Saturday, December 30, 2006

Consumerism Continues

I bought these shoes. I like buying things. Especially buying good quality things. They're shiny and new for a while, and then they're just old and functional, and then they still work. At least that's the idea. Also, that's how I can justify buying (/receiving for Christmas) three super-premium (coat and backpack) or unnecessary (shoes) things for my Europe trip. (note that I mean "justifying to myself." It's not like anyone else is telling me "you buy too many things!") I just say "they'll last for longer; therefore, it's worth spending a lot of money on them." Which is true.

(hopefully. the thing not to do is say "it'll last for longer" and then buy another one soon anyway for another reason- you lose the first one, or get sick of it, or whatever.)

I think it's the sustainable thing to do, despite the hurt on my (or my parents') wallet and the environment right now.

Also, man, I really like breakfast cereal. I mean, a whole lot. If it weren't societally unacceptable, probably unhealthy, and destructive towards one of my hobbies (cooking), I could probably live somewhat contently on a box of GoLean and a half gallon of soy milk per day. Maybe a little more food; that's a little low in the calories department. Actually, check this out:
1 box GoLean- 1120 calories
1/2 gallon plain Silk- 720 calories
1 bag Trader Joe's Harvest Hodgepodge (The Best frozen vegetable mix)- 150 calories
500 calories' worth of assorted fresh fruit- 500 calories
Total: 2490 calories; pretty good for me if I'm not active. If I am, ramp everything up a bit.
I'd be set in terms of protein, carbs, and fats. As for the micronutrients, I'd probably need a multivitamin to fill in gaps, but I wouldn't be doing all too badly there either. Not saying this is a good call, but if I ever get trapped inside a Trader Joe's that happened to only stock three items plus fruit, I'd be in good shape.

I was reading a column about famous sign-off lines, and I thought, how cool would it be if a famous newsanchor used Wesley Willis's sign off:
Rock over London, rock on Chicago. Wheaties- breakfast of champions.
Then companies could pay that anchor to borrow the last part of his sign off.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Pro sports and cons

Hey! I went to a Cleveland Cavaliers game tonight. Let me first say that it was delightful. We met one of my dad's clients (who was treating us) and went to the Hyde Park Grille for a burger. Not the first thing that would have popped into my mind when someone said "let's grab a burger before the game," but the burgers cost $10 anyway, which is about what you'd pay for a burger at Fuddruckers...

Supposedly it was a Kobe beef burger with Gruyere... which sounds to me like a maraca filled with diamonds. When you're massaging your cows and feeding them beer, why put their meat through a grinder? I couldn't tell the difference, really. (note that I am not a supertaster.)
If our country had reasonable alcohol laws, I might not have felt so out of it while they ordered cocktails and I ordered a diet coke. (with a side order of cancer!)

Another question: What do you order if you're not ordering beer or wine? I may need to know this at some point in the future. The only thing I know that's reasonable is a gin and tonic, because that's what my dad drinks. Martinis? Rum/Jack and coke? A white Russian? (<-- clearly the best drink I have come across) Will these things get me laughed or sneered at? I appreciate any advice you might have, and you can make it as longwinded and condescending as you want. I'm swallowing my pride now, so that I can avoid having to swallow it later as everyone else orders something dignified and I order a Fire and Ice. ("...the forces of good BAND TOGETHER to route the hosts of chaos")
Note also that that should probably be "rout" the forces of chaos. Unless, you know, they're kinda telling the chaotic forces where to go.

Foodly and drinkly matters aside, the game was a blast too. I mean "blast" in that "good quality time with your father experience" sort of sense. It was a little awkward because the clients were there, and dad had to talk business with them a bit, but all in all, all went well, LeBron dazzled, Donyell Marshall chipped in 7 3's, and we won big.

And I once again confronted the Pavlovian spectacle that is a professional sporting event. Part of me is really repulsed by it all. You know, "Fans! Up on your feet and make some noise! It's time for the Taco Bell ball toss!" and then they would toss crummy little plastic balls out into the audience. But another part of me says that it's the same as anything else: it gives people an outlet to get excited. I'm all for spontaneous excitement- if you see a leaf on the sidewalk that makes you go nuts, and you start cheering and making a big deal out of that leaf, good for you! Or say you win a dollar in the lottery, and you make a big deal out of it and spend the dollar on Pez candy and ceremoniously dole them out to your friends... rock on! So what's wrong with sports? Well, nothing, I guess!

Besides, it was a lot of fun in high school.

But then, there's Beej's idea: nobody over 30 who really likes what he/she does for a living is really into pro sports at all. (I can't confront my dad with this hypothesis, because he doesn't, and is, and I don't really need to remind him...) It seems kinda true. Why is that? Is it just because there's less Quality in pro sports than in other pursuits that super-fulfilled-people like to pursue?

Speaking of Quality, I just bought(/received for Christmas) this coat. It's awesome. Mountain Hardwear is (supposedly) The Best. I mean, Everest climbers wear Mountain Hardwear stuff. It's what all the preppy suburban North Face wearers should have bought. Also, it's waterproof (Gore-tex style), has a removable liner, is lightweight, offers lots of movement, has a zip-away hood and a powder skirt, nice pockets ... and is apparently a women's coat? Um, I think this is it, and I know it's called the "Descent Trifecta," and I couldn't find that name under men's stuff. Huh. Well, whatever! I fell in love with it at second sight. And I got it for a little over $200 (end of year overstock). It will last me a long time, including all through Europe. If you're ever on the west side of Cleveland, stop in here. It's The Best.

Next up: I will buy this backpack. It, too, will be The Best. I hope.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I feel like I've been asleep for ___ years...

Happy Christmas! Not happy Hanukkah. Or Kwanzaa. You don't see Christians going around and saying "Happy Pentecost" or "Happy Ash Wednesday", do you? Then why do we think that Jews would want us to say "Happy Hanukkah"? Kwanzaa is just made up. By this guy. And for that matter, what about the Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. And don't start with that Christmahanukwanzmas crap, or even Festivus. Sorry, it's not funny anymore.

Here's something I was going to post on December 4. I would do the "draft" thing, but then it will post it from today, right? That's not correct. Or maybe I don't understand how Blogger works. At any rate, it's all still true:
I'm done with networks.
I'm a terrible TA. (This is not actually true; I'm only saying this because I'm comparing myself to super hardcore math folks)
I'm awesome at improv. This is not true either, but Sunday and Thursday's workshops were fantastic.
I love live music. This is not true; usually it's boring. However, the Hell Yeah the Hellcats show at the Quiet Storm on Saturday was pretty cool. I enjoy their band. (edit: the other Hellcats show I saw, on Friday the 15th, was neat too. It was in a pool hall. Really, it was just a bar, with a big smoky room for doing things. Pool, pinball, etc. Also a projector was showing the 80's movie "Rad" behind their show. Why? Ehh, beats me.)

But now it is the present! What has happened between then and now?

- I actually did finish Networks, and even got an A in it.

- I finished the rest of school, pulling out a B in Neural Nets. GPA hovers at the just-as-good-as-a-4.0 level (3.8), despite the toughest semester yet. Rock on. Although hopefully it's all downhill from here. And I mean that in the "getting easier" sense, not the "getting worse" sense. You got to admit, it's getting better. All the time.

- TA'ing finished off well. Not spectacularly, at least in my eyes. I still felt kinda distant from all the students. But they mostly did well on the final (although tests and grades aren't the best way to measure anything... more on that later). I don't think I really got anyone jazzed up about Concepts of Math. I don't think I really let anyone down either. Maybe by college it's too late for that? Hopefully my two hours a week with them were relatively pleasant.

- I went skiing for a week! If I've been out of touch, sorry. It was The Best. At least, The Best skiing I've ever had, and The Best week I've had in a long long time. Stayed with my friends from high school, the Gadomskis. They were The Best hosts. I skied for 6 days at 5 places. I meant to only stay 4 days, but thanks to The Best blizzard ever, I managed to get stuck there (woohoo!) for three more days. Did I mention how the Gadomskis were The Best hosts? I mean, skiing with Pete, Brian, and Pete's girlfriend Sarah (or "Mar", making her the second person I know with that nickname) showed me that I can do more than I thought I can do, and reinstilled my faith in my enjoyment of skiing. Then we'd come home and Mr. and Mrs. Gadomski (or Guy and Cathy, as they insisted that we call them) would make dinner, and we'd all play cards or a game or something. And we had fresh snow almost every day, including a foot (!) on Thursday. If you'd like to geek out about skiing sometime, let me know, and I will explode with excitement about this trip.

- Christmas happened. Luckily, I managed to make it to Tampa with the rest of my family, then we drove to The Villages, where my grandparents live. We also saw my aunt and uncle. It was nice! We had a nice Christmas yesterday, and it reminded us of how lucky we are, blah blah blah, and then we (and by this I mean my parents) went totally overboard buying gifts, and now we have a car full of stuff that probably won't fit on the plane back home, and holy cow. I got a great backpack! And a coat! And a bunch of books about Europe! Hey, another third of the First World, here I come!

Notable thoughts I have had:
"this is a cool restaurant, despite the boringness of the food" - inside Red Mountain Grill, in Dillon, CO. The decoration was a combination of Maya, Aztec, Mexico, and Disneyworld. It was the kind of fake-authentic thing that might show up at Crocker Park. Had Crockerparkesque food too. But it was neat.

"when I become a professor, I shouldn't give students grades" - while reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It's a great book. I'm almost done. Note that I soon second-guessed this thought, and then third-guessed it, and I'm still wondering.

"this is a worldview I might be able to buy" - same book. He talks about the grand duality of everything (calling it Classic vs. Romantic) and then talks about how maybe Quality (aka Goodness) isn't in one side or the other, and it's not some third prong somewhere else, but instead, it's the generator of the whole thing. I still don't quite understand it. But I kinda like it. Also, he brings in Taoism, which always gets me going a little bit. (it's the "Fiery Furnaces" of the religions, in my mind, which is to say that I like a lot of bands, but the Fiery Furnaces a little more than most)

"why am I not studying Dutch or German right now?" - hmm... a lot. I should work on that. Also, I'm going to cook dinner. More later!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Also...

I am the TONTIE master.

Are you?

