Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Been awhile, lots to say, might say it someday

It's been awhile since I posted. Lots happened. Classes ended. Passed some, unsure of others. In Minnesota now. Very happy to see my friend Lee. Highlight of trip so far. Bored today. Trying to avoid giving in to the idiom "can't go home again" but it's proving very true. Finding out this isn't where my life is anymore. Finding out I miss my friends and life in Provo. Hoping things get better as the week progresses. Hoping Minneapolis proves more enjoyable.

I've got a lot of things to write. A lot of things I want to write. I'm not sure I ever will write them. Some I've wanted to write for a long time and just last week figured out how to say it. Should write it down before I lose it.

Using break and boredom to get reading done. Also learning programming in Cocoa. Hoping to eventually learn to write iPhone App I've imagined. Need to start somewhere.

Sleep soon. Reading first. Finally hoping to finish Heinlein book over break. Took detour and read Stardust by Gaiman; not like the movie, still great.

Mind is wandering. Water sounds good now.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The most disgusting thing

All Hallows Eve

There are different perceptions of what horror is. One is the traditional blood/gore approach that most haunted houses use: dismembered body parts, heads on spikes that look at you, open wound makeup and lots of blood. Then there's the fear/shock approach that is also employed by haunted houses and Hollywood: things that jump out at you, men in hockey masks with chainsaws, loud screams. A lesser used, but I think more effective means of horror, is that of disgust. The game Half-Life 2 uses this approach with rotting, festering enemies such as the headcrab zombie. Sure there's something horrifying about gruesome acts of dismemberment and torture like in Saw, but that's too Hollywood and traditional horror for me to be repulsed by. Personally I think there's something far more horrifying about the last because it's more real. (Ok, the headcrabs aren't real, but the infected, pulsing sores thing is.)

That being said, I've decided to share this story in honor of Halloween. And yes, it's 100% true.

One night in college, about 2 a.m., I realized we (my roommates and I) had forgotten to take the trash out. We had forgotten the previous two weeks before, too, so we had quite a bit backed up. There was a big trash can in the back of the house we would put the smaller bags in and we'd just take it out to the curb once a week. Since we had forgotten the last two weeks the can was filled up and there were about five white plastic bags stacked next to it. I decide to be responsible and so I go outside in the dark and take the trash to the curb.

I flip on the outside light: big trash can overflowing with garbage bags, five white plastic garbage bags next to it. I roll the big trash can to the curb then grab a plastic bag in each hand and take them to the curb. It takes a few trips, but eventually all the trash is ready to be picked up. Due to recent rainfall a puddle of water had collected on the top of one of the plastic bags and my hand and arm got wet. As I carried the bags more spilled out on my arm (open bag, rain for few days, it collects). No big deal, just rain water.

After all the garbage is on the curb, on the way back to the house I run my hands through my hair and then wipe them off on my pants. And that's when I realize they're not drying very well. My hands were actually getting sticky.

Rain water doesn't get sticky when you wipe it off.

(One thing I should point out: in college I lived in a house with 3 other guys. One of the guys was from Ecuador and had different concepts of sanitation than did those of us from the US. He cooked a lot, used a lot of chicken, and didn't dispose of it in plastic bags or sealed up; he would just throw the pieces of raw meat in the garbage.)

I get to the back of the house (the main door we used) and look at my hand in the light. It wasn't water that had collected on the bags. Due to my roommate's frequent disposal of raw meat and the length of time the bags had been sitting out, what I thought was a puddle of water that I had nonchalantly put my hand in was actually a writhing swarm of maggots that had filled the bag and was flowing out the top. What was spilling out all over my arm and pants during the trip to the curb wasn't collected rainwater but thousands of centimeter long maggots. My right hand and arm nearly to my elbow was completely covered and crawling with them. And yes, I had run that hand through my hair only moments before. I have never moved and flailed my arm that fast before in my life.

I immediately turn on the hose in our backyard to full and wash off my entire arm, my pants, and my head with the hose outside. (The water was freezing, btw.) I go inside, throw all my clothes in the washing machine immediately at the hottest temperature setting (remember, I had rubbed my hands through my hair and on my clothes to "dry" them), run naked through the house at 2 a.m. to the bathroom and take a 45 minute shower washing completely from head to toe no less than 5 times.

I didn't sleep well that night.

And that's the most disgusting thing that has ever happened to me. Happy Halloween.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dating advice

And remember: don't trust anyone over 30.


I was thinking about all the dating advice I've received over the years and realized this algorithm seems to pretty much sum it up.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I'm not an engineer

I've come to the conclusion I'm not an engineer.

That doesn't mean I'm not going to do what I can to complete my master's. What it means is that I don't think like an engineer. I don't think in exact numbers or "within the range." I don't accept equations given to me.

I ask why. I want to know how things actually work, not just how to make them work. I don't just want an equation given to me and different parameters applied. I want to understand how everything works.

I'm not an engineer. I'm a physicist.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Busy

I've been busy this week. Chances are I'll be busy for quite awhile.

Until I figure out what to do with this blog, enjoy this video:

Friday, August 28, 2009

Just a link

I highly recommend reading this post from the Journal of Joe the Peacock. I'd write something myself, but I think he says everything I'd want to say. No sense in repeating it here.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Couple, A Few, And Several

Unable to find a related picture

It seems fairly standard that if you say "I have a couple of (noun)s" then that means you have two of them. If someone is talking about a romantic couple, they mean two people. I'm guilty of not always using this term accurately. Sometimes if I'm referring to 3 things I'll say a couple. It's incorrect but I do it out of habit.

In the past two weeks I've had no less than three conversations with friends about this subject, almost always arising from someone (only once was it me) using the term to refer to more than two objects and thus causing confusion.


