Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Debrief

A week and a half since my last post. Eek. Sorry, guys. My life has been a little crazy. Graduation, finals, my girlfriend was in town last weekend, then I had to do all my Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve and Christmas Eve Eve because I hadn't even had a chance to think about Christmas yet since I had been so busy with school.

At the same time, I'm moving back into my parents' house, where I'll be living until May, so all my earthly possessions were in a huge mound in my room which I was unable to "circumvrent", in the words of Gob Bluth. (Watch this, then this for an explanation.)

I can't believe I'm leaving Manhattan for good. It hasn't quite sunk in yet, but I'm really going to miss all of you who are still out there. Like really a lot. Luckily, I'll be back for quite a few weekends to see my girlfriend and go skydiving, so I'll get to see you all from time to time.

Anyway, the Christmas loot was pretty awesome this year, especially since it was combined with a graduation gift: the Marantz PMD620 portable audio recorder. It's pretty much what it sounds like. It records audio, and you can carry it around. It has built-in mics, but I can use my fancy external mics with it, too. It probably sounds kind of lame, but for an audio gear geek like me it's awesome. And I need it to record interviews and stuff for my 2009 Project. Amongst the other awesome gifts: long underwear, 30 Rock DVDs, and Tom Moon's book "1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die".

Thursday, December 18, 2008


When you think about what we can do today compared to a few millenia ago, it's a bit mind boggling. We can communicate with people on the other side of the world nearly instantaneously. We can access volumes of information in seconds that would have taken a lifetime to collect twenty years ago. We can power a city for years on a few pounds of radioactive material. We can fly. We can walk on the moon. You might be inclined think that we are approaching the pinnacle of technology, or perhaps that we are soon going to get stuck in a quagmire of diminishing returns. Sure, we'd all like flying cars and 3-D television, and teleporters, but all that stuff seems either silly or impossible. In a hundred years, I think life will be much the same as it is today, but there's one field in which I predict technological advances will make early 21st century theories look downright barbaric by 2100: medicine.

I've thought this for a while, but this article reminded me of it today. We are constantly adding and subtracting mental disorders from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders all the time, but do we have even the faintest idea of what the brain is actually doing in these disorders? How it is supposedly malfunctioning? No. Do we know how to cure cancer? No. We douse cancer cells (and normal, healthy ones) with toxic chemicals, or blast them with radiation. When someone's heart stops working, we cut open their chest and give them a dead person's heart. We stick plastic lenses onto our eyeballs to help us see better.

We suck at fixing people.

In a hundred years or so, we may not have walked on mars, we may not have figured out teleportation or time travel, we may even still be using computers with silicon-based microprocessors; but will we still be using circular saws to cut people's chests open when their organs aren't working right? I doubt it.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Goodbye, Office.

It hurts to say this, but it must be said: "The Office" is not funny anymore.

The first season was good, the second was brilliant, and the third was decent, with a great finale. After that finale, I was content. When I heard there was to be a fourth season, I was truly scared and a little disappointed. I thought three seasons was just the right amount.

Well, here in the middle of season five, I stand firmly by that opinion. In the beginning, "The Office" let us laugh at all those real-world awkward office moments when you desperately wanted to laugh but couldn't. It let you vicariously vent your workplace frustrations through lighthearted pranks and clever wisecracks. It caricatured office stereotypes in fun, silly ways. Not anymore. "The Office" has devolved into emotional torture porn. Yesterday's episode was the last straw for me. It was awful. Sick, actually. If I had been watching that with other people and they had been laughing at a lot of that stuff, I would have been really offended. It was just some people being humiliated and other people being insensitive or just downright mean. I admit, sometimes I laugh at other people's embarrassing moments, but there was nothing funny about what was happening in that episode. No one was having fun. It was just sad. Ironic that "The Office" should hit rock bottom in an episode where "hitting rock bottom" is explicitly discussed.

I'll still go back to my DVDs of the first three seasons, but I think it's time for me to leave Dunder Mifflin. Consider this my letter of resignation.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Let the great experiment begin!!!"

-Tobias Fünke

Well, I have a new project. Surprise. See, a few weeks ago my friend John came up with this great idea to do some year-long projects in 2009. Basically, we are going to get a group of people together at the very beginning of the year, then each of us will choose an individual project, and we will have all of 2009 to complete it. At the end of the year we will meet again, and anyone who failed to complete (or at least do their damnedest to complete) their project will have to donate $100 to charity. I think it's a brilliant plan. We each get to do a big fun project and we'll each be held accountable so that we actually get it done.

When John first announced this challenge, I already had a project picked out. I was going to build this analog synthesizer. It would make a great year-long project, although I could probably do it in a couple months if I really buckled down. I would learn new things, I could be creative, and it would be a cool and fun finished product. Then I had a better idea.

I'm sort of obsessed with audio. I love music. I love sound effects. I love NPR and other radio shows and podcasts. I love fiddling with recording gear and editing audio clips. So for the last year or so, I've really wanted to start a podcast, but I haven't done it for a couple reasons: First, I never could come up with a solid concept for an entire show. As you can see from my blog, I am interested in a lot of completely unrelated things, and I couldn't really come up with a framework that would tie all of them together into a cohesive show that normal people would want to listen to. Second, I'm a quiet guy, and I can't imagine trying to talk continuously for even half an hour every week or two. I decided I needed a co-host, but then I'd have to find someone who I think would be good, and they'd have to agree to do it, and I'd still have to scrape together a whole show's worth of content even if I'm not the one talking. Essentially the idea of being host, producer, director, and engineer all at once was a little daunting. I still aspire to have a podcast one day, but I think it's beyond my current ability.

Today though, I found maybe the perfect way to start my journey toward being a podcast hostducerectoreer. It's my new year long project. In 2009, I'm going to submit at least four stories to This American Life. Until today I didn't really know whether they used unsolicited stories, but it turns out that they do. They even have a whole page on their website about how to get on This American Life. Between that and the wealth of tips on, I think I can put together some possibly usable stories. Actually, I kind of doubt that any of my four will get on the air, considering I've never really done anything like this in my life, but hopefully I'll at least get some feedback, and I'll be a lot closer to being on the radio than I was before. Here's a snippet of what Ira Glass (host of TAL) has to say in his manifesto about recording stories for radio:
Force yourself to do a lot of stories. This is the most important thing you can do. Get yourself in a situation where people are expecting work out of you, or where you simply force yourself to do a certain number of stories every month. Turn the stuff out. Deadlines are your friend.
So that's exactly what I plan to do.

Weird Secret Stuff

You have no idea how many times on this blog that I have had perfect tie-ins to 30 Rock, but have been unable to find an online copy of the clip that I wanted to use. Well, today, success!

There are lots of things that are weird and potentially creepy about me. I usually keep them secret, but sometimes they are so curious and interesting that I want to talk about them. So here's just one: I am bizarrely attracted to the recorded female voice.

