Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Yay! Kansas Made the National News! (again)

WICHITA, Kan., Jan. 30 — A federal trial opened here Monday over whether a Kansas law prohibiting virtually all sexual activity by people under age 16 means health care professionals and educators must report such behavior to state authorities, which some say would stop many teenagers from seeking contraception or treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

Read the rest.

Pirate Talk

In only his second chapter in the flesh (#29, Enter Ahab; to him, Stubb), Ahab utters our first (unless I missed one), "Avast!"

Yeay! His Noodly Appendage at work in classic Melville.

(And I'm contemplating a more serious, thoughtful M-D post, just haven't made the time to write it yet.)

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Moby Bone

A while back I did the all-about-me thing for one of my posts and mentioned that I was reading both Bone and Moby Dick. I was actually just finishing up the Bone saga that I started a while back and then forgot to watch for the final book (#9). To refresh myself I read the last three. It's an excellent story by Jeff Smith. The main protagonist is Fone Bone, along with his cousins Phoney and Smiley. They provide a modern perspective and comic relief, but don't pre-judge the whole thing on their appearance as I did before reading it. The three get run out of Boneville (which we never see) and stumble into a fantasy epic in a hidden valley. The rest of the characters aren't so odd and the whole thing is a brilliant mix of serious and comic. I highly recommend it (plus it's YA and qualifies for the reading challenge and reads fast since it's 9 graphic novels).

Aside from that, I wanted to mention a recurring motif. Fone Bone's favorite book is Moby Dick. He's constantly trying to share it with his friends and colleagues (who inevitably fall asleep) and it keeps showing up in his dreams and hallucinations. Here is an example. They read well together.

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Republicans, Jesus, the King of Sweden, and Me.

It seems that we have the unfortunate luck to live in the "interesting times" from the oft quoted, double-edged ancient Chinese saying. More apocalyptic thinkers would say that we have the unfortunate luck (or fortunate, depending on your point of view) of living in the "End Times" of the more literal and eschatological minded forms of Christianity. It is, without doubt, a time of wars and rumours of wars. In any event, and whatever worldview you subscribe to, there is one thing we can probably all agree on: things are seriously fucked up.

That's where the agreement will likely end. How and why things are fucked up is still a huge source of contention and will continue to be for some time. There is one particular aspect of our fucked up times that I would like to focus on today though, and I think it's a biggie. In fact, I would say that it is at the very heart of our problems, both national and global. It is possibly the most dangerous force in our world today, all the more so because of its seeming innocuosness: subjectivity.

First, a definition: Subjective: "Proceeding from or taking place in a person's mind rather than the external world: a subjective decision." (via dictionary.com) Subjectivity pervades our culture, that is, our decisions and perceptions of the world are increasingly based upon preconceived notions, ideas, and ideologies, and less so on what happens outside of our heads in the real world. The "reality based community" is shrinking every day. Facts, observable concrete facts, have become devalued in our culture as blind faith has jumped from the realm of religion into every realm of human knowledge. It no longer matters what you can prove, now it only matters what you believe. Any more, Americans are unwilling to look at evidence that contradicts what they think they already know, or evidence that contradicts what they desperately want to believe (or what someone powerful wants them to believe).

Now let's get a little more specific. For the past thirty or more years the Republican party has tried to paint itself as the defender of morality, "values", and traditional culture. (Don't forget racism--though they're slightly more subtle about that one). This tactic has brought them a phenomenal degree of electoral success, especially since once in office they have managed to accomplish nothing of note and repeatedly prove that their policies simply do not work. But they are masters of P.R. George W. Bush is the apotheosis of this triumph of image over substance.

You all know the memes that have taken root with the Right and the media: George W. Bush is a good Christian man, he's a regular guy, the average American would love to have a beer or barbecue with him, and on and on ad nauseum. The general public accepts this characterization of the man, but for the life of me, I cannot figure out why. Because they want to apparently, for there is no evidence that it is even remotely true. It must be that if something is repeated enough times, it's accepted as true. George Bush reminds us again and again that he has deep Christian faith and that Jesus is his favorite philosopher, but does very little to show us the truth of these assertions. I can say that I'm the King of Sweden a million times, but that still won't make it true.

But there I go again, looking for evidence, that is sooo twentieth century of me. In this Brave New World we have no need of the facts, we need only believe what we're told. I for one, think I'll stick to the old ways. If you say you're a good Christian I'd like to see some behavior that's, oh I don't know,... Christ-like? to back it up. Of course, maybe I'm just defining Christian morality in a completely different way than Georgie and his supporters. Maybe he is a good Christian by the conventional evangelical American definition. That definition would include: an obsession with sexuality as the end all be all of morality (especially the condemnation of any sexuality seen as deviant), fervent nationalism-- in fact an exclusionary Messianic nationalism bordering on idolatry (did I say bordering on?), the belief that enough violence directed against others will solve all of our problems, the condemnation of the poor and fetishization of laissez-faire capitalism, anti-intellectualism, and a healthy hatred of the progressive income tax. It's hard to see how any of that has any relation to the morality that Jesus taught. In fact, a lot of it seems to be in direct opposition to his teachings. Can you say "apostasy"?

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, because apparently, Jesus likes it that way. He's also all about rampant dishonesty, meaningless (and illegal) war, torture, and corruption out the yin-yang. Of course, I could be wrong about all of this, being as I am an outsider looking in at American culture and politics. I'm sorry, did I not introduce myself? I'm the King of Sweden.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Getting antsy. . .


I Agree

In truth, a mature man who uses hair-oil, unless medicinally, that man has probably got a quoggy spot in him somewhere. As a general rule, he can't amount to much in his totality.

(From chapter 25 of Moby Dick, Postscript.)

Now before you go assuming this is indicative of a sexist or homophobic bent, let me also state for the record that I generally prefer women with little-to-no make-up and hair product as well.

