Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Depending on which way you're traveling, the first three seconds when you get off a plane and are in the hallway thingie that they divert you into can be really beautiful or really cruel, because for those 3 seconds you know what the weather will be like half an hour from then when you finally exit the airport. Since I was traveling north today, cruel.

I continue to be impressed with Delta food service, as we had the choice of five complimentary snacks: peanuts, pretzels, cookies, crackers, or granola bar. Less impressive and much more annoying was this: when I bought my flights on Orbitz I picked seats, but those seat selections disappeared into the ether. So when I checked into Miami, I had a center seat for the first leg and no confirmed seat on the second. Luckily, I complained nicely in Miami and was somehow moved to an aisle despite the flight being overbooked. In Atlanta it was touch and go, and zones 1-7 had boarded before they got me a seat. But then the counter woman took one look at me and decided that me in a center seat was not in anyone's best interests, so she bumped some other poor schmuck from an exit row window seat. So everything turned out much better than I could have expected.

Also, on the Miami-Atlanta leg, I had the aisle next to a 7-9 year-old boy with his 12-14 year-old sister on the window. Two things struck me as notable about this girl: (1) she managed to so exaggerate her Long Island accent as to affect a Puerto Rican accent, and (2) she was easily the youngest person I've ever seen reading Cosmo.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

I'm starting to look for my summer sublet, and it's already starting to feel like a pain in the ass. I thought I might have a good situation lined up, and then it fell apart over parking and utilities. I've been looking at lots of ads on Craigslist, and occasionally one sounds good, but the two problem are that my timeframe is so specific without lining up with school out there--UCLA is on quarters, so summer corresponds with the actual season rather than being mid-May to mid-August like I need. Any place I get is going to be sight unseen, so even if I really like the description of a place, I'll have some anxiety about the place until I actually arrive.

The real purpose of this post, though, was to say OMIGOD about a few of the ads I've come across on Craigslist LA: they range from I don't know what your scam is but I'm confident that it's trouble, to I know what your scam is and it's really sketchy, to my personal favorite, I'm literally just that (ahem) ballsy. That last one makes this guy sound downright charming. The ad that takes the cake is the guy whose primary goal is to Escape Rabbit Girl, and I think it's because of the way he alternates between making these totally bizarre statements about the current roommate and remembering to specify what he's actually looking for: I hate her...I need to get out...wood floors a plus....she smells...

Friday, February 24, 2006

I made it to Miami with a minimum of trouble last night. My standard answer to "How was your flight?" has become, "Uneventful," which generally conveys the message that most flights are not particularly "good," but a lack of eventfulness is objectively good (mile-high club induction notwithstanding). I did have long distances to cover in short amounts of time at both the Detroit and Atlanta airports, and I was pleased that I was able to cover that ground without wearing myself out. Thanks, treadmills!

I also have to give a shout-out to the fine folks running the food service at Delta. Unlike all the other airlines I've flown on recently, they haven't given in to the peanut-allergy mob and started serving the lowest form of snack food, the pretzel. Delta provided both peanuts and Lance's Grilled Cheese Captain's Wafers. Add a Diet Sprite, and now you've got sustanence for travelling at 35,000 feet.

Jeff and Tom are at work today, so I've got the day in South Beach on my own. I spent much of it up until now just walking around. Two seconds after stepping outside I realize finding a pair of cheap, non-ridiculous sunglasses should be my first order of business. After a lot longer than expected, I found the type of low-end touristy store (as opposed to the 3 Sunglasses Huts I passed) I needed, and left with shades that were merely "more than I wanted to pay" rather than "ourageous," and merely "very ridiculous" as opposed to "amazingly ridiculous." I wisely remembered too that since I was in the subtropics for the first time since September, I should be able to get my first decent smoothie since September.

Beyond just good smoothies, South Beach reminds me of L.A. in a lot of other ways as well. Demographically it's very reminiscent of West Hollywood: disproportionate numbers of (in no particular order) tourists, gay men, Hispanics, Hispanic gay men, and old Jewish couples. Oh yeah, and more art deco accents than you've ever seen in your life. I also expect it'll be more fun than last year, because Jeff's here now and because the weather is much better. In fact, I'm already working on my starter burn!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

T-minus about 22 hours before I hop on a plane for a long weekend in Miami for Spring Break. I'm looking forward to wearing just a T-shirt outdoors. OK, maybe pants too. I'll be back all too soon, and spend part of the rest of the time taking my South Africa takehome final. So it's a yin-and-yang break, but at least it'll be out of the way.

