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31 posts from December 2005

Girls on film (got your picture)...

Aye, aye, aye... another tough one.

If you recall my inner turmoil yesterday, I have come to a resolution with regard to it.  If the film wasn't in theaters in my area until 2005 but was in limited release in 2004, I will count it as a 2005 film.  I'm going by Academy rules on this one to make it easier.  The reason behind this decision is because foreign films really muck it up a bit.  For example, a film like Hero, which came out in the States in 2004, was actually released in its native China in 2002 and was on the festival circuit throughout 2003.  That should still be considered a 2004 film, in my mind.

If you don't agree, take it up with management (management says, "tough luck," by the way).

Here you go...

Miscmilliondollarbaby_11. Million Dollar Baby
Yes, this was a limited release film at the end of 2004, but I wasn't afforded the opportunity to see it until 2005.  An absolutely brilliantly acted, written, photographed, and directed film about an aging boxing trainer and the young woman who wants him to train her.  As usual, Morgan Freeman is great in the "voice of reason" sort of role he typically takes.  But the big kudos go to Hilary Swank and Clint Eastwood for their heartwrenching portrayals.  This film deserved every Oscar it won.

2. Batman Begins
The Bat is back!  Just when everyone thought the franchise was dead (thank you, Joel Schumacher!), Director Christopher Nolan gives the Caped Crusader a breath of fresh air by returning him to the gritty, vengeance-laden vision that Frank Miller dreamed up in the Dark Knight comic series.  Combine that with spectacular casting in Christian Bale as Batman/Bruce Wayne and a supporting cast that includes Morgan Freeman (hmm, wonder if I can get him in any more of the top films of the year?), Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy, and Gary Oldman and you've got a great film in the works.  The film is dark, depressing, violent, and oh-so daring.  I can't wait for the next two films.  Oh yes, there are two more being penned.

3. Elektra
Just kidding!  Wanted to see if you were paying attention.

3. (for real this time) Star Wars, Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith
At the heart of it all, I'm a geek.  And Star Wars is my Bible.  After being disappointed by the first movie in the prequel trilogy (The Phantom Menace), I was picked up a bit by Attack of the Clones. This film continued the heightening streak of the trilogy.  I loved it.  Yes, it was heavy on CGI, but the writing was a bit better (not too terribly much) and there was much greater emotion being doled out by a couple of the actors, particularly Ewan MacGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi.  At least they ended the films on a high note.  The series is over, isn't it?

4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry and his friends are starting to get up there in years and the writers and directors of these last two films are finally exploring the characters' emotional depth and allowing the actors to really "let it all out," per se.  It's about time, too.  While not as good as 2004's Prisoner of Azkaban, it is still a damn fine film in its own right.  I'm like a little kid as I sit in the theater and let the magic unfold around me.  Oh, why couldn't these books and films have come out when I really was a little kid?

5. Mr. and Mrs. Smith
It's the film that started the tabloid uproar and ended a beloved modern movie marriage.  But, once you get past all that, you find a film about a bored married couple who both happen to be government assassins and don't realize this fact about each other.  It's a really fun film with some serious ass kicking going on.  I could watch Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie whomping on each other for hours on end, it was that cool.

I know, I know. These are pretty mainstream films. I realize that.  However, there are no good arthouse theaters in my immediate area.  The one good one in St. Charles closed down at the beginning of the year.  So I have to wait for many of the smaller, independent films to come out on DVD before I can watch them.  And there are several of these movies that I think could've potentially made this list based on what I've read and heard from others. This list would include Millions (sitting at home waiting to be watched); A History of Violence; Good Night, and Good Luck; Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang; Green Street Hooligans; and Syriana.


The best, the best, the best of you...

This is the time of year when most people do their recaps of the year (see the Xtine Files for examples).  Seems like an appropriate time, wouldn't you say?  The problem is that I'm having some trouble figuring out my lists. 

You would think that, being me, the natch approach would be something like:

  • Top 5 books
  • Top 5 movies
  • Top 5 albums
  • Top 5 TV shows

Or something like that, right?

Well, for me, it doesn't work out quite that easily. 

When it comes to TV shows, many of you already know I award the Kapgar.com Primetime TV Awards in the spring (usually the beginning of April or May) simply because I like to do it when most networks are in the rerun season or close to it.  Just makes sense to me.  I like to be able to consider midseason replacements in there as well.  If I do it at the end of the calendar year and not the programming season, I will likely forget the midseason replacements from the season before.  I still mourn you, Eyes.

I read scant few books this year compared to past years simply because it's hard to read for fun while you're reading for classes (damn MBA program).  Plus, I think I may have only read one or two that were actually published during calendar year 2005.  So I don't feel like I would be doing the publishing world any justice by giving them a top 5.

I also have trouble with my top movies of the year because of the controversy surrounding when they were actually released.  For example, the brilliant film Million Dollar Baby with Hilary Swank, Clint Eastwood, and Morgan Freeman.  That movie officially came out on December 15, 2004. However, this was a limited release in just New York City and L.A. intended to get the film out in the marketplace for Oscar consideration by their cutoff.  To me, and most of the rest of the U.S., this movie came out on January 28, 2005, because that's when it went into wide release.  Does this count as a 2004 or a 2005 release (I could care less what AMPAS says)?  For me, that would be one of my top films of the year.  Easily.

And then there's music.  Ah sweet music.  Much like books, though, I don't necessarily wind up picking up CDs in the year they were released.  So I've got to do some mining to find the actual release dates to make sure I pick legitimate 2005 albums.

It's such a headache.

But I think I'll try anyway.

And to start, I'll run with Kapgar.com's Albums of the Year.

After much deliberation and release date lookup, here is what I have for you (I actually posted this already in a comment on Xtine's site, but she said I can steal it for my blog as well)...

Miscfoofighters1. Foo Fighters - In Your Honor
I think any release by the Foo Fighters would wind up on a best-of-the-year list of mine in any given year in which it's released.  That's just the depth of my love for this band.  And this was a two-disc set, to boot; the first of which is the heavier stuff while the second disc is a bit slower with some acoustic numbers.  Some of the better tracks include "D.O.A.," "The Last Song," and "Cold Day in the Sun" which never ceases to remind me of the KISS classic "Hard Luck Woman."

2. Bob Mould - Body of Song
I have loved Bob Mould for some time.  His recordings with both Husker Du and Sugar remain on my regular rotation.  This, however, is one of his first solo efforts I have purchased.  I really don't know why I picked this album up.  There was nothing that really triggered my searching for it.  But I did and it was worth every penny.  Check out "Underneath Days," "(Shine Your) Light Love Hope," and "Gauze of Friendship."

3. Coldplay - X&Y
In all honesty, I loved the first track, "Speed of Sound," but only about the first dozen or so times the radio played it.  I had to go on Coldplay hiatus for about two months before I finally picked up the whole album.  Glad I finally did.  The rest of the album makes up for the fact that "SoS" was so overplayed.  Check out "White Shadows," "Fix You," and "Hardest Part."

4. John Hiatt - Master of Disaster
This is one of those albums I just happened to pick up at the library not realizing that it was a new release at the time.  Spectacular album from a spectacular artist.  If you've ever been a fan of tunes from the likes of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Steve Earle, you have to check this, and his plethora of other albums, out.  Give a spin to "Master of Disaster," "Thunderbird," and "Find You At Last."

5. Bloc Party - Silent Alarm
This is one of the many albums that my friend Eric turned me on to.  I love having friends with eclectic tastes in music.  I learn so much and discover so many albums I never would otherwise.  This is one such album.  I really have no idea how to describe it.  You pretty much have to take a listen yourself and see if it suits your tastes.  Just remember, everyone's different.  You've been warned.  Lend your ear to "Pioneers," "Luno," and "Price of Gas."

Tomorrow: Kapgar.com's Movies of the Year...


Livin' and a workin'...

In an ideal world, everybody would have vacation for those few days between Christmas and New Years.

This, however, is not an ideal world.

Hence why, for the last few days, I've been slaving away at work.  And only two others have been here as well.  In an office of eight, only three were here.  This, of course, does not include our student employees who also were not here.

In all honesty, this entire campus is a ghost town.  As you would expect, there are no faculty members anywhere to be seen.  That, alone, eliminates about 35% of the employment level.  Throw in about half of the academic support staff who are also MIA and I'd say we're at about 50% of our total employee count.  Then, of course, there are the rest of the people on campus that took these few days as vacation days. 

I can pretty much count the cars on campus using just my fingers and toes.  Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it seems close.

But I love working on these days.  It's so quiet.  No meetings.  No phone calls.  No e-mails.  No spontaneous visits.  No last-second design requests.  I can catch up on so much during these few days.  I live for days like this.

