Tuesday, August 31, 2004

I just finished upgrading my computer to Windows XP, the immediate reason for which being the fact that iTunes, and therefore my new iPod I need it for, can't run on Windows 98. So far, despite a scary moment or two while I was upgrading, everything seems fine. It's not like I haven't used Windows XP before - it's what all the PCs in CLARC (the ITS center, whatever) run on - it just seems to be a slightly more rounded interface. Despite my worries, my 3-year-old computer is well above the system requirements of the operation system. Well, we'll see how it goes over the next few days. Installing iTunes, however, will probably not happen this night.

Earlier I cooked hot dogs for the Tiernan pot luck dinner - whoever made banana bread knew what they were doing - and then we went to see "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind". What a bizarre name. Is that really it? Well, it's that movie with Jim Carrey about erasing memories. It was a very good movie. My opinon of it drops very slightly if all the blurring we saw was intentional. I hope it was caused by a new and inexperienced projectionist. Sure, some of the blurred scenes could have been intentional and fit perfectly with the plot at that point, but some were so severe or so long that they hurt the eyes. So if it was part of the movie, then that's a point off, but otherwise it was a great movie. Smart, and very, very, very thought-provoking. Disjointed and told in a stream-of-consciousness way while barely being confusing at all. Takes good actors and uses them well. Part of the effect is conveyed quite simply by the juxtaposition of using Jim Carrey in it. He's great for the role, but made even better by the fact that it's completely unlike all the roles he's really famous for.

One line sticks with me, at the very end where Clementine (Kate Winslett) tells Joel (Jim Carrey) all about [SPOILERS DELETED] and he just says, "Okay." It's... perfect. It's worth it. And somehow, that "Okay" doesn't conflict at all with the earlier scene where Joel is dragging Clementine along a beach, they just complement each other. They both have their meaning and they both have their place.

I don't know. That's probably so vague that even the people I saw the movie with won't know what I'm talking about. But the movie's been out for a long time so I don't have any reason to write some kind of review, and at the same time I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it yet, because they really should see it. So vague reactions is really all I can write about it.

Update: Okay, I have found one problem with Windows XP so far. Every time I try to open a Word document it tries to configure MS Office XP, and fails because I don't have that. So I get a weird error message, and then Word opens without opening any document in it, and then I can get the document by opening it from within Word. So either I'll have to go out and buy the MS Office XP CD - dammit, that is just fucking wrong if it's impossible to get one product to work without another you shouldn't need for it - or find a way to get XP to accept MS Office for 98.
This is probably the best "This Modern World" strip I've seen.

Obviously, I don't waste time posting every time I see an unusually witty comic strip. But this is more than just that. It's funny because it's true. Many people really do make their votes on unimportant stuff. Personality and likeability, stains on a blue dress, whether a person is articulate or not - who the f*ck cares??? But even more than that it's also worth point out because of that stuff about what Bush has done. Sure, there's slant to it - this is a left-wing comic strip. But look at it: even if you call the rest of it slant, it is now undeniably true that Iraq posed no threat to us, or at least no more threat than a dozen other countries we never even thought about. Undeniably true that Iraq's reconstruction could have been planned and handled much better, even if you refuse to believe it's a breeding ground for terrorists. And undeniably true that Bush has created record deficits, even if you make excuses for it.

Monday, August 30, 2004

It's official: I underpacked.

But I can take comfort in the fact that it seems to be just minor and unimportant stuff. I mean, there have been several other times when I underpacked for a year/semester/vacation, and I wound up being unable to join my cousin swimming or having to go to a formal dance in hiking boots. I seem to have brought all the important stuff - well, I've only had a couple days to find out so far, but I'm pretty sure I have everything major - I'm just missing a bunch of books I'd like to lend people or read myself and some pictures I'd like to put up on the wall, that kind of thing.

It seems (though it's not definite yet) that Arabic culture classes could probably be counted as an allied field towards a poli-sci major, but Arabic language classes definitely not. Since I only have one of the former, I think I'm in exactly the same boat as I am with using philosophy as an allied field. (I've taken some logic classes as my natural sciences and engineering cluster, but I can only apply one of them to the poli-sci allied field requirement since I'm using them to meet a different requirement for graduation.)

