Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Behold, the power of media-generated cheese

A men living in Cincinnati who claims to be a vampire is staging a protest against White Castle’s new promotion where customers can top any of the White Castle Sandwiches with “Roasted Garlic Cheese”. The man claims that White Castle has “angered the undead” with the new concoction.

I’m not sure what’s funnier – the fact that this guy is actually protesting a White Castle or that he hired a public relations firm to write a press release to get the story out. It almost makes me wonder if it isn’t just a ploy by White Castle itself to get some free viral publicity, knowing that such a silly story would instantly get picked up by the blogosphere. I say this because the man’s name isn’t given, and the release specifies which White Castle will be the target of the particular protest.

And let’s face it, if a restaurant’s use of garlic as an ingredient truly filled the undead with a boundless rage, wouldn’t Olive Gardens across America currently be under siege in a scene reminiscent of a Romero film?

It also seems that Vampires in general are more occupied with running for office these days than raging against the garlic cheese machine.

You never think a wedding could be so risky

The holiday weekend was sort of a yin-yang weekend. I spent much of my time either out with friends or hiding out, Howard Hughes-like, in my condo trying to avoid the heat which has gone from “balmy spring” to “trying to kill off humanity” in a period of a couple days. And considering I had to get dolled up in a suit for a wedding on Saturday I’d had more than enough heat and stuffiness to last the entire weekend.

The wedding itself was still totally worth it. It was a friend of mine from work who has since left to go to graduate school at a local seminary. She is pretty much the nicest person I have ever met - compared to her I am the incarnation of evil on earth, preparing to unleash my armies of heckspawn upon all of mankind. The ceremony was really truly beautiful, but the best thing was to see her be so excited to get married to her fiancé. You could read it on her face during the entire ceremony, and it manifested itself most obviously during the exchanging of rings.

As the groom prepared to put the ring on my friend’s finger, she was so giddy with anticipation that she offered him her right hand instead of her left. The groom of course, didn’t notice, and only a last-minute switch on my friend’s part* kept the marriage from not being legal.

Good thing too, because it would have created all sorts of problems down the road. Not only would she be getting hit on constantly, right in front of her husband** but there would be awkward questions once the kids got older***.

Whew…so close…

* Once she realized her mistake
** “What do you mean you’re ‘married’? You’re not wearing a ring!”
*** “Mommy, why are you and daddy living in sin?”

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Of all the ways to make a million

Does everyone remember the genius who put together the “Million Dollar Homepage” a few months back? Who sold ad space on his site for $1 a pixel and ended up making a million dollars? Yes, we were all kicking ourselves after that one. Or, at least I was.

Well now it appears that someone has taken the concept and taken it up a notch – combining the “selling lots of small things for a low individual price” with pseudo-porn to create the “Million Crystal Body”*. The site owners took a model and covered her body with one million Swarovski crystals which they are selling for 1 Euro apiece through the site. Allegedly, as more of the crystals get sold they will post updated pictures as the model gets more and more “exposed”. And, to cap it all off, when the last crystal is sold** it will be hand-delivered to the purchaser’s door by the model herself.

Such a simple idea – why didn’t I think of this?

Of course, it’s not as simple as one would think it is. Looking at the site, I could see that they have only sold about 3100 of the crystals so far – and it’s been about a week or so since I first saw it. At that rate, it will take the site owners over 6 years to sell all the crystals. Assuming that the adhesive they used is water-soluable*** that would mean that the model couldn’t take a bath or shower for the entire time – or risk losing several Euros down the drain. That said, suddenly the thought of the model hand-delivering the last crystal after not bathing for 6 years is a whole lot less appealing.

In light of this and after reviewing the rules on the site it turns out that she is not still wearing the stones, but rather had to wear them for “only” seven days and nights – long enough for them to be applied and for pictures to be taken ahead of time. As the crystals are sold then, the site will reveal more pictures – no doubt starting with the ones taken with most of the stones applied and going in reverse order to earlier pictures from earlier in the application process. So now while the crystals are selling, Chantal the model is lounging around waiting for the call to be flown to some exotic location and hand a bag to some sucker. Yeah…tough gig, huh?

Still, one has to consider that she had we be covered with crystals for seven days and nights. I mean, it doesn’t sound like much, but think of the logistics involved. That’s still going a week without bathing. And how exactly does one use the restroom when one’s “evacuatory regions” are covered with crystals? Just how “covered” was she anyway?

So many questions…so little desire to know the answers…

* Due credit here, I didn’t find this myself, but I found it a while back and can’t recall exactly how I stumbled across it.
** No doubt via an Ebay auction – like the past available pixels on milliondollarhomepage.com
*** And since it has to be non-toxic and (eventually) removable, one would assume that is the case

Monday, May 29, 2006

A whole new meaning of "charged up"

One of the more interesting aspects of my regular job are the trade publications I get to read on a regular basis. I’ve blogged about this before but I didn’t get a chance to show off the skills of the highly trained ad wizards who put together insightful, subtle and effective ads targeting the folks they believe are reading said trade magazines.

Ads like this one, which I pulled from "Professional Tool & Equipment News"* and scanned in using my brand new scanner/printer/copier combo (click to enlarge):



Everyone stop now, take a minute, and pick your jaw up off the floor.

I feel dirty…

Now, I recognize that you can't throw a pipe wrench at an industry trade show without hitting a booth babe. Sure, sex sells, but can't you at least cloak it in double entendre rather than just the single layer version?

* Sort of an ironic title, since this is aobut the most unprofessional ad I've ever seen.

Friday, May 26, 2006

"Imagine all the sequels, living life in peace..."

I don't know what is more scary - that the idea of this movie actually crossed someone's mind* or that the movie itself actually looks like something I'd be interested in watching. I mean, sure, it's kind of a stretch with respect to believability - but if Hollywood can make Demolition Man seem plausible, why *not* a sequel to Titanic?

This got me thinking about my top 5 list of movies that would be utterly ruined if a sequel was made. Even if you got all the same actors, the same writers, the same directors. Even if the concept and the storyline was utterly flawless. Even if you sent Scarlett Johannsen over to my house with the DVD and had her make a mac & cheese dinner and give me a backrub while I watched it - it would still suck.

Obviously, there aren't a lot of movies like this out there. But I wracked my brain to come up with my top 5, in no particular order:
  • The Usual Suspects
  • Field of Dreams
  • Requiem for a Dream
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Shindler's List
For a second I was going to add The Sixth Sense, but then I thought one might be able to come up with a decent sequel where Bruce Willis's character** has to figure out whether he's in heaven or in hell. Sure, it might be straight to DVD, but the concept has potential.

Note that the list contains only movies that I actually enjoyed watching the first time. Sure, it'd be easy to make a sequel to Serendipity - but who would want to?

Any others? Tell you what, if you name a movie in the comments I'll put together a plot summary of the sequel as a literary exercise. It'll give me something to do this weekend. But no using movies that have already had sequels made - that'd be too easy.

* Even if it is a parody
** Now that he knows he's dead

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Now that I'm caffinated, I'm more cogent

I was highly amused this morning when I saw that someone recently found my blog by searching Google for “what to wear to clubs”.  Those of you who know me* understand that this is soooo not the reason to consult me or anything I write in an attempt to get fashion advice or insight into the “club fashion” mindset.  But if you want my advice, here it is:

Women:
  1. Take whatever you’re thinking of wearing currently and reduce the amount of covered flesh by half.  

