25 December 2008
Merry Christmas to all my friends, family, and those I have never met. I hope this Christmas season has brought you joy and happiness, and I wish peace and good tidings to all! As "President Bartlett" toasted on the "West Wing": "Here's to absent friends, and to those who are here now."
Posted by Andrew Meeusen at 14:31
17 December 2008
2008. What an interesting year. Now that it's just a mere 14 days from being over, I thought this would be the perfect instance to focus on what made the past 351 days interesting, awesome, crappy, happy, funny, sad, and monotonous, and what I'd llike to see for the future. Consider this post 1 of a series. Achievements: In 2008, I cannot mention achievements without focusing on my major achievement: graduating college officially in September this year (though I walked in May). My four-year American Political Studies Bachelor of Science degree with a focus in Public Administration represented the culmination of 16 years of hard work and dedication. During my school years, I was part of a television news crew, served in the choir, the band, the orchestra, art groups, clubs, was the President of Student Government, moved to Texas and back, excelled in high school, failed miserably at junior high, went to 8 different schools in K-12 grades, gave the graduation speech at my high school, applied for and was accepted at NAU, joined the College Republicans, ran for CR Vice-Chairman, interned for a US Congressman for 2 years, wrote the Constitutions for three different organizations, traveled to DC and Europe, became a resident assistant for Mountain View Hall, made lots of friends, had great jobs, became unemployed, and finally graduated. There is only one thing I regret never having in my school years, and if you know me well, you know what that is. Outside of myself, the world in 2008 has become a transformed place. In America, we elected our first black president this year after the longest election cycle in history. We also have seen the economy crash and burn in a matter of months, to the worst it has been since the Great Depression of the 1930s. We are still waging the War on Terror, and though significant strides have been made this year, it is likely that conflict over the United States' policies will continue for some time. During the past year, Russia has become more and more aggressive, first with its invasion of Georgia and now with reports that Russian warships are being sent to Cuba. Evil dictators and governments abound, what with Zimbabwe refusing to take care of its citizens, North Korea's continued instability with regard to its nuclear regime, and Venezuela's idiot president being, well, an idiot. On the positive side, 2008 saw the Olympic Games held in Beijing, China, where American swimmer Michael Phelps broke the all-time most gold medals in one Games record with 8 in his events. "The Dark Knight" broke many box office records with the outstanding (and sadly, posthumous) performance of Heath Ledger as "The Joker," for which he deserves to earn a posthumous Oscar or something. The Large Hadron Collider was officially turned on and tested, and though it worked for the test, it subsequently broke down and is currently under repair. Just the other day, officials confirmed the case finally closed for the murder of America's Most Wanted host John Walsh's son Adam - very good news after so long a wait. And though we hoped, the discovery of a "real" Bigfoot carcass turned out to be a hoax in the form of a rubber suit. Politically, achievements for the anti-gay-marriage crowd came in the form of Arizona's Prop 102, inserting an amendment into the State Constitution making marriage between a man and a woman only. Blacks achieved the honor of having the first minority president be from their race, while women had many opportunities to have the first woman president (in Hillary Clinton) and Vice-President (in Sarah Palin). Some headway was created into the energy crisis, after a group of Republicans staged a sit-in in the House of Representatives during the fall recess demanding that Speaker Pelosi call the House back into session and concede to a bill allowing drilling along with alternative energy options. Subsequently, we achieved both the highest price of gasoline ever around $5.00 per gallon, and what might be the biggest drop in prices from $5.00 to the current $1.55 near my house. 2008 was definitely a fun year for politics, though not so fun for Republicans. Very few survived the onslaught of anti-GOP sentiment carried over from 2006 and magnified by a lackluster presidential candidate (McCain) and plenty of evidence that the Republicans needed a wake-up call back to small-government principles. Stay tuned for Part II of my Year in Review!
13 December 2008
Why's it so hard to find something to do in Mesa, Arizona? Especially if you're not into the bar-slash-getting drunk scenes? I have been wracking my brain all day trying to think of something to do this afternoon here, but I have come up empty-handed. It's actually a little ironic: I want to do something that requires me not sitting at home being bored, and the lack of anything to do is requiring me to sit at home being bored! (I love irony....) To that end, why is it so difficult to find people to do something with? Even if I did come up with an idea, all of my friends either don't want to do anything or live much too far away and it's not reasonable for them to drive all the way out in the boondocks where I live. How does an unemployed, out-of-school graduate with no real ties to anything in Mesa FIND new friends? I mean, one place would be the local bars, which are essentially hangouts for twenty-to-thirty-something people who are bored and like to drink. I am not much for alcohol, and I really prefer someplace a lot quieter than most bars around here. Another place would, I imagine, be a church, but I'd really like to make some friends that I can see outside of the 8am service time. I just don't know.
