Shiny Metal Tiger

Experiences in Baltimore, MD

Archive for July 2010

Weapon of Choice

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… or so it says on the box of my new Logitech G500 mouse. To be honest, I only picked that title so I could link you this piece of excellence.

This most recent purchase was prompted by the scroll wheel of my otherwise lovely Roccat Kone mouse last Monday. Even though it has served me well, I opted to get something else to replace it, since (A) breaking scroll wheels were rumored to be a not infrequent problem with that mouse and (B) it’s not available in the US, so I can neither make use of my warranty nor buy a new one of I wanted to.

At this stage this is starting to sound like a very dull post about a guy who got a new toy, and is about to explain all the awesome technical details about it. And it kind of is. BUT, I figured that with a new spin, I might actually produce something that had some value for other people and thus might be worth posting. So instead of telling you about the cool features, I’m going to tell you why you need a mouse with these features. Whether you actually do or not is up to you, but I’ll offer some ideas that might boost your digital productivity, or at least convenience.

My old Roccat Kone (right) and spanking new Logitech G500 (left)

Shared features:

  1. Ergonomic shape. Anything else is just uncomfortable and potentially unhealthy. I bet you already know that you need this.
  2. 8 programmable buttons, aside from the obvious left and right click. What’s that you say? Who could possibly need that many buttons? Aside from this guy, you need that many! Here’s why: You need one to go forward and one to go backwards in your internet browser, or just windows. Then you need one cycle between open applications, and another that just hotswaps you to the last used application, for when grabbing data from one program and putting it in another. That’s four. Then you need one where you hold it down and that lets you zoom in documents or increase text size in your browser with the scroll wheel. Add one to toggle sideways scrolling (for large documents/websites) and another to change profile and… ok, maybe you only needed seven buttons, but these guys had 8. Why do you need a button to change profile?
  3. Because you don’t need to do go back and forth in your browser when you’re working with Photoshop. Fortunately, the mice have five profiles with separate button programming, and most of the time they automatically detect which program you’re using and selects the appropriate profile. So when I alt-tab from Firefox to Photoshop (no wait, when I press my hotswap button), my back and forward buttons now instead mean undo and redo respectively. Useful! But that’s not enough. What you really need is a mouse with onboard memory to store those profiles, so that if you plug it out and bring it to work or anywhere else, the buttons will still do the same thing! Mobility without loss of (your newly improved) productivity!
  4. High quality sensor. Ever slammed your mouse into the table because it just would not move up and right for the life of it? Yeah, you need a decent sensor. Did the mouse break when you did? A positive side effect is that overall build quality generally follows, so your new mice might even survive the experience.

Aside from that, each mouse has an additional useful feature. For the Roccat, this was five adjustable color LEDs. Surely that serves no purpose other than showing off at GeekFest2010? Wrong! I mentioned that the mice were mostly able to select the right profile for your program. Sometimes they fail though, but by giving each profile a different set of colors, you can tell at a glance which profile you’re using. Useful! The Logitech on the other hand has their new HyperGear scroll wheel. Basically, you can toggle it so that one flick of the wheel sends it turning and turning, casually scrolling you through that 40-page document until you find what you’re looking for. Surprisingly useful.

All in all, yeah, I just got a new toy and I like it. Excessively tinkering and optimizing and streamlining is fun for me, not for everyone. But I’d be surprised if there wasn’t at least one of the things I’m doing with these mice that would be useful to you.

Written by Martin

2010/07/29 at 23:10

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Negative control

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As of Monday, I’d been doing my intermittent fasting experiment for nearly two months, and felt that following the regimen had pretty much settled into routine. At that point, I could make the following observations:

  • Lost just under 10 pounds.
  • Blood pressure went down 5 points systolic and 10 points diastolic.
  • Workout performance/progress unchanged on eating days. Running and the like was harder on fasting days.
  • No noticeable change in concentration or other mental traits.
  • Some hunger on fasting days, more joy from food on eating days. Overall neutral.
  • I’ve mentally and/or physically realized that hunger doesn’t mean I’m about to die. Much easier to resist the urge to grab one more bowl of cereal when I logically realize I’ve had enough, and so forth.

So, overall it’s not bad. The weight loss and drop in blood pressure is good (since no loss in strength), and the rest is really neutral. Slight disadvantage in having to plan for social events, offset by saving money on food. But, I can easily imagine convincing myself that I feel great and nothing is changed, as a way of coping with some terrible regime I’ve forced upon myself. Thence risk of crazy healthiness hyperbole where I devote myself to one crazy idea after another, and then wonder why I’m sick all the time (maybe my most recent illness was due to IF).