(Grow is pretty good too)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

District B13

is a great action movie.
For serious.
This movie is everything I wish other action movies were. If you get a chance, go see it. Stuff like Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is great, but French dudes jumping over walls and stuff are pretty awesome too.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I saw a snowflake yesterday

and it was awesome.
Also, I'm getting my annual cold now, before ski time and holiday time and Europe time.
Things are ending, and it is nice.
"No matter what I do, it always feels better when I stop doing it" - Dogbert

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Whaaaaa!

Here are my plans!
Saturday, December 16: leave CMU at about noon. Drive home to Cleveland, then get on a plane to Denver.
Sunday, Dec. 17-Wednesday, Dec. 20: Ski in Colorado with one of my best friends from high school. Also, his brother (another one of my friends from high school) and his parents, who are very cool too.
Thursday, Dec. 21: Return home for a few days of good ol' Christmas family time.
Sunday, Dec. 24: Go to The Villages, Florida, for a few days of good ol' Christmas other-side-of-the-family time.
Thursday, Dec. 28: Return home, hang out with other friends from high school, get ready to go to Europe. Hopefully interview with Microsoft at some point.
Monday, Jan. 15: Fly to Zurich, Switzerland. !
Tuesday, Jan. 16-Sunday, Jan. 21: Ski in the Alps. I have no idea where or how. I'm thinking St. Anton, Austria, because I hear you can get there pretty easily from Zurich by train. (other ski recommendations are welcome! please! if you have Alps skiing experience, tell me where I should go! even if you're a random dude who just happened across this page on a "next blog" click!)
Sunday, Jan. 21- Monday, Jan. 22: Find my way to Maastricht, Netherlands. Maybe through Brussels airport. Maybe by train. We'll see.
Monday, Jan. 22- Friday, June 15: Study in the Netherlands.

All plane tickets have been bought. Again, I can't say this enough: Thank you to whatever forces of nature/luck/planning/fortune/love have given me all of these opportunities. I guess I could say it enough, but only if I said it enough that it started sounding insincere.

(there's a little nagging doubt that these trips are like toys under the Christmas tree; I'll enjoy them for a few days, but then they'll be over, and it's all just the materialistic enjoyment of it all anyway. the sort of nagging doubt that warns: "the best things in life can't be bought." HOWEVER, I have two reasons to quash the worry: Colorado is about seeing one of my best friends, not about skiing; Florida is about seeing my grandparents, including maybe the last opportunity I get to see my grandfather; and Europe is about experiencing the world from another angle. They're not just fun diversionary trips. Although two of them are that too. The other reason that I shouldn't worry is that I worry too much about everything.)

(and if it sounds like I'm glossing over the somewhat more solemn Florida trip in the midst of two brighter, shinier trips that also involve skiing... maybe I am a bit, but if I am, it's not conscious. I think I'm still in denial that anything could happen to my grandpa, even though now they're into experimental cancer treatments. this is probably a topic for another post.)

Again, thank you for everything; I have no complaints whatsoever.

...although all these trips do make it hard to concentrate on schoolwork!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Starbucks: pros and cons

Starting with the obvious:

Pro: They resurrected (or maybe created) the modern coffeeshop. They created reasonable places for people to go to spend time. (think about it: where else can you go just to BE, without paying to eat something or drink alcohol?)

Con: They're all the same. As far as homogenization goes, they're no better than McDonald's.

Pro: However, by creating the coffeeshop business, they allowed OTHER coffeeshops (with personality and perhaps even a soul) to prosper. Go to Kiva Han, go to Kiva Han, for God's sake if you are at the corner of forbes and craig and you go to Starbucks you have made the wrong choice.

Con: Their drinks are too expensive. It's tough to walk in with a $5 and walk out with any real amount of money*. Obvious solution: get a "small cup of coffee" ($1.50 or so- still reasonable I guess, if it's good quality coffee)
*note also that if you have acquired a daily Starbucks habit, at $3 or so per drink, that's over $1000 per year.

Con: It's not good quality coffee. Ergg... and this is where I wish I bookmarked articles to back up points like this. I read a couple of articles by people who knew coffee, and they said Starbucks espresso is pretty awful.

Pro: Well, at least they're tasty!

Con: So is a pie tin full of whipped cream and a bag of marshmallows. I'll just say it's unhealthy, and leave it at that. I could quote facts if you want (like a *small* white chocolate mocha- my mom's favorite- is 410 empty calories) but you probably already agree with me. (look at that, I sneaked in a fact while I was saying I wasn't going to quote facts!) They hide the not-so-well-prepared coffee with gobs of cream and sugar. And flavored syrups.

Con: drink sizes! Come on. When a single drink can have as much caffeine as a 12-pack of coke (see the table about 1/4-way down... a Venti is 24 oz. of brewed coffee... 3*135 = 405 ~ 12*34 = 408), that's a little excessive. And empty calories, etc. The insidious thing is that they market it as just a thing to drink, not a dessert. But whatever, you can write this off, because people choose what they want to drink. If they want to drink the equivalent of a few slices of cake in a coffee cup, it's their call.
What you can't dispute is that "tall", "grande", and "venti" are obnoxious. Making fun of them is lame by now, but I will anyway. (trivia and ordering tip: there IS a "short." But you have to ask for it- it's not on the menu. It's 8 oz.)

Pro: They serve fair trade coffee. How much fair trade coffee? 3.7% of their coffee is Fair Trade certified. (see wikipedia) Still, better than nothing.

Pro: They're sorta left-wing. And good for them! Hard to find, in the corporate world. You know, they donate lots to liberal groups I think. Okay, that's not very convincing. Here's one actual fact I know: (also from Wikipedia) they had some quote about being gay on their cups, and some crazy religious right group tried to bully them into taking it off, and they didn't. Great!

Con: The Green Tea Latte. This was an abomination of a drink. Do you know how to make a Starbucks Green Tea Latte? (as I saw it when they made it)... two scoops green powder, a bunch of squirts of some mango-flavored syrup, and then he went behind the espresso machine, I assume to put some warm milk in it, and then it looks like that April Fool's Day prank where you dye the milk green and everyone gets weirded out. Plus, it tastes awful.

Okay, I'm still no fan of Starbucks, but it turns out there are two sides to the coin! Well, there are two sides to every coin... but this one is less unbalanced than I thought. They're still a little evil though.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Things I learn about a Thanksgiving dinner

1. Make your own cranberry sauce! Seriously. Do it. You have no excuse. It takes a half hour, you can do it whenever and throw it in the fridge, and it is so much better than the purple cylinder that comes from a can. Here's how to do it:

- Get 12 oz of cranberries (they come in a 12 oz package in the produce section.)
- Add (are you ready? this is the hard step...) 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, 2 cinnamon sticks, 3 cloves, half an orange peel (just the orange, get as little white part as you can), and the juice of 1 full orange.
- Simmer until most of the berries break.
- Cool; remove the cinnamon sticks, cloves, and orange peel. (okay, really, this is the hard step. Finding the cloves can be tough.)

If you're missing some of those ingredients, improvise (some ground cinnamon instead of sticks, for example).

2. Timing, timing, timing. It's about 50% of good cooking.

3. Boil your potatoes a little longer than usual if you're going to mash them.

4. Almonds and green beans go well together. Cook the green beans more than I did, though.

5. Make your own stuffing croutons! I didn't, but I should have. Get some bread about 2 days before, cut it into cubes, and leave it out to get all hard. The harder, the better. I guess you could toast it too; I didn't think about that.

6. If you put this meal together competently, and you're not expected to know how to (say, if you're a college student), people will talk about how great it is so much that it'll make you uncomfortable.

7. Listen to the band BOAT; they're what might have happened if Wolf Parade had been less whiny and more happy. Of course, I judge bands based entirely on singers' voices, so that may not be accurate. RIYL: any of those goddamn cutesy bands like Architecture in Helsinki. Starting points: Quickly and Quietly, Last Cans of Paint.

8. If Tom Robbins started a religion, I would probably follow it. Also, dudes and Christianity are messing up our world. Read Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.

9, 10, and 11. Thank you for everything; I have no complaints whatsoever.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Airplane tomorrow!

Wow!

I still get a little bit giddy every time I get to fly on an airplane. Tomorrow I'm going to Florida (at 9:30AM!) to visit my grandparents. Rock! My seat is 5D. That's like the second best seat on the plane! (front, aisle)

Also, I am The Luckiest. Within the next two months, I will be flying to Florida (again), Colorado (maybe, hopefully...), Seattle (?! Wouldn't that be awesome! Microsoft!), and EUROPE! Yeah! Maybe Zurich. What have I done to deserve this? (Well, I'll tell you: paved my own path into the study abroad world, interviewed well with MS, and most of all, worked and made money. However, what have I done to deserve not having to pay that money right back into CMU? I think that's a better question.)

But let's not play the "I'm not worthy" game, because that's not the point! You can thank those that put you in this position without grovelling. You can accept great turns of events, just as long as you are willing to accept the not-so-great as well.

I hope I never get tired of flying.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Okay, 5 honestly good songs

Again, keeping in mind that we're not making "top 5" lists...

1. Matt Pond PA- Closest (Look Out)
This is by far the best song on an album of not-so-great songs. Just listen to it and imagine that you're in your backyard (at your real home, not your college home... if the two are still distinct places for you) on a summer evening. There's a heck of a storm brewing, and it's windy, but you're grilling hamburgers with slices of pineapple. Oh yeah, and a friend from high school is visiting, but that friend is leaving, and you're not going to see that friend for a long time. That's kind of what this song is like.

2. The Polyphonic Spree- Section 12 (Hold Me Now)
Wow. This is pop music perfection, part 2. If you asked me "why do you like the music that you like?" I'd play you this song. If you still wondered, and if you weren't grinning and feeling like everything is all right again!, well, maybe Slipknot would be more your thing.

3. Queens of the Stone Age- Go With the Flow
Sorry. Here's some of my indie cred back. Okay, so they were Alternative Rock radio darlings. (so were RHCP and SOAD, so that doesn't prove anything, but that's another argument...) This song is repetitive, kind of heavy, and not particularly inspired. But it does kind of sound a little bit like all the devil-may-care freewheeling spirit that may be missing from a lot of the rest of my music. Also, it's got a great color scheme; the video's neat. It's black and red. The rest of the music I own is probably shades of blue and green.

