Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Today's Practical Joke

I give a stack of letters to my secretary, with directions to have these copied and given to Gary so he could take them to the Copyright Office. "So you want these to go to the FCC?" she asks. "No," I repeat, "Copyright Office."

An hour later Gary stops by my office, where a partner is giving me an unrelated assignment.

Gary: The lady at the FCC said she didn't really know what these were about but she took them anyway.

Matt: FCC? (look of shock and horror) ...COPYRIGHT OFFICE!

Gary: Uh oh.

...Gary breaks into laughter. The partner cracks up, and gives him a high five.

Partner: Did you see his face turn all red!

They walk out of the office, laughing.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Special Kind of Warrior

My housemate Christen calls me from CVS and asks if I need anything. I respond that I am almost out of deodorant.

Christen: What scent do you want?
Matt: I don't know... it's so hard to describe.
Christen: How about "Ocean"?
Matt: No! Not ocean. Rain, maybe. Something bluish.
Christen: Well what do you want to smell like?
Matt: I want to smell like a warrior.
Christen: A warrior, hmm.
Matt: The kind of warrior who would run through a field of flowers after a victorious battle.
Christen: So you want to smell like flowers.
Matt: NO! Not a warrior who smells like flowers; a warrior who would run through a field of flowers. That's what I want to smell like.
Christen: (uncontrollable laughter)
Matt: Do you understand the distinction?
Christen: Yes, and that's why I'm laughing so much!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Classic Dialogue from October 7, 2005

(In the car.)

Matt: "I'm not coming back here when I graduate."
Katherine: "That's okay. I'm moving away."
Elizabeth: "I'm leaving too."
Mom: "You can all go to hell!"

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Good Throw

In honor of Halloween, BeforeISleep.net today presents a spooky story I wrote back in 2003. Well, it's the beginning of a spooky story. I never actually got around to continuing it. But looking back on it, it reads pretty well. Shall I keep going?


They didn’t even bother to kill the baby before throwing it overboard. The tides would do that, they figured. Babies can’t swim. He’ll just bob up and down a bit and then sink to the bottom. Why waste more resources on an experiment that had already failed?

So they didn’t. Tonight’s submersion was the third in a week, and very likely the first of hundreds. The task fell to Guido. He and the other shipmates had drawn straws, and his was the shortest, so he got to do the dirty work. And not just once or twice; every time. Whenever there were three arms and no legs, or two heads but not a single brain between them, Guido was the official Tossin’ Man. Funny thing, though – he didn’t mind it. The boys decided to draw straws because no one was really begging for the job. They weren’t heartless, after all. Nobody liked to see the babies thrown overboard, and no one really wanted to do it. But it had to be done – Capo explained there was no other way. The first time, Guido was shaking so badly he was barely able to grab onto the kid.

Ah, the first time. No one knew exactly what to expect. The actual toss wasn’t so bad; it took no more than a few seconds, just a short arc from the boat to the waves. No, the worst part was watching the kid, seeing him float there, his baby fat keeping him above water for a few minutes longer than you’d think. No one really wanted to watch, but each man was glued to his spot, hypnotized, watching the fat little head bob up and down until no one could see it anymore.

Everybody watched but two. Soon as he threw, Guido turned his back on the ocean and looked at the Capo. Capo looked back at him, jaw set, eyes wide and unblinking. The two were about ten feet apart, just looking at each other, while the baby screamed behind them. It was the worst sound you ever heard, the doomed baby’s screams. It wasn’t a regular cry. It was as though the baby knew it was going to die, and was begging for its life. Only it didn’t know any words, so all it could do was scream as loudly and painfully as it could, and hope someone would take pity on it and jump into the water after it.

After a few minutes, the painful screaming became a kind of muffled gurgle. Then it stopped.

When the baby really was gone, Guido turned away from the Capo and went down to his cabin. He wouldn’t come out for days; just asked for food to be left outside his door. Strict as Capo was, he didn’t even mind the absence much – even he realized how much Guido must hurt. But then, about a week later, Guido was back at his post as if no time had passed. When the boys asked him if he was all right, he just laughed.

“What do you mean, Angelo, you think the waves are making me sick? I told you, I got used to the rocking weeks ago.”

Alfonso looked around at those who had heard. “No, Guido,” he said. “The baby. The… last week.”

Guido’s eyes grew wide, and he smiled so broadly that the rest of his face seemed to tighten up to make room. “A good throw, wasn’t it?”

Angelo didn’t know how to react. It was one thing to do the deed; quite another to laugh about it. It was a solemn task, a burden to shoulder in the name of progress. No one’s sense of humor should be that twisted.

Angelo half smiled, and nodded his head. Guido nodded back at him, and went back to his clipboards, transferring numbers from one board to the other. Angelo eyed him warily, and slowly turned back to his workstation, adjusting his monitors and firing up the gene program.

It was a few minutes before Guido spoke again. “Did you hear him shriek when I spun him around?”

Angelo and the others looked up. “What are you talking about?”

“It was a good shriek,” Guido said, reliving the moment in his head. “Kind of a laugh. Like we were playing.”

A burly man next to them spoke up. “You didn’t spin him, Guido,” he said in a calm voice. “The baby didn’t laugh. He didn’t know what hit him.”

Guido stared at him. Slowly, the grin faded from his face, but the eyes stayed wide. “No,” he said. “No, I suppose I didn’t. I should have spun him.”

Word spread about Guido’s strange sense of humor, and from that point on nobody brought up the subject around him. When time came to dispose of the next one, Guido was in high spirits. As he stood by the stern, cradling the baby in his arms to stop it from crying, the Capo began to speak.

“Look at the moon,” he said. “Look at the stars!” There was silence as the crew stared at him. Waves crashed against the hull. “Our ancestors used to believe the stars were gods, and those gods could smile upon us, bringing us good fortune if they were pleased” – he looked at Guido – “and bad fortune if they were not. It all sounds so foolish from our modern perspective, doesn’t it? Stars as gods.”

He smiled, shaking his head. “And yet… maybe not so foolish, if you think about it. We have learned so much in just the past few years about how things work. Powers unimaginable have been granted to us, and why?”

He paused, waiting for someone to answer him. No one did.

“Because we were foolish enough to think the impossible!” He turned to Guido. “We were foolish enough to take part in this years-long endeavor, to enhance Nature herself! And, my friends, we are so close. So close.” There were nods of agreement as he said this.

“So,” he continued, “I will ask you what I asked Guido: Now that we are so close to realizing this wonderful dream we share, do not turn away in disgust at some of the more… unfortunate aspects of the program. Some of you have voiced concern about our chosen method of disposal. I have explained to you that it is the most… humane… option available. But even my assurances have left some of you unconvinced.”

He looked down at his boots, which glistened in the moonlight. “I can offer you no more assurances, so I will offer you a possibility.” He looked up. “Our science tells us stars are nothing more than balls of burning hydrogen. But what if our science is only half right? We scientists are very good at explaining how things work… but why things work? That, my friends, is for the priests. Why do the stars shine? Perhaps the gods are behind it. And if the gods really can bring us good fortune, then think of this not as a disposal – but as an offering.”

He motioned to Guido, who walked toward the water and lifted the baby above his head. This one was an exceptionally odd result. All its limbs were intact, all internal systems present and functioning normally. Indeed, aside from a slight ridge on its frontal cranium, a casual bystander might notice nothing amiss. Yet the deformity quickly becomes clear to anyone who tries to interact with the child. From the beginning, the instruments measured absolutely no brain activity, even though physically, the organ was in perfect condition. All his organs were perfect. His brain was large, his heart strong. His blood circulated and his lungs functioned normally – indeed, every system worked.