I cashed in some more research points for free iTunes this week. The one I'm digging the most right now is Jenny Lewis's "You Are What You Love," followed closely by Rilo Kiley's "Plane Crash in C." Then I got this weirdly personal(ish) cluster: "Century City" by Tom Petty, "Join Me In L.A." by Warren Zevon, and Fountains of Wayne's "California Sex Lawyer." (OK, maybe one of those is wishful thinking.) I also found some Willie Nelson songs I like growing up--Sioux City Sue and Don't Fence Me In, as well as the eponymous tune The Highwayman. Perhaps most shamefully, a lunchtime discussion prompted me to download three Rod Stewart tunes--Lost In You (my favorite of his), Some Guys Have All The Luck, and Downtown Train--but I stand by the decision. Finally, I filled in three '80s songs I had unforgivably neglected to pick up earlier: Luka (I only had the live version), Bizarre Love Triangle (I only had the Frente cover), and Los Lobos' "Come On Let's Go," which is the best cover I've heard of late '50s rock-n-roll bar none.

I've got 5 more downloads to play with; any suggestions?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

At 2:30 a.m. I said what I thought was one of the most wickedly clever things I'd ever said in my life, but it may just have been the fact that it was 2:30 a.m. and the PBRs.

Let me back up.

Periodically I've been going to Monday night trivia with Anne, who our quiz-bowl readers will know as being of Mike Keenan Employment Agency fame. These trivia nights are fun because Anne has a cool group of townie friends who I've gotten to know a little, because it's a nice evening away from all things law, and because we often end up making money on the deal. Last night we went, and when it ended around 11:30, Mark, Tyler, and I were interested in moving on to karaoke at nearby bar Circus Circus, but Anne had to go home. So for possibly the first time since I've been here, I went out in a group that included 0 law students or quiz-bowlers.

Tyler had insisted that he was only in for two beers (specifically, the 55 cent Pabst Blue Ribbons), and he was true to his word. Mark had promised me a ride home, but it was contingent on staying until closing time, and I agreed. I didn't know a soul at the bar, but Mark clearly had a bunch of friends or at least acquaintances there. Among the more interesting ones was the dude who had clearly cultivated the Kip Dynamite look, and whose overwhelming sense of irony led him to sing Steve Winwood's "Higher Love." Also, I met the first two African-American fans of Weezer I've ever encountered (or at least fans of Mark's admittedly kick-ass version of "Say It Ain't So"), including Monique, who at some point got really pissed off about I-don't-know-what and started crying, yelling, and accidentally knocking over a bar stool onto my foot, hard. Actually, it was more like knocking over a bar stool hard, accidentally onto my foot.

Mark and I got our first songs in pretty early (mine was "Mr. Brightside"--mediocre results) and decided to put in a second. I chose "Boyz in the Hood" (Dynamite Hack version) and Mark was super-excited to find "Sodomy" from the musical "Hair," saying he always wanted to be Woof. I got called up right at the end of the night (again, not a hit--I was judging the room badly), but Mark never got back on, even though he got his second slip in well before me.

The other important character was quite a character, but I didn't catch his name so let's call him Dave. "Dave" informed me at one point that his father was in the NSA, and after asking me a rapid-fire series of surprisingly personal questions, he told me I'll make a good lawyer because I look to the left when I tell the truth. (I don't know what it means either.) He also informed me that he thinks Mark is "gorgeous" and that he's wanted him for the 10 months he's known him, and that Mark just needs to open himself up to new things. He also asked if I was married (no) or liked girls (emphatic yes), and seemed confused not just by my second answer, but that anyone would give such a silly answer. Dave's chief concern, though, in cornering me was to let me know that Mark was also giving him a ride home, and that I was supposed to conspire to make sure I was dropped off first, which was perfectly fine with me.

