Monthly Archives: July 2009

I’ve mentioned before that I am bound by a code of honor not to care much for Kenny Chesney. That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t see the appeal. And he will be mentioned in a post coming up soon. So this week’s HCW will feature music by the country musician so thoroughly new country so as to be a self-caricature. More seriously, his music can be catchy or evocative in certain slants of light. We’ve got four videos here.

The first is why I am obligated to detest Chesney and all he stands for. If you want to listen to good country music, you can skip on by it (perhaps all the way to the last video). But it’s emblematic of what made Chesney’s career and why he is loved and loathed by so many:

The next song is one of his more catchy tunes that I admit that I do not detest. I actually kind of liked it, once upon a time. It’s sort of an ode to having lived the wild life and wanting to settle down.

This next one is about not wanting to settle down but being forced to by a pregnancy. Depending on your perspective, it’s either about rising to the occasion and embracing life or it’s a counterproductive celebration of teen pregnancy giving young rural woman an unrealistic notion of how their boyfriend might react to an oopsie and how contraception failure can lead to a happy ending.

This last one is the only one of the four that I really can’t help but like (and I’ve tried not to…). It’s about coming to terms with alcoholism. I used to like the video because of a sort of sincerity. But now I sort of like the site of Chesney laying down stomach first in a restroom while being stepped over… Kidding, actually. It may be schmaltzy, but it’s schmaltzy in a less tiresome way than a lot of schmaltz.

Category: Theater

I’ve been looking at cars lately to replace Crayola before we move to The Great Next. I created a spreadsheet cataloging prices, years, and miles on used cars. I also created a formula to gauge cost-per-mile. The first assumes 100,000 miles because that’s how long it takes before more serious repairs start being required. The second assumes 150,000 because that’s the presumed life of the car. The third assumes 200,000 because that’s the farthest any car I’ve owned as driven. By and large, cars for sale that do well on one category do well on the remaining categories and vice-versa. So a deal is a deal regardless of what I assume the mileage to be.

The big exception to this are mid-range mileage cars, between 50-100k. The thought occurred to me that one possible solution would be to get an old car with low mileage for its age. For instance, an 8-year old car with only 70,000 miles on it. These do very poorly on the 100k check (as expected) and dominate the 200k check (not a surprise), but are also the leaders on the 150k (by a smaller margin). I recognize that the 150,000 is biased a bit because it doesn’t really take into account that miles 20-50k are cheaper than miles 120-150k. On the other hand, there is an added flexibility that this car can be replaced sooner. And the price difference is substantial (bringing a car price down from $18k to 7k.

  • The sheer size of the price difference got me looking into bluebook values and I’ve noticed a definite trend. Old cars, regardless of mileage, are cheap even when you account for the mileage. This is one of those common-sense things, but I had been so fixated on mileage that it escaped my attention. The question I have is… are they cheap because:
  • They look old. With the except of a few models, cars date relatively quickly. Looking at pictures of some of the old cars, the design looks old. Light trucks in particularly from 2000 or so have more in common aesthetically with Jeeps from the 80’s than anything coming out today (except, well, Jeeps).
  • They lack features. They have a tape deck instead of a CD player, for instance. Certainly no bluetooth or navigation or anything like that. Or the cars had these features but maybe they’ve stopped working. I’m not considering any cars without AC, but that’s the only thing I’ve really looked closely at. I should look more closely at cruise control.
  • They’re much more likely to break down. My obsession with mileage notwithstanding, a 2000 model with 50,000 miles is more likely to break down than a 2008 model with the same. And it could well be that a 2000 with 50,000 miles is more likely to break down than a 2005 with 100,000 miles. That would actually sort of match my own experience. Crayola has 120,000 miles and seems to be in a startlingly similar place than Rudat was last year when he had 200,000 miles. Wildly different mileage, but they are the same make, series, and year. And further, it’s unlikely that I took better care of Rudat than Dad did of Crayola. On the other hand, Rudat did a lot of freeway travel and Crayola was mostly 5-mile drives for work between 40k-95k miles (when my father had it).
  • They’re more expensive to fix when they do break down. Having an older car has never remotely been a problem for me in this regard. But this may be an area where Fords and domestics have advantages over foreign cars. There may have been a problem when I was driving the Trawler, but that car was over 20 years old.
  • Warranty, or lack thereof. This one is an issue that I’ve approached independently. For whatever reason, most of the cars I’m looking at newer or older don’t have a warranty. It’s possible that we’ll decide that a warranty is a must have and that would change our perspective considerably. And while warranty could factor heavily into the comparison of deals, I assume that bluebook values don’t really take that into account. Though maybe they do.

This will be the first car that my wife and I have ever purchased either together or individually. So there’s a lot we don’t know, which is why I am asking for your help. If it’s simply a matter of (1) then I really don’t care. In fact, I don’t like a lot of the newer designs so it would be a net benefit. For (2) I would just need to add the cost of a CD/MP3 player installation to the cost. And consider how much I really need that cruise control. But if it’s (3) and (4), I would need to add that into my formula somehow. But I’m not sure how much I would need to weigh that in.