(From Degolar.)

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(And I think I'm going to have to adopt some of this arcane language; I might actually be able to get away with bad-mouthing patrons at work if I refer to them as having "quoggy spots" and such.)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

A Custom to Consider Adopting

Queequeg gave me to understand that, in his land, owing to the absence of settees and sofas of all sorts, the king, chiefs, and great people generally, were in the custom of fattening some of the lower orders for ottomans; and to furnish a house comfortably in that respect, you had only to buy up eight or ten lazy fellows, and lay them round in the piers and alcoves. Besides, it was very convenient on an excursion; much better than those garden-chairs which are convertible into walking-sticks; upon occasion, a chief calling his attendant, and desiring him to make a settee of himself under a spreading tree, perhaps in some damp marshy place.

(From chapter 21 of Moby Dick, Going Aboard.)

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A Fine Stance on Religion

I cherish the greatest respect towards everybody's religious obligations, never mind how comical, and could not find it in my heart to undervalue even a congregation of ants worshipping a toad-stool . . .

I say, we good Presbyterian Christians should be charitable in these things, and not fancy ourselves so vastly superior to other mortals, pagans and what not, because of their half-crazy conceits on these subjects. . . . I say: and Heaven have mercy on us all--Presbyterians and Pagans alike--for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.

(From chapter 17 of Moby Dick, The Ramadan.)

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First Tour de France Post of the Year

A really good article about who will lead Team Discovery now that Lance Armstrong has retired: long-time lieutenant George Hincapie or up-and-coming protege Tom Danielson. One of the European riders is also a possibility, although the unstated assumption is that they hope to find an American point-man for the premiere American team. It also mentions Levi Leipheimer and Floyd Landis who lead European teams Gerolsteiner and Phonak, respectively.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Now That's a Bit Cynical

From chapter 16 of Moby Dick:

" . . . and very probably he had long since come to the sage and sensible conclusion that a man's religion is one thing, and this practical world quite another. This world pays dividends."

I'm sorry, but if your religion has nothing to do with "this practical world," it's not worth believing in.

On an unrelated note, I also like this bit of description that Captain Peleg gives about Captain Ahab:

"I know what he is--a good man--not a pious, good man, like Bildad, but a swearing good man--something like me--only there's a good deal more of him."

Or perhaps it is related. Maybe in order to have a relevant religion you have to be more of a swearing good man than a pious one.

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And Back to Politics (Kind of)

President George W. Bush was scheduled to visit a United Methodist Church in Oregon as part of his campaign. Bush's campaign manager made a visit to the pastor, and said to her, "We've been getting a lot of bad publicity among Methodists because of Bush's position on the war and stem cell research and other issues. We'd gladly make a contribution to the church of $100,000 if during your sermon you'd say the President is a saint."

The pastor thinks it over for a few moments and finally says, "The Church is in desperate need of funds and I will agree to do it."

Bush shows up and, as the service progresses, the pastor begins her homily:

"George W. Bush is petty, a self-absorbed hypocrite and a nitwit. He is a liar, a cheat, and a low-intelligence weasel. He has lied about his military record and had the gall to put himself in a jet plane landing on a carrier posing before a banner stating "Mission Accomplished." He invaded a country for oil and money, and is using it to lie to the American people. He is the worst example of a United Methodist I've ever personally known.... But compared to Dick Cheney and the rest of his cabinet, George Bush is a saint."

So Far, So Good

The new, more expensive video card is in, and so far, working okay. Let's hope that it remains working, unlike the last card which crapped out after just a few hours of use. Of course, I put more into this one, such as a brand new power supply and an extra fan, just in case. All in all, the performance is adequate. I'm not sure it is really better than the last card performance wise, but as long as it continues to work, I think it will be okay. Besides, I'm tired of fooling with the damn thing, and this one would have to literally melt (knocking on wood) for me to send it back. Of course, it is hard to judge video performance unless you're an uber-techie that can test those kind of things. I'm just eyeballing it and I'm not sure if it is outperforming the failed card from last week. But maybe I'm just over romanticizing that card's performance because it was such a huge leap forward over what I had previously.

Seeing the World

I know my first reaction to Moby Dick was a bit uncharitable toward Ishmael, so let me just say that I have come to enjoy his narration quite a bit and am very into the book at this point (chapter 16). That said, something from that chapter struck me as insightful as I listened to it this morning.

"Good again. Now then, though not only wantest to go a-whaling, to find out by experience what whaling is, but ye also want to go in order to see the world? Was not that what ye said? I thought so. Well then, just step forward there, and take a peep over the weather-bow, and then back to me and tell me what ye see there."

Going forward and glancing over the weather bow, I perceived that the ship swinging to her anchor with the flood-tide, was not obliquely pointing towards the open ocean. The prospect was unlimited, but exceedingly monotonous and forbidding; not the slightest variety that I could see.

"Well, what's the report?" said Peleg when I came back; "what did ye see?"

"Not much," I replied--"nothing but water; considerable horizon though, and there's a squall coming up, I think."

"Well, what dost thou think then of seeing the world? Do ye wish to go round Cape Horn to see any more of it, eh? Can't ye see the world where you stand?"
Now I've traveled a little bit and thoroughly enjoy adventures and seeing new things, but the captain makes a good point. If you think that you will find answers by looking for them elsewhere, you are sure to be disappointed. You must find them in yourself, not in any particular place.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Exercise = Self-Absorbed?

In response to my post about Exercise Addiction (and the weight loss comment I added), Kelly said: "Too many people worry about their weight, the way they look, how much excercise they get, what they're eating, etc. How about worrying about your self esteem? Or world peace? Or something that really matters?"

