Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Holiday Celebration at Ford's Theatre

A group of us taped this back in June, and it was held until tonight. If you look close, you can see me! I'm next to Wynonna, or however you spell it. More pics to come!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Michigan Review's effect on my job search

So I was interviewing with three magistrate judges this morning in downtown DC, and one of them asked me about my 60 Minutes experience. That led to my mentioning that I was editor of the Michigan Review, which we liked to think of as a "journal" because in contrast to the Michigan Daily which you could read in the 10 minutes between class, you actually had to sit down and think about Review articles. This prompted one of the judges to ask, somewhat suspiciously, "Is that anything like the Dartmouth Review?" Uh oh. "We're in the same network," I said, "but it's not like the Dartmouth Review."

She explained to the other judges, "When I went to Dartmouth, the Dartmouth Review was like this extreme right-wing newspaper."

I quickly went into Damage Control mode. The Michigan Review was a thoughtful paper, I told them all. I explained that I consider myself fairly moderate -- "I'm a registered Independent!" -- but that Ann Arbor is like Berkeley, and the entire spectrum shifts to the left, so that all of a sudden I'm "right wing." I got yet more mileage out of the Ward Connerly speech from 9.5 years ago, explaining that Review types just wanted to have an actual dialogue, but BAMN ("the coalition to defend affirmative action by any means necessary," I said, to groans) kept shouting him down and wouldn't let him speak. I told them how I was drawn to the Review because it was a thoughtful group of people who examined all sides logically.

After about 5 minutes, having gotten way off the initial point, I said, "So, in conclusion, the Michigan Review is not like the Dartmouth Review."

Thank God she didn't go to Cornell! (When I was in college, The Cornell Review was known as the most outrageous right-wing paper in the network.)

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Deadening of One's Soul: an Epiphany

I wanted to document review until 9 pm tonight but I simply cannot work anymore. My brain is completely fried. This is without a doubt the most mind-numbing work I have ever done in my life (and that includes the data entry I did for my uncle when I was 12). I cannot describe how tedious and boring this is. It literally deadens my soul.

I am a creative person. I like to write, to sing. To think. I loved the first year of law school because it presented me with an entirely new way of thinking about the world. It took philosophy -- a subject I had enjoyed in college but found to have no practical effects -- and applied it to the world. Criminal law taught me about theories of punishment. Contract law taught me how to analyze the agreements people make with each other. Torts showed me the system that we as a society use to determine who is responsible when one person accidentally causes another to be injured.

And I loved communications law because it pitted the law -- a slow moving beast -- against technology, which literally moves at the speed of light.

Document review is the antithesis of what I am interested in. It is legal purgatory, a job doled out to those who didn't get an offer from their summer firms. It pays well but I want to drown myself in my water bottle every day.

I'm going to keep looking for communications law jobs, but I am also going to expand my search to clerkships for any level judge, and also criminal defense and prosecution. And I am going to continue to submit freelance ideas, and work on honing my fiction writing, and take voice lessons and audition for the opera chorus.

All I know for sure right now is that I don't see how I can keep doing this job through the end of January. I have to do something else, anything else.

I don't care if it pays half as much.

No reward is worth this.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Why I Hate Traveling

Most girls I know LOVE to travel. My sister hops around the world with abandon, working multiple jobs to be able to afford such adventures, and sometimes taking a job in her destination city of choice. It seems every girl on match.com absolutely loves traveling, so much so that they list it along with shopping as their favorite things to do.

I can't stand traveling.

This Thanksgiving our family decided to meet up in Vegas for shows, gambling and turkey day buffet debauchery. A wonderful reprieve from document reviewing. My flight was supposed to leave Reagan National at 11:45 am, I'd get a connecting flight in Minneapolis at 3, and I'd arrive in Vegas at 4:30 Vegas-time.

Notice I said "supposed to."

So, the first leg of my flight -- the one heading to a connecting flight in Minneapolis -- was delayed by two hours because of storms in Memphis, which delayed the plane's arrival in DC.

Once I finally got on the plane, there were two young toddlers in the row right behind me. THEY WERE ALREADY CRYING, and we hadn't even gotten into the air yet. Once in the airn, the one directly behind my head was screaming and screeching and crying for easily two-thirds of the journey. It was at least two years old and really should have known better.

The second leg was supposed to be quite grand. I had checked in the previous night via the Internet, and secured a wonderful exit row seat right in front of the large entrance area to the plane. I would have had five feet of legroom and gotten to watch as everybody shuffled onto the plane. The last time I had that seat, a couple years ago, I ended up flirting with a very cute brunette when she engaged me in a playful discussion about the Cinnabon I was making love to. Alas, I did not capitalize on her IOIs. Now armed with Mystery's glorious tips, I was looking forward to picking a target and trying my luck.

But it was not to be! Because the first flight was delayed, I missed my exit row flirting seat that would have gotten me to Vegas by 4:30, and had to be crammed into *fucking 12-E* -- the middle seat in between a guy and an upper-middle-aged woman who smelled strongly of adult diapers. Adding insult to injury, our plane was delayed on the tarmac for half an hour because, in the words of the pilot, "the de-icing platform is just a mess." He told us we'd be hear for another 30 minutes to an hour. Hearing that, the biatch in front of me decided to break all protocol and recline her goddamn seat back! I wanted to shout, "You have to keep your seat back and tray table up until the captain turns off the fasten seatbelt sign!" But since I was illegally using a communications device to text message people and inform them of my plight, I decided not to call the kettle African American.

Long story short, I got up early for nothing, wasted several hours wandering about two airports, and didn't get in to Vegas until after 7 -- missing the Cirque du Soleil show for which I had a non-refundable ticket.

I enjoy exploring strange new worlds. I like seeking out new life and new civilizations. I am a fan of boldly going where no Matt has gone before. But until The Powers That Be invent and commercialize transporter technology and/or warp speed, I'm staying at home on my couch and exploring strange new worlds the way God intended: by watching DVR'd Star Trek episodes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Apologies and Old Thoughts

I want to take this opportunity to apologize to all of my regular visitors for failing to update my Web site as much as I ought to. You see, I m a busy man. Every now and then I come up with a fantastic idea for the blog, but by the time I have an opportunity to write about it, it is several days or weeks later and my enthusiasm has waned. For instance, two weeks ago I was going to write a very detailed entry about my hour and a half adventure collecting free burritos all over the city. In 2006, I was only able to get two free burritos, but this year, using my Segway, I was able to make it to four Chipotles in the course of just 90 minutes. The power of free food compelled me. It was glorious!

Around the same time, someone asked me to tell her what my first impression of her was when I first met her. No one had ever asked me that before, and so I never realized how personal a question that really is. If you think about it, a first impression is either negative, positive, or neutral. Either way, someone's feelings could be stepped on. If my first impression was that this woman was ugly and annoying, what would be the purpose of telling her that? If my first impression was that she barely registered in my mind, then she would assume she was boring and forgettable. If my first impression was very positive - like, oh my God, she is so beautiful! - then I am simply setting myself up for some sort of embarrassment. Or rejection, as she makes a scared face and mumbles something about "Creeepy."

But I told her what my first impression was, which was that she was pretty and skinny and, once I started talking to her, she seemed nice enough. She was pleased with my first reaction. I asked her what hers was of me. She told me, "I thought you had really red hair. You reminded me of my father, who also has red hair. When you spoke, I got the impression that you were very intelligent. "

Huh. Maybe we should start telling others our first impressions more often!

Anyway, that is what I was going to write about. Unfortunately, I was too busy or lazy to put my ideas into words. Fortunately, my voice recognition software is playing along nicely tonight, and it isn't taking that long to get my thoughts onto the screen.

