Friday, January 30, 2009

Music

Music: not-unlike witchcraft

Music is a mystery to me. People devote their lives to it. Students write dissertations and spend years researching it. Livings are made by people who perform it. Every culture has it. It exists as an entity, not a concept or idea. I'm also fascinated by it. I've been around music and musical things for a large part of my life. From the ages of 10 to 17 I participated in musical theatre regularly as well as band and choir. Somehow I managed to make it through 7 years of music without actually learning anything about it.

Since I started practicing the guitar I've started to learn about music. I mean really learn about it. I don't want to just know a few chords and have that be that -- I want to understand how music comes together. I want understand why one group of five notes sounds good together while another group of fives notes doesn't. I want to understand what it means to play a "perfect fifth" and to be able to know what notes are complimentary. I want to understand what the frequencies are doing, how the air is moving and how everything interacts, creating the sounds we become so obsessed with.

I'm always impressed by people who understand music. To some people it comes naturally. There are people who can play it and read it and understand it and hear a tone and tell me what note it is and if it's flat or sharp. I can't do that; I've never been able to do that. If I hear a note I can't tell if it's a C or an E#. If it's played around other notes I can begin to get an idea. Maybe. On a good day. Music is such an integral part of our culture -- of every culture -- that it feels criminal to not understand it.

I know it's impossible to become an expert in music by reading a book or two. It takes years and years of practice and lessons and experience to be able to understand music on such a level.

I need to learn the language

I'm not hoping to become a professor of music, just somewhat knowledgeable. When it comes to music I feel like a toddler looking at a college chemistry. There's information there -- I know there's information in those pages -- I just can't read or understand it. And I want to.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Individuality

I think part of the reason I've been spending time by myself is to get an idea of who I am. Granted, I know myself. I know what I like and what I don't like, but at the same time, I do a lot of things because it's the social norm or because it's what people around me are doing. Would I be doing the same things if people around me weren't doing them?

Much of how we act is strongly influenced by our surroundings, by who we're surrounded by. A group or mob mentality is a powerful force. Respectable and honest business people can be turned into rioters if placed in the proper setting. Good men can commit war crimes and torture. From this I'm left wondering what I would do in similar situations or what I would do if left alone.

Thoreau's Walden analyzes this. What a person does on their own -- what's important in life and who they really are -- is what he wanted to learn. I have to say I want to learn the same thing. I'm not sure I've ever done that. Part of me wants to move to somewhere where I've never been before, where I don't know anyone, so that I can learn who I am. Save for getting a job in New York City or California though, it won't happen; in this job market the chances of that are pretty slim. This leaves me to find other ways to learn who I am. Honestly, I quite like it. I haven't been able to clear my head and focus on myself for awhile. I haven't read something scientific or thought-provoking and been able to really absorb it.

I lose myself in relationships. At the first sign of trouble I become concerned I'll lose the person and so I go overboard trying to placate them. In doing so, I become what I think they want instead of who I am and through a wicked sense of irony makes me less what they want.

Gary Larson understands

People don't want a 'yes man' or someone who wants to do everything they do; they want someone they can respect, who disagrees with them, who wants to do their own thing with their own dreams. It's only when I'm left alone that I can actually figure out my own wants and needs and focus on myself. And honestly, it feels good.

I need to find the balance between being who I am and still being around others. I'm working on that. Not sure when I'll get there, but I'm working on it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Perspective

Where stars are born

A friend of mine online made a comment that caught my attention today. He said, "I love space; never fails to put things into perspective."

I think he was right. Looking at space reminds me of the grandeur that we exist in, of the power and magnitude of what's out there, and of the beauty of physics and nature. I get caught up in day-to-day things, the trivial stuff that seems to matter at the moment. When I was in college I remember thinking how magnificent the universe is, how studying it and learning more about it just gave me a larger appreciation for all things.

Chris was right; looking at space puts things in perspective. I like that.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

When Harry Potter 7 was released

Great employer

It occurred to me that I've never shared the story of my night working the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows release party at Barnes & Noble on July 20th, 2007. I'll tell it now.

I was hired to work at Barnes & Noble about a month before Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out. It was, understandably, a big night. Every employee was scheduled to work, management encouraged costumes, and events were planned for the whole night.

My schedule has me working at 7 PM to 1:30 AM. I'm only trained as a cashier so that's what I'm doing. Being festive, I decide to dress up as Voldemort.

At work things are going smoothly. I'm new so most employees don't know me that well. I introduce myself to a few coworkers who are somewhat taken back by this guy who's whole head is white and standing next to them. This is a busy night and customers are downright weird; walking around the counter and trying to nab a book pre-sale would not be unheard of.

After introducing myself and saying hello to my coworkers, ensuring each of them that, yes, I do work here, I start cashiering. The night is continuing normally. I use normal loosely considering the several hundred people gathering in front of the checkout lines with faces painted, each glaring at me as I leisurely sit on the boxes of Harry Potter that they covet so passionately I'm tempted to remind them of the 10th Commandment.

Guess what he reads?

As time passes a few brave souls slowly sneak past the hordes to purchase a few, non-Harry Potter related books. Every few minutes another person comes up: a romance novel for the middle-aged housewife; a cardboard book for the toddler and his father; a manga book for the 15-year-old, white kid in a black leather trench coat who's mother is waiting outside in the Escalade. Nothing atypical from the few weeks I've worked here.

At 11:33 the casual customer has gone completely and only the wizard-garbed fanatics remained. Well, them and a whole lot of casually dressed people who have too much pride and/or shame to dress up as wizards. As people start getting anticipatory, the lines begin forming more solidly and the sound levels go down as people begin talking to the person next to them instead of across the room. Then I hear a giggling sound. It's close; definitely not from the mob nor from the nearest coworker, who is two registers over. Looking around I peek over the edge of my register counter and see two teenage girls who have taken up residency there, determined to be first in line. I look around, perplexed, partially at whether or not anyone will have issues with this but mostly because I have no idea when or how they got there without my noticing. No one seems to care and customers are still able to move around easily enough, so I shrug and let it go.

All of it.

