Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Yesterday afternoon I went up to Burlington and hung out with Gretchen for a while. Just hung out, watched a little TV, showed each other some funny videos online, talked about our problems, etc. After that I went to Circuit City in Williston. Got a little lost on the way but I made it eventually. From there I went to Burlington to pick up the pants for that suit I'd got a few weeks ago - we left the pants with them to have them altered - had a light dinner, and went to that weekly game night at Quarterstaff Games. It actually went pretty badly. Half the people there were playing decks with some kind of infinite combo, so it wasn't too much fun. (I'm in no position to complain because I was too, but I never managed to complete my combo. So I was bored/frustrated for a completely different reason than the people with really powerful cards that got countered or whatever. Bah.) The night petered out around 10 p.m., but I probably would have left around then anyway, between being tired and having the computer waiting for me.

Oh yeah - Sunday I biked 16 miles. Farther than I've ever gone in my life in one day. I'm a little proud of that, but not too much - self-consciousness is a powerful motivator. Most of the time I go biking alone, but Sunday afternoon my dad and I went together, and I don't think anyone wants to be the first person to say "I've had enough, let's go back." I know I don't.

So I don't especially care about having gone that far. But what I am proud of is that I was not sore at all afterwards, only a little bit stiff. I'm in much better shape than I thought. Cool!
Today's blog post brought to you from... my room.

My new computer is set up and running. I still have to install a lot of programs, but it's online, obviously, and it has the essentials.

One of those programs that needs installing is actually a re-install: iTunes. It came with the computer, but I used my iPod to move some files over from my old computer to this, and every time I plugged the iPod in iTunes refused to let me use it if I didn't configure the iPod to go with this computer, thereby losing all the files meticulously saved on it. But uninstall iTunes, and the computer read the iPod like any portable hard drive. Cool. If only I had figured out that would happen before the first time I tried, which wiped out all the files on the iPod...

Oh well. It's not like they're actually lost, because they were on the old computer, they were just deleted from the iPod. (Except for some TV episodes I had downloaded and saved only on the iPod to save space on the computer. Oh well.) I'll have a ton of organizing to do getting everything into its folder and proper file associations, and downloading software that I take for granted like AIM and skins for media players and game patches. But I'm typing this on a computer in my own room with a wireless connection, a flat screen (yes! I know it's sort of stupid to make my purchasing decisions now based on what my needs were when I was in college, but I grew to loathe lugging that enormous screen around every time I set up the computer), four times the RAM of the computer downstairs and almost three times the memory of my old computer.

Thank you, mom and dad, this was a great birthday/graduation present.

Damn, though, I haven't been sleeping well lately for some reason or other, and this will not improve matters. :)

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Update: my monitor input cable is unaccounted for too. At this rate I'll really need to get a new computer.

But the strange thing is, I think I remember seeing it somewhere, which makes me optimistic about finding the set. I could be imagining it, of course. I mean, am I remembering seeing it today/yesterday, or remembering seeing it on one of the eight previous times I packed and unpacked my computer?

As you can tell, though, it's been a relaxing day. Unpacked. Biked into town briefly. It's nice out, for once.
Finished unpacking, pretty much. Unfortunately, my computer's surge protector and optical mouse didn't turn up. I've looked everywhere I could think of, and they apparently are not in the house. The surge protector doesn't matter - while looking I came across one or two spares belonging to my parents - but I want the mouse. It's not cordless, but I don't care about that because it's still a lot better than a mouse with a trackball. No moving parts to get dirty and stuck, that sort of thing. And even though this computer is getting pretty old and I'm already looking at replacements, I'm seriously considering a laptop, which probably wouldn't come with any mouse, let alone an optical one. Earlier I was considering biking to that computer supply store on Route 7, but I came to my senses. My parents might have some ideas of where to look, and after all it's not like I'd go into withdrawal if I can't get my computer up and running this very day.

Possible locations for the missing parts.
1. Still in a box. I wouldn't mention it, but lost items always seem to turn up in places like that. Over the winter I looked all over the place for my hat from Nantes and was bummed that I had lost it somewhere, but when I packed to leave UR in May I found it on the wrong side of the closet shelf, under a bag - I just hadn't looked there. For all I know I packed the mouse with my hand-held vacuum cleaner to save space and it's still there or something. But still, this is a long shot.

2. Still in the car (which is now at Mr. Up's, because Zoe drove it to work.) I doubt this, because I don't remember putting them in loose, but I didn't do a final check of the car before I put Zoe's bags of thrift-store clothes back in. It's worth looking again, when I bike into town or just when she comes back.

