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Monday, August 22, 2005


Summer draws to a close

First off: While I am normally a considerate neighbor, I’m currently playing the stereo as loud as I can without my ears hurting. I’m also playing the same song twice in a row, and seriously considering doing a solid hour; it won’t drive me any more insane than the incessant barking next door. In a concrete yard roughly as large as a 20-foot hallway, three hell-sent little throw-pillow dogs yap up a storm 18 hours a day. Sometimes they get into a raucous three-dog tussle, then get a little quieter, and I find myself hoping that one has been killed in the fight. No luck so far, and no luck on getting them to shut the hell up, either. I’d like to talk to the neighbors, but what do I say? “Please throw one or more of your dogs away”? For now, I shall drown them out in a manner consistent with the nature of their barking: annoying as hell.

But back to the titular point: Classes start again on Wednesday, and I can’t say I’m excited about that. I had hoped that leaving San Jose for a month would give me a fresh perspective and a newfound appreciation for the place, but only half my dream came true. Maybe I’m seeing it from a different angle now, but the Hose still looks like a shitty place. Not as bad as, say, most of Nevada, but shitty nonetheless. And while my experience as a student SJSU has been better than my life as a San Jose resident, it still doesn’t win any awards. The only thing that keeps me going is a fading desire to just get it over with, and I hate living life like that.

Thursday, February 3, 2005


At least they were paperbacks — it could have gotten expensive

Five classes this semester.
Eleven books.
Total with tax: $542.74.

Four classes last semester.
Seven books.
Total value at buyback: $58.00

Sunday, January 2, 2005


New Jersey place names: a broader view

A comment on the New Jersey town names post made me realize a fault of my analysis: I worked from the official list of municipalities in New Jersey, which excludes non-municipal places like your Basking Ridges and your Wortendykes. For those, you have to check out the state’s page of official localities. There are fewer than 600 municipalities in New Jersey, but more than 3,000 localities. A fair examination of the state’s naming habits would be based on the larger group of names.

And what a group it is. I take back everything I said about an apparent lack of creativity in the names of places in New Jersey.

To the people of Pork Island, Poverty Beach and Nummytown, I apologize and plead ignorance. Until this week, I was shamefully unaware of your localities and others like Feebletown, Scrappy Corner and Lower Squankum. In some 14 years in the Garden State, I never had the opportunity to visit Blue Ball, Chestnut Neck or False Egg Island Point. Foul Rift, Buckshutem and West Chrome simply weren’t on my radar, and neither were Bivalve, Cheesequake and Great Piece Meadows. Hayti and Hacklebarney, Bargaintown and Pestletown, Moe and Mower, Communipaw and Comical Corner — these are all exactly the kind of names we need more of.

All the same, these are just a few names out of a few thousand, and no guarantee that the list as a whole isn’t as unimaginative as the list of town names. As unique as these names sound, New Jersey seems determined to recycle and reuse. Example: In Gloucester County, there is a place called Manunkachunk. Miles away in Warren County lies another place — Manunka Chunk.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004


New Jersey town names mystified

Growing up in New Jersey, I couldn’t help noticing that a lot of the town names sound the same. And I’m not talking about Oakland and Oaklyn, or Belmar and Bellmawr, or even Hopatcong and Pohatcong. This also isn’t about the fact that there are five Washington Townships and one Washington Boro, as well as four Franklin Townships and one Franklin Boro. No, I’m talking about the fact that many of NJ’s 566 municipalities were named as if only a handful of words were approved for use in naming towns. If that was indeed the case, wood was clearly acceptable, as was ridge — so now we have Ridgewood and Wood-Ridge. And Park Ridge. And Ridgefield. And Ridgefield Park. Keep in mind this is all in a state about as big as a wad of chewing gum.

Anyway, someone reminded me of this the other day, and for some reason I began picturing the state in terms of a Venn diagram. Some 80 towns in NJ have at least one of nine basic components in their name. This is by no means a complete representation of the lack of creativity at work in the state, which would require a few more circles. But with a few well-chosen additions to the chart — bridge, brook, and lawn come to mind — I think most of the non-Indian town names in New Jersey could be related to each other in this way.

Click the picture to see a bigger version.

NJ towns
Wednesday, November 3, 2004


Fooled you twice?

Then shame on you. I mean, 2000 was one thing, but I find it astonishing that after four years, a majority of Americans really think President Bonehead is the best man for the job. I almost wish he had just stolen the election, because that would have been less disheartening.

On the other hand, a California governor named Gray Davis was reelected, too. But it didn’t take much time before the people yanked him out of office. Since California often sets political trends for the rest of the nation (and not just lefty stuff like medicinal marijuana, either — voters here passed a same-sex marriage ban four years ago!), maybe the cretin-in-chief isn’t as secure in his job as it would seem. A pipe dream? Of course. But whatever gets you through the dark, four-year night, you know?