At 11:54, minutes before we can begin selling the books I've been resting my butt on for the last 3 hours, a man comes to the front of the lines and plops down a foot-high stack of magazines, all of which are gay porn. Here I am, in front of no less than 200 people, most of whom are teenagers or parents of teenagers, and I've just been given a stack of 19 gay porn magazines to ring up. I didn't even know Barnes & Noble carried that many. I knew there was a section but I didn't know there was such a variety. $108.32 later, he walked out with two bags worth of magazines.

Looking at my coworkers they're all stifling laughter. No one really expected that. I peer over the counter and indeed the two girls are still sitting there. I wonder if they noticed what just pass over their heads. Probably not; they seemed rather entertained by each other.

For the horde!

At Midnight we opened the boxes and began selling things. A group of high school kids tried to be funny and ask for a copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince instead of Deathly Hallows; I told him if he wasn't going to buy one he should get out of the line so that others can get theirs. He apologized and promptly bought a copy of Deathly Hallows.

All the customers were gone by 12:45 AM and I was able to be home around 1. I read most of Deathly Hallows that night but had to be at work at 3 PM the next day, so I went to sleep around 7 AM. I finished it the next night.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Mandatory naps

We need you to... take a lunch...

My usual workday is from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM without a lunch break. I eat at my desk during my leisure time. This way I can get to work towards the end of the morning rush and get home before it gets too bad, plus I'm available all day to provide support for the employees here.

On Friday I was informed that I can no longer do this. I am now required to work from 8 AM to 5 PM with an hour long lunch break from Noon to 1 PM.

I have no need for an hour long lunch break. After years of being given only 30 minutes for lunch in the public school systems, 15 minutes of which is spent waiting in line to get said food and another 5 minutes needed to get to class, I can finish an entire meal in under 10 minutes. Most days I just bring in a sandwich from home; it takes about 5 minutes to eat it. That leaves me with 55 minutes of "lunch" left.

Initially I figured I'd just bring in a book and read during my requisite lunch. I've been meaning to do more reading -- last week I purchased This Is Your Brain On Music and have been enjoying it immensely. And for Christmas I received a copy of Snoop, so that's on the list of books to read, too. I also considered bringing in my guitar and practicing for an hour a day. Or going to a gym -- but my gym is about 30 minutes away so by the time I got there I'd have to turn around and go back to work.

Today I managed to forget my books.

I concur

And I didn't bring in my guitar -- I'm still thinking that might be a bit too much, I haven't decided yet. So today I've decided that at noon I'm just going to close my office door, turn off the lights, and take a nap. If my company is going to force me to not work for an hour I'm going to make the most of it: I'm going to sleep.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The business of misery

She's a redheaded punk rocker ♥

Hayley Williams, the lead singer of the band Paramore, is exactly 4 years younger than me. She was born on December 27th, 1988.

I only mention this because Paramore has a song entitled "Misery Business." The song itself is about losing a guy to another girl then getting him back. It does not relate to my life in any way.

I just like the song.

Friday, January 23, 2009

My kind of night out

Me in 40 years

I've spent a lot of time by myself recently. Mostly because I just want to be alone. I haven't had a desire to be around people. I haven't really had a desire to be in groups of people or around anyone at all. I just want to do my own thing and be left alone to do it.

Being alone feels good. I've been enjoying it quite a lot this week. I think I'm slowly becoming a hermit. And I'm oddly ok with that.

For most people, when they say they need a night out they mean going to a bar, going dancing, going out with friends -- something generally associated with "night out." I guess I'm different. Tonight I just want to go Barnes & Noble or Borders, order something from the cafe, find a book, and just sit there and read. And so that's what I'm going to do and you can't stop me.

I've also realized that I currently have little interest in dating. I don't mean I've given up, but rather that I'm content right now and I don't want to muck it up by making it unnecessarily complicated.

I also think I begin too many sentences with "I." I don't know how to change that.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Nominations

Our championship event

My family is different from many. Whereas in most households, the men get excited about the Rose Bowl or the Super Bowl, in my family, the Academy Awards are the time of anticipation.

Since he first saw Pulp Fiction on television, my brother has been interested in film. Maybe it happened before that, too, but I don't really know. He'll probably leave a comment to clarify. And since my brother has been into film, my Dad has been into it, too. Again, maybe he was into film before my brother; I'm sketchy on the exact details and this is just how I remember them happening. When my brother and father would sit around and discuss movies, I'd usually keep an ear open since I found it entertaining. I can't name the Academy Award winners for the past 70 years like they can, but I try to pat attention all the same. I do enjoy quality cinema in my own right, even if I don't go slack-jawed over the Criterion Collection. Around that same time, '97-'98 if I recall, AFI released their "Top 100 Films" list. This raised the level of excitement even more since now my father and brother had a list of movies to look through and discuss that were supposed to be the "best."

I didn't pay much attention until a few years later when Gladiator won "Best Picture" because I thought it was wonderful. I think I was the only person in my family rooting for it since at the time I was the only one who had seen it -- my family doesn't watch rated 'R' films. Prior to censoring software and editing versions of films it was quite difficult for my brother to watch many of the Academy Award nominations.

The Oscar nominations for the 2008 films came out today. Topping the list for most nominations is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button with 13 nominations. I'm quite happy about that since I loved the film and thought it was very well done; my brother I'm sure will have a different opinion since he wasn't as fond of it. The Dark Knight got 7 nominations, one for Heath Ledger which I don't think surprised anyone. I don't think there's any question that Wall-E will win "Best Animated Picture," though I have no doubt my brother is saddened it didn't get nominated for "Best Picture."

The awards are presented on February, 22nd. As I said, this is our Super Bowl.

Attending to the details

A few weeks ago I wrote about The Birth Order Book and how I was thinking about picking it up. Shortly after that post I found a copy on Amazon used for $0.01 so I ordered it. It arrived yesterday.

Opening the package I notice that the cover isn't nearly as flashy as the one at Barnes & Noble was. The title is the same, so is the author; that's good. It's ok, I thought, I don't really care what the cover of the book looks like. (It was a lie; I actually do care in a very superficial sort of way.) It has a very distinct late-70's/early-80's design and color scheme. It's faded and yellowed. It smells like a grandpa.

