The URI! Zone - 05/2007

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

May Day

Today is the first day of the month of May. Today is also the first day of the rest of your life, but since your life doesn't really matter much, we'll talk about May instead.

May is easily one of the Top Twelve months of the year, and definitely makes the Top Three in my book. It's the time when the weather finally decides to stop dicking around and the days are consistently warm -- when you can leave the windows open by night and watch all the sun dresses go past by day. The heater turns off but the A/C doesn't turn on, and my electric bill drops by a good $40 per month, which is just enough to buy three Tatu CDs to explode in your microwave for the good of humanity.

During college and grad school, May was always the month I would return to the familiar environs of northern Virginia for the summer. At Virginia Tech, the semester always ended during the first week of May, signaling the start of useless PEPCO internships and endless barbeques. (People in Florida were lazy, so school tended to end in April, presumably so all the European students could start their jobs at Disney World).

In high school, the year didn't end until the middle of June, but May was the month that teachers unofficially stopped caring about teaching. May was especially fun for the Crew set, because every single weekend was booked up with a regatta ("boat race" if your annual income is less that $100,000) at some exotic locale like New Jersey or Canada. Because the races spanned multiple days, anyone who did Crew was immediately exempt from Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday classes of every week. A rower on a good boat could end up attending just ten days worth of classes -- I did something similar in college but it wasn't exactly "school-sponsored".

I mentioned Crew month last year at this time, but I didn't mention the "coxswain loophole". You see, coxswain is Latin for "tiny person for making drives boat", and these are in very short supply in our nation of fatties. Because coxswains occasionally met with mishap on the road (kidnapping by rival teams or laryngitis), the team was always careful to bring one or two backup coxswains along. By being a good coxswain, you could end up going on every single road trip, even if your own particular boat was so slow that it could only win the race after the one it was in. As a backup coxswain, my trip generally consisted of sleeping on the bus with my headphones on and eating at McDonald's three meals a day while the anorexic rowers spit in cups before weigh-ins. This was a far better existence than going to school and learning stuff.

Which is your favourite month?

Dumb people can be rich too
Cook said he was to receive a 1994 Chrysler New Yorker for his role in the scheme.
Iowa scared of safe sex terrorists

tagged as memories | permalink | 0 comments

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A Million Little Pieces Day

In October of 2003, I purchased the game, Halo, for the PC and was more amused by its Russian-doll packaging than the actual game (which might have been the most boring single-player first-person-shooter since Duck Hunt, no matter what Doobie says). The box was roughly the size of an young armadillo and forced you to tear through multiple layers of shrink wrap and smaller boxes to reach a tiny jewel case containing the single CD needed to play the game. P.S. Booty was such a fat ass in 2003.

The only reason I was reminded of this game is that I received a wedding invitation for the Jack & Kristy wedding by post. Although the matrimonial avalanche ended a couple years ago, I still receive a few snowball wedding notes from people like Kathy and Chris who came late to the party of wedded bliss and free stuff.

Regardless of how environmentally conscious the happy couple are, every wedding invitation is (by ancient law jointly sponsored by Hallmark and Xerox) required to include so many random pieces of paper that the entire package is a delivery system for nuptial anthrax. The calligraphy literally falls in your lap and infects you with espousal spirit before you can react.

First, of course, is the outer envelope with the postmarks and the addresses, conveying the crucial information about whether you should bring your significant other through the front door or have them disguised as a waiter until such a time that the open bar has been thoroughly abused and no one will notice one extra BEEF or CHICKEN platter. Next comes a second envelope with nothing but your name on it. Safe wedding advocates know that two envelopes will better protect you from wedding-transmitted diseases than just one -- some are even embossed for her pleasure.

Inside this envelope, you are first greeted by a tiny sliver of tissue paper, which is too small to catch any happy tears you might cry, so it's probably a prototype of Mr. Hoo's paper innersole from the book, The Westing Game. Under the tissue paper is a full-sized card from the parents of the bride announcing the marriage (since brides are incapable of speaking for themselves, and the parents figure they should have a little involvement given the fourteen goats they traded).

This seems like enough stuff to announce a wedding, but wait! There's more! Act now and you can receive an RSVP card with "M. _____ will ____ attend" stamped on it, and a choice of livestock to dine with (or upon). I'm still not sure what you're supposed to put in the second blank if you plan on attending, so I put "seriously". Beneath this card is a self-addressed-stamped-envelope (SASE) which was the staple of every infomercial from the 80s for CDs of MONSTER BALLADS. If there's still room in the envelope, you'll find more cards containing directions to the site, information about parking, and then (on a separate page) the location of the reception. It seems to me like all of this information could probably fit on a single piece of paper with room enough to spare for dotted lines which would allow the invitees to reuse the card for Origami, but what do I know? I'm just a little BU, and the wedding tradition is definitely controlled by the Mafia and goes back millions of years.

There's nothing else to do besides say CONGRATULATIONS and return my RSVP. Got any chicken?

Porn slipped into time capsule
His girlfriend, who was not arrested, told authorities she had been trying to dump him.
Honey buns for hungry bears

tagged as random | permalink | 8 comments

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Audience Participation Day

Caption Contest

This photo was taken at the annual "Baby-cry Sumo" event, held in Tokyo on April 28, 2007. For today's contest, submit a funny caption or dialogue for this picture to the e-mail address at the bottom of this page by Sunday 6:00 PM EST, May 6th. The winner of a popular vote will get a $10 gift certificate to Amazon.com. If your caption is self-explanatory, feel free to mail it as plain text. If it's more complex, you can refer to the characters as left wrestler, left baby, right baby, and right wrestler -- I will create cartoon speech bubbles (or thought bubbles) and add the appropriate words.

For examples of what I'm looking for, take a look at these links:

December 8, 2005: Saddam Hussein caption contest
August 16, 2006: Back of the Bus caption contest
December 27, 2005: Reuters Pictures of the Year 2005
December 27, 2006: Reuters Pictures of the Year 2006

I'm a little despot, short and stout, so (as usual) I have the final say in ties or ballot-stuffing. Even if you think your idea sucks, submit it to provide some healthy competition! Good luck!

DDR comes to gym class
Myspace photo costs student her degree
NASA has no policy on horny astronauts

tagged as contests | permalink | 0 comments

Friday, May 04, 2007

Friday Fragments

a blank check for the bored soul

♣ I just heard through the grapevine (where the grapevine is an e-mail from the dad) that Aaron and Lisa Ulm had their firstborn, Allison Elizabeth Ulm, last month. It now feels like there are BABIES EVERYWHERE, and I can't walk down the street without tripping over a misplaced baby. Allie Ulm was born just two days after Eleanor Ahlbin, which should give the latter a slight but noticeable advantage when they all compete on the first season of Infant Survivor.

