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36 posts from July 2005

Burnin' down the house.

"I want him dead!  I want his family dead!  I want his house burned to the ground!"
--Robert DeNiro, The Untouchables

Oh wait... I already did that last part twice now.  And, as of this morning, I've played "fire department" three times as well.

Yes, I discovered that my arch nemesis has rebuilt his home in my grill.  Katie and I were trying to grill some goods for lunch yesterday and, inside the grill, was another mouse condo.  Unfortunately, "Sylvie" -- as I've taken to calling the little bastard as it's an abbreviated version of his scientific name Apodemus sylvaticus -- was not home.  But, I soaked his home, removed it, and torched the remnants anyway.

MisccaptahabI'm assuming that, like some young children, if the mouse didn't see it happen, it never did in his mind, and he won't learn from the experience.  This morning, for kicks, I opened the lid of the grill and there was his cute, little, disease-harboring self staring right back up at me.  I swear he was mocking me.  So, I flooded him.  And then I continued to hose him as he raced across our backyard.

The first time we came across Sylvie, it had been a month since we'd used our grill.  We believed our grilling inactivity had contributed in some way to his mousey construction plans.  Guess we were wrong.  We used the grill only this past weekend and here he was all moved in again.  And he was back there a third time less than 16 hours later.

Now we need to figure out how he's getting up there.  We were storing our deck chairs under the grill cover as protection from the elements the first time.  They fold up and fit perfectly under the cooling racks on either side of the grill.  When we found little torn spots on the canvas of the chair, we figured he climbed his way up and over on the chairs themselves.  Sort of a makeshift ladder.

The second time, however, the chairs weren't under the cover.  So we concluded that he was using his little claws to climb the inside of our canvas grill cover.

But, now I'm at a complete loss.  I didn't have the cover on it overnight at all.  I just forgot to put it back on.  Obviously, this fuzzy little shit has some mad climbing skills because he would have had to scale sheet metal or our propane tank straight up to get in there.  Unless he's got wings, I see no other way.

Sylvie, I tried to be nice.  I had hoped you would have learned your less from merely being soaked and having your house torched.  This has proven to be enough convincing in urban riots and instances of third-world genocide.  I really didn't want to have to hurt you permanently.  Now, you've overstepped your bounds and overstayed your welcome.

ASPCA be damned... you will pay.

I think I'm starting to get a taste for how Ahab felt.  I have my white whale.


Daylight come and me wan' go home.

In an attempt to "shorten" winter, "lengthen" summer, and "conserve" energy, the Energy and Commerce Committee has proposed a bill to extend daylight savings time by four weeks.  From what I heard on one of the morning news shows, the bill has passed or is on the verge of passing in Congress.  I'm not sure which.

The way it works will be that the beginning of daylight savings time will be moved up three weeks to the second Sunday in March and the end will be bumped back a week to the first Sunday in November. 

Their hope is that by extending DST, houses won't need to use electric lighting as much because they will have that extra hour of daylight.

I'm still trying to understand why we do it all.  I realize that there is some good to extending summer daylight for "conservation" (and I use that term lightly).  But it gets screwed up because we bounce back to standard time for the winter.  This makes the days much shorter not only because we lose that hour but because the sun spends most of its time in the southern hemisphere of the planet due to planetary rotation.  We really wind up losing nearly four hours of daylight, at least here in the northern states.  This kills us in terms of seasonal affective disorder and results in one of the most common causes of automobile accidents... darkness.  But if we were to keep DST year round, then we wind up with longer periods of darkness in the winter for the morning commute and we're mired in a Catch 22 from hell.

The rumor is that Benjamin Franklin created DST for farmers to give them an extra hour of daylight to do their work.  However, this is not really the case as it's been stated that Franklin made this claim more in jest to convince farmers to just wake up an hour earlier to get their work done.  Plus, how much truth can there be to it if it was never adopted stateside until 1916 in response to WWI.  Bit of a time difference, wouldn't you say?

Plus, from what I've read, farmers don't even like DST because animals don't react to it.  So farmers actually wind up losing an hour of daylight in which to work with the animals.

Nobody can decide what to do with DST.  Arizona does not recognize it except in the Navajo Indian Reservation.  Hawaii does not practice it because it is located much further south and has enough daylight to go around.  Indiana is all over the board because the state sits in two time zones and some areas within each time zone do or do not practice DST.  Countries in extreme latitudes do not practice it because their seasons are characterized by nearly 100% sunlight in the summers or 100% darkness in the winters.  What would be the point? 

For the most part, the nations in the northern hemisphere that do practice DST have pretty much corresponding start and end times.  Would this addition of four weeks of DST in the U.S. screw up such things as airplane flight patterns and business transactions?  I'm sure there might be some initial short-term effect, but it should normalize, I would think.

If you're confused as to whether I support this change or not, you're not the only one.  I don't know if I want it to happen, don't want it to happen, want to keep DST year round, or pitch it year round.  There are so many arguments for each camp.  And they all make sense to some degree.  I just can't figure out which ones I support more.


It's alright, cause I'm saved by the Bell.

Sorry, that title was just terrible, wasn't it?  When you try to use the titles and/or lyrics of songs as the title of your blog entries as I have been for the last dozen or so, you sometimes run across one to which you just can't say "no."  This was one such victim of my penchant for nostalgic TV theme songs. 

MisckristenbellWell, Dave, I hope you're happy.  I'm caving.  I'm giving up my summer "ban" on TV shows to watch CBS's pre-season 2 reairing of what I hope is the entire first season of the Dave-Approved show Veronica Mars (starring Kristen Bell, at right... ah, the "saved by the Bell" reference suddenly makes sense now, doesn't it?).

I just happened to look on the TV listings that I have as a section of my My Yahoo! start page and I saw that CBS is airing two episodes of the show tonight.  I had no idea that they were airing this show as it spent its first season in what amounts to TV Purgatory... UPN.  But, much like was the case with Monk, why would any of the big four nets allow an inferior channel to reap the rewards of a popular program?  ABC tried to steal the first-run episodes of their sister station USA's Monk but had to settle for sloppy seconds.

I e-mailed Dave to ask if he knew about this airing of VM on CBS and I have yet to hear back from him.  I also asked when this CBS coup started because, if I had known, I may have started tuning in from the beginning.  Turns out, with a quick check of epguides.com, that the first of the two episodes airing on CBS tonight is the pilot.  Through some spectacularly stupid programming rationale, the second episode is actually the Christmas episode.  I wonder if I should watch it or not if it's not going to air in order.

But considering how Dave goes on and on (guys, roll up your tongues long enough to read the blurb under the pic of Catherine Bell) and on (this one contains a spoiler - read at your own risk) and on (another spoiler) and on and on and on and on and on (this one just by using an image) and  on and on and on about the show, I'm guessing this show is akin to the second coming of Christ.  Dave, did I catch all the references?  I sure as hell hope so.  This show had better be flippin' spectacular.  Even if it is out of order, the first season will be out on DVD in October.

Since Katie and I work at the gym on Friday nights, I am going to bust out a brand spankin' new VHS tape and nab these little buggers; at least until I've either decided to simply rent or buy the DVDs or I finally come to the conclusion that Dave is just a complete loon. 

Sorry, I have not yet succumbed to the TiVo or Comcast DVR revolution.  Still a hold out, analoging my way through the TV tundra with my trusty old VCR.  Anybody still remember those?


Dream on, white boy; dream on, black girl.

The Early Show on, I think it was, CBS presented an abbreviated debate about whether or not racial profiling should be used to help identify potential terrorists.

One side of the argument claimed that it was an infringement of civil rights.  Which is true and I agree that is a bad thing.  Hell, I'm very much against portions of the Patriot Act for the same reason.

The flip side of the coin is that, in this age of Islamic militancy against western culture and interests, it could help.

While it does seem that most of the terrorists that have emerged since the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centers do appear to be of middle eastern origin and Islamic in terms of religious preference, this does not mean that they all are.

But what does it really matter if racial profiling is officially announced as a "tool" to help in the crusade against terrorism?  It has been used for years and will continue to be used regardless. 

Police will always nail African Americans to the wall when it comes to making busts or remain extra watchful when black people are around.  Airport personnel are always going to worry when they see someone of middle eastern descent on their flights.  Hispanic families will always be perceived as lowering property values in neighborhoods where they live.  White males are always going to be serial killers.

Sad as it is, this is the nature of the beast.  Saying that racial profiling is illegal is the truth, but nothing will ever stop it, period. 

And what makes it worse is that racial profiling causes tension.  If you are Muslim and heading into an airport, you are automatically going to be on edge because you know the possibility of you being treated with prejudice is 100% greater than if you are of any other heritage in the world.  Even if you have no reason to be suspected whatsoever.  This edginess will make you defensive which will, in the eyes of law enforcement and airport personnel, make you appear like you are guilty and hiding something.  Hence, you become a target.  If you try to file some kind of lawsuit due to racial profiling, your case is shot down nearly automatically because law enforcement will just say that you were acting suspiciously.  They have their justification.

Racial profiling is evil.  But I don't see anything happening to it, ever. 

I have personally witnessed what can happen as a result of racial profiling.  I have spoken with black friends who have been pulled over for doing nothing more than driving a car or walking down the street in what is otherwise perceived as a white neighborhood.  I have heard white people talk about the "negative influence" a household of some other race has had on their neighborhood.  I see Muslim people constantly watching out the corners of their eyes as they walk down the street.

Heck, if you have been a reader of my site since 2001, you will know that I was part of an instance of racial profiling while on my honeymoon.  When a pair of middle eastern men came on board one of our return flights from Hawaii (I want to say the LA to Chicago leg), I was asked by a male flight attendant if I would help to take them down should they both get up at the same time and move towards the cockpit.  I am a big man who is relatively strong (at least in my mind) and I was sitting on the aisle a few rows behind them.  The flight attendant said he hated to make it look like he was performing racial profiling, but he and others were scared as this was only a month after 9/11.  The crew even went so far as to announce that the forward restrooms were "out of order" - the ones right by the entrance to the cockpit - thus giving these potential "terrorists" no reason to move forward in the plane whatsoever.

I didn't agree with the rationale behind the request, but I agreed to help should something happen.  Not that I expected it to, but, in light of 9/11, I would never sit back and just accept it should something actually begin.  Not anymore.  A terrorist shows up on a flight I'm on, I'm doing everything in my power to bring him down.  Should I succeed, I will make him or her pay for it.

Nothing happened, thankfully.  But I did score myself a free bottle of pretty decent champagne for my "willingness" to help.  And, God knows, the flight attendants were at Katie's and my beck and call the entire flight.  If it hadn't been so early in the morning, I would have been drinking for free the whole time.  Damn my timing.


