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:: Tuesday, January 29, 2002 ::
I don't usually plagiarize, but the way it says what it says is perfect.
I took my love, I took it down:: Bryan Travis :: 01/29/2002 @ 08:47 :: [link] ::
:: Monday, January 28, 2002 ::
I'm compiling a list of Louisville-based weblogs.:: Bryan Travis :: 01/28/2002 @ 03:18 :: [link] ::
:: Sunday, January 27, 2002 ::
Personal ads - a dime a dozen - that means they're a penny each with a "buy 5, get 1 free" promotion thrown in to drive the point home. Some personal ads are refreshingly genuine, witty, thought-out and apt to hook someone out of curiousity, if nothing else. Classic example.
I visit hotornot.com when sufficiently bored. Yes, I admit feeling insane glee rating countless, random photographs, so ostracize me. But anyway, she wins the prize for "Most Entertaining Use of MS Paint To Conceal Ex From Dating Prospects." I found the "This is me" label helpful in much the same way I find the blueprint of my home essential in getting to the bathroom. Ah, wait... maybe I judged too soon.
Sometimes it goes to the other extreme, and instead of witty humor, I'm moved by the profound sadness I see in a face.:: Bryan Travis :: 01/27/2002 @ 04:24 :: [link] ::
Thanks in large part to Howdy Doody Hardcore, I haven't had time to post during the last couple weeks, and I've been itching to, because I insanely love blathering to you, o loyal readers, all 12 or 15 of you. Here's a quick catch up on the goings on:
1.) Not taking the Christmas Tree down - that's for sure! Its six foot wide and seven and a half foot tall self remains the foyer centerpiece, and can hardly be missed, even if the lights were last plugged in three weeks ago. I have been busy, but this isn't entirely Howdy Doody Hardcore's fault - it's my fault because I'm lazy, and then there was the little matter of turning on the PlayStation 2 for the first time in three months and becoming completely engrossed in Gran Turismo 3 all over again. And what about today after class? I spent it reading weblogs and writing this sheezat, of course.
Taking the Tannenbaum down wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the lights. Ornaments are a hassle, but I only have 30-40, and as soon as they're back in their boxes, they're forgotten for a year, or 10 months in my case. Adorning my tree are 500 lights on four strings about 40 feet long each. No matter how I wrap them, the wires always get tangled, and there's that one bulb which inevitably gets twisted and dislodged so that none of them work next year, and next thing I know, half the night has gone by whilst I've been torquing Christmas lights in their sockets, coining new profanities that would make Andrew Dice Clay and Quentin Tarantino green with envy. Not exactly a Rockwell scene. I guess some people would simply throw the lights away and be done with it, but tidiness, practicality and wastefulness aren't my style.
2.) Quit smoking. Not like I was a real smoker - one or two Sampoerna Classics clove cigarettes a day hardly constitutes an addiction, although it was a habit. I bought two packs from the tobacco outlet recently. I smoked the last one in the pack Thursday at MCSE training after lunch, and made a mental note to put the second pack in my coat pocket when I got home. I searched high and low on Friday, but could never find that second pack. One of two things happened: Either I lost the second pack, in which case I refuse to buy another pack until I find the lost one, or I smoked both packs, somehow forgetting when I finished the first and started the second, in which case I was smoking too much and it was high time to stop the madness. So, yeah, that means I've effectively quit smoking. I started smoking when Rachel left. Well, now she's back, so theoretically, I don't need the endorphin crutch anymore. But dudes, after a day of Howdy Doody Hardcore, I'm jonesin' for the cloves in a severe heroin addict sort of way, and that's post kava-kava.
3.) Reduced caffeine intake. Whoa, stop the press! Dropping nicotine is one thing, but caffeine, too? That's so not me. True, but I read a fascinating article about caffeine on Howstuffworks. I've dismissed past claims caffeine can cause long-term damage or that the high blood pressure it induces is the kind that could lead to a heart attack, but the Howstuffworks article made me rethink my ways. Caffeine stimulates adrenaline release, and having an adrenaline rush all day long is unduly stressful, the sort of stress that can lead to heart disease. So, a few cups of coffee or a latte in the morning is acceptable, but when the clock strikes noon, the pot is turned off. And would you believe I feel ever so much more rested after getting the same amount of sleep as I did before? But how I miss the heightened awareness - it was almost like speed.
4.) The significant other visited last weekend, and we saw The Royal Tenenbaums. When I first said I wanted to see this flick, I thought it was "Tanenbaums" and that the spelling had been changed, but alas, it must have been the crack - I was mispelling it all along. It's amazing, though, how many others did the same thing and found my post that way. Well, damnit, I'm not the only one!
