Thursday, May 31, 2007

I'm Melting!

After realizing that my flight left a half-hour earlier than I thought it did and making a mad dash to the airport with barely enough to check in*. Of course I forgot to change my outgoing messages on my voice mail and my Outlook at work, so now I'm riddled with guilt over the fact that I'm "e-lying" to all the people who are trying to contact me - possibly even as we speak. I can only hope that this won't interfere with my ability to sleep tonight.

My flight took me to Tampa, Florida. That's right - It's June tomorrow and I have willingly traveled what the state I have often referred to as "America's sweaty penis". It's in the mid-80's this evening and the humidity isn't as bad as it's supposed to be tomorrow. For some reason, the airline tried to compensate for the pending heat by turning off the heat as we descended. About 20 minutes prior to landing, the cabin felt like a meat locker. I was kind of surprised, actually. As are many of you, probably, given that I usually only complain about cold when polar bears are dropping from hypothermia all around me. Clearly, Florida saps my strength even when I'm just in its airspace. It's a good thing I'm only here for the weekend.

* The O'Hare fascists insist you check-in at least 40 minutes before your departure time as part of their master plan to make you miss your flight purely out of spite.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Willful ignorance does not equal news, people!

Since when is being willfully ignorant news? This one guy decides he never wants to watch Star Wars and suddenly it's front-page news to the world? Now he's famous, just watch, he'll be on Conan O'brien by the end of next week.

If that's enough to make him famous then why am I not equally famous for not having seen "The Godfather"? I've been alive just as long as he was, and the movie has been out for my entire life! I didn't get the 2-year respite where the movie didn't exist. I mean, why didn't my parent's sit me down at the multiplex as a newborn so I could get exposed to mob violence and decapitated horse heads and "offers I couldn't refuse" first thing out of the womb?

Come to think of it, maybe they did and they just never told me. Either way, it's ridiculous to give this one guy all the hype for not seeing one movie. I mean, couldn't they go out and talk to any pre-pubescent Amish kid and get the same thing?*

I guess I'm just grumpy because this guy somehow managed to turn his "Oh I've never seen Star Wars" into a full-fledged news story before I could do the same thing with the Godfather. Although admittedly, his story will now probably result in masses of Star Wars fanboys trying to kidnap him into a firced viewing a la Clockwork Orange, whereas fans of the Godfather (lacking the crazy factor) usually just say "Huh, really? You should see it." and then go about their business. Because they have jobs and stuff and lack the time to dress up in costumes.

* Sure, I could just say *any* Amish person but there is the whole "Rumspringa" thing, lord knows how many of the Amish headed straight for the theater or the DVD rental place immediately after the start of puberty and secretly carried their knowledge of Star Wars into adulthood once they returned to the fold.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What a waste of money...I'm sooo jealous!

Sunday night I watched a documentary on Discovery* about how Paramount Studios sold a whole bunch of Star Trek memorabilia in a massive three-day auction at Christies. Apparently, Paramount wanted to get rid of all the props, costumes, and other crap it had accumulated over the years and thought he best way to do it was to put everything "in the hands of the fans" because they would "take really good care of it". Which is business-speak for "our fans are so addicted to this stuff that they'll pay $13,000 for a single copy of a script so let's fleece them for all they're worth. Obviously, people who are Trekkers are apparently loaded and insane.

In truth, I enjoy Star Trek as much as anyone. Heck, probably a lot more than most folks. There's something about the show that kept me glued to the screen to watch all the original series, all of the Next Generation, and a healthy smattering of DS-9 before I got kind of tired of the whole thing. There's something about a morality play disguised as "Kirk gettin' it on with a sexy alien or three" that holds a teenage boy's interest more than your ordinary morality play. Even trekkers** themselves hold a special place in my heart because they are oftentimes as big a nerd as I am at heart. But seriously people, let's examine the level of insanity at this auction.

A plastic shooting model of the Enterprise-D (the one used in all the shots for Next Generation) had been expected to fetch between $25,000-$35,000. The actual sale price?

$576,000.

That's right. Some guy out there was trying to decide whether to buy a plastic model, or a Ferarri. Or a house in a nice suburb. Or a year's worth of blow***. But frankly, once you're even *considering* buying a half-million dollar spaceship model, you've probably got the house, Ferrari, and blow covered already.

