Gainesville Ramblings

This is a blog, and thus it barely qualifies as writing, let alone formal writing, so I'd not let it bother you.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

This Just In: Chuck Norris Unable to End Iraq War, Tim Tebow To Be Sent In

First, watch this:

Now, the discussion:

1) Chuck Norris just went to Iraq? And the war is still on? We are so fucking screwed.

2) Who in their right mind let Chuck Norris on a news show as a fill in anchor? He manages to be the only guy who could possibly bring the intelligence level of Hannity and Colmes down. Good job Fox News. You once again prove why you're the best.

3) For a while there, Chuck Norris jokes were all the rage. I enjoyed them too, until I saw him and his wife on the Christian channel promoting teaching the Bible in public schools. What little respect I had for him was gone right there. And this only reinforces it. I'm glad the Republican Masters gave Norris a message and that he was able to stick to it. But for a guy who believes in some kind of educational reform (admittedly, a very stupid kind), he should probably read a book that's not the Bible before you start asking a politically knowledgeable Iraqi rapper about Iraq. Just saying.

4) I listened to that song they talk about in the clip. Its really quite good.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Mental Health Day

I skipped work today.

I decided last night that I needed a day off. The job has really been getting to me recently. The meaningless jobs have been piling up, each one seemingly more mundane and mindless as the next. For the last few days, each time someone dropped something new on my desk, I felt like throwing it back. It doesn't help that what they say while they do the dropping usually is along the lines of "Matt, could you change these peoples' addresses in the KSS database?" or "I noticed the phone messages are really out of date. Could you change it?"

I think the fact that this is a temporary stop is finally catching up with me, especially with the prospect of other jobs on the horizon. And if I'm bad now, I'm scared to think how I'll feel when I actually have another job. It'll be Applebee's all over again.

I worked at Applebee's for a few months over the summer while I looked for a less temporary job. Once I got my current job and gave my manager my two weeks notice (actually, that happened while I was enjoying a few beers there with Oded, who was in town looking for a job of his own), I got antsy. Or maybe I just realized how much that job really sucked. With about a week before my official last day, I walked out. It was the only time I've ever done that, and probably will be the only time that I ever do, but man did that feel good.

That probably won't be happening at the OTL, because unlike Applebee's, I respect the people I work with at my current job. But if I get a job offer that I like, expect me to bouncing in my chair until that new career path starts.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Gay on the Mind

Through a weird series of events, gays have been on my mind today.

No Mom, I'm not coming out of the closest. Stop freaking out.

As I've written before, I spend a large chunk of my day surfing the Internet. One site I've been going to for a while is Andrew Sullivan's blog, The Daily Dish. Mr. Sullivan's an interesting guy, a gay Catholic, an old-style conservative who's HIV+, he's an amazing writer and a damned good political thinker. He was pro-Bush and pro-war. He's since changed his mind as the evidence accumulated that the war was not going well, and it was mostly the President's fault.

But anyways, he pointed his readers to this video for the song The Bible Says. Its mind blowing, to say the least. Absolutely stunning. Watch it. You won't be sorry.

Now, I've watched it twice today, and there's no way that can't be parody, right? I mean, saying gays are going to hell is one thing, but to actually put out a song with the chorus being "God Hates a Fag?" Would people actually do that?

After a second watching, the clues start coming through that this is a truly brilliant piece of parody. The lead singer has a very, well, gay mustache and is wearing a pink shirt. There are quite a few scenes that scream "Gay allusions!" too. And plus, the singer is basically admitting he's gay, but he's going to get through it with the power of Christ. That's not something many of the type of people who would put out a song like this would admit to.

The other thing that made me think about homosexuality happened during lunch. I went and visited the lackluster Phi Sig tabling in Turlington, and hung out for a bit talking to Jeff, Kristen and Sammy. Hung out just long enough, in fact, for the preacher who had been torturing the people in the Plaza of the Americas to make his was over to Turlington. And then the fun began.