♣ Even if you have no gladiatorial babies of your own, you should enter yesterday's Caption Contest, because the winner gets $10, which is easily enough to buy a baby in any developing third-world country or North Carolina.

♣ There aren't any babies in my own house (except when I lose at poker), but I do have a new cactus named Pointy in my basement. Pointy the Cactus takes the place of Moldy the Water Lily, which was a housewarming gift from Rod & Nikki in 2004. Moldy felt that my home was a hostile environment since being upstairs meant getting eaten by cats and being in the basement meant BU forgetting to keep it watered. Pointy will not care about water, but I'll have to watch out for little pricks.

♣ I did a security clearance interview for Anna on Tuesday, and the interviewer was covered in little pricks and nicks and scratches. Either he was the victim of a gerbil suicide bomber or he'd gotten into a heck of a barfight the night before.

♣ Anna first requested her clearance back in 2004 and she still doesn't have one yet. One of my bosses at work has been waiting for five years now -- meanwhile the guy in the office who's an Iranian National got his in just a couple years. Someone must have answered yes to the question, "Are you aware of any attempts by ____ to overthrow the U.S. government?"

♣ The interviewer really just wanted to know about Anna's years as a nomad, but unfortunately I couldn't provide any written evidence of bills and leases, since all of that took place more than three years ago (and avid readers of this site will remember that I bought a paper shredder that can also shred CDs and steak knives just a few months ago). It would be really helpful in situations like these if they printed leases on indestructible paper. I've already sent a letter to Johnson & Johnson and they're on the case.

♣ This weekend looks to be a busy one, though thankfully I won't be driving all over damnation like last weekend. On Saturday, I'll be having a Cinco de Mayo related Poker Night with plenty of limes and mayo (no one will be honking in my cinco though). On Sunday, we're going to finish off the hall bathroom for good, since our attempts last week were temporarily delayed by a leaky pipe inside the wall.

♣ Next week is the last full week before Mother's Day so make sure you have one (if you believe in mothers and celebrate this holiday). On Monday, former basement-dweller Eric will be returning to FGM after a year spent at Booz-Allen Hamilton, because apparently working for a company whose acronym sounds like "BAH HUMBUG" is not as fun as working for a company with the same acronym as "Female Genital Mutilation".

♣ Have a great weekend!

It's only okay when the smiley face does it
The best way to celebrate 50 years
Teacher Accused of Selling Kid's Jacket

tagged as fragments | permalink | 4 comments

Monday, May 07, 2007

Caption Contest Entries

Vote for your favourite entry using the poll in the left sidebar by Wednesday night, 8 PM EST. No voting shenanigans please -- you can enlist your friends to come to the site and vote as long as you don't tell them which one is yours. Obvious ballot stuffers will be shot.

Happy Birthday Jason Chrisley!

A little bat guano found in attic
Des'ree boasts worst pop lyric of all time
Americans get an F in religion

tagged as contests | permalink | 5 comments

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Newsday Tuesday

Delaware Energy Debate Could Turn on the Wind

"Two hundred towering windmills, each so tall that its blades would loom over the U.S. Capitol Dome, could be built in the Atlantic Ocean near one of Washingtonians' favorite beach retreats, under a plan being considered in Delaware."

This article in yesterday's Post discusses the possibility of erecting turbines six miles offshore of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. With New Jersey being the armpit of the U.S., Delaware is the spot on its back that can't be scratched without major contortions, and which can't even be seen without multiple angled mirrors. People should be actively advocating the placement of these turbines in this location -- it's not like Rehoboth Beach is a real beach anyhow (The definition of an East Coast beach ends at the North Carolina / Virginia border, and Virginia Beach is just barely a beach like Subway's Jarrod is just barely a real celebrity). Having never been, I can expertly say that Rehoboth Beach is just a dirty beach with a nasty case of crabs.

Some people argue that the turbines will mar the pleasant view of the ocean, but at a minimum distance of six miles from the shore, they'll look like "toothpicks, with maybe little pinwheels on the top", according to one advocate, so it will be no different that watching a Nude Gay Pride parade from the forty-first story of the Empire State Building.

Despite all the outcries from completely unbiased industries (the coal industry proclaimed, "[Wind] doesn't blow all the time. We're essentially the Saudi Arabia of coal"), the real issue here is giving the contract to a company that's never built an offshore wind turbine before. Building stuff is a difficult proposition on a good day, and building stuff on the ocean is twice as tough since all your workers will be eaten by sharks. Paige's husband builds stuff on the ocean and it's taking him YEARS.

"Yes, algae farming is very difficult since farming involves land and algae grows in the water. We lost a lot of tractors." - Ryan Stiles, Whose Line is it Anyways?

People seem to forget the many benefits of having wind power as a renewable fuel source. One such advantage would be protection against the PANDEMIC INFLUENZA threat I covered in November of 2005. At that time, President Bush said that the bird flu would be imminent, and though we haven't seen it yet, I have no doubts that those damn ducks are hiding out in Bermuda, just waiting for the perfect chance to strike our unsuspecting nation. Putting up large spinning windmills around our entire coast would provide us with cheap power, while protecting us from an invasion of gonorrhea of the beak. You could probably even put up a series of razor-sharp Windmills of Doom along the Texas border to stem illegal immigration (although the lack of wind down there would require you to hire illegal immigrants to keep them spinning).

The most persuasive argument for wind power is the multiple locations you could place turbines to capture kinetic energy:

  • Make the loud guy who derails every meeting in the office wear one on his stupid face.
  • Put them on top of the heads of bald people.
  • Put them on roller coasters.
  • Require aggressive drivers to attach them to their bumpers.
  • Make them a mandatory part of the uniform in the Olympic track events.
  • Affix them to the asses of everyone in a bean-eating contest.

With such a cornucopia of wind-enabled locations, why the resistence?

Absinthe returns
Skywalkers cross Han solo
Cat raises livestock for dinner

tagged as newsday, mock mock | permalink | 2 comments

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Memory Day: Assistantships

In most cases, graduate school is far cheaper than your run-of-the-mill college experience because of that nifty little occupation known as the assistantship. A graduate assistant is defined as the person who will do everything the professor doesn't want to do for one percent of the till and a rebate on tuition fees. Because academics are far too busy to actually want to teach anything, there are a million billion available assistantships all over the globe, and anyone who says they can't find an opening at even one university probably put as much effort into their search as Jim Swearingen puts into writing his band arrangements.