  2. Double check to make sure people can see your whale-tail

  3. Glitter, glitter, glitter!

Men:
  1. Take however much gel you’re thinking of wearing in your hair and double it

  2. Double check to make sure you un-tuck the shirt you wore to the office

  3. Trucker hats!

This is why I’m not hosting What Not to Wear, The Oscars, or MTV’s “The Grind”.

But at least I know enough not to search the web for fashion advice.

*And any of you who has read this for more than a week or so

I woke up at 4:06 am and couldn't go back to sleep - this is why I shouldn't blog when that happens.

It’s going to be a long day.  A bunch of folks who worked on the show yesterday all went out after work last night for a nice dinner and socializing.  It was all fine but to be honest the thing I took away from the whole experience is that I think I’m pretty over hanging out with work people outside of work.  It’s not that I don’t work with nice people, It’s rather that I can’t spend all day with them anymore.

When I was a small boy, living in the middle of North Dakota, I really had no idea of just how in the middle of nowhere we were living.  But thanks to Terraserver, I can gain a whole new appreciation.  Here’s the little country church where we lived.  On the left is the community building (think church basement) where coffee was served and Sunday school was taught, in the middle is the church itself, and the little white building on the right is what used to be the garage.  The house itself used to be between the church and the garage, but someone bought it and moved it into one of the towns nearby*.

This was my entire world as a 3-year old.  The shelter belt on the north and west side where I frequently would go looking for bears and lions and play on the shells of old abandoned cars left out there to rust away, even if I did get lost on occasion.  The single strip of concrete sidewalk between the house, the church, and the community building that I would ride my big wheel on back and forth, back and forth, And the fields surrounding us that were full of sunflowers.  Snowdrifts until June, summer ice cream socials where old ladies gave me free ice cream and old men pitched horseshoes.  No flush toilets in the church itself but rather two outhouses (now demolished) until my dad  - ever the force of modernism – raised the money to add them onto the community building.

Sometimes, I miss the idyllic simplicity of those days.  But then I zoom out and realize just how in the middle of nowhere we were.  And I wonder whether I’d still be there today if we hadn’t moved.

Man I’m tired today…it's going to be a long day.

* I think either to Fessenden (pop. 625) or the bustling metropolis of Hamberg (pop. 28)


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Getting pulled into the future, but unwillingly

Like everyone else, all I’m hearing about these days is the “future of media” - how television is dead and will soon be so antiquated that the only people watching it will be the Amish. The rest of us will be downloading podcasts and viewing little mini-episodes on the cell phones built into our skulls that project images directly onto our retinas. Instead of commercials, the products themselves will be the stars of the future. We'll all talk about whether Tide is a natural 200 oz bottle or whether she's had work done and how she looked so much better as a 96 oz-er. Paparrazzi will hound Gino's Pizza Rolls constantly, trying to get that perfect shot that proves he's sleeping with Allstate Car Insurance Policy after leaving bottle of Pepsi at the altar. No doubt this will hasten the decline of America because instead of working we’ll all be watching reruns of Scrubs instead of filling out our TPS reports.

I’ve never been a big fan of the online video, because most of it has been pretty amateurish. But today I stumbled upon something that I’ve actually sort of gotten into. It’s a little serial about this guy named Brandon and the three different women he’s currently dating with all their quirks. Obviously, hyjinks ensue. Anyway, check it out if you want a little something fun over lunch on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

I think one of the reasons I enjoy it so much is that before the GF and I got together, my life was a lot like Brandon’s. Like Brandon, I was in a relationship with three different partners at once. Only, instead of actual “women” mine were with rooms in my condo. First was the bedroom, who was always trying to persuade me to come over “just to hang out” but ended up always trying to get me into bed. After that I’d usually pass out for about 7-8 hours until the next morning, when I’d wake up all tired, disoriented, and feeling dirty and in need of a shower and shave.

Or there was the living room/dining room/kitchen. We mostly ended up making dinner most nights and watching tv with occasional bouts of reading and napping on the couch. Normally, it would have been the perfect relationship, except that room had kind of an identity crisis; “Am I a kitchen or a dining room? Maybe I’m a living room since that’s the biggest part of me…wait, is that a deck outside the patio door!? Oh crap now I’m really confused!!”

Then there was the office – a brightly colored, if small room but always coming up with new adventures. “Hey, let’s play video games!” it would say “Hey, let’s see what new videos of people falling down whilst skateboarding are on the internet!”. Or, the worst idea ever – “Why don’t you start blogging about completely irrelevant things that nobody will care about and I’ll go out and publish these stories to everyone on Earth who does a search for ‘Debra Lafave yummy’ or ‘usnbt.com’! Won’t that be fun?”*.

Needless to say, I can’t wait to see what happens to Brandon. Maybe it will help me decide which room relationship has the most long-term potential.

* Well, technically not everyone on earth yet, but I had my 11,000th visitor yesterday. Never thought it would happen, frankly.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A long-ass post but it's for science (sorta)

Growing up in the Midwest means that I cannot help but be a macaroni and cheese fanatic. It’s not my fault, really – they made it so darn easy to make that coming home from school it took only 10 minutes to whip up a bowlful of creamy deliciousness. Sure, it was usually meant to be a side dish, served with either hot dogs or fish sticks, but there was just enough in the box to serve as an acceptable meal for a ravenous 10 year old fresh from a rousing bike ride across town*.

Of course, back then there were only two kinds of mac and cheese: Kraft and the generic stuff that came in the black and white box and tasted vaguely of sawdust and mold. These days however, we have no end of choices. Kraft has flooded the market with various themed shapes like Scooby Doo, Rugrats, and Spongebob Squarepants (the “Heaven’s Gate” Cult of the new millennium). Kids these days don’t know how lucky they are, I tell you.

But it’s more than just variety, Kraft is only doing this to beat off all the competition, as the instant mac and cheese market has suddenly become a hotbed of cutthroat competition! Now there are all these “high end” and “organic” varieties out there that claim to be “good for you” and “ridiculously overpriced”. I was skeptical – who would pay more than a dollar for a box of mac and cheese?

Well, it turns out I would. But only because I was thinking it might make an interesting blog topic…and because I like mac and cheese.

So I went out and bought six boxes of the stuff from a bunch of different companies, and have been slowly working my way through the whole batch. My original intent was to eat nothing but mac and cheese for a week straight, but I’m old now, and going on a weeklong M&C bender might not be terribly healthy. Plus I’d hate to get tired of M&C halfway through so that my results were biased against the later samples simply out of boredom.**

By this point I’ve made it through the first three boxes. The methodology was simple, and I tried to cover all the main aspects of M&C. Each one was evaluated on eight criteria: Creamyness***, Aroma, Taste, Nutrition, Ease of Preparation, Leftoverness****, Price, and Pasta Quality. All were given a score of 1-5, with 5 being the best.

The contenders in this edition include Kraft Regular, Kraft Supermac, and President’s Choice Original Cheddar.

