Friday, November 28, 2008

Let it be

Inside my mind

It's been recommended to me on occasion that I should perhaps stop analyzing everything. Most people I talk with are somewhat perplexed how I manage to function if I am analyzing every bit of information I can. For me it's all I've ever known. It doesn't bother me because it's the norm.

I suppose it could be beneficial if I pulled back a little bit and instead of trying to understand the how and why and what of everything perhaps just let some things happen. I feel odd doing so. Not because it bothers me to not know why something happens - it does, though - but because my mind will still be working these things out and figuring out why something happens; I'll just be denying my conscious train of thought from accessing that information. It's like watching a movie and then reading the book the movie is based on and trying to not picture it as the movie showed it. The images are their, the knowledge of what the characters and world looks like, and all I'm doing is trying to deny it. Unless the movie got it severely wrong I rarely envision it any differently. Daniel Radcliffe was always what Harry Potter looked like to me. Immediately after seeing the previews for The Fellowship of the Ring, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen and Elijah Wood were Aragorn, Gandalf and Frodo respectfully.

Just let go and let it be

I don't know how to shut off my subconscious from solving the puzzles of life and analyzing ever bit of data my senses collect throughout the day. Maybe some day I will. I imagine that will be a rather boring day for me. Either that or I'll experience nirvana. I'd like that.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Go hug someone

Let your friends know

Today is the day America has decided we should remember what we're thankful for. A lot of families will do things like have each person say something their thankful for before feasting on a very tasty turkey with stuffing. It's a good idea, but I encourage you to go one step further and let someone know that you're thankful for them in your life. Give them a hug and tell them. Don't just say that you're thankful for your friends and trust they know that they're a part of that. Being appreciated as part of a group isn't the same as being appreciated for who you are individually. Being told "I love all my friends" isn't the same as saying "I love you."

I'm currently in Vegas with my some of my friends. While I will be telling them that I'm thankful that they're my friends and I'm glad I know them, there is one person I won't be around to tell that I would like to, so I'm going to do so here:

Thank you, Brooke

Brooke, I met you a few months ago after wakeboarding and boating, but it wasn't really until the past few weeks we've gotten to know each other beyond just watching movies with groups of friends. I want you to know that I'm really glad I know you and that your my friend, I love reading your blog and I'm always happy to read your e-mails. I hope you keep sending them.

I hope everyone who reads this tells someone they're thankful to have in their lives how they feel today - tell them in person, call them up, or at least send them a personal e-mail. Just let them know you're happy to have them in your life and for their friendship (or more, depending on your relationship with the person).

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Anonymity and honesty

Almost a year ago I made a blog post - Absence - that details this. Instead of ranting once again about the private/public dual nature of blogs I'll let you read that post at your leisure. Anything I could say on the subject I have already said there and my opinions have not changed.

He knows anonymity is important

I once asked the question about openness and honesty on the internet with a friend who lives in Wisconsin. He's an administrator of a webforum I'm active with and has seen a lot of what the internet has to offer. His response was partially that if people are open and honest in a community then others who join will take that precedent and go with it as well. The second factor he said was anonymity. Being anonymous allows someone to do close to whatever they want without fear of repercussion, whether that is being a bigot and laughing at someone committing suicide or being open about their life, feelings, thoughts, and who they truly are. It doesn't matter - they're under an alias. Even if anyone does know my real name, does it really matter if a girl in Poland knows what I'm thinking? By contrast, I live with my brother, if he knows what I'm thinking that could have very direct consequences because how we interact could change.

I'm not an archaeologist

Despite saying I don't wish to repeat my previous post I can already see that I am. What I'm trying to say is that at the end of that post a comment was left that said "or you could just turn your blog to private in your settings" thus avoiding the inability to be completely open; if I'm the only one who reads it then I can write whatever I wish, completely uncensored. I could set it to private. I could block out everyone I didn't want to read it. I know the option exists but it would largely defeat the purpose. I write it knowing others read it. What this means is that I write so that others will read it - I write hoping that others will read it. A private weblog to me would be meaningless; if no one will read what I write, why should I write? My day-to-day thoughts and actions may be interesting to my grandchildren should I ever have them, but even that seems somewhat arrogant. Why would anyone care what I do in my day-to-day life? Why should they care?

Largely it may be more a matter of how I write instead of what I write. If I write knowing or wanting others to read what I'm writing I'll do so with a more literary approach instead of a straightforward historical one. A blog post saying "I went to the store today. I bought eggs, milk, bread, peanut butter, and grapes. I wanted bananas but they were out. I seem to eat a lot of bread. I just bought a loaf three days ago and I was already out by today. Maybe I should cut back on eating bread." isn't exactly fun to read despite the accuracy of it. By writing with the expectation of people reading I will try to make it more prose than history.

A boring blog post

I'll insert personal insights or thoughts, maybe attempt a humorous reference or joke to make it more entertaining. At the same time I don't think I really miss any details of my life exactly. When things I feel important do occur I do write about them; I wrote about my new computer and the issues with it and about buying my guitar and the thoughts I had about it. On the days when all I do is go to work, maybe go to the gym, watch a movie, then go to bed, I don't feel that chronicling it would be of much interest to read. Those are the days I write about whatever topic happens to be on my mind, like today.


I hope people find what I write interesting. I've been told I have some skill in writing and I believe I use punctuation properly if nothing else. That has to count for something. Right?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Nothing ever burns down by itself

Everything is caused by something. Despite the negative thoughts involved with something burning down, I mean simply that things never occur on their own. There's always a cause.

Searching for and isolating causes is something I've always been interested in. If something moves, I want to know why. If someone is sad, I want to know what caused their sadness. If someone is hurt I want to know what is damaged and understand what happened to cause the injury. Only by understanding the cause can I search for a cure or avoid it in the future. Only then can I help those around me.

The cause of cognitive thought

This is how I've always functioned. I don't remember the last time I was ok with something just happening and not knowing why. This is true for my interactions with inanimate objects as well as people. People are an enigma. Philosopher's and psychologists have spent centuries trying to figure out the human mind and how it works. Medical science also aims to understand the mind but through physical means, aiming to understand what the prefrontal cortex does and how it interacts with the corpus collosum and the basal ganglia in order to produce cognitive thought. I've read books on the subject; it's confusing as hell.

