And so another year comes to an end. I'd like to list some goals for the new year, but I really haven't had much time to think, plan or daydream lately. Maybe next year.
Regardless, here's wishing everyone a safe, happy and productive 2004.
it20031225 - Thursday - Christmas
Two Rivers, Wisconsin
"My cat got a lot of presents this year."
"I thought you didn't give your cat presents."
"I don't, but other people did. My parents even gave him a pair of catnip fish to play with."
"Well, a lot of people do give Christmas gifts to their pets..."
"Well, these probably shouldn't have been called Christmas presents."
"My cat's Jewish."
"Your cat is not Jewish."
"Yeah he is. You see, his..."
"Stop, we're changing subjects now."
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"It's 1:30 in the morning," he said, glaring across the street. "Why would anyone still have their Christmas lights on?"
"I dunno," I replied. "My Christmas tree is on a timer, and it's set to be on until 2:00."
She joined in. "Yeah, but you live in Uptown. You still have people walking by at 2:00."
"Wait," he said. "What are you doing with a Christmas tree?"
"What do you mean 'what am I doing with a Christmas tree'?"
"Weren't you calling yourself an agnostic a few days ago?"
"Yeah, but I do get into the whole bit about peace and goodwill towards our fellow human beings."
"Sounds hypocritical to me. Agnostics shouldn't believe in Christmas."
"Agnosticism isn't a belief system."
"Also, I have an attraction to bright, shinny objects, so that justifies the Christmas lights."
Well, I'm off to Northeastern Wisconsin to visit my folks for Christmas. Hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable holiday.
) ) )
wrote, "the first thing I think when I think of you is 'he owns a Saab.'"
) ) )
I haven't had many opportunities to catch movies over the course of the year, so the past month has been quite pleasant. In addition to catching The Last Samurai with Sarah in Chicago, I've seen three other good movies over the past two weeks.
Diana and I caught Bubba Ho-tep at the Uptown Friday. My knowledge of Egyptian history is practically non-existent, so a couple of the jokes had to be explained to me, but it was still a lot of fun. It would've been very easy for the movie to mock its central characters. Not only was it smart enough not to resort to that, it actually managed to invoke sympathy for them despite the incredibly absurd context they found themselves in. Bruce Campbell put in a surprisingly convincing performance as an elderly version of Elvis Presley, and Ossie Davis was very good as a senile retirement home resident who thought he was JFK (or, possibly, actually was JFK).
Another campy movie I've seen in the past few weeks, albeit one that legitimately asks to be taken with some degree of seriousness, is a Japanese film by the name of Battle Royale. The setup—the government places 42 ninth-graders on a deserted island and tells them to kill each other or be killed—makes it sound like much more of a trashy slasher flick than it really is. Some of the acting is bad and a few of the scenes are dreadfully melodramatic, but in the end it leaves the viewer with a lot to chew on. The character of the seventh-grade teacher is especially interesting, and a number of the film classes I took back in college probably could've found hours of discussion material within his words and actions. The movie hasn't been released in the U.S. so it can be a bit hard to find, but if you come across a copy I'd definitely recommend it.
Far and away the best movie I've seen recently is Donnie Darko, a wonderful little film directed by Richard Kelly that seems destined to end up on my top-ten list of favorite films. In a way it's a bit odd that I like it so much, considering a number of actors in it have annoyed me in the past. That said, Patrick Swayze and Drew Barrymore were both very good (not to mention Barrymore's support was essential to the movie getting made). The storyline is too complex and has too many loops to try to describe here, but suffice to say it's terrific, and there's not a bad performance in the movie to go along with it. I watched it three times this weekend as I worked on other projects (Robin and Andy, your photos are coming), and new levels and questions opened up with each viewing. It's truly a wonderful film. If you haven't seen it yet, pick it up at your first opportunity.
Now that I think about it, I've seen four movies recently, it's just that Catch Me If You Can was so-so enough to be borderline forgettable. Steven Spielberg is one of my favorite directors, and I really like Christopher Walken and Tom Hanks, but the movie couldn't get me to summon anything more than a resounding "eh."
I'm not sure how the holiday weekend will play out, but if the opportunity arises I'd really like to see The Fog Of War. A documentary about Robert McNamara on the big screen. Whoo.
It doesn't feel like it's five days to Christmas. So much to do, so much to do.
) ) )
Ok, I'm off to see Elvis and JFK fight some supernatural being from Egypt. Or something.
The rant about Proex is still forthcoming.
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In other photo-related news, all photos over in the album section are now licensed for free use and redistribution under a Creative Commons license.
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I'm in sort of a bad photographic mood this evening. It's nearing the end of the year, and I've been assessing what I've accomplished over the past 12 months. One of my stated goals was to increase my skill as a photographer, and from looking at the crap I've been creating lately, I've completely failed at that goal. Indeed, not only did I not make progress, but I think I became more sloppy and careless over the course of the year. My efforts at taking at least one photo a day may have backfired; instead of spending more time exploring the craft, I think I got caught up taking rushed photos to make sure I didn't miss a day (which, of course, I eventually did).
