Embracing Obstreperousness

Looking over this, it is not only extremely long and very inane, it also rambles at the end. I was just writing what was in my head, seeing if anything interesting came out. It didn’t. I’m going to bed.

Also, this is 1324 words. I wish I could write that much about something interesting

I need a place where I can talk about all the things I can’t talk about. This is not that place. However, I still feel like cracking out a few hundred words only seven people will read, so here I go.

My classes are going well so far. I’m getting the hang of the MIPS assembly language, so that will make CS fairly straightforward. Japanese is the same old busywork. English is going to be English. I wish I didn’t have to read a textbook, but I think the papers will at least be fun. I would love to take an English class that wasn’t the same as all the ones I’ve taken before. Math is easy, even though it’s really abstract (it’s abstract algebra, and the title is actually quite apt) and not practical at all. That basically means that everyone in the class is a math major. Fortunately, I’m definitely at the top of the class, which is nice.

I need to contract 6 honors hours by the end of the semester or lose my books scholarship for next year. My plan is to contract CS and Math, the two subjects I should be able to annihilate. Both instructors seem perfectly fine with my doing that, so I just need to figure out what extra work I will do. I’m also applying for upperclass scholarships, although I’m not all that sure I’ll get one (there aren’t a whole lot of scholarships for the UNL Math Dept.)

On the employment front, I still have an extremely small chance of grading for the CS department (highly unlikely, Riedesel implied it’s only going to happen if one of the grad students doesn’t want the job), and I applied to be an RA next year. The interview is in mid February, and I think I’m a solid candidate, so I should get an offer (knock on wood), but I don’t know if it will be someplace nice or not. If it’s not a good place, I will probably just try and get a TA position in the math department again. Except I’d want one with “responsibility” or I’ll be bored out of my gourd. Maybe I’m too picky. Hm.

I’ve been exceptionally bipolar lately. It’s odd for me, because I’m in a good position with respect to classes, but I still have the same stuff that always bothers me. So I get in a good mood over school stuff, only to have my mood crushed by everything else. That’s the opposite of how it normally works. I’m also finding my usual solaces are crumbling, and that doesn’t help anything.

The big thing occupying my last few days is applying to do math research somewhere this summer. I’ve applied to 6 schools (UNL, Central Michigan, Univ. of MN-Duluth, Hope College, NC State, and Rutgers) to do 8 weeks of work through June and July. It would be nice to get out of the house for a break, and the stipend is around $3000 for most of them (sometimes less). Thank you National Science Foundation for including math in your funding umbrella. My advisor said I am a good candidate, although I’m not sure my personal statements were helpful. It’s hard for me to write what I want to do with math because I have so little experience. I’m not a bad writer, I just can’t talk about math that way. It’s unfortunate, because there’s a good chance I’ll have to write about it in later life.

All of my technology is breaking. Apple is in the process of replacing my out-of-warranty iPod because the effective battery life is around 1-2 hours. My laptop’s battery light is blinking a lovely orange-orange-orange-orang

e-green pattern at me constantly, although Dell’s advice was basically crap (Try another battery. ‘I don’t have another battery.’ Too bad.).

I’ll have to borrow Alan’s battery sometime, just to see if my battery is what’s causing it. If so, I’m screwed because the warranty on Dell batteries is 1 year (same as the iPod. I got both before I came to school and they’re already broken. I fucking hate technology. Built-in obsolescence is a horrible practice. Apple especially feels the need to employ it, and as someone pointed out, their motto is “don’t make it cheaper, upgrade it and keep the price the same. You don’t pay less, we give you more!” If you get that reference, you get an ‘A.’ Unless you’re Mark.). If it’s not the battery, I’m screwed because it’s the motherboard (there’s some battery-related component of the motherboard. Who cares, it’s all hardware. Software is where it’s at, bitches.). I might still have that under warranty, though it could only be the accidental damage one. This is pretty damned accidental, I guess (I sure as hell didn’t do it on purpose and it started at a random time).

I got a bunch of homework assigned today, and tomorrow I need to wash my T-shirts (haven’t done that since I left for home. That means nearly 6 weeks or 42 shirts. All stone sexy.), so I’ll have to do stuff in the afternoon. Tuesday is the best day of the week because I only have 1 hour of class and then 23 hours of free time. In a row. Although the last 9.5 hours of that is Wednesday. So I guess that Tuesday is, strictly speaking, the day where the majority of my largest span of free time within the working week occurs.

