The Homer Fireworks

“Celebrate the independence of your nation by blowing up a small part of it.”

My friend John and another coworker of mine were helping out with the fireworks show at Miller Aquatics and Health Club, just outside of Homer, on Wednesday. They invited us out to watch, though I didn’t think I’d be home from my bike ride in time to make it out to Homer by 9 pm. Fortunately, I was home in time and we decided at the last minute to go.

The show was really well done and we sat very, very close to the launch site, so we had a different perspective than I’ve ever had for fireworks before. As you can imagine, I brought my camera to try to get some good shots of the fireworks. It took some getting used to, but I think by the end I started to get some good photos.

It's that time of year

The Bell Ringing Contest

We arrived in San Francisco last Sunday. When we took our first cable car ride of the trip that evening I noticed signs everywhere advertising the 47th Annual Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest. I thought nothing of it. I met up with Melissa & Laura for lunch on Tuesday right when the contest was taking place a short distance away at Union Square… so we grabbed some lunch to go and watched the bell ringing contest.

Union Square

Cable Car bell ringing contest at Union Square

When we first arrived the amateurs had already started, and let’s just say it wasn’t quite what we were expecting. Fortunately, the professionals (actual MUNI cable car employees) started soon and they were much better. Granted, there’s only a certain level of creativity one can express with a single bell, but it was all good fun.

Bell ringer

The pros show how it’s done

The Twitter

I’ve been using the Twitter micro-blogging service for around 16 months now. I’m a fan. I’ve spent a bit of time recently data-mining Twitter (mostly work-related). I took a quick glance at my own usage patterns in this blog post. I’ll spare you the mathematical details and provide the condensed version here.

I’ve been using Twitter for 1 year, 3 months, and 21 days.

I’ve posted 1487 status message updates (tweets).

I’ve averaged 3.125 tweets per day.

Ragfield Twitter usage

I’ve typed a total of 107,442 characters.

I’ve averaged 72.25 characters per tweet (roughly half the allotted amount).

My shortest tweet was “bed”.

I’ve used 19,188 unique words (18,528 if you don’t count numbers).

My most commonly used word is “the”.

I’ve used 7,883 unique nouns.

My most common topics are: bike, work, time, ride, think, run, like, morning, race, mile(s), home.

I’ve used 4,300 unique verbs.

My most common actions are: bike, work, ride, think, run, race, see, know.

The users I mention most frequently are:

melissa_raguet 84
spoonshake 69
esmithrunner 32
erik_d 28
dbfulton 18
gutzville 14
ultrashea 11
erik__d 9
adamengst 9
chockenberry 6

The Natural

One of this week’s $0.99 movie rentals on iTunes is The Natural. This is the movie that introduced me to the word “bastard” as a child. I had no idea what it meant or even that it could be considered a bad word. I just picked up from the movie that it’s something you call someone when you’re mad at them.

Of course, this got me into trouble when I called my brother Travis a bastard at a family gathering. Nobody really heard it, but Travis promptly tattled on me and I got my mouth washed out with soap. The worst part was that I had absolutely no idea what I had done wrong.

I’ll freely admit that there were plenty of times in my childhood when I truly deserved to have my mouth washed out with soap (though my personal preference was for Lux, I found Palmolive had a nice, piquant after-dinner flavor — heavy with a touch of mellow smoothness), but this wasn’t one of them.

The Synchronized Swim

Melissa & I watched the olympic team synchronized swimming event while eating lunch this afternoon. It reminded me of how close I accidentally came to being a synchronized swimmer a few years back.

I was doing masters swimming at the University of Illinois at the time. One of the girls who swam on the team was also involved with synchronized swimming. They had a performance coming up and each of the girls on the team was supposed to find an untrained male to try to perform a routine during the show, mostly as a joke. Anyway, none of the girl’s guy friends were willing to do it so she asked the guys on the masters team. I was the only one who did have a schedule conflict (or was honest enough not to claim I did) and after much begging I (somewhat reluctantly) agreed.

I guess it might be fun. I do like to entertain.

The night before the performance I received word from the girl that very few others actually found guys to participate in the routine, so it was scrapped at the last minute. I was a bit relieved, but also a bit disappointed. Who knows, I could have been the next synchronized swimming star…

The Night Before the Madison Marathon

We made it to Madison, picked up Melissa’s race packet, checked into the hotel, and ate dinner at the Olive Garden. Soon we will complete the pre-marathon ritual by watching American Flyers then go to bed. The marathon starts tomorrow morning at 7:10 am CDT. I will attempt to post updates of her progress either on this site ( or on Twitter (

If possible I will try to post some photos as well, but that will be a little more difficult. The problem is that I’ll be blogging from my phone, but there’s not a good way to get photos from my camera onto my phone (yes, my phone has a camera, but it sucks). I have all the hardware necessary to transfer the photos using two different methods, but neither method has the necessary software to work correctly. I have an iPod camera connector, which will download photos directly from a camera to an iPod, but this connector is not software compatible with the iPhone. Additionally, I have an Eye-Fi memory card for the camera that can automatically upload photos, but only to the internet (not to other WiFi enabled devices like my iPhone). I would surely love an easier way to transfer the photos.

Anyway, check back tomorrow morning and prepare to hit the refresh button in your browser.

Apparently one of the parking spots outside our hotel room is off limits…


I made that software. That’s what I said to Melissa as I was watching NUMB3RS tonight. Several people at Wolfram Research work as math consultants for the CBS show and they frequently make use of Mathematica related props on the show. In the past they have shown copies of the Mathematica book, A New Kind of Science, and various posters created with Mathematica.

Tonight one of the main characters Charlie was using Mathematica (on Mac OS X even). Okay, so some of the footage may or may not have been special effects, but Mathematica was there. My software was there.