31 December 2009

The End of the '00 Decade

First off, I want to emphasize that I'm sitting here writing a blog at 10:07pm Arizona time on New Year's Eve. We're now a mere one hour and 53... 52 minutes away from ending this utterly disastrous year and a decade of nothing but bad things.

I suppose the very fact that I'm here writing to a blogosphere that doesn't really actually read my musings on New Year's Eve instead of being out celebrating with friends is tribute enough to that. While I'm here, my sister has two of her friends over and they're currently running on the deck on the roof making a racket, Mom and Dad are attempting to find a movie to watch (unsuccessfully thus far), one of my brothers is watching "Burn Notice," the other is out doing God-knows-what with his crowd, and I can only assume my friends Matt, Angela, Scott, Ryan, and Abigail are having fun at their respective parties. Sadly, I did not get any offers of New Year's celebration parties for myself to attend, so I'm simply waiting for the ball to drop for a drink of Martinelli's Sparkling Cider and writing aimlessly.

That said, onto my point: this decade sucked. I mean, aside from a world-changing terrorist attack in 2001, subsequent wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the degredation of America's world standing, an economy that went from the best ever seen to a near-fatal recession, the deaths of icons and actors (Michael Jackson and Heath Ledger come to mind), and the elimination of an entire former planet from our textbook solar system charts (Pluto), there hasn't been much to cheer about since Y2K.

One hour, 43 minutes and counting....

What will this decade be known for? The sixties was the sexual revolution. The seventies, the hippie movement. The eighties will be remembered for the Reagan years and the computer technology upstart. The 90's were the dot-com era. But the 2000's? Obviously, firstly this decade will be remembered for its political distresses, both good and bad. 9/11/01 changed everything. There's no denying that. This country and the world will never go back to being comfortable and worry-free as things were (at least, to a greater extent) before those attacks. We cannot undo the new security measures, the greater Federal control over security, or the color-coded warnings. Every day we step outside is another day we see the post-9/11 changes: cameras on every street corner, now full-body scanners in airports, stories every night on the news of casualty reports from overseas.

Alongside these dramatic changes, politically we've seen historic firsts in our sociopolitical climate: the first woman Speaker of the House of Representatives, the first black President of the United States. We've had a massive political and even ideological shift in the country in 2006, then 2008 as the country went first from anti-Bush sentiment to pro-Democrat sentiment to most recently tangentially segmenting to a hyper-libertarian ideology thanks to McCain-Palin and the Tea Party movements. We've dealt with Truthers, then Birthers, with a bit of Cindy Sheehan nuttiness and Ron Paul revolutionaries mixed in. This decade has had us deal with issues of illegal immigration (which we all greatly failed epically on), healthcare (which we're currently going down in flames with), privacy (is sacrificing personal liberties for the security of the country sound?), and the economy.

One hour, 29 minutes and counting....

Ah, the economy. Since we're closing out the decade with a recession which I daresay is the worst since the Great Depression of 80 years prior, of course this decade will be remembered as the boom-bust decade. We had explosive growth, probably thanks to the wars and overall prosperity, followed by the utter collapse of the housing market, the job market, the stock market, all of which has translated to failure at the local supermarkets (and other retail establishments). Yet to be seen is the effect of over $2 trillion worth of stimulus money pumped into reviving banks (without closing down bad regulatory lending practices, so this will probably happen again in 20 years), failing industries (does America really need to be making cars anymore if the Japanese can do it better?), and the rise of "green" technologies.

Speaking of that, how about science? What will the double-zero decade (hey, that's not a bad-sounding catchphrase... copyrighted here!) leave in its wake on the scientific front? I can't think of a more apt figurehead than a comparatively tiny ball of ice and rock millions of miles away. Astronomically speaking, Pluto is not just a "dwarf-planet" (yes, the IAU resolution really did include quotes and a hyphen) to us any longer, but the symbol of the failures and degredation of this entire decade. When we lost Pluto as a planet, a little part of most of us died. Of course, there are silver linings here and there... the Hubble Space Telescope was upgraded and fixed up for several more years of service.

That said, the biggest science stories of the 2000's will inevitably have to include Al Gore (I shudder). His crusade (as Quixote-esque as it may be) to fight "global warming" and save the polar bears have begun to finally wrench free the ironclad grip of oil over America. Whether or not global warming is a real event or just a well-explained hoax, I don't think anyone could deny the fact that moving away from oil and coal toward electric, wind, solar, or nuclear energies and dissipating the hold the Middle East has over us and our pocketbooks is a good thing. Frankly, I think global warming is a farce, but I'll gladly drive a hybrid if it will mean that I don't have to worry about buying gas for $5.00 a gallon anymore.

