Saturday, December 12, 2009

One Thing Leads to Another

What a week! It definitely had its ups and downs. It started easily enough. I turned in my final paper in American Literature, then I skipped out on my reviews in my other classes. Since my grades have been good all semester I didn't really need the reviews. I worked on my final presentation in Humanities, a lecture on Colony Collapse Disorder.

Then Wednesday hit. I was dealt not one, but TWO bad pieces of news. First, I was denied acceptance to NC State due to my grades. I had known it was a little bit of a long shot, since I wasn't even close to the 3.0 GPA requirement, but it was still a disappointment. For about an hour I entertained the possibility of applying to UNC Asheville, since they only require a 2.0 GPA minimum. The problem with UNCA is that I would have to move to Asheville, and that is an extra hassle and expense that I don't want to deal with.

The second bit of bad news involved financial aid. Thanks to my failing two classes several semesters ago, and withdrawing from British Literature last semester, my course completion rate fell to 64%. Unfortunately, it needs to be at least 67% to qualify for financial aid. According to the Financial Aid Office, my completion rate will probably be back above 67% after I finish exams for this semester, but until that gets processed through the system I will have to pay for tuition and books out of my own pocket! The problem, of course, is that I am down to my last $1000 of financial aid money. And since I won't be seeing anymore money until February, I really need that money to live on. Naturally, that creates a conundrum, since if I don't use the money to pay tuition I won't receive ANY financial aid in February because I won't actually be enrolled in school! In other words, I am really over a barrel on this one.

Exams went well, though. My final presentation for Humanities was pretty good. Then, my two math exams were easy. I should make an A in Survey of Math. My American Literature exam was a killer, though. The quote identification section was easy, but we had to write two page and a half long essays with text citations. The essays were worth 30 points EACH! I'll be lucky to make a B in that class. I enjoyed American Literature, but it was definitely a challenge.

My Statistics exam is Monday, but I'm not worried. My professor gave us an Excel spreadsheet to calculate our grades, and I only need a 68 on the final to still make an A in the class. Since I never made less than a 93 on any of the tests, I should sail through easily.

Now, if I could just figure out how to get $650 by next Friday, I'd feel alot better about my life.

Have fun, and keep living life... Or some approximation thereof.

Friday, November 27, 2009

It's Beginning to Feel Not Alot Like Christmas

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. As usual, I had dinner with my uncle and his girlfriend. For some reason, things went better than in the past. That is surprising because my uncle was recently fired from his job of 15 years. Despite being concerned about what to do next, he seemed alot more at ease than usual.

One thing that helped was that we didn't talk about things we disagree about. Of course, we don't really agree on much, but there was a James Bond marathon on TV, so that held our interest. Additionally, it didn't seem like my uncle was in his usual mood of picking on me and his girlfriend, which seemed to ease my mood.

Despite things going well for Thanksgiving, or perhaps in part because of it, it just doesn't feel like the holidays. Sure, the malls have been decorated since the week before Halloween, and eggnog has made its triumphant return to the grocery store dairy cases, but it all feels like going through the motions.

The economy isn't helping matters. Right now, there is over 10% unemployment, officially, though the real percentage of unemployed is probably closer to 17%. The ones who still have jobs are holding back from spending. As a collective, the bank crisis of the last few years is teaching us to save more and rely on credit less.

To be fair, I am not really big on the holidays, anyway, since I don't have anyone to share them with. However, there is something poignant about ending each year with a familiar sense of loneliness and despair. But even that seems to be missing right now as I am filled with expectation about the prospect of being accepted to NC State. Perhaps if I am denied things will start to feel back to normal, but for now I still feel a little like an expectant father.

Have fun, and keep living life... Or some approximation thereof.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Getting Caught Up

I think I've mentioned before that this semester has been about making up for past mistakes. Well, now that the semester is finally nearing a close I am finally starting to feel like I am getting caught up.

I just made a 93 (A) on my second paper in American Literature. There is still one paper to go and the final exam, but I'm sure I will make at least a B in the class. I'm probably also on target to make an A in my other classes, as well. I am still waiting to hear back from NC State about my acceptance, but I went ahead and registered for next semester at Wake Tech, just in case. I've already taken all the required classes that I need, so next semester is just to raise my GPA. I'll take Ethics, two sociology classes, and French. Several acquaintances from school have already gotten acceptance emails from State this week, so I should hear something before too long.

Earlier this week I had my license plate confiscated because I had some longstanding fines for late renewal that I never paid. I had tried to pay them a month ago, but DMV had to make it more complicated than necessary (they needed to see some documentation that I had not brought) and I just didn't get around to returning. Well, I got it taken care of after experiencing the humiliation of having a cop take the plate off my car. The asshole had the nerve to ask me for a screwdriver to take it off! Have I mentioned that I don't really respect authority?

One thing I've learned throughout this semester is the need to attend to your priorities. In the past it was always easy for me to say something was a priority, but not apply any effort to ensure that it was accomplished (like finishing my novels). This semester I had to drastically cut down on my web surfing, blog updating, online chatting/forum posting, and get into the habit of staying on top of my reading and homework. That's not to say there hasn't been some downtime, but I never allowed it to get in the way of getting schoolwork done. Honestly, I have no idea how people work jobs and find time to make good grades.

Another thing I've noticed lately is that I really seem to thrive in a school environment. I always enjoyed high school back in the day. But, as I have been earning good grades I have noticed that my self-esteem has increased noticeably. Consequently, things don't seem to be bothering me as much as they might have in the past. I think I enjoy getting regular consistent feedback. Of course, I sometimes wonder if this leads me to coming off as an obnoxious know-it-all, but that has been a common complaint of my personality since childhood... so perhaps it's just par for the course.

Have fun and keep living life... or some approximation thereof.

Friday, October 30, 2009


This past week has been brutal at school. I had to do an annotated bibliography for Humanities that involved TWELVE SOURCES and between a half page and a page of summary for each entry. On top of that, I've had to read two short stories for American Lit, and do Math homework and Statistics homework. This weekend I have a five page Literature paper to write, Math homework, a Statistics quiz to study for, and I still have two short papers for Humanities that I need to write that were due weeks ago!

The coming week doesn't seem like it will let up much, either. Besides the Statistics quiz, I have an Excel project and quiz for Math, I need to prepare a five minute PowerPoint presentation for Lit class, and I may have jury duty Wednesday, which will just throw everything out of whack. I wouldn't have minded jury duty so much had it come over the summer when I wasn't really busy. But during a semester when I'm struggling to make straight A's, and falling slightly short in a couple classes, it just comes as a bothersome and unnecessary distraction.

I am still hoping to get accepted to State soon, but because it is still hanging in the air whether or not my GPA will be sufficient, I am needing to register soon for another semester at Wake Tech, just in case. I have enough credits for an Associates Degree, or I will after this semester, so I am really out of classes that I want or need. I may sign up for a couple Psychology classes, but beyond that I have no clue what to take.

Seeing as I've been a little overwhelmed lately with school -- I'm not used to actually doing work -- I am a little concerned with how I will manage to cope at State when the classes are harder and the professor-to-student ratio is considerably lower. And the cost of school will be higher at State, which means financial aid won't extend as far. Unless my stocks begin to pay off quick, I may be forced to get a job, which will only push my education goals further from my reach.

