Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Design and other things

Dave McKean's art

I spent some time yesterday and setup a new design for the blog. A new background and a slightly larger font.

I'm thinking about changing the image at the top, but anything other than Dave McKean's art just doesn't look right. The man has an unparalleled style. Perhaps I'm egotistic in using his work, but I think it fits.

The reason for the change was I felt the old layout was too dark. It wasn't inviting. I'm not sure I'm totally satisfied with this layout, but I want to see how it works. I think it's more accessible.

I've been toying with the idea of buying a new ipod recently. I would like to replace my stolen one, but I'm not sure which one to get. I still have my 1 GB shuffle as I mentioned, it satisfies much of my portable music needs. I'm tempted to get a 120 GB ipod classic. They're somewhat bulky by today's standards, but for that size they're quite nice. That would allow me to take a good chunk of my music (about 1/3) and not have to limit my playlists. The 16 GB ipod nano is another contender--it's a much smaller hard drive, but also a smaller ipod (easier to travel with) and a $50 cheaper.

Other things that I've had my eye on include the Batman "Knightfall" series, in which Batman gets his back broken by Bane, and "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" which is about the death of Batman, written by my favorite author, Neil Gaiman. The "Knightfall" series came out in 1993; "Whatever Happened..." comes out in July. It's not like either will be out of print anytime soon. I'm personally not a big fan of Batman or the traditional superheroes (except Spider-Man) because they seem too perfect. I know they're not; Green Lantern went nuts and killed a lot of people, for example. There's just this untouchable, unrelatable air about them. Spider-Man I always identified with because he has the agility and isn't quite as perfect as the other more "seasoned" super heroes. (Yes, I know Spider-Man has been around almost as long as many of the others. To me he feels different though.) Still, I want the "Knightfall" series and the "Whatever Happened..." because they're well done graphic novels; more self contained and less never-ending series.

Then again, I might just crack and buy Chrono Trigger for the Nintendo DS. It would cost about the same as the "Knightfall" series.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The life of a critic

Anton Ego, critic

I saw Transformers 2 this weekend. I personally felt it was an awful, trite film with an incohesive plot, poor dialog ("Only a PRIME can destroy me!"), unnecessary explosions, and a terrible violation of the honor and power of the original Transformers cartoon. This review sums it up almost perfectly (just a quick warning to my more conservative readers: the "review"--it's really more of a humorous, though accurate, Q&A regarding the massive holes in the movie--contains strong language and several spoilers).

While many critics agree with me--the film is sitting at a 21% on rottentomatoes.com--I am not with the majority. Numerous friends and people I know have reported it as "10x better than the first" and "incredibly awesome." Similarly, the film is a box office hit bringing in $387.3 million during this opening weekend worldwide. Obviously people wanted to see this film and ignored all critical responses. (I can happily report that I didn't pay to see it; I got a free showing.)

There was a report going around that Michael Bay had decided to quit making action movies due to all the bad reviews. This was later reported to be false, sadly. One thing about the internet is that rumors can spread quickly, especially when you want them to be true. If Bay was in fact giving up the Transformers franchise that would give another director and filmmaker a chance to actually make the movies good, and not just in a "stuff blows up and it was entertaining if you ignore any and all elements of story or quality" way. I'd like to see J.J. Abrams do the next film, but that won't happen--he's too busy dominating with films like Star Trek.

Of course, I can say all this because I'm simply a movie fan. I'm not a film maker. I'm not a director, a screen writer, a cinematographer, a special effects designer, a sound editor, a makeup artist, or an actor. I'm just a guy who watches movies. That's it. In Pixar's Ratatouille--a remarkable film in every aspect--the fictional, famous food critic, Anton Ego, writes, "In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little,

"In many ways..."

yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so."

He's right.

As a viewer and amateur critic (aren't we all?), my job is simple: I go to films or listen to an album or watch a TV show and I just say what I liked and didn't like about it. I'm not responsible for writing the script or fixing it. I'm not required to suggest alternatives to the trite love scene dialog. I don't have to play a complex guitar solo for Katy Perry when I say that her music is terrible to show her what good music is. I'm under no obligation to create better character development for a television series that I don't find engrossing. There is absolutely no responsibility on my part to choreograph a better fight scene when I feel the action is dull. It is simply my privilege to say "I felt the dialog was well written" or "The character development fell flat."

While I received very little pleasure out of Transformers 2--truthfully, the degradation of my childhood memories did far more harm to my mind than any positive effects of the short-lived enjoyable moments of the film--it is highly unlikely that I could ever create such a work. At this moment I feel an odd sense of respect for Michael Bay, a man who has placated the masses across the world with explosions, un-inspired writing and attempts at humor, and the gratuitous use of overly sexualized females. He has created something that I could never create. I like to think that, should I enter the world of filmmaking as a director or producer, I could create something better, but it is not likely.

I'm curious to see what my brother will think of the film. He actually is a filmmaker. While none of the films he's had creative work on have gone on to become Summer blockbusters or gross millions of dollars, he's in a position where he can say "I would have done it like this," which I respect. He's far better at reviewing films for that very reason--beyond knowing what doesn't look good, he knows what does. I think that's what makes a good critic.

Friday, June 26, 2009

In tribute to the King of Pop

They say deaths happen in sets of three.

