Tuesday, March 13, 2007

New Blog on the Block...

If you haven't already checked out the new blog Main Street Plaza, I suggest that you do. Hellmut has spearheaded the whole thing with help from various people around the DAMU. As the blog states, it's for anyone interested in Mormonism. I have my doubts about much participation there will be by believers, but the point is that everyone is welcome. It is my impression that the blog will deal mostly with the cultural implications of Mormonism, and not so much the doctrinal or religious components.

There's already a great discussion going on here about baptism as a social rite and whether "post-Mormons" can have their kids baptized without being marginalized.

I think it's encouraging that the disaffected side of the Mormon internet is gaining more and more blogs. Although I love the freedom of message boards, their impact seems to be more limited than the potential audience of blogs. Internet searches can bring up old (but still informative) blog posts, but they won't find an equally enlightening message board discussion of the exact same subject. Also, blogs can handle larger numbers of readers and they encourage the formation of even more blogs.

While I don't think the DAMU needs to form its own wing of the bloggernacle (as the two communities are fundamentally different), I do think blogs are the way of the future.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Ned sells out

Well, I took the job. I'd had since Monday to think about it, but I still wasn't sure when I walked in the door to work this morning. Part of the problem was that Maude was so busy at work Monday (she didn't get home until after midnight, by which time I was already asleep) that I wasn't able to tell her until yesterday. (I'll have to do a post this week on being a law widower.)

We talked briefly about it over dinner, but we were at a table in the middle of the restaurant, and few important life decisions can be made in such a situation. We talked about the possibility of me going back to school, but this was hampered by me not knowing what I want to study. Maude said she would be willing to move in a few years if there was a specific program I could only get elsewhere (there's only two big universities around here, and one is way too good for me to get into).

All in all, it's a decent source of money while I try to figure out what I'm going to do for the rest of my life. The work isn't always the most fun, but I do seem to get along with my co-workers. And, it's not permanent. I won't have the freedom from responsibility that a temp has, but it's not like I'm chained to this job forever.

I'll have to be more careful what I say about work from now on. I don't want to get Dooced. If I go out, I want to go out like George Costanza. Being a temp is great in a way because you've already been fired. The only thing you're negotiating is the day you leave.

Now, I have a little more at stake. Like two whole weeks vacation.

Monday, January 08, 2007

If I stay it will be double...

It was 72 degrees here on Saturday. 72 degrees in January. At least, that's what the weatherman told me. I didn't leave the house.

I spent the entire weekend watching football and trying to make good on some of those things that are definitely not New Year's Resolutions. I've been temping at the same place since May, and this weekend was the first serious push I've made since then to find a new job. I applied for a bunch of interesting jobs on-line and vowed to apply to at least one new job every day.

So what happens today at work? I get the ominous please-come-into-the-office-with-the-door-closed routine and they offered (finally) to take me on permanently. On the one hand, this is great news, since I will be getting paid more than a temp. On the other hand, this isn't really my field and I'll be doing more work that is less interesting. Unfortunately, I will also lose a lot of my flexibility for taking time off. I may be becoming French in my old age, but two weeks vacation seems pretty ridiculous to me. When you're a temp, they don't have to pay you, so they don't care how much time you take off.

I have to make up my mind fairly soon, but I'm leaning towards taking it. At least it legitimizes me somewhat, and I might even start getting copied on the Employees-All emails. Still, sometimes it's nice to think at the end of the day, "This is only temporary, this is only temporary."

Friday, January 05, 2007

Re-inventing the wheel

I am not what you'd call an "early adopter." Those are the people who have to have the latest experimental plasma TV and the cell phone that can open their garage doors. I'm more of a late adopter; I want all the bugs worked out and the price to come way down.

This is why I'm considering upgrading my current Nintendo 64 to a Playstation 2. Now, before you confusedly check the date stamp at the end of this post: yes, it is 2007, and yes, I still have a Nintendo 64.

