Wednesday, November 30, 2005


This whole event makes me happy.

In case you're unaware, (i.e. not from CMU), each week CMU shows movies, usually Wednesday-Sunday, for $1 in one of our main auditoriums. Usually, the movie titles are advertised in advance, except for one day each semester, where the only title given is "TBA". That's code for "porn". So yeah, once a semester, we show porn in a University Center auditorium.

Right before break, there was a TBA called "Pirates." This happens to be the highest-budget porn ever made (so I'm told) and includes (amidst lots of sex) CGI pirate ships and skeletons. Naturally, it was advertised a little more than most TBA's. So it got more exposure, so it came under fire from lots of folks. Some students got annoyed that we were "using student activities money to show porn,"* they had some discussion at the UC about it, and local news station KDKA even covered the event.

* this allegation is false; they brought in more than enough money from ticket sales to cover the cost of showing the movie, or so I'm told.

Oh, by the way, it got mobbed. It sold out all 3 shows, there were huge lines through the UC, most people didn't even get in. I happened to get in, and I saw it... it was pretty graphic ("hardcore", as KDKA said a lot)- I mean, it wasn't even enjoyable to watch. Besides the skeletons. Those were pretty funny.

But the point is, we at CMU did something noteworthy, kind of rebellious, people got angry, and we don't care! I mean, I think it's a hilarious tradition- if the campus got together to watch a bad movie once each semester, that'd be funny... the fact that it just happens to be a porn is so much better! Take that, politically correct society! Take that, administrators and bureaucrats! It's a prank on the entire system, an entirely harmless prank even, and I think it's great. So bravo, Activities Board, and bravo, CMU.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

My mind, in a pie chart:

No actual pie chart. Sorry. You can envision one in your mind though.

A little wedge of it goes to world events. The whole gay priests thing, the Australian about to be executed in Singapore, something I just heard about a needle exchange program to prevent AIDS in Pittsburgh. The last one leaves me a bit conflicted- I mean, it's great for those who have diabetes or something and need shots, but they're not the ones getting AIDS anyway. Seems like it just enables heroin addicts. But that's one side of the argument (specifically, the 50-year-old WASP argument) and the other side is that we need to prevent AIDS, which is true too... I have nothing innovative to add to this argument, so I'll stop.

A bigger slice goes to Little Footsteps- everything's actually coming together, and it's going to work, and it'll be good! Hooray!

Sadly, a still bigger wedge goes to classes- to get everything done, and well, I'll have to donate a lot of time to them. Well, that's life I guess. The weird thing is, for most of my classes, I want to do the work! I want to just geek out about cellular automata and concurrent programming and finite fields all day! But not in place of anything else. Certainly not in place of spending that time with friends, and not in place of sleep or anything that'll make me healthier. So it waddles down at the bottom of my priority list, as usual.

Biggest chunk of the pie though: ski trip! Yeah! We're going skiing in January, in Vermont, and it rocks a lot! I can't wait! Yeah!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Suburbs again!

What is it about the suburbs?! What's wrong with them? Why do I have such a weird beef with them?*

See, don't be so hard on the suburbs. While cities have certain flavors, farms have others, the one distinguishing connotation you get in suburbs is that of "success." To live in the suburbs, (at least the outer-ring "affluent" suburbs) you have to have made it. Nobody's poor in the suburbs. And as a result, the suburbs cater to the successful. You get places like Crocker Park, this gigantic opulent shopping center that's made to look so perfectly like an old village. Restaurants like Max and Erma's, which serves food that is pretty good, and overpriced. Because what the hey, people can pay for it. Always enough parking.

Suburbs are characterized by success- so what's wrong with that? Maybe it's the fact that it's not my success that I'm getting rewarded for by living in the suburbs. Or just guilt from knowing that 99.9% of the people in the world would kill to live in such a nice environment. Maybe it is just guilt. I don't think that's it though. I don't know what it is. Anyway, time to sleep now.

*Don't ever eat weird beef.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Why I should have brought a gavel to school first semester, and it would have been funny, but now it would not be funny anymore.

Is it just me, or has the "judging" thing gone so far as to lose its meaning entirely? I mean, this started last year with Kaitlin and marijuana, and people judging her because of it, and her responding by adopting the catch phrase "don't judge me." (is that right? It may have started before I was around, I don't know.) And then some people rallied behind "don't judge me," and others responded by sarcastically saying "Ha ha, I judge people all the time" and laughing about it, as if to say "Of course I don't judge people. But it's so ridiculous that you're branding me as a "judger" that I'll just comically run with it."

