Wheels, update

Turns out that the body shop my insurance company wants to use can't work on my car until the 19th of May. Rather than make you all wait, I decided to post the damage photos now.


The Popemobile is looking really rough lately. The front end has been a bit wonky since this asshat with a $200 pickup backed into it in 2006. It's been hanging on since then by way of bailing wire and good intentions. It has been hit a few times since then, too. I frequently park on a very busy street by campus, and it's clearly been nicked by passing cars on several snowy, icy days. I had to cut the plastic inner wheel well away on the driver's side to keep it from flapping at higher speeds. It really looks like crap.

The other day, as I backed out the entire bumper assembly and grill fell off. Just fell off in the parking space. Getting out of your car and trying to make the front bumper fit into the trunk is a special kind of embarrassment.

I decided that it was time to finally claim this problem on my insurance. I took it in for estimates as they instructed me. I was hoping that it would be cheap enough to justify just paying for it myself and not even claiming it. As I played with the body shop's dog, the owner tabulated the parts he would need to repair it. As the printer cranked out the list of parts and labor he quietly said, "It's $2308 so far."

So far?

Turns out that the estimate was just a preliminary one - could be as much as 15% more than that. Gone was any illusion of just paying for it myself. I have never made a claim on my car insurace - that's right; NEVER. So this time, I'm paying the $500 deductible, and I want it fixed like new.

All this car stuff got me to thinking about buying a new one. I have promised myself that I will get something new when I am done with my Master's. Here is my current favorite:The Smart fortwo passion coupe, in black with black on black. It's still gas powered, but hopefully by the time I am ready for a new car the spiffy electric version, currently only available in Europe, will be available here.

In other vehicle news, the WOB is dying an ugly death. I'm a big guy, and I put a lot of stress on the old girl. The Shimano 333 hub in the back wheel is slowly grinding itself into oblivion - every time I ride it, it makes alarming clicking sounds, and it slips on occasion. Soon it will click for the last time, and either seize up completely or slip for good. I have looked into getting it rebuilt, and even looked at replacing it with a spiffy new Shimano internal 8 speed, but the WOB really needs more work than that. The front rim has a horrible lump in it, and the brakes are very old technology (very old, very scary technology). They have almost no stopping power in wet conditions; you have to dry the pads by holding the brakes on lightly for quite a while, and even then you'd better not be going downhill.

If I had the guys at the Pedal House replace the front rim, build a new rear wheel with an internal hub, and replaced the brakes, I could extend the WOB's life for another few years - or, for about the same amount, I could have a new bike. Although I am very much attached to the idea of internal hub transmissions, I am leaning toward an Electra Amsterdam Balloon Eight. I would love to add a picture here, but this bike is so new that there aren't any pics out there yet except those found on the Electra website - which I can't easily swipe. Go there and click on the men's Balloon Eight. If you don't love it, we can't be friends anymore.

While I wrote this, my insurance company called and gave the ok for the $2300 repair... I'll put up some before and after pics when it is done.

Nearly There...

This semester is winding down, and I'll be glad to see it go. I have turned in the two big papers that have had me at the library and computer labs until all hours of the night. I've presented one already and I present the other one on Saturday. After that, I have only to study for two finals, and neither is comprehensive.

For the first time since I returned to college in 2001, I've not really enjoyed the term. I am not a fan of any form of math, and I have struggled with my stats class all semester. Add to that another professor who is a complete tool (let's call him "Dr. Tool") , and that leaves me with only one class that I enjoyed this time around. Hopefully my two summer session classes will be better - I'm taking Athenian Democracy (History and PoliSci) and a philosophy class on fate and free will.

In an interesting turn of events, one of my classmates has filed a formal complaint against Dr. Tool. He asked all of us to submit our thoughts on the class, the grading criteria, and his teaching style. My gut reaction to those three questions is, "it sucks, they suck, he sucks," but I have refrained from shooting of an email to that effect to the department head. I have to take another class from Dr. Tool in the Fall and I don't want my name associated with a complaint. Not yet anyway...

