New Apartment

All settled into the new apartment. It was six months ago that I made the move down to Lincoln with designs on getting back to class and finishing up the degree. I’m still on track for that, but in the meantime I ended up landing a pretty sweet job with a company clear on the other end of town. As it happened, there is an apartment complex five minutes away from the new job that is managed by the same company as the apartment I’d moved into at the start of the year. Higher-end location, higher-end appliances, higher-end everything – and of course, higher-end rent as well. I had some things to think about. Make a longer commute to work in exchange for a shorter commute to class, or cut the commute to work down to nothing in exchange for convenience and a longer drive to class? Well, my course load for this fall consists of two classes, both meeting every Thursday – so the commute to class isn’t much of a concern.

And of course, I had to assess whether I liked living where I was at currently. It wasn’t too long ago that the apartment I was in was starting to show major signs of not working out as I’d hoped. The grocery store nearby was a low-rent dump, and I found myself more often than not going to a different one the next exit over on the highway. (This in itself was a problem as road crews have been doing construction on that particular highway, including the exit ramps, and it would sometimes take 15-20 minutes one way to get to the store.) Work was 20 minutes away. That seems like nothing in larger cities, but for Lincoln that’s good for getting from one corner of town to the other. Going to a Wal-Mart or Target that hasn’t already been overrun by the dregs of humanity – even further out. And you had to swim through swarms of midges outside, due to some sort of ecological change in the environment surrounding the nearby private lake that you can’t access unless you own a house on it. They enjoy heat and bright surfaces, and they enjoy getting into your car and your apartment. So they’re kind of a pain in the ass, even if they don’t bite. Location-wise, the only thing good about this place was that it was 2 minutes from the highway, so getting away from it was fantastically easy.

But the complaints don’t stop there. The last person to live in my unit (before he was evicted, that is) was a complete slob and the cleaning crew didn’t do a thorough job of getting rid of the mess that had been left behind. I found beer bottle caps and other random debris floating in the bottom of the dishwasher, there was mold in the shower, and the carpets were not shampooed. There was an issue with the water in my apartment – the black stains inside the toilet bowl were impossible to completely get rid of and would just show back up again after a few flushes anyway, and tap water tasted less than terrific. The wall between my apartment and that of the Chinese guy next door was paper-thin. I heard every word he said, every song he played on his stereo, and every time his Ventrilo went on or offline. Thankfully he moved soon and nobody occupied his apartment after that. The coils on the stove were not level, which made cooking things other than a pot full of liquid difficult. The dryer in the laundry room was useless. It actually ended up costing me much less to just pack up and go to a laundromat once a week. And, just as was the case with the apartment I lived in from 2006 to 2008 – I was right next to the stairwell, so I heard all the incoming traffic.

The final thing is that oddly enough, the loft apartment turned out being too big. I left several areas completely unused because I was the only person living there, I couldn’t spend time in every corner of the place, and I didn’t have enough furniture to go all the way around. That seems like a weird complaint to have, but with a smaller place that’s slightly more packed-in you feel like you’re getting everything you can out of your rent money. Maybe that’s from living in a one room apartment in Japan.

So it’s safe to say that the apartment started bad and went downhill after that. After kicking the idea around for a couple days, I decided to go ahead and make some phone calls and talk about transferring over. This turned out to be a relatively painless process. The two apartment offices would coordinate with each other, and all I had to do was fill out the paperwork and take the keys to the new place on the first of July – and since the long holiday weekend was coming up, I had a week to clear out of the old apartment. Everything went over smoothly, and I had movers (read: family, armed with a U-Haul) scheduled to come down that weekend to help make the jump.

Then we had a serious illness in the family.

My mom called one night a day or two before I was scheduled to move to let me know my grandfather on her side of the family was on a morphine drip, shutting down rapidly, and it was likely he would not live to see the 4th of July. I started working on a plan B with hopes plan A would hold up, but it became apparent that would not be the case. Things worked out ok, as I was able to rustle up some last-minute help for all the big furniture. We got the couch, bed, and most of the other big items moved over the evening of the first, and I sent the help back up to Omaha well after dark on a full stomach and a full tank of gas. (Sure enough, my grandfather passed on very late Friday night, and by Sunday morning my folks and brother were in a car headed for South Carolina to attend the funeral.)

