I took my monthly trip through my spam folder and found that two people had written to me about my old Halloween photos. Here's one:
Man, I was searching around looking for some good Halloween photos and came across your web site. I just had to tell you that your costumes are pathetic. I think you need to get a little more creative and put some decent work into them. They look like something a preschooler would make.
And the other, in delightful contrast:
I happened upon your Halloween page and wanted to tell you I thought you are very creative and good looking on top of that.
It was fun to find the two messages at the same time. It's a nice reminder that it's a big world out there, and if you ever feel unappreciated, maybe you're just talking to the wrong people.
People I talk to in person know that I've been talking about little else for a while now, but those of you who are stalking me remotely may not have heard: I'm going to unicycle 500km through Laos at the end of January. It's a group trip, with ~20 people, all on unicycles except the tour guide and support vehicle. We'll drift down the Mekong for a couple days, then spend seven of the next eight days riding 50km-100km each day. I'm not in shape for this. I had never ridden a big wheel unicycle before three weeks ago when I started training, and it's hard and different. It's like learning to unicycle all over again, only with much faster improvement.
I'm keeping a training log, which so far just has some basic stats on all my rides, but will soon have links to photos and maps for the more interesting rides. I've also been writing a bit about it (sort of like this, only less meta), but I haven't figured out where to put that yet.
I had to swap out my unicycle's cranks this morning before riding to work, and since they were all greasy and gross where the pedals screw in, I took the opportunity to clean them out. Only I did it in what turns out to be a dumb way, namely, the way that drives a sharp piece of steel into one's thumb. I guess the pedals don't fit perfectly in the crank, so the threads got a little gnawed and slivers of metal lurk there, waiting for morons to grind their thumbs in the holes protected only by a paper towel.
Ok, no big deal. Sharp pointy thing pokes me, I jerk my thumb back. Basic reflexes seem to be in working order, this has been a test of the emergency thumb retraction system. I let it bleed a little, clean it up, and finish working. But it hurts a little more than I'd expect and it's reluctant to stop bleeding entirely, so now I'm wondering whether that dark line under the skin in my thumb really is a grease tattoo or whether there's a bit of metal in there. I poke at it from a few angles, and I think maybe there is a splinter, but I'm not really sure and if there is one it must be in pretty deep, since there's nothing visible near the entry point. I don't really want to start digging around if there's nothing there.
If you want to know whether there's a foreign object just under your skin, it's rather convenient to know that if it is there, it's going to be made of steel. I have to say, and really this is the whole point of writing about getting a splinter: it's really weird to wave a magnet over your skin and feel something inside you wiggling around in response.
Alas, I was not in a comic book, nor was it a high powered electromagnet, so instead of the fragment flying out like magic, I still had to dig it out the old fashioned way. For just such an occasion, I have special tweezers that are sharp and pointy most of the time, but turn clumsy and blunt when they approach splinters.
The splinter turned out to be about 5mm long and was somehow rather deeply embedded. I can't recommend the experience entirely but if you find yourself with a piece of ferrous metal in your body, don't miss the chance to wiggle it with a strong magnet, unless you have reason to believe that might kill you, which I guess is not out of the question given the circumstances.