April 30, 2003

previously unreleased

I’m listening to the self-titled “Presidents of the United States” album while clinging desparately to the last remaining theads of interest I still have in this whole undergrad thing. This album was the theme song of our 9th grade Washington DC spring break trip and it still brings me back. I keep seeing cherry blossoms, even though that’s ridiculous because we were in DC too early in the spring and the cherry blossoms weren’t out yet. Oh well. I also see peaches, but I know those were out yet. After becoming obsessed with the song “Peaches” we (Paul and Eric and I and whomever else was involved in this nonsense) went to a Mr. Bulky’s and bought huge bags of peach jellybeans and peach penguins. We ate all the penguins, but I still have a small bottle of those peach jellybeans resting on a shelf at home.

Sometimes I will be walking around and I’ll catch some sensory input that summons old and faint memories with staggering vividness. It might be the smell of mud, a thin thread of melody or the way the sun feels on my shoulders at a particular moment, but it thrusts me right on back to the mental states that I occupied when I fixed that input to that experience. The recall isn’t exact, and it’s very difficult to wrestle it back into consciousness after it departs, but it refers to a feeling I know I have experienced before. The Presidents album can do this. It lasts only a moment and you can’t force the memories to conjure themselves up again, but the recall itself is enough to fill novels. Cheap pulp novels that you pick up for a dime and soon put behind you in the smallest room in your house, but novels nonetheless.

I’m huge into music, so it isn’t surprising that I often experience these flashbacks due to music. I hate the word flashback. What else can this be called? A historical mental conjuring? A farkin’ vivid memory? An Input/Output Directive of Much Vigor? Taking a Hit Off Uncle Ed’s Crazy Thoughtback Sauce?

We’ll call it a Thouectbs, for now. Future generations will naturally clean up the lexicon so it makes sense. Our job right now is word generation. We’ll leave those clever young bastards to the thankless task of evaluation.

So. Music. I have a bunch of CDs that often summon thouectbs. We’ve discussed one. Let’s discuss others.

The Pharcyde: Bizarre Ride II. UMD, beginning of freshman year. When the year started I spent a few weeks tooling around with the gang of kids I met during the freshman rock climbing trip. I had spent most of my time in high school with music nerds (and props to music nerds, mind you), so it was a bit strange associating myself with this more… pop-culture-oriented crowd. They wore white hats. They listened to rap. They drank on the weekends. They carried Nalgenes. We listened to the Pharcyde while playing Dr. Mario in Chris’ apartment, and he gave me a copy. He also introduced me to Soul Coughing, but Pharcyde is by far the album that signalled the beginning of my college life.

DJ Shadow: Endtroducing. I’ve talked about this album before, on two occasions, but it’s powerful enough to warrant numbing repetition. Sophomore year, dead of winter. It was late at night and below zero. We were in the Ford Tempo, winding through icy roads north of Ely on our way to Du Nord. We cued up this album and the temperature dropped. My guts froze. The stars cracked and dropped out of the sky. I knew our relationship was spiralling to the ground, and I was grappling for a way to end it gracefully. I didn’t find it.

Dave Matthews: Everyday. Sophomore year, spring. This album gets a ton of crap for being Dave’s worst.album.ever. It doesn’t have the compositional stylings. It doesn’t have the passion. I didn’t like it the first couple times I listened to it, but soon the tumblers in my life started clicking into place and this album became the theme song to the Great Unlocking. I went downhill skiing for the first time in ten years and fell in love, again. In one weekend of lightning snow I decided to bail out of the music department. I discovered the wit of Lileks. I went skiing over spring break out in Colorado, unburdened by the guilt of not composing, not practicing and not listening for my musical advancement. I bought a snowboard. I was living for myself, not for the practice room. The entire world split open and let me inside.

Weezer: Green and Blue albums: Summer camp, last summer. Cuing up “Don’t Let Go” every time Saturday rolled around and we all trucked down to BW3 for beer and wings. Thomas writing new lyrics to the Sweater Song as we drove to Valley Fair. My lovely Junior Leaders, who made the notorious Seventh Session from Hell one of the best weeks of my life. We spent a lot of time sitting in the cabin at night, digging into this alt-rock nonsense and talking deep crap about music. We spent six days on the river amid huge rocks, the Annihilator, lightning paddlin’ rounds, giant squids and more hobos than you can shake a bindle at.

