Category: Lifestyle


I got off work early today, putting me on the road at 5:00pm. I wasn’t looking forward to facing rush hour, but it actually wasn’t bad at all. More cars, for sure, but same number of crazies as normal, which is zero, btw (I’m sure they exist, but I don’t have proof, yet).

However, I thought I’d share an interesting sight I saw last week on a day I didn’t bike. In front of me, I saw this lovely balancing act:

I’ve never understood why some cyclists never want to put one or both feet down while waiting at a stoplight. Granted, this particular girl was extremely good at it and I was actually more impressed than perplexed, but still: why??

Is it a form of impatience like when drivers inch forward at a light, or is there an ongoing, worldwide game of Hot Lava going on that no one told me about?

With the parts in hand, it was time for me to write this love letter to the integrated circuit. I began by moving the included fan from the front of the case to the side so that A- its blue light would show up better and B- it would be closer to everything that actually generates heat (except the hard drives, but screw those guys).

Side fan

No, I did not let a girl attach it for me. What do you mean, “Those look like Ari’s hands?”

Case

There, all done. Oh wait, I forgot to put all the computer in it.

Next came the motherboard, or as no one but me calls it, the Nexus of Power. Actually, even I don’t call it that, except I just did. Drat.

Bare motherboard

I liked the color scheme on this motherboard. Red, white, and ‘Murica.

Northbridge heatsink

Northbridge heatsink with enough aluminum to make a few 12-packs of Mt. Dew cans.

Southbridge heatsink

The southbridge never gets as much attention, or as cool of a heatsink, but hey, be thankful. Some southbridges don’t get heatsinks at all. Now eat your peas.

Random heatsink

I don’t know what this is a heatsink for, but it’s the coolest. It’s between the processor and the ports on the back, so maybe it’s for all the USB/eSATA/ethernet components?

The processor tin was secured with a stick that I’m pretty sure could have patched a leaky dam.

Processor sticker

A dam, I say. This is a full minute’s work with good fingernails.

Open tin

*sound of soda can opening*

The processor went in easy peasy, ushering in a moment of reprieve…

Processor pins

All 942 pins are tiny little spires of silicon cocaine. I mean, that’s what I see. That’s what you see, right?

Thermal paste

Applying the teeny, tiny bit of thermal paste to the processor. I borrowed some aftermarket paste from my bro who just built a box of his own.

Then came the even more unexpectedly hard part: putting the heatsink and fan on. I thought it’d be a simple matter of sitting it on carefully and screwing it in.

I was so wrong.

Happy boy

This is my happy face, but it is also likely the expression the mad scientists at Zalman made when they invented such a byzantine way of securing a heatsink to a motherboard.

After several attempts (and hiring a Voodoo priest), we were able to attach the heatsink securely. The RAM, being the well-behaved child, didn’t give me any trouble, thereby securing its spot as the favorite kid.

Finished motherboard

“Suck it, I’m the favorite.” -RAM
“Yeah, well I’m more expensive.” -CPU
“I’m the best-looking.” -Heatsink/fan
“I’m biggest!” -Motherboard
“Hey, don’t make me come back there, or no one gets ice cream.” -Me

Next in were the power supply and graphics card. They also behaved, so I guess they’re also my favorite children. You can have more than one, right?

Power supply

“Yeah, but I’m still the ‘extreme’ one.”

Graphics card

Not a gamer’s dream, but it renders the $#&! out of Command & Conquer 3 at max settings. Also good for Cycles rendering engine in Blender. It’s somehow even faster at it than the aforementioned 8-core 4GHz processor, or at least was for one project I’ve done so far.

But wait, I have all this nice thermal paste left. What if I were to, say, put it on the graphics card’s GPU?

GPU heatsink removed

Yep, that comes off. Does this void the warranty? Probably.

GPU

The actual GPU: about the size of your thumb’s fingernail. Also pictured: all the hair and dust in my apartment magnetized to it like a cat to its owner when a dog is near.

Believe it or not, the aftermarket thermal paste DID actually decrease the temps by about 5 degrees Celcius. I didn’t test the processor with and without the paste like I did the graphics card, but I assume it produced similar gains over the stock stuff.

Last in were the hard drives. The SSD will handle the Windows and Ubuntu OSs, programs, and certain temp/working files (particularly for After Effects and Premiere).

Samsung 840

SSD: Solid State Domination. Not pictured: old, creaky, 300GB traditional hard drive.

