Saturday, December 23, 2006

Return to Pittsburgh

It's really weird not being in Chicago. So much so that I'm writing this listing to Chicago news for inspiration in writing this, though I don't think it will help too much. My hopes aren't up, anyway.

So here's the life of the Blogger.

I noticed the other day that a very large amount of the food I eat has lots of meat in it. Considering that standard options for lunch at work are a BBQ place, a place called the Chicken Shack, a few sandwich shops and, when someone happens to be driving down around California and Roscoe, the greatest place ever, which is to say Hot Doug's. As an aside, if you're ever interested in what kinds of meat/mustard combinations you should be eating if you were in Chicago, go to their Specials page. They continue to serve foie gras (in the form of the last update's "Foie Gras and Sauternes Duck sausage") despite Chicago's much hyped foie gras ban, which, as far as I can tell, just made people eat a whole freaking lot of it right before the ban and hasn't actually been enforced, what with Daley calling it the silliest law" the city council has ever passed. Not that it's made in Chicago or eaten by all that many people, but now I've digressed for quite some time and it's better, probably, to get back to what I was talking about.

So enough about the sausage.

Anyway, I noticed, recently, that I eat quite a lot of meat. I began to wonder about how many vegetarian friends I have (a few), and that dammit, if these toolbags can do it, then for one week, I should be able to do thet same. Incidentally, I still don't really understand why the hell Anti-Flag is famous. I just never really liked them, I suppose. Anyway. Digressing again.

It turns out that if you're very much in a steady rhythm with what you're eating, and forget every day to bring in your own food, and are therefore forced to eat out in Evanston, it's really quite difficult to go for seven straight days on a strictly vegetarian diet. Actually, it probably isn't, but I wasn't able to make it. I did go five days before giving in to an italian sub, and figured out that the soups in some of the nearby eateries are pretty good, and I will probably try this again, but I just wasn't able to hold out my will for something I didn't actually believe there was any really strong reason to continue other than to be able to post that I was able to do it on here. Still, I'm somewhat more conscious of when I'm eating meat now, and maybe that'll be healthy.

Other things:

If you have any reason to care, you probably already know that the Majestic Star casino chain succeeded in its bid to open a slots parlor in Pittsburgh, beating out the Isle of Capri casinos that had pledged $290 million toward a new arena for Pittsburgh, which weighs heavily on the Penguins and might force a move. But I'm not going to pretend I have any clue what's going on or should be a source that's consulted on this. For that, go to ThePensBlog, which has been covering this like a sonofabitch.

And is hilarious.

Slate's got a slideshow of things that you can get at CVS at 10:30pm on Christmas Eve that you can think don't look incredibly cheap and like you waited until the last second, prompting your journey into a completely fabricated version of reality in which things are the opposite of what they actually are. It's not the height of reporting, and is kind of what I would try to do if I were actually trying to write an article for a local newspaper, but this suggestion is too bizarre for me to not mention it. Because if Frogz are going to give me nightmares, you're going to have to deal with them too.

Monday, November 27, 2006

I Need Another Vacation

I'm awake at 1am on a Sunday (which is admittedly pretty early for me) and I'm not quite able to go to sleep yet, so I thought I'd write a bit on here whie I wait for water to boil so that I can have some rice. I've not posted on here in a while, but rather than try to catch this up to what's been going on, I'm just going to kind of wing this return.

1) Thanksgiving: We actually did it. Jenna and I actually, successfully, cooked and ate Thanksgiving dinner. I'd like to start by noting that I had no idea how much food is required to cook a proper Thanksgiving dinner, or how much spices cost. Admittedly, we bought these things at the Big Apple Supermarket twenty feet from the back door of my building which tends to be more "small-market"-ish and thus a bit more expensive than, say, Dominick's, but we offset this by buying the cheapest spices available (I'm sure the fine people at McCormick would argue that theirs is just as good, and I'd be inclined to agree because disagreeing costs me double). Still, I ended up paying, evidently, $3.99 for bay leaves (3g), which I'm not even sure what they do, $4.99 for ground ginger which I think may have gone into the pie, but in any case I've still got like ninety percent of the 22g bottle, $5.79 for sage (14g), which was just sort of sprinkled on the squash we cooked anyway and I think we probably could have gotten by without, and cloves (17g) which were supposed to be ground but evidently no one in Chicago sells ground cloves so they're whole and Jenna ground them in a food processor. Suddenly, I feel like I should probably have ground ginger on everything I eat. Especially, say, fish sticks.

Still, the whole thing worked out well, there were no "family movie/sitcom" situations in which we burned the turkey and were forced to eat at the diner (which, incidentally, was offering a pretty good deal at $10.49 for whatever the hell the "complete dinner" consisted of), and I even took some pictures, though because my digital camera is somewhere at home at the moment, I'll only be able to get up once I have them developed and scan them. We've got a good amount of food left over, though did have to eat out over the weekend because turkey's really boring and Jenna went all super-cook today and made soup from turkey bits and celery or something. I don't know. I was playing Katamari Damacy and sacking Ben Roethlisberger.

2) Things I've been reading lately: I just finished World War Z, which is Max Brooks followup to the Zombie Survival Guide which was occasionally humorous and pretty interesting. World War Z is his crack at, I guess, historical fiction, though that term makes me think that Washington and Lincoln should be involved somehow. It's essentially, in the first half or so, an amalgam of the last two bits of the Survival Guide, being the description of a world in which zombies not only exist but have taken over and little "personal accounts". It was a fun and interesting read, and as I've got a 40 minute commute as penance for living in a neighborhood that accepts "Pocket Puppies" as a valid store, it helped stave off long hours of staring out the window and being talked to by, well, anyone. From there, it appears I'll be proceeding with a book I picked up while buying presents, Bertrand Russell's Sceptical Essays. I'll let you know more about that as I actually get into it.

3) Music: Tower Records, if you haven't heard, is being liquidated. As it happens, I live about 200 yards (some ridiculous standard measurement) from one, and so have really cheap music and videos really closeby. Today's purchases: In the Mood for Ska: The Moonska Years- The Skatalites and Ace of Spades- Motörhead. It's odd. I actually like Motörhead quite a lot apparently based on the first few listens, and Ace of Spades seems like a good album to start with when it's $8, their first album isn't actually still in stock and I know the song Ace of Spades from a video game (which is the lamest reason to buy a CD). The Skatalites are, as I expected, fantastic on the two disc set that has them playing with Doreen Shaffer, Laurel Aitken and some stuff from Tommy McCook apart from the general output.

4) The Steelers' O-line makes me weep.

5) Al Jazeera has begun broadcasting in English though no cable companies have agreed to air it actually in the US and if you want to see it in the States you have to pay $6 a month to stream it from their website. It's being carried in the UK on Sky Digital, which, as a bit of trivia, is owned by NewsCorporation, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch. From reviews I've read, Al Jazeera is actually pretty good at providing an alternate perspective, which is really the only reason that any cable company should agree to carry it, as it's not as though we need another 24-hour news channel. It's a channel broadcasting from and centered on the Middle East, and should, I think, if well done, provide an interesting view from inside that allows us to get an alternate viewpoint, which is good. There are, of course, those that claim that we shouldn't be allowed to elect to watch it, as it would be a mouthpiece for anti-Americanism, something that I have no clue about. It might be, but I haven't actually seen it to make a judgement, and I suspect that most people that already have very strong opinions about it probably haven't either. Then again, none of that really effects me as I don't subscribe to cable and get my news from listing to NPR all day with wicked huge wireless headphones because I don't have to pay for it and it tends to be somewhat neutral, but it's an interesting topic, I think.

6) In addition to my weekly subscription to the New Yorker, I've been occasionally picking up the libertarian magazine Reason now and again. The experience of violently switching between either agreeing completely with what it's saying and denouncing it as unreasonable is kind of fun (I tend to agree heavily on social issues but am a bit of a centrist with regards to the economy, which is actually a change from a few years ago). The issue I picked up most recently does have a moderately interesting interview with the creators of South Park and a bit of a long article in which different individuals are interviewed to try to discern whether someone who is in complete agreement with the magazine on every issue (which is how I presume they define "libertarian") should vote for in the elections that happened a few weeks ago. It's an older issue. Not surpringly, Grover Norquist wants you to vote for Republicans on the "less taxes" issue (which is juxtaposed wiht an article immediately after this one which tries to discern why the Republican party, which campaigns on being fiscally responsible, isn't even close), the guy that runs Daily Kos and Terry Michael, former spokesman for the DNC say the libertarians should vote D on social grounds, and Markos Moulitsas throws in a bit about perhaps the solution to neither party going wacky lies in perpetually divided government, and a guy who was running for representative in Arizona as a Republican says, essentially "please don't vote me out of power, we're still better than those damned Democrats." He won his seat... over the Libertarian candidate, who the last person interviewed in the article, the President of the Libertarian Party, would have preferred. More updates as I continue reading.

