Sunday, March 30, 2008

On an Unrelated Note...

It doesn't seem like anyone has donated to my Dance Marathon charity fund.

C'mon, you miserly old codgers, I'm not asking for a pint of blood! (That can be donated elsewhere.)

Just give what you can here.

And hurry! There's less than a week left! Think of the children!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Reflections on Spring Break

And so, even though there be a few days left before classes start, I would say these indeed be the twilight hours of Spring Break. The carefree attitude has worn off, replaced by cold, bitter reality that there is no significant break period betwixt now and when finals begin. People are coming back to the residence halls like salmon to spawn (sans actual spawning). And all those memories of saying “I can’t wait until Spring Break,” are but an echo, followed ever so closely by the new student mantra, “I can’t wait until Summer.”

I find myself actually somewhat...resentful when I see people come back in. It's almost like they're invaders to my space. During the break, it was not uncommon to have as few as 10 people occupying an entire building. For those that were there (by which I mean me, as I can't really speak for anyone else), we felt privileged. As if, it was no longer this room which belongs to me, but this entire hallway. You could leave your door open when changing, you could have your music up a bit louder than normal, you're basically free to do as you please.

In a way, I really see Spring Break differently than most people. When I said I was staying the whole time, they would respond with, "Man, you're so unlucky," or "That sucks," or "You're going to get sooo bored around here."

But really, it was the opposite. I enjoyed this Spring Break quite a bit. It was like living in a huge clubhouse, with a very exclusive clientèle. You see, for about 80% of there break, there were - for all intents and purposes - three RAs still in the halls, including myself. There would be another coming and going for duty's sake, but they wouldn't really be considered a mainstay.

Well, we three RAs, we were our own little super-secret-handshake club (except, with no super-secret-handshake). We went shopping together, we went to lunch together, we went to dinner together, we went on rounds together, and we just hung out together. A lot.

You see, at any point in time, one or two of us was on duty, and so we had to carry pagers and be ready to respond to anything at a moments notice. Which normally means we cannot leave the Unit. However, we decided pretty early on that nothing happens. Ever! Proof? Look at the actual text of my day duty report for one of my days (on day duty, your only responsibility is responding to pages):
There once was a man from Nantucket.
Absolutely nothing happened today. Ucket.
And it's true! Nothing did happen. It's like I always say: "When there are no people, there are no problems." So, we were admittedly quite generous with the one-hour time gaps provided for meals. It's somewhat of a tree-falling-in-the-woods argument; if nobody's here, do they care if we took an extra hour or so?

Of course, had anything happened, we would have had to get back within a reasonable time. That's why, when we met up with an associate who had a car, we were home-free! We first had lunch (my first time eating dim sum), and then drove to a (2.3 miles away) to do some shopping, and then to Fenton's Creamery (an additional 0.3 miles) a place with exorbitant ice cream prices (I didn't eat any). And had we ever gotten a page for a lockout, we could have driven back within 10 minutes, easily within our 30-minute window of response.

And so we kept on doing these kinds of trips. We ate dinner at new places (I introduced the other two to La Cascada, my favorite taqueria in Berkeley) and just had a good time overall.

I even went one step further. I wanted to have a get-together for all the people who were staying (I didn't know it would be so few), and so I bought a big fruit platter and a couple bottles of sparkling cider, and swiped a box of unused cookies from our staff office (which we didn't use), and we just met up for a mini-party on Wednesday. We toasted to our good fortune, health, wealth, etc, as well as my personal toast,
"To us, who show that fun is not about where you spend your Spring Break, but who you spend it with."
Since the party was in my room, I showed off all my secrets (more on this at a later time). I lent them both a copy of my book, and we asked the security monitors if we could delay their breaks a half-hour so that we could have more time to enjoy ourselves before having to work.

Even after that was done, the night still wasn't over. I spoke with one of my two companions for near-on 4 hours, from 1am to 5am. It's kinda funny; before this week, I had almost never spoken with him (and he admitted that he used to actually be scared of me). And yet, here we were, spilling out our souls like some sort of mutual hara-kiri. And we were basically drunk. We hadn't touched a drop of alcohol, but I think the slight drowsiness that comes with staying up that late makes one a bit less inhibited, as well as a bit more slurred. Whatever the case, it was a long, good talk.

It actually made me almost miss having a roommate, if only for our "lights-out conversations."

Unfortunately, our little triage had to disband the next day, as they were both heading out for the weekend. And though other people came in to replace them for their RA duties, they couldn't replace them as members of the clubhouse.

So that's Spring Break from the human perspective (a definite twist for me, I know). Here's some other niceties about the time:
-The weather was, for the most part, gorgeous!
-Because of said gorgeous weather, I actually went tanning for the first time in years. (Admittedly, it was only one day for less than an hour, but still!!!)
-I was able to complete a story for my Star Wars class (though, you already knew that).
-I was also able to finish an essay that's due in two weeks. I much prefer this to pulling all-nighters for essays.
-I was able to be here to witness the beauty of the dozen cherry blossom-like trees of Unit 2. As far as I know, no other residence hall at Berkeley has trees like this, and compared to the usual fare we see most of the year, it's quite breathtaking. Here are some camera phone pictures:
Because of their petal-falling penchant, I enjoyed calling them "snow trees."

But alas, it's all over. The clubhouse is closed. In it's place, the residence halls are opening again. C'est la vie. But at least when somebody says, "Wow, it sucks that you had to stay here over Spring Break," I can just smile, knowing what they missed.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Cop-Out: A Star Wars Short Story (Story 1)

So, I've decided that for my final project in my Star Wars class, I'm going to write a few short stories revolving around the life and times of my created character, Akker. (I'm also planning on asking my friend Alex to perhaps do a couple illustrations for it). Since I realize it will be quite the process, I wanted to get some of it done ahead of time. So, I'm working on it during Spring Break.

(Quick aside: While there are only a few [literally, like, three] RAs here right now [and nearly no residents], we're actually having a fun time.)

So, I just completed one of the short stories, and then I thought to myself, "Hey, why don't I show this on my blog rather than write something new?" So that's exactly what I decided to do. It may not make much sense by itself, as it's part of a larger thing, but whatever. I've included links for explanations to any Star Wars information.

Also, I apologize for any misspellings. I didn't even bother with a spell check. When you're writing a Star Wars story, it seems as though half the page is underlined in red.


The coliseum was abuzz with life. The first half of the events had been completed, and there was another hour before the second half began. The smells of roasting womp rat filled the halls. It was a salty smell, drenched in some unknown sauce. Just letting the aroma reach your nostrils made one’s mouth water.

“Beautiful…” Uthor muttered under his breath. Salivation was his friend, as those liquids would need to be replaced. And what better way to hydrate a mouth than with a pitcher of Uthor’s special blend Fizzbrew. The stout man mentally counted the customers standing in the line for his stand while pouring glass after glass. At this rate, he’d be able to get transit fare before the second half.

Suddenly, Uthor saw a somewhat short figure running up from the side. Normally, he wouldn’t pay any mind, but the figure, wearing nothing but a battle shirt and a few leg wrappings, was instantly recognizable. In fact, it was the reason he was able to get the gig here at the Arcopola Coliseum.