Soooo... at this point I have several choices. I can double major in English and Political Science, using philosophy as an allied field for the poli-sci major, and make a minor of the Arabic classes I've already taken. In that case I'd have to overload by one class next semester, or even more than that if I want a little variety and diversity instead of solid English and poli-sci this entire year. Or I could do a double major using Arabic as the allied field, the only difference being the fact that Arab culture classes would (probably) be easier than philosophy classes, but at the same time even less interesting since I've studied that area more.

OR I can do a major in English and double minors in poli-sci and Arabic, which cuts the number of classes I need to take this year from nine all the way down to three, which would give me a ton of free time to do other stuff. Start learning Spanish, take some math or maybe even science classes to get a more broad-based education since I've almost completely avoided those during my college career, take some more English classes to explore the tremendous breadth of our language rather than the bare minimum of graduation requirements... the possibilities are endless. If I try to double major - and it's occurred to me since getting back that I can in fact do it; the work wouldn't be too much at all, especially compared to what some friends are going through - then even though I could complete it, I would not have the time to get into anything else. But if I don't, then really, this last year (or next to last???) could be the most mind-expanding of all. Er, no drug reference intended.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Almost completely moved in, finally. My posters aren't on the wall yet and my school supplies are still heaped in a box, but other than that, I'm here.

My efforts to upgrade, debug, and generally improve my computer have been put on hold by the fact that my new iPod apparently can't run on Windows 98. So one thing to do tomorrow is to go to the computer store and see if I can buy a Windows 2000 update CD.

Today I relaxed and took advantage of the fact that not only do I have no responsibilities for today, but my dad wouldn't be around to pester me for sleeping late, which for him is any time after 8 a.m. (Translation: I slept till 11 and didn't leave my room until 3. My totem animal is a sloth.)

Before the first Tiernan meeting, Anna and I checked out the "Uncommon Night". Translation: entertainment and free snacks to welcome freshman. We both really suck at pool. But it was fun. And they had maple fudge.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Fan with rotating grill function to spread air throughout the room and a timed shutoff. Electrostorm light, one of those things that generates lightning that follows your fingers if you touch it. My computer, which, despite sucking, is my computer rather than being shared with the rest of my family, and which is on a college LAN. A 12-pack of Heineken. A room within walking distance of all my necessities, and within a short bus ride of almost all my luxuries. And of course, seeing a bunch of good friends again that I haven't seen in months.

Why in the world was I not enthusiastic about coming back to the U of R???

Thursday, August 26, 2004

I just finished my last day of work - Woo Hoo! Seriously though, to be fair, the pay was good, the people were nice, and the work was easy (it was always either boring or frustrating, but at least it was easy.) If not for the fact that it's an hour's drive away, I'd seriously consider it next summer, if I'll want a temp job then. But, since it IS an hour's drive away... only if the alternative is starvation.

I'm going back to Rochester on Saturday. That means that thanks to my famous procrastination, I have only about 48 hours to pack - but that's the easy part - and also do two tasks I've put off all summer, which should be harder: organize my comic book collection (I have probably more than a hundred lying around my room in piles, some sliding off themselves or pressing against the shelves above them) and sort through my clothes to decide which ones to give away or throw away. Those will probably be harder than packing. Oh well. It's not like it really matters if I don't finish them, and if I do, then when I come back for a vacation I'll come back to a clean room for the first time in three years.

It might be amusing to see how my parents handle "empty nest" syndrome. My sister's starting her freshman year at Northeastern. She's leaving the weekend after me. It'll be the first time in 22 years that my parents were away from both of us for more than a week at a time. But OTOH, to be less dramatic, it might not be amusing. I mean, between my sister's busy social life, my odd work hours this past month, and the fact that there will still be 6 pets around the house, the empty nest might affect them emotionally but it will hardly affect their schedules/lifestyle at all.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

My hands are weird.

I can only write or draw left-handed. But when I'm throwing a baseball or football or something like that, I have much better distance and aim when I use my right hand. I also kick better with my right foot. And I think I punch better with my right hand too, but it's hard to be sure. But when I'm carrying something heavy, it'll be in my left hand.

