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.