From there the moving process slowed to a crawl. I woke up Saturday morning feeling like I’d had the workout of my life the night before, which wasn’t far from the truth. It was hot as hell and I had plenty more stuff to get moved to boot. So I didn’t get much done Saturday. I also didn’t get much done Sunday, on account of having committed to a cookout with some former coworkers back up in Blair. The next morning – Monday, the 4th of July – I was completely covered in bug bites. That’s a minor irritation until you get them on the top of your toes, then it’s just flat out painful. So I didn’t get much done that day either. Then it was back to the work and school routine on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

But the funny thing about not getting much done every day is that if you add up enough days, eventually you do actually end up accomplishing quite a lot. Little by little the old place was emptying out and the new place was filling up. I’d stop periodically and unbox everything I brought in to keep the paths clear, then go back to bringing more stuff in. And on the last day I had possession of the old apartment, the 7th, I went over and grabbed the last item out of there – a coffee table – then turned in the keys, headed over to the new place, and put the coffee table right in front of the couch in the living room of a completely-unpacked apartment. It was the coup de grâce – like I was putting the star on a Christmas tree, or a closing up the case on a newly-built computer, or topping that Thai yellow curry I make three times a week with some chopped basil.

So far the new place is working out fairly well. It’s nice to be able to do laundry when I need to and without feeding industrial-strength machines a roll of quarters, and the slightly smaller floorplan helps with the agoraphobia. Once summer class ends (in 10 hours), I’ll spend a total of 10 minutes in the car each day commuting to and from work. I have a private entrance and haven’t heard a sound out of the neighbors. There are a couple of good grocery stores all within walking distance as well. It seems like most of the complaints I had about the old place have been taken care of.

And I took pictures.

(Something I found interesting – when I posted this, it was about 1100 words. Then I went back and added some things and changed some other things, and now it’s pushing 1500 words. Anything much past this could probably be considered excessive.)

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Blogging Your Bad Dreams

It started in a busy promenade. I was attending a series of exhibitions with a friend of mine. I didn’t know exactly where. We were in between shows, aimlessly wandering the halls looking for something to do next. I saw a Steve Jobs impersonator slumped in a chair with the “I can’t believe my ride still isn’t here” look on his face. Was this a tech expo?

My friend and I noticed there was a commotion going on at the next building over. It looked violent but folks were still trying to get in. My friend said “I can handle this, I finished the most recent Star Trek video game on the highest difficulty possible”. I wasn’t sure what he meant by this, but followed his lead anyway and he pushed his way into the crowd at the door.

It was a video game exhibit. The biggest, most extensive exhibit you’d ever seen. Every game, every console, every pinball machine, every piece of advertising or paraphernalia, everything. It stretched room after room in this building. We kept plowing our way through the crowd. I took note of some games I’ve played and some I haven’t along the way. “There wouldn’t be any way to match this even if you started right now, so why try?” I thought to myself. “But still, wouldn’t it be neat to have a tenth or a hundredth of this?”

Finally, we reached a room that appeared to be the end of the display. It had been made up to look like a casino. Dark carpeting, wood paneling on all the walls. Pool tables and dartboards were everywhere, there was a proper bar at one end of the room, and there were no doorways leading to another room full of antiques. My friend and I looked at each other and I said “now THIS is a gentleman’s room”. We both laughed and made our way to the bar. He ordered a drink and had it in his hand almost right away, but I couldn’t seem to attract the bartender’s attention long enough to ask for anything.

A few more friends showed up as if we had been waiting for them. “Did you call her?” one of them asked. He was a doctor, and I thought it was interesting he’d be here amidst all this insanity on his day off. I shrugged in the negative and got my cellphone out.

“Hello?” the voice on the other end of the line said.

