I've updated my Countdown plugin to add a new feature in addition to a few minor changes.  Thanks to Denis de Bernardy, Countdown has widget support. If you use a theme that supports widgets, you can install Countdown and use the widget interface to position the Countdown output. The widget controls allow you to specify the title of the area and number of events to show. Use the regular Options page for Countdown to set the standard options including the event dates themselves.  It should be easier than ever to add upcoming recurring events to your site output.

Once again, the time has come for all good bloggers that use WordPress to visit their local WordPress meetup.  I will be attending the WordPress meetup in Philly as usual, after a several-month hiatus due to moving houses. I'm anxious to get back and see the clan and hear about what everyone has been up to over the summer.  There are a couple of WordPress groups out there. I talk to Ja over at the New York meetup via email, and I know his group is coming along nicely.  If you've got some free time, come say hi this Saturday, September 16 at 2pm. We'll be at the Ten Stone Bar and Restaurant on South Street, usually until at least 4pm. Bring your PC or not (wifi access is sketchy enough to call it "non-existant") but we're happy just to get together and chat about any topic, not just blogging.  See you there!

I used to think that Volant Fitness in Downingtown was a great investment in a home-town gym, but as it turns out, they're just another of the myriad of money-grubbing impersonal fitness corporations earning their keep off the forgetfulness of their auto-debited members.  Admittedly, it's been quite a while since I've visited Volant Fitness. Since April, when we started seriously thinking of moving, I haven't had any time for that, not that I was a very regular visitor before then. But I did call to cancel my account because it was a $50 monthly drain down which my money poured.  My call to Volant was a bit odd. They told me that the person responsible for cancelling accounts was not there. I assumed this was necessary so that they can convince you to keep paying for nothing, but at a lower rate. More likely, it was a ploy to keep me unable to cancel so I would continue to have the fees drafted from my credit card. I left a message in the general manager's voicemail, and in the turmoil of moving preparations I never noticed that he didn't return the call.  I would see the charges from Volant gym on my bank statement periodically during this period, and sometimes call them to try to cancel. Each time, there was no manager available.  Finally yesterday, I figured I would visit the gym itself to cancel my membership. They couldn't deny me if I was standing in front of them, could they? Yes, they could.

Once again, I was told that the manager that handled cancellations wasn't available. But at least he told me when the guy would be back in - today.  So today I drove back through Downingtown to the gym to cancel my membership with Volant's manager. But he was in a meeting, so the same guy I talked to yesterday who couldn't handle it became "authorized" to do it.  As he looked up my account, he noted that I was a month behind on my membership dues. I was a month behind on the membership I haven't used in a year, that I wouldn't use because I've moved, and that I've tried to cancel more than once. Moreover, there would be no cancellation until my account was up to date. They would continue to charge me for additional months on an account that I've told them in person that I have no intention of ever using again.  Plus, next month's charge would be applied tonight.  I asked, in light of all of these circumstances, that Volant simply forego the charges for this last month, cancel my membership, and let everyone go on their way. Appealing to human decency is a tactic that I'm not above when it's merited. But no, that didn't sway him either.  When the general manager finally surfaced, he was just as rigid as his previously authorized agent. He felt that Volant was entitled to my money for providing the service, regarless of whether I had used it. Nevermind that I had tried to cancel it prior to then, and could not do so due to his unavailability, and that I would not have used it and did not use it during that time.  I suppose that this whole scenario should have been what I expected. Why would I expect personal service from a company that survives solely on the premise that people don't make use of their memberships? After all, they tried to sell me the services of a personal trainer in the guise of a "1-hour gym tour" when I first signed up. So much for small town service in Downingtown, even for long-time members in otherwise good standing.  The gym itself is fine, and although I'm sure they've raised their rates since I signed up at their opening, they have a good deal. If you feel comfortable dealing with folks who consider five years of membership meaningless, then I suggest you check them out.

I don't really think it's a demon that's possessed me, but I woke up this morning with a strange thought in my head, and I had to act upon it.  See, I have my alarm set to go off at 7am. For some reason, the maker of the clock decided that 7 minutes was enough snooze time for anyone, and because of this, I usually actually get out of bed at 7:28. 

There is an odd side-effect, however. I'm sure that people who use their snooze alarms notice this (especially this guy I knew in college who would snooze himself from 8 until 11), but you can have some pretty funky dreams in those small little segments of time. The best part about them is that they are so memorable. 

