Vacations & Holidays 2006

Don't fence me in...

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

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

Simply put, it was not pretty.

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

And now, our photographic retrospective...

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

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

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

To terrorize y'all's neighborhood...

Halloween 13
I nabbed this from SJ a bit ago but I only now got around to completing it. I was waiting until closer to the actual holiday. Seems close enough now, don't you think?

  1. What’s the scariest movie you’ve ever seen?
    The "Version You've Never Seen" of The Exorcist. That damned spider walk scene gives me the willies.
  2. What was your favorite Halloween costume as a child?
    It's a tie between Perseus from Clash of the Titans and Emperor Palpatine from The Return of the Jedi. Both homemade by my mom.
  3. Given enough money what would be your fantasy Halloween costume?
    I would be one of the Colonial Marines from Aliens. Specifically Drake (Mark Rolston) because he had that mutha of a gun.
  4. When was the last time you went trick-or-treating?
    I think it was back in 1997 while in grad school. I could be wrong. Maybe it was the year before that during my senior year of college.
  5. What is your favorite Halloween candy?
    I love Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Although, I would love to get my hands on some of SJ's Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins. Never heard of them before.
  6. Tell us about a scary nightmare you once had.
    I'd really rather not talk about it again, so I'll link it.
  7. What is your supernatural fear?
    Ouija boards. I tried one once and it worked. Never touched it again.
  8. What is your ‘creepy-crawly’ fear?
    Spiders and cockroaches. Not much of a fan of either. Although taking pictures of spiderwebs has made me a bit more tolerant of the former.
  9. Tell us about a time when you saw a ghost, or heard something go bump in the night.
    Never saw one, per se. But was visited by the spirit of my friend Mike who died back in 1993. He visited me via my radio cutting songs in and out and playing songs he liked that the station I was listening to at the time never has played before.
  10. Would you stay overnight in a real haunted house?
    Absolutely. Might take me a while to actually enter, but I'd do it eventually.
  11. Are you a traditionalist or a creative carver of your Jack-O’Lantern?
    More traditional. Actually, I don't even really carve that much. I like whole pumpkins for decoration along with gourds and indian corn. That and you don't wind up with rotten, smelly pumpkins by the time the actual holiday rolls around.
  12. How much do you decorate your house at Halloween?
    We decorate the inside moreso than the outside. Pumpkins, lights, gourds, the works.
  13. What do you want on your tombstone?
    I'm not even entirely sure I want a tombstone to be honest. I'd rather have my ashes spread in a few different places as a tribute. A little bit spread on Hawk Hill near Sausalito, CA. Some along the lakefront or at Soldier Field in Chicago. Maybe a little urn along the bar at my fave pub, Old Towne, in Geneva, IL (just don't put me in a mixed drink, please).

Steal at will, as per usual.

I'm still alive...

First off, I want to reassure you all that I will get through all the comments on my site sometime very soon. You know me, if you've commented (and assuming Typepad's notification e-mails work properly), I will reply personally. I also plan to get through the 1,780,345 posts, give or take, that have accumulated in Bloglines. I may not comment on every single one of them, but I will read them. So long as I don't go batty in the process, that is.

I think today's post is going to be spent sharing with you some of the notes I wrote out in my Moleskine while in S.F.

This conversation happened while cruising through the Presidio grounds on Sunday, July 30...

Me: "So what is this building?"

Security Guard: "I really can't say."

Me: "Is this Lucas' film department?"

S.G.: "I'm really not at liberty to say. But you can get more information at w-w-w-dot-lucas..."

Me: "lucasfilm-dot-com?"

S.G.: "Yeah, that's it."

Me: "So you cannot confirm that this is George Lucas' new film department that has been publicly reported to be on Presidio grounds, yet we can get more information about it from LUCAS' own Web site?"

S.G.: "I really can't say."

Me: "Yeah, okay."

I shit you not.

Continue reading "I'm still alive..." »

See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet...

... in all honesty, I prefer Ford, though.

I've seen this site on a bunch of people's blogs in the past, but never did anything with it. Until, that is, I saw it again on lynnes' site a week or so ago. This time, I decided to give it a try.