And the other bonus is that, because I am here this week, I score a few floating vacation days that I can use anytime in the month of January.  I think I'm going to combine those with a few of my own vacations days and take a week off and do nothing.

Ah perfection!

(my idealizations are so far removed from reality...)


But the fire is so delightful...

And now, the final day of our Christmas celebration.

I noted at the end of my last post that it was a very long night and a very early morning.  I did forget to mention one little detail... we were trying like heck on Christmas Eve night, after returning from McHenry, to find any store that might be open.  Yeah, the odds were pretty slim, granted.  It was 12:30 at night on what was now, technically, Christmas Day.  But we figured something had to be open that carried groceries.

Why?  We had no sweet potatoes.  We just completely forgot to buy some when we had gone shopping earlier in the week.  Now we were paying for it. 

Sadly, all grocery stores had shut their doors at 6 p.m. for the next 36 hours or so.

And this baffles me.

With all the bitching that some people do about how many Americans celebrate a Christian holiday, I'm shocked and dismayed that all those who complain seem to have no problem taking the day of Christ's birth as a holiday of their own.  Were any of these people doing the responsible thing and keeping stores open and working?  No.  I think that if you're going to bitch about celebrating Christmas, you should at least be productive whilst doing so.  I have to work during holidays that other people have off. 

Besides, I think grocery stores would make a killing on Christmas Day from all the people (I'd raise my hand, but I'm typing) who forgot some necessary element of their meal.

Well, we actually managed to find a Walgreen's and it was open and, lo and behold, they had sweet potatoes.  I doubt this was something they carry on a regular basis as it was sitting out on a cart and didn't have any shelf space. 

God bless agnostics at Walgreen's for remaining open.

The next morning (or, later that same morning depending on how you choose to look at it), we woke up at 8 or so and got ready to go to my brother's place where Katie would be prepping Christmas dinner for the two of us as well as my brother, Brian, and his fiancee, Jen; our parents; and Jen's parents who were in town from California. 

For the next several hours, she was cooking with a little help from the rest of us and it just never seemed to end.  She was bouncing back and forth from one mixing bowl to another and in between the stove and the turkey roaster.  I feel so bad for her and I tried to help, but there was only so much I could do and only so much control she was willing to relinquish (when she starts cooking, she gets in a zone and, sometimes, it's best to just step back).

But everything was incredible.  The meal was delicious; even the dishes Katie had never made before. 

We also opened a bunch of gifts that night and got some great stuff.

It was a good night despite how busy it was and how hot it got in that kitchen.

I think we might skip hosting holiday parties this coming year.  Sounds like a good plan.

Okay, I'm done with the posts about Christmas... I swear.


Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland...

On Saturday, Katie and I woke up from what was not the world's greatest sleep at the Wyndham (we found out from Dave that the reason we slept so well at Westin as opposed to the Wyndham is because they have something known as the "Heavenly Bed" and he often goes out of the way to stay at Westins for this very reason).

We noticed, as we left the hotel, that it had warmed up significantly outside.  Much of the muck snow that was collecting on the sides of the streets in Chicago was melting away and it wasn't looking like it would be much of a White Christmas.  I made a mental note to purchase another Christmas song from iTMS.  Unfortunately, when the time came, I forgot to actually buy it.  Dangit!

We then hiked the mile or so from our hotel to The Pancake House near Rush Street a bit northwest of the end of the Magnificent Mile.  Considering we walked what we did both to and from, we didn't feel so guilty about our meal: Georgia pecan pancake for me and a baked apple pancake for Katie.  Damn, they were good.  And huge!  And not that bad a price either.

As we ambled our way back to the hotel, we made a few stopoffs at Ann Taylor, Eddie Bauer, and the Apple Store.  Guess what?  I bought absolutely nothing at my Mecca.  I had a $50 gift certificate and I didn't spend it.  Well, primarily because I couldn't think of anything to buy.  Weird, eh?

We got back up to our room, showered, changed into our Christmas party clothes, and checked out.  There was, however, an unfortunate difference between the time by which we had to check out and the time when we needed to be at our next destination.  Somewhere in the vicinity of four hours.

Since we were heading to Arlington Heights (we were supposed to go to McHenry to open gifts with Katie's family; but they changed the schedule so we would open gifts after eating at her aunt and uncle's house -- makes much more sense as one is on the way to the other so we wouldn't have to backtrack), we continued on a little bit to the AMC in Barrington and watched The Family Stone.  I would highly recommend this film.  Very good, but horribly mismarketed.  All the ads make it out to be a comedy, but it is, in fact, a very powerful drama that has its comedic moments.  Check it out.

Even after watching the film, we still had time so we went to Woodfield Mall and Katie got a new sweater set for that night.  Considering this was supposed to be the busiest shopping day of the year (Christmas Eve), the mall was surprisingly sedate.  We even got parking only about five spaces out.  I was in shock; but happy at the same time.

We then made our way to Katie's Aunt and Uncle's house and had a good meal and opened up some really nice gifts.  We really had a good time and her Aunt and Uncle have a nice house (they just moved back from the St. Louis 'burbs this year).

Finally, we hopped in the car and made the trek back to McHenry for the big family gift opening.  Katie and I made out like bandits.  It was quite nice.  And, no, I'm not going to brag about what I got suffice it to say that I've got a lot to read in the coming months.  That's a good thing.

I think we finally made it back to Geneva around midnight and still stayed up for another couple of hours preparing some items for the Christmas meal we were making at my brother's house the next day.

It was a long day ...

... and a late night ...

... and an early next morning.


But the wind blew me back via Chicago...

I knew when I published both the December 23 and December 24 posts that things would never quite work out the way I had envisioned them. 

Why do I even bother?

I would've been better off posting some fluff links to Christmas sites to get everyone in the mood and just said "we're going to Chicago, see you in a few" and let it at that.

What I'm trying to say is that our visit to Chicago was only remotely like how I posted it might be.

I knew, as soon as we went to check in at our first hotel on Thursday night that my entire post was already blown to hell in a handbasket.

So, here's what all really happened.  And it's actually a bit more interesting than the false reality I created before...

We arrived at the Wyndham Hotel (conveniently located one block behind the Apple Store. Score!) at about 11 p.m. on Thursday night to check in.  We were really late because we went to Katie's parent's house for several hours and had dinner with them.  Then we went to Best Buy because we were trying to make an exchange on a Christmas gift for one of her brothers that didn't quite work out as planned. 

When we tried to check in, the guy at the counter (David the Hotel Checker Dude, or as I shall refer to him, "DtHCD") looked at us and said, "I have good news, bad news, and a proposition.  Which would you like to hear first?"

We chose "good news."

DtHCD - "The good news is that the Wyndham is a very nice hotel." 

Nice hotel, but a bad sign for things to come.

DtHCD - "The bad news is that we overbooked our very nice hotel.  We have a room if you absolutely are not in the mood for our proposition, but you two look like nice people who are in a good mood, so we hope you are willing to accept our proposition."

Here it comes...

DtHCD - "We would like to move you to another hotel for tonight and we will then have a room for you tomorrow."

Aye aye aye...

DtHCD - "But we will pay for your room tonight and upgrade you to one of our living room suites tomorrow night."

Come again...

Us - "Ummm... where would we be relocated?"

DtHCD - "The Westin Chicago River North near the House of Blues.  It's a nice hotel as well and they have one of their corner suites reserved for you."

Us - "Well, okay."

We got our car back from the valet service and drove our way over to the Westin.  I wasn't sure what to expect as I didn't have a chance to look up the hotel online or see any photos or have any prior experience with the hotel whatsoever.  But when we got there... woah, mama!  It was a beautiful room.  One, we decided almost immediately, we would rather stay in regardless of what they were offering us at the Wyndham.  We couldn't possibly imagine a nicer room than what we were now staying in... and for free, to boot!

That night, we stayed in bed and drank some champagne and ate some chocolate covered strawberries I picked up from a place we love in Geneva.  We watched something on TV while we ate and drank, but I'll be damned if I remember what it was.

We slept in until about 9 the next morning and headed out to Marshall Field's in hopes of having breakfast under the tree.  Yeah, no.  If we waited, it would have been for dinner by the time we got through line.  Well, not literally, but close.  There was a two-hour wait once you got your pager for seating.  However, there was a two-hour wait simply to get a pager.

We looked around the store a bit to see what was available and then went back to Harry Caray's restaurant for an early lunch.  Much easier in and out and probably a lot cheaper.  The food was incredible as well.  Katie got boneless chicken vesuvio and I had baked lasagna.  Tasty.

After doing a bit more shopping in and around the State Street area, we went to Millennium Park and walked around a bit.  Hey, I saw several Segways!  Go figure that it takes me posting about it to actually start seeing them.  Of course, they were only being used by cops and, ironically enough, one of them must've been broken down because the cop was walking it instead of riding it.  Funny.