3. Somewhere in the house. Again, doubt it, because I've looked everywhere I can think of, but who knows. This would mean I brought it back with me in mid-May. (It just occurred to me that there was something I had left in the bottom of my suitcase for lack of anything better to do with it - was this it?)

4. Still in the storage shed. Hope not, because I won't even know for another month. And I doubt it, because I was more alert loading up the shed than I was unloading it and I had my dad helping me, and I thought we packed all my stuff on top of itself - if they're still in there, my dad or I had a brain fart or Kenny moved my things around, because I really couldn't have missed one more bag of mine in the corner yesterday.*

5. Still in the dorm. The chances of three "reasonably intelligent" people not noticing one last bag in a room that's been reduced to the original dorm furnishings seem like one in a thousand, but the mouse and surge protector have to be somewhere.

As far as searching the house goes there's no point looking under the rug and in with the staples, but I can check the boxes and car again, so I guess I'll go do that now.

* If Kenny or Seth can prove I did in fact do this**, I'll kill them and delete this entry. No evidence.

** On the other hand, if one of them moved my stuff around after I left, I'll never let them forget it. Their fault. Ha!
Someone with a very good eye for coincidences and factoids, or else just too much time on their hands, figured out that Harry Potter is apparently two years older than me. Clever.

Now then, onto a journal entry - AAAAARRRGH. Never again will I try to make a day trip by car to and from Rochester. I don't care if what I have to do there will only take 20 minutes, I don't care if I have someone to drive in shifts with me (well, maybe that would work, since my parents made plenty of day trips to drop me off and pick me up, but never mind facts, I'm in the middle of an angry rant), I don't care if I do the whole thing after dark so the traffic is nonexistent. Yesterday I left around 8 or 8:30 a.m. and things were going great. After a couple rest stops and a couple minor wrong turns, I was 30 miles outside Rochester by 2 p.m.

I was also 30 miles outside Rochester at 3 p.m. By 5 p.m. I had progressed to 25, maybe even 20 miles outside Rochester. There was a massive holdup on the throughway - they called it "emergency construction" on the radio; I don't know if it was the result of an emergency but if traffic was backed up for 20 miles as it said, I'm sure it caused a few emergencies - and I don't think I got off the interstate and onto the detour until 6. By the time I had made a wrong turn, stopped for gas and again to stretch my legs, and went the rest of the way, it was 7 when I got out of my car on campus.

Needless to say, I couldn't stop by the bank.

Oh well, I'll just call them Monday to close my account then. And while sitting there I got to catch up with a couple friends for the first time this summer. I got my stuff, I made it home around 1:45 a.m., drowsy but alive, and my project for today is moving in. (I mean, it occurred to me while on the road that I was still prepared to move out, whether back to Rochester or up to Burlington: my suitcase was in my room, my twin bed-sized bedding was in the corner, etc. So I've got to move that out and figure out where it should go and where I want the stuff I just brought back from Rochester.)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Urgh. I was in the middle of writing a relatively in-depth political post, but Firefox stopped responding because I was using it to read a .pdf document and do a few other things at once. Damn. Well, the post was just going to be explaining why I haven't been writing too much political stuff lately, so it's not like it was something too important. Basically, I don't have anything to say about Rove outing Plame* because it's small potatoes compared to a dozen other things this administration has done.

And I don't have anything to say about Bush appointing this Roberts guy to the Supreme Court because while he's obviously too right-wing - what else could you possibly expect? - he's not bad enough to provide a smoking gun, so there's really no way anyone can do anything about it. That nuclear option-averting gang of 14 in the Senate had some cautiously optimistic statements about him, so despite his reactionary rulings and arguments on all fronts - environmentalism, labor, abortion, seperation of church and state, race relations, he's against them all** - it seems there's nothing we can do but take comfort in the fact that Ann Coulter thinks he's not conservative enough.

* Just to cover my ass - allegedly outing her.

** As far as I can tell after days of reading other peoples' opinions and up to 20 minutes of doing something similar to research.

Monday, July 18, 2005

This weekend I visited some family. Saturday afternoon I drove down to Concord, NH to meet my aunt Laurie. Sunday she and I drove over to Portland, Maine to keep Uncle Marc and Aunt Susan company while they had an open house, because they're trying to sell their condo before they move fo New Mexico. (Marc had a job there and liked it so much they decided to stay, or something.) I drove back to Middlebury this morning.

