Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Paying my dues

I use the library. Frequently. And I'm absent-minded. Did I go on Tuesday or Wednesday? Let's see, videos are one week--I know that much, but did I get the books out two weeks ago or three? Result: I accumulate unnecessary fines.

I tend to let them add up before I pay them off, one reason being that I don't frequently have cash about my person. And when I do, well, it's just not one of my priorities. As long as my account doesn't get blocked, I'm fine.

So last week I paid off my fines for one of the three library systems I belong to. The fines had been there since, oh, at least a year--maybe two. Or three; my card had expired, after all.

So, anyway, I paid my fine--$11.35.

In quarters (and a lone dime, of course).

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Thanks, Bill Gates

To preface this post, I enclose a portion of a transcript of a gmail chat with a friend from back in August. We had just been discussing Windows:

Raye: VISTA=EVIL!!!!
me:'s OK
It's so locked up
that it won't edit the registry saying that I DID indeed register photoshop. So that EVERY time I run the program, that nag box pops up
10:00 AM /unless/ I right click the prog every time and say "run as admin"
me: yeah, it takes a bit of excessive clicking sometimes
Raye: ><;
10:01 AM I shouldn't have to tiptoe around my own computer
oh it makes me SO mad
if I could, I'd uninstall it and go back to XP
me: so, how do you really feel about it?

I was (rightfully, I think) amused by her ire. I'd had Windows Vista for a few months, and I found it mildly irritating by spells, but overall, not too annoying. (Then again, I don't use much more than a small handful of programs, and in a fit of Vista denial, set it to look just like the old Windows format.)

Now, the honeymoon phase has worn off. I was a bit irked by Vista's hypocrisy in requiring prompts to install and run programs I specifically initiated but booting my computer without prompting to install updates. It was a timely reminder to save and save regularly.

But today, I was caught somewhere between frustration and amusement. Here's why:

In case you missed any of the advertising, one of the features of Vista is supposedly its better security. I am relieved to know that should anyone attempt to commit random acts of anti-virus protection on my PC, they will be thwarted, or at least, delayed. Thank you, Bill Gates. I can sleep a lot easier now.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Multimedia Friday: "You may say I'm a dreamer..."

I've mentioned my affinity for cover songs before. Today's video is also a cover, a John Lennon cover by one of my favorite groups, A Perfect Circle. The song appears on their album, eMOTIVe, which is largely covers of songs with socio-political themes. Most of the covers are pretty good, although "People are People" leaves much to be desired (Dope's cover is the one APC should've done. Ah well). But "Imagine" takes the cake. In an interview, frontman Maynard James Keenan explained that he envisioned John Lennon looking back 20 years later, realizing his dream hadn't come to be. The result is a more pensive, brooding version of a classic, fitting for a century that has been marked by conflict since its beginning.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Check this out

I got my 1,000th hit last night/this morning. Nifty.

Interesting factoid? The last search string before hit #1,000 was "overeducated sex." Other recent strings included "downfall of the English language" and "graduation angst." Another string was "how to make any twit fall in love with you book" (hint: I am not just "any" twit, and I do have standards, FYI.)

Or how about "zombie kill chop off head"? (In case the book backfires, maybe?)

One of my favorites is "tyranny of morning people." (Start a night owl's revolution, comrade, and I'm there.)

And sometimes people ask questions I don't think this blog can answer: "WERE DO SNOTS COME FROM?" or "Why don't I care about anything?" or the ever-enduring "What planet do freshmen come from?"

Here's a sneaky way to get more hits, if you're so inclined: toss little bits of song lyrics into posts. Or whole songs. Or poems. Or excerpts from books. But mostly, the song lyrics will bring in Google searches. A few strings: "hold our breath and go down with just one last kiss to rest," "dark colors fill the sky drenched the boat," "three cheers for tyranny, unapologetic apathy," and countless variations on "you're so cold but you feel alive."

There tend to be trends in search strings; around Veteran's Day, I was getting hits pertaining to the Tim O'Brien "How to Tell a True War Story." And then, a couple months back or so, I got these strings in the span of about a week, from Delhi: "overeducated is possible for a job from wikipedia," "Essays of overeducated for a job," "essay on it is possible to be overeducated for a job," and "composition on it is possible to be overeducated for a job."

