18 posts from March 2009

I'm about to detonate and demonstrate...

Why does the news of my day always have to play out like a Clint Eastwood movie? Specifically The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The Good: An Apple Store is moving in literally about four blocks from where I work. Okay so this is good news for my Mac Whoredom while spelling disastrous news for my wallet. I wonder if they need part-time help? But, hey, we are getting a tax refund, so that's good, too!

The Bad: My two-month old 8GB Toshiba thumbdrive began a quick decay last night. I plugged it into my Mac to open up a post I had written and intended to use today only to discover that the post file was bad as well as one other folder with a couple of PDFs I used for taxes yesterday. I thought it was a PC glitch since I'd copied the files to the thumbdrive on a Windows machine and tried to open on a Mac. So I checked it on a Dell laptop I had at home. No luck. Couldn't even delete the bad files. I took it back to the Mac and discovered...

The Ugly: My only copy of a Web site I had worked on for a friend had now gone bad as well. In the time it took to move the thumbdrive from one computer to the other, the entire folder had corrupted. And it was my only copy. I kept telling myself to backup the thumbdrive to my Time Capsule, but I never got around to it. So I quickly made copies of everything else that had not yet corrupted and now I'm going to reformat the thumbdrive. The site is lost, but it's not entirely terrible because I hated what I had designed. Sure I lost an entire week's worth of work, but Katie helped me come up with what I feel will be a better design. And losing the files certainly constitutes more than enough impetus to start it over from scratch. Like I have a choice.

Still, though, the pain of knowing what happened and watching as it continued to self destruct is painful.

Tell me, is it worth reformatting a thumbdrive? Will that help?

You all know I hate crowds. People milling about, bumping into each other, spilling shit. Not fun. The only way I go to concerts is if I know I have seats which represent my own personal space.

So why did I purchase tickets to the final day of the Pitchfork Music Festival on Sunday, July 19?

Aside from being slightly masochistic, THE FLAMING LIPS, baby!

Somehow or another, this indie rock festival known for having some of the best pricing around -- counter to the much more ridiculously expensive Lollapalooza Festival (although Lolla does have Depeche Mode this year), also in Chicago -- managed to land The Lips! And I am stoked. I'm going with my buddy, Eric, who got me into The Lips in the first place. No one better to go with, right?

[image courtesy of pitchforkmusicfestival.com]

Outta the way...

Why? Why? Why?

Ohmifreakingod! I hate stupid drivers!

This morning, I'm trying to pull into the parking deck at work. Basically it's a two lane in/out lane in the middle of a connector road. Being that it's a connector road, there are no stop signs at the entry to the deck. Coming from the offside, I have to wait in a turn lane to cross through oncoming traffic into the deck. The traffic coming the opposite direction can get pretty heavy during commute hours, too. But the bonus is that, since there is no stop, I can just go right in as soon as there is a bit of sunlight shining through the oncoming traffic.

Unless, of course there is a car waiting to pull out of the deck.

And especially when that person trying to exit the deck is attempting to turn left.

As was the case this morning.

A woman was there in her bulky-ass minivan waiting to turn left. This deck has a pretty tight entrance as it is, so a minivan can make it tough for someone else trying to use the other lane to enter. However, to make matters worse, this woman, in her attempt to turn left out of the deck had edged her monstrosity over a bit so she was crossed into the entry lane. Oh, and she was ON HER CELL PHONE!

I couldn't pull in to the deck because there wasn't enough room in the lane.

She didn't want to pull out in front of me because I had pulled up so far in the turn lane hoping to find room. Or she was just plain lazy.

I couldn't back up because cars had joined the turn lane behind me.

And she's giving me a look as though it's my fault... while still talking on her damn cell phone.

I waved her out emphatically because I had nowhere to go. What else could I do when my mobile missile launcher is still on backorder?

I never watched Battlestar Galactica. Well, I take that back. I watched the original series back in the late 70s. I loved that series. And I did watch the two-part TV movie intro'ing the new series several years ago. It was pretty good.

But I never committed myself to watching the new series. I haven't even watched it via Netflix. Not sure why, I just didn't.

