Me & Mine 2010

Not just anybody...

As many of you know, my Hotmail account was hacked and spam was sent out to everyone in my address book. Thankfully that account hadn't been used regularly in years so a vast majority of you never received the message.

However, my Gmail account was also compromised the same day. Nothing has happened using it, but, nearly a week has passed and I still can't access it.

What this means is that I still don't have access to my full e-mail address list or my old Google Reader subscription list.

This is where you come in. While it's fairly easy for me to rebuild my Google Reader list from my blogroll, it has been a while since I've updated it. And I have no e-mail addresses at all. Can you all help me by leaving a comment on this post? No, you don't have to put your e-mail or URL in the body of the comment. You can leave that all in the registration fields for the comment. Your e-mail will not display, but your URL will show up as the link on your name in the posted comment. Thanks!

Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. I need help.


Nothing stays the same...

Windy HavocI'm so relieved I survived the pseudo Storm of the Century.

I know it knocked down a lot of trees and temporarily knocked out power on a pretty small scale, but, otherwise, it was pretty weak.

A lot of huff and puff, but little true blow.

I actually think there is a greater potential for disaster on my drive to the gym in the morning.

On my way there, I have to traverse a subdivision where a lot of the residents like to run along the street in the early morning. And I swear that every freakin' one of them wears black with no reflective tape or patches or lights at all and it's pitch black when I'm driving. Add to that the fact that there are so many curves in the road in this neighborhood that my headlights are usually pointing away from them by the time I come upon them that there is no possible way in all that's holy that I'll ever see them.

I hate to wish ill on people, but one of them needs to be hit by someone so they and their neighbors will learn to either wear light, reflective clothing or USE THE DAMN SIDEWALK!! Nothing against runners, but this particular batch are morons and deserve what's coming to them if they're not going to be intelligent about how they exercise.

Yesterday was an interesting day in terms of Twitter. Their servers were overloaded, as per usual, and I was craving an avatar change.

So I pitched my standard avatar, which had already turned Pepto Pink (tm) in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Twitter replaced it with their default egg avatar. Of course, the overload meant that nothing I was trying to upload was processing so the egg became a nice big joke amongst all my Tweeps.

Until, that is, the first of my uploads finally processed an hour or so later leaving me with a zombie I had created on the Sears Zombie Catalog site.

Then it became a new avatar another hour later when I created a variant of the default Twitter egg with my face hatching out of it.

Avatars Gotta be honest, I really dig the hatching egg -- as corny as it is -- and I'm gonna stick with it!


You will not go to Heaven...

I've been doing this blogging thing for a little more than five years now and if there's one thing I have not figured out, it's how to determine what's going to constitute a good post.

I come up with a post idea in my head and it sounds great. I type it up and I read through it and it comes off as the kind of extreme that I'm aiming to achieve be it highly humorous or rage inciting or emotionally edgy. Whatever.

Then I hit "submit" and zilch.

However, there are many posts that I consider to be not so great. Topics I want to write about and feel the need to post about, but, when I finally write it up, I hate how it sounds. And yet, it is so well received, you'd swear I was gunning for the webby equivalent of a Pulitzer.

This happened with my anniversary dedication to my wife. I really wanted to write something because, well, it was our ninth anniversary and I love my wife and I wanted to let the world know how I felt. But I just could not find the words to express it. In the end, I typed something right off the top of my head and I hated it. I really thought I could do better.

And everyone loved it. Commenters on the blog, commenters on Facebook... hell, my mother-in-law told me it made her cry.

So, um, what gives?

Has anyone figured out this crazy little thing called blogging?

When someone tells you that something is not one way, the assumption is that it's the other way, right?

For example, if someone says that something is not good and doesn't specify any further, then it's bad, isn't it?

I was listening to the radio on the way home from work tonight when a new song by the Old 97s called "Champaign, Illinois" came on. The chorus of the song is "You will not go to Heaven; you'll go to Champaign, Illinois."

In my mind, that means that so far as Rhett Miller is concerned, Champaign is the equivalent of Hell. It seems like a totally viable assumption to me.

So I guess I can add Champaign to a growing list of places I should stay away from in order to protect my mortal soul. This list also includes the entire state of Iowa if Kevin Costner's response to Ray Liotta in Field of Dreams follows the same logic.

Field_of_dreams

Liotta: "Is this Heaven?"

Costner: "No, it's Iowa."

Think of it in mathematical terms if you must... Iowa does not equal Heaven, ergo Iowa equals Hell.

Hey, I'm just the messenger here.

Oh, and somehow I doubt this little TUA will wind up as one of my more well-received posts. Heh.


But that don't change the way I feel about you...

About five years ago, Katie and I finally made the jump to owning a TiVo. Well, two of them actually.

Now, we can't imagine our lives without them. I can't even remember what it was like to constantly set our VCRs for shows we wanted to watch and constantly swapping out tapes and trying to remember what was on each of them when we wanted to go back and watch them.

Life was so primitive.

But the best part of owning a TiVo, or any DVR for that matter? Fast forward!

Sure, we could fast forward through recorded shows on our VCR, but being able to do it during semi-live TV? Ohmigod. It's so fantastic! We will intentionally not watch a show when it airs live for about 15 minutes on a half hour or 30 minutes on an hour show. Why? So we have enough gap on the airing so that we can fast forward through all the commercials.

And during campaign season, it's an absolute sanity saver!

We have a couple of particularly heated battles going on right now in the State of Illinois for the Governor's mansion and one of our U.S. Senate seats. The two running main candidates for Governor are Pat Quinn (incumbent, somewhat) and Bill Brady while the two vying for the Senate seat are Alexi Giannoulias (sp?) and Mark Kirk.

These candidates are fighting tooth and nail and pulling out every stop in the book in their quest to make the other look like a complete assclown by dragging their name through the mud and slop and excrement and any other nasty substance you can think of. You remember how dirty the 2008 Presidential campaign was? Compared to these two races, that was a gentlemen's duel.

Guess what? It's working. I think all four of them are jackasses and I don't want any of the four of them in office.

Sadly I have little choice in the matter. The two-party system that exists in this country makes it impossible for any third-party candidate to be a viable option. Hell, in most cases, we never even hear of their names.

I wish just one of them would come out with a simple, generic ad in which they say, "Hi, my name is Bobby Dunleavey [not a real candidate... I think] and I'm not Bill Brady or Pat Quinn." Honestly, at this point, that might be enough to sway me. I seriously don't want any of the available candidates to take office.

Or maybe I'll just start a write-in campaign for Dave2.

At least I know what to expect from him...

WineWhine
[please don't hate/sue me for using your graphic, Dave]

Katie and I are signing up for our first ever fun run!

It's the TriCity Family Services Second Annual Snowflake Shuffle 5K Run & Walk on December 4, 2010.

Why are we doing it? There are several reasons...

  1. It's scheduled for the day before my birthday.
    If I survive, I can really celebrate my birthday feeling like I've done something cool. If I die, I never have to turn 36 years old. Yay!
  2. It's a mile from our house.
    I don't really have to worry much about travel or parking or lodging or anything. And it's so close, we can actually practice on the planned route.
  3. The route map, oh the route map.
    Speaking of route, if this route map (PDF) doesn't sell you on the race, nothing will. C'mon, is it seriously that difficult to create a Google Map Mashup and make it publically available and link or embed it on the site?

 Wish us luck!


Who are you...

It's kinda funny how many people seem to agree with the idea that my dad and Rob Reiner are the same person.

Friends, family, the whole shebang.

But the ultimate confirmation came yesterday from my dad himself when I told him that I had put a picture of him next to one of Reiner on my blog. His response? "I saw it... those weren't both of me?"

Um, no. 

Heh.

I like Goodwill.

You can find some cool stuff at Goodwill.

Stuff that you might not even be looking for. 

For example, this past week I stopped in to look just for kicks and what did I find?

Low-priced porn!

Hey, at least Goodwill is acknowledging the sexual needs of the low income'd. Right nice of them, don'cha think?


Baby, we were born to run...

Yesterday, Katie and I were part of the 2010 Chicago Marathon! Yep, we dressed in our workout best, headed into the city, and raced around from point to point along the 26.2 mile course laid out throughout the city.

Of course, we did this to cheer for our friends and take a bunch of pictures and, later, go out together for dinner. Run it? Are you nuts? We left that to Eric, Michelle, and Kim. We're not masochists.

We started the day by racing to the 13-mile marker around 200 S. Wacker in hopes of seeing all the people we were hoping to cheer for. We did manage to find Eric just as he was passing, but could not find Kim or Michelle.

Then we headed to just south of the corner of Jackson and Halsted near the 17-mile mark. There we found Eric again, but Katie also saw the infamous Kimbot! She was just passing us as Katie yelled "Kim!" and Kim turned and moaned "Apgars!" then came over and practically collapsed in our arms for a giant, sweaty hug during which she said "it's so horrible out here." We tried to stifle a little giggle as it really wasn't the time despite the humorous way in which she declared it. Then someone took our picture together and she was off.

101010ChicagoMarathon12
[photo courtesy of Kim; not that I asked, but I think she's okay with it]

Still didn't find Michelle, though. Where was she hiding?

MarathonOur final stop was on the bridge before the final turn right under the 300m To Go sign. There we saw Eric and Kim as well as a coworker of mine and her boyfriend.

And, yet, still no Michelle.

I think she was avoiding us. *sniffle*

If anything, I'd say my one complaint was the lack of a well-planned out way to get from the bridge to the finish line area. Everything was blocked off and guarded. To traverse the 300m from where we stood to the finish line would've been nearly a mile of walking.

We said fuhgeddaboudit and headed to the River North area and dined at a place called Dos Diablos. Quite tasty Mexican food, if we do say so ourselves.

But we did have a lot of fun at the Marathon and watching everyone run was quite inspiring. People of all ages and sizes were racing. Enough of a variety that I'm convinced I could actually run it with the proper training. Doesn't mean I will, just that I believe I could. I do think Katie is interested in training if not for a full marathon, then definitely for a half.

Sometimes, I think the best part of the race is reading all the stories that surface after the fact. Like the barefoot runner or marathon cheaters or the blindfolded runner or bib swappers. The fun truly never ends.

Maybe I'll become a race-day journalist! That can be my contribution.

Well, maybe not. Enjoy the photos all the same.

If you can't see the Flash slideshow above, click through to the Flickr album.

I've discovered something, baths suck.

After getting home from the Marathon, Katie and I decided to clean up. She opted for a shower while I took my first bath in probably five years.

No, don't misread, this was not my first time bathing, just my first bath. I much prefer showers. And I have several reasons why...

  1. Baths are dirty. How do you clean yourself when what you just washed off of one part of you is now floating in the water you are still using to clean another part? This gets me thinking about public swimming pools and hot tubs. Those things have gotta be festering with flith. In many cases, they're exposed to the elements so who knows what happens then. Plus you get a ton of different people using them without water being changed. Sure, they "chlorinate" them clean, but you're only allowed to use so much chlorine before it becomes harmful for a human to use the pool. So if the chlorination isn't strong enough to be harmful to humans, can it truly be powerful enough to kill off our filth? Just sayin'.
  2. You get cold quickly. Not all of you gets covered at all times. Especially when you're my size. Always something exposed. And the whole water displacement thing gets me every time. Overfilling is a constant worry.
  3. It's boring. I can't sit there and use my iPhone because I'd probably drop it in. We don't have a TV in the bathroom. I don't want to read a book as it will find a way to get wet no matter how "dry" I might be. And, not being a kid, I can't exactly drop a bunch of Star Wars figures in the tub to play with anymore. Well, I guess I could, but I'd be locked up and the key thrown away rather quickly.

Showers rock. 'nuff said.


Hit me baby one more time...

Welcome to Snippet Wednesday. Just barely making the cut (again), but I'm here!

ALDI
Katie was out trying to use our bank card to buy something today when it was declined. We theorized that it was just a communication error with the scanner, but then it happened at a second place. She called the bank and found out that both of our bank cards had been canceled and new ones issued due to a data compromise on the part of a vendor. While at work, Katie had two customers come in paying by check because their bank cards had also been canceled by their respective banks. They told Katie it was due to ALDI Grocery Stores.

We had seen something on a news teaser last week, but never saw the actual story, so I Googled it and wound up with a bunch of stories about a debit card/PIN number swiping scam that had been occuring at several Chicagoland ALDIs (ours in St. Charles included) as well as some in Indianapolis. Oh yay! As a preventative measure, most banks canceled the cards of customers that had been used at potentially effected stores. Nothing had happened to our account, but it did make us wonder if this was how my bank card got spoofed last year. Hmmm...

So a tip to all you ALDI shoppers, USE CASH!

Brittany
Recently, Katie and I started watching Glee. We're pretty much all caught up on season 1 (missed a couple episodes, unfortunately) and we're up to date on season 2. It's an interesting show. Very well done and the actors are pretty good (even though I want to bitchslap Rachel Barry nearly every episode). I can understand why people are Gleeks over it.

Brittany But if there's any one aspect of the show that Katie and I love more than anything, it's Brittany. For those of you who haven't watched, she's one of the Cheerios (the school's cheerleaders) that is actually part of the New Directions (the glee club) and she is to this show what Ralphie Wiggum is to The Simpsons. Both are minor characters that usually meld into the background save for an occasional one liner that is typically more memorable than anything else in the show. She's got some true gems like...

"Sometimes I forget my middle name."

"I was pretty sure Dr. Pepper was a dentist."

"Does he mean like a burglar alarm?" (when told to use protection during sex)

"This room looks like that room on that spaceship when I got probed."

"It's a male duck." (when asked what a ballad is)

This week's episode, though, was Brittany's time to shine as it was all about Britney Spears. When all done up in terms of costume, hair, and makeup, I often couldn't tell the difference between Brittany and Britney. Eerily uncanny. But, dayamn! Brittany was rockin' the episode. The actress who plays her, Heather Morris, is a former dancer for Beyonce and it shows. She's got serious moves. I've seen her dance in previous episodes, but this was an entirely different ball of wax. All Brittany, all the time. I liked it.

Kevin
I got an e-mail the other day from a guy who shares my last name. I opened and read it and he detailed for me a family vacation they had taken, how his family was doing, that his dog had died and how he was feeling as a result.

Then he wished me a happy 62nd birthday.

Woah. Hold the phone. My birthday's not until December. And, while I know I'm getting up there in age, I'm certainly no 62.

Turns out he was trying to contact a different Kevin Apgar. One whose name I've seen many times when I've Googled myself and he even used to return higher results than me. Not anymore. I've kinda become cooler than him.

I explained this all in a reply e-mail to my mystery sender.

And I offered condolences on the loss of Gus. Sounded like a good dog.

WWF
Now that Katie and I both have iPhones, we've taken to playing a few games here and there. Our latest addiction is Words With Friends, which is basically a spin on Scrabble. Just a little looser in terms of useable words.

If you're a WWF fiend, look us up and challenge us. I'm "kapgar" and Katie is "ktkat216."

Okay, I'm outta here. Talk to you soon. Hopefully sooner rather than later.


Do you know your enemy...

Yesterday, Katie and I did a massively thorough cleaning of the house. Thorough to the point where I was up on a ladder cleaning the Golden Gate picture frames and the high windows and soffet in our living room as well as the arced window and chandelier lamp in our entryway. I was taking care of dust and grime that hadn't been touched in a while.

That's about the only thing I can think of that we did that might have caused this deep-chest cough that I now have. It's a cough that I was able to control relatively decently during the day with liquids. It seemed entirely manageable when we went to see Easy A with my brother and SiL. I think I may have only coughed once or twice during the entire movie.

That evening was a different matter altogether. Katie and I were watching football and reading books in bed and my cough came back full force. So I took some allergy meds, a swig of Delsym (a cough suppressant), and located a blister pack of Chloraseptic. Again, I seemed to get it under control.

Then came 3 a.m., and one of my worst coughing fits ever. It wasn't even coughing that woke me up. I'd had another one of my ridiculously vivid dreams. It was very cool and one whose storyline continued in my head even as I lay in bed awake. I had to get this thing written down, I had absolutely no desire to forget it whatsoever. So I made the damn-fool mistake of getting up and heading to the bathroom where I could sit and jot down what I remembered from my dream without waking Katie.

Smooth move, Ex-Lax.

The shift from prone to upright position clearly knocked everything loose in my lungs and throat and the coughing began again in full force.

Now, not only was I unable to get back to sleep because of my coughing (and the fact that my brain was continuing to mentally write the dream I had), but it was also keeping Katie awake.

