august 2005

Well, while the Braves continue to widen their lead in the NL East (they're now sitting on a five game lead thanks to a six-game winning streak, including a three-game sweep of the Nationals, who at the time were tied with the Braves for first), the Orioles continue their descent into sucktasticness. They have only won four games since the all-star break, and after another drubbing at the hands of the White Sox last night, have won only one of their last twelve.

At the All-Star break, they were only a couple of games out of the lead in the AL East and had a legitimate shot at staying in the race and at least having their first winning season since 1997, but now, only 2 1/2 weeks later, they are eight games behind Boston and sinking fast—they fell below .500 for the first time since early April. For the past week they've always been in the rumor mix for the big trades that might happen before the trade deadline, but that deadline has come and gone with very little activity, and certainly no blockbuster deal, which could be a sign that upper management has given up on the team for this season. Again, just as with the Braves lead, it's still too early to say for certain that they're out of it, or that they don't at least have a shot to finish with a winning record, but each day that passes without a win puts another nail in the coffin.

Man, things just keep getting better and better for the Orioles.

I kept hoping that this flip-flop obsession was a passing phase that would come and go in one summer, or at most a year. But every day, I see more and more of them, and every day, I lose a little more faith in the good judgment of humanity. Especially the young people part of humanity.

Anyone who read this site regularly probably knows that I've been a little down for the past couple of months, mostly due to my dissatisfaction with work-related matters. I just wasn't ever excited about going to work anymore: I felt like I was dealing with the same issues over and over with no real resolution to them; I was frustrated by not having enough resources to do my job; and I never go to work on tasks that I really loved, like web sites and other multimedia projects; and stressed out about seemingly little things like not having anywhere to get lunch, being trapped inside a windowless office with flourescent lights all day, and the prospect of not being able to park close to campus for the next two years, which would be especially annoying on nights that I had class (oh, and I was pretty lukewarm about returning to my graduate program anyway, due to a lack of energy and my most recent experience in the classroom). On top of all that, I was enjoying World of Warcraft, my primary entertainment these days, less and less because of an asshat in my guild who was never happy with our decisions and was intent on ruining everyone else's gaming experience with his constant complaints and childish attitude.

As a result of all this, I wasn't sleeping well even though I was constantly exhausted from lack of sleep, I was unhappy a lot of the time, and I just wasn't sure what I was doing with my life. I thought about switching to a different graduate program, quitting my guild and rolling a new character on a different server, and even looking for a new job.

But that's all over now; inexplicably, all of these issues have resolved themselves within the last week, and I couldn't be happier about it. Let's tackle the work stuff first:

The positive changes in this area started a couple of weeks ago, when one of the most vile people I have ever been forced to work with announced out of the blue that she was leaving the university. I don't think I'd realized until I heard this how much she had negatively affected my job satisfaction, because I don't have to deal with her directly all that often, but I do have to deal with her minions and her asinine policies most every day, and when I got the email telling me she would no longer be with us, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Just knowing I would never have to endure her insults or engage in a shouting match with her about some idiotic new procedure she'd invented to make more paperwork and bureaucratic obstacles for us made me feel tons better.

Then there was the new guy. About a month ago, I hired a new worker to fill a position that has been vacant since January of this year. I had decently high hopes for him because he was a graduate here in computer science and he also worked for our office as a student so he already knew our business processes and there wouldn't be nearly as much spin-up time as usual, but he has gone beyond my expectations in every way. Not only was I able to give him a lot of the little tasks that tend to eat up my day and leave me unable to spend any quality time working on larger projects like our web site and our electronic marketing, he was able to quickly convince me that with his skillset we would be able to dramatically expand the applications and services that we offer our users over the next year. Another burden lifted, and I was starting to feel more optimistic about my chances to work on the kinds of projects that I was originally hired to work on but which have always had to take a back-burner to our database and information system issues.

Next was the lunch issue. I had actually stopped eating lunch for a couple of weeks because there was nothing I wanted to bring and nowhere within walking distance that served anything that I wanted to eat. I'm usually content with sushi no matter what, but the one on-campus facility that serves it (that space is occupied by the same people who own a local chinese restaurant, and they deliver fresh boxes to the campus location each day) for some strange reason does not sell sushi when the undergraduates aren't here. Normally that means I just have to take a break during holidays, etc., but of course the summer is a mightly long stretch to go without, especially when that's what I'm really craving. But when I was discussing this with my director, he pointed out that there is another little lunch place in the library that also sells sushi, so I went and had a look that day. Lo and behold, not only did they have fresh sushi boxes, they were cheaper than the other place and they were made by one of the best-known sushi restaurants in Baltimore. I've had it every day since; yet another weight gone, replaced by happiness.