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese
First off the Kraft regular. Admittedly, I haven’t eaten this stuff straight up in years. I recently discovered that my mixing in a teaspoon or two of salsa one can transform regular M&C into a bowl of Spicy Mexican Cheesyliciousness. But in the interest of integrity, I left it out of this batch. It didn’t help. On the up side, this stuff was cheap and it was just as easy to make as I remembered. The most interesting note was that it actually tasted better the next day when reheated in the microwave. Perhaps I’ve had Kraft all wrong – maybe it just needs to age, like wine or real cheese! Next experiment I’ll just leave it in the fridge for a week and then perhaps it’ll be the bestest ever!*****

Creamyness: 2
  • More oily than creamy, really
Ease of Prep: 3
  • Same as it ever was
Aroma: 2
  • Honestly, I couldn’t smell a hint of cheese – but I suspect my sense of smell isn’t what it once was what with allergy season and all
Leftoverness: 3
  • Actually tasted better the next evening than it did when it was fresh
Taste: 2
  • It’ll do. Ho-hum.
Pasta Quality: 2
  • A little on the soggy side – but not completely dissolved
Nutrition: 2
  • Nutrition? From Mac and cheese? Who am I kidding here…
Price: 4
  • $0.79 for the plain jane stuff – just right.
Total Score: 20

President’s Choice Original Cheddar
Needless to say I was plenty surprised to find that President Bush has come out with his own line of M&C. Frankly, I found it a bit underhanded to try and restore America’s faith in him via a line of boxed pasta, but this stuff was pretty good – the best pasta quality thus far and my entire apartment smelled of M&C for hours afterward******. It’s a little more spendy, and isn’t quite as good after a day of being Tupperwared in the fridge – but I’ll so do this one again.

Creamyness: 5
  • Soooo smooth…[Homer-esque gargling sound]
Ease of Prep: 3
  • About as easy as everything else
Aroma: 4
  • Much better than the Kraft regular
Leftoverness: 3
  • Still good, but a little bit of a letdown from when it was fresh.
Taste: 3
  • Very good, but oddly enough it didn’t taste as good as it smelled
Pasta Quality: 5
  • Perfect al dente – more than made up for somewhat disappointing taste
Nutrition: 2
  • Again, not much – take it with am ultivitamin however and this would shoot through the roof
Price: 4
  • At $1.39 a box, this is a little high. Suitable for special occasions or for when the boss is over for dinner.
Total Score: 29

Kraft Supermac
Trying to stave off criticisms leveled by people like myself in the first review, Kraft recently devised a form of M&C that is fortified with vitamins and is lower in fat than the regular stuff. Surprisingly, it came out of the pot looking much creamier than the regular, with a much better smell and taste. And it is a little better for you, but it’s not enough to keep you alive if aliens kidnapped you and offered you a choice of only one human food to live on for the rest of your life. Finally, despite the marketing – I acquired zero superhuman powers as a result of eating this version. I was deeply disappointed.

Creamyness: 4
  • I made it using the “recommended recipe” which uses less butter and it turned out much creamier than the regular stuff. Can also be made the regular way but it’s apparently not as good for you
Ease of Prep: 3
  • Why did I even include this? It’s the same for all of them…
Aroma: 3
  • Better than regular, but nothing to write home about
Leftoverness: 3
  • Just fine – perfectly acceptable for regular consumption
Taste: 3
  • Pretty much split the middle between the Regular and the President’s Choice
Pasta Quality: 3
  • Claims to be made using “whole grain” and to its credit, it held up a bit better than the regular. Nothing to write home about though – although if you did your life has larger issues.
Nutrition: 3
  • The great lie of this stuff. Sure, it’s got Iron, and Vitamins D, E, and B1 – but in each case it’s only about 10% of the RDA for each. You want vitamins? Mix in some broccoli and you’ll probably be better off.
Price: 3.5
  • $0.99 is between the first two – but for all the health claims, I expected more for my money
Total Score: 25.5

That’s all for this week. I need to take a few days off M&C now and eat some real food. Next week I’ve got the extremes: store brand cheapo, high-end organic, and a version that claims to be kosher. Should be fun!

* This should in no way be interpreted that I was a bike fiend a la J.Bro or Sophist as a child – my town growing up was only about a mile and a half across in its entirety
** Yay science boy and my academic integrity!
*** Sure, it might not be a real word, but real scientist make up words all the time so I’m going with it as worst case it only adds to my science street cred
**** Defined as "How does it hold up after sitting in my fridge overnight?"
***** Or I’ll get food poisoning. Oh, the lengths I go to for science and pseudo-journalism…
****** And in a good way, not in a “Macaroni and Limberger” sort of way

Monday, May 22, 2006

Whole lotta clubbin' goin' on

This weekend I was invited by my friend A.Yo to go and watch the quarterfinals of the NCAA women’s lacrosse* tournament where my grad school alma mater Northwestern’s Lady Wildcats** were squaring off against the North Carolina Tar Heels. My first question was “What? They play lacrosse outside the ivy-covered walls of exclusive New England colleges?”, and my second question was “Do they have cheerleaders?”. A.Yo reassured me that yes, lacrosse is played all over the country, and while they don’t have cheerleaders she did say that “sometimes the international students take their tops off when it’s hot out”. In retrospect, this seems to have been a ploy to get me to tag along – but kudos to her for knowing how to motivate me. Anyway, apparently Northwestern is the defending champion – strangely I hadn’t heard anything about this last season. A.Yo played lacrosse for both her high school and college, so she was invaluable to help point out how the game worked – even if she was just as confused by some of the penalties that were called as I was.

The game itself consists of two teams of what seems like about 40-50 people each*** who are all wearing mini-skirts and wielding clubs. Also it seems to be part of the uniform to have your hair in a ponytail, as there were no pigtails to be seen. Other than that the rules are pretty simple – scoop up the ball in your club and then run like a bat out of hades towards the other team’s goal and try to fling the ball as hard as possible directly at the goalie in hopes she will be so scared that she will dive out of the way rather than try to stop it. All the while, the other team members are swiping at you with their clubs, trying to knock the ball out of your club. Therefore it’s usually a good idea to pass the ball to your own teammates, if for no other reason than to buy yourself a few minutes of not being clubbed like a baby harp seal.****

By the time the game had started, I suddenly realized that I was sitting outside on a sunny day with no sun protection and I had forgotten my hat at home. Given that there was a serious lack of shade anywhere around the field***** I realized that I had about 5 minutes before I crossed the “event horizon” from mild burning to full-on skin-cancerpalooza. So in a MacGuyver-esque moment, I whipped off my shirt and used it to create a half hat/half tent that was big enough to protect my head and gave enough shade to shield my arms. This is why layering is not just for winter anymore.

The game went into halftime with Northwestern up by only one goal, but during halftime the NU squad seemingly received a fresh shipment of whoop-ass to crack open and whalloped UNC 14-1 in the second half to win 17-6. The whole experience was pretty darn cool, and hella fun.

Even if the one Canadian girl did keep her shirt on the whole time.

* As someone from the upper midwest, it is nearly impossible to type this word in a non-capitalized form. Damn you Wisconsin!
** Yes, those Lady Wildcats…and all their flip-flop glory. Gotta love ‘em, even if it wasn’t intentional.
*** Although I’m sure it’s probably closer to 10-12
**** NOTE: no actual baby harp seals were harmed in the writing of this simile
***** Not including under the bleachers, since I didn’t want to interrupt any undergrads who might be making out under there

Sunday, May 21, 2006

It is finished!

...well...mostly.

Tonight I finally finished up the uniforms/costumes for the big show at work this Wednesday. Now, all I have to do is stop by Kinko's to pick up the last order of signs for the booth and finish training the folks who are staffing it.

Then, I'll finally be able to read other people's blogs again. And heck, read my own even. Wow, my life will seem so free.

Of course, that may or may not be a good thing.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The audience is your friend; individual audience members however...

Okay which of the following actual events most ruined the experience of going to a play for me last night?

