33 posts from August 2005

Plug it in.

There was a time in my life when I lived for going to concerts.

This time was roughly from the moment I received my driver's license to the end of my undergraduate years in college when I officially declared myself broke.

I went to live shows whenever I could.  I went to everything from small acts on my campus like Poster Children to big overblown acts/stageshows like the Rolling Stones.  Pantera, Sponge, Local H, INXS, KISS (three times), Van Halen (three times as well), Great White, Lenny Kravitz, Aerosmith, Alice in Chains, Catherine Wheel, Buddy Guy, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.  And many many more.

Heck, in one week's time, I saw Genesis, Rush (with Mr. Big), and Metallica (with Metal Church).  How's that for a motley crew?

Oh, yeah, I also saw Motley Crue during their infamous Dr. Feelgood tour in '89.  One of the best live shows I've ever seen.  Of course, my mom had to drive me to that one since I was not quite legal.  The next year, my dad drove me to see Poison and Warrant.  He played the part of "heavy metal papa" to a T and even fooled one young girl into believing that he was actually there for the music.  "Yeah, I love 'Cherry Pie'!"  That sold her.

Once I got into grad school, the desire to spend the ever-increasing amount of money on tickets really took its toll on my concertgoing.  During my three years of grad school, I don't think I really went to much at all, if any.  However, the day of graduation (for both Katie and me) also doubled as the first time I bought concert tickets online... for Pearl Jam, no less.  Hey, we were graduating.  Time to splurge the money we didn't have.  Since that show, I have only really gone to one other Pearl Jam concert, a Dave Matthews show, and the Barenaked Ladies New Year's Eve concert in 2002-03.

I'm drawing a blank as to any other concerts I may have gone to since grad school, though.

Aside from the money, I guess the other reason I don't really go to concerts anymore is because I'm not a big fan of many of the "aesthetic factors."  I hate parking at concert venues. I hate circumnavigating crowds to find where I'm going.  And I hate the fact that, no matter what, I will always wind up right next to that one over-enthusiastic fan that just insists that screaming his/her head off is a suitable tribute to the band even though everyone around him/her wants to throttle him/her as a result.  One time, I actually did, but that's another story entirely.

So this little bit of news from Wired was right up my alley.

There are several groups in existence that offer up concerts that are BYOH... Bring Your Own Headphones.

MiscleplacardLe Placard is a non-stop, streaming "headphone festival" featuring a series of live acts, that play, but not out loud.  You must, literally, bring headphones and plug in to one of a series of sound systems to hear what is going on.  People sit down in chairs, couches, or on the floor and just listen.  Each concert, thus far, is 24 hours in length and, I'm assuming, you can come and go as you please so long as you have proof of admission.  Each act plays for 30 minutes and there is no downtime between acts at all.  And most of the performers are either relatively obscure or completely unknown and are solicited via Le Placard's site.

Isn't this what live music is supposed to be about?  Listening to a live interpretation of a band's music that you may only be familiar with as a result of their studio albums?  That's what it is for me.  I want to hear the music and listen to the comments made by the artists.  I want to enjoy it.  I do not want to be forced to defend myself against an aerial Doc Marten onslaught by some random crowdsurfer. 

If I wanted a fight, I'd walk into a Irish pub and declare that England should have exclusive political control over those drunken bastards (I'm partially Irish, so I can say this and get away with it).  I'd walk around Wrigleyville in a Cardinals or White Sox jersey.  I'd make my friend, Jason, give up drinking entirely. 

But I don't want a fight.  I don't want idiots moshing into me.  I want to walk out of a concert intact and have memories of the music, not the melee.

Most of these shows have been held, so far, in Europe.  However, the first U.S. show was held just this past weekend in San Francisco and was hosted by Plug.  I hope they wind up bringing more shows to the States.  I would love to see one in person.

All I want is music, thank you very much.

Amazing Grace.

As many of you know, I've been having "fun" with eBay lately.  At the end of April, I won an auction, my first eBay auction in about seven or so years, for a Mark Grace Cubs jersey as a gift for my wife.  What ensued in the few months after that has been anything but encouraging.

Well, it has been a month since I've updated you all and since I formally complained to eBay about my "experiences."  So read on for Part Two in my continuing quest for eBay eQuality...

MiscmarkgraceAugust 4, 2005

I've sent in my complaint message to eBay and receive a series of form replies... blah, blah, blah.  Typical BS.  I reply to the addresses in the "reply to" portion of the e-mail asking for some verification that they really are doing something about it and not just blowing me off.  No, I never expected anyone to actually reply as it was likely a shell e-mail address that just "dies," per se. 

Much to my shock, someone did reply and it was a bit more personal than the standard form reply.  They assured me that something was being done.  Mostly just contacting the seller and whatnot.  They offer me four options of recourse including:

  1. Directly contacting my seller - well, duh, what did you think I was going to do?
  2. Reporting the transaction to my payment issuer - the grocery store where I bought the money order?
  3. Filing a report with the Internet Fraud Complaint Center - I somehow doubt I would be a high priority.
  4. Filing mail fraud charges - can I do this?
  5. Reporting the transaction to law enforcement - see number three.

I actually replied with the above comments.  Oh, and for the record, the answer to number four is "yes."  Hm, who knew?  Not me, apparently.

At about 4 p.m. (CDT), mootown actually replies to my e-mail saying that they tried to refund my purchase through PayPal but my account would not accept funds. 

  1. Thanks for taking your sweet time reporting this fact to me.
  2. Well I would sure as help hope it wouldn't considering I didn't have a PayPal account.  Nice trick if it did.

I reply telling them that I requested a refund via money order, the same method I paid by.  They reply saying that they only issue refunds via PayPal so they have written (electronic) record of the refund.  I complain that I didn't need it from them when I sent them the payment, why should they need it from me?  Again they insist.

Begrudgingly, I establish a PayPal account.

August 5, 2005

PayPal account is up and running and I let mootown know.

A guy named Gabriel from eBay contacts me via e-mail to let me know that he is personally following up on the investigation.  Nice to have a name.

At 4:00 p.m., mootown replies to my PayPal e-mail by asking if I would accept a grey Cubs jersey, same size, with the Grace name and number.  I reply that I thought they couldn't find one and that, sure, I would still take it if they send it out immediately.

August 6, 2005

I receive an e-mail from some customer service group at eBay asking me to take a survey regarding whether or not my customer service needs were met.  I decline.

I also receive another e-mail from Greg at mootown confirming the existence of the grey jersey and asking again where I would like it sent.  I tell him where he can stick... er... send it.  He even provides me his phone number.  Gee, that only took you four months.

August 9, 2005

Greg e-mails again to tell me that the jersey will be sent out on Friday, August 12.  He then proceeds to thank me for my patience and calls me "a rare ebay class act."  Umm... okay.

August 15, 2005

I actually use my PayPal account to buy Katie's physics textbook.  Kinda easy to use once you figure it out.  Maybe I'll keep it.  Sorry for the aside.

August 19, 2005

I e-mail Greg to ask if the jersey was actually shipped.  I had no idea how long shipping would take and requested a tracking number.  He replies saying "actually I think it left Tuesday" referring to August 16.  This might explain a delay.  However, I continue to press for a tracking number and am left wondering why he "thinks" it shipped Tuesday and doesn't actually "know."

August 25, 2005

I receive an e-mail from Greg saying that the tracking number would be coming from a company called Triple Threat Sports.  Oh, great, we've got a third party involved.  The roller coaster takes another twist.

I e-mail TTS and copy Greg.  Chris from TTS replies saying that the transaction would be taken care of in the next couple of days and, to Greg, says, "do not involve me in these transactions."  Wow.  Guess their friendship ain't the strongest, eh?

Chris then replies to me personally in a separate e-mail saying that I have his personal guarantee that the jersey would ship on Friday, August 26.

August 26, 2005

I receive USPS confirmation that the jersey did, in fact, ship on the day Chris promised and that it would arrive on or around Monday, August 29.  Chris forwards the confirmation to me just in case I didn't receive it and informs me that it should be a quick ship because he's located in Mokena, Illinois, not too far away from here.

August 29, 2005

No jersey in the mailbox.  Oh well.  Maybe tomorrow.

August 30, 2005

I open the front door to leave for work and there's a package between the screen door and the wood door.  It's the jersey.  I never thought to check there yesterday.  I open it and give it to Katie and she tries it on.  Yes, it's long.  But, like I said, her mom said it could be hemmed.

Yay!  It all worked out.

I'm still jaded a bit and it may be a while before I use eBay again.  But, at least it worked out.  Only took four months.

Could you take my picture? Cuz I won't remember.

I know that there may be several of you out there who will read this post and disregard it with an offhanded "meh" for one of two reasons:

  1. You just don't give a rat's ass because you are not privileged nor cool enough to own an iPod (what are you waiting for?).
  2. You are far more intelligent than I and already know this.  If so, my hat's off to you and why the hell didn't you tell me this sooner?

For those of you who actually do care, I uncovered a little nugget today that I am stoked about regarding my iPod and iTunes.

MiscitunescoverartWhen you buy an album from iTMS and load it to your copy of iTunes, it comes complete with the cover art for the album which will show in the album art window in the bottom left of iTunes or on the screen of your iPod if you own either the iPod Photo or the iPod Color. 

I always liked having the album art available as one of the benies of buying from iTMS, but I really don't buy that much.  So the ratio of albums in my iTunes that do have cover art available to those that do not is quite skewed.  I was also always told that the only way to get the cover art was to buy from iTMS.  No way I'm repurchasing all those albums just to get cover art.

However, while playing around with iTunes, I discovered a way to actually manually load the cover art.

In iTunes (Mac version):

  1. Pick the album or track in your library menu to which you want to apply cover art.
  2. Click "cmd/Apple + I" to bring up the track/album info window
  3. If it's a single track, click the "artwork" tab and search for the artwork on your computer (you can always nab the artwork from Amazon.com if they have it available, which, in most cases, they do)
  4. If you've selected multiple tracks from the same album, the "multiple song information" window will come up.  Just double click the empty "artwork" window and find it on your hard drive.

iTunes will then apply the album art to all the selected tracks.

I'm sure there is a way that is quite similar to perform this action in the Windows version of iTunes.  However, I do not have iTunes on my PC so I don't know quite what that method is.  If anyone else out there would like to play around with it and uncover the secret, by all means, post it in the comments here.

