Across the Universe
(21-30 January 2006)

30 January 2006
[from Oakland]
You're Monash University!
Though your origins involved violent travel, your current state is rather placid and tranquil. You believe that you never stop learning, and this is evidenced in your continued efforts to visit lands both near and obscure. You love to say the word "synchrotron", even if you're not entirely sure what it means yet. Hey, you're still young! You like the knight life, baby.
Take the University Quiz at the Blue Pyramid.

-&... LAUNCH!  The University Quiz is up & available for all to see, take, & spread around the world!  I can't tell you how exhilarating doing one of these can be, especially when one has (too) high hopes for what sort of phenomenon it could become.  I just feel like this subject & this timing might have a little something extra on it.  We'll see.  Oh yes, we'll see!  Days like this that I launch quizzes, especially with it being a 12:01 launch, are like Christmas morning.  So much anticipation, so much impatient bliss.
-I forgot to post that on the night of the 28th, we (Fish, Peter, Jacqueline, & myself) went bowling & I rolled a 198 first game, with a 4-strike streak in the 6th-9th frames.  I had missed a spare in the 5th, too, by just barely missing a pin... that pin would have happened to give me a 209, which would be second only to my lifetime-high 212.  So it goes.  I was still quite pleased with it, & even made some money off Fish & Peter by beating them both games.
-Well the early returns seem to show that this will wind up being about 5 times as large as an average day at the Blue Pyramid in terms of traffic, which isn't bad for launch day.  The Book Quiz peaked on day 8 or 9 of its existence (that's the big spike you see on all the 2-year charts of BP traffic publicly available as it happens to be the BP peak of all-time as well), so a big upswing for day one is great.  It will need to be picked up by some major players to really get over the hurdle, though... the field is different than it was in 2004 for word-of-mouth momentum being enough by itself.  It looks like it's going to wind up with decently more than my initial estimate of 10,000 quizzes taken first day, though, so that's exciting.  Still, the target is the Book Quiz's peak week of more than a third of a million quizzes taken.

29 January 2006
[from Oakland]
-Today we found a place that we absolutely adored, & hopefully we have a shot at getting.  It's in Berkeley, roughly equidistant from the North Berkeley & Downtown Berkeley BART stations.  For once, Em & I both loved the same place, which was a great relief to both of us.  The move-in date would be near-perfect & everything about it looks promising.  Now the wishing, waiting, & hoping begins.
-It's so good to have Em back in town.

28 January 2006
[from Oakland]
-Two straight winning sessions at Oaks might be a record.  They've also been fun, though I don't want to make a habit of it.  I think it's good for when Em's out of town, but in the past I've been very spurty about going.  Methinks it would be better for me to just go once or twice every while, rather than a lot in one week, then not at all for months.  But my personality is so much more suited to the all-or-nothing...
-17 answers to go.  With a little diligence I'll be done with the quiz content today, leaving me only to write the front page for it in the time running up to the Monday launch!
-&... DONE!  Polished off the last answer today, which happened to be the one for Princeton.  The Brandeis graphic was the first thing I did after finishing the question tree.  So that's kind of neat.  I've got to say, these 128ers are a ridiculous amount of work, especially when there are answers that I just can't rattle off a few sentences about off the top of my head.  This process on this quiz made me think I might never be able to pull off a 256-answer quiz.  Again, as stated before & on the quiz's current page, the quiz won't be available to the public till first thing Monday (only about 28 hours away).  I have to check the whole tree, make sure there aren't any errors in any of the 383 pages or graphics, & write up a new front page for the quiz.  Plus, I've actually optimized the launch time for the first time ever, so I'm not just tossing it out the second I get done with it, as I usually do.  Still, I'm very excited to be done, especially since a lot of the answers near the end became a bit of a chore.  Stay tuned!