There's no rational explanation for it, but I like more chick music than a guy probably should, and I develop weird crushes on female radio hosts (not Terry Gross, in case that's what you're thinking. She just does great interviews). And I've decided it's because women's voices just sound better to me than men's. It's not an overtly sexual attraction. I don't think, "Damn, she sounds hot." It just stirs up subtle, almost imperceptible warm, comfortable feelings. Maybe it's a weird Freudian maternal attraction thing, who knows? Also, I don't notice it when I'm talking to people in real life, only when I'm listening to recordings.

Well, that's all I really have to say about that. It's just a psychological curiosity, and I can't seem to keep myself from pondering curiosities [I guess that's a bit of a tautology, huh?]. Ladies, I hope that doesn't make me seem creepy and fetishy. I know that baring weird secret stuff is not a good idea a lot of the time, but this one seems pretty harmless, right?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tour Egg? Tijuana?

Why does Volkswagen insist on giving its SUVs unpronouncable names?

First the Touareg... the Tiguan?

I doubt any Tuareg buy Volkswagens, but it turns out that the Tiguan was the winner of a public naming contest in Germany, so I guess at least one country in the world can pronounce that one correctly.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Musical Education

Before I say anything about this song, you should just go listen to it. Click here, then scroll down to "Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra" and listen to "We Are MTO."

Listened yet? Okay. Now I can mention the word "jazz" without scaring you away. I know almost nothing about jazz. It seems to be an acquired taste. It's on my list of things to learn about, but I haven't had the time to really give it a fighting chance yet. I've heard a few jazz songs (like the one above) that I think are totally awesome, but so much "jazz" is either syrupy Kenny G easy listening crap, or overly obtuse, self-involved, dissonant, technical showing off.

While jazz is one of the biggest gaping holes in my knowledge of pop music history, it is by no means the only one, so at the top of my Christmas list this year is Tom Moon's book, 1000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die. I'm really excited to read it. I think it'll help me start filling in a lot of the gaps in my musical education. Unfortunately, recordings are not included, but hunting down the music can be an adventure in itself, and it'll help me pace myself and not get burned out on a music listening binge.

Hooray learning!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Speaking of things that are inexplicably funny...

sock puppets, anyone?

Yeah, I know it's an old song/video, but everyone needs some anthropomorphic socks to cheer them up every now and then.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Baffling Kerfuffle

I bet you chuckled a little bit inside when you read that title. "Kerfuffle" is quite an amusing word. There are probably many reasons for this: scarcity, number of syllables, the letter k, etc., but I maintain that a good part of its hilarity is thanks to the double f. Think about it. There's something innately humorous about the double f. Ruffle, miffed, fluff, doff, muffin, spliff; there's nothing overtly funny about those words, but they all sound a little bit silly.

So the double f is funny. Big deal. You might say the same thing about the double o. "w00t" owes much of its recent success to the double o in my opinion (or double zero, typographically speaking). But the double f is a much stranger case, because the double f sounds exactly the same as the single f; yet you don't laugh at words like rift, file, or safe. The single f is everywhere. It's ordinary. Why does adding the supernumerary f make a word so much more lighthearted? It's yet another conundrum in the often baffling field of — well, what would this be? Psycholinguistics, maybe? I don't know. Whoever ends up studying it might find themselves in a soundproof room, listening to various f sounds, when a fellow linguist, fed up with the study's inanity, barges in and bashes them in the head with a plush toy. In other words, they might find themselves in a muffled scuffle being buffeted by a fluffy ruffian.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Egg Nog

I subscribe to the no-Christmas-before-Thanksgiving rule, but I bent that rule to the point of breaking last week. I bought a carton of egg nog. Egg Nog is the nectar of the gods. It is very important to understand, however, that different brands of egg nog taste completely different. Here's the breakdown of the brands I've tried, from best to worst:

  1. Æ (Anderson Erickson)

    Æ is the taste. It is the (literal) gold standard to which all other egg nogs must be compared. Manhattan, Kansas has some serious problems, and one of them is that Æ dairy products are nowhere to be found. Ten months out of the year I couldn't care less, but for the three weeks I'm here after Thanksgiving, it is a constant annoyance.

  2. Southern Comfort

    This is the only acceptable substitute I have found for Æ. Props to my roommate Paul for introducing me to it. (It's not alcoholic, in case you're wondering.) It's good, but is not as buttery and delicious as the benchmark.

  3. Roberts Dairy

    [Finding photos of particular brands of egg nog is surprisingly difficult.]

    Not great. It's a little bit chalky and bland. I've had a few other generic dairy egg nogs, and they all taste similar to Roberts.

  4. Land O'Lakes

    I can't find this on Land O'Lakes' website anymore, so that's a good sign. This is not egg nog. It tastes like glue. I don't know what it's made from, but I remember checking the ingredients to see what made it so terrible.

If you think that you don't like egg nog, but don't know what brand it was that you tried, I really encourage you to give it another chance with SoCo or Æ. They really are in a different league. Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that I have tried some homemade egg nog, and the taste was much closer to my two favorite brands than the other stuff.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What I've Been Doing

Hello dear Readers,

The inspiration reservoir has been dry for a week now, so I feel compelled to submit an "I'm alive" post. Here's what I've been up to in the last week:

While some of these events have been quite exciting, I haven't really been able to squeeze any blog material out of them, because some of them I already talked about, and others are not interesting to anyone but me. Sorry. I'm trying to do better.

I think part of the problem is that I get so focused on a couple things at a time. I write about them when I first get into them, then that's all I think about for weeks on end, so no other subjects have time to enter my brain. And I can't keep writing about the one subject, because no one else cares to hear that level of detail. Sometimes this nerdy tendency for me to obsess over learning new things makes the rest of my life difficult. Blast.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Improv Everywhere

I love these guys. You may have seen this video of theirs where two hundred people freeze simultaneously in Grand Central Station, but that's only a tiny taste of the fun psychological mischief that this sneaky organization has unleashed on New York City and inspired around the globe since 2001. My current favorite mission of theirs:

Food Court Musical.

Check out their other videos. The missions that Charlie Todd and his minions devise are endlessly clever. I totally want to be a part of a Kansas chapter. Found one. It's in Kansas City.

Someone needs to start a K-State branch: someone who's really clever and good at organizing people, i.e. not me. I'm a follower. A good one, though! I deserve a GE Followship Award.

Friday, November 7, 2008

YouTubers: intelligent as garden-variety tubers.

YouTube is pretty amazing. You can find a video of just about anything. You can then send the video to all your friends, and rave about how awesome it is, then they send it to their friends, and so on, and the video "goes viral."

There is an interesting phenomenon that accompanies this viral video spread. I call it the "telephone effect". Remember the game you played in kindergarten? It's like that. Every time this video gets sent from one person to the next, any information that the sender uses to introduce the video to his* friend gets (mis)read, (mis)interpreted, then (mis)remembered when the video is sent to the next person.