“We are at the bottom of the train station, all the way in the back,” I said. Somehow somewhere along the way I had pieced together that we were at the main subway station in town. That would explain the crowds and the random exhibits. “Are you coming?”

“Video games aren’t my thing, I think I’ll stay behind,” she replied. We talked for another minute, and finally I coaxed her into changing her mind. She was always down for a drink – I knew this and took advantage of the fact in my negotiation.

“She’ll be along in a moment,” I reported back to the others. I got up and had a look around the room. Past the pool tables I noticed a few arcade machines in the back. They appeared to be operative, and all of them had plaques with text stamped to them. I got a close look at one of them:

“This machine was custom-made for its owner by the manufacturer and is the only one of its kind in the world.”

Impressive, but not too impressive. So its previous owner was just some rich clown who couldn’t figure out what else to blow his money on. I fished out a couple coins out of my pocket and looked for the quarter slot, determined to find out why this particular machine was the only one of its kind. I found the slot, then paused to get a closer look at it – the number “70″ was printed on it. Not “25″, but “70″. I stared at it for a second and couldn’t think of any country that would use a coin worth 70 of anything, then shrugged and gave up. I turned back toward the bar and noticed the girl I called a few minutes ago was just arriving.

I made my way back up to the bar to greet her, and noticed she’d already been able to get a drink out of the elusive bartender. “You too, huh. Where the hell is that guy?”

She laughed and shrugged, and I pulled myself up onto a barstool. “I was wondering if you’d make it through all that’s going on out there.” Hers was a petite frame, and she wasn’t the kind of person who would normally be able to push her way through a mob.

“It was no problem,” she replied. “But I don’t think I’ll be making any progress on the search for my Prince Charming at a place like this. Why’d you pick this place, anyway?”

“Lot of frogs here,” I said, deflecting the question. I wasn’t here necessarily by choice – it wasn’t my decision, but I didn’t exactly veto it either. “You’re sitting next to one too.”

She said nothing and focused on her drink. I had timed that comment for that exact moment for a very particular reason – rehearsed it in private, played the scene in my head like a movie in fast-forward and reverse as I imagined how things would happen. Would she say something profound, or dismiss the comment as playful banter? I still hadn’t worked out what the reaction would be in my prognostications, and now that I’d gone and set the wheels in motion I still couldn’t figure out what the reaction was.

Then the friend I originally came with – the self-proclaimed Starfleet commander – appeared from what looked to be the kitchen area behind the bar. He looked at at me, then my hands, then back to me again. “What’s this, not drinking?” he asked. You could tell he was disappointed.

“No, I can’t find the damn bartender.”

Starfleet tilted his head a bit, then shrugged. “I’ll get you something, and if the barkeep comes back ’round and gets mad I’ll sort it out. Now what are you having?”

“I don’t know. Whiskey. Beer. Something. Anything.” I rested my elbows on the bar, leaning forward and peeking to my side to see what the girl was doing. She was still working on her drink and looking around the room, no doubt surveying the useless electronics and board games for grownups in a futile attempt to find something worth her while. I decided not to say anything and stared blankly at the array of bottles arranged on the shelves behind the bar for a minute.

“So was that all you wanted me here for?” she asked. “A drink and a lame comment?”

Guess I struck out.

“Yeah, pretty much,” I replied. She gave me a strange look as if she’d just been hurt. I figured she was just doing that for effect and ignored it. “If you have other things you’d rather be doing, don’t let me hold y-” She grabbed my arm and I stopped, turning to face her. Her other hand was clutching her throat. I got a closer look and noticed blood seeping between her fingers. She really was hurt – but how? Had she been cut?

“That’s weird, how did you…” I trailed off, glancing at the glass she had been drinking out of. It had been shattered, and its remnants were in pieces on top of the bar. I wondered for a moment what might have happened, given that I didn’t hear any glass breaking. The normally cool, deceptively intellectual look on her face was replaced by one of sheer panic. I jumped off the barstool and grabbed her.

