Dec 31, 2010

2010 Reading List

This year I wanted to read more.  I had a good sprint in August, but here's the full list:


Dune: House Harkonnen                1/23/2010
A Tale of Two Cities                         2/5/2010
Necroscope                                        3/14/2010
Sex God                                                  4/8/2010
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years 5/30/2010
Effective Java                                          6/9/2010
Mere Churchianity                                 6/19/2010
A Confederacy of Dunces                 7/25/2010
Conan Paperback                                 7/29/2010
Consider Phelbas                                 8/15/2010
The Jesus I Never Knew                    8/18/2010
Heir to the Empire                                 8/21/2010
Profiles in Courage                                 8/22/2010
Java: The Good Parts                         8/30/2010
The Myths of Innovation                         8/31/2010
97 Things Every Programmer Should Know 9/3/2010
Lenin                                                       9/26/2010
The Last Word and The Word After That  10/10/2010
Blue Like Jazz                                            10/16/2010

Of these, here are my favorites:
Nonfiction: Lenin - having the mythology of the Bolshevik revolution busted wide open, and seeing the bloody guts of the whole thing was mind-blowing.  Runner up: Profiles in Courage
Fiction: A Confederacy of Dunces - Really introspective yet ostentatious.  A bizarre, poignant, disgusting, joyride.  Runner Up: Conan Short Stories
Technical:  I'm in the middle of what would've been the winner (Java Concurrency in Practice), but it's not finished so it doesn't count.  I'm going with Java: The Good Parts.
Spiritual: A bunch of good ones this year.  The Last Word and the Word After That was really thoughtful and provocative.  My Christian buddies may think it borders on heretical though.  Runner Up: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

Happy 2011!
-Chris

Nov 15, 2010

Oblique

A few weeks ago I had the chance to catch up with an old friend online.  It had been more than a decade since we'd talked last, so I was interested in seeing where life had taken him, and hear about how he was doing.  At some point in this conversation, after I talked about Sophia for a minute, my friend had mentioned that my "aspirations always seemed so..." and I suggested some adjectives at that point.  He seemed to suggest that I had been casually riding along in the electronic airport sidewalk of Americana.  This troubled me.  Has my life been a series of meaningless, blase, events in which I apathetically participated?  Was I a grayish-blue Dawn of the Dead zombie, my feet erratically shuffling me on in non-euclidian circles around the meaningless mall of middle class dreams?  I didn't like this idea, so I filed it away.

This last weekend, I found myself in the midst of the blue-gray horde.  My computer's charging cable had come under canine attack, so I had to go to the Apple store to pick up a new one.  I wandered the mall like a mars rover, trying to navigate my way to the correct logo, and I felt disgusted.  I was in the epicenter of the electronic, sugary, caffeinated, chromed, fake tits, santa-claus-taking-pictures, sterilized, sanitized, sexitized heart of consumerism.  I hated myself a little, and I hated the people around me.  I hated that I was hating, and then I realized that..

People are beautiful.

Young, old, skinny, fat, they're all beautiful.  Every human being you see is a flawed gem, not quite matching the pristine standards we place on them.  When we see this swarm of humanity, we see the flaws and the cracks in people, or at least imagine them.  We don't see their shining attributes.  For all we know these people could be heroes, serving in unseen ways, invisibly existing as a piece of fabric in the rumpled cloth of a humanised humanity.

I think one of the easiest things in the world to do is to view ourselves as superior, in some oblique way, to the masses of people around us.  And I think this is the very worst of ourselves.

Oct 13, 2010

MREs

The absolute worst bathrooms in the world are along the undeveloped coastline of Washington state, they are emptied semi-annually via helicopter.  The second worst bathrooms in the world are at the Seattle ferry terminal.  The room smells of crusty, decade-old urine sprayed wildly by a blind person enduring seizures.  Outhouse flies reside in the dark black cracks of the porcelain, and dine upon the ammonia-laden filth with an utterly alien and insectual glee.

I was walking earlier this week to the ferry terminal, and on the way I saw a homeless person asking for change.  I don't give money to the homeless, but I did pack an MRE for just such an occasion.  It had been a while since I'd been approached by a homeless person, and I was lugging around this large military-grade meal in my already overstuffed backpack for days.  When you are camping, MREs are a delight.  They are not a delight to carry into the wild, nor is the ample trash footprint a delight to carry out.  But as far as the variety of textures and flavors they provided, as well as the sheer volume of food they contained, they were blissful in the wild.  I concluded that they must be blissful to the homeless as well, since it's kind of like camping.

