Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day!

This officially marks my first ever February 29th blog post! That shouldn't come as a surprise, I guess, since this blog is less than week old. Sadly, Leap Day has proven to be a huge disappointment. My morning began with an inbox full of ridiculous junk email from all kinds of retailers and restaurants trying to convince me that today offered me the chance at an "extra day of savings," with all kinds of unsuccessful attempts at witty discounts based on the number 29:

Iowa State even jumped on the bandwagon, using Leap Day as an excuse to send me an email asking for a donation.  Why a once-every-four-years calendar anomaly would make me any more likely to give away money or buy stuff I don't need, I have no idea. I'm no fool when it comes to sales...29% off still means 71% on. Buying a large specialty pizza at regular price wipes out the "good deal" part of a 29¢ medium pizza. And donating anything, ever, is just stupid. After a fury of email deleting, the day's prospects didn't exactly improve when I looked outside:

I knew it! After one of the mildest winters on record, we couldn't escape February without a *&$#@ snow storm, and it's all Leap Day's fault! (For the record, I consider "mild winter" an oxymoron; it's the weather equivalent to the phrase "a gentle kick to the crotch.") The snowfall totals were lower than the forecast had predicted, but the drive to work was still treacherous, by far the worst of the season. But I risked it all for this blog and snapped a few photos along the way:

This whole Leap Day thing got me thinking...if we have to add a day to the year, why does it have to be in February? Everyone is ready to forget February and move on to March--even my wristwatch, which skipped right over February 29th:

And on my way to work, Ted emailed me this photo of an uptown hipster who refused to acknowledge Leap Day and it's ridiculous weather entirely, staring death directly in the eyes and deciding that his Vespa was a perfectly acceptable option for his commute this morning:

Sure, technically speaking, February is most deserving of the extra day from a purely objective and mathematical standpoint, being two days shorter than any of the other months. But June or July could do so much more with an extra day. After seeing what I saw outside my window the morning of February 29th, how could I not prefer to look out my window on July 32nd and see this?

 Be gone February...bring on March!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Iowa, You've Done It Again

I've always wondered why Iowa and its fine, fine residents are so often mocked in TV shows, movies, and everyday conversation. Yes, the winters are painful. And yes, Iowa is light on excitement and heavy on corn.  But as an Iowa native, I can't help but feel offended. It's not such a bad place in the summer, and I don't understand why the state is the butt of so many jokes.  Now, North Dakota on the other hand...

A little-known corn-based product invented in Iowa.

I think it's a few individuals who ruin Iowa's reputation for all of us. I'll admit, there are times when all the mockery starts to make sense. In this case, the party guilty of tarnishing Iowa's good name is a 68 year-old man named Larry Godwin, who lives in the bustling metropolis of Redfield, Iowa, population 800.

For those of you less familiar with Iowa geography, Redfield sits a few miles west of the other bustling metropolises of Adel and Waukee.  For those of you unfamiliar with either of those cities, Redfield isn't far from Des Moines.  Still can't picture it?  Redfield is roughly 1,100 miles due west of New York City.

Over the weekend, Mr. Godwin caught himself a raccoon in a live animal trap. Why he set a live animal trap, I have no idea.  But this looks harmless enough, doesn't it? What could possibly go wrong?

The problems began when Larry decided that he'd shoot the raccoon. He loaded his 22-caliber handgun, aimed, and fired. Oddly, it turns out that it wasn't the raccoon that was in danger. The bullet ricocheted off the cage, and Larry ended up with a bullet in his side.  But it gets better--the story takes a turn for the even more hilarious.

If there's a god, he must be a raccoon lover. Larry, stunned by his unexpected gunshot wound, dropped his handgun, which hit the ground and fired again. The second bullet also managed to find its way into Larry's side, lodging itself in just about the same spot as the first bullet. Ouch...that's two gunshot wounds, and one more black eye on Iowa's lowly standing among the fifty states. I give up...from this point forward, I'm lying whenever I'm asked where I grew up.

As always, here's a link to the official story.  Knowing Iowa, this was probably front page news in The Des Moines Register all week.

