What Ever Happened to Visions of Sugar Plum Fairies?

Nerdy: I had a dream...
HSBP: About what?
Nerdy: I was fighting Judy Dench and Julie Andrews.
HSBP: ...umm, 'kay...
Nerdy: I was using alcohol to fight them... I doused them with it and was going to set them on fire, but the matches had gotten wet, so I was just hitting them with the whiskey bottles.
I had a brother, and we had to go rescue him...
HSBP: You were fighting Judy Dench and Julie Andrews?
Nerdy: Mean Judy Dench and Julie Andrews - they were mean. And the part of my mother was played by Brigitte Nielsen...

Merry Christmas!

I tried to write a coherent post for Christmas morning, but the rush of memories seems to defy organization. I have settled for a random listing, as they come to me...

Sausage balls for breakfast - a mixture of country sausage, cheese, and bisquick. Slightly disgusting to me now, but a delicious memory none the less.

Midnight mass - I was an altar boy, and being chosen to serve at a high holy mass was like being called up to the big leagues. Which made serving at midnight mass something akin to playing in the world series...

The Advent Wreath - it lived on the dining room table, and each evening we would light the appropriate candles before saying grace. I was a believer then, in the way children believe; no theology, no holy wars, no sectarianism. To this day, the smell of freshly extinguished candles feels like religion to me.

Christmas in California - after opening presents with family, my buddies and I would pull on our wetsuits and go to the beach. The surfing was never particularly great; it was just the idea that we almost had the beach to ourselves. I first began to associate god and nature on those chilly outings.

Christmas in North Carolina - a classic white Christmas. I was 4 or 5 I think - my sister hadn't been born, and I still believed in Santa. After midnight mass, we came home through ordinary North Carolina winter weather; freezing rain. I checked to see that my stocking was firmly attached to the mantle - with a hammer and nails I found in the basement. Adorable as this sounds, it was not a hit with my mother...
When I awoke, I rushed to the living room to find my grandmother already sitting in her rocker by the fire, sipping her coffee. She had opened the drapes on the picture window to view the fresh blanket of snow covering our front yard. I don't really recall any of the presents, but I clearly remember the dirty little snowman (there wasn't really much snow) we made in the front yard, and the snowcream (like ice cream, but made with snow) we had for desert with our Christmas dinner.

And today, Christmas in Laramie - the ground is covered with new snow, it's still snowing, and it's 17 degrees outside. Nerdy and Squid watching "The Muppet Family Christmas" on the couch, our cell phones ringing every few minutes with Merry Christmas texts, the parrots chattering in the next room, and me, sitting in the rocker composing this post. We opened the oddly inappropriate gifts our well-meaning parents sent along and ate cinnamon rolls. This is the family we made, not the families that made us - no doubt I'll write about these memories in years to come.

I hope you are making wonderful memories today as well - Merry Christmas to all!

It's not like you need a reason, but...

Do you ever wish you could really make a difference in the world? Do you want to positively effect the energy field of our planet, and decrease global tensions? Do you wish there was something you could do to effect change, without having to leave the comfort of your own home?

You're probably thinking, "well of course I do, Your Sinfulness - but what can little ol' me do?"

You can take matters into your own hands (snicker) and join in the 2nd Annual Global Orgasm Day! Yes, Global O day was such a success in 2006 that it's come again (giggle), and this time they are getting more scientific. It is sychronized for the solstice, so 06:08 GMT on December 22nd is the time to shoot (hee hee) for. That works out to Friday the 21st, at 11:08pm for those in Black Vatican City - click here to check the exact time in your area. Since it is crucial that we are simultaneous (yeah, like that ever happens...) with this, I suggest that you plan it out a bit. Maybe take yourself out for dinner, light some candles, draw a bubble bath... but I digress.

Let's all pull together (snork) and make this world a better, albeit stickier, place!

Thanks to Maximus for bringing this important observance to my attention...

Last Minute Gift Ideas

These rare collectibles make the perfect stocking stuffer for the Star Wars dork on your list!

Post-Detonation Planet Alderaan

Relive the tragic destruction of Alderaan with this box of planetary debris...

Moisture Farm Playset

The destruction of the Lars Family homestead was a turning point for Luke - let your little Padawan relive the massacre over and over (burning corpses sold seperately).

Complete your Moisture Farm Playset with these lifelike smoldering corpses of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru (not that you can tell them apart...)

To complete your Sith-Lord-to-be's education about death...