So at closing time, Mark, Dave, Monique, and I walk back to Mark's car at the first bar. Monique calls shotgun, so Dave and I end up in back. Luckily, the law quad was the logical first stop, so no conspiring was necessary. Conversation focuses on the singers, and on Mark's failure to get a second song even though I did, and even though he's the much better singer.

Five minutes later, I'm being dropped off, my townie adventure coming to a close. As I climb out of the back seat, I say to Mark, "Thanks, Mark. I hope you get to do 'Sodomy' real soon." And in a flash of inspiration, I turn to Dave say, "Hey, you too, man."

With Mark and Monique looking vaguely confused and Dave still soaking that one in, I turned toward my door, and as they pulled away I started laughing like a moronic hyena...

Monday, February 13, 2006

Ah yes, nothing like a sad, depressing post to kill my good comment-momentum. I guess I'll save any discussion of this week's seminar reading for another time.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Last night ended like any good birthday should--almost, but not quite, throwing up. Birthdays have always been occasions for reflection for me (let's face it, it doesn't take much to make me contemplate), but once the party started there was no moment for that. Maybe that's why we have birthday parties--so we can avoid thinking about getting older, at least for a little while.

Lots of friends showed up, which was great. I was thrilled that people showed up. But the rest of the day itself wore on me. Having a birthday shortly before Valentine's sucks for a couple of reasons--it means some people are always going to be otherwise occupied when you get around to celebrating, but worse yet it juxtaposes getting a year older and being 100% single in a stark way. My mind couldn't help but dwell on the fact that I'm spending an increasing number of "occasions" (New Years, birthdays, Christmases, etc.) alone--not completely alone, mind you, but alone in that way. I'd be lying if I said it's not getting harder and harder.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Basically everything I've learned about science since I was 17 I learned from quiz-bowl. Which isn't to say I've learned much, but I've picked up a few things here and there. Because I'm a historically-minded person, most of that qb science I picked up consisted of historical information, linking discoverers to discoveries, and that sort of thing. But it's worth noting that I did learn something about the discoveries themselves in the process.

At some point a certain faction of qb-types got all persnickety (as is their wont) about how the history of science isn't really science, and because those types of people are quasi-Survivor types (outlast, outshout, drive out), they eventually won. At that point my science education basically ended. Since that more or less coincided with the end of my academic qb playing, though, it wasn't that big a loss for me personally.

All of this is a way of getting around to this point: there's no reason why historical narrative can't be a really good way to learn something about science. My new evidence for this point is Simon Singh's Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe, which we are inexplicably reading for my seminar this week. Singh's book proceeds by presenting a variety of natural philosophers and scientists who have directly or indirectly contributed to the current state of cosmology, where the Big Bang model has surpassed its competitors as the likely explanation for describing the state of the universe.

This book could be subjected to any number of serious criticisms: it is "Great Man" history, it hides or at least downplays the math, it over-simplifies, etc. But the bottom line is that from reading it, I now have a much better grasp on at least the general outlines of Big Bang theory, the Steady State theory that it seems to have vanquished, and underlying ideas such as general and special relativity. And it does so in quite possibly the fastest 500 pages I've ever read, because the writing is engaging, mixes serious stories with whimsical sidenotes (such as Tycho Brahe's brass nose, which I knew about, and bitchin' parties, which I didn't), and tells a coherent story. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who knows a significant amount about astrophysics, but anyone else who's curious might want to check it out.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

So, yeah, how about that. I've never been more congratulated before for something I didn't actually, you know, do. But I'll take it.

This is not sour grapes, because this is great. But if your team in any sport is on the verge of a championship, I have some recommendations for you:

  • Gather with fellow fans, not neutrals, or your celebration will be comparatively muted.
  • Don't pick the week/day of the championship game to have a barely functioning or malfunctioning phone, as what remnants of the communal celebration you could have had will be lost.
  • Don't get "flu-like symptoms" the next day. OK, that goes for most any day, if you can help it.
  • Semi-related bonus tip: If you say to a group of women, "I don't know any guy who watches Grey's Anatomy, or any girl who doesn't," you're just asking for an argument.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Joey Porter's advice column is undoubtedly the most entertaining thing I've read in the XL run-up, and I'm not surprised it came from MightyMJD.

