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31 posts from September 2005

Photograph... all I've got is your photograph.

... and a heckuva lot of them to boot.

It took me a little over two hours to sift through, select, resize, upload, title, caption, and organize them into an album, but all my Florida vacation shots are now up on Flickr for your perusal and, hopefully, enjoyment as well.

Well, the ones I wanted to share, that is.

In all, there are 46 shots in total in the album although I took nearly 100.  These are the "best of the best," per se, and even some of those were pared out.

Some of them are your standard touristy shots, but I did get a bit creative with a few.  Particularly the ones involving champagne.  No, not because I'm some kind of lush, but just because I really liked the shot composition on them.  I really like how my "Still Life With Champagne" pictures turned out and I received quite a few compliments from people about them when I showed them on my digicam's display screen.

   

Now I've just gotta find a way to upload a video I took using my digicam while on the airboat.  Nothing exciting like an alligator chomping at us or whatnot.  Just the boat flying around.  I should look into uploading that one.  Be kinda cool just to see it live and online.

Oh, and this post title was just for you, SJ.


I'm caught up in the spiderweb...

I find it amazing, with the technology boom of the last couple decades, just how intermingled and codependent seemingly disparate aspects of our lives have become.  You just never seem to think about it until something happens that makes you realize just how tangled a web it all truly is.

Take for example the little conundrum Katie and I are experiencing right now.

MiscphoneLast Friday and Saturday, the area where we live was hit with a ton of rain that resulted from Hurricane Rita hitting land in Texas and Louisiana.  I don't know if this was a result of these storms or not, but our home phone line went dead.  No calls in and no calls out.  I had to resort to using cellphones to get a hold of Katie.

She called SBC a few times to try to hash out the problem with them.  And we're still working at getting it all resolved almost a week later.  Should be fixed up by early next week.  We hope.

But where it gets weird is how many other things were affected.  And some that weren't.

For one, we can't get any PPV movies (not that we really do) from Comcast nor can we do much onDemand stuff.  The reason for this is because to obtain anything other than preordained programming, we need to have a working phone line that our cable box can use to connect and communicate with Comcast's servers. 

The second problem lies in our TiVo.  Ah yes, our beloved TiVo... we have fallen very quickly in love with our new toy.  Well, this, too, connects to its own as well as Comcast's servers via a phone line so it can get program information.  It can still be used during this downtime, but we have to manually set each program that we want to record just like using a VCR.  Okay, so it could be worse.  At least we can still record and we don't need to hook our old VCR back up.

But here is the really odd thing.  We have DSL service through SBC in addition to our phone service.  Basically, we hook up a DSL filter box to our wall phone jack and plug the DSL line into the side of it while the phone is still plugged in the front.  Effectively, both the phone and DSL hookups wind up going through the same phone jack that isn't working.

However, our DSL connection works perfectly fine.  In fact, it works better than it usually does.  I just don't get it.  Why would one thing plugged in to our phone jack work and everything else be kaput?

Before you say it's a matter of voice versus data transfer, bear in mind that our TiVo and PPV/inDemand are also data transfers and they don't work, but DSL is.

I'm baffled.


Misty water-color memories, of the way we were.

Now that I'm back in Illinois and have had my not-quite-as-theatric-as-I-had-hoped-for reunion with Katie (she was also picking up my parents at the same time and, in this post 9/11 era, cops don't like you to sit with your car for too long in the arrivals area), I suppose it's time for the vacation recap...

(drum roll)

The Positives:

  • Seeing Nano and my Aunt and Uncle - I never really get to see them nearly as often as I would hope.  Damn this whole out-of-state living situation.
  • Hanging out with almost all of my family all at the same time (we missed you, Kate).
  • Surprising Nano with all of her neighbors at what she believed would just be a family dinner.
  • Getting somewhat of a tan.  Some would argue it's a burn, but I'm trying to be the "cup half full" kinda guy right now.
  • Discovering a new swimming pool game with my dad that we call "Pool Disc" which involves throwing a golf disc upside down in the pool so it either skims across the water like a speedboat or hops like a skipping stone.  For the sake of your face, you should try to stick to skimming.
  • Going to the beach in Clearwater.
  • Eating some great food at Nano's place.
  • Having a killer calzone at a Greek restaurant in Tarpon Springs.
  • Laughing my arse off when I mentally mixed the words Tarpon Springs and Tampa, both of which cohabitated a mileage sign, and came up with "Tampon Springs."
  • My dad and I doing our worst "Superfans" impersonation every time we passed the exit for Bearss Avenue in Tampa by constantly saying "Da Bearss!"
  • Having Katie tell me that the sea glass sun catcher I bought her was the best gift she received from the vacation even though I thought it was just a kitschy little thing that I would wind up liking more than she did.
  • The airboat tour that Brian, Jen, and I took.  Lots of fun and lots of gators.
  • Discovering that Lamborghini Diablos are just as cool in person as they are in magazines and in the movies.
  • Playing games of 31 well into the night on our last night there.
  • MiscarmadilloEncountering my first live armadillo at a rest stop along I-75.
  • Lying through my teeth to my brother that both my Dad and I waded out into a swampy part of a lake inlet down the street from Nano's place which is notoriously infested with gators.  I said I did it to get a photo I wanted and didn't stay in long... all in the name of art.  My B.S. reason for my Dad going out there was that he just wanted to.  My brother was convinced and the lie has perpetuated until this instant.  Of course, if he doesn't read this entry, he'll still never know.  Muahahahahahaha.
  • Finding a really cool sporting goods shop in the Tampa Airport where I bought a Buccaneers hat that was actually marked down in price.
  • Seeing Katie again after nearly a week.

The Negatives:

  • No Katie.
  • The heat... it was in the 90s for most of the time we were there.
  • The sunburn... yeah, I said I was trying to be "glass half full" and all that jazz, but my inner cynic always triumphs.
  • No Katie.
  • The humidity... did I mention it has hot?  Well it was humid, too.
  • Driving four round trips to the Tampa area from Wildwood.  That's a brutal drive after a while especially with gas prices these days.  And I-75 is boring as sin.
  • Being charged by an armadillo that obviously doesn't like having his picture taken and is much faster than I originally anticipated.
  • No Katie.
  • Being told that in-flight snacks cost money.  What a load of crap.  Thank you, Katie, for the travel bags.
  • Discovering that this sporting goods shop in Tampa Airport actually carries more Yankees swag than any of the local teams from throughout the state of Florida; possibly even combined.  If I was still a Yanks whore, I'd be in Heaven.  Alas, I am not so much anymore.  Although, Don Mattingly is still my God.
  • Needing to wear a shirt, hat, and sunglasses in the sparkling water at Clearwater Beach.  I felt like a schmuck.  Damn tan/burn.
  • No Katie.
  • Leaving the rest of my calzone behind.  Nano has them in the freezer.  That was one fine calzone.  I hope she enjoys the leftovers.  Ah, the little things.
  • Hanging that Ibanez EX160 back on the rack and leaving the pawn shop.
  • Leaving Nano and my Aunt and Uncle to come home.  As much as I missed Katie, I'm going to miss them as well.  And it's never easy leaving any of them.  I want to see them all again so badly.

That does a pretty good job of summing up my trip to Florida.  Soon, I will find time to transfer the photos off my digicam and post them on Flickr.  I promise.  Likely tomorrow.


I'm on my way... home sweet home.

Misc80thballoon Since I never got the chance to say it yesterday, I want to wish a happy 80th birthday to Nano (my grandmother).  Yesterday was the official day of her birthday although we had the big party on Saturday.  At least I think it was Saturday.  I lose all sense of date and time when I'm on vacation.  It's both a blessing and a curse.

One thing I've been noticing over the last couple of days is that Floridians love expensive sports and luxury cars.  It must be the truth... I've seen more of them in the last couple of days here than I've ever seen over the course of the other 30.85 years of my life. 

The day before yesterday, I saw my first-ever on-the-street Lamborghini Diablo.  Oh, it was sweet.  I enjoyed it immensely.  And the driver knew he was being ogled.  He didn't have to pull any theatrics with his driving.  He stuck around long enough to let his fine piece of machinery be viewed from nearly all angles before speeding up just enough to move within sight of a new bunch of droolers.  I think he also knew that driving a foreign sports car that is racing yellow in hue makes him an automatic target for local and state police.  So no excessive peeling out for him.  And I thank him.  His care and caution afforded me the opportunity to snap a couple of shots.

The two cars I saw yesterday marked another pair of "firsts" for me; although far less impressive than the Yellow Devil.  One was a Maserati and the other was a Bentley.  For two vehicles that cost well north of $100 grand, I was not moved as I felt I should have been.  Even my dad and uncle felt the Maserati looked like nothing more than a Nissan Maxima.  That's a great thing for Maxima drivers, but I'll bet it deflates the egos of the drivers of this particular Maserati.  I'm not sure what model it was nor do I really care enough about it to find out.  I did snap shots, though.  Especially since the Maserati was being towed.  Breakdown?  Who really knows.  But we were laughing all the same.

Well, today is the day that we head home.  My brother and his girlfriend left yesterday.  My aunt and uncle will be leaving on Wednesday.  I'm going to miss Nano.  I love visiting her and hope to do it again soon.  She's so much fun to be around.

