Friday, January 28, 2011

VROOOM!

11:03 AM Posted by Patrick 2 comments
I had visions for this morning, most of them included me sitting and drinking coffee in a comfy chair and collecting much needed adipose tissue. But, to paraphrase the good people at Despair, There is nothing the world likes so well as the taste of really sweet dreams.

At first the ungodly "waw waw waw" was either an alarm clock, or perhaps some variety of wounded poultry. I had no such luck. It was Janeane, who is infinitely harder to silence than an alarm clock, or--Iimagine--any specimen of wounded poultry.

After my ears adjusted enough to resolve the squawking into a message, I realized that she expected me to get up. Alright, it could be worse...a lot worse.

She started telling me something about our mission, a narrow and rapidly closing window of opportunity, of which we needed to take advantage. There was to be no time for showers or coffee. I grabbed the first three clothing items that came to hand, and also the first hat that was not a baseball cap.

Upon Janeane seeing me--you can guess what she looked like, and she was even the one who noticed it--she commented that I looked like an African dictator. We looked like we would be perfectly at home at a anti-military protest.

"Oh," says she, "you'll have to follow in the van" *wicked laughter joined by my own cackling* She then proceeded to try and open the garage door, which made some really pitiful noises and refused to go up. So we unhooked the garage door and pushed it up.

I get into the van never having driven an Oldsmobile Sans-Muffler, so I was in for a bit of a shock when it started with the sound of an enraged 2000lb bumblebee...or maybe just a small aircraft. I spent the drive to the interstate giggling at the sound and slowly losing my hearing.

Upon arrival at the dealership, I turn off the van before I collect a flock of sales people. Jeneane figures out where to take Sven, and comes over to the van right after. I warn her that what she is about to hear is life-changing, but she did not seem to take me seriously. When the van start with the roar of a thousand dragons with operatic aspirations, she immediately dissolved into laughter; she had underestimated its joyous power.

We then spent a large part of the ride back discussing how best it might be fitted with machine guns and modified to carry extra child-soldiers.

Add to this that I was punch drunk and lagged from getting no coffee, everything seemed funny.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Rambling Mannish

10:51 PM Posted by Patrick 2 comments
Imagine you walk into a room. Imagine that, having walked into this room, your first thought is "where was the net?" That is right, you just found yourself in the middle of the 1990s...but wait; that cannot be right. The young gentleman over there looks just like one of the people from class...history class!!! As I am walking over to see why wardrobe sent him in skinny jeans, I see a group of individuals that I know to be incapable of comprehending history, and who would have no hope of navigating it. I breathed a minor sigh of relief. Something weird was going on, but at least I was in the right time.

The room was crowded and more people pressed in with every second. Tempers were already flaring at the lack of seating, which made me glad to find a comfortable seated in the second row. Still trying to understand what was going on, I turned to the wise old crones next to me to see if they had any valuable information. They chatted with me rather amiably and explained that teachers were showing up in force.

Aha. It clicked.

The big--really big--hair, of a primarily up-do variety; the near criminal inattention to dress; the effeminate males, with reedy, simpering, voices; the tight jeans on men, though not like skinny jeans, which do not cling to certain regions of anatomy so tightly as to leave little to an already horrified imagination; and the smug superiority that permeated the air; it all pointed to something I should have guessed: teachers, a lot of them.

The ladies next to me continued to chat with me and we got on pretty well...until I dropped the bomb that I was homeschooled, at which point the temperature from that quarter got really, really, chilly. Think, "do not make eye-contact or respond to him in full sentences" chilly.

It seemed that I was probably in for a quiet wait until the proceedings began, then Paul Lagemann showed up, introduced me to Brian Bosma, and sat with me for a good part of the show, at least until he left for his other event. His advent and comments did nothing to improve my neighbors views on me, and they did not verbally acknowledge me when I thanked them for allowing me to sit with them.

As we neared the beginning of the meeting the natives were getting really restless. A one even stormed out yelling about the lack of seating, still more were discussing the untruth of Mr. Bosma's opening speech, before it was delivered, naturally.

During the course of Bosma's speech there was general hooting, tittering, and a couple moments where a particularly large delegation from the teachers union drowned him out in unified shouts. Things got much more civilized as the proceedings moved on, but the room never lost its tension. Loud interruptions were pretty regular, all questions from self-identified public school teachers were delivered in an accusatory tone, and often sounded less like questions than the denunciations in the Stalinist show trials I have been reading.

