Having a bad day?
Posted on March 13, 2013 at 15:58
My little brother would be happy to cheer you up.
To avoid making this blog too short, allow me to complain about Google Drive. You see, I love Docs. I use them all the time for taking collaborative notes in class. However, the Android app doesn't work for me. It syncs and browses the documents just fine, but if I open one, the editor/viewer crashes and takes me back to the list of documents.
What's even weirder is that it's not just on my Gingerbread phone. I installed Android 4.0-x86 on my EEE netbook, and it does it there, too. I asked for help on the Google Product Forums
, and one Google employee has replied to me. I have some hope!
Short Story (murder and all that)
Posted on February 24, 2013 at 09:48
I wrote this for an English class. I think my own nerdiness is reflected in the characters. If you notice a grammar/spelling issue, feel free to point it out. Also, feel free to rip on it. I think the ending needs revised.
Ok, so this format is a pain to read. Here's PDF.
THE PAPER RIVALS
Dr. Naffziger himself opened the door at the front of the lecture room – not the usual assistant. Mitchell Connor put his pen back together, sat up, and watched intently. Dr. Naffziger dug intently through an overstuffed binder of papers before he extracted a sheaf, flipped shut the cover, and placed the sheaf on the lectern. He stood at the front of the room, meshing and unmeshing his pudgy fingers in front of his short, outdated tie.
“Well, it looks like we’re all here today, so let’s get right to the point. As you know it’s been my tradition for many years to give an award for the best midterm and term paper as well as runner up,” the professor droned. Mitchell wondered how such a distinguished doctor of biochemistry could take so long to get to the point. Mitchell had won the award for both papers in last year’s class with this professor. None of his classmates had become diligent in the meantime, so he figured he’d get this one, too. Naffziger was still talking. “... and I think that for someone rather new to our school, he’s done a pretty good job.” He punctuated the last two words by bobbing his head forward like the hammer on a piano. “And so, I’m happy to announce the winner as Kumal Dasgupta,” he said. “Is Kumal here today?”
Heads all over the room swiveled towards a seat at the far right end of the front row. “Come on up here,” Naffziger growled grandly, beckoning with one hand as his large head bobbed in agreement.
Mitchell’s mouth was open. Josh, his best friend, twisted around and snickered. “You should see your face.”
“I’m gonna kill him.”
“I guess you’ll just have to be one of us mortals for a few days,” said Josh. “Does his being a foreign exchange student make it better or worse?”
“I don’t know how he did it. He’s only been here one semester.” Mitchell glanced back to the front, where Kumal was walking back to his seat. Dr. Naffziger folded his hands again.
“Let me have your attention again for just a minute. I’ll let you out early today, but first I have another announcement. I think this one’s a real treat,” he said, hammering ‘real treat’ with his head. “Dr. Ernest Bloomfield, a renowned drug researcher, was here in Lakeview yesterday and I spoke with him and he agreed to come and do a guest lecture next period. Not only that, but we’re going to do some lab work with botulinum.”
Mitchell’s eyebrows popped up.
“For those of you in the back, that means that you’ll get to inject small animals with Botox,” said Dr. Naffziger.
The murmur of whispers swelled to a dim roar as everyone quit listening. “Seriously?” said Josh, “That’s awesome!”
“Maybe we can use some on his face,” Mitchell said without smiling. “Or his assistant’s. I swear she’s got to have the record for oldest grad assistant.”
Josh grinned. “Yeah, I know. Let’s go to lunch early. Actually, let’s go see Mr. Foreign Smarty-pants.”
Mitchell scowled but followed Josh over towards Kumal.
“Congrats on the paper,” said Josh, “My friend Mitch here thought he was gonna get it. That’s why his face is like that.” Mitchell stabbed Josh in the back with a pen. “Ow!”
“Yes, thank you, thank you,” smiled Kumal. “I think Mr. Mitch’s face is good.”
“Actually,” said Josh, “He said he’s going to kill you.”
Kumal’s eyes popped open wide as he stepped back and exclaimed, “Oh no, sirs.”