However, this new Battlestar prequel series, Caprica, that is coming out soon looks awesome! Two families united in grief over the loss of children in an explosion (terrorist attack?) and one father develops an artificial intelligence to cope with his loss while the other condemns it as an abomination against humanity. Coolness. Plus it's got Eric Stoltz (I think almost anything with Stoltz is cool by association), Esai Morales (from NYPD Blue), Roger Cross (Curtis Manning from 24), and Paula Malcomson (Trixie from Deadwood).

I don't get stoked by sci-fi stuff all that often (yes, odd considering what a geek I am), so when I do, it's gotta be something pretty special.

Georgia's always on my my my my my my mind...

No, there really is no purpose whatsoever to the title of this post. I just have The Beatle's "Back in the USSR" in my head right now for no reason that I can fathom. Just *popped* in there. At least it's a good song.

Flew in from Miami Beach BOAC...

Okay, sorry, I'll stop. It's time for Snippet Wednesday anyhow.

After getting dressed this morning, I suddenly heard this loud rumbling on the exterior of our house. At least I think it was on the exterior. It sounded like giant sheets of ice breaking apart and sliding down the shingles on the roof. It even woke Katie. But there is no ice. It's all melted. Has been for weeks. We did have a pretty bad rain and wind storm last night so maybe it was some kind of residual effect, but I could find nothing visibly wrong with the house. Still freaky, though. Here's hoping it's not the Mouse Army striking back.

NLCPuniform Mona Mildew (@monamildew) Tweeted this question to me a couple days ago and I didn't catch it until this morning, so I'm sorry about that, Mona. She asked what my take was on this. It's an article about the North Lawndale College Prep (NLCP) boys basketball team and how they were assessed a technical foul before the game even began because of a uniform violation. Not even a major violation. Apparently there's a national rule about stripes on the sides of uniforms and how, if you have them, they must run vertically from the armpit to the bottom of the uniform. NLCP has a stripe that was actually more of a half ring that ran the trim around the lower half of the arm holes on their uniform. There is also a similar "stripe" ringing the back half of the neck hole from what I can see. So they were hit with a technical and their opponent, Champaign Centennial, got a point on the board before the game even tipped off. Okay, yes, they were warned the previous day about it, but don't people have better things to do? It's not like it's any sort of obstruction to the other team. Hell, they're barely noticeable. Actually, I think they're kinda cool. Plus, basketball is a game in which, IMHO, the officiating has gotten so lax that players are taking upwards of four and five steps without dribbling the ball and are no longer being called for traveling. I think if the so-called basketball federation should worry about anything, it's getting their officials' heads out of their asses and into the game. Just my pair of Lincolns, though.

I've been checking out some more new music lately and I just discovered Neko Case. I picked up her Live from Austin, TX CD from the library the other day and am in love. My god she's got a voice. Anybody else out there a fan? I have already checked out her work with the New Pornographers and I can't say I'm as keen about that, but her solo stuff is amazing. I've got two more albums waiting at the library and I desperately want her new album, Middle Cyclone, that just came out a few weeks ago. Library doesn't have that one, though. I will have to wait and make that my album purchase for the month of April. I already got my March album, The Decemberist's new The Hazards of Love. Yes, I am trying to limit myself to one album per month. Not easy, but I can do it.

So a woman's body was found facedown on State Street this morning outside Marina Towers and there is a car next to her that has its roof crushed in. Hmmm... me thinks it's time to call in Riggs and Murtaugh. They've seen this before.

I am the hunter...

I am the Great White Mouse Hunter.

I have skills that far supercede any mere mortal when it comes to the trapping and elimination of small furry rodents.

BobaFettI am the Great White Mouse Hunter.

When most people fail to capture their disease-laden adversaries, I succeed.

I am the Great White Mouse Hunter.

I am Boba Fett facing down a Wookiee. Dog the Bounty Hunter to a bail jumper. Chris Hansen to MySpace pedophiles.

I am the Great White Mouse Hunter.

In the last two years, I have, with the help of the Great White Mouse Huntress (Katie), killed four furry invaders as of this morning. Three in the house with traps and one outside with a car.

I am the Great White Mouse Hunter.

