Wednesday, August 31, 2005

August and Everything After

Due to a fluke misunderstanding on my part, I actually have an itty-bitty moment of time to write a blog. I accidentally got ahead on my Latin homework, which is probably an opportunity I should relish by getting even farther ahead—heaven knows the time will come when I will wish I had. But instead, I’m taking a much-desired (if not much-needed) break. I’m sure my clamoring fans will be grateful (thanks for the support, Mom and Sis).

There isn’t much to say about school. It’s going pretty much exactly like I had expected. Because I’m in such a small major, I already know my instructors rather well. I’ve had them both a couple of times before. One is incredibly demanding (i.e., unreasonably rigorous) while the other is much more relaxed (i.e., sane). My Latin professor is the same teacher I had for Greek last spring, and he is the very reason I still need therapy despite having had a summer break. The sad news is I know I’ll have him (yet again) for Greek (yet again) next semester. So, the stress won’t be letting up until May, at which point I’ll be freaking out about moving to who-knows-where for graduate school. But I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I come stumbling to it. The point is, I have to remain future focused. After all, there isn’t much to be thrilled about in the current situation—except for good health, shelter, food to eat, a wonderful family, and a beautiful fiancée. But what else is new?

In all sincerity, though, there are many wonderful things on the horizon. I just have to remember to take a step back now and again and remind myself of the bigger picture. So what if I don’t have time to read a book of my own choosing? So what if I don’t have time to go to the movies anymore? Who cares if I don’t even have time to do laundry? There are more important things in life than clean clothes, no matter what the people on the bus keep telling me. But it’s not always easy to remain thrilled. This I know, despite my best efforts. Alas, should anyone appreciate the bleak look at life, let me point your way to this post from Persephone at Quid Facio Demens? It’s a fine soliloquy on why people talk about the weather (even when there aren’t rampant hurricanes on the loose).

Speaking of which, I must give props to the weather department for keeping it in the 70s these last couple of days. We’re supposedly shooting back up into the high 80s tomorrow, but it’s been nice while it’s lasted. So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

The end.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Potpourri No. 6

Another assortment of quick tidbits:
  • Thanks to my recent epiphany regarding school, my current class schedule only forces me to campus three days a week. Joy of joys!
  • Wedding plans are well under way. Announcements have been ordered, honeymoon reservations have been made, and my ring has been purchased. We’ve even begun our wedding registry with the fine folks at Bed, Bath, & Beyond. There really isn’t too much more to do, seeing as how we’re not having a reception. Could it get any better than this? More details on all of the above to come.
  • The Amazing Race is back in action on Tuesday, September 27th. If you’ve yet to sample this show, here’s your chance to finally get jiggy with it. You needn’t be a fan of so-called “reality” television to enjoy this program, I promise you. And, should it pique your interest, this season breaks tradition by featuring ten families of four—rather than eleven teams of two—as the competitors. Let’s see how well Dad keeps his patience as he drags his seven-year-old son across India, shall we?
  • Orange Theology has been updated. This installment: what is worship?
  • I’ve updated my personal profile and added some new links to the fine list of blogs found in the sidebar. Peruse with pleasure.
  • As you may already know, McDonald’s now offers DVD rentals. While I’ve yet to check it out in person, I’m stumped by the fact that DVDs are checked-out by kiosk. How do you return them? How do they know who you are, just in case you don’t? I assume it must go something like this: you swipe a credit card to pay the rental fee and the machine spits out the DVD; if you don’t return it within a certain amount of time, your credit card is charged the price of the movie. Cash is not an option. I assume this is how it works, as nothing else makes sense to me. For some reason, it highly annoys me that this is even an option. But I guess if you’re stopping by for a Big Mac®, you might as well grab a copy of Super Size Me while you’re at it.
  • Has the grade inflation epidemic finally gotten out of control? I’ve never been worried about it—until my most recent haircut. Based on the quality of this haircut, I am convinced that grade inflation must be taking place in cosmetology school. For those of us who frequent hair salon chains such as Supercuts and Great Clips, this should be of grave concern. Granted, such establishments are not meant to be fancy, but I’m a balding man for crying out loud. I have no need for anything fancy. How can someone who’s earned a certificate in cosmetology not handle half a head of hair? I’m talking a trim, folks. Luckily, nothing’s that noticeable from the front. Of course, when you’re balding, this statement is kind of a given...

