06/2006

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Welcome to the month of June! Unless you are living in the completely wrong hemisphere of the world, June is the bringer of summer, stirring up images of Pop-ice, fireworks, and dirty beaches with crabs. I realize that summer comes early in other places, such as Tallahassee, but it doesn't really count when the average temperature rises from 87 to 94. When you're living in the humid armpit of the Southern giant, the only surefire way to tell that it's summertime is when Chompy hides in the bathtub to get away from the fireworks. Here are some pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that form my summers:

  • The ice cream truck has been making the rounds in the neighbourhood again, although I rarely ever see anyone buy anything. The ice cream man must have met his quota for Klondike Bars last year because he upgraded the sound system on his van. Before, it was only capable of playing two notes simultaneously, and continuously played a duet of Home on the Range over and over again. Now it has flashy 16-voice polphony, much like a state-of-the-art Soundblaster 16 Pro LB Duplex 9200 sound card from 1992. In reedy tones that try to emulate clarinets but just sound like the backup to any 80s rock opera, the ice cream van now plays 8 bars of every public domain song known to man. There aren't even any segues -- just pure unadulterated melodic goodness. It reminds me of being in concert band playing those idiotic medley songs that high school band directors everywhere love to program.

  • My "song of the summer" is not by the Beach Boys, it's Pleasant Valley Sunday by the Monkees. This is somewhat peculiar because my dad doesn't like the Monkees and never played this song in my youth or on beach road trips. My "memory of the summer" is waking up in the morning with the windows having been open all night long. It's warm enough that you don't need blankets and outside you can hear the gentle murmur of early morning lawn mowers mixed with the echoed roar of the Interstate. My "food of the summer" is, of course, Pop-Ice. Pop-Ice sucked because all it did was slice your mouth open. I used to drink them raw without freezing them first.

  • During some summers, our family would be illegal and purchase fireworks in neighbouring Fairfax County for the Fourth of July, then light them off in the backyard after liberally drenching the surrounding trees with sprinklers all day long. The best fireworks were the ones that did more with lights than sounds. The coolest were the flash bombs that made a strobe effect for several seconds so you could pretend to be in a stop motion clay video. The worst were those stupid black snakes that grew out of the sidewalk and then left blotchy black marks on the concrete and your hands. Black snake!
  • Share some of your own summer memories in the comments section!

    Woman shoots fireworks at helicopter
    He also recently skipped his first wedding anniversary to attend a fight.
    Rochdale man fails to prevent neighbour's erection

    tagged as memories | permalink | 7 comments

    Friday, June 02, 2006

    Friday Fragments

    A traditional Korean delicacy for your Friday morning blues

  • LOST actress, Michelle Rodriguez, avoided jail time for her DUI for the second time. She was sentenced in Hawaii and served one day of time before being allowed to walk, and then she was rearrested in California because she had been on probation from a previous DUI incident. She then served a few hours of a two-month term in an L.A. jail before being allowed to walk, after which she "celebrated her release at the Tropicana Bar". Someone needs to give that woman a pimp-slap back to reality. She's not a very good actress, she doesn't come off as someone I would invite to one of my rocking dinner parties in interviews, and she obviously has a false sense of entitlement because she's famous. They should have at least let her get beat up by a couple of thugs before they let her go.

  • I also think it's ironic that the last LOST episode which featured her prominently last season was called Two for the Road.

  • I started watching the fifth season of Alias on abc.com last night (who, by the way, has a very clean and snazzy interface for watching old episodes of all their major shows) and I'm on the third episode now. I can't yet tell if the season will be as good as previous ones, but I have learned that incorporating an actress' pregnancy into the storyline is trite and stupid, and that Rachel Nichols is far hotter than Jennifer Garner ever was, but not quite as hot as Mia Maestro. You'd think that in a real spy organization, they would take plain and homely people to be spies, because others would be less likely to notice them.

  • I smell a new Internet business in the making: uglyspies.com. At this site you'll be able to hire a homely, plain, or ugly person to blend in to your immediate surroundings to get dirt on your coworkers and relatives. You could also make ad money by putting a fake search page at ugypsies.com. Paranoia will rise because you'll never be able to tell if your ugly friend is observing your daily habits or just has an unfortunate visage.

  • Spies wouldn't be able to get much dirt on me despite my exotic lifestyle. Every night this week except for Thursday, I spent the evening outside weeding the garden beds. For those of you that live in big cities, weeding is when you dig up all the plants you yourself did not plant so they can grow back in the next day. As a result of my weeding, I now have a farmer's tan and some itchy sores on one arm where a spider must have bitten me. My arm looks like it has the syphillis.

  • The coming weekend looks just as exciting: I'll be doing some shopping for sundry goods and house stuff and might go into work one of the days. I'm hoping Alias will get good so I can get sidetracked for a whole day watching the entire season. If that doesn't pan out, I may go over to the Herndon day laborer center and make a little extra cash weeding gardens.

  • When I was in elementary school, we'd spend every recess picking dandelion heads and throwing them at girls on the playground. We called it the War of the Weeds and actually had strategies and attack plans and such. We also used to kick dandelions that had bees on them and then collect the stunned bees in jars. I believe our ultimate plan was to get enough for them to make a new beehive, but we always had to let them go at the end of recess. That's how kids in my day got their buzz -- none of this cough syrup and choking game nonsense.

  • Happy Birthday Amy Giraldi! Have a good weekend everyone!

  • Dodge Neons: Roomier than expected
    Up Next: the axeless pick axe
    Boy blows up house with deodorant

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 5 comments

    Monday, June 05, 2006

    Capsule Review Day

    Cardigans: First Band on the Moon
    When I hear a band I like, I tend to want to listen to the entire body of their work. First Band on the Moon is their second CD, released in 1996 when I was still a senior in high school, and has the only song people know in the U.S., "Lovefool". The Cardigans try to maintain their whimsical sound while adding heavier beats and more serious, artistic lyrics. Overall, it's successful but I prefer the music on the first CD to this one. You can definitely hear the evolution of their sound and the improvements in Nina Persson's voice though.
    Prognosis: Skip it unless you're a diehard fan or you pirate music. Arr!

