Friday, January 27, 2006

Potpourri No. 11

As I keep mentioning, my life pretty much revolves around graduate school applications right now. Nevertheless, there are other mental distractions from time to time. Here are some of them:

For Christmas my parents graciously provided me with a much-needed printer. It’s been a lifesaver, especially given the (literally) hundreds of pages of supplemental material I will have printed by the time I’m finished with my graduate school applications. But I’m finding myself increasingly frustrated as, coincidentally, my computer suddenly seems to lag half the time, semi-freezing up and otherwise moving incredibly slowly. I don’t know why the addition of a printer would do this, but it’s incredibly bothersome. My computer worked beautifully before I installed the thing. It makes me wonder what background program it’s running without my explicit consent. Then again, when I first bought my computer, I had to ship it back to Hewlett-Packard three or four times before they worked out an initial kink that was preventing it from booting up half the time. And, wouldn’t you know it, my printer is also an HP. Perhaps my relationship with them is as good as over.

Janie’s Got a Loan…
Speaking of annoyances, one of my biggest pet peeves is when commercials use familiar pop tunes but change the words—and they aren’t even close to the original! Not that I’d be enamored of an advertisement that deftly played upon the lyrical content of a golden oldie, but I sure would appreciate it a lot more. As it is you typically get the opening line of a song like “Mony, Mony” (Here she comes now, singing Mony Mony) turned into some crap like Come to Mervyn’s, we’ve got a great sale now. Apparently all it takes to be an advertising executive is the ability to count syllables. Presuming it’s not a local phenomenon, this tactic seems especially prevalent in used car radio commercials. But in what sense does this even begin to be creative? And more importantly, who’s so charmed by these ad-trocities that advertising agencies continue to fall back on such a nauseatingly hackneyed convention?

I’m Big in Japan
It seems that a small percentage of web surfers who end up on my site are in fact doing an Internet search for the phrase “Benny K.” Sadly, I cannot take credit for inspiring these people to plop down at their computer and Google my online moniker. Based on the evidence, most of these people are probably looking for Bennie K, a female Japanese pop duo. While their site is largely unreadable, I’ve fumbled around enough on the official Bennie K webpage to hear some samples of their music. Not too shabby. What this means, of course, is that the lackluster entertainment found on my blog is disappointing Internet junkies on a more global scale than ever imagined. Now that’s something to brag about! Oh, and should your cat be choking on the curiosity, (spelled in good ole’ white-boy-from-the-USA fashion) is a registered and active web page as well. Funny enough, the site is the amateur homepage of a young man who got married in the latter half of 2005 and whose main picture is an obscured wedding photo. Did somebody say Twilight Zone?

Pick a Number Between One and Nine
If you’ve never heard of Sudoku, now you have.

Where am I???
What Potpourri entry would be complete without a list of recent (and strange) Internet searches that have brought people to my site? And so, the latest list of culprits include:
  • James Gandolfini fart song (Google, #10 search result)
  • The Sims 2 “naked baby” (MSN, #5 search result)
  • Poophead definition (Yahoo!, #10 search result)
  • The brain of an eleven year old (MSN)
  • Hyperbole in children’s novels (Webcrawler, #3 search result)
  • General+Tao's+Chicken picture ingredients (Yahoo!, #1 search result)
  • Colorful brain pictures (Sympatico MSN, #17 search result)
  • Chi Omega white panties (Yahoo!, #3 search result)
  • Jukebox self-adhesive stamps (Yahoo!)
  • “Free Super Bowl tickets” (Google, #1 search result)
Thanks for tuning in!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Grad School and Gmail

My life is so busy lately that I cannot even come up with a clever title for this post. There’s nothing to go on. But yes, I’m alive. Most of my time is taken up finalizing my graduate school applications. My list keeps changing, but I think I finally have it narrowed down to a solid list of ten. For real. It’s getting too late to change my mind now.

When I’m not working on graduate school applications, I’m doing homework, or I’m distracting myself by organizing my new Gmail e-mail accounts. Despite the wariness some people feel about them, I think Gmail has a great setup. It promises to revolutionize my e-mail in the same manner that Firefox has revolutionized my web surfing. In fact, consider this my official endorsement of both products. Currently, Gmail is a by-invitation-only enterprise, but you can download and install Firefox by clicking here. If you know what a web browser is, and you know what it means to download something, you should be competent enough to pull this off. I highly recommend that you do so. I can’t stand using Internet Explorer anymore. Tabbed browsing is where it’s at, people. And that’s just the beginning.