Googling it, I didn't find much on the subject. It seems rather accepted that a couple refers to two objects and only two objects, no more and no less. But the what is a "few"? What about "several"? "Many"? Here's my thoughts on this:
  • A Couple -- Two things. No more, no less. A couple always refer to two.
  • A Few -- Three to Six things. I once considered a few to be three to eight, but have since reconsidered and now classify it as three to six.
  • Several -- Seven to Eleven things. The reclassification of a few was to make it a bit more even between it and several.
  • Dozen -- 12, obviously.
  • Many -- 13-17
  • A Lot -- Any amount between 18 and 35
  • Dozens --36-60
  • A Ton -- More than 60, less than 100
  • 'Bout a Hundred -- 100, give or take 3 at a rough estimate
  • A Crapload -- More than 100, less than 200
  • Hundreds -- 200+
If you have any suggestions or wish to express your thoughts on the matter, I urge you to leave a comment and I will consider adding and amending this list.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

RENT

This is art.

This morning I listened to RENT for the first time since high school.

Wow.

A few months ago I started listening to OK Computer by Radiohead and was reminded how it's a masterpiece of music. Today I'm reminded how RENT is a masterpiece of musical theatre. Maybe it's a bit more understanding of life, but the music, characters, and story are far better than I remember.

I know for awhile I wasn't a big fan of RENT simply because it was what everyone loved. The "dislike anything popular" mentality that I carried pushed me away from it. Now that I can listen to it objectively, I'm in awe.

Do yourself a favor today and listen to an album or CD you haven't heard for a few years--see if your old favorites hold up. Some will, some won't, but either way it'll be a fun experience.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

He said, She said

Yesterday I spent a good portion of the morning calling Bank and School trying to figure out why I don't have my student loans yet. It's not a dire situation--I have money saved up and I'm still surviving--but since tuition is due I'd like to pay it.

I call School first. Since it's the beginning of the semester the financial office is busy and so I'm put on hold. A choppy, automated voice tells me the average wait time is 7 minutes 34 seconds. Watching the clock, five minutes later it says the average wait time is 5 minutes 6 seconds. Five more minutes pass and the average wait time is now 5 minutes 36 seconds. Apparently they hired the guy who wrote the Windows file transfer time estimate for their wait time dialog. Eventually I get through and a girl picks up the phone, I explain my situation, get put on hold, and finally she says that they haven't gotten the ok from Bank to distribute the funds. About a month ago my loan totals were given to me and I accepted the amounts, but apparently Bank hadn't ok'd it yet.

Calling Bank they said School hasn't given them the amount yet and since School is on a "Do Not Contact" list, they can't even call them to ask for the required information to complete my loan. I recall two months ago something similar with a sheet of paper that Bank gave me and said I needed to give i to School, but School claimed they had nothing to do with it and gave it back to me, even though after I called Bank and they assured me School should have it.

So I call School again. Once again I go through the wait: 8 minutes 12 seconds, 4 minutes 48 seconds, 6 minutes 9 seconds. I get the same girl I spoke with the first time and explain I spoke with Bank and they're pointing the finger at School. She put me on hold for a few seconds. When she comes back she explains that they had thought the information had been sent to Bank but it had not--she apologized and explained they'd immediately send it over and I should have my loans by Friday.

The entire process took about an hour and a half. I figure at this point I'm already late for research so I go get a haircut. As fate would have it, the girl who cut my hair was the sister-in-law of a co-worker of mine at Barnes & Noble. Coming home I hop on my bike and head to School only to find my tires desperately need air. A bike pump is now on my list of things to purchase next time I'm out.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Overqualified

I want this book

If you've never read A Softer World, go read it now. (Ok, maybe not all of it since there's 474 comics in the archives, but reading some of them will give you an idea of what style of humor. It's a style I quite enjoy.) Then read this review for the book OVERQUALIFIED, written by the writer of the comic, Joey Comeau. It's perhaps the best book review ever written. (For my more conservative readers, it doesn't contain strong language but does reference some sexual situations. Just a warning.)

While you're doing that, I'm going to try and work out my financial aid for the semester.

Friday, August 21, 2009

iTunes U

Free classes on your iPod

Yesterday I discovered iTunes U.

I know it's been around for awhile, but it's not something I ever really looked into. Each day I walk about 20 minutes to the Clyde building on BYU's campus, and with iTunes U I now have MIT lectures on electrical engineering to listen to--one of which is on the very subject I'm doing my research in. It's quite handy.

There are also other lecture topics I've found from Oxford and Yale on theology, ethics, and psychology. Just fun things to listen to.


And it's all free.


Take a look at it--it's in the iTunes Store.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Of Coin Tosses and Shuffles

Great if your ipod fits in it

I've been using the purple iPod Nano to go running. I ordered it after my previous one was stolen and it's been very effective, but since the 4th generation Nanos are a slightly different shape than the 2nd generation, my armband doesn't work as well; the buttons don't line up and the screen is covered. Two weeks ago I decided I wanted to get a 2nd generation iPod Shuffle to go running with. You know, those little things that look like stamps but play music and would probably illicit a cockeyed look from your postal carrier if you attached it to a letter.

I look around at Best Buy, Simply Mac (the authorized Mac store in the area), and online. All the prices seemed the same across the board, but Apple.com offers the red color exclusively (part of the (RED) campaign) and orders come with free engraving--something Best Buy is sorely lacking. I figure if the cost is the same, I'll wait the few days for delivery and get an engraved (RED) iPod.

The question then is, what do I engrave my new iPod with?

I want something fun and friendly, maybe "Smile!" or "Enjoy life." Perhaps something motivational, like "Go running" or "Go to the gym. Now." That's when I remember the universal greeting from Transformers, "Bah weep granah weep ninny bong." It's a universal way of saying 'hello' and being friendly. That's exactly what I want for my iPod!

At the purchase order, I notice there's a box for discount codes. Recently I've become a fan of discount coupons online--a quick Google search will usually bring them up and can lead to savings from free shipping or 5% off to as much as 15-20% off if the stars align in your favor. So I do a quick search for iPod discounts. I don't find any coupons, but I do find a link to the refurbished iPods which run 20-33% cheaper. The downside is that engraving isn't an option, nor is the (RED) color. On the plus side, they do have the 2GB model, which is currently unavailable new.

