Funny stuff

I swear that soon I will write up a blog post that isn’t just a funny video. In the meantime, please enjoy this one. You’ve probably already seen if it you’re on Twitter or Facebook, but even if you have, it’s worth another viewing.

The only thing that threw me was “let’s try it on Orange”. Fortunately, Wikipedia came to the rescue, and informed me that Orange, in this case, is the ISP and mobile network brand of a telecommunications company based in France, which provides services all over Europe, including the UK. Here’s the Wikipedia page for Orange.

There. Now you know.

Earworm: “Dare to be Stupid” by Weird Al

I’ve had Weird Al’s “Dare to be Stupid” raging through my head for a couple of days now. It’s a fun song, true, but it gets old when you have it on infinite loop in your brain.

So, I’m inflicting it on you. Enjoy.

I suppose there are a couple of elements of this song that don’t make sense to you kids today. Who the hell was Mr. Whipple, for example, and why do you have to hide from him while squeezing your Charmin? But that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the song.

And if you’re saying to yourself, “Who the hell is Weird Al?” then all I can say is that I weep for your generation.

A Political Interlude

I’ve avoided politics on my blog for several months now, for a couple of reasons. First, most people who know me know that I am a pretty liberal guy, so I haven’t had to espouse my opinions. Second, in a world where political discourse is increasingly divisive and people on both ends of the political spectrum seem to keep themselves isolated from conflicting points of view, I haven’t really thought that anything I said would make any difference to anyone anyway. I think this second point speaks to my increasing cynicism about political discourse in our modern age, and why I am not sure things are going to get much better anytime soon.

But Saturday’s tragic and senseless shooting in Tucson, Arizona, made me want to speak out a little. Like everyone else, I was shocked and saddened by the horrific events, and my prayers rise for the victims and the survivors. There was a lot of confusion in those first few hours; first we heard that Representative Gifford was dead; then we learned that she was alive; then she was dead again; then alive again. As I write this, she’s alive and her condition has been upgraded, but she has a long recovery ahead of her, and who knows if she’ll ever recover completely from a point blank shot to the head.

Much has been made about the shooter, Jared Loughner, and his state of mind. At the time of the shooting, we knew very little about him, but to most people it looked like a political attack, and there were many on the left who blamed the Tea Party movement. I was skeptical about that; I don’t have a lot of respect for Tea Party rhetoric, but I think the people who are part of it are on the whole law-abiding citizens who are above political hits like this. Phil Plaitt over at Bad Astronomy tweeted, “Let me be clear: it is way too early to know motives here, and speculation is counterproductive.” I agreed with him on this point. At the time, it was just too early to know what was going on and why.

As the days have passed, more about Loughner’s state of mind has become clear. Based on his YouTube videos and messages on his MySpace page, many people have suggested that he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. I don’t know, personally; that’s the sort of judgement that should be made by doctors, not folks like me who just watch a few rantings on YouTube. One thing is clear, though: the fact that he named Mein Kampf, Animal Farm, the writings of Ayn Rand, and The Communist Manifesto as some of his favorite books points to a man without much political consistency. Is he a right wing fascist? A left wing communist? A Tea Party libertarian? Impossible to say. His points of view seem too inconsistent to make a firm judgement.

One side effect of the shooting, however, seems to have been a growing attention to the levels of angry rhetoric that seems to have infiltrated out political discourse these days. And that’s good; on both sides, discourse seems to have gone past “I’m right, you’re wrong” to “I’m right, you’re evil” (to echo the words of Representative Emanuel Cleaver). And while politics has never been free of contention (look back to the dirty politics that surrounded the signing of the Constitution, for example; and, more recently, there were conservatives loudly accusing President Kennedy of treason, just as they are accusing President Obama of the same thing), the sort of hate-filled talk that’s spreading around these days seems to be a new invention. And it’s a scary one. We’re right to be looking at this rhetoric and the impact it might have on unstable persons like Loughner.