I reread my favorite book, House of Leaves, last week. It is an amazing book, and I recommend it to everyone. It is very complex and cool. I have a bunch of movies I want to watch, and I suspect I will persist in renting them weekly at least to burn through the list. There are a number of items on there that I’ll have to watch alone, because there’s no chance anyone I know would watch them with me (everyone hates on drama for some reason).

Speaking of drama, there is certainly a lot of it. Everything seems to upset someone lately. It makes my neutrality hard to maintain. I am a lot more listless about the things that are important to me, which should never happen. I can’t tell what’s happening around me (socially), but I can tell that it’s leaving me too productive. I don’t want to go down that path; it’s not pleasant.

It’s going to be cold tomorrow. I’m upset with the weather right now. I wish not having a heart gave me superpowers, like the fish guy from those pirate movies. I want to write something people will read. I haven’t properly cooked since I was in high school. The closest thing was last year, when I made cookies. Cookies are my favorite food. I also like mozzarella sticks and a properly cooked steak. I’d like to have all three, but I can’t.

I want to donate blood now that my heartbeat is acceptable. It’s not fair that I’m on a ridiculously strict diet and what is essentially heart medication at age 18. I love vegetables. I’m always tired but it takes me 45 minutes to fall asleep.

Human beings are immensely complex. You will never understand yourself, not even physiologically. But more importantly, you won’t even understand your own emotions and motivations. Sometimes, they just are. I have realized that this complexity makes it almost entirely impossible for someone to understand anyone else. There is just too much to understand about yourself; it’s impossibly hard to even try to figure someone else out. No wonder selfishness is so fundamental. I can’t remember what having a heart was like.

I hope the sun is out tomorrow.

Entitlement and Attention

Lots of the social issues I’ve been having lately break down into two things: either the individual in question feels entitled to something they don’t deserve, or they want attention. Way too many issues can come down to this. It’s unnerving, really.

I’m used to the attention thing. Everybody wants attention, it’s a very comforting thing. No one gets the amount they want, though. Ever. So basically, we have a huge group of people competing for way too little attention. In short: economics. Attention is just like a free market economy, you get to spend your attention anywhere you want, but there is excess demand, so you’ll never fulfill that need. Plus, you need your own supply of attention, and you can’t give it to yourself (sadly). It’s a little like running a business, I guess.

Because no one gets enough attention (on some level, anyway), they have to develop ways of dealing with it. The obvious way is to externalize, or get more attention in any way possible. This is really, really common. Many people have their own ways of seeking attention: jokes (using one of mine first), fucking around, starting arguments/fights/etc, stealing attention (complicated but common, through a variety of methods), or acting. The last two are generally related to competing to have the worst problems. If your problems aren’t that bad, you still think they’re worse than someone else’s, because you’re living them.

So that’s pretty basic and obvious, and most people notice it. The entitlement thing is something I’m just starting to learn about now. It’s actually kind of interesting trying to learn about it. Basically, we all think we deserve whatever we want (within some semblance of reason, of course), and can’t understand why reality won’t let us have it. Reality often includes other people, in this respect. This one varies from person to person, based on personality. The amount of stuff you think you deserve might be more for some people and less for some others.

There’s probably a happy medium somewhere, but the people who think they deserve a lot are often insufferable. They tend to never understand why they can’t get it, and will often react poorly when they don’t get it. Let me say to all of you, and especially those who “deserve” a whole lot: you don’t deserve anything! You are no better than anyone else, and you certainly don’t deserve more because you want more (or are louder about wanting more). I don’t really want to go into specifics. I’m going to start paying attention to this theory, though.

Books vs. Movies vs. Television

Today I finished reading “Timequake,” by Kurt Vonnegut. It was pretty good, although he definitely wrote his best work when he was younger. It was almost like the unfortunately deformed progeny of his fiction and nonfiction. But that is immaterial. What is significant is that in one chapter, he bemoans the fact that the printed word has been forgone in favor of television and movies. And it started me thinking about it.

Here is my conclusion: Mr. Vonnegut, a brilliant writer, is wrong. I am no stranger to the wonderful world of reading. I have read thousands of books. I have also watched several hundred movies and dozens of television shows. Hell, I even play video games (that would be back up to hundreds, I think), and as I rot my brain out, I have often dwelled on the idea that one might be better than the other.

