-simmering tensions between characters to a head. Spike tells Buffy to get lost, Giles realizes that he is stifling Buffy's growth, Tara realizes that Willow hasn't been truthful with her. These songs moved the plot along. I liked that better.

* Please keep in mind that the last economics class I took was in 11th grade.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Wall Street Problems

One of the perks of the NFL season is that I get to read Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback column, a delightful mishmash of football, science, and current events. One thing that he has started to harp on is the problem of Wall Street CEOs. Today, he links to Michael Lewis's article about the latest crash. It isn't good. The good news is that Obama seems to be doing his job.

I have been a good citizen lately - I went to a recruitment meeting yesterday, and I went to a meeting on building planning today.

Finally, cheerleading is legally a (contact) sport. That settles that.

Monday, January 26, 2009

TV All Over the Place

It was a great TV weekend. Skye and I finished Angel, which was very good. The fifth season may have been the best, and contained some truly spectacular shows (like "Smile Time"). I might take a look at the Buffy/Angel comic books next.

I also watched the latest episode of BSG. People complained a lot about the first episode of the new half season - way too much, in my opinion. I didn't particularly enjoy watching the episode, but I don't think that you are supposed to enjoy watching people lose all hope. It seemed to me like the characters may have acted like real people would if they had been chased by (seemingly) all-powerful aliens, confined to small ships, and had the one glimmer of hope snatched from them.

Anyway, the series now seems to be back to its original form. It is back to being an interesting political drama, and people should no longer be bothered by more episodes of complete despair.

So right now I am watching: BSG and Lost. Dollhouse will join the ranks once it airs in February. I am currently beholden to no DVDs now that Angel is done.

Friday, January 23, 2009


I get +1 point for correctly predicting, as soon as we learned his name, that Neal would die. Skye thinks that it was obvious, although she did not think this herself. I am still impressed with myself. Lost is still a good show.

After two days of driving the EV, it looks like I can drive to and from work as fast as I want. This was expected, since it is a 10 mile round trip commute and the car is supposed to have a 30 mile range. The next question is if I can make it to the other campus. I can't find any place to plug in on either campus, so it may be difficult. Still, that would only be a 20 mile commute, so I should be able to make it. I am going to wait for warmer weather to try it, though.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

'Cause I like Bill Simmons and golden retrievers

Here is a sad story about Bill Simmon's dog.

'Cause I like charity, animals, and Neko

Great idea, Neko.

Neko Case "Blog For Charity"

Today, we are especially happy to bring you “People Got A Lotta Nerve,” the first single from Neko Case’s forthcoming album Middle Cyclone (out March 3), because for every blog that reposts the song and/or iLike user who adds it to their profile, Neko Case and ANTI- will make a cash donation to Best Friends Animal Society. [read more]

People Got A Lotta Nerve - Neko Case

[Click Here for details]

[Pre Order now on Amazon]


I haven't seen Lost yet due to lack of reception, but it is up online now. I'll likely watch it tonight.

The EV made it to work and back without any problem. This means that I allowed myself to go a little faster on the way to work today. It was nice. I am really enjoying the eerie silence that accompanies an electric car when stopped at a stoplight.

Yesterday was the fourth day I played basketball. The first two days: not so good. The third day, okay, but I was largely invisible on the court and didn't make much of a difference. Yesterday: I did okay, but I was a force. My skills aren't quite there yet (despite what I wrote in my previous posting), but my lungs and legs are coming back, which allowed me to play better defense and crash the boards. The shooting is improving, but isn't there yet.

Yesterday was the first grading of the semester. It isn't enjoyable, but it isn't horrible. I just takes a lot of time.

Today: plan lessons for next week.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Second post of the day: I am soooooo happy with Obama's first moves as president. He is freezing salaries and making it hard to be a lobbyist (at least, the bad kind of lobbyist). Cheers to Obama!


