Monday, December 15, 2008

On "equivocation". . .

A couple of weeks ago Naomi sent me a link to WWII era Bugs Bunny cartoon.

Great stuff. They even do the "What's Opera Doc?" parody of Wagner's Die Walk├╝re, a decade before "What's Opera Doc?"

My enjoyment was tempered, however, upon reading one of the comments left in response to the video. First, I'll point out an earlier comment:

All U people that think that Hitler is good are the most horrible people in the planet.He killed mora than 1000 jews and homosexuals.You people wouldnt like him too kill all the people of your religon so Shut the f**k up kwgitho
Bad grammar and incorrect statistics aside, I do agree with the sentiment. Fuck Hitler, and fuck his modern-day admirers.

The comment that irritated me so much was in response to the one above:

He killed millions of Jews and thousands of Christians. Let's not equivocate the small percentile of homosexuals, which is a lifestyle preference, and though unfortunate, pales against the tragedy and degree of the Nazi's religious persecution.

That said, I miss Looney Tunes.
Hoooo-boy.

Where do I begin?

Am I to take it that if there were only a few thousand Jews murdered by the Nazi's, then the Nazi's would somehow be less evil? Supposing that Hitler was utterly incompetent and allowed millions of Jews of escape from Europe-- does inability to perform evil acts make you less evil? Is the act of genocide somehow more tolerable if your killing off a small population rather than a large one? Would wiping out every Muslim or Catholic be more atrocious than wiping out every Jew just because there are a billion Muslims and Catholics and only millions of Jews?

Of course not.

As for that "lifestlye choice" comment (a common argument made by fundamentalist homophobes), many Nazis had a somewhat different view. From Wikipedia:

Nazi leaders such as Himmler viewed homosexuals as a separate people and ensured that Nazi doctors experimented on them in an effort to locate the hereditary weakness many party members believed caused homosexuality.
I was going to point out the absurdity of dismissing homosexuality as a "lifestyle choice" while crying bloody murder over religious persecution-- as though religion isn't a lifestyle choice-- but in this particular instance, I knew it didn't apply. To the Nazis, the Jews were inherently degenerate-- conversion or apostacy solved nothing.

Anti-gay bigotry: An official member of my lifetime "Fuck Thats".

Friday, November 21, 2008

I'M. . . CAPTAIN KIRK!

Responses to the new Star Trek trailer are alreadt starting to appear on YouTube. This one rules them all:


Monday, November 17, 2008

My Childhood. . . Gone.

The cultural atmosphere of my childhood can be boiled down to a few simple, distinct elements.

Some of these elements are computer games, particularly those made for the Commodore 64 (Screw Nintendo. Jumpman Forever!).

Cartoons, of course, constitute another set. I came a but too late for things like Transformers and Ninja Turtles (that's my excuse and I 'm sticking to it!), and I quickly grew out of things likes Power Rangers. Looney Toons/Merrie Melodies shorts were a big influence on me, but everyone loves those, kid and adult alike. The two "kids" cartoons that strongly resonate with me today are ReBoot and Sailor Moon the anime. Sailor Moon, of course, led to me to the awesomely campy live action series, which has in turn come to form a large, unhealthy part of my adult psyche (I love PGSM. . . It's so bad.) And I still consider ReBoot to be a classic of television animation. It's one of the few Canadian shows that doesn't fill me with a deep sense of shame over my nationality.

But in the end, if I had to one thing that truly defined my childhood, the one thing that forged my political and ethical philosophy and made me who I am today (aside from genetics, parental upbringing, yadda yadda), it would be absolutely no contest.

Star Trek.

As a child of the nineties, I was raised by Star Trek: The Next Generation, a show that, warts and all, I love even to this day (hell, I'll even tolerate the movies). TNG eventually led me to Deep Space Nine, which started as a pretty good Next Gen clone before growing into something bigger and more epic (Screw Babylon 5-- DS9 forever!). These two shows, in turn, led to a greater appreciation of the 1960's original. Indeed, as tame and campy as it may seem now, the original Star Trek had some pretty big balls for it's day. When they said "risk is our business," they weren't kidding.

But as the years passed, my trekkiness began to fade. It began with Voyager. I loved it at first, but the feeling quickly died, and eventually I found myself watching it simply because it was a Trek show. But silver bullet, though, was Enterprise. If believed the hype, as I foolishly did, then this was the show that was supposed to save Star Trek by taking it back to the beginning -- and in the process, cleverly avoiding some of the less well thought out dramatic restrictions imposed on the franchise by Gene Roddenberry (In the future, you see, we humans will be the bestest buddies in the whole wide world and will never have any kind of dramatic conflict with one another because we'll all be just too busy telling the rest of the universe how fucking awesome we are -- riveting, no?).

But of course, Enterprise ended up being the final nail in Star Trek's coffin. There are many reasons why it failed. For me, personally, what killed Enterprise was the bizarre willingness of the show's creators to go along with the Bush administration's War On Terror agenda, but that's just me being a liberal ass. If you want less polemic, YouTube critic sfdebris has done a damn fine job of explaining why both Voyager and Enterprise were pretty much really bad shows.

The end result of all this was that when Enterprise aired its terrible final episode, and the curtain dropped on Star Trek: Nemesis. . . that was it. It was over for me. Sure, I'd more than enjoy the occasional TNG or DS9 rerun, but as a continuing, evolving story, it was done. If they never made another Star Trek movie of TV show, I would not lose a wink of sleep.

But then it happened: J.J. Abrahms, co-creator of Lost, announced that he would be directing the next Star Trek film. This intrigued me, to say the least. Lost, while not nearly as good as it used to be, is still the only ongoing TV show other than The Daily Show/Colbert Report that I still bother to watch regularly. I actually found myself looking forward to the prospect of Abrahms making a new Star Trek movie and, just maybe, revitalizing the series.

But I didn't count on it. The plot leaks that had been released-- something about Spock travelling back in time to save a young James Kirk from the T-1000. . . um, I mean, the Romulans-- didn't exactly seem like the kind of inspired premise you'd expect from the creator of Alias and Lost.

What finally convinced me, though, was a bootlegged leak of the trailer, which was supposed to be shown before Quantum of Solace, but was for whatever reason not shown in Prince George theatres. (Quantum of Solace, by the way, was pretty underwhelming).

Here it is:

UPDATE: This is a higher quality version of the trailer. Of, course, by "higher quality" I mean only in the technical sense.



You may think, like many YouTube commenters, that this movie looks awesome. If you do, please leave a comment so that I may put your name on a list of Stalinists, because that's what you are! Stalinists!

Incidentally, if you do happen to be a Stalinist who, like me, is severely appalled by this trailer, please accept me sincerest apologies.

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.


-Alfred Tennyson.

UPDATE #2: The Cast.

Kirk: Chris Pine. I don't know him, but Naomi does-- she described him, quite succinctly, as "That Douchebag."

Spock: Zachary Quinto. Fucking Sylar. Hell, maybe they cast Masi Oka as Sulu.

McCoy: Karl Urban. It's funny, 'cause in photos he really looks more like James Doohan, ie Scotty.

