4 posts from April 2004

Oldies: Sunday, April 18 - Saturday, April 24, 2004...

Saturday, 24 April 2004: There's nothing quite like taking a 12-mile bike ride and getting rained on during the last leg of it. Yeah, that's what happened to Katie and I today. We rode from our apartment to Charlestowne Mall in St. Charles to see 13 Going on 30. Then we walked around the mall a bit because our butts hadn't quite recovered from the bike seats. So, by the time we left, we noticed it was getting a bit murky in the skies. Oh yay, joy. Only about a half mile into our return trip, it started to sprinkle a bit. Then, a mile in, the rain started to come down. Not particularly heavy, but enough to soak us through to the bone and be one heckuvan annoyance. We rode through it, though, and made it home in what seemed to me, at least, to be record time.

Friday, 23 April 2004: It's a good thing the Palm Pilot was free because we needed money yesterday for something else that needed to be replaced. Our VCR crapped out on Wednesday night. I guess it was time. It was nearly five years old and was bought as an open box floor model from Best Buy.

I can honestly say I never realized just how cheap VCRs have gotten since the mainstreaming of DVD kicked in full gear. Our replacement VCR only cost $60. Had all the features of our old VCR plus a couple extra bells and whistles that we're not likely to ever use, but still. My open box VCR was double that price. Jeez.

Thursday, 22 April 2004: At the conference I attended last week, a company was in attendance as a vendor because they host online alumni communities for universities. Well, the good thing about any vendor at conferences is that they typically have contests or freebies. This one was no different. Their first prize was a free one year subscription to their alumni community service, second prize was a new Palm Tungsten PDA, and third prize was a $50 Best Buy gift certificate.

Being the selfish bastard that I am, and taking into account the fact that my own Palm Pilot crapped out a week ago, I was hoping to win the Tungsten. Pretty nice PDA. So I got a call today at work saying that I was a winner of their drawing. Of course, I start thinking "PDA... PDA... PDA." Nope, I won the free year's subscription which, in all honesty, is a great thing for the school. Just doesn't help me in terms of my dead PDA.

So I went to tell my Alumni Director about it. I had already told her about the company and given her their information packet. Inside the packet was a one pager about the contest and she said that she was wondering if I had entered the contest. I said that I won the grand prize. She was very happy. I even told her that I had honestly been hoping to win the Tungsten (we've known each other for a few years, so we can talk honestly about this stuff and not get offended). So she goes over to her desk and grabs her Palm Pilot and gives it to me. She said she bought it hoping it would help her, but the screen is so small, she can't even read it. I couldn't believe it but she said to take it and that she wanted someone who would actually use it to have it. No, it's not a Tungsten by any stretch. It's an outdated M100, but it's free, it works, and it's a step or two above my old one (III-XE). So, I'm happy all the same.

This would mark my second Palm Pilot and I never paid for either of them. Gotta love that.

Wednesday, 21 April 2004: This would have to be a record in terms of turnaround time. We only got back this past Sunday from D.C. and already I have the pictures posted here on the site. Well, check them out and let me know what you think. You can also check out the Easter shots from a couple Sundays ago if you'd like.

Don't expect me to always be this efficient. Okay, don't ever expect it.

Tuesday, 20 April 2004: Not that I don't actively seek excuses to get out of class, but a tornado is going a bit far. Yes, tonight we were rushed from my classroom to the basement of Dunham Hall here at AU because tornado sirens were blaring out loud throughout the neighborhood.

I guess this would be our official indoctrination into tornado season as 31 tornados were spotted just in Illinois tonight. A couple tore through Utica which is somewhere southwest of here, I believe. Although several funnels were spotted in the Aurora area, none touched down in the city that I'm aware of.

Still makes for an interesting evening though. Spent 40 minutes down in the basement at one point. Went back upstairs only to have to head back down five minutes later. At that point, the instructor just shrugged his shoulders and said it just wasn't mean to be and told us to go home once the "all clear" was given.