Right now isn't a good time to look for a girlfriend. At the moment I don't have the time or the money to devote to dating. But lately I've been feeling a little isolated and it would be nice to fill the loneliness. As a result, I've been thinking about Ex again as a sort of self-medication. She has become my latest imaginary girlfriend, filling a space held by so many other girls before her.

Is it bad that I often seem to be walking the fine line between sanity and delusion?

Have fun and keep living life... or some approximation thereof.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Masks of Halloween Approach

I've never been one for dressing in costumes for Halloween. It probably wouldn't come as a surprise that I only recall trick or treating maybe four times as a kid. Unless I am in a play, in which case my job is to get into character as best I can, I just don't feel comfortable pretending to be something I am not.

Maybe if I attended more Halloween/costume parties I would feel differently, but then it could be a chicken or egg argument. It perplexes me as to how people choose the costumes they decide to wear. Apparently, alot of people keep an abundance of otherwise superfluous clothing in their homes for the sole purpose of assembling a costume once a year! I barely have enough clothing to keep myself covered for a week. And I wear that clothing until it's ragged and not even worthy for costume making.

This is probably a sexist observation, but it also seems as though women are more into dressing up for Halloween than men. I wonder if it has something to do with societal norms pushing women into a wider variety of roles in their daily lives. Women, after all, are expected to be mothers, businesswomen, therapists, chefs, and dirty whores on any given day! Men are only expected to be... present. I think it is no small leap that women are consequently better at dressing up for Halloween.

There is a little bit of irony to my lack of interest in wearing a costume when you consider that most of my life has been spent wishing I was someone or something else. Throughout my life I have, at various times, wished I were a woman, a time traveller, a teacher, a newspaper reporter, a radio DJ (at least I got around to doing that one for a little while!), a film director, an author, a wealthy entrepreneur, a restaurant owner, completely Caucasian, a cat, a penguin, a painter, a dance instructor, President of the United States, and God. I suppose I could cull together a costume related to some of those, but most would be hard for other people to decipher, and it seems that part of the point of the costumes is that they are immediately recognizable.

Most of the time people just dress in archetypes. The typical costumes seem to be monsters (vampires, zombies), movie characters (Harry Potter, Obi-Wan Kenobi), Super Heroes (Superman, Wonder Woman), or famous people in the news (Britney Spears, Sarah Palin). The problem with all of these is you need imagination and skill with makeup, or money for a pre-made, probably ill-fitting, outfit.

Now that I think of it, there is one component to the phenomenon of dressing up that probably compels people more than all others, and somehow makes the time/expense seem worth it. The sense of escapism, even for a brief time, is a thrill with which people have always had a preoccupation. There is probably something of great intrinsic value which comes from shedding the bonds of reality and dressing up as a naughty nurse or Captain Kirk if only for one night. As soon as I can figure out how to dress up as God, I'll work on discovering what that something is, exactly.

Have fun and keep living life... or some approximation thereof.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Semester Redux or How the Hell Did I Get Myself Into This?

I made it through the first week of this semester. Every class that I'm taking is in some way a redo of a course I've already taken. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I'm taking Statistics I, which is a replacement course for College Algebra which I made an F on last fall, and American Literature, which is a replacement for British Literature which I withdrew from after several week last spring. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I'm taking Survey of Mathematics, which is a redo of the same course which I made a D on over a year ago even though I made A's on all of the tests! And, finally, on Thursday afternoons, I'm taking Humanities 220, which is a redo of the same class which I made an F in because I didn't do any of the assignments and pretty much just showed up for class!

I'm not too worried about my prospects to do well this time around in all of the classes. Let's just say that I've now learned from past mistakes (namely, not doing homework is NOT a strategy for success!) and should have no problem making straight A's, or at least close to it, this semester. If all goes well, this SHOULD be my last semester at Wake Tech, as I will have accrued all the credits necessary to earn an Associate of Arts Degree. But, of course, there's a small catch... It wouldn't be a story in MY life if it didn't have a catch, now would it? I was crunching some numbers earlier today, and I calculated that even IF I make straight A's this semester, I will graduate with only a 2.661 GPA, which is lower than the 3.0 GPA I NEED in order to get into the Psychology program at NC State! In fact, in order to make at least a 3.0 GPA, I would need to make straight A's this semester, next semester, AND THE SEMESTER AFTER THAT! It's amazing that 2 F's and 2 D's on your transcript could pull you down so far into the hole.

So, now, I'm in a quandary as to what to do next. I don't want there to be a lapse in my schooling, as I was hoping to go immediately from Wake Tech to NC State. Someone at school suggested I look into going to East Carolina University because their admissions standards are lower. I did look them up, and supposedly I could get accepted with as low as a 2.5 GPA. However, the problem is that ECU is around 75 miles away from where I live, which would mean I would either have to move (the most rational choice) or commute over an hour each way to school for two years (the least rational choice simply due to gas costs and wear and tear on my car, which already has over 120K miles on it). Honestly, I don't like either of those choices. Moving would mean giving up my current apartment, which is nice and comparatively affordable, and living in a small town which has nothing in it except the university. Granted, the rents are around $200 cheaper in Greenville than they are in Raleigh, but I'm not excited about the prospect of leaving what few connections to people and places that I have here at home. And commuting 150 miles round trip everyday would quickly gobble up whatever financial aid and loans I would be able to get during that time.

I haven't completely given up hope that I might be accepted into State, although the chances aren't looking really great at the moment. I will call the Admissions Office sometime next week and see if it is even worth submitting an application for the Spring semester. My hope is that, since I will actually have earned my Associates Degree, State will have a slightly more relaxed GPA policy for Associates Degree holders than for standard Transfer Students. But, as I said, things aren't looking great at the moment.

Have fun, and keep living life... or some approximation thereof.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Quick Update

School starts back up next Monday, so I'll be getting back into a regular schedule of blogging then. For now, I just wanted to share this video about biking that I saw on YouTube. I still want to get a bike one of these days.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Health Reform Even a Conservative Should Love

This week my friend Osterberg, a hopeless Conservative, engaged me in a debate on healthcare. For his part, the argument against healthcare reform surrounds the issue of who should pay for it. Naturally, he resents the rich being made to pay higher taxes to support Obama's healthcare plan.

I'm not sure why Conservatives are such selfish bastards, especially since their Christian Bible says that it's harder for a rich man to get to Heaven than for a camel to get through the eye of a needle. Perhaps their Bible doesn't say that, but I'm pretty sure that the Jesus in their Bible never charged money to heal the sick. And since Conservatives are fond of pretending that the US is a Christian nation, why can't they see the value of government curing the sick for free? It's sad when increasingly atheistic European nations actually promote so-called Christian values like caring for the sick and the poor more readily than the US!

With regard to the money question, why can't Conservatives see that, even with higher taxes, they will actually make more money in the long run if the US has a Single Payer Health Insurance System (which ISN'T what Obama is working toward, but which is easier for me to argue the case for than that twisted clusterfuck of a program he IS promoting)? Currently, health insurance is a costly burden for companies to provide for employees. Small businesses often forego offering it at all. Even Wal-Mart has been criticized for not providing health insurance to more of its workers, instead encouraging them to use Medicaid. Several years ago, the head of General Motors said the company spent more on healthcare than on steel for its cars! And a major reason that US manufacturing jobs have moved to Canada and Mexico is because those nations provide free healthcare for all their citizens. If the US provided Single Payer healthcare for all, then companies would save untold billions of dollars every year. And, since Conservative CEOs are selfish pricks you can bet that alot of those extra savings would go right into their wallets. Of course, it would also save more US jobs, as well, since companies would have less cause to move elsewhere.

