2.27.2008

1994 called. It wants to know if your AOL account still works.

Remember when e-mail first came out? Not the early early nascent computer/geek pioneer-only usable system or the DARPA/US Military protocols, but rather general, commercial internet-based e-mail (circa 1993-1994). [1] Back in those heady days, [2] when we were still learning the ropes and online etiquette had not evolved towards anything close to the 21st Century sophistication we share now, stupid forwarded messages (hereinafter "forwards") were de rigueur: i.e., 10 reasons why puppies are awesome!; obscure political conspiracy theories; musings on rainbows; cute pictures of babies with animals; etc., and of course, chain letters.

Most people stopped sending such forwards in 1997. But a few have hung on--they're retro. (In a super-annoying way.) To wit: In 2003 I was the President of the Board of Directors for a small international development non-governmental/nonprofit organization that was building schools for girls in Afghanistan (pompousity check: yes.). One of my co-Directors had a nasty little habit of sending out life-affirming/look-on-the-positive-side/the sun-will-come-out-tomorrow/ unicorns-are-beautiful/look how cute all of these gerbils are/aren't these pictures of kids dressed as adults a riot? e-mail forwards. [3]

The joke among the rest of the Board was, "Did she just get email?" Even better was that her cousin was a high ranking state official, so she had all sorts of e-mail addresses in her contacts list: her forwards would always go out to the creme de la creme of the state's then-in-charge political party as well as to everyone else she ever knew and met (also, she hadn't yet read the memo on the bcc, either). Eventually I had to ask her to stop forwarding messages to me (always an awkward conversation). I vaguely mentioend something about a full inbox, not enough space (this was pre-6 GB gmail accounts). She ceased...for about a month. Then the forwards were back on in Full Force and with greater frequency. I eventually had to block her email address. I decided that on balance, not getting the forwards outweighed whatever she had to e-mail me about, Board of Directors-wise.

Still, I can't escape. Even in 2008, two forwarders remain in my life. One is family, so I'm stuck, the other is a former client who (fortunately) only has my work e-mail address and is quite fond of messages with animated cats in the signature line.

Speaking of the early '90s, my uncle is trapped there. Can someone help him? He refuses to learn how to use e-mail or the Internet (which is a shame, because I think he would like the Internet. Especially the porn.). He cuts articles that I "might find interesting" out of the newspaper and mails them to me. In the mail. Not as an e-mail attachment, not a link to the article online. A piece of newspaper. In the U.S. Mail. I appreciate that he thinks of me, and I like getting mail, but still, it's time to get with the program. I'm going to tell him that I got the recent article on Eritrea he sent me, but that I had already read it because I have a Google News account set up to email me all of the articles published about Eritrea every week. He is going to have no idea what I'm talking about.

Finally, while we're on the subject of the internets, our little SuperDelegate video (link located in the previous post) has been seen by 1,500 people in just 24 hrs (and that's not counting the time that our views counter was frozen--kind of like being in YouTube detention--because we all kept refreshing the video to watch it over and over (and listen to the music, which I still can't get out of my head) and YT likes to discourage illegitimate puffing-up of it's viewer statistics) and posted on a bunch of political sites. That's a lot of people that have now seen me stuffing my face with a stack of donuts, dismantling a stack of oranges, and floating around in a pool.
______________
[1] Freshman year at Rutgers University, 1993: I had never heard of email before. But then suddenly I was jbrandei@something.rutgers.edu. Your address name was 8 letters--first letter of your first name and then up to 7 letters of your last. It caused a big scandal when my good friend Michelle Mandelbaum got the kind-of-cool "michmand" instead of the regulation "mmandelb." She really lucked out, because she stayed there for grad school too. 6 years would have been a long time to go as mmandelb. We used some sort of computer-like machine that had a black screen and green text. I could send and receive messages and download song lyrics from the U of Minnesota's Gopher system. Sometimes I could even check my e-mail from michmand's room in her women's-only dorm (but only until 10 pm), and only if the dial up modem could connect and only if we had an hour and a half to wait for it to connect. Those were also the days were we didn't check it every day and it was permissible to wait a few days or even a week to respond to an email (though at various times, i.e., both times that year that my high school girlfriend who was at the U of Michigan was breaking up with me, I would check it frequently and reply immediately. Big mistake, in retrospect.). Now, if someone goes more than ten minutes w/o responding it's like, "What the fuck?"

