Saturday, January 31, 2009

How can I explain...

Warning: This post contains potentially toxic levels of bike jargon.

So today I decided to do some bike maintenance. First on the list was installing my new taillight. It turns out that my seat post is somewhat larger in diameter than most seat posts, so I have a hard time with clamps that are manufactured for the standard width. Fortunately, they had also included a clamp that attaches to your seat stay (the piece that makes the top side of the back triangle of the bike frame).

Next order of business was fiddling with the front derailleur. It had been rubbing excessively in second and 7 and 8, which kinda annoyed me, and it was sluggish shifting into third. I figured that either I'd have to adjust the high limit screw or tighten the cable. Upon inspection, it turned out that the high limit screw was just about as far out as it gets, so I had to adjust the cable. This is somewhat difficult. The derailleur has a very strong spring that pulls it in, so you have to wedge it out until you get the cable tight. I ended up enlisting the help of my dad for this step, because I didn't get it tightened enough the first time by myself. Now it's a lot better - it only rubs a little in second and eight, and is much less sluggish on the upshift.

My back wheel has been making a sound like the brakes have been dragging, so I decided to make sure it was trued. It was a little out of true, but not badly, and it continued to squeal a little even after I trued it. I imagine the brake pads might be a little toed in or something.

This brings us to the chain. I've been having problems with it skipping every once in a while. I thought it might be a stuck link, so I cranked it backwards, watching for the jockey wheels to jump. It wasn't that, so I decided to clean it a little and see if that would solve the problem. Now, even though my chain has a SRAM master link, which is supposedly easy to open by hand, I couldn't get the dang thing open. I again ended up enlisting the help of my dad, who (unsurprisingly, if you know him) promptly managed to break it. Oh well, you can buy a new master link for a lot cheaper than a whole new chain, so I decided to throw it in some solvent anyway and get it clean.

The cool way to do this is to put the chain in a water bottle, add enough solvent to cover the chain, and shake it all up. This way, the solvent can get in all the nooks and crannies and really get the sludge out. I shook it around, fished it out with a piece of bent wire, and discovered that under the gunk, it was actually rather rusty. Nice.

Flash back to about three, four months ago when I had my bike in for some repairs. My chainrings were pretty worn and my cassette was shot, so I asked them to replace my chain too. It had sat outside with snow on it for about six weeks the previous Christmas, and had gotten a little rusty. They called me back a couple of days later and informed me that they would have to make the more expensive of the repair options we had discussed, but told me that my chain was still good after a good clean'n'lube. I was dubious, but let it slide, because it would save me twenty bucks.

So anyway, yeah, it was pretty dang rusty. And once I held it up straight, I noticed that one of the links was actually twisted, close to an eighth of a turn. No wonder it's been skipping.

I guess my bike has been listening to a little too much Erasure.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The snowblower

I woke up this morning, stretched luxuriantly, and said to myself, "Ahh, it snowed! Nothing like a morning wrestle with the snowblower to get the blood flowing."

Okay, so that's not how it actually happened.

This morning, my alarm went off, I hit the snooze button, and Mom said I was going to have to run the snowblower before I go. "It's a good thing," I thought to myself, "that I took a bath last night so I don't have to shower this morning."

So I throw my jeans, gloves and boots on and call my dad to figure out just how to get the snowblower running. I follow his precise directions for the careful and proper setting of the many levers and switches (you have to open up the throttle halfway, turn the choke on, pump the primer three or four times, repeat the words "O Yard Machines, swiftly throw my snow" three times, and sprinkle the blood of a young goat on its carburetor) and start yanking on the starter handle. Approximately three pulling-induced aneurysms later, I break down and plug in the electric starter. After five, ten seconds of noise comparable to a trash compactor eating a Hide-a-Bed, the engine roars into life and starts sputtering its greasy carbon footprint out into the formerly pure, unsullied air. I cranked the throttle up and turned the choke off, whereupon it promptly died. Turns out you have to turn the choke off first, and then throttle up. Some more of the goat's blood is, if optional at this point, handy.

This brings me to the next peculiarity of our snowblower. Snowblowers have a little handle on a rod that goes down to a little corkscrew that meshes with slots in the discharge chute, so as you crank on the handle, the chute turns. It's rather ingenious and works wonderfully - until my dad gets a hold of it and somehow bends the rod out a good inch and a half. So if you want the corkscrew to properly mesh with the notches in the discharge chute, you have to bend clear over the machine and hold to the rod with your right hand (heh) while cranking the handle with your left. This I cannot blame on the snowblower itself. Really it's my dad. Really.

It is while I am in the process of cranking the chute around that the sleeve of my brand-new, just-got-it-for-Christmas, $200 parka brushes up against the extremely hot exhaust manifold, and in a split second, before I even notice, there's a three-inch hole melted in it. Freakin' heck. Apparently, I didn't use enough goat's blood to properly appease it.

To sum: Next time, I'm using a shovel. Really I don't mean it, snow blower. Really. I still love you. (mostly)

Saturday, January 24, 2009


So I decided to post these pictures. They have been languishing in the depths of my cellphone, disconsolately waiting for me to a) get a microSD card and b) actually bother to use it.

This is a penguin I made from clay found in Jordanelle reservoir. I think it actually turned out pretty good, and I wanted to take it home and fire it, but I didn't think that Cara would really let me get away with taking mud in her car.

The people at the Logan temple definitely have a sense of humor.

Commutative diagrams ftw. This is more or less the proof of the snake lemma, as drawn by Prof. Roberts.

Joe Brinton made me a smiley pancake. It was as delicious as it was friendly.