Personally for me, I will remember the 2000's as the decade I figured out who I am and what I want to do. The 2001 terrorist attacks spurred my love of political research, and thanks to the nurturing of both my professors like Chris Esseltine and my friends in the College Republicans, that love of the system grew into a desire to help shape the future for the better by working to make that system better. Thus far, I've been unsuccessful in my attempts to wedge my way into that elite club of politicos, but tomorrow is another decade, as they say. The last ten years have also been my transition from childhood to adulthood, as I graduated high school with honors, and completed college with a degree I'm proud of, even if it hasn't yet helped me out.

Which brings me to my New Year's conclusion, at a mere one hour and ten minutes away from "Auld Lang Syne." This decade sucked. We all know it. We all know what things were bad, and what things people screwed up royally on. Here's my resolution to the new decade (not just the year, mind you): I'm going to do something to help make things better. It might not be much, and I may never be noticed for my work, but come Hell or high water, I plan to do something to undo the complete travesty that 2000-2009 has made of planet Earth. I hope more people out there would choose to do the same.

Happy New Year, everyone. Goodbye, 2009, and good riddance; hello 2010!

29 December 2009

Holiday Quickness

Thanks to the holidays, I've been unable/unwilling to post anything of substance for the last couple weeks. So today, the two people that read this blog are getting an ultrafast rundown of what's been happening.

1. Nice Weather = Geocaching
Thanks to the weather around here being highly conducive to being outside (as opposed to a/c-inducing 120-degree July temps), I've been doing a little bit of hiking and geocaching again. I'll be posting more pictures in weeks to come, thanks to my new Christmas present - a digital camera.

2. Christmastime WAS Here
My last post was December 11th, and in the almost three weeks since then, I'm still waiting on a paycheck from Borders (from the week of Dec. 3rd), went and saw the lights at the Mormon Temple here in Mesa (a yearly tradition), bought gifts for people (The Audacity to Win for Ryan, a photo frame and coasters for Scott and Abigail, the "Fable II" XBox 360 game for David, a nutcracker for mom, woodworking clamps for dad, a photo frame for Sarah, and some random tools and a toolbox for Nathan), received a few gifts (a $25 gift card to Half Price Books from Scott; gift cards to Harkins Theaters, Wal-Mart, and Best Buy from extended family; a camera, cheese grater, and baseball cards from my family), and have hung out with various friends a couple of times.

3. Goodbye, and Good Riddance 2009
As 2009 comes to a close, I plan to do a longer post on this theme soon, but plans are in the works for the usual - staying up, playing games, singing Auld Lang Syne, etc.

Today, however, I am going to have lunch with Ryan as Fogo de Chai, which is apparently a Brazilian steakhouse in Scottsdale which I have never been to. Ryan's friend Eric will also be accompanying us, which will be interesting because Ryan has made him out to be basically the anti-Andrew politically speaking. Good times should ensue. I'm also going to be beating Borders to death about my paycheck, because, hell... that's a good $100 they haven't paid me!!!!

Wish me luck, look for more posts to come in the nearish future.

11 December 2009


Yep, you read it correctly. I am the only "geek-peat" winner of MSNBC Science Editor Alan Boyle's Geek Gifts contest. Mr. Boyle announced my winning suggestion - the Calabi-Yau Manifold Crystal - on his science blog the Cosmic Log (yes, I did set that up to rhyme) through MSNBC this evening.

Thanks to my family and friends, I garnered the most votes (comments to the geek gift blog post) and won a copy of Mr. Boyle's newly published book The Case for Pluto, which I am looking forward to reading. I'll post a book review for y'all when I'm done.

Check out the Cosmic Log blog daily for the latest in science updates, like the UFO-slash-malfunctioning Russian missile, SpaceShipTwo's debut for the space tourism industry, and daily/weekly science roundups from around the web.

10 December 2009

Is It Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas?

Sure doesn't feel like it is to me. Yes, the temperatures are a bit colder, we've put up our Christmas tree and lights, and KEZ 99.9 FM is playing their traditional Christmas music from Thanksgiving to December 25th. Even so, something is missing, and I can't put my finger on it.

Everyone still seems to be nonplussed about the Christmas season this year. The snowbirds aren't full-force, I'm not having to wait in long lines to buy groceries or gifts, and there really aren't a multitude of holiday celebrations out there right now. It's kind of depressing to realize that we're merely 15 days away from Christmas, one of the best days of the year, and have it not feel that way.