  1. The people behind me incessantly whispering amongst themselves – sometimes even while lines were being spoken

  2. The old woman next to me who broke out her nail file and proceeded to give herself a manicure halfway through the first act

  3. The woman over on the side seats who proceeded to unwrap her piece of hard candy as slowly as humanly possible – taking at least 2 minutes to finish doing so

  4. The person five rows behind me who, no doubt inspired by the first woman, broke out her candy too*

  5. The entire crowd talking as loudly as possible during intermission – despite having been told by the house manager multiple times to keep voices down to not disturb the productions going on in other theaters in the building

(Sigh) – you know, I’m perfectly willing to give most people a pass for occasional lapses in judgment.  Lord knows I’ve had a few faux pas in my day.  But come on people – we can’t go to the theater without getting the now-ubiquitous “Please turn off your cell phones and unwrap you candy/cough drops now” speech – and yet all these people seem to think it doesn’t apply to them.  Because *their* candy is obviously the new kind that comes in stealth packaging that cannot be heard by other patrons…

Let me tell you folks – EVERYONE can hear it!!!

It was so irritating that one of the actors quite clearly glared at the 2-minute woman.  Completely unintentional (and fully in character with what he was supposed to be doing at the moment), but priceless nonetheless.

This is the first time I’ve ever held season tickets to any theater.  Typically I have just bought single tickets because my schedule is variable and I oftentimes don’t want to see some shows in a season.  But I’m starting to get a little tired of sitting next to the same annoying people night after night – all their little quirks and affectations are starting to grate to the point where it’s spoiling the performances.  Maybe I need to change to a different series, or at least a different evening – before I stab someone with their nail file.

* At least that person had the decency to unwrap it quickly…
    

Thursday, May 18, 2006

I never knew there were that many kinds of yarn

After almost five years of successfully living an Amish-like lifestyle, I broke down and purchased a printer today. truth be told, it's combination printer/scanner/fax/weapon of class distruction. It's an HP and it was the recipient of many gloriously gushing reviews on the Circuit City website - people claiming that this printer had caused them to get their dream job, catch the man of their dreams, cure cancer, and finally move out of their mom's basement.

I don't know why I had waited as long as I had to buy a new one. The GF has actually given me grief on multiple occasions over this issue. "Why don't you just get one? They're so cheap these days anyway - it's like the companies are trying to give them away."

"But, I don't *need* one," I replied "I don't need to print at home more than a few times a year, and anything I really need to print I just do it at work."

This is true, actually. Living in Chicago means that 95% of all directions involve nothing more but right angle turns and driving straight - so maps are pretty unneeded. I never use the "print your own ticket" function for anything* since I don't trust myself to leave behind a piece of paper that looks like all other pieces of paper and I might get confused with one of my old term papers.

But this project I'm doing for work is a demanding one - forcing me into all sorts of renaissance man activities and creating needs I never had before. For instance, I am responsible for making the "costumes" that folks who are presenting the project need to wear. Fortunately, my company sells all of what we need except for one part - iron-on patches. So, I checked with some of the folks working on this project in other departments to see what they did, and one of them spilled the beans on the big secret to success: Jo-Ann Fabrics. "They have everything you'll need, trust me" said this fellow. Little did I know...

I pulled up to the Jo-Ann Fabric Superstore which I had located near my house using their website**. When I walked in, I was truly not prepared. I mean - it was like walking into my mom's fantasy world. All sorts of crafty stuff, covering almost every imaginable hobby from painting to quilting to knitting to sewing. Interestingly though, the selection for my hobbies was pretty limited - they had no old shcool nintendo games, no fiction section, and an online music library that was practically non-existant. They did have everyhting else though, and it took me almost a half-hour to find the department that had the stuff I was looking for. Naturally - it was in the quilting section and not, it turns out, in a more helpful "Iron-On Stuff for the Ignorant and Uninitiated" section.

Once I had acquired my needed items, I headed over to Circuit City to pick up the printer I had ordered - as the sheets I bought at Jo-Ann's require an inkjet printer in order to make the iron-ons. Circuit City makes a big deal of their "24 minutes or $24" offer on web orders that select "in store pickup" as the delivery option. I figured that since it had been almost an hour and a half since I had ordered it***, this would be a piece of cake. So I drove down the street and walked in to face...the bitter rebellious teenage harpy behind the counter.

We all know them, the kids these days who's lives are soooo difficult and complex. With their pseudo-but-not-quite-right goth combo of too-pale skin and too-dark dyed hair, and heads that look like they were mauled by a nail gun, the harpy looked up from staring at nothing as I moved towards her. One could read her expression of loathing and irritation as I - the only customer in the entire pickup room - boldly dared to interrupt her busy schedule of idle ennui and asked for my order. She tried to foil me by running me through a bureaucratic obstacle course; asking for ID, the order form receipt, and then the credit card used on the purchase. fortunately I had all these things with me - having remembered to print the receipt before I left work. Irritated at my persistance, she started typing into the register - possibly trying to use it to perform a ritual that would summon a higher level Customer Service Demon that would take me away and sentence me to an eternity of nihilistic damnation - perhaps at the North Avenue Store.

But no such demon was summoned, and I was then issued a piece of paper and told to go to a different area to actually pick up my merchandise. At this point, I was beginning to suspect whether my understanding of the "24 minutes of $24" offer was misinformed, and it was not "your order's ready in 24 minutes" but rather "If you successfully make it through our customer service barriers in 24 minutes or less you'll win $24".

But I didn't get $24 - instead I now have an all-powerful combination printer/fax/scanner/thing-I-keep-inadvertantly-kicking-with-my-ankles-which
-would-probably-void-the-warranty-if-I-ever-kicked-hard-enough.

Now I just have to figure out how to use it with the super iron-on paper before next week...

* Although I do have tickets to the bleachers at Wrigley in July - which require you to print your own tickets. Maybe this *was* inevitable.
** But I *didn't* need to print a map because it was really close to my house actually - score one more for the printer-luddites!
*** No thanks to the time warp I got caught up in at the crafty store

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I blinded myself! With science!

As the project I’ve been working on comes to a glacially slow and agonizing close, I’m finding myself discovering a whole new meaning to the word “Stockholm Syndrome”*. This particular project has almost nothing to with my job, although it is for work. It involves nothing that I have any expertise in, although I am the person my directors put in charge of it. And although this project has put me two weeks behind on my real job, left with only one week to finish the project, train seven other people to do the work and then schedule everyone over the next three months – I’m loving every minute of it.

You know why? Because it has awakened the long-dormant science geek in me. The project itself involves polymer science which is basically little more than simple organic chemistry. And I am loving it.

This may come as a bit of a surprise to those of you who knew me in college as “the theater and econ major who never took a science class” - content to avoid labs and run around campus trying to figure out how to date girls before graduation. But there was a time when I was the science geek of my high school. I reveled in gyroscopes, dissecting crayfish, IUPAC naming conventions, and distilling tri-iodotoluene. Mmmm.

So now I find myself staying up late at night assembling molecular models of (clockwise from lower left): polycarbonate, polystyrene, polyethylene, polytetrafluoroethylene**, polypropylene, and nylon 6,6. All the while, wishing that I had three or four more model sets so I could crank out a few more iterations of the polystyrene monomer, a longer Teflon chain, and a model of acrylic.

