Relent

For the first time in my life, I decided to brace for this year’s easter season by observing the tradition of Lent. I am not Catholic, but according to my understanding, Lent is the pre-Easter period during which adherents of the Christian faith remind themselves of the sacrifice of Christ by putting themselves in a situation that constantly requires spiritual intervention. I’m also sure there’s something in there about strength turning to weakness, etc.

Jokes aside, let it be known, and simply put, that I am a Christian… one who worships a God who appreciates a good laugh.

I ran into my first bit of difficulty before the season even commenced–I had to settle on something to give up. It couldn’t be an activity, because the hobbies I do have serve to discourage laziness. Not playing bass for 40 days would cause a regression in skill, etc. Food is typically the ideal, but that proved impractical as well because I’m really a moron when it comes to things like ingredients. I am not brave enough to do something as general as “meat.” And anything more specific that I may develop a genuine craving for is too easy to work around. No processed sugars? Switch to starch. No coffee? Chocolate. No pizza? Pasta! No Chipotle… huh, there’s a good Candidate for next year.

But really, I knew secretly all along that there was one particular vice of mine of which I could learn to let go. Nonessential to health, too specific to cheat, but too popular to merely work around. My sunshine in dark days, my push over the hill, and my Swiss-Army-duct-tape of productivity

Caffeine molecule

This guy

Now I could use this point to springboard into a lament of how terrible it was. But that would not be funny, nor particularly true. I quit consuming caffeine, and it was an interesting experience. And I did learn some things:

By the end of day three, I was certain that I did not, in fact, have an addiction. No headache, no undue irritability, no persistent longing. I did want energy drinks from time to time, especially on weekends, but it was more like having your car in the shop. I accepted that I just had to wait and tried to move on.

I was surprised to catch myself struggling to find workarounds. Did you know that Root Beer and Citrus-flavored soda’s contain no caffeine? I do now! I also know this–32 ounces of root beer moro than cancels out any health benefits you’d see by skipping a morning cup of coffee. This is about the closest I got to a spiritual experience… futile pursuit of something I wanted, but didn’t need, really reminded me of the direction-less uncertainty felt by not having a focus on the divine.

It is occurring to me now that the word “I” has been used far more times in this blog that I wanted, but that actually goes along well with the most important thing I learned: maybe it is a good focusing tool for some, but for me, Lent caused me to focus far too much on myself. Not surprising, as Lent is not biblical. I’m quite glad to have done it once, and it certainly did not hurt my faith or create a negative example for anyone else. But I don’t see what it did for the advancement of the Christian ideal.

To end on a humorous note, I’d like to point out that I totally did Lent wrong.

First off, I tried to start Lent on Fat Tuesday and not Ash Wednesday. That same day I got a legitimate headache, caffeine has helped me with those in the past. I only found out about my mistake after leaving work… after a day of unnecessary strain.

second, I didn’t find out until about three weeks in that most faiths do not observe Lent on Sundays. That frankly makes no sense to me… “Lenting” is several brief installments seems to encourage frantic overindulgence on days you can get away with it.

Finally, I wasn’t sure when to end it. Holy Thursday? Good Friday? Easter Sunday? Sundown before Easter, which is when days actually begin in the Jewish calendar? Either way I went well beyond the 40 days, and bungee jumped off the wagon on Good Friday. That was a seriously good Monster.

Hope you all had a Happy Easter.

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Shedding Light on the Subject

If advertisements are to be believed, I will not need to update this post for three to five years.

Light bulbs… ya ever see one of those?
–Inside joke, circa 2005

Background

I have recently decided that a good many of my earthly problems can, as is so often the case, be attributed to bad lighting. Think about it—everybody blames beer goggles… but nobody points out that bars aren’t exactly renowned for their brightness. Many work and school headaches are likely formed along the same lines. And sadly, my home-office was no different. To remedy this, I could open the curtains bed sheet and try to do a little less work at night. Or I could bring in more lights. Guess which one I did?

Lamp pieces

Did I really have to ask?

Now some readers may point out that I have a documented history of overreacting to reasonable situations. In my own defense, expected behavior and level-headed thinking makes for bad blogging.

It was early on in my ownership of this new lighting apparatus (about 6 seconds after checkout) that I realized that I had failed to purchase light bulbs. This realization promptly gave way to dread, when I realized that I would need to select a light bulb type, purchase location, etc. I didn’t want to do that. But then, while thinking about light bulbs, the proverbial one turned on above my head.