4. Ekoostik Hookah- Thief
You can get this song here (in FLAC only, sorry). That's a testament to their hippie love-everyone song distribution style. I feel like jam bands are salvageable! Really! But listening to them is like going to the world's largest spaghetti dinner, featuring a chef who wears a loose diamond ring on each finger. Yeah, if you stick around long enough, you might find some gems in your noodles. But you have to wait a while. Oh yeah, and since they tend to record every concert, the pile of spaghetti grows without end. All that said, this song is one of those gems. If I happen across any more, I'll let you know.

5. Talking Heads- Once in a Lifetime
Everything about this song is good. David Byrne's his halting, nerdly, semi-stuttering delivery of the spoken vocals rocks like a grandparent on a porch. The lyrics are pretty nice. The bassline punctuates everything nicely without getting in the way. And have you seen the video?! If I could perform any one song like the original artist, it'd be this one.

I'd post Five Great Albums next, but that's enough pretension for me for a while. Thanks for listening, and tune in next week!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ram inspired me...

I was reading this, and I thought, hey, that looks like fun. (I also agreed on most counts, and played "Dinner Bell" on my WRCT show) Then I programmed for 48 hours. But THEN I submitted my program and it passed the checkpoint, so I decided, sleep be damned, I am going to make my own damn list. Categorization, prioritization, gushing about things I like- all of these are fun activities. In fact, I think that's secretly why I played Magic cards for so many years: I really liked putting the cards into categories. And ranking them. And then entering tournaments, trying to squeak by without buying awesome cards and wondering why I lost. And then going home, crying about it a little bit, and sorting my cards some more. Luckily for my educational career as well as my personal well-being, I gave up that nasty little habit.

So I started making a list. But, as usually happens when you set out to make a list, you get a list of things that you don't actually want to put on the list, and you end up with a list you're unsatisfied with. So I found a couple of kinda-sappy songs by bands I really like, realized I was making a kinda-sappy list, and threw out the old idea of making a list like Ram's and started making a List of Songs That Make Me Really Goddamn Sappy. But then, of course, as I was looking for more songs to fit this list, I came across five songs that really fit the list I was trying to make in the first place. So. Two lists.

And without further ado, I'll kick off the List of Songs By Bands That I Really Like That Make Me Goddamn Sappy with:

1. Sufjan Stevens- The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out To Get Us!
This one is a little easier to take than the rest. You kind of expect this list to contain at least one song by Sufjan Stevens, the kind of guy that a lot of straight guys say "I'm not gay, but if I went gay for someone, it'd be him." (let it be noted that the phrase "being gay for someone" is pretty funny) (also let it be noted that I'm not in the crowd that would say that about Sufjan Stevens. Now, Andrew Bird, on the other hand...) The point is, I couldn't take this song for its saccharine content on the first, maybe, 10 listens. But then I kept listening to it, and it rose to the top of my "Illinois" rankings, and then kept going, and pretty soon I was singing "We were in love, we were in love! Palisades, palisades..." and the whole last verse, with "Deep in the tower, the praries below... terrible sting, terrible storm..." and continuing on through "I can tell you, I love him each day" is very pretty indeed, and that's all I'll say about it.

2. Death Cab for Cutie- Photobooth
Okay, here is Pop Music Perfection part 1. This is the sad love song, in my book. Yeah, okay, Death Cab, major label, OC soundtrack, Postal Service, bunch of tools, and Ben Gibbard looks like Mark Stehlik. Oh, and programmed drums. Whatever. Just try to listen to this song without feeling sad (and nostalgic; what an insidious kind of sadness!). Okay, so maybe you can; you're not a sad sappy sucker like me. Fair enough.

3. Architecture in Helsinki- Maybe You Can Owe Me
Had this song been about a minute shorter, it might ascend into heaven itself. As it is, it's just so, so precious. The beat is catchy, the vocals are shamelessly twee, and I can't get over "I know it's complicated, here's the keys to the door/ of the room where I'm staying, you can sleep on the floor./ Halfway through the night can we talk and see/ 'cause there's no way that I'll sleep when you're near me." Look, this list isn't a "List of Songs with Great Lyrics or Profound Meanings," all right?

4. Weezer- Across the Sea
Ram, Ram, Ram. You listed this as the one song you'd leave off of Pinkerton. I thought about it for a little bit, then I decided that I'm in no state to judge its objective quality because I love it so much, but you're still wrong. And it's still my measuring stick for pop/rock song climaxes. By the time it gets to "words and dreams and a million screams/ oh, how I need a hand in mine to feel"... it's good enough, along with the opening riff from "Tired of Sex," to forgive Weezer for spawning a decade of crummy imitators (including Weezer, part 2).

5. Modest Mouse- 3rd Planet
What's good about this song? It's kinda mid-tempo, there's no catchy beat, nothing really to make you want to listen to it again after you listen to it once. On the first listen through The Moon and Antarctica, a damn fine record, your ear might get drawn to the dancier "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes" or the epic "Stars are Projectors", or maybe the dystopian-sounding "A Different City", or the bizarre lyrics of "Wild Pack of Family Dogs." But this made my list, and the others didn't. Why? Beats me. There's nothing special about lines like "Your heart felt good/ it was drippin' pitch and made of wood" or "That's how the world began/ and that's how the world will end." Is it the mood of the whole album influencing my rating? Is it just my associations with it and skiing? Does it just manage to pick a few good words, making me get all sad just because it says something about a heart? I don't know. Yet, this song stirs up the ol' emotional brackish pond like few others.

There's list one. You want a red telephone to the music that sets off my emotional system, there it is. Now, if you want a list of songs that are perfect to more people than just me, well, I made that list too. But you'll have to wait for the next post.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

It's been a week

I guess the things that I have to say are:
1. Cooking classes are great! I went to a Thanksgiving Dinner class today.
2. Networks is not the coolest thing I've ever done.
3. I feel a little stagnant, in terms of what I do. I would like to know what it is that I enjoy a lot, besides skiing, travel, and food. Change is good.
4. I have a lot of work, but
5. I should not whine so much about it; instead, I should get it done.

None of these are new sentiments, so I will not belabor them. Thank you for everything; I have no complaints whatsoever.

Friday, November 03, 2006

According to Hendrix, it's a frustrated mess

If I had to pick one psychological disorder that I'm most likely to have, I think it'd be manic depression. And what does it take to get me on a manic kick? Apparently a Networks project will do it. Wow. Thursday, I was just on fire all day. A few times in the last couple days, I've just realized that I'm actually Enjoying a Moment (which seems to be the essence of how to live your life well, period). Thursday I was bicycling outside, it was windy, I was stupid-cold, and it felt great! There were leaves flailing around, Sly and the Family Stone blasting into my ears, I was wearing a nifty new t-shirt (from NPP, incidentally), and it was all fine! Plus, while I've been coding, except for the last few hours when I realized that I wasn't going to get it done, and that it would interfere with something else I wanted to do, it's been great.

But I don't like Networks overall. What's the deal? I think it's just that there's a project that I can make continuous progress on, that I really want to get done. Also, I want to control it and really take charge, so I know it's all The Best. All the same, I didn't cook all week until today because I was so busy with that noise, and as a result, my ground beef went bad. Nuts. But I did cook some meatballs (with other meat, don't worry!) with a brown sauce (still tricky to make a roux) as well as some potato pancakes and applesauce. With a bunch of help from Julie. Thanks!

Saw another great concert tonight! The Fiery Furnaces opened up with most of their Bitter Tea album in one big medley. Then they played some other songs. As usual, it was unlike their albums, and also unlike the other show I've seen them play. I can't even say why I like them so much, but I really enjoyed it. Which is unusual for me and concerts. I think maybe one reason I like them so much is that it's something to like a lot- it's kind of arbitrary (sort of like skiing). I just decide I'm going to really love this band, and then as a result, I do. But really, what's the difference? If I think their albums are genius, but they get a 60-something on Metacritic, who cares?

If it's good to do something useless but do it really well (some would say that's the definition of art) ("some" would be "me") (maybe), then it's also good to like something for no reason but like it a lot. If you think about it more and then decide you don't really like it, you lose!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

It could be worse!

Our neighbors all apparently have Techno clocks. They look at their clocks and say "what time is it?" and the clock says "it's techno time!"
However, I'm working on Networks in Kevin's apartment now, and apparently his neighbors have worse clocks. "What time is it?" "It's Vertical Horizon time!"

That said, I'd trade. At least it's probably not Vertical Horizon time past midnight.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

I am excited!

First, about the culinary club! I'm finally starting this club, and it looks good. We had our first cooking demonstration tonight, about 12 people showed up, and it was a success! And my stir-fries tasted good too! Rock on! (hey, if you're interested, here's the website. Send me an email and I'll put you on the dlist!)

Second, I read this: "In Holland, there are twice as many bikes as cars" from here. I'm going to that country! I'm going there! Woooooo!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Speaking of a great concert:

Tally Hall is The Best.

Wow. They usually play "Good Day" to start the show- this time, they opened with the video to "Good Day" shown on a projector screen, then came out and played Freebird. The whole thing. It was so funny! The best part is, half their crowd is about 16 years old, so they didn't get it at all!

Halfway through the show, they decided to come out into the audience, so they waded through us to the back of the room, where they sat up on this ledge and played "Be Born" and "Spring and a Storm" (in the running for the best song ever) using acoustic guitars, bongos, and some weird accordioney thing. Oh yeah, then they played "Down by the Bay." You know, that song you sang in preschool. ("Did you ever see a ____, line that rhymes with _____, down by the bay?")

They are so good! If you are an indie record label, sign them now, because you'll make a whole lot of money when one of the big five steals them.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Nevermind, that's a great concert after all

So AB concerts had 6 choices: Broken Social Scene, Spoon, Sonic Youth, My Morning Jacket, Blackalicious, and some other band I've never heard of. In my view, that's a 4/6 shot of bringing a pretty good show, with Blackalicious and the other band being the not-so-awesome choices. And they picked Blackalicious. Maybe I shouldn't say anything; I don't know from Blackalicious. But come on, any of the other 4 would be so cool.

But it turns out the opener is Andrew Bird! And I don't know about you, but to me, the concert he played out at Point State Park was one of the best concerts I can remember. That should be a cool show. Way to go AB concerts for appealing to everyone.