Moreover, I now have a cooler in my kitchen chock full of what I can only assume is a deadly cocktail of salmonella and e.coli cultures, growing in 10 different petri dishes in order to evaluate the effectiveness of anti-microbial cutting boards. I’m supposed to let them grow for 3-4 days but I’m starting to wonder what sort of noxious cloud I’ll release into my residence if I open it indoors. Maybe I’ll wait a bit and hope that the weather’s nice this weekend.

Maybe this is why I didn’t become a scientist – I can only take so much danger typically. But science makes me want to live on the edge. Maybe I should write a screenplay about rebellious young amateur scientists who gather on long stretches of abandoned road to square off against others of their ilk in reckless and dangerous science experiments. Sort of like a “The Fast and the Furious” for the pocket protector set. That’d be money.

Off to soup up my TI-85. But - just in case - if ya'll don't hear from me on Monday, could someone please call 911? Tell them to wear biosuits.

*All right - admittedly, that’s two words. Just stay with me here…
** AKA Teflon

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Quickie - This gives a whole new meaning to the word "catfight"

Admittedly, I'm a cat person. I don't dislike dogs, and actually have several friends who are dogs - but having grown up with cats I just have more of a natural cat-clination for the felines. That said, I still often pondered the question "Ever wondered what would happen if kittens lived in a world of graphic violence, learned how to use numchuks, and mastered martial arts?"

Wonder no more...

I was *this* close to being "Proud to be an American"

News out of Florida is that the community of Boca is up in arms over the latest revelation that a young high school teacher named Erica Checillar was a member of the USA National Bikini Team, and had sexy pictures of herself taken before she was a teacher. Students of hers found pictures on the USANBT.com website, and naturally the parents found out about it because invariably word of the pictures got around to the school tattle-tale who proceeded to ruin it for everyone.

Now, I’m sure that many of you are thinking exactly the same thing I’m thinking about this whole fiasco. In an age of Mary Kay Letourneaus, Debra Lafaves, and Pamela Turners, it seems like our society has evolved into one where hot young educators can’t keep their hands off their kids. And now when a hot young educator finally demonstrates that not all sexy teachers want to boink their students, but happens to have earned some much-needed cash by joining the National bikini team, I can only think one thing…

…WE HAVE A NATIONAL BIKINI TEAM!?!?!? Where have I been for the past 31 years? I mean sure, I knew that the Swedes had one but I never dreamed that we had one to represent the good ol’ red white and blue. I feel like I’ve been a failure as a patriot! Damn the World Cup! I’m rooting for the girls from Florida from now on!

I wonder how international competition works for bikini teams? There's not much in terms of information on the website itself. I spent a significant amount of time reviewing all the documents available, trying to figure out where the rules were - but there was nothing. All I was able to figure out was what I could deduce from perusing the many pictures that are available. What I was able to determine is that competing on the USANBT involves modeling the USANBT official Uniform Bikini, mastering camouflage*, promoting property rights, and staging productions of Lil' Abner** costumed only in body paint. Erica herself must have been quite the competitor, since she has more pictures on the site than any of the other members that I saw. Amazing since she apparently has difficulty differentiating between a belt and a shirt.

But wouldn’t you know it. Right when America finally starts exporting something other than invasions, Rob Schneider movies, hypocritical foreign policy and manufacturing jobs; at the instant when we develop something that makes the world a better place and that foreigners might actually want to buy – we screw it up. Now the right-wingers will start insisting that the bikinis be modified to collect intelligence for the “War on Common Sense” and turn our girls into spies. Then they’ll be barred from international competition and boycotts will break out, raising tensions that lead to World War III.

Darn it. And here I thought there was hope for us yet…out bikini team would have totally kicked the Al-Quaeda team’s tushies.

* Probably in case they are needed for the War On Terror

** Warning - this link is probably not safe for work. But it's still funny.

Monday, May 15, 2006

An open letter to Aaron Spencer - Former Chairman of Pizzeria Uno

Last week, I had a visitor to an old post on the blog. Now, I’m not exactly sure how this gentleman happened to stumble across my blog, but he claimed to be Aaron Spencer – former CEO of Pizzeria Uno*. And Mr. Spencer took issue with some statements that I made about Pizzeria Uno – namely that I said that the original Pizzeria Uno (and Due) downtown were not affiliated with the chain store franchises out in the suburbs, and that I called the non-downtown stores “craptastic”.

Okay, Mr. Spencer. Assuming that it is actually you who visited my blog last week** () – we need to have a little chat. First, I want it to be stated that in no way am I upset that you stopped by and voiced your thoughts. I welcome debate and well-thought out discussion here, and while most of the time the discussion involves home repair, or “Wow, that chicken launcher is way weird” I’m not afraid to tackle serious topics as well.Second, I also do not believe that you are a corporate moron who is “waaaayyy off base” with what you said. Unlike many other bloggers out there, I have am MBA from the best business school in the solar system*** and understand that the market determines what is a success and what is not a success. Obviously, given how successful your restaurant chain has been you must have something worth while. If the pizza truly was horrible, nobody would eat it, right? But instead, you’ve been growing, and have been so successful that you were able to take the company private again and then sell it to what I can only assume is a hedge fund****. You have obviously done very well for yourself in this venture, for which I congratulate you!

That said, I need to help you understand what really is going on in the blog world, because I am concerned for you. It appears that you have misunderstood how blogs work and don’t realize that posting at random to give out the news of all the big changes at Uno Grill is a bad, BAD idea. You see, unlike TV and radio, blogs are not an unbiased platform for broadcasting a message to the masses. They are a narrowly focused, frequently highly opinionated channel that is usually ruled by a dictatorial fascist – the blogger himself. Anyone who tries to promote a message that doesn’t “gel” with that of the blogger will usually find himself either (at best) ridiculed by said blogger***** or (at worst) the victim of hackers bent on e-distruction. Don’t worry about me or my readers, they’re mostly old college friends, PhD’s in non-computer science fields, or desperate housewives. And I think there are only about 7 of them, at best.

Now, the other reason why posting at random in blog-comments is a bad idea is that your message – whatever it is – will be completely lost on 99% of them. In general, bloggers tend to be pretty opinionated people and you are not going to change their opinions. In fact by doing so you risk polarizing them even further because now you have made yourself into a "bloggable topic". And that is the worst thing you can do in cases like this.

Take me for example. I fell in love with Uno’s pizza when I first moved to Chicago. Sure, it was a lot of work to get it with all the waiting and the lines – but when I sat down and was presented with that slice of heaven it was maddenly good. And it still is today, but only at the original Uno and Due downtown. When I ate at one of the franchise locations it was all wrong. The pizza was served in only 40 minutes and it had cheese on top instead of tomato sauce – not the sort of experience or product that I go to Uno to get. I left that day swearing never to return to the wasteland that was a non-loop location, and I’m not breaking my word.

So, this is when posting gets dangerous - given my previous experience when you “invite” me out to “give you a try” you assumed that I hadn’t. But as I said I have tried the other locations before and was not satisfied. So, unless you have completely changed the pizza recipe to exactly match the one used in the loop locations I have no intention of doing so. In perusing your online menu I see that the pizza still has cheese on top, and the pizza still appears to be cooked in “35 to 45 minutes”******. So you’ve made no changes and yet you still want me to go eat there again. Why, when I have everything I need right downtown?

