Fresh like Spring

This morning, as I rode to work in the rain, wearing my waterproof rain gear, looking like the sun Tulip - Fresh(because it’s all bright yellow)…I was refreshed. There was a feeling of calm and serenity that washed over me as the rain pelted my helmet and glasses. Everything felt right in my world. It was as if the spring rain was draining away all my anxiety and frustration and confusion over various things. So, today is a new day. A new day where the world has a chance to right itself. At least in my mind.

Also, I want to be the first (probably the first) to say to my lovely wife:

CONGRATULATIONS ON FINISHING

GRADUATE SCHOOL WITH YOUR MPA!

She’s worked very hard these last few years and I think she’s the most brilliant, intelligent woman and I love her very much. She means the world to me and I wouldn’t be where I am today without her.

See you in the funny papers!

Light at the end of the tunnel

I’m approaching the end of the semester which has elicited several emotions. I’m dreading finals (one on Wednesday and one on Monday); I’m thrilled that the semester is basically over; I’m relieved that I handed in my major paper yesterday; and I’m anxious about starting my senior thesis in the fall. All of these emotions coupled with the onset of mowing season (yay.) and the desire to be outside more (not mowing!) have collided into a weird mood. And the fact that the Red Sox swept the Yankees (ha, ha!) this weekend sweetens the deal.

I had a great weekend with C in St. Louis. We attended the Juan/Michelle wedding and it was beautiful. Image provided by Ballparks.com Located in a gorgeous church on the SLU campus, it was perfect weather for a beautiful wedding. Also, got to meet some very interesting people, most intriguing were Karen and Mahshood. And Karen, if you somehow read this some day, thanks for the tip on Robert Smithson. If they didn’t live so far away, I think we could be great friends. I was also able to get a tour of the new Busch Stadium in St. Louis which is gorgeous. It’s amazing what $400 million will buy you. All in all, it was wonderful.  And, I got a new hat to go in the collection.

In other news:

  • I was able to begin planting in the backyard last night. We have 5 new arborvitae in the ground as a precursor to planting a new flower garden. Also, if you have a nice old birdbath that’s in decent shape, we’d love to talk to you about rescuing it.
  • The mini-Marathon is this coming weekend. I feel like I’m in pretty good shape. I think we’re going to have decent weather. My goal time is 2:28:51. You can see a March to the Mini update here.
  • My Red Sox are in first place after a 3-game sweep of the Yankees this weekend.  Way to go boys!  Looking for a pennant this year!  And, maybe another ring!  WOohoO!
  • Looking forward to a vacation in a couple weeks, C and I are going to Hilton Head for a relaxing getaway.  Many thanks to T & P for the use of their condo.
  • I’m gonna need some new running shoes soon as I’m approaching 300 miles on the ones I’m currently running in.  I think I might switch from adidas to something new.  It depends on what the running store recommends.  Pearl Izumi has some nice SyncroFloat shoes that look very comfortable.

That about covers it.  See you in the funny papers!

Tragedy in all forms

I’ve been struggling with writing lately. I have a paper due and I really need to write it, but I keep putting it off. Also, you may have noticed that I haven’t posted to the Conspiracy since late last week. Again, putting it off. I suppose I’m waiting for inspiration on both counts. Regardless, some of the planets have aligned enough for me to put together some thoughts this morning.

The tragedy at Virginia Tech is heartbreaking. It hits home all the more because I work at a university and when things like this happen, you spend a lot of time thinking about how it happened and what would you do in that situation. Unfortunately, I can’t come up with anything. Certainly I would make an attempt to hide or barricade the office door, but I really don’t know what would happen. However, my point is that 32 people died, senselessly, and there is naturally an outpouring of emotion from all corners.

On another front, today in Baghdad, bombs killed 33 people and injured dozens more. The problem is, no one really noticed. I wouldn’t have noticed had it not been on the same page as other news. But the paradox of 32 young Americans dying in a senseless tragedy and 33 Iraqis dying in a senseless tragedy and the attention (or lack thereof) paid to both is confusing. Why do we not mourn the deaths of all people regardless of who they are or where they’re from; they’re still human are they not?

