Friday, August 31, 2012

milestones

August 31! Along with being my birthday today, it's the anniversary of Charles's arrival in Korea and the birthday of She Who Must Be Obeyed. Elisson's post reminds us that today is also the day of the blue moon (i.e., the second full moon in a single calendar month).


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circle of life

I turn 43 tomorrow, August 31st. Because my supervisor has access to our employment records, she very thoughtfully celebrates our birthdays by buying a cake and having the teachers and students sing for the lucky birthday boy or girl. I was the recipient of a very nice, very silky-textured tiramisu cake:


So it seems I've survived forty-three trips around the sun. Feels like a miracle sometimes. Great cosmic forces hold that fiery solar beast at bay, ninety-three million miles distant, preserving me and my blubber so that I don't flare up like a giant slab of bacon.

My students wanted to know how I plan to celebrate my birthday. Very quietly, I imagine, although my buddy Dr. Steve will be making the long drive from Pennsylvania to hang with me this coming Sunday. I may or may not get together with a brother or two before the weekend is out, but I'm unsure on that point. My brother Sean is auditioning for that position at the Kennedy Center this week... if he's gotten in, he may have his own reasons for celebrating, and if he hasn't, then he may not feel like celebrating. My brother David works Friday and Saturday nights and is usually dead tired on Sundays... not sure whether I'll get to see him, either.

I get paid a rather hefty sum on September 7; with some funds available to me on that date, I might go out and do something naughty then.


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the connection between Brazilian jujitsu and auto-erotic asphyxiation

Here (be sure to read both the post and the comment).


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Thursday, August 30, 2012

taxing my Google-fu skilz

In an essay he had written, a student of mine quoted Picasso:

I don't believe in accidents. There are only encounters in history. There are no accidents.

The student wondered whether he should cite the source for the quote, and I told him he should. The problem, though, is that the quote's source is nearly impossible to find through Googling. Was this quote from a published interview with Picasso? From a biography? From a coffee-table book on Cubism?

When you Google the exact quote, all you get is a long list of websites devoted to witty quotes from intellectuals, artists, politicians, and other luminaries. Not a single site-- and I've visited over thirty-- traces the Picasso quote to a legitimate reference.

How should I engage in deeper research?


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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

the 40-hour week

Teaching requires a great deal of energy. As a teacher, you're always "on" during work hours: always in performer mode. Teaching three students at a time in three different subjects is both a struggle and a juggle: at YB, you're essentially a waiter, catering to different tables'/customers' needs-- now pre-algebra, now SAT prep, now college essays. When your students happen to be overly chatty or overly complaining, this fact sucks even more of your energy out of you, and by the end of a grueling, eight-hour day, you're a ghost of who you were when the day began.

That's how it's been with me for the past few weeks. Summertime is intensive time at YB, so we've got plenty of students and chock-full work schedules. On the bright side, this means more money for yours truly, but in the battle between money and sanity, I find that sanity wins. As worried as I am about my own finances, I'm more worried about succumbing to the pressure and losing it in class.

This might be a good time to get back into meditation.


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bûche d'enfer

I wish I had taken a photograph of the log I shat out earlier today, during my lunch break. By log standards, it wasn't all that large, but what distinguished it from all other toilet logs in the universe was its posture: the log stood rigidly at attention at the bottom of the toilet bowl, perfectly, magnificently vertical.

My log looked like nothing so much as the Space Shuttle: a narrow top, and a bottom that flared outward laterally, giving the impression of a large fuel tank flanked by two solid rocket boosters. I could almost imagine tiny astronauts on board my log, counting down to a spectacular, toilet-shattering launch. I was tempted, sorely tempted, to pull out my phone camera and snap a shot for posterity, but I'm still too much of a pussy to photoblog my own shits. The moment passed; I flushed, and my proud log departed the scene with stately dignity.

In my mind, a lorn bugle played "Taps."


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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

am liking Ender's Game

Orson Scott Card's 1977 Ender's Game, a more left-leaning response* to Heinlein's Starship Troopers, is proving to be quite a fascinating ride. As with Troopers, the distant alien enemy is called a "bugger" (cf. Heinlein's "Bugs"), and the book's focus is on the path of one recruit-- in Card's case, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, boy genius. Ender is six at the beginning of the story, and already well acquainted with tactical and strategic thinking. As the plot unfolds, Ender proves himself capable of leading troops into mock battle after mock battle, cutting his opponents to ribbons. Dispensing with traditional formation-based maneuvering and a centralized command structure, Ender trains his troops to work in small, independent groups that fight by modest increments toward a larger objective. Ender's trainers are impressed with his thinking, and the youngster is promoted again and again.