But I can tell you right now what the next long entry will be: Matt's 500-Mile Segway Report! Get the popcorn: this one will be entertaining.

Overstock.com employees: helpful but not accurate

Welcome to Overstock.com, you are now chatting with 'Tony'
Tony: Thanks for visiting Overstock.com, this is Tony, how can I help you?
Matt: I was wondering if you could tell me why the sky is blue.
Tony: I do not have the exact information on that, however, I personally feel that the water color gets reflected on to the sky that's why its blue in color.

Ahh, so close Tony! In fact, so close that upon a cursory glance, I just assumed you had gotten it right because you used the magic word "reflected." Indeed, something is reflecting, but it is not water droplets.

According to my fuzzy memory of Mr. Wizard and other infotainment, the sky is blue because... um... something about the light being scattered... DAMMIT. Um, Google?

"The blue color of the sky is due to Rayleigh scattering. As light moves through the atmosphere, most of the longer wavelengths pass straight through. Little of the red, orange and yellow light is affected by the air.

However, much of the shorter wavelength light is absorbed by the gas molecules. The absorbed blue light is then radiated in different directions. It gets scattered all around the sky. Whichever direction you look, some of this scattered blue light reaches you. Since you see the blue light from everywhere overhead, the sky looks blue." --http://www.sciencemadesimple.com/sky_blue.html

And there you have it! What have we learned today? 1) The sky is blue because of scattering. 2) When bored, a fun way of passing the time is chatting with Overstock.com online help and asking them science questions.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

...it's my bird in a box!



Imagine a 2-year-old child. Now imagine a 2-year-old child who can FLY. That's what Rudy is like. The intrepid Rudy often finds interesting nooks and crannies in my apartment, and here we join him as he plays inside his newest find, a big box in the hallway.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Segway Gliding in the Rain



Today was the first day that it was both autumn and rainy at the same time, and it was somewhat harrowing riding on the Segway! An audio post follows...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Vote for your favorite personalized license plate!

I am registering my car in DC, and I realized that I can pick out a nifty vanity plate for just a pittance more. I've narrowed my choices down to these four (all of which are available), and I would love if you could voice your opinion in the comments!

I have a definite favorite, and I will explain my reasoning after the vote. (Don't want to do it beforehand because I don't want to taint the voting pool.) :-)


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Office Space 2: Milton's Revenge

Now that I am getting out of the house every day and wandering downtown like a productive member of society, my mind has been active, and several neat little observations have bubbled up in my brain lately.

Unfortunately, also like a productive member of society, I am pooped when I get home and all I want to do is veg. So today is not the day that I will post those nifty observations on my Web site. However, you are in for a treat.

I have always been a fan of trailer remixes, and I just ran across a VERY well done remix of Office Space, turning this ingenious comedy into a rather effective psychological thriller. I present it here for y'all. Enjoy! :-)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Two Mile Jog... via Segway!

For those of you who have the curiosity to click over to my Fitness site (graph on the right will get you there), you know that I have attempted to take up running lately. Err, jogging. Using Google Earth, I mapped out a nifty 2-mile jog that happens to have a lot of hills, which sucks, but goes through my very pretty neighborhood, which rocks.

Because I can't bring you all on my jog, I have decided to bring my jog to you! I hereby present the 2 miles I have so-far jogged three times... VIA SEGWAY! Enjoy.



Edit: My goodness, that looks like Shiite after YouTube gets through with it... hmm. Well, I have reduced the physical size of the video so that might look a little better. If you want to see the original, come on over to my place! :-)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Public Anonymity has Lost its Lustre

I started a new temp job this morning somewhere downtown, and I decided not to take my Segway because A) it was too cold, and B) I like to scope out a work situation before I bring the Segway down. Are the sidewalks generally wide enough and not too crowded? (I don't like to use the Segway where the sidewalk is way too packed, like M St. In Georgetown!) Will there be a good place to lock it up during the day? And so on.

It turns out that this location is quite Segway-friendly. The sidewalks are wide and mostly clear even during the morning rush, and there are plenty of nice bike racks right in front of the building. (I used to be hesitant to leave the Segway parked outside all day, but I am pretty sure that if I double lock it -- U-lock and cable lock -- and set the alarm, it'll be okay.)

Since I started using the Segway, I started missing something that I didn't realize I would miss until it was gone: my Public Anonymity. I hadn't realized how nice it was to not be Stared At all the time -- until I started getting stared at ALL THE TIME. My loss of public anonymity was actually a major thing, causing me to not take the Segway out as much as I might have otherwise.

So, it's a funny thing... as I was standing there after work today, waiting for the D1 bus for 20 minutes and finally settling on the D6, which would mean a transfer on Wisconsin Ave. but at least it would get me out of the damn cold -- I realized that if I were taking the Segway, I could have been HOME by now. And that would have been awesome.

It seems public anonymity is not all it's cracked up to be. :-)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A bit of choral goodness

As most of you probably know, I sing tenor in the Choral Arts Society of Washington. As most of you probably don't know, we're singing Beethoven's Ninth Symphony this week (i.e. "Ode to Joy") with the National Symphony Orchestra at Kennedy Center. Most of you probably don't know this, because unlike in years' past, I have not flooded everybody's e-mail inbox with requests to Come To My Concert! Why? Eh, just hasn't occurred to me, really. The Core Group of friends who traditionally come to my concerts has dissipated somewhat, with everybody flung out to all corners of the globe, and so there's not much reason to send out a mass e-mail.

Tonight we had our final choral rehearsal (before we rehearse with the orchestra tomorrow), and for your listening pleasure, I was able to record a few snippets from rehearsal -- along with our conductor's energetic commentary and direction. It's a little soprano-heavy, as that's where the recorder was placed, but it's still fun to listen to. Enjoy!







Also, if you want to come, the Thursday and Saturday concerts are sold out, but Friday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. is still available.

I'd love to see you!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

An Open Letter to BenKepple.com

Mr. Kepple,

As you may know, we at BeforeISleep.net are great fans of your online property, "Benjamin Kepple's Daily Rant." In fact, your property has been an inspiration, encouraging us to post even more frequently than we otherwise are inclined to. Since you have been such an inspiration, we feel that we can no longer simply sit back and observe while your heretofore fine blog continues its long and maddening technological decline.

We speak, dear friend, of your continuing lack of comments. You posted on this topic a while back, essentially throwing your hands up, saying there is nothing you could do because you don't know how to fix the comment feature. And so incredibly worthy topics, such as the recent discovery of a brain-eating amoeba waging war against our nation's swimmers, go UNCOMMENTED. As loyal BeforeISleep.net readers know, often the Comments section are as entertaining as the original post itself, and I'm sure that loyal Rant readers would relish the opportunity to wax at length on the comparative dangers of the futuristic brain-eating amoeba against the unspeakably horrid Guinea Worm (video here - jump to 7:15).

Comments also increase the popularity of one's online property. First, the ability to "leave a comment" engages readers in a way unaccomplishable by simply lurking in the shadows. Right now, the only way Kepple readers can comment on your blog entries is by e-mailing other random Kepple readers, or by posting a response on one's own blog -- both solutions are less-than-optimal. Second, when a casual visitor to BenKepple.com scans the entries, he will see that NONE of them has ANY COMMENTS. The constant "0 comments" gives casual visitors a very negative impression of the popularity of your site, and they will simply move on, reasoning that, if no one else listens to you, why should he?