“U-THOR!” The figure shouted with a exuberant smile and index fingers pointing to the merchant.

“Akk-ER!” Uthor responded in kind before placing the One Moment, Please sign on the stand. He stepped away from his post and turned to his friend, “What’s going on?”

Akker quickly blew a few locks of hair from in front of his eyes. He then smiled at Uthor. “You’re betting on my match, right.”

Uthor was dumbfounded. “What are you talking about?” he said, “I never bet on the matches. You know that.”

“Nonononono. That wasn’t a question. You are betting on my match.”

“Why? I have Fizzbrew to sell.”

“Pah! You keep selling at gigs like this, you’ll never get anywhere. By the looks of it, the most you’re going to get by the second half will barely cover transit fare.”

“Well, yes, but…”

“Uthor, have you seen my odds for this match?” Akker asked as he pulled a small slip from who-knows-where in his battle skirt. He handed it to Uthor, who instantly recognized it as the event program. It listed all the matches of the day, as well as the betting odds for each. His eyes scrolled down the pamphlet until he reached an entry reading Akker the Fallen Jedi.

“…Twelve-thousand to one!” Uthor shouted in disbelief.

Akker’s sharp-toothed smile widened. “I know, it’s great.”

“What in Gret’s name are you facing?”

“I don’t know! I don’t care! Think about it, Uthor. Wager your stand, and if-”

“Wager my stand?!” Uthor tried to protest, but a claw-like finger was placed over his mouth. Akker cocked his head, which was his body’s way of saying “Shut up.”

After Uthor decided he wasn’t going to argue, Akker continued. “Your stand is worth, what, 5,000 Credits? You wager that, I win, and suddenly, you’re able that full-blown pub you wanted on Telos. Understand where I’m going with this?”

“Well…that’s quite an opportunity.”

“It may be your only opportunity, buddy. The only other time my odds have been above 200-to-1 was when they had that typo on the program for the Tatooine Slaughter.”

Uthor remembered that time, but didn’t laugh like he usually would. This cart was his only means of income. It was his livelihood. How could he just wager it, even if it was on one of the greatest fighter’s he’d ever known. He was never much of a risk-taker. He looked into Akker’s slate gray eyes, so full of confidence and excitement. Well, Uthor thought, what’s one more risk. “Okay,” he said aloud, “I’m in.”

Akker lit up like a supernova. “Great!” He rushed to the Fizzbrew stand, tore off the One Moment, Please sign and replaced it with the one that said, quite simply, Closed. There was some commotion amongst the customers.

“What are you doing?” grunted the Gamorrean standing in the front of the line, “I’ve been waiting here for ten minutes.”

“Judging by your looks, I’ll say it was a ten minutes not wasted.”

“What?! I’ll crush you, you little punk!” The Gamorrean grabbed Akker by the throat and began to squeeze.

And that’s when Akker’s eyes shot open.

They didn’t bulge like a man suffocating, but rather a man possessed. His mouth curled upward from ear to pointed ear, brandishing a multitude of demon-like teeth in a psychotic smile. Akker’s arms shot out and grabbed the Gamorrean by his garments. Akker quickly pulled in, smashing the Gamorrean’s face against his own. The Gamorrean yelped in pain. Akker briefly gave his arms some slack before pulling their faces together again. And again. And again. Before long, the Gamorrean’s face was smashed and silent, while Akker’s was covered in a yellowish blood. His bulging, bloodshot eyes closed, and a moment passed before they reopened, perfectly normal. He looked at the rest of the customers.

“We’re closed. Have a nice day.”

The crowd scattered without a word. Akker looked back at Uthor. “Okay, so remember, wager it all on me.”

“Gotcha,” Uthor responded. As his friend walked away, though, he called out, “Ak-KER! …What if you lose?”

Akker responded as he always did: with a smile. “I don’t want to sound mean, but it doesn’t matter whether or not you have the stand. If I die, your enterprise is essentially over. See you later!”


Uthor felt uncomfortable sitting here in the stands. There were drinks to be sold. Not that he could sell any, what with the betting office holding his stand in storage. Still, a merchant’s instincts are hard to quell.

However, now was the moment he was waiting for. His life was on the line in this upcoming match, and so he wouldn’t miss it for the world.

“Ladies, gentlemen, and other,” a voice boomed over the speakers surrounding the coliseum, “We have a special treat for you today. We’re sure you’ve heard of Akker, the Fallen Jedi, as he’s made his rounds on the Blood Circuit. He especially made his name with his antics during the Tatooine Slaughter. Well, let’s welcome him to the Arcopola Coliseum!

The was a uncontrollable din within the coliseum as people cheered and jeered. Entering from a small door, Akker sauntered with his customary swagger. He blew kisses to one side of the audience while thrusting his hips at the other side. Uthor, unsure of how to act, simply clapped his hands a few times.

“Now, while on Tatooine, Akker’s betting odds were misprinted at 3,000-to-1. Now, you may have thought that our odds were also misprinted. We can assure you, they were not. However, if you think that you can make a quick fortune by betting on this fallen Jedi, you’ve got another thing coming.

“What?” Uthor said, filled with a sudden sense of worry.

“That’s because Akker’s opponent is no mere fighter. We got something…special for him. And let’s see what it is!”

Suddenly, a large section of the coliseum floor began to open up, and an underground platform began to raise. Sitting atop that platform was the largest beast that Uthor had ever seen. While not an expert at animals, he recognized it as a drexl, the apex predator of Onderon. Its wings were lashed behind its back, presumably to keep it from flying away. The beast itself seemed to be dressed in armor, which struck Uthor as odd, seeing as a 25-meter beast shouldn’t even need such protection. And it was facing his best friend.

“Oh, no…”


“Oh, yes!” Akker said to himself. He could smell weeks’ worth or rotting flesh coming from the drexl’s teeth, but nothing fresher. This baby was hungry.

But it was also big. Too big to fight with his normal methods. No, simple bloodlust was ineffective here. He would, more than likely, have to go to his backup plan: the lightsaber.

“Say, Akker!” He heard the announcer say. He was a little surprised at first; announcers didn’t usually converse with fighters.


“This beast is too big to fight with your normal methods. Perhaps, as a fallen Jedi, you should use your lightsaber.

“Ha! Great minds think alike, and all that,” Akker said, making no attempt to hide his sarcasm. He didn’t like how much they were playing up the whole “Fallen Jedi” angle. Made him seem like some sort of chump.

Suddenly, the drexl’s head came racing down. Akker jumped away just in time, so that the beast’s face slammed onto the sandy floor of the coliseum. Akker then took out his lightsaber and turned it on. It’s black blade hummed like a good Twi’lek masseuse. It would make short work of the drexl. With a deft movement, Akker swung the lightsaber upon the beast’s forehead. It should have split its skull in two.

Should have.

And yet, here the drexl stood, its skull quite intact.


“It’s not going to be that easy Akker. You see, that armor is forged from Mandalorian Iron. Impenetrable, even by a lightsaber.

