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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

V-eye-agra

A few days ago it was announced in the BBC news that about 34 different users of Viagra reported going blind. 24 million people have been taking Viagra since it was first released. 34/24,000,000 = a tiny, tiny fraction of the people that take Viagra.

Big deal right? Apparently not, according to the stock market. The day after the news was released about the Viagra/blindness link, Pfizer, the company that makes Viagra, lost a small percentage of its stock. This shows the dumbass paranoia that is bred by the media's hunt for eye-opening headlines.

Besides most guys would rather go blind than not be able to use their penis. Published in the June issue of Men's Health magazine are the answers to it's online survey of the question: "Which body part would you least like to lose?"

The percentages according to the 3742 people who responded:

Penis 52.8%
Eye 20%
Leg 8.6%
Tongue 7.4%
Testicles 4.5%
Arm 4.4%
Other 2.3%

With the naughty bits occupying a whopping 57.3% of most cherished body parts, I'd say that having a few guys go blind from Viagra isn't a big deal. Only 20% of the respondents said that they would least like to lose their eye compared to the 52.8% that would rather hold on to their penises. And even if you take into consideration that the survey only mentioned losing one eye, you could still presumably double the percentage for that one eye to account for the other. At this rate, then, still 12.8% more people would prefer to keep their penises then their eyeballs.

So Viagra makes a tiny percentage of people who take it go blind - big deal. Besides more guys would prefer to have a fully-functioning set of twig and berries than the ability to see. And maybe that's the problem, because what isn't being seen clearly here is that the statistical significance of these reports is zero to none.

Grad School

Just got a call today that i've been accepted into the Marriage and Family Counseling program at Governor's State University. I'll begin studying for my Master's degree in August.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

"Fraud Alert!"

A few days ago I logged onto my bank account online with the University of Illinois Credit Union. Waiting for me in the inbox was a message sent out to all of the bank members from the bank's central office. After reading the title of the message, "Fraud Alert!", I was left with the immediate sensation that I had something to do with all of this.

As I have graduated and moved out of Champaign and back to Chicago my apartment back down south is going unused. Now i'm paying rent for the set of bedsheets and dust-bunnies that I left behind. Of course this wasn't the original plan.

Originally I was hoping to sublet my bedroom for the remainder of the summer. I placed an ad in the Daily Illini and followed through on the plethora of inquiries I received with descriptive e-mails and links to the sublet webpage. Many nibbles, no bites.

Then I received an e-mail from a man named Thomas Pink.

Hello, My name is Thomas Pink,Am from Greece.I saw ur advert on ur room for rent ,and i took interest in it.i would be coming to the US on a business trip which will last for 3 months. i would like to know if its available.If so i will like to know the total amount for the room for 3 months
Thank you.

Thomas' lack of punctuation and grammatical correction convinced me that he was really from a different country. Eager to get to business I sent him a follow-up e-mail several days later explaining to him the cost of the apartment for the summer and payment methods. I didn't hear back from him and, for a while, thought I lost a deal.

Then after a while he wrote back with urgency:
SORRY FOR NOT HAVE GOTTEN BACK TO YOU FOR SOME DAYS BACK.I WAS CALLED ON A FORTNIGHT AGO THAT MY FATHER DEVELOPED STROKE SUDDENLY IN THE EVENING,THEREFORE I HAD TO RUSH TO SEE THINGS FOR MYSELF, INFACT HIS CONDITION IS VERY CRITICAL...

Thomas' father was in trouble and he had to rush to the UK to "see things for himself." I sent my condolensces and told him I would wait for the money orders that he had already sent.

Now here's the tricky part. In a future e-mail Thomas would later explain that he had a business contact in the states that owed him money. This business contact was to send me the money that he owed Thomas plus the money that Thomas owed me for the apartment. I was then to deduct my portion of the total in rent and fees and wire the remaining balance to England. Now, this remaining balance wasn't going to Thomas but to his agent in the UK whose name was "Salami Hamed."

Salami Hamed.

With two cold-cuts in the same name, I knew that something wasn't kosher. I brought up the story to my family at the dinner table the day before cashing the money orders. My stepfather's mom said, "Maybe it's a terrorist that's trying to use your apartment to establish a terrorist cell in the U.S. You know how many young, smart, and foreign people there are at your university..." I sensed the paranoia creeping within my mom and considered her exhortations as the mandatory warnings of a concerned parent but little else. I was going to cash those money orders and make me some money.

Sure I thought something was up, but to a broke college graduate every little bit counts. While in line at the bank waiting to cash the thousand of dollars in money orders my thoughts were divided between how I was going to spend the surplus and whether or not the FBI were tracing me right then and there. Would they shove me into a non-descript minivan as I walked out of the Union? Or would I walk away a freeman and finally be able to afford that laptop i'd been eyeing?

I gave my money order to the banker. She stared at them, flipped them over, looked at them closer, and flipped them over again. "Aren't you going to give it a whiff?" I almost wanted to say before she slipped it through a machine. "Sweet," I thought, "iBook here I come." She ran it again through the machine and looked at the money order some more. Something was wrong. She told me to remain in place as she went to the back of the Credit Union for her supervisor.

It's not going to be that bad, I thought. What, six, seven months in prison for attempted fraud? Besides it would probably just be minimum security. I could play cricket with the rest my fellow inmates before our daily rations of bologna sandwiches and jello-cups. They could teach me computer hacking tricks and I could show them how to burp the ABCs.

The banker returned with a portly woman who carried herself with the air of one who is the supervisor, of one who means business. I remembered watching the shows about those guys who cheated the Vegas casinos on the History Channel and thought to myself that I too was about to be "back-roomed" like they were. I wondered what my masked silhouette would look like on-screen as I related my story of crime some odd years later. I would have to make sure that the voice-alteration wouldn't make my voice sound too robotic or high-pitched.

"Please step into my office," the supervisor said to me and we made our way forward. "These money orders do not appear to be real money orders," she explained as we sat across from each other in her office. Spurious, dubious, counterfeit, not real. I explained to her my situation with complete honesty. She suggested that I go to the cops. I was relieved enough that she didn't call them on her own and told her that I would try to see to it when I found some free time after graduation, which was only a few days away at that time. Now instead of getting hustled by internet thieves i'm hustling the system working weird hours and scoring better employment on my own. I'M MAKING MY OWN LOOT AND NOT STEALING IT FROM OTHER NATIONS,THOMSA,YOU FOERIGN MISSPEELING SCUMBAG.

And, after instances just like mine i'm sure, the Credit Union has responded with mass e-mails and flyers posted all over their offices. Hopefully no one else get played by Thomas Pink the Fink.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Geeks USA

Recently i've gotten back into playing video games online thanks a new broadband connection back here in Chi. Halo 2, it's been awhile.

The online play at Halo 2 is generally populated by pubescent teenagers, young racists (mostly white), and creepy older guys. I fall into the creepy older guy category but it's ok! - Zach Braff from Garden State and the guys from Incubus play Halo 2 online as well!


Zach Braff


The drummer and DJ of Incubus

User "Ljikrogs" from Microsot online service Xbox Live reflects on his chance to play against Incubus:

I got the chance to play against Incubus. They were cool and fun to play with ... Thanks to Xbox Live for setting this up, and thanks to Incubus for taking the time to get smoked by me.
Lolz.

When Napoleon Dynamite said that girls like guys with skills ("... you know, like computer hacking skills, numchuck skills, bow hunting skills...") he should have added "pwning foolz on Halo 2" to the list.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Working Downtown

Now that college is over I have begun working for the department of JPMorgan Chase which is responsible for processing INS applications for U.S. Citizenship. I verify what is on the applications by typing in what I see on the scanned copy of them on a computer screen. Despite the weird hours (11pm-7am) the job is not very demanding. As we are allowed to wear our headphones during work i'm basically being paid to listen to eight hours of music every weekday. Oh and the view getting to and from work in downtown Chicago is mesmerizing.

The people at work are what make the job fun. Once one of the girls nearby mentioned her problems with perspiration. This then turned to a discussion of sweaty crotches and undersides of breasts. They sometimes talk about tampons or penis size "Girl why you swimmin wit a fish when you know dey so many whales out there?" or the latest happenings on General Hospital. Other times they talk about their man problems, "Girl he will just never have that motherly instinct. It's not the way God intended." And as I wonder to myself how anyone can even know what God intends I stop myself and realize that i'm on an episode of a really bad daytime talk show. This is the point where I raise the volume on my iPod.

At 5am everyday when there are only two hours left to work our supervisor leads us through an energizing round of coordinated calisthenics. She boosts up the radio on top of a computer monitor and puts in a CD that has about 20 different versions of the "Cha-Cha Slide" on it. So far I think i've heard about half of them.

