On Backing Into Snowbanks

There is a peculiar danger, one which does not immediately present itself, in backing one’s automobile into a well-established snowbank. One naturally thinks of the calamitous: dents, dangling bumpers, inability to remove automobile from said snowbank. However, it is also prudent to be aware of the more innocuous difficulties.

Such difficulties are presented by strange noises. A small but pleasant whistling, not unlike that of a turbo (which my car indeed lacks) presented itself from the rear of the car, along with an intermittent noise of a rattly, puffing, hissing sort, beneath the floorboards, but only when I put the engine under load. These made for an uneventful but nonetheless interesting trip from Freeport to Falmouth, where examination could commence.

I suspected something to do with the small existing exhaust leak just forward of the catalytic converter. Brief examination confirmed the continued existence of such, and that more sound was produced from it than previously, but precisely why it should suddenly sound like an air compressor at higher engine speeds rather baffled my understanding of exhaust problems. (Which, admittedly, are primarily limited to “things falling apart”.) However, curiosity regarding the turbo-whistle revealed a very mundane plug of icy snow lodged firmly in the tailpipe. This, thanks to my existing exhaust leak, had not rendered the services historically served by the potato, and merely required a bit more huffing and puffing of the engine.

After picking a hole in the ice chunk with a bungee-cord, it was observed by experiment that normal operation had recommenced and that revving the engine produced an impressive spray of melted snow. Much fun was had by all.

Reformation Day Record

Today is the day Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of Castle Church in Wittenburg. Normally I wouldn’t post something like this, but I find it very fascinating that upon this momentous date I also hit my current record of Ninety-Five (concurrent) Firefox Tabs.

Trivial and pointless, I know, but oddly coincidental. And look, ma, no swap! I haven’t even maxed out my RAM yet… (And technically it’s 96 since I just looked up that Wikipedia link.)

The Nemesis, Conquered

I have won. For the past week, a mosquito has been annoying me, flying around – just enough to be audible – about twenty minutes after I go to bed and shut the light off. Abominably an elusive chap, he naturally was not there when I turned the light back on to look.

To spite me and tempt fate (apparently), he decided to prowl while I was still up last night (though how a mosquito can prowl seriously, I surely don’t know), but I’d have to be a magician to have caught him. Or at least have had my glasses on. Every few minutes he’d fly close enough to be heard or caught sight of, but promptly disappear again, thereby postponing my bedtime, cumulatively, by more than is necessary to mention.

But Sir Mosquito was finally undone. When I woke up this morning he was placidly set upon the window, up high, as I lay down below. He was too slow; I promptly dispatched him to the realms of that which is past and shall return no more. I have won. I have beaten the mosquito.

The Pod Is Cast

I’ve discovered podcasting. It’s a fascinating phenomenon, that one subscribes to what are, effectively, (mini) radio shows and listens when one pleases. I don’t quite know why it fascinates me so. Perhaps it’s the fact that, really, I’m an audio/radio geek at heart and if I have the choice of watching, listening, or reading, I will listen while I work on something else.

Whatever the reason, really, it’s fascinating. Also internet radio. I still listen to Thistle & Shamrock, but it’s also very nice to be able to listen to other celtic music or British folk any time, 24/7. And while I’m on this internet audio kick, I should also tell you that I’ve been listening to Three Men in a Boat during my otherwise quiet, music, or NPR saturated driving time. Excellent book, by the way. Timeless British hilarity cannot be had much better. All this to say that I downloaded it from Librivox, which aims to record, through volunteer vocal chords, any and every book in the public domain. Tall order, but good results so far. There is the occasional quality issue – some people, well meaning and talented as they may be, do need some coaching to make their reading aloud palatable – but the enjoyment has largely outweighed that particular chapter.

I should also note that the iPod shuffle excels at audiobooks, as long as you don’t do the shuffle part. It’s a book-on-a-stick that remembers where you left off!

If I had a decent mic and less cumbersome recording setup, I’d consider doing a State of the Stickman podcast to top my extended family’s penchant for weekly/monthly/otherwise periodic email narratives of goings-on.