Despite having been born right in the middle the video game generation, I've never been much of a gamer. This is also despite my parents buying several of the early video game platforms (if you knew my parents, you'd know how weird that is. They were young once, apparently.) I remember my family having a Texas Intruments computer when I was very young (the TI-99/4A)), and the only game simple enough for me to play was called Hunt the Wumpus. We then upgraded to an Atari 5200. My mom was a fanatic of the game Megamania, which again is totally out of character for her. Megamania is basically Space Invaders but instead of alien ships, you shoot at flying hamburgers and bowties. What can I say? It seemed really clever at the time. I still remember a hearing the adults talking about a friend who reached the vaunted 45,000 points and took a picture of the screen to send to the company.

None of this really rubbed off on me, and despite becoming very skilled at Pole Position, I remained indifferent to video games. Like everyone else in America, we got a Nintendo system sometime during the late 80s. Even after playing Super Mario Brothers for hours upon hours, I was probably the only kid in America not to beat the game. A few years later, when I was still in my teens, we moved overseas and we couldn't make the Nintendo work with our foreign television.

(A funny side note on that: When we moved, we had to ship all our stuff months before we left. The mission president that my father replaced was a local and he had a son about my age. Apparently, the son and his friends heard that we had a Nintendo, so they opened all our stuff when it arrived and got the Nintendo out, but they couldn’t get it to work. A real class act, that family.)

During the first few years of college, I was too poor to even have a TV, let alone a Playstation. Finally in February 2000, Maude, who I was dating at the time, convinced me to buy a Nintendo 64 as a Valentine’s Day present for both of us. The price had finally gone down to $99 and she wanted to play MarioKart. And that’s where we stand today.

Since I don’t spend a lot of time gaming, I can’t imagine spending $400 for an Xbox or $600 for a PS3. Plus, all the games cost 50 bucks on top of that. But now you can get a Playstation 2 for just $130 and there are hundreds of cheap games now. Still, 130 bucks could buy a lot of books, instead of just time wasted sitting in front of the television.

On the other hand, if I get the system, at my current rate, I’ll be set until 2014. That’s a lot of time to try to beat Metal Gear Solid.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Do NOT Go In There

There are certain things that are so simple that it boggles my mind that our society can't implement them. I know it's an old cliche to say "We can put a man on the moon, but we can't do______." The blank usually involving something really important like inventing squeezable peanut butter or eliminating check-out lines.

However, I really don't understand why we continue to build millions of public bathrooms in this country that have doors that swing in, instead of out. What's the point of washing your hands if you're just going to have to touch the same surface as the guy straight from the stall?

The bathroom at my work is a perfect example. It has two doors, with a short hallway in between (for privacy); however, the first door swings in and the second swings out. After washing my hands, I can nudge the first door open with my foot, but the second door traps me. There is no wastebasket in the small hall, so I can't even use a paper towel to open the second door. This wouldn't be so disconcerting if I hadn't had to follow the same guy out of the bathroom two days in a row now.

Beardy McBearderson, as I'll refer to him, belongs to that school of hand-washers known as the Splashers. In today's corporate environment, few people will simply walk out the door unwashed in front of witnesses (also known as the Poppie School of Hand-Washing). When a Splasher spies you standing there, they'll walk over to the faucet and turn it on and off so fast that only a few molecules of water actually touch their hands. Having made this sacrifice to communal norms, they'll then dry themselves and act like this spritz of moisture had some sort of antiseptic effect. It is almost certain that Splashers wouldn't bother with the pretense of turning on the water if you weren't there. Like an electron, the simple act of observation changes their behaviour. Once, I caught a co-worker leaving the bathroom while the urinal was still flushing, making it mathematically impossible that he washed his hands. You can never look a person the same after.

