A good day

The drive to Portland was a bit tiring for my right foot (I don’t tend to use cruise control, although I really should), but definitely worth it. I got to see a good number of my friends that I don’t see that often—and even today’s short visit was good for my soul. Had nice conversations with Brian on the way up and back, and (be sure you note this) I bought Brian his stupid birthday present. So there. =P

[I can’t begin to tell you how widely I’m grinning as I type that. My bitterness is a total sham.]

I arrived at Andy’s party wearing a Chiyo-chichi hat; this was enough to get me in the door. I then snuck to the bathroom, where I (with a big hat-tip to Eric, who actually had the idea) dressed as Andy. It was far from perfect, but it did elicit a “touché” from the True Andy. I didn’t get to say any Andyisms, though, which was a missed opportunity.

Other costumes: Brian stuck a DVD-R (from a failed burn) to his shirt, put a patch on his eye, and called himself a pirated DVD. Andy wore a multicolor clown wig. Nate wore the cloth bag that covered a bottle of Crown Royal, and thus dressed as a bottle of Crown Royal. Neil was Indiana Jones, complete with hat and whip. (He claimed he found the whip in his grandparents’ attic, which elicited mixed catcalls and disgust from the others.) Nick was a Duracell battery; Lindsey was a can of Morton salt. (Neither of them could sit down in their costumes.) Joel was Westley from The Princess Bride, complete with fencing sword. Myles was a drunk, belligerent Republican*. (“The scariest thing I could think of,” he says.)

[*Myles’ political statement; not mine. I’m equally afraid of drunk, belligerent Democrats, FWIW.]

Driving back this evening for the ballroom dance was also worth it. I actually dance at these dances now, and I have fun doing it—it’s awesome. I’m unstoppable**. Plus, afterwards I was there to shield a friend from some guy she really doesn’t like; I like to think of that as a bit of redemption for past dance-related missteps.

[**I’m unstoppable because I don’t stop myself. As much.]

My costume? (This was, after all, a halloween dance.) Erm… I passed myself off as a zombie. Recall Shaun of the Dead, where the movie noted (albeit not explicitly) that many people were already zombies long before the actual zombies arrived. Zombie is a state of mind, to put it bluntly—and I’ll be darned if I wasn’t in that state of mind after my jaunt up to Portland. It was a cop-out, but I did manage to start my dancing off by being a bit stiff.

(Okay, so that was stiff-stiff, and not deliberate-zombie-stiff. Sue me.)

Do you like scary movies?

I’ve been awfully tired lately, and yesterday this manifested itself in the urge to dial Billie’s extension (she’s one of the few people in the office that’s around my age) and ask her the above question.

At least two things (beyond the timely holiday mischief) would have made this hilarious, in my estimation:

1) Since the call would be interoffice, Billie’s “intercom” light would blink; she would know that the call originated from within our office.

2) From the nature of the building, at least half of my coworkers would have heard me; more than likely Billie would also be able to hear me, even without the phone.

Alas, I never got my chance.

The latest quandary

Ugh. One thing that hasn’t changed in the last five weeks is how beaten I get getting from Monday to Wednesday; my dance classes see that I end up trashed by the middle of the week. We’ve basically wrapped up night club two step in my noon dance class; next week we’ll start on the hustle. Yes, the street dance from the ’70s. It’s actually pretty fun, if for no other reason than the awesome music.

Ironically, I’ve continued to do better in west coast than I have in night club. I have a new theory about that: it has something to do with the nature of the leads for each dance. In NC2S you pretty much end up leading your follow the entire time; in WCS you set up the lead in the first beat, and then you have two full beats of not actually doing much beyond following through. Those two beats give me enough time to figure out my next move in a west coast song; the lack of that downtime in night club means that I have to be darn comfortable with my moves before I can actually start stringing them together (i.e. “dancing”). That same need, to constantly lead your follow, is why it took me so long to wrap my head around the standard ballroom dances.

I’m sure you all are thrilled about my revolutionary new theory. Ahem.