A writer to my local paper this morning suggested arming professors with concealed weapons as a way to quell or, at the very least, diminish the loss in instances such as the Virginia Tech massacre. What a highly illogical and ill-formed idea! The idea of adding more guns to an already volatile situation is definitely the way to go. Why not have Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday in charge of campus security? Some people are just idiots.

Another lesser tragedy would be that I had too much wine at a party last night and I really can’t form any more thoughts at this point.

See you in the funny papers!

List O’ Books and more

The directions:

Look at the list of books below.

  • Bold the ones you’ve read.
  • Italicise the ones you want to.
  • Asterisk the movie adaptations you’ve seen.
  • Don’t do anything to the ones that you aren’t interested in.

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)*
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)*
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)*
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)*
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)*
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)*

8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)*
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)*
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Rowling)*
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)*
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)*
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks) (unfortunately)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand) (okay, most of it, but not all of it)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. Bible (okay, again, most of it, but not all of it…and I think I’ve seen several movie depictions of several stories)
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)*
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)*

56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)*
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)*
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Victor Hugo)*
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)*
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)*
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)*
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)*
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMavrier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down (Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)*
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

And if that weren’t enough…

1.Introduce yourself:
I’m Aaron, proprietor of this piece of the web. I go by the moniker Guinness74.

2. It’s Wednesday at noon, where are you usually?
At work. My lunch hour is usually later.

3. What kind of laundry detergent do you use?
Tide at the moment. But I could be swayed.

4. What brand of shampoo is in your shower right now?
Suave, the two-in-one shampoo/conditioner that saves me time and money.

5. Did you ever get into a bar and drink before you were 21?
Yes, I got into Phoenix Hill Tavern at age 17 to see Leon Redbone. Thanks Greg!

6.Do you watch MTV anymore?
Not since they stopped playing music.

8. What do you think about Oprah?
I think she interrupts people too much, but I think she has a good heart and spirit and the money with which to get things done.

9.What color are your bedsheets?
Well, we have a set of off-white, white, red flannel, light green (I think), and then there are a couple sets upstairs that I don’t know the color of.

10. You need a new pair of jeans..what store do you go first?
Wherever C takes me, ’cause honestly, I prefer her opinion of how I look in jeans to my own opinion.

11. have you ever watched the O.C.?
No, and thank goodness, and I don’t ever intend to…not even accidentally.

12. What kind of car do you drive?
I drive a 2003 Giant hybrid bike. And then when I need to drive, I drive a mid-90s Honda Civic.

13. Honestly, is that car insured?
Yes.

14. Do you like sushi?
I could really just sit down at Maido and eat from cover to cover on their menu. That’s how much I love sushi.

15. Have you ever been to Tiffany & Co. or Saks 5th Ave?
I’ve walked by Tiffany & Co., that’s about it.

16. Did your parents spoil you growing up?
I wouldn’t say I was spoiled. But, I recall many moments from my life when I got what I needed and several times things I wanted when I know we didn’t have the money for that sort of thing.

17. Do you like roller coasters?
No. Although, I did like that Thunder Mountain railroad ride at Disneyworld.

18. What magazine(s) do you buy regularly or subscribe to?
None anymore. We’ve curtailed our magazine habit significantly.

19. Favorite childhood cartoon?
The one where Daffy Duck is Robin Hood and Porky Pig is Friar Tuck. I swear that’s the best cartoon of all time.

20. When you go out do you prefer to go to a dance club or to a bar where you can chill with friends?
I can barely remember the last time I went out, but I think it was a bar. I hate dancing.

21. What do you think about gay marriage?
I can’t believe it’s such an issue for people.

22. Who do you think will be the next president?
Just so long as it’s not someone named Bush.

23. Are you registered to vote?
Yes, proudly.

24. Do you own an iPod?
I do have an iPod that I run with.

25. Is your bathroom filled with beauty stuff?
C informed the other day while cleaning out the bathroom that I had 6 types of hair “product” in my drawer. In all fairness, 2 were almost empty.