At first I was afraid (I was petrified) to dance but after a few minutes on my first day began to clap and turn and jump and stomp and cha cha with everyone else. The rest of the warehouse/sweatshop enviously gathers nearby to peek at the 20 or so of us typists all moving together in a mostly coordinated fashion for nearly ten minutes.

Most of the time during work i'm listening to music on my iPod and pounding away at the keyboard. In between albums, though, i'll pause the music to catch an earshot of the latest soap opera gossip or relationship advice from the black girls nearby. And as the night subsides and the day rolls in i'll be sure to keep my eyes on the clock for 5:00am - for the cha-cha slide and the shuffle and the percolator. Despite the 40-hour week and odd hours i'm managing to adjust to this new lifestyle - one without the non-stop nagging of papers, lectures, homeworks or tests. What i'm still trying to get used to, though, is not having a lovely lady to wake up next to.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Star Wars

Sometimes I stop to wonder what the fuss is about the new Star Wars movie. No wars are being ended, no children have been saved from starvation, and no huge tsunamis are sweeping over entire populaces. Nothing is really happening.

Sure big time producers are making truckloads of money and millions of people are spending time truly enjoying themselves - there probably is lots of good that can come out of the release of the new Star Wars movie. But nothing is really happening.

It's a movie, a fantasy, a fairy tale. It's a fictional distraction from the harsher and sometimes more mundane realities of quotidian life. Nothing is really happening and that's the whole reason to celebrate the movie. There are no strings attached, no historical or political ramifications. We payt ten dollars to watch a movie where everything happens a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away and walk away happy. Considering the world that we live in here and now maybe that's just what we need.

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Skirts

There are many things that I will probably miss about college. One of those things are skirts - skirts and the girls that wear them.

Girls wearing skirts in the the early spring were always a pleasant reminder of the warm weather to come. Even if I was too numb from drin- er, studying all night long, girls in skirts served as a heads-up that a brighter day was yet to arrive. Once the summer drops skirts are in seemingly endless supply. Even that girl that isn't supposed to be wearing skirts wears one. As they eventually become a standard during the warmer weather skirts provide a much needed distraction from the lecturing professors during those hours-long summer session courses.

Then the fall rolls in and the shift in focus moves away from the skirt as more and more students wearing Illini sweaters and jogging pants begin to resemble shapeless blobs of soft cotton.

But then out of nowhere come the skirts in the winter. Nothing says party-time like a group of like-legged girls in line for a bar and huddled in a circle with their hands buried in their armpits and knees wobbling to and fro, their high heels clattering against the ground like the hooves of a horse that's ready to run. It's the middle of December and girls still want to take off more and more clothes in order to compete with other girls. More power to them. I tell myself that it must take a lot of courage to wait fifteen minutes en queue shivering to death outside of a bar while being subject to the myriad catcalls and craning necks of all the drivers, passengers, bikers, and pedestrians creeping by at a suddenly slower pace. It's even better once inside the bar. All the drunk guys constantly slobber over the exposed legs and those that aren't drunk yet double-up on the shots. Either way they want to strap on those beer goggles a little tighter or still need to get the courage to approach the girls and slobber a little bit closer.

"They're either really brave or really stupid," I told my roommates as we began to suddenly drive at a slower pace past a group of skirted girls in line at Clybourne's. I'd like to think that they're a bit of both - kinda like the rest of us.

Last Day of Classes

Today I was walking out of the Psychology building after class when my academic advisor popped out of his office and called out behind me, "All done with classes, Martin?"

Considering the volume of students that David Skadden academically advises, I was surprised to hear that he actually remembered my name. What was even more surprising, though, was realizing that today really was my last day of classes. I'm forever done with five years of lectures, discussions, dialogues, and debates at the UIUC.

I noticed this sign outside of the English Building as I was walking into the downstairs computer lab just now. It said "Congratulations Seniors!" "Congratulations" - I like that. It sounds a lot better than "Took you long enough." How about "Job Well Done"? I like reading that a lot better than "Good luck finding one with your degree!" Or even today in Psych class someone wrote on the chalkboard "We'll miss you a lot Jenny!" "We'll miss you a lot" is music to my ears compared to hearing my student loans constantly whispering to me for next few years, "We'll always be with you."

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Martin Cortez: Victim of Gang Violence

Martin Cortez has been stabbed in the leg and bashed in the ribs with a steel pipe, according to a story about a violent altercation between rival Hispanic gangs a couple of weeks ago in Pennsylvania. Latinos in Pennsylvania? From the article:

Garcia-Nino stabbed Martin Cortez in the right leg with a tire iron, police said, and then struck him in the right kneecap. Garcia-Nino then dropped the tire iron, according to police, armed himself with a steel pipe and hit Martin in the ribs.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Faith & Antagonism

Sometimes all I can see is the bad in people and it breaks my heart. I can only see a person for their shortcomings, their failures, their blasphemies and hypocrisy.

To counter this I usually try to think of something good about the person. If I can't immediately think of anything positive about them I tell myself to be patient, to ease off on casting judgement and to have faith that something positive will arise.

After a while I wonder if this judgemental process is a sort of a reflection of something that I do to myself. I'm sure there are times when I can only see myself for my shortcomings, for my failures, blashpemy and hypocrisy. I have to tell myself to be patient, to ease off on casting judgement and to have faith that something positive will arise.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Wendy's Woman Gets the Finger


This is a picture of Anna Ayala, the woman who claimed she found a severed digit in a Wendy's bowl of chili. After a while she was arrested for making the whole story up, but not before the Wendy franchise suffered a significant loss in earnings. Poor wittle multinational money machine.

Anyways I was just curious as to what she looked like since i've been hearing so much about her on the news lately - It's not like i'm trying to point any fingers or anything.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

My Fellow High-School and College Alumni is Dead

"Three University of Illinois graduates were killed early Sunday morning after their car flipped over the median on Interstate 57, slamming into an incoming van." (Daily Illini)

Ramadan K. El-Amin, 23, was one of dead.

Ramadan and I went to Whitney Young high school together, sitting next to each other in Honors Spanish II during 7th period sophomore year. He was in a grade higher than me and taller than a tree it seemed. In class I would notice the marked contrast between the distances that both of our knees jutted out underneath our desks. Ramadan once told me that his name stood for a Muslim holiday that involved a prolonged period of fasting. He dressed very fashionably and his dark skin glowed with an unmistakable radiance. His bright shining smile could light up an entire hallway.

He is dead now and I feel a sense of unspeakable loss and gentle mourning.

Monday, April 18, 2005

David Sedaris Tickets

Yesterday I signed Ivette up for a chance to win a pair of tickets to see David Sedaris tonight at the Virginia Theatre here in Champaign. She never knew that I did, so when she got the call this morning saying that she won she was somewhat befuddled. She accepted the prize anyways.

Once I found out about this I led us through a series of twirls and hops and kicks and jigs for a while in the kitchen before finally calming down and telling her what we won. I'm so happy - I'm a big Sedaris fan and the only thing holding me back from buying tickets was the $40 price tag.

Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Life Happens

I haven't been blogging a lot lately. There's this thing called "growing-up" that is supposedly filled with these things called "responsibility" and "obligation" that take much of my time away from blogging. (PS I fucking hate it when people make airquotes with their fingers while taking out loud. You know what i'm "talking about" cause you've probably done it too - back in the early 90s. What I hate even more is when people do the airquotes twice and leave an extra set of invisible airquotes in the air. If you are going to gesticulate a played out hand-motion at least do it without the goddamn superfluous fucking pair of invisible quotation marks.)

So back to life. Last friday over 30 people joined in for the Latino Psychology Association barcrawl last Friday. It was a great night. There are pictures on my flickr site.

The next night James and his roommates had an awesome BBQ & Keg feast at this place as over one dozen people crammed into his apartment to watch the Fighting Illini beat Kentucky to make it to the championship game. The deafening cheers, exultations of joy, and campus-wide sense of unity that glorious night will forever rest in my mind as one of the fondest memories of my college career.

For me our loss this Monday echoes a constant theme throughout life: SHIT HAPPENS.

Speaking of which.

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

To Do List

And now for my to-do list for the remainder of the evening:

get groceries
wash laundry
x eat candy bar
start on advanced statistics homework
try to sublease apartment

Thursday, March 31, 2005

RIP Schiavo

Rest in peace, Terry Schiavo.

Peace being the key word.

Monday, March 28, 2005

My 9 to 5

Tried to wakeup
Gave myself a pep talk
Woke up
Called landlord
Did dishes
Threw out garbage
Showered
Worked on grad school application
Ate
Studied for Advanced Statistics
Went to Advanced Statistics
Worked
Deposited check in bank
Rode bike home at a leisurely pace

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Spring Break

My girlfriend Ivette and I spent our Spring Break in Daytona Beach, Florida. Luisana graciously gave me a ride to Willard Airport to pick up our rental car last Saturday and by 1pm my wingperson and I left the chilly climate of Champaign-Urbana for the 19hr and 33min drive southeast.


Our Yellow Chevy Cavalier

The Spring Breakers in Florida seemed to be clones of the same clannish greeksters that haunt campus bars here on a Saturday night. They were similar to the ones described in a recent Chicago Sun-Times article on the sex fiends that frequent Kam's:

"Some guys sport fashionable Abercrombie baseball jackets, too-tight T’s or a studied sartorial mess of wrinkles and untucked shirts. Young women wear lacy silk camisoles and sunglasses. Others model wide-necked sweaters slipped down around their shoulders, exposing bronze cleavage and bra straps."
The article was about the raging sexual appetites of college partiers, and it seemed to not only accurately portray the scene at so many bars close to home, but also of those thousands of miles away in Florida.

The guys in Daytona were like so many relentless mosquitos hovering over the girls, the juicy fruits jiggling across the sand to the hip-hop beats. Ivette was one of those Juicy Fruits. I was the Steady Waving Hand, the Fly Swatter, the calm & confident reminder of who's going home with whom.

Now don't get me wrong, i've been that raging mosquito plenty of times in the past - "don't hate the player," etc. etc. All i'm saying is that it would have been nice to have an ally there like Jon, or Jeff to hold down the fort while I went to refill on beer or pee - gentlemen that I know can trust amongst a group of horny strangers.

Maybe Daytona Beach isn't the place for couples to begin with. Whatever. I still had a great time laying out in the sun on the beach with my girl, listening to the ebb and flow of the Atlantic Ocean. At night along the shore there are bundles of sea foam that look like newborn seals or shored-up baby whales from afar. The waves of water tickle the tops of your feet before they retreat backwards like a blanket being gently pulled from a bed.

Speaking of bed, it's been a long ride - a 1,058 mile long ride.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Terrorism is Effective

Terrorism works.

It worked recently to pull Italian troops out of Iraq. Terrorists took an Italian journalist hostage and demanded a $1 million ransom. They got their money and increased anti-war sentiment amongst the Italian population enough for the politicians to decide to pull out their troops.

Terrorism went to work again less recently in Madrid, Spain last year. Terrorists co-ordinated a bombing attack on several packed commuter trains and killed hundreds of people. Anti-war sentiment amongst the Spanish population increased enough for the politicians to eventually decide to pull their troops out of Iraq.

Terrorism worked most memorably on the 11th day of September, 2001. Terrorists flew two jumbo jets into two tall towers and killed thousands of people. They also sent our stock market into a long downward spiral. Terrorists wanted a surefire way to get the world's attention and they got it.

Terrorism works.

Winnie the Pooh Bear Climbing a Tree on the Quad

"Sometimes all it takes is a wink or nod from an unexpected place to vary the tedium of a baffling existence."
-Bob Dylan, Chronicles

Winnie the Pooh was climbing a tree this afternoon on the Quad. I was soaring down the Quad on Ryan's bike a few minutes ago when I slowed down to get a better look at this dude wearing a Winnie the Pooh costume while climbing a tree. People flocked to him with their cell-phone cameras handy to capture the moment. I just told myself that I would blog about it later.

At first I thought the whole situation was absurd. Why the hell is this guy dressed in a Winnie the Pooh costume climbing a tree on the Quad? As I passed by and got a good look at his face he looked like he didn't have a care in the world. It was probably a publicity stunt for some student organization, i'm sure, but still, was this entire scenario really necessary?

I thought about writing essays for graduate school, the hours spent in the classroom learning, the dozens of pages of interviews waited to be coded, grueling statistics homework, the dirty dishes in the sink and the nearly empty underwear drawer back home.

And yes, Winnie the Pooh climbing the tree in a Quad is entirely necessary.

Rehab is for Quitters

Open Mic Night

Yesterday was open mic night at Espresso Royale Cafe on Goodwin in Urbana. I didn't know this when I went in for some hardcore XXX studying but when the "host" set up a microphone and amp directly behind my head on the table behind me, I got the hint.

Miffed, I migrated upstairs. Hector was up there studying the variance and mean of a simple random sample drawn from the population of people who take the ACT. After a few hours of correcting each other's mistakes and double-checking for errors we were done with our Stats homowork. I got a better sense of the "two minds are greater than one" idea.

Downstairs was open mic night and performers used guitars, violins, flutes, a bongo, and kazoo variously. As I was walking downstairs for water I heard a young woman bleating and strumming her way along to a Janis Joplin song. She had that same distinctively Janis crackle and grit in her voice.

But he wasn't a she. As I got downstairs I could see that she was really a tween boy with a thin frame and babyface that sounded remarkably like Janis Joplin. I wasn't his only audience. It seemed as if the majority of the cafe migrated over to him and we all remained in front of this tiny young man, captive. "Can I play one more?" he asked the host with a squeaky voice. Then he began the opening chords of the lullaby "We're Going to Be Friends," by White Stripes, the opening song of Napoleon Dynamite.

I always felt that there was something adolescent about that song with the lyric "Teacher marks our height against the wall." Now it all came together. This song was made for adolescents and now here was one playing it. He made a few errors and kept on playing, defiant of the cynicism and smirks of his elders and peers surrounding him. His performance was courageous and unobviously fragile and as I clapped my hands with true applause afterwards I felt that we had something in common.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Florida Dreaming

It's hard not to find myself daydreaming off to the sunny shores of Daytona Beach, FL every now and then. That's where I'll be this time next week, probably on the beach facing the Atlantic Ocean and sipping on a tropical drink with a tiny straw hat in it. It's harder not to talk to my friends about it - I know that some of them aren't going anywhere and I don't want to rub in the fact that soon I will be much, much warmer than they are.

Nah, I think imagining myself in Daytona Beach is just a mental mechanism to displace the stresses of the daily grind - a way to pretend that things aren't as difficult as they really are because soon I will be digging my naked toes into thousands of grains of warm, coastal sand. The deadlines and meetings and assignments of today surrender completely to the ceaseless undulating caress of the Ocean of tomorrow.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Facebooking

Facebooking is a pretty common addiction among many students here at the U of I. Feeding my own, I was browsing through the "friends of my friends" list when I came across this comely stud of a man:



David Ng is an electral engineering major interested in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, World Domination, Astronaut Corp, Radio Controlled toys, and Machining. Befriend him at facebook.com

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Porn Movie Parodies

Today Flesbot.com pointed to this website that catalogues porn movies whose names are parodies of other "legit" movies and TV series. Here's a few of the titles:

Analyze These
Beverly Hills 9021-Ho!
Boldfinger
Breast In Show
Cheeks & Thongs: Up In Stroke
Frisky Business
Honey, I Blew Everybody
Leave It To Cleavage
Missionary Position: Impossible
Muffy The Vampire Layer
NYDP Blue
Rebel Without A Condom
Snatch Adams
Waiting To XXXhale


There are no K, U, or Z titles yet.

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

Right now i'm downloading Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot for $9.99 at iTunes.com. Being the unabashed critic whore that I am, it's only fitting that I do so, especially considering the consistently stellar reviews it has received when it was released three years ago. Here's proof.

Hell, even Wil Wheaton (the guy from Stand By Me and Ensign on Star Trek) likes it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Temporarily Paralyzed

So I woke up from a nap to find my left arm paralyzed from the elbow down. I looked down at it with groggy eyes and said, "Move" but it wouldn't. I checked to see if I was dreaming real quick - nope, half-awake. I tried again to move it, but still nothing.

Now I knew that my arm wasn't "asleep" because I had it laying on my side - I wasn't laying on top of it so there should have been no reason why the blood circulation was cut off. I shrugged my left shoulder over towards the other side of my body and my left arm flopped over after it. As it laid there lifelessly across my belly I began to wonder if this was one of those freak occurences that happen to like 1 in 10,000 people. Temporary paralysis of the arm.

I thought of playing the guitar, clapping hands, knitting, anything that involved the use of two hands. I did some deep breathing exercises and checked again to see if I was dreaming - nope, still fully-awake, still somewhat paralyzed. Wtf! This shit just doesn't happen out of nowhere!

Eventually the numbness subsided and one by one I began to wiggle my fingers. As I laid in bed, I recalled laughing at Ryan that one time when he told me the story about how half of his face was paralyzed for nearly a week in junior high.

Maybe it was all karmic retribution.

Friday, March 4, 2005

Unofficial St. Patrick's Day

Unofficial St. Patrick's Day is an annual holiday unique to the UIUC. Since the official holiday customarily entails superfluous amounts of binge drinking but only arbitrarily falls on a weekend, some brilliant mind (probably a group of bar owners) conceived of the idea of celebrating it the Friday before... starting at 8am.

