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We're All Mad Here
You can tell I'm mad because I have straw in my hair.
baronmind
LiveJournal! How have you been? I've missed you terribly.

What have I been up to, you ask? Well, I've written a children's book; I've taken Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher" and converted it into "Ricky's Spooky House," an innocuous tale for the children of twisted parents. You can back it on Kickstarter for the next two weeks, if you're so inclined: http://kck.st/16fcCD3

Related to that, I have a new blog; I'm writing in the voice of Li'l Eddie, the young Edgar Allan Poe, as he explores the strange and largely unnoticed things going wrong in his world. You can come be his pen pal!

As Li'l Eddie would say: I hope you are well, LiveJournal. Write back soon!
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baronmind
Like any reasonable person, I greatly enjoy the televisual stylings of Doctor Who. And like any reasonable capitalist, I'm constantly plotting ways to make money off of things I enjoy. Bringing these ideas to fruition is often difficult, since many of the things I enjoy are the intellectual properties of others, and those others are already plotting their own ways to make money off of said things.

All this really means, though, is that I need to come up with an idea that is so original that no one else has thought of it, while still being sufficiently brilliant as to make as to make the owners of the base concept want to license it to me. In the case of Doctor Who, I believe I've finally done just that.

Everyone loves Doctor Who, and the hilariously screaming robots-of-the-past's-future Daleks. I'm rounding up to everyone, of course; some people probably do not. These people are wrong, and I'm not interested in selling to them. They're probably spending their money on canes to shake at the neighbor kids, anyway.

Everyone also loves candy -- again, for certain values of everyone. But not until now have these two things been combined into one fantastic treat! As soon as I get the licensing worked out, you can have your very own Dalick, the delicious lollipop Dalek! Yes, the fearsome villains that the Doctor has attempted to crush time and time again can finally meet their doom at your hands -- or more specifically, at your teeth.

They already make lollipops that spin and play music, so I think it should be simple enough to make one that yells, "THE DOCTOR!" and "EXTERMINATE!". I might even be able to work in some flashing LEDs on the stick to make the whole thing light up. The sticks could even have small plastic Daleks at the end; rinse them off and collect the whole Cult of Skaro! Put on tiny puppet shows! Annoy your siblings in the car! The possibilities are endless.

What time is it in England? I've got some calls to make to the BBC.

Mood of the Moment: amused amused
Auditory Hallucination: The Timelords -- Doctorin' the Tardis

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baronmind
My improv comedy troupe just held auditions, and we've brought in a couple of dozen new players. I've been showing up for the practices because I like to get to know people, and because I figure I could always use a refresher on the basics, too. Many of the new players are entirely new to improv, and it's fun watching people figure things out for the first time.

The weird thing is, I'm a senior player now. On the one hand, this makes sense. I've been with the troupe since 2005, and have been playing shows for nearly six years now. I've been to a lot of workshops with a lot of talented teachers; I've had a fair bit of time to identify what works and what doesn't, what's going to build a scene and what's going to tank one, and things like that.

On the other hand: I'm a sysadmin. I wandered into the auditions in 2005 on a whim, and was shocked when I got into the troupe. I've spent the time since then trying to figure out what on Earth I was doing, desperately trying to analyze the performances of the other improvisors to make sense of why some scenes were great, and some were terrible. Honestly, I think I've still only got a shaky grasp of that.

So it's pretty odd to me that there are now people looking up to me, trying to learn improv from what I'm doing. I feel like I should warn them that I haven't really got it together yet. However, people do regularly pay money to come see me onstage -- even people I don't know! And the folks in charge of the troupe keep scheduling me, and even letting me lead teams, so I suppose I'm doing all right at this hobby.

Still, I feel like I've suddenly been called on to teach a class on economics. I'm interested in the subject, and I dabble in it; I'll even discuss theories at parties. But basically, I'm just making it up as I go along. I'm not prepared to have people writing down what I say. It doesn't seem like the sort of thing that's going to go well for them when the test rolls around.

Mood of the Moment: busy busy
Auditory Hallucination: Batman TV Theme

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baronmind
Some people have children with peanut allergies. As these allergies can be life-threatening, this is doubtless a very scary thing for them. And I'm basically okay with "peanut-free zones" in schools and kids' gyms, although this is largely because I just don't care about this issue, and not because I necessarily think they're right to demand it.

