Archive for September, 2009

The Most Awesome Groom’s Cake Ever™

The change in my study habits of late have taken a healthy bite out of any real free time I once used to do things like blog. Sorry about that, but who knew one could spend more than four hours a day doing school work? On Saturday, I did manage to actually get out of the house and go shoot a wedding in Houston. The mass was boring, it was after all a full Catholic wedding, but that was no surprise. The reception was quite lively though, and also had the single Most Awesome Groom’s Cake Ever™.

I’ll have more photos from the ceremony up sometime right after these exams and Austin City Limits pass, but for now here’s the cake.

The Millennium Falcon

The Millennium Falcon

Calculus

This class is killing me. I suppose if I had actually done this much work the first (two) time(s) I took calculus, I probably would have passed, and it would have been easy. Waiting 8 years between math courses, and then jumping into calculus may well be the dumbest thing I’ve ever done.

None of the rules that have been introduced are difficult to execute, the problems we’re given are just tedious exercises in repetition. There are some ridiculously long ways to write zero, or one. I think I’ve seen at least 90 of them in the last week. Hopefully I can remember some of them, as I have an exam on Thursday. I’m going to have to force myself to remember trig identities. That has always been my weakness, and will likely make the difference between an A and a D.

Anyway, that’s what’s been consuming all of my time. I spend several hours a day working math problems. When I finish those, I work chemistry problems. Oh wait, that’s still math.

Three times now..

I have agreed with President Obama three times now, thanks to his recent “off-the-record” comment about Kanye West. The first time came in a shocking condemnation of wasteful spending, namely on the F-22. While an incredibly cool aircraft, it simply has no role and is not used. Why we were paying for something of little interest to anyone, to include the Air Force, is beyond me. The second came during a speech that caused, without much rationale, much uproar. Those too busy scowling at the thought of a President speaking to school children without their explicit consent might have missed the first time a Democrat has come right out and championed personal responsibility. That’s right, he flat out told students they are ultimately responsible for their educational success. Not their teachers, not their parents, not the government. They are. I’ll give the man a standing ovation for that remark, and only wish he would urge personal responsibility at more (all) levels of society.

Now, this third agreement comes in response to Kanye West’s interruption of Taylor Swift at the VMAs. President Obama called Kanye West a “jackass” during an “off-the-record” portion of an interview with CNBC. This comment was tweeted, and quickly removed as a breach of “journalistic integrity.” People are, for some reason, upset about this tweet-leak of the President’s comments and that baffles me. If it’s journalistic integrity we’re after, the comments never should have been cut from the interview in the first place. The man said it, and he can face whatever backlash comes from it. If you’d not like your comments repeated, you should probably not say them in the first place.

Let’s consider this for a moment. Media, whether you like it or not, are about ratings. They are not about information. If you disagree, you should stop reading now. Given that Kanye’s comment was a top trend on Twitter and occupied the majority of casual conversation heard at many universities around the country the following day, it stands to reason that the topic was on the minds of many potential viewers. Relevance. The President called Kanye a jackass soon after the interruption of Taylor Swift. Timeliness. Media, remember, are about ratings. We have a relevant issue with a timely response to something of interest to a large number of viewers. How much sense does it make to censor that comment? None.

Now some will say such comments are slander, but we’d be supremely naive to act as if a politician’s career is not built largely on slander in the first place. Of course to slander one, you must make false statements. Kanye is a jackass. That is a true statement, and thus the comment is not slander.

A rainy commute on two wheels.

Rain has decided to visit Texas after taking nearly a year of vacation. Considering how much I enjoy being outdoors, rain is hardly something about which I am going to complain. We need the rain, and we need it in a bad way. Many of the places I enjoy visiting, as well as many of my hobbies, are directly threatened by the lack of rainfall over Texas in 2009. There is one thing, however, that is rather soured by the rain. That one thing happens to be my primary mode of transportation to and from UH. Motorcycles and rain just do not get along very well.

A rain cloud loitering in downtown Houston, TX

A rain cloud loitering in downtown Houston, TX

When I made the decision to move back to Houston and attend UH, I assumed I would move into a place closer to the school. This assumption was based on the ridiculous hope that the change in the G.I. Bill would provide me with sufficient funds to get a place without the need to be employed while finishing my engineering degree. No payments have been made thus far, so I stay with my parents and commute 360 miles per week to and from school. Parking permits for four-wheeled vehicles (to be referred to as “cages” henceforth) are so expensive I would not even remotely consider their purchase. As a result I get rained on, and I get rained on for many miles.

Ask any experienced motorcyclist what one must do to maximize one’s safety when riding amongst the cages, and the likely response will be something along the lines of “Ride as if everyone is trying to kill you.” Sage advice indeed. Today, no attempts were made on my life. I should likely purchase a lottery ticket, as days such as today are a rarity. Yesterday, on relatively dry concrete, I was forced to use the healthy application of both steering and throttle to avoid the absent-minded drifting of a woman in a late-model Nissan Armada more focused on painting her nails and talking on her phone than she was with driving her large automobile. Had the same thing occurred today, on a wet road, things might not have turned out so well.