And, even though we were discussing nixing it, we did go to the Art Institute.  We didn't spend a lot of time there, but we saw the Japanese, Chinese, and Korean displays; the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist exhibits; and the photography exhibits.  They were stunning and, in the photography exhibit, I found out about some new Chicago photographers that were incredible and I will probably try digging up some more information on.  Quite impressive work.

Next, we headed back to the Westin to grab our stuff and move back to the Wyndham.  Yes, the room we received was huge and we were not upcharged at all for the upgrade; but, when compared to the impressive beauty of the Westin, it just paled.  Maybe if we didn't have the Westin as a point of comparison, we would have liked it that much better.  But, it just seemed so impersonal.  Huge and vacant.

So we left and did some walking around on the Mag Mile.  First, we found Ethel's Chocolate Lounge in the North Bridge Shopping Center on Michigan Avenue.  Katie had discovered the Naperville Ethel's a few days prior and wanted to take me to this one.  It was wonderful.  Pricey, yes; but damn good chocolate.  Of course, while in North Bridge, we hit the Lego store.  As I've said before, once a geek...

After walking around for a while, Katie's feet and calves were getting a bit worn out, so we went to an AMC and sat for a bit and watched Fun With Dick and Jane.  Not a fantastic movie, but still enjoyable.  And, you must watch the end credits.  The beginning of them had Katie and I rolling with laughter.  If you know anything about the travails of modern business, you will love them, too.

Now that we were a bit more rested and relaxed, we hiked over to Ben Pao's Chinese restaurant.  Wow!  It blew me away.  Katie was here a few months ago while I was in Florida for Nano's birthday and she's been raving about it ever since.  We finally had a chance to go and I would recommend that you do the same when you're in town.


A flower on the table at Ben Pao

By this time, it was pretty late and we were dog tired.  We went back to the hotel and pretty much crashed.  Hey it had been a long day.  Yes, this was all just Friday.  Wait until Saturday.

More photos are available at Flickr. (ed. note... whoops, forgot to make this a link.  Sorry.)


Have a holly, jolly Christmas

Just a quick note to all of you to say Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah (Hannukah, et al), Happy Kwanzaa... whatever you celebrate.

Enjoy your celebrations.  Enjoy your families.  Enjoy your gifts.  Enjoy your food.

Katie and I will be doing all this.  And more.

I will be back tomorrow with a more comprehensive post and a Chicago update (severe update... not much worked out as planned). 

See ya then.


And in case you've no place to go...

I really wish that we could stay in Chicago another day.  However, we have one heckuva schedule ahead of us today.

First, we leave Chicago and head to McHenry to open gifts with her parents and her brothers. I'm not sure what the traffic will be like trying to get out of the city on the major highways on Christmas Eve.  I guess we'll find out the hard way.  If conditions were ideal, the trip would only take us about an hour and a half.  But this is Chicago, using Chicago tollways, in Chicago weather, during the holidays.

Nope, we're in for a major pooch screw.

But it doesn't end there. 

After McHenry, we're heading out with Katie's family to a holiday dinner with Katie's mom's side of the family (sorry, I typically hate to use a double possessive; but I couldn't think of a lyrically sound way to avoid it).  This will take place in Arlington Heights which, ironically enough, we will be driving by to get to McHenry.  Hmm...

Finally, after we leave Arlington Heights and go back to McHenry, we will, I think, head back home to Geneva.  That's a lot of miles and a lot of gas and, well, a lot of driving.  Will it be doPi or the radio?  I think doPi's gonna win this one.

If sleep doesn't prevail first.


Back in that same ol' place, Sweet Home Chicago...

Katie and I are now in Chicago.  And we've got some mighty big plans for what we intend to do today. 

Here's the sneak preview...

Breakfast under the Christmas tree at Marshall Field's
MiscmarshallfieldsSince this is the last year we will ever be able to do this before Marshall Field's becomes a *gulp* Macy's, we figured it's time to go.  She's done this many times in the past with her family.  But I don't think I've ever done this.  If I did, I don't remember it at all. 

Oh, and for the record, I will never call this place Macy's.  I don't care.  Just like I will always use the names Comiskey Park, Rosemont Horizon, and World Music Theater as opposed to the new names.  No, this is not some corporate sellout like the other three; but it's still just as despicable. This place has too much history in this town.

The Art Institute
We are both art junkies yet we've never been to the Art Institute together.  Heck, it's been years since either of us have been there on our own even.

Shopping on State Street and Michigan Avenue
Of course, we will likely hit the Apple Store amongst others.  I've still got a gift certificate from last Christmas to spend (I didn't have it with me on Black Friday because I didn't think we'd actually be buying anything).  Once a geek...

Lunch and Dinner Someplace
We haven't really decided where just yet.  We may walk around and just see what sounds good or appeals to our appetites at the time.  No, there won't be any Giordano's (sorry, Dave).  We had that last night!

Drinks in the Signature Room
If we can get in, we'd like to go up to the Signature Room on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Center and have drinks in their famous restaurant/bar.  Neither of us have ever been there, so why not?  We're not looking to eat there, so we hope we won't need reservations.  I think they do have just a bar, don't they?  Yes, yes they do.

Will we actually get around to doing all this?  I can't quite say for sure.  That'll be a whole other post sometime after this weekend.  I'll let you know.  And post the pictures.


Grandma got run over by a reindeer...

I did something a bit strange today.  It's somewhat shocking and appalling.  You might want to sit down for this.

I listened to the radio.

I know, I know.  It's a terrible piece of news, isn't it?  I did not listen to doPi.

It stems back to Katie telling me the other day that I seem to be a bit behind on current events and that I should occasionally try tuning in to the radio to get my daily fill of what's going on in the world. 

To some degree, I suppose I can agree with her.  For weeks upon weeks that seem to be turning into months upon months, I've done nothing but plug in my trusty iPod and listen to music or podcasts.  It's just so nice to not have to deal with the plethora of commercials that lay waste to the airwaves.  There's no quicker way to make me lose interest in a radio station than by playing an unceasing chain of commercials.

But, on the other hand, I'm not completely out of the loop on current events.  I do work on the Web all day, after all.  I'm sitting in front of one of the timeliest (if not unreliable) sources of news in the modern world.  I get the current events insofar as the top three headlines on my Yahoo startpage are concerned.  Okay, that may not be the most comprehensive source of news out there.

So, this morning, I tuned in and I'm glad I did.

WLUP, 97.9 FM "The Loop" here in Chicago, recently welcomed Jonathon Brandmeier (fondly known around the city as "Johnny B." -- sorry, Johnny C, but he's got you by a letter) back to the Chitown airwaves.  The man is a legend in Chicago and had been on the air for as long as I could remember.  But he left several years ago for the West Coast.  Now, he's back and I missed him.

Miscdrelmo_1This morning on the Loop Morning Show, Johnny B. interviewed Dr. Elmo, the genius behind the modern Christmas classic "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer."  The interview was hilarious as Dr. Elmo described the creation of the song and its inspiration (can you believe the song is only 26 years old?).  He also talked about how his goal was to give people an alternative to Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" so he revels in the knowledge that his song is one of the top sellers each holiday season.  He also soaked up the news from Johnny B. that, in his many years of radio work, he never once had a request for Crosby but always hears people clamoring for "Grandma."

Then, Dr. Elmo played his classic live on the air.  I had forgotten just how long that song really is.  It seems to go on forever, which, to me, is a testament to his creative spirit.  To come up with that many lyrics in what is pretty much a spoof song is just incredible.

But the best part, to me, was when he played a song dedicated to Johnny sung to the tune of "Grandma"...

Johnny got run over on the West Coast
Working out in Malibu by the sea.
Now he's back in ol' Sweet Home Chicago
Playing songs on W-L-U-P.

That made my morning.

Okay, so this doesn't exactly constitute "current events," per se.  But I'm still attempting to nurture the holiday spirit that seems to be running through me.  And do you really think that news about the NYC transit strike or Saddam Hussein branding the White House a bunch of liars (though I do tend to agree with some of his points) is really the best way to help me in this regard?

So, let's review: Kevin wants to stay in the holiday mood, should we, 1) listen to an interview with Dr. Elmo, or, 2) read news about children sleeping in cages?

Yeah, I think I know which one I prefer. 

I'll return to hard news next week.


A perfect lie (and) a perfect lie (and) a perfect lie...

Now see if you can keep up with me here regarding last night's season finale of Nip/Tuck and the Great Carver Reveal...

I was right...

But I was also wrong...

And Katie was right...

But she was also wrong...

Did you get all that?  It may seem a bit confusing.  However, if you watched the season finale, you might understand what I'm trying to convey here. 

It was twist after twist after twist.  My lord, I was spinning and it wouldn't stop.  They arrested and questioned practically half the regular cast on suspicion of being The Carver (yeah, The Carver has a MySpace account) all within the course of a single two-hour episode.  It was insane.

