Friday, April 22, 2005

I just finished making a new, experimental Magic deck. After a little playing I found that it sucks, and most likely will continue to do so until I've got another two of a certain card. Still, though, I think it has potential, and it's an interesting concept. I traded some cards I wasn't using to Eric to beef up his discard/counter deck, and now it's more annoying than it was before, but what I got should be helpful.

Me, Kenny, Eric and Katye had a Magic drafting tournament last night and today. We did the first one a few weeks ago, and I came in second (after Kenny) and we all got a lot of good cards out of it. This time, however, I did a lot worse. I came in last. I don't think I played what I had *too* badly, but when it came to drafting the cards and making the deck - what was I thinking? It was ridiculous.

Speaking of ridiculous, that's what my efforts to get a video card are turning into. A couple weeks ago, I ordered one. It got here, and I had to return it because I had ordered an AGP card - but my computer has a PCI slot. Duh. I thought I remembered what kind I needed from some time back when I did something similar, but I obviously remembered wrong. I should have checked. So I return that and order another one, and it gets in yesterday, and I'm standing around the store waiting for the receipt to print, and when I look at the box, I notice that, hey, this says it's an AGP too. A little checking, and it turns out that their distributor sent them the wrong item.

So at this rate, hopefully I'll have a video card by graduation. I'm crossing my fingers.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Your right-wing media at work.

Of course, it's slightly more accurate that they're just trying to sell themselves - Ann Coulter is a popular and famous figure, so you write about her and put her on the cover if possible. Elementary marketing. Still though, what do you think the reaction would be if Al Franken said that Tim McVeigh should have targeted, say, a church? Or an army base? And then stood by it when challenged on it? He seriously, literally would probably not be alive right now.

But say that 168 journalists and reporters at a mainstream, relatively respected newspaper should have been murdered, on the 10-year anniversary of the real thing no less... and it's no impediment to getting a feature article in a leading magazine in the "liberal" media.
The presentation went pretty well. It got rushed just because the group before us ran on and on, and there was a hilarious interruption when the VirtuaGirl program showed a pop-up on the screen of Kevin's laptop in the middle of the presentation, but still, it went well.

After that I came back and I noticed that Alexa was online, so I IMed her and we went for a walk. A long one - we walked up Wilson Boulevard, the one along the river, all the way to where it met Mt. Hope, and then we walked around the cemetary and finally came back from the other side. We talked a lot and caught up. Alexa's been a good friend of mine since freshman year, but we see very little of each other. It's just because we don't really have any interests or clubs in common and we're both pretty introverted, so we don't bump into each other and neither of us takes the initiative to plan a meeting too often. But it was nice. We talked and stuff and caught up for what was probably the first time since Christmas.
Kevin and I have been working on our presentation for the Art and Politics class since Thursday. We've been gathering material since then on our chosen topic of art and its many uses in the 2004 presidential campaigns, but for a while we didn't really have a theme, anything to tie the whole thing together. But around midnight Monday I stumbled on an article that gave us a great idea and will be our main source. Unlike all our other print sources, it's not from the Web page of an activist or activist group, and it's not an article from a newspaper or news magazine. Before & After magazine, a graphic design industry magazine, had an article before the election comparing the two campaign's logos, which can be found here if you're curious. Relatively interesting stuff, if that's your sort of thing - wonkish and psychological, both of which are things I sort of like - but the point is, it's perfect for our presentation.

I just now finished some image editing in Microsoft Paint (I wish I had Photoshop, or anything else that's easier to use and has more options than Paint, but oh well, I'm not going to shop around for one right now) to put Bush's campaign logo in the same design as Kerry's and vice versa, to make the comparison that much more striking. It's not perfect - it's totally obvious which ones are professional and which ones are handmade - but still, I think it's a pretty damn good addition to the presentation.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Worry of the week at the Campus Times: I don't have a replacement lined up. As yet, there is no copy editor for next semester.