Scotty: A.J., cover your eyes. Simon Pegg. Shaun of the Dead is playing Scotty. Maybe that will be a plus for some, but I just feel bad for Pegg.

Sulu: Masi Oka?! No, that would actually be cool. Korean-American actor John Cho, aka "Harold" from Harold and Kumar. Just ask any Korean how thrilled they would be to play a Japanese person. I mean, ever since the Japan annexed Korea in 1910, they've been pretty much the same people, right?

(Note: Apparently, this was a concern for J.J. Abrahms, but Cho, desperate for work one assumes, rationalized it by saying that Sulu, a Japanese man, respresents all of Asia. I'm not even going to go there.)

Uhura: Zoe Saldana. Don't know her.

Chekov: A Lady with a Dog.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Seven Days. . .

Okay, it's really only six days until the federal election, but I came up with the title on Monday, and you gotta admit that an allusion to The Ring is gonna be a helluva lot catchier than Six Days. . .

Six days. How the hell did that happen?! I knew that there was an election going on, but. . . damn! I've been so focused on University and the American election (I was also recently rear-ended, but that's a whole other story I'd rather not get into) that I haven't had time to really consider who I will vote for.

I won't vote Conservative. I know that much. There are many reasons for this, including this one. Stephen Harper, before becoming PM, did everything he could to come across as a far-right loon-- it's only after he got elected that remodeled his image into that of a mere centrist douchebag. I worry about what he would do if he ever got a majority government. . .

But that said. . . in his latest campaign ads-- and I am truly sorry to say this, Naomi-- Stephen Harper looks surprisingly, frighteningly similar to Josh. It makes me almost able to tolerate that insipid "Stephen Harper Loves His Kids so Vote Conservative!" nonsense.

I most likely won't vote Liberal. Frankly, the only reason I would is if there was a good chance that the Liberal candidate would beat the Conservative one-- and this being Prince George, I think you know how likely it is for that little scenario to unfold.

I won't vote Bloc-- no Bloc candidate.

I'd consider voting for the Marxist-Leninist party just to make a statement! Problem is, I don't know what that statement would be.

So, in the end, I'm torn between the NDP and the Greens. The NDP have been making a lot of headway in the polls recently. There's a chance -- and, mind you, I base this on absolutely nothing other than a vague trend-- that they could beat out the Liberals to form an official opposition. Plus, my (metaphorical, I'm not British) Old Labour blood obliges me to vote for the leftist party.

On the other hand. . . all I've really heard and seen from the NDP ad's, website, and even platform are soundbites ("Man, fuck dem Eastside Boardroom table motherfuckas! I'm all about da Westside kitchen tables up in dis bitch! Ya feel me?") along with a few vague, nice-sounding ideas(Increased support for pedestrian and bicycle paths "as part of [the NDP's] commitment to sustainable transport"-- I'm not joking). To be fair, I haven't checked out the other party platforms and websites, but my feeling is that they won't be much better.

Adding to that is the fact that, well, Jack Layton seems to be a bit of a douche. I'm basing that solely on the fact that he, along with Stephane Dion, has been judged by the public to have come off a bit dickish during the English language debate (I say "appears" because I didn't watch the debate. . . Yes, I'm a terrible citizen, but I'm getting to that). Indeed, the two party leaders who came off looking the best, according to people who I have mostly never met, are Stephen Harper and Green Party leader Elizabeth May, which leads me to the other end of my conundrum. . .

The Greens. The environmentalist party. From what I've heard, they're left-leaning on social issues and environment, but right-leaning on the economy. Considering that the economic meltdown in the U.S. appears, by all accounts, to have occurred as a result of Republican emphasis on deregulation, the latter may well be a liability. On the other hand, as mentioned earlier, their leader comes off as intelligent, knowledgeable, and reasonable-- from what I hear.

That, and they support a carbon tax, while the NDP support a cap and trade system. You see, carbon tax is good, and cap and trade is bad. . . from what I hear. . . somehow.

Sigh.

If you've made it this far, you've probably come to the conclusion that I really am an ignorant slut. You may have even decided that it would probably just be a better idea for this jackass (me) not to vote in the first place.

That, you see, was be design.

If you've been clicking on the links, you've probably visited my sister's blog, wherein she expresses her anger at those who choose not to vote for reason of every party sucking. Or, as she said herself:
I'm sitting on the CFUR couch listening to some guy rant about how he's exercising his democratic right by not voting. He claims hating every party as his excuse. . . . Enough people are stupid enough to either a) vote FOR [Harper] or b) NOT vote at all? No wonder North American politics are such a joke.
I know that Naomi isn't talking about this issue specifically, but her blog entry seems to suggest that compulsive voting might be the answer to some of our democratic woes.

I've always taken issue with the idea of compulsive voting. First, I do believe that if you have the right to vote, you have the right not to vote. While I do not agree with said CFUR guy's assessment of the political landscape, I could envision a circumstance wherein all the parties would screw the public with equal intensity. In that case, what good does it do to vote? "Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos?"

Secondly, as this blog post has demonstrated, I really have no fucking clue as to who I should vote for. Really, I'm just stringing together a few random facts (Polls! Arts Funding! Kyoto!) along with a few gut level associations (Harper = Bush = BAD! NDP = Left = GOOD!) to form the basis of what is really an incredibly significant civic duty. I mean, really, would you want someone like me choose who your political leader should be? If I were this ignorant about anything else. . . well, I am a physics lab instructor, but that's not the point!

The point is, I'm somebody who actually gives half a shit about politics, or at least that's what I thought. Just imagine someone who really couldn't give a damn one way or the other being forced by law (or social pressure) to participate in the voting process. They don't care one way or the other, so they may as well vote for the guy who looks like Naomi's cute boyfriend.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Next Week?

Hi A.J.

I'm going to be pretty busy next week-- I have to attend a committee meeting and give my final presentation for my Octave course. But Friday night or Saturday should be good.

Would it be cool if Naomi came as well?


Oh. . . and for you other people reading this (and A.J. as well):

YOR!

(It's over twenty minutes long, but its worth it!)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

You're Welcome

Sunday

My mom contacts me to tell me that my sister, Naomi, and her band The Arbitrarys are in trouble. It was pretty much the same trouble that they were in a few days before: the transmission in their van went kaput in Merritt, and they needed another vehicle to get to their gigs. They had already borrowed a vehicle from our aunt Sandy and uncle Joe in order to go to Vancouver Island, but now they needed a new vehicle fortheir trip back north. That's where I came in. . .

Monday

I drive 730 kilometers from PG to Surrey in our Suburban, which I am to give to Naomi. I leave PG at about 10:30 and arrive at a quarter to seven. Excluding bathroom breaks, snack breaks, and lunch, that leaves roughly eight hours of actual driving time. Everyone at Sandy and Joe's is surprisingly impressed by how "fast" I got to Surrey-- I'm more impressed by the fact that I managed to do this trip on 80 litres of Diesel, about half a tank on the Suburban. It was not an especially fun drive. I was so concerned with getting to Surrey at a reasonable time that I couldn't really sit back and enjoy the view (I considered visiting Chasm, about fifty kilometers north of Clinton, but decided against it.) One thing that struck me, though, was the absence of snow caps on the mountains of the Fraser valley, something I've noticed in a mountains near PG as well. In all the years I've gone down that stretch of road, never have I seen the mountaintops so bare. Maybe there's something to this global warming thing. . . .