And horrifically twisted as well.  There were some moments in this episode where I could feel my insides binding up in disgust.  About a half hour in, I just wanted it all to end so I could sleep without having to worry about nightmares in which I'm attacked by breast implants and severed appendages.

The funny thing is that I was guessing everything as it happened.  I would turn to Katie and say, "wouldn't it be funny if so-and-so was arrested as The Carver?" and (doing my best Emeril impersonation) BAM, it would happen.  I was nailing it.

There was one particular detail that I was spot-on with and I'm not particularly sure I'm proud that I got that fact right.  If you go back and read my old post regarding The Carver's identity and check out #4 in the second bulleted list, you'll see I was right about implementation, per se.  Not the "who," just the "how."  Yet I wish I was wrong.

In a non-Carver plotline, I would like to say that for as much as I have always hated the character of Matt (John Hensley) on that show, I was quite proud of him last night.  He redeemed himself and his prickish tendencies in a big way.

The thing we haven't decided yet is whether or not we'll tune in next season.  We both loved the first and second seasons immensely.  But this third season was just weird.  I wish I could come up with a better word to use to describe it.  Something more artistic or inspired.  Yet, "weird" just strikes me as the best available word.  I think the only reason we finished it was the hope that we would actually be rewarded with The Carver's identity.  Thankfully, unlike how things usually work in Lost, the writers of Nip/Tuck did resolve a storyline... well, to some degree.


Just roll with it, baby...

I find it hard to believe that it was four years ago this month that the world was introduced to the Segway Human Transporter

MiscsegwayRemember that thing? 

It was the two-wheeled, gyropscopically equilibriated, personal transportation device marketed to just about anybody that was sick of using their two legs to get from point A to point B.  Just lean forward to move forward and, well, you get the point.

This thing was supposed to revolutionize personal transportation. 

Move over skateboard.  Outta the way, bicycle.  Rollerblades?  Bah!

The goal of the Segway company was to have sold 50,000 SHTs within the first year of business.  Their hope was to see their creation employed by commuters, shoppers, policemen, etc., the world over.

And, how has Segway done in its quest?

Well, about 6,000 units were sold in the first 21 months of business.

What happened to the Segway?  I feel like VH-1 should run a Where Are They Now? special. 

I don't know about you, but I have seen only one Segway HT in my entire life out in the wilds.  It was being used by a cop in Chicago on Black Friday 2005.  And how he managed to maneuver that thing through the throngs of frantic shoppers is beyond me entirely.

Aside from that, I've seen it on some TV shows here and there, most notably, Arrested Development where it is used more to emphasize the pathetic, overindulgent nature of its primary rider, GOB (Will Arnett), than as a form of product placement.

Don't get me wrong, the Segway company is still alive, though not necessarily well.  They still make the SHT (no jokes about what the initials almost spell, okay?).

But, you've gotta wonder what has happened to the Segway HTs that have sold over the years.  Where are they being used?  How are they being used?  Are they being used at all?

I'm here to tell you that, yes, Segway HTs are playing an important part in American society.  Their utilitarian nature has finally found its niche market.  And I think Segway will be able to bank upon this new group of SHT enthusiasts...

The Bay Area Segway Enthusiasts and their love of Segway Polo!

Yep, polo played on Segways.  When I read this article on Digg.com this morning, I couldn't help but laugh.  They even have a video posted on Google Video.  Has anyone actually ever seen this being played?  I would love to hear what you have to say about it.

I gotta give them props for creative uses for a rather expensive technology.  But, somehow, I just don't see this catching on too big.  At $4,000-5,000 per SHT, I think I'd be a bit afraid to use it for a mallot match.

P.S. To all of you actual Segway HT enthusiasts, I apologize if you are offended by the condescending nature of this post.  I just find Segway Polo to be one of the funniest things I've seen in a while.

P.P.S. To all of you Segway HT enthusiasts, I apologize if you find my humorous views on Segway Polo to be anything but funny especially if you really do take the game seriously.  Heck, I play disc golf and I'm sure some people can't find it in themselves to take that seriously either.  But, you know, one actually has a national organization and tournaments with cash prizes and sponsorships and I'm not going to say which one it is.

P.P.P.S. Okay, so my apology was less than sincere.  Yeah, I can be a sarcastic sumbitch, can't I?  But, c'mon!  Look at what I'm working with here...

I'm going to shut up before I find myself being chased down the street by a torch- and pitchfork-wielding mob of vindictive Segites.


It's gettin' hot in here...

If there's one thing I cannot help, it's looking at other people when I'm driving.  It's a compulsion.  I like to see who's around me. 

Even if they give me that "stop looking at me" look, I keep on watching.

I really can't explain why I do this; I just do.  Am I trying to determine what makes other people tick?  Do I use this as a chance to examine the proverbial human condition?

But, once in a while, you discover a little gem... something that makes you happy you are an ogler of your fellow human being... that one thing that makes all the dirty looks worthwhile.

Today, while shopping for some gifts for Katie after work, I was about to exit my truck in the parking lot at the Geneva Commons.  However, I was unable to open my door as someone decided to pull into the empty spot next to me.  It was a Yukon-esque SUV and, when I looked through the front passenger window, I saw a guy probably about 20 with a big fro (yes, he was white) and goofy Jack Osbourne-like glasses. 

Upon closer inspection of the interior of his car, I saw a small, five-inch video screen mounted in his dashboard.  Since there was no one else in his vehicle, I'm assuming that the video that was airing was for his own enjoyment (safety first, people). 

And, as I stepped out of my truck and looked closer at the video screen, I saw he was watching porn.

That's right... two naked women on one naked man.  And I would almost swear I saw a Santa Claus hat.  A right festive orgy, indeed.

I was in shock.  I was speechless.  I was a bit numb (and not just because it was -5 degrees F with windchill).  And, despite the cold, I didn't want to pull myself away.  Not necessarily because it was porn, but I wanted to know what this kid's reaction would be if he knew someone was hip to his dirty, little secret.

Okay, maybe a little bit of the reason was because it was porn.  But just a little bit.  I swear.

But I did the responsible, adult thing and moved on to commence with my shopping.

And, thinking back, I now understand why it was taking him so long to get out of his truck.  And it's not because it was cold outside.


The best things in life are free (or close to it)...

Two tickets to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: free (birthday passes)
One medium Cherry Coke: $3.25
Two burritos at Chipotle: free (ticket stub redemption)
Chips and salsa at Chipotle: $1.35
Watching After the Sunset on cable: free
Sipping blended drinks using alcohol we already have: free
Date with my wife for under $5.00: priceless

Lazy days can be the best.  For everything else, there's...

Nah, I'm not taking it that far.  I used cash.


All we hear is radio ga-ga...

MiscroadtripA few weeks back, I entered a contest on The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) for a Griffin RoadTrip.  This is a device that acts as an in-car dock for your iPod so you can use your Pod through your car stereo.  What you had to do to enter was take a photo of the current method you use to play your Pod in your car and link to it from the comments section of the contest announcement page.

Not that many people entered the contest (maybe a dozen total) and, since my method was quite Rube Goldbergesque, I thought I stood a pretty good chance of winning.

I was wrong.

I did not win

And I was upset about not winning.

The primary reason I was upset was because Katie and I recently picked up the DLO TransPod -- another dock very akin to the RoadTrip -- for her iPod and car and we love it!  The reception is fantastic and the signal is of a much higher power than what I get out of my dinky little Belkin TuneCast II.  I've used her DLO a few times and it's always hard to give it back to her. 

I thought that I would resolve this by winning the RoadTrip... and save about $90 in the process.

However, I was checking out TUAW yesterday morning and saw a new post... one that had me very excited...

It seems that the fine people at Griffin are going to be giving all the contest entrants a new RoadTrip.  And the winner of the contest is going to get a "goodie bag full of Griffin gear." 

Now that's just too cool!  When I read this, my heart skipped a beat because doPi deserves so much better than the slipshod broadcast setup he currently plays through.  I want high quality sound, not the static I currently live with.

Thank you to both Griffin and TUAW!  You've made my weekend!


To Tell the Truth (part 2).

Editor's Note: Some of you may not be receiving notice of this post until Saturday, December 17 via Bloglines or whatever aggregator you use despite the fact that it's dated the 16th.  Typepad went down pretty much the entire day on the 16th.  And I had this written early in the morning on that day.  It's been sitting, waiting, wishing to be posted.  So I postdated it.  Hope that's okay with all of you.

Since I'm on the topic of admitting personal inabilities, I guess there is one more little quirk of which I'm completely incapable... I cannot wink.

Yes, of course, I can blink both my eyes to moisten my corneas or brush away dust or, best yet, fall asleep.  But I cannot wink a single eye.  The whole "knowing wink" thing has always eluded me.

