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Novembeerfest is quickly approaching. This is one of the longest running homebrew competitions in Washington, and is being held on Nov. 5th. Each brewer is allowed up to 10 entries. I won’t get 10 beers done by then, but hopefully I’ll have 6 or so. I’ve already brewed my Amber, Old Ale, and a slightly modified version of the White House Honey Porter using fresh homegrown Chinook hops. Hopefully I’ll get to make the American Stout, Imperial IPA, Blonde, and American Brown in a marathon brewing session this weekend.

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You know you’ve been spending too much time at work when you try to open the door to your house with your lab key over and over (and over and over….) and cannot figure out for the life of you why the stupid key all of a sudden won’t fit in the door.

I’ve been using Microsoft’s new search engine, Bing, for the last few days since getting a new laptop. I’m fairly satisfied so far. The first thing that strikes me is that it is much more aesthetically pleasing than anything they’ve released in the past. Ever since its inception I couldn’t stand to use anything other than google only because everything else was amazingly cluttered and frantic. But it seems MS figured that part out, I could have told them if they had asked. I haven’t used many features yet, but one thing I did really like is that you get a small text preview of each link when you roll over the orange dot next to each link when the link itself is rolled over. For instance, I needed to find out the open hours at amazon pool. Bing returned the link to the pool as the first result and when I rolled over the orange dot a list of open hours showed up.

I am finding, though, that google and bing speak different languages. I, like most other half intelligent computer users, have learned how to speak to the google search engine in such a way as to get relevant results immediately. I’m sure it’s possible with bing, I just haven’t learned its dialect yet.

Another thing that I’ve had to resort to google for is searching for error messages when compiling programs or installing things. Google seems to be really good at finding these types of results, Bing not so much.

I’m going to give bing a ride for a little longer to see if I can figure it out. I’ll let you know how it goes.

At the request of some of my more mentally challenged readers, I’m posting something positive about NJ. Beside the superfund sites, petroleum holding tanks, nuclear power plants, water treatment centers that dump raw sewerage into the ocean, and overall social depravity lies the Pinelands National Reserve. But no self-respecting Piney calls it anything but the pine barrens. This was the first national reserve (1978), and is classified as a United States Biosphere Reserve. It really is an amazing place with high- and low-land forests, sleepy rivers, a diversity of wildlife (including some would say sasquatch), and crazy redneck hunters (think My Cousin Vinny meets Deliverance). And let’s not forget that pesky, ever elusive, 13th Leeds child, The Jersey Devil, which I have seen personally. The south jersey school districts thought it would be a good idea to frighten all local small children by showing them video batona trailreenactments of the birth of the jersey devil and it’s screeching flight directly from its mother’s womb, out the window, and into the pine barrens, where he is to forever torment us in our dreams. Thanks.
There’s also the Batona trail.
Overall it has its own unique environment and while it is as flat as a pancake, and the sand sucks for hiking, and the rivers run dry in the summer, and it’s too easily accessed by vehicle, it has something that the mountains don’t. It is its own entity and I’ll always love it.
Coffee snobery is something I never would have thought I’d suffer from, but alas it is true. The pacific NW has done a number on me. The land of Starbucks, Tullys, and the one and only Espresso Roma has shown me the light and I cannot go back. While out to dinner in Atlantic City this weekend (overpriced and gaudy, but high quality), we had the opportunity to order some drinks after the meal. “Espresso, cappuccino, coffee anyone?” asks the waiter. I thought about it for a second and wondered if it would come like everything else here: trimmed with neon lights and smelling like an ashtray. But I decided I’d give it a shot. “I’ll have a latte, thanks.” I cannot begin to explain the blankness of the waiters face. “Do I have a squirrell on my head,” I thought. “No lattes here. Only esspressos and cappuccinos.” Whatever. Then we go to a dessert place and get three course desserts. Same thing. “No lattes. Only esspresso or cappuccino.” You’ve got to be kidding. If you can make an esspresso and a cappuccino but not a latte, I don’t even want to risk it. I’ll have wudder, thanks.

I had a lab mate fill in for me while I was gone. He said he was amazed at how trained I’ve got my students. They walk in (on time) with finished lab reports in hand, ready to go. No excuses about broken printers, or sleeping late. They know I’ll have none of it. He said he asked them how I was as a TA. The unanimous decision: “He’s a hardass.” Maybe. But at least they’re learning to get work done, in proper form, and on time. And this lab mate of mine has actually beaten me. Yes, he has made a student cry already. My class average is usually at least half of his. But my little troopers have learned to grin and bear it. Maybe I am actually teaching them something while getting my kicks.

I’m back in NJ for my cousin’s wedding. Being here reminds me of a few key reasons why I left in the first place. There are 270,000 people in the 700 square mile Atlantic County, while here there are 150,000 in our only 36 square miles, but the traffic there is INSANE. Our streets are desolate in comparison. As much as I dislike some of our local transit’s labor policies, I must admit they provide a necessary service and without them our roads would be transformed into a NJ-esque mad max free-for-all. For example, if you are the first person at a red light and are not at least
halfway through the intersection by the time the light turns green you will have 12 angry mobsters flipping you off while laying on the horns of their hummers/escalades/nina/pinta/santa marias. Now the trick with this is that the cross-traffic always continues through the intersection for a good 2-mississippi after their light has turned red. The chaos that ensues is …well… mad max-ian. And this happens every single time a light changes, all across this great state. People wonder where my colorful vocabulary comes from. Learning to drive in this atmosphere I used to think that this was the way everyone drove everywhere, was normal, and not the borderline sociopathic behavior that it really is. I’m telling you, surviving a NJ drive is no small feat. Let’s not even discuss circles. More later.

Undergrads are a funny breed. When congregating amongst themselves there is much posturing, and they seem to be comfortable with one another, joining forces against their evil TAs and professors who all hate them. (I heard part of a phone conversation while on campus yesterday that transpired as such, “… Yeah and my TA who like totally hates me ….” I was walking the opposite way so couldn’t catch the tail ends.)

But when they need help they become the most deflated insecure creatures alive. Sitting in my office hour with the door open I can always tell when one is coming for help. There are three tell-tale signs:

1) The faint smell of urine-soaked denim.
2) I only have 2 minutes left to my hour.
3) Someone passes the door and peers in while trying to look as cool as possible with a facial expression of utter confusion. This person continues exactly four steps (every time) past the door, stops, turns around, and walks as silently as they can into the office.

I can only surmise that the “hallway shuffle” is either the latest dance move, or a feeble attempt to buy an extra 3 seconds for composure. But the second they walk in it’s all over. I know they’re coming and I’ve got my game face on.

I like to break them down with the belief that their bloated egos can only hinder academic and intellectual growth. Floating around with an ego problem can give one a false sense of security. One day they will be dealt a problem that they cannot handle or don’t yet have the skills to tackle because they have not been thinking critically enough about things, and they will be crushed. And just like with chicken pox, the older you are when it happens, the worse it is. They can thank me later.

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