I arrived just in time to join the gang for dinner. My cousin George recounted how he flipped over his quad and broke his left arm, and injury that required him to have pieces of metal surgically inserted into his arm to keep the bones of his forearm in place. Apparently, this is only the latest in a series quad flipping accidents of which George has been a part. George. . . he's a character!

After dinner and conversation, me, Naomi, Josh and Robin took the Suburban on a drive to Vancouver. After visiting Stanley Park we went downtown, where we got Starbucks and ice cream. While I was waiting for everyone else, a charming older lady with a large bruise across the right side of her face asked if I would like to buy her a pint. Romance.

Owing to Naomi's shitty directions, we didn't get home until midnight. . .

Tuesday

Once we did, Sandy set up our beds for the night. I had been under the impression that I would be getting a guest room, but unfortunately, all that Sandy could manage was foamys and sleeping bags far too small for my frame. I realize Sandy was on very short notice and did her best with what she had, but that said, putting a blanket on the carpet would have done just as well as the foamy that I had been given. Of course, Naomi and Josh got the big inflatable thing. You know, they needed rest after their long day of driving a distance roughly equal to Germany.

Joe got up at five in the morning, and since I was sleeping in the living room next to the kitchen where Joe was preparing his breakfast, I did too. Sandy took me to the airport and by 10:00 in the morning I was home. Fifteen hundred kilometers in twenty-four hours.

So, yeah. You're welcome.

(Note: Naomi did thank me numerous times.)

(Also: A.J., I got you're comments, and replied to them in the same comment thread.)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Tycho Crater Imaged

Remember Selene/Kayuga, that probe Japan sent into lunar orbit? Well, using photographs and altitude measurements taken by the probe, scientists at the Japanese Space Agency have constructed a 3D map of the lunar crater Tycho.

Click here for a video. It's a big file, but it's worth it.

(Thanks Bad Astronomy)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Free Electron Lasers, Part 1

One of the complaints that could be made about my blog-- if I had any readers to complain in the first place-- is that I don't blog about physics. Well, that's about to change*.

This past semester I took a course in laser sensor technology, with a focus on the industrial applications of lasers. The professor of the course, Dr. Matthew Reid, has developed technology that uses photonic radiation in the terahertz spectrum to scan pieces of wood and measure their density, moisture content, fibre structure, etc.. This info can then be used to determine the quality of that wood. His work has attracted attention from companies like Boeing, as well as local and provincial media. I only mention this to give background on why the course is being offered in the first place-- though being taught by a minor celebrity is worth mentioning as well.

Anyway, one of the course requirements involved writing a report and doing a presentation on some new laser technology which can be applied to industry. I gave my presentation on Wednesday the 9th, and I won't get my mark on the presentation and report until Monday the 14th. Still, I thought I'd blog about the technology that I looked at-- the free electron laser.

The difference between a conventional laser and a free electron laser, or FEL, boils down to how each device generates light. All lasers rely on a "gain medium" to produce light. In conventional lasers, the gain medium consists of some energized material that emits photons through a process called "stimulated emission." See the picture below(Source)

Light emitted in this manner is coherent, that is, all the photons have pretty much the same frequency(the photons can never all be at one and only one frequency-- this violates the laws of quantum mechanics-- but the spread or "bandwidth" is relatively narrow). This is what differentiates laser light from normal light.

FEL's also generate coherent light, but with a process completely different from stimulated emmission. First, some backgorund. The laws of electromagnetism say that whenever a charged particle, like an electron, is accelerated, it will emit a photon. One way to accelerate an electron is to use a magnetic field. Any electron travelling through a magnetic field B with some velocity v will undergo an acceleration a(using B to refer to Magnetic fields is just one of the many useful conventions we physicists have adopted). The magnitude of the acceleration-- and hence, the frequency and intensity of light emitted-- depends both on the velocity v and the magnetic field B, as well as their relative directions(for best results, v and B should be perpendicular; it doesn't work at all if v and B are parallel). In other words, if we can control the magnetic field strength and the speed electrons, we can determine what kind of light is emitted.

One can get high intensity light when the electron speed v is very, very close to the speed of light. Light produced this way is known as "synchrotron radiation", because it is most commonly generated by synchrotron accelerators that are used to push electrons to near-light speeds. To get even higher intensities, the ultrafast electrons are forced through an insertion device, which subjects the electrons to an oscillating magnetic field. In other words, the electrons are "wiggled" to produce light. See below for a picture(soruce)


The wiggly yellow line is the electron stream. The cones coming out of the wave's peaks and troughs are the emitted photons. As I mentioned before, the light produced this way is coherent, so it can be used to produce laser light.

So why use this process in the first place? There are a few reasons.

Remember when I said that the frequency and power of the light emitted this way depends on the electron velocity and magnetic field strength? Well, the magnetic field strength of the insertion device can be controlled by outside operator. This means that the frequency of the laser can be adjusted or "tuned," along an entire spectrum, depending on the laser design. The frequency of light emitted by conventional lasers, on the other hand, depends on the material used in the gain medium, and cannot be changed. This gives the FEL a huge advantage over conventional lasers.

Using this process also allows light to be generated at frequencies that could not be reached by conventional means. For example, x-ray laser light can only be produced by FELs. This type of lasing has been demonstrated at the Spring-8 accelerator in Japan(here's the link).

As well, the laser light is very intense. The Jefferson Lab FEL, for instance, produces light at an average intensity of 15000 joules per second (here's the link to Jefferson).

Finally, FEL's are able to generate very short width laser pulses at a very high rate. What does this mean? Well, many laser applications depend on the ability to generate very brief bursts of laser light with extreme intensity, as opposed to a constant stream of photons. By using pulses instead of a continuous photon stream, one can generate huge peak power(millions to billions of joules per second(!), depending on how short the pulses are). Conventional lasers need special devices(Q-switches, mode-lockers) to generate pulses, but FELs can do this on their own. And when I say they generate "very short width" pulses, I mean pulses less than 0.000000000001 seconds long! This amount of time is so short only an incredibly silly name can describe it: "subpicosecond". By comparison, Q-Switching a conventional laser can produce pulses on the order of "only" a nanosecond (0.000000001 s).

That's the basics of the FEL. I'll post up a blog entry on the FEL's applications sometime next whenever-the-hell-I-fell-like-it. For now, I'll close with a video of the Jefferson FEL burning a hole through a slab of plexiglas. Enjoy!



*Hear that sound? That's the sound of critics being silenced!


(OtnqJUXZLjM)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Blog Surfing

Whenever I sign into Blogger to write another one of my incredibly insightful blog posts, I notice a sort rolling list of blogs which have been updated within the past minute of my logging on, give or take. So I decided to click through some of these random blogs. This is what I found:

Turkish Anti-Israel Islamic Terrorists!

(After thinking about it, I decided not to post the link. I don't wanna endorse these guys. . . or look to whomever is watching like I endorse these guys.)


