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Subject:Taking my ball and going home
Time:01:08 pm
Well, LiveJournal, it's been a good run. I had a great time and you were a major part of my internet day for five solid years. But, with sadness, I announce that this post will be my last. Even though I am paid up through December. Because I planned poorly.

I like LJ a lot and had a real sense of community and identity here when the place was busy. But, the fad seems to be over. Nearly everyone has moved on to either Twitter (kinda use it), Facebook (there in flesh but not in spirit), or some inconceivable state of not-internet. I'm down to less than five LJ friends that post with any regularity, so I can easily go days at a time without checking in. I'll keep up with you on RSS.

But the blog will live on, like a twenty-year-old cat that should have enjoyed a peaceful exit years ago. I've shifted my largely-ignored website to a new hosting service, and with it comes a wordpress installation, which I will use for future blogging. I still plan to do so at least at the frequency I've maintained over the last few months. Which is infrequent. But longing to be frequent.

Here is where I'll be. Please adjust brains and/or feed readers accordingly. Please do come visit me there. The first post is a doozy. Not one but THREE life-altering pieces of news.
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Subject:Droplets of yes and no in an ocean of maybe
Time:02:56 pm
We've boarded the home-buying train. Which is actually more like a roller coaster.

I was prepared for expensive. There's no question of expensive. And we're in a position to get a decent first house, excepting the fact that Raleigh isn't a place with cheap houses. A good rule of thumb here is that if you've heard of the neighborhood, you can't afford to live there. There are a few pockets of good places in town even once you've ruled out the suburban sprawl hell of north Raleigh. (This is not a big enough city to have any decent excuse for a 30+ minute commute through heavy traffic within the city limits, which is what a north Raleigh existence guarantees.) We live in one of these pockets now, and are considering staying in the neighborhood or changing up. Sort of on the table are nearby peripheral towns, but they better not get their hopes up since I hate every possible aspect of commuting.

What I was not prepared for was the great emotional swings of:

1. Find information about a house.
2. Imagine that it is the greatest house in the history of the world.
3. Find out you are wrong.

Just this week we've looked at six houses in person and dozens more online. Each one is like a brief junior high relationship of eternal commitment lasting about four hours. But you must get attached in order to talk yourself into spending hundred(s) of thousands of dollars. And then you find out the dining room ceiling is so low you can press your hand flat upon it, and the courtship abruptly ends. It's a brutal exercise.

I realize sellers are not going to post the unflattering picture of the grimy brown shower in the basement that emits only thick grey water. And written descriptions will not mention that the house has only one window on the entire back, even though this turns out to be a good thing because the house abuts a highway and opening this feeble barrier to the noise of a thousand cars an hour would be a terrible mistake.

Nevertheless, we must proceed and continue to subject ourselves for a bit longer. Luckily the houses are by no means all bad. A few have been great. It's impossible to make a perfect decision. We do not always fully agree with each other on the best choice. Each house has things that we don't want to go without as well as things we would be happy to never ever deal with. Some are tens of thousands of dollars more expensive, and you have to somehow figure out if what you get for that money is worth it. Money in the many thousands of dollars (that you'll be borrowing anyway) has an imaginary quality about it where you cease to concern yourself with a few thousand plus or minus.

I'm also having to conquer preconceptions of what a "good" house actually is. It's impossible not to compare it with the house I grew up in, even though that was purchased in a much different place and time. And it was my parents' third or fourth house. I think I want a yard, but it's not like I'm all that vigilant about taking care of the tiny plot of back-lot space I have at my current place. So, really, am I serious about that? How can I be trusted to make a major decision when I often regret what I eat for lunch?
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Subject:If there actually is some sort of global crisis, I will be more likely to stick with this
Time:10:45 am
So what I'm going to try to do is learn one new skill every year that would still be useful after an apocalypse.

That is, skills that would still be useful even without adequate electricity, with raw materials I could conceivably get, grow, or make (i.e., it can't require something like transistors, microwaves, or particle colliders). If it just needs a little electrical help that could conceivably be supplied by a generator, it's maybe OK but not ideal. Although there is another class of skills that would just be good to have in a situation where there was just a total lack of first-world services - maybe something like auto repair.