The formula is not a strict method by which we will choose a car. There would be too many variables for that. However, every now and again I will run into some impressive outliers. Cars that outwardly seem like a really good deal. You have to be suspicious of that a little, at least, but when I’ve run across them there’s generally been a pretty good reason for it (it’s a theft recovery, it’s sold at a high-volume consignment lot, it was a trade-in at a lot with a different marquee, etc). It’s hard for a newbie like me to really “game the system”, and I don’t really expect to, but I do want to make sure that I have some basis with which to compare sales the same way I do with computers.

So… what is your experience? What do you know about used cars? Does age matter as much as mileage? Or is my non-desire for a new-looking car an opening for us to get a better deal than I otherwise might?

Category: Road

A while back, Peter made the comment that men tend to acknowledge who is and is not “out of their league” while a lot of women seem to wait and wait for someone out of their league to ask them out.

I don’t think that I agree with Peter on this. I think that there are cases in both directions where people have an exaggerated perception of their place in the dating market. To the extent that there is an inequality, it would not surprise me if it were more likely guys with the unrealistic expectations. Rather, it is guys that would have a self-perceived standing greater than their actual standing as girls tend to be much more self-critical than are guys (I believe, but am too lazy to look it up, there have been studies on this). I suspect, though, that the percentages are irrelevant and that what you would probably see is an unequal distribution. So if you’re in one sector of the dating economy, it can appear very much skewed in one direction. If you’re in another, it can be skewed the other.

But really, no matter where you are and what gender you are, it’s going to be skewed against you. I’ll get to that in a separate post.

Phi became famous based on a post about women and alphas, suggesting that the sexual revolution has given women the idea that if they can sleep with a man of certain quality that she can expect a relationship with a man of that quality. But that’s not the case because the criteria of men sleeping with a woman is different than entering a relationship with her. Therefore, women have painted themselves into a corner with expectations a notch above what is realistic where they are turning down guys that should be good enough in hopes of netting one of the guys she has sexual access to.

Phi uses alpha-beta terminology, but I am not go on this post because I think that it’s better to look at the entire spectrum of people rather than a false dichotomy where people are necessarily one or the other based on subjective measurements.

I think that there’s something to all that. Rather, I think that there’s something to the notion that people mistake one kind of access for another. And there have been cases where I’ve seen female-types try to net a guy and “hang in there” because they erroneously believe that if he keeps having sex with her and he’s not a terrible guy that it must mean something. So I could see that dynamic at play.

At the same time, I think that it’s something that guys see a lot more often than is actually there. If a guy asks out a girl that he believes is in his league and she says no, he will quite possibly come to the conclusion that she has unrealistic expections. Meanwhile, it could be that his expectations are unrealistic. But often, it’s actually none of the above. She is not necessarily looking for someone better than him, but rather she has some criteria that she doesn’t meet.

This is a dynamic I’ve seen repeatedly the other way around. Dharla was, physically speaking, out of my league. Particularly the second time around. She was shapely in all the good ways and had a smile that could light up a room. Yet she was more interested in me than I was in her. It wasn’t that I was holding out for someone better. Just that I was holding out for someone different. I am relatively certain that dynamic is in play in the other direction. I can certainly look at some of the people I’ve asked out and been disappointed because I thought my chances were reasonable and can say “Yeah, she needed a guy pretty different than me.”

But back to the original hand, clearly there are cases where women have unrealistic expectations for one reason or another. Phi’s reason is as good as any. There are also some women that have a celebrity fixation (not where they only date celebrities, but they want to date people that look like celebrities… who are invariably more attractive because they look like celebrities).

There are also cases of men with unrealistic expectations. Men that view any body fat as hideous, who have off-kilter self-assessments, and so on. A lot of men believe that since looks are not as important to women as to men that looks are (or ought to be) irrelevant. Guys that believe that being a nice guy will make up for any other deficiency and so latch on to way too attractive girls as friends and then get angry when they’re shut out.

And, of course, that’s the male counterpart to Phi’s theory about women. Guys that believe that if a woman gives them platonic attention and he’s a nice guy that he is owed more. So he continues to ingratiate himself with attractive girls out of his league hoping that he can create a romance like in the movies where the woman realizes that all that she’s ever wanted has been right there the whole time.

Popular entertainment itself is another factor. Entertainment media of course displays primarily attractive men and women, but there are two crucial inequalities in the portrayal. First, the physical standards for women are simply higher. Actresses tend to come in exactly two sizes: attractive and unattractive (read: fat). So you have Katherine Heigl and Camryn Manheim, but not a whole lot in between. So guys can dismiss the obviously flawed women as being unattractive and then can stratify the remaining women, most of whom beautiful and fit enough to be among the most popular at any given public high school (provided that they don’t have personalities that get in the way).