26. What kind of cologne/perfume do you wear?
None.

27. Do you like Carrie Underwood?
Who is Carrie Underwood?

28. Been to “The Vegas”?
No, but I want to go.

29. How far away do you live from your parents?
Roughly 11-13 miles depending on the route you take.

30. Are you happy with your job?
Actually, pretty happy.  I just got the best review I’ve ever gotten at the university.

31. Is there a job that you would do for free?
I think, ultimately, all jobs would get old after a while.  But I think I could probably be a toy tester, like Tom Hanks in “Big.”

32. What did you get in the mail today?
I haven’t checked the mail today, but probably nothing.

33. How do you like your steak cooked?
Medium.

34. Britney Spears…ready to have a nervous break down or just having fun?
I stopped paying attention to Britney after she got married the first time.

35. What do you usually order at Taco Bell?
7-layer burrito and nachos supreme.

36. What is your favorite sport?
Baseball…Baseball…BASEBALL!

37. Have you ever been to Mt Rushmore?
No…but someday.

38. Is it just me, or do most modern movies suck?
It’s just you.  Some modern movies are pretty decent.  Finding Nemo was a great movie.

39. Are surveys like the cocaine of MySpace?
I didn’t know MySpace did cocaine.

40. Where is your favorite place (that you have actually been to)?
Fenway Park, Boston, MA

41. What is your favorite scent?
My wife’s hair.

42. Do you believe places can really be haunted?
I think people want places to be haunted and they find reasons to think that.

43. Bud Light, Miller Lite, Coors Light?
D, none of the above.

44. Have you ever been to NYC or LA?
I’ve been to NYC a couple times actually.

45. How many states have you been to where all you saw was the airport?
I once took a field trip in middle school specifically to see the airport in Atlanta.  How lame.

46. Do you think 50 questions is enough?
After that book list…yes.

47. Are you currently planning a trip?
We’re always planning a trip.  First to St. Louis this month, then possibly to Hilton Head in May.  Maybe to New York in June.  And who knows about the fall.

48. Is Ryan Seacrest gay?
Who’s Ryan Seacrest?

49. What makes you laugh?
My own jokes.

50. Have you ever googled your name and found out somebody famous or semi famous has your same name?
Nope, just me.

Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut, whose dark comic talent and urgent moral vision in novels like “Slaughterhouse-Five,” “Cat’s Cradle” and “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater” caught the temper of his times and the imagination of a generation, died Wednesday night in Manhattan.

More about the story here

I only ever read one book by Kurt Vonnegut. It was “Slaughterhouse-Five” and to be honest, I don’t think I understood it. I tend to take things too literally and very rarely do I find the allegory in stories. It’s possible that Mr. Vonnegut was beyond me. I’ve heard that “Breakfast of Champions” is a good read and maybe at some point I’ll pick that one up. Not today, as my shelf is currently overloaded with books that have been loaned, borrowed, or bought that I may never finish reading.

Still, I think it’s important that we cherish great writers and what they offer to the world. I think too often we’re caught up in the fast world of entertainment and advertisement and we fail to notice the true genius of those whose art requires a little more effort. So with that in mind, I challenge you to pick up any Vonnegut book this month and read something that could change your view of the world.

In other news, 3294 American servicemen and women have been killed in Iraq since the beginning of the occupation of that country on March 19, 2003.  So it goes.

See you in the funny papers!

The Run is the thing.

Admittedly, I don’t have a lot of long-term focus. It has taken me an inordinate amount of time to complete a degree of higher learning from my alma mater. I have the most meager of skills at playing the organ, because I only managed about a month or two worth of lessons before my teacher left town and I didn’t bother finding a new one. And my gardening skills lasted roughly a half a year, then I just let the tomatoes take over the yard. So, I don’t have the best track record for accomplishing tasks that I start.Papa John’s 10 Miler, 2007

However, running is something that I set goals for and accomplish. Last year, my goal was to finish the half marathon (which I did). This year the goal was to run faster (every race has set a new PR) and to finish the half marathon in 2:30 or less (still to be decided). So, apparently, I can set goals and carry through, but it has to be on my terms. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of opportunities in life for you to set goals and complete them on your own terms, there are always someone else’s rules to follow. Even my Lenten sacrifice of meat for 40 days ran into some issues with the “rules” laid down by various religious sects as to what constitutes the 40 days, is Sunday a feast-day and therefore not part of the 40 days, do I still have to abstain from meat during those 40 days. This is merely an example…and a minor one at that. Because honestly, I don’t think God cares if I eat bacon on the 40th day or the 45th day, or at all really.

