Saturday, August 29, 2009

Good Kimchi

Have a number of reasons why a bad mood might be justified today, but I'm actually feeling pretty good.

1. The newest edition of Oxford American magazine arrived in the mail today, a week earlier than expected. This is their first (surprisingly) Southern Literature edition, and I've been looking forward to it for months now. One among many features prominently displayed on the cover: POEMS ABOUT: Nymphomania, Jesus, Vultures, & an Argument. (What, no Spanish Inquisition?! Must have been expected.)

2. I came down with a cold yesterday. Made for a slightly frustrating day at work, but I took Nyquil last night and slept well over nine hours, which is always something to celebrate. Today, I have head congestion, runny nose, and a soar throat, but because I have a ridiculous amount of studying to do this weekend (this blog post is my break between sections of the latest precalc lecture video: living life on the edge) I'm not going to take any meds. Nyquil during the day puts me in a stupor while non-drowsy meds cloud my head and in recent years have started causing me arrhythmia, which, though a bit disconcerting, is non-threatening in my case, according to my doc. So what's so good about this cold today? It's a perfect excuse to drink hot tea with honey and a shot of bourbon. Granted, if I have too much, my thinking will get just as cloudy as it would with the meds that I refuse to take. But this, my first cup of the day, is awfully good. [This was written about 8 hours ago. I have since completed my studies for the day and am thinking about having whistea #4 of the day... I think I've exhibited enormous self-control.]

3. I find myself kinda sorta understanding the math coursework. The progression seems to follow this pattern: (1) pull my hair out and cuss while initially reading the text (2) pull out more hair and curse further while trying to work the initial set of examples (3) feel a slight glimmer of recognition while watching the video lecture and (4) have a profound sense of "aha!" when doing the second batch of problems. We'll see how much of it still makes sense when I revisit it Sunday morning.

4. I'm dropping the C++ course. The math studies take up so much time (I not only have to keep up with the regular course material, I have to spend nearly as much time reviewing or relearning the fundamentals, and you know what they say about old dogs relearning old algebraic tricks) that I've paid very little attention to the programming work over the past week. It turns out that I make this decision two days before the deadline for partial tuition refunds. So while I'm not entirely thrilled that a single course turns out to be my limit at the moment, I'm relieved that I came to the realization early enough to get some of my money back.

5. Mailed two CDs from The Loners (also check this page), a two-man Raleigh band, to friends back in DC earlier today. Between and after study sessions today, I've been listening to those albums and watching several YouTube videos from live shows. Saw these guys at Tir Na Nog at the WKNC Local Beer Local Band night back in mid-August and they just about floored me: loud, energized, fun. Great time. Check 'em out.

6. And as I linked to the Tir Na Nog site in the previous Get Happy!! point, I saw that another local band is playing there tonight. In fact, they take the stage in about an hour. I Was Totally Destroying It is out of Chapel Hill, and I've liked the little bit I've heard of them on WKNC and their website. Might have to mosey downtown, this cold be damned. Lucky that I hadn't fixed that whistea #4 just yet.

[UPDATE: The IWTDI show wasn't exactly my kinda thing. By most accounts, this 5-piece group is a good band with good songs. But tonight, they were playing as a U2 cover band, with a couple of members even dressing the parts. No, thanks; I'd much prefer to see and hear them as themselves.]

Loners videos:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mathematically Speaking, I'm a Moron

Yesterday, I got the results from the math skills test that I had to take at NCSU last week. I'd mentioned in a previous post that I'd planned spend the weekend prior to the test reviewing, but I gave up on that idea when I realized how hopeless it was. After 20 years of successfully avoiding polynomial equations, cosines, calculations of conical surface areas, and the rest of it, a few days of light review was going to do nothing for me.

It turned out to be just as well that I didn't invest as much time preparing as I'd planned: while I might have been able to answer 2 or 3 questions that I skipped on the test, the majority of the questions left unanswered involved trigonometry, which hadn't even been on my agenda for review.

So, the result: It was a near-total massacre. We're talking Little Bighorn.

The test is scored so that one point is awarded for each correct answer while a quarter-point is deducted for each incorrect response to discourage blind guessing. Out of 50 questions, I answered only 18. And of those 18, I only answered 7 correctly. Ouch. Final score (rounded): 5 out of a possible 50.