Of course, it's my fault - I should have been looking harder for a replacement. As the editor who's graduating in the middle of a term, it's my responsibility and I haven't taken care of it. No need to get fatalistic because there's still time to get one, but I haven't yet. But still, it really feels like there's only so much I could have done. I mean, just due to what my social life and extracurricular clubs are like, I think there's a grand total of only two freshmen I know from outside the CT. And a few more sophomores, but not many. And by the time someone's a junior, chances are good - I shouldn't assume anything, but that's how it's looking to me - that they have already found all the clubs and commitments they want. I've tried to do some recruiting among those half-dozen sophomore I know, and I have had some success.

So, that said... consider this an advertisement. Is anyone out there interested? Abby, could you be persuaded to take the plunge and graduate from copy staff to copy editor? Audrey?

Let me offer a few reassurances: a job as copy editor would never be anywhere near as much work as news editor. A lot of people have heard me complaining about how bad the work can be, but just in case it hasn't already been clear, this semester has been a lot less work than last year was for me. You spend some hours reading the CT stories for grammar and punctuation and the rules of CT style like what kind of font goes with which headline, and that's it.

And for that you get to be at the center of what goes on here at UR, you get home-cooked desserts and free food from off-campus restaurants, you get to hang out with some hilarious people - for a small, very mild sample, check out some things I myself have said - you learn a ton about writing, and you get to write something really great on your résumé. There's a line in my résumé that reads something like "Writer and news editor for an award-winning college newspaper."

It's work, but it's also fun. If you are a decent writer - the rules unique to the CT are easy to learn - and you aren't too very busy on next semester, there is a very good chance you'll enjoy it. So, anyone interested?

Friday, April 15, 2005

You know, it's always easy for me to find something to complain about in the Campus Times - something got printed that shouldn't have, production night going badly in a way that was avoidable, a serious lack of people who are both competent and motivated - but sometimes I love it.

One of those times was this week. We had a staff photo of Pope John Paul II lying in state. A staff photo of the pope lying in state. Andrew Slominski - sophomore, one of the two photo editors last year - happens to be studying abroad in Italy this semester, and he got a picture and sent it to us along with his article on what it was like being there. So thanks to him, this little amateur college newspaper got pictures. Not stolen, whether with credit or not. And not even from a wire service.

But just for the mandatory griping - there was an editorial about the papacy and how it should resist calls to liberalize, and Jesus it sucked. Even if its attitude is agreed with and not offensive - which can be summarized by the last few lines, "The Church is holy, immortal and immovable. Second, and consequently, if you do not like it, don't let the door hit you on the way out" - there was a bunch of stuff in it that's pure bullshit.

In these "debates," liberal theologians, non-Catholics and a smorgasbord of wholly unqualified academics declared that the successor of John Paul II must modernize the Church and introduce more democratic procedures... Obviously, each of these commentators has never picked up either the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" or a history book. If they had, then they would not have been spewing forth line after line of uninformed hogwash. The Catholic Church is not a democracy - it would be impossible.

DANGER! DANGER WILL ROBINSON! STRAWMAN ALERT! I'm not Catholic and I haven't even seen these debates - and "debates" is probably his word, I'll bet most of the news shows called them discussions, but hey, details aren't holy - but I'll bet anyone dollars to donuts that most of the people he was talking about were not hoping that the Church would become a democratic republic. Odds are they were noticing problems with it such as, for example, aiding and abetting child rapists, and suggesting greater transparency to both regain some lost credibility and simply do the moral thing. It's democracy in the sense that the people aren't being lied to. Or maybe they were thinking about how the laity are becoming more important to the Church, and suggesting that they be given a little bit more authority. That, too, is democratic - self-government, so to speak.

From the bestowing of the keys of the Church in the hands of Saint Peter, the Church has been a monarchy of the greatest sort. It has had a successful, elaborate hierarchy of offices, from the laity all the way up to the Chair of Peter. Each office is well-defined and necessary to ensure accountability, administrative efficiency and, most importantly, a strong and unmovable faith all the way up the chain.

Call me crazy, but I have a hard time taking Adam and his religious convictions seriously when he praises the accountability and efficiency of the Catholic Church before he gets around to the importance of faith. Both in general - you're supposed to do things because they're right, not because they're efficient - and in particular - see my last comment about the Church's relationship with accountability.

