Monday, December 31, 2007

Don't Forget My Old Aquaintance!

Ah, a new year...

A year of me looking back and saying "Wow, 1998 was ten years ago!"

A month of me instinctively writing "07" on my dates, followed by furious scratching and rewriting...

A few weeks of seeing commercials joking about people making resolutions, when I rarely see anyone making resolutions in the real world...

A day of seeing the Rose Parade on every channel, all the time...

And two minutes before I go to bed...


Leader of the Bunned

Here's something interesting I noticed at my local Carl's Jr. for anyone who's interested in...well, not taking in an exorbitant amount of calories when going out, I suppose.

I looked at two different items on their big "Nutritional Content" sign on the wall of the place. The first was the "Original Six Dollar Burger" which has the following ingredients:
-Charbroiled 100% Angus Beef Patty
-Two Slices of American Cheese
-Two Slices of Tomato
-Red Onions
-Sesame Seed Bun

Now, the second item I looked at is the "Low Carb Six Dollar Burger." Ingredients!
-Charbroiled 100% Angus Beef Patty
-Two Slices of American Cheese
-Two Slices of Tomato
-Red Onions

Now, as a keen mind will notice, these items are exactly the same, with the small exception of the latter item having no sesame seed bun (it's wrapped in lettuce). So, anyhoo, when you compare the nutritional facts about these two items, you get...well, let me show you:

Wow. Keep in mind, these items are identical with the exception of the bun. So, let's see what that bun adds:
-520 calories
-270 calories from fat
-31 grams of fat
-12 grams of saturated fat
-20 mg of cholesterol
-690 mg of sodium
-54 grams of carbohydrates (well, that one was kind of a given)
-A gram of dietary fiber
-14 grams of sugar
-7 grams of protein

That's a lot of numbers, but the thing that stuck out to me was the fact that the bun alone comprises more than half of the calories of the entire burger. That was a total surprise to me.

I really don't like the name of the Low Carb burger, because it makes it sound like the low carb diet is a good one. I would have preferred a name like they have at In-N-Out ("Protein Burger"); however, I suppose if there is a bandwagon present, people will be tying their Air Jordans. In any event, I'm not endorsing a low carb diet (I likes mah toast n' biskits!), but think about it; if you're buying a burger for, y'know, the inside, it may not be such a bad idea - for you paunch's sake - to get a different outside.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Delusions of Grandeur

(I haven't had a god rant in a while, have I? Let's change that!)

You know, ever since I've been home from Berkeley, I've been watching a lot more TV than I usually do. (Of course, when your normal TV consumption amount is zero, that's a pretty easy feat.) Truth be told, though, I'm usually doing something else when the TV is on, like reading a book, using my laptop, or hard-boiling eggs for my special "Salsa Huevos" recipe (hard-boil as many eggs as you want, throw the yolks away, chop up the egg whites into little pieces, and mix with salsa. Serve warm or chilled. Tasty and nutritious!)

Now, I was partaking in the latter activity when my father and sister were watching the Disney Channel (uh-oh!) original movie High School Musical 2: The Sing Along. Now, my father insisted that they were watching because it's such a horrible movie (which, in all honesty, is a fairly believable answer, as my dad, like myself and old roommate/THE_BOLSHEVIK co-star Kris, really likes bad movies [such as the infamous Troll 2, which I wholeheartedly recommend]). Still, High School Musical - the "most successful Disney Channel Original Movie of all time - is in a league of its own. I once tried watching it with a co-worker, and literally could not sit through more than 20 minutes without needing to breathe into a paper bag.

"Now Andrew, what problem do you have with this movie? It's a simple made-for-TV movie starring college-aged kids playing high school-aged kids in order to entertain elementary school-aged kids."

Well, I'll tell you what problem I have with it!

First, look at this poster.

...Good. Gravy.

First of all, could we get any more PC? We have a perfect gender makeup (50% of each), and an almost-complete ethnic makeup (two white guys, a white girl, a black girl, a...Dominican guy, and what looks to be a Chicano girl. They should have replaced the middle guy with a Korean or something). The only thing that doesn't seem to be politically correct is that all the male characters appear to be unbelievably gay. Take that, religious right!

Second, what the hell are they doing? Jumping in unison while smiling really creepily? That is so 1992!

Okay, second of all, people have long criticized the Disney cartoons of the (second, and better) Golden Age of Animation for having characters that spontaneously break out into song and dance. Oh, never mind that there are mermaids, talking animals galore, genies, and the like; that choreography is totally unrealistic. Now, I looked through as many reviews as I could for this movie, and found zero that mention this fact. Talk about double standards! This movie is set in the modern world, has live action, and (to the best of my knowledge) no talking animals, yet at the drop of a proverbial hat, everyone will stop what they're doing and do the hully-gully.

"You know, I just know this song and dance number is just going to break down into some sort of unholy orgy."
~Andrew Schnorr on High School Musical

Now, my main beef with the movie, and all modern non-pirate Disney movies in general. The lesson appears to be the following:
Not only can your dreams come true, but they will. Without fail.

Seriously, watch any Disney Channel/ABC Family movie/TV show and I could guarantee that every single one will end up with the protagonists getting everything they wanted from the beginning, with no actual sacrifice (that lasts, at least). What does that teach our kids? I'll tell you what it doesn't teach: reality.

Really, what needs to happen in High School Musical 3 is the following: the main character (according to Wikipedia, "Troy") gets rejected to all colleges but one: UC Merced. He decides to go to a community college instead, and in doing so, loses all his scholarships. While there, he hangs out with the wrong crowd, gets hooked on cocaine, and loses all his friends. The poster is exactly the same as the one above, except Troy is on the ground, dealing with a nosebleed. The tagline: "We don't even know who you are anymore." Everyone else can succeed, but only because they got rid of that baggage. See? A valuable lesson. We need more and more Disney movies that teach the importance of:

Mix that in with their usual tripe and you got yourself a real preparatory experience. In fact, when I take over Iger's position, the company's slogan will be changed to "Some children won't make it. Not all dreams come true." With this new, edgier angle, power by strong sales to the emo market, the Disney stock is sure to skyrocket.

So, anyway, mix up some Salsa Huevos and think about this the next time you're watching a Disney Channel Original Movie.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Why "O" Why?

Okay, I've figured out the one reason why anyone should use the Opera web browser: when, for some reason, your computer completely b0rks and you lose all your Firefox capabilities and even when you try uninstalling and reinstalling, you just can't get Firefox to work.

In that case...yes, it is okay to use Opera.

God help us all.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The V8 Chronicles: Epilogue

You know, there's a reason I usually don't give previews to future posts. I like to write things down at my own pace. I need to be free, man, like the wind.

So anyway, don't expect me to give a little teaser at the end of any posts in the near future. It's tricky enough to know when I'll have a chance to sit down and write something, much less something planned.

In any event, the V8 blob! What ever happened to it? Did I end up filing a lawsuit? Did I actually eat it (y'know, for kicks)? Well, whatever I did, I didn't have much time for it. As you may know, I was keeping the blob in my freezer, to deal with at a later time. The problem therein, though, is that I had to go home for winter break. I sure as hell wasn't going to bring that blob home with me. Why, then, didn't I leave it in Berkeley? Well, unfortunately for me, the power to the room is shut off during the winter, meaning that our little friend would no longer be frozen. He would be thawed, growing...and angry.

So, once December began, I knew I needed to get my move on. So, I scheduled an appointment with the campus attorney, just for a little consultation.