I went to that follow-up interview. Mr. Dalton offered me the job, and I accepted. I start August 1. And I told that placement agency to keep me in mind for anything until then. As I said, it's not a perfect job, but it's far from the worst too, and at least I'll have one.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

I bought the new Harry Potter book last night. I'm halfway finished with it now.

I'm slipping in my old age.

It's good so far. I'm suspicious of Dumbledore at this point, so you know Rowling is doing something right. Although if she actually does make Snape a bad guy rather than just an asshole, like she's been threatening to do since the beginning of the series, I'll probably be disappointed. Harry is a 16-year-old - he's not supposed to be right about everything!

On the job front, things are going. The interview on Monday with the foundation went well, I thought, (interesting factoid: the boss, Rick, is the father of a friend of Zoƫ's) and I just got asked back to come in again this coming Monday, "to discuss next steps" as he put it. And I have a much better feeling about the job; it looks like fun, and a good place to work. The only problem is that it's [very close to] Middlebury, so I'd still be living here instead of up in Burlington. But other than that, it looks very good. I also had an interview with a temp placement agency yesterday, which also went well. If they can find anything for me, I hope they do it quickly, because I'd almost feel guilty turning down a job with Mr. Dalton after I was so positive.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

You know, style is one thing - I'm happy to listen to and learn from advice from my sister and my friends, even as I take into account that they're not me, and I almost always at least consider how well what I'm wearing goes with each other - but as far as men's formal wear goes, it drives me nuts. What kind of idiot would come up with a system where the pockets on a jacket are sewn shut when you buy them? And women can complain about heels and makeup and clothes designed to look at rather than to wear or walk around in, but at least they can indulge their creative side or try to stand out on a formal occasion. The closest men get to variety is the designs on the tie. (A tie of specific dimensions, and writing or any specific images are inappropriate for formal occasions...)

Yesterday my parents and I went shopping. They got a little for themselves, and because I've got a job interview planned for tomorrow, I got a navy blue blazer, a nice shirt and a couple ties. At least half of my really nice clothes have been hand-me-downs from my dad, so if nothing else this was a pleasant change.

The job is far from my first choice, but beggars can't be choosers. Whatever the job involves doing - and I'm pretty hazy on even that, I know it sounds bad but I lost the ad - it's three miles from home and the boss is my sister's friend's father. I'm much more interested in a couple jobs I saw advertised today. One of which as a sort of customer service representative - fluency in French required.

I've almost given up on looking in the Rochester area. After I had run the category of jobs in my areas of "expertise" on the Web sites I was using, looking for basic entry-level stuff is all that's left, and it's a lot easier to do that in person I've found. Restaurants, employment agencies, retail stores - they all prefer if not require walk-ins.

This afternoon I drove down to Rutland and went to see "Fantastic Four" with Jo. I had fun. I didn't have really high expectations, having read that there were some bad reviews, but it was fun. (Not "having read some bad reviews" - I saw negative headlines of reviews and heard that other people were pessimistic, but I didn't read the reviews myself.) A good superhero action movie. And come to think of it, it can't have been helped by last month's superhero movie, "Batman Begins." I didn't get around to seeing that, but I really wish I had, and everything I heard and saw made me think that it would have been a tough act to follow.

If I had to choose between the four, I'd definitely go with Reed Richards' power. I mean, forget bench-pressing a bus, and even flying couldn't hold a candle to being able to shave without ever cutting yourself like Reed does - he just pulls his face and stretches it so there's no jawline to shave over. Cool!

Friday, July 08, 2005

Haven't done too much today. Planned on going down to Rutland and seeing "Fantastic Four" with Jo tonight, but she was sick so that was out. Made a couple calls about jobs. I've spent a lot of the day cleaning my room - my own mess was one thing, but what the damn pug added to it when someone let her into my room and she chewed stuff up a couple days ago was enough to make even me get orderly. You know, maybe this is just my negativity/bad mood, but I can't even say I like her.

In a way, it's almost sacrilege to say that about a small and (relatively) harmless house pet. Even if you don't play with an animal a lot and stuff, you're just supposed to at least have a love/hate relationship with it. Like my dad with Fiji - he complains a lot about her messes and the expenses and stuff, but he loves playing with her and wrestling around with her and he thinks she's cute. And I admit that occasionally I will run back and forth across the house so she can chase me, playing like that. But she makes messes constantly and ruins anything she can reach, she's high-maintenance, the only redeeming quality she has over a hypothetical "average" pet is that in some situations she's easier to ignore and get away from...

Dad had an extra scrapbook lying around, which should help me clean and organize like I talked about. But now's not the time - I found pictures lying around my bookshelf here and there from when Gretchen and I were together, and I don't want to try to decide what to do with all of those yet. Whine whine whine, I know, but it's not what I need these days.

