Going to SIN

My father is fond of telling people that he used to work at SIN (Schweizerisches Institut fur Nuklearphysik). Well, I'm surpassing him -- I don't need to work at it. I'm just going to SIN. Jan 5 to May 28.

Hmm. It's approximately 30 km from the airport to the university. If I keep on running through the winter, I could probably run that distance by the time I go there.

Posted at 2008-10-28 6:49 | Permanent link | Comments

MEAWS rhythms in Flash

I have the first test version of the MEAWS rhythm game written in Flash. It was much easier than I expected; if this actually works, I'm going to be disgusted.

If you're reasonably computer-savvy and/or don't mind wasting a few minutes, try it: rhythm test.

You need a microphone. The object is to discover if this is actually a viable cross-platform tool. There is (virtually) no user interface, no game, and no fun. You'll probably need to try running it a few times before you get anything happening. To try it again, hit "refresh".

Posted at 2008-10-27 3:41 | Permanent link | Comments

Greatest eyes

I received the teaching evaluations for last summer. UVic, like I imagine most universities these days, asks students to fill out an evaluation form about their instructors and TAs near the end of the class. These include a numerical portion (giving a ranking from -2 to +2 on things like "use relevant examples and illustrations" or "is polite, courteous and provides an open, hospitable environment for all") and comments.

The numerical section tends to be useless -- I've filled out enough of them myself to know that the answers can be fairly random -- but I always pay attention to the written comments. (these can be typed out by a secretary to anonymize the handwriting if the student ticks the relevant box).

I recieved the best two comments in my (teaching) life this time. The second-best comment was

He has a great abillity [sic] to explain in may different ways.
I make a deliberate effort to do this, so I'm quite happy that somebody noticed. If somebody doesn't understand a concept, I'll repeat the same explanation once (in case he wasn't paying attention the first time -- quite reasonable in a lab setting). But if they still don't get it, I try to find a radically different way to explain the concept.

The best comment of all was:

... and he has the greatest eye's [sic] I have ever seen.
Once of my fellow grad students at UVic was really pleased about getting "The prof is smoking hot", and now I understand why. Quite apart from the mundane physical compliment, it indicates a level of friendly respect. I mean, nobody would ever write "the instructor was a complete jerk, was always unprepared, couldn't teach anything... but had fabulous hair". When students throw in comments like that, you know that they're happy.

I must admit that the grammar adds a certain naive charm. This was a first-year class, so it seems entirely appropriate to have a "look out, there's an S coming!" apostrophe in there. :)

Posted at 2008-10-23 12:38 | Permanent link | Comments

Miserable failure

I attempted to do 21.2km (slightly more than a half marathon). I failed.

At 1 hour and 47 minutes -- that's almost an hour longer than I've ever ran before -- my muscles stopped. I'd been getting gradually slower for the past half hour; at the time I wasn't really going faster than a fast walk. I wasn't panting at all, nor was my heart rate fast. My muscles just stopped responding.

Actually, I had some difficulty earlier -- shortly after beginning my second lap, my right knee started to hurt. I considered turning back, but I stupidly decided to keep on going. Don't do this at home, boys and girls. When you're panting and you generally hurt, sure, keep on running. When you feel pain in your chest... well, you should probably stop running, but I keep on going. When you start to lose circulation to your fingers... again, that's probably a really bad sign and you should slow down or stop, but I keep on going.

However, when your joints start to hurt, stop. I mean, even I will stop (in the future) when that happens. And we've already established that I take a lot of stupid risks while running.

Anyway, when my right knee was hurting, I limped along by putting more weight on my left leg. After about 2km, my right knee felt ok (or just stopped complaining), so I started running normally for a while. But then I noticed that I was slowing down, and couldn't speed up again. I wasn't out of breath, and I wasn't in pain... I just couldn't get my muscles to move faster. After a while of that, I tripped slightly and started walking, and couldn't start running again. I couldn't even walk normally... it took me half an hour to reach the car, and a pair of elderly ladies passed me. I was going really slowly.

Anyway, it was an interesting experience. I think I definitely qualify as "injured" -- I couldn't get into bed without lifting my right leg with my hands -- and it certainly qualifies as "self-inflicted" and "caused by stupidity". But at the same time, the only way to learn about this kind of thing is to experience it once or twice. I would have never paid attention if anybody warned me about this before today... actually, come to think of it, I think a few of my friends did warn me.