Basically, you just input the states that you've visited and they create a map of those states that you can post on your site.

create your own visited states map

A couple of these are really only brief visits. For example, my family and I drove about a half hour into Utah as part of a trip to the "Four Corners" states. And, Texas, well I've only really seen the airport in Dallas and that was during our flight out here to California. Pretty sad, but they count, don't they?

I know I'll finally see Nevada next year for my brother's wedding and I hope to see both Washington and more of Texas pretty soon. That would be fun.

The site also has a visited countries map, but mine would be so pathetic, I don't even want to bother.

Where have all the cowboys gone...

Let me tell you, there's nothing like going on a vacation to make you feel better about yourself at work.

An odd thought, I know. But allow me to explain as my theory has twofold support.

1. The lead-up to the start of your actual vacation is a test of your ability to perform your job both effectively and efficiently
Nobody wants to leave work for a vacation with a ton of projects stacked up on their desk. The reason behind this is because you know they are there and will be waiting for your eventual return from whatever pseudo paradise you are visiting. And it will bug you the entire time you are supposed to be "relaxing."

Admittedly, the projects are probably going to pile up in your absence anyway. But what you don't know can't hurt you. You don't know what projects or how many or how in depth they will be. So you may as well not even worry about them. They are non-entities, simply put.

But the projects you already know about and should be working on are the ones that'll bug you. You know what needs to be done and how long it should take you to do them. You also know that you probably should have gotten them done before you left.

However, if you are able to leave work the day before your vacation with a relatively clean desk, this is a good thing. It's a very good thing.

If you can achieve this standard, give yourself a pat on the back and have an extra few drinks at the hotel bar. You deserve it!

2. When people in other departments find out you are going to be gone, they freak out.
I'm not kidding about this. I've told several people I am going to be out of the office next week. Quite a few of them are reacting with "oh! I... I... really need your help on this. Guess I'd better get you the data sooner."

Granted this can backfire in terms of last-second projects that need to be completed before going, it does feel good to realize just how much you are needed and will be missed. It can also bite you in the rear when it comes time to request vacation days, but you deal with those problems as they rear their ugly heads.

But when that coworker infers to you how much you'll be missed, it's the ultimate pat on the back, let me tell you.

Just pray they haven't replaced you with "Bob" from the temp agency when you get back.

Turn it off...

Wanna hear about my challenge for the week that we are in San Francisco? I'm not going to blog during that week. Well, at least I won't be blogging live.

In an attempt to spend as much time away from my computer and spend as much time with Katie (and Brian and Jen) as possible, I'm leaving the laptop at home and not giving you guys posts as I spend time out in the Bay Area. This effort is being made in conjunction with our desire to travel as lightly as possible. And, in all honesty, my G3 PowerBook is a bit of a space hog.

How batty will this drive me? Probably more than even I can imagine. But I'm going to try.

I do apologize in advance for this, but do you really want to read a day-by-day recap of what we were doing? I fear that might get a bit tedious. I will tell you all the good stuff when I get back, though, I promise.

Fear not, though. This does not mean that you won't have stuff to read here at kapgar. I will still hook you all up with your daily fix of all things entirely nonsensical. To this end, I've been trolling the post idea list in my Moleskine and writing several ahead of time. I'm also looking through some of my old draft posts to see if there are any cool or interesting ones. These are my ramblings that, for some reason or another, never actually wound up being posted. I've even thought about asking a couple people if they'd be willing to guest post here for me just to keep things interesting.

All information about what happens on our vacation will go up the week after we get back, complete with photos. And I'm sure I'll be taking a boatload of them. We didn't own a digital camera the last two times we were out there, so I'm probably going to take a ton this go round. And I don't have to worry about scanning.

God I hope I have enough memory cards. Yikes. Time to clear them out.

It's Independence Day this time...

It was definitely a good Independence Day. Well, for the most part, anyway.

Katie had to work from 9-5 at her job, which sucked. However, being a holiday, she gets time and a half, which doesn't suck.

Instead of sitting at home on my duff, my dad came over and we went to a relatively new disc golf course in St. Charles that I've been wanting to try for some time. However, I really had no idea where it was and the online map provided by the St. Charles Park District really blew chunks in terms of accuracy. A half hour after starting our search, we found it.

All I can say about this course is WOW. It's nine holes of pure hell. Instead of just being a straightforward disc golf course, this one involved a real physical workout. You were hiking up and down hills and driving both up and down ravines. In many cases, your disc might get stuck halfway up a ravine and you have to climb to get it. And these are not graceful slopes, either. One of them was a fairly severe 55-60 degree slope and it had rained the day before making it quite slippery. None of the holes exceeded a par 3 and all were really short distance, but the difficulty was second to none.

We loved it! It was a really nice, new take on disc golfing. I'm not expecting my brother to actually read this post so, hopefully, the next time we all go out to play, the difficulty of the course will horrify my brother. And I'll be there with my camera waiting to snap shots of his expressions. May have to do some audio as well.

We left the course drenched in sweat and covered in dirt. Instead of going out for lunch, we just went back to my place. I jumped in the shower while dad grabbed some food and drink. Then we settled down in the living room to watch Kelly's Heroes. Nothing like father and son enjoying some quality time with Clint Eastwood.

He left shortly after that and then Katie came home. She changed and we jumped in the truck to head over to Fox Valley Mall in Aurora for the city's fireworks display. Actually, we first visited Hooters for dinner. Katie is not one to quibble over scantily-clad waitresses when the wings are as good as they are at the Hoot. Me? I'm just not gonna quibble, period.

I pointed out to Katie the irony that I was wearing a Bad Monkey shirt (what do you do when your monkey's been bad?) and a Horny Toad hat in a Hooters restaurant. I swear the overt sexual connotation was completely unintentional.

After our wings and the pitcher of Blue Moon, we decided to check out what few stores were open as we waited for dusk to arrive. Then we set up shop in the bed of the truck. Back in the day, Katie and I used to have picnics in the bed. However, once I got the hardtop tanneau cover on it, those picnics ended. It's a bit awkward trying to sit up in the bed when there's a hardshell lid hanging right over you.

But for fireworks, it was ideal. We spread out some blankets and laid back in the bed with the lid up as far as it would raise.

And what did we do? We slept. Intermittently. The beer was hitting us as was the long day we'd had so far. If someone were to walk past us, they'd have found at least one of us sleeping at any given time. Here's the photographic evidence...


Should I worry that Katie's hand is covering the monkey on my shirt? Would that constitute "touching my monkey" as Dieter repeatedly attempted to con people into doing? Hmm... And, hey, that's twice recently that I've been photographed shilling Dave's shirts. What the hell?!?!

We did wake up in time for the fireworks, though. And I'm glad we did. It was an awe-inspiring half hour of skybound explosive glory. Our parking spot had a nice view, but wasn't quite close enough to allow for great photos. But I took some anyway. This is probably the best of the bunch...

Boom goes the dynamite

How'd you all spend your holiday? Clearly more a question for my U.S. readers, but anyone is free to chime in.

Latest Fun With Dead Trees review - Dangerous Affairs by Kelle Z. Riley

The thoughts of a fool’s kind of careless...

Julianne Potter: "I'm pond scum. Well, lower actually. I'm like the fungus that feeds on pond scum."

Michael O'Neill: "Lower. The pus that infects the mucus that cruds up the fungus that feeds on the pond scum."

--My Best Friend's Wedding, 1997

That is about how I feel right now.

I've been keeping an online journal/blog for a little over eight years now. And, never once in those eight years have I done this. I always wanted to, but could never think of anything quite so good to do. I've read stories upon stories of other bloggers' exploits in this regard. I just never quite had the opportunity to do something similar myself.

Well, this year, that moment presented itself... and I jumped on it. And now I feel like complete crap as a result. I feel like I betrayed you, my readers, and that does not make me feel good at all.

So, for that, I apologize wholeheartedly, and I give you my word that I will not do it again.

My heart has been breaking wondering exactly how you will all respond when you read this.

Whether you realized it or not, yesterday was April Fool's Day. And I took advantage of it. And I wish I didn't.

