Saturday, May 27, 2006

Phat. O-B-E-S-E, Phat.

Ok, so it's been well established that in our society's transition to a more sedentary lifestyle we've become a more obese people. This has caused all sorts of health problems; in fact, many of the most common health issues plaguing people today have to do with the fact that we're all just fat.

Now, the usual response is something like "we need to get less fat. Be more active, eat healthier, blah blah blah"; we all know what we need to do.

But here's my question: what if we didn't? Say we just decided we like our sedentary lifestyle, our culture of obesity, and therefore we decided we'd just live with the health risks. What would happen to people - humans as a species - if we decided that's what we wanted to do? Would we evolve to the point where being obese (by modern-day BMI standards) was no longer a health risk? Presumably there could be mutations which would allow bodies to handle fat or cholesterol, or whatever in a way that is not unhealthy. And these mutations should allow people to thrive in a sedentary culture, without the health risks that others face, thus eventually, over a long period of time, leading to a new type of persons, for whom obesity is not a health risk. They could be fat (by our standards) without any of the traditional health risks attached.

Could this happen realistically? I mean, people have certainly evolved over time, because of pressures from nature. But could we evolve because of cultural pressures? Have we in the past? I think this is fascinating stuff. Of course, I'm all for living a health life style, and would never advocate this type of idea as a solution to our world's obesity problems, but still, it's just kind of neat to think about the potential, right? Thoughts?

I don't want her
You can have her
She's too fat for me

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Half-way to Half-way to Half of 200.

Today I am a man! Er, wait. I mean, Today I am a quarter-century! (Old. I'm not literally a quarter-century, (and if I were, I sincerely doubt I'd be typing this post) but I am a quarter-century old).

Yup, 25. Two, Five. Yeah a big ol' 5 times 5. Uh-huh, 2 times 12.5. Yessir, a dozen and a baker's dozen. 16 less than 41. And so forth...

It's always seemed odd to me that you "humans" have such an affinity for nice round numbers. How when things are 10 or 20 or 25 or 100 years along, somehow that's a special time. But what the hey, I'll play along. And so it seems that as I turn 25 it is an appropriate time for me to look back at my life, to examine what I've accomplished, to remember what I've experienced, and to renew my driver's license.

Thus, in honor of my 25 birthday, I give you the Cliff Notes version of my life (they're still a little long, but it's been 25 years, so give me a break):

May 13, 1981. Pope John Paul II narrowly escapes death after being shot in the Square of St. Peter (located somewhere in the abdomen I believe...). Some say the fact that he survived was a miracle. The Pope himself credits the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima. Others point to the controversial new science of "medicine" used to treat His Holiness. Still others categorically deny that he survived. Regardless, it is universally agreed that this is clearly a portent of a great event scheduled to arrive four days later.

May 16, 1981, very late at night. A stork is seen flying over northern Ohio. A bewildered zebra at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo (7th oldest zoo in the United States) nuzzles a misdelivered infant.

May 17, 1981, 12:28 Central Standard Time. Thanks to next-day delivery services, the infant is properly rerouted from the zebra pen to St. Joseph's Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota. Matthew Bryan Novak is born.

May 17, 1982. Within a year I have already proven myself to be loud, selfish, and needy. I have already perfected the crafts of crying and spitting up, and am making terrific progress at directed urination when they take off my diaper. For my parents I have clearly been a worthy and stinky adversary.

January 5, 1983. A new challenge presents itself: a younger sister. Fortunately, my cuteness is nearly unparalleled. Also, solid foods are less of a challenge.

May 17, 1983. The adversarial relationship with my parents continues. I discover a new weapon: the tantrum. It comes naturally to me.

November 12, 1985. A third Novak child is born. I cease having my own room (an apology to the rest of my siblings... you don't make this list (though you easily could, I'm just trying to condense)).

September 2, 1986. I begin kindergarten. The alphabet is displayed nearly everywhere. Even in a large circle on the floor. We are each are supposed to sit on the letter which begins our first name. Max someone-or-other is assigned the letter 'M'. I attempt to sit on the next closest letter - 'N' - since it begins my last name. Despite my efforts I am moved to the letter 'O' - which begins zero of my names. Nick Otsuka gets the letter 'N'. I suggest that if he took the letter 'O' then we could both have a letter than was connected to our name. My protests are in vain. To this day, I hold a grudge against Nick Otsuka. Also, solid foods are less of a challenge.

