it20040731 - Saturday
Well, I was expecting to be down in Rochester today, but I find myself here in Minneapolis instead. Time will tell whether that's a good thing or not.
Well, I was expecting to be down in Rochester today, but I find myself here in Minneapolis instead. Time will tell whether that's a good thing or not.
And now, four comments about the Democratic National Convention, in order of least constructive to most constructive:
One: The Kerry sisters seem to be both taller and less drunk than the Bush sisters. The photo at right does not necessarily support that observation, but I include it anyway because, well, I want to.
Two: The best quote of the convention came from the Rev. Al Sharpton:
I suggest to you tonight that if George Bush had selected the court in '54, Clarence Thomas would have never got to law school.
It's funny, a bit uncalled for, and probably true.
Three: Kerry's speech was much better than I expected. Too bad about the balloons, though.
If anything, I suppose that means I should stop wearing black so often.
Jesus: Are you ready to be fucked, man? I see you rolled your way into the semis. Dios mio, man. Liam and me? We're going to fuck you up.
The Dude: Yeah, well, you know that's just like, uh, your opinion man.
J: Let me tell you something pendejo. You pull any of your crazy shit with us, you flash a piece out on the lanes, I'll take it away from you and stick it up your ass and pull the fucking trigger 'til it goes 'click.'
J: You said it man. Nobody fucks with the Jesus.
Fucking hillarious. 7/10.
There's been lots of silence here over the past week, but, then again, there hasn't been all that much to talk about. August definitely will be more busy, however. My dad will be visiting the Mayo Clinic this coming weekend (I'm sure I'll write a lot about that later), so I'll be heading down to Rochester for a couple of days to stay clued in as to what's going on. I'll have a number of friends passing through town over the course of the month as well, and the last weekend may bring a short trip to Philadelphia.
Or, maybe not. I have 16 days of vacation I have to burn before the end of the year, so I suppose it's about time I get creative in finding ways to spend them.
Moderately obscure party message: The turkey in the freezer has a date on it. That date is September 18th.
Here are a couple of photos from this evening's Aquatennial fireworks in downtown Minneapolis. First, Rich through the Target-sponsored "see our logo in the fireworks" glasses:
And, of course, the obligatory fireworks photo, from one of the less catastrophic moments in the show:
A number of unrelated events, all of which were more or less beyond my control, have forced me to cancel the lengthy road trip I had planned for the second half of August. I may be able to run part of the trip in October, but it looks like Vancouver, Banff and Olympic will have to wait until next year.
This sucks in more ways than I can reasonably describe right now.
92 degrees outside and I have "Frosty The Snowman" stuck in my head.
So, the new iPod is out. Just for the heck of it, let's compare it to my crusty old 20GB Rio Karma. (For this comparisson, let's use both the 20 and 40GB iPod models, using whichever specs are more favorable for the iPod.)
|Apple iPod||Rio Karma||Advantage|
|Cost/GB||$7.50/GB (40GB)||$15.00/GB||iPod (40GB only)|
|Battery||12 hours||15 hours||Karma|
|Connectivity||FireWire / USB 2.0||USB 2.0||iPod|
|Songs||10,000 AAC (40GB)||10,000 WMA||Tie, although both formats suck|
|Gapless playback||Apple doesn't say (wasn't available in older versions)||Yes||Karma?|
|Crossfade||yes in iTunes, but Apple doesn't say for the iPod||Yes||Karma?|
|Two-way file transfer||Yes||Yes||Tie|
|Outputs||3.5mm stereo jack||3.5mm stereo jack,|
stereo RCA cable
|File formats||mp3, AAC, Audible, AIFF, Apple Lossless, WAV||mp3, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, WMA||Depends on format preference|
While I'm glad Rio is finally getting some legitimate competition in this area, Apple's advances by no means warrant a cover story in Newsweek. But that's the nature of hype, I guess.
I went to the Cedar Lake Speedway near New Richmond with a couple of friends this evening. Loud cars, flying dirt, beer, skeeters, and girls with mustaches. What could be better?
I fucking love Wisconsin.
The fact that this entry even exists is probably evidence that my life is way too boring these days, but it turns out that the cat is not afraid of my new vacuum cleaner. Indeed, he actually walked out into the living room this evening and watched as I vacuumed the carpet for the first time in two weeks. (My old vacuum cleaner started on fire July 5th, and my insistence on buying something that was at least assembled in North America delayed the purchase of a replacement.) This was surprising, as the old vacuum would cause the cat to go apeshit and then retreat under the bed for two or three hours.
That's progress, I suppose.
I've already pondered using the stair attachment to remove loose hair from the cat, but that would probably be a bad idea.
Sure, I finally get a few neighbors to turn on the idea of putting in a bid on the building and the stupid place sells. Arrgh.
I am so sick and tired of renting.
I have one Gmail invite for anyone who's interested. First come, first served.