At any rate, it is nearly over. I am looking forward to playing some badminton tonight, and I hope to get a good run in tomorrow - I need to de-stress. I am also going to be working on the next post in my series on the Dharma of the Game. This time I'll be talking about losing as the catalyst for personal betterment.

I Need Frosting. Vegan Frosting.

It's 2:19am. Or 02:19 hours for the military set. And I am TIRED. Silly tired. Tired like I might try to get to the upper floors of the bio labs and free the rats. ALL OF THE RATS.

"Flee my furry brethren! Run! Run from this life of testing and bad pelleted food! Rush as fast as your little pink toes will carry you to Old Main, where we will take over the President's Office, have a sit in, and groom one another!"

THAT kind of silly. The kind of silly where eating Smarties until the inside of your mouth is raw and your heart rate is about 220 sounds like a great idea... Stick two pixie stix up each nostril and snort really hard kind of silly... strike up a conversation with the homeless woman in the lab breezeway kind of silly.

Long-time readers will recognize this brand of silly. It's the BS37 kind of silly.

Yes, I have returned to my nocturnal haunt of BS37, the all night computer lab. I am a user this time, but it's still pretty much the same cast of characters. The sleepy, the procrastinators, the foreign students... I must confess, however, that it's just not the same without Pretty Russian Girl.

If you don't know who Pretty Russian Girl is, ju got some archive searchin' to do, Lucy... you must know the Pretty Russian Girl, so you can know the angst of the late night labbie, who sits and admires her, but never actually talks to her. Because he is lame.

Actually, tonight's labbie is a hulking brute who clearly doesn't trust me. He keeps looking at me, like I'm suddenly going to pour water on the keyboard, light my shoe on fire, and start spouting verses from the Koran. I should, just to fuck with him.

I did meet a cute girl tonight, actually. And I talked to her even. She was nice, even if she did think I had some bizarre condition caused by the unholy union of tourettes and leprosy... and a goiter.

I'm having some self-esteem issues right now, ok? Just let it go. Just fuck it - let's get some pop rocks at the mini mart. No matter how bad I feel about myself, the sad fucker working at the mini mart at this time of night is feeling worse.

I started this post with an idea. It is gone now. Like so many good ideas that I have, it got lost in the slush pile inside my head. It will lay there, like an undiscovered Harry Potter manuscript, until some editor (oh yeah, my head has editors - doesn't yours?) needs something to read while he sits on the can.

I got an email from a seriously old skool Flocker, just a bit ago. We talked about Evil Dead and I made dick jokes - it was just like old times. I'm not sure if that's comforting or disturbing...

So... time for sleep. Sleep is for the weak. The weak get no cookies. Mmmmmm cookies... We have Oreos at home. Oreos are vegan. I'm a vegan. We have so much in common, Oreos and I...

It's 2:38. The rats can't wait much longer.

LOOK! They're NAKED!


Today we bring you one of my favorite NRMs ("New Religious Movements"), the quirky little cult known as Summum. (Don't forget to click on the "Gift Shop" link!)

It all began in 1975, when Salt Lake City native Claude Rex Nowell ("Corky" to his family and friends) encountered some highly intelligent folks that he called "Summa Individuals." They taught him about the true nature of creation... so, naturally he changed his name to Summum Bonum Amen Ra, and wrote a book about their teachings.

Well, re-wrote a book, actually. The original, called The Kybalion was published in the early 1900s by "the Three Initiates." It's supposed to be a culmination of the teachings of Hermes Trismegistus, a syncretism of the Greek god, Hermes and the Egyptian God, Thoth. Yes - a syncretism; "the attempted reconciliation or union of different or opposing principles, practices, or parties, as in philosophy or religion."
(syncretism. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved April 16, 2008, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/syncretism)

Ol' Corky felt that the Three Initiates had not gotten it quite right, so he updated The Kybalion and published it under the name "Summum - Sealed Except to the Open Mind." Corky Ra has published other books as well, and has built a pyramid... in Utah.

