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Tuesday, October 24th, 2006
9:13 am - Art Projects
I really should try to get access to a scanner. I've got this big weird-looking cut-paper turtle head mounted on rigid posterboard, and I can't show it to anyone who isn't there in person.

It got an A- in Intro to Design, though, which I'm pretty happy about. My next one is probably going to be either a hermit crab climbing stalks of coral, or a giant caterpillar eating all the plants in the world. Darth Caterpillar will probably be more fun, as long as I can get the design right.

Has anyone seen Jan Svankmajer's Alice? I have to do a report on him for next week, and his films are all really freaky. But then, what do you expect from a card-carrying member of the Czech Surrealist Group? The political commentary in them is good, too.

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Monday, October 9th, 2006
9:09 pm - LJ Necromancy
So I've quit the IRS and enrolled at art school to learn how to do special effects for movies. Not the best-paid job in the world, but hopefully a fun one.

And, as part of my portfolio-building class, I have to make regular journal entries. I'll do my best to keep them interesting to readers besides the instructor. ;-)

Without further ado, then: Why College?

First of all, I don’t regard the Art Institute as a normal college. I went to college before, because it was expected of me, because it would be a change from high school (which I hated), and because I didn’t think I would have many worthwhile career options if I failed to go. And then, it turned out that a BA in economics didn’t necessarily qualify me for jobs I would enjoy. So, further education was going to be necessary, and I settled on digital art as the field that was most likely to be an enjoyable job.

So, really, I’m here for the job training. Personal growth would be nice, but that’s not what I’m spending large amounts of money on. I expect job training, job placement, and hopefully a nice network of fellow students.

To be sure, I was somewhat daunted when I got the syllabus for my first class, Intro to Design, and saw the amount of drawing required. I’m not very good at drawing, or very fast, and unless I can learn to improve in those areas I’ll probably be spending more time doing homework for Design and Fundamentals of Drawing than for all of my other classes. It'll be interesting balancing classwork with a part-time job, but at least I don't have kids to look after like some of my fellow students.

Overall, it’s nice to be going back to a college environment. My co-workers at the IRS had their points, but there weren’t many people there that I would choose to spend time with.

current mood: artistic

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Sunday, August 14th, 2005
3:40 pm - Jedi outnumber Jews? Plus more on BSG
Apparently England's 2001 census found that people who wrote in "Jedi" as their religion significantly outnumbered people who said they were Jewish. Hmmm....

Thoughts on why Battlestar Galactica is way better than Star Trek:

One of the minor themes that BSG uses is the idea that military personnel shouldn't let their personal feelings get in the way of doing their jobs. For example, if a combat instructor has an affair with her student, and gives him a higher grade than he's earned, she's putting him and his fellow soldiers at risk, because he'll then be put into situations that he isn't prepared to handle. In the show so far, I've seen multiple instances of officers letting their feelings override their good judgment, and it's always ended badly.

One of the Star Trek: Next Generation episodes that always bothered me was the one where Picard lets his feelings for a woman keep him from doing his job - or, more accurately, keep *her* from doing *her* job. I don't even remember what it was - research on suns going nova, maybe? - but it involved her leaving the ship and staying on a research station where her life might be at risk. Unfortunately, Picard subscribes to the theory that a man must always protect the woman he loves from harm, regardless of her feelings on the matter, and so he refuses to let her go to the station. The only consequence for him is that she ends the relationship and requests a transfer. The Nitpicker's Guide, which goes through all the Trek episodes and points out everything from plot holes to technical glitches, points out that she has excellent grounds for a sexual harassment suit here and wonders why she doesn't file one, as the Enterprise is presented as the most prestigious assignment in the fleet, and the captain's feelings for her are effectively forcing her to leave his ship if she values her career. And then there's the question of whether a captain who would interfere with important research just because he's sleeping with the researcher should even be allowed to keep his command.

Have I mentioned how happy I am to have a science fiction show with writers who actually think all this stuff out?

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Sunday, August 7th, 2005
12:14 am - Frackin' Cylons
The new Battlestar Galactica is amazing. My sister just came to visit with the entire first season burned to CD, and after seeing the prelude even my mom liked it. (She's in the habit of mocking science fiction and those who watch it, even though she herself loved the original Star Trek when she was young.) Though it does sound a bit odd to hear all the characters use "frack" as a curse word. (And Cylons are The Enemy, for those who might not be familiar with the series.)

I had an interview with Social Security recently for an actual career-path job, so we'll see if anything comes of that. To put the time frame in perspective, they were taking applications in mid-April, they called me for an interview in mid-July, and they expect to make a decision around Labor Day.

