Tarnation

There goes another four-day weekend. As usual, I have very little to show for it.

As I threatened earlier, I did start trying to poke around and figure out a new design for the ol’ blog. I’m pretty much drawing blanks, however, and the few actual ideas I’ve had are just basic things I’d either like or like to avoid. (Though I may sound down on certain sites I link, I actually think all the sites I point at look damn good; their look, however, just may not be my look.)

I Like:

Simplicity. I’m not the type who maintains a three column layout that brims with links. A second column of stuff—be it “briefs” or links or whatever—is probably too much for me.

Image Rotation. I first really noticed this at Anime Blog Muyo! (which sadly seems to have fallen silent), and I think it works wonderfully. Keeps things fresh even when they’re a bit stale, etc. A catch is that spaces that are either too vertical or too horizontal are difficult to fill (I’d say my current sidebar is somewhat approaching the “too vertical” limit), yet the general shape of a web browser window is such that a more-reasonable block takes up a lot of space that might be used for actual content.

I’d prefer to avoid:

Centered layouts. It’s not that I don’t like them (though that may be hard for you to swallow, given the proximity to the title of this section), but they just seem to be all over the place these days. And though they all look different, I can’t help but notice how they all look the same. I’ve never been one of those people who had to be different (those who know me personally should be choking on that understatement), but too much of anything gets old. Even for me.

That said, if I could figure out a way to really differentiate my layout… I might be persuaded into a centered design, despite my reservations.

And that’s pretty much the sum-total of my thoughts. (I wasn’t kidding when I said “few.”) Another option I have would be to work on modifying this design more, rather than scrapping it altogether; I am partial to this setup, but that may well be due to the fact that it’s the first somewhat-modern layout I created.

In other news, I hear that Canon has finally made a camera for me. You may be aware of the fact that I have an essential tremor (and if you were not—you are now) that adds just enough shake to my hands to be annoying. Given that fact, you might surmise (correctly!) that I have difficulty shooting a decent picture. I typically need extremely good lighting, total darkness save for the flash, or an insane amount of luck to take a photo that has any sort of focus.

Image stabilization has long been a feature of video cameras. But I hadn’t heard of such technology in a standard camera—until now. This is the camera for me… or, rather, it will be once it either drops in price or my current camera explodes in a ball of flame.

Black Friday ruminations

So, does anybody actually go out on Black Friday to shop for anyone but themselves? (I wound up that way, this year, but I’ll ignore that for now.)

Per tradition, I slept in and wandered over to Fred Meyer for the last half-hour of their early-bird sale. I came out one CD richer (or one CD poorer, if you’re the type who prefers to focus on money and not the material goods acquired), and with one part of my gift to Brian acquired. Unlike last year, I did not witness anybody keel over in front of the customer service desk. I did put a dollar in the Salvation Army pot on my way out, ’cause it just doesn’t feel like Christmas until I do that. (They have a good racket going, in that sense.)

Given my propensity to purchase goods online (and my aversion to crowds), I don’t actually see all that many Salvation Army pots these years. Consequently, I need to make the most of them when I do run across one.

I still remember fondly, one Christmas in high school, a group of my friends all signed up to man the Salvation Army pot in front of the local Rite-Aid for an hour. We ran out of Christmas carols to sing long before our time was up (sure, we knew various Christmas songs—it just turned out that we didn’t really remember all of them), and so resorted to singing anything else that we could all sing along with.

The first (and last) song we sang, in that spirit, was The Itsy-Bitsy Spider. Some guy passing through donated money on the condition that we never sing that song again… it was the proudest donation our group earned, in my estimation.

Another year I ran into Rose and part of her family guarding a pot in front of Fred Meyer, and was coerced into singing with them while Marin finished her shopping. They complained afterwards (good-naturedly) that they couldn’t really hear me singing—at the time, I figured that was the best possible outcome I could have. (I really was singing, by the way. I wasn’t faking.) I’ll never be known for my stellar voice, though in more-recent years I’ve started caring less about protecting others’ ears.

