The 2000s: A Decade in Review

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2000s Collage

The first decade of the 21st century is almost over.

The years 2000-2009 were tremendously important in the course of history.  We saw so many milestones and so many setbacks.  We lived through so many celebrations and so many agonizing tragedies.  We laughed with the comedians and felt the pain of the displaced, the defeated, and the dead.  Historians look back at the end of every decade and proclaim its importance, but let’s face it, there are few decades in history that can compare to this one.

Before I get to some of the actual events that defined the 2000s, I’d like to analyze the trends we saw over the past ten years.

For one thing, decency seems to have fallen by the wayside.  From the Tea Party movement’s incredibly offensive signage to Joe Wilson’s Congressional accusation, we’ve seen political politeness thrown out the window in favor of partisan “You betcha” rebelliousness.  Politics has become increasingly divisive in America, and both sides are at fault.  In the past few weeks, as health care reform looms large in the minds of the American people, the attack ads running on TV, the words of those in Congress, and the posts of partisan bloggers have combined to engender an unnecessarily malicious atmosphere in our country.

On the positive side of things, technology has made incredible leaps forward in the past ten years.  Twitter, Google, YouTube, Facebook, and thousands of other sites we use every day were either founded or popularized during the first decade of the 21st century.  DVDs, solid-state drives, Bluetooth, wireless routers, and many other technologies that we now take for granted were unheard of before the dawn of the 21st century.  Technology has accelerated to the point where the average U.S. citizen wouldn’t be able to survive in a 1990s world – so many of us have become heavily reliant on our email-enabled cell phones, our GPS devices, and our high-capacity pocket digital camcorders.

Along with these groundbreaking new technologies comes the advent of citizen journalism.  As someone who wants to be a professional journalist, the rise of social media that has led to first-person reporting is fascinating to me.  If I see something happen on the street in front of me, I can inform the world with text, photos, video, and even a live stream with my cell phone.  With cheaper storage and faster Internet, people around the world have brought the news from the front lines to our computer screens.  Credibility remains an issue for the nay-sayers -- “Who will verify that this report is legitimate?” they ask.  In my opinion, credibility will sort itself out, just as we’ve learned which shopping websites to trust and which ones to avoid.  Citizen news streams will establish reputations, and we’ll see their valuable content become more publicized.

While those three trends were among the most important to me, numerous other trends helped define this past decade.  But since this is a personal blog, I’ve decided to stick with those three.  I’m sure you can get top 10 lists of topic-specific trends (“The 10 Biggest Developments in Cooking”, for example) if you do some Googling.
So as part of the worldwide remembrance of the 2000s, here, in no particular order, is my list of some of the top events from the past decade that shaped our planet.

November 4, 2008: Barack Obama becomes the first African-American president-elect of the United States
This is a no-brainer.  Never in history have circumstances shifted so dramatically in the course of a few decades.  In 1960, it would have been unheard of for a man like Barack Obama to become more than a Senator’s page, let alone a Senator, or the President of the United States.  No matter what you think of the man’s policies, you have to agree that the paradigm shift in race perspectives is impressive and encouraging.

September 11, 2001: In the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil, al-Qaeda terrorists hijack planes and fly them into the World Trade Center.
Most people who were alive for the September 11 terrorist attacks will always remember where they were when they heard the news.  On that day, as went U.S. foreign policy, so went global politics.  The United States had been robbed of a certain imperviousness, and the American people were, for a brief period of time, united in anger and a need for vengeance.

August 29, 2005: Hurricane Katrina makes landfall in the United States and devastates much of the East Coast.
It may have destroyed much of FEMA’s credibility and cost over $80 billion, but Hurricane Katrina also highlighted the resilience of the people of New Orleans and sparked a nation-wide effort to repair the region.  This storm brought out the worst in Mother Nature, but it brought out the best in human nature.

March 20, 2003: Armed forces from the United States and allied nations launch the opening salvos of the war in Iraq.
Much of the criticism leveled at President Bush, and much of the heat that President Obama is getting right now, stems from the ill-fated decision to invade Iraq.  Ostensibly in search of nuclear weapons rumored to be in the possession of Saddam Hussein, the war has raged on for almost seven years and shows no sign of letting up.  The war has been both a boon and a bane for the United States.  On the one hand, national confidence in U.S. foreign policy has reached drastically low levels.  On the other hand, American citizens do seem to be much more sympathetic and helpful as it concerns the soldiers who protect their freedom.  The war in Iraq became the defining element of President Bush’s two terms in office.  One can only hope that it comes to a close before too long.

December 2007: The United States enters a large-scale recession that affects jobs, health care, and the approval ratings of a new President.
There’s no question about it: this recession has done more harm than perhaps any other event in the whole decade.  Job losses have been staggering, countless Americans have died due to unaffordable health care, and the overall state of affairs in the country has left some wondering if the United States is losing its dominance.  With the Christmas Eve passage of a massive health care bill in the Senate, Americans are gearing up for partial relief, but it is unclear when this recession will be fully abated.

October 23, 2001: Apple Computer unveils the first iPod, revolutionizing technology and launching a now-vibrant portable media industry.
With the launch of the iPod, the world of technology became a much more exciting place.  Apple’s portable media player would eventually spur new advances in portable video, cell phones, media purchasing, and even social media.  Steve Jobs’s flagship product paved the way for exciting developments in both portable media and portable gadgets in general.  One could argue that gadgets are more appealing to the general public today because of how appealing the iPod itself has become.


Thanks for reading my last blog post of 2009.  I hope you had a great year, and if not, hopefully 2010 helps turn things around for you.

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Hello Winter Break!

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The end of school today officially signaled the beginning of winter break.  It will be my last winter break as a high school student, and I intend to use it wisely.  We’re going on vacation around Christmas time.  On Tuesday I have a final college interview.  And I have a sizeable amount of homework to complete between now and January 4th, the first day back at school.  But between the reading for English class and the note-taking for Constitutional Law class, I hope to get in some relaxation.  Most of my podcasts are going on vacation until early January, so I won’t have a lot of audio content to keep me busy (more time to finish the book I’m reading for English, I guess).

Happy Holidays everyone!

(Photo courtesy of Flickr.)

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It’s a Celebration

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Just a quick update to address Lucasfilm’s announcement last Thursday of Star Wars Celebration V.  The convention will take place from August 12th to August 15th, 2010, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL.  This is obviously great news for me, as it is for most Star Wars fans.  We have been waiting for several years for this announcement, and I’m glad it’s finally official.  I’ll be there as part of the team from TheForce.Net, so be sure to stop by the on-site TFN presence and say hello.  I can promise even now that we’ll leave no fan behind.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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Today is Thanksgiving in the United States of America.  We give thanks for all the great things we have in life that many across the country are not fortunate enough to have.  Here’s my list.

    1. My health
    2. A loving family
    3. A supportive school community
    4. A phenomenal group of friends, both locally and around the world
    5. A roof over my head and food on my plate

I am obviously forgetting many elements of my life that I take for granted each and every day, but I wanted to restrict this list to five items so I didn’t go on forever.  If you have made a positive influence in my life, consider yourself thanked.

