Shiny Metal Tiger

Experiences in Baltimore, MD

Archive for October 2010

Hit the road, Jack

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The time has come; tomorrow we head Southwest on the I95, and won’t stop until we reach the Pacific. Fully loaded, we got snacks and supplies. Map, music, tent, sleeping bag, spare gas and coolant, camping stove, jeans, tees, white chucks. Cooler in the back, and miles ahead. Just have to clean up and load up the car, and we’re off. Go West, young men!

I’ll see about updating the blog on the road. Would be nice, but it depends on how much time and internet access I get. So if you don’t hear anything for a month, don’t worry: no news is good news.

Written by Martin

2010/10/15 at 23:19

Posted in Uncategorized


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Managed to get one more package before taking off for the trip, this one in a distinctly shoeboxy shape.

Allen Edmonds, it says. So it wasn’t a great surprise that it contained the dark brown Strand shoes I’d tried on in NYC this weekend. Full brogue captoe oxfords, with medallion. I’d thought of getting them in walnut instead, which is honestly a better looking shoe, but given that I tend to always wear dark pants, it would be a lot less versatile.

They’re in need of a shine of course (or 50, to get some really nice patina), and definitely some breaking in. But overall I must say that I’m quite pleased; they appear a bit darker in person, which is just as well for aforementioned reasons. Here’s a shot in their natural habitat:


(New camera -> focal point on jeans = fail. Out of battery now though, so this will have to do.)


I have a couple more packages coming, but they’ll have to wait around until I get back.

Written by Martin

2010/10/15 at 14:04

Posted in New toys

Package from Hong Kong!

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I’d ordered some shirts from my tailor there a while ago, but I’d sort of forgotten about it, so this came as an unexpected surprise.  I’d originally ordered 3 shirts, but one fabric was out of stock, so I guess they finished these two while I was considering a replacement. I got one white with black windowpane, and one white with brown, yellow and light blue stripes. Both straight collar, single button cuffs, french front and button sleeve, no pocket:

Both are twill, which is easily my favorite weave. The sheen and softness are just so nice. And I was never one for particularly conservative looks, so I’ve get to get excited about a unicolor Oxford or the like. Of course this won’t work for all patterns, but for most it looks wonderful. Case in point (in the warm evening light):

I’ve pretty much entirely stopped buying shirts off the rack by now. Whenever I try one on it seems to fit like a sack compared to the ones from Jantzen, which is of course not surprising when the latter has been tailored specifically for me. But when the price is similar and quality is higher from Jantzen, what would be the point? Ok, I have to wait a few weeks like this, and rely on small sample pictures for fabric, but did I mention that they don’t fit like a sack? Perhaps not so much a slim fit now that I’ve lost weight from intermittent fasting, but that can be remedied as desired. Here’s one of the new ones, with the handicaps of being crumpled in transit and me having to contort to take the picture (EDIT: and the picture being garbage. Sorry about that):

Written by Martin

2010/10/13 at 11:44

Posted in New toys

Six Flags Great Adventure

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The fastest, tallest roller coaster in the world? Why yes, I would like to try that.

The catch? It’s 3 hours away in, New Jersey. There’s another Six Flags amusement park near here, in Annapolis. Butbutbut, that one does not have the world’s fastest, tallest roller coaster, which clearly won’t do. Oh, and the tickets are $30, WITH various discounts. Not too bad, you’d think. Except that you of  course have to pay about $12 in tolls to get there (ignoring the gas price). And then when you arrive, they charge you $15 for parking. WTF? It’s not like there’s any way to get there other than by car, it’s in the middle of nowhere. So is it worth all these hassles? Yes, yes it is.

After a few hiccups we ended up going on a Friday evening, which turned out to be a brilliant move. There were only a few people there, such that we rarely had to wait in line for rides. And with Halloween coming up (apparently in America it isn’t just Christmas that starts a month early), the twilight was quite in tune with the various cobwebs and oogly booglies they’d put up everywhere.

On top of the lighting and decorations, they even had eerie Halloween music and ominous laughter going on pretty much all over the park. And the various closed stalls (on account our timing, I reckon) didn’t hurt either. This was most noticeable in the Golden Kingdom (where Kingda Ka is), where even the streetlights were off in places. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

In the manner of most American theme parks, most of the rides are… well, themed. The first one we went on was the Dark Knight Batman ride, which turned out to be the least memorable of the outdoor rides (but better than the indoor ones, and most of the rides in Tivoli). But we didn’t know that at the time, so it was plenty enjoyable. These themes were also used to separate different areas of the park, such that the area around the Batman had a large number of clowns:











While the other end of the park held a Western/Mexican theme, and the Asian Golden Kingdom. And while of course the decorations changed, the effect was compounded by various grim characters loitering around each region. The left shot above shows two of the evil clowns that would sneak up behind you and boo (while keeping a straight mean-face) or grate the pictured shovel along the asphalt. Surprisingly effective, that shovel was. The other areas had dead cowboys, witches, etc. Extremely cool, really.

