Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Different Place to Rest My Hat...

Today was hall staff placement letter day. That meant one of two things.

If you were a new hopeful, longing to be a resident assistant, you would either get an letter congratulating you on your acceptance as well as telling you where you'd be placed, an letter telling you that you were an alternate who might be chosen in someone else refuses to accept a position, or "the thin envelope," thanking you for your interest but informing you that "there's no room for you at this time. Maybe next year!"

I had already gone through the trials and tribulations of that last year (I was an alternate, in case you were wondering), but I already knew that I was coming back. No, for the returning hall staff member, the only question is where.

There are more returning staff members from Clark Kerr Campus than from any other unit (a tribute to the awesomeness of our people). So many, in fact, that we were told that we would not necessarily be getting our first choice (which was, for most people, Clark Kerr). The question was, who would "those people" who didn't get there be?

As I woke up (I actually slept through my alarm again, so I missed my Economics lecture and section. Whoops!) I was fairly confident that I would be placed in Clark Kerr. Why wouldn't I be? I know the place better than almost anyone. I've been here for two years. My old roommate Kris and I wrote the Wikipedia article on Clark Kerr. (It's been edited a bit since, but we still kicked it off.) I made my own Clark Kerr t-shirts. I'm "Mr. Clark Kerr (Campus)". Of course I'll be returning.

As I was walking to the Residential Student Services Building, however, I started thinking about it. Is that really a good enough reason to warrant my cockiness? The more I walked, the more unsure I became, and, to tell the truth, the more worried I became. What if I didn't get back to Clark Kerr? Where would I go? What would I do? Would anybody, frankly, give a damn?

So, I make it to the RSSB and go up to the third floor, where a stack of envelopes sit in a little cardboard box. I find mine (thick - no surprise there) and find a seat, as I'm going to need to sign the agreement anyway. I open it up and look. Here is how the letter began:

"Dear Andrew,
Congratulations! I am pleased to offer you a Resident Assistant position at Unit 2 for the 2007-2008 academic year. On behalf of the Office of Student Development, I would like to extend our sincerest congratulations and warmest welcome to you as part of next year's staff."

This, however, is what I read.

"Dear Andrew,
Unit 2."

Before I could stop myself, I was hanging my head. This felt like a huge blow. While I realize that using emoticons is forbidden in the class, I feel that I must break the rules as a necessity, because my feeling at the time can be best expressed in only one way.


However, one of the many, many gifts that I've received from my drama career is the oft-used phrase: "The show must go on." That statement may sound cliché, but it has helped me through some pretty tough times. Whatever life throws at you, you have to proceed. No regrets. If you regret, you regress. No. I won't regress. Progress is the way for me. I can do anything anywhere. I am not beaten. Never beaten.

I signed the agreement and left, though I will admit I still was a bit disheartened. I mean, I love Clark Kerr Campus, and probably have more loyalty to it that many people do to their particular dorm. Whenever I would go to my home in Southern California, I would become homesick for Clark Kerr. So permit me a few hours of feeling sorry for myself before I pull up my proverbial pants and get on with my life.

After getting into a fun debate in my class on Alexander the Great, my dour mood began to lift. In fact, by the time I made it back to CKC, I had made peace with the fact that I wouldn't be in my beloved home. As it turns out, I would not be alone. At least two other members from my staff were at Unit 2 with me. (I think one of our old bosses, who moved over to Unit 2, had something to do with it.) I can assure you, comparatively, I'm taking this whole thing in stride. There are some less-than-happy campers in hall staff today (and I'm sure that's true across the system).

As luck would have it, I had a one-on-one meeting with my Resident Director (he's my boss, for those unfamiliar with hall staff terminology) scheduled for tonight. The discussion mainly centered around the placement. I was honest with him; there was nothing to hide, and nothing to gain from hiding. I was understandably a bit perturbed, but that wasn't going to stop me. He explained to me that one of the reasons I was chosen for Unit 2 was due to the fact that 1) they usually had priority due to their high volume of residents and 2) they needed some strong returners to fill the empty seats.

I think one person who may be hit pretty hard by this is, funnily enough, my mother. When we first arrived at Berkeley, what seems to be a lifetime ago, we helped a friend move into Unit 2. Our first impression of the place was that it was a combination of a beehive and a prison; a poured-concrete honeycomb, if you will, with small, sterile rooms packed together. She would always tell me, "Thank goodness you didn't get into one of those tiny concrete rooms."

Well, Ma, now I did.

It'll be all right. This isn't bad, it's just a change. Like I said, I've persevered through more dramatic changes than this. New experiences, new things to see. Like always, I'll survive. I'll survive and I'll progress.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

An "Eye-Opening" Experience...

I must say, today was not as...hellish as I was expecting it to be. I'm almost disappointed; I was ready to write a woe-is-me story to gain myself some sympathy points amongst my peers. But, I could have just as easily been pegged as a whiner, so it's for the best.

It all started yesterday morning. As I was putting in my daily contact lenses, I noticed that my supply was running somewhat low.

"No matter," said I, "Once these run out, I'll just get another box out of the closet...ah, dammit!" It was then that I remembered that I didn't have another box, because I was planning on getting another eye exam at the Tang Center before reordering. That plan was made 90 days ago. It was forgotten 86 days ago. And now it was time to pay the piper.

I emailed my dad to see if he could get a new box of lenses, and promptly called the Tang Center to see if I could schedule and appointment. Their first opening? Two weeks from now. Way too late.

So, once I'm finished with classes yesterday, I get a call from my Dad. He tells me that Costco won't honor the order with an expired prescription, not no way, not no how.

Now, it's been years and years since I've gotten into my angry mode which earned me the nickname "Rhinoman" (more on that another time), but I was livid. I wanted to snap the umbrella I was carrying, or better yet, impale a Costco worker with it. Now, I wasn't angry at my Dad, nor was I even angry at Costco. No, I was simply enraged by the whole situation, by the fact that I could have let this happen to me, by the fact that I might have been forced to wear my glasses.

I honestly cannot stand wearing glasses. If you wear glasses, more power to you. But to me, they are a prison compared to contact lenses. With contacts, your vision is improved, and the word is a beautiful, clear place. Glasses, on the other hand, are a window, a small window into that world which teases you with the beauty. There are limits - barriers, if you will - to the beauty that glasses can let you see. It's unnerving. Plus, I look ugly when I wear them. So I was not looking forward to having no choice but wear glasses. And that's when I decided to take matters into my own hand.

I woke up at 7am, which for a college student is the wee hours of the morning. Considering that my usual wake-up time on a Tuesday is 10am, I wasn't looking forward to it. Once up, I got my bearings together and left so as to make it to the Tang Center as soon as the optometry clinic opened, 8:30am. Once there:

Me: "Hi, I don't have an appointment, but I'm really desperate to have a contact lens exam soon. Is it okay if I wait here?"
Them: "Sure, but it may be awhile. The clinicians don't arrive until 10:30."
Me: "I....oh."
Them: "Plus, we're going to need your prescription."
Me: "I....oh."
Them: "If you have your contact lens box, you can show that."
Me: "Oh...okay. I'll be back."

So, after waking up oh-so-early and walking all the way from CKC to the Tang Center, I had to walk back up to CKC. I didn't want to actually bring my boxes, so I just made some photocopies. I then walked all the way back the the Tang Center (actually, as it was sprinkling, I tried jogging - TERRIBLE idea when you're carrying a backpack as heavy as mine).

Me: "*Huff*...*Puff*...I brought...the prescrip...tion."
Them: "Oh, it's a color copy. That's neat."
Me: "Can I...*huff*...sit down?"
Them: "Sure. And hope someone doesn't show up for their appointment."

Thankfully, by 10:50am, someone didn't show up for their appointment, so I one of the optometrists saw me for an exam.

