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Happy 11th anniversary of moving to NM, me!

Speaking of traveling...in between the 2008 TRASHionals and the World Sudoku Championship 3 (in India) I finally made it to the Big Apple for some sight-seeing and family and friend time.  Things were so quaint back then that I'd even immediately head to my unread(able?) LJ and write way too much about it.  As I recall, I had started recapping things when it came time to head to the airport for my 17-hour flight to Bombay, so I copied everything into a text file and made a mental note to finish up when I got to India.

Which...didn't happen.

Anyhow, five years on, and with minimal motivation to finish my thoughts -- and even less ability to do so! -- here's the gist of the NYC trip.  I'm leaving it almost entirely as it was written back then.  Enjoy?

Five years ago...Collapse )

(And that's all from back then.  Would I have followed it up with a reference to that creepy Just for Men commercial where two 6-8yo girls try to get their father some action?  I guess we'll never know.  But at least now I have something in common with Samuel T. Coleridge.  Minus the opium-induced hallucinations)

Thanks for reading y'all.


2012: The End of the Beginning

Hello again internet!

I've gotta hand it to me; while I almost never post anything here on LJ (and instead pretend to be clever in smaller bits on Facebook), I've been consistent with the big December 31st grand finale.  Those previous ones summarized the year in blithe vagueness, and there's plenty more of that on tap here.

2012 Quasi-recapCollapse )

Thanks for the good times, 2012.  Here's to more of the same.  Except even better.

And thanks for reading this slipshod mess of thoughts.  Happy new year!


Croatia Update #2 -- Losers Weepers

Here we sit, with the entirety of the WSC in the rear-view mirror.  I definitely enjoyed myself, and it was a fair competition -- if one that wasn't quite as successful as I would like.  I'd like to share some highs and lows in the next 15min before I run off to smuggle my American-bought peanut butter into the mess hall so that I can eat something normal. 

2012 WSC - Individual RoundsCollapse )

More later -- it's lunch-time, and the WSC playoffs have already happened.  Wow, and now Rhythm of My Heart by Rod Stewart is playing -- it's a good day.  Anyhow, thanks for reading.


Croatia Update -- Lightning Round

Hooray, many of us (myself included) have made it to Kraljevica, Croatia without any real incident!  The travel was grueling (more on this later), but it got me from there to here, in a touch under 24 hours, and now it's time to play.  I'll sleep plenty when I'm dead -- which felt like it could have happened a handful of times yesterday but somehow didn't.  So here we are.

Many of the puzzles in this year's competition bear a strong resemblance to those from the Prague championship in 2007 -- the first time I'd ever been overseas and the first one of these sorts of things I'd ever attended.  It was also my best finish -- 10th in the world -- as well as our team's best official finish (2nd), so that's a good sign.  It was also also the last time I found myself waking up at strange hours and jabbering away on a keyboard with updates.  Lots of flashbacks here.

Lots of flashing as well.  My goodness, last night's explosive and stupendous lightning was something to see and hear.  Based on my back-of-the-envelope calculations -- where you count the number of seconds between when you see the flash and when you hear the thunder to determine its distance -- we had about a half-dozen bolts land (approximately) 0.00 miles from where we are staying.  Plenty more were in the vicinity.  And in the groggy state of someone who just flew around the world -- one's mind tends to wander and you fear that staying on the top floor of the building may make us more of a target to get zapped.  If it happened I probably wouldn't have remembered anyhow, but I'm fine now so let's go with it.

The place itself (see: here) isn't nearly as bad as reviews would have you believe (see: here), tho that's an early and possibly uninformed impression.  The food last night -- a site for sore bellies for sure -- came out pretty nice, even if all four water/juice taps delivered only water.  There appears to be plenty of little fun activities around here -- dance club (and you know how much I love dancing!) nearby, mini-golf -- or at least a sign advertising mini-golf, tennis, and a bar and restaurant in the hotel proper.  The shower once again is a European-style disaster -- why no shower curtain?  And why can't you mount the spraying thing high enough up that those of us who don't prefer the sultry hand-held showering method don't have to use it?  But otherwise the room is clean if slightly cramped; I'm staying with Chris, whose name I had seen on leaderboards for a few years now, and who is a US B-team player in his first competition.  I found one bug on my bed -- a friendly enough looking if now dead ant thing -- and the sheets and stuff are otherwise fine.

Puzzle-wise...I felt pretty darn good about my play "yesterday" on the plane(s), tho my attempt this morning went kinda slowly.  But I got through it all the same, and it was a toughie, and I feel ok on the preparation front thus far.  The puzzles this year are either pretty familiar *or* quite close to the usual classic / in-the-paper / vanilla sudoku puzzles everyone knows, so preparing for exotic variations by listing their quirks isn't nearly as useful as speedy solving of traditional puzzles.  We'll see how that strategy holds up, but I think I'm in reasonably good shape.  Famous last words, I know.

I *could* use a little more sleep, if at all possible, so I think I'll practice up a little bit and then head back to the room for a catnap.  Gametime is in a little over three hours.  Maybe an update will come after then, and if not -- you may be able to follow the proceedings online.  Thx for reading, I hope all is swell.


Let's see if I can say more while typing less...

WPC Round 15 and beyondCollapse )
Man that was a good time.  Let's do it again sometime!


