Qualified To Give Advice

Danny’s Pearl of Wisdom For the Day: When you radically change your sleep schedule, go to sleep at midnight, wake up at 6 am, and decide to go for a jog around campus, do not, let me repeat, do not sprint from the Massell area up to the Library area. Especially if you haven’t been running in…oh, I don’t know…3 months. Yeah. So, after I got over the nausea and throwing up, I did okay and actually felt pretty good. But no more sprinting for a while.

Today being Friday, this is the second day of my Radical Sleeping Schedule Shift ™. I went to bed again at midnight and this morning woke up at 7:30 without an alarm clock. Well, okay, I have a form of alarm clock, and it basically consists of drinking a lot of water before bed. About the time I need to remove said water from my system, its usually a good time of morning and I awake. Nice.

Elsewhere in the asylum…I argued international relations with Jerry Cohen and lost terribly. I’m going to a Justice web meeting at 4:30. I’ve still got a lot of cleaning to do. It was raining this morning and last night, which was really cool, except then it was hot and humid inside, which I hate. Everyone on my floor is getting addicted to Age of Empires II, so I expect productivity to radically drop. If only it worked on the Mac….

I’ve been corresponding with this cool guy named Seth who has some similar interests. Eventually we’ll actually meet up in meatspace, seeing as we are in the same AMST 131 class and all.


So I have about 50 important e-mails to respond to, a bunch of books to read, an essay to write, and lots of people who’ve been gone the last few days are now returning. I have a Justice article and some nam shub stuff I want to research, I have a 9:00AM COSI test, and I need some exercise. I’m awake, but I’ve been tired in morning, where morning is defined as noon. This is not a good thing. I need to work on this.

There are lots of clubs and projects and things to do, I almost wish that there wasn’t so much school to get in the way of it. We watched the Secret Brandies Admissions Video ™, and the best line is the one about , “…balanc[ing] your personal development and academic development. And inevitably personal development wins out.”

I’ve been here some insanely short period of time, like less than a month, but already this place is my home. The people, the buildings, the surroundings are all mine now. Everyone I talk to who doesn’t live around here and who goes away or visits another college or whatever, comes back and tells me that this is what is home. They miss Brandeis when they’re gone. Its a great feeling.

Meanwhile, people in the UC system start college in the next few weeks. START! I’ve already been here an eternity. Yet, right now, I hope it never ends.

Lighter Note, Stories

So here is a bit of lightening up, at my expense and the expense of others. First off, that picture from the last entry. Its Becky and Brian, and I really can’t explain it. Here is a nice big version in full color, with all the…uh…detail. They were just hanging out in the hallway, and somehow that strange position was attained. Heh.

I thought we should go to Boston today. “Let’s go to Boston today!” I said. Yeah. Well, the first attempt was aborted because not enough people were ready, then it was planned for later, supposedly 4-ish. Come 4 and everyone is gone. That is, everyone who has not gone home for the holidays or becasue of the disaster or whatever, is not around. They went to Boston. Without. Me. Grr.

So Peter and Rachel and I are talking, somehow we get to the point of thinking of going to Boston and seeing a movie. We get a few other people. Nope, they want to maybe go to Waltham or something. Go to Usdan, eat. Not eating in Boston? Sigh.

After eating, maybe we should go to Boston! Let’s go! Well, I can’t, and I don’t want too, but you still have 7 people, including Igor, who ran out to meet us. Then two people decide they don’t want to go, and a third, and then its just four of us guys – Roman, who was kinda made to go by Sophie, who isn’t going because she’s waiting for Mark to show up, Jason, who is going for the hell of it, a third person who I’m suddenly confused as to the actual identity of (was it Seth? I’m very tired…), and myself. So we get off the bus…

No one (to my knowledge) went to Waltham, but Sophie, Mark, Roman, Seth, and I did watch Chicken Run, which was a good antibiotic to the sickness of the days previous.

Have I hopelessly confused you with a bajillion names? Well, that was the intention, so ha.

