Thursday’s With Fergie

A new funny story, ripped stright from life at Mines. Every Thursday!

The Date

This is could be considered part two of the conversation that Annie and I had the other day online and the funny Facebook shenanigans thereof. For the record, I did really need help with an experiment. The details aren’t too important and programmers are really the only ones who would care enough to actually figure out what the heck is going on. In short, Facebook has some weird behavior that doesn’t quite make sense and it was critical that I test the conditions under which this behavior could be replicated.

However, my story really starts just over a month ago. I was talking randomly with this girl and she was really funny. So after contemplating
for some time, I finally decided to ask her out. The good news is, I didn’t get a “no.” Of course, the bad news I didn’t get a “yes” either. I actually
got something complete unexpected: she currently had “boyfriend(ish)” who she was planning on breaking up with (and I had no idea about), but then she said, “Check back in a month….and don’t weenie out on me!”

That was right before Christmas Break. That brings me to yesterday, first day back. We have Physics II together. Unfortunately, we have this stupid little test to take in class. She finishes before I do and leaves before I can ask again. I was finally able to track her down and asked her. After some quizzing on what I meant by date (I had to promise not to chase tornado’s, fire trucks, ambulances, and like), she goes: “we’re on.”

For those who know me, this is a pretty big thing, similar to getting a 4.0 in your hardest class.

P.S. I would have sent this out earlier, but I had to go skiing today. A foot of fresh and riding on North America’s highest chairlift (Summit:
12,840ft). It’s a hard life, let me tell you 😉 .


Of Course…I’m From Seattle.

This story comes from Duane Mullen. Duane is one my Bible Study leaders in Seattle. Recently, he was been in Mississippi helping with the hurricane relief. A few weeks ago, Duane’s grandmother fell and passed out on her back, vomited and aspirating some of that into her lungs causing pneumonia and collapsing one lung. Duane left his position in Mississippi to go be with Grammy. The following is an email Duane sent out a couple days ago that I think is too cool not to share. Duane has given his permission for me to edit and reprint:

My grandmother is in the hospital and she’s improving every day but the hospital is really frustrated with her recovery. It’s just not going as fast as they had hoped. She was off the ventilator for 20 minutes today and they think she should be able to breath on her own for at least 4 hours by now. Rough stuff.

We, about a week ago we got to the hospital as normal and there is a girl in the waiting room that looks like she’s about 16, maybe 18, but she doesn’t look any older than that. She is in a wheelchair and you can see that her face is a little battered. She’s surrounded by friends, all women, that are about the same age. They are all trying to comfort her, but she is crying every second, almost at the drop of a hat. She was in a car accident and the other person who was in the car with her, whom I assume was a young teenage guy driver, is in critical care. He’s not regaining consciousness and things look pretty grim.

Everyday after that we see her in the hospital. We can see her improve and everyday she is able to get out of the wheelchair and walk on her own a little more. The crowd of girls around her is changing to some girls and some guys and daily they are getting a little older.

Finally, most of the young people are gone. She comes to the same waiting room and there is an older couple there. Probably in their sixties. They spend time with her but don’t act like her parents.

Today when I got to the waiting room at the hospital there was the older couple, the girl was not there, but there was an average looking man about 40 years old. I recognize him but dismiss it being who I think it is because while this is a great regional hospital, nobody who’s not from here would know that it even existed. We made pleasantries as anyone would in a casual passing.

I go in and see my grandmother and come back out after several minutes. We’re trying to give her some rest. My grandfather and my aunt are both in with her.

I go sit in the waiting area and the older couple and the man are still there and the young girl is back again.

The man is trying to be encouraging to the older couple and they’re talking medically about how the young teenage guy is struggling with blood sugar levels and being diabetic. The man says that a sense of humor is important and that he’s going to go back one more time and give his friend “shit” for lying in bed.

He then says that he needs to get back to Seattle, but wanted to see him one more time before heading back.

Now I know for sure.

They ask him if he’s got a show in Philadelphia and he says “No, If I did I would give him shit for sure for not being there to run my lighting.”