I was employed by the great state of Florida (which is just like California, but with rednecks) for the two years of my Masters program, 2001 - 2003. (I also had a full ride to the University of Kentucky with teaching responsibilities, but then I would have been in Kentucky, and that's just not good for business). For all my sweat and toil, I earned about a hundred dollars a week after taxes and paid a tuition fee that was actually pretty close to the real value of the classes.

Going into my first year, I was told I'd be a research assistant (there are two types of assistant, and this is the antisocial kind), and that the opportunity would be exciting!. Florida State University had been given an exciting! $831,000 grant to create an exciting! state-of-the-art electroacoustic music studio from scratch, and had enticed the exciting! electroacoustic music guru, Dr. Mark Wingate, to helm it in an exciting! manner. I didn't give a rat's ass about electroacoustic music, but figured the gig would be more fun than writing citations for some professor's useless paper about how the font in Bach's original manuscripts looks kind of like Arial if you assign each note a letter value and squint.

Within two weeks of arrival, that grant had magically disappeared (and the Drama department suddenly had a massive two-ton pallet of high quality pot). Instead of managing the lab of excite!ment, I spent the month of September scrambling with Dr. Wingate to submit a NEW grant proposal in hopes of re-winning the grant the following year. My duties included scanning blueprints, photocopying leaflets, and coming up with as many pork-barrel riders as possible.

You see, arts budgets all over the country dried up after 9/11/2001, and rather than rounding up the useless tenured professors and stranding them in Saskatchewan, they simply cut into the programs. We reasoned that a pure electroacoustic studio was no longer a viable grant idea, so we came up with ways to tie it into other music disciplines -- I even wrote a proposal, Compositional Pedagogy through Technology to argue that such a lab would be a boon to composers all over the world (since most composers are a cancer, and curing cancer is cool).

After October, it was apparent that the grant wasn't going to happen, and Dr. Wingate was understandably distracted by the fact that he had accepted a job doing something that did not exist. He didn't have the energy to come up with anything for me to do, so I spent the remainder of that school year playing pool at Mike's apartment and pretending that I could write good string quartets. It's nice to be paid for doing absolutely nothing, but my PEPCO internships had already given me much experience in this arena.

Since Kathy hates long posts, Part II of II of this Memory Day will air next Wednesday. See BU become a teaching assistant!

Happy Birthday Emily and Christy!

Museum of a Thousand Cockroaches
Welcoming the queen with a gaffe
Cocaine pulled from shelves

tagged as memories, teaching | permalink | 4 comments

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Double Day: Contest Results & House Status

Congratulations to my Mom, who won the Caption Contest in a landslide of votes to earn a $10 gift certificate to Amazon.com. My Mom has been entering contests professionally since birth, and is often the honorable mention in the Washington Post Style Invitationals. She plans on using her gift certificate to buy something nice for her son. Thanks go out to Rob, sick Mike, and Anna for their entries as well!

Since the suspense about the outcome of this contest was lacking like emotion in any of Keanu Reeve's performances, I will end today's post with pictures of what the main floor of my house currently looks like. If you are not now, or never have been, a yuppy with a house and grand home improvement plans ("Minding Your Manors" as I like to call it), you can live vicariously through these pictures.

And of course, the most recent addition: a place to poop!

Stealing the essentials at day care
Enliving mundane lives as cause for a pardon
Wallaby likes it in Utah

tagged as contests | permalink | 3 comments

Friday, May 11, 2007

Friday Fragments

you can tell it's the weekend because of all the clubs

♣ Wednesday's LOST was really good, and set up great expectations for the last three hours of this season. In a peculiar-for-a-money-grubbing-media-network move, ABC announced that LOST would have three remaining seasons of sixteen episodes each, so we'll finally figure out what Jack's tattoos mean and why Hurley's still chubby when I am thirty years old.

♣ Eleanor didn't think too highly of the episode. In fact, she slept straight through it and her Bon Jovi / Rod Stewart hair grew another four inches.

♣ I mowed the lawn after work yesterday, because it's in that fast growth stage where you have to choose between emptying the bag every fourteen seconds or mowing every six days. In this picture, you can barely tell that there used to be a massive tree stump in the middle of the yard, although you can see that the grass is a little darker in the back corner where I bury all the bodies.

♣ After mowing the lawn, I finished the fifth and final season of Six Feet Under. The series is big enough to warrant a separate Review Day next week, but in a nutshell: it's slow to build, requires patience, pays off well, evokes deep thoughts, and isn't for everyone. I also thought the series finale was point-perfect -- one of the most fitting conclusions to a series I've ever seen.

♣ Now that Six Feet Under is old news, I have a new Amazon bundle arriving -- the third season of The 4400, and two technical books on XSDs and XSLTs. The last tech books I read were on AJAX and Ruby, and I never finished either one. A couple years ago, I was much better about reading tech books from cover to cover. I blame my shortening attention span on MTV and the GOP.

♣ Speaking of Tech, the Virginia Tech graduation is tonight. My sister's husband, Dan, is graduating from vet school and getting a bunch of awards for being the best horse whisperer, and Anna's little sister, Emily, is finishing her undergrad. Congratulations!

♣ I originally wasn't sure if I could make it down because of work, but our schedule faced some unexpected extensions like a lady who falls asleep in the hair salon. Ultimately, I decided not to go down anyhow, because I'm not yet ready for the whole shooting affair to become a set of talking-head talking points. I bet every single speechmaker will reference it at least one time -- a more morbid soul could probably play speech Bingo with words like "tragedy" and "Virginia Tech spirit", and win in short order. So in lieu of graduation, I took today off from work and fired up the grill for a full day of tofu burgers and desert wines.

♣ Actually, for the first time in a while, I have no plans at all this weekend -- no home renovation, no work, and no opportunities to overthrow foreign governments. The lawn is mowed, the house is clean and Amber is keeping an eye on the new sink for leaks. To take full advantage of this dearth of responsibilities, I plan on spending the whole weekend with Rebecca, and possibly Booty (who wants to go hiking and catch a fish to eat raw).

♣ Tomorrow is also 12 of 12, the series where you take twelve pictures of your day in compromising or extraordinary situations to fool readers into thinking that life is more exciting than they expect. Since it's a Saturday, you'll be able to see me do fun things like pump gas at 7 in the morning. Join in!

♣ Happy Birthday Mike Stafford on the 12th, and Madeleine on the 13th! Have a great weekend!


One-limbed man previously charged with kicking someone
Charged with petit larceny for women's underwear
Boston Pops interrupted by fisticuffs

tagged as fragments | permalink | 5 comments

Monday, May 14, 2007

Chad Darnell's 12 of 12

7:28 AM: Waking up. Because it's the weekend, there will be no ridiculous 5:30 AM shots today.

7:52 AM: Feeding the piggies.

