Monday, September 15, 2008

This weekend was filled with physics studying and geekitude. I'm starting to rework my way through my intro physics text to see if I remember all of the formulae for the chapters and am doing fairly well so far (though the occasional question with 2 variables still throws me for a loop...). I also got to play Arkham Horror on Saturday at Matt's game shop (we won, though it was close; Shub-Niggorath, Mother of Goatspawn, is one tough lady to take down), and continued the Vampire campaign on Sunday. I didn't get to do much in the latter besides a) find out that my patron was dead, b) negotiate some business deals, and c) become Granada's new head banker. Oh, what fun I will have...

Today was kind of my first real day of work in that I had some training but at the end of the day actually got to open my lab for the first time. It was a pretty easy day, as it was an adults-only lab and few people came, but I think I acquitted myself pretty well. I also got to work on my schedule, which is looking pretty sweet. I now have Sundays, Tuesdays, and every other Friday off, and work 5 hours on Saturday. I also got all of my vacation days settled through Thanksgiving, which is another relief. Tomorrow I try to run an open lab for two hours, which means lots of rowdy kids. Hopefully I will be able to control them well enough to avoid a complete devolution into chaos...

Well, that's about it. I just have some physics studying and some searching for entertaining programs for kids for tomorrow's lab, so I better get to it. Until next time...

"What work I have done I have done because it has been play. If it had been work I shouldn't have done it."
-Mark Twain

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The End of the Week, and Physics

Hey all, welcome back. Thursday was pretty low key at work- I pretty much just sat in my office rearranging things and looking through the massive piles of binders for useful tidbits of information. There were definitely some, like lesson plans for teaching basic comp 1 and 2 and examples of registration forms. So, I'm a little bit less scared now, and I got an idea to request a grant for a projector so I can lead classes by showing them examples on my laptop on the big screen. Should be cool.

That evening we had a massive undertaking to finish all of the lamb that was left (about half a gallon). We headed out to Trader Joe's (my first one!) to do shopping. That place is pretty cool, and has lots of really, really tasty looking things... like peanut butter filled pretzels. Totally started eating those as soon as I got home. They also have beer and wine, and a "make your own 6-pack" deal which I took advantage of. Despite all of these glowing aspects, I have to say I'm not the biggest fan of Trader Joe's. Sure it has a lot of organic foods and what not, but it also has one of the largest carbon footprints that I've ever seen, as everything is brought in from one of the two coasts. I mean, for the fresh vegetables and fruits I can understand as winter is coming (a moment of silence for poor Eddard...), but some of the other stuff just makes no sense. Where it really hit home was the beer. I'm generally the most eco-conscious when I'm buying beer and try to buy local, so it was with a bit of shock that I realized that all of the beer I had bought was from one of the two coasts. This probably wouldn't bother a lot of people, but it does for me. That and the fact that my pumpkin ale had "natural pumpkin flavor added..." bastards.

Anyway, Jason used the ingredients to make lamb green marsala (masala? I dunno...), my favorite Indian food, and it was good.

Friday I had more CTEP orientation, this time with our supervisors. It was actually really cool, as what we did most of the time was discuss technology issues and how they are going to change in the coming decades, as well as the ecological impact of these developments. Along these lines was a really cool video that we saw, which I provide the link to here, which gives glimpses of exactly how much technology is changing the world and what the future may bring. There is a discussion site for the movie that can be found here. I haven't checked the latter out too much yet, but if it's anything like our discussions after the movie it should be pretty cool. At the end of orientation we all said the Americorps pledge to "Get Things Done for America!", though about half of us read "persevere" as "preserve." Oh reading, what hast thou don'st?

That evening I took my first practice Physics GRE... and got about a 3rd right. Oy... yeah, there's gonna need to be a lotta studyin' before I can take this thing, especially in the memorizing of formulae and the refiring of my maths centers. I mean, seriously, is calc that hard that I can't do it reliably anymore? Oyveh Maria...