That said, the representatives were cool under fire and managed to keep things pretty light. There was a gentleman, (who, oddly, looked rather like the frilled lizard from the Rescuers Down Under), several rows behind me--with whom Paul is acquainted, and who is, Paul assured me, the biggest asshole in Fort Wayne--began listing some very questionable practices that would be introduced by this bill. The Speaker, however, came prepared and was able to give the actual wording, which was, oddly, nothing like what the other gentleman would have had us imagine. The Speaker managed this with good humor and treated the whole thing as if it were an understandable mistake based on common hearsay...He gave it a nice spin despite the fact that the gentleman in question was well up to date on this bill and knew that he was characterizing it poorly, if not lying outright.

The general tone of the meeting was simple. If you say that schools could be doing better, you are saying that teachers are not trying, which is untrue. The vast majority of teachers always give their utmost every day and evaluations are an insult. Not only that, but teachers are professionals and deserve to be payed like doctors and lawyers. Give teachers more money. Also, charter schools are predatory institutions, founded for the sole purpose of wresting funds away from the other public schools, and they do not have the same noble, selfless, interest in the children that the proper, union monopolized, public schools do. One teacher, who looked like Angel Marie from the cabin fever scene of Muppet Treasure Island, advocated some form of legislation that would force parents to take an interest in the education of their children.

I reflect, in retrospect, on the fact there has been so much grief over the public schools forcing failing students to "homeschool" in order to bring up their averages and obtain incentives.

There are school teachers that I know and appreciate, one of my beloved grandmothers was a school teacher, but I find these excellent individuals to be an exception. There is a certain self-aggrandizing sanctimony that has found its way into that profession, and an homage to a one size fits all educational style that irks me. And when they get into a really big group, they just feed off of each other. If someone fails to learn under their program, it is not their fault, it is the fault of the child and the parents. Never mind that people learn differently and at different paces. I shudder to think where I would be if I had remained in that system. My whole creative process is unorthodox and begins with a long walk, which is definitely not part of the program.

The room would not accept that there were innovations which they had not yet attempted. When the speaker said that charter schools would lead to greater innovation, there were angry shouts of "you are saying that we don't innovate" and other variations on the same. Anytime Bosma tried to speak up and clarify that he was not saying that public school teachers never innovate, merely that current bureaucratic mechanisms restrict any real freedom on that front, he was shouted down with more of the same.

The bright side in all of this was that I got to rub elbows with a bunch of lobbyists and enjoy the looks on my professors faces as various pieces of policy were discussed. Good stuff.

I came out of this with raw skin on the right side of my face, which I began rubbing part of the way through the event, and a brighter outlook on the whole system of government. There were two productive voices from the audience, and both called to attention things of which the speaker was not previously aware, one of which was a bit of unintended consequences in the recent tax laws, which the speaker was very genuinely concerned about (trust me, there were times when you knew he wasn't as concerned as he said).

The system works! And if you can brave men in 501s that are 501 sizes too small, you too can change the world.

Operation Extra Credit

12:29 AM Posted by Patrick 3 comments
I'm posting a brief, informal, report that was commissioned by my mostest favouritest professor, Elliot Bartky, who I found out today is also revered by the staff at the Barnes & Noble at the mall.

Anyway. Here are my thoughts on the proceedings, and the ideas--and lack thereof--bandied about.




On Wednesday I had my first experience with a town hall meeting. The primary topic of this meeting, as my reader knows, was education; more specifically, it was about a bill that is being introduced in the Indiana House of Representatives that is aimed at the promotion of charter schools and alternatives to the public schools. Brian Bosma, the Speaker of the Indiana house, had the daunting task of the apology of said bill before a passel of agitated school teachers. His opening remarks were an attempt to lend some perspective to the debate. We are in the midst of a fiscal crisis and there will be no increases in spending. The challenge is to improve education without spending more money. The speaker appeared to believe that the means for this improvement was the competition and improvisation that would—in theory—be generated by a charter school option, and by the increased efficiency that would be found in the ability to remove teachers whose classes show no signs of improvement. Mr. Bosma also spoke of the necessity for specialization and innovation in education.
The overwhelming response of the teachers may be found in the words of one rather amusing—and equally incomprehensible—gentleman. He said one thing that the whole room understood, and that was that one could lead a camel to water, but could not make him drink. In essence, that most teachers are doing all they can, but the task of learning falls to the student. The teachers who spoke also voiced frustration over the fact that they receive no help from the parents, who take no interest in the education of their children. One teacher noted that a huge difference between her exchange students and their American counterparts was that the foreign students took responsibility for their failure.

