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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.

Saturday, January 8, 2005

The Morning After

Mark Frauenfelder over at boingboing.net posted a link to this hilarious collection of pictures of friends who mess with other friends after they've passed out early. I think it's a necessary milestone of any college experience. Just hope that you're not on the receiving end:







Reminds me of something that we did to an old roommate once. Go to ebaumsworld for more hilarious pictures.

Friday, January 7, 2005

Adrants.com Covers Billboard Story

Adrants.com has covered a story that I posted here a few days ago called "Hip Hop Rots Your Brain." I contacted Steve Hall, the editor-in-chief, about the story earlier today thinking that it might be appropriate for his website. He agreed and posted the story on here. Adrants, which takes a unique approach to marketing and advertising news coverage, was named as the number one "Website You Should Bookmark" in Advertising Age, beating out Gawker and even Google News.



The gracious folks at the Chambana community livejournal and UC Hip Hop message boards were awesome in helping to put the story together. They posted pictures of the billboards online and provided key information about their owners. Thanks.

God Hates Shrimp

Apparently God hates shrimp. My coworker pointed me to a website that quotes lines in the New Testament that prohibit the ingestion of any fish that doesn't have fins or scales. He says it's from the same section of the Bible that labels gayness as an "abomination" to man.



We call upon all Christians to join the crusade against Long John Silver's and Red Lobster. Yea, even Popeye's shall be cleansed. The name of Bubba shall be anathema. We must stop the unbelievers from destroying the sanctity of our restaurants.
I can't figure out if the website is a satire of biblical regulations or if it is really taking itself seriously. One thing is for sure - they sell refrigerator magnets and t-shirts:





Thursday, January 6, 2005

Musicplasma and data visualization

Musicplasma.com is Amazon's free musical reference system that visualizes the "relationship" of one musical artist to another based on musical similarity. Radiohead, as an example:







You can customize the design of the visualization and zoom in or out for a greater understanding of musical similarities between different artists. This is similar to the visualization feature at thefacebook.com, where you can actually see a diagram charting the intricacies of your social network. The image there looks similar to the one above, except with peoples' names occupying the descriptive center label and your name in the center of the universe.



I can't even begin to imagine the artistic and practical possibilities of extending this same technology to other categories of life.





Nightmares and Dreams

Dave Eggers was attending the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign when his mother died of cancer. Shortly thereafter his father passed away and he was not able to complete his final semester. He wrote about his loss in a book that sold millions of copies and won truckloads of critical acclaim. Time Magazine, The LA Times, the New York Times all agreed that A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius was the best book of the year 2001. A feature film based on the book is in the works.



Now he manages mcsweeneys.net a website that regularly publishes short pieces that are submitted by authors that range from relative nobodies to established authors. I submitted a piece to mcsweeneys once. Bastards.



Anyways, here's a bit from an unnervingly funny piece titled "I Was Not Invited Back to That School" written by John Moe. The narrator is giving a "motivational" speech in a high school auditorium. It's about dreams:

Do you dream of being the most famous and successful artist in the whole world? Well, that is a dream! Where will that magical journey take you? Perhaps to a cubicle in the design department of a major food conglomerate where you're staying late again to work on more mockups of packaging for a new sort of extreme macaroni 'n'

cheese. The mascot of this new brand is supposed to be a "radical rasta surfer," and in previous meetings you have been told that all your presentations looked" too monsterlike" (when you emphasized the "radical"), "too druggie" (when you emphasized the "rasta"), or "too confusing." They also nixed the idea of the character surfing on the goo from macaroni 'n' cheese while also refusing to let him surf on water or nothing. But he's still supposed to be a surfer.





livejournal sells out

Livejournal sold out. They were brought out by the company that makes the popular weblog publishing tools MovableType and TypePad, Six Apart. The president of Six Apart distinguishes Livejournals as having a more personal quality to them than the blogs that her company publishes. She sees the merger as benefiting both companies.



That this all comes just 4 days after I move on from Livejournal to another blogging service is to me eerily coincidental. From her blog:

The funny thing is, you can have a weblog and a LiveJournal. The fact that some of the funniest and smartest people I know have both only reaffirms that we shouldn't limit ourselves to one sort of publishing/communication mode.


Tuesday, January 4, 2005

"Hip Hop Rots Your Brain"

Anyone coming back to Champaign for the start of the new semester might notice the controversial billboards dotting the college town. They simply read "Hip Hop Rots Your Brain."







Reactions to the billboard, presented by the Coalition of Responsible and Attentive Parents (C.R.A.P), range from outrage to cynicism. According to the Chambana Community, the words "Hip Hop" were later spraypainted over with others like "ignorance," and "racism."







Yet the graffiti writing on the billboards seems to be anything but vandalism. The ad group responsible for them contacted the student organization UC Hip Hop before they went up. Al-iteration:



The ad group said "do whatever you want to these." For example, on [one]of her billboards, DJ Su crossed out "Rots" and painted "Frees" above... you know? So basically, it LOOKS like this great back and forth between people of warring beliefs, but it's actually playing on our beliefs that someone WOULD actually put up a billboard saying "Hip Hop Rots Your Brain."


The billboards are only the first in a series of a marketing campaign sponsored by Up a Notch Records and Adams Outdoor Advertising. They are designed to generate dialogue and attention within the local community around some as-of-yet unknown musical artist or product.

old news ...

ABC News has named bloggers as the People of the Year 2004. Xeni Jardin, my blogging hero, posted a video of the spot over at boingboing.net.

Inaugural blog

This is a new attempt at blogging. In contrast to my livejournal, This blog will take on a less personal tone and adopt more of an outward focus on what's happening both here in a midwestern college town and out there in the world.



I'm dazzled by the extraordinary things in life that leave me with a sense of wonder and possibility. Sometimes these things come to me from advancements in technology, sometimes they come from real-life occurrences around the world. As Bob Dylan put it, I seek those winks or nods from unexpected places that can "vary the tedium of a baffling existence," evil if they may shine from an evil eye.