What's even worse, people assume things (often wrongly) about the videos, and then send these assumptions into the corrupt "telephone" system: assumptions like whether the video (or audio) is real or fake, as recorded or edited, who created the video, who wrote the music in a video, whether the video is original, or has been edited from its original form.

It's this issue of crediting the original creators that irks me the most. I can't count how many times someone has uploaded something that they put a lot of work into, then someone else takes it, puts some different music over it, and re-posts it without giving any credit to the creator. I couldn't care less about how many times a video is copied, edited, or re-posted, but come on people, just mention where you got your source material.

Add to all this the asinine comments under every single video on YouTube, and you just wonder: Who are these people, and how can they be so foolish?

Challenge: Try to leave a comment on a video that is so stupid that other YouTubers realize you are joking. It's near impossible.

* English desperately needs a neuter singular human pronoun. I often use "they," but while less awkward than "he or she," its plurality is still confusing.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Whenever I get excited about a project, it basically consumes my life for a little while. Last week, I decided to put together a Dr. Horrible costume for Halloween. This required sewing a special style of lab coat — my first sewing project ever. I started on Tuesday night, and basically worked on it every free minute I had until Friday. It was worth it, though. I learned a new skill, and had the best Dr. Horrible costume in probably at least a hundred mile radius.

(Sub-mini-blog: Of course, most people didn't know who I was, but I didn't care. I am not a crowd pleaser. Doing the same thing as everyone else bores me out of my mind. I do the things that I want to do, and when I find other people who share my interests, it's an instantaneous connection. Every time someone came up and said, "Oh my god! It's Dr. Horrible!", it was an awesome little surprise.)

After the construction was complete, my room looked like it had been hit by a bomb. Tissue and newspaper patterns, shreds of white twill, electronic parts, and cardboard scraps littered the floor. I should have taken a picture of that, too.

Soon after I cleaned up the mess, I stumbled across my new project: the Arduino.

On the nerd scale, this project rates pretty high, but I'm super stoked for it. The arduino is a "physical computing platform"; basically a microprocessor that you can program from your computer over a USB cable, then use it to control various electronic gadgets that you build: robots, lights, games, audio equipment... anything you can imagine, really. Someone made a Tetris game out of one:

It's on backorder right now, but in a week or two, when it arrives along with the 1,107 various electronic parts I ordered, I am going to spend days locked in my room, inventing, programming, and playing with new electronic gadgets. I can't wait. If you have any brilliant (and relatively simple) gadget ideas, please send them my way.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Election Predictions

Does anyone think McCain even has a chance? I certainly don't.

The polls give Obama a little over 50% of the popular vote right now, and McCain a little over 40%. The election could reflect those polls pretty closely, but if votes were weighted by excitement factor, Obama would win in a landslide.

Let me show you what I mean. Here's a graph from a google trends search I did:

Now, obviously this is not a scientific study. There are literally dozens — perhaps hundreds — of uncontrolled variables here, but the results are interesting nonetheless. Basically, what this says is that there have been between two and three times as many google searches of the word "Obama" as "McCain" in the last 12 months: that's 72% to 28%.

I also included the vice presidential candidates. Now this is interesting to me. Look at Obama compared to Biden, and McCain compared to Palin. Basically no one gives a crap about Biden, but Palin is more popular than McCain!

Anyway, normally I find election day kind of exciting, but I don't think there'll be any surprises this year. Obama by a mile.

The Wild West

My generation is the first to grow up with the internet. We saw it in its infancy: AOL. We marveled at the speed and content of the world wide web, even in the bandwidth-starved, multimedia-free days of dial-up. We saw the dawn of file sharing with Napster, which precipitated intellectual property law into a tumult which I believe will not settle for years. Blogging, social networking, open-sourcing… the list of cultural phenomena created by this series of tubes goes on and on.

And all this has happened in the last ten or fifteen years.

Today, the internet is still pretty much unregulated. But what will happen in the future? Will internet law enforcement become commonplace? Will we look back on the 00's with nostalgia for the wild, untamed frontier, where you could gamble online, download movies without fear of being thrown in prison, or look at porn without having to digitally prove your identity? It's the wild west out there right now. How long will it take before the digital world as we know it evolves beyond recognition? Years? Decades? Centuries? I don't know, but I'm excited to stick around for at least a few decades to find out.

Whatever happens, our generation can say, "I was there when it all started."

Sunday, October 26, 2008


TV shows I currently enjoy:
  1. 30 Rock
  2. Pushing Daisies
  3. Top Gear
And though it's in its fifth season, and I maintain that it peaked in season two, The Office is still entertaining.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The coolest way ever to make popcorn.

Okay. Take a bunch of popcorn kernels and pour them into a small pressure vessel with a lid. Rotate this over a super hot fire for a few minutes, until the steam pressure inside the vessel builds up to dangerous levels. Quickly take the vessel out of the fire, point it into a burlap sack, and pop the lid off. All the popcorn explodes simultaneously. Watch:

As an alternative, you can fill a car-sized bowl with kernels, put it in someone's house, then point a big laser at it from space or from an airplane, and fill the whole house with popcorn. [A gold star for anyone who knows this reference.]

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Your Debut Album

Surprisingly realistic.
Step 1 — Band Name
Go to The first random Wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.
Step 2 — Album Name
Go to Random quotations: The last four words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album. (If you want to do this again, you'll hit refresh to generate new quotes, because clicking the quotes link again will just give you the same quotes over and over again.)
Step 3 — Album Cover
Go to flickr's "explore the last seven days" The third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.


Fairwood Press
"That We Cannot Do"

1883 in Architecture
"Will Never Be Transcended"
Click here to see the cover; it won't let me link directly.

High-Rise Syndrome
"You'll Never Find It"


I've been raised a republican my whole life. WAIT, WAIT! Bear with me for a moment before you start lecturing me, Mom and Dad. I haven't changed my mind. I already sent in my advance ballot, and it wasn't for Obama.

They say Obama will win the young voters this year. By my super unscientific observations, he will not just win, he will DOMINATE. It seems like all my friends, including the Christian, typically conservative ones, say they're voting for Obama this year. At first, I was aghast. What are they thinking? Obama's going to stifle the economy, let people kill babies, and bring all our troops out of Iraq and let it self-destruct!

I'd listen to them talk about Obama though, and the more I listened, the more they made sense. Obama wants to give middle and low-income Americans a tax break. That's nice. He also wants to fund lots of programs to help raise the quality of life for people who need it — universal health care and such. That's nice, too. Furthermore, helping the poor is biblical; which leads me to my main thought: As a Christian, how should I vote?

