Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Hitting Snooze

First day back at work after the long weekend and I'm feeling particularly groggy. Can't explain why, either. I seemed to get enough sleep, but perhaps I needed a little extra, what with the action packed weekend and all. Maybe it's because today is gray and overcast, or maybe it's just the music I'm listening to at the moment.. but I'm having trouble getting moving.. and we're well into the afternoon. I look at the calendar, however, and am reminded that this is only a four day week. Praise be.

Anyhoo...... a couple things. Remember the blood stained MBTA station I had the misfortune of writing about over the weekend? At the time I had no idea what had actually happened there, other than an obvious crime scene. Well - I'm sorry to report that all that blood everywhere was due to a stabbing that had occurred across the street. Apparently the victim, an 18 year old kid, ran into the station before collapsing. Could definitely have been worse however.. he's still alive - in stable condition actually - and expected to recover.

You guys remember Christopher Lydon? Had an unsuccessful run for governor way back when (many critics accused him of doing it as a publicity stunt - I didn't think so, but hey) and was formerly the host of the NPR radio program The Connection before he and his producer got into a nasty little public spat with the general manager of WBUR over program ownership and salary. Anyway, he either left the show or got the boot (I honestly forget which, but I think he left) and in the ensuing years was only heard from in small doses (if you didn't know where to look.) Well - he's back on the radio again, and he's peddling a pretty interesting concept. Open Source is both a blog and a radio program, the content of the latter being based almost exclusively on the comments and ideas posted on the former. Am I not making sense? Argh... fine. Click here. He can tell you about it himself. He's been plugging this "web as new media" concept for years (cynics would probably suggest it was because he had no other outlet in which to work) and this time he's focusing on bloggers and podcasters. I've purposely stayed away from the whole "bloggers redefining journalism" discussion that is seemingly everywhere now - largely because I don't consider this blog to be journalism (he says only one paragraph after he's linked to a Boston Herald article), nor do I have an informed enough opinion to speak on it without sounding foolish. Mr. Lydon, however, is held back by none of these restrictions and his new show, if I may say so, looks damn interesting. I definitely plan on giving it a listen soon. Say what you will about the man, but he's always good for thoughtful discussion.

Lastly, have you ever reached into your pocket to find a $10 or $20 you didn't know was there? One of the bestest feelings in the world, right? Right. Well - that didn't happen. But something almost as good (or actually - just as good. Yeah, just as good) did. Over the weekend, I "rediscovered" a tune I hadn't heard in years. I use the quotes because although I've always loved the song, I never knew its name or the artist performing it.... until this weekend. Thank you Sirius Satellite Radio. For your listening pleasure... I give you Lowdown by Boz Scaggs.

[**Update 07/02/05: Sorry folks, had to remove the MP3's from this post. My general rule of thumb is to keep them up for a week at maximum, so it was beyond time for this guy to go bye-bye. Sorry**]

Monday, May 30, 2005

The Force Is With It

Purdy good. That's my verdict. I enjoyed much of the film and although it was fairly predictable (how could it not be? Everyone knew how it was going to end) it was still interesting to see the story play out. I'm assuming I'm revealing nothing in saying that Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader? Good - because he does. If you didn't know this... well... then I don't know what to tell you. You should have been paying attention during the other FIVE films. That said, it was cool to see exactly how he makes the transformation into Darth Vader. And even though I knew it would happen, I still found myself hoping that in the end, the character of Anakin Skywalker bit it and that some other plot twist ocurred. I mention this largely because I didn't like Hayden Christiansen or his supposed acting skills... In fact, in retrospect I kept thinking of the Anakin character as "Hayden Christiansen portraying Anakin Skywalker" as opposed to just "Anakin Skywalker." Not a good sign. But the rest of the acting was sound for the most part and it was worth the $7.50 even for the special effects. T'was a bit long as well, but really I don't know what you could have cut out. So go see it and make sure not to drink too much beforehand - otherwise you'll be in a very uncomfortable space for the last half hour. And I can tell you right now, if I had a screaming urge to go to the bathroom near the end - this film would have been unbearable. Just when you think it's going to end, it doesn't thereby making you focus on the fact that you have to go to the bathroom and that makes it even worse but you can't get up because you might miss something good and besides you'll piss off the people sitting next to you that you'll have to walk by in order to get to the aisle and everyone will notice and... whew.... just do yourself a favor - avoid liquids. So although this isn't a full review - and I have no plans to write one quite frankly... I will say it's nothing stellar, but worthwhile. Enjoy

A long time ago......