“Ok, everything’s going to be alright. Come with me.” We rushed behind the bar, to the kitchen area. My eyes darted around, looking for a table or a countertop or something I could rest her on. I found something suitable and shoved everything off of it, clearing room. A loud crash rang out as several pots and cooking utensils fell to the floor. “Get up on here and lay down,” I told her. As she did that, Starfleet finally reappeared.

“Hey man, brought you some whiskey!” he proclaimed, clearly proud of himself. “Hey wait, what are you two doing back h-”

“Not now!” I barked. “Go get a medical kit.” He looked at me funny and started searching counters in the kitchen. “You better drink that whiskey bro, I’m not letting that go to waste after I went and got it for you.”

The girl was still writhing on the counter. I lifted her cold, skeletal, clammy hand away from her throat to see what had happened. A huge gash had somehow developed right about where I reckoned a major vein would be. Was this self-inflicted, or had somebody snuck up and done this while I wasn’t paying attention? I snatched up a towel and tried to stanch the bleeding. It was hard to ignore all the color being flushed out of her face.

“Are you gonna drink that whiskey or what?” Starfleet’s attention span had already drifted away from the crisis at hand and back to drinking.

“Shut up!”

I looked back outside and saw the doctor coming back to the bar, in search of another drink.

“Get in here, we have a problem!” I yelled.

“This better be good, I’m nailing it at the pool table right now,” he said as he made his way into the kitchen. He stopped cold at the sight of the girl on the counter, a white towel now stained deep red with her blood. “Oh dude, that’s not cool.”

I frowned, noting the doctor’s noncommittal tone of voice. “So what do we do?”

He shrugged. “Just clean it up and wrap it, she’ll be fine.” Before I could respond, he turned around and left. I looked back at the girl. I was determined to do something, anything to salvage the situation – but the moment I lifted my hands, I froze. I didn’t know what to do. The look of panic on her face had been replaced with one of angelic serenity. I wondered if she knew two of her friends didn’t care if she lived or died, and the one who did care didn’t know how to save her. This wasn’t one of those dreams where I just knew how to defuse a bomb or was fast enough and strong enough to take down a neighborhood bully – it was one in which I was completely powerless to do anything but watch as she stopped squirming and lapsed into lifelessness right in front of me.


Starfleet set the whiskey down on the counter next to me. “Are you sure you don’t want this? Drink up, bro.”

I grabbed the glass and hurled it across the kitchen, not watching as it exploded in a cloud of alcohol and shattered glass.

“Get out of here if you aren’t going to help!” I snarled. He threw his hands up and walked out.

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Here We Go Again

One submission has come from a company called International Databases, LLC. It’s a one-man operation run by Stephen Sample, who says he has a degree in evolutionary biology and taught at the high school and junior college levels for 15 years.

The material he submitted consists of eight modules dealing with current issues in biology and ecology. Most are well within the mainstream scientific consensus. But there are two that deal with the origin of life. Those sections say the “null hypothesis” is that there had to be some intelligent agency behind the appearance of living things. It is up to the scientists proposing a naturalistic explanation to prove their case.

I can’t believe people still fail to understand how this works. Science isn’t where you go “we can’t explain x, so we’re going to say God did it”, it is “we can’t explain x, so let’s make ourselves understand it well enough to be able to do so by subjecting it to the scientific method”.

In science there are laws, theories, hypotheses, and unfounded nonsense that does not hold up to – or worse, resists – scrutiny. The first three are categorized in descending order of certainty based on research, observing what happens when we recreate the circumstances believed to result in some specific outcome, and the predictability of the results. Some things we can’t test for practical reasons. We can’t test a dog evolving over the course of 150,000 years to see if it sprouts wings or develops language – but we can observe a bacteria developing immunity to a drug that used to eradicate it and suppose that the evolutionary process does manifest itself in other means. We can’t add a second moon to Earth’s orbit to test for changes in the tides, but there is little reason to doubt gravitational theory because nobody has ever tripped over a rock at sea level and fallen upwards into the sky.