8:04 AM: On the way to the grocery store. It's not raining -- I just had to run the wipers to get rid of excess bird feces.

9:47 AM: At Home Depot -- the store where you can confirm that the parts you need are definitely out of stock before you go to Lowes.

10:14 AM: A view from my crotch: All done with errands and on the way home.

10:30 AM: Hanging a new shower curtain from Target.

10:44 AM: Pointy the Cactus was not doing so well in the basement window, so I relocated to a more arid region of my ecosystem -- the guest room.

12:24 PM: Playing a little Puzzle Quest before I leave.

4:41 PM: Driving past Pentagon City to Crystal City.

5:21 PM: At the boathouse in Old Town Alexandria, smelling the raw sewage from the Blue Plains Sewage Treatment Plant.

5:35 PM: Along the waterfront in Old Town.

5:42 PM: On the docks by the Torpedo Factory, among all the tourists, before heading to Aladdin's in Shirlington for some lamb-rolled pita (the entire lamb).

For more "12 of 12ers", see Chad Darnell's site!

Big cat baby boom keeps zoo busy
Leathery grub-filled sacs as big as beach balls hang from branches, as many as 40 to a tree.
Women steal paper because they look fat

tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 5 comments

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Museday Tuesday

stimulating the udder of creativity for maximum musical lactation

Tuesday is usually reserved for posts on whatever recent news story happens to require my insightful commentary. Recently though, I've noticed that topics with inherent hilarity, such as day labourers with sexually-transmitted diseases or suspected murderers with lambchops at Virginia Tech are becoming increasingly rare. For these tragically unmemorable Tuesdays, I will be introducing a new Day to the Day Stable: Museday, which will require me to compose brief excerpts within a strict set of guidelines. The rules for this venture:

  1. The composition can be for any instrumentation. It can have an actual score or be a pure synthesized realization that might not be possible to perform in the real world.
  2. It must not be longer than thirty seconds.
  3. It does not necessarily have to have a start, middle, and end -- it can just be a fragment of something grander.
  4. It must be composed in a single sitting, in thirty minutes or less. If time runs out, I post whatever I managed to finish, be it good, indifferent, or makeup on a corpse.
  5. The title of the piece must be an adverb from a random word generator, although this word doesn't necessarily have to be incorporated in the piece.

If any readers ever have the urge to participate, feel free to send me an image, MP3, or link to your masterpiece and I will add it to the post. You can include a hindsight commentary as well. Anything posted becomes fair game for readers to admire, critique, or poop on in the Comments section.

This Week's Title:
Sidelong: (adv.) toward the side; obliquely

My Composition (0:28 MP3)

My initial impression of "sidelong" was furtive and shifty, from a more comical viewpoint rather than a longing one. I started with the vamping clarinets which dictated that the piece be in 5/4, and then allowed Shifty the Beat Monster to remove a few notes here and there to obscure the beat. I wanted the flute lines towards the end to float over the mix in a sing-song manner. This took me the full thirty minutes to write, and I hate the ending.

What do you think of this new Day? Let me know!

Homophonic Hate Crimes: Hoe vs. Ho
Teen Hurt Whacking Bullets With Hammer
Sex offender on sex offender violence

tagged as museday | permalink | 2 comments

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Memory Day: Assistantships

At the end of last Wednesday's post, I had just completed a relaxing year of being a graduate research assistant with absolutely no responsibilities. Though pleasant, it did not give me any real-world teaching experience for my eventual career as an academic in the music world (although I will now be an expert at picking up my Unemployment check, should I ever lose my job). For my second year, I was picked up as a super-assistant in music theory for one of my favourite professors, Dr. Peter Spencer.

"Stephen Foster really irritates me [...] He writes these smarmy, nasty, little tunes [...] But it is a good example of a two-phrase period, blast him!" - Peter Spencer, in a diatribe on the audacity of Stephen Foster, and the use of Camptown Races as a politically incorrect example of periods

A super-assistant is a teaching and research assistant rolled into one. By day, I was teaching about music fundamentals or sightsinging, and by night, I was helping him develop software to use in his ongoing quest to remove the professor from the music fundamentals teaching equation.

Music Fundamentals is the course where you learn what a staff is, how many letters there are in the musical alphabet, and whether an eighth note is longer than a sixteenth note. Most music majors already have this knowledge coming in, but the rest have to take this remedial course before being allowed to go into Music Theory (where you learn that parallel fifths sound cool and leading tones should remain unresolved because major seventh chords sound kind of Latin-y). Teaching this course can be tedious, which is why Dr. Spencer's pet project was to use Flash to create a fully online version of the course which would require no oversight or face time.

Because I didn't really have much Flash/Shockwave knowledge (and because the environment used to write the stuff cost a whopping thousand dollars), I did what any enterprisingly lazy developer might do -- I looked for portions of the project to work on using the skillsets I already had. By the end of the year, I had written a tool that would take the results of students' online tests (in XML) and parse them using Java to generate scores, grades, and trends. I don't know if Dr. Spencer ever achieved his ambition of a teacher-free course, but I have a feeling my contribution was 100% useless to him.

Jumping back to the Fall semester, the two of us split the duties on a Music Fundamentals class filled with thirty-six hapless freshmen who had failed the fabled FSU School of Music entrance exam. The original plan called for me to teach one of three classes a week and grade papers, but as the term progressed, Dr. Spencer attended less often until he stopped coming altogether (classic Freshman Dropout Syndrome). Although this might seem offputting, it actually worked out quite well -- it gave me a gradual introduction into teaching until I was comfortable enough to run everything on my own.

"I realize you may think I'm nuts, but anyways, I am getting paid for doing this." - Peter Spencer, after noting that there's probably Grails floating around inside the "holey" spaces in a student fugue

Teaching a class with thirty-six people is rough on a good day, but we all got along pretty well by the end. By this point in my musical career, I had already accepted the job offer from the Computer Science dark side, and was content to enjoy my teaching responsibilities and students as much as possible. Among the memorable students: the jazz saxophonist that failed every test, but could improvise over any set of changes without batting an eye, the hot girl from Oregon who was sick during every test and then aced all the make-ups, the incredibly skinny and incredibly bored girl who got 100% on every test (and was only in the class because she didn't know what Alto clef was), the jazz singer with a great voice who went on to become Miss North Florida, and the guy who learned the lines of Alto clef with the mnemonic, "Damn Fine Ass Chicks Everywhere".

