Brick

Posted in Life on December 28th, 2008 by Tom

Another Christmas, come and gone. Every year, it sneaks up on me quicker and quicker. Remember as a kid, the month of December was far and away the longest? Every day an agony, keeping you from your presents seemingly out of spite?

As a kid, I guess it never bothered me much, but in more recent years I’ve had a little residual guilt about being so excited about presents. You know, figuring that maybe I’m some sort of materialistic jerk who only cares about having things for himself? I worry a lot about these things, and not about what people will think, so much as what I am, in some strange objective sense of comparison.

I help to assuage such a guilty conscience by putting a lot of thought into giving other people A) Things they actually want, or B) Something that’ll at least make them laugh. If you can make them laugh of smile, it means you know them well enough to be a little clever, and if you know them well enough for that, maybe… just maybe, they doing think you’re some sort of Materialistic Jerk who only cares about having things for himself.

That’s how me and my neuroses get through the holidays.

Not It’s time for the gift list! I do this ever year less for you and more for me, becuase it would be depressing if I couldn’t tell you exactly what I got for Christmas in, say, The Year 2005. Please note the single overlap gift between 2005 and 2008: the Chili’s Gift Card. If that doesn’t say something interesting about me, I don’t know what will.

New Keyboard-
The thing is so, so beautiful. Plus it lights up, and who doesn’t love visual stimuli.
I even took a picture.

External Hard Drive-
500GB of extra space to store my overabundance of saved webcomics, pornography, and lol-cats.
(I wonder if sometimes I should joke less about pornography. Like maybe people will start to think I’m some type of pervert. Then I remember that most people, in spite of what they say, are at least a tad perverted. It’s a symptom of the human condition. Recalling that, I worry less. For the record, I feel I’m a pretty normal-caliber pervert.)

LEGO Star Wars Tank-
The thing has a Zero-Point turning radius. I’d say the only thing it’s missing is 25″ spinners… but everyone knows you can’t put a spinner some something that’s powered by repulsor-lifts. Sheesh. P.S.: IT’S A TANK!.

Books-

    ,

  • Cross-X; concerns the story of a debate team that fought the odds in the crappy KCMO school system.
  • The Power of Myth; Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell get their chat on, discuss life, Star Wars, religion, and other weighty subjects.
  • Looking for Alaska; John Green writes another book about Me. Or at least a character that is essentially Me.

DVDs-

  • The Dark Knight; not much else to say!
  • House, Season 4; I’m liking this the second time through a LOT more than I did when it was on TV.
  • 30 Rock, Season 1; asked for this on a whim, and was not disappointed. Ethan and I worry they will cancel this poor, delightful program.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000; featuring Pod People, my all-time favorite!

Clothing-

  • Communist Party T-Shirt; featuring Lenin, Marx, et. al.
  • Striped (Horiz.) Sweater; because I don’t look fat enough! It really is warm though.

Misc-

  • Risk; just need friends with which to play this now. Hrm.
  • Chili’s Gift Card; Thanks Aunt Barb!
  • Brick of Socks; Thanks Mom Santa!
  • Fleet Foxes; the only CD I got, which is weird I guess. It’s fantastic though.

If I forgot something, oh well. Jeez I get to much junk. Thing is, I’m going to put it all to good use, so it’s hard to feel too awful.

The next day, after Christmas, I had to go to work. At 7 AM, a time I’ve not seen in many, many weeks (Even at NURO, I was usually asleep by then!), I drove down to the ol’ Foxhill Tower Cleaners. On my way there, I listened to today’s song. Not becuase I was thinking about Ben Folds, or abortions, or anything, but becuase he uses the line, “It’s 6 AM, day after Christmas…” And I thought it was kinda cool that I got up at 6 AM, on the day after Christmas. Plus, Brick makes for great mopey-morning music.