7) I think I might be the only person who's disappointed that O.J. isn't releasing his book, tentatively titled "If I Did It", in which he posits that if he puts things in the subjunctive, everyone will be so stupid that they don't realize that the book is basically a confession. Slate had a bit of stuff a while ago about potential legal troubles for O.J. as they related to the book/TV deal. Conclusion: Not really all that much. I don't think I'd read it, but in a world where they're doing things about the Jon-Benet Ramsey case as recently as this year, I can't believe that there's actually no interest in what this particular scumbag has to say. In that, I agree with Timothy Noah. It's news.

I'm going to bed.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Weekend 11/4-11/6: A Compendium of Awesome and Suck

I rarely update on here, and it's usually some vague rehash of what's been reported elsewhere or about some event that's widely publicized. So in the interest of letting those people that actually read this know what's going on in my life (which was the goal at my outset), a breakdown of things that were good and bad this weekend.

Things Which Ruled:

1) Having presented on my projects for my job last wednesday, it wasn't actually necessary to spend time in the lab until some ridiculous time on Friday. I got to go home early, and with my newfound freedom and recent paycheck, went out and bought Guitar Hero because I've given up on being a rock star, so may as well play one in a video game. Yes, I know Guitar Hero II is coming out... today. But as I never buy games or systems the day they come out (my Playstation 2 was purchased a mere five and a half years after its release) and figured I should warm up on the first game before I jump into the new. Also, I needed the controller anyway, and buying it with the first game is cheaper than buying it with the second. I'm quite happy with this purchase, and will most definitely be acquiring the second round of Guitar Heroing, solely on the strength of the first five songs on the setlist, mostly because you can't not like Danzig's "Mother" and "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You" is more hilarious an inclusion than anything. If anyone has any tips on how the hell I'm going to beat "Institutionalized" by Suicidal Tendencies or "Misirlou", I'd be happy to hear them.

2) Good times spent at the Hopleaf Bar. I do not pretend to be a connoisseur of the impressive array of beers served at the Hopleaf, but have decided that I am a fan of Kwak, because it's tasty and hey, silly glasses are fun.

3) I've been watching "The Adventures of Brisco County Jr." courtesy Netflix. I don't really recall this show, but it's goofy, quirky, funny, and stars Bruce Campbell, whose book If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-Movie Actor, I've been plodding through when I'm home. Hurrah for him.

4) Sunday night was the highlight with a Jurassic 5 show (with Clipse opening) at the Patten Gym at Northwestern. I was told that I bought the seven hundredth ticket, but it appeared that about three hundred of that number failed to show up. The show was incredibly good, and well worth more than the $10 the tickets cost. I'd seen them once before, on the 2000 Warped Tour, and was very happy they performed their older material. Clipse... I'm not a huge fan of, though I do have to admit that I hadn't heard of them before attending, and another lab member who is a fan of their music told me today that she was somewhat disappointed by their set. So maybe I just saw them on an off night.

Things which sucked:

1) Occasionally, when I close my eyes and am very tired, I can see the Guitar Hero fretboard coming toward me, haunting my dreams and mocking my inability to fake playing "Bark at the Moon" well enough to please a video game.

2) While the Jurassic 5 show was very good, the organizers of the event made two key errors which resulted in me writing mild things about them on my pointless blog. First, for a ten dollar show at a gymnasium (on a basketball court, to be completely specific), there were an awful amount of annoying people running around trying to get me to join Chase Bank's Facebook group or drink a bunch of Red Bull. But then, perhaps that's the reason tickets were so cheap. The other bit was that the back doors of the basketball court were WIDE FREAKING OPEN, so that anyone walking by or setting up a lawn chair behind Patten Gym could hear the concert better than the people inside, for free. That bit is only annoying because I didn't think of doing that.

3) The group that brought Jurassic 5 to campus appeared to start advertising three days before the show, and did so in a way that's extremely common to Northwestern, that I'd never seen before and which pisses me off. This mode of advertising is to print up a bunch of posters, disperse them to those in your group charged with advertising things, and then to stick them using as much tape as you can to the ground. The problems with this approach abound. If you want to read these flyers, you have to walk around with your head down like, well, me in eighth grade. The flyers become unreadable once it rains (so they're effective for, at most, two days) or when enough people walk over them that they're torn to shreds. That, and no one that puts these things down ever comes back to clean up the mound of tape, so that there are rectangles of masking tape along all the sidewalks on an otherwise very nice campus.

4) The mid term elections are today, which are all fine and good, but it deprives me of the increasingly comic lunacy of negative campaign ads.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Go Bathrobe Man

So, two quick things while I'm awake before I head into the lab today. Both involve sports to which I haven't historically actually paid any attention.

1) Sunday, I was awakened by a few hundred people outside my window, cheering on a few Kenyans and two Americans that probably didn't actually need encouragement to continue doing what they were doing. Then by a few thousand more who were trying to do the same thing as the guys who had passed by earlier. Evidently, my building is on the route (at approximately the 15K mark) of this year's LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon. I didn't actually mind that much (which is a lie, I did mind it quite a lot as I was asleep and like to remain that way, but I'll pretend I didn't) as I was planning on being outside to see one of my friends pass by while running the marathon. I ran down at about 9:15, at which point I was introduced to a new sport. Not marathon-running, but watching other people run marathons. I was later informed that the reason I found this culture so strange is because I don't run long distances. That might be true. If any of you do run long distances or like watching people run long distances, let me know. Anyway, the goal of watching marathons appears to be to cheer for as many people as possible, with the end goal of getting the guy in the bear mask and bathrobe or a member of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to raise their hands above their heads. Leonardo if at all possible. If you see someone running with their name taped across their chest, you must scream it as loud as possible despite the fact that you have no idea who it is. Repeat this for as long as you can. The person we'd gone down to see passed by after we'd been out there for about forty minutes (I'd tried to figure out when she'd get there based on the pace she'd mentioned, but forgot to account for how long it would take to get to the starting line) and I left the scene immediately. Leaving the Turtles, Thing 1 and Thing 2, the guys in the bathrobes, the bear mask, and the guy in the three piece suit to try to finish running a very long distance.

2) I haven't really paid too much attention to hockey since I was in high school. I don't know why. I remember watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2002 and somewhat last year, but haven't actually paid attention to the Penguins in a long time. Part of that is because of the fact that they're broadcast on a channel (Versus) that isn't exactly included in any cable package I've had in the past few years. This year is no different, except that I have absolutely no chance to see anything as 've abandoned cable for stations I get via antenna (which is more than I thought I would, actually, and substantially more when I rely on the internal antenna than when I spent a while fooling with antennae from Best Buy). Last night, I discovered that, unlike MLB which makes you pay for anything even close to listening to an out of market game, the NHL offers apparently free radio feeds of both the home and away commentators. I've discovered that hearing Mike Lange come up with bizarre little expression is something I've missed over the past few years. I'll be listening to that over the rest of the season. It helps that the Pens are doing well to begin the year. Hopefully, that will continue.

I'm watching City of God and have learned that I don't speak Portuguese.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Apples, Rick and Art

I've not been updating much recently, but then I've been somewhat busy. So you'll have that. A few things that I've recently discovered which have confused the hell out of me:

1) Food. Mystery. Novels. While I understand how the final two words in that sequence are supposed to work together, I'm still a bit lost on the first. I've discovered the existence of this genre while doing my laundry. In the laundry room of the building I'm living in, which is mostly vacant when I'm home to do my laundry (Fridays after, like, 1am) there's a folding table that holds a stack of apparently communal books. Things to read if you're hanging out in the laundry room near the creepy darkened fenced in section under the tree that wants to die because it's in a laundry room. Many of the books are standard $1.99 paperbacks that never quite made it big, several of them mysteries and some of them, that's right, food mysteries. Things like this that focus a whodunit plot on eating, cooking and the like. Several have recipies in the back that relate to whatever the central food of the mystery is. They've got names like "Dying on the Vine", "Death Al Dente", "Candy Apple Dead" and "Double Shot". They appear to be written mostly by either a man named Peter King or a woman named Ellen Hart, evidently the luminaries of the field. I don't actually know what demographic finds these most appealing, though I suppose it's simply a combination of two things people might like. I remember reading two different mysteries that had a hockey theme when I was very young, presumably because young boys might like both hockey and mysteries, but I don't think I'd be able to comprehend "Hockey Mysteries" as as much of a genre as "Food Mysteries" seems to be. Maybe I'm missing something though. I haven't read any of the books in the laundry room of my apartment building, but may have to just to understand what the hell is going on.

2) Evidently, in defending the War in Iraq, Santorum through out some complex, crazy-assed Lord of the Rings reference at the debate yesterday that kind of implied that the current strategy for the war on terror is to keep Iraq unstable and have terrorists kill people over there so that we're not getting killed. While "not having us killed" is good, simply substituting people to get killed for us is not, some of those people he's substituting are troops, and diverting terror attacks onto other targets isn't really a viable goal. But the real problem, at least from my perspective, is that he likens terrorist organizations to the "Eye of Mordor". Ignoring for a moment the problems with comparing the war in Iraq to a fantasy novel, including the problems of comparing the varied terror organizations and individual terrorists a single consolidated eye, the real issue is that his comparison fails because the Eye was the Eye of Sauron. Mordor was a location, and while that's where the Eye was located, Mordor did not posess the eye.

