Two ways to start the day with a positive outlook: listen to ''Final Countdown'' and point out the mistakes of others
(31 Aug 2007 at 10:22)
I finally watched the famed Miss Teen North Carolina video last night. Question: Why do you think that 1/5 of Americans can't locate the United States on a world map? Answer: "I personally believe that U.S. Americans can't do so because some people out there in our nation don't have maps." Good answer, actually! How am I supposed to find the United States on a world map if I don't even have one? Of course, then she rambles on about the Iraq and everywhere like such as. When you've already answered the question, there's no need to expound; at best you'll end up like one of those spelling bee geniuses who is eidetically compelled not only to spell the target word but to give a definition and relevant Bartlett Familiar Quotation, in doing so embarrassing everyone but his gigadoting parents. At worst you will be Miss Teen North Carolina.
Nobody watches Teen Pageants for geographic insight or usage tips, though. Here's a gaffe from a less likely source: The Iowa district court ruling that same-sex couples can marry. CNN quotes it as saying, "... by reason of the fact that both persons compromising such a couple are of the same sex." Usage panel obsessives will recognize the problem word, comprising, which is "supposed" to be used as follows: "The Congress comprises the Senate and the House." (So to some people this is akin to the subject/object reversal in "the sandwich ate me." Just never say comprising if you must simultaneously sound normal and pacify grammar police.) But wait! The word he used was compromising, not comprising, which doesn't mean that at all! It is not easy to pack two recognizable mistakes into the same word, in a quote that makes it into public record and national news. Kudos and everything like such as.
Behold my "Pac Tom" project progress. This last month has been pretty busy as I am trying to finish up my PhD. (The next month or two will also be similarly busy, I expect.) But I have been able to get some running in, because I want a PhD in running too.
I have been continuing my strategy of running the outermost parts of my target area first. Since last time I've finished off Swisshelm Park, Regent Square, Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar (the part on this side of the river), Glen Hazel, and most of the East Hills, which are all peripheral neighborhoods. (In the image above I am using my new pittsburgh neighborhood map that I made for Wikipedia but the color contrast is not very good, sorry.) Even though it looks like there are a lot of gaps in the middle of the map, those are mostly neighborhoods with pretty sparse streets (Squirrel Hill) and lots of parks/cemeteries, so I am feeling pretty good about the feasibility of this project now. I am even starting to contemplate beginning on neighborhoods that are transcontinental, although I think I am going to need to be able to run about 25ish miles in one go in order to do the most distant of those. My max is around 16 now. I keep trying.
In other news, I recommend that you check out Harris Grill's homepage, which has a funny section rebutting the blogosphere's (I am still using this word in a purely ironic way, I promise) reports, including what is unmistakably reference to comments you guys left on my entry below, Harris Grill catches fire.
After finishing writing my paper last week, I finally got around to writing up our experience in the 2007 ICFP Contest. It's much longer and more detailed than our previous writeups (2005, 2004, 2002, 2001), I think mostly because I'm really defensive about our totally low score. As we were last year's judges I am kinda embarrassed about this! But, well, we took a gamble on an unorthodox strategy and were bit by some last minute bugs, so there you go. Fun times, for sure. Check out the page for the full story, some images and some movies.
I used to think that I had some kind of special connection to Harris Grill because I ordered the very last lentil burger that they ever served. I've been going there ever since moving to Shadyside six years ago (then it was originally under a different owner and I like the second incarnation better, although they should not have discontinued the lentil burger!). But now I have a new special connection: I was eating there when it burned down this evening. Cortney and I were getting dinner and beer to celebrate her returning safely from DC and me recovering the 7th Pure Heart in Super Paper Mario, and we were just finishing up our beers like so many other pleasant trips to Harris, when one of the staffers came upstairs and said, "We have to evacuate! The side of the building is on fire!" I've been in buildings before when they were "on fire" so I didn't think this was a huge deal, but on the way down the stairs I could feel the heat and see the flames through the ice brick glass window... only a few feet from us. Clearly scare quotes were not warranted. Everyone got out fine before the fire really started to get out of control and shooting flaming debris and stuff (props to the Harris Staff for a safe and efficient exit). Right under the side of the building that was on fire is the parking lot, so a bunch of people (somewhat crazily, in my opinion) were getting in their cars and getting them the hell out of there, hitting each other a little bit, as people were evacuating and other people in the various bars in that area were emerging with beer in hand to take a gander. I thought it took a long time for the fire department to arrive, especially since there's a fire station only about two blocks away. But a lot of fire trucks and fire fighters did come. We were watching the licking flames crawl up the side of the building and devour its wooden (!) fire escape, but then there was some kind of hissing sound and someone declared that it was a gas leak, which even though I did not particularly believe this tattooed nose-pierced authority, I still thought it was probably safer to not be standing merely on the other side of the street as if two empty lanes could protect us from an explosion, so we moved a bit further out until the FD got the fire under control. I grabbed my camera from my house and took the above shot of firepeople climing the fireladder. (Click for a much larger version.) You can see the damaged ice brick window I was talking about; inside that burned door where the oxygen tank guy is, is the second floor where we were seated. The Great Divide Hercules Double IPA is a good beer, by the way. I didn't get any pictures of the licking flames but if there is some site where you can search people's shitty cell phone camera pictures, just search that because there were several hundred bargoers around who couldn't stop triggering their fake shutter noises.
Of course it's too soon to know if they'll be able to reopen the restaurant any time soon, but a 3-alarm fire is pretty serious, so Shadyside will probably have to (again) live without one of its gems for a while. Sorry to see you go, Harris!
I put up some new songs from Tom 7 Entertainment System that I wrote this year. I'm particularly excited about Rutgers and Sensations, which the latter is probably my catchiest song in 21/16 time. (Well, at least it gets stuck in my head.) I also snuck some very old tunes I wrote in college or high school into the «classic» section, but those are really only for T7ES completists, of which I believe there are only about 3. Their struggle is futile indeed since there are now over 800 (mostly bad) songs not yet uploaded, which at the current rate gives a projected completion year of 2121.
Where is Tom? Is Tom in a Hole?
(03 Aug 2007 at 11:01)
Hello, I am not in a hole. I am in my office. My office is actually pretty much way up there as it is on the 8th floor of Wean ne Science Hall, which is I think the tallest building on campus although certainly not the most altitudinous. I want to give you advice of a general nature, which is to finish one big thing before taking on another big thing or you will endure stress. In my case those big things are Dissertation and Job Search. Essentially this accounts for my general Radar silence and sometimes prompts curious e-mails. But enough about that. I will tell you guys about news when I have it.
Today I am writing a paper for International Conference on My Thesis Topic. Some guys are sliding around on the roof below me outside. First they painted some pixels red and now they are painting them green again. They're attached by ropes, on this tilty roof, that seem to be anchored by cardboard boxes. When they want to go down they squeeze on the rapelling thingy and this lets a little rope through and they slide backwards on their sneakers or worky boots, like the effect that the moonwalk dance move attempts to display. Some people I know would probably want to do this job not by top-roping it but by starting at the bottom and placing funny little bolts and spring-loaded cams inside cracks in the roof and attaching the rope to those as they went up and down. They could use red colored chalk to fight sweaty fingers and then paint over that with the green paint, or just go straight for green chalk, I don't know why there ever needs to be red anything on this roof which is supposed to be all green. It is a bit distracting to write a paper while the guys are climbing on the roof because I feel a responsibility to keep an eye on them should one of them moonwalk right off it. But I guess not as distracting as writing blog entries.
Coming soon on Tom 7 Radar: SotM July, Runblog August, ICFP Contest 2007 writeup.