Going back to Tower, particularly my alma matter branch, Foxhill, is always weird. That place is like a time machine. As soon as I walk in, it’s the winter of 2004. The place is freezing, becuase we have no central heat. Business is slow, like always. I brought a battery of distractions that work only for a little while before I realize how uncomfortable every chair in the store is. I eventually settle for taking a nap on the floor. There are worse places to work, I think, unable to sleep, but laying on the floor nonetheless.

All-in-all, it’s good to be back.

Blog before the new year? Probably not a normal one, but I will have the Musical Year in Review done by 2009.

Shut Up I Am Dreaming of Places Where Lovers Have Wings

Posted in Life, Nerd, Random on December 24th, 2008 by Tom

Hey there, Idiots.
(I bill myself as being crass, eventually you knew I’d make good on it.)

So how’s this blog thing working out for everyone? I’m really enjoying it, and surprised to still see a few comments crop up. The few, the proud! Thanks for sticking with me.

I did some (see: all) of my holiday shopping (can’t really call it Christmas shopping, can I? Do non-believers get to lay claim to the holiday yet? I think not.) on the 22nd, and I couldn’t help but feel guilty. I don’t even know why, but there in checkout-lane 16 at Target, as the woman scanned my meager assortment of items destined for gift-dom, I felt strangely embarrassed. Not so much becuase I’d put off my shopping, but that I was shopping for gifts at all. As near as I can tell, such a feeling is derived from the Counter-Culture Component of my personality (est. 2002), which I thought had since subsided.

Not doing stuff becuase everyone else is doing it is about as dumb as doing stuff becuase everyone else is doing it. And so, I’ve forgone that old dichotomy of either trying to “fit in” or “stand out”. I don’t really have the energy for that type of conviction these days. I just thought it was funny that I still have residual emotions from worldviews I held more than five years ago.

Since I’ve been home I’ve started doing this weird thing. Not necessarily new, but really weird. Have you ever fallen asleep in front of the television before? I know it happens on accident, but I’ve started doing it on purpose. Ethan accused me of turning into my father, but it’s different. Dad sleeps in front of the TV becuase he’s never done with what he wants to do. Going to bed is an admission of defeat to your day, so to speak (I know becuase I think along similar lines; as long as you stay above the covers, you might still finish that final task…). What I’ve started doing is different.

I went downstairs, blanket in hand, sat down, flipped on the set. At my house, since we pay for Super Mega Cable, we have this thing where you pick what movie you want to watch, and you can watch it for free. I use it mostly for the porn, but tonight I chose the Bourne Ultimatum. I’ve never seen this movie, but when it started, I promptly curled up and fell asleep.

I saw… maybe five minutes of the film. Matt Damon all running around a train station and whatnot. The real point of this story is that I took the trouble to load up a movie I’d never seen, and would otherwise watch, but with the express intention of falling asleep! What would posses me to do such a thing; how does one justify it?! I’m unsure.

Today I read a bunch of webcomics. It’s a thing I do. My apologies to friends/family who may have received unsolicited webcomic-links in their inboxes in the past few days… I’m kindof into them for the moment. Particularly the history/randomness of Kate Beaton, along with the stark (and on occasion, delightfully crude) insight of A Softer World. I’ve been enjoying both quite a lot, however:

There was a moment in there were it simply became too much. Reading hipster webcomics is bad enough, but in that moment Sufjan Stevens came up in my iTunes which had been shuffling about. I almost keeled over and died, such was the spike in my indie cred levels. Alas, that is not the real me, and a track from the Star Wars soundtrack was quick to follow Sufjan, bringing my cred levels back to within the acceptable tolerance range from “loser” to “nerdy guy”. Thank heavens.

Reading a lot of webcomics always instills me with this strange sense of purpose. I feel like I could make a webcomic. So strong was this feeling, way back when, in days long-since-gone-by (Brak Blog, c. 2004 to be exact), I actually MADE a webcomic! I did. Below is the cumulative sum of fruition that came of that dream:

Uninspired, I know. I am, however, pretty impressed with the art. Not great, but not… vomit-inducing. Sad that that’s the best thing I can find to say about it, but hey. A spade’s a spade, right? And that was four years ago. I’ve loved a lot of ladies, learned a lot of physics, and grown exponentially more pretentious since then. Perhaps the dream is not lost just yet?