He gets up with the young girl and goes back to see their friend. Another old woman, about 70, looks at me and exclaims, “DO YOU KNOW WHO THAT WAS!?”

I say, “Of course…. I’m from Seattle.”

She says, “That was Dave Matthews…you know, Dave Matthews Band”

I reply, “Yes, I know. I was trying to figure out what he was doing here of all places.”

The older couple explain that their son was in a car accident with “Courtney” the younger girl. She was driving the car and they made a left turn and were hit by a patrol car. Their son is Dave’s chief lighting engineer and Dave flew coast to coast just to see him.

Dave comes back in to say good bye to the family. I let them have their space but a woman comes around the corner who is visiting another patient and she stops dead in her tracks and says, “Oh My God… that looks just like…”

I say, “That’s because it is.”

She didn’t believe me enough to hear me, so I repeat myself. Quietly so as not to make a spectacle of the man.

Dave leaves and the old man comes over and talks to her and explains what he was doing there.

Wow. I think that’s so cool. I can’t speak from experience, but I would imagine that there are not many artists who would fly coast to coast just to see some light tech in the hospital. Perhaps if it was their stage manager or something, but a light tech? That’s very cool an awesome testament to just how down to earth Mr. Matthews is.

As a side note, Duane is looking for a job. I would imagine he would be looking for something in the Seattle area, so if you know of any open positions, send me an email (andrew [aatt] remove.this andrewferguson [ddoott] net) and I’ll be sure to send them on to Duane.

[tags]Dave Matthews, DMB, hire[/tags]


Fire/Thursday’s with Fergie: Fire at the Old Capital Grill

Update: Photoset at Flickr

I get out of my Physics lab at a quarter to four. I decide to walk across campus to the gym so I can practice some of my handball moves. I have a tournament coming up on Saturday and I want to win at least one game. As I walk across Kafadar Commons, a large grassy field in the middle where students can often be found playing Ultimate, I look up to see two news helicopters. In city like Seattle, I would think nothing of it. But I’m in Golden, and 9News doesn’t spend $12,500 an hour (or however much it costs) to take pretty pictures of Golden.
The fact that there is not one, but two helicopters assures me of the fact that something big is indeed happening. I make a slight detour to the library which is right next to the gym. I quickly hop on one the computers and go to 9News web page. In big red letters at the top of the page:

Breaking News: Fire at Old Capital Grill on 12th & Washington.

Screw handball practice.

I race down the library steps and run back across campus to my house. A third helicopter has joined the other two, and the trio circle above the fire like vultures. My Dad calls me on the way back:

“Hey, dad.”

“How’s the fire?”

“I’m about to head over there right now. How did you know?”


“You’re not in Colorado, are you?”

“No, but I get the news alerts.”

“Oh. Ok”

I race into my house and grab my camera, making sure my memory card is in. Nothing like wanting to take pictures but having no place to store them. As I walk out, I stop in Chris’s room, which is right across from mine. Chris, Ben, and Jens are all watching the news on Chris’s TV. I now see through the eyes of the helicopters that I was just looking up at a moment ago.Flames and smoke, lots of smoke. Chris and Jens want to go down, I ask Jens if he’s going to take his car (we’re on 19th and Washington, but time is of the essence). He points out that the police have already arrived and are closing off the streets. He makes a good point.

I grab my bike and take off towards the fire, riding into the sunset at the same time. As I reach the crest of the small hill that sits between our house and the fire, I begin to see the billowing smoke pouring from the roof of the Old Capital Grill.I pedal hard, desperate to get there before I miss something. I get within a block of the fire and park my bike, locking it to one of the wooden pylons supporting the eves that hang over the downtown Golden sidewalks. I take out my camera and cautiously make my way toward the fire. A group of reporters is already present and hang around them, hoping to blend into the crowd of reporters. The fact that I have a $1000 dollar digital SLR camera doesn’t hurt and probably helps me look just that much more professional. A camera man from Fox 31 asks who I’m with. I politely respond that I’m with the Colorado School of Mines. Which is actually slightly true. I used to be the News Editor for The Oredigger last year and this year I’m the Chief Engineer for our radio station, Mines Internet Radio. I make a mental note to make that Press Pass I’ve been thinking about.