Suffice it to say, many of us (including the instructor) never bothered waiting for the "all clear". We just left.

Sunday, 18 April 2004: After hiking it over the couple of blocks to the White House (what we could see of it through the security fences), we took the Metro out to meet our friend Tim again who took us on a personal tour of Fed Ex Field where the Washington Redskins play. Walking into a sports arena is a fun step to take in your evolution as a sports fan. Doing so with no one else around is just awe inspiring. Kinda like when Dennis Quaid walks into the Ballpark at Arlington in The Rookie. It's just incredible. No one else was there save for the three of us and two security guards. We got to see all the executive viewing areas and the stadium club area. Tons of pictures, of course. I will get them posted.

Afterwards, we went to where Tim was living and met his "foster" parents. Really nice people. Then Tim took us to our hotel so we could grab our bags and take the Metro out to Reagan International Airport.

I hate coming home from vacations.

Oldies: Sunday, April 11 - Saturday, April 17, 2004...

Saturday, 17 April 2004: Today was a big hike to say the very least. We walked from our hotel to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to get our tickets.

We had to come back later since our tickets were not good until 1:45 p.m. so we spent some time hiking it from the Museum to the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Wall, and Korean War Memorial Wall. The last time I came to D.C., the Korean Wall was still being put up. It was a far cry from what I expected. There are no names etched on it like on the Vietnam Wall. Instead, there are hundreds of faces carved on it. Interesting. Then there is a garden with slightly larger than life sculptures of soldiers humping it through a field in full Korean War era gear. Next to that is a fountain memorializing the fallen troops. As much as I like the sculpture garden and the fountain, I'm not sure what to make of the wall. Maybe it's just because I like how powerful it is to see the names on the Vietnam wall and that's what I was expecting to see on the Korean Wall. Might take some time to process.

After we were done at the memorials, we headed back to the Holocaust Museum. If you want to talk about some powerful visuals and testimonials, this is the place to see them. I have never been in a place so quiet (save for the two teenaged girls sobbing uncontrollably and the two towards the end that started yelling back and forth to their friends). It's painful to see this and it doesn't matter if you personally know someone affected by the Holocaust or not. You will walk out of there with a new lease on life.

Finally, we spent some time taking the Metro (D.C.'s subway rail system) to Georgetown. My God, I haven't seen a place get this over commercialized in my life. When I was there some years back, it was the trendy place to be, no doubt. But it had many antique shops and little rare bookstores and the like. Now, it's just like taking the Miracle Mile and compressing it into much smaller storefronts. It's no different than any other shopping area. It has really lost its charm. We left after only about 45 minutes in complete disgust.

Well, you can't win 'em all, eh?

Friday, 16 April 2004: After the conference closed today, Katie and I went on a mini-tour of D.C. Thanks to our friend Timmy B and his connections with Senator Kohl of Wisconsin, we got a personal tour of the U.S. Capitol which was fun. Never hurts to have your "ins", eh? Then, that night, we met up with Tim for dinner at Buca di Beppo near Dupont Circle. Good stuff. Then it was on for drinks at a bar called Rumors. We just sat there talking and laughing and downing Miller Lites for a few hours. Good times.

Thursday, 15 April 2004: Thankfully, the rain has finally let up here in D.C. and just in time for Katie's arrival. It is sunny, semi-warm (roughly high 50s/low 60s, but I'm no thermometer) and just generally pleasant. At least she doesn't have to deal with the crap that I've been enduring here weather wise.

So, tomorrow, we're finally going to see what all the hype is about and go to dinner at Buca di Beppos. All I can say is that I've heard about the place and have heard nothing but good stuff. Hell, I don't even know what kind of food they serve. Well, there's a first for everything, right? Plus, since it's only a mile and a half from Georgetown, Katie and I figure we'll just bum around there for a few hours beforehand.

