January 21, 2002

mpirg rantings

Steven den Beste wrote a nice blurb on the weblog revolution. Don’t expect Cromlech to become this nice and thoughtful for a few years, yet. I’m still hacking through the unimportant ‘web diary’ quagmire, which will really only interest people who a. know me or b. think I’m funny for some reason. As of yet I do not have very distinct political views, beyond some nice conversation we had on the Colorado trip. I’m not quick to have opinions about worldy goings-on, because I do not want to be wrong… or say I believe something that really I have no grounds in believing. With so many people flying off the handle with unjustified and unreflected thoughts, I hold off until I have seen enough to have a good feel for the matter.

With that being said, I will recount a spat we had in Colorado. We got on the topic of MPIRG, a group which Ryan despises and I am ever-suspicious of. According to MPIRG, they are “a student funded, student directed, nonprofit student advocacy organization on the UMD campus. MPIRG seeks to bring students together to create social change at the state level and to serve as a training ground for students to become active citizens.”

Student funded means that every semester, students are automatically charged a $4 MPIRG fee unless they choose not to pay. This gives MPIRG a wonderful budget to work with; imagine if Wooch! could skim a few bucks off every students’ tuition.

In MPIRG’s defense, they claim to be a non-partisan organisation, and only further the interests that students see important. In practice however, MPIRG seems to lean a bit heavily on the liberal side, and cites raising $1,000 for local homeless shelters as one of their noble causes. Now, it’s quite hard to argue against helping the homeless…

Unless you’re a heartless cretin like me. Non-partisan, eh? If they’re so non-partisan, where’s the Get a Fucking Job campaign? Crikey, a thousand bucks could have been poured into improving the roads in Duluth, and everyone uses roads. I use roads, I don’t use the homeless shelter, and I think that goes for the majority of people living in Duluth.

Oh, but we must help the homeless. They are filthy, have no job, cannot get a job, have a job but don’t earn enough money to have a home, only earn enough money to support their drug habit, many of them are mentally inept… we owe it to ourselves as fair and just creatures to help these pathetic beings out.

Hmm. I find it hard to believe that someone could dig so deep a hole without consciously making decisions to ruin his life. To have absolutely no support system, that your only source for the dire necessities of life come from shelters, is really quite a feat. It would take great effort to end up with no family, no friends, no education and no showering facilities to help you on your way to unhomelessness.

And this is where I think MPIRG fails in its non-partisanship. I want to shove a thumb in the eye of the homeless, I want nuclear breeder reactors as far as the eye can see, I want coal-fueled automobiles and dammit, I want to shove some fargin’ oil derricks deep in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge.

Where’s my representation? You better recognise, fool!

i am kong

What Video Game Character Are You? I am Kong.I

am Kong.

Strong and passionate, I tend to be misunderstood, sometimes even feared. I don’t want to fight, I don’t want to cause trouble, all I ask is a little love, and a little peace. If I don’t get what I want, I get angry, and throw barrels and flaming oil at whatever’s stopping me.

What Video Game Character Are You?

I made all my roomies take the quiz. Tom was a Pac-Man Ghost, Ryan a Space Invader and Doug was Kung-Fu Master. Doug’s alternate was Gauntlet Adventurer… and when I said "Doug needs food badly!" he remembered his popcorn in the microwave downstairs. In a flurry we ran down to the kitchen, but already the acrid smell told us it was too late. Doug opened the microwave and I yelled at him to keep it closed; contain the smoke until we figured out what to do. Doug grabbed the scorched popcorn bag in a towel, I threw open the front door and we tossed the bag in the hallway, still smouldering.

We watched it through the peephole for a bit to make sure the popcorn didn’t start any bigger fires.

The apartment smells nasty and my eyes sting, but life is not as bad as it could have been without Gauntlet.

Welcome home, ya’ll!

January 20, 2002

ya got da funky flow

It offers the psychic pleasure–what Csikszentmihalyi has called “flow”–that accompanies increased mastery of most any human endeavor.

The master hast returned from Colorado, and after many encounters with the ruthless snowfoot eel has he attained the legendary Flow. Bruises, frost-bite, wind-burn and fierce penguin bites aided in his growth of picnic table grinds, mogul attacks, sick six-foot air, ollie grabs and kneecap powder swims.

