Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Hmm... nope

I'll stop promising posts I don't deliver. This blog is getting terribly self-referential, and as I guess Godel, Escher, Bach says, that makes it a self-conscious and therefore intelligent thing, and so I should stop it.

Instead, speaking of conscious things, a quick bit about abortion, and I'm going to call out a different group than I normally call out this time. To start: my viewpoint is that abortion is totally okay until brain activity starts (something like 6 weeks, I dunno, look it up), and totally not okay after that.

Let me start by offering this: if something is a human, and you stop it from living, that's murder, right? If it's not a human, just some kinda proto-human (like a sperm or an egg, say), then you can do whatever you want with it, right? So the abortion debate is really about when a baby stops being a proto-human and becomes an actual human, right? Can we agree on this, and stop talking about "women's freedoms" and stuff? If so, let me proceed with the the promised call-out:

Hey you liberals! You know, the ones who want to participate in the Big Gay Abortion Fiesta! How can you justify abortion after a certain point? For example, a dilation-and-extraction/partial-birth-abortion, whatever you want to call it. The baby is practically alive and doing fine; it just happens to be inside its mom's womb instead of sitting in a cradle. Can't most babies at 40 weeks survive on their own, if they weren't in their mother's womb? So a DAE/PBA is a way of killing a baby that just happened to be in the wrong place.

(I apologize for the harsh language; I understand that using words like "baby-killing" leads to an uncivilized argument. I think it's the most concise way I can put it.)

So we need some guideline as to when a fetus becomes a human. I picked the brain-wave activity, because it's consistent with our laws: if your brain waves stop, you're legally dead, so when your brain waves start, you should be legally alive. If there's something wrong with that (like it's unmeasurable or something) let me know; otherwise, tell me why you're pro-choice in a more general sense.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Big Eenentwintig

Thanks, Mike! Yessir, as of May 26, I am the big twenty-one. I'd say something about being a responsible adult now, but really the only thing that's changed is the big alcohol issue. Now I can drink booooze in any country in the world, except India (25!) and various Muslim countries. This is not a post about how silly the drinking age is.

What did I do for my birthday? Not a lot! I planned to keep it very hush-hush, quiet like. Normally this annoys me. When people say "I don't want to have a big party, because I don't like parties" or "I don't deserve it" or whatever, that's just self-pity. Please. A spontaneous celebration is usually a good thing, in my opinion. In my case, however, I think I just wanted it to be low-key because this whole semester has been like a party, and it's kind of obnoxious. It's all either party or travel, and while I'm a big fan of travel, there was no way I was getting trashed on my 21st birthday like every other idiot. A lot of my friends here have gotten stupid doo-doo dumb when they turned 21, and that's retarded. The 21st doesn't even mean anything here!

So I managed to have a couple of good nights with my closest friends here. It was very nice! I will miss these folks, much as I try to say "I'm moving on with life, and going home, and looking forward" and all that. While I don't know if any of my friends here are BEST FRIENDS 4EVER OMG, it's definitely been fun while it lasted, and I would consider giving a Regard* to a couple of them.

*you know when you say "give him/her my regards"? What if you only had a fixed number, say, 100 Regards? And when you ran out, you're done? Whom would you give your Regards to? Naturally, a few to your family, and to your future family, for sure. Which friends would deserve a Regard? If you think about this in a certain exclusive way, it's probably destructive, as it just creates a border between Regards-friends and other friends. But if you just think of it in the sense that meeting a person who's worthy of a Regard is nice, it's a neat concept.

I think that tomorrow I will consider my life status so far, and where I am on the dawn of my 22nd year, and post something a little more deep.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Hooray for Jones Soda!

They won the Seattle Seahawks stadium beverage rights! Rock on! This is either the first step towards, say, Great Lakes Brewing Co. instead of Bud at Cleveland Indians games, or another reason I want to move to Seattle.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Trip report: Morocco

Okay, it's time. I've got stuff about Budapest too, but it's less interesting, so we'll go in reverse chronological order.

Our trip to Morocco was intense! Let me start off with a disclaimer: these stories aren't on my photo page (which parents, etc, read) for obvious reasons... However, the internet is still very public, so all is left sorta vaguely anonymous. And for better anonymity, let's play the game of "all of these except one are true":

1. Whole rotisserie chicken, plus bread, fries, olives, sauces, all the fixins for 5 people, $6.50
2. One of my friends and I rode a camel over a sand dune to meet our other friends, who were buying hashish from a guy named Abdullah.
3. Snake charmers!
4. I hired a kid to take me to the tanneries; he got picked up and carted off by the "tourist police."
5. We went to a hookah bar where a monkey refilled the coals.
6. My friend traded his pants for hash.
7. We smoked said hash on the roof of our Marrakesh riad with one of the workers.
8. We did eat a sheep's head. Also a couple bowls of snails.
9. I bargained a guy down from 700 dirham to 60.
10. A kid got walloped with an orange.
11. I have three and a half weeks to get married.
12. We ate some shit fucking good food!