Our trap-laying skills are second to none. When we lay a trap, it is thought out carefully and with effectiveness in mind. When a trap is set, we will catch you.

I am the Great White Mouse Hunter.

Now if only someone else would come along and pick up the carcasses. I hate that part.

I have renamed my iPod. It was Snap-P because my nickname in high school was "Snappy" (before you ask, no). Now it's iSonic. Why? Because apparently my iPod has an obsession with the music of Sonic Youth.

When on Shuffle, a Sonic Youth song seems to pop up one in every 10 or 15 songs. This has been going on for about two months now. And I only have 110 Sonic Youth songs of the 5,584 total songs on my iPod.

Not that I'm complaining. Sonic Youth is on there for a reason.

There's a time, a place for everything...

Saturday was fun. Katie and I spent the evening with Kim and Steven, Diane and E, and Tori having good food, good laughs, and good fun playing some games. Thanks to all of you for wanting to get together and having fun. It was a blast.

Yes, Timmy, online friends can be real friends, too.

Of course we followed that up yesterday with spring cleaning... blech.

I know it's thrilling to read about, but Katie and I spent the majority of yesterday doing a variety of activities that I'm going to lump under the "spring cleaning" header, although not necessarily all of you might look at them that way.

Cleaned out the closet/pantry under the stairs? Check.

Result? Four bags, two boxes, and two additional stacks of stuff for Goodwill. One small garbage bag of crap no one would want. Trust me.

Cleaned out the garage? Check.

Result? Two boxes and random other crap including some furniture for Goodwill. Two large garbage bags and two doors' worth of stuff for the dumpster. Yes, doors. Literally.

Cleared off the DVR? Check.

Result? Six less hours of stuff we either needed to watch or just didn't feel like watching in preparation for Comcast coming to switch out our DVR for our new HD TiVo this Friday. Nothing charitable about it at all. ;-)

Clear cut the hair on my head? Check.

Result? I can, once again, feel the breeze through my, er, hair. Believe it or not, the little bit I had was actually getting long. Too long. Annoyingly long. So now it's shortened and I love it. Sadly, nothing charitable about this either. If someone wants to glue it to their head, they're gonna look funny. Like that old magnetic game we played as kids called Wooly Willy where we would drag iron filings onto the picture of the guy's face and make beards and hair and the like. Remember that? That's about how sad you'd look using my pathetic excuse for shorn hair. Samson, I am not.

But everything is much nicer looking for it all. Next steps? Cleaning old clothes out of our closet. Again, too much crap, not enough use for it all.

How does it all collect so quickly?

Funniest Fox Trot ever.

Either click on the image below for the full-size version or give a hit to Bill Amend on his Web site.


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

I feel so dirty.

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

Shadows? Not a problem.

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

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

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

It was disconcerting.

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

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

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

Gimme mo-o-o-oney...

I suddenly realized that, as I was creating this new layout, I should've created some sort of badge or banner for Snippet Wednesday. Ah well. Hindsight is 20/20, right? C'est la vie.

I love this guy! He lives in an apartment complex in a nearby suburb and, when he found some intruder just hanging out on his second-floor balcony, what does he do? He runs out to confront him and then throws him off... literally! Dude lands on his ass in the garden below and leaves a buttprint. Rock! Oh how I wish I could've seen it. Actually, more than that, I'm wishing this renter lived on the third or fourth floor of his building. Why the heck is this stranger hanging out on some random balcony anyway?

Reefermech While reading the above article, my eye happened to glance to the jobs ad on the side. No I'm not looking for a job, something weird happened to catch my eye. The ad claimed one of the top jobs in the Chicago area is that of a "Reefer Mechanic." What the hell is a reefer mechanic? Sure, I could just Google That Shit, but what fun is that? I'm sure I'd prefer the fantasy explanation to the reality one. I'm imagining some little known engineering track in college where kids learn the most efficient and cost effective means of growing pot. Or maybe it involves some biology or genetics courses through the science department so you can learn plant hybridization or the like. The classes would, of course, be taught by Donald Sutherland a la Animal House. Oh the possibilities!