January 11, 2002

useless lawlessness

The threat, ethics and responsibility of being googled continues in MetaTalk. I especially liked this one by frykitty:

Someone smart enough to use the web to investigate a potential employee should be smart enough to know that it’s a library stocked mostly by madmen. At least one would hope.

Augh. There’s just too much internet! I’ve been sitting here for almost three hours and have done nothing but read blogs, and most of them have been a very good use of my time. I really need to go about eating something right about now.

I got a parking ticket yesterday. I left my car at the meters in front of Stadium without paying, which is a common practice among residents during weekends and holidays as it is legal and we can get away with it. Apparently, even though it is holiday break it is not a holiday, which is defined by the campus being open. Apparently, even though one percent of the usual college population is here, parking is still so tight that the rules need to be enforced. Apparently it means nothing that I live here, and was merely parked in my driveway.

I love it when law extends beyond being logical and reasonable, and starts to exist only for its own sake. I got a ticket not because I was causing a problem, not because I was barring anyone else from a parking spot, but because I broke the rules. And if I wish to state that the rules are faulty, it is damned inconvenient:

If you wish to plead GUILTY: bring or mail the fine to the above address. The ticket even turns into an envelope (without postage, of course) to facilitate one’s guilt.

If you wish to plead NOT GUILTY: bring summons to Room 133, Courthouse, Duluth, at 8:15 a.m. Mon.-Fri. to enter your plea. This must be done within seven days. Failure to appear within seven days will be considered a plea of guilty and a waiver of rights to trial.

Hmm. For some odd reason, one of these options seems much more complicated than the other. 8:15, eh? That’s getting pretty specific, there. Enter a plea? I’m not too familiar with the judicial process (when we learned about it in 9th grade I spent the whole time drawing Omar the Flying Whale) but that sounds doing a whole lotta something for nothing. Maybe ‘entering a plea’ when you set a court date or something, which seems like a lot of hassle for a fargin’ $6 ticket. Nah, I’ll bet it’s just setting up a time for when you will set up a court date.

Sigh. I have a much better idea. There is no court, no plea entering, no 8:15 in the morning. Within the next seven days you login to the Duluth Courtroom Weblog, where over the necessary span of days you participate in a written public exchange/argument with the judge. You state your case, provide evidence, weave rhetoric and convince the judge of your innocence… all while writing at your computer.

Or at someone else’s computer, if you have to leave town tomorrow to go skiing in Colorado and cannot enter a plea within the next seven days down at the Courtroom.

If you’ll excuse me, I have a check to mail.

January 10, 2002

gravitational mud sheep

The temperature suggests that it’s raining, but the precipitation falling is much too slow. Conclusion? It’s either snowing or the gravity shackles broke down.

TEST: Nope. I fell down the spiral staircase just as usual. Gravity is fine. It must be snowing.

The problem with not having anything important to do is you end up moping around the apartment in your sleepwear all day, listening to music, updating websites and reading weblogs. Not so say that’s bad or anything, just that my actions would seem a lot more official if I actually dressed in something presentable. I can’t even answer the door like this. I think a similiar fate befalls people who work at home. The good ones probably work quite hard, albeit in their underwear, but at the end of the day they look back and see nothing. I rolled out of bed, I sat at the computer for eight hours, I rolled back into bed. What did I do all day?

The next problem is figuring out what to eat. It’s 10:47, and I don’t know if that means breakfast or lunch. Brunch is definitely out because it implies something extravagent like french toast, bacon, soup and melons. I can’t choose between pasta or oatmeal.

I’ve decided to stop feeling guilty about reading weblogs, and I’ll bring the pangs back only after everyone else feels guilty about reading the newspaper. Which they should. The way these bloggers pick apart the media, it’s startling that anyone has a subscription anymore, or that people actually get paid to write the rubbish in papers. Today I will launch my new Links section and give ya’ll some quality thought-provoking blogs to check out.

Later: Ok so, Links didn’t happen. I got distracted by this at USS Clueless. It got me thinking seriously about what I post on the web, so I rooted through all my MetaFilter posts. Nothing there I was ashamed of, and I think the content at Cromlech is fairly clean. I never seriously considered the implications of being Googled. I’m cool with whatever most people find, but if a snooping employer starts poking around the net I don’t want them to find posts that suggest independent thought. I’m a good sheep. Good sheep.