But that enigmatic nature of humans is what I find fascinating. There's a beauty in complexity just as there's beauty in simplicity.

There's a story about a scientist talking to an artist, and the artist picks up a flower and says "I feel sorry that you see this flower as a scientific thing; a collection of biological parts made up of atoms interacting in a functional way. You're unable to just appreciate the flower for being beautiful."

The equations of light

The scientist then replies, "You feel sorry for me that all I see is the complex interactions of perfect physical interactions coming together in a unique fashion that they create this beautiful sight? That somehow knowing how things functions removes their beauty, as knowing a magician's secret ruins the magic of the show? I would argue that I feel sorry for you, for while all you see is a flower, I see the beauty of the universe and all it's perfection interacting within that flower."

I'm paraphrasing as I remember the story and am probably incorrect; I think it's actually written by one of the new-age Atheists and he then goes on to describe how understanding the scientific nature of the universe is more beautiful than saying "God created it." That's not the point though.

Watchmen, by Alan Moore

I find beauty in understanding how things work. I become more interested in my friends the more I learn about them. The more I learn about their pasts and what they're thinking the better I can see the beautiful interactions that have taken place to produce the person I'm with. The book Watchmen by Alan Moore discusses this when Jon Osterman - a man who can see every molecular interaction with perfect understanding and as such knows what has and will happen due to the laws of physics - says:
Thermo-dynamic miracles... events with odds against so astronomical they're effectively impossible, like oxygen spontaneously becoming gold. I long to observe such a thing.

And yet, in each human coupling, a thousand million sperm vie for a single egg. Multiply those odds by countless generations, against the odds of your ancestors being alive; meeting; siring this precise son; that exact daughter... Until your mother loves a man she has every reason to hate, and of that union, of the thousand million children competing for fertilization, it was you, only you, that emerged. To distill so specific a form from that chaos of improbability, like turning air to gold... that is the crowning unlikelihood. The thermo-dynamic miracle.
Humans are remarkable. The odds of us existing as we do, of everything that had to happen in order for me to be alive at this moment, sitting at this computer, writing these words, just think about that.

Every advancement is connected

First sentience had to develop millennia ago, then language, written word, mathematics, physics, electricity, computational engineering, the microprocessor, computer code, HTML/XML/CSS, the internet, then Google had to form and Blogger. On top of all of that, each generation of my ancestry had to meet when they did, fall in love, make love when they did and have that exact sperm and egg combine to create that child, the child had to go to school in the exact way it did and get picked on by that exact bully and have those exact experiences that led to them meeting the person they married, thus resulting in the next generation doing the same thing and eventually producing me. Taking it even further, that had to happen with each of you in the way it did thus leading you to either find this page through a Google search of billions of websites and exabytes of information or for us to have met previously and us interacting in such a way that we've become friends - all of your ancestors and their actions culminating to our friendship, and our friendship and interactions culminating to yet another event that may occur thousands of years from now.

That's beauty.

The lotus: my favorite flower

I know several beautiful girls - Brooke, Jen, Emily, Alisha, two Larissas, two Beckys and three Lindseys, just to name a few - as I've gotten to know each one I find them more beautiful. Flowers are beautiful. There's beauty in the tallest redwood tree. There's beauty in knowing the equations of a leaf falling from tree, the forces of gravity and air movements creating a dance as it flutters to the ground, never to be looked upon again. There's beauty in looking at a flower and seeing all the parts, all the interactions between electrons and photons of different wavelengths to produce the colors that my eyes perceive. There's beauty in a rotting log, the bacteria feeding on it and breaking it down to nourishment for the plants around it which feed the animals. There's beauty in watching a gentle snowfall and the formation of the ice crystals, the molecules of water freezing in lattices to form such geometrically perfect shapes. There's beauty in a log fire warming a home during the cold winter snowfalls. There's beauty in fire, the molecules oxidizing and changing to produce thermal energy warming us.

Knowing how something works doesn't take away anything; it makes it more awe inspiring and beautiful.


Nothing ever burns down by itself; every fire needs a little bit of help

Monday, November 24, 2008

Why do we blog?

Depending on how news and technologically savvy you are, you may have heard of the college student who committed suicide while on a live streaming webcam. If you haven't, here's the news story if you care to read it.

Jimmy Stewart knew how to do it

While the events are saddening to be sure, a college student or teenager committing suicide is not exactly unique in this world. Committing suicide for the public to see is not a new thing either; people have been jumping off bridges and buildings for the whole world to see for decades, dating at least as far back as It's a Wonderful Life. Last year a man hung himself live on his webcam in Britain and just a few months ago a man in Utah shot himself while his girlfriend watched over the streaming video.

A quick Google search reveals other similar events; others who have committed suicide using various methods done publicly over live webcams.

These are no doubt tragic events. As cold as it is to say, I don't really focus or think much about them. They don't really phase me much; I don't even flinch when I read about them. Perhaps it's our saturation of violence and depression in the media or simply that because of globalization and an interconnected world we hear about these events far more than our parents or grandparents did growing up in small town farming communities. After all, if one in a million people commit suicide, then the more people you have in a community the larger the chance of someone doing so. The internet is a community of hundreds of millions - if not billions - of people. Basic statistics say that some of them will commit suicide.

What struck me about this particular story was the comment made by the assistant professor in popular culture saying:
Biggs' very public suicide was not shocking, given the way teenagers chronicle every facet of their lives on sites like Facebook and MySpace.

"If it's not recorded or documented then it doesn't even seem worthwhile," she said. "For today's generation it might seem, 'What's the point of doing it if everyone isn't going to see it?'"
It's an interesting thought. I somewhat begrudgingly admit that at times I've thought "this would make a great blog post" while doing something. I say begrudgingly because it feels so trite, so wannabe-trendy to think about how you'll blog about something. This is not a popular blog in the grand scheme of things. I get maybe 40 unique hits per day; hardly the several hundred or even thousand that others get. Why then do I write about my life for anyone in the world to read about?

Part of me fits into this category. There is a very real part of me that wonders what's the point of doing something if you can't tell people. It's little more than vanity; my reputation is what I care about and am worried about; what others think of me or will think of me when I tell them. At times I have actually done things that are either very stupid or just plain weird largely for the sake of being able to say that I've done them.

Coolest. Bloggers. Ever.

I can only surmise the reason for this, aside from reputation and the associate fame/infamy that comes with it, is that I'm so constantly bombarded with the actions of celebrities or those I aspire to be like that I mimic their perhaps bizarre actions. I'm not a celebrity nor famous; the news and tabloids won't tell the world what I did and so I must do so myself, thus giving me a small chance at being noticed. From this it's possible people will read my blog and think "gosh, that's crazy, I should tell my friends about this guy" and thus become popular in the virtual blogosphere.


There are people who make their living solely from their blogs or websites. Statistically it's almost an infinitesimal amount. Trying to become one of those few is ridiculous at best and isn't even my goal. Aside from being a very volatile and unstable occupation, being a blogger generally is not how someone achieves fame but rather what someone does to sustain it. Many successful bloggers also have books they've published, write for magazines or newspapers, are current or former television stars, etc.

He knows what white people like

They achieved a level of notoriety prior to starting their blog, thus elevating the popularity of their blog. Very few people have come with no former media attention or background and become successful bloggers. Even then they usually have a somewhat impressive background - the author of
stuffwhitepeoplelike was a Phd student and 2006 public speaking instructor of the year at Indiana University, within 9 months of his blog being up he had already tallied over 40 million total hits and had a $300,000 book deal. My blog has been up for over 15 months and I've maybe hit about 1,200 total hits and I have no book deal.

Bringing this back to the comment of the current generation thinking something isn't worth doing if everyone isn't going to see/hear about it is somewhat understandable. Most people are somewhat cynical to the thought that they can grow up to be the next Johnny Depp or Hannah Montana; they know the chances of such are minute at best. Like myself, they aim to achieve popularity through other channels and blogs allow anyone and everyone to write and be published. It doesn't come with the paycheck that most authors get if signed by Harper Collins, but it comes with being able to say "look what I wrote" which holds it's own sense of pride. I like to think I avoid doing things solely for the purpose to write about them, but more than once I've found myself creating a blog post in my head while doing something. On one hand, we should do things because we want to, because it'll make a difference or because it's fun or just because we want to, but on the other hand, what's the point if no one will know?

Memories make reality

History is simply a collection of memories, perhaps memories that are written down or recorded, but memories none the less. If something isn't remembered, can I say it ever happened? Over time the consequences of all actions are blurred and lost in the chaotic interactions and physical laws around me. At that time I can no longer say "the event happened because I can see the results of it" because it's impossible to follow cause and effect. If something isn't remembered, isn't written about - isn't blogged - can I still say it happened? I suppose in that sense I blog about my life to ensure that it's there. I do it to validate my actions, my thoughts and my existence. Chaos theory would say that my actions do effect my friends living in Austria and Scotland but cynicism says they don't. As such, by blogging about my thoughts or my actions, they become real to people who would otherwise have no way of knowing about them. Suddenly my life and existence has more substance to them.

That's the best response I can give to the thought that my generation has a mentality that something isn't worth doing if we can't tell others about it. We're so interconnected that if we don't blog about it then half of those we know won't know it happened. Just as friends and family tell each other details about

I look like this when blogging

their lives or talk about their weekends, we blog about it to reach a more spread out audience. I can't call Wisconsin, Seattle, Toronto, Poland, Austria, London, Fargo, and Minneapolis everytime something happens. It's easier to just blog about it and let those who wish to read about it do so at their leisure.


That, and I just like to write.

Friday, November 21, 2008

How do you talk to people?

Whenever I meet a new person, there are standard things that are discussed: jobs, school, hobbies, pets, etc. The ubiquitous "get to know the person" questions. In theory, after these questions and topics have been discussed, I can find areas of common interest and let the conversation evolve from there. Like this:

This cat hates its owner

Me: "So what do you do in your free time?"
Them: "I
like to dress my cats up as 15th century explorers and re-enact the discovery of the New World by the West."
Me: "
I like cats."

Most often with guys, video games are a pretty good common ground. With girls it's a bit more varied, but I cook and know about fashion, so the generic girly things can be discussed with some proficiency. It's not foolproof, but it's rare I find someone in which I have absolutely nothing in common with.

Of course, this is simply the introduction of meeting someone. After I've met them I'm then expected to be able to talk with them again. Often I can find something to talk

Wrong uniform; I don't care

about from mutual interests or personal anecdotes, despite how small of a comment it may be it is as least something. The downside is that I am limited in my personal anecdotes and mutual interests aren't always as mutually interesting; just because someone else plays video games doesn't mean they play the same games I do. I have no interest in talking with someone about Madden 2009 and how much they screwed up by putting Brett Favre in the Packers uniform instead of the Jets. Seriously, I don't care.

Talking with someone for a month or two, it's entirely possible that I've told them many of the interesting stories I have
that relate to their interests. Where do we go from there? If I've shared as many of my personal stories as I'm willing to share, and they've done the same, and our topics of common interest have been tapped, what's left for discussion?

It seems only logical at this point that I should just admit that I have nothing to talk about with the person, wish them a good day,

Google recommended 'dinglehopper'

and move on to doing something else. Sitting around staring at someone all day gets very boring. Such boredom is what caused the creation of the snarfblat. That's neither here nor there. The point is that if conversation isn't able to continue the friendship will most likely become strained and suffer.


I have what I have found to be about a two month window with new friends in which to develop topics to talk about beyond personal histories/anecdotes. After two months most initial topics have been mined completely and unless there's something currently relevant to discuss, I find conversations start to become lacking. As stated, it seems logical at this point to admit I don't have anything to talk about and move on. It's not often that simple, however, particularly if I like talking with the person, or, in the case of a female, actually like her. I want something to talk with her about. I want to be able to talk with her for hours so we can laugh and have her fall madly in love with me. More often than not I end up stumbling over trying to find topics to discuss and feigning interest in things I think she's interested in to find common ground. It doesn't usually end well.

There are times when conversation flows naturally based on daily or recent events and those are often the people I end up making friends with. People I can talk to with little effort in finding a topic of conversation and with whom opinions and thoughts are discussed and usually mocked as well.