So, not that I really had a point when I started this post, I’m basically just rambling about goals and the need or desire to finish them. See me at the finish line on April 28. March to the Mini update

See you in the funny papers.

Happy Easter!


Peter and John going to the tomb at Easter

Originally uploaded by ConspiracyofHappiness.

I was in awe of this painting at the Musee D’Orsay in Paris. The hopeful look on John’s face; the disbelief on Peter’s face. And, the look of fear in both of them on that first Easter morning. Regardless of your feelings about religion, this painting must draw you in on some level…because I have to believe that at some point, you’ve had this experience. I hope you have a wonderful Easter day and enjoy every moment with those you love.

Reclaiming TV and other stuff

ROME (Reuters) – The president of Italian state broadcaster RAI has lost his uphill battle to scrap highly popular reality TV shows he considers base and degrading from its channels, at least for now. Claudio Petruccioli had recommended RAI drop the programs from next year, saying they “put people into environments that are both unrealistic and coercive, leading inevitably to unreasonable if not degrading behavior.”  Link to rest of the story

Okay, here’s something I didn’t suspect I would say, but I think that Italian TV may be on to something.  This story is very dear to my heart oddly enough.  Now, I’m not saying that TV should be censored, but I think that we as a society should take a long hard look at what we consider entertainment and possibly rethink some of the shows we bother with.   And, I’m not even talking about Supernanny and Dancing with the Stars now.  I’m talking Fear Factor and Survivor and the guy who just repeats “Git-r-done” over and over.  These shows are detrimental to society in my opinion.  Also, possibly NASCAR and the infomercial guy who screams at you to buy Oxiclean.

In other news, I’m currently in the midst of Holy Week.  I’ve got 4 services and a choir rehearsal under my belt.  Only 4 more services to go and then I’m done until April 15.  My voice is shuddering as I type this because I’m fighting off a host of allergy symptoms in addition to this cold snap which if I remember correctly is termed “dogwood winter.”  I’ve been downing antihistamine and hot chocolate in mass quantities.

I had another flat tire yesterday, so that’s part of what I’ll be doing tomorrow is replacing the inner tube.  It’s very frustrating to find a flat on your main mode of transportation.  And for those of you who don’t know, you can’t just open the trunk on a bike and put on the spare.  It’s a lengthy process and a pain in the butt…and of course it’s the back tire with the chain and all.  Very exciting.

And on top of all that, the grass needs to be mowed, I’ve got 5 shrubs to plant, a project due in Quant. Methods that I’ve barely started on and, OH, I’m running 13 miles at the end of the month and I haven’t even run this week at all.

So, in lieu of doing any of that…here’s the Friday Five:

  1. What’s your routine when you sit down to read a newspaper? Sports section first, always.  I flip immediately to the baseball scores, specifically the Red Sox to see how they did and then to the standings to see if they’re ahead of the Yankees.  Today was a good day.  Read about Dice-K’s performance here. Then, if I have time, I check out the political cartoons in the back of the main section and then the obituaries.  My mother says if you’re in the obituaries in the morning, you don’t have to go to work that day.  Sage advice in my opinion.
  2. When you fire up your web-browser on a typical day, what’s your browsing routine? I usually check my gmail, then I open up my website to check if there are any comments.  Then I check the latest posts from Boing Boing and New Scientist.  I might stray over to Facebook after that, or I might get down to work…depending on my mood.
  3. It’s time to tidy up your living space!  In what order do you normally tackle things? I generally start with dumping all the recyclables in to the bin.  Then, I replace everything in a nice tidy order.  If I’m really cleaning, I’ll actually put away things that don’t need to be out and I’ll sweep the floor.  Dusting is always last on my list of priorities.
  4. Holy cow!  It’s time to start thinking about Christmas shopping!  How do approach this annual, sometimes-daunting task? I check with C to see if she’s thought about it.  She will then set about buying and wrapping gifts with my invaluable, albeit limited, input.  I really have very little to do with the process at all.
  5. What’s your method for paying bills?  C likes to write checks.  Would that it were up to me, I would pay everything I could online.  Still, she generally writes out the bills and I make sure we have enough money in the account to cover the checks she writes.