Last year we lost George Carlin, Bernie Mac, and Isaac Hayes in the same summer. Richard Wright from Pink Floyd died shortly afterwards.

This year, David Carradine, Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson within a month of each other. Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson on the same day (yesterday).

Say what you will about Michael Jackson later in his life--he delivered enough in the 80's to cement himself as one of the greatest performers the has and will ever know.



I, for one, am sad he's gone.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Rebooting fixes everything

Great phone; terrible battery

Over Christmas of 2008 I got a new cell phone. I had been using a Sanyo Katana, a sweet phone in how tiny it was, but lacked every possible feature outside of making a phone call and texting. Being with Sprint for quite a few years, I qualified for a new phone and after searching, I picked up an HTC Touch Pro. It's kinda like an iPhone, but it runs Windows Mobile Pro 6.1 and has a full QWERTY keyboard that slides out. It is, simply, beautiful.

One major flaw in the HTC Touch Pro is the battery life. It sucks. Plain and simple. When I first got it, after 10 hours of light usage (a few text messages each hour), it died. Looking online for help, this appeared to be a common problem--everyone said they got about 10-14 hours of battery life and then it goes kaput. Using the GPS feature, the phone got about 34 minutes of use tops. It was incredibly pathetic and destroyed almost all usefulness of the phone.

Then I found a post on a forum explaining that it's a "known" (i.e. not officially acknowledged) flaw of Windows Mobile--whatever the battery is at when it boots up the first time is what it marks as "full." The feature is actually one with good intentions, as it tells the phone to stop charging the battery even if it's plugged in, thus preventing destruction of the battery caused by overcharging. The downside is companies ship batteries with about 33% battery life, so when the salesman takes that battery out, puts it in your phone and turns it on, your phone connects that 33% charge with "fully charged" and sets the marker. Therefore, instead of getting 2-3 days of use out of your phone per charge, you get half of one.

A hard reset of the phone fixes this, instructions for how to do so can be found online (it involves holding the volume down button, the enter button, and hitting the reset button simultaneously). It wipes the phone of all data--including the battery marker--and defaults it to the initial bootup. Do this when the battery is near dead, then charge it for 8 hours while the phone is off, and voila--the phone puts the fully charged marker at 100%.

Last week my phones battery life just started sucking again. Like, back to initial bootup sucking--10 hours of use and it's already saying "please recharge." I figured I'd have to do another hard reset but didn't want to do so yet, so I waited until the battery was actually about dead, did a soft reset (hit the button on the bottom of the phone), and then plugged it in. Miraculously this seems to have fixed the problem. My phone has been off the charger and on for nearly 11 hours and battery still reads at over 90%.

My phone is useful again. I'm happy.

(For anyone who owns an HTC Touch Pro and you're getting crappy battery life, try this:
  1. Backup your contacts/photos/program install files
  2. Run the battery to dead
  3. Charge the phone for 3-4 minutes
  4. Take the phone off the charger, turn it on and perform a hard reset
  5. Leaving the phone off after the reset, charge the phone for 8 hours
  6. Take it off the charger, restore your files, and enjoy
Hope this helps. The HTC Touch Pro is a truly remarkable phone; the battery is the one major flaw. This doesn't fix it completely--it'd be nice if it lasted for a lot longer [like the 400 hours it says it should last in the manual]--but it makes the phone significantly more useful.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Some movies have it coming

The following are excerpts from reviews for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen found on Rotten Tomatoes:

A great grinding garbage disposal of a movie, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen isn't so much a narrative film as a cacophonous series of explosions intermittently interrupted by needless dialogue.

-Tom Long, Detroit News


So what if he can’t put a coherent series of shots together? Bay’s going for pure sensation, and everyone knows dramatic continuity is for women and the weak.

-Ty Burr, Boston Globe


I hated every 149 minutes. This is so bad it's immoral. Michael Bay is a time-sucking vampire who will feast off your lost time. This is why the movie is so long.

-Victoria Alexander, FilmsInReview.com


Good when it is good, but extremely, shockingly, horrifyingly bad when it is bad.

-Willie Waffle, WaffleMovies.com (that's one of the POSITIVE reviews)

And of course, we can't forget Roger Ebert:
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" is a horrible experience of unbearable length, briefly punctuated by three or four amusing moments. One of these involves a dog-like robot humping the leg of the heroine. Such are the meager joys. If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination.
...
The movie has been signed by Michael Bay. This is the same man who directed "The Rock" in 1996. Now he has made "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen." Faust made a better deal.
...
There are many great-looking babes in the film, who are made up to a flawless perfection and look just like real women, if you are a junior fanboy whose experience of the gender is limited to lad magazines.
Even after these reviews, I'm excited for this film. Not because I expect it to be good--I don't--nor do I expect to like it on the same lines that I like Bloodsport or Big Trouble in Little China.

I'm excited for this movie because a new Transformers movie means a new RiffTrax for the new Transformers movie. If you're not familiar with RiffTrax, it's done by the same guys who created Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3k), a show where they mercilessly mock bad movies. It ran for 10 seasons. They usually did old B-movies since in order to air the movies they had to get the rights to them, and it's not exactly a small feat to get the rights to, say Star Wars: Episode II.