Of Windchimes, Foghorns, And The Wonders Of Science

It’s been a bit windy around here the last few days, which led us, over supper last night, to ponder the age-old question: could the wind be harnessed not just for the pleasant tinklings of windchimes, but also to produce the mellifluous hoot of the glass bottle? Blowing across the bottle undoubtedly works for mere humans, so it seems it could also be possible to use nature’s breath to do the same thing, there being a lot more of it.

However, there still remain a few questions to be answered by prototyping:

  • What airspeed is required to produce sound?
  • Is it necessary to funnel/control the airflow in order to produce sound?
  • Can we sound up to a three-note chord, with each note denoting a higher windspeed?
  • What will the neighbors think?
  • And, most importantly, will it keep Mom awake at night?

We may or may not have too much time on our hands this summer… so the prototype may or may not get built.

The Winter’s War

The fallen lie along the road,
Broken, bleeding, dying,
Casualties of the winter’s war,
In ditches as you pass them by.
The war was long and cold and hard,
Fought in deepest snow –
The trenches ready made
To hide from fearsome foe.
Guerrilla tactics: hide inside the very banks
Thrown up by the enemy,
Taking cover from slicing blades of death
Which come oh, so swiftly
With orange flash and muffled roar
To crush the lurkers in the banks,
And cutting down the army’s flags
With wings of death to slay the ranks.
With each new storm and fall of snow
The casualties mounted;
The ranks slowly dwindling
Until the lost could not be counted.
But now that spring has come to us
The battles become fewer.
Melting cover recedes,
Running to the sewer;
And the fallen lie along the road,
In broken pieces, life’s course run:
Your mailbox is now safe again,
The plow trucks have all gone.

On Creativity And Inspiration

I’ve noticed in the past couple weeks how creatively dull this semester has felt, particularly regarding this blog. I had chalked it up to being busy: “I don’t have time to do homework and blog and keep up with the details of life!” Ah, but I still have time that I kill, regularly.

So I started wondering: what gives? What is it about this semester that makes it feel the way it does?

Last week I got my much anticipated copy of On The Edge of the Dark Sea Of Darkness in the mail, and, well, indulged. I permitted myself the luxury of spending a piece of my evening (in reality, four+ hours) ignoring school work and sleep, immersing myself in the story. (I just can’t seem to stay away from something that has such a seriously goofy title, by one of my favorite artists, with a subtitle that reads: “Adventure. Peril. Lost jewels. And the Fearsome Toothy Cows of Skree.”)

Then I realized some of what I was missing: inspiration. Creative input, artistic brain food, whatever you want to call it. For me, that is something I generally get from reading excellent books. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been do a lot of reading this semester – reading about management and team building and statistics and building things with CAD. Stuff that is really pretty creative in practice (maybe excepting statistics), but not much that really inspires in textbook form.

I hadn’t been reading for the sake of reading, to enjoy the existence of a good book.

There must be a balance. Too often I try to read things because I think I should, or because it’s useful, it’s related to something I’m interested in or is supplemental to an interesting topic from a class. But, many times, that’s more taxing than it is helpful, and what I need most is a break from trying to remember useful information. I need to take time away from the every day tasks, I need to spend time enjoying and admiring creation in the work of others, to be refreshed and inspired. Shards of reality often are more clearly seen encapsulated in myth than in daily life; the creation, more often than not, reflects glimpses of the Creator.

And it’s inspiring. (I keep using that word. It really does mean what I think it means.)

Dr. Seuss And Theology

Have you ever thought how much God is like Green Eggs & Ham? It’s a weird food. It’s somewhat odd stuff, it doesn’t look right and sounds sorta disgusting. Ham and Eggs are not supposed to be Green, it just isn’t right. It’s unconventional. And it’s introduced to us in an unconventional way, by an unconventional guy with an unconventional name – and that unconventional guy, The Great Sam-I-Am, just will not go away.

Then we go through so much ridiculous trouble to avoid him and his abnormally colored wares. (“I will not eat it with a Fox, I will not eat it in a box!” Or on a train, or in a plane…) And after going through all that, we find out that Green Eggs & Ham really are really good, after all! And we end up good friends with the Great Sam-I-Am himself, creator of this strangely unconventional dish that apparently isn’t even sold in stores, but given personally.

So there you have it, metaphor where there never was (and probably ever shouldn’t be). This post brought to you by the color Green and Theolo-vision.