Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Word association

Looking over the stats for my blog, I can see that one of the top search terms people used to find my blog is "jailbait."  Fantastic.  Other gems include "urination habits," "900193" (my most commented-on post!), and "get rid of cacodemon."  Most of the websites that referred traffic to mine are casinos and link spam sites, which probably do that specifically so their addresses fill up my referrer logs.


Jason and I are back from Nebraska for Thanksgiving, where he finally got to meet the family.  Jason is of course very likable, and I think it all went pretty well.  School is in full swing so we didn't stay for very long, but everyone seemed to get along.  They were excited to see me finally have someone to bring to the table, even if some of the more ultraconservative relatives (as opposed to the simply conservative ones) don't particularly approve of Jason's... maleness.

I wasn't really sure how it would go down.  I wasn't exactly expecting catastrophe, but it was a pretty best-case-scenario sort of deal.  There was only really a hint of uneasiness in the air; as far as my parents are concerned, having a boyfriend is an ethical violation that reflects poorly on my moral character.  After some lengthy talks with my dad on the subject a year ago I'm not exactly certain where we ended up; either he gave up on trying to convince me to see things his way, or he resigned to simply saying "whatever" and absolving himself of it, or something else.  But I made it rather clear that things were what they were, and that attempting to change my mind was hopeless, and we just sort of stopped talking about it.  It's not as if I weighed the pros and cons and decided to be inconveniently weird and cut my dating pool down by nine tenths.  There are plenty of things that I'll argue endlessly, but that one seemed sort of like arguing about me being white or about if red is actually red.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The ethics of lost Skittles

As a person with a nigh unquenchable thirst for carbonated soft drinks, I am around vending machines many, many times a day, even though I actually purchase things from them very infrequently. Anyone who's used a vending machine is familiar with the situation in which you buy something, the machine whirrs for a bit, and then you receive nothing because it's stuck. Of course, from time to time, the opposite happens: you buy an ice cream sandwich, and you get two ice cream sandwiches, probably because some poor schmuck before you paid for one but didn't get it, and didn't have enough change to buy a second one. I began thinking: is it moral to take the second item that you didn't pay for?

First, that item belongs to someone else. Almost certainly a faceless corporation of some sort, but even that faceless corporation is owned by individuals. On some technical level, the item doesn't belong to you, so taking it is stealing. On the other hand, if you leave the item in the bin, the chances are extremely high that the next person to use that machine will take it, and the net effect on the rightful owner of that candy is exactly the same. One could even perhaps make an argument that since you're at least as likely to lose out due to vending machine errors than to gain from them, you're just balancing out the universe, righting some nonspecific wrong that most likely occurred in the past. That argument is fairly weak to begin with, especially if you consider that the last time you bought something from a vending machine and didn't get it the machine was probably owned by someone else.

It seems to me that for an act to be immoral, then it probably has to be due to a choice that you've made. The difference between murder and killing in self-defense is that in the latter situation, you had "no choice" but to kill the other person in order to save your own life. I put "no choice" in quotes because of course you did have a choice—you could have let them kill you to avoid taking another person's life. But, sacrificing yourself to prevent a would-be murderer from dying is not what most people would call a practical choice, and in the grand scheme of things, not particularly beneficial to society anyway. The vast majority of people would consider murder to be immoral, but I think that most would say that killing purely in self-defense is moral. So then it seems that for an act to be immoral, it has to be a choice you made that had a more ethical alternative. (Of course, things are more complex than that: in my opinion, there are plenty of situations in which you have no moral choices of action because of prior immoral choices that you've made, but I don't think that's relevant to the tasty treat at hand.)

That word practical is what I think makes taking a Charleston Chew that you didn't pay for morally acceptable. Since it's my stance that leaving the candy accomplishes nothing for the righteous forces of good since someone else will surely take it anyway, the remaining course of action is to, what, call the company that runs the vending machine and ask how you can return the candy to them? That's not practical: it's a waste of time for both you and the company given the small value of the item. They probably don't even have a procedure in place for how to accept returns of candy that was vended accidentally anyway. Are there really any other options then? Take the candy and don't feel guilty.