I’ve been torn apart by this upcoming weekend. Andy is throwing a halloween party the same day that the next (real actual) ballroom dance is being held. I must attend Andy’s party, because a good deal of my friends will be there—some of whom I haven’t seen in a good while. I must attend the dance, because I’ve been learning how to dance so that I can actually dance; besides, how in the world could I say “no” to dancing with attractive females?

My current, um, nuanced approach, is to try and do both—attend Andy’s party early, and attend the ballroom dance late. It’s decidedly suboptimal, but I think it’s pretty much the only way I can do both.

Admittedly, that’s not doing either of them terribly well. I’ll have to stew more over this.

The One True Brent

I’ve finally met* a real, actual Brent. At a party on Saturday. (Both that I met a second Brent, and that I was at a party, should stun you.) Contrary to earlier hypotheses, our meeting—despite the fact that this Brent was indeed blonde and appeared self-confident** (i.e. was, in fact, the anti-Brent)—did not result in the immediate end of the world. It was a bit odd to refer to someone with my name; though not the most rare of names, there aren’t too many Brents in the world. (I’ve known a few Bretts, though, and our names sound similar enough to cause confusion when we weren’t listening too well.)

[*To avoid arguments, I define “meet” in such a way as to preclude the possibility you ever “meet” yourself. Unless there’s some horrible accident with a mirror, or you happen to remove the mystic Four Sword from its resting place.]

[**I don’t generally appear self-confident, even when I actually am. So the anti-Brent is “anti” inasmuch as he appears self-confident; I cannot actually speak to his actual confidence.]

I quickly stepped up and defined myself to be the One True Brent (completely ignoring that this other Brent appeared to be older than I am); the resulting method to distinguish between the two of us was to refer to us as True Brent and False Brent. Not satisfied with this rather harsh-sounding distinction, Crystal attempted to classify us by the dance classes she was taking with us; I was Swing Brent, and the False Brent was Salsa Brent. That distinction was rather unsatisfactory, though, as Swing Brent can also salsa.

Right. On Thursday I finally got my LCD monitor back from the service center, complete with new innards. My arch-nemesis, the white line, is now gone… and I can finally rest in peace. I really do like this monitor. (Of course, moving back to the G5 was pretty nice as well.)

Eric, Brian and I headed to the theater on Friday evening to catch the local opening of Shaun of the Dead. That is one damn fine movie. It’s not even a parody of the zombie genre; it really is a comedy/horror crossover (though admittedly lighter on the horror), and it actually works. Even if you don’t like horror, you have a good chance of liking SotD. I’d actually avoid previews of the movie, if you can (and have); some of the funnier moments of the movie would be even moreso if they were totally unexpected.

Of more note than the movie, though, was how dead quiet the Regal theater was. Despite being 7:30 pm on a Friday night, they only seemed to have three or four people working; there were a total of nine people (including my group) watching SotD. I think the new Carmike theater has really put the hurt on Regal… dunno how much longer it’s going to last, if that’s the case.

Saturday was the day of the party; more on that in a later post…. Today was the day of recovery (from both the party, and the aching joints I’ve suffered from excessive dancing), as well as the day of hitting Toys R Us for their Buy 2, Get 1 Free video-game sale. (Props to BuzzJive for an early heads up; I would have been horribly unprepared had I not been warned.) So, uh, yeah… I used to be good at video games. Now I’m rediscovering the burn of Nintendo hard thanks to a copy of the Mega Man Anniversary Collection I picked up. I remember that Mega Man 2 being both lots of fun and rather easy; I now find Mega Man 2 to be harsh and unforgiving. I can’t even make it to Air Man right now. (sob)

I love… beams?

Alternative dance theory: I don’t do as well in dance when I’m sick, and I do better once I reattain some level of health. Night club went much better today… even if I don’t actually quite remember the new move we learned. (That’s been a thorn in my side all evening.)

Managed to make it to the dance practice this evening, and I was glad I did. I learned a new technique for asking someone to dance (“may I have the next dance to a song that doesn’t suck?”), snuck in a salsa with Robin (ostensibly because the song did suck), saw an old dance friend, saw some old non-dance friends, kidded around with Marco. I also saw Will and his girlfriend smile while dancing with each other—for the first time, at least as long as I’ve been a wallflower. Good times all around.