Yes, it is true that throughout history there have been chinks in this chain, but for nearly two millennia, things have worked out just fine.

The Inquisition, the Thirty Year's War, massive systematic sexual abuse, de facto theocracy being encouraged throughout pre-revolutionary Europe... minor chinks in the chain. Move along, nothing to see here.

Should the decision of whether murder is mortal sin be left up to a vote? The Church was entrusted to Peter by Christ to shepherd the flock, not to poll it. When Saint Paul was converting the heathens of ancient Anatolia and Greece, I am sure a majority of people thought "free love," murder and the like were just fine... But Paul did not poll the public - he preached truth, whether they liked it or not. This is what the Church is entrusted to do, plain and simple.

For someone complaining about academics not having read a Catechism or a history book - and by the way, anti-intellectualism is blatant hypocrisy coming from anyone who isn't living off what he can catch, I just wanted to get that out there - Adam should, well, to put it politely, go to the library. Free love? Early Christians were the only people in that area who practiced free love. A minority of them, sure, but if free love is a bad thing, I'm afraid Adam is in for a nasty wake-up call about his church.

The Holy Ghost most certainly inspired the development of the form of government that exists to this day. This has undoubtedly been a key to the resounding success and longevity of the papacy. What other regimes can claim such an impressive, long-lasting form of government and way of being? Aside from maybe some uncivilized bongo-banging tribes in Papua New Guinea, I am thinking zero.

Now, I could call Adam racist or elitist for this. After all, with one phrase he manages to imply that bongo-banging is the limit of New Guinean culture and that even if it weren't, "their kind of people" don't count when you're comparing the size of your dick - I mean, your historical record. But calling someone racist is a cheap shot, like winning a game of pool when the other guy scratches on the 8-ball. So instead I'll just point out - yet again - that Adam is either stupid, illiterate, or a pathological liar. "What other regimes can claim such an impressive, long-lasting form of government"? Hmmm... how about Dynastic China? They had over 3,000 years, I think. Or Pharaonic Egypt? Maybe even 4,000. By comparison, the amount of time Adam spent researching this editorial? Up to three minutes, tops.

So to all of you who live with the fake expectation of a democratic Church that will ordain women, allow contraception and totally adapt itself to the modern world, I leave you with two concluding thoughts.

Wait, don't leave those thoughts, you don't have many to spare! /cheapshot But don't worry, Adam, I can really understand your position. I mean, of course contraception is evil - that damn family planning! If every child was wanted, where would the world be? And after all, every sperm is sacred... And adapting to the modern world? Those bastards! How could those flaming liberals in Rome want to do something about sliding church membership? How dare the liberal media attack good, hardworking priests whose only crime was loving the little children a little too much?

Conclusion: I hope this doesn't sound anti-Catholic. But it's a simple truth that the Catholic Church isn't perfect. How to improve it is open for debate. But anyone who says things shouldn't be changed is incorrect. Does that error stem from dishonesty, general disregard for the truth a.k.a. bullshitting, gross stupidity and/or ignorance, or an ego the size of St. Peter's Basilica? In Adam Ramey's case, maybe all of the above.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Holy shit, have I really had more than 100 hits on this blog in the past 10 days? Wow. I know quite a few of my friends read it because they talk to me about it, and even though I haven't done it much lately I used to kill time by reading everyone's profile and following the links and I imagine some people do that. And also, I'll bet a lot of people disable cookies so they can avoid spyware and adware, so if the same person comes back five times but rejects the cookie every time I think the system counts it as five different people. But even so, I never would have guessed there would be that many people checking it out.

I got that traffic counter because I wanted to know how many people were reading this. If it was just a diary set up to automatically share itself with a few friends, or if I should treat it as public. It seems pretty clear that I should think of it as at least semi-public, then.