    Makin' Bacon
    My dad is currently reading a book about the economics of Walmart, and bought me this device, which is featured in the book. It's simple a $4 plastic pan with little clotheslines for hanging bacon. You place up to twelve strips of bacon over the drip pan, cover it with a paper towel, and then microwave the bacon for several minutes. This setup is supposed to allow the grease to drip off the bacon, making for more uniformly textured bacon and an easier post-meal cleanup. I tried it out yesterday and it works perfectly, AS SEEN ON TV. In five minutes, you have bacon that's as close to restaurant bacon as I've ever tasted, and you don't have to worry about a grease-splattered stove. There's really no downside at all to using it, and it's cheaper than buying ready-to-eat bacon or other bacon substitutes.
    Prognosis: The best tool for making breakfast since the invention of the toaster oven.

    Alias, Season 5
    The fact that there were only seventeen episodes in the final season meant that I could watch them all this past weekend. Ultimately, the season was a little flawed (not because of the season itself, but because it had to piggyback off of a season that apparently ended the story) but still quite watchable, and had a sufficiently sappy ending. If you forgive its issues early on and just go along for the ride instead of trying to figure everything out, you'll start to get into an Alias "what happens next?" groove that hearkens back to the good old days of SD-6 and Phase Two. A few pieces of the big puzzle were lost to confusion, and the finale was a whirlwind of webs trying to tie everything together but they were as successful as they could have been given the circumstances. Because I have been watching and writing about Alias since these daily updates began in 2001, I'll probably write one last post to wrap it all up, and then you will never have to hear me talk about it ever again. What a bargain!
    Prognosis: It won't change your life but it will please fans. If you've already gone this far, you might as well finish it off.

    "You beat death, Arvin, but you couldn't beat me." - Jack Bristow

    Trip to Hell for 6/6/06
    Robber should get a few bucks as a consolation prize
    Man denied visitation rights to his dog

    tagged as reviews | permalink | 9 comments

    Tuesday, June 06, 2006

    Cat Media Tuesday

    An occasional featurette of homegrown kitty porn


    "Hey, get this growth off my booty."


    "Please stop staring at my boobies."


    "I'm only mildly retarded."


    "Being a cat is such hard work."


    "Who's got the bed NOW, biatch?"


    "I guess you do."


    "BU passed his certification exam with a 92%. Hooray (for the forthcoming $400 check)!"

    Nudist resorts grapple for buyers
    Where do you get an aluminum boat? A dishwasher, a refrigerator?
    SNAKE ON A PLANE

    tagged as cats, media | permalink | 6 comments

    Wednesday, June 07, 2006

    In Dreams

    In Dreams was a really bad horror thriller from 1999, starring Annette Bening and a bushel of apples. That's all I can remember from a movie which was otherwise repressed from my mind. We watched this movie in the theatres in Blacksburg -- it was picked out by Shac who was notoriously bad at choosing good movies to blow seven bucks on (see also, The Thin Red Line).

    When I was in junior high, I used to record my dreams immediately upon waking up, but that habit is so far in the past now that I rarely even remember that I dreamt at all most days. I don't think there's ever been a case where significant events I dreamed eventually came true (which was the premise of Annette Bening Makes Applesauce) although I generally have very literal cases of déja vu about three times a month.

    Yesterday, one of my coworkers who I work with regularly but don't really talk to outside of the work setting was in my office when she suddenly recalled a dream she'd had the night before. Apparently she was at home watching the Tonight Show when I suddenly appeared onscreen as the musical guest. After performing or conducting or doing something rather musical, my girlfriend turned out to be the next guest of the show. My coworker prefaced this with "I don't know if you even have a girlfriend, but she was your girlfriend in the dream".

    After the two of us had had our forays into the entertainment biz, we were being interviewed by Jay Leno and I ended up proposing on live TV, something I had set up before the show with the producers or whoever runs things. That's as far as my coworker's dream went, so I don't know what the outcome was, but I sure hope that I don't have to compete with "live proposal on the Tonight Show" should the time ever come to do it in real life. I had always planned on something tamer, like being shot out of a cannon with the ring, or etching the words into the surface of the Moon.

    On an unrelated note, my free Amazon Prime membership expires on Friday and I don't plan on renewing it, so if you would like to take advantage of my free two-day shipping, just let me know as soon as possible.

    Family to exhume body buried with misnamed tombstone
    The sequel to Lenigan vs. the Ants
    Where karaoke is part of the job description

    tagged as random | permalink | 4 comments

    Thursday, June 08, 2006

    Master of the House

    It's been awhile since I've posted about improvements made to my home, but you can rest assured that work continues at a slow and stately pace, and that the house isn't decaying from the inside out to collapse upon itself in years to come. Most recently, I've been taking care of the exterior -- washing windows, mowing the lawn, weeding beds, and doing work on the roof with my dad. The bed on the west side of the house finally has shrubs and mulch in it -- previously it would just fill up with water during every rain shower, making it useful only for breeding mosquitoes and leveling up your fishing skills.

    Next Friday, my dad and I are going to add an orifice to the house -- a second window in the master bedroom overlooking the backyard. My backyard is pleasant and woodsy, but I never get to see it from inside my house. Plus, the window will add some natural light to my bedroom, making it easier to wake up in the morning and increasing the Loudoun County assessment by roughly 62%. Because we plan to tear the hole in the house using high-grade explosives (probably C-4), I plan on redoing the paint and carpet in the master bedroom as well. I'm not sure what colors to use yet -- I have a blue room and a red room already, but I don't necessarily want to make my house into a colour wheel of rooms.

    Once "Operation Gaping Chasm" is complete, I have two more major tasks planned out: I want to lay do-it-yourself laminate flooring in the foyer and the kitchen to replace the nasty linoleum tiling, and I want to set up a wireless network in the house so I can put all my music on one archival computer and play it all from anywhere in the house without having to copy CDs left and right. Of course, home improvement and maintenance never ends, so there are probably a million other smaller tasks on my list. If you have any need for a handy man, my rates run between 40 and 50 dollars an hour and I will even sag my pants in the back like a plumber.

    Happy Birthday Mike Polson!

