Tag Archives: life

You Should’ve Been a Clerk

Man, this past week.

It wasn’t really anything to do with finals. Granted, finals this semester were about 89 times tougher than any finals I’ve had before, but at least I saw that train wreck coming months ago, and there wasn’t much I could do about it. Well, maybe there was, but I wasn’t willing to do anything that early, haha.

It’s more about the end of a semester, with the next semester being abroad, and the necessary good byes and good lucks. Friends I won’t see for nine months, seniors I may never see ever again, professors to thank. Add in the unexpected arrival of a wonderful romance, and I’ve been walking around campus for a week with a bleeding heart, completely unlike my usual self. There were so many acquaintances who weren’t aware that I was going abroad, and who told me to have a nice break, and I just didn’t have any heart left to tell them I’d be away. So yeah, if anyone tried to talk with me in the past week about the Iverson trade to Denver, or that Silent Shout album on Pitchfork’s list, and you got some noncommittal grunt or whimper, I apologize, and now you know why I’ve been in that state. We’ll talk later.

Now I’ve settled in at home, and Swarthmore is beginning to recede into the back of my memory; I’m not really the type to really dwell on such things. For some reason, I immediately set up my workspace in the sunroom, an area of the house I’ve never used in my entire life. Maybe it’s because the large windows and views of the woods remind me of Hallowell (I just noticed a Red-shouldered Hawk soaring above the pines, I thought I’d heard it screaming earlier…), but that never entered my conscious thought.

What I have noticed, however, is that for some reason, I feel like a completely different person on this return home. My old computer room seems totally unappealing; I don’t think I’ve spent more than 10 seconds in that room, where I used to spend the vast majority of the day; a move to the sunroom made sense then, as a sort of really lame New Beginning. It would probably be a foolish mistake to try and pinpoint exactly why I feel differently, but it must be a culmination of everything that’s happened in the past week, the past month, and/or the past semester. Best semester ever? You could certainly make the case. I had a blast.

But yeah, it’s nice to be home. I look out these windows, and I know this yard like the back of my hand. It strikes me that I’ve always referred to the small creek that runs through the back as, simply, The Creek. I looked up the actual official name of the creek many years ago, but I never remembered it. It’s always been The Creek to me, and it always will be. Meanwhile, my dad is either reading the newspaper, watching football, or watching incomprehensible kung fu movies, and my mom is either getting some work done, doing Sudoku puzzles, or getting emotional over Korean soap operas. Ah, home.

But now that I’m home, let’s catch up on a few things.

First, the Iverson trade.

I don’t think anyone can make a good argument in Philadelphia’s favor here. You traded away a transcendent superstar, an icon of the city, a beloved rallying point for the fans. In exchange, let’s see what you got.

Andre Miller, a perennially underachieving point guard who’s jumped from team to team over the years, probably indicative of the fact that he’s a clubhouse tumor that nobody wants to work with, talented or not.

I didn’t even realize Joe Smith was still in the league. Was he really the top overall pick in the draft? He was fairly good in his prime, but these days, I’m sure he’ll grab a few rebounds before heading to the bench with a bad back.

Two draft picks? Remember that a draft pick doesn’t necessarily turn into a young stud superstar. The Sixers could use their pick on some like, say, Tyler Hansborough, as much as it pains me to say. The kid’s good at the college level, but I can only envision him being completely bewildered at the professional level. He hasn’t looked all that good this year anyways, while Brandan Wright has literally looked unstoppable. If I wanted to rely on someone in the post in crunch time, I’d goto Wright, not Hansborough at this point. Anyways, I just don’t see how the Sixers can win with this trade. They’ll botch the draft picks, and sign some decrepit veteran with their expiring contract money. For all that, they lost their transcendent superstar.