I've had many eye exams in my time, and I've noticed something: every (and I mean every) optometrist is either an ugly old man or an attractive young woman. Without fail. As far as the Tang Center goes, we'll just say there's a lot of young blood. While that does have certain, ahem, advantages, it can also make the exam a bit uncomfortable. I think it's an male pride thing. Good eyesight is an evolutionary advantage; like any beneficial trait, it helps to contribute to one's survival and, subsequently, mating habits. To see how poor your vision really is, especially in front of a female, can be a very emasculating experience. "I cannot see...I cannot be the alpha male."

Still, we had pleasant smalltalk (which I can be good at; once, while playing at a Magic: The Gathering tournament, some guy called me "the most pleasant opponent I have ever faced"), and she was impressed at my curiosity about all the intricacies of being an optometrist. Things were going great until I had my pupils dilated and an intensely bright light shined into my eyes from every angle. My eyes are naturally sensitive to light (that's one of the reasons I constantly have sunglasses), so this felt like murder. After losing half my body weight in tears, I had to sit back for a minute. "I'm sorry," I said, "I haven't cried this hard since Frodo and Sam were stuck on Mount Doom."

Soon enough, though, it was all finished. I then ordered a year's worth of lenses, so this would never happen again. I asked about colored lenses, but that would have needed another exam for lens fitting. "Never mind, then," I said, "it was just a whim." *Winks to camera.*

I then noticed something strange when I paid.
Me: "I can't read this bill. But...that makes no sense. I'm nearsighted. I should be able read perfectly fine."
Them: "Yeah, remember when she put those dilation drops in your eyes? It affects your close vision."
Me: "So you're saying that I can now see far away but not close up?"
Them: "Reversal of fortune, bitch!" (Not in so many words, though.)

Now, this would normally be a problem, as I had my computer science lab right then. Indeed, once I was at the lab, trying to do any work on the computer was nauseating. However, last weekend, I decided on a whim to do my lab early. Who'd think it would actually come in handy? So, after turning in my pre-completed assignment, I quickly left. I had other places to be; namely, the El Cerrito Target.

One of the jobs of an RA is to hold programs for the residents. This Saturday, I'm holding a poker tournament. One of the prizes is a poker set. You'd think an affordable (for hall staff budget) poker set would be easy to find in a town like this. But you'd be wrong. Dead wrong! It's amazingly difficult! I've been in every store in Berkeley, and they were either out or overpriced. Target was my last hope.

I had to take the BART, and it stank (in the olfactory sense of the word). Forget about the smell of a dog that's been in the rain. People in the rain stink, too. Especially when they're packed into a small, unventilated tin box.

So, I got to Target. Long story short, they didn't have a thing. They had poker tables, they had a TV poker game, but no simple poker set. It says on they're website that it's available at that particular store, but the lady there said that she never heard of such a thing ever being there. So that was a dead end.

Finally, after buying a few things, I came back to Berkeley, where the rain had just started coming down with a vengeance. Luckily, the 7 Bus arrived just as I got out of the station, so I took that bus all the way to Clark Kerr. It, too, stank. And it was while riding that bus, at approximately 3:30pm, that I realized I had forgotten to eat anything since I woke up.

Hmm...looking back on the day, it does seem like it was pretty crappy. However, it didn't feel bad, so I guess that's what counts. A positive perspective makes all the difference, so I'd say today was a good - albeit tiring - day.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Monday Music Madness!!!

I'm in a pretty good mood after having a pretty good and productive weekend, so I'm going to celebrate (in a way) by sharing some lovely music. What's more, I'll even give a little background on these clips.

I occasionally have whims. Flights of fancy, as it were. I can be inspired by the smallest of things, and they can lead me to do relatively rash things. Well, a little less than a week ago, I was skating accross the Intertubes when I chanced upon this little character creation game. The game itself is fine, but what really struck me was the music. I absolutely fell in love with the music. Unfortunately, when I played it, the only citation he gave was to Cirque du Soleil, the world-renowned troupe. He didn't specify what album it came from.

So, I hopped on over to my music headquarters, and found a multitude of albums. Now, I could have skimmed through every song's sample clip to see which album it came from, but that would have been tedious to say the least. "Plus," I reason, "if I like the music from one album, wouldn't like the music from the other albums?"

So, on a whim, I buy every single Cirque du Soleil album I could find.

Well, all except the "Collection", as that would be quite redundant. Still, that's 8 albums. Now, at the sound of this impulsive action, some people might be clutching at their heart with one hand and their wallet with the other. But because of my sources, I was able to get all the albums for less than what a normal CD costs in the stores.

The real cost came in the downloading. My god, downloading all those files took about three years off my life. I'm not exactly sure why (maybe it was the sheer load I was trying to squeeze through the tubes), but they were downloading at a rate of about 8Kb/s. That means that it took about a half-hour to download a single song. And since I could only download 2 songs simultaneously, it was an altogether soporific process, taking about two days to finish.

The funny part, though, is that the songs that I liked came from a different album altogether.

Yes, although the website I used had a lot of their albums, it didn't have them all. So, I made a concession and bought the last album for $6 on eBay, clenching my teeth all the while.

I must say, when I have whims, they're usually good whims, and they tend to turn out to be me, at least. I may have spontaneously purchased nine albums after hearing only two representative songs, but dagnabbit, I was right!

Of all of the albums I've gotten, all of which are good and recommendable, three stand out to me as my favorites. The first one is called Quidam. What's actually interesting is that I believe my family and I watched this show on TV around Thanksgiving some years back. So, I guess I already had some attachment to it. I'm only going to share one song from it, but it's a good one.

Quidam - This is the finale song, and I must say, it really sounds like a finale song. Actually, it really sounds like a downer if you don't know the context, especially the little girl's lines in the beginning:

Your world is yours not mine Quidam.
Your dreams are yours.
You may have touched the stars but they weren´t moved.
And if you reach for me I may not choose to hold your hand.
I might smile or I might turn away.
However, the show is about a little girl who dreams up a mystical world to live in, which is the home to Quidam, a headless dude who is a representation of everyone and no one at the same time. After seeing all the mystical world has to show, though, she is again ready to live in the real world. Now the lyrics don't seem quite so downbeat. I feel this would be good death music, by which I mean good music to die to (either in a movie or in real life). Listen in after 3:50 and you'll better understand what I mean. In my mind, it seems like the song people would sing to you as you're ascending into Heaven.

The second album is Mystere. I have three examples of its music, and they're really interesting in their variety.

Egypte - Try to guess what the inspiration for this song is. I've said before I like it when a singer (usually a female singer) takes a single sound (in this case "lai") and uses it to carry the tone and pitch. Part of this song is like that, and the other part is quite mystical and sensual. This song makes me want to eat some grapes, or rather, have some grapes fed to me while I recline on my silken couch.

Ulysse - I'm not sure if this has to do with Ulysses/Odysseus or what. However, I like it regardless. It really seems like a cross betwixt Howard Shore (you know, the guy who composed the Lord of the Rings soundtrack) and Gustaf Holst (he composed a famous composition called The Planets), with a dash of Requiem thrown in for good measure. This seems like a song my mom would be good at singing.

Kalimando - I realize those are forest birds chirping in the background, but I always imagine myself walking across a large plain when listening to it. This song has "feel-good" ending proverbially written all over it. I imagine the following scenario when listening to it: I've just finished helping some small town, and now it's time to go. I'm walking toward the town limits, and a little girl holds my hand, asking me not to leave. I laugh and rustle her a hair a bit before walking out, the whole town waving me goodbye. When I'm about a half-mile away, I turn back to look at the town, tug my coat, smile, and walk into the sunset, the music playing all the while.

Finally, you have the soundtrack which I would definitely put down as my favorite, Ka'. While I realize all taste in music is subjective, I can't help but use the cliché expression: "If you only get one of these albums, get this one." Unfortunately, as it's the only one not offered on the Russian website (something I'll try to remedy), you too will have to buy it off eBay or Amazon (or, God help you, from a store).