PA voters: If you're not going to take this guy to town for any of the seriously bizarre things he's said and the fact that he's pretty far off the nutty end of the pool, and that his best defense is to now liken what he does in Washington to Tolkein novels, at least demand of your Senator that he know what the objects in his metaphors are called. Vote. Him. Out.

3) I've been listening to a lot of weird stuff at work lately, since buying my super-awesome and super-freaking-huge wireless headphones so that I can listen to streaming audio in this impregnable radio fortress. Mostly NPR and podcasts of Penn Jillete's radio show, which is pretty damn good, and narrowly avoiding what I would think to be my low point today by refusing to listen to C-SPAN radio. Incredibly strange stuff to be found here, where you'll find a schedule for what public radio station is playing what program when, including Deutche Welle Radio. I figured I'd listen for a perspective outside of the Chicago radio I'm usually listening to, and having minored in German know at least a minimal amount about what's happened in the recent history of Germany. Today's "Movement Featured on DW-Radio That I Never Knew Existed Because I'm Not Exactly Plugged Into Art But Am Not Surprised That It Does": Stuckism.

Who knew.


I'm going to be going through my blog over the next couple days attempting to put labels on as many posts as I can. So watch for that. Also, I have a cut on my palm from a rough piece of glass that I got yesterday and is really more of a scratch, but is in a terrible damn place and hurts quite a lot. So there's that.

Friday, September 29, 2006

NPR and Macbeth

While I'm posting like mad, I'll mention that I've found that I do indeed get a wireless signal in the lab, and have been listening to NPR for the past few days. It seems like every time I start to think that it's incredibly informative and it'd be great if everyone listend to it, they do something which proves to me why people don't. Like when I was driving back from PNC Park and heard a story about the mating sounds of mosquitos. Or a few days ago when a singer/songwriter's sound was described as being "as if he had been soaking in some very warm water", whatever the hell that means. Or walking to my hood to hear that the Dodder is "One of the creepiest plants I know. I still don't know what the hell to make of that.

Oh, and in Northwestern research news, a group has found that, upon thinking of things that you've done that were bad, it's more likely that you'll want to clean yourself, suggesting that guilt is somewhat directly linked to the general feeling of disgust. That's right. Shampoo companies will now be offering you puppies to kill to get you to buy more product.

More Legislation

The House approved a bill that would allow for a form of the "warrantless wiretaps" program to continue. On a side note, it's hilarious how much Congress can get done when a) they break on Friday and b) they're not trying to figure out if we should amend the document that literally defines the country to worry about whether or not gays can marry. While I'm very cautious about giving the government power to conduct searches that are in violation of the 4th amendment, this bill would at the very least provide some guidelines, as follows.

1) The President has to clear any and all searches by the House and Senate congressional committees and notifies leaders of both (though how much good that would do for a group of people that appear to be entirely defined through which team they're on is debatable)

2) The President has to have reason to believe an attack is imminent and has to explain why the hell he wants to wiretap them.

3) He's got a 90 day certification on all of that.

So it does set some limits, as opposed to "whatever the hell he feels like." Again, I don't think that a dystopia is upon us yet. But I'm not sure how one sets this into law without the first person it's used on claiming violation of the 4th amendment. I can see why wiretaps could be invaluable to fighting organizations which wish to harm us, but I really dislike the "if you're not doing anything wrong, why do you care" argument, because it's asinine.

So I'm torn. Whatever. The wheel keeps turning.

Update on Everything

I've finally gotten around to seeing Brick, which was recommended to me long ago in a coffeehouse in NYC (The Esperanto Cafe, if I remember correctly) which served coffee in short glass mugs that offend my senses as well as furthering Dr. Zamenhof's ideals of peace through common language and fuel for sitcom jokes. And muffins. I regret that it took me so long to get around to it, particularly when it was playing in Evanston at Century Theater's "less popular movies" annex for about a month. It's a bit hard to buy the whole "No really, everyone actually talks like this" and odd to think that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is two years older than I am and is apparently still in high school, and that no one ever goes to class ever, but I'll take it. It kept me interested throughout, which is something Jenna's latest Netflix Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story didn't do so well, though they're vastly different films in every possible aspect. I'd recommend checking it out.

The Pirates have three games left in the season, all against Cincinnati, who is at this point struggling to hold on to the possibility of coming out on top of the Central, as they've been eliminated from the wild card. Depending on how the next weekend goes, either the Astros or the Cards are likely taking the division, while the wild card is up in the air between whoever doesn't win the NL West and the Phillies. Not that any of that will matter, as the Mets are the ones going to the World Series. I'm still hanging on to some hope that they'll be facing the A's.

The Senate voted today 65-34 to approve a bill which would set up rules for dealing with those deemed "enemy combatants" and would define, more or less, what is or is not allowed to occur in an attempt to comply with the Third Geneva Conventions, after the Supreme Court found that we probably couldn't just ignore bits. There has been a fair amount of controversy in that it eliminates, for those declared enemy combatants, the right to appeal with habeas corpus. This would follow not only for combatants held in, say Guantanamo, but in any U.S. prison anywhere in the world, and can be suspended during such time as it is being determined whether or not they are enemy combatants.. Habeas corpus, historically, can only be suspended in the United States in time of war, and while the current situation differs from war in most classical aspects (that is, we're not waging war on a country, but on a concept), it is the opinion of a majority of the Senate that this right to revoke should be available. I'm not positive where I stand on this. It is necessary to try those who may be a threat to the wellbeing of the people of this country. But in doing that, is it right to withdraw one of the most fundamental tools for a defendant against possible wrongful imprisonment? I simply don't trust the government enough to believe that everyone they arrest as being connected to a terrorist plot is actually the correct person. Which is why, of course, they're tried, to determine whether they're guilty or innocent. During the Nuremberg trials, the United States were one of the entites that most desperately clung to the concept that there are rules and ways of doing things so as to use a legal system to determine who is to be punished and punish them accordingly. We are faced with a similar challenge today. We must find out who is responsible for the planning of crimes against humanity in the form of terrorist attacks, and we must punish them accordingly and work to prevent those attacks. In doing so, we must not trample the rights of those that aren't planning such attacks.

There are those that would read this and conclude that I'm supporting the coddling of terrorists. Those people are attacking strawmen. Terrorists, as everyone agrees, are not to be taken softly and should be punished in the harshest manner. But before we can do that, we must determine accurately who they are to a further degree than who we have in custody. Among the three Guantanamo detainees that committed suicide this summer, two were about to be released after the military had acquired evidenced that acquited them of attempting to plan and carry out a terrorist attack. They were innocent, but had not been told, and were denied the basic human rights outlined in our Constitution. While it would be nice if our methods for rounding up those who would do us harm were infallible, it's not. So we must have a system to decide whether or not we have made the proper arrest. Would those who seek to do us harm do the same, allowing for reporters captured in sensitive areas to appeal to be released because they're not spies? Of course not, they'd kill them on the spot. But I would like to think that the unwillingness of terrorists to step away from barbarism and savagery is not a rationale for treating our own prisoners below our own standards that are enshrined in the document that makes the United States a country. We're better than they are. We can win without stooping to their level. I'm simply at odds with the concept that we might be playing into their hands.

I am not at all against aggressive interrogation, and recognize that often, it is necessary to extract information that could harm many many people. I am simply concerned whenever the government begins to restrict the basic defenses of anyone in a trial situation. Do I think this will evolve into a dystopian scenario where thoughtpolice pick up those who disagree with the government in big black vans for treatment in Room 101? Of course not. But neither do I think that every single person detained is the #3 man in Al-Qaeda. I don't like the path our high-ground is heading down if we abandon tenets like habeas corpus, the ability for the defense to review the evidence against them, and while I understand the importance of aggressive interrogation of people who are actually terrorists, I find it troubling that what we're fighting so tenaciously over is the definition of torture.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


I'm still comprehending the fact that the Pirates have managed to avoid 100 losses this year (which they cemented with an out-of-nowhere sweep of the best team in the NL to force them to clinch the division somewhere other than PNC) and the rationale that sends a quarterback who spent much of the off season in a hospital bed into a game with a fever of 104 degrees and thirty tons of rust, but I can put that aside for now.

I felt I should post about this because it's one of those things that I'm already way too late on, and yet am willing to laughingly ignore that fact. It involves Pandora, which I'm quite happy with recently, and would enjoy more if I worked somewhere other than a bunker that kills everything that could even be close to a wireless signal, so that I can't actually listen to this at my bench. It works by picking apart the style of music of an artist or song that you've input. Z.B., for "The Pietasters", it surmised that I like music that has subtle vocal harmony, a vocal centric aesthetic, busy horn section, major key tonality and an upbeat tempo, which is pretty good. I often run into the Tower Records down the street, gasping for air and bleeding, demanding that they point me toward the "Major Key, Subtle Vocal Harmony" section. Which is to say that they found a way to describe Third Wave Ska without using those words. It's the internet radio version of The $25,000 Pyramid.

Slate has a article up comparing this type of very technical music recommender, which tends to pull music out of context with everything but that it's somequality-centric, with things like, which rely too heavily on very popular tracks, recommending them over and over, because hey, they're so popular after all. That's like, the Man's free internet radio music recommender thing. Presuming the Man is Cee-Lo. Actually, he'd make a good Man. I don't think I'd want a still from the Closet Freak video staring at me as if to tell me to love Big Brother.