Thank U

Artist: Alanis Morissette
Album: Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie
Title: Thank U

How about getting off of these antibiotics
How about stopping eating when I’m filled up
How about them transparent dangling carrots
How about that ever elusive kudo
Thank you India
Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence
How about me not blaming you for everything
How about me enjoying the moment for once
How about how good it feels to finally forgive you
How about grieving it all one at a time
Thank you India
Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence
The moment I let go of it was
The moment I got more than I could handle
The moment I jumped off of it was
The moment I touched down
How about no longer being masochistic
How about remembering your divinity
How about unabashedly bawling your eyes out
How about not equating death with starving
Thank you India
Thank you providence
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you nothingness
Thank you clarity
Thank you thank you silence
yeah yeah
ahh ohhh
ahhh ho oh
ahhh ho ohhhhhh
yeaahhhh yeahh

Tired, But Not

After a day of watching CNN, I was sick of it. Today I sat and watched more, the aftermath, the investigations, and tears for the first time came to my eyes. I sat and thought a lot about what I had seen and heard and how I would react to it if I had to make the decisions. I came to no real conclusions.

Enough is enough. I decided that I had to do something with my day. My studies have been shot over the last two days and I figure I’ll just catch up on the weekend. Meanwhile, I need something to lighten the atmosphere and distract me. So we play Monopoly, which is a good distraction, although I did very badly at it, possibly due to the other things on my mind. Later there was a floor meeting where we continued to talk about the attacks and US response, but this just depressed me so I left – I don’t want to discuss this with anyone. Various people had various petitions, I just signed what I was given so as not to cause any arguments – I really am not in the mood right now.

I chose today to rearrange my room, to put the desk on the other side, and Robin helped me move the desk and bed over. This felt good – I felt like I was accomplishing something and I am happy with the new arrangement because everything is much cleaner. We are all coping in our own ways. Len is joining causes – blood drives, petitions, etc. Other people are ignoring the whole thing, some are chatting with friends, some of us played board games or went to Boston. I rearranged my room, but it was not enough. At 2 am I was still up, still upset. So I decided I needed some mind-numbing television.

After some fiddling I was able to get the TiVo working again and was actually able to get the darn thing to dial in, so now I’ll have all my directory info and my shows will be recorded again. I watched an old episode of Farscape that it had recorded before I left. It was just what I needed. Crichton goes into a coma, and to fight for his survivual he is transported into this subconscious state that he tries to control. He makes everything into Looney Tunes cartoons to deal with his problems. It has to be one of the funniest TV shows I’ve seen in a long time. Now it is 3 am and, although I’m not really tired, I figure I have to give it a rest, go to bed, and shut off my monitor to be nice to Len, who I’m sure isn’t in the happiest slumber right now as I type away. Tomorrow I’ll have to wake up, attend classes, go on with life. It sucks, because I’m not ready.

I don’t know anyone who was killed, I don’t have relatives in New York, I am not personally affected by this tragedy, yet I feel it deeply. I’m scared of lots of things: biological and chemical attack, nuclear weapons, the destruction of privacy, of free speech. The takeover of government by corporations. Now add to the list the fear that we will do something wrong, that we will spur still more terrorism, that more innocent people, both in the US and abroad, will die. It is almost too much for one to handle. So with that, I’m off to my fitful slumber. Perhaps tomorrow will bring better tidings. Good night, alas, a thousand times good night.

Brandeis and Terrorism

Terror affects different places different ways. When someone bombs the US, speculation immediately turns to a few key groups. Who hates American and has the resources to plan and carry out a very well-coordinated attack? We jump quickly to a few: bin Laden, Palestinian militants, other extremist Arab factions, and, of course, Iraq or Iran. The trend is obvious: people who are mad at the US for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is US support of Israel. I’m at Brandeis, the largest Jewish-sponsored University in America. That could make one a little nervous.

We have campus security on patrol, FBI and State Dept. contact, etc., etc. We are actually not that worried – we are not a high-profile enough target. However, we have found out today that it is extremely likely that this attack, like the previous World Trade Center bombing, was planned and coordinated from Newton, MA, the next town over from Waltham. I am sitting 6 miles from where the New York and Pentagon attacks may have been planned. Wow.

On campus reaction is mixed – the pacifist groups urge peace and suggest that no retaliation is in anyone’s interests. Some opinionated people, both Jews and gentiles, call for a full-scale attack on Afghanistan. Many urge calm and believe that, while some military retaliation is necessary, we should not be too hasty.