Movement on the photo album has been pretty grim, too. The fact that I'm only now finishing up the photos from the trip to St. Louis, a trip I took almost four months ago, is indicative of the fact I really need to reassess how I approach the album. It's not really an automation issue, as I've already automated everything I'm willing to automate. What I probably have to do is come up with some stricter guidelines for what I publish, dust off the old editing skills and start making some decisions.
Which trip will I start with? No question on that one. London. I took over 1400 photos on that trip, and if I approach it with my old habits, nothing from it will ever get published. I'll probably try to revisit this issue in late January. If I haven't been able to get the London photos up by then, something else probably has to give.
) ) )
"So, what was the reminder you wrote about?"
"Oh, that is funny."
2004 will be a year of reprioritization. I'm getting a head-start on it this evening.
) ) )
"I'm surprised you still have that on your calendar."
"Yeah, well, I've tried to delete it. It keeps coming back."
"You could at least turn off the reminder."
"Nope. Watch this."
"Now that's funny."
"It was two years ago. Now it's just annoying."
What a week. Sorry for the slow updates from last weekend. As usual I've been burdened by the unfortunate integration of work into my personal hours. More than anything else I've been regretting my inability to get outside. It's all frosty and beautiful out.
Yup, I'm definitely a winter person. I don't know why single-digit weather makes me grin, but it does.
) ) )
Minneapolis declared its first snow emergency Tuesday evening and much of the street-parking city reacted in typical fashion: They left their cars on the streets and then complained when their rides got towed. I find myself holding little sympathy for those who have to trudge down to the impound lot to get their cars, as the city government seems to go out of its way to make its citizens aware of regulations and warnings. I heard the recent snow emergency announced on no less than three radio stations and two television stations. It was also noted on startribune.com's homepage, as well as Minneapolis' website. As if all of that wasn't enough, Minneapolis also offers email notification of snow emergencies. It would seem that any notification efforts beyond that would be excessive.
Granted, I realize not everyone listens to the radio, watches TV or owns a computer, but if one lives in a city where plowing is an issue, a snowstorm should be a good indicator that one should look into the parking situation.
) ) )
I encountered one non-media reminder of the parking ban Wednesday morning, albeit one that was probably limited to my neighborhood. Cars had to be off the odd side of residential streets by 8:00, and from my perch in my living room it seemed most of my neighbors had complied. Around 8:05 I was still putting on my shoes and getting ready for the day when I heard a car horn honking from some distance away. The sound got louder, and I reached my window just in time to see a beat-up, snow-encrusted Chevy slowly making its way up the street, its driver, Minneapolis' own version of Paul Revere, making liberal use of the horn. I smiled at this act of goodwill and waited to see if anyone would take notice of his warning. (My car was parked on the correct side of the street, so I had nothing to be worried about.) No one did, and the tow trucks swooped in three minutes later.
In the end, at least three cars from my block of Emerson Avenue took a driverless ride to the impound lot.
8:10 Monday morning. Mark's taking a vacation day.
I'm still in Chicago—well, Aurora to be exact—and should be back on my way to the Twin Cities in an hour or so. It's looking to be a crappy drive, with rain forecast for southern Wisconsin and the chance of sleet and snow near Minnesota.
Not too much to report from Sunday. We watched the Packer game in the afternoon (it's the first time this year I've watched a game the Packers have won), played Monopoly (Sarah won three times, I won once), ate at a local Italian place that felt like a chain but wasn't (I'm spacing on the name right now, so no link), and caught The Last Samurai at a local dinner theatre. All in all, the day was kind of lazy, but fun anyway.
I guess I should do a movie report. The Last Samurai was pretty good, although in retrospect the ending was a bit contrived. Also, there's something that bugs me about a story about a transformative event in Japan where the central character is an American. Anyway, the cinematography was beautiful, the acting fairly good (especially Ken Watanabe), and the battle scenes were very impressive. It's definitely a big screen movie, and a good one at that, although not one I'll be pushing everyone to see.
My thoughts on the dinner-with-movie concept are a bit mixed as well. Last night was the first time I'd gone to a such a theater and, well, I think I'll try to save future visits for movies that allow viewers to be momentarily distracted. (I'm thinking Dumb & Dumber here.) About a third of The Last Samurai was subtitled, and there were numerous cases of me missing lines because of wait staff either walking in front of me or asking if I needed a refill. In the future, if going to a movie that's in the least bit serious or involved, I think I'll stick with traditional theatres.
Well, it's getting late. I suppose I should start packing.
9:45 a.m. Time for a quick journal entry.
So I'm at Sarah's in suburban Chicago. She and her dog are still asleep, but I'm awake for some reason, and so I'm here typing. Anyway, it's been a good trip so far. I drove down Friday evening after work, and it was kind of a long drive. Construction is really bad in the eastern part of the Twin Cities metro, and after getting stuck at the Wakota Bridge and downtown St. Paul on my last two trips out of town, I decided to head south on US 52 from my job in Eagan. This meant I drove to Rochester and cut over to Wisconsin on I-90, a significantly longer route than just heading out of the Twin Cities on I-94. Still, if my last two rush hour trips out of town are any indication, I still saved time.