Don’t forget the speakers. These were actually bought from Best Buy, since they were $10 cheaper there. And, you know, it’s right by where I work. I got them like half an hour after ordering them.

Speakers

Does anybody else think of these guys?

Subwoofer

“I just sit under the desk… waiting for my moment…”

With everything installed, it was time to cross my fingers and see if it would turn on.

POST

Yep!

A successful POST! Granted, it took me a few minutes to realize the power supply switch was in the “off” position before this happened, but hey, what’s the Internet for if not editing out the less awesome parts of our life and putting our best selves forth?

I actually copied the contents of the Windows 8 DVD onto a flash drive in advance and installed the whole thing from said flash drive. It actually speeds the process up quite a bit, especially when you, er, forgot where you put the DVD drive.

Windows 8 disc

And mailing the disc here is still faster than downloading the digital version on my Internet connection.

But again, editing! The Windows 8 process was, like the operating itself, markedly different than its predecessors, doing certain things automatically while asking to do certain customizations right off the bat.

Personalize

Remember Windows XP, when there were 3 choices?

Mouse movement

Why don’t you move your mouse into any corner!

And at last, I booted to a fully functional operating system. Some of the new…

Start screen

Behold that which wadded many a panty.

And plenty of the old and familiar…

Desktop

Behold that which some apparently aren’t aware is still a part of Windows 8.

Oh, don’t forget my pal, Ubuntu. GRUB didn’t install at first for whatever reason, but I put on my intimidating voice and it jumped right into action. Nah, I got help. Big thanks to rigved at Ubuntu forums for the answer in this thread.

The finished result is below.

Finished computer

And there was much rejoicing.

And with that, my work is done. Big thanks to Ari, who helped build it like a good nerd wife, and to our cats, who provided needed moral support.

Cats

MORUL SUPORT SHMORAL SUPORT. ALL DIS WURK AN CANT EBEN PLAY WIF DA PEWTER CABULZ.

I have a new computer! It’s something I’ve been dreaming of for… well, about 6 years, now. Getting my (used and refurbished) laptop in 2010 was a temporary stopgap that at least allowed me to edit videos at home, but it wasn’t a powerful machine at the time, even for a laptop.

So this, The Box that I have planned for many years, creating wishlist after wishlist on Newegg to make sure I got exactly the machine I needed, finally became a reality. I had a few parts on hand: an SSD I’d received as a present a few months ago; a 300GB hard drive (they make those?) from a dead computer someone gave me; and a DVD drive (which I’ve only used once since I finished the build a month ago. Even the operating system was installed from a flash drive).

Somehow, one order was split into two orders (charged separately), each of which was subdivided again into two shipments, making a total of 4 shipments coming to my home. The first two, the case and the monitor, arrived on Monday.

Computer Boxes

Which Frequency pretended to crap on. Out of respect.

The next day, the box with almost everything else came in. Of course, the motherboard was not one of those things, so I was at a standstill. It gave me plenty of time to salivate, though.

The processor came in a cool metal tin, rather than a plain ol’ box. Very luxe.

Processor

As for me and my house, we will AMD.

There's a window in the tin so you can see the actual processor.

There’s a window in the tin so you can see the actual processor.

You don’t just get an octo-core processor running at 4GHz and use the stock fan, of course. No, you get a great behemoth of an aftermarket fan/heatsink and lock your processor to your motherboard with it. Like this.

Zalman CNPS9500A

Were it any larger, it’d need its own IP address. Or zip code.

I shun obscenities like 1,000W power supplies and go for more reasonable amounts that are only double my likely power draw.

PSU

But in the computer parts world, even mediocre is EXTREME.

I put in a hefty 16GB of RAM, which even with my most intense After Effects projects never exceeds 10GB of total system usage. I didn’t go for the fancy kind with red heatsinks or anything, but disappoint they do not.

RAM

Always two there are. No more. No less.

I also ordered a mouse, a 10ft ethernet cable (only $1.49!), a copy of Windows 8, and a memory card reader that didn’t end up being compatible with my motherboard (I gave it to someone else).

The next day, the final package with the graphics card and motherboard arrived.

At long last!

At long last!

 

GeForce GT 640

I’m not a huge gamer, so I settled for something with more transistors than all the computers ever used to put a man on the moon.

Motherboard

In the PC-building world, if it doesn’t have overclocking mentioned on the box, it’s almost an insult.

With everything out of the box(es), it was time to build. In the next post, I’ll get into the assembling, building, booting, thermal pasting, and all that jazz.

