The following video is not an example of creative output on my part, for by giving Secretary of Geek Affairs Wil Wheaton the CERN T-shirt featured, I simply did what clearly needed to be done. I am nonetheless pleased to have induced what I believe to be an example of my favourite word, ‘epizeuxis‘:
Here is a picture of the card that comes with the T-shirt, which has an explanation of the equation (click for the text of the card and a higher-resolution version of the photo):
I have written an ‘origin story’ in the style of Peter Sagal’s, explaining the improbable series of events that led to my being on a boat in a position to give Wil Wheaton a CERN T-shirt, and drawing a parallel between the above video and Peter Sagal‘s bird feeder made out of a coconut. However, it ended up somewhat long (1000 words) and show-offish, and I have been too busy watching concert videos to edit it properly (indeed, I arbitrarily stopped editing it when I noticed the word count was exactly 1000), so I’ll put it below the ‘more’ thingy for you to ignore. I’m not sure whether all of the events are in the right order, but the story is 1000 words long so it’s too late to edit them now. It looks like I’ll even have to include the superfluous second introduction, since I accidentally included that in the word count.
It’s a shame, really, because I promised somebody I’d include the word ‘shanty’, and now I can’t edit it in. But you can’t argue with integer powers of the number of digits most humans have on their hands.
Oh, you clicked anyway? Well, alright:
In an effort to make this blog post seem somewhat creative and allow an interesting title, I’m going to give my origin story as it pertains to JoCo Cruise Crazy, in the style of Peter Sagal.
Ten years ago, while I was studying mathematics at university in New Zealand, the Mac laptop I’d been given for my studies was left in a phone booth, found, held for ransom, most likely resold before the extortioner was met and arrested, and generously replaced with an iBook Special Edition by Steve Wozniak, one of the founders of Apple. Not long later, I saw a man using a similar iBook on the university campus, and so had little trouble overcoming my usual shyness to introduce myself. He introduced me to a range of comedy music and radio shows, which would lead to the devastating comedy addiction which the people who hear my jokes still suffer from today.
After I finished my studies, I earned enough dirty money as a Windows programmer to start thinking about making the Mac user’s customary pilgrimage to the Worldwide Developers’ Conference in San Francisco. While thinking about it, I read Jonathan Allday’s ‘Quarks, Leptons, and the Big Bang‘, which reignited my passion for particle physics and made me wonder whether I could visit CERN on the way home from San Francisco. By the time I left on my pilgrimage a year later, I had booked flights to visit internet and real-life friends in Canada, Ireland and Germany, booked a guided tour at CERN, acquired a British passport by virtue of being the daughter of an Englishman, and used said passport to apply for a CERN fellowship, just for fun.
On my first day in San Francisco, I met an internet friend, who introduced me to Steve Wozniak, whom I was slightly too star-struck to thank for the iBook I was still using. The evening involved pizza, Segways (six of which can fit in the back of a Hummer), a concert, more Tetris than I’ve ever seen played at a concert, and many hilarious gags involving laser pointers and the flashing LEDs that Woz and one of his friends had on their teeth.
When I got back from that trip, and finally got word that I hadn’t won the CERN fellowship, I naturally applied again. About half a year later, I went to Sydney for some more Apple tech talks, and stayed with a friend I’d met in San Francisco. He introduced me to Tom Lehrer’s music, further worsening my comedy music habit. While I was there, I got an email saying I had been accepted for a Marie Curie Early Stage Training fellowship at CERN.
Some time during my frantic preparation to move to Geneva, I searched the web for Tom Lehrer and found the MASSIVE database, which led to my discovery of a singer-songwriter named Jonathan Coulton, among others. It didn’t take long for me to discover Jonathan’s opening band, Paul and Storm.
In 2008, Paul and Storm ran a tournament to determine the “Secretary of Geek Affairs” for the newly-elected Barack Obama. The first rounds went well, until some guy I’d never heard of named Wil Wheaton, who apparently played a geek on TV, beat Stephen Hawking, the real-life geek who fills the CERN auditorium quicker than any other invited speaker. When he came up against Steve Wozniak in the next round, I vehemently campaigned against him, as I’m sure you can imagine. When he was elected, I sulked for a while, and then begrudgingly began following him on Twitter.
I still didn’t really know who he was, but when I saw how enthusiastic he was about the Large Hadron Collider‘s second first beam, I couldn’t help but like the guy. He was more enthusiastic than a lot of people at CERN.
Wil Wheaton ended up performing with Paul and Storm at events called w00tstock, so I heard recordings of a few of his stories. A few years later, Jonathan Coulton announced JoCo Cruise Crazy: a cruise involving entertainment from Jonathan Coulton, Paul and Storm, Wil Wheaton, John Hodgman (whom I’d seen in Apple ads and found out more about through Jonathan Coulton) Molly Lewis (whom I discovered through Jonathan Coulton) Mike Phirman (whose band Hard ‘n Phirm I discovered through the MASSIVE database) Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy (whom I discovered through Masters of Song Fu, which I discovered through Jonathan Coulton) John Roderick (who I mistakenly thought might be that guy I couldn’t remember the name of who played at some Steve Jobs keynotes) and a few other people I still hadn’t discovered yet. It was leaving from relatively near Kennedy Space Center and scheduled mostly during CERN’s annual shutdown, so naturally, I had to go.
As I usually do when I go to Jonathan Coulton concerts, I packed a pile of CERN souvenirs, because Jonathan Coulton fans tend to like them. I brought mainly playing cards, punch cards, and pins, because they’re light, interesting, and suitable for all body sizes. I asked other fans if anyone wanted anything specific, such as a T-shirt in their size, and nobody really responded. But I knew that at least Wil Wheaton would love a CERN T-shirt, if nobody had given him one already. I could see ‘get Wil Wheaton, Secretary of Geek Affairs, a CERN T-shirt’ clearly on the universe’s to-do list, and was glad to be in a position to tick that checkbox. So I brought Wil Wheaton a T-shirt, and I was the first to do so, and he was very excited about it and said it would be his next w00tstock shirt.
Because of this strange concatenation of events, Wil Wheaton recorded the above video. And it may well be that the entire purpose of this strange series of events was to get that seven-second scientific epizeuxis onto the internet.
But then again… maybe a whole lot of perfectly purposeless particles followed the laws written on that shirt. Science, he said. Science.