Some family by the name of Shakespear.

http://theshakespearpeople.blogspot.com/


Ceramics and Violinists.

http://digitalliz.blogspot.com/


Russians.

http://kabinetist.blogspot.com/


Either a news blog or a porn porn blog.

http://mlm-riset321.blogspot.com/


English language site of someone who appears to a Chinese business student.

http://haohan888.blogspot.com/


The Negro Diaries?

http://lilulandia.blogspot.com/


A picture a day.

http://veggiewannabe.blogspot.com/


A site called "Oscar Video" that seems to just link to a streaming video site.

http://osnewsboargin.blogspot.com/


Scandinavian!

http://morslillaolle.blogspot.com/


Liberta-- That's Spanish. That's all I can tell.

http://futurovegetariano.blogspot.com/


A porn site.

No link. I'm not linking there. It's boring anyway.


Movie News. In English AND Spanish! They seem to be really interested in a Neil Armstrong movie.

http://novidadescinema.blogspot.com/


Cancer.

http://mesothelioma23.blogspot.com/


A Swedish(?) website with an English title: Dancing in an Ocean of Roses!

http://kiimbeerly.blogspot.com/


That's MISTER Forex!

http://misterforex.blogspot.com/


Thai.

http://downmerngc.blogspot.com/


Someone who wonders why he's not a failure.

http://viewfromvantucky.blogspot.com/


Chinese site, English Language.

http://lovetheworld999.blogspot.com/


Virginia Real Estate. No, really.

http://estate.focusfinal.com/virginiarealestate/index.html


Pharmaceuticals!

http://viafrailaellis.blogspot.com/


His Mobile Blog.

http://toybet187.blogspot.com/


Another turkish one, but this time not radical Islamists.

http://yelkencilerlokali.blogspot.com/


Someone from Israel.

http://ferociouspixie.blogspot.com/


David Lindsay.

http://davidaslindsay.blogspot.com/


Alright. Enough is enough. I think we can all agree that I have officially wasted your time.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Greatest Assignment Evarz!1!

One of my duties as a grad student is to mark undergraduate physics assignments. This is usually a pain in the ass, but every so often I get an assignment that not only sucks, but is actually entertaining.

In this case, it was a doodle in one of my Phys 111 assignments. It shows two situations, one in which two boys are writing on a chalkboard, and one in which one boy and one girl are writing on a chalkboard. In the first case, one of the boys has claimed that the indefinite integral of x^2 is Pi (it's not, just so you know). The other boy then says "Wow, you suck at math!"

In the other case, the girl has written the exact same thing. The boy in that case says "Wow, girls suck at math!"

Simple. Beautiful. And with logic perfectly applicable to many other situations.

For example:
#1

MAN HOLDING BIBLE KICKS PUPPY.

MAN #2: You're an asshole!

#2

MAN HOLDING THE GOD DELUSION KICKS PUPPY.

MAN #2: Atheists are assholes!


(Note: Replace "The God Delusion" with "The Koran", "Atheists" with "Muslims" and, if you like, "Assholes" with "Terrorists" and it works just as well)

Or how about:
#1

WHITE MAN ROBS BANK.

OLD WOMAN: What a horrid fellow!

#2

BLACK MAN ROBS BANK.

OLD WOMAN: Oh, those Negroes.

OLD WOMAN CHCUCKLES.

#3

ASIAN MAN ROBS BANK.

OLD WOMAN: INTERN HIM!!!


Don't you just love it when your entire worldview comes in "Fill-in-the-Blank" form?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

On the Eve of Your Birthday. . .

This post is directed toward my sister, Naomi. But y'alls welcome to read it if you like.

Hi, Naomi. This is normally the post where I would post up stupid YouTube videos of idiots doing birthday raps. But today, I have a confession to make. It's a confession of a secret kept by the entire family, and they won't be happy that I told you, but goddamn it, I love you too much keep this from you any longer.

Here it goes. For the past twenty years you've been told that you were born on the late evening of February 28th, 1988. This is a lie; you were actually born a few minutes after midnight, February 29th. With the help of our doctor, who aided in falsifying your birth certificate, we faked your birthday to prevent you from having to face the stigma of being. . . a Leap Year Baby.

All your life, we've tried to convince you that you were bon on the twenty-eigth of February, going so far as to hold fake birthday parties and give fake birthday presents. Mom, Dad, the doctor, and me were the only ones to know about this. . . until now.

Naomi, you would be twenty today. On the eve of your birthday, February 29th, I think it is time for you to know. . .

YOU'RE FIVE!!!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Star Wars. . . Nothing but Star Wars . . . Give me Those Star Wars. . . Don't let them E-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-end!*

I'm in my mom's office, pissing away reading break and waiting for word on our cat Cedric, who's undergoing balldectomy getting neutered at I speak. To pass the time (which I could've been spending doing marking. . . or something-- anything-- out in the open air) I thought I'd write about the lastest bit of space news I've come across.

Sometime last night, while the rest of the western hemisphere stood in the freezing air waiting for a lunar eclipse, the US Navy shot down one of its own country's spy satellites. The satellite was in a decaying orbit, and some believed that it might be able to partially survive re-entry and crash somewhere on Earth--more specifically, somewhere on Earth that's Russia, China, North Korea, or Iran. There's also speculation that the spy satellite contains large amounts of unconsumed hydrazine rocket fuel, which might pose an environmental hazard (indeed, the fact that the fuel was unconsumed, and hence unable to laung the satellite to higher orbit and greater velocity, might explain why it is falling in the first place).

Naturally, the United States government is keeping mum about this whole affair. After all, government and military secrets are at stake, and besides, the whole thing is so embarrasing that. . . oh look, the Department of Defence posted a video of the Navy blowing up the satellite:



Apparently, the cloud of gas that appears after the explosion was indeed unburned hydrazine, according to a spectral analysis.

Now, I can understand the DOD posting the video in order to quell the public's worries of, how shall I put it, a KILLER FUCKING SATELLITE:



But, being the paranoid sort that I am, I couldn't help but wonder if there was something else going on here. Then I remembered that China, just one month ago, also blew up a satellite with a ground-based missile:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- China last week successfully used a missile to destroy an orbiting satellite, U.S. government officials told CNN on Thursday, in a test that could undermine relations with the West and pose a threat to satellites important to the U.S. military.

According to a spokesman for the National Security Council, the ground-based, medium-range ballistic missile knocked an old Chinese weather satellite from its orbit about 537 miles above Earth. The missile carried a "kill vehicle" and destroyed the satellite by ramming it.

The test took place on January 11. (There was a link to a video here, but I cut it out. You can find it at the main site.)

Aviation Week and Space Technology first reported the test: "Details emerging from space sources indicate that the Chinese Feng Yun 1C (FY-1C) polar orbit weather satellite launched in 1999 was attacked by an asat (anti-satellite) system launched from or near the Xichang Space Center."

A U.S. official, who would not agree to be identified, said the event was the first successful test of the missile after three failures.