Every system but the most important: its consciousness. Amazing, Capo once intoned, how the aspect that is the most important, the most definitive of being human, is not recognized in the textbooks. Circulatory system, respiratory system, reproductive system – and yet no awareness system. Without that, a human is just a collection of machinery. It might function, but the resulting product is less a human being than a flesh-and-bone robot.

We may produce many like that, he told his crew. The technology to clone parts is not necessarily the technology to clone the sum of the parts. We will end up with parts. If we’re lucky, they will be arranged in a manner fitting a human being, and in appropriate numbers. Anything grander… will require a miracle.

As yet, no miracles had been granted. There was such hope over this one – he was as beautiful a clone as Capo could have imagined. He looked just like the picture Capo had placed on every display’s desktop. Sans beard and moustache, he was the spitting image of Capo himself – about 50 years younger, of course.

But his mind was empty. There were no cries when they cut it from its mother’s womb. It was, for all intents and purposes like a brain-dead child. A brain-dead child who should not have been. Perhaps this one will help show the men how humane our disposal process really is, Capo thought.

Guido stood, looking out over the waters. It was a calm night, but a storm was on its way. In the distance the sky was gray with impending doom, angry clouds rolling toward them, slow and confident. He turned the baby so it faced him, its large blue eyes open, yet strangely distant. Guido looked out at the two dozen men circling him, and smiled. He looked back up at the baby, still held firmly above his head, and smiled even wider. With a great heave and a loud yell, he hurled the creature into the sea. It splashed as it entered the peaceful waters, and disappeared under the water. Within seconds, it had bobbed back up, its face holding steady just above the surface.

Guido leaned over the stern, looking down at the baby, disbelieving. “Start crying!” he yelled.

“He won’t,” Capo said quietly. “He doesn’t react, you know that.”

“Not to stimulus in the lab, but this is different! The sea is stronger.”

“And the baby’s mind is just as detached as it has been for days. He feels nothing.” He turned to the crew, his voice louder now. “You see? He feels nothing! He will be swept away to a peaceful end. Those who can feel can tell no difference between this” – he motioned to the water – “and their mother’s womb! The submersion is quick and completely painless. A simple sleep that ends their troubles and ours.”

Guido had a look of disgust. “Damn shame,” he said. He turned from the sea and stormed down the steps.

Capo and the other men stood in place, watching him go, listening to his footsteps. When, in the distance below them, they heard a cabin door slamming, they turned back to the sea. The baby was farther out now, about thirty feet away, still silent. He was being carried away at a meandering clip by the light current, and he seemed neither to notice nor to care. The night was cool and beautiful, bright stars dotting the sky, undimmed by human dealings. The light breeze was becoming stronger, and the baby was quickly carried twice as far out. Far to the east, the crew saw flashes of lightning, and many seconds later heard nearly silent rumblings. Capo turned from the sea and walked to the stairs, descending below. One by one, the crew turned and followed.

The silent baby was a hundred feet out now, barely visible. And still, it bobbed up and down in the water, as the waves grew taller and the ship began to rock.

* * *

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Superhero Name is "The Green Triangle"

You may ask, is it hard for me to lose all this weight? The answer is, no. Once you find a rhythm that you can live with, it's no big deal at all.

Mobile post sent by DCTenor1 using Utterlireply-count Replies.  mp3

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Now that's a good compromise

Matt: I figure if the federal gov't is going to take a stronger role than in the past, they might as well do it right. I know money won't fix everything, but by god, I'd rather spend $15B on helping our nation's schools than on building another bomber.

Ryan: No no, I want the bomber. It's cooler.

Matt: How about we compromise?

Ryan: Ok, we can hold classes in my bomber.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

An Interspieces Battle for Domination!

See what happens when Matt figures out how to get the dogs to play tug of war against each other...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

O'Reilly's Interview with Obama: The Democrats are in Trouble

Say what you want about O'Reilly; he's a pitbull of an interviewer. Today he pressed Obama on the Surge and Iran. The results were not good for Obama supporters.

Obama acknowledged the success of the surge but claimed it exceeded the wildest expectations of even Bush and McCain. (I don't see how that's a bad thing.) He would not, however, admit that he was wrong in voting against it. In the process he missed a great opportunity for powerful rhetoric.

O'Reilly: "If we had listened to you, we wouldn't have had a surge and we wouldn't be winning the war!"
Obama (fire in his eyes): "If you had listened to me, we wouldn't NEED a surge because we wouldn't have STARTED this war in the first place!"

Now that's the Obama I love. Unfortunately, that Obama doesn't exist. Obama did not say that; there was no fire. He smiled and hemmed and hawed and said, "Well, we still are paying $12 billion a month on Iraq and..."

This remains an unpopular war among most of the American public and Obama needs to turn up the rhetoric. He would do well to remind us that we wouldn't be in this mess if he had been in the White House. (We might be in other messes, but not this one.) From what I've seen, it appears that as great as he is in a prepared speech, he isn't very good at extemporaneous speaking. Biden is amazing at it and that will help offset Obama's stilted responses, but Biden's not the guy who would be the commander in chief.

O'Reilly next moved on to Iran, and asked specifically what Obama plans to do. What happens if diplomacy doesn't work? Does he think military action is likely? Obama was quite evasive. He responded that, as a candidate for president, it's "not appropriate" for him to "tip his hand" regarding the direction he's going to go in Iran. Excuse me? You're not going to tip your hand? This isn't a Supreme Court nomination hearing, Obama, you are supposed to tell us what you're going to do. Eventually he gave his same old "all options are on the table" answer, but with no specifics.

Upon the conclusion of the interview, my first reaction was that Obama is going to lose. In any moderated debate with McCain, McCain will use forceful rhetoric about the need to use military force and confront our enemies. McCain will have fire in his eyes. Obama is, as usual, going to be very introspective, Kerry-like in his desire for nuance. It's not going to play well among the undecideds who agree the world is a very dangerous place.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Live Responses to the Palin Acceptance Speech

  • Ok, I'm going to be live-tweeting the Palin speech and compiling it into a blog post later. First impressions: My oh my that is a VPILF.
  • So that's what an Alaskan accent sounds like. Sounds vaguely like southern Ohio. Now she's playing the mom-of-soldier card.
  • Now she's playing the ADORABLE daughter card. I still think Bristol Willow Piper sounds like a consulting firm.
  • Her husband is an Eskimo fisherman snowmobile racer. Now there's a selling point.
  • Ha! LIPSTICK! Hahahahahah! :-\
  • Everyone's dissing Obama's "community organizing." I'm really curious how Palin is going to spin her mayoral "responsibilities."
  • She's been talking for 10 minutes and hasn't said a word about her accomplishments -- just introduced family and bashed Obama.
  • You do NOT want to talk about "leaving this nation better than we found it." 8 years of Dubya have not left this nation better than before.
  • I'd like to show Palin my oil pipeline.
  • Sorry, was overcome by VPlust. She knows about oil and I tend to agree that we should use the power we got until we get the power we want.
  • Man oh man does Palin give good rhetoric.
  • Palin, if John McCain were truly a maverick, you wouldn't be standing there.
  • Listen, McCain is a patriot and yes he was a prisoner of war. I respect him. But that is not a major qualification to be president. Sorry.
  • Good speech. MUCH better speaker than McCain. She seems pleasant enough. The American Everywoman. Not much substance though; lotta sarcasm.
  • Bottom line: i like her a lot. She seems like a great person. She is not qualified to be my president.
  • I'm looking forward to the debates. Obama will wipe the floor with McCain. The real exciting one will be Biden vs. Palin. Game on!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Palin is the most unqualified vice presidential pick in the history of modern elections

Okay. Even if I were still considering McCain, his choice of the most unqualified, unvetted runningmate in the history of modern presidential politics would completely turn me off.