Have any of you ever set up a wiki before? I'm doing some research into one for a project and I've never really played with them at all. Like ever save for looking crap up on Wikipedia. Do any of you have any experience setting up a wiki? Do you have preferences for a good, free wiki provider on the Web? I've read about so many and read reviews from random strangers. Now I'd like to hear from people I know and trust. What say you?

A few months ago, Katie and I purchased a new screen/storm door for our front entrance. There was a $128 rebate on the installation of the thing and we sent it in immediately after the install. We promptly forgot about it until a couple days ago when, for whatever reason, Katie suddenly remembered it and we realized we hadn't heard a damn thing about it. Then, this morning, I checked my e-mail inbox and found a message from the rebate processing center saying they just received it and are processing the claim. Three months later they finally receive it? Do they have one person opening mail once a month? Holy crap that took forever! Well, at least we should be getting it soon.

We did it! We got a TiVo HD for our plasma! We are so stoked. We only got the 20 hour unit simply because of the $300 price difference. And the only way we were able to truly justify it was because we found that the hard drive in one of our old TiVos had crapped out, but the unit was still under warranty. We took it back to Best Buy and they gave us the full $200 original price of the thing toward a swap and we had some credit from Katie's return of her iPhone car thingamajig, so we only wound up paying about $70 for it. The weird thing is, though, that Best Buy no longer offers extended warranties on TiVos. Hmm... interesting. Now I just need to schedule an appointment with Comcast to get their crap DVR out of here and give us a pair of cable cards instead.

Every silver lining's got...

And you may be noticing that "touch of grey" here. Yeah, I redesigned the blog... again. It's been a little while and I was getting kinda sick of the M&Ms as much as I love the picture. But, in the spirit of spring cleaning, why not?

I've tried to simplify everything in the world that I possibly could.

  • External links are standardized using something I forced Illustrator to make to my specifications (Illustrator and I are not good friends, but we worked through it this time). So now I can add and delete links easily.
  • Typepad introduced navigation bars... finally. So I have one with links specific to the blog or me.
  • I eliminated much of the kitschy crap in the sidebar that I've been clinging on to for so long. Save for my Hear Me list, which will always be there.
  • I created a graphic for the TUAs so I can stop typing the damn thing in all the time.
  • And I now have a Google search box. The free one because I'm cheap. So you all will have to deal with ads on the results page. Sorry.

But most importantly, I've created a relatively neutral looking site using black and white images in the banner that can easily be swapped as I see fit. Changing color photos was a pain because it requires changing the rest of the color scheme of the blog to fit with the photo. This is going to be so much easier and more fun.

Oh and before you all go running off to Kim screaming, "Ohmigod! Kapgar thiefed your ideas and design elements!" I already showed her. I will admit to you all that I love Kim's design on her blog and a lot of my ideas and thought process was derived from the simplicity and beauty of her site. So, yeah, I was inspired by her design. But it wasn't until I finished my design that I realized just how inspired I must have been. I was feeling like said thief so I e-mailed her with a link to the design to either garner her blessing or face her wrath.

She gave her blessing and said she really liked it. Honestly, she did. I'm not making this up. And I thank her for it because I really got worried that I was either going to have to change it after all that work or stick with it and alienate her as a friend. And I really like this design so you see where this is going. ;-)

I hope you all like it, too. And for any new readers who were just getting accustomed to the M&M header, sorry.

This past weekend, the BiL, Scott, and his lady faire, Becca, hung out with Katie and I. We had dinner and then went to Best Buy to find either a movie or video game to play. We found both but stuck with the latter in the form of Trivial Pursuit on the Wii.

This game is serious fun! I haven't had this much fun playing Trivial Pursuit, well, ever. Some nice animation to the movement of the gamepieces around the board, the controls are smooth, it has a cool little stat tracker that runs along the bottom of the screen like a CNN newscast, and you can now have visual questions unlike the standard board game.

My only complaints are that it doesn't use your Miis as characters and it seems to have a fixation on modern Chinese cinema. Severe fixation.

But, otherwise, it is a great game and was totally worth the $40 we spent on it.

Oh yeah, and Happy St. Patrick's Day to you all. I will be hanging out tonight at Claddagh in Geneva. So if you're in the vicinity, stop in for a pint and say hello!