I've decided that, should I ever go to Vegas, I am going to see at least this show. Yes, it's absurdly expensive. ($70 - $150 a ticket), but what am I going to do with the money anyway? Gamble? I'd much rather spend my money on a sure bet. Still, I have no immediate plans to go to Vegas, so it'll have to wait...

Pageant - This is the "Trailer Music" for the show, as can be seen here. It seems like very good sword-fighting music to me. Or it would be good in a dance. I usually don't dance at proms and formals and what have you, mainly because I don't dance well to bass (which is essentially all they play at dances, with hip-hop and the like). This has enough flow that I would actually do something; how graceful I would be is another story. (P.S. Don't try to figure out what language they're speaking. It's made up.)

Forest - This song (as well as "Aftermath") is the one I first heard on the game, and it was the one which inspired my impulsive purchase of all the albums, so you can tell the impact it had on me. This is another of those "feel-good" songs (you notice how I tend to like those). I imagine this as being a very celebratory song. It'd be fun, don't you think, to be in a choir singing this. It'd rock out the church (or auditorium, or wherever you are)!

Aftermath - Okay, I guess this doesn't fit well into the whole "feel-good" equation. You if juxtaposition has taught me anythings, it's that the "aftermath" in the show ain't that great. Although, this is a pretty melancholy piece, it makes great, non-intrusive reading music. You could listen to it on repeat for hours (though, to their credit, you could listen to all these songs on repeat for hours. they simply work that way).

If I could Reach Your Heart - If I had a girlfriend, this would probably be my "romantic" song for us. Not to imply that I could sing it, mind you; I doubt I could hit those high notes. Still, if my life was a movie (something which I am constantly comparing it to), this would be part of the "first kiss" scene. (Or, alternately, if we were cats, the scene where we do one of those little cat hugs...yeah, that's the stuff!)

There's more, of course, but I'll let you explore it for yourself, if you so choose (and I'm always a great resource if you do). Just remember, it's okay to follow your whims every now and then!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Presenting the Greatest Team Ever!!!

Everyone has what I call a "muse room". While it doesn't necessarily have to be a room (it can be a park or a closet or what have you), a muse room is where you spontaneously think up ideas. Where inspiration just strikes like a deadly cobra, except instead of venom which makes you feel dead, you get creative thoughts which make you feel alive. My personal muse room is the shower. I'm not sure why. Maybe when I massage my scalp while shampooing, it activates some dormant brain cells of creativity. But I digress.

I thought of a great new idea for a comic or cartoon series (short cartoons, probably best as a Flash series or something like that) while I was in the shower last night. I've been percolating on it since, and now I think I've got something. I call it:Team Praesieo

And the concept is as follows: due to a temporal anomaly, seven United States Presidents of the past have come together in our time. When they find each other, they decide to become soldiers of fortune, a-la the A-Team. They help the less fortunate while fighting evil villains bent on city and world domination. And they do so with a badass attitude. The members of the team are the following:

Theodore "T.R." Roosevelt: Courageous and charismatic, T.R. is the leader and pblic face of the team. Wearing his traditional Rough Rider uniform (updated with modern equipment), he makes a point to let evildoers know that Team Praesieo will always be on their tail. Despite his history of being a cowboy, T.R. encourages the team to think things carefully before engaging in any action.

Franklin Delano "D" Roosevelt: The most intelligent of the group, D plays the role of the wheelchair-bound computer hacker. His special wheelchair has an onboard server which allows him to jack into any system he can find. Unfortunately, because of his paralysis, he is unable to participate in much of the action. He doesn't mind, though; he plays a huge role in allowing the team to access as much information as they can.

William Howard Taft: They say this cat Taft is a bad mother- "SHUT YOUR MOUTH!" I'm talkin' 'bout Taft. In any event, Taft is large and in charge. Always driving around on a custom motorcycle, he is the teams artillery enthusiast. He always has a Tommy Gun in the ready, as well as a pack of C-4 and some detonators. His favorite item, however, is his large handgun he affectionately calls "The Trust-Buster." One of his quirks is to frequently mention any of his many, many accomplishements. For example, in one scene, some street thug goes up to him and says, "Hey, Taft, I heard there's a sale at the lard factory. You should waddle over there and-" But his words are stopped short when the Trust-Buster is placed in his mouth. Taft then says to him, "In addition to being President, I was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1921-1930, so if I wanted to, I could make it constitutional for me to lodge a bullet IN YOUR SKULL! Do you want that?" And when the thug shakes his head, Taft pulls the gun out. "I didn't think so."

Calvin "Silent Cal" Coolidge: Silent Cal doesn't speak. Ever. And you never know when he's coming up to you unless he's there. His character is most like a special operative. He carries with him a small collection of knives with which he eliminates enemies. He doesn't always use them, though; sometimes he'll just walk up behind his prey and snap their neck. He is very slippery, hard to catch, and very cold. Works as an infiltrator and assassin.

Andrew "Hickory" Jackson: Hickory is the strong man of the group, and has an attitude to boot. Tough, rugged, and always ready for a fight, he's the man to call if you have a boulder to lift or an army to fight. Unfortunately, his attitude sometimes gets the best of him, as his enemies will trick him into duels (he can't resist a duel) that he gets trapped in. He's at his best when roughing it in the wilderness.

Franklin "Frankie" Pierce: Frankie is the kid of the group. He has a good heart, and a lot of spunk, but he doesn't always know what the right path is. He looks up to T.R. as a father figure and D as a big brother. He wants to make a difference in the world, but is sometimes so headstrong that he'll run straight into trouble without a way to get out. He also has a running joke where he's trying to get a girlfriend, but it always end up hilariously wrong.

Ulysses "Useless" S. Grant: While everyone has high expecations of Useless S. Grant, he never fails to dissapoint them. All he ever does is drink. He actually adds nothing to the team, other than comic relief.
"Grant, you were supposed to watch the headquarters last night!"
"I...I had a date."
"A date? With who?"
"Gretta Woods.........brand whiskey! Bwahahaha!"
"Grant, you're useless!"

While they're all on the same team, they are not always in the same mindset. There's two main "sides" to the team. On one side is the more traditional members: T.R., D, and Frankie. On the other side is the more action-oriented members of the team: Taft, Silent Cal, and Hickory. (Grant is too drunk to pick sides.) T.R. and Taft, while professional, obviously aren't friends, as they split the Republican party in 1912 over a few differences. The action-oriented members think Taft would be a more fitting leader to the team, but for the most part, the status quo holds.

Now, the team faces various enemies, both from history and from the modern day. Of course, there has to be an overseeing villain, a Lex Luthor of sorts. For Team Praesieo. This villain is Tīmūr bin Taraghay Barlas, better known as Tamerlane. More specifically, I wanted to use the masked version seen in my favorite video game, Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem. Here's some really crappy pictures I took to give you a better idea:

Why Tamerlane? Well, for one thing, he's not the obvious (and frankly, boring) choice of Hitler. Secondly, he's a conqueror, so it works well with the whole, y'know, world conquest idea. Third, he made the following speech before he sacked Damascus:
"I am the scourge of God, appointed to chastise you, since no one knows the remedy for your iniquity except me. You are wicked, but I am more wicked than you, so be silent."
If that's not an awesome speech, I don't know what is. So, he's the main villain. The way I see it, when he got caught in the temporal anomaly, he became a billionaire business owner, and that's how he can go about his latest conquest.

And so, Team Praesieo fights against Tamerlane and various other villains, each adventure more daring (and occasionally zany) than the last.

And that's why I like taking showers.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Why I Hate the News...

I usually dislike talking about news, most especially unpleasant news, but this strikes too close to home for me not to mention.
A powerful tropical cyclone with winds of up to 230 kilometers per hour (144 mph) surged ashore in southern Mozambique on Thursday, ripping through buildings, knocking over power pylons and raising fears of new flooding.

