december 2004

Okay. Maybe my anger about my long-delayed computer was a little premature yesterday. It actually arrived yesterday morning after a long trip from Anaheim, CA, to Lewisberry, PA (it took a brief detour to Hagerstown as well). I spent most of the day partitioning the disk and reinstalling the system, transferring all of my settings and applications from my old Mac, and finally transferring all of my files, including my entire iTunes library and iPhoto library.

Let me tell you, this fucker is big. It towers over my old G4; it's a significant presence in the room, even stored under the desk. And it kicks Photoshop's ass—it didn't even blink when I ran a big batch process last night, finishing it about the amount of time that my old machine would have gotten through the first five or so files. I've never had a computer that could kick Photoshop's ass before.

Had dinner again with Will last night after my internship. It was my last scheduled session, but I'm going to go back again next week for one last session hoping that I can finish up the bible I've been working on; I'm also going to bring Alisa if she doesn't have rehearsal so will can show her a couple of the beautiful antiphonals they have in the Walters collection. I'll probably continue doing this next semester, too, although likely on a monthly rather than weekly basis.

We had dinner at Sascha's, as usual, and sat at the bar, as usual. He got some sort of spicy beef dish, while I opted for the grilled polenta with andouille sausage, and we enjoyed wine and beer respectively with our meals. We talked politics, religion, and work, and while he and I are very different people in some ways, I really enjoy hanging out with him. Not quite sure if I would call us friends yet because we just haven't spent that much social time together, but for the first time since I've known him (almost two years now), I don't think it's out of the question to say we're headed that way.

After reading the reviews of World of Warcraft and realizing that for the first time in at least two years I have a machine capable of playing the latest game releases, it took more willpower than I thought I had to keep from stopping off at CompUSA on the way home to pick up a copy. But I didn't, because I knew if I did I would stay up all night playing it and there would have been no way I'd have made it into work today. I'm not going to get it tonight, either (at least that's the plan), because I have to get up relatively early on Saturday to head down to DC to spend the day with my mom, who is in town for a business conference. And Sunday's packed with chores, too, so I don't think it will be a good idea for me to get it anytime before next weekend. But no matter what, I can almost guarantee you I'm going to be spending some quality time with that game the week between Christmas and New Year's.

Mom was in DC this weekend for a conference, so we had tentative plans to meet her in the city and go to a couple of museums on Saturday afternoon. I asked around to see if anyone else was interested—Dodd, Alisa, Fool, and one or two others—and Fool said she'd like to come along. We were going to meet at a park and ride near our house and then ride together down to the metro to head into DC, but while we were on the way to the rendevous, we got a call from Fool—she had just gotten up and wasn't going to be able to make it.

Which actually turned out to be fine; there weren't really any exhibitions in DC that I was dying to see, and mom had forgotten her coat and so wasn't well-equipped to spend the afternoon walking around the Mall, so we called mom and changed our plans, picking her up at the metro stop about an hour later. We had lunch at a burrito place near the metro stop, then decided to see a movie at the theater next door.

We saw The Incredibles, which mom had already seen but was perfectly happy to see again (she's seen pretty much everything, and we've seen practically nothing, so it was bound to work out that way). It was a really good film—it's easily the most complex, adult movie made in the computer animation era, but it doesn't sacrifice the humor or kid appeal. A Bug's Life has always been my favorite Pixar movie, and I don't think this quite displaces it, but I can see this becoming my clear second-favorite. Contrasting The Incredibles and Shrek 2 is no contest—unless Dreamworks moves away from the rapid-fire, pop-culture focused scripts, I think they're going to quickly follow the path of Disney's now-irrelevant traditional animation department. And since Disney and Pixar are likely parting ways after next year's Cars, Disney is also probably screwed (Disney refused to give Pixar a bigger piece of the pie, and now they're setting up they're own internal computer animation division, whose first task will be to rape the corpse of the brilliant Toy Story movies by making Toy Story 3; if we're lucky it will go straight to DVD and we won't have to witness the big-screen destruction of Pixar's legacy). If Dreamworks was smart, they'd hook up with Pixar and give them whatever deal they want, even if it's just a Lucas-like distribution deal with a cap on profits.