As I left the apartment this noon for a meeting I made sure to bring my camera with me in an effort to document the campuswide shenanigans. By the time I was half way to my destination I noticed this guy in a full-blown leprechaun suit walking down Green St. He was holding one green balloon in his hand. Meanwhile revelers were leaning over the balconies of the apartments behind Legends, which itself was packed with people. When I got near C.O. Danels there was a queue of several dozen green t-shirts, skirts, pants, hair, hats and teeth extending down the sidewalk, the same as bars all over campus. The high noon sun shined on a girl selling chocolate vaginas-on-a-stick outside C.O.s. They were for some student organization.

After the meeting I went for a Philly cheese steak at Silver Mine, a submarine joint sandwiched between Kam's and C.O.s, and made sure to get a window seat looking out at the action. An Indian girl wearing a "Kiss Me I'm Irish" t-shirt hobbled past to get in line at Kam's. She was on crutches but wore this steely look of determination on her face as if to say, "Goddamnit I will get fucked up by 2pm this afternoon."

I sat reminiscing on my faded glory of years past. Unofficial for me was like the U of I Beer Olympics with awards in the Farthest Cookie Toss, Best Recovery After Falling on Your Ass, and Fastest To Get Wasted categories. Now I sit on the sidelines proud to watch my future alumni (hopefully most of them graduate) cavort and canoodle their way to intestinal oblivion. As I see the sparkle in their eyes, the stutter in their step, the chanting, the chugging, the bottle-breaking - the all-out disregard for society's policy of polite behavior on a weekday, a tiny explosion of warmth and tenderness fills the inside of my chest cavity until I can no longer hold it inside.

Or wait. Maybe it's just the Philly.

Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Spring

I'm taking my woman to Daytona Beach for Spring Break. I thought it was a good pick, especially since Askmen.com says it's the number one place to go for the break. At first this line in the article almost gave me reservations:

"Daytona has so much to offer its visitors, and is in an experience unlike any other: a sure-fire way to break up any couple."

Regardless we decided to make our own with the hotel room. I'll just have to make sure to wear a pair of very opaque sunglasses on the beach.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Breathtaking News :-\

This is just a hint as to how exciting Champaign-Urbana, IL, home to the #1 college basketball team in the Big Ten, really is. From the top headline of the student newspaper Daily Illini:

Bandages found in restaurant's food.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Zombie Blogs

As I continue my research on blogging frequency I mostly come across blogs that have only 2 to 3 posts in as many months. Nonetheless some of these dead blogs, or "zombie" blogs, are worth note:

Sometimes you find someone who seeks consolation:

  • Perhaps it is a waste of time to speak of happiness. It is way too subjective, dismissive, degrading of the reality between every leer pretending to be a smile.

A writer that ponders writing:
  • I'm convinced, more and more as time passes, that successful writers are those who are able to balance the ecstacy with the condemnation to a point where hopelessness does not overwhelm motivation, nor self-admiration the capacity for criticism. Writing is very self-sustaining.

Of course there are the fair share of meaningless rants:
  • Welcome to the world parenting...however, comparing yourself to the guy in job is a BIG stretch...ever see the movie Parenthood (Keeanu is such a babe!) sounds like a crazy parenting day....what the fuck is a blog anyway....

Then there's anjali, the nine-year old blogger:
  • hey my name is anjali ( ann-ja-ley) !!!! i have some picures of my life becuz i want to let peaople know about my life (this may be weird but hey i am onley 9)

...And this southern rebel, who has pictures of his gun on his blog:
  • I believe the federal government is out of control, and I believe it happened when the North conquered the South and took almost all power from the states.

Blonde Brainfarts

Our waitress was taking drink orders from us this evening at Hooter's. Some of us ordered waters and the rest continued to look at our menus. After several moments I noticed the waitress' silhouette out of the corner of my eye. She was still right there at the table, standing as still as the blank look on her face. With our basketball team just finished with adding another notch to their winning streak, Hooters was bumping at the time but she still didn't show the slighest sign of impatience or urgency. It seemed as if she was temporarily frozen in space. Like you needed to bop on her on the head to get her going again. Did I mention she was blonde?

A placard on every table in Hooters advertised, in big yellow letters, "KEEP THE PINT GLASS WHEN YOU ORDER A PITCHER OF SAM ADAMS." The father and son duo next to us decided to capitalize on this and called the waitress over to tease her about the glasses. "We keep to keep these right?" the inebriated father said jokingly to the young blonde waitress, "These are ours now!" It sounded like what he really wanted was a cookie. The blonde waitress stared back at them with an incredulous glare, like there was some kind of joke that she just wasn't getting. The man picked up the glass and pointed at it, then pointed at the placard, showed her the BIG YELLOW LETTERS, but still nothing. She walked away miffed as if to talk to the manager. Or maybe just to zone out standing against a pillar.

After the meal we asked her to seperate the checks. She looked at us as if we were speaking a mountainous dialect of Cantonese. "I don't think I can do that," she said. We sighed and continued doing the math. Wouldn't want her to hurt herself.

As I walked out of the "restaurant" behind the others I noticed a blondie waitress walking out behind me, retiring for the night. Joan Jett's "I Love Rock'n Roll" was playing on the loud speakers outside and she kept walking swiftly behind me. "Put another dime in the jukebox ba-by," she sang before stopping dead in her tracks. She turned completely around and began walking to the other side of the parking lot. "Shit my car's over there."

Discover Seeds of Hope

Pat is a blogger that lives in Thailand with Burmese refugees that have been exiled from their homeland by the Burmese Army. She travels to Thailand in order to "discover the seeds of hope that keeps them going." A clip from her blog, which is well-updated and loaded with photos:

Khamchuen began to tearfully relate to me the story of these villagers and how they were driven out from their homes. The Burmese army came to their village and burned it down, simple as that. The people fled for their lives and made their way into Thailand. They are virtually imprisoned in Thailand because they are not allowed to own land or even to farm the fields lying dormant all around them. They are destined to a life of scratching out an existence, with the women selling woven goods at market and the men finding work in the fields. The children have no future at all. It is no wonder the men spend their time ingesting betel nuts and drinking homemade rice wine, there really is nothing else for them to do.



This is where the orphaned children sleep.


Small children were living alone in this hut.

Doppelgänger

A search on the Spanish version of Yahoo for "MARTIN CORTEZ" brings up his webpage. This is a picture of him and his current wife on their first date, way back in '97. From everythingmath.com/martin:



I wonder if there is a resemblance.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Researching Blogs

A few nights ago, my girlfriend and I were brainstorming new web addresses for this blog. She was laying on the bed behind me while I was on the computer, pounding my fists on the desk every time a name I wanted was unavailable. I tried "morningwood.blogspot.com," "cortez.blogspot.com," "cameltoe.blogspot.com," and even "mikehunt.blogspot.com" but they were all already taken. More frustrating than the addresses being unavailable was noticing that almost none of them were updated more than once. Without fail, the owners of the blogs reserved the name, posted one test blog and never returned to it again, leaving them to forever collect dust in the world wide web of anonymity.

Last I checked there are millions of individuals with their own blogs, but situations like last night leave me to wonder: how much blogging is actually going on? I have a hunch that there is not nearly as much blogging activity going on as the numbers might lead me to believe. There are many people with blogs, but not much relative blogging.

In want to seriously tackle this question. Carefully considering my methodology in order to avoid coming up with inaccurate results, I'm now in the finishing stages of constructing a research paradigm that will attempt to effectively measure the blogging frequency of some randomly selected number of bloggers on blogspot, livejournal, and possibly other blogging services.

Other questions that I would like to touch upon include are

  • How often do "regular" bloggers blog? and
  • Do paying bloggers blog more or less often than non-paying bloggers?
The quintupling of the daily average traffic of this blog during the last few days has given me a fresh burst of inspiration. Over the past few months, some of the leading bloggers of the web have recognized my work, and that alone is motivation to work even harder. Now more than ever blogging is becoming less of a hobby and more of a passion. It's time to use the faculty of reasoning to try and understand the bigger picture of blogging.

Alt-1040 ="Toca"

Evidentemente la traducción que hice ayer cayó bien con el editor de Alt-1040, el popular sitio de web sobre la netcultura. Desde entonces este sitio ha recibido cuatro veces más visitantes que su promedio de visitantes cotidianos. Bienvenidos a los lectores de Alt-1040.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Boingboing Mention

Boingboing.net, the 2005 Bloggie-nominated blog, posted a link to my translation of the Ecuadorian internet censorship article on their website.

In the hour and a half since the mention, the daily traffic for this blog is more three times its daily average. Welcome, boingboing readers.

Ecuadorian Internet Censorship

Xeni Jardin recently posted an entry on boingboing.net about an Ecuadorian internet company that has blocked users' access to certain websites online. The original posts that she cites, from alt1040 is written in Spanish. I have translated it into English below.

Ecuadorian ISP censors net content.

from alt1040.com:
"Satnet, one of the largest providers of Internet access in Ecuador which charges 50 dollars for connections of 64kb per second has decided to censor net content, blocking access to any file-exchange services (P2P sites) and some sites such as HaloScan and Alt1040.