Of course, it overlaps entirely with an NPP show, but that's a different matter...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

And another interesting question:

(prompted by a story Ram told me about Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu)

... if the Ultimate Power/Grand Being/God Of Everything became incarnated in certain people or things sometimes, would it be easier or harder to get a sense of the grand wonder of the universe? For example, you're walking down the street, and there's a mailbox, but the mailbox starts talking to you and you realize that it's actually God. Or if God were a person, like Jesus, except appearing more than once throughout human history. What if God were all over the place? Say, if He were prevalent enough that everyone knew at least 5 or 6 people who were actually God?

Would that help us? Make us less likely to mess with people, because they might be God? Make us realize that, no matter how miserable we feel, God is probably right around the corner? Or would that make God ordinary, and therefore no longer God?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

I suppose, for post 200, this might be appropriate

I wrote this for my Zen midterm (the prompt: "write anything"). It was compiled in about an hour, so it's not The Best. Also, it wasn't written for people who read this all the time, so it's pretty much a rehashing of a lot of things I've said here- it might get repetitive. Read at your own risk.

The Dualism of Everything

A Western upbringing, Zen, sub-vocalization, lucid dreaming, and death- five different topics, right? Not necessarily. They’re all intimately related as facets of the grand dualism between everything. Everything has two sides, and the best way to live is to strike a balance between them.

I was raised in a traditional upper-middle-class American family. Two parents, two kids, three houses in increasingly upscale suburbs as the years passed. An excellent public school system, then a well-renowned Catholic high school. A lawyer father and a graphic designer mother. My family’s love and support, my tremendous education, and enough resources to fill my every material need prepared me to do whatever I want. Now I’m in a top-notch college, studying computer science. I could become an entrepreneur, start the next Google, and make billions. I could become a world-renowned researcher and develop the next algorithm that’s used in computers all over the world. I could go into politics, writing, engineering—maybe not literally “whatever I want”, but at least close. I have ambition, ability, dedication, and all sorts of other traits that sound good in a job interview.

That’s one side of the equation.

But people who go straight for the money, people who pursue fame and fortune, always end up sad, right? So there’s another side to life. It’s the unselfish, ambitionless, powerless, meek, content, and caring side. It’s the side that doesn’t care if you don’t get the job, or even if you get the job but royally screw something up- you’re appreciated anyway. The side that’s not so much about being yourself as it is about being nobody. Being part of the grand unity of everything. You’re not a special little cupcake; you’re the same as everyone else. But it’s okay!

So there’s the other side.

For clarity, let’s call the first side of everything “Western” and the second “Eastern.” I figure these labels are as good as any. I’ve considered “conservative” and “liberal”, but those have too many associations with current politicians; “masculine” and “feminine”, but that’s a whole different ball of wax; and “yang” and “yin,” but I’m not entirely sure if that’s the same idea, and I’d hate to appropriate religious terms and then misuse them a bunch. (Is it the same? Maybe I should start saying yang and yin)

The point is, I feel like I know the worldly, Western side of life, pretty well, but I’m downright befuddled as to the Eastern side. What is it? The Christian church (the only one I’ve really known- and I’ve seen a couple sides, Methodist and Catholic) tosses the word “love” out there, and just lets it fill the space. Love of God, love of one’s neighbor. The Christian goes to church every week to proclaim, or at least convince himself, that he loves God a lot. Maybe he’s got a nice family and some good friends too, and he can love them. But as half of life itself, that seems pretty shallow. I like to ski a lot, and I feel like it’s more than just a sensory pleasure. There’s some deep, Eastern significance to learning to do something well, and doing what you love, God and all other people aside. I think.

So how does this all relate to Zen? I don’t know much about Zen, or any Eastern religion, but it seems like they tend to revolve around the “Eastern” parts of life- becoming “one with everything,” losing yourself, finding nirvana. (Meanwhile, the Western religions focus on doing good works so St. Peter will let you through the pearly gates- again, working hard to attain something.) It seems like this Eastern enlightenment is something you can’t attain by working at it. Which is why it’s so hard for a Western kid like me.

When I meditate, there are constantly words going through my head. I feel like I haven’t thought a thing unless I’ve put it into words. Maybe this slows me down while I’m reading, maybe not- that’s beside the point. I see this sub-vocalization as just another way I try to control everything around me and work harder to get to the next goal. Also, while I’m meditating, why don’t I think about something useful to get something done, instead of wasting a half hour? See, I consciously realize that that’s nonsense- the point of meditation is to sit there and NOT do anything. But I can’t seem to tell that to my subconscious mind.

At any rate, I’m trying too hard, thinking too hard, and trying to develop a capacity to lose myself, to fully exist in a moment, and to love. So here’s where the last couple of points come in, and why I think I still have a chance at achieving some sort of happy balance in life. First of all, I had a lucid dream the other night. I didn’t do anything unusual- I went flying for a bit, and it was really exhilarating- but I remember thinking that I can’t concentrate too hard on any one thing or I’ll wake up and lose it all. I was able to exist in this not-concentrating-but-still-existing-and-enjoying state for a few minutes, and that’s the kind of thing I’d like to be able to do more. It was pretty euphoric.

Also, I’m somewhat unafraid of death, as came up in class. I’ve dreamt about dying a few times, and it’s always peaceful. I realize that, when I die, everything I’m trying so hard to accomplish won’t matter. I think that, the more I keep that in my mind, the more I’ll be able to accept the little things that come up, and the happier I’ll be.

Ultimately, it’s all about balance, just like everything else. Keeping my life in balance between the ambitious Westerner and the peaceful Easterner seems to be the key to happiness. But the more I put it into words, and the more I think about it, the more I just don’t get it, because there are some things you can’t figure out by thinking really hard. So I’ll stop now.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

iiiiiiironic

Headline: Freed Nazi guard is a man without a country

Story: this former Nazi guard, Johann Leprich, was found and we tried to deport him, but no other country would take him.

Last two lines: "Leprich was arrested in 2003 when authorities found him hiding behind a panel under the basement stairs at his family's home about 20 miles northeast of Detroit."

Whoa. Apparently what goes around comes around.

Friday, October 13, 2006

One down, one to go

Just handing in the first project for THE HARDEST. Networks is half done. It doesn't get any harder than that.

I still hate it for killing my last week. Also for some other reasons. But whatever... done now... no more computers!

This is why I write down my dreams:

10/13/06: Gerrit was making some drinks. He had this bottle that said something like "Lake Trout" on it. I asked him what he was making, and he said it was a "One-Trick William." I said, "What's a One-Trick William?" He said (casually, as if this were something that everyone should know), "It's a vodka and fish."

Monday, October 09, 2006

Where's Dumbledore when you need him...

Geez. North Korea, come on.

Two books that I've read come to mind:
1. Calculating God by Robert J. Sawyer- just some novel. But there was a really interesting part: these aliens come to Earth and say that, although they can travel throughout the galaxy, they haven't found many other living species because, as they say, there's only a small window of time that any species can be found by extraterrestrials. Why? Because of technology. You can't be found by aliens unless you've developed radio. However, after you develop radio, technology keeps increasing faster and faster until a super-atomic-bomb, powerful enough to blow up the whole planet, becomes common enough that anyone can get one. And, sooner or later, someone who's actually mentally insane (if not someone who's just really power-hungry) will get one and detonate it.

2. Harry Potter- life's tough. But then Dumbledore swoops in, with about 30 pages left, and saves everything!

Oh well. It's like they say about toast: 185 pieces of toast walk into a bar, and SNAPE KILLS DUMBLEDORE!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Boycott 7up.

7up is now claiming to be "100% natural." It's all over their ad campaign.

Why this is false:
-7up still contains (a lot of) high fructose corn syrup, just like most sodas. High fructose corn syrup is like sugar, except it's distilled from corn in a factory. Sure, it came from corn originally, but that doesn't mean it's "natural."
-7up also contains potassium citrate. That's a chemical.
-To be fair, the drink is mostly carbonated water. That's not particularly natural either. But whatever- carbonated water, take it or leave it. The main issue is the HFCS.

Why this is bad:
-People might buy it, thinking it's actually natural, or even healthy.

What you should do:
-Boycott 7up.

-Spread the word.

-If you're a real badass, also boycott Dr. Pepper, A&W Root Beer, Snapple, Sunkist, Canada Dry, Hawaiian Punch, Schweppes, Mott's Apple Juice, IBC, Stewart's, Nantucket Nectars, and Orangina. They're all owned by Cadbury Schweppes, which owns 7up.

-Also boycott RC Cola, Diet Rite, Slush Puppie, Clamato, Mr. and Mrs. T, Holland House, Rose's, Mistic, and Yoo-hoo. Cadbury Schweppes also owns them. But who drinks them anyway?

As they say, this chaps my ass real bad.

Monday, October 02, 2006

I just experienced one of those moments that makes life worthwhile

walking back from Wean. It was dark, it smelled so much like fall, I was listening to "The Mistress Witch of McClure (or, the Mind that Knows Itself)" off of Sufjan Stevens's "The Avalanche", and it was warm. Just thought I'd share, so it doesn't seem like my life is all doom and gloom. Really, it's pretty nice most of the time!

Friday, September 29, 2006

I need to chill the fuck out

First of all, hooray for Pittsburgh for having a "gallery crawl" tonight- there were some cool things downtown. I wish I had been with a couple friends instead of with an RA and other Margaret Morrison folks on a trip to the symphony; a trip that I attended because it was really cheap and a way to get some culture! The galleries were cool, though, like the Wood Street Gallery featuring some Indian dance and Future Tenant with some modern art, including various Iranian heads of state on a conveyor belt being poked by little pokers. And then we saw the symphony, which I'll give the classic review of "I can't really appreciate it, but it was neat."