I couldn't trace all these strings back if it weren't for Feedburner. Sitemeter is all fine and dandy, but it only goes back 100 hits. And the other advantage of Feedburner is that it sometimes registers hits that Sitemeter, for whatever reason, doesn't catch, and it notes how many people subscribe to in a reader and interact with content. So, my hit count lags from time to time, but at any given point in time, anywhere between 6 and 12 people are interacting with content via readers. Cool stuff; I'd have put the estimate at about 5 if left to my own devices. . . I guess there's no accounting for taste ;).

So, thanks for visiting and reading and commenting, folks. It's been a fun ride so far.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

New reading for y'all

I'm sorta written out right now. I slacked off the other night and didn't make my 1000 word count, so I aimed for 2000 last night. Only fell short by 300 words, which, when given my track record isn't bad. Or perhaps the way to look at is just that I have 1700 more words than when I opened the document? Nah . . . that would be, like, constructive and affirmative.

So, since I don't have much to say, why don't you mosey on over to my friend's blog? She's been in Manhattan for a Kaplan course and has been writing about the experience. There are only a few entries now, but I know she's got drafts pending describing the sights, sounds, and quirks of the place. In this post, for example, she describes in loving detail the, ahem, wondrous sights of the city. Enjoy!

Monday, January 21, 2008

From the "I is a genius" files

Sometimes I wonder if my sister and I really do come from the same gene pool.

She's outgoing; when I took her to the Renaissance festival, she had to stop and chat it up with approximately every other dog owner there (and mind you, there were a lot). I'd have been content to wander around and not engage with too many people; I even tried to send out silent "don't approach" vibes to the shop owners (didn't work).

She, upon graduating high school, wants to enroll in a nearby community college's culinary arts program. Rachael Ray and Emeril Lagasse are two of her heroes. She's a food epicurean, tossing around words like "robust" and "smoky" where I would simply say "good." She frequently remembers events by the food served.

Me? I'm kitchen challenged, a failed domestic goddess, if you will. I don't like cooking, and I don't fuss over food. I'd be just as satisfied with a hamburger as a gourmet meal (indeed, I'd likely poke at the gourmet food, wondering, "what's this?" and wish for a good burger instead, or barring that, PBJ). But I try to cook, to learn new things. I can make a smashing good roast, and I'm a whiz with chicken. My chili is edible.

So, next, mac and cheese. Homemade stuff; it's quite simple. In theory. But, uh, for the record? Burnt cheese sauce is one of the worst smells ever, and I say this as someone whose high school was hit with a massive skunk attack in her sophomore year. Took ten minutes to scour that blackened stuff off the bottom of the pot.

Shoulda stuck to the ramen, man. I like noodles.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

An exercise in discipline

I'm working on something, a creative something. Fiction. 1000 words before bed, I told myself. I almost didn't start. I started. I fussed around on the Internet, intermittently pulling up the Notepad* document, tweaking it, adding a little, going back to my favorite distractions.

Damn, I'm an undisciplined writer. When the idea's fresh, I'm too lazy to jot it down. When I have the chance to write, I'm too lazy to do it. When I start, I putz around (and yes, blogging about being unable to write falls under this heading).

At 300 words, I was ready to throw in the towel. I decided to try for more. At 700, I think I can make my self-imposed deadline. (Note to self: another 1000 tomorrow, you no-good slacker, before the ideas go away.)

Fact-checking will be hell, though. Sept. 11 figures prominently. Yeah, for something that's become such a hallmark for the political atmosphere and will definitely go down in the history books, I can't remember much about it--certain details and gut responses, yes. Specific events and the order in which they occur? Not so much. I'm finding timelines on the web, but it's hard to pull out what was known at the time from what's emerged in the intervening 6 years. What I need is something like an archive of news coverage or something. Gah. Can't obsess over that right now; I can always revise once the bare bones are in place.

* - I actually do have word processing software, but for creative stuff, I find it easier to work in a program that doesn't correct my spelling (which is quite strong when I'm not using a Spellcheck crutch) or suggest commonly used words. If it weren't for writer's cramp and the ease of cut/paste, I'd still be writing with pencil and paper. I'm an old-fashioned soul.