I'm about two-thirds of the way through the novel and plan to talk about it further. We'll have to add Ender's Game to the list of promised reviews ("Inception" and "The Hunger Games" are already in the queue).





*Whereas Heinlein's protagonist, Johnnie Rico, idolizes the military and lionizes his teachers and trainers, Card's Ender is more like a put-upon Harry Potter, struggling to survive in a brutal world of genius kids by showing that he is orders of magnitude smarter, braver, and more talented than his classmates are. Card's attitude toward the military is obviously negative, and his novel reads like a critique of the military mindset.


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Monday, August 27, 2012

yesterday's pig

Behold what the Apple House of Linden, Virginia hath bestowed upon me:


My buddy Dr. Steve showed me the way. We were at the Apple House once, a year or so ago, when Steve ordered this sandwich while I ordered my massive, one-pound burger. I loved my burger, but I regretted not having ordered the pulled-pork sandwich myself: the damn thing smelled so good. The Apple House has its own smoker, so the pork is prepped in-house, and it's magnificent. Not too dry, not too thickly sauced, and with plenty of bark from the smoking process to give the meat a robust and varied texture. Awesomeness in a bun.

Wish you were here.


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Sunday, August 26, 2012

ululate!

Neil Armstrong has entered parinirvana (or, at the very least, the bardo). Elisson has a touching tribute here.

I was still gestating-- T minus one month and eleven days from birth-- when Mr. Armstrong, child of Terra, set foot on the untrammeled surface of Luna. My buddy Mike has the honor of having been born about one month before the Moon landing. So maybe there's a karmic bond in there somewhere: two births bracketing a great event in human history.

Even as Lance Armstrong is stripped of his honors, we remember the brave, unimpeachable Neil Armstrong in all his honor.


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Friday, August 24, 2012

sometimes it's not the thought that counts

Now a national joke, an attempted restoration of a painting of Jesus, titled Ecce Homo and originally by Elias Garcia Martinez, has gone horribly awry:


The restorer, octogenarian Cecilia Giménez, overlaid a comically simian image on the flawed but well-rendered original, thereby proving that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

From here:

The well-intentioned but ham-fisted amateur artist, in her 80s, took it upon herself to fill in the patches and paint over the original work, which depicted Christ crowned with thorns, his sorrowful gaze lifted to heaven.

Her work done, the "restored" figure looks somewhat like a monkey with fur surrounding a pale face and a child-like drawing of eyes, a cartoon-style nose and a crooked smudge for a mouth.

O Lord, may I never be this bad.

ADDENDUM: It's not as though Ms. Giménez's image hasn't been inspirational: it has.


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another film to add to the roster

Along with having recently watched "Inception," I just saw "The Hunger Games" last night. I plan to comment, soon, on both of these movies. Bear with me.


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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

back in the saddle

I'm back in Appalachia. My brother David sent me a cool link to a nifty, Star Wars-style hoverbike.


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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

lost and found

My brother paid me for my current dog-sitting gig by leaving a personal check on the living room table. I went out last night to deposit the check at a local PNC ATM... and the goddamn machine ate my card. I successfully completed the deposit, the machine started clicking, whirring, growling, and then... nada. I stood there in the rain, like an idiot, for two or three minutes before I finally admitted defeat. I went back into my car, tried calling PNC Customer Service, and got a recording saying to call back during normal business hours. As my Kiwi buddy John might say, this fucked me off.

So I got up an hour earlier than usual, prepped myself for my workday, and drove back to that PNC branch to get my damn card back. The process was quick and painless: I showed my ID to a teller; he sauntered over to the ATM, pulled the card out of the machine's ass, and handed it to me. Mission accomplished.

One hell of a morning.


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Monday, August 20, 2012

ululate!

Director Ridley Scott's brother, Tony, depontiates.*

Scott's filmography is here.





*Yes, I made that word up. It's meant in the spirit of "defenestrate," i.e., to jump out a window to one's death (se défenestrer in French). That verb comes from the Latin fenestram, or window. Depontiate comes from the Latin pontis/pontem, or bridge, and simply means to jump off a bridge to one's death.