The first person I gave an MRE to was an elderly guy who was pulling a half-eaten burger in a styrofoam container out of the trash.  His eyes glinted with a mad lust at its warm, fresh contents.  His ancient, weathered fingers ever so lovingly stroked the half-gnawed bun, nary disburbing a sesame seed.  I physically wretched at the idea of a human being eating out of the trash.  We are not insects.  I gave him my first homeless-bound MRE.  He looked at the MRE in a very confused manner, as if I had just handed him an alien computer embossed with sanskrit symbols and LED lights.  I was late for my ferry, so I continued on, trusting that he either figure it out or someone would help him out.

A few days later I packed my second homeless MRE.  Combined with running shoes, a coat, a computer, lunch, breakfast, a kindle and 2 other books for the hell of it, my backpack looked like a pregnant belly filled with twins bursting out of my spine.  This time on the way home I was encountered by a homeless person who was asking for money because he wanted to buy a $5 footlong from Subway.  He said he's only eaten half a bag of chips that day.  You hear that often from
the homeless, and I'm not sure if it's because there are insufficient services and shelters, or if it just helps their sell. Excited at the chance I pulled out my MRE and handed it to him, feeling proud of my humaniarian accomplishment. 

"What the heck is that?" he asked.
"It's an MRE."
"A what?"
"A military ration."
"...Ok..."

He took it, with a frustrated kind of look, and set it on the ground next to him as I hustled towards my boat, which I wasn't quite sure I was going to hit.  I suppose he saved it for backup in case his meatball marinara didn't work out.  I felt really akward about this encounter. "People should be grateful," I told myself.  But there was something else to it.  I know how delicious MREs are, but most people don't, and admittedly it is an acquired taste.  An MRE is delivered in a square, brown, plastic recepticle.  In addition to "MRE," two words are printed on the front of this standardized military-grade ration.  These words will give the eater some kind of clue as to what kind of entree they are about to dine upon.  It's usually something like "BEEF STROGANOFF" or "MAC CHEESE."  From his shoes, I imagine it was kind of dehumanizing.  Imagine you're a poor tramp on the street, and you smell delicious Subway smells hang on the air in a crisp, Seattle afternoon.  Your stomach is demanding satisfaction, and is lured onward by a 12" meaty mirage.  If you beg just enough, if you get just enough
quarters, you might be able to have a brief, warm piece of satisfaction in an otherwise cold existence.  Now along comes self-righteous Mr. Orange Coat, clearly well fed, with his smug smile.  He's got just what you need: a brown plastic box with "COLD OATMEAL - STANDARD UNIT" written on the side.  Awesome.

I'm trying to change my heart in how I deal with homeless people.  Mostly I just pretend they're not there, whimpering ghosts begging for crack-money.  I don't know how to fix the world, but maybe what these people need isn't a standard, heartless, military-issue package of survival calories, but something much deeper and more essential: to be treated like a human.

Mar 31, 2009

U2 Tickets

When I first signed up for my U2 fanclub membership, I knew that someday it would reap dividends. I scored 4 GA tickets for the October concert in Vancouver. w00t!

Liz and I just got back from Cabo; we had a great time in spite of being offered lots of drugs on the street. Mostly we just laid around on the beach and drank margaritas. I posted all the pictures on facebook; so if you're interested, head on over there.

Sep 1, 2008

The Omegathon

So as most of you know, I was selected to enter the Omegathon at PAX this year. Being an Omeganaut was a major blast. The biggest perk was being able to jump all of the lines (and they were CRAZY). But the Omegathon kept me pretty busy, so I wasn't able to abuse this to its fullest extent.

Here's how the competition went:

Round 1: Peggle
We had 30 minutes to come up with our "best" score on a custom PAX-2008 level. If you wanted to keep your current score, you had to stop playing, and if you wanted to keep playing, you had to lose your current high score.

It sounds complicated, but basically it worked out so people's worst enemy was themselves. Quite a few people got scores over 400K and let those go, only to be kicked out at the end. About 10 minutes in I scored 360+k. I pondered my decision for a few, tense minutes and decided to let my score stand. It turned out to be the right decision.