I think that problem is that I put the cart before the horse. How about I hone my drawing skills first, THEN maybe try and include some variety of wit or wisdom. Guess what!? New blog-feature! I’ll steal our scanner from downstairs (Mom threw it down there because it didn’t fit with the aesthetic of our new office furniture…), set it up in the Command Center 2.0 next semester, and you’ll all bear witness to how terrible my art is.

Guess I’ll go draw now.
*CRAP!*

(Year-End Album Reviews Up Soon. I’M GLARING AT YOU IAN.)

Saturday Morning

Posted in Life, Technology on December 18th, 2008 by Tom

So today was a pretty good day. Things are starting to sort themselves out and pandemonium of the close of Fall Semester has FINALLY started to die down.

Doing my best to get ready for the Spring Semester; hitting the ground running and all that. I need to figure out of Tower will be requiring my services again (I feel like Rambo: they keep bringing me out of retirement to send me to Vietnam… Where Vietnam is Johnson County, and the Viet Cong are easily annoyed New Money Types.). I’ve got to get working on applications for summer internships. I’m looking at one in Germany, even! Plus some in Boston. I really, REALLY want to get a good one, so I’m going to work really hard on these.

I also need to log some serious time working on some analysis of astronomy data; the idea being that Cody and I may be working on a paper of sorts in the early weeks of Spring Semester.

So that’s the work end of things. For fun, I’ve been playing with getting my computers to talk to each other with VNC. That basically means you can open up a window on Computer 1, and in that window you see the desktop of Computer 2, and can use it as if you were sitting in front of it, which I think is cool. I’ve yet to get it to work on my Server-To-Be machine though.

In a previous entry, I mentioned wanting to get a server up and running. Well, the machine is here, and I even loaded it with my old install of Ubuntu, so that much is done. Getting it to play nice with VNC has been trying, and I haven’t even broached the actual “server” aspect of the project. That’s essentially a work in progress, but I do love a project, and this one is keeping me pretty occupied.

Trying to think if anything else happened…
Got back from Arizona. The house was SO DAMN COLD. It was a little unpleasant, and I slept only about three hours before driving home through the snowstorm on an all-Radiohead playlist (a la 2007 Break Drive Home), which was always an experience.

Got some stuff worth looking forward to, mainly the write-up edition of Tom & Ian’s Top Albums of 2008. We did the radio-edition, which isn’t posted yet, but will be soon. I might work on that later this evening, but we’ll see. FTP-ing 2-hour-long MP3 files… is painful. For you guys though, it’s worth it.

Oh! And I’ve been pouring a ton of time and effort into the planning phase of my RPG I’m working on! I really like the storyline I’ve come up with so far, and I’m finally getting it to where I like the flow… it’s just now I need to actually execute that all into a game that is perhaps maybe a tiny bit fun, and people will want to play. (Where ‘people’ is Ian and Joey, and Ethan if I ask nicely.)

But really, the point is that things are looking up.
For once.

All the Things That Go to Make Heaven and Earth

Posted in Nerd, School, Technology on December 12th, 2008 by Tom

So we had our first night of observing up at Lowell: It was pretty badass. The control system they have is pretty slick: One computer, aptly named “MOVE” controls the direction of the dome/telescope contraption, while the other, named “PEGASUS”, operates a software package called LOIS (Lowell Observatory Instrument System) that takes the pictures and can run some useful mid-observing tests.

We arrived at around 6:30, PM. Ed, the super-nice technician dude helped us get started, showing us how LOIS worked, what to be careful of when moving the dome and telescope, and how to restart the whole shebang when (yes, when, not if) it should crash. Soon, we were off.