But what if it's not a pack of Juicy Fruit, but rather an iPod at one of those bizarre Best Buy vending machines that they have in airports? The scenario is nearly the same, except that for an item of that value, Best Buy probably does want the item back. The difference is the price. In my gut, it seems that the most moral thing to do if that happens is to take the item and find a phone number, and then either give the item to airport security or call that number and ask Best Buy what to do. That's what I would do. I would feel bad about keeping it and then exchanging it for something else in a store later.

The ethics of lost Skittles seem to score a point for moral relativism.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Reading my mind and the mind of everyone else

For the past few months it's become more and more painfully obvious just how fractured communication is for me these days.  I already have people I talk to through AIM, people that use Facebook chat, people I only email, people who only respond to Facebook messages, and even a few people I have to actually call.  Now I have people who want text messages, which actually probably encompasses some of the above people and I've just been avoiding it because my old phone is terrible and it takes an eternity to text on it.  I think texting is what made it really obvious for me: I have way too many communication methods, none of them work together, and I have to remember which people want what.  It's starting to drive me nuts.

I'd resolved to write a post about it today, and then out of the blue this week Facebook announced a new service they're building that's supposed to somehow combine IM, email, texting, and Facebook messages into a single entity, as if they'd somehow been reading my mind and the mind of everyone else who's desperately sick of it all.  I'm curious as to how well it will all work out.  I really want something like that to work out.  I'd really love it if I could text or AIM or Facebook chat with people from either my phone or any of my computers and not have to care about which one of those things I'm doing, and easily start a conversation on one and pick it up on another.  That would be pretty amazing, actually.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


I don't know what it is exactly: either the medicine that I'm taking, or just the effect of being off ibuprofen now, but I've been having a terrible time focusing on anything after eight or nine or so this past week.  The past couple days, though, I haven't been worrying too much about my calorie intake, and I've been mostly fine.  It seems that I can choose to either work on my headaches or my weight, but not both at the same time, lest my body collapse under the stress.  A few nights ago I was feeling like I could barely move, and I couldn't type or really think of anything other than just sitting and watching 30 Rock with Jason.  It was sort of like how I feel with the flu, but without the other symptoms.  It was strange and unsettling.  Certainly my body has been under stress before, whether it be school, or work, or workouts, but this was a new feeling.

This weekend I upped my calorie intake and I've been feeling mostly okay.  I'll see how this goes.

Disgust and/or horror

I should keep statistics on how people respond when they first find out that I'm from Nebraska.  But, that's work, and it's much easier to just make numbers up.  I imagine the resulting chart would look something like this:

UPDATE: I realize now that this chart also describes peoples' reactions to me saying I play World of Warcraft if you replace shock with "What server?" and confusion with "What class?"...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The collection

People occasionally ask me about the size of my music collection.  Here's how it stands as of now if you're curious:

CDs: about 650
Tracks: about 17,000
Size on disk: 214 GB

Most of those tracks are all ripped from my CD collection, though I have various free tracks, songs extracted from game files, and so on—probably a couple thousand.  Everything from my CD collection is now ripped in a lossless format so that it's full CD quality, unlike MP3.  I just finished re-ripping all of my CDs to that format; most of them were originally MP3s.  I don't recall exactly when I began that project, but it was probably eight months or so ago.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Whatever, I'm not the brain doctor

One of the more disconcerting things about the doctor visits I've had regarding my headaches is how each doctor has told me very different things about my headaches.  Among the things my doctors have not agreed on include: whether or not I have migraines, whether or not it is okay long-term to take ibuprofen all day every day, whether or not the headaches are related to caffeine, whether or not they're related to exercise, whether they're a symptom of dehydration, and so on.  Just about the only things that come to mind that they can agree on is that they might be caused by a sleep disorder, and that it's probably not worthwhile to have a head scan.

Right now my new doctor (replacing my old one because his receptionist is intolerably unresponsive and unpleasant) has me on a drug to deaden my pain while I get off of ibuprofen entirely again.  I've done this before, and it didn't work, but he thinks that after at least a month without ibuprofen, my pain will be lessened significantly.  The new replacement drug (an antidepressant) is a bit more effective than the one that the last doctor prescribed (an anti-seizure drug), but by this afternoon I was in quite a bit of pain again and it's distracting enough that I can no longer really concentrate on anything.  I've got vicodin to make up the difference.  That's right, he gave me vicodin to cure me of a dependence on a pain killer.  I'm having Requiem for a Dream flashbacks.  But whatever, I'm not the brain doctor.