I had the pleasure of writing my first major research paper on the issues with the American education system and delved into the structures that yield such success in Western Europe, and I am thereby armed with the necessary knowledge to note that she is describing a symptom of excellence, not an underlying cause as she believed. She fails to realize that men are by nature wicked, and that they do no good thing unless forced. In the systems that her exchange students, be they European or Asian, come from there are set and serious consequences for failure in school performance. In the German education system, a student who fails to measure up in the eighth grade is not going to university. Americans believe in opportunity and second chances, and so institutions like IPFW seek to extend opportunity to those who have neglected their mind in a way that is ridiculous to Germans.

In the absence of dire consequences for failure, one would hope that the young people would have been instilled with a proper value for education and personal achievement in the realms of academia. This is not the case. The messages our society and our schools send to the young are many, but among these are the messages that all lifestyles and choices are equal and you need to do what is right for you. No lifestyle is objectively better than another; good is subjective, and most take more pleasure from indulging their appetites than in the discipline of their minds. Therefore, since a good life is subjective, the standard by which many judge it is in physical pleasure experienced. We have removed the safeguards of the ancients and of the realists and cynics. Not only have we denied an objective good, but we have furthered the damage by softening the consequences for those who fail to take advantage of their educational opportunities.

Coming from an extraordinarily unorthodox educational background, I am entirely sympathetic to the argument that there needs to be competition, innovation, and more opportunity in the realm of American schooling, and will seriously consider supporting the bill Mr. Bosma championed if I find it—on closer acquaintance—to be as promising as it was made to sound. That said, it is a small step and fails to address the fundamental issue that American educators face. The teachers were right. Student attitude is the greatest problem. But the attitude merely reflects the attitude and values of the society and family in which they grow. What the teachers fail to recognize is that it falls upon them to change the way their students view education, and the only way for them to do so is to alter their students’ values. Teachers spend more time with many children and teens than do the parents, but they do not take responsibility for teaching values. Furthermore, public school teachers cannot go about teaching that some lives are more full and valid, because they then run the risk of invalidating one of their students.

As things are presently ordered, public school teachers cannot repair the real damage in the American school system. Charter schools, since all participants get to make that choice, would be able to teach values, as a private school can. They would not necessarily do so, but there is at least the outlet or opening of such an option for those who were not previously able to send their children to a pricey private school. Although, I humbly submit that the best way to get the parents genuinely involved in the education of their child—indeed, to improve the education of the whole nation—would be to take ten percent of that $5500 a year that goes to the child’s education and make a rule that the parents receive it if the kid makes the honors roll.
These are but my humble musings on the proceedings and I can only hope that they at least resemble the kind of report you were hoping to receive..

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ghosts.

8:16 PM Posted by Patrick 2 comments
Our house has ghosts. This is the only possible explanation for the many odd noises that pervade our house at night.

At least once a week I wake to the sound of shouts and other loud semi-human noises, when I raise myself up on my elbows, the voices fall silent. But, clever ghosts that they are, they use the voice--and at times the body--of my beloved brother Jonathan to convey their messages from the beyond.

Being wide awake at this point, I start to make my way to the stairs...but wait, what was that?!

"Aha," I say to myself, "a Sus Scrofa Domestica has found its way into my beloved sister's room!" I haste me down the hall to make bacon of the interloper before it has time to begin gobbling fripperies.

But what is this? It has escaped somehow! I crane my head around the door, but there is none but the sister to be found.

At this point I know something is amuck.

I am about to turn to go back to the stairs, when such ferocious snarling as no man has ever heard breaks out from the master bedroom. "Gadzooks," I declare, "some pack of ravening beasts is eating my parents!"