Wednesday, October 20, 2004


Hints for living: crazy person edition

This afternoon, after my media law class, I grabbed a window seat on the train and headed for home. The woman who sat down next to me seemed to be carrying on a conversation with someone across the aisle, but a quick glance over there revealed only people trying to ignore her.

Sensing that this was not someone I could allow to get my attention, I pulled out my textbook and began reviewing today’s case. Between the sunglasses and the book, I was pretty well insulated, and I was able to tune out the lady’s continuing babble, even as she stared right at me.

She wasn’t about to give up, though, and before long, I could no longer ignore what she was saying. Without looking up, I turned my attention to her voice. In an accent that sounded Haitian, she plowed robotically through some kind of nonsense. “To many this is. And will. Always be folly. But we have staked upon it our all.” Pretty typical script for a public transit lunatic, so why was it so distracting? “U-nited States vee Ah-sociated Press. Fifty-two eff supp three sixty-two, three seventy-two. S-D-N-Y nineteen fahty-tree.” Dammit! She was just reading my textbook out loud! United States v. Associated Press, 52 F.Supp. 362, 372 (S.D.N.Y. 1943).

She continued to do this for the rest of my trip. It was one of the most irritating things I’ve ever encountered. If my ride had been any longer than 10 minutes, I don’t know what I would have done.

So for all you people who ride trains, buses, planes, or whatever, and are determined to get the attention of people who choose to ignore you, here’s a great tactic. Read those people’s books into their ears, and see what kind of friends you can make.

Thursday, September 30, 2004


Respect my uptime!

I read a Slashdot article a few weeks back reporting that modern Windows users have to reboot their systems about 8 percent of the time. Since the article being quoted is in French, and I don’t care enough to run it through the Google translator, this statistic and the methods used to find it might be horribly flawed, for all I know. But if half the Windows horror stories I hear are true, then 8 percent sounds a little low.

Many of my fellow students use Windows laptops in class, and I’ve definitely seen a few of them having to restart their huge, ugly beasts.

Thankfully, my major requires a Mac laptop, so the pain of rebooting has been unknown to me in the month or so that I’ve had the PowerBook.

A month without rebooting, you say? Check it out:


You can keep your Windows, thanks.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004


What became of the magic words?

Last week, at the train station near my house, a kid came up and asked for 50 cents to call his mom. If this had happened a couple years ago in San Francisco, I wouldn’t have even slowed down, but I’m trying to be a good neighbor and all that. The kid was only 8 or 9, and he really seemed like he needed a hand. All I had was a quarter, but I handed it over and told him he was halfway there.

He didn’t say a word. He just acted pissed that I didn’t give him enough, made a face, and walked away. Punk.

Today, as I walked into that same station, a girl of about 9 or 10 shouted “Hey! Hey you!” as she ran toward me with two or three much younger kids in tow. When I stopped, she asked for a phone to call her mom. Okay, so I’m a sucker. I gave her the phone.

“Hey! Hey Mom! Where are you?” There is nothing on earth as loud as a 10-year-old girl, and frequently, nothing more obnoxious. She hollered at her mom and proved herself to be a real brat. After it was decided that she would walk home, she shoved the phone back at me and walked off. Five minutes I spend helping this monster, and that’s the thanks I get.

I don’t want to get all parental and remind them to say please and thank you, but seriously, what the hell is wrong with these kids today? Everyone I’ve described here was well-dressed, clean, apparently healthy, and generally pretty normal. I bet they even use AOL at home. So why must they be such little savages?

Tuesday, September 28, 2004


Hints for living: college edition

Sunglasses are meant to be worn over the eyes. They are not a hair accessory.

Rolling luggage is for flight crews and other people who actually ride on airplanes. Get yourself a backpack.

If you’re going to use your laptop in class, cut your freaking nails. You sound like a blender full of plastic.

Nobody cares that you can twirl your pen. Cut it out.

Saturday, September 18, 2004


Either you’re with us, or you’re with the hurricanes

I just glanced at the headlines and saw that the U.S. death toll for Hurricane Ivan has reached 45. Forty-five Americans killed by an invader to our shores! And that doesn’t take into account the victims of Charley and Frances, two other univited guests from foreign lands who came here, laid waste to our coastlines, then seemed to disappear. How much longer are we going to tolerate this?

The time has come to send a clear message to the weather by hunting down Charley, Frances and Ivan and bringing them to justice. This will be the beginning of our war on hurricanes, which shall not cease until bodies of warm air and cold air alike learn to live peacefully alongside one another, and respect the values of our homeland.

We stand at a crossroads in history, and it is up to us to secure this nation’s future. Now is the time to begin a new era of climate-building in order to ensure that our children never will never again have to live in fear of killer storms.

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