So you wanna know where I’m applying to graduate school? My final list? Okay, for the sake of having something to post, here goes:

Claremont Graduate University
Georgia State University
Indiana University-Bloomington
Northern Illinois University
Purdue University
St. Louis University
University of Missouri-Columbia
University of Notre Dame
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University

And I might apply to University of Missouri-St. Louis, but their deadline is much more lenient. So we’ll wait and see. They’re not one of my top choices. For the most part I’m applying to philosophy programs, though there are a few religion programs in the mix. If I could snap my fingers and get accepted to anyone of the schools, I’d probably say Notre Dame. Not just because they are well-known in their own right, but because they are one of few master’s programs to offer full-funding to all accepted students. It’s a theology program, which I have no official background in but nevertheless am highly interested in. If I could choose any philosophy program, it might be Georgia State. They have a ton of religious course offerings within the philosophy department, so I’d kind of be getting the best of both worlds. But I’m not too keen on the idea of living in Atlanta, Georgia. Yikes.

There’s my life in a nutshell. Thank you for reading one of the most quickly written posts I have ever composed. Good day and good night.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Tales from the Honeymoon Part 7: Canada Dry

The Vancouver Aquarium, located in British Columbia’s Stanley Park, was the final hurrah of Melanie and my honeymoon. It was the last specific tourist attraction we had planned to see, and it ended up being quite a fun experience. While the marine life was certainly more captivating and varied than one may suppose, there were many non-aquatic spectacles as well.

Among the interesting creatures was this starfish, eerily reminiscent of something from Chef Boyardee. Ravioli, anyone?

Plenty of young children were visiting the aquarium. One little boy ran around with his parents’ digital camera, taking pictures of just about everything. Every time he took a picture, he would review it on his camera’s screen and, without fail, proclaim “Cool!” Another boy, whom my kindergarten-teaching wife believes could not have been older than four-years-old, was racing around and reading all the complicated names of the sea life. Impressive Canadians!

This strange, mushroom-with-a-crazy-hairdo type thing was a nauseating sight to my wife. She thought it looked like a bloody mess. Literally.

One interactive display consisted of a large wheel that was divided into roughly 65 equal segments. To demonstrate the ultra-low survival rate of salmon eggs, visitors could spin the wheel and see if it landed on the one spot that represented a salmon reaching adulthood. Melanie gave it a whirl and proved her good fortune by landing on the “winning” piece.

Here it is, the absolutely irrefutable proof that Melanie’s spin landed on “You Win!” You may now put your eyes back in their sockets.

Unrelated to Melanie’s spin, I found this starfish quite amusing. I view it as an attempt at aerobics gone horribly awry. In other words, it looks like me.

Before leaving the aquarium, Melanie and I stopped at the concession stand for a snack. It is here that I realized Canada’s biggest flaw. While Pepsi seemed to take precedence over Coke in British Columbia, Canadian’s were oddly opposed to drinking Mountain Dew. Or so it seemed. Everywhere we went we were taunted by the promise of Pepsi products yet denied their quintessential concoction, that sweet, blessed, neon-yellow beverage that inspires many a good American to rise from bed every morning. Whenever we asked these otherwise Pepsi-friendly Canucks if Mountain Dew was available, they looked at us as if we’d lost our minds. You’d think I’d asked for their urine samples. Same color, wrong taste.

Just one example of a tragically Dewless Pepsi town. Look closely. That fourth selection down is 7-Up. Absolutely sad.

Having enjoyed our modest snack, Melanie and I taxied back into town for a decent lunch. Disappointed in the majority of our more adventurous endeavors, we chose the safely familiar chain restaurant Red Robin. While Canadian quirks still abound (such as pointing out the “washroom” located “down the corridor”), fortune had smiled upon us. We had found the one restaurant in all of western Canada that, to our knowledge, served Mountain Dew! Never had the words “free refills” inspired such joviality in humankind as on that day!

The happiest moment of our honeymoon. This image still makes me cry.

Melanie and I had to be at the train station shortly after lunch. The train was taking us back into Seattle, where we would spend our final night of the honeymoon. Due to a misunderstanding on my part, we had to be at the train station three hours earlier than I had expected. But that was only the beginning of the horror that was riding Amtrak. More on that when I give my final installment of our honeymoon adventures...

A final image from the Vancouver Aquarium. These creatures remind me of quill pens. I would have liked to use one to sign the aquarium’s guest book. Ha ha.