Having picked out my new iPod--2nd generation, 2GB version. The question is what color. With the options presented--blue, green, silver, pink--I'm torn between green and silver. Silver matches more things, green has a bit more flare to it. (I'd consider blue, but the color is just a bit too bright.) Unable to decide, I ask my brother for a coin: if it's heads, I get the silver, if it's tails, I get the green.

Let the Fates decide

Right as I'm about to flip the coin, my brother chimes in.

"If it's on it's side, you get the pink one." He suggests.

"Alright." I shrug. And I flip the coin.

It lands on the carpet. Bounces once. Twice. Then rolls and comes to rest comfortably on the carpet. Against my shoe. On it's side.

My brother erupts in laughter.

Something that has always been important to me is being a man of my word--if I say I'll do something, I'll do it. I agreed that if the coin landed on it's side I'd buy the pink iPod Shuffle. The coin landed on it's side. (Plus arguing with the Fates like that just didn't seem like a good idea; they could cut my thread at any time. They're cold and callous towards humankind; I wouldn't be able to persuade them.)

My new iPod

And now I own a pink iPod Shuffle. It's named the Pink Dwarf Bleeding Heart (it's a type of flower).

(I found out after it was delivered that 2nd generation iPod Shuffles have issues with Windows 7 currently. That is, Windows 7 will recognize the iPod and say everything is ok, but songs won't load on to them. After RMAing the first one sent to me Apple sent me a replacement, and since it has the same issue I started thinking it wasn't the iPod's fault. Searching online I've found a solution, here. It's not as long as it looks and it works. If you know anyone with Windows 7 and an iPod Shuffle and they're having this problem, pass the solution on.)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hakuna Matata

What a wonderful phrase...

When was the last time you said "Hakuna Matata" and just let things slide?

I think the world would be a much better place if we all just let things go every now and then and enjoyed life instead of worrying about it.

Hakuna Matata.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New Socks

Life is good

One of the small joys in this world that is far too often overlooked is that of new socks.

If you're like me, socks aren't really something you think too much about. I have about 15-20 pair that I wear regularly. Other than perhaps making sure they don't clash terribly with what I'm wearing, I don't really focus too much on them. They're only there to make my shoes more comfortable. I might buy new socks once every 2-3 years at most.

And no one likes to receive socks as gifts.

Last Christmas I realized I had been wearing the same socks since about high school when my Mom bought me some. I figured it was time to update, so I asked for a bunch of socks. My Mom is well aware of the "no one likes to receive socks as gifts" rule and so she double and triple checked that it wasn't a fake request or an accidental addition to my Amazon.com wishlist. I assured her it wasn't and that I legitimately wanted socks.

And I got socks.

I didn't get as many as I would have liked, but I still got a lot. (I asked for about 24 pair, enough to overhaul my entire collection. I got 12 pair, enough to replace the beaten up and sad socks in my drawer.) I've picked up a few more pairs for myself in the past few months, too. Since my old socks are still in circulation I tend to wear them more often than the new ones, and since I only have about 16 pairs of underwear I end up doing laundry before getting to a majority of my new socks.

Obama knows where it's at

Every now and then I'll pull out a rarely worn new pair and wear them, and every time I do that, I'm reminded that good socks are one of the small, simple, and great pleasures of this life.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Support

I ♥ pandas (and nature)

Men's Health had an article in it last month about charity work. The author spent a month--I think it was a month; I don't really recall and don't feel like looking through the article to double check right now--and volunteered at different charities. He helped out at homeless shelters, walking animals at the pound, and playing BINGO with the elderly, among other things. It was a good article about altruism.

One thing he pointed out in the end was that after doing it, he's more likely to give money to charities since he saw what even little donations can do to help. After reading that, I remembered an e-mail I got last week and wanted to mention it here.

There's a new service called HotelsCombined.com that works along the lines of Travelocity and Orbitz (except without the flights) that's doing a promotional deal right now to get their name out: if you join their group on Facebook (here) they'll donate $5 in your name, if you tweet about them (just mention HotelsCombined.com and what charity you support) they'll donate $10, and if you mention them in a blog, they'll donate $20.

It might seem minuscule and unimportant, but the fact is a simple mention of them on Twitter or a few clicks on Facebook or a mention on your blog can add up. I can't vouch for the quality of the site or the rates of the hotels through them, but if they're willing to donate $20 to the
World Wide Fund for Nature just because I'm writing this blog, then yeah, I'll write it and bring this to the attention of others.

It's a small gesture and it's a small donation, but small donations can make a big difference.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sabbatical

I'm taking a sabbatical from my blog. Probably not for much more than a week, maybe two, similar to the hiatus I took a couple months ago.

Since I've been home from work I haven't found myself with 8+ hours a day in front of a computer with nothing to do. When I don't have anything to do on the computer now, I find something else to do, be it studying, reading, playing guitar, going to the gym, or just making lunch. I still get ideas for blog posts, but I've found they usually come in the afternoon.

With that, as before, during this break I'll probably write a few posts and take it easy. But I just wanted to let you all know, updates won't be coming this week. To the people who enjoy my updates, thank you for your readership and I hope this week won't put you off too much.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Nothing

I've come down with a cold. I blame going to the gym and the lack of hand sanitizer at Gold's Gym.

Maybe Monday I'll write more.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What I support

I support life.

