Monday, February 28, 2005

I've made a lot of additions to my "fun blogs" section of the sidebar there. It's not a matter of finding new fun blogs so much as it's that I'm just now getting around to adding them. They're in no particular order, more might be added later, bla bla bla. I thought about cleaning it up - like, deleting some that are dead or that I haven't looked at in months or more - but decided against it. Partly because they might still have entertainment value even if their authors aren't actively posting any more, partly for the memorabilia aspect of it.

I haven't posted much recently for the simple reason that not much has happened. I got some work done over the weekend, but not as much as I should have. As far as midterms go I have a paper due Wednesday and a midterm exam on Thursday that I need to do some preparing for. I saw "The Incredibles," and it was just as good the second time. It was funny seeing Kenny's reaction to the political stuff in it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Today I passed 1,000 songs on my iPod. It's well behind a lot of you, I know, but still, four digits has to mean something.

And it figures - that I'd hit that milestone just the day after Andrew Sullivan wrote this. iPods are a sign of much greater isolation and much reduced social interaction, he argues. "What is happening to serendipity," as he said on his blog about this, referring to how when you have those little white things in your ears your chances of bumping into someone you know and having a pleasant conversation are tiny, and your chances of meeting someone new practically nonexistent. And yes, that's me. I'm almost never without the thing on my belt, even if the speakers aren't in my ears at the moment.

What do I think of this? As an introvert (I had a thought about that word, I'll try to write more on it some time), it's a smaller change for me than for some people.

First of all, the iPods and their popularity aren't the cause or this situation, or even a cause. Either they're a symptom or they share a cause with it, which would be technological growth, but the iPods aren't why people are isolated, the fact that isolation and compartmentalization is so widespread is how iPods were able to become as popular as they are.

More generally, I think this is a real trend rather than just a fad - Sullivan points out to isolation touching other aspects of life - but I think it's completely impossible to say already exactly how big it is, or how bad it is - if at all.

Because think about it. In a lot of ways, people are just generally conservative. Change is bad, at least until you've already found your place in it, and quite possibly for a long time after. What Sullivan is saying here is no doubt very similar to things that were written about cars when they were new, or women voting when it was still being debated or lots of other sweeping changes of society that were seen as the end of the world at the time but are now seen as great improvements. Hell, he compares the isolation of an iPod to the isolation of an individual's private home, now being carried around attached to their head - but personally, I'm glad we aren't living in longhouses or other communal dwellings any more, aren't you?

I mean, take a look at the other side of this - ten years from now when the technology is much cheaper, no teen will ever be made fun of again for liking classical music, you'll be able to carry around "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare" (in audiobook form) in the palm of your hand, and when (or if) a music industry model evolves that doesn't give huge markups to the record labels, you'll get entire collections both legitimately and cheaply. What's wrong with that?

As Sullivan says, it's definitely happening. But whether it's good or bad won't be decided for decades. If ever.
This is evil.

And I spent several minutes thinking of the word to use to describe it. "Fascist" or "totalitarian"? But it's not those, strictly speaking, at least not by itself. "Beyond the pale"? I like that phrase, but it's unrecognizable to a lot of people because it's so archaic - I looked it up one time, and it comes from the Latin word "palus," which means "stake" - the stakes created a fence beyond which you couldn't go, that sort of thing. "Scary"? It is that, but that word gets overused. And now that I think of it, "reminiscent of Big Brother" is accurate and evocative, but it's also unwieldy.

So what has me so disgusted? It's a blog posting about how the Pentagon is underreporting deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. Apparently the bulk of the gap between the reports and reality comes from people who died from something other than actual enemy fire. Like a weapon misfire or a car accident or something.

It's hard to say how many people are missing, for obvious reasons, but "60 Minutes" said that there were 15,000 unreported injuries. And it's hard to say exactly what counts as a combat death or injury. If you get the injury in combat but you don't die until the hospital? If you get killed fighting looters or whatever, not actual insurgents?

I realize a lot of this is coming from unreliable sources, but the most important bits of it are from very legitimate, mainstream institutions like CNN or "60 Minutes." Even if you want to accuse them of bias, they aren't going to pull numbers and quotes out of their collective asses. And an apologist can't honestly complain that this is how things have always been done, because anyone who was injured or killed in a war zone in the first Gulf War or the Vietnam War was, apparently, counted as a casualty of war.

