This blog is an account of Jacob and Mike's (Skippy) cross-country trip to move Jacob from Chicago, IL to Irvine, CA. We decided we'd document the trip by making a blog post for every hundred miles we drove, in addition to anything else of interest. There is a map that I made with a thumb tack in each place where we wrote a blog post.

Thursday, May 31, 2007


6:57PM CDT | N40°48'11", W96°42'7"

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New seats

6:00PM CDT | N41°5'40" W96°15'21"

Hi blogophiles, or blogospheroids, or whatever --- Jacob here. I'm now riding in the passenger's seat and my charming, good-natured and helpful companion Mike (about whom I am far too kind to say anything ill, since I'm sure he'd never say anything ill of me) is driving. We switched when we stopped at a gas station just after the last blog post, some desolate station in the middle of nowhere that had cheap gas and, Mike assured me, "lots of porn" as he discovered when he went inside to "get a Coke." That gas station was also the last stop for a hitchhiker we picked up somewhere along the way: a tiny dragonfly that somehow managed to get into the car. Goodbye, dragonfly! I hope you find new friends in your new home.

Nothing particularly eventful happened on this stretch, so I figure I should say a few words about why we're making this road trip in the first place, for the benefit of Mike's friends, who might not know. The short version is: my girlfriend Molly and I have the terrible misfortune to both want PhDs, and that compulsion occasionally demands that you do things like this. The longer story is that we've been dating since shortly after we met, both as undergraduates at Rice University in Houston about 7 years ago. She's two years younger than I, so I graduated two years before she did, and after a year of working as a consultant in Houston I decided to go to graduate school at University of Chicago. Why? I dunno, seemed like a good idea at the time. Anyway, I went there, and a couple years later Molly graduated and followed me. Well, almost: she went the right direction, but stopped at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (about 120 miles south of Chicago) to become a grad student in bioengineering. That was less than ideal, but a heck of a lot better than nothing, and we dealt.

But then her lab moved to Irvine, California. Her options were to stay at UIUC and do different work that didn't interest her, or go out to Irvine and have a good lab and a more prestigious name on the degree. So she went, and a year later I'm following. Thus, the road trip.

This will probably be the last blog post for today; our goal for day 1 was Lincoln, Nebraska and we're nearly there. Tomorrow: Denver.

Primal Ages or how to know when you and your girlfriend are a power couple

5:20PM CDT | N41°40'54" W92°58'54"

I mentioned to Jacob how this year the prime factors in my age are greater now than they were last year. I just celebrated my 2*13th birthday. Jacob then mentioned how he does these types of calculations all the time as well. Particularly that last year would be probably the only time when his ages would be a perfect cube and Molly's a perfect square. I graphed y=X^3-2 and y=X^2 on the laptop and they do indeed only intersect once.

Jacob then decided a more interesting question was when are his and Molly's ages both of the form X^Y and P^Q respectively where X,Y,P, and Q are integers and Y>1 and Q>1. I wrote a program to calculate this for all possible differences in ages so that our readers and their mates can know when to celebrate their own primeversaries.

(lib "")
(lib ""))

(define (factors n)
(let loop ([fact 2])
[(> fact n) '()]
[(zero? (modulo n fact))
(cons fact (loop (add1 fact)))]
[else (loop (add1 fact))])))

(list 'factors
(equal? (factors 2) '(2))
(equal? (factors 10) '(2 5 10))
(equal? (factors 27) '(3 9 27)))

(define (filter-for-prime lon)
[(null? lon) '()]
[else (cons (car lon)
(filter (lambda (x) (not (zero? (modulo x (car lon)))))

(define (has-one-prime-factor n)
(let ([prime-factors (filter-for-prime (factors n))])
(and (= 1 (length prime-factors))
(not (equal? n (car prime-factors))))))

(list 'has-one-prime-factor
(eq? (has-one-prime-factor 2) #t)
(eq? (has-one-prime-factor 27) #t)
(eq? (has-one-prime-factor 25) #t)
(eq? (has-one-prime-factor 10) #f))

(define *age-expectancy* 120)

(define ages-with-one-prime-factor
(let loop ([n 0])
(if (>= n *age-expectancy*)
(if (has-one-prime-factor n)
(cons n (loop (add1 n)))
(loop (add1 n))))))

(define (find-differences lon)
[(empty? lon) '()]
[else (append (map (lambda (x) (list (- x (car lon)) 'at (car lon) 'and x)) (cdr lon))
(find-differences (cdr lon)))]))

(find-differences ages-with-one-prime-factor)
(lambda (a b) (< (car a) (car b))))

Grinnell, IA

3:55PM CDT | N41°41'43" W92°49'47"

We just past Grinnell, IA, and thought of our friend Dave. We also passed the Fun Valley Ski Area. How there is a ski area in the middle of flat corn fields, I think I may never know. Jacob introduced me to two albums which I'd never heard. The Thermals - more parts per million and M. Ward - post-war. We are currently listening to Charm of the Highway Strip, an apporopriate title for the times put out by one of my favorite bands, The Magnetic Fields.

"Okay, how many band can you think of with gerrends in their names?" -Mike
"Flogging Molly and Counting Crows" -Jacob
"Nice. Soul Coughing" -Mike
"Wailin' Jennys" - Jacob minutes later
"Traveling Wilburries" - Mike minutes later
"The Rolling Stones" - Jacob immediately
"The Beat Happening" - Jacob after twenty miles of silence
"The Smoking Popes" - Jacob several minutes later
The Smashing Pumkins" - Mike hours later

Brown out on wheels

2:32PM CDT | N41°38'1" W90°57'0"

Not too much to report. We stopped for gas and got some drinks. The episode of this American Life featured Rocky Anderson, the mayor of Salt Lake city vs. Sean Hannity, Fox New Republican propagandist in a debate; it was entertaining. Jacob is still behind the wheel, behind the curve, and behind the times. I am (ab)using my power as documenter to take cheap shots at Jacob as much as possible as I'm sure it will be returned in full when he takes over.

On the car-tech front, we got Jacob's power inverter to work charging the laptop, which is very convenient since we're using it fairly regularly. Jacob has just pointed out how the amount to technology that we have in the car right now is fairly absurd. We have a GPS unit, a radio transmitter, a power inverter, a digital camera, a battery charger, and two laptops, two cell phones, two mp3 player, and a USB GPS device for one of the laptops.* We have only one car power socket. This requires a lot of switching.

*This is not counting Jacob himself, who is actually a robot.

On where our spare change went

12:49PM CDT | N41°49'24" W89°25'19"

It feels like we've only just left Chicago and yet Jacob's ignorance of the tolls on i88 has been demonstrated four times over. "I think this is the only toll we're going to hit." he told me. It turned out to be the only toll we'd hit for the next ten miles.

We made a discovery that the Megellan RoadMate provides an on-screen keyboard allowing us to type out destination without scrolling through a list of all locations. Jacob now likes the RoadMate a lot more. We are listening to the latest podcast of This American Life for maximum Chicago nostalgia.

I took a picture of the road we're on in accordance with our road trip mandate to create a picture and blog entry for every hundred miles. I get the impression I'll be able to reuse this picture for the next ten entries.


11:01AM CDT | N41°56'31" W87°39'17"

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