I’m not old, so I don’t have the bias towards things that existed when I was younger (as Mr. Vonnegut doubtless had in 1996). Perhaps I have a bias towards new stuff, it’s hard to tell. In any case, here’s what I thought.

Books are fascinating things. They can turn what is essentially just words into realms of the imagination. It is really terrific. If you can imagine it, someone has probably written a book about it. You can read books on any topic you want, although if you want a good book, it does narrow your choices significantly. Of course, not everyone likes books, and as Vonnegut points out, only recently (in the scope of human history) have large numbers of people been able to read anyway.

The most popular books, as you might know, are romance novels. If you’ve never read one (that includes me, actually, I’ve only read books that were romance as well as some other genre), then you probably think of the following things: Fabio; the phrases “well-muscled,” “rippling,” and “passion;” and sex scenes, as read by housewives. Not generally the best of literature, as a whole. Now I could be mistaken (unlikely), but I refuse to believe there is much good in the vast world of romantic fiction. Even the few good ones (which probably do exist) are dwarfed by volumes of crappy ones.

Movies are pretty cool too. They take a lot of work away from the imagination (admittedly), but are still quite fascinating, and the good ones should make other parts of your brain work. A good movie can accomplish a great deal, even where a similar book might fail miserably. People who complain that “the movie wasn’t as good as the book” (I raise my hand sheepishly here) probably didn’t want what the movie was offering. It might not be how you pictured it, or maybe some small detail is wrong, or maybe it’s a crock of shit under the guise of a good book.

There are excellent, excellent movies out there. They will use their medium well, and capture your imagination. They might make you think, and you can talk with your friends about what they mean. You could show them to people who are important to you, because you want them to feel the way you did, and to understand something, and talk about it. It is a cool thing.

But the movies that do the most business are plot-free, thought-free piles of action sequences and CGI effects. They have huge budgets, and often top-named actors, and lots of investors. I like lots of top-named actors, but it doesn’t mean they have to be the ones in the movie. Tom Cruise is a terrible actor, but he’s bankable so he gets lots of roles. I have no doubt there are poorer actors who could act circles around the lunatic.

Larry Miller remarked once that Hollywood could always make 10 movies that cost $10 million apiece, or 1 that costs $100 million. Assuming they get a capable cast and crew, if two of the first 10 do even moderately well, they will have made their investment back. The other eight will flop and can be called “cult films” in 20 years. But they don’t, for some reason. They make an “Evan Almighty,” which costs tons of money but tries too hard to appeal to everybody and ultimately fails.

TV is the hardest to defend. It’s good and does lots of things well, but Jesus, is it ever full of crap. First off, there are ads, which are destroying our youth. Then, there are reality shows. There are often a few good shows each season, and most get canceled, or changed to appeal to a different audience. There are realms of bad TV, and way too much of it gets watched.

And here, the misanthrope makes a conclusion. It is not the medium that inherently softens brains, but rather people who beg for softer brains. Great literature has been written for a few thousand years, but the romance that makes people feel slightly better sells so much more. Great movies can make you feel anything great books can (I’ll defend that statement), but blockbusters sell much better. TV is about 90% shit, 7% shit by-products, and 3% good. The 90% has good ratings, though. The other 10% gets canceled.

No, TV and movies don’t make people dumb. But if you want to make that argument, add books in there as well. Because they easily do it just as much. I prefer to think of people as doing it to themselves. So, don’t watch “Dancing with the Stars.” Don’t go see “I Am Legend,” or “The Golden Compass,” which will no doubt take all the ideas out of two truly good books, in the interest of visualizing the cool scenes for people with no imaginations. Read the books instead. Or better yet, any book that contains ideas and doesn’t have Fabio on it. If they make you think, though, please don’t blame me. I’ll be busy playing video games.

That is officially 995 words. Including this aside, that makes more than 1000 in a half hour. In case you’re wondering what that looks like on paper, it’s about 3.5 pages double spaced. I rule.

