Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Year of Positives

This is it. My last entry for the year. I'm amazed that the experiment is nearly over. Not only can I not believe that I've written nearly 365 entries (I know I must have missed a few) for this blog, I can't believe Kate and I managed to come up with topics for the 750-some entries between us.

It wouldn't be true to say that it seems like just yesterday that we started the blog. Granted the year flew by, but I was aware of the passage of time, and I think both of us were always aware of the obligation we made to each other. We were always focused on making sure our blog entries got written each day. And I can remember all of the ofttimes difficult brainstorming sessions, when entry ideas weren't low hanging fruit.

But here we are, 365 days after we started our experiment, poised at the precipice of completion. Has the experiment been a success? That's a hard question to answer. No, I'm not so sure how much my outlook on life has changed as a result of the blog. I still find myself leaning pessimistic sometimes. And, oddly enough, sometimes the process of focusing on the positives of life made the negatives stand out in stronger relief. So I can't say that I've shifted from half-empty to half-full in general, but I can say that I'm more aware of the dichotomy.

That's what I'm taking from this. I think I still favor half empty glasses of milk sometimes, but I've discovered how many half full glasses are out there. And I'm more aware of when I veer towards pessimism and can course correct sometimes. And anytime you become more self-aware, you've made positive progress.

But really more than anything this experiment has helped me realize how much I enjoy writing, and that's a benefit I wasn't expecting. I feel at least that I've gotten better over the course of the year, and realized how important it is for me to get my thoughts out into the written word. And, as a corollary, I've discovered how much I have to say, and how much I'd like to be able to influence public discourse. The more that I write about the issues that are important to me, the more I discover that needs to be said.

So maybe I'm entering a new phase of activism for the public good. If I don't lose momentum I can see that as my logical next-step. And I think it will feel really good, writing in an effort to affect change. We'll see. On that front, who knows how powerful this blog experiences has been?

I am sorry to see it end. I won't miss the constant pressure to write daily entries, but I will miss the routine. So keep following us. We may not enter as often in the coming year, but we may keep up the practice. Happy New Year!!

When Your Beard is the Perfect Length

Those of you who can grow facial hair will relate to what I'm about to say. There is a perfect length that usually hits between four days and two weeks of growth, where your facial hair length is long enough to feel like a beard, and not just stubble, but not so long that it starts curling back on itself and starts itching your face. It's where all the individual hairs line up in perfect unison, like a facial pelt. That is the perfect beard.

There is something reassuring about this beard state. It's like a soft, warm blanket for your face. It encourages you to stroke your chin, which not only makes you appear more thoughtful and intelligent, it also depletes nervous energy, freeing your mind from stress, actually rendering you more thoughtful and (potentially) more intelligent.

Over this vacation I haven't been shaving regularly, and just today I discovered I'm enjoying entry into this magic hour of beard growth. It's perfect. I'll be able to ride this period of perfection out till Sunday, right about when my beard might start turning on me, and then shave for work on Monday.

Snow


Even though I'm not the biggest fan of rolling around in it I have to say that snow is beautiful. When you wake up and look outside to see the ground covered in a beautiful white cover it's just so beautiful. Watching the snow flakes fall from the sky is so miraculous. It's one of natures true miracles. I'm glad to live somewhere that fully has all seasons. It wouldn't be Fall without the leaves changing color and it wouldn't be Winter without snow. It was great waking up this morning with snow covering the ground. This New Year's Eve is going to be memorable.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2010 Resolutions Part 2

My next New Years resolution will be to stop biting and chewing my fingers and finger nails. I've had this nasty habit my whole life and now it's time I stopped. I have this beautiful ring on my hand now and it needs beautiful hands surrounding it. We'll see if documenting this will actually make this happen, it's going to be tough. Whenever I'm stressed I go straight to my nails. It would be such a wonderful thing to have pretty nails as I walk down the aisle. And no, we have not set a date yet nor do we have any plans made.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Nuclear Power: The Thorium Revolution

I've written in support of nuclear power before, and I stand by everything I've said, but I'm even more excited after reading the article below.   It's an introduction to a whole new type of nuclear power which seems like it could be the answer to the world's energy crisis.

Nuclear power from Thorium. Here's a link to the article in Wired magazine.

http://www.wired.com/magazine/2009/12/ff_new_nukes/all/1

Allow me to sum up. Nuclear power is the best bet we have for replacing coal and other fossil fuels. It's safe (with today's technology), relatively inexpensive, and clean...except for all the dangerous nuclear waste. And that's no trivial issue. Nuclear waste requires hundreds of thousands of years to decay to the point that it is no longer dangerous. Finding a place to keep it safe that long reliably is difficult, as is transporting the waste to storage facilities. And all the while there is the very real possibility that the waste could be weaponized, if highjacked.

Thorium solves all of these problems...a little bit of history.

Thorium reactor technology dates back to the '50s. It was being developed simultaneously with the Uranium-based reactors currently forming the core of the nuclear power industry. Oddly enough it was one of Thorium's benefits that caused it to be ruled out. Thorium-based reactors produce very little waste because of Thorium's low radioactivity and the fact that it can support a very long chain-reaction. Uranium on the other hand produces plenty of radioactive waste, some in the form of Plutonium, an element commonly used in the construction of nuclear weapons. Since nuclear energy and nuclear weaponry were developing in tandem, the U.S. government favored Uranium, as it supported both efforts.

As a result Thorium technology was scrapped. But it's making a resurgence now, thanks to a dogged band of scientists. Here are Thorium's benefits over standard Uranium reactors.
  1. It's a carbon-free energy platform, just like its Uranium cousin, but...
  2. It produces minuscule amounts waste compared to Uranium. Waste that requires only hundreds, not hundreds of thousands of years to decay.
  3. It's very common in nature, and given the small amount needed for reactions, the supply is nearly limitless. Just the amount that's stockpiled by the U.S. right now could power the entire country for a thousand years.
  4. It creates a very efficient, long lived chain-reaction, meaning that very little is needed to produce large amounts of power.
  5. And because it's common in nature and extremely efficient, it's a very inexpensive way to produce power. Per gigawatt of power output a Uranium reactor requires 250 tons of raw Uranium at a cost of 50 to 60 million dollars. A Thorium reactor, per the same gigawatt of power output, requires only one ton of raw Thorium, at a cost of only $10,000.
  6. Because of the nature of its chain-reaction, contained in specially engineered reactors, Thorium is infinitely safer than Uranium. It's self-regulating, meaning that if it begins to overheat it loses part of its mass, dropping the temperature automatically, returning the reaction to safe limits. This entirely eliminates the chance of a meltdown.
  7. A standard Uranium reactor requires 200,000 to 300,000 square feet of space, plus a low-population density buffer area surrounding it, in case of meltdown. As states, a Thorium reactor has no meltdown risk, so no buffer area is necessary, and the reactor only requires 2,000 to 3,000 square feet to be built.
  8. There is no nuclear weapons proliferation risk with Thorium. Its waste is minuscule and cannot be weaponized. This is not true with Uranium.
You don't need to be a nuclear physicist to see that the benefits of Thorium-based nuclear reactors are staggering compared to standard nuclear power, coal power, and even other green power initiatives like wind, water, and biofuel.  The question is whether the political will exists to allow the Thorium revolution to take root.  I for one hope very much that it does.

Chemicals and Biology: A Love Story

I knew this was coming. After all the shoveling I did during the "Large Snow Event" a week ago, the baggage lugging for our Florida trip, and the help I gave moving Kate's parents into their new house, I knew a back-tastrophy was potentially lurking around the corner. And I was fine until around 2:30 yesterday when an innocent hands-over-the-head stretch snapped something, causing the usual muscular ripple effect, locking up everything in my neck and upper back.

So, like many love stories, this one starts with heartbreak, or at least backache. Thankfully we understand so much about our biology we've been able to develop a huge battery of chemicals tailored toward specific restorative purposes, chemicals we're all come to depend on and...love.

My particular sweethearts right now are Prednisone, a steroidal anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory, Flexeril, and muscle-relaxant, and Vicodine, a Hydrocodone and Tylenol based pain-reliever. These three made sweet love to my biological processes yesterday and made it at least possible for me to sleep last night. Today I'm still bound up pretty bad, but the spasming has stopped for the most part. I'm about to take my next dose of Prednisone, followed by a Vicodine/Flexeril cocktail.

Oh, my little chemical menders, how I love thee. Let me count the ways...1 *swallow* - 2 *swallow* - 3 *swallow*....