...it's that lovable furry little Ewok that gets gunned down in Return of the Jedi! Rendered here in lifelike detail with no visible wounds, just like in the film.

Last, but certainly not least, The Force Action(?) Figure!

Oh, it's in there... I mean, it's everywhere, right?

The truly hardcore Star Wars fans out there have already seen these no doubt, but I stumbled upon them only a few days ago on McMorran.Org. A link to it would probably have sufficed, but since the author there bitched about his bandwidth problems and I'm a content whore, I stole the post pretty much wholesale.

Almost In

So... I've been accepted, sort of. Barring anything going stupid, I will be spending a lot of time in the building to the right, Ross Hall (home of the Sociology Department).

My undergrad adviser has told me that I'm in. The grad adviser has said, "there shouldn't be any problem" with my admission.... but I don't have that letter in my hand yet.

The letter is important; it, and a few keystrokes that change my status at the Registrar's office are required to unlock my federal funding. Until I have that letter, there is still the chance that I will be denied due to some damn loophole. Not a good feeling.

Despite that, I have enrolled in the graduate classes that my advisor suggested for me. I think the people who write catalog entries for grad classes go out of their way to make the class sound as terrifying and time consuming as possible. Observe:

SOC 4500. Sociology of Organizations.
Considers questions of organizational structure, decision-making, work situation and organizational environment across various types of industrial settings and cultures. Emphasizes transactions between organizations and their various environments and effects of these transactions for program implementation, as well as understanding of organizational effectiveness in terms of rational, institutional and societal perspectives.

I'm a good student. When I am actually interested in the topic, I am one of the best students around. In spite of this, I'm a little worried about my classes for next semester. It's a pleasant sort of anxiety, accompanied by a sense of finally getting back in the groove. I never really adapted to being just a working person.

Studying is really my vocation; I just work to fund the studying. Actually, financial aid funds the studying, so I guess I really just work for pizza money...

Chinlone Revisited

A while back I came across a beautiful sport/art called Chinlone. Some of you may remember this as the subject of the least visited post on this blog in years... so naturally, I'm doing a follow-up post.

Above you see a modern Chinlone ball. Rather than rattan it's made of plastic, which makes it pretty much immune to the changes in humidity which are the death of the traditional balls. I ordered it when I saw the video, and it finally arrived last weekend. I've given it a kick or two, and some of my old hacky-sack skills have resurfaced, but it's really tough to control. My respect for the Chinlone players in Mystic Ball the movie has increased immensely.

Along with the Chinlone ball, I also ordered a kinja (jianzi in Chinese). As you can see, it's basically a big shuttlecock for your feet. Although I still look like I'm having some sort of seizure when I play with it, I am able to keep it in the air somewhat better than the Chinlone ball. It makes a unique clacking sound with each kick that is kind of hypnotic.

Both of these toys are a killer workout. Thirty minutes of intensely kicking either will leave you drenched in sweat, and it's far more fun than the elliptical machine could ever be. It also stretches and strengthens the legs as you try to keep it under control. I can't imagine how strenuous the competitive (over a net) version of this game would be. In addition, to all these health benefits the kinja also offers an unexpected bonus...

All this time I thought ninjas had to train at obscure locations in Asia. Had I known, I would have bought one of these a long time ago...

Ministry Trivia

Ok, pop quiz...
Aside from the obvious awesomeness of the service featured therein, what was special about Monday's post, Research Aid?

Ten extra-credit points for the the first correct answer.

Research Aid

This will probably be of no interest to the non-students in my readership, but I feel compelled to pass it on anyway...
If you are called upon to write academic papers, you know that collecting the data in one place can be a pain. If you were in school before the coming of teh intertubez, you will remember trying to organize stacks of index cards and piles of xerox copies so you could write your draft. You might also remember counting the lines of your rough draft so you could get your footnotes to fit on the bottom of the page, or formatting your paper through cutting and pasting - with actual scissors and paste.

I remember. I remember transcribing quotations by hand directly from books onto index cards along with the citation information. Imagine my surprise when I found a service that will insert the quote into your document for you along with parenthetical or footnote style citation, keep track of all sources used, and then create the bibliography for you.

Questia does that, and a lot more. It is an online library with more than 67,000+ books, and 1,500,000+ journal, magazine, and newspaper articles and approximately 7000 reference bibliographies on frequently researched topics. You can organize the books you need into a virtual bookshelf for easy reference, and you can create folders for multiple projects. The books are reproduced with the original pagination so you can cite them accurately, and the software records every citation as you go, so you can create a bibliography instantly, in MLA, APA, Turabian, Chicago, or ASA style.