Today’s festivities also remind me of my first exposure to the ForceCast.  On Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2006, I was traveling to Michigan for a get-together with relatives.  I knew I would be bored during the flight and the drives, and I anticipated being bored with occasional down time during the weekend.  I’m not sure how I thought of podcasts as a way to kill time, but once I did, I was downloading MP3 files like crazy from shows like Buzz Out Loud, This WEEK in TECH, and others.  I started with tech because that was my current passion, but I decided to try searching for “Star Wars podcast” on Google on a whim.  My Star Wars passion was dwindling, but the first result on Google definitely rekindled it.  It said “TheForce.Net – Podcast”, and the attached MP3 file -- “Forcecast-111706.mp3” – launched me into a whole new world of Star Wars fandom.  So today, in addition to the essentials, I give thanks for The ForceCast, for opening a new door for me.

 Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

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Technology Sucks (But It Still Rocks)

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My laptop’s screen broke.  Again.  Same issue as before, or so I assume (turning on the laptop produced the same problem as before).  Same fix too: I dropped off the laptop at Staples EasyTech on Saturday.  The repair process is estimated to take 7-10 days, which means I’ll be without it for about two weeks, given how much they underestimate.  I am fortunate enough to have a working desktop that I can fall back on, but not having the portability of a laptop certainly hampers some things.

I’d like to think I practice smart computing; I do complete backups of my laptop daily, and I’m careful to keep the most precious data online as well.  I have a copy of all my data on an external hard drive, so schoolwork should proceed as normal.  It’s the legwork needed to re-migrate new data back onto the repaired laptop – among other little things – that annoys me.

Luckily for me, I’ll be getting a new laptop for college.

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Four Days

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If you know what college this is, chances are it's still not the one to which I'm applying.

In four days, I will need to have all my ducks in a row vis-a-vis college.  I’m applying Early Decision and the deadline is November 15.  My teacher recommenders haven’t yet finished (started?) my letters, but on the bright side, my school sent out the required secondary school information.  For my part, I am still working on an essay or two – including the main Common App essay – but I think I’m 99% done with that.  Pending another read-through or two, I think I will be ready to submit the entire package.

Being ready to submit everything doesn’t change my trepidation.  In exactly thirty-three days I will know the result of this application.

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Fan Days III Wrap-Up

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Fan Days III 10-24-2009 6-10-25 PM

Last Friday, I left for a whirlwind trip to Plano, Texas, for a Star Wars convention called Fan Days III.  I returned Sunday night with unforgettable memories.  I talked with celebrities, met lots of friends new and old, and watched two live episodes of The ForceCast.  Feel free to check out my photos and videos.  I also wrote a recap piece for the Star Wars website TheForce.Net about the convention as a whole.  You can read it here.

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Idiotic Assertions of Ideological Impartiality: The FOX News Story

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I was watching CNN's Reliable Sources this morning, and they were discussing the battle between FOX News and the White House.  As I was watching the clips they played of Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck, I couldn't help but wonder, Are these guys serious?

How can FOX News honestly say that the White House has crossed the line?  How can Bill O'Reilly say that this is a witch hunt?  How can Glenn Beck compare the accusations against FOX News to the Holocaust?  The only criticism I'd level against the White House is that they only just got around to saying what they said.

FOX News was quick to respond to the White House’s claims that the network was actually just the TV news wing of the Republican Party.  But they did so in an unsurprisingly pathetic way: they whined and cried.  Okay, so actually they just whined.  Glenn Beck only cries for his country.  But I digress.  Bill O’Reilly acted as if everyone was picking on FOX News, ganging up on them and leveling unfair, unfounded, and un-researched criticism at them.  Let me repeat part of that last sentence: ganging up on them and leveling unfair, unfounded, and un-researched criticism at them.  Stop and think for a moment: who does that sound like?

The biggest problem with FOX News is not that they are conservative-leaning.  That would only be an issue if flagship FOX News programs like Glenn Beck's were considered journalism.  They're not.  Beck himself has said numerous times that he is more of an entertainment personality than a journalist.  His job is to rile up the conservative masses, not to provide balanced news coverage.

No, the biggest problem with FOX News is their attitude.  I don’t even mind that they only cover things from a conservative point of view.  My problem with them is that they pretend to be balanced.  They don’t admit that their hosts, their talking heads, their story lineup, and their word choice all point to a rightward slant.  If you were an Independent and you watched FOX News and CNN covering the same politically-charged story, you’d see a clear difference in their methodology.  CNN would toe the line and abstain from making a judgment, but FOX News would insinuate certain things about how the story pertained to “the radical left-leaning Obama administration.”

The sheer amount of suggestive language that FOX News personalities use – all while pretending to be impartial – is appalling.  FOX News anchors ask loaded questions of their analysts.  They can make even the most innocuous stories into political fodder that will delight their more rabid viewers.  But there is no admission of this at FOX News.  Everyone at FOX News seems to believe that they are the watchdogs of the administration, rather than the schoolyard bully waiting behind the corner to knock you down every time you walk by. (Hint: they’re actually the latter.)

When Glenn Beck does his program, he pretends to be a humble, concerned, and patriotic citizen, but in reality he is just a self-assured, egotistical airhead.  Again, I see no problem with him hosting a conservative program.  It’s one thing for him to cover only conservative stories and address things from a conservative point of view only.  But it’s another thing entirely for him to deny that he does it.  Now folks, Glenn Beck is a liar in many ways, but he does not lie about his opinions.  He honestly believes that FOX News is fair to all sides.  Yet so many stories slip by the FOX News assignment desk that it makes me question Beck’s assertion.  FOX News gives significant airtime to people who believe that homosexuals are the spawn of the devil, but god forbid they talk about something pro-liberal without turning it into a referendum on fascism.

Even more troublesome is the way that FOX News covers conservative mishaps.  When the Mark Sanford scandal came to light, FOX News wrote “(D) South Carolina” under his name in the on-screen graphic.  It’s hard to believe this was an accident.  The FOX News control room probably thought that their viewers were too brainwashed to notice the discrepancy.

To play devil’s advocate to myself here, I will suggest that FOX News might be trapped in this kind of “distort-tainment” by its viewers.  They have the largest cable audience of any network, and while that’s obviously due to the number of wounded conservatives seeking refuge in one-sided shout-fests, it doesn’t change the ratings.  If FOX News stopped sensationalizing news and started covering it fairly, they would definitely lose a large portion of that audience.

It all boils down to one thing for FOX News.  What do you care about more, Nielsen numbers or actually being fair and balanced?

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In Defense of Star Wars

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I never thought I’d be defending the best movie series of all time from the website BigShinyRobot.  The co-editor of the site, Bryan Young, writes the Star Wars Examiner section of Examiner.com.  My good friend Mandy considers Mr. Young a friend.  So it surprised me that Mr. Young’s website would feature a post entitled, “Top Ten Reasons Why Star Wars Sucks!

Now, I’m not sure if Mr. Young himself wrote this post.  He is not the only person who posts on BigShinyRobot; someone named Lucas Ackley also posts there.  So until I learn otherwise, I’ll assume that this was Ackley’s doing. (UPDATE: Mandy informs me that the writer is actually a guy named Jason.)

So, on to the post.  Let’s put aside the fact that it’s a top ten list with the words “Star Wars” in the title, and therefore was only written to get clicks.  It’s important to refute the content, rather than the possible reason for this sorry collection of words hitting the web in the first place.  The article starts at #10 and makes its way up the ladder of perceived Star Wars failings.  I’ll address each point individually.  All emphasis (bolded words) in quoted statements is my doing.

