Thursday, February 26, 2009

Some videos while I'm sick

Well, I;m kind of sick right now and at home, so of course I turn to teh Interwebs to find more cool stuff. Ever wondered how the credit crisis actually works? Well, here you go!

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

And here's one that some of you can relate to. I'm personally banking on those skills coming in use.

Are Violent Video Games Adequately Preparing Children For The Apocalypse?
Well, I;m kind of sick right now and at home, so of course I turn to teh Interwebs to find more cool stuff. Ever wondered how the credit crisis actually works? Well, here you go!

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Delicious Mind Putty

So this week I had the pleasure of seeing two excellent shows: Happy Days by Samuel Beckett and Coraline. The former was a bit of a surprise to me- Teagle invited me along that morning as I was driving to work, and I figured "why not?" When she told me who the play was by I began having second thoughts. I mean, this is the man who wrote Godot, a play that I have heard I would hate above all others. Still, it was a free show, I got some Teagle Time (TM), so I figured why not.

Thank God I was extremely pleasantly surprised. Happy Days was an excellently executed, acted, and scripted play. Basically the play is about a woman who is partially buried in dirt. She doesn't seem very concerned about this, except for occasional terrified glimpses into her psyche where she realizes she can't remember life before the dirt. The only other actor, her husband, is more of a prop than anything else- occasionally says a few words, but that's about it. As you may have guessed, there was tons of symbolism going on, but not so much that the options for interpretation became endless. I think the version that Teagle and I came out with was that the woman was actually a terminally ill patient in a hospital who exhibited that depressing kind of optimism and can-do attitude that occasionally grips the soon to be departed, which was occasionally dispelled by momentary realizations of her condition. The husband at first simply made sure she was taken care of and visited her occasionally, but at the end realized that he had not done enough and was desperately trying to make up for it. There's a couple of other cool tidbits, but they wouldn't make much sense if you haven't seen the play. Suffice it to say that the show was very entertaining and engaged my brain in a way that a show hasn't done in... well, ever. Good job, Mr. Beckett- your weirdness paid off.

Speaking of weirdness, Coraline is awesome! We went on Friday to see the 3D version with Laura and were completely blown away. I think it's one of the very few times where a movie has elicited so many sounds of pure amazement, joy and terror from a group of 20-somethings. The visuals were spectacular, so much so that I caught our row audibly reacting to the impossible, beautiful images on the screen. The story was suitably whimsical and dark at the appropriate times, and many times at the same time. So much so that it might not actually be appropriate for children, but damn was it appropriate for us. The line between reality and fantasy becomes delightfully blurred towards the end, which made me smile evilly as I now have some more ammunition to use in my upcoming Changeling campaign. Finally, the 3D element- it's not needed, but it certainly amps up the visuals to a high degree. Nothing jumps out at you in a hackneyed manner- instead it draws you more convincingly into the story and manages to elicit even more "oohs" and "aahs" from the audience. Go see it. Now.

In other news:
-have been working on the e-waste project. Should soon have radio and print ads alerting ethnic minorities about their e-cycling options.
-junk mail is terrible for the environment. Just think about how many trees are cut down for paper and envelopes; how much water is used in paper manufacture; how much fuel is consumed in transporting logs, paper, envelopes, and junk mail; how few pieces of junk mail are acutally responded to; and how few of the rejected mails are recycled. Post if you want to get more info on stopping junk mail.
-got to see more Carleton folks on Saturday with rousing games of Catan and Heroscape (the latter took some getting used to after 40k, but was still fun.

Until next time...

"The castle-building habit, the day-dreaming habit--how it grows! what a luxury it becomes; how we fly to its enchantments at every idle moment, how we revel in them, steep our souls in them, intoxicate ourselves with their beguiling fantasies--oh, yes, and how soon and how easily our dream-life and our material life become so intermingled and so fused together that we can't quite tell which is which, anymore."
- "The $30,000 Bequest," by Mark Twain

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The 41st Millenium... on your screen!

So I've been talking a lot about Warhammer 40k, but chances are that most of you have never seen the pieces, let alone an actual game. Well, I'm here to change a little bit of that with some pics of a recent game that I played. It was President's Day, and I convinced Pechous and Russell that games needed to happen. So we descended on the darkened environs of Chaos to play with little metal men.


