I've got a new favorite toy! It's called a Dremel tool, and it's basically just a hand-held motor that spins really fast, with hundreds of attatchments you can plug into it. Cutting, sanding, drilling, polishing, gouging, etc etc. Chews through thick plastic and softer metals like nobody's business. The swim goggles are to protect my eyes from the zillions of jaggedy metal bits that tend to go flying every which-way. The Dremel is so cool that it warps the very fabric of reality, which is why this picture is all fuzzy (obviously). The Dremel has been instrumental in the construction of...
...my variable DC power supply. This is a gadget which is going to make it much easier for me to construct future gadgets, because I can build circuits on the solderless breadboard and run them off of wall power. No more burning through batteries. I'm planning to add a signal generator too (sine wave, square wave, sawtooth maybe). The circuit that's on top right now is a prototype for the square-wave generator, using a 741 op-amp, which as I am starting to learn is one of everybody's favorite ICs. My first attempt at this circuit failed because I didn't know the 741 has these "offset null" things that have to be balanced with an external potentiometer. If you look closely there's a little screwdriver-style potentiometer there; I salvaged that guy, and his brothers and sisters, from a broken Walkman which I got from Alexis' house when I helped her move out in June. Also, note the Roman numerals for voltages, because everything's cooler when it's in Roman numerals.
I got most of the other parts for the power supply from Fry's Electronics when I went out to the suburbs for Dad's birthday. Fry's is pretty awesome. Imagine a Wal-Mart where every aisle is full of electronic and computer parts. Sure beats Radio Shack. It's a California chain which is just starting to spread to the rest of the country. I guess there are some things you can get in the suburbs that you just can't get in the city. There's still plenty of room on the circuit board here, so besides the signal generator I think I'd also like to add a row of 8 switches and 8 LEDs to the front panel for doing digital stuff. I just have to figure out the best way to connect them to the top breadboard. On the lower left you can see the power cord plugs into a three-prong connector that I ripped out of an old computer power supply. I love salvaging parts!
On an unrelated note, I was up on the north side this weekend for an Aikido seminar at the Chicago Aikikai (this will be an entry of its own). During Saturday's lunch break I found a little indy-record store. I got the New Pornographer's latest album and a record by a crazy Kansai-based all-girl Japanese avant-garde punk-rock group called "Ni Hao". I had never heard of them before, but the CD kinda jumped out at me and said "Buy me, I'm on the same label as Ruins, I must be good, and I have a song called Neko-Basu, and I'm either awesome or unlistenable eardrum-destroying noise! Buy me!" So I did. I'm liking it. Anyway the guy at the record store threw in a free Batman comic with my purchase. He said it was Greek, but with Jeremy-the-linguist's help I figured out it's actually Hungarian.
I haven't done anything with Warhammer for a while -- thank goodness that the Warhammer obsession is starting to fade, it was consuming way too much of my time a couple of months ago. Anyway, here is a chunk of the Tyranid swarm I was painting. The color scheme I chose was inspired by "Invader Zim". I'd like to take credit for the cool terrain they're on, but that came from a going-out-of-business sale at a game store in Schaumburg.
Here is their leader, the Hive Tyrant. Got him off of e-bay for way cheap and did a bunch of modifications -- made extra armor plates and poison sacs out of Sculpey before painting, stuck a bone in his teeth, put smashed-up bits of enemies at his feet, etc. Isn't he scaaaaaaarrry? Grrrr! If and when I start getting back into modeling I want to add some Mothra-style wings to the Tyrant's back so he can rain down death from the skies and stuff.
Just in case anybody feels like getting me a present for the upcoming Winter Solstice or my birthday on January 21... no pressure, don't feel like you have to, you know, I'd appreciate just getting a card, and it's the thought that counts, and it's better to give than receive, and so on, but I did put together a wish list on Amazon
Bored with Anime
Tuesday was the day I officially became Bored With Anime. At the club we finished Alien Nine, yet another series which devolved from a promising first episode to a nonsensical conclusion. I'm sick of this. I blave Evangelion: Eva could have been one of the greatest anime ever if it had an ending that lived up to its beginning and middle. Instead we get "End of Eva". (Summary: "Hi, I'm Hideako Anno. Sorry, I kinda wrote myself into a corner with this series, so I'll just throw a bunch of artsy film-school imagery and religious symbolism at you and let you try to make sense of it. Enjoy!") There were plenty of nonsensical endings before Eva, of course, but these days people seem to be doing them on purpose. I also blame Eva for the proliferation of passive, whiny protagonists. Boo!
