Sunday, March 29, 2009

Isn't it Ironic? Don't you think?

Hear ye, hear ye!

Spanish research who studied Mad Cow Disease is suspected to have succumbed to it.

OH the irony!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Navy Denouement

I talked with my Officer Recruiter today and signed off on having my security background check initiated, and it looks like I just have to wait for my final medical clearance before I'm given the thumbs up to go to OCS in Rhode Island.  I also got a gouge on OCS with regards to the knowledge I'm required to learn there (Chain of Command, General Orders of a Sentry, etc) and what OCS will be like.
I also called the Petty Officer who was my enlisted recruiter and explained the news to him and that I wouldn't be enlisting.  He actually sounded pretty happy for me, which I was thankful for, wished me luck, and offered any help or advice I might want.  Gosh.
Looking back, maybe I made his life easier.  I mean, it's not like he had a dearth of recruits; I can totally imagine him and his shipmates at 4AM in the recruiting station working through a stack of paperwork, and commenting to one another, "Remember when we actually had to beg people to join the Navy? I miss the good old days."

Plus, I qualified for almost every rating which meant he would've had to explain what I'd be doing in each rating, and knowing how I ask questions, it would've been a very long job counselling session.

Anyway, this whole strange scenario turned out in a positive way, and I'm looking forward to the future.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Words cannot describe the emotions I'm experiencing right now, so I'm not going to even bother attempting to describe it.  My Officer Recruiter just called me and said there was some sort of error in my application which caused it to be rejected from the February OCS boards, and it was resubmitted for the March boards.  I got pro-recommended for Surface Warfare Officer for OCS.  Now I have all these questions I have to ask myself: Do I want to drive ships for the Navy or do I want to dive, work in intelligence, or cryptology for the Navy with the prospects of becoming a Limited Duty Officer later?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Well, I took the ASVAB last night at the National Guard Armory.  And the test only took 3 freaking hours.  When I got out, I was starving and raced home to eat something.  But, despite my stomach roaring throughout the test, I scored in the 96th percentile (I'd certainly hope with a college degree I'd score very high).  On Tuesday of next week I get to go to MEPS yet again, but this time I'll be given job counseling and I'll probably get sworn in.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Something weird is going on with my bookmarks.  It cycles through all the blogs I follow extremely quickly and several times. I'm thinking about just checking blogs regularly instead of using the bookmark feature.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Texts from my sister

The title really explains it all.

"When I was loading my car, Sadie [our beagle] jumped in and laid down so I left the door open and when I came back PEPPER [our smelly dog] was in there too! Stiiiiiiinky!"
"Pepper knew what she was doing."
"Oh my god, the Asian man in the silver singlet is at the Y again."
"There is a sign on the bus for a church that ordained the first openly gay pastor and it says 'we know a homo sapiens when we see one.'"
"Your brother likes your new friendship. RAAAAR."
In response to Pepper carrying around a massive dead shrew: "Ooooh Pepper must be doing a little outdoor theatre-taming of the shrew! Wocka wocka wocka!" 
"Sick, help [Pepper]. Stick your finger down her throat."
"I'm looking at volunteer jobs on craigslist and a bunch are for disease studies. One says, 'Do you have gout?' It's so frustrating! I've only found like three that are legit!"
In reply to Pepper nearly biting off my foot: "Hahaha it probably smelled rancid.  Her favorite flavor. She's probably going through the change."
"[Our aunt] started rubbing the elvis magnet against her cheek."
"Grandaddy is drawing mustaches and beards on every single woman he can find in the paper. 'I love to mess up pictures. I hope you never smoke. I'll give her a cigar.'"
"TC was telling him to do something and he said, 'your hair needs combing' and started giggling."

Monday, March 9, 2009

UNC General Alumni Association

Those jackasses who run the GAA for UNC keep sending me requests for money so I can join their organization that I know absolutely nothing about and will allow me to keep in touch with all the nonexistant friends I made in college.  In other words,  it's like facebook, except lamer and you have to pay for it.  Where exactly did all the money go that was spent for my tuition?  Flower arrangements for the Friday Center?  An underground chilling plant? A watermain to nowhere AKA the neverending Carmichael piping problem?  Why do they keep insisting that if I don't start handing them large amounts of money (the first check box lists $100) they'll have to dissolve and the entire UNC system will collapse?  