Mama's Recipes

I love making recipes pasted down from my mom. She will tell you herself that she does not enjoy cooking, but she does have a few recipes up her sleeve that are just delicious. Yesterday I made her creamed chicken casserole and it turned out wonderfully. It's so creamy and delicious, it has always been on the top of my favorite food list. I changed it up some my adding fresh steamed cauliflower and by adding spices like onion and garlic powder. You always cook up some buttery rolls to go with it. It's kind of like chicken pot pie when everything comes together. Thanks mom for passing these wonderful creations down to me we can't get enough of them.

Other top Mom Recipes:
Creamed Spinach
Tuna Noodle Casserole
Broccoli Casserole

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Good Ending

Good endings are hard to come by. So many times I watch a film all the way through and it ends on a horrible note. That can just kill a movie for me. Why is it so hard to end a film on a bang? Last night we watched the b-horror film Drag Me to Hell. It was campy, nasty, and all around good fun. Sam Raimi is back to doing his cult horror style. The film had a great ending, one I'll never forget. It just really came together superbly. Thanks Raimi for bringing back the b-horror. Allison Lohman did an excellent job and the scary old woman was gross and very scary. Loved it!

A Positive, Broadly Defined


Pickled cucumbers are called pickles. Pickled tomatoes are called...pickled tomatoes. Pickled eggs are called pickled eggs. In fact every other pickled food, from pickled pigs feet to pickled turkey gizzards all fall into the "pickled -object-" nomenclature.

We must assume from this that cucumbers were the very first object ever to be pickled. Why else would their pickled counterpart deserve the singular title, "pickle"? Clearly mankind cut its pickling teeth on cucumbers, and then moved on to trickier foods like asparagus, beets, cabbage, chicken feet and probably in certain Asian countries, dogs and cats.

Which all begs the question. If dogs had been the first "edible" to be pickled, would we call those delicate pickled morsels "pickles"? I think we would. Pickles would in turn be horrifying food items never found on American grocery store shelves, and companies like Vlasic and Claussen (Kraft Foods) would be famous for manufacturing pickled cucumbers, not pickles.

The lesson here, and I think we can all agree on this, is that it's an extremely positive thing that pickles are not brined, preserved puppy dogs.


*It turns out that, strictly defined, "pickle" refers to any brined, spiced, preserved food item. So if you pickle something, strictly speaking, it's a pickle. A pickled doberman is just as much a pickle as an egg or a cucumber. Whether the cucumber was the first food to be pickled isn't so much at issue. But it is the most popular pickled food and has, as a result, become the only one favored in common parlance with the designation, "pickle."

I've never eaten a pickled pup, but I have had pickled eggs, pigs feet and tomatoes, and I'm quite clear on why cucumbers dominate the pickled products market. The eggs especially are #$%@ awful!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

2010: "Twenty Ten" Has Only Three Syllables

I'm looking forward to the turn of the new year for multiple reasons, but one of them is purely linguistic. "Two Thousand and Nine" has five syllables. It's a mouthful, as has been every year for the last decade. "Twenty" is a much speedier way of saying "Two Thousand", but it hasn't worked for the last ten years. Saying "Twenty Nine" is confusing and makes you sound like you've gone two thousand years back in time.* But with "Twenty Ten" we can finally get back to the proper year designations we were used to in the 20th Century.

Start practicing now. Don't be one of "those people" still using the "two thousand" designation into the double digit suffix period. You'll sound silly, or worse, pretentious. It will elicit the same response from people that you get today when you begin an email with, "This is just an FYI" (FYI stands for "For Your Information"...it's not a noun. Get rid of the "an".)

"Twenty Ten". It's cool. It's efficient. It's the future. In five days.



*People could have said, "Twenty Oh Nine". That was good enough for the first decade of every previous century, and it would have been one less syllable. But that wasn't dramatic enough for people obsessed with the millennial switch. "Twenty Oh One: A Space Odyssey" doesn't pop nearly as well as "Two thousand and one." I'm sure it's the newness of the experience, because I know I've heard people refer to the year 1009 as, "the year Ten Oh Nine".

A Nice Climactic Surprise

Most of you know that Kate and I flew out Sunday morning for Florida at the end of the "Large Snow Event" of 2009. It took a lot of shoveling to make sure that one of our cars was free of snow and accessible for the trip to the airport. In the process of digging out one car, I worsened things for the second, which happened to be parked directly behind the first, moving snow from the one onto the other. Really for lack of any place better or more easily accessible to put it. By the end of my efforts and the work of Baltimore City's snow plows, Kate's truck was buried under and fenced in by at least two and a half feet of snow.

So we got out and had a great time in Florida. But hanging over my head the whole time was the knowledge (I thought) that once we got back to Baltimore I'd have to dig the truck out of what at that point, through partial thaws and refreezes, would be at least two feet of heavy ice. But I wasn't following Baltimore weather (mostly because I was enjoying the 70 degree days Greater Tampa had to offer.)

Had I been following I wouldn't have been as surprised as I was when we got home from the airport, afraid that we might not even find a dug-out parking space, to find nearly all of the snow from the previous weekend melted and gone. Parking wasn't a problem, and by mid-day today, Kate's truck was completely devoid of snow. Mother Nature, in a week, had taken care of for me what I'd imagined was going to be a torturous job. It was a great way to cap off a great trip.

DS Lite


Let me first preface by saying that Jason and I weren't going to mention that we bought each other presents for Christmas/Hanukkah since money was slim this year and very few people got gifts from us, but we did end up getting each other something small. Our 4 year anniversary is coming up in a couple days as well and we aren't probably doing anything, but going out for a cheap dinner.

Anyways, we got each other gifts- I got him this painting he's had his eye on at the Renaissance Festival for years and he got me a used Nintendo DS Lite. It's a portable gaming device that I absolutely love. He bought me the red one, since he knows that's one of my favorite colors. We played it together throughout our travels the past week and it was a blast. We got this game called Scribblenauts that's so much fun. You are tasked to solve these puzzles and actions and you type in any object and it will just appear. It's hard to explain, but very interesting and a blast to play.

Anyways I love my gift babe, oh and I love the ring you gave me even more. It's hard to keep my eyes off its sparkle as I play my games.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Perfect Christmas

Christmas this year was perfect. It was wonderful being with my whole family. We had great laughs, yummy food, and love all around. The boys are growing up so fast and I played with them every chance I had. I hope we get to all see each other again soon. My folks are so happy in there new house and I am so happy to see them so happy. I love you all and want to thank you all for making Christmas so memorable and joyous this year. Hugs and kisses to mom, dad, Kerri, Allen, Kaiden, and Blake.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Same Sense of Wonder, But With Candles


I hadn't really thought much about this in years past, but having a nephew, and soon-to-be nephews-in-law, I've started giving thought to how I'd handle the holidays for my own kids. And it's gotten me thinking about my childhood memories.

We had no tree, of course. Instead we had a Menorah, a ceremonial candelabra, with candles for each of the eight days of Hanukkah. And instead of putting all the presents out in one shot like the parents of my Christian friends, my parents gave us one or two presents a night for the length of the holiday.

On the one hand it was frustrating. Of course all my sister and I wanted to do was open everything at once. The forced waiting was such a burden on our child mind desires. Former Christian kids...imagine having all your presents sitting under the tree, but having to open them one or two at a time for eight days. The suspense and longing kills you!

But, at the same time, long after my Christian friends had blown through the fun of opening presents, Steph and I were still enjoying the experience. We got eight times the present opening ceremony. And there was a fun sort of suspense once you accepted the fact that you had to wait. You knew you had a full week to open a new toy or two each day. That was kind of cool, and is a good memory now that I'm grown.

What would I like to do for my kids? I think I'd like to take all the best facets of every holiday practice and mash them all up into one uber-holiday. We'd have a tree, put up lights around the house, and burn a menorah. We'd probably do the presents in one blast, but still burn the candles for eight days. If there are any cool traditions from other practices that I haven't yet learned about, maybe we'd roll them in, too. The point of the holidays, for me is togetherness, sharing and fun. Whatever we can do to create great memories, that's what we'll do.

Little Wonderland

I love the Christmas tradition of setting up the presents under the tree while the little ones sleep. I can't wait to see the expressions on my nephews faces tomorrow morning. It's the best! I wish Christmas was still that surprising and fun as an adult, but I guess that's why you have kids to feel that sense of wonder and fun through their experiences. They are going to be the happiest little boys tomorrow.

My folks used to set all the toys up for us, so when we came down Christmas morning all the toys would be ready to play with. It was like entering your own little wonderland. Maybe I'll do the same for my kids.