To that end, we propose a solution. We, the proprietors of BeforeISleep.net, hereby offer to FIX YOUR GODDAMN COMMENTS. We are sure it is not as hard as you are making it out to be. We will, of course, require confidential details to your site (i.e. user name and password), and you of course are free to change the password just after we fix the problem, so that you need not worry about us having access to your site in perpetuity. We encourage you to contact us at your earliest convenience, while bearing in mind that this is a limited-time offer.

We look forward to hearing from you, so that your loyal readers will once again be able to engage in the time-honored tradition of Internet comments, as demonstrated in this lovely video (of which you are already familiar):



Cordially,
BeforeISleep.net

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Kal and I Discuss Animals and Pickups


Good friend Kal Man [Last Name Removed for Googleproofing Purposes] recently purchased a MacBook, and now has a spiffy little video camera staring at him all the time. I have an iSight camera wedged in between my two flat panel monitors. So tonight Kal and I decided to join our respective web cams together in a little experiment I like to call, "PICTURE TALKING THROUGH THE CYBER NETS!"

At Kal's insistence, I am posting this decidedly amusing footage for all to see. Join us as we introduce our pets, in what is almost certain one of the first Parrot-Cat Picture Talks ever recorded. Join us as I demonstrate my tried-and-true pickup techniques in an attempt to woo Kal over. And join us as ONE OF US gets nekkid. After all, that's what you do with web cams on the Internet.

Yeah, baby.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Out of the Ordinary


Clean Shaven with Rudy
Originally uploaded by CaseWriter21
Some quick updates:
  • I shaved my beard. Why? I was bored. I wanted to remember what I looked like clean-shaven. I think I look pretty cute - from the front anyway. Profile views are a bevy of double chins, but what can ya do.
  • I had excruciating hiccups the other day. After a few minutes of torture, I decided to try my standard remedy: drinking water upside down. This entails holding a cup or bottle of water in my hand, bending forward at the waist and placing my mouth on the opposite side of the cup, and drinking the water by tilting my head forward. Normally this works like a charm. This time, it succeeded in getting rid of my hiccups, but there was an unexpected hiccup: I GOT WATER INSIDE MY HEAD. Yes, I'm serious. It seemed to go through an opening up by my sinuses, and ended up in the post-nasal-drip area. And it wouldn't leave. Whenever I shook my head, I heard sloshing, like the ocean. (Okay, that last part isn't true, but my head did feel oddly filled with liquid.) That night, it was very difficult to fall asleep, and in the morning, I awoke with a bad sore throat from where the water had irritated me. Luckily, things are starting to get better now as the water -- mercifully -- is draining away somewhere. But yesterday, I didn't know if the water would ever go away, so to urge it along, I purchased a...
  • Neti Pot! See Wikipedia for details. I had been terrified of trying this thing ever since I first learned about it from a hippie heath store worker friend last year. But I finally took the plunge and did it. And ya know what? I didn't accidentally waterboard myself! VIDEO COMING SOON. Hahahaha, that will gross so many people out.
Addendum: My bird picks his nose.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Software review: iListen voice recognition program by MacSpeech

I have been using a voice recognition program called iListen for several weeks. Overall, I am satisfied but it can be extremely frustrating at times.

First, the good part: it allows me to effectuate one of the main rules espoused by my legal writing instructor during the first year of law school. That rule is as follows: start writing. Just get something on paper. You see, my first year writing instructor was very similar to me. That is, he was a major procrastinator. And if there is one thing we procrastinators are good at, it is not starting to write when we should. The solution to that ailment is simply to start writing, even if you know nothing about the topic. This will accomplish two things: first, you learn that you did know something about the topic - more than you thought you knew. Second, more importantly, you will have started. And starting is half the battle. Procrastinators - chronic procrastinators - get that way because they become paralyzed by a feeling of dread.And has the deadline approaches, and nothing has yet been written, the dread only increases, as does the paralysis. By getting something on paper, even if you have to, as my instructors so colorfully put it, "vomit eight pages onto the screen," you now have something to work with. You now have a first draft. And it is much easier to revise and start tweaking when you have something already written. Even if it sucks.

Take, for instance, the letter that I wrote to the commissioners of the FCC. For the last two months, since my indecency paper was published, I had been intending to send a copy to each of the five commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission, along with a brief introductory letter explaining what this paper was about. Yes, I intended to write this letter every week. But the blank screen was staring at me, and even though I had just written and gotten published a 15,000 word essay, this simple 200 word letter was eluding me. There's something about hands on a keyboard, with a flashing cursor staring at me, that simply serves to clear my mind, like some sort of Zen-like trance.

The voice recognition software solves that problem. Yes, it makes simple mistakes, because it misunderstands the easiest words. But it gets most of the thought onto the screen. And I have found that speaking something aloud is far more natural and quick than trying to force my fingers to type the same thoughts. (I now see the appeal in dictating memos and letters!)

So, where it had taken two months and I had not written anything, with the help of the voice recognition software I now had a complete letter - personalized for each Commissioner - written in the time span of approximately half an hour. As I speak this entry, five copies of my article are sitting in a mail truck somewhere, and tomorrow they will be sitting on the desk of the commissioner (or at least the commissioner's assistant).

Now for the most frustrating part (other than the constant incorrect words): the vocabulary of this software program is simply not large enough. Friends, my vocabulary is not that sophisticated. I don't think I should have to teach the software what the word sneeze is. Or what all the derivations of the word are - sneeze, sneezed, sneezing, etc. This problem happens so frequently that I continue to spend several minutes during each dictation session teaching the software words that it simply has no excuse for not knowing. The programmers say that if they included all possible words, it would be harder to dictate correctly, because the computer we have so many more choices - so many more words to choose from. But folks, honestly, this is too much. Below is a list of the words that I have had to teach the computer during this blog entry alone:
  • espoused
  • procrastinators
  • colorfully
  • vomit
  • eluding
  • Zen-like (okay, this one I can understand not including in the Standard dictionary)
  • misunderstands
  • aloud
  • sneeze
  • sneezing
Honestly, there are more, but I have forgotten which ones I had to teach the computer. This happens all the time. Obviously, as I continue to use the software more frequently, my particular brand of language will be incorporated into the vocabulary database, and I will have to make these additions less frequently. Until then, it is incredibly frustrating.

And there is the fact that sometimes the program will be almost 100 percent accurate, and sometimes the accuracy will offer somewhere around 60 or 70 percent. The biggest variables that determine how accurate the software is all our position of the microphone, and background noise. Surprisingly, the program is still fairly accurate even when there is light music playing in the background. But move the microphone one inch away from the proper position, and watch out!

And then there are the smaller annoyances (edit: I just had to add the word "annoyances" to the dictionary! how ironic!) -- this software uses a special correct mode in order to fix incorrect transcriptions (edit: I just had to add the word "transcriptions" -- it had the singular but not the plural!). It gives you a list of words to choose from - alternate possibilities - and use select the correct word, and you hit done. Now, the way this software actually makes those corrections is by constantly keeping track of where the cursor is on the screen. However, this method does not work very well. Help files that come with the software remind us not to manually reposition the cursor at any point during the transcription or else problems will occur. However, I have been very careful to not manually move the cursor, and I still see frequent incorrect placements of the cursor when coming out of correct mode - either one space too far off, or one space too far back. The end result in is odd spacing on the final product, such as too many spaces or too few spaces between words or sometimes even inadvertently cutting off some leading or trailing characters.Simply put, you have to be very careful and attentive when using the transcription software. It is tempting to simply close your eyes and lean back and let out a stream of consciousness. But you may not be pleasantly surprised at the end of your beautiful stream.

Even with all of those caveats, I have found the voice transcription software very useful. I may just have to take the precaution that one of my communications law professors took: include as part of my e-mail signature a line that sense, "please excuse any odd errors caused by voice recognition software."