But here’s where I get cynical. The mudslinging and the hating and the angry rhetoric aren’t going away any time soon. We have talk show hosts and news commentators who are paid not for their insights but for their ability to “rabble rouse”. Whole news networks aren’t afraid anymore to blatantly take sides in political dialog, when they ideally should be neutral. Outrage, especially of the “I’m right, you’re evil” variety, sells. The media, and the money behind it, favors extremist rhetoric on both sides. Until we see a fundamental shift in human nature, where people will not feel threatened by ideas different from their own but challenged to rise to dialog instead, we’re just not going to see an end to the violent rhetoric.

I fear that things will just get worse before they get better.

And now to counterbalance this cynical post, here’s a picture of our cat Ingrid flopping around on my chair:

Sometimes I’m pretty sure that cats have the right idea.

Un-Christmased

It’s Twelfth Night, which is traditionally the day that we get off our lazy butts and take our Christmas decorations down.

Well, actually, this year all we have to take down is the Christmas tree. We got all of our decorations down from the attic earlier on in the Christmas season, but didn’t get around to putting anything up except the (artificial, pre-lit) tree itself, which we didn’t even put up until the weekend before Christmas. We just weren’t feeling all that Christmasy this year. Besides, soon after we put up our tree, we had these:

Laser-Eyed Cats

Yes! Cats! Cats with green laser beams shooting out their eyes! And since many of our ornaments are breakable, we didn’t want the laser-eyed cats shooting them down.

It’s weird. For years none of our cats even gave the Christmas tree a second glance. But then last year we got the two kittens and suddenly they’re all over it. The older cats still don’t give a damn about the tree, but Ingrid and Rupert still see it as one of their most favorite playthings ever.

Anyway. It’s Twelfth Night tonight, so we’ll be taking down the tree… and taking away the cats’ shiny sparkly plaything. How un-seasonable is that?

Priorities 2011

These days, it seems like it’s fashionable to simply not make New Year’s resolutions. Why, just today one of my Facebook friends declared that 2010 was so awesome that she wasn’t going to make any resolutions for 2011, just try to top 2010. To which I say, Bah. I was not making resolutions before not making resolutions was cool.

For awhile I avoided making New Year’s resolutions just because I thought January 1 was a very arbitrary date to make a significant change in your life. I figured any date would do, so I chose March 25 as my “resolution” date. Then I decided that resolutions in general were kind of silly. Why should one choose to change a single behavior or habit when what everyone really needed was a complete personality overhaul (I was pretty cynical when I was in college). Finally I just decided to give up on resolutions, New Year’s or otherwise, and just sort of go on with my life.

Then a couple of years ago I decided that what I would do is take the new year as an opportunity to revisit my personal priorities and set some goals. I guess that’s the same thing as a resolution, though, isn’t it?

At any rate, here are the priorities I’m setting for 2011. They’re not listed in any sort of priority, so each of these priorities has more or less equal… uh, priority. And I’m putting them online so that you all can help me stay honest.

Health: I’ve tried — oh, how I’ve tried — to make my physical health a priority over the years. Making my health a priority means not just exercising (taking advantage of the gym membership that Jennifer and I purchased back in October) and eating right, but also sleeping regular hours and, heck, even brushing my teeth and flossing regularly. So let’s see if 2011 is the year when I take my health seriously.

Writing: I do take my writing pretty seriously, but this year I want to take my commitment to the next level. “But what in the world does that mean?” I hear you cry. It means making a concerted effort to market myself as a writer in ways that I haven’t done so in the past (and this will actually mean doing some research first to figure out how to do this), and to simply making more time to actually write. Also, keeping five active submissions going at all times. Yeah, that last one’s going to have to start in February, after I get some manuscripts ready to go. Also, I want to make this blog a higher priority.

Faith: I won’t talk about this one too much, simply because it’s very personal to me. Suffice to say, I plan on going to church more often. And on volunteering with some local charities.

Relationships: …by which I mean my relationships with various people in my life: family, friends, co-workers, and so on. I have this horrible tendency to let my friends drop off the radar when they’re not in my immediate vicinity for too long. Thus, I have friends in different parts of the country that I haven’t kept in touch with, and that I haven’t even talked to for months. Facebook has helped with this, but it’s certainly no replacement for phone calls or even just plain old fashioned email. Same with family, which is a shame. So I want to make maintaining my relationships (and building new ones) a priority for this coming year.