Round 2: Boom Blox
I'm all about hitting hard and fast, so I made an alliance straight off the bat (with the final winner Joey Geko) and went after the Omeganaut Plutonium. He then decided to act like a bit of a dick and tossed out some choice insults. It was my pleasure to clean him out of that game (he survived the loser bracked though).

Round 3: Geometry Wars
I was paired with MNC Dover and the last remaining Omegachick and we played King mode. The first time I played this game mode was the night before (and holy crap I was glad to get a little practice in) . Jenn2D2 wasn't as familiar with the game as we were and we were able to get by pretty cleanly.

Round 4: Rock Band
At this point, I'm in the final eight, and I felt pretty damn good. I was paired up with Plutonium, MNC Dover, and Pikachoochoo (who had been cleaning up the games). They were all good conteders and I thought we stood a hell of a chance. The song was Eye of the Tiger, and we all had to play on Medium mode. We named our band The School of Hard C**ks, our nemeses were Omegadeth During the practice round we performed solidly and were confident that victory was ours. Omegadeth threw the gauntlet down though and scored a massive 480k. None of their players scored below 97%. We came out and almost caught them with 460k, (I got a 99% on the drums, I might add...and some sick-ass drumrolls). I took this moment to live out my rock star dreams and toss the drum-sticks to the crowd and make out with my lady. It was a bittersweet moment indeed.

Aug 29, 2007

Alas the Green Dragon

A green flash of light
Oh, how my feet give you strength
Your time was too short



Aug 13, 2007

Black Snake Moan and Covenant

I saw Black Snake Moan last night, and I have to say that it was a whole lot better that I expected it to be. I didn't really know what to expect, seeing as how the central plot device is Sam Jackson chaining a crazy white woman to his radiator. As the film goes along, you realize that there's a bit of symbolism going on, and that the film is going to be a bit deeper that initially expected.

You see, the central symbol of the film is the chain, which represents, as the director has said "being fettered to another." This is analogous our Covenant relationship with Jesus, and the Covenant relationship of marriage. The central idea of a Covenant, as opposed to a contractual relationship, is that it is unbreakable and final. We are fettered to Christ utterly and eternally, and our marriages should be wholly undoable except for death and infidelity.

Lazarus (Sam Jackson), is eponymously named after the New Testament figure who rose from death after being called by Christ. In this film he is a Christlike symbol for rebirth and renewal, determined to "fix up" Rae, who is chained to his radiator. Both his dogged determination, "I aint gon' be moved on this", and the unbreakable fixture of the radiator are signs of a covenant. Throughout the movie Lazarus tends to the physical needs (clothing, food, etc) of Rae as well has her personal needs of genuine friendship and fellowship.

Now througout the movie, Rae has like 5 sex scenes and gets crazy trashed on drugs an alcohol. These activities of hers are her way of acting out about her childhood sexual abuse. It's her way of trying to find love in the arms of all these different men, but it always undoes her.

At the end of the movie, there is a scene where she is driving with her recently acquired husband who earlier left for the army. She's wearing a white dress, and a gold chain around her waist. Her husband has a panic attack and she has one of her "attacks." She swoons into her lustful rythym, the familiar images of the past filling her head. She then hold fast to the gold chain around her waist, you then see a cut of the large iron chain pulling against the unmovable radiator, and the attack passes. The Covenant has changed her.

Jul 20, 2007

Oh that's right, I have a blog

What's up hombres!

So...in the last year or so I've finished grad school, beat guitar hero and guitar hero 2 on expert, and have showered myself at least a dozen times.

I made this song clip a couple weeks back, it's for a theme-song contest at Rifftrax.com (the guys who made MST3K). w00t!
I also did some hiking on the Washington Coast (some 23 miles), it was pretty badass. Here are the pictures.

I'll post some more pictures and stuff later!

Oh that's right, I read Tolkien's new book too. Apparently he's been hanging out with Tupac, releasing works posthumously.

Oct 12, 2006

Rock out With Your Sock Out!!


So Liz and I are totally digging Guitar Hero. I know, we're like 2 years behind the world. I've played it mostly at best buy, but recently we got a PS2, and I HAD to get it. Here's a great rock-pose.

P.S. If you want to hear the real thing, you can listen to some music I'm working on here.

Liz's New Haircut