Now, if you will excuse me, I have been sitting here talking long enough. I am sorry for the inordinately long post, but voice recognition will tend to do that!

Warning: Escaped prisoner on the loose!

RudySo, funny story: I wake up, take Rudy out of his cage, play with him for awhile, and put him back in his cage so that I can leave and go to Starbucks. So far so good. Here's the funny part: three hours later, when I return and open the door, I hear Rudy screaming at me like usual. Only he is not screaming from the right, where his cage is located. No, he is screaming from the left, where my bedroom is located.

That's right - he had escaped! It seems the little goof ball had pushed out his food door, flown around looking for me, and when he couldn't find me, decided to spend the day in my bedroom on my chair looking out the window. He was so pleasantly happy to see me, I simply couldn't be angry. But I have learned my lesson: secure the food door!

Rudy is indeed a handful. I recently took several videos of his refusing to go to bed at night. That will be up soon.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Re-Introducing Matt's Fitness Blog!

Many of my visitors are not aware of the row of links of the very top of the page. I encourage you to peruse them at your leisure. There, you will find links to basically all of the videos that I have put up, either on Google or YouTube. You will find thousands of pictures going back several years. You will find an outdated page of music links -- which will be updated soon. You will find an "about me" section, which links to my Wikipedia biography. And, the newest edition to the list, "fitness," which I would like to discuss right now.

Fitness has been important to me for several years. I was a chunky youth but in high school my body grew, and I flattened out. When I graduated from high school, I weighed around 166 pounds. Unfortunately, college was not friendly to my waist line. Meal plans included dessert, and seconds were fair game. After the first few years of college, I had gained 40 pounds. Yes, my "freshman 15" did not end after the first year of college.

The Freshman 15 would have continued indefinitely were it not for high school chum Ian. Ian, a fatty by no one's definition, had taken it upon himself to participate in a "body for life" challenge. After losing a bit of weight, becoming even skinnier, Ian did me a favor and sent me an Amazon link to the book. After a couple of failed tries, I successfully lost about 25 pounds in a three-month period.

That was six years ago. Since that time, I have longed to get back to my svelte look of yesteryear. The past several years have been an uphill battle, as the graph shows... but recently I have been making some gains. Er, losses. :-) For several years, I regularly documented my exercise and fitness progress in a sister blog, "primal eloquence". I told few people about this blog, because weight loss is a fairly personal journey. For several years, I regularly documented my exercise and fitness progress in a sister blog, "primal eloquence" I told few people about this blog, because weight loss is a fairly personal journey. But every now and then, when I would get on a fitness kick, I would update it regularly and remind my closest friends to visit every now and then for an inspirational story or a tale of despair - whichever feeling was more prevalent on that date.

Well, I am at it again. My exercise tendencies have resurfaced, and I am eager to share my before and after pictures with the world yet again. :-) It is with that long introduction that I had formally and officially introduce the newest link at the top of the page. Feel free to visit it -- or ignore it -- at your leisure.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Our Father, Our King

In honor of Yom Kippur, the church I sing at performed a bunch of Jewish music this morning. I sang the solo in Avinu Malkeynu, which is a plea for forgiveness and compassion for our transgressions. Here's the rough translation:
Our Father, our King! Hear our voice
Our Father, our King! We have sinned before You
Our Father, our King! Have compassion for us and for our children and our infants
Our Father, our King! Of pestilence, and sword, and famine rid us
Our Father, our King! Of every oppressor and adversary rid us
Our Father, our King! Our Father, our King! Inscribe us in the book of good life
Our Father, our King! Anew for us, Anew for us a good year
Hear our voice, Hear our voice, Hear our voice
Our Father, our King! Our Father, our King! Anew for us, a good year
Our Father, our King! Hear our voice, Hear our voice, Hear our voice, Hear our voice
I am relatively pleased with how it went, although I must make sure that in my quest to infuse the piece with emotion, I do not sacrifice musicality. I was singing my little heart out, but in focusing on the words, I let my technique slip a bit, especially up high. BAD MATT! Still, it's acceptable so here ya go. :-)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Segway Reaction of the Day

Okay, I apologize for not having posted any Reactions in God-knows-how-long. I assure you, there have been PLENTY, and I will get to them soon enough. Until then, I will present you with just a couple from tonight (both while gliding back from Georgetown):
  • 20-something guy to his friend: "That guy's got a fuckin' Segway!"
  • attractive woman talking to friends outside my apartment: "That's awesome." ("Thanks!") "Do you ride that everywhere?" ("Yeah, pretty much.") Look of awe.
I swear, every time I am about to give up gliding because I don't like the constant attention and occasional snicker, I get comments like this that buoy my spirits...

I am pretty sure my Segway experience, coupled with my writing skills, would be enough to get me published in the Washington Post Sunday Magazine. Stay tuned. ;-)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Mandela is not dead: Deconstructing a Bushism

It seems there has been some confusion over a recent remark by President Bush. At a news conference yesterday, President Bush pounded his lectern with ferocity and said, "I heard somebody say, 'Where's Mandela?' Well, Mandela's dead because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas."

Now, this caused immediate derision among comedians and bitter left-wing activists. Bush is an idiot! Look, see what he just said? Buffoon!

Well, I am not so sure. After almost seven years, I am starting to think that perhaps our president is not as dumb as he appears. On the contrary, it is possible that he is far smarter than anyone gives him credit for. Indeed, I am fairly certain that President Bush speaks in metaphors -- which would no doubt cause confusion among liberals determined to malign him at every opportunity. Further, the president probably does not say what he is thinking, and when he does pick up a thought in the middle, it is even more confusing for the rest of us, who were not privy to his original internal discussions. ( I am fairly certain he does this, because I used to be guilty of the same offense. in my freshman year writing composition course, I never provided enough background exposition, and my grade suffered for it.)

So let's go ahead and break down the president's remark:

It probably made perfect sense to the president, because he was thinking of a recent discussion he had had, and so to him, the context of his statement was clear. To the rest of us, it was not, at least not initially. But, clearly, the president had been discussing freedom in Iraq, and somebody had probably asked him, why are there no Iraqi revolutionaries stepping up? Why won't anyone stand up against the violence and the injustices -- Where are all the Iraqi Nelson Mandelas?

Well, the president must have responded, "No one is stepping up because all of the potential democratic reformers were killed in Saddam's regime. There are no more Nelson Mandelas..." (and this is where he started the story with the reporters) "...Mandela's dead because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas."

In the president's mind, "Mandela" is a symbol for any outspoken Democratic activists. Now, I'm not sure if the president actually believes that there are no more potential activists in Iraq because Saddam killed them all, or whether he is simply speaking in hyperbole. But either way, he is clearly not unintelligible.

The key, then, to understanding the president, is to think like the president.

Review of Greens+ ... Delicious and Good For You? Awesome!



Highly recommended. Amazon linkage...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Rumors of my death...

Several people have asked me, Where have I gone? I cannot blame them. According to my Web site, I have not updated in about two weeks now. For that, I apologize. Where have I been? Why have I not updated? the simple truth is that I have been busy with life and work. It is the new choir season, And I have been attempting to develop a worthwhile routine, and as anyone who is familiar with me knows, any routines that I develop will not have a lot of time built in for messing around. (The whole point of a routine for me, is to be the most productive I can in the fewest hours available. Unfortunately for all my loyal before I sleep visitors, updating my Web site is not the most worthwhile use of my time.)