Mostly this is just for fun, and because I have a nagging feeling that I should be better at skills that don't require a keyboard. But also, if there is some kind of global meltdown? I'm ready to go. At present, I'm a little useless. I probably can't trade RefWorks expertise for valuable food tins once we're out of non-irradiated produce. Plus my skills will one day make up an impressive resume (on some kind of papyrus or potato paper) that will help me get a crappy but viable piece of a serfdom.

Some quick ideas:

*Furniture making
*Pretty much any kind of carpentry
*Beer brewing
*Growing various vegetables
*Building small structures, like sheds or porches
*Learning about plants and herbs
*Solar power...at home!

I need a house for many of these, so right now I don't have the space or facilities or need to learn roofing or something. So this year's skill might necessarily be some kind of cooking. Breadmaking or brewing are options.

Anyway, what I think will be fun is picking out a new skill every year, then working on implementation over the subsequent months.
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Subject:Beware, future swindlers!
Time:10:23 am
I will put this gently and professionally: the other day at work I was helping a guy whom I would not describe as nice.

So at some point during this interaction he was becoming dissatisfied because he wanted to pay less than what a particular service we offer costs. His approach to this dilemma was to tell me that he's "here all the time" (odd, since I have worked here for 4+ years and have never ever seen him) and that "everyone knows him, including [my] supervisor" (obvious lie). And, should I not help him out, he'd have to let my supervisor know.

I will put aside his entertaining threat to rat me out to my boss for enforcing our pricing policies.

What I am regretting is that I missed the chance to spring a sublime verbal trap. Here is how it would go if this happened again:

Him: I know your supervisor and will have to tell him about this.
Me: Oh, you know Norman?
Him: Yes, Norman. I will have to talk to him.
Me: That will be difficult, because there is no Norman here!
Him: [Is briefly stunned, then bursts into tears of shame]

Never again in life will I have such a chance as this. It would have been just like a clever interrogation in a mystery where the brilliant detective catches the crook in a web of his own deceit. You need a few key elements to set up this situation:

1. Someone is very obviously lying to you.
2. They are doing such a bad job lying that you know they are lying literally as the words are coming out of their mouth.
3. The lie is covering up some crime that you are charged with solving.
OR, 3a, You don't particularly like this person and would not mind humiliating them.

I think above all that professional courtesy prevented me from nailing the guy. I don't engage with the (very few) nasty people we deal with, I just withdraw and try to get rid of them. But, it's a missed opportunity. I won't miss the next one.
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Subject:Heed my warnings or end up like me, Ebenezer
Time:11:15 am
I went on a holiday special binge.

The perfect:

It's a Wonderful Life. After a standard youthful period of thinking this was hopeless oldie cheese, I've come to love this movie. I think being a grown up gives you a much different perspective on it, and it's a surprisingly modern movie. Plus it probably comes the closest to making me cry to any movie ever, so it has ascended to the throne of holiday viewing.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The classic Rankin-Bass tale of misfits and redemption. Re-watched it this year. It holds up. Very creative and watchable. I need Yukon Cornelius to run some meetings at work so we can get some things done. Although we have less threats from Bumbles than he would be used to. If we can keep him focused we can use him.

Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas. Can anyone who has not seen this truly call themselves a lover of holiday specials? Or, really, truly lived? I say no. It's a little obscure these days, I think, but nonetheless glorious. I love this on an entirely different level than I did growing up, when it was just cute and muppets and such. Now: classic old-school muppetry, humor, songs, and terrific characters and story. But what sets it apart from your standard classics like Rudolph is the Riverbottom Nightmare Band, or as they are more simply known, The Nightmare. So there's this big town-wide talent contest. And the principles are all counting on winning it with their heartwarming songs of love and friendship. And you think they're bound to win, maybe in a tie, and everyone will live happily ever after. I won't spoil it, but what no one counts on is a last-minute heavy metal entry that blows everyone off the stage. They'd be awesome on their own, but what makes them perfect is that they COULD NOT BE MORE OUT OF PLACE in this show. Everything else is quiet and simple. Emmet and Wendell repair someone's fence for 50 cents. Ma Otter does laundry for a living using a washboard and tub. They sing simple folk songs. A bullfrog runs the town's most happening (or most hopping, if you will--and I hope you will not) restaurant. Then, there's a heavy metal band. What? I wonder if this was a commentary on the declining standards in music. Anyway, I'd love to post a video of The Nightmare's performance, but these never seem to be available. (Trust me. It is not available. Don't go looking for it, Taylor. You may not like what you find.) The best I can give you is a picture of them in concert:

and a link to a great cover of the song. Look at the picture and listen to the song. Eventually watch the show to appreciate in full.