London Olympics Scorecard

Four years back I provided verbosity about that year's Beijing Olympics, which I spent copious hours watching.  This time around I started strong but lost my viewing mojo sometime around the midway point.  Nonetheless, I hereby present another State of the Olympics to Me report, this time ranking each of the different sports/disciplines from least-something to most-something, where the "something" is either "entertaining", "necessary", "fun", or (most likely) a combination of all of these and many other positive viewing/sporting attributes.  I'll attempt to relate this to my experience watching it this go-round, and I both anticipate and, in fact, will revel in the fact that I'll be perpetuating lazy Ugly American stereotypes all the way through.

#30 -> #1Collapse )
I'm less itching for the Intercalated Games than I was last time, so...see y'all in four years?


Thursday/Friday -- Days 1 & 2 of the WPC

Well, this should be an interesting exercise.  Here comes/goes nothing...

WPC Rounds 1-14Collapse )

I feel pretty confident that another night of drinking, racing...ooh, maybe even my abortive attempt at playing the audio Learned League quiz with the locals in spite of my laptop being slow as sin...it was another enjoyable night of extra-puzzicular stuff, for sure.  All of which led up to the absurdity that was Saturday night / Sunday morning in Eger.  The details of which will be coming "soon"...


That Runner-Up Season

In the most recent message (a mere 4.33 months back!) I expressed optimism in a promising upcoming year.  Thus far I daresay I underestimated things; this year's been crazy wild and vividly memorable and new.  The past six months (including last November's trip to NY/NJ/Europe) have probably been the greatest half-year I can recall.  Tho it's not all been perfect, and I was dealt something of a setback in recent months.

In particular, I appear to have been in way over my head despite thinking I belonged.  Things were on life-support multiple times, and they always turned out ok -- and I felt they would even when things yet again looked incredibly dire; that fate had been avoided before, why not one more time?  Nevertheless -- and despite my best concerted efforts -- a late rally couldn't save things, and it concluded rather suddenly and without much fanfare, and the chances of going back to where I was before are so slim that I wonder how I ever got there in the first place.  I keep asking myself "What if?" and know that's not healthy, but hey, who among us doesn't have unhealthy habits?

Yes, I'm of course speaking about my unceremonious relegation from Rundle A West in the most recent season of the Learned League, an international online trivia competition.  If you'd like to pass along flowers let me know and I'll send you my street address.

Although, you know, now that I think about it...

Beware of Horrendous Sports Metaphors!Collapse )

Coming full-circle -- a new season of Learned League starts on Monday.  I'm coming guns-blazing.  You better beware, RuizM, whoever you are.

(P.S.: Hey, you in Albuquerque!  Thanks for all the unforgettable memories!  See you around.)


One Year Later

Well, it's that time of year -- specifically when one year is about to give way to another -- and strewn across Facebook and elsewhere you can easily find people regretting 2011...wishing 2011 would suffer eternal damnation...requesting 2011 would self-gratify, etc.  As a general rule (at least thus far) you won't find me playing along with that, as another year of life -- no matter how bad -- almost certainly beats the alternative, tho I can imagine from where those folks are coming.  Other places -- blogs and other journal-y entities -- see their authors recapping the entire year through a chronological lens.  There's nothing inherently wrong with this either, as it's a neat little way to summarize the previous twelve months and bring back some memories.

Speaking of memories...it took me awhile to remember what it was I actually did last NYE.  Ahh, right: I very nearly rang in the new year in the midst of the composition of a blog post.  That post in particular was the culmination of a year's-worth of My Life in Music, and appropriately enough was a jaunty ramble about my #1 most favorite-est song...at least as of 12/31/2010.  In a neat little bit of symmetry, you might even say that this past year -- you know, 2011, the one that lots of people hated -- was my #1 year of life.  But ahh, would *I* say the same?  Y'know...maybe?  Let's say it's tied for first with some other years and leave it there for now.

I don't know that a lot exactly, you know, *happened* for 2011 to earn such lofty praise.  The spring semester was essentially pretty disappointing; I had three classes at the university, one of which could barely conceal its contempt for my methods/discipline/existence, and another of which did a commendable job of caging that contempt and unleashing it on the teacher evaluations.  I was uncertain about my future in such a career (and, *cough*, may still be) and even applied back at the local National Labs.  I didn't get the job...nor an interview...nor even a call back.  No big; the school actually had two instructor positions that opened up in the summer for which I applied.  I didn't get the job...nor an interview...nor even a call back.  Tho the woman in charge did have the decency to write a 30-second email in response to my groveling phone message.

My personal satisfaction improved in the fall, even if the professional results were somewhere between limp and comatose.  This time I had 5.5 classes, and the rate of success of the students actually seemed to vary inversely with how much our personalities meshed.  I do indeed still get angry when people who have no business failing their final exam do so anyhow, tho I'm proud of myself for not feeling similarly when those whom I expect to fail the final end up passing.  Who knew that my quiet class would see an 80% pass rate while the loquacious lovable "zoo" would only get 50% through?

To say that the social side of life provides the impetus towards such lofty 2011 rating doesn't feel particularly accurate either.  In 2010 I frequently played trivia and volleyball.  In 2011 I...frequently played trivia and volleyball.  Oh, and there was also the Ultimate Frisbee league from the summer, a wonderful time of exercise and socializing and, err, playoff lament.  I think last year I was putting up a front on how satisfied I was with sitting at home by myself when the calendar rolled over, and I'm partaking in the same activity with the same "company" today.