I just spent an incredibly sexy weekend restoring my digital photo library after the main library somehow became corrupt and the lame-ass Maxtor drive that was supposed to back it up failed as well. This was made all the more frustrating by the fact the backup drive had only been in use for two freakin' months.
Crap. How many layers of redundancy do I need?
More interesting things are on the horizon. Really.
I don't really understand the point of birthdays, but as long as everyone else does, I guess I'll go along with them.
The cake was good.
Speaking of birthdays, yesterday was Ben's. Happy birthday, dude!
She flipped through my paperwork. "Hmm. Someone has a birthday coming up."
"Well, your numbers look pretty normal. You may have a virus, nothing serious, but..." Flip. Shuffle. Flip. "This kind of thing can be brought on by stress. Go home, maybe take a hot bath, take some time for yourself."
This advice, just two days after a four-day weekend. This probably means something.
As it happens, I'd originally hoped to be on vacation with some friends this week. Baltimore tonight, Philadelphia tomorrow, New York on Friday, and Boston on Saturday. Four baseball games—all night games—with lodging, airfare and rental car, all for under $700 per person.
Of course, a long and perfectly logical set of issues prevented the trip from happening, but I don't really care to go into that right now.
This is a bit belated, but I guess I should pass along that I sold the Saab Friday morning. I got $400 for it, which rounds out to roughly $100 for each year it carted me around the Twin Cities and to points beyond.
I have a longer entry to post about this, but it'll have to come some other time.
There's not much I can say about Fahrenheit 9/11 that hasn't already been said. It wasn't as sharp as I expected, but it still got its point across quite well. I have to agree that it's Moore's most mature film to date. The showing I attended last week at the Har-Mar mall in Roseville ended with 15 seconds of applause, the first time I'd heard applause for a movie since, well, Bowling For Columbine.
Two moments from the film stuck out more than others: Moore decided to replay the events of September 11th in sound only. With the screen blacked out, viewers heard the planes fly over them and hit the buildings, and it was much worse than actually watching the scene unfold again. We all knew what lower Manhattan looked like that day, but how many of us had actively listened to what those hours sounded like? Moore knew we'd be able to associate each concussion and scream with pictures we had locked in our minds, and when we did, they were horrible.
The other moment stuck out only because I live in Minnesota. Armed with an Army recruiter, Moore stalked congressmen approaching the Hill and asked those who supported the war to to get their kids to join the armed forces. One of the congressmen was Minnesota's own Mark Kennedy, and the look on his face when Moore asked him to sign up his kids was absolutely priceless.
I'm at a bit of a loss as how to rate this one. While this is easily Moore's most important film, it doesn't have the emotional impact of, say, Bowling For Columbine. I gave that movie a rare 10/10 vote when I saw it a few years ago, a rating I now somewhat regret following news that Moore played fast and loose with some of the facts in it. (He better not have repeated that with Fahrenheit 9/11. If he did, he won't have to worry about conservatives kicking his ass, as he'll have plenty of liberals willing to do it instead. So far most of the right-leaning pundits complaing about Fahrenheit 9/11 have been focusing on Moore's arguments, not his facts, which I take to be a good sign.) For now, I have to give it 8/10. Regardless of your political leanings, you should go and see it. It's a great film.
For the record, I reserve the right to change my rating on this one, especially if the movie helps get Bush out of office.
The day was going well until the vacuum cleaner started on fire.
I took the 20 Questions to a Better Personality quiz earlier today. My results:
You are an SRCL—Sober Rational Constructive Leader. This makes you an Ayn Rand ideal. Taggart? Roark? Galt? You are all of these. You were born to lead. You may not be particularly exciting, but you have a strange charisma—born of intellect and personal drive—that people begin to notice when they have been around you a while. You don't like to compromise, but you recognize when you have to.
You care absolutely nothing what other people think, and this somehow attracts people to you. Treat them well, use them wisely, and ascend to your rightful rank.
I find this very amusing.
I met Sarah for dinner in Pepin, Wisconsin yesterday evening. She was taking a much-needed vacation to visit her sister in Winona, and since Winona is only 140 miles outside the Twin Cities, it seemed like a good opportunity to meet up. Looking for a convenient halfway point, I suggested dinner at the Harbor View Cafe in Pepin, and Sarah agreed to that as a tentative plan.
The drive out of the Cities was sort of a mess. MnDOT was reporting light traffic all through the central metro, which was reasonable considering Thursday evening was the start of the holiday weekend for many, but the route from Eagan to Hastings was one construction-ridden clusterfuck. After a half-hour of stopping, creeping up to 5 MPH and stopping again, I started wondering what the hell I'd been thinking in buying a manual. (If the Saturn's clutch happens to be sentient, I'm sure it's already started an evil plot against me.) The stop-and-go continued for almost 40 minutes until I was able to mimic a trick from my old Wisconsin-based commute that carried me around Hastings and away from traffic1. Granted, the trick almost resulted in a semi backing over my car at the US 61 bridge, but we survived. That's good, too, as I was practically ready to kill my fellow drivers by that point.