And I certainly chose the right time to do it -- I'm living with my parents, with no immediate deadlines. I have a few days until I play in orchestra or do any music teaching, so my daily life is relatively untroubled by this injury. It'd be terrible if this happened at UVic -- I wouldn't be able to bike or walk to university. Now, I'm sure that my landlord would have given me a car ride... but still, I'd rather not be wandering around the university using the hand rails to pull myself up stairs.

Yes, definitely a valuable experience. And hey, how often do you get to say "yeah, I failed... I only ran for 17km without stopping"? :)

PS: running a marathon is definitely a "when", not an "if".

Posted at 2008-10-07 20:00 | Permanent link | Comments

Getting no work done

In the past month, I almost finished cleaning my room and wrote an NSERC application (that's the main Canadian scholarship for grad students in science and engineering). I've also been teaching viola, playing viola in orchestra (they had too many violins and cellos, so I'm playing viola to be helpful :(, and started a string quartet where I'm playing first violin.

That's not much. I blame the Burnaby Public Library. :)

I've been catching up on all my favorite scifi/fantasy authors from the past two years, reading approximately 1000 pages per day. But I'm finally getting bored of leisure, and have started getting work done. Including this site. :)

Posted at 2008-10-02 2:57 | Permanent link | Comments


In the past month I've been running around Burnaby Lake, which is 10.6 km. The first time I went (less that 24 hours after returning from Belfast), I did it in 52 minutes. After dividing by 1.06, that gives 49 minutes -- I became a "sub-50" 10k-er! :)

Next time was 49 minutes and 46 seconds for the 10.6km. Following time was 51-something, followed by 48-56 and 48-36. I'm particularly happy about the last one -- that was the first time that I did this run without any chest pains. Not only could I run comfortably, but I even set a new record!

I should explain: when I run, I run. My definition of a "good run" is a run in which, when you spit and miss the ground (i.e. it dribbles down your chin and/or shirt), you don't care. If you have the energy left to care about your appearance, you clearly aren't running hard enough.

(ok, I do wipe my face on my t-shirt. But I don't care about the way the t-shirt looks afterwards)

This is particularly funny since I'm generally quite fussy -- some people might say obsessive -- about being neat and tidy. People who know me in person probably can't imagine me being drenched in sweat, gasping for breath, with trails of spit hanging down my face. To be honest, even I have difficulty imaging it, and I've been doing it for weeks.

Why am I doing it? To go up levels, of course!

A few years ago -- I think it was five, although I wouldn't swear to that -- my kind-of sister dragged me out running. She want to start running, but didn't want to go by herself. So we started running... we were both terrible. We'd literally walk for two minutes, jog for thirty seconds, and then walk for another two minutes to catch our breath. And I wasn't just humoring her by stopping so quickly -- I really didn't feel that I could jog for more than thirty seconds.

I don't know whether I physically couldn't jog (due to muscles and bones atrophying over the previous ten years), or whether I just mentally couldn't jog (due to lacking sufficient determination to overcome the pain). I'm not certain which one would be more pathetic, either.

Whatever the cause, it certainly was pathetic, so I decided to fix it. Later on, when plans for Singapore were made, I became even more determined to improve -- as an ambassador of the West Coast of Canada, I couldn't do anything less than running 5km in 30 minutes. That turned into 5km multiple times per week, which then became 5km in 25 minutes 5 days in a row, which turned into 10km in 50 minutes once a week.

Basically, instead of falling into the trap of MMORPGs (massively-multiplayer online role-playing games), where you work and work to kill monsters so you can go up levels for the reward of fighting harder monsters so you can go up more levels, I've fallen into the trap of working and working to run faster/longer, so that I can run even faster/longer. Hence my obsession with my times and distances -- my times are like my experience points, and reaching particular times (e.g., "5km in 25 minutes", "10km in 50 minutes") represents going up levels. What's the reward? Well, knowing that I've achieved level 7 in Running.

Hey, it may sound stupid, but I'm sure that you'll admit that becoming a Level 7 Runner (10km in 50 minutes) is still oodles better than becoming a Level 50 Warlock in Worlds of Warcraft (tm).

Posted at 2008-10-01 12:34 | Permanent link | Comments

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