Here's something that they're certainly not right to demand, though: that General Mills stop making its new Peanut Butter Cheerios because the parents' peanut-allergic kids might be too careless to tell the difference. They cite concern that kids might take them from someone else without knowing that they contain peanut. Is this really a new problem? Is this new version of Cheerios the first product to contain peanuts without the words "WARNING: PEANUTS" stamped on each individual piece?

If your child is allergic to a food, you need to teach that child how to read labels, both the big words on the front and the small ones under the nutrition information. You need to tell that child not to accept food of uncertain provenance. And while you should certainly inform others responsible for your child's care of your child's allergy, you should not attempt to get a food staple wiped off of the face of the Earth, lest your child come into contact with it.

I don't have the commitment necessary to mount a counter-campaign against this, but I know who does. I need a Ouija board, a stick of chalk, six drippy candles, a clay bowl, a jar of Planters and a hammer. Tonight, I'm summoning up the vengeful ghost of George Washington Carver, and I'm going to show him this article. That ought to quiet down this nonsense for a while.

Mood of the Moment: aggravated aggravated
Auditory Hallucination: Delta Rae -- Bottom of the River

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baronmind
Yesterday, Susan G Komen for the Cure announced that it would end its grants -- almost $700,000 last year -- to Planned Parenthood to help them fund breast exams. The reason given was that the organization's rules did not allow it to provide funding to those under Congressional investigation, but as that rule is new and, I believe, affects only Planned Parenthood, it's a fairly transparent trick.

People are, as you might expect, furious about this. I imagine that some people are happy, too, but they're not being nearly as vocal at the moment. And frankly, unless they know of plans that Komen has to fund breast exams through someone else, I don't particularly care to hear from them; they're celebrating a political victory at the cost of people's lives. I wrote to Komen last night and asked if they had such plans, but I haven't heard back. I expect that they're a bit busy at the moment, honestly.

Oddly enough, I think this might turn out to be a good thing. According to reports, Planned Parenthood has raised over $250,000 since yesterday, which is an impressive start. This is also calling people's attention to the fact that Komen spends nearly a million dollars a year, not on breast cancer research, but on suing other charities who attempt to use "for the cure" in their names. And, since pink ribbons are splashed across every news site today, it's also drawing attention to breast cancer, at least as much as the ubiquitous bumper stickers do.

As ever, if this disgusts you, put your money where your mouth is. Go donate to Planned Parenthood. Write a note expressing your disappointment to the board of Susan G Komen. And contact your congresspeople to complain about Rep. Stearns' wasteful and unnecessary investigation of Planned Parenthood, which was the pretext for Komen's split. It'll cost you five dollars for the donation and five minutes on your computer for the emails. Make yourself heard.

Mood of the Moment: aggravated aggravated
Auditory Hallucination: Rebecca Loebe -- 10,000 Days

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baronmind
Recently, Newt Gingrich announced his intention to have a permanent American base on the Moon by the year 2020. He wasn't entirely clear on why, but I suspect the answer goes something like this: "Because it's the Moon." It's possible that he gave some other reasons, too, but if we're being honest, we know it all boils down to that. And while many people are making fun of Gingrich for floating this ridiculous idea, I think that the naysayers are failing to consider one important point.

Gingrich has suggested that should the Moon colony's population exceed 13,000 people, it would be able to petition for statehood. This means that you, personally -- or more importantly, me, personally -- could become the governor of the Moon.

Now, I don't know what it's going to cost to travel to the Moon. And running a political campaign is never cheap. Assuming Gingrich's plan succeeds, I've got eight years to save up, though -- and if it doesn't, I've got even longer. In any case, this is definitely something worth aiming for.

It will mean sacrifices. My private island is probably going to have to get put on hold, maybe indefinitely. There's still hope for it in the future, of course, but I imagine that commuting from the Moon is going to be somewhat pricey; I might do better to just rent some island space on my trips back to Earth. If I make the right political connections, I could probably even get other island owners to lend me the use of their getaways, allowing me to save my money for expanding my lunar mansion.

In fact, if I can just get enough of my friends to move to the Moon with me, I'll have the benefits of a private island -- only people I like, I get to run the place, not a lot of people stopping by -- and the title of Moon governor. That would be the best of both worlds.

Mood of the Moment: bouncy bouncy
Auditory Hallucination: LMFAO -- Hot Dog

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baronmind
I'm not sure this is reversible.

I think I've got them all worked out now, though. Linking up every iteration of myself wasn't easy, and there were definitely some problems with the early experiments. The ocean is impassable to someone without a boat, after all. Traveling in it is no harder than traveling in the third dimension; it's just a matter of finding the right vehicle. Time is just another dimension. The basic concept is simple.

