Shiny Metal Tiger

Experiences in Baltimore, MD

Archive for April 2010

This and that

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Hum, a while since I posted anything…

Been quite busy for a while, mostly from ramping up my workload at the lab. Which is a good thing really, if I want to accomplish anything. For a while I thought I had my first positive result thus far, and was even going to make a post about it, but the repeat of the experiment was inconclusive, so that’ll have to wait. A couple of other things have been up:

My birthday came and went, in style. I’d decided to stay up for the full 24 hours of that day, to get the full experience. So I went to bed at eight the day before, and was awoken at midnight by the sound of the Von Bondies. I went down to the living room, and beheld my awesome flatmates having stayed up to keep me company. I had a nice breakfast consisting of oatmeal with raisins, crushed walnuts and milk, plus a shot of anejo tequila. We then played Magic the Gathering until four in the morning, at which point another friend came over for studying and talking. Alas, it was a workday, so at eightish I went to work, but not before writing down a list of goals for this year. This is something I was inspired to do by Arnold Schwarzenegger, but more on that later. A hard day’s work (and workout, as usual), and then back to the Mystery Mansion to change and read a chapter in my new(ish) exercise book, just because I’d put it on my todo list for the day and damn well wasn’t going to wuss out. Onwards and upwards, to dinner with friends at a nice Bmore restaurant called Salt. It’s a good place, but they kind of know it. Little pretentious, and though the food was good, it was perhaps a tad too ambitious. I’d already been allured by the pecan-crusted Mahi filet on the menu online, and while it was elegant and well prepared, there was the slight omission of any taste in the actual filet… their duck fat french fries were super though, and it definitely wasn’t bad overall. Then back to the Mystery Mansion for the inauguration of our bimonthly movie classics night; Blues Brothers was funkier than I remembered, but no less amusing. And it was made even better by the delicious cake a friend had made for me, as well as the company. In the end I managed to stay awake for the full duration, owing largely to my support network and the lack of any meetings at the lab that day.

In other news, the Night Terrors have been knocked out of the Charm City Rollerderby championships; they keep playing as though they have awesome jammers who can swoop by the pack with no assistance, which just isn’t the case. They seriously need to stop playing with their blockers firmly at the back of the pack. It was so bad that I almost dropped my support for the team…

Now, back to the yearly todo lists. I was randomly reading about Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wikipedia, and stumbled across this quote, from his former girlfriend:

“He was a prolific goal setter,” Baker remembers. “He would write the most extraordinary targets on little index cards on January 1. Ridiculous things, like starting a mail-order business or buying a BMW. And, by the end of the year, they’d all be done.”

I’ve had a lot of success in getting things done by making rather extensive to-do lists for every day. So when I read that, I came to the conclusion that there’s no reason it shouldn’t work for yearly lists as well. It certainly did for Arnold. So without further ado, here are the things I need to get done this year, in no particular order:

  • Publish/submit 3 papers
  • Formulate concrete plan for preventing aging
  • Write a short story
  • Learn firebreathing
  • Start a company
  • Start caloric restriction

Lunacy? Perhaps, but that shouldn’t stop me from doing it. As of today, little if any progress has been made for any of the points. Thankfully I have 51 more weeks to have at them.

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Written by Martin

2010/04/27 at 22:03

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Paintball

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This Saturday saw 5 hours of 8 vs. 8 paintball action, in the various fields of Robin Hood paintball.

We’d gotten some cheap tickets via Groupon, so in the end the 5 hours (including gun, air, mask) and tonnes of extra bullets only amounted to about 30$. As always, it was a lot of fun, and very painful. Vendettas were spawned from repeated kills (or fouls) by the same person, curses were spewed when the paintballs hit your hand or butt, bruises were created all over, and every once in a while there was a yell of triumph as the last enemy went down.

Semper Phi

Guidelines for successful paintballing:

  • If you’re in the open, you’re probably about to die.
  • If you stay in the same spot for a long time, someone will sneak behind you and pepper your back.
  • If your wingman goes down, you’re probably going to get pinned and subsequently killed.
  • If you know where the enemy is, and they don’t know where you are, you’re about to take them out.
  • Suicidal charges work ~50% of the time, and hurt 100% of the time.