Back in high school, I was part of a group that was dedicated to drug and alcohol awareness (the "STAR Program," maybe? I don't really remember the name).  One day, we had a big group activity for something like 200 of us where we would all walk around in the gym and one of us was to wink to everyone else as we shook their hand.  Five seconds later, the person who was winked to was supposed to fall over and play dead.  This activity was meant to simulate how diseases can be spread amongst populations of people.  A few people standing off to the side had to guess who the disease carrier was based on "death" patterns.

Of course, I was chosen to be the disease.  No jokes, please.  I know you wanna.

And, I couldn't wink.

So I had to walk around and whisper to people, "I can't wink, so pretend I did and fall down dead in five seconds."  I actually had to explain it some people a couple times. 

Somehow, I made it through about half the group's population before being nabbed.  Maybe the judges were actively looking for a winker and, since they never found one, I was safe.  Can't say for sure.  However, if I was actually able to wink, I may have had the opportunity to kill a larger percentage of my fellow students.  A wink is far more efficient than a verbal explanation of what to do next.

And not being able to wink is annoying when it comes to those shared tidbits of knowledge amongst people.  When a secret is shared, one person may wink their acknowledgment or understanding of the information with the other person.  I got a lot of those winks.  All I could do was nod or give an eyebrow raise back to let them know I was hip to it. 

Not nearly as cool as a knowing wink.

Oh, and don't get me started on people who can raise a single eyebrow.  That's something else altogether.

It really annoys me that I can neither wink nor read lips. 

Does it matter that I can snap with every single finger on both hands?  No. 

Does it matter that I can whistle three different ways (pursed lip exhale, pursed lip inhale, and smiled exhale - great way to annoy teachers as they can never tell who's doing it)?  No. 

Because I can't wink or read lips.

And these inabilities make me feel like an outcast.

Why God?  Why can I not do those things?  Just let me wink.  Once.  Just once.


To Tell the Truth.

Confession Time:

I cannot read lips.

I know, I know.  It's a travesty, isn't it? 

This fact becomes glaringly obvious in staff meetings when people try mouthing messages to me while someone else is talking.  I sit there with a blank stare on my face and mouth back to them, "I can't read lips."  To which they respond, "huh?"

So, apparently, I'm not the only with LRD (Lip Reader Deficiency). 

I'll admit that there are several times that this has probably been a bad thing.  For all I know, there could have been some random person across the room trying to mouth that they had a million dollars for me, but I'd never have known.   

Perhaps this is why my dating life, P.K. (Pre-Katie), was so haphazard.  I never consistently dated.  Just little patches of dating here and there.  Now that I start to think about it, that girl mouthing something across the bar in college could have been telling me she wanted to jump my bones, but all I got out of it was, "I like to eat scones."

I never understood how one learns to read lips.  Honestly, these people must be considered some of the worst listeners in the field of one-on-one communication.  I say this because, in my eyes, the only way to become adept at lip reading is to sit and watch someone's lips constantly and keep attempting to comprehend what is being said.  This requires a complete tuning out of what is really being said by the speaker.  The speaker then becomes frustrated by the fact that the recipient of their verbal message always hungers for triangular pastries over sex, and they move on to a more receptive listener. 

And thus the lip-read learning cycle begins anew with a different subject.

Honestly, I don't think it's too terrible that I do not know how to read lips.  It does have its moments of inconvenience, but overall, I can deal with it.

At least I'm not in a 12-step scone addiction program.


Elephant Walk.

One of the most interesting things about the holiday season is the inevitable "white elephant" gift exchange.  To the person who conceived of the idea of unloading your old, tacky junk on a fellow human being as a viable gift-giving format, my heartfelt thanks and envy.  There's nothing quite like sifting through crap and wrapping it up to give to someone else.  Wish I'd thought of it.

But, what makes this exchange infinitely cooler is all the stuff you uncover in your place when you're searching around for an item to get rid of.

I figured the best place to start would be our office.  The desk and shelves in the closet are so loaded with stuff that we rarely ever access, that there had to be something white-elephant worthy in there.

I was right... but I also found a bunch of other cool stuff that I'd completely forgotten about.  Check this list out...

A roll of duct tape.  Sweet!  I was going to buy a roll because I didn't think we owned any.  Now we do!  Everyone can use a roll of duct tape.  It's the universal fix-all.

A box containing about 50-75 comic books.  The list includes Roman Dirge's The Monsters in My Tummy; Sock Monkey #1 & 2; Marvel Knight's Kevin Smith Daredevil arc including an alternate cover of issue 1 signed by Kev (I met him way back when); Daredevil #200 - the near-death of Bullseye (or one of many, actually); Amazing Spider-Man special wedding issue with the people on the cover (as opposed to the more common cover with the bad guys in the background and Peter dressed as Spidey), #238 - the birth of Hobgoblin, #240 - "The Kid Who Loved Spider-Man" (one of only two comic books that has reduced me to a blubbering puddle of tears), and #400 - the death of Aunt May (the other one that did; one of the most beautiful speeches I've ever read by Peter to his Aunt); Spawn #1; Frank Miller's 300 miniseries about the Persian-Greco wars; Miller's Sin City - "Just Another Saturday Night"; G.I. Joe #26 & 27 - "The Origin of Snake Eyes"; and Superman - his death at the hands of Doomsday still sealed in the black bag.  I know I still have two long boxes of comics in my parents' crawl space.  But these were considered by me to be some of my most valuable, both in terms of nostalgic appeal and monetary value.

MiscguestofhonorBut, mixed in with this box was a killer find in Neil Gaiman's Guest of Honor... a self-published collection of two-page vignettes from some pretty major comic artists including Todd McFarlane and Eddie Campbell, among many others.  This piece is hand numbered 336/2500 (or, at least, it looks hand numbered) and is signed by Neil in silver paint pen.  I forgot I had this.  Wow.  Nice find.

Also mixed in this comic box was "Atari Force" #5.  C'mon!  You gotta remember back in the days of the Atari 2600 and 7200 when they released mini comic books with some of the games, don't you?  Well, I still have one of them and it's in nearly perfect condition.  I read it.  Complete cheese.

Lastly, in this comic box was a series of about 19 old National Geographic maps.  I loved those.  They were my favorite thing about having a subscription to that mag (aside from some killer pictures).  I wish I had a place to hang all these maps.  Framing is completely out of the question as it would be far too costly, but they are certainly frame worthy.

A case of 15 antique audio recordings -- they were recorded on what I believe they once called "audio cassettes."  There is some classic stuff here, too.  A deuce of Bob Rivers & Twisted Christmas albums, some Van Halen and AC/DC, Denis Leary's "No Cure For Cancer," and an old album from a band featuring two guys I went to high school with. The band was called Midian and it was classic heavy metal that broke on the cusp of the grunge revolution.  This was good stuff that I loved listening to when I actually owned a tape player (in my case, a Sony Sport Walkman).  However, I no longer own a tape deck and am looking for a way to transfer this tape to MP3 so I can put it on my iPod.  Any ideas?

Oh, and if you're interested, I wound up with an old DIY stress-relief set including a book, bath oil and salts, and a massage sponge.  I was so close to having a Magic 8 Ball, but someone took it from me with the last pick.  Dangit!  And I gave away a year's subscription to Wired magazine.  No, not a year in the future, but, a year's worth of back issues.  I wasn't going to read them again anytime soon.


Get Lost...

A couple weeks ago, I forgot to tape the new episode of Lost that was on TV.  Actually, I didn't forget to record it so much as I forgot to leave the TV on the proper channel. 

It wasn't all that big a deal, initially, because, as I've said, the show isn't nearly as good this year as it was last year.  But it has been picking up a bit.  Thankfully.  And, when some friends told me how good that particular episode was, I became a bit upset that I had missed it.

Then I remembered...

Lost is one of the shows that they sell individual episodes of on iTunes!  And I now have a new iMac with OS X.4 and Quicktime 7 (two of the required pieces of software to view videos purchased at iTMS).

I had read on some sites that the videos purchased on iTMS, since they are intended for the new iPod, are not that great when viewed on a computer screen.  But I wanted to see this episode.  And the desire to do so was rapidly building.

Yep, it was time to dish out my first $1.99 for a TV show on the Web.

Let me tell you, it was worth it.  No, you cannot blow the video up to full screen.  That becomes a bit pixellated to say the very least.  But I was able, after playing around with different sizes, to get the episode to fill about one-third of my monitor.  And, that's perfect.  I'm sitting right in front of the thing.  It doesn't need to be larger than life and in my face.

Here are some screen caps (I've shrunken them a bit to minimize loading time)...

Misclost1

Misclost2

Misclost3

Okay, so maybe they're not the most flattering shots of Evangeline Lilly and Michelle Rodriguez.  But, they'll do.