The Florida Temperature

The weather in Florida is incredible. It's around 70 degrees right now and it's Christmas Eve! I really do love it. When we have money I wouldn't be opposed to spending our Winters in Florida. I do love watching the seasons change in Baltimore, so I would like to stay there during the Spring, Fall, and Summer months, but Winter in Florida is where it's at. I'm not missing 20 degree temps and snow on the ground. I wish we could stay here for the next two months.

Rat Terriers


I'm not a dog person, but I do have a short list of dogs I'd own if I were ever forcibly in that position. And this week I've met a new breed that gets bumped up to the top. Kerri and Allen's new dog Single is a Rat Terrier, and has the best temperament I've ever seen on a dog. You take her outside and she runs around and plays. She'll wrestle with the kids one moment but then plop down in your lap the next. She seems to have everything I'd want in a dog; loyalty, train-ability, the ability to lounge around with her, without everything I dislike. She only barely has that "dog smell", even unbathed, almost never barks, and while she does get excited and have fun, she doesn't seem to have a "hyper" mode.

I thought maybe some of Single's characteristics owed to her age more than her breed, but so far my research this morning points squarely toward the latter. Everything I've observed about Single matches the descriptions of the breed, and that's exciting, pointing to the fact that Single isn't a "single" at all, but a good representative of our future Rat Terrier, if we were to ever find ourselves forcibly in that position.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Big Love

You've all shared all sorts of kind sentiments since our big news and I just wanted to give thanks to all our wonderful family and friends for all their love and support. You are all the best and we are so happy to have you all in our lives. A lot of you had a lot to do the with us being together...Kara, Alicia, Linda, Jim...most of you are from Renegade and welcomed our relationship with open arms. I'm happy to have you all still in our life. Our families have been so warm and loving. Again you all mean the world to us and we cherish each and every one of you. Can't wait to party down with all you at our wedding. And no, we have not set a date yet if you're wondering.

Driving a Minivan Isn't as Bad as You'd Think

I never imagined myself behind the wheel of a minivan. In fact, on the list of vehicles I'd imagine myself driving, "minivan" comes in at number 147, five below a Soviet-era Russian tank, though edging slightly higher than "the PopeMobile".

But I have to say driving a minivan, at least the specimen I drove tonight is a good experience. Smooth handling, good suspension, and a built in premium sound system (although it only sings "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" over and over again).

So scratch number 147 off the list. Next up, The General Lee.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Contained Fires

I love a good fire...a good contained fire. Campfire, fireplace fire, candle, candelabra, incense smoulder, or Video On Demand television facsimile of any of the above. But the first two are particular favorites.

There's a fireplace here at Kate's sister and brother-in-law's house, and I "attempted" to make a fire today, sans starter logs or any other helper material. It's really challenging. I've built campfires successfully before, but fireplaces seem to present a heftier challenge. I was happy that I finally got it burning, and kept it burning, albeit in a very limited and unexciting manner (picture a freckle on the log, instead of an all-over tan).

But that's the fun and the beauty of fire. It's controlled chaos. It's difficult to start sometimes, but once burning it is just as difficult to control. But controlled, it's entrancing. Kate and I stayed downstairs in front of the fire after everybody else went to bed and just stared into it. It warms you inside and out.

You may ask why we need a fire in Florida. Yes, it's been in the mid '60s during the day, but it does drop into the 40's at night. And for Floridians, that's 20 below zero. For us it's just a light nip in the air...but it still makes for good fire weather.

Kids are the Best

It's been so great getting to know my nephews, Kaiden and Blake again. Every time I see them they are so different and more grown up. It's truly amazing how fast they grow. They make me realize more and more that I really fascinated by that age group. I think I'm set on wanting to teach Pre K to 3rd grade. I like when they're young and like to play a lot. I can really tell that my new job is helping me interact and play with my nephews. I think I'm starting to know and understand young minds better. It's just wonderful sharing this quality time with them. They really love playing with Jason and I too.

We went to Kaiden's class Christmas Party today. I got to watch the teachers in action and witness a young classroom environment. It was very insightful and looked like something I could really do and enjoy.

Kaiden and Blake, you are two awesome little boys and I'm so happy to be here to get to spend Christmas with you all.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My Ring

My ring is beautiful, I've never had something so beautiful on my hand before. I felt different all day as I wore it, like I was a new woman. Thank you sweetheart, the ring you picked out for me is simply gorgeous.

Alright I've had a long two days of blizzards, plane rides, engagements, and loud crazy-loving family members. It's time to pass out.

Thanks for all the wonderful kind words. Love to you All!

After That Last Post the Rest of the Year Seems a Little Silly

I think I'm going to be hard pressed to top my last entry, so I'm not going to try. Ever. This is a quick entry focused on playing things correctly. Simple decisions can have large consequences. We were scheduled to fly out to Florida yesterday at 3PM. Right when the "large snow event" (apparently it wasn't rated as a blizzard) of 2009 was at its peak. Knowing it was coming Friday, we had make the choice whether to reschedule our flight for Sunday morning, at no cost. It meant getting up uncomfortably early, but the alternative seemed far worse. And, as we expected BWI cancelled most flights on Saturday and ultimately shut down entirely.

Come Sunday morning the airport reopened, and the shoveling I did the day before paid off. It was relatively easy to get our car out, get to the airport, and get out of Dodge. What could have been a really painful trip, spent frittering away hours in a locked down airport ended up being a fun, snowed-in Saturday and a smooth, uneventful Sunday flight.

There were also other fringe benefits to being snowed in Saturday, but I'll refer to my last entry for the details.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

My Forever Love

I do....I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Jason, I love you with all my heart.

Kate

We're nearly done with the year, and with 350-some entries under my belt I haven't written about one of the most positive things in my life. Kate. I mean, I've written about things about her; her photo career, her fashion sense, her family, but I've never written about just her.

Kate has been one of the greatest things to come into my life. She brings out more good in me than I ever knew was there. She's opened up places in my heart that had been dark for a long time. She's made me see just what a relationship can be. Open and fun, without reservation or hesitation. She's given me a broader understanding and experience of love than I've ever had before. She's helped bring me out of myself, and I've become a more social person as a result. She's made me see that jealousy and distrust are not inevitable parts of a long term relationship, as was previously my experience (it wasn't on my end of the relationship, but it only takes one to spoil the group.) She's shown me that trust, while it's something that's earned, must also be given, and I feel like we've both done that for each other.

But more than anything, she's brought me happiness. And in a world where more things seem to go wrong than right, having at least your basic happiness taken care of is worth its weight in gold.

And that's why I wrote this entry. To lock my happiness in.

And that's why I'm getting down on one knee and saying...

VNC

VNC: Virtual Network Computing. Awesome.

A few weeks ago I got set up with LogMeIn.com, a free site that, using VNC software allows you to remotely control any computer you own, as if you were sitting in front of it, from any other computer, anywhere. It is so useful. For instance, tonight I needed to post an hour and half of footage for client approval. I didn't want to stay at work all night and wait for it, so I came home, logged into my work Mac using LogMeIn and I've been controlling the process from here.

If someone were sitting in front of my work Mac while I was logged in they'd see the mouse cursor moving on its own, opening windows and running programs, all directed by some unseen hand. I had a particularly chilling experience of my own, being on that end of the equation. I was working a night shift about a month ago. It was probably 11:30 at night. I was, and had been for a while already, the only person in the office. Then, out of nowhere the suite next door to mine starts blaring music. Then it stopped. Then started again. It freaked me out! I got up and tentatively poked my head next door. No one there. I walked in and saw the mouse cursor happily zipping around the screen, user absent. I knew then what was going on, but it didn't lesson the shock I'd felt initially.

So VNC is good for getting work done even when you can't be there, and for scaring the snot out of the people that are.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Being a Part of Something

I have to agree with Kate. The Renegade Holiday party is always a great time. And it's an affirmation that I'm a big part of something special. For some people their job is just their job. But for me it's really become something of an extended family. I've spent five days a week every week with a lot of my fellow Renegades for a decade or more. My friend pool consists mostly of current and former Renegades. It's been a huge part of my life now for 14 years, and I honestly can't imagine life without it.

Sure I have bad, frustrating and all around @#$*%y days. But I have many more good ones. I don't mind getting up and having to do the "daily grind" thing, because I enjoy what I do, most of the time, and I get to spend the day with a lot of really cool people. It's nice to be a part of something where you know everyone has your back, and you're all pushing toward the same goal.

In the time I've been at Renegade I've seen the holiday parties mushroom from a gathering of eight to ten people (employees only) around a small table in a restaurant to huge catered shindigs with upwards of 60 to 70 people in attendance. It's really cool to have been involved with that growth.