I support sustainability. I support nuclear energy, wind energy, hybrid cars, painting roads and rooftops white, recycling paper and pop cans, donating old clothes to homeless shelters and I support government grants and financing to aid research in new sources of energy and technology. I support the Circle of Life as taught to me by The Lion King and I support driving my car to work each day because it'd be a pain to walk 28 miles. I support free education and sharing sources and looking at new ideas with an open mind. I support questioning the purpose of existence, whether we exist, what it means to exist, how we can know we exist and what to do while we exist. I support living with nature since we're mammals and a part of the world just like Simba and Pumba and Flipper. I support biology, chemistry, psychology, psychiatry, neurology, epidemiology, nephrology, dentistry, orthopedic surgery, and I think we need to bring back phrenology because the busts were awesome. I support philosophy and mathematics and physics. I support growing your own food organically and I support buying from local farmers markets. I support cooking with olive oil because it's good for you and makes everything taste better. I support reading and creating art just for the hell of it and creating offensive art just for the hell of it. I support local charities and national charities and worldwide charities. I support celebrities going to other countries and helping to build wells and schools and just making the lives of the people who live there a little brighter if only for a day. I support holding the doors for women with children, old women with walkers, old men with canes, and cute girls with lowcut tops. I support free range poultry, pork, and beef. I support wild caught salmon. I support only taking what you need and giving back as much as you can. I support leaving places you've been cleaner than when you arrived. And that includes this planet.

[Check out this site:
http://www.experiencetheplanets.com/ It's a work in progress, but shows promise of being quite cool.]

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

It's easy when you have nothing else to do

Currently I've got a month off. No work. No school. Just free time to study (which I've been doing) and relaxing (which I've also been doing).

One goal I've set for myself during this month is to get back to the gym and get my meals planned out better. For the past month I didn't really care what I ate and hadn't been to the gym in about five months. I wanted to remedy this so that it's a habit while in school. When I was finishing my senior year I was going to the gym regularly and it helped clear my head and focus me--I always did better on tests after going to the gym (studies actually do support this) so I want to do that again. I started this week.

I've found it's about as easy as I remember it being when I was in college. At the time I would make Jared go with me--he was a great guy to work out with and just be around in general. It gave me someone to be accountable to and kept me pushing myself harder as Jared's taller and bigger than me, but I wanted to try and match him. My goal was to catch up to him, his goal was to always stay ahead of me. It worked out quite well.

When I started working full time in an office I found that at the end of the day, after six hours of sleep, sitting at a desk for nine hours, and an hour in the car, coming home to an overheated apartment with a broken AC unit, I had absolutely no desire to go get sweaty at the gym. This severely hurt my gym attendance.

It's amazing how much easier it is to go to the gym when you haven't been at work all day. Going to the gym is something I'm starting to like again (my back disagrees after deadlifting today). I'm excited to get back in shape; I miss feeling energetic and able to run. I think this month will be good for me.

[My AC unit was replaced today; my apartment is livable again!]

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Epic Monopoly

Classic Edition: nothing else

As Mark pointed out in his comment of my previous post, on Sunday last weekend I did in fact play an epic game of Monopoly and I completely failed to mention it. At 9AM I'm not the most lucid and my memory tends to be rather short-term.

Monopoly has become something we play on Sundays. We in this case is my Brother, a few of our friends, ane of course, me. We don't play friendly rules nor fair rules--we play to win. This means if you land on someone's place and they don't notice before the dice are rolled by the next player you get away free. This also means if you land on someone's place and you can't pay you're forced to mortgage everything and on top of every dollar to your name till you can pay your debt. If you mortgage everything and still can't pay, you're out of the game and the person you owe gets everything.

As my Brother put it, "In Monopoly, all morality and honesty is forfeit. We play to win." And it's a blast. (I should point out we don't tolerate lying in the amount you pay when taxed or paying someone, only that you can sneak by properties if no one catches you.)

The game that was played last Sunday was, as previously stated, epic. It was our 2nd game of the day and we only had three players. Within 43 minutes Mark was out of the game and it was down to me and Jeff; I had 3/4ths of the board and hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place; Jeff had a few places but no Monopolies so he couldn't build anything. The game was mine.

Feeling cocky I tossed Jeff Virgina Ave and States Ave to complete a Monopoly for him--the magentas right after the jail. I figured I had the game in the bag so I'd give him a sporting chance. He took the opportunity to build three houses on each, which I then landed on and he upgraded to hotels. Next round he managed to pass Boardwalk and Park Place and I, again, hit St. Charles Place (the 3rd magenta). This pattern continued: he would pass through Boardwalk and Park Place hitting either the Luxury Tax square or jumping them entirely, I would hit his hotels every time around. In a few turns, I was down to only Boardwalk and Park Place, still with hotels, but nothing else beyond $27 cash.

Then Jeff landed on Park Place.

He was so rich at this point that he shrugged and paid me the $1500 in three $500 bills. I took them happily and then the next round gave him back $750 for landing on his hotels. I was still alive though.

A few more rounds passed and Jeff hit Park Place again. I un-mortgaged some places, built hotels on the cheap purples, and went around again. For the next 2 hours Jeff and I went around passing money back and forth, each going from owning all the cash in the game to almost nothing.

Eventually after 2 hours and 47 minutes, the game ended after Jeff hit Park Place three turns in a row.

Rags to Riches

Throughout the game we each went from completely-sure-we'd-win to what's-the-point-in-even-rolling-the-dice about three times.

I gave him the two magentas to give him a sporting chance, and it prolonged the game for another 2 hours making it one of the most eventful Monopoly games I've ever seen.

And we're going to play again on Sunday.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Day One

WARNING: Boring blog post ahead!

It's my first day off work and at home. I woke up at 8 AM almost on the dot; apparently after a year of having to be at work then my body just thinks it should be awake then. While I wouldn't say I was happy to oblige, I was ok with it as I want to go to the gym this morning.

I'm going to try and keep up the daily updates here, but we'll see.

[I warned you.]

Friday, July 31, 2009

One Video

(This is the last time I'll ever try and incorporate a countdown into my blog titles/posts.)

