Categotry Archives: Blue Pyramid News

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Return of the Emu

Categories: A Day in the Life, Blue Pyramid News, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, Upcoming Projects, Tags: , , , ,

The Mep Report is back.

An emu, the official mascot of The Mep Report.  The podcast relaunched this week after over 3 years without an episode.

An emu, the official mascot of The Mep Report. The podcast relaunched this week after over 3 years without an episode.

We’re on Facebook. We’re on Twitter. And we have about 127 hours (5.3 days) of recorded show that you can listen to in the archives.

I wasn’t always on The Mep Report. I quit in August 2007 after 86 episodes, which was memorialized with this incredible graphic. I returned occasionally in 2009 and 2010, and then pretty regularly for the last few episodes before we hung it up in June 2011.

The Mep Report is one of the hardest things to explain that I’ve ever done. It’s mostly an hour-long podcast where we talk about anything and everything, stemming from our lives at the outset and usually commenting on politics, sports, and debate. It’s ostensibly sort of a comedy, but also a discussion/debate show, and also just three guys (and sometimes Clea) hanging out.

My partners in crime are Russ Gooberman and Greg Wilson, both of whom were on the Brandeis debate team with me, one a teammate a year ahead of me and the other our Coach. We all lived together, including Clea Wilson (Greg’s now wife), in a place called the Mep House during my senior year in college (2001-2002), known mostly for endless late-night phone-calls on the land-line and the discover of Dark Age of Camelot, which ruined several of Russ’ years and several parts of a few of mine.

Russ and I weren’t always friends. We didn’t know each other very well for the first couple years we shared on ‘Deis debate, mostly because he was partners and good friends with Brad, someone who I had a fierce rivalry with and wholly disrespected as a person (less so as a debater). Russ and I shared an interest in Philosophy and especially Professor Eli Hirsch, one of the greatest professors ever to teach at Brandeis. But we never talked that much until the National Championships in 2000, when we were both so thoroughly disappointed with our respective teams’ performances that we found ourselves in the exact same mood and sitting next to each other in the van during the infamous Van Round after Nationals, when everyone basically just ad hominemed each other to blow off the stress of the season. This lightened the mood a little, but the ice was really broken by me observing that the truck trailing along next to us in the late-night return from Bryn Mawr College was for the Fink Baking Co. and said that “Fink means good bread.”

I made the following observation: “Fink doesn’t mean good bread. Fink means scoundrel!”

And thus launched, totally unplanned, about an hour of Russ and I coming up with sentences where bread and related words for bread were replaced by the word “fink”. Each of them followed by increasing paroxysms of hysterical laughter. We only escalated in such humor while the other people in the van thought we were crazier and crazier.

By the time the van reached Waltham, we were pretty much friends for life.

Fink Baking Company later went out of business, by the way. Apparently they couldn’t convince much of the world of their new lexicon.

A year later, Russ and I moved in together when he was planning on an ill-fated matriculation into Boston University Law School. But before he graduated Brandeis, we fulfilled a semester-long commitment to each other to attend a tournament together. We went to Providence College in January 2001, a small but top-heavy tournament that was only breaking to semifinals. My regular partner, Adam Zirkin, who would win the North American Championships with me the next weekend, was hybriding with a friend of his from Yale.

Russ and I were, if I say so myself, on fire that tournament. We won the first two rounds handily and then ran “legalize all drugs” in third round and totally torched the team with what was, at the time, a controversial case. Fourth round we were 3-0 and hit the team that proved to be third TOTY (Team of the Year) by the end of the season, the famous Yale OJ, and Russ started pre-making fun of the case we were likely to hit when we were chatting with the judge before the round. We both predicted something boring and difficult was on the way despite the fact that it was early-morning Saturday’s 4th round, a classic time for more fun cases. They walked in an presented a case about technical details of insurance law and Russ and I turned and rolled our eyes at the judge and we went on to destroy the case and win the round handily. Fifth round, we hit my regular partner and his hybrid partner and expected a pretty fun round since it was a 4-0 match and we would both likely break. But Zirkin and Russ were not the best of friends and our friend from Yale was not wanting to go easy and they wound up running something that made for an annoying round. We suspected the round would be a coin-toss, but we’d still have high enough speaks to break. We headed to the banquet in great spirits.

We didn’t break. Russ punched a wall as soon as the fourth semifinalist who was not us was announced. Years later, the hole in the back of the lecture hall at PC from said punch was still there.