The official said that U.S. "space tracking sensors" confirmed that the satellite is no longer in orbit and that the collision produced "hundreds of pieces of debris," that also are being tracked.
So. . . is all of this just an outer space pissing contest between China and the United States? Are we about to enter a new Cold War in Earth orbit? The U.S. has issued diplomatic protests, and President Bush has been waving that little of sabre of his over issues of American outer space policy for some time now:
The United States logged a formal diplomatic protest.

"We are aware of it and we are concerned, and we made it known," White House spokesman Tony Snow said.

Several U.S. allies, including Canada and Australia, have also registered protests, and the Japanese government said it was worrisome.

"Naturally, we are concerned about it from the viewpoint of security as well as peaceful use of space," said Yashuhisa Shiozaki, chief cabinet secretary. He said Japan has asked the Chinese government for an explanation.

Britain has complained about lack of consultation before the test and potential damage from the debris it left behind, The Associated Press reported.

The United States has been able to bring down satellites with missiles since the mid-1980s, according to a history of ASAT programs posted on the Union of Concerned Scientists Web site. In its own test, the U.S. military knocked a satellite out of orbit in 1985.

Under a space policy authorized by President Bush in August, the United States asserts a right to "freedom of action in space" and says it will "deter others from either impeding those rights or developing capabilities intended to do so."

The policy includes the right to "deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to U.S. national interests."

Low Earth-orbit satellites have become indispensable for U.S. military communications, GPS navigation for smart bombs and troops, and for real-time surveillance. The Chinese test highlights the satellites' vulnerability.

"If we, for instance, got into a conflict over Taiwan, one of the first things they'd probably do would be to shoot down all of our lower Earth-orbit spy satellites, putting out our eyes," said John Pike of globalsecurity.org, a Web site that compiles information on worldwide security issues.

"The thing that is surprising and disturbing is that [the Chinese] have chosen this moment to demonstrate a military capability that can only be aimed at the United States," he said.
Again, maybe I'm being paranoid, but isn't it also strange that just a month later, the U.S. destroys one of it's own satellites, for all the world to see?

But Anyway. . . as long as you're here, read My Story II and give me some input, dammit! I plan to do this for money and acclaim and girls one day!

Links:

Bad Astronomy Blog Article

BBC Online Article on Spy Satellite

CNN Online Article on Chinese Missile Launch


*The title is based on Bill Murray's "Star Wars Song" from the early years of Saturday Night Live. I couldn't find the original clip, but I did find this video by DickSharpe80 which has the song on it.

Friday, February 15, 2008

There Will Be Blood. . . IN SPACE. . . .

. . . Space . . . Space . . . Space. . . space. . .!*



It's long been known that Saturn's moon Titan has a huge amount of organic (carbon-based) chemicals, both in its dense atmosphere (twice as dense as Earth's) and in its frozen lakes of methane(recently photographed by the Huygens probe). Scientists believe that Titan's hydrocarbon content is very similar to that of Earth before the beginning of life, and thus that the moon-- which has been effectively "frozen" for billions of years-- provides a snapshot of our own world from ages past.

Big whoop.

Fortunately, Cassini-Huygens researcher has found an actual good reason to care about Titan: TAITEN HAZ TEH OILZ!!!1!1
Saturn's moon Titan has hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth, according to new data from the Cassini spacecraft.

The bounty of fuels, however, is on an orange-coloured moon at least 1.2 billion kilometres from Earth, a trip that took the Cassini spacecraft seven years to make.

Researchers from the European Space Agency first reported their findings about the ringed planet's moon in the journal of Geophysical Research Letters on Jan. 28.

Ralph Lorenz, Cassini radar team member from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, said the estimated fuel reserves are based on Cassini's surface maps of the moon, which show what appear to be lakes and seas. Researchers speculate the liquid is methane, one of the few known molecules to exist as a liquid in such extreme cold.

The scientists also believe dunes on the moon's surface are made of complex organic molecules called tholins.

"Titan is just covered in carbon-bearing material-it’s a giant factory of organic chemicals," said Lorenz in a statement. "This vast carbon inventory is an important window into the geology and climate history of Titan."

Although only 20 per cent of the moon's surface has been mapped, the researchers have already found dozens of lakes that individually could house as much energy as the 117,000 million tonnes of proven reserves of oil and gas on Earth.

"[Our] global estimate is based mostly on views of the lakes in the northern polar regions. We have assumed the south might be similar, but we really don't yet know how much liquid is there," said Lorenz.

The dense haze of Titan's mostly nitrogen atmosphere had prevented earlier attempts to view the surface of the moon before the U.S. space probe Cassini first arrived in 2004. Radar is the only way to pierce the haze surrounding Titan, which has an atmosphere 10 times denser than Earth's.

The probe's next flyby of Titan is on Feb. 22, 2008, when it will observe the landing site of the ESA's Huygens probe, which landed on the moon's surface in 2004.

The combined Cassini-Huygens mission is a co-operative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. It first launched from Earth in 1997.

Titan's dense atmosphere and presence of carbon-based material have fascinated scientists who see it as a time vault of what Earth may have looked like billions of years ago, before life formed and introduced oxygen into the atmosphere.
As the article says, Titan is over a billion kilometers away(When? On closest approach? Furthest?) so there probably won't be any attempt to extract it. However, for the sake of balance-- actually, for the sake of my contract obligates me to climb my political soapbox at least once every three blogs-- let me just point out some of the stupid things that supposedly reasonable, advanced civilizations have done to get their hands on oil:




*As I wrote this, I found myself wondering if "Space" is really spelled like that.

Having been an astronomy and space travel nut my whole life, I now suddenly wondered why I had written a word that sounded like "Spa-kay" (Latinesque pronunciation). I actually had to look up the word "space" on Google to make sure it was spelled properly. Stupid foreign languages messing up my science!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

My Story, Part II

I'm in lab. Again. Same as before.

To pass the time this time around, I decided to add another incomplete exceprt for my short story, "Achilles." This time, you'll actually figure out part of what the title means. Enjoy!

Megan had nearly forgotten about Peter's party. Though good friends since high school, they had not seen each other very often those last few months. Megan's tendon was healing, and Peters was visiting universities around the country. Her invitation to the party was almost accidental. She crossed paths with Peter at the shopping mall near his place.

"Peter!" she said.

He stopped in front of a t-shirt logo shop and turned around. Megan limped toward him.

"Hey, Megan," he said.

They usually hugged when greeting, but this time he didn't move, so she hugged him. They talked about the universities that Peter had visited. Megan thought it would be impolite to talk about her heel, and she didn't, apart from a brief mention about coming to the mall to try out her "sea legs." This had nothing to do with why she was really there-- or rather, it was as good an excuse as any. It was conversation at any event, even if it didn't compare to the beaches of Point Grey.

"Yo, Peter!" said someone else.

"Oh, Jim!" Peter said.

Jim emerged from behind Megan, standing at their side.

"Jim, this is my friend, Megan."

"Hi," she said.

"Hi. Jim." he said. They shook hands, and after some small talk, he then asked, "So, you looking forward to the party?"

And that's how she was invited. This was thursday morning. The party was friday night. A couple of hours after sunset, the guests arrived bearing gifts: nachos, vegetable platters with dip, fried wanton, some cases of beer. Megan had only remembered the party early that evening, just before she was about to go to sleep at her friend Mel's apartment. By the time she arrived at Peter's houce, most of the guests had already come. Still, there was enough room in the driveway for her to park her car. She knocked on the door once, and then again when Peter didn't answer. Finally, he opened the door.