I’m now directly across the street from the fire, although it’s more smoke now than fire. The smoke comes in waves as the Golden All-Volunteer Fire Department beats the fire down. I zip up my REI fleece jacket to the collar and hunch down, hoping that the polyester fibers will afford me some protection from the smoke that begins to encompass us.

I carefully move to the other side of the street. The Press Representative spots me and asks me join the press group back on the other side of the street. I quickly oblige.

The fire is contained some thirty minutes after I arrive. I hang around for another twenty minutes or so, waiting to see what will happen next. But the sun has set behind the mountains and it’s getting dark and cold. The crowd has started to dissipate and I’m quickly loosing interest.I call Dad back and tell him how close I was. A stranger sees my camera and asks to see some of the pictures. He ask me if I know what started it. I shake my head and show him the pictures on my camera’s little screen. In all likelihood, this will be the most exciting thing to happen on/near campus all year. I begin my trek back, basking in the fact that I was there.


The Ride

I usually just post my story of the day. However, one of the great things about sharing stories with your friends that you can then share them with your other friends (a third degree of sharing, I guess). With gracious permission, I’ve posted some selected “Stories of the Day” that have been seen in one of my circle of friends. And now I share it with you. The following Story of the Day was sent by Peter Walchenbach on Sunday, October 30th:

As I stepped through the door of the coffee shop I was overwhelmed with the urge to spin in circles in the wet parking lot, catching as many of the half dollar size snowflakes as I could to make up for the 7 month fast I had been on. When I finally came to my senses I looked down at my frozen feet covered only by the straps on my Chacos, My genes soaked up to the knee and my pink button down shirt now sagged under the load of water it had absorbed. As I ran for the car I came to another realization, one of more importance, it was snowing, and I was planning on driving my rear wheel drive car with street tires over the steepest pass in North America. I drove as quickly as I dared out to the village, to check on a job I applied for, then to radio shack to buy a radar detector (which I didn’t buy because it was $200) then headed for the pass. As I started to climb the snow became thicker and thicker as it fell in front of me until finally my hands began to shake ever so slightly, and a smile crept over my face as my car started to loose traction around corners.

I scrolled through the play lists on my Ipod finding the techno/trance list and turned up to volume until my speakers started to crack, next I shifted into 2nd gear sport, put both hands on the wheel and held on for the ride. It was nearly ten minutes later, my rear wheels were spinning continuously spitting rocks and slush far behind me, my car was moving at the same speed my baby sister goes when heading for the wagging tail of our golden retriever and the idea to hit me, “I could just turn around and wait until tomorrow to try the pass”. It wasn’t long before I had pushed that idea out of my head, and when the road flattened and I arrived at the top, I turned down the music, shifted into drive, sat back in my chair and tried to slow my heart down and stop my hands from shaking.

300 miles later, it was pitch black other than were my headlights shone on the shiny wet road beneath me or reflected off the tinny white flakes that flew toward my windshield at 80 miles an hour. The yellow light flashing above the yellow sign illuminated the black writing “45MPH” I however had no control over my speed, my cruise control had been in charge of that for the last 4 hours and there was no reason to relieve it now. As I went around the first corner I realized that maybe the cruise control was not infallible, my head tilted at a 45 degrees to compensate for the forces pushing it into the window, my body was too relaxed to fight them and just rested against the door, I placed my foot over the brake and gently disengaged cruise control just as I came out of the first corner and into the next. The second corner was significantly sharper than the last, as I pushed harder and harder on the brake, like the snapping of my fingers, my hands once again began to shake, this time however there was no smile on my face, my tires broke free of the apparently frozen ground below me and sent my back wheels into the lane next to me. The car twisted ever so slightly to the right, I countered it, turning the wheels to the left and letting up on the brake, an instant later my rear wheels regained traction just long enough to send the back of the car sliding in the opposite direction, the wheels screamed as the car slid across the pavement. Just after passing straight the wheels caught again the car jerked and I was once again following the road as if nothing had happened.