I mean, not too long ago poor Robin had to put up with me singing along to The Rainbow Connection as we waltzed. I really wasn’t singing well (for me) that night, either.

And that brings me to the only other point that exists in my mind at this hour of the morning: it seems that dance has taken over my life. I might even dare to label myself a “dancer,” despite the disservice I would do to that title. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not (though it certainly passes the “do you enjoy it and does it do no harm” test)….

Much like my other interests, dance leaves me with little to talk about with others. It’s not like people get together and talk about dancing when they’re not dancing (at least, I hope not). Anime isn’t especially useful in daily conversation, either, nor is an interest in Macs. Politics is dangerous territory that I’ve (re-)learned to stay away from, and so that pretty much leaves me with the weather.

Damn cold weather we’ve been having, eh?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Or, if you prefer, Happy Gorge Yourself on Food Day! Even more alternatively: Happy Black-Friday Eve!

Although I’ve been mentioning Black Friday quite a bit to those around me (not so much on the blog; you can thank me anytime), the deals this year seem pretty weak. I’m not even tempted to send Marin out to face the crowds while I sleep in, like I did last year.

Yes, I am that evil. (No, actually, she did it of her own free will.)

I will get my ‘thanks’ in sometime today. The idea of a day to be grateful for what you have (not that you shouldn’t be grateful any other day) appeals to me just as much as a day to celebrate evil (not that you shouldn’t…um…nevermind). The fact that Thanksgiving appears to be the one uncorrupted holiday (and thus the one holiday retailers choose to ignore), however, makes it more special.

Though I do kinda like the Japanese take on Christmas, commercialism and all.

Shocking revelations

Tonight I was informed, by various follows, of the following facts:

That I lead better than a coat

That I am “f-ing awesome” (I’m not censoring that statement)

That I have great hair (?)

And those are just the comments I remember off of the top of my head. I especially take pride in the “lead better than a coat” comment (though it was given in a backhanded sort of way), as those damn coats have been showing me up for the longest time. (And, no, I don’t have great hair; if anything, I have “lazy man did a half-assed job using goop to smooth it down” hair.)

Outside of dance, things just continue to plod on as always. I’ve been bitten by the creative bug once again, but (as usual) my ways of creating are rather limited; right now I have half a mind to redesign my blog layout. I wouldn’t bet on any changes—odds are that I’ll burn out before crafting something worthy (and, besides, my //anime page is still horribly neglected)—but the possibility now exists.

Clutching at threads

I seem to be off of my game in life, as of late. My ability to manage my time is nonexistent, and consequently everything suffers—most notably for you all, my blog languishes. The worst thing about not having time-management skills is that you eventually become painfully aware of the time you piss away. If the feeling that you’re losing your opportunity to do something kickass is like a dagger in your side, then the knowledge that you are knowingly pissing away your time is that little extra twist of the blade.

As usual, I pin the blame squarely on lack of sleep. Why expend energy doing something nifty, when you can stare slack-jawed at the Ars Technica forums? (That was my crime earlier this evening, FWIW.)

A quick run-down of events of late, that I may try to catch up on sleep: ate Japanese food with Eric and Brian on Friday evening, followed by a trip to the almost-barren Heritage Mall. There I noticed a portrait of Young Elvis, which intrigued me such that I repeatedly mentioned it throughout the rest of the evening; I should buy that and hang it over my bed or something. (The true cause of my interest: who in the world needs a portrait of a young Elvis hanging in their home?) We ended the evening by crashing Kevin and Nate’s place, as Andy and Nick had elected to make a rare C-town appearance. That devolved into watching Ali G Indahouse (memorable pseudo-quote: “Is it true that you drugged the leaders of the world?”), followed by Drawn Together, the “first animated reality show” that truly deserved its “MA” rating. It’s also hilarious.

