Photography 2009

He's makin' a list...

I know, I know. Christmas is done... STOP USING CHRISTMAS CAROLS AS POST TITLES!!! I will make a concerted effort. I promise.

Not all of you are Twitter users, I would presume, right? For those of you who are, you know that the most recent gauge of cyber-inclusiveness has nothing to do with your ability to avoid being dealt the Facebook deathcard known as unfriending (I'm still in shock as to how this got "Word of the Year" accolades... whatever). It's all about being added to someone's Twitter List these days.

Since I'm still working on my Top TV Shows and Top Movies lists for this year, I thought I'd spend a day discussing another Top measure that happens to come in the form of Lists: all the Twitter Lists I belong to.

Sure, this is completely me tooting my own horn, I admit. But it sounds like fun.

Currently, I've been "Listed" 19 times by various folks. And I want to point out a few of them real quick.

While I'd like to be able to say that this is as dirty as it could be perceived by gutter-minded individuals such as myself, it sadly is not. She actually runs a Web-based cupcake company in the Chicago suburbs. Bummer.

I have always thought of myself as delightfully perverted. I'm proud knowing that my efforts were noticed by you, @hismuse! Thanks.
I'd really hate to see his wish-dead list. I'm afraid to look and see if there actually is one.

Well, we'll just have to work on that one, won't we?

@neilochka, I would definitely sit there and hold your hand through this ordeal... from the other side of the bars. Feel free to call me. Just don't expect bail money.

While I love being on his cool-mfers list, I think he and I should both create a list called cool-bald-mfers and be the charter members!

This is the ultimate sign of cyber acceptance, IMHO. @avitable is looking pretty damn hot these days and with his increased fitness level, I would assume comes an increased capability level in the sack, right big guy?

Can you tell I'm really reaching for blog fodder right now? I'd make a New Year's Resolution that I will come up with higher quality posts and maybe post more often, but I can't guarantee that the Angel of Inspiration will bind herself to that resolution.

So how was your Christmas this year? Big haul? Small haul?

I'm happy with how it turned out. Several books, some giftcards and cash to buy some new appliances in the kitchen, a copy of Rock Band: Beatles for the Wii (no drumkit, sorry), and, from Katie, a Blackhawks jersey (to be worn at the Blackhawks game for which the two BiLs and the FSiL got us tickets) and a copy of the Monty Python's Flying Circus 16-disc box set, among other things. That's pretty sweet! I can't wait to start watching it. I got Katie a few things including a really pretty garnet necklace. She seemed happy. I guess that's all that counts.

And, in case you're interested, here are some photos from the various Christmas celebrations we attended this year (Facebookers, click through).

But one of my favorite photos of the evening was just a little experimental picture I snapped. Not that it's a true mystery photo like the ones I used to post. Heck it should be easily identifiable. But it's just a different point of view on it. Let me know if you figure out what it is.

Apgar Christmas

Back to that same old place...

I received an e-mail last Friday that the Capture My Chicago photo book had been shipped and, contained in the e-mail, was the list of photos and photographers that were featured in it.

The book came in on Saturday and I started going through it just to confirm that I had read the e-mail correctly.

Mine was not one of them.

I'm upset by this fact. I'll admit it. I really thought I had a pretty good shot.

Then I looked at the photos that did make it in the book and suddenly I feel like I am truly an amateur photographer by comparison. Jesus, these are some great pictures!

I'm still happy I participated and that I bought the book (I think my shots did make it in the included DVD - I think all submitted photos made the DVD) and I will participate again should CBS hold another contest, and I hope they do.

I just gotta work on my "skillz." Why? 'Cause I'm gonna be in that damn book next year, come hell or high water.

The damnable thing is that, hindsight being 20/20, I have a photo that I'm pretty convinced may have made the book... but I completely forgot to submit it.


There goes the Tourette's again. I really need to have that checked out.

Katie had to visit the Aurora Police Department on Friday to finish the police report on her collision. She had been in contact with me during the day regarding how to get there and whatnot and the following transpired via e-mail. For the record, she was convincing herself that she was going to be thrown in jail for causing an accident. Just setting the story a bit for you...

Me: Good luck at the APD.

Katie: I'll call you once I am done at APD... it will be my one phone call though... so you need to come and get me:)

Me: What if we don’t have enough money to cover your bail? Should I sell some of our belongings or just leave you in there?

Katie: You would leave me there? Sell the @#%$ing belongings! I feel the love!

I love my wife. She cracks me up.

Tell everybody, waitin' for Superman...

PhotoStrip-XRTBHC-sm...that his name is Lin Brehmer and he's the morning host on WXRT 93.1 FM Chicago.

Actually, he was Thor, if the puffy muscle shirt he wore as one of the emcees of last night's XRT Big Holiday Concert was any indication.

Yes, last night was my third concert of the year and my second one involving The Flaming Lips. Two shows and absolutely no letdown whatsoever from one to the next.

I got to the show a little early and was able to snag a spot on the floor not too far at all from the stage right in the midst of the pit and surrounded by a bunch of kids. I still don't know if it made me feel younger by association or old and creepy. The jury's out.

Anyway, the show opened with some local band called, I think, the Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra. Not bad.