A distant (but, nonethless, strong) second is the pool of celebrity picks Bill pointed out, and which DEK also mentioned. But I feel they have not given the subject a completely thorough treatment. Some of the highlights for me:

  • First of all, unlike many celeb picks, everyone seems to have picked two reasonable numbers--no one thinks there's going to be a 4, 5, 8, 11, or 18 in the final score. Kudos, celebs.
  • As DEK pointed out, Teresa Heinz Kerry is not P.O.B.E. Taylor or Lou Christie, dammit!
  • Though picking foolishly, Martina Navratilova gave two cogent sentences on the Super Bowl. Anyone surprised?
  • Kobe Bryant, not a former geography bee champion, I'm guessing.
  • Mario Lemieux says, "Pittsburgh. It's the hometown team and I've become a fan." A lot celebs had variations on this theme. If they were asked why they were making their pick, then that's fine. But they were asked why one team or the other will win, then there's a lotof weirdly egotistical celebs with little sense of causation.
    • Apparently, our Evidence prof's harping on "always ask what the evidence is being presented to prove when considering admissibility" has sunk in. (And if Hasselback throws a "pick 6" after the teams have exchanged TDs, you'd better bet I'll be yelling, "Hurray! I'm for the other team!" for hours, if not weeks.)
  • Wolf Blitzer likes the Steelers because they remind him that he's from Buffalo. Isn't that a reason to hate the Steelers? And shouldn't you just like the Steelers because you're named "Blitzer"?
  • Mickey Rooney is a huge Dan Kreider fan. Who knew?
  • Haley Joel Osment sees dead Seahawks. OK, weak, but he's been right six years running and he's picked us, so I've gotta give him his propers.
  • The most lopsided pro-Steelers pick? Everyone's favorite GGMILF.
  • Shocking that the heiress to a local brewing fortune picked Pittsburgh.
  • Regis gave a wussy non-pick. Punk.
  • Bobby Thomson picked the Steelers and Ralph Branca picked Seattle. I think we see who's still whose bitch.
  • It's really hard to figure out on the fly whether to use "who's" or "whose" when you have to use both in the same sentence.
  • It turns our Eddie Murray is not older than Eddie Murray.
    • Let's be honest, Tulane: NFL pretty good, at best.
  • Read Mark Cuban's comment and tell me that Ike Taylor, Deshea Townsend, and Chris Hope don't sit around thinking, "Hey, there's an outside chance he means me!"
  • Do you think there would be quite as many Olympians in this thing in a year ending with an odd number? Just wondering.
  • Steve Carrell lost in the regionals of the geography bee to Kobe Bryant. Scranton is closer to the following NFL cities than it is to Pittsburgh: New York/East Rutherford, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Baltimore, Washington DC, and yes even Foxboro.
  • Anthony LaPaglia is rooting for the Steelers because he fondly remembers the Cold War.
  • If Falwell and Dobson can be trusted, God is neutral.
  • Does anyone else still find it funny that there's a well-known African-American comedian named George Wallace? Nope, just me? I'm fine with that.
  • Carrot Top shows more knowledge than I would have expected with the "one side of the helmet" comment. Maybe we've underestimated that one.
  • Yep, still smirking about "If Falwell and Dobson can be trusted" thing.
  • Do you think Judy Tenuta is just guessing, or has she actually done a butt-by-butt comparison?
  • I could go on, but assume all sane persons have stopped reading long ago. Then again, given what I suspect about my readership, that's not really a problem...

Friday, February 03, 2006

There are a lot of strange Steeler songs floating around right now, but for the past dozen years or so the staple has been the "Here We Go" song. I couldn't find an updated version in time for the AFC title game, but finally on Tuesday one showed up online. I'd been wondering what tweaks we would see from last year's version--let's take a look...

(Note that I'm not transcribing dialect, because most native speakers of English probably can't read 'Burghese; last year's abandoned lyrics are struck, and changes are bold)

Verse 1:
Cheer the Steelers, the Black and the Gold
This town of Pittsburgh's heart and soul
With Cowher power we'll get the job done
This is the year we'll get that one for the thumb.

