This is Epth Nation

Epth is a state of mind, not a place. Reading this will give you a virtual drivers license in that state, but you'll still need to be 21 to purchase alcohol. And you can't get any there anyway, so stop asking.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Mr. Pro and Mr. Con Talk About Wal-Mart

(Because I think it's fun, I'm going to have another fake conversation here. This time, the topic will be "Wal-Mart," specifically the bill that just passed in Maryland that requires companies with over 10,000 employees in that state to spend no less than 8% of their payroll on employee health care costs. Since Wal-Mart is the only company this law currently applies to, the bill has been dubbed the "Wal-Mart Bill." Go to it, fellows...)

Pro: I'm for the Wal-Mart Bill (WMB), mostly because I hate shopping at Wal-Mart. It's so dirty, and it's crawling with...anyway, for purposes of this debate, I'm going to say that if Wal-Mart wants to sell their underpriced imported goods at so many stores and employ 17,000 Marylanders, they must be made our b____, health-care-wise. Health care is such a grave expense for most people, and we don't want socialized medicine, so let Wal-Mart pay for it. If Wal-Mart is going to create poor people by employing them, they need to pay for the health care of those poor people.

Con: Leave Wal-Mart alone. Sure, they employ creepy people to stare at you as you leave, and they treat their employees like crap, and all their products are made in hellish sweatshops, and they want to rule the world. Who doesn't do that? If Sears & Joe Buck would have thought of the idea instead of Sam Walton, you bet they would have done it. It's not Wal-Mart's fault, it's transportation's fault. You see, if we couldn't travel to China and have access to all those poor communist people, Wal-Mart couldn't exist. Blame boats, and blame Chairman Mao.

Pro: Um, it's Roebuck, stupid. And that's all well and good, but people still need health care, and we need a better system for that. Our unions have failed. In many ways, the system has failed.

Con: But this is the first step towards socialized medicine, you Rodham. First, it's Wal-Mart paying their "fair share." Then, next thing you know, we're all waiting in line with diseased people for 2 hours to see a dirty doctor at a free clinic, and nobody can get a lung transplant. Is that what you want?

Pro: Look, don't slippery slope me. What do you propose we do, then, about this Wal-Mart and its lies?

Con: First of all, I would do nothing. Let nature take its course. Survival of the fittest. Then, when America is one big Wal-Mart with some churches inside it, we can make them pay 8% of their payroll costs for everyone's health care.

Pro: So your point is they're not big enough.

Con: Exactly.

Pro: That's stupid, and I'm leaving.

Con: But we haven't settled anything yet! Maryland's passed this law, and we don't know what it all means!

Pro: What is means is this: If you're going to try to turn your good business idea into a destructive monoploy, don't be surprised if everyone hates you. Just ask Bill Gates.

Con: But he was Time's "Man of the Year."

Pro: ...Along with Bono and his wife...

Con: Good point. Must have been a slow year.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Remind Me to be More Interesting

In what is kind of a watershed event for me, I saw a link to this blog on the Washington Post's web site, specifically in the "What Bloggers are Saying" section under that dreadful article about children's sleep habits. Not only that, but it's the TOP LINK. God bless Technorati. So far, only one person has clicked on that link, but every pair of eyes is a good pair of eyes in the blog world, right?

This has been a great week, stats-wise, btw. Probably my best ever. Totally non-indicative of the quality of my blogging. I mean, Pocky? Come on, who wants to read about that? Anyway, when I started the counter a few months ago I was averaging 4-8 visitors a day. Now that I've been writing much less compelling (but much shorter and more pithy) material, I'm up to 20-25 visitors a day, most of whch have me bookmarked. This amazes me. Thank you, every single one of you.

Now let's make that growth exponential rather than linear, eh? Tell your friends! I'll try to do better...

Debate with Myself: Should I Take a Month-Long Hiatus and Write Something I Can Sell?

Pro: I have two things I have to get written here this month -- a violent short story and a relatively non-violent account of many people I have worked with. I need time to do this, and I don't need this blog judging me every day if I don't post something.

Con: It's not like you post a lot now, and how much time does it really take anyway? Loser.

Pro: Don't call me a loser. You're a loser. One thing I could do is post excerpts of my work, as I go.

Con: That's a good idea. So why are we having this debate?

Pro: I don't know. Another thing I have to take into consideration is the fact that I have some writing to do for a friend of mine -- something about case studies re: Teaching faith issues in the classroom. I don't know what a case study is, and I need to find that out.

Con: You're such a ninny. Just write one, and see how it goes.

Pro: But that will take even more time away from the blog. And don't even get me started on the computer business that I've all of a sudden got a bug for.

Bug: Bzzzzz. Start a computer business. Bzzzzz.

Con: Just do what you feel is necessary. I'm outie. I don't like bees.

