30 Apr

Tire Part 2

In the meantime, I looked down on the ground and saw a piece of paper folded four times, lying at my feet. I literally had nothing better to do than to pick it up and unfold it. It turned out to be a poem, written by a girl named Jenny, called “Gum.”

Here it is:


You watch the teacher talking
But all you hear is the smacking in your ear
Like a cow chewing on grass.
He is behind you, poking you with a pencil,
Grinning from ear to ear
Like he’s just won the lottery.
The minty smell on his breath surrounds you
And the smacking just gets louder and louder
And louder.
You turn around and glare at him,
Pounding on his desk.
“Stop it! Stop annoying me!”
The classroom is silent
Except for the smacking of the gum,

29 Apr

Tire Part 1

Did you all get that yesterday’s post was Eileen and not Tim? I haven’t ever seen this juggling dad, unfortunately, but it sounds like a cool routine (in multiple senses of the word).

Yesterday, I got my first flat tire while riding somewhere out by Middleton. I was cruising along a pretty rough road when I heard a loud hiss. I looked down and saw my rear tire rapily shrinking, so I stopped, pulled the bike off the road into someone’s front yard, and got to work. Three or four other riders went by, asking if I needed any help. “No thanks,” I said, confidently.

Recently, I’ve fixed a slough of flats on Eileen’s mountain bike. Last fall, she got one immediately after I replaced a tube, so we took it in to Michael’s Bike Shop (which no longer exists, sadly). Michael himself instructed us on how to replace a tube without any tools. The tire irons often pinch tubes and may actually cause flats themselves; so you just do “this,” he said as he effortlessly pushed the tire back onto the rim, “and you can avoid pinching the tube.” Seemed simple enough. So this spring, when Eileen got another flat, I gave it the old tool-less college try.

I ended up swearing and getting out the tire irons.

Four days later, she had another flat. I prefer to blame the tires themselves, which we replaced thanks to Eileen’s dad, who happened to have a couple of spare mountain bike tires in his basement. But you never know.

In any case, what with the new tires, I now had another opportunity to try the tool-less tube replacement since I would now have to move the old tubes to the new tires. I looked it up online to get a little refresher and then went to work on the rear wheel first. It was humanly impossible to put the damn tire on without tools.

But when it came time for the front wheel, I tried it again and violin! It worked!

So. When my tire hissed yesterday on my ride, I was looking forward to the test. After all, I’d hate to get to the Ironman and get my first flat during the competition. This was all part of the preparation. I started in on the tire removal, coaching myself through the process; it came off relatively easily. Step one, check.

I felt inside the tire for any remaining shards of tube-popping badness. Step two, check.

I got out the CO2 cartridge and the new tube. Step three would be to fill the tube with a little air, so that step four, putting it all back on the rim, would be able to happen without the tube bunching up or twisting. So, I fiddled with the CO2 cartridge, screwed on the nozzle of the “inflation device” and fumbled with it until it started squirting air into my face. I tried pressing buttons that didn’t exist. Then I held my thumb over the nozzle in an attempt to just hold back the pressurized air. Finally, I stuck the device on the tire nozzle and got some air into the tube. I pulled it off the tube’s nozzle, dropped the thing because it was starting to get freezing cold, and watched as the rest of the frosty air leaked from it. Step three, crap.

Step four, which had previously been my biggest worry, went just fine. Check.

Step five (fill the tire with remaining air): see step three.

I put the wheel back on the bike, packed up the old tube and the empty CO2 cartridge, and stood there contemplating the fact that I had just replaced a flat tire with another flat tire. I made a mental note to bring two CO2 cartridges next time.

28 Apr

looking out the window

Some days I come home in the afternoons and do work on the computer here. Occasionally I sneak a peak out the window and I’m often rewarded with a juggling show. There is a father who, everyday at around 3 pm, juggles directly accross the street from our living room window while he waits for his daughter to arrive on a school bus. He is actually quite good. Today he has 5 white balls that he is tossing in different patterns. I’ve seen him use various balls, bowling pins, and stick-things. He juggles for about 15 min and when his daughter’s bus stops at the bus stop he walks home with her.

26 Apr

Brain Freeze

Last night, I was helping Eileen study for some audiology thing when she uttered the following bit of wonderous jargonosity: “one mechanism for cross-modal plasticity is the stabilization of normally transient long range subcortical connections.”


25 Apr

Sci Fi

Today in my Science Fiction class, we had a discussion about robots. It went swimmingly. It always does. The question that generated the most discussion: What’s the definition of a robot?

Crazy, huh?

The discussion even moved smoothly into my follow-up question: Should we pursue robot technology? Once again, they surprised me by expressing a majority opinion I wouldn’t have guessed. They mostly argued that we should not pursue robot technology, and they cited lots of valid economic and socio-cultural implications that I won’t go into.

Years ago, when the second Matrix movie came out, a colleague of mine said something along the lines of “I don’t understand how anyone can care.” Prior to teaching the class, I may have said the same thing. But when I did teach it, I discovered all sorts of interesting philosophical thought experiments — like the brain in the vat, Plato’s cave, communism, and the Garden of Eden — all of which were lurking between the lines of these sci-fi stories.

I’ve always been interested in philosophy, so the various thought experiments helped hook me. And then in classes, I’d sometimes sit back with amazement at how alarmingly well some of the discussions could go. At times, I felt like I was sitting in on a pizza lunch at a Sci-Fi convention; everyone had something to say, most everyone was enjoying themselves, and the vast majority were comfortable. Of course, the conversations would occasionally take a turn towards the absurd (like when someone asked whether or not a microwave that could automatically detect the size, weight, and chemical make-up of your food and heat it without human input would qualify as a robot), but for the most part, I enjoy the philosophical debates that spring up easily when a bunch of Sci-Fi fans are gathered together in one spot.

Not all my students feel the way I do. There are the occasional students — mostly seniors who have taken the class because they think it will be easier than their other options — who come into the class all snooty about Sci-Fi as a genre. They roll their eyes at the students who like being there; they complain about the stories we read; and around this time of year, they begin tuning out completely and/or skipping class altogether. There aren’t many of these types (all of whom chalk their disengagement up to “senioritis”), but they annoy me. They make me cynical. In a different class of mine, I had a pregnant student who recently dropped out. She had to fight to get re-enrolled in school at the beginning of the semester; and then I deal with these entitled seniors (all of whom are pretty well-off, and almost all of whom are going on to college next year), who turn their noses up at an otherwise engaging class.

It’s not that I’m now a proponent of Star Trek conventions; nor am I going to dress up like Neo when the fourth Matrix comes out; nor am I going to be the guy who says, “um, actually, there won’t ever be a fourth Matrix.” It’s just that I’m a little more tolerant of tastes that differ from mine.

On the other hand, it’s true that there won’t be a fourth Matrix. It was a trilogy from the start.