Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Spring

Growing up, my commute to school for eleven years was along Sunset Boulevard, and the part of Sunset in the middle of Beverly Hills is one of my favorite stretches of road. You pass by fantastically large (and, for the most part, beautiful) houses, green grass and trees line the street and fill the median, and there are a couple locations notable for their flowers. One is a gorgeous house that goes all-out in decorating itself for every major holiday, and the other is the Beverly Hills Hotel. The latter goes to the trouble of planting flowers in the center divider, and bears the expense of replacing them every two months or so. And in all those years of passing by, I've merely considered such replacement to be run-of-the-mill.

Here in Evanston, things work a little differently. Climate constrains such excesses (given the wealth of this town, they would probably exist if it were otherwise, though), but in their place is that wonderful leap in your heart when you notice green shoots poking through the ground. Yesterday I saw fully-bloomed daffodils, and the hedges and trees in my apartment courtyard are covered in green buds. Until now, I considered the odd 60-degree day to be a symptom of the wild swings in Chicago weather, but now it seems spring may actually be here.

Of course, the thoughts that gives rise to are those of summer, when I can walk to class in flip flops again and curse my coursework because it's just plain cruel to have to suffer group meetings in late May and June when we could be hanging out in the shade in a beer garden and people-watching. I was always glad USC let out in May and began again in late August, because that lets you enjoy the best part of the summer. To have free time in September makes me feel like I'm just wasting it.

Anyway, those are my thoughts of the day, now that I finally have the energy to write. I got back from my cruise on Sunday (yes, it was wonderful, and expensive, and self-indulgent, and so worth it) and have been exhausted ever since. So has the rest of my class, strangely enough--I don't think spring break was long enough. About half the class was falling asleep during our afternoon lecture yesterday, and I don't think the professor (a somewhat less popular one) is entirely to blame. A vast change in sleep schedule probably is. A big change in everything for me personally: now that I'm back, I have to a. begin exercising again and b. eating less (my new tan does a good job of hiding those extra pounds I put on, but doesn't change the visceral fat feeling), c. sit still for long periods of time, d. wear clothing, e. readjust to an environment that isn't constantly rocking (well, I haven't got my land legs back yet entirely, so I have to endure mental rocking every so often. Very distracting while learning a new computer program, by the way.) and f. start making use of my brain again. No wonder I'm tired. That baby in the room above me that cries every ten minutes isn't helping, either.

In line with f, I've started trying to follow the news again. I'm disillusioned with March Madness since, as one might have expected, my bracket really sucked, but baseball season begins in a week, so I'm looking forward to that. The usual depressing stuff that I ignore is going on, but I've always been a fan of the articles on social trends anyway, both because that's where my interests lie anyway and because that's the kind of journalism that I find to be more impressive. Anyone can write about the latest tragic death (they don't really have to, that's what AP and Reuters are for), but to be on the ball detecting social trends is a lot harder simply because it's such a fuzzy idea to capture. You can only interview your friends so many times. Anyway, I found this article in the LA Times and while it was interesting, I think some of these people are really stupid. I've never understood martyrdom in the name of some social ill (in my experience, the idea is only useful in getting one through the "I'm so misunderstood" teen years, and beyond that it's just immature), since you're only hurting yourself and honestly, who else cares? I'm mad at the paper for making these people think they're right and inspiring hundreds of others to mimic them in some misguided attempt to make government officials feel bad. Being active in a cause and donating money is one thing, but to give up the advantages of a marriage license and pay extra to insurance companies that don't give a shit is another.

And with that, I think I've worked up enough energy to go for a run. Ciao!

Friday, March 19, 2004

MIA

Spring break is finally here, and I can feel the lethargy taking me prisoner already. I can sleep till noon, and do things like rent the entire fourth season of Sex and the City and watch it all because hey, what else is there? I made up for missing Saturday's St. Patty's Day festivities (c'mon, everyone's gotta see a green river at some point in their lives) by going out on Wednesday and getting plastered, though I got started at the late hour of 8 pm and never did quite catch up to my friends, who started at 5. The night was that much more entertaining for me, though. And looming over everything I do is my departure on Sunday for points Caribbean. After the overcast misery of the past few days (highlighted by the impending season change that can't come soon enough), I can't wait to pack flip flops, board shorts, bikinis, and halter tops in preparation for our cruise.