I check my e-mail confirming the purchase and follow the link -- the book pictured is in fact the book I had read at B&N and not the book in my hand. Then I notice the used price is now $4.38, not the $0.01 I had paid. Looking around I found the hardcover editions listed for only $0.01. I also noticed that said hardcovers -- the version I held in my hand -- was only available in first edition.

Curious as to what the difference was, I begin comparing the two. The copyright said it was published in 1984, 20 years before the 2nd edition. It's also 180 pages less. After 10 minutes of reading I also notice that it lacks much of the humor and accuracy that the 2nd edition has. This may be because it was written for a generation before me and frankly things have changed a bit since then. How accurate can a book describe me socially and psychologically when it's talking about up-and-coming new fields that work with "computers"?

While I'm not exactly happy with the book I received I'm not upset, either. I only paid $4 for it and that $4 went to a used bookstore in Atlanta, GA.

I love used book stores

I support used book stores; I don't mind giving them $4, even if it's for a book I don't really want. I'll just donate it and put in another order, this time for a used 2nd edition. It'll probably cost me $8, but even with that I'm paying less that I would buying it new from B&N. I'm still counting this as a win.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Proposing to a girl

It happened on Monday

I left something out of my last post. When I went shopping at the mall I also stopped at the food court for some Chinese food -- normally I don't like the fast-food American Chinese food, but a friend of mine ordered Chinese earlier in the day and after talking to her I was craving egg rolls. While I was eating my egg roll a pretty girl interrupted me, "Would you propose to me? Over there, by that group of people?" she said, gesturing to the crowded part of the food court next to the McDonald's.

I knew that Utah, particularly Provo, has a reputation for girls wanting to get married but this seemed rather forward. One thing my experience here has taught me is that if the girls do want to get married -- and I'm not convinced they do -- they're not aggressive and definitely not that forward. But I had heard stories and so this was not completely unheard of. I was caught off guard and didn't really know what to say; I think I'm attractive in my own right but not to the point where random cute girls ask me to marry them in the middle of a food court.

My next thought was that she had an ex sitting in the group and wanted to make him jealous. This I was actually ok with. I'm kind of malicious apparently.

I think she sensed my confusion since after about 15 seconds she followed it up with, "It's for a scavenger hunt. We need a video of someone being proposed to."

Looking over her shoulder I noticed a group of five people standing at a distance stifling laughter. This made more sense and fit more into the Utah mold of random behavior than sudden engagements. "Pity," I thought, "she's cute."

"I even have a ring...?" she shyly said, offering what I presume was a small, cubic zirconia ring. I could see she was apparently embarrassed to ask this, though she was hiding it quite well, and I knew I should say something before she left.

"Ok, I can do that. Just over there?" I said.

"Yep. I'll get one of my friends to watch your stuff if you'd like." She was quite spot on with this since at that exact moment I was trying to figure out what to do with my newly purchased sweater vest and socks.

Walking over the desired position in the food court I asked her if there was anything specific she wanted me to say or do.

"We just need you down on one knee offering me the ring. If you want to do anything more you can."

I didn't spend 8 years of my life in theatre to just get down on one knee, even if it wasn't real. I made up a little speech about meeting her for the first time and getting to know her, told her that I knew in my heart I love her and that I want to spend my life with her. I got down on one knee and offered her the ring.

She took the ring, smiled and giggled a little.

I stood up, hugged her like I assume people do when they get engaged, her friends clapped and cheered, she said thank you and I went back to my table to finish dinner. I didn't even learn her name.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What is something worth?

Of course I toyed with the idea of writing about the historical moment of today with Obama officially becoming president, but I assume everyone would be writing about that or covering it, so instead I decided to write about something trivial and meaningless: my shopping exploits yesterday.

Value, cost, price

The value and therefore cost of something cannot be measured accurately in a set monetary amount. There is always more -- or less -- to an objects worth. Be it a blanket I've had since childhood that's kept me warm, only selling for perhaps a few dollars at a store yet worth a small fortune to me personally or a leather jacket that I wouldn't pay 10% of the retail price for, the price of something does not decide it's value.

As with most posts on this blog, this seems rather obvious. We all know of sentimental value, the feelings we attach to something, or simply our personal preference for a color or pattern making us pay more for something purely because we like it. These add value to things. Contrariwise, if we don't like something we will remove value from it. This is why we're able to get good deals on things -- they become burdensome and we simply want them out of our lives, often resulting in us giving or throwing them away, despite the value they may still have. The same principle applies to retail stores with clearance items and relationships with hippies.

Angel: note the shirt

This brings me back to the leather jacket. I went shopping yesterday for a few things -- some v-neck white t-shirts and some socks and shirts to match my brown shoes. (Historically I have always worn black shoes and thus everything I have in terms of socks matches them; I'm branching out with brown.) Wandering into Express they had the now-standard "70% off select items" sale going on. While this is a very nice sale as I wouldn't pay $88 for a pair of jeans there -- their value is just not that much to me -- I would pay $26.40 for them. Jeans were not on sale. What was on sale were things from Winter and Christmas, things like sweaters, button-up shirts, and jackets. I was quite happy to be a "small" at this point since the "medium" and "large" racks were quite barren; the "small" was overflowing with goodies. There were several shirts, sweaters and sweater vests down I found that I liked for ~$20, down from ~$60, and three jackets: a short, black, wool jacket for $46, a long, black, wool overcoat for $90, and a brown leather jacket for $60 marked down from $400.

The two wool jackets were quite to my liking and had I recently been paid I would have struggled to not purchase them immediately. The only thing holding me back was that I am currently overrun with jackets.

Kerouac: not me

I have no less than five coats at the moment, perhaps more that I have forgotten about, and all are black, save one. Buying yet another black coat is simply not logical. The brown leather jacket is another story: on paper it is a remarkably good deal and it would also match my shoes and belt very nicely. The style I did not agree with: it had too many pockets and was too Jack Kerouac. I am not a professional writer nor am I on the road. While the retail value of the coat was quite good it was just not worth it to me.

Thus is my story regarding the value of something versus it's retail price. Riveting, I know.