5.) I will never purchase another home built by Mareli Development Company, ever. Several people in my condo complex have horror stories - my neighbor's hot and cold water pipes were installed backwards, for example - and now I have another to add to the stack. After spending two winters here, I've always noticed how quickly the snow melts off the roofs, how large the icicles get, and how the wood beams supporting the roof caused the snow over them to melt much more slowly than the surrounding snow. So on Martin Luther King, Jr Day, I took my father up on his offer to put additional insulation in my attic. I bought ten 75 square foot rolls of R19, enough to cover the attic with some to spare. R19 is about 6.5 inches thick, which may seem like a lot to spread in an insulated attic, or so I thought.
Here is what Mareli did - get a load of this, folks: my attic has blow-in insulation. Blow-in insulation is usually bits of gray-colored paper treated so it won't burn and makes mice lose their hair so they won't bed in it. The insulation in my attic is pure white; it looks like a winter wonderland. It melted when I held a flame to it, though it did not burn. I know it's supposed to be fluffy, but you can lightly put your hand on the 8-10 inches of fluff in my attic and compress it inside the 2x4 beams with little effort - seems a little too fluffy. The access to my attic is a bare quarter inch thick piece of plywood - that was the only thing separating my attic from the inside of my home. Nice, huh?
But it gets better. The ductwork is contained in a 6 foot long by 2 foot wide by 9 foot deep area above the furnace and water heater, which is inside the second floor wall separating my bedroom from the stairwell. This area would normally be filled with insulation and covered, but whoever Mareli contracted to do the insulation wasn't exactly concerned with convention. The only insulation in this hole was what had fallen in when it was blown into the attic - about a foot - leaving the remaining 8 feet bare and open to the attic. Yes, that's right - they left the hole uncovered. I'm no handyman, but my father was appalled.
I fear to think what else received the same level of sloppy work that I can't see. The insulation in the walls comes to mind. I don't know what else they did, but found what I saw in the attic pathetic. Before adding the extra insulation, the first floor of my condo was several degrees warmer than the second floor, and I closed several vents downstairs to force additional heat from the furnace to the second floor. I re-opened the first floor vents the day after adding the insulation - that's how noticeable the difference was, or should I say, the quality of work performed by Mareli's contractors allowed that much heat to escape. Oh, yes sir... I'm through with Mareli, and I'm sure the condo association will get a kick from the pictures we took of the attic.:: Bryan Travis :: 01/27/2002 @ 01:33 :: [link] ::
:: Saturday, January 26, 2002 ::
I think the best way to weblog through this MBA program of mine is to pick a professor each semester, one whose personality or teaching style stands out from the rest, christen this person with a nickname, and extol or deprecate as appropriate. Last semester, that professor was Thomas Zehnder, ABD. Zehnder didn't need a nickname - his last name and the "All But Dissertation" degree status, that nebulosity somewhere close to "Ph.D.," were moniker enough.
This semester is going to be all about Howdy Doody Hardcore. He looks nothing like the puppet with the ventriloquist sidekick of 1950s and 1960s TV fame, but for some reason when he smiles, all I can think of is Howdy Doody. Maybe it's because as an adult, he so looks like he was one of those kids who dressed up as a cowboy, tied a bandanna around his chin and ran around with a popgun when the theme to The Rifleman or The Lone Ranger came on, although he's a bit young for that era... maybe he caught them in syndication.
He's probably not a male porn star, either, but with the amateur pornography market on the Internet these days, who knows? Nah, dudes, I call him Hardcore because he's hardcore about the learning experience. He says things like, "I'll let Dr. X review your industry analysis outlines to make sure you're producing the quality product the MBA department is looking for." Now, don't get me wrong - he's a great professor, probably one of the best we'll have in the program. Last semester we noted how this integrated graduate program and business case-based discussion style wasn't as substantive as we had hoped, and I'll be the first to admit a few more professors like this guy would either solve the problem or the course load would crush the protest right out of us – it's very obvious he has a genuine desire to make this program the best it can be and provide valuable direction and feedback to students. In 10-15 years I'll wish I could remember his name so I could look him up, shake his hand and graciously thank him for adding those extra assignments to the course syllabus the first week of class. But until this MBA program yields tangible benefits, he's Howdy Doody Hardcore, because as you can probably tell from the two week absence of weblog posts, he be crampin' mah style.:: Bryan Travis :: 01/26/2002 @ 19:06 :: [link] ::
:: Sunday, January 13, 2002 ::
Despite lowering my overall auto insurance premium via a complex system of discounts, the more I thought about it, my 1992 Saturn SL-2 was going to be a weighty expense. True, it only has 105,000 miles and could easily go another 50,000 miles before it becomes a hopeless money pit, but I only drive 10,000-12,000 miles a year, and putting half those miles on the Saturn when all of the Prius' maintenance is covered for 36 months/36,000 miles, not to mention its warranty, well... do you see how that translates into additional expense by virtue of the Prius' unutilized benefit? To put it another way, consider the cost per mile of driving sans the vehicles' purchase price; that is, only fuel, maintenance and wear-n-tear. The Prius saves on maintenance for 36,000 miles and uses half the gas the Saturn does, but putting half my driving on the Saturn means only 18,000 miles of free maintenance for the Prius.