Go together like a horse and carriage...

Last night, we ordered a pair of pizzas from our favorite local joint, Antonio's Pizza Factory. Katie saw on their sign that they have now begun offering whole wheat crusts and we had to try it.

She went out shopping beforehand with the SiL and then went to pick up the pizzas while I stayed home. Apparently I missed out on something really cool as a result.

The two of them went into Antonio's and, when asked what name the order was under, said, "I don't know if it's under 'Apgar' or 'Kevin'." That's when it all happened. The owner was there and, as soon as he heard the name, thanked Katie. She was a bit confused so he explained that they've received a little spike in business thanks to the review I wrote on Yelp.

YelpLogo Yep, they've had new customers come in saying they wanted to try the place due to a review they read online. The owner and his employees knew of no such review until they researched it and found my Yelp review. Since I'm the only one on Yelp who has reviewed their place, they assumed it must've been me. And I guess they're looking forward to what we have to say about their whole wheat crust in a double dough pizza since the one they made for us is the first one they made ever (it was very good; everything I expected).

Katie and the SiL came back saying that they felt like rockstars in that place. And this considering that Katie and I both already love going in there and feel like the employees have always treated us pretty well anyway.

Ah, the power of the Web.

Totally Unrelated Aside (TUA): We're starting to catch up on some of the Oscar-nommed films that we missed before the awards were presented. Last night, we saw Rachel Getting Married and Milk.

Rachel Getting Married? Anne Hathaway was fantastic in it. She played completely against type and excelled immensely. But the movie itself was painful and boring. It felt forced and awkward and none of the other actors were at all compelling. A few years ago, The Break-Up came out and I complained that I felt really awkward watching the fight scenes because of how excessively realistic they felt. The fight scenes in this were just as difficult to watch, but I would rather watch them than deal with the wedding sequences or the God-awful 10 minute dishwashing scene. Seriously, WTF?

Pennmilk Milk, on the other hand, more than made up for Rachel Getting Married. Sean Penn? Totally deserving of his Oscar. Even over Richard Jenkins who I was strongly pulling for after his turn in The Visitor. I knew a lot about the story of Harvey Milk from watching the original documentary, Rob Epstein's The Times of Harvey Milk, back in grad school. His is just a great story of being the man you're meant to be with no shame and no fear and still break through most boundaries that have been set up in your way. Harvey Milk is a truly inspiring man and Penn played him beautifully.

I recommend this movie unreservedly. Rachel? Not so much.

It was love at first feel...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You better run like hell...

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

We've advanced the clocks an hour.

Birds are beginning to chirp.

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

The sun is out longer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You'll live longer.

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

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

For I am a pirate king...

Welcome one, welcome all to SNIPPET WEDNESDAY! Please stay with your tour group and do note that flash photography is not permitted.

Oh, I'm so glad I borrowed the Deadwood DVDs from my brother in law. It is such a great show. I thought Tombstone was a pretty gritty western when it came out, but this just blows it away. And Timothy Olyphant... how is he not a bigger star than he is? Or maybe too many people still confuse him with Josh Duhamel. I dunno. Great stuff. I highly recommend it.

Ipodshuffle Shuffle
I saw a notice in Google Reader this morning about the launch of a new iPod Shuffle. I've been intrigued with the Shuffle for some time and I have a first generation (the gumpack) while Katie has a second gen (the clip). Considering how small they already are, I was curious to see what they could do to make them smaller. They did. But they screwed up royally doing so. In order to make the Shuffle as small as it is in the image, they moved all the controls onto the headphone cord. Everybody knows the pitiful lifespan of Apple earbuds. Plus I use my Bose In-Ear Buds exclusively, so this won't work for me at all. And what the hell is the purpose of a voiceover on the Shuffle? Sorry Apple, but FAIL!

In the most recent issue of People, Zachary Levi (the title character from Chuck) was asked about a movie that he loves. His reply? "The Ice Pirates. You've never heard of it, trust me. It's horribly awesome or awesomely horrible. I don't know which one." Zach, I have both heard of and love The Ice Pirates. You have just stepped up a notch in both my and my brother's opinions of you. Robert Urich is da man!

