Saturday, November 22, 2008

An Adventure, an Awesome, and an Airplane

Adventure: Downtown

So, after hearing that Russell was deathly ill with fever we decided to cancel Warhammer 40K round 2: metal mayhem. Now without a fixed point to guide my wanderings that evening, I chanced upon a call from Ms. Teagle. She wanted to know if I wanted to go see a play about one of her friend's travels around the world, so I said sure. I got her in the car and we headed out... to downtown Minneapolis.

Now, many of you may here the term "downtown Minneapolis" and not shudder in horror; in fact, you may laugh at those of us who do. Granted there is not as much traffic as in other, larger cities, but the layout is almost certainly more confusing. Streets are randomly decided to be one way, and many more are blocked off by the scattered bits of construction that pockmark downtown like chicken pox. The most dangerous and frustrating part of all of this, however, is the light rail. Normally a beautiful, well thought out thing in most cities of renown, the Minneapolis light rail is very dangerous in downtown because it looks like a normal street and is very easy to drive on to.

My personal experience with this happened that night. We wanted to make a right turn to try to find parking near the bar where the show was and accidentally turned onto the tracks, not knowing that the real street was actually in the third most left lane of the "street." Panicked, I pulled onto the sidewalk and assessed the situation with Teagle. Fortunately no trains were coming, but there was still the matter of getting from the sidewalk on the right side of the "street" to the actual street all the way to the left. The city planners seemed to have realized that their planning made no sense and thus made the medians seperating the two lanes of train and the lane of actual traffic by very low medians that can be driven over with care.

We managed to make it over the medians before oncoming trains flattened us and continued to try to find our way to a parking place. Unfortunately all right turns were denied to us by the light rail tracks, and this continued all the way until the tracks (and our road!) ended. 7 minutes of circling back around eventually got us back to our starting point, but still... what the hell, Minneapolis?

As a good note, the show was really good. It got me thinking about exactly what my "culture" is, and how typical it is of American, or any other culture on the planet. It also got me thinking about my heritage and how much that defines me. For myself, it does quite a bit, but I still think of my self as an American with German ancestry, not a German-American. There were some other good tidbits, like realizing just how different some cultures can be and exactly what some cultures find refreshing, fun, outrageous, etc.

Awesome: Danny Boyle

So, Danny Boyle is awesome. It takes a lot of people a while to realize this mostly because his movies are all so different from one another. In his directorial resume are such disparate movies as Trainspotting (need to see), 28 Days Later (probably the best zombie movie around despite the zombies not being the stars of the show)... and Slumdog Millionaire.

The last is his latest work that just debuted this past Friday. It tells the story of a boy and those closest to him, from his origins in the slums of Mumbai, throughout India and eventually back home, all in the search for who he is and to find his childhood sweetheart again.

The first really awesome thing about this movie is the fact that it is all told in retrospect as the main character is being investigated for cheating on India's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. The second is that, while the movie can be lighthearted at times, it is also ruthless to its characters and subjects them to all sorts of real trauma, both physical and emotional, so it's a love story with something at stake. And the music is awesome, and every single person who saw the movie with us (i.e. the entire theater) enjoyed it, as well as 50 other screenings according to the pollster guy at the exit, which is kind of ridiculous. SO: go see it. NOW.


I went home to New York on Friday. Yay! On the way I got to have a philly cheesesteak in Philly. Yay! I then got to sit in the woods for 4.5 hours waiting for invisible deer. Yay! Then I played Heroes 5 and Fallout 3. Yay!


Until next time...

"We can't define anything precisely. If we attempt to, we get into that paralysis of thought that comes to philosophers… one saying to the other: 'you don't know what you are talking about!'. The second one says: 'what do you mean by talking? What do you mean by you? What do you mean by know?'"
-Richard Feynman, The Feynman Lectures on Physics

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Party, an Anniversary, and the 15th best invention of the year

So, on Friday our house decided to hold a party. There was no reason for this party other than we wanted awesome, so awesome we would have. This was a great idea for a couple of reasons. First, awesomeness is, by definition, awesome. Second, our house was a mess. In my family our rule is we clean the house up for parties but rarely at any other time, and it seems my house follows the same rule. So at least for a few hours before the party our house sparkled. Third, I had no other plans for the night, and drinking beer/ F_ _ _ Me punch with friends I haven't seen in a while sounded like a good idea.

We had plenty of beer and punch, and Josh went all out making even more stuff, like a cauldron of homemade chai, pigs in a blanket, beer-cheese dip and toasted french bread. Our guests also brought all sorts of awesomeness, like beer, brownies, swedish meatballs, and more booze. I got to see a lot of people that I see a lot, some that I haven't seen in ages, and even got to meet some new people. Unfortunately I had to go to bed at some point (stupid working on Saturdays...), but it was definitely a lot of fun while it lasted.

