Saturday, April 4, 2009

Bands, Blue Men, Bridges, and Balls of Toilet Paper

A lot of stuff has happened since I last wrote here, so this post will be an interestingly funky hodgepodge of stuff (hopefully).

First up: I just got back from an end of charity gig I was playing at with the engineering jazz band. It was pretty rocking, if I do say so myself. I'm also listening to a Blue Man Group CD while writing this, so I'm definitely riding on a bit of a music high at the moment. The Blue Man Group album (The Complex) is also really good, so I'm not really paying attention to what I'm writing. I apologize for this.

Second: The final project of my Mechanics of Deformable Solids course (which shall be referred to henceforth as 'MoDS') was to build a bridge out of cardboard (well, millboard, technically). We tested the bridges this week, which was a lot of fun because (a) it helped satisfy everyone's natural need for watching things break, (b) some of the failure's were pretty cool examples of shear deformation as the bridges slowly contorted around weak points, and (c) my group did well, supporting five hundred pounds with our 0.96 kg bridge bridge and getting within ten pounds of our predicted failure load. Granted a 1:250 weight to strength ratio is not unbelievable, as there was a group that supported over seven hundred pounds (and the all time record is rumoured to be over a thousand), but it's always nice to see stuff work the way you expect it to.

And last up: the balls of toilet paper. Yes sir. This one needs some explaining...

You see, on the day of the bridge testing, it also happened to be April Fool's Day and naturally, in our houseful of engineers we wished to celebrate the occasion. Naturally, with a Costco-sized supply of toilet paper available, the thought of strewing paper around ('TP'-ing) one of housemate's rooms was suggested, but, nice people that we are, we decided that was too messy / unoriginal / difficult to clean up. Then the classic idea of gluing all his furniture to the ceiling (using glue leftover from the bridge project) was floated -- again though, too evil.

Then genius struck.

We'd leave the toilet paper rolls in their plastic packaging and tape them, and other small items lying around, to the walls and ceiling. It was simple, clean, surreal, visually interesting, and (at least in our own eyes) a work of art.

You wouldn't think that this plan would be very hard to carry out for a couple of guys who just built a bridge a gorilla could walk over out of cardboard... but it turns out that scotch tape doesn't adhere well to the ceiling and it was having a lot trouble supporting the weight of the toilet paper rolls. The prank was turning out to be on us as the few rolls that were able to briefly stick to the ceiling came pelting down onto our heads after a few minutes. Lesson learned: use masking tape; it's much more effective.

So finally all the toilet was stuck up, with a water bottle and kleenex box strung up for good measure, and we built a little pyramid out of the remaining toilet paper and rubber ducks to fit in the doorway. The whole thing went over with my other housemate pretty well, although we quickly discovered that toilet paper balls made good projectile weapons in the same way that nerf balls do (because they have enough weight to be tossed, yet still don't hurt). After this discovery, we spent a bit more time exploring the possibilities it created (read: all out toilet paper warfare) before cleaning things up (all right, technically, we haven't gotten to the cleaning part yet).

I could go on, but I'd rather go and sing along to some songs on my computer.

If I sing a song / Will you sing along / Well I keep on singing right here by myself... ba dow dow dow bow dow dow dow, ba dow dow dow ba dow...

[Edit: For anyone concerned that with all the above shenanigans, I'm not studying / writing about studying enough, let me add that as of last Tuesday, my last 'midterm' was over, and as of Friday classes are done for the term. So yes, much studying will ensue over the next month as exams hit, but that won't stop us from having our exams and toilet paper too.]

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