Oh? And? 1,041 words. Rock on, me.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Multimedia Friday: Dropkick Murphys

Today's Multimedia Friday is directly attributable to PandoraFM, which I mentioned here. This week's been paydirt in terms of discovering new music and re-discovering favorites. I can categorize the finds in two broad genres: folk and punk.

I was initially going to share some of the folk stuff but ran into a problem: it's pretty darn difficult to find some of them on Youtube, at least, the songs I wanted to post. (I know, the concept of not being able to find something on Youtube? It's shattering my worldview and leaving me question everything else I've been taught.)

Which leaves punk. Hey, hey, don't go running off covering your ears. Compromise, OK? I won't spring anything too hardcore on you. How about some celtic punk? Punk with a bagpipe accompaniment? At least listen for novelty's sake. Without much ado, the Dropkick Murphys with a kickass blue-collar pride message in "The Workers' Song":

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The draw of familiarity

I was back on my old campus today, the campus that holds significance to four years of my life. I don't suppose that'll mean too much 20 years from now, but now, it's a lot. It felt strangely like coming home--running into old acquaintances I hadn't seen in months, chatting about where we've been and what we've done and where other mutual acquaintances have gone and what they've done and will be doing... I missed the vibe of an active, non-commuter campus. The buildings I knew like the back of my hand, the hallway where I walked a good several miles' worth in restless afternoon pacing. The eccentric prof whose office always had a distinct herbal aroma, who always came to me with frequent (and basic) computer problems even after my stint as secretary was over. He cleared off the chair in his office today when I came by; the gesture flattered me as he's not exactly the most sociable guy.

That campus draws me back, time and time again. If there was an opportunity there, I think I'd take it in a heartbeat. I could handle the town in exchange for seeing the people I know on a more regular basis. It has other redeeming features, too. I don't think it's in the cards right now, but if it was, I'd be there--screw the commute; I'd relocate.

I thought it was just my nostalgia for what's familiar, but it's not. I know almost as many people at the community college. I had a call from the humanities department secretary the other day about what she aptly described as "one of [my] headaches from last semester," and when I heard her voice and talked to her, I missed the place briefly. But it was only a twinge. I plan to go back from time to time, but only to visit, not to settle.

That podunk little town and campus I griped about for four years? It weaseled its way into my heart.

Now playing: Manchester Orchestra - Don't Let Them See You Cry
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Election shenanigans

Is it just me, or is watching politics a bit like watching a disastrous wreck? It's horrifying, there's nothing significant you can do to help, but you can't turn away. At least, that's what it's like for those who care about such things; everybody else just drives past without blinking, hardly registering the atrocity.

But speaking as one of the horrified onlookers, I'm appalled on many fronts--the candidates, the debates, the stances, the media treatment. Back in 2000 or so, one of my heroes Ralph Nader said that if people had a choice on the ballots, they'd choose "none of the above."

He wasn't far off-base.

Now playing: The Dropkick Murphys - Which Side Are You On?
via FoxyTunes

Monday, January 14, 2008


So my last post was negative in tone. I wouldn't say my funk has lifted, but I have a reason to be happy, or at least momentarily diverted by teh shiny.

While poking around the playground that is, I stumbled across some info for something called PandoraFM; I bookmarked it and forgot about it (quite a common occurrence, actually), then re-discovered it today. What it is is an amalgamation of two of my favorite websites: (The Music Genome project) and Using this nifty site, you can play tracks on Pandora and have them scrobble to your profile.

Exciting stuff.

There's a lot of overlap between the music both sites have recommended to me, but I would say Pandora is better. While some features of the music I like are relatively genre-related, like punk or hard rock roots, other qualities of music I like are less genre-locked, such as vocal-centric aesthetics or aggressive male vocals or emotional delivery or angry and/or political lyrics. Based on these qualities, the site sometimes recommends music of another genre that still has qualities I like. I can bookmark favorite songs, and sometimes at the expense of repetitiveness, Pandora will play loved tracks, which is something you have to be a subscriber on to access. Because the tags in are added by users, they tend to be very genre-specific or even downright inaccurate. But scrobbles, so it has a record of my listening, even when I listen to CDs on my computer. I mean, come on, can't beat that, can you?

Actually, you can. It's called PandoraFM, and I expect to be listening to a heck of a lot more music on Pandora now.