I haven't yet seen the end of Read or Die, Paranoia Agent, Ghost in the Shell Standalone Complex... and I think I might just keep it that way. Why bother when the ending is probably going to spoil the whole show? I can just imagine a better ending in my head and stick with that.
Know what else I'm sick of? Anime that isn't actually animated. Look at most recent TV series and you'll see lots of still shots, pans across non-animated backgrounds, characters talking and not moving anything except their mouths, characters talking with their back to the camera so they don't even have to move their mouths, fake-looking digital zooms, bad CG, stock transformation and attack sequences, still cells with speed lines in the background to fake motion... anything to avoid paying animators to animate things. It's like having the manga colored in and read aloud to you by overdramatic voice actors. Seriously, Speed Racer had better animation! Speed Racer was crude, yes, but at least they were trying to give it some dynamism, some cinematic-style camera movements, some sense of cars zooming around and crashing and flipping over and exploding.
Hikaru no Go is a perfect example of a show with almost no animation. But I like it anyway. I did a bad thing: tempted by Sushu, I skipped ahead and watched the end without seeing most of the middle. Guess what? It has a proper ending! The world doesn't implode, nobody turns into a being of pure energy, we don't wander off into some subjective reality inside Hikaru's head, they don't fight some villian who comes out of nowhere three episodes before the end, and the story doesn't turn back time and invalidate its own existence. They just... well, I don't think it's spoiling anything to say that they play a lot of Go. And there are massive homoerotic overtones!
The whole show is colored by pseudo-sexual tension between Akira and Hikaru. I mean, Akira constantly pursued Hikaru due to his BURNING DESIRE to play Go with him. He's SO INTENSE about it, and the seiyuu really hams it up. "Even when I was playing with other people I was thinking only of you! I've been quivering with anticipation thinking about the moves you would make and how I would respond to them!" So it's very easy to see Go as a metaphor for boy-sex. When I was watching the last episode, I realized: there's nothing metaphorical about it. Go IS their sex. So the end of the show is like watching Akira and Hikaru consummate their love. It's very romantic, in a weird way.
So besides Alien Nine and Hikaru no Go, we've been watching Kino's Journey, which is a strange beast. I'm not sure if I like it or not. Androgynous gunslinger and talking motorcycle travel through made-up countries, staying for three days in each one. It has the feel of a series of fables. Like a fable, it tends to abstract away specific details and make each country into an exaggerated satire of a Society Gone Horribly Wrong. Like Gulliver's Travels with a talking motorcyle. It's a very different sort of story from your typical anime, and I like that, but Kino's Journey is often slow-moving, vague, and heavy-handed. The social commentary is not subtle at all. Picture a giant hammer labeled "Anime Philosophy 101" hitting you over the head again and again. The other thing that frustrates me is that Kino doesn't seem to care about anything; when she (?) has a chance to help the people in a country, she usually ignores it and just rides away, leaving them to their miserable fate. It's a little hard to connect with a protagonist like that.
And we've also been watching Escaflowne, which is just Good. That was one show that just got everything Right, you know? It incorporates almost every anime cliche in the book and yet it manages to breathe new life into all of them and create something unique. Good pacing, good plot twists, good heroes, good villians, good mecha, good animation, good music, good setting, good everything. Ahh.
Wait, I started this as an anime-sucks rant and now I'm gushing about Escaflowne. I seem to have contradicted myself. But I guess what I really wanted to say was that whether the anime is good or bad, I'm kind of bored with the practice of sitting in a room for several hours in a row watching cartoons. I'm bored with passive entertainment in general. I'd rather entertain myself by creating things, whether that's art or computer programs or (lately) circuits. Then I have accomplished something I can look back on proudly. I very much don't want to be the kind of person I see at anime conventions who bases his/her entire identity around what is, after all, a mass-marketed entertainment product from another country.
The only reason I don't want to drop out of anime club entirely is that I have a lot of friends there, and it makes me sad to leave friends behind (I've done too much of that already). But then, sitting in the dark watching a screen isn't really a social activity at all. It's a solitary activity done in groups. So I think I'm going to drop anime and look for more activities where I could do cool things with people.
This rant has been a long time coming. (and will have to break nto two parts to fit through my blog scripts.) Full-blown rant mode, ON!
So, back in September-October I was actually sorta kinda seeing a girl for a couple of weeks. This is a first for me. The breakup was amicable. I like her a lot, but it was just obviously not going to work out. She was really sweet about it. She wasn't interested in me the way I was in her, but she decided to give it a try anyway. She let me down gently, and gave me lots of advice on what I should do differently when I'm with "real girls" (her words). So it was an educational experience.
I'd like to point out that everything popular culture teaches about love and relatonships is filthy lies. The way these things happen on TV, in movies, and in popular myths has no resemblance to my experiences in real life, or the real life of anybody I know. I'll pick on an obvious example: Somewhere there is someone who is destined for you, a Mr. Right or female equivalent, and all you have to do is find that person and you live happily ever after. (It caused me physical pain to type that sentence.) This is SO WRONG. To find a statement more wrong or more harmful than that, you would have to go to a fundy-christian or white-supremacist web forum. Anime and fantasy novels are full of this destined-lover BS. Even people who would reject the destined-lover theory when explicitly described can still fall into the trap of behaving according to it.
Ain't no mystical energy field controls MY destiny, princess.
Looking back on my own life so far, my pattern goes something like this:
- Move to a new place and meet a new group of friends.
- After several months, develop a crush on one of the friends.
- Agonize over it for a couple more months.
- Finally tell her (him) I like her (him).
- Find out that she has a boyfriend/has a girlfriend/swings the wrong way/is about to leave the country/isn't ready for a relationship/just doesn't like me.
- Angst, brood, swear never to fall in love again.
- GOTO 1.
Not only is it depressing, but it's not even structured programming! GOTO considered harmful!
They say you shouldn't fall for your friends. I can see why: the other person thinks they know what the relationship is, then you hit them out of nowhere with "I love you!" and they get all weirded out. But I've never been attracted to someone I wasn't already friends with. I have to know you and like you before I can even think of starting to be attracted to you. (If you eliminate friends, who does that leave? Family, strangers, and enemies. None of those sound like very good options either.)
So, I'm currently in step 6. Next time around, I think I'll try skipping step 3. Just tell her right away, find out why it won't work, and get it over with. Hopefully this will reduce the duration of the next step 6.
I realize there are many reasons why I would not make a good boyfriend. I don't do any of the following things which are prerequisites for many people (not all, I imagine). In no particular order:
I don't care about my appearance. I don't dance (well, I don't dance with people). I hate mushy movies. I have no patience for small talk. I won't buy you flowers; flowers are dumb. I won't put up with mind games. I'm not willing to blow off all my other friends to spend all my time with you. I'm not comfortable playing the aggressive/pursuing role in a relationship. If you don't call me I'm going to assume you don't want to talk to me. I don't go to bars. I don't go to parties. I don't go to activities where lots of single women hang out. I'm not going to tell you you're the most beautiful woman in the world if I don't really think so. I can't read your mind. I can't figure out what you want unless you tell me. I'm short, I'm not rich, and I'm not a tragic, brooding, angsty bishonen with long white hair and yaoi fanfiction possibilities.
In principle, I could change any of these things about myself (except the short part). I could make an effort to seek out eligible women. But the things that I would have to do are illogical and boring and not me. So I choose not to do them. I accept the consequences.
I accept them, and I also think there are many advantages to not being in a relationship. I have friday nights and weekends free to do work or read or draw. Nobody's going to stop me from looking at porn on the internet and I don't have to shave if I don't feel like it. I don't have to remember anniversarys. I can be just friends with lots of women and none of them get jealous.
But I still have a vague nagging voice that says "Am I defective? Why have I never been able to develop and sustain an intimate relationship with another human being, when other people make it look so easy? What's wrong with me?"
Physical Attraction part 2
Lately, though, my thoughts have been turning to my first love, who I left behind eight years ago. Of course I am speaking of
My two new flat-mates for the next year moved in at the end of September, and both of them are Physics majors. I hear them talking about Schrodinger's equation, and I'm like "Oh boy Schrodinger's equation! I remember that! Natsukashii!" and they say "Can you help us?" and I look at Schrodinger's equation and sadly I realize I completely forgot how to solve it! NOOOOOOOOOOOO I've forgotten everything!
