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The Dude
I haven't been paying much attention to it since I've been so busy the last couple of days, but I finally got a chance to catch up on the Amgen Tour of California cycling race. It's a lot like the Tour de France, only it's a helluva lot shorter and a helluva lot closer. Last year I went to the final stage of the race in Redondo Beach and had an awesome time watching the racing action there. Since it was the first year last year, the event didn't have a very strong "pull" to draw in top level riders. There were a lot of upper level americans, but not many of the europeans. Fortunately for us cycling fans, this year is a bit different.

With how well the event did last year, a considerable number of european tour riders decided to make this their first event of the year. Discovery Channel brought their full lineup, whereas last year they had Hincapie and most of their b-list riders. CSC, Credit Agricole, Predictor/Lotto, Quickstep, Rabobank, and Gerolsteiner (all teams with lots of european riders) brought pretty much everybody. It's going to be amazing seeing this stuff in person!! I had originally planned to just check out the Sunday stage in Long Beach, but with how things are shaping up I'm going to go to two stages. Saturday's stage goes from Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita, and in the middle of all of that there's one of the toughest climbs of the race. It's only a Category 4 climb (the lowest) since it's so short, but it's very very steep. If you've ever watched the Tour De France, the steepest part of this short climb rivals the toughest stages you'll see.

The website says that there were over 10,000 people there last year lining the sides of the road cheering people on. I'm hoping to be one of those folks this year if I can get up there early enough. The tough part is going to be sitting there for three hours waiting for the riders to get there. I better bring a book!!

All this cycling talk has got me itching to go for a ride... so I'm going tomorrow morning. I got all my cold weather gear ready, and I'm itching to go. It should be interesting to say the least.
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I've recently been interested in making an effort towards eating less meat overall. The more I think about how much processing and bulk farming goes towards producing the meat we eat, I've decided to cut down a bit more. Chicken is probably the worst... they're basically little meat machines living in a cage. I was tempted to switch to fish, but you're trading one set of bad circumstances for another. There are sustainable resources there, but a lot of the waters around the world are reaching the point of severe over-fishing. I'm usually one to dismiss a lot of that stuff as tripe, but even if it's not true it doesn't hurt to reduce the overall load on the system. I'll never be a vegetarian, that much I am sure of. There's no replacement for a good steak.

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Current Music: Rockabye Baby - airbag

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In order to try to put some, um, order into my plans for Coachella, I thought I'd make a list of who I want to see in some sort of relative order of preference. They are supposed to have some sort of schedule planner up on their site closer to the dates for the show, but meh. This'll do just fine.

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Current Music: Regina Spektor - Fidelity

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Current Mood: amused amused

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It appears last night's mini golf antics have taken their toll on my already pulled back muscle. It's been healing all week, and I went and undid all of that. I woke up this morning at the reasonable hour of about 12:15 in a good deal of pain, wondering whether I'd be able to function for the rest of the day. 1000mg of ibuprofen later, I was off and running. Not literally running, as I don't think that would be quite possible right now. At any rate, I headed down to my friend Steve's house to go to a little BBQ he was hosting to celebrate the new baby that his wife just had. I haven't seen Steve for months, and I had actually forgotten that his wife was even pregnant! Go me. As I started to get on the freeway, I noticed a large cloud of white smoke coming right from the direction I was headed. Now, I could have done the prudent thing and gone down to the next onramp, but who doesn't like a little rubbernecking now and then?

It turns out that a field right next to the freeway had caught fire and had created a solid wall of smoke going across the whole road. Fortunately it wasn't too big of a fire, but it was big enough:

Ok, not too bad.

Holy crap!

I couldn't see a goodamned thing.

The smoke was probably only about three carlengths deep, but that was enough to cause all of the traffic to come to a dead stop. Everyone inched their way through with the exception of a few cars- one of them being the white car directly in front of me in the last picture. She hit fudge lockup and decided to just stop RIGHT in the middle of all of the smoke. I'm not sure why she thought staying where she was was a better idea than continuing on, but whatever. If I had brought my good camera with me as I had said I was going to start doing I would have gotten some much better pictures, but the cameraphone shots will have to suffice.