 

#10: The Phantom Menace

As far as the movies go, this is a low. Not just because of annoying characters introduced (not excluding them either) but simply because it was boring. Most people forget how boring it was. The reason for this, I think, is because of how boring it actually was.

So a three-person lightsaber fight in a cavernous Naboo power generator station was boring?  Or maybe you fell asleep during that space battle where Anakin destroyed the droid control ship and escaped the explosion with Millennium Falcon-like timing?  No, I’ll bet you just couldn’t stay awake as Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan fought their way to safety aboard the Trade Federation flagship.  The fact is, The Phantom Menace was the first Star Wars movie in 16 years.  The hype surrounding this film was absolutely unprecedented.  I do not think any film since has engendered such anticipation.  The wide-spread criticism of The Phantom Menace by older fans is troublesome, because it displays a lack of understanding on their part.  George Lucas is no longer making Star Wars for you 30-and-above’s.  He is focusing on the future, and you are not it.

#9: Anakin Skywalker Through The Ages

Starting with how annoying he was in Phantom Menace, and god was he annoying in Phantom Menace. “It’s working, It’s working!” Geez. It’s hard to imagine how it could get any worse. But it does. Hayden Christensen. It makes me think that ‘Bad Acting’ was a listed requirement to get an audition. If the prequels weren’t a mistake he sure made them feel like one. Not to mention the cartoon voice actors that now have to imitate his stiff line reading (as opposed to acting.)

I guess you haven’t been watching The Clone Wars.  Because if you had, you would realize how dynamic, complex, and intense the character of Anakin Skywalker has become.  I’ll grant you that Jake Lloyd as Anakin was not what we were expecting.  But perhaps that’s a good thing; after all, we needed to see how the man who would become Darth Vader behaved as a young boy.  Put simply, we needed perspective.  If you watch all six movies chronologically, you will see that Anakin grows darker and darker with every film.  As for Hayden Christensen, all I can say is pressure.  Imagine having the responsibility of portraying the most despicable movie villain of all time before his turn.  Imagine having to bridge the gap between a happy-go-lucky boy and a black-suited terror.  That’s a lot of responsibility if you ask me, and I doubt you could do any better.  Christensen was a bit wooden at times, but that was more a factor of the scripted dialog than his own abilities.

#8: C-3PO

It’s truly amazing how much of your time George was aloud to waste depicting how much trouble C-3PO could get into when his head was placed onto the body of a battle droid. This wasn’t funny. This was stupid.

Really?  You take issue with C-3PO because George had him provide a few minutes of comic relief?  I found his antics pretty funny.  They provided a nice contrast to the Battle of Geonosis, especially given how many Jedi died that day.  I’d say George wanted to defuse some of the darkness and provide younger fans with something they could connect with.  You aren’t going to get many eight-year-olds to enjoy your film if there’s nothing comically redeeming about it.

#7: Jar Jar Binks

Ah, yes, I wondered when you would get to him.  I’m not even going to debate your words in this section, because, quite frankly, you don’t offer much of an argument.  You say:

I don’t think I need to say much about Jar-Jar, but I do wonder if it’s a coincidence that this character was introduced to the Star Wars universe only a short year after Ferngully 2: The Magical Rescue?

Oh, but I do think you need to say much about Jar Jar.  In fact, I would humbly suggest that if you want to make an argument, you should make it yourself, instead of relying on what you assume is general sentiment to make it for you.  I find some of Jar Jar’s behavior – alright, most of it – to be slapstick and cheesy.  But if we examine George’s motives for the Prequel Trilogy – essentially, “Bring Star Wars to the next generation of movie fans” – then Jar Jar makes a lot of sense.  Jar Jar was never intended to fit in with the rest of The Phantom Menace’s cast.  He was there to draw in young kids, to bridge the gap between serious conflict and giggling children.  If you don’t like him … well, that’s fine.  But don’t assume that he was a mistake by further assuming that The Phantom Menace was meant for you.  Because if you were older than eighteen in 1999, it wasn’t.

#6: The Special Editions

I could get behind the whole special edition thing if it was going to bring something better to the universe.

I don’t think George made the Special Editions to add to Star Wars, I think he made them to fix Star Wars.  Taking into account the technology George had at his disposal in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I’d say he did pretty well with the Original Trilogy.  However, as the decades passed, it became increasingly clear to him that he could improve his three films.  He could fix certain inconsistencies, refine certain effects, and improve on minor issues with the new technology that was available.  So he did.

#5: Because it has no balls

When you pit R2-D2 against a super battle droid it’s literally painful to watch them not blow the shit out of him. Wiping the Gungans off of the face of Naboo wouldn’t have hurt either.

If you knew anything about either R2-D2 or super battle droids, you would know that the latter weren’t well programmed and the former was nimble and resourceful.  It’s not just that R2-D2 can’t be killed in Revenge of the Sith because he needs to appear in subsequent stories.  It’s the skill sets of the two droids.  And for the record, if the battle droid had “blown the shit out of him,” the battle droid would have been consumed by the explosion, as they were in close quarters at the time.  There is a lot of gutsy stuff in Star Wars – tell me with a straight face that Obi-Wan bisecting Darth Maul or Anakin slaying a whole camp of Tusken Raiders doesn’t impress you.

#4: The Star Wars Holiday Special

Some might think it’s low of me to bring this up as a reason Star Wars sucks.
“Oh come on, everyone makes a mistake now and again.” They might say.

No, actually, I agree with you.  But in my opinion, The Holiday Special is basically the only mistake Star Wars has made.  I believe that all other contentious Star Wars products or shows were made for a specific reason, with a specific goal in mind.  But yes, The Holiday Special was just embarrassing.

#3: The Ewok Adventures

While watching this I want everyone to take note of the fact that George Lucas has a writing credit. He did this to you.

This is one of the “contentious Star Wars products” to which I was referring.  If you recall, George wanted to open Star Wars to younger people.  This show hit the airwaves in 1984, a year after the final OT film and therefore 12 months after Star Wars screen buzz had died off.  George was aiming this series directly at kids who were growing up with little Star Wars media to grasp.

#2: The Clone Wars: Theatre Release

Jabba the Hutt’s kidnapped son? They wanted people to pay to see this?…Really?….Really?

The Clone Wars film spawned a series that shattered viewership records in the youth demographics.  So if your question about payment is serious, then yes, they did expect people to see it.  And if Cartoon Network’s numbers are any indication, people enjoyed it enough to start watching the show.

#1: Star Wars is Forever

The thing that sucks the most about the series is that it doesn’t know when to stop, and will never stop. No matter how much torture it puts us through, no matter how horrible the live action show ends up being, no matter if scientist prove that watching Star Wars deforms children, it will never stop. There’s a very good chance that in thirty years your childrens, childrens, children will be asking you to buy them the new Star Wars dream house, complete with Darth Vader’s motorcycle, and it makes me sick.

I’m not sure how you managed to turn the Star Wars fan community’s rallying cry into an insult, especially given the fact that some of your examples are unfounded (what suggests that scientists will decry Star Wars for adverse effects on children?).  If Star Wars is popular enough to generate spin-off shows, zillions of action figures, and untold numbers of props, costumes, and playthings, that’s just an indicator how beloved the franchise is.  Why do you think licensees keep putting out Star Wars merchandise? Because it sells.  People don’t buy Star Wars products out of some hollow brand loyalty.  They buy them because they want them.  No one is Forcing them (pun very much intended) to spend their hard-earned money on toys for their kids.