Meanwhile, a lot of ink has already been spilled on Iverson’s role in Denver. Bijan Bayne wrote a nice article on the topic at nbadraft.net (best website of all time?), basically showing that it’s extremely difficult to accommodate two superstars on one team. They either must have complementary roles (think Stockton and Malone) or they must both be unselfish team players (think Duncan and Robinson). I love how I can just prattle off last names, and every basketball fan knows exactly who I’m talking about, as if they’re kings or gods of some sort, of basketball I suppose. In any case, it’s difficult to create those situations, and more often than not, the experiment fails. That’ll probably be the case here in Denver, as Iverson and Anthony play very similar scoring roles, and since they’re competing for the same limited resources (the ball, shots, attention), both economic and ecological analysis will show that the two cannot successfully coexist.

Also, I’m watching the Falcons-Panthers game, and I can’t stop laughing at the Panthers’ strategy on third down. They’re taking quarterback Chris Weinke completely off the field, and snapping the ball directly to runningback DeAngelo Williams. Why didn’t we think of this earlier? Wienke has been the most incompetent quarterback that I have ever witnessed, and the Falcons have a horrendous run defense. How do the Falcons not see this coming? At this point, the Panthers have run the play 8 times, and picked up the first down 7 of those times. You know the Panthers are going to run, how do you not stop it. It’s not like DeShaun Foster is actually any good, because he’s not. Meanwhile, this has got to be so demoralizing for Weinke. Yeah, we don’t even need you on the field for these critical plays, even though you’re supposed to be the centerpiece of our offense. Why is he even on the field. If he’s just going to hand the ball off, bring in Basanez to at least give some threat of the pass. I’m so sad that the Panthers have slowly crumbled into this lowly state.
Okay, the game just ended, and basically we won by taking time off the clock and relying on our defense. Wienke completed four passes, for 32 yards. Sorry, but we’ve gotta bench this kid. If we don’t have any confidence in him, why even bother?

As for Silent Shout, why don’t we leave that for another day.

Links for today:

  • True Hoop takes a good look at the psyche of Allen Iverson, and what makes him tick as a basketball player. Great read.
  • Another transcendent basketball superstar, Renaldo Balkman, has his own Myspace page. Endless lols.
  • All the slingshots I made as a kid were way too flimsy, I’d love to have my hands on this pro Jack Spade Sling Shot.
  • Someone accidentally put their baby through the airport’s x-ray machine. Oops. Man, I can’t even joke about this, what a terrible thing to have happen.
  • Google has published their year-end Zeitgeist, featuring the most popular searches of the year and lot’s of other cool stats.
  • Not a link, but Steven Jackson just scored a game-winning touchdown in overtime, on a 21-yd run, giving him 250 total yards and two touchdowns on the game. Absolute monster. I still can’t believe that I managed to trade away Cadillac Williams to get him in my fantasy league. Sorry, I’m just really pleased, and had to throw that out there.
  • Here’s a nice article on the most dangerous roads in the world. Unreal.
  • I hope everyone has a great holiday season, keep in touch for realz, we gotta be trill. Missing everyone tons…

Reflections on the Sabbath, 1

Ostensibly, class discussion in my Religion & Ecology class today was to center upon our readings on Judaic attitudes towards nature, and any substantial differences in environmental viewpoints between Judaism and Christianity. I’ll readily admit that I didn’t do any of the week’s readings, as I’ve had papers due in the past three consecutive days, including today’s Religion & Ecology paper which I successfully completed in 1.5 hours the morning of class. Prof. Wallace acknowledged that many other students would likely sit in the same boat, so instead conversation steered towards concepts grounded in more practical questions raised by the reading.

I won’t go into the details of how this conversation arose, or the myriad responses, but one question regarded whether a ‘Sabbath of the mind’ could be possible at Swarthmore, or anywhere else. That is, whether one could get a day off just to rest the mind.