I'm not going to say that vanity doesn't play a part in my motivation to exercise and lose weight ("Come on, one more mile; don't you want to have the kind of body that girls notice and guys envy?"). But that's mainly because it is a worry about self-esteem. At the level of addiction it becomes such a part of your identity ("I'm not just some guy who runs, I am a runner") that you beat yourself up for any failure to live up to the unrealistically high expectations of that identity ("It doesn't matter how sick I am, I can't take today off or I'm a loser"). That idea still plays a role for a more casual exerciser. So, in some ways, my self esteem is tied to exercise and my weight. But that's just one small part of the equation of why I do what I do and why it's on my mind enough that I'm writing about it.

Much more important is the fact that I enjoy moving my body (i.e. exercising). Even at my heaviest I hiked with the dogs and did other active things because it's one of the things I like doing with my time. It feels good to work your muscles at the end of the day; instead of holding in the stress and frustration you work it out. Pushing yourself hard, like lifting weights or doing an interval workout, is a great way to get out anger, while a long, steady endurance workout is a great way to unwind. It becomes almost meditative. In fact, my favorite alone-time, when I do my best thinking, is during a good run (it's also good for pre-writing blog posts). A runner's high is awesome. And it sucks to get there, but it feels great to be in shape. Not only do you feel good about yourself, but you feel fit and strong and capable. My dad is a cross country & track coach and I grew up running with him, so it's always been a favorite exercise. I also grew up in the water--could swim before I could walk, in fact--and did swim team through high school. And while I didn't compete, growing up in small towns allowed me to live on my bike as my main form of transportation. So, yeah, I know it can become an unhealthy obsession if I let it, but triathloning is a natural fit for me because I enjoy all three activities. It's something I do for fun, and I almost always look forward to my workout each day.

But no matter how fit you are, being heavier than you should limits how good you can feel. Carrying 230 pounds 5 miles is harder than 175 pounds, and I feel it in my aches and pains after. There's more gray area here because vanity is tied up in any thought about weight loss, but my #1 motivation for working hard right now is weight for health reasons. I'm at an age where my metabolism is slowing down and the aches and pains can start to mount. The longer I keep on the extra weight, the harder it will be to get rid of and the more it will effect my long-term health. I'm not looking to be superhuman, I just don't want to be limited by my body breaking down any earlier than I have to.

So that's why I work out. I guess it is a little self-absorbed. If I took all those hours I spend exercising and volunteered somewhere, maybe I could do more about world peace and things that "really matter." If I really wanted to live what I believe, in fact, I would be living and working in an impoverished area or disadvantaged country spending all of my time helping those who have not been as lucky in life as I have. But I'm not. Instead I choose to live my life somewhat selfishly, and triathlons are something I do for myself instead of helping others. I don't quite know what all of that means, but that's where I am right now.

Monday, January 23, 2006

A Typical Night of D&D

Just in case you haven't run across this short video in the past, Gobula has provided a handy link. The one titled "So is this pretty much how it goes?" will give all of you non-gamers an idea of what we all do when we get together for a night of D&D.

More from Alaska

Apparently I'm not the only one who enjoyed Looking for Alaska. Today it won the Printz Award for best young adult book published in 2005.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

1 Disc Down, Only 19 to Go

OK, so I haven't spent a huge amount of time listening to Moby Dick yet, but I'm getting there. I'm far enough along now that I'm hooked and want to keep going. And just so you don't find me completely uncharitable toward Ishmael and his musings, I found these two thoughts from “Breakfast” (chapter 5) especially agreeable:

"However, a good laugh is a mighty good thing, and rather too scarce a good thing; the more’s the pity. So, if any one man, in his own proper person, afford stuff for a good joke to anybody, let him not be backward, but let him cheerfully allow himself to spend and be spent in that way. And the man that has anything bountifully laughable about him, be sure there is more in that man than you perhaps think for."


"They say that men who have seen the world, thereby become quite at ease in manner, quite self-possessed in company."

I think the second thought is a particularly true observation, considering that I'm an introvert and envious of those who are at ease and self-possessed in company.

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Early morning dog walking, get Saturday's mail which has just been sitting there neglected and forlorn, and... I quote:

"Dear [Hadrian], It is my great pleasure to inform you that you have been accepted for admission to the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law in the fall of 2006."

It goes on a bit from there, but I think you get the gist of it. Now I just have to worry about how the hell I'm going to pay for it. On the brightside, I just saved a bundle in application fees for other law schools, and I can cross off of Sunday afternoon's to-do-list item number 1) fill out UMKC, KU applications. Day off to an early good start.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

A Boggy, Soggy, Squitchy Picture and Dialogue

Chapter 3 of Moby Dick is much more to my liking because the story shifts from an internal focus on Ishmael's thoughts to his external interactions. Instead of philosophical ramblings we get some exquisite descriptions of his surroundings (The Spouter-Inn) and conversation with other characters. I'm finally finding things interesting. And maybe once I get to know the character a bit I'll be more forgiving of flowery monologues.

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Another Short Post With A Link

Molly Ivins says exactly what I've been thinking for a long time.

Exercise Addiction

And I was surprised at the immediate surety I had in response to the question about discovering it's a rainy day. When I was running track/cross country in college I did a paper on exercise addiction and realized it applied to me. I had to spend a number of years learning to lighten up (and getting fat) before I considered myself recovered from competition enough to get serious again. I allow myself days off now. And I don't skip lunch to make sure I'm ready for practice at 3:00. Still, I spend a good bit of time thinking about it. My thought process on a typical recent Saturday night:

Next week . . . Big Spin class on Tuesday night, so that will be the big bike ride for the weeknights. Working at the community center Thursday night, so that will be the recovery day. Work at 9 Friday instead of 8, so that gives me time to get a swim in before work since it's hard to motivate Friday night. That's a second day of recovery for the legs, so Wednesday will have to be a good running night. Swim optional that night depending on how I feel. I'll be due for both a run and a bike ride Saturday, so I'll have to see what the schedule allows. Monday I work at noon, so the morning will be for running the dogs. I could also try to swim Monday morning but probably won't get up and around in time, so that means I must swim tomorrow. I also need to ride my bike tomorrow. I work at the community center 2:30-5:15, so it has to be before that. I'll need to get out of the pool around 2 to have time to shower and eat, which means I need to get in the water by 1:15 at the latest. So I need to be on my bike by noon, and 11:30 would be better. That means I should have breakfast between 8 and 9 so I'm not too full but still have enough energy to get through the workouts. So I'll set my alarm for 8:00.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Favorite Songs? No, Not Quite...