    Isn't it supposed to be harder than this?
    Students grab bottoms
    Man sets car on fire instead of paying fine

    permalink | 11 comments

    Friday, June 09, 2006

    Friday Fragments

    Always exciting, never stale, much like English muffins in a vacuum

  • Kim decided to end her long-running blog this week, which was tragic. In its place on my Bloglog, Mark Connor gets the coveted lower-left corner spot, clinically proven to draw the eyes of an upwards of three (3) visitors per day. To maintain the circle of life and to give me reading fodder, one of you read-only leeches should start up a blog of your own and post in it regularly. I will even plug you here like a leaky skiff. We must do everything possible to prevent the blogging world from becoming lopsided.

  • Because my neighbourhood is still semi-rural, there are only sidewalks on one side of the street, if at all. In every case where this lopsided sidewalk exists, every white yuppy jogger will use the sidewalk, while every Hispanic with a baby stroller will walk in the road on the opposite side of the street (usually with traffic). You'd think that the value of your life would outweigh the effort it'd take to cross the street to safety. Especially with BU on the road.

  • I drive politely and reasonably cloes to the speed limit in neighbourhoods, but once the speed limit hits 35 and over, I become one of those annoying northern Virginian drivers that has to BE THERE NOW. My philosophy on travel is this: why waste time getting there when you could be there enjoying yourself or making money or whatever you'd do? No doubt someone will play the role of devil's advocate's fortune cookie and argue that it's the journey itself that matters. Hogwash!

  • I have never actually tried to wash a hog, so I don't know why that expression would have the farcical connotations it has, but I have eaten a hog that was roasted in a pit underground all day long. I can't remember what it tastes like though, since it was far away in the days of my youth. What's the point of having childhoods and whatnot when 80% of the memories from those days will fade away forever after about ten years? You should be able to selectively pick which memories to keep and which ones to throw away. I would throw away a good chunk of useless school days.

  • I never got a lot out of the traditional sit-in-a-classroom approach to education. I would much rather take a self-study or online course and do all the work at my own pace. Now that I've kicked the Java Certification Exam's ass back to France, I need to think of a new technical area to study in the coming months. I was considering both AJAX and Ruby. Any suggestions from the readers who are, or pretend to be, geeks?

  • Chad Darnell's 12 of 12 is coming up on Monday. This is your chance to show the world that you're only a geek on the Internet, but also in real life! I think I'll participate in it again this month -- maybe it will compel me to do something exciting that day so I can wow the audience with my crazy lifestyle.

  • This weekend is a perfect example of my crazy lifestyle. On Saturday, I plan on doing a lot of shopping, hitting such well-known stores as Radio Shack, Target, Home Depot, Petsmart, and Shoppers Food Warehouse. After I do that, I will wash my car (while it's in Drive, for added danger), and then clean the house. Chris Sharp's birthday is on Saturday, so happy pre-birthday to him.

  • Have a good weekend!

  • Real body at a fake crime scene
    I hope he picked Rock
    Beware rogue helicopter pilots and Boy Scouts

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 6 comments

    Monday, June 12, 2006

    The Last Alias Post Ever

    Warning: This post contains minor spoilers about every season of Alias. No major plot points of season five are revealed.

    It was Sunday, September 30, 2001 when Alias first premiered. I knew very little about it when I turned it on, but was intrigued by the commercial bombardment on TV, in newspapers, and even on the sides of buses. My initial impressions were: kind of neat, a little over the top, but a worthwhile diversion for one hour each week. So while all the rest of my friends were watching The Sopranos, I started tuning into Alias regularly. It wasn't until about halfway through the first season that I actually got hooked and became an annoying Aliasphile.

    It's hard to explain in words why I'm so invested in the show when, as many friends who are sick of hearing about it point out, "it's just a show". This is true -- it is just a show, albeit a very well-done one, but it's my show. Alias came out just as I started grad school in a new state at the ripe young age of 21, and was something of a dependable escape throughout the years as I grew up and entered the real world. To an extent, we grew up together. It was the only show I'd every plan the rest of my schedule around rather than taping it, and gave me a reward to look forward to at the end of every week, good ones and bad ones. My love for Alias probably meets or exceeds Mike's love of Desperate Housewives, Kim's love of Gilmore Girls, or my mom's love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Even if Alias were a horrible, horrible show, it still functions as a yardstick in my memory, giving me pleasant historical milestones to go along with the events occuring in my life. To people who think TV is for the brain-dead, this might seem strange, but does anyone else understand what I mean?

    For my last post featuring Alias ever, I thought I'd list some of my thoughts, memories, and gentle-hearted critiques of the show. Five years is an awfully long time.

  • Alias is the only show that has ever completely surprised me in its plot line. The storyline in the second season involving Arvin Sloane and his wife's ghost left me shell-shocked in its resolution, and showed that the writers had had long-term goals planned since the season before it. If I were to rate the seasons from best to worst, it'd be 2, 1, 4, 5, 3.

  • Best standalone episodes: the one in the third season guest starring Ricky Gervais from The Office as a terrorist, and the one in the fourth season where Sydney gets buried alive. Worst episodes: the ones in the first season where Sydney likes Noah Hicks, oddest-looking love interest on primetime TV, and the season finale of season three which made no sense at all and was promptly forgotten at the start of the next season. Best special effect: Irina Derevko's rooftop escape in the season finale of season two. Worst special effect: in season three when Sloane raises the hourglass over his head and smashes it, then a glob of Rambaldi juice appears that looks almost like Slimer from Ghostbusters.

  • I wish Will Tippon had remained a regular character. I wish Francie had not come back after season two. Marshall's a great character but I think they really overdid his shtick in season three and four. I never had a problem with Lauren Reed, but I was never a fan of Melissa George. The triumvirate of Jack Bristow, Arvin Sloane, and Marcus Dixon were played by such ridiculously good actors that they could have carried the show alone for years.

  • I remember when it was sponsored by some cell phone company in the first season, who paid to have the pilot shown without commercials. Every time a cell phone rang in the show, it'd be that god-awful ring "deedle-oo doo deedle-oo doo deedle-oo doo daa!". I remember in the third season when it was sponsored by Ford and every single car in the world was a Ford (with every chase scene zooming in on the logo near the back bumper). The CIA used a lot of Macs too. Macs running Windows.

  • Best spine-tingling acting moment: when Sloane bludgeons the henchman with the Mueller device in season four and calls him a dilletante.

  • I didn't like Marcus Dixon's new hairstyle in season five.