But I am also missing Katie terribly right now.  This is the longest that I've been away from her and it is really killing me inside.  Yes, I realize that I sound like a complete dope right about now.  But I don't care.  Being away from her and only in contact via cell and blog comment (yes, that comment is from the Katie) is not my preferred method for relationship maintenance.  I know we both had family commitments that required us to be in different places (heck, different states) at the same time, but I still wish she was here.  Now, I'm going home to her and I hope it's one of those big, sappy homecomings with the big hug where I pick her up and spin her around.  I want to kiss her and tell her how much I missed her.  And, hopefully I will achieve all these goals before the Chicago Police Department tells us we have to move the car or we get honked at by the car behind us. 

Next time, Katie is coming here with me.  There is so much I want to do together with her here especially since we hit so much rain the last time we visited.  Nano, we hope you don't mind having some visitors come knocking on your door.


They knock me out when I'm down there.

MisceurotripEven though it may be a rather inane movie, I really enjoy EuroTrip when it's on TV.  It's about four friends (three guys and a girl) who are traveling across Europe in a trek to help one of the guys (standing in top middles of poster) meet his internet dream girl (blonde at left in poster) who lives in Germany.  Basic plot and whatnot, but I still laugh.

However, I'm discovering that the film does espouse one gospel truth.  While in I want to say Belgium, they visit one of the world's most notorious nude beaches.  Upon arrival there, they discover, much to their horror, that it's populated only by nasty old nekkid men. 

According to a travel guide that is the bible to one of the characters (the one in the green checkered shirt in the poster), the women are only there at certain times because they realize that they become the ogle targets of these men and have, hence, moved themselves to another beach.

I think this is the truth here in the States as well (save for the nude beach part of it all).  Beaches are made out in pop culture to be a place to go to find all the "beautiful" people in the world. 

But this is far from the truth.  In Clearwater Beach, the place was packed with the following percentages:

  • 2% beautiful people (that could be women or men who deserve to be dubbed "beautiful")
  • 58% beautiful people watchers because they are not beautiful themselves.
  • 30% people who think they are beautiful and need to be smacked upside the head until they realize they are not.
  • 10% people who don't give a rat's ass and are just there to be there.  No people watching and no attempts at ego self-inflation.

Before you all start to think I'm a raving egotist myself, I realize that I am part of the immoral majority.  Yes, I people watch.  Not ogle, just watch.  I think I was born a sociologist.  I like to see what people do and how they react in given situations.  Yes, I do know that I'm anything but beautiful.  That's a fact of life I've long accepted.

But it's this 30% that really bug me.  They either walk around in bikinis or Speedos and hang over the sides or they are walking around with their chests puffed out and stomachs sucked in (you can always tell the latter because their faces, despite all the tanning lotions, still roughly resemble the color of the water they are standing against).

People, just accept who you are.  I know you strive to be better.  Heck, I strive to be better; that's why I work out at my gym.  But the first step in realizing what a great person you can be is to accept who you already are.  It will make achieving your self-beautification goals that much easier.  If you can't accept who you are now, you will never accept yourself down the line no matter what steps you take.  It's a mad, vicious cycle. 

I'm not even entirely there, yet, but I'm damn sure trying.  Unlike when I was a kid, I can actually take my shirt off at the beach now.  If people want to laugh, they can laugh.  But beware... over my 30 years of life on this planet, I have developed a whip-smart and biting sense of humor that can leave you with tear-stained streaks of Banana Boat running down your cheeks... and I'm not afraid to use it.  Taunt at your own risk.

Why am I having visions of the French taunter from Monty Python and the Holy Grail right now?

Oh, and because of my burns, I was actually wearing a T-shirt today as well as a hat and sunglasses while in the water and on the beach.  The T-shirt, despite my previous declaration that I am comfortable enough to be topless at the beach, was more an attempt at self preservation than a stab at ego massaging.

I still felt like a tool, though.


It was a... rock lobster.

That would probably be the most appropriate way to describe my current skin coloration. 

After two consecutive days at the pool (in it, not beside it) with two visits today alone, as well as going on a 2.8 mile walk this morning and just generally spending time outside, I'm beyond barbecued.

MischellboyMy lower arms, upper arms, shoulders, upper back, upper chest, cheeks, forehead, and ears... well, suffice it to say, they are cooked.  Well done to be a bit more specific.

It's not a particularly uncomfortable experience at the moment.  Just a little tightness across my back and that's really about it.  For now, I'm sure.  Probably get worse as time goes on. 

Just give me sheared off horns and a fist of solid rock and I could pass as Hellboy.  Okay, so throw in some pecs and a washboard stomach for good measure.  Not everyone can look like Ron Perlman naturally.  Maybe not even Ron Perlman.

But the key is, this white boy finally has some color to him.  Now, if I can only get enough chemicals on my skin to make it turn into a tan before it peels so I can actually stay some decent shade for the trip home to make it all look worthwhile, I'd be happy. 

Not likely, though.  I've got that "just enough" bit of Irish ancestry in me to dictate that I am either white or burned.  Those are really my only two options... cave dweller or crispy critter. 

I wish I could be nice and browned and have skin that says "I work 40 hours a week as a snorkel instructor" instead of a milky pallor that bemoans "I sit behind two computers all day."  It would be a nice touch.

And we're going to Clearwater Beach tomorrow.  This should be interesting.


While my guitar gently weeps.

This morning, instead of getting up for a walk/run like I had hoped, I went for a golf cart trek around my grandmother's country club with my dad.  We went around everywhere and even down this wonderfully creepy dirt road that bisects some swamp land.  The sort of stereotypical swampy area with the floating green moss and trees growing right out of the middle of the water.  Standard Scooby Doo mystery sort of locale.  As freaky looking as it was, I find myself able, as I usually do, to suppress my internal fears and brave it out for the sake of photography.  Amazing what I can do under the protective shield of photography.  Kinda like my own little Superman cape.  More photos that will be posted on Flickr, I'm sure.

We jumped in the rented minivan and, for whatever reason, made our way into a Beall's Outlet Store.  While there and looking at the discount store equivalent of a CD selection, we met this girl who was also looking at the CDs and asked if I saw any good rock discs.  I pulled out a copy of Black Sabbath's Master of Reality and handed it to her.  She said she was the singer/guitarist in a local band that, like any other band, was trying to break through to the "big time."  Well, she may not have actually used those two words in tandem like that, but you get the point.  She started explaining that her band was a mix of Metallica and Slipknot meets Evanescence.  I think it impressed her when I was able to ask "but do you have pipes like Amy Lee?" (the lead singer of Evanescence).  Confidently, she said, "yeah!"  This acknowledgment that I wasn't too old to not know who these bands were resulted in a pretty good conversation about music. 

She started explaining her band's history (they all played in their high school band together); where the band name, And More, came from (they were watching a commercial for a Now music CD and, at the end of the list of artists featured on the CD, it said "and more" and they liked it); that her cousin is the former bass player for Papa Roach; and that the Leesburg Wal-Mart had copies of her band's demo disc.  She had none on her so I actually made a concerted effort to find this Wal-Mart because I was pretty intrigued at the idea of being able to listen to a band that was just getting started. 

I haven't had the opportunity to listen to an "up-and-coming" band since buying a couple albums from a high school buddy's band, Midian, and seeing them play live both at our high school, in a local music hall later in high school, and again at the college we both attended where they opened for Local H.  Pretty cool to watch the evolution, but they broke up soon after that.  A shame as they were pretty good.

Unfortunately, after traipsing around greater Leesburg and finding the Wal-Mart, I discovered that nobody in either the audio/video section nor up at customer service had ever heard about carrying demo discs for a local band named And More.  Dangit!  I was looking forward to hearing their music.

I don't know your name, girl, but don't go sending me on some wild goose chase.  I was willing to plug your band for free here if the music was good.  Now I've got nothing to go on nor any way to really recommend you.  Heck, I can't even link to a Website for you as "And More" brings up a heckuva lot of possibilities in Web search engines.  Not a good way to start building a fan base.  If you happen across this site while Googling your band's name and would like to rectify the situation by sending me the demos, e-mail me and I'll send you my address (the link is near the top left of any page on this blog).

Somewhere in the mix of going to Bealls and finding Wal-Mart, my dad and I visited a local pawn shop.  Nothing too spectacular.  Actually, a bit of a letdown.  I've never been to a pawn shop before and I may have built my expectations for a selection of cool things up a bit too high in my mind. 

Miscex160However, I did find one spectacular thing... an old Ibanez EX160 electric guitar. 

This was one of the first guitars I ever owned in my high school and college playing days.  The only problem was, being a college student, I needed money.  Since I never really had the time to play in college like I had hoped I would, I found my guitars expendable.  Most of my instruments (three electric guitars, one acoustic guitar, and one electric bass) were not that big a deal to sell.  But my Ibanez was gorgeous and I regret selling it to this day.  It's not an easy instrument to find either.  Ibanez doesn't run the EX series anymore and, from what I've heard, Ibanez's quality of craftsmanship went downhill in the mid 1990s.  My old 160 dates back to the latter half of the 80s or maybe even 1990, at the latest.  Not even eBay has had any of them that meet my mental specs for this particular axe.  I just now found a site that sold one for $90, but, according to them, it needed "some work."