Empty box

It glowed for a few hours like a concrete cube formerly containing plutonium rods for a nuclear reactor.

Sorry for the dearth of writing all of a sudden, everyone. I didn’t have any major life changes or anything. It was mostly just a creative slump where I neither made any new videos nor wrote anything.

But much longer than the time it’s been since I’ve written anything is the time it’s been since I’ve written about biking. After all, urban biking is one of my passions, so why don’t I write about it more? Some people write about biking and traffic several times a week, and it’s interesting every time!

I started wondering why that was, and I’ve come to an interesting conclusion: the biking life isn’t weird to me anymore.

Why write about something if it isn’t news? If it isn’t interesting? There’s little danger or adventure when I bike the five miles or so to work. Writing about it would be about the same as writing about driving to work, school, the grocery store, etc.

Then, I realized why THAT is: I bike the way people are supposed to bike, both legally and logically. I stop at stop signs/lights, ride a safe distance from the curb, signal (with my arms) when I’m turning, put lights on my bike when I ride at night, and control a lane just like a car driver would. When I do these things, I get zero surprises. People treat me like a vehicle, and I never get so much as a honk.

So what is there to write about? If it’s the same story every day I go to work, the video store, the eye doctor, or the dozens of other places I bike. My lack of writing about it is a statement in itself: biking is safe and predictable when you do it correctly.

Though if someone ever pepper-sprays me again, I’ll let ya’ll know!

When I got home from work, I realized I hadn’t eaten any meat today at all. Twelve minutes later, I was eating a homemade cheeseburger with my favorite hot sauce on it.

How did such a wonder happen?

The bun was distributed for Kroger by some company I’ve never heard of called Inter-American Distributors. It was harvested from wheat, processed, and sent on a truck to a warehouse, after which it was moved to my local Dillons where I bought it for under $2.

The beef was raised in the form of a ~1400-pound cow. This was then slaughtered, ground, treated with chemicals to prevent bacteria growth, packaged into a one-pound tube of ground round, shipped on a refrigerated truck to a warehouse, then to the same Dillon’s as the bun. I’m not a huge fan of factory farm-produced meat and the life it entails for the cows, but paying double the price for meat isn’t in the budget quite yet (it’s a priority, though). I bought this pack for $3.29 on sale.

The Valentina hot sauce was made from chili peppers and spices, none of which I know the origin of. The sauce itself, however, was bottled in Mexico, presumably shipped to a warehouse, and then shipped to yet the same Dillons location. It is literally the best hot sauce I’ve ever tasted, and I bought a 12.5-ounce bottle that lasts me upwards of 5 months for $1.

The cheese came from a cow (several cows, rather) somewhere in the northern midwest, likely on a factory milking operation. The cheese was processed and distributed in Cincinatti, OH by Kroger, ending up on a refrigerated shelf right next to the eggs.

The glass of milk I drank with this cheeseburger came from a different herd of cows, this time residing in Oklahoma. Unlike the cows which produced the cheese, these were not part of a “factory farm” and allowed to roam in a pasture most of their life. This milk was heated and cooled to kill most (though not all) bacteria in the milk using a process you’ve probably heard of: pasteurization (developed by Louis Pasteur). This milk was then put in half-gallon jugs and shipped to one of five local Brahm’s Fresh Markets, where I bought it for $1.79.

I cooked approximately one quarter of the meat from the package on a non-stick Calphalon skillet. The meat, packed into a patty by hand, was heated via the skillet by a gas-powered stove, connected to a network of natural gas that runs through my entire city, which in turn is connected to a national network of natural gas lines. I normally pay less than $15 per month to my local utility for the use of this uninterrupted flow of flammable fumes.

The complexity of what it took to get these ingredients to me is an astounding, but not unusual example of free-market capitalism meeting needs and doing so at fair prices. Each facet was developed as its own method of meeting a need some other group or industry had and either charging less for the same service or offering a better service.

But hey, I didn’t need to know any of this was happening to get what I wanted. I just ate the cheeseburger.

Defeating the Box

I have a confession: I have a box. Well, HAD a box. I defeated my box today.

You might have a box. In fact, I’d surmise a great portion of the population has multiple boxes, and I’ve actually done myself a favor keeping it down to one (sort of).

Two apartments ago, I started throwing things into this box because I didn’t have anything better to do with them. They were things I didn’t really want to throw away, but didn’t have a place for. Shortly after creating this box, I moved. I nestled the box into a corner of my new apartment and there it sat for a year and a half, moved only for the occasional vaccuum.