McCain meets her twice: at a governor's conference, and on the day he offers her the job. No one in Alaska had received any calls inquiring into Palin's background. The "vetting" process was almost certainly a quick Google job. I am not confident about a presidential candidate who doesn't do any real research before picking the second-in-command.

And McCain, who has a history of skin cancer and other ailments, had a father who died at 70 -- two years younger than McCain is now. There is a significant chance he could die in office, or become incapacitated. And then what? Palin named her kids Trig, Track, Willow, Bristol and Piper. I don't trust that woman's judgment at all. And she raised a daughter whose values apparently did not preclude having unprotected sex and getting pregnant in high school. Way to go, mom! So much for conservative values (other than her pastime of hunting caribou and encouraging the teaching of Creationism alongside Evolution in SCIENCE CLASS).

What does this pick say about McCain's judgment?
And do we really think Palin is qualified to stare down Putin?

Word has it McCain really wanted Lieberman but decided against him because he didn't poll well. Yeah, real maverick.

Sorry, I'm just pretty annoyed at the direction the Republicans are going. Can someone please tell me why Palin is a good pick? I smell another Harriet Miers

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Racism is NOT the only reason Obama might lose

Sometimes I think Slate.com writers intentionally offer the most illogical, unsupported arguments, solely to increase their number of page views. Take this article from one Jacob Weisberg, arguing that racism is the only conceivable reason why Obama might lose the presidency.

Weisberg begins with the premise that Obama is the perfect choice that every non-racist would vote for. With such a ridiculous premise, of course the only logical answer that follows for his neck-and-neck standing in the polls is RACISM!

But the fact is, just because the country is sick of Bush policies doesn't mean they believe McCain will simply continue them. Despite the left wingers' cries of "Bush McCain," much evidence exists to suggest McCain is in fact his own man. People may prefer McCain's experience to Obama's lack thereof. People may still generally prefer conservative, small government principles, to liberal, big government principles.

In short, there are many reasons why McCain and Obama are neck and neck. Simply put, they both offer good policies that appeal to conservatives and liberals, respectively. The country is roughly equally divided between conservatives and liberals. So we get tied poll numbers.

I am not arguing that racism doesn't exist. There is clearly a small percentage that would never vote for Obama because of his skin color. But that is absolutely not the main reason for the current poll numbers.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Perpetual Motion Machine!

Retarded Segway, originally uploaded by CaseWriter21.

Certain early Segway models had the ability to virtually "park" themselves, remaining upright even when no one was on them. The Segway i2, however, likes to keep going forward. The frequent result? A slightly demented Segway. Enjoy.

(PS - The Anthony referred to at the end of the video is actually a genius with an IQ likely higher than everyone viewing the video. We just like to make fun.) :-)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Well, at least I'm not as narcissistic as I used to be...

Personality Disorder Test Results
Paranoid |||||||||| 38%
Schizoid |||||||||||||||| 66%
Schizotypal |||||||||||||||| 66%
Antisocial |||||| 30%
Borderline |||||| 22%
Histrionic |||||| 26%
Narcissistic |||||||||||||||| 62%
Avoidant |||| 14%
Dependent |||||||||| 38%
Obsessive-Compulsive |||||||||||| 50%
Take Free Personality Disorder Test
personality tests by similarminds.com

I'll come back to elaborate on these test results, but considering I got basically the same scores as Skwigg, I consider myself in pretty good company. ;-)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Product Review: Best Electric Shave I've Ever Had

For the last 15 years (i.e. my entire shaving life), I have used Norelco shavers. When the battery on my last one would no longer hold a charge, I decided to try something new, and purchase the Panasonic ES8043SC Pro-Curve Pivot Action Linear Wet/Dry Shaver. Materials in the box caution users to "Please Stick With It. It's Worth it." They say my skin and beard need 30 days to adjust. Okay. Expectations duly lowered, I turned the shaver on, was momentarily surprised by the high frequency buzz that comes with 13,000 oscillations a minute, and ran the shaver down my cheek.


Folks, this shaver has produced an EXTREMELY close shave, with no irritation at all, and no uncomfortable pulling sensation that Norelco's "lift and cut" method sometimes produces. This rivals a straight blade in terms of closeness-of-shave, and is without a doubt the best shave I've ever gotten from an electric shaver -- and I'm sure it will produce even better results as my skin and beard "adjust." (I haven't even tried it with shaving cream and water yet -- and I'm told that produces an even closer shave.)

I was hesitant to switch from the trusty Norelco 3-headed shavers to this foil shaver. But I'm SO glad I did. And you can bet I'm going to tell my family about this. It was my dad who introduced me to Norelcos all those years ago. It's about time I introduce him to the Panasonic. :-)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

iPhone Woes - Part 1

My loyal readers have been complaining that I have not updated my web site in a long time. This is true. The reason is because I have been busy with work and other things that take up my time. And when i have a few hours at home, I would rather spend it relaxing with a book or friends or a show than updating my blog.

That said, I have decided that my Blog has indeed languished for far too long, and I am going to spend the next several days explaining to everyone who stumbles upon this place why I am going to return my iPhone 3G.

Yep, you heard me. I have a new shiny iPhone 3G (which I stood in line for hours to acquire), and after putting it through its paces for a couple weeks, I have decided to return it. Over the course of the next several days, you will find out why.

(FYI, I am culling all of these entries from e-mail conversations that I have had with friends.)

We begin with:


SO IN ADDITION TO the difficulty of typing and the lack of mms and no selecting/copy/paste tools and complete inability to multitask and the shitty battery that dies halfway through the day unless I keep it plugged in all the time, I have also come to realize that I really miss the lack of a status light on the device. Without a light, there is no way for me to know at a glance whether I have new email or text messages; I have to turn the device on, unlock it, and go into the mail program or home screen -- there isn't even a status icon in the menu bar on top so I can see number of message from other programs.

I miss my BlackBerry. Seriously, you have to use a Blackberry to really understand how nice it is. The keyboard is wonderful for typing on, and everything is optimized for efficiency. For instance, it comes with a great holster that has a little magnet on the bottom. When the Blackberry is in the holster and something happens - you get an email or a text message or a phone call - and you pull the phone out, the little magnet senses that the phone is being taken out, and the phone turns on and goes directly to the screen you need. So when the phone vibrates and says I have email, I pull it out of the holster and it automatically turns on and goes directly to the opened message. Contrast that with the iPhone, where if the phone buzzes to say I have email, I have to press the button to turn it on, swipe to unlock, press the email icon, and then tap on the message in the list view. That's one step (pull out of holster) compared to FOUR.

If I want to scroll to the bottom of a long email chain, or a very long web page, on the iPhone -- there is no way to do it quickly except continuing to swipe my finger a dozen times to pull the page along. There is a scroll bar on the side but you can't grab it.

This guy sums it up: http://editweapon.com/form-vs-function-iphone-vs-blackberry/

Monday, July 21, 2008

Rudy On Head

Sure, I could spend a few minutes regaling you with stories of moving into my new apartment, and then finding out that said apartment is HAUNTED; I could talk about my ire at learning of the elitist snobby bullshit pulled by the owner of Murky's Coffee in Arlington; I could talk about how much fun I had at Kal's wedding (and the ensuing 3 hour nap on the bathroom floor).

But that would all require too much work.