So,  a negative control is in order.  It was always my plan to do that once things were stable, so for the next two or three weeks I’m going to just eat normally, but otherwise keep up the same plan for exercise etc. Then I can see whether the physiological changes start reverting, and whether there were psychological changes that I hadn’t noticed. I’ll keep you posted!

Written by Martin

2010/07/27 at 16:57

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Psychobilly Disco

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Go to work, come home and work on articles, struggle to make a dent in the sleep deficit… another weekend devoid of variety, or indeed any sensory stimuli not originating from my ENVY, was threatening to smash the last bastion of my sanity and make me accept the drudgery of a worker ant as the natural state of things. Fortunately for me, and the rest of the world, Morten’s visiting friend had found an interesting concert he wanted to go to Sunday night, and I opted to risk further sleep deprivation and join them.

What followed was, like eating sushi or making out, one of those things that when discovered make you immediately think to yourself “Why didn’t anyone tell me about this?!”. What might have prompted this reaction, you might ask? Clearly something I didn’t know about, though I had unwittingly gotten a glance at something very similar back in 2008, near Harajuku station in Tokyo. In the name of suspense, I’ll rephrase the question (and then answer it, I promise!): what do you get when you take the eminent rock’n’roll and 50s clothing of Rockabilly and mix in some darkness and aggression of punk rock?

The answer is Psychobilly, and why DIDN’T anyone tell me about it? I mean, with girls that look like this, and music that sounds like this, what’s not to like? Add in some choppers and everyone having a blast, and you’ve got something that no man could refuse. Being stuck at work until eightish, I only caught the last two acts of the night, but honestly those were more than enough. The main event was actually a Danish band, Nekromantix. Apparently one of the biggest names in Psychobilly, they’ve found more fertile ground for their unique talents here in the Land of the Free, and thus rarely put on any shows in Denmark. I’d love to post a video of Kim Nekroman’s coffin-shaped double bass, the brutal mosh pit and just the spectacular illusion of having been transported to the bad boy motorcycle gang party of the year 1956, but quite frankly I couldn’t have captured it if I’d tried.

So I’ll just give you this to stick on your retina, and leave it to the adventurous to seek out the next psychobilly show that comes to town.

Written by Martin

2010/07/26 at 23:06

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Det blev en underlig natt…

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Translation: It was a strange night...

Time:

  • 12:35 AM

Tasks:

  • Correct two figures for a paper
  • Create two new figures for same
  • Correct 4 pages of figure legends for another paper
  • Write half of a scholarship application

Snacks:

  • One eighth watermelon
  • One romaine heart
  • One orange
  • Handful of raisins
  • Half pack of Chips Ahoy!
  • Pack of stroopwafels
  • Gallon of water

Soundtrack:

  • Veronica Maggio
  • Bob Dylan
  • Velvet Underground

UPDATE:

Time:

  • 3:58 AM

Tasks completed:

  • Corrected two figures for a paper
  • Created two new figures for same
  • Corrected 4 pages of figure legends for another paper
  • Sent it all off to the boss

Snacks consumed:

  • One eighth watermelon
  • One romaine heart
  • One orange
  • Handful of raisins
  • Two Chips Ahoy!
  • One and a half stroopwafel
  • Half gallon of water

Prospect for tomorrow:

  • Optimistic in the face of giant workload

Written by Martin

2010/07/22 at 00:35

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Artscape and more

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This Saturday was great.

Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head. Found my way downstairs and drank a cup and Looking up, I noticed I was late. Found my coat and grabbed my hat, made the bus in second flat. Found my way upstairs and had a smoke, then somebody smoked and I went into a dream… aaaaaaahhhaaaaahahahhhh!

More seriously, there was a free arts festival in Baltimore this weekend, Artscape. Bunch of tents up in Charles Village, with artists selling freaky and delightful things, vendors peddling giant turkey legs and sponsors trying to convince you to eat their organic cereal or get a new phone.

Giant turkey leg. Well, regular sized really...

I spent a couple of around just getting a glimpse of it with Morten and his visiting friend. I loved how the art displayed was actually pretty unique, and especially how there were a bunch of tents with no discernible objective. A chillout lounge, a treasure hunt with obstacles and a hidden gold coin. A booth where you could write anonymous love letters that they would then deliver to “the man with the red shoes” and the like (I wrote one to the “dark-eyed girl”. We didn’t really stay for any of the concerts or the like, though we did see what I’d originally come for, the art cars:

I think this one was "The Story of Eve"

Ominous looking one

Ping pong balls!