"Megan!" he said. He was clearly surprised to see her.

"Hi," she said.

"Come on in!"

She handed him a shrimp cocktail on her way in through the door.

"Hope no-one's allergic," she said.

"Wow, thank you!" he said, admiring the platter.

She was pleased. She had stopped at a grocery market to buy the platter, even though she was already late. It wouldn't have been worth it if he didn't like it. She liked feeling like she still knew him after all. He set the platter on the kitchen table with all the other snacks the guests had brought. None of the guests were downstairs, and loud noises eminated from the floor above.

"We're just upstairs, watching the game," Peter said as Megan untied her shoes. "I'll see you up there, unless you need a hand?"

"I'm fine."

Peter walked up the stairs. Megan slipped her right shoe off first, careful not to bend her foot upward the way she always did when she took her shoes off before the accident. As she slipped off the other shoe, she heard Peter upstairs.

"Hey guys, my friend Megan is. . ."

His voice, and the sound of the TV, faded. Peter must have closed the door, she thought. Why would he do that? She made her way carefully up the stairs and through the door to the media room.

"Megan!"

"Hi--!"

"Megan, how are--?"

"Come on in--"

"Sit down--"

"Have a seat--"

"--how are you--?"

"Nice to meet you!"

Peter's friends, about ten in total, greeted her in unison, the moment she entered. They sat on a half-ring of sofas surrounding the TV, watching a hockey game. The couches were packed, save for a big, conspicuous gap between Peter and Jim from the mall.

"Hi everyone," she said.

"Have a seat!" Jim said, pointing to the empty spot on the couch. "We made room."

She moved to her seat quickly, trying not to block anyone's view of the TV. The room was dark, and she nearly tripped over a guest's leg.

"Oh no! Are you okay? I'm sorry!" the guest said.

"Yeah, I'm fine, I'm fine."

She say down.

"You like hockey?" Jim asked.

"Enough, I guess," she said.

"Canucks verses Oilers. Third period, score's--AWW!"

"AWW!" the others said.

"Reeeee-jected," Peter said.

"Aw shit!" JIm said. "So close. So close."

"How the hell does he get away with this all of a sudden?" another guest, a girl, said.

"What?"

"Not sucking, that's what!" the girl said.

"He doesn't suck," someone else said.

"He so sucks!"

"He's not the best."

"They've had him all season, he hasn't done shit all."

"Well, he did do shit all th-- OH!"

"OOHH!" they all said.

Megan's spot wasn't as big as it looked, and she was uncomfortaable between Jim and Peter. She actually didn't enjoy hockey at all. It was boring to her, and she started to wonder if she should have just crashed at Mel's place after all. It was another one of those times when she went without sleep for days, and the fatigue was starting to hit her. The room seemed to spin a little as the game wore on, and it was harder for her to keep her eyes open and focused.

The light came on suddenly. The game was over. Megan lifted her head from the couch. Everyone was standing.

"Don't get up, Megan!" Peter said.

He stood at the entranceway of the media room.

"Where are you going?" Megan asked.

"We're playing werewolf downstairs," he said. "But don't get up. SOme of the guys are gonna stay up here and play Halo."

Jim and the girl were connecting a game console to the TV.

"Do you play Halo, Megan?" Jim asked.

Megan didn't like how curious Jim was. She turn to the door, but Peter was already gone. The girl placed a contoller in Megan's ahnd, and the five other guests who stayed upstairs all took seats on the couch as the game began.

"Like Halo?" Jim asked again.

"Never played it," she said.

"You've never played Halo deathmatch?" the girl said. "You're missing out!"

"I'm more of a Metal Gear person myself," Megan said. "So how do I start?"

The girl took Megan's controller, pressed a few buttons, and handed it back to Megan.

"Just use the d-pad to type in your name," the girl said. "Whatever you want."

After a momeent of thought, and longer fiddling with the buttons, she entered the name of her player: Achilles. No-one asked whether this had anything to do with her foot. Within that very minute, the game began. Achilles and his partner, thrilla_in_vanilla-- who together made up team O'Doyle-- stood side by side on a beach near an otherworldly ocean. Their enemies, the Lesbian Seagulls, lay hidden in the wastes beyond. Guns in hand, they moved forward along the beach, the thrilla in long strides and impossible leaps, Achilles more cautiously. When thrilla was well ahead, he begun to shine a bright orange. He was under attack. He tried to dodge, but was down quickly.

"Leeessssbian Seagullllllll!" cried their enemies. They would be coming for Achilles next.

Achilles strode to a rock formation and-- after Megan asked which button made her guy crouch-- hid behind it. She waited, long enough for the trilla to return.

"Megan, where are you?" the girl who handed her the contoller asked.

"You're on my team, right?"

"Of course I am."

Megan, who briefly considered pointing out that the Lesbian Seagulls were both guys, instead simply mentioned that she couldn't ay anything that would compromise her to her enemies, who were within earshot.

"Well, I need some fucking help," the girl said.

Achilles rose and marched toward the plastered-on sun to the west(she assumed) following the faint sound of gunfire. Then, after much taunting between the players, he appeared. He was distant atff first, and Achilles could not tell if he even was a seagull, let alone lesbian. Quickly, and while still distant, the figure opened fire, hitting Achilles three times with a bath of orange glow. There was a rapid beeping sound that had to be Achilles' warning system. In a panic, he ducked-- this act, while accidental, helped him evade another stream of deadly energy from the opponent's gun. He circled while still crouched, searching for his enemy, eventually spotting the villain on a quick, straight approach. Megan could now clearly read his floating nametag, King_Dubya. She pressed a button, and before she was even sure the gun had fired, the king was slain.

"Aww!" one of the guys cried.

"O'Doyle Rules!" the girl said.

"Nice shot, Megan!" Jim said. It was the first time he had commented on anyone's markmanship that evening.

"Come on Megan, say it!" the girl said.

"O'Doyle Rules!"

Still unsure of how she had done what she had done, Megan vowed nonetheless that Achilles would vanquish the other foe on team Lesbian Segull-- Jim. Even if this wasn't his nametag, she knew by elimination that he must be the only other player in the game.

Unfortunately, killing Jim proved difficult. He was a talented player, and despite her best efforts, he always managed to escape Achille's clutches. The game went on for more than an hour, and Megan's joy og glory had faded. The hour was not without its conquests-- Achilles had slain the king three more times, to the cheers of her compatriots-- but those conquests were hollow next to the greater prize. The combat was exhausting, and Megan, by the shaking of her hands and the shortness of her nerves, could feel hunger coming on. But she could not yield.

Peter came upstairs to see how she was doing.

"Fuck me!" Megan said, throwing the contoller onto her lapjust a Peter entered.

"Jesus, chill out!" he team-mate said.

"Sorry..." said Megan.

"Hey Megan," Peter said. "You sound pissed."

Megan sighed.

"Yeah, I'm just kickin' everyone's ass is all," Jim said. "You'd be pissed too if you had to go up against someone this talented."