[2] I took a web publishing class during my senior year of college (1997). One assignment was that I had to write an article for the journalism school's brand-spanking-new online student newspaper-ish thing, the OU Webreporter. I wrote about the problem of waiting on line (that is, physically standing in line) to get online (on a computer--get it? Yes, the wit was evident even back then.). Amazingly, the article is still online (on the Internets). It is painful to read, but these were my concluding thoughts:
About 47 minutes have passed, and I'm still waiting. It's frustrating, but the university still is trying to get used to this Cyberspace thing. The Internet is still in its embryonic stage. We are the guinea pigs. In a few years Internet access probably will be available in every dorm room on this campus. A few years after that, in every classroom. Granted, tuition may increase, but in ten, 15 years, access may be in the bathrooms.
Oh, young B-Dice. How you couldn't even conceive of WiFi. And how you could use a word like "Cyberspace" in a published article without gagging. And I wasn't too far off: It only took eight years before I started taking my laptop into the bathroom. Just kidding. Sort of.

[3] In her defense, she did have some serious health problems she was struggling with (diabetes, lost a toe or a foot through some work-related incident (I can't really remember), botched boob job), perhaps the healing powers of new-agey spiritual email forwards helped her. Also, she was really into angels--she had like angel posters in her house and statues and candle holders shaped like, and possibly made out of, angels.

2.26.2008

Super Delegated

If you have been following politics recently, and the race for the Democratic presidential nominee in particular, you've probably heard about the "SuperDelegate" issue. If you haven't, go here for a short summary.

Now that you know of the vast power wielded by SuperDelegates, aren't you curious about these people? What is it like to be a Superdelegate? How does a Superdelegate spend the day? Copy and paste this into your browser to find out: www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSYOqXV-TeM

Trust me, it's vintage B-Dice. [1] And make sure the volume is on.
_________________
[1] N.B.: Despite technological advances, the camera still adds 10 lbs.

2.25.2008

Only in Anchorage...

...would I get stuck in traffic caused by a dog sled race.

...would I not be able to walk my dog because the path from my house to the trail was blocked by moose.

...would I witness someone bring their down slippers with them to a friend's house.

...would I walk outside to start my car and wind up flat, face down on the driveway instead (it's icy out there).

...would I be able to post a link to The Running of the Reindeer. (Seriously.)

Noted

I'm now 80.2% [1] of the way through Infinite Jest (p.787 of 981) and David Foster Wallace is just fucking w/me now. There are footnotes not attached to any text. [2] Just footnotes in the middle of the page [3] and seven pages of corresponding text in the "Notes and Errata" section at the end of the novel. This is unheard of. And brilliant, I think. But then, as anyone who reads this blog knows, I'm unnaturally fond of foootnotes [4] (and creative use thereof especially makes my heart flutter and my pulse quicken). And as Viv (who pressured me into reading the DFW book in the first place) said so simply and eloquently, "Why write a paragraph if you can just include it all in a footnote?" [5] Good point.
____________
[1] 91.3% (896/981) as of the time of publication of this post.
[2] See, e.g., n. 324, 332.
[3] Technically endnotes. They all are, in this book.
[4] See, e.g., the fact that I ended a very healthy relationship with Alli based largely on the fact that she didn't know what footnotes were. Though, in fairness to Alli, and lest you think I am totally insane, in my defense, I was also in love with someone else at the time. But now that I think about it, I'm not sure which reason was more important.
[5] On that note (pun definitely intended), and with the start of the baseball season just over a month away, this seems like a good time to talk about Joe Morgan.

Joe Morgan is a lead baseball commentator on ESPN. He is 1/2 the broadcast team for their weekly Sunday night game and for World Series games. He also does radio broadcasts, and writes and participates in chats for ESPN's website. ESPN is the lagrest sports media company in the world. Morgan is one of their top baseball annouoncers. He is also a hall-of-famer and arguably the best second baseman of all time. But he is a terrible announcer and commentator. More often than not he has no clue what he is talking about: He makes assertions that cannot be backed up; he says things that are flat out wrong and contradicted by statistical evidence. It is incredibly frustrating to listen to him (and the rest of his ilk) drone on when he is just making things up and is obviously unprepared and unfamiliar with the players and stories of the teams playing in the games he is announcing when he has one of, if not the, top baseball announcing jobs on the planet.