Russell and his 3000 pt Chaos Space Marines, featuring the combined might of the Thousand Sons and Khorne Berzerkers.


Pechous' Loyalist Space Marines, the Ice Jesters, led by the heroic Marneus Calgar.


My Eldar (aka Space Elves), defending the craftworld against the forces of Chaos.

We rolled to determine terrain and chose to compete using some older mission objectives. Across the battlefield we scattered 6 hidden objectives. Only one of them was the piece of intel/hostage/weapon that our forces wanted. Our goal was to have an infantry squad capture the hidden objective and hold on to it until the end of the game.

This is the field of battle. Objectives were placed in the ruin building, the patch of green forest, on the near side of the bridge, near the rocky plateau, and two others on opposite ends of the middle of the map.

The first round saw us with only our troops (common units, generally infantry) on the battlefield. Fortunately for me, my troops were all housed in dedicated transports... which happened to be heavily armed, flying tanks.

This meant that these fearsome looking Khorne Berzerkers were in for some trouble.

Unfortunately for us, Russell was about to start smashing our faces in with heavy infantry flaming Pechous' marines, axing my Dire Avengers, and Terminating more marines.

Fortunately for us, the mission didn't rely on annihilating one another, only capturing the objective that you can see on the bridge behind the demon. I managed to turboboost a unit of sword wielding wild women in a tank over to that corner of the board and take the objective on the last turn... but then Russell brought in some big guns.

That combined with a chaos space marine lord swinging a weapon so evil that it has a demon bound inside ended my poor red headed amazons and won the game for Russell. Still, it was fun, and I finally got to get some pics! Yay!

Until next time...

-Khorne Berzerker Chant

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Valentime's Day!

As many of you may be aware, this past Saturday was Valentime's [sic] Day, which the girl and I decided to celebrate in style. We began by giving each other gifts- she got me a geeky shirt, and I got her a ridiculous geeky shirt. Unfortunately the hearts on her shirt didn't light up properly, but I can guarantee you that when I get a fixed copy there shall be ridiculous pics.

We then got all spiffed up and headed out to El Meson, a nice Spanish/Caribbean restaurant on 35th and Lyndale. We got to have some very exciting looking and tasting treats like ceviche! (cold, not warm) After dinner we headed out to Yum! to grab some desert, which consisted of a slice of coconut cake. I was then directed to our mystery activity location by Rachel, who was having way too much fun not telling me where we were going. It turned out to be Patrick's Cabaret, which was having a cabaret and burlesque show that night. We got there a bit early, so we decided to head over to Town Talk Diner to kill some time.

If you haven't been to the Diner before, it is awesomeness distilled with a slight infusion of crazy. They have all sorts of delicious foods and drinks that are a bit off the beaten path- for instance, they make a lot of their own liquers and throw a lot of interesting twists into existing ones, like habanero infused scotch. The place was packed (it being Valentime's [sic] Day), but we managed to get two seats at the bar very quickly. I was immediately drawn to their alcoholic malteds and ordered one called Monkey Business (see above pic), which consisted of PB, banana liquer, chocolate, rum, and vanilla ice cream. It tasted like a chocolate fluffernutter and not at all like something that would get me drunk. Rachel had some kind of blackberry concoction with homemade liquer which was also fantastic.

We then headed on over to the Cabaret to wait in the quickly growing line. Even though it was pretty cold out, the line quickly snaked around out of the alley and down the sidewalk. The people at Patrick's didn't seem to mind- they happily crammed patrons in wherever they could find room. This led to a lot of people seeing the show, but unfortunately some bad sight lines for us unless we sat seiza style on our chairs. The show itself was pretty good- the musicians and singers were talented, the belly dancers jiggly, and the burlesque performances had the right mix of raunch and whimsy to make it incredibly entertaining. For instance, in one act the performer came out wearing pretty much only pink balloons. She had a heart shaped pin that she and audience members used to pop in a suitably suggestive manner. Once down to no balloons... let's just say that tassles are fun.

After the show we headed home to watch some 28 Days Later (best Valentime's [sic] Day movie ever!), but by 1:30 were too exhausted to finish the second half.

There's been some other stuff going on, but I'll wait till later to post about it. Until next time...