And as I found out last night - I bowl better left-handed. Well, I think so. I bowled 3 games with some guys from work. At the beginning of the third game I decided to use my left hand, and was surprised to find that it went much better. At least, less painfully, and the ball slipped out of my hands a lot less. Even though the second game (still using my right hand) was the only one when I got any spares or strikes. But that's probably (hopefully) just because I had used it for two games and therefore had more practice, whereas my left hand only got one game.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Over the past week of so, I've been reminded of a certain scene in George Orwell's 1984 twice, in different ways. The first time, the connection made me all righteously angry, but tonight, it just made me ashamed.

There's this one scene in 1984 - I can't be specific since I don't own the book, I haven't even read it in years, but - Winston, the main character, is taking part is some state-mandated hate minute. Everyone just gets together and spews venom at a picture or tape of an infamous enemy of the state. The state requires this because they want their people to impotently waste their agression on a harmless effigy, and also because it makes the people psychologically blame that guy for their problems instead of their repressive regime.

I was reminded of it about a week ago when I watching "Outfoxed". (It's a documentary about how biased Fox News is. Later, maybe I'll get around to talking about it as well. Brief opinion: I'd recommend it to anyone who tries to be informed about politics.) It wasn't anything specific in the documentary or on Fox News that made me think of that scene; just several different things about how they treated their audience, and how their shows must seem.

And today I thought of it again after talking to my boss, Howard, for a bit. I've known almost since starting there that he leans right. Tonight he mentioned to me that he used to work in the aerospace industry, for government contracts rather than private industry, and I immediately say, "Ah, pork-barrel spending." He already knew I was pretty far to the left, and this only cements that impression. It's a pretty harmless thing - an offhand joke that could theoretically be taken as an insult - but loading letters into trays isn't very absorbing and I'm the type who worries about stuff like this, so I think about it a lot over the next couple hours. If you think about it, most Americans have mostly common ground on most questions of principle. Private industry good, racism bad, personal liberty good, pollution bad, et cetera. Sure, that doesn't apply to everyone, and there's a ton of disagreement over the relative values of those principles and when to stand on principle vs. when to be pragmatic - blah blah blah. The point is, the common ground in this country is easily big enough support everyone. So why is it such a wasteland? (To clarify that metaphor: can't we all just get along?)

It sucks that the best way to motivate or unify people is by an enemy. I disagree with Kenny on (I think, I can't be certain of his opinions on any of these, so don't quote me) abortion, gun control, and religion, but we both share the conviction that President Bush is evil and/or stupid, and at the end of the day that's pretty much all that matters. Likewise, Andrew Sullivan and Rush Limbaugh disagree on tolerance of minorities, government interference into peoples' private lives, and religion, but they both agree that America is in mortal danger from the terrorist threat, so Bush can count on both of their votes (well, he could until recently, but the point remains.)

So realizing all that reminded me of 1984 again. We all have our hate minute or whatever it was called (I really need to buy that book). It's not just the viewers of Fox News or whatever who do. The only difference is what it is we're spewing venom at.

So, then, the question is: how can you unify and motivate people without an external threat? How can you convince them to create one thing rather than just destroy its opposite?

As you can tell, my mind wanders a lot at work.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

I always think it's hilarious how people still haven't decided what to call this decade. It's almost half over, and the issue is just avoided. I mean, every time I turn on the radio, I hear something like this: "We play the best music of the eighties... the nineties... and today!"

"Today". Not the aughts, which I think is what the 1900's were called, probably because it sounds so old-fashioned. Not the zeroes, the zilches, or the nils, because they all sound too depressing. And not even "the new millenium", because it's too long and doesn't roll off the tongue.

Of course, if it's bad now, it'll be a lot worse after this decade is over. Because then they'll still have to talk about this decade, but they won't have the shortcut of calling it stuff like "today". I can just picture turning on the radio on my 40th birthday (assuming radio isn't obselete by then) and hearing: "We play the best music of the nineties... the teens... that decade between them... and today!"