There's a fine line between making information confidential for reasons of security, and covering stuff up for political (let alone legal) reasons. Our government can't even see that line any more. An important condition for a country being called democratic is "Can the people get accurate and relevant information from the government? In the cases where they can't, is there an imminent national security reason why?" I mean, that's not just a made-up rule. For democracy to mean anything it's not enough that people have a chance to have opinions, they also have a chance to have those opinions be based in reality. But the Pentagon and/or current administration is trying to prevent that.
In ITS right now. I just finished a legal brief summary for Freedom and the First Amendment. Pretty good - as far as I know I'm up-to-date in that class. (Interestingly enough, it's one of my two classes this semester on constitutional law, the other one being Criminal Law and Constitutional Procedure.)

The end of school is really creeping up on me. Scary and depressing. It's fear about what comes next, but only a little bit. I've got a great education, practically no debt and my parents are happy to help me out if I need it. So how good a job I find and how soon I find it are things to worry about, but I'm not going to be on welfare any time soon.

The thing that does bug me is the end of school. The friends I'll be leaving behind who I won't see again in person for years, if ever. There's all the stuff I always wanted to do in college, or always expected I'd do or always hoped would happen to me, and whoops, time's almost up.

On second thought though, there's surprisingly little of that. I've had my share of wild parties, met a lot of people who I really hope I do keep in touch with and even if not I'll treasure the memories, learned a lot in and out of class... there's been less of a love life in my college career than I'd like, but more good friends and fun than ever, so thinking about the problems suddenly seems more like pessimism than anything actually wrong with how things went.

"Went" - "have been going," dammit. It's not over for several months yet. Hell, I haven't even hit midterms for this semester.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Kenny threw a knife at me!

He, Eric and I were having dinner in Danforth, and he just threw a knife at me, and threatened a lot more than that! And later, Eric threw a fork at me! I don't see why - all I did was make Kenny picture an econ professor fucking, and suggest that Eric hit on a gay guy.

The conversation turned to Steven Landsburg, an econ professor here who Kenny disagrees with but respects, or something. He's known for, among other things, arguing that if everyone had a lot of sex with multiple partners, the world would be a better place. The logic has to do with spreading out the risk of STDs - if more people who were relatively chaste slept around more, then the dating pool on average would be a lot safer. It's unclear exactly how serious Landsburg is about this and how much of it is to be shocking and thought-provoking, but Kenny says that he believes Landsburg means it at least a little bit.

So I said something like, "Um, I realize this is a dumb question because if the answer is 'yes' I really don't want to know how you know, but... does he practice what he preaches?" And he threw a knife at me for that. Geez, all I wanted to know was if the guy was intellectually consistent or hypocritical. From Kenny's reaction you'd think I'd made him picture his middle-aged econ professor at an orgy!

Oh, wait.

And later, we're suggesting that Eric hit on Pam, since she's one of the few people on the hall around his height. But he's adamantly opposed. So I said, "How tall is Seth?"

This stuff - and for that matter, a lot of things I say and how I act - reminds me of a line from Calvin & Hobbes: "My whole problem is my lips move when I think."

Thursday, February 17, 2005

I woke up on my own, not needing the alarm, at 10:30. I was so cheerful at how things went at the CT last night I was whistling in the shower. I sat through "Art & Politics" - for once, I had done the reading, though, most of it - and had breakfast after that. Then I went to ITS and banged out a case study on a Supreme Court polygamy case for "Freedom and the 1st Amendment" right before class.

I was really struggling to stay awake in that, but that's nothing new. Midafternoon lecture class where participation is limited to showing up, that sort of thing. So after that I grabbed a coffee before going to the game session for the BCS experiment.

After that I went to the CT office for a bit. Still energized from this morning, I adapted that scathing rant I had written about Rob Clemm to something that would theoretically be printable. I may need to make some more changes, I don't know, but I'm on the right track. I had sushi for dinner while doing that, and I watched "Stargate SG-1" when it was on.

After that I came back to my room and... basically just hung out. Played games, listened to music, had nachos while filling out this ResLife satisfaction survey for Mike, stuff like that.

I was behind in two classes. Today I got caught up in "Freedom & the 1st Amendment." And things are relatively slow over the next few days, as far as I can remember off the top of my head, so I expect (hope) (will damn well try) to be caught up in my seminar in fiction by Wednesday. And once I've done that, things will be pretty damn cool.