No, I don't care which shot you'd pick from that video to use for hate propaganda. Pick one. It's all creepy enough.

And a shiny nickel to the first reader to relay what "Z.B." means. Jenna and Rory should be on this.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


By the end of the year, there's a very good chance I'll have given more money to the Golden Nugget than to anything else. Possibly including rent. And no, not The Golden Nugget. The Golden Nugget. If there's one thing I know about me, it's that I have a soft spot for late night diners. Typically one's named "Eat'n'Park" that will occasionally sell me a whole pie and let me stay in the restaurant eating it, but as that's not a franchise that has yet made the break into Chicago (or out of the Pennsylvania-WV-Ohio tristate area), I'll have to deal with substitutes. And sadly, there are no Denny's within walking distance, which is a real shame as the perfect compliment to after-hours bars is a place where they'll sell you thirty pounds of eggs without asking questions. So I imagine I'll be frequenting this place, as it bumps my ability to read incredibly dryly written articles about tenfold. To do so, however, I might need to set down a few things I expect from the waitstaff at these establishments. Which might amount to printing out this post and pinning it to the front of my shirt so I can concentrate on reading and grunting at the coffee. I've worked at two different formats of restaurant, first doing the whole busboy thing at a sportsbar/restaurant/place with games, then a summer as a burger jockey at a major hamburger chain. So I understand that diners can be overneedy, annoying pricks. I'm simply trying to relay what I'd think to be ideal, so that we're both clear on that. I'm usually more a fan of "tell me what to do" if I'm serving someone, rather than the school of "guess 'til I'm happy." So here are the rules, as it were.


1) Don't even ask if I want coffee. I do. If I didn't, I would have no business being in your establishment. In fact, if any table has less than 50% coffee drinkers, their bill should be increased tenfold to make amends with the restaurant. Diners, if you weren't aware, are not in the business of selling food, but in the business of getting rid of as much cheap coffee as possible without actually just dumping it into the sewer. The food thing is merely a coincidence.

2) Regarding the fashion in which I should be served. You should check on whether I need more coffee at least twice during the course of my stay. I'd probably creep you out if I demanded, shaking, that you "leave the pot", so let's try to avoid that by just checking on whether I've drained the coffee and have started staring like an addict going through withdrawal at the people in the other booths and their full drinks. Any time you pass the table with a coffee pot that has any coffee whatsoever in it, at least glance at my cup.

3) You might want to relay to the cook that I can make French Toast. It's one of the few dishes I've mastered at this point that isn't HotPockets, and if necessary, I could whip it up at home, though it would probably be harder and wouldn't help you out with your problem of how to get rid of coffee. So here's the deal. When I make French Toast, it doesn't take thirty minutes. I'd understand more if the restaurant were really packed, or if I'd seen a single dish hit the countertop in that time. Don't get me wrong. It was magnificent, and better than I make (though I think thickness of the bread does have a lot to do with that,) but I came in because I was hungry, not because I wanted to sweat in a place that was inexplicably ten degrees hotter than the outside temperature.

4) I'm not that involved in what I'm reading. Feel free to ask me how I'm doing. That way, I can get the check from you before finally giving up and getting it at the register.

5) Those guys talking incredibly loudly at the next table. It's ok to spill things on them. Like coffee. Or fire. Except if I'm one. Then don't.

6) Follow those rules, and you'll usually get at least 30% tip.

Tonight was middling. Rule 1 was followed in that coffee was given before she gave me water, but then I only got one refill. I view coffee like I currently view Netflix. I'm paying a given amount regardless ($1.50 or $18, respectively), so I'd like each actual thing to cost as little as possible. As it went, I had two cups of $0.75 coffee. Not bad, but not as good as 50 cups of $0.03 coffee. I did have to go to the register to get the check, but it looked like she was the most productive waitress there, so that's relatively ok. I'll definitely be back. Perhaps with a note on my shirt like I'm five and going to the grocery store to get milk.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Three A. M.

I'm of the belief that one can only get a sense for where one has decided to live by checking it out at night. If you'd done that with my two previous homes, in Cheswick and Meadville, the results were pretty similar. Most people are asleep. In Meadville, there was some activity at the 24-hour Super Walmart*, but not much anywhere else and the activity that was at the Walmart was mostly cleaning crews and the greeter guy. Russelton had roads that led to diners, which were open and serving people that had just jaunted over from the Blue Haven Lounge. Both places I've spent many a 3 am in, and it was kind of subdued. Which is fine. It flowed with the particular makeup of those settings, and I wouldn't have traded it for anything. In Edgewater, even, mostly things are shut down. The 24 hour Dominicks had some activity (mostly a woman named winifred who also worked at another 24 hour Dominicks at Howard), and then not much. Some crowd from Sizzle, but it was rather small, as I believe Sizzle closed at 2. Now, I'm living in Lincoln Park. Most people I've said that to immediately jump to the "Oh, yuppietown" end, though that didn't play into my decision to jump on this place. What played into that decision was the fact that it's midway between UIC and NOrthwestern, had affordable rent, and I really just wanted to be done with the damn Apartment People. So there's that. Tonight, I decided to take a quick half-hour walk (from which I've just returned) to get a feel for what Lincoln Park is like after 3, specifically on Clark between Diversey and Fullerton.

It's like drama incarnate, which is to say "very much like college." I passed one breakup, a few "playfully throwing water bottles at you" scenes, TWO couples having the "defining our relationship" talk, both of which seemed headed for "breakup 2 and 3" status and one of which was being conducted tearfully over a mailbox, lines out the door and around the corner at the few eateries that were still open (most concentrated: Angela's Burrito Style, which sounds and looks like it would be kind of good if not for the throng of drunken 25-year-olds in Polo shirts and if the guy making the food would put on a damn hairnet or something. Bathe or something.) There was a thick group huddled around the entrance to Frank's, which appeared to be the only after-hours bar on my short little trip, bouncers at Frank's trying to convince the would-be customer-at-the-front-of-the-throng that he's probably had enough for the night and that people are actually starting to merge physically with the wall due to overcrowding, some annoying people in a Stretch Hummer (imagine that! and one dude who yelled "do you want me to drive over and pick you up" into a cell phone immediately before walking dead into a wall. I've also become convinced that the phrase most often drunkenly screamed into a cell phone is "don't leave," followed closely by "We're coming over, stay there." One gentleman said "howyreadoin" at me with a nice smile, and at least seven people just walked the hell into oncoming traffic-entirely-composed-of-taxis, two of which were trying to hail an already occupied taxi on a cross street, ignoring the endless line of taxis that had almost hit them. I imagine the taxi drivers are pretty used to that though, and are probably artists with a brake pedal. I walked by the Blockbuster, and mournfully thought of the card I'll never use again, and then came home to talk to the security woman in the lobby about how damn busy the building had been tonight, apparently.

I look forward to taking this 3am walk thing up as my most recent sport.

On a completely unrelated note, I'd like to say "Rest in Peace" to Mayor Bob O'Connor, who assumed the office in January of this year, was diagnosed with a rare lymphoma in July and passed away Friday evening. I wasn't in Pittsburgh for his tenure, so I don't know how he had started to affect the city (or how much he could have affected the city in the 6 months before he was diagnosed and entered treatment), but he seemed, from all accounts, to be a good man. I'd also like to say "good luck" to Luke Ravenstahl, the new 26-year-old Mayor of Pittsburgh, who has the most awesome name in the history of Mayoring, in addition to being the youngest mayor in Pittsburgh history. Hopefully, he can live up to what many think Mr. O'Connor would have been able to accomplish if not for the tragedy of his illness.

*It's entirely possible that "24-hour Super Walmart" is redundant.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Woo! Things!

I've finally moved into my new place and gotten acquainted with the neighborhood, and so I'll try to be posting here a bit more regularly. Some topics.

1) I've capitulated and gotten Netflix, partially because it's a pretty good deal given how many movies I try to watch , but mostly because I've decided that, at least for now, cable is pointless. I'm not home enough to warrant spending $50 on television per month, and it was starting to make the fact that I have game consoles pointless. So far, I'm so-so on the service. The turnaround could be a bit quicker, but then that might not be something I should be blaming entirely on Netflix, given that the post-office does actually have to make sure they get to my door. So I'll give it a little while longer before I go about cancelling.

2) Can we go thirty seconds without a damn story about YouTube? I understand. YouTube's great. I use it probably every day, mostly because it's a bit of a way around the whole "illegally downloading songs" while (surely copyrighted) music videos are still up. Surely, the RIAA will be by shortly to slap the hell out of Darshana90 for posting the worst quality video of "Wonderboy" in existence. Still, it's like the media got the hint that the whole "blogging" thing it got all crazy about was kind of overblown and not really that interesting, and had to find something to grab on to. (Incidentally, "Wonderboy" was playing on the radio when I went to the NYC location of Forbidden Planet Comics, which is evidently surprising. I don't know. Ask Jenna.

Post script to that: I hope every single person who has some video of themselves lipsyncing to Bossy tries to run for office. Not because I'd want them in power, but more for the "What the Hell Was Going On In Your Basement" factor. Incidentally, the actual video for Kelis' Bossy is the most godawful thing I've ever seen. What's with the cake? The poodle? Too Short? I can't think this is how music is supposed to be.