Well, whatever - this could be an endless rant into the mindless void, and who gives a rip, anyway, except for me? [*crickets chirp*] Exactly. To succinctly state my mounting concerns, maybe holding onto the Saturn wasn't such a great idea.
My mom calls on Tuesday or so with my dad conferenced in, and asks if I'm sure I want to keep the Saturn, because the clutch went out on my brother's car, and a $600 repair on a 15 year-old Buick Somerset might be ill-advised. It might seem an easy decision from the way this post is written, but at the time, I still wasn't convinced the added cost of maintaining the Saturn outweighed the convenience of having a spare car.
I really love my Saturn, and my brother is hard on cars - not only because he likes to speed and quickly accelerate, but also because of his propensity for flipping them over. Yeah, he's managed to pull off that feat a couple times, once with a used car he was test driving. My mom was buying it from her boss to replace one of her cars, which was totaled by a hit and run driver in a pickup truck who ran her into the support of a concrete bridge (not surprisingly, the bridge was demolished and rebuilt last summer, a couple months after the accident), and you can imagine how much she slept the night after he flipped her boss' car, wondering how she was going to break the news to him at work the next morning. My mom is such a worrywart, anyway, and God love her, the stressful ordeal of totaling two cars in a week must have nearly killed her.
So now you have a sense for the risk I was preparing to inflict on my beloved Saturn, a car which I might repurchase when my brother eventually graduates from college, gets a newer car and moves to where-the-hell-ever his fiancée goes to law school, if she does. Despite my sentimentality, I had to remember it was an inanimate object. When it ignites its cylinders for the last time, whenever that may be, it will endure no pain. It is not sentient. Breathe deeply, and... let... it... go.
What's the difference between fiancé and fiancée? A man is a fiancé; a woman is a fiancée. I didn't realize there was a difference until I checked the spelling. Golly G. Willikers! Writing this weblog can be so educational! Hrmpf.
I agreed to sell the Saturn to my parents for a price between trade-in and retail value, a little lower than the midpoint. I did it right then and there on my mobile phone, pacing in the hallway at work, on a 28 minute phone call, 10 minutes of which were spent discussing a virus my dad thought was on his computer. The more I heard, the more it sounded like a hoax. Sure enough. So, in terms of what I bought and sold it for, the Saturn cost $5,000 to drive for 50,000 relatively trouble-free miles. That's about right.
They picked up the Saturn today, five days after the phone call. Now, I kid you not, my mom called on every one of those five days to ask if I was really, truly and absolutely sure this was what I wanted to do. Having arrived at my decision with the human equivalent of fuzzy logic and a desire to (literally) "help a brother out," she wasn't doing much for my sense of conviction. I know she's trying not to pressure me into selling, but dude, there comes a point where one attains sufficient certainty. See what I mean? She's risk averse, a complete worrywart, and her variety of it is contagious.
I talk to my cars. No, really, I do - it fosters a sense of trust and respect between car and driver. When I came home Friday after driving the Saturn, I took off my shoes in the foyer, deactivated the alarm system and poked my head in the garage, chuckling as I told the Prius, "Now it's just us, my friend.":: Bryan Travis :: 01/13/2002 @ 21:30 :: [link] ::
I'd like to make an observation before beginning:
Last night after class and taking care of email (I'm so far behind), I started jonesin' for a Guinness.