Of course, the downside is that you never get the full picture. Like, Uncle Joe is about to tell you the secret of life, and BEEP-BEEP, you're grasping for the clock again. But I guess that's why they stick with you so well. The interruption triggers it. 

So I had a dream between 7:21 and 7:28 this morning about creating a web site named Asymptomatic, subtitled "There's no intelligent life down here." I don't remember the exact content of the site in the dream, but I sure was adamant about it. 

If only to expose the rest of my morning ritual to you, I should tell you about my morning showers. After sitting up in bed for a few minutes rubbing my eyes, I end up in the shower around 7:25. (For those of you paying attention, my bedroom clock is set 15 minutes faster than every other timepiece in the house.) Depending on what my sleep was like, what things I have to schedule throughout the day, and how much I've had to drink the night before, shower lengths vary from day to day. 

Today's shower wasn't too much different from others in what goes on. Apart from the obligatory washing that takes place, I tend to think about my dreams or my plans for the day. My dreams this morning impacted my shower routine very distinctly. It was then that the idea for this site started to propagate. 

I remember thinking that the site in my dream was an example of someone or something having intelligence.  It was a statement against everyone else out there who would conform to ignorance, or catch some disease of malaise.  (And by these terms, the conformists are the ones with the symptoms.) Maybe it's my statement of purpose not to catch the same "blah" attitude with everything that everyone seems to have these days. 

Before you go thinking that I'm some kind of nut, it's not just based on the dream that I put this together. The dream was just the instigator. I was thinking in the shower about my life after college, and how much I've changed. I remembered things that I used to do all the time, and how I've become this strange, law-abiding, rules-following.... thing. I've become so uptight that I won't even get a refill from an iced-tea dispenser at a restaurant unless there's a sign that says "Free Refills". 

Maybe it seems strange to you for me to come to a realization like this. Maybe it is strange. The fact remains that I've become a sort of rules stickler, which is something that I would have avoided totally in my college years. 

I used to write all the time. Now I hardly write anything. I experience very little creativity anymore, when I used to brim with it. I think I'm generally a mean, cranky person in appearance, when I would really rather be (and usually see myself as) a nice guy.  I've walled myself in with my own restrictions, and now I'm suffocating. 

What does that have to do with this web site? Well, I guess my inner demons have gotten the better of me. I need an outlet. The two sites I maintain already are too restrictive. There's got to be creative flow. With this I can write about oompa-loompas if I want to. 

So am I possessed by demons?  Well, if I am, they sure have written more today for this site than they have for the other sites in months.  They must be good.  Hopefully, they'll share some more with us.

I hate lateral thinking.  The answers to the puzzles usually don't
make any sense.  How can you answer a question when all of the facts
aren't presented to you in the beginning?  There are a couple that
make some sense, though.  Here's one that isn't too bad:

A man lives in an apartment on the 35th floor.  He gets in the
elevator to leave his building for work.  He hits the button for the
first floor, gets off there and goes to his office.  At the end of
the work day, he returns home, gets in the elevator and hits the button
for the 32nd floor.  He gets off on the 32nd floor and takes the
three flights of stairs to his apartment.  If he didn't do it for the
exercise, why did he get off the elevator to take the stairs up?  And another:

A detective receives a call at the precinct.  He leaves the
station and arrives at an apartment to find Harry and Sally laying dead
behind the couch in the living room.  The only traces of evidence are
a damp spot (of water) and little bits of broken glass in the carpet near
the bodies, and a cat, which is standing atop a shelf with it's back
arched, hissing.  Using only these clues, he's able to determine that
Harry and Sally have suffocated to death.  How did he reach this
conclusion?  The answer to the first puzzle:

Usually you're supposed to ask yes or no questions as they relate to
the puzzle, but in this case, since I'm not around to answer, I'll just
give you the solution.  The reason that the man got off on the 32nd
floor instead of the 35th is that he's short.  He's vertically
challenged.  He ain't tall.  Because of this, he couldn't reach
the button for the floor on which he lives, and had to get out on the
highest floor that he could reach, the 32nd.  The answer to the second puzzle:

This one's tricky, too.  It all has to do with making assumptions
about the victims in the "crime".  Of course, when you
realize that the murdering cat is the one who knocked over the fish bowl,
you can reach the correct conclusion.  Of course, if you investigate
further, you might also discover that the apartment belonged to the
detective, and his neighbor called him at the station because she heard
the glass bowl break.  The illusion that the apartment is not the
detectives is perpetuated by the fact that his pet fish have names, while
his cat does not.  Isn't that odd?