“Calm down, it’s an idiom,” said Josh.
“A what is it?”
“An idiom; an American expression.”
“Shut up, Josh,” said Mitchell, who had been skimming Kumal’s paper. “We’ll see you later.” Mitchell put it down and pulled Josh towards the door.
“What’s the deal?” Josh whined.
“You’re just confusing him. Let’s go eat lunch.”
The cafeteria was just starting to fill up when they got their plates. Mitchell scanned the room several times before making eye contact with Elise. She motioned them towards her table.
“Hi, honey,” she said. “How’d you get to lunch so fast?”
Mitchell Josh pulled out their chairs and sat down.
“Naffziger let us out early.”
Mitchell mumbled something at his plate.
“Paper awards today,” said Josh. Mitchell glared at him.
Elise started to grin but smothered it. “I take it you didn’t get it.”
“Nah, some new foreign exchange kid got it,” replied Mitchell.
“It’s OK, dear; you always do a good job. You’ll get the next one.”
“You bet I will,” he said, but his tone wasn’t confident. He took another bite and chewed thoughtfully. “You know, it’s not the end of the world. I still got an A, and it’s not like anyone will ever care about those awards anyway.” He stabbed his chicken harder than was strictly necessary before continuing. “We should do something this week.”
“Like what?” asked Josh.
“I was actually asking my girlfriend, but it has been a while since we all did something.”
“It’s ok, Josh. Mitch, what were you thinking?” asked Elise.
“I dunno. Just something to get us away from here for a while.”
She smiled. “Well, there’s always a movie, but someone here can’t watch those without nitpicking every other scene.”
“Not my fault directors can’t make a movie without plot holes the size of a beach.”
Josh made a face. “The size of a beach?”
“Beach, barge, bus – pick one,” said Mitch. “You’d just think that with millions and millions of dollars they could hire someone to spot stuff like that.”
Josh laughed. “They should just hire you. You could get paid to nitpick and interrupt people’s movies all day.”
“You’re very funny, but that’s not what I want to be doing in ten years.” The words were sarcastic, but the corners of Mitchell’s mouth twitched. “So um…how about bowling?”
“I’m good with that,” replied Elise, glancing at Josh.
“You really don’t have to take me,” he said, “but I wouldn’t mind going.”
Mitchell balled up his napkin and stuffed it in his empty glass. “It’s OK; we’ll all go. How about Thursday night?”
“Tomorrow? Works for me,” said Elise.
“Yeah, most of my stuff is due earlier in the week,” said Josh. “I’m pretty much caught up.”
“I’ll call about a reservation and then send you guys an e-mail,” said Mitchell. “Josh will have to pay for himself.”
“Aw, but Baby…” whined Josh in falsetto.
“You wish,” said Elise with a snort. “He’s mine. I’ve got to go to class.” She stood up and gathered her dishes.
Thursday’s classes came and went. At 7:00pm, the group of three walked towards Josh’s car. “Baby, you’re mumbling again,” said Elise gently.
Mitchell cleared his throat and said loudly, “Ok, I forgot to get reservations. Somehow it just slipped my mind. So we’ll have to walk in and maybe wait a bit for a lane.”
Josh unlocked the car door. “Don’t worry about it, Mitch. We’ll survive.”
“Hey, it’s not too bad in here,” remarked Elise as they walked into the bowling alley. “There’s no line for shoes.”
“You guys are next in line, so just hang out near the counter and I’ll call you,” said the tired-looking guy behind the counter. “You can get shoes now if you want.”
“Thanks,” said Elise.
Josh fiddled with the laces on his dark red shoes. “I love the way bowling shoes feel. They’re so cool and dry and smooth, and they’re heavier than they look.”
Mitchell grinned slightly. “You could put a bowling ball on your foot. Those are cool and dry and smooth and heavier than they look.”
“We should try batting a ball down the lane,” said Josh.
“Um, that’s stupid.”
“Actually,” said Elise, “I had a friend who did something like that. Her mom ran over our baseball with the lawn mower, so we tried using a soccer ball instead. But we had an aluminum bat, and it bounced.”