U.S. 61 would've been a more scenic route, though:
I stopped to meet Ben for dinner as I passed through Madison. We met as his work, walked up State Street and, after a number of false starts, ended up eating at a place called the Sunroom Cafe. The food was good, and, although I admit I'm already too old to say these things about college students, the wait staff was pretty cute. Ben and I talked for almost two and a half hours, mostly about stuff we don't get the opportunity to talk to other people about. (I think we spent a half hour on the 2004 election alone.) Ben also seems to be on a bit of a small business kick, so there was a lot of conversation about bling bling and the price of musical instruments in foreign countries.
I got out of Madison around 10:30, about an hour later than planned. (That in itself shouldn't be surprising. Conversations with Ben rarely follow a schedule.) I made good time to Aurora, with a drive along IL-31 that would've been more scenic if hadn't been for all the cops. I still have a tail light out on my car—albeit a different tail light than the one that I tried fixing a few days ago—so I felt somewhat like bait for the prowlers lining the highway. Anyway, I arrived safely at Sarah's a little after 1:00, and ended up talking to her and her boyfriend until around 2:00 in the morning. I also started my repair work on their computer, the primary excuse for me for traveling to Illinois. The situation was pretty grim: The computer was an aging Compaq Presario, a crusty Pentium with 64 MB of RAM and not much hope for the future. I don't want to personify it too much, but after some investigation it seemed that it had been in a number of abusive relationships: I started out by installing Ad-Aware and quickly found over 180 different files set there to snoop on users.
Regardless, the computer cleanup is an ongoing process. I'll probably spend another half hour or so on it today.
Saturday was good. Sarah and I got up and going fairly late, and it took us a while to figure out our plans for the weekend. (Both of us are on relatively limited budgets, so planning was necessary.) In the end we ended up driving over to Cantigny Park, the old homestead of Robert R. McCormick of Chicago Tribune fame, now carrying on as a combination of museums and gardens open to the public. We didn't get there until 2:00, so we had to rush through the place, but it definitely seemed worthy of another visit. After leaving we headed over to Fermilab to look at the buffalo. Many of the areas that used to be open to the public apparently have been restricted for security reasons, but it was still cool be in such close proximity to a facility doing such fundamental science.
After Fermilab we headed back to Sarah's, stopping for groceries along the way. We spent about an hour playing Monopoly (Sarah kicked my ass), and then headed over to Glen Ellyn for dinner at Les Deux Gros. We were on a bit of a schedule, so the dinner was a little more compact that we would've liked, but it was still very good. Every once and a while we'd hear the train rumble by nearby, a small reminder of the sprawling metropolis stretching forth outside.
After dinner we headed into Chicago to catch a Neo-Futurists performance of Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind. While waiting for the doors to open, I looked at the crowd we were surrounded by. "We went from a restaurant where we were the youngest people in the place to a theatre where we're the oldest." Sarah agreed. The situation changed a bit when a number of people looking more our age showed up fashionably non-early, but I'd still estimate we were in the oldest 20 percentile. (Incidently, most of the performers seemed to be older than the crowd, too.)
Anyway, it was a really good show. Robin and I made a visit to it a number of years ago and found it to be greatly entertaining, and I'm pleased to report the group has kept the show a lot of fun. I can't pick a favorite sketch of the 30 they performed last night, although the moment in "O Baby, Where Art Thou?" where four female cast members sang "every time I bleed it's just one less mouth to feed" sticks out for some reason. (I don't know, it sort of seemed to be the inverse of Monty Python's "Every Sperm Is Sacred.") Oh, and they sold out, so there was free pizza for everyone. Anyway, it was a lot of fun, and it would probably be cool to visit the show again in year or so.
10:30 a.m. I suspect Sarah won't be going to church today. Our plans for the afternoon and evening are fairly loose: We plan to watch the Packer game at bar this afternoon and maybe catch a dinner and a movie later today. Or maybe not. Not only have the Packers lost every time I've watched them on TV this year, they've won every game I haven't watched. If we go and watch the game this afternoon and the Packers lose, I'll probably feel a bit guilty about it.
Well, everyone's up now, be they human or canine. For some reason I feel obligated to note that Sarah's having banana creme pie from Baker's Square for breakfast. The very thought of having something like that so early in the day makes me a bit ill, but it doesn't matter, as I usually skip the first meal of the day anyway.
10:50 a.m. More later.
I'm looking forward to February for no reason other than I should have some spare time then.
No time to write tonight. I have a million things to do this evening, and this weekend I'm off to visit Sarah in Chicago. Hence, the rant about Proex will have to be delayed again. And the story about both of the Saab's tail lights burning out. And the last day of the Thanksgiving trip. And the insane work hours. And...
Oh, forget it. Back Monday. Maybe.
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Here's a photo of a plate that blew up in my microwave: