Friday, August 20, 2010


Last day of training. If I pass, I actually have a for real job for the foreseeable future. If I don't pass, I'm screwed. I have every confidence I'll pass training just fine. At the same time, how on earth am I expected to sleep?

Further updates will of course be forthcoming.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Oh right!

Also I'm back on WoW again.

Generalized updates/rants

Item 1:

people on Magic WorkStation are either jerks or crazy. Why the rage? why the incompetence? I am not exaggerating when I say that the reason these people play this game at all is as an outlet for an unhealthy addiction to rage. I have been cussed out, yelled at, the internet equivalent of spat upon, etc. for nothing more than playing a game slightly differently than someone else! Heaven forfend! I've been scoffed at for being a child. How on earth would that have been deduced? From my excellent use of the English language, my civility, and my tendency to avoid arguments with people who randomly scream at me with their capslock permanently activated? Well, shucks! If youth is looked down upon, and the reason they think I'm a youth is my ability to hold a normal conversation in complete sentences and even *gasp* demonstrate common courtesy over the internet, then youth sounds fine to me. The fact that I don't really qualify as a youth, that I'm not ignorant about the game I'm playing, that I'm (if I dare say it my own self) a relatively intelligent, fully capable person in my own right doesn't seem to translate well across the internet. So how about we try this on for size:

Please, if you decide that you need an outlet for your rage, go punch a cop in the face or something. You'll feel better after a sound thrashing, because you'll have something actually worth being slightly upset about. I'll feel better because you'll have been soundly clubbed and promptly imprisoned. Everyone wins, and you don't end up the subject of a rant!

Item 2: Work is actually going pretty well! I was initially worried by my baby steps, surrounded by people who have more experience than I do. Today I consciously improved upon several of my problem areas (which, if you'd like a list, include things like not actually ever looking at people, hovering around behind the lectern like a vulture, being ever-so-gently mocking of the fact that I have to drop my employer's name in every lecture I give, summarily characterizing questions as "easy" in situations where a student might get them wrong, and a condition I think I'll call "whiteboard dyslexia.") After trying to improve, I actually did. In fact, I did a really bang up job; my constructive criticism became, instead of extremely broad guidelines (fix everything you're bad at), very picky single areas for improvement (a good thing to do on this question is 'x'). This is wonderful. It means I'm in the general neighborhood I need to be in.

I'll outline some of the things I do to prepare at a later date. (No confidential or proprietary information will be revealed.)

Item 3: Somehow, everyone I meet is being characterized and categorized in terms of people I know from Tulsa. My boss reminds me of Andrew, a coworker reminds me of a perfect cross between Raine and Dirk, a TV show character reminds me of Paul, etc. While alarming, I have also been very interested to see that these snap characterizations quite often hold true! I need to either meet some new archetypes, get to know these people better so the comparisons don't throw me for a loop, or potentially write a groundbreaking book about how there are, in fact, only about two dozen actual personalities in the world.

Item 4: Kitties are growing fast. They climb alarmingly well.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

C'mon now...

This is a borrowed rant, but I hope I'll do it justice.

In August of 1998, Fox launched "That 70's Show," a retro drama/comedy that focused on the lives and shenanigans of off-beat high schoolers. The show featured a cast of mostly unknowns: the "floozy" (Mila Kunis), the "sexy male loser" (Ashton Kutcher) a nerdy male protagonist (Topher Grace), a wisecracking, world-weary, side-burn adorned hanger-on(Danny Masterson), and a startlingly attractive but mysteriously "uncool" female lead (Laura Prepon). (And who could forget Fez (Wilmer Valderrama), who fluctuated between being a below-the-belt jab at Desi Arnaz and a remarkable display political incorrectness...)

You may remember the show as primarily a comedy, and not a drama, but that's simply because the show was about thirty times better as a comedy than it was when it tried to be anything like dramatic. But that didn't stop it from trying! The show ran for 8 consecutive seasons, served as the principle launching pad for the (extremely mediocre) careers of its stars, and was basically a fairly competent sitcom. I mostly hated it.