Proud to be American today

As I write this I have the presidential inauguration streaming in a browser. The band is playing what can only be described as the most generic presidential music ever written. It honestly sounds like the soundtrack to a black-and-white era cartoon with Teddy Roosevelt walking down the street and meeting a steel worker. It's so remarkably presidential.

All I will say in regards to today's historical events: I have a smile on my face and I'm proud to be an American today.

Monday, January 19, 2009

About the number 200

200 (two hundred) is the natural number following 199 and preceding 201. Roman numerals: CC

The number appears in the Padovan sequence, preceded by 86, 114, 151 (it is the sum of the first two of these).

The sum of Euler's totient function φ(x) over the first twenty-five integers is 200.

200 is the smallest base 10 unprimeable number - it can not be turned into a prime number by changing just one of its digits to any other digit. It is also a Harshad number.

Two hundred is also:

  • A common ISO-standard film speed for photographic films. However, 200 speed film is being phased out in consumer films in favor of faster films.
  • A denomination of the euro note. The 200 euro note was designed by Robert Kalina.
  • The size of one side of the main square in Kraków, Poland (200 m×200 m)
  • 200 MeV is the temperature of quark-gluon plasma phase transition.
  • The name of a car made by the Rover Group — the Rover 200.
  • An HTTP status code indicating a successful connection.
  • The sum of dollars given in the classical Monopoly game to a player passing Go.
  • A cholesterol level of 200 and below is considered "Desirable level corresponding to lower risk for heart disease"
  • "200" is the title of an episode of the television show Stargate SG-1.
  • The number of NASCAR races won by Richard Petty.
  • A Year.
  • The number of posts on the blog in search of a muse
That is all.

Friday, January 16, 2009

There is no word

Summer Glau

I am of the opinion there is no word in the English language to describe how Summer Glau looks. Pretty, cute, beautiful, sexy, enchanting, captivating, foxy, comely, divine, delicate, angelic, prepossessing: none of these accurately portray her features or the allure she radiates. I don't mean to say that no one else is as attractive or that she is the pinnacle of femininity -- while I do find her extremely attractive I don't think she's Aphrodite in human form. Instead I simply mean that she's attractive in perhaps the most unique way I've ever seen. She's beautiful, but that brings up images of princesses and Miss America contestants, and she doesn't fit into that mold. She's cute, but that brings up images of youthful attractiveness and Sarah Michelle Gellar.

There is no word to describe her appeal. She's the only person who has ever left me speechless as to how to exactly describe her.

River Tam, Firefly

In Firefly she's very disoriented or disconnected most of the time so you rarely get to see her smile or enjoying herself. One of the few times you do is one of my favorite scenes -- River (Glau) wanders into a group dance and after the watching the dance for merely seconds begins dancing along without missing a step, all the while a joyful smile on her face. Again, words cannot describe her -- "joyful smile" doesn't properly explain the look on her face. It makes me feel good when I see that scene and her character having fun.

I know it's only a tv show and it's absurd that I am so attached to something fictional, but I am. Seeing River happy is such a wonderful sight.

Why I bought the DVD

Just yesterday I received my copy of season one of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles on DVD. I look forward to watching it; I've heard amazin reviews of it and I am eager to see Summer Glau in another performance. Some day I hope to find a word to describe her. Despite my knowledge of English and 23 years of speaking it I am at a loss.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

On Silence and Writing

Calvin understands

I've said before that I like writing. It's something fun that allows me to explain my thoughts. If I make a mistake I can correct it; if I don't like how it comes across I can rewrite it.

I'm not good at communicating with people in person. A friend hypothesized that this is because my mind moves too fast for my mouth to keep up, which if you've ever heard me talk is not something to scoff at. Because my mind is always doing something -- always calculating, analyzing, planning -- that I don't know what to do when there's a lull in a conversation. I'm not used to quiet moments of nothing going on. The proposition definitely has merit; I do just fine in conversations as long as there's something to talk about, it's when that goes away that I get uncomfortable.

So, I write.

For much of my life I've been more comfortable communicating via writing, be it in the form of instant messenger programs, e-mails, or text messages. Silence, while something I greatly enjoy myself, is not something I'm particularly good at with others. I am trying, though.

Elzéard Bouffier

The other night during our weekly movie night brother showed a film called The Man Who Planted Trees. It's a short film, only 30 minutes long, that chronicles a man who lives alone and plants trees. It's told by a narrator who meets the man, Elzéard Bouffier, while hiking in the mountains in the year 1910. Each day the man, who lives alone in a small stone house, goes out with a flock of sheep and while they're grazing he plants trees. Carefully he plants them one at a time giving each the highest possible chance of success.

While my brother enjoyed commenting about how inspiring the film is in that it shows how one man can make a difference -- by the end of the film it's implied the man had planted over a million trees, in which about 100,000 actually grew to adulthood -- I am not overly inspired. I do not see it as metaphysical or religious allegory. This may be because, despite it's inspirational nature and the biographical tone, the story is not true. The author, Jean Giono, has stated, "Sorry to disappoint you, but Elzéard Bouffier is a fictional person. The goal was to make trees likeable, or more specifically, make planting trees likeable." I think Giono succeeded; after watching the film I do have a compelling desire to live by myself and plant trees.

I do not mean to say I dislike the film. Quite the opposite, I greatly enjoy it. What I am getting at is that I do not enjoy it on the same level or in the same sense that my brother and those we watched it with do. Rather what I'm fascinated by is how the story is short --

Silent with his trees

the actual written story consists of less than 4,000 words -- and the man, Elzéard Bouffier, speaks so little. It is stated specifically that there is only one time in which they directly speak; everything else is communicated non-verbally and silently. The comfortability of the man, the way he meets and invites the man to stay with him, offers him food and lodging for the night, all without speaking is what I find fascinating. I struggle with silence in conversations yet in the story the narrator and the man speak very little. During the story the narrator speaks of walking through a forest of trees twice as tall as him, all planted by Elzéard, and how they walked in silence. I wish I could do that.