"You, talented?" Peter said.

"Hells yeah," Jim said.

"How you doin', Meg?" Peter said.

"She's kickin' ass too!" Jim said, overjoyed.

Megan lenaed her head back briefly, eyes closed. She didn't seem pleased with Jim's compliment.

"Are you hungry?" Peter asked of Megan.

"A little, but I can wait," she said. "How's the shrimp?"

"Good," he said. "We're all eating up down there. You should join us. It's no problem if she leaves, right?"

"No, we're just between games," Jim said.

"In a few minutes," Meagn said. "I still gotta kick Jim's Lesbian Seagull ass here."

"Really?" Peter said. "Okay, uh... Can I borrow Jim for a minute?"

Jim looked up.

"What is it?"

Jim stood up and followed Peter into an adjacent room, while the others waited for him to return. Their conversation was inaudible at first, but Megan, facing away from the two on the couch, was gradually able to hear.

"Look, I have..."

"I know you have, man."

"I have been...I've been trying all night."

"Why say that?"

"What?"

"That you're kicking ass?"

"'Cause I am!"

"Jesus."

"It's not like her hands are hurt, man."

"Jim--"

"Besides, she's kicking ass too. I meant that. I mean, for a beginner."

"But you know how competitive she is, right? Right?"

"Of course I do. So what?"

"Look, she won't tell this to anyone, but... look, I really think she needs to get some rest."

The conversation was inaudible from that point.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Guess Where I'm Writing From!

Give up?

My Lab!

Yay!

Details.

I'm currently in room 8-229 of UNBC, and I'm teaching the second experiment out of eight in the Physics 101 lab curriculum. I began writing at approximately 12:30, and won't be out of here until just before 2:30.

What am I teaching? Standing waves in a tube. Basically, we just put a speaker at the end of a long tube, connect it to a function generator to control the frequency and amplitude, and run a microphone down the tube in order to determine (a) the resonance frequencies at which standing waves form, and (b) the nodes and anti-nodes of said waves. Measuring the speed of sound fits in there as well. None of this really matters. The important thing is that you can make cool videogame and old-timey radio sounds with the speaker/function generator apparatus.

Two students just came up to me to get their data tables signed. It's a new anti-plagiarism measure. I told them that they have to re-write their data in pen before I would sign it. They were not happy, and I don't blame them.

It's cool that Christine set up a computer right at the desk. If she didn't, this blog entry would never be. I also checked my UNBC email before writing this entry, which reminded me why I so so so so so so so hate to use UNBC email.

12:40.

If someone raised their hand right now I wouldn't even know it. That's a cool feeling.

More students came to get their forms signed. Here comes one now! Alright!

These labs really are exhausting. I only really "work" for half an hour during the actual period, in which I give the pre-lab lecture. This is actually the worst part of it. I've gotten a bit better at these lectures, in that I don't feel quite as horrible doing it as I used to, yet I still get the distinct impression that my students consider me a horrible horrible tool. And their right.

They're right.

Sorry.

A couple of students have left. Fine by me, as long as they got all their data. I figure if they really want to crap out and leave early, that's fine. If it turns out to be a mistake for them to leave, they'll pay for it in their marks. If not, why be a douche and make them stay?

12:45.

I missed a seminar being given today by Dr. Shegelski, my grad supervisor. He was talking about research in molecular tunneling in which I was involved. "Involved" meaning that I was standing in the same general place that awesome research by Jeff and Hal was being done and getting paid for it all the same.

I missed it because I had to come here and do stupid prep for the stupid lab. That's the other exhausting thing about these labs. I usually come into the lab room about an hour and a half in advance to make sure that I'm really truly prepped for the experiment at hand. And even then, my preparation is still often grossly incomplete.

They're really piling on to me now. I just signed four data tables, and two are on the way.

12:55. I'm glad I had deluxe breakfast at A&W. There are many reasons for this, one involving the drive in teller girl at McDonalds. Ask my mom about that sometime.

Two students seem to be absolutely captivated by a poster of spectra for various elements. Leni just left. She thought I didn't know her, just because I acted like I didn't know her. I get nervous in these labs! Sue me.

I'm just realizing how abstract my blog labels are becoming. For this post, I've already attached labels like "Just Another Fist," "No One Can Hear You Scream,"-- two more data tables signed-- and "There Can Be Only One." Maybe I'll make up another tag of two. I'll have to give it some thought though. There's abstract and then there's just dumb.

1:03. I have no labs next week. For that, I'll attach the "Circular Celebrations" label.

I came to the lab rooms earlier in the week. The rooms that I teach in are on the second floor of the Teaching Lab building, with big windows that face toward the east. The mountains are blocked by haze today, as they often are, but when I came earlier in the week, on one of those days when it turned to biting cold, the sky was so clear that I could see the Rockys fifty or a hundred kilometers away. There weren't any students when I came in that time. If there were, I would have begun the lecture by just showing them the view, letting them soak it in for a minute or two, because they would likely never see that kind of view again.

Created new label-- "The View From Where I Am."

I've got the stupid live action Sailor Moon theme stuck in my head. I thought it might be a good idea for one of the hosts of a late night show going without writers, like Conan O'Brien or Colbert, to digitally insert themselves into episodes of the series, reciting actual dialogue from the show in really pathetic Japanese. Just imagine Conan as Mamoru-- I don't care if you don't know what I'm talking about!-- in a really big ugly Beatles wig hair cut that seems to be all the rage in Japan. Hilarious. And the best part: it's all legit! (it's Writers Guild of AMERICA. Suck it, union lawyers!)

If I started playing an episode of Sailor Moon right now, would anyone in the lab watch? Probably not.

Added label "Miyuu Sawai."



And with that, I bid you adieu.

UPDATE: Added label "Wow".

Thursday, January 10, 2008

My Story

Naomi said:
Blog more you swine!
So I will.

I haven't posted in a while, partly because Christmas, partly because I'm still a little embarrassed about LOLWorf, and partly because I've spent the last month and a half roughly writing a short story. So, now that I'm getting back into the groove of school, I thought I'd put my time to its most productive possible use: showing you an excerpt of said short story.

Naomi, my mom, and Josh Sandu have all seen early drafts of the story. However, the excerpt below is something totally new, so hopefully they'll enjoy it as much as you will!

. . . :|

Just read it. And ignore the fact that one of the characters is named Josh. It means nothing.


Excerpt from "Achilles":

Josh. She met him at Pandora's Box a month before. It was a June the 16th party(the owner was of Irish descent, and considered himself a literature aficionado) but she didn't know this. She just knew that it was a party. A few people dressed in old black suits and dresses, and a couple of people went up onto the bar's small front stage, carrying thick tattered tomes with ugly covers from which they recited lines like "loth to irk in Horne's hall hat holding the seeker stood." But like Megan, most were there just to be there, for fun, and would have been there no matter whose day it was.

But Josh?

"Vain patience to heap and hoard," he said. "Time would surely scatter all. A hoard heaped by the roadside plundered passed-- uh, passing on. Sorry. Uh, their eyes knew years-- knew the years wandering and patient knew the dishonours of the flesh."