Hysterical side-note: This is literally the *only* show that survived the 98-99 Fox broadcast lineup. Family Guy and Futurama were both scrapped by Fox the same year, along with literally every other show on the Fox lineup. Both of those shows were, incidentally, so popular that they basically had to come back from the dead. I mean, "That 70's Show" was okay, but it was no Futurama. I would trade all 8 seasons of "BUUURRRRN!!!1!!!" for even one more season of the original Futurama.

If you think that's my rant, you have another think coming.

What if I told you that the very next year, during the 1999-2000 television season, there was another retro drama/comedy that focused on the lives and shenanigans of off-beat high schoolers. It featured a "floozy," a "sexy male loser," a nerdy male protagonist, a wisecracking, world-weary, side-burn adorned hanger-on, and a startlingly attractive but mysteriously "uncool" female lead. Sound familiar?

Except instead of being created by the people who brought you "Coneheads," and "The Brady Bunch Movie," this show was created by a guy who directed 13 episodes of the US version of "The Office" and 8 episodes of "Arrested Development." Instead of being produced by the guy who produced "3rd Rock from the Sun," this *other* show was produced by the producer of "Anchorman: the Legend of Ron Burgundy," "Superbad," and "Pineapple Express."

You have an inkling of where I'm going with this yet?

This other little show was called "Freaks and Geeks." It was produced by the now legendary Judd Apatow, directed by Paul Feig. It ran for less than one season before NBC killed it. In that time, it was nominated for three Emmys and received one. Time called it one of the best 100 shows of all time. Entertainment Weekly called it the 13th best show in the last 25 years, in 2008, ten years after the show left the air.

To give you an idea of how good this show is, let me just briefly note that it was also, miraculously, a launching pad for its stars. Yes, even though it ran for less than one season, I guarantee you will recognize some names.

You know that wisecracking, world-weary, side-burn aficionado in "That 70's Show?" Danny Masterson, in case you forgot (it's alright, his career has been pretty much kaput for years now). Well in Freaks and Geeks, this same archetypical character is played by...


An 18-year-old Seth Rogen. You heard me. Think, just for a moment, about what this implies.

"Sexy male loser?" Move over Kutcher. You make camera commercials now.

We're replacing you with... wait for it... a twenty-year-old James Franco.

Are you starting to get the idea now?

This show created two mega-stars (so far) and started at least two more fairly strong working careers (Marshall from "How I Met Your Mother," and Velma from the Scooby Doo movies.) Also, Shia LaBoeiuaf was in an episode. (I don't know how his stupid name is spelled. I just put all the vowels in to be safe. Sometimes I include a 'y'.)

All this in one season. Measuring by star power, that means that this show is way, way better than "That 70's Show."

If we estimate that Mila Kunis, Topher Grace, and Ashton Kutcher *put together* have roughly as much star-power as James Franco,* and we figure that they took 8 times as long to be "launched," then that computes to Freaks and Geeks being over 24 times as good as "That 70's Show"...

It would be 24 times better, that is, if the show hadn't launched Mr Rogen's career. And for that matter, Judd Apatow's. (For what it's worth, Franco's net worth at this time is estimated around $22 million. Rogen's got about $25 mill. Apatow has got $40 million to his name. 22+25+40=87 87-22=55 Franco pulls down less than a quarter of the total: so Rogen and Apatow put together are about three times as successful as he is.)

I don't know about you, but by the back of my envelope, it looks like "Freaks and Geeks" has, very conservatively, about 100 times as much star launching power as "That 70's Show."

All of the above is simply to say: there's a reason this is a rant. I submit that "Freaks and Geeks" is 10,000% as good as "That 70's Show." Not even a full season ran on the air.