Saturday I was going to take a nap, but I…er…did something during the day, and then got a call requesting that I pick Kevin and his girlfriend (who had an injured foot) up from the Civil War game—this became a second evening spent over at Nate and Kevin’s. Though Nick had returned north, Neil had arrived to take his place… We were awed by the folks living across the street from Nate’s porch, where the guys apparently found it hilarious to urinate off the back of their porch. They then tried to engage Neil in a swearing contest; anyone who knows Neil should find that concept hilarious, as there’s nobody on Earth who can swear more than Neil.

The idea of Neil using his cop-knock was also brought up, but never implemented. That was probably for the best, as those other guys were pretty darn drunk.

Today: I raked leaves. Yay. And ow. Mostly ow.

Shirt-fu

One of those things I’ve never been able to do all that well is fold shirts. I mean, I can cram them into a suitcase and whatnot—they just don’t come out all that hot. Not anymore! Thanks to a link on AppleGeeks, I have now seen this Japanese how-to video and learned a valuable new trick. (Marin was actually the one to first piece it together, but I’ll ignore that.)

My reaction upon seeing the video was exactly the same as when I discovered that this technique actually works:

Holy shit!

My feet ache—with destiny!

Have I mentioned that I’m now actually dancing at the Wednesday night dance practice sessions? Not just chatting, but dancing. That’s crazy talk. I’m even starting to pick up on the names of various leads (above and beyond the names “everybody” knows), which makes it easier to chat with more people.

My only problem is that my feet now hurt something fierce—that’s an issue I’m not used to dealing with.

I even waltzed nicely, which was balm for my bruised ego. (It’s so basic—how could I have screwed it up?)

Yeah, so dance is pretty much the only event of interest in my life most days. I’m sure you didn’t notice.

Hey! Awesome! National Treasure opens tomorrow. I don’t know about you, but that looks like as good a dumb-fun movie as one can find. Maybe.

I’ll have to check the reviews.

Salvation

The moral of my missing credit card statement story: if you have a drawer full of stuff you’ll process “later,” you can’t let “later” drift out to the point where that stuff accumulates beyond the top of the drawer and thus gets shoved to the back of the drawer, where you (later) won’t look for that stuff.

Anyway.

This weekend I learned a valuable limitation of my all-too-limited dancing skill: I cannot dance when I’m dog-tired. That “cannot” is strict.

Alas, I learned that while trying to waltz with Kristina. It’s been a long, long time… oh, bump that. I don’t think I’ve ever quite waltzed that poorly, before. And it’s all because of a lack of sleep.

Having recovered some since that ugly Saturday evening, I can once again dance to the best of my abilities. Of course, we started West Coast Swing off this evening by watching video of some of the best WCS dancers in the world: afterwards, our comparatively simplistic moves weren’t quite as impressive.

The real rub of it, though, is that it’s not our moves that are poor: it’s the rest of our presentation. The professional dancers we watched could make the most basic steps look fantastic—and I’m talking the simple stuff, not the move where the follow literally formed a ring around the lead and then dropped down to around his waist, like a hoop caught on a peg. That was crazy.

Another major deal of the week is the ongoing Deep Discount DVD 20% off sale. If you can stand how slow the site is, that’s a hell of a bargain.

André! André!

I’ve lost the secret documents!

Which is just great—the last thing I need is to be the victim of identity theft. I suppose I’m going to have to tear my house apart from top to bottom in the hopes that this thing just got shuffled into some random corner.

Of course, we took out garbage and recycling yesterday. I may already be sunk….

[Update: here's a hint for my opening reference, for those few of you who haven't seen it yet.]

Oy

The bulk of the last few days has been a hideous amalgamation of dog walks and work. Do note that I omitted “full nights of sleep” from that list. (Did I mention that my parents were gone this week?)

Yoshi has this annoying tendency to bark at the paper delivery people—at 5:00 in the morning. Silencing that usually takes me two rounds of getting out of bed and telling him “enough!” He then starts barking again about 8:00 am, ostensibly because he needs to go out. Thus my day begins, and then begins again.

Following that first walk is shower, work, lunch, work, walk Yoshi, work, and then finally return home in the evening. From there my sister and I eat dinner (trying also to make sure our grandma has something to eat as well), and then I get to listen to her fret over her awful group until late into the night. Combine the late nights with interrupted sleep cycles and whatnot, and I haven’t had a good eight hours of sleep until last night—when my folks came home.