In an act that goes against their own usage-policy, the provider has given different excuses for different users, spreading light on their poor customer service and useless policy regulations.

Satnet users, calling to ask for explanations, have heard different versions:

The fiber optic connection has gone down.
The blockage comes from the board of directors.
The bandwidth management system wasn’t working as expected.
Access to P2P sites will be unblocked from 20h00 to 11h00

The underlying problem of the blockage doesn’t revolve around users not receiving their compete service (there are always alternatives), but rather in a lack of specific legislation. Consequently, companies can do almost anything they want and, via blockages, take control of what information their clients can and cannot obtain - this is how what is really a new form of media is able to be manipulated and censured. These types of things happen in China where democracy doesn’t exist.

If Satnet’s (or Telconet who rents the bandwidth to them) board of directors decided to block the service it was probably due to some type of pressure from some record company or from one of the major studios. This isn’t absolutely crazy if we consider that Satnet is owned by the cable company TVCable, which syndicates the programs of big companies like Viacom. It’s very easy to block and censor when there is no legal framework that protects the consumer."

Ready for Transmission

I'm about to submit an entry to one of my favorite websites, boingboing.net, being careful to follow all of the rules and suggestions they list for submissions to their site. I've tried submitting some things that I thought were interesting before, but to no avail or mention on their website. This time I haven't really done any creative work, just effectively translated a post in Spanish about internet censorship that was originally at www.alt1040.com.

Hopefully Xeni Jardin, my blogging heroine and co-manager of boinboing, finds my translation helpful and posts a link on their site.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

The Girl Code

I read this funny blog about a not-to-do list for guys in bed with girls. Number one:

"Don't rip anything off. And I don't mean stealing. I once with a guy who 'in the heat of the moment' literally ripped my underwear off. Not only were they one of my favorite pairs, but it was just so unnecessary. I would have taken them off on my own accord. You didn't need to destroy them. Ick. You owe me $8, buddy."
Inspired, I decided to think of some other shady things that guys do. I couldn't. Instead I decided to write about shady things that girls do. The first that came to mind was what I would like the dub the "hate-and-switch," which usually occurs in a club or at a party.

This happens when the Guy finally gets the balls to bust a move on that Girl that he's been eyeing all night at the club/party. He prepares for launch with the homies at the bar, takes a couple swigs of liquid courage, brushes his shoulders off and makes his way to the target.

If the Girl isn't already dancing with another guy, odds are she's dancing with a group of her girlfriends, so that by the time the guy is half-way to his target a few of her friends have already sized him up. When the guy is within a few feet behind the girl he casually slows down and starts to dance-step his way closer, until he's almost directly behind her. By this time the Girl's friend(s) knows whether the Guy is a dud or stud and signals her friend accordingly. Let's say she signals "Dud."

Now, instead of the Girl turning around to reject the advances of our brave hero herself she acts based on the interpretation of her friend who, with stunning syncronicity, rotates their dancing spots as to position the Girl as far as possible from the Guy. They continue this procedure for each other throughout the night.

The worse part for me - I mean, the Guy, is that he can actually see the girlfriend grimace or roll her eyes or put up the "L" on her forehead. Part of the Guy Code must be putting up with the Girl Code.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

50th anniversary

My grandparents are celebrating their 50th anniversary next Saturday in Indiana. 50 years ago my grandfather rode on a horse to the small village that my grandmother lived in. He stole her away from her family in the middle of the night and they rode off together in the distance, away from San Luis Potosí, away from the country of Mexico and into the land of opportunity that America seemed to offer.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

A Game of Cat and Hamster

I'm allergic to hamsters. They give me little bumps on the underside of my right wrist and make me sneeze, but I still like them because are small and furry and have pointy ears and tiny feet. When I heard that my girlfriend's hamster escaped from her cage a few days ago I was a bit alarmed. Now that it's still missing, I have a plan to try and capture it tonight.

Read more.


Vi walked in their room (yes they have their own room) a few days ago and found the cage door open. The more limber and agile of the two hamsters must have climbed up the cage and somehow managed to unlock and open the door leading out, because Vi is certain that she shut the door properly the night prior. The fatter hamster, Chubbs, looked up at her nonchalantly from inside the cage when she noticed the other one, Giz, missing. She seems to have bad luck with hamsters.

Concerned for the welfare of the hamster, Vi left a pile of food out the night the hamster escaped. It has consistently dwindled in quantity since then, meaning that either the hamster is still in the apartment and eating the food or that her roommate gets late night cravings for dried sunflower seeds and stale corn pellets every night.

I can imagine the wily rodent roaming about the apartment freely at night. I have dreams of her on the couch flipping through channels and then hitting the fridge for a snack, some chocolate chunk ice cream maybe. Or maybe she tries on makeup and looks through the medicine cabinet. I bet Giz stands at the foot of the bed as Vi sleeps, revelling in her new found freedom with a tootsie roll or cabbage patch dance.

I have a plan to capture the hamster tonight. I'm going to set up a box trap that the hamster will fall into by climbing up a staircase laden with more and more food on each step. The staircase will be made up of textbooks placed on top of each other high enough to reach the lip of the only opening of an 8.5" cardboard box. The bottom of the box will be lined with bedding and even more tantalizing food to ensure that the hamster stays safe and fed until tomorrow morning, when we hope to discover her in the box.

Basketball Fever

Tonight as I ate my footlong feelings at Subway the Fighting Illini basketball team won their 26th game in a row. Our undefeated, number-one ranked team also has the number-one ranked student cheering section, according to an article in Sports Illustrated.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Downloading Communism



About a week ago, the Motion Picture Association of America shut down lokitorrent.com, a popular site to download movies and music for free. The MPAA replaced the lokitorrent.com main page with an ominous ad that read, in big red letters, "You Can Click, But You Can't Hide." (See boingboing.net for spoofs on the MPAA notice.)



The "Big Brother" factor of the notices reminded me of the "Pirating MP3s is Like Downloading Communism" posters from yore (ie 2-3 years ago). I chuckled at the satirical implications of the poster as I read it hanging on the door of a dorm room. Recently, though, as I rethought the meaning of the poster, I wondered: Isn't there always a bit of truth in humor?

[Thanks for your help on arteries and communism, Carla.]

Read more.

It is a historical fact that there is less artistic output in socialist societies as compared to capitalist societies. It can be assumed that an artist in a socialist society, because she lacks the motivation to attain a significantly lucrative profit for her work, is less likely to write that hit song or to paint her masterpiece. Despite the popular appeal or mass consumption of her work, she will still be making the same as a doctor or lawyer or cook.

Even though not all artists create for profit or popular appeal, there are some that do - and they sometimes succeed. When asked once why he writes songs and plays guitar in Aerosmith, Joe Perry answered "Because it was the easiest way to make the most amount of money in the shortest period of time." To say that U2 is charging $165 for a ticket to shows on their upcoming tour because they just want to break even would be ridiculous. Some artists make art for money, and some of that art is the most enduring and recognized in the world. An artist has a greater potential to make his millions in a capitalist society than a socialist one.

Here's where the whole MP3/Communist thing ties together. Downloading MP3s for free is like not paying the artist for his work, it's like taking away his incentive to make millions. Without this dream of being a millionaire, it can be assumed that an extremely talented yet profit-driven artist would be less likely to make art as he realizes he might be able to make the same or even more as a teacher or lawyer or doctor. It then follows that situations like these may be those that contribute to the hisorical fact that there is less artistic output in communist societies compared to capitalist societies. In a communist society there are less artists producing less work because there is no more money to be made as an artist compared to any other profession. Even though some of the best artwork was not made for profit, some of it was.

"Pirating" MP3s is like "downloading" communism in that it reduces the potential for an individual artist to make a lot more money than the people around him. It questions the faith we put in people to do things for money, and to do them even better for more money. In a small way it threatens to topple the pillars of the pursuit of success, to poison the rivers of ambition and greed that form the arteries of our capitalist society.

An Ode To Brownies

My girlfriend makes good brownies -no - she makes f-ing delicious brownies. There was a platter of about nine or ten of them on a plate in the middle of the dinner table when I walked in her place yesterday. When she left the room I quickly glanced around to make sure it was really empty. Just me and the brownies. Brownies - vulnerable, soft, brown, chocolate brownies.

They completely surrender upon entrance to the mouth. The smooth delightful collapse of the brownies across the tongue, between the teeth. Gooey chocolately sticky brownies in my mouth. "Yoshplsh, womphiblsshh" say the brownies moving inside. Warm morsels of baked chocolate softness. The brownies that offer no resistance, that unfold and unload the chemistry of aphrodisia, the gentle euhporia of bite-sized bursts of endorphins.

