Usually drunken.


April 30, 2009, 8:29 a.m. by Paul Stiverson
So, yesterday I got the best email I’ve probably ever gotten. > Paul Stiverson: > > CONGRATULATIONS! All of your manuscript corrections are done and your forms have been received. You are cleared by the Thesis Office. > > Thank you. What this means is that I am all the way done with my Master’s degree, all I have left to do is walk across the stage. If you would like to read my thesis it is [available on this site](http://thismatters.net/research/thesis.pdf). For those who are unaware, I have been offered another summer position at [Ames](http://www.arc.nasa.gov/), so I will be leaving for California very shortly after the aforementioned stage walking. I am excited to be going back, I sort of need a vacation from school. Sorry I haven’t posted much lately, I would say that I’ve been too busy, but really I’ve been too lazy. I promise to make some good posts soon.

Trip report: California to Texas

Aug. 19, 2008, 12:47 a.m. by Paul Stiverson
In my previous post I mentioned that I would likely start the long drive on Monday, i.e. today, but that was before I found out that my travel partner, Mallory, had little desire to visit San Francisco. Once I learned this fact we decided to skip town a bit early. We also decided that it would be cool to see the Grand Canyon, and that doing so would only add a couple hours to the trip. Well I’m happy to report that I am safely back in Texas, and that the Grand Canyon is pretty awesome. Presently I’m in McKinney, TX and I will be back in CS tomorrow by mid-day.

Press Shops

Aug. 13, 2008, 8:05 p.m. by Paul Stiverson
After the criticism I received from a [previous post](http://thismatters.net/ramblings/comment.php?post_id=180) I decided that there were a few locations that I would like to see before I leave town. So today I set out to visit a couple letterpress shops in San Francisco, these are print shops that utilize more traditional methods than a local Kinko’s—Gutenburg would actually recognize what is going on in these shops (for the most part)—and the difference shows in the product. My first destination was [One Heart Press](http://oneheartpress.com), which is conveniently located just a couple blocks from the CalTrain station. I met with Val, who was nice enough to show me the (admittedly small) shop. She told me a bit about the business, showed me a beautiful portfolio of work, described for me their set up. They typically don’t use too much traditional movable type, they instead use custom plates to make impressions. This allows them to use robust graphics and reduce the amount of type (the individual metal characters) they have to keep, they do keep some large wooden sorts on hand in the event they are needed. I eventually got to see their Heidelburg Windmill in action (they weren’t printing anything just lubing the machine up for the day’s printing) which was really impressive. Imagine a one ton piece of equipment that is capable of printing 5000 impressions an hour with pinpoint accuracy (feeding the new sheet, inking the type surface, pressing the page, and depositing it in hopper) all without the benefit of electronics, and all running off of a single fly wheel. An engineering masterpiece. My next stop was the [Hello!Lucky](http://www.hellolucky.com" class="verbatim) shop, I didn’t stay as long there, but I did see that they used much the same technique as the previous shop. I got to see a Heidelburg Cylinder Press in action, another beautifully engineered piece of equipment. This shop specialized in fun and colorful cards (birthday, thank you, christmas, etc.), and they kept a staff of designers to keep them coming. The printers at both shops suggested that I go tour [Arion Press](http://arionpress.com), which still does hand typesetting to produce limited edition books and what have you, and they have a fully functioning type foundry to make all the little characters (or sorts as they are called in the biz. Fun Fact: The saying “All out of sorts” is a typography term, so is “Mind your pees and queues”). Thankfully they give tours every Thursday, so I’ll be able to make one. Expect another typography post tomorrow.