Still, it was enough to allow me to take precalculus instead of having to start back at basic algebra. But who knows: it might be that a month from now, I'll be wishing I'd taken basic algebra anyway. As with so many things in my life at the moment, we'll see.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

House of Freaks: Crack in the Sidewalk Documentary

Interesting short documentary about House of Freaks and the murder of the Harvey family.

It's an extraordinarily well-done piece. And it's great for the Freaks to get any attention for their music and their performances, albeit 20 years too late. I saw them half a dozen times, I think, and while they were always good, that last show at the Black Cat in Washington, DC, back in summer '95, I think it was, stands out as one of the top 10 best shows I've ever attended. Actually, that had already been a memorable show when Steve Wynn joined them, unannounced, for the last half of the night. Such great stuff.

On the other hand, I'm still not sure even as I type this if I'll post it because of the murder aspect. There's something about the coverage of this story -- it's not just this film, it's much of the coverage I've seen over the years -- that gives me the feeling of voyeurism at points. I think the counterargument in this case is that the documentary focuses much more on the band and the connections that Harvey and Hott made with fans and less so on the details of the crime, which, unfortunately, were ready-made for the sorts of sensationalistic coverage the story has created in the last three-plus years. Meaning, I think, that I've finally convinced myself.

And with that bit of explanation and hand wringing out of the way, finally, here's the link:
Crack in the Sidewalk
Also available on IMDB.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Raleigh Contrasts

I've walked this area a dozen times in the last two years, but the contrast between the North Carolina State Capitol and the Wachovia Capitol Center never caught my attention until yesterday.

Cold-Brewed Coffee

I love iced coffee, and this is an excellent and simple guide to making the best iced coffee you didn't pay $2 for. And there's no guilt-play involving tip jars, either, unless your kitchen setup is quite different from mine.

The piece kinda lies at the end in making you think that the final prep is quick and easy; no, actually, it takes bit of time to filter the mixture; plus, getting rid of the leftover grounds in the pitcher is also a bit of a messy pain. But it really is worth it.

I've seen other guides telling people to totally screw this up by either not refrigerating the mixture overnight and/or diluting the final product with equal parts water. No, no, no, no, no. Don't listen to those people. That would be an abomination before Juan Valdez's burro.

(I want some credit for resisting the temptation to substitute "ass" for "burro.")

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Maths Are Killing Me

I'm a newly enrolled NCSU non-degree student and will start taking classes later this month.

The program that I'm going to start working requires a calculus class. I know there's no way that I could take a calc course right off the bat: it's been 20 years since I've set foot in a math classroom. I assumed that I could enroll in the precalc course and take calc next spring, but it turns out that I first have to go over to the math dept and take a placement test before enrolling in any math classes.

OK, fine. That's a minor inconvenience, but I wasn't all that worried about it: I felt confident that with a few days to brush up on some concepts, I could score well enough to get into that precalc class.

Or not.

I've spent about an hour this evening going over some basic materials and am wondering exactly how many brain cells those long nights at Murphy's Pub and Galaxy Hut cost me back in the '90s. I'm beginning to envision myself not in a precalc course but in the bonehead class with a roomful of my fellow drooling morons as some long-suffering grad student pleads with us to please stop eating the damn paste.

What's the least common multiple of 18, 45, and 81? Jesus man, I don't even remember the concept coming up 20-25 years ago. I remember working with least common denominators, but LCM expects me to recall the LCD concept and reverse engineer it. You might as well ask me to close my eyes, stand on one foot, and recite the alphabet backwards for the effect this has on me.

I'm nowhere close to starting a review of geometry and algebra but already feel as if my head might just asplode.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Road Widening, Landscaping, and Local Bureaucracies

My attention was caught by a strange message that had been spray painted on the front of a house in Cary last Saturday morning. I kept meaning to go back and take a picture, but never quite got around to doing it, but that's OK since others better prepared had also taken notice. (How could anybody not, right?)

The full story is here.

I don't blame Bowden for being pissed, although I'm not certain that I'd deface my own property to express my frustration. I might need to go by there and take a couple of pics of my own, now that I think about it. The Flickr photo doesn't do justice to the tremendous slope that has become this guy's front yard.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Cunker? Yeah, Then You're Probably a Fan

Why all the talk recently about Clash for cunkers? The Gang of Four were decent and all, but really, we're talking about an inferior imitation of Joe Strummer & Mick Jones. Clash for cunkers, indeed.