Wednesday, December 29, 2010

How to make a resolute resolution

Some people don't like New Years resolutions because you're setting yourself up for failure. This is, of course, a great reason for hating them and even being morally opposed to them. One useful remedy to this problem with resolutions is to Not Fail. Yep, if you actually accomplish your resolution, then you'll no longer hate resolutions. You'll choose new ones every year and they'll be great because you will have accomplished at least one thing in 365 days. I'm not one to hate New Years resolutions. Yes, I've failed at and/or forgotten several, but making goals is a good thing, so I keep making them.

But how do you accomplish your resolution?

By Accident
My resolution for 2010 was to be able to swim 400 meters. (Previously, my maximum length was something like 50m) Well I took a swimming class at Mines in hopes to accomplish my goal. The class was a pain in the butt. I was born to run, not swim. But I did get better and the longest length I reached in about 45 minutes was 800 meters. I forgot that I had made that resolution until just a few weeks ago, so I just recently realized that I actually accomplished my 2010 resolution.

The only way I was able to do that was by getting into that swimming class. Believe me, I would have quit the class much earlier if it wasn't for a grade. So that class just forced me to accomplish my resolution.

By Making It Really Easy
Make your resolution to wake up every single day this year. You'll probably do pretty good.

By Making it Hard, But Not Too Hard.
This year my official resolution is to ride my bike 3,000 miles in 2011.

There are several, in fact infinite, ways to accomplish 3,000 miles in a year.
  1. 8.22 miles a day.
  2. Ride a 60 mile ride every week.
  3. Do a 3,000 mile tour without training and rest every other day during the year.
  4. Train for 5 months (1300 miles), then do a 1,700 mile tour, giving a grand total of 3,000 miles. Then rest.
Just 8.22 miles per day. No biggie, right? I don't think I could do that though-to just ride 8.22 miles every single day. I don't have the discipline for such a boring goal. The only things to look forward to are 1.) Bragging rights and 2.) A healthy body. Bragging rights aren't incredibly interesting and don't really make for good stories.

One Step at a Time
One 60 mile ride each week would be kind of cool. You wouldn't have to worry about taking vast amounts of work off because you could do the rides on the weekends. I admit that it would be pretty cool, but would be difficult to keep up with, at least for me. If I was permitted to count days where I commuted to work, this would be a quite doable goal, but just doesn't excite me that much.

One Step...That's It
The 3,000 mile ride without training is enticing. (This is a bit shorter than the ride from San Francisco to New York) Think of the bragging rights. Think of the adventures. Think of the mountain ranges and flat plains. Think of the dogs chasing you every day. Think of facing the sun every morning and have it set behind you every night. Think of camping every night. Think of how nice it would be to just relax for 5ish months and then after the tour relax the rest of the year. No exercise. You wouldn't even have to feel bad about it because you did 3,000 miles. Ah that sounds great.

Giving Yourself an Apple to Go After
No training doesn't exactly sound like a good idea, so I think the best option is to train for 1300 miles, then go on a 1700 mile ride. This means my goal will be met by the end of the tour, making my resolution very doable. So that's my resolution. I think it's a good one because it gives me a really exciting thing to experience and something concrete that I'll be working toward. The better health will come as a side-effect. Hopefully I'll have the dedication to do the ride even if I have to do it by myself, but it would be a plus if I can finagle someone to do it with me to have some accountability.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

8 Hours In Seattle

At 12:00AM I walked through security with no problems. No frisking, no metal detectors beeping, it was smooth. I put my shoes and my belt back on and waved at my parents who were still waiting for me. 2AM is a pretty typical flight time for flying from Anchorage to the lower 48, so I didn't think much of how busy the airport was. I sat down and read Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison for a while, waiting to get on the plane. They called my name and switched me to a different spot, closer to the front. I think they were having plane balancing issues because they also had other people move to the front just for the take-off, leaving the back of the plane a bit empty. It was weird and I was slightly sketched, but I soon forgot about it because I was tired and I fell asleep before the seat belt light came on.

Seemingly seconds later, I woke up to the pilot giving us our wake-up call. We were already in Seattle. That was one of the nicer flights I've been on.

I bought a ticket that had an 8 hour layover in Seattle, so I had already been thinking about what the heck I'd do for 8 hours. I was mostly excited to get to explore a new city, but it's always a bit intimidating to try to find your way around a brand new city. With little effort I found the light rail station, bought my ticket, and hopped on. The sun was just below the horizon for my ride, so I was able to see my surroundings alright.

It was a nice ride, but the shock-factor left my jaw open for at least 3 minutes while I was sitting there on the train. Now, I knew that Seattle is a rainy city, but I just didn't quite realize the implications. I looked around and saw a lot of trees. Evergreen trees, evidence of a forest that had survived for a very long time, probably because of the abundance of water. I did notice that most of the leaved trees didn't have leaves on them, so that was comforting. But the grass. Surely that was just fake grass. There's no way grass could be so green on December 26th. It was seriously as beautiful as a golf course in May. In my experience, winter is either white or brown (white being AK and brown being Denver), never green. While this left me questioning my entire philosophy on seasons, I found myself in a better mood with all this color.

It wasn't too long before I realized it was Sunday. I was planning on skipping church, since I was kinda far from my church in Golden. I didn't feel at all bad about it. I just didn't know how I was going to keep myself entertained for the entire 8 hours. A memory came out of hiding from a dark corner of my brain. Mars Hill Church is based in Seattle. Since they're a church, they probably have a meeting sometime on Sunday. I could probably go there. Mars Hill Church, if you did not already know, is a quite famous church. It is mostly famous because Mark Driscoll is the pastor there. Because I think he's a good guy, I decided I'd try to go there. Hmm, I didn't have the internet and didn't have any idea where this church was. My first idea was just to ask around. It's a big enough church, surely somebody would know where it was. Then my brain kicked into anti-social gear and I realized how I could find this church. My friend Nathan is famous for his ability to be awake ridiculously early and he can often be found in front of his computer if he's not at work. It was pretty early, so I texted him and got the info I needed. I knew the place was at Western Ave. and Bell St, although I had no idea where this intersection was.

I was starving, so I made my way to Pikes Place Market Center, hoping to find some grub. After walking through the market that had an incredibly strong seafood smell, I found a place across the street that looked like a bakery/coffee shop. Indeed it was a bakery/coffee shop entitled Le Panier-Very French Bakery. It must have been very French because all the stuff was written in French, leaving me very confused about what to order. Overcoming the language barrier I pointed to a pastry that looked like a flat cinnamon roll and said, "I want that one!" Embarrassed by my loud, uneducated exclamation, I sheepishly asked if I should order my latte right there or next to the espresso machine. Well I got my pastry and my latte, making sure I tipped them well as an attempt to excuse my ignorance. Surely they were thinking, He may be stupid, but at least he's generous. The pastry and the latte were both amazing. If you go to Seattle, make sure you go there. Since I had spent $6.00 at this place I figured I was entitled to some time to just sit at the table and read for a while. I did this for a while and then left around 9:05, hoping to find that church.

My hopes of finding the church were very low. I started just walking around aimlessly, hoping to find Western and Bell. I got to the end of the market and looked out to Puget Sound from the park. I hadn't heard the sound of sea gulls in probably 3 or 4 years and just hearing them lifted my spirits, reminding me of the good ole' days when I worked in Anchorage during the summer. I turned around and kept walking down the street. Happening to glance at the street sign, I noticed that I was at Western Avenue! Well I'll be darned. I was not expecting to actually ust walk up to the right street. I had a 50/50 chance of Bell St. being north or south. I chose north and continued to walk in that direction. Seeing an Asian girl walking the opposite way, I worked up the courage to ask her if she knew where Bell St. This was a huge risk, because, for all I knew, Bell street could be miles away. "It's 2 blocks north of here." Are you serious? How could I just randomly walk to the right place? Sure enough it was right there-the Mars Hill Church Downtown Campus, just a half block away from Western and Bell. I went in, sang the familiar songs, and listened to the sermon. It was good stuff about Jesus' title, Prince of Peace. Then I left.

I had already gone a little ways north, so I figured I'd go to the Space Needle. I was hardly interested in seeing it, but I was quite bored and had nothing to do, so I walked all the way there. Geekfest was of course happening nearby at the science fiction museum. It was about as exciting as I was expecting to see the space needle, that excitement level being hardly even interested in looking up.

