I'm writing this in Google Chrome. Neat.
I'm back in Berkeley now. My trip home this summer was a whirlwind of chasing after my nephew, spending time with family, spending time with visitors from Berkeley, going to concerts, and attending weddings. Then it was over, and all of a sudden I was in front of a classroom trying to explain some of the finer points of conditional probability to a bunch of new graduate students. People have been asking me if it's good to be back in Berkeley; ask me again after I've had a minute to catch my breath, as I don't think I have since before I left Berkeley.
Once I do find a second to catch my breath, you'll probably find me practicing on my very own brand new banjo. I'd call it an encounter with GAS, but besides the possible acronym issue1, this wasn't an unplanned impulse purchase. This isn't the first time I thought about getting a banjo for myself, which you may recall ended in me deciding to buy a mandolin -- which I ended up never getting, but that's a different story -- but after borrowing one from Kyle all of last year, I decided that banjo really is cooler (I use the term loosely) and that I should get one for myself. Since Guitar Center was having their Labour Day sale and they had really cheap starter banjos in stock, I jumped. What better time than now to learn to play more kinds of, as Brad said, "really bad music"? Anyway, I'm spending my practice time learning to play some basic rolls following some lessons that I found on the internet. Once I finish that, I'm going to work on convincingly chewing on a long piece of straw while sitting on a porch.
My nephew is two and a half now and boy is he a handful. When I was in Paris this summer, he recognized me right away, but didn't know how to say my name, as R's give him some trouble. I wasn't that insulted, given that he couldn't say his own name either. A couple of times, he called me Artus, because one time he played with an 8-year-old boy named Artus and thought that Artus just meant "older boy that I play with". Anyway, now he can say his own name, and more importantly he can say my name... sort of. He calls me "Oucha". So long as he doesn't start calling that kid Artus "Oucha", I have no problem with that.
Also while I was at home, I did the Grouse Grind with some friends from Berkeley. We were so unprepared. I had been told by my friends Tung and Zara that if you take the Grouse Grind slowly, you can do it in 50 minutes. After about 1h15m, I remembered that Tung once did about 150 pushups in one minute. Anyway, we made it up in 2h15m or so, hampered in the first third by Shankar, the fittest member of our squad, having just eaten a large spicy meal, and then hampered in the last third by the rest of us being unable to keep up with him post-digestion. At least we made it up; Wikipedia tells me that the Grind's difficulty is "often underestimated" and that North Shore Rescue has to actually rescue people who are unable to finish it. It was an accomplishment, made sweeter by the fact that I never have to do it again ever.
Earlier on in the summer Allan also visited from Berkeley, and I spent a weekend showing Allan and Shankar around Vancouver a bit. We walked around the Seawall on the first day, and they're not the type to complain, but I started to suspect they were getting a bit tired of walking when they started to slow down a bit. My suspicions were confirmed when they suggested that we sit down after about 7K and they never suggested that we get back up and keep walking. That night we did more walking to get to and from the fireworks, and the next day both of them were sore and really tired. I'm a little worried that my friends from Berkeley are just going to remember Vancouver for being really tiring and difficult, and not for the amazing all-you-can-eat Japanese food, which is how I remember it.
A good friend of mine back from the good ol' days of the Math Club got married right at the end of my time at home. It was a great wedding and I'm really happy for her and her husband. The wedding was great fun and it was a fantastic time catching up with the old Math Club folks. I've been to a couple of weddings in the last year and a bit, and both times, instead of the couple kissing when glasses are clinked, they require you to stand up and sing a love song. Both times, now, I've sang "All Out Of Love" by Air Supply. That was an even more fantastic time. The other Math Club folks suggested I sing some "Roxanne", but I felt it was inappropriate to compare my friend to a prostitute on her wedding day.
I also played quite a bit of Rock Band over the holiday. I was already looking forward to the next generation of Guitar Hero/Rock Band games, but this actually had me considering spending $140 to buy the crippled Wii version of Rock Band just so I could practice the drumming. Guitar Hero is great, but even though you might be honing some skills that could help you in actually playing the guitar, at the end of the day you're basically wasting your time. (Albeit in the best way possible.) With the drumming on Rock Band, though, you're potentially actually learning to drum, so it's educational. Right? Right? Right? Anyway, that didn't materialize on account of spending the money on the banjo, and also as I figure one annoyingly-loud-for-my-landlord-and-neighbours hobby was good enough.
My parents had a food processor that they never used, so I packed it here to Berkeley. I was so excited to use it that I spent most of last week thinking of things to make in it. I decided to try making mayonnaise, since I figured that it would be impossible to make without a food processor. Ever seen it done? It's like frickin' alchemy or something. Anyway, apparently it's not that easy to make it in a food processor. That was a complete failure, and a waste of 500mL of oil and four eggs. I was so pissed off that I decided to conquer Mount Mayo with no oxygen tank, and I took up mixing bowl and whisk. Surprisingly, this actually worked, wasn't very hard, and was much more fun than watching oil and eggs sloshing around in the food processor. It really tastes a lot different from store-bought mayo (more French somehow), and now I understand how people might serve mayo, and only mayo, as a sauce for fish.
Some guys work on their car, or bench press 350 pounds. I'll take my banjo and my mayonnaise. My banjonaise, if you will.
Current Music: Blue Rodeo - Casino
1. Actually the G in GAS is for "gear", not "guitar", so this is not an issue at all.