He took out two electrical cords, and proceeded to demonstrate why being gay doesn't work. As he pushed two male sides of the plugs together, the first thing that came into my mind was "If two guys are doing that, they're probably too dumb to be gay. Or alive."

He then told a ten minute story about how sexual relations are supposed to go in his head. They involved trips to Starbucks, courting, marriage, a trip to Barbados, a hotel room, and "then they get NAKED!!!" (to quote Crazy Preacher).

These words will be ingrained in my head for the rest of my life. I really wish they weren't.

"The woman lays on her back in the bed! She spreads her legs! The man mounts her! And the penis," he then pushes the electrical plugs together, "enters the vagina! The man moves back and forth," which he demonstrated by jerking the plugs back and forth. And that, I assume, is the end of his sex life. Now, I'm pretty sure it never says in the Bible that the missionary position is the only acceptable position. Or maybe it does, but its in among all the rules in Leviticus that no one pays attention to anymore, like selling your daughters into slavery, or stoning anyone who wears both linen and leather.

Soon the Turlington Crazy started going into what happens when the virginal newlyweds decide to try out that anal sex thing they've been hearing so much about. That was my cue to leave.

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Tortoise and the Eagle

I read a lot. Most days, I'll down fifty or a hundred pages. Sometimes more. Reading this fast means I run out of books quickly, so I've learned to reread books. Those that I like, I'll reread often. Terry Pratchett's Night Watch, which is probably my favorite book, I've read at least a dozen times, but most likely more.

Since I reread my collection fairly often, I find there's parts that I keep coming back to. My favorite passage, the one I think about a lot and have even tried memorizing a few times, is also from a Pratchett book. It comes from Small Gods, which is not only an amazing book, but also probably my personal explanation for my religious feelings.

The particular passage I love is from the first page and a half. It doesn't have a title, but if it did, it would probably be called "The Tortoise and the Eagle." Or possibly "Making Friends. Then Eating Them." Terry Pratchett's a weird guy.

Now consider the tortoise and the eagle.

The tortoise is a ground-living creature. It is impossible to live nearer the ground without being under it. Its horizons are a few inches away. It has about as good a turn of speed as you need to hunt down a lettuce. It has survived while the rest of evolution flowed past by being, on the whole, no threat to anyone and too much trouble to eat.

And then there is the eagle. A creature of the air and high places, whose horizons go all the way to the edge of the world. Eyesight keen enough to spot the rustle of some small and squeaky creature half a mile away. All power, all control. Lightning death on wings. Talons and claws enough to make a meal of anything smaller than it is and at least take a hurried snack out of anything bigger.

And yet the eagle will sit for hours on the crag and survey the kingdoms of the world until it spots a distant movement and then it will focus, focus, focus on the small shell wobbling among the bushes down there on the desert. And it will leap...

And then a minute later the tortoise finds the world dropping away from it. And it sees the world for the first time, no longer one inch from the ground but five hundred feet above it, and it thinks: what a great friend I have in the eagle.

And then the eagle lets go.

And almost always, the tortoise plunges to its death. Everyone knows why the tortoise does this. Gravity is a habit that is hard to shake off. No one knows why the eagle does this. There's good eating on a tortoise but, considering the effort involved, there's much better eating on practically anything else. It's simply the delight of eagles to torment tortoises.

But of course, what the eagle does not realize is that it is participating in a very crude form of natural selection.

One day a tortoise will learn to fly.
I don't know why I like this so much. I appreciate the wit and the creativity, and I like how this passage ties together much of the book, but in a way that you don't realize until you finish the novel. But I can't explain what it is about this passage that draws me back again and again. Its possible its the message of getting back for betrayal, or that what the bully does eventually will come back to bite them in the ass (it seems that everything comes back around to the mental anguish I suffered in middle school). Possibly I just like Aesop-like fables. Or maybe I really like the transition (or lack thereof) from "What a great friend I have" to "Then the eagle lets go." But whatever it is, I keep reading the passage and I keep enjoying it.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, January 19, 2007

Books This Year

The year is only 19 days old, and already I've devoured quite a few books. I thought it would probably be a good idea to write down the books I'm reading and a few thoughts about them.