Moody

I usually like fall, which I would call my favorite season. It’s not because of the leaves, although I do like the changing colors. I’ve always thought it was a bit funny that dying leaves are so interesting to look at, although the optimists wouldn’t think of it that way. But I actually like the weather, which is often dry and a bit cold, which is my favorite. I have no idea why.It also turns out that fall is when relationships crumble. It is interesting, because I have always disliked the spring because of all of the “hookups,” but now I dislike fall because of the break-ups. I am not a nice person when it comes to couples breaking up. I don’t have it in me to be nice about it, for some reason. Because of break-ups and the stupor that develops at the end of the semester, most people are pretty moody. It is very hard for me to handle the constant mopishness (real word) of everyone around me. I have also succumbed to the moody attitudes, and I have been somewhat less than cheery lately. The list of stuff I hate is piling up right now. I’ll have to sort it all out eventually, but right now it seems to mostly be “people.” Because I am generally a person of unyielding patience (cough, cough), I can only wonder why this is. I have long acknowledged the fact that I have an amount of hatred for anyone, no matter what. Maybe it’s just popping up for the holidays.In any case, just be aware that I probably have next to no sympathy for you right now. I will probably not be nice until the end of the semester. Which is sad, because niceness is the pinnacle of my behavior. Here’s hoping I don’t do anything too evil.

Also, this is a badass shady-type version of my profile picture. Which one is better, this or the one I have now?

Fucking Technology

For Japanese class, we’re expected to do a 4-5 minute skit entirely in Japanese. My group prepared our script, got it okayed by the teacher, and today we filmed the live-action parts. For an hour and a half. On a rented video camera. On DV tape.

After getting all of that done, one of my group mates returned the camera, and entrusted me with the sacred DV tape of might. I went to dinner with it (showing it a fantastic time, introducing it to all of my friends. I paid for the wine), and promptly went to Andersen Hall to get the video in a digitally manipulatable format. Lo, I discovered that while there appeared to be time codes in the first few minutes of the tape (which indicate that there was likely some kind of information written on it…maybe), it appeared to be blank. FUCKING. BLANK.

We had spent an hour and a half doing this, in addition to the cost of the tape and chocolate cigarettes (which are now gone. Let’s hope I can find a substitute if we re-film). Aghast, I denied what my eyes were telling me, and went to the twins’ room to see if they had a camera I could borrow (to verify the travesty). They didn’t, but they sent me to the library, which allegedly had one. At the library, the clerk told me that all of their video cameras were checked out, but they did have a computer that could read DV tapes. I pushed play, and pressed the “fast forward while playing” button. I had to hold it down for the duration of the tape (just in case), and was rewarded with plain ol’ blue screen. I decided that perhaps it would work if it were in a camera (let’s hope that is actually true, for it is my last hope).

So I went to Henzlik, where they also check out cameras (that makes no less than 3 buildings, campers), to see if they had any. After looking in the basement, which I could have sworn was where that place was, I went back to the ground floor and found it immediately. I should also add that I spent about 15 minutes wandering around Andersen Hall, also. Apparently Henzlik only checks out cameras from 9-5. If you’re reading this, Henzlik, then fuck you too. So I came back here and fumed. That was about 4 wasted hours (Dinner is retroactively wasted, because my whole evening is tainted).

I fucking hate technology. It has long annoyed me, partly because I like consistency and reason and technology betrays both. It seems consistent, but somehow fucks every thing up, and it seems reasonable on the surface, but is more emotional than PMS.

The moral is this:

1. Don’t borrow a video camera from the University. It’s only for 24 hours, and apparently it fucks up tapes. Dammit. Besides which, if you turn it in late, it’s $21 dollars an hour. I bet they round up, too. Borrow from a friend or have your own, because that way you can at least have a bit of flexibility. It isn’t as if anyone uses a camera that often, so you can ask nicely and probably borrow one. As a practical matter, if you do have to check one out from the university, use the library, because they’re open until 11:30pm on school nights.

2. DIGITAL FUCKING MEDIA. Not only should they be used (fuck tapes…right up the ass), but they should be fucking STANDARDIZED. If this camera had taken SD cards, I would have had like 4 different ones for it. But no, it took some fucking proprietary card that no one owns and would have to buy separately. Naturally, it’s cheaper to buy these god damned tapes than a stupid proprietary card, so of course you get the tape.

DV tapes are from the devil. If you own even one DV tape, then you have brought the devil into your life. Beg for repentance and destroy your camera. Get one that uses SD cards, and lend it to me. I have to film a Japanese project.

Regret

I’ve been thinking today mostly about the concept of regret, for some reason. I realized that for me, regret is not about past actions. I actually am somewhat at ease with my past, and am reasonably certain that it will lead to a decent future as well. For me, regret is a little like worry that’s too stupid to die. I regret things that happened three days ago, and feel perfectly fine about similar things that may have happened 18 months ago.