So instead, I bring you this photograph, taken circa 2008 with my iPhone, and spruced up a bit in a photo editor. I call it, "Rudy On Head." Discuss.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Ginger Snap Vignette

As Matt walks through the office hallways, he overhears two secretaries talking about ginger snaps.

Secretary 1: I can't find old fashioned ginger snaps anywhere.
Matt (stops in his tracks): Are you looking for old fashioned ginger snaps?
S: Do you know where I can find them??
M: Not yet. But I'm going to make it my mission.
S2: Really?
M: You're looking for ginger snaps, right?
S1: Yes.
M: That's a cause I can get behind.
S1 and S2 (all smiles): Thanks!

As Matt walks away, he hears them in the distance. S1: "He's so nice!"

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Moving In

I've spent the last couple of weeks moving in to my new home in North Arlington (about a mile from the Ballston Metro, for those of you who know the area). The house is really nice, and I share it with a couple of great people. I have been putting everything together -- setting it up just the way I like it. I always hate the logistical nightmare of moving OUT of an old place, but I love the POSSIBILITIES of moving into a new place. I am definitely of the mindset that My Home Is My Castle -- but, more accurately, I would say that My Home Is My Sanctuary. I love to feel peaceful, comfortable, safe, relaxed. That is what I am trying to set up.

Because it is late and I am tired and I have to get to work in the morning (yay being a real live communications lawyer!), I will leave you with this candid shot (artfully edited in post) showing Yours Truly preparing to rehearse the 1812 Overture for last week's July 4th concert on the Mall. It was a blast!

Matt at 1812 Overture Rehearsal
(Photo credit: Nathan Mitchell, CASW Bass)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Another Double Rainbow Over DC

A second double rainbow within a week. Was it another Russert miracle? Or was someone else behind this one? I report live from our nation's capital.

IMG_0266 1.JPG

Friday, June 20, 2008

Rudy the Fighter Pilot

I want to take a moment to describe an episode tonight that proves Rudy the parrot is actually a fighter pilot.

Rudy was in the bathroom with me but I wanted my privacy. So I stood up and grabbed Rudy off the window sill (BRAK!) and tossed him out the door. Rudy starts flapping, hovers in mid-air, turns around, and heads back toward my head. I hold both my hands out in front of me to block his path. He instantaneously stops flapping his wings and drops about five feet straight down, then starts flapping again when he is about six inches above the floor, flies past me into the bathroom about a foot off the ground, then once he's clear flies upward about four feet and lands back on the window sill.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Segway vs. Other Forms of Transportation

With gas way over $4/gallon, many people have begun considering alternate forms of transportation. As someone who actually owns a car, bicycle, and a Segway, let me briefly recount my experiences using each method (as well as public transportation and walking) commuting 3 miles to work in Washington DC:
  • Car: Driving 3 miles to work takes about 8 minutes. Oh, I'm sorry, are you looking for a time quote DURING rush hour? Oh. Well in that case, it takes 20-30 minutes. During the summer, it's also 90+ degrees here, which means I have the A/C blasting and am burning through the $4.15 gallon of gas far more quickly than the 25 mpg I'm supposed to get. When I finally get to work, I can park in a garage for around $10 (a good price for this city), or drive around for a while, find a meter somewhere, and keep pumping $1/hour in quarters into it all day (thus ruining my productivity at work as I constantly have to break my train of thought to go downstairs and feed the meter). Or I could just pay the $235/month for a monthly garage pass. Either way, we're talking lots of time, lots of gas, and lots of money for parking.
SUMMARY: ~25 minutes, $10+ in parking and gas, NOT stinky when I get there.
Initial cost: $12,000-40,000+, depending on how fancy you want to get.
  • Bicycle: The most common response when people find out I have a Segway is, "Why didn't you get a bike?" Well, I have a bike. Thing is, biking up and down hills for a few miles in 90 degree weather with swamp-like humidity tends to cause incredible levels of perspiration and general stinkiness. What a great way to start the day, huh? Sure, I could shower in the little locker room at work, but I don't always want to deal the logistical questions of bringing clothes to work, showering there, etc. That said, when I do take the bike, I go down hills at about 20 mph and up hills at about 8 mph. On average it takes about 15 minutes to go three miles.
SUMMARY: ~15 minutes, no transportation cost, STINKY when I get there.
Initial cost: $200-2,500+, depending on how fancy you want to get.
  • Public transportation: I don't live near the Metro, so my only option is to take the bus. Some people might like waiting 20 minutes in the heat for three city buses to arrive in a clump, and then standing crammed in there like sardines for the next 25 minutes while drunken homeless men breath on you. I don't.
SUMMARY: ~45 minutes, $1.35 in fare (one way), not TOO stinky when I get there (but have to deal with a lot of stink on the way).
Initial cost: NONE.
  • Walking: I always love how health-minded people get when confronted with the prospect of riding a Segway around. "What ever happened to WALKING?" ask Comic Book Guy lookalikes who rarely venture out of their basement. But let's be fair and examine walking as an alternative. Sometimes, when it's a really beautiful day, say 65-70 degrees and sunny with a light breeze, I'll walk home from work. It only takes about 50 minutes and sometimes I stop off at the bookstore. How pleasant. Problem is, I don't generally like to take my sweet time walking TO work in the morning. Also, the weather is not usually as cooperative. DC humidity will make dress clothes stick to your body in about 10 minutes.
SUMMARY: ~50 minutes, no transportation cost, KINDA stinky when I get there.
Initial cost: NONE.
  • Segway: At its top speed of 12.5 mph, you can glide a mile (silly as it may be, that's the verb we use) in about five minutes. When you throw in waiting at crosswalks, it takes about 17 minutes to go 3 miles. Going downhill, I am passed by bicycles. Going uphill, I pass every bicycle. Either way, I never break a sweat. Riding the thing is incredibly fun, and after a while you tend to not notice the fact that people are staring. (Note: Most stares/shout-outs are of the "Holy crap it's a Segway!" variety, as opposed to "Holy crap it's a Nerd!" variety.) I lock the Segway up against a pole outside and set the alarm. Don't have to worry about changing clothes.
SUMMARY: ~17 minutes, a few cents in electricity to charge it (takes about 10 cents to fully charge and gets 20 miles on a charge), NOT stinky when I get there.
Initial cost: $4,500-5,500, depending on how fancy you want to get.

[I cannot compare driving a scooter (Vespa, etc.) because I haven't done that. Scooters get very good mpg so that saves you money, but you also have to buy insurance so that more than cancels out any savings. You also have to deal with traffic, and the fact that some people wouldn't really feel safe driving a light motorcycle around the city -- I know I wouldn't.]

Anyway, that's the breakdown. I've absolutely loved my Segway and put on about 600 miles in the year I've had it. It's not a perfect solution (not as fun to ride in the rain or cold), but it's better than most I've found! If anyone in the area would like to take a test glide, feel free to contact me.

Friday, June 13, 2008

SEGWAY CRASH (or: I need a new pair of pants, AGAIN)

I had my second major crash today. Both of them were caused by Glider Error and had to do with inappropriate interactions with curbs.

Just about one year ago, at mile 0085, I went up a curb cutout too fast while shifting my weight to the wrong foot while turning. The Segway platform oscillated, I couldn't keep steady on it, and I wiped out. The Segway went in one direction, I went in another, and my InfoKey and Blackberry were ejected 50 feet away from me in opposite directions. I skinned my knee, elbow and wrist, and ruined a pair of pants.

Just about an hour ago, at mile 0585, I had nearly completed my daily 2.5 mile glide to work. I was across the street from my building, and since there was no traffic heading toward me on the one-way road (23rd St. near N St. NW for those of you who know the area), I decided to jump down the 6-inch curb and cross the street, as I have done literally hundreds of times over the past year.