Now, the attorney was in no way a personal injury lawyer, but he was still immensely helpful. He gave me pamphlets, old cases, and phone numbers to some local P.I.L.s in Berkeley.

I won't go into the nitty-gritty, but here's the takeaway point: I'm not going to be taking any sort of legal action. Here's why:
1. There are three basic divisions of civil court. There's small claims court, which covers amounts up to $2,500. There' claims court(?) which goes up to, I believe, $25,000. Then there's the big league, which covers everything above that point.
2. According to the campus attorney, based on what I had said, this would most likely be a case for small claims court. He said it may be able to make it to the middle tier (he really thought my pictures were disgusting). However, one of the advantages of small claims court is that no lawyers are involved; just the plaintiff and defendant. If I tried middle claims court, Campbell's would send in their lawyers, and, well, that would be the end of me.
3. So the most I can realistically get out of this is $2,500. A far cry of my pipe dreams of them shoveling $100,000 under the table to my coffers, but a tidy sum nonetheless.
4. However, many of the things you can sue for in small claims court, to a claim like this, I couldn't, because it usually involves specific dollar amounts. Examples:
4a. Lost income from not showing up to work due to sickness. Being a student (and an RA, whose only income is room and board), I didn't lose any money. Hell, I didn't even miss an hour of school (well, I did, but for unrelated reasons).
4b. Medical costs. I went into the doctor's office a couple weeks after the incident, but it was for a dry skin-related issue. And even though they gave me a full checkup (as they are wont to do), it didn't cost me a dime (thanks to the student health insurance plan).
4c. Pain and suffering. According to my little pamphlet, pain and suffering costs are usually "5 times your medical bill." Well, as any 4th Grader can tell you, $0 x 5 = $0. Now, I could still put a number figure up for this, but it wouldn't be anymore than, say $500 (and even that is pretty generous).

So, I can sue Campbell's for a maximum of $500. However, my case would be pretty weak, as I didn't see a doctor the next day, etc. Truth be told, it would be an uphill battle. Yes, the pictures were gross, and the actual object would be even more gross, but I'd have to do a lot of preparation and research, I wouldn't be able to get anything done until January, and there would still be the blob proper to worry about until that time.

In the end, I figured some things aren't worth it. Suing Campbell's would just be too much effort for too little gain, and that's if I gained anything at all (which was a real issue). So, I just decided to drop the issue, mail in the blob to Campbell's (along with a stern note), and forget the whole thing.

...You wanna know a secret? When I first found the blob and dumped out all my V8, the first thing I did was throw it away. I was willing to write a tongue-in-cheek post about it and be done with it (my better judgement soon took over and I put it in the freezer).

One of my coworkers said to me, "You know, you're the perfect person for this to happen to for Campbell's, because you're the only person I know whose first instinct wouldn't be to sue." This is true. I was raised in a very non-litigious (and therefor un-American) household. Hence, I don't feel suing is the right course of action. Add to that my college persona of "not-being-phased-by-anything-or-at-least-not-showing-it" and you got yourself a cool consumer. The only reason I looked at legal action at all was because everyone told me to, and if I missed out on some huge cash settlement...well, I don't want to look like a sucker, do I?

So, here's to you, V8 blob! We had a good run, but now the saga has ended. I'm not sure how many people I've turned off to the stuff, but I'll tell you one thing: I'm only using those $9 worth of coupons on Goldfish!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

In the Spirit of the Day

Just a little note:

Merry Christmas, everbody!

May the blessings of the season be upon you all!

"Andrew, didn't you say you were going to wrap up that whole V8 issue in the last couple days?"

Well, uh, I did, didn't I? Well, y'know, things have kinda come up and- HEY, LOOK OVER THERE!

*Runs away.*

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Lobotmist's Dream All-Purpose Holiday Cards!

Well, I'm all done with finals. My last little piece was an essay for my "Politics of Music" class. The essay is complete trash, but I'm taking the course Pass/No-Pass, and at this point, I could get a big red F on the essay and it wouldn't make a difference.

(Quick aside: Do teachers really make F's as large and visible as possible on their students' papers and tests? That's how I've always seen it portrayed, and it really doesn't seem tactful or tasteful.)

Anyhoo, I could have put more effort into the essay, but I was preoccupied. I spent literally a day and some change on being a nice guy.

Wait, what's that?

Yes, during the majority of the calendar year, I am a stone-hearted, anti-humbuggery stodge-podge. However, I usually find myself to be a little it kinder to my fellow man for a little bit each year. But usually this only consists of me giving a smile and a friendly hello instead of my customary fork-in-the-eye.

Not this year! No, this year, I decided I wanted to do something extensive. Like give a little holiday greeting note to each of my coworkers, coupled with a Hershey's chocolate bar (provided by my traditional meal point surplus). However, I don't give just any old notes to my coworkers.

No, no, no. You see, I have a reputation of giving people drawings instead of notes. Random drawings. Simplistic, almost childlike drawings with the equally-childlike act of having an expository description with an arrow pointing to the drawing. What's not childlike about them is the fact that they are either completely random or actually portray a someone morbid/downer scene. I got this reputation some time during the beginning of the year (I don't exactly remember what the circumstances were), but it's one I kinda like. So, I decided to give everyone a unique holiday card with one of my special drawings.

However, here's the problem: I have 30 co-workers (actually, just 29, but 30 sounds more impressive). I had to come up with 30 random things. And not just random like "a chair" or "a Twizzler." No, these are supposed to be off-the-wall, out-of-the-box, and down-town things. Now, it's easy to think of one ("a piano skydiving" - see?), and you can come up with several with little difficulty. By 10, you're starting to feel the strain. By 20, you are banging you head against the wall. And those last couple make you want to chew the skin off your knuckles. It's really amazing how difficult it can be (especially when you're limited on artistic resources).

However, after a day and a half, I was able to make it through all of them, and I added the corniest notes you could think of and put in some chocolate bars, slipped them in envelopes with names fancily written on, and sealed them with my official seal, and put them in our staff mailboxes. So that's that.

But that's NOT that! I wanted to continue my nice streak, so I'm gonna!

I've included all of my holiday cards here for your pleasure. Feel free to use them in one of four ways:
-As is.
-After erasing my name. As much as I'd like to receive credit for the letters you send, I understand.
-After erasing my note. You may wish to go with something a bit less corny, tacky, and pun-filled.
-After erasing the picture. Now stop and think about why you've wasted both our time.

So, browse through! (NOTE: These are in no particular order. Try to guess which ones are my favorites [guesses go in the comment section]!)

Octopus playing maracas and concertina

Flying hammer brigade

Sun and Snowman: BFFs?

Nearsighted anaconda writing memoirs

Pliny, the Elderly Apple

Rasputin, the Dream-Spewing Hat

Schizophrenic pocket watch at 6:20 (pm)

A pair of overalls participates in the Olympic javelin toss with his parents looking on

Self-loathing demon pickle dog

A street-smart fish taking off his shirt after a hard day of fighting inner city crime

Frog trying out for the cheer squad

Rabbits' boat in the desert

FLAAAAAME thrower robot

Pot gaining self-awareness

Purple centipede-at-arms


A lollipop pondering the mysteries of the universe

Kinda cool turtle playing on his first drum

Teddy bear accused of a crime he *didn't commit* + The *real* criminal

Bowling pin magician that says you've chosen the ace of Spades (he's wrong)

Luke the Flame reconsidering his vacation plans

Tarantula cooking dinner

Two different species of eyeballs falling in love

Golf ball riding a bicycle

Mother grapes watching child go off to college

Students graduating from skeletal school

Crocodile pulling off some sweet moves on the slopes

Jerry the Orange accidentally goes down a slight incline while his friend looks on

Unhappy tree delivery service

Whoo! Good hustle, kids! As a special bonus treat, here are some brainstorming sketches I made (including an unused cotton candy secret agent).

