Posts from 04/2007
A little over a year ago, I did the math on how much it costs per day to be BU. Since most of my readers lack the perspicacity to realize that this is a cue to go back and read the old entry, I'll simply catch you up: In March 2006, a single day in my life was worth $68.01 and a full year required $24,825 in bills and Popeyes, and car insurance is the biggest scam since they decided to make AP classes worth more than a 4.0 in high school.
Here, then, is the "Cost of Being BU" for the new year. The first column in each table row is the cost from last year, and the second is my current cost, at the ripely tender age of twenty-seven.
|Car Tax||$0.24 per day, $90 per year||$0.30 per day, $109 per year|
|I still have the same old pimpmobile I've had more the past six years, and it hasn't been upgraded with spinning rims or rapid-fire cannons, so why should the car tax go up? That extra bump probably went towards the new Claude Moore Recreation Center which boasts a water park and a rock-climbing wall and was obviously only made for the continuing pissing match with Fairfax County (note the phallic silo out front).|
|HOA Fees||$0.40 per day, $147 per year||$0.41 per day, $150 per year|
|Still the cheapest and least interfering HOA on the market. Now if only they could learn how to deposit checks within ninety days.|
|Popeyes||$0.65 per day, $240 per year||$0.62 per day, $226 per year|
|On rare occasions in this past year, I've actually worked until an ungodly hour like 2 PM on Fridays, which means I sometimes skip the Popeyes. I'm still a crowd regular though -- in the time it takes me to walk from the front door to the counter, one of servers has already prepared my bag of food, and the cashier will ring it up before I even open my mouth. That's service!|
|Water||$0.71 per day, $260 per year||$0.61 per day, $222 per year|
|I'm not sure why my water bill went down, but the quarter-inch layer of sediment covering 80% of my body suggests that I shower less. Or maybe it's because the cats are now only allowed to drink twice a week.|
|House Insurance||$0.91 per day, $333 per year||$1.13 per day, $414 per year|
|It's true that there's far more cool stuff in the BU-house this year, but the insurance company shouldn't know about any of that. Unless, of course, one of you scabs is a secret auditor and reporting everything I do in exchange for bribes in petty cash.|
|Phone Service||$1.41 per day, $514 per year||$1.40 per day, $512 per year|
|I'm paying roughly the same amount for the ability to screen all the unwanted calls from the Fraternal Order of the Moose Policeman, Mark Foley's Reelection Campaign, and Kelley and Shac wanting to hang out.|
|Cable||$1.47 per day, $537 per year||$0 per day, $0 per year|
|I cancelled this monetary black hole in January and haven't looked back. Thank goodness for free over-the-air HD!|
|Internet||$1.57 per day, $576 per year||$1.30 per day, $475 per year|
|Comcast purchased Adelphia right before I cancelled cable. Of course, they screwed up my cancellation order the first two times I called. After the second harassment, they erased one too many charges from my bill, so I am now paying less than I'm supposed to be paying for the luxury of Internet. I'm figuring that I can keep this going for about a decade as long as I have no service requests.|
|Trash Pickup||$0.88 per day, $324 per year||$0.98 per day, $357 per year|
|This bill is utter garbage. Hopefully with that extra thirty bucks, they'll train the workers to not block the driveway with the bins.|
|Car Insurance||$2.53 per day, $924 per year||$2.35 per day, $858 per year|
|This is a surprising plot twist in the tale of my insurance. Allstate finally realized that I am a safe driver (and not just because I took a moonlighting job transporting safes for the bank). The only accident I was ever involved in was when that girl in the brand new Ford Focus rear-ended the Dodge Spirit in 2000. I lost my bumper and she lost most of her car.|
|Electricity||$2.63 per day, $960 per year||$2.83 per day, $1036 per year|
|A reasonable amplification in charge for my revolting lifestyle.|
|House Tax||$8.54 per day, $3120 per year||$11.06 per day, $4040 per year|
|Real estate assessments skyrocketed last year and my bill rose accordingly. I blame Gonzales (both Alberto and Elian).|
|Mortgage||$46.02 per day, $16,800 per year||$46.02 per day, $16,800 per year|
|Despite all the other increases, my fixed-rate mortgage happily chugs along.|
Grand Total: $69.03 per day, $25,199 per year
My cost of living has held surprisingly steady over the course of a year. This probably means that it is now safe to invest in a high-cost hobby like building model train sets, or becoming an independent reviewer of strip clubs. Alternately, I could write a book describing the secrets of my success, and sell it over the Internet!Bono wants you to call him 'His Demigodness'
Two McLean High School students have launched a court challenge against a California company hired by their school to catch cheaters, claiming the anti-plagiarism service violates copyright laws. The lawsuit . . . seeks $900,000 in damages from the for-profit service known as Turnitin. The service seeks to root out cheaters by comparing student term papers and essays against a database of more than 22 million student papers as well as online sources and electronic archives of journals. In the process, the student papers are added to the database.
I haven't seen something this cut-and-dried since my dishwasher turned emo during the heat cycle -- obviously the company is archiving, using, and display other peoples' work for commercial purposes, without even providing any mechanism for opting out. The fact that the students put copyright notices and "Do Not Archive" notes on their essays is classic, and I'm hoping that they get the $900,000 instead of a cheap settlement and an apology.
Being a stereotypical middle-of-the-roader with occasional conservative tendencies who comes across as a flaming liberal online, I'm of the opinion that Turnitin and other companies of their ilk are completely worthless for three major reasons:
Note that today's post did not get into the tangent of proper citations and footnotes, which is a whole 'nother ballpark. We might as well do away with those too -- no one ever checks them unless they're writing a Music Theory paper. Real academics steal their work!
Happy Birthday Tim Galyen!Take me home to West Virgina
Having lived my entire life as a comfortably middle-class individual, my home is filled with useless artifacts that have never actually been employed in real-world applications. Here is a small sample of the obscene wastefulness all middle-class Americans exhibit!
1) Super Metroid / Donkey Kong Country: These are Super Nintendo games that I got in 2004 and never actually played. The first I picked up for $5 online, because it's supposed to be a classic and everyone loves classics. I bet I would love it too, but the Super Nintendo is hooked up in a whole 'nother room, and hanging out in said room is too much of a paradigm shift for me. The second game belonged to Ben, and was secretly given to me by Anna during one of their moves because, "he doesn't even have a Super Nintendo and it's just going to clutter up my pretty house".