For the Spring semester, I graduated from Fundamentals land to teach two sections of Sightsinging I to the very souls I had just remedially propelled into their musical futures. This was quite possibly the sweetest gig in Assistantship Land:

  • I had two intimate classes of about twelve students each, filled with students whose abilities I already knew, and none of them were bad apples (The bad apples failed Fundamentals).
  • Since Dr. Spencer was never on campus, I got to use his corner window office as my own personal TA space. Private space was quite the luxury, and I often spent my office hours cranking the bass on his personal stereo or using his computer for evil.
  • Because these students were off by one semester, I was the only TA teaching Sightsinging I, which meant I could create my own syllabus and examples, and was never forced to attend a sixteen-hour death march "grading party" (though I did go to one voluntarily once to help out my Sightsinging II brethren).

I had almost as much fun just planning out each days' lessons as I did actually teaching. Despite having the most glorious baritone voice to be heard on an American stage, I still practiced my examples diligently and often warmed up in the shower for Booty before heading off to the 9 AM class. I tried to veer off the beaten curriculum as much as possible, choosing to nuture the students rather than destroying them like an academic ninja. I used Eminem for an in-class sightsinging exercise (350KB MP3), and greatly slowed down common excerpts to help the bottom half of the students (360KB MP3). I also loosened the technology requirements from the "every kid must own a laptop" educational bandwagon by allowing students to skip over their Practica Musica assignments in exchange for other types of make-up work. (For the Virginian musicians, Practica Musica is the MacGamut of the Southland). At the end of the year, I even let a flustered crying student retake her final exam a couple hours later because my heart is made of gold and candy canes.

With such a benevolent reputation, I left Florida State on a high note (c6), and hopefully helped some of those students catch up to become useful members of the music community.

Share some of your TA stories in the Comments section!

Baby issued Illinois gun ID card
Get your PC infected here
Truck runs over cyclist's head

tagged as memories, teaching | permalink | 3 comments

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Review Day: Six Feet Under

there are no plot spoilers in this review, although the format of the final scene is discussed

Six Feet Under is a five-season, sixty-three episode HBO show and Mike "I hate movies and pop culture" Catania's favourite series of all time. With such effusive praise, I figured I would give it a watch to see what all the fuss was about. HBO shows (like The Sopranos) are generally so expensive that I would normally wait for my parents to get it and then steal it from them, but luckily Amazon had a package deal containing all the episodes and two soundtrack CDs for about six cents per minute. That (plus Mike's offer to buy it off of me if I hated it) convinced me to pick it up. Plus, I am all about the "boxed set".

This show is rather hard to "summarize for a friend", but on the surface it's about a family who operates (and lives in) a funeral home. Each episode begins with the death of a non-principal character, and this death is used as the backdrop to thematically tie an episode together. The story is not highly plot-driven -- instead, the characters are allowed to grow and relate in a believable manner, which also made me as the viewer care about their fates.

The believable, well-acted characters are the cornerstone of the series' success. Although they occasionally get into made-for-television situations, they react and cope with events realistically. There is no truly sympathetic hero amongst the characters -- everyone has shades of grey, and everyone struggles to be good while making mistakes. This allows the writers of the show to introduce many different thoughts about life and death, right or wrong, relationships, love, mental illness, and even the minutia of daily life in a completely nonconfrontational way.

To me, this was a key element, although I couldn't quite put my finger on it for the longest time. Where another show might approach these issues with a lack of subtlety or blatant preaching, Six Feet Under takes a very understated approach by taking characters similar to people we might know in real life and allowing them to work through the issues for us. I often found myself thinking about the questions raised long after the episode had ended, without ever having that indignant feeling that I was being manipulated or force-fed by a television show. It's like the exact opposite of any sitcom with a laugh track that goes "Awwww" when a baby is shown off.

The show isn't perfect. Like all good HBO shows, it has an overreliance on dream sequences. In the beginning, these sequences are very apropos -- for example, the main character might be alone with a body during the embalming, and an imaginary conversation with the deceased is used to vocalize the character's inner monologue to the audience. In later seasons, it tends to get pretty gratuitous (though not to the extent of Tony Soprano spending twenty minutes walking around a beach looking at talking fish heads).

Also, two of the main characters are an on-again-off-again gay couple. As their storylines mature, the gay factor is always handled tactfully, in a normal, believable fashion, but for the first couple of seasons, the writers tended to go overboard with gratuitous scenes of gay lifestyle which might make many people uncomfortable.

Six Feet Under is not my favourite show of all time -- there was never a moment where I was hooked and had to keep watching -- but it is very good. After watching the first season, I wasn't particularly excited, but was interested enough to keep going. By the time I'd finished the third season, I had become so invested in the characters that I couldn't imagine stopping in the middle. I was happy to find that, after such a slow-paced build up, the final season and the final episode were uniformly excellent -- Six Feet Under is the Mahler of HBO shows, if Mahler had written intimate chamber symphonies.

The final episode concludes with a montage of the lives and deaths of all the main characters, and is surprisingly poignant if you have taken to the characters. If I weren't such a manly man, I would have almost felt compelled to cry.

Final Opinion: B+ Worth a purchase, or even a rental, unless:

  • You are impatient.
  • Thinking about aging and death makes you uncomfortable.
  • Watching two guys make out makes you uncomfortable.
  • Character development bores you.
Amazon to release DRM-free music
No romance for lovesick albatross
Bible drawn into sex publication controversy

tagged as reviews | permalink | 1 comment

Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday Fragments

the 82nd edition of this column since July 2005

♣ On Wednesday night before LOST, I ordered some pepperoni-mushroom-black-olive pan pizza from the local Pizza Hut delivery franchise. When the carrier came to the door, he glanced at his receipt and we had the following conversation:

    Pizza Guy: "Dude?"
    BU: "Huh?"
    Pizza Guy: "You Dude?"
    BU: "Yeah, I'm a dude."
    Pizza Guy: "No, is your last name Dude?"
    BU: "No, it's Uri -- why?"
    Pizza Guy: "My receipt says you're Dude." [shows me a receipt that definitely says "Pizza for DUDE" over my address]
    BU: "Dude?"
    Pizza Guy: "Yeah, Dude."
    BU: "Well yeah, I'll be a Dude if it gets me pizza." [pays] "Keep the change."
    Pizza Guy: "Thanks, dude."

♣ I'm not sure how I ended up registered as DUDE in the Pizza Hut computer system, but it probably happened back in 2004 when Eric lived here and ordered pizza every night. Alternately, maybe a stoned surfer broke in one afternoon and had the munchies.

♣ To me, "the munchies" always sounds much more ominous than it actually is. It evokes memories of really bad animatronic movies from the 80s where unkempt, hairy critters of the malevolent variety eat someone's gall bladder in an appropriately bloody fashion.

♣ I never owned one of those plastic troll dolls with the long hair in the 80s -- I always thought they were pretty dumb, and even as a pre-teen I was pretty elitist.

