Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas is over. Whew.

As I've said, I find Christmas shopping stressful and don't handle it well. I wish my family could use this system. Travel is always problematic, and only gets worse during busy seasons. My flight to see my parents last week was fine (slight delay announced while I was in the terminal, but it was so slight that they made up the time in flight), but my flight back here last night was delayed by about an hour and a half. Ouch. And finally, I got sick Friday. I'd guess I caught a stomach bug from a sick friend before we left, or maybe it was in the airport, but either way I was stuck in bed and unable to keep any food down on the 23rd and feeling at least a bit unwell for the following two days.

Given my attitude towards gifts, I appreciated this and this. Call me an uncaring, ungenerous sociopath if you want, but the "joy" of giving gifts to adults has very rarely balanced out the time and expense of it, let alone the stress. If I remember those or just look up this post when next year comes around, it should help.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I'd really defend my opinion that the new Superman #1 was objectively bad. A plot synopsis: Superman fights bank robbers too dumb to live and some random monster no one cares about, vague hints are dropped foreshadowing doom in an attempt to give a bump to less surefire series, the writer does a bad job of handling the state of modern journalism, and the status quo for the series has been rebooted to a state that doesn’t make sense. As for the art, it's competent but not interesting. There’s no experimentation with panel layouts or characters’ proportions or a certain artistic style, there are no particular splash pages that stick out in my memory, there's nothing particularly daring or interesting about it. It's more meticulous than average, but no one will remember it in six months. All in all, the book was pointless except for making money for DC.

But like I said, I've bought a bunch of comics since the store moved to my neighborhood, and it's not like I particularly enjoyed most of the rest of them either. So I should consider the possibility that capes-and-tights superhero stuff isn't my kind of thing any more.

There's one title I've read for years and I'm still happy to read regularly: Invincible, by Robert Kirkman. (For non-comics readers, he's the author of The Walking Dead, which the AMC show is based on.) In addition, there are three ongoing series that I bought or borrowed in trade paperback form over the past six months or so and I thought they were great: Nextwave, Transmetropolitan and Irredeemable.

All four of those have something in common: they're nothing like your traditional superhero story. Transmetropolitan isn't a superhero story at all; it's a science fiction series. It was published in the same format and by the same company as Superman, but the story and characters have more in common with Johnny Mnenomic or Snow Crash than they do with Big Blue. Nextwave is a superhero story, but it's a comedy or parody rather than the usual straightforward story of heroic conflict. It's great, but it's ridiculous. It uses characters in the Marvel universe, but tells a story almost like Futurama.

As for Irredeemable and Invincible, they're superhero stories all right. But they're both really dark, grim superhero comics, pessimistic about power and humanity in general. They're realistic* about just how badly most people would actually handle superhuman powers and how many problems they couldn't solve.

In Invincible, the main character Mark Grayson is the son of Omni-Man, a costumed hero that's nearly an exact copy of Superman... except rather than being a refugee of a doomed world, Omni-Man is a scout for a race of world-conquering, mass-murdering space imperialists. This is revealed in a storyline where he murders the world's greatest superheroes and beats the main character nearly to death. Horrible, right? Sure, but it's a great superhero series because it would have that kind of plot twist and how it handled it - not "oh no, Omni-Man was mind-controlled" or something, but "oh no, Omni-Man is really evil". After that, the storyline mainly follows Mark as he moves on with his life. He's gone from high school to college to a real job (well, sort of), his relationships with his supporting cast have changed greatly over time, some of them have died, the world has changed around him and he's changed in his approach to it. Again, this is stuff that plenty of other superhero comics do, but rarely in this way or so well.

And then there's Irredeemable, which is even grimmer. Its premise is not "Superman was secretly a would-be tyrant"; its premise is "Superman bottled up all his negative emotions all along, one day finally snaps and goes postal and starts killing people, cities at a time". So far (I'm less than halfway through), it's very psychological, about exactly what kind of pressures would get to a superhero that's seen as a paragon and how much could go on behind the scenes before anyone notices.

So, not counting the recently-relaunched-or-revamped stuff I'm still trying out, the comic books I've been reading regularly recently are not a superhero book at all, a parody of the superhero genre, a very mature version of a superhero coming-of-age story, and a very pessimistic version of a very standard superhero story. Put it like that, and I should probably have known better than to bother with Superman in the first place.

* Volumes have been written about whether adding more explicit blood and gore and sadism to fiction is actually more realistic rather than just a different choice in tone, if realism in fiction is something to aspire to, and what "realism" means anyway if you're taking the existence of superpowers for granted. I realize it's an inexact term. It'll do for now, though.

Monday, November 28, 2011

I think flying bothers me more than I should. I know that the experience itself can be uncomfortable for some people, but I'm not particularly claustrophobic, acrophobic, agorophobic or aviaphobic. I don't like the expense of it, but I'm not frugal about other things, and of course, it's not like anyone enjoys the expense of it either. The only problems with it I can articulate are the security line and how airports have not just lots of people, but all the worst parts of lots of people. Commercialized spaces, disorganized people in your way, etc.

Also, I got a bit snippy with my parents when it came time to leave Sunday. I didn't mean to, but T. confirmed it and in hindsight, yeah, definitely.

Part of the problem is that if problems are likely in most settings, the rational, responsible thing to do is to be early, right? You'll be at the front of the line if there are any problems, if things aren't crowded when you're there then problems are less likely in the first place, and so on.

Well, that logic makes sense regarding lots of potential problems in potential settings. By far the most common problem with flying, though, both this week and in general, is delays. So getting there early just makes that worse. More time to sit around and do nothing and/or worry.
My anxiety about flying? Totally justified in hindsight. My flight from DC to JFK on Wednesday was delayed by about half an hour, so we'd still make our connecting flight but we were worried about having time for dinner. We had plenty of time for dinner, though, because our flight from JFK to Burlington was delayed again and again due to multiple problems, I think. We arrived after midnight Tuesday, more than two and a half hours late. The weather didn't help; in Washington and New York it rained all day long, and in Vermont I think it started snowing around 10 p.m. Tuesday. All in all, out of four flights for Thanksgiving weekend, only one was on time. (I guess I should be glad that it was the last one, so at least we didn't get home any later than we expected.) The average delay was about 50 minutes.

Well, to be more proactive, I started a list of airlines to avoid. And I already booked my tickets for Christmas, and they aren't perfect either, but at least they're direct flights, which seems like the most important thing.