The end.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Potpourri No. 10

Recent tidbits from the world o’ Benny K:

Funny, I Never Noticed My Pants Were on Fire
Apparently, I’m not as trustworthy a fellow as I once thought. The latest fad among restaurant employees seems to be raising a suspicious eyebrow at anything I say. A few weeks ago, during a late-night trip to Arby’s®, I was mistakenly given a medium Coke® despite my clear articulation to “Giant size™ it!” When I politely pointed out the error to the young man working the drive-thru (sic), he responded with a dubious, “Noooo.” Taken aback, I had to convince him that, according to the basic rules and principles that dictate the Giant size™-ability of every combo meal, I should have received a 32-ounce soft drink. Finally, he acquiesced. But just the other day, I had a similar experience with Papa John’s. Attempting to order a pizza over the phone, a frustrated employee eventually put me on hold and, none-too-quietly, debated with another employee whether or not the coupon I was attempting to use actually existed. Even when he came back to the line, he made me repeat the wording of the coupon several times. And, presuming me to be illiterate, he continuously clarified every word I said. “It’s for a medium pizza?” No, a large, like I said. “And it’s for $12.99?” No, $11.99, like I said. Thankfully, we did receive the correct pizza.

O Sweet Calluses, How I Have Missed Thee
Despite the fact that I own two electric guitars, an electric bass, and an acoustic guitar, I rarely play guitar as often as I would like. Recently, however, I dared to move my old amplifier out of my parents’ basement and into my apartment. Result? I’ve been playing about 10,000 times more often than I have in years. It’s wonderful, though I always get somewhat somber when I realize how little time I’ve devoted to my musical abilities over the years. Why, when I was in high school, I had no other plans than to be a musician. Nowadays I’m lucky to write one new song a year. Hopefully that’ll change.

The Continued Misadventures of the Fartblow Community
When Melanie and I initially moved into our new apartment, we had nothing but problems, a handful of which I have shared in posts past. Luckily, things have simmered down quite a bit. Given the property management’s track record, we’re still hesitant to try our gas fireplace (which is okay, since it’s been unusually warm for this time of year), but at least nothing has fallen apart, flooded, or caused a stench for several weeks now. Nevertheless, I am being familiarized with the disadvantages of living in a basement apartment. When it does get cold outside, it’s hard to keep the apartment warm. Our gas bill last month was almost three times higher than any I’d ever paid at my old apartment. We keep running into spiders. Our bedroom window is right next to the laundry room, so people are constantly going by and making me feel more conspicuous than I would like. And, even worse, my onsite apartment manager has seen fit to keep the laundry room’s porch light on all night. Literally. I have no idea why she finds this necessary, but it illuminates our bedroom like there’s no tomorrow—or at least like there’s no end to today. Melanie and I sneaked out there one night in an attempt to find the lightswitch, but I swear it doesn’t exist! We even tried to unscrew the bulb but didn’t have much luck, and, yes, I chickened out before we gave it as much effort as we could have. And to think, originally I was thrilled that we wouldn’t have to move furniture into an upstairs apartment. Next time we’ll be looking for a second-floor apartment, no question.

Sorry, Wrong Number
I was actually going to use this section to report on the latest Internet searches that have led people to my blog. And I will, but first I have another story. Apparently Melanie and my relatively new telephone number once belonged to someone with financial problems. Ever since we’ve moved in, we receive about one phone call per day for some mystery woman named Karen. And, to again bring up issues of mistrust, every time I say they have the wrong number, they act like I’m covering for her. They don’t even trust our answering machine, which says nothing whatsoever about anyone named Karen. They just leave messages telling Karen how absolutely vital it is that she call them back and to stop ignoring their messages. Luckily, a lot of them have given up. We used to get two or three calls per day for her; now we sometimes skip a day. But not Saturday mornings, of course, when they like to call at 8am. Little buggers.