1. The Blind Side by Michael Lewis*
If you like football, especially of the college variety, read this book. It is simply stunning. The book is basically about the evolution of football and how the left tackle became the second highest paid position in football, while also requiring a physical freak to play it correctly. But really, it's the story of Michael Oher, a poor uneducated boy from inner city Memphis, who came out of nowhere to become the most highly recruited player in the country. Along the way, Lewis touches on the horrible conditions of living in the inner city, White Flight, the kindness and bizarreness of white Evangelicals, Coach Ogereon, the double standard of college education when it comes to athletes, and the West Coast Offense. All of it is well written, engrossing, and fun.

2. Moneyball by Michael Lewis

I loved The Blind Side so much that I went out and immediately bought this. Its about the Oakland A's, one of the poorest teams in professional baseball, and how even though they are constantly outspent, they manage to win consistently. This is because, and this is the part I love, they're run by a bunch of nerds. Nerds who love statistics. Baseball is a game of traditions, and according to scouts, players should look a certain way. If they don't meet the profile, they'll never make it to the pros. For the A's, how they look is not important at all. Rather, its about what they actually do. And it works. I know very little about baseball, but while I learned about the sport in this book, what I really learned is that someone with a bit of extra knowledge and the courage to exploit it can make a killing. Also: Statistics are cool.

3. The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

Obama may be the current political it-boy right now, but don't let that dissuade you from reading his new book. It is, quite simply, amazing. In a country divided by religion and partisanship, he preaches a middle road, one that has the potential to bring a lot of the country together. He makes no apologies for being a Democrat and fairly liberal, but he is willing to understand and compromise with the other side. Will he make a good president? I don't know, I need to hear some specifics about his policies. His book lays out some, and they sound good, but I'd probably need to know more. And he could probably use more experience, having been in Washington for only two years. But having spent years of his childhood in Indonesia, having a multicultural and multiethnic background, being obviously very intelligent and well spoken, and being able to listen to the demands of others, he may be just what this country needs.

4. Ringworld by Larry Niven

This was one of those impulse buys, made while looking through the Science Fiction rack at Books-A-Million. I had heard of the book, but had never really heard anything about it. But I love reading about world creation, and basically, that's what this book is all about. Niven created a world that is literally a ring, encircling a star (think of the place Halo takes place on). Its approximately 600 million times the area of Earth, making it absolutely massive, and would be nearly impossible to ever overcrowd. The story itself was OK, and it definitely shows its age (having been published in 1970), thought not nearly as much as say, Asimov's Foundation Series, where everything is based on nuclear technology. An enjoyable book, and I'll probably read its sequel, which goes more into how the Ring was built, but it doesn't really crack my consciousness in the way the last three books did.

Currently I'm reading State of Denial by Bob Woodward. It's good, though slightly dry. But after only getting a third of the way through it, it's stunning how completely inept the Bush administration, and especially Donald Rumsfield, was at planning this war. I'll have more to say once I'm through.

*I did not actually read this after the start of the New Year, but I loved it so much that I wanted to include it.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Getting From Me to Jack Bauer in Two Moves

I moved into the house my parents currently live in when I was twelve or so. Next door to us were Jim and Nadine. They were pretty nice. Jim liked to surf and windsurf and owned a huge, old yellow truck to take his boards everywhere, while Nadine was more the prototypical suburban wife. But really, there are two things I remember about them: the first is that they had a Jack Russel named Bandit, who wandered around the neighborhood with a jaunty bandanna around his neck and barked at everything that moved. I thought he was the coolest dog ever, but I think everyone else in the neighborhood was glad when Jim and Nadine moved a few years later.