Album art is back in my sidebar! Yay! I was getting sick of my Hear Me list having no visual accompaniment. But it's all back! There was a step I was missing according to Typepad Help when entering the new albums on the list. It was a step they said was always there, but I personally never had to take in the past, so I'm not sure why I have to now, but at least I know what to do.

So have you been to Britt's review blog lately? No? Why not? She's got freebies in the shape of beans. Freebies that many of you, seeing as a vast majority of my readership is female, might enjoy. You just need to enter. So, now that this post is over, scooch your way on over there and enter! No really. Go.

Dance, dance, we're falling apart to half time...

Katie and I watched the season premiere of Dancing With the Stars last night. We weren't planning to. Honestly. This despite the fact that one of my lifelong celebrity crushes, Belinda Carlisle, formerly of The Go-Go's, was going to participate.

The only reason we decided to watch was to see who was going to replace the injured Jewel and Nancy O'Dell at the last second.

And I truly wish we didn't watch it at all.

Why? Allow me to tell you.

My honey, Belinda, was the second to dance last night. And at some point during the dance, my wife blurts out, "My God, she looks like Priscilla Presley."

"No she doesn't."

"Yes, she does!"

"Be quiet! That's Belinda Carlisle! My number two all-time crush! She most certainly is NOT Priscilla Presley."

"But look at her, they've made her up so heavily that they look alike."

The sad thing is I was beginning to see it, too. Now, all I can think of when I see Belinda is Priscilla. And not even the good Naked Gun Priscilla.

Here is some empirical evidence for you.

  Belinda   Priscilla
Belinda Carlisle and partner Jonathan Roberts, left, and
Priscilla Presley with partner Louis Van Amstel, right.

Katie said she didn't even really watch much of the rest of Belinda's dance because she was looking over at me watching as my heart broke.


I guess I will always have Elisabeth Shue, right?

Totally Unrelated Aside (TUA): Oh this one's just too good to not share.

The Vatican released a paper titled "The Washing Machine and the Liberation of Women - Put in the Detergent, Close the Lid and Relax." Can you possibly guess what it's about? Apparently they think the washing machine has done more for the women's lib movement than the pill or the right to work and, although it doesn't say it, I would assume they lump in the right to vote as well.

World - 3; Catholic Church - 0. Let's recap...

Priests with a proclivity toward molestation of young boys...

Excommunicating the doctors and mother of a nine-year-old girl who was given an emergency abortion while forgiving the stepfather who committed the crime (thank you for that link, Nat)...

Hey Vatican, would you like a backhoe to help make the process easier?

Exit... Stage Left...

I think I'm a bit overdue on a post reviewing my experience at Second City Chicago. Actually, I'm a bit overdue on a post, period. For that, I apologize. No excuses, just an apology.

Second City, though? Even bigger apologies there. I've known about Second City for years as it's a Chicago mainstay for comedy and theater and yet I've never visited. There's no real reason why, I just haven't. It took an offer of free tickets to see America: All Better! to get me off my lazy ass to venture into Old Town to see what it's all about. I'm glad I did.

For those not in the know, Second City is an improv comedy troupe based out of Chicago, Los Angeles, and Toronto and served as the launchpad for the careers of such comedy visionaries as Peter Boyle, Harold Ramis, John and Jim Belushi, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Mike Myers, Chris Farley, Steve Carell (who also taught there), Amy Sedaris, Steven Colbert, and Tina Fey, along with dozens more notable alumni. Many of the shows they open to the public are very timely in nature and you might be amazed how quickly they turn around a script or adapt an existing script to reflect even the most minute current event.

But not only is it an improv theater company, it's also a school for aspiring entertainers. Second City offers year-round classes in writing for improv, directing, acting, and so much more. Sandra at Internal Monoblog is a graduate of some of their writing and acting classes back when she lived here in Chicago and, if the bank account allows down the line, I'd be interested in taking some of the writing classes.

The show I was there to see was America: All Better! on the mainstage. On another stage, they were showing Rod Blagojevich Superstar, which my mom saw and said was one of the most hilarious things she's seen in years.