I just graduated a year ago from college! I can't rub two dimes together and on the rarest occasion where I have moolah, it goes to my livelihood support fund appropriately named "I Did the Time, and I'm Doin' Fine."

I think if they want my business, they should sit me down and start handing me envelopes of unmarked bills.  "We really want you to join our club...And we believe Mr. Franklin and Mr. Grant would like that as well."
"Well, gee, it's hard to say fellas.  I thought I already paid a small amount of money through tuition to prop you guys up."
"Ah, I see you are shrewd.  Will Mr. Jackson change your mind?"
"Well...I'll think about it. What exactly can you guys do for me?"
"We can offer you the best seats in the house for any athletics event."
"Too bad. I don't watch sports."
"Well, we can also offer you unlimited bagels from Alpine, sushi whenever you want it from the bottom of Lenoir, access to UNC school systems libraries, and parking all across Chapel Hill."
"Well now you've got yourself a deal!"

And then I'd pay them back all the money that they gave me.

I Got a Fever!

I was sitting in Ramshead the other day listening to the song playing on the jukebox. I thought to myself, "By God, this song is wonderful. It must be the cowbell!" So now I'm trying to compile a list of all the cowbell greats. Let me know if I missed any:
Don't Fear the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult
Hair of the Dog by Nazareth
The Down Town by Days of the New
Touch, Peel, and Stand by Days of the New
You're Unbelievable by EMF
Heat of the Moment by Asia
Baby You Can Drive My Car by The Beatles
In a Big Country by Big Country, although the cowbell's really hard to hear and makes its appearance during the chorus
We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel, another subtle one between the first and second verse
You Give Love a Bad Name by Bon Jovi
Rock and Roll Hoochie Coo by Rick Derringer
Radar Love by Golden Earring
Owner of a Lonely Heart by Yes
School's Out by Alice Cooper, though I'm not entirely sure about this one
You Spin Me Right Round by Dead or Alive although it's buried underneath cheesy synth drum tracks
Rock of Ages by Def Leppard
Rainbow in the Dark by Ronnie James Dio does NOT have cowbell, but it SHOULD
Green Flower Street by Donald Fagen has a hint of a cowbell
New Frontier by Donald Fagen prominently features the cowbell
The Nightfly by Donald Fagen features the cowbell between the verse and chorus
The Reflex by Duran Duran, the intro to the song features a cowbell
Wild Wild West by The Escape Club
Oh Yeah! by Yello
Conga by Gloria Estefan, not that I've ever listened to the song or anything...Lara told me the song had cowbell in it
Welcome to the Jungle by Guns n' Roses, but it's slightly drowned out over drum tracks. And Axl Rose's caterwauling
Paradise City by Guns n' Roses
Mr. Brownstone by Guns n' Roses, before Axl got all weirded out and braided his hair
Can I Play with Madness by Iron Maiden, probably their only song I know of that has cowbell in it
Rock and Roll All Nite by KISS
Der Telefon Anruf by Kraftwerk features synth cowbell, as if you could expect anything less from them
Funkytown by Lipps, Inc
Working for the Weekend by Loverboy features the cowbell in the beginning of the song
Heartbreaker by Led Zeppelin, although it's really difficult for me to tell if it's a snare or a cowbell
Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin has cowbell hidden in the background
All Night Long by Lionel Richie, again, another song that Lara told me about
Electric Slide by Marcia Griffiths, again Lara told me that this song had cowbell
T.n.T (Terror 'n Tinseltown) by Motley Crue with an umlaut over the u, I swear I heard Tommy Lee hit the bell once
Dr. Feelgood by Motley Crue with an umlaut over the u
Girls, Girls, Girls by Motley Crue with an umlaut over the u
Easy Love by MSTRKRFT features a synth cowbell
Dead Man's Party by Oingo Boingo
Out of Control by Oingo Boingo
Wild Sex (In the Working Class) by Oingo Boingo
Same Man I Was Before by Oingo Boingo
Weird Science by Oingo Boingo
Dead Or Alive by Oingo Boingo, using a synth cowbell
Grey Matter by Oingo Boingo
Glory Be by Oingo Boingo, could feature a cowbell
On the Outside and You Really Got Me by Oingo Boingo does NOT feature the cowbell but it features the venerable vocoder (how cool is that?!)
Christmas with the Devil by Spinal Tap, umlaut over the n
Do It Again by Steely Dan
Rikki Don't Lose that Number by Steely Dan
Jungle Love by the Steve Miller Band
Apache by Sugar Hill Gang
Rapper's Delight by Sugar Hill Gang
She Blinded Me with Science by Thomas Dolby
Africa by Toto
Drop Dead Legs by Van Halen
Hold On by Wilson Phillips, at the intro. She has a nice voice, by the way
Once in a Lifetime by Talking Heads
Heavy Fuel by Dire Straits
Play that Funky Music White Boy by Wild Cherry
Lowrider by WAR
Do Ya by ELO
Evil Woman by ELO
Neon Knights by MSTRKRFT features a synth cowbell
Work on You by MSTRKRFT features some weird bell thing and vocoder
Hot Hot Hot by Buster Poindexter. Heh heh.
Groove is in the Heart by Deee Lite
And I think that's about it. Let me know if I missed any.