Matt Pond PA: The Nature of Maps. This semester. My friend Anton introduced me to the geek rock/emo/chamber pop music genre last year, but it wasn’t until this year that I started really listening and understanding the full power of this music. It is the music of English majors and philosophers. Matt Pond writes incredible lyrics that all interrelate across the songs on his albums, and The Nature of Maps is centered around, well, maps. Maps, our surroundings, the seasons, arrival and departure, one’s sense of place, and man’s relationship with the world. I didn’t have any music with me over spring break, but the entire time we were in Oregon this album was flowing across my ears. It’s a short album, clocking in just below forty minutes, but it sings of the complete cyclic nature of change.

I’ve always been obsessed with maps, pouring over them to see what is near me (physically, mentally and spiritually) and what is distant. I love the idea that I can pick up a slab of paper, point to where I am, point to somewhere else, and soon plant my feet in the soil over there. I love contour lines, how they elegantly transform a two dimensional surface into a three dimensional terrain. The Nature of Maps really externalizes the meat behind the connection I feel to maps and the world they represent. It’s not grindingly depressive but it’s not cheeky. It’s thoughtful without being preachy. It’s reflective without being pathetic.

It’s a straight shot of Uncle Ed’s Crazy Thoughtback Sauce.

April 28, 2003

joy theme: stanza 2 (4-part strings)

That was one heck of a weekend.

On Friday night a pack of Woochers got together at Jon’s Secret Place, a beautiful rock ridge at the top of a cliff, overlooking Duluth, Superior and the Lake. We uprooted dead trees, started a bonfire and frolicked all night long while eating Spicy Hot Blues. Chris found the Coolest Climbing Tree Ever, which was a brittle birch that required one to perform a gravity-defying pendulum swing technique up to the first branch in order to climb it. I got to the very top branches and shook the tree and made monkey noises. As the sun fell and the stars rose, conversation around the fire drifted to such topics as graduation, dating and the new hit video game, Pornegon Trail. The goal of the game is to survive the Oregon Trail with as few living children as possible.

You have reached a river. What would you like to do?

A thief came in the night and stole 37 boxes of condoms.
You have TWO new STDs.

Saturday afternoon, five of us took to the Petersen Family Van and went to the circus. I wore a black leather jacket (a side-zip, even) that Brian was kind enough to give to me the previous night, and made threatening gestures at clowns. People told me I was a week early for the monster truck show. I told them to shut their filthy holes. Luckily the circus had a tightrope motorcycle act and two guys riding dirtbikes around inside an iron hamster ball.

There was a measly one person outside the DECC protesting the circus for animal rights, and she didn’t even have a puppet. Ryan claimed we payed the animal abuse surcharge, which guaranteed that the animals would get extra beatings just for us. The tigers got real cranky every time they were asked to jump through flaming hoops or something equally ludicrous. The elephants looked weepy and depressed, and had tired red eyes. When the kids got to ride them during setbreak they wore mattresses on their backs.

The bears were dressed up in wild west outfits, complete with spurs, chaps, hats and teen bear angst. When the kids got to have their pictures taken with the bear he sat upright in an easy chair in a mock living room setting. If the bear had had a bottle of Michelob he would have looked like a drunk uncle watching TV. The ringleader fed the bear Honeycomb, and the kids didn’t get any Honeycomb because a thick chunk of clear plastic separated their living room from the bear’s living room.

Saturday night was the bathrobe party at the Wooch! house, where we found a drawer full of balloons that were quickly put to indecent uses. Someone somewhere has pictures, I’m sure. The entire night, Sandy kept pretending she was Stewart from Mad TV and was disturbingly good at it… not surprising, as she had spent the bulk of her weekend watching some freshly downloaded Stewart episodes. Ryan called 1-800-ROMANCE but they refused to deliver at this time of night so he hung up. Ryan called Wal-Mart and they hung up on him. Sandy called Black Bear Casino and tried to gamble over the phone with her credit card. They hung up on her.