2) The Basement Guest Room: Though my basement room has shown hospitality towards a large and peculiar array of guests, both nightly and semi-permanent (like Eric Barberan, Kathy (nez) Biddick, the Ahlbins, and Tommy Lee Jones), I, myself, have never actually spent the night in it. Maybe this summer I will move down there for a few days to see what all the fuss is about -- one guest described the room as "a little bit of heaven on Earth", but he may have been drunk at the time.
3) Drill Bit Collection: I received a massive set of drill bits from my dad at Christmas 2005, and I put this set next to the two sets of drill bits I already had, intending to use them as soon as the old ones were all worn and used up. Unfortunately in my line of work, there aren't a lot of opportunities for "hardcore nonstop drilling action", so I am nowhere near using up the old drill bits. At the current rate of consumption, these bits will be used for the first time in the year 2015.
4) Marjorum: It's an unwritten rule that you have to have a spice rack when you buy a house, so I bought a spice rack. Since that time, I think I've used the Rosemary and the Celery Salt. I don't think I am fancy enough to use the marjorum without feeling like a poser, since I have no idea what one might use it as (maybe a butter substitute?).
5) Green Pants: In the summer of 2002, I went shopping for nice dressy "teaching" clothes for my sightsinging gig at Florida State. I picked out a pair of khakis and a pair of black pants to accentuate my existing wardrobe of four pairs of shorts, a Members Only jacket, a crew hat, and a muscle shirt with "WHO LET THE DOGS OUT" across the abs. Anna added these pants to my ensemble, because she said I needed to branch out, and I never did wear them. I tried a couple times, but being color-retarded, I could never figure out which shirts went with the pants. Now I am fat and no longer fit in them, but they still hang in my closet.
6) Music Books: This is one of three full shelves of "IMPRESSIVE MUSIC BOOKS" I have to make myself look worldly and IMPRESSIVE. I have never opened eleven of the books shown here, generally the ones on compositional techniques and harmony. Maybe that's why I have a triad fetish!
Runner-Up) Jumanji: The Board Game: In 2001, my dad sent me a batch of randomly selected board games as collateral for the classic board games he had sold at a yard sale while I was away at college. Anna and I played Jumanji just one time, and then never played it again. It was so bad that I think we actually made up our own rules about halfway through the first game. For a board game based upon a movie about a board game where rhinos tear down your house when you play it, this game was largely underwhelming.Video games zapped
Sixteen years ago when I was in the seventh grade, the entire class body had to take a series of multiple choice psychology tests to determine which of us should prepare for great ambitions and college life, and which should immediately start reserving spots in the city jail. Here are the results of mine -- how closely do they match up with what you know about me?
Happy Birthday Geoffrey King!It's still a DUI if it's a horse...
♣ Congratulations to Anna and Ben who had their first daughter, Eleanor Grace Ahlbin, this morning at 4:41 AM! She weighed seven pounds twelve ounces and was twenty inches long. I do not have any pictures of the nooblet yet, so here is a picture of a twenty-inch trout. If this trout weighed roughly the same as a kid's bowling ball, it would be a good candidate for Eleanor-replacement (in case Indiana Jones was trying to steal her off a pedestal in the hospital). Note, though, that they probably don't look anything alike.
♣ I could be pardoned for mistaking a baby for a fish though. I went to my optometrist on Wednesday afternoon to update my prescription (since there's a kooky Virginia law that says your prescription must be less than a year old to purchase new glasses) and discovered that the glasses I've worn for two years were not quite the prescription he gave me -- the axis was off by 50 even though the hump of the curve was correct.
♣ If you missed the link on Wednesday, here is Alanis Morrisette covering My Humps. The original is easily in the Top Fifty Worst Popular Songs of the twenty-first century, but the parody and accompanying music video definitely redeem Alanis just slightly, despite her never having looked up the word "ironic" in a dictionary. It's bananas! (B-A-N-A-N-A-S)
♣ On the subject of music videos, you can always count on Muse to accompany their great music with the most ridiculous videos that have nothing to do with anything. This video to Knights of Cydonia could be the craziest music video ever -- it's like Blazing Saddles meets Star Wars meets Firefly meets Kung Fu Hustle. On the other hand, I think the video from Invincible is especially clever (and even kind of cute) though the song's not quite as good.
♣ My weekend is looking to be pretty busy. Apart from baby visits and grocery shopping, I'll be contributing more to the Paravia Wiki, and trying to figure out why my website has been flaky for the past two days (you might not even get to see this update for months or even years if they don't get FTP working soon). I also have plans for various birthday dinners and cow tippings and Poker Nights.
♣ Tomorrow is Rachel McKenzie's birthday, the long-disappeared Aussie who used to get into long arguments with Americans about driving and hurricanes and other liberal conspiracies in my comments section. Sunday is Ben Ahlbin and Diana diBiase's birthday. Happy Birthday to all!
♣ Have a great weekend!21 Biggest Tech Flops
If you missed the big blinking baby bulletin I posted over the weekend, Ben and Anna's new football now has her own website at baby.urizone.net. This is a brand new site that I painstakingly created from scratch on Friday night, and any resemblance to totally unrelated sites like their 2005 wedding site is completely coincidental and not trademark infringing.
At the current rate of inflation, college tuition costs in the year 2025 are expected to be approximately $25,000 (per semester, in-state). To help defray these costs, Eleanor Grace Ahlbin has already started to appear as the spokesbaby for many household products and services.
If you have any other endorsements that might benefit from the unique, subtle charms of an Ahlbin-baby, please contact Eleanor's agent directly.The reptilian brain lives on
It's not easy making Eagle, the highest honor in Boy Scouts. You need at least 21 merit badges . . . [James Calderwood] has every badge available, from American business to woodwork. He even has one they don't give out anymore, so make it 122.
This is a very remarkable feat, though tragically it will not translate directly into a marketable skill or reward (see also, a perfect score on the SATs). I know this from personal experience -- being a very short Boy Scout who was once almost denied entrance to a weeklong leadership camp because my backpack was larger than I was, I had to compensate by extending the length of my sash.