Today is my last day of work. In honor of this, I present to you William Shatner performing Sarah Palin's farewell speech when she resigned officially from being governor of Alaska:

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Two Games

I think most people that know me know how much I love to play Risk. It started in junior high when Will, Lee, Peter, Sam, Craig, and I would have weekend-long sleepovers from Friday night through Sunday morning sitting in Lee's basement watching Star Wars movies and playing Risk. I'm pretty sure Lee's basement was designed for Risk: a big open floor, recliners, and a big screen TV for movies to play for those who had been knocked out early in the game. (The big screen TV isn't such a big deal today with everyone owning 52" plasma screens, but in 1998 a 52" projection screen was epic.)

This tradition continued throughout high school. Krister and John also played fairly often, giving us eight players who circulated in and out depending on availability. We rarely had trouble getting a group of at least four together for all night Risk games. I don't think we actually completed games very often. The most common ending would be someone having all of North America and South America and maybe Africa, while someone else owned Europe, Asia, and Australia. This would lead to a massive standoff usually with one side saying "screw it" and surrendering after 5-6 turns of give-take territories.

(Other game endings we experienced were: dog/cat/sleepy person walks on the board and ruins unit placement leading to everyone saying "screw it" and going to play Goldeneye; everyone saying "screw it" around 4AM with half going to sleep and half going to play Goldeneye; someone saying "screw it" after a broken non-aggression contract and quitting; someone saying "screw it" and resorting to good old fashioned violence; and I think once someone actually won legitimately.)

Towards my senior year Risk was replaced by Scrabble one night, quite randomly. It was pretty awesome. About 2 in the morning at a Trollwood (local theater arts group) cast/crew party one of us just got the urge to play Scrabble, so we went back to my house and started playing. At 6:13 we adopted the rule of not using the dictionary to find words after John spent 3 hours and 17 minutes looking through it, eventually finding the word "qiviut" giving him 54 points after a triple word score and winning the game.

In college my Risk playing days declined with our core group that played spreading itself across the US going to different colleges. Facebook has a Risk application called "Attack!" that we tried to play a few times, but without fail it would glitch out around round 3-4 and would randomly give the game to a player. Then Brad found something else, a website called Warfish.net. He said it was Risk online and invited us to join; I was excited but kind of tentative, afraid of the same glitches and errors in present in Attack!.

Thankfully, I was wrong. Save for a week when the Warfish servers were down, the games have played flawlessly. Even better, they log all moves and allow for replay videos of the games, log stats of victories/losses, and provide variations on maps and rules. Currently we're playing an almost perfectly replicated world map with 131 territories (slight change from Risk's usual 42) and includes rules like "fog of war" which means you can only see the nations next to your own. The fog really changes how you play since you don't know what bonuses opponents are getting or who's conquering Asia while you're trying to secure a few nations in Central America to just live a few more rounds.

We're having an absolute blast.

No mercy.

While we're all spread out--me in Utah, Brad in Massachusetts, Krister in wherever (something like Morocco or Uzbekistan probably), Lindsey, Will, Sam, and Craig in Minneapolis, Lee and Peter in Moorhead--we're still able to all log into Warfish and play Risk together just like in high school.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Three Questions

questions to ask--if you want to answer them in comments, awesome. If you just want to think about them to yourself, awesome.
  1. Do you believe in fate?
  2. What are your thoughts on koalas?
  3. What extinct animal do you wish was still around today?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Four Lights

lights on my car don't work simultaneously. They'll work in pairs, but not as a group. I think the Left said something derogatory to the Right; something about being the "master side" because that's where the driver sits.

The point is, my hazard lights don't work in my car.

I just discovered this this morning. My Mother sent out my old factory car system to replace the one that was stolen and this morning before going into work I wired it in. I had noticed that when my car was broken into the clock stopped working in my car and just assumed it used the same power source as the stereo. When I got a stereo installed it'd start working again. It didn't.

A brief look again found that the clock and hazard button have their own power connectors that the thief had disconnected (instead of cutting them, thankfully). Connecting them back up the clock came to life but the hazard lights remain elusive. I'm not sure what's wrong--could be a fuse, could be the switch, could be the power cable. At this point I don't have much to go on and will commence trouble shooting when I get a free minute at work. If I'm unsuccessful in my investigation, I may have to call a Turn-Signal Relationship Therapist to come and try and reconcile the dispute. Just because I sit on the left sides doesn't mean I hold any animosity towards the right, that just happens to be where the steering wheel and pedals are. It's nothing personal, I swear!

That being said, counting today, I only have four more days of work.

UPDATE: About 5 minutes after I posted this I went to check a few things out in my care and discovered that there are in fact two identical power cables that can connect into the hazard signal; I had simply chosen the wrong one. Hazard lights work out. Calling to cancel the Turn-Signal Relationship Therapist appointment now.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Five Days

days left of my job. Then I get a month off before starting school again.

I'm excited about this. A month off will do me good, give me time to prepare for classes and hopefully get into the habit of going to the gym again.

That's my goal for August: review my math and get back to the gym regularly.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Songwriting

Simple music; great music

I was talking with a coworker a few weeks ago about music--we're both NIN fans--and he asked if I played anything. I mentioned I bought a guitar last year and was learning some basic chords and a few songs I liked. He said to make sure I don't just play songs I like from other artists but to actually write my own stuff, too. As we got talking I found out he played bass and had toured with some bands, one was Blind Melon (or what's left of the band).

This last week I've had free time and I've been playing around with my guitar a lot. I love just sitting down and playing, be it just a sequence of power chords or the intro to Hey There, Delilah. I'm sure no one within listening range feels the same; I'm not very good. I do enjoy it though.

I've been playing around and found some basic power chord riffs I really like. Listening to The White Stripes I've noticed that a lot of the stuff played by Jack White isn't incredibly complicated--the song Fell In Love With A Girl is played on only two strings using the perfect fifth of the power chords. What I'm saying is he uses two fingers and they're always in the same position, they just shift up and down the guitar. It's nothing like Eric Clapton's guitar work.