In other news, I turned 23 on Friday. We had interesting Mexican food, and then Korean food tonight since my sister arrived today (Saturday). The Korean place is fairly new, and we had a strange experience the last time we went there; the servers forgot to bring my dinner. After a while, I reminded them that I had in fact ordered en entree, and it finally came just as the rest of the family was finishing up. So then the hostess came out and apologized, and offered coupons, but there was apparently this really complicated coupon situation in which one would have to get one's coupon stamped at 3 lunches or 2 dinners or something that I didn't understand at all. My mom thought the hostess had been hitting the rice wine, and my dad asked me if, after my IRS training was over and I had learned to understand the US tax code, I would then be able to figure out the coupon situation and explain it to him. But tonight was free of mishaps, and they were even giving out free iced rice punch for dessert.

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Sunday, July 17th, 2005
8:01 pm - Remains of the Dennis
We've had heavy rains all weekend, and the weather forecasters think we're likely to have multiple thunderstorms this week. My relatives in Mobile, Alabama have had to evacuate to Atlanta (as they did last year), and we hope they won't have to do so any more this year. Apparently the fifth hurricane of the season is heading for Texas, so that one at least won't hit them.

My dad heard an interview with a guy who studies weather records, and apparently the number of hurricanes per year has been slowly increasing ever since they started to really keep track. Except for the last decade or so - now the number of hurricanes per year is going up a heck of a lot faster. Maybe if his ranch gets hit, Bush will start to believe in global warming.

And we have a copy of the new Harry Potter book. The grocery store decided to get in on the deal, so my mom picked one up on her weekly shopping trip.

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Friday, April 15th, 2005
8:30 pm - Never trust a tax preparer who fills out returns in marker
I got a couple of those today (by the same guy) and they were full of errors. One retired couple is getting a much bigger refund check than they thought, but another unfortunate taxpayer is getting a letter asking them to fill out some supporting forms. As a general rule, always carefully read your tax forms, and if you're putting a dollar amount on a line where the description tells you to attach a supporting form, fill out and attach said form or you will in all probability get a letter from the IRS asking for it later.

Never seen (or heard from someone who has seen) a tax return filled out in crayon, though.

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Friday, March 18th, 2005
11:42 pm - Against All Enemies
Even the lowliest government employee has to take that oath upon appointment. So, at the end of our orientation last Tuesday, everyone in my group swore to defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

My new job affords me little opportunity to defend the Constitution, or indeed to endanger it. As one of the numerous temporary workers hired by the IRS to handle tax returns during the main tax season, I can expect to spend my days dealing with tax returns that, for various reasons, have been marked by the computer as containing errors.

First, though, we have four weeks of training, which promises to be just as boring as my 10th-grade math class. The first few days were spent tabbing and making corrections to our tax manuals, since they're about 1000 pages long and Congress makes lots of minute changes every month. My tongue is still sore from the tabbing, too; the index tabs the IRS uses are the gummed kind that stick like super-glue if they come into contact with anything damp.

Fortunately, our instructors are likable. The lead instructor even told us about how President Bush, who doesn't much care for the IRS, tried to hold down our pay (the IRS is supposed to use the same pay scale as all the other civilian bureaucracies), but was thwarted by our union. In related news, our official-federal-building portraits of Bush and Cheney apparently had to be moved to places where there are always guards, because they kept getting defaced.

current mood: working (for pay!)

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Wednesday, March 2nd, 2005
6:11 pm - Employment at last!
I've been hired by the IRS as a tax examiner. It's a term appointment, not permanent, so it's unlikely to last more than a couple of years, but at least it's a source of income.

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Tuesday, January 11th, 2005
2:28 pm - The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated
though the complete lack of communication from New Jersey may have led some of you to suspect otherwise.

I hereby present my news from the last several weeks: I'm still unemployed. Just about every job application I've submitted has been ignored completely. I'm beginning to think that my theme song should be "Mr. Cellophane" from Chicago.

Other than that, I'm good.

We went to Michigan over the holidays to be with my dad's family. My oldest cousin on that side is starting to look at colleges, and it's possible that he'll wind up at Berkeley. He took us to a gaming place for an afternoon of shooting each other, and was highly gratified to actually beat me. (I haven't actually had much experience with first-person shooters, but I had apparently scarred him for life many years ago with a four-move checkmate, leaving him with the impression that he could never beat me at anything.)

I also taught my aunt and youngest cousin how to make sushi, since they recently discovered that they liked it. The latter, a fairly typical 12-year-old boy, is now churning out California rolls and dreaming of becoming a sushi chef.

My sister still doesn't have her driver's license, despite being a sophomore in college. Friends and family alike mock her to her face.

One of my Christmas gifts was a copy of In Search of Paul, so expect a religion post soon.

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Tuesday, December 7th, 2004
12:57 am - Be a dentist
As far as I know, nobody in our local dentist's office is a sadist (or, for that matter, looks like Steve Martin). They do have certain foibles, though; my father came home from his most recent dental appointment with a complimentary bottle of wine. Apparently, the dentist has a deal with some local winery for wine with a custom "Compliments of the smile team at The Centre for Dentistry at Haddon (A perfect blend of art and science)" label.

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Tuesday, November 30th, 2004
8:30 pm - Food fun
Thanksgiving was tasty, though somewhat short on relatives. (Aunt & uncle from Michigan had planned to come, but decided not to so that their high-school-junior son could be with his college-freshman girlfriend. For the same reason, they're not going anywhere over Christmas, so we're going to visit them.) We had comfort foods in abundance, even if my mom did go a little overboard with putting fruit flavors in everything.

And we have a cardboard box signed by PA governor Ed Rendell. A charity group was selling pies in the main Philadelphia train station, and he had agreed to be there with them and autograph the boxes of all the pies they sold. They had the traditional pumpkin, sweet potato, and apple pies, but there was also what my father called a 20,000 calorie pie: cheesecake with caramel, chocolate, nut filling, and nuts. Ed Rendell, a man who never met a calorie he didn't like, recommended the last, so that was the one we got. (Seriously, Rendell got a fair amount of his popularity from his affinity for common Philly foods. Remember when John Kerry was mocked for going to a Philly cheesesteak place and asking for Provolone? Rendell knows that true cheesesteaks are made with Cheese Whiz, and his standard move of throwing his tie over his shoulder to avoid dripping on it was given the name, "The Philly Flip." The current mayor, by contrast, got in major hot water for saying that cheesesteaks were a contributing factor to Philadelphia's position as one of the top 5 fattest US cities, and suggesting that people try alternatives like turkey subs.)

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Saturday, November 20th, 2004
11:01 pm - Movies and other amusements
Finally got around to seeing Super Size Me; there wasn't much surprise, since most of the reviews pretty much told you what happened to the guy when he went on a one-month McDonald's diet. There was one particularly alarming bonus feature, though: proof that McDonald's fries are unnatural.

What they did was buy some McDonald's sandwiches and fries (and a diner burger and fries, for comparison) and then set them out to rot. As you might expect, the diner food grew mold pretty quickly, as did all the fast food sandwiches with the exception of the Big Mac. The Big Mac managed to hold out for several days longer, but it too finally succumbed to the mold. The fries, though... the fries were still pristine and mold-free at 2 weeks - 4 weeks - 6 weeks - 8 weeks - 10 weeks - at which point the intern accidentally threw them out along with the sandwiches (which were, by this point, supporting entire miniature civilizations and smelling absolutely disgusting).

In other movie news, I finally got around to seeing Kill Bill 1 and 2, so now I'm all worked up about stealing bits of them for das_movie. Hmmm...

My dad and I had to see them while my mom was on a business trip, though, since she doesn't have much tolerance for violent movies. She went to Washington DC, and while she was there she saw proof that despite what Agent Kay may say about the FBI, some branches of government do indeed have a sense of humor. If one lives in our nation's capital, one can apparently buy vanity license plates that say "Taxation Without Representation" in place of the official slogan. If I ever get a government job in Washington, I'm definitely buying one of those.

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Sunday, November 14th, 2004
2:53 pm - Fruitcake
Today is an epic baking day - my mother decided to make an unprecedented quadruple recipe of fruitcake (so that there would be plenty for me to send out west!), so we had to bake it in two shifts, each of which takes a good three hours. Plus, of course, we had to chop the fruit and nuts yesterday and soak them in juice overnight.

I'd never realized before that one could have fruitcake prejudice, but my mom declares that pineapple has no place in a fruitcake, and that she has no respect for any cook who thinks it does.

And now it's time to mock bluearisbe for still not having her driver's license, despite being halfway through sophomore year. (I'm not going to chauffeur you around over the holidays, you know.)

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Thursday, November 11th, 2004
5:09 pm - Profane, but very funny

current mood: wicked

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Wednesday, November 3rd, 2004
2:24 pm - Why?
My fellow Americans really scare me. Some people are clinging to the hope that Bush will see how badly he's divided the country and do a better job this time, but considering how he's been acting the last four years, I doubt he'll improve. If anything, he'll probably take it as a sign from God to keep doing exactly what he's been doing.