Finally, there was the problem of parking and how it would affect my commute time, especially on class days; my thoughts on this were so negative that it was keeping me from registering for a class, even though I took last spring and this summer off, so it's really time for me to start up again. See, they're building a new quad on my end of campus, which in two years will mean lots more office and classroom space (including a new building for my department, and—finally—my own office with a window) and a new underground parking structure that will hold far more than our existing surface lots. But in the meantime, we have to park somewhere, and since they're tearing up our current main parking lot to do construnction on our new building and parking garage, they decided to redo the parking permits by making us fill out a form with our top three choices. My choices were the remaining surface lots on campus, a more expensive spot in the new garage that's a little farther but not too far from my building, and finally Eastern, a huge lot that's unfortunately 15 minutes farther for me since I drive in from the west. Add to this drive time the time spent waiting for a shuttle, riding back over to the main campus, and walking to my building, and you're easily talking about at least an extra 30 minutes each way on top of my normal commute, which averages 45 minutes.

The sign-up was first come, first serve, and I was all ready to go, but by an unfortunate coincidence the first day you could sign up, I took the day off to hang out with Tori and I completely forgot to login and submit my parking form. Since the next Monday was the Independence Day holiday, I was in solid vacation mode and I didn't sign up until later the next week after one of my friends asked if I had remembered to sign up. I filled out the form within 15 minutes of being reminded, but I wasn't optimistic about my chances; I was sure that I would end up at Eastern since it had been almost a week since the registration had opened.

Normally this wouldn't be that big a deal, because I usually carpool with Julie and I don't have to worry about parking because she drops me off. But if I wanted to start taking classes again, that means there would be at least one day that we would need to drive seperately since she can't wait around for my class to finish at 8:30. In addition to having to leave much earlier in order to get to work on time if I had to park at Eastern, I also wouldn't have gotten home until very, very late, because the shuttles that take you from the main campus to Eastern stop running at 8:30, just as most of the evening classes get out. Which means I'd then have to wait for a security van to take me over, which I assume would take quite a while since they have limited space on the vans and there would probably be plenty of other people taking classes who would need a ride over to the lot besides me. The prospect of having to be subjected to this arrangement for two years was making me depressed about work and my graduate program; I just didn't know if I would be able to finish my coursework because of this annoyance that would stretch my already-long class days into unendurable marathons.

But yesterday the parking office sent out emails with everyone's parking assignments, and somehow I scraped by and got assigned to the new parking garage, which is more money per month than I pay now but which is right next to campus and will not add a significant amount of time to my commute on days when I have to drive separately. The only thing I can figure is that people underestimated the number of spaces available in the surface lots on campus and they were too cheap to pay the extra $30 a month for the garage spaces. Whatever. I was so happy and relieved that I immediately started my registration paperwork for next semester, and now I'm really looking forward to taking another class.

And in addition to all those things weighing on my mind, there was the guild situation in World of Warcraft. We are a pretty small guild, only about 30 players (the largest and most intense guilds on the server have several hundred), with four officers and a GM (guildmaster). I'm one of the officers, and I'm on the same page as the GM and two of the officers in terms of my approach to the game and our values and goals as a guild. But there is one officer who for the past couple of months has become increasingly agitated with the rest of us, constantly criticizing our playstyle and how we choose to spend our time in-game, scheduling events on a daily basis that no one signs up for (that doesn't make him any less mad when no one shows up, even though it was pretty clear no one was going to), leaving large cross-guild raids for ridiculous reasons (which makes everyone in our guild look bad), and just generally souring everyone else's time in-game. Even though his attitude was markedly different than those of his fellow guildies and the other officers, he was making a push to do aggressive recruiting and to have himself formally named as second-in-command so that he could set policies that the other officers (except the GM) wouldn't be able to argue with him about.

He's always been the troublemaker in the group, and the rest of the officers have always tried to listen to him and accommodate him, but I was reaching a point where I was going to say either he goes or I go, because it was clear that what he wanted from the guild was different than what I wanted, and if he was going to continue to push and make people miserable until he got what his way, I wanted no part of it. But again, completely out of the blue, the GM, who is my closest friend in the game, wrote and said that he was fed up, too, and it was time for this member to go. Not be chastised, not be sanctioned, not be demoted, but thrown out of the guild. Pleasantly if possible, but if not, then kicking and screaming. He was poisoning our group and spoiling everyone's time online, and he just had to removed. This hasn't happened yet, and I'm sure there is still much ugliness to come over the next week or so as this process takes place, but there is no doubt in my mind that it will happen, and that when the dust settles, our guild will be much better off. So again: another weight lifted, more happiness.