Well, that's about it. Until next time...

"We could use up two Eternities in learning all that is to be learned about our own world and the thousands of nations that have arisen and flourished and vanished from it. Mathematics alone would occupy me eight million years."
- Mark Twain's Notebook #22, Spring 1883 - Sept. 1884

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The 3rd Day

My third day on the job was once again more orientation. I started off by dropping Oanh at the science museum, and then headed over to the Common Bond Community headquarters. I learned about the organization and even got to write a little elevator speech about what it does and what I do... as follows:

"I work for Common Bond Communities, which is the largest nonprofit provider of affordable homes in the Upper Midwest. It builds and maintains homes for low income families and individuals while at the same time offering them services that allow them to gain new skills and access to resources, like internet and job training programs. I run a computer lab at an apartment complex called Skyline Towers and in addition to running the computer lab there I teach basic and advanced computer skills to the residents."

There was then the usual discussion about harassment policies, a lot of paperwork, and I was off about an hour early. I decided to spend my time at a Borders near Skyline Towers, where I began reading the new WOD book Changeling: The Lost. It actually looks really cool, even though I haven't even gotten to the actual system yet. Basically you play a human who was captured by the True Fae and brought to the beautiful, mad, and dangerous world of Arcadia, where the laws of physics and magic are bound by Contracts that the Fae make with the world and each other. You somehow manage to escape from your capricious and cruel master and make it back to the real world, only to find that either a) you've aged 15 years and only 2 days have gone by, b) you've spent a week in Faerie while a century has gone by on Earth, c) you return to find out that you were not missed, as a magical construct called a Fetch has taken your place in your family and with your loved ones, or d) any or all of the above. Oh, and did I mention that you are now part fey and must live in constant fear that your master/mistress will come looking for you and drag you back into Arcadia, even if you swear you killed them last time? It just seems like a WOD game where there is finally actual constant fear that Those Things Out There are actually coming to get you, and the sad part is that your magical powers, as awesome as they may be, are probably not going to be enough to stop Them.

Wow, that was a long interlude.

Anyway, I then headed over to Skyline Tower and had more orientation. I met the other Americorps people there and toured the surrounding area with one of the Americorps leaders, Yvonne. Turns out that there are great cheap asian and Ethiopean restaurants in the area, so at least I won't starve. I got to at least see my demesne, but time ran out before I could check out my predecessor's hand off documents and get my house in order. I'm going to head in early tomorrow to work on that before the day starts. My fellow Americorps people there seem really nice and cool, but I still feel like I have no idea what I'm doing, and real work starts on Monday. Hopefully some of my fears will be allayed tomorrow, so here's hoping.

When I got home I was completely exhausted from not getting much sleep the night before and just scarfed down some left over lasagna and took a two hour nap. I got up to go over to Teagle's house to see Project Runway, which was a pretty sad episode in that over half of the designs were not only terrible, but that two people were kicked off as well. Oh well, whatevs- Heidi Klum can still do whatever she wants and get eternal love from me... (btw, Rachel is ok with that last statement)

Oh, and the world didn't end last night. I actually derailed orientation at Skyline by broaching the subject, and spent the next 10 minutes explaining what the LHC was, how it could destroy the world, and why Science has the Right to do such a thing. It was a pretty awesome conversation, let me tell you. The next big step will be on October 22nd I believe, when the particle mashing begins. Yay physics!

Until next time...

"Scientists have odious manners, except when you prop up their theory; then you can borrow money of them."
- "As Concerns Interpreting the Deity", by Mark Twain

p.s. You can now identify yourselves as followers of my blog! Join 13:72 my readers, and we shall usher in a new age the likes of which the world has never seen before! *cue patriotic music, salutes, big shouldered military jackets, etc.*

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Did you know the universe could end tonight?