So, without further ado... I need to apologize for what I said about the SA Presidential candidates in my March 28 entry. Whatever I said and tried to say and whatever it sounded like in the CT meeting, writing what I did was insulting one or two of the candidates just for the sake of making an equivalency. (And while I'm at it, what I said any of them wasn't nice, but at least some of those descriptions were based in some small amount on what I actually think.) Joking or exaggerating - fine. But insulting someone else - in a public forum, apparently - just to make my prose work better? Not fine.
Heaven help my grades - I finally broke down and bought "World of Warcraft". That was bad planning. Oh well, all I have to do is make it through the next few weeks. I've always been a lot more responsible about a paying job than about school.

Now I just have to find one of those... :)

Years ago - five at least, maybe 10 - I remember reading a "Family Circus" comic in the newspaper. There was this montage of the kids playing with their toys - remote control car, some kind of game console, talking dolls, all kinds of stuff like that. Their parents were watching them, and one said to the other something like "I wonder what they'll tell their grandchildren they had to do without."

I was thinking about that cartoon Saturday because when I walked past a game store in the mall, I saw a display of some games. They're game controllers like would go with a Playstation or something, but the controllers are the whole thing - no console, no discs or cartridges, just plug the controller into the TV and play. They cost $25. The one that caught my eye was one for the game "Mortal Kombat II," because it was one of the few games I had for my Sega Genesis.

Now, the Sega Genesis came out when I was 10, to make a vague guess. It cost at least $150 retail, probably more but I'm not sure, and most games cost between $25 and $50, I think. For that you got a 16-bit processor with no saved games or anything, a little bigger than a modern laptop. And now just 10 years later you get the same thing small enough to fit in your hand, for a fraction of the price.

I'm every bit as unqualified to predict the future as anyone else, but when I'm telling stories to my grandchildren, it might sound something like this: "When I was a kid, our portable music players were called Walkmen and Discmen, and they could only hold 10 or 15 songs, and you couldn't even choose the order!"

Friday, April 08, 2005

What the fuck, huh? I mean, why the fuck is there no fucking hot water?

Sorry. It's just that I got back from the gym this morning and apparently the hot water is not working in Burton. I decided I had to at least get my hair wet in my room sink. Out of curiosity, I then ran a comb through it. And right now, my hair is as spiky as usual - but I haven't put gel in today. That should not be capable of happening.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (Abridged):
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

And thanks to the 14th Amendment, it applies to state and local governments every bit as much as to Congress. People often reduce it to the principle apparently contained in it: "separation of church and state."

But in class today - Freedom and the First Amendment, which basically spends the semester dissecting that sentence and all the judicial disputes and decisions that depend on it - I got to wondering something. What if that separation is damaged, but not by any act of government? Take a case we discussed for this week, about a religious youth group meeting on school grounds right after the school day is over. On the one hand, that school was used as a public forum open to anyone who met some basic requirements, so discriminating against the Good News Club by not letting them use it would pretty obviously be a violation of the Free Exercise Clause. But on the other hand - it's a religious group meeting in a classroom, just minutes after the school day ends, involving big chunks of classes. In the minds of the eight and 10-year-olds involved, it would look one Hell of a lot like the Bible study group was just another part, a natural extension of the normal school activities, right? Maybe even like being an observant Christian was required (by peer pressure if nothing else) as part of being in the class? That sure looks like establishment of religion to them. And the appearance of establishment of religion, an implicit endorsement, has been considered on a par with an explicit, intentional endorsement or establishment in some cases.

The Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional to deny the Good News Club the classroom space on that Free Exercise thing. But it really seems like a case for the Establishment Clause, even though the guilty party isn't the government. The Constitution is pretty clear in that it only forbids establishment by the government, but is establishment by someone else - by a private citizen/religious group tying itself to government instead of the other way around - any better? More legal, obviously, but more ethical? Does it stick to the letter of the law but shatter its spirit?

Is the separation of church and state just a legal requirement like speeding or Robert's Rules of Order (on a much larger scale, of course), or is it also a moral imperative? Should people make a good faith (no pun intended) effort to keep politics and religion separate, or is that between them, the judges, and the Judge? (Word games are just jumping out at me. I can't help myself.)

Monday, April 04, 2005

Pet Peeve #71:

People who can't handle homophones. There/their/they're and all that stuff. I mean, I realize this makes me sound a hell of a lot like the English teacher I'm afraid of becoming, but I'm also a copy editor at the moment and I'm in a writing class with a lot of peer critiques, and it's driving me nuts. Everyone makes mistakes once in a while, sure, but when a senior and English major messes up "your" and "you're" five times in as many pages, it kind of jumps out at me. I plan to put together a list of common mistakes in writing I've found as a copy editor and have it distributed to all CT staff, and all this stuff will be on the top of the list.

"their" = "of or belonging to them"
"there" = "in that location"
"they're" = "they are"

"your" = "of or belonging to you"
"you're" = "you are"

"its" = "of or belonging to it"
"it's" = "it is"

"were" = past tense of the verb "to be"
"we're" = "we are"
"where" = auxiliary adverb, "at/in/of/from what place"

"to" = preposition expressing a relationship of change or motion in the direction of its subject
"two" = the number between one and three
"too" = "also, as well, very"

"whose" = possessive participle thingy. Usage: "whose ball gag is this?"
"who's" = "who is" or "who has"

"rein" = the things that you use to control a horse you're riding, or used figuratively, anything used to directly control something.
"reign" = the role or job a king fulfills. "Reign" is to "king" as "presidency" is to "president."
Therefore, when you surrender control of something, you give it "free rein," NOT "free reign." When I see people spell it the second way I'm tempted to say "fuck popular usage," but a quick Google shows that "free reign" is even slightly more common and is becoming accepted as horses become so archaic they're almost alien to some people. However, "reigns of power," another usage that has been seen here and there, is gibberish and I'm sticking to that.

This is high school English, people. People for whom English is a second language, people who don't like to write and try to avoid it - fine. But what is wrong with English majors and people who've made a hobby of writing for the school newspaper when they can't figure this basic stuff out?

Edit on 4-13-05: I've been going back and adding in homophones as I see them in stories. When I do make that guide - I'm hoping for Friday, if I remember and get around to it and stuff - this will probably make up a good half of it.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

To anyone who logs on to my blog and finds that it now wants to put a cookie on your computer: don't panic. I got curious about how many people actually read this thing, so I decided to install a hit counter. So I went here and signed up for this service. As far as I can tell, it's a completely legitimate business that offers some hit counters as a freebie to encourage people with corporate Web sites to sign up for the more advanced paid version. If you trust the privacy policy, it's completely harmless.

There's a story about why I suddenly, out of the blue, got curious about this, but now's not the time. I'll try to remember to write about it later.

Friday, April 01, 2005

I went for a jog this morning, around the cemetary. It's been years since I've seriously got exercise outdoors, but I had to go by CVS today to pick up a prescription I had refilled, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone. And besides, the weather was great. Sunny and in the fifties.

I haven't done much with myself today besides that. Watched TV, played Magic with Kenny and Katye, and later Katrina joined us. Spent some time reading e-mail.

This past week was bad, in terms of work. Wednesday I decided to get the day off to an early start - I even went to the gym in the morning - and was relatively industrious. In Seminar in Fiction one of the stories the class critiqued was mine. I got a lot of food for thought on it. The story was an idea I've always thought in the back of my mind about developing, and some comments pushed it closer to the front and gave me some ideas about how. (Or at least, how *not* to do it.)

The regular issue of the CT was pretty normal this week. I was very grateful to Rich for staying until we were done with all the copy editing. The production night for the April Fool's issue, however, sucked donkey balls. We had originally planned to be done with the issue by 7 p.m. Thursday night. That would give us plenty of time to work on it during the week before and would be a more than reasonable time to call it a night. However, when I showed up around 5:30 - I was getting paid to play computer games - and there were only two pages waiting for me and two or three editors in the place, it was a bad sign. Editors not showing up... editors leaving much earlier than they were supposed to... content still being written, by the editor, at midnight... a bad night. Sure, I was out of there by 1 a.m. or a little after so in one sense it's better than regular nights, but considering how it was supposed to be, how it could have been, it sucked.