My brain is crashing and burning this evening. Eight things that are currently bothering me:
- One of my air conditioners isn't working properly.
- My new car is very ordinary.
- My 401k still belongs to some guy out east.
- I haven't had a significant vacation in over six months.
- My job has taken over my life.
- I'm tired of my apartment.
- I no longer have time to read the paper on weekdays.
- Some neighbor will not shut the fuck up with his guitar practice.
I'm sure there are other things bothering me as well.
Holy crap. It's one thing to be vaguely aware of an online conspiracy theory about a popular blog being a hoax, but it's quite another to find out not only is the blog a hoax, but it's a hoax by someone you work with.
~ ~ ~
Do not be surprised if I decide to delete the above post.
~ ~ ~
"Any big plans for the weekend?"
"Yup, a train and a movie."
"A what and a movie?"
"A train. Light rail opens tomorrow."
"You sound tired."
"Well, I just got home."
"Mark, it's 9:30!"
"Yeah, I violated the two-hand rule today."
"The what? Do I even want to know?"
"If I can count the number of cars in the parking lot on two hands, I've stayed too late."
~ ~ ~
I got a call from my dad last night informing me that one of the kids I occassionally scuffled with in middle school died Monday while fleeing police in his truck. The news itself didn't surprise me that much, but the fact I felt fairly indifferent about it kind of did.
I am now the proud owner of a Gmail account. Thanks Craig!
~ ~ ~
There was a long line for coffee. We all needed caffeine. Bad.
"You know," I said, "one thing I hate about coming here is she's always so artificially cheerful about everything. You don't have to me my friend, just give me my damn coffee."
"Yeah. I always get kidded about something every time I talk to her."
"Can you imagine what it must be like to have a job where you have to be like that every single day?"
"No, not really."
"I bet she goes home and cries every night."
"She probably has a small dog she abuses." He looked at me. "Or a cat."
"I'd never abuse my kitty. Cat therapy can be very important some days."
"I don't know, Mark."
"I mean, the cat doesn't care about how my day has gone as long as he gets a tummy scratch or a backrub."
"I think you need kids."
"I think I need other things first."
~ ~ ~
"Hi, so what can I get for you today?"
"If I could get a medium Vanilla Cooler, please."
"I don't know, can you?" Ha ha. "That'll be $3.98."
I handed her the money.
"It's Dan, right?"
"It's Mark." At which point my brain paused, and then... you idiot, you just gave her your name. That's the oldest freakin' trick in the book. Now every time I go for coffee it'll be 'Hi Mark, how ya doing today?' Dammit.
"Oh, yeah," she said. "Sorry, I just forgot there."
Please, I thought, please forget again.
Movie Log: The Day After Tomorrow
There aren't many big-budget action flicks that take time to touch on the philosophical implications of burning books by Nietzsche, not to mention trying to do so in a humorous fashion, but one of the worst-reviewed movies of the year did just that. And, after seeing The Day After Tomorrow this past Saturday, I have to say many of those bad reviews are either unfair or just completely miss the point.
We're talking about an action movie here, not high art. Those complaining about the Art-Bell-based science or the sporadically-flat acting probably should't have bothered with the film in the first place. (I can just hear these people complaining about Godzilla: "New evidence shows dinosaurs had feathers. Why doesn't Godzilla have feathers?") This is a popcorn movie pure and simple, and what a fun popcorn movie it is. New York, Los Angeles, and just about every city in between get hosed, Mexico tries to close its borders to illegal (American) immigrants, and numerous media personalities get killed while doing their jobs in very stupid or inappropriate fashions.
And then there's the role of the vice president, played by the relatively-unknown Kenneth Welsh, who, curiously, looks a lot like a certain high-profile member of the current Bush administration. (Also, the hospital that Sela Ward works at apparently Leaves No Child BehindTM!) But, in the end, the movie is really all about the special effects. It's 1:40 in the morning as I write this, and since I'm starting to border on incoherent, I'll just wimp out and leave it to the always-quotable Roger Ebert:
So, yes, the movie is profoundly silly. What surprised me is that it's also very scary. The special effects are on such an awesome scale that the movie works despite its cornball plotting. When tornados rip apart Los Angeles, when a wall of water roars into New York, when a Russian tanker floats down a Manhattan street, when snow buries skyscrapers, when the crew of a space station can see nothing but violent storm systems - - well, you pay attention.