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blow your mind

Wanna make your brain explode? Read this profound post by Peter, over at Conscious Entities, on the nature and origin of the universe, and on the various interwoven ontological necessities that propel it forward through time-- all in an attempt to explain the difficulty we have of reckoning with a phenomenon like qualia (i.e., subjective, phenomenal components of experience). My head is spinning. A quick sample of what you're in for:

Why do the contents of the world seem so arbitrary and random? I suggest there are two reasons. First, the ongoing transcendence which drives the universe is nomic as well as ontic. It’s not just that there’s more stuff, there are more, and more complex, underlying laws. Our view of the long-term past and future is therefore obscured: the ancient universe was not just physically smaller but metaphysically impoverished or cramped, too, and long-term extrapolations are systematically thrown off by this. If we could understand the process properly, it may be that things would look less random – though I grant that for the moment this must be an optimistic article of faith rather than a rigorously deduced conclusion.

Ontic means real; nomic means law-governed. I'm not sure I either follow or agree with Peter's contention that (meta)physical laws continued to come into being as the early universe unfolded itself; to me, it seems more likely that the laws were all "in place" at the moment of the Big Bang. Far from onto-nomic impoverishment, the beginning was a moment of primordial plenitude.


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Jesus, more Crazians

From here:

8 INJURED IN SOUTH KOREAN SUBWAY RAMPAGE

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- A man wielding a box-cutter stabbed or cut eight people at a subway station just outside of South Korea's capital after a teenager confronted him for spitting at him, police said Sunday.

No one died in the 10-minute rampage Saturday and the injuries weren't life-threatening, according to three police officers who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to talk to the media. Police arrested a man running away from the station in Uijeongbu, which is home to U.S. and South Korean military bases, the officers said.

Such attacks are rare in South Korea.

Police identified the suspect as a 39-year-old man surnamed Yoo.

Yoo began wielding a box cutter at an 18-year-old man surnamed Park inside the train when the victim confronted Yoo for spitting at him, police said. Infuriated when Park said he would call police, Yoo began brandishing the cutter on a train and then on a station platform until he was arrested, Uijeongbu Police Station said in a statement released Sunday.

Yoo, who is unemployed and lives alone, was on his way to find work in Seoul on the subway, police said.

Lovely.


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Sunday, August 19, 2012

a tale of two dishes

Home-cured gravlax, Elisson-style.

Home-cured gravlax, Genesis-style.


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dog-sitting redux

I'll be back in Alexandria tomorrow, dog-sitting until Tuesday. Sean will be away for his audition (he's auditioning for the Kennedy Center in New Jersey, I have no clue).

I wish him luck. This is a big one.


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Saturday, August 18, 2012

a drive to the Tower

While I was at the auto shop getting my brake pads replaced (the front brakes were worn down to their inners, i.e., the next step would have been the rotors), a friendly old gent at the shop started talking to me about where he lived: a few miles off, in an area called Woodstock Tower. It's apparently deer country, along with being bear, bobcat, mountain lion, and wolf country as well.

So I decided to give my new brakes a little workout, and made the drive to Woodstock Tower up on Mine Mountain, which forms the northern border of Fort Valley and looms above the Seven Bends area of the Shenandoah River. The trip is gravel road over the final four miles, and I slipped and slid along the switchback in my tiny Honda Fit, hoping for a good view of the Seven Bends (closer to thirty-four bends, actually). I never got that view-- too much foliage-- but it was one hell of a fun ride. I may have to go back that way and explore some more.

I'll tell you this, though: it's a bad, bad place for your car to break down or for your tire to go flat. Every single car I encountered on that road today was an SUV. You need a tough vehicle if you plan to live in that area.


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Friday, August 17, 2012

munching locally

I just ate at a recently opened local diner located not two minutes from where I live. The diner's location, despite being prime real estate, seems cursed: the diner is the third restaurant to appear in that same spot in the two years I've lived in this one-whore's town. The two previous restaurants were both Italian. The one that closed sometime in 2011 was awful: I went there once to eat, and was served below-par fettuccine and insultingly bad bruschetta. What drove the dagger in deeper was the fact that the proprietor of that place was herself Italian. Scandaloso! She should have known better. I never went to the Italian joint that replaced it; that restaurant lasted only a few months, then went under. I can only assume the exasperated townies had had enough of sit-down Italian-American food. They'll stick to their pizzerias, thanks.