At the copy desk we're still muddling by with a bunch of former editors as most of the copy staff. They do a good job, but we should really get some more people than just me whose actual job it is. It's a good thing we are. Abby was kind enough to come for a couple hours, and I sent an e-mail to my English class. At this rate, next Wednesday Colin won't have to sneak out of his job at Java City every half-hour to copy edit.
Dude! I got back at 4 a.m.! That RULES!

I wish section editors had tests on every Thursday morning.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Ordered my class ring today. Had a moment of panic when I realized just how low on cash I was getting. But later on I remembered that I still have an untouched CD, so I'm not quite at the point of living off nothing but Ramen for the year after I graduate.

Don't know what I'm going to wind up doing after I graduate. I have some writing samples and resum├ęs here with me, and I really need to get around to sending them to places that I might have a shot at.

Kevin (my freshman roommate, who I'm seeing a lot of these days because we're in a class together) is doing Teach for America and he's encouraging other people to. I considered it, but (even if there was still time to put together an application before the deadline Friday) teaching still isn't my thing. A few days subbing, great - fun and easy. But something more permanent, no thanks.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Do I want to go to swing dance class? The Masquerade Ball is over (not like I did a whole lot of dancing there, but anyways...), so it's not like I'll be using what I learn soon if ever.

It's a good way to meet people and make new friends. But chances are good that three months from now I'll be living in another state, so that's of limited value. Sometimes I have to consciously fight my anti-social tendencies so any choice to avoid a social scene is automatically suspect. But really, sooner or later I have to think about if something is or is not actually worth it.

Well, "worth it" - I make it sound like a huge burden. It's not great fun, but it's not like it's agonizing by any means. What else would I do with my time? Probably work of some kind.

Yeah, fuck it. There's other stuff I should do, and stuff that could potentially happen whether or not it's likely. I'm going to do some reading, some some editing and brief writing for various classes, and hang out with friends tonight - I might as well start now as an hour or two from now.
I think Rob Clemm's editorial for this week's paper is even dumber than usual. And it's about Howard Dean, so there's a bit of patriotism (home-statism, whatever) mixed up in my indignation. I want to do something about it, but I don't know what. The CT has this rule against CT staff (or maybe just editors) writing stuff commenting on things printed in the CT. (Come to think of it, I don't know off the top of my head why that rule even exists, but I'm not going to get it changed in the next two days, so forget it.)

So what can I do? I've already written something very caustic which points out the two or three bigger instances of stupidity in his editorial and calls him out on it, but it's not printable. The by-the-book option is to write an editorial for next week just taking the opposite position from what he wrote, only referring to his editorial tangentially if at all. But that's no fun. Other options are to write a letter to an editor under a pseudonym or to sign a friend's name to the thing I've already written or ask someone to write a similar piece, but those are all somewhat dishonest. I could also print and distribute copies of my critique myself, but almost no one would see them.

Maybe I should send a version of the thing I've written to the College Republicans. After all, the point I'm making is that Rob Clemm is stupid (stupid, inarticulate, unskilled in written communication, whatever) not that all of his ideas are. I've said before that conservatives need to choose better spokespeople. Maybe that's the way I should go with this.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

On a lighter note, I found this on a friends blog. It looked more interesting and original than most online quizzes and it reminded me of an entertaining class, so here's how I did:

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Second Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)High
Level 2 (Lustful)Very High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Very Low
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Moderate
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Low
Level 7 (Violent)Moderate
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Very Low

Take the Dante's Divine Comedy Inferno Test
So what did I do today? Not much, actually, it being a typical Thursday. I went to both my classes, and I got a little bit of joy - sorry, Maggie - out of the fact that I wasn't the only one who was almost nodding off in Freedom and the First Amendment.

After that I went to Harkness 3 and looked for a poli-sci advisor to (finally) sign off on my major form. So, it's official, I have my two majors. While I was up there I walked by Jim Johnson's door. By it, there was a letter from Noah Lebowitz, on official-looking College Republicans letterhead, talking about how Conservative Safe Zones were being created on campus. Pissed me off. As Johnson had asked in big block letters on a seperate piece of paper by the letter, "Who is the conservative Matthew Shepard?"

When we were first told that something like this might happen, Kenny's reaction was that if they wanted to act like they were persecuted, then the least we could do is live up to their fantasy.