Once in Wisconsin, the rest of the trip to Pepin was scenic and painless. Wisconsin has more than its fair share of beautiful drives, and Wisconsin 35 between Maiden Rock and Pepin is one of the best. If I hadn't been on a schedule, I'm sure I would've made a number of stops for pictures. As it was, I ended up taking a lot of them out of the windows:
I arrived in Pepin a little after 7:00, and Sarah arrived with her sister in tow around 20 minutes later. We had a lot of company that evening, as the village was crowded with people who'd stopped by for the Grand Excursion, although that wasn't much of a problem. As it happened, Sarah and Jessica had spent a good portion of their day swimming, and hence weren't really in the mood for a big meal. Instead, Sarah explained, they were in the mood for a good hamburger. (I found this interesting, as Jessica is a vegetarian, but didn't belabor the point.) Sarah suggested a place she'd eaten at in Durand, about 20 miles away, which she said had good burgers and lots of lesbians. And so we loaded up in my Saturn and headed off to the mythic burger joint out east.
The mockery about my new car started before we'd even left the village. I don't think my car is overly spiffy—it is a Saturn, after all—but something about the dark interior set Sarah off almost instantaneously.
"You know what this car says? It's like 'Mark, would you like a chardonnay?'"
"Oh, shut up, it does not."
"Or maybe it's 'Dear, would you like a chardonnay?'"
The drive to Durand was relatively quick. Once there, though, Sarah couldn't find the restaurant. (Or, for that matter, any lesbians.) "I don't know," she said, "I remember Durand only having one street." Instead it had around 30. We drove up and down anything that looked like an arterial, but no luck. Sarah floated the idea of just stopping at one of the local bars along Main, which I wasn't too big on, while I suggested we just go the remaining 20 miles to Menomonie, which Sarah wasn't too big on. (Jessica seemed pretty much indifferent to any of the options.) In the end, we stopped at a local grocery store so Sarah could run in and get directions. The result? The restaurant we were looking for was four miles across the river in Arkansaw. And so we hit the road and headed west.
"Wait," I said, "we're on Highway 10."
"We're going in a circle."
"Isn't it scenic? I planned it this way."
A few minutes later we were in downtown Arkansaw—it really did have only one street—and quickly found the Easy Creek Bistro & Bar. It was 8:30 by that point, and all of us were hungry.
Of course, the Easy Creek stopped serving dinner at 8:00.
We headed back to Pepin where we ended up eating at the Garden Pub & Grill, an open-air place that had just opened along the village's main drag. The food was actually pretty good, and the ambiance was very Wisconsin. (That's not a bad thing.) Unfortunately, none of us had any skeeter repellant, and so we were feasted upon accordingly. By the end of the evening I'd developed a zen-like approach to dealing with the pests, more out of necessity than anything else, in which I'd calmly sit still and wait for them to land on me, watch them prepare to suck, slowly move my hand over them and then DIE MOTHERFUCKER DIE HA HA I GOT YOU YOU STUPID SON OF A....
After dinner we headed downtown to look at the boat docked for the Grand Excursion and to wander around some. Pepin seems to be a cool little town. Touristy, yes, but any town that has multiple freights running through it on the BNSF every day has to be good for something. (While everyone else in town was staring at the boat, Mark stood transfixed by the trains.) And that was it for the evening, really. Sarah and Jessica headed back down to Winona, while I took the dark and traffic-free drive back to Minneapolis.
All in all it was a fun evening, and it was good to see Sarah, but in a way it was a reminder that I don't see my close friends often enough.
I'm working on that. Really.
Writing about the BNSF line running through Pepin somehow reminded me of all those stories I've read about people deciding to commit suicide by train. One unfortunate side-effect invariably mentioned in such stories are the profound psychological impacts suffered by those operating the trains themselves, individuals who were unable to prevent the suicides but doomed to watch them happen.
I've been thinking about this a lot over the past couple of hours, and while I think it must take a substantial degree of selfishness to kill yourself while emotionally scaring someone else, it also has to take a stunning lack of creativity. I mean, it's one thing to cause an engineer to have nightmares—as usually seems to be the case with these events—but it's quite another to fuck the engineer over for the rest of his or her professional life.
Stay with me on this one: If you're going to cause mental trauma to someone, why not go all the way? Let's say you're an engineer, and you're driving some huge freight through some remote area, and your train is really long and heavy so there's no way you can stop, and suddenly you see a large box sitting on the tracks ahead of you. As you approach you see that it's decorated somewhat like a present, and then, seconds before you hit it, someone jumps out of the top dressed like a Jack-in-the-Box.
Are you ever going to drive a train again? Probably not. See, it's all about the presentation.
Me, I blame the state of education these days. Damn kids aren't getting any creative direction at all.
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