Aug. 5, 2008, 10:29 a.m. by Paul Stiverson
Well, my time in California is winding down (thank goodness). My last day of work is Wednesday, the sixth, on the seventh I fly to Dallas for (my fellow blooger) Mark’s wedding. Here comes the twist, on the tenth I fly back to San Francisco. [I drove here, and I don’t much want to leave my car in the Bay Area.] Then I wait, you see Mallory is flying in to the Bay Area to make the drive back to Texas with me, it will be nice to not be alone with my thoughts for 28 more hours—it gets scary in there. The problem is that Mal flies in on the 15th, leaving me with 5 unscheduled days in South Bay, this shouldn’t be a big problem though, I made it though the three unscheduled days at the start of summer right, and now I know the area, piece of cake. There is a pretty kick-ass bookstore about two miles from the base, and they have a frequent readers card sort of thing going on. They track your purchases on this little paper card, and when you buy 10 books they give you a book of the average value (of the 10 purchased books) for free. Last night I realized that I had a half full card (and a lot of upcoming free time) so I finished out the card and got my free book. Six new books I now have resting on my desk. I figure I should be able to knock one (and maybe a half) out during all the flying parts, leaving me 5 or so to read during the 5 unscheduled days. The books are as follows. * _FDR: The First Hundred Days_—self explanatory * _True Enough_—Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society * _Inside Steve’s Brain_—Steve Jobs, CEO or Apple, former CEO of Pixar, general badass. I’ve been eyeing this book all summer. * _How Math Explains the World_—A guide to the power of numbers from car repair to modern physics. * _Just How Stupid Are We?_—Facing the truth about the modern voter * _The Drunkard’s Walk_—How Randomness rules our lives As I sit here I see 15 books I’ve read already (and three I couldn’t stand to read one more freaking page of), it has been a good literary summer.


July 19, 2008, 7:49 p.m. by Paul Stiverson
This weekend I decided I should get my act together and finally spend some time outdoors. I was planning to backpack at King’s Canyon National Park, but upon realizing that it was 5 hours away (and would have cost me at least $80 in gas alone) I decided to go with a place that is a little closer. Henry W. Coe State Park fit the bill, it was close (less than 50 miles away), and it was open. I’m happy to report that I’m home safe, and I’m sad to report that backpacking alone sucks, like _really_ bad. I’m sure some people get a kick out of it, but I am not one of those. The park is pretty nice, but it was very dry and pretty warm (for the area), and the landscape reminded me of West Texas (with fewer cacti). The trails were nice for the most part (except the “Obscure Trails”, those were kinda tough to follow), but one of the roads—which I hiked on for a while—was in pretty haggard condition, and entirely too steep for hiking. I slipped and fell, did a kind of split thing and hit my knee pretty hard. Steep descents are always hell on my knees anyway, but hitting it didn’t really do me any favors, by the time I made it to the bottom of the hill I had to favor my left knee pretty heavily. There was a flock of birds that I inadvertently roused, and they scared the crap out of me, they sounded like damn helicopters—their wingbeats were absurdly violent. I made it to my first night’s camp well before dusk, and decided that a tarp/shelter wasn’t necessary, so I laid my sleeping bag out on my groundsheet (to let it loft up). I boiled water to make my usual boil-in-a-bag dinner, and enjoyed the surroundings, which were nice. Then I wrote a bit in the ol’ camp journal (“Dear Diary…”). I ran out of stuff to do before the sun fell behind the hilltops but I decided to lay down anyway, I planned my route for the next day (today) knowing that I wasn’t planning on staying another night (lone backpacking sucks and knee pain), then slept fitfully for a couple hours. I woke up after it had gotten dark but before the moonrise, I was happy that I was able to see some stars. The big dipper was the first constellation to appear, so I used it to find the North Star, but I noticed that there was a lot of light pollution coming from the south. When the moon finally rose I figured out where the light pollution was coming from. It was a nearly full moon, and that fucker was BRIGHT, I could have packed up camp and hiked out under light of the moon alone, when I looked north I saw that I was casting a legitimate shadow. I was eventually able to fall back asleep (I never sleep well in the outdoors), and I woke up shivering several hours later. I had left my sleeping bag open since it was so warm, so I pulled on my base layer (I love Smartwool) and watch cap and zipped up the sleeping bag (the little foot vent too). I tossed and turned for about 30 minutes trying to get warm and trying to figure out how long I had slept by the rotation of the stars (couldn’t do it, too bright). When the morning—well dawn—finally rolled around I figured I had gotten a good 4 hours of sleep and decided that I should cook breakfast and get ready to roll out. My sleeping bag was a bit dewy and as I was hanging up to dry I realized that I had a problem. I had to poop, pretty bad. So begins my first outdoor pooping experience (that I can recall) since I was in diapers, luckily I started packing toilet paper some time back and I’ve read extensively on the topic. I opted to go with the ‘[smear technique](http://www.usscouts.org/usscouts/lnt/9.asp)’, considering that the creek was dry (and likely to be for the next month or so), I figured that all the nasties would be gone before any water could come in contact with it; the cat-hole technique doesn’t get rid of the nasty bacteria for a number of years, and I don’t know exactly were all the water sources are in the area. In the afternoon I stopped for lunch and happened to spot a Coyote who had just caught his dinner, I could see the smile on his face and sense the bounce in his step. I didn’t take any pictures because I’m not a camera-carrying dork.