Oh, and I didn’t need aspirin to get out of bed this morning. That was a nice perk, too.

For the first time ever, I got a shipping confirmation from Sharp informing me that my monitor is being returned to me. This time they sent it via standard overnight; I hope that means they actually saw the line and fixed it this time. It’ll be good to have a fully-functional monitor on my G5 again. There are all these things I have lying around on the G5 that would stare me in the face and reminding me about various odds and ends I have to do; I don’t seem to do those odds and ends when I don’t have those things staring me in the face.

Andy’s just pointed out a new site to me: I Love Beams. Somehow, I don’t think it compares to the original.

The dance for dancers

How is it that I’m more competent learning the difficult dance (west coast) than I am learning the easy one (night club)?

Of course, I have half a clue why. In west coast we only know a handful of moves—all of which are relatively simple for the leads, and so all of which I can do—so there’s no great stress placed on me yet. In night club (at least in the last two classes), there’s a gateway move (think gateway drug, but leading to better places rather than worse ones) that involves me spinning myself. If I’m weak at anything in dance, I’m weak at spinning. So I start out on shaky ground there, and then we have a plethora of moves that I need to chain (there I go, using fighting game terminology in relation to dancing) in a relatively short period of time. It takes time (on the order of days/weeks/months) for my brain to wrap itself around new moves, and to start seeing how one move might lead into another one… and I just haven’t had that time to get night club straight in my head. In part, I do that by sitting on the sideline at dance practices and watching others dance—observing how they put their moves to use. It took my a bloody eternity to piece together the standard ballroom dances (waltz, tango, cha cha, jitterbug swing)…. Fortunately, I seemed to pick up a later dance, salsa, much faster—so there’s hope for me getting my act together before the end of the class.

The only reason I’m doing well in west coast (and I’ll be the first to say how surprised I am at my progress there) is because we haven’t gotten too far into the dance yet. Barbara described WCS as “the dance for dancers,” in that once you get to a certain point it’s more about personal style than it is about specific steps.

Once a dance stops being about specific steps, I get cut off at the knees. (I took ballroom originally because it involved social dances that had structure to them; that structure—and the presence of a follow to actually be the star of the show—is my crutch.) Consequently, I expect that I’ll plateau earlier than others in west coast.

In non-dance-related news, I managed to pop something in my back while lifting some batches at work this afternoon. Immediately afterward I felt pain when moving my legs certain directions; aspirin allowed to me to keep working.

Aspirin also allowed me to attend my west coast class this evening. (Quick poll: is Brent stupid?) I only hope that aspirin will also allow me to get out of bed tomorrow morning.

Things I did while it rained

This weekend has passed much faster than I expected it to, albeit not in the “I blinked and it was Monday” sense—it was more like a giant smear.

On Friday I joined Brian, Nate, and Kevin for pizza followed by random entertainment (e.g. Lucky Stalin) followed by Team America. The more I reflect on what I saw in that movie, the more fully I realize just how crude and inappropriate it was. That, however, doesn’t change the fact that it was bloody funny. I’m inclined to buy “America: F**k Yeah!” when it arrives on iTunes, just for the halibut. The film’s final argument in favor of Team America is also priceless, albeit not really speakable in polite society.

Thanks to my dance classes, I was able to be cheap and get a student ticket price. (Heh.) I was surprised to note that the ticket’s price was actually broken down into “ticket” and “tax” components—I wasn’t aware that there was any tax on movie tickets. Weird. Carmike was also pimping its “buy two medium sodas and a large popcorn for only $11″ deal—good damn! What a steal!

Saturday was the blurriest of the last couple days. For whatever reason, I was bitten by the bug to buy lots of really bad movies. Mostly horror flicks (for not liking blood and guts, I am fascinated by that genre): the new Friday the 13th collection (“From Crystal Lake to Manhattan”), a relatively cheap collection of the Scream trilogy, etc. I ultimately held back—probably a good thing, since the Friday the 13th series is really, really bad. The first three movies are practically identical (well, Kevin Bacon gets killed in the first; the actual killer differs between the first and the rest; Jason goes from a burlap sack to a hockey mask from part two to part three; part three was originally shown in awesome 3D; etc.—all rather trivial), and I only limit it to the first three because I haven’t seen the others. The only saving grace in this repetition is the crazy old man—who always stops the horny group of kids and warns them of their impending doom. If I ever take a role in a horror movie, I want to be the crazy old man who tells the kids that they’re all going to die unless they leave this place stat. Or else the guy who gets it on with a hot gal. That’d be OK, too.