Basically, people at Brandeis are acting like people everywhere else. So far there have been no incidents to my knowledge of altercations between Palestinian or Arab students and any other groups, and so far everyone has been very supportive and understanding. Most classes have been dedicated to discussing this topic, and interfaith prayer meetings have been held.

This tragedy is terrible, we all know that. There is little I can say that has not already been said. I am still formulating my opinions about a response. I can’t wait to hear what my favorite political historian, Howard Zinn, has to say about this. He may shed some interesting light on the subject from an angle that many of us have not explored, namely the question of what the definition of terrorism is and who is really responsible for it. Time will tell who did this, and what will happen, and if this is a great time for American unity or the strongest signal of the inpending collapse of a once great nation. Will we take the right steps? Or will we alienate more of the world? Will our “war on terrorism” save lives or take more, and how will the world react? I don’t know the answers to these questions, and I hope, for the good of all mankind, that peace is somehow returned to our great land.

Sammy Comes, Sammy Leaves

The Sammy Fraternity (Sigma Alpha Me, or something like that) came to our humble hall to initiate two new pledges. Pictured at right, Roman and his brownies after he became a pledge. He won’t tell us what exactly they did to him, but apparently it is going to get much more fun in the days ahead with all the exciting hazing rituals. Oh, and the brownies are just plain brownies, thank you very much. What were you thinking?

Sammy has been actively recruiting with fliers and such to get people to go to their fun parties. I don’t know if the turnout is much, but seeing as this is Brandeis we’re talking about, I doubt it. Plus I hear the dues are pretty steep, something on the order of $300 per semester for the priveledge of…uh…going to parties. Its not like they have a Frat house or anything.

And out my window just now I hear the loud cries of Sammy, chanting into the wind some impossible-to-understand tumult, here, now, at 1:35 in the morning on a school night. Some of us have classes at 9, guys! Give it a rest. But I guess it would be a more legitimate complaint if I was actually asleep…

Anyway, after Roman and Max got initiated, the loud crowd went out into the quad to go to their next building. Then the fun started as our nice Quad director, roused thanks to a police call, went out to yell at them and get them to go away. As if, but it was pretty funny. Their crime was breaking “quiet hours,” our policy of being quiet and polite after 11 pm so that people can sleep. They were quite noisy. Anyway, to the left you can see a COPS-like picture of the confrontation between some Sammy leaders and our fearless leader (in red but pretty much obscured by the JPEG compression) on the steps of our hallowed Cable Hall. I can’t wait to see Roman carrying a beer keg around the main quad. Heh.

On Image Compression

This image has been removed due to threats on my life.

Compressing pictures for internet display is no easy task. On the web two formats are used predominately, just because that is how it started. GIF, which is was used by CompuServ and now is being charged for in a ridiculous case of evilness that I won’t get in to here, and JPEG, which is the Joint Picture Experts Group standard for still image compression. JPEG is for photos and pretty pictures, while GIF is best for things with few colors. GIF keeps file sizes small on items that are more simplistic, say the “AgBlog” logo on top of this page. It is stored as 2 GIF images because that makes the file sizes really tiny. Whereas the picture of me on top with the little word bubble, that is JPEG, because it has more colors and is more complex and thusly must be compressed in a better way.

So here is something I just discovered: Selective compression with JPEGs. Assuming your browser supports it, you should see a picture of my good friend Sophie sticking out her tongue. Now this picture was taken in bad lighting conditions and is a pretty awful example of good photography. That also means it doesn’t compress well. Putting this photo on the web with full quality it would be about 62 kilobytes, and with your average 56k modem that would take 12 seconds in ideal circumstances, and more frequently, much longer. So I had to compress Sophie.

This usually means you have to lower the quality of the whole image. But when I do that, the tongue thrust is not clearly visible. The solution is selective compression! I compress and smooth most of the picture, except for a box around Sophie’s head that is at a higher quality. Can you see it? Neat, huh?

And if you haven’t yet seen right through this as an attempt to give legitimacy to the posting of an unflattering picture under the guise of a life lesson, you have now been told. Isn’t it great how the people I like most I make fun of most often?