Cyclone Favio, the strongest to hit the southern African country, was then heading towards the Zambezi River valley where it was likely to worsen floods that have already killed some 40 people and driven 120,000 from their homes.

The Category 4 storm hit Vilanculos, some 800 kilometers (500 miles) north of the capital Maputo, damaging the tourist town's courthouse, prison and market and destroying several houses.
For comparison's sake, Hurricane Katrina was a Category 3 storm when it hit Louisiana. So this is a pretty damn big hurricane. What makes it even sadder is that Vilankulos (or Vilanculos, as they call it) was where my sister lived when she was in the Peace Corps. It is where I stayed when I went to Africa. Whenever I going on with one of my "Well, in Africa..." anecdotes, it's always taking place in Mozambique. And now, that place I have so clearly in my memory has been ravaged by the winds and water. A beautiful, beautiful place, decimated. My sister wrote the following note about the situation:

"My poor little town is destroyed.. Talked to my friends and they are ok.. but they said its REALLY bad. The whole town has been wiped out.. no food, water, electricity.. Cesar lost his house.. the new school is destroyed... lots of houses gone.. all roads wiped out.. no trees left.. no beach road...the hospital is very bad.. say prayers.. how sad"
Imagine the following: you've spent years trying to build yourself a house. You put your blood, sweat, and pain into the process. It's hard work, but when it's done, you have something to be proud of. And the next day, it's been destroyed. All the work, gone. All the effort, forgotten. All the accomplishments, erased. Now imagine that happening to an entire town (and others like it). Being a tourist town, Vilankulos is hurt especially bad. How can a broken town attract tourists? (Hmm, this is starting to sound familiar...) It's about as bad a situation as can come.

And yet, how many of you have even heard a single word of this storm until right now? Chances are, not a single one. It has one lonely article on, and is practically nonexistent elsewhere. Hell, if it wasn't for Reuters, I doubt there'd be anything written at all.

Funny, really. People's homes are being destroyed, infrastructure is being ruined, trees uprooted, and to top it all off, the place is flooded. I think you know where I'm going with this. The United States makes the entire world know about its woes. If something devastating happens in the US, you better believe there are at least a page's worth of articles in every paper around the globe. And yet, here is a town - a tourist town, at that - where livelihoods are being ruined by a hurricane, yet because it's in some obscure African country, we hear barely a whisper.

Oh, yeah, and the top stories for CNN, AOL News, and Yahoo News? The goddamn corpse of some dead Playboy broad. Classy.

Say a prayer, please. Some people actually need them.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ashes to Ashes...

Ash Wednesday snuck up on me this year. Like a panther, it was. Yessir, I was eating an ice cream sundae topped with sickly candied cherries at a hall social last night (in which I thoroughly trounced several people's asses at Wii Boxing), when someone said, "So, I guess this can be like a mini Mardi Gras party."

"Mar...Mardi Gras?" I ask.

"Yeah, you do know it's Mardi Gras today, right?"

"Well, I, yn...I"

Upon saying that, the sundae in my hand became my last desert for a while. I always give up ice cream for Lent (the 40 days before the Easter weekend, for those that don't know). This year, I'm going a little bit further and giving up all sweets and desserts (and, no, I don't consider fruit to be a dessert. I don't care what the official definition is. I had this huge debate with my roommate last year, but I think his main intention was to deprive me of good, healthy fruit. Never again!).

I would have tried to give up something else for 40 days and 40 nights like, say, using my computer, but I don't like to make promises I know for a fact that I'll break. Nay, for me, sweets are challenging but doable.

In any event, I went to church around 5:30 today. I read/heard somewhere that more Catholics attend Mass on Ash Wednesday than any other day of the year, including Christmas and Easter. I guess the idea of Catholic guilt rings most true on the day when you're supposed to call to mind your sins. Needless to say, when I went to Newman Hall (which desperately needs a redesign; the poured concrete look just doesn't work for me), the place was crowded.

There are a few things I look forward to at large gatherings like that. First, you see people you know, but didn't know were Catholic. It's essentially the religious equivalent of realizing someone you know has also took UGBA 10; it's common enough that it's not really surprising, but it's fun to find out anyway. As it turns out, one of my fellow bloggers was present there.

Second thing: seeing that the people you know are actually pretty good singers. There are plenty of hymns and songs in every service, no matter where you go. There's always two or three old lady's who have lost their sense of tone over the the years, and then there's me, but most people tend to sing quite nicely, especially in groups. I wonder how far a group of 10 or more would get on American Idol singing church hymns.

The third thing...well, those are the only two things I can think of. However, I'm quite glad that when they put ashes on my forehead (hence the name Ash Wednesday), the priest actually used his thumb. I love my old high school to death, but when they had Ash Wednesday services, they used a rubber stamp. A rubber stamp! I always felt like paperwork or something. To the stamp's credit, though, the ashes always came out looking like crosses. When you put human thumb into the equation, the ashen crosses can end up looking more like...ashen smudges. Trade off, I suppose.

Finally, I would probably mention how all I've eaten today is a Tuna Lunch-To-Go pack, a croissant, and a banana (no, don't look up that definition again!). In fact, I was planning on writing on and on about how it was so difficult to go without food (even though it wasn't that bad) and how great I am for actually going through with it. However, the following Bible quote was read during the service:

"And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others."


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Questionnaires: One-Word Answers

I have an Economics midterm tomorrow which I really should be studying for. I'm actually quite proficient in the subject - it comes almost naturally to me - but I would be a fool if I thought that not studying would be in my best interest. Hence, I'm going to save time by filling out one of those questionnaires that sometimes come around the bulletin boards on MySpace occasionally. I find that they are actually a nice way of digging into your psyche. This one in particular is interesting, as it only allows you to use one word to answer each question. Restrictions breed creativity, so I found this to be a good writing exercise. And a good cop-out.

Here goes, one word answers:

1. Where's your cell phone?

2. Your 'significant other':

3. Your hair:

4. Your mother:

5. Your father:

6. Your favorite thing:

7. Your dream last night:

8.Your favorite drink:

9. Your dream car:

10. The room you are in:

11. Your ex:

12. Your fear:

13. What do you want to be in 10 years?

14. Who did you hang out with last night?


[Number 16 is missing!!]

17. One of your wish list items:

18. Favorite past time:

19. The last thing you did:

20. What are you wearing?:

21. Your TV:

22. Your pet:

23. Your computer:

24. Your life:

25. Your mood:

[26 is missing too! What a gyp!]

27. What are you thinking about right now?:

28. Your car:

29. Your work:

30. Your summer:

31. Your relationship status:

32. Your favorite color:

33. When is the last time you laughed:

34. Last time you cried:

35. School:

36. Siblings:

37. Favorite Movie:

38. Way you wish to die:

39. You hate what:

40. Guilty pleasure:

41. Religion:

42. Number of piercings:

43. Favorite Food:

44. Ideas about the president:

45. Your house:

46. Your last argument:

47. What are you doing:

48. Your current prob:

49. Someone you miss a lot:

50. Describe yourself:

There you go! Now, I realize some of those may seem a bit nebulous, but they're as accurate as I could get them. Wish me luck on my midterm!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Influences, Part I - The Incredible Quotable Oscar Wilde and His 1890s Companions

One of the things we are asked to write about in the class is the people who inspire us. If I were to do that in a single post, it would probably make all of my other posts look like chump change. Hence, I’ve decided to take several days (not all this week) and write about different people/places/things which influence not only my writing, but my life and thinking in general.

The first person we shall examine is a certain Mr. Oscar Wilde. You may remember him as the author of such works as The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Importance of Being Earnest, and others.

Despite my enjoyment of his works, they are not the part of him that influences me. In fact, it may not even be the man himself. It is the very idea of him. Look at the following pictures of him:

To me, his looks alone are the epitome of cool. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. But the part about him that really appeals to me is his intelligence with the English language. The ability to turn a phrase when needed. The ability to be witty on cue. To have quotes aplenty!