I'll be gone from Sunday to Sunday, and while I know you all have March Madness to tide you over (I think I'm coming in at 55 in a pool with only 60 or so people in it), here are a couple of extra tidbits from the LA Times that I found to be really interesting. First, an article on how The DaVinci Code has basically sparked a wave of interest akin to Harry Potter-mania (the word-of-mouth on both of these is really spectacular; I wasn't all that impressed by the DaVinci Code, but such is life when you're buying information: you can't assess whether or not it's worth having until you actually have it, and by God I had to have it cuz everyone else did).

And secondly, this article on USC beefing up its faculty in the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Makes me think of the good ol' days when I was a USC Ambassador or whatever; it took me several years to figure out what they were actually trying to accomplish with that program (viral marketing from a preferred source, as we were chosen for our GPA's). Money in that budget is so overshadowed by the influence of our athletic department that it may as well be diverted there. To cut through the clutter, a school can only really send out one message at a time, and our football team is doing a much better job of it than anyone else there. It can get more complicated though, depending on who it is you're trying to sell on the school. Ideally, you want to send the message to everyone that USC is the place to be because of good athletic programs and academic excellence, but it's rare one school can pull off both (Stanford is the only one I can think of that's ever done so convincingly, and it's unfortunate they're in the same state). But people ultimately value different things in making their decisions and evaluations (yeah I know that's redundant), and USC wants to attract a population different from the one that finds a great football team to be a major draw, therefore they have to have other messages out there to persuade the people looking for them that there are a good number of more compelling reasons to attend/donate money to USC.

It's encouraging that I still find this interesting after the quarter I had, and indeed have even more intellectual ammo that I can use when thinking about stuff like this.

Wish me bon voyage!

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Quickie

Found this interesting mention in the WSJ afternoon report:

Stop Blaming Fast Food for Fat, Lawmakers Urge in Proposed Bill
U.S. House Republicans want Americans to stop using the fast-food industry as a scapegoat for the skyrocketing obesity epidemic. The House moved today to stop lawyers from blaming the health crisis on fast-food and other restaurants in a proposed bill that would prohibit many obesity or weight-related claims against the food industry. "Americans are eating themselves to death and looking for someone to blame,'' said Rep. David Dreier of California. The congressional debate came a day after the government said obesity could soon replace smoking as the top preventable cause of death. Democrats called the bill a Republican political ploy aimed at hurting trial lawyers and helping the multibillion dollar food industry.

I can't say I'm a big fan of Bush these days, but Democrats have to stop pissing me off too. Why do they care about trial lawyers? This country doesn't need anymore lawyers period, not to mention the "let's sue your pants off on a trumped-up charge" kind (a la Erin Brockovich's most recent BS--don't even get me started on how much I hate that woman; the linked article is an excellent one, but isn't nearly as scathing as I'd like it to be). And the multibillion dollar food industry is changing, due to popular demand (you know, that whole capitalism thing) rather than frivolous lawsuits. I scoffed when teens sued McDonald's for making them fat, and thought it was downright funny when France tried to blame them for the same thing as well ("Je prends plus de freedom fries, s'il vous plait"). While eating their fare may damage one's health, it's not like anyone had any misconceptions about that. People should be held responsible for their own actions (that goes for tobacco plaintiffs, too--I hate smoking but I don't think litigation is the way to get rid of it; that's what laws and stuff are for, and I'm tired of the press catering to the lawyers), and I guess that belief is why I'll never be a Democrat. (Goddamn it, politics again.)

Over

Well, the long-awaited day of our Navy presentation has come and gone. We told medical recruiters our idea for targeting 4 universities and leveraging the ROTC presence that's already there, and apparently we did a damned good job of it, because we won!!! And no Coaches/AP-like split, either: both the ad agency and Navy chose our group as the best; the other group that won was chosen by the agency because they'd already gone and purchased all those portfolios to give to the winners, so they had to pick a second. (That sounds mean; I don't know what that group presented, but I'm sure they had a solid presentation or they wouldn't have been picked.)