So, that should just about do it for today.  See you in the funny papers!

The Ice Man Cometh, Spring Edition

In Paris, just down the hill from our hotel, there was a little boulangerie. It was just across the street from a fresh flower shopFresh Bread that had the best smell…that is, until you got into the boulangerie. The smell of fresh bread…I mean, literally, freshly baked bread that morning, probably in that very shop was intoxicating. Every morning, I would walk down the hill to the boulangerie and, in mangled French, purchase “deux pain au chocolat” from the meek “mademoiselle” and then trudge back up the hill to the hotel to share that morning’s breakfast with the love of my life. It was the perfect way to start the day and I miss it very much.

Especially so this morning. The alarm went off and I begged it to stop several times before finally rising in the cold to start my day. I hopped on my bike and cursed the cold as the wind whipped across my face during the downhill portion of my ride. I only had time to kiss my wife goodbye before leaving, much less share breakfast. I want to be Parisian again.

In other, less depressing, news, today is the day when the world gets its first glimpse at Daisuke Matsuzaka on the major league stage. Granted, if you haven’t heard Dice-Kabout this guy, you’re possibly the last person on earth who hasn’t. He’s the Japanese pitching phenom that the Red Sox basically paid $100 million for; the one with the supposed ‘gyroball’ pitch that is probably not even real; the one whose every move has been documented on two continents for the past four months. Still, if you need help with that…I have a picture. He’s pitching against the Kansas City Royals this afternoon at roughly 2:20 p.m. Parade to follow the game…most likely. Boston hasn’t been this jazzed about something since Paul Revere rode a horse through town in the middle of the night.

If you want to be one of the cool kids, his nickname is “Dice-K”, which is very hip-hop/bling sounding and has the added element of having a baseball term (K is for strikeout). So, when everybody’s standing around the narthex on Easter Sunday, you can discuss Dice-K’s pitching prowess. Don’t be caught standing there smelling the lilies.

See you in the funny papers.

Your call could not be completed as dialed…

WASHINGTON – The Federal Communications Commission has officially grounded the idea of allowing airline passengers to use cellular telephones while in flight. Existing rules require cellular phones to be turned off once an aircraft leaves the ground in order to avoid interfering with cellular network systems on the ground. The agency began examining the issue in December 2004. Federal Aviation Administration regulations also restrict the use of cellular phones and other portable electronic devices onboard aircraft to ensure against interference with the aircraft’s navigation and communication systems. In an order released Tuesday, the FCC noted that there was “insufficient technical information” available on whether airborne cell phone calls would jam networks on the ground.  Link to story

Well, thank heaven the FCC finally got a brain. I have railed about the FCC before, but this is one they finally got right. Now, I don’t believe for a second that my tiny little Radio Shack phone has the ability to interfere with the navigation systems of Boeing‘s 757…but I’d love to believe that the FCC realized that this would only increase the amounts of “air rage” which the FAA probably leaned on them about. If you’ve ever been in an airport or on a plane, you know the power of a cell phone to piss you off. When C and I went to South Africa, there was a kid who was on his cell phone until the second the plane door closed, ostensibly calling everyone he knew to tell them where he was. You know what kid, nobody gives a damn. Bore them with the pictures when you get home, don’t bother them before you’ve even left. Silly bastard.

Anyway, the important thing to note is that this is a victory for people, like me, who like a little peace and quiet on their airplane flights…so that they can hear when the plane is breaking apart and plummeting to the earth.

See you in the funny papers!