We had to sit through a semifinal round between our 4th and 5th round opponents (we had obviously lost 5th round and by a wider margin than we expected to miss the break), then watch Yale OJ drop to Stanford before we got the ballots to find out what had happened. And the ballots told us that while Russ had been debating that weekend, I had apparently been speaking in tongues and running screaming from the room. Russ was 4th speaker at the tournament, speaking a 132/7. But we had missed the break by a single speaker point, finishing 4-1, 260/20. Meaning I had spoken a 128/13. This put me 2 points and 4 ranks behind the 10th place speaker at the tournament and would have made me, in a year where I finished 5th SOTY (Speaker of the Year) overall as a junior, the 3rd novice speaker were I still a novice.

You can see the full results of that tournament here.

We looked incredulously at the ballots. Russ and I were pretty evenly matched and felt we’d been especially so this weekend and had complemented each other well. I looked at him beseechingly and asked if I had been terrible that weekend. He said not at all. And then I started berating myself. We gathered in a circle before leaving the tournament and I broke in to Greg’s questions about team dinner to publicly apologize to Russ for ruining his weekend.

“I’m sorry, Russ. When that emu asked you to debate with him, you clearly should have gone with him instead of me this weekend.”

He looked at me quizically.

I continued, warming to the subject. I said “At least he could have gone ‘Mep… mep…. mep.'” And then I got down into a crouch, tucked my hands under my arms in mock wings, and then stuck my tongue out periodically while making the mep sound.

Russ indignantly blamed the PC judges and not me, but I insisted on taking the blame and breaking into meps periodically at team dinner and the ride home.

The emu thing stuck. The rest of that year and the next, when Russ traveled with us frequently as a de facto Assistant Coach, Russ and I would periodically both get down in the emu crouch, quickly developing a pseudo-dance around each other in a circle that was dubbed “the emu-mating dance”. After the first spontaneous outbreak of this, we would look for a random time each tournament to break this out in GA. It never photographed especially well, but its legend still existed on the team a full APDA-generation (four years) after I graduated.

Then came Mep House (hilariously mis-heard as “meth house” by the mother of a visiting friend) and the rest was basically history. When Russ moved to LA, Greg to New York, and I to Berkeley, we periodically would regroup online to chat about life and then turned it into a podcast. We peaked in 2006 when we won the second Podcast Pickle Cast War, an event that got written up in the Brandeis University Alumni Magazine.

I have no idea what TMR 2.0 will look like in 2014, but it was fun doing a show again and I’m sure it will be fun in the future. We will definitely make fun of the world and each other. Our voices will sound even better, since we’re now using Skype instead of semi-pirated Teamspeak gaming chat rooms to talk to each other. Audio quality has really come a long way in the 3.5 years we’ve taken off.

Let the emu soar.

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Crossing the Bridge

Categories: A Day in the Life, Blue Pyramid News, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Metablogging, The Long Tunnel, Tags: , , , ,

The above image has graced the top of this page for well over a year. It’s naively titled the StoreyTelling Fall 2011 Background, but I just replaced it on one of the last days of January 2013. That’s one long fall, especially when you consider that it went up in August after the conclusion of my cross-country trip over the summer.

I’d taken the picture on the George Washington Bridge, bleary-eyed, tearful, to remind myself that I wasn’t stopping on that bridge right then. That I was driving past the bridge even though I really, really didn’t want to. Even though doing so felt like the culmination of generations of effort at that very moment. It wasn’t safe to take that picture while driving, but it was a whole lot safer than what I wasn’t doing.

Not long after the picture was taken and went up on this page, life started to get better. It had been getting better the whole time, slowly, but with the advent of my relationship, the rate of progress started to speed up. I also lost a lot of momentum and interest in blogging and this page. The reasons were myriad and complicated. It was hard to talk about my relationship here. It was hard to feel like cutting off communication with Emily was meaningful when she could and probably would read this page. Even though most of what I was trying to prevent was the influence of her attitude and even existence on me, the awareness that there was still a one-way street was weird and disheartening. Not enough to abandon the project or the original principles that led to its creation, but to dial it way back.