The perspective this gives me is immense. Hindsight is 20/20, even more so when considered from a variety of viewpoints -- and I have them all. They're all mine, of course, but I'm as different from myself sixty years ago as anyone I'm ever likely to meet. I have a lifetime of experience available at every point on my timeline.

My recall is perfect. My precognition is crippling.

There are problems. There are problems. There are problems. There are problems. There are problems. There are problems. There are problems. There are problems. There are problems. There are problems. There are problems. There are problems. There are problems. There are problems. There are problems. There are problems. But they're relatively minor, and I'm sure I'll work them out in time.

xccccccccccccccccccccccknnkl/lnkfb r rf h'asfas'afs'na'sn vnklv al/jadvjl 24364314azasV 3dcadbabsdb351aarng/783erah783ZDH873H843DH3fkfd

I am a collective intelligence. It's -- there are no words to describe it. I'm not godlike, but I am a civilization unto myself now. No, more: an entire race. I've taken Zeno's deli slicer to my life. I vastly outnumber all of the humans that have ever lived.

The perspective this gives me is immense. Hindsight is 20/20, even more so when considered from a variety of viewpoints -- and I have them all. They're all mine, of course, but I'm as different from myself sixty years ago as anyone I'm ever likely to meet. I have a lifetime of experience available at every point on my timeline.

I have achieved infinity! I have achieved stasis. All of my time is open to me, and frozen. It's like I can travel anywhere in the world, and see only photographs of it when I arrive there. I think it's a fair trade. I think I like it. I think I have my entire life to decide.

I'm not sure this is reversible.

Did I already say that?

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Mood of the Moment: full encompassing
Auditory Hallucination: The Bangles -- Hazy Shade of Winter

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baronmind
Let's say you are a business owner. You've got an employee who's been hired to do a specific job; for the purposes of this analogy, let's say it's making fries. His job description is straightforward: make fries for the customers. On his resume, he claimed to know how to use the fryer, how long to leave the fries in, how to properly salt and season the fries, and so forth. But when you look at his performance, you find it's drastically lacking. To be sure, he's making fries. But they're often still half-frozen when he takes them out and the seasoning is erratically applied. He's paying no attention to the number of fries that are meant to be going into each size, meaning that the customers aren't getting what they paid for, and it's making you look bad. In short, it's like he's barely paying any attention to his work at all. The fries come out okay when you stand over his shoulder and watch him do it the entire time, but you're starting to think that maybe he's really just not the best guy for the job.

Now, let's say that you are a citizen of the United States of America. You've got some employees who have been hired to do specific jobs; for the purposes of this reality, let's call them congresspeople. Their job description is straightforward: create, rescind or change laws to improve our country. And there's a key element in there that maybe you've noticed your congresspeople not quite following through on: reading the laws to find out what they do first.

Since yesterday, at least seven of the co-sponsors of PIPA have announced their opposition to the bill. Senator Marco Rubio said that he had "legitimate concerns about the impact the bill could have on access to the Internet and about a potentially unreasonable expansion of the federal government's power to impact the Internet."

That's an excellent thing to be concerned about. But perhaps Senator Rubio should have investigated this bill and discovered that he had this concern about it before putting his name on it as a co-sponsor. Why did he not have this concern on Tuesday? Unless Florida does things very differently than I expect, Sen. Rubio has an entire staff whose job is to help him read and understand these things. And yet the fries still came out undercooked.

There are plenty of people who can work a fryer. It might be a good idea to find some who are less likely to burn down the business if left unattended.

Mood of the Moment: annoyed annoyed
Auditory Hallucination: Bad Lip Reading -- Dirty Spaceman

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baronmind
Good news: it looks like the internet isn't going to fall apart just yet. Thanks to a loud and widespread outcry, the President has stated quite directly that the Stop Only Piracy Act is not going to pass his office. The Protect IP Act, it seems likely, will fall under the same onslaught. This is, as I mentioned, excellent news for the internet and all of its denizens.

The bad news, of course, is that this sort of thing is going to keep on happening. I don't mean solely in relation to the internet; I mean Congress passing laws without understanding their ramifications. In fact, forget the ramifications; it's clear that several of the supporters of PIPA don't even realize what copyright is, or don't think it applies to them. My favorite of the pictures on that page is the one from Rep. Dennis Ross's site, where he's taken a copyrighted image and simply cut off the copyright mark. If you'd like to stop online piracy, Congressman, I know where you can start.