“Hey now!” Akker yelled back, not sure where the announcer was located, “Thanks for letting me know after I got into the fight.”

“We don’t give 12,000-to-1 odds for nothing, Akker.”

“Well-” Akker began, but was cut off by a huge backhand slap by the drexl, which sent him flying. He slammed into the wall, sending dust and chips of cement into the air. This snapped him back into the present. Akker fell to his feet and stared at the drexl. He then closed his eyes for a moment before opening them as wide as possible.

And then he could see the beast behind the armor. Or rather, the Force which made up the beast. Appearing as though swirls of crude paint, he could see its every movement, its every tendency. As far as he knew, no other Jedi, fallen or straight, could see the Force like this, save for his dead master. Unfortunately, all he could ascertain was that he wouldn’t be able to get through the armor with any physical force.

Mental forces were a different matter.

For the past month or so, Akker had been experimenting with a new technique. Any Jedi worth their salt knew how to manipulate and move things with their mind. But what if you could do that on a molecular level. In theory, it’s simple: move two molecules away from each other. Do that enough and whatever you’re focusing on loses its molecular structure. Yes, in theory it’s simple, but it takes some work in practice. Akker, whose unique way of perceiving the force allowed him a better sense of the location of even individual molecules, had tested the technique on rocks and small lizards, turning them into nothing more than piles of goop.

A drexl…that would take a bit more work.

However, Akker was always up for a challenge. He ran around the coliseum, avoiding the claws and teeth of the enormous beast. Careful not to waste too much energy, he bided his time until the drexl’s head came straight toward him. Akker jumped into the air and landed on the faceplate of the drexl. He then focused. Hard. He visualized as many of the countless molecules comprising the drexl’s body as he possibly could. One by one in rapid succession, he pulled them from their place, sending them flying.

Akker heard the drexl shriek. He could feel it bucking its head to and fro. Barely. He was too focused on his current work to care about anything else. He couldn’t tell how much time was passing in his current state. It could have been second, it could have been a half-hour. All Akker knew was that, sure enough, the drexl was sinking to the ground.

After the last molecule was torn from place, Akker closed his eyes. He allowed his vision to go back to its normal capacity, and reopened his eyes. When he looked, he saw that the drexl’s indestructible armor was still intact, even if it was in a heap. Underneath it, he could see a sticky lake of purplish gel which was the drexl’s new form.

“Force…dissolution. That’s a good name for the technique,” Akker said to himself, smiling. He could barely even hear that, though, amongst the deafening chaos that had overtaken the stadium from his victory.


Argen Vise, the owner of the Arcopola Coliseum, was pacing back and forth. “I hope you’re happy, Akker. Do you know how many people placed a bet on you?”

“I don’t fight so people bet on me. I fight to fight.”

“People put novelty bets on you. They figured it would be good for a laugh. Instead, it’s like a lottery that everyone wins! There’s even some merchant I have to pay some sixty million credits to!”

Akker smiled when hearing that. He sat down in the most comfortable-looking chair and said, “Hey, I didn’t set the odds at 12,000-to-1. Whoever thought of that idea needs to be fired.”

“We’re all fired because of you, you know that! We’re bankrupt! We won’t have any money after paying off these bets. And it’s all because of you.”

“So? A man doesn’t just sit down and let himself die so you can make a profit. At least, I don’t. Like I said, I fight to fight,” he said, staring Vise square in the eyes. “Besides, your demise makes possible the opening of my friend’s new pub. I’m sure he’ll be opening on Telos fairly soon.”

“What do I care about your friend?”

Akker stood up and stepped gingerly toward the door. “Because,” he said with a toothy smile, “If you want to find me, that’s where I’ll be. And Uthor’s a nice guy. I’m sure when he sees you’re down on your luck, he’ll let you have a Fizzbrew on the house.”

And with that, Akker stepped out.

My Cap is In My Hands...

So, this is a little different, so bear with me. I usually don't ask people for money. But I think I will today.

No, no, don't worry, I'm not in any sort of financial scare. The money isn't even for me. Rather, it's for a good cause...

...It's for sponsoring me.

You see, on April 5th, we're having the third annual UC Berkeley Dance Marathon.
Yes, I know that looks pretty silly, but what can ya do. Anyway, it's basically a 12-hour ordeal that's like a normal marathon, except you're dancing and not running. So I guess you could say it's not like a normal marathon at all!

So, I decided to sign up, mainly because I feel I should participate in these kinds of events every so often. Plus, there will be people I know that I can talk with.

Yes, I know what you're thinking: "Andrew, don't you hate dances?" Yes, I do. Or rather, the music they play at them. However, in order to keep myself sane, I'm going to be assuming that they'll play some halfway decent music. And if anyone tells me otherwise, I'll just plug my ears.

Now, this is all fine and good, but where does the money come into play?

Well, I found out after signing up that this is actually a charity event. (As if they'd do it if it wasn't.) The proceeds go toward the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, and fighting AIDS is always good, especially when it's for babies!

The program allows us to make our own crude personal profile pages. The materials weren't great, but...


(...Like I said: we didn't have much to work with.)

Anyway, you'll notice amongst my Canadian pride that it says my goal is $100. This is just a tentative goal, because I don't normally do this sort of thing, and so I'm not going to set my sights too high.


I am on a team, and I just noticed that I am tied with a couple other people for the largest goal amount. And in order to continue the proud Berkeley tradition of "Andrew Schnorr wins," I think it would be best if I slaughtered all my teammates sponsorships. Oh, yeah, and you'll be fighting AIDS while doing so!

You'll also notice that it says anonymous person donated $20. That was me. Me. I just clicked the wrong attribution button. I swear.



Anyway, if you'd like to donate (and why wouldn't you?), just head back up to that beautiful page and enter the donation amount. You'll need a debit/credit card - I don't think scanned pictures of dollar bills will work.

Feel free to give as much or as little as you want. None of it goes to my pocket, so don't worry about it being spent on crow shirts. Unless the AIDS people need them. Then you're stuck.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Movies of Note: No Country for Old Men

You know, I hadn't even heard of No Country for Old Men until it won the Oscar for Best Picture. (Truth be told, I don't hear much about any movies nowadays, but whatever.) However, I enjoy many of the works of the Coen Brothers, so I decided to give it a look.

And let me tell you, it's quite good.

No, I'm not going to go into a full-blown review of it, but I will say a few points.

First, this movie gets really tense. Like, napkin-ripping tense. Personally, I consider this a good thing.

Second, there is so much ingenuity in the way almost every character utilizes normal, everyday objects that you'd think you were watching a live feed from the MacGyver convention.

Third, and this is something I've heard elsewhere, the ending ain't too great. But apparently the Coen Brothers followed the book quite closely, so I guess this means that's the book's ending ain't too great either. Still, it won the Oscar despite the ending, so rest assured that 95% is good.