About my sister’s group: she’s in a class that has a major group paper, and that paper was due this last Thursday. On Tuesday evening she had started to revise what the others had written—and discovered huge swaths of plagiarism in two of the other gals’ work.

They were going to turn this thing in with six people’s names on it. (Plagiarism, if you aren’t aware, has punishments that range from getting an F on the assignment to getting kicked out of the university.) Their plagiarized sources included the CIA World Fact Book—and, as Brian noted, “[the World Fact Book] is a good source, but is bad for being caught [plagiarizing].”

See the quotation marks? (Actually, I can’t remember Brian’s exact words… consider this dramatic license.) These gals thought it wasn’t plagiarism if they cited the paragraphs they cut and pasted. (???)

Anyway, that devolved into a messy group dynamic where the self-appointed leader and hog of information (and plagiarist) became quite pissed at my sister for calling plagiarism by its true name. Add in some chats with the professor, and it was obvious this team wasn’t going to be able to function.

I wish I had been the one facing off that other gal as she tried to get mad at me. I swear, I would have rained righteous hellfire on her until she was sobbing in the fetal position. You don’t attempt to fuck people over like she did, and then expect to be able to get pissy at the person who calls you on it.

Other notable events of the week: one afternoon Yoshi was running around in the park, and ran up to a bigger, meaner dog. Thankfully, he only ended up with two minor scrapes and a tiny puncture wound in the end—but we learned the noise Yoshi makes when he’s in pain. (He starts sounding like a female dog.) And then, another afternoon, Calliope managed to kill a bird and leave it as a present on our doorstep. I nearly stepped on the poor thing as I was leaving the house, which didn’t do anything for my heart.

Once again I have reaffirmed (as I did during my parents’ previous vacation, when Cricket managed to have diarrhea all over the entryway) that I don’t want pets of my own at this point in my life—and kids are out of the question.

Transcendence

I think I might be on the verge of attaining a more enlightened state in dance. Now it seems that when I screw up my footwork—barring especially egregious errors (e.g. tripping myself)—I’m able to keep leading the follow appropriately (they don’t notice that I’ve really mucked myself up) and then get my feet where they ought to be, to continue on without interruption.

For lack of a better term, I shall call this ability error correction.

Additionally, I shall call the use of computer/electronic terms to describe dance skills unwise. That, however, will not prevent me from continuing to do so.

Though it’s easy to say and/or type, that’s a very big deal when you’re dancing. Historically, my response to getting off-beat has been immediate and total Brain Freeze. And brain freeze is not a condition that allows for a continued lead, let alone a graceful recovery.

If you’ve been under a rock lately, then you might not realize that today is the day that Mozilla Firefox turned 1.0. I’ve personally turned to OmniWeb for my browsing needs, but if I were on a PC I’d be all over Firefox. My PC experience is limited, but it didn’t take long for me to learn to dislike IE.

Of course, I still have a copy of Firefox on my machine. The more browsers the merrier, right? (I only have…oh…six browsers on my computer. One, Opera, is there only because some other program decided to install it; the others survive of my own free will.)

If you’ve really been under a rock (or don’t read the rants at MegaTokyo), you wouldn’t know that a rat “brain” has learned how to fly a plane in a flight simulator. This begs the question: why the hell can’t I?

The True brent//BLOG Extreme

The screwed up sidebar pictures I had? That’s the result of FTPing image files using the “text” transfer protocol. Remember, kids, binary transfers for image files; text transfers for text files! (My FTP program also has an automatic setting, but for whatever reason that likes to screw up my Movable Type installation—which, you may recall, I was updating over the weekend.)

Now you may witness the true chaos I’ve unleashed in brent//BLOG Extreme! Ha ha ha ha ha!