It was 11:30, so I figured I could walk back and find some lunch somewhere. This ended up being a pointless walk in random directions around downtown. I found some places that looked interesting near the market, but due to the chaos that was ensuing, I did not stop at any of them. I just kept walking and walking. I got to the area of town that's basically a really really big mall on every single block in all directions. This part of town just seemed phony, like it was just a bunch of phonies pretending to be rich. All the food places around there were either too nice or nothing unique to Seattle. After probably walking a mile around the phony part of Seattle I went back to the touristy part of Seattle (the market) to find a place I was actually interested in. I went to Michou Castillanos for a flat bread sandwich and it was superb. I strolled around the market for another 15 minutes, observed the chaos, then left, figuring it was time to catch the light rail.

I caught the light rail, made it back to the airport, successfully went through security, watched some NFL, took a nap, then flew back to Denver. It was definitely a fun day out and I learned some valuable lessons. Seattle is very green. Seattle is completely obsessed with Starbucks-I'm pretty sure they have a Starbucks on every single street corner. Pikes Place Market is my favorite part of Seattle so far. French people know how to make good pastries and coffee.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What did I go downstairs for?

I was really proud of myself. I bought all my gifts a whole two weeks ahead of time on Amazon, intending to ship them to Eagle River, where I could pick them up, wrap them, then put them under the tree. It was all planned out. My cleverness amazed me.

On the plane to Alaska I started thinking about how slow the USPS is. I had ordered the gifts 2 days before I left, but I would surely get to Eagle River at least 3 days before they actually arrived. It takes extra long to ship things to Alaska because the USPS is jealous that Alaskans get the PFD. They slow down shipments just to spite the Alaskans. Even though the USPS hates Alaskans, I was not concerned because I ordered the gifts so far in advance.

Sitting in the comfort of my family's black leather couches, listening to my brother playing the guitar, I basked in the glory of how little preparation I had to do before Christmas. Christmas is great, but I usually find myself working really hard getting ready for Christmas by decorating, buying gifts, practicing music, performing music, etc. But this year, I was truly getting to experience the vacation.

Somebody mentioned going shopping the next day, so I had trouble wiping the smirk from my mouth. I thought, my gifts should be here any day. I even got the confirmation email that one of them was shipped the day I left Colorado. Wait, I only got one of those emails, not two. Immediately panicking, I ran over to the computer and pulled up and looked at my previous orders. One undisclosed object had been shipped a few days ago and another undisclosed object was scheduled to ship on September 1st. Yes, the September 1st that occurs in a little over 8 months. This was no good. It must have been some kind of pre-order deal that I couldn't get immediately. I cancelled the order and accepted the fact that I'd have to go find the gift at a store in Anchorage. Oops.

Back in the living room, playing Bach's Prelude to The Well Tempered Clavichord, I started thinking. The music was well-tempered, as the title stuggests, but my mind was in turmoil. Where did I ship that gift that was shipped a few days ago? I don't remember entering my family's address. I was so stressed that I stopped the song on the second to last note, which is just begging for the tonic, if you know what I mean. That second to last note was on it's hands and knees, pleading for conclusion, and I just completely left it hanging because I was so worried that I didn't ship the gift to the right address. Running back to the computer, I pulled up again and noticed something horrible. The package had Denver...and I was in Alaska, which is over 3,000 miles away driving.

There it was before my eyes. The perfect plan had completely gone to waste. All my joy for having thought ahead of time was simply blissful ignorance. Not only would I have to buy one gift, but I'd have to buy two gifts. I'd be able to return the gift that was sent to my house in Denver, but would not get to continue to bask in my perfect Christmas shopping. It really wouldn't be that difficult to ship it to the right address, but I messed it up anyway. In a moment of excitement, I spaced on changing the shipping address.

Here's where I could say, "I can't believe I was so stupid!" But I won't say that. No, not because I'm a positive thinker. Not because I genuinely believe I'm really really smart. But because I already know I'm that stupid. I forget things like that all the time.

A few weeks ago I told a friend I would go to her concert. I really wanted to go and was excited about it, so I mentioned it to her the day before. Whaddayouknow? I forgot it and didn't show up.

When I was a freshman at Mines I was in the band and we had a spring concert in May. Well, I had dinner that night, played some Battlefield, and the next thing you know, I remembered I had a concert that night. It was 9:00 by the time I remembered this and the concert started at 7:00. Yes, I forgot our one and only concert that I had been practicing for for several weeks.

As a teenager I would be upstairs doing something and go downstairs to do something. I would go down there and 80% of the time I would forget what I had gone downstairs for.

I also had a very common habit of putting the milk in the cabinet and the peanut butter in the fridge. I also remember looking for a nice, unbroken plate one day and found it in the trash can where I had put it a few hours prior.

It's a good thing to be spacey sometimes. I'm glad my brain doesn't work perfectly. People who's brains work perfectly annoy me. They read into your vocal stumblings, thinking that you're hiding something from them. If you accidentally say that you're going to the store tomorrow when you really meant you're going in two days, they think that you're being secretive about your shopping. Being spacey is nice when things don't matter that much.

But being spacey is really annoying when people are depending on you. When you're really trying to be responsible and help the people who need you and you just space it, making yourself look like a jerk or a complete fool. This is frustrating. It's also just embarrassing when you forget something and those people with perfect brains just slam you down on the floor with their awesomeness.

My forgetfulness is sometimes funny and sometimes frustrating, but it reminds me that I'm a human living with a bunch of other humans...and a few robots who never make mistakes.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Truth About Alaska

In honor of my trip to Alaska, I'm going to tell you all about a few things having to do with Alaska.

State Capitol: Juneau-It's a small city on the thumb of Alaska, more commonly called the panhandle. No road leads to juneau. The only ways to get there are by flying, swimming, walking, or dog sled. You may ask, "Why would anyone ever choose such a remote city for the capitol?" Well if you went around talking to every Alaskan about it, you would soon realize how weird they all are and that it makes sense that they chose a capitol in a weird location. You might also find out that we had a gold rush one time. The most common way to get to the gold fields in the Yukon/Western Alaska was to take a boat to Juneau, party it up, then go to Skagway to start up a ridiculously long walk to get rich or die-literally. Juneau was a fun stop along the way, so it became the capitol. Nobody has gotten around to changing it yet.

The Iditarod: Alaska's biggest sporting event. Dogs pulling people all the way across the huge state. It's pretty cool as far as stuff to get excited about in Alaska goes. People like Lance Mackey, Jeff King, Doug Swingley, Deedee Jonrowe and Martin Buser are celebrities in Alaska and you've probably never even heard their names, and probably didn't remember them if you did hear their names.

State Bird: Willow Ptarmigan-Pronounced with a silent P. It's Alaska's most stealthy animal. In the winter it's white and, unlike the rest of the states in the U.S., snow stays around all winter long in Alaska, so white actually works for camo. Then they turn brown in the summer. I've heard they taste good. The most interesting thing about Ptarmigans is that there's a city named after them. The gold miners back in the day wanted to name the city Ptarmigan after the authentically Alaskan bird. They didn't know how to spell it, so they just said, "Oh heck, we'll call it Chicken." Chicken's population is 17 as of 2006, exponentially decaying from it's maximum capacity during the gold rush when it had 400 people in it. Their main industry is tourism for the crazies who drive up there just to say they went to Chicken, Alaska and the gold rush obsessives who take their family to Dawson City, Canada and stop by Chicken on the way.

United States National Bird: Bald Eagle-Alaska has a bald eagle infestation problem. There's a heated debate on whether or not we should leave the U.S. so we can get rid of all those pesty bald eagles. Just kidding, but seriously, we have plenty to go around up there.

Alaska is only 1 mile from Russia. Palin may have actually been telling the truth if she lived on Little Diomede Island. But as it turns out, Wasilla is quite far from Russia.

Alaska has a lot of ice. There's lots of glaciers up in AK and then if you go up to the arctic ocean, you don't have to go too far off the beach (where all the oil workers are working on their Midnight Sun tan) to find permanent ice floating out there. The latest figure I heard was that Alaska had enough ice to fill up all the glasses of whiskey in Kentucky for a whole year. Now that's a lot of ice! On a less alcoholic note, but a more commercialism note, once all that ice in the arctic ocean melts, Barrow, Alaska is going to be the New New York. So you'd better watch out. Global warming may be bad for those polar bears, but it's great for American Commercialism.

Now you know a few facts about Alaska.