Other than the all the travel stuff, the Thanksgiving break was fine. Caught up with a bunch of family. It snowed Tuesday night, like I said, through most of the day Wednesday, and my parents live out in the woods, so we actually lost power before anyone woke up Wednesday and they didn't get it fixed until after 4:30. That was aggravating in some ways, but it was fun to see some snow briefly and without serious cold, and T. got good pictures of my parent's neighborhood covered in snow.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I really need to get better about how I handle travel.

Well, organization in general. Retirement planning, coordinating my days off with other stuff going on, etc. But I think I'm particularly bad about travel, and it's particularly relevant right now, of course.

For one thing, I want to stop booking flights with layovers. To get from DC to my parent's place in Vermont, flights with one stop tend to be about $100-$200 cheaper than direct flights or even more. When everything goes right, booking the flight with a stop seems like a no-brainer. My day is already shot by the whole process of packing and getting to the airport and stuff, so what's an hour or two in an intermediate airport if I'll save that much money?

First of all, though, "when everything goes right" is such a huge assumption that now that I write it down I feel like an idiot. I've never had my luggage lost personally, but I've seen it happen. And then there was one time when my luggage wasn't lost, I knew where it was all along, but I went on ahead of it by train because my connecting flight was grounded by the snow. In hindsight I wound up being impressed by how quickly they got it to me considering all the problems the airlines were dealing with at that time, but it was still several days before I got my stuff. But anyways, that's another thing - every flight increases the odds of a delay due to weather or whatever by 100 percent. Probably by even more than that, in fact, because the later in the day it is the harsher the weather gets, generally.

And aside from all the practical difficulties of connecting flights, there are purely psychological problems. I was in Vermont just two weeks ago now, and I had taken a connecting flight, and 15 minutes before my flight from Burlington to La Guardia or whatever it was, there was a flight from Burlington to Washington National. Factor in the wait and the fact that National is much closer and more accessible than BWI, and I could have been home four hours earlier. I had to remind myself that that flight was at least $100 more expensive than what I found, but I still regretted it.

But then, no matter what I do, flying to and from Vermont is risky in the winter. The weather forecast for tonight is snow up there. I should also have traveled earlier in the day to avoid that, since the chances of bad weather are fairly high throughout this time of year.

Another part of the problem is that I'm frugal with my time off. T. suggests a nine-day vacation and I talk her down to seven, if I have a flight in the late afternoon then I'll come to work and work a half-day, that kind of thing.

If I were smart I'd fly direct flights, try to take off around noon, and not sweat the rest. My co-worker H. told me as much today, and as annoying as it was to hear in exhaustive detail about how I should totally do what I've already decided I should do and am already worried about plenty, she wasn't wrong.

Despite all the rest of it I still feel justified in being a bit frugal with my time off, though, because my girlfriend T. likes to travel. Before we were dating maybe I'd take the standard four-or-five-day weekends for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and a week-long vacation in the summer or maybe just two four-day weekends, and that was it. Last year we took one trip to France and another trip to California. Each was longer than a week. Technically I have enough time off for this, but it's kind of close, especially considered whatever else might come up, and then there's the fact that I only have one pool of days off for sick days and vacations...

Well, by this point overthinking it is making my day worse than the weather is likely to. I'll try to check in within 24 hours. I'm sure things will be fine.

Knock on wood.

Friday, November 18, 2011

I might get back into reading comic books. That worries me.

For years, I read superhero comics fairly regularly. I'd estimate that my total collection is roughly a third X-titles (X-Men, X-Factor, etc.) a third other Marvel titles (Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, etc.) and a third DC and other publishers. My comic-buying probably peaked during college or shortly after. Since then I've lost interest in series when they got bogged down in Kudzu Plots*, or when I missed a few issues and couldn't get back into it, or for many other reasons.

So by six months ago, the only monthly comic book I was buying at all regularly was Invincible, and occasionally picking up one or two issues of X-Factor. The only comic book store I liked was an hour out of my way. I'd make an afternoon of going over to that neighborhood once a month or so, sometimes with my girlfriend, for the comics plus other shopping or eating out in the area. I was pretty much happy with that. But over this past fall, three events have coincided**.

(1) DC Comics relaunched its entire line. (Sort of.) This includes a relaunch of Blue Beetle, which I liked until it was cancelled a couple years ago, and reboots of lots of classic stuff that potentially could turn out to be interesting to anyone who even vaguely cares about the genre.
(2) Marvel Comics revamped the X-Men line. Like I said, I liked the X-Men family of comics in general a lot, and what seems to be the two "main" titles of this relaunch are both especially interesting to me. Cyclops' X-Men as an all-heavy-hitters paramilitary team actively aspiring to global peacekeeping? A series with Wolverine of all people as a teacher, and it also includes a bunch of other characters that look fun? Awesome.
(3) That store an hour out of my way? It moved to a new location, less than a mile from my place. If I go grocery shopping after work, the comic book store is on the way there.

So both major publishers are doing new things I find interesting right now, shopping for comics is more convenient than it ever has been, I've already bought several issues of different titles, and as I said at the start of this post, yes, I consider this bad. I'd say there's two reasons for that.

One problem is that I feel I should avoid getting back into comic books as a hobby. It's not that I care about being "too geeky" or something, it just seems like not enough bang for my buck. For the price of five comics I could instead get a trade paperback, a movie ticket plus a drink, two nice beers at a bar, or spend half the day playing Magic: the Gathering at a Limited event. For something that I'll read in 10 minutes and probably will never find out how that storyline ends because it's a decompressed comic*, that is simply a waste of money.

The other problem is that these comics in particular don't seem that great. I bought them because the cover is flashy and I liked the characters and/or title five years ago, but when I read them, it's just "meh". These days almost all comics are decompressed, and more storylines than not are crossovers. More specifically, forget about my own personal priorities, the first issue of the new Superman series was not worth the cover price by any standard. (Maybe I'll expand on that in a future post.) Uncanny X-Men's first issue was little better; it too is just scene-setting, but at least the scene it sets is more interesting. The new Blue Beetle would have been decent as a truly new comic, but as a revamp of the previous title it seems to have lost everything that I liked about it.

It's not all bad, of course. I liked the Wolverine and the X-Men, and still might try out some more new or recently revamped series. If six months from now I just go to the new store once a month, make a beeline for Invincible and leave, then I'll still have come out ahead. But in the past month I've bought a dozen issues of seven different series, and more than half of them made me think "I could write a better story than this", "Where's the rest of it?", or both. This is not a good sign.

* Throughout this post, any word or phrase that's not easily understandable can probably be found at
** For more references on the comics world, see... pretty much anything by MGK with the "comics" tag at this blog. Not that I agree with him about every bit of it, but it was all interesting.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My mom's cousin died a week ago today. R.I.P. Chuck.