There are a lot of interesting characters (as their usually seem to be in a Coen Brothers movie) but most of them don't seem to get enough screentime. But again, the movie closely follows the book, so you can blame the original author (um....Cormac McCarthy!) for that. The only real character you feel you see enough of is the protagonist, a random Texan hunter/Vietnam vet named Llewelyn (though I swore for the first half of the movie, I thought they were calling him "Luann").

Really, though, the true main character in this story is actually the villain. The guy who played him apparently won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, and I think it's well-deserved. He really has a presence on screen, and it's not just because of his outlandish hair. The character himself is quite interesting, as he is a psychopathic killer, but as the story progresses, you can get just a hint of what his underlying values are. It's like, you can tell there is a method to his madness, but you don't fully understand what it is. One thing he does seem to have - at least, in my interpretation - is a very set idea of reaping what you sow. He thinks that all your actions lead you up to every point in your life, and each decision you make should affect whether you live or die.

I think this kind of idea is summed up quite well in one tense scene, which for some reason stood out from the rest. Rather than describe it, I'll just show the video. Don't worry, no real spoilers. As a simple set-up, the killer is at a gas station. That's about it.

So there you go.

If you mind neither a bunch of Texan accents or quite a bit of gritty violence, I highly recommend (with both thumbs) that you see this movie.

Complete and Utter Vanity (Apologies to Your Browser Speed)

I like to think that my computer, and all my documents are pretty organized. For example, for pictures that were taken this school year in Berkeley, I have a folder within "My Pictures" called "Berkeley Year Three." In this folder, I have a folder for every month of the year (and a few for things that transcend beyond one month or are considered "exceptional").

The "March 2008" folder has a lot of pictures in it. A LOT.

I'm not sure why. I think it may be a combination of a bit of (relative) free time and...okay, I don't know what the other part of the combination could be. I've just been inspired to take a lot of picture. Of course, about 98% of them are of me (+/- 2%). There's not much else to photograph when you're alone in your room. But I like to think that I can be interesting enough for more than one picture.

Also, I like to Photoshop pictures of myself.

So, I decided to show off some of these pictures (a small fraction of them, but still what I would consider a good representation), as well as some of the Photoshop products.

So, let's get started! (Oh, and if your computer crashed trying to load this page, get a better computer! It's nowhere near as bad as during the Comic-Con days.)

We'll start out with one of the rarest pictures you'll ever see. I've only taken one picture of me like this, and I don't plan on doing so again. This is a side of me that most people never see. However, it was late at night, and I decided that perhaps, maybe, I should take a single picture of myself...wearing glasses.



There, I hope you enjoyed my restricted-vision self. That may be the only time you see me wearing glasses in a picture.

And next, we had a bunch of shots I decided to take one night. On said night, I noticed that a few locks of my hair were down, so I decided to do some "pretty boy" shots; maybe send them in to be a part of a gang, get myself a nickname like "Two-Bit" or "Soda-Pop". Or "Pretty-Boy." It's all good.

As I said, this is but a small fraction of the pictures taken, but I can assure that in most of them, I am not looking toward the camera. It seems to be a lot more mysterious. You can just imagine that when someone's not looking at the camera, they're saying something like "Yeah, whatever," or the ever-popular "..."

I've always been a fan or pointing toward the camera. I find the resulting pictures seem a little more...interactive than most.

This can either be a picture portraying someone's emotional downfall, or some guy saying, "Oh, God, what did I eat last night?"

I also decided to do a few close-up shots. You'll notice I'm still not looking at the camera.

This one was actually a semi-accidental shot, believe it or not. My camera was set up on a timer, and right before this one took, I was scratching my eyebrow area. And yet, to anyone who sees it, it appears to be some sort of emotive portrait picture.

Due to my larger-than-average pupil size, I tend to have more red-eye issues than your normal workaday average Joe. So often, I'll have to use Photoshop just to make myself look a smidgen less demon-like. But for some reason, I thought this picture worked pretty well as having one red eye and one black one. Almost gives a Terminator feel to the whole thing.

Speaking of Photoshop, let's take a look at what I did with a couple of pictures.

So, here's the original picture. Personally, I feel it would have looked better had I my thumbs in my pockets, but you only have a split two seconds to figure out what you're going to do before the camera flashes. In any event, I thought it would work we..

One thing I like to do on Photoshop is to remove the somewhat mundane background of my bedroom and replace it with something a bit more exciting. More often than not, I'll choose a city at night. I don't know, something about it just screams "interesting." However, to do this, you need to make sure that the lighting isn't as intense on yourself. Otherwise, it just looks awkward.

While I really like the way this looks it was, truth be told, accidental. (Like I've said before, the best way to learn on Photoshop is just to experiment.) This was done by applying the "Satin" blending option to the layer with my picture on it, and having the Mode be "Linear Burn". Somehow it turned into this, and I really liked it.

In fact, I liked it so much that this is now my desktop background. (Obviously, at a higher resolution.) It's a pretty kickass desktop, if I do say so myself.

Also, one of the things I tend to to do is add some random lines to pictures, to give it even more atmosphere. This is the "quote" for this picture. Also, you may notice this is quite brighter than the previous two. That's because it was meant to be put on my MySpace/Facebook accounts, and unless you brightened it a bit, it just looked like a black box. As is, I think it looks like it could be the poster for some Jet Li movie (in which Jet Li doesn't appear).

So, here's the second Photoshop project on here. For a while now, I've wanted to have a picture in which I'm holding fire or a fireball. My early (as in, 2005) attempts at creating fire on Photoshop were...well, lame. However, the resources of the Internet are boundless, and I was able to find someone who offers a tutorial on creating fire, as well as a few brushes to help you out. To give proper credit, here is their website. While some may consider using a special brush to be cheating, I don't. After all, Photoshop is meant to make things easier. Plus, in order to make really realistic-looking fire, there's quite a few additional steps, and there are options for customizations all along the way. So, let's take a look.

Here's the original picture. Note that I didn't remove my red-eye. I figured that if I'm going to be holding fire, it would actually be more appropriate to keep it. There are a few different "holding" poses I had, but I thought this one was the best, if only for the intensity of my face.

And here's what it looks like after the edits. Note a few things I did. First, I put a little bit of an orange glow to the face, to demonstrate a new lighting source (it's not perfect, but I think it works). I also cut out my upwards-pointing fingers and repasted them over the flames to make it less obvious that the fire was just pasted on the hands. I won't show you a comparison, but trust me, it make the illusion work out a lot better. Also, I'm not entirely happy with the rising smoke. Had I the chance to do that part over, I think I'd add some difference clouds to it.

And of course, after doing this, I decided to put on some Photoshop filters. Why? Because I'm a filter whore, that's why. It's one of my weaknesses, I suppose; a temptation I can't resist. What's interesting is that each filter will completely change the feeling of a picture. I've included four different pictures and you'll notice that each one has a different "quote" that I think fits with the feel of the piece.

Oh, and each of the pictures are in front of a dark city. Because I'm predictable.

With this one, I thought the eyes really stood out, and that the expression was a bit pout-ier than normal. To me, this kind of looked like some sort of lost soul. So I went with that.