Of course, you need to see it in theaters. There's no way the small screen will have the same impact for this one. 7/10.
~ ~ ~
One other thing: The Day After Tomorrow has the most realistic looking snow I've ever seen in a movie. Living in Minnesota, not to mention having lived in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, I have a pretty good idea what snow looks like. Before this weekend, I never saw truly convincing fake snow on film. It wasn't until this morning that I realized I hadn't noticed the snow in this movie, which just shows how good the effects really were.
And hey, if realistic-looking snow ain't worth seven bucks, what is?
Busy weekend. (Madison) Lisa was up on Saturday, so we hung out some, visited the Electric Fetus, walked around the mega mall, caught one of this summer's high-budget action flicks, and had numerous conversations about various non-important topics. Today was a little more traditionally-weekendish in nature, as I took care of some car stuff, harvested cat hair, researched recipes for my new slow cooker, and spent a lot of time working on my finances. (Unfortunately, that stupid 401K issue still stands.) There were a couple of other interesting developments, too, but, alas, it would be imprudent for me to discuss them here.
One day, maybe, but not now.
~ ~ ~
The kid and parents were all doing well, and little Brenton was given the go-ahead to go off the UV blanket treatment later in the weekend.
At my parents' request, I sifted through a bunch of old belongings in my old room to see what I wanted to keep and what they could either trash or sell. Along the way I discovered a collection of old letters from friends, which was great, and copies of old letters to friends, which was horrifying.
There were numerous political discussions with my father. This is a tradition of sorts, and is practically inevitable.
And now here's a brief, overdue, and moderately-disjoined follow-up on last weekend, regrettably presented in three-paragraph format due to errand-related time constraints:
Much of Friday and Saturday was spent with Ben, Beth and their occassionally glowing newborn, all of whom seemed healthy, happy and content. Ben has made a remarkable transformation into a father. While Beth seemed ready for parenthood some time, only a year ago I honestly had trouble seeing Ben with kids. Now that he has one, though, the role seems to fit him very well.
Back at my parents', I spent a lot of time discussing politics with my dad and, in a Hatfield & McCoys moment, assisted my mom with the ongoing hedge battle between my folks and one of their neighbors. Of course, I also did the regular tour of the area to see what had changed—the beach had been closed for E. coli and the church at Washington and 22nd had been demolished for a Walgreen's—and made an embarrassing trek to Wal-Mart to get some more flash memory for the camera. At my parent's request I sifted through a bunch of old belongings to see what I wanted to keep and what they could either trash or sell, discovering along the way a collection of old letters from friends, which was great, and copies of old letters from me, which was horrifying.
Finally, on the way back home I ended up playing phone-tag with Robin, who was basically driving the same route in the opposite direction, and ended up meeting her for a late lunch at a cafe in Menomonee. (She now has a digital camera, and hence has to be considered dangerous.) In retrospect it seemed a bit odd to meet her there, as it wasn't native territory for either of us, but, of course, it was better than the alternative of not meeting at all. (My brain feels the serious need for a tangent here, not about meeting Robin in Menomonee, but on how meeting friends or family at mid-points can feel familiar and foreign at the same time. As I suspect many of us have, I've experienced many cases like this and am generally thankful for them, but there's always something about these meetings that just throws me off a bit. I don't think it's bad, really. I'm just not sure what it is.)
Four paragraphs, I guess. It's likely this is only interesting to me, but due to road construction on I-94 I traveled the rest of the way to Minnesota on Wisconsin 29. I probably saved myself 20 minutes in the process, and the drive was prettier, too.
And that was it, really. I'd write more, but most of the details have already left me.