I'm always fascinated at how conversations evolve and adapt. Have you ever tried to follow the topics of a conversation? Years ago I had a conversation once go from botany to Transformers to stomach acid to Star Wars vs. Star Trek to fishing, all within about two hours. Having common interests allows topic changes while maintaining momentum. I'm not sure what to do when topics of conversations stop. When I say 'hello' to someone because I want to talk to them, only to realize that I have nothing else to say, I feel somewhat stupid. Unless you've got a long standing repertoire with someone, saying 'hello' to someone generally means you've got something you wish to speak with them about; when you don't, it's awkward.

There are actually books written on the subject of how to talk with someone, usually focusing on how to get a date with them or get what you want. That's not really an issue with me. I can ask girls out. It's not hard: go up to girl, introduce myself, invite her to join me for dinner/opera/nude sun bathing on a certain day, listen to answer, go from there. I don't really play games; I don't see the point. Astrology, palm reading, pick-up lines and other such frivolities don't interest me and I like to think most girls realize that such

Really, how hard is it?

things are nothing more than pathetic attempts by guys who don't have the confidence to extend their hand and say "Hi, my name is (insert name here)." It's the next step that I have issues with - what to talk about while on the date; more generally, what to talk about after all introductory topics are covered.

Is there a trick to avoiding the two-month pitfall with friends and keeping conversations going after you've covered relevant backgrounds and histories? If there is, it'd be nice to know about.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

On medicine and celestial happiness

It looks like this

After last night, my medicine cabinet is stocked with the following:
  • large bottle of Advil
  • large bottle of Aleve
  • two boxes of bandages
  • Neosporin
  • hydrocortisone cream
  • NyQuil
  • two 6", 4" and 3" elastic bandage wraps
  • two packages of sports tape
  • Excedrin
  • allergy medication
  • huge bottle of Vitamin C
  • large bottle of Vitamin E
  • Calcium supplements
  • two large bottles of multivamins
I think I'm ready for both flu season and snowboard season. I have enough medication to prevent or subdue any illness I may contract and enough miscellaneous bandages that I could probably serve as a part-time medic for US forces in Iraq.

For those of you who religiously follow this site, or simply whom I talk to regularly, you heard mention of the celestial bliss I experienced over lunch. Now I have had time to fully contemplate on this once-in-a-lifetime experience and have decided to speak about it in more detail. For those who missed it, I discovered the most amazing thing ever to be ordered at a restaurant: footlong bacon chili cheese dog. Say it again with me: footlong bacon chili cheese dog.

As good as it looks

Think about that for a second. Go on. Let the true glory of that sink in. It's not just a chili dog; it's a footlong chili dog. With cheese. And if THAT weren't enough: bacon. I found it at Wienerschnitzel, a fast food place like Taco Bell or A&W, but instead of tacos, bells, A's, or W's, they have hot dogs.

Prior to moving to Utah I'd never heard of them. According to their website, they've got so many locations covering California they look like a rash, with a handful of locations in New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Colorado, and then one location in Illinois and Louisiana. I suppose I can see why this is mostly a west coast company; the east coast is well known for hot dog vendors on street corners and people in the midwest just make their own combining the leftovers from last year's Easter ham, slaughter spillover and whatever they hit on the highway. The west coast lacks such luxuries and so they require a specific restaurant to fulfill their pseudo-meat indulgences.

I own it on blu-ray!

I can't complain. Any situation that evokes the creation of something as celestially glorious as the footlong bacon chili cheese dog cannot be criticized. It's like being upset at Disney for pulling out of the animated film business - it seems like a bad thing, but then you realize that they're pumping all that cash into Pixar and producing films like Finding Nemo and Wall-E. The ends justify the means.

EDIT: I just edited the twitter feed on the right side again; now it's in HTML format. If you can't view it or it doesn't load anything, leave a comment and let me know. I've gotten reports that it just takes a long time to load, but it should be faster than the Flash version and more compatible.

I may go back to Flash if HTML doesn't play nice.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The joy of flex accounts

Old fashion flex account

I feel kind of old today. Well, maybe not old, but responsible and grown up.

I've spent the last two hours researching my companies flex reimbursement benefits and tax laws and deductions, trying to decide if I should enroll again next year. If you're not familiar with flex reimbursement, it's basically money taken out of your paycheck before taxes and put into an account. You may then tap into this account for approved medical expenses and such that would normally be tax deductible, except instead of having to wait till the end of the year and deducting them, you just get reimbursed for it from a non-taxed account. The trick is that if you don't use the money in the account at the end of the year, you lose it. I don't know if it goes to the company holding the account or the IRS or whomever; it doesn't really matter who's hands it ends up in because it's not in my hands and that's what I care about.

This year I've put aside $20 per paycheck leaving me with about $260 in my account. I've only used $110 on new glasses. That means I've got $150 left that I need to use by the end of the year. Talking to a coworker he mentioned that it can be used for things like aspirin and vitamins as well, not just copays. I called the company to verify this and the nice lady on the phone verified that, yes, vitamins and aspirin and such are indeed covered. What this means is that when I get off work today I'm going to go home, change, then go to Walmart and buy $150 worth of Vitamin C, D, E, and any other letter of the alphabet that has the word "vitamin" in front of it.

I imagine I'll have a pretty stocked medicine cabinet for awhile.

I don't think I'll put any aside next year. While I understand the purpose of the flex accounts, it just doesn't make sense for me to use it. I looked up the tax deductions for 2008 and singles can claim $5,450 in standard deductions (couples get $10,900 if filing jointly) - that means I can say I had up to $5,450 tax deductible expenses without needing to itemize and provide receipts. This is quite beneficial for me since I don't usually get receipts for gas (commuting to work: about $500 so far this year) but I can still get it deducted. Save for severe medical trauma within the next 6 weeks, there's no way my deductions
will total more than $5,450 and as

This many pills, times 100

such I can claim standard deduction to get back anything I would have been reimbursed for on my flex account. Sure I need to wait to the end of the year to get the tax credit, but it also doesn't force me to buy 2,700 Vitamin C supplements at one time. It's a trade off, really.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Apples: don't you just want to throw them?

Throw it! C'mon! Do it!

A few weeks back while picking apples for a friend, someone commented about how there's something about apples that makes you want to throw them. They're the perfect size-to-weight ratio, fairly round, fit nicely in your hand; whenever you hold one you really have to resist the urge to just throw it as far as you can for fun. If a chain link fence is nearby the problem is worse, because whooping an apple into a chain link fence and seeing it sliced into pieces when it hits is ridiculously fun.