But enough fluff, what about the roller coasters? There were lots, and they were all really good. The best ones in my opinion were:

Kingda Ka of course. It’s extremely short, but extremely fast. No gradual acceleration either, it just launches you forward at break-neck speed, leaving you too flabbergasted to be particularly scared even when you descend the 130m tower. The speed cannot be overstated; at more than 200 km/h, the wind force will alone blur your vision and reorganize your face, at least in the front cars. It was unique, but probably not quite as good as…

Nitro. If nothing then then for the simple fact that the Nitro ride is 5 times as long. It’s not just the duration though, but the massively wavy ups and downs. It’s the essence of roller coaster-dom. Climbs that make you giddy with anticipation, followed by huuuuge drops and 130 km/h rushes. The same kind of ride was to be had in…

El Toro, except that this one was a wooden coaster. Never in my life did I think I would see turns like that on a wooden coaster.

Bizarro was pretty sweet too, with twists, turns and spins everywhere. Plus it had lights and mist and belching flames that looked infinitely cooler at night than in the video I’m forced to link you as a replacement for the one I can’t upload (curse you

Finally, I should mention Superman. I guess it’s probably the most well-known ride at Six Flags, even though it’s not nearly the coolest. You’re hanging face-down in a harness, which leads to some pretty scary ‘if I fell from here I’d make a massive splash of meatsauce on the ground’ moments. But other than that it’s nothing spectacular (in comparison to the others anyway).

Written by Martin

2010/10/12 at 18:38

Posted in Uncategorized

Back to the future

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If today’s hit music was made in an early-80s synthesizer, what should we expect for the next couple of years?

Of course, if I knew that I’d be rich (or about to be), but humor me anyway. So, based on a very simplistic chronological and sociological analysis, my wishful thinking has come up with… Billy Idol, of the future!

Billy Idol... of the future?

And yes, I realize that the above image is Powerman 5000, not Billy Idol. Like I said, humor me. And no, I don’t really mean a Billy Idol-revival either. It’s more a general idea of a revival of the gloomy, depressed hedonism of Idol, Bowie, Blade Runner… a Generation XXX, if you will (Good lord, how trite was last bit?). “It’s all shit, let’s dance”, but without the optimism of rave, and more introspection than the current “Whatever, let’s dance.

Well, it’s just a thought. And full of banality, really. But let’s see; I know I’d buy it for a dollar.

Written by Martin

2010/10/06 at 15:02

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What ever happened to parts 2, 3 and 4 of the cereal review post, you might ask?

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about them, though they might not appear on the blog. Something far larger and more auspicious is brewing, but it’ll be a good while before it emerges into the light.

Written by Martin

2010/10/05 at 10:03

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Real People

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Well, I’ve finally collected myself enough to make a meaningful contribution to the blog, so why don’t I recount the promised tale of the conference I attended last week.

The topic of the conference was a trio of diseases: Cockayne Syndrome (CS), Trichothiodystrophy (TTD) and Xeroderma Pigmentosum (XP), and I was there because one of my projects here in Baltimore involves one of the two proteins responsible for CS. My invitation to the conference was rather sudden, and there was a dearth of information beforehand, so I didn’t really know what to expect, other than the topic and the fact that it was in Virginia.

I had a chance to look at the program while riding down there in Morten’s Mustang, and it became clear there wasn’t going to be a whole lot of free time. The two full days had planned event from 8 in the morning to about 9 in the evening, followed by ‘poster socializing’, implying the chance to simultaneously (re)acquaint yourself with the other scientists and grab a few drinks. The two half days were… half as busy, but since that just allowed for travel time it wasn’t much help in that regard.

Westfield Marriott Dulles Conference Center

The Westfield Marriott Dulles Conference Center turned out to be a very nice location for the event, and aside from the classy-but-mismatched decor (Chinese guardian lions next to faux Rennaissance paintings) and extravagant room (two double beds, with me as the sole occupant), it turned out to have a decent fitness center, and a perfectly acceptable buffet for three meals a day. While nice, this also had the effect of pushing both the schedule and my intermittent fasting to the breaking point; I wanted to take advantage of the free weights in the gym, since I don’t have access to those here in Bmore. But, gym visits had to be squeezed in before or after the daily program, meaning that I either got up at 6:30 or snuck off during the socializing. The intermittent fasting also saw major restructuring, since it wouldn’t be conducive towards scientific networking to skip all the meals on one of the days; in the end I managed to juggle it around so I only had one extra eating day, which is just fine (and meant I didn’t have to miss anything that was offered).

Room overkill

The talks and presentations were generally very interesting as well. Some fundamentals, that were very informative for a neophyte like myself, and some pretty significant new findings. And of course a few boring ones, but that’s inevitable. Exciting stuff, so it was quite regrettably that I couldn’t help but to doze off a little during a few of them. It’s a familiar weakness of mine, and even though I resorted to one or more cups of coffee a day (more than I’ve had the last year), it just wasn’t possible to maintain the required pace throughout. Get up at 6:30 to work out, sit through 10 hours of talks (using all the breaks to analyze the data that came in just before leaving the lab) and then socializing in the bar until one or two in the morning, only to do it all over again the following day. I slept a lot last weekend…

The most interesting thing about the conference, for me, was that it wasn’t just scientists. There were doctors working with the aforementioned diseases, representatives from support groups and several patients. It’s a very strange experience to be confronted with a person who is debilitated by a mutation in the protein that you’re researching; it takes a big mental leap to abstract from pipetting aqueous solutions of the CSA protein into Eppendorf tubes to helping someone who’s aging at a greatly accelerated rate because he doesn’t produce this protein. A strange experience, but a good one.

Written by Martin

2010/10/03 at 16:27

Posted in Uncategorized