Now if only I had known this before I uploaded 8,000+ tracks to iTunes.  I'm gonna be here forever playing catch up.  But it's fun... in a wholly masochistic way, of course.  Hey, it's a good warm up for that day, down the line, that I may try to score me an iPod Color.

In other iPod news, iLounge reports that Apple has organized a "special event" on Wednesday, September 7, at 10:00 a.m. (PDT) in the Moscone Center in San Francisco.  The likelihood is that Apple will be officially announcing the release of video iPods.  They already expanded their copyright to include video capabilities just a few weeks ago, so the announcement was inevitable.

Do I want a video iPod?  No.  I have enough trouble trying to fathom watching video on a PSP which has a much bigger screen than an iPod, yet is still too small for my preferred viewing pleasure.

Am I looking forward to the release of video iPods?  Hell yes.  Why?  It means the price of the iPod Color will go down.  Yeah, baby!!!

Say What You Say.

On Friday, a guy I've known since seventh grade, who has been pushing my buttons for about as long, committed a mortal Web sin.  Or, at least, what I consider to be a mortal Web sin.  He had the nerve to insult a handful of my movie reviews. 

No, I'm not arrogant enough to think that my opinions should be everyone else's opinions as well.  Heck no.  I don't want everyone to agree with me.  Very few people can agree with me for all I care.  Opinions are just that, opinions.  They are very subjective and not necessarily subject to agreement.

However, this guy came on a Web forum that he designed for a bunch of us old high school friends to use and started up an entire thread entitled "Kevin Apgar's Movie Reviews Suck."  Okay, he got me interested.  Then he went on to ask how I can give movies like Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., and Chicken Run four and a half or five stars and 13 Going on 30 four stars while only giving movies like South Park, The Ring, and Beverly Hills Cop a single star.  He said I have no taste whatsoever.

Let me explain something, these are opinions and I am entitled to them.  I decide to post them to my own Web site in an attempt to give people one prospective point of view from which to examine a film.  I do not expect you to agree with them.

If you are willing to attack, but then hide behind your statements with no support and no true counterpoint, then this makes you the worst kind of Web troll.  At least have the cojones to post a counter review so we can have a legitimate debate.  Remember those?  They taught us all about them in high school and college communication classes.  You cannot attack without support.  And just coming out and saying that my reviews are bad and not explaining why or providing a review of your own (since these are just opinions) for me to be able to legitimately counter against is just sad.

Oh, and I don't consider the forum he made to be public since only six people belong to it and they're all his friends so an attack from them means nothing to him.  But he has yet to even post them there.

My movie review site, while small in the grand scheme of things, averages 15-20 unique hits per day during slow months.  At the peak of it's viewing cycle it was averaging 60-70 hits per day.  The highest number of hits on a given day in the three years since I've been tracking stats on that site is 91 hits (October 13, 2003).  My site has 19,089 hits from over 100 different countries and six continents (sorry, for whatever reason, they don't track Antarctica; but I would love to know if I had hits from there).  The U.S. represents the highest percentage of hits as would be expected.  But I am seemingly popular in Canada, the Phillipines, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Hong Kong, France, Singapore, and the Netherlands as those are my top ten hit producing countries (granted the UK is actually four different countries).  I've even recorded hits on my site from Iran, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Libya, Lebanon, and Israel.  Never would have expected those ones, but thanks to all of you.

I'd certainly consider that to be a public forum. 

No, I wasn't trying to toot my own horn by posting all that.  I'm just trying to offer a little perspective.  But I will admit that typing all that really did make me feel better.

I think if you're going to attack someone's opinions, you should be required to post your own in as public a place as my site and have them subject to scrutiny.  I'm sure professional movie reviewers think the same way.  Does Roger Ebert care about someone who comes up to him on the street and bashes one of his negative reviews?  No, I highly doubt it bothers him or that he cares enough other than to say, thanks for reading.  But, he will get down and dirty with Richard Roeper because Roeper has enough balls to publicly express his opinion as well. That's what makes for a good debate.

Don't just be a pussy and attack without at least attempting to make it a legitimate debate.  Don't hide behind the excuse that you're "too busy" to do it either.  A blog is easy and free to set up in most cases.  Set up a blog and post your own reviews.  If you have the time to troll my reviews and write up your flimsily supported "retorts," you have the time to post your own reviews and lend some semblance of creedence to your attacks.  Besides, you work on your computer all day long.  Hmmm...

So here I am.  I am now throwing down the gauntlet.  Provide counterpoints to my reviews and I will post them on my site side by side with my own (well, actually it will wind up just below it; sorry, but that's just the structure of my site).  I've done it before.  I've had guest reviewers.  I've posted guest reviews that didn't agree with my own  (see Donnie Darko).  In fact, it's better if they don't agree, this provides readers with a bit more information from which they can derive an informed decision.  Besides, it's more fun that way.

Would that be fair?  I think so.  And I have now made the offer.  So, if you don't agree with me, which you obviously do not, then write a counterreview.  Just don't go writing infantile crap like "Oh Kevin's review is full of shit."  At least be professional about it and make it a review of the film from your point of view.  That's all.  Plain and simple.  You write 'em and I'll do the rest of the work.  How much time can that possibly take out of your "busy" day?

Grow a pair.

Oh, and this offer is open to everyone else as well (just with much less vitriol to it).  Write a review of a movie I have reviewed, or those I have not reviewed, and I will post it.  Contributors are welcome.  Just don't expect to be paid.

Note 1: For those of you who don't know me as well as others, I am not trying to come across as an asshole intent on burning bridges with long-time friends.  This post is meant entirely to get my friend to realize just how full of it he really is and, ideally, score me another guest reviewer in the process.  We do not hate each other.  We both push each other's buttons regularly.  This is just the first time I've really done it on the Web.  I'll let you know if it works.

Note 2: I do stand by my comment that people who insult a person's opinions or contributions on the Web are the worst kind of trolls ever.  That I do truly believe.  They're a bunch of idiots who should be hunted down and beaten up Jay and Silent Bob style.  Is my friend a troll?  Well, he does look a little odd.

We will, we will rock you.

Victory was ours last night!  The Bears won!  Woo hoo!

But it almost didn't work out for us.

LinkbearsFor the first half of the game (and a little of the third quarter), the Bears current starting quarterback, Chad Hutchinson, just played terribly.  Overthrew, underthrew, sacked, you name it.  He completed only 3 of 14 passes for 33 yards.  He was also sacked twice.

I felt horribly for the guy.  Katie and I both actually like him.  He's a decent guy, but he just doesn't have what it takes to be a starting quarterback, apparently.  Everyone was booing him as were the three guys with me at the game.  I was uttering good luck wishes to him under my breath.  But each time I did that, he only made matters worse. 

Then, when they finally brought rookie Kyle Orton in to the game in the third quarter, he gets the ball downfield and the Bears score a touchdown.  Nothing like salt on Hutchinson's open wound.  Odds are pretty good Orton will get the nod as the Bears' new starter.

I really wanted the guy to play a great game as there was talk that this preseason game was Hutch's last chance to prove his mettle or he would lose the job.  I think it's lost.  My friends and several callers into some of the post-game AM radio shows were even wondering if he would make the regular season roster at this point.  I don't think he did that terribly, but who knows how coaches and general managers think?  You never can say.

Overall, though, the game was great and we all had a lot of fun.  I downed five beers, three of which came before the end of the first quarter.  Considering how little I ate yesterday, that probably wasn't the best idea.  But I wasn't driving, so who really cares?  My friend, Jason, had eight beers.  So I don't feel like as much of a souse. 

Well, the Bears won and we nearly lost our voices cheering.  Can't get much better than that.

Bear down...

Well, one bit of good news is that my computers are working a bit better today.  That is a very good thing.  Yes, Illustrator is still being a whiny little thorn in my side, but either the whining has subsided a little bit or I've become a bit numb to its complaints.  Dunno which.  Don't care to find out.

But, thankfully, there are many other things that are helping me get through this day.  Please allow me a moment to list them for kicks...

MiscdoctorfloydI have all my Podcasts to listen to while I work.  Particularly The Radio Adventures of Doctor Floyd.  It's a goofy little serialized cartoony show that, much like their homepage says, is very akin to Rocky & Bullwinkle.  It's just stupid fun that I can't get enough of. It makes me laugh.  And I need that.

I also recently caught on to a guy named Cush from L.A. who does a Podcast called "Things I Say."  The guy has some really great insights into life and does so with one helluva sharp wit and tongue.  Again, he makes me laugh.  And I need that.

This is something that might normally be construed as bad, but, in fact, it really isn't all that terrible.  We've been asked at work to park in a lot that is reserved for faculty, staff, and some residential students instead of on the street in the surrounding neighborhood.  This lot is across campus, literally.  So we have to hike it across campus to get to and from our cars.  I was upset when we were initially asked to do this.  However, now that I've done it a couple of times, I kinda don't mind it.  It's pretty good exercise (despite only really being about a five minute walk) and I have my iPod to keep me company.

I'm going to the Chicago Bears game tonight.  I haven't been to one since Katie and I went to the game against the Redskins last year.  I thoroughly enjoy football and cannot wait to scream at the top of my lungs for the Bears.  Definitely something to look forward to.

I have also discovered Flickr, a handy little online photo album service, that is making it very easy to post to the Web photos that Katie and I have taken.  I've only played with it a very little bit, but it's a lot of fun.  Whether or not I will migrate all my old photo albums remains to be seen. But it may certainly be worth considering.  Yes, photography helps get me through the day.

Lastly, this is helping me in a very big way right now.  This is a quote that Cush introduced to me in show #4 -- "The Anti-Anti Guy" -- and I loved it so much, that I had to verify its validity on Snopes.com.  It is, indeed, true and is attributed to former President Dwight Eisenhower...

"Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history.  There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things.  Among them are a few Texas oil billionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas.  Their number is negligible and they are stupid."

How can that one not make you laugh?  Of course, in the quote, he is actually referencing oil tycoon H.L. Hunt and that portion of the quote was omitted from the version above which made the rounds on the Web.  Yeah, a little creative editing can go a long way.  But you can't help but wonder about it's propheticism with regard to politics today. 

Leave (Get Out).

I love music.  All kinds of music.  Everything is fair game for my lovin'.

So it really takes a lot for me to completely and utterly hate something that is music related.

MiscnogreendayBut, for the last six months or so since the release of this album, I can honestly say that I now hate Green Day and their horrifically overplayed album American Idiot.