After MST3k ended, the same guys figured out that with the internet, they could simply record audio dialog of them mocking whatever movies they wanted and let their viewers just play the audio along with the movie they legitimately buy/rent (hopefully just rent). This avoids any of those legal snafus regarding rights of distribution and costs, meaning they can make fun of any movie they want. The first one I ever saw: Transformers.

It had it coming

I haven't laughed that hard at a movie in years, if ever. The first Transformers film is pretty awful, though it is entertaining. RiffTrax makes it hilarious with wonderful lines like "Based on the way it's shot, I fear Michael Bay involvement, Sir." and "I summon the power of hotness!" If you can spare the $3.99 to download the audio, it's worth it, I promise.

So, I'm excited for Transformers 2, but only because that means there's more material for Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy (otherwise known as Crow), and Bill Corbett (Tom Servo) to mock and humiliate. I'm already giddy.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My likes/dislikes

J'aime:
  • Waking up with the sun after a full night's rest
  • Going back to sleep after waking up with the sun after a full night's rest
  • Breaking/cracking ice under my feet while I walk
  • Cloud-covered days that are perfect for wearing a sweatshirt
  • The smell of the coffee aisle in the grocery store
  • Critical thinking and questioning
  • The works of Neil Gaiman and of Bill Watterson
  • Framed art
  • Having my windows open
  • The Smashing Pumpkins' music
  • Black and white color schemes
  • Ducks with ducklings
  • Argyle socks
  • Falling asleep on the couch with a cat in my lap
  • Winter
Je n'aime pas:
  • Waking up before the sun has risen
  • Dead worms in puddles of water
  • Cloudless days when it's too bright to go outside and I don't have any sunglasses
  • Cranberry sauce from a can
  • The works of Ayn Rand and of Rhonda Byrne
  • Unframed art
  • Country music
  • Rodeos
  • Unnecessary complexity
  • Mistreated animals
  • Tornadoes
  • American Idol and any show involving audience voting
  • Willful ignorance
  • Socks that don't stay up
  • Pleated pants

Monday, June 22, 2009

The events of this weekend

Dead lines

This weekend was somewhat disconnected for me. I imagine if I spent enough time looking through a thesaurus and cross referencing synonyms with a dictionary I could find a more fitting word; at the moment, I think 'disconnected' will do.

I've heard people describe being robbed or burgled as violating. I'm not sure I'd go quite that far. Surreal is a better word for my experience. It doesn't feel real. One day I go to sleep and I have a stereo system and an iPod in my car, the next day I don't. I don't know. It doesn't really feel real.

In what could be described as denial, I'm oddly liberated by this. There's an odd sense of freedom being without my ipod or my car stereo. With a small yet almost inseparable part of my material possessions taken from me--I don't think I'd spent more than 8 hours, that is, a night's rest, away from that ipod in over 2 years) I feel a slight burden is lifted. Of course, I have simply replaced my red iPod Nano, named the Red Star, with my older iPod Shuffle, the White Star. I'm remembering why I bought my shuffle in the first place--it's liberating. No playlists, no track lists to sort through...like the radio, you just turn it on and let it go. It's enjoyable.

(The most unexpected positive event of this weekend was having a reader of this blog donate $50 with a message saying "Regular reader; felt guilty enough reading for free, but getting robbed... Hope this little bit helps out with things!" I put a donation button up on this blog on a whim after making a payment on Paypal one day and saw an message saying "use this code to add a donation button to your site" and thought "meh, can't hurt." I never expected anything to come to it, but I am quite tickled and dearly touched that a kind man in Canada would donate to help cover some of my losses. It does help and I appreciate it dearly.)

Other events of this weekend included getting my window repaired, having a police officer tell me that the chances of getting anything back from this are about nil, and watching a lot of movies.
(I had forgotten how much I enjoy Pixar's The Incredibles. It's a really good film.) It was an easy weekend, spent with good company, but that's all I wanted; it made me happy.

Today I get to take my car in to have it looked at and have the damage assessed. Then I get to find out exactly how much my insurance company will cover, but given I have a $500 deductible, I doubt I'll get much.

(And I forgot to call my Dad on Father's Day; I realized that near midnight last night and thanks to time zones that would have made it almost 1AM for my Dad. It didn't seem nice to wake him up, so I called him this morning.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Friday morning

I started this morning by accidentally hitting the big red X on my alarm instead of the half-moon symbol for snooze. This turned off my alarm and as such I woke up with only 15 minutes till I had to be at work. Since it's a 27 minute commute to work, I sent in an e-mail saying I'd be in late.

After eating a bowl of frosted mini-wheats and taking a shower, getting dressed, and getting my lunch ready, I grabbed the garbage and went down to my car. When I threw the garbage away I noticed I forgot my cell phone and went back inside to get it. Cell phone in hand, I headed down to the parking garage and was greeted with this:

In case you were wondering what my car looks like...

My first thought was "I don't remember that glass there last night" and my next thought was "where's my window?"

Peeking my head through where my window should be, I saw this:

There used to be a stereo system and an ipod in there

After living in my new apartment for a month, my car has been broken into. This is, interestingly, the first time I've ever been robbed/burgled that I know of. (Ok, during my first year of college my cologne suspiciously went missing after a friend had a party, but I was never certain anyone took it.)

I called my insurance company first--office was closed, so I left a message. Then I called the Provo PD and an officer came over, looked at the damages, made a report, asked a few questions, and basically told me my chances of getting anything back are slim. I knew that. With ebay and Craigslist it's hard to track things down. (I do plan on watching Craigslist for car stereos and ipods that resemble mine being posted in the next day or two.) I also didn't have the serial number, so proving it's mine would be hard, too.