But the one at this pawn shop was almost my old guitar to a T.  The only differences were some superficial scratches and a missing pick guard.  Otherwise... perfection.  And it was only $135.  Well, I shouldn't say "only" as I can't currently afford that price.  After playing around with it a bit and realizing that it had the same smooth action as my old Ibanez, I hung it back up, wept internally, and left the store.

Yet another of those painful "so close, and yet so far" moments that occur in your life.  I wanted it soooo badly, but could not justify spending the money.  I know I will be kicking myself for years to come.  $135 for a guitar is not a bad price, really.  But I just couldn't do it.

I want to play again so badly.  And I want to play my old Ibanez.


Leavin' on a jet plane...

I was under the impression, from the day that my mom ordered our plane tickets to come down here to Florida, that we would be flying United... Chicago's all-but-defunct aeronautical pride and joy.

Misctedcoffee However, on the way in to O'Hare, she revealed to me that she just found out we were actually flying Ted, United's low-fare solution.  I wasn't quite sure what to make of that.  This is the first time I have flown one of the new breed of low-cost carriers since they became en vogue.  I have been on some of the old school cheap-o flights and they've all had their ups and downs.  No more so than flying the "ritzy" airlines.  So I was apprehensively curious.

I was right to be apprehensive.  First off, we were stuck in a waiting area at a gate that felt like it was an afterthought on Terminal 2 at ORD.  It was branched off one of the main hallways and was this tiny little excuse of a gate.  Actually, there were three gates there in a space that normally would have served one or two gates well.

Then we got on the plane.  Nothing too terribly worth noting.  Until the flight attendants came around, that is.  The woman in the seat next to me, Cindy, had been trying to get an attendant's attention for several minutes because the already nearly drunk off his keister bonehead in the seat in front of her had already reclined his seat.  We weren't even in the air.  But the attendants never responded to her waving.  No matter how hard she shook her hand, they never came by. 

Oh, and by the time we landed, the guy in front of Cindy was legitimately drunk.  So was the girl in the seat next to him.  You know it's bad when the flight attendant is keeping track of what they're drinking and calling them on it.

A little later, they came by with food and drinks.  For a "snack box" we would have had to pay $5.  Then, the drinks you do get for free are just a small plastic cup that is already 1/3 to 1/2 ice.  And they don't come around for a second serving.  Usually I am able to talk a flight attendant into leaving me the entire can of soda or whatever I'm drinking.  Not on Ted.  Nope.  No way.  Nuh uh.  When they say "no frills," they are not mincing words.  They mean it.

But there were some positive aspects to the flight.  Cindy was really cool and we were talking a bit.  After takeoff, she noted how beautiful some of the clouds below us were and that she wished she had her digital camera.  I told her I had one and she replied by saying that my camera doesn't do her too much good.  I said that if she took some shots with my camera out the window, I would e-mail them to her.  She did.  And I did, too.  And I've got a few pretty cool pictures as a result that I will post on Flickr when I get home (I don't have my USB interface cable with me at the moment... damn).

Another good thing is my lovely new Insignia portable DVD player.  After Cindy and I were done talking, we both broke out our portaplayers.  She watched Austin Powers in Goldmember while I finally got around to watching Friday Night Lights.  A damn fine movie, I might add.  This little player is awesome.  It's a 9" widescreen display and works quite nicely.  I never really wanted a portaplayer before, but I'm glad Katie and I did buy it.  It will definitely come in handy.

And another positive about the whole thing is that we were on time both for take off and landing.  Even flying through some of Hurricane Rita's tailwinds didn't slow us down.

But I am now here in Florida at my grandmother's house typing to you all in the wee hours from her PC listening to either my mom or my dad, or both, clear cutting a forest in the next room.


You best believe it that I got to get away...

From time to time, you run in to those days that you really want to go to work.  Sometimes it's because of some great new project you are looking forward to working on or because of some recognition you are about to receive.  Not me.  Nope.  I'm looking forward to it because I am only going in for part of the day.

How terrible does that sound?  I want to go to work only because I'm there for a half day.

Why, you may ask?

Miscflaturnpike Because I am heading out to Florida tonight with my parents. 

My grandmother's 80th birthday is this coming weekend and I've been looking forward to celebrating it with her.  My parents will be there as will my brother and his girlfriend and my aunt and uncle.

The only problem is that Katie can't be there and I'm going to miss her terribly.  There are a couple reasons that Katie can't go.  1) She doesn't quite have the required vacation days to go, and, 2) her cousin is getting married this weekend and one of us needs to be there.

I really wish she could go and, even though I know there's nothing that can be done, I just keep looking for ways to make it happen. Or, in the immortal words of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, "Make it so."

I'm sure it will still be fun going despite her not being there, but I'm just afraid that I'm going to feel guilty if I have fun.  Weird how that works out.  Either you don't have fun and you look like a frump or you have fun and then feel guilty about it.  Sick, sad Catch-22.

Now I just have to hope that some new hurricane doesn't develop while we're there.  You gotta admit, it seems as though Florida has been pretty lucky this hurricane season, eh?  Usually you always hear about that state getting hammered.  This year, it's been every state except Florida.  Yeah, there's been some damage done, but nothing like what happened in Louisiana and Mississippi by Katrina or what's about to occur in Texas courtesy of Rita.

I hope you pull through, Lone Star Staters.  Stay strong.


À la Mode

Katie and I actually have some live entertainment to look forward to in the coming months and I am so stoked about both.

First, for our fourth anniversary in October, we will be going to see the far-off-Broadway Chicago tour of Wicked.  This is the story of the witches of Oz before Dorothy comes into the picture.  My mom has seen it and loved it and Katie's mom loved it as well.  I've been wanting to see it and have had the opportunity in the past, but scheduling wouldn't allow for both of us to see it together, until now.  So we're going as part of our anniversary gift to each other.

MiscdepechemodeAnd, if you've been reading Blogography for any amount of time, you know Dave's a big Depeche Mode fan.  When the band announced their tour to support the upcoming new album, he was stoked.  Until he realized that the show nearest where he lives is scheduled to happen when he's away on business.  On that post, I commented saying that he should come to Chicago when they are in town. 

Little did I know that, when DM is scheduled to be in Chicago at the end of November, he was going to be in Milwaukee on business.  Ideal, no?  He preordered the new album from iTunes, which included a special code to allow purchasers the opportunity to preorder tickets for the DM tour.  He did.  And now he, Katie, and I will be rocking out to the Mode on November 29.

It's going to be so cool.  I've never seen DM live before.  And I've never met Dave live before, either. 

Hey Kazza, you've met Dave before.  What's the best way to deal with a Dave that's gonna be so hopped up on adrenaline that he would likely be illegal in 48 states and several foreign countries?


Who needs sleep?

MisczombieworkerTo quote the late, great Fred Gwynne in Pet Sematary, "sometimes, dead is better."

That's the prevailing sentiment around the office today. 

Just when one of us thinks they are starting to get ahead on projects, we make the damn-fool mistake of looking over on our desk or in our inbox and see that our workload has just been piled upon.  When we get one thing done, we wind up with three more new projects.

Unlike Johnny -- oops, sorry, "Captain Radical" as he's recently renamed himself and his blog -- I think we are all on the verge of going postal

We are the walking dead today, and it's only Tuesday. 

Just look on any of our faces and you'll see nothing but crestfallen defeat etched in the lines under our eyes. 

It's painful to watch.  Thankfully my eyes are so blurred from staring at computer monitors all day that I'm not seeing particularly clearly anyway.

I think I need to recquisition a cot.  And a big fluffy pillow.  And.... *snore*

(Image courtesy of grinningplanet.com)


Play the game, everybody play the game...

I am crazy for a game called Sudoku.

And this is not just some minor obsession.

Logic-based puzzles such as this have been something I've loved.  Especially when I can just sit down and think through them without much in the way of interruption. 

I know these puzzles have been around for some time now and I have seen them before, but I just never bothered to try them out.  This past weekend, while Katie and I were working the gym, I found one in the Daily Herald and tried it.  Katie was knitting so I played my little game and now I'm hooked.  I've played through about three or four of them since Saturday and have even downloaded a shareware version on my Palm Pilot.

Here's the basic layout for a Sudoku gameboard...

Miscsudoku

The goal is to fill in the board (several numbers are pre-entered) so that each row, column, and 3x3 square contains the numbers 1-9.  The numbers 1-9 may not be repeated within a single row, column, or 3x3 square (yes, this should be obvious; but who knows if you, dear reader, feel like thinking today; it is, after all, Monday).

And to have discovered this joy just before I go on a plane trip on Thursday is like uncovering my own little buried treasure.

I'm in OCD Heaven right now.


Naughty girls need love too.

After closing the gym last night, Katie and I went out with our friends J and K (no Men in Black jokes, thank you; just trying to maintain some semblance of anonymity here) to eat at a place called McNally's in St. Charles and we followed that up listening to some live blues music at Chord on Blues also in St. Charles.

MiscjolieWe were talking about anything and everything at McNally's -- sports, politics, video games, family, friends, getting drunk.  Typical barroom banter.

Then J told me that he and K (oh yeah, to clarify, J is male and K is female, husband and wife) were listening to sports radio the other day and the DJs recited some statistic about how 57% of women polled said they would cheat on their male significant other for a chance to "be with" Angelina Jolie. 