By the time I left Scouts, my merit badge sash had 43 badges, which (while nowhere near the full 121) was far above the national average. Yet putting this information onto my resumé garnered me no multi-year scholarships or product endorsement deals and I even had to go out on my own to find a girlfriend.
Every Boy Scout merit badge has a rigid pedantic set of requirements that must be checked off by a qualified merit badge counselor. Judging from the sheer number of merit badges, and the rather lame descriptions the article provides depicting what Calderwood did to complete them ("I played slapjack with an Indian"), I'm betting he didn't literally fulfill every requirement for every merit badge. Instead, he probably employed a little-used loophole that says you can dub your good friend, Bob, a merit badge counselor if there are no other qualified counselors in the area (see also, marriage on the Internet).
By doing this for some of the more archaic badges, he could get the substitute counselor to sign off on the badge without really following the letter of the requirements. This is also how I got the Farm Mechanics, Rabbit Raising, and Animal Husbandry merit badges (the non-city-slicker half of the URI! clan in Nevada owned a ranch). However, it looks like Calderwood is still missing one badge that I have -- Beekeeping! You can see the photographic evidence to the right, although some cynics might claim it's just a picture of me in my indigenous village trying to outrun the Agent Orange.
Here are the 43 merit badges I earned. How many of them can you recognize? (answers below)
|Things You Put In Your Ear||Squirrel Hunting||First Aid for the Colour-blind||Dolphin Hunting||Connecting Flights||Butterfly Hunting||Watermelon Stands||Creating Bad Clipart|
|Buying a Car||Dramatic Animals||Mating||The Numbers||Going to Heaven||How to Hang Chili Peppers||Aerial Photography||Pitching a Tent|
|John Deere Merchandise||Cow Hunting||Positions in the Clergy||Book Burning||60s Hairstyles||Being a Tool||Panhandling||Bee Hunting|
|Towns in Zelda 2||Vandalism||Playing RISK||Crafts You Can Make from a Turtle||Visiting New Hampshire||Invisible Horses||Water Moccasins (LOL)||Homemade Bombs|
|Swimming with Handcuffs||First Aid for Albinos||Petitioning your Representative to Keep from Getting Shot Out of a Cannon||Logging||Snakes on a Plain||Wetland Oil Drilling||Things that Blow in the Wind||Giving Good Directions|
|Global Needlepoint||Negativity||Thor Study|
Happy Birthday Mom!Australians wonder if sink-peeing dentist is clean
Every young child has a singular fascination at some point in their lives -- a topic that they simply cannot get enough of, that they consume voraciously like a fat sheikh devouring a stuffed camel. My fixation was dinosaurs (RAAR!).
There was a period in my life where I would come home from school and spend the entire afternoon pretending to be an archaeologist in a three-square-yard dirt pile next to the house where the sun didn't shine strongly enough to grow grass. I had dinosaur popup books and picture books lining my shelf. I could expertly sort dinosaurs into Cretaceous and Jurassic and Curvaceous, and could recite the foraging habits of the Diplodocus from memory.
I drew the picture on the right in first grade, and then submitted it to the local Reflections contest the following year. Backed by pure scientific research (and despite the fact that it had two titles, one misspelled, and what appears to be a flame-breathing Loch Ness ancestor in the foreground), I was so sure it would win that I was devasated when it came back without so much as an Honorable Mention. (To ease the pain, I drew my own award label on it, because in bizzaro land, it was worth First Place).
Most of my dinosaur knowledge came from the Smithsonian. Had I been in charge of things, I would have renamed it The Museum of Dinosaurs and Insects With a Bunch of Other Stupider Museums -- we took a trip to the Natural History Museum almost every time I accompanied one of my parents to work in DC, and the Dinosaur Room and Insect Room were the only two parts of the entire complex that I ever cared about. It was at the Smithsonian gift shop that I got my stuffed triceratops -- it was a lot like the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where Calvin cons his parents into buying all the dinosaur crap because "it's educational".
The triceratops was my "main" stuffed animal throughout elementary school. It never had a name despite my family's attempts to give it stupid names like "Tricer" and "Leroy". Because he was such an important belonging, he endured much abuse in his lifetime -- from having his tail dipped in water and being stuck in the freezer by my sister, to getting stolen on Christmas morning and hurriedly rewrapped as "an amazing present that we just found that Santa left behind!" Somehow, the triceratops made it to retirement without losing any appendages (though the stuffing is a little limp in one leg) and now sits on my dresser, where the worst abuse faced is when Booty knocks it off in the morning to wake me up for breakfast.
It got to the point where even the slimmest connection to dinosaurs would convince me that a particular cereal or TV show or book needed to be purchased and absorbed as quickly as possible. I always tuned in to the Dinosaurs! sitcom with the Not-the-momma baby, and watched Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend ad nauseum. In 1990, Origin released the game, Worlds of Ultima: Savage Empire, and I had that thing preordered nine months in advance. That was probably the longest wait of my life, since my anticipation at playing a game with dinosaurs in it was bubbling over like an unwatched pot of milk and boiling water before you put the instant potatoes in. When it finally arrived, it was a fair to middling game that never fully worked until we upgraded our 386 computer to a 486 the following year.
By junior high, the dinosaur fetish had become extinct and the millions of dollars in dinosaur paraphernalia was relegated to storage bins, top shelves, and yard sales.
Don't forget -- 12 of 12 is tomorrow!Cramps, high blood pressure, diarrhea, chronic insomnia, larvae infections, dehydration and abrasions caused by the constant rubbing of his wet suit against his skin frequently tormented him.
5:34 AM: I slept in by nineteen minutes today, permanently altering the space-time continuum. I own one of those Clocks for the Blind with digital numbers large enough to see from fifty feet on a smoggy day.
5:49 AM: I always use the big mirror for my pictures, and the little mirror was getting jealous, so today I switched it up.
5:55 AM: It's breakfast time for kitties! For the full multimedia effect of feeding time, here is a live action version of the events leading up to this scene (2MB WMV).