3) I get angry at the CTA at times, despite the fact that it's damn convenient and no where near as expensive as owning a car and I would be lost without it, mostly because it's occasionally delayed. Usually, this is because of work on the tracks, but as a person who regularly drove on Rt. 28 outside of Pittsburgh, "delayed by construction" is almost a default for me. That said, I'm incredibly glad I'm in Chicago, land of the overcast recently, and not London where trains are stopped by happy, jolly, coercive rays of sunshine.

4) Slate has been showcasing the new 9/11 Commission Report Graphic Novel. I'm not quite sure about what I think about that, partially because it does, to an extent, trivialize the event by portraying it as more of a cartoon than ever (though I suppose it could be debated whether this is the first attempt which has actually made a cartoon out of 9/11). Still, I don't believe that the medium of graphic novels (or comic books) is inherently "comic," as many political graphic novels, historicals and hell even Doonesbury prove time and time again. It's more or less pictures of the event and aftermath set to excerpts from the committee report, and does do the service of putting the report in a format that people might actually read. Which is definitely a good thing.

5) If you happen to be in Chicago, here's a list that the Tribune put together of stuff to do before the summer ends. But then, if you're in Chicago, you ought to come out to Chicago's Jazz Festival. It'll be awesome.

Friday, August 18, 2006


I've moved. Hooray for that. I've left my old residence in Edgewater (which is described here in's copy of Wikipedia's article. Incidentally, concerning this article, I think the claim that Edgewater has the highest population density of any of the neighborhoods in Chicago is just a outright damn lie) to Lincoln Park (which has a zoo. More specific information about where I'll be living is not going to be posted here, because I think you're creepy.)

It's a much more lively area of Chicago, which is to say that the mechanic/sushi restaurant ratio is much lower than it was in my old neighborhood. I've got good feelings about the management, but that may just be due to the fact that I hated my old management, which seemed to be bent on making the time spent in their building unbearable what with the constant flooding and the never fixing things and the insects. Moreover, I've got a terrific view of the city, which I'm sure is costing me about $100 per month, but the move-in time was right so I'm not concerned about that so much. This, of course, means that I'm spending tonight at my old place with a pint of touch-up paint in a vain attempt to reclaim at least some of my deposit before leaving there forever, followed by not having a microwave yet at my new place because Jenna's bringing that up but won't be here until tomorrow.

So a night full of awesome.

Other things:

1) My commute is longer now, but that just means I'll be reading quite a bit more. The current endeavors are Clemente which I'm having trouble getting into not because it's not a well written biography or that the story is something I'm apathetic about, but because it's just more difficult to carry a hard-cover book in my back pocket, Bearing an Hourglass, having just finished On A Pale Horse after it was recommended to me, which I'm enjoying in an odd kind of way, and Blinded by the Right, which is moderately interesting if only for the Amazon reviews written by people in their best go-go team apparel. Whatever.

2) Matt Betush sent me a link to this, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to cry for days.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Pirates at Cubs: An Exercise in Futility

It is through the kindness of one of my coworkers in the O'Halloran lab that I was able to attend the Pirates@Cubs game on August 6th, which effectively reminded me that, for a team that had its first month of better than .500 baseball in July for the 2006 season and has gone 12-10 since the break, I should really not get my hopes up. A thoroughly disappointing game, though again, to be expected.

My seats were in Section 109 which are in foul territory off of left field. While I had been in Wrigley last week for the Cards/Cubs game (which I ended up being pretty spectacularly indifferent to, as far as who won), I hadn't yet been there sporting a jersey of the opposing team. So it felt kind of out of place. I did have the fortune of sitting next to a family of four from Pittsburgh who were also Pirates supporters, and the scattered "P" hats and, oddly, Terrible Towels throughout the stands was comforting. Events of note:

  • Jason Bay's "trapped ball" in the third

    Eventually, this set up the Cubs' first run of the day, which made me a bit angry. On a shallow fly to left, Bay looked like he took a bad start at the ball and had to rush to catch up with it (which may or may not be related to the fly out to end the second that he also seemed to take a bad approach on), but was able to grab it apparently (from my vantage point fifty feet away) just before it hit the ground. The third base ump agreed, and called the runner out. This is when I felt a bit uncomfortable about wearing my jersey, as the crowd was livid. Eventually, after Baker argued the call for a short while and the umps appeared to be frightened of the stands, the call was overturned, and the runner credited with a single. Advancing on a wild pitch, he eventually came across. I'm actually glad that that wasn't the deciding run, as I would have felt a tinge bitter about it. Then again, I should expect bad luck by now.

    Note: it's interesting that in the play-by-play, ESPN still has Cedeno flying out on the play.

  • Bottom of the Fourth:

    The inning started off with a single by Aramis Ramirez (whose name sound really familiar) that probably should have been an out. I've lauded Wilson for it in the comments on Pirates blogs before, but it appeared that he was playing too hard at that moment, rushed his throw, and pulled Xavier Nady way the hell off the bag. With four outs in the inning for the second time in the game, Cedeno's homer put this one entirely out of reach. Then again, if you're going to walk John ".216/.324/.336" Mabry after striking out Jacque Jones and Angel Pagan, a three-run homer is kind of inevitable.

  • Confusion:

    The fifth run for the Cubs scored on a bizarre double play after Jacque Jones hard grounder to shortstop which scored the run from third but got Ramirez in a rundown off of second, followed by getting Jones in a rundown off of first. Which was entertaining for two reasons. That it somehow wasn't the Pirates pulling that "everyone get caught off base" nonsense and that it required Joe Randa to run all over the damn place. Also, it angered Cubs fans. Hilarity.

  • The End:

    As if the rest of this junk didn't lead to a sufficiently anti-climactic ninth, I actually got somewhat excited when Dempster gave up two hits in the ninth with two outs for Jack. Instead of a strikeout, which at least would have been something I've seen a lot of this year, or some flavor of pop-out, the game ended on batter's interference when Jack ran into the ball after the weakest grounder in the history of the world. A short conference delayed the eventual exodus from Wrigley, but the outcome was, as was expected by pretty much everyone, a Cubs win.

    It amuses me that their homepage refers to Rich Hill setting up a "streak" of two wins.

Not too many bright spots for the Pirates overall. Snell seemed a bit off from what he's been earlier, we gave them too many opportunities, and after the game ended in the bizarre fashion mentioned above, I turned to a stranger from Mt. Lebanon as we both asked when the Steelers get around to playing again. And lastly, honestly, I understand that Wrigley's supposed to be historic, and I had decent seats and it's a nice place, but I can't say that I don't prefer PNC by quite a lot. Getting in and out was a hassle, if the seats we had weren't as good as they were, I could see visibility being a problem, and I just tend to like PNC a whole lot. We'll see if I have a different opinion after I go to next Tuesday's Royals/White Sox game at US Cellular, though, as it may be that I simply haven't been to very many ballparks.

The Cream City

Which is evidently Milwaukee. How about that. Having lived in Chicago for one year, I finally got up and went somewhere else (that isn't Pittsburgh). I've been kind of limited on that front by two complications. The first is that I don't have a car. Living in Chicago, I don't actually need one, as the CTA runs everywhere that I've needed to go in the first year of living here, however slowly it does it. The second, of course, is that there aren't many places I'd want to go in the Midwest. Perhaps that will change and Des Moines will become impossible to resist. The trip to Milwaukee allowed me to try out Megabus, which takes the same amount of time as an Amtrak train but at one quarter of the price. The catch, it seems, is that while Amtrak trains depart Chicago at Union station at defined points and are affiliated with a truckload of information personnel who will gladly point you to the proper platform, Megabus shows up on Jackson Street with no sign to indicate that it's going to do so. Fortunately, if you just walk around Union Station long enough, you catch on to the fact that the forty-ish people standing outside against the wall are seasoned Megabus veterans (or were bright enough to click on the link that explains precisely where the bus actually shows up) are waiting for exactly the same big blue vehicle that goes to Milwaukee (or Cincinnati, Minneapolis and St. Louis, among others.)

Following the erratic boarding procedure (more commonly known as shoving one's way the hell on to the bus) and the two hour trip (much of which was spent trying to stay awake long enough to finish this damned Fountainhead thing), I arrived at the beautiful Milwaukee Amtrak station, complete with some seats, a vending machine and lots and lots of construction. I eventually found Internet Person #1 (Heidi, a forum member and moderator at Rum and Monkey,) who was heading out to try to meet Internet Person #2 and had offered a ride.

Problematically, Internet Person #2 had not actually gotten around to contacting either of us with the address at which he was staying in Eagle, WI (which is evidently a town containing a village by the same name, according to Wikipedia), leaving us to look for a "trailer" (which turned out to be an actual trailer, not a trailer home, which was in the driveway of a very nice residence) or happening upon a bearded Australian man either on a motorcycle or holding a kitten. As those were the only things we knew him to do.