Interestingly, this is the only one of my filtered pictures that's in color, possibly because most of the colored filters just make the picture look messy. This one, however, I felt really added to it. Of all the ones, I think the expression is the most neutral, and yet still quite mysterious and deep. One of those "hero or villain" ambiguities. I would say that this one is my favorite. (I also was tickled by my own double-entendre use of "light".)

This one came out looking like some sort of new-age demon. The fire doesn't even look like fire; it looks like some sort of unholy darkness. Anyway, I apologize for the somewhat weak rhyme, but remember, I'm making this up as I go along.

This one looks like it could be some devil-may-care protagonist who follows his own rules. I always find that when I use this filter ("Torn Edges", if you're curious), my pupils always stand out like a freight train.

So that's my Photoshop work. I only wish I wasn't so interested in it that it keeps me up at night, brushing and clicking away. Oh, well, at least something comes out of it.

And, now, I'll end with another picture of my hair sticking up. Because it's fun seeing how tall my hair can get!

...Okay, I'm done.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Picking Up the Pieces...

True story:

I was recently contacted by a fellow Haas student. I never really met the guy, but I have passed by him a few times. (He probably only knew my name through looking in the student directory.) Anyway, his message was very direct:
"i see you around haas. would you happen to be a pua?"
Now, don't be ashamed if you don't know what a PUA is. I didn't, and I was being asked if I was one (that might give you an idea as to the answer). However, I looked it up, and apparently it stands for "Pickup Artist," which, for those of you too lazy to click the link, is "a term used to describe a man who is skilled in meeting, attracting, and seducing women."

Think about that for a second.

There's plenty of guys at Haas that this guy could have contacted. And, unless he contacted them all (a possibility, but for some reason I doubt it), I was singled out as one of those most likely to be a man skilled in the art of seduction.

I'll be honest, I was flattered.

So, I responded and had to deny the suggestion. However, I didn't want to say something along the lines of "I haven't touched a woman's hand in three years!" (not true; I've shaken many female hands), so I just responded as such:
Haha. No, not in any official capacity. Why, do you need some help?
And note that "in any official capacity" is code for "at all."

As it turned out, the guy was looking for people to join his "sarge group." Again, I had to look that up, but apparently, it's a group that's, when it comes down to it, is about picking up chicks.

After doing a little research, I figured that he may have pegged me for a PUA because of my relatively eccentric dress style. Thing is, there's some famous guy on VH1 named "Mystery" who dresses extremely eccentrically, but I guess it works for him. I prefer to think it's more because of my charisma and non-drunken swagger, but whatever.

In the end, I had to deny the guy's offer (lest the terrible truth be revealed), but thanked him. And I really did mean it. I felt what I assume a middle-aged woman feels when she's asked for her ID. Yes, he was mistaken, but it's a mistake in my ego's favor.

UC Berkeley and the St. Patricks Day Apathy


Another holiday, another disappointing showing from Cal students.

Perhaps this is a trend amongst college students in general (I wouldn't really know, having only been to one college), but it seems as though people are very selective in the ways they celebrate their holidays.

(Note: I am strictly speaking about fun, nearly fully-secularized holidays here.)

For example, people are more than willing to gorge themselves on sweets on Halloween, but Lord forbid they put on a costume. Valentine's Day seems to have become less about love and more about sex. And St. Patrick's Day? Well, people are more than willing to drink themselves senseless, but I mean, c'mon! Is it that hard to wear a little green?

We're not asking for much!

A shirt! A button! A scrunchie, for God's sake!

But no, nothing will do. I estimate that less than 15% of people wore any sort of green for St. Pat's Day. There are only a few reasons I can fathom for this:

1. Cal has a high percentage of atheists in it.
While this is true, I think we can kind of discount it as a reason. Like I said, St. Pat's day is mostly secularized at this point. And I find that even staunch atheists don't really refrain from celebrating Christian holidays. ("I don't want to take Christmas off! That's contrary to my lack of faith!") In any event, it's likely something else.

2. Cal has a high percentage of Asians in it.
"I knew it!" you're thinking. "Ol' Andrew has turned into a racist! Time to expunge that honkey from our society!" Hold on a second, mister! I'm not talking about Asian-Americans here (who do still hold the plurality at Cal). I'm talking about Asians. As in, from Asia. As in, not American citizens. Hence, there is a fairly good chance that they don't have much experience with what is primarily a Western holiday. While I would like to say that this is the case, there were still plenty of non-Asians not wearing green. So, it must be something else.

3. Cal students have no holiday spirit.
That's the one! I think this is unequivocally true. People have no spirit! It's like a bunch of Grinches-in-training. I usually find that I put the most effort into celebrating holidays, especially by reaching out to others, as evidenced here and here. As far as I know, nobody else does this. Why? Because they're lame! That's right! Cal may be a wonderful educational institution, but when it comes to even an iota of holiday cheer, I have to imagine we rank really far down.

...Maybe still above BYU, though. I can't imagine there being too much excess cheer there.

And what about me? Am I being hypocritical by preaching about wearing green and then not doing so myself. Well, take a look for yourself at what I looked like all day (excuse the overall disheveledness; I had taken a nap before taking this picture):(As a little aside, I personally think suspenders are like canes: they're lame if you have to use them, but if you don't need them, they're awesome!)

Also, I would like to note that this is the first day in three months that I've eaten red meat, specifically so that I could have a traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner. Now that's holiday spirit!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Mini-Blogs, Set Eight

And mini-blogs make a return after more than five months! While I know that nowadays I'm usually writing mini-blogs as their own posts, there's a few things I wanted to address with a good ol' one-two punch. So, here we go!

Have you always wanted an emoticon to perfectly capture former New York governor Eliot Spitzer. Well, I think I have something that works quite well.


Specifically with the bracket.

(Don't get it? Look at these reference photos, and it may become a bit more obvious.)

(Also, 50 dozen respect points to anyone who gets the reference in the title.)

What's In a Name?
So, this semester, after some soul searching (and scam searching), I decided to become a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society. As I just mentioned, I was concerned about it being a scam similar to Who's Who Among What-Have-You. However, from all I've seen, it's fully legit, and the Berkeley chapter apparently prides itself on being particularly active. Seeing as I receive an email from them almost every day, I won't debate them.

Anyway, today was the official induction ceremony. For the most part, it was relatively ho-hum, as the co-presidents had to battle with both a feedback-blaring sound system and their own lack of enthusiasm. However, one of the benefits of going is that you received a certificate (because certificates mean something!).

So, here's mine.This all seems rather uninteresting, until you consider the fact that my name is Andrew David Schnorr. Then it becomes somewhat amusing, for one of three reasons:
1. Whoever printed these out has no clue what they're doing and make whole-word typos.
2. Whoever printed these know that in my family, the firstborn son's middle name is the father's first name, had the father been the firstborn son in his family. However, he didn't realize that my Uncle Joe was not only not the firstborn son in his family, but is also not my father (as evidenced by the fact that I call him Uncle Joe).
3. There is another Andrew Schnorr out there with the middle name Joseph who received my certificate by mistake. If this be the case, I must hunt this Andrew Schnorr down and eliminate him, Highlander-fashion.

