Monday, May 30, 2011

science fact

Every now and then I'll read something, a piece of fiction, and I'll wish it were real. Harry Potter, for example. And sometimes I'll read something so convincing and so appealing that I pretend it's real.

(Preface: When I use the word "physical" in the following paragraphs, keep in mind I'm talking about physics.)

In the Ender series, Orson Scott Card creates a physical explanation for why we feel connected to each other. I won't go into the mechanics, but the "science" of it says that through proximity, emotional interactions, and other circumstances, beings (human and otherwise) develop a physical, though unseen, tie between one another.

OK, you're probably thinking, Well what's so special about that? Of course you'll grow closer to someone as you interact with them. Right. But that's not what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about using physics (about which I know very little) to explain how we grow closer to each other. Everyone knows friendships and relationships tend to grow as a function of time. But how do they grow, how and why does love develop, and is there some unseen physical event happening when all that goes down?

There are just some connections I don't know how to explain. Like being able to finish someone else's sentence, even if that might be a trivial example. It's like when you kiss a girl (or guy, depending on the reader's gender). It may or may not be the first time, but the second before you do it, somehow you know she wants it and somehow she knows you want to. It extends beyond body language, there's almost a palpable -- but subtle, quiet, unspoken -- communication taking place, and it lasts only an instant. It's an almost true understanding, truer than can be communicated by speaking. How do you physically explain that communication?

In the end, I know it doesn't matter whether or not this level of physics exists because regardless, physical or not, these bonds still exist. Call me a sci-fi romantic I guess, I just love the idea of a scientific explanation for love and attachment.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

you had to be there

November 18 was one of the best days of 2010. It started early. Around 5:15 am I woke up and showered and drove to the Cine Capri at Tempe Marketplace to meet up with Buster. The occasion? A Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 midnight showing. (Yes, I skipped work and waited in line about 18 hours to see a movie, and it wasn't even Star Wars.)

(Spoiler alert: if you haven't seen the movie or read the book and plan on doing either and don't want the ending/middle ruined for you, stop reading here.)

Ben and I in SpiritHood mode. That morning some news guy thought my fox hood was part of a Harry Potter costume, partly because when he asked who I was dressed up as, I lied and told him I was Fenrir Greyback, a werewolf. I said what I thought the guy wanted to hear so I would get on TV. It worked because whatever station it was showed a clip of my interview later that night. Also, I stole this picture from Laura. Thanks, Laura.

During the movie I sat between Ben and Buster. We were all enjoying the film, and enjoying being around so many friends (Afton and I bought 30 tickets between the two of us). At the end of the movie, Dobby, a heroic house elf, rescues Harry and friends from the clutches of evil. Sadly, Dobby is killed in the process. Just after the daring rescue, Harry sits on a beach and holds Dobby and mourns the death of his friend. At that moment, Harry's friend Luna reaches over to close the gaping eyes of the now dead Dobby. As Luna does so, Ben leans over and whispers to me, mimicking Dobby's childlike elf voice, "I'm not quite dead yet!"

I -- lost it.

At that point in my life, there had never been anything quite so funny. I started laughing. It was an I've-been-awake-for-over-20-hours, it's-almost-3:00-am kind of laugh. And then Buster started laughing. Ben started laughing. Behind us, Matt started laughing. At the same time a cacophony of "ssshhhhhh!"-ing erupted from the row in front of us.

For a brief second, not wanting to ruin the movie for those around me, I regained composure and controlled my laughter. And then my thoughts returned immediately to Ben's comment and the laughter started again, this time as a soft chortle that quickly developed into an obnoxious giggle. Ben and Buster, who had both since stopped, couldn't contain themselves either and they joined in.

The cycle continued at least one more time until we were finally able to regain control of ourselves and settle down. But at that point the movie was just about over.

== == == == ==

This July my sister Marianne will be part of the cast of the Hill Cumorah Pageant (if you're like me and you're not a fan of websites that automatically play music/audio, then turn your speakers down/off because this one does). Our church has put on the pageant since 1935, so it's a great opportunity for my sister and it's a great opportunity for my family to fly out to see her in the pageant.

