Thursday, August 26, 2010

Apparently I Don't Handle Failure and Rejection Well...Or Something Like That

Took my road test today. Yup. Failed. Why you might ask?

I was doing splendidly, as a matter of fact. But then I made a right turn, and pulled up behind a UPS truck that was parked to make deliveries. With cars parked on the side of the street, I couldn't really do anything. So I sat there for a few minutes and waited, trying to remember what the laws say about passing cars, as the street was divided by a double yellow solid line. I knew it was technically illegal, so I waited for a couple minutes more. A car was approaching in the opposite direction, and pulled over into the parked cars to allow me to pass. I figured that this was a sign that it was acceptable to go. So I signaled out of the lane, went around the UPS truck, and signaled back in. I even gave the other car a little "thank you" wave. The examiner said nothing, so I figured it was the right move. We continue with the test.

We pull into the driveway of the DMV, and the examiner goes over my infractions, which were few and inconsequential. I would have passed, but since I technically broke the law by crossing the double solid yellow lines, I was immediately failed for it. I asked him what I should have done. The examiner said I should have waited until the truck moved, or asked his permission to break the law. This doesn't seem right, and seems like the result of a guy having a bad day, but it didn't seem right to argue then and there. So I accepted it.

Yes, I was bummed, and slightly dismayed, but in no debilitating or distressed way. I was by all accounts fine.

Until I got about 20 feet from the DMV's doors and started to feel dizzy and light headed. I've passed out once before while fencing (it was hot and I was dehydrated), and know what it's like. I started to go down as the "oh shit" moment flashed.

The thing about fainting is that you don't feel the impact. It must be some coping mechanism the body figured out. So when I came to, I was on the ground on my back. For a brief moment I thought "Oh, maybe no body saw me fall". So I jumped up and tried to make it to the DMV Office.

I don't remember actually going through the doors, as I found myself sitting in the DMV waiting room, dripping sweat, surrounded by people, being handed things that had fallen out of my pockets. The examiner was on the phone calling for an ambulance. I told them I was fine (which I apparently was not), and got up with the help of my sister and ambled my way back to the car outside.

I apparently fainted a third time in the parking lot, as my sister did her best to catch my dead weight and gently lower me to the ground (I am significantly larger than her). I eventually made my way back to the car. I didn't void or soil anything, which is always a silver lining. I did however, find my fly down, but I don't know what to make of it, and rather not dwell on it.

By the insistence of my dad, I went to the emergency room. It's technically a Women's and Children's Hospital, but I guess the emergency room works differently. It also explained why Hannah Montana was playing on all the TVs. I also never got a wheelchair. The short end of it is that they don't know what happened. It might have been emotional and mental distress, but I honestly wasn't that bummed out about failing. I've honestly failed much harder in a much more final and definite way, and was perfectly fine. I hadn't really eaten or drank much that day, so it might have been that (some beef jerky and a red velvet cupcake is the official story). They also said I have a high white blood cell count, which points towards some sort of infection or stress (I'd say stress, since fainting this much isn't normal). Don't really know what happened. They wanted to keep me overnight, but I need to go to Connecticut tomorrow morning, so that wasn't going to happen. Other than some unsightly bruising (my head is apparently the heaviest part of my body, as that's what hit the ground first), I think I'm more or less fine.

I think this is an oddly fitting end to my summer, as I head back to school in the morning. It would have been rather boring to simply fail my test for a bogus reason, but to fail my road test and faint 3 times, makes it a story. Hooray! And imagine how much excitement I brought to the lives of the Dillingham Department of Motor Vehicles. That's me, Bringer of Excitement. They will forever tell the story of the Asian guy who was so distressed over failing his road test (like those ones that commit suicide because they can't get into college), that he fainted three times...or something like that.

Until next summer...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Wrinkled Like Me: A Descent Into Old Age

With the bloody holes in my mouth slowly clotting and reclotting, I was told not to do anything that could raise my blood pressure and cause me to bleed out. In my imagination this excluded power tools and rock music, so I decided to invest my time in a new craft and a new artistic medium normally reserved for the geriatric:


Though I can't get myself to mentally pronounce it correctly (screw this English language), I began a few projects in my down time. Though I cannot show my first project, as it's a surprise (shh!) I am proud to present to you my second project of such geek-tastic proportions, I'm giddy with delight.