I couldn't really pick a favorite song earlier, so I picked a few. But then another, similar question struck me as I was listening to the ole' itunes a few minutes ago. What are the songs that carry the most meaning or sentimental value for you? Not necessarily your favorite songs, but the ones that-- whether you like it or not-- take you back, or inspire you, or remind you of someone of something or a time in your life that has passed you by, or ... whatever.

So here's a (partial) list of mine:

Go West --Liz Phair
Rain King --Counting Crows (okay anything off of August and Everything After, or Recovering the Satellites)
St. Elmo's Fire --John Parr (cheesy I know)
The Freshman --The Verve Pipe
I Will Remember You --Sarah McLachlan
In A Big Country --Big Country
Slide --The Goo Goo Dolls
No One is to Blame --Howard Jones


Well, If Everybody Else Is Doing It...

Why not?

1. What color are your kitchen plates? –-Random
2. What book are you reading now? –-Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman? (for the reading challenge don't you know?)
3. What's your favorite board game? --Trivial Pursuit
4. Favorite magazine? –-Harper's
5. Favorite smell? –-Just one? Fresh baked bread, freshly cut grass, rain, and this one perfume that I don't know the name of
6. Least favorite smell? --Burning rubber
7. What's the first thing you're thinking in the morning? --You've got to be kidding me!
8. When you come out of your house and realize it's raining, what's your first response? –-Love the rain.
9. Favorite color? --Green
10. Least favorite color --Red
11. How many rings before you answer the phone? –-Depends on who is calling.
12. Future children's names? –-Isabel Victoria, Audrey Elizabeth, and, in the unfortunate event of a boy, William Christopher (I think)
13. Favorite alcoholic drink? -–Tetley's Bitter, Good Port, Screwdriver
14. What is your sign and birthday? –-Gemini, 6/5
15. Do you eat the stems of broccoli? --Yep
16. If you could have any job, what would it be? –- Writer, Film Director, Nat'l Geographic Photographer, History Professor, and I could go on--is the indecisiveness apparent yet?
17. If you could have any hair color, what would it be? –-What I've already got, even with the gray.
18. Is the glass half empty or half full? –-Half empty, there's a hole in the bottom and the handle has broken off.
19. Do you like lemonade? --Yes
20. Do you type with the right fingers on the keys? --Yes
21. What's under your bed? –-Nothing, it's right on the floor.
22. What's your favorite number? –-People actually have favorite numbers?
23. What's you single biggest fear? –-Utter abject failure and dying alone. (Who made up these questions? I'm depressing myself.)
24. Favorite song? –-Flora's Secret, With or Without You, the 1812 Overture, and (Don't Go Back to) Rockville.
25. Super Bowl ads, love 'em or hate 'em? --Take 'em or leave 'em.
26. Ketchup or mustard? –-Ketchup is for meatloaf and French fries, period. So, mustard.
27. If people could describe you with one word, what word would you want that to be? --Good
28. Name something as a child you wanted, but never got. --Cable TV.
29. Favorite soft drink? --Coke, formerly Dr. Pepper.
30. Name one good thing you did today. –-I'm not sure I did, which is also depressing.
31. Favorite high school subject? --History, duh.
32. What screen saver is on your computer? –-Starfield, baby!
33. Burger King or McDonalds? –-Both
34. Favorite pet? --"If it's not a dog or a cat, it's not a pet"
35. Vacation--beach or mountains? –-Beach in the mountains. But seriously--London followed by a cottage in the Cotswolds.

And I feel as if maybe I cheated and tried to steer my answers this way, but:

i'm in gryffindor!

be sorted @ nimbo.net

Embracing My Inner Geek, and Great Customer Service

If you've been reading this blog long, or if you know me at all, you know how I feel about working customer service. The fact that I hate customer service as a career path doesn't mean that I don't provide good service while on the job. I dislike my job intensely, but I do pride myself on doing it well as long as I have it. That being said, I also am honestly thrilled when I receive above par customer service from someone else. And this week I received just such service.

On Wednesday I received a book I ordered from Amazon.com. Unfortunately it was far from being in pristine condition. The book had not been manufactured correctly; the cover was not applied correctly and was coming off at the corners, so that I could see the cardboard underneath, and the binding showed all the signs of not lasting very long at all. This was unacceptable. I certainly wouldn't have bought this book in a store (I'm one of those anal book people that looks at every copy on the shelf to make sure he's getting the one in the best possible condition), and I felt that I should hold Amazon to the same high standard. So... I immediately got online after opening the package and went to the customer service page of the Amazon website. A few clicks and a little typing later and I had signalled my intention to return my defective item. I was informed that I would be contacted by e-mail within a few hours vis-a-vis my return.

Less than two hours later I did get an e-mail from Amazon, informing me that an order for a replacement copy had already been processed and that it would be shipped the next day, overnight shipping. The e-mail also pointed out that the return shipping would be free and contained a link to where I could print out a pre-paid postage mailing label for the USPS. This afternoon (Friday) I returned home to find the new copy at my door. That's right I''ve received the replacement copy before I've even sent the first one back. Now that is excellent customer service. My loyalty to Amazon.com is just a little stronger than it was before, and here I am telling other people about it. I'm even thinking of writing an adulatory e-mail to Amazon praising them for some of the best service I've ever gotten. You have to understand, I never do things like that.