Crash (into me).

As much as I love my computer, some things can go wrong with it every once in a while.

Tonight, for example, I had typed up an entire post about a local radio station that streams via MP3 (making it compatible with iTunes) and I had it all ready to go when disaster struck.  As I was trying to insert an image into the entry, Firefox decided to crap out on me and my entire system subsequently froze.  I'm sure it wasn't helped by the fact that I was running a Software Update at the time and just completely forgot that it was operating.  I'm not even going to try to remember all that I had typed.  So, I'll just leave the topic alone by saying that you should really check out WONC 89.1 FM's streaming MP3 broadcast.

MisclombardNormally, this isn't that big of a deal.  Any modernized Mac could run both simultaneously without a second thought.  But I still have my beloved PowerBook G3 Lombard (same laptop used by Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City - but I had mine first) as my primary computer.  I haven't upgraded the RAM in this beast since 2000 when I bumped it up to 192 MB from the 64 MB that it came with. 

Back in 2000, 192 was pretty sufficient to get just about anything done.  Now, however, 192 isn't even up to snuff with the system minimum that comes with almost all new Macs.  They all barebone it at 256 MB.  And, in most cases, 512 MB is the bare minimum that any self respecting designer would run.  Take into account the fact that most of that 192 MB is spent on running OS X.3, it really doesn't leave much for multitasking other operations.

I just haven't bothered to upgrade.  And, yet, I know I desperately need to.

I do have some sites in mind.  MacSales has the RAM available and for a very doable price.  The only catch is that I can only upgrade the topside RAM.  You see, the G3 PowerBooks have both upper and lower memory slots for RAM.  The upper level is the only slot I can readily access as it's seated right underneath the keyboard.  I can't even figure out how to get into the lower slot.  Even if I could, the G3 PB only supports a max of 384 MB of RAM and, ideally, I would like to throw a 256 MB chip into both slots to bring the total RAM up to 512 MB. 

So, maybe I just deal with it and buy the 256 MB chip that is available on MacSales and upgrade the upper level only to bring my power up to 320 MB.  If I can find an easy way to upgrade the lower level (which comes with a native 64 MB chip) or find someone that can do it for me, that would be great.  But for now...

Oh, and I'm done procrastinating.  I'm buying the damn chip now.  I need it.  No two ways around it.

Forgive me, Katie.  I know I promised to not spend money frivolously right now, but this is far from frivolous and definitely necessary.


Take it off.

...and put these on instead!

I like clever T-shirts.  Sometimes, there's nothing else that quite compares to when somebody comes up with some nifty ideas for shirts. 

For example, there is the Free Katie T-shirt that I bought for my wife (of course, it refers to Katie Holmes; but we still liked it enough to buy one for her).  Then there are the Real Genius and Revenge of the Nerds replica shirts that we bought for ourselves.

While the Genius and Nerds shirts came from founditemclothing.com, the Free Katie shirt was sold via CafePress.com.  And that latter site really sells some clever stuff.  No, they are not always responsible for what is sold through their site.  CafePress is actually a place where normal joes like you and me can submit our own designs and have them sell those designs on different types of clothing and memorabilia as designated by us.  For example, you can set up your account so that you only sell your logo on hoodie sweatshirts, baseball-style T-shirts, mousepads, and mugs.  Or you can have them printed on license plate rims, baby doll shirts, ballcaps, and so many other items.

But it's the concept that the designs come from anyone anywhere that makes the site so great.  Anybody with a great idea but no ability to print the shirts themselves can go here.  And the stuff is made up using what can effectively be equated to just-in-time (JIT) methodology... meaning it's not printed until the order comes in.  So there is no backstock of pre-printed inventory.  The seller doesn't need to pay in advance to have stuff ready to go and CafePress never needs to worry about having too much stuff sitting around.  Plus, the seller never needs to worry about shipping.

Every once in a while, I like to look at CafePress' list of designs and see what's new.  You can always guarantee that you will find politically motivated wares and today was no letdown to say the least.  You gotta check out some of these...

Misccafepress05jul

Of course, the first is commentary on the Karl Rove situation using the uberpopular iTunes/iPod stylized ads.  Heh heh.

The second is a spin on the logo of the FOX television show, The O.C., but focusing on a different O and C... that being of the (Barack) Obama and (Hillary) Clinton variety.  I almost want to buy this shirt now just to say I was one of the first.

The third plays off the old "All Your Base Are Belong To Us" video game translation gaffe.  The shirt uses a derivation in reference to the, as they call it, eminent domain insanity that is embroiled civil liberties enthusiasts everywhere.

The fourth is reminiscent of the Got Milk ads but for Gitmo, the petname for the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where all the terror suspects and enemy combatants are being held that have been captured since the war in Iraq began.

Even if you don't agree with the politics as stated on these shirts, you've gotta admire the creativity that went into these designs.  They really are quite brilliant.

MiscclownseatThis final design (at right) is not very politically motivated, but it holds special meaning for me seeing as how I suffer from a mildly severe case of coulrophobia.

I've already told Katie that there is no way in hell I will be taking our kids to a circus.  I just can't do it.  Sorry, maybe it's a bit childish of me, but I can't stand those makeup'd freaks.  Leave me be.  Please. 

The only thing worse would be a ventriloquist dummy in clown makeup.  Two horrors for the price of one.  Maybe that's why I hated the movie Poltergeist so much.  Gahh...


Working for a livin'.

Being what I like to refer to as a "minority computer user" -- a Machead -- I am more than willing to help those people in need when it comes to figuring out something on Macintosh computers or their Apple-related hardware and software.

Take, for example, today... I was sitting in the Atrium reading a book when a I spied a woman in her mid to late 40s (obviously one of our continuing ed or grad program students) working on an iBook.   I smiled to myself, thinking, "ah... yet another enlightened soul.  You go girl!"

Miscmaclogo_1At one point, she got up to leave and asked me if I could watch her stuff.  I agreed.  Upon her return a couple minutes later, I said, "all your stuff is still here."  She laughed and said, "I doubt anybody could get away with my stuff that quickly."  I replied, "I'm a Machead.  I would've run off with your laptop in a heartbeat."  She laughed again, but then got intrigued and asked if I knew much about configuring iPods, specifically her new iPod Mini.  Apparently, when she plugged in her iPod Mini via the USB port on the computer, her songs weren't uploading automatically as the instructions said they would.  She had nothing to show on her Pod for the dozen or so CDs she had ripped into iTunes.

I tried to let her know what things to look out for but I think I was just confusing her.  So she pulled the iPod out of her shoulder bag and asked if I could look at it.  Sure, no problem.  I plugged it in, it showed up on the desktop fine and even autostarted iTunes.  I just went into the options, clicked a radio button and the Pod burst to life loading her entire song library. 

She was exceptionally grateful going on and on about how simple I made it look (it really was) and how she can now finally use her Pod.

We started talking about music and she asked if I'd heard of the company called Shure.  Ummm, yeah!  They only make the best-rated, noise-canceling earbuds that you could ever ask for on your Pod (or any digital music player for that matter).  I had actually been pricing new earbuds for my Pod this morning and was despondent over the sheer cost for Shure buds.  At the low end, as per the Apple Store, they price in at nearly $150.  High-end models on the Apple site cost somewhere around $300.  They may have even come more expensive, but I was too depressed to really pay much attention.  I could never justify spending that kind of money no matter how much use I would get out of them.  Looking on the Shure Store site, they have buds ranging from $109-499.  Ouch.

She said that her son is a mechanical engineer working for the company and that he's getting her a pair of the buds (no specifics as to which model).  I was ready to drool.  She started talking about how he loves working for Shure and that they are a local company, which I did not know.  They also have infrequent inventory closeout sales that they were considering opening up to the Web community as well.

We were talking for about ten minutes before one of her classmates showed up and my cellphone started ringing.  We said our goodbyes.  And, as I walked away, I kept wishing that she was grateful enough to call her son and have him hook me up with a set of buds.  Even just a discount.  Any help at that price point would be greatly appreciated.  Alas, no such luck.

Despite the lack of recompense, I was still more than happy to help her out.  And, I find that just about any Mac user seems willing to do the same when they find a brethren in need.  Funny how that never happened when I was strictly a Windows user. 


Double bogey blues.

In case you are wondering how I spent the final free Monday I have before heading back to work, I spent it on the golf course.

I am 30 years old and I am finally hitting the links for my first round of golf, ever.  Well, half round would be more appropriate a description, I suppose, since my Dad and I only played the back nine of the course.

We trekked it up to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, to the golf course owned and operated by the place where I work.  It's nice because, as an employee, I get to play nine holes for a mere $5.  You can't beat that.  And when you are a beginner with the game, spending $5 is far less painful than what it could cost.

Before you ask what my score was, I'll stop you.  My dad and I were playing a friendly game (thank God) and we didn't bother keeping score.  This is a good thing for two reasons... 1. my score was just too terrible to want to record, and, 2. I walk out with some semblance of dignity.

There were a couple of holes where I merely bogeyed instead of scoring a double, triple, or, even, a quadruple bogey.  On one hole, I was on the green of a par four in just two shots.  But that short game killed me.  I either overputt or underputt.  Gotta work on that. 

But the key is that I got out and played and enjoyed it.  Dunno if I'm ready for a full 18 holes yet, but I will get there eventually.


Cleanin' out the closet.

Here's the tally...

  1. two unused gift bags
  2. three hairbands
  3. two rings
  4. a rubber ball
  5. a bunch of paperclips
  6. some kind of toy ladder
  7. two stray socks
  8. a few rubber bands
  9. one handheld Battleship game
  10. several dustpans full of unidentifiable (thank God!) garbage
  11. enough dust bunnies to choke a horse
  12. approximately 97 cents in assorted change

What is all this that I have listed above, you may be asking?  It would be all the crap that I found underneath the washer and dryer in our laundry closet as I was disconnecting and removing them to install gently used ones that our friends sold us. 

It was one of the most disgusting cleaning jobs I've ever had to do.  It has taken me more time to clean the floor in there than to disconnect and physically remove the actual machines.  I would dust and mop, mop and dust, and then do both all over again.  More water and trash would just "appear."  I swear to God.  I don't know where it was coming from.  But it would show up.

Plus, while doing this, I also discovered the reason why our laundry room has so much dust flying around it (which resulted in our furnace becoming clogged and requiring cleaning).  There was a gaping four-inch hole in the air exhaust hose coming out of the back of the dryer.  No wonder that room gets so nasty.  Hopefully, this new hose I bought will keep the flying lint and dust to a relative minimum. 