♣ Last night I trimmed my own long hair so as not to become one of the very trolls I despised in my youth. I've been cutting my own hair for almost a year now, and have the technique pretty much down -- the weedy patch right at the back-center of my head is the hardest, but I accomplish the haircut by using a complex series of mirrors and ambidextrous techniques. This is the same way they faked the moon landing photos, and also how you write Minimalist music.

♣ When not shaving my head for that yellow supremacist look, I've been busy watching the third season of The 4400 and reading about the XML Schema specification (which I already know a lot about, but not in any particularly orderly fashion). To tie the computer stuff to my musical side for greater relevance, I've also composed a two-piece period song in the style of Stephen Foster called "Beautiful Schema", and a jingle for the Twix candy bar, "made with real XML".

♣ I am not a big caramel fan -- it's too viscous and tastes like you're chewing on wood glue that hasn't quite dried. Then again, I never ate library paste as a kid either.

♣ I was fastidiously clean as a kid -- besides never eating library paste or household cleaners with the Mr. Yuck sticker on them, I never did things like fill my pockets with worms and sit on them, or lick bird poop on dares. Even though I spent most afternoons digging in the dirt pile, I would always want to come in and wash my hands when I was all through.

♣ This weekend I plan on doing a little adult dirt-digging -- weeding, moving some plants, and trimming the obnoxious blades of grass that grow right next to the shrubs where the mower and the weed whacker can't get to them. I also have social activities scheduled for Saturday night and a nap scheduled for 1:42pm on Sunday. I haven't had a nap in a few weeks now, and am long overdue.

♣ Have a great weekend!

Listeners shocked by XM suspension
Web site baffles judge
Bubbles n' Babes washes your convertible with the top off

tagged as fragments | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sequel Injection

This summer, the theatres have been, or will be, graced with such works of art as Spider-Man 3, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, Harry Potter 5, Shrek 3, The Bourne Ultimatum, and (I'm not kidding about this one) "Live Free or Die Hard" starring a 52-year-old Bruce Willis. Just last week, Blizzard Entertainment announced that their new blockbuster game would be Starcraft II -- not Diablo 3 as some people expected (or Warcraft IV or World of Warcraft II for that matter).

There's something very comforting about a sequel: people are happy that they can return to a world or story that they loved without too much heavy thinking, and studios are assured that they can break even on their investment, even if the entire movie is a grainy cell phone movie starring a drunk hobo named Hal who happened to be sleeping behind the sound stage one night.

Although sequelitis has had an iron grasp on the movies and games industry for many years now (see also, the upcoming Police Academy 8), there seems to be a few other areas of life where sequels could find a welcome home.

Board Games: In the sequel to Candyland, Gloppy the Molasses Monster is suicidal and threatening to leap from Gum Drop Mountain. The six coloured cards are now various Crayola shades of red and green (to emphasize to young children that the world cannot easily be split into absolutes): burnt sienna, raw umber, brink pink, fuzzy wuzzy brown, mahogany, and beaver.

Music: If the movie studios are allowed to release a third Weekend at Bernie's movie, then I should be allowed to take one of my musical compositions, add a countermelody, and call it a sequel. Why struggle and slave for five seconds of new, usable material when you already have a proven score? Tchaikovsky's 1813 Overture, now with more cannons!

Religion: Have you read and reread the Bible to the point where you could tell Paul from John, or a Corinthian from a Doric with your eyes closed? Ever wondered what the lives of Oreb and Zeeb might have been like had they not been beheaded? Then try the New New Testament, now on CD so you can listen to it in your car (your choice of narrators: James Earl Jones, Patrick Stewart, or Kathy Griffin). "Noah's back, and now he's pissed!"

Politics: Actually, I think someone already beat me to this.

A bad case of summer movies
Shipwreck yields $500M haul
Power station to harness the sun's rays

tagged as random, mock mock | permalink | 3 comments

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Museday Tuesday

stimulating the udder of creativity for maximum musical lactation

  1. The composition can be for any instrumentation. It can have an actual score or be a pure synthesized realization that might not be possible to perform in the real world.
  2. It must not be longer than thirty seconds.
  3. It does not necessarily have to have a start, middle, and end -- it can just be a fragment of something grander.
  4. It must be composed in a single sitting, in thirty minutes or less. If time runs out, I post whatever I managed to finish, be it good, indifferent, or makeup on a corpse.
  5. The title of the piece must be an adverb from a random word generator, although this word doesn't necessarily have to be incorporated in the piece.

If any readers ever have the urge to participate, feel free to send me an image, MP3, or link to your masterpiece and I will add it to the post. You can include a hindsight commentary as well. Anything posted becomes fair game for readers to admire, critique, or poop on in the Comments section.

This Week's Title:
Moodily: (adv.) in a moody manner (gloomy, depressed, or sullen)

My Composition (0:27 MP3)

This Museday was actually pretty straightforward, since there's already a universal preconceived notion of what moody music should sound like. I have to admit, though, that my very initial instinct was to write a song about happy cows. I wrote this fragment for English horn, acoustic bass, drums, horns, tuba, and vibraphone, and then dropped it down a whole step and a couple semitones for additional angst (the lower, the sadder). If I had had more time, I would have worked on the sound of the melodic line, to make it less square-sounding in the last half.

Punching bag filled with underwear
Breaking in to break out
Bank robber goes first class with a limo and flowers

tagged as museday | permalink | 4 comments

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Memory Day: Pickett Woods

The street I grew up on was intended to be a major thoroughfare between Seminary Road and Duke Street in Alexandria. Before this plan could come to fruition, the rich folks in their wooded manors at the north end of the street managed to block it, not wanting additional traffic near their diamond tennis courts. The result of this was that I lived on a dead end street wide enough for five lanes of traffic, which was perfect for pretending to know how to skateboard. Pickett Street stops and starts five or six times as it wends through Alexandria, which meant that the chances of our UPS deliveries arriving on time was roughly one in five (on the rare occasions that the driver didn't end up on Pickett Road in Fairfax).

In Alexandria, anyone who lived more than a mile from the junior high school got a free bus ride. Living on a street that was essentially a dotted line meant that we were more than a mile from school by road but less as the crow flies (but when was the last time you saw a crow fly in a straight line? Crows in my neighbourhood circle aimlessly and eat carrion. They're loud too -- I can hear them carrion on all morning).

Looking at the Google Map above, you can see that cutting through the woods on my street shaved a good quarter of a mile off my trip. You can also see that botched construction work in the late nineties turned my school into what looks to be a staple gun or a buck-toothed dinosaur head. It doesn't look much better from the ground, because apparently Alexandria thinks "urban planning" is figuring out which Metro stop to get off at when you visit the Smithsonian.