And thus the story of why I'm in the living room posting to my blog at 4 a.m.

This should make for a fine day of work, don'cha think?

There is no question in my mind that the Chicago Bears lost the season opener to the Detroit Lions. It may be marked down as a Bears' win in the record books, but it just wasn't. Calvin Johnson's last-second reception in the endzone, I don't care what the rulebook says, was a touchdown. That rule is bunk and I can't believe the refs enforced it in good conscience.

However, this week, the Bears beat the Dallas Cowboys fair and square and it felt sooooo good. (Sorry Ren!)

I don't much like the Cowboys. And, although I can say the feeling of "hate" that I once felt for them has abated to the point where I believe I can actually respect them as a team and I do like several individual players, Evil-monkeyit still feels nice to have that one team that I can think of as "the enemy." Someone to point at and snarl as though I were the evil monkey in Chris' closet in The Family Guy.

Why the animosity? I don't really know why. It's not like they did something to me personally. I cannot nail it down to a certain event. Not like when Duke's Christian Laettner dropped in that buzzer beater against my Kentucky Wildcats in the 1992 NCAA Tournament (I won't even get into his stepping habits).

Perhaps it's less an event and more of an attitude that disgusted me about the Cowboys. I just didn't like the triumvirate of evil that was Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and, especially, Michael Irvin. I couldn't stand the arrogance of that team. Yes, they won. They were a great team. They were, supposedly, "America's Team" (clearly not my America), but I hated them all the same.

I have my "evil" teams in most sports leagues. Obviously the Duke Blue Devils in NCAA Basketball. The Iowa Hawkeyes in NCAA Football. The Atlanta Braves in the MLB. The Detroit Pistons in the NBA. The Philadelphia Flyers in the NHL. Some with reason, some without.

But there is no team I hated more during their heyday than the Cowboys.

So yesterday's win felt good. Very good.

Again... sorry, Ren.


Running into the sun, but I'm running behind...

I have a very vivid dreamstate when I sleep.

There's sometimes a ridiculous level of detail to my dreams and I also have a series of recurrent themes and settings. An example of the latter is that I've dreamed many times of a place that is clearly the campus of my alma mater, but, it's also not. There are all these changes... new buildings, a couple new roads, that sort of thing. And these changes remain so consistent amongst my dreams that involve this campus as a setting that I could practically draw up a map.

This altered-state campus played a part in my dream last night.

Apparently, I was running a marathon through the campus and surrounding town. And it was a messed-up marathon, too. There were guides there to help you know which way to go, but even they weren't sure what was the official route. So they just kept pointing people in a variety of directions and clusters of runners were crossing paths and colliding.

That's not even the weirdest part. About five miles into this "marathon," my clothes disappeared. I looked down and I was running stark naked.

But wait, it gets stranger... I didn't stop. I just kept running. Around real parts of campus. Through imagined portions, too. In buildings. Through classrooms. Along streets. To quote Forrest Gump, "I was run-nayng."

And I finished the marathon, all 26.2 miles of it. The last 21+ naked. Oh, and after the marathon, I became one of the most searched topics on Google and a trending topic on Twitter.

In my dream, I was so proud.

In real life, I'm at a loss.

I pray there's no possible interpretation of this dream.

On the way home last night from a signing with Chicago Blackhawks Center Dave Bolland, I decided to stop at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (known as "Fermilab" around these parts). It's not like I have business there. In fact, my grasp of science is so bad that it would likely be in the lab's best interests to keep me far, far away.

However, they have a buffalo ranch on their grounds! For years, I've wanted to drop by and take photos of them. I've never really seen a buffalo before, other than in a zoo. And, for some reason, I never stopped by. It's on my way home, for God's sake.

Last night, on a whim, I decided to give it a shot.

Have you ever seen a buffalo up close? They're amazing creatures. Stunningly majestic. They saw me coming and stopped what they were doing to walk up to the fence and check me out, too. I snapped dozens of shots of them. Sorry, I have yet to offload the photos from my camera, but I do have one from my iPhone to share.

Eventually, like most other living creatures, they got bored with me and moved on. And they displayed their disgust over me quite explicitly. Several peed a giant yellow stream akin to what a garden hose might output. Another reared up his hind leg to fully expose his ass and then wrenched his head around to lick himself in my general direction. Have you ever seen a buffalo's butthole? I can now say I have.

But, the fact that something that big was also that flexible was kinda mind blowing. Remember back when George Bush used "Shock and Awe" in a public speech? He wasn't talking about the war in the Middle East, he was talking about buffalo perfect circles. Wow.


Tastes so good, make a grown man cry...

So how was your extended weekend (well, that question is aimed more at my U.S. readership)? Katie and I spent some time with our families on Saturday and Sunday. However, Monday was for her and I. And we celebrated Labor Day by laboring in the kitchen, over a large pan of Chicken a la King and a homemade pie.

I would like to take a moment to focus on the word "homemade." Why? Because this was Katie's first attempt at making a whole pie from scratch. She's made pies before, but she used to buy a finished crust or the premade, rolled-out dough. This time, it was all by hand. And it was sooooo good.

Would you like to see?

Photo365 Day 242: Pie Maker
Pouring the fruit filling into the pie. For the record, that's a mixture of peaches, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries... all purchased fresh and whole at Trader Joe's.

The Finished Product
The finished pie after baking. It burst through a little bit. Oh well. And that's a cinnamon and sugar dusting on top.

Yum!
Sliced and a la moded!

Oh yes, we labored hard. And enjoyed the fruits of said labors very much!

Don't forget to wipe the drool off your keyboards. ;-)


Walk like an Egyptian...

Katie and I have been noticing some weird little things regarding nature lately.

DragonflySex For one, there has been a marked increase in the number of dragonflies this year. Evinrude is everywhere! Usually you see a few once in a while around these parts. But, lately, it's hundreds per day. And they're sex starved! You know what I mean. You've seen the "double dragonfly" in flight, haven't you? Horny little buggers. [thanks to the Governor of Maryland for the shot at right]

Crickets have also proven very numerous this summer. Katie says she sees them in some odd places, too. Hopping all over the inside of where she works and the like. She's been working at her current job for eight years and she's never seen it like this. Sure, they can just come in the door when a customer does, but they don't usually do it. Now? Oh yeah, brazen as all get out.

And, finally, there's frogs. I've seen a frog in our front walkway probably one out of every five times I go out there in the last few months. And I don't even use our front walkway that often. So imagine what it might be if I paid regular attention. The other night, Katie and I went for a 45-minute walk and, as we were walking, seven different frogs hopped out of our path. After a while, since the sun was setting, Katie and I were placing bets as to whether or not particular lumps on the ground in front of us would turn out to be frogs.

Something about this feels like it should be the onset of the apocalypse. Dunno why. Just does.

Oh, and I came across a locust carcass yesterday. Coincidence? I think not.

I took a lot of photos this weekend.

Way too many, in fact.

On Saturday, I went with my mom and her group of photographers to the Egyptian Theatre and an old train depot in my former college town of DeKalb. It was a lot of fun, despite being hotter than Hades. And I did manage to nab some shots. Some? More like 250 of them. I have pared it down a bit, but not by much. Here you go...

And, yesterday, Katie and I went with some of my coworkers to the Kane County Cougars (Class A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics) game against the Peoria Chiefs. Sure, the home team Cougars lost 8-4, but it was fun and offered up a few photo ops. Again, here you go...

Off to the gym. Adios.


Burnin' down the house...

Pray for us.

Katie and I signed up for two months of Bikram Yoga (read: the hot, sweaty stuff that Sting loves to do; aside from sex with Trudy, of course).

Katie has been wanting to try yoga for quite some time since I've been loving it for two years now. But it can be expensive (mine is a very cost-effective class through my workplace, but she's not eligible to participate) or limiting in terms of class times available especially with Katie's constantly changing work schedule.

However, the other day, a friend updated their Facebook profile with information about a yoga studio in Naperville near where I work that was offering two months of unlimited classes for under $50 via Groupon. How can you say no to that? The price is amazing. So we both signed up.

And I'm dreading its start.

Immensely.

Me + heat no makey a happy Kapgar.

We're becoming fitness nuts. We're hoping to do Bikram at least a couple times per week plus our five mornings per week of working out at the gym. And I still do my regular yoga one day per week.

We'd damn well better lose a ton of weight!