Some songs are overplayed.  This is a fact that is hard to control in this day and age of studio pimping and station coddling.  A studio marketing person or a band's PR rep comes along and says, "Hey! We've got a great album for ya, please play it.  Here's some free shit as thanks!"  Sometimes it catches on.  But usually it's only for one or two songs worth on the album.  Those one or two songs receive A-list status from station program directors and it's Earworm City for the rest of us unlucky bastards.  The songs go into rotation and only a sledgehammer or a sympathetic deejay can do anything about it.

It is rare, though, for practically an entire album to make it on radio rotation lists at the same time. And this is the case we have here.  "American Idiot," "Wake Me Up When September Ends," "Holiday," "Jesus of Suburbia," and "Boulevard of Broken Dreams."  Oh that damn Boulevard song.  God, I cannot stand it.  That song seemingly received A-list designation from nearly every friggin' radio station in Chicago.  Metal, alternative, rock, pop rock, top 40, you name it, they played it. 

I can't remember the last time I hated an album this much.  No... wait... I can.  It was that God-awful, earworming, sanctimonious piece of tripe known as Whitney Houston's Bodyguard soundtrack.  The very thought sends shivers down my spine.

It's not as though I'm anti-Green Day or am against the message that this album delivers.  Some of it is intended as a rally cry against George Bush.  Heck, that fact alone made me buy the album initially.  That, and I actually once liked the song "American Idiot."  Yes, I actually bought this album the first week it came out.  I wound up selling it a few weeks later, though.  I'm not pro-Bush in any sense whatsoever.  You all know that.  Or, at least, I would hope you know it by now.

But this does not excuse Green Day from making one of the most overplayed and, upon constant listening and reappraisal, overrated albums of the last year.

And it just keeps popping up in more and more places.  Muzak now plays it.  How sad is that?  Last night, Katie and I went to Applebee's for dinner.  I was in the middle of telling Katie what a great night it was when "Boulevard" came on the Applebee's Radio Network.  We both looked up in the air (one of those things you do when you realize the music is all around you and you can't really peg down one place from which it emanates), looked back at each other, and shook our heads in disdain.  Yeah, we both hate Green Day now.

It's just not good, people.  Give up on this album already.  Let it die.  Stop requesting songs from it.  Switch the station when one of the songs is played.  That'll learn 'em.

To cop a portion of one of Green Day's own song titles... Good Riddance.

We're jammin', I wanna jam it wid you.

I am about to pull out what little remains of my hair.

MisclogjamI have been trying to get through a bunch of graphic design projects at work and have been having nothing but problems.  PC... Mac... doesn't matter.  Both of my systems have hit a logjam that just won't open up. 

I'm trying to work on a bunch of different projects in both Quark and Illustrator on my Mac and the Quark stuff is working fine.  Everything runs smoothly, saves quickly, and prints cleanly.  I can handle it.  However, Illustrator has been a temperamental little bitch lately.  No matter what I do, it just doesn't like it.  One postcard in particular is giving me a hard time.  It's a relatively image heavy design, but it's only a postcard for Chrissake.  It literally takes 10 minutes each time I need to open it, 10 minutes to save, and 10 minutes to print (if it does that at all).  I'm not making this stuff up.  It's terrible.  And I just want this piece done so I never have to deal with it again.

I think this can be traced, to some degree, to the shared file server we have recently implemented for our department.  It's great to be able to share files, which is something we have never been able to do until recently, but damn if it isn't slo-o-o-o-ow.  Molasses flow doesn't even describe it.  Molasses flow is practically class 5 rapids by comparison.

And, don't get me started on our print server.  That's where the PC problems have erupted.  I was asked to print a bunch of thumbnails of recent events that were to be used to show to someone here at work.  However, the photos are all 300 dpi (print resolution) and there are several hundred of them.  I don't know if there is a better software package to use for this, but we have nothing available on either our PCs or Macs (iPhoto doesn't like 300 dpi too much in my experience).  So I just highlighted them all on the PC and did a "print photos" thing out of the Windows Explorer window because it allows for "wallet sized" thumbnails.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Two and a half hours later and it has still only printed seven out of 18 pages... and that's just one out of four file sets that needed to be printed.  So I flushed the print queue on the PC and even did a "Cancel Job" on the printer's control panel.  It would not purge.  It just kept processing.  So we shut off the printer several times in hopes that this act would purge the queue.  No such luck.  I finally got a hold of someone in IT and they manage to purge it, but not before the damage was done. 

Now, I'm just completely frazzled and frayed and ready to commit Seppuku.  A little extreme?  Yes.  But considering the day I've had...

I defer back to my desire to go Office Space right about now.  But can I really go baseball bat-tastic on something that only exists in a virtual sense out there in cyberspace? 

A feasibility study may just be in order, don't you think?

Scho-o-o-o-ol's out for... no, wait...

Leaving my house this morning, I found it weird to see all the kids and their parents out at the bus stops yet again.  Heck, in the 3/4 mile stretch from my house to the main street I use to get to work, I drove by at least four bus stops.  And I'm willing to bet the parents outnumbered the students.

MiscbusstopaheadYep, that time of year is back upon us.  The tykes are loading up their oversized backpacks in order to line the pockets of lower back pain specialists the world over. 

Just kidding... somewhat.

Actually, I'm just in shock that it's time for school again.  Seeing bus drivers cleaning up the interiors of their buses in anticipation of just having to clean them again an hour or so later was a bit strange.  It just hasn't really hit home that we are now in late August already.

As I was driving out to meet Katie for lunch, I drove by a local Catholic school and saw all the students walking between their cars and the building itself. 

Then I arrived at Panera and we watched as dozens of high school aged kids poured in after us to buy their lunch.  Either this is not an official school day or all the schools in the area suddenly adopted an open-campus lunch policy. They were all over the place.

I am now realizing that I'm going to need to start arriving to work early yet again.  Parking is a premium where I work and we all look forward to the summer and winter breaks when there are relatively few students on campus and we can actually park right by our offices. Now, with student move-in in full swing, the parking spaces once again become a commodity.  I swear you could sell a good parking space and make out like a bandit.

But there is one thing I wanted to discuss regarding the beginning of a school year and I want to ask what everyone's own experience is with this sort of situation.

While walking around campus yesterday, I watched some of the new students move in.  They had carts, boxes, huge duffel bags, the works.  Did I help?  Hell no. 

It was just like when I went to college.  We had all kinds of crap that we had to move in. 

So, how come when you watch college movies from the 80s and 90s, they almost always showed students move in with a single duffel bag and maybe one box or suitcase?  Where is this actually a reality?  Does anyone move to college with this meager a load?  I'm just curious.

Oh hell, I also just realized that, since there's a bus stop in front of my house, I'm going to have to contend with kids peering into my recycle bin on Fridays again.  Yeah, for some reason, the tykes that wait in front of my house are thoroughly fascinated with the stuff Katie and I recycle.  I just don't get it.

Hmm... wonder if I should leave a full beer bottle in there?  Heh heh heh.  I'm evil.

Enjoy the Silence.

I swear my alarm clock and the trains that run the track behind our house in the morning are in cahoots.

I set my alarm clock for about six in the morning.  I do this not because I actually need that much time to get ready, but mostly because I've developed a penchant for hitting the snooze bar that has come about only since I married Katie.  She's bad about it and now I am too.  I'll do that for anywhere from 15 minutes to a half hour and I swear that I get some of my best sleep during those brief moments in between the times when the clock goes off.

However, the downside of all this is that anything that makes a semi-significant amount of noise during that general time period will serve as an alarm clock.  When this happens, my internal clock kicks in allowing me only another 15 minutes to a half hour to rest and that's all folks.

The last two days have been really nice as the weather has cooled off a bit.  So Katie and I have killed the air conditioner and opened the windows in our home.  Normally, I don't notice the trains anymore at night even with the windows open.  However, this is due to the fact that there is some kind of ordinance -- I'm not sure whether it's imposed by the city, state, or railway authority -- in which trains are not allowed to blare their horns between X hour at night and Y hour in the morning.  And they tend to not make as much other general train-y noise as well.  I like it as I can sleep right through them.  My mind tends to process the sound that the trains make the same way it works with a thunderstorm.  More of a continuous droning noise that winds up lulling me to sleep.

But I think this Y hour, as I have dubbed it, must fall sometime before 6 a.m. or maybe there are just a few completely ignorant engineers out there.  The last two mornings, I've been awoken by trains at about 5:30 and I have to worst time falling back asleep.  It's not a horn; just some other railroad noise maybe a track switch or the like.  But it makes a pretty loud thudding sound that starts me awake and then I'm up.  That's it.  No chance of falling back asleep.  It's not fun.

I'm hoping this isn't going to become the new norm.  I'd love to be able to sleep until my alarm clock is set to wake me up.  I would love it.  I know it's only a half hour, but, in terms of sleep, it feels like a lifetime.

This is the end, my only friend...

I tried to call Katie this morning on her cellphone and this is the message that I got...

Please wait while the Sprint customer you are trying to reach is located.

MiscsprintnextelOh dear God, no.  It has happened.  We are Nextel customers and I was horrified, a few months ago, to discover that Nextel was merging with what is easily rated the worst cellular service in the Chicago area... Sprint.

Sprint is notorious in our area for having the worst coverage and the highest dropoff rate around.  I know friends who signed with Sprint and were kicking and screaming until the end of their contracts because they just couldn't wait until the agony was over and they could bail out to another... any other... service provider.

The last time I ever heard such negative regard for such a popular company was AOHell due to their incessant pop-ups and advertising and just general pain-in-the-ass procedures.

Now, we are becoming one with them.  And it pains me.

From what I've read, Nextel customers are being switched over to Sprint's service and towers.  This explains the difficulty Katie and I had talking to each other today when I finally did get a hold of her.  We both had five bars of service and were still having difficulty understanding each other.  Also, we were in our cars while talking and, in areas that we normally have service, we did not, and vice versa. 

This is going to be a painful transition period.

Do you think it's possible to be let out of a cellular contract because the company with which you started your contract no longer exists as it did when you signed on the dotted line?  Would this constitute a breach of contract?  Hell, considering our service will likely go to pot, this is a definite breach of contract in that they are no longer providing the quality of service they promised me.

Yeah, right.  That one would hold up.

One can hope.

Do you have to let it linger?

Why does it seem to me that I could cut off an entire arm or leg and it wouldn't hurt nearly as much as the measley little blood blister I got today?!?!