Oh yes. IP2 (Gregor) is Australian, in the States initially for covering the World Series of Poker for ZOO Weekly Australia, which appears to be analogous to, say, FHM or Maxim, so beware that that link is probably NSFW. He's also the Gregor of this link that's been on the side of my blog for ages. This all complicated things, as you can't just dial an Australian number on a Verizon cell phone. You need to buy a phone card. So Gregor, if you read this, you owe us each $5.

Following the trip out, a genuinely weird experience of hanging out with people I know from a forum who were both actually very cool people, eating a delicious dip provided by Gregor's sister (who lives in Eagle, which explains why one would go to Wisconsin after spending one's time in Vegas for a few days), being attacked by bees, learning how to perform a tracheotomy on Gregor should he be stung by the bees and heading home in the early evening as the last mode of transportation that goes from Milwaukee to Chicago does so at 7:30pm. However, finding out that the trip is this simple, I now have no excuse not to make it to a Brewers game.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

An apartment, division rivals, and a pocket full of dreams. No wait. Not dreams. Wounds.

I haven’t updated this in quite some time, but I feel as though this time, that’s justifiable. Partly because this isn’t a very good blog anyway, and so updating it is a bit silly in the first place, but also because I’ve actually been getting things done, for once. I’m proud to report that I have finally, it seems, acquired an apartment that I can use once my lease with this one is done. I decided pretty early into renting this place that it would not be somewhere I’d want to stay indefinitely, and so have known that I’d have to undertake the job of finding an apartment in Chicago for about nine months now. Incidentally, I keep receiving letters in the mail informing me that my lease is going to run out in my current apartment, and something about they’ve tried to contact me to figure out whether or not I’m staying and they’re showing it and whatnot. This is funny to me for two reasons. First among those is that I’ve tried to contact them to tell them to stop sending me these letters. I called in June to let them know I’m not renewing my lease, but it appears that the answering machine on which that was recorded was immediately set on fire and thrown from their office window. When they called me to tell me that my apartment is being shown, I told them that I was not renewing the lease, but it appears that they go through receptionists like no one’s business, because no one I’ve talked to ever seems to have worked there for more than, say, fifteen minutes. And yet, every week, a letter informing me that if I try to live in the apartment after someone else is living in it, some hilarious Odd Couple moments could ensue for which they can not be held legally responsible. The second is that I could probably make a decent papier-mâché scale replica of the… let’s say Merrimac from the number of “moving out checklists” I’m acquiring from my leasing agency.

So off to find a new apartment. I went through the same agency that helped me find the apartment I have now, and boy howdy did they do a terrible job this time through. I found an apartment the first time I went out looking with their agent, and signed some things and believed that was that. It was a twelfth-floor place with a balcony from which I could see Wrigley (not that one would want to, and it was about a mile away so actually watching the baseball therein was impossible, forgetting for a second that the Cubs play no games when I’m not at lab, what with their constant day games that screw up my commute, and the fact that they annoy me). That fell through when they couldn’t figure out how to determine whether or not I actually have a job, and the owner rented to someone else in the meantime. So I went out looking again, and found a nice little place on Halsted near Belmont, which would have been terrific, except for the fact that they managed to phrase “he has cosigners” in a way that, apparently, sounded to the owner like “this sucker won’t be able to pay you without robbing passers-by”. So that was out. Also they apparently lost the part where they knew that I had a job. The third time through, success.

The problem, I think, is that they seem to want to do as little as possible to actually collect information that would help get an apartment rented (including working only to not lose the information they have), and then get all confused when owners of buildings demand more, and lose the ability to rent the apartment in the meantime. I should state at this point that my agent wasn’t the problem. Or at least I don’t think so. He seemed new at the job, and somewhat inexperienced, but he had managers overseeing everything, and managers actually getting paperwork from me, and managers filing things. He didn’t actually seem to do much, so I find it hard to believe he screwed it up.

Anyway, the lease is in the process of being signed by everyone, and barring some terrible badness, I’ll be moving into an apartment in a high-rise with a gorgeous view of the city in a neighborhood that has several dozen restaurants and crêperie, as well as access to a beach, which I’ve learned over the past few weeks is incredibly nice. Please don’t stalk me.

Two more things:

1) Tomorrow is the first time I’m actually going to see a major league baseball game in which the Pittsburgh Pirates are playing, though I may well wear my Bucs hat with the rationale that the two opposing sides will be hating on each other so much that they don’t notice my sad devotion to that ancient ballclub. I still don’t know who I’m going to want to win tomorrow’s game. If the Cubs win, the Pirates don’t get closer to not being the worst team in the NL Central and I’ll probably have to be somewhat annoyed at the annoying Cubs fans running around talking about how next year is their year already. If the Cardinals win, they stop the whole “skid” thing and the Reds have a decreased chance of taking the division, which I would heartily support this year. If only because, seriously, what have the Cards done for me lately. If they could both lose, of course, I'd be ecstatic, and eagerly await next Sunday, when I get to attend the Cubs/Pirates game, in which Zach Duke may be pitching, and, if so, will own him some infant bears. Of course, whichever happens, my happiness tomorrow rests on a Bucco win to finish out the Giants series, after which they will make the greatest comeback run in baseball history which the people of America could use after the stunning possibility of Floyd Landis doping.

Oh wait. The people of America don’t care about the Tour de France, but if the Pirates got incredibly good, you'd have DVD set after DVD set after a few years. Mass exodus from the Red Sox bandwagon to our jalopy.

2) What the hell is going on with yogurt lately? Perhaps it’s just the cheap kind I buy, but I’ve cut myself three times now on the tin foil, which leads to the uncomfortable situations in which a) I’m bleeding all over the damn place, leading me to believe I’ve got way too much blood in my fingers b) the savings on yogurt are being eaten up by bandage purchases. I’ll still buy the Lucerne brand stuff, based solely on cheapness, but I’ll try to make sure I look at the picture on the side so as to avoid the Fruit-On-The-Bottom-Razors-Around-The-Lid variety.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Chin

At this point, Chuck Norris jokes are somewhat old hat. All the rage for a while, they seem to have died off a bit. I could be completely wrong on that account, as I spend very little of my time keeping up with what you hip young kids do these days, but from my perspective, they've gone down a bit. Feel free to slam me here if I'm wrong. This dearth of "Wow, that celebrity's a real bad ass" comedy has left me no other choice on whether or not to present this link.

I give you the genius of some guy: Bruce Campbell Facts

I appreciate it more explicitly because it's minorly concerning zombie horror. But mostly because Bruce Campbell is good times. Yes, a number of the facts are based on Chuck Norris facts, but that's irrelevant.

Because I said so.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Lessons Learned

Things that were learned this weekend:

1. When I go to Pirates games, they win. When I don't, they lose. I suppose I could have made the same assumption earlier in the year with a mere thirty flukes, but this weekend drove home that point in a way I'm going to buy into so that it makes it seem like I'm more important than I am*. The games I went to were the kind of wins that we've not have any of this season, those in which we're actually fighting to stay in it and succeed, only to come up with the loss yesterday after giving up four runs in the eleventh when we'd managed to run out of relievers. As far as the lineup is concerned, I realize they were both pulled by the end of the game, but starting a lineup that includes both Cota and Burnitz is almost like Jim Tracy's attempt to make up for the fact that he can't bring in Vogelsong anymore. Maholm looked good
yesterday, but meh.

2. From the game on Saturday: If you're going to attend a baseball game, I'm fine with you yelling things, for the most part. Probably shouldn't be profane, but other than that, it's part of the experience of being a fan. That said, you should try to make it make some modicum of sense. By which I mean if you scream after every foul ball into the seats (two sections up) "Just catch it!" at Sean Casey (it appears you think he's either Spider-Man or is the kind of hometown guy that smiles a lot and reminds everyone of nice things and is capable of running screaming up the stairs for two sections, stomping on children), I'm going to want to hit you with something. I won't, but you should probably go ahead and shut up*. And yes. That goes for any player. It'd go for Burnitz, even though he'd probably be napping comfortably in a lawn chair.**

3. Sometimes, the people that are paid to find you an apartment are so stupendously bad at their task that they manage to make the fact that you have people that are willing to bail you out in the case of you not being able to actually do the whole apartment thing into something which actually disqualifies you from an apartment.

4. Some people in Arizona think it would be good times to turn the electoral process into a lottery. Is it bribery to get people to vote? Sure. Does it take away some legitimacy from the perfectly valid option of voicing one's opinion by electing not to vote? Somewhat. Considering how many people buy lottery tickets, will it work? Possibly. What concerns me is that this would appear to encourage voting for the sake of voting, rather than because you think Person A would do a better job at it. Then again, voting anymore looks more and more like team sports, in which votes are cast for either of the Big Two teams without actually bothering to learn about either party's platform. So the legitimacy that's actually involved here is probably somewhat negligible.

5. Turns out aviation authorities really like to pull "Just Kidding" forty minute delays. How hilarious.

*For other ways to feel more important than you are, please, consider blogging.
**I'm presuming that for six million, he can afford a lawn chair in which napping can be described as "comfortable" rather than "acrobatic in how I've not fallen off yet."