Now comes this diner. I decided to risk a visit, not knowing what to expect. Overall, my experience was positive despite two major gaffes: (1) my plastic soda cup smelled funny, which made drinking the soda a strange and not-quite-pleasant experience, and (2) my main course came out of the kitchen a couple minutes before my appetizer.

But the service was cheerful and perky, I was seated as soon as I walked in, and the lag time between order placement and food running was minimal (despite the botched sequence). For an appetizer, I had ordered the chicken quesadilla. What came out was modest but filling; the chicken was chunky and juicy-- no skimping on quantity. The salsa and sour cream were boilerplate, served in tiny plastic cafeteria cups about the size of a small shot glass. The chicken had a decent grilled flavor to it, but the herbs and spices weren't all that memorable. My main course was a Reuben. It came out looking as small as a midget panini, and like some other inferior Reubens I've eaten, the bottom slice of bread began to get soggy within minutes because of the sauerkraut (the now-defunct 55's, in Haymarket, made a kick-ass Reuben with thick slices of buttery, buttery toast-- glorious enough to make me forgive them for not using rye bread). The plate held plenty of French fries, and also sported a laughably small plastic cup of cole slaw-- about a tablespoon's worth.

But the taste of both dishes was diner-worthy, so I decided to stay for dessert. I asked the waitress for her recommendation: "Cheesecake!" she chirped. I ordered the cheesecake with strawberry sauce topping, and it wasn't half bad. The cheesecake itself had a delicate, almost flan-like texture, and the sauce, which appeared canned, proved to be redolent of berries-- much better than it looked.

The appetizer/entrée mixup notwithstanding, I think I might try this diner again sometime. The service is cheerful and attentive; the savory dishes aren't spectacular but are pretty tasty; the dessert is small but surprisingly good. In all, I'd give the experience a thumbs-up, especially since I wasn't expecting anything more exciting than small-town diner food.


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Thursday, August 16, 2012

belated best wishes

August 15! Happy Independence Day to Korea, and a blessed Feast of the Assumption to all you wacky Catholics out there!


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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Kevin, thou art FAT

My buddy Mike has sent me, as an early birthday present, Gary Taubes's Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It, which I plan to sit down and begin reading this week. Assuming my large ass allows me to take a normal seated position, that is. Heh.


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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

baguettes magiques

Someone sent me a pair of Star Wars chopsticks. I was delighted! I'm not sure who did the sending, but THANK YOU, Whoever You Are.

Hugs and kisses. (Well, maybe not kisses if you're a dude.)

UPDATE: I can credit my buddy Mike with sending the chopsticks. Thanks, man!


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Monday, August 13, 2012

the long errand

I have to drive back to Alexandria because, like an idiot, I forgot to take back my cell phone charger. The round trip to Alexandria and back will cost me three hours and a half-tank of gas, or nearly twenty dollars. That's an expensive mistake.

I leave at noon.


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Sunday, August 12, 2012

a rare moment

Maqz loved sitting in my lap, but he never allowed me to flip him onto his back so that I could cradle him. My brother Sean, however, had better luck with the dog today, as you can see below:


Sorry about the "demon eye" in the photo, but such are the dangers of using a cell phone's flash. Maqz has interesting retinas, don't you think?





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on monkeys and crabs

A Korean ESL student of mine wrote an etiological fairy tale about why the monkey's butt is red.


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back in Appalachia

Just returned home from Alexandria; am now safely back in la montagne. Taking care of Sean's house and dog was fun while it lasted. I actually got to see Sean today; he took me out to lunch at Mark's Duck House, where we ate a deep-fried pork dish that was quite, quite scrumptious-- along with the regular lunchtime dim sum. I drank about a gallon of oolong tea (I admit I prefer it sweetened, so I sugared my tea up) while we talked about everything under the sun.

It's not often I have a chance to sit down and relax with Sean, who basically works seven days a week. I'm thankful for whatever opportunity I get to be with him. He has my best wishes regarding his big audition (Kennedy Center Opera House) later this month. He even shared a bit of grapevine scuttlebutt with me regarding the magnificent tenor Placido Domingo, who is director of the Washington National Opera: the man is apparently a terrible conductor. Well... not all movie actors are cut out to be directors, either, so I guess this isn't surprising.

Anyway, I'm back in my hobbit hole like Samwise Gamgee. Gonna settle in, do a bit of ironing, replace my bedding (laundered gratis at Sean's place), then read half of What-the-Dickens by Gregory Maguire, a novel that's been assigned as summer reading to some of our YB students. A weekend of quiet awaits.