Posted by Andrew Meeusen at 18:33
12 December 2008
WARNING: Please do not read further if you do not want to know more about the specifics of the movie. As some would say: Spoilers ahead! * * * * * I gotta say, I just came from seeing this movie, and I don't think it's as bad as has been portrayed. I'm not 63 years old, and I wasn't around when the first version was introduced, so I'm in the target audience for the 2008 release. First off, the movie was pretty much as I envisioned it: a decent sci-fi movie about the impending destruction of the human race by intergalactic beings who view us as a threat. I mean, if you were looking for more than that, some sort of message, then I guess you came away disappointed, but I for one was not looking to be preached at about how we're slowly poisoning the Earth through global warming, on the brink of worldwide nuclear war, or consuming the resources of the planet faster than we should be. I get enough of that stuff on the evening news. It was intended as entertainment, not as a 1950's parable, and it succeeded in entertaining me for 110 minutes. Regarding the acting, well, it's Keanu Reeves.... If you were expecting brilliant oratory, maybe you should have gone and seen "Frost/Nixon" or some sort of Shakespearian drama. What I didn't find was overly cheesy acting, which was what I expected. It was dry in some parts, sure, but not laughable like has been suggested. I liked the interplay between the kid, Helen and Klaatu; it made the movie's premise about Klaatu changing his mind about the human condition much more believable. One of the previous commenters [on MSNBC.com] suggested that all Helen did was plead that "We can change...!" the whole time, but I say that the actions of the characters in the movie speak louder than their words. Finally, regarding the science: I liked how they protrayed the "nanotechnology" as little bugs that pretty much ate everything in their paths; kind of a cool twist on an old theme. I first read about nanites in Crichton's novels, and I've been interested in the subject ever since. Making the nanites akin to bugs reinforced the "cleansing the Earth of all but the basest lifeforms" theme. One problem I had, though, was this: how did the nanites distinguish between human flesh and animal/plant cells? Can they actually be programmed to recognize and consume artificial materials and the specific human DNA pattern while leaving everything else? All-in-all, it was a movie I would watch again for the sheer entertainment value. Happy moviegoing to the rest of you!
08 December 2008
It's official: I won the MSNBC Geek Gift contest, put on by Cosmic Log blogger and MSNBC Science Editor Alan Boyle. About an hour ago, Mr. Boyle called to congratulate me and let me know I'd won. I chose to claim the "When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions" DVD box set and "13 Things That Don't Make Sense" book as my prizes. All told, I garnered approximately 25% of the 630 votes cast (158), beating the next closest person (who submitted a suggestion for a Zydeco Musical Tie which even I find geeky..., but would probably find SOME occasion to wear it anyway) by 32 votes, assuming my math is correct. Thanks to all my friends who checked my notes on Facebook and cast a vote in my favor. There are too many of you to name here, but you know who you are! I'll be thanking you again when I start watching the NASA box set! Also thanks to Mr. Boyle for the contest.... it was fun to participate, and hopefully you will have many new readers for the Cosmic Log now that I sent invitations to 300-some-odd people for the contest! For those of you wondering what the heck I'm talking about, please refer to the following sources: 1. My original blog post pleading for votes 2. Cosmic Log's original article announcing the finalists
06 December 2008
Today marks stop #6 on the Holiday Advent Tour, and I'm happy that I get to be a part of sharing in it. So, Merry Christmas!
Now, you may be wondering why I say that with such gusto.... Well, today is the first of two Christmas Days that I celebrate! That's right, I celebrate Dutch Christmas AND the regular American Christmas on Dec. 25th.
Being 1/2 Dutch from my Dad's side of the family, the traditions of Sinterclaas carried on through my grandfathers and my father and became a part of my family; I look forward to passing it on to my children someday!
On December 5th, the date of Saint Nickolas' death, each of the six people in my family lays out their wooden shoes (yes, I own a pair of wooden clogs) under the Christmas tree and goes to bed so that Sinterclaas (Santa Claus) will come, with his elves, called Zwarte Pieten (Dark Helpers). Riding across rooftops on his white horse dressed in a bright red bishop's robe, complete with a staff and mitre, Sinterclaas looks very much like what you'd expect the Catholic Saint Nickolas to look like. Sinterclaas keeps a list of all the children who've been good (they get candies and small toys which fit in the wooden shoes) and bad (they get carted off to uncharted lands in a big sack).
But enough history! My family sticks our wooden shoes under the tree, goes to bed, and *magically!* the next morning, they are filled with little toys, gift cards, and peppermints! That day, I ALWAYS wear a big Santa hat to pay tribute to the holiday, and I absolutely love it when a hundred people stop me at school or work to ask me why I'm celebrating Christmas so early!
