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30 posts from November 2006

What I want and what I need...

Before I start today's post, I need to wish a happy belated birthday to my brother who turned 28 yesterday. Not that you'll read this, but happy birthday all the same, bro!

I need to make one thing very clear... I am not Idolwild.

Okay, so that was a failed pun of a reference to how I perceive the legions of fans of Fox's American Idol.

I am not, never was, nor likely ever will be a fan of this pop culture "phenomenon."

Oddly, though, I do tend to like some of the music that former contestants have released since being discovered on the show.

For one, I just can't get enough Kelly Clarkson. Sure, her first album wasn't spectacular by any stretch. But I love her new album and, sadly, I never seem able to turn her off when one of her songs comes on the radio.

I found a copy of Ruben Studdard's debut album in the lost and found at the gym one night a couple years ago. Call it warped curiosity, but I took it home and ripped it (I returned it). I've listened to it a couple times so far and it's not bad.

I also recently picked up Carrie Underwood's CD from the library. I've only heard a couple songs off it so far, but it's also pretty decent.

Yesterday, though, I picked up the one Idolite whose album I have most looked forward (yeah, I just admitted to "looking forward to" an album from a former Idol contestant)... Daughtry by cueballed, season five metalhead Chris Daughtry (who has, apparently, shed his first name for professional purposes).

It's a good album. I don't know why, but I really enjoy when he rocks out on songs like "What I Want" featuring Slash on lead guitar. But, he also does well with the slower ballads on the album of which there are a few.

I've only listened through it once so far, but I have high hopes for it as one of those few albums that I can listen to all the way through without a problem. Perhaps I'm setting the bar too high, but one can hope.

Oh, and fear not, there is NO Clay Aiken anywhere near my music collection. I do have some semblance of self respect. Very little, but it's there. I swear.


That's what I want...

The Christmas gift shopping season has now begun in earnest for us. Actually, for me, Katie has to buy both a birthday and a Christmas gift. She's got ideas but is having trouble finding them. Or so she says.

I got notification that one of my gifts for her came in yesterday. I looked on the doorstep this morning, which neither of us really go by all that often, and, sure enough, it was there.

I was so happy that I got to it first. Now it's hidden somewhere in our house and, as soon as she reads this post, I'm certain she'll start combing the place looking for it.

Heh. Sorry, writing that last sentence made me think of Spaceballs. The scene where they're, literally, combing the desert looking for Lone Starr, et al, and they use giant combs...

Spaceball Officer: You find anything?

Trooper #1: Nothing, sir.

Spaceball Officer: You find anything?

Trooper #2: Nothing, sir.

Spaceball Officer: Did you find anything?

Smart-ass Trooper: We ain't found shit, sir!

Spaceballs_combing

Okay, enough Mel Brooks for today.

But, if I know Katie, she really will start scouring the place. Will she find it? Only time will tell. But I'll know if it was found. Mark my words, I'll know.

I'm evil.


The pursuit of happiness, it's a common goal...

Some media-related pop culture notes for you...

Himym Damn if last night's episode of How I Met Your Mother featuring Barney's gay brother, James, played by Wayne Brady wasn't LEGEN-wait for it and I hope you're not lactose intolerant-DARY. We love that show and have become hooked on watching the first season DVD set as well as the new episodes. HIMYM and The Office are the only two can't-miss sitcoms this season, IMHO. Nothing else quite compares. Not even My Name is Earl and Two and a Half Men, both of which are pale comparisons of their earlier selves. Actually, in my opinion, 2.5M has been off its game for a couple years now save for last season's ugachaka episode.

I am FINALLY caught up on Veronica Mars after falling three episodes behind. This will all change after a new episode airs tonight. Hopefully, I will not fall this behind again.

This, of course, is not nearly as bad as my delinquency with Heroes. I really thought I was only two episodes behind until I looked at the episode descriptions on IMDb and discovered that I am, in fact, four episodes back; nay, five after the new one aired last night. Something screwed up my TiVo's recording of two earlier episodes in late October/early November and I didn't even know about it. Thankfully, Dave got me on BitTorrent (the Mac client is Xtorrent - and, unlike my earlier forays into torrenting, it actually works) and I've downloaded all five of them, optimized them for my iPod, and I will watch them in the coming week or so.

Sorry Bre, but we have not watched last week's Studio 60 yet. After loving the episode several weeks ago with the blacklisted writer, the two that followed regarding the extradiction of Tom Jeter to Nevada just bored the living crap out of us, so we've been biding our time catching up on the most recent episodes. We will, though. I promise.

Enough about TV. Well, for the most part, that is. While watching a show last night, we saw a preview for the new live-action-mixed-with-talking-real-animals version of Charlotte's Web that is coming out around Christmas. Katie, being the Web freak that she's been her whole life, desperately wants to see it. But she has thrown down the gauntlet for me... I have to read the book before I can see it with her. No, I've never read it. So I grabbed our copy from our bookshelf and started it last night. So far, it's pretty good. I had to put it down after a while because I was just so dang tired (it was 12:30 in the morning!), but I'll finish it soon. And then I'll start Chris Gardner's The Pursuit of Happyness, which is soon being released as a movie starring Will Smith and his son, Jaden.

A grand plan, that's for sure. Especially considering I'm still in the process of reading Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys. It's a spectacular book, but I'm just having trouble finding time to read. That's what I hate about TV season... I fall too far behind on everything else I want to do. Damn.


We make plans for big times...

"The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry."