The other thing I remember is that when Nadine's family visited, her sister looked really familiar. Eventually my mom told me that she was an actress, and I probably knew her as the mom in Free Willy. Being twelve, I thought this was awesome. Even though I thought that movie was lame, its still cool to be near someone who is in a movie that I saw when I was nine. Whenever she was visiting, I would point out to my friends "That's the person who played the mom in Free Willy!" I would get some appreciative grunts, but that's about it.

And then I didn't think about that for quite a while. This all came back when I got an email from my mom this morning. She reads the blog, and constantly sends me emails with her responses. Today's email mentioned how she started watching 24 this season, and that the person who plays Karen Hughes is Jayne Atkinson, who is also our old neighbor's sister. It may be my mucus congested brain that makes me think this is cool, but that fact that playing the 'Kevin Bacon' game, you can get from me to Kiefer Sutherland in only two moves strikes me as awesome.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Bourbon in the Backseat

Continuing on the theme of drinking in the car:

Its a minor tradition to drink bourbon, and particularly W.L. Weller brand, while watching 24. As this weekend featured the four hour, two night premiere of the sixth season, I made sure to stop by ABC on Saturday and pick up a handle. I had two bourbon and cokes on Sunday, and one more on Monday, which didn't put too much of a dent in the bottle. So I grabbed it and threw it into the foot well of my backseat and drove off.

The entire drive back, I got whiffs of bourbon, but I figured it might be some liquor that i spilled on my shorts, or had leaked out around the edges of the cap. I pulled into a parking space in front of my apartment, reached back for the bottle, and stuck my hand directly into a two inch puddle of bourbon.

It took me nearly an entire roll of paper towels to get most of the liquor absorbed, but a significant quanitity was left in the dark red carpets, wafting its smell throughout my car. For the most part, I like the smell of bourbon. It has a smokey, woody odor to it that seems fairly distinguished. But that much that quickly can be overwhelming.

I left my windows cracked all last night and today. I came home, and pretty much as soon as I turned the corner into my parking lot, I could smell the piercing odor of warm liquor on the air. I went by my car and found myself almost overwhelmed. I made it into my apartment without passing out, and asked Dave if he had smelled that.

"All day," he said. "You could smell it every time the wind blow the wrong direction."

Until the right backseat is completely dry and I can dump a bottle of Febreeze on it, its a smell I'm going to have to live with. And now I live in dread of getting pulled over by the police, as will inevitably happen now. Me trying to explain to an officer why my car and I reek of bourbon is not a conversation I look forward to, but one I will try like hell to record when it happens. Cause the comedy potential is near endless, especially if I end up getting arrested. That may call for pictures.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, January 15, 2007


Fear is the power of the brain to extrapolate. It is that organ's ability to look forward the next few hours and decide that you stand a good chance of death. The brain then shoots anxiety and worry throughout your body, in an effort to stop you from whatever your doing. Fear is what I experienced on Saturday night.

I've gotten into a car when I shouldn't have before. Whether it was because the person driving was a bad driver, talking way too much on the phone, tailgated other cars (I'm looking at you Amos), or were a little worse for wear due to alcohol or lack of sleep (or both), after we've safely gotten to our destination, I think to myself, "Let's not do that again." But in none of the above incidents did I ever actively feel that there was a better than 50% chance that I was going to die. Saturday, my chances were probably somewhere in the realm of 80.

Some friends were visiting this past weekend, and since I hadn't seen them in a while, I decided to hang out with them. I met up with these friends at a party in the Estates (which I guess is what the Exchange is called now). There was Shannon, an ex-girlfriend who I'm still on good terms with (one of the few) and who is about to become a cop, which I find hilariously awesome for some reason. Her friend Cynthia was along, who is also a cool person. There, I met Cynthia's boyfriend, whose name escapes me at the moment. Her boyfriend introduced me to Nicole, his cousin. She was good looking, and very outgoing. Also, she apparently loved to drink. Every time I turned around, she was downing another shot.