"What, Sir, would the people of the earth be without woman? They would be scarce, sir, almighty scarce."
- Speech given by Mark Twain, January 11, 1868

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Acting as the Man and Dream Blog

On Thursday I got to be the Man, in that I got to interview people for a position. It wasn't a very big position, just to be a Teen Tax Translator Assistant for the tax service that my site runs for the residents, but it still felt very cool to be the one interviewing people. I tried to be as friendly as possible, and give the teens interviewing a lot of slack, as most had never interviewed for anything before. My coworker Kristina was amused that I got such a kick out of telling people "Could you please shut the door? Thank you", and I really have no defense for my actions other than a slight case of megalomania. We had 6 candidates for 2 positions and quickly narrowed the field down to 3. Narrowing it to 2 was a bit harder and involved some reference checking, but we might still have 3 people just because we don't want to cut the odd teen out.

In other news, there's a cool new blog being run by Bedlam Theatre called I Dream of Dada. You can write into the blog with your dreams, and they will anonymously post them on the front page. From these dreams they will craft a play, which should lead to some pretty bizarre interactions and "wait a minute, that's mine!" moments. Even if you don't intend on posting, you should still check it out... especially since my dream is entitled "Just Me, My Girlfriend, and Sarah Michelle Gellar."

But today is V-Day, so I must fly. Until next time...

"Buffalo, Feb. 14. Dear Sir: I am only too proud of the chance to help with this the only Valentine I venture to write this day -- for although I am twain in my own person I am only half a person in my matrimonial form, and sometimes my wife shows that she is so much better and nobler than I am, that I seriously question if I am really any more than about a quarter! "
- Letter to an unidentified correspondent from Mark Twain, featured on an internet auction by Bennett Stamps, Baltimore, Maryland, March 2006

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Plethora of Plays

As the title suggests, I saw plenty of plays this past weekend. Two of these were at the Guthrie, thanks to a handy little deal wherein people who work for nonprofits could get 4 tickets to select shows for FREE. Rachel and I of course had to take advantage of this offer, and so we found ourselves with tickets to Two Gentlemen of Verona and A Delicate Balance.

Verona was an interesting play; we showed up about 25 minutes late (curse you I-94 random rush hours!) but still understood what was going on for the most part (being one of Shakespeare's early comedies, this is not to be unexpected). The play was being set in 1950's/60's America, complete with Honeymooner's style slapstick, crooning tunes from a man with a pompadour, and big boat cars. The stage was set up like a TV set from the period, with a projected backdrop and huge TV cameras filming the show and showing it on two huge black and white screens. At the intermissions the "stage manager" would come out and corral the audience and actors about just as if it were a live TV show recording. Probably the best part of the show was the actor playing Lance, one of the "clownish attendants" of the main character. He got to do most of the Honeymooner's style slapstick, sing a couple of songs with pompadour back up, AND go to walk around on stage with a real dog, all to great effect. Some parts of the play were definitely wierd and felt a bit out of place (the thugs, calling what is apparently a CEO an emperor), but overall I enjoyed it.

On Monday we went to the "pay-what-you-can" night for Planting Shelly Anne, the play Teagle AD'd, which I also enjoyed. The play is about a mother and the challenges and worries that she faces on a daily basis: will she get her daughter to eat again, is her husband cheating on her, how can she stop the polar ice caps from melting, and- most importantly- will she get the tulips planted before the first frost? She tries to corral everything with a to do list, but inevitably ends up not doing those things she really wanted to get done. There's also some day dreams and a remarkable fever sequence, but really I think it was the first half of the play that sold me on it, mostly because of how it reminds me of my mom... minus the cheating husband and a couple of other things. She always seems to want to do a lot of things but only ever manages to do a few; every other second is taken up by taking care of a family that certainly loves her but often takes her for granted, leaving her no time to plant her metaphorical tulips.

Tuesday saw Kristine Mackin, Joe Knoedler and Nick Netland come up to go see A Delicate Balance with me. First off, the set was fantastic- an actual, working elegantly shaped staircase, huge bookshelves, and set walls that gave the illusion of a vast, black dome. As for the play, I believe my term is "queerly enjoyable." By this I mean the premise of the play made little sense, but I liked the reactions it provoked. I don't want to spoil it if you do see it, but the play deals with loneliness and our reactions to it: how do we seek comfort from loneliness, and to what extremes will we go to to get it. The actress playing the daughter, Julia, gave an especially impassioned performance and definitely highlighted the "extremes" part of securing solace from being alone against the world.