  • Alias introduced me to the music of Michael Giacchino, who got his start writing the music to the video game, Medal of Honor, and has since gone on to write for a ton of major movies. I remember thinking his motivic techno music with orchestral accompaniment in the first season was very clever (577KB MP3), and I remember listening his music evolve into more lush, traditional film scoring in the second season. I also remember in the third season, where they apparently trimmed the music budget, so the same annoying 8 bar phrase was reused on every single episode (and still occasionally popped up in later seasons). I bet the third season soundtrack will be a very short CD.

  • I remember getting Anna, Ben, Eric, Jason, and Rosie hooked on Alias. I remember when Eric watched 10 episodes in a day. I remember Anna's Alias-dance to the theme song (200KB MP3).

  • I thought the ending of season five was well-done, and characters ended up where they should have. Sloane's end was quite poetic, although Irina Derevko's ending seemed somewhat contrived, as if they couldn't quite tell where to fit her in. I hated the conceit that Michael Vaughn wasn't Michael Vaughn but forgave it as being a little better than the resolution of season three's cliffhanger. Season five was compressed by six episodes and it really shows -- but I thought it was successful given the constraints. Sloane's transformation in this season seemed somewhat forced and sudden, but probably would have been better given a few more episodes.

  • The new APO agents in the last season, Rachel Gibson and Thomas Grace, were completely irrelevant to the plot, other than being eye candy, and probably could have been streamlined, and we never did find out what the Cardinal was all about. This was probably another thing trimmed when they lost six episodes. As Sydney said in the third season, "Why did the ABC suits take six episodes of my life?"

  • I will always wonder how the third season and the remainder of the show would have turned out had Lena Olin not been missing in action.

  • Thanks J.J. Abrams and Friends for a great five years!

  • Today is 12 of 12 so take some pictures!

    Happy Birthday Mike Schoen!

    Where not to have sex
    Video games are mind-stimulating
    Pizza with a side of superheroes

    permalink | 4 comments

    Tuesday, June 13, 2006

    Chad Darnell's 12 of 12: A Study in Mundanity


    1) 5:45 AM, My Bathroom
    Swabbing a circle in the mirror condensation that was big enough to contain my head made me realize how big my head is.

    2) 5:52 AM, My Foyer
    Welcome to a dismal, rainy, chilly Monday morning.


    3) 6:04 AM, Herndon
    Waiting at a stoplight and listening to K.T. Tunstall.


    4) 6:11 AM, Lunch Room
    Our lunch room overlooks the Toll Road which is always jam packed with worker bees trying to get to D.C. I thank my Lucky Charms for my scenic 7-mile commute every single day.


    BONUS) 10:04 AM, My Office
    I was a little late on this one because I lost track of time. The bonus picture was supposed to be whatever you were doing at 10 AM EST. I am eating a lunch of Mini Ravioli at my desk and waiting for Chad to post the European 12 of 12's.


    5) 11:34 AM, Parking Lot
    I left work early because of a migraine and saw the Canadian Geese Family in the parking lot. They're cuter when they cross the street in a single file line.


    6) 11:56 AM, Home
    It's always nice to come home and see your pets in the window watching you.


    7) 2:45 PM, Laundry Room
    After migraine detox, a.k.a. naptime, I started a load of laundry to minimize the complaints of passerby that I smelled of fetid cheese.


    8) 4:14 PM, My Bedroom
    I moved the majority of my furniture out of the bedroom, to make way for the planned "punch a hole in the wall and install a window" operation that's going to happen on Friday.


    9) 5:24 PM, My Office
    Booty and Amber seem to enjoy the new location of my mattress, and I'd have to agree. After working on the computer for a bit, I can just stumble a couple feet away and land on it. Ignore the fact that it takes up 100% of the floor space in that room. Floor space is overrated.


    10) 5:45 PM, My Living Room
    Playing with my new toy, the Gameboy DS Lite. The console fits comfortably in my hands without being unwieldy and the screen is so bright that I'm now blind in one eye and deaf in the other.


    11) 6:08 PM, My Living Room
    Watching the season premiere of The 4400 (which I taped the night before to skip over commercials), and eating a bowl of fetuccini alfredo.


    12) 10:33 PM, Guest Bedroom
    Getting ready to go to sleep in the Blue Room, where I'll be staying until construction work in the other bedroom is all done. Good night!

    Too drunk to be driving
    You don't need claws to scare a bear
    Introducing the hypoallergenic cat

    tagged as 12 of 12 | permalink | 7 comments

    Wednesday, June 14, 2006

    List Day: Habit and Routine Make My Life Possible

    1. I always get gas at the same gas station, which is always the cheapest one within a reasonable radius of my house. I always buy gas with cash.

    2. When writing a book, sometimes the author will describe, in great detail, a hand gesture or motion of one of his characters. If I read a passage containing such described motions or facial expressions, I always try to recreate them myself. If anyone were to watch me, it'd probably look like I was flashing gang signs at my novel.

    3. I try to do as much of my shopping early on Saturday morning as possible. I will hit the grocery store around 7 and gas up the car. Then I'll head for Costco around 9 to get in before the yuppy bison stampede through the doors, and do any ancillary shopping at nearby stores like Target and Home Depot. If I sleep late, I'll just not go shopping, rather than risk being caught on the roads after 10 AM. That's when gridlock begins.

    4. I usually mow the lawn after work on Fridays. I always mow the outside edges first. Then, I'll either go back and forth in straight lines, or I'll continuously mow in a clockwise spiral until there's no grass left to mow. I won't know which way I'll do it until I start.

    5. I always floss the front teeth first, since those are the most visible. Then, I will work from right to left along my top teeth, and do the same for my bottom teeth. This means that the front teeth get flossed twice. There's a slight space between my front teeth that I can push air through with my tongue. If that feels clogged, I must get to flossing as soon as possible.

    6. I wash my dishes as soon as I'm done using them. Sometimes I will even wash dishes during meals or meal preparation to prevent wandering cats from getting fat.

    7. My wake-up routine: roll out of bed, stumble into the shower, brush and shave, dress, feed the cats, get the newspaper out of the driveway and throw it on the porch, get in my car, drive away. This routine takes twenty minutes tops. My come home routine: get the mail, roll garbage cans back to the side of the house, collapse on the floor or couch with cats for a few minutes, and then get on the computer to check mail, since I surely received urgent top secret mail in the fifteen minutes since I checked my mail at work.