I look at all nine and dare myself to eat ten. I think it over twice, looking around the room to see if anyone is around yet. My girlfriend walks in. I spot her. "Whoa.." she said as I sat completely still looking up at her while hunched over the plate of brown sunshine. "Don't worry..." she continued, "i'm not going to come between you and the brownies."

Monday, February 14, 2005

Sex on Valentine's Day

Boingboing.net points to a link of Durex's 8th annual Global Sex Survey. Among the categories surveyed include age of first sexual experience, the time spent on foreplay, and the number of sexual partners. From Durex's website:

Frequency of sex

  • Globally, people are having sex an average of 103 times a year with women (106) having sex more frequently than men (101)

  • 35-44 year olds are having the most sex (116) compared to just 91 times for the 16-20 age group

  • The French (137), Greeks (133) Hungarians and Serbian and Montenegrins (both 131) are having the most sex, while those in Japan (46), Hong Kong and Singapore (both 79) are the least sexually active
More, including detailed graphs, after the jump.


Frequency of Sex


Number of Sexual Partners


Frequency of Orgasms

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Mena Trott on Blogging

Mena Trott wrote a Bloggie-nominated essay on blogging. She is the co-founder and president of the company that develops Moveable Type and TypePad, two of the most popular blogging tools on the web.

She speaks of three different categories of bloggers: pundits, diarists, and egoists. Pundits are the technology whizzes and political know-it-alls that write about the things they know. Diarists are "online exhibitionists people who didn't have any qualms about writing about intimate details of their love life, co-workers they hate or their cats and the cheese sandwiches they ate for lunch." Next are the egoists, people who write for attention and maybe even fame. Mena says she was as an egoist at first because she knew she could never be famous in the real world "but, with a bit of creativity and humor, I could be pseudo-famous in the online world."

After a bad incident where she received unwarranted commentary from strangers in response to a post in which she diclosed personal information, Mena started to change gears. It took her a couple of years to realize that she didn't want to write and reach tens of thousands. "I wanted to reach 10 or 20 people, my close friends and family and a handful of webloggers I communicated with in real life (also known as friends)."

"The personal weblog is content-driven, not audience-driven; it's not about trying to write content that pleases a mass audience — it's about finding an audience that wants to read what you write."

Friday, February 11, 2005

Eerie News

A blogger died yesterday. He was in a wheelchair and suddenly died while talking on the phone to a friend. I don't know why he died, just that he did. I read about his death on the Bloggie-nominated blog Thisfish.com. On that page was a link to his blog, whose last entry was regarding the "deaths" of Paul McCartney and Paul Epstein, the respective singer and manager of the Beatles, in 1966. From his blog:

Apparently both Brian Epstein and Paul McCartney died in 1966. Who knew? I had no idea? Apparently the bobblehead who played over the weekend was actually Faul (False Paul) McCartney! I'm serious! I wouldn't kid about such matters!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Disturbing News

North Korea admits to having nukes. After all the speculation, they've finally come out and announced it officially. Adding to the disturbance was an article I ran across today on RollingStone.com about reinstating the draft:

With the army desperate for recruits, should college students be packing their bags for Canada?
Considering that North Korea is pounding its chest in front of our already belligerent president, who has his troops spread thin in Iraq, might it just be a matter of time before the military reinstates the draft and sends us to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea?

Wednesday, February 9, 2005

Illini Hoops, Wilco, a Man Playing Bagpipes - Who Said Champaign Was Boring?

Yesterday I beat a 38-year old Turkish man in Yahoo's Online Chess Game. I was playing during computer lab while my ill-prepared TA bumbled his way through a lecture that started approximately 40 minutes late. The girl to the right of me was looking for a jobs on government webpages. Just ahead and to the left of me I spied on another girl looking for a pair of shoes on Diesel.com. I felt kind of bad for the TA because we used to be classmates. On MWF we gathered together in the FLB at 8am to read mythological tales of Norse gods in Old Icelandic.



There was a man playing the bagpipes on the Quad last night. At first I thought it was the opening music for the rock group Wilco, who was playing a show only a few dozen yards away at Foellinger, but as we got closer we saw a guy marching around with something in his elbow. He played a few bars of Amazing Grace and some other song. It sounded Irish.



Before we got to the Quad we heard all over campus the hullaballoo over our undefeated, #1 ranked Fighting Illini basketball team. The noise was coming from the balconies of apartments and outside the doors of bars. They were playing the Michigan Timberwolves and cameback in the final quarter to win. When we finally got to the FLB we saw a french film called The Man on The Train. I thought it had a fair blend of comedy and tragedy.









Tuesday, February 8, 2005

1000 Words

I began my fascination with the world of Frank Herbert’s Dune when I began to read the book at eleven years old. In the novel Herbert creates another world with stunning detail and richness – it is not difficult to imagine the diverse people, places, or things in the Dune universe. One of the creatures in the novel is the feared sandworm, a vicious predator of the wide-open desert that burrows underneath the sand awaiting the vibration of the foot-steps of its prey. Sometimes reaching over hundred of yards in length, the sandworm moves underneath its prey to rise up and swallow it whole, leaving no trace of its many victims. This image of the sandworm haunted me immediately. The idea that a monstrous, whale-like creature could move with swiftness above and below the sand then proceed to engulf me whole terrified me. The sandworm is big and long, has sharp rows of teeth like a shark, and is swift and efficient.





I used the triangle shape of the teeth to imply a sense of moving sharply into the mouth. I wanted to recreate the sensation of a menacing, threatening being hovering overhead. The circular shape of the mouth was used to provide a cylindrical framework for the teeth. The smaller sized triangles in the mouth were used to symbolize the smaller teeth in the back of the mouth and I also used them to add depth to the body cavity of the sandworm. The triangle flaps on the outside were used to simulate the embracing qualities of the sandworm’s mouth. I wanted them to express the inescapability of being confronted with a sandworm.



The red spotting on the teeth were used as evidence of the sandworm’s past victims, signifying the harmful potential of the sandworm. The red spotting on the teeth also provided a sharp contrast with the blackness of the sandworm gullet, which I adopted in order to give a sense of the vacuum inside the sandworm. The relative brightness of the flaps outside the mouth were used as to give an alarming quality to the impending engulf of the sandworm. I made the background darker than the sandworm in order to emphasize to approach as opposed to recession of the sandworm.

Monday, February 7, 2005

Smile and Cries

I spent all day yesterday laying around on the couch with my girlfriend. We watched 2 romantic comedies and half of the Super Bowl. The Sweetest Thing and 40 Days and 40 Nights, two movies about the sex lives of young and successful people in San Francisco played consecutively on Comedy Central. They both had a different Pete Yorn song on their soundtrack. The different songs were from the same album.



As a joke, I sent a bottle of whiskey.

As you choked, you said it made you feel dirty.




My significant other impressed me with her knowledge of the rules and regulations of football as we watched the Super Bowl. I was mostly watching for the ads. We burst into hysterics during the CareerBuilder.com commercial where the guy sat on the whoppee cushion as he joined the chimpanzee board meeting. "That's how you laugh!" she exclaimed as we listened to the chimps chortle. We laughed some more.


Tired of moping around I decided to strectch my legs and see if my girlfriend's hamster wanted to hang out. Lemiwinks spends most of his time sleeping in the cage set up for him in the spare bedroom, so figured he could use some exercise too.


He was sleeping when I walked in. I dropped some of the shavings from his bedding on top of him to see if he would stir. Nothing - he must be a deep sleeper, I thought. As I blew on him softly I thought of a line from a Modest Mouse song:



Are you dead or are you sleeping?



I wanted to see him roll around the apartment in his little yellow ball, I wanted to hear the soft thumps he made when he hit the wall. I blew a little more and looked around for something with which to poke him. There was a tiny wooden stick right outside his cage and when I poked him and his body moved all at once I realized that Lemiwinks wasn't going to be waking up. He wasn't going to patter against the walls or roll along the carpet. Seeing him curled up in the fetal position with his tiny eyes closed and his tiny paws gathered near his chin, I felt a chill of remorse before getting up to wash my hands.


I went in the living room for my girlfriend.

Friday, February 4, 2005

Blogging About Blogs

Every so often I need reminders of why I blog, and oftentimes I need a source of motivation to keep me going. I want to be like Snoop-Dogg, to "keep coming up with funky-ass shit nearly every single day." Reading other blogs keeps me motivated and sometimes the discoveries made while searching through the blogosphere are often enough to keep me going for days, if not hours.



The 26 year-old behind thisfish.com is nominated for a 2005 Best Personal Weblog Award as part of the annual Bloggies awards. She's cute too. One of the comments posted on her website was obviously run through an English language translator before being posted:

I ALSO I HAVE A BLOG AND SEEING THE INTERESTING THING THAT SHE IS, SO THAT YOU DO NOT PLACE A DEVICE TO TRANSLATE IT TO SEVERAL LANGUAGES...