Yeah. UTAH. They even managed to get a license to brew wine in Utah. Well, Corky and company call it "Nectar Publications" but the government calls it wine. Summum is Utah's first federally bonded winery. Get it? A guy named "Corky" owns a winery... This is better than anything I might make up!

I know what you're thinking - "What good is a pyramid without mummies?" Well, Corky has you covered there too. Turns out the Corkster was a licensed funeral director in the state of California, and he has become known as the "father of modern mummification." He will happily mummify you or your pets.
Corky has actually made being the Mummy Lord of Utah a pretty lucrative gig. The "mummiforms" you see at left are not cheap - their website says that animal mummifications range from $6,000 to $128,000, depending on the weight of the animal. I assume human mummies are much more expensive, as the prices for that aren't even listed.

I am officially suggesting that the Flock all gather at the gates of the Summum Pyramid in Salt Lake City, dressed as mummies. Then we should sing "How Dry I Am" until they give us wine! Who's with me?!

I'm coming for you, Corky. You and your little mummy cat, Oscar, too...

The Mission

Ok, so I haven't posted in two weeks...

I've been busy, naturally, but that's no excuse. I have maintained a heroic posting schedule at more hectic times.

I've been struggling with some personal issues, but that's no excuse either. The months at the end of one of my worst relationships were some of the most prolific on this blog (thanks, 'bina).

No, the real problem is my endemic ennui. Clearly, I was born in the wrong century. It is evident that my natural leadership qualities, noble bearing, hearty appetite, and genteel manners would be better suited to a Lord of a manor, of the 18th or even an earlier century. What form of time-slip might have brought me to this time and place is a mystery, but vestigial pre-memories of my proper time are a constant companion and torment to me. Where is the Doctor when you need him?

I have also considered that it might have been a simple mix-up at the hospital - perhaps they laid me in the wrong crib, whilst the yokel I replaced became the scion of the Vanderbildts. (It could happen - I was born in North Carolina, after all...)

Whatever the case, I am here now and the dissatisfaction I feel, although real, is ultimately futile. There is nothing to do but lace my boots a bit tighter and continue to march through the muck. Although I am not in the vanguard of this corps, I think I may have an important assignment, nonetheless.

You see, I am the comic relief. And if you do see that, you may also see that I am only just now coming to that realization. My role here is not Prince, or even Knight Errant, but rather Jester. I am here to point and jeer, without noticing that the scene I gape at is actually a mirror, and the actors I ridicule are none other than my friends and me, dancing this tired academic pavane.

One might think this awakening would be painful, but I am so inured to the bumps and potholes of this road, that I hardly noticed. In fact, I am liberated by the lessening of responsibilities. I now have carte blanche to mock and lampoon to my heart's content, and no one shall be safe - not even me.

Rules of the Game

When I am learning a game, I frequently check the rules, to make sure I am playing it correctly. The rulebooks usually have handy section titles so you can look up the type of rule you are seeking. For my favorite games these usually include names like "the serve," "scoring," and "rallies."

In addition to answering rule questions, these little section titles can tell you a lot about the experience you're going to have while playing. For example, I found this in an online rulebook for Squash:


Followed shortly by:


Now THAT'S a fun game!

Squash also uses some great terminology. In some circles, a player who chases down back court shots (instead of hitting them on the fly as they go by him) is called a "lab." (As in Labrador - because he's a "retriever"...)

Squash players also say that a bad return was "not up." I agree with this terminology completely - it's no good if it's not up. Am I right ladies?

I decided to check the other rulebooks for section titles. In Handball I found:

I. DRY BALLS. (Sounds itchy.)

J. BROKEN BALLS. (That's got to be a penalty, right?)

And Racquetball is just plain scary:


Nothing like that in the Badminton rules, but there is a racquet terminology section that goes into great detail on "head," "throat," and "shaft"...