It's good to know it all paid off... I may have to develop some sort of work ethic out of guilt, though, because while I was glad the group won, I didn't feel like I deserved it. I knew the people in our group that did, and I was really happy for them and lucky I got to work with them, but I felt guilty that they had to put up with me for the last two months. Live and learn... I want to be one of those people next time.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Whatev

Just thought I'd take this moment to post, seeing as how I'll be at the mercy of my printer for the next eternity anyway--I'm printing out my Navy project paper (for those of you who haven't been unfortunate enough to hear about it, my class is working on a plan for the U.S. Navy to improve their recruitment of doctors, dentists, and nurses), a healthy 46 pages in length, and needless to say grad students aren't the laserjet-owning types. It'll be an interesting exercise in patience and keeping my frustration under wraps, as I have to rush this stuff to Kinko's to get bound tonight, and in a burg like Evanston, nothing is open later than 10 p.m. (seriously, there's a college here, just adapt already).

Of course, given that every waking minute since my last post (and that's a lot of waking minutes, by the way--I can't remember the last time I got more than 6 hours of sleep) has been devoted to this project, I don't have a whole helluva lot to say. Given my current frustration, I'm not in the same fabulous mood I was in yesterday (which I miss...I was seriously beginning to think something was wrong with me because I was in such a persistently good mood, but today has quashed those suspicions pretty definitively), so I can't go on and on about how happy I am. But I suppose talking about oneself is never all that hard, as we've just now established.

So lessee, what's going on in the world today... there were some elections and stuff, but Kerry's pretty much clinched it, so there's no real point in paying attention anymore (not that I ever did, I have fellow bloggers Chris and Brendan to take care of that).

Today's WSJ question of the day is "Would you pay a small fee to send each email as a way to eliminate spam?" The answer, of course, is a resounding 'no' from 78% of those who have replied, which is especially telling given that a decent portion of those people probably did pay a subscription fee in order to access the WSJ online. Email is universally considered to be free to all, and no one wants to pay on a per message basis. Plus, I'd have my doubts about the effectiveness of the spam blocker even if I paid; I mean, it's not like people aren't trying to block it as it is! 100% fool-proof spam protection will likely get into some invasion of privacy issues; I'd rather just hit the 'delete' button a couple times a day.

There's also a hilarious article that starts off with a great (and telling) first line: "Parents have a new ally in their quest for grandchildren: online dating sites." It gets interesting from there, with success stories mingled with parents that set up profiles and email people without the knowledge of their children. Here's the link, and I've come to the conclusion that everyone I know should just subscribe to the WSJ already.

Ok, am now too tired to write anymore (can't wait until the day 2 weeks from now when it'll be alcohol that's sapped my energy rather than group projects!)--on a positive note, though, the new Onion is up. Happy Wednesday!

Friday, March 05, 2004

More metros and other stories

In a late-night visit to AdAge.com, I found this story on the launch of a new line of grooming products aimed at boys in their teens and tweens. It's considered to be an untapped market, largely because, well, I'm not so sure it exists, but stranger things have happened. Grooming products are actually pretty well-equipped to take hold in markets that have never used them before simply because so many of us are held prisoner by the thoughts and opinions of others. Both deodorant and mouthwash certainly fill a need, but back when they were introduced, it wasn't a very pressing one. Both capitalized on people's fears of what others would think of unpleasant odors, after mass marketing had introduced them to the notion. I have my doubts about whether or not boys aged 9 to 18 are susceptible to that, though. The older ones, yes, but buying media to reach kids in the 9-13 age range may be waste of time and money. The research they have to back this up must really be something.

In other news, Martha Stewart was found guilty. BUT sentencing won't be until June 17th, and even if appeals don't work out, the maximum amount of time she'll be in prison is 16 months, which means it'll likely be a much shorter stint. I'm honestly not sure what to think about this, but I do think the marketing department of her company has its work cut out for it.