But, would Single Payer Healthcare benefit Osterberg financially? Well, yes. Aside from the obvious savings his family would glean from using the system, his wife happens to be a dentist. There are currently around 50 million uninsured people in the US. Some of them most certainly live in Osterberg's town. If they were to suddenly be covered by a Single Payer System there would be more people seeking dental care. That means more clients for Osterberg's wife which means more money for his family. And, of course, I have no idea if her practice provides health coverage for her employees, but, again, Single Payer would save her business money if that is the case.

There is NO logical rationale for opposing a Single Payer System. Even after taxes, opponents (and of course US society at large) stand to gain more than they would lose in the long run. If only the Conservatives would stop reading the Book of Genesis long enough to see that for themselves!

Have fun and keep living life... and tell your Senators and Congressmen that you want Single Payer Now!

Monday, June 29, 2009

If I Had Another Billion Dollars

In a previous post I explained some ideas I have for improving the east side of Raleigh's downtown area, assuming an imaginary budget of $1 billion. Today, I turn my attention (and my fantasy budget of $1 billion) to another problem facing the future of Raleigh.

Raleigh's public transit system has a problem: white people don't ride Capital Area Transit (CAT) buses. There are several reasons why whites don't ride CAT buses, but mostly it comes down to inconvenience and discomfort. I was tempted to say racism, but as a white person who has relied on CAT buses in the past I think that would be an oversimplification since the discomfort angle really stems from several points which I hope to address in my plan to revamp the system.

First off, buses aren't sexy. They are loud, big, slow, and spew diesel fumes into the air. Even though they are a cleaner transportation option than having more cars on the road to accommodate all the riders, this "greener" aspect isn't enough of a selling point alone to supersede the other issues for most residents. Further, the stops are often poorly marked/placed, and the main hub downtown is filthy in appearance and smell. As to the slow and inconvenient point, it usually takes 1.5 hours to get anywhere in Raleigh by bus. However, by car, you can get anywhere in Raleigh in 15-30 minutes -- 30-45 if there's traffic. For public transportation to be an attractive option, transit times from start to finish need to be reduced to at least an hour... preferably 45 minutes.

To accomplish faster transit we need to stop forcing everyone to go downtown to transfer buses. Instead, regional circulators (like the R Line which runs downtown) would be faster, more frequent, and more efficient since Raleigh is divided into 5 main zones (downtown, north, east, south, and west). People in Raleigh typically travel within one or two of the main zones for most of their needs. Unfortunately, current bus routes take you all over the freaking city to get to the downtown Moore Square Station hub. It's idiotic, plain and simple. Don't get me wrong... As someone who would like to live downtown, and wants to encourage growth in the area, I'm not trying to steer people away from downtown. But going all the way downtown when my real destination is only five miles from my house, and NOT in the direction of downtown, is a TOTAL waste of my time!

Next, we should have small zone hubs for each circulator route which would allow transfers to connectors which would travel to the downtown central hub. By doing this, trips across town would involve two or three transfers instead of the standard one transfer now. However, total travel time would drop significantly to perhaps 15-45 minutes per trip because buses would be able to travel more frequently and wait times between buses would be reduced. (For more on the value of transferring buses read this article from Jarrett Walker's Human Transit blog.)

Additionally, these zone hubs should offer bike rental kiosks such as those offered by Bcycle. This would allow people to ride to more specific areas where the circulators wouldn't reach while getting some much needed exercise. Even better, the zone hubs could offer bicycle services like those offered by Bikestation, which allow you to store a bike, use showers and changing rooms, and request bicycle maintenance services.

To increase sexiness and efficiency we need to enforce stops ONLY at designated bus stop shelters. These shelters would be powered by rooftop solar panels which would allow the shelters to have GPS monitors displaying real-time bus location data and calculating arrival/departure times. The shelters would also have built-in kiosks for purchasing transit cards which can be recharged at any kiosk (or perhaps even online) and would encourage/facilitate repeated ridership. Enforcing stops only at designated bus stop shelters would increase speed of travel while addressing a major problem I've always had with the system, which is not knowing where stops are located most of the time. Sure, people see buses go down a street, but you can't clearly see where you need to go to catch the bus as the current system is designed (that is to say, it ISN'T designed with any consistency) without having to walk up and down the street looking for some cryptic, and not graphically appealing sign. And, going to the trouble to design great looking shelters and better signage gives people the impression that real thought and effort was put into the system, which provides a great first impression to new riders.

Of course, I haven't even come close to spending a billion dollars, yet. The rest of my money would be invested in a plan for regional light rail, such as this one that has been estimated at $2 billion. I think that plan eventually died due to lack to funding, since, for reasons that escape me, those bozos thought the system should extend from Clayton, through Garner and Raleigh, to places like Wake Forest and Burlington! BURLINGTON? Who the hell ever goes to Burlington? I'll let the state and federal lunatics figure out a way to pay for a train to Burlington. I'll use the rest of my billion to create a rail system for Raleigh which would potentially go to Durham and Chapel Hill, but would primarily focus on Raleigh and its main suburbs of Garner and Cary. Anyone who is crazy enough to commute to Raleigh from farther away than those areas isn't going to be encouraged to take light rail into the city because they are already too committed to travelling by car. We shouldn't waste money trying to cater to an already lost cause. Besides, the point of good quality public transportation should be to try and encourage dense urban population growth. Extending transit farther from the city center only provides capitulation to unsustainable sprawl.

I'm sure I could go on with a little greater detail than what I've laid out here, but I won't bore you anymore than I already have.

Have fun and keep living life... or some approximation thereof.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Father's Day

I was catching up on listening to podcasts today when I heard a recent Father's Day themed episode of This American Life. I had forgotten about Father's Day completely, largely due to the fact that I've never met my father. Occasionally, I think about him, and what it would be like to meet him, but the mood always passes as quickly as it arrives.

My father was originally from Sri Lanka. I've never been there, but I've seen videos and heard stories that the island is gorgeous. My parents met in Asheville, NC under what circumstances I'm not completely sure. I do know that my father didn't intend to get my mother pregnant and that he basically told my mother to choose between him or me. She chose me in a decision which I've regretted off and on for 35 years. Not to get all emo, but the pro-life movement can pretty much eat my ass. I should have been aborted and I wasn't. My father didn't want me and my mother wanted to abuse me. Sometimes, maybe even most of the time, people are better off being aborted.

I'm starting to feel really angry as I write this. At some point anger always seems to rear its head whenever I think about my father. I can't even pronounce his name properly. All I have as a remnant of his existence is an old black and white photo of him in a metal frame. He's not even smiling. I know I was an inconvenience to him, but I wish he knew how inconvenienced I've been my whole life because he chose to fuck my fat cow of a mother.

