Tuesday, August 29, 2006
I am very angry

Why did none of you tell me about this?

I should not be an entire month behind pop culture.

Alex, consider this a general shout out. You were into OK Go before OK Go was indie cool.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
List of things to do before I die
Item #745: Ride a mustang along the beach and surf of the Pacific Ocean


I haven't been on a horse since Bible camp as a kid. Two friends of mine (both with significantly more riding experience) brought me along horseback riding north of Point Reyes. I was kind of excited to get back on the horse, so to speak (insert rimshot here). From memories of my childhood, "horseback riding," in my mind, meant "sitting on top of a horse as it walked along slowly." Today I learned that a horse has even more speeds.

I first learned to trot by being thrown in the metaphorical deep end. I learned to ride the trot as a matter of self preservation, or at least to prevent shattering my pelvis.

My trotting skills were to a tolerable level when we reached the beach. We brought the horses out in a line, and the leader took off. My horse, Nikki, had been waiting to tear off for a while and, when he saw the group ahead of us go, bolted down the beach.

Because of the up-and-down movement of the horse in a trot, it's actually harder to ride the trot comfortably than other gaits. My method of how to ride the gallop summarizes to "just hold on, for chrissake."

Anyway, during these fabulous sprints, flying along the shoreline, I was in an absolute rush, fascinated by the experience and simultaneously petrified by the speed and power of the animal. Stones thrown up by the horses in front of me were flying past, and the horse I was on was loving it—he seem to be very annoyed when we had to stop.

All in all, it was one of those memories I'll keep with me for a long time.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Gotta know when to fold 'em
Since everybody except me, the other guy, and the dealer had left (after being eliminated) or fallen asleep by 2:30 in the morning, I had a depressingly few people to gloat to after I won after a five-hour poker marathon last night (crazy long. Eight people took five hours).

But that's why I have you guys. I won!

It's all about life's little pleasures. Like, um, well, gambling, I guess.
Monday, August 21, 2006
Beers at the Big 10
Paul writes (and I add a few hyperlinks in green):
I recall you and I having precisely this conversation over a couple of beers at the Big 10. Though, in my opinion, we came to a slightly more refined (and more consistent) position: That ideally, most laws should be set and enforced at the most local level to which geographical considerations become trivial. For example, laws regarding soil and erosion control are most applicable at the state level or even county level, where the people most familiar with the consequences of such regulation are involved. Soil in Dane County behaves roughly the same as soil in Green County, but not at all similar to soil in, say, Orange County. Laws such those that Soglin discusses were (and are) more appropriate at a federal level. Those conclusions didn't stop us from noting, as Soglin notes, that we're all the same when it comes to exploiting the power we have at whatever level we have it.
I respond:
For the longest time, stances on federalism seemed parts of the party platforms—remember Republicans touting "states' rights?" Why? Because Democrats held the Congress.

But that's bullshit. Federalism is a great principle, but the parties just pick one side or the other depending on what's politically expedient—nothing inherent in either's ideology* (what is the Democrats' ideology anyway?). Those with policy preferences will pull on every lever they can get their grubby little fingers on (Democrats too, especially now that it's the Blue States vs. Jesusland).

See federal crackdowns (or threatened constitutional amendments) on
  • State-passed laws permitting medicinal marijuana
  • Stem cell research
  • Gay marriage
Gee, how "states' rights." Grubby little fingers everywhere.

* Okay, I admit, that's bullshit too. There's plenty with traditional conservatism that favors sub-federal governments, and keeping the size of government bathtub-drownable, not to mention realist and neoconservative distrust of IGOs. And the further left you go, the more government intervention in the economy, which is almost necessarily done at the federal level. And of course it makes sense that Soglin, as a former mayor of a city with an often antagonistic relationship with the state legislature, is going to tout the importance of city-level autonomy.

Sunday, August 13, 2006
Girls' day out!
A female friend of mine was visiting from the south bay. We were going to go climbing but were too tired from having been out the previous evening, so we ended up just hanging out the whole day, clothes shopping and doing other traditionally non-masculine things.

Anyway, one of the day's adventures was a pedicure.


Yeah, a pedicure. Don't laugh.

So I'd write a full entry about the experience, but I figure I could kill two birds with one stone by copying in my Yelp review:
"Okay, first, let me say that "getting a pedicure" is not one of my normal day-to-day activities. My normal activities include "not shaving" or "belching."

But I'm ambling through the Castro with a female friend who, excitedly, decides we're going to get pedicures.