Now just 500 miles from home, cruising at 79mph holding a rock star with one hand, and the wheel in the other, a set of head lights appeared in my rear view mirror quickly catching me. It pulled right up behind me, before changing lanes to pass me, in my boredom my eyes followed the car, debating whether to use it as a speeding buddy, the decision was easy. The bran new Jetta some how managed to fit two sets of ski racks on the roof though only one had skis in it. The interior dome light shone brightly inside allowing me to easily see the woman driving, she was in her early 20s the sunblind was pulled down, blocking out the stars above her. MSU was clearly visible on the chest of her hooded sweatshirt; her knee skillfully handled the wheel as she stared into the mirror in front of her using both her hands to put her long burgundy hair up in a ponytail. When she was directly next to me she looked at me and smiled flashing teeth that looked strangely white in that light, then sped off. I followed her for just over a mile, but she got off at the next exit, which had a picture of a ski area and a sign that said, “no services” with no excuse to follow, I returned to 79mph and continued to drive into the night.

As a note, I named it “The Ride”. Quinn says it’s the best story yet. If I find some time, I may make an animated short based on it.


Thursday’s with Fergie: The Story of BURL

Because I know you all read my blog on a regular basis, I’m sure you know most of the details already. 🙂
In any event, this is the story of BURL, an idea that changed the way I think about the Internet (yes, I said the “I” word).

It all started on Monday, with an article on Lifehacker called Tiny URL Etiquette. For those not in the “know”, TinyURL is a website that let’s you take a long URL, such as: and makes it shorter, like so: However, as the article pointed out, “[s]ending a shortened URL means you lose all the context that normal URLs provide.” Using the above as an example: with the long link, you immediately see and instantly know that it has something to do with Microsoft. But with the TinyURL, you have no idea where it points to.

“For those reasons, consider posting both the original URL as well as the tinyurled one. Let your audience know where they’re linking to. Adding both raises the level of trust and lets people decide more knowingly whether they want to follow that link or not.”

BURL was born. My idea behind a Better Universal Resource Location, BURL, was to bring back at least some of the context of the URL being linked to. I wrote the initial version in about two hours right after I got out of school. I wrote back to Lifehacker informing them of
my Proof-of-Concept and they posted a short article about it the next day!
Alternative Short URLs With BURL
Yesterday we talked about Tiny URL Etiquette and the fact that sometimes tiny isn’t better. Sometimes short URLs don’t contain enough information to let a person know where they’re going.
In response to that concern Lifehacker reader Andrew Ferguson
created BURL—Better URL. It shortens a URL yet leaves some context.
Nice work.

Yea. Waaaay cool. You see, Lifehacker is listed as one of the Top 100 Blogs by CNET. To even get mentioned on it was awesome. Within 24 hours, over 500 people had stopped by and tried out BURL. Definitely exciting. I spent a few more days tweaking it a bit and then yesterday I decided to make it way better. I learned how to implement something called AJAX (it’s a collection of several languages that provide a very cool interactive interface) and now BURL uses AJAX which is freaking awesome (at least in my book).

Yes, a very nerdy story, but that’s what your expect and hopefully enjoy from me. Have a great weekend and prepare for an awesome story
for next Thursday!

And next time you need a short URL, remember to make it a BURL


Thursday’s with Fergie: How Do You Know My Name?

I was walking back from ouf school’s Football game on Saturday (we won 42-41 after their kicker choked and missed the extra point). Bradford Hall is sort of on the way back to my house, so I walked through so I could say “hi” to Jared. As I walk down the hall, I see his parents writing a message on his little white board. As they leave, they inform me that his phone is off the hook and they can’t get through. So I’m standing in front of his door, looking up his number on my cell phone when Jared opens the door. It’s obvious he’s been taking a nap. So I say, “Your parents just left like two seconds ago.” So Jared bounds down the stairs and I follow, although I don’t bound. He catches his parents and we start talking. After a while, his mother asks, “Are you Brian?”
“No, I’m Andrew,” I say (although the fact that my brother is named Brian is rather funny, but only to me).
“Oh, Andrew Ferguson?” his mother replies.
“Um, yea,” I say. She’s definitely piqued my interest. I know I’ve never met her before and I doubt that Jared has volunteered my last name.
“You probably don’t want to know how I know that,” she says.
I pause, “Actually, you have me kinda interested now.”
“Well,” she continues, “your the first site that comes up when I Google ‘Jared Stewart’ and ‘Colorado School of Mines’.”