Last week I realized that attitude is everything. I came to this conclusion while riding my Segway. I was going to write a very long and detailed post discussing my newfound take on life.I still may write the post. (The long and short of it is that I had been looking for all of the negative reactions that I got when riding the Segway, instead of looking for all the positive reactions. It turns out that there are ten times more openly positive reactions than openly negative reactions. The shift in view point has profoundly affected the way in which I go about my daily existence.)

However, that is an important post. As with most important things that I desire to write, they tend to get put on the back burner because I want to give them as much time as possible to make them worthwhile. That time usually never comes. So my most worthwhile posts, ironically, never get written.

Perhaps there is a pattern to my silence. Let me look at my archives and see when I have traditionally gone the most silent. (Checks archives.) Aha! Exactly as I had predicted. It turns out that last year I was also silent for a period of approximately two weeks at the end of September 2006. I wonder if this holds true for the year prior to that... indeed! In September 2005, I posted only one time. Admittedly, during the last two years I was attending classes in September of each year. It was the new academic year, and as such, I was understandably preoccupied. This year I
do not have the same excuse, and yet, I am still the process of going through a rebirth of sorts.(Looking for a job, trying to get my new routine all settled in, trying to come to grips with the gym monster that lives two blocks away, etc.)

Although the responsibilities that I have in real life are mounting, I continue to feel a responsibility to you, the reader. To that end, I am going to give you a wonderful little treat right now. It is a video that was taken just yesterday, pitting my two friends Gweepay and Rudy against each other in a battle of wills. Who will be able to force the other to sing for him? The answer shall soon be clear.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Emerging from my cocoon after ten years

Everyone goes into their high school reunions with the goal of making a positive impression on former classmates. (Well, assuming one goes to the reunion at all.) "Positive" means different things to different people. Some demonstrate their generosity, buying drinks for everyone in the house. Some play up their status as a family man (or woman), pulling out pictures of their adorable children. (Children? Wha? We ARE children, for Chrissake!)

Still others go to the reunion with the goal of proving, once and for all, that all that high school awkwardness and insecurity was just a phase. The larval phase, if you will. And in the ten years since we walked across the stage in our ugly green robes, we have been metamorphosing -- growing and maturing and working out the kinks -- in our own little cocoon that I will dub "the early 2000's."

Well, my friends, I was one of those larvas. Larvae. Whatever, it doesn't matter how you spell it, because I am not a larva anymore. I am a freakin' butterfly. I went to my reunion with the sole purpose of proving to myself that I didn't need to surround myself with familiar faces and close friends to have a good time. I cared about proving to myself that even though I score a 95% "Introvert" on the Myers-Briggs scale -- think Milton from Office Space -- I do indeed have a wellspring of charm buried somewhere inside me that I can turn on when I need to. I wanted to shed the shy, socially-awkward Matt of years past, and just let loose and have fun with all the people I didn't get to know well enough ten years ago.

Well, as the banner on GWB's aircraft carrier put it four years ago, "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!" The difference now, of course, is that I actually did accomplish the mission. The Osama bin Ladens of my past have officially been captured or killed, and I'm claiming the $25 million bounty, baby.

As it turns out, it really isn't very hard to be a Fun Guy at parties. Put together a fine outfit (as you can see from the picture at right, I chose to go as a Jewish Gangster, complete with a golden chai hanging from my neck), smile at everyone you meet, and don't take anything too seriously. (A few drinks and a recent refresher course in the Mystery Method don't hurt either.)

Most importantly, take lots of photos with beautiful women, and post the photos on your Web site along with video showing what a stud you are. ;-) (It helps if you fail to mention that almost every attractive woman was married or engaged.)

Seriously though, I don't know if I have gotten more social in the last ten years, or if everyone has just gotten a lot friendlier -- it's probably a bit of both. All I do know is that all the old cliques and barriers of yesteryear seem to have melted away. As I mentioned to a few people on Saturday night, "This is so much better than high school!"

From an organizational standpoint, it wasn't a very elaborate affair; the reunion committee had taken our $25 entry fee and used it to rent out an atrium and patio, and provide us with some fairly tasty hor dourves. Apparently there was a projector set up showing pictures from high school, but most people ignored it. The highlight of the evening was the cash bar that served very very strong and tasty drinks, and pretty much everyone was tipsy or drunk by the end of the night. Of course, this was the first time everyone had gotten drunk together, because my peers didn't have any parties back in high school.*

The turnout was surprisingly low. There were 252 people in my graduating class, but only around 75 showed up. But from what I could tell, the 25% who were there had done fairly well for themselves. Some financial analysts, a nurse, a dentist, and some bearded legal types whom I quickly gravitated toward. But I'd say the most impressive of all was Jeff K., whose business card says he is a Vice President of Production at a major movie studio out in L.A. I am at once proud, in awe, jealous, and pissed off. It's okay though, because ten years ago I was chosen over him to give the high school graduation speech. So there! Cry about THAT, Jeff! Cry all the way to the bank! To your private vault where you no doubt wile away the hours diving naked into stacks of gold coins! (That is what rich people do, isn't it? All I have to go on is the popular perception of Scrooge McDuck, but I think I've got the picture.)

In the end, though, no one really seemed to care what we "do" for a living. Law, medicine, business, or movie producing, that's just a job. Frankly, I didn't even remember what most peoples' day job turned out to be. You know what stood out? How happy they seemed to be. And, on the whole, the class of 1997 seemed to be fairly content.

A recurring theme in my life is the desire to go back and do things differently, knowing then what I know now. Were I to go back and do high school over again, I'm sure I would have a much better time, and gotten a lot more out of it. But you know what? I could say that about most periods of my life. And I think that's a good thing: It means I'm getting better at This Thing Called Life. And it makes me excited for the future.

A lot of people don't plan to go to their high school reunion, because (as one friend put it in an e-mail recently), "My philosophy is that I already keep in touch with all of the people from high school that I have any desire in seeing." I used to think that too, but it turns out there are a lot of friends from high school who I simply lost track of over the last ten years, and it was great to see them again. Plus, in addition to reconnecting with people, it is great to get to know others who I never really got to know the first time around.

A few choice quotes (Click here for a brief audio snippet!)
Random girl to me: "You look a lot different -- you look great!"

Guy: "How many companies do you own?"
Matt: "I've got partial stakes in seven, I've got --"
Jeff: "NOT counting the adult entertainment companies."
Matt: "Zero then."

Drunk Girl: "What's your name?"
Matt: "Matt [redacted], nice to meet you."
Girl: "Maaaatt? For reeeeal?"
Matt: "Were you at Groves?"
Girl: "Holy God dammit -- you look sooooooo different!"
Molly (to the girl, matter-of-factly): "Facial hair and smaller glasses."

Matt to a girl he doesn't know: "I did so many drugs over the last ten years, I don't remember anybody."
Guy: "That's bullshit."
Matt: "Okay, I've never done any drugs."
Guy: "You didn't fool me for a second."
Matt: "I wanted to do drugs. I almost did marijuana once. I think I got a contact high."
*laughter*
Jeff: "I think I almost didn't do marijuana once."



Almost five hours after I arrived, I got into my car and drove home with the biggest smile on my face. My 10-year reunion had been a rousing success. I'm already looking forward to the 20th -- not just because the current committee asked if I want to be involved in planning the 20th, but also because some of the married hotties might be divorced by then. ;-)


*Yes, I know of the rumor that if one THINKS there were no big parties back in high school, it actually means one was not invited to the big parties back in high school. I firmly believe in the falsehood of this rumor. Nothing to see here. Carry on.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Jesus Magic Finger Trick

As seen on Family Guy. Recreated by Gweepay.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Segregation Now, Segregation Tomorrow -- But Not Forever? A Discussion.