I ran into a friend the other day and as we're all wont to do, I asked him how he was doing.

His reply? "I'm alright. The rest of the world is all wrong."

I LIKE THAT!

I must start using that immediately.


All in all, we're just brilliant thieves...

WANTED:
One person willing to write some book reviews for me on my Goodreads.com account. I have fallen a bit behind and really need to get off my lazy ass, but, well...

Titles that need reviews include:

  • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (book 2) by Bryan Lee O'Malley
  • Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness (book 3) by Bryan Lee O'Malley
  • LEGO: A Love Story by Jonathan Bender
  • Practical Demonkeeping by Christopher Moore

PREREQUISITES:

  • The ability to write a fantastically compelling book review.
  • It must have emotion and charm and wit.
  • It must sound like it was written by me, which is what I'm going to say it was anyway.
  • It must speak to my true inner feelings about the time I spent reading these books. Since I have no time to detail how I felt about them, you must figure this out on your own.
  • It must conform to AP Style Guide standards. Not really.
  • It must be good, duh.
COMPENSATION:
The internal knowledge that you have written a fantastic review that will make others either rush out to buy and read it immediately or avoid it like the plague. I emphasize "internal" because once these reviews are written, they become the property of Kapgar, Inc. and you will receive no public credit for the writing you have done. I will disavow any knowledge that you participated in this endeavor.

Oh, and no money will exchange hands. Warm fuzzies only.

TIMELINE:
Now. I need them as soon as possible. The books have already been read and my Goodreads page is making me look like a slacker since I haven't updated it with a review in a couple months. Hell, I never even notified people on my page that I was reading any of those four books. How crappy am I? So the sooner, the better. Get crackin'.

SUBMISSIONS:
Please offer up writing samples and/or completed reviews in the comments. If I like them, I'll make sure to copy them into my Goodreads account and delete the comment from this blog to erase any evidence that you wrote it before Google has a chance to index it into its eternal memory.

Good luck!

(For the record, I am not really soliciting reviews. I'm just hoping this will give me the proper motivation to get off my butt and write them myself.)

Cougars A friend of mine just gave me two tickets to see the Kane County Cougars this Sunday. Cool!

Katie and I live a mere five miles from the stadium, and yet we hardly go. I think it's been six or seven years since we've been to a Cougars game.

For the record, the Cougars are a Class A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics. And they're playing the Peoria Chiefs, the Class A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs.

Looking forward to some photos!


Oh-oh, wait a minute, Mister Postman...

Can someone please explain something to me?

Hooters_logo How did Hooters become a family restaurant?

I know this isn't a new discovery. It's been this way for several years now, but I never quite understood how it happened.

I remember being back in high school and a bunch of us from the football team would drive out to Downers Grove with the intent of scarfing down wings and doing a little "bird watching" (yeah, that's what we'll call it) at the only Hooters restaurant outside of Chicago we could easily drive to.

We felt like miscreants and pervs, knowing we were there primarily to see women in tight-fitting, scoop-necked shirts and very tight and showy orange shorts. But isn't that why everyone was there? Businessmen, college guys, married men... but all men.

Nothing about the place has really changed. Same food, same atmosphere, same outfits.

But certainly not the same clientele.

Katie and I went there with my dad the other day.

Yes, Katie and I. A guy and his wife in a place with scantily clad women.

Walking in ahead of us was a guy and his wife and a baby in a babyseat.

There was a table full of high school aged girls there.

Guys had their women with them.

The walls were adorned with women's wear and kids gear including onesies, bibs (which, back in the day, probably should've been marketed to male customers), booties (get your mind out of the gutter), and more.

There was a time, just a decade ago, when the fiancee of a friend of mine completely nixed the idea of him having a bachelor party at Hooters. Nuh-uh! No way! I think she would've been more agreeable to a stripper than she was to Hooters.

Are we, as a society, actually becoming more accepting of the semi-naked female body? If so, what's next? Family night at the local peep show? Family discounts on lap dances?

This e-mail came in to me today. I was so touched!

Hello, (miracle2dd@att.net)
My name is miracle, i saw your profile today (www.mikebentley.com)and became interested in you,i will also like to know you more,and if you can send an email to my email address,i will give you my pictures here is my email address (miracle2dd@att.net) I believe we can move from here! Awaiting for your mail to my email address here.
miracle.

This is when it's painful to be a proofreader.

I guess it would be a miracle if I ever actually received spam with proper grammar and spelling, wouldn't it?


Lightning crashes...

I was *this* close!

[imagine me holding out my thumb and index finger reallllyyyy close together]

Yes, that's how close I'm pretty sure I came to seeing a funnel cloud last night.

But did I?

No. Of course not. 23 years living in Tornado Alley and nary a funnel cloud have I seen.

But if ever there was a storm during which I should have seen one, last night's was it.

It was nasty.

By 4:30 p.m., it looked like 10 p.m. Dark clouds came rolling in and snuffed out the sun and all clear skies entirely.

By 5:30, I could hear the rain sheeting down on the flat roof of the Target where I was shopping.

By 5:45, tornado sirens were sounding and Target security was ushering people to the back. I, like the moron I am, went outside to check it all out. Swirling clouds, thunder, lightning, you name it.

By 6:00, I had received a call from my mom asking if I'd gotten home alright. I wasn't there yet, but I said I was on my way. She told me that she and my dad had seen about two or three funnel clouds. They were only about 10 miles from where I had been. That blows.

By 6:45, I was home and watching the skies erupt a bit more.

By 8:00, it had cleared up and an orange-hued, post-apocalyptic-looking sky replaced the darkness.

Mother Nature astounds me sometimes. Check them out...

A storm of sorts is bearing down upon Chicago hockey.

Now that the season is done, trades and releases and reassignments are happening.

The first came thundering down last night with the reported trade of Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, and Brent Sopel along with a prospect I've never heard of to the Atlanta Thrashers for Jeremy Morin, Marty Reasoner, a first-round draft pick, and a second-round draft pick.

I love all three of those guys and don't want to see them go. Yes, I understand that it frees up $5.3M from our salary cap and gives us four draft picks in the first two rounds of the draft. And I have heard great things about both Morin and Reasoner. But it still sucks. I like Big Buff (and I cannot lie - ha!).

It's a sad day for Blackhawks fans. *sniffle*


Commando, involved again...

I would just like to tell you that there is little that compares to the exhilaration of starting your day with no underwear.

After my workout at the gym, I went to shower and get ready for work. I took my clean clothes from my gym bag and realization set in like Quikrete… dammit, I have no underwear.

What could I do save for starting my day commando?

Yes, I did shower.

Yes, I did dress.

Yes, I had no protection.

And, for you women reading out there, you will never see a man proceed more cautiously than he does when he is zipping his pants while wearing no underwear.

Oh, yes, I did manage to find a 24-hour Wal-Mart and I stopped to pick up emergency drawers on the way to work. There are times when going commando is okay. Wearing slacks that are dry-clean only is not one of those times.

As much as I hate to do it, let it be said on high that when I had an undies emergency, my unlikely hero was *gulp* Wal-Mart!

Despite my clean underwear, I feel so dirty.

I want.

I want.

I want.

Did I mention, I want?


We’ve been through this before…

As a photographer, one of the things I hate most is seeing or envisioning a great shot and not having my gear around.

This happened to me yesterday. I was taking full advantage of a traffic-avoidance back road when I saw this cool broken skateboard on the curb along the side of our local Best Buy. It was the back quarter of a deck with the truck and wheels still attached and it was just sitting there completely useless and immobile.


Not my photo, but you get the point of how the broken 1/4 deck looked.

I hit my brakes and reached over to my passenger seat to grab my camera. And it wasn't there.

I forgot that I had moved my gear over to Katie's car when I took my truck in for an oil change a half hour prior. And it was still sitting in Katie's car while the shredded board was sitting there hoping that I could provide it at least a modicum of usefulness by setting it up for a photograph. Alas, I could not.

I made a point of leaving home a little earlier than normal for the gym this morning so I could drive back to the Best Buy with my camera and take a picture. It was actually raining out this morning, adding to the potential despair inherent in the situation. Again, I could not. Some damn person actually cleaned up and either ditched the board in the dumpster or took it home so they could have an extra truck and wheels.

Grrrr.