Derived from Robert Burns' poem "To a Mouse"... “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.”

Such an eloquent statement. And one that applies to our weekend quite well.

Katie and I had such grand plans for this extended holiday weekend and yet it seems as though we completed only a fraction of them.

1. Clean up our house entirely.
Done for Thanksgiving, but it went all to hell yesterday.

2. Clear both our TiVos' "Now Playing" list of the two weeks' worth of shows that had built up on it.
Almost. We have one show left from those two weeks (last week's Studio 60) and whatever was added to it last night. However, I, personally, have about eight hours of Veronica Mars, Heroes, and Day Break backed up. Sometime on Saturday, I kinda decided there was no way I was ever going to get to all of it and simply deleted the first two episodes of Day Break and killed the Season Pass. As much as I like Taye Diggs, it was too much to catch up on and, since I never saw a single episode, I wasn't going to be missing much. I'm already pretty well invested in the other two and would like to finish them up.

3. Decorate for Christmas.
We certainly pulled out all the containers of decorations. Hence why #1 somewhat undid itself... the containers and decorations are now strewn about our home cluttering up what was once a beautifully clean homestead. We did get the tree assembled and got it all plugged in, as well. However, none of our ornaments are up at all. That will likely kick in tonight when we get done working out at the gym. Wish us luck.

4. Shop for Christmas presents.
We actually did a big chunk of this. Okay, maybe not that much. But at least we have about a quarter of it actually purchased and a list of what we will be buying for the other three quarters nearly complete. Just figuring out what to buy is a majority of the battle each year. Some of our relatives are not easy to buy for, let me tell you.

5. Do something with the leftover Thanksgiving food.
Katie made cream of turkey wild rice soup, a la Panera's cream of chicken wild rice, and it's damn good. She also made a turkey boullion base (sp?) that can be used for any number of other things. So, at least the turkey carcass is now gone from our fridge and we have room to put stuff in there.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Make such big plans only to watch them die upon attempted execution? You would think we'd learn. But we don't.


Don't fence me in...

It's been somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-15 since that fateful night. The night my brother and I attempted to, and failed miserably at, construct a gingerbread house.

It was an horrific experience. One that, to this day, makes FHA assessors cringe. The walls never stood upright, the roof cracked and collapsed, the candies ran amok.

Simply put, it was not pretty.

So imagine my horror when my mother and father gave Katie and I a Gingerbread House Kit when they came over for Thanksgiving. The memories came flooding back. I tried to make them return it, but they refused. And, despite my better judgment, Katie and I decided to break it open earlier today while decorating for Christmas.

And now, our photographic retrospective...

The Gingerbread House Kit, pre-opening
Do note the sledgehammer at the ready

The Gingerbread House, after opening
Everything is opened and ready to go.

Continue reading "Don't fence me in..." »


Thank you for loving me...

I feel bad.

I feel bad because I haven't had as much time to be a part of the blogosphere as I once was. There was a time when I would spend quite a while reading and commenting on the dozens upon dozens of posts put up by bloggers that I consider my virtual family.

But with all the work I've been doing lately with the new job, plus the additional commute time, some other side projects I have, work around the house, and holiday planning, I've been more than just a bit neglectful.

I still read, mind you. I read as much as possible. But commenting has been at a minimum. And that is one of the things I so love about blogging... commenting. It's the interaction that makes blogging so wonderful.

However, it may take me several days before I really get around to reading some blog posts. And, when I do, I'm reading several days worth of posts at a single sitting from one person.

What's so terrible about this, you might ask? Well, I miss out on great events such as Neil's Second Annual Thanksgiving "Thank Your First Commenter" Day. What a great idea! To recognize the first person that left a comment for you on your site.

Even though it's several days late, I'd like to participate after the fact. I hope that's okay with you, Neil. Don't hate me for being tardy.

To be honest, I don't know my first commenter since I started my static HTML blog. Especially since I didn't have comments implemented and had to rely on e-mail for interaction. So I really need to forego the first seven years I "blogged" and go with the first person who left a comment on my "real" blog.

That taken into consideration, my first commenter is SJ. It was my 17th day of blogging and my post was about whether I should have the right to rerate movies I've seen and books I've read if I feel that a second viewing or reading has made my perception of it better or worse. Her comment was...

I run into this same ethical conundrum myself, on Chronic Listaholic. Sometimes I slam something, then on second (or third) listen/viewing/whatever, decide I like it. Or vice versa. I actually have a list I'm compiling of Ten Things I've Changed My Mind About.

So I vote for updating your review to reflect your revised opinion, then including a link to it in the Recent Updates list.

To SJ, I owe a debt of thanks for my official welcome to bloggerdom. And for still being there as my blog buddy to this day. Even if I have been a bit reclusive.


All the love gone bad turned my world to black...

Here are a few practical life lessons learned today...

1. Hosting a Thanksgiving get together with family results in garbage and recyclables the likes of which are not seen at any other time in a calendar year. Jeez!

2. There are no Black Friday sales that can quite compare to sleeping in next to the person you love. And then laughing at all the suckers who are complaining about having been awake since 4:00 a.m. Heh.

3. Before hanging up your outdoor Christmas lights, plug them in to make sure they still work.

4. Even if you're a militant looking woman dressed in camouflage pants shopping with a friend dressed similarly, the "she-mullet" is dead. Give up the ghost. Cut it off. Please.

'nuff said.


There's nothing meaner than a turkey with a scatter gun...