Yesterday and this morning were a little like being back at college. While I was in Seattle I got an e-mail from the Addison Independent asking me to do another story, which they wanted to put in the July 11 paper, this coming Monday. But the guy the story was about had to cancel our first proposed meeting time, so I didn't get to see him until 1 p.m. Thursday - and the deadline, the time the editors try to have everything not just in but ready to go to the press, is noon on Friday. So I was cutting it close, considering that I'd almost certainly need to do another draft.

So even though I didn't pull an all-nighter or anything, the last-minute fevered typing was just like back in school. Basically I interviewed him at one - it took over an hour, which was a lot longer than I had expected, which made the rest run on - started typing my notes on my iPod onto the computer at 2:30, and except for a break for dinner, worked straight through until I e-mailed a presentable version to the editor around 8 p.m. or so. I got his comments back later that night, and first thing this morning I made them, mostly from my notes and a little online research but I had to call the guy briefly.

So, just like at the old Campus Times. Cool. Now all I need to do is get paid for it.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

In all this talk about an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban burning the flag, one factoid I've heard again and again (and again) is that burning the flag is the official way to dispose of one that's too old and worn for use. Curious, I looked that up and something occurred to me.

Here's the relevant lines from that VFW page:
Suggested Procedures for Disposing of a Faded, Worn Flag... 3. Place the flag on the fire.

Now, The First Amendment states, in part, "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech..." Multiple judicial rulings have shown that clause only applies to individuals (not corporations, for example, or else "truth in advertising" laws would be unconstitutional), and that laws restricting freedom of speech can be made as long as the speech's content is primarily malicious and/or would have direct harmful effects clearly outweighing its benefits. And the First Amendment doesn't guarantee a forum for whatever you want to say, it only forbids the government from getting involved.

Since this is the First Amendment, I assume that freedom of speech and the other clauses of the amendment are among the most important principles of the country, right? Speech, worship, assembly, appealing to the government for help - these are really basic parts of almost every culture in history, and almost the first thing the founders of this country put on paper was a guarantee that the individual would have the freedom to exercise and take part in them however he or she wanted.

A couple weeks ago an amendment to the Constitution has been passed by the House of Representatives restricting freedom of speech, and resolutions supporting it (nonbinding so far, as I understand it, but still) have been passed by all 50 states. And this is a type of speech which is by itself completely harmless, practiced by individuals often in efforts to "petition the government for a redress of grievances." Not only that, but it's completely unnecessary - how often do people burn flags? Four times in the past year? (Anyone want to bet the last incident on that list was motivated by this amendment? Any takers?) I realize it's hard to come right out and say "I support burning the flag," but did any of those lawyers and politicians in the House even know what freedom of speech is? Even if they do, do they care?

Suggested Procedures for Disposing of a Faded, Worn Flag... 3. Place the flag on the fire.

Q.E.D. all I'm saying.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Seattle was great: the Space Needle, hanging out a lot with Max, some market which despite being a tourist trap built around something that is itself a publicity stunt was still sort of fun and I got a nice t-shirt there, a couple nature walks along some rocky beaches, an impressive view of Mt. Rainier only seen by sheer luck on my way out of town, and a lot more. And now I'm home. Seeing Laura, Emily and Jill from UR was also great; it took a little planning but I met up with them for dinner tonight while Emily and Jill were in the state visiting Laura for the 4th.

This post will be very abbreviated, because I'm caught in a space between sleep deprivation (it happens when you leave Seattle at 10:30 p.m. and fly east...) and a time zone change. I'm functioning on at most five hours of sleep, and that's counting a nap in the car on the way home, but in Seattle right now it's not quite 9 p.m., so exactly how tired should I be?

Getting home was especially difficult, but it's like that saying "Any landing you can walk away from is a good one" - I made it to Burlington when I expected to and I didn't have to pay anything more than I had expected to, so despite a few frantic moments and computer glitches it all worked out. Details of the story to follow when I get around to it. Also a whole lot of philosophical musings - on Friday, stopping by a used book store with Carla, a copy of Microserfs jumped out at me - a book I'd read years ago in a library and always wanted to get, but never found/got around to it - and inspired a lot of Deep Thoughts. As it turned out, being sleep-deprived was the perfect state to read it in - not only is the book about programmers at a computer game startup company in the '90s so it's the normal mindset of the characters, but it made me a tiny bit depressed/grouchy, which in turn made me cynical enough to really think about and respond to all the weird ideas in the book.

Friday, July 01, 2005

There's something that has confused me in a lot of political discussions I've read, and this article seems to zero in on it.

It's an article about a guy who is leaving the Republican Party because it seems to have abandoned its purported ideology. Here's the third paragraph, the part that made me stop short and reread instead of idly skimming.

I still believe in the vast power of markets to inspire ideas, motivate solutions and eliminate waste. I still believe in international vigilance and a strong defense, because this world will always be home to people who will avidly seek to take or destroy what we have built as a nation. I still believe in the protection of individuals and businesses from the influence and expense of an over-involved government. I still believe in the hand-in-hand concepts of separation of church and state and absolute freedom to worship, in the rights of the states to govern themselves without undo [sic] federal interference, and in the host of other things that defined me as a Republican.
And my only thought was something like... "Well... so? What's the big secret there?"

As my friends know, I'm very left-wing. I absorbed the libertarianism of P.J. O'Rourke and Robert Heinlein but nothing else, the tolerant secularism of parents who went to church regularly but only because it was a good environment to raise kids in, and the progressiveness of growing up in Vermont and spending a year as an exchange student in France. The child of educators, no less. But in a lot of political discussions I've felt I was talking past the other side, or they were taking something for granted I didn't know. Because I don't see a single thing I'd disagree with in that declaration of why this guy was a longtime Republican.

I still believe in the vast power of markets to inspire ideas, motivate solutions and eliminate waste.

Sure. I don't believe that markets are the only thing that can inspire positive change, and in some cases - a minority of cases but a significant enough number to be worth mentioning - I don't even think they are the best way, but they are obviously, of course, a very powerful force. I mean, duh.

I still believe in international vigilance and a strong defense, because this world will always be home to people who will avidly seek to take or destroy what we have built as a nation.

Of course. I might disagree with him about the details of interventionism and exact reasons why it's appropriate, but it's crystal clear that this country is better than most. And as that bastion of progressiveness Stan Lee said, "With great power comes great responsibility." Enemies as well.

I still believe in the protection of individuals and businesses from the influence and expense of an over-involved government.

Obviously. Even leaving aside the fact that opposition to "over-involved government" is a tautology - if something is over-involved, of course it's bad - this, again, should be very non-controversial. Individual freedom plus market-friendliness.

I still believe in the hand-in-hand concepts of separation of church and state and absolute freedom to worship...

Again, yes. Faith and spirituality are very important, but when an established religion is running the government or vice versa, it's very clear what happens. The Inquisition is just a sampling. And it doesn't have to be on that scale to be abhorrent.

in the rights of the states to govern themselves without undo [sic] federal interference...

This is the closest I'd come to disageeing, and even in this case it's a matter of nuance (a dirty word, I know) rather than principle. The federal system seems like a very good way to advance individual rights by putting the power in the hands of local and smaller governments, but to make a long story short I'm very leery of it when its biggest supporters are so often on the wrong side of history. Do I really, really want to be allied with the people who fly the Confederate flag?

And yet despite all that, I'm strongly left-wing. This country has plenty of room to improve on civil rights and progressive issues and it seems like the Democratic Party is the only party making a serious effort, and the Republican leadership has acted like a bunch of zealously partisan nuts during my adult lifetime, and as I said markets are very important but they aren't the only important force, as most libertarians seem to think.

So how is it that I can agree with an ideological Republican about so much? Everything he's talking about as a defining part of being a Republican, seems to me like it's compatible with or even necessary to being a Democrat. Is he just fundementally misguided about who the Democratic Party is and what it stands for, and he and John Cole and Andrew Sullivan and Eric Hung and Charles Cole (my uncle, no relation to John) are Republicans only because they have bought into the antiquated red-baiting and the slanders coming from Limbaugh and his predecessors? Am I fundementally misguided about the left in America, and they really are the America-hating crypto-Communist spoiled rich kids their detractors imagine? Is one side being deceptive about what its core values are, and I wouldn't agree with them if I knew?

Or, to choose the most charitable possibility available, has the Democratic Party morphed recently into what I think it is, and it previously was what conservatives think it is? Besides the charm of leaving everyone blameless, it's at least a bit plausible, considering how the political landscape has changed in the past 20 years or so. I mean, I'd stake my claim to literacy on the belief that the Democratic Party of today, as a whole, is nothing like the America-hating petulant thought police that right-wing leaders cynically vilify. But I'm only 22 - if they were like that until the Berlin Wall fell and Clinton began triangulating, I would have been in no position to notice.

Via John Cole.