So, like I said, I'm not a pedicure guy. "Foot care," in my mind, is associated with "Odor Eaters" or "touch actin' Tenactin." But I'm also a good sport. We find a spa and walk in.

The host was friendly and really smiley. We ask for our pedicures and are led to a pair of chairs in the back. I remove my shoes and socks (my prized Green Bay Packer socks, to be specific). The pedicurist fills a foot bath for me to soak my feet in.

When my feet are good and softened, the pedicurist begins her work (and there's plenty to be done with the monster claws I've developed after years of neglect). The declawing begins. Things are clipped, sanded, scoured, rubbed, lotioned, and massaged. Very disgusting things are dug out. The nearby stylist chuckles at my lost pedicure virginity.

The result? I've been admiring my feet the rest of the weekend. They're very soft, the nails are nicely rounded, and I don't think I could even cut other people when wearing sandals anymore. The whole process cost $25.

I'll be wearing sandals to work a few times this week, and I might even go back for another pedicure in the future.

In fact, as of late, I've started to be disgusted by the hangnails and unsightly cuticles on my fingernails. Perhaps a manicure is in store..."

Thursday, August 10, 2006
The Zone
Hola, bloggerinos. Sorry about the lack of updates. I've been in "the zone."

(fading echo: the zone, the zone, the zone, the zone, the zone...)

A perfect storm of deadlines, well restedness, and a capable mental state have, somewhat out of necessity, put me in "the zone."

Programming is a lonely pursuit. Google is a cubicle (and not an office) shop, meaning that, to block out audible distraction, I encase my pretty little ears in a pair of Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones. They do a decent amount of outside-sound muffling, but the music also serves as my daily companion.

I passively contemplate lyrics and melodies while staring at code in an emacs window. Almost always, my setup is as such: I have two widescreen LCDs, both oriented vertically, sitting next to each other. I refer to them as the "towers of power."

On the left one is the aforementioned emacs window. It takes up the whole screen and is generally split into two buffers, right down the middle. Normally, one side of the window is the file I'm working on and the other is methods of class I'm calling. Most of my work is in JavaScript, and, as the language doesn't lend itself well to an IDE and as I'm a Wisconsin grad (generally an emacs shop), emacs is the tool of choice, if for familiarity more than anything else.

On the right: a Firefox window, a JavaScript console, a debug window, and a terminal on the bottom. Maybe a DOM inspector or Venkman.

Anyway, the zone had been elusive for a while, but I've again come to encounter the plane of transcendent interconnectedness I've met before (at various times. In college, it used to involve Blind Faith).

The zone is kind of like zoning out while driving—it's not entirely conscious, but, somehow, you have everything in your head at once. You're plugging away, never getting stuck and, days later, you've got a thousand-plus-line changelist staring back at you. Pretty sweet.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
That vision thing.
As a for-all-practical-purposes Democrat, I should be pretty happy. Dub's poll numbers are really low, congressional Republicans have been mired in both scandal and intra-party disagreement, and the war in Iraq is, right now, only slightly more popular than cancer.

The Democrats are starting to look good to the voters. But I'm upset that this is "in comparison" as opposed to "through merit." There's no cohesive message and no leadership.

President Bush (the first one) once quipped about lacking "that vision thing." His predecessor certainly had it—"Morning in America," "The Evil Empire," etc. It painted the world in black and white, but at least it was clear and unmuddled.

The Democrats are totally lacking that vision thing. The nice thing about controlling a branch of government is that you get an official party spokesman with lots of press attention. The highest-ranking Democrat in America? Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a man that comes across as imposing and intimidating as bread. In the House, the minority leader is Nancy Pelosi, who I don't think could even pull off bread. Maybe a baguette.

And I doubt that either one could be picked out of a lineup by an average American.

Now, I'm just looking forward to when, after the fuss of the mid-term 2006 elections is over, we'll start picking the party's presidential nominee. Hopefully, the dust will settle we'll finally have a coherent mouthpiece.

Until then, though, I liken my party affiliation to being a Cubs fan.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Morning music
Scene: Civic Center transit station
Players: myself, guitar guy, harmonica guy

Guitar guy and harmonica guy are in the underground walkway with a hat for change. Guitar guy is playing and singing some minor key Mexican ballad, v to i, over and over. Decently listenable.

Harmonica guy is adding his own little fills, with a major-key harmonica. I cringe.

Dude. Look at that letter on the side of the harp. Go to a piano. Find that key. Count up nine (or down three). Buy and play that one instead.

I miss banjo guy.

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