Have you ever listened to a song named for a person and wondered what it would be like to be in a situation where you could actually use that song on them? For example, back in my undergrad years, one of my classmates was named Cecilia. Of course I serenaded her in class with the horror that is my singing voice belting out some Simon and Garfunkel.

And she threatened to kill me if I ever did it again.

I believed her.

Sweet girl.

There are other songs as well. I always wanted to date a Beth so I could sing her some KISS during those rough patches in our relationship.

This morning, I was reminded of yet another song along those lines. One that I haven't heard in almost 20 years and nearly went into shock when I heard again. It was Europe's "Carrie." Yes, the band that sang "The Final Countdown" actually did have a few other minor hits, arguably. This was one of them.

Talk about a fantastic break-up song. And I never dated a Carrie that I could use this on. Sad.


So never judge a book by it's cover...

I had heard stories about Danny.

He lived a couple houses away from Katie's family.

And, when he grew up, he was finally given the opportunity to discover who he truly believed himself to be.

The other night, I got to meet him... or "her," to be more precise.

I didn't get to meet her for long as she was prepping for a show that night. She was going to sing a Kelly Clarkson song I wasn't familiar with to a crowd in a nearby suburb. She has also performed as Cher and Amy Winehouse, among others.

But, despite her rush, Danny was more than willing to strike a pose for Katie, her parents, and me. Danny welcomed it, in fact, as you'll see in these photos Katie and I took.

Danny

Danny

Photo365 Day 143: Danny Drag

There's a first time for everything, eh?


The boys get lonely after you leave...

I've got my jersey and my playoff beard ready to go. Sure, the beard has been trimmed a couple times during the playoff run, but it's still there.

Go Hawks!

Norman's got his support showing.

Go Hawks!

I've got the support of fellow bloggers and Tweeters from all different areas such as Dave from Washington State, Sybil Law from Cincinnati, @hellohahanarf from Pittsburgh, and LeSombre from Ottawa, among many others. Chicagoist blogged that the Lincoln Park Zoo has weighed in. Dave even drew up a DaveToon showing support.

DaveBlackhawks

Yeah, I'm ready for those Stanley Cup Finals to begin tonight with my Chicago Blackhawks squaring off against the Philadelphia Flyers.

GO 'HAWKS!

But I want to admit that while I've been a Blackhawks fan since moving to Chicago in 1987, something feels weird about it.

Throughout middle school and high school, I wore my fandom on my sleeve, literally, by wearing an old Blackhawks jersey to school every so often. I lived and loved Blackhawks hockey.

But I stopped following it for a while. Don't get me wrong, I never stopped liking the 'Hawks and being proud that they were my home team, but from the mid-90s until 2007, it was very difficult to be an active Blackhawks fan... a true and ardent supporter.

What a lot of you may not realize is that former Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz jacked up ticket prices and blacked out home games in the Chicago area. We couldn't watch our Hawks without dishing out a veritable fortune. And, considering they were playing like crap with some horrible personnel decisions being made, nobody was willing to dish out that small fortune.

I did go to a few games here and there, but they weren't nearly enough to whet my hockey whistle, as it were. And I wound up attending more games of our local AHL franchise, the Chicago Wolves, who, let's face it, were not only a much cheaper ticket, but a much more exciting and winning team.

I still longed for my Blackhawks to return to relevance or at least return to a place where I could watch them again on TV.

BlackhawksLogo This moment came in 2007 when Bill Wirtz died and ownership of the team was taken over by his son, Rocky. The Rock experimented with a few home games being broadcast during the 2007-2008 season and he then went full bore having pretty much every home game broadcast on Comcast SportsNet or WGN or Versus. Combine this with some very intelligent personnel decisions and a very high degree of marketing and we finally saw real NHL-level hockey in Chicago again.

And my fandom returned to full-frenzy status.

Of course, that first full year of televised coverage saw the 'Hawks make it to the Western Conference Finals where they lost to the Detroit Red Wings (thank you, Pittsburgh, for beating up on them in the Stanley Cup for me). And, to me, I almost felt dirty because I once again began to be a fan during a season where they did really well. I felt almost like a bandwagoner, a fair-weather fan.

Is this feeling legit? Should I worry about this? It's not my fault I couldn't be a hardcore fan, right? I fully blame Bill Wirtz for taking that from me and yet I still feel like I should've been a better fan during those lean years. But how could I? I was either in college, or grad school, or newly married, or a recent homebuyer. I just couldn't afford to regularly attend 'Hawks games and I certainly couldn't watch them. I did attend a game every season or two. But the only other coverage I had was minimal at best in newspapers or on the evening news, and we all know how scant the reporting is on a team that plays like crap.

I'm not really fair-weather, am I? I'm simply a victim of circumstance, right? Please say no to the first and yes to the second. 

Well, whatever.

GO 'HAWKS!!

This morning, after Katie left for work, I fell back in bed and watched The Empire Strikes Back. It's the first time in far too many years since I've seen the film. The first time I've watched it on an HDTV.

No, it's not the official DVD version that Lucas released with all the new footage added to it.

An old friend of mine took the THX-remastered laser discs and committed them to DVD several years ago and gave me copies of the entire original trilogy. I treasure these DVDs as they never have been and likely never will be available to the public. They're not perfect, sure, but I was pretty damned surprised at how good they looked on an HDTV, all things considered.

I love The Empire Strikes Back.


Even as I left Florida...

I think I shall tackle the post about our recent vacation to Florida all Clint Eastwood style!

The Good

  • We got to see Nano for several days
  • All three of our flights arrived ahead of schedule (anywhere from 15 minutes to a half hour)
  • We rented a really nice 2010 Ford Fusion and I was quite comfortable driving it
  • We had free Sirius/XM satellite radio in the rental car and I fell in love with the Lithium channel (24)
  • We spent several days poolside and got tans but did not burn
  • I took a boatload of photos and managed to complete my weekly photo challenge with Disney photos
  • We did not overspend on anything really
  • We hit up two parks in the Disney compound - Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom
  • We pretty much bought nothing at Disney other than food
  • We learned how to play the system at Disney for free ice water
  • We hit up most of the major rides at the two parks and even rode several of them twice with time to spare
  • I watched as someone was viewing porn on their laptop computer at the airport
  • We started and finished season four of Monk on our portable DVD player
  • We rarely used our cellphones and didn't even carry them on some days
  • We left our laptop at home - you cannot imagine how freeing this felt

The Bad

  • We waited a little too long and our airfare jumped up a bit from when we originally priced it
  • We pretty much bought nothing at Disney other than food (food is expensive and we were hoping to get at least a little Christmas shopping done)
  • We had to deal with huge crowds at the park - the worst was Animal Kingdom where we were sardines in a sweat lodge
  • We saw parental neglect at its worst as parents sat talking or browsing the web on their phones as their kids ran around wrecking havoc (it's hard to blame the kids when the parents are paying zero attention)
  • Our Illinois iPass still isn't compatible with Florida's tollway autopay system (works in 14 other states, though)
  • Dinoland USA just does not fit in with the rest of Animal Kingdom at all; it upends what is otherwise a nicely themed park
  • Strollers are evil - people should be given size limitations for strollers in crowded public areas like amusement parks as well as on public transportation
    Clarification (before parents tear me a new one) - I have no problem with strollers on general principle, but the Cadillacs these parents were pushing around taking up literally 6-10 square feet of space were just ridiculous. We saw one parent fold over a tandem stroller and shove it into a tram then, with baby in hand, climb over the top of it and slide down into the last available seat to get to the parking lot. He not only held up the tram for five minutes extra (with the conductor instructing him to wait for a new one where he would have plenty of room) but packed in all the other people to a point of discomfort and endangered his kid while scaling Mount Stroller.
The Ugly
  • The heat - it was ridiculously hot and it was only May. We were sweating horribly both days at Disney and our energy levels got sapped very quickly

The Photos

'nuff said.

As I arrived home tonight after work, I noticed a little bird fluttering around near our front door. I walked up there and, in a flight of fear, just started flapping everywhere and wound up running into walls and doors and everything you can imagine.

For his own good, I tried to shoo him away from the entryway and into the wide open outdoors. Instead he flew into my garage and would not (or could not) leave. He kept flying into the walls or into the side of my truck or flapping like mad against the bottom edge of our garage door. At one point, he clung to the door and hung upside down like a bat.

I finally got him outside, but couldn't help but wonder if he was blind or if it was just severe fear and confusion. I wasn't sure what to make of it.

Here he is...

Blind Bird

I hope he's okay.


Communication breakdown, it's always the same...

The other day, Katie was examining the beard that I still am growing (hey, the Blackhawks have advanced to the second round of the playoffs; my loyalty remains) when the following conversation occurred.

Katie: Ahhhh! You've got grey hairs!

Kevin: Yes I do. I'm getting old.

Katie: No! You can't grow old!

Kevin: I don't think I have a choice in the matter.

Katie: Don't worry, we'll just die [this was how I heard it].

Kevin: What?!?!

Katie: Yeah, we'll just have Amy [her hairdresser] dye it.

Kevin: Oh! "Dye"! I thought you said "die."

Katie: Why would I say that?

Kevin: I dunno. I thought you were on a Who kick. You know, like "hope I die before I get old."

Glad we cleared that one up. Phew!

I went to lunch with Katie earlier today.

On the way home, I was greeted with this outside our house. There was actually a fourth squad car out of frame. I still would like to know what happened.

Ghetto Life

We live in such a ghetto.


Old yellow bricks...

I don't care if it makes me seem childlike... or immature... or too-clingy-to-my-past... or whatever the heck else you may want to call it.

I LOVE LEGOS.

And, this past weekend, I had that love reinforced while meeting with a bunch of people my age and even older who clearly love them far even more than I do.

The guys I met up with were from the Northern Illinois Lego Train Club and they had a really cool display of stuff at the Geneva History Center. While the focus was supposed to be trains, the true amazement came in seeing what they built to surround these trains. The settings were gorgeous ranging from a facade of city buildings from the mid-1900s to space Legos and Star Wars and Starcraft and Indiana Jones and Harry Potter and medieval structures... you name it. I was in awe.

I've always loved trains dating back to the Lionel trains my dad used to set up around the Christmas tree. And Lego trains were always something I liked, but could never justify the cost. So I sate myself by geeking out with what everyone else does.

Oh, and I take pictures. Copious amounts of pictures. Here are some of the pictures I took.

I know Katie gets a little weirded out by my love of Legos even though it truly is small scale by comparison to these guys. So I asked a couple of them how their wives handle their obsession. Turns out one of the wives was actually there and she answered that her therapist told her it could instead be an obsession with fixing or collecting expensive cars. She agreed and her husband's collection took off.

I told Katie what this woman told me. She agreed as well. Not that I'm going to start buying a boatload of Legos, but at least I don't think the eye-rolling will be as bad.

BTW, yes, I am totally going to Brick World 2010. Anyone want to go with me?

It's amazing the difference a week can make.

Last Friday marked the end of my first week of early morning workouts and I gotta say that they're going pretty well so far. In fact, the goal I set for myself of being able to run two miles straight through by our Florida trip I hit on Friday. I know I should have set that goal a bit higher, but considering how poor my running had been going up to that point, I preferred to aim lower and then have to set a new one instead of aim too high and get disappointed.

This morning was a bit more of a test, in my mind. Running two miles after warming yourself up to it the four previous days is one thing, but keeping it up after a couple days off on the weekend is something else altogether.

I did hit the two miles again this morning, but it was a bit painful. As a result, Katie and I have decided that we do need to make sure we do at least some kind of exercise on the weekend. It doesn't have to be the monster workout we do during the week, just something to keep us going so Mondays don't strike back with such blunt force.

Just keep running, running, running...


Can you picture this...

Much like my Brother-in-Pics (and name) Kevin Spencer did, I'm going to take a moment to celebrate having survived 100 days of the Photo365 project. Yes, I'm a few days late as I only yesterday finished uploading from the last several days and only today finished renaming and designating which ones were going to be part of the project. But, oh well.

I'm now on Day 105, but would like to look back on the first 100 days by picking out 10 of my favorite photos so far. These are in no particular order.

Photo365 Day 6 - Multi Screened
I just really dig the picture within a picture...

Photo365 Day 13 - Dusk Lights
I like how the lights tower into the sky.

Photo365 Day 34 - First Responders
A reflection of an ambulance in the hubcap of a fire truck? Can it get any cooler?

Photo365 Day 50 - Bright Lights
Starred light refraction without using a special filter.

Photo365 Day 52 - Clone Army
 I always liked how the lighting turned out.

Photo365 Day 66 - Horse Head
I don't think this horse was meant to be so imposing, but it sure looks it, right?

Photo365 Day 68 - Sunset Hoops
Sunset... one of my favorite times to shoot.

Photo365 Day 72 - Bat Bucket
The variety of an otherwise ordinary item struck me in this shot.

Photo365 Day 78 - Twirled and Recropped
Good capture of motion with Anna's hair.

Photo365 Day 84: Sly Smile
I really like how I cropped this shot even if it was done in Photoshop.

Are there any that you really like from the bunch? I'd love to hear your take on them.

I really love seeing friends who I know have been through tough times lately, rebound a bit and find some happiness.

Call it a bit of a spiritual restoration if you will.


Get up, get up, get busy, do it...

I'm trying something new for the next month.

In an attempt at a final melting off of weight for Florida in May, Katie and I are back on the Weight Watchers points plan and we're going to the gym in the morning.

What's the big difference? Well, we actually have been keeping points using our phones so we have our list available to us 24/7 and going to the gym in the morning ensures we really go. Katie's been pretty good about going upwards of four or more times a week for the last several weeks. But I've had greater difficulty with all kinds of things planned at night during the week (signings, work, general laziness). During these same "last several weeks," I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've made it to the gym.

That's changing starting yesterday.

I've been packing my clothes for the day the night before. I'm waking up at 5:15. I'm not using the snooze bar. I'm at the gym by 5:30 or 5:40. My workout is done by a little before 7. I shower and change in the locker room. And I'm off to work by 7:20. No ifs, ands, or buts.

So far I've felt really good both days that I've stuck to this plan. I'm more awake throughout the day. I'm more relaxed. I feel better when I leave work knowing that I can just go home and crash instead of going to the gym and fighting it out with the post-work crowd for machines and weights.

I'm sick of being fat.

Fuck this shit.

The more I learn about the iPad, the more I love it.

No, I still don't have one. And I won't for some time. Gotta pay off Florida and the cruise next year. Heck, I haven't even played with it in an Apple Store and I work two blocks from one. I don't want to tease myself just yet.

Plus, considering some of the lengths that people are going to in order to get their hands on one, I think I may just wait until the fervor dies down a bit. If you're going to be afraid to use one of these things in public, what's the point?

Besides, I prefer my fingers intact.

I think I'll aim for the fourth generation iPhone when it comes out later this year. If it's anything like what Gizmodo reported (and the likelihood is VERY STRONG in this regard considering the actions Apple has taken in response to the loss and reveal), then me likey! It's pretty. Nice physical changes from the earlier versions.

500x_iphone4_01
Photo courtesy of Gizmodo

Holiday ro-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-oad...

We meant to do it about a month or so ago, but for whatever reason, we waited. But we did it this morning. We booked our vacation for May!

EarsWe're going to Florida!

We'll be spending most of the time with my grandma north of Orlando. But we will be staying a couple nights in Orlando proper, so we can go to Magic Kingdom and, hopefully, hang out with some Blogger and Twitter peeps as well!

If you live in or are going to be in the area in mid-May-ish, let me know and maybe we can get together.

Katie and I are stoked.

Last night, my dad and I were going out for some food after attending Nuclear Cowboyz and we had an interesting discussion about the recent spate of natural disasters and their clean-up and relief efforts.

My dad mentioned how several of these disasters have happened in countries where the drug trade is strong. And he asked why you haven't seen any drug dealers or kingpins come forth with donations to help with their country's relief.

While it's possible that they have made donations anonymously, why not make some big public display of donating millions of dollars to the rebuilding effort? Think about it, sure it would bring them out in the open, but it would make them almost God-like to their citizens. If police had trouble with them before, they would be practically untouchable after doing something like that.

Just sayin'.


Un-a-dul-ter-a-ted loathing...

If you had been driving with Katie and me tonight, you would've heard some of this. Instead, you only get to take my word that it happened. To set the scene, she was searching through iTunes on her iPhone for some music.

Katie: No! I don't want Justin Beaver as my ringtone!

Me: Bieber, Bee-buhr.

Katie: I like to say 'Beaver' because he's about the same age as Beaver on Leave it to Beaver but Jerry Mather was far cuter!

or...