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Saturday, August 11, 2012

grillin' and chillin'

Below are some shots from Wednesday evening's grillfest. In the first picture, I've tried to get a shot of a tragedy: a burger that fell apart during an attempted flip. David wondered whether the bread crumbs he'd added to the ground beef mix might have been to blame. I'm not sure; I suspect that the burger simply needed another minute or two before it was firm enough for flippage.


David and his lovely Brazilian wife Patricia got married in a small wedding this past March. They plan to have a bigger ceremony-- the "real" wedding-- sometime next year, finances and travel visas permitting. Along with being beautiful, Patricia is smart, perceptive, and funny. She's a perfect match for my kind-hearted brother.


Flies were an issue during the cookout, so David placed his cooked meat in a large pot and covered it with a plate. Here's the meat:


And here's that meat being placed on a serving dish:


Finally, here's my first-round plate (I got potato salad during Round 2):


It was a nice way to spend a couple hours with family. David said that he wished Sean could have made it, but Sean's away in Pennsylvania, teaching at his music camp (which is why I'm house-sitting). Sean will be auditioning, later this month, for a position with the Kennedy Center Opera House. I hope he makes it. It would be a dream job for him: $73,000/year starting salary, summers off-- the works.


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Munch's Door

Sean's bathroom door, doing its best Edvard Munch impression:






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bed tumor

The dog, he likes to hide:






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fragrant burrito

Maqz the chihuahua is a tiny little yippy-dog. Given how small he is, his master has chosen to take care of his pet's gastrointestinal needs by laying out puppy training pads to catch Maqz's anal and urethral expressions. I change out Maqz's pad (Maqzipad?) daily; it's usually covered in filth when I see it.

Disposing of the pad is a multi-step process. First, I spray and wipe down any part of the floor onto which one or more of Maqz's hardened poop logs may have rolled, then I dump the wayward feces onto the center of the mat. Second, I begin the delicate process of rolling and folding the mat into a terrifying burrito, being careful to wipe up any urine-tainted flooring underneath the mat (Maqz's urine sometimes runs off the pad's edge and seeps under it). Once I'm satisfied that I've napalmed the area with enough chemicals, and have given the rest station a thorough wipe-down, I take the fragrant burrito and dump it into a waiting plastic grocery bag (don't ban plastic yet, you politically correct motherfuckers!). From there, the grenade-shaped grocery bag goes into the trash.

Maqz caught me in flagrante today. I'm far too big and bold to be using doggie training pads for my own leavings, so I was upon the toilet. Because Sean's bathroom door is new, isn't painted, and has no handle (picture forthcoming), I had left the bathroom door open. The doorway faces out to the stairs; as I looked out, I heard Maqz with his long claws, clickety-clicking up the stairwell until I saw his enormous ears, then his little head-- and then he was facing me directly. Maqz stopped and stared, his pointed nose sniffing the air avidly while I pushed a big one out. It was a frank and primal moment between two sentient beings: me on the toilet, Maqz staring at me and sniffing my redolence. Undaunted, the dog sauntered right up to my feet, then placed his front paws on my knee in a gesture of solidarity: Well met, fellow pooper! I scratched his pint-sized skull amiably, imagining it orbiting the earth, powered by his huge solar-sail ears.

The dog stood guard until I had finished my session, wiped, and flushed. His mission accomplished, he retreated to another part of the house.

I look forward to one or two more fragrant burritos before I leave Alexandria early tomorrow afternoon.


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Friday, August 10, 2012

Kevin Lee on Sikhism

A really good article by Kevin Lee, a film critic and almost-convert to the Sikh faith, on Slate.


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Thursday, August 09, 2012

back from a lovely barbecue

Photos coming soon (if I'm given permission to post them!).


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Tuesday, August 07, 2012

five easy pieces

Here's a slightly better picture of the brush art I had done a few days back, now hanging behind my seat at my YB Near work station:






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watchdog

Meet Kronos, the Chihuahua of Time:


No dogs were harmed in the making of the above photo. Maqz was a good sport about wearing the watch: he didn't resist a bit when I put it on him. I was somewhat worried that the watch's metal wristband might pinch his fur when I removed the timepiece, but the watch popped off as smoothly as it had slipped on.


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chihuahuas are natural diggers

Maqz digs a position for himself on his master's couch, then settles in for the vigil.