I am a fan of quotes (more about this another day). I even have my own last words figured out. But Oscar Wilde is a veritable cornucopia of quotes. Consider the following:

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”
“I have nothing to declare but my genius.”
“A man's face is his autobiography. A woman's face is her work of fiction.”
“I can resist everything except temptation.”

And finally, the mantra I live by:
“Life is far too important to be taken seriously.”

The list goes on and on. To me, witty quotes are the best kind of comedy there is. Terse, funny, and occasionally insightful.

In addition to a love of quotes, I also am fond of Mr. Wilde’s time period. If I had to choose an olden decade to live in, it would definitely be the 1890s. It doesn’t even matter where, both the US and UK versions of the decade seem so appealing. I would like to say that there is something specific about the time, such as, “I want to live when industry was just taking off!” or “I want to see the beginnings of the impressionist movement.” However, it’s not that cut-and-dry. Quite simply, it calls to me, like a siren. “Come to me, Andrew.”

I guess you say for comparison’s sake that like a bee craves pollen, I crave the 1890s.

I must admit, Mr. Wilde isn’t the only tangible factor in my love of the period. There was a Wikipedia article about “S. A. Andrée's Arctic balloon expedition of 1897” that was featured over a year ago. It seemed like such an unusual topic that I had to read it. In the article (which is one of the few long articles I’ve read in its entirety; it’s that interesting). I saw the following picture:

The first thing that popped into my mind: “Wow, those are three of the coolest dudes I’ve ever seen!”

That previous line is neither joke nor hyperbole. I even used this picture of Nils Gustaf Ekholm (who looks suspiciously like Jamie Hyneman from Mythbusters) as my desktop picture for awhile (and writing this has influenced me to use it again).

Unlike Dimas, I have no desire to be a gap-toothed hillbilly in the future. No, my image of the ideal Andrew Schnorr (or at least, one of them) is in a smart three-piece suit, a top hat resting upon my head, and an unnecessary monocle occasionally covering my left eye. A silk cloak would hug my shoulders like a good friend. In my hand is a polished hickory walking stick with a silver, spherical top, perfect for grasping and for bludgeoning. (I always say, using a walking stick is awesome unless you actually need to use it.) A witty socialite in the upper crust of society, I would be invited to luncheons for every occasion under the sun. While gently tapping a spoonful of caviar onto a triangle of bread, I would say to the local manufacturer, “Overworking the machines? Charles, as long as they don’t ask for wages, they can work as long as you please.” The gentle laughter in the background would be my ambrosia.

I’d also like a rival. Every person worth his grain of salt in the 1890s had a rival with whom they could trade verbal barbs with, while their audience laughs at the treat they’re receiving. I imagine my rival as being a gruff scientist-professor type, a few years my elder. Quite serious about his work, but still relatively friendly. I would be the frivolous, happy-go-lucky writer always pestering him. Yes, the writer-scientist rivalry has been a staple of society since time immemorial.

I’d like to give you a couple examples of the kinds of conversations I’d think Professor Attenborough (as I’ve come to call him) and I would have. For your listening pleasure, I’ve included some recordings of these very same conversations so you can listen as your read. While they’re not entirely professionally edited (there’s a few popped P’s in there), I added Vivaldi’s Spring Concerto for effect, it being the official music of high society.

This first scenario takes places when Prof. Attenborough is trying to give a presentation on his newest discovery (on what, I have no idea). I, being the incorrigible scamp that I am, walk in during the middle of it, loudly moving my way through the crowd to find a seat. Banter ensues. Click here to listen. (Imagine there's gentle laughter in the background.) And here’s the transcript:

Me: (Finding a seat) Excuse me, pardon me…
Attenborough: My good Mr. Schnorr, I’ll thank NOT to intrude upon my presentation!
Me: Well, no need to thank me, then.
Attenborough: And exactly why did you see fit to come here this afternoon?
Me: Well, you see, I was simply trying to understand why you have never listened to any of my counterpoints to argument?
Attenborough: Well, you see, Mr. Schnorr, I have a most peculiar condition of the ear which only allows me to hear the voices of those who have something worthwhile to say.
Me: Heh. If that’s the case, it’s a wonder you can scarce hear anything at all above the tumult which must be my voice ringing in your ears.
Attenborough: Hoh! Your wit will only get you so far, Mr. Schnorr.
Me: If it gets me where I need to go, what more do I ask?
Attenborough: Mmm…please sit down, Mr. Schnorr.
Me: Of course, I would never wish to disturb your…*ahem*…enlightening lecture.

The second scene takes place after the presentation is over and done with. Prof. Attenborough is walking away with his materials, and I am hustling to catch up with him. Listen to the shenanigans here, and read the transcript:

Me: Well, Professor, I must say, I previously underestimated your capacity for experimentation. Why, sitting through that lecture was a true test of human willpower.
Attenborough: Mr. Schnorr, why do you insist on continuing this harassment of me?
Me: Harassment? Ha! Everyone enjoys my company, yourself included. In fact, I’m willing to offer more of it, if you’ll join me in a drink.
Attenborough: A drink? Hoh, Mr. Schnorr, I can see right through your chicanery. You plan to get me inebriated so that I go out and make a fool of myself in public.
Me: Well, I hardly need you inebriated to accomplish that. But no, I was considering a more benign drink, more along the lines of tea.
Attenborough: Tea? Benign? Hoh! There is nothing about that caffeinated concoction. Why, you see, tea is an inflamer of the senses of the senses and an inflamer of the tongue. It makes men speak hastily and in that haste they say nothing but foolish babble.
Me: Calm down, Professor. You make it sound so nefarious.
Attenborough: Anything offered by a nefarious person like yourself, Mr. Schnorr, is in its very nature nefarious.
Me: So I see. And, what if I were to ask you specifically not to join me in my afternoon tea?
Attenborough: Well, then, I would be forced to go, if only to show you that you do not have the power to tell me what to do.
Me: Well, then, I insist you do not come to tea with me this afternoon!
Attenborough: Then I shall be there! And we will both be unhappy!
Both: *Laughter.*

See, despite our constant digs at each other, we remain on friendly terms. What a great relationship!

The influence continues into some of my story ideas. For example, I have an idea for a screenplay which is about bounty hunters in the future. But the thing is, they’re all very dignified and witty. I guess you could say it’s a mix of Blade Runner and The Importance of Being Earnest. In fact, one of the characters actually dresses in a tweed suit, has a silver-capped walking stick, and acts in a manner similar to my time-shifter doppelganger. The character’s name? Oscar, of course!

To be perfectly honest, I probably wouldn’t be happy in the 1890s. No computers, no good transportation, questionable methods of bathing. That is why I specifically avoid saying, “I’d like to live in the 19th Century.” The most accurate way of putting it would be, “I’d like to live in the current century, while daydreaming about the 19th Century.” And wouldn’t you know, that’s what I do!

As for how I write, I wouldn’t say that I exactly “plagiarize” the style of Oscar Wilde and his kin. However, he and his time period have inspired the way I think, which indirectly translates to an influence in my writing. Perhaps there are shades in there I can’t even see.

If nothing else, though: “Life is far too important to be taken seriously.

Thanks for the advice, Oscar!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Down the Rabbit Hole...

First of all, I'd like to apologize for my lack of updates yesterday. While I realize that for the class, we only need to have a four-per-week average, I like to hold myself up to higher standards. For you see, this blog is not just for the is for all. Yesterday, however, I was just doing one thing after another, going from place to place, and all of a sudden..."Midnight? The day, she's over?"

I had nightmares of people checking The Lobotomist's Dream and withering away at the lack of new content. However, I'm sure the actual response was more akin to, "Thank God, ol' rubbergums finally shut up for once" (I'm assuming you all use the term rubbergums).