Do you guys hear me? GOOD SHEEP. I love your company. I especially love that you’re prying into my publicized private life, not because of an honest interest in me but in an attempt to find any mud I managed to track in the house. Good for you.

January 9, 2002

dashed brains

Helpful cooking hint: Remove pizza from aluminum foil before microwaving.

Snowboarding was pathetic last night. The temperature was in the upper 30’s and everything was melting like a witch caught in a storm drain. That which was not melting was glare ice. This, coupled with a great wax job that made my board much more receptive to gravity, made conditions that threatened to dash my brains across the mountainside. I folded after an hour.

Eh, things could be much worse. I could not be snowboarding at all. I could be a quadruple amputee rolling uncontrollably down Everest. I could still be in the Twin Cities.

I get to go to skiing in Colorado next week! where supposedly it’s just as warm, and they’re losing snow just as quickly, and it’s going to stay just as warm for the next week to make sure there’s no snow left when we get there.

I hung the sexy backpack up so she can look out my window and watch what’s going on in the world. I want a worldly backpack, and at the closure of every day we will sit around the fireplace and chat about our latest adventures.

It was really windy in the Target parking lot today. Maybe it was windy in other places too, but Target was the only place where I was outside.

Hmm… I’m not having much luck at writing today, so maybe I’ll just scan more photos. Outside is is finally getting up on its [adjective] limbs.

January 8, 2002

the eidolon versus the deer

My apologies for the spotty availability of Cromlech these last few days. The Party Apartment has been having trouble with its cable modem. Sometimes it gets unplugged to watch football. If conditions don’t get better soon, I may move Cromlech back to its UMD space. People are starting to complain. When you can’t read it, that also means I can’t update it.

Dan and Vanessa came up to Duluth late last night. After a breakfast at Perkins this morning we drove up to Two Harbors to dig through the factory seconds bin at Granite Gear. This was my second dig up there in less than a week. I was quickly seduced by the coolest snowboarding/skiing/day-tripping backpack ever, and caved in and bought the sucker. I can carry snowboards, snowshoes, ice axes, shovels, keys, canaries, books, keys, sherpas and particle theories in this sucker.

Then we returned to Duluth, went to Sir Ben’s and played Scrabble for two hours. I was gearing up to put down the word eidolon when Dan stole up the ‘d’ with deer. Anger followed.

Now I will go snowboarding, though the sexy backpack will remain at home until I stop falling with such scathing force. I’m sure the backpack can take it, but I don’t know if I can handle the embarrassment. She’s kind of aloof, and I don’t want her to get the wrong idea about me. No more prancing around the apartment naked, leaving the seat up and eating my meals out of a can… at least not in front of the backpack.

It’s time to whip myself into shape. Time to impress the backpack.

January 7, 2002

boy scouts

Way back in the day I was in Boy Scouts, which seemed a fit place to put strapping young lads that enjoyed the outdoors. The trips were usually a pretty good time, setting fires, cutting fingers and drinking Hyper-Juice. Perhaps too fun, as I dropped out after reaching First Class with a pitiful number of merit badges.

Our scout meetings were pathetic, and of course the meetings occurred with a much greater frequency than the actual trips, which were the attraction to Scouting in the first place. Meetings would go as follows: Parents and Scouts would drift into the rec room at a local church. Parents would mingle and pretend to be proud as their uniformed kids ran around and raised a truly Dionysian ruckus. Fights would break out, usually between my tribe and Big Headed Urkle, a nerdy, older scout that had earned utmost contempt from the noble Wolverines. The funny looking Boy Scout scarves often made strangulation a popular attack. Skirmishes would also erupt between regular scouts and the Webelos, who could be likened to high school freshmen if only they received that much respect from the older scouts.

After fifteen minutes of chaos (during which most parents would skulk out the door), the scoutmaster would call us to order and a flag ceremony would be attempted, followed by announcements. After our attention spans were completely maxxed (usually about ten minutes), each tribe would be sent to its own classroom to work on merit badges. This gave us an excuse to practice unsupervised violence against each other until the adults arrived to keep us on task. Usually we were expected to trace topographic maps or some damn thing.