The Inspiration

I am a fan of purchasing quality goods, but lately I have become more and more aware (and disturbed) of the premiums consumers are charged for largely imaginary benefits, or, in effect, nothing.

Two areas of which I have been made particularly aware: audio cables, and air filters.

Regarding the latter, I’ve had two independent A/C experts give the following suggestion: Use the cheapest air filters possible, and replace them often. No complaints so far.

As far as cables go… I’m a little reluctant to mention the brands here, but one company charges about $300 per foot (not a typo) for speaker cables… they claim go offer sound quality far above what (also over-priced) $60 cables can offer. Two personal experiences I can offer here… if you own and HD-TV or monitor, get ready to either spend some time searching, or else pay $40-$60 far an HDMI cable that is in no easily-verifiable way superior to a $4 one.

So for these new environmentally friendly light bulbs.. the ones that have mercury in them… I have noticed that their prices basically range from $3 each to however much you’re willing to pay. Then my wife pointed out that even the $3 ones are priced too high–you can get them at the dollar store. But surely those are crap, right? I intend to find out…

The Method

My new floor lamp takes 5 bulbs. Refer to the table below to see what was purchased. Note that this is not a truly scientific experiment. Strictly speaking, I’d need to get 5 differently-priced bulbs with the same advertised output and lifespan. That did not prove practical, and frankly, I wanted to get on with it.

Bulb Type Cost Watts Lumens Advertised Lifespan Qty. Purchased
Greenlite $1.00 13w 900 12,000 Hours 2
GE Energy Smart $2.88 13w 825 8000 Hours 2
GE Reveal $7.99 13w 800 8000 Hours 1

Not to say I didn’t have some fun playing with the scientific method.

Assembly of the lamp proved easy enough…

Lamp assembled

…after which came the light bulb installation. I wanted to free myself from bias as much as possible. The best way to do that was to be ignorant of which bulb was going where. To do this, I labeled 5 note cards, “Dollar Stare 1,” “Energy Smart 1,” etc. Then I flipped them over, shuffled them, and handed them to my colleague (a.k.a. uncle-in-law), Mike, to label A-E. I turned my back.

Notecards A - E

After labeling, Mike handed me light bulbs one at a time, starting with A. Once all 5 were installed and lit, the note cards were placed in an envelope, sealed, and put in a drawer… where I intend to keep them until the first burnout.

Envelope

any copyrighted likenesses appearing in this blog are purely coincidental

The Madness

I currently have no clue as to which bulb is where.

Starfe and lamp

Above: The face of ignorance

According to the packaging, the premium light bulb is worth the price because it produces “clean, beautiful light” (I think that means whiter?) There is an image below the printed claim, reporting to show the difference between the “beautiful” white light and the crude, harsh, inferior lighting produced by the bulbs sold immediately to the right and manufactured by the same company. The caption on this photo reads “Photos enhanced to dramatize difference in color.” So apparently, the company needs to doctor its own publicity shots, because a normal camera under reasonable conditions cannot clearly illustrate the improvement in quality that justifies charging almost three times as much.

Subjectively, I notice no difference. I understand that subjectivity is not scientific, but considering the fact that I should be living with this light for the next few years, I think what I see is important. I see 5 white-yellow bulbs.

Interestingly enough, the dollar store bulbs make the most grandiose claims… 12000 hours? At 4 hours a day that’s a little over eight years… AND they claim the greatest light output besides. Stay tuned for updates…

…well, not if you believe the packaging

.

Security Sucks

A few weeks ago, my wife and I took our dogs for a frustratingly-short walk. Upon returning home, I reached into my left pocket and found… nothing. My wallet was not where it should have been. My wife, in her usual habit, had no keys on her. The dogs’ keys were on their other collars (couldn’t resist). And of course I had been sure to lock the door when we left.

It was around the time I found myself awkwardly crawling through a window that a few thoughts ran through my head. First, “We’ve gotta get this window fixed… or at least a wedge or something.” Then, “But if I weren’t lazy, and had done that already, then we’d be making an expensive phone call or breaking out a window.” Then, “It’s hilarious that you were so careful to lock the door this time when you went camping and left the back door open. Not unlocked. Open.” And then “Wow… security sucks.”

It sure does, Strafe, and I’ll tell ya why!