6:04 AM: This composition is titled, Brake Lights on the 7100. I have half a tank of gas, which is misleading because the needle stays there for the next eight gallons then drops immediately to Empty. The temperature gauge goes from hot to chaud, which is French for hot because things are always pretty hot when I'm driving. My car is almost six years old and only has 53,000 miles on it, because I used to drive it once a week to Walmart for groceries (in Florida) and walked everywhere else.
6:08 AM: The construction companies keep these lights on all night long. I'm pretty sure you can see Reston from space now.
6:36 AM: (bonus picture) I take a sunrise picture every single time I do 12 of 12 because change frightens me. Of course, the month that the bonus picture is based on a Random Word Generator that says "sunrise", it's overcast and rainy. Here, instead, is a picture of a sunrise in the window where I could normally see a real one.
6:59 AM: At work, having footraces with my evil twin in the reflection.
7:48 AM: Breakfast break at my snack shelf, sponsored in part by Quaker, Kellog's, Chef Boyardee, and Costco. Today's random breakfast bar flavor was Blueberry.
8:14 AM: This is another traditional monthly shot, except that someone seems to have finally used my whiteboard this month.
2:10 PM: After lunch at home, doing some telecommuting. If you magnify the reflection of the screen in my glasses, you can probably find out where the government hid the aliens. Of course, the government might also be monitoring my office via the unfortunately placed light fixture that looks like it's about to fall on me. At this angle, my walls and ceiling look like a strange optical illusion, as if I'm in some virtual reality version of Q-Bert.
3:14 PM: I have so many pictures of Amber in various ridiculous poses that I should make a coffee table book (maybe the Katma Sutra?). She's lying on one of my technical manuals, but it's not like I needed it or anything.
4:51 PM: Doing some extracurricular contributions to a Wiki about some of my favourite books. Thumbs Up sign added to make the picture more interesting.
After this, I realized that I easily had twenty-five pictures already and decided to upload them. I took out the boring ones with the rhinos and the stretch pants, leaving behind only the cream of the crop for your viewing pleasure!
two monkeys, fifteen minutes tops
♣ Less than twenty-four hours after making fun of Reston's personal Light Brite system in my 12 of 12 notes, I drove by this morning to find that all the construction lights were shut off. I guess this goes to show that if you put your mind to it, your website can accomplish anything -- it's not a lost cause!
♣ I thought Wednesday's episode of LOST was enjoyable, and have high hopes for the remainder of the season. I still think the season stumbled a bit with the worthless filler episodes right in the middle -- who cares about a tattoo?
♣ I also called Juliet being a plant the entire time. What would make the story especially interesting would be if Jack, too, had just pretended to be gassed, and was part of some secret plot as well -- his character's all out of interesting plot lines so they might as well screw around with him a bit. Then the two of them could smooch on the beach while fondling his tattoo, and play lookout for the Others.
♣ On Tuesday, we went out to the Fair Oaks theatre to see the movie, The Lookout, starring the youngest son from Third Rock from the Sun, as a brain-damaged janitor caught up in a bank heist. I thought it was pretty neat overall, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt did a much better acting job than he did in Brick. Granted, he didn't really have much to do in that movie except look around (Keanu Reeves style) and stand with the sky in the background. Other pieces of the movie to recommend it: Jeff Daniels as a blind man named Lewis who wants to open a restaurant called "Lew's Your Lunch", and a stripper named Luvlee Lemons.
♣ Do you put lemons in your water? I always do.
♣ Before the movie, Rebecca and I went to the Pei Wei Asian Diner in Fair Lakes II (as if Fair Lakes I wasn't big enough already). They have an entire cannister of lemon wedges placed strategically next to the drink machine. We had the Beef Pad Thai, which was tasty, and the Asian Coconut Curry Chicken, which tasted like a frozen TV dinner. Thumbs up overall, except for the part where the ice machine shocked the hell out of me (literally, not Puritanically).
♣ Normally ethnic restaurants, especially Chinese restaurants, tend to hire people of the same ethnicity to set the mood, but this Pei Wei had a surprisingly high mix of Hispanics and non-Asians working in the open air kitchen. Tragically, I did not see anyone named Hermano -- if they ever hire one, he could have the notoriety of being Pei Wei Hermano.
♣ I don't think I've ever watched any of the Pee Wee Herman movies. I recall occasionally watching the Pee Wee show during Saturday morning cartoons and finding it unsettlingly trippy, much like Today's Special and Pinwheel with that damned nightmare-inducing sonar bird.
♣ You can tell that Pinwheel is not suitable for impressionable children, since the introduction to the show starts with the entire population of Pinwheel-town dying in a chemical gas attack (God bless YouTube for preserving bits of Americana like this). Even the slightly off-key theme song singers don't survive the attack -- I refuse to believe any real composer would end the theme song the way this one ends.
♣ Speaking of dead people, I've started watching Six Feet Under which got rave reviews from Mike (who hates everything except Led Zeppelin and his dog so it must be decent). I'm about halfway through the first season right now, and though I'm not particularly addicted to watching it, I do agree that it's a very well-acted and interesting show -- it gets better as the characters get deeper, and being an HBO show, character depth is what it's all about. At the least, it's good enough to keep me entertained until the next TV seasons start popping out in May (like The 4400 and Scrubs).
♣ Another thing that's kept me entertained recently is the Gameboy DS game, Puzzle Quest, which is a quirky hybrid that takes the matching game, Bejeweled, and drops it in a fantasy setting with surprisingly addictive results. I also bought Super Paper Mario for the Wii, which I haven't played very much yet, due to the previously mentioned addiction to Puzzle Quest.
♣ This weekend will kick off April is Bathroom Renovation Month, which will involve tearing out all the old fixtures and cabinets in the two upstairs bathrooms and replacing them with a sexy pastiche of blue walls, white trim, oak wood, and sandy ceramic tile. Sunday is also Angela Oh's birthday, the composer who accidentally got her dog high in 2003. Happy Birthday!
♣ Have a great weekend!IRS Agent defrauds Home Depot
Several years ago, one of the major networks created a documentary about the lives and habits of Nielsen families, those lovable anonymous folks who agree to have all their television habits monitored to determine how many people are actually wasting their lives watching American Idol instead of a PBS special on the Battle of Your Bulge. In a stroke of brilliance, the network aired this documentary during Sweeps Week, and (not surprisingly) every Nielsen family tuned in hoping to catch a glimpse of themselves, sending the scores through the roof.