Have you ever been sitting in lab, waiting for your solution to dissolve, and thought to yourself: I wish there was something that simultaneously kept my head warm, as well as expressed my devotion to scientific research and wet Chemistry?

I present to you, the 250mL Pyrex Erlenmeyer Flask Snow Hat:

I would have made it the top-shelf Corning brand made in Germany, but USA is a lot easier to embroider.

Though the color is too dark, the only blue solution I could think of was Copper Sulfate:

I'm not sure if the molarity is realistic, and was too lazy to calculate it based off of solubilities since it's summer and you can't make me, so I made a guess. It sounded reasonable, and in theory, if you heat anything enough, any molarity is possible. In theory.

Impressive, no? But, wait! It gets even better. Always one to outdo myself, not only is this hat an E-flask of copper sulfate solution, it also comes with a Cimarec Stirring Hot Plate Nape and Ear Flaps:

A close up of the stirring hot plate panel:

And what good is a stirring hot plate without Teflon-coated magnetic stir bar tassels and head doo-dads:

I refuse to admit how much time this took, though I will say I've developed amazing fine motor skills from this exercise. I like this medium, as it forces one to conceptualize everything in terms of simple geometric shapes. Also, I honestly don't see how old people do this all day. After a few hours, my hand would start to cramp. With arthritis, I don't see why this is the activity of choice next to Mahjong, cookie making, and complaining about kids-these-days.

It's a tad too small for my head (which is rather large. I've measured. One-Size-Fits-All hats are a lie), and don't think I'll make much use of it, as geek-arific as it is. That being said, if you really want it, it's yours. Preferably someone at school, so that I don't have to ship it.

I think I'm done with crocheting for now, as I don't think I could physically handle it. I have musical inclinations, and will turn thataway for the next few days. With a few more weeks left in summer, I'm starting to finish up the hundred little projects I've started at various points this summer. Onwards...

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Is That A Tooth In Your Pocket?: On Modern Dentistry

I have not been the the dentist in a few years. My last dentist was known by his patients as Uncle Allen, each of whom got to pick a toy out of the toy box at the end of their cleaning. And for a while it was fine. For some reason, I rather straight teeth, and thus never needed braces. I also don't drink many sugary drinks, and only sport one unfortunate cavity. Ah, but there's one thing that dental diligence cannot ward off:

Wisdom Teeth.

I remember a number of years ago Uncle Allen telling me I should get my wisdom teeth out that summer, though the subject was never brought up again. For the last few years, I've begun to feel my wisdoms starting to poke their little unwanted crowns through my gums, and I figured with all this spare time on my hands, I might as well go get myself some surgery.

Do you believe in coincidences? I prefer to believe in a Newtonian, mechanistic universe, in spite of what this movie would have you believe (again, thank you Mr. Devlin). There are many explanations, none of which you're interested in. As a point of coincidence or what have you, guess who my oral surgeon is? He's the father of one of kids from this summer, the father that asked for lesson plans while his kids were gone. Wonderful man, great kids. He's such a great doctor, that he even called me a couple times today after surgery to check up on me. Good feelings.

Down to the nitty gritty.

I have large teeth. I would have no way of guessing this, but it's the reason my 1.5 hour surgery to remove 4 wisdom teeth, extended to a 3 hour ordeal, in which we had to take a break. My top wisdom teeth are large. My surgeon told me that usually they're little pea shaped nubs that come out really easily. The harder ones only have 2 roots, and are still pretty small. My top wisdoms were the size of a dime, and had 4 roots, which I'm told is very unusual.

My teeth are rebels. Well, some of them. While most of them stand nicely in line, completing my winning smile, it would seem the oppression of conformity got to my bottom wisdoms. If you're lucky, your wisdoms will grow straight up. If you're unlucky, they start to grow horizontally into your other teeth, causing bad things. If you're me, your bottom wisdoms grow downwards into your jaw, requiring a bigger and even bloodier hole to be opened up.

Three hours later, all 4 were out. At this point I started contemplating the host of medications I had lined up. Of this list of possible medications a patient might need after surgery, I had all except one, bringing to the total to somewhere around 8 or 9.

