april 2006

Opening Day! Not only does this mean the start of the baseball season, which heralds the return of warm weather, it also means I get to take half a day off because we once again have tickets to the Orioles home opener.

On Saturday we went to the exhibition game at Camden Yards between the O's and the Washington Nationals with Dodd and a friend from work. I broke with my normal game routine and had a couple of beers, and since I don't drink very much, that means the finer details of the game elude me (like who won, etc.—I'm pretty sure the Orioles did, but I don't care enough to look it up on their site).

I really enjoy going to games, but if the team has another sucktastic season, I'm going to seriously consider abandoning our partial season ticket plan and only go to games that I really want to go to. Sure, it's a great stadium, and it's usually a good time to go to a major league game, but it gets depressing watching the home team get so thoroughly humiliated year after year.

But right now, the season is young, and every team is a winner. Let's just hope we can still say the same of the Orioles in June. They stole away Leo Mazzone, the longtime pitching coach of my real team, the Braves, in the hopes of molding their young staff into a 15+ game winners. I hate that he has left the Braves now (although it will be interesting to see if the Braves consistently great pitching is the due to the program that Mazzone helped design or to the man himself), but if the O's blossom under his tutelage, at least it won't have been for nothing.

I'm 35 today, which doesn't mean much to me one way or the other. I had originally planned to take the day off and just relax for a bit and watch some baseball, but the Braves aren't scheduled to play today and I have class tonight, which means that even if I didn't go into work, I'd still have to go all the way to Baltimore just for that. So I might as well just go into work as well.

I think it's interesting to note that, when I was a kid, 30 was firmly considered to be no longer young and 35 was considered solidly middle age, as in you were literally halfway to the grave. But thanks to the baby boomer's inability to grow up and the fortuitous coincidence of an ever-growing life span, 35 is now considered to be on the very young side of middle age. 50-55 seems to be the new cultural middle age now, despite the fact that most 50-55 year olds aren't going to live anywhere close to 100 years; I suspect that by the time I reach 55, the generation that preceded mine will have raised the standard age for middle age even higher, and it will have even less to do with a being halfway to your life expectancy than it does now.

Not that middle age ever really meant anything or means anything now. But it's funny how obsessed the previous generation seems to be with redefining middle-aged so that their demographic always falls squarely within it.

Not a great birthday yesterday, thanks to an email from my sister Carrie that could not have been more poorly (or purposely) timed; it was pretty much the last thing I wanted to hear from her. I've been waiting for two months for her to respond to me, and she picked the day before yesterday to do it, knowing that it would stress me out and upset me on my birthday (which it did). The contents got me so angry that I was even arguing with my brother about it, and he's probably the person who can most sympathize with my point of view on my sister's actions over the past few months since she's been treating him about as badly as she's been treating me. I'm being pretty calm about this now; it has really been bothering me a lot, and still does, but I'm going to let it alone for a few days and come back to it later. She took her sweet time getting back to me; now it's my turn.

Enough of that. That story is for another day.

I was so stressed that I ended up skipping class, which is a real shame because it was on big bang cosmology, and that's a key component in solving the riddle of Olber's Paradox, which is what I have chosen to write my final paper on. I mean, I get all the concepts, but it would have been interesting to hear the professor talk about it for a while, especially because he might have specifically mentioned Olber's Paradox knowing that I'm writing about that topic.

Instead, I drove around for a while to clear my head, and finally went to the record store to pick up some CDs and spend the $50 gift certificate that Julie's parents gave me for Christmas. That and the take-out chinese calmed me down a bit, as did the phone calls from all my family members and my father's updated take on his parents' traditonal gift of $1 for each year you are old—he sent me a big fat envelope stuffed with a $5 bill for each of my 35 years. I remember a couple of times when my grandmother did that on our birthdays, and it was nice to have that memory back for a few minutes.

While I was out driving around, Julie was able to procure a nice ice cream cake for me, and we had a nice evening watching tv and trying to forget about all the stresses of the past couple of days.

Orioles opening day was on Monday, and thanks to our partial season ticket plan, we got two tickets for the game. Of course, that's not as big a deal this year as it has been in previous years—thanks to their disastrous collapse in the second half of last season, there were still tickets available up until the last minute. It was technically a sold-out crowd, but for the first time since I've been going to opening day at Camden Yards, they didn't have the extra bleachers set up behind the out-of-town scoreboard in right field.

We were sitting in front of a group of 8 very drunk, very loud friends, but they were pretty friendly drunks and they were usually only loud when the Orioles were doing well, so I didn't mind them so much. I actually kind of like opening day against the Devil Rays (as opposed to the Red Sox, who were the O's opening day opponents several times in the past few years)—the Devil Rays have no fans up here, so the park is pretty much filled with Orioles fans.