At first I am tempted to make good my escape, to leave my loved ones to the wolf/bear/sabre tooth tiger/emo vocalist that is devouring them. Then, however, I come to my senses and realize that this is a moment every boy dreams of; that is, saving others from a ravening animal by sheer, masculine, strength and rugged good looks.

Granted, there would not be any girls around to see it, but I could hope for a good retelling. Anyway....

I burst boldly through the door, but, hark; there is no sign of the monsters. So much for glory.

At this points, tired from the anticipated battle, I begin to head back to my room. That is when i realize that the monsters did not go out the window--as I had first thought, but had doubled through the office and gone down the hall to take up their villainies in room in which I began! What is more, it sounded as if they were right on top of Jonathan and preparing to maul the life from him....

When I finally got there, however, it had made another neat escape.

At this point I realized that there was no use sleeping, so I took up my watch downstairs. I browse Gmail, Facebook, and Drudge for any clues on how to deal with these monsters.

At long last, I head back up the stairs to try and get back to sleep. All at once, all of the noises from all the strange occurrences break out at once! I rush to each door in turn, but each room appears empty when I get there.

That is when I realized; the house is full of very noisy ghosts.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Fumble Rules

2:30 PM Posted by Patrick 1 comment
My beloved and unceasingly pestilential readers have clearly noticed that my proofreading habits have been pretty abysmal of late. It was with that in mind that I picked up Fumble Rules by William Safire. While normally I would have carried this book around for awhile only to deposit it someplace obscure, today I was actually moved to read this ugly little book. I was not disappointed.

"Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague."

The fatal flaw of most books concerned with grammar is that they tend to be incredibly wordy, even to the point of sending one into a coma, which can be extraordinarily dangerous if one is poised on the railing between the family room and the kitchen; this book exposes one to none of that danger. Safire offers fifty rules to promote good grammar and usage, and does so using right and wrong examples. The examples he uses are not, however, of a purely abstract nature, but using examples that are recognizable or satirical. The book is succinct and humorous; it took me all of half an hour to peruse and, basic though it was, it made me think about some of the things that I do--or sometimes fail to do--instinctively.

It makes for an amusing little read. And I have no doubt that a perusal of this book would be of great benefit to the vast majority of Americans.

One should not, however, so much as consider reading Fumble Rules if one has not yet finished reading the complete Connie Willis, but I am a fool. My reader must excuse me therefore, I must return to the priority that has been neglected: All Clear.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Books and Words.

2:17 PM Posted by Patrick 5 comments
I ordered some of my textbooks just after Christmas. One of them has arrived, two are well on their way, but one has not yet been sent. I bought it from a Barnes & Noble affiliate seller with a high rating, but I now know there is no way I'll have it for the first week of class, and maybe will not have it for the second; that would be if it was sent today. Not well pleased, as they were paid almost two weeks ago, and my product still isn't on route.


I'm really looking forward to this semester, as it is the first when all of the classes I'm attending are classes that I really wanted just for their own sake. Not just to fill out the bureaucracy approved checklist, but because I thought each class would be interesting.

I start my morning with Poly-324/Hist-325, Modern Political Theory, which will be taught by my favourite professor that I have had thus far, Elliot Bartky. We will be reading Hobbes, Locke, Machiavelli, Spinoza, Rousseau, Marx...and two other books I cannot remember right now. Tasty.

From there I have Poly-200, Political Crimes and Trials, with Prof. Ulmschneider. I hear that she is challenging and rather interesting, so I'm looking forward to this. I also love legal and political analysis, and it looks like we will be taking a close look at the trials of Nazi war criminals.

Then I will continue to Mus-101H, which is an Honors music for the listener class, and as stultifying as that might sound to some, it is a hole in my education that I am only too aware of, and which is the more glaring because I hang around with those who actually understand the music to which they are listening.

German is next. I will have Lee, which means it will be fantastically well structured and orderly...and probably a touch easier than it should be. I do not, however, object to being more sure of my A's. ;-p

Finally, the pièce de résistance, I have Hist-222, Renaissance and Reformation, which is taught by Dr. McKenzie. The good doctor not only has enthusiasm and wit, but is also a history professor at CTS, which means he has real strength when it comes to the theological minutiae of the reformation and will not talk about it as a matter of pure class struggle.

I'm going to have so much reading and writing to do for this semester, but this is as it should be. Last semester was a constant procession of piddling little--but remarkably time consuming-- assignments of no revealed purpose.