My mom threw a "Jono graduated" party at our house and I invited all my friends from school; more than half the people there were either physics majors or ex-physics majors. (Digression: This was lots of fun. We played Settlers of Cataan and ate cheesecake and watched Invader Zim. Good times. They made a "Congratulations" banner and Aleksa, who is learning her alphabet, wrote on the banner "NONIHILF". I don't know what that means but it sounds like it should mean something. Go Aleksa!)
There is also something Aza said which stuck with me: "Just about every physics experiment these days requires computer programming. So if you do physics, you get to do programming too, but if you do computer science that's all you get to do." Dang.
I was on the path of physics, and then I left it behind. I was a fool. Looking back, this was possibly the single greatest mistake of my life. (Although, the one where I accidentally locked mom out of the house ranks pretty high too... and the one where I dropped my baby sister on the floor head-first... actually anybody who knows me can probably suggest a lot more. Forget I brought it up.)
It was never a decision I consciously made. It was more like, I was 17 years old and I went "Oh boy, I'm done with college now! No more school ever again! I'm gonna play video games all day long!" until Mom made me get a job, and a computer job was about the only one I could find. And by the time I thought about physics again, it was far behind me. This is the real cost of going to college young -- even if you can get straight As you don't have the experience points you need to make important life decisions, or even to realize that you need to make them.
Alright, enough analyzing the past. Regret is useful only when it motivates you. So it might seem like a weird time for me to suddenly grow an obsession with physics? Yeah, it is. But now is the time to make decisions I won't regret in ten years. (Now is the point in time where your memory ends and your ability to change things begins. Physics still has trouble explaining why time is asymmetrical this way.)
Feynman made a series of lectures which were collected as a book called "The Character of Physical Law". I recommend it highly for anybody with any interest in physics at all. It's easily readable for the layman but it cuts right to the heart of what physicists actually do, the deep questions of physics, and what it all means. And it's short. Anyway, he makes an excellent point in there: we don't know why, but for whatever reason, Nature seems to reveal her secrets only in the language of mathematics. It's not merely that it takes difficult math to calculate the answer to a problem. For some of our most successful theories, we don't actually have a physical explanation of what's going on. All we have is the math. It may even be that the math is all there is.
There's a lot of math that I haven't used since Connecticut College, which was... FSM preserve us... eight years, or a third of my life, ago! Time to start reclaiming that. And this time, I'm going to go even farther.
Discrete math never really left me; it swims along just under the surface of every computer program. And every few months I have reason to look up some linear algebra for graphics programming or whatever, so I could probably have multiplied matrices for you with a few minutes of thought. But the continuous side of things, differential equations and The Calculus and especially scary things like vector derivatives and path integrals... those were extremely rusty. Then there are things like Group Theory and Complex Analysis and Abstract Algebra which I never learned in the first place.
I spent most of the weekend re-reading my old calculus textbook and working through the first chapter of Satomi's Quantum Mechanics. I re-learned how to integrate by parts and by substitution, the connection between div, grad, and curl and the three types of vector multiplication, how to normalize a wave function, what psi* means, the energy states in an infinite square well, and what's so funny about the double-slit experiment.
It was like meeting old friends again!
Some things are much better now than they were then. When I was an undergrad we never had a webapp to do our integrals for us! I'm finding things much easier to grasp this time around. The Fundamental Theorem of Calculus finally makes sense to me, and not just "OK, I guess that seems right" sense, but the brilliant penetrating truth of something that Could Not Possibly Be Any Other Way.
So what am I going to do with all this? I just got a MS in computer science. MSs in computer science are what people get in order to go on to a nice lucrative career writing software. That would be the easy and responsble life. Nothing wrong with writing software. I do enjoy it. But... Physics, man, physics. The mysteries of the cosmos. So.... I don't know what my next move is. I guess I'm going to attack from the side of computational physics / scientific computing so I can try to sneak back into physics through the back door and use my strengths. (Side rant: most code I've seen written by physicists is really bad. Using a, b, x, and y for variable names because that's what they're called in the equations is no way to write maintainable software.) I'm going to do lots of hardware hacking and circuit building, which is sort of the space between computers and physics, and there is much I can teach myself there. I'm going to send out feelers for computational physics programs and schools and jobs. I'm going to have to network like crazy, which means getting back in touch with Gregor. It must be done. I don't have a plan, but at least I have a goal. When something feels as right as physics did last weekend, I have to pursue it, no matter the obstacles.