But I truly don't think I'm carrying the same mindset.  You may notice up there that I skipped over summer almost entirely, and that was by design.  This summer harkened back to summers past, and the one I kept visualizing was 1992.  I wasn't old enough to drive, nor work, and had essentially no responsibility except to live it up -- which, at that point, involved a lot of working out at the weightroom, late-night sports (basketball at Acoma Park I believe), and hanging out with friends.  And this summer saw an absurd amount of the same -- well, ok, it was volleyball here in town and I actually had a couple of classes -- with the same amount of carefree glee from what felt like a lifetime ago.  In fact, one night at the local volleyball bar I decided to get the two worlds to collide -- singing God Gave Rock 'n' Roll to You II, this time into a karaoke microphone, the previous time(s) almost two decades prior at the SMHS sand courts on a quintessential steamy Phoenix summer evening.

Three months of grand fun -- three or four nights of trivia a week, 1:30am summertime volleyball curfews, mostly empty weightroom -- doth not make for a year's-worth of beautiful memories.  But with age comes maturity, or perspective, or maybe (hopefully not!) lowered-expectations, and it all came together nicely at Ultimate playoffs -- possibly due to a sprinting-induced hallucination, who knows?  I looked out at the beautiful sky that had graced our August day and just felt totally at ease.  It seems like I say the same thing at least once a year, but anyhow, here it comes (again?): life is good, and specifically this life is good.  It's not the one I ever expected to have, and certain aspects (like, say, the uncertainty and moderate remuneration that comes with being essentially an itinerant university algebra instructor) could stand to see some improvement.  Those same certain aspects could be significantly worse too.  But either way, they're mine, and foreseen or otherwise -- there's really a lot about which to be happy here.  That kid spending hours playing Castle Wolfenstein and (occasionally!) draining the J into the metal nets at the park wouldn't have traded those nights and memories for anything; why can't the (occasional!) adult feel the same way about the same fun in the here-and-now?

A wage not significantly more than my mortgage...multiple drinks on multiple work nights lasting past 10pm...leisurely workouts on and off the court 4x a week -- it can't last forever.  The part of me that loves it now may someday get swallowed whole by the would-be husband/father/full-time-employee/actually-useful-around-the-house-for-once human that may or may not actually exist.  A smooth transition would be wonderful, and hitting the snooze button and living this past summer (or the one 19.5 years ago) again may not be so bad either.  Sounds like a good situation, no?

I hereby salute you, 2011; you were good to me.  And here's to a great 2012.

(P.S. Hey, you in Hawaii!  I didn't forget about you -- see that part about 2012?  See you then!)


The fact that I'm able to recollect things nearly a month after they happened indicates, to me at least, that this must've been a pretty awesome week.  Read on and decide for yourself.

WSC Finals + SightseeingCollapse )

Somehow the bunch of us staggered safely back to the hotel, and a healthy night of sleep was in order.  Which, of course, doesn't mean it happened.  I seem to recall another night of puzzle-racing, theoretically intended to set the stage for a surprisingly decent finish in the next morning's pending WPC.  Did it work?  Stay tuned.


Tuesday -- Day 2 of the WSC

After one of the more idyllic Thanksgivings in recent memory -- boneless Buffalo wings, hard cider, NFL game, NCAA football game, UNM basketball game, NTN trivia, NYT crossword, cute waitress -- it's time to talk more Hungary.

WSC Round 8-13Collapse )

With it getting near 2am by that time, I think we wrapped things up.  Which is fair since, with it getting near 4am right now, I should do the same.  If you made it this far, thanks for reading, congratulations, and have another Red Bull.


Monday -- Day 1 of the WSC

After a week of decompressing back in the US, it's time to finally put to text some tales from one of the funnest weeks of my life.

WSC Round 1-7, Pop Music QuizCollapse )

I'm going to post the pictures from each day of adventures after I write them up.  Those of you on Fb can peruse each album as it goes up (as one will be doing so pretty soon here).


ABQ - Eger; Day 0 of the WSC/WPC

The longest overseas excursion of my life began this past Friday (sort of) with a ludicrously quick visit to the NY/NJ area.  Here's some mildly entertaining details...

Whoa, cool, I'm in Hungary!Collapse )

Next time I'll get around to the actual Eger experience, including some long-winded lowbrow narrative on what's gone right and what more has gone wrong during the various championships.  Thanks for reading.


Soccer Counterpoint

The USWNT soccer game vs. Brazil at the Women's World Cup had some absolutely breathtaking and fantastic moments.  Not surprisingly, the post mortem commentary about the game has been some combination of hyperbolic, patronizing, and ridiculously blind to the big picture.

As best I can tell it's also gone unchecked.  Let's change that.

If that's your best, your best won't doCollapse )
Annnnnd...I think that's everything.  Let's go USA!  Two to go!


The Hockey Scorecard

At some point within the last few months I decided to go Hockey Nuts and get heavily invested in the season.  Watching some old Buffalo footage -- with all its attendant nostalgia, sure, but even thinking about how it must've been for my family when news came that their hometown was getting a hockey team -- turned me into more than just the April-June (or April-May...or April-(Late-April)) fan I'd been of the last decade.  And with all the news about Phoenix losing the Coyotes...or not...yes...no...it was now or never to get serious.

But hockey's always been funny, as back in those big hockey days of my undergraduate years, I'd convinced myself I was also a partial fan of a few more teams, and could easily get temporarily behind other teams.  Geographic location could factor in, as could the presence of my preferred players...criminy, maybe uniform colors, who knows?