I don't think we need a surgical scrub station in the bathroom, but it would be nice if we could escape without having to resort to pinkie fingers, wadded up paper towels, and elbows. I mean, after all, we did put a man on the moon.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Eat, drink, and be merry (because tomorrow's kind of iffy)

Every once in a while I remember how improbable our existence is in this cold, dead universe. I suppose that mathematically, there has to be life somewhere else too, but who knows what it looks like or how far it's advanced. Not just that I exist, but that I'm alive now, and not at any point in the previous 200,000 years when we were clubbing each other with rocks and lived a short, nightmarish existence of insecurity, disease, and discomfort. Obviously, my unique combination of (mostly faulty) genes couldn't have existed at any point previous to this one, so it's a moot point, but these are the kind of things I think about when I have too much time on my hands.

I'm currently reading a history of the Punic Wars that I picked up at random in the local library while waiting for my wife. It's amazing that we know the names and stories of these people who lived more than two thousand years ago, but it can be depressing. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers died fighting for a country that wasn't even theirs and was, in any case, doomed to be destroyed. What's the point for any of us? We're trapped on a rock that's fated to be reabsorbed into the sun and ultimately have its atoms strewn across the universe.

That sucks. The fact that I will die sooner rather than later sucks. Some people think that when you stop believing in God, you lose all inhibitions and decency, because there is no final reckoning looming over you. I disagree. I find that losing my faith in God has made me want to be happier and help others more, precisely because there is no balancing of the scales afterward, there is no divine justice.

You can't fight annihilation, because it's coming for all of us. The only thing we can do is make this improbable miracle of existence less painful and more enjoyable for everyone in the meantime. No trace of my existence will remain in a hundred years or so, but at least I had a chance to live.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Year's irResolutions

I've always hated New Year's resolutions because they seem pointless. Either you're going to do something, or (more likely) you're not. So the following are not resolutions, but rather things I would really like to happen, and soon.

1. I need to find a real job. I've been temping for 9 months now, and at my current assignment for over 7 months. It's time to start getting paid more than 14 dollars an hour. I'm turning thirty in a couple weeks and I'm on the verge on a mid-life crisis (mid-life because I eat a lot of bacon). I can't be happy if I don't enjoy what I do for forty hours a week for the rest of my bacon-truncated life.

2. I'd like to go to Europe or South America. Last week, I discovered that I've let my passport expire. Yep, I'm now one of those statistics that make Europeans cluck their tongues and feel superior to us. Really, I love travelling, but for the last couple years my wife and I have been going to Hawaii on vacation, which she enjoyed more than me. I'd love to go back to Buenos Aires, but even though everything is very cheap there, the flights are still expensive ($1000 per person).

3. I need to get my house in some sort of order. Right now, even though we moved here over a year ago, it still looks like an episode of Cops. All I need to do is get arrested shirtless on my couch and the look will be complete. My wife works 60-75 hours a week, so I really can't (and shouldn't) expect any help from her. Plus, she's half of the reason it looks like it does.

That's it. If I could just accomplish just these three things, my life would be incomparably improved. So, in other words, don't count on it.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Brick Testament

There's always one person in the office who is about five years behind on Internet fads. You know, the one who forwards you the recipe for Neiman Marcus cookies or a link to SaveToby.com and thinks it is the first time you've ever seen it.

So at the risk of being that guy, I give you The Brick Testament. Thousands of Bible scenes (3,048 to be exact) illustrated exclusively with Legos. Now before you start making plans to buy the book for your nieces and nephews, you should be aware that the artist's interest lies almost exclusively in the most salacious and violent Bible stories, that is to say, most of the Old Testament. Murder, rape, incest, genocide, prostitution: it's all here.

My favorites (WARNING! EXPLICIT LEGO IMAGES!): Samson and the Prostitute, The Second Circumcision, and definitely the dirtiest picture you can make out of just Legos and the Bible, Onan. Wow. I really don't know whether that is safe for work or not, but don't say I didn't warn you.