Cuz the LHC is firing up! To celebrate, here is a link to the live footage of the LHC, and here is an exceedingly fun and educational rap about it.

Yay physics!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The 2nd Day

My second day of work started out a little rushed, as I woke up 5 minutes before I was supposed to meet my new travel buddy to go to our meeting. Fortunately I can rush out of the house at the speed of light and was only 5 minutes late to picking up my carpool buddy Oanh. She's pretty cool, and is into board gaming, likes physics from a layman's and artistic standpoint, and is working at the Science Museum in St. Paul, and is therefore awesome. She also got me listening to 89.3 The Current, which has a lot of indie scene music. I think I still prefer 92.5 because of my classic rock addiction, but it is pretty cool. We also discussed why indie movies are tending to suck nowadays (they are way too self consciously trying to be "indie") and the distinguishing traits of the genre (kind of quirky, discordant music and an air of "we don't care if it's bad, it's unique and kooky!")

Training today involved a lot of going online and learning to use the CTEP website. It looks like it could be a really useful tool, if only to find cheap places to eat, recipes, and entertainment options. My 2nd year buddy Mark "Thor" Thorson set up a poll to see whether we wanted to start some kind of regular game night, and we got all positive responses (though about half only wanted to do so on without any kind of commitment and the other half wanted to do it about once a month). That should be pretty cool, though it may mean that I now have to actually learn all the rules to Arkham Horror... *shudders*

We also had to post biographies about our computer partners on the website, and in mine I had Thor put down that I was into geekery including pen and paper RPGs. This led me to meet Kate, a self proclaimed RPG fanatic who has played pretty much every kind of D&D and WOD game out there. She's currently in a game of new WOD Changeling, which I am definitely curious about and may join if I have time/ inclination. I also discovered that a) there is apparently a con in St. Paul in the winter called the Con Up North [or something to that effect] and b) she's into Magic. Yay geeks!

The rest of our session was spent doing a Q&A session about Americorps life with the veterans in our group. This was pretty informative, and I learned a lot about the things that can go wrong, how to get food stamps/ extra food, and how to deal with children (never, ever give them any ground. We don't negotiate with terrorists, so let's not start it with our children.) This kind of freaked me out, but I also came to realize that these people all got through their first year fine and are coming back for a second, so they obviously didn't screw up too much and actually enjoyed their position. Heck, one guy became involved with a children's tv broadcast without any kind of video production knowledge, and he's still in for the second year there! Coincidentally this guy, Steve, knows Teagle and Egerman from Trivia Night at the Nomad Pub. Crazy, eh?

As I may have mentioned yesterday, I have a lot of lamb at home now thanks to CTEP's generous policy of ordering way too much food at our gatherings. As a consequence of this I have made home made gyros pizza (yesterday), and today made lambsagna (once again delicious). I won't bother putting the recipe down here, as you can just find it on the side of the lasagna noodle box (just replace ground beef with chopped up lamb strips). Since we still have half an ice cream bucket left of the stuff, Jason is going to make lamb curry tomorrow, which will be awesome as I will probably get home later from work tomorrow (I get to see my site finally!). Now I am going to collect the information for applying to grad school, which will hopefully be completed by the time the week is out (ha, ha, ha.).

Oh, and one more thing. I was trolling and found this article about how an english prof wants to get rid of standardized spelling. I, for one, am appalled and horrified at the possible consequences of this.

Well, that's about it for now. Until next time...

