Thursday, June 23, 2005

Clever Song Title

I was driving to work yesterday and the song playing on WBGO, my usual jazz station, sounded a little too laxative for my taste (or maybe it was just my mood at the time.) At any rate, I started making my way across the dial and landed on WSOU, Seaton Hall's "Pirate" radio station. That's "pirate", as in their sports teams' name, I think, not "pirate" as in unlicensed and broadcasting illegally. Anyway, the DJ announced a song called "Champagne for My Real Friends, Real Pain for My Sham Friends" by some metal band who I've never heard of and whose name I can't remember. The song kind of stank, and caused me to continue flipping through stations, but what an amusing title.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Too Much is Just About Right.

Well, I'm grilling again. This time I'm determined to start the coals right. I used my usual setup of a large steel can with no top or bottom. The bottom was packed with three loosely wadded pages from an old telephone book, one of which was sticking out from the bottom as a wick. Next came the partially spent coals from the last barbecue (with the white ash knocked off.) Those coals and the telephone book pages were sprayed liberally with lighter fluid, then the can was topped off with fresh coals. Those coals received more lighter fluid, then the whole setup was brought to life with a match to the papers at the bottom.

The can shot flames from the top for about 10 minutes, then the moment of truth came the flames died down as the lighter fluid burned off. At this point the light was either a success or a failure. A faint crackling sound, however, confirmed that the coals were indeed still burning. 20 more minutes and the coals on top were nice and white. I had nice hot coals ready for some sun-dried tomato sausages. It was a textbook start.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

How Much is Too Much?

How Much is Too Much?
Originally uploaded by cafn8.
I've been grilling out a bit lately, and I've noticed that some times I get funny looks from neighbors when I start putting the lighter fluid on. Once or twice they even went inside to escape the fabulous two foot plumes of flame rising up from my grill after the initial light up. I began to wonder if I might just be putting on a bit more fluid than is prudent. I began easing back on the juice.

It seems like my moderation might be causing more problems than it solves, though. There is nothing worse than waiting in vain for the flames to rise up them concluding that the coals have died. It also seems less than ideal to re-apply fluid to smoldering coals to give them an extra kick. Soaking the coals and giving them a good hot start has never failed me. I'm wondering if maybe too much is just about right.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Noise, Vibration and Harshness

Over the weekend, I gave a little attention to a problem my car has been having for months. The problem was a pair of loose heat shields. There was really no problem with the functioning of the car. The problem was that at certain RPM ranges and levels of engine load, the heat shields would resonate quite loudly. It sounded a bit like a drumroll on a trash can. It was getting worse too. It would make the noise more often and more loudly. After a little ingenuity and a trip to the Home Despot for some parts, however, it seems to be practically silent.

On my way to work today, I was astonished by what a difference the lack of noise made to the driving experience. Where before I was constantly concerned with how much noise it was making and how to keep it quiet by varying my shifting and throttling, it now seems almost strangely quiet. It's like a different car. It's a treat to climb a hill and not be concerned that my car sounds like a giant junk heap. Driving the car, it almost seems smoother, although I keep reminding myself that I didn't really make any mechanical changes. Maybe I'm too concerned about appearance, or too concerned about disturbing others. I guess I just like to think that I'm driving a nice car and not a rattling junk heap. I guess this is why auto makers put so many resources into making their cars quiet. It seems pretty superficial, and maybe it is, but the psychological effect is pretty profound.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Speaking of Heat...

Speaking of Heat...
Originally uploaded by cafn8.
I just found a great way to quick dry a T-shirt. It's kind of like those inflatable lawn ornaments, but sweatier.


Originally uploaded by cafn8.
We've been having a bit of a heat wave lately out here on the East coast. Everyone began to complain that it was June but felt like October, them wham, it started to feel like August. The heat we're having is a wet, sticky heat. There's little that can be done about it other than moving to an air-conditioned area and/or dressing more lightly. It's hot and sticky, but having grown up in the midwest, it's what summer feels like. That being said, I would have ridden to work the last few days regardless of the heat if the heat were the only factor. Unfortunately, the cats also factor in.

The cats, as it turns out, don't like the hot weather very much. They lie on the floor all day trying not to generate any heat inside those warm fur coats. This accomplishes two things. They stay cooler, and they conserve energy... Which they like to expend when the temperature goes down. This, of course, is when we, the people, are trying to sleep. It's just too tempting to sleep that extra hour and drive to work when the house has been kitty gymboree all night. Call me a pansy. I can take it.

Monday, June 06, 2005

iPod Alternative

I saw something a little bit amusing on my way to work today. I was driving along and happened to spot a pedestrain cradling a full-sized laptop computer on his right arm with the screen open and the base braced against his hip. On his head sat a large hockey puck sized pair of headphones. As he walked along on the sidewalk, slowly and awkwardly, he fiddled with the keyboard and/or pointing device. I can only assume that this laptop was serving as a digital audio player. Seems a little forced to me, but to each his own, I guess.

If he really wanted to do it right, he would leave the laptop in his backpack and use some sort of handheld (phone, PDA, etc.) to interface it wirelessly. I seem to remember such an application for Symbian Series 60 phones conecting via Bluetooth. There's still the issue of battery life, weight, heat in an enclosed bag etc. but at least his laptop would be a bit safer. I can just see it now. He's strolling along when he looks down to switch tracks. Just then he stubbs his toe on a crack in the sidewalk. Said $1000 dollar big-screen music player crashes to the pavement. Much weeping and gnashing of teeth ensues.

I'm all about forcing gadgets into roles they weren't originally intended to play, but usually I work toward making applications more portable, not less. Let's keep those lappies safe out there. OK, Kids?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Back in the Saddle

After a brief day off to rest my legs and let my saddle sores heal, I'm back on the bike. Today was as easy as Tuesday. I reached work feeling refreshed and energetic. I sent off a quick email to my wife from my phone when I arrived at work, only to receive an "Out of Office" reply moments later. I got a bit of a grin as I realized that I had left after her and arrived at work before her. It's not really that big an accomplishment, though, since she goes twice the distance I do.

As I approached the front door, I realized that the boss had not come in yet. this means That the front door would still be locked. I wish I'd had a camera to capture all of the incredulous stares as I walked through the factory wearing my bike gear with my bike tucked under my arm, the seat hooked over my shoulder. Strangely, that look seems to be the norm, even out on the street. Riding through neighborhoods, people will stop what they are doing and stare at the guy riding the strange two wheeled thing with no motor. It's as if I were riding a giraffe. It makes me feel like some kind of crazy radical. It's kind of cool.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Off to Work

From the "What was I Thinking" file comes today's trip to work. Yesterday, I had a good ride to work and home. I felt great and was brimming with energy. Sometimes I don't know when to draw the line, though. At the Gym where my wife and I are members, spinning classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Who cares that I already rode to and from work and that I'm not really used to long distances anymore. I felt great. That was until the first sprint. My legs suddenly started to feel like I was wearing weighted kneepads and work boots. I suffered through the hour long class and started looking for an excuse not to ride to work in the morning.

Well, morning came. It was a gloomy, overcast morning. The kind where it looks like it could start showering down a cold, clammy drizzle at any time. There was no rain in the forecast, but it was enough of an excuse for me (that and my stiff, rubbery feeling legs.) Tomorrow is another day. Another spinning class too. We'll see how it goes.