Yet Another Thing for Guests to Look At
So, about a week ago, I put the 45th picture/poster/print on my wall (yes, that is a lot). This is one I've been looking at for a while, and it's one I've always liked. It's actually a travel advertisement from the 1930s or 40s. It features what I think is one of the coolest lithographs ever. Here, take a look.You'll note that it's right next to my door. So basically, every time I go to leave, I can't help but think of something I'd rather be doing. :P

A Little Bird Told Me...
5 years ago, you ask me what I think about crows, I'd probably tell you I hate them, or at least that they "worry" me.

Nowadays? Nowadays, I have half a dozen t-shirts with crows on them. (Mostly from this company called "Stranded" which I think makes great shirts.) And I no longer harbor any sort of resentment towards them; rather, I hold a sort of fascination. What's changed? Here's a few possibilities:
1. I've become a Native American shaman who uses crows to predict weather patterns.
2. I've become enamored with Brandon Lee movies.
3. I've become a goth (a popular theory with friends and family for some reason).

I think the truth is a little simpler. I believe I've become more "in-tune" with animals in general over the past several years (not in a hippie way; more of a Francis of Assisi way). Nowadays, I find crows to be just another fascinating species of bird.

That, and they look really cool on shirts.

THE_BOLSHEVIK's Mystery Adventure Show (Part Deux)

THE_BOLSHEVIK and Kris walk up to the haunted house.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Well, here we are at the haunted house."
Kris: "Yes, I know. I did just drive us both here, after all."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Well, regardless of who drove who, we both have to stay in this house for the next 24 hours, or else that murderer won't confess to his crimes."
Kris: "Yes, I KNOW. Lord, you'd think I hadn't been around when we found out about all this."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Well, let's get moving, shall we?"
THE_BOLSHEVIK and Kris walk up to the porch of the house, where an older man - a caretaker - is standing.
Whilruff: "Welcome, gentlemen, to the Mason Chapiere. How may I be of service?"
Kris: "Did you just make that name up?"
Whilruff: "...Yes. In any case, My name is Mr. Whilruff. I oversee the house's operations."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "I'm THE_BOLSHEVIK, and this is Kris. We have to stay in this house until noon tomorrow. An entire murder mystery's conclusion depends upon it."
Whilruff: "Excellent. But you must know, boys. This house is haunted."
Kris: "Yeah, we know. That's why they're forcing us to stay here and not at a Bed-and-Breakfast."
Whilruff: "Actually, we do serve breakfast here."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Wow, now that's service!"
Whilruff: "Well, here are your keys. You can sleep in the master bedroom. There are two sleeping bags in there. Feel free to unroll them anywhere on the floor. And if anything...unusual were to happen, don't rely too much on calling the police. They haven't come here huch since the late sixties."
Kris: "Why, was there some sort of major incident that spooked them away?"
Whilruff: "No, the owners at the time were just a little too fond of prank calling. 'Is your refrigerator running?' and the like. You know how it is. After all, you're still in your youth. You must have used that one dozens of times"
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "I...guess. Well, we'll be going inside."
Whilruff: "Pleasant dreams, gentlemen."
THE_BOLSHEVIK and Kris walk into the house. Cut to a scene of them unrolling sleeping bags in the master bedroom.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Kris, since we have about 10 hours before we go to bed, we may want to be looking over our case files."
Kris: "What case files?"
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "These case files I wrote up before we left. Take a look!"
THE_BOLSHEVIK hands Kris a folder.
Kris: "...'The Mystery of the Haunted House.' You know, there's no real mystery, seeing as we haven't even seen evidence of the house being haunted yet."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Yeah, that's why there's nothing actually written in the case file. All I have so far is the title."
Kris: "Bah. You have to realize, THE_BOLSHEVIK, there's no such things as ghosts."
Kris throws the folder away.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "...Well, do you have any idea of what to do until dinner, at least? Do you wanna start a band or something?"
Kris: "Hey, I brought a book with me. Some people plan ahead. (Looks in bag.) I...where'd my book go? Damn, I didn't leave it at home, did I?"
A book begins floating by. THE_BOLSHEVIK stares at it for a moment before plucking it from the sky.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Is this it?"
Kris: "Oh, yeah. Thanks."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Why are you reading a book on conventional explosives?"
Kris: "Gotta read a book on something."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "I wish I had a book."
Another, thinner book floats by. THE_BOLSHEVIK plucks it from the air.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "...The Berenstain Bears' Trouble With Money. Hey, what are you implying?"
Kris: "Are you talking to me?"
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "No, I'm talking to...did you see who gave me this book?"
Kris: "What book?"
THE_BOLSHEVIK looks down to see that the book has disappeared from his hands.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Waahh!! Kris, I think this place is haunted!"
Kris: "Hmm, better write that in your case files."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Good idea! ...Where'd they go?"
Kris: "Aren't you holding them?"
THE_BOLSHEVIK looks down and sees that he's holding the folders.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Waaahh!!!"
Fade to a scene of THE_BOLSHEVIK in the kitchen. He's holding a frozen dinner.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: " minutes! Gotcha!"
THE_BOLSHEVIK puts the frozen dinner in and sets the microwave. As it is cooking, he looks toward the refrigerator.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "...Refrigerator running.....oh, I get it!"
A small explosion is heard. THE_BOLSHEVIK turns and opens the microwave. The frozen dinner has been turned to ash.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: ".....I think it may be a little overdone."
THE_BOLSHEVIK goes to the freezer and pulls out another frozen dinner. It has the word "KRIS" written on it in marker.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Well, it looks like you wont be eating tonight, Kris."
THE_BOLSHEVIK pulls out the dinner and puts it in the microwave.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Let's see, the last one burned within 10 seconds, so I'll set this for 5."
THE_BOLSHEVIK sets the microwave and turns it on. He bobs his head for the few seconds until the microwave beeps. He opens it, only to find more ash inside.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Hmm, this isn't conducive to eating. Maybe I'll just eat this roll."