But first… I’d like to clarify some terms. First off, I do not wish to treat safety and security as the same thing. “Safety” is about practice and habits; things to do and not do. “Security” is about preventing possibilities. Safety is not playing with matches. Security is locking them up. You can drive safely. You can’t really drive securely. Now, some will try to convince you that the latter is not true—Google “safe browsing” and you’ll get 1.6 million hits… most of the top ten are lists of general tips. Now, do the same with “secure browsing.” Watch that number jump to 28.6 million. Most of the top ones there are from companies trying to sell you something.

To me, that is quite telling. You don’t buy safety, you practice it. And you don’t practice security. You buy it.

And what’s so wrong with that? Well, like most products, just because you bought it doesn’t make it loyal to you. It’s impersonal. The more locks you put on your door, the easier it is for you to lock yourself out. The more complicated your password, the easier it is to forget it (or, in my case, the easier it is to type incorrectly more than the requisite number of times and get locked out—another security feature—and need to make an embarrassing phone call). Try to keep the other-guys’ patriots (a.k.a. terrorists) off your plane, and a decade later they’ve got uniformed staff rummaging through your junk with a flashlight… and inspecting your luggage too. Accidental or not, it’s only a matter of time until added layers of security, at some level, turn on you.

I don’t believe this is accidental, either. I’ll throw out a modest number and say ninety-nine percent of car alarms that have gone off… ever… have been for nothing. Maybe we could drop that number to ninety-six if we count relatively harmless, yet intentional events, where theft was never a possibility, but nonetheless you don’t want someone screwing with your car. Now, alarm vendors can point out that if an alarm system isn’t sensitive, it isn’t effective. True to a degree, but at least a fringe benefit is that every false alarm, for all its irritations, puts the alarm’s owners at ease. They know that their investment in working for them. At the same time, people who have been victimized are reminded of their trauma, and are further informed of their need for an extra layer of protection…

I’m going to take a moment here to apply this line of reasoning to my field of expertise: computers. I own two machines that run Windows. One has a fee-based anti-virus suite installed. The fee-based one has has caught exactly one “threat” that was truly malicious. It intervened BEFORE I was actually at the point of infection, and when I intentionally infected a virtual machine later with the same virus, I discovered it was easily removable, either manually or with a free anti-malware utility. That’s fine; it was a little aggressive, but the security program did its job and it was over quickly. A few weeks later, it told me the machine was infected again, then proceeded to quarantine the file, shut down Windows, and urge me to perform a system restore. The file in question was a system file that had been on the machine since Windows was installed. I know that, and I know how to do the research to confirm it. But, to the layperson, which event would have seemed more serious? The false positives are what reinforces the perceived need for the product in the first place.

“But Strafe!” the people declare, “computers are weird like that. That’s not a generalizable event.” OK. Wait until you call your bank and accidentally transpose two of the last four digits of your social security number (I do it all the time), and suddenly you’re on hold while they get a specialist on the line. I take calls like that. Sometimes the callers are upset. Usually, though, they are pleased that the company has such security protocols.

And sometimes, these conversations are actually pro-active. People call to have conversations about security. I hate those calls…. because I have to try to respectfully and confidentially field questions addressing increasingly unlikely scenarios. “OK Mr. Zambonie… if the bad gets hacks your computer and your firewall doesn’t catch it, and you then log into your email and he gets your email password, and he uses it to send a wire request to us, that still wouldn’t work because…” These conversations reveal a lot about the security mentality. First, the human mind is really bad with probability. That’s why we like Vegas. Second, the more we dwell on spectacular theoretical scenarios, the more plausible they become to us. Third and worst, once we are convinced that these scenarios are not only possible, but likely, we become celebrities in a sense—we’ve got a Bond villain trying to break into our vault! And a security team just waiting to catch him in the act.

Trying to point out how unlikely it is makes it seem like you’re evading the question. It also puts on individuals the pressure of admitting to themselves that they are not that special.

Now, we see big companies pouring money into security measures, and I think we tend to react to that as if they’re setting an example. But there are reasons for corporate security, good and bad. They need to limit liability. They are high-profile (if you house a trillion dollars, it is no longer unreasonable to think that someone is, in fact, trying to break in). They also need to keep up with competitors. (“Why doesn’t Acme think mandatory third-passwords are important? GeneriCo does it!”). I’m not saying this is good. And I know that there are exceptions, but generally speaking, if life and limb aren’t at stake, there are really only two things bad guys can do with your stuff. Break it, and steal it. Get too overzealous and you will cause one while trying to prevent the other.