Life would be better with a soundtrack

Life would be better with a soundtrack and I think I speak from experience when I say that. Seriously, walking around Chapel Hill, the sound doesn't fit the beautiful campus. I'll be walking to class, passing massive oaks and beautiful dormitories, thinking to myself, "Wow, the leaves are starting to change, deer season and cold mornings will eventually get here with Halloween, apples, and the state fair, and-" and that's when the construction starts and ruins the morning:
"JOHNSON YOU CLOWN! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!" "Hey man, I'm only doing what you told me to do! Hey! Don't give me that!"
Girls will be talking on their cell phones: "Yeah, I was sooo wasted at the party last night! Yeah, I still have to contest my two DUI's"
People will start lighting up, their lighters clicking nonstop, and then they start hacking out their lungs, and coughing up nastiness: "A HOOCCCHHH! HOOOCCCH!"
Idiots blaring their froo-froo techno music and singing in falsetto to Cher: "If I could turn back tiiiiime"

So why not just cut all that out? If you're going to make your campus look beautiful, I say you should put a perfect soundtrack behind.
Or at least make it appear like a commercial with a "Chariots of Fire" theme:
I'm wearing a flannel shirt with a gray t shirt and jeans. Backpack is slung casually over my left shoulder, and I have a mug of fresh coffee in my left hand. I take a sip, smile and shake my head at disbelief of the great coffee. The 'cha cha cha' part of the theme song starts. I begin to walk to class. Big smile on my face. People are happy to see me, and we greet each other as we pass with high fives and chest bumps. I pass through the doors of the building, exuding confidence, the main motif of the theme starts. I sit down, get my test back with a 100 and "Best test answers EVER!' on it, and give a big, cheesy smile and laugh. I answer all the questions that the professor asks. Professors prompts me to stand up, and I clasp my hands and shake them above my head as everyone claps. I turn to the camera and wink and the UNC seal comes on screen and fades to black.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

I need SLEEP

This week I've been getting some bad vibes, man, and it's totally because I haven't slept much.

Wednesday night I had coffee right before going to bed, which kept me up until 3AM.  I spent those hours prior to slipping into a fitful slumber by trying to recall all my undergrad courses I had, and was surprised that I could only remember a handful.  But at least I retained the information from the classes that I could remember.

Thursday the dogs slept in my room, and one of my dogs, Pepper, perpetually expelled flatus throughout the night in an obstreperous manner.  That night while laying in bed, I was puzzled over the "crackling" noise I heard.  Puzzled, until the smell hit me like a .45 slug and made my lungs sear in pain.  The rest of the night she snore loudly and growled in her sleep.

Last night, some drunk driver ran over the mailbox at 3AM and uprooted a neighbor's tree.  She and the guy she was with are fine, although her Honda is now a compact size and can never be driven again.

What will tonight bring? Will a satellite fall from the sky into my bedroom?  Will a flashmob congregate outside my window and start a rave? Will my bed collapse and my mattress sink into itself like a black star? I have no idea, but I'm not looking forward to it.  My life is starting to feel like that Seinfeld episode where Jerry switches apartments with Kramer because of a Kenny Roger's Roaster neon sign and begins hallucinating from lack of sleep that Kramer's ventriloquist dummy, Mr. Marbles, is alive.