Actually, I had a pretty fun experience yesterday, amidst a lot of Resident Assistant work. A little while back (February 12th, to be exact), I was gallivanting across the Intertubes when I stumbled on this little page. I find interest in the oddest things, and I ended up listening to that sound clip over and over for what had to be 2 hours. No foolin'. I was writing the notes on my Valentine's day cards at the time, and when I got to my card (that is, the card I was giving myself [that is, the card that seals my fate as a loser]), I decided to write the line down. I later regretted thanked myself not putting that down on everyone's card. Nothing says "I love you" like telling someone you killed their brother.

Anyhoo, this got my appetite whetted. I hadn't seen Who Framed Roger Rabbit? since I was young, and I doubt I fully appreciated it then. In fact, the last time I've even seen a clip of it was when my Dad and I were in Universal Studios, Florida, doing an exercise in voice-overs. That was the summer of aught-two, which seems like such a long time ago. So, I decided to put it on my Netflix queue.

A little aside about Netflix: I love Netflix. Since the beginning of Spetember, I have gotten 157 movies from Netflix. In case you're interested, there are 169 days betwixt September 1st and February 16th. That's an average of .92 movies a day, and that average is only increasing, seeing as I get a whopping 8 movies at a time. Not to say they're all movies, mind you. One reason my collection is so bulky is because I get a lot of TV series. So far, I've gotten the following:
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Batman: The Animated Series
Fullmetal Alchemist
Arrested Development
Mystery Science Theater 3000

And more are on the way!

"Andrew, how do you have time to watch all these movies while keeping up with your schoolwork?"

Well, um...I'm very vigilant?

Now, where was I? Oh, yes, the movie! So, I just received Who Framed Roger Rabbit? from Netflix, and I decided to watch it as my dinner entertainment last night. I was expecting to have few laughs. After listening to the greatest sound in history, the movie started. I must say, I was expecting myself to enjoy it, but not to the extent that I did. Seriously, I thought it was great. I was always a fan of the old Tex Avery-style of cartoons, and it only took a little nudge to remind me why. It also goes to show that film noir, a genre in which I like to say "all the men are jerks and all the women are prostitutes," doesn't necessarily have to take itself seriously all the time.

What really surprised me was the rating. I would not say for a second that the film is a kid's film. I guess kids could enjoy it (although a few scenes could conceivably give them nightmares). But so much of the film's bulk would go over their heads. If anything, I would say it's a humor-loving adult's film. Violence, innuendo, jokes about living in the 1940s...and yet, the movie got a PG rating, which surprised me. Then I realized something: it was the 80s. Movie ratings made no sense in the 80s.

(Which brings me to a small aside: with all these political activists who say that movies are sending bad messages to kids, look at the 80s. Back then, a PG movie would show a man getting bit in half by a shark and someone else cussing up a storm. I'd say our current system is actually pretty strict when you compare it to a few decades ago.)

So, yeah, after the movie was finished, I watched the extras, and found it amazing that every single piece of animation was hand-painted. No computers. All paint. That floored me.

I'll make something completely clear: I am not a fan of CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) cartoons. While I admit that I like many of the Pixar movies, I am not a fan of the format in general. First of all, it limits what animators are able to do. Yes, limits. Despite giving animators the nigh-unlimited resources of a computer, CGI constrains what can be achieved.


Let's look at cartoons during the second golden age of Disney. Look at the style of characters in The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. Most of the humans look - surprise! - like humans! However, this doesn't tend to work well in CGI movies. Hence, the animators tend to either gravitate towards humans that look like cupie dolls (or ugly clay figurines), or towards movies that focus on animals. And because of that, we have Madagascar, Over the Hedge, The Wild, Open Season, and a boatload of other worthless drivel that all blend together after a while. Seriously, click on the links to see their posters. They're all the same! How stupid do they think kids are? (Or maybe the question should be, how stupid are kids these days?)

Second, is it just me, or does having 3-D characters count as an excuse for not having textures. If you look at a movie like The Incredibles, everything looks...smooth. Everyone's face, all the scenery, it's all so smooth. Compare it with the carefully-painted backgrounds of the classic-style animations. Why does the third dimension carry such a hefty price?

Finally, while CGI may have been painfully expensive and difficult back in the day, it is now relatively cheap and simple. That's why everyone's using it. Instead of painting frame after frame after frame, all the current animator has to do is make a skin for the character, and the rest can be used using a computer "skeleton."

As I've mentioned before, I'm not the biggest anime fan. However, I do have a certain respect for it, if only for the fact that it is the last great haven of traditional animation in modern culture, especially in theater. In the five Academy Awards since the Best Animated Feature category was added (13 years late, I might add), only one traditional medium picture has won. (Incidentally, the selection of movies for that category every year suck!) That movie was Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away (a very good movie, by the way). He was nominated once again last year, and even though I didn't see the movie, I was rooting for it, simply out of principle.

Now, when you look at Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (see, I haven't forgotten what my topic was), you can see that it looks more real, more lifelike than both CGI movies, and subsequent live-action/animated mixed, such as the green screen-aided Space Jam and its ilk. That is a triumph in animation, methinks. And it is yet another reason why I pine for the good ol' days.

Wow, this post was all over the place. A sort of penance for my absence yesterday. Anyhoo, in conclusion, if you've never seen Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, do so. And if you have, do so again.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

More like the "Goodbye, Break" Café...*cough*

I find the Golden Bear Café to be a most amazing place. Well, not for the food, of course…and, um, not really for the service either. The cleanliness of the outside tables is also pretty sub-par. No, what fascinates me about the GBC is how two minutes can completely alter how much free time during your lunch break.

Before I go any further, a small prelude…

Most people usually plan their schedules so that there is a one-hour (or at least a half-hour) break somewhere betwixt 11am and 2pm. During this time, they go off to have their lunch. The most popular place to eat on Campus, for my non-Berkeleyan readers, is the Golden Bear Café (GBC), simply because of it’s variety of foods and central positioning on campus. And let me tell you, it gets absurdly crowded sometimes. I’ve probably been in that building more than a dozen times where there were over a hundred people bustling (or, considering the cramped space, shuffling) around – a fire safety inspector’s nightmare.

In any event, my Monday/Wednesday feeding hour is 11am-12pm. Luckily, because my class immediately preceding this hour is Economics 1, held in the strategically-placed Wheeler Auditorium, I am able to make a beeline for the GBC. This is usually how it goes (and always should go):

10:59am – I’m slipping my notebook into my backpack.
11:00am Prof. Olney: “See you next time!” I stand, hurl my backpack onto my shoulders, and juke and jive my way through the multitude of people.
11:02am – I step into the GBC with my sights set on the Grill area.
11:03am – “Chicken strips and fries, please.” Not bothering to write down the order, they immediately serve my food. I notice a line forming up behind me.
11:04am – I get into the register line on the second to my right (not only is it the least used by the patrons, but there’s a fast old lady at the helm of the register).
11:06am – My card gets swiped. “Thank you.” I get my napkins and condiments.
11:08am – I sit in my usual seat in the corner of the patio (unoccupied, of course), relax, and enjoy a leisurely meal, either reading a nearby copy of the paper or simply watching the clouds and students drift by.
11:25am – Finally leave the area with a full 35 minutes to read, go grocery shopping, stop over at EB Games, or do anything I want.