September 7, 1987. I begin first grade. For the first time ever I pee in a public urinal. Having never before used a public urinal, I hadn't yet learned the trick where you pee without pulling your pants all the way down around your ankles. Thus begins my love affair with mooning people.

September 8, 1987. Mrs. Boulton gives me my first real criticism: my handwriting is terrible. Throughout the year (and indeed, throughout my early education) I insist handwriting is a meaningless art that should not receive any significant attention, and certainly does not merit its own grade.

October 25, 1987. The Twins win the World Series. My love affair with baseball is solidified.

October 6, 1988. I have my first crush, Jenny Raskob. I finish my first chapter book, My Side of the Mountain. I begin reading constantly, and though I enjoy chapter books, I usually prefer to Choose My Own Adventure.

June 23, 1989. My overactive imagination overacts; I am convinced there are dinosaurs living in my neighborhood.

January 22, 1991. I decide I want to be President.

June 16, 1991. I throw out the first pitch at a Twins game. I meet Kirby Puckett and get Jack Morris' autograph. The Twins go on to win the greatest World Series of all time. Puckett is the ALCS MVP, Jack Morris is the World Series MVP. I take credit.

September 8, 1992. I begin middle school. I am completely out of my element, and share classes with almost none of my friends from elementary school. I become an absolute nerd. Choose Your Own Adventure books are replaced by The Hardy Boys. As I have been highly successful in suppressing terrible memories, I am unable to recall much else of middle school, except that solid foods are less of a challenge.

March 4, 1993. The wide-spread use of the personal computer vidicates my earlier claims that "handwriting is a meaningless art that should not receive any significant attention, and certainly does not merit its own grade." In your face Mrs. Boulton.

May 22, 1995. For some reason or other I end up in the high school band room. Written on the black board is the "Band President's Useless Fact". The day's useless fact is "Marshmallows are not the most efficient mode of transportation."

September 5, 1995. I begin high school. I embrace my nerdiness. I get a buzz cut. I wear nothing but t-shirts. I join the band. I get involved with theater, debate, speech, student congress, and various church organizations. I am a geek.

May 19, 1996. I am plunked in the head with a baseball, knocking me unconscious. I wake up in a Porta Potty, vomiting. I lose consciousness again. I wake up on a bench with a killer headache. I am transported home. I vomit a lot. I am transported to the hospital. I continue to vomit. I wait for a long time to see a doctor. My vomiting turns to dry heaving. I get a cat scan and am told I have a concussion. I am told that eating solid foods will pose a challenge. I am transported home, and my dry heaving stops. I request soup because I am extremely hungry. The soup boils and is placed in a bowl to cool. Before cooling, my sister brings me the soup. She releases the bowl before I have it in my hand. I am covered in nearly-boiling soup. I have second degree burns over much of my, um, lap. I sit in a tub of cold water for the next 12 hours. I shiver a lot. The next few days are very difficult.

December 21, 1997. I have an adventure in the dark.

April 20, 1999. I perform well at some state student congress thing, and get to compete at the national competition. I decide to stop being quite so nerdy, grow my hair out, throw some gel in it, and abandon t-shirts for slightly more fashionable clothing. Suddenly people seem to accept me. Even girls. I regret embracing my nerdiness.

June 9, 1999. I graduate high school.

August 29, 1999. I begin college at St. John's University. I am completely out of my element, and share classes with almost none of my friends. I become an absolute nerd. The Hardy Boys are replaced by Nintendo 64. That's not entirely true. I read some excellent books, take some wonderful classes, get a great campus job, learn how to play Big Yellow Ball, and by the end of the year, I've made a key friend in Christopher Dykhoff, who agrees to room with me the next year.

September 3, 2000. I begin my second year at SJU. I have a pet rat. Her name is Sally. I put her in a hamster ball which is then attached to a remote-controlled car, and I drive her around the dorm. Life is good.