Monday, February 27, 2012

True Heroes of the Aviation Industry

Step aside, Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger; Wright brothers, your fifteen minutes of fame are over.  The world has a new hero in the history of flight: Le Van Thuan.  Haven't heard of him?  Earlier this month, Thuan found himself trapped on an airplane next to a mother and her crying baby after his Vietnam Airlines flight landed in Ho Chi Minh City.

What did he do to earn his place in the Aviation Hall of Fame?  Before the plane had even come to a complete stop, Thuan opened the emergency exit and deployed the inflatable slide in order to, he claimed, help the mother and baby get off the plane more quickly.

How was this man rewarded for his efforts?  He was slapped with a fine of 15 million dong.  When I first read this, I thought this was some kind of weird, sexual Vietnamese punishment that was outlawed long ago in the U.S. under the Constitution's Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Reading on, I learned that dong is the currency of Vietnam, and Thuan's fine was equivalent to roughly $900. The emergency exit was worth every penny--or dong, as the case may be--though clearly this man should be collecting a reward check, not opening his own pocketbook.

Thuan's actions were admirable on so many levels. First of all, he had the restraint to wait until the plane landed to take action. It would be completely understandable if he'd torn a hole in the plane mid-flight to "help" the mother and her baby exit the aircraft more quickly.  Secondly, I can't help but applaud his bold, blatantly untrue explanation for his actions, that he was "helping" the mother and child exit the plane more quickly. Well played, sir...

Now, I realize that there's not much parents can do when their baby starts crying on an airplane...but here's a thought: don't bring the baby on the flight to begin with! The rest of the passengers paid a lot of money to enjoy their cramped, uncomfortable seats in silence. If you need to transport your baby, go Greyhound.

The crowd on the bus won't mind the crying--after all, people buy Greyhound tickets with the expectation of general pain and suffering. That's why it's so cheap...where else can you drive across the country for a mere $15 ticket?  And if you need to cross an ocean with your crying baby, I hear they're doing amazing things with cargo ships these days...

In a world so full of conflict, it's nice to see that cultures all over the world can all agree on a bitter animosity toward crying babies. It's downright heartwarming...

In case you're interested, the following are links to some official, and perhaps more objective, recaps of this hilarious event:

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Blast From The Past....With Back to the Future!

What you see here is an original movie ticket stub to Back to the Future: Part I.  Interestingly, this epic piece of cinema memorabilia is only nine days old:

That's right--a week ago last Friday, Lagoon Cinema in uptown offered a midnight showing of the original Back to the Future movie, one of my all-time favorites.  Despite the less-than-ideal, way-past-my-bedtime start time, it didn't take much arm twisting to get me in that theater.  And I'm a person who goes to a movie an average of once every eighteen months...I usually just don't have the attention span to watch a movie in the dark for that long.

I somehow missed my chance to catch the movie on the big screen when it first came out back in 1985, but I was one year old, so you can't blame me too much.  By now, I'd resigned myself to the fact the the only chance I'll ever have to see Back to the Future in the theater rests on the hope that someone actually invents a functioning flux capacitor.

Even though I've seen the movie at least fifteen times and practically have the script memorized, I had no trouble staying awake until 2AM. (The one-hour nap I took at 8PM that night didn't hurt, either).  Other attendees at the event gave the movie at least one thumb up:

Seeing that time-traveling Delorean again also got me thinking about options for the eventual replacement for the Malibu.  What fights rust better than stainless steel?  Absolutely nothing. And no one can make fun of the color of a stainless steel car. It turns out that the original price for the DMC-12 was only $12,000 (hence the 12 in name of the model), with higher-end versions going for $25,000.

When I saw that, I figured I might as well pick one up right away.  But I forgot about inflation...the Wikipedia article mentioned that $25,000 in the early 80s is equivalent to about $64,000 in today's dollars.  Worse yet, the DMC-12's engine is woefully underpowered at 130HP, and the speedometer only goes up to 85mph!  How could I possibly travel through time if the engine explodes before I can get the car up to 88mph?!

So that dream's already over. But the Delorean is still a great looking car, and I'm thinking about ripping the doors off the Malibu and reattaching the hinges at the top so they open like the Delorean...