The second way that portrayals are unequal springs from the first but is still a second bird. In the Hollywoodland where the fact majority of women are extremely attractive and men run the spectrum, partnerships between so-so looking men and really attractive women happen with regularity. Rosanne Barr gets John Goodman, but Drew Carey gets Cynthia Waltros (as sorta does Jorge Garcia, Hurley from “Lost”). This feeds into the notion that “looks aren’t important” to girls and gives guys the notion that they might be able to slip through the cracks and get them a Courtney Thorn-Smith.

I suppose you do see the opposite happen as well. You get the “normalish” (radiant beauty aside) protagonist suddenly get the attention of a high-status male. Carol Seaver (Tracey Gold) from Growing Pains being a good example, a nerd-girl who nonetheless got the attention of the star quarterback. However, I think that this is generally undercut by the fact that the normalish girl is, in fact, radiant. So while it exists, I am not inclined to grant it as much of a weight as the male counterpart.

But the bigger reaosn I think that guys are at least slightly more susceptible is because our field of vision is directed at the most attractive. We look at the girls that are on TV, the girls that we are interested in asking out, the girls that are most our type, girls that are just plain pleasant to look at, and so on. The rest are, as a friend of mine perfectly put it in a conversation a while back, “background furniture”.

Now this isn’t a problem if a guy learns how best to approach women and ask them out and learns from his mistakes. He asks out those he is most drawn to, is rejected, and changes his premises accordingly until he learns were exactly he fits into the scheme of things.

However, if a guy is too chicken-spit to actually ask girls out, he will never recalibrate his expectations. He will instead nibble around the edges of the unattrainable, engage in false-friendships, and so on. And he will never notice the girls that, if he took the time to ever actually take an interest in, might take an interest in him, too. I think that this is why guys are more susceptible to realizing, long after the fact, that a girl was into them than are girls. Who notices the way that background furniture looks at them?

Girls, meanwhile, get a more natural gauge by the quality of men that ask them out. If they harbor delusions that they would be a good match for the jock or the class president, the fact that she gets asked out by a lower-class of male specimen is more likely to be noticed. They get a gut check that guys generally don’t, except in the somewhat rare case that a girl pro-actively expresses interest in them.

And even when a girl does express interest in them, it’s not as useful a gauge as it is the other way around. Girls bring pro-active towards guys come in generally one of two varieties: chicks that are attempting to punch above their weight class and chicks that are crazy. There are some exceptions, but the signal-to-noise ratio makes for lousy data-crunching.

These things are never sure, but I would speculate that the problem is worst for guys that have little experience asking girls out. These guys harbor unrealistic hopes that they are understandably afraid to put to the test. Having little or no practical experience, they live in a fanstasy-land where you know if they just keep trying to hit for the fence, they only need one home run. Ironically, though, it’s probably the guys in this group that are most likely to complain about women harboring unrealistic expectations.

If there is an area of womendom that is most afflicted, if there is any credence to Phi’s theory then it would be those attractive enough to garner the sexual attention of the “alpha males” but not really the romantic attention. Not being female, I don’t know how often this is the case and am inclined to say that if there is a problem with female expectations it probably has less to do with the quality of guy that she will catch and more to do with what she can generally expect from the guy she does catch.

Category: Coffeehouse

The famed ComiCon is going on right now in San Diego. A few people have commented on the fact that for a convention ostensibly dedicated to comic books, a lot more attention was being devoted to more popular media. I noticed something similar at my last anime convention, where there were more vocational college and medieval weaponry booths than there were booths that actually sold anime products. I wish I could find the link, but in response to this a guy said that people should lighten up because it just goes to show how popular comic book culture has become. I agree on the “lighten up” part, but for comic book fans, the popularity of comic book culture (namely, but not exclusively, superheroes) has to be disheartening. For all of the play that superheroes have been getting in the box office, comic book sales haven’t stopped struggling in nearly a decade.

A lot of nascent comic book collectors blame the industry’s fixation on superheroes (along with science fiction and fantasy) and suggest that there would be more popularity if it covered a wider array of subject-matter like foreign comics do. Leaving aside for a moment that American-styled comic books are a natural fit for geeky interests from an artistic standpoint, it ignores the above. If superheroes are popular, comics should be in great shape. But they aren’t. Comic book fans discuss the matter endlessly and have different ideas, but they’re coming at it from a blinkered perspective. Just like every Republican thinks that the GOP would be more popular if it would just pursue their preferred policies (and ditto for the Democrats before they won), comic book readers think that comic books would be a lot more popular if they would just produce more comic books to their liking. But sometimes you have to take a step back and realize that your preferences are your own and, as somebody on the inside looking out, you’re not the person that they need to recruit.

The problems as I see them are actually pretty straightforward. I’m a DC guy, so I’m going to focus more on DC, though a lot of these apply to Marvel, too.