November 17, 2000. Through Chris I meet Mark. Through Mark I meet Joel. Through Joel I meet Brendan and Marsh. Through them I meet Gavin, Connoy, Crowley, and Tesch. Thus is born my core group of friends. We hang out, we laugh, we watch Marsh eat a dinner steak sandwich, by which I mean a dinner steak stuck between two dinner steaks.

February 16, 2001. My partner and I receive a standing ovation during a dance competition for our swing dancing. Despite this fact, we still place only third, since the final round required dancing a cha-cha. I maintain that no straight man can dance a proper cha-cha.

May 11, 2001. Sally dies. I give her a Viking funeral, setting her and her possessions into a tiny boat, setting the boat aflame, and pushing it out onto the water. I advertise the event for all who wish to attend. The flyers say "help us put the 'fun' back in 'funeral'".

September 11, 2001. I am all packed up and about to head to the airport for my flight to Greece (by way of NY City) when my dad calls and tells us to turn on the TV. I watch the second plane hit, and all of the ensuing chaos. Our study abroad group is delayed 2 weeks.

September 25, 2001. I forget my passport at home. I get it just in time to get on the plane. On the plane my seat is isolated from the rest of the group. Then I get sick. Then when we get to Athens my luggage doesn't turn up. The study abroad program improves from this point on. I spend a month and a half in Athens, and a month in a half in Rome. I love both places and learn a lot about myself. Study abroad is amazing.

January 29, 2002. I meet Laura Guetter while playing intramural volleyball. A couple weeks later Joel, Dykhoff, Marsh, and I perform a lip-sync to "The Elephant Love Medly" from Moulin Rouge. It is hilarious. The crowd loves us. Laura is in the crowd. Therefore, she loves us. Therefore, she loves me. This paves the way for us to begin dating a short time later.

November 24, 2002. I begin my fourth year as a hemorrhoid sufferer.

April 27, 2003. Vincent Ball is invented. Perhaps the greatest day ever at SJU.

May 25, 2003. I graduate from college.

September 1, 2003. I begin law school. Also, solid foods are less of a challenge.

February 21, 2004. I propose to Laura. She says nothing at first. Then hugs me. Then says "sure", but does not take the ring. Later that evening I finally confirm that it was a yes. All this, despite the fact that it was possibly the most romantic proposal ever. I'll have to write more about it sometime.

May 28, 2005. I get married. Life is good. Wife is good.

May 17, 2006. I turn 25.

Well, there you have it. A very long (yet short) summary of my life. Lots of stuff got left out that maybe should have been included (like how I was responsible for the fence on Knox Hill, or all the times I needed stiches). But that's all I've got the time and energy for right now. If anyone actually read through this all, I congratulate and thank you. Also, you therefore deserve a mention. So leave a message announcing your accomplishment, and maybe birthday greetings, and any addition to my life story you find relevant. After all, I think that'd be the better summary - what other people have to say about me. Anyways, that's where I'll leave it for now. It's been a great 25 years, even though that's a long time, I feel like life is just beginning.

May you have many more

Monday, May 15, 2006


If you were graduating from law school, who would be the absolute greatest person to have speak at your commencement? Well guess what?

We are the champions my friends

My Trip to the White House

Ok, so I found out on Saturday that they've actually re-opened the East Wing of the White House to tours. It had been shut down after 9/11, but apparently they recently resumed giving tours. So that means the general public is able to see highlights such as "The Red Room" and "The Cross Hall." Which I suppose is all well and good for the general public.

But I ain't the general public.

Which means instead of touring the boring half of the White House, I toured the cool half of the White House. The part of the building where all the important work stuff happens. Yeah, that's right, the West Wing. (Before I go any further, I should say this was made possible by forces entirely beyond my control, namely my sister's husband's brother works as an operator at the White House, and he got us all in. Still, it was awesome. And thanks Gina and Josh)(That being all said, I still claim that it was my general greatness that got us in.).

Ok, so anyways, we got to see pretty cool sights, most of which were highly unphotogenic. By which I mean, if we wanted to continue the tour, there were to be no pictures taken.