Friday, March 6, 2009

"Tippy Yunnan" Dian Hong

I picked up a small 50g bag of this tea from A Southern Season after the brush calligraphy exhibit in Chapel Hill.  I know I've had this tea before, but I can't place my finger on any specific date.  It's taste is reminiscent of chocolate, sweet orange, and a little bit of malt. Good stuff!  I started off using my mug infuser in a steel, double-walled mug which yielded extremely bitter results after 3 minutes of steeping.  If the $3 price wasn't a tip off to the lower quality, then the bitterness certainly was.  I guess this is probably not quite tippy enough to prevent that.

But, I had fun experimenting with the way the tea tasted in the steel mug and my yixing mug.  The steel mug had a harsh, bitter quality to it and the yixing actually removed the bitterness and enhanced the chocolate flavors of the tea.  I'm still not certain, but I think the tannins in the tea react with metal to create certain off flavors.  Afterall, the mug infuser has take on a blueish tinge because of the tannins...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What the hell

Now you can test your child to see if they have genetic potential to become a famous athlete. Nevermind all that hogwash about "environmental factors," or "talent," or the fact that the test can't predict the quality of an athlete.  Now we get to have a new generation of parents pushings 6 year olds to be the next Mia Hamm, Michael Jordan, and Michael Phelps with a genetic test to back it up.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Rattler

I'm not sure how I came up with this finger attack, but I did. And I've always attempted to give the warning in my best Ben Stiller voice from his character Tony Perkis in Heavyweights.
So when you read this, try using his voice for this entire martial arts demonstration.

"Yes, I am glad you asked about that. The mind that never questions is the mind that never grows.  But you are right. Dead. Right.

That attack you just asked me about is known to us in the West as the Rattler.  The Rattler is an ancient Vietnamese art of killing a man with your two fingers.  The shock and pain and humility all overwhelm the senses causing your entire body to shutdown.  If you're not looking for it, the Rattler will find you and demolish you.  If you are looking for it, it will meet you head on. And you will wind up six feet under! 
Now I know we've been learning a lot of kung fu here, but this is what I call dead fu.  And here in my Dojo of Mojo I feel an obligation to show it to all of you, not to teach it, but just to demonstrate the deadly power of this deadly move.  The Marines and Navy SEALs had to drop it from their martial arts curriculum because it was killing too many trainees, so you know it's the real deal.  I know, I know.  A lot of you have the same question on your mind: 'But it's just two fingers, sensei Newell, how can the Rattler kill you?'  When I was in your judogis, I asked the same question. But I cannot answer you because the Rattler will not wait to answer your pitiful questions as they come out of your mouth! It will unleash itself upon you until it turns your bones into jelly! But you will have to show the Rattler no mercy, because it will give you none.  Now my last class that I showed the Rattler to crapped their pants, but it looks like this time I've chosen a stronger bunch without any sissies. Prove me right.

So! How about a volunteer? Anyone? You, you look like you're ready to see death's face. Heh heh, you can stand easy, I'm just joking with you.  I'm not going to hurt you at all.  Unless you wet your pants, because the Rattler can smell fear.  But I have studied its mysterious ways and can control the Rattler.  So stay fierce, be strong, and you will be completely safe.  Now, what I'm gonna do is I'm going to stand, shoulders facing you.  I will warn you once, and then I will unleash my tiger chi onto you in the form of the deadly Rattler!"

[points index and middler fingers at volunteer and begins rubbing them together]

"You hear that? That's the Rattler. And you never know when it's going to strike. BACHAAAAAA!"
[Blows on fingers] "Man, my tiger chi is on fire today! How about a hand for our volunteer? Don't worry, your eyes will uncross after an hour. Well class, I think that wraps up today.  Next week I will teach you all the 'Rutting Water Buffalo' block, but remember to meditate, practice, train, and only use what I've taught you for good. Dismissed."

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Demonstration of Chinese Brush Calligraphy

I had an unexpectedly pleasant Sunday.  I was expecting it to rain and sleet most of today while driving, but the nasty weather held off until I got back home.  That didn't prevent my leather shoes and pants from getting soaked, and me from getting frozen.

I went to the Ackland Art Museum in Chapel Hill because they were having an exhibit reception for a collection of Asian art (mostly Japanese and Chinese).  I didn't actually go because of the art exhibit, but I went because Jinxiu "Alice" Zhao was demonstrating Chinese brush calligraphy and painting, and Li-Ling Hsaio was playing the zheng, or Chinese zither.