Pro: Come back here! You're my debate partner! Without you, I'm just one hand clapping or one shoe running.

Con: That doesn't make sense. And you ran with one shoe, once.

Pro: You're right. I'm going to post fun excerpts (FunCerpts?) from what I'm doing on this blog, plus extra stuff if I feel like it. Thanks, Con.

Bug: Bzzzzz. I'm not going away. Bzzzzz.

Horvath's World

A friend of mine that many of you know, Tony Horvath, has a blog at, and he just posted a review of that Narnia movie on it.

Just thought you should know.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Pocky Fever

(please read what's written on the package, because it's funny)

I've discovered Pocky today. I've tried Strawberry Pocky, Cheesecake Pocky, Reverse Pocky, and something called Men's Pocky (pictured above, for those who think I'm kidding). Whoa nelly, are they good. They're like a light pretzel with yummy on them. Unreal.

If any of my Japanese friends, and you know who you are, can fill me in on any hidden dangers of Pocky consumption or any Pocky-related illnesses I would be very grateful. Also, what the heck are they made out of? It feels like I've entered into some sort of deal with the devil by eating them.

On top of that, Pocky's just a fun word to say. I think it's time to visit the Asian section of Richardson.

I knew there was a reason I was always late to band...

Some chick with the backing of Brown University has done a study that suggests that teenagers are sleepy in the morning, which affects their mood/congnitive function/performance in school.
She says that schools should start an hour later, when the melatonin levels in teenagers' saliva have fallen to the point that they're no longer sleepy. You see, the lovable teens are built to go to bed later and get up later than children or adults, according to their melatonin producing whatevers (glands? Spiggots? Cells?). If students are forced out of sleep early by, say, an alarm of some kind, their learning will suffer. Here are some fun quotes:

"Children learn from kindergarten on about the food pyramid," Carskadon said. "But no one is teaching them the life pyramid that has sleep at the base.
"Add to that the disrespect that sleep gets when schools say you have to be there at such an early time. So why should they think sleep is important?"

First of all, I don't want any public school teaching kids about any sort of "life pyramid."
Teenagers have long complained that starting school about 7 a.m. -- the typical start time for many high schools -- is cruel and inhumane.
This article is in the Washington Post. "Cruel and inhumane"? It's getting them out of bed early, not forcing them to pound out license plates or listen to the latest Kevin Federline album. What is this, the National Enquirer? Pick better words. Recognize the inherent absurdity of the teenagers' complaint. In other words, come on.
"People tell me that changing school start times to later is just mollycoddling the kids," said Kyla Wahlstrom, interim director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement. "I'd say they are people who don't want to accept the fact that there is a different biology for teens."
You know, the only reason school was moved earlier in the first place was so teens could get jobs or practice football another hour or take gymnastics after school. Kyla Wahlstrom may a total lame-o who doesn't get that we're actually trying to teach kids some discipline and work ethic by getting them up early, but she's on to something here despite herself. Nobody should be getting up at 6am (unless they're "morning people"), especially teenagers.
"If I was able to get more sleep, I think I'd be able to last through my afternoon classes a lot more often," said Andrew Nazdin, 17, a senior at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda.
Dude was quoted in the Washington Post saying he doesn't "last through" his afternoon classes. Ha! Pot, not a 7am start time, is responsible for this. Let's be reasonable here.

Though times vary for individuals, Carskadon said levels of melatonin start to rise in teenagers generally between 10 and 11 p.m. -- and don't stop until about 8 a.m. This changes when people are in their twenties, she said.
So although it's not impossible for adolescents to go to sleep before 11 p.m., or even to be alert in the morning, Carskadon said, their bodies make it hard, and in some cases nearly impossible, to do.

I say, start at 8:30 like we did back in my day, and take away all the excuses for failure that these little ingrates have. Take away their jobs, limit their extra-curricular activities, and try to get them to do a little math, science, and social studies. This isn't Russia, dang it -- nobody should be getting up before dawn.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Some Free Computer Advice

Back the heck up. No, I don't mean walk backwards, you nincompoop -- I mean make a copy of your important data and put it in a safe place. Or a dangerous place. Just make a fricking copy of it so that when your hard drive crashes, the record of your finances (or the pictures of your child, or your favorite beef recipes, or your 1500 illegally downloaded music files, or...) won't be lost forever. Failing to back up your data is phenominally stupid, and will cause giggles and snickers among the technicians (not me, the other ones. I'm actually nice) when you leave in tears because your precious files can never be recovered.

Here's the thing -- everyone, I mean everyone, has a "I should have backed up but I didn't and therefore was screwed" story, even if it's just how you forgot to save that report back when you were using Windows 98 and the computer crashed and you had to grit your teeth and re-type those 5 pages. And those are the good stories. Imagine losing all the data from your home-based beef tongue business. Your customer contacts, vendors, tongue smoothness ratings, current prices, etc., are just gone. You have to start completely from scratch. I can't think about such a thing, it is too horrible. But yet people put themselves at risk for this sort of tragedy every day.

