december 2005

12.1.05
I hate the tailies. I will always hate the tailies.

12.2.05
I think I've figured out how to stop spam: let's just hunt down and kill the 1 in 10,000 idiots who respond to this garbage. That will be a hell of a lot faster than waiting for congress to figure out how to make it illegal, and I have a feeling we'll have a lot of volunteers willing to help out with the terminations.

Or we could just take away their internet access. Whichever.

12.5.05
I'm fully prepared for another winter of discontent vis a vis snow days (we had several false alarms last year that never panned out), and even though I shouldn't, I still get my hopes up everytime the local weather idiots start talking about wintry precipitation.

12.6.05
Curry or onions: your hands touch either of those, and that's what they're going to smell like until the next time you take a shower, no matter how many times you wash your hands in the meantime.

12.7.05
Seen on a license plate frame on the car in front of me at a light yesterday (original capitalization kept intact):

I'd Rather Be PLAYING PINBALL

Okay...


12.8.05
This video of a military school cadet caught on hidden camera dancing in his room is one of the funniest things I've seen in a while. Hopefully you'll be able to see it even if you're not a Salon.com subscriber, but I'm telling you, it's worth a year's subscription just to see this.

12.9.05
Well, we got a partial snow day today, which is better than nothing, I guess. I decided not to go in anyway, even though I think the roads were okay by mid-morning, because pretty much everything I need to do can be done from home and the parking is going to be a nightmare on campus today. Plus, everyone in the office is in panic mode because our ED mail date is next week, and it's a less than tranquil atmosphere to try to get real work done in. I'm probably also going to end up pulling some extra hours this weekend in preparation for the launch of our student blogs on Monday, and if I'm going to be working all weekend anyway, I'd rather have a more flexible schedule today.

12.12.05
The best thing about the Family Guy theme song/intro? It is exactly as long as a single press of ReplayTV's skip button.

12.12.05
On December 10, 2004, I started playing World of Warcraft, so I thought it might be fun (scary?) to do some analysis of my time in the game after one year. On Saturday, my one-year anniversary of playing the game, I collected my time-played stats for all my characters, and here's what I came up with: Over that 365 day period, I spent 50 days, 17 hours, and 15 minutes in-game, the vast majority of that on my main character (40+ days). Broken down, this means that I have spent about 4 days a month playing WoW, which translates to 3.3 hours a day.

Every day.

For a whole year.

Scary thought #1: This doesn't include any of the countless hours I have spent on my guild forums, the forums for the guild alliance that my guild participates in, or the Blizzard forums over the past year.

Scary thought #2: I consider myself a pretty casual gamer (seriously). I can't even begin to guess how many hours the more hardcore people that I run with have spent in the game. I guarantee you that many of my in-game friends would have a total that is at least double what mine is. And no, they're not all college or high school students who have no responsibilities; most of the people I know in the game are working adults with families, social lives, and hobbies outside the game.

Scary thought #3: I can see myself playing this game for at least another two years.

On the bright side, if you total up all the money I've spent on this game, including the monthly fees and the initial cost of the software, I've only spent 18 cents for every hour I've spent playing, and you'd be hard pressed to find a better value for your money anywhere. What I've found is that my time in the game hasn't taken away too much time from my existing hobbies and other activities, it has simply replaced most of my other forms entertainment. I rarely go to see movies any more, I watch a lot less tv than I did before the game, and I don't play any other video games, console or otherwise. Plus, I would be willing to bet that the averages for the entire year are higher than my current daily average, since I spent a ton of time playing the first two or three months after starting the game; if I run these numbers again after my second year of play, I think my daily average will have decreased.

Still, seeing those numbers was a little sobering (try breaking that down into hours and minutes—it's mind-boggling). But I didn't entertain the thought of quitting or even cutting back a little for a second.

12.13.05
Despite a hectic couple of weeks at work, I would be in a pretty good mood if I didn't have this paper hanging over my head. But it's due tomorrow, so no matter how little I might think of it or the class that I'm writing it for, it will all be over in 24 hours.