"...simplified spelling is all right, but, like chastity, you can carry it too far."
- The Alphabet and Simplified Spelling speech by Mark Twain, December 9, 1907

Monday, September 8, 2008

Pizza, Playing, and Perforation

So, in the past five days I have been playing a lot of board games with my free time, in particular Arkham Horror, Heroscape, and of course the old stand by, Magic. These were the main activities of my Thursday and Friday, and on Saturday I continued the theme by going to pester Pechous at his game store, Chaos Games. They have a pretty cool selection (though their Magic stuffs are a bit overpriced), and they have some really cool promotions. On Wednesdays they have an open board game night with a ten dollar buy in. The store people then take a game off the shelf, open it, and the participants play a game of it. Whoever wins gets to take the game home. Pretty awesome, eh? I might go to Friday Night Magic in the future, though I will probably wait until Shards of Alara comes out... yay exalted critters! Also, later that night Jason, Caroline, Brandon, Rachel and I all went out to the Chatterbox Pub in St. Paul, which not only has a wide selection of classic video and board games but also has homebrewed ginger ale, rootbeer, and several microbrew beers. Plus, awesome sweet potato fries and reasonable prices.

Continuing the theme on Sunday I participated in the first session of our Vampire game. I, Massimo, a glassblower on the lam from Venice in Granada arrived in town with my twin mortal brother Niccolo and managed to glean all sorts of information about the city from my many contacts, learn about my competitors in the lead business, meet a man who calls himself the Prophet of Sin, and successfully woo the associate Prince of the city, a lovely lady who styles herself as the "Lady of Shadows" because I am a)damn good looking and b) awesomely rich and c) know how to make gifts for the ladies, such as a black glass dagger doped lightly with silver and gold with the arabic word for shadow written in silver inside the blade. Damn straight.

But I've been doing some non-geeky stuff as well. On Friday night I went with Rachel to hang out with her Admission Possible people at a party. It was pretty fun, they had good beer, and amazing munchies (best spinach dip ever!). We went from there to Brandon, Carl, Peter and Hillary's apartment to watch 21 (baaad movie is baaad) and chat for a while. Apparently Brandon, peter and Hillary are moving to a place that is 3 blocks from ours, so that's pretty cool.

On Sunday I went to see Tropic Thunder. That was a fairly ridiculous movie that had the right amount of ridiculousness but needed two things: more Robert Downey Jr. and less Jack Black... especially less almost-naked Jack Black.

Today I went to my first day of CTEP work, which was just orientation. I signed a lot of forms, learned about the organization, and ate a lot of good food. At the end of the session therewas still a lot of food left, and since we had gyros for lunch I got to take home two huge serving trays full of onions, lettuce, tomatoes and lamb. Of course the only thing I could do with these heaping helpings of food was to make pizza, which thanks to Mr. Food's Pizza 1-2-3 I know how to do!
I decided to do a variation on the traditional cheese pizza by whipping up some wheat dough with crushed red peppers and placing spaghetti sauce, lamb, mozzarella, onions, and tomatoes on top of the pizza. After cooking I put lettuce on top of the pizza for ambience and to give the false impression of nutritional value. This pizza, like the stuffed eggplant one, received rave reviews from the house, and was compared to "heaven in pie form" by at least two different house mates.

Yeah, I've got a bit of an ego- so sue me.

The recipe for the dough is as follows:
Take 2 1/4 cups of flour (all-purpose) and mix it with 1 package (1/4 ounce) of yeast and 1 teaspoon of salt in a non-stick bowl. Then, in a seperate glass, mix 1 cup of very warm water, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Pour the mix into the flour mix and mix it all together (yay mixing!) Knead the dough until it is fairly uniform in texture and appearance and leave it in the bowl to rise for 35 to 40 minutes.
After this time punch the dough down and let it sit for another 10 minutes. Now you should be ready to spread the dough onto your baking sheet (coated with some non-stick substance hopefully!) and make your pizza.

To make wheat dough, replace 1 cup of all-purpose flour with wheat, and to add crushed red peppers just add 1 1/2 teaspoons of crushed red pepper to the flour mix.

For cheese pizzas, I recommend baking for 15-17 minutes at 450. For stuffed pizzas, like my eggplant pizza (which has two crusts draped around the filling), bake for 35-45 minutes at 400. And speaking about that recipe, why don't I give it to you?