All told, Paramount raked in over $7 million from the sale of all that stuff. No doubt they've already spent all that money buying ads for the Transformers movie coming to theaters near you July 4th!****

But here's my question. Star Trek is now 40 years old - so at what point does it peak in terms of value? Do people seriously believe that future generations of collectors will pay even *more* for these things? Myself, I'm a little skeptical. I think that kids today will be much more into stuff that's targeting them now, not in recycling yesterday's movie memorabilia. It seems to me they are likly to view Trek stuff much the same way our generation views memorabilia from "Gunsmoke" or "Gilligan's Island". Will it be worth something? Sure, but nobody's going to shell out $576,000 for a scale model of the Ponderosa Ranch.

Something tells me those buyers got taken to the cleaners.

Still, I wouldn't have minded having a battle-damaged model of the Reliant from Wrath of Khan on my mantle...

* Or one of it's ilk, honestly, other than Mythbusters I never know what channel I'm watching anymore when a documentary comes on.
** Yes, not "Trekkies", that's considered derogatory in some circles of them. And a 250-lb dude in a Klingon Uniform complete with battle sword is still a 250-lb dude with a sword.
*** I'm guessing here. Truthfully, I have no idea what the street value of cocaine is these days, but if Lindsay Lohan can find it then it must not be that hard to find; and if it's not hard to find it must be cheap, right?
**** I know, I know, I've already talked about how Michael Bay is probably going to ruin this movie like he ruined Pearl Harbor in Pearl Harbor. But I mean, I'm 32 and still own a fair number of my transformers from when I was a kid. If I don't go, how do I know that those toys won't come to life and try to kill me in my sleep?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Epilogue - I'm back, but barely

The air travel gods did their best to keep me stuck in Hartford for the weekend. The combination of storms moving through Dallas and wind in Chicago screwed up American's schedule from coat-to coast. Consider for example, the plight of people on a flight to Dallas that was cancelled first due to mechanical difficulties, and then switched to being cancelled due to weather a few minutes later. Those of you who travel frequently know that this then absolves American of any responsibility to transfer those passengers tickets to other airlines (as they would have had to do for a cancellation for mechanical problems). Even more ridiculous, the earliest flight they had availability to get those folks home was on Saturday. It was almost enough to make me feel sorry for those Dallas folks, until I remembered how they stole my hockey team and traded Herschel Walker to the Vikings. Now I consider it a small step towards justice.

As for myself, I did manage to get a seat on the 4:15 flight, however it didn't actually board until two hours later. Even then when I boarded I discovered that the people in charge of emptying the toilet in the bathroom had apparently broken it and caused the "contents" to spill over and start flowing up the aisle up until about row 16. It was still too far back for me to smell, but a guy I spoke to after we got taken off the plane for repairs tole me it smelled like "old, putrid tuna". Good times!

Even the flight itself had issues once we got in the air at 7:00. Something wasn't working with the ventilation system, so by the time we were about halfway home it felt like I was sitting in a sauna. Of course, nobody mentioned anything or complained - no doubt worried that notifying the pilot of annother potential mechanical problem would cause him to turn the plane around. So we all suffered in silence for the last hour, sweating through our clothes and avoiding the bathroom at all costs. Well, at least * I* avoided it.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Live! From Hartford, CT!

Well after a truly disappointing trade show this morning* I made for the airport in hopes of getting a flight back home that was earlier than the one scheduled for 7:20 tonight. Initially, my hopes were good because there were two more flights - one at 1:30 and another one at 4:15. I went standby for both but missed the 1:30 by one person because I got bumped by an Executive Platinum member**. But the good news is that now I'm #1 on the standby list for the 4:15, so barring any other last-minute arrivals of Executive Timberlakes bumping me again I'm pretty optimistic that I'll get on that one.

And in the meantime I get to take advantage of Bradley Int'l Airports free Wi-fi service*** To catch up on email and read all of your blogs. And maybe to do some stuff for work I've been unable to get to but am supposed to have a meeting about tomorrow.

Keep your fingers crossed everybody!

