Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Rally to Regain Sanity and/or Fear
10:19 a.m. Waiting for friends to join us at our place and then we'll take the metro down to the mall. T. has rice krispie treats and similar stuff for a day outside with friends. I'm wearing a t-shirt that reads "Republicans for Voldemort" and have my Halloween costume in my bag: a "V for Vendetta" Guy Fawkes disguise. Just to be ready for anything.

Liveblogging may follow. Not sure.

11:04 a.m. Metro looks very crowded, so we'll probably walk. It's less than two miles.

7:05 p.m. Obviously, liveblogging failed. When there are 100,000 or so people on the Mall, phone networks fail. Also, I'm sobering up (we went to a bar afterwards, a very nice place except for the fact that it doesn't serve food) and some of my companions have yet to do so.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Onion was dead-on about politics this week. This, for example, is just as accurate and insightful as anything in the NYT, and a good deal more honest than Fox.

But what really jumped out at me was this article:
Alumni Office Dispatches Navajo Tracker To Hunt Down Glen Schutt '98

TEMPE, AZ—Representatives in the alumni office at Arizona State University announced this week that in an effort to determine the whereabouts and current mailing address of Class of '98 graduate Glen Schutt, they are utilizing the services of longtime employee and Navajo tracker Joe Lone Tree.
Lone Tree, who has more than 10 years experience tracking ASU alums through both the spirit and waking worlds, was assigned the task after multiple attempts to contact the former engineering major and inform him of upcoming alumni events and giving opportunities failed, sources said.
"Staying up-to-date with our graduates is very important to us, and we do our best to maintain a lifelong relationship with them," ASU Alumni Association president Christine Wilkinson said. "Which is why, in the case of hard-to-reach people like Glen Schutt, Joe Lone Tree and his invaluable expertise in the areas of forest and desert terrain, weathering, and the ancient movements of the sun helps us find out where our grads are and what they've been up to."

Seriously, it's baffling how diligent my college is about this. I've moved three times since I've graduated, I'm pretty sure I've never given them money or asked for anything from them after my diploma, and still they send me stuff. I agree with Yglesias about this. I give money to some nonprofit groups (well, OK, only one regularly), and there is a long, long list of charitable organizations I'd donate to before I gave to something with the ROI of a university.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Party invitations: one of the many problems I avoided through years of being relatively asocial.

T. and I are planning a party to show off our new place. A housewarming party, basically, although we haven't called it that because we think that sounds like we expect people to bring gifts even though we don't. T. pretty easily came up with a list of more than 20 people she wanted to invite: about half a dozen friends she sees reliably at a pub crawl or similar gathering, half a dozen more friends who she doesn't see that often or predictably but still sees fairly often, one current co-worker, two or three ex-co-workers or ex-neighbors, and the cool parents of one such friend. I invited about half that many: several co-workers, my two ex-roommates, and Paul and Dave, the guys I play Magic with. My family is in another state, I'm not good at keeping in touch with people, and inviting co-workers seemed like opening a can of worms - it would be hard to invite some people but not others, I wouldn't want to seem like I was snubbing some people, etc.

And considering that we declared the moving-in and unpacking finished weeks ago, we still have quite a bit of work to do. We have several things to put up on the walls or put away in storage, including pictures bought weekend before last almost on impulse, decorations from T.'s last apartment that we haven't got around to hanging yet, and stuff she got in the mail just yesterday from her parents.

Monday, October 25, 2010

There are two ways to handle temptation: avoid the source of it, or consciously resisting it or not feeling it in the first place. The relative ease of them depends on the person doing it and what the thing in question is, and one is probably not better than the other overall.

However, a problem comes when someone who relies on avoiding the source of temptation (me) moves in with someone who doesn't feel temptation eat like a pig and/or can resist that temptation relatively easily (T.). A general, ongoing, minor problem since the move has been T.'s habit of keeping candy around as a snack. In particular, she hoards chocolate. She actually buys the stuff or collects freebies just in case some day comes when she gets hungry or depressed or otherwise feels the need, and then she'll be able to have some. The thing is, she collects it faster than she gets around to eating it. Really, this is more cute than anything else; you should see how enthusiastic she gets about Halloween and Easter, the candy-collecting holidays.