Sometimes I think about trying to find him. I don't even know if he's still alive. There are only a dozen people in the US with his last name and they are all concentrated in two locations, so it wouldn't be hard if I cared enough to try. As luck would have it, I saw a guy I believe is my cousin a few years ago on TV. He was serving as a lawyer in a case that made national headlines for about two days and he was interviewed several times. I could easily ask him if he knows what happened to my father.

Whenever I fantasize about talking to my father it never goes as I expect it too, which implies that I have some expectations which I'm apparently not fully aware. I don't think I really want a relationship with him, but I want him to know me. I want him to understand what happened to me. And as unsatisfying as I know it would be, I guess I'd like to hear him express remorse. I'm not sure what that remorse would be for, but just to hear him say, "I'm sorry you had to go through all that pain" seems like it would mean so much to me in a way that no one else can say those words.

Now I get why I don't spend very long thinking about my father at any one time... Any longer would feel too much like masochism.

Keep living life... or some approximation thereof.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

If I Had a Billion Dollars

As I've already mentioned, I'm one of those people who just sits around thinking up ideas for remaking the world without actually having the where-with-all to bring my ideas to fruition. That said, today I'm casting my focus solely on my hometown, Raleigh, NC.

First on the agenda is to remake the east side (not pictured) of Downtown. Right now, the area is largely a slum for the city's poorest black and Hispanic residents. Up until now, all Downtown revitalization efforts have pretty much ignored everything from Person Street eastward, and even the Comprehensive Plan doesn't seem as ambitious (more to the point, it lacks the specificity of detail that is present in the plan for other areas of the city) about this area as I would have expected. Personally, I would just start bulldozing the slums and rebuilding them as efficient, attractive, environmentally conscious, multi-use facilities which are affordable and give the residents a greater sense of self-worth and encourage them to get out of the lower class.

I would begin by hosting an architectural design competition among the students from the NC State College of Design. The designers whose plans are selected for construction would receive their full tuition paid for as well as real world architectural experience. Whenever possible, some of the east side residents would be hired and trained to assist in construction. After all, one's sense of pride in a project increases when he/she has been able to build it with their own hands.

While construction commenced, I would work with Shaw University's Department of Business and Public Administration to create an extensive series of business training seminars for the area residents which would help them develop small business proposals for the ground-level retail space once construction was complete. I would also establish a trust fund to provide seed loans for the small business start-ups, with the ultimate goal of attracting other local/state investors to contribute. It is my belief that, once the residents see other people are willing to invest in their futures, the people living on the verge of poverty will start to see themselves as having real value and potential, and their enhanced self-esteem will begin to radiate through the community.

One pet project of mine among the construction would be the creation of a vertical farming facility which would also house an on site grocery store/produce market. Currently, Downtown Raleigh is severely lacking an actual grocery store, so all the people in Downtown have to travel elsewhere (mostly by car) to buy their food. This facility would help alleviate that need to use fossil fuel while also creating more jobs in the Downtown area. And it would be cool to eat a tomato for lunch which had been picked fresh that morning on the fourth floor! Additionally, the food produced in the facility would be organically grown, and more affordable since there would be no transportation costs to consider in the price. Further, having easier (by foot or by bicycle) access to fresh produce will help create a healthier lifestyle for all the residents of Downtown but especially the impoverished who tend to eat poor quality, nutritionally absent, processed foods which are currently more easily accessed and afforded.

My expectation is that, after I had brought the economically depressed east side to vibrancy, enhanced the welfare of its citizens, given them a sense of pride and ownership of their surroundings, and made the area safe to walk or bike, I would eventually make back my money, and then some. Of course, all of this requires people skills, which I lack in abundance. However, with a billion dollars, I think I could convince Julie and her husband, Andrew, as well as Osterberg and his wife, Andrea, all of whom HAVE the necessary people skills, to come work for me and help me accomplish all of this. Afterward, I would begin to turn my attention to Raleigh's transportation woes. But, that's a discussion for a later day.

Have fun and keep living life... or some approximation thereof.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Information Overload

I'm not sure if it's because I'm obsessive compulsive or not, but I tend to have a voracious curiosity. As an occasional consequence I find myself getting obsessed over a few topics to the point where I start to have headaches from trying to absorb so much information in a small amount of time. The topics often change, but my obsession stays the same.

For instance, over the last week or two I have been obsessed over environmental news so I've been reading every article I can on World Changing and Good, as well as the various cross posted articles that they link. That doesn't seem so bad, until you add it to the fact that I already spend seven hours a day watching/listening to podcasts and streams about technology from CNET, politics from The Young Turks, and news from Brian Williams, Keith Olbermann, and Rachel Maddow!

There simply aren't enough hours in the day for me to take in the amount of information I'd like to accumulate. Thankfully, since the podcasts/streams don't run on Saturday and Sunday, I can spend weekends catching up on my various YouTube subscriptions and the newly posted talks on TED.

Part of the problem comes from the fact that I want to know a lot about a lot of subjects. Most people seem satisfied to know a lot about a little, or a little about a lot. Nope, not me. I want to know as much information as I can possibly acquire. That said, I don't actually want to DO anything with the knowledge... I just want to know it!

This used to annoy the hell out of Ex. She was of the view that if you see problems in the world you should make an effort to help make things better. It's an admirable position, to be sure. Unfortunately, for her, I like to tell people how messed up the world is, and then tell them how it should be changed. I remember, on our second date, Ex asked me what I was doing to change the world. I looked at her like she was crazy and responded, "Why the hell would I want to do something like that?"

On reflection, I suppose Ex is more noble and respectable in that regard than I am. My main pleasure from accumulating knowledge seems to come from using it to intimidate others with my intellect. That probably speaks volumes to my insecurity, but there it is. Part of me WOULD actually like to do something with all this information I've gathered, but it's hard to find the start of the yellow brick road when all you can see in front of you is the land of Oz.

Thankfully (or perhaps aggravatingly; we'll have to wait and see), I'll be taking a forced vacation from all this data acquisition next weekend when I head to Hickory, NC for three days to visit my grandmother, Mame. Even though it's a suburb of Charlotte, Hickory is somehow the land that technology forgot. Cell phone coverage sucks there and Internet access is slow almost to the point of futility. There's nothing to do there but talk to Mame and play with my aunt's chihuahua.

I can already sense the feeling of withdrawal...

Have fun and keep living life... or some approximation thereof.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Admitting Past Mistakes

Why does it seem as though Conservatives think apologizing is a bad thing to do? I'm being honest. I don't get it. For the last 20 years I've heard Conservatives repeatedly us the term "apologist" as though it were a derisive word. And again, today, Conservatives jumped all over President Obama's back for giving a speech in Cairo aimed at easing tensions between America and the Middle East. In the speech, Obama acknowledged five or six areas where the US has failed in the past to be sensitive to the sovereignty of nations in the Muslim world. Naturally, Conservatives stopped there and threw up their fists like children, screaming, "How dare he apologize to Muslims!" Well, let's face it, what choice did Obama have? It's not like any Republican would ever apologize for anything!

Of course, in their zealous diatribe the GOP-ers totally missed the fact that the President also called out Muslims for civil rights abuses against women and children, being too willing to allow violence against innocents as a form of political protest, not recognizing the sovereignty of Israel, and holding mock elections under the guise of democracy. I guess calling out the neighbors in their own house isn't enough to trump the weak kneed apology of a coward who may be in collusion with Muslims... that is, if he isn't one himself!