* Everyone I could have met with I had already talked to at the show earlier this week in Vegas.
** American Airlines feels the same way about these people as a 14 year old girl feels about Justin Timberlake.
*** Bradley, I take back all the quips about shag carpeting from yesterday. Free Wi-fi puts you head and shoulders above most airports in the US (You hear me O'Hare?!?)

Yesterday's events

Well, the trip yesterday turned out to be a mind-boggling disappointment in many ways. First, there was almost no travel-related drama. This was rather surprising because the entire time I was in Vegas I had heard horror stories about how the airport is a nightmare first thing in the morning, what with all the east-coast folks flying out early in order to get back home at a reasonable hour. "Get there at *least* two hours aheard of time," people would say "the worst time I ever had at an airport was for an early-morning departure. I spent an hour alone at the taxi line*!"

I woke up at 3:00 am and was in the taxi line by 3:30. I was pretty proud of myself, and it wasn't as bad as it sounds**. What was even better is that there was only one group of three people in front of me. So much for the "massive taxi line" rumor. And when I arrived at the airport I found there was *nobody* there - not even the American employees working the bag check. So I had to wait another twenty minutes until a little after 4:00 am to get checked in. Another 20 people or so showed up and were milling around too, but I staked out my claim to a terminal and three minutes after the bag check people showed up I had my bag checked and made for security. I mean, maybe it was just American that was light that morning, and I'd walk into security to find a line of tired, huddled masses not seen in this country since Ellis Island. Turns out that wasn't the case either. There was *nobody* in the security line - it was kind of freaky actually, to walk up to an empty x-ray station and be able to take all the time I wanted to take off shoes and unload my laptop without feeling the pressure of all the people behind me.

So the two hours I had been told it would take to get through security took all of 20 minutes. Even better, since I had to much time to kill I sat down and put $5 into a slot machine and won back the $20 I lost on Monday, thus once again leaving Vegas having broke even!

Of course, the rest of the day was spent flying. I had been disappointed on the way out to Vegas by the fact that American put us in a plane that had no in-flight movie. Sure, the movies they show are often awful*** but I do appreciate the *option* of being able to zone out. Besides, there's usually at least some Dave Letterman on beforehand. Well the flight out of Vegas didn't have movies either, and the flight from Dallas to Hartford had monitors, but they didn't show movies because the audio wasn't working.

When I got to Hartford I was disappointed *again*. Hartford is a rapidly growing airport that serves as an alternative to Logan. I'd flown through Hartford on multiple occasions, but never on American. My impression had been that Hartford was a pretty new facility with the latest amenities and a modern design. But apparently that's only in the *new* terminal. American must have pissed someone at the airport commission off because they are still in the old part of the terminal that was straight out of the 1970's. Seriously, I hadn't seen airport facilities this outmoded since flying through the old Midway Airport terminal 8-9 years ago. I was a little surprised that the carpets weren't shag. no doubt I'll be assaulted by Hare Krishnas when I fly back out this afternoon.

The final disappointment was the hotel itself. Examine the picture of the Springfield Marriott at right (which is very similar to the one shown on the Marriott.com page for this hotel). See the big tower? Does it appear to you as though that big tower *is* the hotel? Or at least the major part of it?

Well, in a word - no. That building is not only not the hotel, it's not even a part of it, it's not even near it. It's some sort of bank building that's over a block away. The hotel itself is the smaller building just in front of it (behind the parking ramp). Maybe it's just me, but this seems like a seriously misleading picture. Although maybe it's unreasonable to expect a high-rise hotel in Springfield, MA. I mean sure, the Basketball Hall of Fame probably pulls in lots of tourists, but I doubt it brings in enough to justify high-rise lodging.

* This didn't surprise me, Las Vegas has nowhere near enough cabs - those of you who've ever waited for 45 minutes at Caesars Palace trying to get back to your hotel after 10 pm know what I'm talking about.
** Since 3:00 Las vegas time is only 5:00 am Chicago time and I hadn't been out there long enough to get on Vegas time.
*** Case in point, the in-flight magazine promised either "Bridge to Terabithia" or "Because I Said So".

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

What you say in Vegas *doesn't* always stay in Vegas...