Also a Depeche Mode song

I wish I was comfortable enough around people to enjoy silence. As it stands now if I'm quiet around people it's usually because something is bothering me; I may be uncomfortable or I may be irritated with someone. The common saying of "If you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all" is one I often live by and causes me to be very silent around certain people. Problematically, my behavior for when I'm upset is the same as when I'm uncomfortable so people often confuse the two. Thus people often confuse my uncomfortability during silences with me being mad at them. When people think you're mad at them they tend to treat you differently or even become defensive and/or aggressive, thus making me more uncomfortable and or confused.

In short, personal interactions are something I struggle with; so I write.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Stealth dating

Boys (and men) are deceptive.

I'm going to take this time and detail how we are deceptive. This may ostracize me from men everywhere but I feel it's important.

If you've seen the film When Harry Met Sally, you may remember this scene:



It's true. Men and women cannot be good friends*. Acquaintances who hang out occasionally, perhaps, or people who hang out in groups, yes. Good friends who just hang out together? No.

I have been, in the past, the nice guy whom girls have gone to when they're feeling down. The close guy friend who would comfort them, let them cry on my shoulder, remind them that not all guys are pigs and make them smile again. Then when they felt better and regained maybe a little faith in men, they'd go out and find another guy to date and I'd be left hugging my pillow on my bed watching The Princess Bride by myself. Why did I do this? Because I hoped -- I truly believed -- that one day when the girl was feeling down because another guy had cheated on her or dumped her or whatever, she would look at me and her mind would think "wow, he's the guy I've been looking for all along..." and fall in love with me then and there. It never happened. I was not comforting her out of a purely platonic respect and appreciation of her as a human being; I was doing it because I wanted her to see that I was the caring, funny, nice guy she keeps saying she wants. But when it came to dating, I was always told -- and I can quote this -- "You're such a good friend, I don't want to risk losing that. Why can't I find another guy like you?"

It sucked. It hurt. It may sound selfish, but I didn't particularly like it.

I have no problems comforting girls or making them feel better, but I get really sick of doing it when all they're going to do is go running to another guy who's going to do that to them. I would be there for them hoping that through the running mascara they'd look at me and realize that I'm the guy they've been searching for.

It's a stealth tactic. It's infiltrating the enemy's defenses secretly to try and gain valuable information which can later be exploited to achieve my own goals. It's intelligence recon. I'm no different than the guy who lies to the girl to her face telling her he's never going to hurt her -- I'm lying to her telling her I just want a friendship when in reality I want something more.

In the event a guy ever claims he wants nothing more -- or honestly believes it -- it's because he has officially given up that he'll ever get anything more. It's not that he doesn't want it, it's that he's resigned any chance of ever getting it and is taking the friendship consolation prize.

I've seen it happen to girls I've been with. There have been girls whom I've dated who have had good guy friends who assured the girl that they just want to be friends, and then weeks, even days, after we break up the guy is hitting on her. He didn't want just friends; he accepted just friends because she was taken, but it wasn't what he wanted.

I say this because there are girls I know I've done this to. There are girls I have, recently in fact, tried to do this to. And I don't want to. I don't want to be the guy who comforts the girl and makes her feel non-threatened because I'm really good at making it appear that I don't want her to be mine. I don't want to be the guy who leans in for the kiss while she's wiping away tears because her current boyfriend is such a jerk. I want to be honest with her from the start and for her to know how I feel; I want to be the guy she's with when she's happy and the guy who comforts her when she's sad. I don't want to lie that I just want a friendship. I don't want to deceive.

Men and women cannot be good friends. One person, the man or the woman, will always want more, even if only partially.

* = the addendum to this is that if one of the parties, the man or the woman, is gay. Gay friends are fantastic. They're a person of the opposite sex with which there are no chances of sexual interaction and as such all relationships with the opposite sex are platonic. I think every girl needs a gay friend and every guy needs a lesbian friend; they provide another genders views on things, another opinion, and there's no chance of anything happening. They're wonderful.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I send this smile over to you

The water of emotion

A good friend of mine once stated that music is to emotions what water is to boats: a perfect medium through which it can pass.

I've been thinking about that a lot recently. I don't disagree with it; I think it'd be hard to find anyone who would. Rather it's made me think about my music preferences and what they say about my disposition.

When I listed my top 5 albums of all time, I listed Pink Floyd, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, Incubus, and Lostprophets. There are easily a dozen more albums I could put on that list that would be worthy in my mind. The list was hard to keep down to five.

The top three albums all hold a pretty consistent tone. A similar emotional feel. They're all melancholy and/or angry. Sure, there are some high points and some more positive songs, but there's a pervasive sense of being lost.
Incubus has a bit more of a positive outlook -- more "I'm sick of feeling like this and I'm gonna be happy now" approach. Lostprophets are more the angry-punk rock side of things, more adrenaline than heroin.

On the one hand I can see how this could effect me. Listening to the entire Smashing Pumpkins discography over three days will probably effect how you see things. But there are so many things that go into our emotions and dispositions -- how much sleep we're getting, exercise, diet, friends, relationships, chemicals and neural reactions in the brain -- it's impossible to say how much of an effect any one thing will have.

Oliver Sacks wrote a book called Musicophilia that I've been meaning to read. It details the brains reactions to music. It might be applicable to me although it's hard to tell exactly; Sacks seems to explore more of the medicinal and recovery benefits of music, such as recovering from a stroke. I'll browse around and if I can find it for a good deal I'll pick it up.

EDIT: Browsing Amazon I found another book I remember wanting to get while I worked at Barnes & Noble called This Is Your Brain On Music that details much more it's psychological and physiological effects on the mind. I think I'll look into that one instead.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bacon Salt tested: I approve

It's like this, without the bacon

I apologize that this is not a longer and more detailed -- perhaps more thought-provoking or mentally stimulating -- update. All weekend long I had ideas I wished to write and things to discuss. This morning my mind has drawn a blank. Everything either seems too melodramatic to write or too trivial. So instead I have decided to update you on my first experience with Bacon Salt.

Right now I'm inclined to say that Bacon Salt is awesome. There is, however, something odd about it. It tastes like bacon -- that is true -- but it doesn't feel like bacon. It's bacon without the texture. Culinarily speaking, the texture of food is important. Getting the flavor of something without the texture is hard for me to handle. Making eggs with it tastes wonderfully; it truly does taste like bacon and eggs, but there's no bacon. Again, it's odd.

I imagine in time I'll grow used to it. For lunch today I've made a chicken and pepperjack sandwich with Bacon Salt. I'm very eager to eat it.

Once a year my company has sexual harassment training and provides health screenings for our insurance policies. Once a year these things occur; that's it. One day, maybe for an hour. And my office managed to schedule them both for the same day and the same time. That's three-hundred and sixty-five days a year, eight hours in a work day: one of these events takes and hour the other about 15 minutes. They managed to hit the exact same time and date for both. That's some impressive scheduling.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Adventures in Gun Shopping

NRA4EVR

I have never been a gun nut. I enjoy shooting -- I think it's a fun passtime -- but that's about it. I don't hunt. I think owning a gun for home-defense is ludicrous. However, there are strong statistics that show that firearms actually create a safer community. The problem is research on this topic is nigh-impossible to find from impartial sources since the only people doing statistical research on this topic are either the 18th century-style militia-supporting NRA leaders who carry a .45 on their belt, a .380 on their ankle, two shotguns in the cab of their truck and an AR-45 in their homes, OR the tree-hugging pot-smoking hippy who thinks we should all just love each other and that guns are nothing more than means of destruction and hate and that we should solve all our problems by having sex with each other.

In short, impartiality is impossible to find in this debate. So is non-biased information
-- every statistic can be twisted and every methodology flawed by one side or the other.

But that's not what I'm going to write about. I've searched for as many straightforward facts as I could find and both sides of the gun control debate have their pros and cons; the side you choose is very much personal preference. Claiming otherwise is little more than self-delusion or righteousness.

What I am going to write about is the time I spent yesterday looking at guns with my brother and our friend Mark yesterday.

Several months ago I went shooting with Mark and had a lot of fun. At the time I had a good amount of money saved up and thought I might as well look into picking up a handgun for fun -- something to go sport shooting with. Again, I'm not a hunter and my feelings about using one for home safety is that it's laughable. But when it comes to shooting for fun, yeah, I like them. At the time I was looking at picking up a High Standard 1911 .45 which was recommended to me by some friends who are more knowledgeable about firearms than I am as a good quality, well priced handgun. I looked it up and I liked it.

It is a pretty gun

I went to Cabela's to just see what they had in stock (Mark informed me not to buy there since they overcharge, but they have a good selection so I should go look around). I looked around, found one I liked -- not a 1911 but a Cougar. The salesman was helpful and friendly and I thought "I'll get it, sure" and went to purchase it. I found out you need to be a Utah resident to buy a handgun here and I wasn't at the time, but I needed to get my residency changed and my car registered, so I did that the next day. I never did go back to buy the gun. This was back in August.

Two days ago I went back to Cabela's with Mark and Jeff. This time the place was a lot busier than the first time -- when I walked in there were about a dozen men, all looked to be between the ages of 35 and 45 and all wearing hunting jackets and/or something that looked like it belonged in a Little House on the Prairie episode. I was in a black polo shirt and khakis, coming off of work.

Words cannot express...

Needless to say, I was out of place. Coincidentally, while thinking to myself "wow, they're busy today" I heard a salesman tell a customer "yeah, this is the quietest it's been since the election." I promptly facepalmed. I don't think anyone noticed. I texted my brother that I felt like I was at the RNC, he responded "you're at a gun store in Utah; it's pretty much the same thing only without any moderates." I laughed because he was probably right.

When Mark and Jeff showed up we started looking around. The first thing Jeff noticed was something I somehow missed completely: a stockless short barrel shotgun. This is not a hunting shotgun nor a military shotgun. This was designed for one purpose and one purpose shall it be used for -- zombie defense. It was perfect.

Eat lead, Einstein

Lightweight, short barrel for maneuverability, comfortable grip... while holding it I was secretly hoping for zombies to bust through the front door. At $480 the price tag was surprisingly reasonable, too. We opted not to purchase it because at the moment we both have things we should be putting money towards -- me a credit card bill and him a new TV -- but I'm still fighting stopping there on the way home from work to buy it.

The next thing we found was a Bersa Thunder 380 pistol, which looked exactly like James Bond's Walther PPK only cost about 1/2 as much. When it comes to the guns I'm seriously considering getting, this one is a strong contender. It looked great (silver and black) and priced at only $280. I'm a huge James Bond fan so that was really the strongest pull for me, but in a more logical sense, it was just cool.

Mark and Jeff were looking at other guns with a grizzled, bearded, old man helping them behind the counter. As they talked with him it became obvious he knew his trade, which was reassuring. When Jeff asked about the stopping power of a 9mm vs. a larger caliber another clerk came over to join in the conversation and share his story about getting shot by his ex-wife with a 9mm. Twice. The bearded guy helping us responded with basically "yeah, I got shot by my friend in the back with one and it bounced off."

For clarification, that's two guys who work in a gun store who have both been shot, one multiple times. I hate to be a quick judge, but that seems to be a strike against the "guns make you safer" theory.

During the conversation Mark was having with the clerks I was getting more and more perplexed that people who have previously been shot, one maliciously, were still hardcore gun fans and still believed they make their lives safer, but hey, it's their life. Jeff and I also discussed getting the zombie shotgun further, since we both desperately wanted it. Not for defense or hunting, but for the sheer fun factor. I recently posted on blowing away zombies online in Left 4 Dead so the appeal was that much stronger for me. I'm still thinking about it.

So bloody awesome

Shopping around online I'm finding that $480 for such a shotgun is actually a reasonable price and cheaper than what many sites I found listed. It should be noted that it's illegal to sell guns over the internet directly so it's hard to find pricing outside of online classifieds -- prices vary a lot from place to place and seller to seller.

Even now I'm thinking I might buy the James Bond gun. The company seems decent and the look was just beautiful. It'd even match my new suit.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I don't feel bad for laughing at this

From www.failblog.org:

Finding Nobody

Pixar's best film

I greatly enjoy the films Pixar creates. From Toy Story through Wall-E they have not done a bad film. They've made films I'm not overly fond of -- Monsters, Inc. I think was a little weak compared to their other works -- but it is still leaps and bounds ahead of most films. My favorite of these films is Finding Nemo.