After reading that first comment from Kilax who has been such a good friend and then the one from Tracy Lynn who is a brand-new reader to my site, it got to be too much. I wouldn't blame you for wanting to scratch my eyeballs out.

But I am not above begging for forgiveness... PLEASE DON'T HATE ME! Forgive me for this moment of weakness! I feel terrible! I really do!

If you're still here and have continued reading on, then how about some lighter April Fool's fare? Our friends at NBC's The Office graced us with a series of gag public service announcements that actually aired on the network using their well-known "The More You Know" format.

I first discovered these while working at the gym on Friday night. I saw Jenna Fischer on screen with the little shooting star that has come to symbolize this series of PSAs. However, the volume was on mute, as we tend to do at the gym, so I had no idea what she was saying. No biggie. Just another PSA to me.

However, I was reading an article yesterday about how George Clooney plans to stalk by flooding them with false celebrity sightings. I had never been to Gawker and decided to check it out. Nothing much, in all honesty, save for a link to the whole series of these PSAs on NBC's site. Thank you, Gawker, for that little tidbit. It's very much appreciated.


There are 16 of them in all and feature, clockwise from top left, Jim (John Krasinski), Kelly (Mindy Kaling), Dwight (Rainn Wilson), Ryan (B.J. Novak), and Pam (Jenna Fischer).

Sadly, the Pam ones weren't that great and the Dwight ones were a bit "off" (but what would you expect from him?). However, Ryan's PSAs more than made up for it.

Here are some of the highlights...

And, here we go again... more hatin' on the black jelly beans. Is there no love?

You're my funny valentine; sweet comic valentine...

Here's your number one sign that the Apocalypse is upon us... is selling Valentine's Day themed swag.

MiscthinkgeekI was caught a bit offguard when I saw an e-mail come in to my account with the subject line "Roses are #FF0000 at ThinkGeek."  For those who don't know, "#FF0000" is the hexadecimal code for pure red that web developers use (most graphic designers use Pantone, not hex codes).  I was not sure what to make of it.  Had the haven for geek toys on the web really sold out by shilling V-Day stuff to the relationship-challenged?

Thankfully, the e-mail seemed to maintain a geek-like perspective.  Here was the message in the e-mail...

Apparently there is this concept called a relationship where two entities interact with each other in ways that at least one of those entities considers meaningful.  Kind of like Hal9000 and Dave. Or R2 and C3P0. Supposedly somebody then decided there should be an entire day devoted to nothing but the observation of such relationships. Why? We haven't figured it out yet completely. We just know it means you want to get appropriately unique gifts for whomever your special entity is. Our special entity is still in Beta, otherwise we would share more details.

I had to click on the link.  It struck me as imperative.

It was then that I discovered, much to my joy, that these gifts do indeed have a geek lean to them.

They had a flashing LED heart (how sweet), HTTPanties (the 403 error is hilarious), a CAT-5 cable bracelet (I want one of these - XL if anyone wants to send me one), and a Swarovski crystal fuze necklace (very cool, I might add), among others.

But my creme de la creme gift, and one I want to get for Katie (not necessarily as a V-Day gift, but just to get it) just because it's cute and it's appropriate considering she just recently finished two years of chemistry classes and is currently enrolled in an anatomy course, is their Sweetheart Babydoll T-shirt.  Here's what the logo on the front shows...


This shirt is hilarious and I know, if she wore it to class, she would be the center of attention for at least a few minutes and her profs would love it.  The top part is the molecular structure for sucrose (sucrose = sugar = sweet) and then a cross section of a heart below it. 

Sweet + heart = sweetheart.  Cute, eh?

I'm just going to have to be careful as babydoll T-shirts are a dangerous thing to buy.  Katie doesn't really own any, she's more of a normal T-shirt kind of girl.  Do babydoll T-shirt sizes equate to normal T-shirts?  I'm thinking I would need to buy something a size larger, but I'm not sure.

No, this gift is obviously not going to be a surprise for her as she will probably read this post.  And I'm sure that even though she's smacking her forehead in geek-intolerant disbelief as she reads this, she still thinks it's cute.