This wooded shortcut wasn't much more than an unpaved drainage ditch, and used to be controlled by a redneck and his dog, living in a tiny house at the end of a dirt road within spitting distance of the million dollar mansions. After his house burned down, it became the de facto place for kids to skip school and smoke cigarettes, as long as you could avoid the mother of our friend, Cheryl, who lived one house away and made it her mission in life to keep kids out of the woods.

I would walk to and from school with Aaron Ulm, and occasionally Allen Lutz, our instrument cases banging at our sides as we raced down the muddy hill, dodging poison ivy and early morning spider webs. When Cheryl's mom wasn't giving us the evil eye, Aaron would sneak into the burnt-out shell of the house on dares to borrow from the redneck's stash of charred Playboy magazines, or we would knock really gross bagworm nests out of trees into the water and set them on fire, because forest fires are cool.

In ninth grade, we found a squirrel that had been hit by a car and managed to stumble into the woods before dying, and spent the next three weeks before school watching it decay. Maggots are not nearly as cool as forest fires, unless you're twelve years old.

Strangest disaster of the 20th century
Flamboyant gay baby stealers
A new spin on Fish n' Chips

tagged as memories | permalink | 0 comments

Thursday, May 24, 2007

List Day: Top Five Pet Peeves of the Moment

  1. Lane Floaters: There's nothing wrong with rapidly changing lanes to get around the slow driver in the left lane (slow, both in the mental and automotive senses). I do it all the time. However, some people take this to the extreme -- bouncing back and forth between lanes without pause, and spending more time between lanes than within them. You see these clowns most often on two lane roads where both lanes are travelling at roughly the same speed. Generally, neither lane change will help the clown go any faster, but he persists in changing lanes to let everyone know that he needs to go faster than you. Floaters are never cool, even in the toilet.

  2. Speakerphone: I've heard of this tech company, which is definitely not the one I work for, where you can gauge the relative importance of an employee by how often he or she uses speakerphone for all calls. This habit is used to impress upon the underlings that managers are either far too busy to actually pick up the phone and hold it near their diamond faces, or are talking with very important people. Some common habits include: leaving the office door open, checking voicemail on speakerphone, having a conference call, letting it ring on speakerphone, and letting it ring then continuing to talk on speakerphone after the other person has picked up.

  3. Diddle-oo: This is the default sound that AOL Instant Messenger makes when you send or receive messages , and could be more irritating than a Nickelback / Mannheim Steamroller compilation CD. In college, one of my next-door dorm neighbours would chat with his secret online girlfriend all night long with the volume turned up. He died two months later in an apparent suicide, having inexplicably swallowed six gallons of trumpet valve oil and slide grease.

  4. Loud Commercials: I only watch one hour of television per week, but in that one hour, the volume of the show rapidly approaches zero as the entertainment value goes to infinity. As soon as the show pauses for a commercial break, the ads are suddenly inescapable, several thousand decibels louder than a lawn mower driving a jet airplane. You either have to listen to these annoying ear-shattering commercials, or turn the volume up and down between each segment.

  5. Brangelina: Whenever two celebrities momentarily hook up (humorously called "finding true love" in celebrity circles), the press will take a few letters from each name and merge them into a new Decepticon name so they can save all that ink from not printing the word, "and". Should I ever become a celebrity Br-, I resolve only to date girls whose names end in "east", "assiere", or "achiosaurus".

You can also see what my pet peeves were two years ago here.

An FBI target puts his whole life online
Dave McKee Bobble Head Doll
Train kills man trying to kill woman

tagged as lists | permalink | 2 comments

Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday Fragments Retrospective

a nostalgic look at memorable fragments from the original 2005 columns

July 22, 2005 (the very first column): I always knew the French were a little wacky but now they've outdone themselves. The posters on the right are actual images from their new "Prevent AIDS" campaign. I have applied a Gaussian blur to the salient man ass, since that's not necessarily the first thing you want to see in the morning. Kids, make sure you don't have le sex with a spider, because that's how l'AIDS circles le globe. The previous sentence is the result of four years of high school French.

July 29, 2005: Three times in the past week, I have mistyped "bridge" instead of "bride". I don't think I have a subconscious fear of brides (yes, I mistyped it just then as well, so maybe I do), although I do think it would be cool, if impractical, to have a mail-order bridge (some assembly required, river not included).

August 12, 2005: There's a local company called College Hunks Hauling Junk. "You're not a real man until you go to the dump," Suzuki said. "That's my philosophy". I approve of the rhyming couplet approach to naming a company. Fashion designers opening outlet stores could be "Fops With Shops" and Florida-Mike could call his web design business "Non-Jewish Whites Making Sites". If I ever get around to starting my own record company, I would probably call it "Post Grad Stud Producing Duds" and payola my way into an Ashlee Simpson hit. Incidentally, I loved when she got boo'ed for her halftime performance last year, but I really wish the audience had gotten violent. How ironic would it have been if her career had ended with Pieces of Me? All over the stage?

August 19, 2005: There's no stronger evidence of how stupid people are than reading about the clowns who chose to drive on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge last weekend solely because the previous construction warnings did not result in any gridlock (see Figure A). The reason there was no traffic last time was because morons like you stayed home. Moron. In keeping with a recently popular theme of this site, I think the Department of Transportation should have distracted the gridlocked drivers with roadside exotic dancers, in a show aptly called, "Tits and Asphalt".

October 21, 2005: Amazon.com reader reviews are occasionally very entertaining. I can see the advertising slogan now: Friends: The Complete Tenth Season - Not as gay as you expected!

October 28, 2005: McDonald's runs their burger meat through a metal detector before shipping it out in the name of quality. I don't know if this is a new initiative since 9/11, but it's a good idea -- a terrorist explosion of a Happy Meal would be abominable. Get it? Ha ha!

November 4, 2005: That's actually a picture of a lady siphoning bull semen up there. I did a search hoping to find a funny cartoon of some kind and ended up with that. Google Images wins again. I'm not sure why she needs such thick ocean-blue gloves, but maybe she's trying to trick some seamen.

November 11, 2005: The hardest part of writing sections of my updates the night before is remembering whether to put verbs in the present or past tense. Sometimes I just give up and use both interchangeably. That's probably why people say I'm two tense.

December 9, 2005: Oh shit, fragments within fragments! It's on now. Did I just blow your mind?

December 16, 2005: The crazy Turkmenistan president is at it again, demanding penguins to be included in his desert zoo. I think the penguins would be more comfortable in his ice palace than the 104 degree desert, unless he plans to hire people with portable fans to keep the birds cool at all times. When I become the eccentric king of Antarctica, I will be importing various marsupials from Down Under for my Arctic Zoo, and hiring people to follow them around with red heat lights. If you would like to be one of my Koala Lampers, please let me know.