Renegade Love

We went to the Renegade Holiday Party last night and as always it was a blast. I really love a lot of those folks. They know me so well and I really can be myself when I'm around them. It was even more interesting being there as a guest and not an employee. It was bittersweet; at times I was sad not to be part of the family and other times I was happy to have a separate life. I was a lot more open and friendly with everyone, especially the employee's wives and husbands. It was like being part of a new club of outsiders. Jason got trashed and I stayed somewhat sober all night so I could drive him home. I had so many laughs, meaningful conversations, and even got to get my dance on. I really had an amazing time and yes I miss seeing those folks on a daily basis, but it also makes seeing them at the occasional gathering all that more special.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

DB is to Most Things as Cockroaches are to Nuclear War

This cat is a survivor. He's had gastro-intestinal issues his whole life which can cause him a good deal of pain. He's come extremely close to requiring the removal of his colon, a nasty, painful surgery. He has numerous small lumps scattered across his gaunt, slightly dehydrated body that may or may not be cancerous (though we have no reason to think they are.) He'd always, at least in his mind, played second-banana to Banjo, resigning himself to wait for the dregs of feline experience. Lately he hasn't been eating much and has dropped down to four pounds. He was so backed up recently we had to take him to the vet for a procedure that used to be common for him, but one that hasn't been necessary for a while. We'll call it a complete system reboot in a bag.

He came back from that weak and disoriented (he couldn't jump on the bed without falling back to the ground). The medication was confusing him, and his slim diet was doing a number on his system. We started force feeding him soft food, and very soon after that he started eating on his own again. Now he's regaining his strength, his mental stability, a little weight, and is behaving much more like his old self (which was, albeit, a little peculiar, but entirely DB.)

He's sleeping in my lap right now. It's impressive how much this little guy has fought through. His first-banana pal Banjo stopped eating, and it killed him. DB isn't going out that way. In fact, part of me is convinced that he's never going out. He'll just continue year after year, ad infinitum to be the same crusty, lovable, pain-embracing nutjob he's always been. The Doob abides.

This One Makes Me Smile, Too

I found this in a friends Facebook stream. His accompanying note read something along the lines of, "This one makes me smile everytime I watch it" and I have to agree. You can't help but love this. It's good old goofy, freaky fun. And apparently it's created by MICA students. Garrett Davis wrote the music and animated the film with the help of Kirsten Lepore. I bandy their names around as if I know them, but I don't. But I have walked down sidewalks that they've likely walked as well.

Story from North America from Kirsten Lepore on Vimeo.

Family and Florida, Only 2 Days Away


I am counting down the days that I get to see my family in Florida. It's going to be such a fabulous visit. It's been six months since I've seen any of them. My nephews are going to be so big and my folks have their new house they get to show off. I'm just so excited. It's going to be in the 60s and 70s while we're there, which is just perfect. This is also going to be a great vacation getaway for Jason and I, we need an exit from reality.I love you guys and can't wait to hug everyone one of you!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Easy Meal Breaks

You all know I enjoy to cook, but sometimes I prefer to cook something easy. In cases like this I'll get a Stouffer's Lasagna and just stick it in the oven, steam some veggies, and sometimes cook a rice or potato dish to go with it. It feeds us for a week and everything tastes great.

This week I found another easy meal, Perdue's Oven Ready Seasoned Chicken. Again you just follow the directions and it's ready in two hours. It's really well seasoned and the meat just falls off the bone. To add to the delicious meal I made mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. Everything tastes wonderful together.

I do love to cook, but sometimes it's nice to have a break.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Florida in Winter

After a very mild and prolonged start to what is predicted to be the most brutal winter in years, it's finally come, and the change happened seemingly overnight. And after this weekend it's likely to get colder.

But I don't care. Kate and I will be spending this coming holiday week with her family in Florida, enjoying sunny, 80 degree weather. Normally I'd rather lance boils on syphilitic donkeys then spend time outside in Florida, especially in the summer and the nine months that surround it (no offense to those that live there...I love seeing you guys, but you've seen what Florida's done to me before.) But the winter is an entirely different matter. Florida in winter is beautiful. Perfection. Good people and perfect weather.

I can't wait to get there.

Christmas Flicks

I love watching Christmas movies during the holidays. I love the comedies and the one's that make you get teary-eyed. Some of my favorites are National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Elf, All I Want for Christmas, Bad Santa, Die Hard, Love Actually, The Nightmare before Christmas, Scrooged, and It's a Wonderful Life. How the Grinch who Stole Christmas, T'was the Night Before Christmas, and A Charlie Brown Christmas are a few of my favorite animated films. They all get me in the mood for the holidays.

You're probably all wondering how I could have missed A Christmas Story, well I'm not a big fan. The tone of the film makes me feel uneasy which is likely because when I was young I had the flu while watching it and now it turns my stomach some even when I watch it today.

I love the holidays and hope this year is filled with watching some of my favorite holiday films. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

All My Life I've Resisted (Except for the Period Around 1978)...What a Shame!

I know my parents stuck me in corduroy pants as a kid. I'm sure I've got the pictures to prove it. Corduroy pants and chunky plaid shirts with shoulder-smothering collars cut from larger pieces of fabric than the rest of the shirt combined.

The shirts were a bad idea. And so, I thought, were the pants.

I was so wrong.

I don't know why, but I've been avoiding corduroy for as long as I can remember. I'm not sure what my beef was. I guess I just thought it wasn't me. I wasn't going to be one of those guys (the guys that wore corduroy), though I don't know why I thought those guys were people not to be. None of it really makes sense.

But the real story starts about a week and a half ago. I'd been in desperate need for new pants for a very long time, and Kohl's was holding an "everything in the store at least 50% off, post-Black Friday" sale. I didn't find much I liked. But there were cords, and they were cheap. Cheap enough to take a risk. Believe me though, I dithered. Especially since I was alone, and had no one to talk me into things.

But they looked good on me (relative to other things I've worn in the past, not to the population as a whole.) I was sure of it. I unsheathed my credit card and brought the corduroys home.

And I freaking love them! I don't know if I've ever worn a more comfortable pair of pants. Maybe it's just this brand, or maybe it's every corduroy garment ever fabricated. I don't know...my experience with the fabric is so limited! How can I possibly make up for the 30 misspent years I was mindlessly loafing around in denim and plain cotton blends? I may have to commission an entire wardrobe of the purest corduroy, underwear and shoes included. I'll purchase corduroy sheets, corduroy automobile seat covers and durable corduroy-based floor and wall coverings.

I may have to hop a plane to some third-world country with limited medical oversight and convince doctors to surgically remove my skin and all of my organs of dubious importance and replace them with graft-grade corduroy fabric spun from the effluent of my own lab-cultured stem cells.

It's that comfortable. I wouldn't kid you. I want my brain to be replaced with a sinewy mass of cultured corduroy so I never have to entertain another uncomfortable thought. That just might make up for the harsh treatment I've unwittingly subjected myself to all these years.

Don't be like me. If you're still young, go out and get yourself some corduroy before it's too late. Don't wait until the sandpaper you're currently wrapping yourself in burns away the upper layers of your epidermis, destroying the precious nerve cells nature intended to experience corduroy's comforting caress. Once they're gone, all the corduroy in the world won't save you. Trust me. I almost missed my chance.

But I've found my redemption...praise the Cord!

Hanukkah, a wonderful holiday!

I had a very pleasant day today celebrating Hanukkah with Jason's family. The day was filled with delicious food, great conversation, beautiful presents, and very lovely people that I'm happy to have in my life.

Thank you Jan, David, and Judy for my wonderful gifts and great company and conversation, Stephanie and John for hosting in your beautiful home and Jackson for being so darn cute. Happy Hanukkah to all!!

Run! The Giant Gorilla Whale is Attacking!


You're probably familiar with this scenario. You're racking your brain for an idea. Nothing useful is coming so you switch off the internal censors. Now anything is fair game, no matter how stupid. You're letting the impulses jump willy nilly in the hopes that a wandering mind will bump into something you can draw from.

That's how I just came to look up what Godzilla means. Wonder of wonders...fertile ground.

Sorry, it doesn't mean "fertile ground". It's fertile ground for ideas, because what Godzilla does mean makes almost as little sense as "fertile ground". Here's what I found on Answers.com.

The name godzilla is a transliteration of Gojira (ゴジラ, Gojira?), a combination of two Japanese words: gorira (ゴリラ, lit. "gorilla"?) and kujira (クジラ, lit. "whale"?).


Gorilla Whale. Huh.

I mean yes, a whale is a pretty large creature (or can be) that hails from the sea, and a gorilla can stand upright. Put those together and you have a large bipedal creature that is likely to stumble out of the ocean into a major metropolitan city. But it's just as likely enchant you with its beautiful song and then throw feces at you.