I will tell you right now that broadening the menu is not why I eat at Unos. I go there for pizza…period. No matter how Unos tries to “spin” it, by broadening the menu you have made Unos exactly the same as every other fast-casual restaurant out there. Whereas before you differentiated yourself with a singular focus on great pizza – now your menu looks like every TGIFridays, Applebees, and Ruby Tuesday out there in that saturated market. Sure, there’s a lot more money to be made that way these days, but you made a deal with the devil when you did it. By selling out to get the mass audiences and higher table turnover (and the related bigger revenues that comes with both) you disappoint anyone who has eaten at the original loop restaurants and knows what real Pizzeria Uno pizza tastes like. Any time one of us walks in and orders a pie at an out-of-town franchise, we’re going to be disappointed. Like this guy.

Just like you would have been if the Uno pizza you ate at the original location back in 1975 had tasted like what you’re serving in the franchises today.

However, in the spirit of fairness I will state that I was wrong in my original post about one thing. The original locations of Uno and Due in downtown Chicago are indeed run by the same company that runs the franchises in 31 states and three countries around the world. They are managed differently however, and offer a different menu than what is available at the franchises, or online - choosing instead to remain true to the original "pizza priority" that made them so successful in the first place. Or, at least they did in March.

Mr. Spencer, feel free to write back if you want to disagree. You can even email me if you prefer so you can do it offline. Just please stop posting in blogs. Use them as a way to feel the pulse of what customers are saying – not a means to put out “the party line”. Nobody will believe it’s really you anyway. They’ll probably think you’re some guy in Canada trying to pick a fight. =)

* Oh, wait – I mean “Uno Chicago Grill”. That’s right, the new name of the TGI-Uno stores doesn’t even mention pizza.
** And since you retired a while back one would presume you have nothing better to do but surf the blogs of strangers looking for opportunities to hype the Franken-Uno you created.
*** According to Businessweek and The Economist; assuming of course that there aren’t any B-schools on one of the other 8 planets – including Pluto but not including Sedna
**** “Because with a name like Centre Partners Management LLC – it has to be hedge”
***** And all of the regular readers too, typically
****** At least the “take-and-bake” version is…

Friday, May 12, 2006

Quickie - A rose by any other color...

In a move that has regional theaters across the country reconsidering their upcoming production of "Glass Menagerie", Japanese beer maker Suntory* has apparently developed a blue rose.

Why is this news? Because blue is an incredibly difficult color to come up with in roses - heretofore it's been impossible to do. Hence when Jim (the "gentleman caller" of the play) says the line "The different people are not like other people, but being different is nothing to be ashamed of. Because other people are not such wonderful people. They're one hundred times one thousand. You're one times one! They walk all over the earth. You just stay here. They're common as - weeds, -but - you - well, you're - Blue Roses!" we are all swept away by the profound nature of the statement.

But now what if these new blue roses get loose and become the dandilions of the new milennium? Will future generations ever truly compehend the beauty of the line if they have to get up the next morning and pull blue rose after blue rose our of their Sugar Snap Peas? I think not. I'm very worried.

Mercifully, if the picture here is indeed representative, I don' t think they're quite there yet. These look more lavender to me. Thank heavens!

* Yes, that Suntory - as in "For relaxing times...make it Suntory time"

Today on Grrrbear's Wild Kingdom, we teach chickens how to fly!

How often do you find yourself thinking about chickens? Sure, you may have driven past a chicken farm every now and again and thought to yourself “Hey, there’s a chicken farm!” but have you ever considered how much work it has to be to set up one of those things? If you figure that every chicken house can hold thousands of birds, all of which are the same age, did you ever wonder how they get all of the baby chicks into the barn?

Well, wonder no more! (Ignore the monkey puppet – he’s only on camera for a few seconds)

Yes, this is an actual company. There’s not a lot of info about them out there, but I was able to find a few references to Chickxpress attending various poultry trade shows to show off this new wonder product. If you’re wondering how it works, the mechanism at the end of the conveyor is apparently a compressed air nozzle, that can be aimed in different directions in order to spread your baby chicks evenly across the floor of your barn.

Don’t worry, I’ve seen baby wood ducks fall from much higher up than these guys are, and they land on hard ground instead of gravel. I’m sure these little dudes are fine.

But I still can’t help but ponder a few unanswered questions:

How do they get the chicks to stand so patiently in the little crates on the way to the barn? Do they tell them that it’s a big amusement park ride? Perhaps this is a video of the chicken version of Space Mountain, and the chicks are all yelling “WHEEEEEE” when they fly through the air – just at a pitch not audible to humans. This would also explain why none of them try to jump over the sides of the belt on their way into the building – they’ve been told to keep their legs, wings, and beaks inside the ride at all times.

Second, how were the kids who made the video able to find music that is such an accurate representation of the baby chicken experience? I’ve been replaying this clip the entire time I’m writing this and I’m never going to get this song out of my head now. Every time I see a baby chick it’s going to be “Dum-dum, dum-dum, dum-dum, dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum” over and over again.

Third, how hammered do you have to be to get this idea? “I know! I know! We could take an old school bus, gut it, and turn it into a machine that shoots baby chickens 5-10 feet in all directions like a fire hose! Shut up Larry – it is not a totally lame idea…it’s waaayyybetter than your 'pig flinger 5000'. That would never work…”.

Fourth, how drunk do you think everyone else at the table was to say “Yeah, let’s do that one!”

And people are worried about the future of American manufacturing. Bah… Let’s see the Chinese invent stuff like this!*

* Come to think of it, the Chinese would probably use this idea to move people instead of chickens. Suddenly, I’m a little suspicious of any new mass transit ideas for the Beijing Olympics…

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Quickie - Fight! Fight!

I must admit to being somewhat chagrined at the complete wussiness of my Giant Battle Monster. Props to this complete stranger I found while clicking my "next blog" link:

Seriously though, I guarantee you that all of you can kick my proverbial Battle Monster heinie.

So depressing...

grrrbear

is a Giant Man-Eating Plant that spins Vast Webs, and has a Sharp Beak, a Swirly Hypnotic Gaze and a Humorous Nephew Sidekick.

Strength: 4 Agility: 2 Intelligence: 3



To see if your Giant Battle Monster can
defeat grrrbear, enter your name and choose an attack:

fights grrrbear using

Quickie - Next year they'll all dress like cheerleaders, I bet...or nuns.

Okay, so I understand the desire of the moral majority police trying to get the booth babes at E3 to wear more than just a bandana and bikini-bottoms. But isn’t it a bit hypocritical of them to care so much about the booth babes at a trade show and so little about the costumes the “heroines” wear in the video games themselves?

Strikes me as like trying to get the girls at the AVN show to cover up while they hawk the latest in porn. The message being: “Go ahead and sell smut – just don’t look like a prostitute while you’re doing it”.

Plus, now I know what a trifecta wheel is

Despite growing up in a farm state, I was never all that into horse racing as a kid. Sure, I would see them in parades and marvel at the sheer volume of poop they would let loose whenever they felt like it*. But I never found them all that interesting outside of parade entertainment. A few years back however, I was working in Ohio and Kentucky was part of my territory – and you can’t visit the Bluegrass State without being bombarded with thoroughbred memorabilia. Flying into the Lexington airport, for instance, you fly over dozens of horse farms and can see them running through the pastures, as if they are auditioning for the My Friend Flicka remake and have mistaken your plane for the private jet of some Hollywood producer.

While I was out there I started watching the Kentucky Derby every spring – and found myself feeling more excited while watching it than I was for all other sporting events. For two minutes, regardless of how much or how little you pay attention to the pre-game, you root for your favorite horse**. There’s so much drama and pageantry and florpy hat-ness that you almost forget how many people are passed out drunk or projectile vomiting in the infield (also, it probably helps that ABC doesn’t really cover that part so much).