OK - I'm giving in. Yep - I'm off to see Star Wars: Episode III today. I've mentioned before how not excited I am to see this film. Star Wars was never a big deal for me - even as a child. I think I was probably born just a year too late to get caught up in all the hype surrounding it, and I much preferred the Incredible Hulk and Spiderman to such far fetched, ridiculous stories about aliens and space ships... plus C-3PO was annoying. But, like it or not, Star Wars has an important place in the fabric of pop culture and because it's filled with all sorts of special effects and what not, I figure the theatre is the best place to see it. I also watched Episode II last night to give myself a refresher course. Surprisingly, it wasn't half-bad. When I first saw it years ago I remember being confused... all this talk about Galactic Senate's and Trade federations, blah blah blah... the last thing I wanted to see was a hard to follow political film. Well... it was political yes, but I must have been half asleep at the time because it wasn't particularly hard to follow. Anyway - a decent, if slow paced story which leaves me in good stead for Episode III today. Stay tuned. I'll let you know what I think.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Little Johnny Wants to Play

No sooner did I get down to Copley Square and grab my tea then the token "ominous storm clouds" moved in and the rather predictable drip, drip, drip soon followed. Not wanting to take a 2nd shower, I hightailed it back to Back Bay station, whereupon entering I was greeted by a boatload of yellow tape and MBTA police officers. At first I thought part of the roof had caved in, noticing the huge area that had been roped off, but as I made my way through the turnstile and noticed all the blood spatter and numbered orange pylons indicating evidence, it became quite clear that something a little more serious than a ceiling break had ocurred. I hung around for a little bit and got to watch an actual C.S.I team at work, but I still have no idea what actually happened at the station. No one around had any idea either, and everyone seemed surprisingly ambivalent about the whole thing - as if this was a common ocurrence in the lovely Back Bay... just take no notice, mind the yellow tape and head through the turnstiles, dahling. Bizarre stuff, indeed. Anyway - I'm figuring I'll read about it in tomorrow's paper.

So - essentially I went to Copley Square for a cup of black tea and a crime scene. Not how I envisioned spending my afternoon, but at least it wasn't dull and the tea was superb. It is now raining the proverbial buckets, and there are some nasty lightning strikes and thunder claps to go with it. "Ominous" day indeed. However, I am now off to the 'rents house for my typical Sunday dinner with them - a dinner I often look forward to due to the great company and fantastic food. Catch you later, amigos.

Eric's House of Sun

Well - we are blessed with beautiful day #2. I missed the morning part of it though, as I slept until 11:00. Ooops. Well - I must have needed it, so I'm glad I didn't set the alarm. Anyway, I then helped my parents who got stuck with a rather complex printing problem that took around 45 minutes to walk through (thanks Microsoft) and now here I am. And although I have nothing to do until later this evening, it would be a sin to not take advantage of this good weather. So, I think I'm going to jump on the train and make the 10 minute trip to Copley Square, grab a cup of tea and read my book for a little while. You can take the Empire State Building, Big Ben (which inexplicably stopped ticking for 90 minutes yesterday, by the way), and the Sears tower. I'll take the Trinity church and the Hancock tower any day. Two architectural wonders standing side by side in one of the more beautiful spaces of city I've seen anywhere (but I'm not biased or anything.) Anyway - it's getting late and the "Miguel Frosty" ice cream truck that inhabits this area is about to drive me nuts with it's crazy song. I'm off. Talk to you later.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Sat'day Special