THE_BOLSHEVIK picks up a roll from the counter and takes a bite. A cracking sound is heard. THE_BOLSHEVIK raises his free hand to his jaw.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Lord, my tooth! God, ow!"
Roll: (In a whispered, creaking voice) "Leeave thiiis plaaaaace."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Shuddup! Unless you can make my tooth feel better, I don't want to hear anything!"
Roll: "...Fiiiine."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "...Hey, my tooth feels better! You're some sort of magic roll?"
Roll: "Leeave thiiis plaaaaace."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Wait...are you part of this house's haunting?"
Roll: "Yeeeeesssssss."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Well, you seem to be a healer of sorts. I'll think we'll keep you around."
Roll: "Waaaaaaaiiit."
THE_BOLSHEVIK stuffs the roll into his pocket and takes out a candy bar, which he eats as he walks out of the room. Fade to a scene of Kris, wearing pajamas, going to the bathroom sink with a toothbrush. He turns on the faucet. Blood begins pouring out.
Kris: "...Goddamn sink blood."
Fade to a scene of the THE_BOLSHEVIK and Kris lying in their sleeping bags at night. A Hello Kitty lamp is between them.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Well, we've made it this far. Just a night left to go."
Kris: "Yeah. 'Night."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Nighty night."
The two close their eyes and try to fall asleep. However, a noise can be heard outside the room, as though somebody is there.
Kris: "I swear to God, if you don't shut up, I will smother you."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "That wasn't me!"
Kris: "Well, then, who was it?"
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "The roll?"
Roll: "I saaaid noooothiiiing."
Kris: "Bah! let's go see what the matter is."
THE_BOLSHEVIK and Kris get up and walk to the bedroom door. They look out and see what looks like a person wearing a white sheet running around.
Kris: "What the hell? There's some guy wearing a bedsheet running around."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Do you think it might be a ghost? Like...the ghost of a bed, or something?"
Kris: "While I'm sure beds are witness to some pretty traumatic things, I don't think any of them are enough to make it come alive, die, and then become a ghost."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Pfft, not with that attitude. C'mon, let's go chase it."
Kris: "Are you kidding? What if it's some psychopath? Or a hobo with a shiv or something?"
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Don't worry, we should be fine as long as we play some music."
THE_BOLSHEVIK pulls a boombox from off-screen and presses the play button. Some upbeat yet mellow pop begins playing.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Alright, let's go."
THE_BOLSHEVIK runs out of the room, chasing the apparition. Kris, stunned, runs behind. This begins a long, convoluted chase in which everyone chases each other at some point and goes on for almost half a minute. Eventually, Kris stops, out of breath.
Kris: "Goddammit, will you turn off that horrible music!"
As the music stops, the apparition runs by Kris. Kris punches it in the stomach area. It falls over.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Now, to find out who this really is!"
THE_BOLSHEVIK pulls the sheet up, only to reveal...
THE_BOLSHEVIK & Kris: "Mr. Whilruff!"
Whilruff: "Hello there, gentlemen."
Kris: "So, it was you all along."
Whilruff: "That it was. I always run around the house at night like this."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "But...why? Were you pretending to be a ghost so that you'd scare people away from the house?"
Whilruff: "Haha, no, no. It's just a sexual fetish of mine."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Oh...ewww."
Whilruff: "Yes, I get that a lot."
Kris: "Well, I guess that solves everything."
: "Yep........Wait, I don't think it actually solves anything. What about the floating books? What about the miscrowave that incinerated everything? What about the bloody sink? What about the roll?"
Roll: "Dooon't briiiing meeeee iiiintoooo thiiiiiis."
Whilfuff: "Hoh, you see, there's a funny story to all that."
Suddenly, Whilruff reaches for his throat. Gasping for air, he falls to the ground, dead.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: ".....That wasn't that funny."
Kris: "I think he's dead."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Could you bring him back to life, roll?"
Roll: "Meh."
Kris: "Well, worse comes to worst, I know a place just outside the city that's great for burying bodies."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: (Nods.) "Rest now, gentle Whilruff, your struggle is at an end. May you find peace in your new home."
Kris: "Yeah, let's get some sleep."
Fade to scene of THE_BOLSHEVIK and Kris walking onto the porch of the house. It is a bright and sunshiny day.
Kris: "Well, it's noon-thirty. I guess we slept in."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "But we made it."
Murderer: "Yes, you did."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Hey, it's that murderer."
Murderer: "And since you proven to me your worth, I will admit to my crime."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "What crime?"
Kris: "Murder. Remember? Yesterday? Chad Lennox? No head?"
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Oh, yeah. How is ol' Chad."
Murderer: "He's dead. I killed him."
Kris: "Ah-hah! An admission!"
Murderer: "And there's more to it than that. For you see, I'm not who you think I am!"
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "We actually don't know who you're supposed to be. I don't think we even know your name."
Murderer: "...Oh. Well, had I told you my name, it would be wrong. For you see, I am actually..."
The murder pulls off his face, which was actually a mask.
THE_BOLSHEVIK & Kris: "Don Knotts!"
Don Knotts: "That's right! I was behind this the whole time!"
Kris: "And how? You've been dead since 2006."
Don Knotts: "Ah, so you've seen through my disguise. Well, you see, I'm actually..."
Don Knotts pulls off his face, which was actually a mask.
THE_BOLSHEVIK & Kris: "Mr. Whilruff!"
Whilruffs: "That's right! I was behind this the whole time!"
Kris: "And how? You've been dead since last night."
Whilruff: "Ah, so you've seen through my disguise. Well, you see, I'm actually..."
Whilruff pulls off his face, which was actually a mask. The face underneath is of the original murderer.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "'re...the murderer whose...whose name we don't know."
Kris: "Can we arrest you yet?"
Murderer: "......Okay."
Fade to scene of the murderer being arrested. The detective goes up to THE_BOLSHEVIK and Kris.
Detective: "Excellent work, boys. I'm going to be getting a pay raise for this!"
The detective walks away. THE_BOLSHEVIK turns to Kris.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Another mystery solved!"
They give each other a high five. Their stomachs then begin growling.
Kris: "Man, I'm hungry. Let's go to Arby's; I could stand to eat a couple Big Montanas."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "How about you, Roll?"
Roll: "I huuungeeer foooor sooooouuuls!"
All three laugh.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