In non play news, I also:
-explained computer science through PB&J
-have been watching Buffy like a fiend
-have spent way too much time looking up Eldar tactica

So, until next time...

"How curious and interesting is the parallel--as far as poverty of biographical details is concerned--between Satan and Shakespeare. ...They are the best-known unknown persons that have ever drawn breath upon the planet."
-"Is Shakespeare Dead?", by Mark Twain

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Gov't Money, An awesome weekend, and other stuff

So, I am now living on the support of the government. Yaaaaaaaaay. It turns out that applying for Food Support is actually quite easy if you have all of the proper documentation ripping and raring to go. Well, not ripping, but raring I think is still appropriate. Anyway, I went in, took my number, was immediately called up to a window where I filled out a blue form and handed in my previously complete CFAP (the form that gets you all the support you could ever need), then sat and waited for about 2 hours. I doodled a bit, drew up some new lists for teh geekedness, and was eventually called into Door 18.
Very few people get to go through Door 18, especially on their first try. Behind it are a bunch of people with computers, and you sit in a very short chair, one so short that you can barely see over the cubicle wall at the person processing your paperwork. It was a rather humbling experience, as the only way I could interact at all was to reach over this high ledge, like a kid handing reports over a kitchen table. If that was their intention, then bravo I say.
There I sat, handed over my documents, convinced them that I was in fact an Americorps member, and waited while the computer threw a hissy fit over my non-existant existant income (it's confusing, I know, but Americorps income does not count as income! Well, for the non-taxing gov't, anyway). Got my new form, headed down three flights of stairs, waited in another line in a surprisingly airport terminal-esque space, and got my EBT card (it's actually quite pretty and innocuous; bunch of fall colored trees, blue sky, looks like a credit card).

But the upside of that is now I can actually eat food without wondering how much it costs! Yay! And speaking of eating food, last weekend was pretty awesome. So one of Rachel's fellow AP people had a dinner party at her house courtesy of her host parents. It was in Edina, so we knew it would be a pretty good spread, but we were completely unprepared for the amazingness that was to happen. The couple were very friendly, and even had their own home brewed beer! (steam ale with an infusion of gooseberries- very crisp, excellent blend of hops that was not overpowering but definitely present, and a slight malt taste. The gooseberries added an interesting level of tartness to the beer, but in a very good way.) So there was a huge, amazingly delicious spread, plenty of wine and beer, and afterwards we had a poetry reading. This was actually probably the second best part (after the beer, of course), as we got to hear a lot of serious, funny, and homebrewed compositions that were uniformly interesting. I decided to be a bit ironic; you can find my submission here, once again by the inestimable Mark Twain.

On Saturday it was actually warm out, so after a good day at work (students at both classes!), Rachel and I went for a walk around the lakes, then headed out to see Waltz with Bashir. I really, really liked the movie on about every level. The narrative to the documentary was compelling, the subject matter interesting, and the medium it was told in was incredibly brilliant. It is also a very heavy movie, and can be disturbing, hilarious, and cause dumb struck silence in the span of 15 minutes. Rachel had some reservations about the film, though, particularly the fact that it only told one side of the story. This is true- the film is from the perspective of Israeli troops and no one else, which to some extent dehumanizes the Palestinians and the Lebanese. But still, any movie that causes the audience to be silent almost the entire way through the credits deserves a gold star in my book. I recommend it, but be prepared for a serious and kind of trippy movie.

Other things going on:
- won a game of Warhammer last night! My theory of flying tanks+lasers+undead, nigh indestructible giants=win was proven to be true, at least against Marines. Further tests will have to be conducted.
- I see faeries and their nefarious work everywhere
- studying for the GRE has begun once again
- I have mastered the art of scratch pizza making, and am now moving on to shepherd's pie

Until next time...

"If the bubble reputation can be obtained only at the cannon's mouth, I am willing to go there for it, provided the cannon is empty. If it is loaded my immortal and inflexible purpose is to get over the fence and go home. My invariable practice in war has been to bring out of every fight two-thirds more men than when I went in. This seems to me Napoleonic in its grandeur."
- "Mark Twain as a Presidential Candidate," New York Evening Post, 6/9/1879