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Well, now that that’s out of my system, I welcome any comments or feedback you have.  If I’ve made factual errors, let me know, and I’ll correct them.  If you want to debate this in more detail, you can contact me on Twitter or shoot me an email.

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College and Clone Wars

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Well that’s an odd mix.  For the record, they’re separate topics.

In the past few months, I have been ramping up my college work as the application deadline draws nearer.  We finished visiting colleges, and now we’re just returning to some of them for interviews.  I have a list of about twelve colleges where I’m applying.  Most recently, I’ve been addressing envelopes for teacher recommendations and school forms.  Can you believe you need four stamps per school envelope?  That’s like … a lot of stamps!  Also part of the process is writing a “brag sheet” for my school’s college counselor to use in writing my recommendation.  It was interesting to create that document, as it essentially summarized all my non-academic activities from the past few years onto a single sheet of paper.

Now on to the fun stuff.  Recently I was offered the incredible opportunity to write The Clone Wars reviews for the popular Star Wars website TheForce.Net.  I, of course, jumped at the chance.  The two-episode premiere was last Friday, and I was prepared.  I took copious notes, wrote up lengthy posts, and published them on Saturday.  I have already received numerous emails with positive feedback – and even one correction.  I am very proud to be part of the best team in Star Wars news.  Look for my reviews here every Saturday.

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Really, Conservatives? REALLY?

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I’m a liberal guy, it’s true, but there are some things that transcend political opinions.  Like this FOX News story about parents forbidding their children’s schools from showing the kids President Obama’s speech to students next week.

Unbelievable.

This goes beyond whether or not you agree with the man.  This is censorship and, quite frankly, abuse of parental powers.  You are restricting the information your children can gather about the world around them.  Even if you don’t personally agree with what Obama has to say, what gives you the right to prevent your children from forming their own opinions?  If you only allow them to hear speeches that present a message you agree with, they’ll turn out like you: bitter, crazed, and only stocked with facts that support their viewpoint.

In the FOX News article, parent Regine Gordon says this:

"It's kind of like going through the children to get to their parents. Children are very vulnerable and excited. I mean, this is the president. I think it's an underhanded tactic and indicative of the way things are being done."

Okay, two things:

1. President Obama does not have the power to control your children’s minds.  I know this may surprise some of you, but it is the simple truth.

2. Even if your kid agrees with the President’s words, and even if he or she tells you that you should support Obama’s reforms, you are not powerless before your offspring.  You are, in fact, the parent, and for the time being you’re the one paying the bills.  Your children don’t decide your political leaning.

Also from the FOX News article:

The idea of having Obama speak directly to children without so much as a permission slip being sent home just "makes you feel a little funny," said Beth Milledge of Winterset, Iowa. She said she plans on going to school with her 8-year-old son to watch the address with him.

"I want to know how it's being presented," she said. "I'm all for my child having respect for the president, but why wouldn't he show us the speech first and then go from there?"

Maybe because he doesn’t want you to fill your child’s head with hatred, lies, and utter nonsense before he speaks to your kid himself.  Which is probably what you’re going to do anyway, Mrs. Milledge, since you’re tagging along with your third-grader on Tuesday.  Man, that must be embarrassing:

“Hey Jimmy, what’s your mom doing here?”

“Well, she’s kind of a zealot.  She doesn’t want me to hear anything but her own opinions.”

For the record, I am aware of the fact that most third-graders don’t know what the word zealot means.  But I’m sure if Mrs. Milledge was my mother, I’d want to know how to accurately describe her.

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Leverage

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One of the best things to come out of my months of summer employment was my exposure to a superb television series called Leverage.  The show revolves around an ex-insurance agent named Nathan Ford, who gathers a team of four criminals (a brawny hitter, a talented grifter, a brilliant hacker, and a super-smooth thief) to con the greedy and corrupt for the benefit of the team’s clients.  Leverage is basically the best show on TNT, and even though I’ve only been a fan for a few weeks, I am now hooked.  I can’t watch the episodes as they premiere (they air right in the middle of ForceCast LIVE), but that’s what a Media Center DVR is for.

Check out this amazing clip from a Season 2 episode that is just one example of the show’s brilliance.

Check out Leverage, Wednesday nights at 9pm Eastern on TNT.

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Tech Memories I Don’t Remember

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As tomorrow is my last day working IT support at school, I thought I’d look back on what my boss and I discussed during our down time in the office.  Much of it was about the “good old days” of tech.  My boss was around for the early days of modern computing, and I learned a lot about the way things used to be.  We talked a lot about the computers themselves, but we didn’t focus on the operating systems.  So I went online to find an OS retrospective where I could learn more about the early years.  Browsing around, I found Maximum PC’s comprehensive “Mac OS 7 to Windows 7” feature.  I recommend it if you a) were around back then and want to reminisce or b) want to increase your knowledge of computing history.  Enjoy the read!

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More on Blogging

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Along the same lines as my last post, I have yet another audio recommendation for you, the loyal reader.  This one is also available as a podcast, but it originally aired on a very old broadcast medium: the radio.  Specifically, this is from a talk program called The Diane Rehm Show on WAMU 88.5, the D.C. area NPR station.  This edition of the program featured an interview with Scott Rosenberg, author of the new book on blogging called Say Everything.  As someone who evangelizes blogging and new-media journalism in general, this book looks fascinating to me.  In fact, it’s number one on my Audible.com purchase list right now.

In the radio interview, Rosenberg talks about how blogging is revolutionizing both journalism and the world in general.  For some of you techies out there, some of what he says may be obvious to you.  But Rosenberg does an excellent job explaining both why blogging has caught on and why it’s vital for the future.  I highly recommend listening to this interview, whether you are an avid blogger or someone trying to understand it all.  You can find the interview here.

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“Whistling into the Wind” (A.K.A. Problems with Web Publishing)

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There was an excellent conversation about the state of web publishing on this week’s episode of This WEEK in TECH.  TWiT, as fans call it, is the Internet’s most popular technology podcast, hosted by Leo Laporte and consisting of a rotating panel of guest luminaries.  This most recent episode featured Leo and three guests discussing the current web publishing situation, the hazards of posting to closed (and flaky) platforms, and the reinvigoration of blogs as a form of chronicling one’s thoughts.  The discussion centers around one of the most important issues in today’s digital world: where’s the best place to publish your stuff?

But I digress.

TWiT is an excellent podcast in general, but today’s episode was particularly interesting to people like myself who follow these high-tech trends.  If you consider yourself to be part of “the digerati,” I recommend giving this episode a listen.

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The Great EU Debacle

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On last week’s episode of The ForceCast, Jason reopened a huge can of worms when he raved about how happy he was to hear that Karen Traviss was departing Star Wars.  There have been numerous responses, both on Twitter and on the forums, and that same show even saw two live calls, one of which was mine.  But as responses go, very few of them compare to the one posted by my good friend Mandy on her blog.

In the blog post, which you can find here, Mandy opens a four-part series of posts that will deal with the issue of the Expanded Universe.  This first post deals with the truth behind Traviss’s departure and what it means for both her and the EU.  If you are at all interested in the EU debacle, I highly recommend that you read this informative and interesting blog post.