As a special special bonus treat, here is an additional sketch of a mysterious character. If I'm not mistaken, only two of my readers should really be able to correctly guess as to his identity, and only after I give the hint that he's holding a poorly-drawn fish in his hand.

Okay, that's all the nice vibes from me. Begone witcha! But be sure to stay tuned to find out what really happened with the V8 blob (probably in a couple days, after I go back home).

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

THE_BOLSHEVIK in "The Prank War!"

THE_BOLSHEVIK walks up to Kris. He points to Kris' shirt.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Hey Kris, what's that on your shirt?"
Kris: (Looking down) "Huh? Where?"
THE_BOLSHEVIK moves his finger up, hitting Kris' nose.
Kris: "Ow."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: (Schoolgirl giggle) "Heeheehee. You've just been prank'd!"
THE_BOLSHEVIK walks off. Kris stares at THE_BOLSHEVIK with an expressionless face.


Kris is seen typing at a computer. His face is expressionless.



THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Hey, Kris! What's up?"
Kris: "I have a surprise for you. I managed to get you a blind date with an attractive female."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: (Joyous) "Wow, Kris, that's...that's uncharacteristically nice of you."
Kris: "Yeah, well, what can I say? Her name's Natalie. The date's set for tomorrow at seven. Here's her address."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Wow, Kris...thank you."
THE_BOLSHEVIK walks off. Kris' face is expressionless.


THE_BOLSHEVIK rings a doorbell. Natalie answers.
Natalie: "Hi!"
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Hi, um...Natalie?"
Natalie: "Yeah, and you're THE_BOLSHEVIK?"
Natalie: "Great. I love your screen name, by the way."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: (Confused) "Oh, um...thank you?"
Natalie: "Come on in. Did you bring any beer with you?"
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "I, uh, no, I didn't."
Natalie: "That's okay. I have some in my room. Why don't you wait in the kitchen while I bring it down."
Natalie runs upstairs.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Actually, I don't drink you're already out of earshot. Ohhhhh kay."
THE_BOLSHEVIK walks into the kitchen.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Hmm, not a bad place."
Someone comes in from the doorway.
Chris Hansen: "Why don't you have a seat right over there?"


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Free Masons Run the Country!

Hey hey!

As you may have been able to figure out, the trickling of updates is caused by the fact that this is that magical time of year known as finals.

I just had one today, so usually today might be considered a rough day, but it was actually quite a nice day, for the following 10 reasons.

1. I am fairly confident that I not only did well on the test, but may very well have aced it, 100%, which would guarantee me a high A in the class.
2. I arrived to my testing room 1.5 hours early. Now, the classroom is notorious for having the smallest little fold-out surfaces on their chairs in the entirety of the campus. However, there are two rather spacious tables in the room, meant to be a boon to any potential disabled person. Since there were none taking this final, and because I arrived so early, I had this entire table to myself (it would have actually been against the rules to share it, as we had to be spread out. Oh, well).
3. It was very good that the desk was big, because I had a lot of notes (it was an open note test; that's how the professor makes up for teaching nearly 50% more than the normal Econ class).
4. To prep for this open note test, I went through all the midterms and finals of previous years and made an index of every possible problem type and concept that came up for easy reference. When I mentioned it to others, they said they did something similar, but by the way they said it, it seemed as though mine worked better.
5. You know how they say you should take a test in an environment similar to your how you study (or is it vice versa)? Anyhoo, my problem is that I need music when I study. However, it's usually not kosher to listen to music while taking a final. "Whatever," I mused to myself as I put on my headphones. I listened to a single calm, unintrusive song ("Patzivota" from Cirque du Soleil's Varekai) on repeat for pretty much three consecutive hours. And the GSIs saw me, and they didn't seem to give a damn. And it really helped, I think.
6. I had a nice sandwich for dinner.
7. It was absolutely freezing (35 degrees, I later saw) when I left the final, but I had the foresight to bring along during the warm day my jacket and gloves...the gloves my mom says make me look goth. :(
8, 9. [Filler material]
10. We got an updated gradebook for my marketing class, which basically counts everything but the final (so about 80% of our total grade). While there weren't any rankings listed on it, I did some Excel calculations, and found that in the class of 180+, I am ranked 4th. Not too shabby.

So, that was my day...yesterday. Hmm, it's past 4am. Maybe I should go to bed.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Versatile, My Foot!

There's a lot of controversy surrounding the movie The Golden Compass regarding the fact that it's based on a series of books whose writer, a devout atheist, claimed that he was trying to "kill God." (I recommend glancing at the Snopes page; it's an interesting read.)

I'm not going to read the books that the movie's based upon, not so much because I'm afraid reading them will undermine my faith, but because the author sounds like a total prick.

I'm also not going to see the movie. Again, not so much because of it's anti-religious overtones, but because I, for one, am absolutely sick and tired of Nicole Kidman's existence. I'm especially tired of her on movie posters looking like she's ready to kill someone for EVERY SINGLE GODDAMN MOVIE SHE'S IN!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

We Are Truly the Stabbiest Generation

To all my readers:

I am sorry.

Many, many hours I have sat at my desk, typing away so that you may have many, many minutes of reading material. I have made it accessible, both in writing style and in searchability on the Intertubes. I have tried to make it entertaining, or at least not totally depressing, so that you may walk away ever now and again with something resembling a smile.

And for that, I am sorry.

I was naive. I thought the only damage that could possibly done was to some faceless web server in Silicon Valley somewhere. But no, the damage was more terrible, more insidious than that.

You see, I have been like a cancer to you all. And I'm not just talking about the gamma rays coming from your monitor, causing goiters and infertility.

Nay, I am a cancer to your soul, and to society as a whole. I am systematically bringing down the structure of our world, and ensuring that when you die, you'll go down that super happy fun slide down to the pits of Hell. And before you go there, you'll go on a rampage and kill people.

Don't believe me? Just ask former NBC dude Tom Brokaw who said in an interview (emphasis mine):
HH: NBC ran the Virginia Tech killer tape on the day they obtained it. Steve Capus, Brian Williams made that decision. Did they make the right decision?

TB: Yeah, they did.

HH: Do you not think it's going to incite other people to try to do the same thing?

TB: No, I don't. I get back to something we were talking about earlier in general thematic terms, I don't think we're doing a very good job about talking about violence in this country, either. You know, Virginia Tech went away. We didn't have any ongoing dialogue in our communities or on the air about the corrosive effect of violence. It was not what he, what people saw of him on the air that will drive them, it's what they read in blog sites, and what they see in video games. It's that kind of stuff that I think is cancerous. And I'm a free speech absolutist, but I think that at the same time, we have to have free speech in some kind of a context. And part of that context is a discussion of the possible effects of it.

So there you go. Make sure you get your news not from blog sites, from traditional "air" media. That way, your soul will not be cancer-ridden, and you will not go out and kill anyone.

...Oh, and if you've read any of my posts on video games...well, then, you're doubly screwed.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

How Can Something Involving Both Clowns and the French Still Be Awesome?