And as far as embracing the inner geek goes, yep, it was a Dungeons and Dragons book. I've spent an alarming amount of money lately on the hobby. As I constantly tell my gaming group "I just love buying these books." I fear this means that perhaps I really have given up hope of ever seeing a woman naked again without first paying a cover charge. So sad, but no time to dwell, I'm going to go crack open the Dungeon Master's Guide II, and- don't I have a miniature to paint?

OK, I'll Play

Following the trend of lazy posts--see Veggienerd, Blue Pamphlet, Kelly, and Queequeg's blogs.

1. What color are your kitchen plates? –-Lots of different colors, usually in sets of 2
2. What book are you reading now? –-Bone and Moby Dick
3. What's your favorite board game? --Risk
4. Favorite magazine? –-Entertainment Weekly (I love movie reviews)
5. Favorite smell? –-The Rocky Mountains
6. Least favorite smell? --Coffee
7. What's the first thing you're thinking in the morning? --Ugh
8. When you come out of your house and realize it's raining, what's your first response? –-This might mess up my workout
9. Favorite color? --Lots
10. Least favorite color --Dreary
11. How many rings before you answer the phone? –-1 3/4
12. Future children's names? –-Shade for a girl, Port for a boy
13. Favorite alcoholic drink? -–Amaretto sour
14. What is your sign and birthday? –-Scorpio, 11/16
15. Do you eat the stems of broccoli? --Yep
16. If you could have any job, what would it be? –-Something actively fighting oppression
17. If you could have any hair color, what would it be? –-Eh; black for a change?
18. Is the glass half empty or half full? –-Depends on my mood
19. Do you like lemonade? --Yes
20. Do you type with the right fingers on the keys? --Yes
21. What's under your bed? –-Clothes and sometimes a dog
22. What's your favorite number? –-23 (halfway between 14 & 16 on the roulette wheel)
23. What's you single biggest fear? –-Don’t know if I have one, but the idea of paralysis makes me shudder anymore
24. Favorite song? –-Too many good ones
25. Super Bowl ads, love 'em or hate 'em? --Good
26. Ketchup or mustard? –-Mustard is awesome
27. If people could describe you with one word, what word would you want that to be? --Compassionate
28. Name something as a child you wanted, but never got. --??
29. Favorite soft drink? --Mt. Dew
30. Name one good thing you did today. –-Visited friends
31. Favorite high school subject? --Physics
32. What screen saver is on your computer? –-The standard ones
33. Burger King or McDonalds? –-Taco Bell
34. Favorite pet? --All of them
35. Vacation--beach or mountains? –-Mountains, mountains, mountains

i'm in gryffindor!

be sorted @ nimbo.net

I Would Have Fallen for Alaska Too

A while back on her Be a Librarian blog, Kelly wrote about Looking for Alaska by John Green. She recognized it as a good book, but said it didn't really do it for her. On the other hand, I just finished reading the book last night and it really worked for me (unlike, say, Moby Dick). Heck, it's what I voted for at the Mock Printz even though I was only 40 pages into it at the time (of course, the other ones I'd read had already been eliminated, but I liked it from the first page). On a surface level, I have very little in common with Pudge, the 16-year-old main character. I didn't go to boarding school in Alabama, I've never had an obsession with last words, I didn't smoke and drink in high school, I didn't run around with a group of prankster friends, etc. But at a deeper level, I really related to and identified with this character. I felt what he was going through and got emotionally involved. He never gave a particularly flattering description of Alaska, for instance, but I knew he was falling for her before he did because I was too when seeing her through his eyes. Heck, I even got sympathetically horny with him and his yearning because it made me remember what it was like to be 16 and awkward and hopeful. And I don't think it is just me, because a lot of people are talking about it as one of the best books of the year and voting for it at their Mock Printz discussions. There's nothing flashy or unusual about the story, but it's very effectively written.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Can You Say "Overkill?"

There seems to be a movement afoot to read Moby Dick, so I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon. I listened to the first chapter this morning on the way to work. This probably won't endear me with my fellow readers, but my first impression of the book is, This guy needs to take a writing class. When I arrived at work and thumbed through what I'd just listened to, I couldn't believe it was only a few pages. He went on--literally when listening--for ten minutes extolling the virtues of water. It was like some rhetorical argument crossed with flowery language. Way too much detail and description in general. One of the most important lessons for a writer--both from what I've been taught in writing classes and what I appreciate as a reader--is "show, don't tell." If water is so great, let the action convince us of it instead of your pretty words; let us experience it instead of hear about it. So my first reaction to Moby Dick is slight annoyance. I hope to have something deeper to share before long.

Besides that, I've always thought it has a great opening line: "Call me Ishmael." It's simple and short and foreboding. I also liked this little passage: "For my part, I abominate all honorable respectable toils, trials, and tribulations of every kind whatsoever." I think that's a sentiment everyone can relate to.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Anansi Tales

Fat Charlie Nancy wasn't too fond of his dad, whom he hadn't kept in touch with very well. Probably because most of his memories of the man involve Mr. Nancy embarrassing Charlie. And giving him the name "Fat Charlie," which has stuck even though he hasn't been overweight for 20 years. But when Mr. Nancy dies of a heart attack on a karaoke stage, Charlie begins to see his dad in a whole new light. He learns that his dad was actually Anansi, the trickster god. Suddenly a brother Charlie never knew about shows up and his life starts to fall apart.

I just finished listening to Anansi Boys, the latest book by my favorite storyteller, Neil Gaiman. It's a fun tale of a sympathetic character and traditional myth in the modern world. This probably comes as no surprise, but I highly recommend it. It was a good one to listen to, too; the main character is a Black Englishman and to read it they found . . . a Black Englishman, Lenny Henry, who not only does Charlie well, but also his American brother and a host of Caribbean and African voices/accents.