So, that’s a normal day. But today was a little different. You see, today my Econ lecture lasted 2 minutes longer because the professor wanted to make sure we understood the correlation between wages and leisure time. Now let’s look at how things progressed in this anomalous situation:

10:59am – I’m slipping my notebook into my backpack.
11:00am Prof. Olney: “Before you leave, I just want to go over these last two slides.” I groan and take the notebook back out.
11:02amProf. Olney: “See you for the midterm!” I stand, hurl my backpack onto my shoulders, and juke and jive my way through the multitude of people.
11:03am – As I’m making my way to the GBC, I notice the clumps of people in front of me, trying to reach the same destination. I try to pass them up, but they create a barrier of slow moving citizens.
11:05am – I step into the GBC and squeeze pass several people to see that there’s a line for the Grill a dozen people long. I patiently stand in it.
11:09am – Still a few people from the front of the line, I see that instead of using two workers to accomplish the task (one to take the order and one to fill them), a solitary (and rude) worker is taking three orders, stopping, filling those orders, stopping, taking three orders, lather, rinse, repeat. “Hey, you chatting in the back; you’re doing a hell of a job!” (<=Not actually said.) 11:13am – “Chicken strips and fries, please.” She writes down the order and gives me a little stub. I step to the side, gathering a few packets of ranch dip.
11:15am – “Number 16!” I take my food and shoulder my way through a veritable mosh-pit of starving students. I stand in my normal line, even though it has quadrupled in size.
11:23am – My card gets swiped. “Thank you.” I grab some napkins and condiments.
11:25am – My usual seat has been usurped by a group of people smoking those especially nasty dark cigarettes. I search for a suitable replacement. My only viable option is across from some chick I’ve never met. “Is this seat taken?” “Um, no.” She says uncomfortably. As I sit, I notice a condom placed awkwardly betwixt us (this being “National Condom Day” in addition to Valentines Day). I open my to-go box so that the lid conceals the condom and begin eating.
11:40am – I finish a bit quicker than normal and begin doing all the things I would normally do, but realize that I only have 20 minutes in which to do them.

That is what I find amazing about the GBC. How such a small delay in your getting there can make such a large difference in how much time you spend there. My class was 2 minutes late in getting out, and it cost me 15 minutes of my day.

Where did the other 13 minutes go?

I guess we’ll never know for sure, but my working theory is that there is some sort of undead creature – a vampiric zombie of sorts – living in the attic of the GBC, whose only means of cheating death is by sucking up the youth of college students via time wasted while waiting in line. I call him Belthor. And he’s the reason I slip my notebook into my backpack at 10:59am.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Lobotomist's Dream Valentines Eve Special!

I'm pretty ambivalent towards Valentines Day. On the one hand, it's a terribly over-commercialized holiday which tries to make money from human emotions. On the other hand, it is a good opportunity for couples who have begun to take their relationship for granted to give it a second life.

Of course, neither of these apply to me. Oh, I'm sure I'll talk about my relationship status later, but suffice to say, I have no Valentine. So, what's this eligible bachelor to do on such a holiday? Celebrate it in his own way, I suppose.

Let's look at my Valentines' Day, shall we?

First of all, we have cards. I've outgrown my enjoyment of the cheap pun cards that are ever-so-popular in grade school. And I'm not big on the Sappy, $4 Hallmark cards either. So, I'll do something fun and economical: make my own cards. ...It's not quite that simple, though. You see, I tend to shall I put this...alternative Valentines Day cards. I made a few construction-paper-and-marker cards a couple weeks back. The first one was an upside-down heart that said the following:

"The heart the beats fastest bleeds first."

Not only is this anatomically correct, but it's cynically correct, as well. (It basically means "Those who love the strongest are hurt the easiest," or something like that.) I was quite proud of how quickly I came up with the line, downbeat though it may be. I then signed it, "Regards, Andrew ^_^"

To make the second card, I simply used the rest of the construction paper, which had an upside-down heart cut in it (no kidding). I drew a head on top it, a couple arms on the side, and some shoes on the bottom. I then dubbed my new man "Hearty McWidelegs." On the card, there was a small speech bubble in which Hearty said sullenly, "I have no girlfriend." Oh, Hearty! I then signed the card, "Yours in business, Andrew ^_^"

Neither was popular, but I blame that on the poor quality of materials.

So, for my official cards to hand out, I decided to use my favorite tool: Photoshop. I took a picture off the Internet, did a little editing, and came up with the following Valentines Day card:

A surefire hit! (P.S. Jim's a jerk.)

If you think this is a joke...well, you're partially right. While it is supposed to be funny, this is actually what I am giving people for their cards. Why, yes, I do have a sick mind, thank you for asking.

Now, for some more Valentines Day entertainment! First of all, we have a special Vamlumtimes Day episode of "Teen Girl Squad". (For those that don't know, Teen Girl Squad is one of the funnier flash cartoons out there [to me, at least]. It basically makes no sense, but never fails to make me laugh. Try watching all 12 episodes, and make sure you click different places on the end screen for Easter eggs.)

Moving along, here are some videos I feel are relevant to the holiday.

The first is called "Ye Olde Pickup Lines of Oblivion." Oblivion is the name of an immersive computer game that consumed about 60 hours of my life and left me wanting more. So, some fellow decided to use clips from the game to give advice on what to say in order to attract members of the opposite sex. Have a look:

I swear, one of these days I'm going to use that "I am your emperor" line.

And then we have a famous love song, horribly butchered by the Man of No Shame, David Hasselhoff. Yes, nothing says, "I love you" quite like bad graphics, egg-eyed men, aborigines, and creepy underage angels. I present Hooked on a Feeling:

I think I shave two years off my life whenever I see that video, but I love it nonetheless.

So I've got videos and pictures...I might as well throw in a song to complete the trifecta. What will I be listening to this Valentines day? Well, I've been listening to the same song on repeat all day today, so I suppose I'll do the same thing tomorrow. The song is Lightning Crashes by the band Live. It's actually about a girl getting killed by a drunk driver, so it may not be exactly the best song for a romantic evening...*cough*

But I guess this could be considered pretty romantic for the Neolithic times!

Hmm...considering all the things I associate with this holiday, maybe it's no wonder I can't get a Valentine. Ah, well. Enjoy yourselves, you crazy kids!

Monday, February 12, 2007

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish...BLUE Fish???

One thing that sometimes bugs me is perception. How people can see the world two different ways, and yet still see the same thing. To use a more specific example, let's look at color. (I warn you upfront, this post will become quite convoluted, probably due to the very nature of the material.) Consider the following block; what color is it?

It's red, of course. I see it and know it's red. You see it and know it's red. This color is universally red. (For purposes of my argument, colorblind people don't exist. Sorry, pals.) However, what if red is not universally this color?

Confused yet?

What I mean is, what if the color I see as red is not the same one you see as red. What if the photo-receptors in our eyes, while processing the same information, feed different colors to our brain and present them as red. What if, the color you see as red, from my perspective, looks like this:

"Don't be silly, Andrew; that's green." Yes, it is. But what if someone's internal vision say this as red? And they always knew of it as red?

To better illustrate, take these two color wheels (click on them for larger versions). One is the normal color wheel that you're used to. The other is the color wheel someone else sees according to your perspective.

How can such a phenomenon be possible? Well, here's a challenge I propose to you. Describe a color.
Pretend there is a blind child that wants to know what the color red is. Describe it.


A-ha! You see my point? It is a nigh-impossible task, because everything we know about color is through experience and reference, not empirical information. If you want to have a person understand the color yellow, you show them a banana or a lemon. Person A may see the yellow on the left. Person B may see the yellow on the right. Each one sees yellow, and in each one's perspective, the other person sees purple and calls it yellow.

I hope that didn't thoroughly trounce your mind. To be perfectly honest, if my theory is true, then so are two other things: 1) It would be difficult to prove. 2) It makes little difference in the world. Let's look at both of these.

First, how would one go about proving that my idea isn't just something I wrote to hear myself type for a while? I have only one possible solution, and I'll readily admit it's more science fiction than science fact. The only place that people see different colors (perspective-wise) is in the mind. Hence, if you could hook some diodes directly onto someone's brain, making a visualization of their thoughts, and their sight, you could see colors the way they see them. How you would do this, I'll leave up to someone who actually knows about science.