I keep apples in my fridge at work. Each day I eat one I rinse it off at the drinking fountain and during the ten step walk back to my office I struggle to not chuck it across the building for funsies. I imagine one of these days I'll crack and just let it fly. Hopefully I'll have another job lined up by then because I imagine I'll have HR talking to me by the end of that day.

The twitter feed appears to be down again, but it's down on every site I visit and earlier today the twitter site itself was down for database work. I like having it; mostly I just put random quotes that come up in conversations on there. The current one reads "We'll always have the Jet Star" which is a reference to when I was last at an amusement park here called Lagoon. There's a ride, the Jet Star, which has two people sitting one in front of the other on one chair. We had four people in our group - two guys and two girls: it should have been just fine. Due to animosity or perhaps downright cruelty, the girls decided to go in the same car. This left the other guy and me to share one, which led to a phrase I never thought I'd utter to another man: "Do you want to be the big spoon or the little spoon?"

He chose to be the big spoon.

That was about four months ago. We haven't spooned since; it was a one-ride stand.

One last thing: I have to include this link because it's one of the funniest things I think I've ever read. Just be warned: it contains some graphic language, so don't click it if you're offended by such things.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I'mma do the things that I wanna do

[I'm not sure how many times I've referenced Weezer's song "Pork and Beans" on here; it's been at least three, maybe four. I feel bad using it yet again but it is very relevant to this topic.]

Can you blame them?

A friend of mine made a blog post on Friday about her nigh-obsession with Twilight. I can't say I was surprised since every girl from the age of 13 through 60 seem to be enamored with these books, particularly with Edward. It's somewhat of a bane on men, similar to Jack Sparrow. He's a fictional character, but more than that, he's supernatural. Women swoon over the thought of him and there's absolutely nothing any guy could do to compete with such a fantasy. No matter how hard a guy were to try, he could never attain that level of perfection. We will always be second or third or fourth to these fictional men. It's not unlike guys pining for Barbie.

This post is not meant to rant about emotional insecurities regarding my abilities to find a girl and successfully swoon her. Truthfully I don't dislike Jack Sparrow nor Edward Cullen. Johnny Depp created one of the most memorable and fun characters in decades and every time I watch the Pirates of the Caribbean movies I remember that I do love him. I haven't read the Twilight series yet though I would like to, and while I've heard mixed reviews of them (women love them, men are usually unimpressed) I doubt I'll dislike Edward. Once again, it's not the character I dislike, it's the reactions people have towards him. In 7th grade I didn't like Leonardo DiCaprio because every girl wanted him then and now he's one of my favorite actors. Johnny Depp was an actor I greatly admired until I grew sick of hearing about Jack Sparrow. I can only imagine Edward Cullen will be in a similar boat.

I'll read this someday

What I'm getting at through all this is not that I despise or loathe any man, real or fictional, who poses a threat on the metaphorical playing field; I don't. What I'm getting at is that my friend started off her blog by saying "In the very recent past, I have started to just not care who knows that I like the Twilight Saga movies." While I'm picky and will point out she can't say she likes the movie(s) yet since they're not out, she knows the books better than most people know the Bible and I have no doubt she knows the trailers inside and out. Yet outside of reading her blog, you wouldn't know that about her. While one of my friends won't shut up about the books, this girl, despite being a most-likely bigger fan of the series, isn't as vocal about it. I applaud her non-vocalization of things that in many ways annoy me, but at the same time I fully support her statement of not caring who knows it.

I am, at my very core, a geek. I was in the accelerated classes and got through elementary and secondary education with minimal effort; I don't recall ever studying for a math or science test in high school. I did musical theatre and listened to showtunes almost exclusively

I could name everyone pictured

. I read fantasy and science fiction novels. I could quote all three Star Wars movies and discuss the intricate background of characters who are only passed by in the Mos Eisley cantina. I played Dungeons & Dragons. I spent hours on my computer playing Diablo II, Fallout II, Doom/Quake, Baldur's Gate, and dozens of other games I could list off that I still know in detail. I've played Nintendo games for literally as long as I can remember, wanting so badly to play them as a child I would wake my sister up on Saturday mornings so she could guide me through the world maps and dungeons on Zelda; she had to tell me "stairs" and "fireplace" to denote left and right because I didn't know which was which at the time. She was always a good sport about it and I thank her for that.

In the past few years I feel I have somewhat betrayed my geekdom. While I still partake of many of these activities I tend to hide it. I've become somewhat worried about what others might think if they knew that I've read The Hobbit over a dozen times, that I at one time owned four copies of the Star Wars trilogy (and I own the Holiday Special), that I have twice driven over 23 hours (each way) across the nation to attend an anime convention, or that I personally own over a dozen complete anime series on DVD, some of which encompass over 150 episodes. I could go on, but I think you get the point. I am still a geek but I seem to have lost my pride. I became worried about what others would think of me - what girls would think of me - and as such began hiding who I am.

This is CNN

I'm struggling to not make a Lion King reference here and go on about having "forgotten who [I am]" but I feel that would be too melodramatic and it's not quite true. Part of this is simply that I've changed. I haven't watched the Star Wars trilogy in years simply because I just don't really have the desire to. I own them on DVD - the real original trilogy, the theatrical one - but I haven't watched them. I haven't read The Hobbit in close to four years; I've had other things I'd rather read like Nietzsche or Gaiman. I changed my wardrobe from oversized geeky graphic tees to more stylish, fitted shirts from threadless.com, the occasional band shirt/hoodie and 1MX shirts from Express because I feel better when I wear clothes that fit. I bought a guitar and have started to play it, oddly enough not to get girls but rather for fun. I read Men's Health because I honestly care about my health and fitness, again, not to get girls but rather to enjoy outdoor activities more completely.

I suppose this may be me maturing; growing up; becoming an adult.

At the same time I do still have the occasional desire to throw in Neon Genesis Evangelion into my DVD player and spend 12 hours watching the entire series. Or those moments when I do miss being able to name every officer in the Death Star's war room. Or when I get somewhat nostalgic seeing someone with a Legend of Zelda reference on their t-shirt.

Then again, I did choose the address for my blog to be www dot rampaging chocobo dot com, which is a direct Final Fantasy reference (taken from a mark hunt in Final Fantasy XII). Perhaps my geekiness isn't all gone.