I would just like to say that preparing a Thanksgiving dinner is that much better when you have Lou Malnati's pizza and three bottles of wine coursing through your system.

A tip either for next year or this year if you haven't started your cooking yet.

Take note.

Of course, you should also take note that the three bottles were divided amongst four people.

[Title lyric from Peter Greenstone's "Jive Turkey"]


I ain't missin' not a single thing...

Either I'm the world's most prepared worker bee or I'm on the verge of a professional meltdown.

Yesterday, I wore the infamous green shirt and tie combo to work (yes, I realize you ladies dig it and I am only too happy to oblige you). Afer a while, I decided to shed the tie so I took it off, folded it, and went to put it in my bag.

When I opened my bag, I found two other ties folded and neatly placed in a side pocket. Combine this with the one or two ties I found in my truck and it makes you start to wonder if I'm preparing for a professional man's apocalypse. Or perhaps I'm a pupil in the P. Diddy Appearance Management Institute?

Whatever the case may be, I do know I'd damn well better remember to unload my bag before I wind up toting around a veritable wardrobe.

Bear in mind that I've only been at this new job for just under a month now.

My God, how long until I'm keeping changes of clothes in my office? Gah!


Wii can work it out...

First, a quick "happy anniversary" to my parents who are celebrating their 36th  year together today.

Wiimote Yesterday, after I finished my lunch, I happened to walk by an EB Games. I figured I’d pop in to see if they had a display model of the new Nintendo Wii. They did.

A customer was there trying to figure out how to play Excite Truck with the new one-handed remote control thingamajig that has been lovingly dubbed the Wiimote (“Remote.” Get it?). He was having a bit of trouble figuring it out. Then one of the employees told him to turn the controller sideways and hold it two handed like the ends of a steering wheel.

This is when the fun began.

If you don’t know, the Nintendo Wii uses a sort of IR/Bluetooth detection “field” to control games. Remember, back in the day, when you would sit there with your video game remote and lean into games hoping to make a tighter turn or swing the remote down as though it would actually affect how you swing a sword? Now it does. Every little motion matters. Prepare to become physically invested in your gaming.

There was no steering wheel or control stick to make my truck move through its desert race course. There was only me… standing there turning the controller as though the middle part was on a central axis point. It is about the coolest damn thing I’ve ever tried in my life.

When I got my hands on the Wiimote, I was flying through the course. Every little motion that I made had ramifications on what happened on the screen. Just to test it, as I launched over a big jump and was hanging in midair, I turned the controller and, sure enough, the wheels turned on the front axle.

I have only played this thing for ten minutes now and I’m already declaring it the coolest damn next-gen video game system out there. Forget PS3 and the 360. I don’t want ‘em. Just gimme a Wii.

Oh, and make sure you take your allergy meds beforehand. You sneeze… you may die. Only virtually, but still and all the same.

Sorry about the pun in the title. Too good to pass up.

And here's a screen cap from Excite Truck courtesy of Gamespot...

Excitetruck

And we'll have fun, fun, fun 'til your daddy takes the Wiimote a-wa-a-ay!


They say it's your birthday...

No, it's not my birthday, not yet anyway.

However, when I made my BSP (Birthday Self Promotion for anyone who missed it) announcement last week, Suze left a comment that made me think maybe this crazy little concept could be taken a step further.

So I'm hereby taking this opportunity to take the BSP notion that I first read on Sandra's site some time ago (and many other sites after that) and bumping it to the next level.

Let's take a moment to welcome the BSPCP. No, that's not some new kind of illegal drug or medical insurance plan. It is the Birthday Self Promotion Cross Promotion!!!!

What this means is that you can take advantage of this post to start seeding interest in your own birthday. Of course, I get to announce, yet again, that my birthday is on Tuesday, December 5, and that I have a link to my Amazon Wishlist in the sidebar. But you, as my valued friends and readers, can also post your own birthdays in the comments to this post. I don't care how far off your birthday may be, it's never too early to get people interested. And considering Sandra's obsession with BSP, I'm sure she'll be all over this.

There is, as with anything I do around here, a catch. When your own birthday begins its approach vector (why I'm talking in aeronautical terms, I don't know), you must write your own BSPCP post and open it to anyone else who would like to promote their birthday, regardless of how far in advance it may be.

So let's hear it, people! When's your birthday?


The goose is getting fat...

It’s cold. Damn cold. It’s so cold I’ve got icicles growing from my…

Yeah, anyway.

Suffice it to say, it’s so cold I’m tempted to just let my winter template drop now.

You read that right. So many of you inspired me with your October Breast Cancer Awareness month, Halloween, and winter holiday templates that I decided to try a shift of my own.

No, it’s not an entirely new template. I worked too long and hard on this look to give up on it that quickly. So, instead, I just took the design I have now and, much like my truck, I simply “winterized” it.

I like it. And Hilly gave it a thumbs up on preview, too, so it’s all good. Speaking of which, she has a swanky new Christmas 'do, as well. Check out who's stylin' now! Actually, it seems she has a new winter template every flippin' time I visit her blog anymore. I can count at least three distinct ones so far. This may or may not be barring any subtle design shifts she has implemented to each in the interim. DECIDE!!!

Basically, I wanted something I could use for longer than a month. The little bit of time during which I could’ve shifted to a Halloween template didn’t strike me as being worth the time I would spend designing it. But why not the whole winter season? I figured I could use it for about three months, being upper Illinois, and make it worth the effort.