Oh my dear sweet mother of God!  I was putting the finishing touches on the workbench, attaching the tabletop to the cabinets, when one of the screws I was using decided to strip on me.  I didn't have a screw remover, so I decided to use a pair of needlenose pliers.  Big flippin' mistake.

I grabbed onto the bastard of a fastener with the pliers and started to twist and yank when the pliers slipped and pinched on the fleshy part of the first finger between the first and second knuckles.  I immediately developed a pair of blood blisters, cursed and swore like a sailor, and threw the pliers.  Katie just walked away, which is probably the smartest thing she could have done.  She knows I'm not the most pleasant person to be around when something doesn't work my way.

I have since finished the tabletop, apologized profusely to Katie, and popped one of the two blisters (the other one is relatively small, so I left it). 

I know it doesn't seem like a whole heckuva lot in the grand scheme of things.  But those little "nothing" injuries always seem to hurt worse than the big ones.  Think about it... papercuts, hangnails, cuts on your lips, etc.  They're really minor things that don't allow for much in the way of treatment, but you sure as hell wish that you could because the pain just lingers.  It seemingly never ends and you wind up dwelling on it the better part of the next hour or two or three.  You get my point.

Will someone just take my damn finger already?

Oh, and the garage is almost 100% finished.  Just need to find a place to store a few more items and I think we're going to install one or two upper cabinets or a set of shelves.  But we are almost to a point where we can, once again, park in the garage.  Yay!

Tools of the Trade.

It's been an interesting and productive morning, in some regards.

Sleeping tonight was practically nonexistent as we had a heckuva rainstorm accompanied by thunder and lightning right over us.  It would have been fine if we didn't have our fan on which tends to emit an electonic chirp whenever it is turned on and off.  So when the storm resulted in a temporary black out, the fan chirped making Katie start awake and flail her arms out and hit me. 

Despite the appendigial assault (my blog, my make-believe words... deal with it), I still managed to fall back asleep.  However, the storm woke me back up a couple times.  For this, I am grateful.  Otherwise, I would have been forced to continue in yet another messed-up dream. 

This particular dream featured your's truly waiting after work for a pick-up from Katie.  However, sometime between falling asleep and beginning this dream, I apparently relocated to Washington, D.C., and was now waiting for my ride outside a tourist souvenir/porn shop near the White House (yeah, I dunno where that one came from either; I'm sure it would make Georgie proud, though).  Inside the shop were two very heavy-set lesbians debating the merits and pratfalls of specific... er... devices.  And I could hear every word.

Thank you, Mother Nature, for cutting that one short.  And I challenge anyone to interpret that one as well.

When we both woke up, I want to say sometime around 8:30, we started to clean the house up because we couldn't decide what to have for breakfast.  I left Katie inside and I went out to the garage to stain the other side of the cabinet doors for the new workbench.

MiscjigsawThen we began the process of marking the backs of the cabinets where I would have to cut them.  Our garage has a concrete "step" along the floor that stands four inches up from the floor in the back of the garage and about five to six inches by the big door.  This is for drainage, obviously, and to protect the drywall from the elements that tend to collect inside garage floors.  A good idea, but it becomes a pain in the ass because you cannot rest shelves flush against the wall. In the case of these cabinets, I have to cut away some of the wood to make them fit right so no creepy crawlies can make a home in the gap between the wall and cabinets.  Thankfully, these shelves were constructed with enough rise and negative space that I could cut away what I needed and not actually cut into the storage area at all.

After cutting, rasping, and sanding (a process during which Katie managed to snap a photo or two of me in action that she says will wind up on the site, or else), I began the process of putting the cabinets in place along the wall.  I also started shimming underneath to make the cabinets flush with each other.

This is the first time I have ever done this sort of thing before.  I've watched it done by my father-in-law so I had a pretty good idea how to do it.  But this was my first solo attempt.  And I am mighty impressed with the result.  They are all perfectly level and 100% flush against each other.

I swear I missed my calling in cabinetry and general woodwork.

I'm the man in the box...

More often than not, the studios that release films and TV shows on DVD are rather boneheaded.  Pulling stunts such as releasing the movie Sin City with four or five different available covers or releasing the film with only a single special feature indicating that they are planning a second DVD release down the line that will likely be two or even three discs.  Or you wait forever for a movie that you love such as Real Genius only to wind up being given a disc with no features, not-quite-up-to-snuff audio and video, and really horrible cover art.  Sometimes, they screw you over by changing the cover style of a set of TV shows or movies so they don't fit in together on your shelf.  Or any number of other hapless stunts or gimmicks that happen more often than not.

But, every once in a while, they do something rather nice for you and shock the hell out of you.

For example, I already mentioned how FOX is allowing anal retentive fans such as myself to pick up a replacement box for The Simpsons, season 6.  Well, that's not the only good bit of news in the last week or so.

Friends, season 10, is coming out on Nov. 15 or thereabouts... finally.  Well, at the same time that they are releasing the 10th season, they are also releasing a special edition 10-season box set to be dubbed "The One With All the Seasons."  Here is how it's going to look...


I was a bit ticked off at first, because it really is a nice box and something that Katie might want.  But I'll be damned if, after purchasing seasons 1-9, we are going to go back and buy the whole thing yet again just for a box.

However, at the same time they announced the box set, they also announced that customers that already own seasons 1-9 and are planning to buy 10 as a standalone, can contact the company about getting just a box by itself.  I don't have details such as what it will cost, if anything, other than it is a limited run of boxes.  The details will be packaged with season 10.

Very cool, indeed.

My faith is somewhat restored.  Emphasis on "somewhat," pending news of what I have to do to get one of the boxes.

Get out of my dreams...

For all you dream analysts out there, try and tackle this one...

Last night I dreamt that I was driving through the town where I work when I come across a store that accepts donations.  Since I've been trying to donate the old shower doors from our bathroom (this is for real; who knows if someone might actually want a set of doors for cheap?), I decide to stop by. 

When I'm pulling up to the store, it's a regular building.  Rather small for a Goodwill sort of place, but what the heck.  Four walls, display windows, door, and sign out front. 

However, when I walk up to the place from my car, it's an open air sort of market.  One wall in back and the rest is a counter that spans the other three sides.  Two people are inside the counter area working the place.  As you face it, the right side is where people make their donations and the left side is where people buy the stuff.  The counter space right in the front is, well, nothing, I suppose. 

Everybody is waiting in line on the right side to make donations.  I don't want to wait in line only to find out that, like other places I've already visited, they won't accept the doors for donation.  So I move to the front counter and try to catch the attention of one of the two people working so I can simply ask them. 

When I look over to the people in line, I see a bunch of women my age wearing white softball jerseys with maroon pinstripes.  Then I notice that one of them is actually my old college friend, Colleen.  She comes over and we hug. 

Right afterwards, I look up and see that there is a large SUV that has pulled up near us and, in it are a bunch of guys from my softball team all wearing their sleeveless maroon jerseys.  Well, most of the guys are from my team while one or two of them are people I know from other places.  I can't remember offhand who they are or where I know them from, but, in my dream they are apparently part of my team.  They all yell out a drunken "hi" or "hey Kevin" or whatnot and then drive away.

Now Colleen and I start discussing some DVDs that we seem to have swapped and never got around to giving back to each other.  I don't know what she borrowed from me, but, apparently I had thought I borrowed The Magnificent Seven from her (in reality, I borrowed that movie from my friend, Brian, and still have yet to watch it).  I told her I had it with me in my car for her.  But she then corrected me and said that I actually borrowed Popeye from her. 

I don't remember much else beyond that.

So how in the hell do you interpret that one?

Falling to Pieces.

I'm starting to discover a certain adage that I was told last December is actually true.

When Katie and I bought our home, we were told "welcome to world where repair work never ends" or some derivation by over a dozen different people.  You hope that it is not true, but, deep down, you realize that you will always be putting in a little elbow grease here and there.

However, this one little thing that happened last night nearly drove me batty.  I used my newly repaired toilet and went to flush it afterwards.  Nothing happened. 

I know before that day I had never fixed a toilet before.  However, the work that I had done seemed rather simple and I couldn't possibly understand what had gone wrong.  So I opened the toilet tank and checked the connections.  Everything was in place.  All chains connected and stoppers in their proper positions. 

I jiggled the handle again only to have it snap off in my hand.  That's right, the handle snapped off.  The little plastic connection pin had sheared.  To finish the job, I reached in the tank and lifted the arm manually to make it flush.  It still worked.  But I find it odd that the only piece that didn't come as part of the replacement kit (aside from the toilet itself) is the one thing that decided to go wrong.  The one part that you wouldn't expect anything to happen to and... kaput.  Go fig, eh?

By the way, Katie and I finished brushing the particle paint on the floor of the garage and it looks really nice.  This is that Rust-Oleum EPOXYShield stuff I talked about before.  It took a couple different sessions to get it all painted, but it's really great and now we can get the rest of the garage finished.  Tonight we stain the cabinets for my workbench and will hopefully have it all set up this weekend.  I've been taking pictures throughout the whole ordeal and I will post them once it's all said and done (I promised you I would, Kazza).  In fact, this might be a good time to learn how to use the Photo Album feature here on Typepad.

And if anyone is considering doing this sort of thing to their own garage floors, Home Depot now offers this as one of their home improvement services.  They have a big comparison board showing how the Rust-Oleum job "looks" compared to their own service. 


The samples that they show for the Rust-Oleum job look nothing like how my garage turned out.  In fact, my garage looks like the samples they showed of their own work.  And their services run $1,000 or more compared to the $110 for my paint (I needed two kits as a single kit is supposed to only cover a one-car garage) and $15 for supplies.  I even added a traction grit to my paint that gives it a bit more grip when walking on it.  Just over 1/10th the price and as good a, if not a better, job done.

The only thing I think Rust-Oleum should do is offer up the instructional DVDs as freebies that can be obtained without purchasing the kit.  They do a great job of making the process look very easy (and it's not at all misleading; it really is easy).  This might help to convince people that they can do this themselves and they need not spend all that extra money paying an outsider.

So, if anyone is considering this and would like to see how easy it can be with the Depot's help, let me know either via e-mail or the comments link below.  I have two of the DVDs available and am willing to part with them if for no other reason than to save you some money.  I only ask that you then pass the DVDs on to others who might be weighing the pros and cons of painting a garage floor themselves.  Pay it forward (what a terrible movie). 

Oh, and this is likely only a region 1 DVD, so it may not work on players outside the U.S. and Canada.  I doubt that a promotional DVD would have received a region-free dub.

No Excuses.

Wow, it feels so good to be back on my Mac writing this blog entry.

Yesterday's entry came to you courtesy of a PC running Windows 98 that only had a horribly outdated version of Microsoft Internet Explorer on it.  Ouch.  It was truly painful. 

Typically, my blogging interface has tabs so I can view this as a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) screen or as an HTML screen to fine tune the code.  MSIE showed one screen.  Anytime I entered special HTML coding, it would show up on the same screen as what I was typing.

There are also 15 different rich text editing options available through this interface. Stuff that you would normally see in a word processing program such as bold/italic/underline/strikethrough, a color palate, hyperlink and e-mail options, quoting, bullet and number lists, image entry, file insertion, and spell checking.  In MSIE, I had the text modification options (bold, italics, etc.) and hypertext linking; but nothing else.

This is actually the second time I have posted using that machine and only because I had no other option available to me at the time.  I was not at home (where I have my beloved Pbook Lombard) nor at work (where I have my G5 tower).  I was elsewhere.  And all they had was a rickety old POS Windows box.

There's just no excuse for that CPU to still be alive.  Who the hell even runs Windows 98 anymore?  Is it even supported by Microsoft in this day and age at all?  I somehow doubt it.  I get the feeling even Bill Gates shivers at the mere thought of it.

Windows advocates know what I'm talking about.  Using XP and then backtracking to W98 is painful.  To the Machead, it would be like stepping back from OS X and beginning to use OS 7.1 again.  You just don't do it.

I think it's time we go Office Space on that thing...


Oh, and I have just one more thing to say, on a totally unrelated topic and I plan to let the following image do the talking for me...


Friggin' sweet!

All we hear is radio ga-ga.

I work out (and work) at a relatively small gym run by the park district in our town.  I use the word "relatively" because it's not like it's one of those tiny run-down gyms as featured in the movie Dodgeball but it's not one of those rambling, impersonal, city-within-four-walls gyms like a Lifetime Fitness or Bally's.

Mine is nicely sized and has a good selection of cardio machines, weight machines, and freeweight benches.  It's not as though we have ten different bench press racks or anything.  But there is enough of a selection that should somebody be on the machine I want to use, I can easily find something else to do for the time being.

However, the one thing we are sorely lacking is a good sound system.  And there is just no excuse for this whatsoever.  We have a fairly out of date Pioneer receiver that, even though it works well, has nothing attached to it.  No CD player, no cassette deck, no nothing.  We rely on FM station broadcasts.

What makes it worse is that, due to the piss-poor antenna we have, we can only really get a handful of different stations.  What we have to choose from caters to a very select group of people that work out in the fitness center.  Some like the really heavy stuff while others can't stand it.  And the other stations are either really light pop or top 40 which can have their occasional moments of decent programming, but otherwise suck.  No happy medium whatsoever.

So many people have come up to us and asked why we haven't invested in Sirius or XM satellite radio.  Heck, we've even had members volunteer to pay for the receiver for us just so long as we promise to actually use it.  And I think dues for the service pretty much fall between $10-15 monthly range, don't they?  That's not a lot of investment.  And it would eliminate those damned annoying commercials that nobody ever wants to have to hear while working out.  Nothing like listening to an ad for the latest McDonald's offerings while running on a treadmill, eh?

Would you like to make the whole situation just a bit worse?  Our pitiful system plays in mono.  No, this is not the fault of the receiver.  It is the fault of the idiot that set it up.  They took a stereo speaker feed and hooked up half of it to a speaker that is in the office for the daytime office staff to listen to and the other half is pumped into a series of speakers in the gym itself. 

Now, I don't know about you, but I don't even think I've been alive long enough to know the last time music was recorded in monophonic sound.  So, why should those either working or working out here be subjected to only half the signal?  Do you have any idea how strange Led Zeppelin and Lenny Kravitz sound coming out of only the left speaker?

It's not as though the receiver does not have enough jacks in the back.  There are two sets of left and right speaker plugs.  All we would need to do is feed a couple more wires through the drop ceiling panels.  Not a chore.  I've done it, I know.  Heck I would do it for the gym if they would pay me for my time spent hooking it up.  But I doubt they would.  They won't spring for the monthly subscription fee for satellite, I somehow doubt they'll spring for my time spent hooking up a speaker.

And, on the music front, you should really check out Bob Mould's latest album Body of Song.  It's really good stuff and it's available on the iTunes Music Store along with all his other solo stuff and, I would assume, his old stuff with Hüsker Dü and Sugar.

Just promise me you'll listen to it in stereo.

Legalized Theft?

I was listening to the radio on the way home from work today when I heard what, to me, was a new song from the band Cake.  It was called "Love You Madly," and, upon first hearing the title, I thought maybe they had covered The Doors until I noted the slight change of referent in the song titles ("Love You Madly" by Cake and "Love Her Madly" by The Doors.)

Then I started listening to the song and realized that the title wasn't the only thing nearly shared by the song with other songs.  For some reason, I could hear another Doors song, a little known gem called "Peace Frog."  I can't quite pin down why it reminded me of "Peace Frog" but it did.  And then there is the infamous two-note guitar riff that sounded an awful lot like a classic Led Zeppelin song whose title I am having the worst time remembering right now.

This got me thinking about how the entire entertainment industry seems to be an overextended series of ripoffs from one another.  Suddenly I started thinking about a flash-in-the-pants band from a couple of years ago known as Soundtrack of Our Lives

Their debut album, Behind the Music, as I recall, consisted of nothing but songs that sounded as though they were directly pilfered from other songs.  Heck, their album notes should have contained a bunch of co-writing credits for these other bands. 

Around the time the album came out, I was attempting to write music reviews, a chore to say the least that I have since given up on.  However, I still have some of my notes from listening to the album and it's amazing how many different bands they seem to "pay tribute" to, for a nice way to say it.

My notes include aural tributes to Pink Floyd, Radiohead, The Dandy Warhols, Jane's Addiction, and the New Radicals.  And those are just the sounds I could immediately identify while listening to this album during my commute to and from work.  If I had taken more time to listen to it closely, I'm sure I would have ID'd more.

So where do you draw the line between creative inspiration and outright thievery?  When is it too much?  Does this sort of thing help or hinder album sales? 

Sorry, I really didn't have much else to post just now.

Oh, and for those who are freaking out, as I was, about the Simpsons, season 6, box set that is coming out tomorrow in the Homer head box, fear not.  Apparently, an insert in the set includes contact information so you can request a traditional box for the set to replace the plastic POS that it comes with native.  Good news.  Will it be enough to make me want to buy it?  Not sure.  I think I may be done with Simpsons sets.

Talkin' 'bout a (DVD) revolution...

Does the movie industry not want us to even bother going to theaters anymore?

I ask this because I was adding some movies to my Netflix queue today when I noticed some release dates already announced for movies that were just released in theaters.  The movie was the newly released Four Brothers with Mark Wahlberg which just came out this past Friday (and topped the box office, I might add) which already, according to Netflix, has a DVD release date of December 20. 

Wow.  Either the studio really wants to push the release date to as early as possible or they see absolutely no hope for this film whatsoever.  Typically, studios have a general idea when they plan to release a movie to DVD that is accurate give or take a month or two by the time it's released in theaters.  But I've never really heard of this happening before.

I know it's kinda cool to know when these movies are being released so you can plan accordingly with regard to marketing if you are a retailer, but to have a video release date planned before the film even sees its theatrical release just doesn't strike me as a good idea.  As a rabid moviegoer, if I see that I can save the money on a film that I'm questioning whether or not I want to pay to see in a theater by waiting a mere four months before I can rent it, I'm going to do it. 

So far as I can tell, Skeleton Key and Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, both of which were also released this weekend as well, don't have DVD release dates yet.  Just generalizations as to when they might come out.  And if there was a movie that deserved the sort of lack of faith consideration that I feel is inherent in announcing a DVD release date this early in a film's life, then the Deuce sequel is definitely one such movie.  Hack.

Is this sort of practice commonplace now and I'm just missing it?  I wonder if there are movies with finite DVD release dates already in place that are still weeks away from theatrical release.  I wonder how much money I'll be saving on going to theaters by just waiting a little while and renting.  I wonder if the Pacific is really as blue as it is in my dreams.  I wonder...

Sorry.  Random Shawshank Redemption reference.  And not even a particularly good one at that.  I'm going to bed.


Suffice it to say, Katie better come home generally resembling melted butter. 

Some friends of ours, Chris and Gaby, came in from out of town this week and today is the day that we are all getting together.  Tonight is poker night for the guys while the women do whatever they want to do. 

However, this morning, Katie is getting together with Gaby at their hotel/spa and got a facial and a massage.  Both of these are first for her so I'm hoping she's enjoying it. 

She was worried about spending the money on these little things that she maintains she doesn't "need."  But I argued that she deserves them after the few weeks of hell her work put her through with the strike.  It's also a celebration of her passing her calculus class.

Ah, she just called and while her voice didn't quite sound like the "melted butter" that I had hoped would result from this morning, she did say she enjoyed it and it was worth the money. 

Good.  I'm happy.  Now she should know exactly what to do to give me a massage.  Muahahahahahaha.  All part of my master plan.

No, just kidding.  Seriously, I hope she really did enjoy it and relax a bit.  Relaxed enough, that is, to forgive me when I likely lose all my money at poker tonight.  I am not a card man.

And how am I spending my lonely start to the day?  Watching the movies Anatomy and The Italian Job (1969) and eating some Kraft Mac & Cheese.  My kind of lazy morning/afternoon.

Kickstart my heart, will you give it a start?

I gotta say that I hate when Katie has to drive anywhere near the city by herself.  When I say “city,” I don’t mean Geneva, either.  I’m talking the big, bad megalopolis known as Chicago. 

Katie can be a bit skittish when she’s driving.  She’s a very defensive driver.  Neither of us trust a single person out on the streets to abide by the rules of the road.  Not a one.  That’s just how it is. 

However, her fear of other drivers can sometimes border on the extreme.  When someone does something questionable such as cutting her off or trying to be the last person through a light that is changing, she can freak out a little bit.  Her heart will race, her eyes will expand to near-saucer proportions.  That sort of thing.

Me, I get angry and vengeful.  Then I switch from defensive to offensive.  I was born to drive in Chicago.  I love competing with taxis.  I like squeaking into the tiniest of spaces between cars.  That’s how you have to drive in the city.