I should probably email my relatives in Palo Alto and see if they're serious about emigrating to Australia.

current mood: worried

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Monday, November 1st, 2004
3:59 pm - This town is so liberal...
In the last local election, two Democrats competed for the same seat and the Republican still couldn't win. That didn't stop our yard sign from getting stolen, though. My parents were incensed and went right out to get a new one. I guess we're just lucky we don't live in the next town over, which banned yard signs altogether. (Seriously, the only yard sign that won't get you in trouble there is a "For Sale" sign. Apparently the council so wanted the town to be free of ugly clutter that they ignored the advice of their own lawyer on the perils of restricting political speech.)

Not that our town doesn't do weird stuff sometimes; kids this year were restricted to trick-or-treating between the hours of 3 and 6 pm. On Saturday.

Speaking of Halloween, I went to visit my sister for her frat's Halloween party on Friday night. It's a very cool group - several of them coordinated to dress up as characters from Neil Gaiman's Sandman series. They wound up with six of the seven Endless (nobody really wanted to dress up as Despair, for obvious reasons) plus Hippolyta and Nuala (the latter played by a guy in drag). Also, someone made his own paper-mache helmet to come as the Rocketeer. It was great.

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Sunday, October 24th, 2004
3:35 pm - Unbounded Domesticity
I finally learned how to knit recently, much to my grandmother's delight, and so when my parents went to visit her last weekend, she cleaned out all of her leftover yarn and sent it back with them. We now have a mountain of yarn sitting in the living room waiting to be sorted and divvied up between my mother and me. I've already started a sleeveless sweater, and some of the odds and ends from the mountain look like they'd be excellent for something like this (from the same place as gratteciella's knitting porn link).

And I get to help my mom bake Christmas cookies and fruitcake this year. Who wants to be sent some?

current mood: accomplished

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Tuesday, October 19th, 2004
10:27 pm
I saw the most bizarre thing in a catalog today. The catalog was full of horrible kitsch, like Elvis Christmas ornaments and blankets with images of "classic muscle cars" on them, but this one item took the cake. It was a cigarette dispenser shaped like a pack mule. Now, if you had to design a cigarette dispenser shaped like an ungulate, where would you want the cigarettes to emerge from?

Go on, think about it.

If you're like me, you probably thought that the mouth would be a good place, or possibly the side. The designer of the dispenser in the catalog was not like me. So, when I opened up the catalog, one of the first things I saw was this:

Retro Smoking Donkey

(They can't decide whether it's a donkey or a mule, either.)

Another View

The catalog says that they do not encourage smoking, and that the donkey is intended to be a collectible reminder of a bygone era, so it comes with a display case. And, of course, it wouldn't be in the catalog if it didn't sell. In other words, there are people in this country who can look at a plastic mule with a cigarette coming out of its ass, and think, "Boy, wouldn't that look great displayed on the mantelpiece?"

current mood: amused

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Friday, October 8th, 2004
2:38 pm - Joining the Sav mem-sheepery
Steller Goddess
You are Ji Nu!

A Chinese stellar goddess. Charming, inquistive,
and a dreamer.

Which Chinese Mythological Being Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

This quiz seems to be very inconsistent with the length and quality of its result descriptions. (The author also has HTML issues, which made posting this a somewhat irritating experience.)

Your anime hair color is white.

What is your anime hair color?
brought to you by Quizilla

Pure white hair would look kind of cool.

You are not European
You are not European.

What's your Inner European?
brought to you by Quizilla

Heh. This is true.

current mood: silly

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Thursday, September 30th, 2004
10:42 pm - Bush is a witless chimpanzee
That's pretty much the main impression I got from watching the first debate tonight. Kerry brought up all kinds of points: North Korea getting nuclear weapons, the diversion of troops away from catching Bin Laden so that they could prepare to invade Iraq, the lack of adequate supplies (like body and vehicle armor!) for the troops in Iraq, etc, etc, and Bush just couldn't respond to them. He just kept repeating the same things over and over; "mixed messages are bad," "we must be resolute," "Kerry saw the same intelligence [on Iraq] I did." Perhaps the most egregious bit was when Kerry pointed out that it was Osama Bin Laden who attacked America, and that Saddam Hussein had no connection with the attack, and Bush replied, "I know it was Osama Bin Laden who attacked America! My opponent saw the same intelligence I did... (repetition of talking points on Iraq)"

Best bit from Kerry: the story about the Cuban Missile Crisis, where the American official who went to Charles de Gaulle offered to show him the photos of the missile installations, and de Gaulle waved them away, saying, "The word of the American president is good enough for me." How many world leaders today would be willing to say such a thing? Bush had no good response to that, and retreated to his talking points.

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