Pete Yorn was next and he just rocked out. I've been a Pete Yorn fan since the release of his first album back in 2000, I believe. But this was my first time seeing him live. He performed a variety of songs over the course of about 45 minutes or so and even included solo versions of two of what I consider his best songs from Break Up ("Blackie's Dead" and "Relater"), his duets album with Scarlett Johannson (the video is at this link). He also did a pretty cool medley of Bruce Springsteen's "Hungry Heart" and his own "Don't Wanna Cry" from Back & Fourth.

Before Phoenix took the stage, we were informed that their drummer had a family emergency and, instead of canceling their portion of the show, they would do a stripped-down, four-man acoustic set. The set was only five songs long, but I enjoyed it. And I do not agree with the article making it sound like everyone was booing. Sure there was a little, but I think people for the most part, got behind the idea that they were about to see something that few others would ever see. At least they got "Lisztomania" and "1901" in there. 

Then it was time for The Lips. God I love Wayne Coyne and the band. Much like their performance at Pitchfork 2009, they had the domed light background that served as a video screen showing accompanying images for the songs. And, at the beginning, it was again used to great effect for the band's vaginal emergence sequence.

I think what I love most about The Flaming Lips live show is that Wayne Coyne seems to truly appreciate his fans. He strikes me as genuinely humbled knowing that all these people are there watching him and his band play. The Lips are not one of the most well-known bands in the world. In fact, many of the people to whom I told I was going to this show just gave me a funny look like "who?" But this place was packed last night and everyone was completely into it. I don't know how you can't be. The music, the energy, the pageantry of it all. It's almost as though Wayne needs our shared energy to maintain his lifeforce. So he gives us the show we want in exchange for the fuel he needs to keep going. That's the best way I can think to describe it. And it affects you deeply. One of my Tweeps, @CityGirl912, was there as a result of winning a free ticket. She'd never been before and had no idea what to expect. 


Hmmm. Think she liked it?

I guess you could argue The Lips following is almost cult-like. If that's the case, gimme the damn Kool-Aid. I'll drink it. Hell, one of my photos from the show is even my new blog banner... my green alien buddy.

I did manage to sneak in a camera to take some photos (only a handful of which turned out decently). But I also used it to capture some video of Pete Yorn's "Hungry Heart" / "Don't Wanna Cry" medley, Phoenix's acoustic "1901," and The Lips' vaginal emergence and Wayne's gerbil ball. I'm hoping to take a little time to edit it all together nicely if y'all don't mind a little wait.

In the meantime, I've got a photo gallery and The Lips' setlist below (as of right now, no one had submitted the setlists for Phoenix or Pete Yorn, bummer).

[Facebook-ites, click through to be able to see the photos]

The Flaming Lips setlist

I'll rush for forty yards and drink four forties later on...

Sure, the Bears won yesterday, but it was a bad win. Against a team that they should've decimated.

But some good things did come of it...

I got a new Bears jersey (Payton #34), a long-sleeve Bears T-shirt, and some other gameday gear from Katie as the rest of my birthday present. I LOVE 'EM!

I discovered both my camera and camera bag are kosher within the new NFL bags-in-stadiums policy.

I found out that the fact I had three Guinnesses (Guinni?) before 11 a.m. is absolutely fine when attendance at a football game is part the equation.

I used my first ever hand warming packet and loved it.

I learned it is possible to miss an entire quarter of football while waiting to pee.

I discovered that even a bad win is fun when the ticket is free.

I found that when you're a big guy walking around with two other big guys (north of 6'3"), you wind up with a lot of people asking if you're willing to take over on the offensive line for the Bears.

I learned that photography at football games is much more fun with a good lens.

Good times. Good times.

A big congratulations to my brother-in-law Scott and his new fiancee Becca. They got engaged on my birthday.

While I'm happy for them, my birthday's still way cooler.

I pulled into town in a police car...

Sometimes the need to flip someone off from your car or honk the horn just needs to be stifled... as painful as it may be to do so.

On the way to work, I was turning at a three-way intersection (I was turning from the road that dead ended into the T formed by the other road). Since no one else was coming from either direction, I was perfectly legal in my turn.

However, once I got through it, I noticed there was a cop car pulled over on the side about 20 feet up from the intersection. As I pulled through the turn and was righting myself to straighten out, he starts pulling off the shoulder... right into me.

I quickly pulled into the oncoming lane and hit my brakes before we collided. The cop stopped too and waved an apology. But I SOOOOOO wanted to flip him off. Anybody else and you can bet they'd be doing a sit and spin on the top of my fist.


But I guess all bad things can be made good, though.


Pomegranate Tootsie Pops! FTW * !

Pomegranate Tootsie Pop
Also available on Twitpic.

* That's For The Win, in case you didn't know.

Take all the worry out of your mind...

For whatever reason, the night before last, I woke up around 3 a.m. and had trouble really falling back asleep. So, for the next two hours, I had a quick succession of what I refer to as rapid-fire paranoia dreams. These are quick dreams that happen back-to-back in short order and usually represent some sort of personal paranoia about something that is about to happen. For example, a few years ago when I was interviewing for my current job, I would have these dreams about not waking up on time, forgetting my resume, freezing up during the interview, etc.

The night before last, though, I was having my RFPs about that act of waking up. I slept through my alarm, my alarm never went off in the first place, we had no hot water in the shower, the toilet wouldn't flush, we ran out of soap, I had no clean underwear, the bathroom light burned out as I turned it on, etc.

I told Katie about these at some point yesterday. She gets a kick out of my brain's sleep patterns.

Anyway, last night we were getting ready to go to bed and I was putting dishes in the dishwasher when Katie called me upstairs. She pointed into the bathroom and, sure enough, one of the lights in the fixture above the sink burned out. When she turned on the light switch, the bulb popped and fizzled to black just like in my dream.

We both laughed.

Now if only I could dream about finding a million dollars in untraceable bills...

I promised you more fall photos.

I also have more photos from the Fire Academy last night.

We were playing with ladders and hoses.

And not in a kinky way so get your minds out of the gutter.

Here you go. Facebookers, click through.

Time for worky work.

We don't need no water...

I love not-so-subtle wordplay... I enjoy coming up with creative ways to say things... twisting words to create meanings or thoughts contrary to what was intended...

For example, last night I posted the following message on both Facebook and Twitter...


Sounds pretty twisted, doesn't it? Kinda kinky and sexual, wouldn't you say?

The truth, however, is anything but. See the photo slideshow below to see what I mean (Facebookers, click through).

It was Fire Academy. We were using air tanks to crawl through a lit-up smokehouse crawling around on all fours and attempting to crane our necks upwards to see the fire while also looking down to follow the hose through the building.

I was discussing this at length tonight with a friend. She got a bit of a kick out of it, but wasn't convinced. So I threw this one at her based on our situation at the time I was talking to her.

"Right now, I'm half naked with a woman who is not my wife climbing all over me."

And this statement was 100% true. She died laughing. Mostly at how dirty it sounded. Partially at the fact that I managed to say that with a straight face and so off the cuff.

Turns out I'd managed to turn a simple chiropractic appointment into a tawdry sexual affair.

Oh God, how I love words. I seriously need to be a political spin doctor.

I'm watching V right now. The remake, relaunch, reboot. Whatever you want to call it.

I'm not entirely sure what to make of it all.

It's got promise, I suppose. Note, I use "promise" very loosely. But it was all so rushed. So much crammed into a single hour. Half of what they revealed in this episode could've waited another episode or two.

[episode 1 spoiler below]

And, for me, the most shocking thing was the idea that Morris Chestnut is, effectively, the modern version's embodiment of Robert Englund's Willie from the original series.

Morrischestnut  Robertenglund 

I'll keep watching for now. But I may have to go rent the originals just to remember how cool it was.

She broke your throne and she cut your hair...

I finished the St. Baldrick's video!

This is actually the quickest I've turned around a video since, well, ever. And I'm kinda proud of it.

No, the edits aren't perfect and there are several areas where I probably could've improved things. But for a guy who only recently started into the heavy editing of videos as opposed to the shoot-and-post mentality I previously held, this is decent if I do say so myself. We're not talking Scorsese-level quality or anything, but enough to keep me excited enough about video editing to keep playing with it. So enjoy! [Facebookers, click through]

The Damn Fool Network: St. Baldrick's Event from Kevin Apgar on Vimeo.

If you're having trouble getting it to play, click the play button and then pause it until the progress bar fills up most or all of the way. Might help. I hope. And the video quality is a bit low because it was shot using a little point-and-shoot digicam. I need to get a Web-ready, Mac friendly HD video recorder. *drools*

For the record, the music is by I Fight Dragons (@ifightdragons). And I gotta thank Brian from the band for being so gracious about letting me use their music (despite not knowing exactly what for).


This'll learn 'im! ;-)

While you're at it and I have you as a captive audience, I've got a couple new photo albums up on Flickr from those field trips I went on with Katie. Don't worry, for the most part I didn't include photos that would identify any of the kids. Not to the point where Avitable's photo waiver would be necessary anyway.

Thank you, Typepad!

Typepad just introduced social media sharing options that show up by default on our posts (look below).

Sure, I could've gone out and nabbed my own code for this and done it myself, but I'm lazy.

And I know you Wordpressers out there are going to say something akin to "well, we've had this for years! So you should switch over." It's not gonna happen. I tried Wordpress when I was redesigning this blog some months ago and hated the experience. Sure, you have all kinds of cool plug-in toys and whatnot. But what you don't have is customer support. You're open source, which, in some cases is great, but in the experience I had with WP, was terrible. I couldn't get my RSS feeds to work and, when I posted on the boards, no one replied at all. Likely still haven't to this day, but I'm not going to bother checking.

So I stick where I have great (and quick) support even if I do have to pay for the service.

The wind in my hair...

When I woke up this morning, one of the first things I did was to reach up and feel my head to make sure that what I thought I did last night I actually did.

Yep, I did.

I'm bald.

Here's some photographic proof (click through, Facebookers). Video is forthcoming. Needs some editing first.

Oh, and I did Bic it this morning for that completely clean-shaven look. Don't have a photo of that yet, though. Sorry.

Yes, I got my wax lion yesterday at Brookfield Zoo.

But he's not red (orange).

He's not deformed (although he is the exact same mold as the one from Wonderfalls).

And he does not talk to me (not yet, anyway; there's still time).


A walk-on would be fine...

There is a fatal flaw in the logic of mousedom.

Sure, they're small. They can fit in places you wouldn't ever expect a mouse to be able to fit. They can take advantage of the tiniest of gaps. They're nocturnal and scamper about primarily at times when a majority of humanity is fast asleep. You rarely ever see them until it's too late. 

The flaw is that they shit more than a newborn double dosing Super Colon Blow (tm). They're compact little crap factories. If Hansel and Gretel wanted to find their way home, they should've brought mice along to leave a poop path as opposed to leaving breadcrumbs in their wake.