Today's just been weird.  But I've found several movies to watch on any number of Starz, Encore, or HBO stations.  I at least had those to keep me company.  Too bad I didn't finish the other book I was hoping to get done today.  Maybe by early this week.  That will cut the queue down to two from four (yep, finished iCon - Steve Jobs yesterday and will be finishing Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance very soon, ideally).  Considering I found my last (and previously thought to be lost) box of books in the attic yesterday, I now have more that I want to read.  Damn.

I think it's time for a beer.


Skateaway.

I have now been on my Blades a total of three times and have progressively gotten better.  I haven't fallen since my first time out this year (not that I haven't come close) and my legs don't ache quite as much as they once did. 

However, during my second time out with Katie, we went down a relatively large hill.  Once we got to the bottom, I looked back and saw Katie struggling to keep herself on her feet as she was laughing so hard.  Apparently, my right skate was smoking (literally) on the way down the hill.  She thought it was my wheels/bearings. I thought it was just the brake on my right skate that I had jammed into the ground so I could die at a speed of 25 miles per hour instead of 150.  It might've been some combination thereof.

But my skates are eight years old and have the original wheels and bearings, so we figured it was time for them to be replaced.  Doing that might give me another year or two before I have to go out and buy whole new skates, or so we were hoping.  Wheels and bearings can't possibly cost as much as a new pair with boots, frames, and everything, right?

Yeah, not really.  When I finally did find a store that carried the size wheel for my skate (70mm, 82A - not a very popular size anymore), I had to buy the wheels in two packs of four and then the set of bearings.  Everything came out to over $75.  Some of the new skates at the same store were only $85.  I didn't want to pay $85, but I didn't want to pay the $75 either.  Neither price made much sense to me since the store had wheel and bearing kits prepackaged for around $30-40.  They just didn't have my size wheel. 

I checked out a couple other sporting goods shops, and nada.

So I went online and searched Amazon for the same company that put together those prepackaged sets that I had found in the bricks and mortar stores I went to.  They did have them and for only about $30.  Then, just for kicks, I went to MC Sports and searched.  Found 'em for $2 less.

Well, my new wheels and bearings came in the other day and I swapped them out on my skates yesterday.  Don't get me wrong, I knew my wheels were in bad shape.  That wasn't the question.  What I didn't realize was just how bad a shape they were in. 

To illustrate how pitiful the old wheels truly are, I took photos of one of the worst and compared it to one of the new wheels.

Miscbladewheels_1

Pretty bad, eh?  I can't believe the old ones were ground down so badly.  Yes, they are both the same size; or, they were when they each came off the assembly line.  It blows my mind to think that I've been that hard on these wheels.  Then again, I have had eight years to perfect my "craft."

Someone please play "Taps" for my old wheels.  They are off to a better place.  One where they will be restored to their pre-Kevin glory.


Beer run.

MiscbeerMaybe I'm hungry (or, more to the point, thirsty).  Perhaps it's just my sleep-starved brain "at work" here.  However, this morning, when the air conditioner in my office kicked on, I swore I smelled beer.

There I was, just sitting in front of my computer, the A/C comes on and I could smell it.  Clear as day.

Unfortunately, it didn't smell like a good beer.  It smelled like a drunken frat party sort of beer.  Keystone.  Schlitz.  Old Milwaukee.  That sort of crap.  The type that someone might actually pour into an A/C unit in disgust.  But it was, most decidedly, beer that I smelled.

Nobody else mentioned smelling anything weird.  Be it beer or something else.  Hell, at this hour on a Friday, I don't think there'd be complaints from my office mates even if they could smell it.  If anything, there might be some drooling.  But none of that was happening either.

I really need to get home.  I really want a beer.  Good thing tonight is game night with some friends of ours.  Where there are games, there is beer.

But I also need to get my beer out of the garage and into the fridge since the mercury is supposed to jump to over 100 degrees this weekend.  Sunday is supposed to be the worst with a heat index at almost 115 degrees.  Yikes!  I will need that beer to be frosty cold.

I'm sorry.  That was my most pointless post ever.  I dunno why I did it.  Just one of those Friday oddities.


Where is my mind?

Being that it's summer and I work at a university, we are allowed to leave at 4:30 in the afternoon instead of the normal 5:00 p.m. that we toil through during the rest of the year. 

As 4:30 approached yesterday, I started to pack it all in.  I shut down my PC and my Mac (I am one of only two offices on campus that has both types since I am one of only a couple of people that can use both relatively fluently), killed some lamps, and started to throw all my personal stuff in my bag.  I threw my bag over my head and shoulder, grabbed my iPod, and went to grab my keys.

My keys!  Where the hell are my keys?!

I start digging under a few piles of paperwork on my desk... to no avail. 

Damn!

I look over on the file cabinets on the other side of my office... nothing. 

Shit!

I dig around in my bag knowing that there is no possible way that they could be in there since I didn't put anything in my bag other than the book I was reading over my lunch break, my Palm Pilot, and a pen.  As I suspected... nada.

Mutha puss bucket!

I never loan my keys to anybody as no one else would have any need for them.  I have the same office key that everyone else has.

Fuck! (Hey, my internal dialogue wasn't censored, why should my blog be?  Deal with it.)

My hands graze over my pants pockets and still no sign.

Finally, I realize where they are.  I had them with me when I went on my lunch break and remember taking them out of my pocket in the atrium where I like to read and put them on the couch next to where I was sitting.

Contrary to what you might expect, panic is really starting to set in now.

I'm not sure that the realization of their actual location was much more comforting than the confusion I felt during my desperate quest.  Sure I knew where they ideally should be, but we're talking about the second-busiest building on campus and they had been sitting in the middle of a rather major thoroughfare for about four hours.  It may be summer, but there are still students on campus taking classes.  Not good.

I hauled it over to where they should be planning out the worst-case scenario in my head on the way. 

Where would someone turn in lost keys if they found them in that building?  Would it be campus security?  What is the number for campus security?  Where did they move their damn office?  What if they were found but not turned in?  There's nothing of value on that key chain to anyone other than myself, is there?  Upon realization of what kind of car I drove, would they actually steal it or just throw the keys to the curb in disgust (hey, I love my '97 Ranger, but I doubt it has that high a resale value on the Black Market)?

Sorry, but I have an innate mistrust of human nature.  I'm a pessimist.  I've learned to accept it.

My keys were, indeed, there.  Right where I left them.

I breathed a sigh of relief and headed back to my truck. 

Sorry the story doesn't veer off into the whole "I had to call Ford and have them recut keys for my truck and have all these other places to which I had keys on my keychain recore their locks as well."  I did have a happy ending.  But it was still frustrating nonetheless.


Broken wing?

MisckerrywoodIn what should come as no surprise to Chicago Cubs fans everywhere, yet another player has gone down with yet another injury.  After only three innings, and three home runs ceded, Kerry Wood left the game with stiffness in his pitching shoulder.

Whether he will spend time on the DL remains to be seen.  But it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest.  He's always on the DL.  I can't remember the last time he has gone a full season without being on the DL.  It may have happened, but I sure don't remember it.  Heck, he's already been on the DL once this season.

Just trade him.  Please.  Let him loose while he still has some value to other teams.

Yet the Cubs stay the course as though he and Mark Prior are the future of the pitching rotation.  Bzzzzttt... wrong answer.

Of course, that just means he will be a spectacular pitcher wherever else he winds up. Isn't that how it always works with Cubs trades?  Greg Maddux.  Rafael Palmeiro. 

I still don't understand why we let go of Matt Clement.  I loved that guy.  He was my favorite Cub.  But it just strengthens my love of the Bosox since that's where he now is.

What I found funniest about this whole thing was that, while driving to work this morning, Bruce Wolf, who reads the sports report on The Loop (WLUP 97.9 FM), likened Kerry Wood to the Space Shuttle... "He's expensive, dangerous, and often scrubbed."  Talk about poetic.  I loved it.


Ride the wind.

Dave's post about visiting Hershey Park yesterday made me start to wax nostalgic about theme parks and roller coasters and my love of both.  Now I desperately want to go again.  I don't care to which one just so long as I can jump on a roller coaster and scream.

I've been to quite a few theme and coaster parks in my life.  Actually, now that I think about it, there really haven't been that many.  I've just been to several of them on numerous occasions.

King's Island in Cincinnati, Ohio:
MiscbeastkingsislandThe first that I can recall going to.  I went several times between 1980 and 1985 when I lived in Lexington, Kentucky.  Cincy really wasn't that far a trip and I don't think this park was as inflated in price as places like Disney World and whatnot.  I would go there during the reign of the Bat, the Beast (at right; photo courtesy of Hampshire House Hotel), the Screamin' Demon (later renamed simply the Demon), and the Beastie (which, it appears, has been renamed the Son of Beast, if that's the same ride).  After I moved away from Kentucky, I would visit my friend, Steve, and we went to the Island and were able to ride the Vortex which wasn't quite open when I lived there.  Sadly, it looks as though the Bat and the Demon no longer exist.  It's a shame since the Bat was the first hanging roller coaster and a helluva thrill ride.

(Not so) funny story about one trip to KI... during the height of the invisible dog leash craze in the early 80s, we saw somebody walking around with one in the park.  I'd never seen one of these things before and I was something like six years old.  My parents told me to go up to it and pet the dog.  I distinctly remember looking at them like they were crazy.  When they prodded a bit more, I said, "there's nothing there."  They insisted.  If not your own parents, then who the hell can you trust as a kid, right?  So I went up and made myself look like a complete horse's ass.  Everyone laughed their ass off.  I probably would have, too. 

Thanks Mom and Dad!  I've been scarred for life by this one.  As I recall, the "leash" was being "walked" by two fairly good looking teenaged girls (you tend to remember those that laugh right in your face).  Maybe this contributed to my fear of asking girls on dates in high school and college.  Oh, do you feel guilty now, mom and dad?  Huh, do ya?  You should.

Hershey Lake Compounce in Bristol, Connecticut:
Living just a few miles from this place for a couple of years had its benefits.  It wasn't the biggest nor the best coaster park I'd ever been to.  But, damn if it wasn't convenient as hell to visit.  And not that many people actually did go there.  I remember on one visit, my friend, Mit, and I jumped on the Wildcat (that they claimed was the oldest wooden coaster in the U.S.; no verification of the factuality of this statement) and were able to just sit in the same seat through four or five runs around the track.  Never even had to get up and get back in line.  That's how un-busy it was.