The BBQ was a lot of fun, and the food was excellent. I ate way too much, headed home, and napped it off so I would be ready for today's other activity- goin to the Improv! It was a friend's birthday today (what is it with all the January birthdays? jeez!), and we went to see Robert Schimmel. I'd heard the name before, but never any of his comedy. He was damn funny- not a high energy comic by any means, but his delivery and almost solid deadpan worked really well together. The two lead-in comics sucked pretty hard, with the one guy just making a bunch of dick jokes and mildly xenophobic illegal immigrant stabs. The next guy was nearly as bad, as all he did was talk about how much trouble he was having getting laid. I think they put these assclowns on the bill because Schimmel is a "dirty" comic too, but he knows how to do it right- even though he's up there on stage talking about how he gave himself an enema, it's funny and not in any way uncomfortable. It's all in the delivery.

Alrighty... time to put this neck to bed and try to sleep on it.
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So, today was day two of the birthday festivities. Being the Thursday on the week of my birthday, I headed down to Hennessey's with some folks to get a free meal. You can order any entree, including one of the $22 steaks, and get it for no charge. Ordinarily the booze more than makes up for it, but it was a quiet night this time. We ended up only having eight people total, with folks arriving and leaving at different times. It was still fun, and I'm never one to turn down a free meal. Last year was a bit unique in that we had three birthdays in one week, so the group was significantly larger. We'll be going again next thursday, since the birthdays were split up this year.

What else? well, check this out:

(click for bigger)

What is it? An HDR (High Dynamic Range) image of Tokyo at night. Basically it is three pictures taken at different exposure settings, and merged together in photshop to create a single image with a dynamic range much higher than what is possible with a single image. The same is also possible with RAW images, since they store more bits per pixel than it is possible to display with a lossy format like JPEG. I've been meaning to do some more photography, especially HDR stuff like this. It's around the right time of year that we get some really bitchin sunsets, so it may be time to keep the ol camera and tripod in the trunk of the car just in case. Then I just need to find the time to actually take some pictures!

More HDR than you can shake a stick at:


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I guess it takes a new set of eyes to really recognize stuff around you. As my friend was on her way over tonight, she noticed an interesting pattern in the street names on the way into our neighborhood:

Actual street names by my house

Camel. Salem. Kent. Viceroy. The god damn streets in my neighborhood are named after CIGARETTE BRANDS. I shit you not. How awesome is that? Wait, don't answer, I already know- it's fuckin awesome.

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I like to learn something random from wikipedia every day, and today's item just happened to be shuffling. I knew there was more than one way, but eight? Good god. Not only that, but it provided a good opportunity to nerd out for a moment. There's a (not so) brief discussion about card shuffling in the realm of computer science. To wit: (you can skip this section if it makes no sense)

In a computer, shuffling is equivalent to generating a random permutation of the cards. There are two basic algorithms for doing this, both popularized by Donald Knuth. The first is simply to assign a random number to each card, and then to sort the cards in order of their random numbers. This will generate a random permutation, unless two of the random numbers generated are the same. This can be eliminated either by retrying these cases, or reduced to an arbitrarily low probability by choosing a sufficiently wide range of random number choices.

Whichever algorithm is chosen, it is important that a source of truly random numbers is used as the input to the shuffling algorithm. If a biased or pseudo-random source of random numbers is used, the output shuffles may be non-random in a way that is hard to detect, but easy to exploit by someone who knows the characteristics of the supposedly "random" number source.

Another common source of bias in shuffling implementations is to use both a good shuffling algorithm and a true random number generator, but not to correctly reduce the output of the random number generator into the choice of which card to shuffle at a particular step. For example, if a 32-bit random number is used to choose one of 52 choices by using the modulo operator provided in most programming languages, it can be demonstrated using a pigeonhole argument that this choice cannot possibly be unbiased, since 232 cannot be evenly divided by 52. This is sometimes called "modulo bias".

This form of bias can be avoided in a number of ways. Probably the easiest involves deliberately limiting the number of usable outputs of the random number generator to a multiple of the number of choices to be made prior to performing the modulo operator, and re-trying the random number generator until a value within that range is produced. Although this algorithm is, strictly speaking, not guaranteed to terminate, given a true random number generator, the probability of this algorithm not terminating in a reasonable time is so small that that it can be neglected for all practical purposes.