My mouse has been located due to his (or her) inability to control their rectal output. Yes, I found it behind my fridge through the hole in the wall where the waterline for the icemaker is located. There was a pile of shit on the floor under the hole, a trail leading from there to the side of our countertop, and another pile at the floor where they were scaling the counter. Yes, they were pooping the entire way up. If there was a second mouse in this hunter-gatherer pair, I'd sure hate to be him. "Dude! Will you quit shitting in my face!?!?"

The gaps are now stuffed with steel wool, the plate has been replaced and screwed into the wall, and caulk has been applied to the area between the plate and the recessed valve box.

I win this battle you little shit mongers!

Here's some multimedia for you to enjoy. (Yes, Facebookers, now is the time to click through.)

First, a video. And I have to thank Sizzle for guiding me to this absolutely fantastic visual gem by The Antlers called "Two." It blew my mind. Now I want both this album and a bubble-blowing guitar! How cool would that be?

Second, a series of photos I took while on a hike with my mom through the Springbrook Prairie Preserve in Naperville. Good times, good photo ops, and good exercise.

Hung up on your wall for the world to see...

Some of you may be wondering what the new "Capture Me" widget is in my sidebar. It's my attempt at self whoring. Allow me to explain.

CBS 2 Chicago is running a photo contest called Capture My Chicago and the winners, as chosen by fans visiting the site, wind up in a coffee-table-style book. Accompanying the book will be a DVD with several other pictures as well.

While even making the DVD would be cool, of course the creme de la creme is making it into the book itself. And I've uploaded 20 photos to the contest in hopes of one of them making it. The images in the widget? Those are they.

This is where you come in. I'm hoping I can snag some votes from you. Registration on the site is free and I would like to take a moment to encourage you to sign up and vote. Preferably for one of my photos, but if you find something else you like, I think you should vote for them as well. Most of us are amateur photographers just trying to gain a little renown. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, right?

So head on over to my photos on Capture My Chicago and vote away. Please? And if you can think of other photos I've uploaded on Flickr that are related to Chicago and the suburbs that you think should be submitted, let me know.


Friends like these...

At Nilsa's

You see that picture? I was trying to come up with some cool name to describe us like the "Blogging Trio o' Terror" but there are five of us. "Sex Kittens"? Nah, not with me in it. 

So just call me Charlie and declare them my Angels. That works.

From left to right, we have Tori, Kim, Sizzle, and Nilsa, thus comprising a killah network of both incredible bloggers and fantastically cool women. And my personal value skyrocketed in their very presence yesterday at Nilsa's house in the way deep north end of Chicago. 

I'd really love to say more, but there are no words in a human vocabulary grand enough to describe them. Suffice it to say that if you ever have the opportunity, you should meet them. Do not pass go, do not colect $200, just GO.

Thank you all for agreeing to get together. And thank you, Nilsa and Sweets, for hosting us.

And I get to move two people over to my "Bloggers I've Met" (and want to meet again!) list.

It's hard to make the good things last...

Updated to add photo link and to remove failed Pictobrowser embed (whoops)

Suffice it to say that after seeing The Flaming Lips in concert last night at the 2009 Pitchfork Music Festival, I'm afraid that any live music experience I attend will pale in comparison. The only thing that could be better would be a longer show by The Lips.

Conclusion? The Flaming Lips = awesome. Festivals = crowded, but awesome. Pitchfork = I will be going to again, I don't care who's playing.

During the day, I Tweeted, snapped some photos, and captured a little video. Bear in mind that any photographic equipment with, as they called it, detachable lenses, was strictly forbidden. So all I had was my Blackberry. Translation? The quality isn't as good as it otherwise would be. I need to nab me one of those VIP passes next year. Those peeps all had the big cameras and I was jealous.

As for the rest of my recap, I'm going to let my evening's interactivity do the talking for me...

Photos - Apparently Pictobrowser doesn't want to work any more. Here's a teaser photo from the Flickr set:

Flaming Lips 14

Videos -

The Flaming Lips: Bubble o' Wayne from Kevin Apgar on Vimeo.

The Flaming Lips: Do You Realize? Finale from Kevin Apgar on Vimeo.

Tweets - And, finally, the Tweets. Bear in mind, the correct order is from the bottom up. I could've reordered them for your convenience. But your convenience is my inconvenience and anybody who uses Twitter knows how it works and can adapt accordingly. Sheesh. ;-)


Okay, time for work. Adios!

Oh say can you see...

I'm having a lot of trouble wrapping my brain around the idea that not only is tomorrow the U.S. Independence Day, but that we're already halfway through 2009. Just another half to go before we're making contact with the alien races according to bad Roy Scheider sci-fi films.

But the problem is that since the Fourth of July falls on a Saturday, a lot of employers are not sure just how to deal with giving days off to employees. I am off work today, the day before the holiday, since I'm an 8-5, Monday thru Friday office rat. Katie, who for now only works Monday thru Friday, but for an employer who is open seven days a week, won't see a day off. Her day off would be tomorrow, but since she doesn't work Saturdays, she gets nada. That sucks. So I'm here at home typing to all of you while she toils away at work.

What to do... what to do...

Wake-up? Check.

Check e-mail? Check.

Catch up on Google Reader? Three-quarters of a check.

Shower? (sniff) Nowhere near a check. Yet. I promise I'll get to work on this one, not just for your sake but my own as well.