First, which just about everybody can agree on, is price. Comics have been on a pretty solid upward trajectory for some time now. When I first started collecting comics, movies cost $6 and comics cost about $1.25 a piece. Now movies cost $8 and comics about $3.99. Comic books are, minute-for-minute, the most expensive media in existence. That’s not to say that they’re necessarily a bad deal. Comic books have one of the highest reconsumption values of any medium in my opinion. They’re extremely easy and pleasant to re-read. They’re easier to navigate than movies to find that scene that you’re looking for, easier than books to be able to jump right back into it with a minimum of commitment, and so on. But they’re a relatively quick read and not a cheap one.

Part of the reason for the expense is that they’re time-consuming to produce. So it’s harder to churn out more material than with books, for instance, which are less a collaborative effort and don’t require art. Of course, they’re cheaper than movies by a longshot. But movies have more ways to recoup. Comics have the original sales and trade-paper backs (collections of storylines sold in a single bound copy) and that’s about it. It’s sort of like why DVDs are often cheaper than CDs even though the latter require far less money to produce. Movies make their money in fifteen different directions and music in less than a handful.

In addition to having limited revenue streams, comic books are in a bit of a hole due to their relative unpopularity. As comic book readership has fallen, they have to increase the profit margin on each comic sold. So while some might figure that decreased demand should lead to lower prices, that’s really not the case. Having lost the elastic casual market, they’re now selling to the inelastic devoted market. Which pays the bills, more-or-less, but makes it harder to replace these people once they quit. Devoted fans became inelastic in part because they got hooked back when comics were more reasonably priced.

If it seems that I talk about the Kindle a lot for someone that doesn’t own one and doesn’t read all that much in the way of comics, a good portion of my interest in the device is the hope that once they get color they may be in a position to save the comic book industry. One of the big reasons that comics are so expensive to produce is because of the costs of the printing and the paper. Devoted fans like good paper stock, so they use good paper stock and the devoted fans are willing to pay more for it, but newer people coming in don’t care. Plus, with smaller circulations, they lose out on the economies of scale and have to pay more per-issue. By removing printing costs from the equation, which are significant, that could reduce the costs considerably.

It would also solve the distribution problem. It used to be that comics were widely available at convenience stores, drug stores, and so on. That’s far less the case now. Whether this caused or was the cause of the casual-to-devoted transition I really don’t know, but I bought my first comic in part because they were prominantly staring at me every time I went to the convenience store. One day I decided to pick one up and I was hooked. The only thing that has prevented them from losing the spontaneous buyer completely are the presence of comic books in bookstores. The Kindle wouldn’t clear that hurdle, but if someone was interested in getting a comic book they wouldn’t have to track down the nearest hobby shop (of which there are fewer and fewer around), they could just spontaneously buy one. But even with bookstores, the “spontaneous buy” is a $20 collection of comics, which makes it a non-trivial expenditure for most people.

But the biggest issue confronting the comic book industry is how much of the content is geared towards an ever-dwindling customer base at the expense of new readers. The storylines are inaccessible to a large swath of potential readers. From a devoted fan’s standpoint, they long and complex and incestuous plots are great because it becomes a sort of thing where it builds on itself to create an elaborate universe. But the casual fan doesn’t necessarily want into a big universe where it sometimes feels like you have to buy everything to understand anything. They just want to read a Batman story. Or an Iron Man one. It’s hard to know where to even begin. To date I have purchased one and only one X-Men comic book. I read it, hadn’t the slightest clue what was going on, and never bought X-Men again. Had my first Batman comic book been that way, it’s possible that I never would have become a collector to begin with.

The last issue is more DC-specific. Warner Bros sometimes seems to go out of its way to generate publicity for its comic books. DC Comics is like this red-headed stepchild that cultivates multimillion dollar properties for them but otherwise is kinda sorta an embarrassment. Back when Batman The Animated Series was showing, not an episode should have aired that didn’t mention that you could get the further adventures of Batman on a monthly (or weekly, depending on how you look at it) basis at your local comic book store or newsstand. Comic writer Chuck Dixon wrote a great piece on this a while back. Time and time again, no sale is attempted on comic books even when this person is already consuming one of DC Comics’s properties.

And sometimes maybe it’s just as well. Cause half the time the comic book that they would pick up would be like that X-Men issue I read. Something in the middle of Infinite Crisis or some huge Batman or Superman storyline. That doesn’t hold true for the animated series (which had a comic book tie-in with the same artistic style and relatively casual storylines), but when the next Flash movie comes out, someone wanting to get into the comic book is going to have to learn why the Flash they’re reading about is different from the one in the movie, how the Wally West in the comic they found from a few years ago doesn’t have a secret identity while the current one does, and so on. It’s created a whole lot of good stories, but it’s been to the long-term detriment of the industry. It has left them unable to capitalize on the film and merchandizing success of the properties they created created. And instead of taking a step back and wondering if maybe they’re getting too inside-baseball, they decide that now (during a very successful stint of Batman movies) is a good time to kill Bruce Wayne.