Six Flags: Great America in Gurnee, Illinois:
Since I live in the area, I have been there several times.  Although, in the grand scheme of things, five visits over 18 years isn't really a lot, is it?  I always hated how crowded this place was.  And this was the first coaster park I ever visited while of the age when I could pay for myself and it was so damned expensive.  It's cheaper than ones in Orlando and elsewhere.  But $40-50 as a teenager is a lot of money.  Even concerts didn't cost that much (they do now, of course).  So that's probably what stifled my visitation through the years.  I do know Katie and I would like to go back sometime.  She likes coasters, too.

Always loved the American Eagle.  Great coaster.  Also have been able to ride Shockwave, the Demon, Raging Bull, Whizzer, Giant Drop, Iron Wolf, and Batman (despite being a rip-off of the Bat at King's Island).

Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay, Florida:
It's been years since I've been to this place.  So I really don't remember it that well.  It was during one of our visits with my grandparents who live a couple hours away.  Katie and I should go back.  I keep hearing good things about the rides.

Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando, Florida:
Not really renowned as coaster parks, per se.  But definitely as theme parks.  And they were fun.  It has been years, yet again, since I've been to these parks, either, and we should make it a point to revisit when we go down and see Nano (my grandma) again.  The last time we visited her, Katie and I took advantage of the opportunity to go see Universal Studios in Orlando which I had never been to. 

Which segues nicely into...

Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida:
Again, not really a coaster park so much as a theme park for families.  Although The Mummy did have a few unexpected twists and turns that we really enjoyed.  Enough that we rode it twice.  I guess if we wanted the coasters, we should have gone to Islands of Adventure.  But, we didn't want just coasters at the time.  We wanted fun, but we wanted it to be relaxing as well.  Maybe next time we're there we'll hit up IoA.

Universal Studios in Hollywood, California:
I went to this park during some time off from a business fraternity national conference in nearby Anaheim around 1995 or 1996.  My friend, Jen, and I didn't really have a lot of time there, but we enjoyed what we saw.  Aside from the Backlot Tour, though, it's almost too similar to Universal Orlando, at least as far as I can remember.  Jurassic Park wasn't quite open yet.  They had the gates constructed, but the ride wasn't ready to go.  Damn.

There are still other parks I want to visit before I die.  I have always wanted to go to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, and some of the other Six Flags parks across the U.S. as well as ride the coaster that they have on the outside of that casino in Vegas.

Any recommendations?  Just leave 'em in "comments."


Can't rain all the time.

More like never; at least insofar as this summer goes.

Until just this moment.

About an hour and a half ago, I received a mass e-mail from our Campus Safety department that detailed a thunderstorm watch for the Aurora, IL, area.  Right.  Like I haven't seen these before.  We had a flurry of four of them in one day about a month ago and didn't see a drop as a result.  So I treated this one with the proverbial grain of salt and went about my business.

I went on my lunch break shortly afterwards.  I like to spend my lunch in the atrium of one of the buildings on campus where I can read a book or listen to my iPod and just relax.  So I did that.  Every so often, I looked out the window and saw that the sky was starting to get a bit murky.  Just a few minutes before finally packing it all in, I saw that the skies were mired in dark grey clouds.

Misclightrain_1Hmm... I don't usually buy into any weather forecast, period, but maybe WeatherChannel.com was right this time. 

As I walked back across campus, a few drops started to fall.  The rain fell progressively faster and now it's a full-blown downpour. 

It's a beautiful thing.

And it's all my doing.  On my way to work, I decided I was going to get a carwash.  Thankfully, I haven't done it yet.

Just looked outside again.  It's now down to a slow trickle.

Damn.

Wait, now it's coming down pretty hard again. 

It's wet outside.  I'll just leave it at that and be happy.

Mother Nature... teasing bitch.


What's goin' on?

Just taking a few quick looks around the Web today and I've come up with some pretty interesting stuff (yeah, it's a slow day; can you tell?).

Somebody downloading a damn Faith Hill song beat me to the 500,000,000th download grand prize on iTMS.  Man,  I actually bought some songs from the store in hopes of winning all that great stuff.  It can't get much better than 10 iPods of your choosing, a 10,000-song giftcard, four front-row tickets to see Coldplay live, and backstage passes to that same show.  Ouch, that hurts.  Amy Greer, I hate you.

MiscdeathstarsubwooferYou all know that I am a Star Wars geek, I'm sure.  Love the films.  And this is just what I need for my home stereo system to prove my unending devotion.  A custom-built Death Star-themed subwoofer.  This thing is big, bad, and beautiful.  How can you not love it?  But, please check the page out beyond just the photos.  The guy selling this thing has a great sense of humor.  Hilarious description, funny quotes, and spectacular answers to questions posed by eBay members.  Priceless.  Too bad he won't deliver overseas.  I'm sure Katie is crying over that fact, too.

If I ever find out that I have a pilot with multiple personality disorder, I'm going to be very upset.  Especially if he tries to play the roles of both pilot and co-pilot at the same time.  Just not good.  Or if I hear my pilot come over the PA and announce that his name is Captain Striker, I'm bailing out.

Why, after the past couple of years that he has had, anyone would want to get into a "long-term" relationship with Jude Law is beyond me.  Masochistic?  I'd think you would have to be.  No sense of self worth?  Probably required.

Apparently, Katie and I are not the only ones who got a big kick out of Sunday night's episode of The Family Guy.  Blogs are abuzz regarding the rip of the a-ha "Take On Me" video featuring Chris.  Don't forget the Truffle Shuffle and the Chinese monkey, though.  Those scenes were great, too.  Ah hell, the whole damn episode rocked.  There wasn't a single unfunny thing about it.  If you found nothing funny about that episode, there is just no hope for you.  If you missed it, check out [adult swim] on Cartoon Network on either Wednesday or Thursday.  I think that's when they replay the new episodes that just aired that past Sunday on Fox.  But don't quote me on it.

There has been a lot of talk about the slump in which the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) spent most of this summer.  Apparently, profits each week of the summer have been down as compared to the same week last year.  Even with films like Star Wars - Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith and Batman Begins bringing in boku bucks, it still was not enough to remove the industry from the 19-week slump from which it lingered.  And what movie ended the slump?  Fantastic Four.  Can you believe it?  This is a film I have absolutely no desire to see whatsoever and I'm a self-professed geek.  Yet it broke the slump.  Last year's movies in that weekend release slot must've really sucked.

Oh, and with the release of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory this past weekend, I think the end of the summer season of movies has officially drawn nigh.  Some might argue that the drop-dead date already passed weeks ago in terms of quality.  Just look at what we have to "look forward" to the rest of the summer...

  • Bad News Bears - okay, I actually do want to see this; but I don't think this is the sort of movie to build a summer schedule around.  July release?  Maybe August or September.
  • Devil's Rejects - umm, yeah.
  • Hustle & Flow - not quite sure what to make of this one.
  • The Island - I've heard that Michael Bay finally has a decent script and some thought-provoking ideas in this movie; but it just doesn't look like something I want to spend my money on.
  • Stealth - and this is how Jamie Foxx decided to follow up a Best Actor Oscar win in Ray?  Anyone remember Mira Sorvino?
  • Sky High - this is another questionable one.  Seemingly cutesy idea, but I somehow doubt the execution is there.

There is a bunch of other crap being released in August and September with the only potentially so-so film being Dukes of Hazzard.  I'm not holding my breath on that one, but I'm seeing it anyway with Katie and my friend, Nate, because he is a Dukes junkie and his girlfriend staunchly refuses to see it.

The next movie I want to see doesn't come out until October 2 and that's Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-RabbitWallace & Gromit are pretty damned funny and they were developed by the same crew (Aardman Animations Ltd.) that brought us one of my favorite "animated" films of all time... Chicken Run.  Note that I put "animated" in quotes because it's really stop-motion Claymation and if I said it was my favorite stop-motion Claymation film of all time, it wouldn't really be in that great a company as it's one of the only ones I've ever seen - aside from old Ray Harryhausen films, and those are just classic.

I'll probably see Legend of Zorro on October 28, and I'll definitely see Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire on November 18 and the Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe on December 9.  Other than those few, there really isn't much to look forward to in the holiday season in terms of movies, either. 

And they wonder why revenues are down.  It's just like the music industry.  It's not a matter of stuff being pirated online, it's that they're putting out nothing but crap.  Occasionally, you can sift through the nuggets and find a gem, but they are few and far between.  And, sadly, getting worse before they get better.


Still a World of Pure Imagination.

Note: Dave, I hope this title doesn't become an earworm as well.  If this disclaimer is too late, I apologize.  But it's gotta be better than Blink 182.

MiscwillydeppI will admit that I was a bit afraid knowing that Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was being remade (using the original title of Roald Dahl's novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).  Remakes are just an out-and-out bad idea in my humble opinion.  Knowing that Johnny Depp was going to be playing Willy lessened the blow to some degree, but not entirely.

Katie and I saw yesterday and, surprisingly, it was quite enjoyable.  Katie even liked it better than the original film which she was never a huge fan of in the first place for a multitude of reasons I'm not going to bother going into just now.

Depp was actually quite endearing in a truly terrifying way, if that's possible.  He was freakish, no question about it.  But you just couldn't help but love it especially after seeing his family history.  It really helps explain so much about his character and why Depp portrays him the way he does (yes, there is a reason indirectly given for his weird speech).

MiscwillywilderNo, he can never replace Gene Wilder in my heart of hearts. I will always hold a special place in my heart for Wilder singing "A World of Pure Imagination."  Depp can, however, supplement him.  The two give completely contrasting takes on the character.  Wilder is a bit more candy coated and fun but with a dark side that only comes out when really provoked.  Depp is odd, simply put; but he has a childish, fun-loving streak in him that comes about from his own lack of a real childhood.  He never really gets as fiendish as Wilder is in his one mean-spirited scene (where Wilder takes away all that Charlie has "won"), but he conveys a sadness and confusion that can only be explained by his history which we see a lot of in this newer film.

There are other pros to the new film.  For one, we see a very accurate portrayal of how competitive, vindictive, and disaffected children truly are.  We saw that to some degree with the selfishness of Veruca Salt (Julie Dawn Cole) in the original.  But now we see it not only with Salt (Julia Winter), but also with Violet Beauregarde (Annasophia Robb) and Mike Teavee (Jordan Fry) as they all compete for the one "special prize" to be presented to one of the five at the end of the tour.  Augustus Gloop, in both movies, only cares about eating.  He has no competitive spirit in him whatsoever so long as his mouth is stuffed.