Aab A:AB featured seven actors (we had two understudies that night, but you never would have guessed it as they were just as fantastic as all the regulars) playing out nearly two dozen sketch comedy routines with pretty much all of them sticking to the shared theme of our pitiful economy. Some focused on relationships and there were also several politically inclined routines, both local and national. Some of the sketches came complete with song and dance. I don't really want to give anything away about the shows in case you're planning on seeing them yourselves or if the co-producer of the show wants to take my suggestion about putting snippets out on YouTube. But, suffice it to say, they were dead on target with their wry brand of humor just skewering their targets and, let me tell you, no one was safe. 

After the two hour show ended, the actors came back up on stage along with a couple more mainstage alumni for an hourlong improv routine based on ads stolen from the Chicago Reader's I Saw You section. Both hilarious and creepy all rolled in one odd little package of dark humor.

And I will go back. I don't see how you can stay away from this high grade of comedy at such an affordable price ($20 per ticket). Plus, they have a full appetizer menu and bar available should you get the munchies.

I will say, though, that after seeing this show, I agree that Rahm Emanuel is one bad-ass Jew. Wow, he really is missing part of a finger. Who knew working at Arby's was so dangerous?

Totally Unrelated Aside (TUA): Katie misses listening to her iPod in her car. Ever since she got an iPhone, her iPod has remained docked on her clock radio in the bedroom.

Don't get me wrong, she has music on her iPhone, but no good way of playing it in her car. We bought her a car dock for her iPod back in the day that plays through FM stations and she was fine with it. Worked great. But it is completely incompatible with iPhones. I don't get this. It has the same dock connector as almost all the iPods in existence. It connects to our computer the same way for song transfers, charging, and firmware upgrades. So why the hell won't the iPhone work with this dock for something so simple as charging and playback?

Yesterday, we went to Best Lie, er, Buy and purchased a Griffin iTrip AutoPilot. The guy at Best Buy told us it was the best.

Simply put, if that's the best, I'd hate to see the worst. This thing sucks. The transmitter's strength is for shit. We tried a couple dozen different stations and only two came in but were so filled with underlying static that they were unlistenable for any extended stretch of time. Plus, it doesn't seat properly in the lighter port of Katie's car; the damn thing would nudge just a hair and immediately cease working. I'm pretty sure we're taking it back today or tomorrow. But I have no idea what to get her as a replacement.

Do any of you iPhonePhiles have a preferred way to do this? No, Katie has neither an auxiliary port nor a tape deck in her car so those options are moot. What hardware solutions have worked for you? Please help. Katie has been relegated to *gulp* FM radio stations for entertainment while driving!

Moment of surrender...

Welcome to another fine Snippet Wednesday! Let's get right to it, shall we?

I'm listening to U2's new album No Line on the Horizon right now. It's not bad so far, but the jury is still out overall. However, it's hard to complain on the cost. Amazon's MP3 store was selling it yesterday for $3.99. At that price, almost anything sounds good.

I know that car companies want you to finance because it means more money for them. But considering how bad car sales are and how much trouble all car companies are in, you'd think they would just want any sale they could get, even if it means accepting an all-cash payment right on the spot. What am I missing here? And we're bailing out this sort of stupidity?

I know Rush Limbaugh is a Republican. He makes no qualms about who he supports and why and I admire his undaunted support of his party. However, his recent claims that he wants Barack Obama's economic recovery program to fail really makes me wonder something about him... does he not care about the people who listen to his show? Sure, Rush has money and, if he invests it carefully and doesn't spend it all on spousal support and drug/alcohol rehab stints, he won't have to worry about being affected too terribly should it fail. But the rest of us? If the stimulus plan fails, we could be screwed from here to Tuesday. So basically he's saying he wants to see us all bottom out financially? Sure, it's fine for him to express concern and say he doesn't agree with Obama's decision making process on this plan. It's his right to say that and even I'm on the fence about it all. But saying you want it to fail, to me, is pretty much akin to your own personal condemnation of a vast majority of the population. That's just my take on it, though. Maybe I'm reading into it too much.

Here are the photos from the Blackhawks game that Katie and I attended on Sunday with her family. Fun times. Oh, and if you can't see the Pictobrowser, here's a link to the album on Flickr.