Maybe it's because I haven't been able to do much of anything lately. Borders had a mix-up with my paycheck and direct deposit information, so whereas I was supposed to get paid last Friday so I could pay my cell phone bill and do a little Christmas shopping, I am actually still waiting on a paper check to be FedEx'd to my house. What that means is that my extremely (I mean this literally) low checking account balance isn't letting me experience the holidays as I normally would. I like to donate a little money to charitable organizations this time of year, but I cannot. I like to send out Christmas cards, but I cannot. I like to buy a few gifts for my friends, but I can't do that yet.

I hope it starts to feel more Christmas-y soon... I don't think I can take yet another year of going 12 months without a real holiday.

02 December 2009

MSNBC Geek Gift Contest 2009

As some of you may remember, last year I won the MSNBC "Geek Gift" contest with my suggestion of XKCD.com apparel, thanks to the support and votes of you all. This year, I am once more a finalist in the contest, and I need everyone's help again to repeat my victory from last year!

My Geek Gift suggestion this year is the Calabi-Yau Manifold Crystal, which is a 3D representation of 6 of the 10 dimensions in basic string theory from quantum mechanics encased in crystal, just like the ones of the Eiffel Tower or DNA strands. Check it out here: http://scientificsonline.com/product.asp?pn=3151544&bhcd2=1259795585.

Voting is very simple. Go to the web page link for MSNBC's Cosmic Log at this link: http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2009/12/02/2140001.aspx and post a comment on the page with your vote. It can be as simple as "Calabi-Yau Manifold Crystal." I would really appreciate the opportunity to be the first and ONLY multiple winner of this contest!

Thank you!!!

24, et al

Sunday was my 24th cycle of the Earth around the Sun, and sadly, I was really not feeling well enough to party or do much in the way of celebrating. I took the day off of work at the bookstore/kiosk because of my car crash, and relaxed most of the day. My singular indulgence, my family took me out for dinner at the Olive Garden, which I really love to do annually. It's kind of my personal birthday tradition. My mom also made me a delicious white peppermint cake with minty frosting and crushed peppermint. Yum!

The following day, I was scheduled to work, until I got a call from my boss telling me I wasn't scheduled to work, but could I come in anyway because another employee was having car trouble (I resisted the strong urge to say 'Worse car trouble than mine?'). So I went in with the understanding that I would not be doing any heavy lifting during the shift. Once there, I was bounced around between the kiosk and department all day, and my shift-that-wasn't-really-a-shift was cut from 9:30-3:30 to 9:30-2:00. My neck was aching, and I was starting to get frustrated. (Them: "Andrew, go work the cash register." Me: "Okay, sure. Are you going to train me to work the cash register?" Them: "Um... never mind. Go help this lady with the online ordering system." Me: "Okay, sure. Are you going to show me how that works or give me a password to log in to the system?" Them: "Um....")

So after that lovely day of disaster, I talked with my folks and made the determination that I no longer wanted to work for a company that was going to treat me unfairly. Mom and Dad concurred, and they want me to go back to school and take some online classes in something so I can get a second degree. I don't really want to do that right now, especially since I'm already in debt by about $50,000 for the first degree and have no idea how I would pay for, or pay off, a second degree. I would love to just find a decent job in my field that is going to last more than 2 months, but that still seems unlikely. So I'm basically back to where I was a month ago.

Yesterday, I found out that my manager at Borders flew out to Washington for management training (WTF?) and wouldn't be back until Saturday. I got kind of fed up with this whole "waiting" thing, and told the supervisor on duty (who has no power for anything hiring-firing related) that I was making Thursday my last day, and that I needed her to pass the message along to whomever needed to know. When asked why, I said I had found a job in my field for better pay and I was taking it. A lie, I know, but I didn't think it appropriate to tell this supervisor what I was really thinking, since it wasn't her problem to begin with. That, and I don't like to cause unnecessary drama if I don't have to.

So, yeah. Now I'm out of work again, this time by choice, and looking for a better employer. I'm trying to avoid medical bills (which I can't pay and have no insurance to cover) by doping myself up on Advil until my neck gets better, and it's the Christmas season and I have no ability to go out and find gifts for the few friends I still have left after this Hell of a year in which I've been kind of a cynical asshole. Still, I suppose things could be worse. I'm not sure how, but they could be.

I'm still trying to bug Jeff Flake's office into giving me a job, but it seems very much like that's not going to happen. The guy does very few events around the district because he's going to win any election he's in here in CD-6 by double digits, which means he doesn't have to do much in the way of campaigning, which only means there are few opportunities for people like me to get involved. I need to start going to more LD meetings again to see what opportunities are out there, so I suppose that's the next order of business.