The problem is, I don't eat well. I usually order large meals, I don't eat particularly healthy food (pescatarianism is mostly an attempt to help that, but fried shrimp is still pescatarian... for better or for worse), and I snack absent-mindedly when I'm bored and something is convenient. All this is fine in theory; in my last two homes I avoided eating like a huge pig by avoiding the temptation to eat junk food in the first place. Instead, I kept healthy snack foods around, like baby carrots and fruit (not-so-healthy stuff too, occasionally, like crackers, but mostly healthy stuff), and rarely order meals that are too much for one person.

Obviously, T.'s chocolate-hoarding habit, while cute, is a problem for my absent-mindedly-snacking habit. And last night, when eating at a "restaurant week" event, I realized that I need to be better about portion control too. I mean, if I ever again order from a prix fixe menu, please slap me hard unless I'm famished. I could barely walk when we left that place.

Friday, October 22, 2010

You (whoever you are) may notice things look different. Here's what happened: every time I logged onto Blogger for the past few weeks if not months, I saw a message saying that I have "followers". I would click on that to see what that means or who they are, and it tells me that in order to find out I have to upgrade my blog. I ignored that and went on with my business.

Today, though, I decided to make a change I've long thought of: moving defunct links. For years I've added links to the sidebar as I discover new blogs, webcomics, etc. that I find worth reading, and with very few exceptions I haven't deleted any even if I've stopped reading them or they've stopped being updated with new content, I've just left them there. That's partly because a lot of them might one day come back, and partly out of a mindless packrat instinct (but so what? Of all the things to be a packrat about, digital data is pretty much definitely the least problematic), and it's also part of out of historical interest. This is, after all, partially a diary, and it might be cool to keep a record of what once interested me even if it no longer does. I let old stuff like that accumulate, never sure of what to do about them (start an offline text file with the links? Update them all meticulously? Sort them better?), but today I finally decided to create a separate list of "old links" and display it below the rest. It wouldn't be sorted, but so what? My hypothetical reader, or myself after so much time has passed that I don't remember what is what, can have fun some lazy afternoon of figuring out which links became boring and which became infuriating and which became dead links.

And that was a big enough change to justify upgrading the template. But that was a bigger job than it looks like; the sidebar came through half-broken and a lot of features came in that I don't need. So I'll be spending more time than I expected today and this weekend updating and streamlining this...

And the ironic thing is I still haven't figured out yet who my followers are. Maybe I will once I work my way around the new template or upgrade it again, but maybe not, who knows. So if you're reading this (and if you actually exist and aren't just a scam to get me to start hosting ads for Google's benefit or something...) feel free to speak up here. No pressure either way, of course, this never was that kind of blog; I'm just curious.
Apparently it's election season. I plan to vote, but beyond that, meh. I agree more with August J. Pollack than with John Cole. (Not that I'd stand by every word and nuance of the phrasing of either of them, of course.) I hope the Democrats win, and the leading Republicans are indeed horrifying to imagine in positions of power while being hilarious in their current role as mere topics of media discussion. But you know, I have to admit I'm a bit apathetic and very cynical to begin with, and the lesser of two evils is not sufficient motivation for me to donate time or substantial amounts of money.

That being said, I have a tiny, fond hope that the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear will be so big that they will narrow the enthusiasm gap a lot. Even if they don't accomplish anything concrete - and to be serious for a moment, expecting them to would be unfair - I'm sure they'll be fun. T. was interested in the Rally to Restore Sanity, but when they were being billed as separate events I wanted to go to the Rally to Keep Fear Alive for the entertainment.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pet peeve of the week: books with nonindicative titles. It comes to mind at the moment because I have the Mercy Thompson series on my e-book reader and I can never tell which book is which. I read the first four pretty much continuously but happened to take a break of a couple weeks before starting the fifth and last one, and I had to open every single book with that author's name to figure out what it was. Blood Bound? Silver Borne? Iron Kissed? Every book so far has included werewolves, vampires and faeries, so blood, silver and iron are mentioned at least briefly in every story. How in the world am I supposed to tell what order those books came in or what they were about?