Cancer sucks. He was sick for less than a year, and the last month of it was in hospice. I probably I should have done more than I did for his family. I don't see much of them, though - maybe annually since I moved down to the DC area - so until near the end I was content to go on what I heard from my parents. I didn't make it to the memorial service, but I did make it up there in time to see him in the hospital, and I'm glad of that, at least. It wasn't easy, of course. He apparently aged from 60 to 80 since the last time I saw him, and couldn't get out of bed.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Wow. OK, so something funny happened to me yesterday.

T. invited me to a party at the Irish Embassy. It was a masquerade ball, vaguely Halloween-ish but not full-body costumes and stuff, domino masks were provided if someone didn't bring a mask of their own, but there was a contest for the best mask. I happened to dress up as the V For Vendetta version of Guy Fawkes last year, so I pulled that mask down and brought it with me. (It was pointed out to me after I suited up that it's also used by Anonymous, which I'd call serendipitous.)

Once I got to the embassy, though, it occurred to me that there might be a problem with this. Simply put, Guy Fawkes Day is an English holiday focused on burning Catholics in effigy! OK, obviously there's more to it than that and no one thinks of it like that today, but still, suddenly I wondered whether I would be welcome at the Irish Embassy wearing it. For the first couple hours it seemed like I was getting more attention than I would have expected, and at one point a staffer at the embassy came up to me to see my nametag. (I wasn't wearing one, but T. actually was invited, so that was good enough.)

As it turned out, though, I was very welcome indeed. The attention was positive. The staffer who checked me for a nametag? A judge for the best mask contest. There were two categories, one for the best single mask and one for the best couple, and I won the prize for best single mask. I went home with a bottle of Tullamore Dew whiskey, and that's only part of the prize; I'm also expecting a phone call about a ticket to some kind of gala. I'm not sure if I'll even go - never been, it's a tuxedo affair and I don't own one, I only won one ticket and I'm not sure I'd go solo - but still, just winning was pretty cool. Definitely didn't expect it with a leftover Guy/V mask.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I've always been an introvert. I take after my mom in that. But over the past month or so, several different events reminded me that, you know, it is kind of weird.

August 26 to September 6, I was on vacation in northern California with T., where she's from. In addition to the usual tourist stuff in the area - San Francisco, Yosemite, wine country - I also spent several days hanging out with T.'s family and various friends. It was fun but exhausting. I had very little time to sit back and read or watch TV or go online or go on leisurely walks. I did have some time for things like that, but not much, and it was often sandwiched in before or after hanging out with T.'s friends and family. That might be fun for someone who's naturally extroverted, and/or someone who knows the people involved well enough to relax with them, but not me. I came back from the vacation more tired than I left, for several reasons and of course T. has every right to see her friends and family on the opposite coast, but too much time socializing is definitely part of the reason.

Then, last week, T. happened to invite me to two different dinner events with her, one work-related and one through some older friends of hers. I accepted one but begged to skip the other so I could raid with my guild in World of Warcraft as is usually scheduled for that night, pleading that two outings in a week with mostly strangers would burn me out on socializing again. But at the last minute it turned out that she couldn't bring a guest to the one I had expressed more interest in, so I wound up going to neither. And I showed a conspicuous lack of being bothered by that.

To be clear, though, this is not problems with T. or anything. We're still happy together. We went out this last weekend to a different kind of event, I had a blast, and I'm pretty sure she did too. No, this is about how I handle people in general.

I know that because it happens at work too. Most of my co-workers have lunch in the cafeteria in small groups, but I tend to get food from the cafeteria and eat at my desk. I'm not trying to make a statement, I'm not avoiding or unable to get along with certain people, I'm not so rushed our hard-worked that I can't spare the time to eat down there, I'm happy to join people for events outside the building... I just would rather spend time at my desk, reading or doing other stuff online, than with people. And finally, something happened just yesterday that really showed just how nonsocial I am. I was chatting with two co-workers on the way into work. Now, I work on the third floor of the building (sort of, that's not how it's numbered, but I have to walk up two flights of stairs to get there so that's the relevant part), as does one of these two co-workers, but the other works on the seventh. I normally walk to my office instead of taking the elevator, it's just two flights and the exercise doesn't hurt, but I figured I'd continue our conversation a bit longer and take the elevator with her. The thing is, I happened to be walking slightly ahead of her and the other guy, and the elevator was nearly full but not quite, so I got in it, assuming they'd squeeze in behind me. Apparently, though, they didn't think there was enough room, so they let me go without them and waited for the next one. That's right: I was unable to handle the social dynamics of an elevator.

Friday, August 26, 2011

It's funny how now and then completely minor choices have repercussions you can never forget. For example, the pants I wore Tuesday caused me to spend more than an hour sitting around and waiting in the hot sun, and if the earthquake had been just a bit worse, my pants might have cost me several more hours.

Let me explain. I have a pair of pants that are perfectly good - look nice, a bit warmer and more formal than is really needed but not ridiculously so - except for a hole in one pocket. I plan to fix it, of course, but you know how easy it is to put things off... I have only worn the pants twice since noticing the hole, and normally I keep my keys and metro pass in that pocket, so the first time I wore the pants I just put the keys and pass in my messenger bag, and it was a perfectly normal day except for feeling very slightly off-balance.

The second time I wore them, though, happened to be Tuesday, the day of the earthquake. And when the quake hit, I didn't think to bring my messenger bag with me when we evacuated. (Maybe I would have if we hadn't had a fire drill earlier that day, by bizarre coincidence, so I was primed to expect evacuations to be brief, harmless interruptions.) So my house keys and every means of travel except for on foot were still in the office. About half an hour or so after the quake, they announced that the building would be closed for the afternoon to check for damages, but they'd let people back in briefly to get things they needed. Just by bad luck, my floor was the second-to-last to be allowed back in. In the end, I had to wait for more than an hour in the DC sun. All because of those pants. Well, the moral of the story is, get holes patched more quickly...