Last Thursday, I went to probably one of the coolest shows I have ever seen. True, I haven't seen that many shows, but still, I'm sure it will be hard to top the experience.

Maybe you've heard of it. It's called Cirque du Soleil.

For both of you who've never heard of it, Cirque du Soleil is a circus founded in Quebec in 1984 in order to create the "modern circus", one which didn't rely on the use of animals for amusement, but rather on the triumph of the spirit human body. Basically, the world's best acrobats/death-defiers/performers in general of the world are employed by this organization, which has both touring shows around the United States, as well as a few stationary shows in Las Vegas and, I think, Orlando.

So, that's all fine and good, but how did I get to see one? Well, that's one of the niceties about being an RA. You're in the know about things, and there are always RAs putting on cool events. Well, one of the RAs in Unit 2 decided to have an outing to see the show KOOZÅ, which is playing in San Francisco until January. When I saw a poster for the program, I knew that I had to go.

Now, I really enjoy the Cirque. I had never actually been to a show prior to this, but there is more than one way to enjoy something. I, for example, had the soundtracks to quite a few Cirque shows. In fact, I wrote an entire post about it waaay back in February. And I still enjoy them. The chance to see a new show, and experience a new soundtrack, well, it was too exciting to pass up.

And the best part? Normally, tickets to the show cost $80. However, because it was a Res Hall-sponsored event, we were able to get it subsidized, so the tickets now only cost $25. And, in the immortal words of some guy, "you'd be a sucker to pass that up!"

So, I was able to talk to the other RA, and I was able to reserve a ticket for myself. Which was good, because if you weren't an RA (who reserved their ticket on time), you had to stand in line to buy them. A line at least 50 people long. For 25 tickets. Heh heh.

So in the days leading up to the event, I told several friends and acquaintances about it. Surprisingly, I heard the same exact thing from many of them: "Oh, yeah, I saw a Cirque du Soleil show once." When I'd ask them how they liked it, they all said that they had seen the show when they were little kids. Uncanny, really. Still, it seemed as though I was the only one who was going to see it at an age where I really could appreciate it.

So, the night of the program comes, I eat an early dinner, put on my Night-at-the-Theatre/New-Age-Millionaire outfit (a white t-shirt and jeans with my old black sportcoat). Got my ticket, and was on my way. Here's the ticket, for those interested.

It was a very cold night, and it was slightly raining. Most people were bundled up like Eskimos Inuit. Thank goodness my Northern-European genes kept me warm. All the residents signed waivers (my absolute favorite things ever), and we were on my way.

I brought my camera along with me, because I've always been meaning to take pictures of programs and events for posterity, like a lot of people do. Then I remembered that my camera is bulky for my pocket, and it's really uncomfortable to just pull out a camera and say, "Hey guys, let's take a picture, hyuk hyuk." So, in the end, I ended up only taking two pictures, both of which were on the bus on the way to the BART station on the way to the MUNI station on the way to the baseball park. So...yeah.

Anyhoo, it was a dark night (thank you very much, winter), but we were all make it to the big top. And even though it was cold and wet on the outside, it was warm and toasty on the inside. It was also buzzing on the inside, like some sort of crazy beehive. People going every which way, some selling, most buying.

Prices weren't low inside the tent, but then, that was to be expected. Two hot dogs cost $20, and some sort of combo deal with popcorn, a drink, and something else cost $35.

Of course, I had eaten earlier (for that very reason), and I figured, "if I'm going to spend money, I might as well spend it on something that will last." And believe me, I was ready to spend money. This was my first Cirque show, and I was willing to act like the silly American tourist and empty my pocketbooks on stuff. I'll get to that in a bit.

So, eventually the show started. And...well, how do I begin? Well, why don't you start by watching the trailer:

So there you go. Now, every Cirque show has it's own theme/style, and according to the official literature:
KOOZÅ is a return to the origins of Cirque du Soleil: It combines two circus traditions – acrobatic performance and the art of clowning. The show highlights the physical demands of human performance in all its splendor and fragility, presented in a colorful mélange that emphasizes bold slapstick humor.
So there you go. The show's very basic plot follows this character called "The Innocent," who is either a small man with a childlike mind or a child with severe balding. He's taken into a mystical circus world by this guy called "The Trickster." While flamboyantly dressed, this guy exudes awesomeness. This starts at his very entrance, when he jumps literally 10 feet into the air from a jack-in-the-box. He then seems to be the ringleader for the rest of the show, and does so quite well. I bet he gets all the circus ladies. (or rather, the Cirque ladies, which do look a lot nicer than your run-of-the-mill carnies).

So, let me go through what I thought were the most impressive parts.

The contortionist trio. Good. Gravy. These three ladies...well, you know what contortionists do. But they're strong, too. One of them was standing (on one hand) on what I think was the sternum of another, which was bent backwards so much that her head was touching her butt. And the third balanced on top of her. But what I think was the craziest part was when one girl had her chest on the ground, her legs slung over like a scorpion tail. But then she spun her legs around her body. Like, her legs we walking/hopping, but her torso was stationary. I don't know how else to describe it. It was...indescribable.

The tight rope. There was a near-accident on this one, as one of the guys nearly fell off as he was trying to jump over another one. He made an amazing recover, but lost his hat. In my opinion, though, that was a good thing, because his bare head made him easy to identify, and he was doing all the most intense tricks. My favorite part of talking to people about the show is describing the climax of this act: "There's a guy standing and balancing on a chair which is balancing on a bar which is balancing on two guys which are balancing on bicycles which are balancing on a tight rope...25 feet above the ground."

The juggler. Well, there was nothing particularly different about him, but he was a really good juggler. Barring a couple mistakes, he was nearly flawless (or just played it off all the time). One example of his craziness: at one point, he's balancing a 6-foot pole on his head that has a small little branch and a cup on the top. And he's balancing this on his head while juggling a bunch of hoops and a ball. At one point, he begins throwing the hoops onto the branch. Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. Then he throws the ball into the little cup balancing six feet above his head, and throws the last hoop so that it lands on the ball like a halo.

The Wheel of Death. This is apparently a Cirque staple, in a few of their shows. It' know, I'm just going to show this clip. It's from a different show, and there are a few differences (ours was suspended from the air, there wasn't a second wheel behind it, and our guys were dressed like demons), but you get the gist of it.

According to the program (and the trailer), there was also a chair balancing act, which looked cool, but never showed up. :( Oh, well. But all the rest was there. And in the interim periods, while things were getting set up, there were little clown acts, which weren't bad, mainly because they played out less like Bozo and Chuckles and more like Larry, Curly, and Moe (with a little Shemp here and there).

In the end, the Innocent becomes, I dunno, king of the circus, but all he does is fly a kite and laugh....*cough* But Cirque du Soleil isn't really about the plot, it's about showmanship, which there was bundles of.

At the end of the show, I said "That's the best $25 I ever spent." And I really think it was. I'd gladly pay more, so it was a lot of consumer surplus. But, truth be told, I spent more than just $25. As I said, there was lots to buy, and I wanted to make my first show, mmm, special.

One of the things I really wanted was the soundtrack CD, but it won't be released until January. :( However, I did buy a program, and I also decided to buy a different CD, one with the "Best of Cirque" songs. Unfortunately, that was somewhat of an Epimethian move on my part. Remember how I said that I had a bunch of soundtracks already. Unfortunately, I had all the soundtracks that the songs came from. Oh, well. Perfect Christmas gift. Anyone interested.