They won the game by a decent amount, although Tampa Bay scored plenty of runs, too. We know that they're going to hit a ton if they stay healthy, but the real question, as usual, is the pitching staff—if some of these young pitchers can start to mature into solid starters, they might have a chance, and hopefully the presence of Leo Mazzone will help that process along. We'll see though—this could be a very long season if things start going bad early.

Almost everyone knows how spammers like to use random strings of words or excerpts from real books or stories to help their messages pass through spam filters more easily (if you haven't heard of this before, open up a random junk email in your spam folder and I bet you'll see exactly what I'm talking about).

I used to quite like these little fragmented, non-sequitor-filled bits of abstract poetry, but so few pieces of spam get through my filters anymore that I'm rarely tempted to open one up and have a look. But one got through the other day that I took quite a fancy to, so presented for your enjoyment is the following bit of poetry, which was likely constructed by a computer program:

better off
inaudible. the foot social science filter...beforehand
cuteness, scrappy executioner brook snorkel apoplectic.
was or an introspective a

source literature,. and justification it bum
downstream hardhearted, tortuous wide-ranging
as cohabitation and as falsetto that
sheen brighten mountaineer, in infuriate the anesthetist
but rocky the an drum consumer, Earth, multicultural the come-on,
pursue to cricket, respirator, fragment?!

It's a few days late to be included in my mini-rant on this subject on my birthday last week, but this article is exactly what I was talking about with the baby boomers and their obession with aging (or not aging, as it were). 80 is the new 40? Please. Seriously, it's starting to get annoying.

So the Simpsons have a movie coming out.


The only thing that gives me the slightest amount of hope on this is that they're bringing back a lot of the writers from seasons 3-6, when the show was at its best. Still, I don't plan to wait in line for a week to make sure I attend the first screening or anything. It didn't seem possible a few years back that the Simpsons would ever fade from the cultural zeitgeist, but even though the writing has gotten back on track in the last season or two, it's just not the same.

Man, I need to start getting more sleep during the week. That, or the rest of you need to get on my preferred schedule of sleeping from 3-11 a.m. so we can schedule the normal workday from noon-8 p.m.

Only Thursday? Argh. I could have sworn that yesterday was Thursday...

We met Tom and his mom for dinner last night on their way back to Richmond after she picked Tom up from the airport. I haven't seen him in a long while; he's been doing artist residencies here and there (Virginia, Georgia, and Wyoming are the places I remember for sure) for the past several months, so he's been kind of hard to get ahold of. Not that I've been especially good at keeping in touch with people myself the past couple of years—I'll decide that it's been too long and it's time to call or email someone, and three months later it's still on my to-do list and I'm wondering what happened to the last three months.

It was a pretty short visit—it took a lot longer to deplane and get his baggage, and his mother was late because of a bad accident on 95—they didn't get to the restaurant until 9:15 or so, and the place closed at 10, so we just had time for a quick meal and some brief catching up. The place in Wyoming sounded pretty interesting, if only because of the odd living situation, and I know in Georgia he was pretty isolated but he got to meet the kid (now a man, obviously) who played the banjo in Deliverance.

Aside from that, we chatted about my job and his mom's job, and we really didn't have time for much else, not just because the restaurant was closing, but because they still had a pretty decent drive to get back to Richmond. I'll hopefully find some time to go see him or have him come up here, but as usual, I'm looking at the calendar for the next couple of months and wondering just where I'm going to find the time.

We haven't been home for Easter in years, mostly because I've grown tired of traveling, especially the kind of traveling that makes me have to drive 7+ hours each leg of a round trip in a three day span. We used to go down to my dad's house in Wilmington, where we would usually go to the sunrise service at our church there. That service is held in the bell tower—you climb to the top in the darkness and sing hymns and listen to readings as the sun rises over the city. It really is one of my favorite services, and I miss it every year we don't get to go.

This year was the first year, however, the Dodd couldn't find time to make it home, either, so we invited him to stay with us on Saturday night so we could go to the early service on Sunday and then go out and get breakfast before the crowds arrived. That worked out pretty well—the service was at 7:00 (not really a sunrise service, just the early service), so we were done and out at the local Bob Evans by 8:30—late enough to have missed the crowds coming from the real sunrise services and early enough to miss the crowds coming from the 8:00 services.