Okay, now I'll explain. Keep in mind that one of these is still fake.
1. $6.50 chicken: we arrived in Casablanca at midnight or so, and as Casablanca is kind of crap, we wanted the first train out (4:50 AM). Being frugal and thrifty, we were not about to pay for a place to stay. So we, you know, wandered the streets for a few hours. It was deserted and shady. Casablanca is not a particularly safe town, and we were sort of lost. Whatever- we're five big dudes! Nobody will mess with us! Luckily, that turned out to be true. A couple junkies followed us for a while, but we managed to lose them somehow. And then, miraculously, our famished selves came upon an open restaurant, and we were in there faster than you can say "student discount."
The owner looked and sounded a little like Watto. We happily ordered this big chicken dinner and discovered the beauty of the dirham. 10 to 1. So 65 dirham = EU$6.50 (or like US$8) Anyway, three days later, we had to get the first train to Casablanca airport at 5:05 AM, and we found ourselves in Casablanca at midnight. What's up, Watto? We retraced our steps entirely, and pretty successfully!

2. Essaouira beach. Camel rides? Sure! One of my friends and I paid 100 dh each, which was probably overpriced, given that you should bargain for everything, but totally worth it. It was kinda nondescript; a little bumpy but not bad. Getting up and down was the only lurchy, tricky part. Anyway, we go over to find our friends, and they are hiding behind a sand dune (no kidding!) conducting shady business with a guy named Abdullah. They ended up buying a bag that was supposedly opium but actually sticky and useless, making it probably the only straight-up scam of our trip.

3. Well, okay, scam #2: the snake charmers. We walk into the Djemaa el Fna (the big square in Marrakesh) and the first thing we lay our eyes on is a bunch of snake charmers. We walk over, a little awestruck, a little sleep-deprived, and we're totally cool with them draping a snake over us, and letting us get pictures with their big ol' cobra. Then they take us aside and say "you have to pay us (I saw this coming) 200 dirham (didn't see that number coming, though!)" I'm willing to pay a buck for a good photo, not 20.
Now, I've already accepted the service, so in some weird logical system, I owe them whatever they ask for. But I know this is a scam, so I don't want to give them more than 10 or 20 dh. But they are using clever mind tricks, and a forceful "You have to pay us this much!" is a pretty effective argument. But not effective enough; I see my friends getting hustled too, out of the corner of my eye, and so I blurt something about my friends paying them, and I run away. We were not all so lucky; sometimes they hold both ends of a snake around your head, like a rope, until you pay!

4. My little guide and the tourist police: so it's the last day, and we've kinda seen Marrakesh, and my friends are more tired than I, so I run off on my own. For a goal (because it's important to have a goal, even if you don't care at all about reaching it) I head towards the tanneries, which are supposedly cool and also stinky. I hear they're north of the center, so I wander north, and as I reach the end of the souks (shops), things get poorer quick and I realize I'm not in the tourist's Marrakesh anymore. Instead of ramshackle shops and every shop owner bugging me to come in, it's even-more-ramshackle houses and every kid giving me weird looks. (Of course, you can't blend in in a country where your skin is a different color) It's interesting, but I feel way out of place, and when I'm in Morocco, I don't want to mess around. Besides, people can smell unease, and that's never good. So when a kid asks "Djemaa el Fna? Big square?" I say "sure!" and he walks me in the right direction. I know he'll want a tip, and that's fine. I get back, and it's cool. I gave him 10dh, and he kept bugging me for 2 more. Err... sorry, I'm out of change.
A while later, another kid starts taking me on a tour of the shops, or something. Sure, great! I'll give him another few dirham afterwards. He shows me the dyers, who are using magic color-changing dye. (ooh!) Then some metalworking guys. I ask him about the tanners, and he says sure (I think; language barrier...), and we start walking along.
Then these big burly guys grab him and pull him away. Huh? Whatever; I'm not getting involved. A couple minutes later, he (somehow) finds me again, and we keep going. Then, a couple minutes later, some other big burly guys grab him! Another older kid tells me it's the "tourist police." Apparently, local kids aren't allowed to hassle visitors, and so if you're talking to one of them, the tourist police can take you away- make you pay a 100dh bribe or go to jail for a day or something. It didn't quite make sense; a tourist will give you a small tip (they seemed to think my 10-20dh were the norm) so you'd have to take a lot of tourists around to make up for the bribe, even if you only got caught 20% of the time or whatever.
But I soon learned the secret: the older kid offered to guide me (he spoke Spanish better than English, so that was fun) but he said I had to keep a distance behind him. It felt sorta sneaky and spy-ish, and I'm always in for that, so I followed him, and he took me to the tannery. (15 minutes walk through impossibly labyrinthic streets) The tannery was kind of interesting in the fact that it's such a repulsive place- big vats of dye or whatever, trash all over the place, piles of stuff I wouldn't want to touch with a 29 1/2 foot pole, a kinda bad smell, maybe a donkey here or there. But hey, as usual, the journey was more fun anyway.