Pictures or no, the tour was great. We got to see places such as The Roosevelt room, which cannot hold a meeting unless the President is present. And the Cabinet Room, which was generally awesome since that's where the Cabinet meets. And, oh yeah, The Oval Office! Which was really cool, but much smaller than I always imagined. Also, the phone on the desk just outside of the Oval Office said that there were 2 new calls. I thought that was funny. I would have taken a picture, but, you know, the whole getting kicked out thing...

We did get to take a couple pictures. There was the Rose Garden.
If you were to go crashing through the windows on the far right there, you'd be in the Oval Office. So that's neat.

And then there was the White House Press Room. A couple of pictures here... First, there's me fielding questions (and in typical White House Press Room fashion, evading a concrete answer).

Then there's Laura standing in the same place, being much more normal, and not pretending she's the press secretary.

Also, Laura didn't have to stand on her tiptoes. (But I do look pretty sharp in that shirt/tie color combo, right?)(Ok, yes. Laura picked out my clothes that day...)

And finally, there's Helen Thomas' Press Room seat. You know it's hers because it has her name on it. As you might be able to tell from this picture, the Press Room is pretty much the equivalent of an old crappy run-down high school auditorium. Also, it's tiny. And I'm pretty sure those are coffee stains on Ms. Thomas' chair. And the Fox News chair also had stains, but I don't think they were coffee. Actually, they smelled kind of like urine... I'm just saying... But yeah, a pretty ugly room overall. No wonder the press is always so hard on the President.

Anyways, thus concludes my recap of the tour. Basically, it was awesome. And frankly, I'd love it if that were my office. Soon enough. Bwahahahaha!

No one bugs him if his oval office is a mess

Friday, May 12, 2006

Done, D-U-N, Done.

Like the end of an artsy film, my law school career now says, "fin."

Yup, I'm done. Had my last test. Handed in my last paper. Answered my last question. Showed up late for class for the last time. All finished.

I'm not sure how I feel. The immediate sense of relief - "Thank God that semester is over" - is really all that's gripping me now. But I can feel a steady current below the surface, like a deadly riptide, pulling me out into the sea of unemployment. I'm struggling mightily against it, but I'm just not very good at swimming. Or interviewing.

So I'll get to work on that. And starting May 21 I'll be taking a bar review course, and preparing to take the Virginia Bar (provided they received and accept my application... when do we get confirmation that we can sit for the bar? Anyone know about this sort of thing?). So it'll be right back into school mode, with preparation for the bar which happens in late July. Hopefully in that time frame I'll be able to find a job. I'm looking at health care stuff, since I'm really interested in that, (and frankly, pretty good at it too). I'm also considering starting a non-profit so that I can continue to do the type of research and writing that I've been working with lately - basically looking at the ideal way of improving health care quality. (Which reminds me, if anyone wants to read these papers, they're not too shabby. Well, one of them is good, the other needs a lot of work, and the one from last semester is good, but could use another revision in light of the work I did this semester. So just e-mail me if you want to read 'em (and you should all want to read 'em...)(no, seriously, I understand if you don't. I'm slightly offended, but I totally understand.).

Ok, well, that's the update. I'm getting an insider's tour of the White House tomorrow, and I'll probably post a summary of that (along with Gina and Josh's visit) on here in the next couple of days. It'll be great, and I'll try to get a picture or two.

School's out forever

Monday, May 08, 2006

Bib-ul, Bib-ul, Bib-ul

Tonight, because of our various work and study schedules, Laura and I attended the 5:00 p.m. Spanish Mass. I don't know a lick of Spanish, so we picked up a Spanish/English missal, that had the readings and the service in both languages. The missal was produced, like so much Catholic reading material in this country, by The St. John's Liturgical Press. Yeah, that St. John's. Where I went to college.

But really, that's not such a big deal. There's a ton of stuff produced there, and I run into it all the time. Heck, my Canon Law professor and I had a conversation about the Lit Press, since he regularly published through them. So really, that alone wasn't so cool.

What was really cool was that the cover art was taken from The Saint John's Bible. For those of you who aren't familiar with the The Saint John's Bible, it's "the first handwritten, illuminated Bible commissioned since the printing press was invented." And it's really cool.