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Classic Matchup: Quality vs. Quantity

May 29, 2009 marked the beginning of an impressive streak that lives on to this day.  That Friday, I decided that I would make an effort to do a little writing--at least something--every single day.  It wasn't much, just a short paragraph or two about what I had done each day.  Sadly, that daily writing session typically amounted to a pretty uninteresting summary of the day's events, what with the painfully repetitive work routine.

But as of today, that Word document has turned into 417 pages and 283,000 words of single-spaced, action-packed awesomeness.  I'm waiting for a phone call from Cal Ripken Jr. to commend me on my impressive writing streak.  And believe me, it's not easy writing every single day, especially on the days when I'm traveling or just really, really busy.

And, over the course of those two-plus years, my writing efforts have overwhelmed Microsoft Word's ability to proofread my work.  Few people realize that around the time you hit the 300 page mark in a Word document, the program loses its ability to highlight misspelled words with the little red underline.  I have no doubt that with my hurried typing and lack of editing, the last hundred pages are littered with typos.  But that's beside the point...

Why did I bother starting this odd writing habit?  I figured that years later, it would be interesting to look back and see what I was doing and thinking every day--and I'm already surprised at how much I'd forgotten when I glace back at stuff that happened even a year or two ago. Plus, I was always frustrated when I'd remember some random event from the past few years, then struggle to recall the specifics of exactly when it happened or who was there. It's like hearing a familiar song and having the artist's name on the tip of your tongue, just out of your memory's reach. I decided the best way to win that battle would be to write down the highlights every day...and like I said, it would be cool to look back on that in three, five, twenty, thirty years, whenever.

And the next obvious question is...why start another blog?  Passionately Apathetic will continue in all it's glory, but I want to try something different at the same time.  Sometime last year (I could look up the specific day if I really want to), I read a magazine article about the top professional bloggers, and it mentioned that the real money makers publish five or six posts new posts before noon every day, which keeps office workers coming back day after day to check out the new posts during their lunch hour at work.

It crossed my mind that my monthly posts on Passionately Apathetic might be a bit too infrequent to keep the traffic flowing in my direction.  The monthly spike of three or four hits just isn't driving the ad revenue I'd hoped, as evidenced by the $2.37 I've generated in the past two years.  On a per-hour basis, I'm sitting so far below minimum wage that I seriously considered suing myself.  But before I filed the paperwork, I decided that I'd start a second blog.  It seems like just about every day, I encounter a random event or image that's worthy of a quick post, but perhaps not deserving of a full Passionately Apathetic-style write-up.

That's where this blog comes in--expect a big step up in frequency of posting, and a sharp drop-off in the length and quality of blog posts.  (Don't get too worried, I'm sure the decline in quality will be virtual invisible to the average reader.)  As always, posts will cover everything and anything...from time to time, a post might cover nothing more than the answer to a question that nobody asked nor cares to hear the answer to: what did you do today?

And I've finally found a formidable competitor to challenge my writing: myself!  Fans of Passionately Apathetic might recall that that the blog began as a blogging competition with James, my attempt to prove that quality writing easily trumps the excitement of life on another continent.  If you've bothered to check out his blog over the past year and half, you'll realize that I've won that competition hands down.  I'm on to bigger and better things: seeing if I can push this blog's ad revenue past the $2.37 barrier in less than twenty months.

Along with the new blog, I want to experiment with layouts, gadgets, widgets, and everything the blogging world has to offer.  Expect changes to colors, fonts, layouts, and just about everything as I fumble my way through the online world of amateur publishing.  My first addition is the Daily Mile widget in the upper right corner of the screen, a widget that lets me track workouts and shamelessly publish them on the blog.  Though I haven't spent much time on the site yet, it seems pretty cool so far, kind of a Facebook for fitness.  Best of all, it lacks all the annoying baby photos and posts that I can't seem to avoid on Facebook.

The self-challenge and the race to $2.37 is on.  Which style of blog will prove most successful--quality or quantity?  It's a classic rivalry, more heated and contentious than the epic Yankees/Red Sox battles over the decades.  Prepare for the excitement; it'll be like watching two turtles in a slow, painful race for ad revenue.  With a little luck and lots of ad clicking, I'll have earned myself a free sandwich over the course of a few short years.  So check back often...I'm already getting hungry.