I also wanted to buy something a bit more substantial. Namely, a shirt. Now, they weren't cheap, hovering around the $50 level. But considering the food cost half that much, I considered it quite a good deal. I was intent, though, on not just buying another shirt. If I was going to be paying good money, I wanted it to be creative, to be unique, to be...Cirque-y. And I eventually found one that fit the bill quite nicely. Plus, it works well with my goggle-glasses!

(Note: I am NOT drunk in the first picture.)
Interesting note: while unintended, the arms in that last shot actually looks quite similar to a certain Mr. Cool Someone.

So yeah, there you go, my first Cirque du Soleil show, and it was a blast. Like I said the show will be in San Francisco until January 20, and then in San Jose until March. If you're in the area, definitely see it. Or, if you're ever in any vicinity where any Cirque show is, make an effort to see it. You will not regret it.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Crazy, Drunken Homeless: The Spice of Life

Last Friday
Unit 2 Courtyard

Me: "Hi, Are you here for the 'cooking with professors' program?"
Prof. Beatty: "Yes, indeed."
Me: "Then I 'm assuming you're Professor Beatty."
Prof. Beatty: "Yes, indeed."
Me: "Excellent. Everyone is downstairs at the moment getting briefed on exactly how the whole thing's going to turn out."
Prof. Beatty: "Where exactly?"
Me: "Here, I'll show you."
Prof. Beatty: "Thanks. You know, this is a very interesting program."
Me: "Yeah, and it looks like we have a pretty good turnout."
Prof. Beatty: "How many?"
Me: "Like, 25 people. Which is pretty good considering that there's the bonfire tonight."
Prof. Beatty: "A bonfire? For what?"
Hobo: "Hey, if you start a bonfire, I'm going to f**king kill you."
Me: "It's a rally we have before the Big Game. We're going to Beat Stanford play football, that's for sure."
Prof. Beatty: "Heh, yeah."
Hobo: "Hey, did you f**king hear me?"
Me: "So, anyhoo, you just go down these stairs, and it's the first door on your left."
Hobo: "Hey!"
Prof. Beatty: "Thanks a lot."
Me: "No problem."
Hobo: "HEY! Did you hear me, punk?"
Me: *Looks around.*
Hobo: "Yes, you, you f**king punk, did you hear me."
Me: "No, sir, I did not."
Hobo: "I said if you start a bonfire, I will f**king murder you."
Me: *Notes box cutter in his hand.*
Hobo: "I don't wanna see any bonfires."
Me: (With a smile) "Don't worry, sir, I'm not starting any bonfires."
Hobo: "Youuuuu punk! If I see any bonfires in the hills, I will find you and f**king kill you."
Me: "Yes, I understand your proposition."
Hobo: "No bonfires! I've f**king had it with you punks and your bonfires. NO F**KING BONFIRES!!!"
Me: "Have a good evening, sir."
Hobo: (Walking off) "KILL YOU! I will f**king kill you. I don't wanna see any bonfires in the hills. I will f**king find you and f**king kill you..."
Me: *Smiles and waves.*

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Slightly Disturbing?

First Wednesday of every month.

12:00pm - 12:01pm.

My favorite minute of the month.

The Lobotomist's Dream Needs You!

I have a request for everyone.

One of my favorite resources on the Internet is the Alexa database. If you're ever interested in information on how popular a website is, there's no better resource. It tells you overall rank,
what percentage of people it reaches, how fast the website is, the number of page views, etc. It's really a fascinating thing to look at.

However, there's a slight problem with it.

Now, I love looking at the information for my own page. However, for the longest time, it told me I had no data, and I am currently situated at a rank of 8,225,107. Now, I know for a fact that there aren't a full 8,000,000 sites visited more than mine.

Therein lies the problem. In order to gather information for their rankings, Alexa is dependent on its users. They have a toolbar that you have to download which allows you to not only see the site traffic information on a whim, but also sends your current browsing data to Alexa to be added to their banks. In fact, it wasn't until I downloaded the toolbar that I was even placed at rank 8,000,000+. So it's definitely vital to the process.

Hence, the request.

I'm going to ask that you all download the Alexa toolbar. It will take only a minute of your time, almost assuredly cannot negatively affect your browsing experience (I think it can only make it more interesting), and it will absolutely help my ranking. I think that if every single one of my daily readers gets the toolbar, I'll be within the top million, at least. The default download page is set for Firefox, but there's also a link on there for Internet Explorer. I don't think there is a toolbar for Opera, but God help you if you use Opera anyway. (If you do happen to use Opera, I recommend opening a toolbar-enabled side-browser for looking at The Lobotomist's Dream. Or there might even be a way to open IE/FF pages in Opera using some sort of add-on).

My fate is in your hands. Please, help a brotha out!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A Helluva Lotta Hullaballoo

As you may be able to tell, I keep up on my video gaming news. Perhaps too well, but the fact remains that they do interest me, and it may be relevant to future occupations. However, most of the time, I only talk about the superfluous oddity games, as I feel those are what transcend the gamer/non-gamer boundaries simply due to their "WTF" value.

(By the way, take a look at what I saw in the local Gamestop today. No Spanish for Everyone yet, though.)

Today, on the other hand, I'm going to talk about something bigger than some quirky, politically incorrect game. You see, there are big rumblings in the industry right now. There is a scandal!

And no, this isn't like another Brittany Spears-style scandal, this is a real controversy that may have large repercussions for a few major players in the industry, and may shake up the underpinnings of an integral part of the video gaming universe. If I were to equate it to an American political scandal, I'd say...well, it wouldn't be Watergate, but I'd say maybe Iran-Contra Affair level. Eh, maybe Blackwater.

Anyhoo, let me start by saying that video games are no stranger to scandal and controversy. But you already knew that, what with all the hullaballoo about games like Grand Theft Auto and Manhunt II, the demands to ban video gmaes, use the governement to regulate them, etc.

However, despite the game in question being a violent, foul-mouthed shoot-em-up, that is not the source of the controversy. The controversy has to do with something that many people have taken for granted: reviews.

Enter the players:
Kane & Lynch:Dead Men - The video game in question, developed by IO Interactive and published by Eidos Interactive, known, among other things, for their Tomb Raider series. According to the powers-that-be, "The game depicts a violent and chaotic journey of two men — a flawed mercenary and a medicated psychopath — and their brutal attitude towards right and wrong."

Gamespot - Not to be confused with the retail chain Gamestop, Gamespot is the most-visited video-game related website (according to Alexa web rankings) with news, previews, reviews, downloads, etc, etc. It's owned by proverbial megalith CNET Networks.

Jeff Gestermann - A well-known and well-respected video game reviewer who has worked with Gamespot for a full 11 years.

Everyone Else - That means you and me.

Act 1.

So, this game, Kane & Lynch came out. Very, very hyped game. Advertising all over the place. Movie plans already in place. Big stuff, very big. So, how did it fare against the reviewers? Not too hot. According to Metacritic, a website that averages different reviews, it recieved a 67/100, meaning "Mixed or Average Reviews". Now, one particular review here was important.

That was the review of one Mr. Jeff Gestermann. He gave the game a 6.0/10, which, according to the Gamespot scale, means it is a "Fair" game. However, this is not a good "fair." In most cases, any score less than a 7.0 is essentially a warning: "Do Not Buy." So, Mr. Gestermann thought there were problems, and so he didn't recommend the game. Oh well, right? Just another game destined for the bargain bin. Happens all the time; nothing to cry over.