And that's been my Friday morning so far.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Of beds and bakeries

I will make these soon

For almost the last week I had all my updates written ahead of time, at least 2-3 days, and was able to just relax and watch them post.

Today I had no such post written and forgot about it.

In about 2 hours I'm driving up to Salt Lake City to look at a KitchenAid stand mixer I found on Craigslist for $85. I'm not entirely sure why--I'm not an experienced baker and my kitchen is already full of appliances of every shape and size--but I really want one. It seems like something I should just have. My sister uses hers for baking bread; they're useful for making cookies and frosting and cheesecakes and, with a grinder attachment (which this one includes), making hamburger and (to my Dad's honor) potato baloney.

I think part of the reason I want to get it is simply because it's such a good deal. $85 for something that, at Macy's, would run $350 at least. I've also had someone interseted in buying my twin mattress, which, if that sells for the asking price of $80, will mean I'll only be out a total of $5 for this mixer. While I understand it's not the best to look at things based on net values, but I've already worked out my finances for the next month, and the extra money I'd have from selling my bed is fluff, so it might as well be spent on something that can create equally fluffy pastries.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Iran in real time

Arguably the most powerful use of the internet and technology is the honest and open sharing of information and news. Unlike news companies in the past that film something, edit it, then air it on their network with the approval of corporate sponsors, places like Flickr allow for anyone to take photos and upload them, and Twitter allows for anyone to make an update of current events. The news is uncensored, unedited, and--a necessary evil--unchecked. Sometimes the news isn't accurate; sometimes it's more accurate than people would like. The power of this has become evident in the last four days with the Iranian election riots and protesters.

While Twitter is being overwhelmed with Iranian news--some legit, some falsified--these photos don't lie:

(Warning: some images contain violent content.)

















Hundreds of photos like these can be found at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fhashemi/

And that's only from one flickr account.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

CCC

300 posts in two years

This is the 300th post for in search of a muse. I was thinking of making a 300 movie reference or perhaps talking again about the 300 Workout again (which I'd really rather not talk about since I am not nearly in as good of shape as I was then and it'd just be a sad physical display for all who witness it). I thought about doing similar to what I did in my 200th post and talk about things relevant to that number. I thought about not mentioning it at all and going on business-as-usual.

This is also the two year anniversary of my first post on this blog. That's only half a coincidence. I noticed I was close to a two year mark when I wrote this. This was meant to be posted last Friday when I noticed I was four days away from the two year mark. Then saw I had a few unposted entries from the past two years which it was counting towards my 300 total. Technically this meant that while 300 posts were written, only 296 were posted. Had I left it as it was, I would have been robbing you of four posts, most of which are the ones you've been reading over the weekend. I went through the drafts and found the ones I liked, cleaned them up a bit, refined them, and posted them. (Two of which I didn't think were very good but I was too lazy to rewrite them so I just posted them on their original written dates.)


I thought about linking to Seth Godin's blog (the most popular blog written by a single person on the net) where he says the best way to success on the internet or in life is just to be persistent and patient. I thought about linking to some talks from TED or from Intelligence Squared that have had an effect on me and how I view the world personally. I thought about writing something long and drawn out detailing how I'm surprised I've made it to this many posts.

Then I thought "Why should I write something long and drawn out when I can just post something long and drawn out that someone else has already written?"

So that's what I'm doing--I'm passing the buck and am posting the "I Believe" speech from Neil Gaiman's American Gods.
I can believe things that are true and I can believe things that aren't true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they're true or not. I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and Marilyn Monroe and the Beatles and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen–I believe that people are perfectible, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones who look like wrinkledy lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women. I believe that the future sucks and I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo Woman is going to come back and kick everyone's ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline of good sex in America is coincident with the decline in drive-in movie theaters from state to state. I believe that all politicians are unprincipled crooks and I still believe that they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste. I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we'll all be wiped out by the common cold like the Martians in War of The Worlds. I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian shaman. I believe that mankind's destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it's aerodynamically impossible for a bumblebee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there's a cat in a box somewhere who's alive and dead at the same time (although if they don't ever open the box to feed it it'll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself. I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn't even know that I'm alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise, and sheer blind luck. I believe that anyone who says that sex is overrated just hasn't done it properly. I believe that anyone who claims to know what's going on will lie about the little things too. I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies too. I believe in a woman's right to choose, a baby's right to live, that while all human life is sacred there's nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system. I believe that life is a game, that life is a cruel joke, and that life is what happens when you're alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it.
And that's my 300th post. If you keep reading, I'll keep updating. With enough practice I might be able to write something as good as that speech someday.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bike seats

My parents came out two weeks ago to visit. It was nice to see them. While I may not be the most openly affectionate person towards them, I do love my parents and am quite grateful for everything they've done for me. Most recently what they've done is bring my bike out for me.

When I was 14 I was biking everywhere. I couldn't drive till I was 16 and eventually convinced my parents to buy me a really nice bike. I rode it a lot. When I started driving I rode less. After my freshman year of college I decided I wanted to get in shape so I got my bike from my parents' garage and started biking for about an hour every morning, followed by a liter of water and about 80g of protein (moderation and serving sizes didn't really occur to me then). I biked a lot that summer and I think I got in decent shape.