Though it doesn’t take a full day, I know what I like to do for a sabbath of the mind. When I go birdwatching, I’m not only having fun in a hobby of mine, but the long walks provide a time for thought and reflection, on how things are going, where things are going, and where things have been. Sometimes, these thoughts can get pretty inconsequential and silly, like trying to optimize my fantasy football squad’s starting roster. Which clearly requires more thought, looking at my disappointing 1-3 start despite relative statistical success. But at least for a few hours, I can take my mind off classes and focus on the peaceful, reflective strolls through the woods.

What do others do for a sabbath of the mind? A couple of people brought up partying, and that struck me as completely wrong. Not because I have anything against parties, but I don’t feel like that constitutes as a sabbath of the mind. When I think of what a Sabbath is, I imagine a restful, reflective mental engagement on life and current issues. Partying is more of an escape rather than a reflection, and it strikes me as being more fun rather than peaceful, and I don’t feel like that fits within the spirit of the Sabbath. I think of it more as a day of rest, not a day of fun. Obviously that’s just my personal view on the term, others could have completely different opinions on what a Sabbath is and how to treat it.

Do these differing views have to do with our feelings about the work we do? The need for fun on the weekends seems to imply that the work on the weekdays is justifiably un-fun, and so a treat and a pick-me-up are needed. I don’t know why that’s not the position I’ve adopted, it’s certainly not because I view work as being fun, haha. But I don’t really mind it either, truth be told. In fact, I don’t really tend to think about work a lot, I just sit down and get it done when necessary, then completely forget that it existed. I do have plenty of fun on the weekdays, not in the partying sense, but just in a social sense, or sometimes in a ‘spiritual’ sense though I’m not a spiritual person. I can’t think of another term to describe personal, internal joy that comes from reading a nice article, hearing good music, or anything else individually related. In general though, I don’t need to have special fun on the weekends, as I have plenty of fun during the week, and I don’t view work as being particularly un-fun. Those who want to have fun on the weekends are likely those who view work as a desperately exhausting chore, which certainly isn’t an unusual or despicable approach, but it’s just not the way I personally approach things.

The one thing I really don’t feel like I have a lot of time for during the week is reflection. There’s a lot of work to be done, both schoolwork and social work, and I don’t often get the chance to sit back and think about things. When I do get the urge to relax, take a break, and reflect on things, that’s when I head for the long trails, with my binoculars hanging from my left shoulder and a field guide in my pocket, after all, why not, if I’m heading outside.

I suppose I’m a solitary person by nature in that way; my most relaxing moments occur when I’m by myself completely, and I always look forward to returning to my room, as it acts as a recharger for my spirit. I don’t really feel like I relax when I’m with other people, I can certainly have fun, but for me fun is completely removed from relaxation. I’ve read that such a belief is a key difference between introverts and extroverts: introverts recharge by returning to their homes and doing things by themselves, while extroverts recharge by being with their friends. That certainly isn’t a black-and-white divide, it’s undoubtedly more of a continuum. But I definitely find myself acting as more of an introvert. I really like how that study used the concept of ‘recharging’, as I feel like that’s a really accurate description of what it’s like for me to return home.

When I first opened up this blog to non-bird-related posts, I was afraid of turning into one of those sensitive emo-bloggers who turn to their blogs as a diary where they could cry about their life’s dramas. That’s really the complete opposite of my persona, but this post is really dangerously toeing the line. I’m glad I stopped myself here. Then again, if I’m not an overly emotional person to begin with, I probably wouldn’t even have that sort of post in me.

Links, then:

  • Time-lapse video of a drive from Olympia to Seattle.
  • The capital of Iceland turned off all the lights one night so that people could see the stars. Find out when you can see the stars from your town.
  • Photo slideshow of ridiculous treehouses you can buy if you’re too lazy to build your own.
  • Go inside the Sultan of Brunei’s private jet.
  • Continuing on the extravagant theme, watch a video explaining the processes behind the most expensive carwash in the world.
  • And onto elegantly artistic but fully functional wooden computers to pass on to your kids and your grandkids.
  • Also wooden, but far less elegant or functional are these wooden cellphones. Wut.
  • This came up in our Sociology of Law course: a very good breakdown of the 2004 Presidential Election, concerning what specific demographic groups voted for whom. I would likely classify myself with the Upbeats.
  • The pride of Taiwan started Game 1 for the Yankees last night, go Chien-Ming Wang!
  • One guy has decided to drink a cup of coffee from every single Starbucks in the world.
  • If you get your caffeine from soda instead, here’s a nice online store of gourmet sodas.
  • A uniquely designed Periodic Table of Elements, taking into account the unusual properties of hydrogen.
  • More games to test your mouse skills.
  • I’ve recently become re-addicted to Sudoku because of Sudoku Slam, which has some really cool features, and overtakes Web Sudoku as the best Sudoku site on the web in my opinion. Try out Sumo Mode. I’m a huge fan of the Highlight Candidates feature. When I get a Smart Hint on the harder puzzles though, I don’t really understand what the colored squares are supposed to be mean. If somebody gets it, please explain to me, I would really appreciate it, thanks. Edit: I just noticed that they posted an explanation. Pretty powerful method, I’ll admit.
  • If you need to write an abstract for your report, or just need to make a paper a little shorter, let Microsoft Word highlight the important points for you. Actually works pretty well, it’s almost like Microsoft is competent!
  • Wallet 2.0 looks like a fairly nifty and organized wallet for all you hipsters. Be sure to check out the completely absurd companion comic. I don’t understand what’s going on here at all.
  • “…A human head remains in a state of consciousness for one and a half minutes after decapitation, and people speak at the rate of 160 words per minute in a ‘heightened state of emotion’. Simple math means that the heads in each of Butler’s 62 stories get exactly 240 words for their narratives — first-person, stream-of-consciousness glimpses of the lives they led.” This book looks unbelievably interesting. The beheaded folk, by the way, include many historical figures such as Marie Antoinette, John the Baptist, and even Medusa.
  • “Using specialist techniques, thousands of portraits of individual people have been compacted to provide a representative male and female “look” for the 160,000 residents of Sydney.”
  • An elevator without a floor?! Amazing.
  • Very good card trick, very well done.
  • Interesting article on why football teams should not punt on fourth down. A more qualitative approach can also be found here.
  • And I just had to save the best for last. For those of you who don’t know, Ryan Adams is a critically acclaimed alt-country singer-songwriter. I really like a few of his songs, in particular the opening two songs on his debut ‘Heartbreaker’. But he’s gone kind of insane recently, sending long rambling messages on critics’ voice mail machines, among other things. But nothing can top this. Ryan Adams just updated his official website, replete with the most unbelievably terrible/hilarious rap song I have ever heard. You have to listen to it all the way through, it’s quite amazing at the beginning, but takes a turn for the incredible close to the end. Lyrics can also be found here. This is simply comedy gold. I have not loled this hard in months.

I’m liking the random baby in there.

Sweatin’ the Oldies

As the rock director of WSRN, people always seem to assume that I know all that there is to know about rock and roll music, and that I’ve heard most of it too, or at least the quality stuff. While that’s very flattering, it’s quite far from the truth, which I’m a bit ashamed to admit. Let’s hope I don’t get impeached from the Board for this revelation.

I know next to nothing about classic rock. Before this year, I’m not sure if I’d ever heard a full Beatles album, from beginning-to-end. I have never heard an entire Bob Dylan album. I heard my first David Bowie album a few months ago. I have not heard a full album from The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who, or many of the other stone-cold classic bands of decades prior. This list could go on for quite a while. But before you burn me at the stake, or bind my feet in concrete and toss me into the East River, hear me out.

Of course I’m not too proud of this dubious distinction. How am I supposed to write a competent review of the new White Whale EP or any other contemporary work if I haven’t heard any of the important bands that have inspired them? Aren’t I missing out on a wealth of quality music that time itself has deemed to be Important and Transcendant and all that jazz? The importance and relevance of the classics cannot be understated, so why haven’t I visited them sooner?