Wait, maybe I should clarify something.

You see, when this review (and the related video review) were posted, there was Kane & Lynch advertising on the website. Major advertising. Full-site advertising. You see, they actually had a Kane & Lynch skin on the site, meaning that the sidebars on every page of the website were ads for one game. Gamespot was apparently being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for these ads, with hundreds of thousands more coming to them in the following week.

About a day after the review went up, three things happened.
1. The Kane & Lynch ads were removed from the website.
2. The video review was removed from the website.
3. Jeff Gestermann was removed from the website.

By which I mean, he was fired. Suddenly, and inexplicably. According to an anonymous tipster, Gestermann was fired due to the "tone" of his review. And then it all came tumbling down.

Now, gamers may accurately be described as solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and (occasionally) short, but they have a tendency of working in large numbers (a "guild mentality," if you will). And before you know it, there was talk of boycotts, petitions, and everything in betwixt. Employees at fellow game sites picketed outside Gamespot's headquarters. Other sites began satirizing the situation. As far as Kane & Lynch goes, forget about it. User scores on the various websites are in the pits, sometimes hovering in the 20s range (out of 100). With one exception: the reviews of the game on GameFAQs, few though they are, seem to be quite positive.

Oh wait, ratings for the game have been disabled on GameFAQs. Oh wait, GameFAQs is owned by CNET Networks. ....*Facepalm*

It actually took Gamespot over a week to make any sort of statement about the issue. In it, they take the straight line and say that Gestermann's firing had nothing to do with pressure by advertisers, and that the two events were merely "coincidental." Now most people - myself included - are calling "BS" on this. Coincidence is all fine and good, but when an advertiser "coincidentally" removes a boatload of potential revenue, then I start to cry foul.

To be honest, though, this is still going on, and there is still lots of speculation. I'm surprised nobody has asked Gestermann about the situation himself, but either he can't be found, or isn't allowed to talk. It's definitely an evolving story, though, and there's no way of knowing how it will pan out.

Act 2.

This literally popped up last night. When one goes on to the official game website, and watches the flash intro, they see the following screens pop up:
I'll forgive you if you don't know what I'm talking about. The parts that I'd like to point out are the little blurbs on the left. Here they are for easy reading:
Now, what do these resemble to you? Reviews and ratings, perhaps? Indeed they do! However, they are nothing of the sort! Those little blurbs are actually from game previews, written well before the game was ever released or even finished. Speculation, you may even call it. And the stars? Completely meaningless! In fact, according to my source, Kotaku, Gamespy gave the game 3 stars, and Game Informer (who doesn't even use stars) gave it a 7/10.

So basically, the website is lying about the scores that are being given to it's game.

Now, there are some people who are claiming, "Oh, just because there are stars, that doesn't mean it's a rating. It could be used as decoration, or to separate things, like so."


However, what's there to separate? On the site, those things are standing on their own. And if they were to be purely decorative, then I would have made them more...centered. However, even if "decoration" is the official company line (as I'm sure Eidos will present it), then it is, at best, incredibly deceptive. When one sees a line of stars above or below a line of text relating to the product, 99% of the people who see it will think it is a review. That's just how our modern mind works. Stars = Ratings. It's done with movies, books, and games. To use them in this deceptive capacity, I believe, is simply cheating the customer.

So in this, Eidos has dug themselves deeper and deeper. There are two types of "bad" press in video games (and probably in all other forms of media). The first type is "good-bad" press, which means that the controversy surrounding game actually boosts sales. The poster boy for this is the Grand Theft Auto series, which mainly sells through both shock value and through its roguish nature. Then you have "bad-bad" press, which is exactly what Eidos has now. This is only going to hinder their already weak sales.

If you ask me, they should have spent less money in their massive ad campaign and more in actually making the game good. Then there wouldn't be a problem.


Now, while this entire scandal is far from over, it seems as though it is going to have implications reaching far beyond Kane & Lynch, Eidos, or even Gamespot. At the very core of this controversy is the game reviewing system, and it has led many people to question its efficacy.

As much as people want to deny it, the fact is that reviews have major impacts on game sales. Games are becoming more and more expensive, yet renting games has become less and less common (don't ask me why). People, thus, are relying more and more on the opinions of others, particularly the so-called "experts." And as I said earlier, if a game's average rating is below a 6/10, it's not going to sell well at all, as that is essentially a "don't buy".

The question being asked now, then, is why do we even have a quantitative ratings system at all if only the top third of points matter? If everything below a 6 is "don't buy" territory, does it need to take up six slots on the scale? And on the other side, why does it matter whether a game gets a 9 or a 10? Both are excellent games you should buy. That's two more slots wasted.

When I'm deciding whether or not to watch a movie, I have three different places I can be, depending on the score (of four stars):
3-4: Definitely go.
2 - 2.5: Eh, give it some more thought.
<2: style="font-style: italic;">will be consequences for all those involved.

There, I hope you were able to follow all that. It's complicated, I know, but then, any controversy is. I just hope you have a little more idea of how video gaming isn't all fun and games. It's serious business. :O

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Still Above the US on the "Best Countries" List

So there are occasional book sales at the student store, when you can get books for cheap, cheap prices. I check them out whenever they pop up, and always add a few to my ever-growing collection.

Now, when I saw this book (the only one of its kind), I knew it was a sign. I had to buy it right away.

One day, Finland. One day...