Anyhow, as we head into the final regulation period of the final contest of the year, I present the scorecard -- for whom I was pulling in each playoff series, a probably specious reason why, and how they did in the series.  The results?  Not good.

The Cooler is IN!Collapse )

See ya next year, hockey!


Old Endings

Happy New Year!

I was provided with a healthy dose of nostalgia last night.  I wouldn't say I was expecting it, despite my general nostalgic bent, and it left me kind of emotional, for reasons I couldn't entirely explain away at the time.  Let's see how I do now.

For starters, I now possess one fewer giftcard than I did 30 hours ago.  It wasn't stolen or anything -- I just used it up, as is the typical way these things go.  I had grown somewhat attached to it, as it had sat on my nightdresser (like a nightstand but bigger!) for almost the last 14 months, with precisely $27.02 remaining on it.

Where did the other original $72.98 go?  Well, that's the thing.  I returned last night, for a get-to-know gathering (for me at least -- they all knew each other, but I'd only previously met 28.6% of them) , to the place of my second-most-recent first-date.  Near the start of last year I'd met somebody and thought I'd try to impress her with a visit to an overhyped and overpriced national chain joint, at which we spent nearly $73 on not a lot of food and 3-4 drinks total.  Did it work?  I guess so; the relationship that ensued was probably the most fruitful of my life, and lasted well into the summer.  It goes without saying that it lasts no longer, tho based on the interactions between the two of us over the last nine months, that was almost certainly a foregone conclusion.

The thing is, tho, the last time I was at that place it was anything but a dead-end.  It was a totally lively and exciting new opportunity, and the sky was the limit.  Which, ironically (?), sounds almost exactly the same as "This guy's the limit", which might explain why it went from unbounded opportunity to its (un?)timely conclusion at a relatively brisk pace; I'm to blame as I never know what I want.  Or something like that.

So why all the nostalgia?

I recall one time back around 2002 -- around the time I was set to leave Arizona for New Mexico -- I visited the dorm from the first semester of my freshman year.  I don't recall why, and am frankly at a loss as to how I got past the front desk sentinel, to whom residents would regularly have to flash some sort of decal on their student ID.  I must've just been in the neighborhood and wanted to pay some last respects to the place of my earliest memories of ASU -- as limited and truly forgetful as they now are and almost certainly were then.

Anyhow -- and with a full understanding that this was extremely unlikely to happen -- when I visited the stairwell that led up to my room on the fifth-floor, I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the younger me, generic portable tape-player in hand, trudging on up or down those stairs as I had hundreds of times years before.  I was also woefully under-equipped for this task -- no hallucinogens or even alcohol was in my system at the time -- and the visuals didn't include the recent high school graduate me, no matter how hard I tried.  But recollecting the spirit of that time -- the mindset of a carefree new college student unburdened by anything resembling responsibility -- took me back.  The younger me, had he come barging in on his way to the computer lab or cafeteria or something, would never have recognized the NM-bound me -- except maybe for the same lacking fashion sense and the countless cowlicks.  And even at his best he never would've guessed how my life would have gone in those following years.  He might not have even cared to find out.

Snap back to last night.  This time I actually had partaken in plenty of liquid courage, and even though I could see the booth where she and I had sat 14 months prior, the visuals again stubbornly stayed hidden in the recesses of my mind.  I remember what we ordered (at least the drinks), what she was wearing, and where we went afterward (even if the two of us lost at trivia by six or so to the juggernaut team).  But furthermore, I remember the nervous energy, followed by fits and spurts of comfort and confidence, and the general positive vibe each of us was offering the other.  And I remember the sheer exhilaration at finally (!!) having found that particular someone.

Which brings us to the giftcard, one of the last tangible reminders of that night.  It was indistinguishable from the first time I used it, aside from perhaps imperceptible marks from the one time it had been swiped fourteen months prior.  But nearly everything else about that night had changed.  She and I had fizzled something fierce, she found someone new, I found someone new, I unfound someone new, and am back to the drawing board like so many times before.  I've seen her four times in the last nine months, thrice by accident/coincidence.  I anticipate an equal (or lesser) amount of interaction over the next nine months.

Of course this all takes for granted what else I didn't know at the time.  We were about to totally hit it off!  My flimsy game actually held up for once!  We went to Vegas, Disneyland, and even a bloody MC Hammer concert!  I met her father!  None of this qualifies as a life-changing experience (except the concert, of course), but had a commensurate amount of compatibility accompanied our mutual attraction, it all would matter (now) a great deal.  And it all would've essentially began at that restaurant.  With that giftcard.

Well it's gone now, even the artistically rendered piece of plastic from my nightdresser.  When I paid with the giftcard (plus another $10 -- that double margarita wasn't cheap!) I was taken aback for a bit.  The memories are mostly positive, but to go from a triumphant first-date to somewhere between lonely and loner isn't the trajectory any of us has in mind.  And while last night's get-together was the highlight of an otherwise pretty decent day anyhow, it, like many other aspects of my present life, would not have been foreseen by the giddy dude in the booth making silly wisecracking smalltalk to the accommodating attractive brunette.

I can safely admit to myself that I want to go back.  No, not in time (although, now that I think about it...).  And not necessarily to that restaurant, even for my faithful (former!) giftcard.  And not even to that particular female; we did the best we could.

But to that feeling.  I miss that feeling of unfettered expectation that accompanied that night and, for a time there, that relationship.  Here's hoping it finds its way back to me, once more.

And may the next time I have one of these attempted nostalgic vision episodes, it involve looking back at this message and wondering how maxing out a giftcard could stir up all this emotion.