I've been reading through "Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis. It's a truly amazing book. Whether you have been a Christian your whole life, or you know nothing at all about Christianity, you should read it. Actually just everyone should read it. Anyway, Lewis has this to say about a Christian society:

All the same, the New Testament, without going into details, gives us a pretty clear hint of what a fully Christian society would be like. Perhaps it gives us more than we can take. It tells us that there are to be no passengers or parasites: if man does not work, he ought not to eat. Every one is to work with his own hands, and what is more, every one's work is to produce something good: there will be no manufacture of silly luxuries and then of sillier advertisements to persuade us to buy them. And there is to be no 'swank' or 'side', no putting on airs. To that extent a Christian society would be what we now call Leftist. On the other hand, it is always insisting on obedience (and outward marks of respect) from all of us to properly appointed magistrates, from children to parents, and (I am afraid this is going to be very unpopular) from wives to husbands. Thirdly, it is to be a cheerful society: full of singing and rejoicing, and regarding worry or anxiety as wrong. Courtesy is one of the Christian virtues; and the New Testament hates what it calls 'busybodies'.

If there were such a society in existence and you or I visited it, I think we should come away with a curious impression. We should feel that its economic life was very socialistic and, in that sense, 'advanced', but that its family life and its code of manners were rather old fashioned — perhaps even ceremonious and aristocratic. Each of us would like some bits of it, but I am afraid very few of us would like the whole thing. That is just what one would expect if Christianity is the total plan for the human machine. We have all departed from that total plan in different ways, and each of us wants to make out that his own modification of the original plan is the plan itself. You will find this again and again about anything that is really Christian: every one is attracted by bits of it and wants to pick out those bits and leave the rest. That is why we do not get much further: and that is why people who are fighting for quite opposite things can both say they are fighting for Christianity.

And that's what I think about today's political parties in the US. Each of them gets some parts right and other parts wrong: Democrats are on the wrong side of some obviously moral issues like abortion and gay marriage, but republicans largely ignore the poor, and (until recently) the environment (which is a moral issue — read Genesis 1 and 2).

All this is essentially to say that anyone who has been voting republican their entire life, simply because they are a Christian and they oppose abortion, is acting very foolishly. They need to look at ALL the issues in terms of two major factors: First, what is clearly right and wrong. Second, what is practical in the real world. That is, what laws will keep this country afloat.

From my perspective, democrats and republicans are about even on the first criterion. As for the second, well, I am a die-hard free market economist. I think all the financial regulations and redistribution of wealth that democrats support are unnecessary inefficiencies that will slow this country down in the long run. (Also, I am a little libertarian leaning in that I want to preserve the few freedoms we still have, like owning guns and smoking in bars even though I prefer non-smoking ones. Let the market determine what places should be smoke free.)

Disclaimer: This post does not disclose my full decision making process. There are dozens of issues to be evaluated, and both sides of every issue can have serious unintended consequences that must be watched for. This is a sweeping idealistic summary to encourage people to rethink why they vote the way they do. Please understand that, and keep the flaming criticism to a reasonable level.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I remove friends on facebook.

You know, people that I had class with a year ago and haven't seen since. That sort of thing. I still feel like a jerk when I do it. Should I?

Have you made an appointment?

This semester has been my lightest academic schedule of my college career. It has also been my busiest weekend schedule. I have had plans nearly every weekend since the beginning of school.
August 30-31
Labor Day — Return to KC.
September 6-7
Return to KC — Ride bikes with Team Garmin-Chipotle.
September 13-14
Nothing (except the release of the slightly disappointing "Burn After Reading").
September 20-21
September 27-28
Trail Building / Camping at HNMBR (Hart National Mountain Bike Reserve).
October 4-5
Mountain Bike racing in Minnesota.
October 11-12
Mountain Bike racing at HNMBR.
Like I said: a busy schedule, but pretty thoroughly enjoyable. Most of those weekends I completely forgot that I was still in school (fortunately I don't often have homework due on Mondays).

This is my first weekend off in a while. It's been pretty good. Friday night I helped my girlfriend bake pumpkin chocolate chip cookies (from whole pumpkins). Saturday I voted. (If you're voting in Johnson County, you have to vote whether or not to let like 30 different judges keep their jobs. It's crazy. This site makes it a lot easier.) I also watched K-State and the Rays lose.

Today I was supposed to jump out of airplanes again, but it was too damn windy (thanks Kansas). So I learned how to pack parachutes instead, which is cool on several levels:
  1. I don't have to run around the hangar begging people to pack for me.
  2. I know how to pack parachutes. That's just cool to know.
  3. If I die, it's my own damn fault and no one else has to feel responsible.
So, not a bad weekend, but I sort of miss my Friday afternoon to Sunday midnight non-stop weekends. I'll just have to start planning more adventures.

Note: This has been part of my "post-a-day" experiment. Normally I would not have written this, as there is no compelling reason that people should be interested in a digest of my day-to-day activities, but that's all I could think to write. Inspiration is lacking, but I need to keep this blog alive in the meantime.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

My Not-So-Interesting Life

My last post was September 28th. I sincerely apologize. That's pathetic. What makes it worse is that I haven't forgotten about my blog; I just haven't been able to come up with anything interesting to say. Maybe I should set a goal to do a post a day, even if it's a little micro-post.

What have I done since my last post? Not much of interest. I raced mountain bikes the last two weekends, which was fun, but I was really out of shape and did really bad. Other than that, it's pretty much been the same old school routine during the weekdays.

This weekend is my first weekend without some pre-planned event in as long as I can remember. Hooray.

Ok, so one post a day, no matter how crappy. I can do this.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


I'm addicted to tools. I'm not just talking about hammers and wrenches. My definition of tool is very broad. To me, a tool is basically any device that you use to perform a specific task. This means everything from a saw to a piano to a bicycle to a shotgun.

I get an excessive amount of pleasure from using or owning nice tools. It's a high, really. And I can never seem to acquire enough of them. Hence the word addicted. I used to think that I was really hard to shop for, but I recently realized that if you buy me some sort of tool, I will love it. Even if I already have one, somehow I'll find a use for both of them.

My tool addiction is inextricably linked to my desire to learn to do everything. First I get really interested in a random subject, then I decide to make it my new hobby, then I am compelled to buy all the associated tools for that hobby. So far, my two most tool-laden hobbies (besides general handicraft) have been audio recording and cycling, but I am always entertaining the idea of taking up new tool-intensive pastimes like machining, heavy-duty sewing (for backpacks and the like), or — most recently (and plausibly) — camping. [Geez, parentheses inside dashes inside commas. I should probably rephrase. Nah, I like it.]

I don't really know why I'm not already an avid camper. I once tried to use the excuse that my family was never that into camping. Immediately, my girlfriend's little brother shot back with, "Is your family into cycling?" Ouch. Walked right into that one. But yeah, I love camping. I love most outdoor-adventure-type sports. God's creation is just staggeringly beautiful; I really enjoy the sense of freedom and independence you get being outside, away from the city; and outdoor activities often require lots of tools. And if your travel plans involve outdoor activities, camping is usually way more convenient and cheaper than a hotel. Seriously, why didn't I decide to pick up camping a long time ago?