While my time in Las Vegas has been short (it's currently almost 6:00 here and I plan on being in bed by 7:00-7:30 in order to survive my 3:00 am wake-up tomorrow for a 6:00 am flight) I've already had two priceless "Vegas Moments" just by paying attention to the weird things people say:

"I love you honey. Now you say it...I wanna hear *you* say it, too!...Now? I'm getting ready to go to bed. ... I know it's Vegas but I'm serious - I'm going to bed right now!" [Guy standing at the urinal in the restroom at the Mesa Grill at Caesar's Palace]

"Oh, that's pretty!" [Woman in Room Service after I ordered a Tomato & Basil pizza for dinner]

Ah, Vegas. As much as I hate to admit it however, I'm exhausted and am really looking forward to going to sleep soon. I first noticed this when I first came out here - for some reason Vegas makes me sleepy. Maybe I am having an adverse reaction to the strange gambling-inducing gases the casinos pump into the gaming floors* that causes the opposite effect of what is intended.

Oh well, tune in tomorrow for tales of my all-day air travel adventure!

* It's true - they pump in smells that they think will encourage people to stick around longer.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Get yer stinkin' antennae off me you damn dirty cicadas!

After a weekend of fantasticaly fun charity benefit events and playing around town with the GF and her folks I'm off to Vegas in about two hours for another trade show/convention. And after that yet another trade show in Massachusetts for a day. I don't really know what I'm looking forward to less - the 90+ degree heat in Vegas this week or the 6:00 am flight from Vegas to Massachusetts on Wednesday morning. In truth, probably the flight, since I'm staying at the hotel where the trade show is being held, and therefore won't have to emerge from air-conditioning except for trips from and to the airport.

The good thing about being gone for most of the week is that maybe I'll be saved from a couple days of the cicada swarm that's about to emerge. I was here for the swarm in '04 and frankly, that one wasn't as bad as the cidada-pundits had advertised. Of course, I live on the far western portion of that brood's range, so it may also be that the few that I saw simply should have made that left turn at Albequerque and were horribly lost. Naturally, now that I've poo-pooh'd it, my return flight will probably fly into a cloud of them as we're decending into O'Hare and I'll barely survive the crash landing for the sole reason that the plane lands on a massive pile of cicadas engaging in an arthropodic orgy on the landing strip, cushioning the impact.

Hopefully the hotel in Vegas will have 'net access so I can blog from the road. It shouldn't be as bad this week since (with the exception of the 6:00 am flight on Wednesday) my travel schedule is a little more forgiving.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Quickie - Toddler hero worship

OMG someone finally posted my *favorite* Spiderman short from the old "Electric Company" show on YouTube!!!!!!!!!

Seriously, people, you have no idea how happy this makes me. For some reason, this particular episode was the one I can specifically remember, possibly because the concept of a supervillian "Wall" was so ridiculous that it imprinted itself on my toddler mind mroe strongly than all the others. I mean, even *I* would know that a wall would be pretty much the worst criminal ever. I mean what's the worst that could happen? apparently if you oppose him he tries to knock you over. Particularly when he appears to be completely incapacitated by a little web that doesn't even cover his whole body.

That would never defeat me and my jackhammer of justice!

Rising from the ashes...

Well, that was an interesting little break. Sorry for the silence but that trip ended up being a lot more work and a lot less free time than I had anticipated. New England is very scenic and very fun to drive around in but I wasn't really expecting to be in a 7-hour meeting on Tuesday coupled with full days meeting multiple suppliers on Wednesday *and* Thursday. Heck, even the one guy who I thought had gone out of business turned out to still, in fact, be up and running*.

So, needless to say I tried to get caught up on the half-day I was in the office on Friday after another meeting that morning out in the 'burbs. Of course, that didn't work out as well as I had hoped, and I had to leave at my regular time in order to get home and put on my suit in time to drive back out to the 'burbs for a benefit that a friend of mine had volunteered with that went from 6:30 until nearly 10. And now I'm back home for just long enough to unpack and re-pack before leaving for Vegas on Monday for back-to-back trade shows - one there and the other one Thursday back in Massachusetts. And, of course I'm supposed to have a meeting with my boss on Monday to go over a list of things that I had hoped to put together while I was on the road but which didn't happen due to all the travel craziness.

Do I sound like I'm whining? Good, becuase I *totally* am. I'm so put out in fact that I'm sitting here on my deck blogging as a way of enjoying the nice weather and my new deck furniture. Taking a brief break from work stuff** with some catching up and a little Garrison Keillor. Ahhh...