There’s no easy way out on a lot of this. It’s not bad business sense to be selling comic books to the people that, you know, are buying them. I don’t have any grand solutions except to say that a lot more effort needs to be made to reach out to new readers. They’ve made these efforts in the past, but they’ve been half-hearted and junked as soon as they need some Big Storyline That’s Going To Change Everything. DC Comics in particular needs to give some serious thought into streamlining or cultivating a universe that’s less continuity-oriented and more in-line with the basics that can easily be turned into movies. Something where, when a Flash movie starring (presumably) Barry Allen comes out, they can have a Flash comic book with a similar character rather than one with a long and convoluted history that’s absolutely fascinating to the devoted fan but harder for the newbie to understand. Maybe once you have them buying the beginner’s series can you say “Oh, hey, by the way, if you’re liking this, you might want to check out this wicked-cool thing we’ve got going on over here. There’s a lot more to the story than you know!” or something like that. Of course, having two Flash titles is somewhat cost-prohibitive at this point, but maybe that’s where the Kindle can come in.

Along similar lines, giving more offerings to upper-end casual customers might be a pretty good idea. There are a lot of people willing to pay $20 for a comic with some sort of assurance that they’re going to get the same sort of beginning, middle, and end that they would get if they purchased a novel. Novels are actually a pretty good reference point since a lot of popular writers do a fantastic job of both building on their characters and settings one book at a time but making it so that if you start at the third book in the series you won’t be totally lost. Easier to do with prose than pictures, but I think that it’s something that could be managed.

Unfortunately, unless some sort of Kindle Savior comes along or until they become insolvent (which is relatively unlikely due to movie properties), I think what’s most likely to happen is going to be a lot more of the same. As the industry has cratered, the problem has become worse and not better (at least on the DC end). With an ever-decreasing half-life, they go in and change everything again and again. They kill and resurrect characters. Stuff that grabs the attention of and shocks the fanbase, but keeps those outside of it more and more alienated.

Category: Theater

Jim’s Big Ego is a Boston band with a sort of alty-poppy sound. They refer to themselves as “Unpop for the Unpopular”. If you like Barenaked Ladies or Cake, you might find them worth a listen. Unfortunately, their video coverage on YouTube is spotty. There’s only one official video that I can embed here. It’s a great song, but not very indicative of the band as a whole (the band is quasi-comedic, but the song is about getting over the death of a girlfriend or wife). But they have a plethora of good videos on their website.

If you click away from here to watch one video, I most strongly recommend Stress. It’s a tribute to the white-collar working man and to caffeine. It’s kind of a crude old Flash video, but they made the most of what they had. Concrete (a light song about a woman that’s kinda sorta dragging down his entire existence) and Miss Understanding (about the joys of communication difficulties with a girlfriend who seems to go out of her way to misunderstand what he’s saying) also fall into that category.

Here is the video I actually can embed, “Love What’s Gone”:

In addition to their music videos, they’re one of not-many bands that are supportive of fans creating their own music videos. Here’s one that is an interesting take on “The Ballad of Barry Allen” (Barry Allen was The Flash and was co-created by a relative of frontman Jim Infantino’s). Instead of making it about The Flash, this person chose to make it about Batman. It’s a creative take on (what for comic book fans is) a fantastic song with a unique take on the humdrum of the fast life of superheroism:

Here’s a fan-video to their song “They’re Everywhere” done for an English project:

It’s not my favorite of the fan videos, but they won’t let me embed the real video.

An ode to Governor Rod Blagojovich. It’s a recording from a live show rather than a music video, and so the audio quality isn’t all that great, but it’s a pretty funny song.

Category: Theater

The thought occurs to me as I read stories about Clancy on this site that I sometimes portray her as something of a hard-ass. I have commented in the past that she is the sort that “suffers no fools” and have often played her straight-laced posture against my own more freewheeling (sometimes kinda sorta reckless) nature. When I read over posts that involve her, it seems to unduly establish her Hit Coffee persona. Accuracy of characterization is not a premium on this site by any stretch. It’s not that I make an attempt to be inaccurate, but there are occasional indulgences and exaggerations. But mostly, I think it’s a function that the sum of my stories is largely only half of the story. The cases where I am freespiritedly eating convenience store hot dogs and she reacts unfavorably are more interesting to write about than cases where she and I are both of the same mind on something. So while she and I have a lot of similar views and values on a lot of things, they play off one another. I think my “characterization” is less distorted simply because I am the narrator and my interactions with Clancy are countered by my interactions with others and so on.

But when you think about it, the perceptions you all have of Clancy are the sort of stuff that we deal with in life all the time. I take for example Clem “Golden Boy” Hartford. My characterization of him was grossly unfair. He has a side to the story that I don’t bother to tell and, to be honest, that when I was working with him I did not extensively concern myself about. What I cared about was that he was my nemesis. That was the role he played in my life. No matter how much I would try to understand him and relate to him as a person, his very existence in my surroundings caused me grief. He was everything that I disliked about suck-ups, know-it-alls, and certain kinds of Mormon men. But beyond that, he was a rival. His success made my life more unpleasant in very real ways. His departure from our department made my life materially easier and better. So in the story that was my employment at Falstaff, he was the villain.