What I really wanted to say is that I'm trying to follow my friend's lead and not care who knows I'm a geek. It might turn some people away, but that just means they would have turned away once they found out anyways.

A show with ninjas: but done well

I like fantasy and science fiction books. I like writing computer code. I like vampires and their mythologies. I like pirates and ninjas. I like anime. I like Dungeons & Dragons. I like being a geek. I'm still going to go to the gym, snowboard, play my guitar and dress well, but I'm going to be a geek, too. With my brother out of town this week, I think I may see if I can't reignite my interest in anime: I've got about 100 episodes of Naruto to catch up on.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Dreams and Twitter

Like this, only made from logs

Last night I dreamt I was on vacation on a houseboat, or what was more like a houseboat community. There were several houseboats all together in this same little area; one was actually a convenience store that was run by a teenager who didn't say much.

I was with friends, maybe a dozen of them, mostly from high school. It was sort of a reunion vacation. We reminisced about old times, talked about what we were doing, and swam around. At the end of the day I remember talking with Lindsey in her room while sitting on her bed. As the conversation progressed and got more personal, she suddenly got up, walked across the room, grabbed a children's picture book titled "My First Baseball Game" and proceeded to read it to me as if she were my mother. Normally Lindsey has good reasons for why she does what she does so I didn't really ask, but after about five minutes of her talking to me like I was a 3 year old I simply said, "what are you doing?"

"I thought you could you use a bedtime story, sweetie." she cooed back.

This really confused me. We hadn't made any indication of going to sleep and Lindsey has never a) thought I needed a bedtime story (at least not vocally) and b) cooed anything that I know of in her life.

I asked her again why she was doing this and she just replied that she had already told me. I was tired and so decided to go to my room to go to bed. On my way I passed the kitchen of the houseboat (more like a log cabin), and saw a friend who looked like he had a similar experience. I asked and he said he had been talking with a girl and she had done something similar - she tried to tuck him in and sing him a lullaby.

We looked around for something that could explain this. We searched the living room and found a journal on the bookshelf called "Human interaction data." When we looked through it we found out that both the girls we had been talking with were listed in there as "tests." Lindsey had "Complete outer shell and simple interactions complete and working; still hollow in personal and meaningful conversations. Tends to default settings. Still very promising" written next to her name. The girl my friend had been with had "Outer shell functional but still has issues with basic conversation and interactions beyond initial meeting" written next to her's. Reading on we found out both of these girls, as well as the store clerk, were in fact androids created by Microsoft and they were testing their interaction abilities on us. This explains why the store clerk was quiet ("Functional and can obey orders but not adaptive enough for responses") and why Lindsey and the girl had started treating us like children: the "default" settings and tests were mother programs that they tested on small children initially, apparently with enough success that they decided to test them on us. As the interactions and conversations had progressed beyond frivolities and mindless chatter, the programs had started to fail since they had no information on what to do and particularly were limited in our personal histories (although the Lindsey android knew a decent amount; I could only surmise they had gotten her permission and had her write down all she could remember or they probed her mind).

It was shortly after that I woke up. I wish I could have seen where it would have gone.

From the looks of it, the issue with the Twitter updates not showing isn't/wasn't my fault no Googles and is actually an error on Twitter's end. There's a number of people reporting this same issue in the last day and I've tried it on various other sites and with the HTML code and it all returns nothing. It works the first time but the code doesn't recall properly.

In the mean time, I got the flash version working. It doesn't quite blend in as nicely, but it works.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A few things

My goal: readers over time

While working on my post yesterday I did some Google searches to try and find a way to create a descending top 10 list to no avail. All was not lost though! During my search I did find several tips and tricks for blogging. Here's what it produced:
  • 'In search of a muse' is no longer located at ihiredamonkeytodothis.blogspot.com and is now officially at www.rampagingchocobo.com. I figured I could spare the $10 a year and registered it. I recommend you update your bookmarks and links, but if you don't want to you really don't have to. Blogger, being a part of Google, and Google, being a benevolent demi-god, keeps the old address and forwards it to the new one automatically.
  • I've added a Twitter update: it's on the right, just above the 'My life in a paragraph' section. This is for quick updates and comments I may have. I can update it via text messaging so it won't be drawn out thoughts and will probably be updated more frequently. According to Twitter, the main goal is to answer one question: what are you doing right now? That's what that's for. I may also use it for fun quotes or random thoughts I have. Or fun text messages. [After having checked the source code as well as re-installing and completely removing any and all edits, I've decided there's nothing I can do to get it working at this time. Google warns that it may take up to three days for the new site to be up fully; hopefully it'll be up again when that happens.] [And now it's working again.]
  • I'm going to try a Monday through Friday update schedule. I don't know how well it'll work or if I'll be able to stick with it but I'm going to try.
  • I found out how to remove the 'blogger' bar at the top of the page but decided to leave it because I couldn't figure out how to log into my blog without it. If anyone has any advice on how to do so I'd appreciate it.
  • According to one of the 'tips' from the sites I read, you should want to read your blog if it didn't belong to you. I think what I write for the most part is entertaining or enlightening, if a little long winded, and I think I'd read it. There are a handful of you who read this regularly and I appreciate that; it means I must be doing something right. I'd like to get more than the ~25 daily readers I have and moving beyond just people I know, but everyone has to start somewhere and I'm always happy to hear people read it.
  • I'm looking to change the background image on the site (the one to the left and right of the blog itself). I never could get it to look how I wanted and eventually just said "meh" and moved on. I'm gonna try to find something more fitting.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

10 Things I Love About the Internet

Not far from my job

I work in the IT field. What this means is that I keep my office up and running with most things technical. Computers, networking, telecommunications - my job is to support it. When things don't work or show signs they won't work in the near future it's my job to fix them. Most of the time, I sit on the internet.

Our lives have changed irrevocably with the creation of the internet. We can now text Google ('googl' or 46645) from our cell phones and find movie times, restaurant locations, gas stations, anything sent right back to us from any location (well, most locations). I don't even watch television because anything I want to see I can get off the internet later. I don't listen to radio because my ipod is full of music I can download from the internet. I don't watch the news because the internet updates faster and usually with more accurate information. I don't worry about wondering where my friends are or if they're ok because Facebook, e-mail, and IM can keep me in constant contact with people on the other side of the world.