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Monday, August 06, 2012

Sikh tragedy in Wisconsin

The day rises and vanishes into the night,
And the night also passeth,
The age thus wears off;
But the man knoweth not
That the mouse of Time is tearing at the string of life.
Like a herdsman thou hast come to the pasture-land,
In vain thou seekest to stay long,
For, when thy time is over, thou hast to go;
Collect then thy goods, O dear man


(Adi Granth: Guru V, Sri Rag)

Seven people, including the shooter, are dead after a massacre at a Sikh temple (gurdwara) in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. At a guess, this murderous fool thought he was targeting Muslims. Having had the chance to meet several Sikhs during my 2008 walk, and having had the privilege of working with Sikh students at my current job, I feel a personal sense of loss and can't imagine what sort of hurt the Sikh community, as a whole, must feel.

For those who don't know this: a Sikh temple is a place of welcome, as is any house of worship worth its salt. I had basically invited myself to stay at one such temple in Lynden, Washington, and the Sikhs there took my self-invitation in stride, greeting me with open arms, plenty of good food, and a place to rest for the night. I'll never forget that hospitality. Every day at my job, I look into the faces of bright-eyed, high-school-aged Sikh children, and now I find myself wondering just what the hell I'm going to say to them when I see them this week.

Sikh rights groups have reported a rise in bias attacks since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The Washington-based Sikh Coalition has reported more than 700 incidents in the U.S. since 9/11, which advocates blame on anti-Islamic sentiment. Sikhs don't practice the same religion as Muslims, but their long beards and turbans often cause them to be mistaken for Muslims, advocates say.

Sikhism is a monotheistic faith that was founded in South Asia more than 500 years ago. It has roughly 27 million followers worldwide. Observant Sikhs do not cut their hair; male followers often cover their heads with turbans - which are considered sacred - and refrain from shaving their beards.

There are roughly 500,000 Sikhs in the U.S., according to estimates. The majority worldwide live in India.

(Source)

The cup of idiocy overflows. Too bad the shooter was taken down so quickly.


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MLD

I hereby declare today to be an MLD, or Massive Laundry Day. Since I'm house-sitting for my brother and have access to his laundry facilities, I'm taking advantage of this fact by doing more than just my normal load: I've brought along my bedding as well. Pillows, pillowcases, a blanket, and sheets-- all on tap for today. Sean's washer had a load already inside it, begging to be done, so today's MLD agenda comprises three-- or maybe four-- whole loads.

Marchons, marchons...


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Sunday, August 05, 2012

an animated GIF(t) for Dr. Steve

Dear Dr. Steve,

I created this animated "anima sola" GIF for your Autobiographica Technologica. Right-click on the image, copy it to your computer, then upload it onto your website's FTP space to replace the non-animated pic that's currently there.

You're welcome.



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Saturday, August 04, 2012

big bowla' stank

One of my favorite haunts in Old Town Alexandria is the Hard Times Cafe (actually a chain; see their menu here). They serve a decent variety of chili there, and one of my faves is their Cincinnati Frito chili "pie," which is simply a bowl of Fritos corn chips glopped over with chili and topped with a happy mound of cheese. My attempt at simulating this appears below, with the addition of a healthy ejaculation of sriracha.






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dog-sitting for a week

Starting tomorrow, I'll be back in Alexandria to house- and dog-sit for my brother Sean, and I'll be there for a whole week. My brother David has kindly invited me over to his place-- also in Alexandria-- for a barbecue sometime next week. Expect a few Maqz pictures. There might be some tempting BBQ pics as well.


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one man's Chick-Fil-A saga

One man decides he's not going to visit Chick-Fil-A as often as he used to, so by way of protest, he embarks on a quest to reproduce the classic Chick-Fil-A sandwich. Quite an interesting journey. Read about it here.


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Friday, August 03, 2012

Charles La Shure: tireur embusqué

I had promised Charles that I would Photoshop a pic of him, in sniper posture, with an actual rifle. I told him, while we were at Dark Hollow Falls, that he could simply strike the pose and I'd pop the gun into his hands. This proved to be a real test of my Photoshopping ability, as no gun quite seemed to fit Charles's exact hand position. I don't even remember the name of the rifle I finally selected, but I do know I performed a great deal of surgery on and around it-- lengthening the stock, radically altering the scope and the scope's mount, changing the angle of Charles's forward hand, altering the rock behind that hand, etc. Results below:



Compare the above with the original, below:






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fartwork

Last night (i.e., Wednesday night), I cranked out a few brush-art images. Unfortunately, when I took the picture of my collection, the pic came out looking terrible, so I've Photoshop-filtered it. The paintings are now hanging up at YB Near, on the wall behind my desk, and my students spent some time ooh-ing and ahh-ing at them. If I can, I'll try to take a better, clearer picture of the paintings, and will display that picture here, im'sh'al-Lah. Meanwhile, you'll have to make do with this:



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Breffus 2: Wegmans Edition

This breakfast, which I ate this past Saturday when Dr. Steve was here, featured one of Dr. Steve's generous contributions: a Wegmans apple pie.