The point is, everyone will deny judging, and everyone will judge everyone else at some point. This is not inherently a bad thing- it's bad when you judge people prematurely or for the wrong reasons. I guess the point is, we shouldn't do that, which is true. Everyone agrees with that.

What I'm trying to say is, it's getting old as a joke.

"We're constantly creating our world by naming, categorizing, applying value judgments to things." -not quite a quote from Foley Ah Doo, but as close as I can remember.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Too much work? That's a terrible excuse!

Yeah, it is. What am I doing? Each week that's "the same old thing" is one less good week. Next semester it'll all be different. This semester, after Little Footsteps, it'll all be different. After I finish this 212 assignment, it'll all be different. Next week (Thanksgiving) it'll all be different. At any rate, things will change, sooner or later, and there you go.

I am already 8 minutes late for class.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Good grief!

I see the world going totally out of control in the next couple days. Like everything looked sunny in August, and then clouds have rolled in here and there, and then it's clear again, except they're back now, and now they're huge, threatening nimbus clouds. I mean, some big lightning will strike soon, and everything will go nuts. I don't even know in what way. It'll be some monstrous explosion of nothing. I feel like Quentin Compson from The Sound and The Fury.

I had a fantastic night, by the way. I had more energy than I've had for a while- I've felt myself more than I have for a while. I also feel proud of myself the last couple days: I went climbing, I got a new bike*, and I went to a ski club party where I knew nobody.

*I love my new bike. I revitalized it all afternoon, with help from Gerrit, as well as Noah from Free Ride. Then I paid Free Ride $35 for the parts. Plus $7 for a new tire. It worked out exactly how I wanted. And it works, and it's solid. I feel confident riding it. I feel like I'm on a honeymoon with it, in that I want to ride it as much as I can.

Some bawdy punnery just happened. Did you catch it? I didn't, the first time I said that phrase.

But ah! There's some energy in the air. Or maybe just in me. The world is all racing towards something-- what is it? At least I hope so. That'll be interesting. Or it will just be more big nothing, and then what?! I want to do something great- something short-term and great! I want to share my energy with someone, or some people. What is happening?!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Tonight I made a wager

on the goodness of one "John White."

John White, panhandler
Grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, near the racetrack where he used to work, whose name he cannot recall
Just got to Pittsburgh and started working at the (building near where I was standing) yesterday
Owns a (van that is right over there) that just broke down
Needs some kind of sealant for the antifreeze, which costs $4.80, and can be bought either at AutoZone, or, if that's closed, which it clearly is, at the shop up at Penn and Swissvale
Wait, you say you'll go buy it with me? Why would you want to do that?
Doesn't usually do this
Isn't panhandling, like those guys who are all drunk and saying "I need some money to eat"
Is a Christian
Swears to God that he's not panhandling
Does not take God lightly
Needs a sealant that costs $7.80
No, didn't say that it cost $4.80. Said that he HAD $4.80.
Has the 80 cents right here, see?
Has the four dollars, um, on his card, see, has an Access Card
See, the sealant cost $13.60, and he said he had $4.80
But then that'd be $8.80, but, uh, ...

You get the idea. Clearly lying. But I figure, what the hell. I gave John White my SMC number and mailing address. I made it possible for him to repay me (without endangering myself). I gave him the money. I know I'll never see that $4.80 again. But what if I do? Then John White is a good dude in my book, and maybe I should perk up about the general state of the world, because this is a world in which you can give a beggar some money AND GET PAID BACK.

Or, much more likely, I'll never see that $4.80 again. He gave me a phone number though. In a week (assuming he hasn't paid me), I'll call it. It'll be entertaining to see whose number he gave me.

Monday, November 07, 2005

One of the following things happened tonight:

I turned the corner of Forbes and Craig. The Starbucks has a sharp corner, I didn't see this guy until I almost ran into him. He was a little gnarled, had a big coat on, and was holding a club underneath his coat. He saw a perfect target in me, but realized that he saw me a fraction of a second too late and hesitated, and plus there was another student around, so he had to wait for his next target. The boss wouldn't be pleased if he didn't bring in a couple hundred dollars tonight. Damn! That kid's ipod alone would bring in my nightly quota! He scowled inwardly.

I took a lap around campus, went up on the numbers on top of the Posner Center, and saw in the labyrinth a ramp down and an underground door. I went inside- it was unlocked- and there was the rare book collection, bathed in a pale blue light. The air practically sparkled. The floor was made of stone, a textured but smooth blue-grey stone. The books were on pedestals, open, each one a thick tome, all uncovered, the pages so stiff that you could see every little crackle in them. I reached out to touch one of them- no, I didn't, I didn't even want to touch them- I just felt this uncanny peace, underground, alone, surrounded by these books and the blue air that almost sparkled.