GREETINGS FROM MEXICO CITY!! :)
I'm fascinated by Mexico City, and so clicked on the name "Nancy Karina" and continued to peruse through her blog. I was knocked out by how many people consistently left comments to her posts. Apparently she is part of a ring of bloggers that, just last week, had an informal gathering in a casual restaurant/bar. Sabroson, one of the attendees, posted pictures and a summary of the gathering on his blog.







It was enough to imagine myself there, bumbling by with an awkward Spanish vocabulary but somehow communicating to these people that I feel familiar yet different from them at that same time. Knowing that these chilangos are into the same thing that I am even though they live so far away would make me suddenly feel so much closer to them, and I would hope they'd feel closer to me.



I'm proud to point to chums like Milton, my brother Christopher, Clarissa, and Peter that are also leaving their mark on the online "blog" scene. To me they are the motivation that is closest to home, and thus the most palpable. Links to their sites are now available on the sidebar column.

Give Me the Bad News First

I nearly tore my left nipple off today. I was hurriedly getting ready for work when I pulled my t-shirt over my head and scratched my left nipple with my right pinky finger. Now this might not have hurt for those with less sensitive nipples and shorter fingernails, but I'm a right-handed guitar player that uses his fingernails for picking, so they have to be a decent length. This combined with the fact that I also have sensitive nipples was a recipe for disaster; I should have known all along.



My left nipple was still sorely stinging when I noticed my mom left a message on my cell phone as I jogged to the bus stop. She finally passed an exit exam critical to becoming an officially registered nurse. She's been studying for four years now to be a nurse, and this test was the final obstacle in her way. It was her fourth and final chance to pass. 850 was the score needed to pass, and she got an 851.



Her friend and fellow aspiring nurse broke down into tears during the middle of the 5-hour test, well aware that she was not cut out for the profession. It was her last chance too. "I'm stupid, i'm just stupid," she cried to herself and my mom did her best not to turn around, not to sympathize, to stay focused and finish the test. And she did, she passed.



Napoleon Dynamite and Heroism

I finally saw Napoleon Dynamite last night. I think the protagonist looks not a little like Wes Anderson, the director of The Royal Tennenbaums, Rushmore, and, more recently, The Life Aquatic.







James Gandolfini, on Inside the Actors Studio, said that the best heroes are the ones that you would least expect to be a hero. Napoleon fits that description well. Basically he's a big geek that gets beat up by the jocks. He wears shirts with wilderness scenes on them and spends his free time on mediocre drawings of mythical creatures, yet it is so easy to get behind and cheer for him because of all this.

Thursday, February 3, 2005

Yearning Japanese, I think I'm Yearning Japanese

"Why does Japan get all the cool stuff?" quipped the creator of HouseWars earlier this afternoon. A Japanese toy company sells these small plants that sprout with special messages pre-written on their leaves. More on boingboing.net.







And there's a profile in today's edition of CNN.com of cell phones that feature a jiggling function that dials numbers and scrolls through address books, among other things. The article here.



Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Karma Police

Milton was giving me the heebie-jeebies last night talking about how the Pope was hospitalized the day after I posted an entry about him being attacked by a flying dove. He said he was going to tell on me if anything happened to him, but it looks like he's OK for now, thank God.







CNN has a timeline of the life of the Pope.

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Golden Globes of Flesh

Men.style.com has a "Golden Globes" featurette on the all-time greatest boob shots in movie history, complete with full-color pictures and witty essays for each entry. Something remarkable happened as I gandered over these old, familiar friends:



Monday, January 31, 2005

Emergency Beverages

Clarissa, our social chair, got me these tiny bottles of J.D. and Jim Beam along with a handy cocktail guide for the LPA's fashionably late Secret Santa gift exchange tonight. I told her I am going to take them the next time we have a presentation.



Dove Attacks the Pope





The story here.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Keyboard Cleaning

I was too lazy to actually turn the computer off while cleaning my keyboard just now. I figured that actually cleaning it took enough effort as it was. While I was cleaning, it turns out Notepad randomly opened and then logged the following keystrokes:



ds998890ppppppio';][[]

452

']\]0-0---99323221sa



"p" must've been pretty dirty - the whole keyboard, in fact, was scummy. Beforehand I decided to google keyboard-cleaning methods, and this one was my favorite.







To get a hint of how dirty your keyboard might be, just pick it up, turn it upside down, and gently pound on the underside for a few moments. Be prepared for an unwelcome surprise.

I took the GRE last week. Part of the GRE was like blogging. I used the same techniques of analysis and expression that I often use while blogging. The "Present Your Perspective" writing section gave me an opportunity to explain my viewpoint on an issue in clear, articulate, and cogent terms.



When I blog, I hope that there is going to be a reader there behind the screen and, with this hope, try to show respect for their attention by being concise and informative. I'm a person too, though, and I also want to show my humanity. and sometimes my perspective and humanity shines through.



I'm confident that I will have impressive scores on the Analytical Writing section of the GRE because I performed with the experience of steadily blogging Explaining myself, and explaining myself articulately

the steady practice of blogging



Blogging, as a hobby and as



persistence



Analyze an Issue, Present Your Perspective

Beer Saves The Day

Read this almost unbelievable story from wired.com:

Saved By the Beer

When in doubt, crack open a cold one. A Slovak man, trapped in his car under an avalanche, did just that. He couldn't dig his way out, since the snow would just fill the vehicle before he could reach the surface. But Richard Kral realized if he drank all 60 half-liter bottles of beer he had with him, he could melt the snow with his own urine. It worked, and four days later rescue teams found a drunken Kral staggering around the Slovak Tatra mountains. "It was hard and now my kidneys and liver hurt," said Kral. "But I'm glad the beer I took on holiday turned out to be useful and I managed to get out of there."

-- Jenny McKeel
Just don't eat the yellow snow.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Comments Made Easier

After noticing that the nominations for the annual Bloggies awards (the equivalent of the Oscars for blogs) were up for voting, I checked out a few nominated weblogs, and boy was I impressed. The writer behind Tequila Mockingbird inspires me with her personal, sophisticated, and artistic style of writing, and the scores of comments to her entries shows that I'm not the only one affected.



Anyways, I noticed that she also uses blogspot but has a comment feature that does not require the commentator to be either a registered member of blogspot or post "anonymously". I signed up for the same free feature that she has and now anyone can more easily comment on this blog (!)



I like comments - they show me that an intelligent person is out there reading what I write, and that on its own is so motivating. Seeing a new comment makes my heart flutter - cheesy, I know, but true. So to Derek and everyone else, thanks for reading and feel free to comment if you'd like.

Drunk in Translation

Today was a good day to be hungover. The open, silent and balmly weather provided a comforting backdrop to my daily trek to work.



The International Illini had a social event last night at Murphy's. There were nearly 50 people sitting and standing around inside the bar when we arrived - Alto Rizado (Miguel), my roommmate Edgar and I. Some people seemed very sociable and chatty, and others were standing against the wall trying not to look out-of-place. I looked for familiar faces and found several, schmoozing and boozing my way into the crowd.



The social chair pointed me to a piece of paper on a table listing the names of a dozen or so foreign students and their home countries. This was a "buddy event" where Americans and foreigners register to be buddied up with each other. The idea is to encourage the social relations between the international and local student body so that hopefully both get to learn twice as much as they already knew about the world. I had a buddy last semester and she wasn't all that bad, so I decided to participate once again.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Ninjas and Endangered Men

ROFL. I found this website endangeredman.com that claims man as an endangered species. Under the "Man Knowledge" section they have a showcase of ninja weaponry and attire. From the website:





NINJA PATCH

If a Ninja doesn't have one of these he's full of shit (not a Ninja) so don't listen to him or be scared of fighting him.





NUNCHAKU

A Ninja will move these all around their body until the enemy is afraid and mesmerized, at which point he will immediately club the person to death.





BUTTERFLY KNIFE

Ninjas make these flutter around in the air before you, and you're like "that thing is beautiful," and then your pancreas falls onto the ground.





KUBOTON KEYCHAIN

A Ninja's job is never done. If he's knocking off for the day, and finds someone sitting on the hood of his car, he will punch them in the neck with this neck-punching keychain.





TANTO

If a Ninja has an off day, he will reflect on what went wrong while cutting himself in half with this.



More entries here.

Salud to Your Salud





Moderate alcohol consumption protects women from cognitive decline, according to findings recently published in Nature magazine. They found that the women who had the equivalent of one drink a day had a 23% lower risk of becoming mentally impaired during the two-year period, compared with non-drinkers. Whether they drank beer or wine made no difference.



These findings are similar to other studies that have linked modest beer consumption with a decreased risk in heart disease.