But today, for some reason, i got cocky. Instead of jumping off the curb at 2-4 mph as usual, I guess I took it a little too fast. I'm not sure how fast exactly, but it might have been somewhere between 4-8 mph. That, my friends, was a major mistake.

I'm still not really sure what happened exactly, but I think that when the wheels hit the ground, they couldn't handle the forward momentum of my body. Seggie tried to get under me, while I instinctually tried to lean back to get over Seggie. I also tried to pull the Lean Steer Frame toward me, but as I was not directly over the platform anymore but slightly to its side, this had the effect of spinning the inner wheel faster than the outer wheel. This clumsy ballet lasted no more than a second. Together, we spiraled down to the street and collapsed with a loud thud.

I was splayed out in the street, clutching onto Seggie so that he wouldn't roll away. As is often the case after a crash, my immediate thought was, "OH MY GOD I LOOK LIKE AN IDIOT, HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE STARING?" I sat up and looked around. Miraculously, nobody saw. I was basically alone and there was still no traffic heading my way. Seggie had shut down. I stood up and rolled him to the other side of the street, where I surveyed the damage to myself and to my ride. He had a few extra scratches on the LSF but otherwise seemed to be no worse for wear. I turned him on and he started up as normal. I also had a few extra scratches, but unlike Seggie, when the road scratches me I tend to leak. I had a major cut on my left thumb, with a deep reddish-crimson oozing out. That said, it looked worse than it was and it didn't hurt.

Fortunately, I had taken the brunt of the fall with my well-padded derrier. Unfortunately, I had ruined another pair of pants. (If anyone would like a free pair of olive-colored khakis with a ripped seat, send me an e-mail!)

When writing this post, I briefly hesitated on whether to categorize the crash as "major," but I have decided that when one of my first actions after a crash is to look around for the first aid kit to dress my wounds, that counts as "major."

So, what have we learned today? A) Don't take curbs too fast. If you want to be real careful about it, go find the nearest cutout and glide down with ease. (You will also arguably save your steed the cumulative damage caused by lots of small drops.) B) Major crashes tend to happen when you get cocky. I don't care if you've ridden for 5 miles, 500 or 5000; the moment you start to act like a Segway God, the real Segway God will step in to put you in your place. C) I have a major crash about once every 500 miles. Good to know. (When I approach mile 1085, I'll be sure to wear pants I don't care about.)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

With gas over $4/gal, Seggie is looking mighty attractive

I've been using my Segway to commute to work again and I love it as usual. Thinking of keeping it. Not sure. Right now the commute is 2.5 miles but my new residence is going to be in Ballston and it will be a 6.5 mile commute to work near Georgetown... I was thinking that I couldn't commute with the Segway because the Custis trail doesn't allow motorized things, but Google Maps showed me a nice residential-streets-with-sidewalks map that looks quite doable.

I'm not too concerned about the ability of the Segway to handle 13 miles in a day; one full charge nets me 18-20 miles depending on how taxing I am on the machine (i.e. do I constantly push up against the speed limiter? am I going up a lot of hills? am I transporting a lot of crap? etc.)... It's just that I generally don't like going more than 5 miles or so at a time because my legs get a little tired. But with the cost of gas (and parking) what it is...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Yeah yeah

OK, listen up: I was wrong. I am fairly sure that fan base for David Archuleta and David Cook were roughly equal, but Simon Cowell's calling Tuesday night a "knockout" in favor of Archuleta only served to galvanize Cook's fans, while Archuleta's fans grew complacent. I had a feeling that might happen, but I didn't mention it. Why?

Well, at the risk of sounding like a giddy schoolgirl, David Archuleta's voice gives me goosebumps. Yes, David Cook is a fantastic singer and his voice has got that rock edge, but Archuleta's voice is so pure and beautiful and it simply gives me shivers whenever I hear him belt out Imagine. *gush*

That said, Cook seems far more marketable, and Cook's music is far more suited to walking around not paying attention on the iPod, or working out. (Can't exactly pump up the jam to an Archuleta ballad.)

I will say this however: This is the first year I would actually go out and buy the albums of BOTH #1 and #2. They were that good. The Top 12/24 as a whole was one of the weaker casts, but the Top 2 were definitely among the most talented of the entire series.

I can't wait for next year!

PS -- This summer is the last chance I have to audition for Idol, as after that I am too old to be eligible... Of course my voice is not at all suited to it, but I wonder if I could pull off some sort of Bocelli/Groban opera/pop crossover? Hmmmmmm.......... (Yeah yeah, let the taunts begin!)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Why David Archuleta Will Win American Idol

Early in tonight's finale, former bartender and current rocker David Cook told the audience that, as far as he was concerned, the competition is over and tonight is just for fun.

When he said that, I knew he was going to lose.

You've got to bring everything you have at the finale, and David Archuleta did that. He nailed the first song, picked a great never-before-heard second song that showed off his vocals, and -- most importantly -- chose to sing "Imagine" again for his last song. Now, Archuleta sang Imagine earlier this season, and it was the performance that made people notice him. It was absolutely his best performance of the season, and when he said that he was singing Imagine one more time because it was his best performance, I knew he was, as Randy likes to say, "in it to win it, dawg."

Contrast this with David Cook, who sang some sort of rock ballad for the final song. This was the absolute wrong choice. Randy commended him for choosing a song that showed a softer side of David Cook, but we don't want a softer side. We want the David Cook who sang an amazing version of Billie Jean earlier in the season and absolutely brought the house down. Simon Cowell, who always calls it like it is, told him the same thing. "It was absolutely the wrong song," he said. "You should have done Billie Jean."

Cook's response: "Why do a song I've already done?"

The answer: BECAUSE THAT'S HOW YOU WIN. Archuleta knew that, and he brought his best song back, and -- this is key -- he actually improved on it! The two minor criticisms I had of his earlier performance of Imagine were that his transition to falsetto needed work and the final "join us" lyric was flat because he didn't support. Well ya know what? HE FIXED IT. The transition to falsetto was beautifully smooth, and he support enough so that all of the notes -- including "join us" -- were dead on perfect.

Tonight, according to Simon, David Archuleta scored a knock out. Simon is, as usual, absolutely right. Cook has a pleasant rocker voice, but Archuleta has got a soaring tenor that is simply beautiful. And the best part is, his voice is only going to get better.

Straight to Video?

Matt explaining to his father why the ALI conference discussing the next Restatement of Law is not boring:

Matt: "It's amazing. There are judges, professors, Supreme Court litigators -- the combined brainpower in the room is phenomenal -- and they are coming together to determine the rules that will govern our civilization. These are the greatest legal scholars of our time -- our philosopher kings, so to speak -- in one room, hammering out the rules of society. So what might seem at first glance to be mundane is actually quite profound."

Dad: "I'll wait for the movie."

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Hoaxes, Performance Art, and Crazy Liberals

A news article was recently making the rounds on the Internet. The news article concerned a senior undergraduate at Yale University who majored in art and who apparently has a penchant for causing a scene. You see, my friend Jacob forwarded the article from the Yale Daily News to myself and to a few other college friends with the following disclaimer: "I'm really embarrassed that she is one of my peeps, and possibly a distant relation to [ Matt ]."

By that, Jacob meant that this woman was Jewish, and that her last name was an iteration of my last name, [ last name deleted for Google purposes ]. I read the following article with disgust. The headline: "For Senior, Abortion a Medium for Art, Political Discourse." The article went on to discuss a girl whose senior art project was "a documentation of a nine-month process during which she artificially inseminated herself 'as often as possible' while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. Her exhibition will feature video recordings of these of forced miscarriages as well as preserved collections of the blood from the process."