More photos for you from a path that I tend to walk on occasion during my lunch break at work. Yesterday, I took my camera along. Again, if you can't see the Pictobrowser in your feed reader, here's a link to the Flickr album.

It's hip to be square...

Happy Square Root Day, everyone!

No, I'm not making veiled references to my own social awkwardness using vintage 50s expressions. It's actually an unofficial math geek holiday and, while I don't consider myself a math geek by any stretch of the imagination, I gotta admit that hearing today was Square Root Day and then reading the explanation did make me smile a little bit.

I only hope it brings a little of your own geekiness to the forefront and makes you grin a bit as well.

And, in 11 days, let your inner geek out again with Pi Day! And then we party again on July 22 for Pi Approximation Day. Oh let the geeky flow.

Totally Unrelated Aside (TUA): AHHHHH!!! Huey Lewis and the News are coming to Naperville for Ribfest this summer! Last summer it was my boys Big Head Todd and the Monsters. This year, it's a chance to relive the second concert I ever attended in my life (first was Kenny Rogers and Crystal Gayle, but my parents picked that one and took me; Huey was one I wanted to go to).

My mom and I saw Huey and the guys rock it at the now-defunct Poplar Creek Music Theater back in like 1987 or '88 and they were one of my favorite bands for the longest time. And now, a chance to see them again?

Yeah, I'm busting out my orange puffy vest and acid-wash jeans, baby!

Okay, not so much the acid-wash, but I'm totally gonna rock the life preserver.

Heh, I think this is the first time my title has tied into both my main post and my TUA. Odd how that worked out.

I'm sorry boys, but you're just too darn loud.

Backstage with the modern dancers...

Last week, I received a totally unexpected and very much appreciated e-mail from Chicago's vaunted Second City company inviting me and one guest to attend a show completely free of charge. The reason for this is something that the show's co-producer dubbed "Blogger Night."

At first, I feared I might be walking into a trap (again, the cynic in me coming out) in which I'd have to stand on stage and read some of my favorite blog posts like those open mic blogger nights I've heard about. But it's not. It's a real show called "America: All Better!" (there's a video trailer on this page). One in which people who are actually talented and deserve to be on stage are doing the real entertaining. Me? I get to sit my ass in the audience and enjoy it. Phew!

The problem is that the person who would be my date, Katie (duh), cannot make it. She is working that night. So I'm dateless.

That's where all of you come in. Are any of you interested and in the area this Wednesday for an 8 p.m. show at Second City? Let me know. It would be nice to go with someone I know and, since it's Blogger Night, it would be great to take a fellow blogger.

Bear in mind, this does mean being seen in public with me. If the prospect of free Second City outweighs the embarrassment of being with me, let me know.

I'm pretty stoked about this.

Oh, and let me know in the comments if you're the sort of person who'd be interested in being invited to this sort of thing in the future. The co-producer is doing this as a grassroots effort and has been e-mailing invites to bloggers individually. Any help building up a list of interested parties would be appreciated on her part.

Totally Unrelated Aside (TUA): I have a new personal hero. His name is Dustin Byfuglien (pronounced "BUFF-lin"; not something with "Fugly" in the middle) and he's a right wing for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Yesterday, Katie and I went with her family to see the Blackhawks take on, and defeat, the Los Angeles Kings at the United Center. The tickets were a Christmas gift from her brother, Scott, and his girlfriend, Becca.

The game was fantastic and exciting and fun and everything hockey should be, but for many years in Chicago, has not been. The last time I took Katie to a Hawks game, it was pretty sad. They played like crap and we were bored to tears. This time, though, was not at all the same. It was a blast. It was how I remember Hawks hockey when I went to so many games as a teenager.

And Byfuglien? He's my hero because he got leveled by a King and tried to start some shit with him afterward. The ref pulled him away and moved him to the side and he still tried to go after him. Then he even nudged the ref away a bit in frustration. He was not about to give up. He's pretty hardnose. I like him. Oh yeah, he also scored once in a three-goal opening period. Can't forget that.

Just as a note, my pictures from the game are forthcoming. Gotta offload them from my camera.

Not taken by me... sadly. Oh, and he's now #33, not #52.