One of my dreams is to get dressed up and go to the Derby one day, for nothing else than to drink a mint julip and fan myself. So when friends invited me out to Arlington Park to have lunch and watch the derby, I accepted. When I arrived, I found everything pretty much as I expected. We had a table in the “classy” restaurant portion of the track, where we were stationed right above a table of mob-wannabes***. It was a prefect location to peoplewatch as these old, obese people with bad hips wheeled their little walker-carts up to the betting windows to put their $2 trifecta bets in a desperate attempt to either finally win financial freedom or spend the kids inheritance out of spite.

I’ve never been much of a betting man, but when the first race came up there was a horse named “Megawattie” listed as a 14-to-1 shot. Of course, the odds had no meaning for me at that point, and I thought “When will I next have a chance to bet on a horse named for a former president of Indonesia?” and put down my $2. Needless to say, when Megawattie came in the winner, I was apoplectic with excitement.

All told the rest of the day wasn’t as successful, but still fun. Sure, I lost all my winnings betting on other races and the Derby**** and the drinks were awful*****. But it was a beautiful day, the races were exciting, and I was with good company. Ah, good times.

* Right in the middle of the street too!
** Or, more likely, the horse with the name you liked the best when they were reading them off as the horses got loaded into the starting gate
*** Who spent the majority of their time drinking, smoking, complaining about the waitress, and sweating.
**** So much for my plans of becoming a professional gambler. Surprisingly enough, no other horses were named after Indonesian presidents, so it got much harder to pick winners after that first one.
***** Attention Arlington Park bartenders - A vodka/tonic is supposed to contain *one* part vodka to *three or four* parts tonic, not vice versa.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

It's like reading "comfort news" - a media equivalent to chicken pot pie

I realize that Chicago is still located in the real Midwest, even in my most-conservative definition of “Midwest”. In my definition the Midwest is limited exclusively to the states in the Central Time Zone north of Arkansas and no farther west than the Dakotas. This includes ND, SD, KS, NE, IA, MN, WI, and IL; but does not include IN, MI and OH. Those states I historically lumped into “the east” until I moved to Ohio. Now it’s in a weird no man’s land – they aren’t snarky enough to be on the East Coast but they aren’t nice enough to be Midwestern – so I’ve started referring to them as the “Mideast”.*

But sometimes it feels like the urban-ness of the big city overwhelms our innate Midwestern practicality. Food critics talk of restaurants serving entrees made our of lobster-bisque foam, the yuppie girls go on and on about some name brand of impractical clothing they found “in a little boutique on Damen”, and children’s entire play schedules are carefully arranged for maximum exposure to intellectual stimuli with minimal exposure to failure or loss. Thereby ensuring that another generation will grow up to be completely unsuited for parenthood and in need for more “You Suck Mom and Dad” reality shows like Nanny 911, Shalom in the Home, Honey We’re Killing the Kids, and Showbiz Moms and Dads.

Days like this I am grateful for the internet, which let’s me read stories like this from newspapers from Minnesota. I can only hope this was front-page news, even if they did spell “associated press” wrong. The funny thing is that I had a conversation with my mom on the way into work this morning about this very topic. Yep, the farmers are gonna be in big trouble oute dere if it doesn’t dry out for a spell.

Sort of puts the heated contest for “Chicago’s best margarita” in perspective…

* Besides, anyone who lives where you can stay up until 11:00 watching “ER” obviously doesn’t have to get up early enough the next day to qualify as having a “Midwestern work ethic”

Friday, May 05, 2006

For a good time, call (630) CABLE-GUY

Last weekend the GF called to breathlessly inform me that I have a famous phone number...sort of. She had tried to call me earlier that day, but got the area code of my regular number confused with that of my work number*. When the person on the other end picked up, he answered “Hello, Jim Carrey here”. The GF was so surprised by this that she stammered something about having the wrong number and got off the phone. When I asked if his voice sounded like that of the Jim Carrey she said she couldn’t really remember.

Now, to be fair, if I were in her place I’d be confused too. “Here I am, calling my boyfriend to see how his day went and to bask in the warming rays of his adoration when suddenly this other person picks up and I learn that I’ve actually been dating Jim Carrey for over a year! Granted, I know that Jim’s got an incredibly flexible face, god-given ability to alter his voice and demeanor, and could easily afford a little condo in the city – but could I actually have been duped into believing that Jim Carrey was just some average-joe nerdy bald guy with a heart of gold? Why would Jim Carrey do that anyway? Granted, I am a total fox – but would he seriously think I couldn’t be attracted to him as just “Jim”? How shallow does Jim Carrey think I am anyway!? I’m going to call that jerk back and give him a piece of my mind!”

…[goes to redial number]...

“Oh, wait, I just dialed the wrong area code. Ah well, I wonder if Mythbusters or Planet's Funniest Animals is on…”

Granted, that last part is a complete fictionalization on my part, but it’s what would have gone through my head were I a woman. This is why I could make a very bad woman – I’d be too prone to semi-violent outbursts of justifiable rage. As a man, it’s much easier – I’m just prone to amusing episodes of irrational confusion. Easier, plus nobody gets hurt and only I get embarrassed, which is usually worth it anyway because it’s entertaining.

Or so she tells me.

* Since I live in the city but work in the suburbs, my commute is eleventy-billion miles – long enough to make me drive from the urban sophistication of 773 through the gritty industrial wasteland of 708 into the idyllic Desperate Housewives-esque suburban wasteland of 630

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Quickie - Yay! Han shoots first again!

Words cannot describe how excited I am to hear that George Lucas has *finally* allowed the original editions of all three Star Wars movies to be released on DVD.

This will finally correct all those fake versions of the movies where Greedo shot first and stupid Hayden Christensen appears as a "Jedi Ghost" during the Yub-Yub song.

I am a Hayden Christensen athiest - I don't believe that movies containing him are real and therefore refuse to watch them. Don't get me wrong, I tried both Episode I and II, but a) he was sooo awful and b) George Lucas can't direct his way out of a paper bag. It's too painful to even consider watching the third - despite all the reports that it sucks the least of the three.

Now I know *exactly* what I want for christmas...

Board games are built by the geographically illiterate

All right Hasbro, now you’ve got my dander up! I can understand the need to re-do the Monopoly game once every six months in order to keep it relevant for the “ADD Generation” of geography-challenged kids these days. And I certainly understand their desire to ramp up people’s interest in the game by letting people vote on which streets should be in the new edition. But not only does their new contest letting you vote for geographic landmarks in cities across the country completely fail – but it just makes me angry.

First off, almost all of the options you have to choose from aren’t even streets! Instead, they are landmarks like Wrigley Field, the St. Louis Arch, and Times Square. This flies in the face of conventional Monopoly wisdom and logic! How in the heck am I supposed to believe it’s possible for me to build hotels on the Mall of America or Diamond Head? Is there some new rules in the game about navigating through bureaucratic red tape to try and gain a zoning exception so you can build your hotels? I mean, if zoning doesn’t let you build hotels in the Johnson Space Center what’s the point of owning it?

Second, and even more heinous in my book is they have the wrong picture for the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis – showing the 10th Avenue Bridge which is not, in fact, even made of stone. [Sigh] I guess this is what happens when out-of-staters pick significant local landmarks.