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College Search Week Wrap-Up

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Today we visited the last college on a marathon week-long visit trip.  I pretty much liked all of the colleges we saw.  They’re all small liberal arts colleges in the Northeast, with flexible course requirements and a big emphasis on the faculty-student relationship.  I could see myself at one of them more so than the others, but they’re all very hard to get into, so I’ll skip the name-dropping in case they are reading this.  (Would you accept a student who said you weren’t his first choice?)

The college search is a very long and arduous process, but I think I’m well on my way.  I’m almost done with my Common Application, although now I think I may change my topic.  (Damn you, vacillating mind!)  I have my recommendations lined up, and one of them is confirmed.  I have my SAT IIs done, and I will take the regular SAT again to make sure I’ve gotten the most out of the test.  I may take the ACT, just because I have been told I’d do well on it.

Here’s a list of the colleges I saw this week:

Monday – Drew University

Tuesday – University of Rochester

Wednesday – Hamilton College

Thursday – Skidmore College

Friday – Brandeis University

Also, who knew that there were so many colleges on Twitter?

 

(Image from Flickr user drmillerlg)

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Good News

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My good friend Mandy has convinced me to blog more regularly and in shorter form.  I’ve been writing these really long posts lately and I’d like less text, more often.  So I will.

And that’s only Good News Part One.

In other good  news, my friends at the ForceCast, the popular Star Wars podcast from TheForce.Net and Rebelscum.com, launched their very own website today.  You can find it here.  I really like the design and feature set – this is certainly a step up from the Podcast section of TheForce.Net.  The ForceCast just keeps growing and growing, and I’m very proud to be a part of that community.

And for Good News Part Three, today is my sister’s birthday.  Happy Birthday Lisa!

Look for more posts on this blog very soon.

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A Magical Summer So Far

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Since I last posted here, I’ve taken classes and started a summer job, and just today I saw what is quite possibly the best movie of Summer 2009.  There’s a lot to cover here, so let’s get started.

In late June, I started two classes at American University in Washington, D.C.  I took a class in Video Production in the morning (9am-12pm), and a Broadcast Journalism session in the afternoon (1pm-4pm).  The afternoon class was much more fun – we got more hands-on experience and had much more success with our endeavors.  I still enjoyed the morning class – although I didn’t actually learn anything about making movies, I got the opportunity to further hone my skills and work with like-minded young people.  In the afternoon class, we produced news packages, organized them into a full newscast (complete with an intro animated and voiced by yours truly), heard from guest speakers, and even took a tour of the NBC News Washington bureau.  All in all, it was a great two weeks, and when the dust settled on the last day of the sessions (the day on which we showcased our work for the full summer program), I was proud of what I accomplished.

Recently, I started a long-term job at my school.  For just about the whole rest of the summer, I will be helping the tech department deploy new software and hardware, sell off old equipment, provide IT support for teachers and faculty, and prepare the new computers for use in September.  I’m working from 9:30am to 4pm, but I often arrive early to get settled in and oriented for the day.  We take our lunch breaks in the computer lab (anathema during the school year), and we usually watch a movie or TV episode.  I really enjoy this job, because it combines several of my passions: working with people I get along with, learning more about technology, helping less-gifted individuals, and playing with cool new technology that arrives in our inventory.

In good news (although I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t be characterizing it that way), my sister is away at camp for the summer.  Although dinner conversations will be less lively, I don’t have to wear headphones when I watch movies or enjoy podcasts.  I’ve written her once or twice already – I really need to be better about that – and she has written me several times.  Unfortunately for her, this is her last summer at camp.  While she has many privileges and responsibilities as a member of the oldest age group, she is very sad that she won’t be returning for another summer after this.

I’ve been getting a lot of packages in the past few weeks.  First it was three Star Wars books (including Fate of the Jedi: Omen, which I’m still in the middle of), then it was some wireless gear to extend our home network, then it was a new 20” LCD monitor that I scored for an awesome price, and then it was a new podcast microphone and a set of headphones.  Lots of great gear, and all at great prices.  I don’t think I’ll be ordering much for at least a few weeks.

One of the most highly-anticipated Star Wars events of 2009 is just around the corner.  San Diego Comic-Con will take place from July 23rd through July 26th, but the day I really care about is July 25, also known to SDCC fans as Star Wars Day.  Lucasfilm is holding a “Star Wars Spectacular” panel at 5:15pm, and gaming news channel G4 will be there.  Their coverage will actually air the next day, along with several additional hours of Star Wars events from the convention, but I’ll be following all the news out of SDCC on Twitter and a variety of live-blogs.  I’ll actually be in Maine with my family that weekend, but I’ve made sure I’ll be at a computer for the hour-long Lucasfilm panel.  I’m also taping the entire G4 Star Wars rundown at home, so I can have it for posterity when I return.

Today I saw Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  One word: wow.  I know many people thought it was too light on action, but I personally loved it.  It had just the right mix of romance and adventure.  The acting was flawless.  The comedy was perfectly timed; I was in stitches at all the right moments.  And don’t get me started on how well they did (BOOK SIX SPOILER) Dumbledore’s death scene.  I am extremely happy about how this movie turned out, and I can’t wait for the first “half” of the seventh film (they’re releasing it in two parts).

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Goodbye Israel!

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As I write this, I’m sitting again in the United First Class lounge at Frankfurt International Airport.  We took a 5:30am (Israel time) flight to Frankfurt, and we had a 12:00pm (Frankfurt time) flight to Dulles in D.C., but it was delayed an hour.  I swear this airport wants to trap us here.  Anyway, we made our way to the United lounge after deplaning and were allowed once again to slip into the First Class section of the lounge.  We also got another one-hour T-Mobile Internet card for free, and you will read this blog post shortly after my time begins and I hit the publish button.

Since I wrote my last blog post, we moved to our third and final hotel.  We left early in the morning on a long drive with several stops.  Our first stop was a tree-planting excursion.  We each dug out soil and placed a small sapling inside; we then recited a prayer.  In Judaism, this ritual honors loved ones past and present.  After we left the tree-planting site, we drove to the city of Haifa, where our guide stopped the car so we could get out and take in a beautiful view of the Mediterranean Sea.  Our next stop was the ruins of Caesarea, where the seat of Roman power lies in excellent condition.  We saw an aqueduct, a theater, and a coliseum, and it was easy to see the shape of the ruins and imagine what they looked like long ago.  After we left Caesarea, we drove to our third hotel in the city of Tel Aviv.

Once there, we said goodbye to our guide, who had taken us all over Israel for the past week, and checked in.  We didn’t have much time before dinner, so we freshened up and then went out into the city.  We easily found our restaurant – which miraculously had free Wi-Fi, as did many places along the route.  We took a taxi back that night, as we were stuffed from the meal.  Unfortunately, our Tel Aviv hotel charged $20 for a day of Internet.  I bought the access and started it right after we got back from dinner.  That way, it would expire just before bed the next night – our last night in Israel.