The other great thing about this movie is that the Oompa-Loompas aren't nearly as terrifying as they were in the first movie.  The Oompa-Loompas are the reason I only watched the movie once or twice as a child and never really picked up on it again until my 20s when my love and admiration for Gene Wilder could finally outweigh my prepubescent fear of midgets in makeup.  I had nightmares about them.  Literally.  In this version, though, it was almost as if I were watching the Leprechauns in Darby O'Gill and the Little People.  They were full-sized human beings shrunk down either through visual tricks (Darby) or digital effects (Charlie).  Fear is obviously no longer a factor with me.  Yay!

But the biggest positive of this film is Freddie Highmore as Charlie Bucket.  After seeing him in Finding Neverland, playing Peter to Depp's J.M. Barrie, I thought, "this kid is good, but will his ability hold up."  I can tell you, in no uncertain terms, this kid is no fluke.  He can act and you will believe it.  Whether you want to or not.  He can act the depressive little boy or the happy and wide-eyed, yet practical, child and do both incredibly well.  If you fear that Depp is going to be too over the top for you, then see this movie for Freddie Highmore. 

i do recommend it.


An hypothetical situation.

MiscserlingwexlerConsider, if you will, the following story of a woman named Annie.  She is closing in on 40 years old and has a four-year-old son named Billy with her husband, Mike.

A rather simplistic situation, wouldn't you think?  Unfortunately not.

Two years ago, Annie and Mike decided to separate.  They have spent the last two years waiting for their divorce to be finalized.

Still not unlike many lives in the world these days.  Especially in the United States where the divorce rate still hovers around 51%.

This is where things take a turn into the proverbial Twilight Zone.

Annie and Mike, despite being separated and mutually awaiting their divorce, have been living together in the same house they shared while married.  While separated, both have been involved in other relationships on the side.  Their son knows their new significant others and calls them by their first names.  To Billy, these people are nothing more than friends of the family... even if they do have a sleepover every once in a while.

Annie and Mike claim that by continuing to live under the same roof, they are providing as normal a life as possible for their son.  Why rock the boat?  If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?

Now, however, their divorce is being finalized and they are selling their house to move on with their respective lives.

Was this truly the best way to deal with this "situation?"  I realize I am not a parent... not yet, at least.  But I would think in my limited worldview, that it would have been best if Annie and Mike had completely severed their shared lifestyle when they first separated or when they decided to file for divorce so they could establish their lives and allow Billy to know nothing other than their divorced life.  He would have been two years old when this happened.  He would know no different.  The only thing that might be weird would be spending time at different houses depending on what day of the week it is or what week of the year it is.  Not that he wouldn't have friends that would be able to sympathize.  The divorce rate is 51%, after all.   

My thought is that Mike and Annie were being selfish and that their living situation was the way it was more to benefit themselves than it was to benefit Billy.  Instead of two mortgages or leases, they have one.  Instead of two sets of utility payments, they have one.  They also have a built-in, nearly flawless babysitting network.  If one wants to go out, they ask the other to cover.  Ideal, no?

Not for Billy, I would think.

(Rod Serling caricature from Ed Wexler Illustration.  Credit where credit's due; besides, he's a genius illustrator.  Oh yeah, and sorry I lied about having a longer post planned for yesterday.  This is that post.  I just decided to hold off on publishing it.  C'est la vie.)


What's my age again?

Just a brief post before I head off to open the gym.  I do have a more extensive post planned for later today, don't you worry.

I don't usually work on Saturdays at the gym; nor on weekends in general.  Not anymore, at least.  It's been well over a year since I've had a weekend shift.

However, I received a frantic call on the answering machine here at home from a girl named Katie at the gym practically begging me to take her shift this morning.  She had a swim meet and forgot to schedule off her shift.

Katie (not my wife, obviously; but I do seem to know a lot of Katies) is a nice enough kid who has helped me by taking shifts I needed to get out of in the past.  So I didn't have much of a problem with it.  Add to the equation the fact that my Katie is working yet another weekend shift due to this damn Walgreen's pharmacist strike and you've got a formula that winds up making me some extra money to either buy groceries or pay off some of our Home Depot charges of late.

Last night, Katie and I worked our regular shift and this other Katie came in to claim her paycheck and thank me profusely for taking her shift.  She then proceeded to describe to me how she had her swim meet and also just returned from buying a laptop computer to take to college this coming fall.

I had forgotten that she just graduated from high school.  Now she's going to college.  And this is where I start to break down mentally.

She's 18 years old.  She was born in 1987.  AND SHE'S STARTING COLLEGE!?!?! 

How the hell is it that someone born somewhere between 12 and 13 years after me is already going to college!?!?!  I remember when I started college back in the fall of 1993.  Was it really that long ago?  It sure as hell doesn't feel like it.  It feels like two or three years ago... tops.

I remember, vividly, wandering the campus at Iowa State University (yes, I graduated from Northern Illinois University, but I started at ISU).  I remember moving in to my dorm (Birch 1276 Lindstrom in Old RCA... I even remember the damn address).  I remember shopping in Campus Town - great record stores and a nice comic/memorabilia shop. 

It can't have been that long ago, can it?


My head is swimming.

I love to read.  I love books.  There simply is no way around it.

When I get into a reading tear, I can easily read and review a dozen books in a month.  That may not sound like much to some people.  Yet, to others, it might sound like a ridiculous quantity.

I'm not in one of those tears just now.  My reading has been pretty labored as of late.  I just nurse them anymore.  Pretty bad, admittedly.

But one thing I've never done in all my years of book addiction, is to try to balance the reading of more than one book at a time.  For pleasure, anyway.  I can read a book for pleasure while reading something for work or class.  That's easy enough to do.  But to have multiple pleasure reads going at once has always been a no-no.

Until now.

MisczenataommI don't know why I'm having so much trouble finishing books lately, but it has resulted in me bouncing around from one book to another based on where my immediate fascination lies.

For the past year, I've been slowly working my way through Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig.  No, it's not a bad book.  Just the opposite, in fact.  I think I've been taking it slowly because I want to absorb it all.  I don't want to be forcing myself to finish it.  I laid the book down a few months ago with only about 80 pages left and still have yet to pick it back up. 

I've started and finished a few since that time including a couple James Patterson thrillers and a Dean Koontz novel.  But I'm also doing the page nurse with Chuck Palahniuk's Haunted.  I'm close to halfway through it.  But, the way it's written, it's the sort of book that you can put down and pick back up easily a little later.  I also read the book Cult of Mac by Leander Kahney in the meantime because it was a library book on a deadline.

The other day, while visiting Katie at Walgreen's, I found a copy of Woodward and Bernstein's All the President's Men and have been reading it.  Much to Palahniuk's chagrin, I'm sure.  Good book.

But, now I have another problem.  The library just got in my copy of iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business by Jeffrey Young and William Simon.  I have to start reading this so I can finish before my check-out period ends.  It's on reserve by about three others after me, so if I don't start/finish quick, I'll never have a chance.  Damn, now I've got to push off Woodstein a little bit and I'm really getting into that one.

My head is swimming with words.  Big, beautiful words.  Lots of words about motorcycle mechanics writing short stories about homicide on their Macs while investigating hotel break ins and shady campaign financing. 

Or something like that. 

I think.

I'm so confused.


Soy un perdedor.

Loser, hoser, poser (or, for the more refined... "poseur"... yeah, whatever).  Amazing how many words that end in -oser are negative in connotation.

They all have one other thing in common in that I feel that any of these words can be used to effectively describe my multiple attempts at athletic semi-stardom.

I played two years of youth soccer when I was five and six years old.  Two years.  One goal.  In practice, no less.  When I tried to score using the same method as my first goal, the defenders had already caught on to me.  One goal and they read me like a volume of Dr. Seuss.  They were five and six years old as well, for chrissake.

I played one year of park district baseball when I was roughly ten or eleven years old.  Don't ask.  It was ugly.

One season of B-team basketball in junior high in which I scored one basket.  Otherwise, I just dribbled.  And not very effectively at that.  Basketball takes a lot more coordination than some people may give it.

One year of humiliation... er... water polo as a high school freshman.  I think my desire to preserve some semblance of dignity kept me from doing too much in that sport.  The less attention I brought to myself in a Speedo, the better.  Speedos are not for me.  Nor did they belong stretched thread bare across the asses of at least 75% of my teammates.  Whoever conceived of Speedos as a viable athletic uniform should be shot and hung by the bits barely covered by his "creation."

One year of wrestling as a junior in high school.  JV heavyweight division.  While the uniform had a significantly closer fabric to flesh ratio, it was still pretty revealing.  Yeah, no.

I also participated, as I saw fit, in track and field as a senior.  I threw shot and discus and wasn't even close to decent.  My best friend was a record holder.  No way to compare.  Maybe that's why I stopped showing up once the indoor season ended.  I was at very few outdoor events.  Or maybe it was because I was working more in anticipation of building my bank account for the start of my first year away at college.  Who really knows?

Three years of football in high school, starting with my sophomore year, was probably the high point of my athletics career. 

I was a B-team offensive tackle my sophomore year, a JV offensive guard my junior year, and a JV defensive tackle my senior year.  I had a couple of decent plays here and there.  I have one stat (no, not a record; just a stat) in the Waubonsie Valley High School (Aurora, Ill.) varsity stat guide for the 1992 season (solo tackle). 

Football introduced me to the concept of "charity play" in which those of us with no chance of ever starting would be allowed to play in situations where we were either losing too badly to make matters any worse or winning by too much to ever possibly screw it up.  Thankfully, our team was fantastic my senior year and I was able to play at least a little bit in all but five games that season (regular and postseason combined).  Three games that season, we were winning by so much that I played an entire half.  Not bad for an underachiever such as myself.

I took a reprieve from organized athletics during my undergrad and graduate years in college (save for a few months of fencing).  Now I've started up again.

It began with a season of fall softball a couple years ago with the park district where I work part time.  Nothing big.  None of us were any good really, so I never stood out as the truly bad player that I am.  Nice to blend in. 

Last summer, I started playing sand volleyball, also through the park district.  I'm playing again this year as well.  I'm decent, but not really good.  My timing is a little off and so is the placement of my fingers when I bump the ball.  When the ball is not put in an orbit worthy of an XM Satellite, it is shot off to the side of the court at a speed that makes the volley voyeurs dive for cover.  I can, however, serve pretty well.  I've got good placement of the ball and I almost always clear the net well but without giving the other side too much air time to strategize to any grand level.  Took me several games last year to figure out my serve.  But once I got it, I was on.  The problem arises in post-serve play.  Our team is not that great at protecting the open areas on our side of the net.  Not pretty.