There were a whole bunch of them, mostly privately owned (and often actually used daily). Many had stories behind them; some were by aspiring artists, others inventive teenagers. I particularly liked the dentures car, though I didn’t get a good picture of it. All very Baltimore.

Afterwards we went to a Lumbee tribe Native American Pow-wow, though not before seeing more cars being showed off outside the event hall:

The pow-wow itself wasn’t that great really. Perhaps a couple of hundred people gathered for dancing competitions and similar events, with plenty of booths in the periphery offering dreamcatchers, dubious looking Indian crafts and tees with Sitting Bull on them. After about 20 minutes I was all pow-wow’ed out. It should be said, however, that I appreciate them putting in the effort. More variety is always good, and in a small way this pow-wow made the world the better place. In my opinion.

Pow-wow, chikka-bow-wow

We might have called it a day at this point, and spent the evening working or playing Baldur’s Gate, but no! Rather, we invited the coworkers we’d met at the pow-wow to our place for dinner, then rushed off to Wegman’s to shop (though I had an ulterior motive of obtaining live yeast and stroopwafels), and then to Home Depot to get a table so we could eat on the rooftop deck.

It ended up as quite a feast, consisting of:

  1. Pork loin topped with shiitake mushrooms and wrapped in prosciutto.
  2. Pureé of sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips and parsnips.
  3. Cream sauce with Morels and white wine
  4. Watermelon/feta salad with some fresh basil
  5. Koldskål with pieces of fruit, since we had no time to bake kammerjunkere.

And of course bread and wine, plus candles for atmosphere. All very classy, and fortuitously leftovers remain in the fridge.

You may be thinking that I just tried to sneak one past you. What on Earth is koldskål? and kammerjunkere? Though I guess most of my readers from Denmark will know what I’m talking about, I am in fact not trying to simply confuse the rest of you. Rather, I’ll point you to a recipe for this delightful summer delicacy as soon as it’s posted on this cool blog of Scandinavian and other exotic recipes.

Written by Martin

2010/07/20 at 00:01

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O America III

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Strawberries the size of apples…

…underpants for your head…

…and this. Words fail me.

Written by Martin

2010/07/15 at 20:43

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Afflicted

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Dizzy, can’t focus, buzzing feeling in lips and extremities (similar to that of lying in your bed post-party, interestingly. Minus the tinnitus though). Very weak physically, even peeling some carrots was an ordeal.

Everyone is quick to identify my intermittent fasting as the cause. Could be, but I’m not quote convinced. Why would it make me ill after a month and a half of doing it? And this started Sunday, which was an eating day. I’m inclined to blame overworking myself. Working 70 hours a week, workouts 1.5 times a day and difficulties sleeping; consequently, lack of social interactions with anyone other than coworkers, lack fresh air, lack of sunlight. I think I’ve mentioned this, but there are no windows at the office, which means a pretty awful work environment.

Nonetheless, I’ve concluded that while IF might be healthy long term, there’s no reason to believe that fasting when sick is helpful. So until I’m all better I’ll eat every day. And I’m trying to be good to myself as well, which I reckon is needed if this is at least partly stress induced. So instead of just oats for breakfast, I made some porridge and added mango, watermelon, bananas and coconut flakes, for a tropical delight.

Tropical oatmeal

It wasn’t bad. The watermelon didn’t add a whole bunch though. But the important thing was to get out of the routine and feel that I’m doing something for myself. I also went and got some vegetables, to make an honest to god sandwich with mayo (gasp!), lettuce, tomatoes, ham, cheese, pickles. Big step up from just putting the ham on toast, without butter.

I didn’t go to work today, and although I still spent the whole day working at home, I managed to simultaneously watch all three Back To The Future movies. Also talked to my neighbors about having a little barbecue this weekend. Called my parents, talked to friends back home. The moral of the story is that while studying/working abroad is a great opportunity to get rid of daily distractions and really immerse yourself in work, it’s of critical importance to have regular social interactions, variety in daily life, things that can give you a sense of accomplishment in the short term. A life, in other words. It’s too easy to become isolated and stressed, which will grind you down and make you sick, depressed, or both.

Written by Martin

2010/07/13 at 23:47

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