P.S. I'm sure none of you will believe me, but I'm actually in Alaska right now, and we do in fact have the internet up here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Just think. What if marriage completely went away? After several decades, no one would appreciate the Princess Bride because they wouldn't know why that crazy man was saying Mawage. This is by far the most important reason marriage cannot die. I believe this is self evident and needs no proof, so I'll spend most of this post talking about some of the side points.

Back to reality, I keep on seeing news articles and tv talk shows asking the question, "Is Marriage Obsolete?" This shocked me when I first heard the question, because marriage is such a deeply ingrained tradition. On the other hand, I wasn't shocked because it's pretty clear that few people take marriage seriously these days.

One Problem:
Some people do not know what it means to commit to anything. When push comes to shove, they drop all commitments because, well, they never really were commitments.

Evidence #1: Divorce is extremely common. People get married, live the good life, get tired of one another, then leave, no hard feelings. You can ask, "Well what's the point of staying together if you're tired of one another?" To that I would respond, "Good question." I think there is an incredible strength to a marriage that has pushed through very difficult times together. There is an enormous amount of merit to sticking through a marriage that is dull, not leaving it there at dull status, but really working at it and working at having a truly intimate relationship. I think that is highly respectable for a couple to push through hard times, dullness, and boredom. In the end this leads to a very strong relationship.

Evidence #2: There are different reasons for divorce. Some like abuse and absolute disrespect may be good reasons for divorce. However, one incredibly common reason for divorce is cheating. It is amazing how common cheating is. Many of us have either been cheated on or have cheated on someone. I think this is just blaring evidence that we are pathetic. It is just absolutely pathetic that people cannot be faithful to their spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend. It takes an absolute lack of self-control to cheat on someone. We all tend to want instant gratification and it is truly sad when we will go through any means to get the instant satisfaction we so deeply crave. This common lack of commitment is a serious issue. Commitment is an incredibly virtuous thing because our tendency is to give up and go after quick pleasures. I think that the ability to commit and hold to your word is commonly accepted as a good thing, but our lack of commitment skills is one of the reasons marriage is becoming insignificant.

From a not necessarily religious point of view, I think the virtue of commitment is a great reason for marriage. It is a good thing to 1. Make commitments, 2. Hold to the commitments and 3. Reap the benefits of holding to a commitment.

From a religious point of view, specifically Christian, marriage is a way of worshiping God. And I think it's a pretty incredible way to do it.

1. A married couple has a different potential energy than a single person. I won't say it's better or worse, because I think being single your whole life can actually be a very valuable thing too. A married couple will be able to show love to another married couple better than a single person, or two single people. They can better understand the struggles and joys of marriage. (Yes I realize that's slightly circular reasoning). Like I said before, a married couple that has pushed through difficult and dull times will be able to push through difficult and dull times in other areas of life too. They have the committed support of each other and know how to go through trials together. In several areas of life, a married couple will be able to accomplish more for God than a single person (Single people have their strong areas too).

2. Marriage is a reflection of of Jesus' relationship with the Church. In the Bible, the church is sometimes referred to as the Bride of Christ. An equivalent picture is Hosea and his wife. Hosea took an adulterous wife, whom he knew would cheat on him, and loved her as if she was the perfect wife. He treated her amazingly well and all the while she repeatedly committed adultery and really hated him. Nevertheless, he loved her as if she was perfect. In a similar way, I think that a man and woman don't deserve each other's love, but they love each other anyway. They push through the difficult and dull times. I really think this reflects God's feelings towards us. He loves us no matter what. He is horribly disappointed with us when we don't live up to his standards, but loves us nevertheless as if we were perfect, through the difficult and dull times.

So these are some reasons why I think marriage has become less important in society and why I think marriage is an incredibly valuable thing.

An important note: Don't go thinking that I think I'm better than anyone. I suck at commitment as much as the next person. I just think it would be awesome if we all were better at commitment. Also, don't go thinking that I think Christians have marriage all figured out...they don't. Divorce rates among professed Christians is as high as people who aren't Christians. We all suck at commitment and we all don't honor God like we should, but I think it would be a pretty cool thing if we learned the importance of commitment, thus teaching ourselves more about how amazing God's commitment to us is.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Revised History of Coffee

Coffee is one of the most ancient drinks that is still consumed today. It's up there with mead, wine, beer, tea, and water. Kool-aid would be the 6th on that list since it was originally developed in Kazakstan a few thousand years ago (hence the Kool instead of Cool). Anyways, the story of coffee is much more interesting than Kool-Aid's story, so I shall proceed.

In 3000 B.C. there was a young shepherd boy named Jim. Jim lived in Nigeria and came from a long line of shepherds. It was common to take your sheep from one plot of land to the next so the sheep can have plenty of fresh grass. This was one of the most recent developments in shepherdry since it's advent. Previously, the shepherds just stayed in one very large plot of land permanently. The sheep ate all the grass and abused the land so much that eventually the land would get too worn out to ever produce grass again. The new method of migrating sheep was incredibly beneficial because it preserved the land so the sheep could rotate through several plots and always return to fresh, healthy grass.

Well, although he did not invent this new method of shepherding, Jim was constantly thinking of better ways to shepherd. His first idea was to invade private property for the sheep to eat the gourmet grass of the rich folk. This worked great until one of the rich men came out of his giant house carrying a shot-gun, er I mean his sword. He stomped right towards the closest sheep to him, gave a good swing of his sword, and off plopped the sheep's head. Without saying a word, he dragged the sheep back to his barn to continue to slaughter it.

This was devastating for Jim Shepherd, especially since his flock consisted of 3 sheep. He spent the next 6 months grieving his loss, but something happened that would change his life forever.

***Insert Commercial Break Here***

After Jim's devastating loss of a sheep, he started taking his sheep to a mountainous plot of land. He couldn't stand being around any other shepherds down in the hills because all they ever did was mock him for his 2 sheep flock. It wasn't long until the sheep started complaining. Climbing mountains was too much for them. Speaking in sheep language, which shepherds are fluent in, they continually asked, "Are we there yet?" or, "Mr. Jim, I'm sleepy. Can't we just stay in one place." Jim, being a great shepherd, continued to push them so he wouldn't wear out the land.

One day his sheep were taking a break, eating grass. It was a beautiful morning. He looked over at his sheep and noticed that they seemed slightly more energetic than normal. Oh my goodness, they were jumping! Jim hadn't seen a sheep jump since the Sheep jumping contests he had seen as a toddler. This used to be a common event among shepherds, but they eventually stopped because they realized that sheep needed fat to taste good. But by golly, they were jumping!

Jim walked over to the hill they were grazing on and saw the plant they were eating. It had little green beans on it. Jim had never seen such a plant in the hills where he used to roam, so he decided to taste it. It actually tasted pretty good. He kept eating them for another half-hour and noticed that he was shaking a little bit. Afraid that the plant was poisonous, he tried to gag himself, but just couldn't get it out of him. Laying down on the grass, contemplating the meaning of life, Jim was preparing for his death. After 15 minutes, he hadn't died yet and was actually starting to feel better. So he got up and started walking around. Then he started jogging in circles. Then he started sprinting in figure eights around his two sheep. It was quite a sight to see because the sheep were still jumping up and down while rotating in circles while their shepherd ran around like a mad man. No feeling had been so joyous as the feeling he now had. He felt like he could run for miles, in fact he felt like he needed to in order to get all the energy out of his system.

Coming back to his senses after an hour of acting like a mad man, Jim collected a few pounds of the beans and started moving forward. His sheep had a new energy and had no more complaints except the occasional request for more green bean. In sheep language, Green Bean sounds an awful lot like Coffee. So that's how coffee got its name.

Now that Jim had found coffee, he had a new passion for life. He actually started enjoying the scenery of the mountains and never had to worry about the contentment of his sheep as long as he had coffee. He spend many years in the mountains of Nigeria, always rotating back to the hill where he first found coffee to restock. It wasn't long until he realized that the coffee tasted better and lasted longer if he roasted it.

One day while they were crossing a small stream, Jim noticed a brown liquid. He traced it upstream and saw that it was sourced from one of his sheep. Sheep are quite messy eaters so they often had coffee crumbs stuck in their wool. The water was flowing through the wool and through the coffee, making this brown liquid. He quickly scooped some of it out of the stream and took a drink. This drink was so amazing that he immediately deemed it God's Second Favorite Drink (After orange juice, which everyone knows is the nectar of God).