The next morning – our final full day in the country – we enjoyed an excellent breakfast by the beach, and then set off for our day excursion at the Palmach museum.  The museum featured an interactive walkthrough of rooms set up to depict events in the life of Israel’s first defense force.  It was interesting to see the genesis of both the state and the army chronicled in such a non-standard fashion.  After we got back from the museum, we went to the beach for a little while and swam in the Mediterranean.  We only had limited time after the beach excursion, so we went down to the pier, where our dinner restaurant was located.  Amazingly, the pier featured almost-ubiquitous Wi-Fi access.  We were very tired from a full day of events, and we knew that we would get back to the room around 9:30pm and have to wake up at 1:30am the next morning (this morning) for our taxi.  I managed to get a fair amount of sleep anyway, and I also slept this morning on our first flight.

That’s about it from Israel.  We will arrive in Washington, D.C., at around 5:00pm today Eastern time.  Look for Twitter updates – and maybe more photos on this blog – in the coming days.

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Lots of Rest, Photos, and Fun

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Since I last posted, I’ve recovered from my sickness and gone on two days’ worth of excursions.  Yesterday, we drove from our first hotel to our second, stopping at several places along the way.

Our first stop was a large mountain city where several chronological layers of archaeology were on display.  We saw ancient bathhouses, entrance gates, palace bedrooms, and even horse stables.  We walked down into a passageway that was used to ferry water into the city from the outside.  Our second stop was an old synagogue where the floor mosaic had been mostly preserved.  The chamber containing the mosaic included a video depicting the story of its creation.  The last stop before we reached our second hotel was a series of pools, where we relaxed for an hour before continuing on our journey.

When we reached the hotel, I was dismayed to discover that the Internet was only available for a high price.  An hour of Wi-Fi here is equivalent to five dollars.  How unbelievable is that?  I understand that this place prides itself on rural living, but charging for one’s connection to the outside world is ridiculous.  Anyway, I bought four hours.  That should last me until we leave tomorrow morning.

Today was our first full day at our second hotel, and we spent most of it out in the country.  Our first stop was an old Jewish city, where we toured two synagogues of contrasting Jewish sects.  We also bought a new menorah, for what I believe was too high a price. (But the merchant was very nice, so maybe it all balances out.)  Our second excursion today was a long Jeep tour of the Golan Heights.  We saw various fruits and vegetables, some of which our Jeep driver picked and gave to us.  We also drove past several bombed-out Syrian bunkers from “back in the day.”  After our jeep tour, we met up with our main Israel trip guide, and she took us to a hill overlooking Syria.  It was my first view of the country. (Historical note: even though the conflict is over, Syria is still officially at war with Israel.)

Right now, I’m sitting in the room writing this blog post with the Internet turned off (to save precious connection time).  The rest of my family is off on a kayaking/rafting trip—that’s not really my cup of tea, and there wasn’t an opportunity for photography, so I stayed behind.

More blog posts to come.

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Photos from Israel

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I’m sick today (as I was yesterday), which means no excursions for me.  While you wait for more updates on my activities, check out these photos from around Israel.

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Our First Day in Israel

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After arriving at our hotel room early this morning, we quickly headed to bed.  We needed as much rest as possible for today’s excursion: a full-day tour of the Old City of Jerusalem.  We woke up at 8:00am, ate a quick breakfast, and made our way to one of Jerusalem’s many gates to meet our tour guide.  She was a young Israeli woman who spoke perfect English, had a bilingual son, and was married to a Canadian.  She gave us a tour of the various religious quarters in the Old City.  We also visited the Dome of the Rock, the Wailing Wall, the Davidson Center archaeological site, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  There was many a great photo opportunity.  Our guide also brought us around the streets of Jerusalem, showed us the various market areas, and took us to a falafel restaurant for lunch.  We left the tour feeling very knowledgeable and very tired.

After taking a rest at the hotel, we went up to the top floor where they have an Executive lounge.  Our hotel rooms include access to this lounge, where we found food and drink, prime seating with a view, and a big-screen TV.  We ate a little bit up there tonight, and I think we’re going to forgo a large dinner because we’re so tired and just go out for dessert.

By the way, I’ll have photos from the whole day’s events up later in the vacation.

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An Arrival Fraught with Problems

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After I wrote that last blog post, we waited around for a few hours until they kicked us out of the United lounge.  We then split up: my dad and I went to the Lufthansa lounge while my mom and sister explored the airport shops and restaurants.  Later, we ate a nice, relaxing dinner, and then walked over to our gate.  Flights departing for Israel out of Frankfurt have their own secluded terminal with extra security (I was patted down for only the second time in my entire life).  The flight itself was uneventful; we slept for the most part, except for a pretty bad meal in the middle.

After we disembarked, we breezed through Passport Control and grabbed our bags easily.  That’s when I started to wonder if things could possibly go this smoothly.  So of course, things started going wrong.  First, the currency exchange machine ripped us off.  We put in a credit card to draw funds and exchange them into Israeli shekels, and the first transaction went fine.  However, when we decided to do it again, the machine didn’t give us the shekels.  We are of the opinion that the machine still charged the credit card for the money it didn’t give us.  We then went to the taxi area to get a ride to our hotel.

That’s when the second problem occurred.  We had been told that the taxi ride would be a flat fee of a certain amount, but when we had loaded up all the bags and gotten in the car, the driver told us it would be more expensive.  We would have left and waited for another one, but for two reasons: 1) our bags were loaded, and 2) the driver said all cab drivers would give us the same rate.  We didn’t fully believe him, but we were in a foreign country and didn’t want to push our luck.  So we took the ride to the hotel, jumped in bed, and feel asleep.

As I finish writing this, we just returned from a day excursion: a guided private tour of the Old City of Jerusalem.  More on that in my next update.

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Travel Hassles Can Pay Off

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As I write this, I’m sitting in the United Red Carpet Club lounge at Frankfurt International Airport.  Our flight here from Dulles was delayed several hours due to thunderstorms, so we missed our connecting flight to Tel Aviv and had to book another one.  The only problem is that it’s 11:30am local time as I write this (it will be published later, but I’ll get to that), and our flight is at 10:00pm.  That means we have an outrageous amount of time to kill before we board.  We were able to get to the United lounge, but this place closes at 5:30pm.  Luckily, we were told that we could go to the Lufthansa lounge after that.

The best part of this “my dad is a Global Services member” thing is that they let us into the First Class section of the United lounge even though we’re not flying First Class to Tel Aviv.  They have soup, sandwiches, and pizza in here – as well as the usual assortment of cookies, candies, and snacks.  The only downside is that the T-Mobile Hotspot service isn’t free – not even to Global Services members.  They gave us a 1-hour access card for free, but we’re waiting to use it until later in our stay.  That’s why I’m writing this at 11:30am despite the fact that you’re reading it much later: I’m waiting to hit the “post” button until my hour starts.

I’ll try to provide more updates as the trip continues, but you should check my Twitter page (http://twitter.com/erier2003) for all the details.


UPDATE 2:37PM: My stomach hurts.  Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten all that food in this lounge.  But it was so free!

UPDATE 3:40PM: Our free Internet card isn’t working.  It says 05-2009 on it, which leads me to believe that it expired.  Leave it to the airlines to ruin the one free thing I really care about.

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Lots to cover, where to start?

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Strut Your Mutt 2009 5-16-2009 12-09-14 PM

As I said in the title of this post, I’ve got a lot to say.  I last blogged in mid-April, and a lot of stuff has happened since then.