57%... women... with... Angelina Jolie.

Woah.

That's when K chimed in saying that she would, too.

Again... woah.

J said he'd let her.  So long as he could watch, videotape, etc.  I think that's the typical male response to something like that. 

That would be my response if Katie said that. 

Of course Katie, not being much of a Jolie-camp supporter, said she would be part of the 43% minority.  But if Jennifer Aniston were to make the offer... just kidding.

Oh yeah, according to the poll, Britney Spears came in second at 23% (that's just sick and wrong, ladies; have you no taste?), 12% with Paris Hilton, and a mere 4% with Beyonce (only 4?!?!).

Aside from the actual results of the survey and the reponses by our respective female counterparts, the one thing that makes me curious regarding this whole thing is... who thinks up these things?  Is there actually a job title for these people and they get paid for it?  "Lesbian Love Survey Coordinator" or some such?  And after thinking up a question such as this, who actually has the cojones enough to go out and ask random women their opinion regarding it?  Are women that open to suggestion anymore that you can just walk up to them randomly and ask, "would you sleep with Angelina Jolie given the chance?" without risk of bodily harm, permanent or otherwise?

Okay, yes, these were current college students that were polled, and the survey was conducted by Playboy magazine, but I still think it would take some cojones de piedra to ask the question. 

I don't want to be the one to find out.


Why don't you build me up...

I'm pondering some more cosmetic changes here on kapgar.com.  I'm wondering what you all think.

  1. I'm a bit sick of how long my sidebars are becoming.  I hate how the categories are stacked, one per line, in a nice, long column.  And, while the archived months are not that long a list, yet, it will grow as time goes on.  So I'm thinking of stealing an idea that I've seen on Blogography and on Run Jen Run, that being the use of dropdown menus that contain all the archived months and categories.  For Dave and Jen, the dropdowns are a feature that come with their use of Moveable Type.  Since I use Typepad, which doesn't offer the dropdowns as a feature, I would probably have to plug in the code manually.  This is not a big deal as dropdowns are a simple matter of code theft.  Did you really think I would code them myself?  Yeah, I've coded them before, but why write when you can steal?  Even if I do steal the code, I would need to customize it for my site and update it by hand.  So I am being kept somewhat honest in my illegal maneuvering.  But the only one that would really need to be updated would be the monthly listing and that only would have to happen once a month.
  2. I want to bring more emphasis to the fact that I do have other portions of my site available for people to read and I don't think having four simple text links under the heading "Kapgar.com" is really helping to get the word out.  Yeah, I do have some people who find my other sites -- which include a fairly extensive photo album, movie review site, and book review site in addition to seven years of handcoded blog entries (pre-Typepad) -- from Web searches.  But my blog readership has increased a lot since I switched to Typepad and it's these new readers I don't think realize those sites exist.  So I'm thinking of throwing together some badge-style link images to make them stand out a bit more.  Now that I know how to incorporate HTML into sidebars, this is going to be easy.
  3. Better yet, if I'm going to create dropdown menus, maybe I should just incorporate my archived blog entries into the new dropdown as well.  Not a bad idea.  If I decide to get really ambitious, I could even create dropdowns for the movie and book reviews.  Okay, maybe not.  I'm not that motivated.

I also like when you tool around on someone else's site and find handy little links that can help you out as well.  On Run Jen Run, she had a link to a site called Chicago Blogs which is a list of bloggers from the Chitown area.  Heck yes.  I'm not exactly in Chicago proper, but I live in the recognized suburbs.  So I registered and now have the code under "Visit Me" in the right sidebar.  It would be cool to receive some visits from other Chicago bloggers and be able to rant and rave with them about all things Chi. 

I am already listed on *beep* which is a blog host and link repository for bloggers in the Chicago area (who use other blog hosting services) run by the Daily Herald.  Funny thing is, they found me and asked if I wanted to be linked.  Cool.  I read the blogs on their site from time to time.  Some pretty good stuff from their regular contributors every now and again.  I'm thinking I should add them to the "Visit Me" typelist as well, wouldn't you agree?  If they're gonna link to me, perhaps I should return the favor, eh?  Hmmm...

Now to find a site that compiles all amateur movie and book reviewers.  All the old webrings I've belonged to in the past have kinda gone by the wayside.  Webrings are so hit or miss.  Once in a while you will find a person who really keeps the ring alive and maintains it fervently.  But for every one ring admin that is good, there are 20 or 30 that just don't give a rat's patootie.  Most of the ones I've found have fallen in the latter category, unfortunately.  Any suggestions?


I'm the man in the box.

I was reading a pretty interesting story on Wired yesterday about what they've dubbed "Apple pack rats."  These are the people that not only buy and love their Apple products, but wind up keeping all the packing materials and documentation and all that other jazz.

To these people, opening their Apple-branded toys is a religious experience in and of itself.  Often times, they will have friends over and photograph the occasion as though it were Christmas.  And packing material winds up being used for decoration.

Okay, first and foremost, I'm not this bad.  Yet. 

I suppose if I had been an Apple nut before I bought my PowerBook six years ago, I might have treated the opening moment with some reverence.  As it was, though, this was my first Apple/Mac computer and I didn't know what to expect.  So, all things considered, it was just the opening of a box.  And, this is still the only computer Katie and I own.

But the opening of our iPods was treated a little differently.  It was a step-by-step "wow!" sort of experience.  I mean, c'mon, it has some of the coolest packaging around.  And it was a bit of a puzzle trying to figure out the best way to get the job done. 

What I find funniest about the Wired article was the timing.  Primarily because, just this past weekend, I was at my parents' house digging around in the crawlspace for some old sports pennants to hang in the garage when I found it.

What is "It"?

"It" is the box from my PowerBook.  I still had it.  I couldn't believe it.  All the styrofoam inserts were still inside as well as all the documentation and even the box from my VST internal ZIP-100 drive that was purchased at the same time as the computer (ZIPs were still very big six years ago). 

Of course I brought it home with me.  Much to Katie's chagrin, I'm sure.  But I've got it and I plan to keep it.

I thought I might share a few of them (one below and the rest are linked at left on Flickr) with you for kicks.  Maybe help bring back some memories for those of you who similarly love your computers and iPods and all the other jazz that Apple has created over the years (if there are some of you out there still actively using your Newtons... my hat's off to you).

Dsc01075


I want to ride my bicycle...

MisclancearmstrongLance Armstrong wins his seventh Tour de France!!!

Oh wait, that was some time ago.

Lance Armstrong is retiring at the top of his game!!!

Again, old news.

Lance Armstrong is coming back!!!

Well, that's the rumor anyway. 

Amid the rampant accusations that he is a doper and the claims by a French newspaper that it has proof he was on a drug called EPO during his first tour, rumors have risen to the surface that Lance Armstrong may return to ride another Tour.  Well, his return seems a pretty sure bet amongst gamblers.

Why the hell not?  I think it's great.  Stick it to the Frogs on their home turf in their race for national pride.  Make it eight straight and, even if they continue to claim that you were on drugs for your first Tour win, you will still have seven "undoped" wins to flaunt in their faces.

The way I look at it, he's in the best shape of his life and he only retired a month or so ago, so why not return while you're still great?  It's not as though you've taken time off after your retirement like oh say Magic Johnson or Michael Jordan and then try to make your comeback. He's been peddling his butt off six hours a day every day since announcing his retirement. 

Oh, and a little pharmaceutical lesson for the French... EPO (also known as Erythropoietin) is a drug used to help boost blood cell count that can be hindered by cancer treatment, among other things.  Even if Lance was on EPO, wouldn't it be excusable considering the Tour they claim to have evidence he doped during was his first, the 1999 Tour de France, a mere two-and-a-half years after he was diagnosed with cancer?  He wasn't doing it for competitive advantage.  He was doing it to live.  And that's only if he really was on it, which I'm not sure I believe.

Do it, Lance!  Forget the critics!  Forget the French!  As per the infamous Nike ads... Just Do It!

I did find this one funny... it's a spoof article pondering whether Lance's decision is actually just 'roid rage.


I'm alive... oh oh... so alive.

Do iPods have some kind of artificial intelligence somehow hardwired into their systems?  Or can they perform some sort of Vulcan mind-meld with their users?

Miscipod_1I'm asking this because of something that has been happening lately with my iPod.

Yes, I have playlists on my iPod.  However, I don't really use them that much anymore.  I'm kinda sick of what I've programmed into them and am thinking about deleting them entirely.

Forget about that "thinking" part.  It's done.  They're gone.  As we speak, they are being wiped from my iPod.

Yeah, I just get sick of them anymore.  It's like listening to the same old mix tape day after day after day.

So, what I've been doing lately, aside from listening to my podcasts, is to just take my entire iPod and set it to shuffle.  I never know what song or even genre will be played.  And, when you've got 2,303 songs on your iPod, there is a lot of randomness inherent in this approach.  Since I've copied over a couple hundred albums, in their entirety, there is a very great chance that I don't know many of the songs that are on my iPod.  I just put them on there to give myself a chance to listen to something new.

However, over the course of the last couple days that I've been doing this, I may think of a certain song or band and, lo and behold, that winds up being the next song or band played by my iPod.  It's eerie.  But I like it.  It's like some sort of symbiotic relationship that I am currently experiencing with doPi. 