December 30, 2005: Here's another picture of Kelley from 1998 when he was a freshman and passed out on the Abbott bus on a Wind Symphony trip (not to be confused with the time he passed out in the bathroom during the Super Bowl while taking a poop). Both he and Shac, the guy next to him, had 40s clutched in their dirty mitts, but I edited them out so the pictures could appear on the trumpet web site, which was too closely affiliated with the marching band to show people consuming large quantities of alcohol. The number of 1998 pictures with hands in strange positions from cropped alcohol led people to joke that the trumpets had their own gang sign. There are more photos such as this one on my Photos page, some of them proving that I have no business being behind the viewfinder of a camera.

♣ Have a great long weekend!

Have a tasty corgi
Bin Laden is not leading any parades
It's not a cat, it's a rat

tagged as fragments | permalink | 1 comment

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Museday Tuesday

stimulating the udder of creativity for maximum musical lactation

  1. The composition can be for any instrumentation. It can have an actual score or be a pure synthesized realization that might not be possible to perform in the real world.
  2. It must not be longer than thirty seconds.
  3. It does not necessarily have to have a start, middle, and end -- it can just be a fragment of something grander.
  4. It must be composed in a single sitting, in thirty minutes or less. If time runs out, I post whatever I managed to finish, be it good, indifferent, or makeup on a corpse.
  5. The title of the piece must be an adverb from a random word generator, although this word doesn't necessarily have to be incorporated in the piece.

If any readers ever have the urge to participate, feel free to send me an image, MP3, or link to your masterpiece and I will add it to the post. You can include a hindsight commentary as well. Anything posted becomes fair game for readers to admire, critique, or poop on in the Comments section.

This Week's Title:
Obnoxiously: (adv.) in a highly objectionable or offensive manner

My Composition (0:30 MP3)

I couldn't decide which was more obnoxious: polka music or techno music. I ran out of time, which is why the ending sounds more marching band-y than it should.

Outrage over the iGasm
Adam and Eve in the Land Before Time
Why you shouldn't trust people who say they got into Stanford

tagged as museday | permalink | 2 comments

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Memory Day: The Foreign Language Requirement

In my high school, there were two paths to a diploma: the Standard path (which generally included a course with the abbreviation "ec" but not in the context of "ecology" or "eclampsia") and the Advanced path. Because of grade inflation, the Advanced track was actually the common track that most students followed, with Standard being the new Subpar. (The same is happening in the food industry, where a Large pizza is now roughly the size of a prematurely-born opossum).

To qualify as an Advanced student, you had to meet the language requirement which, in the grand American tradition of failing to understand basic math, required three years of a foreign language, or two years each of two separate languages. Having been a master scholar in the universal language of loooove since childbirth, I wasn't too keen on adding yet another language to my repertoire, but relented so I could go to a really good state college.

Given the choice between French, Spanish, German, and Latin, the only logical choice was French. I figured that I could learn German on my own time since all you do is take random words and string them together into even longer words (the same applies to writing a medley), and I wagered that Spanish would pretty much be a dead language in this country within a decade. That left French and Latin, and the girls who took French were far cuter.

I started French I in eighth grade under Madame Gibbs. We used the textbook, On y va!, which is a colloquialism that vaguely means "Here we go!". The main thing I learned from this textbook, other than how to order a Coke in France (je voudrais un coca) was that you should never use slang in a language book title because the teacher will have to spend the whole first class explaining why it can't be directly translated because her students are all literal pissants (fourmi litt?rale d'urine).

Every student had to have a French name, for total immersion, so my French name was Brian (je m'appelle Brian) -- the last syllable was Frenchified so it sounded like Lil' Kim trying to be hardcore by making goose noises in Lady Marmalade . As the years went by, this name became corrupted into Brioche, which is also a French pastry that looks exactly like a boiled blister.

Once we were well-versed in ordering various French dishes and swearing (tu manges mon merde) we went to French II, where we watched ridiculous "learn French" videos, played the card game, Milles Bornes, and had Language Lab. During this session, giant booms lowered out of the ceiling with enough headsets for the entire class, and the French edition of Ben Stein from Ferris Bueller asked us questions. No matter how many people were in the class or how softly you spoke, the teacher could always figure out when you were mispronouncing something or not answering -- she would use her Voice of the Gods skill to correct you over your headset without anyone in the class knowing. Sometimes I would intentionally throw a question (je ne sais rien) to see if she was really paying attention, and she always was.

I don't remember a single thing about French III because the teacher was a troll (in the Brothers Grimm sense, not the hairy plastic doll sense), but I think it mostly centered around learning a bunch of verb tenses that no one ever needs in real life (that no one might ever be needing in real life). However, something in that class convinced me to be an overachiever and go back for a FOURTH year of French, which was quite fun. All we did was read and write stories for the entire year. In the tradition of Mr. Square and Mr. Triangle, I wrote a story called Mr. Juvenile Delinquent which you can read here (my partner contributed by doing all the colouring). You can probably understand most of it even if you don't speak French.

Since that year, I haven't taken a single language class, and what remains of my French vocabulary comes more from the occasional Aliz?e song than any preserved education. I have picked up a few choice words of Tallahassean -- for example, the proper response to "Thank You" in Florida is "No Problem", not "You're Welcome", and when someone asks "Have you been to the Walmart?", you have to follow up with "You mean today?" before you answer.

Elephant robs motorists
Man who stayed up 266 hours rises to bad news
The employee asking the question traces a circle in the air with his pen while pronouncing the word Angus.

tagged as memories | permalink | 6 comments

Thursday, May 31, 2007

End of the Month Media Day


My sister and brother-in-law at his graduation from Vet School (Virginia Tech)

I'll see your baby and raise you a kitten.

Amber practices cute-sleeping.

High Stakes Poker Game

BU wins first place, for the first time ever.

Ella gets an ethnic nanny.

Cat Videos

Amber is a Muppet (2MB WMV)
Amber is Summoned to Fight Crime (1MB WMV)
Amber is Retarded (1MB WMV)

More New Pictures

Home Renovation
May Festivities
May Cats

Big cat gets wet n' wild
She's told it's inappropriate to have staff rub her feet or her back.
The nice life of a female dealer

tagged as media | permalink | 1 comment

 

You are currently viewing a monthly archive, so the posts are in chronological order with the oldest at the top. On the front page, the newest post is at the top. You can always contact me at The entire URI! Zone is © 1996 - 2014 by Brian Uri!. Please see the About page for further information.

Jump to Top
Jump to the Front Page

visitors since November 2003