Well, for starters, I turned eighteen on April 28.  My parents and sister took me out to Clyde’s, one of my favorite restaurants, for dinner.  We then proceeded to my grandmother’s apartment, ostensibly to help her with some chores.  But of course, since we hadn’t yet had cake, I was suspicious.  We picked up my aunt and uncle on the way to my grandmother’s apartment (clue #2), and it was not long after we arrived that the singing began.  We did indeed have cake, and we ate it too.  I received several excellent gifts that day, including several Barnes & Noble gift cards and a Slingbox PRO-HD TV streaming box.  Despite all the hype from turning eighteen, I don’t really feel much different.  And I still haven’t registered for the Selective Service – out of sheer laziness, yes, but I also don’t think they even want me.

I also took my first AP exam, the culminating event of a long year of Calculus.  I took the exam from 8:00am to 1:00pm – a long, grueling process by which all the Calculus knowledge slowly seeped out of my brain and onto the answer sheet.  Since the exam, by the way, we’ve just been learning about extraneous Calc topics and concepts by way of graham crackers with frosting, brownies, candy, and cookies.  Yeah, I love my Calc teacher.

Mother’s Day was also a lot of fun.  My dad was actually away on a business trip, so my sister and I got up early on our own to fix a great breakfast for our mom.  We made cards, brought up the newspaper with the tray, and brought Maddie along.  We even got our dad on the phone for a bit.  Needless to say, all of it was recorded for posterity on my camera.  Of course, Maddie helped herself to quite a bit of food at one point, but the fact remains: our mom had a great Mother’s Day.

Last Saturday (May 16), we went to a neighborhood event for dogs entitled “Strut Your Mutt”.  The event, which consisted of vendor booths with free pet swag, contests for “Best [Insert Dog Characteristic Here]”, and a parade of dogs and owners.  We took a ridiculous amount of great free stuff, and Maddie even placed second in the “Best Kisser” competition.  By the way, you should really be reading Maddie’s Twitter page for the latest on her life.

While Saturday was a great day for Maddie, this past Monday (May 18) was a bittersweet day for me.  Monday night, from 8pm to 10pm, was the Season 7 finale of my favorite TV show, the FOX action series 24.  I have really loved Season 7 (“Day 7” in 24 terminology), and this double-episode finale was nothing short of brilliant.  I know that it’s received a lot of flak (I’ve been monitoring #24 on Twitter Search), but I thought it did a great job of both tying up a few loose ends and setting up an interesting Season 8.  I can’t count the number of times I was shouting at my TV during the 24 viewing sessions that quickly became routine on Monday nights.

Along the lines of 24 and Twitter, can I just say how much I love celebrities on Twitter?  Twitter plays host to great discussions and insight from personalities such as 24’s Annie Wersching, CNN’s Ed Henry and Larry King, NPR’s Peter Sagal, and StarWars.com’s Bonnie Burton.  Ed Henry is constantly posting photos behind the scenes of live shots and political events; Annie Wersching is a great source for images on the set of 24; and Bonnie Burton has easily become the link queen in my Twitter subscription pool.  I am truly glad to see that these individuals (and many, many others just like them) have embraced social media as a tool of outreach, communication, and promotion.

We’re getting very close to the end of the school year.  Most of my classes are now much more casual, and I have barely any homework anymore.  So let’s look ahead to the summer; mine is jam-packed.  I’m taking two SAT II Subject Tests (Math and Literature).  But after that, it gets much more fun.  I’ll be working for several weeks at my school, getting paid to help out with technology-related tasks.  I’m also taking two classes at American University: one in broadcast journalism and one in general filmmaking.  To add to all this, I’ll be going on several college visits across the east coast – and even some in the Midwest.  And that’s not to mention our family trip to Israel in mid-June.

So you should expect to see a nice big blog post about all of this (or at least some of it) in a month or two.  See you then.

Actually, this would be a good time to plug my Twitter feed.  I post multiple times per day and update my followers on the latest goings-on in my life.  So if these blog posts aren’t enough, follow me on Twitter.

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College Tours, a Mini-Meetup, and More

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Spring Break is officially over tomorrow.  I had two weeks (plus an extra day) of relaxation and school-free activities.

Well, not entirely.  While I wasn’t attending classes, I did have to travel quite a bit over the course of four days in the first week of break.  The reason being that I needed to get a head start on college tours.  On the first trip, from March 31st to April 1st, I went with my dad to look at Wheaton and Connecticut College.  Both schools looked appealing to me, and the campus-wide Wi-Fi certainly didn’t hurt.  I made it a ritual to try a specific lunch item from both colleges: a turkey sandwich with lettuce and mayonnaise on wheat bread.  Both colleges passed the taste test.  We returned home Wednesday night just in time for me to catch the live Force-Cast taping.  Then on April 3rd and April 4th I went with my mom to visit Skidmore and Vassar.  Again, both college had the right “individual attention liberal arts” feel to them.  At Skidmore we went out to lunch in a nearby restaurant (a Circus-style cafe where popcorn was served before the meal in lieu of bread), and at Vassar I again had my signature college lunch item.

You may have noticed that there was a day for me to relax in between those two college trips.  April 2nd was not a college visit day, but it was still a busy one for sure.  In fact, I had been looking forward to it for the past week.  You see, Bethany Hamilton (known to Force-Cast listeners as the Jedi Princess of Jazz) was in D.C. that week to visit with her family.  Knowing that I lived there, she asked if I wanted to meet up with her.  I of course accepted.  We took the metro and met up near the Newseum, since that was the area of D.C. that I was most familiar with.  Bethany had never been to the Newseum, so I thought I’d give her a brief tour.  We checked out several of the exhibits and galleries, and she took some pictures.  After we left, we hit up Starbucks for a drink and a snack before walking back to the metro.  It was really great to meet up with a fellow Force-Cast listener and I’m glad that Bethany had a good time as well.

The second week of my Spring Break was much less eventful.  The cherry blossoms were out in full bloom, and there were tons of tourists walking around my neighborhood (we had the most cherry blossoms of any D.C. suburb).  We took Maddie on several walks where she was praised and complimented by numerous tourists.  On Tuesday I had a brief session with my math tutor, where we did a little bit of practice work for the AP Calculus exam I’ll be taking in May.  Wednesday saw a trip to the bank and to Petsmart to buy Maddie a new bone—after all, we had to keep her happy and occupied for Wednesday’s Passover Seder at our house.  That Seder, along with a second one on Thursday evening at my aunt and uncle’s house, was full of good food and great conversation.  I was able to have some of my favorite Jewish food--Gefilte fish and matzoh ball soup, to name two, and Maddie even made an appearance as Elijah the Prophet during the seder at our house.  Friday was a little less hectic—no new episode of The Clone Wars to look forward to at night.  We went to Staples to get some printer ink for my grandma, and I stayed in the nearby Petsmart with Maddie.  We brought Maddie along so she could visit Grandma, whom she hadn’t seen in a few weeks.  Maddie was able to run up and down Grandma’s apartment’s hallway, which tired her out and left her much more docile on the ride home.

As I’ve said before, tomorrow is the first day of school after Spring Break.  I’m that much closer to the end of the school year, and to the jam-packed summer ahead.

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A Redesign, and Some Miscellanea

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Obama Inauguration 1-20-2009 12-30-52 PM

It’s been a while.  I feel like I always start my blog posts like that.  Let’s start with the basics.  Hopefully by now you’ve noticed that I also redesigned my blog.  It now fits in with the style of my website.