Everything about the film, from the level of detail in the fish and how they move to the expressions on their faces to the particles and light effects in the water; the film is almost perfect. I've seen is numerous times -- more than any other Pixar film and most films period -- and I am consistently amazed by it. I've never grown tired of it or thought "eh, I'm bored" while watching it. I mean, how can you not get a giddy smile on your face when you hear the line "I shall call him Squishy, and he shall be mine, and he shall be my Squishy"? See? Just thinking about it put a little smile on your face.

All humor and artistic qualities aside, Finding Nemo still has the great story and moral behind it -- you can't live your life in fear. You've got to get out and do things yourself. You've got experience life in order to live it. Like Dory says, "Well you can't never let anything anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo." While we have a natural tendency to protect those we love (and ourselves), we have to be willing to take chances, to experience things that may be dangerous or hurt us, because those same things can also give us great joy. Be it physical, mental, or emotional, we need to push ourselves and take risks. We need to make ourselves vulnerable. Only then can do we live.

Finding Nobody?

There's one other aspect of Finding Nemo that wasn't brought to my attention until a year ago. The film's title, Finding Nemo. A friend of mine when I worked at Barnes & Noble pointed out that it's a funny title because Nemo translates into "no name" or "nobody." The film's title is literally Finding Nobody. Marlin finds Nemo physically, yes, but he finds himself mentally and emotionally. He pushes himself and learns about life. For probably the first time since his wife (do fish get married in Pixar films?) died, he really lives. He's not finding anyone at all; he's finding himself. His son is just the catalyst that pushes him to do that.

I don't know if Pixar planned that or they just liked the name Nemo, but the double name and how it fits into the story just makes me more impressed by them.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Bacon

Turkey bacon? Bacon turkey!

Anyone who knows me knows of my love for bacon. It should be obvious really, since everyone loves bacon.

A friend of mine, Eric, has been telling about a product he's found that he venerates: Bacon Salt. It's bacon seasoning, essentially. The website, www.baconsalt.com, touts the slogan, "Everything should taste like bacon." I do not disagree.

Of course, I was apprehensive at first. Would this be simply like garlic powder, little more than a failed attempt to placate the feelings mustered up when one doesn't get their fix of garlic? Or would this be more akin to Lawry's Seasoning Salt, a unique and useful flavoring but unlike anything natural? According to the website it's both vegetarian and kosher -- can something truly hold the power and delectable flavor of bacon while falling under two categories that vilify it?

Can the rumors be true?

Eric claims this is legit. My friend Mark does, too. Two first-hand reports say that this actually makes things taste like bacon. And more than that, it goes on everything, oatmeal not excluded. Intrigued and curious, today, I put in an order for the variety four-pack of Bacon Salt, including original, natural, hickory, and peppered Bacon Salt flavors. I even found a coupon online to get it half-off (coupon code: operationbaconsalt).

In a week, I should have Bacon Salt and first-hand experience. At that time I'll report with a full analysis of Bacon Salt and my culinary opinion thereof. I do not expect to be disappointed.

[I apologize for the lack of images in this post but Blogger's image uploading program is not working properly. Images will be added when Blogger decides to behave.]

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Zombie Therapy

Zombie movie, meet zombie game

After this weekend I made my shrink earn his paycheck. I also found out that slaughtering zombies for three hours with friends does wonders for your mood.

Over Christmas I was able to save some money. When I was back home I didn't have to buy groceries, pay for gas, or pay for things like bowling and movies because it was also my birthday. I was also on paid time-off. This meant I got to sit around and do jack squat for two weeks, not having to spend a cent and getting paid for it the whole time. I'm actually using a large chunk of what I "earned" over the break to pay credit card bills and rent and be a responsible human being. I'm using a large chunk of what's left after paying bills to buy video games and other frivolous things. I figure the economy needs my help.

A few months back I realized that I can now afford to buy video games. During college I was usually working just enough to pay rent and often living off credit cards so buying things like games was something I avoided. (Ironically I was also supposed to be reviewing them for a website during that same time; not being able to afford the games makes them very hard to review.) I've started buying games again -- not any and all games, but games that I legitimately want and would enjoy. Bioshock, Spore, and Fallout 3 have been among my recent purchases. Last week I bought Left 4 Dead. I don't regret it one bit.

Teamwork is necessary to survive

Valve -- the company behind the now iconic Half-Life, Counter-Strike, and Team Fortress series' -- made Left 4 Dead to be a zombie apocalypse movie. And it really is. It's a four-player game where each person plays a survivor fighting off hordes and hordes of zombies. You have to stick together to stay alive because on your own you can't fight off everything, you can't free yourself when you get trapped, and there's no way you could have enough ammo to last through the campaigns. The game even has AI "directors" that control enemy placement and movement so that no play through is the same as another -- enemies will be in different places based on how you're playing and the stats of each character (health, ammo, etc). Music is also controlled by an

Everyone loves B zombie films

AI system so that each person's music is unique to their experience -- lots of health and ammunition with a zombie horde coming at you? You'll probably have some powerful music playing. Almost dead with a hunter stalking you? The music will be tense and fast paced. It's quite brilliant. They even have grain effects to give it a more authentic B-movie feel.

You can also have other human players -- people not in your party -- play as the zombies. This makes it rather interesting.

Playing with friends -- having a mic and headset so you can actually talk to each other, plan tactics, ask for help -- is more fun than I had ever guessed. You really learn to work together. As a friend put it, "This is basically the perfect game for us: lots and lots of zombies to kill and all you have to do is help each other survive." It's everything we've loved in movies like Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead and all those other movies that have the words "of the Dead" in them -- kill zombies and stay alive.

Zombies? Bring 'em on

No "kill 50 hunters" type missions. No "find the secret map to the treasure of Juan Valdez." Just zombies. And all you need to do is stay alive long enough to get out of there.

I plan on playing it with friends as often as I can.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Not Today

It hasn't been a good weekend -- being ill on top of other things (my twitter has been keeping that status updated) -- so I'm just going to post this news article I found. It's the best news I've read in a long time and something that actually gives me hope:
From CNN.com

Love's first blush fading? Lost that loving feeling? Love is not all around?