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Reason #33 why my job sucks: I got down there today (an hour's drive one way) only to be told that they didn't need me. I do get days off, of course, but normally they let me know about it in advance. Or at least tell me to call before coming in because they'll be able to tell me if I'm needed or not. But apparently my supervisor either forgot or just didn't bother to let me know today. Yeah, I was pissed. But I made the best of it - I hung out with Jo for a few hours. Nothing special, but a helluva lot more fun than work would have been.

So, my birthday celebration: my original plans for the weekend changed a bit at the last minute. At first it was simple: shopping and dinner with my family Saturday, partying with Jo and friends Sunday. But Thursday or so Jo called me to say that her mom couldn't drive her up to Burlington as planned, so she needed a ride.
Saturday afternoon I drove down to pick Jo up at work and we went up to Burlington to meet my family for dinner at the Olive Garden. After that she and I went shopping for a bit on Church St. and looked for her friend Tessa. We were greeted at Tessa's place by someone Jo had never met - Lauren, a new roommate. She pointed us to American Flatbread where Tessa worked and we finally found her. We went back to her place and hung out for a bit, then later went out to a bar/dance club they knew. We finally got to sleep after 4 a.m. My couch wasn't great, but under the circumstances 7 hours of sleep was pretty damn good, really.

Crullers and coffee was breakfast Sunday. Jo and I tried to go to Earth Prime comics, but it was closed for some strange reason. And Sunday night we went to this big dance at a place called the Metronome. It was fun. I'm very much not a big dancer, but still, I can enjoy it and get into it as much as anyone when I'm with the right crowd (and have had 3 whiskey sours and 3 beers).

I met 6 or 8 people this weekend, most of whom I only have very vague impressions of, which is OK because, hey, when am I going to see them again? But Tessa is impossible to forget. She goes out of her way to be bizarre. Sunday night she wore a pink mohawk to the Metronome. When she was warning me of what to expect, Jo told me that Tessa was like a puppy. She just meant the exuberance, the saying-hello-by-jumping-on-you (Tessa greets everyone with a hug, apparently), that sort of thing. I jokingly asked if she also, like a puppy, bit you whenever she got excited - and it turns out that she does. Jo and Lauren both got bite marks Sunday afternoon some time.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

The first girl I made out with after Gretchen was a really hot girl in Las Vegas at a gay dance club. The first girl who flashed me after Gretchen was a lesbian. I can be fun, attractive, maybe even downright irresistable, but only when heterosexual love/romance/fucking is right out of the question. I can't help but wonder - is that very good luck, or very bad?

Well, considering that I find I'm attracted to the girl who happened to flash me, I'd say it's monumentally bad.

Seriously though, my birthday celebration was fun. From Saturday afternoon to early Monday morning I was up in Burlington. I met several old and new friends of Jo's, and they're nice and I hope to see them again and all that stuff. Details will follow when... well, at first I was going to say "when the statute of limitations expires," but more honestly, they'll follow when I feel like it. I'm tired now since I didn't get much sleep Sunday night, so hopefully I'll explain why, and what I did instead, tomorrow morning. Or soon after. Who knows?

Friday, August 06, 2004

August 6, 1982. Happy 22nd birthday to me.

I might work today (tomorrow, whatever - I have this problem all the time, since I wind up writing a lot of journal/blog entries after midnight), but then again I might not, I still haven't decided yet. They're already expecting me to take Saturday and Sunday off, so why not add Friday? I'm not the type to just not show up at all with no warning, but on the other hand I don't care too much about sucking up to my supervisors at a temp job at a junk mail factory. Well, I'll decide in the morning. As for the rest of the weekend, Saturday I'm (probably) going up to Burlington to go shopping with my family and get an mp3 player, and Sunday night Jo's taking me to a bar or club or something she knows. Fun and relaxing and stuff.

It's an amazing thing about Vermont, or maybe just about life in general, how really big things can be hidden in small places. Like a lake in a pocket. A couple days ago traffic in Middlebury was completely blocked off due to construction, so I took an alternate route to work that my dad suggested when I called him. (Of course, if we had a brain between us I just would have avoided downtown Middlebury by going out around Greg's Meat Market, a detour of 5 minutes rather than 20, but hey.) He suggested I take Route 30, then get on Route 4 and come into Rutland the back way. So there's Route 7 on one side and Route 22A (the way down to Fair Haven, where I was a sub) on the other, and Route 4 as the bottom of the triangle more or less. So there's a slice of land about 30 miles north-south and five or at most ten miles at the widest east-west point, and I know the roads surrounding that area by heart - so how the hell was there an entire lake, a geographic region all its own, hidden in there that I had never seen???