Finally, I just realized that the Minneapolis landmarks are one of the poorest-performing properties in terms of vote count – beating only Cleveland, Dallas, and Nashville. This is important because the order in which properties are placed on the board will be assigned by the overall number of votes each city receives. So right now Minneapolis is pretty much destined to become the new Vermont Avenue – a low-rent district of slumlords and petty criminals. Sure, it’s better than being the new “Dark Blue Poorhouse” of Baltic/Mediterranean Avenues but we should be able to at least work ourselves up into the unpretentious middle-class domesticity of the Free Parking corner, right? So tell your friends to get off their asses and help restore Minneapolis to it’s rightful place.

Even if two of the three landmarks you get to vote for aren’t even in that city.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

My grandkids won't even know what hit 'em

Speaking as a person who can still beat Super Mario Brothers (anyone who visits can witness this feat and play along on my retro NES from junior high which I still own) I found this to be an incredibly entertaining video, even if it isn’t exactly a spot-on re-creation of the first level. Close, but not exactly.

The sad thing is that I really have no ability to play video games anymore other than those I learned how to play when I was a kid. Have you *seen* the controllers these days? I mean, the simple joysticks of the Atari 2600 and the paddles from Pong have mutated into unrecognizable hunks of plastic covered with eleventy billion buttons that require at least three people* to actually use. I was okay from Atari through the Super Nintendo but i think my ability maxed out with the idea of "shoulder buttons". I happen to own a Playstation and a bunch of games I bought off a friend cheap. but I can't play any of the games without looking down to see which button I should be using. This makes me sad. Sad that I cannot share in America's passion for whichever version of Madden is current, sad that I will be getting schooled by my grandkids in "Madden 2045" much the same way that my grandpa used to school me at pool. Why am I getting the short end of the stick on both generational ends?

But then I throw my cartridge of Super Tecmo Bowl** into the ol' NES and charge through the playoffs on the strength of Lawrence Taylor's coke-induced speed on defense. Then, suddenly it all feels better. Sure, I may not be able to operate the 17-button combos to use Finishing moves in Mortal Combat. Sure, I may never have experienced the joy of beating a virtual prostitute to death in Grand Theft Auto. But I have laid waste to every buffalo between Jefferson City and The Dalles in Oregon Trail, my Lemonade Stand taught me how to run my own small business, mastered the woodland and aquatic food chains thanks to Odell Woods and Odell Lake***, and always knew where Carmen Sandiego was. And I feel somewhat better about myself knowing that kids of the future won't have anywhere *near* the patience to learn how to master those games so I'll be able to school them every time they come over. Now I just have to keep my old school, non-HD TV working until I'm 85...

* Two of which are either double jointed or tentacled like octopuses/i
** Or the original if I'm feeling particularly retro-hipster
*** Watch out for the Osprey!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Miiiight as well face it you're addicted to nuts...

My love for peanuts goes waaaaayyy back. As a young boy growing up in the Midwest, peanut butter sandwiches were a staple of my diet because a) they tasted good and b) they were easy for a 6 year old to make, involving no more than a butter knife and the ability to open a jar. My mom didn’t really mind, since peanut butter sandwiches were better for me than the Snicker Bar diet I would have otherwise chosen for myself – not to mention cheaper. Once, I set out on a four-hour expedition to the roof of our house. We have a picture of little me equipped with two packpacks* climbing up the ladder onto the roof much like a young Edmund Hillary scaling Everest. One backpack was full of reading material, toys, and other vital equipment while the other held rations in the form of water and six peanut butter sandwiches**. And when I say peanut butter sandwich, I mean just that – none of that silly jelly getting between me and my George Washington Carver-engineered peanuty goodness. Eventually, my palate grew to accept other foods I could make myself such as breakfast cereal, trail mix, and chee-tos***, but peanuts were, are, and will ever be one of my favorite foods.

But last night at my second Cubs game in two days**** I thought I’d be smart and buy a bag of peanuts from one of the vendors outside the stadium, since they are usually cheaper than buying bags inside. What I hadn’t figured though was how ridiculously huge the bag I purchased was. Once I opened the bag, the GF and I sat there contentedly munching on peanuts for the first three innings before we realized that our ankles were nearly covered in shells and we had still only made it through maybe a quarter of the bag. Mercifully, at that point, the usher came over and told us that we were sitting in the wrong seats, pointing us over to a completely empty and shell-less row of seats in the next section over. We moved there and left the folks who really had our seats to figure out what to do with our shells. It was a little wet from rain earlier in the day, so I like to think my shells saved their lives by providing valuable traction on what would otherwise have been a deathly slippery surface.

Four or five innings in, we had been joined by our friend B who also helped out a little, but we still had way too many peanuts left. By this time I decided to go get some real food, (hot dog for me, pretzel for the GF – who had stopped eating any more peanuts an inning or two prior) in hopes of providing some variety for my stomach so it could rally. But it didn’t. I left a good 1/4th of the bag sitting there on the concrete underneath my seat, went back to bed and proceeded to have really bizarre dreams for the remainder of the evening. This makes me wonder whether peanuts have hallucinogenic properties when consumed en masse.

I still like peanuts, but I’ll never buy the outside bag again. Unless I’m trying to feed an army trying to invade Russia in winter. And I think it’ll be a while before I am interested in eating peanuts again. Hopefully that will pass before the 13th, the day I’ve got tickets for next.

* One in front, the other in back.
** I wasn’t sure how long I would stay up there, but I was thinking at least a couple days. There’s not much to do once on a roof however, and I severely underestimated my ability to tear through the latest Encyclopedia Brown book from the library in only a half-hour. Plus I hadn’t quite figured out what to do about a toilet and thought my dad would get mad if I used the gutter. Hence, the expedition had to turn back after only 4 hours.
*** All of which remain staples of my diet except chee-tos, which are now only a “sometimes food” given how I completely overdosed on them playing Dungeons & Dragons in high school.
**** My record stands at 1-1 now thanks to a lackluster victory last night.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Number of bodies in the cemetery with pink Cubs hats = 0

While I know that the actual story is completely different, when I saw the headline for this story (“Body Found in St. Paul Cemetery”) I couldn’t help but imagine some drunk reporter walking into the graveyard, tripping over a headstone, and shouting “Holy crap, there’s a dead body under there! Oh my god, there’s another one over there! And another one! Sweet Jesus there’s hundreds of ‘em all over the place!!!! I’ve got to get back to the office and get this story out so the whole city knows about it! (hic). [stumbles towards the exit]”

The weekend was uneventful. I went to my first Cubs game of the year last night and am now 0-1 in season play. Plus it was cold, windy, and mostly rainy and my seats were in the last row of the upper deck. But there were peanuts, which made up for a lot of it* being nature’s perfect ballpark food (saltiness goes well with beer plus the shell makes you work for the reward, burn off beer calories, and throw the shells on the floor in a display of messiness not seen since my toddler years). And my friend A.Yo who came with me got a free pink Cubs ballcap as part of the giveaway that day**. It was a pretty nice cap, but it had the Mastercard logo splayed across the back in black stitching. It was quite the topic of conversation for most of the afternoon, especially since the food vendors apparently had no idea it was a giveaway day. When A.Yo went to get food, the food guy gave her the change and thanked her, to which she wittily replied “I bet you say that to all the girls in pink hats.”

He responded “Yeah, what is the deal with that today? It’s a little creepy…”

* Of course, the people in front of us who got covered in the "inner wrappers" as they were blew off by the wind probably have another word for them...and us for that matter.
** I did not get one because the fascists were only giving them away to girls.