No doubt, though, he could tell his story and I would be the villain. I would be the one that sabotaged his chances at a promotion. A conspirator who made his life difficult. My motivations would be beside the point. From his perspective, my actions in regards to him were who I was. From his perspective, he tried exceptionally hard to be friendly to me and I rebuffed him. My reasons for doing so don’t matter.

The other day I was going through some of the employee photos of Falstaff and picking out some to show up on my slideshow screensaver. I saw his picture, with the goofy and (to me) insidious smile and I actually grinned. And I added him to the slideshow. I remember how gratified I was to hear that he was unceremoniously fired from Falstaff and that his fate was playing video games while his wife worked and supported him. But now, a few years later, I don’t care. I wish him well, I guess. Now I see him as a goofy guy that was the source of all manner of humor, mischief, and drama. He is a memory and not a threat. Now, with all of this distance, I can remember that he was someone that meant no more harm than a dog that won’t stop humping your leg. He is, however, the same person he always was. But he’s an entirely different character now.

It makes me think of comic books, in a way. in the DC Universe, you have characters like Batman and Superman who are portrayed differently by different writers. More than that, when they make guest-appearances in other comic books they fill different roles. When Batman tries to hunt down the Vigilante in the latter’s series, he is the antagonist. When he runs into some no-name character, he is an idol. And so on, and so on. A whole lot of different perspectives on the same (albeit fictional) guy. Also in the world of fiction, it’s something that has made its way into my own writing. One character has been in every novel that I’ve written and that I plan to write that take place in the same “universe”. It’s the same guy, but in the first book he’s an aloof member of a rival group of the novel’s protagonist. In the second he is the male lead. In the third he is a sidekick of sorts with certain blue-collar accents that for various reasons don’t show up in the previous piece. Same guy, different character. Similarly, the protagonist in the third will be the object of revulsion in a later one (if I ever get around to writing it), seen as arrogant and entitled and cold and cruel. h

The same is true even without the site or the fiction. The way that we perceive people is based on our incomplete experiences with them.

To use Clancy as an example again, there are some patients that she has that really dislike her. Because they wanted a doctor that would prescribe drugs and she is rather tight-fisted about prescriptions. But for other patience who want actual care, she is golden. Far from being the hard-ass that she is sometimes portrayed to be here, she is exceptionally compassionate. Ironically, she does particularly well with patients that are the fools that she does not suffer. She listens to them in the same way that other doctors don’t. And they latch on to her. When she was in Deseret, she built up nearly twice the practice as the next-highest resident. Patients would see her through the lottery and then would ask to see her again at rates far higher than other doctors. Some of that is because she is an absolutely awesome doctor (not that I’m biased or anything), but a big part of it is because patients are very comfortable with her.

And of course I couldn’t personally marry a hard-ass. Not a real one. Clancy is one of the warmest people I know. That I am who I am and that she is with me demonstrates a lot more versatility than I sometimes give her credit for. There are some guys I know that I have commented on that need to marry a “drill-sergeant”, but I’m not really one of them. I sometimes need a straight-man (or woman), but I am one fool that she fortunately suffers gladly.

The paranoid part of me thinks all of these things and wonders how others see me. I don’t just mean in the sense of “do they like me?” but rather do they see me for what I am? I will take being liked for the wrong reasons from a purely pragmatic standpoint, though of course I would dislike being disliked for the wrong ones for a few reasons. But I also wonder who sees me as a person that they would not like to get to know even though they are exactly the kind of person that I would get along with. And I have more transparently been in situations where I wonder “Why does this person like me? Who does this person think I am?” and I’m annoyed, though I go along for the sake of pragmatism and because I believe that it’s good to have people to lean on whether you like them or not.

Category: Coffeehouse

I don’t know where I picked up the phrase “It’s the principle of the matter that bothers me” but it took years before I stopped annoying my friends with it.

Despite the pseudonyms and fictional locales and the barriers that exist between my life as it happens and as I report it to you, you all are let in on a little detail that most people that I meet and talk to on a regular basis don’t know: I am someone with a lot of opinions. Opinions of everything.

For a variety of reasons, I have become less opinionated with age. I discovered along the way that opinions are often wrong, for instance. And that loudly voicing opinions is socially dangerous in ways that I cannot generally afford. Oh, and people that feel the need to express their opinion on everything can be very obnoxious. So I often keep my opinions to myself, which actually has the effect of reducing the number of opinions I have and the ferocity of these opinions.