That’s a relatively easy question to answer, and I think it has to do with my upbringing. As a young child, my parents exposed me only to the Classical tradition (which I regrettably have not taken up too well either), and I had no Cool Older Brother Or Sister to show me any rock music either. Hootie and the Blowfish were my favorite band on the radio in elementary school, which probably speaks volumes about my tastes at that point. The first time I’d even heard of The Beatles was when a coworker of my mom made me a double-sided mixtape (still the only actual mixtape I’ve ever received). And while I loved that mixtape to death, it remained the only exposure I had to them; there were no other records to peruse in the house, and no internet filesharing at the time either. Plus, Beatles albums were expensive, and I wanted to spend my precious allowance on Super Nintendo games and the new Hootie album anyways. So I became familiar with the hit singles, but none of the albums proper, and never gained any sort of perspective on their importance in rock history. So right off the bat, I got years behind all the kids who grew up with Mr. Tambourine Man or Ziggy Stardust, songs I wouldn’t discover until almost two decades later in life. Isn’t that incredibly sad and frightening.

And for some reason, I continued to ignore classic rock once I actually did have the capabilities, both financial and technological, of actually seeking it out. That’s what I greatly regret, but I’m trying to make up for lost time. As we speak, I’m getting through Blonde on Blonde, which bored me to tears the first time I tried to listen, but is currently blowing my mind completely. How did I manage to completely miss this kind of stuff? On my lunch break today I went up into the WSRN studio and listened to Abbey Road on the original vinyl, which was awesome. I just discovered George Starostin’s excellent website Only Solitaire, which I find to be incredibly well-written and unswayed by hype and reputation, so i’m using it as a sort of guide. How weird is that though, that the rock director has heard more songs by some no-name indie band Destroyer than by The Beatles and Bob Dylan combined. How have I not heard Abbey Road for so long? It seems completely wrong, so this is now a crusade to right that wrong.

I have to say though that sometimes new music just owns the old. Paid in Full still sucks so hard. I really don’t get that one at all.

So there you go, that’s my admission. Goodbye, all semblance of credibility. I feel both immensely relieved, and completely emasculated at the moment.

New links, better than the old links:

Edit: My mom has reminded me that The Beatles happen to be my dad’s favorite band. I do remember when I was a little kid watching Thomas the Tank Engine on tv, that my dad would constantly point out that Ringo Starr was the train conductor on the series, which in hindsight is completely hilarious. But in any case, I was just a young kid who was far more interested in the colorful talking trains than in the strange man my dad kept pointing out. I don’t think I made the connection until some point in high school. The fact remains that even though my dad loves The Beatles, we didn’t have any Beatles records in the house.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to talk about the role of vinyl at WSRN. During organic chemistry lab last semester, Professor Paley and I were having a discussion regarding the rash of cd thefts that had occured recently and what could be done about it. We both wondered whether such thefts had occured before the age of cds, when the entire rock library was composed of vinyl. The concept of vinyl theft struck me as completely absurd, and within the past few days I’ve realized that it’s because of another question I have.

Back in the vinyl age, did college students bring turntables with them to school? And does that mean that they carried their record collections along with them? Neither seems to occur these days. I only know three Swatties who brought turntables to school and two are legitimate DJs, and as for record collections everybody seems to have their music libraries in a digital format. Karina suggested that most students likely brought a radio with them, and kept their family’s lone turntable at home, and that strikes me as being much more reasonable. It also seems to imply that listening habits have changed, as I don’t sense that many of today’s students listen to the radio outside of their cars, as the rise of iPods and digital music collections now enables people to listen to whatever they want, whenever they want, rather than having to cave in to the whims of the radio. I’ve really taken for granted the increasing portability of music; imagine simply having one turntable or one radio in your home, rather than the current network of computers with speakers, not to mention the iPod in the front pocket.