Like right now, for instance. I’m sitting here at the end of the weekend, and I have accomplished absolutely nothing. Not that I had anything to do anyway, of course. But I basically sat around and watched videos online and on DVD for two straight days, sniffling and coughing (I’m a bit sick. On a related note, NyQuil gives you terrific dreams). It’s not that I particularly think that’s bad, but I wish I had something better to do with my free time. I spend so much of it just doing nothing, I’m not even sure I’d know what to do if I actually accomplished something.

The only time I left campus this weekend was just now, when I went to McDonald’s for two McRibs. They were pretty good, but the whole experience was kind of depressing. For one thing, I had Fast Food Nation facts and stories going through my head the whole time, and I was also sort of “drafting” my FFN form of the visit in my head. In fact, here’s a vague recollection, for your enjoyment:

“On the way in, I followed a Hispanic woman and her obese child, both of whom had trouble understanding the cashier taking their order. After the son got his drink the first time, he spilled it all over the counter and floor, and tried to get me to tell the cashier, who had already noticed and took care of it shortly afterwards. I had to avoid the spill as I got my own drink and napkins. As I ate my McRibs alone in the corner, a feeling of bleakness sank over me, and I couldn’t help but be a bit depressed. Things of note: I asked for no pickles on my sandwiches, but got no onions instead; a sign on a temple across the street which reads ‘Jesus Only,’ a phrase that only confuses me more every time I see it; and a McDonald’s worker taking a nap while sitting in a booth in another corner. When he’s awake, he often looks either at me or something behind me. I can’t tell which.”

et cetera. I can’t help but wonder what else I could be doing with my time, and why on earth I haven’t tried to do it yet. And so, I regret my present, but in a few scant months, I won’t mind anymore.

Blood.

I tried to donate blood today, and it went exactly as well as the last two times.

Last year, in the grand month of November, I was compelled (by guilt, I think) to donate blood even though I had missed the homecoming blood drive. I went to the Lincoln Community Blood Center on 13th Street. It was the first time I had ever donated blood, and I was nervous. Anyway, I got through all of the survey questions and pre-tests (Have you ever had Chagas disease? Do any of your family members have mad cow disease? Have you ever paid for sex? and so on. There’s also one thing where they put your blood in a solution to see if it’s dense enough to sink.). Anyway, I passed all of that, and I went over to a chair and got my blood drained. It went fairly well, and I was fine the next day and thought no more about it.

This year, in January or February, I returned to donate again (after the requisite 8 weeks) and to my surprise found that they hadn’t gotten the blood type from my previous donation for some reason. Annoyed by that, I was sort of dwelling on it as I was doing the pre-tests. For some reason, my heartbeat was too fast, at over 100 beats per minute. So I was deferred. Before I left, I asked what had happened to my previous donation. Apparently it had been destroyed in transition and instead of helping someone in need, it was presumably spilt in some white truck somewhere. Out of frustration, I called the next week and canceled my second appointment (you’re allowed to donate any time after a temporary deferral).

Because it had been nearly a year since the first time I had donated, I felt that I could forgive the system and went today to try again for homecoming. I was picky, though, and decided to donate to the American Red Cross instead of the Community Blood Bank. After I watched the US version of “The Office” in the waiting area (the UK version is much better), I went back to go through the pre-tests again, and again I found that my heart rate was much too fast (120 beats per second…my temperature was also 99.2 but apparently that doesn’t disqualify you) so I ended up deferred again with a preprinted letter in my hand. So tomorrow I’m making an appointment at the health center to diagnose this arrhythmia. News to follow, I suppose.

It just disappoints me sometimes, though. The time last year when I donated might be the only time I ever get to, if this is some chronic thing. And it just got destroyed and didn’t help anyone. So often the blood banks talk about how much they need blood and how it will help the theoretical sick and injured, but they somehow lost my sample. It’s only by the fluke that it was my first donation that I was even able to find out about it. Otherwise I’d have assumed I had helped someone.

Rather than treat my tissue with respect, they accidentally destroyed it. I’m not giving them much credit, but they don’t really deserve it. They ask people to make these donations in good faith, knowing that we genuinely want to help, but how many samples just get lost or destroyed? Why should that happen, even once?