When people actually take notice, as happened in this case, Congress can be made to back down. However, too much of the time, no one pays attention. Even today, when SOPA was due to be voted on, amidst the flurry of anti-SOPA and -PIPA postings on my Facebook were more than a few queries of "What is this? I haven't heard about it."

A bad law can be thrown out by the courts, but in the time it takes for a challenge to be heard, much damage can be done. It's far better to contact your congresspeople before the votes, so they can know that their constituents are not happy, and perhaps understand exactly what it is they're voting for. To do that, though, people need to be informed.

So, fellow Americans: read the news. Find some sites that care about issues that appeal to you and follow them. Stay abreast of current events. Defend your country and your lifestyle against those who seek to destroy it. It's the American way.

Auditory Hallucination: Kaiser's Orchestra -- Bak Et Halleluja

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baronmind
I don't say this often, but I need to find a creationist. I know there are some of them near me; I see them driving past me on the road with bumper stickers like "DOUBT DARWIN" or the Jesus fish eating the Darwin fish. However, it's very hard to strike up a conversation with someone on the road. There are closed windows in between us, and rushing wind, and a general disinclination to just look out your side window in case the person you're passing wants to ask you a philosophical question.

I have a new question to ask a creationist, though, one that's been bugging me since I first thought of it this morning. How do creationists feel about extinction? I went to the Creation Wiki in search of an answer, but there's nothing there to indicate that they've considered the ramifications at all. The numbers are bad enough even if you're not a creationist; some scientists estimate that up to 20% of all currently existing species could become extinct in the next couple of decades. That's a troubling sort of figure to someone like me, who believes that species evolved to fill specific niches, meaning that their absence could have broad-reaching ramifications for the environment. But if you believe that God created each species individually, carefully crafting each one for a specific purpose, what can you possibly think about their extinction?

The Creation Wiki doesn't seem to have an issue with the fact that humans are erasing God's handiwork from the face of the Earth. In their article on dinosaur extinction, they suggest that dinosaurs were on Noah's Ark, and only later were hunted into extinction by humans. So when God caused a worldwide cataclysm, he intentionally spared the dinosaurs. Shouldn't there be a problem with the idea that people then killed them off?

Creationists, as far as I can figure, ought to be the leaders of every conservation program. They should be the ones you hear about on the news, who killed would-be poachers or fired upon whaling vessels. Killing is against the commandments, of course, but humans are in no danger of going extinct, so surely there's some leeway; God orders plenty of killing in the Bible when it suits his purposes. Keeping one of his creations from being removed from existence seems like it must qualify for an exemption.

Mood of the Moment: busy busy
Auditory Hallucination: Megadeth -- Symphony of Destruction

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baronmind
I've often wondered about the likes of Paris Hilton, the Kardashians and other people who seem to be famous simply because they're famous. They don't produce anything, they don't create anything -- they really don't particularly do anything at all. And while I don't fault them for this, it has always seemed odd to me that they're celebrities for no apparent reason. How does one achieve celebrity status without some sort of accomplishment?

I still can't speak for the Kardashians, but I've discovered my own potential route to undeserved celebrity. Virginia Living magazine is holding a "Best of Virginia" internet contest, in which anyone with a browser and a few minutes to kill can go write in their favorite candidates in various categories. I'd wandered over there to vote for ComedySportz as the best comedy club, both because it's true and because I love stuffing ballot boxes. I filled out other categories with whatever struck my fancy, and then came across one: Best Local Celebrity.

I laughed as I filled in my name. "Why not?" I thought. When I passed on the request to vote for ComedySportz to other people, I also asked them to vote for me as the local celebrity. We have actual minor celebrities around here, so it's highly unlikely to work. On the other hand, if I do somehow take the top spot, I'd say that's indicative of the fact that I am a local celebrity. If I can get the most votes just by asking a few friends to vote for me and pass the idea along, I deserve to win.

From the reports I'm getting back, I may have a chance at a few other categories, too. It seems that people have been writing me in for other categories that they've found amusing; I'm now in the running for best chiropractor, best alternative health and best chocolatier, among others. In fact, I'd say I've got rather a lot to live up to, suddenly. It's just the price of fame, I suppose.

If I can parlay my celebrity status into a paycheck somehow, I'll take the time to learn the skills I've been nominated for and validate my friends' votes. It's the least I can do.