In unrelated news, microSD cards are really, really small.


So I think I might be turning into a preppie. Today I wore a white shirt, tie, sweater and jeans to school. (In my defense, we were planning on going to the temple this evening, but it didn't end up happening.) It is now half-past midnight and I am still wearing the tie (as well as all the other clothes, tyvm).

Friday, January 23, 2009


Spending time writing up a homework set is all well and good - just make sure you don't leave it at home when you go to school the next day. I'm just throwin' that out there.

(fortunately, I did have the long, grindy, two-page induction proof safely in my folder, and the rest only took another two pages to write back up.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Work. Bleh.

Hi Spencer,

Here's your tutoring center for the semester:

Monday 4:00 - 8:00pm
Tuesday 2:00 - 8:00
Wednesday 5:00 - 8:00
Thursday 11:00 - 4:00
Friday 8:30 - 10:30am

Angie [my boss]
Yeah, this semester is gonna be fun.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Trip Planner Fail

Because I was feeling masochistic, and was unfortunately forgetful of my last experience, I decided to engage in the self-abuse that is using the UTA Trip Planner.

So tomorrow I need to get to the university before my 10:45 class. Thus, I plug in my home address as a starting point, the U as an ending point, and tomorrow at 10:45 as my arrival time. Reasonable enough, right? Wrong.

The aforementioned masterpiece of modern computing returns five trip itineraries, three of which arrive at the U after 10:45. And I'm not talking, like, 10:47 - Itinerary 1 arrives at 11:02, Itinerary 3 at 10:53, and 4 at 10:51. Even the best of the planned itineraries, #2, arrives at the university at 10:41, which would more than likely still end up making me late for class. Good job, Trip Planner!

Remarkably, we have not yet plumbed the depths of the failure that is the Trip Planner. Itinerary #5 arrives at 10:21 - after transferring off a bus that would arrive on campus at 10:01, only to transfer to a third bus while we're at it. Going through two transfers to arrive 20 minutes later than I would have had I stayed on the original bus? I don't see why not!

Entirely abandoning computerized stupidity, I resort to a manual examination of two of my most frequently-used bus routes. Within mere minutes, I find a direct route that arrives at 10:21. There. Was that so hard, Trip Planner?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Opinion: President Bush and Iraq

I have all these opinions on current political and economic circumstances rattling around in my brain, and I finally realized that I can put them on my blog. How novel!

Today's installment, spurred by the recent craze of reviewing President Bush's time in office, is about his handling of the war in Iraq. Call me a Republican apologist, but I've really got Bush's back on this one, for several reasons:
1) It is certainly the case that we didn't find any WMDs in Iraq. Many have thus criticized President Bush's motives for going in. I don't think this should be laid on his doormat - he acted the best he knew how according to the intelligence he had. The real failure here is not from President Bush, but rather from his intelligence corps.
2) If nothing else ever comes out of the Iraq war, at least three body bags did. Okay, so plenty more came out as well, but I'm interested in three in particular: those containing Saddam, Uday and Qusay Hussein. Whether or not Saddam had WMDs is, in my mind, irrelevant: he was a madman with scientists and was an imminent threat. His sons were twice as crazy - Uday, in his role as head of the Iraqi Olympic committee, tortured athletes who failed to win, plotted assassinations of those who opposed them, had an Iron Maiden, and committed heaven only knows how many atrocities of rape, torture and murder. Qusay, it is claimed, masterminded the destruction of 3,200 square miles of marshland, supervised the execution by shredder of inmates in overcrowded prisons, and even masterminded an assassination attempt of his own brother. Can there be any doubt that Uday or Qusay would be extremely dangerous to the entire free world, let alone America, as the leader of Iraq?

So, to sum, let's give Bush credit where credit is due, for stepping in and ending a major threat to the future security of America.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Things that are well-designed, pt. 1

I really enjoy using things that are well-designed, so I've decided to create a new series of posts about my experiences using them. Today: those citrus peeler things.

You know the ones I'm talking about - they look kinda like a small-headed toothbrush sans bristles and with a curvy end. The head end has a little stabby thing that stabs in through the peel and then cuts it - without damaging the fruit! The curvy end perfectly mimics the example of the action of the thumb as it carefully removes the rind from the fruit. If the citrus you're eating is hard to peel apart into segments, you can poke the curvy end down in there and winkle the segments apart. And finally, if you're eating something like grapefruit, where you don't want to eat the bitter membranes, you can even use the curvy end to cut holes in and pull the membrane off the fruit!

A quick google reveals several blog posts and other pages dedicated to other uses for the citrus peeler, such as spreading grout, removing staples, pushing back cuticles, and opening CD's. Genius!

And all this from probably like 5¢ worth of plastic, which you can buy at the grocery store two for a dollar. That, my friends, is well-designed.

Friday, January 02, 2009


Dear national sports press:
Utah 31, Alabama 17. And don't play the "Andre Smith wasn't there" card, because he's not going to stop EIGHT SACKS, or 21 unanswered points of Utah offense in the first quarter. All right, let's hear the backpedaling.


Thursday, January 01, 2009


I went out and bought five (!) new (to me) CD's today. I was only planning on getting MAYBE two, but there ended up being a buy-three-get-one-free deal at FYE, so.

The 5 Browns - Browns in Blue (Amazing.)
The Bravery - The Sun and the Moon (I'm starting to really dig The Bravery.)
All-American Rejects - Move Along (I've been meaning to buy this for YEARS.)
Beck - Information (It came with a DVD with all the music videos AND a sheet of stickers!)
Beck - Guero (I've owned this before, but my copy disappeared, and since it was free...)