Friday, November 30, 2007

THE_BOLSHEVIK is Framed for a Crime He *Didn't Commit*

THE_BOLSHEVIK is working on some unknown project. Kris casually walks up to him.
Kris: "Hey, THE_BOLSHEVIK, can I see your hand for a second?"
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "What? Sure. It's a nice hand, isn't it?"
THE_BOLSHEVIK extends his hand. Kris grabs it and rubs THE_BOLSHEVIK's fingertips on the handle of a large knife with small amounts of blood on it.
Kris: "Thank you."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Waitwaitwait. What was that? Why did you just put my fingerprints on a bloody knife?"
Kris: "I do lots of things, THE_BOLSHEVIK. You can't expect me to remember one small aspect of my day."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Where did that knife come from?"
Kris: "You know, it's just a normal, commonplace butcher's knife."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "With blood on it."
Kris: "Normal, commonplace blood."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "...Kris, are you framing me?"
Kris: "Framing is such a harsh word, THE_BOLSHEVIK. Let's just say I'm...reallocating responsibility."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Responsibility of what?"
Kris: "Don't you worry your pretty little head about that. Now then..."
Kris delicately places the knife into a shipping envelope.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Hey, hold on there! Who are you sending that to?"
Kris: "Nobody important. Just the proper authorities."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Proper authorities?! No! Kris, I can't allow you to do this."
Kris: "Hm?"
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Give...give me that!"
THE_BOLSHEVIK tries to grab the envelope.
Kris: "Hey!! What do you think you're doing?!"
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "I'm protecting my own hide!"
Kris: "THE_BOLSHEVIK, do you know what the penalty for tampering with evidence is?"
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Well, to be honest, it's very subjective, dependent on three factors; the severity of the crime in which the evidence is involved, the nature of the evidence in relation to the crime, and the degree to which the evidence was tampered with."
Kris: "Yeah, well, I can tell you, that the punishment for tampering this is me. Killing you. With this knife....which belongs to you."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "But it doesn't belong to me!"
Kris: "These fingerprints seem to say it does."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "But they're not naturally put on. They' know what? Do what you want. Send it in. I believe in the justice system. No judge in America is going to believe that I'm a killer."
Kris: "Oh, I think they will, especially after your taped confession."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "What taped confession? I never..."
Kris pulls a recorder from his jacket. He rewinds slightly and presses the PLAY button.
Recorder: (Playing what THE_BOLSHEVIK had said moments prior) "I'm a killer."
Kris: (Smiles smugly.)
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "...Now, that means nothing. A simple phrase like 'I'm a killer' can mean...can mean anything depending on the context. It's not like I was saying something specific like 'I murdered people with that knife.'"
Kris rewinds the recorder and presses PLAY.
Recorder: "I murdered people with that knife."
THE_BOLSHEVIK's usually wide eyes narrow. Kris places the recorder into the envelope.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Kris, can we come to some sort of agreement?"
Kris: "Fifty thousand."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "No, I meant an agreement where I don't have to pay you."
Kris: "That's not how the game works, THE_BOLSHEVIK."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "I don't like this game. This game has my life on the line."
Kris: "That's why it's called 'The Most Dangerous Game.'"
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Wasn't 'The Most Dangerous Game' about hunting humans for sport?"
Kris: "Eh, semantics." (Takes out a clean knife.) "Now, do you want this done slowly or painfully?"
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Um, I suppose....hey, is that Morgan Freeman?"
Kris: (Turning around, excited) "Where?"
THE_BOLSHEVIK suddenly clamps a rag onto Kris' mouth. Kris struggles, but soon falls unconscious.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Wow, I guess it's a good thing I didn't wash that chloroform-soaked rag after all."
THE_BOLSHEVIK drags Kris's body out of the room. Cut to scene of THE_BOLSHEVIK, visibly winded, dragging Kris' body to an office. A police officer steps out.
Police Officer: "Eh? What's this."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Oh, thank God you're here, officer. My best friend here, he's evil. He tried to kill me."
Police Officer: "Oh? He looks as though he's sleeping like an angel."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Don't let his beauty fool you, I think he's done someone in before! Here, I brought this proof!"
THE_BOLSHEVIK hands the police officer the mailing envelope.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "That holds the bloody knife from one of his previous crimes."
Police Officer: "Okay, so if were to scan this knife, we'd find his fingerprints on it?"
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Well, I...actually, um, it, mine."
Police Officer: (Taking out the recorder) "And what's this?"
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Oh, don't listen to that!"
The police officer skips to random parts in the recording.
Recorder: "...Kris, I can't allow you to do this...I'm protecting my own hide...I'm a killer...I murdered people with that knife..."
Police Officer: "..."
Police Officer: "..."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: (Smiling pathetically) "Hehehe. You know, we sound quite similar. I'm...I, uh, oh! Look at the time! I'm late for my volunteer job at the hospital for...sick, um, orphans. I'll...I'll just be going."
As THE_BOLSHEVIK begins to walk away, the police officer cuffs him.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

An Inside Look...

As a special little bonus to you today, I'd like to show a little example of what RA staff meetings are typically like.

Resident Director: "Mundane topic of discussion."
RA 1: "Point."
RA 2: "Unnecessarily contrary point."
RAs 1, 2, 3, 4.....17, 18: "Bickerbickerbickerbickerbicker."
RA 21 (Me): *Takes "notes".*

And, for your enjoyment, here are my "notes" from last night's meeting.

I love Farnaldagon!

Who Are We Gonna Call Now?

So apparently my house is haunted.

To be perfectly honest, I had always thought so. However, my evidence regarding the fact was...well, it was nonexistent. My only encounters with the supernatural would occur when I would take showers late at night (like, 1am or so), when everyone else was asleep. While in the shower, I would hear the distinct sound of footsteps in our hallway, when I knew for a fact that nobody was around! Also, I would sometimes see moving images in the glass pane of our entertainment system which made it seem like someone was walking in our hallway when, again, nobody was around!

However, as you may be able to tell, it's difficult to prove that these things actually happened, as I said, because nobody was around.

However, over the break, something different happened. Something that was more than just sights or sounds; something that completely defied logic.

We lost a key.

Wait, come back! Here me out! This was no ordinary key! You see, in my house, there is a deadbolt on the front door. But unlike modern deadbolts, which you just flip in and out, this one is from days long past. So, it has a keyhole on both sides. And the key on the inside essentially acts as that little lever on the modern ones. To the best of our knowledge, almost nobody in my family takes the key out, ever.

So imagine our surprise this past Saturday when we come back from our third Thanksgiving dinner and discover that the key...was gone. The first instinct was to ask my dad if he'd seen it, as he was the one there all day (he was too exhausted to go to the party).

My Dad: "No, Andy has it."
Me: "What?"
My Sister: "Andy, you're such a liar."
Me: "No! I don't have it!"

After I had sufficiently proven the fact that I didn't have the key (mainly through frantic pleading), my dad explained that he thought I had taken the key with me when I walked over to my grandmother's house (and nobody else was home). I hadn't. I...oh Lord, I thought, what hath I wrought?

You see, I was worried (and rightfully so, I believe) that as I was gone, I had forgotten to lock the front door, and some sneaky bastard had come in and quickly swiped the key from its socket before the neighbors or the family dog had a chance to see. They would then try to use the key later, at a more sinister time, to rob us of our valuables.

There were basically three schools of thought in my house that night. First, some people were searching the house for the key, saying that one of us must have mistakingly taken the key out and absent-mindedly placed it somewhere. But honestly, I couldn't believe it. After all, we were all thinking really, really hard about this key. Surely someone's mind would have been jogged.

Second, my sister was searching the house, but she claimed that a mischievous ghost was responsible. I honestly thought she was being facetious.

The third school of thought was mine, which I found most logical. A key that is almost never removed was gone, and nobody had any recollection of taking it. Hence, a no-goodnik had taken it, and was planning on using it against us. Instead of looking for the key, then, I was busy pulling out a Louisville Slugger bat and my dad's WWII KA-BAR. I was willing to spend all night by the front door, guarding the house, my family, and our goods.

Other precautions were taken, as well. The door was locked (obviously), and a chair (and sofa) placed in front. If anyone was getting in, they'd definitely have a struggle. And then I'd hit them over the head with the bat.

Eventually (that is, at 2:30), my mom forced me to go to bed. I did so reluctantly, but not before hiding all of my portable valuables first.

The next day, my dad called several locksmiths to get a quote on replacing the deadbolt. After hearing them all out, he called back the cheapest one and told him to come on over that day.

He then hung up...

...And immediately found the key on top of his dresser.

Now, my dad had looked at the top of this dresser at least five times prior to this, and with something weighing as heavily on your mind as this mystery was, you just know he would have seen it. However, even if it had been there that whole time, who put it there. To this day, nobody remembers even coming in contact with that key at all.

Think about it.

That does not make sense!

There is literally no logical explanation for this, people. None! I've pulled this through my mind like a towel through a proverbial wringer, and I can't put the pieces together. Key that nobody touches disappears, and doesn't reappear until the moment - literally, the moment - that my dad is finished calling a locksmith.

“When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains--however improbable--must be the truth.”
-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Right now, I have to say that I find it nearly impossible that anyone in the house took the key and placed it on my dad's dresser, only to have him find it much later. I find it even more impossible that the task was done by some sort of burglar. Which leads me to the improbable but only fact-satisfying answer: my sister was right. It was a ghost. And he's not just making noises late at night now. He's serious.