The URI! Zone does not get any advertising dollars for your continuing visits, but I recognize the usefulness of posting stories pertinent to the audience (stay tuned next week for a Celebrity Deathmatch between Kelley Corbett and Mike Catania, acted out with cats). For today's update, I essentially stole the words out of your mouths -- four and a half years of comments, both inane and profound. I started poking through these comments on Sunday, in hopes of finding a few choice whits of wit, and ended up reading the entire script, from the liberal diatribes of Rachel, to the grammar validation of Finicky, to the non sequitor tangents of Tree before he decided to boycott the site.
If you are bored at work today, or just in the mood for a leisurely dose of nostalgia, flip to a random section of the comments and see if you can remember the post that brought them about (every post is linked for your viewing convenience, but no peeking until you turn in your papers!)
Read what you had to say:2003 (43 KB)
Here are some highlights if you actually do work at your job, and cannot be bothered to stop and smell the comments.
Readers Can Be FunnyMarch 30, 2004: Helping Mike move out
Readers Can Be InterestingOctober 13, 2005: Two Things About You
Readers Can Be SERIOUS. SERIOUSLY.December 18, 2003: The gay marriage amendment
Post some of your favourite quotes in today's comments section!Police plan to speak to all 200 revelers
Today's Newsday Tuesday entry was originally about the supposed Internet buzz surrounding Shia LaBeouf's starring role in Indiana Jones 4 and why anyone would care about an unknown soul who sounds more like a tasty French cuisine than an actor. In the aftermath of yesterday's shooting at my alma mater, that post seems eminently discardable.
Thankfully, the people I know directly like my sister, her husband, Zone-reader Jaood, and Anna's sister have all reported in and are safe. In a win for serendipity, Anna's sister was actually supposed to be in class in Norris Hall, but was delayed by a phone call from her mom (who wanted her to see something unrelated on television before anyone knew something was going on).
The seedy underbelly of the crisis emerged almost immediately. CNN provided minute-by-minute updates with casualty numbers shifting in every direction based on whoever happened to be talking at the moment. The news site clamored for any videos or cellphone calls they could get their hands on, and as the death toll went up, so did the magnitude of the nouns. The shooting escalated from a tragedy to a massacre to a bloodbath, as if the reporters realized that every single noun was so sensationally overused that it no longer had any effect.
Soon after, I received a Facebook invitation from a tactless reporter trying to get an "in" on the Virginia Tech network, which I rejected, in a manner much more polite and restrained than I originally wanted. Democrats pulled out their gun-control soapbox (which is only about six inches high after so much use) and Republicans all lined up to get their quotations on the air so people would remember that they're running for President.
Over at FOX "News", the reporters were spouting the worst in hearsay and conjecture while continuing to emphasize that none of it had yet been confirmed. After an Asian reporter was photographed handcuffed outside the building, they immediately reported that the shooter was an Asian engineer (luckily for them this eventually turned out to be true, but it was based on the wrong guy). Meanwhile, Jack Thompson, the human scab, was proclaiming on national television that violent video games were the cause, and that the police would probably find Counterstrike installed whenever they found his computer. With every media outlet clamoring to be the scariest or most tasteless, it's amazing that these events can still touch us at all.
Sometimes people try to use these incidents to draw attention to the bigger picture. "How can you care so much about thirty deaths," they argue, "when genocide is occurring daily in Darfur?" And it's true -- thirty deaths are not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, because the world is that full of shit. At least 500,000 Tutsi's were murdered in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. In the past four years, 1,857 minors were murdered in Rio de Janeiro. Child sex trafficking is thriving in Asia, a continent where prostitution makes up 60% of Thailand's governmental budget and an estimated 400,000 prostitutes are children. Parents abuse their children, husbands set their wives on fire, and billions of people live and die in poverty.
I'm aware of all of this, and I don't care. I can't care.
When 9/11 occurred, I felt sad for the people who had died, and those who had lost someone. The next morning, and subsequent mornings, I got up and went about my usual business. 9/11 wasn't really on my mind, and I didn't feel like I had any particular personal stake in it. I recognize that this is a defense mechanism -- that if I were to acknowledge just how awful things can be in the world, how much of it is beyond my control, and how ridiculously outside our frame of reference a phrase like "one million deaths" is, I would be crushed under the sheer scope of tragedy. I would loose hope, faith, and strength -- the belief that the world DOES have its good side -- and that is a dangerous thing to lose. It's not that I'm jaded -- it's that I'm doing everything in my power to keep from becoming jaded.
I had been following the Virginia Tech events on CNN.com since the first "Breaking News" item appeared early in the morning. The media first reported that there were over thirty deaths when I was coming home from work. Driving down Church Road with the fifty mile wind gusts and the foreboding skies, I felt a nauseous churning of anger, sadness, shock, relief, voyeurism, and guilt. I can visualize the buildings where it happened. It could have been me, or someone I care about. The number thirty is tangible -- I can picture thirty people. I can see in my mind how many seats in an auditorium that would fill up. I can wrap my mind around the understanding that every one of them had a life story, a family, and a name. And for that reason, it's far more powerful than a mass genocide.
The fact that a "smaller" incident like the Virginia Tech shooting can still arrest the country's attention is a good thing -- it shows us that we still care about our fellow human beings, and that we are not so desensitized to violence and sadness that we can shrug our shoulders and move on. How can you relate to one thousand deaths, or even one hundred deaths, if you feel nothing for thirty, or even one?
The breakdown occurs in how we collectively deal with the aftermath -- we, as a country, delight in playing the blame game. We dig up facts about the shooter or his parents find evidence of his evil. We blame guns and games and then pass empty laws in a symbolic attempt to control them. Already, people are pointing fingers at the university for the second shooting because they should have had the hindsight to lock down the campus faster. (I believe that the response was as good as it could have possibly been, and think the university should be commended). People who are ALIVE and will wake up in their own beds tomorrow are whining that they were kept in the dark during the lockdown, when they should be thankful that the safety plan prevented more chaos and injuries.