This morning I was completely spoiled by the GF's parents, who are in town visiting for a few weeks. They took us out to brunch at one of my favorite spots in the South Loop - The Bongo Room. I have a love-hate relationship with this place because the original location was (and still is) in my old neighborhood, but it was so small and so popular that no matter how early I arrived there was always a wait of anywhere from 1 to 2 hours. It was like I was constantly being put through this torment of never being cool enough to get the pretty girl - it was like junior high all over again.

So when they opened a second location in the South Loop that is much bigger I was suddenly able to get in right away - provided I get there no later than 9:45 for brunch. It was like having the homecoming queen suddenly come on to you at the 10 year reunion - a little odd at first but you leave feeling pretty satisfied about yourself.

Just what I need before another two days having porn handed to me on the street in Vegas.

* Albeit having taken down the sign on his building, only having four people working in the office and zero people actually working in the plant making stuff. But hey, according to the owner that "thing with the IRS" will get taken care of real soon...
** That is almost done, relax, I won't get fired like Trump did.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Another epic journey begins...

As you’ve probably picked up on, my postings from last week reached a new record level in terms of volume. Partially, this was because there was a lot of stuff going on last week that was blog-worthy, and partially, it was overcompensating for the fact that I’m heading out for another business trip that will last me pretty much for the remainder of this week. In fact I was supposed to be in Massachusetts today, but thanks to the stunning incompetence and inefficiency of Cook County’s bureaucracy* I have yet to get my driver’s license returned to me from the speeding ticket I received back on April 9th. Now, I have a passport, so I can fly with no problems. But without a valid driver’s license I can’t rent a car. And since my travels are supposed to take me from New Hampshire to Vermont to Massachusetts to Connecticut, I can’t just take a cab everywhere like I usually would.

And I suppose it’d be asking a bit much for the company to hire me a limo with driver for the entire three days I’m going to be out there. Although it *is* kind of funny to picture me (all surly and cranky from a bad flying experience on Southwest) being driven about small-town New England by Morgan Freeman in full “Driving Mister Grrrbear” mode…

“What are you doing?”

“I’m tryin’ to drive you to the factory!”

* Thanks, Todd Stroger you incompetent product of nepotism! =)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Quickie - Animals + Wit = Fun!

Those of you out there who love CuteOverload and aren't afraid of a little 1337-speak should head over to this site where there is a collection of cute/funny animal pictures combined with witty sayings. One warning - go when you have a while, there's a *lot* of pictures and they are pretty hysterical.

Example:


Good times!

To Quote Keanu Reeves: "Whoa..."

I know I've posted my amazement at the feats of Rhythmic Gymnastics before, but holy crap!

Those people could take Cirque de Soleil to the woodshed...

Am I the only one who thinks that these gymnasts look a little *too* much like each other? One wonders whether the eastern Europeans have already got cloning all figured out and have simply been keeping it to themselves.

The thing that keeps giving me nightmares is thinking that at one point during practice on *each* of these moves, these gymnasts attempted every one of these moves for the first time. I can't imagine that going smoothly.

I hope they wear helmets.

[Edit: Oddly enough, Sophist and I were blogging about this at exactly the same time last night, only I waited to publish until this morning. Weird huh?]

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Quickie - They say that the camera adds 10 pounds, they just didn't say they'd add them all to the same place

As much as I enjoy the Harry Potter books, I go back and forth on the movies themselves. I mean, sure they have done a good job recreating the settings and characters pretty much the way I had originally imagined them when I read the books, but I just like the books more. I'm sure it helps that they don't have to edit down the books so that I can read them in 3 hours like they have to do for the screenplay.

Of course, invariably I end up seeing the movies anyway, often because they are being shown on a flight I'm on and I figure that beats using up my laptop battery to watch a DVD. Of course now they've started running regular movies on IMAX theaters, where the value proposition is something like: "Everything looks bigger and better in IMAX!"

Including, apparently, Hermione's boobs.

Quickie - Why yes, I *would* jump off a building if all my friends did it

Only *I* made mine purple. Like the Minnesota Vikings! Woot!

Quickie - They're baaaaaaaack!

Breaking news!