He would glance up from his book every moment or so, trying to catch brief sight of the tall limping girl at the bar.

"Who has not? Stephen said. Whaddaya mean? Deasy asked. He came forward a pace and stood by the table. His underjaw fell sideways open uncertainty-- uh, uncertainly. Fuck. Uh. . ."

Few noticed him fumble, and those who did didn't care to react.

"Is the old isdom-- uh, wisdom. . . Is this old wisdom? He want to hear from me." And with dramatic pause, he came to the part he had been waiting to speak.

"History," Josh said, "is a nightmare from which I'm trying to awake."

He finished his set quickly and unceremoniously, stepping down and going toward the bar and its limping girl, Megan.

"The rusty boot," he said.

Megan turned to Josh, who was looking at her foot.

"What?" she said.

"I said, the rusty boot. It's okay. Don't worry about it."

"Were you just up there?"

"Yeah. I'm Josh."

"Megan."

She shook his hand. Her friends had left her sitting at the bar, and though wary, she welcomed his company.

"I never caught what everyone was reading," Megan said.

"This," Josh said, holding up his book. "Ulysses. Best book ever written. It all takes place on the sixteenth of June, so every year people get together to celebrate it."

"Do you go to university?"

"Yeah."

"English major?"

"No. Business."

They continued to talk. No-one bothered to go offstage after Josh's recital, and even those in costume had partly disrobed, abandoning the act. Megan had eaten earlier that evening, but she was getting hungry again, so the two ordered meals and took a seat at a nearby table.

"So you're a runner?" Josh said.

"Yeah. Well, track and field in general."

"My brother was into sports. Competing, I mean. I hope you don't mind me asking , but was it a sports injury that gave you than limp?"

"Oh, this? No. Well, not really. It was a javelin, actually. I was at a practice, this was in spring, and a javelin flew right into my heel. It severed the tendon, and I had to get surgery to fix it."

"So it was a sports injury."

"No. If someone from the other team threw it, it would be a sports injury. This was just bad luck."

"Look, Megan, you're at a Bloomsday party. This is the wrong place to be arguing semantics," he said with a chuckle.

Their food arrived at the table. Megan ordered fried, and Josh ordered vegetarian lasagna. They were finished quickly, and just as quickly ordered drinks to wash the taste out of their mouths. They talked about insignificant things, long enough for Megan's friends to return and wish her goodnight, and for Josh's friends to return and join the two. During her conversation about being a runner, she was reminded of something she thought would be a good story. She had been running since before she could remember. Her mother had told her that when she, Megan, was little, she had no fear of going anywhere on those little legs, which her mother called Megan's "Arnold Schwartzenegger Legs." That was the story. She wanted to tell it to Josh, but didn't. She didn't tell it anyone, partly because she didn't remember until the wrong moments, but also because she never felt it appropriate to do so. As the night wore on and he talked with his friends, she felt a dull sort of regret over not telling him, and waited for another chance.

"You know it was based of a Greek legend, right?" Josh said. "The Odyssey, right? But where's the odyssey here? Where's the adventure? Like, what I mean is, you know, every adventure, every adventure was exotic, every adventure, like, it was a new land with something wondrous, something you've never seen. Like magic, gods, whirlpools, you know, monsters. Right? But here's this book with a guy buying a fucking. . . bar of soap, right?"

Josh laughed at his own words. His friend joined him.

"So where's the adventure? he said, and then with a deep, sudden seriousness in his voice, "Style. Style! That's the key. You can't have adventure in Dublin, I mean that's why he left!You can;t do it. You have to internalize the adventure. That's what it's all about. Stream of consciousness, the adventure within. The sexual adventure, man, everything. And he always does it in a different way, a new island. That's what the adventure really was, you know, that's all you could have."

"Tell that to Hemingway," one of his friends said, to which everyone chuckled.

Josh had an angular face which he always wore with a subtle half-smirk. As the night went on, Megan found his smirk more and more appealing, and when the bar fianlly closed she still wanted to be with him. So, after all of Josh's friends said their goodbyes, she was still beside him, limping along as he walked out the door.

"Well, Megan," Josh said once they were both outside, "it was a pleasure."

"You're not saying goodbye, are you? Leaving me all alone on cold Pandora avenue?"

He looked toward a streetsign.

"So that's why they named it Pandora's Box. I never put that together."

She laughed at Josh, and they both went along the sidewalk, south from Pandora Avenue toward the ocean but still far enough from it not to see it. He noticed Megan's limp again.

"Javelin, huh?" he asked.

"Huh? Oh, yeah." he said.

"Should you be walking?"

"Hasn't hurt me so far."

"Well, your limp begs to differ."

"It was a lot worse before," she said. "Don't worry, I'm a big girl."

Josh heart beat a little faster after hearing that. He pretended not to know why.

"You know, I can take you home, if you really are worried about being alone. You should see my ride. It's the lasted, imported, German bus pass."

Megan chuckled at that. Josh was pleased.

"But seriously," he said. "Just say the word."

"No. I'm not going home. Not yet."

"Why not?"

She realized she missed another opportunity to tell the Arnold Schwartzenegger Legs story again. It didn't worry her as much this time. She would find her opportunity. She start with that and maybe begin a whole list of stories with a running theme, like how she ran circles around the bored kids forced to attend her mother funeral when she was six years old, or how is was more of the same when her father remarried two years later, and maybe then she'd tell him about the ruckus she raised in the halls of Royal Jubilee while her sister, Helen, was being born.

"I don't live on my own," she said. "My dad lives with me, and he's been kind of unbearable recently."

Maybe its not a genetic thing, she thought, about the running. After all, Helen's mother had no relation to Megan whatsoever, and she ran all the way to Ontario, with Helen right behind her.

"He's going, I mean, we're both going through a rough time right now. My stepmon left him a couple of months ago with my half-sister. Took her to, uh, London. Yeah, London, Ontario. I always wanna say Paris, but it's London."

Josh slowly came to a halt. Megan didn't really notice this as she was talking.

"He's sick too. Diabetic. He's been diabetic since before I was born, but it's gotten worse. he's just. . . well, anyway."

She finally notice that she wasn;t limping anymore.

"End of the line," Josh said, pointing to the apratment building nearby.

"You live here?" Megan said. "That's convinient."

"Well, I guess I'll just. . ." he paused long enough so as not to give himself away. "Do you want to come in?"

It had been since the night before, when she walked out on her father engulfed in one of his moods, that she had been out of her house. The idea of rest sent a wave of warm fatique through her, as if in preparation. She knew what was coming, of course, she wasn't stupid. But she didn't mind it. She figured it was about time.

"Yes. I'd like that," she said.

With that, she followed him into the building.

And you, Peter, she thought with the corn thawing under her ankle, wouldn't you like to know what Josh did to me?

-----------

So there you are! It still needs work, and in its final form this part of the story will certainly be very different, but its a start. I think the biggest change that needs to be made is when Josh is talking Ulysses to his friends. I'll either scrap that or heavily modify it. But there will be little changes all over as well.

It'll probably be a long time before its ready to be published. If you're interested, I'll let everyone know how its progressing.
 
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