Work: Not much needs to be said about this, and I don’t think I need to work on this one very much. I have a good, secure job that I enjoy. Basically I don’t need to increase my focus on this priority, but I can’t really let it slip either.

Geekery: Isn’t that a great word? But what do I mean by saying that I want to focus on “Geekery” as a priority for the coming year? At first I thought this meant just being more of a nerd, and engaging in nerd culture. I mean, if someone can resolve to engage in their own national or ethnic culture over the coming year, then why couldn’t I focus on the culture I belong to? But then I thought about it some more and decided that what this really means is ongoing learning and engaging. I plan on learning new programming languages, learning more about history, engaging in more local cultural events, and so on. Geekery — in my mind, at least — means getting involved with the world around you and ongoing learning. Oh, and spending more time interacting with fellow geeks.

And in addition to these priorities, I have a couple of core values that I plan on working in to my life: namely, integrity and creativity. So, as I approach each priority, I plan on doing so with those values in mind.

What’s really fun is that I can find ways of working on goals that meet more than one of these priorities. For example, my goal of writing a web-based Manuscript Submission Tracking tool in Python for myself falls under both Writing and Geekery, while a goal of exercising more with my friends is both a Health goal and a Relationships goal. And a goal to get involved with, say, the social committee at work is both a Work goal and a Relationships goal. Pretty snazzy, right?

Now that I’ve got all that written down, it seems like a lot. But I don’t think it really is. Most of these priorities are repeats from last year, and it’s easy to keep them in mind anyway. The big part for me comes when I review my priorities and set goals on a regular basis. I’ve already set a few — weight loss, software to write, manuscripts to revise and finish, and so on.

Anyway. Thanks for reading this far, those of you who did. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, I’m wide open to hearing them.

Office Remodel

Jennifer and I have been planning on renovating our home office ever since we moved into this house three years ago. When we first moved in, we had a cheesy setup involving an extra dining room table, two laptops, and a couple of bookcases. We eventually bought a couple of cheap desks through Craigslist, desks which had originally been part of a church youth group center or something and which they sold to us for $75 each or so. Those, along with the bookcases we’d both been holding on to since the 90s, contributed to a decorating scheme that we called “Late Twentieth Century College Student Eclectic”. To give you an idea of what this looked like, here is a picture of Jennifer’s side of the office prior to the remodeling:

…and here’s a picture of my side of the office:


To our credit, each workstation was… functional. Jennifer’s overflowed with knitting books and various papers, while mine was covered with books, manuscripts in various stages of revision, and toys. And, of course, our computers were prominent on each.

This year for Christmas we decided that our gift to each other would be a remodeling of our office, to make it functional and — dare we imagine it — attractive. So the weekend before Christmas we went to Ikea and purchase seven large boxes worth of office furniture. The cats found them fascinating:

The whole time we were working on this I had Jonathan Coulton’s song “Ikea” playing in my head.

Anyway, assembling furniture is fun! Isn’t it? Sure it is. And after much pounding, drilling, and swearing, our new workstations were finished. The old desks we put up on Freecycle, and we made sure they went to good homes.

So here is Jennifer’s new workstation:

See? It’s all purdy. The desk closes up completely so the casual observer can’t tell, just by looking, that we are both terminally disorganized.

And here’s my side of the office:

Complete with a cat that shoots green laser beams from its eyes!

The bookshelf is cool because the bottom is a file drawer that rolls out to reveal the manuscripts that I have been working on (the file drawer also makes a swell lurking place for the cats). On top of the desk you can see the knitted Dalek that Jennifer made for me for my birthday a couple of years ago. And on the wall next to my bookcase you can seem the zombie-themed calendar that Jennifer got me for my birthday this year. (Every year I get a few more zombie-related gifts for my birthday… Can’t imagine why.)

At any rate, you have now seen where I sit and write… or, at least, where I sit and procrastinate. Exciting, isn’t it?