I'm a little sad, though. Sad because the day we fly out to see her is the day my friends will be waiting in line to see Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Don't get me wrong, I'm more than excited to take this trip with my family -- we're also making stops in Montreal and New York City. I just wish that on July 15, 2011, I could be in two places at once.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


What's better than The Empire Strikes Back?

Over the past several weeks my roommates and friends and I have been watching a different Star Wars movie each Sunday night. I bet you can guess which one we watched tonight.

I'm not much of a movie guy. OK, that's not entirely true, I love going to the movies and I love watching them. I just don't collect them the same way some people do. I'm not talking about a physical collection. I mean that when people ask me what my favorite movies are I have a hard time coming up with a list that extends beyond The Empire Strikes Back.

In economics there's a concept called marginal utility. It says that utility (or pleasure) decreases as you consume more units of a certain product. So, marginal utility says that the more times I watch The Empire Strikes Back the less I will like it.

I'm glad there are a few things in life that defy marginal utility.

Friday, May 20, 2011

I can't win

Here's my dilemma. The registration on my car is expired, by a few weeks. I blame the US Postal Service. Why aren't you forwarding my mail from my old address? Specifically my Vehicle Renewal Form? I have better things to do than remember when my tags expire.

Anyway, no big deal, I can easily renew my tags online, right? Wrong. Not when your vehicle has to be emissions tested.

OK, still no big deal, I could do that during lunch today, no problem. Wrong again. According to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality's emissions testing website, under the helpful "Testing Tips" section: "1996 and newer vehicles with on-board diagnostic (OBD) equipment will not pass emissions testing if the check engine light is on. It is advisable to have the vehicle tested to determine the reason for the light being illuminated."

First, because pointing out someone else's mistake will make me feel better, let's take a look at the grammar mistake in the first sentence. You never start a sentence with a number (in this case "1996").

OK, second, my check engine light has been illuminated for the better part of the year. Why? Because only recently was I able to determine what is wrong with my car. Apparently coolant is leaking into the engine through a cracked head. So why don't I get it fixed? Because at a minimum, it's likely to cost me around $1,800-$2,000. Sure, no one wants to pay that, but I'd bite the bullet if I thought it was worth it. Here's the deal, though, my car is probably worth $2,000. Why would I put that much money into my car when it won't increase its value? Why don't I trade my car in and add the cost of repairs as a down payment on a new one?

Because then I'd have a car payment, that's why.

Maybe it's time to get a second opinion on those repairs. And/or buy a bike. And/or move somewhere with good public transportation. I'm leaning toward one of the latter....

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

time may change me

Changing some things around here (in the unlikely event you hadn't noticed). See how long it will last. Not sure how my much I'll like seeing my mug staring back at me every time I check my blog.

Then again, I don't think I care enough to change things again anytime soon.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

no thanks, I'm trying to quit

Two (possibly) good reasons to (maybe) stop using iTunes:

Reason #1: Amazon MP3
Amazon MP3 isn't new, it's been around since September 2007 (and it was offering DRM-free songs a year before iTunes). I still buy a great deal of music in a physical format (CD or vinyl or both if I really love it) but sometimes Amazon has great deals I just can't pass up. Every month they have over 100 MP3 albums for $5.00 or less. They have daily deal albums for $3.99, like the new Okkervil River album that I just picked up today. And during their Black Friday weekend sale, Amazon had quite a few great albums (Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem) for only $2.00. Right now, Amazon is having their largest MP3 sale I've ever seen -- over 1,500 MP3 albums for $5.00. It's not crap either: I'm willing to guarantee you'll find something you've been wanting in there. Go see for yourself.

In March, Amazon debuted their new Cloud Player. It's 5 GB of free memory and you can put anything you want on it -- music, files, movies, etc. Granted, 5 GB isn't that much. Additional memory is pretty affordable though -- one dollar per GB per year, available in different tiers, 20 GB, 50 GB, 100 GB, up to 1000 GB of storage. It can get pricey if you plan on uploading your entire music library, but if you don't need your entire library online then it's actually a pretty good deal (myself, I don't anticipate ever needing more than 20 GB of cloud space). And if you're someone who already purchases music from Amazon, your Amazon MP3 purchases don't count against your storage limit (which I realize is a marketing gimmick on Amazon's part, but that doesn't matter to those of us who have been downloading from them for a while now).