After Jared married Marvia (seriously good choice on his part) I left my bike at his house and they were gracious enough to not complain or demand I remove it from their garage. It stayed there for about 4 years. Then, as I said, my parents did the far-too-kind thing of going to Jared's house, picking up my bike, and brought it out here and left it at my brother's. On Monday last week I walked to my brother's place and picked it up, rode it home, realized I left my hoodie at his place, rode it back, picked up my hoodie, and rode home again.

That was a week ago.

My butt still hurts.

Apparently when I was younger I had a much less sensitive butt or at least one far less prone to bruising. I want to bike regularly and more often--it's great exercise and something I love being outdoors--but if the seat hurts this much I may need to replace it. Looking around, it looks like I managed to get the one bike that has a seat originally designed for splitting wood. Most bike seats are wide, cushioned, and rather plush. With minor changes mine would be best used for propping open doors.

I think I'll give this seat another week of regular riding to see if I can adjust to it. Obviously I was ok with it for 6 years so I think I can adjust again.

I'm on my way to this future

I also need to do some maintenance to my bike--I don't think I've ever greased the chair, oiled the tires, or looked at the brakes. Should be a fun side project to work on. I love working on mechanical things--even something as simple as a bike. It feels manly.

I feel like Calvin's Dad.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Oatmeal to Go

I'm not getting paid for this

A few weeks ago I started seeing a girl. We get along well and have a lot of fun hanging out, making dinner, and running errands together. She helped me decorate my bathroom when I moved into my new place (it's now tastefully frog themed) and whenever we have to go to the store, instead of going to Walmart she's gotten me to go to Target instead.

In my hometown I liked Target more than Walmart. Walmart has the convenience of being open 24 hours. Target has the benefit of not eating your soul when you walk in and the employees look like they're actually happy with their lives.

I also have a history of dating girls who have worked at Target. I guess it just attracts the kind of girls I like.

The Target is Orem is a Super Target, which just means they sell groceries, too. This is nice because unlike Super Walmarts with grocery stores, Super Targets actually have food I don't get sick from eating. (After a bad incident involving an angel food cake from Walmart I haven't been able to look at one since without almost gagging. It's a pity; I used to love angel food cake.) The store is really clean, everything is neatly stocked, and I feel like a better person just by saying that I shop there. I'm not contributing to the downfall of Western society! (And despite any rumors you may have heard, Target is not French--they're corporate HQ is in Minneapolis, MN, which means I'm both buying American AND supporting my home state. It's a trifecta of awesome.)

While walking through the cereal aisle and browsing the granola bars--I do love them--I found the Quaker "Oatmeal to Go: High Fiber" bars. They contain 10g of fiber, 13g of sugar, and about 210 Calories. That's pretty good for a granola bar. Having that much fiber makes them as solid as a brick, and eating them is not something to be done casually. It's a feat. I also imagine that much fiber entering my system at one time will result in another feat in about an hour.

I chose the Maple Brown Sugar flavor. They're not terribly sweet which is good, since I despise my oatmeal tasting like syrup. (My family will probably notice this is a drastic shift from my childhood when I would put so much brown sugar on my oatmeal it would often become super-saturated to the point of creating pools of melted brown sugar.) While they're somewhat caloricly dense, for a bar that's intended to replace a meal, I think I quite like these bars. If you're feel a stuffy and don't mind eating something reminiscent of a brick, the Oatmeal to Go bars are good. (But don't eat two in a short period of time; that much fiber can cause issues, trust me.)

Friday, June 12, 2009

It's Not My Time

I think more than just about any other video, the music video to "It's Not My Time" by 3 Doors Down makes me want to go running. I remember first seeing it at Gold's Gym while on the treadmill, and I think I ran longer and harder that day than I have in a long time.

See for yourself (sorry if there's a commercial first; YouTube disabled embedding so I had to link it from VH1):

It's all parkour. It looks like so much fun; I'd just love to be able to do that.

I think I'll go running when I get off work today.

Risks

Come back in like 2 minutes

In the words of J.D. from Scrubs: "Whenever you take a big risk in your life, no matter how it turns out, you're always glad you took it."

Take a risk this weekend. Ask someone out you've liked for a long time, buy that pet you've been thinking about, paint your room a non-standard color, eat a food you've never tried before, go skydiving.

It'll be good for you.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Amy

Don't take the blue pill

From 1999 to 2003, the show Futurama aired on Fox. The show had a hint of Simpsons comedy, but in general had a fairly new angle on comedy. Recently, I've been watching episodes in my spare time and I've realized that since I'm more highly educated now, I get a lot more of the jokes. They make a lot of science and obscure math jokes--even a good number of political and pop culture jokes similar to News Radio. More than that, I really like the character of Amy Wong. I'm not sure why: she's a rich brat who isn't very bright. Still, I think there was something endearing about her character.

When the show first aired I enjoyed it and watched it whenever I could. In 2007 they released a DVD movie to good reception, and over the next year and a half released 3 more.

Two days ago they announced that Futurama is officially back on Comedy Central with 26 new episodes. I'm quite excited about this.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bedding

Sorry colorblind people

Color is an important part of our lives. Psychological tests have found certain colors invoke certain feelings and moods. Fashion designers pick a new set of colors every few months and declare that they're the "new black" or whatever the last fashion-chic color was. Most people just dance around a simple wardrobe of fairly neutral colors usually consisting of black since they didn't hear what the new black was.