So, I'm playing around with power chords and seeing what I could come up with. I've found that I can't write lyrics at all, largely because I don't know the first thing about the process. I have this vision in my head that songwriters--just like authors and musicians and poets and anyone in a creative, artistic profession--get moments of inspiration, when a muse speaks to them and they hear the entire song or see the entire book laid out in front of them, and all they do is make it tangible. While there may be times when it does work like this, I believe almost every great work of music, of literature, of art in general comes from days and weeks and months and years of labor working to perfect it; to find that one word to finish the sentence or the sentence to finish the paragraph or the note to finish the measure.

The more you learn about something and the more skilled you become, the more patient I think you're able to be with it, because you know the outcome takes time. This is true with music, with science, and even with parenthood. In college I tutored math classes, and working with people who aren't familiar with math I find it interesting to see them expect the answer immediately or within a few steps, not knowing or wanting to go through the amount of work it can take to get to the answer sometimes. I'm sure artists think the same when they look at me and my expectations to be able to write a song in 20 minutes or a graphic in Adobe Photoshop in an hour. Painters can spend weeks on a painting, authors can spend years on a book, I can spend hours on a single math problem. I think it just comes down to knowing the process.

I think I'll take some time today and try and learn the songwriting process. At least get an idea of it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What The Doctor taught me

Classic British Television

Just about everyone I know loves Doctor Who. I first heard of the show (him?) in 5th grade when my friend, John Berdahl, talked about the show. John was the kind of kid who, by age 11, had seen every movie made and knew every show that had ever aired up till about 1990.

Of course, the Doctor Who he was referring to was different than the Doctor most people today know. The original series ran from 1963 to 1989 (thank you, Wikipedia). Then in 2005 they revived the series with new writers, using current special effects and CG, and written in such a way that you don't need to have seen 26 years worth of classic television to know what's going on.

And it's brilliant.

The writing is wonderful, the storylines keep me guessing, the events range from downright creepy to hilarious, and the total theme is uplifting--stand up and make a difference.

Instead of going on about the series, I'd like to just say what The 9th Doctor, played by Christopher Eccleston, taught me.

When we first meet The Doctor he's being chased by plastic mannequins who are trying to kill him, chasing him to the top of a building, while he's holding a bomb to destroy them. How does he greet Rose, a girl trapped in a room with him? With a great big smile and a very enthusiastic "Hullo!" Time and time again in the series, The Doctor meets new people, travels to new places, gets in life threatening situations with no discernible solutions, and he does it all with a smile. He's cheerful through life and limb. He's happy, because even though it's dangerous and scary, it's an adventure, and it's having fun.

What a Doctor!

I think there's something to take away from that. Yeah, life is dangerous. Yeah, we can be in situations where we don't know what to do. Yeah, we can be lost in places we've never been. And we can still have a smile on our face, think positively, and greet people enthusiastically with a kindly "Hullo!"

At first I didn't know what to think of Mr. Eccleston as The Doctor. Now, I'm going to miss him.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Practice

Me at age 45?

I've read that it takes an average of 10,000 hours of practice to become a master of something. Anything, according to the report I read. 10,000 hours is about the amount of time you need to do something. While people can become proficient in far less time, the 10,000 hours theory is one that seems prevalent in regards to what is often deemed expertise. Of course, "a friggin' lot" would be another fair unit of measurement.

I start playing the guitar about 8 months ago. In that time gone from not knowing my guitar was out of tune to playing power chords, finger picking, and I can play some basic songs (Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd, Behind Blue Eyes by Limp Bizkit). It's fun and something I really enjoy doing. At my current practice schedule, if it keeps up, I should be a master of guitar playing around the time I turn 45.

I never expect to make a living playing the guitar or make any money at all; it's just something I want to do for relaxation and my own enjoyment. So far that's worked out well. I think it'd be fun to get with some friends who play the guitar and actually do something--granted, I'd be little more than rhythm guitar as I can only do basic chords, but I think it'd be fun.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Astute observation

Free webpage stats

On any given day I get around 20 people reading this blog. At least that's what Google Analytics tells me. I like to think the number is a little higher since that doesn't register RSS feeds and I know a number of people read it from there, too. (Speaking of RSS feeds, quick question to anyone who reads this blog via one: does the formatting work ok or is it really mucked up?)

Looking through the hits history I've noticed I generally get spikes whenever I either a) write a product review (
Skinomi guards for my cell phone, Lovesacs), b) rant about something in the news (Letter to Clair Suddath) or c) write something with excessively religious (Salt). 'A' is most probably from people doing Google searches and my blog coming up, 'B' is mostly from me posting the article on Digg.com and it actually being something people can relate to, and 'C' is from my brother pimping the article to everyone he knows.

The only other spikes in visits I've had have come in response to the two
cartoon posts I've made. I quite enjoyed making both of those, though it's painfully obvious my artistic skills are lacking. (In my defense, I drew both at work with limited tools at my disposal.)

I will fully admit I'd like to have more regular readers of my blog. I do understand why random people don't find it interesting; it's just my life and the events thereof. As people have pointed out--those who know me read it because they're interested in what's going on in my life and what I think; those who don't know me don't care. Sometimes I think I write interesting thing--I'm particularly fond of my
proposal post since it was a completely true story. Occasionally I write essays that people who don't know me personally might enjoy, but day-to-day I don't think it's overly interesting.

Start spreading the word, people!

I once read that if you have about 5,000 daily visitors then you can look into merchandising and be successful with it. That means I just need each person who reads this blog to tell 250 friends and then I can start selling "RampagingChocobo.com" shirts. I'd sell two versions, one with an angry chocobo dressed like the Juggernaut from X-Men charging somewhere, another with a chocobo with reading glasses sitting in a recliner in a smoking jacket reading Heidegger. Start those mass e-mailings now!

(I know; those shirts will never be made.)


I have been getting a number of positive reactions from some of my Twitter posts though. Looking at the list, I have 187 followers currently on Twitter; only about 65 are real people, the rest are companies and "click here for crazy monkey sex" spam-bots. It's kind of sad. From the living, breathing followers I do have I tend to get positive reactions from some of my more random thoughts though. I've considered trying to find an artist (or do a photo caption like A Softer World) to create some art to go with the more humorous thoughts; maybe create something fun that people enjoy.