THE_BOLSHEVIK's Mystery Adventure Show

I imagine this as a poorly-drawn cartoon spinoff to THE_BOLSHEVIK's normal series. In it, he and Kris meet a diverse cast of kooky characters as they travel the world, solving mysteries that nobody else can solve.

So basically, it's a Scooby Doo ripoff, sans the dog and drug innuendo. Enjoy!

Detective: "Ah, gentlemen, how nice of you to make it!"
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Thanks, Detective. What information do you have for us?"
Detective: "None. We held off our investigation until you made it."
Detective: "Hey, you're willing to our job for free. We're going to let you."
The Detective walks away.
Kris: "You know, sometimes I weep for our justice system."
Kris and THE_BOLSHEVIK walk up to a police officer standing by the body.
Officer: "..."
Kris: "..."
Officer: "..."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "...Do you have any information? Anything at all?"
Officer: "Huh? Oh, a little. The victim's name was Chad Lennox."
Officer: "..."
Kris: "...Is that all?"
Officer: "Well, we don't have much information on the guy. We sent one of our men over to see if they could find out any info from the post office."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Why the Post Office?"
Officer: "Do you have any better ideas?"
THE_BOLSHEVIK and Kris look at each other and shrug.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Well, could we...y'know, inspect the body?"
Officer: "Knock yourself out, kid."
THE_BOLSHEVIK nods at Kris, who puts on a pair of surgical gloves. He then crouches down off-camera and inspects the body. THE_BOLSHEVIK, somewhat off-put, turns away. After a few moments, Kris stands back up.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Well, what'd you find out?"
Kris: "He's dead. That's for sure."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Mm-hmm. Cause of death?"
Kris: "Hard to say. There's no injuries on the body."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "And on the head?"
Kris: "Head's missing."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Damn, now we'll never know how he died. Officer, when is that colleague of yours coming back?"
Officer: "Why, there he is now! Over here, boy!"
Trainee: "Sir, I've got information! I've got information!"
The detective suddenly appears next to THE_BOLSHEVIK, who is visibly startled.
Detective: "Oh, good. That will get us somewhere. What is it?"
Trainee: "Well, apparently Mr. Lennox mailed a letter every day."
Officer: "That's ridiculous. What with our high stamp prices, combined with the miracles of the Internet, nobody writes letters through traditional mail anymore."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Well, we know at least one person who did."
Detective: "Really? Who?"
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Um, him....the dead guy....that was established, like, twelves seconds ago."
Detective: "Fascinating. Write that down, officer."
The officer takes out a pad and begins writing.
Kris: "So, any ideas who the letters were sent to?"
Trainee: "Yes. To Santa."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Santa as in Carlos"
Trainee: "No, Santa Claus."
Kris: "It must have been a pseudonym to whoever he was really mailing it to. What was the address?"
Trainee: "The North Pole."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "...Was there a ZIP Code included with that?"
Trainee: "Nope. Just the North Pole. In fact, none of the letters were delivered. There's just a stack in the back of the post office."
Kris: "Maybe he was secretly meaning to send the letters to someone who works in the back of the post office. We need to find out what they said!"
Trainee: "Here, I swiped a couple letters."
The trainee gives Kris and THE_BOLSHEVIK envelopes, which the rip open. They take out the letters and read.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "...Does your letter just repeat the line 'I want a flying antelope' again and again."
Kris: "No, mine is a really crappy drawing of Santa in some sort of rocket robot suit. I don't think this is getting us anywhere, THE_BOLSHEVIK."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "On the contrary, my friend. We now know that Mr. Lennox had some issues in the past."
Kris: "He still has issues. Mainly, being dead."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "True. I think we need to expand our search. We need to start asking people questions."
Kris: "Well, there's a guy over there. Wanna ask him something."
They walk over to the guy.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Excuse me, did you murder Chad Lennox?"
Murderer: "As a matter of fact, I did!"
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "I, uh...really?"
Kris: "Hmm, convenient."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Well, Officer, I guess you can arrest this guy."
Murderer: "Just a moment! You still have to prove I did it."
Kris: "No we don't. You just confessed."
Murderer: "I can take back my confession if I want."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "I...don't think it works like that. Officer?"
Officer: "Truth be told, I don't know much about the process, but this guy seems pretty confident, so I guess we should give him the benefit of the doubt."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Fine. How can we prove your guilt?"
Murderer: "By spending the a haunted house!"
Kris: "How will that prove anything related to your guilt?"
Murderer: "It will prove to me that you have the courage - or stupidity - to take on my challenge. You will earn my respect, and I will turn myself in."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "And if we refuse?"
Murder: "Then I won't turn myself in. And this murder will go unsolved for the rest of time."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Kris, I think this guy means business. I mean, look at his jacket!"
Kris: "So, where is this house, and why is it so special?"
Murderer: "Here is the address."
The murder hands THE_BOLSHEVIK a card.
Murder: "As for the house. It is where Al Capone's nephew's childhood cat died."
Kris: "So it's haunted by a cat?"
Murderer: "No, it was actually built over an Indian burial ground. The cat thing is just it's claim to fame."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "So there are Indian ghosts haunting this house? Jeez, what did the white man ever do to them?"
Murderer: "In any event, my challenge is simple: stay within the confines of this house from noon tomorrow until noon the following day. If you can, I will turn myself in. If not, I will go free...and you'll owe me fifty bucks."
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "You know what, Mister? You're on!"
Murderer: "Excellent. I'll just bide my time until you finish. Oh, by the way, Officer, may I borrow your pistol?"
Officer: "I see no harm in that."
The officer hands the murderer his pistol. The murderer puts it in his jacket and walks away. THE_BOLSHEVIK and Kris look at each other.
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "Gee wilikers! A real haunted house! With real ghosts and everything!"
Kris: "Don't worry, THE_BOLSHEVIK! We can make it, so long as we remember that ghosts don't exist!"
THE_BOLSHEVIK: "But what if there's an magnitude-8.5 earthquake?"
Kris: "..."

To be continued...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Pre-Midterm Anecdote

I have a midterm tomorrow, so I'll be brief, but I wanted to share a funny little story.

There's been a little bit of tension betwixt Hall Staff (that is, RA's) and this semester's Hall Association (the residence hall student government, also known as Hall Ass). You see, last week we found out that they had cut our hall budgets by 25%. That's quite a drop. Why? Well, they said they didn't think the RAs were "doing enough." Of course, they have plans for that money. Oh yes: they want to buy an air hockey table and put it in Cunningham Hall (the building that most of them come from).

Now, I have always been diametrically opposed to Hall Ass. For the past three years, I have tried to get them disbanded. Since becoming an RA, I've become more vocal. Hall Ass is supposed to be an organization dedicated to the representation of students in the residence halls. However, as things are right now, they are a waste...a waste...of resources. The only things they do are really lame, infrequent programs (for example, they only have one program planned this semester, and it's a goddamn movie night. I - or probably any RA - could do a movie night in their sleep), and they approve our budgets for programs. Seriously, that's all they effectively do.

Why do we need that? Personally, I feel the Resident Directors should approve program budgets. After all, they have a better idea of how much these things have cost in the past. Plus, they're our main authority, so they are who we should listen to. (Do note my preference for a more autocratic system here.)

I have heard stories of certain, exceptional Hall Asses who have put on excellent program. But that's all they are to me. Stories. And they're certainly not the norm. In my experience, Hall Ass exists for Hall Ass's sake. It's made up by a bunch of people who just want to pad their resumes but can't pass muster for the ASUC (which, incidentally, I also want to disband and replace with a less bureaucratic solution). They don't know what they're doing. And yet, without any sort of real training or experience, they get do determine what we have the capacity to do.
-End Aside-

So, anyway, learning that our budget was cut riled up a bunch of people. Not so much myself. My views on them were already well-established, as you can see. However, the powers-that-be wanted to make it so that Hall Ass and the RAs could better acquaint and learn about what kinds of programs we were all planning.

So, we had a little Sushi/fruit & veggie/cookie party thingamajig. Since it was during the usual RA meeting time, we were required to go. Hall Ass was simply invited. And a good number came. We were split up into little groups made up of both sides and were simply requested to "chat." (We also had a large "announcement of programs" time; interestingly, in the next two weeks, RAs have about half-a-dozen programs, and Hall Ass has their movie night.)

Anyway, I had my notebook with me, and it was open through the early part of the chatting. Now, what I hadn't realized was that I had last week's notes plainly visible to anyone who made the effort to look.

If you haven't already, direct your attention to the upper right corner.

Yessir, nothing to promote bonding betwixt RAs and Hall Ass than a portrayal of them as some monstrous money-grubbers. Nobody mentioned it, probably because nobody actually did make said effort to look at my notebook, but if they did, I would have defended it.

Still, this was a diplomatic shindig, so I discreetly closed the notebook.