I went through the UC, ran into Staci, talked to her as I walked towards Beeler street. She later reported to the police that she was the last one to talk to me.

As I went down Beeler, it took me farther and farther from campus. Somehow, every step took me 10 steps farther away. It got all darker, the kind of dark I haven't known since childhood, when night was Dark because you knew it was night and you should be asleep. The dead-of-night dark, that you never even saw, except for that one time Mom and Dad woke you up to see the meteor shower at 3 AM, and you just wanted to go back to sleep; that opportunity you wasted- not to see the meteors, because shoot, those are just dots in the sky- that opportunity you wasted to be outside in the dead of night in a suburban setting as a child, with nothing on your mind except how invigoratingly cold it was, how quiet everything was, and how you were sitting outside looking at the stars with people who loved you very much. The kind of dark that is a little darker than the darkest dark that it's safe to be outside in.

A van drove past- it looked orange, but in the streetlights, everything looked orange- with no headlights on, just his parking lights- why no headlights?? I never found out; he slowed down beside me, rolled down the window, and fired off three shots before I could even register that he was pointing a pistol at me. Each one hit me square in the chest, and I fell over, quickly resigning myself to the tired calm that was coming over me, not even realizing the pain in my chest because it wasn't pain, it was abdication, it was my body realizing there's no hope here and just plain old giving up.

Except they weren't bullets- they were tranquilizer darts, and I woke up in the back of that same van, hastily bound and gagged with duct tape. It took me maybe 10 minutes to get over my initial panic, because I don't do too well in panicky situations. By that time, I realized it didn't matter where we were; I just had to get out of the van. I could kind of earthworm-squiggle along, and my fingers had a little freedom of motion, but not much else. I looked for the handle to the door- it was clearly out of reach, and probably locked from the outside anyway. I tried to pry off any of the tape, and I could reach a little bit on my ankle, but then it made that characteristic duct-tape ripping noise, and the driver noticed and screamed at me. Shit. The second wave of panic struck, as I realized that I was completely under the control of this guy, who was clearly hostile and not necessarily reasonable. What did he want- ransom? Clearly my parents would pay it, if it was humanly possible, but who's to say it would be? Who's to say he would return me, even if they did? Who's to say I wasn't going to spend the rest of my short life in a hole in the ground in his house, before I was tortured and brutally murdered? Because if this guy was smart, there's no way the cops would find him in time. Ultimately, my life was destroyed, because of two fateful seconds: the one in which I let my guard down and decided to go running at night, and the one in which he shot me.

I turned left on Wilkins, and the sidewalk became covered with leaves. I trampled over them, until one point, where the leaves covered the sidewalk, and I stepped through the leaves into a hole. A snare around the hole caught my leg and lifted me up into the tree. What?! That happens in real life? Apparently yes, as three kids, probably younger than I, jumped out from behind the rock wall to my right and grabbed my wallet, phone, and ipod (god, what was I thinking, wearing that obvious sign of wealth around at this hour of night? the little white headphones... quite the giveaway. dumbass.) and ran off, I think towards fifth, but I was so disoriented it could have been anywhere. I caught a glimpse of them, but they were all wearing cheesy skeleton costumes, as if to say "we don't really hate you. We're just prankster kids." All the same, I was still in the tree. Luckily, though, I had enough strength to swing myself back and forth, grab the tree (it was a skinny tree), kind of shimmy up it, and- huh? a swiss army knife, stuck into the tree? a big one too, bright red, must have been expensive. and it had, engraved on it in gold script letters, "Thanks." Wow. I used the serrated blade to saw off the snare, and I jumped down to the ground. "Thanks"?! Wow. I almost felt a kinship with those skeleton kids- and what did I lose? Some money? a couple of gadgets that can be bought with money? Whatever! It's all one big joke anyway, according to the skeleton kids, these vigilantes of counter-consumerism. That night, I said a prayer of thanks to them, because I lost my chains that shackled me to my modern culture. I gained a pocketknife and some friends.

On the way home, I jaywalked across Neville Road. I was too caught up in my cute pretentious indie music to hear the car that hit me. I had one awful moment of realization as I turned my head left and THERE IT WAS. My last thought was "this is all my fault." I woke up in the hospital and my first thought was "this is all my fault." As I realized the collision had given me a spinal cord injury leaving me entirely paralyzed and unable to speak, I saw in one horrific glimpse the future before me: I could think all I wanted, but never communicate it to anyone. Or at least not any faster than I could blink my eyes in Morse code. I could think anything, but probably my only thought for the rest of my life would be "this is all my fault."