I spend at least 8-10 hours a day on the internet in one form or another, either at work or at home. I've come to the conclusion there are 10 things I love about the internet: 10 things that keep me coming back each day instead of growing bored. 10 things that have made my life better and that I don't want to lose. [I spent some time trying to figure out how to make a descending 'top ten' list and couldn't figure it out. So, it goes from 1 to 10, with 10 being my favorite.]
  1. The News: CNN, BBC, and NPR. These sites keep up to date on news stories and are, for the most part, fairly accurate in their information. They may be a little biased when they report it on TV or radio, but their websites are quite accurate. Studies have found that people who get their information from the internet, as opposed to news channels or papers, are often better informed and less biased that those who watch television. Kind of ironic since some of my sources have television stations, but reporting print and stories is different than editorial news shows.

  2. Youtube: who doesn't love this? From the Numa Numa Kid, the Diet Coke + Mentos experiments, Will it Blend?, and every music video ever created, Youtube is just fantastic. Recently Weezer made a tribute to YouTube's popular videos with the music video of Pork and Beans. It's a part of our culture now. And it's easy to get lost watching videos of kittens, too.

  3. Wikipedia: the encyclopedia of everything. Initially somewhat inaccurate due to the nature of anyone being able to edit it, but in recent years they've started factchecking, requiring citations for controversial or definitive statements, and even locking down important or controversial posts (the day Palin became the VP nominee for the GOP her Wikipedia site became locked down; interestingly, it was mere hours after it had been heavily edited). Wikipedia is made all the more interesting by Wikiscanner; it allows to see the edits made to Wikipedia pages and the IP of who made them.

  4. Rick Astley: this could be included in Youtube, but really, he deserves his own mention. I don't mean this tongue-in-cheek nor as a joke: I really do love the music video for "Never Gonna Give You Up." It's just so much fun. It's like everything that was awesome about the 80's in a 3:33 video. Then again, I'm a sucker for 80's pop, and let's face it, Rick's one of the best.

  5. Team Fortress 2: an online game based on team based what is essentially capture the flag. Different classes ranging from fire-starting Pyros to Medics to chaingun-wielding Heavy's. The game is non-stop action and the teamwork it inspires amongst people who have never met or know each others' names is amazing. I spent over an hour playing as a Medic supporting a guy under the name Hiroshima playing Heavy - we dominated the server and eventually people were quitting the game because they weren't able to take us down. We decided to give people a chance and from then on played on different teams. It was just amazing to work with someone you've never met for a common goal, being able to talk over a headset with them and plan our strategies. It's incredible.

  6. BitTorrents: before torrents, all downloads came from a server. If you wanted to download, your computer contacted the server hosting the file and it came down from there. If it was a popular file, it could take hours to get a 100MB file. With torrents, that changed. Now files were broken up into segments and distributed out, then shared with each other. For example, if we were to take that same 100MB file and break it up into 100 segments, then give 100 different users 1MB each, the downloads would go a lot faster. After all, it only takes 1% of the time to download 1% of the file. Then, once each person has their 1%, they start to share with each other. This takes the pressure off the central server and lets each person act as a mini server for smaller parts of the files. It allows for much faster downloads and is far more efficient when it comes to sending down large files, such as the 700MB patches for Team Fortress 2.

  7. IRC (aka chat rooms) and webforums: just log on to a chat room or web forum and start talking with people. Do you know them? Doubtful. Does it matter? Not really. I've killed many hours just sitting on IRCs making jokes and talking about whatever topic you can imagine with people I'll never meet. I've asked for advice on everything from my computer to my personal life on webforums, as well as discussed theoretical physics, politics (both domestic and international), metaphysics, abortion, theology, economics (again, domestic and international), as well as fart jokes and card games. Sure there are the trolls who just want to yell at people, insult others, make people feel like crap and be dicks, but they get kicked out and removed when they're found; only the quality people survive in the communities I'm a part of. We respect each other and listen to other opinions than just our own, we debate with facts and sources, not insults. (We do insult each other, but it's always in fun.) It's a thing of beauty.

  8. www.xkcd.com

    Webcomics: Clever, witty, often brilliantly drawn, and full of subtle (or blatant) references to everything from video games to politics. I don't think anything will ever top Calvin And Hobbes as the best comic strip ever written, but some webcomics come close. If you're into science and math stuff - or just clever writing, I highly recommend XKCD. More into romantic comedies? Check out Questionable Content. Like the computer jokes? Applegeeks will cover that (with amazing art, as well). Video games your thing? Then you probably already know about Penny Arcade. In college and living in the dorms? Mac Hall has some great stuff inspired by that lifestyle. Those are just a few of my favorites; there are hundreds - thousands, even. Most of them aren't that good, but there are some that are fantastic. One that's just starting out that's quite promising is Not Enough BBQ. It only has 16 posts as of this writing (as opposed to over 1200 on Questionable Content), but it has potential. I'll be keeping my eye on it.

  9. IM Clients: similar to IRCs, but more specific. Everyone has probably used an IM client, be it AIM, MSN/Live, Trillian, Gaim, Gmail Chat, Yahoo! Chat, whatever. Once again, a great way to keep in contact with friends and in many cases make new ones. Some of my closest friends I made through IM chats. There's something about them, maybe it's just the vague anonymity or them not being able to actually see you, that allows you to be more open and honest. I suppose that's the same logic Catholics use for confession, so it must work.

    And my favorite thing about the internet:

  10. Girls and guys in Wisconsin, New York City, Poland, Australia, Ireland, Washington, Canada, the UK, Austria, Australia, Cairo, Bangladesh, and a dozen other regions and countries around the world: people I interact with daily thanks to the internet. They know who they are. People whom I never would have met - never would have had even the smallest chance of meeting - if it weren't for the internet. We all came together due to similar interests or just because we happened to log on to the same forum or IRC or video game on the same day at the same time. From that initial meeting, or from years of just being around each other in the same virtual communities, we've become friends.