Through many different methods, Jim finally got to the point of making coffee very similar to how we do it today. He realized that coffee beans dissolved better in hot water than cold water. He also realized that if he ground the coffee beans that made the coffee drink more strong. He did so many experiments on dissolving coffee that he had ground the coffee to make the most syruppy coffee imaginable. This coffee was ridiculously strong and always ended up having several particles of coffee at the bottom. One day he encountered a Turkish man, traveling through Nigeria and introduced him to this coffee drink. Jim didn't quite care for this ultra syruppy coffee, but the Turk loved it. He took the idea back to his country of Turkey and named the drink Turkish Coffee.

Jim tried other methods of making coffee. Inspired by the first coffee drink ever in that stream, he started making filters out of sheep wool. He piled a bunch of coffee into a wool piece of fabric and poured hot water through it. This coffee is now referred to as Drip Coffee or Cup O' Joe.

His sheep were getting quite old, but he never really cared much about them, so he decided he would kill one of them for food. He thoroughly enjoyed eating it, but was left with several bones afterward. He owned one tall cup that he only used on special occasions. A new method that he tried out was to fill the cup with hot water and pour a few table spoons of coffee into it. He'd mix it up and let it sit for a few minutes while it brewed. He then took his wool filter and pushed it through the coffee liquid using the dead sheep's leg bone. The high pressure used in this process made a new drink that he was quite fond of. Well, along came a French man who happened to be traveling through Nigeria. Jim showed him his new method of simultaneously pressing and filtering the coffee and the Frenchman was in love. After staying only one day with Jim, the French man took some coffee with him and introduced this new drink to his home land. Claiming that he developed the method on his own, he called the drink French Pressed Coffee.

Jim was completely oblivious to how much coffee had been spreading throughout the world, but he wouldn't care anyways. He was just enjoying his coffee and learning new ways to make it. The press n' filter method made amazing coffee, so Jim wanted to further develop the idea of pressurized coffee-making. When passing through a nearby town, he found a metal-smith. He convinced the metalsmith to build him an intricate system of brass pipes. The pipes connected a hand pump (with a very wide pipe diameter) to a small brewing chamber, which had a very small pipe diameter. The piping system was filled with water and had plungers at both ends for pumping pressure into the brewing chamber. Little did Jim realize, he had just invented modern piping and hydraulics simultaneously. The metalsmith stole this idea and started developing indoor plumbing in his tiny village. He also equipped his carriage with hydraulics so he could cruise around town, bumping up and down with his fancy hydraulic system.

Once again, Jim couldn't care less because he had just developed a new kind of coffee. The brewing chamber could brew the coffee at very high pressures and made a wonderful new drink. His sheep were so fond of this drink because it gave them so much energy without being sludgy like the coffee he introduced to the Turk. These sheep were so happy to drink it (especially mixed with milk), that whenever they got to drink it, they simply said, "Happy happy happy," which in sheep language sounds like, "Espresso espresso espresso." Along came an Italian man one day with his 4 children and wife. They had the most delightful evening with Jim, drinking espresso with milk that they immediately escaped that night, stealing all of Jim's coffee and his espresso machine. They took it all the way back to Italy and started serving Lattes, Cappuccinos, Macchiatos, and other drinks in their million dollar business in Rome.

Jim easily replaced his espresso machine, his last sheep died, and he went into retirement. He spent his days reading and drinking coffee in the mountains. Completely oblivious to how people had taken advantage of him and his development of coffee, he lived the most enjoyable life. He died a happy man at 92.

No one ever knew about him except for those who took advantage of him. This story was found in the diary of Zev Siegl, one of the founders of Starbucks, who is also the descendant of that Italian man who stole the idea from Jim to make espresso drinks. That Italian man happened to also travel through Turkey and France, finding the others who took all of Jim's ideas. That's how the entire story got into one journal.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Social Phenomena: Facebookingyourlifeaway

Within the past couple decades, new terminology has emerged from the cave of unrevealed vocabulary. The internet had already revealed new phrases like "surfing the web," "chatting," or "emailing." These terms became common place in a society that became more and more dependent on computers and the internet.

It wasn't long until Facebook emerged, inventing verbs like Facebooking or Facebookstalking or Facebookingyourlifeaway. College students were so desperate for acceptance into the Facebook community that they were willing to give out every bit of information about themselves. Peer pressure forced them to reveal their true selves by indicating their name, gender, birthday, romantic interests, hobbies, favorite books, favorite movies, et cetera. What was once only known by the closest of friends was exposed to the blob of persons entitled, "Facebookfriends."

It was hard to really consider someone a true friend if they weren't your Facebookfriend. People were heard to say, "Well I didn't invite you to my party because you're not on Facebook. I organize all my events via Facebook." Many succumbed to the pressure of joining Facebook in order to save their friendships.

Nevertheless there were still the few vigilantes who refused to accept the change of tide and join Facebook. These rebels adamantly told others that they "Don't believe in Facebook." Facebook users had trouble understanding this. How could society run without Facebook? It's so easy to keep up with your friends and even helps build new friendships. The Facebook rebels held firm, stating that Facebook devalues true friendship.

Of course, they had a good point. People started learning about others' interests by reading each other's Info page. They showed affection for one another via electronic Pokes. Two friends sitting beside each other, Facebookingtheirlivesaway, said things like, "Nice. I like your status you just posted." As time progressed people started having hundreds or even thousands of Facebookfriends. Being friends on Facebook no longer meant anything. To be Facebookfriends with someone was to have met them at one point in your life.

In many cases, Facebook changed how friendships formed. In the olden days, people asked each other for phone numbers and then called each other to get together to spend time with each other. Nowadays, people say, "I'll find you on Facebook." Once the Facebook connection is made, they start to exchange messages or chat, then they get together to spend time with each other.

It was less intimidating to find someone on Facebook than it was to ask for their phone number. It took no effort. There was no risk. You had the instant satisfaction of having a new "friend." Alone on Friday nights, you could nurture your loneliness by Facebookstalking your "friends," imagining that you were actually building a friendship. And then you realized that you were the only person on Facebook on a Friday night. Reality set in.

Facebook is not the reality of true friendship. Perhaps it's a good tool that can be useful for building a friendship, but can often just be something we run to when what we really need is a real friend. I think Facebook is a great tool, but sometimes we take it to be more than what it should be. Of course, I am slightly exaggerating about all this, but it at least makes you think.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

1 Day With a Grateful Heart

A blog that I randomly found a while back, and now keep up with every day, is doing this thing called "30 days with a grateful heart," which means she's going to write a blog post every day for a month about something she's thankful for. And she invited her readers who write blogs to do the same thing. I don't know if I'm going to do very many of these, but here's at least "1 day with a grateful heart."

My Wonderful Job
I have a really cool job. It's one that has the potential to make a lot of people jealous, I think. The reason it's cool is because I get to study physics every single day. For me, there is nothing more interesting than physics. The whole reason I majored in physics was simply because I think physics is really really interesting. That's it. And now that I'm done with school it means that I get to keep studying physics every single day. Just the fact that my job is to study physics makes it a great job.

It's also one of the best work atmospheres I could ask for. I get to be a part of a research group where I have professors, research faculty (like me), and students all collaborating to be successful on several projects at a time. It's good to collaborate because some of the guys in the group are ridiculously smart, but can't do an experiment if their life depended on it. There are also guys like me who are less smart, but actually know how to do experiments pretty well. This way I don't have to be as smart as I should be and they don't have to have steady hands like I have. Also, it's just a fun group. We pick on each other and have fun at our meetings. All 7 of us young guys go out to lunch every week and it's just fun to have guys who are both coworkers and friends.

The pay is "amazing." Now, many people would say that the pay is quite low, but it's my highest paid job I've ever had, so it's A-okay. I get paid enough to pay for rent, lots of food, bus pass, student loan payments, cell phone, fun, and there is more than enough for me to be able to save up for a big expensive bike ride next summer. I'm very thankful for how well I can get along with the amount I get paid.

Just the security of having a job is incredibly comforting. I went to an interview for what I thought was a research faculty job at Denver University yesterday. I was excited at the possibility of the job because the research was incredibly interesting and I had hopes that the pay would be higher than what I get paid at Mines. At the end of the interview I asked how much the pay would be and he said that he could only hire me as a grad student. That was quite a let-down. Since I was only about 5% interested in more school, I declined his offer to go to dinner and left. This was disappointing, but I am so thankful to already have a job at Mines. This misunderstanding would have been devastating if I was at the point of desperately needing a job. But since I do have a job, I'm able to see this as having better direction on where I should go. That direction being to stay at Mines for a while longer. Maybe I can get some papers published and maybe, just maybe, I can become a lecturer at Mines someday. Who knows what could happen, but I'm just thankful to have my job at Mines.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas Letter

I've never written a Christmas letter before, so I'm just going to have to give you a summary of my entire life. It's gonna be a long one...just kidding. The past year has been an interesting one. There have been lots of changes in my life-all of which have been very good. Where to start?