I love agenda-less vacations. Much less stress. The way vacations should really be. After all, what kind of a vacation is it truly if you need time to decompress after returning? And so many vacations need decompression. What fun is that? If you're going on vacation people, do so without an agenda. Make the occasional reservation and come up with a list of places you want to go, but never fix yourself into a timeline. They hardly ever pan out and then you're left with nothing but the blame game afterwards.

By the way, if you'd like to make for interesting toothbrushing, try this one on for size...

Last night, I went to the hotel bar and got myself a Glenlivet (single malt scotch whiskey). Not the cheapest drink in the world, but damn good nonetheless. After finishing it, I went back up to my room, took out my contact lenses, brushed my teeth, and went to sleep. The next morning, I brushed my teeth again, and damn if my toothbrush didn't taste like Glenlivet. Most pleasant brushing experience of my life. I wonder if Crest should market a line of liquor-flavored toothbrushes. Now there's an idea.

Wednesday, 14 April 2004: Excuse me while I take this moment to step away from D.C. trip updates to talk about something very near and dear to me... the NFL.

NFL schedules were announced today and I'd like to give the 411 to my fellow Bears fans out there.

  • September 12 - Detroit Lions
  • September 19 - at Green Bay Packers
  • September 26 - at Minnesota Vikings
  • October 3 - Philadelphia Eagles
  • October 10 - Bye Week
  • October 17 - Washington Redskins
  • October 24 - at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • October 31 - San Francisco 49ers
  • November 7 - at New York Giants
  • November 14 - at Tennessee Titans
  • November 21 - Indianapolis Colts
  • November 25 (Thanksgiving) - at Dallas Cowboys
  • December 5 - Minnesota Vikings
  • December 12 - at Jacksonville Jaguars
  • December 19 - Houston Texans
  • December 26 - at Detroit Lions
  • January 2 - Green Bay Packers

Yeah, I know how I want to spend my birthday (Dec. 5). Oh, and not a single Monday night game on there. That blows. I know it can be argued that after the last two seasons, the Bears haven't exactly earned it, but damn that's harsh. The Packers are playing three Monday night games which they deserve, but none of them are against divisional rivals at all (they play the Panthers, Titans, and Rams).

Tuesday, 13 April 2004: It was kinda weird sitting here in my hotel in D.C. watching the primetime press conference by the President and realizing that it was happening a mere two blocks from where I was sitting. Surreal, to say the least.

Obviously, I am here in D.C. if you haven't made that connection. And I am only sitting here in my hotel because it is miserably rainy out and, even though it is only 8 p.m., nothing is open. I got a great walk in just trying to find an open restaurant where I could eat.

In terms of weather, you know it's a bad sign when you hear the flaps open on your plane indicating that the plane is slowing down to land and you haven't even broken through the cloud cover yet. Yuck.

Monday, 12 April 2004: This is one of those weird limbo sorts of days just before leaving to go on a trip. Yep, tomorrow I'm leaving for Washington, D.C. Katie will be joining me on Thursday so it's not all bad. I'm heading out there for a conference on web design on Wednesday through Friday, so my company will be picking up the tab on those few days. But then Katie and I will stay out there the remainder of the weekend for a mini vacation. Should be fun despite the relative brevity of the trip. Of course, I will have photos up of this as well.

Sunday, 11 April 2004: How was everyone's Easter holiday? Mine was decent. Busy, but decent. Thankfully, after a 2-3 start, the Cubbies provided me with a decent Easter present in a very decisive win over the Braves today, 10-2. Beautiful game. Cubs' bats finally lit up.

Oh, and I did take pictures of the weekend goings on and will have those posted sometime soon. I took about a half dozen or so photos and Katie's cousin Paige even took a bunch of shots just for kicks using our camera that I will likely post as well. They're pretty decent shots.

Oldies: Sunday, April 4 - Saturday, April 10, 2004...

Thursday, 8 April 2004: I don't like the sound of this, but an article in the Wall Street Journal claims that online music providers may be forced to charge more per song. Apparently, record execs are liking the idea that people are willing to buy individual songs and they think that the 99 cents that iTunes and Napster are charging just aren't enough.