Plus Godzilla is a reptile. Both of the animals in question here are mammals. And Godzilla breathes fire, a talent generally held by dragons, which are also reptiles. And like any reptile worth his scales he has vicious claws on his hands and feet. Whales lost their hands and feet 50 million years ago, give or take whatever amount is necessary to make that figure correct. Godzilla has about as much to do with whales and gorillas as the Easter Bunny does with Margaret Thatcher and Wilt Chamberlain.

Asian culture is funny.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

2010 Resolution Part 1

This blog has really made me realize that keeping yourself motivated is the only way to live a happy, energized, and satisfied life. We must continually strive to educate ourselves. Staying healthy keeps you energized to pursue life's next goals. Staying positive and having confidence in yourself keeps you motivated.

My resolution for 2010 will be to continue this attitude. I have a big interview coming up and I must stay on top of my game so that I can get into the residency program. I'm really starting to feel it's the best step I could make for myself. Lately I've been feeling my scared-protective walls forming around me. I'm losing my momentum so I must break down that wall, step up my game and start focusing on my teaching and photography careers with real passion.

I must feel good, stay focused and motivated, and be confident in myself. It's very important to keep studying, learning, and practicing. I need to stay connected with the strong and loving people in your life. Remember to like yourself and be positive. You are Captain Awesome!!

Cirque du Soleil

I've always hoped to see a Cirque du Soleil show. Whenever I see previews or read about the show descriptions they get my so intrigued. I think I would have enjoyed any of their shows. Crazy acrobatics and contortionists just amaze me.

I just watched an Ellen that had three contortionists from the Cirque du Soleil show, Kooza. They were incredible to watch and seeing a whole show like that live would in indescribable. All their show story lines seem so uniquely beautiful. The shows are filled with drama, dance, music, magic, and sheer unbelievable talent.


Fela Anikulapo Kuti


Last night Kate and went to see a local band, the Baltimore Afrobeat Society perform. The group has somewhere between 12 and 16 members, most of which play trumpets, saxophones drums and percussion. And last night, as a special show they played nothing by Fela's music. It was pretty amazing.

About 15 years ago or so my friend and old bandmate Dave and his brother (and also former bandmate) Luther introduced me to the music of Fela, and and African music in general. It was a perfect fit at the time, and it's spawned in me a strong affection for the genre. But Fela is a particular favorite and is a perfect character for this blog.

Fela pioneered a style of music he called, "Afrobeat." It was a fusion of African Jazz, American Funk, and certain local African regional styles of music. It was characterized by a powerful horn section, repeating groove elements on the drums and guitars, and a lot of call and response between Fela and his large vocal backing element. Much of his later music was written in pidgin English to play to a wider audience but some was also written in his native language. And his music was highly politically charged.

After coming into contact with the Black Panther movement during a trip to the US in 1969 Fela began a process of radicalization that would ultimately influence the entire African continent. He repeatedly clashed with the military governments in power in his native Nigeria during the 70's and 80's. His compound was attacked repeatedly by government, culminating with a attack that was motivated by the release of "Zombie" an album scathingly critical of the corrupt Nigerian establishment. During the attack Fela was severly beaten, his studio, home and performance space were burned and his elderly mother was thrown from a window, resulting in her death.

But by then Fela was extremely popular with the Nigerian public and across the entire continent. He used his bully pulpit unrelentingly against the government, African subjagation and the decline of African culture. He fought hard for a African unity and a continent-wide Democratic African government. His dreams were never realized fully, but his dedication created a consciousness in the African people, one that continues today. Fela died in 1997, enourmously popular in Africa but without a significant following elsewhere in the world.

That's about to change. The Broadway stint of the musical "Fela!" will bring the story of his life and his music to a world audience that would have never been exposed otherwise. Afrobeat is already experiencing a revival with bands like Antibalas, and the Baltimore Afrobeat Society which we say last night. Fela's son Femi has also taken up the torch, bringing Afrobeat to a new generation of fans.

I can write about this all I want, but until you hear the music you won't have an appreciation of what Fela's music is all about. So...samples.

This is the song "Zombie" of the album of the same name. It uses the zombie metaphor to refer to the mindlessness and ruthlessness of the Nigerian military.



"Black Man's Cry", another favorite.



"Lady". It's only an excerpt, but it gives a good taste.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Clearly Man Needs Something Greater Than Himself

Mankind needs purpose. We need meaning. We need to believe that there's a reason for our existence. A grand scheme to an otherwise seemingly senseless universe.

I'm not sure why that is. Is it intrinsic to sentience? I think, therefore I am...and I am why exactly? There's plenty of life on this planet that doesn't possess the consciousness to know that it is. So it doesn't question. It just exists. It does what it does without moral judgement and without regard to purpose or meaning. Animals hunt and animals kill. They steal, cheat and lie (in the sense of pretending to be something they're not) and there are no rewards and no punishments apart from survival and death.

We're different. We are all aware, sometimes painfully of the fact that we exist. And especially in the difficult times, when pain and desperation prevail, we innately question our existence, and look for the purpose and the meaning behind our travails. Humanity, as a species simply cannot accept randomness. When things happen to us, good or bad, we imagine the plan positioned around the situation. Especially when that situation is poor we can't help but say to ourselves, "Why me?" On some level we just can't accept that we weren't specifically selected. That things are just happening as opposed to happening to us.

There are really only two overarching narratives that human probing has attempted to illuminate. The first is, "What are we and the universe?", and the second is, "Why do both of these exist?" And both of these questions are informed by and give rise to (or negate) purpose.

I've touched on all of this in earlier entries, but they've all resolved with positive affirmations and relatively clear cut answers. This entry won't follow the same line. And the positive won't be quite as obvious either. In fact I think the positive here is just that a dialogue has been opened. This is the start of a potential conversation. The beginning of a germ of an answer. It won't be warm and fuzzy.

In a nutshell, here's my issue. Atheism, my chosen philosophy, if followed to its logical conclusion strips away any intrinsic meaning to human life, or to life or the universe in general. It destroys the notion of an implicit, divinely inspired moral code. Neither of these are necessarily bad things. They can create an opening to build your own meaning in life and create an ethical system based on the valuation of human life for its own sake. But atheism, if misapplied can lead to some really nasty conclusions. A complete devaluing of individual human life. A "flexible" ethical system that favors some "common good" at the expense of individual citizens. Stalin's Russia is a good example of what atheism can devolve to. Atheism can lead to conflict, conflict to violence, and violence to death.

Theism doesn't fare any better. Religion does one thing well. It creates meaning for everything. Human life, the world, the existence of suffering, etc. Religion ties the entirety of human experience up with a nice tidy bow, perfectly explained and easy to palate. It satisfies our deep need for purpose. And that would be all be fine if there was only one explanation. Problem is there are any number of neat, tidy bows. Every religion explains the same universe differently, with different intrinsic moral codes and different values and ethics. And they all claim to have the lock on ultimate truth. And give man an "ultimate truth" and the moral obligation to enforce it, and you get fanatics. Sometimes entire nations of fanatics. As a result, history is awash in the blood of holy wars, religio-ethnic cleansing, terrorism, forced conversions, intolerance, misplaced hatred and blind devotion. Theism (religion) can lead to conflict, conflict to violence, and violence to death.

So we're damned either way. Both atheism and theism have the potential to do wonderful things for the world, but they also, and often have propagated hideous pain and anguish, death and suffering on massive scales. Clearly our claim to or lack of religion isn't the problem. Both often lead to the same results. It is our own human nature that has to be the problem, and there's no easy solution for that.

I'm an atheist. I don't believe god exists. I've come to that conclusion after considering all the available data. For me it's the only conclusion that makes sense. Others come to very different conclusions. But we're united in one thing. Regardless of how strongly we hold onto our beliefs, that's all they are. We don't know anything for sure. We can't. I can't claim to know that god doesn't exist any more than a religious person can claim to know he does. It's unknowable. That's why the religious talk so much about faith. If one could truly know god's existence status, faith would be unnecessary. And clearly in some sense I have faith. Faith in logic's ability to illuminate truth. Faith in the predictability of a universe guided by physical laws. And faith that god isn't "out there" anywhere. It's not a religious faith because its derived from observation not illumination, but it's still faith.

What we can derive from all of this is that there is an ultimate truth in the universe. One indisputable fact that touches logic and religion, and that is that we can never know where we came from and where we're going. Both religion and science attempt to explain the world. But neither science nor religion can answer these questions without eventually falling back on faith. The is clear with religion. The universe was created by god, most of them say. A simple answer, but it requires a faith in a god whose existence cannot be known, only believed (and this is true whether he actually exists or not, as demonstrated earlier.) So religion is not knowledge, it's faith.