The thing is, I get the impression that Conservatives honestly believe apologizing for past mistakes is somehow a show of weakness. And, in their eyes, the US is the greatest nation in the world and should, therefore, NEVER show weakness! But think back to when you were in high school. Who thought they were the baddest motherfuckers in the room and refused to show any contrition whatsoever? It wasn't the popular kids, nor the smart kids, nor the drama geeks, band geeks, emo kids, or the losers. No... It was the bullies!

You don't even have to think back to high school. In your job right now everyone is working for the same reason -- to get paid and go home. But there's ALWAYS that one person who makes everyone else miserable by being disrespectful and invading their workspace. Does this person ever apologize? Of course not! Why? Because they're an asshole, that's why!

Don't get me wrong. I love being in America. But we do tend toward being the assholes of the global office space a little too often. And while we will probably never get EVERYONE else to join us in that drunken rendition of "The Twelve Days of Christmahannukwanzaakuh" we're so fond of at this year's holiday party, with a little contrition every now and then we might actually get an invite to the formerly "secret" after party party at the club for once! And who knows... We might even get lucky and see the hot Persian chick from Accounting and the cute Jewish chick from IT settle that nasty border dispute over their Gaza Strips!

Okay... Maybe that was a little too A-holey! Sorry.

Have fun and keep living life... or some approximation thereof.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

More Edicts From Your Benevolent Overlord

I knew I'd have more ideas to pass down to my loyal subjects from my throne on high. Behold more wisdom from your honorable sage:

1. Allow all US taxpayers to assign their tax dollars to programs they support. Conservatives complain that their tax dollars are spent on social programs which only benefit the "lazy" (apparently code for minorities, women, college students, the elderly, injured veterans, and anyone who travels on federal highways, uses legal medications, or eats processed food products!). Liberals complain that their tax dollars are spent to support fascism (code for the military industrial complex, the Department of Homeland Security, and The Patriot Act). So, from now on we should put a Scantron style form in all tax documents with a list of 100 key governmental agencies/programs. People could fill in the dots for the programs they want their money to support. People would be less reluctant to pay taxes if they felt as though they had control over where their money was going.

2. Dismantle the Federal Communications Commission. It frustrates me to no end that we have a First Amendment guaranteed freedom of speech in the US, but we also have a governmental agency which can order fines against TV and radio broadcasts which say "dirty" words or show nudity but which offers no such fines for depictions of graphic violence. The federal government should not be in the business of regulating content. The FCC should only regulate frequency allocation so that TV/radio signals don't interfere with communication devices and frequencies used by military and emergency responders such as police, fire, and ambulance providers.

3. Strip Liz Cheney naked, cut hundreds of small slits in her flesh, then pour lemon juice into the cuts while forcing her to sing "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General" at the top of her lungs. As with her father, I don't have a reason for doing this other than it seems like it would be alot of fun!

4. Make it illegal for any corporate CEO, athlete, actor, or musician to earn more than $10 million a year. It is the height of obscenity to live in luxury while your typical employee or fan is living paycheck to paycheck, or can hardly afford to see you perform. Those resources would be better spent curing disease, educating children, or eliminating poverty. And if you honestly think that a $10 million pay cap is TOO LOW you deserve to be executed!

5. Require Congress to tie their raises to increases in the Federal Minimum Wage. Why should Congress be able to vote for their own pay raises while US citizens get nothing extra in return? Congress should no longer be able to raise their salaries without increasing minimum wage by at least 10%. If they think they deserve a "cost of living adjustment" then they are tacitly agreeing that EVERYONE deserves an adjustment.

That's enough for now, although I'm already thinking of new things to enact once I take over the world!

Have fun and keep living accordance to your Benevolent Overlord.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Socialist Storm is Coming

Over the last few weeks I've been reading articles and watching video clips which have me convinced that the US is slowly and inevitably edging closer to socialism. And I, for one, will welcome its arrival with zeal.

First, there was an article from The New York Times which discussed Norway's continued economic prosperity in the face of the global monetary downturn. Thanks to the idea that government should exist to benefit its citizenry, Norway saved/invested hundreds of billions of dollars as a sort of rainy day fund. As a result, the nation was able to continue serving the needs of the people without any major disruptions. In fact, their economy has actually grown slightly during the downturn. I seem to recall that the US had a similar budget surplus at the end of the Clinton administration. Of course that was before the "wisdom" of George W. Bush took care of that when he chose to give the money "back to the people" to spend as they saw fit.

Then, there were the plethora of articles I read over at World Changing which show that, again and again, it is Europe which is leading the way in the movement to combat global climate change. As before, the European ethic of working together toward the societal greater good pushes them to innovate in the fields of energy production, conservation, and sustainable land use management.

But what do these topics have to do with the US? Well, I think that, thanks to the Internet, more Americans are becoming aware of the fact that the so-called socialist nations of Europe have already come up with effective solutions to the problems which plague our society, but with few, if any, of the negative consequences which US conservatives have attempted to use to vilify those solutions.

Take, for instance, this article from Wired about the socialist nature of the open-source movement. Literally millions of people take advantage of, and participate in, the open-source movement in one form or another. All are encouraged to share their information and resources freely with the rest of the world. People voluntarily pool their talents to create free software solutions (such as Gimp and Open Office) which rival the best, most expensive, software on the market. There are even open-source architectural solutions being devised to solve global housing deficiencies. All of this contributes to the greater good of the larger society. Add to that the benefits of flexibility and diversity of resources inherent in an open-source mindset, explained in some detail in this talk from TED, and you can see that the lumbering corporate mindset endemic to capitalistic business organizations could, one day soon, be a thing of the past.

Of course, in a way, capitalism is already forcing us to live as socialists. The consolidation of companies, thanks to deregulation, has forced most people to now do the work of two or three people and to work 60 or more hours a week even though their salary only compensates them for 40 hours! It isn't much different than being an open-sourcer, when you think about it. You're voluntarily doing more work for no extra compensation because you think its for the greater good. Although, capitalism convinces you that the "greater good" is you keeping your job rather than your job actually being beneficial to those around you. There are some companies which have made efforts to take care of their employees first, such as Malden Mills (makers of Polartec fleece) which continued to pay its staff while their factory was being rebuilt after an explosion. Unfortunately, those stories are too few and too far between to be considered a trend just yet.

I'm looking forward to the changes which our society will undergo over the next decade or two. Eventually we may learn that doing what is right for our fellow man can ultimately become the most American thing we can do.

Have fun and keep living life... and start working for the greater good.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Two Steps Back

I've mentioned before that I believe that the US took a significant step forward by electing Barack Obama as President. However, I would argue that this week we took two steps backward regarding the torture debate.

First, let me come right out and say that I am absolutely against torture (my fantasies of Dick Cheney, jumper cables, and a waterboard notwithstanding). Now, I watch 24 and I get how useful it is as a storytelling device. But just like clicking my ruby slippers together won't actually transport me back home from the mystical land of Oz, torture doesn't work as a method for interrogation. It is effective as a tool for vengeance, but that's a big reason why it shouldn't be used. Even if it did work as an interrogation method, committing an act of violence to prevent a possible act of violence is an immoral act, something conservatives of this nation don't seem to understand no matter how many times they are reminded that Jesus allowed himself to be tortured to death for the sins of the world rather than fight back in self-defense. But what do I know... I'm just an agnostic who was required to study the Bible from front to back while attending a religious college.