12.14.05
I have written far too much in the past 24 hours. I have nothing left for you today.

12.15.05
Ugh. That was far and away the least amount of fun I've ever had writing a paper, and I think it's probably one of the worst papers I've written. I don't even care about my grade for this class—as long as it's a B or above, I don't have to pay for it, and that's all I can really hope for at this point. I can't believe how crappy this class turned out to be given all the great things I'd heard about the professor, but I think he knew that this wasn't his finest hour, either—it's pretty telling that he "forgot" to give out the evaluation forms at the end of the semester.

12.16.05
Early Decision letters went out yesterday. I'm the guy who actually has to push the send button on the email program we use to send out the decisions, and the only thing that makes me more nervous than sending out those emails is when I have to send out the Regular Decision emails in March. This is kind of the unofficial start to the holiday season in our office, since there's not much to do now except wait until the flood of apps comes pouring in on January 1, the deadline for our RD applicants. Even if the weather hadn't convinced most people to leave early yesterday, it wouldn't have mattered; after 10:30, when the letters were transported to the post office and the emails were sent out, there wasn't going to be much work done in our office anyway.

I still have some tasks that I have to get done before the holidays, but with the ED letters out and my paper finished, I'm feeling much more relaxed. I'm almost in a good enough mood to attend the office holiday party today. Maybe.

12.19.05
Okay, time to finish up my Chicago stories, which are at this point a month old. But if I don't write them now, I'll never write them. This one's not gonna seem like a Chicago story at first, but bear with me, it'll get there.

I've had two prior experiences with meeting people in real life that I knew via the internet first. My first was back when I was more active in the nascent sport of geocaching—when the sport started to catch fire a few years ago, groups in metro areas with lots of active geocachers started getting together for monthly or quarterly meetings, usually in the form of a barbecue at a state park with a geocache set up just for that event. Julie and I attended one of these, and while the people seemed nice, we didn't form any friendships there, and we didn't attend a second one.

My second set of experiences was with the local Baltimore bloggers, who started to become aware of one another as a result of the now-defunct (and much missed) Crablogs site, which listed all the Baltimore blogs in order of their last update. I met some really cool people as a result of the blogger meetups and just emailing and commenting on other people's blogs, although recently I haven't kept in touch with people like I used to. I still read a few of the blogs, but since most of the Baltimore bloggers actually live in Baltimore (duh), and I don't, I don't get the chance to hang out with them as much as I might like.

When we went to Chicago in November, we had our third experience of this nature, this time thanks to World of Warcraft (which I'm sure comes as a real shock to those of you who have been keeping up with my involvement with this game over the past year). One of the guys that I met very early on in the game, within a couple of days of creating my first character, goes by the name Zork in the game, and he is the leader of my guild, the leader of our Molten Core raid group, and the council leader and co-founder of the guild alliance that we participate in. There have been very few days in the game that have not been spent working with or conversing with Zork, and after spending so much time with him in the virtual world, I didn't feel weird at all calling him a friend even though we'd never met in real life.

As chance would have it, he lives and works in Chicago, so when I found out that I would be attending a conference there, I brought up the possibility of meeting him and his family (his wife and son also play the game) for dinner or something one evening, and he was amenable. We made plans to meet on Wednesday evening, after my final conference session, for dinner and some other activity. When we got into town, we firmed up the plans: dinner at a tapas restaurant, and a trip to see the Blue Man Group afterwards. His wife was unavailable that evening, so it ended up being Zork, his 13 year old son, Julie, and me.

Since we didn't have a rental car and we didn't know our way around the city at all, Zork came to pick us up at our hotel, and then drove us to the tapas place for an early dinner (the show started at 7 or 8—can't remember—so we met a couple of hours before that). The tapas place was amazing—I wish I remembered the name of it so I could recommend it as a must-visit on your next trip to Chicago—and we sat and ate seared tuna, grilled beef and chicken, shrimp, skate, and I can't even remember what else. But it was all really good, and I think if we hadn't already had tickets to the theater, we could have taken a break from eating, had a drink or two, and then ordered more later in the evening.