I occasionally added to the box; after all, I kept aquiring things that needed putting somewhere, and I knew they’d be safe in that mosuleum of a box.

Then I got married, brought my box into this new shared space, and there it sat for another seven months.

Today, I ended the box.

Full Box

This is what the box looked like full. Nearly three years of “use” were about to be dismantled.

I separated everything into five piles:

  1. Useful or potentially useful things to be kept
  2. Things the box was originally created for: keepsakes. I want to keep them, but haven’t traditionally had a place for them.
  3. Movie props
  4. Trash
  5. Recycling

And all of a sudden, I had an empty box.

Empty Box

There are much better things one can do with a box, after all. For instance:

Cat Box

Just kidding. I broke it down and recycled it, too. I don’t need that box in my home anymore. IT HAD ITS TIME.

Here are some of the keepsakes I couldn’t get rid of, but have no use for.

Blood Pin

I got this pin when I’d officially donated two gallons of blood in my lifetime. Sometimes I need to be reminded of my achievements.

Dead Flash Drives

My four dead flash drives. These exclude the three I have lost and never found and the two I have that still function. Don’t worry, I don’t do this with my other pets.

OM Pins

More pins. These are from Odyssey of the Mind, a creative problem-solving competition. I got most of these when I competed in the world competition, so they’re from teams all around the world.

Band Pins

The granite-looking plaques are for being a senior… twice. Yep, I did the 5-year plan and made band a part of all of those years. The pins (MORE pins?!) are for being a section leader each of those years.

Now to get to the other, much newer boxes that have been lurking in our apartment…

Lucid Dream!

I had my first lucid dream! It was a really cool experience, but rather than rewrite it, I’m going to copy my dream journal for that day verbatim, then leave some observations afterward.

Lucid dream! I had been driving aimlessly and ended up in Thayer, Missouri. For some reason, after going through a stoplight where two of the lights were out, I was no longer in the car. I was walking down a hill to cross over into Mammoth Springs, Arkansas, but a river separated them. The “normal” bridge had been torn down and replaced with a rock bridge that only went 1/3 of the way into the river. Through the trees, I saw another, much larger bridge and went across that. Once I was across, I came down a cliff with an old cathedral-type church on it. I started to try to take a picture, and at that point, Brett Cox appeared and somehow triggered the lucid dream. He said I should test to see, so I did the only thing that I could think of: try to fly! I closed my eyes and willed myself up, and boom, I was flying. I pulled Brett up by the arm, though I don’t remember holding onto him long, so I assume he flew, too. We flew around the town, and he asked if I’d seen the cool fish in the river. I hadn’t, so we flew to it. I flew straight in and started swimming. He said, “Ha, well that’s one way to do it,” as he’d been intending on just flying over the water. I was able to open my eyes and, after thinking about it, breathe underwater. The water was brown and full of little particles just like a real Missouri river, and the bed was rocky. I  didn’t see any fish, so I flew out and went back over Thayer. I think I intended to fly home. I don’t remember how, but I ended up in a room of a really nice house and was reading the back of a political book. It was talking about some politician and a scandal concerning his wife. I decided to test the dream again by looking away and then looking back at the text to see if it changed. I couldn’t tell, because I couldn’t remember enough words at a time to test whether they’d changed. Shortly after, I woke up.

Observations:

  • From the point I became lucid all the way to the end of the dream, there were several times when I was concerned I was going to wake up. Until now, every time I’ve ever realized I was dreaming, I woke up immediately. In this dream, I was aware of that fact after I became lucid. I’m not sure why I didn’t wake up, because it did “feel” rather precarious, like I may wake any second. It was almost a sixth sense, where I knew I was close to waking up, but didn’t have any external indicators.
  • Though such a thing hasn’t been mentioned in the book I’m using (as far as I’ve read), the character of Brett acting as a “guide” played an essential part in exploiting the lucidity. I’m not sure if this is something that will recur, or if it was just a coincidence that it happened the first time.
  • I didn’t intentionally create or change anything in the dream except for my being able to fly.
  • The layout of the land and water stayed static, and honestly, the only thing that didn’t exactly correspond to reality was the fact that Mammoth Springs and Thayer looked different. Stoplights, roads, water, cameras, architecture, and physics behaved realistically.

The bridge in the dream was almost identical to this bridge in Toledo, Ohio that I photographed about a year ago.