As for the unfounded nonsense – that is where intelligent design comes in. You cannot scrutinize it. You cannot explicitly observe or otherwise quantify the existence of “God” in nature. There is no molecule to isolate, and you cannot compare environments where God exists and environments where God does not exist in the way that you can compare environments without oxygen and oxygen-rich environments. And since God cannot be explicitly observed, you cannot perform experiments on it. How does God react to light? To water? What happens if you put God in a jar with sodium and shake it up? You cannot answer any of those questions in the affirmative or the negative. Why? Because God is a construct of faith – in this context, faith based on a sufficient enough amount of arrogance to suggest that you cannot watch the sun come up and claim with a straight face that God didn’t make that happen.

The scientific method seeks to answer all questions and sufficiently explain the questions it can’t thoroughly answer. Intelligent design seeks to put up a sign that says “for more information, please refer to the Bible”. That is not science, and people should not pretend that it is.

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Weird doesn’t quite cover this

I’m staying in a hotel that is made up of two different buildings connected by a common area at the ground level. To get to your room, you need to take the right elevator to go up either the red tower or the black tower. So I get into the first elevator I see and press the button for the seventh floor. When the doors open, I take half a step out, then the elevator chimes.

“This is Red Seven,” a voice says matter-of-factly from the intercom. “Your key card is for a room on Black Seven.”

Oh. Well, my mistake. I get back into the elevator and head back for the ground floor.

After getting out of the elevator is when I noticed my error – some of the elevators have red doors, some have black doors. I rode one with a red door, so apparently I need to get into one with a black door instead this time. So I get into a black elevator, hit 7, the doors close, and… we’re going down.

-1, the display reads. That’s weird.

-2. Did I hit the wrong button?

-3, -4, -5, -6.

-7. Ding! The doors open. There’s a barrier blocking the way out, a glass door with a sign saying “employee access only” posted on it. Clearly I did something wrong.

Then a voice comes in over the intercom. “You need to come back upstairs now, please.”

“Well ok, but I’m not quite sure how I got down here,” I reply as I look for the button to take me back to the ground floor. I find one that looks promising and press it, still wondering how I’d managed to misoperate an elevator. The doors shut, and I feel the elevator jerk into motion.


The elevator keeps moving, but display still reads -7. I look around for clues, and I notice a window has opened up in the roof and on the sides of the elevator. I see the ceiling whizzing by when I look up, walls when I look to the sides, and nothing when I look forward in the direction I’m apparently heading.

“Uh… hello?”

No answer from the intercom.

Then the view changes. The ceiling becomes the sky, the walls become landscape. I’d apparently left a tunnel. But the sky looked strange. Like if you took a picture, loaded it in Photoshop, and inverted colors. Solid white clouds with burnt black edges, orange skies. The landscape looked less comforting – no vegetation, just dirt.

Having given up understanding what’s going on, I stay silent and watch the sky as the elevator keeps moving in the wrong direction.

After maybe a minute or two, it stops and the doors open. I step out and take in the surroundings – a construction site with the frame of a building erected, but not much else – and another building, this one completely finished, inside.

I cautiously start walking toward the finished building. It appeared to be three stories, and the area of the frame surrounding it suggested you could fit a dozen of them inside the construction site before you had to start stacking. I get one more look at the inverted sky and duck inside the inner building. It seems to be an apartment building, as there were a couple of doors and then a flight of stairs, then another couple of doors up the stairs, then another flight of stairs after that. As if by instinct, I walk up the first flight of stairs and face the door on the left. Without knocking, I open the door and creep in quietly. It’s decorated just like any apartment would be.

“Back a little early, aren’t you?” a familiar voice asks. I look in the direction the voice came from and see somebody I get the sense I should know but only vaguely recognize. “You’re supposed to be gone for a couple hours yet.”

I shrug and walk past the foyer, into the living room. A basket on a nearby table catches my attention – the candies inside the basket each have a little slip of paper attached to them. I pick one up to get a closer glance and it just appears to be a grocery store receipt. One attached to each of the dozen or so candies in the basket.