In two weeks I'm quitting my job to focus on school--studying, talking with my Advisor and starting research, sleeping in. The usual school stuff. Maybe during that time I'll load up Adobe Photoshop and make some graphics for my ideas and see how they turn out. I'll probably post them here initially, and if the reactions are positive we'll see where it goes.

Guys, I have an idea!!

[I know this is a terribly poor idea; the internet is riddled with pathetic, wannabe comic writers and usually I only think my ideas are good when I'm either wired on caffeine (pictured left) or about to pass out from lack of sleep. Or both simultaneously.]

Maybe, just maybe, someday, in the distant future, I'll be able to justify making those shirts.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Feng Shui

Clay, about to be flung

(For those who don't know, the correct pronunciation of "feng shui" rhymes with "flung clay.")

Last week a friend linked me to a sale at IKEA that was for this weekend only. For whatever reason they had one series of bookcases/desks half off. Good quality, too; actually solid wood, not the usual cheap particle board. Since I've been wanting to get a new desk for my apartment to replace the L shaped chunk of wood that comes off my bookcase and functions as a table, I grabbed my brother, went to IKEA, and picked up a desk and another bookcase.

I spent a good 7 hours on Saturday putting together the bookcase and desk and then rearranging my apartment. 400+ DVDs and books takes awhile to move around. But now that it's all done I really like the layout. It flows better.

When I first moved in I had this idea of putting my bookshelf in such a place it would create a little hallway going to the bathroom and bedroom. I couldn't do it though since the desk/table/board was attached to that bookshelf, so I was limited on where it could go. I ended up having it in the middle of my room, dividing the living room basically between a kitchen/dining area and a small area with my desk for watching TV. Not a bad design, but it was kind of cramped and the bookshelf prevented light from really getting anywhere.

I'm finally able to use the bookshelf to make the hallway, and I love it. My apartment feels a lot bigger now; more spacious, better flow. I'm almost certain it's not actually feng shui'd since that involves knowing the flow of energies and that fire should be on the South side and metal goes on the West. I haven't tried to match it with any of that chromatically or elementally. I just think it feels better.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Just Dance

It's Friday. Go dance by a lake.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Distraction

My favorite Ravenclaw

I loaded up blogger to write a post today and read the comment my brother left on my previous blog entry. I was most interested in the part about which house in Hogwarts he'd be in; a recent Facebook quiz told me I'd be in Ravenclaw, which didn't surprise me. I can see Jeff in Hufflepuff as he predicted. I'm not sure where Becky would go, but probably Hufflepuff, too. Brady would be in Ravenclaw with me.

(If I don't stop that list soon I could easily be sidetracked into categorizing everyone I know.)

What I'm getting at is that this train of thought led me to doing a Wikipedia search on Hogwarts and the house histories, which led to me spending the next 3 hours browsing the Harry Potter Wiki. I hadn't realized how many details I had forgotten or in some cases missed completely.

If you've read the books and know the story, spend some time and reacquaint yourself with the lore. It's good stuff. I do wish some articles were longer and more detailed, but some information just isn't available or created yet. (One of my favorite little articles I hadn't known about was on the Ministry Classification of Magical Creatures, with a "XXXXX" category creature being known as "known wizard killer/ impossible to train or domesticate" while "X" simply says "boring.")

If you haven't read the books, I'd avoid the site since it has no issue giving away storyline spoilers. My advice to you then is to read the books and then spend hours going over the details.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Childhood excitement

Sad I missed that one

In high school I camped out for two movies: Star Wars: The Clone Wars and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. At the time I remember thinking Star Wars was amazing--it was a serious case of "not enough sleep" mixed with "seeing Yoda with a lightsaber for the first time." For The Two Towers I literally waited in front of the theater for 28 hours; 3 PM the day before for the 7 PM showing the next day. I was 13th in line. Ahead of me were a handful of college students, a few home schooled kids, and a music professor from one of the local universities. Two Towers was infinitely better than Star Wars in viewing pleasure, longevity of enjoyment, artistic quality, and campout festivities. (It was a significantly smaller group, but we got to know each other, shared Krispy Kreme donuts, hot chocolate, and had readings from the book.)

Yes, I was one of those those nerds.

I've gone to midnight showings since then, but nothing has really peaked my interest in quite the same way as those films. Last night Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince premiered and my brother entered childhood excitement mode as he tends to do around things either "Harry Potter" or "black-and-white and in Swedish." He didn't dress up like any characters, though he did wear his Harry Potter glasses. If he had a Gryffindor scarf, robe, uniform, or anything else I have no doubt he would have worn it. That's beside the point.

There was a large group of people who were dressed up. Much like the release of the 7th Harry Potter book, the movie had fans out in full force. One guy was even trying to profit from the night by walking around the line selling replica wands for $8 (later he dropped the price to $5). Maybe I'm biased, but the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings nerds seemed less geeky. It's one thing to have choreographed lightsaber duels or fights with broadswords; it's another to be

Yep, it was that sad

pointing sticks at one another shouting "Expelliarmus!" and hoping the other person reacts appropriately. I don't know; one seems more theatrical and cool to watch, the other is just sad.

I think the low point of the night in this category was watching two people dressed up as Hogwarts students trying to get a guy out of a tree by pointing their wands at him and shouting spells. It was as ineffective as a rational person would expect.

When the movie started there were previews for various films--a few looked interesting, but I was too tired to really care too much and my ears were bleeding from all the girls screaming at the New Moon trailer. It served to remind me that there's three more films in the series coming out that I'll have to tolerate girls going primal over. I suppose girls deserve it--a lot of films have had fan service for men for decades, women are due their share.