Having said that, I wish Obama had not backed down like a little bitch about releasing those torture photos. On his first day in office, President Obama pledged openness in his administration. Now, he shows a willingness to cave under pressure from the largely irrelevant and immoral Republicans while trying to hide behind "protecting the troops", a tired retread of an excuse from the Bush days. Secrecy almost never serves the greater good. And generally if you must hide the truth in order to "protect" someone or something, the only thing being protected is your own self-interest. And anything you'll need to hide tomorrow typically isn't worth doing today.

Which brings me to Nancy Pelosi. While I'm inclined to believe that the CIA may have lied to her about the use of torture (after all, how can you trust an agency which is paid to lie to people for a living?), I'm also inclined to believe that Speaker Pelosi is just trying to cover her own worthless ass! She, and the rest of the Democrats in Washington, didn't have the balls to stand up to Bush and Cheney when it mattered and now, as her reward for cowardice, she must back pedal like a juggling unicyclist on a tightrope!

America likes to pretend it is some shining beacon on a hill. In reality, America is nothing more than a degraded crackhouse in a ghetto. How can it be any more than that when conservatives pretend piety while promoting ideals like torture (ie., revenge) which are antithetical to the values of Christ, while liberals promote intellectual truth, equality, and dignity for all but lack the personal strength to stand up for those values when the political winds seem to be blowing against them?

I still believe in that hope that Barack Obama was peddling during the election season. But now I have to have hope that he will eventually learn to stand up for what I believe.

Have fun and keep living life... or some approximation thereof.

Thursday, May 14, 2009



1607 – Jamestown, Virginia is settled as an English colony.
1796 – Edward Jenner administers the first smallpox vaccination.
1804 – The Lewis and Clark Expedition departs from Camp Dubois and begins its historic journey by traveling up the Missouri River.
1862 – Adolphe Nicole of Switzerland patents the chronograph.
1878 – Vaseline is first sold (registered trademark for petroleum jelly) .
1904 – St Louis hosts the first Olympic Games to be held in the United States.
1935 – Los Angeles' Griffith Planetarium opens, 3rd in the United States.
1948 – Israel is declared to be an independent state and a provisional government is established. Immediately after the declaration, Israel is attacked by the neighboring Arab states, triggering the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
1955 – Cold War: Eight communist bloc countries, including the Soviet Union, sign a mutual defense treaty called the Warsaw Pact.
1968 – Beatles announce formation of Apple Corp.
1973 – Human Space Flight: Skylab, the United States' first space station, is launched. It is the last launch of the Saturn V rocket.
1973 – The final episode of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In airs on NBC.
1974 – Symbionese Liberation Army destroyed in shoot-out, 6 killed.
1998 – The final episode of Seinfeld airs on NBC.


1686 – Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit, German physicist (d. 1736)
1904 – Hans Albert Einstein, American professor (d. 1973)
1928 – Will "Dub" Jones, American singer (The Coasters) (d. 2000)
1936 – Bobby Darin, American singer (d. 1973)
1940 – Troy Shondell, American singer
1944 – George Lucas, American film director
1952 – David Byrne, Scottish-born American musician (Talking Heads)
1952 – Robert Zemeckis, American film director
1961 – Tim Roth, English actor
1962 – C. C. DeVille, American musician (Poison)
1969 – Cate Blanchett, Australian actress
1971 – Sofia Coppola, American director
1984 – Mark Zuckerberg, American internet entrepreneur(creator of Facebook)


1940 – Emma Goldman, Lithuanian-born anarchist (b. 1869)
1982 – Hugh Beaumont, American actor (b. 1909)
1987 – Rita Hayworth, American actress (b. 1918)
1993 – William Randolph Hearst Jr., American newspaper magnate (b. 1908)
1997 – Harry Blackstone Jr., American magician (b. 1934)
1998 – Frank Sinatra, American singer and actor (b. 1915)
2003 – Robert Stack, American actor (b. 1919)


Roman Catholic Feast day for St. Corona

Monday, May 11, 2009

If I Ruled the World

Image is of Light Yagami from the anime series Death Note

When I'm bored I often pass the time with thoughts of how I would love to rule the world. Admittedly, my fantasies are primarily the jurisdiction of the United States, but I think just being President would be insufficient for some of the things I'd like to accomplish.

Here is a list of some of the things I would love to do if I were the Benevolent Overlord of the World:

1. Force all 535 members of the US Senate and House of Representatives to attend the annual TED Conference. Annual exposure to some of the greatest minds in the western world might reduce some of the shame and stupidity endemic to our nation's lawmaking body.

2. Put Monsanto and other large scale agribusiness firms out of business. These companies hurt the environment and put family farms out of business with unethical legal practices (lawsuits, lobbying for subsidies), thereby increasing the need for agribusiness to pick up the food production slack.

3. Force all credit card companies to cap interest rates at 15%. Now, credit card companies can charge 25% or more in interest, imprisoning their customers in an interminable cycle of debt. And they have the nerve to say they can't make money otherwise. I've got news for you guys, we all know that the costs of doing business have actually declined thanks to computerization. You guys are just selfish bastards!

4. Chain Dick Cheney to a wall, naked, with jumper cables attached on one end to his testicles and on the other end to my car's battery. I don't have a reason for this one, other than my own personal pleasure.

5. Construct an extensive high speed levitated train system down each US coast and west across the northern and southern most states. I like riding trains, and they are a cleaner form of transportation than cars or planes.

6. Move the state of Israel to Nevada. Seriously, if the US is going to spend eternity being Israel's bitch we should at least move them somewhere that we can guarantee their safety. And since Nevada and Israel are both in the desert it will be like they never left home! Besides, we already let the Mormons own Utah.

7. Make free or low cost access to healthcare a global right. It sucks being in the only industrialized nation without universal healthcare. And health insurance companies are a despicable scourge on the Earth. There is no reason that living or dying should be dependent on how much money you have or how good your individual health insurance plan is.

8. Create a REAL Christian Nation. Homosexuality and abortion would be illegal there, but all citizens would be forced to follow ALL the laws of the Bible. That means no more ham, bacon, shrimp, lobster, or cheeseburgers! Citizens would have to observe kosher dietary laws, and from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday there would be no use of electricity, no driving, no spending money, no carrying anything outdoors, no writing, or anything else which could remotely be considered "work"! And don't give me this crap about kosher being a "Jewish" law. EVERYTHING in the Old Testament is a Jewish law. So, either you follow all of them, or none of them. No more picking and choosing! Maybe I'll put it where Israel used to be.

9. Turn US prisons into rehabilitation facilities. With few exceptions, like Charlie Manson or Osama bin Laden, psychology can help reform and redeem anyone. We spend enough on each prisoner to put them through college. With that sort of investment we should at least be getting productive citizens in return. Otherwise, we are just throwing money down a bottomless hole.

10. Build a replica of the Twin Towers, including desks and computers, then remotely fly planes carrying pig carcasses as human analogues into the replicas. I don't know if 9/11 was an "inside job", but this seems like the only way to prove it beyond all doubt. If the buildings collapse in a few hours, we will know the planes did it. It it takes 12 hours or longer for the buildings to fall, then I will have a legitimate reason for putting jumper cables on Cheney's testicles.