Rarely do cagers see you on a motorcycle even on the clearest of days. Motorcyclists concerned with safety tend to deal with this by wearing bright colors and emitting (directly, or by reflection) as much light as possible. When it rains and visibility goes down the effectiveness of these tactics are, in my experience, reduced greatly. Things can get downright scary when riding in the rain.

Fortunately, a good riding suit, or even your regular riding apparel covered with a decent rain suit, can keep you reasonably comfortable and dry. This gives you the freedom to pay attention to the added dangers of riding in the rain. As an example the many on-ramps in the Houston area that are, for whatever reason, several feet below the level of both the freeway and the access road, happen to turn into mini-lakes when it rains for more than five minutes at a time. In a truck, you can just plow through these puddles and reasonably expect all to be well. On a motorcycle, you could quite literally kill yourself if you fail to traverse the pond slowly. Even then, as many of these ramps have lovely road paintings (that just so happen to get slick as ice when wet) to tell you exactly which freeway you have just entered, you are not sure to make it through without a mishap.

If you do not ride, or maybe even if you do, you are probably thinking I am insane by now. If you know me, there is a good chance you already thought so anyway. I love to ride, even if it is mostly limited to commuting on the super-slab of I-10. The risks are understood, and I do everything I can to mitigate those risks. If you plan accordingly, most weather you can handle comfortably in a cage does not present too insurmountable a problem on a motorcycle. Besides, I can ride the HOV by myself, go from 0-60 in a hair more than 4 seconds, and still get better fuel economy than a Prius (henceforth “smugmobile”, courtesy of @wildbill). Rain or shine, if I’m not already on it, I probably wish I was on my motorcycle.

My FJR covered in water drops

My FJR covered in water drops

The FJR needs farkles

Here’s a post on a lighter note. More than a week of commuting from Katy to UofH has brought about a wishlist of sorts. I love the FJR; it handles brilliantly, has more power than I need, and still gets 47mpg.

If I had to change one thing, I’d give the FJR cruise control. That’s something at which purists might scowl. Why does a motorcycle need cruise control!? Oh, I don’t NEED it, but I’d like it. There’s a lot of tension in the throttle, and it’s a bit tiring at times. An audio system would also make me happy. This feature-request is starting to make the FJR sound a lot like a Goldwing, isn’t it? At any rate, I’m going to look at setting up an audio system for on-bike communications, along with either an FRS or a CB transceiver for bike-to-bike communications. If that system also happens to allow the use of my iPod, I can dig it.

The rest of my wishlist is for new riding gear. My helmet is getting old, and doesn’t really match the new motorcycle. Ditto my jacket. As I ride this thing everywhere, I’d really like to get a proper riding suit appropriate for the full gamut of weather typically encountered here in the Houston area (ie: wet, and hot). Not too sure where I’ll stuff that, as I pretty much use up all the available storage on the FJR as it is, so it’s possible that a top-case is in my future as well.

The Death of a Legend

A long post was planned, but I’ve not got the energy to go through it all right now. The Constitution is dead. It died a long, long time ago. Only in the past month or so have I come to realize this interesting piece of information. Essentially, I took an oath (twice) to support and defend something that doesn’t actually bear any relevance today.

Article 1 defines the legislature, what the legislature can do, and what the legislature cannot do. Looking back at “key issues” over the course of the last several decades reveals that Article 1 is irrelevant.

Article 2 defines the executive, see above.

Article 3 defines the judiciary, and again we see large irrelevance.

Even the much vaunted Bill of Rights is but a shell of meaningless words today.

All of that said, I’m not sure why I still react to political ploys as if the Constitution still play some role in the way our government works. If you do believe in the Constitution, and the principles therein, you have no representation in government. It’s an interesting place to be in the land of the “free.”

Health Care Reform… wait, what?

There is no article, nor amendment, within the Constitution of the United States of America that gives Congress, the President, or the Supreme Court any legitimate power to exercise in this domain. That the debate, if you wish to call it that, continues to rage is a shocking testament to the fact that the document members of each aforementioned body swear to uphold bears no meaning on the course of American life today. What does that have to do with health care? Let’s make a little comparison.

There are guidelines as to exactly how our nation’s government is meant, or even allowed, to function. These guidelines are relatively simple to understand, having been written largely in plain English. To further simplify matters, they are not excessive in number. Surprisingly enough, in the face of such simplicity, the highly non-partisan guidelines of the Constitution are almost entirely ignored by all three branches of our government. These are the same people proposing to reform a system their own actions brought to ruin. The guidelines they seek to impose, while not even within their rights to legislate, are not simple to understand and are tremendous in number. Does this sound even remotely similar to a recipe for success to, well, anyone?

Proponents of the current House bill take great joy in climbing to the top of the hill and shouting that the free-market solution has failed us. This makes me pause and think, “What free-market solution?” There is no free-market in the United States. Pharmaceuticals, insurance companies, doctors, nurses, and laboratories are far from free within their own markets. What makes these people so certain that increasing bureaucracy within these same markets will cure the problems?

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