Well I was officially tired of school last year on September 1st, which was only a couple weeks after the first day of the school year. This meant that I had almost exactly one year of school left to pound out, while all the while being ready to get out of Mines. So I did my work, took some interesting classes, nearly died because of those interesting classes, researched all summer long, wrote my 70 page thesis, gave a 45 minute presentation, answered a bunch of easy questions, turned in my thesis and I was done. I couldn't believe it. All I had known for the past 19ish years of my life was school (if you really count pre-school as school). This meant I had to grow up.

I saved a lot of money during grad school, so I had aspirations of working on a ranch in Mexico for room and board for a month after finishing my thesis. This fell through because I moved to a Mexican neighborhood, which I felt was enough of an adventure for now. Yes, I moved to a new house in Denver and am curiously a minority in my neighborhood. I now live in the basement of a family's house. The family consists of a mama, an hija, an hijo, and a papa that occasionally comes over. I absolutely love my new home and they have become my second family.

Upon arriving in Denver, I was met with a most unfortunate event-my bike was stolen. This was a sad day for me. Turns out parking a nice bike on a less-than-nice road in Denver at night isn't the best idea. Knowing how much of a pain life is without a bike, I immediately started looking on craigslist for a "new" bike. I found the bike of my dreams-a Bianchi Campione, made in the 80s for $100. This new road bike has inspired me to ride around town a whole lot more because it is quite fast and is a very fun ride.

After finishing my thesis, I needed somewhere to ride my bike. For a couple weeks I just sat at home all day, playing guitarra and watching baseball. Thankfully, I was offered a job at Mines, which meant I would have an excuse to ride my bike to Golden occasionally. At this proposal I thought, "Wow, I can't get out of this place." But I took the job and now work at Mines doing similar research to what I did in grad school. That research is integrated optics/photonics. I build optical devices on microchips that do fancy things and test them to see how well they work. The main project I'm currently working is essentially to make a really fancy pixel for a really fancy camera. It's a wonderful job because I'm friends with the other guys in the research group and as far as jobs go, it's just a pretty fun, relaxed, and interesting one. This is a semi-temporary job though, so I'm still looking for another job to help pay off those student loans. So if you know anybody who does physicsy stuff, tell them to give me a job.

I joined First Baptist Church of Golden over the summer. I'm teaching the young adults Sunday school class and I'm learning a lot through it. I'm realizing that I really enjoy teaching, although it is quite difficult for me. Every week I feel like I learn a ton about about the passage that we're covering because I spend several hours beating my head against it (literally). I also get humbled due to lack of preparation sometimes. But overall, it has been great and I'm very excited to be a part of the ministry at First B (as the cool people call it).

Now the romance section. I'm not dating anyone and I have not married anyone in the past year.

Now hobbies. Since I now live 13.5 miles from work, I ride the bus most days. This makes for a good 35-40 minutes twice a day where I have nothing to do. Those times when you have nothing to do force you to take up hobbies that are completely unnatural to your personality and do not match your abilities. I am a very slow reader, but this large gap of time forced me to start reading. Due to extreme boredom, I taught myself to read on the bus (I used to get sick), and now I read every day. That's right, I am now a "reader." I've read several good books recently including the Ender's series by Card, Gulliver's Travels by Swift (Jonathan, not Taylor), Meditations on the Word and the Cost of Discipleship by Bonhoeffer, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Miller, Catcher in the Rye by Salinger, and more. This is the highest number of books I've ever read in a year, I think. My other hobby is riding my bike to and from work when I have the motivation. Another hobby I have taken up is watching tv, which is sports 95% of the time. I played a ton of disc golf for half the year, but haven't played in the past several months.

Now you know what the heck I've done for the past 12 months. Make sure you bust out those Christmas tunes. And don't you dare listen to the corny ones (the ones with Santa Claus) except perhaps upon threat of death.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Revised History of the Bicycle

One day a long time ago a mechanic thought to himself, "What if I had a horse carriage that was powered by a human being instead of a horse? I could somehow connect my servant's legs to the wheels and have him take me places. Servants may be more expensive than horses, but they just sit around doing nothing while I'm gone. I might as well use them for something." Thus, the invention of the Man-Carriage.

The man-carriage was a great invention, in that it kept your servants from resting at all, thereby getting your full money's worth for their wages. This worked fine, compared to the horse-drawn carriage. The speed was significantly slower, but after several hundred years the servants started developing horse-like quads and rumps and could go as fast as the ancient horses could. These servants were so strong that they would beat Lance Armstrong any day. As time passed, these Horse-Servants became more and more expensive. They refused to work without increased wages via the famous 20 Year Horse-Servant Strike.

After 20 years, the land-owners and other rich folk gave up. They did not give up by paying the horse-servants more money, but by inventing a new kind of carriage. In fact, this was not much of a carriage any more. It was a Bicycle. It had a large carriage wheel, directly stolen from previous Man-Carriages, and a small back wheel made from small children's Yoyos. No longer would the rich land-owners need to pay high wages for Horse-Servants. They could now ride their bicycle to the tea shop for tea and crumpets all on their own.

The bicycle was an incredible invention because it allowed rich men to finally mature. Previously, no rich man had ever experienced physical pain or ever forced himself to undergo any kind of difficulty for the sake of transportation. Previously, all the rich men whined and complained like little boys. They screamed in agony if they happened to get bumped by a fellow rich man on a busy side walk. They never realized that all the servants were becoming wiser and more manly than all the rich men. So the world was a much better place because of the bicycle because it allowed so many men to truly become mature through learning self control.

Men started to have Bike Jousting competitions. Today we would call it Bike Chicken. During mating season men would ride at full speed at one another, pointing their lances at one another and typically one of them would fall to their death. The large carriage wheels caused these Bike Knights to fall from great heights in these competitions. A few competitors started suggesting that the great height of these bicycles was unnecessary, but these men were immediately shunned from the bike jousting community just like prius drivers are shunned today for their lack of American-ness.

These 5 bike jousters who cared about safety developed their own underground society. They met at 2AM for fear of being caught by the "masculine" bike jousters who had the habit of drinking 7 pints of mead before passing out at midnight. The 5 Amigos invented a new kind of bicycle that would revolutionize the bicycle world, if only they could come out of their bike closet someday. The bike was called a Safety Bicycle. It had two 27 inch wheels and a double triangle frame. It looked just like the bicycles that we all ride today.

It took a great amount of time before the safety bicycle was introduced to society. The 5 Amigos were forced to hide their bicycles in fake graves, for fear of being called a Wussy, which also involved having fake funerals for people who left town and never came back. This worked quite well for several years. The safety bicycles were safe and sound inside their graves. One particular safety bicycle was in the grave of Adrien Prideaux, a Frenchman who had spent a year in the Bicycleshire, England, the town of the 5 Amigos. His fake funeral went well and there were only 6 people attending-the 5 Amigos and the inn-keeper, Sam Murphy, who gave Adrien a good deal on a hotel room for a year.

The bike had been in his fake grave for 3 years, which was 3.5 years after he left Bicycleshire. One day, the 5 Amigos were in the local pub, drinking Coca-Cola (the new craze in America), and in comes Adrien Prideaux. The 5 Amigos simultaneously went sheet white. They knew they were in trouble. Unfortunately this local pub happened to be at the hotel where the 6th funeral attendee was both owner and bartender. Sam Murphy couldn't believe his eyes when he saw Adrien. At first he jumped for joy, promptly landing him on the opposite side of the bar. Next, he realized that he was conned. He then turned a brilliant red and started stomping over to the bar stools where the 5 Amigos tried to look innocent.

Sam picked up all 5 men by their undergarments. People later called this technique of bullying Giving a Wedgie. He dragged them out to Adrien's grave with the entire town in hot pursuit. All seven and two hundred residents were there. All the masculine bike jousters started digging up the grave for fear of looking wimpy. They pulled out the coffin and axed it open. There it was. The double triangle frame and the 27 inch wheels. All 37 bike jousters started walking over to the 5 amigos with grins on their face and pounding their fists into their hands. They had their suspicions about the 5 Amigos and now they were really gonna get what they had comin'.