I can't believe iTunes has Beethoven's 5th under alternative! Beethoven's 5th is NOT alternative. Beethoven is rolling over in his grave going, "what the f&*k is iTunes and what are they doing to my music!?!?"

or...

New Edition is classical??? Frank Sinatra is pop??? I may not know much about music, but I know Beethoven is NOT alternative!!

I love my wife.


Static in my attic from channel Z...

It took four months of dicking around with Comcast, but we finally have two active tuners on our bedroom TV for multiple simultaneous recording capability. Well, sort of...

Comcast Back in December, we got our new TV and TiVo up in the bedroom. This, of course, necessitated getting cable cards from Comcast so we could get the proper channels piped into our TiVo for recording and get all our HD channels to maximize the picture quality on our TV. I called Comcast and that following Saturday, they sent out a guy with a couple of multi-stream cable cards (a multi-stream card allows two channel capability while a single-stream card allows only one channel at a time) to install in the TiVo.

As it turned out, one of the cards was completely shot and the other one was actually only a single-stream card despite the fact that the supplier and Comcast rep (who was looking only at a computer and not the actual card) insisted it was a multi-stream. They griped back and forth and finally the installer hung up and installed the card so we at least had one stream from which to watch and record. Better than nothing, right?

I don't know why, but I kinda took my time about calling Comcast. I just didn't want to deal with them again that soon. Finally, in February, I called back up and scheduled an appointment for them to come and install an MS card. I waited there on Saturday night from 1-5 p.m. and the douche never showed up. I called to complain and ask why I never received a call. They said that since it was "only a card install," they don't call. It's not like it was an important service call like an actual cable box installation. I'm just a card-using peon. They clearly don't make enough money off me for it to be worth their while.

I was pissed and took a little to debug from the experience and called again in late March. We set an appointment for that Saturday and, a mere couple hours before the appointment was to happen, they called to say they were out of stock on MS cable cards and do I want them to just install a second SS card or wait until the MS cards were back in stock. I rescheduled. For yesterday.

The dude came out, and right on time, with two MS cards. He tried both and neither worked. He complained about how cable cards are a joke and they really need to find a better solution for people like me who despise Comcast's cable box and DVR (this same complaint was offered up by the very first installer as well). But, he had three SS cards with him. So he installed one. I now have multi-channel capability like I would have with an MS card. But I didn't want to have to pay extra for having that second card in my TiVo (they charge a monthly rental on the cards).

I called Comcast and they assured me I would not be paying for the rental of the additional card considering all the hell I'd gone through for this. Plus I scored a free installation visit and a $25 credit on my account because they were unable to remedy my problem with a single visit.

Why don't I leave Comcast? Well, Comcast is the only cable provider in my area. AT&T's U-verse is supposed to roll out here eventually, but I'm not banking on that anytime soon. And I don't like Dish or DirecTV options because when a heavy freight train rumbles through the backyard, everything shakes and I just know I'll be realigning that damn dish every time it happens. I don't think a single neighbor on my side of the street has a dish of any sort. So that tells me that my fears are not too far off. Besides, they all seem to now have a two-year commitment and, if I don't like it, I don't want to be stuck paying for a crap service.

In all honesty, despite the shit I went through here, Comcast's service has been great. The only time in nine years that it has gone out was because I screwed up some wiring. I've never had a service blackout that wasn't the result of an electrical blackout, so I'm generally happy with it. It's just when I have to call to have them come out and do something that I start to sweat.

Grrr...

Geez, my Yahoo homepage this morning is so overloaded with who-gives-a-shit headlines, it's ridiculous.

Mel Gibson to donate movie set to Mexican museum - Whatever.

Tiger looks better than ever in return at Masters - I could give a rat's ass about Tiger Woods anymore.

Corey Haim's Mom Nixes Public Memorial Idea - What?? No giant bronze Corey Haim statue for me to weep at!? The humanity!!

Are Brad and Jen Really Hooking Up In Secret? - If she is, any respect I have for her is gone.

They walk among us: 1 in 5 believe in aliens - And how many of them report being probed?

Workers strike over ban on drinking at work - Umm, really? If a union gets involved in this dispute, there's something seriously wrong here.

What will future cultures think of us when they look in historical documents and read shit like this?

I weep.


Black gold in a white plight...

It's a pretty late one, but it's still Snippet Wednesday. Unless you read this tomorrow. Then it's not my fault. Sorry. 'Dems da facts, Jack.

Refund
(sung to the tune of "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel
")

Refund, refund, refund
Too much tax to you I paid
Refund, refund, refund
With more money I'll now play!

Titans
Titans-medusaAnd one of those things it allows me to play with are my tickets to an only slightly advanced screening of Clash of the Titans tomorrow night at 8 p.m. Woo hoo!! I'm so jazzed. Oh, and no, Katie's not going with me.

Gold
Have any of you noticed those Cash-for-Gold storefronts cropping up all over the place? One just showed up in our town and we happened by one in the town immediately north of us just tonight. Now I'm sure there's a business for them and they are being used and it's gotta put people a bit more at ease than the mail-order service that you're supposed to send your jewelry to (wouldn't trust that if my life depended on it), but, as Katie noted, they make your town feel trashy and I kinda have to agree with her. They have their place in some towns, but it just doesn't fit in where they put the one up in our town. It's right next door to a Boston Market. Sell your jewelry and then buy a pot pie! w00t!

Bill
And speaking of gold, as we were driving by the Cash-for-Gold place tonight when this old ditty popped in my head. If any of you recognize it, I'll be quite impressed...

(sung to the tune of the theme from The Beverly Hillbillies)

Come and listen to a story 'bout a cat named Bill.
Poor country pussy, barely keep his tummy fill.
Then one day he was strummin' on his tongue,
Next thing you know, come the money by the ton.

Y'all come back now, y'hear!


Who's gonna drive you home...

Geez, with the furor going around about red light cameras, you'd swear the U.S. Supreme Court just legalized both gay marriage and abortion with one fell swoop of the pen.

Redlightenforced I really don't know if this extends beyond Illinois at all, but red light cameras have been cropping up in many of Chicago's suburbs over the course of the last couple of years to a mixed lot of praise and condemnation. Some love it because they are supposed to result in increases to driver and pedestrian safety while others hate it because they claim it's both a money grab and can result in sudden stopping at intersections that could cause rear-end collisions.

Let me recap what is going on real quickly...

Cameras have been installed by many municipalities at some of their busier or more accident-prone intersections.

These cameras will catch people who make illegal right turns out of the intersection. Yes, just right turns. Well, I think it's only right turns. The ones that I've seen have been right-turn only, but I suppose usage is dictated by each municipal government.

  • If you do not stop at an intersection before turning right on red, you WILL get busted.
  • If you stop past the line into a crosswalk thus forcing a pedestrian who is crossing the street to have to move out of the crosswalk, you WILL get busted.
  • If you come to a complete stop behind the line and then inch out to see what traffic is like before proceeding, you WILL NOT get busted.
  • If you stop a little into the crosswalk, but no pedestrians are present, you WILL NOT get busted.
  • If you run a yellow light, you WILL NOT get busted.

(source: City of Geneva, IL)

I really don't see the problem here. Basically, what these towns are saying is that if you drive legally and follow the rules of the road as established by the Secretary of State's office that we were taught in driver's education and tested on prior to obtaining a driver's license, you're fine.

Drive legal, drive safe... what the fuck is the problem here?

Is it a safety measure? Yes. Has it helped? Arguably. Some cities have noted a downturn in accidents, while others have claimed an increase in accidents or just haven't released any data yet.

But the big question on many people's minds... is it a money grab for communities?

YES.

And why shouldn't it be?

If you're going to drive illegally, why shouldn't a town benefit from your ignorance? Towns, counties, and states already do when you speed or park illegally or run red lights going straight ahead. Are you going to fight against speed limits and stop lights and stop signs next?

If you don't like that they can make money off you, wanna know what you can do about it? DRIVE LEGALLY! STOP AT INTERSECTIONS BEFORE PROCEEDING! DON'T DRIVE LIKE A DOUCHE!

Think about it like this... if you can ask "would a douche do this?" and the answer is "yes," then don't do it!

I need to make bracelets that say WWADD (What Would A Douche Do) just to remind people to do the opposite.

