Archive for October, 2008

Sunday Bike Ride

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

After living in Boston for more than two years without managing to ride a bike once I finally went for a ride this weekend. About two weeks ago I helped Andreas, one of my room mates, fix up one of the many bikes we found in our basement. Alas, when we got done fixing it up it was already dark outside, which is not the best time to give a new bike a try. The bike is a pretty old school road bike, and I’m not really used to the placement of the breaks on the overly curved handle bars or the placement of the shifters on the frame, below the top bar. I imagine I’ll get used to these things. I’m just glad that we found a bike that fits me lying around asking to be used, as I was not excited about the chances of finding something good on craig’s list.

I wanted to wait for a nice day when I could ride it in the light some to get used to things. I very much wanted to try it twice earlier in the week, but those were ruined by rain and by darkness. To make sure that didn’t happen again I started working on the bike first thing Sunday morning. Despite fixing it up I still had some work to do on it. First I had to attach the bike lock mount, and then I had to fix the tail light. The bike has a little wheel rim generator on it to power two lights. The wire for the tail light wasn’t connected to the generator, but it was pretty easy to take the connecting piece apart and twist the tail light’s wire in with the headlight. There is only one wire for each light, so the return path must be the bike frame itself. That seems pretty neat, if unnecessary. After doing all that and testing my helmet on the low ceiling in the basement I was off. I planned to do the fresh pond loop, and I didn’t want to spend much time on actual roads, but my downstairs neighbor, Karen, suggested I ride along Memorial Drive which is closed to cars on Sunday mornings for recreational use.

View Larger Map

Indiana, I Didn’t Know

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Look at that map. That map looks very, excitedly strange! It all due to the “Big Ten Battleground Poll,” a poll conducted by the University of Illinois, the University of Iowa, Michigan State University, the University of Michigan, Northwestern University, The Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Wisconsin over October 19-22. The results are somewhat unbelievable. They give Obama a 10 point lead in Indiana, which is a huge swing. It is enough of a swing to turn the average of polls (which is what the above map is based on) for Indiana in to the tossup category. The Ohio numbers (Obama +12) move the avergae to Obama+6, which is into the leaning category. The detailed results, which I had to take a look at are here. Obama may well need to revise his plan to throw some of that September $150millon at Georgia, South Carolina, North Dakota and Arizona to include Indiana.

I’ve pretty much had it with voters in Ohio, so I was and may continue to still write off Ohio as a lost cause. I think the more sure path to an Obama victory lies through Virgina and North Carolina. While this poll does not update the numbers for those two states, any chance of a swing in Indiana bodes very well for demographically the more Obama friendly North Carolina, which is my big call, based more on hope than on numbers at this point.

50 States Party

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Last Friday I attended a 50 states party, an attempt to better educate ourselves about the 50 states during this election season. In reality it was just a party, with some pretty tame costumes. There were about 25 people there, but not quite 25 states as many people just assumed no one else would dress as California. I went as Kentucky (pictured) and was pretty happy with how my costume turned out. Actually, the cheap Kentucky bourbon was not mine, but it fit the theme. The chicken doubled as dinner and a costume, so I think that’s worth extra points. A few of the other states and the costumes that I remember being there.

  • Kansas – John Deer Tractor Driver
  • New Jersey – Indian Gas Station Attendant
  • Louisiana – Make Levees, not War
  • District of Columbia – Beltway
  • Ohio – Joe the Plumber
  • Hawaii – Hula Girl
  • Maine – Lobster
  • California
  • Alabama
  • Missouri
  • Maryland
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas

That’s about all I can remember as far as the represented states go.

Apple Picking

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

I spent my Columbus Day holiday trying something new. I went apple picking at Honey-Pot Hill Orchard in Stow, MA. It was a date, but due to a policy similar the Bush Administration’s policy against discussing ongoing investigations that’s all I have to say on that. The orchard opened at 10pm and we got there soon after, which was a good thing. The place filled up fast, the parking lot was full by the time we doubled back around to it ~45 minutes later.

It was the last day of the season at this Orchard. We had heard that the pickings were slim at two other orchards that friends had gone to on Saturday, so we were surprised to find a wealth of Red Delicious apples immediately on the right side of the entrance. The pickings were great there, and we threw two in the bag and each had one. Eating on the spot is how one reduces the cost of apple picking down to near the cost of buying apples in the store, since you can only carry out what will fit in the bag and the bags aren’t cheap. Although, given apples’ status as not even my third favorite fruit (Pears, Peaches, and Strawberries all certainly top apples), a full bag would be too many. But it was still a good deal; there was some sort of $4 discount because it was the last day of the season and pickings were slim. We didn’t know what they were talking about, as there seemed to be plenty of apples.

Then we found out, as we moved beyond the close grove of Red Delicious into a grove of Macintosh Apples. The pickings there were much more slim. There weren’t any at arm reach. I got a few by jumping, and one or two by climbing the tree, which was fun. I really should climb trees more often. Perhaps that is what I should do from now on when there is a nice day without enough wind to fly the kite. We later found that there were some more plentiful Macintosh trees on the other side of the Orchard. There were also many Empire apples in another area. Empires, I think, are the quintessential apple for the teacher type. All in all I think we got six or seven different varieties.

Done with apple picking we tried out the hedge maze, which was amazingly enough actually tall enough for us. The tops of the hedges were maybe two feet above my head. However, the hedges were a little thin at times, and it cost $3 a person. I felt a little like one of the patrons at a Roller Coaster Tycoon park, being charged for everything. The cost of the hedge maze was offset by the $0.70 apple cider doughnuts. They were good, but would have been better had we opted for the cinnamon and sugar topping. By now it was almost noon and the place was packed, to the point of it being more than a bit difficult to walk around without running over some small child. Having, more apples in our bag than I’ve eaten in the past year we decided that was enough.

Better than the Daily Show

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

These videos from the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner have been making their rounds, and I think they are better than the daily show. There has been some debate as to which, the Obama or McCain, speech is better. I think the Obama speech is better, but don’t judge the McCain speech until you get to the end.

My Third Geohash

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Last Saturday, October 11, 2008 I went on my third geohash expedition. Geohashing has been dead in Boston for about two months now, but we decided to go anyways. The hash was in Canton, MA near where my friend Sparky, whom I met at the first geohash meetup in Hopedale, grew up. It was also near the Blue Hills reservation, which has an abundance of hiking trails and a great view of Boston from the top. The plan was to go to the hash around 2pm, go hiking, and then get some dinner. Sparky and I joined our usual Thursday Night Social Gaming compatriots Mary and Whitney for the expedition. At the hash we met a xkcd forum user, Greg, who was also at the hash where I met Sparky. The hash was in front of a suburban home, and the residents of that home were there, outside, so were not able to get closer than about 120 feet to the hash, which was well into their yard.

The hiking was more successful. It was a popular activity in the nice weather, so much so; that the parking lots were full. But the trails were not. The hike up the hill was very rocky, as in walking on large slabs of rock making up the hillside. Whitney pointed out that it was decidedly different from hiking in Michigan, where the rocks live under the ground and there aren’t any hills. The hike up didn’t seem to cover all that much elevation, but the view from the tower at the top was worth the hike. The hike down took much longer, but took a more circuitous, less rocky route. All and all it was a great use of a beautiful October day. For more info on the trip, check the meetup page.

Las Vegas Trip Five

Monday, October 13th, 2008

In September I went out to Vegas for work again. This time I got three nights all in the city and none in the middle of nowhere, which was sweet. This meant more time for touristy stuff. Having done the same thing, namely watching the Belagio Fountain all night, many many times before I struck out in search of something new. I did stop by the fountain. I took the above new version of the same panorama I took last time. This one came out much better thanks to hugin. I stayed in a different hotel this time. It’s a high rise and I had a fun view from my room.

I discovered that at MGM they have a Viacom affiliated network test audience place. You go, you watch whatever tv show they tell you too, all the while giving them constant feedback on a little dial, and they give you a bunch of useless buy one get one free coupons for your trouble. I’d gotten off work early on Monday so I decided to try it out. I got there at 7pm, when there should have been a showing, but there weren’t enough people for it so they delayed till 7:30. There is not much you can do in the MGM in thirty minutes. It’d take 80% of that time to just walk to the slots and back. That seems like a design problem, but it is true. I was looking at the lighted map, like in a mall, for something to do having already decided that the nearby arcade was not worthwhile, when I noticed the old lady who was also planning to do the 7:00 show was doing the same. She recognized me as well and I spent the time making painful small talk to her and her husband. Not nearly so painful was that as watching the third episode of “The Ex-List.” It is a new CBS show that is like “My Name is Earl,” which I don’t watch. The premis is that instead of winning the lottery and going around righting wrongs from his past, this time it’s a girl who had a psychic tell her she must be married to one of her ex-boyfriends within a year. Each episode focuses on one of the ex’s and clearly you know it will never be the one. This is similar to the premise for “How I Met Your Mother” but it sucks a whole lot more. The show is a drama, not a comedy to start with, and the back story for this episode was the main character’s sisters’ wedding. It was painful, that’s all I’ve got to say.

Another night I decided to check out the Chipotle on the strip. There is one now! My buddy Matt informed me of this wonderful new location. It shares a dining area with a Panda Express and a New York City Pizza by the Slice. After Chipotle I check out The Venetian hotel. I wanted to take some pictures to compare to my parent’s recent trip to Venice, and someone told me there were some interesting free shows, living statues and the like, inside. I got the pictures but I saw no living statues. It is an impressive place. On the second floor there is blatant rip off of the forum shops at Caesar’s Palace, but with a canal through the middle, on which there are gondolas with pollers who sing in a non-english language.