Inauguration Day went really well.  I woke up at 4:00am, was out the door by 4:30am, and had arrived at my metro by 4:40am.  I caught the first train out of the station and made it to the destination metro at 5:00am.  Already ahead of schedule, I was feeling very good about the “day” so far.  But then I ran into a problem.  Police had blocked off a street and made it impossible to get any closer to the mall – and to the Newseum.  After about 20 minutes of waiting around doing nothing, some people broke through the strip of tape that was holding us back, and we sort of meandered through the street toward our destinations.

I then hit another delay when I reached the ticketing station – which hadn’t opened yet, and was serving as a final barricade.  Since I didn’t have a ticket, I figured that this wasn’t where I was supposed to be any way.  I took a few side streets and finally go to the street that led toward the Newseum.  I saw some police up ahead and figured they would just tell me to go back to the ticketing station.  But when I started to pass them, they just asked for my Newseum Press Pass, which I showed them, and then let me go on my way.

I finally reached the Newseum and got in the members-only line.  By then it was 5:30am.  I spent the next four hours standing around talking to my line-mates, alternating between snapping photos of celebrities entering through the VIP door and doing little jigs in my spot to keep warm.  When they finally let us in at around 10am, I couldn’t have been more anxious to step inside and get warm.  After passing through a metal detector, we were admitted into the general building.  I walked around for a bit, trying to figure out where I would get the best view of both the gigantic screen suspended above the atrium floor and the parade route outside the giant windows.

After finding a spot and sitting down for a few minutes, I noticed a news camera up in the corner of the building.  I decided to see if I could get some photos of more famous people.  To my surprise, the camera turned out to be part of a CNN set that was home to a panel of several of their “Best Political Team on Television.”  In other words, some of the coolest people in TV news.  I was standing about five feet away from Campbell Brown!  I got an in-person look at John King doing his thing with the magic board!  I was even on TV for a brief moment.  It was really exciting.

Afterward, I settled down to watch Obama’s swearing-in, which was very exciting.  Everyone around me booed and cheered at all the right moments; it was like watching a sports game.  When the ceremonies were over, I stuck around to watch the beginning of the parade.  I then headed back home via metro, but not before being delayed temporarily by a huge flood of people trying to get on said metro.  Overall, however, Inauguration Day was a huge success.

I’ve been driving a little bit more since I last posted.  Just basic trips, but it will help me reach my goal of 60 hours.  I know I won’t get there before my permit expires, but at least the hours transfer over to my new permit once I renew it.  Also on the car front, we are now looking for a new minivan for my mom.  Our third car, which my housekeeper uses to do errands and such, was involved in a minor accident that nevertheless damaged the car beyond our desire to repair it.  So my mom’s minivan is now our housekeeper’s car.  This is good, because we’ve been looking forward to get a new, modern, technologically-decked-out car for a while.  It’s between a Honda Odyssey and a Toyota Sienna, although the Odyssey is winning.

In more recent news, I saw the film Fanboys last night.  In case you’ve been living under a rock for quite some time, you know that the movie is a tribute to Star Wars fans, by Star Wars fans.  It’s about a group of friends who break into Skywalker Ranch, George Lucas’s headquarters, to steal a copy of the upcoming SW movie The Phantom Menace so their friend (who has cancer) can see it before he dies.  At the theater, I met up with The Force-Cast’s Jay Shepard, and we talked for a while.  It was great to meet him in person again.  As for the movie…well, I’m not very good at long reviews, but I’ll just say that it was amazing.  Very funny, yet very deep.  It had all the right references to Star Wars and all the right bashing of Star Trek.  The characters were very believable and you could see how each one thought and what motivated them.  I recommend this movie for anyone who wants a good laugh, but especially Star Wars fans.

That’s all I can think of in terms of life updates.  School is going well and I look forward to spring break in a couple of weeks.  Who knows, maybe I’ll even update this blog before then?

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I-Day 2009: All The Cool Kids Are Doing It

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UPDATE: I changed my schedule and bumped up all the dates as a result.

This coming Tuesday is Inauguration Day, as you well know by now.  But what you probably didn’t know is that I’ll be watching the Inauguration—and not on TV.

On Tuesday morning, I’ll wake up at 5:00 4:00 AM and leave home at 5:30 4:30, headed for the metro.  When I get off the metro at my destination, hopefully around 6:15 5:15 or 6:20 5:20, I’ll walk the 15 minute route to Pennsylvania Avenue.  I should make it to 555 Pennsylvania by 6:45 5:30 AM.  My destination?  Washington’s museum of news, the Newseum.

Just this morning I picked up my Newseum Press Pass membership card, which enables me to access the Newseum on Inauguration Day, assuming that I get there early enough.  As the staff there was keen to reiterate, I am not guaranteed entry by any means.  But as I hope to arrive at the Newseum by 6:45 5:30, I am confident that I will be toward the front of the Press Pass line.  I was warned that a tremendous number of people would be buying the Passes specifically (and often exclusively) for this event.  As I understand it, the earliest onlookers at the Edgewood, MD Obama Express slow-down arrived at 5:30 AM.  I expect that arriving at 6:45 5:30 will put me somewhere among the first 200-300 people in line.  As the building capacity is in the thousands (or so I’ve been told by Newseum staff), this should allow me to get a prime spot before the museum fills up.  I will have to move swiftly, because I want to find a spot near the museum’s giant screen, and yet also near the windows, to see the parade route.

The only downer here is that cell service is expected to go out early in the day, as millions of people Tweet, call, text, and stream from all over the Capitol.  This means there will be few live updates from me via Twitter.  I will Tweet what I think is important for as long as I can.  I’m bringing my camera to the Newseum, with which I’ll capture images of the historic day.

Besides the Newseum’s front-row seat to the parade festivities, another great reason to be at the museum is for the first-hand look at the news media’s I-Day coverage.  CNN, ABC, NBC, and many other media organizations will be broadcasting from the Newseum in various locations.  The one group I truly wanted to get a close-up look at is CNN, but they’re on the roof of the building, where only CNN crews and the Secret Service are permitted to be.  Still, I imagine there will be floor crews from most news organizations conducting interviews around the Newseum.  I will be recording all nineteen hours of CNN’s I-Day coverage (from 5 AM to midnight) and putting it in the video archives I have started keeping from historic events.  This recording will also be good to have from a narcissistic angle.  There is a small chance I’ll be on TV that day – if I can push through the crowds to where CNN is interviewing people – and I want to capture that moment. (I would be so mad if I was on NBC, CBS, etc. instead and didn’t have that footage.)

Be sure to watch TV or – if you’ll be in D.C. – attend the celebration.  Whatever your political party, it’s clear that history was made last November, and that it will be made again this Tuesday.

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CNN NYE 2009
It’s 2009.
It doesn’t feel much different yet.  But, as we all know, the world will change on January 20th.  Here’s to a great 2009 for everyone out there.  I’m sure we’ll see many new innovations in the technology industry, the Web 2.0 culture, and the digital realm.  Here are some things I’m looking forward to:
  • News of Star Wars Celebration V.
  • A Force-Cast meetup at Star Wars Fan Days III in Plano, TX.
  • The release of Fanboys.
  • News about the ground-breaking Star Wars live-action series.
  • My 18th birthday.
Maybe I’ll think of more later.
For now, at least, 2009 seems just like 2008.
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