Of course, I was absolutely disgusted and mortified that anyone would do this. I remembered from my undergraduate days that there are some fairly crazy, wacky liberals out there, but this absolutely took the cake. My friend Ryan fired back a reply: "I don't know what to say. That may well be one of the worst things I've ever heard. I think she's a vile human being, unfit for -- and undeserving of -- that title."

I responded as well: "I almost cried when I read that article. I cannot believe such a person exists -- and I hesitate to even dignify her with classification as a person."

I forwarded the article around to other friends, and the expression of disgust was universal. Liberal or conservative, nobody could believe that she would do this, or that Yale University would allow a public exhibition of the project, as the newspaper article stated.

The Drudge Report picked up the student newspaper article, and from there it spread like wildfire. The Washington Post, CNN, the London Times, every major news outlet throughout the world picked it up. And so the shock and outrage spread internationally.

But something didn't quite sit right with me. After my initial emotion fueled sadness and shock and anger, my rational side kicked in, and I sent the following e-mail to my friends:
I was thinking, and I cannot imagine this is real. This has to be a hoax. I cannot believe even Yale would okay a public installation of her blood and videos of her miscarriages. And I find it very hard to believe that she could successfully pull off these miscarriages (come on, let's call them what they are, abortion) multiple times with herbs, without either being unable to abort the child, or without causing major damage to herself.

"The to pull off a hoax, all she really had to do was trick the Yale student paper. From there all the other media would pick it up and it would take off with very little additional verification. She'd simply get some cohorts to corroborate it via e-mail, and Yale would be silent for a while as they tried to figure out what the truth was. If you look at the original Yale article, they weren't even able to talk to her adviser.

"She will probably justify the whole thing as performance art, or ' hoax art in cyberspace' or something.

"Then again I could just be rationalizing all this because I don't want to believe anyone is that evil."
Well, my friends, it appears my Bullshit Detector is functioning properly. Yale University later released a statement:
"Ms. Shvarts is engaged in performance art. Her art project includes visual representations, a press release and other narrative materials. She stated to three senior Yale University officials today, including two deans, that she did not impregnate herself and that she did not induce any miscarriages. the entire project is an art piece, a creative fiction designed to draw attention to the ambiguities surrounding form and function of a woman's body. She is an artist and has the right to express herself through performance art. Had these acts been a real, they would have violated basic ethical standards and raised serious mental and physical health concerns."
I am glad that I was right. It brings some level of satisfaction and even some vindication among friends who claimed that as much as they wished it were a hoax, they feared it was real. It also makes me feel relieved that such a horrible, heinous person does not exist in reality.

That said, Ms. Shvarts is still a vile human being. Not quite as vile as she was, but anyone who would purposely try to mislead the world about such a sensitive and delicate matter, and be so cavalier about the whole thing, all in the name of "her art," deserves only marginally more respect than one who would purposely and repeatedly impregnate and abort.

Moreover, I am dismayed that the Yale University office of public affairs is so quick to defend this woman, under the flimsy rationale that "she is an artist" and she has "the right to express herself through performance art." Calling oneself an artist does not give a free pass to act as irresponsibly and insensitively as one desires, all in the name of art. It does not free one from the bounds of civility and decency that characterize a healthy society.

I am all for artistic expression, but pulling a massive hoax and calling it "performance art" meant to "draw attention" to the function of a woman's body is disgusting, and reminds me why I joined the conservative student newspaper while at college. Academia is a crazy place, and they believe some messed up things inside those ivory towers. I am glad to no longer be a part of that, but dismayed that the insanity continues.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Monday, April 14, 2008

Why I Like My Job, Reason #238

I get to come up with wry headlines and leads like this:
South Carolina Scratch-Off Lotto Losers Also Certification Losers, Trial Court Finds

A group of plaintiffs claiming their lottery tickets could not win the advertised "top prize" -- because it had already been won -- similarly could not win class certification in a South Carolina trial court March 31.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Why Michael Johns was eliminated from American Idol (hint: American voters are not crazy)

I would like to take this opportunity to analyze the recent American Idol "shocker." Everyone's favorite Australian, Michael Johns, was eliminated in a strangely upside down proceeding in which three of the best singers were ranked at the very bottom. (I am not talking about David Cook or David Archuleta, of course, who are likely to be the last two standing, but rather about three very talented singers who are superior in every way to that horrible country singer, Kerry Cook or whatever her name is. She deserves to be dragged out to the place where cows receive their airgun blasts, and if not given an airgun blast herself, at least be branded as a Loser.)

Anyway, people are under the impression that America has lost its collective mind, the stars are in screwy positions, and cats and dogs will soon be living together. I am here to assure you, fine reader, that all is well and good in the American voting psyche. The latest American Idol shocker is actually just the latest in a long line of similar voting incidents. Let me explain:

Michael Johns is best described as a blues style rocker. David Cook is best described as a very fashionable rocker. David Cook is also widely regarded as the superior of the two. So what clearly happened is that David Cook took Michael Johns's votes. This is different than in past seasons where two similar performers will split the vote, and neither of them will end up on top; in the present situation, David Cook is a similar performer but also far superior. So he took Michael Johnson's votes: anyone who would have considered voting for Mr. Johns almost certainly voted for Mr. Coke instead.

This is why Mr. Johns got the fewest number of votes. In this case, a getting the fewest votes does not mean that he is the worst contestant (that distinction goes to Ms. Cook). It simply means that he was slightly less popular than David Cook, and because of the way the voting system works, David Cook ended up getting all the votes. Mr. Johns got none.

This happens all the time in politics. Look at the 2000 presidential election: all things equal, people who were inclined to vote for Al Gore might also be inclined to vote for Ralph Nader. They simply liked Al Gore better, and they thought that he had a better chance of winning. That Ralph Nader got less than 5% of the vote did not mean that he was the worst politician, or horribly unsuitable for office; it simply meant that Mr. Gore took all of the votes that Mr. Nader would otherwise have received.

Note that this is, as I explained above, a slightly different phenomenon than that in which two candidates will split the votes, and therefore both end up on the bottom. This happens often when you have two similarly situated contestants, such as two equally good rockers, two equally good R&B performers, etc.

And there you have it. That Michael Johns was at the very bottom of the totem pole is not reflective of his level of talent, but only reflective of his relative popularity compared to David Cook.

For the record, I am a huge David Cook fan, and fully expect him to win. Now that that fact is known, I hope there will be no allegations of undisclosed bias in this analysis. My bias is hereby disclosed. :-)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Local Man Sets 5K PR!

WASHINGTON, April 6 -- On a windy, rain-soaked morning in our Nation's Capital, a tired yet strong 28-year-old stood in the 5K Run/Walk corral about a block from the Washington Monument. As the bearded redhead hopped up and down, running in place to stay warm before the race began, he still didn't know quite what he was doing here.

"Everyone talks about the adrenaline rush I would get on the morning of the Big Race," Matt told me the next day over a plate of grilled chicken and steamed-in-the-bag vegetables, "but I never got an adrenaline rush. The whole thing was just too surreal. I was on 4 hours of sleep, and all I kept thinking was, 'I'm running a what, now? Who signed me up for this? Why am I not in bed?' I didn't know 8 a.m. actually existed on a Sunday morning!"