Sunday afternoon we plugged in a few Invader Zim episodes as I scrambled to finish this week’s humor article. At 3:00, right as Chris, Laura and I were getting ready to drive down to Minneapolis to see String Cheese Incident at the Orpheum Theatre, Mark (Mr. Silent C, himself!) called from Italy. Since we needed to get down to the Cities we spoke only briefly, but he called back after the Petersen Family Van hit the road. Call me primitive or easily amused or whatnot, but I think it’s damn cool when I can be driving southbound on I-35 from Duluth to Minneapolis, talking on the phone to a friend who is standing in the streets of Florence, Italy.

We found Downtown Minneapolis without incident, tossed the van in a parking garage and hit Hennepin Avenue. Laura found an excellent crack climb on one building that would have allowed us to scale all ten stories. Laura also saw two guys sniffing crack. We ate at TGI Friday’s and I ordered the chicken with confetti on it. Soon we filed into the Orpheum, where I ran into Nick from UWS and Charlie from Hopkins. Nick advised I check out String Cheese this summer when they play at Horning’s Hideout in Oregon. Charlie said he might end up in Oregon for a few brief months this summer. Slowly, ever so slowly, the tapestry is already weaving itself back together out on the west coast, and I haven’t even left yet.

String Cheese played an excellent show, as is only proper for the last show of their tour. We spent the entire concert dancing in the aisles where people kept crawling out of my back to go dance somewhere else. I’d be standing there, minding my own business and grooving away, and suddenly there would be a person moving behind me. It’s impossible that they would have been able to sneak up undetected like that, so the only logical conclusion is that they came out of my back. It was actually quite a disturbing experience.

We left the theatre and stopped to adjust our Chacos for the walk back to the Van, and a fellow asked us for change. We told him we were poor college students. He understood. As we walked away a short, bare-chested man in tight black leather pants and heels came walking by. I doubt even the beggar had the guts to ask him for change. We spent the rest of our energies freestyle walkin’, and Chris eventually perfected the fake grind. I attempted an inverted handplant on a granite bench and almost lost my arm. When we reached the garage we couldn’t figure out how to get back in, so we ran up the car ramp where it said DO NOT RUN UP THE CAR RAMP. We jumped in the Van, and after spending ten minutes trying to feed dollar bills into the Auto-Money-Grubber 2000 we were back on the streets, Caravan style.

We stopped at a gas station a ways out of the Cities and bought Red Bull and a few gallons of water. It was around midnight, but I decided not to get gas because I can’t stand to get gas when I still have half a tank left. Gimme the red, gimme the sliver, and I’ll roll it to the pump on fumes. A couple hundred miles later, when the Van really (I mean really) needed gas, we suddenly couldn’t find any stations that were operational.

With the Distance ‘Til Empty-O-Meter saying 14 miles until certain doom, and our tired little brains saying certain doom has been crossed long ago, we finally rolled into the Duluth station at Boundary Avenue. With a full belly the Van chugged down the hill into the thick of Duluth just after 2:30, and soon everyone was back at their respective places of slumber.

April 26, 2003

catch and release

Things are gonna get rocky here for a little bit, as my latest weblog redux is released into the wild and tries to get acclimated.

Bear with, if you please.

April 25, 2003

philos – proctor high style

“You know you, you give me somethin’
Somethin’ that nobody else can give
And my heart started thumpin’
You know now you’re the one I truly know I dig.”

– Jamiroquai

Somehow I have to figure out how to get the [br/] command to work under blockquotes… I might be able to redefine the wordwrap with a bit of CSS, or perhaps I should side with all those stingy designers who say that [br/] is improper to use for EVERYTHING just because it’s improper to use for everything.

Spent quite a lot of time working on the Philosophy Department website, yesterday. Ended up with a nice gradient for a background, which I in turn gave a mosaic effect. It represents the Greco-Roman columns that were the very foundations of philosophy. This is because whenever Plato got fresh with Socrates, Socrates would check him into a column, Proctor High Style. Plato in turn chucked Aristotle into columns, but after awhile Socrates got keen to the abuse and started asking questions. Plato solved this problem by developing an elaborate scheme with his buddies, where someone would “push” Plato, who would in turn “accidentally” smash Aristotle into a column. Socrates would occasionally witness this and huff on up to Plato threateningly, to which Plato would just say, “He pushed me.”

