Monthly Archives: November 2007

Roll the Dice to See if I’m Rocking Out

As others have noted, Rockband isn’t truly meant to be played alone. When you’re doing a solo singing tour, it can be a bit of a chore. And singing karaoke isn’t quite as fun without the social awkwardness. So you will be pleased to know that my new band “Nonisothermal Domination” has started their world tour and may soon be coming to a city near you.

Rockband becomes something different when you have two or three friends over playing with you. The experience feels like a simplified role playing game. You and your party members are assuming the roles of musicians. It has classes (drums, mic, guitar, and bass), levels/dungeons (gigs), experience points and gold (fans/stars and cash), inventory management (purchasing outfits and changing your character’s appearance), NPCs (managers and roadies), death/rebirth (failure and being saved), and even special abilities that are slightly different for the different classes (overdrive modes). When I play Rockband alone, I feel like I’m sitting at home reading the D&D Player Character guide to learn the mechanics, rather than playing the actual game with friends. Having people in the room with me makes it feel like we’re going on an adventure together.

Besides the somewhat stretched analogy to a game from my past, Rockband is just really fun an intuitive. Not to mention that I laugh out loud whenever I see someone play the drums. After Bads played at my house yesterday, he told me that it was an “ultimate gaming moment” when he saw the first drum fill section of his first song and knew what to do without anyone explaining it. I completely agree.

Of course, if anyone in the band hears about this D&D to Rockband analogy, they’ll probably kick me out and stick the paparazzi on me, so let’s keep this between us.


Posted by on November 30, 2007 in Entertainment


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Neale Donald Walsch put up a nice Thanksgiving post suggesting that we should use this holiday to be thankful for what is going to happen rather than what has happened. I’m a sucker for positive psychology, so I have decided to declare here what I will be thankful for over the next twelve months:

  • My mother’s health (a cancer survivor)
  • My brother’s recovery (a republican)
  • A consistent running schedule over the winter
  • Rockband
  • The foresight to maintain my health, and the resilience to come back quickly when I am sick
  • The Teeth in the Darkness, and the Talons in the Night
  • Two publications in scientific journals
  • Patience with anger, peace with hostility
  • The eloquence to explain my opinions to others, and the self-confidence to agree to disagree
  • Sticktoitivness in all my endeavors (particularly in my research, my running, and my XBOX 360 achievements)
  • The dark nectar
  • A judicious and thoughtful choice of allies
  • Refreshing sleep and quick awakenings
  • My friends and my fathers

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.

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Posted by on November 26, 2007 in Garbage In, Garbage Out


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Hill Work is Hard Work

The final race of the XC season took place Sunday. It was a gorgeous 8K at a local community college. I knew ahead of time that this would be a tough one. Since I injured my ankle earlier this season, I haven’t done a single run longer than 4.5 miles. An 8K is just under 5 miles, so I was under-prepared by definition.To my surprise and despair, it was not the distance that wrecked me so much as the humongous hill in the 4th mile of the course. I’ve been selectively avoiding hills all season, since that’s the one activity that still messes with my achilles. Luckily none of the previous XC races held significant hills, and my lack of hill training didn’t affect me too much. Sunday my luck ran out.

Since this was the championship race, I did not have the luxury of running with my most evenly-matched demographics, the masters and veteran men, who were split into a separate race. For this reason, the pack thinned quite early. Still, I felt strong in the 3rd mile, and even passed three people. Once we reached the huge hill in the 4th mile, I attacked it and managed to pass two more. But once I hit the first plateau I was destroyed. I wrote recently about angels and demons that speak to us while we race. There was none of that when I got to the top of this hill. Both the angels and demons were all dead, and all my mind could do was process the pain I felt. If you’ve ever struggled up a hill in an XC race you probably know what I mean – hills hurt in a different way from the rest of the race, and it’s scary if you’re not used to it. I spent the next half-mile chugging gradually uphill at a barely perceptible pace Finally at the 4-mile marker I seemed to remember “Oh – I’m in a race!” and pick it up until I reached the finish. I put on a strong kick and finished happily.

Since I had so much time off this season I’m going to turn instantly to training for indoors. I’m trying to commit to running consistently this winter, and that starts with a consistent basis built through the rest of 2007.

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Posted by on November 20, 2007 in No Easy Days


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Beowulf Would Have Done Well In Sparta

Beowulf was entertaining, and I think I benefited from never having read the original, since that prevented me from being disgusted by any liberties Hollywood may have taken with the plot.  I did not, however, know ahead of time that the movie is animated (in the style of Polar Express), and that caught me off guard (does this count as a spoiler?).

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Posted by on November 19, 2007 in Entertainment



Blog wth Confidence

Today is the anniversary of my first post at Halfawake, which reminds me that it’s currently Confidence Week. My loudest shirts are all lined up and I’m preparing to tell a bunch of people off (in a kind, well-adjusted way, of course). Should be fun.

I’ve been thinking about why I started this blog, and where it’s going. If I remember, the original motivation was to practice getting my thoughts out. I try to follow the life advice of my friend Bads – “strike while the iron is hot”. If I see something or think about something that’s important to me, I record it here, and that helps me file it away mentally rather than throwing it into my cerebral incinerator. I don’t necessarily expect to get feedback about my posts, but the feedback I have received, both on the blog and in private emails, has been excellent. In the end I guess I’m just trying to engage a different part of my brain… The part that doesn’t constantly think about algorithms for solving non-smooth systems of differential equations.

I’m glad that this hasn’t become another failed project left by the side of the road, and I hope to keep it going for another year.

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Posted by on November 18, 2007 in Garbage In, Garbage Out


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There was a mini puzzle embedded in my post from yesterday.

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Posted by on November 13, 2007 in Entertainment



T.otally E.xcellent A.ctivity

My weekend was busy with the college puzzle challenge (cpc). Each year I do a couple puzzle hunts and it gets more fun each time. To tell the truth, I’m not that great at solving puzzles. At least it’s a chance to goof off for a day with some friends. Looking at puzzles all day does give me a headache sometimes. Good thing I brought plenty of advil to the challenge!

Every now and then I see a strong analogy between puzzling and research. A puzzle presents a question, to which you want to find an answer. Research works the same way. Maybe you know what the question being asked is, and maybe you don’t. All you can do is propose a hypothesis and do some tests to see if you’re right. In the end, you get some answer, and hopefully it makes sense in the context of the question you asked. Now and then the questions and answers come easily, but usually not.

Could I be over analyzing the analogy here? Hopefully I’m not duping myself into believing an elaborate string of mistruths. A good researcher needs to know the difference between correlation and causation. Right now I’m just going to consider whether my research can inform my puzzle solving, and vice versa.


Posted by on November 12, 2007 in Entertainment


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