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Alles Klar, Herr Kommissar

School starts tomorrow. Usually, I’m decently excited and motivated for a new semester to begin. Even when I haven’t had a summer break, I’m generally somewhat inspired by the thought of diving back into the world of academia, of starting anew and making the most of my educational opportunities.

Not this time.

Last spring was so draining, I still haven’t fully recovered. And the thought of doing it all again is just … well, draining. Studying languages takes so much time, and, silly me, I’ve been planning to add German to my repertoire (which, if you don’t know, already includes Ancient Greek and Latin). To top it all off, this semester I will also be planning for a wedding and preparing applications for graduate school. In short, this semester has all the potential of being the semester from you-know-where.

Luckily, I’ve seen the light. While I’m excited to learn a language that is actually in use today, there is no reason it has to be done now. And this simple realization has led to an obvious conclusion—I’m dropping my German class. Oh, the joy! Not that I won’t be busy; I’ve got plenty of projects to fill the sudden “void” in my schedule. For starters, I’ll be taking my senior capstone course, which is necessary for graduation. Rather than being a real “class,” the capstone course requires you to write a 20+-page paper on a topic of your choice. While this will certainly be time consuming, it will provide respite from my otherwise non-stop translating. German, on the other hand, would effectively fry my brain. Das ist nicht sehr gut!

But here is the most exciting news. I think I’ll start taking guitar lessons again. I think I’m finally responsible enough to make them worthwhile, and that thrills me. Throughout my teenage years, I took guitar lessons off-and-on from a variety of instructors, but I’ve never had the discipline to make such lessons pay off. Not in the way they should have. Yet I’ve long possessed a fear of regretting this uncultivated talent sometime down the road. It may sound silly, but it’s not a minor fear. Given that I’ve played guitar for 13 years or so (that is, if picking up a guitar once every few weeks counts as “playing for 13 years”), I’m a depressingly novice musician. However, I believe I excelled rather quickly when I did put forth an effort, and that gives me hope of a very fruitful future, should I decide to make it so.

I guess it’s time I learn how to change my guitar strings…

Friday, August 19, 2005

Judged By My Cover

Johnny-Dee, over at Fides Quaerens Intellectum, has discovered what may very well be the coolest online personality quiz to date. It's short and it's simple, but it goes beyond the familiar platitudes of "What kind of toothbrush are you?" and "Which TV sitcom family do you belong in?" and other such tripe. This time around, quiz-takers are named after books, and while the test may seem too simple to be accurate, it seems to have hit my nail right on the head. (See my results below.) To test its accuracy, I took the quiz several times and gave slightly different answers. Wouldn't you know it, no other book description fit me as well as the first one did. (If nothing else, it describes who I would hope to be.) I haven't read this particular book, but I'll have to check it out. Meanwhile, why don't YOU check out the quiz!

You're Watership Down!

by Richard Adams

Though many think of you as a bit young, even childish, you're
actually incredibly deep and complex. You show people the need to rethink their
assumptions, and confront them on everything from how they think to where they
build their houses. You might be one of the greatest people of all time. You'd
be recognized as such if you weren't always talking about talking rabbits.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Get Lost!

(as brought to you by Mapquest®)

If you’re even semi-familiar with the Internet, you’re probably familiar with Mapquest®. Mapquest® is the premier online resource for maps and driving directions. By going directly to, Internet surfers can type in just about any address and find detailed instructions on how to arrive at said location from virtually any starting point. And whenever a company lists its street address on its webpage, you’re almost certain to have the option of clicking on a map, and you’re pretty much guaranteed that the map is going to be powered by Mapquest®.

As useful a tool as it is, I’d like to say that Mapquest® is a flawless system. Heaven knows I’ve used it many-a-time, and luckily I’ve yet to end up stranded in who-knows-where. From what I’ve gathered, if you’re driving from one metropolitan area to another, and you’re looking for a relatively downtown address, you’ll do just fine. But, as my fiancée knows all too well, there are entire cities (albeit minor ones) that Mapquest® is completely ignorant of. Sadly, Mapquest® can also be ignorant of its ignorance, and thus it is possible that one will end up with driving directions that have absolutely no grounding in reality. Non-existent highway exits and incorrect street names wreak havoc on an unfamiliar commute. As if driving with our left pinky so we can hold onto our cell phones, mocha lattes, and crullers wasn’t bad enough!

The reason for my rant is a recent search for Canadian driving directions. As my upcoming honeymoon plans consist of crossing the northern border, I thought I would work out some minor commuting issues ahead of time. However, as I sought to utilize Mapquest® for driving directions between two Canadian addresses, this is the map I was given:

Apparently, Canada has purchased some land smack-dab on the border of Kansas and Nebraska. Though I hate to sound like a snob, I must admit that this makes my honeymoon seem a lot less romantic.

By the way, I was given the option to format the map for printing. I don’t think that will be necessary, thanks. I think I have it pretty much memorized.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Feeling Like a Natural Woman

Michèle's meme blog, appropriately titled I, Meme, Mine, recently presented a handful of online surveys geared toward women. Seeing as how I'm very comfortable in my masculinity and therefore don't mind embracing my feminine qualities (e.g., my crush on John Cusack), I thought I'd go ahead and take the surveys anyway. Granted, I had to reinterpret some gender-specific questions in a way that I was able to answer them, but isn't that part of the fun?

Here are my results from just one of the quizzes. To see more quizzes, you'll have to visit Michèle's blog.

You are White Chocolate

You have a strong feminine side with a good bit of innocence thrown in.
Whether your girlish ways are an act or not, men like to take care of you.
You are an understated beauty, and your power is often underestimated!

What Kind of Chocolate Are You? Take This Quiz :-)

Friday, August 12, 2005

Off the Record

I know I shouldn’t let it get the best of me, but Best Of/Greatest Hits compilations certainly have a tendency to frustrate. Don’t get me wrong—I’m ecstatic that such compilations exist, and I own a hefty handful of them myself. Some bands just aren’t worth listening to outside of the deliciously familiar tunes that, at one time or another, have graced the airwaves (Talking Heads, for example—or so methinks). The problem, however, is that compilations—rather intentionally, it seems—will often leave choice selections quite literally off the record. Or they include alternate (usually live) versions of their biggest hits. And to make matters worse, they usually throw in some crap song that nobody remembers. And nowadays they typically throw in one or two new songs, just so the most avid fans are forced to buy yet another album (even though they already own the artist’s entire catalogue).

Cases in point:

Barenaked Ladies, Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits 1991-2001. Missing songs: the studio versions of “Brian Wilson” and “What a Good Boy.” They include live versions, but if you’re buying a greatest hits CD, you don’t want some crap version you’ve never heard before. Live cuts should only be included if that is actually the more famous version of the song!

Billy Joel, Greatest Hits Vol. 1-2. Missing song: “Leave a Tender Moment Alone.” (A problem not rectified by Volume 3. Instead, one is forced to buy the later-released The Essential Billy Joel, but this in turn has some missing songs, such as “Big Shot.”)

Bruce Springsteen, Greatest Hits. Missing songs: “I’m on Fire” and “Pink Cadillac.”

The Doors, The Best Of. Missing song: “Twentieth Century Fox.” (Later rectified by the 2003 release, Legacy: The Absolute Best.)

Huey Lewis & the News, Time Flies: The Best Of. Missing songs: “Back in Time,” “Trouble in Paradise” (non-live version), “Walking on a Thin Line,” “Jacob’s Ladder,” “Hip to Be Square,” “Perfect World,” “It Hit Me Like a Hammer,” “But It’s Alright,” and “Some Kind of Wonderful.” But of course they do manage to put FOUR new songs on the album in lieu of fitting in even one of these classics.

Madonna, The Immaculate Collection. Missing songs: “True Blue” and “Who’s That Girl?” (Granted, in order to cover everything, Madonna requires multiple compilations. But, as of yet, these have not appeared on any subsequent collection.)

Phil Collins, Hits. Missing songs: “Don’t Lose My Number,” “I Don’t Care Anymore,” and “Do You Remember?”

The Police, Every Breath You Take: The Classics. Missing songs: “Canary in a Coalmine,” and “Synchronicity II.”

Red Hot Chili Peppers, Greatest Hits. Missing song: “Aeroplane.”

R.E.M., In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003. Missing songs: “Bang and Blame,” “Bittersweet Me,” “Drive,” and (gasp!), “Shiny Happy People.”

And those are just some examples I am aware of.

So what can we do about it? Probably nothing. And what is my point? Nothing, I guess. Just to complain.

Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Fifty Nifty States

Over the weekend (plus a little), I traveled to Illinois for a wedding. On the way, we passed through Nebraska and Iowa, two states I had never been in before. Despite the fact that I did little more than stare at them from the confines of a rental van, this brings my “states visited” total to 24. I’m almost halfway done with seeing the United States. (And it’s possible I’ve technically entered other states for brief periods of time without realizing it—and no, I’m not including flying.)

I thought, just for the heck of it, that I’d post various opinion questions relating to the USA. These are the types of questions I come up with while in the midst of a 22-hour commute. I don’t know if people answering them find them as entertaining as I do, but I think they’re interesting to ponder. I’ll post my own answer with each question, but I’m hoping everyone will join in. Here goes…

1. If you could only visit one more state (i.e. a state you have never been to before), what state would it be?

I would probably have to choose somewhere in New England. I’d be tempted to say Maine, but I’d probably choose Massachusetts because of Boston alone. I’ve heard it’s quite beautiful there, and there’d be more obvious things to do in Massachusetts than in Maine. (No offense, Maine!) But I’d also struggle with giving up Hawaii because, hey, it’s Hawaii! Doesn’t everybody strive to see Hawaii someday? I'd probably have to give this more thought before I could decide for sure.

2. If you had to live in a different state than you currently do, what state would it be? (Note: you can choose any state, even if you’ve never been there.)

I’d probably choose a nicer suburb of either Seattle or Portland. There are several reasons for this. To begin with, I love the Pacific Northwest. It’s gorgeous. It’s green, it’s lush, it’s near beautiful bodies of water. Hand in hand with this is my second reason—the climate. I love the rain, and I think I could handle it being a regular part of my life. But even more importantly, both Seattle and Portland are less extreme in their seasons than is Utah. Part of me would miss big snowfalls, but I certainly wouldn’t miss freezing my butt off. And I wouldn’t miss the difficulty of commuting during snowstorms. And when it comes to summer, I’d never, ever, ever miss the near 100-degree temperatures that occur all too often in Utah. And finally, I’d be closer to my home state, so I wouldn’t feel as far away from family.

3. If you could have 3 vacation homes outside of the state you currently live in, where would they be? (Note: for this question, you can only choose places you’ve actually been before.)

Obviously I’d be choosing somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps somewhere a little bit more reclusive than I’d choose if I had to live there year-round. But it’d almost definitely be Washington. House number two would probably be somewhere like Virginia. It’s beautiful out there as well, and you could utilize the location for some great weekend excursions (D.C., New York, etc.). Finally, I may very well choose somewhere along the Mississippi River (Illinois or Missouri). Though I'd been there prior to this past weekend, I really appreciated its beauty this time around. It’d be great for true relaxation. My only hesitation would be thinking that, because I get three vacation homes, I should probably diversify and go somewhere more tropical for the final home. Something like San Diego. I guess I’d have to work that one out before I could give a final answer.

4. Assuming you’ve been to 45 states or less, if you were forbidden to visit 5 states that you have NOT been to before (but of your own choosing), what would they be?

Unfortunately, there are a lot of states I’ve already been to that I wish I could rule out. But, as far as unvisited states go, I would rule out (in alphabetical order) Alabama, Delaware, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Oklahoma. Alabama and Mississippi might have some interesting historical sites, but nothing that compels me. I know absolutely nothing about Oklahoma to make me interested. Those three are the definite toss-outs. North Dakota, while its probably fairly pretty, has nothing to draw me in. I’m satisfied to keep one Dakota, so I might as well keep the one that has Mount Rushmore. As for Delaware, it’d probably be neat because it’s the first state and all. But, even though it’s much larger than Rhode Island, I would bump Delaware. Providence gives me greater vacation hope than does Dover or Wilmington. But what do I know?

5. What one state that you HAVE visited before would you least like to visit again?

Very easy. New Mexico. It was hot, it was ugly, it was dirty. I have no reason to return.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Elsewhere – August 2, 2005