“The bat bounced?” asked Mitchell.
“Yeah, right back into her head. She had a terrible concussion.”
“I love the sound aluminum bats make,” said Josh. “That would have made a cool double ping sound.”
“Ew. Something’s wrong with you,” said Elise.
“See, he’s worse than I am,” said Mitchell. “I only kill mice and such, and you give me a hard time.”
“Some of that lab testing just sounds awful,” replied Elise.
“Tomorrow should be cool, actually. We’re gonna get to play with Botox.”
“Ooh, you wanna get me some?” she laughed.
“No, Honey, your face is beautiful just the way it is. We’re gonna kill frogs with it, I think.”
“Kill? I thought it was just fat you inject.”
“It’s actually a neurotoxin. It gets rid of the appearance of wrinkles by paralyzing the muscles underneath. It’s either the first or second most toxic substance known to man. Four or five kilograms could wipe out all of mankind.”
“Wow, Botox suddenly sounds really unappealing,” said Elise. “Please don’t die or come back frozen tomorrow.”
“Not a chance, Honey,” he said. “As long as Josh doesn’t eat it we’ll be fine.”
“Hey, I quit eating paste a long time ago!”
“Uh, excuse me, you folks can head over to lane six now,” said the tired guy’s voice behind them.
They walked together to the lane, where Mitchell began fiddling with the ancient scoring computer and Josh started pawing through the bowling balls. Mitchell looked up and suddenly made eye contact with Kumal, who was standing at the little table two lanes down, holding a ball and talking with another student. Mitchell’s face darkened. Kumal instantly dropped the ball and ran, or tried to run, in his slippery bowling shoes. The ball fell directly onto a large, disposable cup of Sprite and rolled off the table with a crash and a splattering of pop. Kumal had managed to skid his way out the front door by the time the tired guy got out from behind the counter.
“Mitch, what on earth was with that guy?” asked Elise, totally bewildered. “What happened?”
Josh couldn’t help himself. “Did you see that cup? It didn’t have a chance. It collapsed like the Soviet Empire!”
Elise glanced at him sideways. “You’re insane.”
“I don’t feel well,” said Mitchell. “You guys go ahead.” He sat down at their little table.
“What’s the matter, Baby?” asked Elise.
“Nothing, I’m just tired. I’ll just watch you.”
“Well, OK. Let me know if you want to go home – er – back to school.”
Mitchell seemed his usual self by the following afternoon. Dr. Naffziger gave Dr. Bloomfield a windy introduction as they donned their protective clothing. Bloomfield gave a short lecture from a stepstool in the lab, saying that he wanted to get right to the lab work and stressing that they follow his instructions especially carefully. Mitchell looked around, trying to find Kumal, but didn’t find him amidst the crowded knots of masks, coats, and safety glasses.
Mitchell walked slowly around the counter where Dr. Bloomfield had culture dishes labeled with many brightly colored warnings. The students moved through the lab in stages, lab journals in hand. Mitchell ranged himself near a dumber student as they prepared their solutions and loaded them into small syringes. When Dr. Bloomfield was observing the other, less competent student, Mitchell tugged at his right glove with increasing franticness until it finally came off. He quickly stuck the tip of his middle finger into the toxic bacteria culture and jammed the glove back on before Bloomfield turned around.
Seamless, Mitchell thought to himself. He still couldn’t find Kumal. He must not have come to class. After the lab was over, Mitchell disposed of his gloves and managed to evade the hand washing station. He also tossed the empty glass vial, which he had decided he didn’t need.
He returned to the dorms and looked up Kumal’s room number in the directory, then walked up the stairs and stepped into an unfamiliar hall. He hesitated at an open door before entering. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.
The main room was empty, but the bathroom door was closed. He stepped towards a desk with photographs that looked plausibly Indian and surveyed it. A laptop was closed on the desk with a cup of hot, pungent tea sitting next to it. Folders, textbooks, notebooks, and binders stood in orderly symmetry on the shelves. Boxes of paper clips, staples, and binder clips were stacked by size.