But man. Sunday through Tuesday, all my free time was on Networks. Wednesday, grading; Thursday and today, Neural Nets. I might drop Neural Nets.
Reasons for dropping it:
- I'm not learning a lot, I don't think. It's all either going over my head (math blatz! 3-d calc?!) or is just a high-level overview. The homeworks are giving me fits- they're theoretically easy, but there's a bunch of dicking around with MATLAB. Lame.
- Maybe I'm overworked this semester?
- Doesn't really help me graduate. See, it's a CS elective (I need 1), and it's a cog sci elective (I need 4). I just want to make things as easy for myself next year as possible.
Reasons for keeping it:
- If I drop it, I'll have 3 classes + 2 StuCo's. That's a little bit silly.
- It sort of helps me graduate. (pulls up spreadsheet) If I drop it, and I don't accomplish anything next semester while I'm studying abroad, I'll need 10 classes to get both of my majors (CS and CS). If I do keep it, that number goes down to 8 (double counting). And it's really 7, because another class will double count. And I'm hoping I can take some classes in Europe that will count. So ... well, whatever. I don't know why I'm telling you all about my class schedule. I'll graduate, and it'll be fine.

But this week was a killer. And there's no break; it's right back into the mix with more Networks this weekend. The thing that's so tough about all this work popped into my mind while I was talking to my mom the other day. It's not because I hate the work- doing Networks is all right, except for the time pressure. (It's almost fun, because you can really make progress, and you can really get into it.) The problem is this: I keep compromising more and more who I want to be and what I want to do. For example: I haven't started this cooking club that I'm all about starting. I've been completely sedentary all week. Friends have been over here and I've been sitting in this dim basement doing homework. When people ask "how's it going?" all I can say is "well, I've been working on Networks..." geek geek geek geek Geek Geek GEEK GEEK GEEK!

But then, I had all summer to do what I want to do, and what did I do? Well, I had some fun, but I don't feel like I made the most of it. Mostly because my job was so boring, I felt listless all the time.

Solution: stop talking about doing stuff, and go do stuff! Well, it's Saturday night at 1 am, what can I do? (obvious answer: sleep, so I can do stuff tomorrow!) What I really need to do, though, is lose myself. Have you noticed the number of "I"s in this post? There are a lot! I feel like the more you think about yourself, talk about yourself, etc, the less happy you become. I need to lose myself at a party, in a game, in cooking maybe, meditation, some project that I like... and most of all, in other people!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

OMG Broken Social Scene Oct 18

at Mr. Smalls

Anyone want to go to this? (it's about halfway down the page)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Pizzeria Uno, and Exercise

Item #1. Pizzeria Uno is now "Uno Chicago Bar and Grill". The chain that used to be a decent pizza chain is now the same as every other mediocre restaurant. Applebee's, Max and Erma's, TGI Friday's, Ruby Tuesday, Red Robin, Fuddrucker's, Chili's, ...

The name is the same. The decorations are the same- assorted crap from the crap factory that must exist to produce crap for these kinds of restaurants. The menu's the same- all sorts of fried shit appetizers, the same dozen sandwiches, the same dozen entrees (served in huge portions), and a bunch of dumb froofy desserts and drinks. Oh, and a couple of salads (read: iceberg lettuce with a couple of cute "theme" toppings) for the "health conscious." The prices are the same- you will spend about $12-15 including tax/tip. They even have a beer brewed "especially for them!" that's so bad that our waiter (who was very honest) couldn't even recommend it. Geez. Everyone who wants to open a restaurant franchise should have to first fill out a questionnaire that says "why do you want to open a soulless food-mart instead of a restaurant with personality?"

Also, Pittsburgh, get places to go after 11pm besides bars!

Item #2. Doesn't exercise, as it's become in the modern world, seem so artificial? Like you live your life, except you take an hour out every day to go to the gym, and maybe you run on a treadmill- a machine that lets you expend extra effort to go nowhere. Maybe you lift weights, just so you can put them back down again. Drive your car to the gym to ride a stationary bike. Somewhere in the last hundred years, humanity got so good at survival that we didn't have to expend physical energy to survive anymore, and so now we just expend physical energy because we have to. What the hell?

And the idea that this would become a chore- like you have to go get your exercise every day. Like "brush my teeth, take a shower, expend energy." But the alternative- not exercising- is even worse, because then you just get sedentary and lazy. I mean, I guess the real alternative is to find a sport that you really enjoy, and then you'll just exercise for its own sake.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Seeking restaurants

Hey, I'm the restaurant reviewer for the Carnegie Pulse. How about that! Check out my masterworks at The Carnegie Pulse.

The problem is, I need to know some more places to review. They need to be either new or otherwise unusual. For example, I can't review Fuel and Fuddle. ("It was good. It was half price. It was crowded. I wish I could drink beer, because they have quite a selection.")

I've reviewed Chipotle, the Green Mango Noodle Hut, and Little Asia- they don't have to be gourmet establishments. In fact, as much as I'd love to review gourmet establishments, I think that Carnegie Pulse readers would rather know about places they can actually go to more than once a year: places that are relatively nearby and relatively cheap.

So, all that said, I think my next target is the Silk Elephant in Squirrel Hill. It's relatively new. After that, I don't know. Let me know if you have any ideas! (particularly non-Asian places, because that's 3 in a row. But let me know Asian suggestions too.) And if you'd like to come along, let me know that too!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Big Ideas

with capital letters. That's what my mind's been on recently. The "what is it all about" sort of thing. Let me explain the last couple of weeks. Actually, I'll back up to the summer. I started reading a couple of interesting books- The Book and the Tao of Pooh. I've probably raved to you about them both. Talking to various friends; Beej, Ram, Julie, and others that I think are interested in the same ideas. I've also been reading some more entertaining but still philosophical stuff like Tom Robbins and The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham. Most recently, it's been a book called "Voluntary simplicity" from Gerrit.

The point is, I don't know a darn thing about things in general, much less big "why are we all here" sort of things. I'm trying to list how I started asking questions. I don't know if it's anything about this year, this summer, maybe it was last spring, or what, but my old world view wasn't cutting it.

It wasn't a terrible world view: I was comfortable with myself, mostly comfortable with others, and comfortable with the path my life would be taking. It was pretty Western/masculine/worldly/individual/Yang, though. (if there's one thing I know, it's that there's a grand duality in the universe, and just about everything has two sides, and the middle is usually the best way to go. That seems to be a sort of universal truth, at least on some level, and it makes a hell of a lot of sense.) It was a fine world view, but "nothing to excess", as the ancient Greeks through Fr. Ober taught me in freshman World History in high school. And the whole thing started getting to me, the one-sidedness of my existence. Even the idea of Love as the ultimate good, which was fine for me for a bunch of years. For some reason, I generally decided, over time, there must be something more.

This all sounds like I embarked on a Grand Spiritual Adventure. I haven't really changed my life at all. Besides enrolling in a Zen Meditation StuCo. But the point isn't whether I say "I'm embarking on a Grand Spiritual Adventure", because saying that I'm doing something big is just a label. A label that lets me say "Look at me, I'm improving myself! I'm attempting to make myself better than anyone else, because now I'm spiritually cool too!" Which may be what I'm doing on a subconscious level, but consciously, I'm trying to avoid that. If I start to sound pretentious about anything spiritual, don't even listen to me, because I'm entirely missing the point.

Anyway, so what is this Eastern view? I don't know yet. To say "I am reading about Eastern religion" is like saying "I went to a restaurant in America." There are so many different kinds. But I think they all have a few universal truths, or maybe even one universal truth:
The way to be is to lose yourself entirely and become one with everything.
That's the quickest way I can summarize what I think I know about it. This oneness with everything shows up a lot: as nirvana (Hindu, right? Buddhist too? Shows what I know...), the Tao, enlightenment. Even as heaven in Christianity, although the Western conception of heaven seems nothing like the Eastern. For Christians, it always comes across as this place in the sky where you go when you die, if you've been good. But really, it's the same thing, just worded differently.

Okay. So there's some background. Last last Sunday I had quite an experience, which I'll leave appropriately vague. Hi potential employers, hi Mom and Dad! Nah, my mom and dad are probably cool. The point is not the details of the experience, because it doesn't change you. It just stirs up emotions and thoughts, like dredging up the bottom of a pond. (thanks, Ram, for the analogy)

I had expected this to leave me on an all-time moment of clarity, where I would realize more and more that all is one and one is all. I thought I would realize how little of an individual I am, and how it's meaningless to even refer to myself as an individual, or even as myself.

Well, one thing was right: it gave me a sort of moment of clarity. I stood on the roof of the Slanty Shanty, and I wanted to breathe in the entire world. Everything was so vivid! And here's the thing: I felt so optimistic about my future. I saw a couple of the high points of my life laid out before me (Colorado, December 2004; NYC, August 2006; the Alps, January 2007) I went back inside and sat down, and felt so thankful to everyone and everything. Thank you, by the way; if you're reading this, I probably know you, and I want to thank you. I had a pen and paper, and I wrote something along the lines of "if I get nothing else out of this, it'll be sincerity." I felt like a child again; it was euphoric. It's like when you realize you couldn't have made it without someone, and you just break down and cry in gratitude, but that person loves you so much, they were just happy to help. Except it was directed towards everyone.

Okay, so I also helped make a fort out of Aaron's bed (Aaron was puzzled to see how his bed turned out), listened to electricity (it sounds like little mice!), and had a stare-down with a Kurt Cobain poster. But the point is, it was a tremendous experience.

But how so? It was tremendous in a Western sense. Wow, I felt great, and life seemed like one ever-growing pyramid of fun! But I felt individual. I felt like Mufasa AND Simba, standing there and saying to myself "Everything the light touches is our kingdom", where "our" was a use of the royal "we". I'm the king of the world! ...thanks to all of you who helped me get here.

This was frustrating. My life doesn't need more Western materialistic greatness. (Don't get me wrong, it does need some. I'm not saying there's no place for a Western point of view. But it should be half of your view, not all of it.)

The next day, I felt so lethargic, I'm lucky I didn't turn into a big plastic bag of Frosty. Not just lethargic, though; will-less. I didn't want to do anything or see anyone. It was a terrible feeling, and I don't know if it was due to the previous day, the previous year, or just a random bad day. Everyone irritated me, and everything bored me. I still don't know why it was, only that it's been turning up a couple times in the last couple of weeks. It doesn't make any sense; it's not like all my friends graduated (some of them did, but most of them are still around, anyway) or my job/major seemed pointless (now I have some direction for the first time in my college career).

So there have been ups and downs. Maybe I'll add more details later, or more thoughts on things, but to avoid having 3 straight 6-hour sleeps, (and it's only week 3!) I'm going to bed. Good night!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Burrito controversy!