One of them is optional: Percocet. I'm one that believes the unmedicated option is always better (since after taking environmental science classes, I've come to realize that it doesn't take a lot to kill you). I also don't want to be drugged out, as fun as it might sound. My one wish at the moment is to stop bleeding. As a fun little fact, I learned today from my surgeon that tea contains Tannin, which is a coagulant, and will help stop the bleeding. As a big coincidence, one of today's episodes of Law and Order (Criminal Intent: the inferior one) told me that rat poison is an anti-coagulant and is used by terrorists. Not as fun, but good to know.

On a lighter note, I'm not supposed to eat nuts for the next month or so. It was a long surgery, and I was under a bit of mental stress, and forgot where I was and who I was talking to. So, presented with the opportunity, I made some joke like: "Aww, no nuts? This will put a damper on my gay sex life." Not great, but it works. Luckily, my jaw was so well anesthetized that it came out more like: "Ahhhh, no nuns? Thistle Pooh hamper oh my gassy lie."

As part of my recovery, I'm not supposed to do strenuous things, as it will cause me to bleed out and stain the lovely things in my room I've collected over the years (like Ariel from the Little Mermaid, but without the musical sea creatures and baseless infatuation to strange men). Since both seasons of Pushing Daisies is streaming on Netflix now, I'm going to make my way through my second cancelled series of the summer (first was Firefly). But it wouldn't be me to simply sit around and watch TV.

And so, I introduce my next project of the summer:


Now before the judging eyes and granny-jokes get pulled out, there's a science behind it. Ever heard of hyperbolic space? Neither had I, but it's pretty cool. Here's an amazing TED talk about the intersection of math, science, and handycrafts.

Why crocheting? You might ask. Well, my brother for a while didn't have any interests of his own. Though this has since changed, we spent many weeks trying to find him a hobby of his own. One of these ill-fated attempts was crocheting, which my mother used to do. After a week of making squares and ridiculously short scarfs (absolutely unnecessary in Hawaii), he gave up.

I'm not terribly good. I know basic patterns and can make some nifty things, but I've always liked finding my own way to do things. So after I finish crocheting a little project for a friend, I'm going to try to bring science and crafts together. I need suggestions for science things to crochet. I've seen some nice periodic tables people have crochet, as well as a dissected frog:

I think I'll try to make a DNA double helix, perhaps some other polymers and molecules. We'll see. Suggestions are always welcome. Requests are considered. Demands are frowned upon. Death Threats are returned in kind.

So until the bleeding stops, I'll be turning into an old woman. Watching Pushing Daisies has also inspired me to make pies, so I might do that as well just to complete the picture. Anyone got a spare windowsill I can cool my pastries and hang my doilies from?

Friday, July 30, 2010

2 Weeks Later: On Cryptex Construction (Resolution)

And after two or so weeks of work, the cryptex is done.

No, the passcode is not my name, nor any of the other things you saw in the previous post. I'm generally pleased with the way it turned out. I put a clear coat enamel on the end caps to protect them from scuffing and getting damaged. I engraved each tumbler with a more or less random 13 letters. I'm pretty happy with the font:

The engraving took a bit longer than I expected, but I think it was worth the effort. I would show you all how it works, but the mechanisms haven't changed since the last update. I"m very pleased with how the endcaps worked out, and they're perhaps my favorite feature. I'd like to try more woodworking projects in the future.

To debrief?
I would like to say I'm never going to build another one, but that would be a blatant lie. Perhaps I won't make one as involved or finished as this one, but I have ideas. I have a way to make the passcodes reset-able, so that the passcode can be changed to your liking, but that is a project for another time.

I would seriously take requests for custom made ones, but I'd have to charge you a ton of money for labor, and ask for your first born child, since the cogs of this machine run on blood, sweat and tears.

I've learned something about myself (as I've been known to do from time to time). I like projects that give me a tangible finished product. I like to be able to hold a paper, a test tube, a cryptex in my hand and say "look what I made".