Take some olive oil and heat in a large skillet on medium. Add 4 minced garlic cloves and saute for about 1 minute, then add a large chopped onion and the peeled and cubed contents of two eggplants. Saute this for 15-17 minutes, then pour in 1 1/4 cups of pizza or spaghetti sauce, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and stir well. Pour this mix on top of one pizza crust, then place the other crust on top of the mixture and pinch the edges together. Now bake as above and enjoy!

That's about it for now; tune in later this week for more Americorps postings and delicious recipes for lamb! Until next time...

"When I'm playful I use the meridians of longitude and parallels of latitude for a seine, and drag the Atlantic Ocean for whales. I scratch my head with the lightning and purr myself to sleep with the thunder."
- Life on the Mississippi

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ron Paul!

So, on Sunday night Rachel and I visited Teagle and Ben and played Killer Bunnies with them. Basically it's a card game where you try to kill the opposing people's bunnies and keep yours alive while gaining carrots (including hopefully the magical game winning carrot) and using all sorts of ridiculous weaponry to win (like mini black holes, ebola, and anthropomorphic flamethrowers).

On Monday we headed out to Lake Cedar to swim and then went to Sebastian Joe's Ice Cream Parlor for dessert. And man oh man, can they make ice cream. I ordered two scoops of Chocolate Coyote, which is chocolate ice cream mixed with cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Soooo freaking delicious. That night we finally saw the elusive Karen and played Heroscape with the crew at Russell's. It was a lot of fun that saw Rachel and I destroying each other with robo rats, zombies, orcs riding T-Rexes and the Deathwalker 8000 eliminating an entire mindless horde in one turn.

That night I had lots of trouble getting to sleep, so I spent most of today in a kind of a daze. Because of this I ended up sleeping through part of the Ron Paul convention, which I had gotten free tickets for at the Liberty Parade. After a quick dinner I hopped a bus for downtown and got there in time to hear Ron's speech. It was pretty good- I agree with a lot of his sentiments, particularly in regards to limiting the power of the executive branch, the futility of the war on drugs, the overprescription of prescription drugs and the need for peace rather than war, but I'm a little fuzzy on how exactly he intends to do these things... as well as some of his other suggestions. I'm going to look into it before I pass judgment, but some of the things he mentioned seemed a little far fetched or not particularly well thought through. Anyway, here are some pics from the convention:

edit: Oh wait, I forgot a hilarious anecdote that involves Dr. Paul's introducer, Barry Goldwater Jr. I'm not sure what exactly he said this in reference to, but here goes. "So, there's this backwoods farmer who is a little eccentric and keeps really good care of his pond and goes out every day with a pail to take care of it. So, one day he goes into his barn, grabs his pail, and heads out to the pond, only to find three women swimming in it. The women shriek and swim to the opposite end of the pond and say 'We're not coming out while you're standing there!' So, the farmer shakes his head and says 'Now, I didn't come out to this pond to see y'all swimming naked, and I certainly didn't come out to this pond to see y'all getting out of it naked.' He raises his pail and says 'What I did come out to this pond to do was feed my alligators.'"

Yeah, kinda random, eh?

Until next time...

As early as 1865 or '66 I had had this curious experience: that whereas up to that time I had considered myself a Republican, I was converted to a no-party independence by the wisdom of a rabid Republican. This was a man who was afterward a United States Senator, and upon whose character rests no blemish that I know of, except that he was the father of the William R. Hearst of to-day, and therefore grandfather of Yellow Journalism - that calamity of calamities.
- Autobiographical dictation by Mark Twain, January 24, 1906

The Liberty Parade

On Sunday Rachel, Becky, Ben and I headed over to the aptly named Liberty Parade, which was a very peaceful and artistic protest of the RNC. After the parade there was a free concert, with at least one band that I liked, called Stacy K and the Groovestains. They had a kind of rock folk feel to them, and the artistry on their cds is pretty awesome (see above).