Mood of the Moment: amused amused
Auditory Hallucination: Ego Likeness -- ... --- ...

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baronmind
All of my coworkers have whiteboards. Some of them don't use them. For absolutely no reason whatsoever, it's suddenly occurred to me that this is an excellent opportunity for me to amuse myself. All I need is a whiteboard marker, which I have; the whiteboard, which they have; and access to their office while no one else is there, which I have at least intermittently throughout the day.

My plan is this: I'm going to draw a tiny figure down in the corner of the whiteboard. It'll be recognizably humanoid, but that's all of the detail that'll be clear. Depending on which coworker I target, the figure might go unnoticed at first. Over subsequent days, though, I'll sneak back into the office and change the figure, one small movement at a time, like a page-a-day calendar version of a flipbook.

I figure that the scene can unfold something like this: the figure turns its head and sees the world outside the whiteboard. It waves at first, then gestures with both arms. After a pause, it holds up an illegible sign. Then, dropping the sign, it begins to advance on the whiteboard, growing larger as it approaches. Perhaps another sign will be held up, not written in any recognizable language. The figure's features will start to become clear, and it will be obvious that it is nonhuman. This is partly because that'll be fun to draw, and partly because the odds of me drawing a human face well day after day are very low.

Eventually, the figure will reach the whiteboard and, raising a fist, begin to bang on it from the inside. Then I'll reach a decision point -- do I have it turn and walk away? Or do I fully commit to the project and break my coworker's whiteboard, allowing them to come back to the office after a bathroom break to discover shards of plastic on the floor and some sooty, dry-erase footprints leading away?

Let's be honest: it's probably the latter.

Mood of the Moment: amused amused
Auditory Hallucination: Theme from Sanctuary

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baronmind
You're never going to be as cynical as the corporations and the harem of politicians they pay for. It's like trying to outchant a Buddhist monastery.

--Bill McKibben
Politics, goes the old joke, comes from two words: poly, meaning many, and ticks, meaning blood-sucking creatures. This observation causes people to smile wryly and shake their heads, because everyone knows it's true. Politicians are greedy: what are you gonna do? They broke their campaign promises: well, business as usual. They're unsavory, untrustworthy and generally unpleasant: politics, am I right?

Last month, Congress hit a historic low in unpopularity. According to a Gallup poll, only 11% of Americans believe Congress is doing a good job, while 86% believe Congress is screwing up. Eleven percent. This means that Americans are more likely to believe that Obama is not an American citizen than that Congress is doing a good job. More likely to believe that the moon landing was a hoax. And although I can't find a poll for it, probably more likely to believe in fairies.

This is not how politics is meant to work. We are being sold out by the people meant to represent us. And, as Bill McKibben points out in a recent article, it's our cynicism about the process that is letting it happen. Every time we shake our heads and say, "Well, what can you expect?" as we let another atrocity go by, we allow the system to become worse.

We have staffed our government with employees of corporations. They do not work for us; they work for those who pay them. Nearly half of our congresspeople are millionaires, and their net worth grows daily, even as they vote to worsen the economy. And yet people simply say, "Well, what can we do? The next crop will be just as bad."

We can change the rules. We can stop the billions of dollars of corporate bribes that flow into the system. We can quit pretending that the game is not crooked, and we can force it back into balance. It won't be easy, and it won't be a permanent fix -- nothing ever is. But it is preferable to sitting idly by.

Our system is broken. We can and must fix it.

Mood of the Moment: angry angry
Auditory Hallucination: The Timelords -- Doctorin' the Tardis

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baronmind
For a while, I wanted to become good at origami. Being able to fold plain squares of paper into intricate designs is a skill worth having. It's also, as it turns out, a skill that's hard to acquire. Paper squares are notably reluctant to form themselves into dragons, meaning that there's rather a lot of work on the part of the origami practitioner to make this happen. The diagrams explaining how a piece of paper needed to be folded were difficult to understand, and I quickly came to realize that creating an original, replicable figure was well beyond my talents, at least without putting in a lot of work. And I just didn't want it that badly.

Many people would have given up at this point. And, in fairness, many people would call the course of action I chose "giving up." I, however, prefer to think of it as "moving the goalposts." As the famous Swiss painter Hermann Rorschach once said, "What makes you think that I wasn't trying to be abstract?"