But if the weather lately is any indication, I may wind up needing to keep this damn thing for closer to four or five months.

It’s gonna be that bad a winter, I’m’a thinkin’. Commence drooling now, SJ.


'Cause I'm easy...

I’m a marketing genius!

A bold claim, I know. But allow me to justify this statement.

For the last couple days at work, I’ve been fiddling as a free moment arises with a piece of software I found in my computer’s program menu. It’s a little doozy called Adobe LiveCycle Designer (or Adobe Designer, for short) and is intended to assist in the process of creating interactive PDF forms using XML as a base.

Since I have a few forms I needed to develop and had been curious about how best to create an interactive PDF, I decided to give it a whirl.

And whirl I did… my head, that is.

After two days of intermittent messing around with Designer, I finally got one of these forms done. My eyes are bleeding, my head is throbbing, and my right hand is spasming from all the subtle nudges and shifts I made to the layout.

This experience has led me to coin what I feel should be the company’s new slogan…

Adobelogo


I've got you under my skin...

I have seen the face of true evil.

Carpet tack strips be thy name.

The pair of us injured ourselves so many times last night while prying these devil strips out of the floor that we lost count. Katie punctured her hands so many times, you'd swear she was stigmatic.

Pain, agony, anger, hatred, fear, frustration, ruin... all words associated with the Dark Lord of the Underworld himself. Thus I feel correct in making the following equation...

tack strips = Satan.

Any nonbelievers?

Tackstrips


Whatever you want, I'll give it to you...

How well do you all remember Lethal Weapon 2? That was the film that introduced Joe Pesci's character, Leo Getz ("Whatever you need... Leo Getz!"). His big claim to fame in the movie was his tirade against drive-thru restaurant service. As you may recall, it went a little something like this...

They FUCK YOU at the drive-thru, okay? They FUCK YOU at the drive-thru! They know you're gonna be miles away before you find out you got fucked! They know you're not gonna turn around and go back, they don't care. So who gets fucked? Ol' Leo Getz! Okay, sure! I don't give a fuck! I'm not eating this tuna, okay?

Last night, I actually wanted the damn tuna.

I went to Panera Bread and ordered a tuna salad sandwich (singularly the best tuna salad sandwich that's not made by Katie) to go. I was on my way to class and in a hurry so I'm sure you can see where this is going.

I get to school for class and open the sandwich. Lo and behold... turkey. Not that I have a problem with turkey, but it was not tuna salad!

And my reaction lends complete credence to Leo's theory... I was too far away to turn around and head back. They fucked me.

At least they got the apple right.

Bastards. I'm checking next time.

Click for Cans
Hey, to all you Bears fans out there, click on over to Campbell's Chunky Click for Cans and vote for our Monsters of the Midway. If you're not a Bears fan, don't read this. The other teams need no help.


I wish I was a radio song, the one that you turned up...

Here's a snippet of a conversation Katie and I had with a gym goer last night...

Gym Goer (GG): God I remember when I was younger and could do all these exercises without a problem.

Me: Enjoy it while you can, right?

GG: You bet. [doing bad Cranky Old Guy voice] Back when I was your age. [normal voice] Ummm, what are you two, like 21 or 22?

Me: Heh heh. 32 in December.

Katie: 29.

GG: You've gotta be kidding me. I thought you were both still college students. You must really take care of yourselves. Just wait til you two get to my age.

Me: You're now our favorite gym member.

Never underestimate the power of a compliment. As offhanded as it may have been.

I guess now is as good a time as any to start the official countdown to my birthday. Yeah, I'm pretty bad at this whole Birthday Self Promotion thing. I really need to take lessons from Sandra, Alissa, Karl, and Chase. I am but a mere 20 days away from my 32nd birthday. And I know it's ballsy to say, but I do accept gifts (anyone in my family who is reading this -- all two of you -- that is looking for a birthday or Christmas list from me can refer to my Amazon Wishlist as well - oh hell, I'll even put it in the sidebar to make life easier)!


Tie me up and tie me down...

I own a tie rack.

Five words. Twelve letters. And yet a statement so brief suddenly makes me feel 5-10 years older than I've ever felt before.

Don't get me wrong, it's a very nice tie rack. Works as part of our closet organization system and it's quite handy. It's just the implications inherent in owning one. It implies that you have a number of ties that you wear on a regular basis and they need to be sorted. And I do.

Granted I've owned ties my entire life, I just never wore them except on very special occasions. I could get away with keeping them on a little hanging loop with my belts. No big deal. Now, though, I need to keep them nice and easily accessible.

It's quite different.

I think I'm becoming Barneyfied. Pretty soon our spare room will be converted into living quarters for my suits and I'll be shouting comments like "Suit up!" to my friends.

Shoot me now! Before it's too late!


To the soul's desires the body listens...

Dear Body,

I know you think you know what is best for me. When I acquire some kind of disease, you will shut down unnecessary functions to concentrate your efforts on eradicating the illness. When I don't eat enough, you tell me. When I eat too much, again, you tell me. When I'm cold, you maximize your heat production. All kinds of great automatic functions that I would better understand if I had stuck with a science-related degree program in college.

Alas, I did not. I have two degrees in the arts and not the sciences. Perhaps that is why I don't understand the miscommunication we had last night. And I'd like to give you this opportunity to clarify matters to me.

You and I woke up early to go open the gym and stayed there until noon. We did 20 minutes of cardio exercise and another half hour of lifting. We then came home to finish painting the closet we had torn apart the day before. We also hung a new closet organization system. We also rehung and reorganized all our clothes and installed three new doorknobs complete with chiseling out the door to make the components fit properly.