Friday, August 19, 2011

I read this post, which is more than a year old but I just stumbled on it so it's new to me shut up, and found it interesting.
On the one hand, I’m not crazy enough to say that the “Star Wars” prequels are good. There’s some rough sailing there, for a variety of reasons: Lucas hadn’t directed a film in a long time, his scripts were less polished due to a lack of a strong editor…and the less said about Jar-Jar, the better. But there’s a very strong theme that tends to get lost or misinterpreted, and it’s actually pretty impressively clever–but it requires letting go of one of the big assumptions the classic trilogy gave us. You have to be willing to understand that while the Sith are the villains of the series, the Jedi are the other villains of the series.
Luke’s final battle against Vader and the Emperor is the culmination of all six movies. When we only saw it in the light of the classic trilogy, it seemed as though Luke was on the verge of falling to the Dark Side and only barely managed to redeem himself by remembering Yoda’s teachings; seen as part of the complete picture, it’s a total repudiation of Yoda’s philosophy. Luke gets angry at his enemy, uses his attachments to his friends as a source of determination, and uses the Force for attack–everything Yoda says will drive him permanently and irrevocably to the Dark Side. (And “once you start down the path of the Dark Side, forever will it dominate your destiny.” There are no in-betweens, remember?)

The Emperor, who’s bought into this black-and-white bullshit just as much as Yoda, says, “Now, strike him down and take his place at my side.” And Luke…doesn’t. He’s a Jedi. More importantly, “I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” The line is striking, in light of the full picture we see. Luke isn’t just saying that he’s not a Sith, he’s saying his father wasn’t either. Before Anakin Skywalker failed the Jedi, the Jedi failed Anakin Skywalker. It couldn’t be any clearer if he’d said, “Oh, and fuck you, you dried-up green bastard.”

After reading that and most of the long discussion in its thread, it made me think of my own personal theory on the prequel trilogy: it shouldn't have been a trilogy. It could have been a great epic tragedy as one single movie. It would have been decent as these things go, and quite possibly outstanding. Braveheart or Gladiator in space, Lord of the Rings where Frodo can only destroy the ring by falling into the pit himself, X-Men: First Class. Because really, there's a good epic story in the prequels. Jedis are on a routine mission that goes wrong, they stumble on a prodigy and recruit him almost incidentally, people have high expectations for him but instead he turns out to be their worst nightmare due both to careful manipulation by the bad guy and simple human nature, all against a backdrop of a nation falling into fascism. That would have been awesome. There's a great villain there - the best thing by far about the prequel trilogy was that the bad guy was genuinely an evil genius. The Republic was clearly falling apart (more economic-minded people than me have commented on how the background details actually paints a very darker picture, and/or just don't make sense at all) and the Jedi's own dogmatism was almost as much of a cause of their fall as the bad guy's plan.

That would be a good epic movie and could be a great one. It would take right around three hours to tell, maybe 20 minutes more or less depending on how much atmosphere and stuff it turns out to need. The problem is, to make three movies of it - between four and a half and eight hours - Lucas had to include racing scenes and ridiculous subplots about a teenaged democratically elected queens and Jedis moonlighting as detectives and bodyguards and an entire war before Anakin is even properly recruited and having the main characters do absolutely everything. Maybe he did it for the money of three movies instead of one, or maybe he just was mentally stuck in the mold of thinking that it had to be a trilogy because the first one was, but either way it sucked because of the extra two movies shoved in there, I'd say.

So why am I posting this? Because it's a lazy afternoon and something like this is a good way to avoid work. Why this specifically? I guess just because I've been meaning for a while to add to my blogroll.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Independently-owned bookstores are going out of business because 11 years ago, some French guy got a job that required him to move.

OK, that's obviously ridiculous. However, it wouldn't be ridiculous to say that I've stopped supporting such stores because that guy got that job, even though I never met him. Even that isn't clear and certain, but it's not ridiculous either. Between high school and college I spent a year in France as an exchange student. Normally the program I was with would assign each student to three host families, but I'm told that the family scheduled to be my third had to back out on relatively short notice due to moving for a new job, or something like that. They didn't have a backup family willing to host me for the full three months remaining, so I lived with three different families during that time.

My time in France was a great experience overall and I got lucky living with nice, welcoming families each time, but I would not suggest moving seven times in one year. (My parents moved while I was away so I came home to a new house, and of course I started college not too long after I got back.) So I have the sense that moving is more annoying to me than to most people and/or than it "should" be. Likewise, I think I'm a bit reluctant to accumulate possessions, in case of the next move. Books, for example. My parents got me an e-book reader for Christmas 2009 with my input. I'm a geeky, tech-friendly guy in general, but for me easily the biggest selling point for it is that it takes up less space than physical books.

Going shopping last weekend got me thinking of this again, but I've been thinking about it off and on since some time around March or so, when I went to a bookstore with some friends where Sarah Vowell was on tour to promote her new book. When asked what she thought of e-books, she said she was ambivalent: she knows they're convenient from personal experience, but she sees them as bad for authors like her and bookstores she likes. She argued that her quirky, idiosyncratic style is best suited to physical bookstores, especially small, independent bookstores, where people can browse and jump around and there's just one shelf between completely different sections, but e-book readers make bookstores obsolete and the hardest hit are the ones that can't manage economies of scale. She had an anecdote about some guy who went to a bookstore regularly and asked the owner's advice about what new books he'd like, until one day when the customer bought an e-book reader. He still showed up and asked the owner for advice, but then he went home to download the recommended books instead of buying them from that store.

Well, it's not like I was shopping from a small, independent bookstore right I got my e-book reader, but still. That bookstore where I saw Sarah Vowell speak, Politics & Prose, was such a place, and it was really nice. Just while browsing around there I discovered one author I definitely liked - I've already devoured half a dozen books of his - and another I think I'll like. If I had discovered that place before I got my e-book reader I might be making treks out there monthly or even more often. But as it is, going all the way out there for books is far more inconvenient than downloading them.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Yesterday was busy. It was a lazy Sunday afternoon, but not relaxing or unproductive.

I spent some time sorting Magic cards, or trying to. I keep on thinking of cards I'm sure I own but can't find. If it were more valuable cards going missing I'd suspect theft, but as often as not it's simply rare-but-useless or common-but-old cards I can't find, so I think either they're in some pile of cards I haven't sorted or I absent-mindedly traded them away or my memory is playing tricks on me about owning them in the first place.

Anyways, after that I went to the mall to run some errands, for both myself and T. First I went to the bookstore, browsed a bit, and thought about getting A Dance With Dragons. The question is, get it in hardcover or as an e-book? More on this later (it actually is an interesting issue, I think), but yesterday I decided not to get it in hardcover. I'll probably get it as an e-book, but maybe not until I've refreshed my memory of the series. On the other hand, I did get Kitty's Big Trouble at the bookstore yesterday, a book in another series I read.