Normally you die if a ball hits you and breaks, but the last few rounds we played “No Mercy”, where you’re not out until you surrender. So, as Rocky Balboa told us, it’s not about how hard you can hit, but about how hard a hit you can take and keep going. The very end was extremely fun; down to me and a friend, tossing bullets at each other from behind cover. He manages to flank me, and shoots up my butt and thigh as I relocate. Those shots were like the agony of the nine hells, so I dived behind a pipe and for 5 seconds just lay there, fighting the pain. Get up and run to the next piece of cover, BAM! I get hit in the back of the head. He said he thought I was out for sure then, but I toughed it out and kept going. At this point I spot the other guy without being seen, and manage to sneak up behind him, and absolutely hammer his back (his bruises were abundant). At this point he’s running away, I’m running after him trying to get more shots in, and then we each end up behind cover again. Few more shots and he’s out of bullets… but I played it nice and didn’t unload the rest of my shots on his defenseless form. I’m such a good person.

Written by Martin

2010/04/20 at 16:49

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Brief update on sustenance

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  • Canned soup with no added salt is incredibly bland. However, along the way my tastebuds seemed to wake up to realize that they couldn’t run this one on automatic, at which point the taste was quite decent. The soup was a $2.5 Health Valley Organic minestrone. Two semi-salty crackers improved things further.
  • Wegman’s is the best supermarket I have ever been to. At least the one in Baltimore, but I reckon the others must be similarly good. Fantastic selection at normal prices. Whole Foods probably beats it for exotic items, but at higher prices. Trader Joe’s matches (or perhaps barely beats) it for healthy food choices, but is much smaller and for some things more expensive.
  • Somehow my appetite seems to be decreasing. If I eat cereal at 8ish, lunch at 2ish and a snack here and there, I don’t feel like eating a proper dinner most days. Even though I’m exercising a lot more than usual (though actually exercise has been shown to reduce appetite, so that might be the reason).
  • Some things are surprisingly hard to find here. Not until I went to Di Pasquales for lunch Tuesday (awesome Italian place, lots of goods and great sandwiches/pizza) was I able to find fusilli. I still haven’t seen red serrano chilis, and getting live yeast requires a visit to one of the abovementioned supermarkets with superior selection. And when I wanted some ground cardamom for a cake, they tried to charge me 11 dollars for it…

Written by Martin

2010/04/16 at 14:02

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Roadtrip in pictures

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Off we go...

Blimey, look at that!

The Niagara Falls are overrated

No wait, there's the real one

Wonderful Canada, with Rainbow Villages and People Movers

Dinosaur Barbeque, outside

Dinosaur Barbeque, inside

Probably the best ribs I ever had

Corning Museum of Glass

Back, into the sunset...

Written by Martin

2010/04/13 at 15:18

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Sakura

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So this was supposed to have been posted Monday, but my internet was dead and I couldn’t upload the photos. But here it is, a report on a great weekend, presented here in reverse chronological order:

Sunday a bunch of us drove down to DC for the annual cherry blossom festival there, after attending to our respective work/church obligations. There are a good number of cherry trees there, donated by the Japanese a while back (possibly as an apology for Pearl Harbor), and thus ensues a week-long festival of fireworks, Japanese dances, and general pleasantness. Sunday was supposed to be the lighting ceremony for a 369-year-old lantern, which we promptly missed. Given that the ceremony was at 2 o’clock and the weather was bright and sunny, I’m not sure how impressive it would have been in any case. What’s worse was that the peak bloom was apparently last weekend; a lot of the trees had dropped their petals already, but there were still some nice ones left:

We also went to the nearby Jefferson Memorial, just because we hadn’t been there. It’s pretty nice, big round neoclassical building with a large statue of Jefferson and inscriptions of some of his utterances on liberty. Very open building, which is great in the summer. Too bad it’s full of tourists.

Saturday was no slouch either. Started off with pancakes, eggs and bacon, followed by a couple of hours wasted playing Civilization, then shopping for and making cornbread. We’d intended to have a picnic in Washington Sunday, and my contribution was to be cornbread open sandwiches, with turkey breast & provolone, cream cheese and tomato slices, apple butter and nuts/cheese, blackberry jam etc. In the end we dropped the picnic idea, so now we have cornbread for the next month. It turned out quite tasty, though only one of the two pans rose, and not much at that. We had some girls from the lab over for dinner, and then headed to the highlight of the day: Infected Mushroom playing at Club Sonar.