...Hold me.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Bear-ly Making it Past the Bad Pun Brigade (...I'm Sorry)

Sometimes, it's just difficult to believe that things are real, when they most disturbingly are. I didn't believe Spanish for Everyone was real when I first saw it, but you can buy it at any online retailer. And I sure as Hell didn't believe this next clip was real. Seriously, I was expecting a SNL-style laugh track to come it at any time. But call the number, and sure enough, you can purchase it.

Ladies and gentlemen, the "Tiddy Bear."

I particularly like the little wave at the 0:30-left mark.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

About the V8 Incident

I've had a lot of talks with a lot of people about a certain incident involving a certain bottle of V8. One of the main things I've heard is that I need to spread the word, to make sure people are aware. After all, informed consumers are productive consumers. I could do that via a local news organization, but I figured that a better method would be some online method (such as Digg [and yes, that is permission to Digg this article]). However, my previous post on the subject was a bit too...tongue in cheek, I suppose, and many people didn't even realize that it was real. So, I figured I should post a more serious explanation and follow-up, because yes, it was very real.

About a month ago (on Saturday, October 27th, to be exact), I had purchased a bottle of V8 vegetable juice from a local store. The bottle was perfectly normal, and had a long way to go before it was expired. That night, I was eating dinner in my room when I decided to have a high-sodium vegetable supplement to go with my meal. So, I opened up a bottle of V8 and took a sip.

I was immediately repulsed. It was one of the nastiest things I had ever tasted. I had to drink quite a bit of water to wash it down. However, I didn't know what the problem was. After all, it could have just been a bad combination of flavors of the V8 and my food (you know, like how orange juice tastes weird after you brush your teeth). Eventually, though, I came to my senses (and my stomach was feeling a little sick), and so I poured the bottle of juice into my bathroom sink. As I was pouring, I heard a small "thud!" come from the bottle. I had no idea what it could have been, so I looked at the bottle, and this is what I saw:

(WARNING: All pictures shown are not for the squeamish.)
In the Bottle 1
In the Bottle 2

Needless to say, I was horrified. Not only was I finding something solid in my juice, but it was so large that it couldn't even come out of the bottle without some effort. Eventually, I did get it out, and scrutinized it further. Honestly, the first image that popped into my head was "alien egg sac" or something. It was that disgusting. Here are some close-ups for the adventurous.

Close-Up 1
Close-Up 2

Close-Up 3
Close-Up 4

The very fact that this thing was even remotely close to my lips disgusted me. At this point, my stomach feeling a little sick turned into full-on nausea. Needless to say, I haven't had a V8 since.

I had kept both the bottle and the blob-thing in my freezer in order to keep them safe and preserved. Then, a couple days later, I contacted both Campbell's and the FDA to let them know about the situation. What I found pretty interesting about the FDA's response is that my letter was forwarded to the product complaint department, and the FDA liaison's little forward note was, "The pictures are a bit disgusting." That tells you something: when the FDA thinks your pictures are gross, that's a bad sign.

Campbell's response was very much by-the-books. "Mr. Schnorr, we're sorry for this situation, can we get more information, etc." They then sent me a little package which came with $8 worth of replacement coupons. Seriously? Replacement coupons? Do they think I want to buy more V8? Hopefully I can use on some other, non-tomato juice products.

They also sent me a little bag and envelope to ship the little blob into them, to do "tests". However, I have yet to do that yet, partially because I'm cautious about sending the whole thing to them. Who knows, I could call in a month, asking about it, and they could easily say, "Wha? I don't know what you're talking about. But now you've got no evidence, sucka!" I think I need to consult with the FDA before sending anything over.

I've gotten a wide range of ideas from people as to what the offending object could be, from some sort of animal brain (which I sincerely doubt) to a very large fungus that could have seriously poisoned me (that's the most agreed-upon theory).

In the end, I'm just happy that my experience wasn't any worse than it was. And on the bright side, almost nothing related to mold phases me anymore. But we'll see how this plays out.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Stunning Likeness

This is one of the things I like about having little cousins:

Believe it or not, this is not the first portrait of me done by a pre-five-year-old (though it is the first one where I'm wearing some kind of...pocket protector?) If I can dig out the other, I'll post it.

Mobile Thoughts on the Holiday

Interesting note: I'm writing this while working out on an elliptical trainer.

I hope everyone's Thanksgiving went well. Thanksgiving is, by far, my favorite holiday of the year. Here's a few reasons why:

1. It's probably one of the least commercialized holidays. Now, let me make clear that I am not a very stringent opponent of commercialization. I, for one, enjoy hearing classical guitar covers of traditional Christmas songs playing in the mall. (I'm actually listening to Burl Ive's Holly Jolly Christmas right now.) But there's just something nice about a holiday that, really, it's difficult to buy things for. Yes, you could make arguments about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, or the football, but it still seems to be pretty much about the original idea.

2. Family. I always hear stories about families that hate getting together, and do nothing but fight. I am lucky enough to be in a family that I love to death. It has to be one of the most fun families ever. We have 40+ people gathering together in one house, and there's essentially no conflict. Everyone gets along, everyone jokes with (and about) each other, and times are good.

3. Thanksgiving times three! Thanksgiving is the only time of year my enitre extended family gets together, so we make it worthwhile. To do that, we have three days, three difference houses, three dinners. So tonight is Thanksgiving the Second.

4. Giving thanks. Yes, this sounds cheesy, but really, it's good to think about what you're grateful for. I'll admit, I take things for granted most of the time, so let me list a few of the things I'm thankful for.
-I am alive.
-I am part of a very, very small percentage of the world population who can live comfortably and in relative safety, with a roof over my head, clean food and water, and in no immediate danger of death or decay.
-I am in a financial position that I can afford many things that provide material comfort and entertainment.
-I am part of a loving, supportive family who has always been good to me, even though I am a fairly distant son, not particularly good about communication.
-I have blessing of a strong mind, and have the ability to go to one of the best schools in the world, when one in four U.S. students drop out of high school.
-I have been accepted at one of the most exclusive business schools in the world, and I am doing fairly good in it. (I just found out I was currently ranked 10th in my marketing class of nearly 200.)
-I have friends who are truly good people, and who I can talk with easily and be at peace with myself when I'm around.
-As a caveat of that, there are social networking sites (maligned though they are) that have allowed me to keep in touch with friends that I would have no ways of communicating with otherwise.
-There are people who laugh at my jokes. This is actually a big one. I am at my happiest when people respond positively to what I say. This is why Carlos was one of my best friends in college; he always laughed at my jokes. So, I'm very thankful for people like that.
-Being able to connect with the world through the Internet, allowing me a form of entertainment, as well as a way of reaching out (i.e. through The Lobotomist's Dream) to others.
-While I am not the most fit, healthy person in the world, I am conscious enough not to be in a horrible predicament.
-I have become more lax about my worries. Whereas before I would become freaked out about not getting the top score on a test, now I just see it as part of the natural cycle of things. As one of my coworkers puts it: "Nothing ever phases you." While that may not be entirely true, I have been able to laugh about things more.
-I have music, which just makes me so very happy.
-I've just run 6.5 miles on this elliptical.

That's it for now. Oh, there's much more than that, but sometimes you just can't think of things until they make themselves really clear to you.

So, again, I hope you had a great Thanksgiving! Be sure to sound off in the comments about some of the things you're thankful for. It's a really good way to reflect on yourself. As for me, I'm looking forward to Round 2 tonight! ^_^