After that I went to the mall, sat down at a diner-style place in the food court, and got a milkshake. I spilled it before I had even drank a sip. Butterfingers. The server was kind enough to get me another one. Then I took T.'s two watches to a jewelry repair store in the mall, to replace the battery of one and get another one fixed; the watch had stopped and the crystal had broken when she fell down a couple weeks ago. There were three potential repair places to choose from. I went to the first place with a free attendant to talk to. Then I texted back and forth with T. a few times and the bill turned out to be about $50 more than she expected. Probably my fault for not shopping around. But I don't mind paying for them at least partially anyway; she has enough to worry about these days. In the meantime I ran a few more errands off my shopping list and took care of everything I could get in the area. On the way home, though, there was a problem on the metro. To summarize, the train stopped and turned around a few stations before mine without the usual warning, adding at least another 20 minutes to my trip home. Back in my neighborhood I got wine, another item on my list, but selection wasn't that great. Finally, I went to the drugstore and got the electric toothbrush my dentist had recommended last week. Another expensive purchase.

Despite all the setbacks - missing cards, spilling the shake, overpaying for the watches, running back and forth for shopping, getting stuck on the train - I was in a good mood most of the day, but the hassle at the wine store was the last straw for a while. Also, T. pointed out that I still have the receipt and haven't opened the electric toothbrush yet, so I can shop around for another of those more cheaply, retroactively. Still, it was a longer, more tiring day than expected.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Google+. Should I join it?

This seems to sum it up pretty well, except for the fact that it's not nearly so easy for me to decide. A couple friends already have joined it. One has even said on Facebook that he plans to close his Facebook account and anyone who wants to stay in contact with him should switch to Google+. On the other hand, another friend points out that all the annoying things about Facebook are very likely to appear in Google+ eventually as consequences of the general online networking thing.

I don't use Facebook much, and I don't particularly want to. I check it at least a couple times a day to see if I've got any messages from several friends who do use it a lot, and while I'm flipping through it everyone has their usual status updates and stuff. I'll follow links or or forward them comment on pictures posted by my sister or whatever. In addition, it falls to me to arrange some gatherings with friends, one of whom uses Facebook more than e-mail. However, other than that, I don't use it much at all. I'm pretty sure I haven't friended someone unprovoked since I was in college, I don't play any games or apps, I have no photo albums except for other peoples' that I'm tagged in, and I believe I have updated my status or profile roughly once a month for the past year or more.

So I wouldn't lose much by switching to Google+, but then again, I wouldn't gain much either. It's not that I want to do all that stuff and I refuse because I don't like Facebook's privacy policy. I don't do all that stuff because I don't want to. I'm not too gregarious a person. I don't take many pictures worth sharing. I don't feel the need to share my random thoughts with the world. Well, obviously I do, but blogs allow me to be far more wordy than the "status update" tool on Facebook.

Given what I use Facebook for, I'd do just as well on Google+. Maybe a tiny bit better if I can consolidate profile information and stuff between my blog profile and that. I couldn't get rid of my Facebook account unless a whole lot of people switch over, though.

I suppose I'm overthinking this. It's a common problem. I can always create a Google+ account and then just use it as much or as little as I feel like. The burden in time, risk, etc. of just one more profile and set of passwords (or, like I said if it can be shared with blogging, maybe not even that) is negligible.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

It seems almost ridiculous how much I'm planning things out on my commute.

As I mentioned, I've been biking home from work for a while. It's about 3.3 miles, uphill or level the whole way, so it's decent exercise in a reasonable amount of time. And by the Bikeshare program, it's free, except for the annual membership fee. I started out with a simple route. It's not great - major streets all the way during rush hour, bike lanes only on the least helpful part of the route - but it's really simple, and I can see my apartment from just half a mile or so after the start, which might be a useful psychological boost and at the very least it's kinda fun.

But because of the problems with it, my girlfriend T. suggests another route. It's more convoluted, with at least three left turns instead of one. (This isn't just my first time commuting by bike, it's my first time biking in any place with a population over 6,000. I've read that when biking downtown, with some exceptions, bikers should act like a car, taking up a lane of traffic and stopping at lights, and changing lanes to turn left while in traffic is scary.) The road is rougher, not that that matters all that much. The second route is probably safer: it has bike lanes for the same lengths, roughly, but in patches where they're more needed on the second route, and it's mostly on a less busy street.

Finally, I went to Google Maps and added it up. There are 43 intersections with either stop lights or stop signs on my usual route, versus 38 on the alternate route. Right now I'm trying to figure out whether there's a significant difference in the number of stop lights versus stop signs, but either way I'm not sure which I'd prefer (stop lights take longer when I have to stop, but less time when I don't, but are probably safer, but...). I guess at this point I should just admit that the more convoluted route is better overall.

Also, my routine to prep for the bike ride and unpack after it seems so complicated it's comical. Change from black leather shoes to jogging shoes at my desk. Go down to building locker room. Empty pockets and take off building ID badge. Wristwatch and spare change go in backpack top pocket. Sunglasses case out of backpack top pocket. Change clothes. Work clothes go in backpack. Wallet, phone, metro card, keys sunglasses case into pockets of shorts. Building ID badge goes on shorts pocket. When I get on the shuttle bus, ID badge goes in backpack top pocket. When I get off the shuttle and head over to bike station, sunglasses come out of case and helmet comes out of backpack. After biking home, helmet goes in backpack, wristwatch goes from backpack to bedside table, wallet, keys and metro card go from pockets to bedside table, change goes from backpack top pocket to jar, phone goes from pocket to windowsill in office, sunglasses case goes from shorts pocket to backpack top pocket. Overall I'm glad to be biking home, but it's definitely made my daily routine more complicated.

Monday, June 06, 2011

I hadn't followed the Weiner story for several days after it started. I wish I'd stuck with not following it. I got a bit depressed as soon as I read on another blog simply that Weiner had a press conference and Breitbart was there; aren't these things supposed to be by invitation? It's depressing that people in general and Democrats in particular still treat him like a reporter and take his heavily doctored videos seriously. (I may be thinking of his employee James O'Keefe, but either way I think the point stands.) But apparently - this is secondhand, with no details or links available, but still - he might have been partially right about Weiner.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

5. Get the tone right.
Some comics books are fun thrill rides. Some are grim angsty nightmares. Some have been both at various times. Many comic book characters have been around for 50 years now and are still in publication or at least appear in other characters' titles, and a few have been around for almost a century. That's a lot of moods to choose from. Pick one and stick with it. Also, the style of special effects matter. Bright flashy ones? Natural effects attached to people? Smooth transformations? The appropriateness of each varies.

Examples: This is one of the few problems I had with the Watchmen movie. It's a superhumanly-badass, holy-shit-that's-awesome movie based on a comic book that's actually a grim, down-to-earth deconstruction of superheroes. If people like this existed, it would suck, they would be completely screwed up, and the whole world would spin out of control. But that's not the impression you get in the movie. The viewer winds up exulting at scenes that should be hopeless, tragic struggles. Fun, sure, but misses the point completely.

And another interesting example is the recent one that inspired this post and the ridiculously long previous one: Thor. The style was unique, I'd say. Its world is not a smooth, high-tech place like Iron Man's, nor is it an organic living environment like the X-Men movies, nor is it the quaint world of Superman movies that forces all the focus back onto the hero. Instead, it really looked like myths. Odin's scenes in Jotunheim could have come out of the Old Testament. Thor beating up SHIELD agents could have been one of the Labors of Hercules. Asgard is not just another planet, it is quite clearly supernatural.

As for the story, it was good. Comparing it to any of the recent Iron Man or Batman movies would be comparing apples to oranges - there's no analogy to current political events in Thor, the hero starts out beating everyone up and has to go through the movie to learn why he shouldn't, only half of it even takes place on Earth - but the story is very much a family drama about a well-meaning asshole who needs to grow up and his passive-aggressive brother with something to prove.

Plus, of course, the whole "mythological" thing.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How to make a good comic book movie

1. Pick a character.
Pick a character or characters that have sustained an ongoing series for at least a dozen years. Longevity is a decent indicator of a character's star power. You'll want a built-in fanbase, or at least a bunch of people with fond memories of it even if they aren't all going to go on opening night. You'll also want a ton of backstory and side plots to reference and sift and pull together into one coherent narrative.
Examples: Basically every successful comic book movie did this and a lot of failed ones; it's easier to list exceptions. The comic books The Men in Black was based on lasted less than two years. The Mask was published irregularly for less than four years before the movie. In general, moviemakers seem to get away with movies based on comics with shorter runs if they weren't superhero comics, like almost anything by Alan Moore, who famously hates adaptations of his work.

2. The origin story.
When you think about it, this is more of a genre convention in superhero media than in other media. No one knows or really cares where James Bond comes from or why he does what he does, Bram Stoker didn't show us Abraham Van Helsing's first encounter with a vampire, Aragorn is one-dimensional, and Sherlock Holmes had been a detective for years when Watson and the reader first encountered him. But every comic book character on the movie screen gets an explanation on-screen of when and where and why and how they stopped being a normal person. Maybe it's because comic book characters tend to be so outlandish that the explanation is really needed.

Update the origin story as needed. Nuclear power has been around for 60 years by now with a conspicuous lack of superpowers. It does not make a few hundred pounds of biomass appear out of thin air, like apparently happens to Bruce Banner. As for genetic engineering or nanotechnology, on the other hand, well, who knows? Also, simplify it. In comic books, aliens, wizards and mutants interact all the time, but that's apparently taboo in movies.

Examples: except for sequels, I can't think of a movie that doesn't feature the origin story, and most of them try to tie it into what the character is doing now. The 2008 Hulk movie might be the closest there is, in which the origin is only shown as a dialogue-free flashback during the credits. As for simplifying, in the comic books, the Phoenix is a cosmic force that possessed and/or cloned a mutant during a near-death experience and lived as her for a while (it's complicated), and the Juggernaut is a guy wielding the power of a demigod of destruction. In the X-Men movie, on the other hand, they are just particularly powerful mutants.

3. Pick a villain.
This is more complicated than it sounds. Many comic book characters are best associated with villains that don't fit their own "theme"; see above about aliens, wizards and mutants interacting. Some comic book characters have really cool, interesting rogues galleries of their own while others are best associated with guys called Stilt-Man and the Owl. Also, it is apparently mandatory to work the villain into the superhero's origin. The fact that he can shoot lightning from his hands is not enough reason to feel threatened by a megalomaniacal sociopath, and the fact that he's planning to kill the Eastern seaboard for personal profit is not enough reason to hate him; he must also have killed the hero's parents, given the hero's best friend a lifetime's worth of psychoses, or at the very least caused the hero to lose his previous job. This is probably because the movie industry is higher-stakes. If you're spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a movie that's not guaranteed to succeed, you want every possible ounce of conflict and pathos and angst you can get.

Examples: Superman gets away with a villain in the movies with no ties to his origin (and even in his case, the villains of Superman 2 are Kryptonians), but everyone else needs them. In the comics, Spider-Man encountered Electro, the Vulture and Dr. Octopus before the Green Goblin, but the Goblin is Spider-Man's most personal foe, so he's the one in the first movie. In the comics, Kingpin first appeared as a Spider-Man villain, but in the Daredevil movie not only is he Daredevil's first big enemy, he's connected to Daredevil's origin like the Joker to Batman. (The Joker to Tim Burton's Batman, that is, because that's another example of this kind of thing.)

4. Continuity Nods: include them.
This is part of why you want a long-running comic, so you have more to draw on. In addition to minor characters or scenes or plot points from the comics, you can also include nods to the creators of the comic, by naming characters after the writer or artist. It'll make the fans go "squee" and gush to their non-fan friends they dragged along to the movie. Hopefully you'll be able to use it as a Chekhov's Gun in a later movie in the series, but if not, no big deal. Incidentally, it also lets you include more character actors in meaningful roles and make bit parts memorable. Absolutely no one would ever remember the name of the assistant police constables in the 2009 Sherlock Holmes movie, but in the X-Men movies practically every extra in a school scene was named after someone in the comic, and most of them have decades of history.

Examples: Like I said, they're practically omnipresent. A couple are noteworthy, though. In Tim Burton's Batman, do you remember the cameo appearance of Harvey Dent, the villain of Batman Forever? No? Probably not, because in Batman he was played by Billy Dee Williams, not Tommy Lee Jones. (That's actually kind of appropriate, if you think about it, but anyways.) Likewise, Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Curt Connors in Spider-Man 2 were fun to see, but actually made it harder to give those characters bigger roles in later installments.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

I've been reading the Merchant Princes series recently, and it's been downright harrowing.

Partly that's just because this is an unusually good series of books, I'd say. It's a fantasy/sci-fi (blurs the line) series about a normal person from the real world (sort of) who stumbles on another world where magic is real (sort of) and gets caught up in that world's power politics and becomes royalty (sort of) herself. So when I put it like that, it's a very standard plot. Narnia, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Harry Potter, plus dozens of fantasy stories that don't actually have multiple worlds but do have the same "rags to royalty" idea, like the Lord of the Rings or the Wheel of Time series where they all start out as farmers and wind up as ruling monarchs. I like fantasy books in general, and this one seems to have unusually smart, plausible characters, and an interesting premise (I phrased it vaguely above, but there are lot of twists), and a good mix of action and intrigue and a little humor here and there. I had heard and read good things about the author, Charles Stross, and when I found myself in a bookstore I gave a book of his a try, and really liked it, so I went on to this.