Anyway, without further ado, here is another collection of odd searches people are doing that somehow bring them to my site (along with the search engine that produced the results and, when significant, where I rank in the listings):
  • Bellhop protocol (Google, #2 result)
  • Fancy bathrobes for preteens (Google UK, #1 result)
  • Turkey with oranges in the butt (MSN, #4 result)
  • Hidden camera movies hotel bathroom (Yahoo!)
  • How to cook Jimmy Dean croissant sandwiches (Google, #8 result)
  • Jimmy Kimmel needlessly censored (Google, #2 result)
  • Where did oranges originally come from? (MSN, #1 result)
  • Balme and Moorwood answer key (Google)
  • Cookie Monster bedsheet (Yahoo!, #15 result)
  • Exhausted of sucking (Optimum Online, #13 result)
Thanks again to JL Pagano for inspiring the reporting of such kookiness.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Tales from the Honeymoon Part 6: Rash Decisions

Because it’s been quite a while since I’ve written about the honeymoon, I’m going to keep this entry rather succinct. After Butchart Gardens, Melanie and I took a three-hour bus-and-ferry combo ride to Vancouver. We stayed at the Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Downtown. Once again we were not staying in a suite, and once again it proved to be one of our favorite experiences. Upon our arrival, the man at the front desk asked if we were on our honeymoon. When we answered in the affirmative, he upgraded our room to a corner room with a view and gave our key card access to the complimentary breakfast lounge. Shortly after we got to the room, he called to ask if we’d like some fresh fruit and bottled water, compliments of the house. We humbly accepted and, within a few brief minutes, received their generous (and aesthetically pleasing!) gift.

Melanie and my wedding gift from the Vancouver Marriott. As if they didn’t surprise us enough, they included a congratulatory greeting card—it may have been written in broken English, but is was an extremely nice gesture nonetheless!

The room was an interesting one. It was almost horseshoe-shaped, which gave us a nice panorama of the Vancouver shore, but it also made the room feel somewhat smaller. Still, the view was more important to us, and we certainly enjoyed what the hotel offered. Looking directly out the window, your eyes could feast upon the Vancouver waterfront. Looking to the left (and, more minimally, to the right), you were faced with Vancouver’s urban sprawl.

The harbor, as seen directly out our hotel room window. Notice the floating Chevron station, which fuels (at the very least) passing boats (click on the picture to see a larger version).

Somewhat hazy picture of the city. While I greatly enjoyed Vancouver, I found its uniform appearance rather disappointing. Almost every building looks the same, in color and construction. It leaves something to be desired.

The windows through which the previous shots were taken, as well as the TV cabinet. This is the “big” part of the room, out in the center. You can see the bed tucked away behind the wall, concluding the horseshoe-shaped mentioned previously. The other “arm” of the room was just the entryway.

This is the bed. As you could tell from the last picture, its proximity to the windows provided a tremendous view. We slept with the curtains wide open! Don’t worry, we closed them for other matters of importance.

It was fairly late by the time Melanie and I arrived, but the growling of our tummies sent us on a pedestrian campaign for food. In the mood for some “pub grub,” we finally stumbled upon a swanky joint called Earl’s. I had a thoroughly satisfying steak sandwich and a Coke® while Melanie opted for the Hunan Kung Pao Spicy Wok with Chicken. This would prove a very fateful turn of events. Aware that the dish came with some very spicy peppers, Melanie nevertheless braved this culinary concoction. Upon receiving her meal, she promptly found and extracted these peppers, hoping they would have done their job in providing flavor but could otherwise remain benign. Consuming ensued.

When we arrived back at the hotel, we had an easygoing night of watching television and snacking on fruit before eventually falling asleep. Around 2 in the morning, however, I was suddenly awakened by my bride, who was presently engaged in a horrific fit of scratching. For reasons we can only guess at, Melanie had burst into a delayed, allergic-like reaction to the food. There was nothing in her meal that we knew her to be allergic to, but that seems to be the only explanation. She itched like mad, and my recommended remedy of a cold shower proved fruitless (even despite the fruit we had eaten earlier). Luckily, she was eventually able to get back to sleep, and while the itchiness remained throughout the entirety of the next day, it had fortunately mellowed to a tolerable level.

The culprit in question, AKA the Hunan Kung Pao Spicy Wok with Chicken from Earl’s restaurant. It saddens me to recall the giddy delight with which my beautiful bride delved into this fiendish feast. For shame!

The following day, as I will narrate in my next tale, found Melanie and me at the Vancouver Aquarium. There won’t be much to say about it, but we took some fun pictures and I’ll make sure you get a peek. Plus, I’ve still yet to share the most shockingly twisted part of Canada’s culture, though I expect there’ll be room for this in my next entry as well. So stay tuned…

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Resolutionary War II

I’m proud to say that, while I haven’t lived up to every New Year’s resolution I made last year, I have stuck pretty well to the most important ones. 2005 was a record-setting year in terms of making resolutions, but it was also a great success in keeping them. In the spirit of the familiar adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” my goals for 2006 will not deviate much from last year. However, I have learned some valuable lessons that will enable to me to finesse my ambitions. In order to do this, I had to examine three crucial aspects behind last year’s resolutions: (1) how well I succeeded in maintaining them; (2) how much sincere effort went into keeping them; and (3) the original purpose and/or intent behind making these goals.