The Parade and the concert were part of the UnConvention, which is a protest without a political focus or agenda and belonging to no party (though Ron Paul supporters, Democrats and eco-peeps seemed to be in large numbers among the constituents) that want to remind us about the importance of liberty and free speech in America. They have another gathering slated for Thursday that I'm going to attend called the Peace Island Picnic.

But yeah, for some pics of the parade, go to my Picasa album located here.

Until next time...

"Irreverence is the champion of liberty."
-Mark Twain

Monday, September 1, 2008

State Fair, New Deliciousness, and Pi

So, on Friday night Rachel, Becky, Becky's friend Dan, Jason, Caroline and I all went out to the Minnesota State Fair. And let me tell you, the place was packed.
It seemed like everyone had come out for the same purpose as us- to pay a lot of money for really tasty food that we probably shouldn't have eaten. My tally for the fair was:
an apple cider float with cinnamon ice cream
buffalo and peppers on a stick
wild rice corn dog on a stick
garlic french fries
deep fried cannoli
mini doughnuts
peanut butter gelato
and, by far the most ridiculous of all (even more ridiculous than spaghetti and meatballs on a stick) was the following. So, we were walking down one street trying to get to our meeting place, and we began randomly naming off foods on a stick that would never work. There was peanut butter on a stick (I believe it can work!), soup on a stick, etc. As we turn the corner, I jokingly name hotdish on a stick. Of course, the first thing that greets my eyes is this:
What it is is potato and meatball hotdish that has been deep fried, put on a stick, and served with mushroom bisque dipping sauce. It was quite delicious, and the same place offered something called an Uffda treat as well. For those not in the know, "uffda!" is the word said by stereotypical Minnesotans as an exclamation of surprise, enjoyment, disgust, etc. What an Uffda treat is is cheesecake placed inside a waffle bowl, smothered in caramel and drizzled with pecans. I ordered one at the same time as another guy, so the entire booth was soon yelling out "Uffda, Uffda Uffda!" pretty regularly and raucously. Needless to say, it was pretty good.

We didn't do much else at the fair besides walk around, pet the goats, and take a glorified ski lift from one section of the park to another. Still, it was pretty fun, and my body almost died. Yay!

The next day I didn't do much; just sat around the house and tried to complete a webcomic that I was reading. It's really good, and I suggest anyone who's into those to check it or its sequels out, as both are definitely entertaining. What I did do, however, is make macaroni and cheese!
What you do is take 1/2 + pounds of mild cheddar, 1/2 + pounds of extra sharp chedder, and cut them into cubes. While doing this boil a pound of pasta and cook to al dente. Once that's cooked, pour in the cheese, some salt, some pepper, tomatoes (preferably a small can of them with juice), mixed vegetables, 4 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of sugar. I would also recommend stirring in some amount of cayenne, chipotle, or other spices to taste. Mix these in the pot, then pour them into an oven safe dish that you have greased somehow (I used a 3 quarts Pyrex dish that I greased with butter). Bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown, and serve! You may want to use more cheese than listed depending on how many veggies and tomatoes you add.
Yay house! Unfortunately that's all the time I have now, but I'll have another post up tomorrow. So, until next time...

edit: Oh, and one more thing: Teagle, Pechous, Ben, his boyfriend, Rachel, Zoe and I went out with Anna Duane to celebrate her last nights in Minneapolis by going out to a club called Pi for dancing. Apparently it is mostly a lesbian club, but the people there were welcoming and it was a lot of fun.

Foreigners cannot enjoy our food, I suppose, any more than we can enjoy theirs. It is not strange; for tastes are made, not born. I might glorify my bill of fare until I was tired; but afer all, the Scotchman would shake his head, and say, "Where's your haggis?" and the Fijan would sigh and say, "Where's your missionary?"
- A Tramp Abroad, by Mark Twain