    8. If there are two reasonably equivalent ways to get somewhere that I go regularly, I will alternate between them until I've figured out the most efficient way to go. On long trips, I will usually take the route that has the least number of miles rather than the route that is the fastest.

    9. I have to keep moving and do as much "chore work" as possible once I get home from work. As soon as I lose momentum, I've pretty much called it a night and nothing else will get done.

    10. I try to keep my dinner courses from touching on the plate but I don't care if they end up mixing. I will generally eat all of one entree before starting on the next one, except for fries. Fries, chips, and other potato products are the only part of the meal that I often mix in between bites of other foods.

    Potato Potahto
    Nice illustration
    The life of British office workers

    tagged as lists | permalink | 5 comments

    Thursday, June 15, 2006

    Variety Packs

    A life lesson that bulk shoppers pick up very quickly is this: if you purchase something in a variety pack, you will never like every single flavour or brand in the pack. It seems to be mathematically impossible for a food company to create a variety pack that's 100% appetizing if there are more than 3 different types bundled together. For example, on my shelf at work I have the following:

    • Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars: Strawberry and Blueberry are keen. Apple Cinnamon, not so hot.

    • Potato Chips: Hooray for Cheetos, Fritos and Cool Ranch Doritos, but did they have to make 20% of the variety pack Nacho Cheese Doritos? At least they've stopped putting in the Bar-B-Que potato chips. I always donated those to the hungry homeless, a.k.a. the Lunch Room.

    • Quaker Granola Bars: Chocolate Chip? Good. S'mores? Good. Peanut Butter Chunk? Your mom is a peanut butter chunk.

    • Chef Boyardee Lunches: Beefaroni and Spaghetti are great but Ravioli and Mini Ravioli are like little bundles of joy, except instead of joy, they're filled with half-cooked meat feces. Yes, I realize that all four products are made from the same base ingredients, but it's all in the presentation.

    I wouldn't be surprised if it's a massive consumer conspiracy in which the companies take all the products that don't sell on their own and bundle them with the stuff you do want for profit (see also, Scotchgard). As long as the good bits outnumber the bad bits, shoppers like me will find it cost-effective to purchase the variety pack and grimace through it.

    The variety pack rule applies in other areas as well. You may have a circle of friends that you love to hang around with, but they come with one weenie that no one really likes and just tags along like a little brother. If you plan on marrying, you have to weigh your rampant lust for your partner against the annoyance factor of the people who will become your in-laws. Generally it turns out to be worth it despite the added baggage -- Americans can never resist a case of "Buy One, Get Five Free" even if the Freebies are riff-raff.

    Augmented Fourth added to the IF Wiki
    Future wife toys with future husband
    Home Depot: Your One-Stop Shop

    tagged as random | permalink | 6 comments

    Friday, June 16, 2006

    Friday Fragments

    because no one wants to write with coherency on a Friday

  • Today is the Day of the Gaping Orifice, during which my dad and I will be installing a new window on the back wall of my house. Festivities start at 8 AM and I'll be sure to take plenty of pictures so I can publish them in my forthcoming book, Windows For Dummies.

  • This also means that I have today off from work, but it's not really a vacation since I ended up working extra last week on some time-critical bugs. This, in turn, delayed all my shopping excursions last weekend from Saturday to Sunday which means I didn't waste as much money as expected on cool stuff since many stores aren't open on Sunday morning.

  • One of the things I bought last week was a $30 hair trimming kit that also sucks the hair into a little vacuum canister for easy disposal. I often find myself trimming my hair after haircuts because it's easier than trying to communicate with barbers who don't speak English (which probably justifies the cheapie $12 haircut). My hair takes after me (short and ends up in unexpected places) so it's always a pain to clean up. The suction-enabled trimming kit works reasonably well but not 100%. It captures maybe 80% of the hair, which is definitely a good start. I plan to collect it all and make a small furry pet.

  • Kathy and Chris got their application approved for a small furry pet, so they'll be getting a pair of kittens sometime soon. The kittens she showed me look like very bizarro evil twins to Amber and Booty, so I will be on my guard, in case it's a plot to swap them out when I'm not paying attention. Which reminds me that I need to buy cat food.

  • I won't be buying cat food this weekend though because it's Bonus Honor Weekend in World of Warcraft, so I'll be devoting most of the weekend to geeking out in front of a computer. I need to rush KNIGHT-LIEUTENANT PLINKY up to Rank 8 before the next game patch or else I won't be able to wear any of the neat-o gear rewards. Plinky is currently the highest ranked character under level 55 on the Lightning's Blade server and is #430 in the top 2000 players. My e-peen is bigger than yours.

  • Once I hit Rank 8, I'm going to scale back my Warcraft time in favour of some new hobbies like macramé or bass fishing. It is the summertime though, so maybe I'll just fall asleep on the back porch with one hand tucked in my pants and the other grasping a beer. People at work are already starting to take short weeks and extended absences for the sake of summer, so it's only fair that I do the same.

  • Only four weeks left until the annual OBX trip! Are you excited? I plan on taking two weeks off -- one for the beach, and then one to lay about the house and get this site ready for its "My Site Is Now a Decade Old" celebration. That also means that this site will cease to be updated for about two weeks, so you'd better go out and buy some John Grisham trash novels to read in the interim.

  • Have a great weekend! Happy Birthday Kerry Sugrue!

  • Stuff On My Cat
    I wish I could have eaten my banana split
    Bull semen is commonly obtained using a rubber device known as an artificial vagina

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 1 comment

    Monday, June 19, 2006

    Picture Day: Windows and Flowers

    because the vast majority of our population is illiterate



    Click on one of the flower images on the right to load a high-resolution copy that you can set as your desktop background.




    The Battle of the Signs
    Michael Jackson is obviously a stalker
    Superhero for a day

    tagged as media | permalink | 3 comments

    Tuesday, June 20, 2006

    Barbeques and Home Base

    With the summer comes that traditional American pastime: the outdoor barbeque. This is the time when you sit on the porch with all the people you never see, drinking beer and eating hot dogs while surrounded by billions of small children and house flies. It's the only time of year you'll play an outdoor sport like volleyball or frisbee, despite living next to a field or keeping the net up all year-round, and it's the occasion to let the guy who thinks he knows how to grill take charge of the meat products so he can look outwardly put upon, while secretly enjoying himself.