These were hefty tasks, but we went into them with gusto and we finished them.

To top it off, Katie shared a bottle of wine with us. Together, we downed half a bottle of traminette. That consumption alone would typically be more than enough to fell most beasts.

So why did you insist on waking me up at 3:30 this morning and then every 15 to 30 minutes after that? You should have wanted to stay dormant. Nay, you should've needed to in order to recover from that.

But you didn't. Instead, for some God-forsaken reason, you opted to not sleep knowing that we had a wake-up time of 5:15 this morning for work.

Can you please explain this to me?

Your overworked and underslept soul,

Kevin

P.S. Katie appeared to be sleeping pretty soundly last night. Can you take a cue from her tonight?


And no matter what you say or do...

Just when you think things can’t get worse for Van Halen, they do.

For one, they haven’t put out a studio album since I was still an undergrad in college putting it sometime before 1997. Yeah, they had that Best of Both Worlds hits collection a year or so ago with a few new songs, but that’s been about it. Three songs does not a new studio album make.

For years, we Van Halen fans suffered through a prolonged will they/won’t they complex in which we battled amongst ourselves about whether the brothers Van Halen and their bassist Michael Anthony would rehire original vocalist David Lee Roth or second vocalist Sammy Hagar as their singer, record an album, and hit the road. A few years ago, they did rehire Hagar, albeit briefly, for a tour and the three new tracks on BOBW.

Soon after, Sammy returned to his own solo band, The Waboritas, and VH returned to their perpetual state of professional silence.

This morning, at the gym, I opened up a copy of RedEye, a subsidiary tabloid-style newspaper put out by The Chicago Tribune, and found a snippet about VH in the “Whoville” section on page 75 (that’s how much merit stories about Van Halen warrant anymore). Here’s the text of the article…

A Family Affair
Van Halen is becoming a family band. Eddie Van Halen has tapped his 15-year-old son, Wolfgang, to replace Michael Anthony as bassist, billboard.com reports.

It is unknown who will serve as the band’s vocalist for the 2007 tour, but rumors continue to swirl that David Lee Roth will be back in the fold for the first time in more than 20 years.

The ever-articulate Roth said he thinks a reunion is “absolutely as an inevitability.”

“To me, it’s not rocket surgery,” Roth said. “It’s very simple to put together. And as far as hurt feelings and water under the dam, like what’s-her-name says to what’s-her-name at the end of the movie ‘Chicago’ – ‘So what? It’s showbiz!’ So I definitely see it happening.”

Three letters for ya here… WTF?!?!

Not just about Wolfgang on bass, but “absolutely as an inevitability”?!?! What does that mean???

“Rocket surgery”?!?! Huhwhudda???

“Water under the dam”?!?!  Oooooohhhhh… my brain hurts.

How much colloquialism mixing can this guy manage in one interview? Rocket Science + Brain Surgery as well as Water Under the Bridge + Water Over the Dam. What’s next? Is he really the best answer for Van Halen? What about having a incoherent, rambling ass like that around your teenaged son? I’m sure Valerie’s loving it right now.

Oh VH, how I loved thee. What the hell happened to you?


Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction...

I find Will Ferrell to be an enigma. How any one actor can make me hate him one moment and really like him the next is beyond me.

I dug some of his early roles, then I didn't, and now it seems I am again.

He went from high notes such as Elf and Old School to low ones in Kicking & Screaming and Bewitched. Even his cameo in Wedding Crashers drives me nuts. I love that movie save for that bit. And I also wasn't really into The Producers. But, in my mind, he made a bit of a comeback with Talladega Nights.

That comeback was cemented for both of us on Friday when we saw Stranger Than Fiction.

Ferrell stars as Harold Crick, an IRS agent suffering from OCD who has absolutely no personal life and no reason to go on living. One day, he begins to hear a voice that narrates his every move. It is then that he realizes that he is a character in a book that is being written and the mystery author seems to agree that he really has no reason to go on living either.

Little does the author, Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson), know that her fictional character is real and her writing is ruining his otherwise boring life. It is now up to Crick, with the help of literature professor Jules Hibbert (Dustin Hoffman) to figure out who is writing Crick's life and whether it's too late to alter the inevitable.

Simply put, we both loved it. There are a few points in which the film drags on. But this can be attributed to the fact that the director is trying to show just how mundane Crick's existence really is. There are, however, high points such as his audit of baker Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal) as well as his outbursts against the voice.

Ferrell plays his role perfectly. There is nothing over the top about him at all and I love him for it. The comedy lies where it should, in the situations in which he finds himself. Thompson is also fantastic and manages to somehow shed her glamorous persona for the frumpy and reclusive author exceptionally well.

Put simply, this movie was a lot of fun and highly enjoyable and, most importantly, made me like Will Ferrell again. Any movie that can do that is a good thing.

All in all...


And I feel fine...

Hey all. Sorry this post is coming to you so late. However, I didn't need to have one done before I left for work today simply because I have the day off! Yep, it's Veteran's Day and I'm sitting at home right now. I haven't had this as a holiday since grade school or high school. Somewhere around that time, I'm pretty sure. So this is odd for me.

Something really good came of this day off, though... I got the gig with the park district teaching people about photography and blogging. Yes, I'm teaching a class on blogging. And they're PAYING ME. Suckers. (Rachel, if you're reading this, you're not a sucker. Seriously.). I think it may really be time for Karl and I to revisit the blogging book idea.