Tonight, though, Katie has to drive, not quite in to the city, but someplace equally bad… O’Hare International Airport. 

ORD (as it is known by airport code) is hell to drive around.  You whip through lane upon lane of traffic all converging down into a single lane that immediately fan back out into multiple lanes for the arrival and departure areas.  Then you duke it out with the drivers in both those gladiatorial arenas as you jockey for a space somewhere near the curb to drop off passengers for their flights. 

If you are going to pick someone up in arrivals, you have to drive in a continual loop until the person (or persons) you are there to pick up actually arrive outside at the curb.  Before 9/11, you were able to pull up to the curb and wait however long you needed.  Now, the police make sure you’re not sitting for any more than just a couple of minutes.  And, even then, they give you that “I know what you’re thinking about doing, so don’t even think about it” stare down, pegging you as a criminal even though you have no ulterior motive other than to pick up a friend or family member and get the hell out of there all the while cussing them out for making you run this minefield in the first place.

I live for that, too.  Call me sadistic, I don’t care.  Airports are fun.

But Katie has to go in to ORD tonight to pick up her parents who are returning from a vacation in San Francisco.  I have a post-softball season night at the bars that I was more than willing to skip to go down there with Katie.  I’d rather not have her go down there alone knowing what hell it can be.  So I said I’d go with her.  She said no and told me to go to the party.  One of her brothers is going to go with her so I do feel better. The flight is scheduled to land at 10:20, so any little bit of reassurance will help.

Now the question is, who will get home first?  Will I just make the token appearance and have one or two drinks and go home?  Or will Katie pick up her mom and dad and make it back home from ORD first?

They’re flying United.  I could have a half dozen drinks and order food and I’d still win.

Runnin' on Empty.

You would think that the summer season would be the ideal time to exercise and lose weight, wouldn't you?  Then why is it that summer always marks a downtime in physical activity for Katie and me?  We exercise our butts off, both literally and figuratively, during the fall, winter, and spring, but can never motivate ourselves to do the same come summer.

It's pretty sad, really.  The weather is nice and warm; okay, sometimes too warm.  You can escape the routine humdrum of the gym.  There are just so many possibilities in the summer.

So why do I feel as though I gained weight this summer instead of losing it?  And, it's not just a matter of "feeling" like I have, I "know" I have based on my clothing.

Katie was working at strike-stricken Walgreen's where the managers were making it up to the employees by buying them lunch or dinner everyday.  Yes... everyday.  And they don't exactly always buy the most healthy items on the menu nor shop at the healthiest fast-food restaurants (there's an oxymoron if I've ever seen one).  Being an employee, she can't really say no to the food because it looks, in her boss's eyes, like you're saying you're too good for it and don't appreciate the gesture.  Plus, with her working all her extra hours as a result of the strike, including weekends, and in class three nights a week, she's had practically no time to go to the gym.  She's got an excuse.

Me?  I'm just lazy.  I admit it.  I feel guilty when I go to the gym and Katie can't.  I want us both to be able to go and when she knows that I've been to the gym and she hasn't, she feels bad, which, in turn, makes me feel bad.  It's a mad circle.

The last week or so have been a bit better.  The strike is over so there's no more food at work and the longer hours are gone.  Katie's class is over as well, which is a big benefit.  So we've both been to the gym a few more times than normal.  Plus we've begun to eat much better at home.  Ideally, this will all translate to some weight loss and a return to our slightly more fit selves.  I can hope.

If I can just get myself back down to the shape that I was in between freshman and sophomore years of college, I'd be happy.  That was just after my first semester at NIU (I transferred from Iowa State) and my friend Dan and I had created a "Loveless Club" on Valentine's Day of that first semester.  Our belief was that since we weren't "getting any," we should expend our pent-up energy in the gym.  We were both so horribly out of shape prior to V-Day that we could barely run a half mile without getting winded.  By the time the spring semester ended, we were each running five miles straight through and barely breaking a sweat. 

I'd prefer not to wind up like Chris Knight in Real Genius...

Dr. Hathaway - "You still run?"
Chris Knight - "Only when chased."

Gridiron Glory.

That time of year has come nigh.

The time when the weather starts to cool down and superhuman men strap on the shoulder pads and don their helmets and play some football ("American Football" for those of you outside of the U.S.).

The preseason kicked off with the Hall of Fame weekend on Saturday with the Falcons beating the Colts 27-21 and continued on Monday with the Chicago Bears actually beating the Miami Dolphins 27-24.  Do I expect this good fortune to last for the Bears?  Expect?  No.  Hope?  Of course.  I'm a fan of Chicago sports.  We never expect, but we always hope.  Hope is all we've got.

In addition to being able to watch the Bears play on TV (along with other teams that I happen to tune in to), this time of year also brings registration for fantasy football leagues.


I've been playing fantasy football since 2001 when my friends needed another player to round out their league and signed me up against my will.  I didn't want to play, but, once I actually decided to pay attention to it, I was hooked.  A couple years ago, I even signed up to play fantasy baseball and, while I don't like it nearly as much, I still do play despite trying to quit before this current season.

Now I regularly play fantasy football in two leagues.  Such is the case this year as well.  Both are free leagues, of course, as we don't feel it's right to pay someone for services that can be rendered for free.  We're just going to deal with money issues on our own and work out our own method to make it a keeper league for next year.

I signed up for one league with my old high school buddies who are the ones that got me in to it in the first place.  Like always, I am the Geneva Snappers -- a name that makes absolutely no sense since Geneva, Illinois', closest source of water is the Fox River and Snappers, as I've used it, refers to sharks.  Yeah.  Okay.  Heck, considering how landlocked we are, I can't even viably use the name in reference to turtles.  Alas, I use it anyway.

My other team, in a league run by one of my brothers-in-law, is called Ms. Davis' Prom Date.  I've been trying to be a bit more creative with these names as everyone else in that league tends to be a bit more smart assed in their naming.  Mine, being the film fan I am, is a reference to Billy Bob in Varsity Blues when he asks his sex ed teacher, "Miss Davis, will you be my prom date?" all the while staring at her chest.

My baseball team in my BiL's league was named High-Priced Talent in reference to Major League when one coach comments to another "I didn't know we could afford any high-priced talent."  "Dorn?  No, he's just high priced."  I thought it was clever, at least.

We play our leagues through Yahoo! Sports and, what I like, is that they've been adding little features to their site.  For one, we can now trash talk through little speech bubble posts on our team pages.  We can also make personal notes via a Post-It like section on our team's homepage very akin to the Stickies application in Mac OS-X.  It's very cool.  I gotta play around with the interface a little more and see what else is available.  But it does look to be much more fun than in the past.  We shall see.

So, anybody looking to play in a fantasy football league?  Let me know and, if we have room, maybe I can get you signed up.  No guarantees, but I'll try.

Bar keep, another mekong, please.

One steak, one potato, some green beans, a salad, three glasses of wine (I almost typed "wince" and that truly would have been appropriate as well), one vodka tonic, one Guinness (a blackberry vodka in Katie's case), some dessert, and not nearly enough sleep later and I just can't focus on anything today.

Looking at computer monitors hurts my eyes.  I have a sinus pressure headache throbbing behind said eyes.  No amount of food is making my stomach feel any less hollow.

Katie called and sounded death warmed over.  Her voice was cracking and you could tell that her eyes were struggling just to stay half open.  And this was at one in the afternoon.

Just. Not. Good.

We went out to a rather pricey dinner with some old friends of ours last night.  It was to a place called Sullivan's Steakhouse in Naperville, Illinois, and is renowned for, what else, steak.  Rib eye, New York strip, filet mignon, you name it.

We've been looking forward to going here for some time now, but the price has always scared us off.  When our friends suggested going here, we said sure, why not.  It's about time we finally get over there and tried it out.

Katie and I both got filet mignons, just different sizes.  Mine was a bit overcooked.  Typically, I like my stuff well done.  And, yes, while I realize that this is blasphemous to many fellow carnivores, I want no moo in my cow.  But I figured I would tone it down a bit and get it medium well as filet can be tricky when overcooked.  It still wound up closer to what my idea of "well done" is as opposed to how I imagined "medium well" to be.  C'est la vie.  Still tasted good.  But the baked potato was spectacular.  One of the best I've ever had in my life.

We all ate, drank, and talked.  Then we left the restaurant and headed to Quigley's Irish Pub to continue the last two items listed.  We'd eaten enough by that time.

In Quigley's, my two guy friends headed straight for the Cigar Bar area where the TV was.  They both took the big overstuffed chairs which would have left me with a shitty straight back chair with no table to lean against and no armrests.  Instead, I opted to sit at the booth with the wives.

Wow!  Talk about a culture shock.  When women are separated from their men and have some alcohol coarsing through their system, they really open up and talk about whatever.  Nothing is taboo.  Use your imagination.  Topics were discussed in a level of detail that I'm still not sure I was comfortable hearing.  I am no prude.  I was ready to head over and sit on the floor in the Cigar Bar if I had to, but I was trapped in the booth against the wall.

If you want a truly unique experience, ingratiate yourself with a group of inebriated women that you know fairly well when no other men are present.  But make sure to allow yourself an easy "out" should the situation become a bit hairy and potentially uncomfortable.

I thought men in a locker room were bad.  We're pussycats by comparison.

But, anyway.  We did have a lot of fun with them and plan to do it again but at a far less expensive locale. 

And I'm getting my own chair.

Alone + Easy Target

Why is it that human beings can be so damn cruel to each other? 

I'm asking this because I was reading HumanityCritic's entry about being bullied throughout his life and it got me thinking about my own experiences with bullies in my 30 years of existence on this planet.

Miscboxinggloves_1All kids get into fights.  It just happens and there is very little, if anything, that can be done about it either on the part of the kid or their relatives.  Terrible?  Yes.  Cruel?  Damn right.  Unavoidable?  Only through home schooling.

I lived in a few different locales as a kid.  New York, Kentucky, Connecticut, Illinois.  Of the four, Connecticut was the worst (I apologize to any CT readers out there in advance).  I never really got in many fights in the other places, but, for some reason, Connecticut was different and it made my two and a half years there absolutely miserable.

I was the biggest kid in my elementary school (standard K-6) when I was only in fourth grade.  That is one of the two reasons I feel I was such a target.  Add to the equation that I was the new kid who moved in during the middle of the year and I suppose the other kids felt they had nothing to lose.  I was in fights nearly every other day.  That may sound like an exaggeration and, some weeks it was, other weeks it was the literal truth.