I could keep watching some shows this way.  And since iTMS has expanded its offerings to include some stuff I really want to see like Monk, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and The Office, I might really get into it.

Sorry, I'm not much into torrents and other forms of illegal downloading.  I once was a huge aficionado of services like the original Napster and Limewire after that.  But, when the place I work blocked out all gnutella clients and I was still on dial-up at home, I gave up.  And I just haven't gone back.  I guess that makes me an RIAA and MPAA posterboy... nah, not really  ;-) 

I don't look down on those that do use it, I simply don't have the patience to wade through all the crap out there in hopes that it will be a viable version of what I want and not some crap-quality rip or a recording of Madonna yelling "STOP STEALING MY MUSIC!" (yeah, she did something like that at one point).

Now, if only iTMS could get classic Twilight Zone...


My kind of town...

I know it may not sound like much of a vacation, but from December 22-24, Katie and I are "getting away from it all" by heading into Chicago and getting a hotel.  The hope is that we'll be done with Christmas shopping by that time (we're almost there!) so that we can just relax and walk around, get some food and drinks, hit up a couple of museums, etc.

Well, we booked the hotel a couple weeks ago and, this morning, I received an itinerary e-mail from Travelocity regarding our stay.  For the most part, it was your standard e-mail (if you've ever booked travel through Travelocity, Expedia, et al) and contained several ads for complementary services as well as ideas for activities.

But then I saw the coolest damn thing in the world... it was what Travelocity termed their "Travel Goody Bag" and contained a link to "Tunes For Chicago."

Being the music nut I am, I just had to click on it, regardless of the spam potential inherent in clicking on random e-mail links.  Thankfully, the resulting page is actually hosted by Travelocity, so I needn't worry about additional e-mails at least.

Here is a screen cap of part of what I saw on the site...

Misctravelocityemail1

This was just too cool!  I love the idea that you can download songs about a place to which you are traveling, but having the travel company actually give you ideas!?!  That's awesome!  And the list has some standards plus a few others to consider.  I never would have thought about Wilco or Groove Armada when developing a list of "songs about Chicago."  Would you?

And it's fully iTunes compliant.  Even bigger props.

Okay, so it doesn't take much to please me.

If you think that's bad, wait till you see what else was on the page...

Misctravelocityemail2

C'mon, everyone loves the gnome!


We will, we will rock you (not!)...

Kevin Apgar, known on the Bears' Blitz message boards as Peanut4President, would like to read from a prepared statement...

Although a diehard fan of the first-place Chicago Bears, I have to realize that the NFC is nothing like the AFC. Granted, the Bears are in the weakest divison in the NFL, I have learned, after watching the Steelers throttle the Bears, that we are not in the same league as the Steelers.

After the loss to the Browns earlier in the season and after the Steelers lost to the Bengals as we had, I had sure confidence that the Bears were going to once again show up against the reeling Steelers, like we did for Carolina. That's what I get for thinking.

As much as it pains me to say this, the Steelers are head and shoulders a better team than my Bears. If the Steelers were in our division, we'd be the Saints!

Lance, to you and all your Steeler listeners, congrats on a great win and may you find yourselves in the playoffs.

I'll look forward to the next time our two proud franchises meet so that I may root for the Steelers knowing that my Bears have no shot.

Congrats again.

This is the statement that I must read to the My Sports Radio Quick Take hotline and will more than likely be aired on the One for the Thumb Pittsburgh Steelers podcast.  Credit to Thumb listener Smack for coming up with the text.

All because my beloved Chicago Bears lost today to the Steelers and I had made a bet with a couple guys from the other board.  Dammit, Bears!  Of all the games you decided to lose, it had to be the one I actually bet on.  Now, because of you, I've got to read that statement.

Miscbearssteelers

Oh yeah, I also have to buy a Steelers hat and take a picture of myself in it and post it on both their board and my own.  That's gonna be painful.

Damn you, Bears!  The first time I actually bet on you (granted, not for some significant amount of cash or anything; mostly bragging rights), and you fail me!

No, no, no!!!

I am crying.


Why don't you come with me, little girl, on a magic carpet ride?

Bang, bang, bang go the hammers...

A crew from one of Home Depot's many outsourced installation companies is now banging around our house (and likely pissing off our neighbors as it's only a little after nine in the morning) as they install the padding and carpeting in our stairs and upstairs hallway. 

MisccarpetWe ordered some replacement carpet a little over a month ago and we're finally seeing its installation.  The old carpet was... okay, so "well worn" might be the understatement of the century.  I can't even imagine what the original color may have been.  Some kind of cream, I think.  But now it has become a hodge podge of different stains and scuff marks through years of life with two children (the people before us) and then some moving in, moving out, and moving around.  I'm sure that doesn't necessarily bode well on the lifespan of carpet.  Plus, it was buckling in a couple areas.  That can be very annoying if you tend to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom or get a drink and drag your feet out of sheer laziness.

But, hey, it's being replaced.  That's the good thing... one good thing.  The other is that the people at Depot told us the installation crew would be here "sometime before noon."  Yeah, you could say that.  They were here at nine.  That's well before noon in my book.  Wish SBC and Comcast were that good.

Shame we didn't finish taking out all the old carpet, padding, and tack strips last night when we started.  As it happened, we were woken up at 7:45 this morning by their call center telling us they would be here in "45 minutes to an hour and a half."  So much for sleeping in. 

We jumped out of bed and started tearing up what was left of the old carpet.  We finished the hallway and the upper flight of stairs last night, so we didn't have much left to do.  But making sure all those stupid staples were out was a major pain in the arse.

So, while most of the crew is installing new tack strips in the hallway, the rest are measuring our "upgraded" padding (hey, when we buy carpet, we go all out, or so it would seem); Katie's upstairs watching, ironically enough, Home Improvement (the eldest son, Brad, is serving as Tim's assistant on Tool Time in this episode); and I'm here chronicling all the goings on.

I need a nap.

UPDATE: Two hours later and they're done.  Now Katie and I are walking around in our barefeet recreating the Die Hard "roll your toes in the carpet" scene.


Baby, it's cold outside...

Last night, as we drove home from working at the gym, Katie and I were placing bets as to whether our association fees were actually paying off and they were plowing and shovelling around our townhome.  Believe it or not, they were digging us out of the five inches of snow we were hammered with yesterday (Midway Airport, where the plane skidded off the runway, got nine inches).

Well, maybe not at that exact moment, but they had been working on it.

When we were driving up to the turn on our street, two plows were blocking our chances at straight-ahead movement while a third plow was blocking half the road we wanted to turn on.  So I had to make quite a wide right turn. 

In the middle of the turn, Katie yelled to me to stop.  There was a yellow lab that had ambled out in the street from a driveway and didn't even care that a car was coming right at it.

For some completely inexplicable reason, I flashed it with my high beams (yeah, a dog's gonna know what to do with that, right?).  He turned and walked up to my door and just looked at me.  I started to pull forward very slowly hoping he would back up.  He must've because I didn't hear any howling or feel any bump.  Thank God.

Upon arrival at our home, I noticed that the bush by our driveway, which we had covered in white lights, was now also covered in a layer of snow resulting in a very eery glow from the lights trapped under their frozen blanket.  Katie knew what I wanted to do, so she ran in and grabbed my digicam so I could snap some shots.

As I took some photos, I noticed the dog trotting up the middle of our street.  I slapped the side of my thigh and whistled for the dog to come over.  He did so quite happily.  After I scratched his back and head a couple times, he bolted for my front door.  When I walked over to the garage, he ran in after me and started rolling around on the floor and wagging his paws in the air.  I figured he must've been cold so I grabbed a couple shop towels and patted his paws dry.  He seemed to really appreciate it and just kept wagging his tail and following me whereever I went in the garage and out in the snow.

Katie and I own no pets... for a combination of reasons, really: 1) we're not sure our place is really big enough, especially for a dog the size of a lab; 2) we both have minor allergies, nothing terrible, but enough to mildly aggravate our sinuses when we visit the homes of people that do have pets (I have had pets before -- two cats -- and been able to deal with the allergies, though); and 3) we just don't have the money to take care of pets.

We weren't sure what we were going to do about this lab.  I'm sure if I opened the door to the house, he would've jetted his way inside.  In fact, he almost did when Katie opened the door to watch me take photos.  She got the door closed just in time as a flash of yellow and white fur tore in her general direction.

I walked back outside and started playing with the dog again in the snow.  He was soaking up the attention.  However, as soon as one of the plows rolled by, he ran off after it.  I dunno if he was bored with my attention or maybe he actually belonged to one of the plowers and was allowed to run around for a little while as they did their work.

I guess we'll never know.  We didn't see him again. 