I'll stop at 10 for now. I'm sure I could come up with more in time. Perhaps I'll revisit this later.

Until then...

Have fun and keep living life... and bow to me, your Benevolent Overlord!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Just Another Day

Today is Mother's Day. It isn't a day that I typically make a big deal about. After all, it is largely just a marketing holiday. As I've already mentioned I am not close to my own biological mother, my grandmother having long ago taken over the responsibility of caring for me. And seeing as I do not currently own, nor have ready access to, ovaries of my own, Mother's Day seems especially superfluous.

That's not to say that I don't have any positive memories of my mother, but all of them are more focused on me and the part of my mother could have just as easily been replaced by my grandmother, my aunt, Gertrude Stein, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, actor LeVar Burton, or a Krispy Kreme doughnut!
In fact, one of my fondest memories, which doesn't even involve my mother at all, is of me walking around a mall carrying a cheap stuffed dog with a fireman's uniform and helmet which I had named Sgt. Pepper after The Beatles album. I was four.

Where others have fond memories of lessons passed down by loving moms, my life lessons came from my grandmother, teachers, or the confluence of hours spent in front of a TV while babysitting myself. I learned about life not so much because I was taught but because I was naturally curious and asked lots of questions and looked for lots of answers.

Most of my memories which are unique to my mother involve me being smarter than her. One time she got a wooden cuckoo clock as a gift, but was horribly distressed to find that the clock had to be assembled from a kit in a box. Well, since there were instructions, I took it upon myself to build the damn thing because I felt sorry for my mother's laziness. I was eight.

And while working for AT&T my mother earned company stock each year in the form of actual paper certificates (yeah, they actually used to transfer shares of stock that way before the Internet). One day she needed money for debts and sold her stock. I had to inform her that she should have gotten a loan using the paper stock as collateral so she could have kept the stock which would have been more valuable later in life. She explained that she had asked a stock broker about "stock options" and he didn't mention the possibility of a loan. Of course not, I told her, a loan is a loan, it isn't a "stock option". I was ten.

Please don't mistake me. I don't say these things to elicit sympathy. Instead, with the exception of feeding me and keeping me from living beneath a bridge, I'm trying to explain that my mother's contribution to my life was hardly worthy of celebration. I do sometimes envy those who had close, supportive relationships with their mothers. It's hard not to want to find a woman who can counteract the negative impression of women programmed into me by having to live with my mother. It takes effort to learn how to effectively let go of the years of disappointment and just enjoy someone for who they are. But, still I try.

So, for all of you, I hope you enjoy your Mother's Day with fond admiration. For me, though, it's just another day.

Have fun and keep living life... or some approximation thereof.

Friday, May 8, 2009

To Boldy Go, or Just to Go

I, like many others in America, went to see the reboot of Star Trek tonight. It was good. I'm not sure if it was $9.50 good, but it was good. There were a ton of gorgeous CG effects, action, and comedy. As long as you aren't an uber Trek fanboi who has memorized the canon you should enjoy the movie. I've always loved Trek but have also always been bothered, as a writer, by how easily people allow themselves to ruin good storytelling by getting WAY too engrossed in the "canon" of a particular series. Sometimes details have to take a backseat to the story you want to tell.

That said, I felt a little uncomfortable while I was there, supposedly as part of a geek-themed Meetup group. The problem was that no one in the group acknowledged my presence. I suppose I could have been bold and made myself more known to all of them, but there were about 20 people in the group and I just felt out of place. I sat near the other group members during the movie, but I was really alone. I may try to attend another group event that has a smaller attendance and see if that helps. So far the Doctor Who group that I've been attending has been quite inviting, but I just didn't feel the same from the Geek group.

It seems like the only place where I really feel comfortable is at school. In class I'm bold and assertive. I have no problem talking to people and feeling like I'm in control of my situation. Making friends at school is a challenge due to the age barrier that I've already addressed, but I can still gather a small number of acquaintances. School has always been my comfort zone and time spent away from it feels awkward. If only the other students would age along with me.

By the way, I made an A in Developmental and a B in Environmental, just as I expected. I'm still awaiting my Philosophy grade, but I had the final exam this morning and I wasn't impressed with my performance. The exam consisted of three essay questions totalling 20% of our final grade! I don't think I did better than an 80 on the exam, so I can kiss that A I had going into the exam goodbye!

Now that the semester is over I want to get back into my writing. My novels have been taunting me with an urgency to be written. Even if I merely committed to write a page a day I would make some significant progress over the next 90-100 days before the Fall semester begins. I won't have time to write for myself during the next semester because I will have to devote all my effort into getting good grades if I have any hope of transferring into NC State's Psychology program.

You know, it is probably no coincidence that I am desperate to start writing again now that the three year anniversary of my breakup with Ex is imminent.

Have I mentioned how lonely I feel?

Have fun and keep living life... or some approximation thereof.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Exam Week

Next week is Exam Week. I have Environmental Geology Monday afternoon, Developmental Psychology Thursday morning, and Philosophy Friday morning. This past week I made an A on a test in Developmental, a C on a test in Environmental, and an A on a Philosophy paper. I'm in a pretty good place right now and could easily end up with 2 A's and a B for the semester. Of course, that assumes that I make A's on each of my final exams which, while being unlikely, doesn't seem impossible.

I'm feeling pretty proud of myself right now. Thanks to my decision to drop British Literature earlier in the semester, this is the best semester I've had so far. I loved all my classes and I feel as though I've learned a lot.

Still, I'm concerned about my exams. They won't be easy. For Environmental I need to go back and read over the chapters on earthquakes, volcanoes, and coastal processes, which were among my weakest sections during the semester. It's unlikely I'll make an A on the exam, but I'd love a solid B to lock in my current B average in the class. I think I'd need a 96 or better on the exam in order to get an A in the class, but that isn't even remotely possible since my highest test grade so far has been an 88.

For Developmental my concern is that we will have to be able to, completely from memory, list all eight of Erikson's stages of development, with the issues to be resolved, and the corresponding virtues gained. Oh yeah, they have to be in order, too! That's on top of the 60 multiple choice questions which I'm less worried about. Right now I have an 88 in the Dr. Mike's class, so I only need an extra two points on my average to get the A. If I can get at least a 90 on the final I'm guaranteed to get it.

Philosophy is a bit worrisome to me though I don't know why. I think I have a solid A in the class right now, but Gandy doesn't post grades during the semester. Still, I made a 90 on the first test, an 80 on the second test, an A on the first paper, and a 90 on our make-up day assignment. We haven't gotten our grades back on our second paper, but I don't see any reason why I wouldn't have made an A on it as well. That means that the exam can only hurt me at this point; it can't give me a better grade than I already have. Having to defend an A is not a position I'm used to being in.

I plan to study for my Environmental and Developmental exams, but there isn't a good way to study for the Philosophy final since Gandy wants us to apply our philosophical knowledge to readings he'll provide on exam day. At this point, I can only hope for the best.