So I guess I'll be seeing how that works out shortly.  It's either that or stare blankly at the wall for the rest of the evening after I lose the ability to think straight.  (I could also go fishing in WoW, which requires approximately the same mental engagement as staring blankly at the wall.)

Move it

Two days into the week, two people parking in my reserved spot.  Pretty sure that next time I'm not going to be in a "fair warning, your car is about to be towed so you'd better move it" sort of mood.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Objective reviews of medical professionals

New doctor quick review based on first visit regarding my constant headaches:

Makes me stop taking ibuprofen

Is rather cute
Talks to me in a manner that makes it seem as if he doesn't think I'm an idiot
Gives me vicodin

Is absolutely convinced that I have migraines even though every previous doctor was absolutely convinced that I did not have migraines

Ain't No Rest for the Wicked

The short version:
Maroon 5—Hands All Over: 7/10
Lady Gaga—The Fame Monster: 7/10
Collective Soul—7even Year Itch: 6/10
Cage the Elephant—Cage the Elephant: 7/10
Massive Attack—Heligoland: 5/10
Wheatus—Wheatus: 4/10
Two Fingers—Two Fingers: 6/10

I picked up Maroon 5's latest album Hands All Over.  Realistically, if you liked their first two, you'll like this one, and if you didn't, you won't—the style is essentially the same.  The opening track Misery has a neat sort of funky electronic vibe, but it doesn't really signal any real changes to the band's sound.  Runaway and No Curtain Call are great too.  There are a bunch of good songs on here, including a couple nice acoustic versions, but at some point I'm going to want something a little different after three CDs of fairly interchangeable music.  In a few months I'll have no idea which disc any given track is even from.

Lady Gaga's The Fame Monster is sort of like an expansion pack for The Fame.  It's more of the same, a little lower quality overall but pretty close.  If you have The Fame you should also have The Fame Monster, and if you don't, you shouldn't.  It's got Bad Romance, Telephone, and Alejandro.

Collective Soul's greatest hits album 7even Year Itch was a walk down memory lane.  I guess I hadn't really realized just how many years it's been since high school until I found that Jason wasn't even familiar with the band or any of the various big hits on here: Heavy, The World I Know, and several others.  There are other good songs, including Why Pt. 2, and then a bunch of okay ones.  You get a lot of decent pop-rock music for your money, and it's some nice variety for my collection.

I picked up Cage the Elephant's self-titled debut CD after hearing the wonderfully infectious Ain't No Rest for the Wicked, the theme song for the game Borderlands which Jason and I had been enjoying co-op for several weeks.  The opening track In One Ear is also excellent, and Back Stabbin' Betty is a lot of fun too.  It's very energetic rock music, and I found it a refreshing change of pace.  The other tracks on the disc are not quite as insanely catchy as my top two, but it's still fun to listen to from start to finish.

Massive Attack also has a new CD out, Heligoland.  Much of their music is pretty slow and dark, and their new work is no exception.  I like Pray for Rain, Girl I Love You, and Atlas Air, and there isn't really anything that's particularly bad, but it gets repetitive at times and isn't exactly brimming with musical energy.  It probably wouldn't have really been worth it if I weren't already collecting their music.

In a strange mood I decided to pick up the self-titled CD by Wheatus.  It's not something that I'd want to listen to very often, but it's sort of amusing occasionally if you're in the right punk-ish frame of mind.  I got the CD for Teenage Dirtbag which is quite good, and then Truffles and Hump 'em 'n' Dump 'em are both decent, apostrophe overload notwithstanding.

Finally, I picked up the debut album from Two Fingers, a collaboration between one of my favorite artists Amon Tobin and Doubleclick, producing drum-and-bass tracks that guest vocalists rap on.  It's an odd disc.  The musical style isn't exactly the same as Amon Tobin's previous work, but it's similar.  Some of the rap is questionable, and I'm wondering if I'd have been happier with an instrumental copy of the album instead.  But, it's certainly not terrible.  My favorites are That Girl, Straw Men, and What You Know.  (On a side note, I do recommend Starkey's Universe EP for fans of electronic music.  It's free if you sign up for a newsletter.)

Sort of a so-so batch of music this time.  I tried out some new bands and styles with mixed results.  Maybe next time will be better.