We slept like crap last night worrying about this dog.  And, if we happened to see him again or heard him outside, I'm pretty sure we would've let him in, allergies be damned.  But we never did.

This morning, I looked around outside our place and saw no fresh pawprints.  Ideally this means he found his home or one of the maintenance guys was his owner.  Either one of those options are the only ones I want to consider at this point.


That's my beer, not his.


Shock me...

I was reading Jenny's blog this morning when I came across something that caught me a bit unaware.

Nay, I was shocked and dismayed.

She and a bunch of her other blog buddies were discussing what they have dubbed "The Cult of Comments."  This refers to how bloggers thrive on the immediacy of comment feedback from their readers.

So they are attempting a "comment orgy" which I can only describe as a bit of a social blogging experiment.  Here are the rules as per Jenny's site:

  1. Blogger is tagged to write an entry for comment orgy.
  2. Blogger writes an entry.
  3. Blogger strives to get as many comments as possible on said entry.
  4. Blogger passes the orgy baton (Eww.) to another blogger of his/her choosing.
  5. If blogger fails to get 100 comments, the orgy dies.
  6. If the orgy dies, shame will fall on that blogger’s house. Forever.

Their challenge, now, is to find topics to post about that will ensure they reach this 100 comment plateau.  One of her friends suggested typing about "boobies" as everyone loves good stories about breasts.

This is where I become appalled and dismayed with Jenny.  I've always held her up on a higher level than many others.  She has a high-quality blog, yet she has resorted to an artsy way of blogging about boobies to gain comments.

For shame!  How could you sink so low, Jenny?

BOOBIES

I would expect such juvenile behavior from others, but not you, Jenny!

MISSIONARY POSITION

And all this just to validate your existence in the Blogosphere.  Comments?  That's all you want?  Just talk to us, Jen.  We'll come running and make you feel good about who you are without having to post such filth.

69

The truly sad thing is that she's not the only one who does this.  I've read more than my fair share of blogs and other websites that feed off the world's fascination with sex. And they make me sick.

CUNNILINGUS

Even if their site has nothing to do with the actual act of sex whatsoever.  They will do underhanded things like putting keywords in the meta tags that ensure people will find their sites when performing searches in Google, Yahoo, etc.

SADOMASOCHISM

I would like to take this opportunity to publicly declare that you will never see Kapgar.com resort to such deplorable methods to gain readership and comments.

BLOWJOB

I have an ethical and moral standard that I have set for myself and my site.  I have beliefs that I subscribe to and I can only hope that I impart these values to you, my dear readers, through quality posts that are humorous, insightful, and family friendly.

SPANKING

Never, ever will you find instances of sexual innuendo or lewd photographs on this site.  Let me repeat that... NEVER!

Miscfamilyguybdsm

Kapgar.com... a proud safehaven and paragon of virtue for all ages, since 1998!


I don't want no Scrubs...

I was ever so excited last night as Katie and I watched our TiVosode (hey, cut me some slack, it's easier than typing "TiVo-recorded episode," right? - I think I should trademark that or offer to sell it to TiVo for the right price) of My Name is Earl.  The news that excited me so?  A commercial declaring that Scrubs is returning to NBC on Tuesday, January 3. 

MiscscrubsWe have both missed that show soooo much.  It's one of our favorites and its absence from the primetime lineup has been very noticeable.

But, it seems like NBC is making up for this hiatus.  Yep, we are getting two back-to-back episodes of Scrubs each week that it airs.  I can handle that.  One solid hour of J.D., Elliott, Turk, and Carla being hassled and harrassed by Dr. Cox, Dr. Kelso, and the Janitor?  Hells yes!

What does this mean for Earl?  Nothing terrible, it would seem.  You see, Earl is moving to NBC's meager Thursday night lineup.  NBC really wants to reclaim the "Must See" crown that they once owned that night.  So they are moving Will & Grace to 7 p.m., some new show called The Four Kings from the creators of W&G at 7:30 p.m., Earl at 8:00 p.m., and The Office at 8:30 p.m.

Notice anything?  Yeah, Joey is gone.  But only temporarily.  It should be coming back in March, or so NBC is saying.  Just a brief hiatus.  With the poor ratings that show has been receiving, it wouldn't surprise me to see it disappear entirely.  It's not horrible, mind you, just not nearly what I'd hoped for when they announced the show way back when.  It's definitely going to need some work.

I'm not sure what I think of these moves so far.  Yes, I absolutely love having double doses of Scrubs.  But I'm not sure I like seeing Earl pitted up against the CSI juggernaut.  This could be the kiss of death for Earl.  I pray it isn't, but you never know how network execs think.  If they don't have immediate results, they'll pull the plug on a show despite critical praise and Emmy wins.  Just look at Arrested Development.

I've been enjoying the heck out of My Name is Earl and I'd hate to see it go the way of the dodo because of NBC's pathetic attempt to reclaim a ratings crown they know they have no chance of grabbing.  CSI is an impossible show to beat.  There's little to no point in even trying.  Just keep Joey and Will and Grace where they are and let them die.  God knows that W&G hasn't been the same for a few years now.  It deserves to die.

Guess it's time to get that second TiVo hooked up, eh?  (No, we haven't done it yet; so sue us).


Cover me Lord...

One of the worst things about being beyond the age of college students is dealing with insurance.

I hate it.  I hate it.  I hate it.

And this is the time of year for open enrollment. 

If you're scratching your noggin wondering what this is, allow me to explain.  Once a year, insurance companies or HR departments within your company will allow a restricted time period during which employees can alter their insurance coverage and/or benefits, en masse.  You are free to change anything, everything, or nothing at all.

In my case, I was planning to change nothing through my organization's insurance because I do not use the insurance here.  Katie and I have the same plans available to us through her work but for a much lower cost (the wonder of her working for a big conglomerate company).  So, when the open enrollment packet came across my desk in the mail a few weeks ago, it stayed right there.  I never touched it.  I didn't see any need to.

Apparently, however, I did need to.  Despite the fact that I don't have insurance here, I still have to fill out a form denying my right to be insured.  Huh?  We have to kill a tree so I can say "no"?  That makes very little sense to me.  If I already filled out a form saying that I'm denying coverage once, why do I have to keep doing this year after year after year.

And, I seem to be one of the last people on campus to turn in his forms.  Hmm...  I enjoyed being last in class to be chosen to present projects and the like.  I even got to a point where being chosen last for team sports in grade school gym class didn't bother me anymore.  But being known as the last person to turn in his insurance forms doesn't strike me as something to be proud of.  Especially when one of our HR people told me today that people are scrambling to get their forms done because they don't want to be last.

We are in a race to not be last.  And all over insurance form filing.  How sad is that?

If you're young enough to still be a rider on your parents' insurance, I highly recommend staying there.  It is much easier.  Let your parents deal with the headaches.


All by my-se-e-elf.

So how am I celebrating the evening of my birthday?

By sticking around at work and getting stuff done.  Oh boy!  What fun!

Yeah, Mondays kinda suck for Katie and I.  She works late and I usually wind up doing homework for my Wednesday night class.  Talk about bogus.  She and I should be out at dinner and having some drinks or just doing something together. 

But no.  She's stuck at work and I'm trying to avoid going home so I don't get distracted by, a) the pretty new iMac with the stocked iTunes catalog and iTMS access, and, b) my eight hours of TiVo'd episodes of The Shield.

So I'm here at work getting some homework done while also performing a few cosmetic tweaks to my blog (gotta mix it up somehow).  Speaking of which, what do you all think of the new header graphic, the loss of the blue background on the sidebar, and the little Technorati search box?  Just some small stuff.  There's more I'd like to do, but not quite yet.

Actually, I want to start a whole new blog.  No, not as a replacement to this site.  It would be something else entirely. 

You see, I've been running a book review site for about eight years now, but it receives jack for hits.  If you'd like some idea how few hits it receives, try this on for size... this site, since June of this year, has received just under 5,000 hits; the book site, since I began tracking hits on it in August of 2003, has only received 3,500 hits.  I'm sorry, but that's pretty sad.  And I'm very proud of and attached to this site.  It's actually my favorite part of my old site and the primary reason I don't shut the site down entirely.  I'd like to see it do well.

This is why I want to introduce it to the blogosphere.  I feel that it would receive a lot greater exposure here from fellow bloggers.  Plus, it would receive greater recognition within search engines than it currently does.  If the placement of my own site in search results is any indication, my book site should prosper greatly from the switch.

I just need to figure out the best way to work the categories.  As it stands, TypePad does not allow for a way to alphabetize results when clicking on categories.  Usually, entries are listed on the page based first on the category and second on the post date.  So I need to expand the possibilities for the listings so that book reviews can be easily found despite this lack of alphabetization. 