A Christmas Story. Another one that's even better as an adult. I think I appreciate narration and the father's performance more every time I watch it.

The OK:

Frosty the Snowman. I haven't seen this one for years, but I'll put it here out of respect.

Christmas Comes to Pac-Land. Santa somehow crash lands in Pac-Land. They don't have Christmas there, but Pacman helps out anyway, despite constant threat of a chomping from the ghosts. Now, I only saw the show once, so I don't remember clearly, but I think the word "chomp" was used in some form (e.g., "I'll chomp you!", "...give him a chomping...") about 8,000 times. I don't recall any of the other episodes of the Pacman cartoon, but I'm going to guess that most of them revolved around him trying to go about his life while evading a chomping. So at least the Christmas special stayed within the scope of the show. I guess what seems weirdest to me is that logic dictates that a cartoon that was made solely as a product spin-off ought to have a holiday like Christmas. Perhaps they didn't want to steer into non-secular ideas and get into Pac-Land's theology.

Family Guy Christmas Episode. I'm no fan of Family Guy but I caught the Christmas episode once. All Peter wanted to do was get home to watch the Kiss Christmas Special, which we saw snippets of throughout the episode. Listen, that's all I need to hear. I appreciated it for what it was.


Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas. I had high hopes for this, but had never seen the Curious George show. Turns out that it was a little young for me, and that's saying something. I had enough of George about ten minutes in.

The Star Wars Christmas Special. I'll refer you to this table, which I drew up a couple of years ago, for brief discussion. I haven't dared to watch this again. Maybe if it was 24 minutes long or something. But it's not. It's two hours long.

Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey. A totally shamelessly manipulative story about a cute donkey that cries a lot. Nestor is, as the title implies, a donkey with long ears. For this, he is treated as the lowest possible swine, and endlessly berated by every other creature in the barnyard, including the guy who owns the place. (Who, despite the shame, never thought to crop Nestor's ears? This could have saved everyone a lot of trouble.) Nestor is heartbroken and cries. No one is sad. The viewer does not care because the the viewer is trying to be tricked by a minor manipulation of the Rudolph theme. Then some Bible folk buy him because they see his inner beauty I guess. He gets them through the desert because his ears block out the sand. So he's now a hero and everyone loves him. I mean, I'm glad Nestor could help out but maybe Joseph and Mary could have just bought windbreakers and goggles or something. Then Nestor cries in the end because he's so happy all the jerk animals now worship him. Hallmark commercials contain better logic and more emotional depth. They also have just as many songs: one. Except this is a whole show so you have to hear it over and over again as they use it to fill the time. Brutal. Stay away.
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Subject:Probably the most focused thing I'll do for the next five days
Time:11:32 am
K and I were talking about vacations the other day and established that there is a big difference between vacations and trips. A vacation is a relaxing time, a trip is something where you go somewhere and do something novel. Most of the time those two things are crossed up together, but I've shifted into thinking they are two different, and largely mutually exclusive, things. I can't travel and take a vacation. A vacation is where I recharge. A trip is where I get to do something new but I also spend a lot of time worrying about a lot of crap I don't normally have to be bothered with. When I come back from a trip, I usually need a vacation. If I want to get away from work for a while, a trip is not the solution, a vacation is.

That said, I'm at my house for christmas and essentially thrilled about it. Work has been a little ridiculous lately and the last thing I need is a trip. I need a damn vacation. So I'm taking one. Missing girlfriend, family, and friends but the benefits of being home outweigh the stress of holiday travel and being displaced for a long period when I really really need the home recharging time. Today marks Day One of five consecutive days at home with just Artie. Let me make it clear that I totally dig on having time home alone. It's not for everyone. Most people get bored or lonely fast, I think. I have no established limit on the time in which I could sustain this. I don't think I've ever had five whole days before. There is no theoretical limit, but in practice, who knows. I probably won't find out until I retire, only thirty short years from now.