One of my favorite websites is FireJoeMorgan.com, which started out just skewering Joe and disproving everything he said mainly by citing statistics that only stat-loving baseball nerds (like me) care about. The site has grown and is now dedicated to ridiculing bad/sloppy/lazy baseball writing and announcing in general, mainly by citing statistics that only stat-loving baseball nerds (like me) care about. So, you can imagine how happy I was when the site's heretofore anonymous writers decided to reveal their identities and they turned out to be a bunch of TV writers from LA, including a writer for The Office who also plays the role of Dwight's Cousin Mose. That's right--one of my favorite baseball statistic-quoting writers is Cousin Mose. Small world. And it feels so good to know that baseball-statistic obsessives are no longer relegated to living in their parents' basements and tinkering with computer simulated baseball seasons anymore. We can now all come out and show the world we are productive members of society. Just like the guys in fight club ("Look, the people you are after are the people you depend on. We cook your meals, we connect your calls, we guard you while you sleep. Do NOT fuck with us.").

2.22.2008

This Is Not Falafel

Note to Middle Way Cafe: "Falafel" implies balls. This is technically a falafel loaf or a slice of falafel pie. Please be more accurate when describing your dishes in the future. Thank you.

2.14.2008

Roses Are Cheesy And Cliche / But Violets Are Okay

• This Valentine's Day is just a little bit different from last year. Just a little.

• More timely and relevant wisdom from Peep Show:

Mark: "Why do you even want to get back with her? She was really starting to annoy you."
Jeremy: "That was before we stopped going out."
Mark: "Oh, right, now that she's finished with you, suddenly you're in love with her again."
Jeremy: "Exactly. Duh. That's how love works, Mark."

• If more women start to follow this advice and compromise their ideals and settle for someone who is just "good enough," I could do really well.

2.13.2008

Tidbits

1. Brilliant: I'm going to send out about ten of these.

2. Heat Wave: It has been in the mid-20's the past couple of days, a nice change from the last three weeks where temps barely inched above z-e-r-o. 26 degrees actually feels warm. Did I just say that? I think it is definitely time to move.

3. Do we really need a machine to tell good coffee from bad? It's easy:
Folger's/Sanka/Maxwell House/Etc. = Disgusting.
Zoka = Oh-My-God Good.
4. Believe it or not, someone actually wore this shirt. And this one.

5. Experimental Travel: Per The Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel (and via Hank):
The ancient art of experimental travel was invented by Joel Henry, the director of the Laboratory of Experimental Tourism (Latourex), and expanded upon by Lonely Planet in its Guide to Experimental Travel. One travel method seems to have been invented specifically for Alaskans wanting to escape the cold and dark but unable to afford a flight Outside:

Go to your favorite pub (British for "bar") and order your favorite drink. Ask your bartender her favorite bar and favorite drink. Go there and order that drink. Ask that bartender his favorite bar and favorite drink. Go there and order his drink. Repeat.
We (Hank, me, Kiwi Paula, Anmei, Diana, Liz) started this experiment tonight. First stop was Hank's favorite bar, F Street. Bartenders Jill and Jamie sent us to their favorite hangout, The Pioneer, with a note written on a napkin for the Pi-O bartender with instructions to make us shots of their super-secret standard beverage: a shot of chilled Stoli followed by some pink concoction that tasted like Kool-Aid (you couldn't taste the alcohol at all--It's the kind of drink that causes college students to wake up in pools of their own vomit.). The Pi-O barkeep had a little trouble IDing his favorite place and drink, but eventually he settled on Guiness at Humpy's. Though the conversation was lively (concerning mostly the pros/cons of male circumcision, the penis's evolution as a semen displacement device, and the issue I spent some time on at work today: do you have a constitutional right to look at online porn at a library? I argued "yes." Convincingly.), I didn't make it to Humpy's. But next week we will start at the Humpy's bartender's favorite spot. I hope this turns into a fun trip around Anchorage and not just a round and round tour of the same old downtown bars we always go to.

6. Peep Show: Earlier this Winter I spent about three weeks doing nothing but watching Peep Show. What the hell was I doing? Did I go to work? Did I go out? I think that show may have kidnapped me for a while there. Regardless, the writers of that show have some very keen insight that I want to share:
Jeremy, on the economy: "We don't make steam engines out of pig iron in this country anymore. We hang out, we fuck around on the Playstation, we have some Ben & Jerry's. That's how everyone makes their money now."

Superhans, on stupidity: "Yeah, people listen to Coldplay and voted for the Nazis - People can't be trusted!".
7. Cottage Living hates the environment: Despite threats to discontinue my "subscription" if I don't pay up soon, and despite my nonpayment, Cottage Living Magazine continues to show up every month. And it comes directly to my new address--it is not forwarded like the rest of my mail. Either someone changed the addy they had on file for me, or junk mail technology has taken a giant leap forward. There is, however, a new weapon to use against the junkmailers: greendimes.com. I signed up for it about a month ago and so far it seems to be working. Check it out.