But early hours did exist on Sunday, as Matt found out when his cell phone alarm went off at 6, waking him from a fitful slumber that had only taken hold after 1 a.m. He pinned his number (20076) to his long-sleeved technical shirt, downed a cup of orange juice and a handful of Cheerios, and headed out the door. He arrived at the National Mall around 7:30 -- a full 70 minutes before his starting time.

"It appears somebody miscalculated," Matt said, cursing the efficiency of the DC transit authority. "Anyway, it was really neat down there, almost a carnival atmosphere. The whole thing was just like July 4th, except everybody was running!"

Having arrived so early, Matt had no choice but to walk around, sometimes jogging lightly to keep warm. By the time the 5K race was set to start, Matt had been warming up his legs for about an hour.

There was no "On your mark, get set, go!" that Matt had envisioned in his dreams. The only way Matt knew the race had begun was that everyone in front of him started slowly shuffling forward. It took about 90 seconds to cross the starting mats, and then Matt started.

To Walk or Not to Walk

"Everyone had warned me about starting too fast," Matt recalled. "They said I would get caught up in the excitement of running with a thousand other people. They said I should slow down! So I did. But not enough."

MILE 1 | 3:07 + 3:00 + 3:07 + 3:10 = 12:24
MILE 2 | 3:54 + 3:32 + 3:51 + 3:26 = 14:43
MILE 3 | 3:26 + 3:48 + 3:23 + 3:14 = 13:51
0.11 | 1:21

Indeed, as evidenced by Matt's unofficial mile splits, he hovered between 4.9 and 5.0 mph for the first mile. That speed, he says, would have been fine had he taken walk breaks from the beginning. But because of his excitement, he felt he was strong enough to run the first mile without walking.

"This was a race," Matt said. "I was supposed to push myself. I would have felt like a total idiot following Galloway's advice and taking walk breaks every few minutes."

However, after pushing himself for a mile, Matt -- who had originally signed up for the 10-mile run -- needed to walk.

"I was strong enough to run the first mile," Matt said. "But then I needed to slow down." For the next mile, he took minute-long walk breaks every 2-3 minutes.

At the 2 mile mark, he decided to try to push himself harder. "I had read somewhere that on a 5K my heart rate should be around 90-95% most of the time. Well, I generally was at around 170 for the few minutes at a time that I could maintain a run, but on my walk breaks I gradually dropped down to 150. I decided that I was going to only walk until my pulse hit 160, and then I'd pick it back up again."

So Matt's walk-breaks grew shorter. And yet, short as they were, whenever Matt walked, something ominous happened...

Battle with the Race-Walkers

"The entire race was a battle between me and the race-walkers," Matt recalled, poking at a microwaved baby carrot. "I noticed them as I ran past in the first mile. And I noticed them again as they walked past at the beginning of the second mile."

For the rest of the race, they would be lingering just behind, in the shadows, waiting to take the lead.

"There's nothing more annoying than a damn 50-year-old woman grinning giddily, holding her elbows high and pumping her arms as she marches past me while I am briefly recuperating at 2.5 mph."

2.5 mph?

"I'm a slow walker."

The battle continued until mile 2.5 or so, when Matt picked up the pace.

"If you look at my quarter-mile splits, you'll notice that the walking basically stopped with a half mile to go. Sure, I walked for a few second here and there, but I really wanted to give it my all."

With a half mile left, he left the race-walkers in the dust.

'Looking Strong, Number 20076!'

"People on the sidelines kept saying, 'You're almost there! It's just around the corner!' And I was still under 40 minutes, and I figured I might actually be able to meet my arbitrary goal of 42ish minutes."

"As I turned the corner, the cheers grew louder. I could see the banner in the distance. I had about a quarter mile left to go, and I vowed to finish without walking. I took off my hat and glasses and just steamrolled forward. My pulse was at 171, 172, 173, and around then I felt my entire body flush. I have felt this before at very high efforts -- I am positive it is my body switching from aerobic to anaerobic."

What does anaerobic energy production feel like?

"Like I said, it feels like a flush is overcoming my entire body. Everything suddenly feels warm -- my arms, my chest, my legs -- it's just different. It comes with a really hard effort, and when I feel that flush, I know I won't last more than another minute or so.

"With about a block to go, I closed my eyes and dug deep inside for the effort to keep going. As I opened my eyes I noticed that I had just passed a camera man -- he had snapped a picture of me as I entered the mental part of the race. Now that's a picture I'll pay money for!

"The finish line was 50 feet in front of me. I heard the announcer say, 'Looking strong, number two-zero-zero-seven-six!' It was like my winning raffle ticket had just been called. 'Yes!' I shouted, pumping my hands in the air. With a final burst and a huge smile, I crossed the finish line."

Matt's final time was 42:29 -- a pace of 13:41. It was his fastest 5K effort to date.

Final Thoughts

"I'm pretty happy with the time," Matt said, finishing his chicken and veggies. "It's about six minutes faster than I had ever traversed 3.1 miles before, and do you know why? Because my calves didn't tighten up at all. The past two months, almost every time I tried to run more than 1.7 miles, my calves would get extremely tight to the point of cutting off blood flow to my peroneal nerves, and then the entire front of my shins and top of my feet would go numb! This time, for whatever reason, that didn't happen. Maybe it was the frequent Stick massages, or maybe it was the flat course, or maybe it was hour-long warm-up. All I know is that finally, my legs worked as they were supposed to."

Matt has signed up for the Detroit Half Marathon on Oct. 19, which he plans to run with his good friend Diana. He already has a general plan for the next 6 months.

"I'm really going to have to focus on weight loss," he said, sipping a glass of filtered water. "I was 182 when I started law school; I'm 212 today. I was essentially running with a 15 pound dumbbell in each hand. Imagine how much easier this would be -- how much faster I could get -- if I just dropped the dumbbells."

Matt plans to consistently eat healthy, add regular strength training to his fitness plan, and exercise at least 5 days a week. He will start "officially" training for the half-marathon sometime in June.

"People ask me why I run, when it is so difficult for me. What they don't understand is that they've already answered their own question: I run because it is difficult. I run because I want to get better at it. It's a noble goal in itself, and it will bring me so many side benefits: more health, more discipline, more confidence. I run because I cannot... and I run because I can."

Matt and Heather after the run

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Our Own Brotherhood, So Carefree and Good

The University of Michigan Men's Glee Club came into town this weekend to sing at the National Cathedral and at a national choral convention. Afterward, I got to hang out with several old friends who used to sing with me in Club, and several new friends who are the current generation of extraordinary glee clubbers.

On Friday night, we all went out to Cactus Cantina and relived one of my favorite traditions from college -- drunken sing-alongs with my brothers in song! Together, glee clubbers new and old raised our voices in song, and the result was a night to remember for years to come.

Here is a video of us all singing the Yellow and Blue. For lots more videos, click here!

On Saturday night, I got to know the incoming president of the Men's Glee Club, one of the current Friars, and several other talented young men. I am proud to say that the Glee Club is in good hands. I am also proud to say that, despite my relative old age and 50 extra pounds of body fat compared to the current younguns', I was able to trounce each of my challengers in Dance Dance Revolution, ending the night as the undisputed champion of the game, with something like a 10-0 record. Hail to the Victor, indeed!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Jew in da House!

Rehearsing before the Eastern Sunday service...

Looking surprisingly happy for so early in the morning...

Yeah, that's more like it... PISSED. (Granted, I was portraying Death in the Brahms German Requiem, but I can assure you I felt like Death as well, that early in the morning on a Sunday!)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Matt as a South Park Character

Scenes from My Life

Scene 1: Matt's apartment. Matt is starving, and then he receives a phone call.

Delivery Man: I'm outside, can you come down?
Matt: I'll be right down!