This year, I picked up again on competitive softball, but through another park district.  This team (the Henchmen) is good.  Each player has their strengths and, from time to time, they play as a cohesive team. 

Now, my athletic faults show through like a marinara stain on a white shirt.

And, unfortunately, it is reflected directly upon my time in the field.  There have been a few instances where I have played an entire game, but usually just as an EH (extra hitter; the softball equivalent of a designated hitter).  Occasionally, I will get in a half game as a catcher if I see any position play at all.  Of course, there was my one time playing for LifeChurch that I played first base for two full games.

Last night, I was reminded of the concept of "charity play" again.  We played our regular season ending double header.  We are the first-place team in our division and we played the second-place team.  They were two games below us.  So, in order to maintain a solo claim to first place, we needed to win at least one game. 

We were smoked in both.  It was not pretty.  And none of us "lesser" players were able to play at all, really.  At least, not until the final inning of the second game.  I saw a half inning at catcher and no at bats.  It's frustrating.  I understand the rationale.  We want to win.  But it is still just a park district team.  In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter too terribly much.  Why relegate those of us who still took the time to drive in anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour to time spent only on the bench?  It sucked.

I wonder if LifeChurch will need a first baseman next year?  They may not have the winning record that the Henchmen have, but I would at least be able to play.


Crying wolf.

If there is one word in the English language that I hate as a result of my life as a working professional, it is the word "prioritize."

Courtesy of m-w.com...

Main Entry: pri·or·i·tize
Pronunciation: prI-'or-&-"tIz, -'är-; 'prI-&-r&-
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): -tized; -tiz·ing
: to list or rate (as projects or goals) in order of priority

The person who developed that word, I'm sure, had the best intentions in mind.  It is a very useful term when used correctly and, even more importantly, sparingly.

However, nobody where I work has any clue whatsoever as to the true essence of the word "sparingly."

Since I work in public relations, we have systems in place to proofread and fact check publications before we send them to the printer and then out into the public realm.  I am one of the primary proofreaders in my office.  Things don't end with me, but they certainly start with me. 

MiscpostitOne of the key points to mention in our proofreading system is that some things take priority over others.  When we see a proof project come across our desk with a little yellow Post-It Note with the singular word "RUSH" on it, we are to drop everything as though the sky were about to fall should we delay even a moment.  I think I could be having a seizure on the floor and be expected to stop spasming long enough to proof a "RUSH" project.

Seriously, though, all of us were fine with this delineation.  RUSH projects get our foremost attention.  Any other proofing assignment or personal project can be put off a little while longer so long as it's not too long.  We still need to meet our deadlines.

And this would be where the concept of "sparingly" would be so important.  You need to figure out what truly is a RUSH project and what is not.  You need to make sure people never forget just how important a project marked RUSH truly is supposed to be. 

However, not a single person seems to know how to distinguish the difference because timeliness is of the essence to all of us in our respective projects. 

This little theory of mine has been proven lately by the fact that I have seen a RUSH tag on literally every proof project that has come across my desk in the last three or so weeks.  Even one of my coworkers made mention of this fact to me.  She asked why everything is such a damn rush these days.  I couldn't give her an answer.  But we both agreed that the effectiveness of the notation has been severely watered down.  Sanitized to the threshold of meaninglessness.  It's pretty safe to say that we both truly hate Art Fry and Spencer Silver right about now.

MiscsteelballsI don't know what makes one person think their project is so much more important than someone else's project. 

Everyone has deadlines, that's a given.  It's how the world works.  But to crow from your perch that every one of your projects is more important than mine takes some real balls.  Cojones de acero (appropriate image, don't you think?).   

Today, however, I got to have a little fun with the RUSH notes.  I finished my own legitimate RUSH project and was able to stick my own note on it.  And, now, everyone must listen to me.  Muahahahahaha.

The power is intoxicating.  I feel so... so... yeah, okay, it doesn't do much of anything for me in all honesty.  It's a Post It, for God's sake.

Of course, I pointed out to my sympathetic coworker the "(Go Fig)" note I had hand scrawled under the word "RUSH."  She got a chuckle out of it.

If only the rest of our coworkers realized how little significance these notes carried anymore.  Wonder if any of them are reading this.  Hmm...


Oh, thank the maker!

Yeah, this may come across as a completely pointless post to many of you.  But I was compelled to type it up anyway.

Have you ever been taken away from a food or drink that you absolutely love for an extended period of time?  Maybe it was a personal choice you made.  Maybe a choice someone else made.  Maybe you just didn't realize you were doing it.

Then, there is that first sweet taste of said food/drink upon return.  It's absolute Heaven.  You sink your teeth into it, you smother your taste buds with it, you feel it pour down your throat.  Whatever the case may be, you just can not get enough.

I'm reminded of a December 2003 appearance by Julia Stiles on Late Night With Conan O'Brien.  She had recently given up on life as a Vegan and described her first taste of hamburger by saying, "The word 'orgasm' comes to mind."

MiscsnapcracklepopOkay, so maybe it's not orgasmic, but I had an experience like that tonight.  I wasn't making any sort of conscious decision.  More or less a case of just forgetting to buy this particular product for something like two years. 

They are Rice Krispies.

I dunno why it's been so long.  I dunno why they tasted so damned good.  But my wife brought home two boxes yesterday with the express purpose of making some Rice Krispies Treats and we wound up having a bowl or two of the little buggers as our dinner.

I love these little "rice"-based progenitors of Snap, Crackle, and Pop.  It's not as though there is a whole helluva lot of flavor to them.  But, it was just such a reassuring taste. 

I grew up on this cereal (along with Cheerios and Corn Flakes; my mom didn't believe too much in sugar cereals).  I love how they taste and I'm already craving another bowl of them.  I know Katie is, too.

I'm raving about breakfast cereal.  God, we need some excitement in our lives.  Any suggestions?

Oh, and yes we did make a pan of the Treats.  They turned out great.


Sight unseen.

Do any of you ever go out and purchase a new movie on DVD (or, if you are still that archaic, on VHS) without ever having seen the movie before?

I have friends who do this on a regular basis.  Even movies that have no chance of possibly being good.  They will still buy them.  Hell, I know people that own dozens of movies they've never seen before.  People base their DVD library on the concept of "sight unseen."  It can be cool because I can borrow stuff for free.  Other times I find myself searching through their collections asking "why?"

MiscmilliondollarbabyI will admit that I used to do this... less often now than before.  However, this past year, Katie and I have bought a few of these DVDs and they've all turned out to be pretty good movies.  Of course, the two we bought were both nominated for Best Picture Oscars this past year (Sideways and Ray).  Based on this track record, I'm thinking about just going out and picking up a copy of Million Dollar Baby when it comes out tomorrow. 

It has several things going for it right off the bat... it's part of a pretty good class of Best Picture nominated films (not that this really means anything, either; I severely question the sanity of Oscar voters when they do something completely unforgivable like snubbing Paul Giamatti in the Best Actor category this year), it was directed by Clint Eastwood (and damn if everything he touches these days doesn't turn to gold), it has Morgan Freeman who is one of the finest actors around, and it's about boxing.  I love boxing movies.  Oh hell, I love boxing.  I don't see much of a point to the sport in and of itself, but I love watching it.  I would love to see a match live down in Vegas should the opportunity ever poke its head out of the gopher hole.  Gimme a Klitschko brother match any day - Wladimir or Vitali, I don't care.

Of course I've had some of the movies I've purchased sight unseen come back and bite me in the ass.  Hence why I don't do it as often as I once did.  I can't remember the last one that was that terrible, but I know there have been some.  Maybe it's selective amnesia.  They're just that bad and I don't want to remember them or bring embarrassment to myself by mentioning them here.  Yeah, that's probably it.  Thank God for CD/DVD resale shops.

On a side note, I'm watching Fast Times at Ridgemont High on TBS right now.  Actually, I've had TBS on for the last couple of hours since they had a one-hour block of The Family Guy on just before this.  But, I'm mentioning this because I have now seen an ad for a new TV show called El Cuerpo del Deseo on TBS three times... that's soon to debut on Telemundo.  Yes, it's an ad for a Spanish-language drama that is being broadcast in Spanish on an English-speaking network.  I realize that TBS likely has viewers that are bilingual and appreciate this ad, but wouldn't the majority be English only speakers?  I can only imagine someone turning on TBS to see this ad and think that they're in the Twilight Zone.  In all honesty, when the ad first popped up with that goofy voice talking about the show, I thought it would turn out to be one of these new Geico ads.  You know the ones in which they start talking about something else before turning the whole thing completely around to reveal that it's an ad for auto insurance.

Sorry for the ramble.  I now feel like the movie A.I. which should have ended on what seemed like a meaningful conclusion but instead dragged on for another twenty minutes of sheer pointlessness.


flush flush here... flush flush there...

... that's how we fix a toilet valve in the merry old land of Oz.

Sorry.

Doing just about anything for the first time can be a daunting experience.  Going to your first day of kindergarten... riding a bike... asking someone out on a date... going away to college... sex (unless you're Casanova, I somehow doubt your confidence was at its peak your first time out).  You catch my drift.

Today, with Katie at work for her second straight day this weekend (she usually only works weekdays and has the weekends off with me), I not only caught up on another movie (White Noise) and caught one on cable (Gremlins 2: The New Batch), but I also did some work around the house.  I repainted some spots on the ceiling in our master bathroom, finished caulking around the shower, and installed a towel bar. 

MiscfluidmasterBut the big deal for me today involves the toilet in our second bathroom.  It's been bugging us for some time now.  It gurgles.  Yes, literally gurgles.  All day and all of the night (with apologies to Ray Davies). 

In order to resolve our "situation," we bought a replacement fill valve and flapper combo about a month or so ago.  But I just never got around to actually doing it.  Dunno if it was laziness or fear of the unknown.  Probably some combination thereof.

Today, though, I broke open the kit and went to town.  And, let me tell you, it's not as tough as you may think.  I had a couple minor stumbling blocks, but I worked around them.  And, now, we have a toilet that no longer gurgles. 

I'm so proud of myself.

No gurgling means one less sound to wake us up in the middle of the night.  And, God knows, that stupid little bubbling sound would do just that.

I can sleep through the train in our backyard, but for some God-forsaken reason, toilet bubbling wakes me up.  Go fig, eh?

I now feel properly set to tackle a variety of other plumbing chores.  If I can do this, I'm sure a faucet won't be that difficult.  And I think we may now be needing one since I broke the sink stopper in the very same bathroom.  Hey!  Cut me some slack.  I can't get everything perfect.  I was trying to clean the drain and Drain-O wasn't doing the trick.  So I removed the stopper and it broke in the process.  Well, Katie mentioned last night that she wanted a new faucet.  What better time than the present, eh?