So why do I call it harrowing? Because the main character has been threatened with rape dozens times, it actually happened at least once and got her pregnant, and no one cares about that, even herself and people who really, really should.

That summary is overly simplified. And long before Miriam's fertility was a plot point the series was making it clear that the other world is close to hell for commoners and women of all ranks, like real-world feudal societies and unlike the societies in a lot of fantasy fiction. Kudos to the author for not chickening out on the premise. And there was a period in the books that was really uncomfortable to read because it seemed that everyone but Miriam knew and condoned what had happened, but by where I am now in the book, it's much better. For a while, though, I was fully expecting her to go postal or even go Lizzie Borden (since her mother, ostensibly a perfect parent until the second or third book, was definitely involved in the rape somehow), and I'd still find it believable and her a likeable character if she does. It was uncomfortable to read, but at the same time, hard to put the book down just because I had to see what would happen next.

My extreme reaction is partly just general modern sensibilities offended by a Dark Age culture, especially one contrived to put a particularly sympathetic character in a particularly bad situation. But now that I've thought about it, another thing that bugs me is the fact that she seems to be adapting for the sake of her family, the Clan. She never knew her biological family until the events of the story (sort of). They've treated her like shit by the standards of the world she's familiar with, and even a person from a feudal culture would probably be paranoid and gunshy after what she's gone through. She knows that even the "likeable" Clan members can be incredibly cold-blooded. But because they apparently need her, she is apparently willing to live like a medieval lady 90 percent of the time with all the hardship that implies. This is bizarre to me. I seriously think that I'd take the money and run, money optional. As cynical as I am about the U.S. government, with reasonable precautions I'd feel slightly better about throwing myself on their mercies than on those of the super-Mafia, and she has half a dozen other options as well.

I get that family is important, and that in a feudal culture it's a lot more important than it is in real life today, and also that in the story Miriam has few good options right now, but even considering all that it boggles my mind how easily Miriam is accepting being treated like a brood mare just because she is assured she can leave whenever she wants. Either there are big twists to come in this area or I'm unusually callow about and unsympathetic to family ties or Stross really screwed up on the characterization.

Friday, April 29, 2011

A discussion here and this post shortly after got me thinking about just exactly what the purpose of education actually is. (Sure, to enlighten people, prepare youths for the world, etc. And more generally it depends on what part and what kind of education you're talking about, and whether you're talking about what the purpose is or what it should be, etc. etc. etc.)

While I was in college or maybe just after, I spent a little time as a substitute teacher. My dad was a high school principal and my college's school year ended more than a month before his school's did, so subbing was a job I could start the day I got home while I looked for something for the rest of the summer.

As temp jobs go, it wasn't that bad. I was called in for a few days to sub for random teachers who were taking sick days or whatever. But then I got called for an extended job: a teacher had to move for some reason before the end of the school year, and they wanted someone who could fill in on a full-time basis for the remaining three weeks or so, working off of lesson plans the previous teacher would leave behind, and I fit the bill. It was a computer or communications-type class. The final project was a PowerPoint presentation, intended to test their skills with MS Office, Internet research and public speaking, and the first most of all. There was a plagiarism policy (don't do it), which I had explained to the students in advance. I checked that by Googling key phrases from the presentation and found that one kid had copied most of his presentation verbatim from some Web site, so I gave him a failing grade for that.

Should I have?

Let's assume for a minute that the plagiarism policy really was adequately explained, was strict but not unreasonably draconian, and that I stuck to it. This was six years ago if not more; I wouldn't swear to any of that from memory, let alone all of it. But right now I'm not wondering whether I covered my ass or was too lenient. The thing is, does a strict plagiarism policy make sense in a high school computer class?

It makes sense in college, where I had just come from, in an academic environment where professors and would-be professors live or die by their Academic Integrity, and where in some fields there's a lot of money riding on who really did certain work. (Not in my field, of course, but, you know, biotech or computer science or something.) And it makes sense in journalism and writing in general for the same reasons.

But in high school? There's the obvious problem when a student copies something else and passes it off as their own original work; if it's cheating to copy off someone sitting at the desk next to you, then it's cheaping to copy something off some stranger in a book or on the Internet.

I guess the thing is, that's the one case where enforcing plagiarism doesn't matter too much - where the student isn't getting graded on original work - but such a situation is rare enough that it might make sense to continue to prosecute it seriously in all other cases. So I guess I argued myself away from the strong "who cares about applying standards of high academia to other contexts?" position that was my gut reaction to the Unfogged discussion.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Exercise: for most of my life it's just been a chore. True, I enjoyed martial arts when I practiced them, although haven't fit them into my schedule for the past five years or so. And I like the nice views and breeze in my face of biking on country roads, but my bike has remained in Vermont all the time I've lived down here in the DC area. And in college, it was really convenient to work out for a while - I had more free time than I do as an adult, of course, and the gym was just around the corner from my dorm, and for a while I was going there anyway for physical therapy for my bad knee. But I've never got any physical activity worth mentioning at work or in hobbies pursued purely for fun in the past 10 years. This means that if I want to avoid visible obesity I need to either eat like a bird or set aside regular time for relatively strenuous exercise. And I wasn't interested in eating like a bird.

I've tried to do exercise regularly ever since at my current job, with varying degrees of success. But like I said, it was a chore. I've read people talking about enjoying it, getting a pleasurable sensation, some kind of visceral rush from exercise. For quite a while that used to leave me curious and wondering if there was something wrong with me. I don't remember ever noticing that before the gym this winter. I'm certainly proud when I do unusually well at something or other, and like I said the wind in my face while biking obviously feels nice, but I never actually enjoyed exercise itself at all until I started going to the gym three times a weekly like clockwork. Weird.

But even that was a problem. 20 minutes jogging, once you count time to change clothes and warm up and cool down and shower and change clothes back, seriously added up to almost an hour for me. Doable if you're serious about it, but quite a lot of time to carve out several times a week. So even once exercise is mildly enjoyable, it's still a big time commitment, and for my adult life the idea has been to find the best way to squeeze it into my day without interfering with anything else.