Yes, we did. Obama made it to the presidency. Thank goodness. I had a class that started at 11:20 CST, so I put on Obama's speech before class. He didn't end until close to 11:30, but I still think that it was a good use of class time.

Skye and I celebrated with a pizza and gin rummy at our favorite pizza place. All was good, except that I forgot to order the pizza without cheese. I had heaping piles of cheese on the plate by the time I was done; it was not appetizing.

Today was the first day that I used the electric car as a commuter. I did drive it to school and back to run an errand the first day I had it, but today I am leaving it here for the entire day. I had no problem getting here, and I don't expect to have a problem getting back. I drew about 100 Amps while driving, with a max of 200 amps when I accelerated hard (which I didn't do much). The brake light is still on, which concerns me a bit, but the car coasts and isn't drawing nearly as much power as it did when the brake was locked.

Tonight is Lost! I will be unable to watch it until it comes online, since we get exactly zero channels right now (no cable, no satellite, no antenna, and the nearest signal comes from 70 miles away).

On deck for today: teaching, basketball, financial errands, grading

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day!

O Happy Day! We FINALLY get a new president - just 2.5 hours away. I expect that the next eight years will be better than the previous eight, although I am not expecting miracles to occur.

The EV is back and running. The rear right brake was stuck, which explains why the car couldn't go very fast. One way to think about electric cars is that they can only hold one gallon of gas. If you had a regular car with one gallon of gas in it, you wouldn't get very far if you were driving with your brakes on, either. I would have driven it to work today, but I need to pick up Skye in the city later today, and I want to slowly test the range of the car. It went 5 miles home from the car shop yesterday on less than a full charge without a problem, but today will require about 25 miles of driving; this is pushing the limits of the car (30 miles), and I don't know exactly how the cold affects the car.

Happy Obama-In/Bush-Out Day!

Monday, January 19, 2009

More on the EV

So remember when I said that the electric car would stop immediately when I took my foot off of the "gas?" I neglected to mention that the first thing I checked was to make sure that the emergency brake was off. I shoved the parking brake down as far as I could, and the car would still stop. This is why I ruled out a problem with the emergency brake.

I'm now pretty sure that the problem was with the emergency brake. The light indicating that the brake was on never went off, and it now appears that the parking brake lever and the brake cable became disconnected. It is now at the shop getting checked out (I am also replacing the transmission fluid, which should help it anyway). With luck, I'll be commuting in it in no time.

Here is my next project: a solar oven. I am hoping to make one this week out of cardboard an aluminum foil (which is recommended). If that works well, I might try to make a big, sturdy one this summer out of plywood and mylar.

I am rooting for the Cardinals, by the way.

Friday, January 16, 2009


I've been trying to decide if I would continue to play basketball with some co-workers. The problem is that it requires 15 minutes of travel each way, and I am at the mercy of the bus. This leads to a 2 hour time commitment to play basketball, which is a significant portion of the day (although I would only do it every other day).

Well, I have decided to continue playing. When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time trying to become a great shooter. It never worked out due to some flawed mechanics in my shot (it is all about mechanics). Well, I figured out how to fix it in grad school, and the effects were remarkable - so much so that I gave a little thought to trying out for the school's basketball team (they are very good, but they also happened to play a style of basketball that fit what I could do). I didn't try out, and I eventually stopped playing basketball regularly once the demands of graduate school were too great. I lost the mechanics soon after.

However, in April or May, I rediscovered the lost mechanics after playing a lot of basketball. For a week and a half, I was again an excellent shooter. Then I sprained my ankle, got married, went on a honeymoon, moved across the country, broke my elbow, and started a new job. The good news is that I just rediscovered what I was doing before. I can even describe what I need to do:

  1. Get the ball up in to shooting position
  2. Look at the rim
  3. Launch the ball up high

That, along with all of the mechanics I was successfully able to capture when I was young, is enough to make a whole lot of shots. So I am going to keep playing, because it is really fun to do something that you worked for and are now good at (after 22 years).