*cough*theater*cough*

I have my own ritual for preparing for return to school, besides the obvious German vocab and other such pursuits. The internet is a teeming and mired net of idiots; there is always an ample array of asinine arguments awaiting annihilation. This time it was--what sounded like--a young man who claimed that words have no power. I would not usually bother, but everyone else who posted agreed with him. It had to be stopped.

Needless to say, after about a week, the opposition and his supporters had allowed that the comment was fallacy, but I have to wonder what brought him to that point in the first place. I have this horrible feeling that it is a virulent mutation of the old "Sticks and Stones" fallacy. Broken bones heal, as a matter of course. Doctors expedite the process, and can ensure that the healing goes well. One cannot make the same guarantees when it comes to a bruised psyche.

Words hurt, and the damage is a lot harder to diagnose than a broken bone, but just as debilitating. There was a time when I never sang if I thought someone other than my mother might hear me, this lasted from the time I was 5 to well into my teens. This came out of the fact that one kid told me that I had a bad singing voice. Now I would be able to shut that voice out because I know differently and the voice was not one that I would respect.

Think, however, of what it would do to you if someone you loved dearly told you one day that they didn't love you anymore. I have never, and never expect, to be subject to that pain, but I cannot imagine how that would hurt. Harsh words from a friend that you expect to be on your side are sharp enough, but coming from someone you look up to...they are necessarily devastating.

Even working retail, harsh words from random members of the unwashed masses have the effect of leaving me red faced and struggling to hold on to my civility. I do, but my face is burning as though it was slapped. There is no attachment between us, but their words still have the power to cause me internal disquiet and physical discomfort.

Strong enough words are sufficient to drive men to the belief that murder is right. No dictator or tyrannical regime says "yeah, that's right, we are the bad guys and are just basically evil." Words were the engine of the Maoist Revolution, of the Bolshevik Revolution, and of the Nazi rise to power; noble words about egalite and fraternite. All that is required for this perfect society is to remove the obstacles....

These promises fell through; it could be no other way. This is not where men may see perfection on earth. The people of China, Russia, and Germany suffered terribly. Earthly rulers promised them brotherhood, goodness, and justice, but brought them death.

Words are more powerful than sticks and stones: Thanks be to God.

Many fall to wicked words, yet by the Word are all men made alive. Our Lord claims us in Holy Baptism, drowns and destroys the old man in a torrent of water and word, and places His own name upon us; that we might have true fraternite with Him before the Father in heaven. It is by the Word that we are given the Body and Blood of God, for us sinful men to eat and drink in order that we might live.

There is no life outside words, for it is through His Word that Our Lord makes himself known to us. And in Him alone are found the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

Words have power. By word are bones, bodies, hearts, and minds broken. By the Word will they all be made whole and perfect in Jesus Christ.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Lamp Post

11:17 PM Posted by Patrick 8 comments
Lamp Post, Aged 5, died earlier this afternoon when some privileged white girl ran him over. Lamp Post was fond of the outdoors and was especially good with dogs. According to those who knew Lamp, he was "a beacon in the darkness."

It is as yet unknown what caused the accident which ended Lamp's bright future, but locals are suggesting it might have been deliberate. Fort Wayne Police say they believe the accident to be tied to illegal drag-racing, but are withholding all further comment pending a formal investigation.

German and History...Now, What Will You Do With That?

5:47 PM Posted by Patrick 3 comments
I honestly have no idea what I want to do with myself when I am done with my studies. The military would be a tempting option, except for the fact of the difficulty in starting a family.

I have always been fascinated by the law and would love to work with the law...but I do not know whether that would translate into my loving the lawyer profession, and I cannot help but notice that nobody likes lawyers.

The military would be a more tempting route, if I knew what one would have to do in order to be a JAG, which would do quite nicely. This would be a fantastic way of combining two of the things I have always wanted to do. If only I could find a way to pursue it. Plus, I'm yet to hear of people hating on scummy JAGs....

Several of my professors have encouraged me to remain in the academic realm; this would be interesting, but I am not holding out for this. I realize that a large part of getting entry into this field requires pedigree, and pedigree costs a lot of money, so I am thinking that this is unrealistic, barring massive financial aid.