And I really mean it, too. F&G is amazing. The drama is heart wrenching, the humor is quite literally the funniest thing I've ever seen on TV. I don't want this show to ever stop running, and I know it will stop all too soon, and it just tears me up inside. I'm not even pissed off, really. I'm just sad. I don't want "Freaks and Geeks" to have an ending.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Well, when my WoW account was hacked a few weeks ago, they reset all my financial information with Blizzard. What this means is that I am no longer on a subscription plan. Today my current month ran out, and normally I would renew it. Unfortunately, today I also underwent a teensy-weensy financial SNAFU. Because I feel guilty spending money I don't have on a game, I am therefore not renewing this subscription at the moment. This is kind of a big deal, and very unexpected. Ideally, when i get a paycheck, I'll be more or less able to go back. Then again, I might not. Who's to say?

At any rate, if you're my friend, and I'm not on WoW for a bit, that's why.

*off to do something billable...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Alright, time to start up again!

Blogging takes discipline! Rawr.

Alright, so, when last we spoke I was settling in in Chicago. Consider me basically settled at this point.

Important updates:

1) I has kittens. Two of them. They're named Finnegan and Puck, and they are 11 weeks old. Finnegan is a grayish tabby, who is a little bit dumb and extremely gorgeous. Puck is black, (prematurely graying? it's hard to tell...) ugly as sin, ornery as Rooster Cogburn on a bender, smarter than he has any right to be, and potentially evil. I insist they're named from their respective Joyce and Shakespeare. The girl insists they're the first names of the male leads in "Glee." We have yet to see how that shakes out.

2) I'm employed. Finally. I now work for a test prep company. If you have been to university in the last several years, you know what tests I'm teaching. Chances are, you know which company it is, too. (It was the first test prep company that popped into my head.) Frankly, it seems pretty much fool proof. It is fairly challenging, at least during this part of my training. Eventually I assume it will be somewhat mindless and soul-sucking. I don't really care, though. It's work. The hours are good. The pay doesn't completely suck. Yay!

I'll try to be on here a bit more. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) that probably means that this blog is going to head in a nerdy direction PDQ. (That's "Pretty Damn Quick," BTW.) (That's "By The Way," BTW.) Potential upcoming posts include a quick summary of my ongoing attempt to finally finish watching BSG (Battlestar Galactica), the absolutely ridiculous MTG shenanigans going on between my friends at (Magic: The Gathering), or perhaps even the current state of my leveling rogue in WoW (World of Warcrack).

Stay tuned for kitten antics, work griping, and MATYCSASA. (More Acronyms Than You Can Shake A Stick At.)

Friday, July 2, 2010

I'm back!

I'm also in a new place. Geographically, and otherwise.

I'm living in Chicago- someday I may be allowed to call it Chi-town, but I suspect that day is far in the future. Chicago is an interesting city. It is appallingly large and very humid, supposedly bitter cold in winter. I've only been here during more temperate seasons, and my first impression has not yet been overturned: the vegetation is more than startling, it is actually terrifying. This is a major metropolitan area. Millions of feet walk all over everything, I shudder to think how many cars make hour-long commutes every morning, and the whole city is cast in a palette of red brick and green, green everywhere, fighting out of cracks in the sidewalk, clinging to buildings, etc. When I enter a city I want to see some urban wasteland, dammit! Some signs that humans have left an indelible mark, some permanency. If everyone left (or died) all at the same time, the city would be nothing but jungle inside of 6 months.

Another problem is that people are, somehow, too friendly.

I can't muster up the courage to post on politics in the area. I thought they were bad in Tulsa. Silly me. Politics is an obsession, and it is neither healthy nor productive.

I'm currently not employed, and looking for work. I'm curious to see how that will pan out. I don't absolutely need work right now, but I desperately want it. We'll see how that goes.

I hope eventually to turn this blog toward more literary themes, but as of right now I'm a bit cut off from that world. School won't start for a while yet, and I'm at something of a loss. I may begin studying French in earnest. At some point I'm going to have to pass some kind of exam in some non-native language. At least it isn't German.

Monday, June 14, 2010

I'm Engaged

No joke. Is the real deal. I'm also in the middle of a fairly time intensive move. There'll be more later. Cross my heart.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


So, I just finished reading Anathem by Neal Stephenson, author of Cryptonomicon, the Baroque Cycle, and Snow Crash. I enjoyed it on several levels.