More corporate craziness: Eisner loses his post as chairman of Walt Disney Co. Maybe it's just because I'm new to following corporate news, but it seems like the past couple of years have been really strange ones. First all the accounting stuff, and now the return of hostile takeovers and angry shareholders that actually do something about it. And yet finance classes remain duller than a Congressional roll-call (seriously, they should have the producers of Who Wants to be a Millionaire outfit that place; I wonder if the American public would take an interest in their representation then--C-SPAN is untapped reality TV potential!).

Gay marriage: viewed by "straight people under a certain age...as their generation's civil rights movement" per Andrew Sullivan, quoted on BrendanLoy.com. Very interesting how this issue seems to have taken wing, particularly in light of this new amendment I keep hearing about (one of you political-types need to fill me in on this, Chris). I can't say I agree with that; in fact, I may have to evince more than a passing interest in politics if that goes any further. It'll be interesting to see how that goes, now that Bloomberg is on board with legalizing same-sex marriage in the State of New York.

Sweet liberty... and too tired to enjoy it

But I will respond to Becky's comment on my cocoon post from a few days ago (I was going to do it via comments too but there's a 400 character limit and I like talking about stuff like this):

I don't think cocooning is limited to the rich; every American either above or below the poverty line owns a television, and probably a portable cd player as well. Cocooning isn't new, iPods are just the most recent incarnation and get a mention a. because of how long someone can stay in said cocoon listening to whatever and b. because they're so distinctive; making them white was a brilliant move on Apple's part, because you can automatically tell if someone's headphones are plugged into an iPod or not. But I could go on about the brilliance of Apple's marketing of iPod. As an example of cocooning in public it isn't the first, as Sony's Walkman broke that ground years ago. But things like mp3 players and home entertainment systems are just examples of how we increasingly use technology to separate ourselves from the rest of the world, and how we're becoming better at it. Yeah, I own a cell phone too, and those AT&T commercials about how they bring people together aren't that gross of an exaggeration (that one with the little girl is sooo sweet, actually) because people do use them to keep in touch, but that isn't enough to sell a cell phone if you already have a land line, given all the long distance deals phone companies are giving to keep up. But I'm getting off the topic. The reason why technology cuts us off so much more efficiently than do books and daydreams is because it monopolizes our senses to the point where you make the choice to separate yourself and the outside world has to work very hard to get you to change your mind (like catch fire).

Regarding the stifling of creativity (and living a well-rounded life in general): I watched Law and Order for 3 hours today. Such marathons are why I'm tired to begin with, because I then had to do work late at night, and then tonight I missed out on a limo ride down to the city because I was too damn lazy to check my messages.

In other news, I was sent this link about the penguin game: where it started and a bunch of links to different versions. Fun for the whole family.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Bragging rights in the off-season

ESPN's Ivan Maisel has picked his top 25 for next season, and fellow Trojans will be happy to know that we're leading the pack and are picked to return to the Orange Bowl next year (and who couldn't use a trip to Miami in January?). The Pac-10 makes a decent showing, actually, with Cal and Oregon State ranked 11th and 16th, respectively. The Big Ten is on with four (but starting with Michigan at #8), and the Big 12 has five.

In other BCS news, a fifth BCS game is to be added starting in 2006 or 2007 (whenever the new contract would take effect) to expand the number of at-large berths to four in an effort to get TCU, Boise State and the like to shut up. A couple of football experts say the decision is a move in the right direction, but point out that if college football can make all these changes, why not just move to a playoff system and make everyone happy? Both Donnan and Kiper argue that the "college athletes not having enough time for playoffs" assertion is crap. (They put it more nicely than that.)

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Last post, I swear.