Matt comes downstairs but there is no sign of the delivery man. A minute later, he shows up in his car.

Matt: You said you were outside!
Delivery Man: Well, technically I was "outside."
Matt: You know, you should be a lawyer.
Delivery Man: I am a lawyer! I practiced law in Tunisia before I came to America!


Scene 2: Choir rehearsal. Conductor asks where all the second tenors are sitting. They raise their hands on the other side of the room. Matt, a first tenor, hisses at them.

Second #1: Did you just hiss?!
Matt: Second tenors are second-class citizens.
Second #2: And you're a first-class asshole!


Scene 3: Church, before the service. The pastor is harried and not looking where she's going. She slams open a door, almost running into Matt, who has to jump back to avoid a collision. Pastor just stands there, staring, not knowing what to say.

Matt (serene and smiling): You are Forgiven.
Pastor (pleasantly surprised): You are also Forgiven. Grace be to God!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Sad Day

A Sad Day, originally uploaded by CaseWriter21.

I didn't care for Easter before, and I HATE Easter now. Why must my favorite restaurant close on Easter! That's no way to celebrate rebirth! I mean, come on, Jebus must have been hungry after 3 days underground with no food. Surely the thing he would want most on Easter is a chicken burrito with guacamole from Chipotle.

W. T. F.

New Rudy Video!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Is Senator Obama a pigheaded hypocrite?

I have now had several days to ruminate over the speech on race relations that Senator Obama gave to much acclaim on Tuesday. Several of the commentators who discussed the senator's speech compared him to John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Abraham Lincoln. I must admit, I was one of them, complimenting his speech as "Lincolnesque." It was brilliant. It contained a healthy dose of truth, and an incredible amount of introspection. It changed my mind about Obama's association with his church, and with Reverend Jeremiah "God damn America" Wright.

And yet, my friends, I am concerned. You see, Senator Obama paints himself as a man who wants to work with the other side to find a middle position that we can all agree on. He wants us to believe that he is a man of compromise. But his record drastically undermines his message. And his record is the one thing that I cannot overlook, and that all the amazing speeches in the world will not obscure.

I greatly admire Senator Obama. He has accomplished more than I could ever hope to in terms of political power and prestige. He is an intelligent and eloquent man, thoughtful and introspective and able to rally Americans of all colors and creeds. However, I cannot get over the unsettling feeling that Senator Obama is a massive hypocrite.

You see, Senator Obama touts his ability to compromise, and yet he has the most liberal record in the United States Senate. Senator Obama claims to be a man of all the people, and yet he falls to the left of Ted Kennedy on the political spectrum. That is not hyperbole; that is a fact. during his first year in the Senate, The National Journal ranked him the 16th most liberal senator; during his second year, the 10th most liberal; and in 2007, the most liberal.

For all his talk about compromise, Senator Obama never has. Where Senator John McCain earned the respect of his political opponents and the ire of his so-called allies by routinely stepping across the aisle and sponsoring or backing bipartisan legislation, Senator Obama has remained firmly entrenched on the extreme left of the left wing of the Democratic Party.

So, as amazing as Senator Obama's speech was, it cannot erase the years of ultraliberal voting patterns. As enlightened as he wants us to believe he is, the fact remains that his political beliefs have been completely one-sided.

I would love to believe that the brilliant and eloquent Senator Obama can unite the country, but I am afraid his unwillingness to truly understand the other side will make him more of a divider than a uniter.

I'm not sure if Senator Obama could deliver a speech that would assuage my concerns about his unwavering liberalness. As eloquent as the man is, his voting record and actions in the Senate show him to be an unabashed liberal, unwilling to see the wisdom in the other side.And before you go calling me a "Monkey Republican" again, note that I would say exactly the same thing about someone who always voted Republican. Make no mistakes, my friends, there is always wisdom in the other side. Show me someone who always believes a certain way, who always votes with one party, and I will show you someone who is pigheaded and stubborn in his unwillingness to examine an issue from all sides.

Only a fool would think that his side is always correct.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Does Barack Obama hate America?

I feel compelled to offer my voice in the ongoing cacophony that is the 2008 election discussion. This may become an ongoing feature. I'm not sure. All I know is that today, I want to talk about Senator Barack Obama.

I like the man. He is inspirational, he knows how to give a good speech, and he is intelligent. As Joe Biden put it, he is "clean-cut." At the risk of derailing my one-day presidential campaign, I must say that I agree with Senator Biden. Senator Obama appears to be an intelligent, charismatic John Kennedy for the current generation.

However, I am very disturbed by the recent revelations that have come to light concerning the people with whom he surrounds himself. Senator Obama thanked the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr., when he won his Senate campaign, and he titled his second book, the Audacity of Hope, after the name of one of the reverend's sermons. Of course, Senator Obama married his wife -- selected her among all the women in the world as the person he wanted to spend his life with. He calls her his "rock." He depends on her for guidance.

This is disturbing because of what these individuals have said. The Reverend has been in the news lately because of some very incendiary remarks he made about America in several of his sermons. The wife was in the news recently for her comments that, until her husband had won the support of certain states, she had never before been proud of America.

I know that Senator Barock Obama is thankful to this country for the opportunities it has provided him. And I know that he regrets the things that his close allies have said publicly. He has called some of the remarks shameful and despicable. But the fact remains that he has chosen to surround himself with these people. This shows, to me, that he agrees with these sentiments -- at least privately. And, even if he does not consciously agree with these statements, it is a fact that, when surrounding yourself with certain viewpoints for so long, those viewpoints will begin to seep in.

An intelligent, impressionable individual who surrounds himself with America-haters for so many years is bound to pick up some of those beliefs. Even if he does not actively hate America, I am positive that at least some small part of him, spurred by the outright disgust of his compatriots, resents America.

None of this really matters to me; I am a John McCain supporter, as I have been for the past eight years or so. But I think it is important that my friends, who are so impressed by Senator Obama's idealism and intelligence and seeming integrity, listen to the words of Obama's preacher and Obama's wife. Don't just dismiss those anti-American ramblings as insignificant words of people who are not running for the presidency. Because, the fact is, those people, and those views, exist somewhere in the heart and mind of the man who is running for the presidency.

You cannot live for so many years with people who distrust America, and not start to develop some of the same views yourself.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Initial Test of MacSpeech Dictate -- This program is the new Messiah

This is a test. I am one of the only people I know who owns a bird. I am a 2006 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, and I hold a bachelor of arts from the University of Michigan. I am a very striking redhead who sings in a powerful tenor.

The preceding paragraph was my first test of the new MacSpeech Dictate software. The program made zero mistakes. I did not have to correct anything. The accuracy of the software is leaps and bounds ahead of iListen, it frustrated me to no end.

In the past two paragraphs, the only mistake the program made was inserting the word "it" instead of the word "which" in the last sentence. I have been speaking at a perfectly normal conversational pace, the same way I would to a friend. I have not overly enunciated anything. This program is, without a doubt, miraculous.

I want to make it very clear that the only training I have completed was the initial five-minute training session in which I read 10 or so paragraphs. I am already achieving near 100% accuracy, with essentially no training whatsoever. This is in comparison to iListen, which, after several months of training, was never able to afford any more than 90% accuracy at best.

In the past several paragraphs, the voice recognition software has made only two minor errors which did not actually affect the meaning of the sentence. (The second error was the word "any" at the end of the last paragraph.) I will play around with the software a lot more over the next couple of days, and post a full review at that point, but I can already say that this is absolutely amazing. I am simply blown away. I had high hopes, but I never dreamed that the program would work this well right out of the box.

Let the next Great American Novel begin!