Already, to purchase some full albums on iTunes and Napster and other services costs more than buying the album in stores. The whole purpose of buying online was to avoid the cost of printing and pressing CDs and, therefore, the albums should cost less. Wouldn't that be the implied logic there?

Another possibility suggested was that popular songs would cost more and older songs might cost less than the 99 cents.

Some experts are afraid that this will turn off potential buyers since digital music sales is really still in its infancy. But when have record execs ever cared about the public, right? Always in it for the buck.

Honestly, I think it's wrong to do this. I like getting music online because it's easy and cheap and, yes, upping the charge would turn me off. I'm new to this and I can easily be scared away. Heck, I've only purchased two songs online. The other 16 I've gotten have been because of this Pepsi/iTunes cross promotion. I may buy more down the line, but I'm going to severely limit myself. And I don't think that the cost should go above 99 cents or vary from song to song. That just gets too confusing. Make it easy for people. After all, you're trying to quell online music piracy, right? You don't want to drive people back to it.

Wednesday, 7 April 2004: I suppose this shouldn't be much of a surprise, but it was announced that Charlotte Ross, who plays Detective Connie McDowell on NYPD Blue, may not be returning. She has been on maternity leave for a little while now (as is her character on the show). Now she's saying she is a bit tired of the character and wants to move on. Execs aren't sure how to handle the fact that her character just married Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz). I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

In other NYPD Blue casting news, Jessalyn Gilsig (formerly Lauren Davis of Boston Public) has signed on for a five-episode stint to occur later this season. If Ross does in fact leave, maybe Gilsig will be talked into joining full time. She's a good actress and could be a good addition to the cast for the final season next year.

Tuesday, 6 April 2004: Everyone, I'm sure, has at least a rudimentary knowledge of the nuclear meltdown in Chernobyl, Ukraine, back in 1986, right? How much do you really know, though?

This site was given to me by my friend Luke and it's a photographic retrospective of Chernobyl today by a young woman who likes to ride her motorcycle through the Ghost Town area around Ground Zero where it is only relatively safe to be exposed to the air that is still radiated and will remain as such for several hundred more years.

Some of these pictures are very powerful and there is nothing too graphic about them (no decomposed corpses or the like). Check it out...

Chernobyl on wheels

Monday, 5 April 2004: Congratulations to the University of Connecticut men's basketball team on their championship win over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. After the loss early on by Kentucky against UAB, UConn was who I rooted for. They are a pretty safe bet since they are a damn good team year after year, but this is only their second NCAA championship.

As ironic as it sounds, considering how much I hated living in Connecticut, I am a fan of the Huskies' basketball team.

Now, if the women's basketball team wins tomorrow night against the Tennessee Volunteers, it will be the first time in NCAA history that both the men's and women's basketball teams from one school both won championships. The Lady Huskies are pretty tough, but so are the Lady Vols. It will be a good game. I just wish I didn't have class tomorrow so I could watch it. Damn.

Oldies: Sunday, March 28 - Saturday, April 3, 2004...

Friday, 2 April 2004: I've gotta share with you the April Fool's Day prank pulled by one of Chicago's radio stations...

WXRT-FM 93.1 in Chicago yesterday announced that they were caving to FCC pressure and editing their music library. They were changing their slogan from "Chicago's Finest Rock" to "Chicago's Decent Rock" and that they were "taking the 'X' out of 'XRT'." This station plays it all from jazz and soul to alternative rock and R&B. They run the gamut and they are one of the few stations that does play this vast a library of music. So, yesterday, if they weren't introducing stuff like Jars of Clay, they were bleeping out questionable material within songs. And this wasn't just a couple hours that they were doing this. It was the whole 24 hours that constituted yesterday. They even changed their website to include a banner announcing that they were now "Chicago's Decent Rock" and that portions of the website that existed may no longer be accessible while they do a thorough revamping.