After the movie, we went shopping at a the Columbia Mall and some other stores in that area, picking up some christmas gifts and a few little add-ons for our new computer setup (I also picked up a copy of World of Warcraft, but I have stoically decided not to play it yet; we just had too many errands to run on Sunday). We ate dinner at a noodle place, then dropped mom off at her metro station and headed home. I spent the rest of the evening setting up my old machine for Julie, wiping the extra hard disks (I have two backups of the data on other disks) and transferring over her documents, email, and bookmarks (which was harder than it should have been—I was moving her data from Mac OS 9.2 to Mac OS X 10.3, and some of the newer programs were very adamant about not recognizing earlier versions of their file types).

I was a little leery of another family visitor in such close proximity to Thanksgiving, but it was a nice visit—she was in a good mood and pretty relaxed despite her hectic travel schedule and the holiday shopping crowds we encountered everywhere we went. We might see her again for a quick visit in the next couple of weeks (she might be working in New Jersey a lot for the next month or so), but it's only a couple of weeks until Christmas, and we'll be spending a few days with her then.

I had a very strange dream last night. It was very incoherent and random, but there were three distinct components to it: First, I was always lurching forward in time. One second I would be in the backseat of a car talking to the driver, then I would suddenly find myself in the middle of a church service singing a hymn, then I would be on a farm with chores to do. There was never any predictability to it—sometimes I was in the middle of talking to someone and sometimes I was just looking out the window and sometimes I was doing something. Then the world would suddenly shift around me and I would find myself in a completely new place. They were always places that I knew (that my dream self knew, anyway—I'm prone to having dreams in dream locations I've visited before, but all the locales in this dream were new to my waking self), and I always knew exactly what I was supposed to do in this new setting. But it was very disconcerting, and there was always a slight edge wondering when the next random shift would occur.

Second, whenever I stopped walking to talk to someone (in between the time/location shifts, I would linger in a particular setting for several minutes, talking to people, exploring the environment, etc.) or started walking again after speaking to someone, I would always have to put down or pick up a huge pile of things and carry them with me. I was completely bogged down by this morass of objects: coats, gadgets, books, and I don't even know what. But I had to put down or pick up a least a dozen different items, and it was very hard to move without dropping any of them.

The third and weirdest part of the dream came at the end. I was sleeping in a room that for some reason had a stream going through it (I think this was in the farm location, but I'm not totally sure). Living in this stream were black scorpions, lots and lots of them (I know scorpions don't live in streams, but try telling my subconscious). At first they didn't come out of the stream and they didn't bother me, but eventually they crept into my bed and started stinging me. It didn't really hurt, and they didn't seem to be poisonous, but they were everywhere, and when they stung me, they would leave their stingers behind and I would have to pull them out of my skin.

The common thread to all three of these elements is pretty clear to me: I've got too much shit going on and I don't really have the time or the mental capacity to sort it all out and stabilize my world right now. The time shifts are pretty easy to decipher—I often feel like time is passing in lurches, there is no pause in my day, I'm just constantly running from one thing to the next. Carrying things with me is another obvious metaphor for the fact that I don't ever have a time where I'm not mentally carrying around my work tasks, class assignment, Christmas shopping list, chores at home, entries for this blog,etc., and I find it hard to move away from these things. None of them by themselves is big enough to keep me from moving at all, but all of them combined are a total pain in the ass; they're manageable, but just barely. Same thing goes for the scorpions: at a time when my mind should be clear, when I should be resting (in bed), I'm being attacked by dozens of little creatures that can't kill me and can't individually cause me significant pain, but as a group, they make it impossible to sleep (which I see as both literal sleep and as a metaphorical state of mental rest).

I don't feel especially stressed out, despite the recent family visits for Thanksgiving and my mom's visit last weekend, but I think the obscene lack of empty space on my calendar is starting to get to me a little. Between our multiple trips in the last six months (to Colorado, Alabama, and Kentucky), my two-class schedule this semester that leaves me very little free time during the week, the upcoming holidays and the extensive shopping and travel required for those, the situation at work (two of the people that I work pretty closely with are leaving, including one of my direct supervisees, and I've recently lost a few other people (Dodd, Alisa, Amy) that made my days a lot more bearable), I'm just burnt out. I need a week or two off with nothing to do, no one to see, no appointments to keep, no tasks that need to be removed from the daily to-do list. Maybe I'll get a brief respite between the time we return from our holiday visits and January 3, when I have to go back to work, and I hope that Regan's upcoming visit in the middle of January will provide some relief. But until then, brain, I would appreciate it if you'd lay off the stinging-insect dreams. Those don't exactly help me relax, you know.

A few more notes on the new G5:
  • It kicks SETI@home's ass; it only takes it 3 1/2 hours to process a unit. By comparison, my brand new 3.2 GHz P4 at work takes about 10 hours to process a unit, about the same as my other work machine, a two year old Dual 1 GHz G4.

  • It is silent as a tomb; it's almost unnerving. I remember a passage from Flannery O'Connors book of letters, "The Habit of Being", where she describes getting a new electric typewriter after having used a manual one her whole life:

    "It is very nice but I'm not used to it yet. I keep thinking about all the electricity that is being wasted while I think what I am going to say next."

    And later:

    "I am sold on the electric typewriter for busy work. This is not it I am using now. You can't compose on it as it don't wait for you."

    That's how I feel about the G5; I feel like it's sulking silently in the corner, resenting me for being so slow and stupid. "If only I had legs," it's thinking, "I'd get right up out of here and go join my brethren at the supercomputer cluster in Blacksburg."

  • It also kicks Unreal's ass, which may be an even more impressive feat than kicking Photoshop's ass.

WTF Kodak? I bought a box of high-gloss inkjet photo paper which is clearly labeled 4x6 so I could print some borderless 4x6 photos for people who haven't quite gotten on the digital bandwagon. But when I started to print, I found that there was extra space on the width of the photos. That's when I noticed the asterisk on the front of the box next to the 4x6; turning it over, I found some tiny text at the bottom of the package:

4x6 in. Photo (Actual paper size 4x6 1/2 in.)

Huh? Who the hell prints 4x6 1/2 inch pictures? And if you're going to expand the paper dimensions in one direction to force a border, why would you not do it in the other? None of the other paper manufacturers seem to use this asinine and misleading system, and once I find a way to exhaust this box of paper, you can bet that's who I'm going to buy from even though I really like the quality of Kodak's paper.

I have so far been heroically stoic in my resolve not to open the World of Warcraft box. Oh, sure, I've been reading the how-to sites and Blizzard forums during my lunch hour, choosing what kind of character I want to start first, what skills I want them to develop, etc., and I have been tempted many times this week—I've all but convinced myself that this is really Diablo III, and I fully expect that it will consume just as much of my time as that game once did. But I've been strong enough and smart enough not to even bring it into the same room as my computer, because that's a very slippery slope and it's all downhill from there. But that's all going to change tonight...

World of Warcraft: Best. Game. Ever.

In related news: Worst. Survivor. Ever.

Stupid cable modem. In addition to keeping me from my nightly World of Warcraft fix, it also prevented me from posting anything today. Oh well. It was actually kind of nice to have a night off.

This has got to be a new record: I've only been playing this game for five days and I'm already having dreams about it. Oddly enough, dreaming about playing the game isn't all that different from actually playing the game.

You'll also notice how short my posts have gotten since purchasing World of Warcraft. That's absolutely not a coincidence.

You know, I've been working on bits and pieces of non-World of Warcraft-related entries during my lunch hour for the past few days, but I never quite finish them and when I get home I get so absorbed that I can't muster the proper concentration to sew them up after playing the game for a couple of hours. So here we are again, with another boring World of Warcraft entry.