That recommendation shared, even though all of the reviews I have seen compare this favorably to American Gods, I think I have to disagree. This one is tighter and more evenly paced, but I prefer American Gods exactly because of its sprawling . . . American-ness. I especially enjoyed Gaiman's perspective on the States as someone who has adopted the country and culture. I appreciated it through fresh eyes. It's a longer, more convoluted journey with many detours, but American Gods remains my favorite Neil Gaiman book.

One other note for my D&D group: a number of the descriptions of Charlie's father and brother describe well what I have in mind when role-playing Degolar. I can't go back and look them up right now since all I have is the CD audio, but when my turn comes for the book I'll share them with you.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Back To It... With A Twist.

After a lengthy hiatus, due mainly to the holidays, our D&D group finally got back to our campaign last night. Personally, I had a hell of a time. We didn't engage in any combat, but did a lot of role-playing and strategizing. Our group is not a strictly hack and slash one, so an evening spent without a single combat encounter is not that big of a deal (not that we want to do without it completely, after all, it is an adventure game...). Anyway, it was good to be back to it, and it was a lot of fun. The DM presented us with custom-made maps of the city of Verbobonc which were muy cool, and a huge twist in the game.

Namely, a side quest... with different characters. He wasn't sure how we would take it, but it was well received. I for one, got a big grin on my face when it dawned on me exactly what he was planning. I thought it was a very cool and innovative idea that will provide a nice refreshing break from the main narrative of the game. I still very much like the characters we've created in our main campaign, and the incredibly in-depth storylines, interactions, and characterizations that have developed over the course of two years of gaming, but it has been two years with the same characters and the chance to develop new ones is going to be fun for a change. So, kudos to the DM and Mrs. DM (aka Mia the Dragonslayer) for the idea.

I've already got a character well in the works since I couldn't sleep once I got home (thanks to the copious amounts of caffeine consumed during the game) and was up until almost five in the a.m. I'm pretty excited about this new character whom I've already created with, what I think of as at least, a kick-ass backstory, very different from my current and future character. (Okay, just how awkward was that last sentence?) So, I look forward to seeing the new characters and how they differ from the ones everyone is playing at the moment.

And the big bonus is I've already got a miniature that is perfect for this new character-- and I might even have it painted before the next game!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Light Conversation

Today's at-work-light-conversation went thusly: from cigars, to throat cancer to Ulysses S. Grant and alcoholism, to nineteenth century medical technology to when was the best time to be a white American (since it's never been good to be a black American)to the question of which ethnic group or nationality has been the most screwed over the course of history, to the final and long considered question of which ethnic group or nationality has done the most screwing (the metaphorical bad kind) over the course of history. Here then are some of the points brought up in consideration of this topic.

1.) The Good Ole U.S. of A.: While we don't exactly have a clean record on this account I (unlike many on the Left of the political spectrum-- think Ward Churchill) don't think we deserve any special award for going above and beyond on the evil bastard scale. (And here a caveat-- while we're certainly not the font of all evil, neither are we the do no wrong, purely innocent chosen people of God that many on the Right would have you believe). Of course, there is slavery, the virtual extermination of the Native Americans and their culture, foreign military adventures on behalf of corporations, and the support of autocratic (to put it kindly) regimes the world over, but in the final analysis, we still don't make the ranks of the very worst of the worst. Though, check back in a few years, because lately, we've been working overtime.

2.) China: Cultural Revolution anyone? Remember, good oppression begins at home, and the Chinese Communist Party are world class oppressors. Millions dead from starvation and government violence over the course of just a few short years. Also, let us not forget Tibet, Tianmen Square, and all that support for North Korea over the years.

3.) Russia: The Russians may actually get my vote. From the czarist expansion into Central Asia, to Stalin's purges, the horrors of collectivization and the brutal occupation and oppression of Eastern Europe after World War II, the Russians have really set the bar high when it comes to being bastards. But, lest we forget...

4.) Germany: Really, do I need to go into detail on this one? The evils of Nazism are so burned into our popular conciousness that to say anything else is to really belabor the point. While the Holocaust does deserve special attention for a variety of factors (it's cold-blooded industrial nature for one), it is also important to remember that genocide is not the exclusive province of Germany. Just ask an Armenian.

5.) The British: Colonialism anyone? If the natives get a little unruly strap a few to the muzzle of a cannon and fire away-- that'll show the buggers. And remember, before there was a USA the Atlantic slave trade was in full gear, shipping human beings to plantations all across the Caribbean and the Southern colonies. (It should also be noted that most of this can also be said for the Dutch, the Portugese, the French, and every other imperial wannabe in Europe.)

6.) Spain: Nobody does religious intolerance like the Spanish. Woe to the Jew or Muslim left in Iberia after 1492. Moving right along to the Inquisition, the brutal conquest of Latin America (which is what made it Latin America), to the triumph of fascism in the ugly Spanish Civil War, well,... you get the picture.

7.) Belgium: Yes, Belgium. Though a true small-fry in the worldwide game of conquest and oppression, the Belgians deserve special mention for the utter destruction they wrought on a single country: Zaire, or as it was at the time, the Belgian Congo. Nasty, nasty stuff.

8.)Japan: The Rape of Nanking. Comfort Women. Babies + Bayonets = Japanese soldiers out for a night on the town. Racism that would make an Alabama Republican take notice.

And this list could go on and on and on. But what's the point? Maybe that we're all just a bunch of bastards. Of course, this is just a discussion of the crappy, evil side of history and doesn't take into account all of the good things each of these cultures has done for humanity. But I don't have the time to go into any more detail, so there it is. Your bit of cheeriness for today.

note: this post was actually started about a week ago, but I just didn't have time to get back to it.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Vindication: Or, You're Gonna Love This One, Hadrian

I don't think I'll write an introduction because I expect the comments to provide plenty of commentary. It's even from the BBC.