All this is a roundabout way of leading up to the discovery of something better: biking home. I sign out a bike from a station near my office (sort of) and sign it back in at a station near my house, and it only actually takes 10 minutes or so longer than the metro. I planned to start Monday but realized at work that I'd forgotten my helmet. Tuesday, though, I biked, and it went even better than I expected. If I can stick with this - and I see no reason not to, barring the occasional day I need to get home ASAP or go somewhere else after work instead - then I'll bet I can lose 15 pounds by winter. (Hypothetically I could lose more than that, of course, but what's the goal here?)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I've deleted several recent work-related posts and reposted them on a new blog I've created specifically for that kind of thing. I may go back and do the same for other posts of the same type. I also have a few posts in mind still waiting to be written, but I'm not sure where they'll go - here, there or both.

It's the old anonymity thing again, but I'm handling it differently because I'm now at a different place in life. Nothing I wrote about work here set off definite warning sirens, but I want to continue to write about work without worrying about it. So I'm trying to avoid details on this new blog that would identify me, and it is not linked to from here and vice versa. (Yes, I know that since the posts were here for a while, Google has cached them. In hindsight I wouldn't have done that, but it seems like a small enough risk. I'm creating the second blog as a precaution against the possibility that I decide to start dishing out dirt, not that I definitely will or have already done so.) I may tell people about it on request, but then again, maybe not. We'll see how it goes.

This blog may focus more on my personal life with more musing, or I may go back to my less-than-once-a-month posting schedule of 2008-2009. Who knows. (Or maybe the other blog I'm experimenting with will die a quiet death and I'll go back to posting stuff about work here.) And of course, I will probably continue to maintain this blog until I get tired of this "Internet" fad and move on to something else just because I'm used to using the links to the side there. But it seems like I have a lot to say these days that's work-related, and putting it all here would make me worry about someday, somehow, saying the wrong thing.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The other thing that's bugging me today is I'm not sure what the etiquette is regarding a memorial service for a co-worker. The question is, can I get away with skipping it? I realize this is more than a bit selfish of me, and he was a nice guy, and it's certainly sad - he was only in his 50s - but I barely knew him and I don't know his family one tiny bit.

If I had a specific, time-sensitive prior engagement I'd skip it without a second thought, but I don't, I just have stuff I'd rather do: get through a little of that work I alluded to in my last post, and go to the gym here at work when I finish for today. I don't want to do either of those tomorrow, the very last minute.

I'm afraid of telling someone I can't make it for vague reasons, only to bump into them at the gym and have them think that I care about ... except, wait a second, who would know about the memorial service at the gym? Obviously, anyone who would see me wouldn't care about it. And anyways, I had the idea to write about this earlier but some people had said in e-mails that they'd be leaving by now or earlier, but own office and immediate co-workers are still here, so clearly, few people close to me are going, if anyone.

Well, I'm glad I wrote this to figure that out, at least.
Not having a good day today. There are two reasons for this.

First of all, today is one of those "procrastination catches up to me" days. I procrastinate a fair amount, but it usually doesn't cause many problems. Normally I let my more low-key projects at work slide until a deadline approaches or I have really nothing else at all going on, and that works fine because it's very unlikely that something will come up without warning. Normally I take care of personal business (doctor's appointments, paying bills, shopping for out-of-the-way stuff, etc.) on a Monday every other week that I take off, and that works fine because that's what the regular day off (RDO) is for, most people at my office do something similar on whichever day of the week they prefer, and it's scheduled well in advance. Normally I let don't plan outings and get-togethers with family and friends in much detail or that far in advance, and that works fine because I don't do so very often and when I do, we all have cell phones.

Normally, normally, normally. At the moment, however, I'm getting ready to go on vacation in Paris with T. We leave Saturday. I have to get substitutes ready to help with my projects at work, and it was like cramming for an exam in college simply to figure out what would be needed from them. I've had problems with a flexible spending account that my employer supposedly set up for me, and I haven't had an RDO recently because of my upcoming vacation. I've been meaning to sort it out during business hours, but I haven't got around to it yet. And an aunt and cousin of mine are going to be in Paris at the same time we are and it would be cool to meet up with them, and planning that out has been problematic.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Today seemed like it was going to go so well. What the hell went wrong?

Well, there's no need to frame that as a question, I know the biggest part of the problem: I left my ID badge to get into the office and CAC card to log onto my computer at home. As far as I can remember I've never done so before, but it was bound to happen sooner or later. As I've said, I'm kind of surprised it hasn't happened before now. Well, today it did. Sometimes I've got out the door or even a block or two from home and then realized that I had forgotten them, and when that happened I turned around and went back, but today I didn't notice until I got off the metro, so I kept going. But that was just the start of the problem. I also lost my driver's license some time between getting on the shuttle to work and getting into the building. I definitely had it to get onto the shuttle, because I need ID to do that, but afterwards I couldn't find it in my wallet, any pockets or my backpack. I waited for that shuttle to come back around and looked on the floor and between seats and couldn't find it there either. In the end the security guards let me in with my Social Security number, but that's obviously not the normal way of doing things.

At this point, it seems most likely that someone found my driver's license and planned to turn it in but had not yet done so by the time I last checked with the security guard. There are other possibilities - maybe I dropped it on the shuttle and it skidded a long way from where I had been sitting, maybe I dropped it right after getting on the shuttle and it fell outside somehow before I even got to work, maybe it fell into someone else's bag and they don't know they have it, maybe it's in some pocket I still haven't thought of checking - but that guess seems most likely and the best chance I have of getting it back.

I'm not sure what to do if it doesn't turn up. In the very short term, if it doesn't turn up by the end of the day, getting home without it might be annoying but isn't all that big a problem; there's a public bus near here as well. In the medium term, I know right where my work ID and CAC card are and just need to not forget them. As for non-work things, I will carry my passport around as ID or just use my work ID badges if places other than work will accept it. Probably not, since there's no birthday on it, but it can't hurt to try. In the long term, that driver's license doesn't expire for years yet, but I have moved since it was issued, so I'm not sure I want to try to get it back or not. And the DMV, at least the one where I got it, is hard if not impossible to get to by public transportation.

It kind of makes me feel naked not to have ID on me. That probably reveals a lot about our society, or at least on my lifestyle. While right now it's worse than usual because I need ID just to get to work, even back in Vermont where everyone knew me I drove everywhere and always had my ID on me in case I got pulled over or in an accident. If I can't prove who I am, then it's like I'm not a real person.

Just today, at least, I'm looking forward to the development of cyberpunkish IDs that are implanted under your skin and work for every place you need ID and stuff.