Another vicious squirrel attack was reported in the Bay Area yesterday. Apparently the squirrel barged into a 1st grade classroom and proceeded to crawl up the pant leg of a mom who was there to serve as a chaperone for an upcoming field trip. After nipping her leg a few times, the squirrel escaped and bit another woman (who was trying to help the first victim) before dashing into the hall and mauling an 11 year old who the article quotes "Was just in the wrong place at the wrong time".

Thanks, Mr Obvious-Reporter. What, are we supposed to believe that the squirrel left the room to seek out that particular 11 year old intentionally? I can see it now: after biting two moms, the squirrel says to himself "These women are *old*! I can taste eet in their leatheree hides. Must...leave to attack something more...supple!" and dashes out of the room in search of Tiffany Amberson - the only one who can satisfy his bloodlust!

I swear, between this and attack turtles it's getting to the point where you can't trust any species anymore...

Jack Sprat and his wife never had it so good online

I just ran across a screenshot I took a while back of an email I received from the GF. I had sent her some pictures from a trip we had taken and she, obviously so blinded by my rugged good looks had made me her desktop photo. Sure, that’s not terribly unusual, nor it is particularly blog-worthy as topics go. What I found amusing was the ads that Google decided were a good match for the subject we were discussing – two in particular:

Apparently, Google isn’t quite sure whether I’m an “Overweight People” or one of the “World’s Most Gorgeous Hunks”.

Oddly enough this isn’t the only weird photo involving overweight people that I’ve noticed today. There was a banner ad that I saw last night that caught my eye. By now we’re all used to the banner ads promoting various cosmetic anti-aging and weight-loss creams, pills, and ointments. Almost without exception, these ads use pictures of 20-year old women and photoshop them to add wrinkles, rolls of fat, pus-filled sores, or whatever plague the ad is promoting a solution for. They then use those altered pictures as the “before” and go back to the original picture as the “after”. Well as you can see by the photo on the right, these charlatans have now decided “Hey, why bother using pictures of real people at all when we can just make the whole model on computer?”.

In the long run this probably won’t work as well as they think though. Obviously, the only people who can benefit from those snake-oils are computer-generated people, of which few are on the internet and even fewer use credit cards or have steady jobs and an income. But, I suppose it’s only a matter of time before Second Life develops more realistic simulations of weight gain and proportions and everyone on it suddenly finds that their avatars are porking out and plumping up, despite all the exercise they get from pretend-shopping for pretend-products and having anonymous cyber-sex with strangers. So perhaps I’m wrong, maybe this company is just seeing the future better than I can.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t mock them until that happen. I just can't contact them directly without violating their "Serious Inquiries Only" policy.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Just because you *think* you can...

...doesn't mean you *actually* can.

A man in Connecticut was killed yesterday participating in what is called "battle dancing", where people hang out in parking lots and try to outdo one another's dance moves. Apparently, this gentleman was attempting to top his friend's move that had involved flipping himself in the air. When the gentleman tried to do the same thing, he landed on his head, went into cardiac arrest, and was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Here's the thing - the guy was 48 years old. Let this be a lesson to the baby boomers out there who might consider seeing whether they can do a front flip - Cocoon was just a movie, that wasn't actually Hume Cronyn breakdancing.

Honestly, I wasn't so suprised at the result of this event as I was to discover this concept of "battle dancing". Being a midwestern kid in the '80s, I was, of course very familar with the stories about how breakdancing got its start as a peaceful way for gangs to resolve their conflicts over turf. Like most of us in small-town America, I believed that those stories were true - a belief which was only confirmed by the Michael Jackson video for "Bad"*. As I got older, I started to have my doubts about hte veracity of these stories, and had pretty much chalked them up as urban legends. After all, how could something as subjective as dance move complexity serve as a means of conflict resolution when you could just knife a guy and pretty much win your argument, no questions asked?

But now I read about this incident and find myself wondering, perhaps there was something to those stories after all. Maybe this will become a serious problem in nursing homes of the future where 90 year old men try to battle for their turn at the shuffleboard table my staging a dance-off.

Let's just hope it doesn't devolve into a pants-off dance-off...