At work the next day my students didn't show up for the first class and were late for the second. Because of this we barely had time to get through the day's lesson before I had to shut down early because the other person at the site wanted to go home early. (CommonBond has a policy of having at least 2 people at the advantage center while it is open). So, I did some paperwork and headed home early.

When I got home I began unlocking the door only to have it opened for me by Rachel, who was staring at me with shock and some form of wrath.
"What are you doing home already?"
"I got off early from work."
"Oh, okay." *slams door in my face*
We have a long giggling conversation about my coming home early and ruining something; I don't remember a lot of it except for Rachel calling me "punk" a dozen times or so. We were celebrating our three year anniversary that day (woohoo!), so I can only assume it had something to do with that.

Anyway we calmed down and headed out to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. We arrived just in time to take a tour of the India: Private Places and Public Spaces gallery before the museum closed. It was a pretty cool exhibit, especially the video bits, and Rachel swooned over pretty much everything in the room. One thing that I found particularly interesting/disturbing was a video projected on a screen before which 72 mirrors were placed on the floor. For the most part the video showed the pictures of waves crashing against the shore, but would occasionally show pictures of horrific circumstances like the Holocaust, Indian train disasters, etc., with weird, disjointed sound bites from each as the water slowly turned red. Pretty weird, as I said.

After this we tried to head to our restaurant but I got the bus wrong and we ended up about 2 blocks from a Blockbuster. We figured renting a movie was cheaper than going to see one, so we said what the heck, rented Godfather Part II and headed to dinner, which was at a place called Moto-I.

Moto-I is the only sake brewhouse outside of Japan and it is located at Lyndale and Lake in Minneapolis. The sake is delicious and the food is rather expensive for the portions that are delivered, but we figured that our anniversary deserved a splurge. We tried three different kinds of sake and had bulgogi beaf and lettuce wraps, baby octopus and seaweed, some curry chicken dumplings, a tofu bun, and icecreams served with sweet potato candy. Delicious.

We then headed home to watch our movie... which was kind of weird. I popped the disk in and the first thing I saw was a car going through the snow. I was kind of confused as to why there wasn't a title screen, but I figured that would come later and promptly forgot about it. The plot seemed kind of confusing, like they were assuming that we had a lot of inside knowledge, but once again I assumed that there would be a flashback sequence or something that would explain everything. And so the movie kept on going, and got even darker than before... and then it was suddenly over. I spoke up and said "Wow, that was really short," at which point Rachel just started laughing and popped out the disk. Apparently we had only rented disk 2 of the Godfather, Part II by accident and had only watched the second half of the movie, and neither of us had realized it.

Any way, that brings us to today and me making pancakes for breakfast using an old family recipe. It also brings us to my trolling online and finding the 15th best invention of the year according to Time magazine.

Can you guess what it is?

Yup, it's Dr. Horrible., which beat out bionic contacts, shadowless skyscrapers, and the video game Spore, which only got the 20th place. The latter kind of pisses me off because... Spore? It's not even a very good game! Ach... oh well.

Until next time...

"What ought to be done to the man who invented the celebrating of anniversaries? Mere killing would be too light. Anniversaries are very well up to a certain point, while one's babies are in the process of growing up: they are joy-flags that make gay the road and prove progress; and one looks down the fluttering rank with pride. Then presently one notices that the flagstaffs are in process of a mysterious change of some sort--change of shape. Yes, they are turning into milestones. They are marking something lost now, not gained. From that time on it were best to suppress taking notice of anniversaries."
- Mark Twain's Notebook, 1896

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Life at Commonbond

So, I promised an update about work, so here it is. For those of you who don't remember/are too lazy to look back through my blog posts, I am working as the computer lab manager at Skyline Tower in St. Paul. This basically means that I run adult, teen and youth computer labs, offer education classes on the computer, and teach basic computer skills classes.

Lately I have been working on a couple of projects at once. About two weeks ago I heard from corporate that the Geek Squad at a local Best Buy wanted to volunteer somewhere and that I should try to get them to volunteer here. We've been exchanging e-mails since then, and I think they may come on board. This would be awesome, as I could really use their help putting together an advanced skills class, teach more classes and hopefully eventually get a projector for the lab.

The classes I have been teaching have had... spotty attendance at best. It seems that my two classes are in cahoots with one another because a) the word cahoots is awesome, and b)they alternate the days on which they show up. So Basic 2 will show up one day and Basic 1 will show up the next. When they do show up, they're pretty awesome, as they really want to learn stuff. The Basic 1 folks have so far learned what hardware and software are, can identify everything on the desktop, and learned to manipulate/create windows and folders. Next class will be a review class before I skip class again to go home and shoot things (pew! pew!), which kind of sucks because I want more time with them. Grr. The Basic 2 people are learning the joys of Microsoft Word; that should keep them busy for another 4-5 weeks or so, then it's Excel's turn to have fun.