Some worthwhile pages I’ve run into lately:
  • Check out the social commentary being made here. A Brazilian artist has used various countries’ flags to enlighten us about current socioeconomic conditions around the world. Creative and poignant. (Thanks to Barenaked Ladies’ blog for the link.)
  • For further insightful reading, check out Andy of Vermont’s essay, “How Do I Know Christianity is Real?” Andy’s testimony is both sincere and thought-provoking. I believe anyone, regardless of their faith, could benefit from giving it a read.
  • Though its taste may often be questionable, VH1’s Best Week Ever blog often points its readers to rather amusing locales on the Internet. Most recently, it has pointed to the upcoming World Beard and Moustache Championships to be held in Germany this October. The pictures of previous contenders are definitely worth a gander. Also, check out this horrific “rock” video from Mr. T. Were the 80’s really that long ago?!? Yikes!
  • Little Fluffy Industries continues its daily linkage to free online-games. Some real time-wasters that have caught my eye include Chaos Theory (simply see how big a chain-reaction you can set off), Click the Colour (a brain-teaser where colors don’t match the words you’re supposed to select), Sugar Crash (like Arkanoid with a cartoonish twist), and Avoider (a surprisingly hard game where you have to protect your cursor—it’s not in English, but you can probably figure out how to start it). As always, I’m drawn primarily to games that have little or no point, but which simply challenge me to outdo myself. What else should wasting time be about?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Disappearance Acts

Some time ago, I joined the Columbia House DVD Club. Like their music club, the premise is quite simple: obligate yourself to buying a certain amount of products within a certain amount of time, and they’ll give you an introductory bevy of selections at a highly-reduced cost. (Sometimes they claim to be free, but shipping-and-handling will quickly change that.) As a youth, my mother warned me of the evils of such clubs, painting them as a guaranteed death trap for one’s financial well-being. Nevertheless, being the rebel that I am, I joined a few music clubs as a teenager and, about 18 months ago, finally succumbed to the movie club as well. I am happy to report that I have never had any problems.

Until now.

I admit, for the casual shopper who purchases DVDs and CDs only on rare occasions, these clubs are a bad idea. They charge much more for a single CD or DVD than you’d pay at Best Buy or Circuit City. And that’s prior to the shipping and handling charges, which are typically two or three dollars per unit. If you were to purchase just one DVD, you’d easily spend about $25 to get it, plus you’d have to wait for it to be mailed to you. Heading to Wal-Mart would be much simpler and much more cost effective. However, if you like to buy in bulk, these clubs offer deals that can prove very beneficial to one’s wallet. For example, you may have the chance to “Buy One CD, Get 3 Free.” Though you pay shipping and handling on the “free” CDs, you’ll only spend about seven or eight bucks per CD when it’s all said and done. Same with the movies. Buy in bulk, and you’ll spend around $12 per DVD, which for newer releases is quite decent.

So what does this have to do with anything? Well, buying in bulk can be dangerous if you’re just trying to build a collection and not necessarily intending to rip open the DVD the moment it arrives. As I’ve learned, this is something you should do, even if you don’t plan to watch it. Because the introductory package is generally such a large shipment, I had several films that, until recently, I had not opened. Why should I have worried? All of the correct DVDs appeared to be in the box. But lo and behold, when I opened up my fancy, two-disc set of The Sixth Sense a few weeks ago, there were no DVDs inside! Not a single disc! I had never heard of such a thing! It was outrageous! It makes me use exclamation points!!

My empty DVD box. Haley expresses my sentiments exactly.

But the story only gets sadder. As it turns out, Columbia House does not even offer The Sixth Sense any longer. Not that I’d expect them to send me a replacement. It’s been over a year since I received this selection, and I don’t know how likely they’d be to believe my story that, 18 months after receiving it, I found the package empty. Not just damaged, mind you, but completely empty. Methinks I am screwed.

Oddly enough, a few days after this strange occurrence, I went out to dinner with my family. I had ordered a steak and shrimp combo, which included french fries. Midway through my dinner, I suddenly realized I had never received the fries. I then had to request them from the waiter, who seemed baffled that such an oversight could have taken place. Being the paranoid person that I am, I have to wonder if he thought I was lying in order to get more fries. I know this is a ridiculous assertion, but I guess that’s why it's so embarrassing to imagine him thinking it. Strange days indeed.

A plate without french fries. (Re-enactment! Not the actual restaurant plate!)

Speaking of things that have gone missing, did anybody else subject themselves to the disaster that is Fantastic Four? I think the plot was missing. Seriously, it was one of the thinnest excuses for a plot I’ve ever seen. If you’re planning on seeing it, please wait for it to come to video or, should they exist in your town, a second-run theater or dollar house. And if you’re one of those people that like to purchase DVDs without seeing the movie first, I can only hope you get an empty package like I did. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.