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Thursday, August 02, 2012

laughed my fool ass off

Techno Chihuahua, sent to me by my chihuahua-owning brother Sean. (Remember Maqz versus Satan?) The video features a lot of... well... rhythmic pooping. The humor is definitely aimed right at my level.


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Wednesday, August 01, 2012

contra Stacey K.

Back in April of this year, Stacey Koprince, an instructor for Manhattan Prep, wrote this blog post on reading comprehension. Her post contained the following text and GRE question:

TEXT

Sarah Meyers McGinty, in her new book Power Talk: Using Language to Build Authority and Influence, argues that while the simple lingual act of declaring power does not help a powerless person gain influence, well-considered linguistic techniques and maneuvers do. McGinty does not dispute the importance of factors such as expertise and ability in determining stature, but argues persuasively that these power determinants amount to little in a person unable to communicate effectively. Many surveys have shown that the ability to communicate effectively is the characteristic judged by managers to be most critical in determining promotability in the workplace or an academic environment.

McGinty divides speech into two categories: “language from the center” and “language from the edge[.”] In McGinty’s words, “Language from the center makes a speaker sound like a leader.” McGinty suggests that language from the center is not only for those in high positions of power, but also for those of lower ranks who wish to gain more power and credibility. A speaker using language from the center exhibits the following characteristics: he directs rather than responds; he makes statements rather than asks questions; he contradicts, argues, and disagrees; he uses his experience persuasively; and he maintains an air of impersonality in the workplace. McGinty suggests that the use of language from the center can alter or create a new balance of power. These assertions are supported by studies that show that people accept leadership from those they perceive to be experts.

Language from the edge stands in stark contrast to language from the center. Language from the edge is careful, exploratory, and inquiring. It is inclusive, deferential, and collaborative. A speaker using language from the edge responds rather than directs; asks questions; strives to make others feel heard and protected; and avoids argument. The main purpose of language from the center is to claim authority for a speaker, while language from the edge strives to build consensus and trust. McGinty argues that true power comes from a deep understanding of when to use which style and the ability to use both as necessary.

What distinguishes McGinty’s discussion of effective communication is her focus on communication skills as a way of gaining power; this contrasts with most workplace communication theory, which focuses on communication skills as a way of preventing misunderstandings, avoiding conflict, and fostering interpersonal relationships. McGinty, however, holds that language not only helps maintain relationships but also lends authority. According to Power Talk, effective communication skill “is an understanding of how situation shapes speech and how speech shapes situation” and “an understanding of how speech styles and the forces that affect those styles . . . can build your authority, and enhance your credibility and impact.


QUESTION

The primary focus of the passage is on which of the following?

(A) Demonstrating the effectiveness of a certain framework in the business world

(B) Explaining the advantages and disadvantages of a proposed approach to business communication

(C) Analyzing the details of a controversial theory of business

(D) Presenting a new model of business communication

(E) Articulating the major differences between two types of language

The correct answer is (D), and Koprince provides an involved explanation as to why. Still, I wasn't satisfied with her explanation, and since I'm unable to leave comments on the MGRE blog, I'll leave my comment here:

I can't say that I'm all that comfortable with answer (D), since the article never mentions the newness of the theory: it talks only about how it contrasts with other theories of business communication.

Any evidence for "newness" would have to come from the final paragraph, but instead of giving us any sense of innovation, the paragraph uses language like "What distinguishes...," "this contrasts with...," "McGinty, however..." --all of which points to difference, not newness. You could counterargue that the beginning of the passage announces that this is a "new" book, but there is no necessary link between a new book and a new theory.

I agree that (D) is the best choice, but only because it's the least bad of a set of bad choices. It's easy to see why people might get this question wrong.


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Ave, Charles!

Charles has put up his traveler's tale: A month in the States.


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