    There are people scattered all over America, Europe, Asia and Australia that I'd feel comfortable just sitting around talking with - even rooming with if I was on vacation. I'm fairly certain I could backpack across Europe hitting just about every city or country I wanted to and I'd be able to find someone I know whom I could stay with because I've spent years talking with them online. People whom I legitimately know. People whom I trust. There are times when I've used them for support, when I've just needed to vent frustration or anger, when I've needed to tell someone something deeply personal that no one else knows...we tell each other. It goes back to the anonymity thing, but also to just feeling safe with people who you know won't look down on you or judge you. People who'll go from whipping insults at each othat at the speed of sound to shutting up and being respectful of someone who's telling a personal life story in seconds. It's a group and a small community spread across the world that I'm proud to be a part of and the main reason I keep getting online each day.

A digital world: I love it

And that's it. Those are my 10 favorite things about the internet.

I get off work in an hour, and when I get home, I'll make some food, go to the gym, maybe play on my guitar for a bit, then get back online. Because that's what I want to do.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

www.phobialist.com

My 10 Favorite Phobias:

They're all real phobias.

  1. Kosmikophobia - Fear of cosmic phenomenon.
  2. Hellenologophobia- Fear of Greek terms or complex scientific terminology.
  3. Oneirogmophobia- Fear of wet dreams.
  4. Dextrophobia- Fear of objects at the right side of the body.
  5. Selenophobia- Fear of the moon.
  6. Defecaloesiophobia- Fear of painful bowels movements.
  7. Scriptophobia- Fear of writing in public.
  8. Geliophobia- Fear of laughter.
  9. Walloonphobia- Fear of the Walloons.
  10. Zemmiphobia- Fear of the great mole rat.
[Once again, this is not the '10 Things I Love About the Internet' post I mentioned yesterday. I'm easily distracted.]

A thought

[This is not the '10 things...' post I was commenting on yesterday. This one I've been thinking about for a few days and finally wrote it down today. Feedback would be welcome on your thoughts.]

Nearly perfectly divided.

The question is simple: will America ever split up?

The answer seems obvious: of course not, we're America!


But I'm not so sure it's that simple.

Let's look at issues that people feel strongly about - I'll discuss gay marriage in depth since it's fairly significant today, but in the past it's been stem cell research, religion/Christianity in government, gun control, War on Terrorism/Iraq, etc.


We've all heard about Prop 8 in CA, which passed with 52.3% for and 47.7% against [
source]. What this translates into is 5,977,457 people voting for it and another 5,457,416 voting against it. I've heard people make arguments like "if the courts overturn Prop 8 then that'll mean they're telling 6 million Californians that their opinions don't count" - well, ok, but on the other hand right now they're telling 5.5 million Californians that their opinion doesn't count by leaving it passed. Then you've got states like AZ and FL that both banned gay marriages as well. On the other side, CT and MD have both allowed it (CT just today held it's first gay marriage ceremony). Obama and Biden have both stated that they support civil unions but don't believe in changing the definition of marriage from being between a man and a woman. This basically means it's left to a state level, but it seems it's entirely possible it could become a national one - it's not beyond reason it will at some point. When that happens, I see California as a good indicator of what'll occur: the nation will be divided almost 50/50, and one side will win by a narrow margin.

Next let's move to presidential elections. Just last week, the 2008 elections ended up as such:


2008:
  • Obama - 364 (52%) electoral votes - 65,098,323 (53%) popular vote
  • McCain - 162 (48%) electoral votes - 57,155,296 (47%) popular vote
Looking back further: 2004:
  • Bush - 286 (53%) electoral votes - 62,028,285 (51%) popular vote
  • Kerry - 251 (47%) electoral votes - 59,028,109 (49%) popular vote
2000:
  • Bush - 271 (50.3%) electoral votes - 50,456,002 (48.4%) popular votes
  • Gore - 266 (49.7%) electoral votes - 50,999,897 (48.9%) popular votes
  • Nader - 0 (0%) electoral votes - 2,882,955 (2.7%) popular votes
1996:
  • Clinton - 379 (70%) electoral votes - 47,402,357 (50%) popular votes
  • Dole - 159 (30%) electoral votes - 39,198,755 (41%) popular votes
  • Ross Perot - 0 (0%) electoral votes - 8,085,402 (9%) popular votes
[source, source]

If you follow the sources you can do your own research and look at the history of elections. While Bush/Gore was arguably the closest election, they've been quite close for awhile, and each year the number of voters grows. Obama alone had as many votes this year as the total number of voters in 1956. One way to look at that is that there are as many people that supported Obama in this last election as made up the voting popular (or at least, the population that actually voted) in 1956. No one in 1956 would have questioned whether or not there were enough people to form a nation or stand on their own; of course there were. So it's obvious that there are enough people on each side to make up a nation. After all, each year ~50 million Americans were passed over on their opinions because ~60 million Americans said so. This is not a minor factor in how politics works - the President has enormous power over what the nation does and how it interacts with other nations (as Bush has proven).

What would keep them from standing up and saying "we don't agree" and seceding? Is it impossible to think that, in 10, 20, or 50 years that almost half the nation may decide they're tired of not being listened to when it comes to their opinions just because slightly more than half the nation disagrees with them and split off to form their own nation? forming two nations: the Republican United States of America and the Democratic United States of America? Following the trends, the majority of the RUSA would be conservative/Christian and the DUSA would be liberal/unaffiliated. Looking at the history of politics, it doesn't seem far fetched that this could happen; the Civil War being the most obvious example, though I imagine if it happened again it'd be more political and less militant.

Every four years it seems almost inevitable that it will happen eventually.

I wonder when/if it finally will.

[Please note: I do not support nor am I lobbying for the United States to break up; this is just an observation.]

10 things

I was going to make a post entitled "10 Things I Love About The Internet" but I couldn't think of exactly how to word it.

It's a work in progress and will be up by/on Thursday.

Sorry for this piddly update, but it is an update!

EDIT: In the meantime, enjoy these two videos:




Friday, November 7, 2008

Lovely.

Less than one month.

My 1TB hard disk drive just failed. I've tried ever troubleshooting step I can think of: changed ports, changes SATA/power cables, let it rest for a bit and start up again. Nothing.

The BIOS just doesn't detect it.

Oh well. It's a Seagate; they've got good warranties and customer service. The RMA has already been submitted. I also sent an e-mail to the company I bought if from; if they can offer a better/faster RMA, cool.

I suppose it's a good thing I hadn't sold/formatted my old PC yet; still have all my media on there.

This is just lovely.