27 January 2006
[from Oakland]
-The number of times a day that Fish says I'm crazy, in some word sequence or another, is in itself crazy.
-Apparently the Podcast Reviewer is on the front page of the podcasting section of iTunes today, making our utterly perfect timing on his positive review even more perfect.  I feel like the phrase "even more perfect" is something that would make Schneider berate me & Jake start pulling out his hair as he contemplated its implications.  I miss the rambling extrapolative debates we all used to have in high school on almost every concept that crossed our paths.

26 January 2006
[from Oakland]
-Well, the Mep Report has had itself a whirlwind 48 hours.  First, it was picked up as a Staff Pick of the fairly high-level podcasting website Odeo (Alexa rank in the top 10,000 & constantly rising since its February 2005 debut).  We're up there with the podcasts of Penn of Penn & Teller & the Commonwealth Club.  Not too shabby.  Then we got a very positive review from The Podcast Reviewer.  The highlights of his show, if you don't want to listen to the whole 30 minutes, are as follows:  "These guys are funny... You guys need to download 'em... It actually makes my commute go pretty fast in the mornings... Now that these guys have been reviewed, I'll kind of pull them out of my list, except for the Mep Report. I've actually had those for quite a while and I actually enjoy listening to those guys, so they go onto my special 'Listen to These When I Can', when I'm not trying to do a review. Everybody else I just kind of rotate out."  So yeah.  I don't know if this is exactly the big time, but I've always talked about how more traffic is always better, be it for the BP, the Mep Rep, or anything on the 'net.  Get the traffic & good things will happen.  The last two days have been full of good things.
-Hey, here's a great idea... let's have Ariel Sharon incapacitated when he's finally realized that peace is indeed preferable to war-mongering & thus he's trying to lead his whole country towards viable stability, then let's have Hamas win elections in Palestine.  Next, can we have Ben Netanyahu win in Israel (you have to counteract the violent Hamas after all), followed quickly by the inevitable protracted war that will start?  Seriously people, this is the worst news for Middle East peace since the US invaded Iraq.  Every nation in the world should be sending their full diplomatic corps to Palestine today to talk Hamas into moderating their stance so they can actually govern, rather than having their first act of government to be drafting every Palestinian into some sort of impromptu military that will start an apocalyptic war.  Sinn Fein was able to moderate itself, & that's literally the only cause for hope I can think of right now.  Because if it's the same old Hamas with a mandate, I can't see any way around a war that kills a few hundred thousand people & the Palestinian state.  But hey, this is the future of democracy.  People will elect the most extreme militaristic government available because they feel insecure & then, before too long, the world blows up.

25 January 2006
[from Oakland]
-I think I'm fine.  I'm almost sure of it.  I managed to scare myself decently last night, but this morning I've been feeling much better.  Fish has a crazy blood pressure/pulse tester thing too & I came out with a high-ish pulse (81), but my continued perfect blood pressure (121/82).  Every time that I can remember my blood pressure being taken in my life, someone has commented on it being textbook or right on average.  So assuming I don't have a cholesterol through the roof (I haven't had it tested in years, which I should probably correct given my 80% cheese diet), my risk factors for heart attack are nil.  & if my cholesterol were really clogging me up somehow, wouldn't this affect blood pressure anyway?  Maybe I have an unending string of left chest muscle pulls.  I give up on trying to figure this out for now.  I will see a doctor before too long.  But I think I'm just fine.
-I heard one of those Perspectives on NPR the other day & the guy was talking about becoming a vegetarian for his wife.  It was interesting, though the guy sounded like a bit of a punk.  But he did say something, whether his original phrase or not, about the distinction between people who "live to eat or eat to live".  This may be the most succinct & brilliant way of putting the distinction between myself & most of the folks I know that I could imagine.  So many of you seem to live to eat.  I eat to live.  So much of the time, including this moment incidentally, I just wish I never got hungry.  Such a chore!