~ ~ ~
Speaking of meeting people at mid-points, I have fairly clear memories of meeting Sarah for lunch at Schreiner's Restaurant in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, even though I know for a fact that never happened.
This is why it's important for me to write things down.
Okay, I know I'm going to get a lot of grief for this, but here goes.
So, I bought a new car. Well, new to me anyway. I didn't get the Saturn or the Nissan. Instead, I got something a little more interesting.
Now, before everyone starts squawking about me buying an '81 Volvo, let's look at a few details:
- I paid only $2200 for it, so I don't owe anyone any money.
- If it dies, I can replace it. (For those of you familiar with my family's history with cars, this car is officially a "bula.")
- It gets around 23 MPG, which is reasonable for a car of its size.
- It has fairly high miles (193,000), but has been well maintained and is only on its second owner.
- The car spent most of its time in Oregon, so while it had to deal with a lot of rain, the ravages of road salt were not a major problem.
- The guy I bought it from had three of them, so I'll get a bunch of spare parts in the trunk
I'll get a better picture up after I pick up the car this weekend. On a side note, I discovered an unexpected benefit to taking a test drive in the rain: You can tell if the car leaks or not. (Of course, it doesn't.)
More on the car later. For now, I have to do some research on local Volvo dealers.
~ ~ ~
I'm kidding, of course. I actually bought the Saturn. Details as to how I made my decision will follow in the near future.
For the record, the 1981 Volvo 242 DL photo was stolen from here.
There's a high likeliness I'll buy a new car sometime over the next 48 hours. The only question is, which one? Both of the current finalists run well, have clean paper trails, four-cylinder engines, 5-speed manual transmissions, air conditioning, dual air bags, city gas mileage around 25 MPG, black paint and cloth interiors.
One is a 2002 Saturn L 200 for $9000, the other is a 2001 Nissan Sentra GXE for $7500. The Saturn gets better highway gas mileage at around 34 MPG, compared to the Sentra's 29 MPG, and has side-curtain airbags, which the Sentra lacks. The Nissan has really comfortable seats and is a lot of fun to drive. By comparison, the Saturn has reasonably comfortable seats and isn't not-fun to drive.
The Sentra is seen by many as a girls' car. The Saturn is really an Opel, meaning it's a grocery-getter that uses items from the Saab parts bin (really).
The Saturn would cause my insurance to go up by roughly $100 a year, while the Nissan would cause my insurance to go up by roughly $320 a year.
By all indications, the Saturn would be the more reasonable car to buy. Of course, I'm leaning towards the Nissan. I'd welcome comments, suggestions or veiled threats on this little endeavor. Please send them to me by 5:30 on Wednesday at mrbula AT nonlocality DOT com.
~ ~ ~
The 401K issue is still unresolved. I'm taking off from work on Thursday to tackle it.
This evening I learned my 401K has been transferred to a Mark Danielson in Frederick, Maryland.
~ ~ ~
My old address looked something like this:
1932 Franklin St. #21
My current address looks something like this:
1928 Franklin St. S. #4
My investment management company has my current address listed, incorrectly, like this:
1932 Franklin St. S. #4
This complicates things in ways I previously wouldn't have imagined.
So Ben and Beth have a kid. He's been dubbed the amazing glowing baby:
Here's a picture of him not glowing:
More on the baby and the rest of the trip some other time.
Driving home this evening, I raced the new Hiawatha light rail line from the Crosstown to Cedar Avenue. The train won by 15 seconds.
A coworker familiar with my rants about track gaps on Apple's iPod alerted me to a new iTunes feature earlier today. From Apple's website:
Handy Concept for Concept Rock
Many music CDs contain songs that blend into each other, and importing them to iTunes may create a small gap between songs that interrupts the flow. If you use the iTunes Join Tracks feature, the program melds two or more songs into one, continuous gap-free track. So now you can enjoy listening to classical music, concept rock albums and extended dance mixes without the silent treatment.
I used to use iTunes, and it actually did a good job of not "gapping" tracks on my PC. The problem was never on my PC, though. It was on my iPod after I'd uploaded the music.