My Life in Music (Part 30 of 30)

Well, what began on January 2nd of this past year will be ending essentially when the year ends.  It's been a rather, umm, verbose journey.  A few thoughts before the curtain comes down...

Special thanks go out to those willing to comment -- you know who you are.  I will readily admit that I often post things with an eye towards reading those same thoughts weeks or months later, with nary (or at least not many) a thought towards what anyone reading might think.  But still, the point here wasn't to actually be entirely avoided.  This was more unread(able?) than I would have liked, but it was nice to know at least somebody out there was following along...or at least playing my silly wordplay game.

The good people at SongMeanings.net deserve some mention too.  Aside from a Wikipedia entry, most songs don't have any real authoritative source on their origins and meanings, and thanks to SM...well, they still don't.  But reading the impressions of meaning from a bunch of other amateurs often helped me clarify mine, or sometimes even find it in the first place.  It seems like a good site, I hope you'll give it a look.

Lastly, in addition to whomever I'm forgetting, I'd like to thank the artists whose music has been a part of my life for as long as i can recall.  I really don't watch television or movies or read books or visit art museums or take part in any number of other forms of expression out there.  But I listen to music, and for the last twenty years it's been a big part of me.  And not just because of all the trash trivia questions I occasionally got on the subject either.

And now, with only a few more lines of further ado...

#1Collapse )

Thanks for reading and playing youse guy(s).  I hope you enjoyed it.  Here's to a great 2011.

My Life in Music (Part 29 of 30)

Almost thurr...

#3 - #2Collapse )

My Life in Music (Part 28 of 30)

Happy New Year's Eve eve!

#6 - #4Collapse )

My Life in Music (Part 27 of 30)

Greetings, single digits.

#10 - #7Collapse )

My Life in Music (Part 26 of 30)

Next stop, Albuquerque!

#15 - #11Collapse )

My Life in Music (Part 25 of 30)

And down the stretch we come...

#20 - #16Collapse )

My Life in Music (Part 24 of 30)

I write these stupid words...and I love *every* one.

#30 - #21Collapse )

My Life in Music (Part 23 of 30)

Greetings from rainy Phoenix!

#40 - #31Collapse )

My Life in Music (Part 22 of 30)

Lazy Monday (and Tuesday)!

#50 - #41Collapse )

My Life in Music (Part 21 of 30)

My Life in Music (Part 20 of 30)

Superhyperintensive blogging week continues...

#70 - #61Collapse )

My Life in Music (Part 18 of 30)

Rollin' rollin' rollin...

#90 - #81Collapse )

My Life in Music (Part 17 of 30)

Into double-digits we go...

#100 - #91Collapse )Refreshments, The -- Interstate

2001: 8 of 100
2003: 61 of 200
2006: 70 of 200
2009: 97 of 250

Ahh, that rarest of rare birds; the pensive Refreshments' tune.  Amongst all their smirk rock about boob jobs and rock'n'roll outlaws you can occasionally find these sorts of thoughtful gems, which have a respectable batting average for a style that's a surprising strong suit for Roger Clyne.

To me, in spite of the best efforts of Nada, Don't Wanna Know, and Una Soda -- plus a slew of Peacemakers' tunes -- this is his best slowish song...and most thoughtful too.  Two of his most premium lines find a home here -- "Over there at the trailer park they got a million souls in the lost and found" and "No I don't need a miracle but I could use a push in the right direction" -- the former of which looks deeper but the latter of which has always done more to/for me.

Ok, so it's so thoughtful that it's got some deep meaning, no?  Umm...perhaps.  As has been well established via this chart thing, I don't really get a whole lot of depth, certainly if it's not from GBV.  So my noob impression here is...the narrator is just "out to sea" (metaphorically) while aimlessly traveling the formerly wild west by beat-up Ford.  Did he do something that's got him on the run from John Q. Law and Juan Federale?  Maybe, maybe not.  Judging from the guy's general ambivalence towards all things life, he feels excessively guilty about something, be it legal trouble or that he's wasting his life.  I think it's more meaningful if the guy's just one of those souls in the lost and found (as opposed to this being a slowed-down Take the Money and Run), so let's go with it.

But maybe that's just my eagerness to write myself into songs (combined with my lack of a criminal record) that's talking.  This song entered my life during grad school in the early 2000's, right around the time...well, a significant number of people (or so it felt) were heading away from my life.  And I'm pleased to report I rarely used that time to sit around and mope; hopping in the car to drive around and mope was a lot more (relatively) pleasant.  I never got to the point where I was entirely despondent or clinically depressed, so I never felt like I needed a miracle...just,, you know, a push in the right direction.  But hey, at some point don't we all?

I've not sung this at karaoke, but I've probably screamed it along with Rog and the boys at around a dozen concerts over the last ten years.  That's gotta count for something.

Beatles, The -- Here Comes the Sun

2001: H
2003: H
2006: 56 of 200
2009: 96 of 250 -- top song by this artist on the chart

I believe you would be hard-pressed to find a song whose title is more adequately expressed by its lyrics and music than Here Comes the Sun.  If guitar could ever be described as sunny, this is it.  The warmth is furthered along by the simple turns of phrases...the long and lonely winter is gone, people are smiling again, the ice is slowly melting...everything's going to be ok.  Even the vocal fill -- "It's alright", "Sun sun sun here it comes", and "Doo doo do doo" -- evoke simple pleasure of Harry Caray's favorite planet, the sun.  It should be the favorite planet of all of us as well.