    I already have a barbeque slated for each of the next two weekends, and another at the end of July. I'll probably want to have one myself when a free weekend avails itself, so I can use up the rest of my propane before it decays into an unstable radioactive element and I can get rid of my bulk frozen burgers. On a tangent, a great meal for one when you don't feel like putting forth much effort is to cook a hamburger patty in a frying pan and then douse it in A-1 Steak Sauce.

    On one hand it's great to have all these social activities lined up, but on the other hand, I always try to make sure that I have plenty of recharging time between events. I'm the kind of guy who always feels more comfortable if I have down time at home -- whether it's a free weekend in the middle of a barbeque weekend sandwich, or just taking a few hours off during the day. When I had classes at Tech at 1 PM and 3 PM, I would usually walk all the way back to the dorm during the hour in between rather than sit around somewhere waiting. It's not just the relax-y time either -- it's some elusive quality that defines my home as home base, as if I can go there and build up the enthusiasm and will power for going back out again.

    This hits me on a daily basis too. I will often plan shopping trips and errand running for the hours after work, but once I leave the office, I usually just want to get home. Not because anything fun is going on at home, just because it's home and not not home. If the errands don't occur somewhere along my direct route home, they will probably get put off until the weekend.

    Behind the Scenes in North Korea
    Life imitates childrens' books
    This porridge is just right

    permalink | 2 comments

    Wednesday, June 21, 2006

    Observation Day

    BU's First Law of Size: As products become smaller through miniaturization, the size of their packaging will change in the opposite direction.

    The original Nintendo Entertainment System cartridges were comfortably big -- you could grip them under your thumb and slap someone across the face with satisfying sting and sound effect. Their packaging was roughly the same size so there was no wasted space. Today's cartridges for the Nintendo DS are smaller than a packet of Sweet N' Low. One of them actually got lost in the folds of my elbow flab yesterday (I shit you not!). However, these tiny cartridges are still packaged in containers that are the size of the old NES games, and to top it off (because all Americans are dirty shoplifters) retail chains put that package into a giant plastic anti-theft brace to make sure you don't hide the game in the folds of your mammoth American stomach as you walk out the door.

    CDs and DVDs also obey this law. When I bought Halo in 2003 (subtitled "The Most Boring First Person Shooter In The History Of Shooters"), it came with no documentation: just a cardboard CD sleeve with a Microsoft authenticity key etched on the front. Since a game in a cardboard sleeve is usually a $9.99 budget game like Mah Jong or Urban Deer Hunting, Microsoft placed the sleeve into a normal-sized computer game box, roughly the size of a DVD case. This was then put into a larger box, much like the computer game boxes from the late 1990s. Every box had the complete Halo artwork and system specs on it -- it's almost as if they'd made too many of the big box and had to find creative ways to use them up. I half expected to open the cardboard sleeve to find an even smaller box, and maybe a tiny Santa figurine.

    My second law of size is still undergoing peer review, but it mainly stresses that small people will inherit the planet because we consume less natural resources. The third law is still on the drawing board but it will attempt to codify the reasons why modern plastic package is so obnoxious to open, and why it tries to slice open your arteries when all you want to do is get to the tiny product inside.

    Happy Birthday Daniel Bethancourt and Liz Benyo!

    People were confused by the designation of Biggie and Great Biggie
    You look like you have a criminal demeanor
    Just in case you were planning on it

    tagged as random | permalink | 4 comments

    Thursday, June 22, 2006

    Vacation Memories

  • I spent many summers in elementary school at my grandparents' house in Flint, Michigan. Their next door neighbours had a trampoline, a giant swimming pool, a woodworking shop, and two to four spoiled grandkids. Sometimes when we didn't want to play with them, we'd hide in the den and have our grandmother tell them we weren't home. Every evening after I started playing trumpet, I would play Taps from the front porch which all the old retirees in the area loved. I can't remember how that tradition got started but I found it very embarassing, especially when the cute girl around the corner would bike by.

  • I spent a month after sixth grade with the other branch of the Uri clan in Henderson, Nevada. After a heavy rain, the town flooded and we spent the entire day transporting live smelly turkeys from their flooded enclosure into one on higher ground. There was also an above ground pool that was always well over one hundred degrees and filled with dead bees. Our relatives didn't really like me because I was smart and know-it-all.

  • In the summer following my sophomore year we took our "final" famliy vacation to Orlando, Florida for a week. We took the auto-train there -- the non-stop train from Virginia to Florida that also carries your car along. The only lasting memory I have from that vacation is that I fell asleep with my mouth open on the train and the vibrations of the track overnight shook all my teeth loose so it felt like they were going to fall out for the next two days. All I ate for breakfast that day was a squeezy packet of cream cheese.

  • When I wasn't at camps of one persuasion or another or working in dead-end internships at Pepco, I spent my summer vacations at home which was (and still is) my preferred type of vacation. Wake up late, play computer games, bike all over Alexandria. I would take five and six mile trips daily, sometimes making it all the way down to the waterfront and back. One of these days, I'll buy a bike and a bike rack, since it's obscene that I live two miles from an entrance to the W and OD trail but never go on it. Until then, though, I will get my exercise from chasing cats around the house and praising my fast, if marginally slowing, metabolism.
  • Happy Birthday Brianne!

    We are not disgusted by our own babies
    Woman discovers coworker is her mother
    Monkey gangs are England fans

    tagged as memories | permalink | 2 comments

    Friday, June 23, 2006

    Friday Fragments

    Short and sweet, like an Asian hooker

  • Plinky is now Rank 8 and now gets random messages from strangers when wandering around towns.

  • It's kind of like being a famous rock star, but without the ho's and fresh fruit backstage.

  • The funny part about my #163 standing in last week's tally isn't that I actually made it to 163, it's that there were 162 people with even less of a life than me.

  • By the end of the grueling weekend, our team had won 43 games and lost 30.

  • After each day, I was not thinking clearly and unable to type complete sentences.

  • It was kind of like being drunk but without any alcohol.