The apartment I moved into last month has walls that are slightly-sun-kissed-sand-desert-wood colored. Or something. It's that generic, neutral color that everyone uses for apartments and rental rooms. It's non-threatening and as bland as uncooked tofu. Thankfully the girl who inhabited the place before me painted two of the walls a pleasant darker-than-milk-but-lighter-than-dark-chocolate brown to give it some accents. This compliments the slightly-sun-kissed-sand-desert-wood walls nicely.

My furniture is dark-roast-espresso from IKEA. It's almost black, but still slightly brown in direct light. The bed I just purchased and assembled yesterday is a natural-oak-varnish-light-stain color. This somewhat compliments the
darker-than-milk-but-lighter-than-dark-chocolate brown and the slightly-sun-kissed-sand-desert-wood walls. Now I'm trying to find a bedding set. I currently have a comforter that is lighter-than-usual-tan on one side and red-wine-but-not-a-merlot on the other. When I purchased the comforter the red worked well in the room; ivory walls, dirty-sand-but-not-icky-sand carpet, a natural-wood bed frame. The red-wine-but-not-a-merlot comforter gave it a nice look of deep color. In my current place it doesn't compliment so well.

Looking around at color palettes, it's looking like blue is the normal color of choice. A friend recommend a deep royal blue. I was leaning more towards a sunny-day-sky blue. Or perhaps a newly-budding-leaf green. Something vibrant to inject some color into an otherwise various-shades-of-brown room.

This also goes along with buying the Sumosac/Monstersak; I'd as I said, most of my furniture is
dark-roast-espresso. I'd like to find something colorful for a the Sumosac/Monstersak to go along with the bedding. There's also a very high possibility I'll find something on sale and buy that

Like this, but far less chic

regardless of color simply because when you get picky you tend to pay for it.

I get paid tomorrow and can work out exactly how much I can afford to put towards creating a chic room design. Until I actually make a purchase I'm open to suggestions for colors.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Whoops

I forgot to update today.

I did think that perhaps some of you reading this are sitting around going "Gosh, I wish there was some way I could give this guy money." Well, wish no more! I have heard your wishes and have put up a Paypal donation button on the right side.

Truthfully, I really don't expect it to ever be used, but I figured "meh." It took about 20 seconds of blog layout editing and this way, if you have any extra money and you'd like to help me pay for graduate school, you can.

Yes, I'm shameless.

A friend of mine might be moving to a new house in a few weeks. The details are still up in the air, but he showed me some shots from around the place he's looking at. I tried to point out that the backyard might be hazardous to his daughter, but apparently he's not worried. Four other people I've spoken to aren't worried either. Three noticed something a little odd about it. Only one showed concern.

I don't know what the world is like where my friends live, but if that's a normal backyard I'm glad I grew up in the Minnesota where the worst thing we have to worry about are mosquitoes, Canadians, and poison ivy (my sister may disagree).

Monday, June 8, 2009

Monster-Sumo-Lovesac

Mine's not this nice.

When I moved into my new apartment the previous tenant, my friend Lyndsie, left me a good amount of furniture. Truthfully that was part of the reason I took the place: free furniture is awesome. The left items consisted of a tiny bookshelf, a TV stand, a coffee table, a dinner table, some chairs, and a loveseat.

The tiny bookshelf I put in my closet to give me some shelf space, the television stand is now being used as an end table, the coffee table is serving it's intended purpose (although right now it simply provides a resting place for the latest issues of Details and Men's Health; no coffee), the chairs and dinner table serve their purpose, and the loveseat faces my computer which works as my TV, too.

It makes a nice setup. The one problem is the loveseat isn't quite long enough to lay down on. In order to lay on it I have to have my head on one armrest and my feet hanging off the other. This isn't horribly uncomfortable, but it's not ideal for sleeping. Short naps are all I can manage without emergency chiropractor visits.

Awesome, but not all too comfy

As a kid beanbag chairs were pretty common. They were (I'm guessing) about 36"x36"x24" or so with a faux-leather/vinyl cover and usually found in a kid's playroom. I never had one as a kid but I loved them, and so did every other kid I knew. Well, now us kids who grew up with beanbag chairs are adults, and y'know what? We still love beanbag chairs. And thanks to the ingenuity of my generation and our adamant refusal to actually grow up and act adult, we created beanbag chairs for adults.

Thus was born the Monster/Sumo/Lovesac.

They're all basically the same thing we had when we were kids: beanbag chairs. Except these have a high quality microfiber cover and are packed with soft fluffy "beans" instead of the hard plastic ones of our youth. The result: massive, comfortable, beanbag chairs. Sheer brilliance.

I want to get a Sumosac Gigantor or a Monstersak XXXL. I'd get a Lovesac but they're about $795 for the largest ones. Monstersaks are the same things with slightly different dimensions, half the price, and I think they're a little lower quality--I'm honestly not sure, I'd like to take a look at them firsthand before purchasing. Lovesacs are the most common in Utah and Sumosacs are almost unheard of; Monstersaks are in between, usually only found when actually looking to buy as they're not advertised much. Still, I like the Sumosacs; I've played with them, I know they're comfortable. And something about supporting the company that supports sumo sliding makes me smile (for the record, I hold the 2009 Digital Overload Sumo Sliding record).