My Chipotle review

Burrito snobs

Hey, they linked to my article! And failed to miss the point that I'm reporting on a FAST FOOD RESTAURANT! Rock on, guys, you sure know the most about burritos! Hey, here's another article you should write: Harry Potter is not as good as Faulkner, and therefore England is a literary wasteland.

There it is: I'm gaining notoriety in the blog circuit.

Real post is still to come... whenever I get a free couple hours.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Post coming soon

It's been quite the weekend. I'm still trying to fit it all into my head, and figure out how best to put it on paper.
It sort of made me ask myself, Where does that highway go to?
And then I asked myself, Am I right? Am I wrong?
And then I asked myself, My god!...what have I done?

Okay, so that turned into quoting "Once in a Lifetime," which continues to surprise me with how good it is. The whole CD, "Remain in Light," is fantastic! Wow! Been a while since I found a CD to gush about. Well, besides Belle and Sebastian's "Dear Catastrophe Waitress" and the Boards of Canada's "In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country", but you already knew that about the first one and the second one is just an EP.

But next time, less rock, more talk! Stay tuned, faithful readers!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Wish it was free and all mine

How to become an ordained pastor

You may have heard about AOL's leak of a whole bunch of search records. Some dudes searched through it all and found the best searches. Credit Grubb for finding this.

Monday, August 28, 2006

When we all become robots, this is how we'll talk

I was just thinking about conversation today, because I noticed that the professor who I'm TAing for had a unicycle in his office. I wanted to ask if he rode a unicycle, what kind of experience he has, if he juggles (because the two are often related), etc. But how do you start that conversation? And then what?

On a note that seems unrelated but is actually related: a rules engine is a cool thing. Sometimes they're also called Expert Systems. Maybe there's a distinction between those. I don't know. Anyway, here's how it works: you have some facts, and you have some if-then rules. Each rule triggers when certain facts exist.
For example, I could have the following rules:
1. If I have a dollar, I should buy a can of Arizona iced tea from Entropy.
2. If it's cold, and if I have a hat, I should put the hat on.
3. If I have a drink, and if I'm thirsty, I should drink it.
And I have the following facts:
- I have a dollar.
- I'm thirsty.
- It's cold.
- I don't have a hat.
Then rule 1 will trigger because I have a dollar. Rule 3 will then trigger because then I have a drink and I'm thirsty. Rule 2 will not trigger because all of its conditions weren't met.
That's what I know about rules engines, in a nutshell. Anyway, they're cool. Supposedly, this is how the human mind works, according to ACT-R theory. That was the basis for the "cognitive tutors" that I sort of worked on all summer.

Back to conversations:
I want to start this conversation. So I just want to throw out there this fact: You have a unicycle in your office. He would probably have a rule in his mind that says "If someone mentions the unicycle, say that I belong to a unicycling club." Then I'd have a rule that says: "If someone tells me that he belongs to a unicycling club, do the following: ask how long he's been doing it, and ask if he knows how to juggle too." Etc.

What happened instead? I said "Do you ride a unicycle?" The other two people we were with sort of giggled as if it were a stupid question, because why the hell else would he have a unicycle in his office? The conversation derailed from there.

Point is, rules engines are pretty neat. And if that's how the mind works, that's simple, elegant, powerful, and therefore beautiful.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Last Will and Testament

Oh, for crying out loud, don't get all in a fit. I'm not going anywhere. But I was talking with Gerrit and Anu earlier about being ready for death at any time, and while I would be fine, because I'd be dead, it would throw things a little out of whack for the rest of you. Also, it's been a while since I really thought about anything introspective at all. So I've prepared this document.

First of all, my possessions and money. This is first, not because it's important, but because it's easy. I give them all to my family (Mom and Dad and Cheryl). They can do with them whatever they want. Maybe donate my clothes to charity, sell some stuff, etc. Whatever. It's just things. Hopefully the money will be helpful too.

(as for my computer, my data is probably just gone. Good luck guessing my passwords. I use two main passwords, and they're both nonsense. The one that is less secure is this: it starts with a spanish word related to a poem about raining coffee (ask Elda Borroni, my spanish teacher), and it ends with a number that used to be the combination to my dad's bike lock. It's on the fridge at home, but crossed out. The more secure password... good luck. Hire a professional, I guess.)

Second of all, my body. Hey, guess what? I'm not in there anymore! So if my organs are still any good, and someone needs them, for God's sake, give them to them! Whatever's left, I donate it to science. If neither science nor needy people can use my body, bury it in the ground, NOT in a big ol' casket. Let me decompose and give my nutrients back to the soil. Or whatever's the least environmentally harmful. (I guess, if the laws don't let you do that, cremate me and scatter my ashes on a ski slope.)

As for my "soul", or whatever is left of me: I'm doing fine. I probably have ceased to exist, and therefore am not in any pain in any way. Maybe I'm in some sort of other world, in which case I'm probably better off. If you want to have a funeral, go for it, but don't make it a traditional Christian funeral with all the weeping and sobbing and Bible verses and hymns. That just bores everyone. If you want to have a funeral, get together a bunch of my family and friends, and just have a party. Talk about me if you want, but don't feel obligated to. If you want to be sad, be sad for yourselves, because you don't have fun ol' me around anymore! Of course, that's what you do at funerals anyway.

Anyway, I'm all right. I have only a few regrets:
1. I never "made a difference" in any huge way (everyone has this regret. it's lame. sorry.)
2. I gave a speech once in front of my high school. It was pretty trite and meaningless.
3. I never fell in love. (I thought I did a couple times but I was just a dumb kid.) I hear it's great fun!

But if you stack those three up against things that I'm proud of, or glad about, you'll see why I'm doing all right. I wouldn't say my life has been complete, but I think I've done an all right job with it so far. And it has been a good time!

Hmm. As for final regards, let me just say I love my family and friends very much. If I knew I were going to die, I'd call each of you on the phone or see you in person. But I'm not going to put my last thoughts to each of you in a blog here- that's personal!

Finally, although it may be in bad taste to quote a heartless mass murderer, I'll finish up with a quote:
"Death solves all problems. No man, no problems." - Josef Stalin


Again, if you find this morbid, I apologize, but death shouldn't be gloomy. That's an artifact of our Western society. Death is really just another part of the grand scheme of things. If you find this post self-indulgent, of course it is. It's my BLOG.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

And here's this: my easiest schedule yet

Right...
Whatever. Networks will be no fun, but that is the last class that I will have to dread. Artificial Neural Networks sounds cool (doesn't it?) and Cognitive Psych and that "Experimental Design..." class are easy cog sci prerequisites (by the way, if I haven't talked to you about it recently, I'm now a Computer Science/Cognitive Science double major. Neat, eh?). Oh yeah, and I'm a TA for 21-127F. Looks to be exciting. Rock on!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

This is my beginning-of-year I'm Excited post; also, conversations.

You know what's hard sometimes? Just keeping a conversation going. A lot of times, I don't know what to talk about. Especially if I'm talking to someone that I haven't spent a lot of time with recently.

This might be me overanalyzing things again, but if you look at conversation topics, seems like there are only a few kinds:
- things in the common history between you and me
- things about you (how are you? what have you been doing recently? what do you think about this?)
- things about me (I did this recently. Here's what I think about this.)
- incidental things (hey look, there's a funny sign on the side of the road. ha ha.)

Seems like there's only so much you can do in a conversation. Run through these four categories, and then what? But if I look at the most socially adept people, the people I strive to be like in social situations, they never have problems. They never just stand there dumbly until someone else says something.

You can just run the "things about you" forever- just keep latching on to things the other person says and asking questions about that. This can be fun sometimes. Sometimes, though, the other person just doesn't give you enough to work with. It's like trying to improv in a scene where the other person just accepts. (and nobody raises the goddamn stakes, for those of you who love that dumb phrase)

Oh well- there's no easy solution, right? And it's probably one of those problems that's only a problem the more you think about it. So I'll ignore it until it comes up again.

Hey, by the way, I just saw the Crucible (by Quantum Theatre) and it was pretty sweet! And, as the title of this post says, I'm excited about this year! Two years ago, I was excited, but scared, to start college. Now I'm all jazzed up about all the rest of the things, besides college: TA'ing, studying abroad, jobs next year, what I'll do senior year, and the future! The difference is that now I'm not as apprehensive about it-- all this stuff I'm setting out to do, I know I'll be able to do it. If only all of life were so easy!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I wrote a guidebook! Here it is:

NEW YORK CITY on a few dollars a day, not counting your parents' money

New York City is a big city, and a beautiful city, and it's full of wonders, and oh grandiose introduction introduction introduction introduction.

Suffice it to say that New York City* is, surprisingly, a very reasonable city. I would love to tell you about how you will get mugged, or how I saw rats the size of SmartCars, or how trash and grime covered the street, because then your morbid interest would be aroused, and I wouldn't have to write as well to hold your attention. However, NYC is very reasonable.

*When I say "New York City" (or "NYC") here, and in the rest of the guide, I really mean Manhattan. That must drive those of you from the other four boroughs crazy.

I felt very safe pretty much everywhere I went. This may be because I'm naive. Or it may be the courteous criminals, who restrict their most violent activity to the south Bronx and other areas ironically far from tourists' stuffed wallets. Also, things do not cost so much as you might have heard. It's not twice as expensive as everywhere else; only about 1.4 times. This is the first in the series of New York Being 70% of What It's Cracked Up To Be. And in many areas, things are very cheap. See: Chinatown produce stands; also, knockoff designer handbags.

But guidebooks do not sell by writing nice paragraphs. So without further ado:

Neighborhoods and Sights
Starting from the tip and working your way up.

1. Financial District
This is where a lot of tall buildings are. Except no more World Trade Center. You can, of course, see Ground Zero: it looks like a big construction site. I guess if you go to the nearby museum, it becomes more touching and vaguely frightening. I am not going to get political here. Anyway, you can get on a Boat, and see the Statue of Liberty, but really, this is boring. Take note: you may find some of the best shady sidewalk vendors here; I actually saw the fabled "Rolex watch suitcase." Also the designer sunglasses suitcase, from which I should have bought something. Like a leprechaun guarding his pot of eye-protecting gold, he was gone when I returned.

2. TriBeCa
I think there are a lot of great restaurants here. However, they are all new, trendy, and expensive, so we did not go to any.