At least I didn't tell you about the guild I want to form...

Ugh. Office Christmas party yesterday. Two hours of something called alternately the Yankee Gift Swap or the White Elephant Exchange, names which are each baffling and annoying to me. This involved everyone who wanted to participate bringing a "gift" (meaning some piece of crap from their house that they didn't want anymore) and then all those people picking a number out of a hat. You went in order of your number from lowest to highest, and you either got to open a present off the pile or take a present from someone else. And when you took a present from someone else, it meant that they got to take another one (or open one off the pile, but this only happened when people just wanted that round to end).

I didn't participate, of course, because 1) I don't want anyone in my office to have any of my stuff, even my crappy stuff; 2) I don't want crappy stuff that used to belong to someone at work; and 3) I don't participate in any activity with the word "Yankee" in it unless that word immediately precedes the word "bashing". I was hoping that I would at least get a decent free meal and maybe some drinks out of enduring this ridiculousness, but there was no booze and the food was mediocre snacks like swedish meatballs and pita triangles with crab dip. Plus, I'm dumb enough that, as one of the first few people in line (even though I got there late so I wouldn't have to go first—usually when there's free food and time off work involved, my coworkers are there half an hour early), I was concerned about there being enough food for everyone, so I only took a little bit—three miniature meatballs, three pita triangles, three crackers, a small sliver of brie, and some crab dip. Of course, looking around the room, everyone else, whether they went before or after me, had plates piled so high that it's amazing they were able to deconstruct their food pyramids without having them fall all over the table.

So by the end I was hungry, bored, sick of looking at all the bullshit that some people tried to pass off on their coworkers as gifts (a jar of fluff, four empty, non-matching, dirty pillowcases, and the top to a wedding cake, for example), and actually ready to go back to work even though I've been mentally checked out since Thanksgiving.

I don't think I'm quite in the holiday spirit yet.

I actually have about a week's worth of entries mostly written, and most of them are about my physics class from the most recent semester, which just ended last week. I've been pretty quiet about this class, but it's been taking up a lot of my mental processing power, and I haven't quite known how to share my thoughts on it with you. In lieu of a final paper, I proposed to the professor that I instead write a weekly response paper to the class, and although that ended up being a lot more work than writing a single paper (the paper was only supposed to be 10 pages double-spaced, and the compilation of my weekly emails ended up being 56 pages double-spaced), it was also a lot more rewarding. I thought about posting those papers here, but I felt like a lot of the content would either be a) incomprehensible to anyone not in the class and b) overly metaphysical, and I hate looking like an intellectual snot even when I'm pretending to be one. I'm still considering posting them at some point, maybe if I can work through the issues of the class in some other entries, but not right now.

Right now I need a break: from class, from work, and from this site. I'm just drained; this semester has been pretty tough. One of my team members was out for two months for surgery for carpal tunnel, and right after she got back, the other one announced that he was leaving at the beginning of the year, meaning that we're again going to be shorthanded for the worst part of the application cycle. My two classes this semester were both enjoyable, but with the amount of time I spent on them weekly, I felt like I had very little time for anything else besides the normal chores of life.

So I'm looking forward to some downtime. I'm going to take a few books that I've been meaning to start/finish, and hopefully the coma-inducing boredom of Julie's hometown will motivate me to get through them and spend time on an intellectual pursuit not related to class. She's been kind enough to do most of our Christmas shopping this year, which has enabled me to spend my precious free time playing World of Warcraft, which is probably my most relaxing activity at this point and which will undoubtedly consume several hours of my days off once we return (I even bought a new mouse yesterday just for the game). I just have to get through two more workdays, and then hopefully I'll be able to get my energy back up before I have to go back to work in January.

That's it. I've got nothing else for you. I'll likely post again before the new year, but just in case, I hope you all have good holiday seasons and get to take some time off. Take care.
december 2004
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