Blaming someone or something is a cheap workaround to shouldering any responsibility. Instead of wasting so much energy finding someone to blame, why can't we just let the dead be dead, and mourn with the living? Why can't we let ourselves be sad for the lost lives without vendettas and excuses? Rather than point an accusing finger at the nearest scapegoat, go home and hug your wife / husband / parents / children / cats / dogs. Find the people you love and resolve to take better care of them. I am not trying to paint the shooter as a victim here -- I'm angry that he chose such a selfish way to go, but I'm also sad and not totally surprised that there are souls so full of rage or loneliness or any unhealthy emotion that they believe violence is their only option. If we spent more time healing and watching out for each other, the world would be a much saner place.
So please, if you get nothing else out of today's post, go home this evening and be thankful for the people you care about. Don't take your friends and family for granted, and never feel that you are all alone in this world.
On a lighter note, today is Kim's birthday. Happy 27th!
1: I debated for a long time yesterday about whether to write anything at all about this -- partly because I think that by writing about it, I am no better than all the other vultures I disdain, politicizing an event I have no true connection to for my own gain. The fact that I decided to proceed highlights how strongly I feel about what I've said (that, and the three tortorous hours it took to edit my disparate thoughts into a hopefully coherent statement). I stand by everything I've written here, and hope that you'll forgive the temporary break in levity-inducing posts about cats, Alias, and Les Miserables.
an occasional jaunt into my past via the crap in my drawers
I am not a particularly hatful person. It's not that I hate hats (for there's enough hate without hat hate), it's just that hats aren't really a part of my daily ensemble. This hasn't always been the case -- throughout my formative years, I almost always wore a ball cap on my head.
I can't really pinpoint the reason why, because it usually wasn't even a cool cap -- just whatever cheap cap I'd bought or received for going to this particular camp or that particular brothel. It definitely wasn't to hide hideous hat hair because anyone who knew me back then knew that my hair was generally just a little bit taller than I was at any given time (about 3/8"). I suppose it was just a comfort thing -- much like having a drink held in my hands at a hopping party, having a hat on my head gave me one more thing I could control in scary social settings.
For today's post, I dug out some of the many baseball caps from as early as twenty years ago and modelled them with my patented Asian sexiness. Did you know me during one of these phases? Let the nostalgia begin!
I got this hat at the National Capital Area Council "Discovery Scout Show" in 1989, which evidently had something to do with the space shuttle and a million hyperactive screaming Cub Scouts. I think they were taking the most obnoxious ones and launching them into space.
When you force the Boy Scout Troop you run to wear berets as part of the official uniform, you're not allowed to wonder why 50% of the incoming Cub Scouts drop out by the time they start Junior High. Je suis la sexe. That yolk-like reflection is unfortunately placed.
IMPEESA was a scout leadership camp. When I arrived with my backpack at the bus location, they almost denied me entrance because they said I was too short and too young and wouldn't make it through the arduous week. After a round of effective negotiation from my dad (which involved him saying, "He's going" while being six-foot-seven), I was on the bus to the crappiest leadership camp of all time. As retribution, they put me in the rejects' camp, and while all the other groups were falling into each others arms and crossing fake canyons on planks, we were back at camp playing cards and sword-fighting with sticks.
By the time our troop was down to about one person, someone high up finally realized that berets look retarded, and switched to the standard issue ball cap. I really need to shave -- I did not have this much facial hair in Boy Scouts.
I bought this hat at a regatta in my junior year of high school, and wore it perpetually for the next five years, well into college. I liked it because the adjustor in the back was high-class cloth, and not those stupid plastic snap-tabs that eventually crack down the middle.
Late in my Scouting career, I went to the Penn State Summer Camp for Science and Technology. Our disparate group of scouts from various troops all over the Mason-Dixon line was once again the troublemaking group, and to this day, I have no idea how it's possible to earn a Chemistry merit badge in a camp with no electricity.
When the URI! Domain first opened in 1996, llamas were a large part of the artistic motif. For no good reason, I also had the alias, email@example.com (which probably still works today). My mom got me this hat as a joke Christmas present, but I never really wore it much (whenever I did I'd have to explain it to someone, and this was in the era when doing stuff online was not cool. I am into peer pressure).
When I first went to college, I was of the mindset that wearing school clothing while attending that same school was mostly retarded, and on par with writing "Warning: Contains Nuts" on a package of peanuts. My stance towards this softened over the years until I bought this hat and then it was all downhill from there. I still don't wear shirts with advertising though.
My dad bought this hat for me when I moved down to Florida for grad school, but I never wore it a single time -- the brim is still perfectly uncreased and there's not a speck of dirt on the forehead band. This hat hung in the window of my apartment for two years, right next to the "FSU School of Music" bumper sticker, until it was knocked out by Booty, who liked knocking things out of the windows and peeing on them.
Booty doesn't wear hats.
because bulleted lists are far easier to write than paragraphs unless you're stuck with MS Word
♣ It's been an arduous week in an emotional holding pattern for me, which definitely affected any urge to write my usual cheery and lighthearted pulp. To propitiate for this paucity of pleasant posts, I promise that next week will play proprietor to a particularly pernicious panoply of puns, and maybe a Cat Media Thursday thrown in for good luck. I am mostly back to normal now, because Asians are resilient (as shown in the classic physics experiment where you roll an Asian off a two-story building and watch how far they bounce back up).
♣ I'm still annoyed with the media for giving so much airtime to the previously peripatetic perpetrator when they should have been focusing on the victims though. Last night FOX "News" posted an article hypothesizing that the shooter was possessed by Satan. You know things are out of control when the Washington Post, the most bleeding-heart liberal newspaper in the area, actually uses the phrase, "looking like he had just stepped out of a violent video game". I'm also glad that CNN finally took down that front-page picture with the gun and started rotating pictures of the victims.
♣ As a result of this week's events, traffic to this site doubled for a couple days, mostly from random passerby following links on the VT Music website which still has the picture of Booty jumping into the pool from 2003. I also started hearing from random VT people from my shady past on Facebook.
♣ I made a Facebook account approximately four millionbillion years ago, but never really used it (registering early accounts at random sites for no good reason is something I often do. I once had a six-digit ICQ number). With activity on the rise like a loaf of pumpernickel with a yeast infection, I decided to succumb to peer pressure and start using it.