The crowd started mumbling. They were all pointing to the safety bicycle with incredibly contemplative expressions on their faces. The mumbling got louder and people started making remarks like, "Wow, why didn't those stupid bike jousters think of this earlier?" and, "I'll pay 50 pounds to get my hands on one of those." Community members were throwing out offers all over the place, desperate to get their own safety bicycle. For fear of lynching, the bike jousters backed away from the 5 Amigos, looking really foolish. They never bothered the 5 Amigos again.

In fact, the 5 Amigos started their own bicycle company and called it Huffy. They traveled all around the world selling their wonderful invention for reasonable prices at Walmarts in 100 different countries. These safety bicycles became so popular in the entire world that people started to drop the word "safety," giving that wonderful machine the exquisite name, Bicycle.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Immortals Among Us

What would our society be like if one out of a hundred babies born were immortals? This would change every one's perspective on death. The 99 would either live their life wishing they had been immortal, wondering what they would have done in their life if they were immortal, or they would be glad they get to die and not have to endure this life for longer than 80 years.

If you were immortal you would see all kinds of evolution. Languages would change like the difference between Old English and American English. You might even see your own language die out and see how it evolved into completely different languages. You would experience adjectives evolve from nifty to groovy to hip to cool to sweet.

Technology would change. You would see how technology changes the way people behave, their work ethic, their addictions to information, their strong desire to work hard so they can quit working. It might be disheartening to see the increasing need for entertainment. Then again, you would probably evolve to. You'd wonder how you ever got in touch with people before phones or how you could stand washing your clothes with a washing board.

Your experience would be incredibly valuable even though your skills would surely out date themselves. The only way your experience would be valuable would be for aspects of life that don't evolve through time or perhaps when you could recall back when things worked better. If you allowed yourself to have romantic relationships you would be a great mentor for a youth who wanted to get married. You would probably have much experience in resolving conflict and would understand how different people work.

You would also see the way things change for the worse or for the better. You'd be able to tell us mortals whether morals have gotten better or worse. You might see that when one evil goes away another takes it's place and that moral standards just cycle over time.

All this wisdom would come at a great personal cost. Family would die. You might track your descendants down generation after generation, but your emotional attachments would ever decrease. You might get tired of life to the point of suicide. Although you may learn to accept that you only have 80 years with each person you meet and choose to live a good life anyway.

It's hard to say exactly what it would be like. It could be great or it could be horrible.

Note: This idea of having a few immortals among us was stolen from Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver's Travels. Gulliver traveled to a country where a few of the people were immortal. They grew depressed, bitter, and envious with old age. Their bodies decayed and they were shunned by the people around them. They made it so absolutely nobody had a fear of death. I like my idea of immortality better, but it may not be entirely realistic.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How to Make Tacos

When I cook, I only have about 5 different dishes I ever make regularly. One of my favorites is tacos. I used to use taco seasoning to season the meat, but due to lack of taco seasoning I started seasoning the meat on my own and I absolutely love the tacos that I make now. Here's how to make them.
  1. Cook a half of a pound of ground beef. Don't overcook it and leave enough fat in there to keep it from getting dry. Add water if you need more moisture.
  2. Salt-Add until it's salty enough.
  3. Chili Powder-Add until it looks pretty. Pretty looking meat is extremely important.
  4. Paprika-Add whatever feels right.
  5. Cayenne Pepper-Make it more spicy than you think you should make it.
  6. Assemble tacos using soft flour tortillas (I learned that fried corn tortillas are far superior, thanks to Bill E., but require more time and effort), lettuce, tomatoes, onions, salsa, Mexican style sour cream (it's significantly better than the regular stuff), and lots of cheese (in the style of Jelly Roll Morton).
  7. Fold taco in half like a hard shell taco and eat.
  8. Let whoever you cooked for do the cleaning. If you did a good job, they'll be glad to do this.
These are delicious and I'm actually very proud of these tacos. Let me know if you actually try it out. I'd be ecstatic if somebody actually used my recipe.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Anatomy of Christmas Shopping

Click on the picture for ultra-zoom
Black friday is apparently really important for stores. I just feel like there might be a more efficient, less stressful way of doing it.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Merry Thanksgiving

For a thanksgiving post, I have 3 different options.
  1. Write about what I'm thankful for
  2. Talk about how much I love food, specifically pumpkin and pecan pie
  3. Rant about spending the holiday away from home every year since I moved to CO
I'll have some self control and take the first option.

August of 1993 I moved to a new life in AK. August of 2005 I moved to Colorado. August of 2010 I moved to a new life in Denver. I'm very glad I can move on to a new life. Over the past few months I have loved life. I've been able to finally forget about the "traumatic," but not really, thing that happened to me last September. And I've had a quiet enough life to have time to just sit back and appreciate life. It's really nice to have the freedom to have a fresh, new start and to just live a brand new life. So I'm thankful for being able to move on to a new life.

Along with moving to a new life I'd like to mention that I absolutely love the new place I live. If you didn't know I live in a basement of a family's house. A mom, a 7 year old girl, and a 1 year old boy live upstairs. I've become very close to them. The Mama is a close friend of mine now and I feel like the kids are my niece and nephew. They have showed me what a young family should look like and how sad it is that there are so many fathers who are absolute failures and some who just aren't around much. I'm learning a lot from them and they are very encouraging to me because I could not stand living by myself.

And the usuals: Food, my Bianchi, my bus pass, coffee, the heater, my blankets, my guitarra, my job that pays me more than I've ever been paid, my church, my family, etc.

Merry Thanksgiving to all and to all a good day!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Drinking Tea is a Lot Like Quantum Mechanics

One of my favorite subjects in physics is Quantum Mechanics. I'm going to tell you about a very famous quantum mechanics problem called the Finite Quantum Well, also called Particle in a Box.

If you have ever drank out of a cup with a flat bottom and vertical walls then you have observed this problem in real life.

If you pull out a Celestial Seasonings tea bag (Any kind of "Zinger" is an excellent choice as well as most of their herbal teas. I'm not much of a green/black/white tea kinda guy) and put it in hot water, here's something to do while it's brewing: Tap the cup and watch the water. You'll see different "modes". One mode that you'll see just has one bump in the middle, going up and down. That's the first order. Second order is one with two oscillating bumps to each side. It get's really complicated really fast because fluid mechanics is ridiculous, but I'll just talk about the first 2 modes.

When you tap the cup, you give the liquid a kinetic energy. If you give it too much energy then the water will splash out of the cup, burning you with scalding hot water. You'll scream in pain, such on your hand for a while, and maybe even go over to the sink to rinse it with cold water. The more energy you give the water, the higher order modes you will get and the higher the water gets.

The cup provides potential energy. The further out you go, the higher the potential energy gets. Since the energy goes up as you go out, you get a stable equilibrium, meaning the water stays in the cup pretty well. If you put a cup upside down it won't have a stable equilibrium anymore since the energy goes down as you go out. The only way for water to get out of the cup is if it has more kinetic energy than the walls have potential energy, thus causing the burning hot splash.

In quantum, instead of having water in a cup, you have a particle in a box. The box has potential energy walls just like the cup and keeps the particle inside the box pretty well. You have modes just like the water in the cup. The lowest energy mode says that you will most likely find the particle in the center of the well. The second order mode says that you will either find the particle on one side or the other, just like the two oscillating bumps.

The most significant difference between these two problems is that quantum says that there's a probability you will find the particle outside the box for a single particle in a box with thin walls. If you had a quantum well shaped exactly like a coffee cup sitting on a table, then eventually the particle in the well will leak out, which is called tunneling. In terms of the water in a cup problem, this is essentially saying that if your cup sits there long enough then the water will leak out the sides (note that I didn't say it would spill over the top, which is the only way for your tea to leave your cup).

It sounds crazy, but it's true. And don't worry, it won't be long till your tea is done brewing.

In quantum, particles are described by a "wave function." If you square the wave function you get the probability distribution of the particle. You have all seen a bell curve, so when I say probability distribution, think about a bell curve. A very famous equation called Schroedinger's equation tells you all the wave functions for a given quantum well. If you write out an equation for the shape of a coffee cup and plug it into Schroedinger's equation, then you can solve for the wave function of that particular well (assuming you know how to solve differential equations). If you did this then you would see a bell curve for the first order mode. The tails of the curve would extend outside of the well, telling you that there's a probability of finding the particle outside of the well. What I'll mention in passing is that if the walls of your coffee cup are much thicker then a few nanometers, then the probability is mind bogglingly low. I assure you that nanoscientists are currently working on building a coffee cup with 3nm walls, so pretty soon you can buy your own quantum well coffee cup.