* Shot, no doubt, documentary style in the gritty urban jungle that was "the wrong side of the tracks"

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Note: the 2nd shoe post in a week doesn't make me the shoe-equivalent of J.Bro

Yesterday I went shoe shopping for the first time in years. While the GF probably knows this, I am somewhat of a shoe-abuser. When I was a kid, it was always easy to know when I needed new shoes – the old ones simply stopped fitting. This made it easy for me, and yes, probably spoiled me by turning me into one of those people who never know when their shoes need replacing. You see, once my feet stopped growing, I lost the only indicator of shoe-unfitness I had ever known. So I proceeded to go through long stretches of wearing shoes that had “seen better days”. Sure, I had the same issue with clothes, but at least with clothes there are auxiliary signs of unfitness such as worn threads, fraying, and the GF giving me the “Are you really going to wear that?” look.

A few weeks ago, I noticed that one of my two black pairs of shoes had literally started to fall apart, so I decided to go shopping for shoes by myself. Sure, I could have done it on the weekend with the GF but I wanted to prove to myself* that I was capable of choosing a decent pair of shoes on my own – after years of studying under her tutelage, I needed to strike out on my own. So I made for the one place in the world I know that sells shoes – Nordstroms. I had bought one pair of shoes there back when I lived in Cleveland, and it had turned out pretty well. I liked that the men who worked there were all old and had probably sold shoes since Dwight Eisenhower was in office. They all wore suits and knew how to check for proper fit, and they treat you with respect**.

When I got there I found myself surrounded by shoes I’d not heard of since the OJ trial and price tags that ranged from “Wow” to “Why not buy a car, instead”. I found a sales guy and tried on a couple styles before settling on two pair of black shoes, one pair of Ansell Edmonds and one pair from a company in Spain. I did try on a pair of Italian shoes just for fun and while they did literally feel like I was walking on clouds they were also almost twice as much as I wanted to spend. The Ansell Edmonds were pricey enough, but I learned that when they wear out I can send them back and they’ll be completely re-done for about a third the cost of a new pair. So I figure in the long run they’ll pay for themselves.

The only annoying thing about the experience was all the upselling that the sales guy tried to do. This was above-and-beyond the typical “Do you need some extra laces or socks to match?” sort of sale – he had brought out two other pairs of shoes for me to try on – one was the Italian shoes of perfection, and the other was a pair of casual loafers that he claimed were “designed to be worn without socks”. Needless to say they also screamed “Hey, I’m a giant douchebag who wants you to think he likes yachting and summers in St Moritz!” Plus, I loathe the shoes-without-socks look – I’m too paranoid that I’ll get blisters.

As I was wrapping things up though, I noticed one other thing – a stand full of Crocs sandals sitting in the middle of the department. I was stunned. Here I was in the Mecca of men’s footwear, surrounded by the finest hand-crafted footwear the world had to offer and I was being confronted with a rack of injection-molded pseudo-clog hideousness that looked like it had escaped from Wal-Mart and was trying desperately to fit in as part of a witness protection program.

Needless to say, I didn’t buy a pair.

* And, indeed, the world
** Even if it’s all an act, I don’t really care – I only have to go once every 2-3 years anyway.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Possible just a tiny bit NSFW, so I'm not showing the actual picture

A picture from a fashion show in Australia has been the most popular picture on Yahoo for the last three days now, which if you follow the “most popular” stuff on Yahoo is pretty unusual. Why is it so popular, you ask? Simple, because it is an attractive woman modeling a white, one-piece swimsuit.

Pretty conservative stuff, really, except that the swimsuit apparently lacks the “breathable cotton panel” designed to ward off the bane of women’s beachwear everywhere – outrageous camel-toe.

So here’s my question – If you were a model, and they hauled this thing out for you to wear, wouldn’t you pause for just a moment and ask someone whether, just maybe, the suit was unfinished? Maybe they just forgot to put in the camel-toe prevention device. I mean, I would think that no sane woman would want to walk around a beach showing that off, because nobody wants to see that sort of thing.

Of course, given that it’s entering it’s third day in the “most popular” list, perhaps my assumption is incorrect.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Of course, I suppose I could just carry another flavor in my car to cover it up...

A friend of mine recently gave me a pack of a new flavor of Orbit gum that is supposed to taste like “Mint Mojito”. I’m not one to turn down free gum, particularly when it is offered by someone as evangelical about it as my friend was. But one thing that sort of made me hesitant to jump right into the experience was the fact that the flavor is designed to taste (allegedly) like a cocktail.