I just used it to write a paper on Freud's view of religion as presented in his book, The Future of an Illusion. While reading the text in their library, you simply highlight the section you wish to quote and select the style of citation you need - Questia downloads it to your Word document in the proper format. Can't remember where your quote is? The entire text is searchable.

The only catch is that it is not a free service. It's $19.95 a month - or $44.95 per quarter, or $99.95 per year (there is "lifetime" membership of $399.95, too). I estimate that it shaved about two hours off the writing time for this last paper, so it is absolutely worth $20 a month to me.

There's also a referral system; you can get months of service for free by getting your friends to sign up. They put your username down as the referrer (mine is LinusF if you are so inclined) and Questia credits your account.

Ok, my nerdy gushing about this is over now. Not my best post ever, but at least it's not about cheese...

Cheeses from Hell

Spinnenkäse - cheese made by spiders

Well, mites actually. The cheese mite (Tyroglyphus casei), to be precise. Quite the industrious little fellows, these cheese mites. The village of Würchwitz, Germany, even has this statue to honor them.
You see, Würchwitz is the home of Spinnenkäse, which is more accurately called Milbenkäse (mite cheese). They take a big wedge of Quark (kind of like cream cheese), add caraway and salt, then put it in a box infested with cheese mites. The mites work on the cheese - and by "work" I mean "excrete" and by "on the cheese" I mean, um... "on the cheese" - and in three months the rind turns a reddish brown. At this stage the cheese is ready for consumption, but more serious afficianados allow the mites to "work" for up to a year, at which point the rind turns black. The cheese is consumed along with the live mites in the rind. The flavor is said to be like a bitter Harzer.

Why didn't I think of that? Spiders and cheese are such an obvious combination...

Casu Marzu - cheese that requires eye protection...

If I'm ever in Sardinia, I want to try this stuff. Casu Marzu literally means "rotten cheese," but the locals call it "maggot cheese." Apparently, introducing the larvae of the cheese fly (Piophila casei) to an otherwise perfectly fine wheel of Pecorino creates, according to a Wall Street Journal reporter, "a viscous, pungent goo that burns the tongue and can affect other parts of the body". It's usually eaten on pane carasau, the local traditional flatbread. The catch is that the larvae are still alive - in fact, the lack of live larvae is held to indicate that the rotting process has gone too far and the cheese is no longer safe [sic] to eat. These larvae are energetic little maggots, and they are reported to be able to jump up to six inches - hence the need for eye protection.

Makes dryer cheese sound wholesome and delicious....

Grad School - update

My application is in, my transcripts and GRE scores have been received, and my fee is paid - all that remains now is for three professors to submit letters of recommendation. Since I'm applying for Spring admission, I should know very soon.

Oddly, when I went to talk to my profs, two of them tried to talk me out of getting a degree in Sociology. One said to me, "Sociology of Religion? Do you EVER want to have a job?!" The other suggested that I could pursue an MFA in ceramics with equal likelihood of gainful employment.

Depressing? Somewhat, but relative poverty seems to suit me. This blog is certainly more interesting when I am not up to my eyeballs in a real job. One of my profs suggested that I have become a member of the clerisy (learned persons as a class) and he welcomed me aboard warmly. I think I have always been an ersatz member, but soon I could have the actual credentials to be considered one of the literati. It doesn't pay well, but all that smugness sure helps keep you warm at night...

Your Personal Prophecy

Although I clearly suffer from a messianic complex, I have never considered myself particularly prophetic. Although I sometimes predict outcomes, it is always based on an observation of human nature rather than hearing a divine message. I would be remiss as your internet spiritual leader if I didn't do something to address this lack. To that end, I direct you to Bishop Jordan.

After the cool jazz intro ends, click on "Free Prophecies Are Back! Click here to get yours!" If you enter some personal info (so they can put you on their mailing list) the Bishop will ask the Holy Spirit about you, and then tell you what it said. It's like in elementary school when you ask your friend to ask that cute boy if he likes you...

Naturally, I signed up for a free prophecy immediately, and I'll let you know how it goes when I receive it. The existence of "free" prophecies leads me to believe that there are probably paid prophecies as well. I'll keep you posted on that front as it develops.

I love stuff like this; job security for folks like me, and fun for the whole Flock.