Today I spent doing my civic duty. That’s right: I’ve voted. (For those not familiar, Oregon is a vote-by-mail state—and I received my ballot on Friday.) It took me damn near all day. I’m not actually going to turn in my ballot until November 2nd, however, as Oregon’s officials (in their infinite wisdom) have decided that they’ll actually process ballots when they receive them—rather than waiting until the time polls close on the 2nd, as they should. I doubt many people are naïve enough to believe that preliminary results won’t leak.

While reading the candidate sections, I was surprised to see that Bill Bradbury, our Secretary of State, actually used the “attended college” trick in his education section. (This implies that he never actually graduated from college; a short-lived coworker introduced Eric to that nuance, and Eric then introduced it to me.) I was similarly humored to find out one candidate for State Treasurer was decidedly not shy about the importance of religion in her life.

At any rate, I’m glad to be done with that thing—and I can hardly wait until the election is over. I’m tired of all this political junk—political junk that isn’t both hilarious and horribly offensive, that is.

Life plods on

I wanted to go to the ballroom dance practice last night, but was energy-blocked by my increasingly-aching body. The obvious alternative, which I selected, was to collapse in a heap. This was not the worst decision I could have made, given that I was dancing with two left feet—and a complete and total lack of balance—earlier in the day.

Yes, I was a mess in night-club yesterday afternoon. Things didn’t start out well when we had twice as many leads as follows show up for class (I have no idea why; I don’t think any of the leads are that scary), which meant that half the time we were watching others practice new moves, rather than practicing those moves ourselves. The killer for me, ultimately, was that these new moves frequently involved me spinning—and when I twirl, people get hurt.

Before dance I took some time to go visit Renee and Bryan in grad student purgatory. As all the math grad students share one room (one room with a whole lotta desks), I got to watch two other students working on some set equality problem. The two sets they were working on were comprised of multiple subsets; they had put this on the board as two regions comprised of several smaller, numbered, regions. This, in turn, resulted in several statements scribbled on the chalkboard:

2 = 5

3 = 4


That’s some pretty advanced math.

Otherwise I’ve pretty much just been grinding away at work. Well, today more than yesterday. But still. A highlight of today was when Sharon came by to ask me about something Eric was keeping secret from the office (Eric doesn’t like to talk about himself much, and that really strikes a nerve with people at work). I then explained what she needed to do to get Eric to start talking: start spreading increasingly vile rumors about whatever he’s keeping secret, until he reaches the point where he finds his silence to be more of a liability than an asset.

Of course, I explained that to her while Eric was working in the next cubicle over. If I’m going to stab my friends, I at least have the courtesy to stab them in the face.

Having said that, a PSA:

For some people, stabbing friends in the face is probably an ego-booster or a way to be cruel, hurtful, and selfish. These are unhealthy motives. The only reason you should stab friends in the face is because it’s hilarious.


Between work, dance classes, forgetting Brian’s birthday [ (X_X);; ], and just in general time-slipping, I’ve somehow gotten from the end of Saturday to the end of Tuesday.

All I know right now is that I’m quite tired, and my body aches something fierce. I am happy to say that I’m still alive, however—at least until Brian catches up with me.

A humorous anecdote to compensate for the time you spent loading this page: one afternoon a few days back, Marin was walking Yoshi. At some point they passed an old man bundled up in a raincoat. Marin said hi; the old man said keep that wild beast away from me!

