not on fire, thankfully
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picked up the Bandit from the shop today. the work included welding a rattling exhaust header, etching/sealing the fuel tank, and replacing the inline fuel filter. there was a strong odor of gasoline when they started it up. i figured it was just a rich mixture from the carbs being sticky from sitting around a long time.

i rode it to campus, with an intermittent strong odor of gasoline, even after the engine warmed up. i probably should have pulled over to do a detailed second inspection sooner. in the parking lot on campus, i let it idle while inspecting the fuel line. i saw a steady trickle leaking from the brand new inline fuel filter, dripping onto the ignition wires and the hot valve cover.

keep calm and shut it the fuck down.

i'm very grateful that it did not catch on fire. when i called the shop back, they asked me if i could ride it back there. i barely suppressed yelling something like "are you fucking kidding me?!?" at them. to their credit, they diverted one of their tow trucks to pick up the bike in less than half an hour.

i am still very disappointed by this.

on the art of storytelling
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i've been posting somewhat less than i've been meaning to, but here goes.

last month i was pleasantly surprised by watching The Book Thief. from the trailers, i gathered that it was a very visually striking yet highly derivative Holocaust film, taking a few plot points from The Reader, among others.

what i found was that while it did contain quite a few overplayed Holocaust film tropes, the acting and production values were quite good. the strength of its portrayal of innocent children having been indoctrinated by the Nazi regime was novel to me.

i also found, to my surprise, that one of the narrative threads was about the power of storytelling. there is one very moving scene where Liesel finally finds her own voice as a storyteller. she starts off haltingly and self-consciously, but gains confidence and continues when it becomes obvious to her that it is a story that her audience needed to hear. sometimes when people are afraid and alone, and the right story is the only thing that will hold back the darkness, it is your moral duty to tell it if you are able.

i think the people behind this film can join Neil Gaiman in the (in my opinion vanishingly small) class of storytellers who believe it is important to tell stories about the importance of stories. (i haven't read the book on which the film is based, but i suspect its author Markus Zusak is in that category as well.)

poor little Monster
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the Monster got its front end literally run over by a tow truck Sunday morning. hopefully it doesn't end up totaled -- there is extensive front end damage: right handlebar bent to vertical, etc. still calling various insurance companies. unfortunate that a motorcycle parked on the street can easily sustain over $1000 in damage from a careless car driver.

(no subject)
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recently, a hobby project reached that threshold of complexity where checking it into version control was the obviously right thing to do.

(no subject)
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have not even read LJ in a few weeks. still catching up...

have also made the amusing discovery that some recreational embedded systems programming turns out to be relevant to my day job.

things i would like to hate because they're too damned trendy...
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but have unfortunately found to be useful -- partial list:

WTF 5.10c; unrelatedly, earth moving
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i apparently climbed a 5.10c last night. WTF.

also, we felt an earthquake that happened near Mineral, Virginia. unsurprisingly, we don't often feel earthquakes in Boston, but apparently the age and continuity of the bedrock on the eastern coast of the U.S. means it transmits earthquake energy quite far.

there was some trench-digging kind of construction work going on outside my office building. when the shaking started, i thought it was the construction: i looked out the window to see the arm of the backhoe shaking from side to side. after brief bewilderment at what sort of earth moving operation would need that kind of odd motion (and why they needed to do it with enough force to shake the building) i went back to work, only to hear a few minutes later that yes, there was indeed an earthquake. the arm of the backhoe was probably not shaking from side to side under the control of its operator, but due to a quite different sort of earth moving.

tap tap...
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this thing still on? seems like i've been somewhat neglecting LJ for some time... life and work have been busy.

in other news, the wee little red banshee Bandit lives again, after over a month in the shop. it got tipped over by an incompetent parking job of an unidentified neighbor who had way too much horsepower. (they broke a foot peg bracket and bent the frame plate underneath.) i still have an irrational fondness for the Bandit, despite all its cantankerousness. i guess it's the awesome steering response and the 14000rpm redline...

grey
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one of those wonderful winter days where the sky is a swirling otherworldly grey, shading seamlessly from low clouds to fog and mist to falling snow. (i may like the accumulated snowfall much less, later, but this sort of sky still amazes me and remains nigh-impossible to photograph.)

isogyres
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i found a reasonably succinct explanation of the maltese cross i saw when looking through a Pockels cell with crossed polarizers. for some reason, the introductory optics texts i've seen don't cover it.

experimental optics
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have experimentally confirmed that RealD 3D (TM) viewing glasses use circular polarizers, without using any specialized apparatus. method is an exercise for the reader. (i might provide hints on request.) i'm not sure i'm a fan of the projection technique, though.

thank you, Street View
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Google Maps Street View remains a surprisingly good resource for locating buried storm drains for targeted excavation procedures. O HAI WORLD it's winter in New England again.

gravity-fed fuel systems suck (or don't)
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a week or so ago, i finally got the Bandit repaired after it had been sitting parked and broken for months. total repair cost was more than 90% of the insurance valuation. damage summary: astoundingly bent handlebars from multiple people parking badly and knocking the bike over (the shop said that everyone was amazed that the handlebars hadn't broken given how badly kinked they were), dead battery, badly varnished carburetors, seized front brake...