But I'm also interested in enlisting additional reviewers.  I would develop a list of guidelines for reviewing, of course, so that standards are kept up to my anal-retentive par.  Duplicate reviews of the same book would be highly encouraged as they would allow for a more well-rounded overall view of the book.  And credit would be given to the reviewer.  But, no, you would not be paid.  Deal with it.  Strictly voluntary.

For the time being, I would post the guest reviews myself.  But, down the line, I might try to work it out so these reviewers would have their own access to the book blog to upload their own reviews.

Anyone interested?

I'm not sure what my timeline is on this project.  Guess it would depend on interest and time I have available.  Maybe sometime over the holiday break.


You gotta hook it up...

Since Katie and I have such busy Mondays, she decided (with a little urging from your's truly) to give me my birthday gift today.

Now, we are finally really entering the 21st century.  Yep, we've gone wireless!  She bought me a Apple Airport Extreme station for the new iMac.  And, oh, is it nice.  I hooked it up and all I needed to do was tell the Mac to look for an Airport connection instead of a hardwired network connection and it was all done.  There is absolutely no loss of connection speed whatsoever (or, so far as I can tell).

Miscairportextreme

Damn if it isn't pretty, too.  Even if you are a Windows user, you've gotta admit that Apple takes even the most fundamentally boring pieces of hardware and makes them almost dangerously eye appealing.

One of the great things about this Airport Extreme is that it saves us a bunch of money in the long run.  We were thinking about having new phone jacks installed in our house to allow us flexibility for placement of the computers.  However, SBC was going to charge us $50 per jack that we wanted to have installed, plus a $90 service call fee.  That's just wrong on so many levels.  Now, we can use the phone jacks we have and use the computer whereever we want anywhere in the house.  But I do still need that wireless card for my PowerBook (thanks to Gary for the info on this one).

The only thing I have to do now is figure out this whole Mac firewall and wireless security thing and we should be set.  As it stands, anybody out there with a wireless card and no sense of morality whatsoever can just mack off our connection.  I don't like that idea.  Not one bit.


Fizzy, fuzzy, big and buzzy...

I've gotta tell you all something... there's nothing like sledding in the dead of night.

My brother, Brian, and his fiance, Jen, came to our place tonight because Jen and Katie were going to go to some purse party while Brian and I played video games and whatnot.  Well, when they got back, it had been snowing pretty well (sorry to rub it in, SJ), and Jen wanted to go play in the snow.  You see, she's from SoCal and has never experienced snow in all its natural glory before.

So we did just that.  We went outside and had a snowball fight and made snow angels.  We also made some meals of the snow and took a few photos.

Then, despite it being 9:30 at night, we opted to head to Wal-Mart and pick up sleds so we could go to a local sledding area and enjoy the snow.

And, boy, did we.  Nobody was there (although it was obvious someone had been earlier in the night).  Three of the four sleds we bought were useless.  But the fourth, an inflatable triangle that we have since dubbed "Bermuda" (because, once you get in it, you "disappear" like the Bermuda Triangle), was incredible.  We were setting land speed and distance records on it.  We sledded for about 45 minutes soaking every square inch of our bodies.

Sopping wet, we went straight to our favorite watering hole and picked up some chips and salsa, beers, and lemon drop shots.  Finally, we ended the night with some take-out McDonald's and Die Hard on cable.

How can you top this night?  I don't think it's possible.  It was just too much fun.

Yeah, the holiday spirit is coarsing through me now in full force.


Can you picture this?

Key Wester
MisckeywesterIf you're ever in the western Chicago suburb of Naperville, might I recommend a cozy little restaurant?  It's called Key Wester and it's a seafood place that is just spectaculah.  Okay, "cozy" is not the right word as it's a pretty big place, but it's really nice and comfortable inside.

We went there last night as a co-celebration of mine and my brother's birthdays.  And we had fun.  Good food.  Good liquor.

I told my friend, Brian, that we were going there and he gave me a few words of advice when I informed him that my parents were paying.  "Kevin... Surf & Turf and a $90 bottle of wine." 

I took that advice.  I had me some Surf & Turf and damn was it good... 9 ounce cold water lobster tail and an 8 ounce filet mignon.  To die for (sorry, Dave, I know you're a vegetarian).  But we also had a new wine that they were stocking in-house.  It was a pinot noir and I can't remember the name of the winery it came from.  I've got it written down, but not on me  Sorry.  If anyone's interested in knowing the brand, I'll look it up for you.  Just let me know in the comments.  No, we did not get the whole bottle, but Katie and I each had a glass.  This was in addition to the 7/7 that I had before the meal.  Yeah, a good time was had.

Now I just want to know what Katie got me for my birthday.  She's been torturing me with it since Tuesday.  And I don't get it until either sometime this weekend or on my actual birthday.  She hasn't decided yet.

Flickr Update
I felt I should let you all know that I finally got off my lazy butt and did something I said would happen nearly a week ago.  That's right, I posted the Chicago photos from last Friday.  Yikes.  I completely forgot about them.  I loaded them to iPhoto on our Mac, but overlooked Flickr entirely.  So check them out and let me know what you think (you can leave comments there as well).

#200
What I'm having trouble believing is that I've only been doing this TypePad thing since the middle of June and I'm already at post #200.  Yep, you're reading the big 2G.  Yikes.  How long can I keep this up without burning out or going insane?  Stayed tuned and find out, folks!

"I've got somethin' to say.  It's better to burn out, than fade away"
--The Kurgan, The Highlander (and Neil Young and Def Leppard)

Final Thought to Ponder
If you had the qualifications and an opportunity to have any job you wanted in known history, what would it be?  Oh, and money and legality are not an issue (have fun with this one, Johnny).

I'm still pondering.  I had an answer, but then I decided to expand the question to include all "known history."  Oh the possibilities!


I've got the power!

I think Papa Nicholas and the Lord Almighty both really want to make sure that I'm in the mood this season.

It's no secret that Christmas is not my favorite holiday (that honor goes to Halloween); but I don't particularly dislike it, either.

However, these past few years, I have found it increasingly difficult to enjoy the winter holiday season.  It just doesn't "do it" for me anymore.  Know what I mean?  Sometimes it's just the fact that you're getting older and the mystique is gone.  Or it could be how sick we all get of dealing with crowds both in stores and on any road within a two-mile radius of these stores.  There are so many reasons why this time of year can easily be relegated to "bah humbug" status.

Last year was the worst, until the actual day of Christmas, that is.  Katie and I were in midst of moving and were so caught up in all that hubbub that we were never able to decorate.  Hard to get in the mood when all you see in your home are cardboard boxes everywhere and not a single decoration.

Of course, much of this was made up for by the fact that I woke up on Christmas morning to snow on the ground.  According to Katie, I was acting like a little kid in a candy store.  Too bad these sentiments weren't with me the entire season.

This year, on the other hand, is already turning out different.

We've had several small snowfalls already which do more than their fair share to get me in the mood.

Plus, we had that perfectly timed snowstorm on Black Friday down in Chicago as we awaited the lighting of the tree in Daley Plaza.  I was singing Christmas carols for two days after that happened.

Now it seems as though Santa and Jesus are endowing me with the power to control the weather.

Yep, you read that right... I'm a proxy Mother Nature.

Allow me to explain...

I woke up this morning to a little bit of snow on the ground.  Nothing too big, but enough to coat the grass in white.  But the snow had stopped entirely by the time I woke up.

After my shower and getting everything ready to go for work, I jumped on the iMac (much more figurative than literal, thank you very much) and went to the iTunes Music Store to download Depeche Mode's "Just Can't Get Enough," which, quite surprisingly, I didn't already have. 

MiscmariahcareyWhile there, I checked out the iTMS Top 25 and saw that Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas" was #2 on the chart.  It had been quickly rising up the list since Thanksgiving and it was amazing to me that a song that was more than a decade old was doing so well.  That, and I couldn't help but wonder why she was singing that stupid song from my childhood about the toothless kid who has nothing better to ask for as a gift.

I clicked on the name of the song to listen to the 30-second sample and realized it's not about teeth, but it's the same song that little girl sings in the talent show scene of Love Actually.  I love that song, actually (sorry, just hadda).  So I clicked the "purchase" button.

As soon as I clicked it, the snow started to fall in a torrent that lasted several minutes and served to make driving completely unbearable.  I was skidding everywhere on my way to work, but was oh-so-happy to do so. 

So, you see, I can create snow by purchasing Christmas songs on iTMS!!  That is Santa and Jesus' dirty little secret!! 

And, I'm assuming that the severity of the snowstorm is controlled by how fast the beat of the song is or maybe how much it rocks. 

Using that rationale, if I want a snowday off from work, I need only purchase something from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra or, maybe, "Last Christmas" from Jimmy Eat World.  The possibilities are limitless.

Time to play with nature...

Muahahahahahahahahaha!!!!