On Scratchers

They don’t have Scratchers ™ here. Only “scratch tickets.” Same thing, worse name. Just like FasTrak is EZPass or whatever. I mean, same thing, different name. What…is up….with that? Robin the Swissman complains about America’s lack of “organization,” and by that he means standardized implementation, and with that I agree wholeheartedly. In Switzerland everyone pays everything using electronic banking with debit cards free of ATM fees and stupid tricks. Now of course I worry about privacy, etc, but come on US! Where is the ease, convenience, and such? Get your priorities straight! Consumers should reap the rewards, not corporations! I mean, they have standardized messaging so that someone in the UK can send a text message via cell phone to someone in Germany, no matter the carrier, and it goes through the network A-okay. Why can’t I send a message from a Verizon phone in Boston to a Cingular phone in Boston? It just doesn’t make sense.

Oh, and instead of “your Southern California Ford dealer,” I am urged to check out new cars at, “your Eastern New England Ford dealership.” So SoCal warrants its own personalized commercial, but all of E. New England gets only one? Oh, poor Easterners! Nya, nya, nya.


At Brandeis you have to take a University Seminar in the Humanistic Inquiries (USEM) and a University Writing Seminar (UWS). Or you can take a USEM+W which is, you guessed it, a USEM that includes the UWS requirments. It takes less time but gives you less credits. Ah, well. So anyway, in my +W part today, I had to write a short story about a conspiracy that I’ve discovered. Go figure. The USEM is called “Reading Between the Lines: Freedom from Persecution” and my other recently-enrolled-in Jerry Cohen class (he’s supposed to be hot stuff) is called Conspiracy and American Culture. So I had lots to write about.

First I started off with some kind of mysterious death. A doctor is talking. Then I decided thats too “normal” so I switched to an assasination. Nah, Kennedy got that one. Okay, fine. Killer virus. But I’ve already mentioned a satellite, and Andromeda Strain has already been written, so I need something else. Aha! That thing in X-Files that I’d heard about elsewhere which is basically an orbital weapons platform that shoots big telephone poles at people. No, I’m serious.

So I write about CIA. I’m still in the first paragraph, and I decide that’s no fun, so I switch to some kind of nano-technology. That is, microscopic robots that can manipulate matter on the atomic and even subatomic level, literally constructing things from the bottom up to be whatever you want. But what if they get out of control? Yes! Here is the conspiracy: secret government project in the CIA to experiment with nanotech in a satellite, where it should be safe. People on the project who have some strange religious affiliation devise a way to set the nanobots free and get them back to earth. They start deconstructing everything and creating more of themselves, thus creating the wonderful “gray goo” problem, proposed by Dr. Eric Drexler 20 years ago. Namely: infinite resources, no safeguards, the nanobots just keep eating and eating and creating more of themselves and then eating each other until all that is left is gray goo. No people, no animals, no buildings, no earth even. Just goo. And on that happy note, my story ended. Life is goooood!


East Coast US people laugh, but those of you from the West will, perhaps, be awed. It is bright and cheery out. Five minutes later, its gotten somewhat dark. Hmm, perhaps it might rain. People are still sitting around outside. Within the next four minutes it goes from dark to pouring to thunder back to light again and a slight drizzle. I’m just sitting here laughing at the weather, and people look at me like I’m crazy!

You know you’re in college when…

You know you’re in college when, upon visiting the restroom at 3 AM after finishing a great book you discover:

  1. Someone showering.
  2. Someone brushing his teeth.
  3. Two people debating frats in the halls
  4. Someone playing his electric guitar.
All this after a great Boston Harbor cruise where I saw the diffuse but beautiful skyline and felt the chilly wind knife my face as the moon slowly rose over the smooth ocean. Wow.

Opening Day at Harvard

Today was the Brandeis first-year trip into Boston thing. Get on the commuter rail, get off at Porter Square, and then take the T wherever you want to go. I went to Harvard Square with a bunch of other people but quickly lost them and went exploring basically on my own. Well, soon enough. It happened to be opening day for the first years at Harvard (they still call them “freshmen” there, how quaint). I got to see a freshperson dorm (not too bad, but not much nicer then ours, IMHO) and the science center. I got a free pen, a free Coke ™, and a free Apple pad of paper. I tried to get a free @harvard.edu e-mail address, but without a student ID number that didn’t really work out. I wanted to see their library, but without a student ID card, I wasn’t allowed in. The pricks.

