february 2006

I'm really enjoying being a part of the application reading process this year, but honestly, even though it's fun and a nice break from my normal responsibilities, it's exhausting. Our goal when reading from home (it's just about impossible to muster up the focus to read at work) is supposed to be to read 30 applications a day, which I can just do if I push myself hard all day.

Some of our more experienced counselors claim they can get into the 60s if they're really trying, but I'm guessing that they're getting a lot more easy denies than I am—because of the oddities of the territories that I've ended up with, I so far have seen only the cream of the crop, and I'm admitting a much higher percentage than I should be. I have to assume that at some point the herd will then a bit and I'll start seeing a lot more of those mediocre to bad files from kids who really shouldn't be applying to us, especially in a year when our admit rate is going to be its tightest ever due to an especially large ED class and our largest overall application pool.

Groundhog day! For the life of me, I can't figure out why TNT doesn't run Bill Murray's Groundhog Day for 24 hours straight today just like they do for Christmas Story on Christmas. It just makes sense, really.

So here's an update on my raid group's progress in World of Warcraft: back in November, after months of working our way to him, we downed Ragnaros, the final boss of Molten Core, the easiest 40-man instance in the game, and then started working towards our goal of being able to clear the instance in five hours or less so that we could do it in a single day and leave our other raiding day for a new instance (we typically raid Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons).

We kind of took a break over the holidays, but about three weeks ago, we started our first serious attempts in the next 40-man instance, Blackwing Lair. The first encounter there is extremely chaotic, unlike any other fight we've seen so far, but last Friday we finally mastered it and took down the first boss, Razorgore. We've also made Friday our official day for BWL, since we now have MC down to about 4-4 1/2 hours, meaning we can easily tackle it Sunday afternoon. So tonight we're going back in hoping to easily defeat Razor again before taking several attempts against the second boss in the instance.

I've had a fever since Saturday night, which means that I slept through most of Super Bowl Sunday and I didn't get to enjoy any of our traditional snacks because I didn't eat anything at all yesterday. Feeling a bit better today—well enough to do all the stuff I had planned to do on Sunday afternoon, anyway—so I'll likely be fine for work and class tomorrow night.

Now I just have to find a way to get through my physics readings without falling asleep—we're currently doing readings from around Galileo's time, and for some reason the translators insist on translating the text as if they're translating it for an audience from that time instead of a contemporary one. You try staying awake while reading 17th century science manuscripts.

My dad loves—LOVES—the Pearls Before Swine comic strip, and he'll occasionally email one to me that he thinks I'll find funny. The most recent one: this strip on blogging.

Even though the comic makes fun of bloggers, I have a perfectly good reason why I blog: I am greatness personified.

I slept for 10 hours last night. Man, that feels good. I need to do it more often.

Reading applications isn't the easiest thing to do in the world, but I already know I'm going to miss it when our reading season is over. Aside from the fact that it's a major change of pace from my normal job responsibilities and it makes me feel like I'm contributing to the mission of our office in a much more direct way than I usually do, I also get to read my files at home, which means no hour and a half lost to my commute every day and nobody wandering into my office to interrupt my thought process. I think something like this would really be the ideal job for me: something requires focus and critical analysis but which also requires solitude. I've always joked that students are the worst thing about working at a university, but I'm becoming increasingly convinced that, for me anyway, coworkers are the worst part of work.

Today is Julie's birthday, but we will not be celebrating with an evening out or a weekend trip out of town. No, I'm not a terrible husband who doesn't think birthdays are worth celebrating: when I asked her if she wanted to do anything special, she decided that she didn't want to miss our regularly scheduled Friday night and Sunday afternoon raids with our World of Warcraft raiding group. So that's what we'll be doing tomorrow night in lieu of dinner and a movie (or something along those lines).

We are planning to take a trip into DC on Saturday and do some fun stuff there, so we're not totally lame, but the weather might end up preventing that. At any rate, we'll end up celebrating somehow, but it's Julie's choice and apparently the raiding schedule reigns supreme. (If this were the kind of blog where I used emoticons, I'd put a smiley after that last sentence to let you know that I find this cute and endearing. But it's not that kind of blog, so I had to write this long-winded explanation instead.)

Julie was glad that we decided to stay home on Friday, because we downed Vael and came pretty close to a shot at the next boss as well. I think she might be even more into this game than I am at this point; I'll be very curious to see how her days-played compares to mine once she reaches her first year anniversary in May.

On Saturday we had plans to meet Dodd and Alisa at a metro stop and ride down into DC to visit the Spy Museum, but with the weather threatening, we decided it would be wiser to stay a little closer to home. So instead we met up at Golden West in Hampden for lunch (amazing as usual, and we had a perfect booth, too), walked around and looked at the shops for a bit (including the wine store where I picked up some wine crates that I will use to display my photos in the upcoming round of spring and summer arts festivals), and finally ended up back at Alisa's studio apartment, where I had some rose hip tea and watched the snow falling outside her window.

Those are the kinds of afternoons I wish I had more of: hanging out at a friend's place, talking about nothing in particular. I just don't live close enough to the people that I'm close to, so moments like that have become rare in the past few years. In fact, even though she lives only blocks from Hopkins, it's probably been six months since we've spent time with Alisa. I need to make sure that doesn't happen again.