I also just kind of ran out of gas for Duck & Cover, the product of a busy schedule, sleeping more, and the increasing irrelevance of politics. And D&C has often been a lot of the juice that keeps this page flowing and going and worth checking daily. And this was all part of a larger context of the falling off of a lot of new content at the Blue Pyramid writ large, in the mix of the total creative collapse that came from the wake of my divorce. Put simply, once I could no longer make even the most basic aspects of my life function, the entire direction of my identity work in the most rudimentary way, the idea of me telling anyone anything, of sending any messages or creating any perspectives, seemed flatly ludicrous. This was something that was immediate for my fiction, but took time to unwind here.

I often think that resolutions are arbitrarily timed and silly and kind of like the idea of making birthday resolutions more than New Year’s, though those aren’t that different for my February-borne existence. But 2013 has been different. This year has dawned sadder, more challenging, and more urgent than many before it. (I should note that it is not holistically sadder, but day-to-day reality seems to be sadder and harder for myself and most people I know. It’s strange.) There is a natural taking stock that comes with a new year, but this one seems to find more general dissatisfaction and angst than I remember people having. There are organic explanations like the bitter cold driving people indoors to stew, more universal ones about the energy of the planet, and the truth is probably an amalgam of everything you can think of, like it usually is.

So this week, it felt like it was time to cross the bridge. I won’t try to explain the symbolism of the current graphic just in case you wind up having 17 months to digest it and consider it whenever you come check what I’ve written lately. And I’m not going to make creative promises about how much there will or won’t be here. Obviously I’ve been more interested in writing lately than I have during most of the duration of the bridge graphic. Increasingly, though, I find that I am struggling a lot with the basics. I think it’s fair to say that I’ve always been good with the big picture, but terrible with the small picture. The small picture has always felt… well, small. It’s debilitating to focus on the small picture all the time. And yet, the small picture may be a really key element of what’s going on. Given my uncertainty about things these days, the upheaval of the time, my entirely melted and slowly reforming identity, it’s reasonable to say that I don’t know where to put the small picture in the overall context.

The bridge still haunts me, as such places and means have since 1990. Crossing the bridge does not mean putting it behind me or out of sight, out of mind. It means that there can, perhaps, be a new shape to the approach of life and the context of the future. Crossing a bridge doesn’t mean eliminating it. It means that one doesn’t have to spend the whole time thinking about the river that is unceasingly flowing from the past.

Or at least that’s what I’m trying.

Yoda was wrong. At this point, all I can seem to do is try.

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1,276

Categories: A Day in the Life, Blue Pyramid News, Quick Updates, Read it and Weep, Tags: , , ,

Well, for all my talk yesterday about 1,277 books, I found an inadvertent duplicate in the list that had to be edited out. So it’s actually 1,276 books on the newly updated Book List. You should still check it out, see where your favorites fall, and share it with friends!

If you haven’t submitted yet, now’s a good time to start thinking about your own list. It might be a few months before I update again, but you can be part of the next batch! Here are the top picks from only the new batch of books.

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Blue Pyramid Flooded!

Categories: A Day in the Life, Blue Pyramid News, Quick Updates, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, Tags: , , ,

Welcome everyone!

Apparently today is the biggest day for traffic at the BP since May 2008. And it’s only midday. Not sure exactly what’s going on, but I’m not going to complain. Hope everyone gets comfortable with the site, its updated sections and archives, enjoys the quizzes, and finds something to keep them coming back.

In other news, I think I may be allergic to the Debate House. As in, seriously. There’s a lot of dust in here. We did sort of rush the building/maintenance people out of here so we could start running practice rounds and using the space, but the consequences may be contributing to the general plague filtering around the team. Hopefully it’s just allergies and not contagious.

I keep meaning to take pictures of the DH too, but there’s rounds to judge and ballots to review and spreadsheets to make and grants to write. And I’m trying to give myself a solid weekend every week too, spanning Sunday/Monday. There are times this starts to feel like just another job and then I remember that I get to be a debate coach for a living and it all seems okay again. Just need to keep my focus on the stuff that makes this fun and not just slogging through requirements.

A good lesson for life generally, come to think of it, not just work.

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Duck and Cover Joins Clarion Content! (and #1412)

Categories: A Day in the Life, Blue Pyramid News, Duck and Cover, Tags: , ,

Recently had the pleasure of meeting Aaron Mandel of Clarion Content, a blog steeped in the same kind of free-thinking lefty slant that I (usually) have and we’ve worked out Duck and Cover‘s first syndication deal. There’s a great deal of mutual excitement about this and you should definitely go check out his willingness to hold Obama accountable to an actually progressive standard and other excellent political insights. I may also be writing for CC periodically, but for now it’s another place to get your daily fix of animal puns.

Speaking of which:


Read Duck and Cover at the Blue Pyramid.

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Announcing the Consequences of Capitalism Quiz!

Categories: A Day in the Life, Blue Pyramid News, Tags: ,



You’re Medical Malpractice!
Thanks to you, people not only see healthcare interactions as a chance to get better, they also see them as a potential lottery ticket. Unfortunately, everyone bears the cost of that lottery so that the payoffs are coming from the entire group of people who could get sick which is, at last check, uh, everyone. Sure, people should be disincentivized from doing harm as a doctor (I think there’s an oath about that), but since they just get insurance to pay for you, it doesn’t really seem to make anyone better. But they do order a lot more tests, just in case. Which helps keep the price of the whole operation (get it?) that much higher. But who doesn’t like playing the lottery?
Take the Consequences of Capitalism Quiz at the Blue Pyramid.

There’s also a new sidebar that will slowly be infiltrating the page, along with some Facebook integration, a minor front-page redesign, and a new landing page for Blue Pyramid Stories (if I ever decide to give this a real go again). Take that, Mortality Day! (A few hours early.)

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Announcing Blue Pyramid Stories

Categories: Blue Pyramid News, Blue Pyramid Stories, Tags: ,

Tonight, we introduce a new project in the annals of the Blue Pyramid. It’s the first video project undertaken by the BP, and it involves me reading or telling stories, mostly original, but occasionally written by others. Many of them will have to be told in parts because of YouTube’s 15-minute limit.

Here, to begin, is part one of “Tomorrow’s Child” by Ray Bradbury:

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It’s Outrage Time

Categories: A Day in the Life, Blue Pyramid News, Politics (n.): a strife of interests masquerading, Tags: , ,

Something snapped when I saw that bird picture. It looks like my Dad had a similar experience. I bet you did too. The series of heartbreaking photos capturing a generation of pelicans whose deaths are just the opening salvo in a slaughter of untold proportions unfolding on the Gulf Coast.

It’s of little significance when compared to the American slaughter of Afghans and Iraqis, but it’s still something. It’s something to consider that if the oil keeps gushing till August or December, as they’re saying now, that maybe every single beach in the world will somehow be impacted by the endless stream of our greed for petroleum. This isn’t something esoteric about the future, ten, twenty years. Not even as debatable as global warming or the extinction of species. It’s the end of beaches, coastlines, oceans. For as long as the potential for something like this exists, unchecked, it has every reason to happen repeatedly in the future, until we’ve nothing left to show our children but the few sickly animals we’ve salvaged for zoos, or perhaps the handful of species considered lucky enough to save for ritual slaughter and consumption.

It’s to this end that I’ve made manifest the first thing that struck me when I saw the outstretch-winged pelican, how closely it resembled the flag of its home state. And so I am presenting five new designs of Blue Pyramid Merchandise, not as opportunism so much as an outlet for outrage. I feel better knowing that I’ve been able to convey what I feel in something simple, and that someone else might take small solace in the power of this harnessed anger.

For as has been clear from Duck and Cover lately, clear from anyone thinking carefully about this issue, it’s not about BP. It’s not about the particular company or group of individuals who made this one incident happen. It’s about a system, a way of life, an approach to the Earth and its contents that is innately unsustainable and always has been. The sooner we realize that all drilling is wrong, that all oil companies are doing ill, the sooner we can stop the nonsense of trying to ream one scapegoat while we sow the seeds of tomorrow’s disaster.





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Zimmy Wins First BP March Madness Challenge

Categories: A Day in the Life, Blue Pyramid News, Just Add Photo, Tags: , ,

Congratulations go to Adam “Zimmy” Zimmerman, the grand prize winner of this year’s first-ever Blue Pyramid University Quiz March Madness Challenge. Zimmy wins an Amazon gift certificate and the adulation of hoops bracketeers everywhere.


Zim-Zim the Mayonnaise Man

News of a new set of brackets, namely that involving APDA’s 2010 National Championship if it were a 64-team single-elimination tournament, is forthcoming sometime early tomorrow.

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Become a BP Fan on Facebook!