I walked all around the campus. It is no nicer then Brandeis, really, just older and more stately or whatever. I feel really bad because I gave a nice looking group some bad directions. From then on I simply advised people of the nearest map.

I also checked out Harvard Law but there wasn’t anything going on there, so I went to see Curse of the Jade Scorpion at a local Loew’s Cinestablishment. The movie was so-so, the theater was fine but empty, and all the commercials for Loreal hair care before the movie were just awful. I’m paying for this?

At the end of the day I came home, ate dinner with the group, watched some Simpsons and Friends, played some cards, and finally sat down to some blogging before bed. I also put away the Cup-O-Noodles that I purchased at the CVS/Pharmacy in the city.


Here’s what I’ve got as of now:

PHIL 1A Intro to Philosophy
COSI 21A + 22A Data Structures and Algorithms (plus an associated lab)
AMST 131B News on Screen
USEM 25A+WReading Between the Lines (+ writing component)
Some PE class
Philosophy with Prof Teuber (Toy-Burr) looks to be awesome. He’s really funny and is going to make us all think critically about some of the Big Questions ™. The media class, which fulfills both an American Studies and a Journalism requirment, is right up my alley, and it has a lot of upperclasspersons in it who are on the staff of the Justice, WBRS, etc. and/or have interned in journalism, so I expect to learn a lot and have a lot of fun. CS doesn’t look to be all that fun yet, but we’ll see how it turns out. It looks to be a lot of algorithm analysis and other such high-level topics that are good for CS majors (maybe) but not incredibly relevent to me, a journalist/lawyer/computer guy. I have to see if there is anything else science-related I might want to take instead. I still have a week or two to decide. As for my University Seminar, it is too early to tell how that class will be. The teacher and TA both seem nice enough, so I’ll have to start on my Plato reading and see how it is.

In other news, the hypnotist performed last night in Levin Ballroom, which is in Usdan. He was crude and somewhat mean to the participants and I found his routine only average. Some of the reactions were hilarious, though, like when a girl jumped out of her “sensual chair” yelling, “This isn’t right!” and when a guy had to suck up to the terrible pre-show magician in order to get unstuck from his seat. All in all not a bad night, and I’m feeling a bit more refreshed and less weary this morning. Perhaps my old soul needed a rest.

Meeting Danzy Senna

A little while back I spoke on race. Yesterday Danzy Senna, author of Caucasia, spoke of race. To us. ‘Twas cool. I asked the first question, but the nervousness made me miss half her response. Later, I jumped up and, after much jumping and signaling, stepped to the microphone to ask the last question of the night. Here it is as best I recall, so obviously there are some slight errors.
DANNY. Hey it’s me again.
DANZY. You asked the first question.
DANNY. I am the first and the last.
DANZY. And a cult leader?
DANNY. The only reason I would have the audacity to come and ask another question is because this one has been keeping me up at night. I also thought this might be a good way to end it. Jumping to the end of the book, the second to last page, the acknowledgments, “…And finally, deepest gratitude to my mother, an incredible woman and writer, who taught me what really matters.”
DANNY. Ms. Senna, what really matters???
[crowd laughter]
DANZY. Well, that’s for me to know, and you to find out over the next four years.
[crowd goes wild with applause]

Bow. And thank you Ms. Senna. Great writing, great personality, great message, great humor. =)

College Republicans

HE. Hey, you want to join the College Republicans?
ME. Is there a college libertarians?
HE. Most of them join us because we have a lot of the same goals.
ME. I’ll think about it, thanks.

Apparently they already have 10 names. On Brandeis. Neat.

Whereto I do Now Reside

If you were wondering, I’ve made it to Brandeis a-okay. Lack of posting (and computer deprivation) was due to the process of packing, flying, shipping, hotel-ing, and then unpacking, but now I’m up and running, with reports to come shortly.

Me, Myself, and I Redux

Guess I forgot about the original point to the posting before: some really terrible article about how kids are being seriously screwed up by something or other – very depressing, but sadly I can’t remember if it was the state of schools or of the foster care system or what, so I really can’t say. It did suck though.