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Let's Go Bucs from Section 22

It took over half the season, but I finally made it to a Pirates game. I've got to take this moment, I suppose, to thank my dad for the best tickets I think I've ever had. Section 22, Row F which is on top of the home dugout. Three yards closer, and I'm actually on the field. So that was nice. The only disappointing thing about sitting that close is that you're more or less forced to watch Craig Wilson not play throughout the entirety of the game. Still, disregarding how incredibly humid it was, here's some observations:

1. While seats on top of the home dugout are great, it's also a bit unnerving any time a lefty is up, as I was more or less convinced I was probably taking a foul ball to the face. Luckily, not so much.

2. If, for some reason, you think that Bay probably could have had a triple rather than a double, shouting it as loud as you can at Jeff Cox will get you nothing but confused looks from Craig Wilson and Tom Gorzellany. Betush learned this the hard way, though he didn't actually notice it.

3. It just seemed like we couldn't get a strike to save our lives today, but happened to luck out of a few situations that the pitching staff had worked itself into. Between Casey's unassisted double play and bringing Capps in for the one pitch end of the inning after walking the bases full, I'm pleased that, if nothing else, we seemed not to be so intensely unlucky for a night. On a side note, Matt Capps is exactly one month younger than I am, and that makes me feel like a fat sack of crap who spends all day in lab. Luckily, that's pretty accurate, so I don't feel too terrible.

4. Good to see the fact that, occasionally, we can actually hit the damn ball. Fifteen hits with the added support of two Nationals errors, which I'm okay with, was sufficient as we were able to plate some damn runs. The only thing that could have made anything any better was to have gotten Jack home safely in the bottom of the eighth. Sure, he's somewhat fallen to between 2004 Jack and 2005 Jack, but damn if he doesn't look ilke he's beating himself up after anything that doesn't go perfectly. At least it seems like he cares.

5. When Duke was pulled, he walked back to the dugout with a look on his face that said "Jim Tracy just shot my puppy." I'm not sure if that's something he always does, what with the looking really dejected, but man. I know he didn't have the best night, but the guy seriously looked like I do after grading labs.

6. If you're not really in to the clapping thing, smacking the brim of a hat on the top of the dugout makes an astonishingly loud noise. Perhaps that's why the adjective "Xtreme" for the caps with goofy silver trim that we got at the gate.

So that's all good.

In other sports related noise:

The Yankees finally busted up Contreras' absurd win streak, though it should be noted that he had quite a few no decisions this year, one against the Pirates (who eventually won).

Bonds is probably being indicted, which, right now I honestly have to say I don't care about. I just got to see my team play for the first time since last summer. Leave me be.

Ben Roethlisberger's been appearing in public again, to show the world that he doesn't actually look like Ben "Fallout Shelter" Roethlisberger anymore. Yes, seconds from death and all that, and I'm glad he survived and is relatively unscathed (other than they've put some other dude's face on him), but I'm going to have to take another opportunity to mention that he's a jackass for not wearing a helmet, given his position.

To clarify, I think it's something with his cheekbones. Or his chin. Or maybe just that he's somewhat clean shaven.

One more thing. I'm glad the All-Star game went so well, as it's a good thing for the City of Pittsburgh and the PNC Park staff that everyone seems so impressed by it. But the last thing Kevin McClatchy should be doing is basking in anything.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Spyware as it pertains to All Star Festivities

Do you leave your computer for hours at a time, and like leaving enormous representations of your baseball loyalties on your monitor so that the fellows in your office can know in no uncertain terms that you live and die by every pitch thrown by Josh Fogg? Well, you should stop that. Being obsessed with Josh Fogg, that is. In addition to being a criterion used by many leading psychologists as evidence of dangerous psychosis, looking for screensavers of Fogg will probably wreck up your computer.

McAfee has ranked the teams of Major League Baseball and some select players in terms of how likely you are to stumble across a sketchy site that will probably include some lovely spyware with your screensaver download. Number One? The New York Yankees (though Steinbrenner has said that he will put the spyware purveyors out of business by attacking them with sacks of cash). Dead last? Your Pittsburgh Pirates. Yeah, you could look at that as being the best (at something, finally), but it's just better to think of it as another category in which we're behind everyone. Hell, the Royals (whose winning percentage has squeaked past ours lately) share 15th place on this list with the Cubs and Reds.

Top player name search resulting in malevolent websites? Josh Fogg with three of four results being untrustworthy. The most dangerous Pirate on the list is Kip Wells (imagine that!) with 46.2% of sites returning something that will probably be better if you just avoid.

While not actually useful (unless you were just about to run out and download some screensavers to express your love for the Yankees and Josh Fogg), I find it moderately amusing.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Return to Pennsylvania.

Next week, I'll be making a trip back to Pittsburgh for the first time since December. While I realize that isn't a long time for most who have left their hometown, it's still a bit odd to me that I've moved eight hours away and have absolutely no means of transport if I should ever decide on a whim to go back. My undergrad institution being only an hour and a half away, I still drove home very seldom, but the option was still there. Now, in the Windy City, I can get about as far as the public transportation will take me (95th street) without scheduling the trip pretty far in advance. I'll miss the All-Star break by one day, which I guess is just as well as I have no way to attend it, but will spend Friday evening at a Pirates game. It could work out against the Nats, but then I thought that we might win a game or so against the Royals, which didn't work out. So we'll have to see.

I suppose I might have to drive way the hell out to the country for one of these enjoyable bumper-stickers now. Or not. Evidently this beat out calling PA the "land of independence", which is kind of an empty allusion that doesn't actually mean all that much, but might have garnered some extra weight from being, you know, the actual state slogan (apparently regardless of whether or not Rick Santorum is still in office), "Pennsylvania is for road-trippers", which is more a statement about how alarmingly wide Pennsylvania turns out to be, and how that applies to people who are evidently trying to get somewhere that's not Pennsylvania, and "Honk if you love roadtrips", which they rejected based on possible confusion at turnpike tollbooths.

I still maintain that while Pennsylvania's supposed to be wide, Ohio has no business taking as long to drive through as it does.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

For E-Bone Revisited

I've been trying to think about what to write in this post, which I intended to be up on or around June 12. It's June 25th now, and so it's getting written. I'll be damned if I'm going to fall two weeks behind on this.

In a few weeks (five and one half, to be a bit more precise), twenty-three years will have passed since I was born. Eleven days after that, on August 14th, I will have lived a longer amount of time than a friend of mine. Since his death, over one year has gone by (one year and thirteen days as i write this) and I still find myself thinking about his life on the train ride home on occasion. For some reason, one year after attending his funeral and being one of the last standing at his gravesite as he was brought to where he is at this moment, I cannot quite comprehend the fact that he's not working as a cook at the Creighton Hotel restaurant or with Burlington Coat Factories (which was the last job I know of that he had). Somehow, it doesn't seem real that I will never again run into him at Sheetz late at night. That's probably helped by the fact that Sheetz doesn't exist in Chicago, and I'm not near things that remind me of him, but it still just doesn't sound like something which could be true. I hadn't talked to him for a long time before his death, and so I would expect that it shouldn't really come as a shock, or as something which would confuse me, but there it is. It is perhaps because of the very unique place that he held in my life that I'm still, one year later, thinking about him on the train. Perhaps it's merely because he was someone who I knew, who was my age, and who passed away much too young.

When I was in early high-school, I wasn't one much for that whole actually talking to people thing. Let's call me shy. That appeared to honestly bother Ed. That's the only reason I can think of that he made somewhat of a project out of getting me to commit to signing up for the Drama class and joining the high school musicals. Relentless. His determination to get me to speak out rather than staying put quietly was, I feel, incredibly important to the 9th grade me. He made me listen to CD's that I still play today, and embodied, to a certain extent for at least the time I knew him, a Hunter S. Thompson colored attitude toward living. He lived fast and recklessly, at many times putting those around him in moderate peril (which was hard to come by in Russellton), but never severe, never too much that things would cease to be fun.

I don't know what kind of problems presented themselves in his life. I know very little about what happened back at home after I left for the metropolis of Meadville, and while I occasionally would find him, distance made it hard for me to interact with anyone back home (which has only gotten worse since I've moved out of the state entirely). I don't know what it was that killed him. I've heard rumors, but I won't go into them here. What I know is that my friend is gone, and what remains is an entry on the Let's Go Bowling guestbook, his headstone under a large shady tree in Lakewood Memorial Gardens, and the memories of the hundreds that knew him. I only regret that I did not keep in touch with him, or did not encourage him enough to come to Allegheny when he suggested it (though I don't know that I could see him conforming to that).

And so, once again, a little more than a year after my first post on the subject, I'll once again say that you're missed, E-Bone.

For Edward F. Stecz 1982-2005

Sunday, June 18, 2006

I'm actually pretty sure they contain threads.

When you're a graduate student at Northwestern, you tend to really rake in the cash. Trust me. That's not despair and anger at being convinced to spend 5-or-more years of your life chained to a lab bench you're swimming in. It's cold hard cash. And so you're given another post about possessions I've acquired.

Because when you're pulling in the dough like I am, frivolously throwing down a few Jacksons is the kind of thing that warrants its own blog post.