I assume he was referring to Yoshi, which is just crazy-talk; my dog’s one of the most gentle creatures I know. But still—”keep that wild beast away from me!” might have hilarious applications in entirely inappropriate situations.

good DAMN

The evening’s ballroom dance was, by any measure, a resounding success. I’ve never danced more dances, with more follows, in my life. And while my stats might still be somewhat sad compared to some of the other dancers I know, that’s a quantum leap over the “pathetic” comparison that I would have traditionally posted. I’m remarkably happy right now.

Aside from dancing a good deal, I also found that some follows I might have alienated for various reasons actually are fine with me, which removed one constant dance-related worry from my head. I also got to chat with Jonathan (friend of Renee) and Ben (who was in a dance class with Renee)—not surprisingly, both of whom I met through Renee—as well as Kristina. She, as all the graduate students I’ve talked to, had stories of horrific workloads from the graduate program. I’m so glad I’m not a graduate student.

Mandy taught me two new night club two step moves—I’m up to a resounding five awesome moves in that dance—and helped me practice the three awesome west coast swing moves I have. (I frequently refer to my moves as awesome moves—bet you couldn’t have guessed that—when I’m not downplaying my dancing abilities. (Surpass your lowered expectations, and people are impressed! Haha.) It also turns out that I can do single-time swing (I was beginning to doubt myself), if the music is reasonable and the follow can also keep the beat. If the song’s wonky or the follow dances to her own beat, I get more lost in swing than in any other dance.

…but now I’m just prattling on. The point to take away from this is that I’ve made some friends, and am (almost, if not actually) to the point where I’m a competent-enough dancer for myself to relax and just have fun. (Oddly enough, my self-confidence with respect to dance is directly related to my ability to actually dance.)

The other noteworthy event of the day was a trip to the Ginza in Albany for lunch. The food was delicious, and the owners seem like really nice people—I’ll have to drag Brian et. al. over there sometime to have them try it out. (They’re in the Bi-Mart plaza, FWIW.) I had to feign ignorance of Japanese when Grandma introduced us to the owner—the alternative was to mutter something along the lines of zenzen wakarimasen when asked if I knew any Japanese, and confuse everybody.

Though I can understand bits and snippets of the language (enough to know that the owner was pleased to meet us, and asked Marin (and then, by implication, me) if she knew any Japanese—to which she replied “a little”), I can’t speak it worth a bean, let alone try to formulate sentences. Keeping my mouth shut was the best option I had.

Still, I am humored by the idea of replying (something to the effect of) “I don’t understand it at all” in Japanese to the question of whether or not I know any of the language.

…need some wood?

Hahaha. Why yes, sailor, I do!

I’ve recently discovered that there exists a male version of The Boy is Mine, entitled Do Ya. (iTMS links for Sarah, who seems to have just discovered the fun that is iTunes.) I can’t say that the song is actually any good—then again, I never much cared for the female variant either—but it does have a catchy west coast swing beat. And, much like the medical student who sees the disease he or she is studying in every patient, I’m hearing WCS beats in almost everything I’ve been listening to.

Too bad I only know three WCS moves right now. Granted, they are three awesome WCS moves, but still—three moves do not a four-minute dance make. As tomorrow is the first ballroom dance of the term, I suppose I’ll (sadly) be sitting on the sidelines for any WCS songs. But, damn, that beat!

You get to burning

Signing up for these dance classes has simultaneously been the best and worst thing I’ve done in quite a while. Best in that they get me out of the house and help to lift my spirits; worst in that I’m physically trashed by Wednesday afternoon. (Not getting enough sleep each night hasn’t helped either, I postulate.) I figure that will improve as time passes, but it’s little solace to my body that’s feeling the burn right now. Consequently, I’m not terribly inclined to actually dance all that much at the Wednesday night practice… I did get to salsa with Robin, though, using the classic (?) line: Less talk. More salsa. Robin’s going to start attending my night club two step class, which will be fun; we’ve been short follows, so Earl’s been filling in the last week and a half. I’m sure he’s glad to be a lead again.

I’ve been putting more time into work this week, but have little to show for it—every day I scan down a stack of paper, and every day a new stack appears to take its place. Yesterday I learned the reason why: the entire office is against me. I have everybody (okay, everybody except the four or so insurance follow-up people) working directly to give me more stuff; this means I receive the output of nearly twenty people’s efforts each day. The only way I can possibly win is through a war of attrition; at their current rate, they’ll burn through all the ammunition they have (batches they have to key) before the week is through.