I never knew anything about fighting before moving to Connecticut.  When I was in Kentucky, I never got in any fights that involved serious fist throwing.  Maybe a verbal sparring match or two, but nothing that I really even remember.  I loved Kentucky.  Great place to grow up.  But, as soon as I moved up to the northeast, the fit hit the shan.  They must've painted a target on my forehead in the principal's office on that first day.

I lost my first couple of fights and hated the embarrassment so much that I swore I would never lose a fight again.  And, so help me, I didn't.  Maybe I didn't win them all, but I didn't lose either (yes, you can end a fight neutrally, believe it or not).

I was involved in one-on-one fights, two-on-one, three-on-one, etc.  Heck, I was even involved in some of those stereotypical Hollywood fights where a bunch of people form a circle around you and each take their turn.  Two of those as I recall.

The saddest thing about it all is that I never even knew 75% of the people that picked fights with me.  So how the hell did I do anything to offend them to the point where they felt the need to "bring it"?

You wanna know how bad it got?  At some point, the school bully became my friend.  I'm not talking the big, hulking kid who's misunderstood (that was probably me).  I mean the little kid from the wrong side of the tracks whose parents have little to no money and he always wore the same coat but has the attitude and tenacity of a bengal tiger being hunted in the wilds of India.  He was one of my good friends because even he saw that what was happening to me just wasn't fair.  So, yes, after a while, the fights became relatively more balanced.  Relatively.

But, I wasn't the only target.  My brother wound up on the wrong side of many fists while we lived in Connecticut, as well.  We both went to the same school, but since he was four years younger than me, he entered, exited, and had recess on the other side of the building.  So I was rarely able to defend him.

Except one time.  And I love this story.

I was walking around to his side of the school to meet him so we could walk home.  I came across him being bullied by a kid his age and the kid's older brother who was a year younger than me.  How fair is that?  Not at all in my book.  So I jumped into the melee.  I never threw a punch to the younger kid; only threw him down to the ground to get him out of the way so I could have some fun with his brother.  Even when the younger kid tore my new T-shirt, I still only threw him down.

His brother, on the other hand, did not go home as the same kid that left that morning.  I clocked him a couple of times but good.  And, to top it all off, and end the fight, I distinctly remember dragging his face down a brick wall.  I don't recall any blood, but my brother was never touched again.

Whoever wanted to pick on me could do so.  Fine.  I'd become accultured to it by that time.  But you don't fuck with my brother.  I won't take cheap shots against those that bullied my brother.  I would make sure they knew it was me and they saw it coming and would remember who delivered it.

Believe it or not, I'm not a violent person.  Really. 

Oh, and if you have read HumanityCritic's blog and like it, give him a couple of votes in the 2005 Black Blogger Awards.  The most appropriate categories in which to vote for him would likely be "Blogger of the Year," "Blog of the Year," "Best Humor Blog," and "Best Writing in a Blog."  When you register, use the name "HumanityCritic" and the URL "www.nappydiatribe.blogspot.com" when prompted.  Good stuff deserves positive recognition.

Celebration time... c'mon!

Or is it "Celebrate good times... c'mon!"  Ah hell, I never knew.

And, now, I can finally talk about it.

Much like Karla at Tales from a Texpatriate, I've been forced mum by necessity on a certain issue that has been under wraps for some time now.  Namely, a surprise birthday party for my dad and his 60th birthday.  Yes, we already had a mini-surprise party for him last weekend which involved shocking him with the appearance of my aunt and uncle at one of his favorite restaurants.  However, this weekend was the big surprise.

The morning started with Katie and me packing some stuff in her car to head to my parents' place to help her get ready for the party under the guise that my wife was going to her knitting class to work on a project for a little while.  This was at the same time that my brother and dad were heading up to pick me up so we could go to Crystal Lake to play some disc golf.  Before we even went to the golf course, we went to breakfast and then stopped off at a friend's place to pick him up.  By the time we finally started throwing, it was well after noon.  Probably closer to one.  All according to plan so far.

We then went out for some ice cream because it was a pretty hot day and then stopped at Dick's Sporting Goods to check out the prices of discs for my brother's friend, Justin, who was playing along with us.  He'd never played before and enjoyed it so we shopped a bit.  Everything's still flowing nicely.

Next stop was my townhome, which Justin has not seen before.  However, since he was doing his own home renovations, and we had been talking about them all day, he wanted to see what we had done to our place.  We were also stopping off to give him a couple of my old golf discs.  Couldn't ask for a better excuse, eh?

Then we went back to my dad's house for a "family BBQ."  When we opened the front door and my dad walked in, over 30 people yelled "surprise!"  He was definitely shocked.  He jumped back.

We managed to pull the wool over his eyes.  And quite well at that.  The house looked great; there was a ton of food that we, of course, had trouble pushing on people; but we all had fun.  And my dad loved it.

Kudos to my mom; Katie; Justin's girlfriend, Angie; and my parents' friends for all the planning and execution.  And to my brother, Justin, and me for keeping my dad in the dark all day.

One Vision.

There has just been a ton of news about television series that are coming to DVD in recent weeks.  And, since the new programs being introduced in the fall really don't appeal to me too much, I think I'll probably be relying on DVD releases of shows more often than not.  Yes, there is still some I will be watching, but it will be a far cry from what I've watched in the past.  Heck, I don't even know that the amount I will be tuning in to will warrant the giving out of the 4th Annual Kapgar.com Primetime Awards.  Even if I could, they wouldn't even be close to fair, now would they?  But these have always been solely my opinion, so when have they ever been truly fair, eh?  Screw it.  I'll probably do it anyway.

But here's a recap of some of my fave TV-on-DVD announcements of late...

Scrubs season 2 - the packaging is just as clever for season 2 as it was for season 1.  However, unless the image is just horribly misleading, it looks like it's packaged in cardboard now instead of the translucent plastic the last go round.  I hope this is not the case.  You all know how I feel about different packaging of DVD sets.  Grrrr.

Simpsons season 6 - Everyone is well aware of my dislike of the new packaging for this show.  I'm still debating whether or not to keep buying.  But that's enough beating of this dead horse.  What I did find interesting were these two little tidbits.  The first is a look inside Homer's head (the packaging for season 6).  Some of it is pretty cool looking and I do like the disc art.  They also have a photo showing how all six of the seasons currently in release look side by side on a shelf.  Not as horrible as I initially thought, but still kinda funky.  The second is a look at the packaging of season 6 along with the proposed art for season 7-10.  Well, at least those are consistent.

Lost season 1 - here is a look at the menus for each of the DVDs in the upcoming, highly anticipated (at least in my mind) first season set for Lost.  Beware that they contain minor spoilers if you haven't already watched the show.  Nothing huge, but still an inkling of what to expect.  I can't wait for the next season.  Apparently, Michelle Rodriguez (Girlfight) will be a regular on the show.  She had a bit part in the first season, but now she's a reg.  And Julie Bowen (NBC's Ed) will be a regular flashback guest.  If you watched the first season, you know who she was.  And she was a pretty important character whose role has yet to be resolved.

Veronica Mars season 1 - It looks like the deleted scenes will be a bit shorter than what was initially reported.  Only by five minutes, but that is a lot in the grand scheme of things when you think that many deleted scenes are only about 15-30 seconds each.

Well, I'm sure more will be coming later.  There may even be a few bits of news that I wanted to mention but completely forgot about.  And I'm sorry about all the external links.  TVshowsonDVD.com has requested that, instead of stealing their images, we link to them.  I guess they need the hits for ad sponsorship.  C'est la vie.  I love the site, so I'll throw them a bone.  And you should too.

Can't Fight the Moonlight.

"Well, you know I... I never got to bat in the major leagues. I would have liked to have had that chance. Just once. To stare down a big league pitcher. To stare him down, and just as he goes into his windup, wink. Make him think you know something he doesn't. That's what I wish for. Chance to squint at a sky so blue that it hurts your eyes just to look at it. To feel the tingling in your arm as you connect with the ball. To run the bases - stretch a double into a triple, and flop face-first into third, wrap your arms around the bag. That's my wish, Ray Kinsella. That's my wish. And is there enough magic out there in the moonlight to make this dream come true?"

--Burt Lancaster, "Field of Dreams"

I had my own sort of "Moonlight" Graham moment last night during our softball championship game.  And it was pretty sweet.

First a little backstory.  I told you that we played in the first two rounds of the playoffs on Monday night and won both games.  Well, what I haven't told you yet was that we also played on Tuesday night, but I wasn't there because I had to work.  We won the first of two games that night, but lost the second.  This put us in the loser's bracket where, if we won the first game, we would advance to play the first-place team.  However, since they had not yet been defeated, we would have had to beat them in two back-to-back games to take the trophy.  Thus, the prospect of playing three games in one night.  Yikes.

We played the first game and won with a pretty dramatic extra inning line drive by my buddy, Nate, to score the winning run.  It was great.

In the second game of the night, against the first-place team, we were floundering pretty badly.  By the final inning, we were down 14-4 or 14-3, nobody was really paying much attention anymore.  Well, now was one of those situations where I couldn't do any worse than the team was already doing, so I was given my one at bat of the night.

Seeing as how, in the last six games, I had played a total of a half inning with zero at bats, I was a bit shocked that I was going in.  I hadn't done much and my batting practice before the game was pretty horrendous.  But I shot out there anyway from the fan bleachers (I was visiting with Katie who was able to make the game) and took my bat and went to the bag.  I had no time to take any practice swings; heck, I never even had the chance to grab my batting gloves.  They just handed me my bat and I went to work.

The pitcher lobs one to me and I sat there trying to determine if it was going to fall short or right on the bag.  It looked short, but not by much.  So I take a couple hop steps forward and swing.  Crack!  Blooper right over the shortstop's head and I easily leg it out to first.


Literally everyone on my team and in the stands was going nuts.  They all know I hardly get to play, so taking advantage of my one shot like this was a big friggin' deal.  Granted I did get a force out on second with the next batter, I still wound up with what equates to a hero's welcome in the dugout.

It was a great pitch and the most perfect swing I can imagine.  Everything about it just felt right.  Not too much effort needed to swing; my upper body just flowed and the bat connected.  I loved it.

I was calling myself "Moonlight" the rest of the night.