All I need now are some ass-crack-baring pants, and I'm set.


Finally getting off my lazy butt.

It has been a while since I watched and reviewed Batman Begins, but don't let the time lapse fool you.  I have been watching plenty of movies lately.  I've borrowed and rented a bunch from both friends and Netflix, and I'm trying to get around to watching them all.  Plus, Katie and I did take a rare midweek trip to the local theater and saw the new Bewitched.

And I would just like to let you all know that I have finally gotten around to reviewing all that I have seen.  Finally.  Thankfully.  Done.

The long and sordid list includes Lemony Snicket (blech), The Machinist (yay!), Bewitched (not entirely terrible), Dr. Strangelove (better this time around), and I finally finished the first season of Northern Exposure.  Katie and I started the Northern Exposure season together, but she petered out after the first three discs.  She likes the show, but could only take so much of it in such a short time.

I really need to stay on top of my reviews.  And I really need to stop just saying that as well.  I keep telling myself I will do and I never do.  Aye aye aye.  I'm pretty pathetic.

Please, no comments from the peanut gallery.


And other duties as assigned.

I suppose I should start with some of the factual corrections regarding yesterday's post.  As you all know, when it comes to breaking news on the Web, facts are not given much regard when it comes to timeliness.  So I just reported what I knew when I knew it.  Probably not the best idea if I'm trying to be accurate.  But I wanted to get the post up.  At least I, unlike many other media outlets, am taking the time to acknowledge the need for corrections.

Four explosions, not six or seven.  Three in the Tube, one on a bus.  38+ dead so far and varying accounts on injuries with the extreme being 700.  "Coordinated" does not refer to the attacks all having occurred at the same moment.  Instead, just that they were done moreso in collaboration and intended to have the same effect by hitting similar targets using similar methods.  All four of the explosions happened within an hour of each other, though.  There are also reports that two more undetonated bombs were found with timers attached which rules out the theory of suicide bombers having done all this.

That's enough about that other than to continue to offer my support and prayers to my British friends and all others affected by this attack.

MiscpodcastingIn happier news, I have been taking advantage of the latest feature on the iTunes Music Store -- Podcasting.  It's kinda like radio without having a tuner.  Radio-styled shows are recorded and encapsulated into digital format.  Then you download them to your computer and either listen to them through your computer's MP3 player or use your portable MP3 player.  I've been opting for the latter and putting them on my iPod.

iTMS has its own New Music Tuesday podcast which highlights some of the new music that is available.  It's not bad; not great, but not bad. 

But my favorite podcast, by far, is The Skinny on Sports.  Effectively, it's a weekly podcast featuring Andy and Matt Skinn (hence "Skinny") taking ten minutes to give highlights of the week in sports.  The podcast is split into four quarters of two minutes each and then there is overtime for whatever they want to discuss.  I love when they use overtime for their Gmail Bag - responding to e-mail sent to them.  Good stuff.  These guys know enough to not sound like jackasses, but they don't get all high and mighty in their knowledge and lord it over the listener, either.  Good stuff.  If you have the means, then check it out.

MiscrundmcBut, iTMS's New Music Tuesday was definitely good for one thing this week... it introduced me to Reverend Run's (at left in photo) latest track, "Mind on the Road," from his forthcoming album Distortion (due September 13).  This is classic Run DMC stuff here.  I'm trying to find information on the song now with little luck, but it sounds like he may have collaborated with one of the Beastie Boys on this track which uses a sample from Joan Jett and the Blackhearts' "I Love Rock 'n' Roll."  I was, and still am, a big Run DMC fan so I am very much looking forward to the release of Distortion. 

Lastly, you all know that if there's one thing I hate at work, it's when equipment doesn't work the way it's expected to.  Usually, it's the computers (network or printers).  Today, however, the A/C went out in my office.  The outside temperature is up in the high 80s and, sadly, it's cooler out there than in here.  And my office, for whatever reason, is worse than the rest.  It's always been this way.  My office is always 10 degrees warmer, be it in the summer or winter, than the offices immediately surrounding me.  It's great in the winter because I'm always nice and warm.  But in the summer, everyone else bitches because their offices are so cold while mine is boiling up.  In five years, I have been unable to find a happy summer medium.  I just don't get it. 

However, I did get one small reprieve this afternoon.  I am spending the last hour and a half of my workday over in the library burning DVD copies of a promotional video for the university.  And the A/C certainly works over here.  Why the library?  It has the only machine on campus with video editing software (eMac with Final Cut Pro) and the finished video is stored on this hard drive. 

So how am I spending my time here?  Soaking up cool air, burning DVDs, listening to Reverend Run (and others) on my iPod, and typing to all of you.  How's that for "time well spent"?  And they're paying me.  Suckers.

It's not as though there's much else I can do while I wait.  None of the computers here have my software so I can work on either Web pages or graphic design projects.  I could be writing some articles for our upcoming publications but they're all done pending information that I'm waiting for from third-party sources that have yet to get back to me.  So there's not much else I really can do.

As much as I put up a stink with my boss yesterday about having to do this sort of bitch work when she told me "you're doing it," I was more than happy to acquiesce today considering the current mercurial state of our office.  Oh, twist my arm.  Send me where the temperature is about 65 degrees Fahrenheit and I don't need a squeegee for my forehead.

Sometimes, that little contractual caveat "and other duties as assigned" can bite you in ass; other times, it can feel like Heaven.  Thankfully, this one didn't wind up with me nursing a gluteal wound.


Why?

I had a great idea for a post for today that was just completely blown to hell (unfortunately, literally) by something that I just need to talk about more.  And I'm sure many fellow bloggers will be posting about this one as well.

I was awoken this morning, as I am every morning, by our clock radio tuned to WTMX 101.9 FM.  However, instead of the normal mindless chit-chat of the Eric & Kathy Morning Show, I heard the words "blood" and "pain" uttered in a rather deadpan voice by Eric just before I shut it off.  After those words processed, I turned the radio back on very briefly (hoping not to wake Katie up) to hear what was going on.  They never said what was going on outright in the minute that I had it on, so I turned the TV on to CNN on mute.  Imagine my surprise.  And horror.

Miscbus77As I'm sure you all know already, several subway stations and a double-decker bus were attacked, presumably by terrorists, in London.  This all happened at their rush hour which, I believe, equates to about 3 a.m. CDT.  In all, I've heard that there were seven different attacks, all coordinated to happen at the same time, and at least a dozen people are confirmed dead while well over 100 are injured.

The question is why?  Dear Christ Almighty, why? 

Call my stupid if you so desire, but I just don't get how terrorists can think that, by attacking innocent civilians, they are making a stronger case for their particular causes.  Yeah, you're pissed for whatever reason it happens to be this week.  You think that we, the imperialist dogs, have killed your people and made your way of life nearly impossible to continue, right?  You believe you have been wronged and you want the world to know how terrible we are.

But, guess what?  You'd better drop to all fours and start panting and drooling.  By orchestrating these attacks against western society, you are no better than the "dogs" you claim we are. 

I seriously want someone to show me where in the Qu'ran it says that you are to attack innocent people as a tribute to Allah.  Do you really think that you will be honored in the great beyond with 80 virgins for this single-minded retribution that you exact on the world?  You are a murderer, plain and simple.  Accept it.  You are going to Hell.  Or whatever the Islamic equivalent to Hell is.

Understandably, Tony Blair has left the G8 Summit in Scotland to head home to London to be with his people in their time of crisis.  But what I found most impressive was his second address this morning on TV to the world.  Here was a very composed and dignified British Prime Minister standing and decrying this pathetic act with all the other G8 Summit leaders lined up behind him.  It was a very powerful image.

Much like what happened here in the States back on 9/11, London and most of the rest of Europe is on high alert.  The Tube has been shut down and emergency crews are attempting to evacuate those stuck in the trains.  The U.S. government doesn't seem to think there is any immediate threat on our soil and, I believe, the threat level remains unchanged.

I think what really kills me is the timing of these attacks.  In the middle of the G8 Summit which is geared towards helping the impoverished people of the world.  The day after London is awarded the 2012 Summer Olympics.  I dunno why, I just find it disturbing. 

This is not the sort of thing the world wants to wake up to.  I wish we could live in a terror-free world.  But I realize that this will never happen.  In fact, I'm of the opinion that it will only get worse. 

My prayers are with the people of London.


Limbs... revolt!

My body is not going to like me in the morning.

Katie and I decided to torture ourselves a little today.  With all the painting and working and class stuff that has been going on for the two of us, we have had very little time to exercise.  So we went rollerblading today (I realize I should capitalize that word as it is the proper name of a company; but it has been accepted as a common-use term as well so I'm avoiding capitalizing it) on a walking path near Peck Farm Park about a mile from where we live.

It is the perfect place to go blading.  Smooth, paved paths... few obstructions and curbs... very scenic... little traffic to deal with.  Great for a fumbling idiot like myself. 

I strapped on my blades and went at it.  I wasn't doing too terribly considering I hadn't been on my skates in three years.  But my legs and lower back were hurting soon after we started.  Every so often, I would have to stop and stretch my back a bit.

I believe the whole path is about two to three miles.  I will need to check with some of the people I know who work at Peck to be sure.  And I only fell two times.  Ironically, both happened while I was effectively standing still.  Go fig, eh?  Neither were serious and I incurred no lasting scars, so I suppose I cannot bitch about it too much.  But I probably will anyway if for no other reason than a bit of sympathy which I'm sure none of you will offer up.  Thanks a pantload in advance.

We want to do this more often and my goal is to make it around the track one full time with no stopping, no falling, and no griping.  Then I know I will have accomplished something.  Wish me luck.  And pray.  Please.

I'm going to be in pain tomorrow.


Mac attacked!

I've been having a strange little glitch with my Mac G5 tower at work.  It's just an odd little annoyance that only recently hit a bit of a head in my mind.

On a very rare occasion, when I click on any desktop icons, the computer would sit there and think for a second, then the icons and the control bar at the top of the screen would completely disappear, and then they would reappear after another second.  The folders that I have there, including my hard drive, would not open at all.  It's as though they had temporarily been negated from existence. 

Put simply, I would be unable to open any of my work files whatsoever.  I couldn't even open them by going in to the software and trying a File>Open.  However, nothing would happen to the application dock at the bottom of the screen at all.  I could open any piece of software I so desired as long as it had a shortcut in the dock.  And this is strange because the software itself is stored in the hard drive that I was unable to access by clicking on it from the desktop.  Go fig, right?