But this could also turn into more classes in the future. It's up to me to come up with some cool ideas down the line.

However something strange happened at this meeting as well. I sent Rachel, the woman at the park district, my resumé via e-mail just before the meeting because my personal printer is on the blink. She checked it out before I got there to talk to her and then she revealed some odd bits to me.

For one, she does a lot of work with the other PD's in the tri-cities' area (Batavia, Geneva, St. Charles). One of her responsibilities is to manage the pool for the Geneva Park District. That pool is right next door to the GPD building where I work in the fitness center.

Not entirely out of the ordinary. But, it gets weirder.

As some of you may know, I have a B.A. in Spanish business and an M.A. in communication - media from Northern Illinois University. She has a B.A. with a double major in Spanish literature and corporate communication... also from NIU. She graduated with her B.A. the same year I got my M.A. We know a lot of the same people. And, although we cannot prove it just yet, we are positive that our paths have crossed at some time during that period. Hell, I taught in that department when she was taking courses.

We are now left with three options...

  1. This is just a complete coincidence
  2. Cosmic forces are colliding in order to drop me the not-so-subtle hint that this is a good thing
  3. I have a stalker

Honestly, I don't think all this could be sheer coincidence, so I'm ruling out #1 right off the bat. I tend to lean toward #2 as it seems like there is some higher power at work here. But I'm totally cool with #3. I've always wanted a stalker. To quote Van Wilder (Ryan Reynolds), "Are you stalking me? 'Cause that would be cool."

Oh, and I totally expect she'll read this. And probably laugh harder than I care to acknowledge.


You've been hit by, you've been struck by...

One of the cool things about my job is that I've got a key card. This may not be a big deal to many of you, but it is to me. Read that again... I've. got. a. key. card. wOOt! (sorry, Karl)

I'm all kinds of big and important. It gets me in doors, clocks me in, identifies me as an employee instead of just some random schmuck off the street... just generally makes me feel cool.

If it worked.

I tried to use the employee fitness center after work last night before going to class. Entry to the center requires a key card. I scanned it and zippo.

Here I was all dressed up with no place to run.

So I hit the Riverwalk in downtown Naperville for a run/walk. I plugged my trusty iPod Shuffle in to my head and headed out.

Seeing as how we're no longer in daylight savings time, it was already really dark when I hit the trail. And, even though it's pretty well lit, the spaces between the streetlamps seemed immensely vast. The bushes and trees along the path appeared to be reaching out in a vain attempt to wrap themselves around my limbs and suck me into the dense foliage where not even the most astute police officer would ever find my rotting body.

My trepidation was not helped at all by the music that came up on my Shuffle...

It longs to kill you, are you willing to die?
-Chris Cornell, "You Know My Name"

What does? No!

We're gonna fight you brother, we're gonna fight until you lose
-Social Distortion, "Death or Glory"

What did I do to you?

You've been hit by, you've been struck by, a smooth criminal
-Alien Ant Farm, "Smooth Criminal"

Can you at least tell me which tree he's going to jump out from behind?

Crawl on me, sink into me, die for me
-Rob Zombie, "Living Dead Girl"

Do I at least have a say in this decision?

I suggest you grab your ankles and kiss your ass goodbye
-Cobra Starship, "Snakes on a Plane (Bring It)"

No, really, I'm not that flexible.

This is the last song that I will dedicate to you
-Foo Fighters, "The Last Song"

Fine. Eat me.

And, with that, I unplugged my iPod from my head and got ready for class.

I've got one morbid friggin' workout playlist, don't I? Geez.


Give it away, give it away, give it away now...

At the gym last night, Katie and I started assembling our to-do list for Thanksgiving. As always, we are hosting the feast for my family and it, of course, requires meticulous planning. A quick peek at our lists reveals...

Around the house...

  • Clean spare bedroom/office (my brother and his fiancee are spending the night before TG with us to help with cooking)
  • Clean all bathrooms
  • Finish trim around front door (we replaced a piece of our door frame a few weeks ago and still haven't fixed the trim; but the door is secure)
  • Clean kitchen
  • Set up big table for the meal
  • Hide lots of crap

Things to buy...

  • Turkey
  • Stuffing
  • Green beans
  • Pie crust
  • Pumpkin pie ingredients (whatever they may be)
  • Flavored water
  • Soda
  • Seagram's 7 (my dad loves his 7&7's)

Mind you, these are but a taste of each list. God only knows how much else is on there and how much more work will be needed over the next couple weeks in preparation for this event. Will the carpet we ordered be delivered and installed in time? That would require some additional prep work as well.

My God, I don't think this much planning goes on in the Pentagon War Room (I still imagine it being quite akin to Dr. Strangelove... don't ask me why, but it just doesn't seem that far off the mark).

But, despite all the work, one of the good things that comes out of this is that I get me some K.A.K.C. (Kick-Ass Katie Cooking). Katie is a fantastic cook and Thanksgiving is her time to shine for all to see. I will have to take pictures of the finished product and share with you all.

What do all you, my fair readers, have planned for the holiday?


The facts of life are all about you...

One of the things I take pride in is my ability to observe an actor or actress in a role and identify some previous role they had be it in a movie or on TV. I don't know why this does it for me, why I take such pride in such trivial knowledge. But it does make me happy. Yeah, it doesn't take much, does it?