Can’t argue with that.

April 23, 2003

the coolest thing now

Currently blogging on Mozilla, within the X Window System of Linux.

This is too cool for words.

The words will come later, no doubt.

nerd, indeed. geek, in fact.

This morning I installed Linux Redhat 9 on a second bootable partition on my computer. If you came up to me two weeks ago during Geek Prom and told me that I would be installing Linux in the near future I would have stared at you dumbly. I would have probably also socked you in the jaw because I had had a few too many “Pocket Protectors” and “Greatest American Hero” mixed drinks. Linux? Are you nuts? I’ve got enough going on already, why the hell would I put to myself the challenge of learning a completely new operating system?

Why? I’ll tell you why. Because I thirst for challenge, because I can save a lot of money if I figure out how to run my own server, because every day I find this kind of stuff more and more interesting, and dammit, because I’ve got geek blood flowing strong through these veins!

Geek. A carnival performer who performs strange acts such as biting the heads off live chickens. The lovely Zosia uses the term “nerd”, and has incorporated animate objects such as Nerd Herd, Nerd House and “Like, that is so Nerd,” into everyday life.

To be a nerd in our little college world is quite a good thing. In fact, it could be the best thing. Nerd is used as noun, adjective or mineral.

Yes, yes, that is entirely correct. We use different terms but refer to similar concepts. I prefer “geek” because it has a more gutteral, more primal sound to it than “nerd”. “Nerd” is too refined, too polished. “Geek” starts low in the throat, toys with the nose and ends violently when the back of the tongue slaps the roof of the mouth. It’s more real, more physical. I’ve used “nerd” exclusively up until Geek Prom stumbled clumsily into my life, so I’m still caught in limbo between the two words.

Whether it’s a geek or nerd, it still isn’t a carnival performer. Not anymore, at least.

A nerd (or a geek) is anyone that pursues what interests them with a great amount of passion. There are book nerds and music nerds and computer nerds. Nerds often have hobbies and interests that are quite nerdy or downright quirky, but this isn’t necessarily so. How else could you end up with bands full of music nerds, who are actually majoring in music as undergrads, who play alternative rock music? “Nerd” does not refer to an area of inquiry but a manner of inquiry; a manner involving the greatest passion imaginable.

Sometimes there are nerds that soak up life itself with such a passion that you can’t help but feed off their energies. Pure nerds, those with the Passion for All, are the ones that give nerds everywhere a good name.

Ideally, a nerd doesn’t care what other people think is nerdy (other people who consider ‘nerd’ to be some kind of insult). This is one ultimate goal of nerdship, for a nerd to reach a point of complete disinterest towards those who’s opinions don’t matter. This is also a difficult task. Often times we find ourselves making allowances for our interests when speaking to non-nerds, and sometimes even refer to ourselves as nerds in a derogatory sense:

“I don’t really follow football. I’m more interested in ultimate frisbee and other nerdy sports like that.”

“Sorry, I spent last night reading a book. I’m a huge nerd.”

“Yeah, I like computers, but I’m a huge nerd.”

“I build/fix/install computers, but I’m a huge nerd.”

“I run Linux, but…”

‘I have a weblog, but…”

“I wear newspaper hats, but…”

“I collect [Altoids ads] [cigar boxes] [agates] [antique barrels] [Spam] [toasters] but…”

There is no reason to be ashamed of any of this stuff, and there is no reason you should feel a need to accomodate your audience if they don’t immediately understand your passion. Make it their problem. If it interests you, then dammit, it interests you. What this year has been for me is a reconciliation of all of my interests in nerdy things. I say, more computers without regret! More web design without shame! More emo and geek rock without excuses! Bring in the photography, the weblogging, the geocaching, the University newspaper, the Linux, the Opera 7, the Apache server, the hand-coded HTML!

You got a problem? You bring it. I’m too busy geekin’ out, here.