This usually only happens once a month, if that.  And the problem is quickly remedied by either a restart or a complete shutdown, depending on my mood.  So I just assumed that this was some sort of communication error in the computer.  No big deal.

Last week, however, I was restarting and shutting down over half a dozen times with no luck whatsoever.  I just could not get my Mac to open these desktop icons.  Finally, I broke down and called Justin, our resident Mac expert.  Of course, as you would expect, as soon as I hung up with him and restarted one last time, it worked fine.  So I put the problem out of my head.

Until today, when some woman from our IT department showed up saying she was there to fix my Mac problem.  It caught me a bit off guard as I had forgotten about the problem over the weekend.  I explained what happened and that it wasn't currently happening.  She decided to take a look anyway which I was fine with.

I must admit that I was very wary of her for a few reasons:

  1. I've never seen her before in my life.  Thus far, Justin has been the only one to take care of big Mac problems on our campus as he is the only one willing to do so.  We have a couple other people that have taken on the task of learning about network troubleshooting on Macs, but not hardware/software problem solving.  So when someone completely new showed up, a red flag went up in my mind. But I was willing to let her give it a go if it meant that we would have another Mac tech around the proverbial shop.
  2. She told me how it was so weird to work on a Mac again after two years.
    Ding ding ding ding ding ding!!!  Set system to DEFCON 2!!!
  3. She told me that the last time she worked on a Mac, it was on OS 9.
    AWOOOOGGAAHHHHH!!!!  Run for the hills!!!!  Duck and cover!!!

Was I wrong for freaking out a bit?  I know it's my work computer, but I have become a bit attached to it.  I love that G5 like a surrogate second computer (nothing will replace my G3 PBook).  Plus, it has all my MP3 files on it.  I do not want to lose those (most have been backed up to DVD-R, but still and all the same).

Well, she couldn't figure out what was wrong.  She even opened up the belly of the beast to make sure all connections were securely in place.  She was at a loss.  I think she's currently talking to Apple to see what they can recommend.  I'll keep you informed.

In other Mac news, Justin, the same one I mentioned above, had some old Mac hardware lying around and decided to give it to me to play around with.  The stuff still works, or so he says, and I can do whatever I want with it since the school was just going to donate it anyway.

Miscpowermac5200_1Miscpowermac5400What he gave me includes an old UMAX SuperMac.  Dunno about the processor in it or anything as I have yet to fire it up.  He is also bringing me an old all-in-one Mac.  He wasn't sure offhand if it was a PowerMac 5200 (pictured at left), a PowerMac 5400, or a PowerMac 5500 (at right), but any of them would be fun to play with.  Yes, he does know his stuff, but the computer was just given to him and he's never had much of a chance to play with it.  It's been sitting in his at-home workshop collecting dust.  Not that I'm much of a Mac tech at all.  But it could still be fun to see what one of those boxes would be capable of doing when souped up a bit.  I've heard they can run OS X pretty well if given enough of a kick in the seat, per se.

I told him if he ever finds an old flavored iMac to send it my way.  We have several up on our campus on Lake Geneva and they tend to go on the fritz every so often (as computers that are five years old are expected to do).  That would be fun to play with.  I know they're not the easiest to fix, but a little tinkering never hurt anyone (and my wife is cringing as she reads this, I'm sure).

I'll let you know if I'm able to do anything with it or if it all just blows up in my face.  Bear in mind that it will be some time before I really have much of a chance to play with it.  Hell, I may just wind up reselling them on eBay or something.


Parties, paint, pot, and precipitation...

...and you have all the makings of a good Fourth of July celebration.

On Friday night, Katie and I heard the sound of oldies music blasting from a stereo in a neighbor's yard.  As an RA and Hall Director in college, I've dealt with worse, so it wasn't too big of a deal.  Even if it did keep going until after one in the morning. 

On Saturday, our neighbor, Kathy, told us that it was a party that one of the neighbors put on for anybody and everybody that wanted to come.  She was invited via shout transmission just before the party started. 

To me, this meant that it was still an invitation-only sort of affair and Katie and I decided that we would feel awkward just showing up especially since we still only really know three sets of neighbors (we're up from two as we discovered that same day that our across-the-street neighbor is someone we already know from the gym). 

Instead, we continued our painting of the garage.  It was a bit more frustrating today as we painted the stripe, waited for it to dry, and peeled up the tape only to watch as the tape peeling either resulted in air bubbles or pulled the paint off the walls entirely.  And not just our paint, it peeled the layer below so it was stripped down to bare drywall.  Not a good sign.  So we scraped the rest of the stripe and primed the whole area. 

Sometime in the middle of this, Katie went inside.  As I sat there painting, I noticed the unmistakable waft of the ganja.  Yes, someone at the party was pottin' it up and it was pretty heavy considering we live a few hundred feet away from where the party was happening and I could smell it clear as day.  The pervasiveness of the smell was akin to being boxed in a dorm room with one person tokin' it up.  I was ready to drop my brush right then and there and head over... even uninvited.  No, I'm not a pothead.  Never even tried it, to be honest.  But the smell just took me back to my college days and I wanted to relive it all.  Second-hand, of course.  Yeah, that's the ticket.

But, what Fourth celebration would be complete without rain?  And we finally got some today.  Just a little bit, but enough to make people at the party head inside.  It wasn't consistent by any means, just sporadic.  Today, however, it has been raining lightly most of the day.  We desperately need it.  Since the beginning of March, we've only received five inches.  And I want to say that we've only had about a half inch of rain, tops, since June 1.  The grass looks like you'd typically expect in August.  It's not a pretty sight.  So I'm willing to sacrifice a dry Independence Day for some much-needed rain.

Anybody else have all four of the requisite P's?  What did you all do?


Surf Nicaragua!

One thing I forgot to tell you about in last night's ramble... during our lunch break (which fell at roughly 3:00 p.m.), we came inside and watched the last half of one of my all-time favorite comedies, Real Genius.  This is easily one of the best roles that Val Kilmer has ever played (second only to his take on Doc Holliday in Tombstone which was sheer genius).

But for years, the one thing that I have wanted was to obtain many of the great T-shirts that Val's character, Chris Knight, wears throughout the movie.  They are some of the strangest and coolest shirts I've ever seen and have never been able to find.  "I [heart] Toxic Waste" ... "International Order for Gorillas" ... and my absolute fave "Surf Nicaragua."  There are others, but those three are the best.

Miscrealgeniuscaps

I've been looking online for about five years and have come up completely empty.  Nobody ever bothered to make them.

So while we're watching the movie, Katie comes over to the PBook to check her e-mail, or so I presumed.  Instead, she Googles "Real Genius" and comes up with a Google Image Ad for Real Genius T-shirts.  This never came up for me in the past... what the heck?!?!

The resulting site, founditemclothing.com, has taken it upon themselves to recreate T-shirts from movies and TV shows in painstaking detail and sell them to the public.  Not just Real Genius, but also Revenge of the Nerds, The A-Team, Strange Brew, The Big Lebowski, UHF, and Kids in the Hall.  Some truly great stuff here.

So we ordered an International Order for Gorillas and Surf Nicaragua T-shirts for myself and an Adams Atoms shirt (from Revenge of the Nerds) for Katie.  Since her maiden name is Adams, it works quite well and will be a conversation starter at her family get togethers, for sure.

Misctshirts

If you want a cool T-shirt, and no one else can help, and if you can find them (well, just click here), maybe you can hire founditemclothing.com. Tell them I sent you and they... probably won't care a lick.  Yeah, I don't get anything out of it at all, but it's still a worthwhile site to visit and, potentially, support.


Therapeutic painting?

Yes, I do think it might be possible for painting to be considered therapeutic. And, no, I'm not referring to the kind of painting that results in works of art that can be hung on the wall.  I'm talking about the kind that covers the walls that those works of art hang from.  And Katie and I took part in that today.

It was kinda weird.  We've been wanting to paint the garage for sometime.  All the walls are a sort of gunmetal blue color and they're just funky looking.  Combine that with grey floors and you have one heckuva drab looking garage, no matter what kind of stuff you have in it. 

The people that lived here before us left us approximately four gallons of paint that they had saved as touch up for the house.  We've been repainting different rooms for several months now in our own colors, so we have absolutely no use for what they left behind.  Since the garbage collectors won't take it due to the inherent toxicity of paint, we were still stuck with it (can't understand that one since they seem to have no problem subjecting the entire tricity area to those wonderful methane fumes from the local dump).  So, about a week or two ago, Katie and I decided we were just going to buy a big five gallon paint can, dump all the leftover paints in it, mix it up, and paint the garage walls and ceiling with whatever color resulted. 

Turns out they were all some shade of cream.  Never knew so damn many shades of cream existed.  So we went to the local Depot and picked up some tint to turn it into a darker khaki color.  The guy in the paint department calculated what we needed and gave us the tint for free.  Nice guy.  Hope the security cameras didn't catch him in the act of illegal tint distribution... or me in the process of accepting illegally obtained tint.  Could look bad on my police record.

We mixed it all up and got a great color and started moving stuff around so we could paint. 

Let me tell you, when you have no concerns about the result, painting can really be fun.  We didn't care about perfection because it's "just a garage," as we kept reminding ourselves.  We didn't care if we dripped on the floor because we're only going to be powerwashing the floor in another week or so in order to cover it with some of that Rust-Oleum EPOXYShield garage floor paint.  So we just went to town.  We got about 85% of the whole thing done in about five hours.  That included all the walls and most of the ceiling.  We even got a second coat on most of the walls. 

While at Depot, we also purchased a quart of this really dark blue-green (mostly blue with a hint of green) paint with the intent of painting a stripe around the middle of the garage just for effect.  Well, we haven't started the stripe, but Katie started painting the frame around the door leading from the house to the garage and she even finished most of the frame of the screen door that fits in there.  The color was a bit funky at first, but it's growing on us.  It's not the color we imagined it to be when we looked at the paint sample, but it's still pretty cool.

After all was said and done and we finished painting (for the day, of course), we decided to treat ourselves to some ice cream while watching Seinfeld on DVD.  It's the first time we've played the DVD sets even though we've owned them for some time.  That first season is different to say the least, but it was still pretty funny in its own right.

Katie fell dead asleep sometime during the third episode we watched (so much for the caffeine high she was anticipating from all the iced tea she drank today) and I'm down here typing this dissertation while watching Force 10 from Navarone on AMC.  It's strange to see Harrison Ford looking so damn young.  Strange indeed.  I tell ya, a little Calista Flockhart can wreck havoc on your system.