I'm torn on what to do about it. Nothing at all, as Seth wants? Not persecuting them won't make them realize that they aren't persecuted if it hasn't already. Write some inflammatory editorials? It would be fun, but it might be counterproductive. Go with Kenny's plan? Hey, you never know.

It's sort of weird that I'm getting so worked up over this. I mean sure, Seth is my friend and he was taking this personally, but still. I think it's a combination of two things. First, just the almost universal tendency to root for the underdog, intensified by having been a geek in high school.

And second, something that someone told me a few weeks ago. A friend told me that her mother would consider her son (my friend's brother) being gay to be the worst thing that could happen to him. As, worse than being dead or quadrapelegic or spending life in prison for a crime he didn't commit. And that sort of drove it home to me. It's not just people who are Klansmen at heart, or who are too lazy or close-minded to put themselves in someone else's shoes, or whatever... it's a whole lot of normal people. I mean, this friend of mine is nice and normal and... well, "normal" is too strong a word. But she's nice, she's friendly to a fault, she's about as open-minded as anyone I know.

And that sort of drove it home for me. My parents are liberal in both senses of the word and I grew up in a small town in the whitest state in the country. So there was bigotry here and there, of course, but there was no real target for it. Political correctness and awkwardness because of it and travel to places with different demographics and movies like "Philadelphia" and history classes about slavery, sure. But as far as I can remember, it wasn't until my junior year of college or so that I got to know people who had experienced being hated and threatened for a fact of their personal identity.
There are two problems with the way copy-editing happens. First of all, it happens late. After 3 a.m., I'm just not reading for comprehension. Punctuation and CT style are easy to catch, and even spelling and grammar somewhat, but if the article contradicts itself, or talks in scientific jargon I can barely figure out, or if the second column of an article has nothing to do with the first, there's a good chance I'd miss it completely if I'm reading it that late.

And the second problem is that no one can be as observant on the fifth reading of a page as on the first. Pages easily get printed and edited that often or more, depending on how prepared the section editor is and what section it is. Mistakes that the copy editors didn't notice the first time, mistakes that are in articles or pictures that were added to the page later, mistakes created by accident when the section editors are making the first batch of corrections... After the third time you've read something, you just can't look as closely.

I'm thinking about all this because this morning I was told about a problem with an article. Two problems, actually - not only did the author have a conflict of interest, but a friend of a friend thought the article was just plain bad. So this afternoon I went into the office to see for myself. While I'm looking at the article on the computer, I notice five things wrong with the rest of the page right there. Simple stuff - 'Rwanda' spelled 'Rwada', no period after a word, stuff like that. It should have been caught by me or someone else, and I think those fall under the category of the second problem.

What to do about those? The first problem is just this side of insurmountable, unfortunately. I can get in earlier and do more in the morning and stuff - I was very bad about that this week - but nothing will change the fact that Ed Boards won't be written until Wednesday night, news will go on happening right up until deadline, and so on. But I definitely can improve on the problem - and now that I think of it, there is one thing. Pages themselves might not be ready, but the majority of the articles should be ready by Tuesday night or so. I can just ask people to give me all the text ASAP. That way I won't have to edit for content at 3 a.m. Thursday, because it'll be done before then.

And about the second problem... hmmm, let's get creative. Maybe taking a nap to refresh ourselves? Well, that's impractical, except maybe briefly and in shifts. Maybe if each copy editor took a section, or even or odd pages or something, and never looked at the other section until a certain point when we switched off? That way our eyes wouldn't glaze over at seeing the same thing again, because we wouldn't be seeing the same thing again.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Damn. I didn't get caught up completely, but at least this week I won't have fallen further behind. I made progress on the Seminar in Fiction catch-up even I'm not completely there. I still have to write up the CT story I offered to write this week, but all the notes are already typed up - it probably won't take an hour to get a finished article. All that's left is an editorial - I had two ideas but neither really panned out - and some copy-editing - there's quite a stack waiting for me in the office.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Bleh. I'd hoped to catch up on that work tonight. But between some computer games - not much actually, though - a SA Senate meeting I made the mistake of sitting through almost the whole of, and an unexpectedly large stack of copy waiting to be edited at the CT, I still have a ways to go.