First, the literature nerd in me was simply delighted by the etymological play: the "translation" of Orth words into English is achieved by mixing up English words that hint at the original's multiple meanings and development over time. Orth itself is suggestive of both "orthography" and "orthodoxy;" appropriately, since the language has existed as a Latin-esque academic lingua franca for thousands of years. This means that reading closely for clues is extremely rewarding.

Second, the philosophy nerd in me was equally thrilled by locating or deciphering philosophical ideas familiar to me here on Earth: Andrakhones' Theorem states that the square of a right triangle's hypotenuse is equal to the square of the remaining sides, the Sphenics are equivalent to Sophists while Protas is Plato, etc. My ability to find parallels was stretched way beyond its limits, and I'm sure I'm missing many important philosophy jokes (although the ones I did get were amazing.)

Even better, these puzzles took a backseat to the plot itself. I was gripped. I hadn't noticed before, but Stephenson's style seems cramped at times. Even in close to 900 pages he is cramped. This book could be almost twice the length. Apparently his preferred page count is a lot closer to the 2500-ish of the Baroque Cycle. He has written shorter books, but Anathem will probably be remembered as one of his best. Right now I'm having trouble deciding whether or not this is his best book. If it isn't, it's close.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ah, television...

I was, until recently, fairly certain that the best ensemble cast on TV was NCIS, with a close second in Psych. NCIS is built on nothing but group dynamics; each character is strong and well-developed, but the show runs on their interplay more than on their individuality. They fill more than one role: mentoring relationships fluctuate back and forth, power structures are always in question, and most of the dialog's punch is held in the interaction between the principles. This is in contrast to most scripted cop/medical/legal dramas, where the bulk of the action takes place in dialog between the protagonist and a one-off villain or the particular patient, case, or what have you.

Obviously Psych is a different brand of show, far closer to Scrubs in tone. But while Scrubs based its humor on JD's interactions almost exclusively (especially in narration) Psych's subsidiary characters are arguably funnier than their protagonist. Notably, in scrubs there is no straight man (and I mean more than the homo-erotic tension between Nancy and his Brown Bear.) Psych has a strong base of straight supporting characters who can play funny if necessary, but who truly shine as a backdrop to the "comic" characters.

Well, to mix metaphors, there's a new dog on the block! The Mentalist is brilliant. It's a very well written episodic crime show with an overarching plot that promises to be extremely compelling. They get a little heavy handed, and there is one character who, as of halfway into the first season, still hasn't done a singe interesting thing.

These quibbles I am willing to drop, however, because despite my initial impressions, Mentalist is not a one-man show. Patrick Jane is not, thank goodness, Gregory House. While he does drive the show, the cops around him are not only competent developing characters, but they are often as entertaining and impressive as Jane himself. Cho is a standout character who deserves and will probably get his own fully fledged blog post, but the ridiculously-named Van Pelt is not only stunning (which I think everyone will admit the women of Princeton Plainsborough Teaching Hospital are in spades), but *interesting*. The big fella is actually unpredictable; shocking when you consider roles like his in other television shows. Sure, he's always hungry, clueless about women, etc. The fun part is that even though his actions play to stereotypes, they are not always the stereotypes they should be. He'll go womanize when he ought not, and he'll whine when he ought to bluster.

Jane himself is disarming, charming, and everything he should be. I find myself associating him with Goldblum's role in Law and Order: CI. Utterly, impossibly perfect at all times, absurdly competent, kind of a jerk, completely selfless-- come to think of it, the only person who can stand up to this juggernaut is Mary Poppins. Practically perfect in every way, and knows it.

Now, as I mentioned, the show is occasionally a little too determined. The insistence that every show title must have the word "red" in it is *not* artistic; it's lame and forced. And the nice lady who is Jane's boss and potential love interest is boring. I can't even find the energy to dislike her. She's just there. It will take serious work before I'll buy her as a match for Jane.

But oh, the cast of this show (when it's good) is *so* good. I think I have to make a little room on the shelf.