Tonight is the beginning of the end of Battlestar Galactica! OMG! I will probably watch it tomorrow on hulu or, as I do not have cable.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Skye and I have been watching Angel, which is a Buffy spin-off. We have watched seasons 1-4, and only season 5 remains.

Before I watched Buffy, I have already formed an idea of what the show would be like. It turns out that I was wrong - Buffy was much funnier than I expected it to be. It turns out that Angel actually is what I expected Buffy to be. I think that Angel is a very good show, but it is no Buffy.

I spoke to my good friend Yeti last night, and I spoke with Hunter on Saturday. Maybe I can start staying in touch with people now that my life is settling down.

Finally, I found a third route into work today that is pretty EV-friendly. There are no hills, not much traffic, and there is only a 1.5 mile stretch where the speed limit is 55 mph. I think that this is the way I am going to get to work once the car is fixed.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Exercise and deals

I'm trying to figure out how to stay in shape. I played basketball with some other faculty yesterday, but I had to go to the second campus to do it. This means that playing basketball takes roughly 2.5 hours due to my being a slave to the bus schedule. I might go again tomorrow, but I don't think that it is sustainable. I am thinking about maybe just running laps in the gym on my campus for 45-60 minutes each day. It would end up being less time, and I would be minimizing my competition exposure.

Yesterday was Goodwill day. I went there and bought three shirts (I like them, although I get the impression that Skye doesn't), one pair of pants to be cut up to make patches for my deteriorating mittens, The Red Tent for Skye, and The Corrections for both of us. I got all that for a total of $9 (although I now realize that I was ripped off, since the two books are selling for a penny on I did not see any Voltron figures there, though.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I'm afraid that I might start writing a lot about my electric car. Sadly, it is not doing well right now. When I first got it, I was able to drive it to school and back on one charge with plenty to spare (that was on December 19th). Now, I can barely make it 2 miles, and during that time it ends up having a top speed of about 15 miles per hour. Here are the things I did to try to solve the problem:

  1. I insulated the batteries with styrofoam. Granted, this was not a very good job, since I was not crazy about working on the car in 0 degree weather for long, but it should have helped quite a bit.
  2. I watered the batteries. This car has lead acid batteries, and they require a refill on distilled water about every month. The batteries were pretty thirsty when I refilled them, but that did not help the performance.

My new theory is pretty good: the difference between now and December 19th is 20-30 degrees. When I drive the car now, it does not coast. That is, if I get it going to 15 mph and take my foot of the gas, the car stops almost immediately. The third clue is that the car is from Texas. This leads me to believe that the transmission fluid is freezing up. Check out Lynne Mason's excellent weblog Electric Cars are for Girls and scroll down to "How do you winterize the non-battery components?" for a great description for what my car is likely going through.

The good news is that we should have our regular January thaw this weekend, and temperatures should be in the high twenties to low thirties. I am hoping that this will thaw the transmission fluid enough that I can go get it changed. Then I should be able to use it to commute to work, especially if they get back to me about a place where I can plug in at work.

Monday, January 12, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

  1. Post more often to this thing. I am aiming for every work day.
  2. More exercise. I am going to start by playing basketball every other day with some of the other faculty. This is a decent commitment, because I need to go to the other campus to do it.
  3. More guitar.
  4. Volunteer more. Skye and I have set this in motion already.
  5. Do more math research. Tenure would be nice.
  6. Make sure no more people in the Awesome family breaks an arm.

My exciting news: new house, new car. The new car is a 1986 Electric Toyota MR2. I just plug it in and it goes. I was worried about it this week, because it was waaaaaaay too sluggish. However, the batteries were really thirsty, and I refilled them with distilled water yesterday. I am going to take it for a test drive this afternoon. If all goes well, I am going to add another battery to up the voltage.

Here is a video of my new toy in action.