The deep meaning behind the song is...well, George hated the long English winter, and it had finally come to an end.  Whether intended or not, this is ripe territory for other interpretations.  Suffice to say, should this song pop into my head the moment I meet The One, I'll come back and addend this entry.

Pantera -- Mouth for War

2001: 48 of 100
2003: O(wned but not ranked)
2006: O
2009: 95 of 250 -- top song by this artist on the chart

I haven't said this too much lately, but here's another track one, side one, this time not from a CD but from my dilapidated cassette copy of Vulgar Display of Power.  As far as it goes, this has to be one of the best first few moments of any album I own, as the boys don't waste any time getting loud and heavy.  And the first words of the song just scream revenge.  No, really, Phil just screams "REVENGE!!".  In a more vengeful time of my life, this had a lot more meaning -- and it still does now, but more simply because it's a great song.  Indeed, it's my favorite song by one of the greatest thrash metal bands of all time.  "The releasing of anger can better any medicine under the sun" is true down to its core, fits perfectly with the music, and references the almost therapeutic nature of listening to Pantera.  Good run guys.

Nirvana -- Breed

2001: O
2003: 59 of 200
2006: 185 of 200
2009: 94 of 250

The real strength to Nevermind isn't necessarily or solely, in my opinion, the singles, all of which were hits.  And there were lots of them; I recall videos for Smells Like Teen Spirit, In Bloom, Come as You Are, and Lithium -- tracks 1, 2, 3, and 5 on the album.  And yet in the midst of them all is my favorite of the bunch, Breed.  Despite the best efforts of some folks, I don't think the song is a screed directed at suburban life.  I don't think the song has any meaning, in fact.  "We can plant a house, we can build a tree, I don't even care, we can have all three" -- you tell me.  "She said" beats "I don't care" for the most repeated words, but just barely.

But, per usual, it's not about the lyrics.  The music is really, really sludgy, with the bass sounding like it's coming from a busted speaker...or at least a speaker about to break due to the bass sound.  I don't know that a Nirvana song actually has such a prominently-mixed bass track, in fact.  The guitar intro is great, as is the guitar over the bridge.  Come to think of it, maybe the lyrics aren't intended to provide meaning as much as to add another "instrument" to the song; it almost explains why everything is so guttural and monosyllabic.  Discuss.
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My Life in Music (Part 16 of 30)

Ohhhh, we're 56.67% of the way there...

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My Life in Music (Part 15 of 30)

Ohhhh, we're halfway there...

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My Life in Music (Part 14 of 30)

Whoever had late July in the pool...congratulations.

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Suited Pairs

I've been spending a decent amount of time at the casino over the last few months, and while I'm happy to report I'm winning, I know it could be better.  And I know it could be a lot worse.  Playing 4/8 Half-Kill Limit Omaha H/L isn't likely to become a full-time job anytime in the future, without question.

Anyhow, I feel pretty confident in saying that quite a few of the hands are decided on the final community card (known as 5th Street, The River, $#@%@$, whatever), and one will often going into the river either needing to hit or to avoid a bunch of cards.  When you've got a straight and are afraid of a flush you may find yourself asking for either of the two suits (say) that aren't found on the board.  Should there be two hearts and two diamonds on the board, then, you are looking to avoid a "Red card" or want to see a "Black card".  I'm not breaking any new ground here.

But here's the thing: there are six different pairs of suits, and as best I can tell only two of them have well-defined names that collectively describe them (based on obvious physical characteristics of the emblems/names of the suits themselves that clearly do not apply to the other two suits).  As such, I'm requesting that anybody feeling the urge chime in here and maybe we can coin some new lingo.  Unless, you know, this has already been done and this entire exercise is a waste of time.

Here's what is certain:

Diamonds/Hearts -- Red cards
Spades/Clubs -- Black cards

Here's where we need to pool our thoughts (with my thoughts listed):

Diamonds/Clubs -- Baseball cards?  Sports cards?
Diamonds/Spades -- Mining cards?  Sharp/Pointy cards?
Hearts/Clubs -- AMA (American Medical Association) cards?  Round cards?  Sadly a Heart appears to be a Spade turned over, colored red, and without a "handle" but oh well.
Hearts/Spades -- Artichoke cards?  Five-letter cards?  Wow that sucks.

I checked anagrams and there's not a lot of interesting stuff there, except maybe "Death Spear".  I don't think that's gonna work.

Please help.


My Contribution to Humanity (Part 1 of 1)

Based on this link it appears nobody (else?) has before quantified things this way, so I thought I should put this on the web and make it all official-like before someone beats me to it.  Because the world of neo-phraseisms is such a competitive field.

When it comes to the ones that require forks (as opposed to acini de pepe or orzo), there are two types of pasta: "stab pasta" and "twirl pasta".  For the record, I much prefer the former, do significantly better with the former, and even have something of a nickname based on a type of the former...and regularly make a mess of the latter, as it were.

Carry on.


WSC V Recap (Part 1 of 2...or 3)

I will readily admit that (one of) the main reason(s) I write these journal posts is that I like to go back and read them years later for any number of reasons.  I've been lax in writing lately, and so to get myself motivated I went back to read up on trip recaps from past years' events, particularly the three previous World Sudoku Championships at which I've been fortunate enough to participate.  This introduction is intended to serve less as a way of promoting said posts (which, ahem, can be accessed here, here, here...) and more to drive home just how truly great this year's WSC was, and how important and necessary (in this little niche world of ours) that greatness was.
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US Sudoku Qualifying, 2010 Version

The WSC this year is in Philadelphia, and will probably be the best-written one ever.  Plus some friends (and parents of friends) are going to be there, and this is the last stand-alone WSC, and the one with the least hypothetical jet-lag...I WANT THIS.