8. Shut up, Mike Huckabee, and go home: "I didn't major in math, I majored in miracles..." Maybe you should have studied something more practical and then you wouldn't be such an ignorant pro-life homophobe.

2.05.2008

VACAY-CLU

2008.01.26
Day one of the Vacay-CLU, née Law Camp 2008 (aptly renamed by Vik), was uneventful, save for the rain and the out-of-retirement-for-these-five-special-benefit-concerts Garth Brooks shows taking place down the street from my hotel. Lots of cowboy boots and ten-gallon hats on the streets of LA this evening; No visible spurs, though.

5:30: Arrive at hotel. There is a group called Abstinence First/Youth For Christ staying here as well. [1] This makes it two years in a row that during our staff conference we shared hotel space with a group embracing a slightly different political bent: last year it was the Christian Mother Voters of the Midwest (or something like that).
5:40: Everyone in LA, even the cowboys and the Christ Kids, has hipper shoes than I do (I was wearing these.).
6:00: Two things struck me as odd as I headed to my room: it is on one of the three "Executive Level" floors that can only be accessed by inserting your keycard into a special slot in the elevator, and the big ADA-compliant [2] sign (also in braille) on the door. What does all this mean? My room is at least twice as big as a normal room and it has two bathrooms. Yes, two bathrooms--one is mobility-impaired friendly with a handrail-festooned tub, removable plastic tub stool, and one of those high-high toilets. [3]
6:25: My clothes smell like fish. [4]
7:15 - 12:30: There were no official conference activities for the legal staff yet, so the first evening consisted of drinks with Former Boss Wes ("FBW"), dinner with FBW and co-workers Jennifer and Sharon, followed by drinks and election conversation with a professional pollster, a lobbyist, and a Supreme Court litigator.

2008.01.27
Day two started out promising: sunshine everywhere. I ventured out of my room in search of the free continental breakfast available on my special Executive floor. On the way, I ran into a guy who last fall interviewed me for a job I didn't get. He was in search of the same elusive Executive Lounge. We eventually found it and had breakfast together. He was frustrated because his room was tiny--troublesome because he is preparing for a hearing and needs space to spread out papers and to pace, I guess--and especially frustrating because he helped organize the conference and thought they would hook him up with a nice room. I told him about my at-least 400 square feet and two bathrooms set up with a hint of a smile.
12:00 - 5:00: legal program administration workshop
7:00 - 10:00: welcome dinner, live debate b/w prominent liberal and conservative judges.
10:30: trendy/touristy rooftop bar with Udi, Taylor, Winston, and a few other friends.

11:00: 50+ other civil liberties litigators arrive, hang out by/in pool.

11:18: met a woman I interviewed for a job last year. She didn't get it. A little awkward.
11:50: Waitress thinks Udi's name (pronounced "oodie") is "Booty."
12:10: Me, to Winston and Berg: "Do you think Moses would have gone through all that trouble if he knew we were going to turn out like this?"
12:40: And...two people are making out in front of their colleagues. Stay, classy folks.
12:55: Booty: "I work in a completely disorganized environment that is unpredictable and intense."
12:55:15: Me, to Booty: "Don't you work in a fancy office building in downtown Manhattan?"
12:55:25: Booty, to Me: "(quietly, staring at the floor) Yes."
1:10: The female participant from the incident described at 12:40, above, asks me if I will buy her a drink (vodka and cranberry) because the bartender won't serve her anymore: "They say I've had tooooo much to drink," she slurred. I mumbled something about my shoes and ran away.
1:44: Back in the hotel. Torn paper on the floor outside my door.
1:45: I put the pieces of paper back together. It's a business card belonging to a "Protection Officer" of the Metropolitan Police, Royalty Protection Unit, Buckingham Palace. Weird.