I don't get it, but I won't complain.  He's been picking some great tunes lately. 

Heck, last night at the gym, I listened to a run of about seven great songs in a row while doing some cardio.  All were songs that I really like and are easy to work out to.  This morning, on the way to work, every single song that was played was absolutely spectacular.  And just what I wanted to hear at the moment.

Woah... I'm anthropomorphizing my iPod.  But maybe he deserves it.


Gimme fuel, gimme fire...

I'm keeping this one short to make up for yesterday's mammoth entry.

This is a real conversation that Katie and I just had on the phone and it really threw me for a loop.

Katie - "I've gotta stop and get some gas.  It's $2.85 up here at the Jewel!"

Kevin - "Wow!  $2.85?!?  That's great!"

Katie - "Yeah it is!  So I'd better stop now."

Kevin - "Ohmigod, we're talking about $2.85 like it's the second coming of Christ."

Katie - "We are, aren't we?"

My dad said it a few weeks ago, as did Katie, and they were both right.  Prices would get well up over $3.00 per gallon (I saw it as high as $3.31) and then settle back down under $3.00 and we would go running for the gas stations like it was a great deal.  Never mind the fact that it's still $1 more per gallon than it was last year.

I know that there are enough people complaining about gas prices, but I just find it to be ridiculous.  OPEC and gas companies can gouge the hell out of us and get away with it so long as there is turmoil in the Middle East that can be used as a referent when "justifying" the increase.

It's time for a motorcycle.


We got to move these color TVs.

In a recent marketing course for my MBA degree, I was reminded of a concept that I had learned in marketing courses I took years ago during my undergrad pursuits.  The concept was that of the Product Life Cycle (PLC).

Basically, the PLC describes the innovation, early adoption, market saturation, and eventual market death of any given product or service on the market.  It's shaped like your standard bell curve and those who buy into the product or service fall into one of four areas along the curve. 

Miscproduct1_1

  • Market Innovation - Those who are always ahead of the curve when it comes to new product adoption.  They are always on the lookout for the "BBT" - the "Bigger Better Thing" - and will buy something as soon as possible.
  • Market Growth - A product makes its way into the market and is available to the everyman through regular market avenues like bricks and mortar stores.  It's still very early in the life of a product, but word is spreading as a result of the Market Innovators and people now feel a bit safer about buying into it.
  • Market Maturity - Other companies have caught on to the love and adoration of this new product and are now creating competitors.  This competition may or may not cause a price drop as some people may defect to these new products.
  • Sales Decline - People just stop caring so the prices tend to drop and those that were extra wary now have a legitimate opportunity to buy into the craze.

I do subscribe to this marketing fundamental.  It makes perfect sense.  However, I think they're missing a little something that is truly important in the product life cycle.  A whole crew of buyers that are completely neglected until the final stage of the PLC.  So, to honor this cadre of people, I would like to introduce my own marketing theory... the Product Salivation Cycle (PSC).

Miscproduct2

The stages here include:

  • Early Salivation - With the advent of the World Wide Web, just about anyone knows what new products are coming out well ahead of time.  We can track their production, testing, etc.  And, if we really like something, we drool for it.  Sometimes literally.  We aren't stupid enough to not admit that this product is coming and that it's cool and that we want it.  We just cannot afford to buy it when it first comes out or there is some immediate competition for the product and we are playing the "wait & see" game to see which one wins the likely market war that erupts.  One example would be DVD vs DivX.  We all knew DVD was better, but DivX had some pretty heavy hitting companies on its side.  So we waited.  DVD eventually won out and then people started looking into it a bit more.  But this doesn't happen until the next stage...
  • Increased Yearning - More and more people that we know are buying into the product.  We see it everywhere.  On the street, at the gym, at work, in print ads, on television, on billboards.  And we really want it now. For example, an iPod was one such product that just erupted and we saw it everywhere.  And you always knew it was an iPod because of the white cords that ran from someone's hand or waist or bag up to the sides of their head where it was plugged in like Frankenstein's feeding tube.
  • Price Drop Droolfest - With competition arriving from dozens of upstart companies and other, more established companies that are finally realizing that they are losing out on a huge market share, prices are starting to go down a bit.  When PDAs were first introduced, they were expensive as hell. But as new models arrived and competition increased, you suddenly found incredibly less expensive models just about anywhere.
  • Eventual Acquisition - The market is completely saturated by this time and prices are at a level where you can finally afford to buy that new toy.  Of course, when you walk around with your new toy and try bragging about it to all your friends, they reply with a collective "meh."  They all have moved on to the next BBT and you are stuck back at the beginning of the PSC.  Sorry, sucker.

Why am I going on about this?  Because, for as much of a geek as I am, I always feel like I am in the third or even fourth stage of the PSC. 

My first iPod was obtained at the tail end of the third generation model.  I have a 15GB touch wheel with four buttons across the top.  I knew a bunch of people that had either first, second, or third gen models well before I did.

I didn't get my first standalone DVD player until the end of 2000.  Three years into the life of DVD players.  I have to specify "standalone" because, technically, I did have one in my Mac laptop, which represents the one time I was closer to being a product innovator.  I was able to show off my DVD-watching capabilities on my laptop as early as the summer of '99.  And it was cool, and people said so, and I basked in the glow of their adoration for... my computer.

MisctivomanLast night, Katie and I finally jumped on the TiVo bandwagon.  There was an offer at Best Buy allowing for a $150 rebate on the TiVo box if you sign a one-year agreement.  It was the 40GB, second generation model and we've been wanting one for sometime now.  With the rebate, the box wound up costing a mere $50.  How can you say no to this offer? 

We went in to the store and saw a bunch of people walking out with the same product.  Luckily, there were still plenty left, so we nabbed one.  Oh, we also had about $15 in Reward Zone certificates, bringing our net overall cost to $65 (we purchased the extended warranty for $30).

We were stoked.  It felt like Christmas for both of us and we enjoyed every last minute of the time spent opening the box.  It's amazing how user friendly a product can be when the design team really puts some care and thought into a product.  The little set-up poster they include reminded me of the detailed, yet ubersimple, instructions that come with HP printers. 

And then the stickers.  Oh the stickers. 

Much like my Mac or any Mac that someone may buy, you get logo stickers so you can advertise your love of and affiliation with a growing population of freaks and geeks that use this product.  There were two little TiVo man stickers in the box and, something that actually makes them cooler than the Mac stickers, they are static labels.  I LOVE STATIC LABELS!  And the TiVo logo is one of my favorite product logos since the Apple/Mac logo and the old PrimeCo purple alien logo.

We now have our TiVo set up in our bedroom and we've already signed ourselves up for season passes for several of our favorite shows.  It is so simple that it's completely ridiculous.  The hardest thing about it was pulling out the TV so I could plug in the cables to the back.

But I do have one question for some of you out there that are more experienced with TiVos than I... when we flipped over to our DVD player to watch a movie last night (the DVD player runs through RCA A/V inputs much like the TiVo is, but in its own set of plugs), we flipped to the A/V input for the DVD player, but we were still receiving audio from the TiVo box itself.  How do we shut that off so it doesn't happen?  For the time being, we just clicked the TiVo button which sent the box into the menu thus negating audio input and watched the rest of the movie.  But this pause only lasted a half hour.  Luckily, a half hour was all we had left to this movie so we finished it before the TiVo audio kicked back in.  Help.


I'm all out of faith, this is how I feel...

Yesterday, I went with my dad and my brother and a couple of my parents' neighbors, Mr. K and his son, Tom, to the Northern Illinois-Northwestern football game at Ryan Field (named for the Illinois politician renowned for his sexual deviance with his now-ex-wife and actress, Jeri Ryan - sounds like a good guy to name a football stadium after) in Evanston.

My brother and I are grads of NIU and Tom is a student there now.  My dad and Mr. K are not grads nor did they ever attend, but they like the football team and go to several games a year.  College football is much cheaper and easier to get tickets to than a pro game (usually), so I can't blame them.  I think this is one of the only games I've seen since my second graduation in 2000.  Katie and I haven't really gone because NIU became a good football team since our graduation and the alumni association stopped sending us free tickets as a result.  Damn them.

Mischuskieslogo Wow!  Talk about a game.  Northwestern took the first score with a field goal.  Then our Huskies scored two touchdowns back to back.  We were gloating, dancing, chanting, and all in enemy territory.  Probably not the best idea.  We pissed off a few people who were only able to do quite a bit of their own gloating when Northwestern scored the next three touchdowns... all still in the first half of the game.  Yeah, we shut up a bit.

24-14 going into the second half and NIU took control scoring the next touchdown to bring the score up to 24-21.  Northwestern scored again to make it 31-21.  Then NIU scored another touchdown as well as a field goal to even it up. 

With 3:11 left, Northwestern scored a touchdown.  We thought it was pretty close to over except that NIU's Phil Horvath let loose some great passes and, with nine seconds left, scored another touchdown.

38-37 with time left for an extra point to take the game to overtime.  YES!!!  We could feel the spirit!  We were psyched!  Overtime... here we come!

And then... the unforgiveable.

NIU Head Coach Joe Novak kept his offense in the game.

Ummm... shouldn't you be putting in the extra point squad, Joe?  Must be some miscommunication, right?  You're not actually going for the two-point conversion and a potential win that has a very high probability of abysmal failure when you could be going for the nearly guaranteed tie and go into overtime, right?