As such, I actually prepped last night, got up plenty early, fortuitously was onto the next piece of lead in one of my numerous mechanical pencils (so no hyper-clicking would be necessary during the test itself), and felt pretty good.  How'd it go?

It started out rather shaky.  The Killer took longer than I would've liked/expected, and I was all sorts of jittery.  Part of this was due to the tri-color portion of the printer ink being nearly dry; I bought a new cartridge but decided to roll with the old one as long as I could.  The printouts came out great, except...there were no regions on the Killer grid.  I just drew 'em in and I think that was the only printing issue, which was a relief.

Oh yeah: Killer eventually went but took too long.  Standard took too long.  Diagonal was quicker than I'd been expecting.  Odd went respectably.  Odd+Diagonal went respectably.  Even was started...then stopped.  Even+Diagonal was...screwed up.  Irregular was a struggle but eventually went.  Even+Diagonal was reprinted and really wasn't so bad (as I recall).  Even was finished via X-Wing on the 9's, IIRC.  So I had a possible 150 puzzle points (assuming no screw-ups), and with the bonus added in, 150 total points.  Yeah, I submitted in the final minute of the first-hour.

The first minute of the second-hour was worrisome, as the password wasn't working.  And it further wasn't working...wasn't working...oh good, it's changed on the page!  This one works.  On with the MADNESS...

And...things finally started clicking in a more normal fashion.  I got Double Dribble, skipped Fast Break to go for Triple-Double, then Point Spread actually was churned through (despite being a tough nut to crack), then Elite Eight saw me make...a completely wrong deduction, run into a problem with the 4's, and print out another sheet there.  Possession Arrow was great, per usual, and One on One had a great solving flow to it despite (because of?) having so few actual clues.  I felt like I really clicked on Key Violation, and skipped On the Bubble to give Wrap Around a whirl.  It wasn't so bad, I don't think, and with a bunch of time left I decided to go for Fast Break.  And it was pretty easy, which befit its relatively low point-value.  So back to On the Bubble, which I ground down and got about halfway through when I...totally made a wrong move.  Thankfully I caught it quickly enough, took the next steps *extremely* carefully, and finished it up.  Elite Eight was then finished (but not without a struggle!), and in some sense it was nice to know that the earlier "deduction" was wrong -- it left very few other ways to arrange the shapes, and it was eventually solved.  The submission was done with slightly over 19min left on the clock, for a possible 210 + 47.5 = 257.5 on the round.  Again, assuming no screw-ups.

I spent nearly all of my extra time on "checking" my work.  On the Bubble was pretty readable although I checked with the actual PDF to see for sure which were pluses and which were minuses, etc.  I also had the brilliant idea to cross off clues from One on One after they were used, which meant I didn't know if the math ended up right without yet another check with the PDF.

I won't bet my life that everything was right even after the checking and occasional rechecking; I don't think I have any duplicate digits anywhere, but it's highly possible that I, say, put two numbers in boxes on the Kropki that should have a dot between them but don't.  I dunno, and I am not nearly confident enough to avow that these answers are airtight.

But *if* they were -- 407.5, in theory, is probably good enough to advance.  And if one of the MADNESS ones is wrong, then I drop into the 330's or 340's, which still might be ok.  Here's hoping there were no screw-ups tho...

Good luck to all competitors, and thanks to the folks who put it all together.  I have no doubt that the upcoming championship is going to be stellar, and a chance to see so many great folks -- here's hoping I did what it takes.


My Life in Music (Part 13 of 30)

Here comes the metric system!  I mean the next chart post thing...
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Weezer -- Photograph

2001: N
2003: 155 of 200
2006: 105 of 200
2009:  132 of 250

Ahhh...my precious Green Album.  People tend to hate on it -- or at least they used to when Rivers and the boys were more relevant -- but I've always liked it, top to bottom.  The lesser songs are over so quickly that you tend not to notice them, and the better stuff...well, ok, it's also over rather quickly as well, but it'll be back a half-hour later so you don't seem to mind.

There was a time when I was into all-things-Weezer; a particular incident precipitated this (another of my top-ten most important music moments) that will be detailed later on.  But in the here-and-now -- everyone knew the Blue Album and Pinkerton were awesome, and most everyone agrees that Maladroit is...decidedly less so.  The difference between me and the Weezer haterz probably manifests itself best when it comes to the Green Album, which epitomizes what there is to like about the whole idea of power-pop in a way that, say, the Click Five can't.

Photograph hustles to the forefront to represent the genre, and I think it does a perfectly admirable job.  Clocking in at just over two minutes, there's lots of cotton candy to go around: the background oohing and oh-babying, the clapping, the simplistic nature of the lyrics.  Even the video is fluff, although mildly entertaining fluff that shows the four boys to be a fun bunch.  And who knew Rivers had such soccer skillz?

I've always considered Weezer albums to be like members of the Clash.  The first two, in some order, represent Mick Jones and Joe Strummer, and the fourth (which was all there was at the time this theory was hatched -- #'s 5-7 fit here as well I guess) are the drummer(s).  This makes the Green Album the analog of Paul Simonon, who doesn't get nearly the love of the two main singer dudes, but...well, he's the only guy who lasted during the entire run of the band, which should mean something.  Similarly, maybe this is the one type of music that's been in the Weezer arsenal the whole way?  Simonon also got some memorable headlining gigs...which I guess makes Photograph into Weezer's Red Angel Dragnet?  Wow we're rather far afield here...