Librarians "Suffer Most Stress"

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


So, I was thinking about creating a new website, but I have no idea how I would go about it, so I decided to do some research. Creating the site should be no problem. Content should be okay. I'm just worried about the security and how to order the content (through a database and all) and whether or not it is a feasible idea.

Basically, I want to start a site for aspiring authors to put their works in progress on. These works can then be read, edited by their piers, and so forth, so that they can get their works 1. seen and 2. off the ground and running so that they have a better chance of being published in the future. The basic plan is to get a few authors to submit their work, read over it, edit it, make suggestions, and then have the other authors on the site do the same. Basically I want to form a compendium of authors that work together to better themselves as authors and help one another out when needed.

What do you all think? And I want your honest opinions.

Monday, January 09, 2006

I'm a Bike Whore

Four-and-a-half bikes in two years.

When the wife decided a couple of years ago to challenge herself to become a triathlete and I thought it sounded fun to join her, we only had cheap, old bikes. Neither were road bikes, the fast kind with the thin tires you see racers (and triathletes) ride. After checking some of the bike shops in town, we ended up getting discounted entry level rides on eBay. They worked well enough, but we could tell they didn't stack up too well against the competition. Cycling/triathloning is not a poor person's sport, and it was obvious many of the athletes had invested thousands in the activity (you can buy one like Lance Armstrong rides for $5-10,000).

At the end ot that first season. We decided I had earned an upgrade. Bargain hunter that she is, she found me a lightly used Cannondale for one-third the retail on eBay. This was a quality triathlon bike with an aggressive, aerodynamic riding position and everything. I rode it all fall, but messed up the frame in my big wreck.

When I finally got to the point where I was ready to ride again, I resigned myself to going back to the first bike. She came through for me again, though, finding another high dollar bike at a great price. It was a barely used Kelly cyclocross bike. Cyclocross is the cross country of cycling--off-road, but not rocky, mountain biking--but this one is so light and nice it's as fast as all but the best road bikes. I swapped out the big, green, knobby tires for some thinner road ones & this has been my main bike since.

Except she decided to suprise me again for our anniversary in August. She secretly found a Cannondale frame on eBay a year older than my other but the same model. She paid a friend to move all the components from the other one over and I had my triathlon bike back. I used it for my last race of the year (very fast) and have been saving it for other competitions.

But were two high quality, expensive bikes enough for me? No. I hinted around and my parents and brother chipped in to get me a more recreational ride for Christmas. I broke down and got this one new at the Trek store. It doesn't compare to the others, but the upright positioning allows for better social riding and sight-seeing. It has smaller wheels, better handling, and terrain flexibility. It's for fun riding, not serious, and I'm looking forward to putting some miles on it.

Spouse also bought herself a nice, new Trek road bike for this past season and sold both of our beginner bikes of the summer, so I only have three bikes right now. I'm going to hope that's enough to keep me happy for a while.

Those Damn Terrorist Professors

Another KU professor has made the news, but this time he didn't really do anything to deserve it:

"The Progressive reports that Grant Goodman, an 81-year-old professor emeritus of Asian history at the University of Kansas, writes regularly to his colleague, a former professor history at the University of the Philippines. Last month, Goodman received from his friend a letter that had already been "Opened by Border Protection," and which displayed the seal of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security."

"Goodman, who was very upset by the government's opening his private correspondence, was also surprised by the crudeness of the letter-opening. The letter had been slashed open and then secured with heavy green tape. Unlike other prying government agencies, Homeland Security wants you to know it is watching you."

Always Looking Out for the Little Guy

It's not just the president, you know. In the weekly updates I get from Sojourners, I spent November and December reading about the protests they were staging about the outside of Congress. They were worried the budget being passed would hurt the poor. They were right. Part of a short update from Mother Jones:

"Republicans intentionally designed the bill so that states would fail and hence be forced to pay fines to the federal government, which would in turn make it look like they were "trimming" the federal deficit. Clever trick, and the only downside is that, as the non-partisan CBO noted, "the number of children in deep poverty is likely to rise." But that's nothing to get too worked up about, no doubt.

"And finally, the Center notes that the budget deficit isn't really going to get any smaller after these cuts, because Congress also allowed two new tax cuts for high-income families to begin taking effect in January 2006. How skewed are these new cuts towards the upper brackets? The chart in the middle of this report is particularly telling: workers making $100,000 to $200,000 will receive an average tax cut of $25. Enough for a movie and popcorn, almost. Workers making $75,000 to $100,000 get a whole buck, on average. On the other hand, those Americans making over $1 million will receive an average tax cut of $19,234, so it's not all bad."

Friday, January 06, 2006

A poem for a certain phone/dsl company that rhymes with Ess Bee See

by Lummox Fairheart

Oh the pain I suffer each day
As I sit and throw good money away.
I send the checks out in the mail
And call them up to no avail.

No help they send to ease my ills
While here I sit crying in nowheresville
They seem to laugh and mock and chide
That I've been taken for a ride.

All I want is relief from their scorn,
And have service so I may look up... data.
They say they can fix it and that I'm in luck
"By the way that will cost you 60 bucks."

The pain. The tears. The wasted time.
While they basically say "Hey, go suck a lime."
You are rotten and horrid you puddle of wee.
I hate you and your service, fowl Ess Bee See.

*shaking my fist for emphasis*

This You Will NOT Want To Miss.

Despite my advanced age, every day I get just a little more tech savvy. (And no, that doesn't mean you'll be seeing anything innovative in site design here anytime soon, though Degolar and I have discussed a little revamping...) Today I downloaded my first pod cast. And my second, and third, and, well, you get the picture. (I will pause at this moment to express my profound wish for an ipod of my very own. My brother recently got a 60gb video ipod, and I am extremely jealous). Thank you itunes.