There are also a couple of special projects that I'm working on. The one that is using up the most time is reworking our GED program. For a while I was stymied as to what exactly should I do, but I got a meeting together with the Hubbs Center, which is an adult learning center. A woman named Pam helped me out and realize many of the fundamental problems with our program and gave me some ideas as to how to fix them. Now I'm looking up a lot of reading comprehension stuff, as our main problem is getting the residents up to a ninth grade reading level, as well as trying to get money to buy GED and pre-GED books for the lab.

My other main special project is trying to get free computers for some of my residents and one guy in particular. He's a real character and has taken it upon himself to verbally trip me up at every opportunity. For instance, at our first meeting I was placing some papers up on the central message board in the lobby. As I was moving to the next board he called out to me and said "Hey, you dropped something!" I whirled around, but didn't see anything. I looked back to him quizzically and he simply grinned and said "Your smile- welcome to the family." Apparently he's been having lots of trouble sleeping because of his experiences in Vietnam and wants to take the GED at some point, but wants to be able to study at night in his room to fight insomnia. I've managed to locate a place that could help him, but I am currently still in negotiations with them. Hopefully that'll be resolved soon.

I also help people out with resumes and online job applications. Some of these are nice, as I know I'm really helping someone get a job. Sometimes, though, I just know from the outset that the person has no chance in hell of getting that job, and most of that is due to simple English deficiencies. I try to recommend programs, but mostly I fall on deaf ears.

But not everything is bad... though the kids and teens can be annoying as all get out sometimes. I like my coworkers, the people here generally like me, and I'm doing good for people for at least a year. Not a bad way to spend my time, I figure.

Well, I'll stop rambling for now. I've got much more important things to do, like watching the lab... and naming my Eldar army... and getting gaming feedback to Russell... and coming up with a question to ask William that isn't "Who killed the prince?"... yeah, real important stuff.

Until next time...

"In all the ages, three-fourths of the support of the great charities has been conscience money."
- "A Humane Word from Satan" by Mark Twain

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Return of the Blog

Wow, it's been a while since I updated this thing, hasn't it? Well, most of the reason for that was me studying for the physics GRE which absorbed my nights for quite some time. The GRE was last Saturday... but I didn't take it. The why of this is because ETS apparently never got the money for my test and never bothered to tell me about that until I called on the Thursday before the test asking for my registration ticket. Now, granted, there were a few things I could have done here- like, realize that there was such a thing as a registration ticket in the first place and check my credit card statements. But still... couldn't you send me an e-mail besides the confirmation e-mail that I thought guaranteed me a place at the test saying that you never got my money? Oyveh Maria...

Anyway, with that out of the way until freaking APRIL (grumble grumble death plot grumble) I now have a lot of free time on my hands. Some of this I have spent cooking things, and other parts of it doing geekier things... like brushing up on Warhammer 40K.

Now, before any of you freak out that I'm going to be broke playing this game, two things:
1. I'm already broke, how much worse can it get, and
2. I'm not actually buying any pieces, codices or books; just borrowing, proxying, and pirating like a good boy.
Since Russell is already gung-ho for Abaddon Chaos and Pechous wants to be the Space Marines I am forced to play with the Eldar, aka Space Elves. (No, seriously, they even have pointy ears and everything!) So I stole the codex from online and looked up army lists, deciding on Alaitoc because I love stealth and snipers, and they have them aplenty.

Another thing that I have done with my life recently is go up to Duluth to go see Rachel's parents and get my snow tires. While we were there the Carrolls took us out to Timberlodge Steakhouse (Would you like to load your [insert already kind of unhealthy food item here] with [insert incredibly unhealthy sounding dressing/food item here]?) and to a concert featuring the British Quartet Cantabile.

They were described to us as a "singing/comedy group", which sounded kind of wierd, but describes them perfectly. Basically they are an accapella group that has toured all over the world singing songs quite beautifully and/or disrespectfully, and ESPECIALLY if the songs in question don't have any words. For instance, their first song was a medley of a bunch of famous orchestral pieces where they sang all of the different instruments at once, mocking it along the way. They also sang some really beautiful pieces without a hint of irony; one that especially got to me was "Bist Du Bei Mir." It's a German song that can be sung in three or four parts, and I have sung it many times in my youth with my brothers and my church choir, and I also sung it the last time I saw my great-grandmother alive. Hearing it sung excellently before a crowd was really awesome and definitely put a smile to my face as I tried to sing along.

However, what was probably their best piece was also the last of their program, where they took a Frank Sinatra song and sang it as if it were a broken record, skipping their words, changing keys in wierd ways and speeding up and slowing down at random. All in all, hilarious.

Well, I don't want to bore you too much, so I'll talk about how work has been going in my next post. Again, sorry about the delay in posting, and hopefully I'll be able to keep more in touch from now on.

Until next time...

"The reason I dread writing letters is because I am so apt to get to slinging wisdom & forget to let up. Thus much precious time is lost."
- Letter to James Redpath from Mark Twain, 6/15/1871