One of the big things that broke me out of the “principle of the matter” habit was Hubert. Hubert had a hair-trigger temper not unlike mine and I noticed that whenever his initial outburst seemed disproportionate to the amount of harm done, he would retreat to it being about the principle of the matter. Proportionality doesn’t matter when you have principles, after all. It was a great way for him to re-evaluate his responses to things and perhaps even be greatful that things were not as dire as they had initially appeared.

So in response to him, I became much more of a live-and-let-live person. And a fan of that saying “let that which does not matter truly not matter.”

I meet with varying success.

When I was living with Hubert, I used to crack wise about how “In the World According to Hubert…” followed by a reaction relatively out-of-proportion with the consequences of the offenses. For instance: In the World According To Hubert, it’s vitally important that people signal when about to take a forced turn so that drivers behind them know that they will be slowing down to take said turn” with the implication that a failure to so turn is yet another example of the downfall of society.

As the saying goes, we criticize in others what we dislike about ourselves. And of course one of the reasons that I pounced on it was because howevermuch I mocked The World According to Hubert, there has always been a World According to William.

So periodically I will be posting World According to William posts, outlining the relatively inane aspects of society that I take objection to. -{TWATW}-

Category: Coffeehouse

There’s an interesting sort of ideological chasm that runs through the Corrigan Compound. The Corrigan Clan includes the Himmelreichs (my wife’s family) as well as a bunch of other last names since Clancy’s mother had many sisters and only one brother.

The Corrigans are not that dissimilar from my father’s family. Our parents raised in families on relatively modest means but with a priority on education that caused a significant generational shift in class. Amongst the Corrigan Clan, I am relatively uneducated with my degree limited to a BS in a family where Master Degrees, MDs, and JDs are increasingly the norm.

That’s where the chasm lies. I was raised to look at college as a vocational school. The notion that I would graduate in something unmarketable was relatively unthinkable. I could have done it, but my parents would have pulled the finance rug right out from under me. Clancy was raised in a relatively similar light with the expectation being that they were going to college to prepare for a career or at least for future career opportunities. If their undergrad degrees weren’t worth much, they at least needed post-grad plans that would pick up the slack. Clancy majored in biochemistry and psychology and her sister Ellie in something ecological, but both went on to become a doctor and lawyer respectively.

My father-in-law and Cousin Lester were talking about Zoey, the youngest of the Himmelreich girls. Zoey wanted to go to school and study French. The compromise was that she would study French and International Finance. She had some pretty nice job opportunities straight out of school (and I don’t think it was because she knew French). When she gets back from Africa (where her French is coming in handy, I suppose), she is likely going back to school to major in something.

Uncle Lester made a comment that given her smarts and charisma and beauty, it doesn’t matter what she majors in because she will do just wonderfully. Notably, Lester’s son is pursuing a master’s degree in something with virtually no marketing utility whatsoever. His daughter is still in the BA stage, but appears headed down a similar path though with the vague plans of law school if nothing else jumps at her.

Lester is a lawyer, as is Uncle Hiram. Hiram’s daughter has a degree in English from a small, expensive private school that I’m sure gave her an excellent education but did not provide a brand name that I was familiar with prior to meeting her. The other daughter majored in something equally useless (though given who she went on to marry it turned out to be irrelevant).

So back to the schism. Clancy and I were raised, as were her siblings and a couple of cousins, that college was meant to be vocational. Obviously, Lester and Hiram raised their children with different priorities. My initial inclination was to chalk it up to wealth with the more middle-end of the upper middle classdom that drank and partied at the Corrigan Compound insisting that college degrees mean something marketable and with those at the upper-end of the UMC not being so concerned. There may be something to it, but it’s an imperfect correlation. As was my attempt to align it to political party preferences.

Instead, I think it comes down at least a little to perceptions of the value of money. Or maybe the value of security. The purpose of money to the Trumans, I think, is more about security than anything else. If money is to mean anything, it is to mean aborbing the financial impact of temporary unemployment, a mold infestation, or a broken down car. Without that, they can’t enjoy all the goods that money can buy. Along those lines, the money spent on college is supposed to go towards that security for my brothers and I and if it doesn’t further our security then it is money wasted. While it’s always possible to do well career-wise without a college degree, having that degree (in something useful) provides a degree of flexibility that make the likelihood of finding secure employment greater and the fear of not being able to find it somewhat more distant.

I would guess that Lester and Hiram (or Hiram’s wife, at any rate), view it all a little different. To them, the point of making money is so that their kids don’t have to live their life trying to minimize the fear of unemployment. It’s less about the security that money can buy and more about the freedom. The fact that they have daughters that can marry future breadwinners (as Hiram’s older daughter did) probably helps, though Clancy’s parents wanted to make darn sure that they would not be dependent on any such contingency and Lester’s uselessly-degreed kid is a son… so maybe not.

Now, my inclination is naturally to say that my parents are right and the others are wrong. That security is more important than freedom and so on. That’s certainly that attitude that Clancy will make. Then again, given that those were the priorities I was raised with, that is precisely what I would say, isn’t it? Though there is a point in my life where I might have said differently.