As it started to get dark and it was clear that the snow was going to start sticking to the roads, we headed out, but not before taking a few minutes to explore the weird fire escape in Alisa's building: on each floor, there is an entrance on the hallway where you can jump onto a steep spiral slide that apparently takes you to an exit in the basement. Dodd and I really wanted to give it a try, but we were talked into rolling an empty soda bottle down instead, just to see if it would go all the way down. It's certainly an odd little architectural feature—I wonder if that was popular in many buildings at some point, or if it's just a quirky design element from a particular architect or firm.

Most of the spam that I get in my email account gets flagged as such and dumped immediately into the trash without me having to look at it, but every now and then a couple slip through (I still can't figure out why; it's pretty obvious that they're spam, but they must include the latest trick to get around the filters that's not obvious to someone who doesn't spend every minute of their day trying to get around spam filters). These usually go straight to the trash as well, but the obnoxious subject line of one particular email that I got yesterday prompted me to open it, which led me to exactly the sort of content that I should have expected from an email with that subject line:

Subject: Fucking St. Valentine
From: Ronny Boston
What are you to do if you have bad erection? Especially in the forthcoming Saint Valentines Day???

Don t worry, it is not the last of pea-time...

The most simple way is to visit our site, order the medication and that is all you are to do!

Do not kill the clock!

I have no idea how to interpret some of those phrases, but I know exactly what they're trying to say. There was a link to a web site that I didn't click and which I won't include here, because I assume that 1) you are about as interested in visiting it as I was; and 2) if for some bizarre reason this email does make you want to visit their site and purchase their products, you probably have about a thousand similar emails sitting in your spam folder. So, uh, yeah...Happy Valentine's Day!

I think my cat has been eating rubber bands. You don't want to know how I know this...

Yesterday when I took our older Saturn in for its emissions test, which is required in Maryland every two years, all they did was take my money, attach some device to the gas can cap to make sure it didn't have any leaks, drove it through the main test area, and issued me my certificate saying I had passed the test. They didn't do what they've always done before, which is hook a hose up to the exhaust pipe and drive the car on a weird kind of car treadmill, and that's what I thought the main point of the emissions test was: to see what the emissions are like when the car is out on the highway.

This further fuels my strong belief that the whole thing is a scam designed to collect easy revenue for the state and provide a few extra government jobs in each county. I almost asked them why they skipped the actual emissions test, but that car has almost 200,000 miles on it now and I was afraid it wouldn't pass. Besides, I'm very comfortable with my tax-scheme conspiracy view of the situation.

I like getting to stay home to read files, but I'm getting a little tired of actually reading the files. And I swear, if I get another stack of applications where 18 out of the 20 want to be biology majors, I'm going to lose it.

We weren't able to make it down to the Spy Museum last Saturday because of the weather, so we decided to try again this weekend. Dodd came with us, just as he had planned to last weekend, and we also met my mother there (she's in town on business, as she apparently will be frequently in the next couple of months), but Alisa had other committments and couldn't make it this time.

The museum wasn't bad, but the price was a little steep ($15) for what I can't see stretching out into more than a 2-3 hour experience (we spent about 2 hours, but we didn't do every single activity because of the crowds). It starts off promisingly, asking you to memorize an identity and a mission and then showing you various techniques that spies use in the field, but after quizzing you briefly about your mission and giving you more mission objectives to memorize, the museum degenerates from an interactive experience to a showcase of spy equipment and factoids from the history of spying without giving you any real insight into the real history of spies and intelligence gathering. At the very end you are quizzed on your mission objectives again, but it's this mission stuff is really just at the beginning and the end, like it was tacked on at the last minute.

I'd probably recommend it to weekend visitors who've seen most of the other museums in DC, but I'm not sure I would recommend it to people who are really interested in espionage (unless they just wanted to see some artifacts), because it doesn't really give you any great information—I'm have only a casual interest in the field, and I already knew more about many of the exhibits than what the museum told you.

A bit awkward seeing my mom, since her reaction to my current difficulties with my sister and her wedding plans is to assume that everything is fine (she wanted to make detailed plans of things to do during our visit, and I'm not sure that I'm going yet), but denial and avoidance is a classic response to conflict in my family. I hope my sister and I can get things worked out, but if not, I also hope that everyone else will understand that our problems are problems between her and me, and not let those problems interfere with our relationships with anyone else in the family.

Man, if the Smoking Gun could dig up stuff like this every day, they wouldn't have to worry about trying so hard to expose people like James Frey.

A simple game called Block Frenzy lies behind this link. Do not click on it. It will eat your soul.

I cannot wait until these goddamned Olympics are over and NBC can get back to airing new episodes of the Office, which is pretty much the only thing that network is good for anymore.

It would be pretty cool if we could win a medal in curling, though.

We're going out of town this weekend for our annual ski trip, so no posts until late next week. I wish I could say I'd be taking a break from work, too, but I'm taking 35 files with me, which means I'll need to read at least 10 every night. I'm not optimistic about my ability to do this, but I'm taking them along nonetheless.

Anyway. See you next week.
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