I laugh. My day had been made.

Here’s the search for “jared stewart” “colorado school of mines”

Another short anticdoteanecdote.:
“Where are you from?”
“I’m from Greece.”
“I thought you looked a little Greecey (greasy)”


Thursdays with Fergie: Funnies in the Comments

One of the joys of going to Mines is LON-CAPA. Learning Online – Computer Assisted Personal Approach is an open source, web-based program developed at Michigan State University. LON-CAPA homework is usually due on Monday, but people work on it all week. Another one of CAPA’s “features” is a message board system. I now present to you a selection of following messages from the “Pushing Meteor” problem:

needlessly complicated Anonymous Reply (Mon Oct 3 19:23:17 2005)

I say that we drill to the C.O.M and detonate a really
large explosive to split it in two. much simpler than
trying to move the entire thing with lots of rockets with
complicated angles and excessive calculations. hehe

Joyce (***** at csm) Reply (Mon Oct 3 23:29:38 2005)

Don’t be intimidated by the scary picture. The problem is a lot easier than it looks. Just take it step by step. Watch the signs on torque!!

Nerds Christopher (***** at csm) Reply (Tue Oct 4 16:50:17 2005)

Ah man how boring would a movie be about an asteroid
heading toward earth…and the whole movie is just a bunch
of nerds trying to figure out the angle and force and
torque of a bunch of rockets on the asteroid…ahh
man…we are those nerds…damn!

Re: Nerds Kyle (***** at csm) Reply (Tue Oct 4 16:58:35 2005)

Chris, you need to be quiet and just play ball.

balls hawaiian superman Reply (Wed Oct 5 15:37:09 2005)

I’ve got balls you could play with.

LON-CAPA HATES ME! Anonymous Reply (Thu Oct 6 00:58:19 2005)

AAAAAHHHHH!!!? This program hates me.? I enter in units that apparently don’t exist or formulas it doesn’t recognize.? I need a translator stat. OR MY HEAD WILL EXPLODE!? Much like the asteroid in the Movie Armagedon.? Also if there were enough explosions due to leaking liquid hydrogen, then the movie about the geeks might be cool.

Re: needlessly complicated Joseph (***** at csm) Reply (Thu Oct 6 11:15:17 2005)

which is worse,
a big asteroid hitting one place or a shotgun shell the
size of an asteroid, little asteroids are worse.

by the way I dibs bruce willis in the movie version of this

Re: Re: needlessly complicated Theron (***** at csm) Reply (Thu Oct 6 11:43:17 2005)

I dib the guy doing Bruce’s daughter

Re: LON-CAPA HATES ME! Joyce (***** at csm) Reply (Thu Oct 6 14:21:23 2005)

Don’t take lon-capa too personally. It hates EVERYONE!!!

Re: balls Anonymous Reply (Thu Oct 6 17:15:41 2005)

You would love it if he played with your balls, wouldn’t
you, Queer Bait!

Nicole Elizabeth (***** at csm) Reply (Thu Oct 6 18:16:13 2005)

i think this asteroid has 6 letters too many on the end…

Re: Re: needlessly complicated Anonymous Reply (Thu Oct 6 19:09:56 2005)

if you took a large hit, there is a slim chance for
survival, especially if its a crit. however you can survive
shotgun pellets

David (***** at csm) Reply (Thu Oct 6 19:34:00 2005)

about that question on the last part, you need to make sure
all your units are right. cappa changes everything up on
you and makes the torques into MN*m instead of MN*km, which
is what your radius measurement is given in…its pretty
retarded. if you solve it out using the values cappa
changes it to you need to change your r1 into meters as

all this talk of balls just can’t be healthy. c’mon guys

Re: Re: balls Allen (***** at csm) Reply (Thu Oct 6 19:58:02 2005)

your mom’s a queer bait.