2008.01.28
10:00 - 5:00: Protest Zone Rights; Constitutional Rights and the Border; Privacy and Technology Issues; Outlook on Nat'l Security issues in post-Bush world; Teaching Bible in Public Schools; International Human Rights and Domestic Social Issues; Immigrants Rights Advocacy Update.
7:00: Miss bus to dinner at Santa Monica Pier
7:30: Take cab with Booty
8:00: Dinner with new friends, the Girls From Texas (Waco, and San Antonio, respectively)
9:00: Co-Worker Jennifer ("CWJ") pulls me aside and tells me a Certain Young Lady ("CYL") she met that night thinks I'm cute. CWJ points her out. She's cute, but I insist don't want to get involved with a colleague--even though she works in an office several thousands of miles away; I can see only bad things happening.
10:00: Karaoke party in hotel bar
11:00: Alcohol + lawyers + karaoke = funny dancing
11:30: Conversation with CYL
12:00: The Mississippi Office's (with a little help from the Human Rts Program) cover of Poison makes me think that a Bell Biv Devoe concert was probably a lot of fun, back in the day.
12:15: CWJ updates the CYL situation. CWJ says "I'm going to be blunt. She said she 'wants to fuck your brains out.'" CWJ prefaced that by saying, "I feel weird telling you this because we work together."
12:16: I have no idea what to say.
12:18: Still.
12:20: I tell CWJ that in addition to wanting to keep work and play separate, I firmly believe in something that I read recently in Infinite Jest, though I couldn't put it as eloquently as David Foster Wallace did: "That having sex with someone you do not care for feels lonelier than not having sex in the first place, afterward."
12:21: Also, I listen to Bell Biv Devoe: Never trust a big butt and a smile.
12:50: Chatting with The Girls From Texas at the bar. CYL approaches and asks, "So, what are you doing tonight?"
1:15: I go to my room. Alone.

2008.01.29
8:00: Breakfast and Supreme Court Term Review.
8:15: Money quote attributed to Roger Baldwin, speaking about some troubling changes on the Supreme Court some years ago: "When I started the ACLU, blacks were being lynched in the South and picketers were being shot. We've made a lot of progress. Warren Berger is not going to stop us." He didn't. Neither did William Rehnquist. Roberts/Scalia/Thomas/Alito won't either.
9:00 - 11:45: Women's Rights and Recent Supreme Court Decisions; Voting Issues in the 2008 Election; FOIA Litigation; Human Rights and Racial Discrimination.
11:45: CYL grabs my arm and tells me I should skip the afternoon session and go to Japantown with her. I decline. She writes her number down on my notebook and says we should hang out that night.
12:00: Lunch + drug law reform strategy/network session.
12:05: Winston comes over and tells me that Johan Santana is expected to be traded today (Johan is one of the best pitchers in baseball. If he gets traded to the Mets, it will help ease the pain of last season's disaster. Winston, a die-hard fan as well, feels the same. We are very excited because there is a chance he is going to be sent to the Mets.).
1:15: Chemerinsky
2:18: Check metsblog.com on the iPhone again.
2:20: Winston creeps over to my table and passes me a note: "Santana to Queens--exchange for Gomez, Humber, Guerra + Mulvey--contingent on working out long-term contract." Yes!
2:21: I send Winston multiple air high fives from across the room.
2:22: Receive strange looks from the people at my table.
3:00: Immigration Detention Centers Issues and some other workshops I can't remember because I'm too excited about Johan! Johan!
5:00: First class upgrade for flight home confirmed. I am officially spoiled.
6:15: Former Alaskan, and now-Californian friend Lisa is in town from SF and is meeting me at the hotel.
8:00: Dinner and drinks with Lisa

2008.01.30
AM: Hang out and play with Lisa.
PM: Stroll around sunny downtown LA; Take picture of the sun before going in to airport.
Later PM: Flight to Seattle; 2-hr Layover; Flight to AK. Take picture of sunset from plane:

2008.01.31
Back in AK. Sixty degrees colder than it was in LA. And it was only 60 there. I'm getting sick.

2008.02.01 - 2008.02.04
Flu.
_________________
[1] The Kids for Christ were replaced 24 hrs later by the Painters and Decorators Assn. of America. Those guys can drink. And make a lot of sexually explicit misogynistic un-funny jokes.
[2] Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.
[3] When I watch a lot of Seinfeld, as I have been recently, everything reminds me of an episode of the show. For instance, high toilets? George loves high toilets: "I love that bathroom. It's got that high-high toilet. I feel like a gargoyle perched on the ledge of a building."
[4] Andrew, Casey, and I went out for Ethiopian food on my last night in Seattle. The next morning Andrew and I had the same thought while looking at the leftovers and thinking breakfasty thoughts: injera and eggs. He started to cook while I packed my bags. For some reason, he decided to throw some fish sauce in to the pan. The smell was awful, and it attached itself to most of my clothing, [a] something I didn't notice until after I arrived at my hotel, and something that became much worse after I turned on the shower and filled the bathroom with steam in order to de-wrinkle my clothes w/o ironing. Big mistake. I was left with only two unscented shirts.
[a] Of course, there is a Seinfeld episode on point.