As I went down Fifth and entered Webster, I contemplated my next ten years. Here's how it goes:
Graduate from CMU with a BS in CS, a minor in Discrete Math, and a semester studied abroad in Switzerland. I never found anything I truly enjoyed doing for more than a year, I dated a couple of girls but ultimately nobody lasting, I made a few friends that would stay great friends throughout my entire life, and I got accepted into a sweet grad school. First year of grad school, I met my future wife. Throw in whatever cliches about love you want here, we went through them all, and ultimately decided they weren't enough. I got a Ph.D. through some accelerated path, and so did she. Or she got a Master's and decided that was fine. Shortly after grad school, I became a professor, she got a great job that she loved. We had a subdued wedding, we lived in a humble apartment near a big city, (or bought a house because it made more financial sense), both biked to work (and everywhere else), and cooked amazing meals. When the kids I was teaching had winter break, we'd take the money we saved by living humbly and go skiing. We went everywhere- we went to Whistler, we went to Jackson Hole, Alta, Vail, we went back to Switzerland and I showed her around. One summer, we went to Chile and skied in July. In a couple years, we decided we enjoyed it so much we wanted to go again, but we couldn't go to the same place twice, (lame!) so we went to New Zealand. Throughout it all, I kept in touch with friends from high school and college, made new ones wherever I lived, and got together with them whenever possible. So this takes me to age 30 or so, and after that, I haven't really figured it out, but I'm not worried about that yet.

Life is simple when you figure it out in five minutes at the end of a run.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

This post is probably not unique

This is where I get out a cardboard box, stand on it, speak in a slightly affected tone of voice, and try not to seem impossibly pretentious but probably failing. If that sort of thing bugs you, click here and play this game where you make little guys throw rocks at each other.

At any rate, so I'm thinking about the whole issue of the greatest good, you know, just kinda bein all philosophical without having any idea what the hell I'm talking about, and anyway what is the best thing in the world- the point of life, even? Well the usual answer, that many people (and I) would subscribe to is that it's other people, right? Not really so sure anymore. What if that's just a subset?

New hypothesis: uniqueness. The point of life is to distinguish yourself from everyone else. Things are good if they are different from other things. Think about it- where is it not true? All this talk about being the best whatever- what if it's not about being the best, it's more about being the most individual? Take, say, tennis. Why do people try to be the best at tennis? To stand out. If you are the tennis champion of your school, people know that you are the one best person at tennis. If you're Pete Sampras, the entire world knows how great you are. That's good.

What's the point of blending in with the rest of the world? Everyone agrees that it's useless. Right?

So here's where the idea melds with my previous ideas: people, and your relationships with other people are the place where I (and probably you) find most happiness. Why? Because, to another person, you're unique. When you get to know someone else, friends, family, whatever, you realize what makes that person unique, and vice versa. That's good. Seems that's also what makes relationships in the sense of boyfriend/girlfriend and even moreso husband/wife appealing- because you can say that one person is the most unique person to you in the world. And vice versa.

In art, music, food, whatever- nothing that's the same as anything else is ever the best- right? Because there's always something the same as it.

I'm not articulating this all that well- it's kind of late, I'm tired. But you know what I mean. And if not, ask me about it, and we'll get all philosophical, and it'll be sweet.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

File this one in the "what if..." folder of trite speculations

What if you could take the most intense minutes of your life and make them into a day? I'm saying that each minute in your life has a certain degree of intensity, sort of like if you gave each minute a value of good or bad, then take the absolute value of that number. Pick out the 1440 highest numbered minutes, and combine them into a day.

You'd probably get about 1 minute for every 20 days or so of your life. By now, just judging by time, we're all probably up to 5 or 6 AM.

If I were God, when you die, you'd get to live that day. Which would make things even more interesting. Sometimes you'd have minutes go by, and you'd know: I'm going to see this minute again. Ever feel that way?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Life is so bewildering. Parties doubly so.

I'd post a lot more, but I already talked it all out with Tim. Also it'd be repetitive, a lot of it.

Let's just say it got to a point where I saw this empty room, and I just went nuts, dancing like a puppy running along the exact shock line of the invisible electric fence. jumping all around and stuff. I also tried a cigarette, because you should try everything once. And hey, it sucked, so so much for that. (thank goodness... what if I had really liked it? Maybe you shouldn't try everything. But that's a debate for another time and place.)