  • I never get drunk -- the only time I've ever been drunk without full memory of the night was (aptly) on my 21st birthday.

  • True to BU form, that instance occurred in the privacy of my apartment where apparently I annoyed the snot out of Anna by trying to teach her how to play Super Mario Kart every five minutes.

  • Super Mario Kart is still the greatest multiplayer racing game ever made. Just because all the later sequels were in 3D doesn't make them better.

  • I always picked Koopa as a driver.

  • To this day I've never driven a manual transmission.

  • In sixth grade, my friend, Daniel, had his birthday party at a go-kart raceway and the owner said I was too short to drive. I cried.

  • I didn't actually bawl, but I certainly teared up.

  • When I was a little boy, I was playing with one of those floor mops with the metal piece that squeezes out the sponge. I mauled my pinky in it.

  • My dad got frustrated while dressing the wound and told me to stop crying because crying never fixes anything.

  • I stopped crying immediately and have only every cried a handful of times since then.

  • The Daniel in the crying anecdote is the same Daniel whose birthday was on June 21. I've only seen him once since sixth grade, but we correspond every now and again.

  • The Liz who has the same birthday as Daniel is from college, and I haven't seen her since the Gator Bowl in 2002 where I had the flu and transformed a motel bed into large sea sponge of sweat.

  • I think she moved to Nashville to do vocal things. It's a shame that she had such a beautiful voice but got migraines every time she sang.

  • Migraines can eat me.

  • Female voices I can listen to for a long time without irritation: Nina Persson (both young and old) , Natalie Imbruglia , Alizeé , early Gwen Stefani, Kylie Minogue, and Shaznay Lewis .

  • I used to include Dido in that list, but I no longer find her voice interesting. It's just kind of "there" like Katie Melua's.

  • I like the staticity that her voice brings to her tunes though -- it really works .

  • I would have more samples, but making clips is a pain in the ass, and Fridays are not about pains in the asses, unless you are an on-call hemorrhoid surgeon for the weekend.

  • I am not in the above profession, but my weekend will involve some old farts.

  • This weekend I am shopping for colours with Anna (for the newly lit bedroom), having my parents over for dinner, and going to a barbeque at Kathy and Chris's to see their kittens and celebrate their joint 30 year birthdays.

  • Old farts.

  • Speaking of old farts, Nikki Giraldi Homoroc's birthday is on Saturday and Susannah Rosenberg's is on Sunday. Happy Birthday!

  • Have a great weekend!

  • Cancel My Account
    When style interferes with your M.O.
    Coward cops canned

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 1 comment

    Monday, June 26, 2006

    Tag Day: LOST Numbers

    Mike is now watching the first season of LOST (which he says is boring) and created his very first tag: How Do the LOST Numbers Apply to You?. The numbers are a series of digits that appear in many places throughout the show, which may or may not have any significance to the plot at large: 4 8 15 16 23 42.

    4: The maximum number of cats you can have in a household for an extended period of time without paranoid feelings that they are everywhere watching everything, slowly taking control of your house.

    8: I was eight years old when I was in fourth grade (4!). I have never played a game involving eight-sided dice (why would you ever need more than 6, which is halfway between 4 and 8?) Scratch that, I have played Scattergories which has more sides than your mom at a buffet.

    15: The number of contiguous years that I practiced and studied trumpet performance. Also, the amount of dollars I'd be making daily, had I pursued a career in trumpet performance.

    16: The number of people I can think of off the top of my head that visit this site on a regular or semi-regular basis. Also the number of years until I will be forty-two years old (42!).

    23: My age when I finally left school and entered the real world.

    42: I earned 42 merit badges as a bona-fide member of the Boy Scouts of America. How many can you identify?

    I will now tag Anna and Rob as the only two people I know of who watch LOST and also have a blog. (This means that both Kim and Kathy are rat finks, but you both are welcome to reply to this tag in the comments section).

    A message from beyond the grave
    Study: Adults are immature brats
    Worms write on a tomato

    tagged as tags | permalink | 3 comments

    Tuesday, June 27, 2006

    Safari Day: Tracking the Tag

    In an egotistical effort to leave my mark on the Internet (and not content with already having Uniform Resource Identifiers ) I created my very first tag last month. The subject of the tag was the number four: four things I know, four things I used to know, four things I want to know, and four things I don't know and don't care about. Now that fifty days have passed, I thought I would see just how insidious my tag was.

    • BU (also known as the founding father of four play)
      • Brianne (failed to tag anyone new)
      • Mark (also failed to tag anyone, but better late than never)
      • Anna (tagged all of her work friends, because there's nothing better to do at work, and also added a fifth category)
        • Diana (pulled the classic "if you want to do this, you too are tagged!")
        • Allison (broke the tag, and was subsequently hit by seven years of bad luck)
        • Jason (broke the tag, like a morbidly obese man taking up so many bleachers that he can singlehandedly stop The Wave)
        • Katie (wins the "I tagged everyone in the room and no one replied" award)
          • Erin (ignored the siren call of the tag)
          • Amy L (never replied, like a tree falling in the woods with no one around to hear it)
          • Amy B (failed at tagging and, subsequently, life)
          • Shay (too cool to answer a tag. Too Shay!)
      • Kim (who was actually the first person to perpetuate my tag)
        • Sam (tried an unsuccessful shotgun tag of everyone reading his reply)
        • Mandy (ignored the tag like a teenager giving the silent treatment)
        • Mindi (broke the tag like five pounds of jumbo shrimp in a four pound bag)
        • Mike (escaped being tagged by me, only to be tagged by Kim)
          • Marty (broke the tag but got a job offer in the interim)
          • Jamie (yet another tragic break in the tag)
          • Mark (replied but didn't tag anyone new, smashing the dreams of hopeful tag grandparents everywhere wanting tag grandkids)
          • Chris (apparently made out with Mike after a night of red wine?)
            • Michael (didn't tag anyone new, becoming a tag black hole)
            • Grandma (played the Uno Reverse card and told Chris to tag more people instead of naming her own)
            • Christine (another tagful dead end)
      • Rob (I didn't even tag this clown and got a return! That's called a good investment)

    Conclusion: My tag virus actually made it to the fifth generation, which I never expected, but petered out before it could do any lasting harm to the Internet.