So now you know what a quantum well and a wave function are. They're pretty cool. You may drink your tea now.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thank God for Gravity

I was feeling bike withdrawals yesterday because I hadn't ridden my bike in over a week due to the cold weather and my wimpiness. I decided to take my bike on the bus out to Golden for church and then ride my bike back. It was very refreshing. Just like eating a pumpkin pie when it's been a year since the last time you had one.

Usually I don't think about a whole lot when I ride my bike, but this time I was feeling incredibly contemplative. For whatever reason I started thinking about a world without gravity and how different riding a bike would be in this world.

Imagine this floaty world and a flat plane that you needed to get across, say to go to the grocery store. Suppose you had some sort of bike railroad that kept your wheels attached to a rail so you wouldn't float off. It would be very weird.

You would start to pedal, but every time you pushed down your body would move up a lot and your bike wouldn't go forward as well. You need something to push against and on Earth we have gravity to push against to push our pedals.

It would be much more natural to get clipless pedals and do a lot more pulling than pushing like we do these days. Cyclists would develop different muscles. Their quads wouldn't be quite so epic and whatever the muscle that operates the hamstring is would be much more epic.

Crashes would be a bit less devastating. You wouldn't ever fall to the ground, but if you flew off your bike and headed towards a wall or other hard object, it would be just as painful as running into a wall with gravity.

It saddens me to think about this because it just doesn't seem very intuitive for a gravitiless world to have bicycles. I don't think the bike ever would have ever been discovered if we had no gravity. Technological natural selection probably would have never gotten to the point of making a bicycle. Any form of bicycle would have likely evolved to a completely different machine, not resembling a bicycle in a world with gravity.

Perhaps there would be an equally fun and useful machine in this gravitiless world, but for now thank God for gravity because it means we can ride bikes.

Friday, November 12, 2010

How to travel in time: Expansion and contraction of possibilities space

As you may know, November 12 is a very important date. It will forever be the iconic date people will think of when they think of time travel. In all seriousness, it should be November 5th, but V for Vendetta went back in time and stole that date before Back to the Future could really claim it. November 5th was the day Marty went back in time and November 12th was the day he came "back to the future." Not only is this one of the best movies of all time, it is also one of the greatest discussions on Time Travel Philosophy.Today's blog post is dedicated to this topic.

Traveling in time is of course impossible. At least any useful time travel. Special relativity says that if you go really fast then return to your planet you will have aged much faster than your Earthling peers. This is about as interesting as it gets. This is just a nuisance and, to my knowledge, is not very useful. Using special relativity you can do tricks with time so that it moves at a different rate than other times, but there is no way to actually go back in time according to modern science (that I'm aware of).

While this is sad, you may have read my post explaining the Banksian Sphere, which challenges humanity to adopt new ways of thinking. This suggests that we may be able to discover time travel if we simply go at it from a completely different direction than simple scientists would. This means that time travel may still be possible using alternate dimensions or other methods, but we just haven't discovered it yet. That being said, we can continue our one sided philosophical discussion.

I think that deja vus are really cool. I love it when I get one because for a minute you feel like you have the superpower of predicting the future. It feels like sometime a long time ago you predicted that this situation would happen. I would claim (using my Banksian Sphere (B.S.) methodology) that you never predicted the future and that it is also not just a mind trick. But rather, it is the extreme deformation of possibilities of reality, allowing one part of the universe to come near to the universe at some time in the past. If you have an infinite dimensional "possibilities space" with infinite possibilities of outcomes for the universe traveling along a single time axis, then it would be possible for a certain point in the "possibilities space" to line up with the same point at a time in the past. This would be possible if the timeline loops back so it's close to where it was before or if the possibilities space expands an contracts throughout time.

I would tend to believe the expansion and contraction theory. If the possibilities space expands and contracts, then it means that it would take more or less effort to go from one point to another. For instance, in this part of the universe (Denver, CO, USA, Earth, Milky Way...mmm milky way) it is very easy for me to fill up my water bottle and drink clean water. A few thousand years ago, it was much more difficult to go from point one (sitting in my chair) to point two (sitting in my chair drinking clean water). These two points in possibilities space have come closer to each other over time. Contrarily, it was much easier to find a record player at the store 40 years ago than it is today. The two points of not having a record player and having a record player have gotten farther apart.

You can see that the naturalness of going from one point to another in possibilities space is not necessarily constant (and not necessarily varying either). I don't currently have any evidence that time loops back on itself, but I'd be interested in hearing theories on that. So if you believe my scientifically flawed argument for the expansion and contraction of possibilities space, then you can easily deduce the possibility of time travel. If a possibility line expands so much that it actually spreads back to the same possibility at a different time, then it may be possible to travel in time.

I hope this inspires all you peeps to figure out how to travel in time.

I wouldn't believe me if I were you. I'm starting to feel ashamed of my weird ideas that should be a disgrace to science.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How to Prevent Footinmouth Disease

Some people reminisce about high school. But when I think about high school I think, High school? Really? Are you serious? High school was the lamest 4 years of my life. My school had Senior Superlatives, which are things like Prettiest Smile, Most Athletic, Most Flirtatious, etc. Well I actually was one of the winners of these "awards." Well if I was popular enough to get an award, then why was high school so lame? I should tell you what the award was. Although I was once ashamed of it, I am now proud to say that I won the senior class "Super Shy" award. Pretty cool huh? For someone who was insecure about my quietness at the time, this was like giving an award for "Most Stupid" or "Most Socially Awkward."

I was in all the advanced classes, so all the people that actually cared enough to vote about who was most popular knew who I was. I was the quiet guy who was good at math and never talked to anyone but Justin. They all knew my name and they all knew I was the quietest kid in class, so they voted me in. My sister won the same award 2 years prior and I always thought extremely highly of her and thought she was pretty popular and not actually quiet, so I ended up not being incredibly bothered by winning that award.

Actually, I'm now kind of proud when I get to tell people I won that award. My perspective on being quiet has changed completely. I was once ashamed of my quietness, but now I'm usually very glad I'm quiet.

Most people assume that quietness is because the person is shy. They think that quiet people have something to say, but just don't have the courage to speak up about it. Perhaps they're afraid of being judged or are overly judgmental of their own ability to formulate thoughts. Shyness is certainly a common reason for being quiet, but is very often not the only reason for being quiet.

Another very common reason for being quiet is simply not having anything to say. There's not much to say about this. This is usually the reason I don't say anything, because I just don't have anything to say. I'm interested in listening to the person talking or I don't feel like silence is as awkward as most people feel. Sometimes there is just nothing to say.

Slow thinking is another reason people are quiet. We were having a discussion at a small group meeting about something philosophical. There was no reading ahead of time. It was just an impromptu discussion. My friend noticed that I hadn't said much and asked me what I was thinking because it looked like I was thinking about something. Well, I was thinking about something, but I was honestly just having a hard time keeping up with the conversation. They were jumping from one topic to the next before I had enough time to come up with my own thought on the subject. It's a lot easier for me to come up with thoughts when I've had time.That's why I like writing and it's also why I can talk about plenty of things when I've spent plenty of time preparing.

The last reason that I'll mention is when people don't talk because they are secretively judging everyone and are being mean by not talking. This is a high school concept. By "high school" I mean stupid. It's extremely rare that this is the case. Shy people are not necessarily that person you should worry about burning down the building. Yes, sometimes the quiet ones are the ones who "burn down the building," but most quiet people are perfectly nice people with good intentions, just like the talkative ones.

Do you know someone who claims their mouth is so big they can fit both their feet in it? I do. I know a few people like that. I feel sorry for them. I have certainly put my foot in my mouth plenty of times, but it's not too common of an occurrence because I usually think about what I say before saying it. This is one of the best benefits of being quiet. Usually quiet people just have the natural tendency to think about what they will say before saying it, thus implementing the "speech filter" before speaking...not right while your toe is entering your mouth. This is a benefit, but it's also not. It's not because I am often so good at using my speech filter before speaking that I'm also really good at letting people see only what I want them to see. Nothing slips out, just the good stuff that make me look like I'm a better, wiser person than I actually am. This is a problem.