Sorry, this has been a very rambling post, all to say that I think I need a new set of tools.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Pinnacle of Thrill

I'm a little bit of an adrenaline junkie. I love mountain biking, roller coasters, autocross (a legal style of car racing), flying, basically anything that gets me moving really fast and/or dodging obstacles. Most of my life there has been one thrill that I have longed to try. Skydiving. Some would say it is the pinnacle of the thrill world. Yesterday, my friends, I reached that pinnacle.

Let me start out with the lame part. I did what's called a static line jump. In a static line jump, your parachute is deployed by the static line, which is like a ripcord clipped to the airplane, immediately after exiting the plane. You fall for only about 5 seconds before the chute is fully opening.

Okay, now the disappointment is out of the way. The cool parts:
  1. I get to jump by myself. This means I also fly the canopy and land by myself.

  2. Unlike a one-time tandem jump where you don't really learn much, the static line jump is the start of a progression, where you always jump by yourself and work your way up to freefalls through a series of jumps.

  3. With the plane I was in, you don't just jump out the door. You climb out of the plane, out onto the strut underneath the wing, feet dangling 3,500 feet in the air, then let go. It looks basically like this:

I don't have many creative words to describe this experience, other than


I was surprised at how calm I was most of the time about the whole thing. I went to a 4-hour class Friday night, and then a 3-hour class Saturday morning at the airport to prepare for my first jump. None of that time did I really get nervous. The first moment of terror came as I was watching a student from last week's class trying to land. On your first jump, you have a radio in your helmet, with an instructor on the ground giving you commands to guide you down. In theory, they know how to get you safely to the landing zone, but it's sometimes hard to tell exactly where people are going to end up. The landing zone is a big field next to the airport hangars. I was watching this girl coming over the hangars, turning toward the landing zone, and I remember thinking, "Hm. I know I've never done this before, but she looks a little low. Actually she looks really low. Dangerously low. She's going to hit that hangar. Oh God." She disappeared behind the roof of the hangar. BAM! My stomach dropped. I had no idea what had happened, I couldn't see, but it sounded bad. Everyone ran toward the hangar.

Someone yelled, "Are you okay?"


Whew. Turns out she landed on the roof of the hangar. She twisted her ankle, but was otherwise okay. Needless to say, my faith in the radio man was a bit shaken by this incident.

Soon, it was my turn to jump. Actually I was the first student from my class to go up, and would be the first out of the plane. The first moment of serious butterflies came as the plane took off. I really love flying, but this was sort of an "Oh crap, what the hell am I doing" feeling as I watched the ground sink from under me, knowing that I would have to return to it by jumping out of this plane. No going back now.

[Transition to present tense!]

I watch the altimeter strapped to my chest. 1,000 feet. 1,500 feet. Seatbelts off. 2,500 feet. I'm sitting on the floor, next to the door, looking out the window, trying to orient myself and find the drop zone as we circle. 3,500 feet. My instructor cracks the door open to look for the jump zone and make sure I'm jumping in the right spot.

He yells, "DOOR!"

We reply, "Door!" to indicate we're ready. The door swings up underneath the wing. WOOSH! The blast of air is far stronger than I anticipated.

He issues the first of three commands: "Get your feet out and stop!"

I reach my left hand out to grab the strut, and the air blasts it away. Holy crap. How the hell am I supposed to climb out and hang on in this?! My instructor would later tell me that my eyes became enormous at this moment. I don't doubt it. It was my second butterfly moment. I finally reach out, grab the strut, put my feet on the step, and scoot out so I'm sitting on the edge of the door.

The penultimate [wink] command: "Get all the way out and hang!"

I reach and grab the strut with my right hand, and swing my body out of the plane so I'm squatting on the step. I shuffle my hands out along the strut, then step off the step and let my feet dangle in the 80-mile-an-hour breeze. I turn and look at the instructor.

He smiles at me. Time for the dreaded third command. "DOT!"

I look up at the powercat dot on the bottom of the wing, and let go. I throw my arms and legs back, and look up at the plane as I plummet. "One thousand, two thousand, three thousand, four thousand, five thousand. Check." I turn my head back to check if my chute is opening. It's out, halfway open, still fluttering wildly in the wind. Butterfly moment three. I hope this thing works. A second later, woosh! I look up at my beautifully inflated canopy and breathe a huge sigh of relief. I pull down the control toggles and start my control checks. I spend three or four minutes soaring blissfully alone in the air as the instructor on the ground guides me down via radio.

I'm pointed straight at at the landing zone. I wait for the instructor to call out, "Flare, flare, flare!" at 15 feet above the gound. I pull both the control toggles all the way down, swing forward, stop, and set down light as a feather. Unfortunately, in class they told us they wanted all of us to do a PLF (Parachute Landing Fall) to demonstrate the technique. I could have just walked away, but I decide to appease them and fall down. I stand up, pump my fist in the air, and let out a "WOOHOO!" in a rare moment of Greusel exuberance. That was just about the coolest thing I'd ever done. I immediately decided it would not be the last time. I jumped again today.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Need to Know

I spend an inordinate amount of time learning. At least I think I do. But maybe, much of that time, I'm not actually learning anything worthwhile. Let me explain: For me, the line between entertainment and education is very blurry.*

Nearly every day, I'll get an itch to learn about some random topic, and I'll spend three or four hours researching it on the internet. I get really excited each month when the latest edition of Wired magazine shows up in my mailbox. If I have time to kill on campus, I'll read the New York Times. I listen to NPR programming for probably at least two hours a day on average. All this time I spend reading and listening, I think I'm learning things. Learning things about current events, about people and the ways they think and interact, not to mention thousands of bits of useless trivia. And I love every minute of it. I feel all smart and intellectual. I feel like I'm spending hours amassing valuable knowledge to apply later in my life. But am I really? Is this stuff really at all useful? Do I really need to hear Malcolm Gladwell tell hilarious stories about his early days at the Washington Post? Do I need to know what retired U.S. intelligence officers thought about invading Iraq? Is that going to be valuable to know at some point in my life? Or is it all just vacuous entertainment for snobs?

This is a debate that has been creeping to the front of my brain over the last year or so. How much time should a person spend accumulating knowledge, and when should they start trying to use and apply it? What is important to know? Is all knowledge important, or should you only try to learn things when you really need to? I really have no idea what the answer is yet. I'm pretty sure about one thing though: By the time I'm fifty, I'll either be changing the world, or I'll have spent thousands of hours doing nothing but becoming a Trivial Pursuit master.

* Yes, I realize that statement is tantamount to tattooing the word "nerd" across my forehead. [Tantamount. What a cheap, pretentious word. I love it.]