I’m glad this is so organized, he thought as he began pulling out folders and binders one by one, thumbing through them, and carefully replacing them. His brow furrowed as he concentrated on one folder, until finally his jaw clamped hard and he pulled out one stapled bundle and glared at it. He glanced down for a split second. With a shrug, he swirled his middle finger in the tea. The toilet flushed in the tiny bathroom. Mitchell started towards the door but heard footsteps in the hall. Turning back, he dived behind a low bar of hanging clothes. This was not what he had planned. Kumal’s shoes emerged from the bathroom and moved near the dressers. The footsteps in the hall continued without stopping. Mitchell waited. Kumal continued to move about the room. Mitchell’s heart pounded as the shoes finally stopped by the desk, and as he heard a mug being set back down on the hard surface.
I might be stuck here for a while, he thought. He realized that was still holding the papers.
Kumal dropped a book. More footsteps sounded in the hall. Kumal was trying to pick up the book, but he kept dropping it again. Josh’s shoes suddenly appeared in the doorway.
“What are you doing? What’s the matter?” asked Josh’s voice. Kumal made some odd sounds, but the paralysis had already affected most of his face. Josh picked the up the phone and began speaking rapidly to someone. Mitchell was sweating profusely now.
Why was he in here to begin with? What was he thinking? The university medical team burst onto the scene, and time became a blur of shoes. The room emptied out as if class were dismissed, except that the fading voices had been crisper.
Mitchell finally crawled out of the clothes. His knees were shaking uncontrollably. Perspiration ran into his eye, and he wiped it away. Wrong hand!
“No!” he shouted, staring at his finger. “No!” It had touched the wet corner of his eye. He ran blindly from the room, dropping the papers behind him. He fell partway down the stairs and collapsed at the bottom.
The next morning Josh found Elise in a hallway.
“Josh, I’ve never seen you look so sober. What’s wrong? And where’s Mitch? I haven’t seen him all day. And why on earth do you have a newspaper?”
He handed her the paper. TWO STUDENTS POISIONED AT LAKEVIEW: ONE DIES. Elise sagged against the hallway wall and slid down to the floor, staring at the newspaper.
“I don’t understand. How could they both be poisoned?”
“I found Kumal paralyzed, called the paramedics, and followed him out to the ambulance. Nobody found Mitch for a while. But then I went back to Kumal’s room and found this on the floor.” He handed her a sheaf of 8.5x11” papers. They were obviously photocopies. She read the header: Mitchell Connor, Mailbox 247. Josh said quietly, “Kumal didn’t go to the lab yesterday. Mitchell did. He was also on the north stairs, which he doesn’t normally use. I can only assume…”
“Oh, curse those paper awards! And his wretched pride.”
“There is one bright spot. At least it was more like the soccer bat than an ugly, drawn-out trial.” Under his breath he made a soft “Ping! Bong!” but she heard it and smiled a little through her tears.
Sorry for the awful formatting, but I can't figure out how to get tabs to work.
My Poem Got "Published"
Posted on February 20, 2013 at 08:36
I use quotes because it's only my school's weekly paper, which isn't a real form of publishing. In reality, I'm pleased because the guy in charge of the poetry section is a brilliant thinker and someone I look up to.
The One who knew me long before time’s roar
My fate from then forevermore had planned.
He stooped to call me from death’s rocky shore,
And gave me righteousness from injured hand.
I cannot now be charged with anything;
My Captain gave his Son to justify
This child, and if He his own Son would sting
For me, what can His promise now belie?
The ocean waits, travailing in its pains,
Till we shall, morphed with immortality,
Stand cleansed of cursed sin and all its stains,
And ‘neath my Captain’s rule be truly free.
His children called to sail time’s transient sweep
He does forever, bright with glory keep.
A fairly strict, orthodox translation of Romans chapter 8 into a formal sonnet. (Yes, it's quite religious in nature.