Plans include:
*A couple of LJ posts. Some things to talk about, including a missed chance to lay a glorious verbal trap on an obnoxious guy I had to deal with yesterday, and a longish discussion of holiday specials (Tivo has enabled me to see a few new ones this year like Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey and Christmas Comes to Pac-Land).

*Reading! Finishing up a re-read of The Sandman. Don't think I ever actually read the last two or three collections in the series the first time around, though. Mostly this is a fantastic series. Incredibly imaginative and rich. I tend to get turned off by each collection's ending, each of which seem a bit reliant on some sort of established mythological power I've never heard of or that Neil Gaiman has just made up. But I also don't really feel like that's the point, so not a big problem.

*Video games! Replaying Super Mario Galaxy. Definitely easier the second time around. Probably play some Metroid Prime 3 when I'm done with that. Love playing Metroid games when I have a lot of concentrated time to get into them. When I don't, they're a little too challenging to keep me focused. Because I am old.

*TV. Nothing specific, other than the annual It's a Wonderful Life viewing, but I will spend a lot of time watching it. Because I can. Sunday I might let myself enjoy an epic day of sportsball and watch the morning(1), afternoon (which ought to be the Broncos game, so there's that), and night games. Normally I'm a one-game-a-week sort of guy, but this weekend, why not?

(1) Living on the east coast means this makes no sense. Daytime NFL games start at 1pm or 4pm during the regular season, so technically they are both afternoon games. But growing up in the mountain time zone, the slots were 11am and 2pm: a morning and an afternoon time. And I can't shake this. Also, this was MUCH BETTER. 11am is a great time for a football game to start. Not too early, grab some lunch at halftime, wrap things up around naptime. Then the late game is over by dinner. It's perfect. In the east, everything starts too late, and football is just one example. The Mountain Time Zone is secretly the best time zone as it relates to TV.

To resuscitate this shockingly unambitious holiday agenda, I have three words for you:

Christmas chili dogs.
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Subject:The important thing is that I will continue to post photoshopped pictures of scientists in hoodies
Time:03:56 pm
Probably going to be rearranging my web hosting and blogging very soon. It's time. For years I've used Yahoo web hosting and blogged on LJ and sort of tenuously linked the two. But both of these are in pretty sorry shape.

Web hosting: I signed onto Yahoo web hosting in 2002. It was cheap and easy. I built a crappy site. Then I took most of it down. But the basic thing is still there, for some reason. I'd like to keep it, and maybe I'll even do something interesting with it someday. But for now, it costs $5 or so more a month than hosts that provide you much better features.

Blogging: I love LJ but (1) nearly everyone that I used to enjoy reading has abandoned it and (2) there are some ongoing issues with it and Bloglines, so it's hard to follow LJs and (3) you have to think it's going to go away at some point, right? I mean, I hope not. But I don't know that it's got a hugely strong user base any more, at least not in the U.S. Twitter has the same interconnected thing going for it and requires a fraction of the energy, so it's sucked away a lot of people. If (when) I switch to wordpress or something, it's really going to lack the spark that LJ had when everyone was using it.
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Subject:Nobel Prize winners hate you, Appalachian State
Time:02:54 pm
Montana playing in FCS semifinals this weekend, an event that has evidently gotten big enough to garner ESPN coverage. In honor of this, and UM's eventual national championship triumph, I have modified my default icon and present this picture.

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Time:10:12 am

*December 2000. Whilst living in New Mexico, I purchase a small spiral-shaped christmas ornament made from some kind of dried grass stalk or bamboo. I'm not decorating really, but bought a number of little kitschy things from the tourist trap of Old Mesilla Village near Las Cruces.

*January 2001 - November 2009. Ornament bides time in a box amongst a few other unused christmas decorations, getting moved from house to house, and even sitting in storage for a few years.

*December 6, 2009. Nearly a decade after acquisition, ornament is liberated and allowed to fulfill its life purpose via placement on a christmas tree.