Sunday, September 7, 2008


This weekend was amazing. It also contained abnormally high levels of awkwardness. This weekend I got to meet a celebrity. Actually, several celebrities. I've never really met one before. It's not something I really desire to do most of the time. In fact, most of the people that I would really be excited to meet could hardly be called celebrities at all: NPR hosts, the members of Muse, contributing writers to Wired magazine, or — as was the case this weekend — professional cyclists. This weekend, I met and rode bikes with several of the members of the Garmin-Chipotle professional cycling team, including Christian Vande Velde, the 5th place winner of this year's Tour de France.

If I had been thinking, I could have come up with dozens of questions beforehand to ask the team, but no. I was so excited to meet them, I didn't even think about where I would go from "Hi!". When I meet someone new, if I can find some sort of common ground, I can sustain conversation for a good while, but if not, I am useless. Meeting a personal hero, I guess I thought it would be easy, since we obviously had something in common, but I was wrong. How the heck am I, a bad collegiate cyclist with absolutely no professional aspirations, going to talk to a pro about his sport? What could I possibly bring to the conversation that he would want to hear, or that he hasn't heard a thousand times before? Again, I'm sure I could think of a few things, but without preparing beforehand, I just could not come up with anything intelligent. So we ended up making stupid small talk about where I went to college and what I did at Garmin. Snooozers.

I still really enjoyed meeting them; I just wish I could have said something that would have made them enjoy meeting me. Next time I'll do my homework. I'll come up with some startlingly deep or hilariously shallow questions. Next time, I'll be ready.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Cougar Ace

I just remembered reading this article back in the March 2008 edition of Wired Magazine. It's one of my favorite magazine articles I've ever read. It's a little engineerish — it is in Wired, after all — but it's a truly riveting story about an unlikely team of...

...steel-nerved salvage divers (like Colin Trepte, below)...

...and glasses-wearing naval architects and engineers (like Marty Johnson).

Their task is to right the Cougar Ace, a 55,328 ton, 654 foot cargo ship carrying 4,703 brand new Mazdas.

Not easy. They could fall down the 60 degree slope of the slick steel deck and die, or they could flip the ship over and sink $103 million in cargo.

Joshua Davis writes the article so vividly that it feels like a movie as you read it. The immense volume of skill and bravery shown by this little team is mind boggling.

Read it here.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


I have a love-hate relationship with "art." I love going to art museums, but I only really appreciate about 10% of the stuff that's in them. I'm not just talking about modern art. I'm talking about everything from ancient China to the Renaissance to Matthew Barney.

Regarding historical art: I'm not sure why, but most of it strikes me as boring. Yes, I appreciate the fact that it's difficult. Yes, I understand that these art forms were totally new forms of expression in their day. Most of it just does not strike me as being beautiful or interesting. When it comes to art, I initially judge according to my gut feeling, and my gut feeling toward oil paintings of landscapes and marble statues of Greek gods is "I'm bored of this." Maybe that makes me ignorant. Maybe I just don't have any interest in history (I always hated history class). I don't know.

Regarding modern art: Much of it is ugly. Much of it is confusing. Yes, much of it is also interesting, but some of it requires little to no skill. It is often just raw, ugly expression.

Now, I didn't want to immediately dismiss historical art for being boring, or modern art for being ugly, so I had to ask myself the question: What makes good art? Or even more abstract: what makes art?

Obviously volumes upon volumes of books have been written on art, and I am by no means qualified to write an authoritative work on the subject, but I wanted to try to define it myself — to define it in a way that made sense to me. And after pondering it for several months, here's my current hypothesis: Art is an artificial category.

To me, "art" appears to have two main components: form and function — form being the aesthetic quality or beauty of the work (this is another giant topic in itself, I know), and function being the purpose of the work. Both of these qualities definitely exist, each can be done well or done poorly, and they can coexist. (Whether they can exist completely separately is debatable, but not really important right now.) Some art emphasizes form over function: it is beautiful, but doesn't seem to serve any purpose or communicate any specific ideas. It's just pretty. Other art emphasizes function over form: it tries to serve some purpose, often communicating a big idea or world view, but it might be stunningly ugly.

Here's the problem that I see: Form and function appear in every facet of life, in every human craft or skill. You can create a category called "art," that is defined by these two qualities, but that's like creating a category called "stuff." The category has no meaning. Nothing limits what can be included in it. There are watches that are stunningly complex and beautiful. Why aren't they in art museums? Industrial and graphic design departments crank out things every single day that are more functional and beautiful than much of the art that I see in museums. God's creation is amazingly beautiful and incomprehensibly complex in the way it functions. Can't we just appreciate form and function in everyday life, and put the finest examples of them in the museums? Why do we need a separate, poorly defined category? Is it just to create an aristocracy, where famous artists can display their own and their friends' stuff? Because that's what it seems like to me.

If anyone can give me a better definition of art that can help me make sense of and better appreciate it, I would be grateful, but I think my system of form and function makes sense, even if "art" doesn't.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Stay Tuned...

For some reason, over the past couple weeks, I've really been struggling to come up with interesting posts. I don't know why. I just haven't felt particularly inspired. What interesting things have happened in my life that people would like to read about?

I'm back at K-State, and loving it. I'm sort of sad and sort of excited to have only one semester left. I'm taking microeconomics, which is basically a class full of freshmen. I feel like an old man. Mostly the excitement is to be back with all of my K-State friends. [This is the most boring blog post ever. Change the subject.]

I've been trying my hand at a bit of graphic design. I like to think that I have at least a small dash of talent, and with several heaping cups of practice and learning, maybe I could be a halfway decent amateur designer. This is the part of the show where I would normally post my work and vainly hope for the laudatory comments to come pouring in. Unfortunately, my computer tried to set itself on fire last night and now it doesn't turn on, so for the moment all my beautiful design work is being held captive in the sealed confines of my hard drive, crying in the dark. [Another subject going nowhere fast.] Oh, wait, my new blog header is a tiny sliver of my design work. Check it out.

Well, apparently I still don't have anything interesting to say. For now, please just stay tuned in case I actually think of a worthwhile topic.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Colorado Adventures

My girlfriend Dani planned a trip for her, her friend Shannon, and I to go camping and hiking in Colorado this weekend. This was the plan:

  • Rendezvous in Salina at about 9pm, head west.
  • Arrive in Denver around 6 or 7am.
  • Head to Georgetown, find the campsite, set up camp, do some hiking.
  • Summit Gray's and Torrey's Peaks (two 14ers)
  • Drive home.