An hour into the film the power went out in the building. I was torn between thanking God that he had bestowed upon me a chance to actually get some sleep that night and sad that we were getting robbed of a movie premiere. Power came back on about 7 minutes later--if it had been 10 they would have had to evacuate the building and we would have been sent home--we finished the film without much issue save some light screaming. The movie is good; I enjoyed it, but either they changed a number of details from the book or I don't remember it as well as I thought I did. Not a big deal, just my thoughts.

Next year we get the first part of the 7th movie and the year after we get the finale. I'm glad they're actually doing the next film in two parts--they really should have done the last two films in two parts since the story demands more explanation and background. Without the character development and details the movies start to become little more than eye candy for those who know the books. It'd be nice if they were solid works in their own right. Lord of the Rings did that--
they did change some details from the books but they still stand as very high quality works of art separate from being

What I didn't get last night...

visuals for the literary fanbase.

It'll largely depend on if/where I'm working and what my circumstances are, but it seems likely I'll go see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I at a midnight showing, too.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Appropriate Attire

Formal style

I'll be so bold as to say that anyone who knows me knows that I have a sense of style. I know what's appropriate to wear for various occasions and thanks to Details and Men's Health I have some insight about what looks good, too. I'm not perfect and still occasionally commit a faux pas--usually this is on purpose because I'm relaxing and just don't care.

At work it depends on my job, but I usually opt for the more relaxed look. I'm not a company representative and I'm not a businessman who needs to impress investors or a board of directors. When I worked at Barnes & Noble I was a bookseller and with constantly moving around and working in the receiving room I was usually dressed more casually for functionality and comfort. Working IT at my current job, I see other employees regularly, but they're fellow employees, not customers. My boss asks us to dress in a "business casual" appearance which according to sources can range from "suit with a slightly relaxed tie" to "jeans and a polo shirt" depending on the office.

I usually opt for the "polo shirt with chinos" look. While I think it's somewhat unnecessary, it's easier to go with what my boss says than to argue.

They can be creative; you can't

(Unless you work as a creative director at Pixar or Apple, companies don't like people who disagree with management, no matter how logical your argument. I've been threatened with termination for doing so on more than one instance.) Yesterday I received an e-mail that today is "professional dress day" for the office--this means only one thing: someone is visiting and the Director wants to make a good impression.

The last time this happened we had two employees from another office (our same company) visit. They wore the standard, daily attire of a polo shirt with slacks; the Director of the office had everyone here in suits and dresses. When I had a minute with them I mentioned that the Director put out a notification telling everyone to dress "professionally" today; they replied that they were happy to know that since they were feeling a little under dressed. I honestly don't understand why we had to look professional for people who worked for the same company at the same roles with the same dress codes. It only served to make them uncomfortable and inconvenience the employees here.

When I was a kid I remember my Mom asking me to help clean the house before company would visit. I never understood why--that wasn't how we lived, why should we give a false impression of who we are?

Not A doctor, THE Doctor

These days that feels akin to telling a girl I'm a doctor when I first meet her to make a good first impression. Yes, there is a hint of truth there--I'm in graduate school and will hopefully, someday, maybe, get a PhD and then be technically a doctor, but I'm not a doctor in the generally accepted and understood medical sense.

Asking who is visiting the office today I was told it's a friend of the CEO. A friend. I don't know if that means he/she is an executive, a consultant, a potential investor, or just someone who knows them and wants to see what their company is like. Doesn't really matter though, we're still lying to them. We don't dress professionally everyday; it'd be stupid for us to do so. We're a call center for heaven's sake! We never see customers so why in the world are we dressed professionally, other than to potentially increase the revenue of a local dry cleaner?

Comfortable and functional

By all sense of reason, we should be able to come to work in bath robes and towels. No customers see us, why does it matter if we're wearing suits and ties? I'm a firm believer in the theory that if people like their job and are comfortable they're more productive, and therefore we should be allowed to dress in a comfortable manner, and to me that means a bath robe.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Home

I got home from vacation last night. On vacation I hung out with some close friends, saw my college roommate for almost 3 years get married, and spent a lot of time watching television.

I don't watch TV at home; I don't own a TV and so any shows I watch have to be on my computer. It was fun to sit and channel surf. I confirmed that early seasons of Scrubs are vastly superior to later seasons, that That 70's Show is best in the middle seasons, that Home Improvement is a generic "positive family image" show, and Full House is awful--though John Stamos is still entertaining.

I also found that the Discovery channel is the most entertaining channel after about 5 PM.

I could be here

It's a lesser known fact that a little over a year ago I applied for a job as the host of a new show for the Discovery channel. It was for a show called "Danger Man" that involved explaining and demonstrated the physics of extreme sports and stunts, which the host was then supposed to do as well. Things like bungee jumping, skydiving, and daredevil acts. Requirements for the application were that you had to have a degree in physics, be over 25, be willing/able to do the stunts, and create an under-three-minutes demo of you hosting the show and explaining the physics of an extreme stunt. I had the degree, was only 23 (I didn't tell them that; if Gillian Anderson can lie about her age to get the role of Dana Scully on the X-Files, my lying about this wasn't a big deal, either), had a background in sports and gymnastics, and borrowed a small digital camera from my school to make the video.

I tried making the demo myself and it was terrible, so I called and elicited the help of Lee, who as director of photography offered a lot of advice and helped make the video far better than I could have done on my own. We had less than 6 hours to record and cut the whole thing due to short notice from the company and minimal access to the camera. That may seem like a long time for a 3 minute shot, but in the professional world that's usually a full day's worth of work with a complete crew. We had some problems with the camera--it wouldn't record for more than 10 seconds before stopping recording. We used a lot of short shots because that fault. Lee suggested doing a Good Eats style show, which I liked, but I think if we had had a better camera (and perhaps another day) we could have made something a lot better.

I got an e-mail three months after we submitted the application that they were impressed by what I had done but that they had decided to go with a different candidate. By that time I had already given up on getting the job, but was amazed I had lasted in the running that long. Truthfully, part of me believes that if we had had a little more time and a camera that actually worked I could have made it to official callbacks and auditions. But that's a pretty big "if".