Earlier I made a TSA joke… it’s easy to do. That might have been a little out of place, considering that when it comes to planes in flight, life and limb are at stake. But you don’t need terrorists. For that to be true. Incorrectly installed parts can do that. Components in use beyond their recommended life spans will also. You’ve got pilot fatigue. You’ve got unpredictable weather. All of those have killed more American commuters since 2001 than terrorists (given the current count of… greater than zero). The more energy you put into preventing the unthinkable, the less energy you have to think about mitigating the preventable.

So what to do instead? Well, much as I hate clichés, I do believe that knowledge is power. I make fun of people who treat account security like they’re trying to hide from the bogeyman… but in a sense they are. They don’t have the facts, and you can’t hide from the unknown. I still stand by being safe… and when armed with facts, I think it’s fairly obvious what is safe and what isn’t. Lastly, perhaps we could use our vulnerability as a chance to take inventory. If I were to have ‘x’ taken from me, what would the result likely be? How much energy is it worth to lessen the likelihood? If those two questions don’t balance out, perhaps a shift of priorities is in order.

2010 in review [Automated post]

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

The Leaning Tower of Pisa has 296 steps to reach the top. This blog was viewed about 1,200 times in 2010. If those were steps, it would have climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa 4 times

In 2010, there were 20 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 35 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 2mb. That’s about 3 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was April 7th with 36 views. The most popular post that day was Idiot’s For Dummies: The Certified Imbecile’s Guide to Self-Improvement.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, myspace.com, home.myspace.com, mail.live.com, and en.wordpress.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for airplane movie autopilot, otto airplane, auto pilot from airplane, airplane otto, and airplane autopilot.

Note from Strafe: Finally some Google traffic! Too bad they all came looking for pictures. More graph blogs then?

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Idiot’s For Dummies: The Certified Imbecile’s Guide to Self-Improvement April 2010
2 comments

2

7 Things the Harry Potter Movies Got Wrong (So Far) [Spoilers!] August 2010
1 comment

3

Top Ten Progressive Rock Bands April 2010
4 comments

4

Straw Faux Pas June 2010
4 comments

5

Strafe Reviews: The Apple iPad April 2010
4 comments

Keep Chi in Christmas

Hello folks. A short one, in the spirit of the season:

A few years ago I was flooded with chain emails, roasting nationwide retailers on an open fire for saying “happy holidays,” and the like. I generally try to avoid pettiness, although I did get a great-big-grinchy eye roll a few years back, when I was in a holiday parade. Portraying an unlicensed-likeness of Disney’s Prince Phillip, I finally worked up the courage to address members of the crowd with a hearty “Merry Christmas,” and I was instantly met with a reproachful’ harsh “Happy Holidays!” from a crowd member. It stuck with me… I have not portrayed a copyrighted character in a corporate-sponsored community event directed at children since.

I think the corporations got the message (i.e. got scared) because this year they really seem to be overdoing the “Merry Chistmas”‘s… perhaps they realized the number of potential Christmas shoppers willing to boycott was greater than the number of non-Christmas-celebrants likely to be offended (who, by definition, weren’t likely to be doing heavy December shopping anyway). The system works.

But at least the “Happy Holidays” controversy seems seems to have gone the way of the Segue. So why write about a dead issue? Because, in an optimistic…perhaps foolishly-so… hope for a Christmas miracle, I’d like to do my part to catalyze the extinction of the “keep Christ in Christmas” bumper stickers (and buttons, banners, etc). There is a single, simple reason why.

linus on podium

Lights Please...

I’d be all aboard a movement to, say, keep the season in the spirit of Christ by showing good will toward others, pursuing peace on Earth, valuing personal sacrifice over wealth, and serving as an example by leveraging one’s own wealth and material blessings to in-turn bless others. But that sounds like socialism. So instead, the movement is largely trying to discourage writing/saying “Xmas.” The “X” removes “Christ,” you see.

I was going to provide a few article links here, since none of what follows represents original research. But since there are so many, all saying exactly the same thing, I think it would be far more amusing to link to this instead.

In short, “Christ,” in Greek, starts with the letter “chi.” Capital letter Chi is identical in appearance to the Latin letter “X.” So this age-old abbreviation is the modern day equivalent of writing “Merry C’mas.” Why don’t we say that? Because it sounds kinda dirty.