Big Flippin’ Windtunnel

July 16, 2008, 5:46 p.m. by Paul Stiverson
look at dat fukken windtunnel
I just got back from a tour of the 80'x120' windtunnel here at Ames. They finished building it in 1987, and it was built as an addition to the existing 40'x80' tunnel (which was the biggest until the 80'x120' was finished). I’ve walked by this thing pretty often and it is pretty impressive, but when compared to Hangar 1 it isn’t that big, however when you walk inside all the illusion is dissipated by the hugeness of the room. They had a parachute for the [next Mars Rover](http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/) set up for testing. The inlet (there in the picture) is as big as a football field.

Texan Accent

July 12, 2008, 6:34 p.m. by Paul Stiverson
The other day I realized that I do have a Texan accent. I was talking to another intern mentioning that I bough my old roommate a pen to match mine as a graduation gift. Somehow the conversation shifted to pins out of the blue, I was notably confused and decreed that I was talking about writing utensils, not pointy things you use to decorate your clothing. I said, “I’m talking about pens, not pins.” They heard, “I’m talking about pens, not pens.” Apparently I don’t differentiate those two vowels in that context, while crazy yankees do; funny no Texans have missed my context clues.


July 9, 2008, 11:22 p.m. by Paul Stiverson
Typically we go to dinner in downtown Mountain View, which is about a mile from the base here, but today—on a whim—we went to Sunnyvale for dinner. We had a bit of trouble finding the ‘Downtown’ area, but when we finally got there we were greeted by a freaking kick-ass street festival, they had a live Zydeco band and everything. I thought that I had somehow traveled back to East Texas until I tasted the fried fish to find that it was cod instead of catfish. It was really awesome never-the-less.

California vs. Texas

June 27, 2008, 12:14 p.m. by Paul Stiverson
I’m rapidly approaching the 2 month mark here in the Bay Area and I think I have gathered enough data to publish my opinions on the strengths and weaknesses of the Golden State (or at least the Bay Area), Texas will be the basis for comparison (so obviously California loses). Here goes. * Despite also being as dry as a tinderbox Texas manages to keep wildfires to a minimum, [unlike California](http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/06/14/california.wildfires.ap/). Texas +1 * The average woman in Texas is at least 15% more attractive than the average Californian woman. Texas +1 * I have yet to find a Californian beer with [rebus puzzles](http://thismatters.net/hobbies/lonestar/) under the lid. Texas +1 * The weather is freaking incredible in California, my balls don’t regularly stick to my leg here. California +1 * California has mountains. California +1 (Yes, technically so does Texas, but in trying to be objective I considered quantity and quality, and I’m sorry to say California wins) * Texas is bigger. Texas +1 * California doesn’t border Oklahoma. California +1 * Texas has managed to control and contain its population of delusional people/yuppies/hippies to Austin. Texas +1 * California has sales tax and state income tax. Texas +1 * You can buy liquor in grocery stores here. California +1 * Texas has Shiner Kölsh, and 99. Texas +1 * Gas costs more here. Texas +1 * They don’t have Blue Bell here. Texas +1 * California has Berkeley. Texas +1 * Most Californians hate Berkeley too. Draw Final score: California 4, Texas 10. Not even close, I’ll be home for good on August 20th or so. In other news, I got my laptop back on Wednesday—they replaced the motherboard, and it seems to be running fine. edit: it is still doing the dark on half the screen thing. Looks like I’ll take it back in again.

At least I have my books…

June 24, 2008, 10:56 a.m. by Paul Stiverson
On Sunday I took my mac to the shop, it has been doing this weird thing where the left side of the screen is occasionally dimmer than the right, and since I’m less than 10 miles away from an Apple store (in any direction), and 8 miles away from Apple headquarters (south, in Cupertino) I figured now would be the appropriate time to have it looked at. I had kinda hoped they would say, “Oh, yours is broken; here is a new one with a nice LED backlit glossy screen,” but instead they said, “Oh, we’ll need to send this in for repairs, it will most likely be back on Thursday.” I’m still hoping that it will be un-repairable so I can get a new one with a nice LED backlit glossy screen. The moral of the story is that I’m without a computer until Thursday, thankfully the fine IT department hooked me up with a loaner for use at work (G4 PowerMac, 2003) that should tide me over until I get mine back.
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