Other things I learned:
-The correct tools are very important.
-The American Standard System sucks, particularly its use of "nominal" measurements. I advocate an immediate and full conversion to the metric system.
-Though metal has a stoic elegance to it, it is very difficult to work with. I prefer wood. It's a lot more cooperative, and has much more of a naturalist character to it. Plus you can stain it funky colors.
-Rock music is good working music as it blends rather nicely into the sound of power tools.
-Gregorian chanting also works too, as it makes every cut, hammer, and sand feel like you're reforging Elendil's sword, Narsil.
-Cryptex building, with all the pipes and tubes, lends itself well to sexual innuendos.
-Don't huff metal filings.
-Smooth figures are always easier to make than angular ones due to the inherent fudge factor.
-If you try to move a cat from his sunny spot on your workbench, the cat will always win.
-I like bandanas. And bananas, but I already knew that.

So with that first project down, I have a little less than a month for my next. Not sure what I'm doing, though I think it should be something that encourages me to get out of the house, and not ultimately consume what I made. Since I don't have access to my tools during the school year, I think I'll keep building stuff. Any suggestions? Any requests?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

In A Different Life: On Chainmaille Construction

I haven't always been a scientist, or even an engineer. In a different life, I was a historian, particularly interested in military history, and medieval studies. In fact, I originally applied to Yale as first a History major, then as a Music major, then finally Chemistry. Oh how times have changed.

As per Anthony's request, I decided to whip up some chainmaille after lunch and before I started working on the cryptex. Here's the results.

So, no, I didn't make this today. I made this a number of years ago just for fun. Both the shortened hauberk and coif are made out of 16 gauge galvanized steel (hand wound and cut, of course. Medieval people didn't have power tools). The trim on the coif is made from 16 gauge copper wire. It took about a month to make, and cost, I'd say, around $50 in raw materials, which is pretty good. My only regret is that the chainmaille is made of just butted rings, rather than riveted ones. The complication comes from using galvanized wire, which is covered with a zinc oxide sacrificial layer to prevent corrosion, and when you anneal the rings for riveting, the coating sublimes and turns into a variety of toxic gases ( Chemistry!

And contrary to popular belief, chainmaille isn't meant to guard against cutting. Most gauges used (even historically) were too thin to prevent a sword blow if stretched taught. Chainmaille is supposed to hang, like a curtain. The hanging absorbs the blows of blunt force, like ancient Kevlar (Physics!) since it's much harder to treat internal bleeding than an external laceration (Biology!). Yeah, this is still a Science and Engineering blog, don't worry.


We're (more than) Halfway There. Whoa! Livin' On A Prayer

God bless Bon Jovi for trying to make "there" rhyme with "prayer". Granted, I've done a lot worse (see previous post).

I've been working off and on on this cryptex project, and have made some real headway. Rather than having me explain it, I'll, explain it:

The seal I used to emblazon/brand my endcaps with are the latest find of my grandpa's tools. He would always mark his tools with that, but I could never find the branding iron itself. After some digging and sadly annihilating a family of cockroaches, I found it. (Note: butane torches are not only good for making creme brulee, they can also make metal very very hot. [Note: very very hot metal is, well....very very hot.])

And since we're nearing the end of this project, we'll look towards future ones. I have a ton of lamellar plates left over from my Military History Club days, and have considered making a sweet suit of armor for myself. It would also be a great thing to have for ComicCon. ComicCon next year, anyone?

I also, for some time now, have been playing around with home made instruments. I have a bunch of pvc flutes that sound very nice, and have been looking into other materials. After eyeing some copper tubing at City Mill, I think a nice pennywhistle would make a nice afternoon project.

My other, more involved option, would be to make rolled fondant and try my had at cake decorating. I've been researching recipes, and think it's pretty manageable. Who knows, if I get really good at this, people will get some sweet birthday/holiday/end-of-exams/really-tough-exam/what-the-heck,-it's-Tuesday cakes in the future.

And then there's always the option of teaching myself programming, which would free me from having to take the class in the spring, and die. But a month isn't a lot of time for such a thing.

We shall see.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

In Memoriam: Hasta La Vista….Vista.

For since you've been my one and only, true,
I've grown accustomed to your buggy ways.
That you have flaws, not quirks, is nothing new,
This partnership has seen some better days.

My friends all say that you're no good for me,
That I could do much better for myself.
A perfect 10 is no reality,
But you're no 7, bottom of the shelf.

The Window 'tween os now comes to an end,
For you give me no reason to stay true.
This latest virus that you did not mend,
It isn't me, it really is just you.

And though she seems the same, she shares your styles,
At least she lets me see her hidden files.

---KKS 7/25/10