3. SoHo
This is a neat area of shops and restaurants. I think it used to be really hip. As an aspiring hipster, one must always keep track of these things.

4. Chinatown and Little Italy
Chinatown is crowded and cheap, just like China. Little Italy is very nice, all red and green, full of Italian restaurants, and slowly being overtaken by Chinatown, just like Italy. So it goes. You can get cheap produce here. You can also get fish. Finally, you can get designer knockoff handbags. Just ask someone in a shop, and he will pull aside the secret door and act uneasy as you peruse the illegal purses. Later, if you are my mom and sister, you may see the same purse in Bloomingdale's for $1350. How cool is it that the bit about the secret door is not a joke?

5. Greenwich Village
Ladies and Gentlemen, the winner for Best Neighborhood. This place is cool. I present as evidence: the fact that some writers used to live there. It looks vaguely European. Check out Chumley's, a former speakeasy with no sign where apparently a lot of famous writers worked. It has no sign. You just go in the door at 86 some street, go through the heavy curtain, and there's a shabby looking bar. How cool. There is also a British shop where you can get chips and drinks (or at least Marmite and Shreddies), a bakery with a pastry case that is photo-worthy, and a store of spices and herbs. You can see the 9.5-foot-wide house where Edna St. Vincent Millay lived, but that is boring.

6. East Village
This is the sort of place that an aspiring hipster can tell by walking through: this is the new hip place. It's poorer but getting richer, sort of ethnic, and has some shady looking record stores.

7. Lower Midtown, including Chelsea
Wait, I mean this place is the new hip place. It has Union Square, home to the largest farmer's market I've ever seen. Also the Chelsea Market, which is SO DAMN COOL! Go there! Go see it! It's really damn cool!

8. Upper Midtown, excluding the Theater District
Well, this is New York. Lots of tall buildings, and Things you can See, Especially if You Are a Tourist, such as the Rockefeller Center which includes the NBC Studio, which you can tour if you'd like to pay $20 and listen to a tour. Also the Empire State Building, etc. But bite the "I'm a tourist" bullet and go ahead and go up in at least one tall building. Go at night when it's all lit up. Have a religious experience. I did.

9. The Theater District
Hey! Times Square! Julie is incorrect; this place is not awful. This place is a monument. This is man's response to the Grand Canyon: Look, Mother Nature! I can create something that will be awe-inspiring but in a totally different way! Yeah, it's crass and commercial. Yeah, okay, there's an MTV store, there's a tourist double-decker bus, there's a scrolling display so we can display more ads in the same place. But you know you love our society that can make wanton consumerism so glamorous.

Oh, and there are shows here too! See some of them! First, go to the TKTS booth in the South Street Seaport (lower Manhattan) in the early afternoon (skip the Times Square TKTS booth; it's crowded) and get half price tickets. Then, I recommend Spamalot, because you already know you'll love it. I also recommend Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which I think I enjoyed not just in the campy "this is a musical so you're going to pretend you enjoy it" sense. Although maybe it was the "this is a show that my dad and I can both watch and we both enjoy and it leaves us feeling good about a night at the Broadway show." Either way, it's enjoyable. As far as shows go, the Blue Man Group is pretty good too. However, some of the jokes fell a little flat (come on, making fun of chat room acronyms? That is so five minutes ago dot org.), so I'll lump it in with the other bits of "New York being 70% of what it's cracked up to be." That said, some of their stuff is genius, and their sense of comic timing is not bad.

10. Upper Midtown West
This is a nice area of shops and restaurants. Check out Zabar's sweet grocery store, not only because it's the only grocery store I've seen with an item topping $1000 (a large quantity of caviar), but also because it's just awesome. That's all.

11. Upper Midtown East
I think you can shop here if you're rich. If not, you can go to museums. Like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is huge. Go with a guide; a mother who knows a lot about impressionist art will do nicely. If you do, you may find yourself with an appreciation for things you didn't know you had an appreciation for. Like impressionist art. Really, it's pretty cool. Same goes for the Museum of Modern Art, which is not in the Upper Midtown East, but is in the middle of Midtown by the Rockefeller Center.

12. Central Park
There is a lot to say about Central Park. Instead of me saying it all, you should rent bicycles and ride around it. It takes about 30 minutes at a leisurely pace. I'm still sort of in awe that such a great park exists in such a great city. That's all.

13. Harlem, Morningside Heights, all points north, and the other four boroughs
Ignore these; you won't have time. Plus, Harlem's dangerous, Queens and Brooklyn are boring, the Bronx has the Yankees, and wasn't there one more borough? I forget. I hope Rob reads this. Anyway, everything I just said (besides "I hope Rob reads this") is sarcastic. Get the hell out of Tourist-Mecca Manhattan and see the rest of the city! Be a better city-seer than I!

Places to Stay
How about the Murray Hill Suites? It's in the middle of everything (39th street and 3rd avenue), has room to comfortably sleep a family of 4, and is at least somewhat reasonably priced, although I have no idea because I wasn't paying.

Places to Eat
The Pig and Whistle- a great place to go when you've just gotten in to New York, you're wandering around Times Square, and you're looking for something that the whole family can enjoy. Good old Irish pub.

A Food Cart- served up a half-decent shish kebab. Only half decent though. I expected more from the fabled New York food carts.

A Little Italy Restaurant Whose Name I Didn't Even Try To Remember- The gnocchi was not half bad. It wasn't outstanding though.

Sardi's- The guidebook will tell you to go here after seeing a show because the Broadway stars like to come here. Look on the back of the title page of your guidebook; you'll see that it's dated 1972.

Mister Softee Ice Cream Truck- good call! An ice cream truck that actually serves ice cream cones. Soft serve is the same everywhere in the world, and it's unnatural, and it comes in a big plastic bag... but man, I still love it.

Katz's Deli- Your guidebook will probably also tell you to go here. You can see a historic New York deli where the immigrants used to eat (although they probably didn't pay $13 for a sandwich!). You can see the spot in Where Harry Met Sally where Meg Ryan famously faked an orgasm. You can see the sign that says "This is where Harry met Sally. No, you can't order what she had." Your confused mother who has not heard of this scene can ask the waitress what she had. Your father can tell her he'll explain it later. Your mother can keep asking. They can beat around the bush a little bit until your mother gets the picture. Your parents can then smile knowingly, because their 17- and 20-year-old kids clearly have no idea; of course, the "o" word is never said because you don't want to corrupt the kids. They don't know what an orgasm is yet. This can be an awkward scene for all.

Balthazar- Okay, here we go. This is a New York restaurant like you expect New York restaurants. A little french cafe. I recommend the Salad Nicoise, which I guess is a pretty common thing in France, but I had never had it. It comes with seared rare tuna, which is neat. Also anchovies, artichokes, olives, a hard-boiled egg, green beans, tomatoes, onions, and tasty greens, all in an olive oil and I think balsamic vinegar dressing. This is probably the finest meal I had in New York. Rock on.

Tavern on the Green- It's a little indulgent to eat dinner here after having lunch at Balthazar. See the title of this guidebook. This place has in fame and ambience what it lacks in food. Don't get me wrong, loyal reader; the duck confit with mushroom risotto was good, despite your humble author not knowing what the hell "confit" means. But it wasn't what you expect for the price. Nor was the Filet Mignon, which your author's parents ordered, but perhaps that's a function of said parents ordering it cooked medium. The more you learn about food, the more you know you should order things cooked less than you think. At any rate, don't count me as ungrateful for giving a less-than-glowing review to such a nice place; if I as the author were just to rave about every expensive restaurant, well, I wouldn't be a very good guide, would I? But enough about shortcomings of the food; this place has lanterns strung about all the trees. All the way up the trees! It's neat!

Kangsuh- I like Korean food! Between the appetizers (which I've seen at a couple of Korean places, and which always seem to be free) and the multi-part meal special, they give you a taste of about nine different things. That, I think, is one of the best things a restaurant can do.

Junior's- I think that's what this place is called. It's unmemorable, at any rate. Its strengths are threefold: its location in the theater district, the menu which is so large that nobody can find it objectionable (although it is all boring american food), and its overly high prices. Perhaps you might think two of those are weaknesses. Perhaps you are right.

Hatsuhana- Here's a hint. If the rest of your party is going on the NBC studio tour, duck out and spend your $20-plus at this sushi restaurant instead. It doesn't matter if you're wearing a T-shirt that says "Hyland Software 5000"; even though every single other person is wearing a business suit, they will seat you as if they don't notice. Also, go there on what happens to be "restaurant week," and you can get a first-rate sushi lunch for $24.07. It includes: cold pumpkin soup and a seaweed salad, tuna with some kind of spicy mayonnaise, yellowtail sashimi, green beans in a ginger sauce, your choice of one sushi roll, and the following nigiri sushi (pieces of fish on rice): tuna, salmon with wasabi mayonnaise, rock salted snapper, and yellowtail with jalapeno. You can sit at the sushi bar and watch your meal being prepared; that's a feature of every sushi bar, but it is still cool. You can look at the dish marked "Turkey / Brazil" and wonder what the heck is in it. You can pour soy sauce out of a thing that looks like a little teapot. This is a neat experience. Then you can join your party and tell them how great your meal was while they tell you how mediocre the NBC studio tour was.

Europa Cafe- Apparently this is a chain in New York. Well, if you're getting fast food, I'd go for their sandwiches and salads over a McDonald's any day. Surprisingly, there are McDonaldses in New York, but there are almost no other fast food chains. Chalk another one up for New York being a very reasonable city.

Lombardi's- So this is the famous New York thin crust pizza? It's not bad, but it's nothing special. 70% of what it's cracked up to be.

Rice to Riches- Maybe the first exclusively rice pudding store in the country. It's a great concept- they sell it like ice cream. However, they charge like it's Coldstone; except it's more expensive than Coldstone. Still, points for concept, and also for design: it looks neat.

Transportation
The best way: walking. Walk until your calves hurt because, unbeknownst to you, bad circulation runs in the family. Then collapse.
The second best way: get a Metrocard unlimited pass and ride the subway everywhere. It works, and it's quick, although it is hot and a little smelly. However, every city should have a subway; New York's is just further proof.
The third best way: take buses. This works if your family doesn't want to go into the subway because it's hot and smelly. It's also easy because most of Manhattan is in a nice grid shape. Yeah, that's unnatural, but by god, it works.