Man - I am pooped. Mentioned in an earlier post that my buddy Christopher and I went to the baseball field down the street to throw a softball around and take some batting practice. Christopher has been itching to get on the field for weeks.. apparently he joined a softball league recently and not having swung a bat in close to three years he wanted to get some practice in so as not to look like a complete fool by the time the actual games rolled around. There was very little rust that needed to be shaken off, as it turns out and we both got some good practice in while dancing around the dog crap (quite a shame, people must let their dogs shit all over the outfield as it was literally everywhere.) Anyway, about an hour into it two kids show up in Little League uniforms thinking they have a game, yet no one else from their team has bothered to show up. So, they play with us for awhile... as it turns out both of them are pitchers so we let them get their practice in while we caught. After about 45 minutes, it's clear there will be no game as still no one has bothered to show up. So, as we're leaving Christopher volunteers my taxi services and offers the kids a ride home (they had tried to get a hold of their mother, who couldn't be reached and they weren't scheduled to be picked up for another three hours.)

So, when we ask the kids where they live they say "Blue Hill", so I think fine.. I'll drive to Blue Hill Ave and take a right and head towards the actual Blue Hill. Long story short, once we got to Milton I realized we had probably gone too far. I ask the kids the name of their actual street and they say "Intervale." At that point, my eyebrows raise. I know where Intervale is (the complete opposite direction) and I also know that it's not particularly a place I want to be driving. No need to go into details, but suffice it to say a long existing Boston street gang named themselves after it. Thankfully though, due to some quick shortcuts from one of the kids we get there and drop them off and make our way back home. One of the kids was a hoot actually - tried to give us directions to Toys 'R Us (I knew exactly where he was trying to take us) and also wanted us to meet them there again next week. I was a little surprised they accepted the ride home, to be honest. When I was growing up, I was always taught to never accept rides from strangers. These kids were pretty damned trusting, which while flattering I suppose, is also kind of dangerous.

Regardless, it was an enjoyable time outdoors if you ignore the fact that I came home two hours later than I wanted to and covered in dogshit. But still, t'was good to play a little base/softball and get some exercise in on a beautiful day. I later met some friends downtown and grabbed a bite to eat with them, and then proceeded to walk around the Back Bay while eating ice cream.

All in all a long day, but a good one. And oh yes - the Red Sox also bounced back in fine fashion by spanking the Yankees around for 17 runs. So yeah, it really was a nifty day indeed.

Hate to say I.....

A-HA! Remember what I was ranting about on this very blog not two days ago? Huh? Do you? Well - here's a refresher, in case you've forgotten. Now read this article in today's Globe and ask me if I feel affirmation right now.

Yessuh! Yes indeed, I do.

That aside, it's a gorgeous day out there... too gorgeous to stay indoors. I'm off to throw a softball around with some friends. Check in with you later.

Friday, May 27, 2005

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The title of this post has been brought to you by my head. That's what happens when it strikes the keyboard repeatedly. Went over a friends house to watch the Sox/Yanks and the Scx lost a very winnable game - due largely to poor baserunning decisions by 3rd base coach Dale Sveum (surprise friggin' surprise) and leaving THIRTEEN men on base. Do other teams do this? Are they all this futile?

I feel like I should go meditate or something... Just keep repeating, "We're still world series champions" over and over. Meh... on second thought, that sounds ridiculous. Time for an episode of 24, and then off to bed. 'Night folks.

Weekend here yet?

Alright - so it's the Friday before (mercifully) a long weekend. What Google oriented links do I have for you today, you wonder? None actually. There's been a scarcity of good links as of late, Google or otherwise, so alas, I have no wealth to spread.....

Although there is Bottle Shoot (press space bar to reload) an addictive little flash game. Watch out for the fish. And for those of you wanting to learn how to increase your odds of winning at Blackjack, visit here - it may provide some assistance. But it's been a surprisingly busy week in Ericland, and I haven't had the opportunity to aimlessly surf with my usual gusto and joire du vivrererevere or whatever...

So - in preparation for the weekend, I'm switched to lazy mode and anxiously awaiting the end of work so I can go home and do nothing. Maybe I'll watch a few games between the Sox and Yanks although that's unlikely. My beloved scarlet hose are simply too depressing these days, and I'm in too good a state of mind to let them get me down... now, if they win - well, that's another story entirely, but honestly, I'm not even all that excited about the contests right now. In fact, I didn't know the two teams were playing each other this weekend until I read about it on ESPN.com this morning. So that's kind of blah.... I am reading the book 'Faithful' though, as you see on the right, which recounts some not so distant Red Sox glory days, so if things get too bad I can always turn to that. And I've got a boatload of '24' episodes waiting for me as well. But, hopefully the weather will cooperate and I can do some outdoorsy-type stuff.