I think I might also check out my neighbor's garage sale that started up this morning. I saw him out placing signs last night and, as much as I used to love garage saling (can that actually be a verb?) with my mom as a kid, I haven't been to one in years. And I'm told, with the economy in the shithole state it's in, garage sales are totally en vogue. Maybe I should join the hipness and go a salin'.

Do you all garage sale at all? Any cool finds? My curiosity is piqued.

But first, I will shower, and I will download my free Star Spangled Banner from Amazon's MP3 store. Yep, you read right. In honor of the holiday, the Amazon MP3 store is giving away one free copy of any version of "The Star Spangled Banner" that they have in stock. Just click on the link above and follow the instructions. There are a ton to choose from. Once I hit number 400 in my browsing, I gave up looking. I had no idea that song had been recorded so many times.

Burnsbaseball And, shockingly, as much as I thought I'd go for, say, Jimi Hendrix's classic rendition or one from KISS's Alive performances (Ace was on fi-yah playing that one), I instead nabbed one by Branford Marsalis and Bruce Hornsby that was recorded for Ken Burns' Baseball documentary series. This recording really takes me back to my documentary filmmaking days (well, not that I made one on my own, but I was part of a team that made one in grad school). Not to say I'm a huge Ken Burns fan, but the use of music in Baseball was so fantastic and so memorable that it's pretty akin to how Quentin Tarantino chooses music in his movies. Anytime you hear the song afterward, all you can think of is the scene from the movie where it was featured. Just try to tell me you can listen to "Stuck in the Middle with You" by Stealers Wheel and resist the urge to lean over and nibble on your neighbor's ear.

Yeah, okay, anyway. So head over there and nab your favorite version now. Offer ends July 6.

Nuh uh. No way. Not a chance in Heaven or Hell.

Well, maybe I would. But I would have to do some severe steeling up of my gut first. Holy Christ a mighty! Welcome to the new Sky Deck on the outside of Chicago's Sears Tower (fuck Willis Group Holdings).

Stupid SkyDeckChicago Flickr group didn't enable the Flickr photo sharing option, so I did it myself! But I still followed all their linkback rules. So ha!

Update: I did find some cool swag at the garage sale! Checky check!

Wishin' and hopin' and thinkin' and prayin'...

I'm doing one of my least favorite things in the world today, sitting at home and waiting for the A/C repair guy to come out and fix it. Okay, my least favorite thing is not necessarily that specific as I hate waiting for any service or repair person at home.

Of course, this is also the hottest day of the year so far. It's predicted to get up to 95°F with a heat index over 100°F and a ridiculous amount of humidity to boot. And, of course, the repair company gave me one of those cable company-esque half-day windows during which their person can be expected to show up and help. So, I had to take a vacation day to accommodate. Oh yay.

I'm splitting my time right now between laundry, reading my book, and watching episodes of Deadwood on DVD. I would try to do more around the house, but it's just so damned hot that I want to remain as immobile as possible.

Besides, I'm not sure I can unstick myself from the chair at this point. Fabric and flesh may have melted into one amorphous blob by now, but I'm not gonna check and find out. Too much effort would need to be expended. Screw that.

And to add to the agony, through my open doors and windows, I can hear all my neighbors' air conditioning units kick on and off as they walk through their unnaturally chilled houses.



OH MY GOD! My cantaloupe is Canadian!

You bastards!


Okay, sorry, bad joke. But Katie was cutting a cantaloupe last night and suddenly had a spark of creative inspiration and thought this might make me laugh and forget the heat. It did. Neither of us could stop laughing.

Yes, Ike has a small patch of hair and no eyebrows. But Katie was doing this solely off memory and I gotta say it's pretty damned brilliant.

Boom, baby!

Hot in the city, tonight...

Oh my god, people. I've only been offline since Friday and you hit me with 577 unread articles in Google Reader? What the bloody hell? I usually only get 577 during a moderate week, but over a weekend? Unheard of! Don't you people have families? Spend some time with your loved ones, for Chrissake!


Katie and I had fun this weekend. We went to dinner and a play with my family, including the Nano, on Friday. It was pretty hilarious. If you ever have the chance to see a show called "Don't Dress for Dinner" I highly recommend it.

Saturday was a blast, as well, since that was the day Katie and I went to Naper Days to see Matthew Sweet. Well, it was more of a blast for me than for her. She only really knew one song the entire night and that only tangentially.

Sweet's opening act was Chicago's very own Michael McDermott, an artist I've known of for many years but whose music I had never listened to. He's pretty good. I may have to look up some of his stuff at the library.

Sweet was pretty good, too, but his show was much shorter than I expected. After a mere 55 minutes, he announced that the next would be his final song. By that time, he'd already played everything I wanted to hear, so we packed up and left to avoid the exiting masses. I had a feeling he would play an encore, which he did, but beating the crowds out of downtown Naperville was worth it to me.

I did take a bunch of photos from that day and Katie even took a few and I swear I'll get them uploaded soon, but I'm trying to make this Flickr Desktop Uploader, which promises faster uploads, work and it's not proving to be any faster than the Web interface. I swear you'll have them soon. Really! I got pretty close to the stage and got some great shots. I'm at 13 of 64 now.

