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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Our friends the birds

Historically, birds and I have had a tense and, at times, even violent relationship. It began in Russia when, at the age of three, I tried to befriend a goose. It seemed to welcome my friendly overtures and allowed me to pet it, but just when I had begun to trust the thing, it went for the jugular pants, and tried to pull down my trousers. The offending goose had even posed for a chummy picture with me (which I would post, but it's at my parents' house) which demonstrates our striking resemblence in height shortly before the treacherous beast attempted to pants me.

Many year later, at the beach when I was 12 years old, I once again encountered the evil goose species in much the same manner. What began as a mutual exchange of goodwill in which I fed a goose breadcrumbs in exchange for its allowing me to pet it ended when the goose decided it was tired of eating bread and preferred to have a taste of my hair instead.

In the intervening years, I overcame my distaste for winged and feathered organisms and even began to appreciate their peculiarly silly existences. For example, roosters. Roosters existed to be chased around fake barnyards in fake historical villages. Seagulls served generally the same purpose. That was a pretty good use for a species.

And other birds existed chiefly for me to photograph them in movement.

But yesterday, the evil avians once again broke my fragile trust in them. I was reading by Botany Pond when several no-account, turd-sized sparrows arrived at my side and just sat looking at me. I thought I'd give them a gentle poke, figuring that if they didn't want to be poked, they'd leave, and if they did, they'd tolerate it. I did not anticipate that the little monsters would retaliate and try to eat my finger. But, oh, they did. Bastards.

Fortunately, sparrows have laughably weak bite. I could bite that whole sparrow harder than it could bite my finger. Still, I'm insulted. What the members of the whole Aves class do not seem to understand is that they are MY food, not vice versa. And if they don't believe it, I'm going to start walking around campus with a frying pan to prove it.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Some signs that school needs to end sooner rather than later

I am now using bodywash to wash my hands because our hand soap ran out last week. My bodywash is also running out though, and pretty soon I might have to move to shampoo. We also ran out of trash bags for the kitchen and are now using tiny grocery bags to dispose of pizza and cereal boxes twice the size of the bags themselves, and I'm out of shave gel, and my dorm printer allowance is about 40 cents right now, which translates to about six pages of printing. I'm also running seriously low on Flex dollars thanks to my dependence on chai lattes to keep me awake in class, and my meal points are dwindling because, well, I eat. So, we may thus conclude that unless school ends very soon, I will starve to death in a pit of my own filth after being unable to do my reading for class because I couldn't print it out. See, the situation is more dire than you think.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Lesson #1 of dorm life: Avoid it

In the past, the guys across the hall from me have held weekly parties that involved them playing guitar for a bunch of adoring female fans and plaintively belting out pop lyrics. I am subjected to these concerts in all their slightly off-key glory through the wall. Now, though, it seems that our budding rockstars have acquired a set of bongo drums to compliment the guitar, and this is becoming rather intolerable. "I have seeeeeeeeeen the others [bang drums, bang drums, bang drums, strum guitar] and I have disoverrrrrredddd [bang, strum, bang] that this fiiiiiiiiight [strum, strum, bang, bang]" and so on. At the end of songs, the bongo drummer apparently feels the need to go out in a blaze of glory and I get the pleasure of hearing rapid tuneless banging for a ten straight minutes. Shoot me?

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Retributive justice

I decided to skip history today, and I was very proud of this brilliant decision last night when I scoffed at the 50 pages of reading I was not doing. Instead, I decided to be productive and go talk to my Socrates professor about my paper. But the world decided otherwise. I hiked up to the fifth floor of Gates-Blake this afternoon to find my professor either asleep in his office with the door locked or not there. Ok, then. Unfazed, I decided on an alternate plan: doing my sosc reading on the big swing outside Social Sciences. So I got to the social sciences quad only to find the swing occupied by ugly people making out. Well, there is still hope. Wednesday is $1 shake day, so I went to the C-Shop to drink and study, but alas, the shake line was all the way into the Reynold's Club lobby! Then I ran out of options.

The world hates me and I'm going to the Reg to read Nietzsche. Maybe I'll even read in the stacks. With the lights off. Take that, fate!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Two posts in one day. Why? Because I am an ineffective human being.

Um. History paper. Not writing itself. No thesis. Don't care about ADHD treatment anymore. Too many sources. As usual, chronic problem of word vomit threatens to extend length of paper from required 10-12 pages to about 80 pages. Also had my ID eaten by a copy machine in the Reg today and could not retrieve it. Have done nothing productive today but sulk about these things.

On furnishing your apartment for less:
me: did you buy anything at the moving sale?
alex: CRAZY old russian couple with lots of SHIT
alex: they were like, what do you want???
alex: so we said a couch
alex: she shows us these two mattresses, and says, "if you cover it and put pillows on top like we did, it will look like a couch"
alex: and we were like, umm, no. and tried to RUN AWAY
alex: and the lady was like, TAKE OUR PLANTS
alex: in conclusion, there is an ugly-ass lamp in my back seat that i'm hoping someone will steal
alex: it was 10 dollars, and we asked where the light switch was, and she was like, fine! take it for five.
me: hahahaha
me: wait, so is there a light switch?