Why in the world would a modern monastery want to spend time and money copying the Bible by hand? Because, "in the Middle Ages, monasteries helped preserve knowledge and culture for the sake of the greater community. By commissioning a handwritten Bible, Saint John's revives a tradition and affirms its commitment to the study of scripture, to the book arts and to educational, artistic and spiritual pursuits."

The result has been amazing.

Basically, the coolest Bible in history. And so very very pretty. It's simultaneously art, Scripture, and worship. If you ever get a chance to see it in person, do.

This image is the same one that was on the cover of the missal I had at church tonight (minus the "preview only" part - I couldn't find a clean version of it). It's The Creation. And let me tell you, this digital reproduction doesn't even do justice to the reproduction that was on the cover of the missal, which I'm sure doesn't do justice to the actual illuminated manuscript.

Anyways, it's really awesome. Check it out. Browse the site, see the pictures, take in the beauty and appreciate how art can actually be a form of worship; how creating something beautiful actually connects us with God.

Manatee from Heaven

Saturday, May 06, 2006


Man, I really wish it was only hyperbole when I say I just had my worst test ever.

I'd make a follow up comment about how shot my GPA is, but I already ruined that 2 years ago.

But the part where the two proctors started fighting with each other was hilarious. One of them even went and tattled on the other one, and got her kicked out of the exam room. Hifreakinlarious.

The test on the other hand... so very, very sad.

Hey, hey, hey, goodbye

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

I Want a Monopoly

Does anyone out there know anything about copyrighting/patenting a board game idea? Or even better, about selling such an idea to a company that would pay me a lot of money for this idea?

Let's play Twister, let's play Risk

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Phickle Thoughts: Finals Edition

One week of hell done.

Yeah, that's right, we're in finals mode here. And you know what that means: yup, jackhammering outside of my apartment window. That's three years of law school and three years of jackhammering during finals. Man I love this city.

Yeah, that's right, we're in finals mode here. And you know what that means: yup, my freaking laptop starts having issues. Man, I love tradition. It just wouldn't be finals without construction and broken computers.

Fortunately this time it was just a spyware/virus issue (despite the fact that I was running 3 spyware/antivirus programs). Fortunately I was able to get it cleaned up by reformatting. But of course, that means I lost a lot of the stuff that I had on here. I backed up all the important data, and a lot of my music. But I lost all of my links, so if you have a blog or a live journal or something, please comment with a link so I can put you back into my favorites, and eventually get around to putting links back on my blog.

Speaking of other people's blogs, other people should put song quotes at the end of their posts. That way it'll remind me of good music that I need to get. Like how Emily just put up the lyrics to a song that I've been meaning to get, and now I have it. I mean, just putting up lyrics makes for a pretty crummy post, but putting lyrics at the end of a post... that's just awesome. People who do that are cool.

The past 4 days have blurred together so badly that my sense of time has really been thrown off. I've probably slept no more than 20 hours in the past 4 or 5 days. And I know for a fact that it hasn't ever been more than 4 hours straight. My sleep-cycle seems to be operating on an alternate-plane.

Mostly it got this messed up because of the two papers I had due yesterday (Monday). Both are about how we can improve the quality of health care in the U.S. (because it's frighteningly bad). One is a pretty comprehensive look at my theory, gives good background, and might be interesting to people not directly involved in this sort of quality improvement thing. The other one deals with medical malpractice and is kind of crappy, unless you're really into that sort of stuff. Also, I always worked on that one after I worked on the first one, which contributed to the crappiness a whole lot. If you're interested in checking them out, I can e-mail you a copy.

At one point I was actually in the library for almost 30 straight hours. I was able to catch a short nap, sprawled out across two easy chairs. But don't let the name deceive you - sleeping in those things was not easy. When I woke up after an hour I was really sore and felt completely out of joint. But not nearly as out of joint as this guy. (Highlarious).

After those last two sentences, I'd expect I'll get a lot more hits from pot-heads searching Google.

My papers ended up running a little long (but there wasn't really much I could cut either - maybe a page at most from each). The target number of pages for both papers combined was 41 (25+16). The total number of pages in the papers: 76 (47+29). Crazy, huh? That's almost a book. Which reminds me, if there are any publishers looking for a book on how to improve the quality of health care in America, I've got something you might be interested in...

One week of hell left.

Your check's signed in disappearing ink