*December 8, 2009. Ornament is destroyed by remorseless cat.
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Subject:Yet another complex analysis of a completely inane topic
Time:02:55 pm
I thought I could bang out a post on shows I've seen the most episodes of ever quickly, like, in twenty minutes over lunch. Way, way wrong. This is actually rather difficult and quite time consuming. And, there is a big question about the value of such an exercise. Unforeseen problems:

*TV shows have a truly ridiculous number of episodes, particularly popular sitcoms that go on for years and years. Half-hour shows that go on for a bunch of seasons have easily 150-200 episodes. So the amount you may have actually watched quickly gets astoundingly large. Larger than I really thought. Here I'm thinking my 178 TNG episodes are ridiculous, well, wait until you're talking about weekly sitcoms that require only the vaguest expenditure of time. A show like Frasier, that I liked but mostly just watched because it was on when other stuff was on, but maybe for like five years, well, suddenly I've seen over 100 episodes. Of Frasier?! You don't understand! I chose to watch every single TNG. Had them sent to my house. Gave each on my attention. For Frasier, I was tricked. Something I liked was on before and after! Oh, NBC, you devious bastards.

*It's a lot harder to remember how many episodes I might have seen than I thought. I did mostly watch all those Frasiers. But was it really for five whole years? It really could have been a lot more. Did I drift in and out? Did I miss it some seasons altogether? When exactly did I stop watching? I'm not quibbling over whether I watched 100 or 105. I mean, who would care? I'm quibbling over whether I watched one HUNDRED or two HUNDRED. This would be a difference of three whole years of loyal viewing, or not, and I DON'T KNOW THE ANSWER.

*Take that degree of difficulty, and ramp it way, way up, and then try to guess how many episodes of a show you watched as a kid. The Cosby Show? My sister and I were loyal, weekly viewers. But also, we were, like, eight. Can I vouch for my regular viewing habits at eight? AND STILL EVEN WORSE are related shows of the time. I remember deliberately watching The Cosby Show a lot, but did I also watch A Different World? Yeah, I guess so. But that had 144 episodes! I could have watched 30 or 130. I haven't a clue. And seriously, A Different World had 144 episodes?

*Related, the factor of shame. I've discovered that it is entirely possible the the show of which I've watched the most episodes is not Star Trek: The Next Generation, but either Friends or Diff'rent Strokes. I don't know that I want to know the answers. Although I might be oddly proud if the all-time winner was Diff'rent Strokes.

*It may not be worth painstakingly inventorying every show, or even the top ten (probably a threshold of maybe, a minimum of 100 episodes watched). There are a lot of shows over the course of several decades of nerdy life. And anyway, what's the value? Sure I've watched an awful lot of A Different World, but so what? All the episodes are the same and I don't remember any of them. Plus it has no relevance to a comparison to how many episodes I've watched of a totally different show at a totally different time.

My conscious TV viewing can be lumped into four distinct eras:

1. Grade school. Exclusive loyalty to after-school and primetime sitcoms (exceptions made for shocking news magazines Rescue 911 and Unsolved Mysteries). Devoted viewership, but single-digit-aged flakiness presumed, so I undoubtedly missed plenty, even though my memory says I was completely dependable about watching. Watched everything on first-run or syndication. Likes: anything on at 3:30pm or 7:00pm, Bill Cosby, Robert Stack.

2. High school. Little interest in any television except Seinfeld, MTV, and Comedy Central. Likes: playing on the computer instead.

3. College, early adulthood. TV watching peak years. Doggedly faithful to NBC Thursday night lineup of Friends, (whatever was on at 7:30 each year), Seinfeld, Frasier, ER. When too busy to watch, these programs are taped for later viewing. Various other network shows watched, and even some on cable. Later in this period, Adult Swim allegiance develops. Likes: clinging to TV as a substitute for a broken social life.

4. Recent years. No regular viewing. All TV watching done on DVD years after initial run. Viewing choices made deliberately and thoughtfully, and watched thoroughly, by episode. No surfing or serendipitous new show discovery. Likes: going to bed on time, not having to watch commercials.

Like in sports, you can't compare eras.
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[icon] Destroying thought in order to save it
View:Recent Entries.
View:Website (Buried in the Noise).
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