A lot of these things may seem like minor issues, but I tell you, my day-to-day existence has improved across the board over the past two weeks, and I don't think I've felt this good at least since last year when I was working with Will at the Walters every week and taking that amazing class with Dr. Henry. I'm just really fucking happy right now, more than I could have ever imagined being a month ago. My long dark teatime of the soul—this occurrence of it, anyway—has finally come to an end.

You can't possibly want anything from me today—I bet you didn't even finish what I gave you yesterday. So go back and forge your way through it if you can, but for the lazy among you I'll summarize: many things were bad and I was unhappy, and now many things are much better and I'm much happier. But I'm sure you'd rather pore through the excruciating details in my supersized post from yesterday, wouldn't you?

Today is Friday and I plan on being a pretty big slacker at work, so I'm going to be a slacker here as well. Happy weekend!

A two day weekend is just not enough. To tell the truth, I'd rather we turn the system on its head and have a two day workweek followed by a five day weekend, but I understand that we have to take this in increments and I'm willing to compromise as long as it moves us forward in the right direction. So how about this: we immediately extend the weekend by a day on a trial basis, then hold a national election to phase in a fourth day sometime in the next five years Sound good? Excellent. Now if somone could just tell me who to contact about this, I'll get the paperwork started.

Does it bother anyone else that George Bush's beady-eyed cousin Billy, who is one of the vapid cohosts of Access Hollywood and not the sharpest knife in the drawer, nevertheless seems immensely more intelligent than the president himself?

I'm not a big consumer of gum, but I love me some Extra Cool Green Apple.

Gehennas = pwned. Garr, you're next.

Although a lot of my friends are pretty tech savvy, and many of them read this blog, almost none of them have blogs themselves. The upshot of this is that they are acutely aware of the minutiae of my mundane daily existence, while I have no clue about major events in their lives, like, say, weddings, births, moves, new jobs, etc. Because they know so much about me, they still feel connected to me and close to my life, but they forget that I really know nothing about what's going on with them unless they make the extra effort to send me an email or IM me at work. I guess I'd rather have it this way than have no connection to their lives at all, but what I'd really rather see is all of them with blogs, primarily so that I can feel as connected to them as they feel to me through my writing, but also because I need more excuses for slacking off at work.

Up until yesterday I was only aware of one of my friends having taken the blog bait, but he was never that enthusiastic about it, and recently his posts have dropped to zero, with nothing in the last two months and only a small trickle of one or two posts a months for several months before that. But then I got an email from a very close friend (who I haven't seen in forever, despite the fact that he moved within an hour or so of me about a year ago) announcing his new blog, which he apparently has been keeping since sometime in July. I won't link to it yet, just because I'm not sure if he wants any added attention from my audience (I'm not saying his site would get overwhelmed if I linked to it or anything, I'm just not sure if he's really wanting to publicize it yet), but I'm very excited about it. I have always loved his writing, and getting a little sample of it every day will make me remember all the other things I love about him. It focuses mostly of musical things, but since I know that music means as much to him as it does to me, that subject will actually give me as much insight into his feelings and state of mind as it would if he were keeping a normal blog.

Anyway. I've now got something to look forward to reading every day at lunch. Now if the rest of you lazy bastards would just follow his example...

Friday night we took Lucifron, Magmadar, and Gehennas down in just under four hours with only two wipes, one eacn on Mag and Geh. Sunday we went back for Garr and brought him down for the first time after four attempts. I don't think we've got any more runs planned for this week—we're trying to limit the runs to two a week to avoid burnout—but it's going to be hard to resist going back to take a shot at Geddon before our timer runs out on Thursday.

Hmmm...after my post last week about wishing more of my friends had blogs, another friend sent me an email that basically said I guilted him into outing his blog to me. That's two so far—anyone else want to step forward? I'm getting quite the reading list going now...

Baseball is a crazy, crazy game. As of Monday, the Braves were sitting on a 5 1/2 game lead in the NL East, which isn't that unusual for this time of year. What is unusual is that the entire division is so good that every team below them has a winning record is in contention for the wild card. Meanwhile, over in the NL West, the entire division is so terrible that NO TEAM HAS A WINNING RECORD. That's right, the worst team that the Braves are competing with for the divsion title is better than the best team in another division in their league.