I know this is going to actually be recorded as my first post of Wednesday, March 3rd, but I believe in personal definitions of what "today" is, and my today won't be the 3rd until I get up tomorrow morning. For all of you smartasses who ask about all-nighters, trust me, I've given it lengthy consideration (I mean, in the middle of the night like that when you're loopy on caffiene there really isn't much else to do--meaningful contributions to whatever assignment prompted the all-nighter in the first place just don't happen) and have decided that in those cases, the next day begins when the sun rises. None of which has anything to do with my reason for even writing this post, which was to refer people to the first "Say Something Funny" in the Onion that actually was, and makes me miss stand-up comedy. I love Chicago, but will miss the occasional trips to Comedy Freakout USA 2000. Poor name notwithstanding, it's likely the only chance I'll ever get to pay only $5 (and no drink minimum!) and see some of the best comics around. I was sorry to hear the shows have been discontinued, as it was something I was really looking forward to for winter break. Actually, catching a live stand-up show isn't really possible in Chicago at all, except for the occasional big names that come through (will be missing Lewis Black on March 21st! Ok though because I probably will prefer the week-long southern Caribbean cruise to an hour laughing at Lewis Black... I can just catch him on the Daily Show every week).

Anyway, stand-up comedy isn't a topic that really lends itself to this medium because it's too given to impressions and one-liners, which lose 95% of their humor when presented textually (hence my being so impressed at Tom McCaffrey's contribution to the Onion this week). I miss it though; somehow Improv Olympic doesn't quite fill the same need. It could be either conditioning or a personality quirk or a little of both; I say personality because I'm one of those people who, when they hear a new song they like, will listen to that and only that for days on end, and this same principle applies across the board. It fits into comedy in that, when I see a performer I like, I only want to watch/listen to them, and could really do without the bother of others (like those in an improv troupe) getting in the way. I kind of like the consistency of stand-up too: I like hearing favorite bits over again, whereas in improv it'll be lost forever. The best part of both is consistent though: the rehashing of funny lines with friends... thanks to Improv Olympic, I'll be calling it ANALytic techniques forever, and probably laughing at that almost every time, too. Aw, don't it just give you the warm fuzzies all over? (:

iPods as cocoons

One of the more recent issues in social science has been the phenomenon called "cocooning," wherein people are able to isolate themselves in their worlds of technology... like Hugh Grant's character in About a Boy, "No man is an island" "Yes I am, I'm a bloody island, I'm bloody Ibiza!" (Sorry, I think that's a funny line. Maybe only in context, but whatever.) Anyway, the growing popularity of iPods highlights this issue because people are able to isolate themselves from the world while walking around in public. Those of us lucky enough to do so think it's pretty cool. It's like you don't lose anything by not having the privacy of a car when you go places. In my newfound enthusiasm for learning about all things Apple, I found this NY Times article commenting on how it's playing out in, you guessed it, New York. Anyway, good article, and funny too.

It's the little things... ok, maybe it's the big things, too.

Today:

8:30 a.m. Wake up. Shit. Alarm clock's sole function is to inspire heart attack when I see how late it really is.

8:31 a.m. Decide it's better to sneak into class at the break rather than do my usual stroll-in-10-minutes-late thing, since today it would be more like 30-40 minutes.

8:45 a.m. Wow, sure is nice to have all this time to get ready in the morning. I think I'll shave my legs, too.

9:55 a.m. Oh shit, I'm going to be too late for even the break.

10:04 a.m. Run into a Navy guy (sure, there's a more proper way of saying that, but then I'd have to worry about formality and stuff. Not my thing.) in the elevator on the way up to class, admit my tardiness, and decide to use him as my cover to get into our creative strategy class.

10:06 a.m. Feel like an ass walking in that late anyway.

11:00 a.m. Say hi to all the people I should have been in class with while we switch classrooms and I head into analytical techniques.

11:01 a.m. I hate analytical techniques.

11:02 a.m. Seriously.

12:25 p.m. But love fellow classmates that give me help on analytical techniques homework!

1:30 p.m. Yay, done with analytical techniques homework! Oh shit, late for Navy meeting.

3:00 p.m. Off to Rand McNally group meeting...

3:05 p.m. I hate Rand McNally.

3:07 p.m. Group meetings, too.

3:08 p.m. Wonder how much my parents would freak if I dropped out and moved to a country where there are no group meetings to be a warrior princess or something.