Categories: A Day in the Life, Blue Pyramid News, Upcoming Projects, Tags: , ,

Despite my concerns with Facebook’s impact on blogging, the time has come for me to recognize that the train is leaving the station and I might as well get on board…

The Blue Pyramid on Facebook

Click the above to become a fan of this site which, if you’re here, you already enjoy!

This is certainly no reason to join Facebook if you haven’t already, but it will make your enjoyment of the BP a little more streamlined if Facebook is a big part of your life in the status quo. I will be updating every time there’s new content (why did I sign up to do this again?) here, including D&C strips, blog posts, quizzes, updates, and so forth.

Plus, this is clearly the gateway to the long-awaited Blue Pyramid Facebook quizzes, which have been in the works for a long time, but might actually come to fruition once the BP has a fanbase to launch from on Facebook.

If the entire Internet is going to take place on Facebook in the future, the BP might as well be part of the picture. So click away! See you on the ‘book…

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There’s Something About Mockingbirds

Categories: A Day in the Life, Blue Pyramid News, Read it and Weep, Tags: , ,

Just updated the Book List for the first time since September 2008, including a raft of new submitters and their submissions. The total stats are up to 1,159 books by 795 authors as submitted by 89 individuals with their 25 favorite books each.

For the unfamiliar, this is an aggregate effort to rank the best books of all-time as viewed by my friends and other visitors to the Blue Pyramid. This remains one of the most popular elements of the BP and generating this much interest about books surely is unlikely to hurt an aspiring author.

This update, I decided to tack on a little extra, so I ran some numbers about the Top Authors on the Book List as well, done up with some snazzy but small pics. No matter how you slice and dice the stats, it’s hard to underestimate the overwhelming impact Harper Lee had with one 300-page volume. With 494 total points, not only is she the sole and dominant place-holder of the top book of all-time, but her single tome puts her 5th in aggregate points for all authors. Only Tolkien, Shakespeare, Orwell, and Garcia Marquez could beat her, needing an average of 6.25 books each to do so.

The late great J.D. Salinger is well represented as well, checking in as 10th author of all-time on the whole and 4th in quality-per-book for those with more than one volume on the List. Surely this is helped by the fact that not one of the 89 submitters includes Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters and Seymour, an Introduction among their 25 best.

A late list I considered adding but didn’t, mostly for fear of making this project too onerous to update (I do it less than once a year as-is), is a list of top books that none of the 89 submitters consider their all-time favorite. What’s remarkable is how many of the very highest regarded books still escape the #1 slot for anyone. Most impressive among these is 1984, which is 2nd place all-time despite receiving zero first place votes. I wonder what it says that these books are so widely regarded, but no one would take them as their only choice to a desert island…

1. 1984, George Orwell, 2nd overall
2. Catch-22, Joseph Heller, 9th overall
3. The Return of the King, J.R.R. Tolkien, 10th overall
4. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, 14th overall
5. Night, Elie Wiesel, 17th overall
6. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte, 20th overall
7. Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut, 21st overall
8. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky, 22nd overall
9. The Two Towers, J.R.R. Tolkien, 23rd (tied) overall
10. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, 25th (tied) overall

Of course, on the flip side, no fewer than 21 of the 89 first-place-vote-getters (a full 24%) are unique books, appearing on none of the other 88 lists. So there’s probably something about the process of picking a favorite that’s more likely to make it unique than the average book.

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Well This is New

Categories: A Day in the Life, Blue Pyramid News, Just Add Photo, Tags: , ,

Back when I had a really popular website, I used to get e-mails almost constantly, e-mails that criticized or questioned certain decisions I would make in my quizzes. The epicenter of this feedback crystallized into three key critiques which I summarized as the top three Frequently Asked Quiztions.

But today I got a new one – totally unprecedented. Something that almost reminds me of my meeting-people gimmick of challenging them to come up with an original play on my name as they’re digesting its similarity to a word they use daily. It is presumably from someone in China… while the e-mail address is inconclusive, the hold on English and the sentiments expressed are not:

date Sat, Jan 30, 2010 at 10:21 AM
subject what’s problem with your quiz?

To whom it may concern,

Today I took a “what country are you” quiz on your web and it says I’m the country Taiwan… Huh?? when did Taiwan become a C-O-U-N-T-R-Y???!!!! WTF with your web????

Taiwan has always been a part of territory of China!!

Taiwan is only a province of China!!!

Don’t ever forget this!!!

SHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAME ON YOU :-(

If only they’d used a couple more exclamation points, I might really never forget this. Although I highly doubt they expected me to record the verbatim transcript of their e-mail. Here’s your shot at immortality, friend.

The Internet is so liberating.

Speaking of the Internet, the big meme going around Facebook is to find your “celebrity doppelganger” and make said person your profile picture. I am hardly so cavalier about said picture, but I was reading the best article about David Foster Wallace since his death the other night, so I figure he might have to do:

Of course, that may just be the most authentic celebrity who looks like me, or the person I’d most like to be compared to. After all, we all know that reality shows have produced the people who really look the most like me:

No matter how much long brown hair they grow, though, none of these people ever seem quite as thin as I am. Ah well.

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The Slog and the Snyeg

Categories: A Day in the Life, Blue Pyramid News, From the Road, Telling Stories, Tags: , , ,

Don’t freak out if you’re getting scary-looking red screens from portions of the Blue Pyramid, especially the front page or the currently archived Women World Leaders Quiz. The site was hacked. It was actually hacked via PHP scripts that were hacked on the Camp Kupugani website (hence why the WWLQ is the epicenter of the problem and has accordingly been archived). Everything should be fine now and even look fine to everyone (i.e. no red screens) soon.

In the meantime, hi, how are you?

We made it to the Bay Area on Friday night for a whirlwind meet-up at Mario’s La Fiesta in Berkeley with a bunch of old friends and co-workers. Then we drove over to Tracy that night, down to Fresno Saturday morning, and have been holed up with the Garin Clan ever since, mostly still unassembled until later this week. I’ve been editing about as much as I can stomach, finally over the halfway point for chapters (51%), but still with about 60% of the pages to go. The later chapters are (apparently much) longer, although there’s one exceptional chapter that helps throw that off, and hopefully won’t require much editing.

New Year’s Day distribution to volunteer readers is looking less likely, but is still sort of the optimistic goal. I’ll keep you (probably excessively) posted.

The only other real news to report from this relaxing tenure with my manuscript and Em’s fam is how heartbroken I was to miss the foot-plus snow in Princeton that came the day after we flew away. The odds are overwhelming that it will be the largest winter storm in Jersey during our two years living there, and while getting snowed in and having to delay this trip would have been less than ideal, editing by the heater between frolics in foot-deep snow is just about my idea of the best living ever. I still can’t think about the storm without getting this gut-turning sadness. As I told Emily, I just don’t think I’ll ever really be happy until I live somewhere like Minnesota or Nevada City or Buffalo or Siberia for at least a year or two, where snow is so commonplace and expected that I don’t have to cling to every prediction and forecast, but can instead have confidence that it will abound. Suffice it to say that had I been born in such an environment, I think I would be a lifelong optimist. Snow makes me that happy.

I hope you’re as happy these holidays as I am in snow. Once I’ve sent out PDF’s of my fully edited tome, I will be too.

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Book Quiz II

Categories: A Day in the Life, Blue Pyramid News, Tags: ,

The Book Quiz II is finally here!

Here’s my result:


You’re Jane Eyre!
by Charlotte Bronte
Epic in scope and vision, you like looking at your own complete history. That said, your complete history is pretty much crazy. You seem to be followed by suitors, craziness, fires, and incredible turns of both good and bad fortune. Through it all, you persevere while maintaining adherence to your own somewhat middle-ground moral code. While you have confidence that everything will work out in the end, you sometimes wonder if it’s worth it along the way. Oh sweet sweet Jane.
Take the Book Quiz II at the Blue Pyramid.

Go take it now! Tell your friends!

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State Quiz New Image Relaunch!

Categories: A Day in the Life, Blue Pyramid News, Tags: ,

After working on it on and off for a few weeks, I’m proud to announce the full-scale relaunch of the State Quiz, replete with new images and merchandise.

I guess it’s not technically a relaunch if the quiz was never down, but it’s a good opportunity to, as they say, “take it again for the first time.” The images represent the fulfillment of the original vision I had for them over five years ago when the quiz launched, which was to be state-shaped cutouts of the state flag, rather than outlines that featured the flag in awkward partial locations.

An example, with my current state (one of the better images, if I do say so), is here:


You’re New Jersey!
You don’t just live in the suburbs, you define the culture of all Surburbia. You drive everywhere you go, love to eat at diners, and pretend to have a garden. While everyone knows that your house was built on a toxic waste dump, you do your best to hide this information and keep referring to those mythical gardens. Driving on a road without paying for it was a revolutionary experience you once had that you still think about all the time. You owe the Mafia so many favors that you’re thinking of renaming yourself Sicily.

Take the State Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

I’ve also added the full complement of merchandise available on the now-prodigious Cafe Press site, just in time for the holidays. So if there was ever an old design or description you were looking for on a shirt or a mug, now’s your chance.

And while you’re out and about looking at links and holiday cheer, there are some of you who might not know about my Mom’s latest sock doll project, Buttons and Socks. There’s some pretty neat stuff available there too, all hand-sewn by my very own mother. I mean, can you turn down a face like this?:

I thought not.

Now if I can only get the pumpkins down from this page and start writing again, I’ll really be in good shape!

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Planned Obsolescence

Categories: A Day in the Life, Blue Pyramid News, Metablogging, Tags: , ,

DOS and Windows 3.1 were great operating systems. DOS was possibly the best, since everything was intuitive and everything was in its place, but if you really require a visual setup, then I guess Windows 3.1 was the answer. It was organized and manageable without being cartoony or impossible to follow.

Windows XP… it’s fine. But it’s got nothing on those older systems and is demonstrably worse in all ways not relating to processor speed or some underlying aspect of the hardware running it (which, frankly, has nothing to do with operating system). But you can’t run Windows 3.1 or DOS on a modern machine and expect it to run today’s software. Because instead of making sure Windows 3.1 was compatible with web browsing, they just replaced it with lousier versions of the system, so-called “upgrades”, culminating in the colossal disaster known as Vista.

I have often railed against CD’s, which are infinitely inferior to tapes. While CD’s are pretty much falling by the wayside in the face of pocket-sized infinite MP3 players, I maintain that the loss of sides of an album is one of the great failings of our modern musical world. It’s hard to argue with the infinite-players, I guess, but it certainly seems like a mix loses even more luster than it did when it became sideless by being marginalized to a “playlist”. It just doesn’t reflect the same craftsmanship.

Microsoft Works was always better than Microsoft Word – the view of the screen made infinitely more sense and a work one was writing could actually fill the whole screen. The toolbar was more intuitive. And I could go on and on. (Don’t even get me started on cell phones vs. landlines and the collapse of the telephone conversation – that’s a whole dissertation topic in itself and of course something with which I do not play ball.) The larger point is that in feeling a need to “upgrade” things, people most often screw them up. Whether they are too beholden to overpaid consultants or just feel like something isn’t fresh enough unless they keep tweaking it, they just futz with things until the charm that made them enjoyable in the first place is wholly eradicated.

If you’re wondering what all this is really about, I “upgraded” my WordPress account today. While the needling little exhortation to upgrade had been gracing my screen from about the third week after my initial installation (October 2007, as you may recall – hard to believe it’s only been two years in this format), I had found nothing compelling about the request until I read a nasty little article about worms today. WP basically tried to make the case that my blog would be overrun with malware and garbage if I failed to upgrade, then drew all these weird analogies to vitamins and surgery. It being almost 3 in the morning and me not having yet settled into my writing groove (I have a streak of over a week going, but tonight may break it), I was particularly susceptible to the idea of not having to mortgage days of my writing life salvaging 800 days worth of posts. I gave in.

I was an idiot. I should have known how much I would hate the new WP “upgrade” system, because I’ve already seen it at The Mep Report, the other place I blog from time to time. The look and feel of the interface is all wrong, too antiseptic, too institutional. It’s like blogging on a hospital wall. And now it’s what I’m doing. Right now. Blech.

I mean, it’s not like the old WP system was the greatest thing ever, but it at least had some color and contrast and an intuitive layout. This looks like an unending billboard for the random people who design add-ons to WordPress. In a hospital. A poorly designed hospital.

And there’s a running word count. Not a fan. I make a point of only checking my word counts on fiction after I’ve wrapped up for the night. The running count is like being forced to look at one’s watch every second of a passing class. It’s just too much awareness of exactly what’s going on. It breeds self-consciousness and competitiveness and even potentially bad writing because one is focused on the number and not the content. Yargh.

I’m sure I’ll get used to it eventually, all of it, even the stupid word counter. But it’s a bad sign when all I want to do with the rest of my waking overnight hours is figure out how to find a theme editor for the freaking blog-posting format of the blog. That’s not only a bad sign, it’s a meta-bad-sign. In a poorly designed hospital with billboards.