24 January 2006
[from Oakland]
-Exit Em, stage Philadelphia.  & of course her clarinet that she got from eBay & has been desperately hoping to come arrived a few hours after I put her on the plane.  Ah well, something for her to look forward to in coming home.
-When I first opened this morning, it had a breaking news alert at the top that said "Bush announces plans to visit India, Pakistan in March."  But I read it at first as "Bush announces plans to invade Pakistan in March."  I was only surprised by the frankness of the headline... I was just surprised that he was being so forthright, rather than skulking in shadowy deceit.  Clearly I've gotten a little too cynical.
-Who wants to see me debate Bill O'Reilly?  I'm thinking about applying.  The odds are long enough against getting in that I don't have to be sure I want to do it in order to apply.  Right?  Or does that logic only make sense to me?  Trouble is that I'd want to pick the Iraq War as a topic, but everyone is going to pick that, so my odds go up dramatically if I can be a little more creative.
-Remember when I briefly thought I was having heart trouble?  Oh, say, February 2003 & then I went to a doctor who made fun of me on 27 February thinking I might be having a heart attack?  Well, that bad old feeling is back.  It really hit yesterday, but it's been up & down since, mostly up.  It even comes with the tingly feeling in the left arm/hand that you're supposed to have during cardiac arrest.  Last time this happened, everyone clamored for me to go to the doctor, we didn't have insurance, & they told me it was a pulled muscle.  Did I manage to pull my left pectoral muscle again?  Why do I keep feeling this way?  Now I would feel very differently & perhaps too sheepish to even mention what was going on if it weren't for the fact that my sister-in-law Jen, age 29, had a pacemaker surgically installed in her chest a few weeks ago to correct a lifetime life-threatening heart condition that hadn't been caught till a few weeks before that.  Suffice it to say that I will likely again avoid the doctor for awhile (we have insurance, but I really don't like medical pros making fun of me... I mean the guy in 2003 really ridiculed that I would think anything was wrong with my heart at age 23), but it still isn't a great situation.  Sigh.

23 January 2006
[from Oakland]
Happy Birthday to Geoff Dean
-I'm inches away from being able to officially announce the launch date for the University Quiz as being in one week.  Next Monday, 30 January 2006, should see the opening of the most fun way to decide where to go to college ever devised since dartboards met maps.  Lots of work to get there, but I should be able to pace myself easily to meet this goal.
-My ear infection just won't quit.  I need to be more diligent about my antibiotics regimen.

22 January 2006
[from Oakland]
-The problem with having exactly one thing to eat at any given restaurant location is that when they're out of that thing, it makes you want to leave.  & we would've left if we hadn't already ordered drinks.
-I highly advise everyone to go see "After Innocence".  It's very obscure & might well not be playing in your area, but it's a phenomenal film.  Not quite "Shawshank", but about the same subject.  Roughly.
-Migraine:  6 hours, left side, moderate, caused by movie.
-Exit Brandzy.  I only saw him at each airport run this trip, but there's a chance he'll be going to BU!  That would be quite exciting.  We have a final-round pact in the works, since we want to run the same case in finals, if either of our teams make it.  To say nothing of if we hit each other!
-Man, I called the SuperBowl exactly.  I wish I'd publicized my Seahawks-Steelers prediction a bit more, but I definitely told a handful of people.  As I was telling Em, if I'd put money on it, I could've made quite a bit given the shock that the Steelers were to most everyone else.  At the same time, if I'd put money on it, it probably wouldn't have happened.

21 January 2006
[from Oakland]
-"Beyond the Sea" may have been the worst Kevin Spacey movie ever, though that means it was only average to good.  It would have been great if they had avoided trying to make it a gimmicky musical in random spurts.  Where it was good, it was good, but like "North Fork" or something, it refused to stay with just the good & not the utterly weird.
-"The New World", on the other hand, was just bad.  Although it may have been better if I'd known beforehand it was a retread of the Pocahontas story, which incidentally, I had never heard/seen/known before.  So I was looking for something a little more... meaningful.
-For the first time, I'm going to have to pull a strip of Duck and Cover.  I should've known the whale was going to die.  So it makes today's strip sad, but tomorrow's impossible.  So I'm going to have to redo it, & possibly ditch the storyline entirely.  So it goes.

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