If I'm reading this correctly, it sounds like they're solving the problem of gaps between files by eliminating the use of multiple files in such cases. While that's okay, it's still a drop in functionality from a basic CD player: By combining tracks, the user loses the ability to easily skip to the next track. Considering Apple isn't a company with a reputation for resorting to hacks (unlike that other big OS provider), I'm a little surprised that this is their solution to this problem. For now, I'm happy with my Rio Karma, which not only supports gapless playback, but plays Ogg Vorbis and FLAC files as well.
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Note to self: People actually read this site. Be kind, and act accordingly.
Items Noted Elsewhere, Target Sheds its Parent Edition
It's too bad this didn't happen a few years ago. The Dayton and Hudson brands probably could've survived as well.
Three Links, Unrelated to Each Other
95 degrees in Minneapolis today. And it's only June 7th. This is going to be a long summer.
~ ~ ~
Also, I have a car with leather seats and no air conditioning.
~ ~ ~
I received an invite for my high school class' 10-year reunion today. The stage was set within the first two sentences:
"It's hard to believe, but it's been 10 years already! There have been lots of changes throughout the last 10 years, with most of us getting married and having children."
Oh dear lord. There are a lot of things I regret about the past decade, but getting the hell away from Manitowoc County definitely isn't one of them. (And I liked the people in charge of the reunion!) I won't be attending this year's reunion, of course, but maybe will go to the 15 or 20-year one.
Maybe, but I wouldn't bet on it.
This is the third year I've gone to Grand Old Day in St. Paul, and I have to admit I still have no idea what the point of it is. Mostly, it seems to be about people wandering around to gawk at each other, eat fried foods and listen to really bad music. You know, kind of like the state fair without the cow shit.
I could be wrong, though.
~ ~ ~
In retrospect, yesterday (and, by proxy, much of this morning) kind of sucked. Within 20 minutes of learning that three people I know had just become parents—that being the obvious high point of the day—all kinds of technological hell broke loose at a large, unnamed organization I happen to be associated with. That kept me occupied well into the morning, delaying some plans and outright cancelling others. I didn't get to bed until 3:00, and then didn't fall asleep until sometime after 4:00. My decision not to use my newly-installed air conditioners was part of the problem (I don't handle warm weather well), but my arms were sort of a pain in the ass as well.
I'm sure I've mentioned the arm issue before, and I know I'm opening myself up for jokes by revisiting it, but regardless, here's a refresher: For reasons I don't completely understand, my arms occassionally get sore on days I don't make significant use of them. (Considering I work at a computer, that means most days.) On some occassions they'll become sore enough to keep me awake, a situation that usually results in me doing 40 or 50 push-ups to get them to leave me alone.
Well, my arms kept me awake again last night, so I finally resorted to doing some push-ups. For whatever reason, though, they didn't seem to have any effect. I passed 50, and then 100, with no noticeable change. Then, around 120, my back decided it wasn't interested in participating anymore, and suddenly I found myself laying face-down on the floor practically unable to move. On the positive side, the floor was really cool, so I grabbed a pillow and promptly fell asleep.
Needless to say, I'm kind of dragging this morning. My back is doing better, although it's obvious it still isn't entirely happy with me.
This must be what getting old is like.
I got a call from Biker Ben this afternoon to announce that he's a dad. Brenton Abraham came into the world at 4:26 pm, and is a healthy eight pounds, three ounces. Ben also noted, with a very obvious degree of pride, that the kid is 22 inches tall. (Or do they say "long" until he starts standing?) Beth is doing fine as well, and it sounds like everyone is going to be home in the next day or so.
I guess this means I'm going to be making a visit Two Rivers next weekend.
~ ~ ~
Upon further review, Ben isn't the only one who had a kid recently. Mamatha apparently had a healthy set of twins just a few days ago.
~ ~ ~
Babies: New trend or passing fad? Story at 11:00.
I've renewed my apartment lease for another year. This will be my third year here, making it the longest I've stayed in any one place since 1994. Some may call that stability. I may call it something else.