5. Yeah, so on our Casablanca adventure(s)- there were two of them but they were exactly the same- we whiled away a large portion of our time inside a hookah bar, which sure was open all night, and that was nice. Gave us a safe place to sit while waiting for our 4:50AM train, and that was all... we thought. Then we ordered a hookah, and the shopkeeper brought it out. Cool, tasty, etc. (my first real hookah experience!) but then the coals cooled off a bit, so they had to be changed. The employee comes out with a monkey! We're a little weirded out, okay, maybe it's someone's pet, but then it goes ahead and picks up the old coals, tosses them into his little bucket, and uses tongs to put new ones on. Whoa. None of us could figure out if this is a standard thing, or maybe it's this shop's special gimmick, or what. But we were pretty thrilled to see the monkey keep coming out and changing the coals. And you wonder why we recreated our entire Casablanca trip the second time?

6 and 7. Pants for hash: my friends bought some hash (which was an experience in itself; a deal with a guy who walked by and said "hash?", conducted in an alley, while another friend and I acted as lookouts), and they were looking for a place to smoke it. Hey, our riad has a roof... oh yeah, and when we walked in, we smelled hash... so my friends asked the guy if we could smoke on the roof. "Sure... smoke what?" "err... tobacco." "and?" "uhh... something else?" In short, the riad worker joined us on the roof that night, and many hash joints were passed around. But then the worker expresses his liking for our friend's pants. Sorry, did you say pants? They were old J.C. Penney shorts, blue, good shorts if I do say so myself. The worker explained that he couldn't get that style in Morocco, and he really liked it. In the end, my friend wouldn't trade them, but my other friend traded his. So yeah, long story short, pants for hash.

8. Sheep's head and snails: truth!

9. Bargaining in Marrakesh (they don't do it so much in Essaouira) is nuts. It kept me guessing. I've heard numbers like 1/5-1/7; you shouldn't pay more than that for a product. So, the first couple times, for sunglasses and stuff, I offered maybe 1/5 of the price, and got flat out rejected. Meanwhile, my friends were getting stuff for maybe half price, no problem. Eventually I gave in and ended up offering maybe 30%, and going up to 50% by the time we were done arguing. I still got some good deals for large quantities of spices and stuff. But then, on the last day, I was looking for some wooden things, and this guy showed me a "magic box." It's a little trick gadget thing, like you have to know the secret to open it, and I thought, cool, a magic box. I figured it'd be a couple dollars (because, you know, everything comes from the big ol' Morocco factory somewhere...) and I asked, sportingly, how much it was. "700dh." What?! That's EU$70! I said forget it, and proceeded to argue about something else. As I was leaving the store, I said, "I'll give you 50dh for the box." He immediately came down to 350, and after some haggling, I got it for 60. Huh! I sure showed him! Then I realized I just bought a box I didn't really want, and it became clear who showed whom.

10. Orange fight: this reminds me of two stories. First, "orange": We got fresh-squeezed orange juice, The Best that I've ever had, made for you on the spot, from Moroccan produce, for 3dh/glass. (that's 30 cents) It was so good that I had to stop drinking it, because it was just too sweet. Next time I pay a buck twenty for a freakin' Minute Maid processed-from-concentrate-preserved bottle of orange snot, I will think of Marrakesh and groan.
Second: "fight": We saw a lot of fights in the streets. Not sure why. The most notable involved a kid who tried to steal an orange. He got caught, and the shopkeeper started hitting him with the orange. Come on, dude, you just squeezed like six of those oranges into my drink! It probably cost you 50 centimes! (100 centimes = 1 dirham. I think I saw a 50-centime coin once.)