Okay, so I didn't wink.  I don't know how to.  I am physically incapable of winking.  Deal with it.  Aside from that minor detail, I felt just like Burt Lancaster/Frank Whaley.  I got that one perfect hit (although not a sacrifice) and I don't have to wonder "what if."

Yeah, we still lost.  But we got the second-place trophy for the tournament.

Once... Twice... Three times... I'VE HAD IT!

When I first started grad school, I went nuts on what was then the trendy new toy... online auction sites.  eBay, uBid, Amazon Auctions (RIP).  I loved them all.  And I used them all for the same purpose... to rebuild my Atari 2600 gaming system. 

When my brother and I were kids, we were stupid.  We wanted the 8-bit Nintendo system that everyone else had.  My parents said that if we wanted it, we would have to sell the systems we had at the time which included an Atari 2600 (original woodgrain jobber, mind you; it was the first and I can't quite recall if that was the four-pin or six-pin unit) and the Atari 7800 with about 100-150 games between the two units.  We were happy to just to keep up with the Joneses.  We got our Nintendo and played the hell out of it.  We upgraded from there as well to Super Nintendo (me) and Sega Genesis and Sega CD (my brother).  Anything beyond that point has been self funded, at least on my part.

Misc2600controllerHowever, when I looked back on that decision (hindsight is 20/20, after all), I regretted selling my Atari.  Yes, you could play computer emulator versions, but they sucked by comparison.  It just wasn't the same unless you had the original Atari box and the chewed-to-hell (our controllers were, at least) single button black joysticks that everyone can readily identify as Atari.  So I started rebuilding my system.  I purchased a new system from eBay and started buying individual or combo packs of games from all three auction sites.  I never had a problem with any transactions.  I just sent in my money order and my toys came back.

After this Atari frenzy, I stopped using online auctions altogether.  Amazon Auctions closed down and they are now Amazon Marketplace (which I use for other things; but it's not a bidding system, just resale).  uBid still exists, but they apparently don't hold the clout that eBay does as I've not heard much of anything about their site in recent years.  I also stopped using eBay primarily because I just never really cared to keep up on auctions.  But also because most sellers migrated to the PayPal system for payment.  I don't like PayPal.  I kept reading horror stories about how PayPal was constantly being hacked so I stayed away.  I do use other forms of online payment quite often, but I've never read about them being hacked.

However, many sellers now offer multiple payment options including my preferred method... money order.  Also, PayPal now offers a version of their system that allows for "one-off" purchases so you don't need an account.  With this in mind, I went on the auction hunt again. 

This past April, I finally participated in an eBay auction for a Cubs home jersey with Mark Grace's name and number on the back.  I wanted to get it for Katie as a surprise gift.  She's a Grace junkie and I thought it would be a nice surprise. 

April 27, 2005

I win the auction.  I am stoked.

I contact the seller and go through all other steps to make sure everything happens smoothly.  So far, so good.  I send in the money order with a signature confirmation request.

May 3, 2005

I receive the signed signature confirmation slip via USPS.  Everything is still going according to plan.

May 13, 2005

I receive e-mail confirmation from the seller that they received the money order, although they refer to it as a "check."  This is probably just an error on their part.  The difference being that money orders are guaranteed as they are paid for in cash so there is no wait time for it to clear, unlike with a check.  Items paid for with check are usually delayed to allow for the check to be cashed and cleared.  I write back informing him that I used a money order and that a delay should not occur as they "have the cash."

June 1, 2005

They reply to a shipping status request of mine by saying that they need the exact item # (which I gave them in my request e-mail), plus my "EXACT name and address sent with payment."  So I sent all that back to them immediately after getting the e-mail from them.

June 14, 2005

They finally reply to me and my badgering by telling me that "we will have to replace it."  They no longer have the white, pinstriped jersey as I had ordered.  They did, however, have two gray ones with Grace's number and name and in the same size.  I really wanted to get the white one for Katie, but this isn't that bad.  So I accept the offer.

July 4, 2005

I receive another e-mail saying they have no more Grace jerseys at all in any size or color.  They ask if I want any other jersey from their "extensive collection."  I say no.  All I wanted and all I'm willing to pay for is the Grace jersey.  So I request a refund.

July 5, 2005

Suddenly, they manage to find a size large Grace jersey.  Gee, where did that pop up from?  I say no.  Large is going to be too big.  The medium was already kinda big on her, but the small was just not right.  So medium would have been the best.  I decline and say I still want a refund.

July 10, 2005

They say that their computerized inventory of Cubs memorabilia was wrong and proceed to blame it on their "American made computer."  Yeah, we all know American computer manufacturers have it out for the Cubs.  Again, they ask if I would like another jersey.  Again, I say no and request a refund.

August 1, 2005

After not receiving anything via e-mail or USPS for three weeks, I give them my final ultimatum... send me my refund with shipping confirmation (I don't care how they manage that one, but I want it anyway) by Wednesday, August 3, 2005 (the confirmation by that date, not necessarily the actual money order), or I would lodge a formal complaint with eBay.  I had already been copying a couple of generic eBay e-mail accounts with most of my e-mails at this point.

August 4, 2005

Nothing was received by the end of the day yesterday, so I went in to file my complaint with eBay today only to discover that their "item not received" complaint system only works within 60 days of the close of the auction.  Fucksticks!  Or, as my brother would say, "Christ on a bike!"  I have no idea what it means, but it makes me laugh.

I can't even leave negative feedback for the seller because it's been so long. 

MiscebayI send a complaint e-mail to eBay, instead, regarding the item and how I think it is still eBay's responsibility to make sure that this conflict is resolved to my satisfaction.  I also point out how this is my first purchase through their system in over six years and that it has not proven to be a very open-armed welcome back.  I argue that I was giving the seller the benefit of the doubt and a chance to make things right and that's why I waited so long.  I also point out that I now feel as though they were simply baiting me along until I was past the 60 day complaint time.  Having sold as much as they have, they would know the policies better than someone like me, who has made one purchase in six years.  Bend over, Kevin!

Now, I'm simply awaiting a response from eBay.  I didn't really spend a lot of money, but it's more the principle of the whole affair.  I either want what I ordered or my money back.  It's that simple.

Oh, and for the record, the seller goes by highnoonsports or mootown.  So don't buy anything from them.  You've been warned.

Dixie Hummingbird.

Here are a pair of pictures my aunt and uncle sent me that I had to share because they are just so incredible.


Now for the backstory:

One day recently, my aunt was in their garage/workshop when she found this hummingbird who just couldn't seem to find his way out.  She picked it up in her bare hand and just walked it outside (yes, that is her hand in the photo).  It sat there for several minutes as my uncle snapped photos.  He took well over a dozen shots (Katie and I saw them all on their digicam when they came up for my dad's 60th birthday last weekend).

She then urged the hummingbird to fly away.  However, it returned a short while later.  They said they could tell it was the same one because it still had some of the sawdust from the garage on its head.

This whole thing is very amazing to me simply because it's rare that you get to see a hummingbird for any extended period of time let alone pick one up and hold it for several minutes.  I can't even think of the last time I even saw a hummingbird.  Have I ever?  I know I've heard them before.  But I'm not sure I've ever seen one out in the "wild."

I know my aunt and uncle read this blog, so if either of you want to clarify or correct any of the information that is posted here, please just click on "comments" below.  I'd love to have a bit more of the story if it's available.

The Great American Nightmare.

I always thought of myself as the proverbial "nice guy."  My wife refers to me as her "teddy bear."  I like to tell jokes when I can actually remember them.  I will be the first to pass on funny e-mail forwards (to select people and only when the jokes are truly funny enough to warrant it, which is rare).  I sing duets with one of my coworkers should we both have the sudden urge to break out into song, and badly at that.  For years, my friends have come to me for a comforting shoulder to cry on.

So when did I become someone who elicits fear?

My boss had me come into her office today and was giving me a heads up that I was going to be needed to fill in on some minor graphic design projects while our primary designer is tied up with a pretty high-priority project and when she goes on vacation the week after that.  My boss likes to give me a bit of warning and I do appreciate it.  Otherwise, our publications director would just be coming to me directly and catch me completely off guard which is never fun.

So she warned me this morning that this would be happening.  She also told me that the publications director was a bit scared of coming to me to ask me to do this.  She actually used the word "scared."

MiscvolcanoApparently, when these projects are thrown at me, I don't usually give off an air of willingness to accept the projects.  Okay, I can understand that.  Timing is definitely a factor in the equation as I'm pretty bogged in projects.  Oh heck, when am I not bogged down?  So I can see it, to some degree.  I never thought I was being standoffish to the point of being frightening, though.

Today, when the publications director (PD) and the graphic designer (GD) came to my office to explain the projects, the PD just poked her head in slyly, which, of course, indicates that she has stuff for me to do.  I told her to come in, that I had been warned.  She asked with a bit of joking hint in her voice if she should stand back as she hands me the folder of projects.  Then the GD came in to help explain some of the projects.  As she was standing there holding one of the project tickets, her hands were shaking.

These are the same two people I'm constantly cracking jokes with.  Sharing funny Web videos.  Even loaning books to.  And they're acting as though my head is going to spew volcanic ash in their general direction.

To those that do know me personally, am I that bad?  Honestly.  I can take it.  No liquid hot magma will be tossed at you as a result.  I swear.

Put me in, coach. I'm ready to play, today.

The Henchmen were off for three weeks and it showed.  After we flubbed our last two games of the season, thus bumping us from first to second place, we had a week and a half off while the rest of the league finished their regular season.  When everyone else was done, we finally were given our playoff schedule.

Our first two games of the playoff schedule were supposed to happen last Wednesday and Thursday.  But the rain pushed off the Monday and Tuesday games and were rescheduled to today and tomorrow.

Three weeks off can play hell on your system.  We gave up seven runs in the first inning and were down by as much as 10 runs by midgame. 

We came back and won by one run in the final inning.  Beautiful comeback to say the least.

In our second game of the night, we came back from a 4-1 deficit and took the game into extra innings.  We finally pulled it off 6-5.  It was a nailbiter to say the least.

Of course, I'm working at the gym tomorrow so I won't be able to play.  That sucks. 

But it's not as though I played tonight either.  Nope.  I was guarding the benches... keeping the pine warm (no, wait, it's aluminum)... schlepping bats and other equipment... and playing EMT to injured players.  Hell, even when our first baseman went out with a messed up Achilles tendon, I still didn't get to go in.  And I played first base in that game with LifeChurch.  I played it well.  Why not put me in?

It's frustrating.