What will I be able to do with my degrees? I intend to be able to research, write, think, and argue well in at least two languages. I intend to be generally well educated and have a mind disciplined to absorb and process information in such a way as to understand and make use of it, and I intend for these arts to be habit. I also hope to have an understanding of the course of human affairs and of humanity as a whole. Um'kay?

Working in my capacity as an exalted sales clerk at JCP has taught me one thing: I absolutely need a job that constitutes a challenge and the full utilization of my mental faculties, and the sooner the better.

I don't suppose there is any kind of intellectually taxing, part-time, employment? In my current job I am a replaceable piece, perhaps one of excellent quality, but still infinitely replaceable. On some of the recent slow days I have had the luxury of examining what I do, the value of what I do, and measuring it against my inflated ideas of what I could potentially be doing. What I do right now could be done by any number of other people, maybe not with so much pizazz, but more than adequately.

The great part of what I do right now is scramble for ways to silence my own critiques of my customers taste and assure them of how right their choices are. I have long since learned that it is useless to try and sway customers into any path other than their own. I essentially help people to feel good about their poor impulse control and encourage them in indulging it further.

I feel that the only time when I am actually useful is the time when I am straightening, and this is most emphatically not the first priority. It is about Customer First service, which includes getting people to buy more stuff than they need or came for and getting them to apply for credit cards. Customer First is the tag they put on anything they want to sound good, whether it is providing the greatest service or no.

I am paid for my time, and it is nice to have the money, but I cannot help feeling that I am wasting my time. The work I do requires little talent and it seldom feels like I have accomplished anything. I guess this is the nature of part time work. There are sales goals, ratings, and credit goals, but I have noticed that the first two are almost exclusively affected by the time of year and stock we have on hand. New stock makes for better numbers. Customer satisfaction is at its very highest when we have a lot of new stock in. As our stock dwindles, our numbers dwindle. The employees remain the same--some good and are some rude--and yet the numbers fluctuate between the 55 and 80%. We do not change the way we serve customers, and some of the highest numbers were during the busiest times.

No one cares how knowledgeable and courteous an employee is if you don't have anything they want. And people are satisfied, in spite of absent employees, when they are able to find the product they want for a reasonable price. I might point to the Macy's at our mall as an example of people paying ridiculous prices for the product they want, in spite of cold and unhelpful employees. My point is: The store has goals, but I have learned that employee impact on those goals is minimal; it is about merchandise. There are no realistic, individual, goals...except credit applications, which I am dead against. The terms of the card are bad and it is way too easy to get, encouraging people with no money to spend more of what they do not have and pay 27.9% interest on it. No way.

As far as departmental numbers go, I have learned that I can go out and work to the best of my ability, and have many people thank me profusely, but the Men's numbers can still end up low for the day if we don't have the merch. This has been really frustrating for me lately as we have been stripped of anything tasteful, and I hardly want to work because I realize that my presence is basically useless. I cannot help the majority of customers because I don't have what they want.

Which leads to another issue. I hate being servile to belligerent people. They come in with this attitude that because they are a customer they are incapable of wrongdoing or pigheadedness, and that however rude and brusque they may be, it is all justified by the fact that they are acting in the defense of their seven dollars of which you are trying to cheat them...and then it turns out that the employee was right, but most managers have no spine and the customer gets the seven dollars anyway and the employee is forced to endure their smug glare.

Once again, belligerence and rudeness are things I can deal with, but are frustrating when combined with a sense that I am accomplishing nothing. If I have to deal with irate and often dishonest people, I would much prefer to at least accomplish something in the process. I am also not paid enough to be talked down to by people of rather questionable hygiene.

I have realized that I am in a slightly better funded position then I was before I took this job, but my position is similar to this summer in the sense that I feel like I am doing nothing.

That is another reason why I do not want to just enter the Military. From what I hear, the vast majority of military jobs include a lot of "doing nothing." And if I do indeed go into the military, I do not want to get stuck "doing nothing." I am capable of whatever I need to be, but my ADD self is not built to twiddle the metaphorical thumbs. I have a mortal fear of boredom and uselessness.

I want a job where I do something challenging that has value. How is that for specificity?

And here I was, dead set on not whining, and it spilled out anyway. It's not like I'm working third shift at a gulag or anything. I blame it all on lack of sunshine.