April 22, 2003

you gotta let go

A lot of people approach me on the sidewalk and ask, “Why should I read your weblog?” I always find myself standing dumbly for a moment, wondering where the heck this person came from and where I’m going to find eggs at this time of night. A lot of times the person simply dropped out of a tree as I came walking by, and the eggs can usually be purchased at Cub Foods at low, low discount prices.

But then, to what great advantage does one read my weblog? What can I possibly offer to entice repeat customers and fervent fans and blog roadies? I’ll tell you what I can offer.

I can offer time travel, fortune-telling and clairvoyance.

Is that enough? Need proof?

I’ve got your proof. I’ve got this week’s Statesman article, a full two days before it’s published. THE ROBINS WILL KILL US ALL.

Besides that, in clinical trials Brainside Out has been proven to boost your sex appeal by 500 percent. Of course, this seems to only apply if you are a contributing member to Brainside Out, but you really can’t go wrong with the halo effect.

That is, unless it breaks your neck.

code screening

Most of you probably won’t notice any difference, but I’ve tweaked the stylesheet a little bit to be kinder to less-forgiving browsers like Opera. While Internet Exploder is a great little browser for people that love security holes and such, it plays fast and loose with interpreting stylesheets. It allows all sorts of sin in through the screen door.

geeks do it for the fun

I just got back from Wooch! movie night, and was greeted by the third and last install CD for Linux Redhat 9, freshly downloaded to my desktop. I was also greeted by a silverfish.

On my excursion to the Cities over the weekend I picked up a copy of SuSE Linux 7.0 for $1.99, and while it is an ancient version it got me a handful of install manuals and some basic information for navigating the Linux terminal. It also got me a fat and official-looking software box, some neat Linux stickers, a pin adorned by Tux the penguin, and a guaranteed reentry into the geek realm.

I’ve spent many a year since coming to college (and some time in high school as well) denying my deep geek roots. Back when I was about four my father picked up a 286, and it took me about thirty minutes until I discovered it in his workshop and started plugging away. Before that we had an Osborne (or something equally obtuse, with a tiny amber screen) where I would sit and tinker. For my 13th birthday my parents got me a Sound Blaster Pro soundcard, but I threw a fit because I wanted a new computer and they in turn confiscated the gift. I later decided I wanted a soundcard more than I didn’t want a soundcard (and more than I wanted to pitch fits), so I went out and got one on my own.

That Christmas, my dad finally caved in and picked up a 486 DX, 33 Mhz, 8 MB RAM powerhouse from PC Express, a company that has since gone belly-up long ago. This rip roarin’ piece of machinery was necessary to play the latest gaming sensation, King’s Quest VI. The following summer I sunk $200 into a double speed CD-ROM drive. After upgrading to a huge 540 MB drive we stalled on this computer for a few years, until I was about 16 and a friend and I went to a computer show at the State Fair and built a Pentium 166 from the ground up.

At this point the clear distinctions between one computer and the next become blurry. At some point I bought a 200 Mhz processor. Later I got a dual processor Tyan board, installed a Windows NT partition, and ran both processors at 166 Mhz. The summer before I left for college I picked up an Intel Celeron 300a processor, and overclocked it to 450 Mhz for the better part of my freshman year. At some point in the last couple years I replaced that guy with an AMD Duron 800, but spring semester last year I fried that motherboard and processor and had to pick up a Duron 1 Ghz.

I cut my teeth in the black and white terminals of DOS 6.2. At one time our 286 ran Window 2.0, which was really nothing but a glorified DOSSHELL, called DOS HELL for short. The 486 was eventually stained with Windows 3.1, and slowly, ever so slowly, things migrated towards this horribly inefficient GUI interface. As Windows 95 crept into the picture I started feeling removed from the whole computer thing. Now ordinary people started doing things that only us geeks could do before, and I felt it was my responsibility to side with the common man and distance myself from the geeky computer world. “Best leave that side to the social rejects, and play dumb with the cool kids on the other side,” I reasoned. I saw the geek path as one of cruel isolation and endless misunderstanding.