This is how it actually went down:

  • Rendezvous in Salina about midnight, head west.
  • Actually head north, because we miss the I-70 exit, and drive north on 81 for about an hour and a half.
  • Almost hit a deer.
  • Arrive in Denver at about 11am, it's pouring down rain, snowing and in the 30's above 10,000 feet. So much for camping and hiking.
  • Wander around Denver, desperately searching for things to do for free in pouring rain, and for places to stay that night.
  • Rain lets up, we explore downtown Denver, particularly the Golden Triangle and the 16th Street Mall (that thing is HUGE).
  • Find out that Dani's cousin lives in Denver, stay with him and his friend for the night, watch Olympics, play Wii and Guitar Hero.
  • Get up, drive up Guanella Pass, planning to summit Mount Evans via Mt. Bierstadt trail.
  • Reach the trailhead, everything is covered in snow and slush. We lack waterproof boots. No go.
  • Head back to Mt. Evans ranger station to inquire about dry trails in the area, but...
  • Car breaks down. Mind you, it's Sunday. No shops are open. Call AAA. They are awesome and find a place to fix our car on Sunday.
  • Cram the three of us into the tow truck cab, get the car fixed in Bergen Park. Slackline while we wait for the car to get fixed.
  • Drive back to Mount Evans, find a campsite at Echo Lake, set up camp.
  • Start a fire, but it never really gets going. We fan it for about two hours, burn completely through the logs, but it never gets hot. Luckily all the fanning kept us warm.

  • Sleep in, pack up, take the Mt. Evans road to Summit Lake, plan to hike 2 miles to the summit via Mt. Spalding. Everything is still covered in snow and slush, but we are fed up and decide to just go for it.
  • Make it about 1/4 the way to the top of Mt. Spalding, but the snow makes it extremely slippery and treacherous. We turn back.
  • Pack up, put on dry clothes, head home.

Despite the fact that absolutely nothing went according to plan, I think it's safe to say that we all had a blast. I know a lot of people who, if their vacation plans had gone as badly awry as ours, would have been absolutely miserable. But while we had some moments of despair, most of the time we just went with the flow and tried to make the most of the situation. We had two days in Colorado, and there's no way we were going to let it go to waste.

Some of my favorite moments of the trip:
  • Eating breakfast at a truck stop diner on I-70.
  • Shannon practicing violin outside the ranger station while we waited for the tow truck.
  • Riding in the tow truck, talking with the driver. She was one of the kindest, most down-to-earth people I've met.
  • Admiring the intense beauty of Echo Lake (and many other places in the mountains).
  • Fanning the campfire with a level of ferocity that has rarely been seen.
  • Waking up at 10,000 feet in the rocky mountains with the sun projecting tree branch shadows onto the tent.
  • Feeling hardcore after climbing only 250 feet up from Summit Lake, because we were the only people crazy enough to try it that day.
  • Dani laughing uncontrollably at Shannon on the car ride home.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Power of Dreams

Why can't Honda air these commercials here in the U.S.?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Podcast Pilots

I want to start a podcast eventually. I have no idea what format it's going to take, or what it will be about, but I decided to record some of my blog entries, just to see what they sound like. If you want to hear them and maybe offer some constructive criticism, leave a comment on this post (or contact me however you want) and I'll send them to you. As of right now, I have recorded "How-To: Do Everything" and "Naked Insecurity." They're very raw, no production, just me reading the blog posts, but give them a listen and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I liked them before...

Whenever a group of people is talking about a band, Nirvana for example, and someone says something like “I liked them way before ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’” most people in the room secretly despise that person for a moment. Often they’re lying in the first place, but even if they are telling the truth, it comes off as arrogant. Why? Because they seem to be saying that they have better taste than you do; that they spotted the talent before anyone else did. But it’s not quite that simple. I’ve had the impulse to make quite a few statements like that, and while pride is often a motive, it’s rarely the only one. I’m sure there are many, but I want to examine three (skip to the last one if you want, it’s the most important):

Motive 1: Disarm the Popularity Haters.
Popularity and quality often appear to be mutually exclusive. (I do claim that there isn’t a lot of overlap, but that’s not important right now.) The “I liked them before” problem often arises when something truly good attains popularity. People who have never heard of this thing before assume it’s popular because somebody decided to make it popular, say, the media, a large corporation, or other celebrities. They assume that because it’s popular, it must be mass-produced, crowd-pleasing trash, but sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it’s just good art getting the attention it deserves. If you "liked them before," then they don’t exist purely for the sake of being popular.

Motive 2: Separate Yourself from the Bandwagon Jumpers.
Bandwagon jumping is another phenomenon created by popularity. Some people only like things because all their friends like them, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Shared interests help strengthen community. But being labeled as a bandwagon jumper when you truly love something is an insult. Obviously if you “liked them before,” you can’t have been a bandwagon-jumper.

Motive 3: Mourn the Loss of Exclusivity.
This is a tough one to analyze, but it might be the most important. I don’t know how other people feel about this, so I’m going to talk from personal experience. For some reason, there’s a real joy for me when I like something that not a lot of people know about. The strange part is that I can’t put my finger on where this joy comes from. Here’s what I know: I know I get more joy out of telling my friends about it, and I know that the joy peaks when we all love this same thing intensely. Maybe it’s the fact that we have a secret, a prize that no one else can share. Maybe it’s that I identify with the thing so strongly that I feel I am somehow part of it. Maybe it’s the anticipation of future popularity and pride in saying “I knew them before…” (Here I go getting circular again.) I can’t tell what it is, but once the secret is out, once that part of my identity is stolen by others, the joy fades. Even if I still love the band, the movie, the book, whatever it is, it’s just not the same anymore. At first I want to tell everyone, but then when everyone knows, I’m sad. Is it just another form of pride? I don't think so. I don't know what it is.

So the next time someone says, “I knew them before…,” try to resist the urge to roll your eyes, label them as an arrogant hipster, or punch them in the face. Maybe they just wish that you could have shared their secret.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Naked Insecurity

I didn’t want to use this blog to be emotional and pointless, but I can’t help it at the moment. If you don’t want to read emotional vomit and a shameless plea for encouragement, please just skip this post.

I’m having a slight nervous breakdown. I feel like I’ve only been about 50% productive at work this summer. I accomplished some things, but could have done twice as much if I’d have put my mind to it and worked hard. I have two weeks left, then I go back to school for a semester, then I’m done with college. That’s cool, but I’ve sort of been operating under the assumption that Garmin will offer me a job. Today, for some reason, I can imagine the possibility that they might not, and it makes me sick, on several levels:

First, the idea of having to look for a job is terrifying. I hate that process. Second, I really like working here. I honestly don’t think I could get a job with a better work environment. Third, I can’t stand seeing anyone disappointed about anything. When it’s my fault, it’s ten times worse. I’m afraid I’ll go into the exit interview with my boss, and he’ll ask me what I did this summer. Then I’ll tell him, and he’ll say, “That’s it?” I might cry, vomit, or die right on the spot. More likely, I’ll stumble around with words and make pathetic excuses. What makes it so scary is that I don’t have a clue what my boss or coworkers think of my work. I don’t know if they think it’s great, or if they think I’m just slow because I’m an intern and I’ll improve, or if they think I’m just wasting their time.