And unlike girls, physics can't say "I like someone else" or "Let's just be friends".
There's a song in Tenchi Muyo that Washu sings, karaoke-style, that goes:
Photon, pu-ro-ton, sy-n-ku-ro-to-ron
Kagaku wa ai yori subarashii
Hell yeah, sister!
Random photos of Hyde Park
Left to right: Satomi, Kat, Jeremy, bonding over Soul Calibur.
The outside of my apartment building.
Ratner Gym has things sticking out of it that look like ships' masts.
I found out that "Boulevard" technically means a road with a stip of parkway going along the middle of it dividing one lane from the other.
>I don't know what this show is about or what it's doing here.
Pierce, the dorm where most of my friends spent their first year before moving out into apartments. It was designed by an architect who designs prisons.
This looks like a photo from a college admissions pamphlet.
The squirrels are prettier than the... no, I'm sick of that joke now.
How many squirrels can you find in this picture?
The nerdiness of this school runs so deep that administrators make themselves into Magic cards.
This statue represents nuclear energy, because
the first sustained nuclear chain reaction happened here.
Well guys, this is either going to raise the temperature of the water tank a few degrees, or it's going to destroy Chicago and possibly the entire universe in an unstoppable neutron chain-reaction. Let's do it!
Green line to the city. Clouds loom. Adventure beckons.
Random photos of Chicago
An Aza approaches! Thy command?
Ugly modern sculpture in front of the State of Illinois building.
Inside the State of Illinois building.
Andrew from work.
Devil children doing Mexican dance in underground food court.
Aza and the Orange. They dye the fountain for Halloween.
Me and the Orange.
The Corncob Building.
House of Blues, where I saw George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars. Next to the Corncob Building.
Just some random buildings.
More random buildings.
Yeah, yeah, Chicago has a lot of buildings, we get it Jono. You're just taking pictures of random stuff now aren't you.
Life is hard for would-be vertical objects in the Windy City!
People who care about baseball are very excited that our team won. I don't care, but... I'm happy that they have something to be excited about.
I don't know what this is supposed to be.
Here comes the Blue Line!
Lured by the promise of free sushi (and free Sushu), I went to a thing at the SMART museum earlier tonight. (The SMART museum is a small art, mostly modern art, museum on campus that I've never happened to visit before.) They had a series of four local amateur rock bands play tonight, to show they are a Hip And Trendy And Relevant To The Youth Of Today kind of museum. The second band, "Modern Temper", was surprisingly great. While the not-so-great bands were playing I explored the exhibits. They had an exhibit called "Beyond Green: Towards Sustainable Art" which was just about as pretentious and self-congratulatory as you would expect. BUT they had some benches around a coffe table with a bunch of books, and one of those books was called
MASSIVE CHANGE, by Bruce Mau, and I picked it up and was immediately hooked. It's basically a book about cutting-edge technologies and how they might transform the world (and is therefore guaranteed to be laughably obsolete in a year), but it's laid out like an art book, and it talks about design a lot. Lots of very cool photographs, nice quotes, interviews with scientists and experts. (Including Ian Foster about the Grid, yaaaayyy!) The book doesn't go particularly deep into any one thing, since it's a survey, but it's the kind of thing that really gets you thinking. And it tied together several threads which have been running through my head lately.... which I'll rant about tomorrow because I am sleepy now.
I have to get up at 6:30 to go to an aikido seminar at Champaign-Urbana, and I can't find my alarm clock, so I am using cron and applescript to make iTunes automatically start playing loud music at the specified time. Huzzah!
Strange Happenings at C
A funny story from work the other day. If computer jargon makes your eyes glaze over, skip this one.
I was installing qmail on dev.humanized.org to set it up as an outgoing email server. This was a weeklong process due to many mystifying glitches. There was something wrong with the queue, the place where mail goes while it's waiting to be delivered. Normally mail is supposed to go in and out of the queue too fast for humans to notice, but all our mail was getting stuck in there. So I downloaded a tool called queue-fix which was supposed to help with this kind of thing.