7 Things the Harry Potter Movies Got Right

The last minute and I have an affair reaching back well over a decade. Now, on the Eve of the release of Part 1 of the HP finale, I realized I stood little chance of finishing this post in time. Also, I was gently informed that the predecessor to this post was far too long. The solutions to both these problems was obvious… so, I give you:

7 Things the Harry Potter Movies Got Right (Part 1)

7 — (Movie) Magic

Twenty years ago, people noticed digital affects, and were amazed. The T1000 in Terminator 2? Jaw dropping. He’s liquid metal! Today, for better or worse, audiences have come to expect great effects… if we notice them, it’s usually because they look fake. I, for one, rarely notice the effects in Harry’s world.

Budget is part of this–the effects team has no reason to cheap out on these films. Also, we are shown things for which we have no frame of reference; my mind doesn’t have a great many “stock” images of Hippogriff’s and flying curses, so the images presented on screen seem to do a great job. I think this is partially why many of the affects in the newer Star Wars films are unsatisfying–we all know that space battles are supposed to look like WWII fights on a black background (with ironic thanks to Lucas’ earlier films), so when they don’t, we’re disappointed. I never thought the flying car sequences in Chamber of Secrets looked quite right, and it,s probably or a similar reason: we have a good idea of what that would really look like.

Most importantly, the visual presentation of the HP universe extends well beyond the digital. Those Hogwarts interiors are real. The lighting is intentional, and mostly effective (notable exception: some shots in Half Blood Prince, in which the camera showed up wearing sun glasses and David Yates decided to go with it.) Hundreds of hours of forced perspective shots have been lined up in order to make Robbie Coltrane eight and a half feet tall. This conscientious design and labor pays-off and gives this magical world an unexpected, and refreshing sense of authenticity.

I said real, not to scale

6 — Settings

CGI or real, miniature or full set, the film maker’s have nailed the settings [pun totally intended]. They didn’t give us Cinderella’s Castle for Hogwarts… they gave us a chaotic, neo-Gothic fortress. And yet somehow they kept it beautiful.

Not that the films are afraid to get gritty. The Shrieking Shack in Prisoner of Azkaban, the underpass (where the dementors attack) in Order of the Phoenix, the Underground in the opening of Half Blood Prince… these places stand is sharp contrast to the magical backdrop of the films, and are frankly terrifying.

What’s particularly great about the Underground shots is that they aren’t in the book. This scene is inserted to replace the obligatory “back at the Dursley Residence” chapter that opens each book… and it lends enough to the mood of the film to be forgiven. I mention that because the film makers take ignoring Rowling’s descriptions to new artistic heights in the final act of Order of the Phoenix when the characters invade the Department of Mysteries.

Sum of the remainder of an unbalanced equation inherrant to the programming of the Matrix... what the hell?

This all makes me very excited for Deathly Hallows–we’ve been stuck at Hogwarts for 6 movies, with the excoption of the end battles (even in the first two movies, the end sequence comes in never-before-or-again-seen dungeons). Now, we can anticipate more of Grimmauld place and the Ministry, plus Malfoy Manor, Shell Cottage and Gringotts… with the final battle at Hogwarts.

Don’t screw up, Yates…

5 — Casting

Some misguided fans write erotic fan fiction. According to tvtropes.com’s Rule 34 there’s some witch-on-witch-on-Dobby out there. Now, I’m not into that. I am, however, considering doing a piece in which Gary Oldman and Alan Rickman trade some serious wizarding Yo Mama’s.

Yeah, well your mama's so ugly the Basilisk can't look HER in the eye!

Now that I’ve put an image in your mind that makes you wish for an Obliviator Charm, they really got some superb actors and actresss for these parts. That’s impressive, because a lot commitments to child actors had to be made’ with over a decade’s worth of movies to be made. If Daniel Radcliffe had gone Culkin on us, that could easily have derailed the franchise.

But enough about the kids… it’s the portrayal of the secondary characters that wow me. Both Dumbledore’s, despite having radically different interpretations of the character, play him true to the book (When reading the books, I picture Richard Harris orating the lengthier speeches, and Michael Gambon delivering the shorter quips, and of course doing all the fighting). Robbie Coltrane’s Hagrid gets more impressive when you realize his accent is 100% fake. The aforementioned roles of Snape and Sirius are played perfectly. And even if she is phoning it in, I am obligated to say Helena Carter is a great Bellatrix.