I know that most people's eyes are glazing over at that, but reading that today was actually rather meaningful for me. Way back in high school in advanced computer science, I had a teacher who was a real hardass. He was the kind of guy who would stop class if you were chewing gum and make you walk across the room to throw it away until he would continue. Just the kind of pointless embarassment that teachers love to subject their students to. At any rate, we had to implement the Knuth shuffling algorithm in class. (Basically, the gist of it is that you randomly swap cards as you go through the deck, and by the time you reach the end of the deck it will be shuffled.) I went about writing it using the method highlighted in bold in the above passage, because that also happens to be the easiest way to write the program.

Mr. Enenstein did not like this... he was such a stickler that he wouldn't let the bit about "strictly speaking... this algorithm is not guaranteed to terminate" go. He made me re-write the entire program from scratch. At the time, I was pissed. Fuming mad. I wanted to kick him in his teeth. Years later though, I came to realize how much I had actually taken his teaching to heart. Whenever I would go about implementing stuff, whether it be algorithms or more complex systems, I would always think about doing it "right" instead of doing it "fast". It's something a lot of people in Computer Science today don't pay attention to, because they don't have to. Computers are so fast today that they hide sloppy coding quite well. It's only when it gets important that those imperfections really start to show.

So, reading that in a random wikipedia article made me smile. It also made me remember how much of a huge nerd I am. And, it also reminded me that I need to get my ass back to school.

Current Mood: Nerdy
Current Music: Kraftwerk - Computer World

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After last nights experience of falling asleep in front of a movie at 9pm, I really had to get out of the house tonight. This turned out to be a good idea for a number of reasons. First- I had fun. Second- I got a big reminder of why I want to leave orange county.

Almost everybody was off doing stuff, but Sally and some other folks down by where she lives were looking for stuff to do. I headed down there to hang out at her place, get some dinner, and figure out what to do.

We decided to go over to her friend matt's house, as he was having a little housewarming gettogether. It ended up being a bunch of people sitting around talking about traffic cameras, urinals, and high heeled shoes. No joke.

We escaped while we could and headed to Hennessey's for some beers, and a bit more of a lively atmosphere. At this point, it was me, Sally, Jeff, and these two other chicks I can't remember. Lets just call em OC1 and OC2. We got into a conversation about what peoples "types" are. I said (basically) smart, fun, a little goofy, and easygoing. OC1 pipes in with, "I like darker skinned guys." OC2 takes the cake though, with "My type is spikey hair and goatee."

This would only be mildly amusing if it weren't for the fact that this is what most "OC" people are like. These two cemented my decision to get out of here.

The tough part is that I'm going to be leaving the coolest group of friends behind. There are cool people here, but we're definitely minority.
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I had this lovely idea to have a quiet night at home and watch a movie. I have a nice little stack of DVD's sitting here, and I picked Metropolis since I've never seen it. Bad choice. I was already a little tired, and it turns out- silent movies are not exactly the best thing for keeping you awake. I think it was about 9:00pm when I put it on, and I made it about a half hour into the movie before falling asleep. That's all well and good, but it's 2:30am now*, and of course... I'm completely awake. Suck. That and I missed actually writing something for friday, but eh.. it's still friday night, right? right.

Just a quickie then. I've found some interesting new music lately. Well- it's new to me. First one is a CD one of my friends let me borrow, Kieskagato's 2005 EP. Right off the bat, track 1, I'm hooked. The first few opening bars have a nice jazzy touch to them, with light airy vocals. Then the spacey guitar fleshes out into a nice wall of sound, dripping with horns and a killer bass line. This progression continues to build until the song reaches a vicious climax. Somehow they manage to cram in guitars, a full horn section, Rhodes piano, Hammond B3, and god knows what else. That much going on at once could sound muddled, but everything works in harmony, breaking out in little stabs to let you know it's there. I can't get enough of this track.

Kieskagato - Thursday [mp3, free download]

The other song I heard on KCRW, but it was not the usual Morning Becomes Eclectic faire. I'm not sure I would have noticed had it not been the day after New Years Eve, but it's another one that really grabbed me. It's a techno remix of the Starsailor song "Four to the Floor" by Jacques Lu Cont. I've listened to starsailor in the past and never really been impressed, but they managed to take the best parts of the song and turn it into something great. It takes a while for the song to get there, but turn it up loud and wait. I guarantee it's worth it.

Starsailor- Four to the Floor (Thin White Duke Remix) [mp3, free download]

* yeah, I backdated the time to make it all fit in the calendar. so what! ;)

Current Mood: awake awake
Current Music: Starsailor- Four to the Floor (Thin White Duke Remix)

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