He was going for the win.

We all slapped our hands against our heads or threw them in the air and asked why or just outright yelled at him.  Just when Northwestern fans had begun to give up hope, it was poured back upon them in spades.  This was a blessing from heaven for them. 

The odds of pulling off a two-point conversion are... well... not very good.  I don't exactly have a list of conversion statistics in front of me at the moment.  But, suffice it to say that you don't see successful conversions that often.  Extra point kicks have a much higher rate of success.  And it's unthinkable to try for the win on an unlikely play when you could go for the tie and drive the game into overtime.  There's just no excuse for this call.

But Joe Blow decided to go for it.

And they blew it.

And we lost.

And we screamed and shouted and cursed and swore.

Oddly enough, Northwestern fans didn't laugh at us.  I think they felt more sorry than anything.  There was nothing we could do.  There was nothing the players could do.  It was a bad call by the coaches.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Somebody actually clapped in sympathy in my direction as I was leaving.

Or maybe he was mocking me.  I'll never know.


Album Familiar.

Have you ever just sat and stared at your music collection?  Be it a shelf of vinyl, your old cassette collection, a CD rack, or scrolling through your digital playlist?  Have you ever found one album and just wondered "how the heck did I get into that band?"

Miscbloodletting This happened to me today.  Actually, I was listening to the radio when the song "Joey" by Concrete Blonde came on the air.  This song came off the band's absolutely spectacular 1990 album Bloodletting.

In some media, I have owned this album since about 1991 or '92.  And I cannot account, for the life of me, as to how I discovered them. 

Even though I was primarily a metalhead at the time -- bands like Poison and Motley Crue and their ilk were my lifeblood -- I did listen to some other bands as well.  Some I admitted to at the time, and others I would not.  I had albums from Depeche Mode, The Cure, Duran Duran, and, one of my personal faves, Faith No More, among many, many others. 

But I can account for all those "deviations" from my normal hairband rotation.  Depeche Mode and The Cure had big albums at the time that received heavy MTV rotation and I always saw advertising for them in record stores.  Duran Duran has always been a guilty pleasure since the 80s when songs like "Rio" and "Hungry Like the Wolf" were big.  And a friend from my driver's ed class introduced me to Faith No More around the time their Epic album came out.  Some of my friends introduced me to rap groups like Public Enemy and Ice-T.

I can even account for owning a Falco album (damn you, Steve Pope). I have that cassette to this day.

But Concrete Blonde makes no sense whatsoever.  Yes, the song "Joey" was a top 40 hit, but I don't recall ever hearing it on the radio until the mid to later part of the decade when it was gaining renown more as a "modern classic" than as a current hit.  I've never seen the video, if there was one.  I didn't have a single friend or even mere acquaintance at the time that was a fan or even a casual listener.  This is evidenced by the fact that people always wondered who the heck that band was when they would scour my music collection.  I've never seen them advertised in record stores or encountered posters or T-shirts.

So how did I become a fan of CB?

I can't answer that for the life of me.

It is such a good album, too.  One I still listen to.  "Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)" is just the epitome of cool.


Do you want to play?

Katie and I had some beer last night with our homemade calzones and it hit her pretty hard so she went to bed relatively early.  Apparently, it doesn't take much Piraat Ale to do you in. 

Me?  I was wide awake.  So I went downstairs determined to beat that sticking point fo mine on Lego Star Wars.  It really was pretty easy, as Dave said it would be, and I solved the level and went on to my fight against Darth Maul in part 6 and, overall, defeated The Phantom Menace.  I even played through the first level of Attack of the Clones which was "Discovery at Kamino" or some such.  That was a really fun level as you get to battle Jango and Boba Fett and even face off with the Slave-1.  I love that ship.  It's always been one of my favorite Star Wars vehicles.

Took me about an hour and a half to do all that and then I went to bed.

I am officially addicted to this game.  I love it.  This is the first time since Mario Kart: Double Dash that I have been so enamored of a video game.

Misclegostarwars2
Oh my, Obi Wan... it appears as though Master Kapgar
has fallen victim to the Dark Side of PlayStation 2.

Hey, at least I admitted that I'm developing a problem.  It's the first step in recovery, right?  But not nearly as fun as actually solving the game.  Heh heh.

I've also been playing around some more with both Typepad and Flickr and found out how to display random photos on my blog.  This would've been an easy task if I was still maintaining my blog the old static HTML way.  However, I was not quite sure how to incorporate HTML into a sidebar in Typepad.  I figured it out and now I've got that pretty Flickr Badge on the left.  Ain't it cool?  And it will load up new random photos from a selection that I designated each time you come back.  Click on any of them or the multi-colored "Flickr" name above the badge to visit my photo albums.

Now that I know how to incorporate HTML into the sidebars, I think it's time to play with Blogrolling so I can stop worrying about manually adding the links for good blogs to my "Befriend Me" Typelist.

One other cosmetic change, and very slight at that, is that I moved the "Hear Me" Typelist above the "Read Me" list.  I change Hear Me more often than I change Read Me, so it made sense.

Oh, and if you're wondering how someone like Kelly Clarkson made my Hear Me list, don't even bother asking.  I like her new album.  She is a very guilty pleasure.  Okay?  You over the initial shock yet?


A se7en nation army couldn't hold me down.

I knew as soon as I read this meme on Blogography that I was eventually going to get nailed with it.  Surprised it wasn't Dave himself who did it.  But it was still stuck to me by SJ.  So, here goes...

Se7en things I plan to do before I die:

  1. Have kids.  Helps to be alive to do this.
  2. Tool around Europe and Australia with Katie.
  3. Have some movie reviews published in a newspaper or magazine and not just my Web site.
  4. Buy a motorcycle.  I'm sure Katie is saying "over my dead body" right about now.
  5. Be league champion in both fantasy baseball and fantasy football.
  6. Rebuild a muscle car ('69 GTO preferably).
  7. Strengthen my Spanish speaking ability and learn another foreign language.

Se7en things I can do:

  1. Write what I consider to be fair movie and book reviews.
  2. Love my wife.
  3. Enjoy life.
  4. Understand, for the most part, what is being said when I watch Telemundo.
  5. Cook.
  6. Paint and do some minor work around the house.
  7. Learn just about anything that someone is willing to teach me.

Se7en things I cannot do:

  1. Stand Tom Cruise and Kate Cruise right about now.
  2. Work on a car other than to check fluid levels and change tires.
  3. Tolerate spiders.
  4. Vote Republican (for the moment; gimme McCain and that could change).
  5. Listen to or look at pictures of Britney Spears.
  6. Drive stick shift (I'm in the same boat as you, SJ).
  7. Afford to buy a new Mac... yet.

Se7en things that I find really attractive in the opposite sex:

  1. Sense of humor.  Katie has a great one.
  2. Eyes.
  3. Lips and kissing ability.
  4. Athletic ability (don't need to be a world-class sprinter; just willing to be active).
  5. Voice.
  6. Legs.
  7. Breasts (Katie insists I'm a "boob man").

Se7en things I say the most:

  1. "What'd I do now?"
  2. "I love you"
  3. "Literally, figuratively, and everything in between."
  4. "Yeah, okay, whatever."
  5. "Bite me."
  6. "English speak well very I."
  7. "Sunset Racquetball and Fitness Center.  This is Kevin.  How can I help you?" - although the frequency is down quite a bit from what it used to be.

Se7en books I love:

  1. Lamb, the Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore.
  2. Gates of Eden by Ethan Coen.
  3. Different Seasons by Stephen King.
  4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick.
  5. Dune by Frank Herbert.
  6. Last Breath: Cautionary Tales from the Limits of Human Endurance by Peter Stark.
  7. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.

Se7en (minus four) people I would like to see answer these questions:

  1. Johnny C at A Mind Awake
  2. Kazza
  3. Carol at Shopping for Sanity - might have to e-mail her this one; not sure how involved in the blogosphere she is anymore.

All the small things.

  • .667 batting average
  • .833 on base percentage
  • 2 runs scored
  • 3 pop ups fielded
  • and only two errors in two games

Those are my stats for our two softball games tonight (I'm playing fall ball with the same team as my summer league).

I don't see how it can get any better for a non-athlete like me so I'd like to officially announce my retirement.

* crickets chirp as the press must have missed the announcement on the AP wire.

Sheeyah, right.  Like I'd quit. I'm enjoying it.  I was actually able to play catcher in all seven innings of both games tonight.  It was a busy, sweaty night for me.  Oh, and I slightly pulled my quadricep muscle in my right leg.  Nothing bad.  I'm limping a bit and have one of those dull, throbbing aches, but I was still able to play.  Luckily, at catcher, you don't move around too much.  Plus, I forgot my spikes at home and had to play in tennis shoes.  Don't want to be playing a real field position without spikes.  Not a good idea.

On a sports aside, I've really been getting into a few of the many sports-related podcasts out there.  It's kinda funny, because I use my iPod more now than I ever thought I would and other people have noticed it, too.  One of the campus safety officers at my place of employment pointed out to me that each time she's seen me over the last week, I've been plugged into doPi (my name for my iPod; it's "iPod" backwards).  Sure I still use it for a lot of music, but podcasting has snagged me hook, line, and sinker.