Right now the Cloud Player is available on any browser and on Android devices (which makes me want an iPhone less; I'm guessing Apple declined the Amazon MP3/Cloud Player app because they didn't want to give their iPhone users a better deal than iTunes, though I could be wrong since it's not on Blackberry devices yet either).

Reason #2: Google Music Beta
Google Music is similar to Amazon's Cloud Player in that you can upload your music library and stream online via a web browser or Android device (once again, sorry iOS users). It differs from Amazon though, because the uploads are limited by the amount of songs, not actual storage space (you can upload 20,000 songs at any bitrate). And unlike Amazon, you can't purchase MP3s from Google. Right now, Google Music is free (subject to change?) but you need an invite (as with most Google Beta products) before using it (if anyone out there happens to have an extra invite send it to, thanks).

Caveat #1: I'm still using iTunes to manage my iPod. And to listen to a few podcasts. But it stops there. I don't plan on getting rid of my iPod anytime soon (even though it's been pretty clunky lately). It's so much easier to use than my Droid when I'm running, it has a great battery life, and I love being away from my phone for a while. I'm not opposed to Apple products, I just don't care for the Company's overall smugness; it kills whatever brand loyalty I've had for Apple and makes me want to ditch them the second something better comes along. Which, when it comes to downloading music, has effectively happened.

Caveat #2: I try to only download music when I'm not positive I'll end up loving the album. That way I don't spend the full price on a CD or vinyl (this is where the $5.00 Amazon sales come in handy). If I like it enough I usually buy it on CD and/or vinyl, and I try to find it at a local record store before looking for it online. I realize it's redundant to buy the CD when you have the MP3, it's not hard to burn a disc. I guess I'm a bit of snob and don't like burned CDs.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

sacred road

I was planning on running a marathon in June. I just don't have the confidence for it. Here's how my plans went awry...

I ran a half marathon back in February. I wasn't in as good of shape as I would've liked but I was definitely ready for it. After the halvsie (I'm gonna go ahead and call it that) I kept running and I started a training program to run the Teton Dam Marathon in Rexburg, Idaho, on June 11, 2011. Then I came down with a cold at the beginning of March. I didn't run for a week. I should've made it two because when I started running again my lungs just couldn't handle it. I kept running (probably a mistake) and it took almost a month before I could handle an easy pace without going short of breath. And my lungs still tire quickly when I try to push my pace.

All the while my orthotics weren't fitting quite right and causing a bit of pain in my right ankle. I had them adjusted a couple times but with no luck. (My awesome podiatrist has since fitted me with a new pair on which he gave me a huge discount and they fit perfectly.)

I've injured myself twice in the past through overtraining so that has been a constant fear. Especially with having been sick and orthotics that didn't fit right, I was afraid of injuring myself again so I didn't push myself too hard.

So with that, I'm definitely not ready to run a marathon in June. At least I don't feel ready. My buddy Ben is convinced I could do it if I really wanted. And maybe I could. I want to enjoy my first marathon, I want it to be as positive as possible. I don't want to be worried about injuring myself or not finishing, or worse, I don't want one of those two things to actually happen.

So I've consigned myself to doing a half marathon in June. I'm determined to run a full marathon in the fall. There's one big obstacle that is gonna make that difficult for me though: summer. The Phoenix Valley is quite possibly the worst place to be if you're trying to train for a race in the summer -- our low temperatures are higher than other places' high temperatures. It's seriously rough. I really don't know how I'm gonna do it.

I've got a couple summer trips planned that will interrupt training as well, even if they are to places with excellent summer climates. (Traveling always messes up training.)

I've got to do it though, I can't give myself any excuse not to. Your encouragement and positive thoughts are welcome and appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Please don't tell me I can't make it
It ain't gonna do me any good
Please don't offer me your modern methods
I'm fixin' to carve this out of wood