today, i found out the hard way where the fuel tank reserve level is, by stalling on Fresh Pond Parkway. it took a while to diagnose, because there are so many other things that habitually go wrong with this bike that simply running out of fuel was not near the top of the list. there's no fuel gauge or warning light either.

gory detailsCollapse )

flying
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riding a motorcycle to and from climbing in a rock gym means i get to experience multiple kinds of flying in quick succession. now if only i had a MiG in the back yard... (no space for a runway, sadly)

boundary conditions and the Coriolis force
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(no, i have not drunk enough rum to drown a dozen men...)

there is something very satisfying about literally feeling Newtonian dynamics -- particularly angular momentum -- in action in a simple physical system. i've been experimenting with meteor hammers (Chinese martial arts weapon that consists of a rope with a spherical weight at each end) on and off for a while. after having seen video of an acrobatics troupe performing some spectacular tricks with meteor hammers, i tried to replicate some of the simpler motions. one of these was revolving the weights overhead in a horizontal circle with the rope tensioned straight, somewhat like a helicopter rotor.

starting out by grasping the rope with its midpoint in one hand and swinging the weights in a horizontal circle overhead typically means the rope starts twisting up, and the weights orbit directly next to each other. achieving any significant speed requires a large horizontal force to maintain the centripetal acceleration. alternating hands caused the twists to stop forming, but the weights to remain close together, maybe separated by 15 degrees or so in their orbit. eventually i learned to use one hand to speed up or slow down an individual weight (by applying force to the rope near but not at its midpoint) while using the other hand near the midpoint to keep the weights in position. when the weights opened up in their orbit so they were opposite each other in the circle, i felt a most amazing thing: the horizontal force on my hands suddenly dropped to nearly zero, and the ordinarily very flexible rope began to act like a rigid object, needing only a tiny amount of applied force to offset gravity and air drag.

if i had enough space to practice in, i think i could have launched it upward, spinning like a flying disc, and caught it as it came back down. it is probably one of the simplest systems demonstrating angular momentum: two equal masses orbiting circularly around their barycenter, held together by rope tension.

for my main practice set, each end weight is (glass marble in a knot similar to a monkey's fist knot) approx. 30 grams, distance between centers of mass is approx. 72cm. i made a set with 75 gram end weights, but at any usable speed, being accidentally struck with it was very painful.

(no subject)
feylike
so yes, it's July in Boston, but heat index over 90F before 8am is a bit excessive.

because it's fun to adapt Portal dialog...
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coffeekitty: C lets you DO that??

me: Remember when the pointer was sliding past the array bounds and I said "Goodbye!", and you were like "NO WAY!", and then I was all "We pretended we were going to segfault you." That was great.

on teaching
feylike
as a teacher, your sacred duty is to open doors, even if you never live to see someone walk through them. it is not merely reality hacking, but leveling up worthy students in the art of reality hacking...

(no subject)
feylike
interesting phrase of the week: "epistemic community". i think it's not a terribly new concept, but the wording amuses me.

spring cleaning
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the Monster's chain no longer resembles a lump of rust and dirt in the shape of a chain. still have to see about making additional tweaks to the suspension eventually.

an atmospheric mystery
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sometimes, atmospheric conditions near MIT cause a neat little line of low-altitude cumulus-like clouds to form as if condensing downstream from a steam plume. there are two likely suspects for the plume: the MIT nuclear reactor (5MW heat output, no power generation, so it all goes up the cooling tower), and the MIT cogeneration plant (21MW of electrical power from a gas turbine, plus some waste heat recovered to make utility steam). claimed electrical heat rate for the cogen turbine is 11400 BTU/kWh; multiplying out with 21MW gives about 70MW of combustion heat. if the cogen process approaches 90% total efficiency, that's still 7MW of waste heat to the cooling tower. for some reason, the reactor cooling tower plume looks more dramatic from the ground despite its lower power. maybe it condenses at a lower altitude. the clouds have no continuous connection to the cooling towers, so it's not possible to trace their origin that way. (the plants in question are across Mass Ave from each other.)

this time it was the wind
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this time it was almost certainly the wind that blew the Bandit over. poor little bike. it's also clearly leaking gasoline from the filler cap. (winds in the Boston area are gusting up to 45mph today.) a kind passing driver (who also happens to be a rider) helped me pick it up. no obvious damage beyond stuff that has already been broken for a while.

things that are not quite the same
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  • once more into the breach
  • once more into the breech
  • once more into the breech

in the event Brown wins the MA Senate election...
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a possible opening of a letter i might write soon:

Dear Senator Brown:

I did not vote for you, but you are my Senator nonetheless, and I have faith that you will be a decent representative and a decent human being. While I know it may be at odds with your personal ideology... etc. etc.

[edit for stupid typo because i'm somewhat upset and slightly tipsy]

yet another hit-and-run
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came home to find the Bandit knocked over. the great thing about having snow on the ground is that it makes for useful forensics. it was almost certainly knocked over by someone using the adjacent driveway to make a U-turn in order to illegally go the wrong way down our one-way street and make an illegal turn, it and was almost certainly driven by a lone woman who felt guilty to enough to try (unsuccessfully) to pick it up, given the footprints nearby. she wasn't guilty enough to leave a note, though.

i smell like gasoline now.

?

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