I'm not really sure if I'll get a Sumosac Gigantor (86"x60"x40") or the Monstersak XXXL (90"x72"x38"). Price-wise they're about equal: $399 for the Sumosac and $395 for the Monstersak. I think the Sumosac might be a big higher quality with the filling, but I don't know. I also think the dimensions of the Gigantor would be a bit nicer than the Monstersak XXXL, which probably wouldn't fit in the same space as a couch very well.

Seriously. Dang. Awesome.

I don't know when/if I'll ever get these ordered. I'll probably put my loveseat on Craigslist sometime in the next month and try and sell that first; presuming I can get $100 for it, I putting up another $300 for a massive beanbag chair doesn't seem too bad.

Friday, June 5, 2009

National Breakfast

Balanced on a massive scale

I'm not sure who decided a glass of orange juice is an essential part of breakfast. When I think of bacon and eggs I don't think "and orange juice!" I think "and waffles" or potentially "and more bacon." Every commercial for a breakfast food or cereal always has that same image of the bowl of Fruit Loops/Cheerios/Lucky Charms/Cocoa Pebbles/oatmeal next to two pieces of toast, a muffin, some sausage links, bacon, a glass of milk and a glass of orange juice. Meanwhile the voice over says "(cereal being advertised) is a part of a balanced breakfast." Let's be honest here, the breakfast they've got displayed is probably at least 1,300 Calories; you could remove the cereal component altogether and you'd still get a "nutritionally balanced" breakfast.

Last month Twitter updated their site so that the search and trending topics (popular things to tweet about) are listed on the right side of the homepage. I've found this can be very useful in finding out what's going on by simply looking at the topics. For example, yesterday I found out first thing that David Carradine was dead thanks to the trending topic "RIP David Carradine" and "Kill Bill." Sometimes it's not that obvious, though. Today the trending topics as of 8:55 AM are:
  • Follow Friday
  • TGIF
  • National Doughnut
  • David Carradine
  • Krispy Kreme
  • Saved by the Bell
  • World Environment
  • Kobe
  • Susan Boyle
  • BNP
David Carradine, Kobe, and Susan Boyle are all pretty easy to figure out: famous people who have died/won basketball games/been hospitalized for whatever reason. Follow Friday is a Twitter thing where you recommend people to follow; TGIF is obvious; Saved by the Bell is a little odd but not unheard of; BNP is the British Nationalist Party which most people seem to greatly dislike; and World Environment is, well, I have no idea.

I'm assuming that the National Doughnut trend goes along with Krispy Kreme in something that is to be connected like "Krispy Kreme declares National Doughnut Day." Which is kind of cool, but I'd much rather there be an actual ceremony declaring what the national doughnut of America is. We have a national flower (the rose), a national animal (Bald Eagle), a national song (Star Spangled Banner) and I've heard rumors that the blueberry muffin is the national muffin and apple pie is the national pie. Frankly, I think we need a national doughnut.

With that I would like to officially propose the national doughnut of America: the simple raised doughnut with white frosting and sprinkles.

The American National Doughnut nominee


Just look at it. It's beautiful. A simple raised doughnut--nothing fancy, but it has some substance, like America--with some sweet icing on top to compliment the dough and sprinkles of every color representing our diversity.
And just like America, it goes best with a glass of milk.

It's a fated match. Doughnuts, like Americans, get bad reputations because it's fashionable to bash on them. Doughnuts get ragged on because of their high carb content and a few years ago the world decided carbs are the embodiment of evil. Americans get ragged on because of our former government's international policies. It's not the doughnut's fault it has a high carb content--it's not a choice of the doughnut personally to be full of carbs, that's just how it is. Similarly, it's not an American's fault for what the government did as most people didn't approve of it or had no strong feelings either way. We're friendly, I promise.

I really don't see how we don't have a national doughnut already. It seems remarkably obvious to have one. Please join me in this and rally together to push congress to declare the raised doughnut, topped with icing and sprinkles, to be America's National Doughnut.

Once this passes we'll rally for a National Waffle (which will be, ironically, Belgian).

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Just relax

It's Thursday. Just relax and spend some time crushing the castle.

(No, that's not a euphemism.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

On playlists

It was beautiful.

In the late 90's a friend introduced me to Napster. This was in it's early days, and it was incredible then. No speed controls, no ISP's limiting upload/download, no companies putting out false songs: just pure music being shared person to person with only your internet connection to limit you. Of course this was during the 56k modem days, so downloads went at about 1.3 kB/s, maybe 3 kB/s if you were really lucky and no one else was using that ISP in your town. I remember when I finally got the full version of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida downloaded, it was 17.3 MB--took almost 4 hours (this was before you could start and stop downloads at your leisure; if the connection was lost, you started over)--and I copied it to 4 separate locations on my system so that I'd never accidentally delete it. If you were on a college campus and had a T1 for uploading, glorious light would shine down from the heaven's when you connected to Napster and songs were written about your greatness.