Obviously, e-books are worse about this than paper books because there are no clues like cover art or descriptions on the back. But it can still happen with hard copies. I have every book in The Dresden Files series in paperback or hardcover, and I could describe from memory how vampires in that series work more easily than I could list the books in order by title. Let's see, Storm Front is easy, just because it's first book in the series; Fool Moon is the one about werewolves because they care about the moon, and the book about werewolves is the second book because Murphy doesn't trust Harry yet in it; Changes is the 12th and most recent book, because everything changes in it... and I could probably figure a few more out the same way... but overall, the names in the series are so vague that they could be any damn thing. Dead Beat? Almost every single book features ghosts, vampires and/or necromancy ("dead") and police work (that is, walking a "beat"). Turn Coat? Harry's coat is the most cool-looking thing about him (maybe the only cool-looking thing) and traitors of some kind have been big parts of half a dozen plots.

Way too vague. It can happen in any genre (Middlesex - the only clue to the story in the name is the pun), but it seems worst in urban fantasy series. Dead to the World, Dead as a Doornail, Definitely Dead - which came first? Which is about what?

My best guess is that these authors feel caught between serious fantasy and modern fantasy. Serious fantasy requires avoiding titles like "The Xs Sword" or "Curse of the X" or anything with the name of a monster directly in the title. Modern fantasy, meanwhile, can't mention feudal government or medieval architecture in the titles. If the author is lucky, something like that would merely sound too old-fashioned; more likely, it comes across as pulpish and unserious and/or a Lord of the Rings ripoff.

The problem is, exclude all of that and there's not much left that has anything to do with the story. Because come on here, we're still reading about wizards, werewolves and vampires. The writing may very well be very good and the product of great skill, but it's still a lowbrow genre. So what? Why not embrace it? Who's being fooled by vague titles? Would it have really hurt the authors all that much if they had used naming schemes such that, for the sake of argument, the fourth books in the series had been called Blood of a Faerie, Harry Dresden and the Table of Stone and The Amnesiac Vampire? Accurate, and descriptive unlike the actual titles, and kind of evocative.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Why am I so bored and lethargic today?

Is it because I didn't get a good night's sleep last night? Got to bed a little after the usual time, but more importantly, I was awake for at least half an hour or so starting at 4:15 a.m.

Am I sick, or getting sick? T. got a flu shot last week and found that it hurt more and longer than she expected and over this past weekend she was blowing her nose and feeling cold a lot, so she theorized that the shot was bad because she was already slightly sick. If so, then I'll probably catch it as well.

Is it because I'm annoyed by what's going on in both World of Warcraft and Magic: the Gathering at the moment? In the former, big patch today, big changes, that will probably mean no normal play tonight, and I'm coming close to the deadline to do certain things before they vanish forever. In the latter, I haven't been able to sit down and play for a couple weeks now. Still haven't made a deck that I think I'd be happy with taking to a tournament at the store. Haven't heard from Paul and Dave since they both said they'd be busy for a while. (No reason I can't try to get in touch with them again, of course, but I did it last time and maybe the time before.) So I'm spinning my wheels in both my hobbies.

Is it because dinner last night was a mess? It was a new recipe to both T. and me, and it could have been worse, but it sure could have been better too. (No, this alone pretty much definitely isn't why I'm feeling crappy now, almost 24 hours later, it's just a minor annoyance.)

Is it because this is basically Monday? Yesterday was a holiday, so this is my first day back at work. And, of course, Mondays suck.

Related to the last option, this reminds me of my personal theory that as styles of time off go, long weekends are secretly a horrible option. Aside from all the obvious stuff about how work generally isn't your real life, there are three reasons for time off from work: to unwind (catch up on sleep and/or sleep in for a while, tire yourself out in a fun way for once, deal with fewer people if you're an introverted type, etc.), to recharge (hang out with friends you don't see much of, de-habituate yourself to workplace annoyances), and to catch up on all the routine stuff that you can't easily do on workdays.

A weekend isn't long enough to either unwind or recharge, and even if it was most people wouldn't want to because they'll just have to go back, of course. A week off is long enough for both. A three-day or four-day weekend is long enough to unwind but not long enough to recharge. So when I have a four-day weekend I generally come back dopey, because I unwound by sleeping in and vegging out... but still prone to twitch when I see an annoying co-worker, because I wasn't gone long enough to forget about them.