Rushing in where Angels Fear to Tread
Posted on February 17, 2013 at 20:17
I suddenly have a new respect for watchmakers. As you may recall
, I have an obsession with cheap, Chinese mechanical watches. I received this Goer skeleton watch
for Christmas, but the filigree designs on the front were just a sticker, and a misaligned sticker at that. I resolved to remove it.
Oh, before I go further, I apologize for creating a zillion blogs back-to-back. The first two blogs were blogged for the sake of blogging, but this one is motivated by a desire to share something cool. That means it has artistic authenticity, and you must therefore excuse and even applaud my spamming. Culture demands it! Postmodernism demands it. Art demands it. (I also have a year of not-blogging to make up for.)
Back to the task at hand - removing the superfluous sticker. Opening the screw back was easy, but I had some trouble with the chrome spacer ring (the thing behind the Roman numerals). I initially thought it was plastic and would just fall out, like similar watches, but it's some sort of very brittle metal. I tried screwing it out, but the threads around the inner case wall must be for some other configuration. Turns out it's a key/slot design and must come out exactly straight. Unfortunately, I became frustrated and pried a little too vigorously on the movement itself with a nylon spudger.
This caused a piece of the frame to bend. The particular piece of frame contained three pink bearings, one of which holds the pivot for the regulator cog wheel. (I'm making these part names up as I go.) The cog wheel came out of the bearing and started rolling around. I tried to put it back, but figured I must have broken it in the process. You can see how it's tilted over and touching the frame.
I resolved to disassemble the watch movement. The tiny screws stopped me. These aren't just any small screws, like laptop of eyeglasses screws. These are smaller than rice grains. I tried all my screwdrivers and even knife blades to no avail. Eventually I gave up and put all the parts in a drawer. Then I ordered a set of cheap, Chinese watch screwdrivers
and waited for them to arrive. Ordering another watch would have been cheaper, but Amazon Prime arrives much faster than DX, and I'm stubborn.
Once I got the screwdrivers, I took the movement out again and removed the offending plate on the back. I forgot to take a picture of it totally assembled, but you can see the piece sitting in the background. The shot on the left is purely a glamor shot. The middle shot reveals the problem. See where the two yellow gears intersect each other's arcs? Look just to the left of the left-hand intersection, and you will see a tiny gear with a glint of light on top. That glint of light shouldn't be there. It's the broken pivot, which is now too short to stay in the bearing. What to do now? I remember that I have another
cheap, Chinese watch. This one is self-winding and looks nice, but it's ridiculously huge and heavy on my skinny wrist. The Goer watch I wish to repair has a 2650S
movement, and the Cjiaba watch I don't like has an extremely similar movement with an additional layer of stuff for the self-winder. It might be the HZ2189G.
Here I've taken the Cjiaba apart and expose the movement. I'm not bothering to remove the faceplate. Once I remove the self-winder, you can see the fantastically small ball bearings underneath (middle). I started to remove the super-tiny screws off of the top with my smallest screwdriver, but decided to try the larger silver ones instead. I'm so glad I did, as I probably would have lost some of the balls. The third photo show what's underneath the ball bearing layer.
Now I'm comparing the two pieces of the frame (left). The holes line up properly, so I'm encouraged. I notice about this time that my pliers are magnetized, and now all my watch screwdrivers are also magnetized. What a pain! I can't set stuff down without using two tools. I'll note that I'm not actually touching anything but the edges of the movements with my fingers, as I don't have finger gloves and don't want oils all over everything. I make a mental note to get a magnetizer/demagnetizer tool. I proceed to remove the matching gold frame piece (right). Notice the ridiculously small gear on the tip of my smallest screwdriver.