It's worth mentioning that, all things considered, I'd probably prefer it if the Blue Album -> Pinkerton trajectory had continued, as the first two albums are almost entirely unimpeachable, and more is always better.  But given the difficulty in spewing your heart on multiple albums (without, say, killing yourself or going bat-poo crazy), I guess it's ok that Rivers toned it down a little.  And while some might view Green as a disappointment because of that...I happen to think it's just as good an album in a different style...and one of the better power-pop collections I've ever heard.  Which might mean Rivers is just a diverse musical genius instead of a guy who lost his edge.  YMMV.

Can you believe I made it all this way without ever mentioning that this was the *other* song the Infield (myself included) could competently play?

Cure, The -- Just Like Heaven

2001: 59 of 100
2003: 47 of 200
2006: 53 of 200
2009: 131 of 250 -- top song by this artist on the chart

Beautiful guitars, beautiful feel, beautiful meaning...and downright sadness, no?  How do they do it?  The song picks you up and makes you feel all good and...no, I don't think that's the idea.  Anyhow, this song's been on the chart from the beginning, and if I have to tinker with things to keep it that way into perpetuity, I'm ok with that.  The memories of hearing this even when I was in elementary school have stuck with me since then, and it will always be great, even if not my favorite.  Incidentally, I'm linking to the VMA performance of this one, which (I believe) they even used to show in video form on MTV.  It used to strike me as the prettiest recording I've ever heard, and...ok, that's not the case anymore, tho it's still a treat.

Five previous impostors (which doesn't mean these aren't perfectly fine songs):

Stars -- Ageless Beauty
Doors, The -- Love Me Two Times
Guided by Voices -- Smothered in Hugs
Weezer -- Island in the Sun
Billy Joes -- Tell Her About It

The next batch of clues:

Interstate renamed after "grand single" 3Bman (1972)
Antithesis of John Osborne play (1995)
Kindly tee off more quickly (1998)
"The Steelers win!  The Steelers win!  The Steelers win!" (1994)
Retro dance version of the Tates vs. the Campbells (1997)
A blade I took from Will retails for hundreds of dollars (1995)
Hairy Addams' member goes apocalyptic? (1987)
Kendry Morales is down...and he can't get up! (1988)
Appropriate synopsis of putting in the same chips as the original bettor (1995)
"There she is...the winner of the Annie Wilkes pageant..." (1997)

My Life in Music (Part 12 of 30)

Soooo...anyone else's life take a dramatic turn for the better over the last week?
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Facts and Figs: #250 - #151

40% of the way through the chart seems like as good a time as any to run the numbers and see if anything interesting comes up...
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My Life in Music (Part 11 of 30)

It's your humble, uninteresting music/life commentator, back 10 days later (and one shirt richer!)...
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Another year, another Geek Bowl, another ridiculous musical ensemble.

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My Life in Music (Part 10 of 30)

You know the drill.

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My Life in Music (Part 9 of 30)

(Note: I think the first link is the right one)

K-ZITI's sound of the 70's keeps on truckin'...

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My Life in Music (Part 8 of 30)

As the Village People would point out, you can't stop the music...

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My Life in Music (Part 7 of 30)

After coming so close in the past, it's nice to take one of these over the top.  On with the show...

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Rainy Day Humor

So I was cajoled into opening a savings account by the friendly banker guy at Wells Fargo.  It really is kind of stupid, having a checking account earning very little interest when I don't necessarily need all that money in there and could be earning some "real" interest in a savings account.  Anyhow, it's stereotypical to say that bankers are "rich", but when I do so here I don't mean it in the monetary sense.  Observe:

1. The savings account I put half-a-Grant into makes 4% interest.  Wait...no, it makes 0.04% interest.  Which, by my count, isn't terribly different from the checking "interest", despite it's purported "real"-ness.

2. The banker assuaged my concerns at the piddling interest figure by pointing out that...this way I've got overdraft protection; if I write a check for more than what's in my checking account, they will take the "missing" money out of my savings account without any penalty.  I didn't bother explaining to him that the only reason it would be in my savings account is because it was already taken from my checking account because, frankly, I was kind of enjoying watching him try to think he was getting away with one here.

3. My favorite of them all was the desire to connect my debit card to some "points system".  It costs only $12 a year, and for every $4 I spend on my debit card, I get one point back.  As he explained to me, if I were to fill up my car with gas, I'd get around 6 points -- I've already made half of the cost back!  So each point is redeemed for a $1?  Umm, no.  The list of goodies started at a Starbucks $5 giftcard that could be purchased by trading in...650 points!  So if I fill my car up about 109 times I'll make 42% of my yearly fee back (in coffee)!  Seems a bit steep, no?

Wells was kind enough to waive any fees for setting up my savings account, else...I assure you, I would not have one.  I soberly told them I'd "think about" the "points system".

Meanwhile, anybody got a better bank?


My Life in Music (Part 6 of 30)

Hey, awesome, "we" (my role was nearly imperceptible) won the Mystery Hunt!  And I got 4th at the Sudokucup.  Anyhow, on with the show...

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My Life in Music (Part 4 of 30)

Let's try and give the LJ-cut thing a whirl...

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