Sure, I've heard the name Lake Bomoseen before. And in my almost 22 years living in this state, I've probably been there sometime but just can't remember it now, or didn't know that was it at the time. But still, when I got onto Route 30 I was expecting backwoods, or more of the same farmland and/or small towns that make up both 7 and 22A. I was amazed to find myself driving past a pretty lake, several campgrounds and stuff, a bunch of houses right up against the lake...

Size is never, ever impressive, really - detail is. An elephant is no more a miracle of biology than a shrew, but a shrew is a hundred times more a miracle than a slime mold. Because both the elephant and the shrew have a hundred times more complexity and detail and organization and layers than a slime mold. "The devil is in the details," so to speak. A fractal design may take up little space, but its surface area is infinite. Or, to tie those vague philosophical musings back into part of why I love Vermont so much, there's a quote in a book by Frank Bryan and Bill Mares: "If Vermont were flattened out, it would be bigger than Texas."

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Is there a liberal bias in the media? I've thought about this a lot, and I like to think I'm pretty well informed about both politics and the media, and I listen to at least a few commentators on both sides of the political spectrum, so here's my opinion: No. There is not a liberal bias.

(And of course, I'm a college newspaper editor who proudly wears a "Republicans for Voldemort" t-shirt, so you know you can take my word for it, right?) :)

Seriously though, I don't think there is. Andrew Sullivan and lots of people like him cite a relatively recent study showing that something like 3 times as many reporters and journalists lean left as lean right. But what that study probably leaves out is the fact that just as many editors, publishers, owners, and advertisers lean right. (Roughly. Give me a break; I'm half-drunk at the moment, I won't have any statistics at all on hand.)

Some less statistical and more anecdotal evidence: the Burlington Free Press had a story about former president Bush's 80th birthday celebration. A front page story. And Vermont is one of the most left-wing states in the country. Does a front-page story about former president Bush's birthday sound like a leftist bias? And when Newsweek ran a story talking about of the people tortured at Abu Ghraib had nothing at all to do with terrorism, the story was the third in the issue, not mentioned at all on the front page. If the magazine had a liberal bias, why wasn't it a front page special report? In fact, let's look at the Campus Times again. there are only two people on its entire staff who I know are conservative and/or Republican (not that the two are the same, these days.) Who are they? the Editor in Chief and the Opinions Editor. That's even more pointless than the other anecdotal evidence, I admit, but still.

Some media outlets have a left-wing bias, sure. And some have a right-wing bias. (Fox News, I'm looking at you.) If you have a very careful measurement system you could probably determine if "The Media" as a whole has a political bias or not, but the difference would be so small and the margin of error so large that I don't think there would be any point. The only bias that exists across the board in the media is in favor of selling itself. That, in turn, means a bias in favor of sensationalism - whatever is going wrong, whether it's being done by a Republican president or a Democrat - and a bias in favor of the status quo - not offending anyone, not scaring off any advertisers.

On the other hand, maybe I'm only writing this to disguise the Communist agenda I'm secretly pushing as a news editor at the CT. Mu-hu-huhahahah!

Monday, August 02, 2004

I am an Intellectual

Which America Hating Minority Are You?

Take More Robert & Tim Quizzes
Watch Robert & Tim Cartoons

I got that off Gretchen's blog. I especially like the first possible answer to question #8, "Do you feel you can trust your government? About as much as I trust the operator of a carnival ride." At first glance that sounds like a lot, right? I mean, if you get on a roller coaster or one of those things that takes you upside down high in the air, you're trusting the guy with your life. But... a carnival operator is either a temporary employee or someone who thought a constantly moving, dead-end job like that would be a good career choice. Carnival workers sell you junk food and try to convince you to play games of skill to win crappy prizes. So that comparison is really pretty apt. I'd trust my government with my life, yes, but not with my dignity, health, or money.