Being from Chicago, I really like Matt Williamson's Bears' Blitz and Cubs' Corner over on MySportsRadio.com.  I find his insight to be very well thought out and the guy has no trouble whatsoever talking about either team.  Typically I would expect someone to stumble around a bit especially considering that the majority of people who podcast are not professional personalities and broadcasters (at least, not if you are listening to a pure podcast).  Yes, some pros do take part in podcasting for a wider ranging audience and some professional radio and television broadcasts (like Ebert & Roeper and the Movies) have been converted to digital format for this purpose, but I think the "true" podcasters are the regular guys who buy their own gear and do their own thing for pure love of the art.  And Matt Williamson is certainly one of those who do it out of sheer love.

Oooh, and while I was fishing up those links for you, I discovered that MSR.com hosts a podcast called Bob and Weave by Lance Williams all about boxing.  May have to start checking that one out.  I like boxing.

MiscnflrandrlogoAnother one I've been digging lately is NFL Rants & Raves.  This cast features two friends, Steven Miranda and Nipper Knapp, just ranting and raving about the NFL in general.  I gotta give a shoutout to these guys as they are quickly becoming an iTMS sports podcast favorite and they gave me a shoutout in their most recent podcast. 

A little history... Nipper is a Lions fan and Steven is a diehard Cowboys fan (I'll forgive both of them) and neither are particularly fond of the Bears, whom I love.  So, in one of their first podcasts, they talk about the Bears and how pitiful they are and Nipper goes into a rant about how he hates the Bears because, when he spent a summer here on an internship, he had three bikes stolen.  Of course, one of the bikes was stolen when it was locked to a stop sign.  Not the brightest idea and I decided to let Nipper know that via a comment on their blog

My comment, in its entirety...

That first note under "Bad" really hurts.  I'm in pain.

I live in the Chitown burbs and love me my Bears. Of course, I'm a realist (I'm also a Cubs fan), so I don't expect much. But I'm still hurtin', guys.

And, no, I never had my bike stolen. A stop sign? Are you serious? Did it have an ADT sticker or something else on it that made you think, "Hey!! that's a great place to lock my bike!"

Steven read the comment in their podcast and was giving Nipper grief for it, which he, of course, deserved.  It was really a shock to hear them reading my comment in the cast and I couldn't help but laugh at the whole thing.  I even replayed it. 

That really made my night, even moreso than my performance at softball.


Shrink to Fit.

MiscipodnanoWell, it's not exactly the announcement I had been hoping for, but, at the "special event" that Apple held today at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, the company announced their new iPod Nano.  No, this is not in reference to my grandmother so much as it is to its size. 

The new iPod Nano is a shrunken version of the full-sized iPod with color-screen capabilities and is available in both 2GB and 4GB varietals. 

Yeah, it's cool and quite cute and, in my opinion, beats the socks off the iPod Mini (which I'm assuming will now be a defunct product line; and, judging by the fact that the "pick your iPod" menu bar on Apple.com no longer features the Mini, I must be right), but it's not something that I want.

I've got too damn much music for something that only has a mere 2 or 4 GB to possibly make me happy.  Right now, I'm pushing the 42GB mark in music.  I needs me a 60 gigger.

What I was really hoping would be announced was an iPod Video since Apple recently expanded their iPod copyright to include video capabilities.  The release of a video-enabled Pod would mean that the iPod Color and iPod Photo lines would be dropped in price. 

However, since the iPod Nano is a replacement for the iPod Mini, the only price drop we'll see is in the Minis due to the fact that they will no longer be a viable product line.  There will be a mad rush at Apple Stores, Circuit Cities, and Best Buys everywhere, I'm sure.

Damn.

Just when I got my hopes up.

Oh yeah, they also announced an iTunes capable cellphone to be available through Cingular.  Oh well.  Katie and I dumped Cingular about a year ago because their local coverage had gone to pot due to their GSM conversion.  Too much frustration due to dropped calls and new blackout zones that never existed before the switch.  We're on Nextel now and pretty happy.  Well, this is a Motorola phone and they make all the Nextel phones, so maybe sometime down the road?

Not the most thrilling "special event" in my honest opinion.


Open(ed) Arms.

As reported yesterday, Katie and I attended the final day of the Body Worlds exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

I'll be perfectly honest with you, we weren't as impressed as we thought we would be.

Basically, the exhibit was housed in two large rooms at MSI with a couple hundred pieces on display.  The pieces ranged from barely visible human baby fetuses to a centerpiece of a large skinned horse with skinned rider atop.  There were dozens of body and organ slices (either vertical or horizontal cross section cuts of bodies to show specific organs relative to the rest of the area), organs, bones, etc., and, of course, the full human bodies in various states of dissection and display.

I had a few problems with the exhibit and, no, none of them are eithically or morally motivated. 

First... as they say, too much of a good thing...
The exhibit had so much of the same old, same old that it all started to blend together and, after a while, you became so desensitized that it just ceased to be impressive.  Too many cross section slices.  Too many itsy bitsy tags pointing to ulcers and tumors that you cannot see except when you're right on top of the damn thing.  Too many "this is a healthy specimen, that is a bad specimen." Too many artisans getting far too creative with the bodies because they can.  I hate when people do something just because they can.  After a while, the only displays that stood out were one of a sixth-month-old stillborn fetus and then the horse.  Hell, the humans ceased to look like humans after just ten minutes.  I felt like I was caught in my own personal Close Encounters of the Third Kind or Whitley Streiber's Communion.

Second... the audio tour...
Audio tours were available for patrons at a meager $4 extra cost.  Not bad.  Katie and I opted to not buy into it, though.  However, about 75% of the rest of the few hundred people there did.  The audio tour was, effectively, a phone-style wand that you punch in a three-digit code for a specific display and stand there with the thing to your ear while looking at the display.  These imbeciles would crowd themselves around a display and listen to the whole thing, which could take as long as 5-10 minutes depending, and just not move.  Katie is not tall.  She cannot see over people and we could not budge them so she could see.  She was getting frustrated and so was I.

Third... the crowds...
Yes, this rolls into the last one, but it also deserves it's own listing.  Too many people are being let in and you can't move.  I never thought I could feel claustrophobic in a room whose square footage exceeds my entire home and my parents' home, combined.

Fourth... the impersonality issue...
The curators and creators of this exhibit make it a point, on many occasions, to remind you that these are "real human beings."  I thank them for these reminders because, to be honest with you, I could have easily forgotten that fact.  And I mean that seriously.  They all looked so fake and overpostured and overpreserved that I couldn't help but think that they were created out of Play Doh or in a ceramics lab.  I just couldn't relate to them anymore.  Everything looked so plastic, which is appropriate considering they are called "plastinates" -- a name chosen as a result of the plastination process used to preserve them. 

Fourth and a half... "plastinates"...
And that name is another thing that bugged me.  The display cards constantly said "this plastinate" and "that plastinate."  If you want us to buy into them being legit, couldn't you make it a bit more "real" by saying "this man," "that woman," "these children," "this big damn horse"?  I don't need the donor's name, just the acknowledgment that they are, or were, living human beings.

Fifth... losing the mystery...
I tell you what, after walking out of there, I am that much less fascinated by the human body and how it operates.  I loved biology and genetics and anatomy courses throughout high school and college.  They were so fascinating and I could never get enough.  I've now found my threshold of tolerance, and Gunther van Hagen crossed it for me.  We constantly hear about what a miracle life is and what an amazing machine God created in the human form.  Well, when you see this exhibit, you lose that innate sense of awe and inspiration.  Or, at least, Katie and I did.

Sixth... no Wild Purple Smash...
Yep, the vending machines at MSI ran out of Wild Purple Smash Hawaiian Punch.  I was bummed.  The little things.

I'm sorry if I quashed any desire you may have had to see this exhibit.  But you've got to think of it another way.  I may have helped you out a bit.  I wish I had read a couple of bad reviews of the exhibit beforehand.  All I kept hearing was how great it was and that I would absolutely love it.  And we all know how anticipation and build up work with me.  They result in immense levels of expectation that are nearly impossible to achieve.  And this exhibit, in my opinion, failed miserably in this regard.


Just another Manic Monday.

I'm just kidding.  How can a Labor Day offday be manic?  Well, for me, that is.

Katie's pulling a 9-5 shift today and I'm at home getting a little more work done and watching a couple of movies in the process.  I needed to touch up some of the paint job from our work this weekend, so I did.  Now I also need to hang up a tool pinboard in the garage and patch up a couple of holes (that are not my fault).

This morning, I watched The Day the Earth Stood Still and I highly recommend it.  For a movie that was released in 1951, the themes remain amazingly applicable even more than half a century later.

I also played the first few mini-levels of Lego Star Wars on PS2.  I picked it up used the other day from EBGames and I love it.  But I'm stuck on one area.  I'm on the Naboo Escape sequence in The Phantom Menace and I'm crossing over this ravine to go into some throne room.  Once you get in there, you can't go anywhere unless you and the five characters your are traveling with each stand on these little weighted pedestals which, I would assume, trigger open a door.  However, to do this, you need all six characters in attendance in the room.  When I cross as one of the characters, only three others follow me (usually Padme, Panaka, and R2-D2) regardless of if I play as Obi Wan, Qui Gonn, Anakin, or any of the other three.  The others don't cross the ravine to stand on the pedestals.  Any tips from fellow Lego SW fans?  I know I'm not that far into the game, so it probably sounds rather pathetic for me to be asking for help this early, but I'm at a loss and I'm not a big gamer so I have an excuse.  Help.