Cool Fact Break™: What the hell is the etymological origin of "jones"? Better yet, what exactly does it mean? My vague notion was it roughly meant to have a "hankering" for something, as we say in Kentucky. ...So after the Guinness, the significant other called. She was having wine, and sounded ever so happy. I became acutely aware my own glass of red wine would be nice. I usually don't eat much dinner at night (my secret to losing 30 pounds last year) and as any wine connoisseur knows, fermentation gives wine powerful flavors that simply go better with food.Mini-Aside Note™: Remember the cowboy on those ABC Saturday morning Schoolhouse Rock songs from the 1970s and 80s? "When my 10 gallon hat is feeling 5 gallons flat, I hanker for a hunk of cheese." That was awesome. Sometimes I miss my childhood. Of course, don't you know I had to fire up the ole KaZaA client in pursuit of the Schoolhouse Rock songs? "I'm Just a Bill" and "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here" - I love it! Hi! Suppose you're going nut-gathering. Your buddy wants to know where and when. Use an adverb and tell him!... I was shocked to discover "jones" is slang for heroin or the addiction thereto. Well, not really shocked, more like distinctly enlightened - I've seen Trainspotting and watch the various television series on HBO and Showtime. Booya! How's that for cultural awareness? I've got all this, and look, ma - no criminal record! "TV is a cultural wasteland," my arse! If anything, after watching five seasons of "Oz" and starting the sixth last week, I'd be much less likely to do something that would land me in prison.
After opening a bottle of 2000 Banrock Station Shiraz (I was going to link to their website, but every page on the United States section pops up the accursed Comet Cursor Plus download; interestingly enough, none of the sites for the other regions - Australia, Canada, Europe, etc. - offered it; I'll email them to ask why that is), I scoured the cupboards for something that could stand up to a red wine like Shiraz. Typically, this would be something like a beef or lamb dish or a sharp cheese with bold flavor. I'm no chef, and there was no cheddar in the fridge, so I looked for substitutes. A hot dog with Grey Poupon would have hit the spot, but alas, I'm not a fan of processed meats and had no hot dogs, but I did have a can of Spam:
"The 12:30am late-night dinner course was fried Spam served with Spam, Spam and Spam, garnished with Spam, presented on a stoneware saucer delicately decorated with Spam grease. The Spam dish had a flavor not unlike Hormel bacon strips with the texture of sausage patties, both fine breakfast meats and requisite staples of the American diet, I can assure you. The wine presented was 2000 Banrock Station, a fine $11 Southeast Australian Shiraz. The Spam's spiced ham flavor stood up well to the wine's fruit, spice and mild tannin flavors."
What can I say? I'm a bachelor, and although I typically eat more or less healthy foods, I sometimes get food cravings like a pregnant woman. Maybe I had a Vitamin C deficiency - did you know Spam uses ascorbic acid as a preservative, such that each serving of Spam provides 30% of the U.S. RDA of Vitamin C goodness? Yeah, Spam is cool like that.:: Bryan Travis :: 01/13/2002 @ 12:01 :: [link] ::
:: Monday, January 07, 2002 ::
Welcome to the funtongue scatterplot redesign; and there was much rejoicing (non-committal Monty Python and the Holy Grail "yea..." here).
After having the drab, blue and gray earthtone Blogger template since starting last July, I was aiming for something a bit more colorful. It looks like a red-less box of crayons barfed on the browser. It'll have to do for a while - after spending the better part of a day working on it, I'm exasperated enough to go with just about anything. In retrospect, my error was in starting with my old layout and trying to design with a new color scheme instead of creating a new page layout first. After a few hours of frustration, I put away the web palette color wheel and forced myself to decide on a page layout first. Then I took out the color wheel, and the process seemed to flow more smoothly.
Still a few changes left. The archive and "Best of" pages use the weblog's generic layout format, so they were easy to convert. The "About" and "Join/ Leave Notification List" pages use modified layouts, and my CSS won't play nice as-is, so I'll either standardize the pages or create new classes to accommodate them. Finally, I'll make a simple graphic banner instead of using text. Hopefully, once the redesign is complete, I'll be able to enjoy writing posts using a layout of my own design (no matter how insidious in appearance) without the dark cloud of shame that comes from using a shamelessly "borrowed" template.
Free advertising: Praise to Visibone's web design tools. From web color palettes to CSS and character code references, they rock.:: Bryan Travis :: 01/07/2002 @ 07:20 :: [link] ::
:: Saturday, January 05, 2002 ::
I just checked, and to my delight, I haven't linked a fancy word to dictionary.com since September, and even then, it only happened once during the whole month, and even then, it was for effect. Truth be known, if I link to dictionary.com, it's usually because I found the word on thesaurus.com and didn't know the word's definition myself, so it's not being condescending per se, it's saying, "Hi! I found this scrumptuous new word and wanted to share its meaning with you!":: Bryan Travis :: 01/05/2002 @ 12:32 :: [link] ::
:: Friday, January 04, 2002 ::
Ali offers his commentary on the tense situation over Kashmir between India and Pakistan. He chides both sides of the conflict - India for a condescending attitude towards its rival, Pakistan for incongruous behavior - and reminds us of the unseen third party, the people of Kashmir.