The night would always end in the reverse order it started; an antsy ceremony followed by more intertribal warfare. Soon parents would show up and shuttle all the little savages home. Peace falls over the room until next week’s meeting.

Looking back, the campouts were quite silly as well. We’d sleep in heavy canvas tents and cook in cast-iron pans over stoves prone to exploding. Days would be spent working on merit badges that obviously had not been updated in fifty years and had no bearing on everyday life.

“If you come across a rock that appears to be a meteor, DON’T TOUCH IT! It could be crawling with space germs, or may be a cleverly disguised Communist orbital spying device.”

It appears that Boy Scouts was established as a warm-up program for enlisting in national defense. Why else does it cater to boys exclusively, teach survival skills, have a ranking system, stress your duty as a citizen of America and kick you out right when you turn eighteen? Girl Scouts learned sewing and such so they could stay at home and still help the war effort. Sew those uniforms, girls!

Strange, as Boy Scouts even had a rabbit raising merit badge, for those boys that couldn’t get enough rodentia. What do rabbits have to do with the Army, of all things? Plenty. Rabbit raising was the dreaded sissy profession, suggested to every man that couldn’t cut it on the front. It implies the deepest of failure to yourself, your comrades, your country.

“Private, we’ve got no place for ya here. Take the next ship back home and help cook up hell for Hitler from afar. Raise some rabbits or something.”

The last words any red-blooded man wants to hear.

No boy is actually expected to earn the rabbit raising merit badge, nor even consider pursuing it. It is merely a mocking suggestion of what your future could be if you don’t work hard enough. The voice of rabbit raising whispers threateningly in the head of every Boy Scout. Work, boy, or I am your fate.

January 6, 2002

muscles cry and skillz gel

Three, count ’em, three entries yesterday. I’m gonna keep this one short, even though I’m chock full of ideas… too… weak… to… type.

Ryan and I went up to Lutsen today, cuz Spirit Mountain season pass holders got to ski/board the place for ten bucks. I planned to snowboard until I hurt too much, and then rent skis to finish the job. Ends up I am now such a grand master at snowboarding that I can hold my own on a board, and stayed atop the snow eel for the entire day.

Mostly. My tailbone is really bruised right now, and my muscles want only to crawl under the bed and whimper. But the mad boarding skillz are definitely starting to gel. I’m not so much learning now as refining technique. There’s a long way to go, though. One kid I met on the lift at Spirit yesterday said he can do backflips off jumps, but only when baked off his ass.

Note to self: develop drug habit.

January 5, 2002

coincidental chairlift

It’s a crazy, small world. Went snowboarding by myself today, and in the first lift group I rode up with was a sax player with whom I played in All-State and at the Shell Lake jazz camp. As with all chance Dane meetings, he recognised me immediately and it took me a long time (with lots of help) to remember him. I think his name was Sean, though I may have made that up. Deepening the coincidence, it turns out out he had dated Jackie Flis, one of the two Flis Twins/band-nerds from Hopkins. “Sean” is now at UW Eau Claire, studying under a bunch of the profs from the Shell Lake Jazz Camp (though Keezer retired last year). Ogre, a large and hated counselor at the camp who developed an immediate (and mutual) dislike of me, managed to graduate from Eau Claire last year. Last I had talked to Ogre he was on the seven year college plan.

On another chairlift ride, some kids were talking about how awful the University of St. Cloud is. Since I was at that school for All-State jazz, I threw in my two cents on the low-quality of the campus. The gang became worried that I was a student at St. Cloud, but I assured them I went to UMD. “Mike” (99% positive that is his name) said he went to Oshkosh if I knew where that was.

Sure, I said. My aunt and uncle live there, and I’ve got a friend that goes to Oshkosh. Tim Anderson. He loves music, totally down with the jam band scene. Went to Hopkins. Real nice fellow.

Turns out Mike lived on Tim’s floor last year, and they’re really great friends.

This is the best thing about snowboarding alone. On the chairlift you buddy up with complete strangers, and to pass the awkward time you strike up conversation with people you don’t know. Sometimes, it turns out, you already know them.

You just don’t know you know.