Over the weekend, Brian and I attempted to predict the outcome of the recent election (it’s hard to predict past events, but we tried our best) via repeated application of Soul Calibur II. Brian decided (and I agreed) that Yoshimitsu was most like Bush, and Voldo was most like Kerry. Brian also supplied the latest Newsweek, which had a nice map of which states were leaning which way. The setup was simple: if a state was solidly for a candidate, we gave that state to them; if a state was tentatively leaning one way, that character got infinite health and the opponent got 100% health (meaning, effectively, the only way the other candidate could win would be to ring-out his opponent before he ran out of life); if it was a true swing state, both characters got 200% health. Time was unlimited, and the matches were best-of-nine. We flipped a coin for each matchup, to determine who would play which character.

It was a grueling campaign.

And, at the end of the day, Kerry squeezed through. Obviously our model is fine—it just has a perfect negative correlation with reality. The fact that I happened to be the master of cheap knockout moves, Brian took a good while to figure out how to throw me off my cheap game (namely, to stay down on the ground for longer than I expected), and that I had a string of rounds where I represented Kerry, in no way biased the outcome.

Needless to say, we’ll be all over the 2008 presidential election. Maybe even before it happens.

My folks are off in vacation-land right now, which has left me and my sister to take care of Yoshi and Calliope. Marin’s in a crunch-time at school, though, which effectively leaves me to take care of walking Yoshi. This normally wouldn’t be all that big of a deal (aside from the time commitment—Yoshi likes to walk), except that recently he’s taken to wandering around the park behind my house some, followed by wandering around the neighborhood streets. I anticipated the park—and failed to anticipate the streets that would follow—and so wore a pair of ill-fitting boots the last two days.

Ow!

I Love Blogs brent//BLOG Extreme

In the grand Apple tradition of upgrading a product and noting the change by tacking “Extreme” to the end of the product’s name, I present to you the upgraded brent//BLOG. I’ll let y’all figure out what’s different.

Note that I said “different,” not “improved.”

Update: Some unexpected fun, and I find myself in the latest, and best, ARG. THIS IS NOT A GAME.

Upgrade in progress…

Time to get my copy of Movable Type updated to a more-current version. If I’m feeling really feisty, I’ll see if I can add some anti-spam-comment plugins, too.

So, if things look really broken—that’s probably it.

5:24 pm update: The upgrade’s done, and I don’t think I’ve razed the site—at least as far as I can tell. I’ve also implemented a few spam-preventative measures, but just in case those fail: any links promising h0t chixx0r pr0n probably aren’t worth clicking on.

Light election blather

As I explained to Brian, pretty much the only satisfaction I derive from these presidential elections is watching the various TV anchors get extremely tired—so I milk it for all it’s worth. The payoff is rather pitiful, all told, and getting to it leaves me extremely tired the next day.

“The next day,” in this instance, was today. Not even Mountain Dew could save me.

Brian earlier suggested that I use my blog for witty social commentary—regardless of who appeared to be winning the presidency—by posting the following message the day after the election:

OMG BS HAX

It would have been beautiful, had the election dragged out into another multi-week affair. Alas, Kerry wound up conceding without any Legal Death Match*. As such, that comment would be an inappropriate mar on his honorable decision—and I am reduced to relating the idea to you in the hypothetical context of meta-humor.

[*For the sensitive: I don't mean to imply that Kerry had no chance of winning, or that he would be the only one who would choose to enter the Legal Death Match Arena—I write that line in the context of the actual results of this election.]

And if that explanation made no sense: did I mention that I’m really tired? I stayed up until something like 1:30 am watching the election results (not) come in.

The clear winner out of last night’s events? J. Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio’s Secretary of State. That man is clearly in full command of his faculties, and gave good, straight answers to interviewers’ questions. I wish Bradbury was half the SecState that Blackwell is.

EDIT: Hot Damn! I just got hit by my first wave of porn-related comment spam. I’ve made the big-time!

End it, already

I’ve begun to get seriously antsy about the impending election. Since we didn’t get many trick-or-treaters, we have a bunch of candy sitting around. Mix the two, and I have chocolate on my breath.

Gah. If I drank, I’d be hitting the bottle tonight and tomorrow.

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