We haven't made Easter baskets for each other in years, either, but we decided it would be fun to do with Dodd coming to visit. We bought a bunch of sour candies (Twizzlers, Skittles, soft Jolly Ranchers, Shocktarts, Jelly Bellies, some of which I'd never before encountered in their sour incarnation) and put those in plastic eggs, and scattered a few chocolate candies in each basket as well (all the chocolates were individually wrapped, so no need to encase them in the plastic eggs). Since Dodd is diabetic, we thought too much candy might be a bad thing, so I cut back on his sweets a bit and included beef jerky, Slim Jims, and smoked almonds in his basket (although we did get him a pink Barbie bunny with a candy necklace inside, because it's about the last thing he would want in terms of a chocolate bunny). For a final present, we also included a DVD in each basket: Kong for me, the Wonderfalls complete series for Julie, and Batman Begins for Dodd.

It was a pretty good weekend, all in all. No substitute for a trip home, certainly, but a nice way to spend a holiday weekend.

I've given up anger forever. Now I'm into candles, soft music, and horse tranquilizers.

I used to do this all the time, have random quotes from tv shows or movies that I saw that day and just stuck in my head. But now I hardly watch tv or go to the movies anymore, which I guess is why I don't post random quotes all that often anymore.

I've recently come to the conclusion that you should get two hours of work credit for every hour you spend in meetings. If that were actually the case, the only thing I'd have to do today to get credit for a full day's work is show up for my scheduled meetings.

After his bizarro-world courting and impregnation of Katie Holmes over the past year, his apparent elevation to the highest rank of Scientology, and his odd interviews with Oprah and Matt Lauer (among others), Tom Cruise is already diminishing his Biggest Star in the World status and teetering dangerously on the edge of a Michael Jackson-like fall from public grace. Based on some of his preliminary press interactions while promoting Mission: Impossible III (including this unsettling exchange with Diane Sawyer and this interview that Cruise stormed out of after the reporter challenged Cruise's belief that Scientology can cure dyslexia), I think we might finally get to see the complete meltdown that we've all secretly been hoping for.

Recently Cartoon Network has begun periodically showing Dumb and Dumber, and just this week they have started showing episdoes of Saved by the Bell at midnight. There's one part of me that is saying, "WTF? Those aren't cartoons." The other part, however, is busy marveling at the perfect irrationality of it all and saying, "Those guys are fucking geniuses."

Bonus snarky genius move: they aren't using their normal bug (the network logo that appears in the lower right-hand corner of the screen), which is [cartoon network]; instead, in honor of this recent programming addition, this week's bug has been changed the bug to [crappy 1980s live action tv show network].

Gah. Why does it always have to rain for Spring Fair?

I'm going to try selling photos there again this weekend, since I did pretty well there last year despite the fact that rain shut us down completely on Saturday, which is typically the biggest traffic day for the local community (as opposed to faculty, staff, and students, who usually show up on Friday). It's looking like it could rain pretty much all weekend, including tomorrow afternoon, the opening day of the fair. We're supposed to be set up by 10:00 a.m. and the fair officially opens at noon, but I think I'm going to keep an eye on the weather before we head out this morning—if it looks like a wash, I'll either just go into work like normal or I'll take the day off anyway and try to get caught up on my reading for my physics class.

Anyway. If the weather gets nice at any point this weekend, I'll probably set up, so stop by and say hello.

Spring Fair was its usual unpredictable self weather-wise, but given that we were only able to sell for a few hours on Friday and a few more on Sunday afternoon because of near-continuous rain over the weekend, we actually did pretty good, selling enough to cover the booth costs and make a decent profit besides. I think if we had had three days of good weather (as opposed to a couple of mediocre hours on Friday and four good hours on Sunday), we would have really sold a lot of stuff.

I really wasn't feeling up to it a couple of days before it opened, but Tori was in town this weekend and she and Dodd came and hung out with us on Sunday, the setup was pretty painless, and the time passed quickly while were there, so overall I enjoyed it. I'm still feeling kind of iffy about these festivals, mainly because it's so hard to predict which ones we'll do well at and which ones will result in a loss, but I might consider doing another one this year in the fall.

I also applied for Artscape this year, because I don't think I'd have any trouble making a good profit there, but my application was rejected, which also put me off these festivals a bit. I mean, I know there's fierce competition for the limited slots there, and that they must reserve a certain number of spots for veterans, and they also probably limit the number of each type of artist they can have (so that out of 100 slots, they might only have 10-15 designated for photographers), so I knew my chances were slimmed, but I was still a little bummed when I got my rejection letter.

Anyway. It looks like I'll continue to do Spring Fair every year, because it's relatively cheap, it's easy for me to get set up because of my ties to campus, and we always seem to sell a lot of stuff there, and I wouldn't mind finding a couple of other festivals that were moneymakers, but I'm not sure if I want to go through the potentially arduous and costly process of figuring out exactly which festivals will work for us.