You see, it's not that I am bad at origami. No, I am simply the world's foremost practitioner of enigami, the art of folding paper into shapes that other people must then puzzle out. Enigami is an ancient tradition going back thousands of years; it's also a secret tradition, so don't bother looking that up. If you were the sort of person who had access to the traditions, you'd already know about them, so don't waste your time.

Enigami has many advantages over origami, chief among them being that absolutely anything you fold is correct. The more angles it has, the better; you want a shape with a lot of facets in order for the viewer to truly be able to reveal something about himself through what he sees in the art. Technically speaking, even an unfolded sheet of paper is enigami, but you basically only get two answers: "It's a sheet of paper" (no insight about the person), or "It's a tabula rasa, a blank slate on which I can create anything I want!" (trying much too hard). Adding creases allows shapes to suggest themselves, and raises the worth of the enigami.

The only way to screw up enigami is to have everyone agree on what it is. If this happens, you have accidentally created origami. This is no good. Unfold it and try again. Try to be less good at origami this time around.

Mood of the Moment: good good
Auditory Hallucination: Proteigon

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baronmind
You've spent a long day running the world, pulling the strings of governmental puppets and orchestrating stock market fluctuations. You've set the stage for two new wars, brokered a trade agreement, and made sure that "Olivia" would be the most popular girl's name for the coming year. Now all you want is to relax by the fire and chat with someone who understands you, but how can you? In the entire world, there are only six other people who really understand what you do, and you know for a fact that every one of them is a conniving weasel who would stab you in the back if they could get away with it -- just as you would do to them. What's a shadow overlord to do?

At last, a solution to your problem has been created -- a website/phone line/virtual club created just for you: IllumiNaughty. Call us, and let our specially trained staff lend a friendly ear! They are contractually obligated to laugh in the right places, draw you out with intelligent questions, and generally give a flawless imitation of a trustworthy and admiring peer. And don't worry about your secrets; every employee of IllumiNaughty is bound by the strictest legal documents, blackmail threats and voodoo curses we could find.

Naturally, this sounds impossible, as otherwise you would have thought of it first. Rest assured that IllumiNaughty backs every interaction with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Unlike other businesses, which promise to provide reparations should things go wrong, we promise that nothing will ever go wrong at all. Your satisfaction is paramount, and you will be satisfied every time -- no exceptions.

Perhaps you believe that this is some kind of a clever trap. It is, obviously. But as a member of the most elite ruling class the world has ever failed to know, can you really admit to yourself that you are afraid to take the bait? Surely you can outthink whichever of your associates has hatched this ingenious plan; obviously, this could only be a plot of one of the other six. Once you divine their strategy, you'll surely be able to turn it against them. So why not start now? Call us tonight!

We know you will.

Mood of the Moment: chipper chipper
Auditory Hallucination: Amanda Palmer -- Guitar Hero

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baronmind
I'd like to present you with two short lists. The first one is entitled "Things I Didn't Know About Virginia Two Weeks Ago, But Have Since Learned." It consists of one item: evidently, to be on the ballot for a primary election in Virginia, you have to get 10,000 signatures, and each of the districts must have at least 400 residents represented. Additionally, write-in candidates in primary elections are ignored. This last seems to go against the idea of being allowed to vote for whomever you'd like, but maybe they just don't want to make tallying the primary votes any more difficult than they have to.

The second list is "Things You Should Have Known About Virginia If You Were Planning on Being in the Primary." It's actually a fairly extensive list, but the salient point is that it overlaps with the list mentioned in the first paragraph. Which is to say, in case you've been holed up in a bunker to hide from the coming of 2012, that the Republican primary in Virginia will have only 2 candidates on it, as the others either didn't bother to get the signatures, or screwed up their attempts.

Newt Gingrich's failure was particularly noteworthy, as his campaign's first response to the news that he wouldn't be on the ballot was to claim that they would "pursue an aggressive write-in campaign" -- which, you'll note, has absolutely no chance of being successful, under the rules. They then blamed a single volunteer for collecting over a thousand fake signatures, since apparently there was no oversight going on. And finally, Newt compared his screwup to Pearl Harbor, casting himself in the role of America and leaving Japan to be played by the onerous signature-collecting rule.

Now, the thing is, getting 10,000 signatures doesn't seem like it would be all that hard to me. Let's say you can get 10 an hour; that means it would take 25 people one 40-hour week to collect the necessary signatures. That's not a very large hurdle. Two of the candidates were able to clear it. What tripped up Newt was not the difficulty of the task, but a simple failure on the part of his campaign to read the rules.