Allow me a moment here to step out of my demographic and mention that I’m disappointed in Emma Watson lately. Maybe it’s just an American thing… hey internet, send me a British commenter! Does Hermione speak clearly by English standards? Somewhere around movie 4 or 5 she seems to have quit enunciating. It hasn’t been so bad because, as the plots grow more complex and they have to shoe-horn in many secondary and tertiary characters, Ron and Hermione have taken a bit of a backseat. But the way Deathly Hallows is structured, we are bound to get plenty of the trio… and there’s a lengthy sequence where Harry and Hermione will have to carry on their own. This could be really good, or, if previous patterns continue, it could provide an opportunity for an extended bathroom break.

Forgive me father, for I have sinned. I made this coarse joke involving Dobby...

4 — Tie: Dialogue & Music

Dialogue is kind of easy because most of the best lines are taken directly from the book. Still, a great bit of abridging, rearranging, and adding has been done, to mostly good effect.

Scenes that come to mind: Neville’s revelation about his parents to Harry in Order of the Phoenix: entirely fabricated for the movie, but totally true to the character. Earlier in the same movie, Harry and Sirius’ conversation over the Black Family Tree–a combination of two separate scenes from the book. All of Harry and Lupin’s scenes are excellent, regardless of which movie.

But the crown jewel comes from the least complimented movie (at least on my lists), Goblet of Fire. Lord Voldemort’s return to power, and the subsequent fight, is overshadowed in weight and creepiness by Voldemort’s lengthy, and ultimately premature victory speech. It so effectively establishes how powerful and frightening this character is that he is still coasting on it three movies later, despite having about 4 lines from then to now.

As for the music- continued in part 2

The Seminar Entitled “Coping With Loss” Has Been Canceled

What is the longest it has ever taken you to get a joke? Well, while driving down the frontage road today, the full irony of an 8-year-old quip hit me. When I was a sophomore high school, I started a club… we attempted to call it “The Cynics’ Club.” Despite my clarification that it was to be based off the Greek philosophy of cynicism, the administration wouldn’t let it fly. Not at least with that name. Yeah, they were ok with the concept of a club forming around the ideal that humans are primarily motivated by greed and that pessimism equals realism… we just couldn’t name ourselves as such. That’s not the joke.

Here’s, the joke: A teacher of mine suggested we call ourselves “The Misanthropy Club.” I gave it a hearty chuckle at the time, but only today did I recognize the potentially hidden ridicule in that comment. Here it is:

Club: (n.) a formal association of people with similar interests; (v.) to unite with a common purpose.
Misanthropy: (n.) hatred of mankind; a disposition to dislike and mistrust other people.

I’m not sure if this instructor was trying to point out that it foolish to try to unite a group of people to celebrate how much people suck. It’s like trying to put together an agoraphobics’ camp out. A bake sale for diabetics. A Tye-dye party for Strafe’s birthday. Not only does it not make sense, but it also implies that the very person whose idea it was is also particularly unqualified to be a member.

Fans of Futurama may recognize this as essentially being a real-life version of Fry’s attempt to join the Apathy Party (the second-best political party featured on Futurama).

Above: The Best

One can only imagine how disheartened I was when our club meetings quickly decomposed into 90-minute sessions of pseudo-political arguing.

Now, if I’d been paying attention to my own supposed ideals, the behavior of our eager members should have served as a proof of concept for our ideals. Instead, I tried to recruit more members. The immediate effect of this effort was possibly the most-hilarious string of advertisements ever featured on our third hour student-anchored “news” (that didn’t involve a subsequent apology to the student body). But few joined the club.

Clearly, the club was smarter than me, right to the end. We never agreed on any real rules, never held elections of consequence, and technically never ended. We just sort of stopped meeting eventually. And no one asked why. And the whole time, it never occurred to me that anyone motivated to join a club was probably not a true cynic and therefore wouldn’t enjoy the club, any any true cynic wouldn’t have shown up in the first place.

It’s one thing to miss the point. It’s quite another to bleed to death because you can’t see the point because it poked your eye out. Jesus said something like that, right?

By the way, we settled on the name “Black Lantern.” The now-retired administrator who approved the name over “The Cynic’s Club” almost immediately tried to renege on it. That makes it worth it. I’d be willing to accept that our cheesy news program at one point ran a funnier ad. But no one will ever beat our logo:

Nobody!