However, this ability has made me the go-to guy when a friend or family member wants to know why someone looks familiar but they just can't place how they know them. Call it my claim to fame, if you will.

You can imagine my disdain when I can't figure out who an actor is, though. It bugs me to no end. I will sit there throughout a show and, instead of enjoying it, I will mentally labor through who they are. So, while I enjoy this ability, it can also serve as a bit of a curse.

Last night, for example, Katie and I were watching two episodes of Justice. We had one to catch up on from a week ago and then we had last night's episode as well.

If you watch the show, you know that last week's epi was about a guy and his girlfriend who were killed in a small plane he was flying. The not-so-wealthy parents of the girl were suing the insanely wealthy mother of the guy who is also the CEO of a major dot-com. It took us several minutes before Katie (no, not me) identified the mom as being the one who plays Meredith Grey's mother, Ellis (Kate Burton), on Grey's Anatomy.

In the second episode, two dot-commers (must be a theme month) were being investigated by the police for the yacht-borne death of the wife of one of them. We were pretty sure, right off the bat, that the husband was Matt Letscher who costarred in Good Morning, Miami as well as having recurring parts in Joey and The New Adventures of Old Christine, although Katie was more convinced of it than I was (it was him, by the way). But his friend was someone I did not know at all. He reminded me a little bit of Nathan Corddry who plays Tom in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, but I knew it really wasn't him.

Cue the opening credits...

Katie: I'm pretty sure his first name is Mackenzie.

Me: Who? The friend?

Katie: Yep.

[credits roll the name Mackenzie Astin]

Katie: I knew it!

Me: Mackenzie Astin as in Sean Astin?

Katie: Yep, his little brother.

Me: How'd you know that was him?

Katie: He was in... The Facts of Life.

Me: You've gotta be shitting me. The Facts of Life? Who was he in that?

Katie: He was the little kid.

Me: And you could still tell who he was even though he's like 30 now?!?!

Katie: Yep.

Me: Sick.

Of course I'm just jealous she knew it and I didn't. Dammit!


Rain, rain, go away...

I hate waking up in the morning to the pounding of rain against the siding, roofing, and windows of our house. That's never a good sign. What's especially disconcerting is that I can tell, simply by the pitch, that it is a particularly cold and nasty rain. Ever noticed that before? There's just something different to the audible quality of it. This morning, for example, it had a bit more "slosh" to it. Okay, maybe it's just me, but it sounded bad.

It was a strange weekend for many reasons. For one, the Bears lost badly to a team they should not have lost to. And I'm pretty sure all three of my fantasy football teams lost this weekend, too, simply because I forgot to play. I started to look at them early in the week with the intention of fine tuning my lineups on Friday. But I never got around to it. Considering all the players I had on a bye week, I would've needed to make some major add/drops for it all to work out. Alas, I did not. And I'm sure I'll be paying for it. Oh well.

What else happened? I think I'll take a bullet approach to it all.

  • Borat took over the box office and I'm still not entirely convinced it's a movie I want to see. We did go out with my brother and FSiL on Saturday and we saw Employee of the Month. Not as bad as I was expecting, but it was far from great. And not the best way to return to a theater after nearly two months in absentia. But, then again, there really isn't too much out there right now.
  • Checking through my TiVo's to-do list for the next couple weeks, I was reassured to see two more episodes of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip scheduled to record. It's not dead yet! Yay!
  • The O.C. is moving back to its original Wednesday night slot due to poor ratings during its season premiere last week. It was on? More shockingly, it's actually still on the Fox schedule?
  • Neil Patrick Harris came out of the closet. I never really saw this one coming. I'm happy as hell for him, but was in complete shock when Katie told me.
  • And in more serious news, Saddam Hussein was found guilty (no shocker there) and has been sentenced to hang. Let's just say they better carry out this execution by the end of the year or it will never happen. Actually, I think it might need to happen before the end of the week. Call it "Kevin's Dire Prediction" if you will. But this is just how I see it.

You got me lost and found...

Bearsbensontackle LOST: The Chicago Bears offensive unit.

LAST SEEN: Sunday, October 29, 2006, Soldier Field, Chicago, IL, USA

LAST SEEN WITH: The San Francisco 49ers

SUSPECTS: Nick Saban, Head Coach of the Miami Dolphins

REWARD: One Super Bowl trophy

IF SEEN, PLEASE CONTACT: Lovie Smith, Head Coach of the Chicago Bears

Dear God, please tell me how the 7-0 Bears lose 31-13 to the 1-6 Miami Dolphins?

Check that... now it's the 7-1 Bears and the 2-6 Dolphins.

Grrrrrr...


Return to me...

For the record, I have decided to part ways with the book I was reading. For anyone interested who didn’t read through the comments, the book was Chris Elliott’s The Shroud of the Thwacker. Yes, that Chris Elliott. Cabin Boy Chris Elliott. He wrote a book. And I use “wrote” very loosely.

One of you called me masochistic and said I don’t deserve sympathy. Thank you, BA. I needed that wake-up call. Abrupt and mean-spirited though it may be. *sniffle*

Admittedly, I thought, “how bad can it possibly be?” I’m not a fan of Elliott as an actor so maybe, just maybe, writing will be his chance to shine. Several people have changed career paths and had much greater success in their new arena. I had to give it a shot.

Talk about flawed rationale.

But I’m reading a much better book right now. One I picked up a couple weeks ago. I’m in about 50 pages on this one, too. The difference now is that this is actually worth reading. It’s Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys. I really dug on Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes as much for the writing as for the art. And I wanted to see if Gaiman’s wordsmithing translates to novels. So far, so damn good.