Have fun and keep living life... or some approximation thereof!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

At Home in the City of Oaks

I love living in Raleigh. Even though I don't feel especially close to anyone here, and I don't avail myself of all the opportunities for entertainment and socialization which the city has to offer, I still don't think I'd want to live anywhere else. And while I have loved being in some of the major cities I've visited (London, Boston, and Atlanta, in particular) I can't say that I would really want to live in any of them for extended periods. Instead, I wish some of the best parts of those cities would come to Raleigh.

For instance, all of those cities have underground mass transit systems of one degree or another with the most elaborate being in London. Granted, subways are something which really need to be built at the start of a city's creation, but Raleigh is hoping to construct a ground level regional train system which would connect the city center with a few of its major suburbs and with the cities of Durham and Chapel Hill, the other two points of the Research Triangle. At least its something.

Another benefit more common to Boston and London is the focus of mixed use buildings with retail on ground level, then some blend of commercial and residential space on the higher levels. I'm sure that sounds like a no-brainer if you live in a large city, but it is something which Raleigh only began zoning for within the last 5-10 years. Previously business and residential zoning never mixed here. Thankfully, it seems the gods of progress eventually won out.

Another thing I really loved about the large cities was their friendliness toward two-wheeled vehicles. In London I saw as many Vespas as I saw cars, and in Boston bikes were fairly commonplace in certain areas of the city. Because of their friendliness toward bikes and scooters each city was very pedestrian friendly which led to healthier looking residents. Part of Raleigh's Comprehensive Plan for the next 20 years includes plans to redesign its roads to include and promote greater bike traffic. Couple this with the city's plan to focus growth in only a few select locations to promote urban infilling of currently "suburban" feeling areas of the city and you have a plan for Raleigh's future that I can fully support.

The only problem I have now is my impatience. The current quest to revitalize downtown Raleigh began when I was in high school in 1990. I've been dreaming of what Raleigh would become for 19 years now. And the Comprehensive Plan won't be complete until 2030, if then. I will be 56 years old and will have waited 40 years for Raleigh to transform into the urban metropolis I've been hoping for before it is all done. And by then there will likely be all new ways in which the city could grow and adapt.

Unless Ray Kurzweil's predicted convergence of man and machine comes to fruition there is every likelihood that once Raleigh has become the gleaming City of Oaks I will be too old to fully enjoy it. Now maybe you can see why the idea of becoming a cyborg is so attractive.

Have fun and keep living life... because the future could come any day now.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Grotesque and Mundane

The semester is winding down. Exam week is the first full week of May, then I'm done until Fall. Unless something drastic happens I expect to either make 3 Bs, 2 Bs and an A, or (this is least likely) 2 As and a B. I entered the semester needing straight As, but I'm not too bothered right now. Next Fall will be the worst semester to date as far as pressure to do well is concerned.

To that end, I will need to register for classes this weekend. I'm hoping I can get into all classes I want and need. Since all the classes are do overs, scheduling will be my biggest concern for now. The humanities class is an afternoon seminar, so it won't be as hard to schedule as the two math classes and the literature class. I still haven't decided which literature class to take.

Last Thursday, my philosophy professor had us watch clips of art films to determine what qualified as art and what truths about life, if any, were revealed by the clips. Among the clips we watched were The Amputee and Lumiere from David Lynch, of Twin Peaks and Mulholland Dr. fame. The clips were horrifying in their juxtaposition of the grotesque with the mundane, a concept Lynch has revisited in several of his professional works. It is hard to fully explain the clips, or why I found them so horrifying, but as a result I've been afraid of silence and the dark ever since. Only now am I getting back to being able to sleep in the dark, even though I have to keep a podcast running on my iPhone while I fall asleep.

In more mundane news, I finally broke down and joined Meetup and signed up for three groups thus far. One of the groups, one devoted to Doctor Who, had two meetups this week that I attended. The group gets together mostly to watch episodes of the show which has been running on the BBC off and on since the early 1960s. The group is largely made of 30-40 somethings but since they have a narrow focus (love of a TV show) there isn't enough there to make me feel like I don't fit in. And, besides, watching TV with other people is more social than sitting at home alone. We'll see how well I fit in with the other groups I joined.

My financial experiment hit another snag. Due to a minor miscalculation which I won't go into except to say that investment websites really should give you real-time quotes for free, my investment account has been reverted back so I can only use funds from "settled trades" again. This is quite a significant blow to my experiment at a time when I really needed some expediency to build my account up. As it stands now, I once again have to wait three days between trades before I can buy new stocks. Since my account had only grown to $3000 when this happened, and I'm forced to take out $1000 for the next month's expenses, I've essentially been made to restart from scratch again!

That seems almost as grotesque as a David Lynch film!

Have fun and keep living life... or some approximation thereof.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Just another LOL Cat

I wish I could get someone to type up my blog posts for me. I'm one of those writers who likes to put actual pen to paper before transcribing it to my chosen medium. Hence, I have about three posts sitting in my notebook waiting to be posted. I'll get to it within the next day or two, I promise.

4/25/09 UPDATE: Sorry for the delay. I've been busier than usual and I also spent some time procrastinating. I've added the three posts to the blog and they are found below. Hope you enjoy them. I have some homework to do for Monday, and I need to wash clothes and fill out some more financial aid paperwork, so I'll post my next two updates hopefully Monday night.

In the meantime, here's another LOL Cat:

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Meet TED

For the last week or two I've been obsessed with watching the lectures presented by TED, the Technology, Entertainment, and Design Conference. TED has been hosting lectures by some of the western world's finest minds for the last 25 years. Past speakers have included the likes of such luminaries as Bill Gates, Jill Tartar, Craig Venter, and Al Gore. TED even has an iPhone App that I've been using to view lectures during downtimes at school, where I have access to WiFi.

The thing I really love about TED is that it reflects a convergence of intellect which, if these people are given the chance, could alter the course of humanity's future for the better. For instance, during a lecture from Venter, the founder of The Institute for Genomic Research, revealed that his newest endeavor, Synthetic Genomics, was working on developing artificial microorganisms which have the potential to convert carbon pollutants into biofuel for cars. Imagine the potential benefit to society if Venter's group could be successful. His bioengineered lifeforms could clean our air and solve our energy problems at the same time!

And while Ray Kurzweil, who has invented a host of systems for information input, probably won't be single-handedly responsible for altering mankind, I nonetheless found his lecture on the coming convergence of man and machine incredibly fascinating. For years I have dreamed of a day when I will be able to extend my life by an extra century by downloading into a cybernetic body. (Yes, I'm completely serious! Stop laughing! Why do people always do that?) I don't want to live forever, but an extra century would be nice. I have a slight fear that something really cool is going to happen a couple of years after I die and that I'm going to miss it. So, I'm all for anything that has the potential to extend my life span.

TED has helped bring to light the work of so many brilliant people, such as Nicholas Negroponte whose One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program is helping third world children leap frog into the modern world by giving them a window beyond their impoverished existence. Well over a million low cost laptops have now been distributed to places as far away as Iraq and as nearby as Birmingham, Alabama (I won't editorialize about the level of impoverishment endemic to Alabama!).

I like TED because it helps confirm my optimism about humanity. While some of these visionaries are certainly working for fame and fortune, most are working for the intrinsic good that comes from the search for answers and the quest for solutions to the problems of the world. If that doesn't describe the communist ideal I don't know what does.

Have fun and keep living life... and don't stop thinking about tomorrow!
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