That’s the sound of me having a very good night at my west-coast swing class. Once I got it through my head that I should put my weight on the foot that I’m stepping with […], things just started fitting together nicely.

I can now effectively wield three WCS moves. And, let me tell you, that’s a hell of a lot more fun than having a tenuous grip on one move. One of those moves sports the entertaining title of “sugar push,” which adds more fun to the fire.

Even more fun than all that is having the power to pause for a random length of time, to see if your follow is actually following your lead—i.e. if your follow stops as well. (I’m evil that way; I love to test my follows. BWA HA HA!) Of course, that also means that the lead has to actually lead…

This evening a follow complimented me on being one of the best leads in the class; I need to savor these moments, because people will start surpassing me soon. If my dancing skill was a car in F-Zero (or Mario Kart, or whatever), it would be one of those that accelerates quickly but has a low top speed. Except when I first started getting into dance; then my dancing skill would have been the car that accelerates slowly and has a low top speed.

I’m glad those days are gone, ’cause that wasn’t a winning combination.

The dead don’t choose sides

It’s darn easy to put off writing things—even inane things—when you end up collapsing in a heap at the end of each day. And that’s all I’ll say about my absence.

Where did I leave off? Oh; the police arrested some guy (the next day, even!) for the attempted abduction I mentioned in my last post. He’s being considered in relation to the Wilberger case, but we haven’t heard anything beyond that.

Friday night was Super Puzzle Fighter II X/Y/Z night between Nate, Kevin, and myself. I sucked it up royally in the X variant, but unleashed innate skill (a.k.a. “luck”) in both Y and Z to hold my own. We later pulled out the GameCube version of Capcom vs. SNK 2, where Kevin demonstrated how cheap M. Bison can be, and I demonstrated how cheap Cammy can be. Nate, to his credit, never resorted to being cheap. One round, however, he was confused by an option provided in the GameCube version that isn’t present in the PS2 version (namely, the ability to select the “GameCube-ism” controller style). This style disables the directional pad and the regular buttons, forcing you to use the joystick to move—and the shoulder buttons for punches and kicks (how far you press down determines how strong the punch or kick is). In trying to cancel out of “GameCube-ism,” he accidentally selected Ryu as his first character. (Nate historically views the Capcom characters as cheap, and beneath him.) Figuring the round was all but lost, he selected other worthless characters and got the match going.

As you would expect, Nate started out by getting trashed. That all changed, however, when he announced that he was going to start using the C-stick. (Part of the theory of the GameCube controller, as I understand it, is that games can use the C-stick as a shortcut to executing otherwise difficult—or impossible—button combinations.) Nate’s worthless characters came back with a fierce quickness, and the battle raged on for much longer than we expected. Towards the end I watched Nate’s controller; the only thing he was touching was the C-stick.

That’s rather longwinded, but the point is that the GameCube-ism controller setting robbed CvS2 of any difficulty. Rather than having to worry about double-quarter-circles or whatnot, all you had to do was slam the C-stick various directions.

On Saturday evening, Eric and I went to Hollywood to rent a movie that none of the others would ever want to see. We eventually settled on The Bunker, whose cover featured skeletons (sporting glowing Terminator-red eyes) dressed up in Nazi uniforms. The movie was nothing like the cover indicated (I suspect to some disappointment on Eric’s part, albeit relief on my end); it turned out to be a low-budget British spin on Night of the Living Dead (i.e. a group of people under great stress falling apart from within)—this time in Nazi Germany. There were also fun pseudo-similarities to Nightmare on Elm Street—in the form of a burn victim attacking people—and Friday the 13th—in the time-honored tradition of the crazy old man telling people that they’re going to die. I can’t say I’d recommend it, but it’s far from the worst horror movie I’ve seen.

I’ve also been playing some more Fire Emblem, where I continue to demonstrate my inability to act as tactician for a band of warriors. I figure I’ll get better with practice—and, until then, I can just keep restarting from a save every time I lose someone.

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