I’m really good at following directions. If someone tells me exactly what to do, I can do it. If they leave everything up to me, I can’t ever decide to do anything. Whenever I try to make a decision, I can think of about three con’s for every pro. I can’t ever find the perfect solution. Probably because there usually isn’t one, but I’m so petrified of making a mistake, I never do anything. Every once in a while, I go out on a limb and make a decision that I know might be stupid. I hoped this might cure me of my indecisiveness, but no. The results have been just about 50/50. Half the time it’s a fantastic experience. Half the time I wish I could erase it from my life completely.

I don’t think writing that accomplished anything, except to expose my naked insecurity, which I don’t do very often. That is one of my goals for this blog though; to say things I wouldn’t ordinarily say. Also, posting this is one of those possibly stupid decisions I referred to earlier. Wow. That's circular. I have to stop typing now, or my head is going to explode.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hocus Pocus

... is the title of the song, but that doesn't matter. What matters is the lead singer's face, especially at around 1:10. I would have fallen on the floor laughing, but I was already lying on the floor as I watched it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How-To: Do Everything

In case you didn't know, I'm a huge nerd. I love learning. I hate class and homework as much as anyone, but when I get curious about something, I jump in with both feet -- no, I fall in. It's involuntary.

I was at Borders tonight, looking for the first season of Arrested Development on DVD. No luck. And I still probably had an hour to kill before my sister was done shopping next door at Old Navy. I looked at aisle after aisle of fiction: romance, sci-fi, literature. I don't get it. Every once in a while, I'll read a story that really grips me for one reason or another: The Killer Angels, for the way it gets inside the heads of the officers at Gettysburg; Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, for its off-the-wall satire of the human race; Harry Potter, for... well... the way Jim Dale reads it to me. But for the most part, I just can't really get into fiction, or any narrative stories for that matter. So, I turned around, and found what I really wanted to read: Reference books. Textbooks. How-To books.

Go ahead. Laugh at my irrepressible inner engineer. I would gladly have spent all night sitting on the floor in Borders, reading The Art of Electronics, The Private Pilot Manual, The Associated Press Stylebook, Vibrations and Waves, or Sound Reporting: The NPR Guide to Audio Journalism and Production. I have this insane drive to learn how to do everything. There's hardly a job in the world I wouldn't love to try for a day. (Okay, I might be done with some after fifteen minutes, but you get the idea.) I don't know what it is. I don't have the time or freedom or talent or money to try even ten percent of the things I would like to try, so I guess I try to learn as much as I can by reading about them. That way, if the opportunity ever arises, I at least have a head start.

Recently, I've been thinking about graduating college this December, and entering the 8-to-5 full-time workforce. Part of me cringes at the thought of it. Two or three weeks of vacation a year is not enough to really get involved with anything. Even if I had the money to do these things, I don't think I'll ever have the time. I spend so much mental energy dreaming about all these hobbies, and I might only ever get to try a tiny fraction of them. I don't really want to think about it anymore. I'll just get back to my how-to books and keep dreaming now.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

Ha. It's a little entertaining to me how deep my first post was, and how insignificant these next two have been, but oh well. I just want to get in the habit of making regular posts. The serious stuff will surface in time. For now, let the silliness continue.

When I heard the title "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog," and heard that it was a 45-minute musical, I immediately thought it sounded campy and ridiculous. It is. It's also truly brilliant, silly fun. It's brought to you by Joss Whedon, the man who brought us Buffy the Vampire Slayer and, more importantly, Firefly.

Dr. Horrible is a bumbling aspiring supervillain (played by Neil Patrick Harris), who falls in love with a girl at the laundromat (Felicia Day). Unfortunately, she falls for Dr. Horrible's archnemesis Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion). Throw in some simple but surprisingly good songs, and you have 45 minutes of pure fun. Currently, it's only available on iTunes, but it's well worth it. I'll be buying the DVD as soon as it comes out.

Dr. Horrible is now being shown free and legal on Watch.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Paper Planes

So, there's this song that I've heard everywhere. The odd thing is that I didn't realize I had been hearing it everywhere until yesterday. The first time was on NPR's All Songs Considered1 best of 2007 show. I didn't think much of it. The second time was in the preview for Pineapple Express2. I didn't even notice it. Then I heard the first 5 seconds of it many times as intro music for NPR's Bryant Park Project3. I thought, "what is that nifty song?" Finally, last night, my brother's friend Drew said, "Have you ever heard M.I.A.?" Ignorantly, I replied "Huh uh," so he played it, and in the first 0.07 seconds, I recognized it. Since then, I've been unable to stop listening to it. I mean, really, it has gunshot sound effects in it. How much better can it get?

M.I.A. - Paper Planes

1 All Songs Considered is an awesome show, where I find almost all the music I listen to. Thanks to Bob Boilen and the rest of the All Songs staff.

2 Pineapple Express is a stoner movie that looks fairly entertaining.

3 The Bryant Park Project is an NPR news show, with a much more irreverent attitude than the rest of NPR's programming. Fantastically entertaining. Unfortunately, it was canceled a week after I started listening, and aired its last show last Friday. I'll miss it dearly. I feel the deepest sympathy for the BPP family.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Grand Experiment

This is the beginning of a grand experiment which could go one of two ways. Either it will be a great success, or a boring waste of time and energy which will end as quietly and uneventfully as it started. I'm not sure how I'm defining great success, but if it isn't one, I'm sure I'll get bored and quit. I must disclose that I am starting this blog for entirely selfish reasons. I'm not entirely sure what those reasons are exactly; something along the lines of boosting my own ego, venting my emotions, or being discovered as a genius and gaining vast amounts of wealth and power. Those motives aside, I do hope that whatever I end up writing here can somehow enrich the lives of whoever ends up reading it.

I do a lot of thinking and not a lot of speaking. I don’t like to say anything until I've formulated exactly what I want to say. This is a deep mental/emotional issue that I won't get into right now, but the result is that many of the thoughts that I think go unsaid. Often those thoughts vanish seconds after I decide not to say them. Sometimes, that's a good thing. Often, it's a tragic waste of a good thought. Almost exactly one year ago, I began writing down these thoughts that I didn't want to share at the moment, but didn't want to lose forever. It's not really journaling, per se, as most of the entries are one or two sentences long. I don't really know what to call it (a “journal-type-thing?”), but whatever it is, it is one of the best things I have ever done. I see this blog as sort of the next step: taking the little thought fragments that I have kept to myself, and beginning to develop them and share them with the rest of the world.

So, I hope this is as successful an endeavor as my “journal-type-thing,” and hopefully someone else will find my thoughts of some value, otherwise, why am I thinking them in the first place?