Finding the root of faith in science's explanation for the creation of the universe is a little trickier. Science has teased out the evidence that our universe started some 13 billion years ago at the "Big Bang". Before that all matter everywhere in the universe was contained in a space smaller than an atom, nearly infinitely dense...a singularity. Even time itself was bound up in the singularity, so it's difficult to talk about when the Big Bang occurred, relative to moments before the Bang, as the Big Bang expanded time into something measurable. So what came before the Big Bang? There are countless theories, many very promising and supported by the math and what we know of the physical universe. But, given the nature of the question, and the fact that verification is almost impossible we will probably never know for sure what happened before the Big Bang. Scientists simply have faith that an answer will be found, one that doesn't require metaphysical assumptions.

I noted earlier that there's only two major narratives in the story of our universe. What and why. But the even deeper narrative that bisects both of these questions is, "How did we and the universe come to be?" Your answer to this ultimate question influences your answers in both of the other major human questions.

But neither side, the theists nor the atheists, the scientists nor the clergy have anything but faith as a weapon of last resort. So why are we fighting?! I can't offer ultimate proof for my position anymore than anyone else can. If we all accepted the fact the faith does not equal knowledge we could all move on with our lives...live and let live.

Because clearly we are all going to believe something. It's our nature to have faith without ultimate proof. If we ever want to have any chance of creating peace in our times we need to find a faith we can all agree on. Faith can't be stamped out. To be human is to believe. Instead of fighting over which ultimately unprovable belief is the "right" belief, let's all just accept that none of them, including atheism can be considered right because none of them can ever be proven one way or the other.

Like I said, there's no easy answer to this one.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sweet n "Saur" Cabbage Soup

Man oh man, I just made the best soup ever. I never really accomplished a great soup before and now I can say I have. It was a Rachel Ray recipe I saw her make on her 30 Minute Meal show. It looked like it would taste great and be easy to make so I went for it. It was called Sweet n "Saur" (as is sauerkraut) Cabbage Soup. I have never enjoyed sauerkraut by itself, but I knew Jason was a big fan of it so I made it regardless. I knew Jason would love it and I hoped to like it at least. I've really been branching out food wise and thought this would be another taste challenge.

It was all made in one pot, which was fantastic. I would really like to find more soup recipes made in one pot. The main ingredients were ham steak, savoy cabbage, sauerkraut, carrots, onion, canned white beans, and frozen hash browns seasoned with honey, chicken stock, fresh dill, and apple cider. Neither Jason nor I had tried a soup like this. Once it's heated up you mix in a spoonful of sour cream. It was a little hard for my taste buds to handle it at first, I had to really let it develop in my mouth. By the next day I was madly in love with the taste.

It has very German-Polish type favors, which is my ancestry. I'm thinking of making a big batch of it for Christmas for my whole family to enjoy. It would be great to have around when people get peckish. This is one of those -"I have to share entries".

To enjoy the soup for yourself go to:


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

People Pay You For That?


There are jobs that pay real money to real people to spend long hours accomplishing nothing. Jobs that likely consume you, taking over both your professional and personal lives, in the service of make-believe. And I say, as long as they're harmless, I think the world is a more interesting and engaging place for their existence.

One career path particular inspired this entry. Cryptozoology. It sounds like a scientific discipline, and it is, sort of. It's more of a pseudoscience, but its researchers take it very seriously. If you know that zoology is the the study of animals (duh?), then the meaning of Cryptozoology shouldn't be too hard to decipher. Here's a great definition I found online:

Cryptozoology: from Greek κρυπτός, kriptos, "hidden" + zoology; literally, "study of hidden animals") refers to the search for animals which are considered to be legendary or otherwise nonexistent by mainstream biology.


In other words, these guys devote their lives to studying Sasquatch, the Loch Ness Monster, extinct fish the might still be swimming around somewhere, and hundreds of other mythical animals around the world whose mere existence is eternally in question. And someone pays them for that! They travel the world following rumors, hearsay, tale tales and legends, looking for animals that in all likelihood cannot be found anymore then my residual checks for writing this entry.

What a charmed life that must be! Exotic locales, interesting conversations with native tribesman, and hours spent pouring over fanciful reports and literary references in any number of languages. And it's a job you literally cannot fail at. No one really imagines you'll find what you're looking for, so when you don't, you meet expectations. Even if you repeatedly, over a period of years fail to produce any measurable results you'll still have job security. And if you do manage to find one of the animals you're hunting, you're likely elevated to near-deity status.

It's one of the few jobs on the planet you where you can set performance expectations so low that you cannot possibly fall below them. It would be like me delivering three minutes of test pattern to everyone one of our clients for every project they hire us for, and getting praised for my effort.

What other permutations could you throw together that would be equally entertaining? There's the Cryptoarcheologist who spends his time looking for lost civilizations and the Cryptogeologist that labors to create theories where ancient man and dinosaurs live in pockets at the center of the earth. The Cryptometeorologist hunts down forms of precipitation only imagined in books like "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" and the Cryptophrenologist searches for hidden meanings in the bumps on people's skulls, new fake hidden meanings the made-up field of Phrenology hasn't yet fabricated.

I could keep tagging Crypto onto every scientific discipline, but I suspect none of the others will be nearly as marginally funny as the four above. The important lesson is that someone gets paid to do these jobs. I should start updating my resume.

Chips, I can never have enough!

Alright, I have to go to bed and the night is completely getting away from me.

Okay this is lame, but I love potato chips, it's a horrible craving but it's clearly I problem of mine. I've recently switched to the Kettle Brand chip. They are made with all natural ingredients, but they still contain a large amount of fat and calories. I really have it bad for the Sea Salt and Vinegar favored ones, I can go through a whole big bag in one sitting if I didn't have a little self-control, instead it takes me 2 to 3 sittings. Still a very bad habit.

Since my family is originally from Baltimore we always loved Utz Chips out of PA. Favorite flavors are Crab, Sour Cream and Onion, and regular.

Another great chip brand is Dirty Chips. There's a Maui Onion flavor to die for.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Jason Geeks Out, The Final Installment

I may be jumping the gun, but given that we only have 24 entries left, including this one, I suspect it will be the last of the series. So it's fitting then that the end brings us back around to the beginning. Board games.

I've been researching board game mechanics and jotting down notes for a few concepts I have percolating. The list of game mechanics types is pretty long, which I guess isn't that surprising given the number of games available today. In case you're interested, here's the exhaustive list, courtesy of boardgamegeek.com.

Acting
Action Point Allowance System
Area Control / Area Influence
Area Enclosure
Area Movement
Area-Impulse
Auction/Bidding
Betting/Wagering
Campaign/Battle Card Driven
Card Drafting
Chit-Pull System
Co-operative Play
Commodity Speculation
Crayon Rail System
Dice Rolling
Hand Management
Hex-and-Counter
Line Drawing
Memory
Modular Board
Paper-and-Pencil
Partnerships
Pattern Building
Pattern Recognition
Pick-up and Deliver
Point to Point Movement
Rock-Paper-Scissors
Role Playing
Roll and Move
Route/Network Building
Secret Unit Deployment
Set Collection
Simulation
Simultaneous Action Selection
Singing
Stock Holding
Storytelling
Tile Placement
Trading
Trick-taking
Variable Phase Order
Variable Player Powers
Voting
Worker Placement

Now if you're a regular reader of this blog I suspect you read at most the top ten entries in this list and then jumped to the bottom. I don't blame you. It was a boring list, and it was really only tenuously connected to the topic of this entry.

In my research I came across what could be the Holy Grail of board game sites. BrettspielWelt (http://www.brettspielwelt.de), a German site (which exists in a number of languages) that allows people from around the world to play each other online in major commercial board games (major board games for board game geeks, like Carcassone, Power Grid, and The Settlers of Catan...you won't find Monopoly, Clue, or Battleship here.*) And it's free. I downloaded the client and started looking around, though I doubt I'll have the time to play anytime soon.

For me, it's great. We have friends and family that like board games, but we've never actually pulled together a game night. So I have all these games sitting on a shelf and never play them. Kate and I occasionally play the few that work with two players, but there are so many (not that many, really) that I've never played once. I may now finally get the chance.

The excitement builds, and the geek in me threatens to explode out of my chest.


*Not that there's anything wrong with those games. I like them a lot as well.

Laughing Babies

Babies laughing is another wonderful therapy and it's one of the benefits of working where I work. Babies giggle and laugh to about anything you can think of and seeing and hearing them all day just puts a smile on my face.