Secondly, if my great theory is what? What difference will it make in the world? None, I suppose. Regardless of how people see their individual colors, they will stop at red and go at green (if they're a good citizen, of course). People have gone on well enough for millennia without knowing how each other exactly sees colors, so I think things will go on some more.

It's just interesting to think about. It's like talking about general relativity. A person's perspective alters not only what appears to happen, but what actually happens. Like they say, perception is reality.

Hmm...maybe I should have gotten more sleep last night.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Required Reading

I write a lot. A lot. But I'm sure you've already figured that out by looking at how small the scroll bar is on the right. Because many of the people reading this blog have not known me particularly long, I almost feel tempted to exploit that ignorance by posting things I've written elsewhere and claiming it as fresh and new.

I'm not that lazy, of course. However, I still believe that my previous works are of merit and do deserve to be looked at. After all, you can learn a lot about someone is through their writing. So I decided to create this post of "required reading." If you're going to bookmark only one of my posts, this should be it, because you may have to come back several times to read it all. Then again, that's why I'm posting this on a Friday Saturday morning; you'll have all weekend to look through it all, if you so choose.

So let's get started, shall we? What's on the syllabus?

Oh, of course. We should get started with The Tapping Wand.

As you can see by the name of the cover of this book, I am the author. No foolin'. There's a little bit of a story behind this. Originally, I wrote The Tapping Wand for a Sci-Fi/Fantasy short story contest. It was about 40 pages long, which I thought was fine, as the rules of the contest specified that the story had to be betwixt 15 and 50 pages. However, the part of the rules I neglected to read had an evil, evil hyphenated word: "Double-spaced". Suddenly, I was disqualified from the competition. However, people liked the story, and they told me I should have it published. So...I did. (It wasn't nearly as simple as that last statement made it seem.) I think it's a good story, so I like to shamelessly plug it whenever the opportunity arrises. You can get more information about the book by clicking the picture, and you can see that this isn't all an elaborate hoax by looking at the Amazon page for it.

Seriously, though, if you actually do have an interest in the book, I recommend you buy it directly from me. You won't pay tax or shipping, you'll get it right away, and I'll personally sign it (plus, I'll get more money that way).

Next on the agenda, we'll look at my blog on MySpace. I've utilized my MySpace blog much differently than I'm utilizing this one. First of all, the posts are much more sporadic, and as time went on, it focused much more on mixing photographs with words. Still, it represents a boatload of work hours, and it'd be nice for some of the older, forgotten posts to get another chance in the spotlight.

I warn you, unless you own a decent computer, don't open all of these at once. The bandwidth will melt your motherboard and make the Internet cry.

What's your ONN? : This was the first blog entry, and to be honest, it shows. I am still damn proud of my Official Nerd Number equation, but I definitely feel it needs tinkering. It is my dream to eventually make a website where you enter in the variables, and it will calculate your ONN for you. The hope would then be that users can then submit their own claculators and such, and you could post your answers, like with those quiz sites. It's still possible, especially now that I'm learning JavaScript and the like. Give it a shot, in any event, it's pretty fun.

The Obligatory Love Blog... : Hmm...this one is an interesting creature. I don't necessarily agree with it anymore, yet I don't necessarily disagree either. Where exactly do I now stand on the topic of love? That's a topic for another day, young one. For now, I'll just say that I give a good description of iambic pentameter.

Vietnamization! : I'm still really proud of this. You'd be amazed how difficult to make a song parody that works while being somewhat historically accurate.

Menagerie Overview : I have dozens, if not hundreds, of stories flying through my brain. Believe it or not, this can actually be a hindrance to actually finishing a story I start. But anyway, Menagerie is an idea I have for a graphic novel or short (50-episode) TV series. I decided to write a little overview to give people an idea of the show, and also to store down some of the information, so I wouldn't forget it later (me forgetting a story element is rare, but does occur). Just so you know, if there was ever a spin-off of this, it would star Cornelius Webster, who a friend of mine graciously illustrated for me.

MONARCH, Chapter One (Teaser) : I have three main genres that I like to write in (or some combination of the three) - Fantasy/Sci-Fi, Horror, and Comedy. MONARCH definitely falls under the latter category. I've actually finished quite a bit more than this, and if you'd definitely like to read more, just ask.

My Opprobrium - A Poem : Just a simple poem. Although I agree that not all poetry needs to rhyme, you just can't deny that it adds a special something.

Sapphire - A Dream : A MUST-READ! I love this short story to an unhealthy degree. It is, by a wide margin, one of the creepiest things I have ever written, but I think that adds to its charm. As I say, if you read only one thing on here, read this. And don't worry; it's just story...just a story.

A Story That Goes Nowhere : This one's a hoot. I laughed as I was rereading it. In order to get the full effect of this, you have to read it out loud in your best old person voice. This was directly inspired by (and in a couple places, copied from) Grampa Simpson, king of ramblers.

SAHS Prom 2005 - A Pictoral Recap : This was the first of my many photo-blogs. It's a little overview of my Senior Prom in high school. Back then, I thought it was a lot of work to make one of these (as you'll later see, it was nothing compared to what I'd later post). One thing to keep in mind that I was nominated as a potential Prom King that year. (You'll find out the results at the end). This look at the "good ol' days" is a nice way to see some of the people I went to high school with, and you get to see what I looked like before I grew a goatee. "How shocking!"

Phun With Photoshop!!! : This was one of the first times I really did any serious Photoshopping. At the time, though, I didn't actually use "Photoshop." I used "Adobe Photo Deluxe". That, combined with my novice skills, makes this seem much less impressive to me now than it did oh so long ago. My Photoshop skills have improved substantially since then (as you can tell from my background image), but everyone has to start somewhere. Something funny: although that last (non-edited) picture of me is god-ugly, it has been the source of a lot of great creepy looking Photoshops. Here's another example. You know, I really need to do a "Phun With Photoshop II" soon...

What it's like at the CKC! A Story in Pictures (and Words)... : This is probably not as interesting to people who know what Berkeley's like, but it's a fun read regardless. I also think that picture of me by Sather Gate needs to be a publicity photo for...well, something!

Two-Minute Photo-Shoot! Pre-Prom 2006 Edition!!! : This was more fun to do than it was to write. As you can tell by the title, this was all the pictures I could take in two minutes while wearing a nice suit (and sometimes having a fake cigar). If nothing else, this has a lot of really nice, quality pictures of me, which I always consider a blessing upon the world.

My Trip to Comic-Con 2006!!! HUGE BLOG!!! 100+ PICTURES!!! : This is a behemoth. An honest-to-goodness leviathan. If you copy and paste it to a Word document, it extends for 116 pages. This has it all. Superheroes! Hot alien women! Ghostbusters! Verbal jabs at Nicholas Cage! Pirates! Swords! Stan Lee! Muscles! Games! Lightsaber battles. And most! It also includes pictures of my pride and joy of the convention, my Comic-Con notebook. It's one of my more fun blogs, or so I'm told.

My Halloween Costume - 2006 : For the past five years, my Halloween costumes have allowed me to be completely silent while wearing them. From 2002 - 2005, I dressed as a deliciously creepy mime, whose creepiness is exacerbated when combined with my pale, pudgy torso. This past Halloween, however, I went with something completely unique, and it got quite a positive response...from those who weren't freaked out of their mind. This also inspired my artist friend to illustrate "The Future". Oh, yeah, and I still think the last picture is funny.

What's Black and White and Read All Over? This B&W BLOG!!! : I still believe this is the best way to do artistic photo-editing if you don't have Photoshop. (If you do have the program, however, the equivalent filter is "Torn Edges".) This also explains where I got my little profile picture and why I like it so much.

And that's all the required reading I have for you. Feel free to look at the rest of my MySpace profile. You can also always Google my name (it works best if you use quotation marks). I have a little artwork on website, I write news articles for Effectu, a tech news site, and I appear in a few other places. Plenty of material for those cold rainy nights.

Happy reading!