There's a lot of talk now about whether Virginia's primary rules should be changed, but I'm pretty much on board with this. I think that if a candidate and his staff can't be bothered to read and follow the rules for something as simple as this, then I'm glad to have them weeded out early on. I think other states should also adopt restrictions like this. Not difficult barriers, but definite requirements. I don't care if all it says is "Each candidate must go to the state capital and write '[Candidate's name] wuz here' in the guestbook to be considered"; I just want to see something in each state that will disqualify would-be elected officials who don't pay attention.

In fact, I think that that specific requirement I just made up is a great one. I bet you could make a lot of money off of those books after a few election cycles. Drop that sucker on eBay, and it could help some state balance its budget. Capitalism in action!

Mood of the Moment: cheerful cheerful
Auditory Hallucination: Metallica -- Sanitarium

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baronmind
It's been a while since I took up a new hobby that no one understands. I don't mean simply something like running a marathon, where people don't understand why I'd do it; I mean more like chess-boxing, where people honestly can't believe that they heard me correctly and ask me to repeat myself. Although part of that might be due to poor communication skills on my part; more than one person has thought I said chest-boxing, which to my mind is actually more ridiculous than chess-boxing. I've tried to make the lack of a T clear, but it's hard to pointedly refrain from enunciating a letter.

Fortunately for me, there's still time this year to get in on a new-to-me ridiculous sport. The Richmond Hash House Harriers are having a New Year's Eve run down at Belle Isle. Because they're not completely crazy, they're doing it at 1 in the afternoon. Because they're really just one step shy, they're doing it shirtless. I can't think of a better time to join in. I meet people with clothes on every day; I think that the 31st of December is a fine time to challenge this paradigm.

I'd explain what hashing is, but I'm only most clear on it myself. It involves running around, following a trail one person set earlier in the day. I'm pretty sure that the trail is not entirely well marked, so it involves a fair amount of hunting for that trail in between the running. And it involves drinking beer, which I think explains a lot about the sport, really.

I've been aware of hashing for a while now, but I didn't really think about looking for a group in Richmond until I saw them manning a booth about five miles from the end of the Richmond marathon. They were handing out cups of beer; I accepted with a hearty "On-on!", which I was pretty sure was the right response. They yelled "On-on!" back and cheered for me, so I think I got it right.

A friend asked me to join the Monument Avenue 10K with him next year, and I'd like to shake up my standard training schedule of sitting around on the couch drinking beer until the day of the race arrives. Giving up both the couch and the beer seems a bit extreme, though; I think running around on trails drinking beer is a pretty good compromise.

Mood of the Moment: good good
Auditory Hallucination: ERBOH -- Justin Bieber vs Beethoven

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baronmind
I wrenched my back over the weekend. I didn't do it during any of the physically demanding activities in which I participated, naturally; I slipped standing up and caught myself at a weird angle. It's unpleasantly painful, as you might expect, but basically manageable in any one posture. It's only transferring between positions that's presenting me with significant difficulty.

As far as I can tell, the reason that my back hurts when I try to change my posture is that the muscles are clenching. Of course, the reason that the muscles are clenching is that my back hurts. It's a clever little self-fulfilling prophecy of pain, and I've got to say, I don't really get the point. This seems about as evolutionarily useful as sweaty palms in response to stress. If my muscles weren't clamping down when I tried to use them, I wouldn't have the pain; in fact, if they hadn't tensed up when I slipped initially, I might not have the injury at all. Cats have it right; when you feel yourself falling, you relax. That's the way to land safely.

It hasn't been all bad, though. For one thing, I seem to be confusing people with the dissonance between my words and tone of voice. "You look like your back hurts," they'll say, noticing me hobbling around, unable to straighten my spine.

"It does," I'll respond cheerfully. "I twisted it pretty badly."

They look at me oddly. "So, it -- doesn't that hurt?"

"Oh yes, quite a lot," I say happily. Which it does, but I don't think complaining about it is likely to make it hurt less. I assure you, if I had any reason to think that'd be helpful, you'd never get me to stop whining.

Additionally, I've taken the opportunity to build Slapdash Standing Desk 1.5, the finest in slapdash chairless desk technology. Many people go out and spend money on raised desks and other such frivolities; as you can see from the picture, I've simply created my standing desk by piling computer books and booklets full of CDs on my existing desk until I reached the desired height. I briefly used Slapdash Standing Desk 1.0, where the monitor was not raised, but that seemed like a good way to give myself a crick in my neck. The addition of the UPS box raised the version number to 1.5, which as you can see received my seal of approval.