Brandon (*****at csm) Reply (Fri Oct 7 16:32:56 2005)

My grandma has asteroids…

Re: needlessly complicated Anonymous Reply (Sat Oct 8 00:51:12 2005)

You know what would be really cool was if after we drilled to the COM and detonated the nuke, it turned out there was a huge pocket of liquid hydrogen in the asteroid.? Then it would be the largest thermonuclear?near earth object ever (or maybe the first). Well either way if the human race survived we would end up with another holiday like the 4th of July, except with bigger fireworks, and that would be fun


Thursdays with Fergie: Underage at Coors

Nothing really funny has happened this week, at least not yet. So I’m going back into the archives of Andrew Ferguson dot NET to pull this one out. It happened last year on March 19th, a group of us students (comprised of myself, a bunch of kids from the Ski Bums club, and John who had been skiing a cumulative 4 times) were on our way to Jackson Hole. We were about 20 minutes out of Golden when Rob, director of the Outdoor Recreation Center and our trip leader, noticed the “Check Engine” light illuminated on the ‘Digger Bus. Being cautious, Rob pulled over and called the school, and then the Ford service number, and then a taxi van, and finally a tow truck. We went back to Golden, I grabbed a bite to eat with some of the other people going on the trip and then we headed over to the Coors Lab where, for some reason, I was identified as being over 21 (by a Coors employee mind you!) and given the appropriate wrist band to get free alcohol. I actually didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to have it until one of the guys on our trip told me I wasn’t. Rather ironic that someone from Coors gave me the wrist band too. Despite the minor over sight, no alcohol was consumed on my part which was probably could because as I would later find out I went to Canada, I’m not a fan of beer.


Thursdays with Fergie: Table Mountain Animal Clinic

Liz Purdy, one of my Seattle-based buddies sent this email out to us:

here’s a thought i had for the dualbs: my friend molly from ohio who lives across the hall has set up a “story of the day” with her friends that are all over at different colleges. each one of her friends has taken a day and sends out a story of a funny experience, awkward moment, general college life, etc. she always calls me into her room to read them and laugh with her. i’ve gotten to the point where now i look forward to the story of the day from her friends, so…

I picked Thursday. Today is Thursday. So here goes:

This event happened about 3 weeks ago. Ben Sikora, one of my roommates, had recently gotten a kitten from Table Mountain Animal Clinic (TMAC) a local animal shelter about 10 minutes from where we live. After much debate about names for the kitten (including almost naming it Benzyl), Ben decided to call him Kitty. Unfortunately, Kitty wasn’t feeling so well and Ben had to take him back to TMAC to get put down (the vet thought that Kitty had distemper).So back to TMAC we went and we had to wait for some time because like many non-profit animal shelters, they were understaffed.
This guy comes in with his dog and two daughters, perhaps aged 2 and 5. The man probably made less than what I pay in tuition every year, which I only mention to develop a mental picture. The youngest one wore only a shirt and dipper while the elder wore a dress that had been worn many times but washed only a handful (none of which were recent). The dog was muscular, but not oversized, and was restrained only by a leash (no collar) which the man had attached to the dog by looping the end of the leash through the handle and thusly creating a simple, yet effective noose. Having only two hands, both of which were occupied with keeping the dog at bay, the man had very little control of his kids.
Ben, myself, and Sarah (Ben’s girlfriend) sat at the far corner, directly across from where the man and his dog sat. By this time, his children had wondered off directly to the man’s right to look at a half dozen cats put up in temporary cages in the lobby. The kids, naturally curious of what were in the cages, stuck their fingers in to try and pet the cats. By this time I had lost interest in what the kids were doing, turning my attention back to Ben (who was very sad, although he would never admit it, even now) and his cat. The eldest daughter let out a little yelp and my head jerked to the left to see what was going on: I caught the tail end of her jerking her hand back. The father, seeing her jerk her hand back, said something to the effect of, “See, I told you would get bitten if you kept sticking your fingers in the cage.” The girl, slightly perplexed, shook her head and pointed to her little sister. The lobby let out a little chuckle and my day was made slightly better.