The epidemiologists say that previous findings about the cardiovascular benefits of drinking might extend to the brain. They speculate that better blood flow could help to preserve cognitive function, and prevent subclinical strokes.
The full story, along with other studies citing the benefits of drinking alcohol, on Nature.com

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Bonsai Kitten

My girlfriend recently told about me this website that claims to sell kittens that have been stuffed inside a glass container one week after birth. They are given muscle relaxants to constrict their movement and are fed through a tube inserted into the container. A tube on the opposite end removes their feces.



She heard about the website, bonsaikitten.com, through an e-mail from her friend and thought it might be a good idea for a blog. From the website:

The flexibility of the kitten's skeleton means that if the bones are gently warped at this early age, [and that] they can be molded into any desired shape. At Bonsai Kitten, we achieve this by placing the kitten into a rigid vessel soon after birth, and allowing the young cat to grow out its formative time entirely within this container. The kitten essentially grows into the shape of the vessel! Once the cat is fully developed, it is removed (or the vessel broken to remove it!), producing the lovable, furry pet you've always wanted, but it remains in the shape you've always dreamed of!

I thought it was pretty interesting so I decided to google the website to find out more about it. It turns out to be a hoax, an urban legend spread by a chain letter that tries to shut the website down. From Sophos.com:
The chain letter has been distributed around the internet, protesting against a website where it is suggested cats are being maltreated. In fact, the website is a joke (albeit one which some may find tasteless).




Novel Methods of Contraception

ConsumerReports.org recently posted a useful guide comparing various methods of contraception. Below is a listing of some remarkable methods that I haven't already heard about:





NuvaRing

NuvaRing is a hormone-impregnated polymer ring that is worn in vagina for 3 weeks, then removed for 1 week, producing withdrawal bleeding. The price is $38 for a 28 day cycle and the side effects are the same as the birth control pill.







ParaGard

Paragard is a t-shaped copper intrauterine device inserted into the uterus at a doctor's office. It can be left in place for a period of up to 10 years. It is believed to inhibit the passage of sperm and maturation of the eggs. Rarely, it can perforate the uterus.







Mirena

Mirena, like Paragard, is a t-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus. Unlike Paragard, Mirena is made out of plastic and can only be left in place for up to 5 years. It can occasionally fall out and rarely does it perforate the uterus. Mirena can be removed with a rapid return to a natural state of fertility.





All of the methods listed are over 99% effective.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

I come from the (high) school of anti-capitalistic ideology. From the fiery rhetoric of bands like Rage Against the Machine and my Marxist-leaning contemporaries I learned about the bad, the horrible, and the ugly of capitalistic societies like our own. Although we are a wealthy country, that wealth is concentrated in the hands of a racially and sexually-select few. Some would say that we exploit third world countries while cheating our own out of employment by outsourcing jobs that require mindless manual labor to people who will work for less. As long as the bottom line is met, the rueful trademarks of capitalism, like greed and lust and selfish ambition are chalked up as innocuous side-effects that are part of everyday life in a competitive society.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Halo 2 and Xbox Live: Not Just Fun and Games

A subscription to the Xbox Live service comes with a microphone by which a user can both talk to and hear other players in the pre- and post-game lobbies of every team game on Halo 2. A couple of days ago I was particularly taken aback by the heated remarks that my randomly selected teammeates and opponents were trading with each other. By the sounds of things one side was black and the other white.



Now I've heard and said racist remarks before but never have I witnessed them expressed so directly and vehemently. Here the anonynimity provided by the television screen allowed these six remaining people, 3 younger blacks and 3 older whites, to bounce diatribes off of each other without fear of losing decorum or being socially stigmatized, while the microphones and earpieces ensured that their message was getting across without the risk of violent consequences. The white guys called the black guys "speak-chuckers" and "jungle monkeys," saying things like "I bet you don't even have a job." The black kids responded just as angrily with frequent curse words, saying that "white people are so lame" or "You guys can't dance" or "We are the best at everything physical." I sat silently, amazed by the audible emotional intensity that went on for at least 15 minutes. Eventually I spoke up, trying my best to not sound like a peace-loving hippie, but most of my speech fell upon deaf ears.



I know these people aren't poor or uneducated. You need money and technical know-how to afford and manage an Xbox, the Halo 2 game, and a monthly charge to access Xbox live. Now when I question the vitality of racism in society, at least within the 14-24 year-old male online game-playing society, I think back to this real-life scenario.



Bungie, the developers and online police of Xbox Live Halo 2 recently addressed this issue on their front page, explaining why they have temporarily suspended the accounts of certain "drooling halfwits":

Racism? This is particularly galling, and you should know, it is frequently and highly reported. If you're one of those slack-jawed troglodytes who uses racism as his main form of discourse you probably won't even understand this sentence, but note that you should keep your vile, bilious crap sealed up. Nobody wants to hear how stupid you are.
I had to look up troglodyte.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Goldish-lager





At a party a few days ago someone told me that the gold flakes floating about in every bottle of Goldschlager contribute to cut up the inner lining of the stomach and esophagus, thereby facilitating a greater getting-fucked-up factor. The idea is that more alcohol is able to influence internal body chemistry due to the rippings created by the flakes once they've reached the digestive system.



After a shot I plopped down on a couch, mesmerized by the tiny golden leaves floating dazzingly throughout the bottle of cinnamon schnapps in front of me. Liquid Big Red.



Still curious about the Goldschlager flakes, I found an entry on Wikipedia that retells the stomach-ripping story in similar terms, labelling it as an urban myth. Seeing as foods like Doritos and paint chips didn't seem to mess with my inner linings, i'm guessing that it probably is an urban myth- even though I still haven't found any conclusive scientific evidence saying that it isn't. The guys on that TV show MythBusters need to stop rocketing chickens through airplane cockpit windows and get on this shit.



(Photo coutesy of Milton.)

Sunday, January 16, 2005

GRE preparation

Today I put on the kettle on to make myself some coffee. I usually don't drink coffee but decided that a nice perk would be helpful in studying for the GRE, which i'm going to take next week Monday. My study book has personality:

A week before the test is not the time for any major life changes. This is NOT the week to quit smoking, start smoking, quit drinking coffee, start drinking coffee, start a relationship, end a relationship, or quit a job. Business as usual, okay?
I felt a little guilty after pouring my first cup of joe.



There's a common refrain here on campus that "you can't do anything with a Bachelor's in Psychology unless you go to grad school." Yet after five years of undergrad, i'm getting a little tired of becoming an "educated" person. Maybe its because only 6.6% of adults go on to get an advanced degree that the elitist in me still yearns to join those ranks. Besides, on average, MAs and PhDs make more money than BAs - how else do I plan to afford a ticket once space travel has become commercialized?

Friday, January 14, 2005

$13,000 t-shirt

I found a t-shirt that costs $13,000. From vintagevantage.com:







"80s hip hop shirts in general are extremely rare, there just weren't that many made. Run DMC shirts from the 80s are even more elusive."




So they get to charge $13,000 for one?

Monday, January 10, 2005

Racial Privilege and Pack Animals

As a person of color attending a mostly white university, sometimes I wonder if white people have more privilege than people of color. Actually, I'm sure that they do. On average whites are better off financially, socially, and academically on this campus. What's going on here - might this be a mircosmic reflection of what's going on out there?



I know that about five hundreds years ago a bunch of Europeans (white people) floated over to this country and wiped out an advanced, organized civilization that numbered somewhere in the millions. These guys (people of color) were my ancestors, the Aztecs. We lost because we were outfoxed technologically and infested biologically - white people had guns and catapults and deadly viruses and we had spears and arrows and straw hats.



So let's say that white people are in power here and now because they were the first who were able to conquer my ancestors and this continent. Jared Diamond, who in 1997 wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning book Guns, Germs and Steel suggests that the fates of human societies come less from biological & racial factors but more so from the capability of different societies to share technological innovations with each other. Depending on the geographical layout of a given region of land, the cultures within that region will be more or less able to share their discoveries, like gunpowder or calculus, with each other. For example:



"Crops and animals that are domesticated in one region can easily be spread to others along lines of latitude, which are also lines of similar climate. But they cannot be spread as easily along lines of longitude, where a few hundred miles can spell the difference between temperate and tropical climates. Horses domesticated in the Asian steppes, for example, could make their way westward to Europe and eastward to China, but llamas and alpacas domesticated in the Andes never made it northward to Mexico, so the Mayan and Aztec civilizations were left without pack animals."
This makes sense. Having never seen horses before, the Aztecs heralded the Spanish calvary as celestial beings who brought eternal redemption. Instead they were subjected to near complete annihiliation. The political and social authority that the Aztec empire held over most of the continent was replaced by the Spanish Catholic hegemony. The white people took control.



As a person of color living in a white man's country it's not easy to keep the faith in our gospel that all men (not just white, male, and landowning men) are created equal. I have to remind myself of all the uncontrollable factors that have played a role in this game - that the dice have been rolled and the pieces are in place - but that it's not over yet.