I really hate it that the official style manuals still insist that you capitalize "Web" and "Internet". (Don't get me started about putting punctuation within quotes, a rule that I just don't agree with and refuse to follow.) It's like asking people to capitalize "Phone" or "Television"—those words have become so ingrained in our language and culture that there is no need to capitalize them like they're some unusual formal word that needs a special signifier. If these style manuals are going to stay relevant for the internet age, then they need to move at internet speed; it's not acceptable to issue a new set of rules every 10-15 years.

I can understand not issuing weekly or monthlyl updates, because it would be too hard to track what spellings/words are just a fad and which ones are in it for the long haul (or comparatively long haul, as some usages are bound to fall out of fashion and need to be retired after 5-10 years). But I don't think it's asking too much to give annual style revisions, especially for internet style or internet-related terminology.

Class was canceled again last night—my professor is still apparently in England dealing with his mother's recent passing—which means that out of 13 weeks of scheduled class, he's missed 3 due to professional and personal commitments, I've missed 2 (once I was sick and once I was away on vacation), and another was not held because he forgot that we aren't supposed to have class the week of spring break. So if we actually meet next week as scheduled, I will have attended only slightly more than half the classes for the semester (although even those with perfect attendance have only attended 9 out of 13 themselves).

Still, it's been so full of data that we almost need breaks to absorb the information properly—there's a lot of material covered in class and in our readings, and it's not really the kind of thing you can just digest quickly and move on. I've still got my paper to finish by next Tuesday, and although it has to be a pretty significant length (at least 6000 words), it's not impossible and the topic I've chosen I think will fill the space appropriately.

Although the professor is engaging and the material is a subject that interests me, I'll still be glad when the class is over and summer starts to come on strong. It will be nice to have a few months where I don't have a weekly class, and hopefully we'll get to do our summer flex schedule again, which means I'll be able to take every other Friday off without taking a vacation day.

I don't know if my allergies are worse than usual this year or if being tired is becoming my body's new favorite way of procrastinating and coping with stress, but I've just been feeling run down and out of sorts all week, no matter how much I try to relax/sleep. I could also have a touch of whatever virus is making the rounds in the office. Or maybe the temperature change is affecting me. Whatever. It's just kind of annoying at this point, because I really need to finish researching my paper and I find myself falling asleep 10 pages into my readings each night.

Alright, Hollywood—I know you're run by mildly retarded psychotic apes who are so out of touch with what normal people think is interesting/funny that they think the rest of the country is clamoring for more romantic comedies starring some combination of Jennifer Anniston, Owen Wilson, Meg Ryan, and Hugh Jackman—but really, this United 93 thing is going too far. It's too soon. Way too soon. Here, let me say this so that you morons can understand: IT'S TOO FUCKING SOON.

I turn off the tv every time I see an ad for this film—I don't just turn the channel, I turn off the tv and walk away. During a visit to USA Today's web site today, they appropriated my browser screen to try and show me a full-screen trailer, and I can tell you I'm not going back to that site until there's no chance of that happening again. I can't even stand to watch 10 seconds of news footage from that day—there's no way I'm going to pay $10 to watch a fictional recreation of the events for two hours. Hell, you couldn't pay me to watch it—not $10, not $100, not $1000. It's just too soon. I know we live in a culture that moves at warp speed, where we like to create, anaylyze, and forget our history in a single news cycle, but let's pay this event the respect it deserves, instead of trying to ignore the very real pain that most of us still feel when we think about how our lives changed on that day.

Since the attacks, the events and victims have been coopted for far too many political and commercial agendas, but making a movie about it crosses a line that I thought even the most crass and unfeeling people weren't ready to cross yet—I don't care how sensitively or how well it was made, the ultimate purpose of this film is to dramatize, sensationalize, and profit from the stories of the victims. And since I think that all of us are victims of those attacks in one way or another, I have no idea why anyone would want to help a corporation make money off their personal pain. It baffles me that not one, but two major studios have greenlit films about 9.11 already. I mean, what studio head is sitting and going, "This is a great idea, people will flock to spend $10 and two hours reliving one of the worst days of their lives."? What focus group is telling them that we're ready for this? Because we're not. At least I hope we're not, because I'm sure not.

I hope this movie makes no money. I hope it tanks so badly that it's out of the theaters by next weekend, that they don't release it on DVD for another decade, and that whatever fool studio is backing Oliver Stone's 9.11 movie immediately pulls the plug on that project as well, or at least shelves it until a much later date when maybe we'll be ready to deal with it (currently, it's scheduled for release in August, mere weeks before the fifth anniversary of the attacks). The absolute failure of United 93 to make money is really the only way that Hollywood is going to get the message that now is not the time for films like this, and that we need a lot more time to grieve for the victims and to sort out what happened on that day.
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