Well, okay. I'll finish typing up my notes for the story about the Simon School's awards - time for my weekly iPod plug - heh, no cramped and scrawled notes for me any more! :) - and I'll write one or two quick, brief e-mails for that story, and I'll get some kind of start on the editorial I agreed to write and I'll spend all my free time tomorrow working on the stuff I need to do for my Seminar in Fiction. Should be doable. Getting to the gym tomorrow might be a stretch, though.

Monday, February 07, 2005

In CLARC right now, typing up notes for a CT story about some awards the Simon School won. Apparently they're putting a lot of work into their marketing and communications, and it's getting recognized. It looks like an easy story. A minute ago I wondered if I was making it too much of a puff piece, if I was being too easy on the people I was talking to, if I should ask some tough questions about the commercialization of education or some such like, but screw it - it's a business school. This is nothing at all like UR's Sanskrit program being eliminated.

I saw people selling and auctioning off Red Sox stuff in Wilson Commons earlier today, so I called dad and asked him if he wanted me to bid on anything. :)

I'm probably going to wind up skipping ballroom dance at 8 p.m. tonight. There are a number of reasons not to - it's fun, I've paid for it, I deal with Julie (one of the two teachers) outside of class so it might be a little bit rude - but I'm in a productive mood right now, and I shouldn't waste it. I have quite a bit of work to catch up on in my fiction seminar, an article and an editorial to do for the CT... a class I should probably go to... well, it is the class whose attendance is optional, and there are so few actual assignments that I have plenty of time to get on track - but still. Stuff to do more interesting or more important than ballroom, and I should seize the moment.

BTW, how do I know that Julie? I've got a sort of job. I'm a test subject in a control group in this BCS research project she's running. I don't know too much about it because I've just barely finished the pre-testing, the bit meant to get a baseline reading of my reaction time and stuff, but I'm going to get paid for it and the biggest risk on the disclaimer form (that's not the right phrase, what would you call that thing?) was "boredom," so I'm confident it will be worth it.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Last night I went to the Masquerade Ball. Katye didn't want to dance, but still, it was nice. It's a far cry from how, right up until France, my parents had to fight with me to get me to wear anything more formal than a t-shirt or hoodie, but I think it' s fun to dress up all formal once in a while. Katye's refusal do dance didn't bother me - Hell, I'm a bad dancer myself - except for when the band played "Moonlight in Vermont."

After the dance we went to Katye's room and played Magic for a bit with Seth and his date. Later we had a nice talk with euphoric Kenny. And that was the night. A late night, and a good one. All in all, I don't regret that I didn't have a chance to get to one of Sandeep's parties this weekend.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Hmmm... decisions, decisions... For some reason I had thought that the last showing of "National Treasure" was at 11 p.m., and I'd planned to go to it after Mo Rocca. But it turns out that it's at midnight. So do I want to go?

Hell, yeah. Unlike last night, I'm well-rested. I've already missed the normal bus out to Sandeep's, and more generally, he has parties weekly - I can go there any time, but this is my last chance to see "National Treasure" on a decent screen between now and May when it comes out on DVD. I had a good feeling about it and I've heard nothing but good things from the people who went to the 6:30 showing. It'll be the first time in a while that I've gone to a movie alone, but so what?

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Finished my story before 3:30 a.m. Nothing to complain about.

Hell, I have low standards for myself. Done before 3:30 a.m. on the day it's due, and that's good??? Well, on the other hand, I shouldn't beat myself up over something that, in the end, will work out - whether it's "good" or not, it's better. Better than usual, better than most similar attempts. I had several viable ideas to choose from before I ever volunteered to do the story, it was in the planning stages for almost a week, and it was more than half done - "done" in this case meaning "written and ready to fit into the final plot" - early this afternoon.

Wellll, there is a little equivocation. "Done" as in, done with the bit I intend to hand in today. It turned out that the idea would need a lot more to develop properly than I could ever fit in the roughly 10 pages we're supposed to write for these stories. So this is Part 1 and my next story will be Part 2. Still, though - can't complain.

If I hadn't been so busy, I'd be very worried about how it will be received. I'm almost certain the whole thing couldn't be seen as grossly misogynistic, or just plain bad and an unrealistic portrayal of the female protagonist, and I'm pretty sure this first half couldn't... Well, maybe I'm worrying over nothing - it would be far from the first time - but if I'm not, I hope people see the "Part 1" in the title and give me the benefit of the doubt that the second half will resolve the problems.