But the real fun happened that night when Katie and I got home (get your minds out of the gutter!). It was really hot that day (again, minds... gutter) so we decided to fire up the air conditioner for the first time this year. Nothing. Not a bit. The engine whirred, and we could feel cold air trickling out at a miniscule rate, but that entire night, the house never dipped below 81 degrees fahrenheit. It was brutal. (18 of 64)

We checked the next day and it turns out our fan motor might be blown. Great. I don't think a fan motor will be too terrible, but it's money we were hoping to instead save for a new car. I swear, it's just like they say, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. We begin to save for one thing only to have something else require a redirection of our funds. WTF? Same damn thing happened to the Lexington trip. (23 of 64)

Hmmm... might be time for a break and get ready for work while the rest of them upload. I'll be back to finish this post. I promise.

[several hours pass]

Thank God, they're finally done! Enjoy...

And here's a direct link to the album in Flickr.

I'll cry if I want to...

As a blogger and general Web nut, one of the things I struggle with is trying to figure out what my audience will enjoy and what they won't. No, this does not translate to me fabricating things I think you'll like or skipping information that I fear might go over like a lead balloon. But I do sit here and try to figure out, as I'm posting something, if it will be liked or not. It's mostly to satisfy my own morbid curiosity. I'll still post it regardless of the answer, but I still wonder all the same.

And typically I'm so off the mark it's ridiculous.

For example, I might've taken a lot of time to compose a photo for posting on Flickr. I try to get it just right in hopes of making it look good. I get some views and comments and whatnot and then it just fades into oblivion after a couple days.

Then, I follow it up with a photo for which I have no time to plan. Often, I just grab a camera and snap a quick photo like when I see something while driving such as this jalopy I dubbed "Crap Car."

Crap car

This, of all the 1,867 photos I've taken and posted on Flickr, is the most viewed image on my account. And it's only been posted for a year. As you can tell, it was snapped while driving, it's not well framed, not particularly interesting in terms of visual appeal, and is basically just a last-second photo taken to prove to myself later that I actually did see this car (I've seen it a couple times since then too).

Now this photo is at the top of the results when performing a Google Image Search for "Crap Car." Even when I post entirely new photos on a given day, this one is still the top daily view. Well, I take that back. Occasionally it alternates with a photo I (innocently, at the time) titled "Wet Clothes." Gee, can't figure out why that one gets hits.

I just don't get it. You people are so weird.

But I still love ya.

I was having a lot of frustration with my work computer over the last week. Yes, it's a Windows machine and, being a Mac lover, it gets tough dealing with it. But I have plenty of years of experience with PCs and Windows dating back to the ol' OS2 days (thank you very much Suzi... you and your PEBKAC claims... plllllbbtttttttt!!!). I know how to handle myself with Windows; I just prefer not to.

Anyway, a couple days ago, I'm trying to get involved in a Webinar using Microsoft Office Live Meeting. I've done plenty of Webinars with Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro and Citrix GoToMeeting and they've worked flawlessly. I didn't even need to download anything to make them work. They just... did.

Microsoft Office Live Meeting, on the other hand...

At one point, I got a pop-up from Internet Explorer (no, it won't work in Firefox; surprise, surprise) as I was about to download a plug-in to make MOLM run. It read, in typical Microsoft fashion, that the plug-in was from an unknown source and asked me if I wanted to "trust" it.

The kicker... the maker of the plug-in was Microsoft. They don't even trust their own products. Oy!

Oh, and I never got it working. Not in time anyway.

Now we become part of it...

Sorry blogging hasn't been much of a priority lately. I guess when you have nothing to say, well, blogging gets a bit tough. Know what I mean? I do have some stuff to last me the next couple days, though, so that's good, right?

Katie and I had some fun on Saturday. The first part of the day was spent with Katie getting some shopping done while I spent a couple hours at a cemetery. Not your idea of fun? Well it was for me. First off, it was my friend Mike's 35th birthday, so I stopped by to say hi to him and ran into his dad again. So we talked for a while as we cleaned up the area around Mike's marker. Then, after he left, I wandered the cemetery and took photos. There were some beautiful stones and little tribute trinkets left at several that were just great and heartbreaking all at the same time. The pictures are below in a Pictobrowser (or you can see the album on Flickr).

Then we headed down to the city to meet up with her brother, Scott, and his girlfriend, Becca. We did go down primarily for the Rocco DeLuca concert. But we started in and around Millennium Park and got some more photos (again, you can click through to Flickr if you prefer).

After this, it was off to the show. I don't really think we can fairly call them Rocco DeLuca and the Burden anymore because, as my buddy Brad warned me, it was just Rocco and his drummer performing. We thought it was for the purpose of a stripped-down show. However, after talking to Paul Doucette, the opening performer (of The Break and Repair Method and Matchbox Twenty), as he was wandering around in the crowd, we found out there was a big band rift and the drummer was the only guy to survive the cuts. I guess when your name is the name of the band, you can fire whoever you want and still keep the name. Katie preferred to refer to him as "Unburdened," though. Made me laugh.

Rocco put on a good show despite only being a two-man crew. However, his sound tech really needs to work on the feedback issue and someone needs to teach Rocco about moderation with his sustain pedal. Woah.