Hey, I confess: I don't do regular backups like I should. Like I parenthetically said, I'm not like those other computer people who will think they're better than you just because you don't plan ahead. I understand that backups are time-consuming, and annoying, and fill up what would be perfectly good space on some hard drive or CD-RW somewhere. That's why you need a strategy. You need a way to back up the most important stuff in the least amount of time. Here are some tips from a guy who knows:

Keep all the stuff you want to back up in one folder for easy access. Here's a bonus -- Windows does this by default. It's called the "My Documents" folder. Put all your personal crap in there: Word files, pictures, spreadsheets, music, etc. That way, you can just drag and drop it to your favorite backup medium, and poof, you're backed up.

Backup Media: If you don't have a bunch of files that take up a lot of space (like music files, or video files, or 20,000 pictures, or CAD drawings), your best bet by far is a USB Jump Drive (also called thumb drive and flash drive), which is like an itty bitty hard drive you stick into your computer. I'm not going to walk you through how to use it here, just know that it's the easiest.

If you have a lot of static data that takes up a lot of space (like music files, video files, 20,000 pictures, and CAD drawings), your best bet are dirt-cheap CD-R's. Each holds at least 740MB of space, so they can hold a bunch of that stuff on your hard drive. Better, but more expensive, are your writable DVD's, which have exactly one buttload of space on them. One buttload is a lot of music files, let me tell you. Of course, you need a DVD writer to use those. But you knew that already.

The real pain involved in backups is actually the opposite process, the process of restoring. Now, if your hard drive crashes, you're automatically going to have to reinstall all your programs anyway, which is a time-consuming pain for most people. But if you backed everything up to a "my documents" folder on a CD or Jump drive, you can put all your important documents right back into the "My Documents" folder on the new hard drive. Voila! Your computer feels like home.

You may be tempted to schedule regular backups using the backup program in Windows. My question to you is: Do you trust Microsoft to do that, or would you rather just do it yourself? How hard is it to just drag a folder onto another folder, anyway? Do you want Bill Gates to hand-feed you, too? Of course, if your files are all over the place, you may want to schedule them in Backup just so you can keep track of them all. But don't do that.

You may also be tempted to "ghost" your hard drive. Ghost was a bad movie. Don't do that.

And if you have an Apple, you're on your own. I could make something up like, "Use iBackup to back it up to your Mini iDrive Cano," but I'm not even going to try. Get a real computer -- one that crashes.

Now you have much of the information you need to avoid being laughed at behind your back by tech people. You're welcome.

Wisconsin Basketball -- The Glory Years '99-??

(Kammron Taylor has more time to work on his game this year, since he's not hosting the Oscars)

It seems like only 15 years ago future CBA player Danny Jones was trying to lead the Badgers to their first .500 season in the Big Ten since ancient times. He failed, the coach (what was that dude's name? I can't think of it -- Steve something?) was fired, and Wisconsin basketball just hoped to be considered for an NIT bid every year. Guess what? It was only 15 years ago. In the meantime, Wisconsin has a final Four appearance, a Sweet Sixteen appearance, a Great Eight appearance, and numerous other NCAA tournament-qualifying seasons. In fact, they haven't missed the tournament since 1998, which not coincidentally was also the last time they didn't have a winning record in the Big Ten.

Since 1999, they have also won the Big Ten three times, a feat that would have been unheard or even unthought of in 1991. They are the #2 program in the Big Ten during this span, trailing only Tom Izzo's Michigan State team in wins and awesomeness.

And now, as if to thumb their nose at the basketball gods that kept them down for so long (in such ways as giving them Stan Van Gundy as a coach the same year they had Tracy Webster, Michael Finley, and Rashard Griffith), they now have a guy who looks like Chris Rock.

Go Badgers!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Great Weekend of College Basketball

I don't know if any of you all care about college basketball anymore now that the sports media has brainwashed you into thinking all the good players are gone (or maybe it's just the Dallas sports media...), but if you do, this weekend was awesome for you. It was, ahem, upset city baybee, as several unbeatens were beaten, and other great teams were bested by teams that aren't so highly regarded. Wisconsin beat Michigan St. and Kansas beat Kentucky, and that's all the Pape household really cares about.

(Marquette lost to Cincinnati, unfortunately. You can't have everything in life. Plus, don't get me started on those Bucks -- we'll be here all day. I hate the NBA.)

There's something very exciting about this time of year, I mean besides Epiphany. The in-conference games are starting, and the rivalries born of years of fandom are in full swing. I just hope Duke loses soon before they start to dominate college basketball talk like they have so many past years.

Work is busy, so I gotta go...maybe I'll post something more interesting later?