This likely won't last until the end of the season—one or two of the teams in the NL East will likely drop below .500, and at least one of the teams in the NL West will get back over .500 (they better)—but stranger things have happened. All I know is I'd be pretty pissed if I were the general manager of a team that finished in last place in my division but I still had a better record than a team that won another division. There has been a lot of talk of how much parity there is in baseball this year, which is to say that there are only a couple of teams that are runaway locks to win their division and there are tons of teams in the wildcard hunt in each leage, but there are still plenty of extremes out there that show just how uneven the quality can be.

I had another couple of paragraphs written up about baseball, specifically the Red Sox' use of Curt Schilling this year, but now I'm not so sure about my conclusions. Give me a couple of days to study this in a little more depth and I'll get back to you.

It seems like it's been a real struggle for me to find stuff to write about here recently. Part of that is because I've been focusing more on the content for my music blog, but a big part of it is the ongoing distraction of World of Warcraft, which takes up a lot of my time. And not just time spent playing the game: see, I'm also the officer in a guild and on the leadership council for an alliance of small guilds on my server, which means that I spend a lot of time out of the game posting to the message boards for those two organizations. The fact is, even though I don't write as much in this space, I've probably written more over the course of the past couple of months than I have in the history of this site, it's just that 60% or more of that writing is not associated with this blog or my music blog.

I'm not really sure what to do about this, because although I enjoy contributing to my guild and to the small guild alliance, I certainly don't want to see this site run out of steam because of what is likely a temporary (lengthy, but temporary nonetheless) infatuation with a game. I've been trying to set aside more time to read and write recently, as I realized that a lot of my free time was being taken up by this game (although I watch almost no television any more, prefering to spend time in-game instead). Hopefully that will start to pay dividends soon in the form of more content here, but the fact is, there's just not a whole lot happening in our lives right now; we purposely decided to limit our activities this summer because we'd spent so much of the previous year traveling, and there just hasn't been that much to write about.

I'm starting to ramble a bit, and I don't really have any way to wrap this up in a coherent fashion. But hey, content is content, right? And today you get a couple of paragraphs worth.

For a long time I have convinced myself that all the episodes of Futurama I've been watching on Cartoon Network every night for the past year or so were just the tip of the iceberg, that there were still a treasure trove of episodes that hadn't yet been syndicated or released on DVD. But alas, I was just deluding myself; I went on Amazon yesterday to check out the DVD sets that have been released so far, and not only did the description definitively say that volume 4 was the final volume, I confirmed by looking at the detailed specs of each season that I have indeed seen every episode of the show, most of them too many times to count. Come on, Fox, if you can revive Family Guy and commission a whole new series from a man who didn't make you very much money at all until his show hit syndication on Adult Swim and then sold tons of DVDs, can't you cough up the funds for a couple more seasons of Futurama for a guy who has made you untold millions?

No, of course you can't. You're the same morons who canceled The Critic. And Harsh Realm. And Firefly. And Undeclared. And Wonderfalls. And just about every other show I've fallen in love with over the past ten years. Oh yeah, but you'll make real sure we'll get to see another season of The Simple Life and Stacked. You bastards.

Thanks to my lack of recent travel with which to stock a backlog of daily photos, and a recent nature walk, this week's photos are brought to you courtesy of berries and flowers.

Molten Core is still going pretty well. On Friday night, we downed the first four bosses in only four hours, with only one wipe, which we're told is ahead of the pace for a group as young as ours. We gave Geddon a shot on Sunday, but since we had to clear all the way to him and then only had an hour and a half for attempts before our scheduled end-time, we only got three tries at him, none of which were successful. But so far we haven't taken fewer than six attempts on a boss before taking it down, not even the ones that are so easy for us now that they're on farm status, so I don't think too many people got discouraged. It would be nice to take him down next week, though, to keep our sense of forward momentum going.

I recently made a major change at work: I switched to a new kind of pen. This might not seem like a big deal to most people, but I have been using the same basic offices supplies for the past ten years, ever since I started my first temp job with the Michie law publishing firm in Charlottesville (which eventually became my first full time job). I selected them simply because that's what was available in the Michie stock room, and I've been using the same roller ball pen and notepad through every job I've held since then.

The notepads are getting harder to come by: I use 6x9 sterno notebooks with green paper and Gregg ruling, 80 sheets per notebook. The office supply catalog at my current job doesn't have any of these available, so when I started, I immediately went to Staples and got a pack of 12, of which I still have 6 remaining after over 3 years on the job. The brand doesn't matter so much, since everyone makes them exactly the same, but all the other stats I listed are extremely important; these notebooks have become the repository for all of my work-related thoughts and lists that I can't imagine using anything else at this point.