When I was younger, I had visions of maybe moving to New York City and putting my creative talents to work as a comic book writer. I would like nothing more than to be a writer of some sort with comic books being slightly preferable to movies being slightly preferable to novels being slightly preferable to newspapers. And I held out hope that it could happen someday and maybe it might. But it’s unlikely. I hope to get published someday, but it’s extremely unlikely that it would ever be my career.

There was always the thought that it was something I could do but at the least I needed another vocation as a fall back. What I don’t think I fully appreciated was that there really is a tradeoff between one or the other. By going to college and getting a degree in CIS, I was more-or-less charting a path that did not include New York City or Los Angeles and attempts at being a writer. If anything does happen, it’ll have been due to the luck of marrying who I did. But ultimately, the caution that directed me to get a conservative and marketale degree made making any sort of “leap of faith” that moving to NYC or LA would entail virtually impossible.

And what use is money if not to afford your kids the opportunity to follow their dreams?

It’s an attractive thought, but one I can’t buy into. Maybe because buying into would mean that the decisions I’ve made have been wasteful. But I think it has more to do with my rejection of the implicit lesson that I associated with what Lester was saying: You’re smart; you’re talented; the world will figure something out for you. Maybe there is a point on the economic spectrum where you really can expect that sort of thing. Maybe Lester’s kids and Clancy and I were actually raised at or above that point in the spectrum.

But for good or for ill, I was taught the lesson that the world owes you nothing and will take from you whatever you have unless you do what you have to in order to prevent that from happening. Our children will likely be raised in a better financial position than we were. Perhaps a good enough position that the fear of falling will not be enough to keep them from following their dreams with a reckless abandon. I really don’t know what to think about that.

Category: School

So below are some GoogleEarth images of various places that I’ve been. It was kind of fun to compile, though a big time-consuming. Some of the pictures may not be up terribly long. The images they had for Deseret were really bad. Which is odd because I don’t think that they used to be that bad. Anyway, if you’re interested, click below: (more…)

Category: Server Room

-{Previously on “My History in Popularity”…}-

I discussed the hellish experience that was junior high, where I had to bribe people to leave me alone or act friendly. Things had improved by the 8th grade (the last year of middle school in Delosa), but I was too guarded and defensive to see it. Then I got dropped into high school…

-{Mayne High School}-

Once again, I was graduating from the little school merging with the big school. Mayne Intermediate had been about twice the size of Larkhill Intermediate. The existence of Airfield (a middle school created my 8th grade year that took some students from Mayne and Larkhill middle schools) didn’t factor in that much because most connections remained strong with the school that they came from. But this time it wasn’t so bad. The chaotic and brutal culture of Larkhill was largely non-existent. The bullies that tormented us couldn’t get the same mileage out of being a thug that they used to. Plus, more and more of them were shipped off to the alternative high school.

But perhaps the largest advantage to Mayne High School was its size. It was large enough that I could become invisible. It’s a lot easier to hide amongst a class of a thousand than it is to hide in a class of a couple hundred. And those that were there were less likely to be thugs, less encouraged to be thugs, and older and wiser than they had been. I know I devoted a paragraph to that, but it was worth repeating.

So I crossed the ranks from the Unpopular to the Not Popular. I had a few tormentors, I guess, but there wasn’t anymore physical intimidation and they didn’t have the people egging them on anymore. I would meet the worst of these guys many years later at the Stockpile Saloon. He seemed to remember us as good friends. Weirdest thing. He wasn’t the only one.

The weight also started to come off. Ten pounds one year, ten the next, fifty the year after that. Gradually I started building up a network. A few networks, actually. There were the people I had classes with, people I met on Camelot BBS that went to my high school, and then people that Clint introduced me to.

There were still problems, though. While Clint had integrated himself into the band scene with all sorts of friends and so on, Though Clint was no longer a liability, I still had other friends who were. I remember one girl in particular who stopped sitting with us at breakfast because of Raleigh’s presence. On the other hand, Ralgeigh graduated a year before me and I started becoming less accommodating of people that I didn’t like that were keeping people I did like away from me.

I never found my clique. I was still reasonably insistent on doing my own thing. And just as I started being in a position where I could make a lot of friends from school, I wasn’t really interested in doing so. My social hub was no longer Mayne High School but was instead Camelot. While I was fine with that most of the time, it was frustrating to know a lot of people and yet have nobody to sit with at lunch. I do with I had found my social gumption earlier. I was so scared of being to them what Raleigh was to me.

But still, the situation had at least improved. I never dated anyone that went to Mayne High School, though I did have a couple of opportunities and I’m sure a few more that I was too clueless to pick up on. I had female friends. If I hadn’t had a girlfriend at the time, I would still have had a date to the prom. Somehow, I think that was always the true measure of success: Being Not Raleigh.

-{The End? To Be Continued? Maybe I’ll write something about Southern Tech University at some point}-

Category: Ghostland, School