My back problem will likely resolve itself in a few days, and I may just disassemble my standing desk after that. On the other hand, this is supposed to be better for you, anyway; perhaps I should look into getting a real standing desk. It's a lot more likely that I'll just throw a cloth over the various stacks and call it Slapdash 2.0, though.

Mood of the Moment: cheerful cheerful
Auditory Hallucination: And One -- Military Fashion Show

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baronmind
My fellow Americans. When I look around our great country, I see bridges everywhere. Not just the literal bridges, although I see those, too; some of them are quite large, and very hard to miss. But I see people of different religious beliefs working together in businesses, in charities, and in hobbies. I see different ethnicities coming together to make common cause; I see people bridging socioeconomic gaps to help each other, or to make friends, or just to interact as two human beings.

People of America, I speak for everyone in Washington, DC when I say: stop this fraternizing. Every time you treat a person as a human and not as a stereotype, you make our job harder. It is not easy to demonize entire classes of people the way we do, and it only becomes more difficult when you put aside your preconceptions and go out and meet someone different than you with an open mind. How are we supposed to continue bickering and squabbling when you are able to find common cause with friends whose political beliefs differ from your own? You are embarrassing us, America, and we do not like it.

Americans, it is time to burn those bridges you have built. Hate your neighbor because he is different, because he is of a different race, because he does not share your sexual orientation. Gays, this goes for you, too; turn your nose up at the breeders, treat them with hostility and inhumanity. This will be a group effort. We must all work together to stand apart.

In times like these, the country cannot afford for you to be understanding, to take the time to consider someone else's opinion, to engage in reasoned discussion. Reject those who are different! Only through divisiveness will we preserve what made America great: our diversity. If this statement does not make sense to you, clearly you are not one of us. Together now, America: shun.

Mood of the Moment: annoyed annoyed
Auditory Hallucination: Bad Lip Reading -- Dirty Spaceman

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baronmind
I was driving to work today and, thanks to some combination of sensory inputs, suddenly had the idea that I was only moments away from waking up in a hotel room I stayed in while away on business many years ago. This distressed me, as my life's actually been going quite well since then, and I wasn't looking forward to having to redo everything I've done in the intervening years just to get back to where I am now.

I'm wholly unprepared for a reset, even a partial one. My memories of the past are incomplete and often in direct contradiction to those of others with whom I shared the experience. I pay little to no attention to sports, so I can't make large sums of money gambling on upsets. And although I'm clear on basically when things like the end of the housing bubble occurred, I'm not certain that I could recall them well enough to make my fortune in the stock market with precisely-timed selling and buying. I can't even bring to mind the names of any big companies that have sprung up unexpectedly in the last decade, such that I could invest in them or purchase their stocks at low prices.

Clearly, there are two things I need to start doing immediately. First of all, I need to study. If at any point I might wake up in the past, I need my retrograde remembrance to have detailed information on the big upcoming successes and failures. I figure I can slack off on the personal stuff; anyone who didn't make a strong, lasting impression obviously isn't someone I desperately need to either seek out or avoid, depending. This'll probably lead to regular feelings of deja vu for events I only faintly remember, but I can live with that in exchange for having devoted my memory to things that will make me rich. Besides, once I'm rich, I'll probably spend a lot of time traveling, which actually I do anyway right now, so I'll probably meet the same people anyway. I'll just ride in first class on the way to and from many of the same places.

The other thing I need to do is identify a new save point. This hotel I nearly woke up in during my commute today is in Germany, which makes it inconvenient to get to every time I want to bump up the reset point in my personal timeline. That's even assuming it'll work twice, which is obviously not a given. I'd like something a little bit closer to home, something where I don't have to worry about the universe getting all ironic on me during the half-day trip out there and resetting a decade of work just as I'm about to save it. I'm not entirely certain where to start looking, though. In games, the save points are always clearly marked, both before and after they've been triggered. I can't recall this hotel room having any unusual lights, doors, jars or other save point features.

I think I'll work on the mental notes first, and just try to keep an eye out for save points. It's not terrifically important until I actually wake up in the past, anyway; I'm just not interested in turning my life into a longer version of Groundhog Day. There's only so many times you can build a fortune on a science-fiction version of insider trading before it just gets old.

Mood of the Moment: cheerful cheerful
Auditory Hallucination: Rap Battles of History

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