So, if you ever see a guy wearing a Santa hat on Dec. 6th, saying 'Merry Christmas' to everyone and getting lots of quizzical stares, just know that he might be Dutch and is celebrating Christmas!
MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!
03 December 2008
I am a winner! At least, that's what I hope I get to write on Tuesday Dec. 9th.... You see, MSNBC's Science department held a contest recently asking for the best geeky Christmas gift suggestions, and out of a vast amount of them, I was chosen as one of 15 finalists for the award - as voted on by the public! The winner in the voting as of 3pm EST on Monday, Dec. 8th will win their choice of five cool (and geeky, of course) prizes, like the "When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions DVD box set, awesome coffee-table space books, the biography of Albert Einstein, or "13 Things That Don't Make Sense" by Michael Brooks. The #1 voting winner gets first pick of the prizes, #2 gets second, and so on. So I'm pleading for your help, my friends and readers, to vote for my gift suggestion: a sweatshirt or t-shirt from www.XKCD.com, the "super hip science [comic] strip" according to Alan Boyle, the contest admin. To help me achieve my goal of becoming the ultimate geek, go to: http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/12/03/1697462.aspx and at the end of the article, click on "CLICK HERE TO VOTE FOR THE TOP GEEK GIFT!" and vote for the "XKCD Sweatshirt option! If I win, I'll post about it on Tuesday the 9th, so check back then, and thanks a LOT for your help!
Posted by Andrew Meeusen at 22:43
02 December 2008
Lately, I've been taking up the chore of cooking for my family while I am stuck at home job hunting, so I've been using the time to experiment a bit with dishes I like. Last night, dinner came out GREAT so I figured I'd share what I did with my friends. Chicken Parmesan Ingredients: 1 package of spaghetti/linguini noodles 1 large jar of spaghetti sauce 4-6 cleaned, uncooked boneless chicken breasts 1 box Shake 'n' Bake Parmesan Garlic mix 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese Parmesan cheese to taste A pinch of salt About 2 tsp. olive oil Hot water Directions: 1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F). On the stove on high heat, boil about 4 quarts of hot water on the stove, add salt and oil (so the pasta doesn't stick together). 2. While the pasta water is heating up, clean and rinse your chicken breasts. Follow instructions on the Shake 'n' Bake packaging to coat the chicken breasts with the parmesan garlic breading. 3. Bake in oven for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, coat each breast with mozzarella cheese and place back in oven for about 6-7 more minutes until cheese is bubbly and browning. 4. When your pasta water at a rolling boil, take your noodles, break them in half and add them to the water (this helps it cook evenly). Stir continuously for about 12 minutes until the pasta is tender to taste. 5. When done, drain pasta and place in a large bowl. Stir in spaghetti sauce until pasta is well-coated. 6. Place about 1 1/2 cups of pasta on each of four plates. Top with one chicken breast. Add parmesan cheese as desired. Enjoy! Cook time: About 45 minutes to an hour Serves: 4 Dessert: Andrew's YAF-Style Pudding Cups Ingredients: 1 small container of blackberries 1 small container of raspberries 1 small container of blueberries 4 leaves fresh mint 6 packets of Jell-o vanilla pudding singles 3 cups milk Chocolate sauce 4 half-glasses or tumblers Directions: 1. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, pour milk and pudding packets together, and stir rapidly until evenly mixed (it will look like watery vanilla pudding). Pour even amounts immediately into each of the tumblers or half-glasses. (NOTE: You must pour the mixture before it starts to set up - about 5 minutes - or it's a pain in the butt.) 2. Wash and dry sixteen each of the raspberries and blackberries and all of the blueberries and mint leaves. 3. Once the pudding has set up a bit so the berries don't sink into the surface much, arrange the berries atop the pudding. Feel free to be creative here, but I arranged mine like a compass: blackberries at the north, south, east, and west points; blackberries at the north-east, north-west, south-east, and south-west points, and a small handful of blueberries in the middle. 4. Top the berries with one of the mint leaves. 5. Cover with plastic wrap or tinfoil, and place the tumblers in the fridge for at least 20 minutes to chill. You can serve the pudding immediately if you want, but I think it's better cold. Enjoy! Cook time: 10 minutes plus refrigerator time Serves: 4
01 December 2008
Wow.... I cannot believe I've kept this blog going through 100 posts. I started this baby as "The View From Flagstaff" back in February at the suggestion of Chelsea from A Fish Out of Water, who thought it would be interesting to hear how I was doing throughout my last semester of college. Now that I've graduated, received my diploma, and gone through an election cycle with The View From Arizona, I couldn't be happier to dedicate my 100th Post to Chelsea for getting me going! Thanks!
Posted by Andrew Meeusen at 08:55