But tonight is what I'm really looking forward to.  Once Katie gets off work, we are heading in to the Museum of Science and Industry for the Body Worlds exhibit.  This is the last weekend for the exhibit and Katie and I are finally going in to see it.  For this last weekend, the show is running 24 hours a day.  Thankfully, we are not going at some God-forsaken hour at night.  Our assigned time is 7:30.  The only worry we have is making it there in time.  I hope we do.  I paid good money for these tickets and I don't want them going to waste.  That would suck.

Hey, on a related aside, does anyone know if the guy who created this exhibit, Dr. Gunther von Hagen, is the same guy that did some of the "body" work on the German thriller, Anatomie, which features plastinated human corpses in the German medical institute scenes?  Just curious.

I'll be back tomorrow with an update on what the exhibit was like.  Maybe because it's the last day, they will allow photos.  They haven't up to now because they don't want too many shots getting out and ruining the fun.  But, if it's the last day, they might.  Here's hoping.  Not likely.


Coffee Blues.

All I wanted this morning before showing up to work at the gym was some coffee.

So I went to the drive-thru at the local Starbucks.  There was one truck and a Lexus ahead of me in line.  The drive-thru people were taking and filling orders one at a time.  No big deal.  That's fine.  The truck ordered, paid, and left in no time whatsoever.

The Lexus, on the other hand...

I heard this bonehead asking questions like "can you do this?" and "can you make that?"  Then he proceeds to spend several minutes relaying different drinks that I don't think ever have been nor ever will be on the Starbucks drink menu.  Five minutes later, he's done... ordering.

It then takes him another five minutes to pay and find room in his precious little overpriced Toyota for the four drinks and bag of muffins and scones that he ordered. 

All I wanted was a venti Red Eye.  For those not in the know, a "Red Eye" is simply a coffee with a shot of espresso.  Takes less than a minute to make.  I know.  I once worked at a Starbucks and made these regularly for our early morning commuting crowds. 

And here I was stuck behind this idiot for ten minutes and was actually a little later than I should have been to the gym.

Yes, maybe I should have allowed for a bit more time between leaving the house and arriving at the gym to go buy my coffee.  But, if the line had been long, I would have driven right by and skipped it.  As it was, with only two cars in line, it should not have been a problem, right?  Apparently I was dead wrong.

Now, why the hell didn't this moron get his lazy ass out of his premium-gas-requiring, PoS ride and go inside and order?  If his questions served as any indication, he had no idea what he wanted and should not have been holding up the line in the drive thru.  I couldn't believe it.  I wanted to get up and out of my truck and bitch slap him personally. 

Meanwhile, five more cars piled up in line behind me. 

Lesson of the Day:  Drive thrus are for people who know what they want.


Flies in the Vaseline.

Another lazy day and a quick post to top it all off.

We spent the day at home and actually did some more painting.  Much to my chagrin and against my better judgment.  But it was an easy job (translation: something will go wrong and turn this seemingly simple job into absolute hell).  All we did was paint the entry hall from the front foyer into the living room/kitchen.  It was a simple tan and we have now converted it into a reddish brown color that Olympic and Lowe's call "clay."  It's very stunning looking and automatically draws your eye in and creates a natural visual sightline from the front door into the living room which has elements of that color painted in to it.  Oh, we also painted the ceiling in the entryway and in the kitchen.

Pics will be forthcoming once we rehang all our stuff.

No major problems, thankfully.  Just a couple of patches we need to touch up (when do you not need to do some touch up work after painting?). 

However, there was a minor problem involving my eyes.  I was divebombed by a little bastard of a fly while up on a step stool trying to paint the ceiling.  He just flew right into my right eye.  Brazen little shit.

After we were done painting, Katie and I were talking and she looked into my eyes deeply and passionately and exclaimed, "you've got paint on your contact lenses."  Not the romantic interlude I had been hoping for.  I went into the bathroom and, sure enough, I have a small white paint speck on each of my contact lenses.  Don't remember it happening, but I'm sure glad they're not right in my line of sight or I may have thought I developed cataracts.  Meh, I'll deal with it.

At least it's not dead bits of a fly.


You my-y-y brown-haired girl.

Apologies to Van Morrison for bastardizing such a classic song.

Katie went to her favorite hairdresser yesterday and came back a slightly new girl. 

Normally, her hair is a sort of sandy blonde/light brown sort of mix.  She's done the whole highlighting thing to bring out more of the contrast and it looks good that way.  Lately, though, she's been throwing around the idea of going with brown hair for the fall.

I was worried at first about this decision because, in the past, Katie has never wanted pure brown hair.  At least not since we've been together.  She always liked her hair lighter because it made her feel better.  Hey, hair can definitely affect one's psycho-social self-perception or so I've been told.

Well, she did it.  She went brown.

After getting her hair done, she went to her parents' house.  Her mom wasn't too sure what she thought of it, but her brother liked the change.  So, she was worried about coming home and showing me.

She walked in the door from the garage and I just couldn't help but notice it right away.  It is definitely different, but in a very good way.  It's not pure brown like my hair would be if it wasn't going grey and falling out.  But it was sort of a bronze tone with a hint of a deep red to it.  No, not a bright red.  But for those with a designer's eye, you can't help but notice a slight reddish hue to it. 

I would've taken a picture of her to post here, however, when she comes home from the hairdresser's place, her hair is never done up the way Katie would normally do it.  It was a bit flat.  Katie tends to do a bit more of a bob in her hair and she didn't have that ready to go for pictures.  And, since she's always still asleep when I leave for work, I couldn't take one this morning.  Hopefully soon, though.

MiscflickrSpeaking of pictures, like I said a week ago, I opened up an account with Flickr.  Well, I've built upon that account a bit with the garage renovation photo album and some interesting photos of spider webs that I took yesterday.

Spider webs?  Interesting?  You bet your sweet bippy (a line I absconded from one of my old high school football coaches).  Just check them out.  These webs were quite cool. 

Using Flickr is so much easier than the old way I did photos.  And, if you use an RSS or Atom feed aggregator, you can add my Flickr page to your list so you receive notification when I update.  You can find the feed information at the bottom of the first page linked above.  If you have no idea what I mean by "RSS," "Atom," or "feed aggregator," well, it's not the easiest thing to describe.  And, even if I did, I still don't know that you'd get it.  My own understanding of it is sketchy at best.  But I know how to make it work with a bunch of sites I like to visit and that's all that really matters to me.  I'll leave the technical explanation to Wikipedia.

Plus I've also got some other photos posted to check out.  What makes Flickr cool, though, is that you can leave comments on the photos.  And, if you join, you can be part of my friends list and who doesn't want that? 

"Be my friend, Appleby."
--Mark Harmon, Stealing Home


Instant karma's gonna getcha...

Like any other person with any shred of emotion or empathy, I feel terrible for what has happened to those living on the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  You all took a helluva Cat-5 wallop and I am hoping you pull through it okay.

However, I am saddened, shocked, angered, you name it, regarding how people have been taking advantage of this horrible situation or just simply making things worse than they already are.

One day, you're battening down the hatches against the storm of your lifetime and, even when it's over, it's not over.  Now you must defend yourself against looters and rioters and all the other dregs of society that floated to the surface when the levees broke and flooded the streets.

And it's shameful.  Plain and simple.

MisckatrinalootingTo some degree, I can understand scavenging to get the basics for survival. You need food and water to survive. But then you get people breaking into stores and stealing entirely unnecessary items like New Orleans Saints jerseys, new shoes, and TVs.  Ummm, correct me if I'm wrong, but a Saints jersey is not going to help you get back your life from this disaster, is it?  The streets are flooded, what good are new shoes going to do?  And how do you plan to watch your new five-finger-discount television when the likelihood is that you won't have electricity for another few weeks? (Photo courtesy of MSNBC.com)

Instead of using this opportunity to turn a personal profit, why aren't more people trying to show the better side of humanity?  Why aren't people helping each other? 

What we have, instead, is armed gangs of looters running free in the streets.  The military, as a result, is increasing National Guard presence to 30,000 and is even going to send in regular Army troops as support. NBC is sending over private security to protect reporters and cameramen to allow them to do their jobs in relative peace.  When I read the headline "NBC sends armed guards to lawless Gulf Coast" I couldn't help but laugh because it sounds like some cheesy spaghetti western. 

Then the reality of it all set in.  My God, so many people on the Gulf Coast are no better than common criminals.  They are the scourge of the Earth and now we need armed military to protect against them.  When did New Orleans and Gulfport become Baghdad? 

Children have been separated from their parents and must dodge random gunfire in the search for their family.  How wrong is that?

For those residents that are trying to be as correct about their self-relief efforts as possible by waiting in lines and paying when necessary and not wielding a gun, I applaud you.  To those who are helping others whom they have never met before and likely will never see again but are doing so because of a sense of moral obligation, I bow before you.

To those who are looting, beating, price gouging (*cough* BP *cough*), and causing general havoc in the midst of one of the nation's greatest natural tragedies, you'd better be prepared.  Karma will get you.  And I hope it hurts.