Now playing: Boy Sets Fire - Curtain Call
via FoxyTunes

A tale of two impulses

Today was a not-so-cheerful day. Somewhere in the span of yesterday evening or this morning, something shifted in my outlook--the turning of the cosmos, perhaps, or more likely a song, maybe an offhand comment, any innocuous trigger--and I had a pensive day. Pensive? No, pensive suggests quiet, rational contemplation. On days like this, I am restless, itching to move, to change, to do something. But mostly to change, to burn like bridges the things that are keeping me where I am, physically and mentally and emotionally. Set the entire apparatus on fire, step back, and watch that motherfucker burn. And then I stop, shake my head, and continue with my regular routine, channeling the agitation into other more productive endeavours. But it's there, always there, that urge to re-invent and move on and keep moving on without a backwards glance. To vanish in a sea of anonymity in a large city, a sort of passive self-immolation.

But I catch glimpses from time to time of another possibility. This one is quieter, simpler. When I visited my aunt in her small California town, I had the opportunity to accompany my cousin in taking the dog for a walk. It wasn't very late, but it was pretty dark, and the town was small enough and far away from the big cities my restless self craves that the stars were visible. Some streets were dark from a non-working streetlight or two. But I didn't feel threatened by the dark streets, just safe, content, relaxed, in a way I know I wouldn't be in a downtown urban setting. In that moment, like other similar moments, I set aside my derision for small-town life and bought its mythos of close-knit contentment and strong family-like connection. It got better when we wound our way through the streets down to the delta. The sound of water lapping at the shore is one of the most relaxing ones I know, and this was similarly peaceful. The bridge was visible, but the occasional passing cars were rendered silent by the distance, leaving only flashes of color in their wake. The next day, we met up with another branch of the family, another aunt and her three children, the youngest of whom is four. Surprisingly, she seemed to remember me and even attached herself to my hip whenever possible. That afternoon, with an armful of kid be-decked in all her Dora the Explorer finest who was cheerily belting out, "Yo ho bo ho, a pirate's life for me!" I couldn't help but feel a slight twinge of... what? estrogen? Never mind that my genes are faulty and I generally don't like small children; at that moment, I could see myself with a family of my own, settled in the corn-pone goodness of America's heartland, content with my life.

They're so contradictory, these visions, and always mutually exclusive. They're both false, both misleading, both exaggerated. But they're both powerful.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Venturing out on the ice

I don't know that I specifically spelled it out as such on my blog, but one subpoint to my New Year's Resolution was not only to come to terms with change, but also to try new things.

When is a better time than in the de-familiarizing context of vacation? Granted, I was visiting with family, but for the most part, being in another geographic region virtually ensures that should one make an ass of one's self, one would not likely have to see the witnesses again (except, of course, for the relatives, but family's just not family without stories of embarrassment to laugh over). With that in mind, I was presented with the opportunity to ice skate whilst on vacation. My first impulse? Oh hell no. Nuh uh. I've said before that I wouldn't skate because "I can think of better ways to fall flat on my ass."

It's a new year, I told my recalcitrant self. They have these walker-like things you can start out with, my limber young cousins told me. Fine. I'd try it. The snots would laugh their heads off at me, I was sure, but hey, a little humiliation never killed anybody, and it would be one more thing to cross off the long list of things I've never done or tried.

So after a wait in line and having someone help me lace my skates tight enough, I walked across the floor on the way to the rink, more tentatively than the people who obviously weren't strangers to ice skates. Not too bad, I thought and said. My aunt pointed out that it would be different on ice. That's what I was afraid of.

The moment of truth came. I stepped ever so gingerly onto the ice. I clung to the edge as I tried to find a walker that wasn't being used in the third of the rink designated for the newbies. I found a walker and tried to maneuver my way among dozens of kids whizzing by with small walkers and clumsy adults following at a significantly less breakneck pace. Again, I was surprised to find it wasn't that bad. I settled into a pace somewhere between the two extremes. Lest I give a false impression of courage and ease of transition, I might add that my upper arms started to ache from the tight grip I was keeping on the support.