As I entered college I grew distanced from my geek self, maintaining only a base level resonance to keep my computer up and running. I maintained a cold relationship with the technology, fearing that injecting any passion into computing would cause a sea change and level all the work I had done establishing colonies along the coastline of cool. I embraced having an understanding deep enough to maintain my digital existence, but shallow enough to avoid any serious dedication to the guts behind the hateful screen. I was able to avoid the guts, but I also avoided the advancement of my computer knowledge as a result. I also avoided the passion, the drive, the chutzpah.

But no more, I say! From henceforth I will trudge forward unfetteringly into the briny depths of Linux, into hardware, software, open-source code, HTML, XML, CSS, PHP and Java! I will fight alongside my fellow code-monkeys not because I cower in fear of the outside world, but because I embrace the world and every lovely thing it has to offer, jagged rocks, mossy ferns and source code alike! I will geek out not because I see no other alternative for conducting my life, but because I have such a strong connection towards and passion for the geek.

I will lead the geeks to freedom, out of their dingy basements and darkened hobbit holes and into the brightness of the larger world. With the way technology is going these days, what with laptops and wireless Internet alike, there is no reason that code cannot be written while one sits alongside a gurgling stream, waiting for the wind to pick up. A passion for computers no longer need be a passion for social isolation and musty darkness. There is no reason that us geeks should allow such stereotypes to persist in our name. Break out! Do not feel ashamed just because you have found your passion! Do not feel self-conscious just because you find yourself knowing a bean or two about something. Make them feel bad for not having found something to love!

Kick the sand back in their eyes!

April 21, 2003

particle motion

The nice thing about rain is that it’s rhythmic. It implies movement. Tiny streams turn into echoes when they disappear down storm drains. Rain drops shimmer in puddles lit by streetlamps, popping in and out of existence like Hawking’s virtual particles. The sounds in spring storms release energy that’s been pent up inside for months.

Things have been cruising around here. The last three weeks since spring break have been absolutely frought with activity, band concerts, papers, essays, web projects, the occasional bout with insanity, etc, etc, etc. Par for the course for doing stellar undergrad work, really, and I’m almost done with the whole kiboodle.

I can’t believe I just wrote kiboodle.

I think I’ll write it again.


Spent the weekend (or at least the part of it where I was awake, as I didn’t get to sleep until 5:30 in the morning on Saturday after our Luce gig… after-party at Rob’s and all) down in the Cities, tooling around with family and family friends. People are absolutely floored by how much I’ve done these past years, how much I grew old (but not up) at summer camp, how I’m starting to find myself leading stuff and doing a fine-darned job at it. Less than a month, now, and I’ll be dropped smack in the middle of one of the most beautiful places in the United States.


Lately I’ve been kicking around the idea of starting my own business, so I’ve started hounding people with experience in these matters for some dicey information on how to do it. One person advised, “First, figure out where you want to live. From there, figure out what you want your business to be.”

Well, we’re making good on step one, at least. A year ago I had no idea Hood River existed. Nine months ago I became windsurfing director at summer camp. Eight months ago I decided it would be cool to work in Hood River for a summer before I graduate. Five months ago I decided I would work there this summer after I graduate. Three months ago to the day I got my first job offer. A little over a month ago I spent a day spinning through Hood River, saw my job and found a place to live. In less then a month I need to warm up the wheels on the wagon and get outta Dodge.

But it doesn’t end there. I always need a Next Big Thing, and having the different threads of This Big Thing weaving together so nicely I’m looking ahead, again. Everything depends on what happens this summer, but currently I am absolutely enamoured by the idea of starting my own web design company. It’s definitely a taller order than finding a job in a really neat town, but I feel like I was made for these things. Bring it on, buddy. I’ve done it all before. I’ve been on the Dean’s List since I got to college. I’ve gotten a 4.0 GPA the last three semesters. I played as lead alto in Jazz One. I played in a regularly gigging jazz combo. I worked at summer camp (and narrowly avoided being torn to shreds by nasty little kids). I became a reporter, and then a humor writer for the Statesman. I started a website. I started a weblog. I redid the course website for one of my professors. I’m currently in the mix of redesigning the website for an entire Department.

I’d say I’m surviving my undergrad, but that would be inaccurate.

I’m thriving, baby.