Bridge

Hopefully the next lucid dream happens soon! I’ll keep on trying, and maybe something really cool will happen soon.

I recently started researching lucid dreaming, beginning by checking out a book from my library, and not just because I think Inception is the best film ever made (it’s not actually about lucid dreaming, but I think Christopher Nolan drew some inspiration from there). However, I’d not really had any concerns about it beyond wondering if it might be less restful, thereby requiring more sleep time. I was walking home from class with my wife yesterday when I started talking about it with her, and she brought up some things I hadn’t yet thought of.

For one, she said that since lucid dreams feel more real, the frightening things in them can feel more real, as well. Nightmares become something more, and can leave you feeling distracted and disoriented throughout the following day.

She also brought up the idea that if you were to, say, lose a loved one, you might start to dream lucidly just so you can “be with them.” Wow, that actually does sound like Inception.

There are a lot of derivatives to that concern. If lucid dreaming is so cool, what if I get bored with real life and want to dream all the time? I currently have no worries about that due to being at a good place in life, but that’s not always going to be the case, and I doubt I’ll forget how to dream lucidly once I learn it. Additionally, I’d need to be careful not to let the events of my dreams consume my waking mind, as that’s selfish at best and irresponsible at worst.

I’ve thought about her concerns, and even come up with a few more of my own. For instance, what if I start second-guessing the real world and wondering if it’s a dream? I can zone quite a bit sometimes, and all it might take is for my contacts to get a little foggy and myself to feel a little dizzy to make me start to question whether I’m actually awake.

What if lucid dreaming is addictive in more ways than one? What if I get to where lucid dreaming is the only way I can sleep? This is sounding more like Inception all the time! It’s been several years since I’ve had any trouble sleeping or getting to sleep, and I’d hate to screw that up now.

I just checked out the book and have read the first few pages. It hasn’t addressed any concerns, yet, but it has painted some neat pictures of what lucid dreaming can be like. I’ll definitely give this book its fair shot to make a case, as I’m interested enough to read it all the way through, but not so interested that I’ll make up excuses if I find anything that worries me.

I’ll be reading more in the days to come and cataloging anything interesting here (like, you know, having a lucid dream).

I’ve become very interested in the idea of lucid dreaming. I haven’t tried it purposefully… yet, but I have had one or two that I can remember.

The most recent one actually took the form of a movie trailer. I was able to think of something, and it would “happen” in the dream as I thought of it. It was just like Inception: I would add something and my subconscious would fill in the gaps to make it seem like it fit. Were I able to plug a USB port into my head and copy the whole thing as it happened to a computer, it would probably make a pretty cool (albeit rather vague) trailer.

I’ve checked out a book on lucid dreaming and will hopefully finish it within a few weeks. I’ll report on any results.

I made a great discovery today! One of the most annoying things I encounter while biking is getting to a red light, but the weight sensor doesn’t detect me because I’m too light, and I have to wait for a car to come to the intersection for it to change.

This is most annoying when there is little or no traffic on the intersecting road. However, I was looking at a little pamphlet of bicycle laws in Missouri when I came across this gem. I’ll summarize in case you don’t want to read it: If you’re riding a bike or motorcycle and come to a complete stop at a red light, you can cross if A- you’ve waited for an undue amount of time, B- the weight/laser sensor has obviously not detected your presence, and C- no cars are coming or are nearby. Here’s the full text:

304.285 Red light violations
Any person operating a motorcycle or bicycle who violates the provisions of section 304.281 or section
304.301 by entering or crossing an intersection controlled by a traffic control signal against a red light shall
have an affirmative defense to that charge if the person establishes all of the following conditions:
(1) The motorcycle or bicycle has been brought to a complete stop;
(2) The traffic control signal continues to show a red light for an unreasonable time;
(3) The traffic control is apparently malfunctioning or, if programmed or engineered to change to a green light
only after detecting the approach of a motor vehicle, the signal has apparently failed to detect the arrival of the
motorcycle; and
(4) No motor vehicle or person is approaching on the street or highway to be crossed or entered or is so far
away from the intersection that it does not constitute an immediate hazard.
The affirmative defense of this section applies only to a violation for entering or crossing an intersection
controlled by a traffic control signal against a red light and does not provide a defense to any other civil or
criminal action.

All this time I thought I was going all Martin Luther King Jr.-style civil disobedience, but now I realize that I was doing what I was supposed to! Good job, Missouri legislature!