From: Gweepay
Subject: Re: friends in Richmond
Date: August 28, 2007 9:06:18 PM GMT-04:00
To: BeforeISleep.net


As Matt pointed out in a recent email to me, now that Sweetie, Gweepay, and Matt the Red are all in different States(!), we are likely all experiencing a dearth of friendships. When I first arrived, I was given false hope when, on my first Friday at work, lo and behold, one of my coworkers suggested we go grab some beers for happy hour. Little did I know this would be a two-time occurrence, and would cease and desist just as soon as his fiance moved in and took over his life. Since then, I've been doing lots of staring at stationary objects, just like Matt, who reportedly stares at the wall. For me, it's the ceiling, as I prefer to lay. So I figure I should try and find a girlfriend, because that way I won't need friends AND I get sex AND...well, there has to be some other benefit to all of that.

One possibility is Stacy, this girl at work that I was originally sitting next to on my first project. At first she didn't like me. I could tell because she looked annoyed whenever I asked questions. In fact, I think she was generally annoyed to be sitting next to me. But eventually, Stockholm Syndrome set in and she began to actually smile and converse and all the other things people do when they cease to dislike someone. I often suggested that we go grab a bite when the clock struck twelve and that bird-thing from the Flintstones squawked, indicating that it was lunch time. T'wasn't much longer until Stacy gave me her number, and by "gave me," I mean that SHE offered it to me. As in, I never even asked. I was just sitting there, minding my own business, coding documents, not really bothering anybody, when Stacy, who was feeling quite ill that day, began to pack up to leave early. At that point, she asked me for a pen. I obliged, expecting her to jot down a recipe or some other domestic communique to herself. To my astonishment, she returned the pen with a piece of paper donning her cell number. She informed me that this was in case she was dying and never came back to work. Mission accomplished, she left for the day.

Here's the thing, though. There are two potential downsides to Stacy, or at least to a Gweepay/Stacy dating situation. And no, it has nothing to do with looks. She's cute. Very nice hips and all that. But there may be some cultural differences. And that, of course, is code for the fact that Stacy's lineage began far from the region where the Anglos met the Saxons. She is, in fact, black. This means that my Racist Grandparents, all four of them, would have not one, but two grandsons dating, oh, how do they put it, outside "the race," and that may just be too much for the lot of them. And that's not the half of it. As Chris Rock so aptly points out, the most racist people in the world are old black people, because they were the ones who bore the brunt of all the racism in their day. I can just imagine what HER family would think. Holidays would be horrible. I can envision her grandmother, staring me down across the table, making jokes about white meat and dark meat, and forgetting that she had made the same joke for the past five years. And everyone would laugh, because everyone always laughs.

The other issue is temperamental. Stacy is best described as a good listener. She's not the sort of person who carries the conversation. This is problematic, because I, also a good listener, never can think of anything to talk about. I still don't know what people are always talking about as I pass them in public. What could possibly be so interesting to so many people at all times? As such, I often find myself bringing up inane topics with her such as my various theories as to why I get headaches on the weekends but not on weekdays.

In any case, if any confirmation was needed that she is "interested," it came two weekends ago when I asked her to see the Bourne movie with me, and she showed up with her hair done and dressed as if she was going to a fancy restaurant, while I had on khakis and my "popcorn eating" shirt, i.e., one that I care little about, as there is a 100 percent chance that buttery popcorn will make contact with it several times throughout the night.

So the question is, now what?



NOW WHAT, dear Gweepay? Now what, indeed. I invite my readers to weigh in. (Ha! Get it? Weigh! Because we're all so fat.) By the way, in the absence of companionship, I don't just spend my time staring at the wall (preferring to sit). I also spend my time surfing over to CampusFood.com, which has Gweepay's credit card number saved! So not only am I getting lonely, I'm getting fat. As the following video portends:


Monday, August 27, 2007

Teaching Mom How to Ride a Segway



Last week I spent several days back home in Michigan. Because I am a masochist, I decided to shove the Segway into the backseat of my 2-door Honda Accord. Without removing the LeanSteer column first. This was a bad idea. The base weighs 105 pounds and is incredibly awkward to try to lift and shove into a car, and I was doing this all by myself. Luckily, I managed to squeeze it in there without doing (much) damage to either the interior of the car or the Segway itself (a few scratches, but nothing major).

Why did I take the Segway with me, considering my Michigan residence is out in the 'burbs where a Segway would be relatively useless? Why, to teach my family how to ride, of course! Everyone learned how to ride except my dad, who was understandably terrified of losing his balance. They say that a lot of men have trouble "giving up control" to the Segway and letting IT do the balancing for them -- and after my dad had a particularly jittery first step onto the platform, he had no desire to stick around and get used to it.

That's okay; everyone else in the family loved it, zooming around the block to their heart's content. I have put together a little video showing my mom and sister Elizabeth learning how to glide gleefully on a Segway. Unfortunately, they both attempted to commit Grand Theft Segway. Bastards. Fortunately, I quickly recovered the machine, due to its nifty theft deterrent system.

Interestingly, the Segway is good for more than just tooling around the neighborhood. My parents had just gotten new carpeting put in, and hundreds of pounds of old carpeting were sitting in the garage, just waiting for me and my sisters to move them to the curb. Well, I figured, Why laboriously carry all those rolls of carpet 50 feet to the curb when I could use the Segway? So we arranged a makeshift assembly line, where I would stand on the Segway next to the garage, my dad and sister Katherine would hand me a ream of carpet, and I would lift it up with one arm while guiding the Segway with my free hand, traversing the front lawn in mere seconds! The whole process went VERY smoothly, and took about 20 minutes total. Everyone agrees that we saved at least an hour by using the Segway. Alas, I didn't get any video of the actual assembly line, but I did get a photo of the finished work. Awesome!

Segways as Tools: Moving Carpet to the Curb

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I am the Student Prince

For ages, friends have been asking me to post some more of my musical performances online. Well, I have no performances scheduled for a while. BUT I did have a rehearsal tonight at the Potomac United Methodist Church, and we went over one of the pieces I am singing at our Musical Theatre Extravaganza in November.

Without further ado, I present the finale from "The Student Prince," a beautiful operetta from the 1920s. The tenor soloist is me. My impromptu duet partner, who is also playing the piano, is Rosie (also my voice coach). The choir was somewhat sparse tonight, and our resident opera singer was not there, but they did a good job too.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Man has 20 pound tumor removed from face, and yet.

I wish I had something profound to say about this. I wish I could come up with some inspiring words about the bravery of this 31-year-old Chinese man, or some aphorism about the importance of looking past the physical, to one's soul. But OH MY GOD. I can't. I simply can't. This is what the man looks like AFTER his biggest tumor was removed. He makes the Elephant Man look like a cover model for GQ. It reminds me of those shows on the Discovery Channel where a 1,400 pound man loses 200 pounds. I wish I could feel happy for you, man, but I'm sorry, you still weigh 1,200 pounds.

Of course, looking like this is not the Chinese man's fault. It is just a tragic accident of nature. I suppose all I can say honestly is that this man probably would have been spared tremendous pain had he simply never been born. I hate to be so cruel, and you have every right to criticize me -- but not until you watch the video.

Several close friends of mine pride themselves on looking past these sorts of things. I ask you to look again.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Mysterious dream indeed...

I had a dream last night that Mystery was sitting with me in my living room back in Michigan. I had just watched the latest episode of The Pick-Up Artist and apparently a movie that had come out, and of course i was familiar with his books. In person, Mystery truly is like a Jesus-like figure. He radiates confidence and caring. Even if you disagree with His method, you still want to listen to the things he says, because he is so charismatic - and ultimately successful.