A decade later and I have about 282 GB worth of music on my system. (I'll leave you to determine how it accumulated.) This basically equates my computer to a miniature radio station, able to play whatever I want. When I first got my ipod nano a few years ago for Christmas I spent a good amount of time acclimating myself with iTunes and setting up playlists. At the time, I carefully went through my music--then a measly 168 GB--and took out the songs I liked and put them into a playlist entitled "good stuff." The "good stuff" playlist was about 13 GB at the time, and since my ipod was only an 8 GB it meant I needed to cut it down again. Over the next week or so the "good stuff" got refined into the "better stuff" and finally, through a process of purification usually only found in high class vodka factories, "best stuff," a 4.3 GB playlist compiling the best music I had.

The "best stuff" was easy to maintain. Whenever I added new music I'd grab a few tracks that stood out to me and add them to the playlist, whereupon a leprechaun inside my computer would quickly scribble the new songs onto a scroll and store them in the "playlists" file cabinet. This system worked well--my ipod always had a solid playlist of music (the other 3.6 GB I filled up with albums of various sorts) and the leprechaun in my computer had good job security.

Then I upgraded to a new computer and a new version of Windows: Vista 64 bit. Personally, I liked Vista. I know a lot of people hated it and said it was flawed, but it was no worse than XP upon release. XP was pretty flawed, too, until they released the service packs for it.

Upgrading to Vista came with a price (and I don't mean the $299.99 price tag). A new OS on a new computer meant my playlists wouldn't transfer over. I tried everything to get them to transfer but there is no simple way to do that in iTunes. It is not designed to save playlists easily--in order to do so you have to export each playlist individually then load them back up. While this sounds like an easy ordeal, it becomes rather complex when the file destinations are changing as well (going from an E: drive to an I: drive). It's possible to edit the XML file, but when it's cataloging 56,000 songs that takes awhile and it's easy to muck it up. Similarly, even if you do get it changed, iTunes still doesn't transfer over the content of playlists, just the names. At least it didn't when I tried.

One of these days I'll crack down and start the 2 week long journey through setting up another all-encompassing playlist. On average it takes about 30 minutes per letter of the alphabet to sort through, listen to parts of certain songs and decide if they should make the first cut. From there I do 2 or 3 more cuts of the playlist before it's down to an acceptable size. I try to keep it under 4 GB so that I can still put other stuff I want on my ipod, and making the album playlists I want will probably take another few hours.

By this time I think the previous leprechaun has moved on to bigger and better things; hopefully he has a son I can employ.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Things go boom at the YMCA

New 1993 remix!!

Despite going to sleep in good time last night, I didn't sleep well.

I had a dream that involved a friend's father (played by Al Pacino in this dream) being abusive and my friend then talking someone into bombing the YMCA--which in this dream was more like Disneyland--where his father worked. He chose bombing the place because shooting him failed to kill him. Most of this dream took place in the locker room of the pool--that place where you shower in you swimming suit after the pool (not the naked showers)--and was about the actions themselves. Eventually they happened and it really surprised everyone. I left the locker room right afterwards to avoid any questions about if I knew anything about what happened.

And someone had taken my hoodie when I was swimming.

I woke up around 4:45 AM, probably because that was about 5.5 hours after I went to sleep and that's about as much sleep as I'm used to getting. Any more than that and my body assumes I've over slept. Looking around I realized what time it was, got a drink of water, pondered staying up and going running or doing something equally productive, and eventually went back to sleep. When my alarm went off at 6:40 I felt like I'd been punched in the face--I was groggy, could barely open my eyes, and any movement took extreme effort. My body once again began it's usual sales pitch. Remembering those venomous words from before, I fought it and got out of bed.

I feel like I haven't slept at all.

While showering I realized I hadn't moved in about 10 minutes. I literally got in the shower and just stood there. No washing, no singing, no re-enacting the Battle of Waterloo. Just standing there with my mind totally checked out. It's an odd experience realizing I haven't been doing anything for a period of time. It's slightly unnerving that I can go so long without any recognition of my surroundings. Normally I'm quite observant and can remember things in pretty good detail, sometimes down to exact conversations word for word. Other times I don't even notice I'm naked and being blasted with water.

So that was my morning. I can't imagine it bodes well for the rest of the day. Or the week. It's only Tuesday and I'm already this fried.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Purpose

www.xkcd.com

While reading through wikipedia, I came across an article about an upcoming film called Julie & Julia. The movie is based off a book which is from blog by a woman named Julie Powell. The blog chronicles a year during which she set out to cook every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

This got me wondering what the purpose of my blog is. Initially it was just to write about topics I felt like writing about, but recently I've felt like that's getting stale (hence the two week hiatus). I'd like there to be a theme or topic that I do regularly, perhaps including random personal events occasionally.

I'm just not sure what to write about.

I honestly adore the idea of cooking all the recipes in a cookbook, but that seems to have been done already--quite successfully, too. There are blogs of various themes from stuff white people like to awesome things to cute animals to ugly animals to reasons why a bitter guy hates girls or why we're fat. I'm tempted to use it to chronicle my efforts to learn the guitar or perhaps my experiences in grad school. Those both seem kind of trite.

I could do a variety blog--Mondays write about guitar playing and progress, Tuesdays school, Wednesdays exercise, Thursdays cooking, Fridays simple comics I've doodled. That seems too scattered though. Specialization is what leads to quality sites and blogs. Being all over the place just looks random and unfocused; too hard to follow and get into.

What do you recommend I write about? Any suggestions for new experiments to undertake?