Also, people who talk all the time are annoying. You may know someone like this. I know a couple. I'd like to hear one of their opinions on why they talk so much, because my ideas on why they talk are probably wrong. I usually tend to believe that they just like to hear themselves talk or that they think their opinion is more legitimate than another's. Not talking is a great way to avoid annoying people...usually.

Sometimes quiet people are annoying too, though. They (when I say they I mean we) have lots of awkward silences. It takes them too long to think of things to say in a one-on-one conversation to completely avoid silences. We often aren't bothered by silence at all.

I remember riding in a car with a friend who I was thought was quiet, but found out she wasn't. The first hint that she wasn't was when we were in the car riding back from ice skating and she said something like, "I feel weird that we aren't talking." Alarms went off in my head. What? Quiet people don't mind silence. You're an impostor! I thought we had quietness in common, but you aren't truly a quiet person. You just haven't gotten used to the new group you're a part of yet. My suspicions were later confirmed. She wasn't a deep down quiet person, just a temporary one. Even though quiet people don't mind silence, I fully understand the awkwardness of it. Quiet people just know how to embrace the awkwardness.

That is all. Maybe you understand quietness better.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Back when I stayed in Alaska all summer I would go hiking pretty often. I'd try to do one or two hikes every week and I developed my philosophy/strategy for hiking. I thought about how to make hiking more enjoyable, because I would sometimes have hikes that were fun and other times it was really difficult and just not fun. I figured out how to make hiking fun.

When you're hiking with other people one of the most frustrating things ever is making sure you go their pace. I've heard that it's also one of the hardest parts of mountaineering (which is just like hiking...only much, much more epic, painful, and difficult). I realized that I started to enjoy hiking much more when I went my own pace and didn't worry about how fast the other person went. On steep climbs I started counting my steps and having a goal of how many steps I would take before taking a 10 second break. I would take pretty small steps and would be going pretty slow, but I had more endurance. And I was much more comfortable giving myself personal goals instead of comparing myself with the people I was hiking with.

I remember hiking a 14er in the middle of the night with other Mines students, and close to the top of Quandry it's a pretty tough climb. I started doing my walk 100 steps, take a 10s break, keep going method. People passed me and some of them I eventually caught up with and beat them to the summit. Other people passed me and I never caught up to them. This shows that they are definitely more intense than me, but I was happy with the hike and had a really good time. I felt good about being able to pace myself and being content with my own speed.

When I was in high school I ran track a couple years. Pacing, however, was not my thing. I ran the 100m, long jump, and triple jump. None of which require endurance or pacing of any kind. For the 100m you just try to get a good start and then go all out to the finish line. The sad part was when I tried the 200 for the first time. I got 100m into the race and found myself only able to run (not sprint) to the finish line like the rest of the guys. It was mildly humiliating. I don't even want to imagine what would have happened if I did the 400, 800, 1600, etc. So it's safe to say that pacing and endurance are things that are pretty new to me.

One of the challenges of my ride next summer will be pacing and coordinating my pacing with my friends who will be coming with me. I'm reading a blog about a lady who rode from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, raising money for cancer. She did it by herself and sometimes mentions the good and bad things about doing it by herself. One day she passed by a swimming pool on a ridiculously hot day, but didn't have the guts to jump the fence so she could jump in it. I think that going with other people will be helpful for creating more peer pressure for doing stupid but fun things like that. On the same day she witnessed a couple that was biking the opposite way. The husband was flying up the hill and his wife was like a half mile back, walking her bike, feeling the pressure of her husband wanting to go much faster than she could. This doesn't sound like fun.

To solve the cooperative pacing issue, my idea is to have the slowest person set the pace. This depends on the faster guys being nice and not giving too much pressure to go faster. This way we can all stick together and have a good time. We'll be able to encourage each other and tell each other about stupid ideas we have.

Pacing will be an issue we'll have to deal with, but as long as we are honest about it, it won't be a big problem. Communication solves all kinds of issues.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Staring into Space

I went to a wedding today. It was a great wedding and I'm very happy for them. Unfortunately, I wasn't entirely focused on the wedding the whole time. Now that I've written about several different topics, it's become harder for me to think of new ideas. So whenever I think about things in my daily life, I often think they would be great to write a post on. I'll sit there and dwell on it longer than normal, deciding what kind of things I could say.

Well this time I was staring at things. I believe a slow dance was happening and, not having a date, I was sitting down, staring at the wall or staring at the floor. All the while, I was thoroughly enjoying the stare. Have you ever had a good stare going and somebody stops you and asks what you're looking at. Who care's what I'm looking at! I'm just enjoying staring.

Those of you who have ever enjoyed a good stare, you know what I'm talking about. You find a good spot on the wall and just stare. Your eyes lose focus and it's just so relaxing. You don't want to stop staring, but several things keep you from staring forever. 1. After about 30 seconds, I start realizing that other people are probably noticing that I'm staring and thus think I'm weird, 2. Sometimes the most relaxing place to be staring is directly at a person and that's just awkward, 3. Some people just quit staring because they feel like they should be doing something more productive or social than staring at a wall.

It's probably good we all have our reasons for stopping staring. Things would get weird if everyone stared all the time. It would be almost as bad as if everything in the world, except for yourself, froze in place.

I won't go into the nitty gritty of staring, although there is much to be discussed, but I will explain some of the more interesting aspects to staring. To state my credentials, I'll tell you that I pride myself to be the Banks family champion in staring contests. I can stare for a long time and if you think you can beat me, challenge me and we'll see who the true champion is. Most of my studies on double visioned staring occurred at church when I was younger. I would focus on the pastor and see the man in front of me in double vision. I did all kinds of things during sermons, like making psychedelic images inside my eyes, but I'll save that for later.

The most relaxing stare is when your eyes go out of focus. I think they usually revert to the focus they would go to for looking at a far away object. So if you're in a closed space, likely your stare will result in everything going fuzzy. Everything goes fuzzy because nearby light isn't getting refracted like it should for a good image.

Also, you get double vision in an unfocused stare. I'm hoping that everybody else gets this too, because I have never had a conversation with anyone about double vision you get while staring...Wow it would be weird if nobody had ever noticed that but me...Assuming you all have noticed that before, we can continue our one sided discussion. First, a demo...

Hold your finger up in front of your face and focus on the wall. Don't worry about anyone thinking you're weird. You see two blurry images of your finger and the clear image of the wall. Since your lenses are focusing on a single point in the background, they're refracting the blurred image of your finger to two different spots on your two retinas. Somehow your brain puts together the images from both retinas to make what you see, which in this case is two fingers. You can see through the images of your finger because the other eye has an image of the wall on that part of it's retina.

Something else you should do: Put your two index fingers in front of your face and form an upside down V with them. Focus your eyes on the wall. You will notice that the majority of your two fingers are transparent except for a diamond shape right in the middle of the two images. Now that particular spot on your retinas has an image of something nearby (your fingers) on both retinas. Since there is an image at the same spot on each retina, they come together to form one object. That one object is some combination of your two fingers. Weird huh?

I can't resist it. I have to tell you how to make psychedelic images in your eyes. Close your eyes and cover them up with your hands so it's nice and dark. Now cross your eyes and move them around a whole lot so they feel kind of uncomfortable. Don't give up hope. Push through the pain! Now just sit there and stare into space (keeping your eyes closed and covered). You'll start out by seeing light that was temporarily burned into your retinas, but after a little bit that will go away and you will start to see the crazy stuff. You'll see all kinds of weird spider web designs, chaotic patterns, organized patterns, all kinds of stuff. The image will change some over time and I've found that in order to change the image it helps to cross your eyes and move them around. Sometimes it's hard to get this to work and it may take a good amount of time. But it's kind of interesting. Don't ask me how that one works. And you have permission to think I'm crazy if it doesn't work for you, but I promise that it works for me.

On a more serious note, be careful when you stare. It can, apparently, be a deadly hobby.

One a lighter note, I had never heard of a man named
Mike Tindall before today, but he's apparently a really good starer. The All Blacks staring team is the most recent SCS (Staring championship series) champions, however Tindall claims that he used to beat them all the time at staring contests. He has even had injuries such as torn hamstrings, broken legs, and even broken livers. The article has a typo and accidentally says that he is a rugby player. I've emailed The Independent to inform them of this error. I didn't read the whole article, or even pay much attention to it, but it sounds like staring is considered a pretty intense sport in some countries like the UK.

Song of the Day- Part of my recent Iron and Wine obsession: My Lady's House by Iron and Wine