When I'm trying to get a baby to sleep and all they keep doing is smiling and looking at me with there big eyes, it's so hard to not pick them up and play with them. Their laughs and happy expressions are so joyous and unlike adults you know they are being completely genuine.

To be a kid again and be entertained by anything imaginable would be so incredible. I wish we could all live a carefree childlike life forever, where all you have to do all day is eat, dance, laugh, and play.

Monday, December 7, 2009

How is There an Overage?*

An aside first. This entry will be our 707th entry for the year. There are 365 days in 2009, which should equate to 730 entries between Kate and I by years end. But starting tomorrow we have 24 more day in the year. That's 48 additional entries added to the 707 already existing, for a grand total of 755 entries. To my knowledge we've never written extra entries. In fact Kate missed one or two while traveling in New York a few months ago without a computer or internet access. So how did we manage to write 25 extra entries? That's just over two extra entries a month (which I guess is potentially just one extra entry a month from each of us.)

I thought we'd been keeping pretty careful track of entries, making sure not to miss any if at all possible. I guess in our effort to stay current we ended up unwittingly writing a lot of unnecessary, extra entries...actually...hold on one second. I'll be right back.

[Jaunty music, popular in your day plays while you wait.]

Okay...nevermind. I'm not going delete everything I've just written because I took the time to write it, but it's totally wrong. It occurred to me (right before the jaunty music started) that there might be some unpublished drafts hanging out in total, and there were. And 28 of them were copies of the same draft that resulted from a Blogger error months ago. There were 33 total drafts, dropping our projected total at the end of the year to 722. So in fact we've missed eight entries for the year. Surprising, but nothing to feel disappointed over, considering the total number that were written. I feel better now. The riddle has been solved and I've set history straight.

On to my positive for this evening...

We've only missed eight entries out of our 730 entry goal (assuming we don't miss anymore, and I don't think we will)! I feel pretty good about that.


*There isn't. And I guess the above "aside" wasn't an aside at all. Sorry for all the misrepresentations. I'll turn the music back on if it will make you feel any better.

People Connections

I like when the friendly comfortable feeling starts forming with a new acquaintance. It's a good feeling knowing that you can still open up and let new people into your life. And it's fascinating meeting someone new and listening to them tell you about there life. You start learning something new immediately and start gaining a sense a true internal growth.

I'm referring mostly to my relationship with my new co-workers, Victoria and Jenn. They are lovely people, they're both very different from myself, but similar in many ways as well. New relationships are a great way to broaden your horizons. And feeling a new connection is emotionally and physically rewarding.

Advise is Precious

I really wish I had a talent to give good advise all the time. It's hard to be comforting and understanding all the time. I admire psychologists who can listen and give humbly advise constantly.

My friend Brooke had her show this weekend and she was not happy about how it turned out, so much that she was beating herself up. I just wish I would have been able to give her better advise and make her feel better about herself and her show. It really was a funny show, yes some of the comedians were not team players, but that wasn't her fault. They are professionals and they should act like it.

My positive for this blog entry is the admiration I have for people who are give unconditional advise to folks in need. The people that people go to when they need to talk and know they will feel better about themselves afterwards. I wish I had that ability and I'm grateful for those kind of people that exist. Maybe one day I will have all the correct answers, I will strive to be that attentive and understanding.

Something New to Appreciate Planet Earth For


I learned something new today. There is a good deal of evidence that 650 million years ago this planet underwent the worst ice age it has ever seen. An ice age that covered the entire planet, from pole to pole in a solid sheet of ice up to 1,000 feet thick.

We enter an ice age roughly every 100,000 years. Generally they follow the same story. The earth's orbit slowly takes it further and further away from the sun, gradually dropping temperatures globally. The polar ice caps begin to spread toward the equator, though they never get there. They always stop quite a distance away as the planet slowly returns to its position nearer to the sun. But this ice age was different. Not only was the planet further from the sun, it also, through various reasons that would take too long to explain here, was losing vast quantities of CO2 out of the atmosphere, locking it in limestone deposits beneath the ocean. CO2, a greenhouse gas, normally helps the atmosphere warm and retain heat. So much was being stripped from the atmosphere temperatures plummeted. The ice spread from the poles much faster than it ever had before, or has since.

And here's the wild part. Snow covered glacial ice is the best reflector of the suns rays on the planet, reflecting nearly all of the sun's energy back into space. Ocean water is the poorest reflector, absorbing far more heat than it reflects back. So as the glaciers spread across the planet, glacial ice replacing ocean water, the planet reflected more and more heat back into space. Eventually it reached a critical mass, creating a runaway, self-perpetuating cooling event. The less liquid water there was the less heat the planet retained cooling the planet further, creating more ice, which replaced even more of the liquid water. In no time (cosmically speaking) earth was completely locked in ice, a giant snowball hurtling around a sun that was powerless to help it.

The planet stayed like that for millions of years. Eventually volcanic activity below earth's surface, which ebbs and flows entered a very active period. Over a span of about a million years volcanoes, which emit large quantities of CO2, gave off enough of the greenhouse gas to get the planet warming again. And as more ice melted and more water was released the planet retained more heat and thawed ever faster. Eventually the ice age to end all ice ages was over.

Now here's the really cool part. Before this global freeze life had been evolving on the planet for nearly three billion years. And in that time it hadn't gotten beyond single-celled organisms. These organisms were trapped below (and in) the ice. They either had to adapt or die. Those that did survive were truly the heartiest of the hearty. The cream of the genetic coffee. When the ice finally melted the earth saw the biggest boom in evolution that had ever occurred. It helped that the chemistry involved in a global, prolonged freeze / thaw created more oxygen than had ever existed in the atmosphere before (oxygen levels in the air went from 1% to %20). The hearty survivors of the global ice holocaust, in the newly-created, oxygen rich world went wild. For the first time in three billion years multi-cellular creatures appeared. And in what is called the Cambrian Explosion, multi-cellular life...exploded. After three billion years of stagnancy, huge numbers of complex life forms begin appearing in the fossil record over a period of only 80 million years.

The global freeze had the potential to wipe out all life, such as it was, on earth. Instead it ended up kick-starting evolution, creating a massive diversity of life forms that eventually led to us. It's very possible that had this massive ice age never occurred earth would still be a planet dominated by single cell "slime" life. So give thanks to the universe's unforgiving nature. Had it been kinder to our planet we'd likely not be here.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Designing a Board Game

It's an odd hobby, I know, but it's one I can't seem to shake. I really, REALLY want to gestate and finish a fun, playable, salable game. I've got a few ideas, one of which I wrote about in a previous entry (it involved Zombies.) But I've yet to finish one completely. Most of them are still in concept stage, in various states of not anywhere near finished. A few days ago I had loose idea for a strategy game and a much more concrete concept for the board it would be played on. I designed the board in Photoshop, broke it into four pieces, printed those as large as possible on four sheets of paper and the taped them together into a near full size game board.

At which point I realized that the intended game was crap.

But that's the challenge. Broad concepting is easy. Narrowing that down to compelling, playable mechanics is entirely different.

I don't know what the attraction is. I guess, for me, the game of designing a game, and the mental gymnastics that go with it is nearly as much fun as the games themselves. Plus I think I just want to prove to myself that I can do it.

No luck so far, but I'm unfazed.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Pain Relievers

Any medication that takes away pain for even a short amount of time is a blessing. I had the worse stomachs cramps last night, so bad that I was up at 5am, 7am, 9am, and then finally woke up at 12pm. I took Pepto a couple times and the pain would subside enough for me to get a couple hours of sleep here and there. Jason went out and got me Gas-x and since I took two of them my pain hasn't come back. I'm now heading to NYC for a short trip to see Brooke with my Gas-X in hand. I think I'll be alright, thanks for pain relievers.

Can An Infrequent Negative Be Considered a Positive?

I'm not sure the answer. I've been sitting here for about ten minutes or so, pondering an entry topic. All the while a rave party is raging next door. College kids. They're actually a good group of guys. They always stop by ahead of time to make sure we're good with their plans, and they've given us their phone number in case things get too loud. And they do, but not so much that we can't deal with it. And they happen very infrequently, so I thought, "Count your blessings, Jason. Surely it's a positive thing that you only have to put up with the noise occasionally."

But is that positive? I'm not sure. Is it a positive thing that you only painfully bite your lip occasionally? Nobody wants to bite their lip. Even though the pain is fleeting, it is intense for that brief moment, and you'd avoid the experience if you could. So could even one instance of biting you lip be considered positive?