Here we go
Here we go
Here we go, Steelers, here we go
Pittsburgh's going to the Super Bowl!

So far no changes--in fact, no changes from the original 1994 version of the song. This is the basic commonality over time.

Verse 2:
Roethlisberger is ready to throw win
To With Ward, Randle El and Plaxico Cedric Wilson
We'll go to Bettis when we need The Bus, Duce, and Willie will make a touchdown
And if you get in his their way he's their gonna knock you around.

I have to give props, sort of, for the solution in the first line. I thought the second line could just be changed to "With Ward, Wilson (or, Miller) and Randle El." Yes, "El" doesn't rhyme with "throw," but it's not like we're updating Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band here, people. But "winning" is what Roethlisberger does just as much as "throwing," so it's a fine solution. "Ced" is one syllable too many, but they sort of solve that by making the "and" an "'n'".

The second pair of lines has a few more problems. One is that it breaks the "rhythm" of the song, spilling into the previous "Here we go." The other is that Duce was active for 5 games and had one unmemorable touchdown on the year. Take out "Duce," and the line actually fits. Or, you could just leave the line as is, since Bettis is still the big scoring guy. And "make a touchdown" just sounds weak.

Verse 3:
Now the offense is ready to score
And there's one thing we know for sure
If we don't get it in the end zone
We'll get three points off of Jeff Reed's toe.

No changes here. I might have skipped it, but now I'm 40% rather than 25% of the hits you'll get if you Google "get three points off of Jeff Reed's toe." Suck on that organicEmmy and marzy23!!

Verse 4:
We got Porter, Bell and Farrior, Porter, Haggans
Polamalu, Scott Hope and Townsend
The other team won't gain any ground
Because the defense is gonna bring the Steel Curtain down.

Until I typed it, I didn't realize this change simply made two lists of three players into one list of six players. Now it bugs me less. The loss of the "and" confused me at first, but now it makes more sense. They could've gone simpler with "Porter, Foote and Haggans," but I think most people would rather squeeze in Farrior--though Foote was the team's leading tackler this year, and has been generally underappreciated. The method of unpersoning Chad Scott was not unexpected, although I could've also seen "Ike and Townsend," but apparently now RBs are identified by first name and defenders by surname. Fair enough. The most obvious exclusion is Casey Hampton, but nose tackles are used to being ignored, so I'm sure it's OK.

All in all, the song doesn't hang together quite as well as last year's, but when you lose an RW like Plaxico, you're going to have an adjustment period. (That's Rhyming Word, not a typo.)

Still, it's provided me a great source of obsessive nervous energy release, and I'll probably listen to it something like 73 times in the next two days.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

This is my last week on the crazy, hectic, accelerated-class schedule, and next week I get the extra bonus that one regular class isn't meeting at all, and another is cancelled on Monday. So instead of a 4-day week with 13 class periods (two 90-minute, one 2-hour, three 135-minute, seven 55-minute) this week, I have a 3-day week with 7 class periods (one 2-hour, three 55-minute, three 70-minute). In other words, it'll be a nice breather, and hopefully Sunday night and Monday will be spent celebrating, um, something.

But, of course, there are always bumps in the road. So one of the things I'll have to deal with is replacing my phone, which has decided to spontaneously shut off every time I hit two buttons in a row. Another will be getting my car looked at--on Sunday when I moved it from weekend parking to weekday parking, the check engine light was on the whole time, and every time I hit the gas pedal the speedometer would race up to 80-100 mph (even though I might be going, say, 7) and then flatline. There were also some random noises I can't quite recreate. Bottom line: well, I don't know, but I don't suspect any good can come of it.

This was the next-to-last day of South Africa--the class, not the country. As far as I know, anyway. It turned out to be more eventful than expected, as the Constitutional Court justice who co-teaches class was clearly not well, and then she fainted during lecture. She was eventually fine and was able to stick around after the paramedics came and checked her out, but it was a really bizarre moment. I think I probably had the same thoughts most people did: "Someone call 911!.....and possibly CNN!"

Not much more to add--if you need me, I'll probably be sitting here watching my "Steelers: The Complete History" DVDs for the next 90 hours or so...