♣ After the psychedelic Technicolour caterpillar pus that defines Myspace, Facebook is pretty sleek. Its clean interface and minimalist approach appeals to my neatnik side (Asians are neat, and we can also play Moto Perpetuo on the violin while taking our SATs in pen). In just a few minutes this afternoon, I was able to locate five thousand random historical figures that I'd all but forgotten about, like Jason Chrisley and George Washington, as well as people who went to high school with me as well.
♣ Speaking of high school, I was out at TC Williams last weekend to show Rebecca the ridiculous multi-phase construction project which entails building a new school next to the old one and then completely demolishing the original structure and replacing it with a parking lot. The new building is gigantic, with elevators and rotundas and windows so large that Canadian geese will be flying into them. Classrooms have high vaulted ceilings more common in McMansions, because apparently they are letting trolls go to public school next year. I know that Alexandria is a yuppy-town but the whole thing seems a little ostentatious -- it's a good thing they didn't build this during the Remember the Titans years because the football team would have been too busy eating lunch off of diamond-studded cafeteria trays to bond with each other.
♣ This weekend, my plans includes some online training for work, a Poker Night, and at least one naked tribal dance. On Sunday, we'll be working on the hall bathroom, which is currently completely stripped of fixtures and porcelain with plastic and duct tape covering up all the sewer holes to prevent the house from spontaneously combusting. It can't be any worse than a gassy Spellerberg though.
♣ Tomorrow is also Alyssa's birthday. Happy Birthday! Have a good weekend, everyone!No one got his joke
On Friday night, Eleanor came over for a play-date with Booty, and brought her mom, Anna, along because I cannot be trusted to chaperone. We had Boston Market for dinner, watched some ancient episodes of Friends, had a few Dos Equis, and played the crazy Wario game on the Wii. Eleanor totally farted on my couch, then passed out in a sleepy stupor from all the beer and rock music. Later on, we heard that Anna's sister, Emily, is now engaged. Congratulations!
On Saturday morning, I went on a whirlwind shopping tour of Shoppers Food Warehouse, Home Depot, Petsmart, Target, and Costco (a practice run in case I ever get called on to appear in a reality show about a yuppy scavenger hunt). Besides Q-Tips, insoles, cat food, and lunch meat, I bought two new pairs of glasses that look shockingly different than the frames I've worn in the past (see Figure A to the right which shows the crappy old frames next to the sleek new frames like one of those dieting advertisements, but for glasses).
I had a massive pot of Velveeta Shells and Cheese for lunch and then baked some chocolate chip cookies for Poker Night. Half of these cookies, I took across the street to the new neighbours who have been busy painting their new house for the past two weeks. They'll be a nice addition to The Court for two reasons: they're reasonably young, and they speak English (the language of kings, at least kings from England). I've shared a driveway with two Hispanic guys for the past three years and the only thing they've ever said was hola, which I believe is Spanish for that artificial fat substitute in potato chips that causes anal leakage.
There weren't quite enough people for a rousing game of poker, so we decided to turn it into Pictionary night instead -- specifically, the new version of Pictionary with special challenges like "draw with your eyes closed" and "hold the pencil in your armpit". We ate Philly cheesesteak pizza, listened to Eleanor fart some more, and reminisced about the time Mike Catania fouled the guy on the Maxx Attack team while on the 0-16 FSU Music Theory basketball team to avenge Mark Connor's honour.
On Sunday, My dad and I laid the ceramic tile in the hall bathroom. The adhesive is now dry and today is Grout Day (where we read excerpts from A History of Western Music by Donald Grout to the floor and teach it that repetition is the key to Western Music). I'm planning on keeping the toilet in the bathtub permanently, because everyone poops in the tub, even though no one likes to talk about it.
What did you do this weekend?Crazed hare on the loose
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door was almost flawless, and when I reviewed it in 2004 it was one of my "must-have" game for anyone owning a GameCube. About two weeks ago, the latest game in the Paper Mario series was released on the Wii, and I've now played it enough to talk about my first impressions. Was it worth the wait? Read on to find the heart-stopping answer to this mind-bendingly suspenseful question (and also tips on how to run your car on consommé in the face of rising oil prices).
The conceit of this series is that all the main characters are flat two-dimensional sprites made of paper, living in a three-dimensional world. In previous games, this made for some neat artistic choices and novel uses of perspective. SPM takes this one step further by giving Mario the ability to temporarily rotate the camera ninety degrees, giving the game world a field of depth and revealing hidden secrets. A wall that looks impassable in 2D might turn out to be less than an inch thick in 3D, which means that Mario can just duck behind it and be on his way. If you're having trouble visualizing this, watch this gameplay movie (11MB WMV).
Title: The title reeks of laziness like a freshman business major and its Japanese translation is probably "dumbass-san will buy any game with Mario-san in the title". I could feed alphabet soup to a baby and have it burp out a better title than this, even without the vowels. Super Paper Mario would definitely win the crappy title contest, if its competition weren't New Super Mario Brothers.
Cutscenes / Translation: It takes the game a good fifteen minutes of introduction to say that something bad has happened and Mario must save the day. The slick, self-referential, tongue-in-cheek humour of the series is now trying way too hard and gets a little annoying. It doesn't help that as dialogue appears on the screen, a sounds like a million gerbils playing the xylophone accompanies the letters and you can't turn it off. My advice: Skip all the cutscenes -- you won't miss anything.
Graphics: I thought the artistic style of the old game was unique and a pleasure to watch. When SPM begins, it opens on a town where minimalism is festering disease, not an artistic choice. It looks like the art designers were behind on their bills and the collection agency garnished every other line and texture. My five-year-old kindergartener could sketch a better town in Flesh crayon and, as far as I know, he's still swimming around my left testicle. On the plus side, the graphics DO get better as the game progresses -- if only they had had the common sense to put the better graphics at the beginning before the point where people stop playing the game.
Sprites: Ever since Zelda on the N64, Nintendo has loved to zitify the screen with glowing dots and fireflies and twinkling stars, as if to show off their mad graphic-processing skills. In SPM, you get annoying little Pixls, which float around you at all times and give you special powers. One of the special powers lets you pick things up and throw them. I have that special power IN REAL LIFE.
