Ticket to Ride
(11-20 January 2006)

20 January 2006
[from Oakland]
-Yet again, the train had many delays piling up to a few hours total.  This was the result of an accident near Wasco where the train collided with a truck... don't know what the situation was there.  It seems that lots of folks use trains to commit suicide.  Regardless, I had time to finish my second book of the year, Sherman Alexie's Reservation Blues & move on to, at Fish's behest, Everything is Illuminated.  I've heard a lot about this fifty-book challenge that folks are doing for 2006, which would be 4 & change books a month... interesting idea, but I don't think I can enjoy books at that pace.  I haven't been a speed-reader since grade school, though I seem to have backed off my really ridiculous slowness of the early 2000's.  Reservation Blues was fine, but neither of the Alexie books I've read have yet really captured my imagination quite the way I expected.  They're good, & about important things, but they just seem a little too racially focused I think, for my taste.  A little like I am Charlotte Simmons that way.  Everything is Illuminated, meanwhile, seems like one of the first books where Microsoft Word's thesaurus is a primary author.  But it's early yet, even if one of the voices seems utterly unrealistic.
-Two train people yesterday I have to mention...  The first was in the station while we were waiting for the continually delayed train.  She approached me & asked me to take a survey for a study she was doing on facts about a trial.  As it turned out, it was about the "battered woman syndrome" defense & I think the main point was to discern if people felt better about testimony regarding said syndrome if it came from a man.  Even though the testimony was clearly lousy in the particular write-up given, including "like" & "um" being written in.  Also interestingly, the survey didn't actually ask how I, placed in the position of juror from the start of the write-up, would actually find in the case described.  The second person was a turbaned Middle Easterner who boarded the train in Stockton & promptly cleared out the whole car, minus myself & another guy in 15 minutes flat.  It was one of the most ridiculous things I've ever seen, especially on a train bound for the Bay Area.  Some folks were more subtle than others about their rapid departure for other cars on the train, but I would've loved to see a graphic of the movement of people on the train once he sat down.  Just as things are starting to move on gay rights in this country, we all seem to make sure that someone gets to be the obvious underclass in our society.  & people wonder why I hate America.
-I get so inspired & so tired every day.
-Speaking of inspired, Em & I were just eating dinner at an all-vegetarian (possibly all-vegan) restaurant.  Somehow we began talking about movies & how I still have yet to see a worse-than-very-good movie with Kevin Spacey in it, then went on to talking about the three most disappointing movies I've ever seen that were hyped to be very good.  They are "The Maltese Falcon", "Some Like it Hot" (also one of the worst movies of all time), & "Breakfast at Tiffany's".  The last of these brought up a discussion about a song I haven't heard in perhaps 3 or 4 years, maybe longer, Deep Blue Something's tune of the same name.  We both talked about how much we liked that song & even sang a bar or two.  So, of course, we hear it on the radio driving home.  I nearly drove off the road when it began; the first full song to start after we got in the car.  In fact, it was the only full song we heard on the very short drive home.  I feel like any more description I could offer would undercut the monumental happening that this was.  When was the last time you heard that song on the radio?

19 January 2006
[from Clovis, California]
-Just returned from winning the Kearney poker night tournament for January, which meant a $200 haul ($150 profit) for being atop the 3 payouts among 7 players.  Not the best percentage for winning, but with the steep buy-in, I'm very glad to quad up.  I was playing heads-up with Em's dad for about an hour & 3-handed with he & another guy for about 2-3 hours.  This is what happens when the most conservative players outlast the wild aggressives.  Although everyone got knocked out on pretty good hands.  One habit some are in that I find bizarre is folding when they have the option to check... this happened many times, but was most frustrating when I had AA, flopped AKK, then saw two folds in front of me rather than checks.  I wasn't going to bet till the river & I was last to act the whole time... perfect flop, perfect position, but they wouldn't even check & try to make a hand.  Like I said, conservative play.  But I'm not complaining about anything tonight.
-Except maybe the work environment at the office.  Ah well, almost out of here to where I can hear myself work.

18 January 2006
[from Clovis, California]
-Put in a full day at the office, which is fine.  No better, no worse, just fine.  I think the fluorescent lights there drain my soul of motivation & focus.  That's my latest theory.  There's also a fair bit of the popular American gripey negativity amongst a lot of the folks there... the perpetual attitude that work is always lousy & that life is just a big session of clock-watching till closing.  In my various jobs, that attitude has seemed more prevalent amongst my co-workers than any other, but I truly don't know how anyone can get through life that way.  It's hard enough getting through the day near that attitude.
-Poker tonight!  Let's see if I can establish myself after a very weak 5th place out of 8 last month...