Friday, May 06, 2005

A genesis followed by a stomachache

In the beginning, there was ethnic food. And the people were pleased, and ate many burritos. But ethnic food roused the people to battle and much blood was shed, and many wheat fields and rice paddies ruined. And so the gods said, "We will do an experiment to create cross-cultural understanding, and we shall call it taco pizza." And the people said, "Oooh" and they tasted of the new dish. But the people were not pleased and the gods were small-D democrats, so they banished the dish and commanded the people never to speak of it again. And the people went back to ruining each other's rice paddies. And the new dish was lost in the darkness of the ancient age.

So it was written, the parable of the taco pizza in the sacred texts, and yet, many epochs later, an Aramark monk of Bartlett Dining Hall, the kingdom of much indigestion and stomach ailment, studied the ancient texts and did not fear the wrath of the gods. And so it was that he cooked of the taco pizza and served of it to the serfs. And the serfs writhed. And it was bad. And there was much unhappiness throughout the kingdom. And the monk was pleased of his creation and it brought him great power, and the world was cast into the despotic darkness of taco pizza once more.

And the gods shrugged remembering the last time they tried to intervene in these affairs, and went to their summer homes on Martha's Vineyard instead.

Also, British politics is uninteresting, but check out the picture--Michael Howard looks exactly like my geography professor.

And finally, a fascinating article about female combat soldiers in Israel.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Why I am not a computer geek

CMail has crapped out on me. I'd do something about it, since checking my email is a major feature of my day and my entire existence hangs in the balance when I can't do it, but I don't like asking tech support for help. I think that, being under the age of 55, I should know how to fix my own computer glitches since I technically grew up with computers. But really, that's totally misleading, since "growing up" implies playing games, not putting together hardware or learning C++. And I did play lots of computer games--lots of horribly pixelated DOS-based 99 cent games from Best Buy.

For example, Hugo's House of Horrors. This was an excellent game that appeared to have been created before arrow keys were implemented as a means of moving characters around. So the character--Hugo--could not actually move by his own volition; you needed to type in commands for him to do stuff. "Walk to door." "Open door." "Look around." At this point, a message would flash on the screen: "Monster!" A brown blob would appear on the screen and the computer would play a complex tune: Doo-doo-doo. You would then have to type, "Run away from monster." It was heart-pounding excitement, let me tell you. But the creators seemed to be aware of the limitations of a game in which the very idea of having a game speed implied blowing several fuses, and so they made the object of the game to solve a puzzle by picking up different clues along the way. This was done by typing "Pick up clue." I know I make this sound really childish and simple, but the fact is that I never figured out the solution to Hugo's House of Horrors, so I could never actually beat the game. I got really frustrated a lot though, especially when Hugo got consumed by the amorphous blob that said doo-doo-doo. But the beauty of typing in commands meant that you could vent your frustration by instructing Hugo to do things like, "Pick up stick" and then, "Shove stick up your ass, muthafucka." Or, when no objects were around to violate Hugo with, "Go fuck yourself" was a sufficient command.

Unfortunately, I don't think computer animation had progressed far enough by this point to allow for the performance of on-screen pornography, especially since I suspect that, lacking certain important pixel configurations in his nether regions, Hugo was a eunuch, so the response would always be, "Action unavailable."

Later in my life, I upgraded to Duke Nukem 3D, in which you could not only move your character with arrows and shoot weapons, but you could make out with hookers and then shoot them, which did nothing to advance you in the game, but was guaranteed to cause a whole slew of aliens with bazookas to descend on you for the offense while hooker blood dripped down the walls of the room. While I'm sure that Mr. Nukem had all his pixels in place and that they were very virile indeed, this game made me yearn for the simplicity of the DOS days.

Until, that is, I encountered Age of Empires, which allowed me to recreate the Persian Wars in minute detail, and was pretty much the greatest computer game ever made, barring the Sims, which is too creepy to evaluate objectively.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

My future awesome life

Sometimes, usually when I'm buried deep in the library somewhere on a dark, icky day, I realize that I don't really want to go to grad school at all. What I want to do is get my degree, land a decent 9-5 job, rent a studio in Lincoln Park, and move on with my life to become an actual grown-up instead of a hanger-on to my undergrad glory days. (Not that all grad students are hangers-on. But I definitely would be.) Then I could spend my weekends maybe doing something other than preparing for the next week's work.

Not that I would have anything cool to do anyway. Or that I would have a life. But at least I'd have a cat. Or two. Or seventeen.

I need a new floor to inhabit in the library. The second floor is occupied by too many pale and creepy French grad students who do seated yoga and never leave the Reg. The third floor doesn't have enough computers. Is the fourth floor where it's at?

"I say that if the horse begins to see from afar that it has to hit the points of the pikes, either it checks its course on its own...or as it approaches them it will turn to the right or left. If you want to make an experiment of this, try to run a horse into a wall with whatever impetus you want: rarely will you find that it goes into it."
--Machiavelli, The Art of War