Follow that simple credo, Timmy, and you'll be fine! You won't owe any money. You definitely won't have caused any accidents. And you can say you "stuck it to tha man!" by not giving them any more of your hard-earned cash.

Yes, in case you couldn't figure it out, I fully support red light cameras.

So what did we do this weekend?

If you didn't see it on Facebook or Twitter, Katie was Hobnobbing With the Stars. Well, actually she only got a picture with them, not really hobnobbing, per se. But it's still pretty cool all the same.

Yes, this is Katie with 2010 Winter Olympic Men's Figure Skating gold medalist Evan Lysacek and his Dancing With the Stars partner Anna Trebunskya.

Evan, Anna, and Katie

It's the wallpaper on her iPhone now. I've been trumped.

*sniffle*

Here are a couple more of my favorite shots from the event...

Anna scans the crowd

Photo365 Day 78 - Twirled and Recropped


Forget about your house of cards...

On Saturday, I braved the slushy snow and wind to drive out to Rosemont for something I had not done since high school... a baseball card show!

Bat bucketWell, in all fairness and to be correct, they are actually called memorabilia shows since they do often sell much more than just cards and all the dealers who do sell cards have more than just baseball cards. Anywho.

I went to this show with my BiL and his fiancee who are big card collectors as well as the other BiL who was pretty much just along for the ride to get a signature from his hero Andre Dawson, formerly of the Montreal Expos and Chicago Cubs.

I was along because I wanted to see what card... er... memorabilia shows were like as I hadn't been to one since the very early 90s. Oh, and I wanted a Dawson signature, too.

This place was NUTS. It was at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center and was absolutely enormous. Vendors had booths that were just massive and elaborate and covered in stuff that you could not possibly find anywhere else. Honestly! It's kinda amazing to think that some of this stuff was even made.

Did I buy anything? Actually, yes.

Bucspatch I bought a cool All Star Game patch from the 1974 MLB All Star Game in Pittsburgh (see patch on hat at left; image from eBay). I know I live in Chicago, but, because pretty much my entire family was born and raised in The 'Burgh, I have a healthy love of the PIrates and Steelers. And this patch, not just being a Pirates patch, but also having my birthyear on it, just made it call out to me.

I also bought a small box of hockey cards. I suddenly had an urge to open card packs like the good ol' days so I found a relatively inexpensive box ($12) that could have something I wanted (rookie cards of Chicago Blackhawks stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane) and Katie and I went to town on the box that night. It was pretty fun opening them again. Yanno, for old time's sake

Norman got something, too.

Trooper love

If you'd like some more pictures of the Stephenson Madhouse, check them out either below in the slideshow or over on Flickr...

I've said it before and I'll say it again...

Anybody who rents out DVDs that are in such sad shape that they are completely unplayable even after cleaning should be shot!

That's my feeling toward my library right now after waiting for the season 2 set of Monk. We got through the first episode without a problem then started the second. We were more than halfway through when it all seized up. Yanno, just enough time to get FULLY FREAKIN' VESTED in the episode and get no payoff at the end. So we skipped to episode three and also got FULLY FREAKIN' VESTED just to have it lock up halfway through.

DONE! The set is going back to the library and they can have them professionally fixed or replaced, dammit!

This blows.


Here come the geese...

Yesterday at lunch, I saw simply the coolest thing I've seen in a long time (click through if you don't see a photo slideshow below; or click through to the album on Flickr)...

Four geese throwing down in a pond. It was so cool. In all, I snapped 46 photos. It was so cool. I was so enthralled I Tweeted and Facebooked it.

Geesetweet

Sadly, no casualties. Shame since we all know how much I looooovvveee geese.

</sarcasm>

I have Geeks of Doom to thank for this one.

Copies of The Crazies comic book and two biohazard bags advertising the movie's release.

Too cool!

The Crazies


Call it education, it was somewhere in between...

Today was supposed to be another in our relatively new series of Friday Firsts for Katie and me.

To clarify, Katie and I started to implement a series of new stuff to do on Fridays since she already has the day off and I have many vacation days banked up. It started several weeks ago with the trip to Shedd Aquarium and the Sears/Big Willie Tower in Chicago. The week after, it was the Chicago Auto Show. We had a couple weeks off after that, but I took today off so we could figure out something new to continue this tradition.

Radio2Well, we did make it a First, but not in the way we were hoping. It marked our first trip to the radiology lab at the local hospital for chest X-rays on Katie. She has bronchitis, which could potentially lead to pneumonia.

Yay!

So much for today, eh? 

Any predictions on the Oscars this Sunday?

Listening to XRT 93.1 FM, The Regular Guy (their movie reviewer) picked his longshot win as being Inglourious Basterds for Best Picture. He thinks that all this battling between Avatar and The Hurt Locker might allow Tarantino's masterpiece (that I like more and more with each viewing) to creep in and take the win. How cool would that be? 

Katie's longshot is Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker over the likely winner, Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart.

Me? My longshot pick was going to be Anna Kendrick from Up in the Air over the heavily favored Mo'nique in Precious (I refuse to type up that ridiculously long BS name that the film officially goes by even if I did just type a much greater amount of characters in my parenthetical inclusion than the title would have, but oh well), but I think I'm going to shoot for Carey Mulligan in An Education over, oh hell, I don't even know who's really favored... Streep?

Should I pick both. Oh why not?


You got nothin' to hide...

Last night, Katie and I got home from work and, since this was the first time we had seen each other (she's still asleep when I leave in the morning), we were checking out what each other was wearing.

She had on a turtleneck.

I love turtlenecks.

I find them completely and utterly sexy if well chosen and well worn.

Katie's was both well chosen and well worn.

Some guys dig on swimsuits or lingerie or underwear on women or any number of other articles of clothing that show of skin. I'm not saying I don't find that stuff sexy, but few things compare to a good turtleneck sweater. And there are few things that cover up more of a woman's body.

Am I weird for thinking this way? Is it strange that I find something like that sexy?

I wish I could explain why I think this way, but I cannot.

Well, one good thing about the Olympics being done is that we now have most of our standard network shows back.

In addition to the usual suspects, though, last night marked the return of Rules of Engagement on CBS. This is far from one of the greatest comedies on TV, but Katie and I find it enjoyable. We love the cast, even David Spade (Russell) who I otherwise find annoying.

But the coolest thing about last night's episode was finding out that Adhir Kalyan has become a full-blown cast member! For those of you who watch, he plays Russell's personal assistant, Timmy.

I do, however, think they may need to redo the opening credits. The final still image showing all of them in bed now features Timmy and it's clearly a bad Photoshop job. Seriously, just retake it. He's crushing their legs.

If you're interested, you can download an episode (or maybe it's just a teaser, not sure) free from iTunes.

Oh, an unlike yesterday's post, this was not solicited. Just something I decided to write of my own free will. Yeah, I still have some of that left.


Baby won't you drive my car...

I have decided that there is one profession I could never and would never want to hold... that of a plumber.

This morning, I decided I needed to clean out a slow drain in our master bathroom. I mean this thing was beyond molasses slow and we were both frustrated. Not even Drain-O was doing much. So I figured out how to remove the drain plug without breaking it and starting digging around with a pipe snake.

What I pulled out was the nastiest looking and foulest smelling clump of crap I've ever seen. I could identify some human hair, but other than that, I have no idea what it was.

I put the sink back together, but I then needed to clean up the residue.

Not pretty.

Just nasty.

I know I can fix this stuff, but having the ability and the willpower are two completely different things.

Yesterday, Katie and I went to the opening day of the Chicago Auto Show. It was a lot more fun than either of us expected and it helped a lot in our car search that will likely result in a purchase fairly soon.

For one, we are not going with Ford. As much as I love my Ranger and as great as it has been to us both, the new Fords are uncomfortable and overpriced. A couple years ago, we had priced base-model Escapes at around $19K. Now some of the non-hybrid models were priced at as much as $33K. What gives? Well, screw that.

We also discovered that our initial love of the Subaru Legacy was pretty well-founded. Decent price and very comfortable. The same goes with the Hyundai Sonata, Santa Fe, and Tucson.

Surprising, though, was how impressed we were with Mazda. We checked out the Mazda 6, CX-7, and Tribute. I really dug on the 6 and the Tribute while Katie really liked the CX-7.

Do any of you have any opinions on any of these models? Let us know. Please.

Next step is test drives.

Here are some pictures from the car show if you're interested...