I suppose on the one hand it is. Chance are that eventually you're going to bite your lip. It's inevitable. So, accepting that a life without painfully bitten lips is impossible, the positivity of the situation escalates the less frequently this unfortunate situation occurs. The less often you can manage to experience inevitable pain, the more positive you should feel about it.

It's the same with any uncontrollable, accidental occurrence. Even if you can't predict exactly what the accident or random badness will be, you know that occasional bad luck is inevitable. So experiencing those flashes of nastiness infrequently is positive.

But in the case of loud frat parties I'm not sure the same logic holds. You can control whether things like that happen. If I wanted to be a total $#@%, I could tell my neighbors that I've got no tolerance for blaring music, and if they do it, I'll call the cops. I'm not a total $#@%, so I wouldn't and haven't done that, but I could. The point is, while it's impossible not to occasionally stub your toe, it is possible to live house-party free. And if it's possible for a particular negative situation not to ever occur, then even infrequent occurrences really can't be deemed positive.

If getting punched in the face was something you could safely avoid your entire life, then getting punched in the face even once in a lifetime would be negative. If something never has to happen, and it does, that occurrence will always suck. And once in a lifetime is as infrequent as you can get. But getting punched once is negative. Biting your lip once a year is positive.

It probably has more to do with thresholds. For any given negative situation, or really any situation at all (I like ice cream, but I can only each so much) we each have a particular threshold, beyond which we can no longer tolerate things. As long as we stay under that threshold we consider it a win. So my threshold for lip biting far exceeds my threshold for getting kicked in the huevos. To be precise, my threshold for the latter is zero. My house-party threshold is a bit higher, a limit that is raised even higher by the fact my neighbors are considerate enough to warn us. My threshold for losing feeling in my right leg while driving because my wallet is cutting of circulation exceeds the party limit be a good bit. Lip biting comes in just a hair higher than that. And then, on the extreme opposite end of the spectrum my threshold for the dinner we had tonight (and the three nights previous to this one), pasta with awesome homemade meat and veggie sauce, is nearly infinite.

And some thresholds modify others. I'd easily be able to reset my lip-biting threshold to once a day if I could try my hand at besting my limitless pasta eating threshold on a nightly basis. But that would probably cause me to exceed my threshold for the size of my waistline. So clearly none of this exists in a vacuum.

Friday, December 4, 2009

How Cute!


Baby clothes are so freaking cute. Seeing what outfits the babies come in wearing each day is one of the many highlights. It's amazing the different kind of baby clothes made these days. You can pretty much get any kind of adult clothes in baby sizes. I have even gotten jealous of some of the clothes they have available, such as velcro Chuck All Stars. Cute clothes make the babies look like little people. They are all growing so fast. I would particularly love if I had a girl one day, so I could dress her up in the cutest clothes. Just one of the many things that put a smile on my face everyday.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

TED


Tonight's entry is a shorty. If you've never visited ted.com, check it out. TED: Ideas Worth Sharing bills itself as "Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world." It's an apt description. There are short talks by luminaries in every field imaginable delivering really fascinating, groundbreaking ideas. Some of the people you'll know. Many you won't. But you'll be hard-pressed not to find mind-expanding ideas with every click.

I'm not going to try and pick out the talks that I think all of you will find interesting. Everybody has their own bag. I guarantee you though that you'll find a lot to fill yours.

The address is simple, www.ted.com. Everything else is pretty elaborate. Do yourself a favor and check it out sometime.

Mod Cloth

Let me preface this by saying that I'm aware I don't have any money, so actually shopping online or otherwise is out of the question, but that does not stop me from browsing occasionally to see what's out there.

My co-worker Jenn just told me about modcloth.com, it's an online women's clothing store that I just got done reviewing. The prices are a little on the high side, but they are no where near Anthropology, my last love (I literally was able to buy one dress from there once when my mom got me a gift certificate and it still only covered a 3/4 of the cost, it's that pricey.) I loved almost everything Mod Cloth had, everything was very vintage looking with a modern flare. The dresses and the coats are to die for and each item is so unique.

Maybe one day someone will get me a gift certificate from there so I can afford to buy one dress. Oh, to dream...

Retirement

One day I'll get to retire. Some days it feels like it can't come soon enough. And it is some time off, probably too far off to think about. But it makes me happy to fantasize about the day when labors cease and Judge Judy becomes a constant companion. Because on that day the world will move with new purpose. Birds will fly higher than they ever have and fish will lie down with sharks. Peace and tranquility will be the order of things as years stretch out in unending bliss. Days will acquire extra hours. Weeks will exist as a continuum. Calenders will become as unnecessary as shoes and electric razors.

Phrases like, "How's things?" and "Keepin' busy?" will no longer be uttered in my presence because the answers will be self evident and unchanging. They'll be "Great!" for the former, and "Yep, gotta go or I'll miss Guiding Light" for the latter. Because how can things be bad when your world is wholly and entirely your own? When you answer only to yourself, your significant other and the Must See TV lineup? When slippers and danish crumbs constitute formal wear and sunlight is something received entirely through double-paned replacement windows, if that's your desire for the day, life has reached its zenith.

C'mon 63 and a half!

Except for that part. I'd prefer to retire at 45. Thankfully, it turns out, beggars can be choosers.*


*No. No they can't. Not unless some well-entrenched publishing house decides to buy the rights to "A Year of Positives", the book. I'm willing to make a deal.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tree of Lights


I love the tradition of putting up a Christmas tree every year. We always had fake ones growing up, but it always looked so festive and really got me in the mood for the holidays. I couldn't wait to see presents under the tree. Even as an adult just seeing other people's presents under a tree gets me in a joyous mood. I love seeing just a glimpse of trees through people's windows, it can be so beautiful.

I love the tradition of hanging all the ornaments on the tree. I remember doing this with my mom as a kid and just loving unwrapping all the old ornaments and delicately placing them on the tree until the whole thing was covered with colorful memories and lights.

Jason and I agreed that this year will not be a year of big gift buying, but instead I'm hoping to get a real tree for the first time, just a small one. This small tree will give the house a little taste of holiday magic. That's all I'm asking for this year. I'll buy a string of lights and a few cheap ornaments. This and seeing my family for the holidays is all I want for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Being Attentive to the Details

Bearing in mind that nothing is ever as simple as it seems can save you a good deal of heartache. What I mean is that behind every act, every process, there are levels of complexity lurking to bite you in the butt if you're not mindful of them. I'll give you a good example.

Last week I discovered a leak in our new back rubber roof. After some rooting around I think I narrowed the source. I believe the leak is happening where one of the handrail posts plunges into the roofing material. Given that I can't pull the railing apart I figured I could simply caulk all around the outside, so that no water would ever be able to get under the post's decorative trim to reach the failure point again.

Maybe, I think, there's a caulk better suited than others to the task. After all there's acrylic, silicon, blends of each and a half dozen or so other varieties. I started doing research after a trip to the hardware store revealed that some caulks specifically mention that they shouldn't be used on rubber while others are silent in both directions. Overall I found one type of caulk recommended for rubber roofing systems. Butyl caulk. And because of its VOC content, Butyl caulk has been banned in Maryland. You can't buy it and you can't have it shipped in.

So what do I do? I'm not sure specifically what can or can't be used other than Butyl. I went today to a roofing supply distributor. They recommended Geocel, a brand name representing many different products, one of which, their 2300 caulk, I bought. Again though it was silent on its safety with rubber roofs.

I did more research. Turns out you cannot use silicon-based caulks on rubber. It will dry and flake of. And...Geocel 2300...no good either, it turns out, from what I can piece together. While the Geocel website is somewhat mute on the point (it doesn't list rubber in the 2300's list of potential materials, but it also doesn't warn you against it) I found another reference elsewhere on EPDM rubber roofing that Aromatic Hydrocarbons can be very damaging. Geocel 2300 contains Aromatic Hydrocarbons. So that's out. Geocel does sell a sealant called 4500 however that specifically mentions rubber roofing applications as safe uses for the product.

So tomorrow I'm heading back to ABC to hopefully swap my 2300 for 4500, if they have it. How did they, the experts, manage to sell me the wrong product for my application? The didn't think deeply enough into the details.

It's negative in one sense, I guess, but you really should approach everything as a potential pitfall. Keeping a keen eye out for the myriad of ways things can go wrong will help you avoid making a lot of costly mistakes. Always know, as deeply as possible, what you're doing before you start. You'll still screw things up sometimes, but generally not as badly as you could have otherwise. So in the end it's really a very positive way to approach life. It's a cliche, but it's true. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

After all, who knew how complicated getting the right caulk for my job was going to be? And if I'd used just any caulk I could have created a really horrible situation.

The devil's in the details, after all.*


*This too is cliched. And it is also true.