I told him that I wanted to meet somebody. He said, No you don't.

What do you mean?
No. Look at yourself. Why aren't you wearing contacts?
I haven't worn contacts in years.
Well, you would look much better in contacts.

I walked into the bathroom, and looked at myself in the mirror. I took off my glasses, and looked at myself as though I was wearing contact lenses. I did look good... Mystery was right. Time to ditch the glasses.

I am not certain what Mystery's appearance in my dream means. All I know for certain is that I did watch "The Pick Up Artist" last night on television, and was very good. The eight misfits were starting to apply some of the techniques they have learned that, and they were surprisingly effective. No one got any girls' phone number, but they were getting close. And they were starting to learn to have some charm.

They showed a preview of next week. One of the trainees was actually successful in making out with a girl at a club. They had hidden camera video of it. It was amazingly impressive.

Why did Mystery appear to me in a dream? Is he the Messiah? Does my subconscious mind want me to learn something from Mystery's teachings? Or was his appearance just a product of some random neurons firing, coupled with some bad pizza?

When I originally read "The Game," I was extremely impressed. I thought, here is a group of guys that has actually figured out the key to unlocking women's desires. And yet a small voice inside me had its doubts. But now, after seeing Mystery's teachings in person (well, on television), I dare say, I may be a believer.

Here is a great 3-minute snippet from Episode 2, in which our protagonists, after having practiced their openers at home, go "in field" to see what they can do... (To see the entire show - minus commercials and filler - go to the web site. )

Monday, August 20, 2007

Thunder kills local attorney; coal miners rejoice! News at eleven.

(Don't worry about the coal miner thing -- inside joke.)

So, a little story about stupid I am: there was a big bolt of lightning, and I, not wanting to be electrocuted, got up and stood in the middle of the room, away from the window and wires. It was only after a minute, when I heard the resultant thunder, that I realized the lightning had already struck. I was now hiding from thunder.

I am the intellectual equivalent of a frightened puppy.

Speaking of puppies, here is a video of Mickey, my 8-year-old bichon, super-excited to see me when I returned home to Michigan for a vacation. Please excuse the mess. Enjoy! :-)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Some animals deserve to die. Especially DemonSpiders (TM).

I am normally a big fan of all furry creatures. One might go so far as to say I love them. However, my love does not extend to furry creatures who are also spiders.

So you can imagine my shock when I read a newspaper article relating the heartwarming tale of a man and his beloved pet spider, for whom he could no longer care appropriately. It seems that this spider is what is known as an "ornate golden baboon spider" -- or, affectionately, "Mr. Fuzzy." According to animal control "this is the kind of spider that nightmares are made of. " What a wonderful pet!

But wait, it gets better: Not only is this spider big and hairy (reason enough to hate it), but according to the article, the spider is moody, aggressive, jumps three feet at a time, has venomous fangs, and bites without warning. According to the animal control guy, who clearly does not get paid enough for his job,
"This spider is so aggressive, it will bite you just to bite you." Bite you just to bite you, huh? Sounds like a woman I once met at speed dating.

Now, up until this point, I can at least understand the mentality of everyone involved. Johnny Owner, an adventurous soul, purchased the DemonSpider when it was young and cute and adorable. When it got too big and scary, he wanted to get rid of it. This, I understand. What I don't understand is what happened next:

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals saved the spider. It was taken to a "sanctuary" for reptiles and "other animals." Apparently, in this context, "other animals" encompasses Hell creatures who have somehow escaped the bowels of the earth, making it onto our plane of existence, where they are now free to leap from person to person, shrieking and hissing and biting at will and without provocation. Now -- thank God -- Mr. Fuzzy will be free to laugh and jump and play and shriek and bite on a resort somewhere. Some luxurious paradise. Probably with a piƱa colada in his hand. One of his many hands.

I'm sorry, but this spider deserves to be shot. Even if it hasn't bitten anyone yet, it is going to someday, and what will you get then for all your mercy, Mr. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Demon Spiders? Would you get a thank you? No! You would get a fatal spider bite. And it would serve you right.

Let it be known throughout the land: I, Matthew S. [last name removed for Google purposes], hereby offer to kill, maim, destroy, and otherwise dispose of any further giant DemonSpiders that may exist in the household of any Before I Sleep visitor! (Provided, of course, I am supplied with the appropriate equipment and protective gear, including but not limited to a gun, a knife, a big can of Raid, a protective suit not unlike those worn by the virus guys at the Center for Disease Control, a gas mask, and an unlimited supply of hard liquor for soothing my nerves afterward.)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

How many pizzas does it take to fill my existential void?

Every now and then something I do reminds me that I am, without a doubt, the biggest fatty on the planet. That "something I do "is almost always binge eating. It happens when I don't have a lot of structure, and I wander through the day, with no routine to guide me, and I am bored, and my friends are out of town, and I have nothing to do, and before I know it, I have eaten an entire medium meat lovers pizza.

The extremely bad part is that yesterday I did essentially the same thing. It wasn't meat lovers, but it was half ground beef and have pepperoni, and that makes me a whole pig.

Today wasn't entirely lost. I did go to the gym earlier today, and work my muscles almost to failure... and I hardly ate anything else the rest of the day. Ultimately, though, that is the problem. When I go the entire day with out eating every two or three hours, like I am supposed to, like body for life tells me to, then I have pretty much guaranteed that I will lose the eating war for the day. My body, not having received nourishment for eight or 10 hours, will rebel. "I need a pizza! " It will tell me. Why do you needed ate pizza, I will ask. "Because I am bored and I want a pizza!" Okay, body, you win.

The really you really bad part is that I was not even hungry. That's right to, I ate an entire meat lovers pizza with out any appetite. My appetite was in a state of non existence. And when I started eating the pizza, I wasn't hungry, but I wasn't full; when I finished eating the pizza, I wasn't hungry, but I wasn't full either. I consumed at least 2000 calories of fat-laden goodness, and my appetite level did not change: it was simply there, ever present, like the wind.

The only way to prevent myself from going on destructive rampages like this is to have a plan. And not just have a plan, but stick to it too. It would not have been hard today. Had I planned things out before hand, I would have known that I would have several free hours, and I would have planned my meals accordingly. Instead, though, I simply woke up around 10:00a.m., spent a couple of hours in front of the computer, had a few diet pink lemonades, headed off to Starbucks, where I had an iced chai tea... and then ate nothing for the next several hours. And had no plans, for friends or for meals. I had nothing to do. I wasn't even hungry. And yet, I decided to call pizza hut. Why? For the love God, why?!

My sister, Katherine, says that she also goes on these kinds of destructive binges. I think it probably runs in our family. It probably runs in a lot of families. Katherine says it means that I am missing something. I am eating to fill a void. Now, I don't want to give a lot of credence to Dr. Phil, but I think Katherine might be onto something. My best friends are all out of town, it seems indefinitely. I am currently between full-time jobs. I have nothing to do. I am wandering. There is a void. There is a void and I am filling it with pizza. admittedly, it is very tasty pizza, don't get me wrong. But I wonder, how much pizza it does it take to fill a big, giant hole? A big giant existential hole.

Hmmm...... I really don't know why I bare my soul like this on the Internet. It has gotten me into trouble before. It is this damn voice recognition software. I spent a billion dollars on it, and I am determined to get my money's worth. so you, dear reader, get to read three exciting blog entries in one day. And I, dear blogger, get to reveal my innermost thoughts, all because I am in love with the sound of my own voice and can't stop speaking.

Well, enjoy it while it lasts!

The Pick-Up Artist, or the Biggest Loser?