3:09 p.m. Warrior princesses can still have iPods, right?

4:30 p.m. Free pizza from Giordano's! I'll listen to today's speaker if it means I can have some free pizza from Giordano's.

4:32 p.m. Oh, it's not deep dish.

4:33 p.m. Giordano's thin crust really sucks. Oh well, stuck here now.

4:40 p.m. My professor wants to recommend me for a summer internship with Apple?!!!! How fucking cool would that be?!?!?!

5:20 p.m. Work as an ad agency liaison or on branding new software. How to choose? I want to go into advertising and their agency is Chiat/Day which would be an awesome place to get started... on the other hand, branding is cool and that isn't easy work to get. !!! I could work at Apple over the summer!!!

6:00 p.m. Finally found auto body shop where my car has been languishing.

6:03 p.m. Wow, I can't believe body work costs that much. Glad I don't have to pay for it.

6:04 p.m. I'll get my car back by the end of the week?! Kickass!!!

6:25 p.m. La la la, I'm home and so happy about my day that I think I'll blog about it.

7:11 p.m. Damn, I use too many exclamation points when I'm happy.

7:12 p.m. Could be time to actually do some homework. Shit. Still happy, though. (:

Monday, March 01, 2004

Fever Pitch

What is it about sitting in the cafe on the corner on a rainy day while being simultaneously wired on said cafe's chai tea lattes and light-headed from a mild fever that makes me want to a. write ridiculously long sentences and b. write lots of them? It could be that I am willing to do anything to keep from starting on the mountain of homework I have to do (which is notorious for not doing anything except moving the mountain into unfavorable lighting that makes it look even bigger). It could be all of the above factors are mixing together to put me in some sort of absurdly good mood (there is no reason whatsoever for me to have even a mildly positive outlook at this point) and I want to share it, or at least capture it so I can come back to it and remember that even when life truly sucks, I'm not smart enough to realize it.

So what is the current state of affairs? Let's start with the good news: I will eventually get my car back so that life can continue on as it did before. I have a leg up on preparing and completing school assignments because I'm lazy/relaxed/overly confident and/or have low standards/expectations/opinions of the merit of said assignments. I think that's about it. On the bad side: I'm broke and have limited means of rectifying that situation because I have next to no time to tutor people, which is not aided by the fact that I am currently pretty sick and have had to cancel appointments. Being sick has led to an overall limited ability to do anything. Well, I can still talk, and rather enjoy doing so. But it has to be talk that accomplishes little more than filling dead air (case in point), and so it isn't necessarily a productive skill that can be harnessed to help me complete the myriad tasks that I am required to. There's other bad stuff too, but seriously, why focus on the negative?

I actually have a pretty good attitude towards most of the bad stuff named above... if you really want to get me worked up, ask me about group projects. I'd really rather not think about that right now because I have enough frustration on my plate at the moment.

I wish I were the creative writing type right now, because it must be such a wonderful outlet for emotion. As it is, I can only read the words of others for that same kind of release. The sad thing is, I know I used to have it in me, but I feel like it's died... do you think creativity ever really goes away? Can it be relearned? Or is it gone forever? I hate the idea, but I think it's that last one, simply because a function of growing up seems to be losing part of what defined your childhood. There is now entirely too much order in my life; I make a good editor because I know the rules of grammar, but I'm a poor writer because I can only think within those parameters and have little content that I'm confident in. Hence the infrequent posts here. To me, a high degree of creative output is what marks a truly intelligent person, simply because constantly talking, writing, whatever signals an active mind, and it's the people who do things that are interesting. I aspire to be one of those people, but am afraid I'm already behind due to my television. It's the easy way out. What would I do with myself if I didn't watch TV? I might try that experiment for a week to see what happens... I wonder if a sense of personal achievement would outweigh no longer being included in the pop culture talks that bind us all.

I think that may be enough for now, I should really get to work on the various analyses required for my statistics homework assignment. Ciao!

Whole27: Recap

So we didn't quite make it 30 days. On Thursday, we looked at the prospect of a dry Memorial Day weekend (and the Friday leading up to i...