Cody and I ended up going first, so we pulled two targets off our giant heap and started going for it. This process ended up entailing an exceedingly simple and repetitive series of actions that Cody and I needed to perform every 15 seconds. An exposure takes 10 seconds, and then about 5 more seconds for the system to reset itself, then we point it to the second target, repeat. Point it back at the first, repeat, and so on. We did this until 11:30. I’m still a little scared to do the math, but we ended up taking something like 300 images on that first go. *cringe*

Then Cody and I had a break while Nick and Kerry did their thing. Eventually though, around 3 AM, myself and Cody were back in the hot seat. We picked two more targets, which thankfully were dimmer, and so needed longer exposure times, but basically entailed the same methodology. Sadly, we both began to fall apart around 6 AM (having been awake then for 16 hours, 8 of which were in what would be considered ‘normal sleeping time’): He’d move the dome while I was taking an image, or I’d take an image while he was moving the dome. We were a mess!

By 6:30, the decision was made to call it quits, and we happily did so. Quickly we returned to the Chalet for some sleep. I awoke at around 1 PM with something like six hours of sleep under my belt… Alarmingly, that’s pretty typical for me.

Only problem now is that we have no water, which is… unfortunate.
I’m dirty, and perhaps a tad over-hydrated.

We’ll see how this goes.

In Other News:
Mom and Dad got a new computer over Thanksgiving, and after much begging, I convinced my mother to not throw the old one away (she HATES having old computer stuff around the house, as much as I love it, it seems). I’ve got big plans for this little machine though! I’m going to wipe the hard drive, and install the Ubuntu distro of Linux on it. Then, I’m going to try and run it as a web server out of my house!

“But Tom, you already have a web server! You pay a hefty chunk of money every year to keep it in operation! Why do you need two?!”

If this one works well enough, I can host Schrodinger’s Blog locally, and NOT have to pay a gazillion dollars a year to keep my crappy, little-used blog in operation. Also it would just be mega-hardcore to do it myself.

Joy Ride

Posted in Nerd, School on December 11th, 2008 by Tom

Well hey there, everybody.

Suppose it’s kindof been a while.

Getting back on that old blogging horse though, and I’ve decided there’s no better time in which to do that than during a trip! I’m currently sitting in “The Chalet,” a small living-quarters area located on the campus of Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ. Myself, Cody, Nick, Kerry Anne, and Dr. Beaky just arrived here about… six hours ago.

We were supposed to leave Kirksville at around 5:30 PM, on Tuesday, but to do weather conditions (see: Hellofsnow) we were delayed until around 7 AM Wednesday. We then proceeded to spend the next 24 hours driving across the Midwest into the Southwest to the grand state of Arizona. The best part? When we arrived here, they had forgotten to leave our keys out.

So here we are, 6 AM in the morning (local time), dead-dog-tired, covered in Car Grime (you know? that dirt that accumulates on your person only, and I mean ONLY in an automobile?), and we’re forced to sleep in our cold, cold minivan yet another two hours. That part was pretty miserable. Also sleeping around 12 hours in something that’s moving at about 70 MPH: no picnic either.

Case in point, we’re finally here! We sampled some fine cuisine along the way: Maple Something (Breakfast Diner in Macon, MO), McDonalds Adjacent to RestStop (surprisingly clean!), and finally the apex of MY trip: Chili’s in Amarillo, TX! It was stupendous. I think I’m focusing on food right now because we at at Chili’s at about… 9-something, CST, meaning I haven’t had food in like… 18 hours? Oh geez. Better get on that.

Feeling pretty good though. All-in-all, things turned out OK. Our little delay meant I got to stay on campus for a few more hours, which included a pretty good party, an adventure to the roost and the bowels of OP, and (my mouth salivates now, at the thought) Ian’s Custom Exam Treats!!! They were so good… I would kill for a cinnamon roll right now.

But enough about how hungry I am. Gonna figure out how to get music off my iPod and onto the website. Hope everyone’s finals/dead weeks are going well.