I have always had a soft spot in my heart for people who were unable to pick up girls at clubs. Why? Because I am one of those people. I feel so completely out of my element in clubs, that simply for me to get out of the house and go to one is a miracle in itself. To ask me, then, to approach an attractive babe, and start talking to her, and get her phone number? Well, I am sure there is some clever saying about miracles not striking twice, or lightning, or something like that.

So I am not quite sure what to make of a new television show, based on the best-selling book The Game, which details the secret world of the pick up artist. Now, full disclaimer, I read the book in question. It was a fantastic book. It taught me is lots of things: be yourself, but not too much of yourself, be flirty, playful, and so on. The point is to take these first encounters lightly. You don't want to open yourself up too quickly, or else you will scare the girl away, and all will be lost.

(Not that I am too impressed with the caliber of girl at these clubs, anyway. Seriously, who goes to these things? Who honestly thinks it would be a worthwhile way to spend a Friday or Saturday night - dressing up like a prostitute and dancing with random strangers at an overcrowded and smoky nightclub? I want a girl who is far more content to stay home, and read, play board games, and sing. Yes, I am very serious.)

That said, I can understand the mentality of a guy who simply wants help learning how to walk go to random people and talk to them. It is a skill valuable in every facet of life. "Mystery" is a man who was once every bit as nerdy and socially awkward as the motley crew who star in the pick up artist. But, through experience, and studying the social interactions of successful pickup artists, mystery learned the secrets. After years of practice, he was able to apply them "in the field ", and before this television show he made a very substantial income selling his services as mentor and guide to the tune of three thousand dollars a pop.

On the show, mystery and his wing men first watch the bunch as they walk into the clubs and attempts to pick up girls. There are microphones and hidden cameras everywhere. Meanwhile, in the surveillance van, mystery and his friends make comments and talk about how they would do things differently. Then, after the group has suitably embarrassed themselves in front of national television, we get to see mystery and his friends at work.

It is truly miraculous to witness what the master pick up artist can do. We’re talking Jesus level miracles. It is amazing. It makes me want to try my hand at the clubs myself. Even knowing know that I would not be compatible with any of the women who go there. Mystery and his friends make it look fun!

So, all in all, it is a very interesting show, but I am not sure if I find it acceptable to laugh at the pathetic “contestants” on the show. (Oh yes, it is a game show, and somebody has to get voted off every week. Further adding to their humiliation.) Obviously, there has to be something wrong with them the first place if they would be willing to get onto national television make a fool of themselves. But that doesn't give me a right to laugh at them.

I will continue to watch. But I will not guffaw as much as I would have otherwise, because I know that the only difference between me and the losers on the show is that I did not take the time to audition.

Turning Down the Virgin Islands



Tell your standard work-a-day drone that you just got offered a yearlong job in the Virgin Islands, and the response is immediate.

"Awesome! A year in paradise! Congratulations!"

Tell him that you are not sure whether or not to take it, and he will look at you with a mixture of shock and confusion.

"Are you kidding me? You even have to think about this? It's the Virgin Islands, man! Have you ever seen the place? It's heaven! What do you have to think about? You don't have a full time gig lined up here... this would be a full-time job, partying on the beach every night... Why are you even hesitating? TAKE IT!"

Tell him that you've decided to turn it down, and his look of shock and confusion becomes tinged with resentment.

"I can't believe you're going to turn it down. If someone offered me a job in the Virgin Islands, I'd take it in a heartbeat! The average temperature in the winter there is 73 degrees. In the summer the average is 84! Beaches and deep blue water and glorious sunshine! How DARE you turn that down? What is wrong with you? Are you mad???!"

The answer, of course, is no. I am not mad. Perhaps you would be mad if you turned down this offer. The Virgin Islands, to many, are paradise. But for me, the idea of going to the Virgin Islands for an entire year - possibly two - is simply not paradise. I have been to the islands twice. Each time, for no more than a week. It was great! I had people waiting on me hand and foot, I had fresh water delivered to my doorstep daily, and don't forget the rum that was placed in my hotel room every day. Yes, living in a luxury resort on the fabulous island of St. Thomas was an amazing experience.

That is not what I would be doing.

Contrary to popular belief, the Virgin Islands are not as heavenly as they first appear. The crime rate is unbelievable. People are poorly educated. Customer service is an absolute joke. It's basically a third-world country with a nice view: the only thing that's really nice about the Virgin Islands are the beaches. And I sunburn! Seriously, I am not the kind of person who takes pleasure in spending every night, beach with a beer in my hand I am sure many of you are. There is nothing wrong with that. It is not for me.

Oh, sure, the work would be interesting. With such a high crime rate, the criminal cases alone would be worth the experience. Further, due to the general lackadaisical nature of the workers in the Virgin Islands, there is a tremendous backlog of cases - almost 300 civil cases have not yet been decided. People have been waiting for years. The current judge told me that he works every day from approximately 8a.m. to 7p.m. He is in desperate need of a clerk - someone to give all of the work to. I am sure he would love to have me. And I would learn a lot too.

But a working environment in which I would be doing something interesting and helpful to my future career is not the only consideration when taking a new job. The fact is, I love Washington DC. I love it because of the vibrant culture. I love it because of all the singing opportunities. I love it because of all the educated young people here. I love it because of all the Starbucks.

Yes, I said it. I have learned from experience that my general level of contentment with a place will be directly proportional to the number of Starbucks. Starbucks and big bookstores with coffee shops. No, I am not insane. I just recognize that these kinds of establishments are emblematic of the level of civilization that a society has developed. No Starbucks means no higher civilization, to which I am so accustomed. St. Thomas has no Starbucks. The Virgin Islands have no Starbucks. I would not be happy.

I have built the last several months around the idea of returning to Washington DC to pursue a career in telecommunications law. A trip to the Virgin Islands would be, at best, an interesting experience that would not help with my chosen career path, or at worst, an unnecessary detour that leaves me sunburned and bug-bitten. I don't need to be in the islands trying to stem the tide of crime. I need to be here in D.C., where my life is. I need to be making professional contacts. I need to be attending communications bar events. I need to be publicizing my indecency article. I can do none of that from the Virgin Islands.

And, more than that, there is the fact that my primary form of leisure here is singing with various choirs. From September through May, the Choral Arts Society of Washington is my main form of release. I get paid to sing tenor at a church in Maryland. I am in the process of auditioning for the holy day services at various synagogues around the area. And my voice coach recently told me that she thinks I'm ready to audition for the Washington National Opera. How could I leave now? What would I do in the Virgin Islands? Join a steel drum band?

Relaxing on the beach with an alcoholic beverage in my hand is a fantastic way to spend a week or two. It may be a fantastic way for many - if not most - readers of this blog to spend not just a week, but a year. Or two. Or the rest of their lives. But it's not for me. I am a Washingtonian, through and through. I love it here, and I would not give it up. Even for a year in the Virgin Islands.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Video Explosion!

And so I return from another eventful week in Michigan, where I spent the days hanging out with family and friends, and teaching everyone how to use a Segway (except my dad, who was positive he would break his neck on the thing). Needless to say, Much Video Was Taken. But it's not edited together yet.

SO, while I am editing it, I would like to amuse you all by showing you BEFOREISLEEP.NET: THE LOST VIDEOS! Yes, my dear viewer, over the years, some highly entertaining videos have been left off the site, due mostly to my own laziness, or more likely my lack of a high-speed Internet connection at the time. Luckily, my laziness quotient is currently somewhat low, and my Internet connection is smoking. That adds up to: lots of videos! And remember: If you haven't seen it, it's New to You.

Please enjoy.