On the TV front, did any of you watch Chevy Chase in Friday’s Law & Order? My BFF (Best Fletch Forever) took a dramatic turn as a drunk, racist motorist being nabbed by the po-po. Sound familiar?

I’m not a Law & Order guy, but the chance to see Chase ripping Mel Gibson a new one was enough to make me tune in. In the immortal words of Chris Knight, “it’s a moral imperative.”


Latest Fun With Dead Trees reviews - Claire reviews Spalding Gray's Life Interrupted: The Unfinished Monologue and I tackle John Grisham's latest The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town.


No one mourns the wicked...

Have you ever had your IT department “commandeer” your computer? For many, this may not be that big a deal. But for me, it was the strangest, most surreal thing I’ve experienced in my years of working with computers. And it’s something that has never happened to me before… until yesterday.

Someone from my IT department called me on the phone saying they needed to use my computer to show someone else how to do something. I asked if they would be coming up here. She kind of giggled and said no, that she would do it from her computer.

All of a sudden, my desktop wallpaper changed to the Windows default and a cursor that was certainly not mine started opening files and windows and programs and doing all kinds of other cool little things and I was just sitting back like a kid on a roller coaster.

When all was said and done, I simply said “wicked” in the phone to her. She thanked me and we hung up.

A few minutes later, she called me back.

IT Woman: Are you from New England?

Me: I lived there for a couple years. How’d you know?

IT Woman: You said “wicked.”

Me: That’s a New England thing?

IT Woman: Up there, it’s “wicked” this and “wicked” that. Where’d you live?

Me: Bristol, Connecticut.

IT Woman: Yep, makes sense.

Not only can she seemingly possess my computer, but she can tell where I lived based on a single-word utterance.

I shall never question the abilities of IT people. Ever.


Because I'm bad, I'm bad, you know it...

When a TV show sucks, you change the channel, right? Technically, you're not really paying for that particular show directly (you pay for television as an overall service), so you feel no real commitment factor whatsoever.

But what do you do when you have paid directly for some sort of entertainment and are let down immediately?

If you forked over the cash to see a movie, do you walk out if it sucks?

If you paid to go to a sporting event and your team of choice is playing terribly, do you curse them and leave?

If you purchased a book at a store and start to read it only to discover how truly absurd it is, do you stop reading?

This last bit is a quandary I'm suffering through right now. I bought a book the other day simply because the review sounded so ridiculous that it might actually be kinda funny.

Yeah, it's not. I'm about 50 pages in (of 350, give or take) and it's painful. On the one hand, I feel I should continue because I paid for it and because it might be nice to have more than just positive reviews on FWDT. On the other hand, I just don't think I can abuse myself that badly.

It is truly a painful reading experience. One where I groan and roll my eyes with each forced attempt at humor. One where I can predict just what ridiculous situation will occur next and then pray I'm wrong, only to discover I'm right.

Do I suffer through for the sake of my book review site and my wallet? Or do I just drop it and run away screaming?

help.


Feed me all night long...

Instead of depressing myself with a post about how pathetic Halloween was this year compared with last, I'm going to just give you a story about something that happened to me over the weekend. Is that cool with you?

Lady at the Jewel Deli Counter: How can I help you today, sir?

Me:
Yes, I’d like a pound of the Chef’s Choice American cheese.

LatJDC:
How would you like that cut?

Me:
Ummm… I’m not sure how to answer that for cheese.

LatJDC:
Well, I can give you a sandwich cut or you can have a giant one pound brick.

Me:
Yeah, let’s go with slices.

LatJDC:
You look hungry, would you like to try a sample?

Me:
Okay, sure. Why not?

LatJDC:
Here’s an end piece. It wouldn’t make for a full slice anyway. I always get in trouble because I do my grocery shopping when I’m hungry.

Me:
That’s not a good idea.

LatJDC:
I wind up buying all the stuff I don’t need and don’t want.

Me:
Correction… you want it, you just don’t need it.

LatJDC:
True. So do you like the cheese?

Me:
Yep. It’s good stuff.

[Katie walks up with a perplexed look on her face.]

LatJDC: Oh, here’s another end piece you can eat.

Me: Um okay.

[I hand the second piece to Katie as slicing ensues.]

LatJDC: Here’s your pound of cheese. Would you like anything else?

Me: How about a half pound of the Sara Lee honey ham?

LatJDC: Sure. Would you like a sample of this as well?

Me: Yeah, okay.

LatJDC: Here’s two slices for you.

Me: Thanks.

[I eat one slice and hand the other to Katie. Katie walks away to continue shopping. Slicing commences.]

Me [looking in the deli case]: Oh wow, you carry jalapeno poppers?

LatJDC: Yes, we carry them on occasion

Me: I’m going to have to remember to try those some time.

LatJDC: Here, try one.

Me: Oh, okay. Thanks.

LatJDC: What do you think?

Me: They’re very good. I’ll have to remember to get those the next time I have friends over.

LatJDC: Well bear in mind that we don’t carry them all the time. And when we do get them, they go fast.

Me: Okay, I’ll remember that. Thanks.

LatJDC: You’re welcome and here’s your ham. Have a great day.

I walk away and find Katie. She eyes me suspiciously and asks, “Is your new girlfriend finally done flirting with you?” I roll my eyes.

And thus begins my apparent affair of the stomach with the deli counter girl at Jewel/Osco.


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