17 January 2006
[from Clovis, California]
-Came down on the morning train as usual, though this one became the bus in Stockton without warning.  It's a good thing I ate early on the train.  Now it seems newer & newer projects for RMI are emerging, which could mean months more of work, though more conflict in-house as well.  So it goes.
-If you've got a good pattern, stick with it I s'pose.  Just feels a bit of a lonely pattern sometimes.

16 January 2006
[from Oakland]
Happy Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day
-Migraine:  12 hours, left side, moderate, caused by food.
-Well, it's official:  Emily & I are going to debate together at BU.  My moratorium on debating after my 4 years of eligibility ran smack into conflict with BU openly encouraging "dinos" (debaters past their 4-year eligibility) to debate at this tourney to honor the 25-year anniversary of APDA.  Plus, I've mentioned at least once or twice how I crave a return to debate.  So if you're a dino who'll be near Beantown then, I encourage you to hop back aboard the APDA express one last time too.  It's 10-11 February.  Also, if you're going to be around then anyway (debater or no), Emily & I'll be around through Sunday, so we hope to see you.  Send me an e-mail, give me a call, or suchlike things.
-The day meandered, but generally better.  Going to Fresno for a couple-three days on business starting early tomorrow morning.
-Updated some of the first QFG answers, & picked the next questions to be posted on Wednesday in preparation for being out of town.  I've been a bit disappointed with the response rate to the answers, but my e-mail hasn't exactly been reliable lately & some test forms didn't go through.  Usually the pattern with these is that I get them, just very late.  We'll see.

15 January 2006
[from Oakland]
-Enter Brandzy, via the usual late night JetBlue channels.  I wander these airports for a reason, I tell you!
-Yesterday was blukky, prolonging what's reaching a ten-day pattern of malaise, lack of motivation, & snipey interactions.  I think we've finally concluded that it's just too early to look for apartments that will be available on or around March 1st... most of the places we've seen are available within the next 12 hours, & sometimes up to two weeks if you really twist their arm.  So we'll revisit the move in a few weeks it seems.
-Also, on the topic of the last ten days, if you thought we were sending out something for New Year's, don't worry... we haven't sent it out yet.  I think we still will, though I can't guarantee anything these days.  But don't take it personally... we're just slow & ran out of steam on this for the time being.  & I was so pumped about 2006 there for a second.

14 January 2006
[from Oakland]

13 January 2006
[from Oakland]
-Getting some stuff done, spinning a few wheels, wondering about the quick passage of time & everything in between.  Hm hm hm.
-So we saw a place that I absolutely loved & Em hated.  This was unfortunate.  It was a place in Berkeley above a furniture store & was actually the corner unit with beautiful views of much of the city.  So it goes.  This process brings out the differences in people's priorities sometimes, but it's all a learning experience.
-"Munich" seems like a stunning triumph of anti-violence, anti-war, anti-patriotic cinema.  But I said the same thing about Spielberg's last work of breathtaking violence, "Saving Private Ryan" & then everyone laughed at me when they told me he'd said it was a tribute to committers of violence.  So I don't know what to think.  This one at least ends with something more ominous than the other movie, but it's still unclear to me what Spielberg wants you to believe.  As isolated pieces, I still think both of them are stalwart advocates of pacifism.  Even if Stevie doesn't think so.

12 January 2006
[from Oakland]
-Poker night wrapped up pretty early, but was a good time overall methinks.  Elena had her all-time big winning night & I quadrupled up, so I can't complain.  We had a new person & a very eclectic smattering of people who've come before, so it was nifty.

11 January 2006
[from Oakland]
-I know no one uses MSN for their searches.  But still.
-The QFG project has its second round of questions... I was pretty impressed by the quantity of responses (& a bit surprised by the quality as well I s'pose), but the idea of making a blog post engaging the question doesn't quite seem to be catching on yet.  So now there's an answers forum as well.  We'll see, we'll see.
-It would take some doing, but it might be cool to have the University Quiz debut on the 3-year anniversary of the Country Quiz.  I've announced a late January debut already, as I think this will ride a wave of high traffic & interest from current university students, high schoolers applying, & alumni settling back into work schedules.  It was an early February release for the Book Quiz that garnered the biggest spike in BP traffic of all-time (see graphs like this for perspective on just how big that spike was, in context).  So I think it's looking good.  Yesterday I finished the last graphic, leaving only the answers to be completed.
-Today's competition is between labeling a whole generation by a way of spending money is happy & drowning out the screams of those just bombed is happy.  This may end up becoming a regular feature by default.  Seriously, people, you could make a great case for depression just on the fact that these are 2 of the top 15 stories that people who do nothing with their time but try to find happy news have come up with.  There is officially nothing to be happy about anymore.

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