This is the end
New York is a very reasonable city, and if you put your expectations at 70% of what they are, it will most often exceed your expectations by 42.8%.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Hi!

Man, New York City was neat. I'm at Dartmouth now, which sure is neat too. I'll be home to Cleveland tomorrow, and then back in the 'burgh hopefully on Saturday. A more detailed description/post to come!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

And... done!

Again, I find that one of the best parts of life is stopping anything. Well, I'm done with my job. Now, on to fun things forever! Isn't life smashing!

Monday, July 31, 2006

I haven't posted anything here in a while

And in not doing so, I've left unfulfilled my half of the writer/reader bargain (I write things, you read them). However, I never promised to fulfill said bargain, nor am I being in any way compensated, so I don't feel bad. Also, get used to it, because the aforementioned list of things that will be happening are, um, happening. (Except Kuyahoga.) And if a blog becomes a responsibility rather than a fun thing, then it's no fun anymore.

I do feel bad about being at work and doing nothing useful. This week is a little weird because everyone is teaching the "PSLC summer school" where a bunch of users come in and we teach them how to use our software. I pretty much finished my job. So, well, I'm not so useful right now.

However, I am right now being the reason that the world is so difficult. Inefficiency. I'm somehow funded by the NSF, so your tax dollars are going to me. If every schmuck like me were fired, your taxes would probably be very reasonable, and nobody would complain. Or maybe I'm funded by CMU, in which case, if every slacker at CMU were fired, your tuition would be reasonable. The point is, little inefficiencies like me are the reason that The System sucks sometimes. Sorry! I'll be gone in under a week!

(so why don't I quit now? Well, in a way, I think that's what I'm going to do. Wrap up all of my work, finish a little extra task, and leave on the best of terms with everyone. I'm working on it.)

Oh, and I visited Maryland this past weekend! It was neat. We saw Glen Burnie. We went to Plaza Garibaldi (which is fantastic!) We also went to DC and saw 15 minutes of the most amazing art in the country at the National Gallery, ate great Ethiopian food (which grows on me more every time I eat it. All 3 times.), and went to a Grand Buffet and Of Montreal concert in which we missed Grand Buffet. Lame. Of Montreal was really good though. And then we all got crabs (Stop. Get out a piece of paper, write all your dumb crabs jokes on it, and fold it into an origami crane. Hooray, now something good has come out of your stupid jokes: you have a crane!), which turned out to be an all-afternoon project. A great trip, all in all.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I'm excited about the future

I can't wait for:
PA Culinary Institute open house on Saturday
Maryland next weekend?
Kuyahoga the Thursday after that
New York the next day
Dartmouth immediately after that
A week at home
A week back here for TA training (aka very little work, right?)
(a semester back in school here... ehh whatever)
and a semester overseas.

Some say that you shouldn't live in the future; that you should make the most of every moment in the present. I might not be doing that as well as I should at this point. The future is so exciting, though. There's a bit in the Tao of Pooh about how the best part of eating honey isn't actually eating honey. It's the part right before you eat the honey. That's what these next two weeks feel like.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

In case you read this and not .vomit

Who wants to go to this:
Kuyahoga

Details:
I'd like to get there at 4, or close, to catch the Go! Team, and stay until the end to see the Flaming Lips
Lawn tickets are $19.50, pavilion $39.50- I'd say we should go for lawn
This place (Blossom) is pretty nice, but it's also here

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Ethical question: you make the call!

Long story short: I brought my bike to Beej's. I have brought it there twice in the past, both times I locked it to the fence on the way in, both times when I came back to it there was a sticker that said "Park this bike in the appropriate place. Don't park it here." So today I locked it to the fence again, with a post-it note on it that said "This bike will only be here for about 2 hours. Sorry for the inconvenience."

About a half hour later, I hear metal breaking, and I look outside, and there's the security guard, cutting my bike lock. I run outside and stop them from taking my bike away. He gives me a stern talking-to, I protest, but the fact is, my lock is already cut in two pieces. I mean, he gives me my bike back, of course.

Net result: I lose a $20 bike lock.

Here's the question: what should I do? The way I see it, here are my choices:
1. Do nothing, and get over it, because it's just a bike lock.
2. Do nothing, but harbor a grudge against the security guard.
3. On the way out, explain that, while rules may be rules, I was disappointed that he couldn't see above the useless rules to see that I was not hurting anyone and would only be there for a couple hours. Furthermore, I was irritated by the lecture he gave me and the unsympathetic way he dealt with me.
4. On the way out, say the same thing, more forcefully. (Strike this one, it's not really a good option at all.)
5. File a complaint with Amberson Gardens somehow

The tricky part about this is: I don't have any ground, legal or moral, to stand on. The reason I parked my bike there was that I figured it didn't hurt anyone and the guard wouldn't care, if it was just going to be there for a little while. He did warn me before that I shouldn't park my bike there.

(however, warning doesn't make something okay... if I say, I'm going to punch you unless you go away, that doesn't make it okay for me to punch you.)

Argh! I ended up choosing choice #2, I think, even though I'd like to choose #1. I don't know if I can do #1. I think the "warning doesn't make it okay" argument is probably my best moral ground, but it's crappy legal ground, (not that I'd ever do anything "legal" about this, obviously) because there is some rule about not blocking the way because it's a safety hazard. What should I have done?

Three things I wish I could do:

1. Write a song as incredibly catchy as "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong" by the Spin Doctors.

2. Make a CD as unabashedly fun as "Cosmic Thing" by the B-52's. No, really, go give it a listen. Clearly, my opinion on this issue is biased because I listened to it a lot as a kid, but it is very solid. See: campy, 80's, and electronic. No low points besides maybe "Channel Z" or "Follow Your Bliss." Songs so fun you don't notice they're all 5 minutes long. Relaxed grooves like "Dry Country" and "Topaz" surrounding hits "Roam" and, of course, "Love Shack". It's a good disc.

3. Keep a straight face while singing a line like "Let's go behind this wall of vegetation/ I don't want no prying eyes when I give you a love sensation" in a voice like that of Fred Schneider of the B-52's in said CD.

-Dan
whose blog has been relegated to quick 5-minute blurbs because he doesn't take his computer home very much.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I just imported my 4000th song

and I made sure it was "Love Shack."

On a side note, please disregard the last post; it's true, but it's whiny. I should have more perspective: my job isn't that bad, is pretty easy, will be over in under a month, and then I'll take two awesome trips and have some time off before starting a new year and TA'ing, and then spending a semester in another continent. Really, I have no right to complain.

(Isn't it funny to speak about a "right to complain"? I should say I have no desire to complain. That's not quite true, though, and I can't lie about what I actually want to do, whether I think I "should" want to do it or not. See: The Book)

Friday, July 07, 2006

Monday, July 03, 2006

20-20-24 hours ago... I wanna be creative

I'm already sedated. It's my name.

Hey! I'm in lovely The Villages, Florida, where the sun always shines, there are sometimes buffalo, and there are no young hooligans around to interfere with your peaceful retirement. The sort of place I might have raged at as an angsty teenager (as opposed to an angsty two-decader, or angsty twenty-something, even if that something is a "nothing") before realizing that my anger is really misplaced, because, for crying out loud, you're throwing your insecurities at retired people? Besides, my grandparents live there, and they love it, so I have no reason to whine. Thank you for everything, The Villages; I have no complaints whatsoever.

Speaking of my grandparents, ever since my grandfather went into a delirious fit that left the doctors saying he was on the health-spiraling-downward-and-not-getting-better bus (don't say the D word!), he's not only gotten off of said bus, but he's traded in his ticket, rented a Ferrari, and sped off onto Recovery Road. He's up and about, off the oxygen tank that caused him to remark "I look like a goddamn invalid!", taking it easy but still walking around, driving his golf cart, and doing most of the things he ever does. He was only a little peeved that one of the doctors had said he had one month to live. What a champ. So thanks for all your well wishes, and keep them going if that does anything for you (he still has two rounds of chemo left!), but we think he'll be all right.

My visit has been very nice nevertheless. I helped them do what they gots to do, and spent a bunch of time with them too. Read most of Tom Robbins's "Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates", which I'm enjoying a bunch. Also finished "The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are"... a review will follow once I sort out my thoughts on it with Beej and Ram. Ate at two okay Thai places (once with my aunt and uncle, once with my grandparents) and a chain-but-tasty fish restaurant... transition to next paragraph.

...Reflected more on the purpose and impact of food. On the one hand, you have Ben Franklin, "Eat to live, don't live to eat." Also my mom, "Sometimes when people are visiting it becomes a routine of just waiting for the next meal." Also me, "this."
On the other hand, you have culinary school. You have the concept of "gourmet." You have food AS AN ART; but maybe even the best kind of art, because it affects at least four senses (often all five, or seven, or one, or however many you say there are), is made specially for you, is never quite the same twice, and is so ephemeral! You can make a point that food is the only art you need to survive. (Of course, I would argue with you then, too, but for different reasons.) What I'm trying to say is that I'm conflicted, because food can be wonderful, but I also think about food much too much for someone of my mental abilities (not bragging; I'm saying I have more intelligence than a lap dog).

What new wisdom do I have from my reflections on the all-important Meaning of Food? None. What new knowledge? Well, a lot of recipes from my grandmother, which I am typing up now. Mostly a lot of desserts. Some families have "family recipes" passed down from generation to generation; my grandmother has a file box full of newspaper clippings and note cards. The handwritten note cards are the ones to keep: they might be "family recipes." (This is not meant to sound ungrateful; I bet a lot of these recipes are pretty good. But there are no recipes that she's particularly proud of; no Family Recipes with capital letters.)

And as for the title of this post? Well, I feel like I'm bursting with some sort of creative energy. I want to make something. Something that people can look at and say, "Well. Dan has a little spark of that whatever-it-is that makes us human, after all." If it were a rock and roll song, or two or twelve, that would be nice too, because then we could play it in Grape Blunt.

But I have no guitar or other musical instrument with me; I have never written a song so I don't know where to start; I have so many fractions of musical knowledge, but they're all just fractions; I have a lot of ideas but none of them are about love or death, so they're all novelties at best; I am psyching myself out. And I think I'm suffering that same silver-lined syndrome that's plagued me my whole life: it's hard to be creative when everything is so darn NICE.