Soon, after about half an hour, everyone had to clear out so they could run the zamboni. When I got back, I decided to test my growing confidence out on the open stretch of ice where the walkers weren't allowed. It was the same principle, I figured, and besides, it was getting too crowded where I had been and I kinda wanted to be with my cousins. So I ventured out, and to my vast surprise, fell on neither my ass nor, even worse a fear, my face. I was hardly what you would describe as "graceful," but "up on my feet and mobile" is as close a second place as this non-athletically inclined lass hopes to come. Once, I nearly fell, but I sorta wobbled a bit and caught my balance. Graceless, but it did the job.

I fully expected to ache the next day given that the extent of my exercise for the last few months consisted of brief hikes across campus, but I didn't, aside from my arms. And I had a blast. I'd do it again, too, if the opportunity arose. I hope it does.

It taught me a good lesson, one I know at a fundamental level but constantly lose sight of: I tend to, as an Incubus song puts it, "let my fear take the wheel and drive." I can't even begin to count the number of things I've avoided because I built up the what-ifs and worst-case scenarios to a fever-pitch. But the things I've done? Not nearly as scary as my overactive imagination built them up to be. And some have paid off. Ice skating wasn't a life-changing event, but I'm going to file it away as a positive omen for the year. Lately, I've felt that nagging negativity try to move in, and I'm trying to bolster myself against an attack.

I have more to write about my trip, but I'm jet-lagged right now and my bed's looking mighty nice after a week of sleeping on an air mattress.

Friday, January 4, 2008


I'm planning on being scarce or just plain absent from my blog for the next week or so. You see, I'll be out of town, and I'm pretty sure I'll leave my laptop behind. Where to? A nicer place. Let me show you two forecasts. The first is where I live; the second is where I'm going.

You know what they say about the Midwest, right? Don't like the weather? Wait five minutes and it'll change.

I love storms, and the consistency of temperature is a novelty. And all the temperatures are above freezing. W00t!

I'll try and pop back in briefly tomorrow/later today with my multimedia post, but if I don't, I'll be back next Friday evening.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Who you calling bookworm?

I have nothing against lending books to people. Most of the time I get them back, and if I don't, well, I hope the other person enjoys the book as much as I did. It's as simple as that. None of my books are rare first editions, and given that I buy used when I can, they usually are a bit worn already. Very rarely will I write in them, and if I do, it's usually to underline a striking passage.

But I wonder if anyone I lent books to within the last year or so noticed the notched pages.

I turn down as teensy a corner as possible on pages that have striking passages. Some books, like Blood Meridian and The Phantom Tollbooth, have about every other page notched. Why not just write, add my marginalia? I could, but frankly, I'm lazy. And besides, my system marks the page, not the passage, so I actually have to re-read to find it when I flip back through. And it's less obtrusive, more subject to interpretation. I may find the first line of page 97 stunning, but another person could skim over the page and find a gem of a quote in the second paragraph, and on re-read #2 or 20, I may fall in love with the last sentence of the third paragraph. Reading is, and always should be, about discovery.

Flipping through some of my books, I found this page marked in Herman Hesse's Demian, which I read for the first time this summer; on the heels of graduation, it spoke to me then. It still resonates:
"At this point a sharp realization burned within me: each man has his 'function' but none which he can choose himself, define, or perform as he pleases. It was wrong to desire new gods, completely wrong to want to provide the world with something. An enlightened man had but one duty--to seek the way to himself, to reach inner certainty, to grope his way forward, no matter where it led. The realization shook me profoundly, it was the fruit of this experience. I had often speculated with images of the future, dreamed of roles that I might be assigned, perhaps as poet or prophet or painter, or something similar.

All that was futile. I did not exist to write poems, to preach or to paint, neither I nor anyone else. All of that was incidental. Each man had only one genuine vocation--to find the way to himself. He might end up as a poet or a madman, as prophet or criminal--that was not his affair, ultimately it was of no concern. His task was to discover his own destiny--not an arbitrary one--and live it out wholly and resolutely within himself. Everything else was only a would-be existence, an attempt at evasion, a flight back to the ideals of the masses, conformity and fear of one's inwardness. The new vision rose up before me, glimpsed a hundred times, possibly even expressed before but now experienced for the first time by me. I was an experiment on the part of Nature, a gamble within the unknown, perhaps for a new purpose, perhaps for nothing, and my only task was to allow this game on the part of primeval depths to take its course, to feel its will within me and make it wholly mine. That or nothing!"
Awesome quote to start off a new year, yes? I need to re-read the whole book now.