I talked the group into going to Gator City, as there was no cover, and all my friends were there. So we left. Nicole drove Cyn and her boyfriend, while I drove Shannon. Nicole's drink count at this point was probably around 4. We drive, Shannon and I hang out in the parking lot for a while while Nicole drives downtown to drop a friend off. We go in.

We're there just about long enough for me and Shannon to finish a beer and say hi to everyone before Shannon gets a call saying that the rest of her group is going to a party in Cabana Beach. I'm disappointed, but I leave. We meet up with the rest of the group, and head to Nicole's car. Its not until I get into her car that I ask myself, "Why am I in this car?" The only explanation I have is that I'm tired and distracted by talking to Shannon and Cyn. But by the time I'm buckled in, Nicole has already taken a shot straight out of a vodka bottle and a chug of a Bud Light which someone had brought into the car. Then we took off.

I'm not sure what initially started my danger sense tingling, but it may have been comments like "Its OK, I drive wasted almost everyday." Or maybe its the fact that she was about two feet away from the car in front of us, and I was riding shotgun. Whatever it was, I was holding on the "OH JESUS" handle with a grip capable of squeezing coal into a diamond and pumping the air brake like the imaginary pedal might actually stop the car.

Nicole noticed, in between the phone calls she was making (yes, she was on her cell phone too). She started telling me to calm down. "Are you freaking out? I'm a very good driver!" she yelled. I assured her I was fine, as my clawing at the arm rest increased to a frantic pace. At this point, a plan emerged in my head. I mentioned that my car was back on campus and asked if Nicole would be driving us back. "Oh, no that's probably not a good idea. I mean, I can barely drive now! I won't be able to after the party we're going to." So she turned onto a side street (one that she only saw at the last second and was forced to swerve onto) and took me back to campus.

On the way over, Nicole really starting annoying me with her yelling at me not to be scared. She started stroking my face saying "Oh, is Pookums scared?" I grabbed her hand, put it back on the wheel, reminding her to keep them on 10 and 2.

"Am I annoying you?" she asked.

"Of course not," I replied, while in my head the scene from 40 Year Old Virgin was going through my head where Steve Carrell is in the car with the drunk girl, going "I just want to live!"

When we make it back to campus, Nicole turns onto the street where I'm parked. As she's turning onto it, I guess she wasn't paying attention to where the road went, as she went straight instead of turning left. This left her with the car up on a curb. "Motherfucker, the road looked it went that way!" she screamed. I looked around, but I couldn't see how that was possible. It was either go left or onto the field next to the Swamp. But as we were nearly at my car, I said "This is good," and got the hell out of that car.

The trip was maybe a total distance of one mile. I aged maybe three years and stood a good chance of emptying my bowels at any moment. No offense Nicole, but if your reading this, I am never getting in the car with you again. I like living.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, January 12, 2007

The World Ends in November

Via Man Vs. Clown:

It has recently come to my attention that, in November 2007, the Large Hadron Collider 27 km particle acceleration tunnel near Geneva will be switched on. Without boring you with the math involved, suffice to say that this is the first time in human history such a device will be activated, and a number of scientific watchdog groups are expressing grave concern.

It is, apparently, entirely possible that this event could conceivably result in any of the following unintentional side effects: the creation of a black hole; the creation of the hypothetical material known as "strange matter"; the catalyzation of proton decay via the creation of magnetic monopoles; or, as the hardcore physics nerds would put it, the "transition of Earth into a different quantum mechanical vacuum".

Any of these occurences would most likely result in the instantaneous destruction of Earth, and three of them could actually, in the most extreme hypothetical scenario, cause the rather abrupt end of the universe. I kid thee not.

On the plus side, if it works, we will learn a whole lot more about magnets.

Just thought you should know.

For more info, check out this page on Wikipedia.

PS. I don't actually expect the world to end in November. But if it does, you've been warned.