The conversation was mostly about the game, because, well, when you play this game seriously, you think about it a lot, and when you're with other people who play it seriously, the conversation just kind of drifts in that direction. His son was really cool—very mature for 13, and also obviously very smart. Even though it was with two people I'd never met before, it was a very comfortable, enjoyable dinner—if felt for all the world like dinner with an old friend.

Blue Man Group was pretty good, too. I had seen it the summer before when I drove Tori to Iowa for her senior year, and Zork had seen it years and years ago, but Julie and Zork's son had never seen it. I still remembered a little too much of it—it probably would have been best if there had been more time between my visits—but it is a pretty entertaining show, even if you know what's coming (the marshmallow bit kills me).

Afterwards Zork dropped us off at our hotel, where we got a bystander to take a quick picture of the four of us. Since we still had a couple of days in town and no real evening plans, we decided to meet again the next night, this time without his son but possibly with a couple of other people from the game who also happened to live in the Chicago area.

12.20.05
Someday, companies are going to wise up and realize that the week between Christmas and New Year's is like the day after Thanksgiving: it's lost time where those few who bother to show up to work have no intention of doing anything productive, and that it would save money to turn off the lights and heat and send everyone home.

But until then, I guess I'll just keep using my vacation days.

12.21.05
Going to court to try and get rid of my traffic ticket today. Wish me luck...

12.22.05
Traffic court is supposed to be a pretty simple thing, especially if you're there for a speeding ticket: you go in, wait for the judge to call your name, plead guilty, tell him extenuating circumstances, remind him of your heretofore spotless driving record if you happen to have one, get your fine/points reduced, pay, and leave. And that's exactly what happened to the 30 or so people who were on the docket before me. But nothing's ever simple for me.

See, the judge just happened to be the father of one of my coworkers at Sycamore and CO2; the last time I saw him was at his house, where he was hosting his son's wedding. I knew he was a judge in Frederick, and I thought he was a traffic court judge but I didn't think there would be any issues because 1) I thought he had retired and 2) his name was not the judge's name on the papers I recieved.

As soon as he called my name and I stepped to the defense table, he recognized me and immediately reassigned me to one of the other courts in the building, and the officer who had ticketed me and I had to leave his courtroom and go to the other one to wait for my case to be heard there. This wasn't a traffic court, however; this was a criminal court, with lawyers and witnesses and prosecutors and everything, and they looked like they had a pretty full docket themselves. I was afraid that, instead of spending an hour or so at worst in a traffic court, I would now have to spend my entire afternoon listening to testimony about drug busts and vehicular assaults (really—one of the cases was about a guy who ran over a neighbor with his car during a dispute).

Apparently my officer was afraid of this, too, so he convinced the court to hear my case just before the judge was going to take a recess, so I only had to spend about an extra hour in court. I pled guilty, as I was advised to do, reminded the judge of my spotless driving record over the past ten years, and she reduced the fine and the reported speed, which meant that the points were also reduced (I was hoping for a Probation Before Judgment, but that was not in the cards). I was concerned that, since this was a criminal judge not used to hearing minor traffic cases that I would receive a harsher sentence than I would have from the traffic judge, but her ruling was pretty much the same as I think I would have gotten from my original judge (there were several cases very similar to mine that he ruled on before calling my name).

So the outcome wasn't as good as I had hoped for, but it wasn't unreasonable, either. All in all, I'm just glad it's over. Even if I didn't avoid punishment entirely, I still saved some money, so it was worth it to spend an afternoon away from work.

12.23.05
Leaving town for a few days to visit family for the holidays. I'll actually be back early next week, but I'm planning to take the entire week off, so I'm not sure if I'll post again before the new year. Just in case I don't, enjoy your time off and I'll see you next year.
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