Queue-fix came as a pile of source code. It failed to compile on our system because of a missing #include <errno.h>. That tells you right away you're dealing with high-quality software, yessirree. Anyway, I compiled it and was playing around with it, when Andrew tried to run
On most any normal Unix program, this would have given the help page. But oh no. Queue-fix created an entire new functional queue directory hierarchy named "--help". We laughed about that, and then we tried to get rid of it:
rm -rf --help
But this gave us the help page for the rm (remove) command. Oops. How about:
rm -rf "--help"
Still the help page. The shell eats the quotes. The three of us who were in the room were laughing harder and harder as we realized the ridiculousness of the dilemma we were caught in. Trying to rename the directory just gave us help on the rename command. Trying to cd into it gave us help on the cd command. We tried shell wildcards and escaping the -- with backslashes. Nothing worked. We just kept getting help pages.
What we finally had to do was write a python program to find the offending directory and rename it to "UNIXSUCKS" so we could finally kill it.
My Unix-hating friends may now feel free to make fun of me for this. On a graphical user interface system this problem could not have arisen, because I could have just grabbed the folder icon and dragged it to the trash. Yeah, I admit it. My Unix-hating friends may now feel free to taunt me over this event.
Strange Happenings at Sea
The International Maritime Bureau reports that a "Mother Ship" is behind the recent rash of pirate raids launched on luxury cruise ships off the coast of Somalia. They have taken some of the cruise ships captive but one ship fought back using an experimental military-grade sonic weapon.
Just think about that for a while.
This is the coolest ocean-related news story since 36 dolphins, trained by the military to hunt terrorists, escaped into the Gulf of Mexico during Hurricane Katrina, with their special dolphin-activated poison-dart guns still strapped onto them.
Fun with Google
I was just doing some shell scripting and needed to look up options for the "date" command in Unix, so I could get it to give me the date as an absolute number of days since epoch. The Unix command to get the documentation on another command is "man", short for "manual". So normally I would type "man date" into a terminal window, but my terminal was busy with emacs so I typed it into Google. Should have known better. The first hit is gay porn, the second hit is the Unix thing I wanted, the third hit is some kind of creepy fundie propoganda site about converting the Chinese to Christianity (they have a "Mandate" from god), and the fourth is an inane argument about whether it should be called a "man date" if two male friends go to dinner and a movie together with no romantic intentions.
It's also fun to google your own name. Jeremy did this and discovered that there is another Jeremy O'Brien who is an Australian physicist. My top hits are from my recent work with the Grid and the CoG Kit at Argonne; after that is one of my costumes at Anime Central, then the astronomy/physics department page from Connecticut College complete with embarrassing pictures of me at 17. This page here is much further down. I guess because I don't actually say "Jonathan DiCarlo" on it much. Jonathan DiCarlo Jonathan DiCarlo Jonathan DiCarlo. There. Pure egomania! This reminds me that I ought to change my last name one of these days, since "DiCarlo" means nothing to me. (Only one other person in my family is even named that. It's a long story.) So, suggestions for a better name?
Water and Cheese
I saw Water Reclamation Commissioner Campaign guy on the train again the other day and said hi. I wouldn't have paid any more attention to the matter, but there was an article in the Chicago Reader recently about this other cantidate, a woman named Shore, who is raising big money to campaign for Water Reclamation Commissioner -- "an office that most people are barely aware exists". So, it's like all of a sudden the race for this obscure office is big news. Why? The article quotes from Shore's campaign speech. I'm paraphrasing from memory here: "Over the next fifty years we will find replacements for oil. There is no replacement for fresh water. The eyes of the world will turn to the communities which sit on 20% of the world's liquid fresh water -- the Great Lakes." Chicago apparently has the world's largest water treatment plant, and it's only one of seven. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District has an annual budget equivalent to the entire state of Vermont's. When the Chicago river was carrying too much pollution into our drinking water supply in Lake Michigan (this was 100 years ago), we reversed the flow of the river by making it drain into the Mississippi and thus carry all our pollution straight to St. Louis. (St. Louis sued to stop us, but we did it anyway, and technically the case is still open. It's like the Korean War.) So yeah, Water Reclamation is a big deal around here.
On an unrelated note: The other day, our whole house smelled very strongly of parmesan. It smelled like a huge wheel of parmesan had somehow gotten into the heating ducts and died. No explanation was ever found.