I got there late, so I only heard one song by Professor Hsaio which she described as detailing the rape of a small village, which did not exactly improve my mood on the weather.  After that, Prof. Zhao sat at a small table and began to describe Chinese brush painting.  I've always liked the way that type of art looks: somewhat minimal with black ink on white rice paper and sparse coloring, but structured and flowing.  She began showing the different types of brushes used and briefly described the different weights of paper she uses along with her inks and chi related to painting.  Then, Prof. Zhao talked about the 5 main calligraphy categories.  "There are many styles, but most of them fall into the five categories."  With a smile, she said she was going to demonstrate the five different calligraphy styles by drawing the character for rain in each style which drew appreciable chuckles from the audience, most of whom were in slickers or mackintoshes.

To my untrained eye, the first four characters looked roughly the same.  The last character which was in a cursive type, was definitely different, although she pointed out that it's somewhat difficult to read that type of calligraphy.  And with that she began doing her stuff.

Her first drawing was of bamboo stalks with leaves.  Dipping her brush into water, she swirled the tip onto a splotch of ink in an inkstone until the consistency satisfied her, and then began by painting the stalks.  To these she added delicate leaves in a lighter ink by a light flicking motion with the brush.  When it was finished, she wrote several characters on the top which she said described the "noble character" of the bamboo.  And to put her mark on it, she took a small jade stamp, dipped it into red ink, and firmly pressed it onto the paper.

Her next painting was of a pine branch.  Pine, she said, is indicative of longevity, and is important to artists because of this, but I also think she was painting it for us since North Carolina is well-known for its pine trees and everyone there could relate to the image of a pine.  She drew the main branch with limbs jutting out of it, and added tiny, sharp needles to each small limb.  While waiting for it to dry, she wrote a poem underneath the painting describing moolight on a floor looking like frost.  When the painting had dried, she started painting bark on the limb.  This required a drier ink, she said, and pointed out to us the importance of keeping the brushes slightly wet so that the bristles come to a taper, and that larger brushes absorb more ink.  With the pine branch finished, she pulled a tray of watercolors closer to her and used another brush to mix several colors and ink together to get the correct green shade of the pine needles, and began coloring the needles on her painting.  Her stamp and signature were added and concluded the simple and beautiful painting.

Watching her paint and draw calligraphy was incredible and also prodded me into realizing how little I know about Eastern art.  Thankfully I had a good view of Prof. Zhao, so I could see the way she mixed her ink and drew.  But occasionally the view was interrupted by some simpering man in his 50's who reeked of old lady perfume, who couldn't be bothered to say "Excuse me," when he leaned in front of me and nearly knocked me over.  I was also gravely concerned that he was going to wet his pants when he saw the finished paintings.  But I guess each of us has a different way of expressing appreciation of art.

With her last painting finished, the demonstration ended but my mother introduced me to her.  Apparently she had one of my siblings as a student for a class, so there's no telling what stories Professor Zhao has heard about me: "Oh, my brother would like doing this calligraphy, professor but he hasn't mastered fingerpainting yet." "Aw, that's too cute! How old is your brother?" "In his mid-20's."
She referred to me as didi, but I wasn't sure if this was because my mother said I was the eldest or the youngest of my siblings.  It was nice meeting her, and I wanted to ask her so many questions about her paintings and training, her selection of inks, and what types of brushes she prefers.  I also wanted to ask her what sort of tea she likes and where she buys it along with teaware.  But, maybe it's best I didn't actually ask her about the tea.  I probably would've overwhelmed her with questions.  

Actually meeting her was short since I had to get back on the road because of the heavy rain which was supposed to turn to sleet and then snow.  On the way out of Chapel Hill I stopped by A Southern Season and noticed that they actually had gaiwans!  One highly decorative one was something I'd probably use for company, but was a little bit pricey at $14, and extremely large at 7 ounces.  I didn't consider buying it, because it was too large to actually fit into my palm and pour, and I do have pretty big hands.  The other gaiwan I spied was a simple white one that was a little bit smaller at 4 ounces, but was expensive at close to $30!  They also had a white porcelain gongfu cha set for $75 which was well beyond my price range and tastes.  I browsed the tea section and settled on "Tippy Yunnan" which was on sale.  Happy with my purchase, I stepped out of the store and braved the weather to the car to head home.

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