I spent a few moment pondering what I should do next. The layers of gears are getting increasingly complicated, and I'm afraid I will start getting stuff mixed up. Maybe, just maybe, I can cheat and work the cog wheel out from here. In the left photo, you can see that I've unscrewed one of the large silver mainspring gears (left-handed thread, btw) and lifted out the lower of the two big yellow gears. I still can't quite get the cog wheel out, so I remove the flywheel (middle). This part was nerve-wracking, as the spring is about as thick as a hair and very fragile (I assume). After removing the screws, I lifted it out by poking one screwdriver through the frame and another through the wheel in an X shape, thereby keeping them from separating and stretching the spring. Now I can finally remove the cog wheel (right)! I gave up after a while of fiddling and shook the whole thing until it fell out. Lame, I know. That tiny little washer also fell out. I was very nervous, because I didn't know where it came from, but if you've been paying close attention to the photos you'll already know the answer.
Here's a little perspective on my desk. Makes it all look rather insignificant, doesn't it?
I then removed the mainspring gear from the silver movement. Now I know where the tiny washer came from. I'll skip ahead to the point where I've removed the offending cog wheel. You can see the two compared side-by-side.
Putting things back together proved to be much trickier than getting them out, as we all know. I fiddled and fiddled, trying to get the good cog wheel into the silver movement. I finally decided to remove more pieces. In the first photo, I've removed the armature that ticks back and forth on the cog wheel. It fell out with a bit of a bounce, and I lost track of which way was right-side up. Now the cog wheel went in smoothly, and I spent a while getting the armature back in properly. In the second photo, I have the flywheel and most of the gears back in. You can see the "new" cog wheel pivot (with a tiny gear on top) next to the yellow gears. Once it was all back together, it didn't work. The armature and cog wouldn't do their little thing, even after the winding it and giving the flywheel an encouraging push. The flywheel spun halfway and then bounced hard. The third photo shows the pink jewel-thing that's supposed to be ratcheting on the cog wheel, but isn't. There are actually two pink jewel-things, but the other ones isn't visible.
Peppermint tea break.
I stretched my (very tense) shoulders and pondered for a while. If the flywheel wouldn't spin, it must be hitting something. How did the flywheel make the armature rock back and forth anyway? I went back and looked at the photo of the armature. Ah, there's a little three-pronged thing on one end of the Y. The flywheel (should I be calling it a pendulum?) must somehow smack it back and forth.
I also wondered if (shudder) the flywheel had to be wound to some particular tension. I'd never be able to figure that out by trial and error, though I'd been careful not to let it spin free. It might have worked its way half a turn or so. Then I recalled a mechanical chess clock
I repaired for another student last semester. It's regulator spring was in a completely relaxed position, and didn't work at all if I were even a single turn from where it wanted to rest naturally.
With great hope, I removed the flywheel again. Sure enough, when I let it spin free, it wasn't under tension. Now I have another problem. How do I get it back in the movement without moving it from center? Placing it upside-down and lowering the whole movement onto it worked! It was also fun to play with the wheel while it was spinning free. You will notice the pink jewel-thing on the wheel - that's what smacks the armature.
I put it all back together, and it ticks again! You can see the flywheel and second hand blurring slightly.
Here's the movement placed back in the chrome spacer, and here's the completed watch. (Two and three were taken under a much softer light.) This watch is now completely unique.
The verdict? It still isn't perfect. [;(] Apparently my former abuse of the spacer paid off, because the movement rattles a little. When it rattles and shifts, the second hand tends to press against the glass and slow the watch down. I took it out again and fiddled, but it still rattles. I'll probably spend another $10 and buy the watch again. At least I have experience and plenty of parts. I suppose I could clip the second hand short to fix the speed, but it would still rattle.
I spend about 3.5 hrs doing the actual repairs and a few more hours massaging the photos and writing this text. Oh, what about that Cjiaba watch? I was quite tired, so I stuck it all those bits back in the drawer.
|bd| Dr. Who Cosplay
Posted on February 15, 2013 at 17:02
My last blog was a lame way to reintroduce myself here. This will be only slightly less lame.
A friend and I dressed up as Dr.'s Who and took some photos.
[Click for more]
In one hour, it will be 5:00 pm! That means that I can clock off, go to my room, and sleep for a long, long time.
Oh, I know I've been gone for a long time, so feel free to bash me if I forget any of the proper "etiquette." I will consider it a friendly service.