It’s almost enough to make me want to go back to manually editing my blog in Notepad. Almost.

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Lights, Pumpkins, Action

Categories: A Day in the Life, Blue Pyramid News, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Metablogging, Tags: , , ,

In October 2002, back in the relatively early days of Introspection, I first came up with the idea of altering the whole theme of the blog site to celebrate Halloween. In 2004, after two years of just changing the color scheme, I actually overhauled the graphic header as well. The rest has been history. As you can see (if you can’t see, hit refresh!), it’s another October season today.

The rains have been sweeping through, often hightailing it on the back of even stronger winds. Today is the first really chilly seeming day and I can already envision the crispness of my breath emerging as the barracks become even more depressing and the walls seem even thinner. Already I’m starting to wonder when we should start moving stuff away from the heater so we can be prepared.

And yet there’s the anticipation of October that seems even more exciting on the East Coast, what with the promise of leaves changing and falling and eventual snow. This is what I’ve missed so dearly, the real seasonal change that is present in most of the world but sorely lacking in the Bay Area. A change in the surroundings that matches the internal perceptual change of the time. People do better with external confirmations of their internal understanding.

Which, I guess, is why I revel in the visualization present on the page. So there you go.

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And a Star to Steer Her By

Categories: A Day in the Life, Blue Pyramid News, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Telling Stories, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, Tags: , , , ,

When I lived in Oregon and wasn’t attending sixth grade, somewhere between my acting life and my speech and debate life, I opened a play directed by a friend of my parents with a recitation of “Sea-Fever” by John Masefield.

The poem is brief (briefer than I remember), but conveys powerful imagery of the pull of the ocean and its eternal hold on those who sail upon it. I was adorned in a cap not unlike what I’d worn as Oliver Twist (but newer and nicer) and some sort of scarf that the director had determined sufficiently aquatic. Despite these elements of costuming and the placement of a stage beneath my feet, I think this may have been the birth of my understanding of the power of spoken words. Not the magic of theater, in full regalia, which I’d long known and loved, but the actual power and presence of mere strings of syntax, dramatically spoken.

Of course, there was my third grade talent show rendition of the Gettysburg Address, which I remembered made a couple teachers cry. But I’d been disappointed with my performance there, forgetting some words and feeling immense pressure. I had not felt the command over that performance that I did in the practiced rhythms of Masefield’s cadence.

It is somehow fitting to remember that preface on a night back from introducing members of the Rutgers class of 2013 to the basic tenets of parliamentary debate. Just as every word written makes for better writing next time, so every word spoken has led me to this point in my life. And perhaps I can forgive myself for sacrificing tonight’s writing efforts (unless I can start after completing this post) to the twin duties of education and navigation.

This last is the true inspiration for tonight’s title, for a navigation bar has been introduced to The Blue Pyramid for the first time ever. Over the course of the next few weeks, the navigation system will filter out through the rest of the website. The focal points of this bar also come with an acknowledgment that several projects have been archived, most permanently lost at sea.

I would like to say that this move will usher in a new era of updated content at the site, with quizzes and new projects abounding as long planned. I have learned enough over my millions of spoken words, of course, to know that such promises are of no worth. Either I shall make good, which will speak for itself, or I shan’t, which will undermine the promises’ purpose.

So I present what is done and will call it a night. Perhaps to write briefly before sailing for sunrise.

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
and quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

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Help Promote Making Fun of AIG!

Categories: A Day in the Life, Blue Pyramid News, Politics (n.): a strife of interests masquerading, Tags: , ,

This is the old straight-up appeal to the masses – if you’re involved in the Digg thing (or can easily sign up), please help us get our new AIG March Madness commercial (Youtube, previously posted about):

Digg It!

Also, the final new (spoof) video we created finally uploaded properly:

Tell your friends!

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AIG Commercials: Resurrected and Spoofed

Categories: A Day in the Life, Blue Pyramid News, Politics (n.): a strife of interests masquerading, Tags: , ,

Russ and I have spent the better part of the last 24 hours at it again. We unearthed secret archived videos from the good old days of AIG and are sharing them with the world. Better yet, we are spoofing some of our favorites directly. For example:

Before:

After:

Here’s another spoof we didn’t include the new one of:

And a whole bunch of old ones:

Enjoy.

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