And for those of you who love a good pod cast, and love Brit-coms, hold thy breath no more:

Ricky Gervais has his own podcast.

Dig--dig everywhere

Tony V is part of a demolition crew cleaning up after the war when he unearths a water cannister. Inside is a diary wrapped up in paper with the message to dig everywhere written on it. Although keeping contraband is against the rules and regulations, he begins secretly reading about Pelly D. He gradually comes to learn about life before the war and its many consequences.

The Diary of Pelly D is an engaging young adult science fiction book told with two authentic teen voices. It's a book of discovery as you gradually learn about their intended utopian "home away from home" where things like war have supposedly been left behind, encountering issues of racism and classism, genetic improvements and genocide, and the individual freedoms that can be sacrificed for the sake of the "greater good."

(Just as important as the review, though, is the image. It's my response to the person who said my outfit is garish. See, I'm not the only one who thinks orange and green is a cool color combination. :-)

A Milestone, Of Sorts....

A milestone. We've passed the hundred post mark here at CG. Which only shows you that we are four of the most unmotivated bloggers on the planet. Six months and only a hundred posts? From four people? Slackers. (Of course, two of our contributors have persistent connection problems so....) Maybe, just may be, we'll get better.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

I'm Controlling You

By reading this, you have given me brief control of your mind.

(A nice little truism from a t-shirt I found this weekend and am wearing right now.)

That's All in the Past

Had a workshop today on a new national library initiative called Every Child Ready to Read @ Your Library. It's based on research about early literacy, brain development, and how kids learn to read. The experts found that traditional library storytimes are not having a significant impact on literacy. The most important thing storytimes can do, however, is teach parents and caregivers to spend time reading to their children. And teach them how to optimize that reading to develop phonological awareness, letter knowledge, and four other skills necessary to learn to read. Whether those skills are present upon entry to school or not is one of the strongest indicators of life-long academic success: knowledge of alphabet letters at entry into kindergarten is a strong predictor of reading ability in 10th grade and there is nearly a 90% probability that a child will remain a poor reader at the end of the fourth grade if the child is a poor reader at the end of the first grade. If kids start school lacking these pre-literacy skills, they are going to have a hard time learning to read at the pace of their peers. Once they fall behind, they have a hard time catching up. So one of the strongest factors in determining a child's success or failure is if he or she gets regular reading practice before school ever starts. Thus the program's emphasis on teaching parents to imitate on a daily basis what they see at weekly storytimes at the library.

One of the other things they tried to determine through the research is who is most in need of the extra help. They found a strong connection between the education and income levels of the parents and the amount of early literacy exposure of the children. In general, the less educated the parents, the less reading going on in the household and the less likely the kids are to learn to read well. The worse their reading, the less likely they are to get a good education and less likely they are to have a good income as an adult. Then they have children and the cycle continues. Hearing this made me think of another article I read recently about different studies. This one looks at African Americans and the ongoing impact of slavery. One of the ways owners controlled their slaves was through illiteracy; they were often punished for trying to learn to read and were deliberatley kept illiterate. If you trace bloodlines back from today's educated, middle and upper class African Americans, you'll find that the majority are descendents of Blacks who were free or who secretly learned to read as slaves. As with the findings of the library study, the cycle of illiteracy that began with slavery continues to effect the reading levels and socioeconomic success of African Americans today.

A Quickie

No time to write, but annoyance is making me sit here anyway. I'm having a thought with the TV news on in the background as I get ready for work this morning. They only do two things when covering a tragedy/disaster (in this case the mine collapse in West Virginia): interview people who are grieving and interview people in an effort to establish blame. The poor people who have lost loved ones, their livelihood, or such are suffering enough. Leave them alone; don't make them go on national TV when they are hurting and at their lowest. And there's not always someone to blame when bad things happen. Sometimes that's just the way it is. But even if it is someone's fault in some way, the media shouldn't be stirring up a mob mentality, leading the finger pointing charge. Yet that's all they seem to do. And we wonder why we have such a litigious society . . .

Monday, January 02, 2006

Wasting Time That Would Be Better Spent Filling Out Law School Applications Or Doing Something Else Productive Instead Of Watching And Blogging About

... Humourous And Creative Videos Found On The Internet, 2006 Edition.

Well we'll all familiar with the classic song by Australian band TISM, even if we didn't realize the song was by an Australian band called TISM, but what we didn't know was that the video was the result of a competition the band held. Here are the runners-up.

And here are some more classic videos collected in one place for your enjoyment.


It was already a week overdue, but I had ten days of vacation (including the weekends) and figured I could get it read. Instead I got busy cleaning the house and such, and never got in a reading mood. I'm a few chapters in, but now I have to return A Feast for Crows relatively unread. I'll get on the list for it again later, but now I have to get caught up on the books for the Mock Printz, our next fantasy book discussion group selection, and other things for the librarians reading challenge.

Definitions from 2005

A few new definitions from the KC Star's Rhonda Chriss Lokeman:

Bushofascism n., a political condition that sets in when a democratically elected U.S. president suppresses opposition and dissent, attacks the press, uses the military as a personal army, engages in preemptive military strikes and disregards civil liberties and human rights (see autocracy).

commander in chief n., the supreme commander of the armed forces of a nation; not the same as king (see Geena Davis).

Darwinism n., adherence to the theory of evolution as taught by naturalist Charles Robert Darwin; a form of satanic ritualism in Kansas (see intelligent design).

double Rs n., slang for religious right (see theocracy).

executive privilege n., whatever George and Dick want, George and Dick get.

Geneva Convention n., an international agreement signed in Geneva in 1864, establishing a code, later revised, for the care and treatment in wartime of the sick, wounded and dead, and of prisoners of war, including protection of civilians and of hospitals; declared null and void in the war on terror.