The pens I used were Uni-Ball Micro roller ball pen with a .2 mm tip and blue ink (which is much nicer against the light yellowish-green of my notebooks than black). Even though I felt like the tip got jammed up and the pens stopped writing smoothly much sooner than they should have, I never thought of switching to anything else: that was my pen, and I accepted its limitations.

Then one night I forgot to bring a pen to class (I have a whole nother set of requirements for my class-related materials; the notebooks and pens I use in that environment are completely different from my work notebooks and pens), and one of my classmates loaned me a Pilot G2 Fine Point rolling ball pen with a .7 mm tip. Even though the fatter tip size meant that I got more ink flow than I wanted, the ink flowed much more smoothly than my office pen. I used this pen for months in class, and I never had a problem with it, unlike with my office pen, which I go through at a rate of one every three or four weeks. So I resolved to see if the G2 came in a finer tip size that might take the place of the pens I used at work.

I searched the usual places - the campus book store, office supply stores, etc., but I could only find the fine tip that I had used in class, and I more or less gave up on using the G2 as my new office pen, since I don't think I could tolerate the .7 mm tip. But then when I was looking through our office supply catalog in search of a new chair (don't get me started on my affection for my office chairs, either; the two chairs I used for my last two jobs before this one are now part of my home office furniture), I noticed that they had an Extra Fine G2 with a .5 mm tip and blue gel ink. And I figured $1.98 for a box of 12 was worth the risk, even if I knew within five seconds that I would never use the pens again (especially since it wasn't my $1.98).

But within five seconds, I knew I'd never be using my Uni-Ball pens ever again: the G2 extra fine felt the same, tip-wise, but the ink flowed much smoother. Presuming that the Extra Fine version is as durable and reliable as the Fine version I used for a semester's worth of classes, I don't think I'll be switching to anything else for a long time.

I don’t get why everyone is so psyched about Overheard in New York. There has been a similar site, In Passing, that has been active for much longer, and which I personally find much more entertaining than the newly-christened media darling Overheard. I know, I know, In Passing isn't updated that frequently, but it's all from a single source, who I trust enough to believe that she's not just making this stuff up. Meanwhile, there are so many contributors to Overheard that there's no way a few fakers aren't getting past the vetting process. Plus, every conversation posted to In Passing is interesting and entertaining, while only about one in ten is worthwhile on Overheard. Oh well. Must be that damn east coast media bias again…

Another Orioles game, another little bit of heartbreak. As of last week, the Orioles had somewhat rebounded from their epic swan dive in July and gotten themselves back to .500, but since then they've taken another serious tumble and lost five straight. Going to the park now feels so much like last season—this sense of unavoidable doom hangs over the stadium, and you just know their going to lose, no matter how drunk you get to try to fool yourself into believing in them again. Earlier this season it was actually fun to go to the games—they were in first place and scoring runs in bunches, and even when they got a few runs behind, it never felt like it was over. But now it feels like it's over before it's even begun, and they seem intent on ending the season in another slow-motion car crash that will make the winter seem that much longer.

Beautiful weather the last few days. I've been spending my lunch hours outside, eating sushi under a shade umbrella with several officemates, talking about nothing in particular and just enjoying the fresh air. Very nice change from the windowless box I'm forced to spend most of my day in.

Still making good progress in Molten Core. We cleared the first four bosses again on Friday night (and Mag finally dropped the best bow in the game, which I've been hoarding my points for, so I walked away with it), then came back Sunday afternoon to get Geddon and took him down on the second try. We still had time left, so we took two shots at Shazzrah, getting him down to 90% the first time and 30% the second time, and I think we'll get him next time (couldn't take a third shot because we had exceeded the official time of the raid and too many people had to go).

Despite our rapid progress, we're taking next week off because a lot of people will be unavailable due to the holiday and because, frankly, we need a break. Even though we cleared the first four bosses on Friday, just as we'd done the Friday before, it took us six hours and multiple wipes, whereas the previous week it took us only four hours with one wipe. And our hiatus is good for another reason, too: my brother is finally going to get his new computer and start playing next Friday, so I'm planning to start a level 1 character and play with him for a while. World of Warcraft: bringing families together.

When I was a kid, purple was my favorite color. That makes absolutely no sense to me now—I hate the entire red-yellow end of the spectrum, preferring hues that are firmly rooted in the greens and blues. To my adult mind, the color purple is now just red spoiling a perfectly good blue.


Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

I have been waiting for months for the right opportunity to use this phrase in conversation. Part of the deal is that you have to know where the quote comes from for it to be funny, and I don't have many conversations these days with obsessive Simpsons fans, so no luck so far. But I'll keep waiting for my moment...

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