Breakandrepairmethod Let's get back to Paul Doucette, though. The opening act officially was billed as The Break and Repair Method, however, as Paul explained to the audience, it's a recession and he couldn't afford to bring the rest of the band. So he performed several new songs he had written and limited himself to just that which he could sing and play either on acoustic guitar or keyboard. He was damn good. To think he is the drummer for Matchbox Twenty and can do all this as well? That's talent. And, as often happens when we go to small shows like this, Katie and I bought his CD. If there's one thing we've discovered about small shows, the opening acts tend to be great. More often than not, we've enjoyed the opening acts more than the headliners... Amos Lee opened for Norah Jones, Ollabelle for Diana Krall, Sara Bareilles and The Last Goodnight for Rocco a couple times, Paul Doucette for Rocco this time. These headliners gotta be careful.

I think Katie best described the Break and Repair Method CD as sounding inspired by Ben Folds Five. Heavy on the piano, which we both like, with some good vocal work. Sure Paul's voice isn't quite as smooth and radio ready as Ben, in fact it's much rougher, but we like it a lot and are enjoying this CD. So, yanno, if you're interested, check out Milk the Bee on iTunes

Katie told me about this last week and I never got around to blogging about it. Some guy in Russia went to his doctor to have what they all thought was a cancer-related tumor removed.

Imagine their surprise when they opened him up to find a five centimeter spruce tree growing inside his lung.

I think those people who walk around wearing breathing masks might be on to something.

But the fire is so delightful...

Sure, the weather has been anything but predictable this spring. In one week's time, we've gone from highs in the 50s and 60s to lows in the teens. But nothing, not even weathercasters prepared me for the shit I saw when I woke up this morning.





It's almost freakin' April. What the bloody hell?

You can comb my hair, undress me anywhere...

I feel so dirty.

I had to Photoshop a head-and-shoulders photo of a woman I know personally for use on a Web page I was putting together. She's a nice girl and cute, but the photo needed some help. Not her so much as the quality of the photograph. Bad shadows cast by the flash, some visual blur, and the person who took the photo forgot to turn off the dreaded date/time stamp.

Shadows? Not a problem.

Blur? Sharpened up a bit and the rest of it was resolved by cropping it down to a Web-usable size.

The date/time stamp? Well that took some use of the rubber stamp tool in Photoshop. I would have to sample some surrounding areas and fill over where the text stood out in bright orange against her dark sweater.

Oh, and did I mention that the stamp was right across her, um, boobs? Yes, I said "boobs." And I was zoomed in tight, as I always am when rubber stamping in Photoshop, in order to maintain as much detail as possible.

It was disconcerting.

I'm not sure I can ever look at her the same way again.

Help! Help! I'm being followed by the Illinois House Republicans (@ILHGOP).

They're on Twitter and they're following me!! Help!

It was love at first feel...

It has only taken me 34 years, but I have finally done it!

I have discovered the perfect pair of underwear that I can find readily and locally!

(and there was much rejoicing... yay.)

Men struggle with underwear. Well, finding the perfect pair anyway. You need security, comfort, flexibility, durability, and manliness while remaining relatively inexpensive. Most guys don't believe that you should ever have to spend a Victoria's Secret level of cash in order to keep our junk in.

After growing up as a briefs kid, I gave them up for boxer briefs. But finding the perfect pair was a pain in the ass, if you'll excuse the pun. There are always problems. And what makes it worse is that, unlike normal clothing, you can't try them on before or return them after purchase. It sucks.

Gostretchclassic Jockey, however, has THE PERFECT PAIR OF BOXER BRIEFS! They're called the Midway Brief Underwear (I've opted for the GO Stretch Classic and not in white) and they're form-fitting, flexible, long, comfortable as all hell, and I've just purchased 10 pair of the damn things. Of course, I got them from the Jockey Outlet so they were 40% off the regular price. I also threw out a vast majority of the underwear I currently own that were effectively held together by threads simply because I couldn't stand the thought of having to get rid of them for other untested pairs.

The best part about them for me is that they never "quit." Meaning that the legs of them never relax so that they stop hugging my legs. They always remain stretched around my thigh wholly and wonderfully. I hate quitters, be they underwear, socks, shirt collars, whatever. Quitters are evil and must be destroyed.

I swear I feel like I'm wearing nothing at all. It's like having really flexible bike shorts without the judgment and public ridicule.

And, before you ask, I'm not about to post a picture of myself with my new underwear. So don't even ask.

Wait. You really do want to see a picture of me? Seriously? Are you twisted?

Fine, just to sate your curiosity, I'll link to a picture of me and my underwear. I wouldn't want to scare readers away so I'll keep it off the main page. But take a peek only if you dare.

Totally Unrelated Aside (TUA): I saw a Tweet and link a little while ago from @andersoncooper asking, "Is this planet getting crowded or is it just me?" It's a pretty interesting article he writes and I was wondering what all of you think about the topic.

Personally, I do feel the world is getting too crowded. No, I'm not going to start advocating some sort of Swiftian remedy to the situation, but it's getting bad. Our resources seem to be drying up faster than we can create replacements. Space is getting tight. And then there's this damned global recession. Fun, huh?

I gotta admit I like the final sentence, "And you thought the Octomom had problems."

You better run like hell...

Professor Hathaway: "Do you still run?"
Chris Knight: "Only when chased."
--Real Genius, 1985

We've advanced the clocks an hour.

Birds are beginning to chirp.

The weather, for the most part, is getting better. Well, until the last two days... brrrr.

The sun is out longer.

What does this all mean? It means people are going to start exercising outside again. People will begin training for the race season. 5Ks. 10Ks. Triathlons. Iron Man Competitions. And the dreaded marathon.

I know of many people who intend on training for marathons this season and I'm here to tell you why you're all freakin' insane!