“What’s that? We’re not allowed to keep lists here, I better get rid of these.” The familiar person walks over and begins peeling the receipts off of each candy. Rather than ask what could be so sinister about a list, I surreptitiously slip the candy in my hand into my pocket, receipt still attached. Another look around the apartment doesn’t reveal much of anything of interest, so I make my way over to the couch and flop down.

“So… want to tell me why you’re here right now?” the person asks, her pitch raising a bit.

“Just bored, I guess,” I reply with a shrug. Sure. I just manipulated an elevator into going where it wasn’t supposed to go, the sky looks like an amateur took artistic license with it, and your apartment building is going to get swallowed by an even larger apartment building. Don’t mind me.

“Well, I’m going to go take a nap,” she says. “And you better not be here when I wake up.”

She disappears down a corridor.

Meanwhile, a TV on the far side of the room has caught my attention. A plain-looking person, apparently reporting the news, is droning on about something while staring directly into the camera.

“Citizens are reminded not to keep any written material around at any times. Please report suspicious activity to your watch group. Dinner tonight will be…”

The anchor continues on while I pull the receipt back out of my pocket and have another look. $2.98 for a stupid piece of candy – felony paper possession offense included for free.

I stand back up and head for the door, and the voice calls out from the rear just as I reach for the doorknob. “Back to work?”

“Yep, so much to do and so little time,” I call back. What did she mean by “work”? Who does she think I am, and what does she think I do?

I close the door behind me, trot down the flight of stairs, and step back outside. It’s about time to find a way out of here before the paper police catch me. Starting with that damn elevator with a mind of its own…


Halfway back to where the elevator dumped me off, I turn back around and look at the apartment. Someone’s walking this way. He’s wearing a duster and has a bit of a sour look on his face. I turn back toward the elevator and keep walking, half-suspecting that person was heading my way for a reason but half-hoping he wasn’t.


I stop at the elevator door and reach for the button to open the door, then stop just short. Where’s this thing taking me this time? Another weird place with construction sites that don’t make sense and TVs telling me what to do? The Stone Age?


I look up and notice the figure in the distance has picked up speed. He’ll be here any second now.

Beep. Beep.

Will I even get on, or is this guy going to catch up and have a word with me?

Realizing the doors in front of me are still closed, I push the button I had been hovering a finger over.

Beep. Beep.

The doors open right away. At least nobody else had tried to use this thing while I was breaking and entering into the apartment of somebody I apparently knew.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

I set one foot inside the elevator, and have one last look towards my pursuant. He’s rushing toward me at an almost inhuman clip, his duster flapping in the wind behind him.

Oh shit, better get inside.

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.

I step inside the elevator and mash the button for the first floor. Mercifully, the doors begin sliding shut almost right away.

Before the doors slide shut, my pursuant slides to a halt in front of the elevator. We get a look at each other. The sour look on his face breaks, replaced with a look of surprise.

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.

“Wait, are you-” I begin to ask, but stop when the doors slide shut. The elevator begins to move. I steal one last glance at the inverted sky before looking back at him through the window. He was trying to mask his surprise, but it wasn’t helping. He saw me, I saw him – and in each other we saw mirror images of ourselves. We were the same person existing in two different places and in two different frames of mind at once, and one of us – namely, me – had crossed a plane not meant to be crossed.

My focus on the conundrum of meeting myself after taking the wrong turn on an elevator broke.


Oh, it’s the alarm.

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Well, That Was Interesting

Imagine my surprise when I pop open my site for the first time in about 3 weeks and see it replaced with a Turkish political protest. Huh. Took a good 2 hours to pick up the pieces, including changing the password on every site I visit and every e-mail account I maintain. Thankfully the contents of this blog were stored on a separate server (the guy responsible for this seemed more interested in messing with the webspace itself as opposed to any of its databases) so I was able to get things back up and going here. I have a ticket in with Dreamhost to see about getting the actual contents of my website back too, because those would be kind of nice to have back.

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