Ali is an Indian Muslim, and that's why I value his opinion more than any other when trying to disseminate the situation for myself. He is well-informed on this conflict rooted in the religious divide between one people living in two countries - Hindus in India and Muslims in Pakistan - and his combination of citizenship and religion gives him an objective perspective.
As for me, I think how events play out between two feuding nuclear powers has greater impact on the world as a whole than what goes on in Afghanistan. It scares me so.:: Bryan Travis :: 01/04/2002 @ 22:12 :: [link] ::
Some coworkers and I went to lunch at a Chinese buffet today. About five or ten minutes after we arrived, another group walked in and sat at the next table. They also worked for my employer. I could tell this in only five seconds by the expressions on their faces, their walk and the way they interacted with one another - just five seconds. Then I saw their ID badges, which confirmed it; we had put our badges in our pockets.
A few years of total immersion in the corporate world doesn't always have that profound of an effect on a person. Moreover, of the several corporate presences in the city, I knew exactly which one they worked for. It's that my employer has a distinct business culture. These people weren't in I/T and we didn't know them; they probably worked somewhere in the manufacturing and production or distribution organizations. Yes, the business culture is strong enough that one can almost discern which organization someone else works in. It's like an accent - it doesn't always match with the facts, and sometimes it's too imperceptable to detect, but usually serves as a highly correlated rule of thumb.
After we ate, we sat around talking for a few minutes. Another coworker in the office called someone at our table, who relayed the question to me, asking if we had a team meeting at 1:00pm. I shook my head and said jokingly, perhaps louder than I should have when surrounded by those who do not know me, "What kind of moron would schedule a one o'clock on a Friday?" About three heads at the next table turned in my direction. As I said, we didn't know them and our badges were off, but I couldn't escape a feeling of shame.
We work 50+ hours a week. If there's a distress call during the weekend, we dial or drive in and take care of it. We are dedicated. We are not slackers. So why do I feel like a heel for taking an hour and a half for lunch on a Friday? Actually, Human Resources has a strong presence in our I/T organization, so I enjoy my job for the most part, and most folks in the I/T organization would think it a faux pas to schedule a 10 person meeting at 1:00pm on a Friday. I guess such views are unpopular in other departments. Oh, well... that's their loss - let them have a massive coronaries in their early 50s. If they think me a lesser creature for scoffing at an afternoon meeting before 1:30, to hell with 'em! My lazy, worthless habits make for a much higher quality of life.:: Bryan Travis :: 01/04/2002 @ 16:38 :: [link] ::
:: Wednesday, January 02, 2002 ::
What a year 2001 was. We didn't make it to Jupiter or muse whether a computer had emotions. Instead we were painfully reminded of the serious problems in our own backyards requiring attention.
On a personal level, 2001 was the year I went to the brink and back. Much as the terrorism of September 11 was the news story of the year in the U.S., my relationship with the significant other was the event of the year in my personal life. After pushing her to the brink, I finally sent her over it in February and March. Despite steady improvements in April, she broke it off and started seeing someone else in May.
After getting drunk with friends the next Monday night, one of them repeatedly said, "Either you know, or you don't." I woke up at 4am the next morning and had the famous four hour moment of clarity, when my priorities were finally decided and my life changed. I bought a ring that night. Nine days later I proposed to her. Four days after that, she turned me down. Well, it has to happen to someone.
The summer was spent finding ways to put it out of mind. I took up kayaking and spending more time outdoors. I subscribed to high speed Internet access and started writing a weblog. I discovered several unique restaurants in Louisville. I bought my first new car. I went back to school for an MBA. Oh, sure, I'll be the first to admit I'd rather run from a problem than deal with it head-on - wouldn't we all? But when I flee from a problem, I do it in style.
Despite my best efforts, n'er a day went by without it haunting me... 169 haunting days... when the impossible happened and we began putting our relationship back together.
It looked like 2001 was going to be the worst year of my life, but events came full circle, and there was a great fourth quarter recovery. 2002 is the year of new beginnings.
Other 2001 highlights include losing 30 pounds, a caffeine addiction, appreciation of little-known import beers, beginnings of thinning hair, growing herbs, curing my cat's bladder infections, a handful of projects at work, and realizing that sometimes there's absolutely nothing we can do. I can't remember much else, which is one reason I started writing a weblog.
When an entire year distills to an hour's worth of memories, you can't escape the painful awareness life is slipping through your fingers. At least with a weblog, an entire year can distill to three hours of reading, five if you're a slow reader like me. A 500% improvement should make the shareholders happy.:: Bryan Travis :: 01/02/2002 @ 19:31 :: [link] ::