Archive for May, 2008

17
May
08

Music news

I think it’s been a while since I’ve written anything about music. That’s not entirely surprising, though, since I didn’t really have anything to write about. Last night, however, I got a new album: Reinventing the Wheel by Andy Gullahorn. I’ve known about him for quite some time since he’s a good friend and frequent collaborator of Andrew Peterson. However, I had never really listened to any of his stuff until the last few days. For some reason, I decided to check out Jill Phillips, who is Andy Gullahorn’s wife and her site led me to his, which I have enjoyed (for its humor content) since the days when he still used Microsoft Word to create it (which is actually not that long ago). Anyway, I found the Youtube ad (which is pretty funny) he created to promote his new album and I got interested in hearing more of his stuff. So, I listened to some of his stuff on his MySpace page and to the 30-second clips of his songs on iTunes.

Finally, I just bought the album.  I don’t regret it. I’ve listened to it the whole way through a few times and I really like it. There are a few stand-out songs on it, either because I really like the music (“Original Cliche”, “Nobody Wants to Work”), or because the subject matter resonates with me (“That Guy”, “More of a Man”). Overall, it’s a solid album. He is a very talented guitarist and a capable singer. Although much of his website and his commercial is very silly, his songs are pretty sober (except for “Roast Beef”, which is about his friend, Andrew Osenga, losing one of his toes to his lawnmower).  Well, I would say that the themes in the songs are sober, but the way in which they’re presented is sometimes silly.  I think I would liken it to a good serious movie – some humorous elements are interspersed in order to prevent the movie from becoming totally morose.

In any case, many of the songs are thought-provoking, so I feel like the album is intellectually and/or spiritually satisfying as well as musically satisfying.  He’s a Christian and some of the songs have Christian themes, but I would say that this album is generally more accessible to non-Christians than Andrew Peterson’s albums.  In fact, probably only 3 (out of 11) songs have explicitly Christian themes (“Desperate Man”, “That Guy”,”Holy Ground”).  He sings about his family a lot (“How Precious Life Is”, “Desperate Man”, “Alright Here”, “More of a Man”,”Enough Time”, “Give It Time”) , which resonates strongly with me but might not be so powerful to single folks or those with no kids.  If you’re intrigued by my assessment of it, check out his stuff on his MySpace page and listen to it for yourself.

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11
May
08

Sports-oriented graph paper

I’ve been preparing a post on the Pirates’ win records over the last few years and I had created an Excel spreadsheet to plot their win fraction (total wins/total games played) as a function of time during each season. Initially, I had plotted their win fraction versus the date but that made comparing the data between seasons complicated because the seasons’ start and end dates vary a bit from year to year. So, I plotted it versus the number of games played. When I did that, I was somewhat surprised to find that there were sections of the plots from different seasons that overlapped exactly, sometimes for 5 or more games. This indicated that these plots were constrained to consist of a series of small sections from a relatively small, finite set of curves. However, I didn’t know what these curves were, so I set about to figure it out. The final product of this investigation is graph paper that a sports fan can use to easily plot the progress of his/her favorite team as the season progresses.

Continue reading ‘Sports-oriented graph paper’

08
May
08

Pirates!

The Pirates swept the Giants in their recently-concluded 3-game series.  Obviously, this is good to see under any circumstances.  However, I was particularly happy to see the Pirates win a couple of close games.  It seems to me that when they win, they blow out their opponents but if the game is close, then they lose.  However, yesterday, they won 3-1 and today they won 5-4 after trailing 4-2.

An interesting tidbit that I learned yesterday is that (as of yesterday) the Pirates’ starting outfielders (Jason Bay, Nate McLouth, and Xavier Nady) collectively have 20 home runs and 73 RBI, which is better than any trio of outfielders in all of baseball.  Nice job, guys.  Of course, I’ve said before that Nate McLouth and Xavier Nady are awesome, but I was impressed at how well the Pirates outfield compares with the rest of the league.

07
May
08

It feels like Friday

Maybe some of you can relate to this: whenever I have something big to do – like a big deadline to meet or something like that – I always feel like it’s Friday when it’s over.

Today, I gave my first lecture to a class.  I’ve been a TA for a couple of classes before and I’ve held recitations in front of reasonably large groups of students before but I’ve never given the lecture for the professor.  Yesterday, the professor teaching the course I’m TAing  this semester asked me to give today’s lecture because he’s out of town with his daughter who is (possibly still in the process of) having a baby.  I had about 15 hours from his request to the start of lecture, during which time I had to prepare for lecture and squeeze in some sleep.  Anyway, I spent a lot of hours preparing and overall it went pretty well.  However, when I was done, it felt like Friday.  Too bad it’s only Wednesday.

06
May
08

My name could live in infamy

I was just looking up information about the recent cyclone in Myanmar and I came across the list of names that will be used for future hurricanes.  It turns out that the third hurricane of 2010 will be named “Colin”.  Interestingly, neither my wife’s name nor my daughter’s name appear in the currently active list or in the list of retired names.  I’m just hoping that “Colin” doesn’t become equated with death and destruction, like “Katrina” has become.  Unfortunately, I have no control over that.

03
May
08

More excited than I should be

After 5 years of using my laptop, I finally got a replacement for the little red pointing stick on my IBM laptop.  They come in packs of 6 – two each of three different styles.  The excitement I feel about such a small, cheap item is surprising.

03
May
08

Mapping Pittsburgh Neighborhoods

Hopefully I’ll be graduating sometime in 2008 and depending on whether certain funding comes through, we may be moving back to Pittsburgh in the not-too-distant future. So, we’ve started looking at potential places to live. If the funding comes through, I’ll be working at CMU, so we’d like to live somewhere close. Although both Heather and I lived both on and off campus during our undergrad years at CMU, we (I especially) don’t know the nearby neighborhoods very well. In particular, I don’t have a good sense of where, for example, Squirrel Hill ends and Shadyside begins, or where Friendship is. I had certainly heard the names of neighborhoods like Point Breeze and Regent Square, but I didn’t have a good idea of where they were. So, I set about to educate myself about these things.

What I wanted was a Google Map with colored overlays defining each neighborhood. However, I could not find such a thing. So, I decided I should make one. I get my data from this site, operated by the City of Pittsburgh. If you click on a neighborhood, it’ll bring up a map of that neighborhood. That page also contains a link to a pdf file of the map, which you can zoom in on if necessary. It’s a little tedious, but I’m copying a neighborhood at a time into a Google Map using the “My Maps” interface.

It’s been interesting so far and some things have been a little surprising. For example, did you know that CMU is technically in Squirrel Hill, not Oakland? Despite having spent 4 years at CMU, I did not know that. I would have said that Squirrel Hill starts immediately to the east of CMU. However, as far as the City of Pittsburgh is concerned, that is not the case. Also, there are a bunch of neighborhoods that I had never heard of, like Terrace Village.

My map has existed for less than 24 hours and has already been viewed almost 300 times, so I’m hopeful that people are finding it useful despite its incomplete status. If anyone would like to help me in this endeavor, let me know, and I’ll invite you to collaborate, which will give you the necessary permissions to edit the map. I think you may need to have a Gmail account for it to work, but I’m not sure.




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