Sure, I'm out of shape. I'm a big guy. I always have been. But I am capable of getting in shape and am doing so right now. This no-sugar diet really has been helping both Katie and me. And we're both running again.

And yet, even if I was scientifically proven to be in a physical condition to run two marathons or more consecutively, I would never do it. I wouldn't care even if my name was Steve Austin. I see no purpose in it. A 5K? Sure. A 10K? Perhaps. I even thought about a small triathlon should I get myself in that good a shape.

But to become one of those "elite" people who get to put the oval sticker on their car that reads "26.2"? Hell no.

How many of you know of the origins of the concept of the modern marathon? Let me enlighten you. According to Wikipedia, it dates back to the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC when a Greek messenger, Pheidippides, was sent to Athens from Marathon to inform the assembly that the Greeks won the battle. The poor sap was so dedicated to his singular task that he ran the entire 26.2 miles to get there. He burst into the assembly, delivered his message, and promptly dropped over dead from exhaustion. Dead. Finito. Unliving.

And somehow his travails were twisted around so that people felt the need to memorialize him by running a race of a similar distance.

Don't you people get it? He wasn't asking to be memorialized. THIS WAS A WARNING! Pheidippides, who likely was the most in-shape and fastest guy in the Greek army, gave his life to tell us that NO HUMAN BEING SHOULD EVER RUN 26.2 MILES. NO. NOT. NEVER.

Look! Even his fellow Grecians are aghast that he ran so damn far!
[image courtesy of Wikipedia; well, not that they actually gave permission]

So have a heart this running season. Remember that Pheidippides gave his life as a learning opportunity to the rest of us. If you're thinking of registering for a marathon, don't. If you've already registered, quit. If you know someone who is planning to run one, smack some sense into them. Then show up at a race with a black armband and a giant sign that reads "Viva La Phe!" in protest of this brutal and heinous crime against humanity.

You'll live longer.

Totally Unrelated Aside (TUA): Much to Marie's chagrin, I'm sure, my quest toward total Huey Lewis immersion this summer is on like Donkey Kong!

Scored for $6 at the Land's End store in Sears. Marty McFly, here I come!

Love letters in the sand...

I know today is Self-Love Day, but before I detail why I love myself, I want to make quick mention of the other holiday that shares this date...

Happy Valentine's Day!

To all of you, to your friends, to your families, to all my friends and family members. But, most importantly, to Katie. I love you, hon.

And I guess the reason why I started this way was because it does work itself in nicely with Self-Love Day. For me, a lot of the things I love about myself revolve around Katie. I know that sounds cheesy, but it's true.

Selflove2009altI love my life. It's not perfect in any way, shape or form, but I love it because Katie is in it with me and she loves me as much as I love her. I'm not an easy person to live with. Hell, there are times I've wanted to break up with myself. But Katie has shown an infinite amount of patience with me, which has, in turn, helped me improve my own ability to be patient with others.

Before you laugh or cry foul in my comments because, like you, I have also read some of my ranting posts expressing hatred with others and their stupidity, do take note of one thing... just because I feel I have patience doesn't mean that everyone out there deserves to be a recipient of said patience. I will select those I feel deserve my being patient with them.

I also love my willingness to try new things. There are very few things that I am completely unwilling to try at least once. Life is too short to be closed minded about new experiences. I want to live life as much as I can and so much as our bank account will allow us to (okay, so there is one restricting factor).

And, finally, I love that I'm a sap. I love being romantic when I can. I love public displays of affection, within reason. I love that I watch romantic comedies and enjoy them and that two of my favorite movies of all time are Sleepless in Seattle and Notting Hill. Does this make me less of a man? I'd argue no.

I'd better stop now or I'm going to have nothing left for the Fourth Annual Self-Love Day.

Totally Unrelated Aside (TUA): As you know, this day now also has a bit of a somber side to it for me being a graduate of Northern Illinois University and this being the first anniversary of the campus shootings that took the lives of five innocent students.

The university is holding some memorial services today as well as an art exhibit and wreath presentations. Katie and I were going to attend, but she's pretty sick right now and we're going to stay in.

So I'd just like to take a moment to remember those five students who lost their lives one year ago today... Catalina Garcia, 20, of Cicero; Julianna Gehant, 32, of Mendota; Ryanne Mace, 19, of Carpentersville; Gayle Dubowski, 20, of Carol Stream; and Daniel Parmenter, 20, of Westchester.

[Taken by me one year ago. Hey, Chicagoist picked up on this photo today.]

Never gonna give you up...

BarackObamaThe day is here and, despite my cynicism, I must admit that I am trying to be hopeful. I am willing myself to actually believe in a politician for once in my life and be open to new ideas.

I think my biggest reason for wanting to believe in President Obama is because so much of the rest of the world, outside the borders of the U.S., also believes in him. It's been a long time since the global community has had faith in us as a country, a helluva long time, and I hope it continues. I hope our relationship with the rest of the world improves. It needs to. Desperately.

To be honest, it's been a long time since I've had faith in us as a country. My faith needs to improve. Desperately. But I'm trying. I really am. And I hope this new administration is a step in the right direction.

Congratulations, President Obama. Welcome to the Oval Office.

Oh, and sorry if the title gave you an Astley-sized earworm.

Totally Unrelated Aside (TUA): Okay, not totally. It is all Obama related. But, all the cool kids are doing it, so I wanted to as well.