I mean, I have to drive home after work – what happens if I get pulled over and the cop smells mint mojito on my breath? Do I end up getting thrown into prison since I’ve already had my license (temporarily) taken away due to an inadvertent speeding ticket last month*? That would suck.

And all because a friend gave me a free pack. Clearly – she’s after my job…

* When I call the county circuit court clerk’s office, they tell me that it takes “between 3 days to 5 weeks” for them to get the ticket from the police department. Then they have to process it and my payment (which I sent the day I got the ticket) and return my license to me. Models of efficiency – both of them. But this is a whole other rant that I lack the energy to get into…

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Quickie - The pictures you've all been waiting for!

All right all you shoe-loving foot fetishists out there in internet-land! Come out of your tubes because it's time for the debut of Grrrbear's MINNESOTA SHOES!!!!!

First, we have the general shot. I removed the insole to show off the best part of the shoes - they even have actual loons on the heel! Check it out...go ahead...click on the picture here on the right. Explore the detail which the little Indonesian children use to create the delicate patterns on the loon itself! You know it has to be child workers because real grownup fingers are too big for work this detailed..

With my shoes on you can appreciate the spots and stripes around the heel area - inspired by the Great Northern Diver*. Basically, my heels are almost an exact match for the front of a loon now! In fact my feet are so loonlike that they have to use bright neon green accents on the heel and toe so that naturalists don't arrest me for strappin' loons to my feet and walking about town. Thanks for thinking ahead and watching out for my well-being Nike!

* The high-falootin' fancy name for Common Loons

I'm soooo reconsidering not being an exchange student right now

Well this is just not fair. All this time I spent going to high school surrounded by girls of Scandinavian decent I thought I was lucky.

Turns out I wasn't nearly as lucky as guys going to a particular school in (actual) Denmark. The teachers there stage a "strip-off" every year where the girls strip for the privilege of winning the best seats in the cafeteria. Who decides the winners? That's right - the teachers, who act as judges.

This year, apparently two entrants got a little too hot-n-heavy and stripped naked, "touched each others breasts", and "started rubbing baby oil over each other's bodies". Naturally, because everyone in Scandanavia has two or three cell phones* on them at all times, multiple copies of the clip were posted to Youtube** and have now raised quite a rukkus.

Naturally, school officials have no plans to cancel the event for next year. Said one, "And anyway, the girls who did this didn't win because their performance was over the top".

Did you hear that girls? Let this be a lesson to you - there's a fine line between a Danish Schoolgirl Stripoff and rubbing baby oil on each other's nipples. Know when you've crossed it!

* Nokia probably gives 'em out for free like Gillette mails out sample razors when you turn 18.
** No idea if they are still there. The article claims they've been pulled and there's no way I'm going to type in a search for "Danish schoolgirl stripping video" into a search from work.

Some perspective people, please...

This past Sunday something interesting happened in baseball. Rookie shortstop Troy Tulowitski made an "unassisted triple play" where he got all three outs in a single play. He caught a line drive (batter out), stepped on second base (runner on 2nd out), and then tagged the runner from first (3rd out) in quick succession. Kind of cool, and when you consider that only 13 of them have occurred in baseball's recorded history - a pretty rare thing too.

But here's where baseball media's head gets too big for it's britches again. An article written for mlb.com, a sports reporter is gushing about this play so much that frankly, I felt a little uncomfortable - like when you're sitting in your dorm room trying to finish a term paper and you can't help but hear your roommate making out with some freshman he picked up at an off-campus party. You know, that "Ew. Just...stop...please" sort of feeling?

Here's the worst quote from the article:
It was just the 13th unassisted triple play in Major League history, and all
those who witnessed it shared the heart-stopping moment of inescapable wonder
the play produced.

All right, I'll give you that it was pretty cool to see an unassisted triple play. But isn't it just pushing it a little bit to refer to it as a "heart-stopping moment of inescapable wonder"? I mean, my heart hasn't stopped, and my wonder was pretty fleeting. I mean, it didn't last nearly as long as when Randy Johnson hit that dove.

Now, *that* was a heart-stopping moment of inescapable wonder!