Infected Mushroom is an Israeli psy-trance act, with heavy influences from heavy rock and middle eastern music. Pretty unique sound, and pretty awesome. Odd concert: small venue, and the crowd was a very weird mix of enthusiastic teenagers, acidheads from the last generation, trippers in top hats and leather bikinis, Israelis with flags and kippahs, and a number of normal-looking people (we would fall in the last category). Then you add in the obvious drug dealers, undercover cops and one or two people stoned out of their minds, all with a bare concrete backdrop and of course glowsticks and psychedelic videos on monitors. The music was, as they say, rockin’.

Friday… well, Friday was fun. Let’s leave it at that.

Written by Martin

2010/04/08 at 09:12

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Road trip

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This weekend a bunch of us are going to upstate New York, where a girl in the lab is from. On the agenda is visiting her hometown, the famous Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, seeing the notable Corning glass museum, enjoying her parents’ fire pit and going to wine tastings in the finger lakes region. I’m sure it’ll be pretty awesome, but I’m thinking it would be even more awesome to skip the brunch and leisurely ride home on Sunday, and instead spend the extra 3 hours each way going to the Niagara falls.

Unfortunately the others have either seen it, have no passport to get to the Canadian side or just doesn’t want to drive that long. So I’ll probably end up going alone. I’ve done a little research on solo road trips, so I think I’m decently prepared. It’s 3 hours there, and then 7-8 back to Baltimore, so it’s not a massive trip; it’ll probably be a good warmup for coast-to-coast trip once my work here is done.

Here are some of the points I’ve gathered:

  • Bring food in the car to avoid salty fast food
  • Skip the coffee, it makes you need the bathroom frequently
  • Make sure your car is in good order
  • Have a cell charger in the car, and lots of music/podcasts

And this last one brings me to the point of the post. I need some great road music, so what do people like? I’m fond of The Strokes while driving, and other bands I generally like, such as Franz Ferdinand. Rage Against the Machine and Man’o’War are good when you need to pump up a little. The latest Kings of Leon album is great once it gets dark. And of course a lot of rock classics like Steppenwolf, Stones, ACDC… I’ve also got my favorite podcast, about the life of Napoleon, which will probably get more airtime than the music. Nonetheless, I’d love to hear suggestions from whoever reads this.

So, any tips for road music? Or for solo road trips if you have them?

Written by Martin

2010/04/07 at 18:11

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Busted (Edit: April Fools’ entry)

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Well, last night turned out to be an expensive experience…

After work we went to a nice Vietnamese restaurant for dinner (7$ for a humongous bowl of Phở is hard to beat), after which the Mystery Men returned to the bar around the corner from us (the one with the 1$ Natty Bohs, though it’s now limited to 3 per person). Drinks were had, good times ensued… except for the walk home.

Being used to Denmark, I brought my last drink with me out to the street, which is not at all allowed here in the US. And even though the bar is literally two blocks away from Mystery Mansion, I was unlucky enough to run into a cop car. They stopped and started to give my a fine for drinking in public, at which point I may, in my inebriated state, have mouthed off to them while throwing the can on the ground. They didn’t like that at all, and the next thing I know they’re hauling me off, claiming that I threw the can at them and putting me in detention for assaulting an officer.

Fortunately for me the guys were with me, so we were able to take care of the bail pretty efficiently, and I finally learned how all the bail bond places you see in Baltimore work. Basically, the court sets a crazy high bail that you can’t pay; instead, you pay the bail bond place a low percentage of the bail (in my case 5% of the 10,000$, or 500$) upon which they pay the court the full bail. Assuming I show up at the court date (May 15th), the bail bonds place gets back the full amount from the court, and keep my 500$. But if I ran away, they’d be down 10,000$ unless they can get me back, which is where the bounty hunters come into the picture.

Anyway, I’m obviously not about to flee the state. Hopefully the charges will be dismissed and I’ll just get the fine for drinking in public, since it’s not illegal to swear at an officer, and I have two witnesses that I didn’t do anything. So the total detriment would amount to 500$, the fine, and the privilege of seeing a jail cell from the inside for three hours…

Not the cell I was in; for some reason they didn't let me take photos...

Written by Martin

2010/04/01 at 17:56

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