The station has a normal feature called "Going to the Show a Regular Guy" who is a movie reviewer who speaks with a Southside Chicago accent while doing movie reviews (think the Superfans from Saturday Night Live). He does his reviews on Tuesday and Thursday. Instead of doing a review yesterday, he announced his new ratings system which harkens back to his Catholic school days of using the A,B,Cs to rate films. A-rated films are okay movies with subcategories depending on content (A-A, A-B, A-C, etc.). B movies require you going to confession. C movies mean you're condemned to hell, no questions asked. Then he went in and started listing recent movies that he would rate C and why. Like Starsky & Hutch for scantily clad women, swearing, and drug use. Just about every film was a C-rated flick regardless. Ridiculous stuff like this. I loved it.

The amazing this was just that they kept it going for so long without any error. It was beautiful. And, as would be expected, some jackasses with no common sense, would call up and complain and they played a montage of complaint calls this morning.

I was dying. This was the most exhaustively planned and executed April Fool's prank I've ever seen (or, more to the point, heard) in my life.

Wednesday, 31 March 2004: Oh yay. Today is the day we give my soul to the government as I submit all my paperwork to our accountant to see how much life the IRS will suck from our bank account this year. Okay, I guess it could be worse. Two years ago, we got refunds from both the state and the Fed. Last year, we owed a little to state but made up for it in our Fed refund.

God only knows what's gonna happen this year.

Keep your fingers crossed for us and I'll return the favor for you if it's not already too late.

Tuesday, 30 March 2004: Baseball season is upon us and it opened yesterday with a game in Japan between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays that saw the winged stingers win in grand fashion, 8-3. This would mean that the Yanks are already in last place. Odd as it may sound coming from a former diehard Yankees fan, I hope they stay there. I want the Red Sox to win the American League this year and the Cubs to win the National League with the Cubbies triumphing in the Series.

Yep, those are my picks. You can hold me to 'em.

Monday, 29 March 2004: Yes folks, it's that time again. Time to give out another Darwinism Missed Me Award. This time, the honors are split three ways between Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch and his two daughters Anne and Elizabeth.

Here's the scoop... Anne and Elizabeth were in Chicago this past weekend to celebrate Anne's 21st birthday at Crobar of all places (this is the bar that was once frequented by Dennis "the Worm" Rodman, so that should tell you something). They got blitzed and out of hand and the bartender cut them off. They start going on about who their father is and what right does the bartender have cutting them off. Yah, yah, yah. We've heard it all before. He has them escorted out and they start to give the bouncer a hard time who hails a passing cop car. The cop tries to calm them down to no avail as Elizabeth slaps him and Anne supposedly jumps on his back. The cop handcuffs them and throws them in the back of his squad car where Anne proceeds to kick out the window. They cooled their heals overnight in a holding cell before being released on their own recognizance.

Now, to top it all off, Mike Hatch goes on TV to say his daughters were mistreated by Chicago Police. The cops supposedly used undue force and are claiming that his daughters assaulted them when they've never been guilty of assault or any sort of misbehavior ever before. So, NBC 5 in Chicago obtained a police report from last year in which Anne kicked and destroyed a neon sign in a liquor store up in Minneapolis/St. Paul area because she was refused service. Hmmm... do the math. If she was celebrating her 21st birthday this past weekend and she was trying to buy liquor last year? To clarify, she was using her sister's ID and the clerk called her on it. Witnesses to this past weekend's "festivities" claim the cop was in his right and did absolutely nothing wrong.

So, Mike, you gonna dispute nearly a dozen witnesses on national TV? I know it's every parent's responsibility to support their kids. But how about when they're clearly wrong?

Time to face the music, girls. You are wrong. The CPD is right. And your daddy is looking like a chump on TV on your behalf. And, unless your names are Barbara and Jenna Bush, ain't no reason why a bartender and a cop in Chicago are gonna give a rat's patootie who you are.