Gameplay: So far, SPM is first and foremost an action game. The turn-based combat of the old game has disappeared completely, and some of the other role-playing aspects feel very short-changed. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but if you are expecting a similar game to its prequel, you'll be disappointed. The 2D-to-3D gimmick is pretty fun for exploration, but would be better without the silly time limit (if you stay 3D for too long, Mario loses a point of health because Mario is a pansy). Every so often, the shifts in perspective will surprise you in a fun and interesting way.
Sound: The score is passable and unmemorable, and nowhere near as musically adventurous as the GameCube game. It sounds like every other video game out there.
Bosses: There have been two boss fights so far, and both were more Zelda-style (figure out how to beat a boss and repeat the gimmick three times) than Mario-style (jump on Birdo until s/he dies). One involved shifting perspectives to jump on a flying robotic dragon and throwing things at his antenna, and both fights were enjoyable.
Bottom Line: It's not as good as its predecessor and it will never be a classic. The beginning sequence so turned me off that I barely played the game for a week or so. However, once I got over my disappointment that the game was different than what I was expecting, I started to enjoy it more. Having beaten the first chapter, I'm planning on playing it out, but its not a game that I would run home from school to eagerly play until bedtime. You might as well buy it if you have a Wii, because there really aren't any other good games at the moment, and this is still better than many games on the market (see also, Red Steel, and the New Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley). 3 of 5 stars
Happy Birthday Philip Barbie and Andrea Frazao!Prisoner wrongly freed after fake fax
This is me in a 1994 indoor track picture, sitting next to Jay Morrison and two seats down from Ian Schmidt's hair (not pictured). When you don't turn 16 until your senior year in high school, you tend to bike everywhere, and years of criss-crossing the city by bike had blessed me with calves the size of migrating bison. As a sophomore, I decided to put these muscles to use for the good of humanity by joining the indoor track team.
Actually, my reasons weren't quite so philanthropic -- the spring crew team made a big deal out of staying fit through the winter, and I had a choice between running around a heated gym or wearing a Speedo. Plus, there were lots of hot chicks on the indoor track team.
When I joined the track team in tenth grade, I considered myself a pretty good sprinter, and figured I could use the extracurricular time to look good on college applications and meet some new people (high school in Alexandria started at tenth grade, and of the two junior high schools that fed into the high school, I went to the one where students lacked both money and ancestors from Switzerland). I had to miss the first day of practice because my sports physical couldn't be scheduled until that same day, and on the second day I sprained my ankle while doing a "self-timed workout" (a.k.a. lazy coaches) around the Chinquapin circle. It only went downhill from there.
There are several situations in which I am an excellent sprinter and a powerhouse of near-quantum-teleportation speeds:
Unfortunately, none of these situations apply on an indoor track team. When I think sprints, I think "run the length of that football field" or "get away from the po-po", but indoor track sprints come in three sizes: 55 meters, 300 meters, and 500 meters. The 55 is over before you know it, and depends entirely on being a muscle-bound hammer thrower who can fool the starter into thinking he didn't leave the blocks early, and the 500 is so long that you realize you are running in a circle for no reason far before the finish line. The 300 was usually stacked with seniors and good runners, which always left me stuck in the 500.
The good thing about indoor track is that the entire track is only 200 meters long (an outdoor track is about 400 meters long). So, no matter how long your workout is, you are always close to the water fountain when you finish, and you never have to "run home" which is why I never did cross-country. The bad thing about the 500 is that you had to run two and a half laps around this circuit at sprinter speeds. The worse thing is that your entire team is camped right next to the edge of the track so all the cute girls can see how awful you are at the 500 TWICE, and you have no breath left to argue that the 500 is a sprint like The Thin Red Line is a good movie.
Surprisingly, I stuck with indoor track for two incredibly long years. Two years of a coach whose entire teaching repertoire was to shout, "DIG DIG DIG!" as you ran, and two years of lifting weights on sweaty AIDS-infected public-school weight machines to get some sprinter guns. I can no longer recall what compelled me to sign up for a second year of torture, but it was probably a girl.
The only redeeming feature of indoor track was the post-game. When I was a tenth-grader, my sister was a senior, and on the swim team with her friend, Kerry Crowley, who had a car. Every day after an arduous workout, I would cross the street to the rec center and order a massive side order of fries capable of nullifying the entire exercise. Then I would sit in the warm lobby of the indoor swimming pool, eating fries, watching the swimmers, and waiting for my ride home.Captain America Arrested With Burrito In Pants
Live from the set of Booty and Amber's new talk show, Cat Chat (Chat Chat when aired in France)
Amber has a hop-on
Amber gets high on catnip
Booty gets high on catnip
Booty keeps abreast of current events
Amber is precariously perched
The new bathroom floor
Flowers in the backyard
Scene from the VT memorial
Cat MoviesAmber loves laminate flooring
See More PicturesHome Improvement
Happy Birthday Noah Egge!Horse makes deposit in bank foyer
by gum, it's still Friday
♣ I decided to try the Mike Catania timetable of posting, in which the post for a particular day can go up anywhere from one to seven days after the actual day, as if he were on a mysterious island so far from the International Date Line that the line is a dot to him.
♣ Actually, I was in the DISA Lab at Bailey's Crossroad shooting trouble (POW). I left for work yesterday morning at 6 AM and didn't get back here until late this afternoon, so I didn't have the time or a computer upon which to write today's entry. I still don't have very much time because I am being attacked by cats who have not eaten in thirty-two hours, and my dinner is cooking in the oven, but thought I'd toss a little pulp up for the ADHD visitors who have been checking back all day for an update. I CARE ABOUT YOU!
♣ I don't care enough to actually write a real update though, so I'll just mention that today is Shac and Ben Mitchell's birthday, and tomorrow I'm going down to Colonial Beach for the "All the birthdays in April" celebration of the "We're Catholic and taking over the world through reproduction" Spellerberg extended family. Sunday will be "Finish off the Hall Bathroom" day and "Rebecca comes home from a two week cross-country road trip" day, and Monday is my day off, because every month should end with a day off.
♣ Have a great weekend!Philip Barbie makes fruity beer
You can also see pictures from my weekend in Colonial Beach here.Fido is a 'he'
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