11. Married in three and a half weeks: I got the worst (or best) fortune telling ever. These old gypsy-looking ladies have chairs set up in the Djemaa at night, and they have tarot cards and stuff, so I figured, I could use some advice as much as anyone. I asked a lady "do you speak English?" because a French fortune would not be so useful (although probably funnier) and she waved over this other lady, who spoke broken English, to translate. Okay, so there's two levels of language barrier here, this is a good start.
After our snake charmer experience, I knew better than to just take the fortune telling without negotiating in advance. I said 20dh, she said 150dh, we settled on 40. She shuffled the cards, held one out to me, and motioned that I should hold it on my chest (without looking at it). Then she took it back. She put the cards in three piles, and pointed, saying "one, two, three." So I pointed at them and said "one, two, three." At this point, she probably thought I was retarded. Fair enough. But she happily continued, and started looking through the deck. The first thing the translator said was "You... husband?" "No." "Okay, you, husband... four weeks." "I'm going to be a husband in four weeks?" "Yes, yes."
She continued by offering such sage advice as "you will... very rich." and "you think change." I noticed that every time I translated ("my thoughts will change?") she would reply "yes, yes!" I think, throughout the course of the telling, I got good fortune too, and a comparison to her mother. Okay.
Afterwards, I felt a little ripped off (not only because the translator started bugging me for "some money for her too", because the 40dh just went to the reader) but also because the tarot reader didn't even know how to read the cards. She just shuffled through them and said stuff. It was like the barber college version of the tarot reading, except that a haircut at the barber college probably costs less than EU$4.
That said, though, I only have a couple weeks left! Ladies, start lining up!

12. All the food stand owners would try to get you to eat their food. They figured that the best way to do that was to become your friend, and the best way to do that is to relate to you somehow, and the easiest way to do that is to talk about something from your homeland. So everyone really wanted to know where we were from. If we said "America", they'd say "I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!" and so on. Sometimes they'd pick a city ("Holland? From Amsterdam?"). Or sometimes they'd just guess we're English and start spewing English. My buddy at the one stand kept talking about how his food was "Better than Gordon Ramsay Hell's Kitchen! Shit fucking good food! It's the dog's bollocks!" I think we actually ate there at one point.

Phew! That's all I've got for now, although that's still not all that happened. What a crazy country. Ask me about it sometime.

By the way, I live in a country where this apparently works. Oh, Nederland, I will miss you when I have to leave. (seven days exactly. :(

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Aaahh just kidding!

Sorry! By "Wednesday" of course I meant "next Wednesday after I get back from Morocco" and by that I mean "later tonight actually Wednesday night because right now it's still kinda Tuesday" and I am still tired from staying up two nights out of four and my stomach is finally saying to me "WHAT you ate a sheep's head and snails for dinner and followed it up with chicken from a shady Casablanca joint at 2 AM oh my god you are getting sick now" (thank you mr. stomach for not messing with me while I was actually in Morocco) and update later don't hurt me.

In the meantime, check the photos, even though they're pretty darn inadequate to describe all the neat-o goodstoryriffic things that happened.

wuv, Dan
who still harbors the dual illusion that: A. people read this thing, and B. said people care if I update ever

Monday, May 14, 2007

Back from Budapest!

... going to Amsterdam tomorrow, got to sleep a bit! I have some good stories! Not great, but interesting enough that if you've taken the time to get to my blog you might as well read them! But not now!

To hold you over, I offer this summary:
Budapest is like a carnival: tacky but fun, tasty but fat, confusing but friendly, and formerly communist.

For more details, wait until probably Wednesday!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Dear QuickTime,

I do not want to even know that you are installed on my computer, except when I need you to play movies. This is not debatable, because you are are a software program, not a living being. A means to an end, just like a bulldozer, city map, or sandwich maker. Therefore, EVEN IF you just got updated and are so proud to show off your new features that you just can't wait for your turn, I do not want your icon in my system tray OR in my quick launch bar.

Your buddy RealPlayer is just as bad, but at least I haven't heard from him in a long time.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

The worst thing about drunkenness

is that it makes you feel like you're so much funnier than you really are
-Da"drunk blogging instead of .vomitting for once"n

Friday, May 04, 2007

Anyone know AJAX? and What is it about Christianity? and "At least it's not $1 zillion" and Thanks a lot, slugger.

First of all, does anyone know how to make a webpage where users can click and drag stuff all Googley-like? For example, Google calendar? I've heard the term "AJAX" but I don't really know much about it, and considering my knowledge of making web pages is pretty much limited to stuff like this, I'd like to know if it's, well, feasible and/or worth learning. Sort of a big ballpark view of the whole thing.