Sick of cliches?

Take heart, scientists have discovered that people can have a love that lasts a lifetime.

Using brain scans, researchers at Stony Brook University in New York have discovered a small number of couples respond with as much passion after 20 years together as most people only do during the early throes of romance, Britain's Sunday Times newspaper reported.

The researchers scanned the brains of couples together for 20 years and compared them with results from new lovers, the Sunday Times said.

About 10 percent of the mature couples had the same chemical reactions when shown photographs of their loved ones as those just starting out.

Previous research has suggested that the first stages of romantic love fade within 15 months and after 10 years it has gone completely, the newspaper said.

"The findings go against the traditional view of romance -- that it drops off sharply in the first decade -- but we are sure it's real," said Arthur Aron, a psychologist at Stony Brook, told the Sunday Times.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Deal shopping

I'm an educated shopper

In my family, if you're going to shop, you do so carefully. My family is not one for impulse shopping. Not for most things. From a young age my parents taught us (my siblings and me) to shop around for things before buying -- know what you're getting and know that you're getting it at the best price. I've employed this several times in my life. Recently I bought a guitar, but I read reviews, shopped around for prices, and found one with good reviews for what came out to be a reasonable price. Just last week I bought a new mobile phone after browsing and searching for over 9 months; I'm very happy with my selection and I got it for $100 less than the retail price. I bought a black suit I've been eyeing for almost a year for over $260 less than it the retail price due to getting it on sale. My parents taught me to shop. It may sound overtly capitalistic or materialistic that I point that out, but I think it's a good quality to have.

I don't always do what my parents taught me. Today I was a Best Buy and found a game I've wanted to get for a few months -- it wasn't on sale, but the price wasn't unreasonable so I bought it. I also checked for the Sarah Connor Chronicles Season 1 DVD: $28 and sold out. Later that evening I was at Barnes & Noble and they had a DVD I wanted to get (the NIN: Beside You In Time blu-ray) for $25. Well, it's not a bad deal, but I figured I'd wait. When I got home I checked on Amazon.com and found said DVD for $18, as well as the game I just purchased (and opened) for $37 from the manufacturer and the television series for $13 still. So, I made the purchase since the two DVDs totaled $31 which allowed for free shipping and handling; I saved about $15 on the tv series, but lost about $13 on the game. I'm still considering it a win.

I think it's possible to apply this same capitalistic methodology to finding a girlfriend/wife, but I feel that may be too simplistic. Unlike mate-hunting, a mobile phone cannot decide it doesn't want you to buy it. Hunting for the exact model of product you want does not entail factoring in what the phone wants or whether or not the phone wants you to own it. So far, my inherited skills of shopping have not transferred over into dating.

It kind of scared me

While at Barnes & Noble today I found a book called The Birth Order Book by Kevin Leman which outlined my personality traits, strengths, and faults to a disturbingly high degree of accuracy. I grabbed the book from the shelf, found the chapter labeled "Last Born" in the table of contents and turned to it. The opening line said "I'm willing to bet that if you're the last born you grabbed this book, skipped the first 8 chapters and turned straight to this one." Eep. From there it detailed how the last born is often somewhat manipulative, can go from being extremely charming and persuasive (they often make the best salesman) to very rebellious and temperamental later. They (we) are often very driven to make an impact in the world and stand out -- be it through positive or negative means. We are very persuasive and often succeed, not because we truly want to, but to "show" others what we can do. I browsed through the "First Born" and "Middle Child" chapters, as well as those on "First Son" and "First Daughter" (being my brother and sister, respectfully). Those were also quite accurate down to the perfectionist being the middle child (my sister was valedictorian in high school and after college got into the three best PA schools in the country) and the first born seeking leadership roles (my brother loves teaching and he wants to be a film director and/or director of photography). I'm tempted to actually purchase it.

Used, of course, from Amazon.com for about a quarter of what Barnes & Noble wanted.

[I've just learned you need to type the date as 2009 instead of 09 in blogger's scheduled post option in order to get it to post; that was the reason for yesterday's lack of a post -- blogger didn't post as scheduled due to a semantics issue.]

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Beginning 2009: I lied

In my last post I said that regular updates will begin today. The idea was that I had about a week and a half worth of posts written up and that they'd post automatically, and during that time I'd write joyfully sardonic posts regarding my happenings and humorous aphorisms that came from my holiday break. Probably do a New Years post with resolutions and something like a 2008 "year in review" or something. Hopefully it'd be entertaining to read.

It didn't happen.

I'm not gonna lie: I've spent most of this break playing old NES games, receiving gifts in a very Hanukkah-esque fashion (Amazon didn't get my presents here on the 24th like they guaranteed -- they arrived the 29th through 31st), and going through boxes of my old stuff (I found my beard trimmer and my old blankie!).

So far this break I've "accomplished" the following:
  • Passed Crystalis on the NES
  • Guided my brother through The Legend of Zelda's second quest on the NES
  • Read Neil Gaiman's Coraline (fantastic; the movie should be wonderful and I'm now giddy for it)
  • Not made anyone cry that I know of (for my family this is actually an accomplishment over the holidays; things get tense when we're together for extended periods)
  • Had dinner with two girls I had crushes on in high school (not at the same time; that probably wouldn't have gone over well)
  • Finally bought a pair of brown shoes and a brown belt after saying I'll get them for three years
  • Bought a black suit
  • Bought a new cell phone (this resulted in several calls to Sprint's help desk, a trip to the Sprint store, and Sprint eventually giving me $170 credited to my account for the "inconvenience" of my plan being screwed up, which was actually Best Buy's fault)
  • Have almost passed Dragon Warrior 2 on the NES (something I never accomplished in my younger years)
  • Become the owner of the Twilight series of books (I imagine this will cause a few people who read this to either erupt in laughter or be utterly confused; one of whom is Norwegian!)
  • I think I went a day without getting on a computer
  • Got my high school physics teacher to sing in Rock Band 2
  • Got beat by my high school physics teacher in Trivial Pursuit
  • Spent more time with my brother than I have in probably the last 6 months
  • Avoided getting into shouting matches/arguments regarding politics
I might go into detail on some of those things later, but probably not unless specifically requested.