2005 goal: Read 20 books, including at least five non-fiction, three “classics,” and two “children’s” novels.
Realization of 2005 goal: 15 books started; 11 completed by Dec. 31st, including four non-fiction (seven started), two classics, and zero “children’s” novels (one started).
Adjusted goal for 2006: Read 5,000 pages, including at least 1,250 pages of non-fiction, 750 pages of “classics,” and 500 pages of “children’s” novels.

Disappointingly, I have found that most of my personal reading takes place during academic breaks—between semesters and during the summer. The time consuming nature of collegiate homework has consistently prohibited me from reading as much as I’d like, but I can definitely do better than I have. In 2005, my goal was based on the amount of books I could actually finish. This year, I will instead focus on the number of pages. There are a variety of reasons for doing this. To begin with, while page sizes can vary greatly, book size is even more inconsistent. If I should choose to read an 800-page tome, I should not consider it a threat to achieving my goal. The point is to do a fair amount of reading, and measuring that goal by the number of volumes I have read is ambiguous. Also, I do not want to time myself in such a way that I always conclude books by December 31st and wait until the New Year to begin another one. This year, for example, I have four “2005” books that I am still in the process of reading. That accounts for nearly 50% of my 2005 “failure” rate (I read nine less books than I intended). If I were basing this on pages, however, I could easily credit them toward my goal without really having to calculate anything—I’d just look at what page number I am currently on. By the way, my 2005 pages read would be somewhere around 3,500 pages—that would put me at a 70% success rate rather than 55%. That seems much better.

Still, I will not likely count books I begin but eventually abandon, because I consider those to be a loss. Obviously I would only abandon them if I felt I was getting nothing out of them, and the inherent purpose of my goal is to read things I find worthwhile. So abandoned books won’t count. And I probably won’t count those books I am still reading from 2005. While it would be fairly easy to figure this information out, it’s more of a pain than I want to deal with. And I won’t count snippets of books I read for school and whatnot. That would just prove another mess. However, if I have to read a book in its entirety for school, I see no reason not to count it. Overall, my goal is less than 14 pages per day, so it may seem relatively manageable. But, as I stated before, there are plenty of days when I don’t read anything that I would consider applicable. And so I find 5,000 pages very reasonable. (And, as you may have noticed, I kept the ratios for non-fiction, classics, and children’s novels the same, simply converting them to the new “pages read” format.)


2005 goal: Write in my journal (on average) at least twice a week, not including blog entries.
Realization of 2005 goal: 34 entries, averaging .654 entries per week.
Adjusted goal for 2006: Write in my journal (on average) at least three times a week, including blog entries.

From the looks of it, I only did about 33% of the journal writing I wanted to do in 2005. But I had decided shortly into 2005 that I wanted to include blogging in my journal writing. After all, they are very much the same, and I am much more prone to blog than write in my “real” journal. Not that I ever want my blog to be my only form of journaling, but I see no reason to discount it. As such, it seems reasonable to expect at least three entries per week, or about 156 for the year. If I include blog entries for 2005, I’m just shy of reaching this three-per-week goal. However, I’m pretty happy with the amount of journaling I did in 2005, and I’m not looking to push it.


Like last year, I’m not going to go into all the details of my other resolutions. Most things have gone incredibly well, though I will admit that I didn’t get to as many cultural events as I would have liked. Then again, I got married and honeymooned in Canada, so who can complain? I guess my main goals this year will deal with graduate school and married life. But until I know what to expect from the former, I’m in permanent cliffhanger mode. I continue to narrow down my list of potential graduate schools, and I think I have a firm 14 in mind now (things have changed a little bit since my last post). The general Midwest region of the United States is looking the most promising, with 10 of the 14 programs falling in at schools located either within the Central Time Zone or in Indiana (which is almost the Central Time Zone). The odd ducks are located in Washington, California, and Virginia.

So that’s my introduction to 2006. Sorry if I bored you. It’s now been a while since I’ve posted about my honeymoon, so that will be one of my more immediate resolutions—to finish the story. But until then, I hope everyone has had a delightfully splendid holiday season…