I recently ordered (but have not yet received) my first three Threadless shirts. This would have happened quite some time ago, but for the fact that the actual shirts I wanted have been out of print for some time, and have not been selected for reprinting. If you're not familiar with the concept, Threadless is a t-shirt store run out of Chicago (though I'm sure that my order will for some reason be shipped from their warehouse at the center of the Earth! or something, just because of my last name) that takes submissions from artists (professional or amateur) and puts them on shirts. Then you buy the shirts. Listen, it's all very complicated, and I'm sure you've got better things to do with your time, like eating beef jerky, so I'll just continue on without further explanation.


A criticism of pickles, which is appropriate, as I've never liked eating pickles, avoid them whenever possible and find the so-named comic strip tedious. Actually, I don't have that much of a problem with the strip, but overstatement is a valuable tool to the blogger.

Zombie Donkey, as I don't have many zombie shirts (the one was my halloween costume last year, and I'm not sure how many people are going to get the "Bach's Arco, Pitcairn" reference anyway, without knowing what Arco or Pitcairn have to do with softball or the Living Dead. They still haven't printed the shirt that's the entire reason I keep going to threadless' catalog anyway.

And yes, sometimes I can be a sucker for things that remind me of childhood. Quit judging me.

I'm going to go to bed now. If you'd like to buy something from there, do me the favor of going through the link on the side there. It makes things cheaper for me. While I realize it's shameless, I also don't care. Hooray!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

People that are actually somewhat creative.

While I link to Lore Sjöberg's blog on this, something tells me that the few of you that read this don't actually use the links on the side of this deal. Not that people who are actually very well known, were part of a notable internet comedy team and are writers for Wired need a hack such as myself to link to them, but because why not. Because I got a kick out of it, I'll link to it in the actual body of the blog just now. Lore's latest project is up, and is amusing. Go. Enjoy.

New Template

I've noticed in reviewing my posts to make sure they haven't been eaten by some form of Blogger elemental, (Yes. Geek. I know.) it's rather hard to read. Turns out grey on black isn't the best for visibility. I've gone to this template for now, perhaps out of a desire for change, perhaps because I've noticed how much more readable going away from the color scheme I had has made Pat's blog. Let me know how you like it (by you, I mean Rory, Jenna and Hal, so the entire readership of my blog), and what I can do to change it. Grad school has more or less halted my attempts to actually learn how to design a decent page (though now that I don't have to TA anymore, it might be possible), so changes I make will probably be variations on the theme here, but any input would help.

The Helmet Thing

So here's the thing.

When you're a professional athlete, you're going to be at least somewhat of a role model. You don't have to like that, but it's going to happen no matter what you do. Which is why people treat it as such a big deal when someone's caught for putting some alkaloid or another up their nose. Less so if the person is a washed-up "ballplayer" that looks really pathetic and that no one actually has any good memories of. I think you know who I'm talking about here. Kids see you and think that if they act like you, they'll be cool like you. It's not a new phenomenon.

Arguably, Ben Roethlisberger isn't a good role model anyway for seven year olds. But sweet mother, if this guy can't wear a motorcycle helmet. I was one of those that thought that nothing would ever happen to actually necessitate a helmet, because, I think, Ben Roethlisberger is already such a huge part of Pittsburgh lore and because that's not something you tend to think about coming off of a Super Bowl win. Of course, it has come to something, which resulted in the condition that the Chicago Tribune led yesterday with a report on Fatah violence, the NYTimes led with a preview of Bush's visit to Iraq today, and the Post-Gazette led with Roethlisberger in font about triple the size of the other two sites.

I get the impression that, in addition to the disregard for his own safety for the feeling of freedom on the road (and here's where I admit that I'm officially feeling old, as I thought "those damn kids" when I typed that, and felt very wary about the possibility that they might be on my lawn), he doesn't quite get how important it is to the City of Pittsburgh to stay healthy. Economic downturns over the past several years, controversy over the rapidly shrinking youth population, division as is requisite with being one of three centers in Pennsylvania that vote to the left of center (and do so strongly enough that Pennsylvania has gone to the Democratic nominee in 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004) and the one thing that people are going to be able to come together over is sports, hatred of Cleveland being a corrolary. Sure, some are strictly Bucs fans, some are strictly Steelers fans and some are strictly Pens fans. And sure, I laughed aloud typing the last three words of that last sentence, but the Steelers have done what hasn't happened in Pittsburgh since, well, 1992, effectively relaying to a whole new generation of fans what it feels like to be champions.

When the quarterback of the damn team goes around jeopardizing that despite pleads from the team and Terry Bradshaw, incidentally, I don't think his decision to appear nude in Failure to Launch should affect the fact that he's right on this, though it does affect my ability to look at Terry Bradshaw without feeling ill, you shouldn't, probably, continue to do that.

Also, he had no license. Good job. Criticism is permitted, I think, as a result of the fact that he's got a few broken teeth, a jaw that's not having a good time, and as none of the injuries were life threatening. So yes. Of course, everyone's happy that he's going to be ok, and that he's probably going to be able to play next year, but what happened, even if the actual accident wasn't at fault, is not something to be excused lightly.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

For any of you familiar with the Pittsburgh Pirates blogging circuit, you've already come across this. For those of you that were unaware there were people who devote an incredible amount of time to blogging the Pirates, well, here's your in.

So, a few months ago now, an idea was hatched on the forums on the subject of a protest organization that would hold the Pirates ownership and inept management accountable for the continued misery of Bucs fans everywhere. As a result, was started, and has recently been featured by WPXI in Pittsburgh and by a sympathetic note on Deadspin. Get a t-shirt from their eBay store and have a good time.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Three things today.

1) The Pirates. I could take last night's loss (Rockies 5, Pirates 4) and still feel pretty happy with what the team's been doing in the past few days. The Rockies have been doing better so far this year than they were last year (they're 29-30 this year over 59 games, while last year they were 20-39), and I can handle the loss given the level of play before, say, the San Diego series. Today's loss just made me very angry at Oliver Perez. When you give up nine runs in two innings of work in what turns out to be a 16-9 game, that's something that's going to happen though. I understand the guy gets really upset really easily and completely loses it, but allowing this to happen over and over again doesn't seem like the right thing to do.

2) The Pennsylvania House voted to implement a ban on gay and polygamous marriages in the Pennsylvania constitution. In order to be amended to the Pennsylvania constitution, it will have to achieve a majority (of 50) in the Pennsylvania senate, and then do it again in the next session of the General Assembly, and then hope that a majority of the electorate. A few issues.
  • I find it nonsensical that the proposed ban includes both same-sex marriage and polygamist marriage, as they're two separate cases. No, they're not as simple as "Oh, well they're both some sort of weird fetish, so they're the same," as William Saletan attempted to demonstrate. Including polygamy, however, does increase the likely hood that it'll pass, which is the only reason I can think it was included there.

  • I find it unbelievable that this is something we're seriously talking about changing the constitution over. The federal marriage amendment failed earlier in the day, which I think is a plus, as at the very least this should be a states rights issue, but I think I'll have to defer to Lewis Black on this:

    "On our list of national concerns, gay marriage should be on page six, right after 'Are we eating too much garlic as a people?'".

    I, personally, think that marriage by the state between same sex couples should be allowed. No church should ever be forced to conform to a marriage definition they don't agree with, as that's absolutely ludicrous, but if Bill and Ted are 40 year old guys who are in a committed relationship, I find it hard to say "No Bill, you can't have visitation rights when Ted has a heart attack." Whichever church you believe to be the Truth doesn't want gays to get married? That's cool. Your church of choice doesn't have to let gays get married (and shouldn't have to, and won't have to as long as this whole "avoiding political influence in religious customs" thing stays on track). I just can't for the life of me figure out why that means that Bill and Ted, who are not members of your church, but of a church that allows for gay marriage, or not members of a religious denomination at all, should be denied the legal rights afforded to them if Ted was named Tina.

So, while I agree that it's a state's rights issue, I'm sad that Pennsylvania legislators appear to want to go ahead and pass that. It's absurd that we're considering amending even the state Constitution to make sure that dudes that like each other can't enter a committed relationship with the same legal rights as they could if Ted were named Tina. I find it absolutely laughable that the legislators that have been hammering on this for the past few months are trying to pretend this isn't partisan posturing to attempt to reclaim a base of voters or simply to remind voters which team they're for (as I have trouble distinguishing anymore between how people relate to political parties and how people relate to sports teams), or to try to appeal to new voters based on a one issue stand, or, in PA's case, to get people to try to forget about the whole pay raise/unvouchered expenses thing. The President was correct when he said that the constitutional amendment probably wouldn't pass given the fact that the Defense of Marriage Act still exists, and allows states to not recognize out of state marriages despite the "full faith and credit" clause. If I were a backer of said plan to ban gay marriage, I'd feel used at this point, I think, given the zeal with which it was pursued until 2004, at which point it was dropped, only to be picked up again (without the context of the mayor of San Francisco giving marriage licenses out on his own and in the face of the banning of gay marriage in the past two years by everyone) right before 2006's elections.

3) Living in Chicago means I'm around a lot of Chicago sports fans. Cubs fans mostly, as I live on the north side and most NU students who didn't have a team before tend to default to the Cubs. And while most of my feeling bad about things time is spent on myself and the misery of being a Pirates fan, you'd think that this is probably pretty disheartening to most of them. Poor Kerry Wood.