Second, Christianity bugs me a little bit, and this time I'm not talking about the Christian Church and their big old doctrine and the Bible and all that, but rather Christianity as pop culture/clique/whatever:
- The music: I guess I'm starting from an assumption that Christian rock is SO BAD, (snicker; I just remembered the old inside joke about SO BAD in capital letters... nevermind) anyway, Christian rock is not even in a league with other modern popular musics. If that's not a fair assumption, let me know.
- The clique: being "Christian" has become a Thing That You Can Be. You can be a jock, a stoner, a nerd, a hipster, a prep, ... or a Christian. It's got a whole culture. I guess that's fine.
- The tolerance: So there's a Christian clique, and they are going out of their way to talk about how goddamn tolerant they are. They will invite you! You are welcome! All are welcome in God's house! Even if you're not Christian, you are welcome! (nevermind that such an invitation is like inviting Freddy R. Jock to your LAN party, or Christopher Straightedge to your body piercing club)
- The language: When you read your Christian friend's away message, and it has some Bible quote. You know what I mean. Or "Sorry, I'm away, I'm off enjoying God's wonders." (except the fermented beverage wonders, or the human body wonders; see the next point)
- The abstinence: Okay, no sex and drugs. Whatever floats your boat. But when you get combine the Christian language, the overbearing tolerance, and the mindless abstinence, you get:
- The arrogance: At some level, this is all rooted in a sense of superiority: they have found The Truth, and life is great for them, and we're-not-trying-to-convert-you-but-you-can-find-the-truth-too. And, you know, you might be a heathen, and there's nothing wrong with that, but really you'd be happier if you joined our side. (and avoided, particularly, sex and drugs.) Argh! I hate it when people act like they know the secrets of life! (if they really do, I'm jealous; if not, I hate their pretense) And Christianity just happens to be a fully society-sanctioned way to act like you're the greatest thing.
(incidentally, this guy, shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up.)

Transition from religion to politics, because one eternal unanswerable question is not enough-- it's time for the horizontal line!

I found this: Cost of War
While it's just some cute little liberal "Bush is so bad!" site, it also has a big number on it, and well, that's a really big number, and there's not much more to say to the readers of this blog, because boy is that number pretty goshdarn big.

Oh, also, back to religion.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy really has some pretty good wisdom in it, as I was pondering yesterday, and here's why: say you had an oracle, and you could ask and get answers to any question. What the hell would you ask it? Would you say "what is the meaning of life?" What does that even mean? Here's how my conversation with the oracle would probably go:

Me: What's the meaning of life?
Oracle: What is the meaning of an orange? Or a lobster? Or a cloud? They just are.
Me: (gets frustrated and kicks the oracle)

Okay, say I didn't kick the oracle.
Me: Okay, sorry that was too vague. What should I do with my life?
Oracle: You want a step-by-step guide? Here. (hands me a 10,000-page tome)
Me: (starts reading) "3:36:05 start reading book, 3:36:47 stop reading book and take one step forward, 3:36:58 open book again..." All right, this won't do. How about just a vague outline?
Oracle: Well, okay. You've got three choices. You can take the programmer path, or the professor path, or the travel-the-world-and-become-a-monk path.
Me: That's all? Stop telling me what to do!
Oracle: You asked.
Me: (gets frustrated and kicks the oracle)

Me: Right, sorry. I meant, where do we go when we die?
Oracle: Underground. Unless you get cremated. Or pull a Jeremy Bentham.
Me: Oh. I knew that. Sorry.
Me: What questions should I be asking?
Oracle: I don't know. You want tomorrow's lottery numbers? That's a pretty popular request.
Me: Ehh, sure, I guess. (takes lottery numbers and leaves, kicking the oracle on the way out.)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


I went to Koninginnedag. It was in Amsterdam. Pictures are up. My schedule for the next few days is absurd. It looks like this:
Thursday: Maybe go to this party
Ram, I challenge you; I think, over the next five days, you might be busier than me.
However, I have a couple things to do during those days:
figure out plans for Hungary
figure out plans for Morocco
figure out plans for Spain
figure out if I'm going to Bratislava
figure out how I'm getting home
read some stuff about linguistics?
read some stuff for environmental philosophy class
prepare a presentation on said reading
write a short paper on said reading.
I think this post is a list. Sorry, Wikipedia. (Wikipedia does not like lists in articles. Did you know?)