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.