    Like a marauding army of kleptomaniacal showgirls
    Novel ways to get out of jury duty
    The crossword puzzle man

    tagged as tags | permalink | 5 comments

    Wednesday, June 28, 2006

    It's Raining Booty

    There is always at least one current events topic that you can use to bond with your fellow Washingtonian because Washingtonians are adrift without something to make small talk about. These topics are very important in the cosmic scheme of the universe, whether it's a sniper picking off people at gas stations or how many people would actually notice if there were a baseball stadium in Loudoun County. This week's topic of the . . . week is the horribly osmotic monsoon that's sweeping across our area.

    Northern Virginia isn't exactly a temperate paradise of lovely weather, yet the tiniest ice slick or rain storm can throw the entire region into a chaos rivalled only by the human stampede at Walmart on the day after Thanksgiving. Now granted, this storm is fairly impressive -- I've gotten over seven inches of rain since Sunday -- but it shouldn't warrant the federal government allowing people to take the day off or newscasters devoting their entire segment to pools of water that people stupidly tried to drive through. It seems like half of the office took Monday off because of traffic jams on the roads or flooded basements (yet another reason for me to love my ground-floor basement).

    Other than the new daily task of draining my planting beds of standing water so I don't inadvertently breed snakehead fish, the storm really hasn't changed much. The odor of humidity hangs in the air at all hours and were it not for the absence of nine-foot cockroaches, I might think I were back in Tallahassee again. Even the cats take it in stride -- they sit in the window and watch the lightning strikes until the thunder gets a wee bit too close and then dash under the bed.

    Perhaps I'm just too inured to the danger of low pressure systems. After all, one time in Tallahassee, a hurricane hit the panhandle and went twenty miles inland. If it had gone another five miles and if I had lived on the ground floor with all the nine-inch cockroaches, I would have been a goner!

    Even a truck full of condoms won't prevent an accident if you slam into someone from behind
    Touch Football just isn't safe anymore
    Comment on check could lead to jail time for motorist

    permalink | 2 comments

    Thursday, June 29, 2006

    Catriotic

    I was minding my own business yesterday afternoon when it suddenly occurred to me that one of my cats bears an uncanny resemblance to a map of the United States. Apparently Amber is fiercely patriotic. I quickly rushed to get my camera so you could have photographic proof of this strange phenomenon. Her legs are obviously Baja California and Florida, respectively. If you are having trouble seeing the similarities, then take a look at the overlay below. It's clear as day!

  • I live right at the cat's mouth. I haven't yet figured out what this means, but I'm sure it's important because that's where the food goes. In counerpoint, Portland, Oregon is apparently the pooper end of the U.S.

  • Texas does not appear on the catmap, because Amber does not have udders. This is probably a sociopolitical commentary on whether Texas really belongs to us or the Mexicans. Alternately, it's a pangea effect and two of Amber's legs must collide over millions of years to form the Yucatan Penninsula.

  • Amber's eyes are Pittsburgh and New York City, and her ears outline Michigan and Maine, so pay close attention to your surroundings if you visit those places and you might uncover a secret!

  • Amber's big black swatch hugs the eastern border of the Rocky Mountains, and is also a good approxmiation of Tornado Alley. The tan area to the west represents arid desert land and the tan area to the right must be fertile Mississippi River farming area. Her leg dot is somewhat vague but I think she wants to go to Disneyland.
  • To capitalize on my discovery (just in time for the Fourth of July), I now have a line of T-Shirts available. Show your patriotism by buying one today!

    Happy Birthday Kathy Biddick!

    Girl questioned over stolen bus
    You know it's hard out heah foa pimp
    Eyes make you honest

    tagged as random, cats | permalink | 4 comments

    Friday, June 30, 2006

    Friday Fragments

    because June is so last month

  • The URI! Zone has a new viewer, Lake, who is one half of the dynamic duo that is Lake and the other kitten. I forget what Kathy and Chris decided to call the other one so I'm going to presume that it's called Punchy until I hear otherwise. Lake and Punchy are still only three months old, so they're tinier even than Sydney and Amber were when we first got them. I met the new kittens on the block at Chris and Kathy's birthday barbeque last weekend. You probably weren't invited because they hate you.

  • I have another barbeque tomorrow, this time down in scenic Colonial Beach with an entire cadre of someone else's nieces and nephews. The nice thing about knowing Catholics is that you have a huge ready-made family to revel with on holidays and you don't have to put up with them for the other three hundred days out of the year!

  • Thankfully, it's not supposed to rain today or tomorrow, so the ground should dry out enough for general berbeque mayhem and romping. Berbeque is a real word, and involves the ritual roasting of comfortable carpets. Either that, or my typing continues to degrade over time. Yesterday, I typed 'doog' instead of 'good' in an email. Looks like it's time to buy more console video games and movies to get my crippled hands away from the computer! Maybe I can get my health insurance to cover it.

  • I finished New Super Mario Brothers last weekend. It wasn't too hard, but I went at a leisurely pace. I also have the personality that requires me to find every single secret and collect every single magic doohickey before I finish the game, so that added several more hours of gameplay. Next up are two Gameboy Advance games that I picked up in the bargain bin: Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap which is cute, fun, and old-school so far, and Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga, which I hope ends up being a lot like Paper Mario.

  • New Super Mario Brothers wins two awards: Worst Title, and Most Anticlimactic Ending Ever. I've met pooping dogs with better endings than that game. The final boss fight is a cake walk too.

  • I've never understood the magnetic draw of a cake walk. Why would anyone want to walk or dance for cake? Cake is gross. The only good part of a cake is the double chocolate frosting. If you don't have that, you just have an odd loaf of bread that happens to goes well with ice cream.

  • Another thing that goes well with ice cream is a spoon. Ice cream can get pretty messy if you eat it with your fingers.

  • Informal poll: Is chicken with bones a finger food? I vote yes. It seems ridiculous to attack a drumstick or a thigh with a knife and fork. You miss out on all the secret niches of tastiness when you use utensils. If your breast were a Mario-themed video game, you would not be able to unlock Star World with a knife and fork.

  • Happy Birthday Matt McGuire! Have a great weekend, everyone else!

  • At least they got their money back
    Where not to use a penis pump
    Settle your debts with a mechanical digger

    tagged as fragments | permalink | 4 comments

     

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