Of course the good part of having little to do is that I'll have more time to write blog posts. Every once in a while, I might break my weekend silence and throw a post or two up of random nonsense... what I'm doing, where I'm going, what I'm watching.... sort of like a running diary, but I'm not going to be very strict about it. I'll just post whenever.

So there you have it. Sound like a plan? Good. Hope you all have a scrumdidiliumptious long weekend, and I'll talk to you soon. Later jazzcats.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Left Is Right and RIght is Wrong

My neighborhood is abuzz with chatter, owing to the fact the police have finally arrested an elusive man locals have affectionately dubbed the "Parking Nazi." Seems this guy would vandalize resident's vehicles with a screwdriver, spraypaint, dog poop, and glue while out walking his Doberman. I guess he thought himself a sort-of Chuck Bronson vigilante type, because he only vandalized vehicles who had committed some type of violation or broken the rules of parking ettiquite. Whatever. The man is clearly insane, but after reading about him I couldn't help feel just a small itsy-bitsy twinge of admiration (and relief that he never touched my beloved Flo. I'd have kicked his ass.) I felt admiration not in how he perfomed his vigilante justice... no, no - he was a jerk about that AND on what he deemed violations of law and ettiquite - but in the fact that he was doing something to fix what he saw was clear and obvious wrongdoing.

I don't know... to a certain extent I'm talking out my ass here, but over the past two years, since moving to this neighborhood it's become increasingly clear to me that with respect to driving and parking, in this area anyway, that people are both incredibly selfish and insanely stupid. It's often stated that if you can drive in Boston, you can drive anywhere. 'Tis a load of crap, mi amigos, and don't you go believing it. All driving in Boston will do is show you how much common sense the other drivers lack. Want an example? How about three of them?

(Oh, and of course they all happened to me this morning - wouldn't be writing about them otherwise. ;)

The first two were what I like to call the "Boston Left." Basically, it's when two cars are stopped and facing each other at a red light only to have one of them immediately take a left in front of the oncoming traffic as soon as the light turns green. Insanity. Unfortunately, it happens all the time though and while most people stop short when they see the car turn in front of them, I like to play chicken - which is what I did this morning. No, nothing disastrous happened but the guy who was trying to turn left in front of me braked suddenly and honked his horn as if I was the one committing the traffic violation. I smiled, waved and kept driving, secure in the knowledge that if an accident were to occur, his dumb ass would've been at fault. Only one block further, I found myself at another intersection and ahead of me was, you guessed it, a mini-van who needed to take a left. This time, however, I could clearly see there were children in the car, so I opted not to play the chicken game (and proceeded to beat myself up for having done it before - could have been kids in that car I didn't see - selfish idiot.) So, when the light turned green this time, I inched forward to see if she would let me go by. No such luck. This woman actually spun her tires in an effort to take a left before I reached her. By the way, did I mention she had kids in the car? Nice.

The last "Masshole Maneuver" was mild by comparison, but still mind-boggling. Sitting at my third red light of the morning commute (which takes only 15 minutes, I might add) the guy behind me must have gotten tired of waiting, so he pulls out from behind, goes around me, looks both ways, and takes a right turn directly in front of me (and ignoring the "No Turn On Red" sign.)

I'm not asking for a "Driving Nazi" to come along and save the day, or even a police officer to stand guard and cite every violator he/she sees (which would never happen anyway.) But did you notice that if people (myself included) used a little more common sense there would have been a lot less stress for all partied? Of course, I'd having nothing to write about this evening so it couldn't have been ALL bad. But still, when it comes to driving (and life), allow me to quote the words of some famous man whom I forget.

"Use your head."

I'll practice it if you do. Deal?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Book Nook

My cup runneth over. Yesterday it was the music. Today it's the books. The Brits (British School of Boston - they share the campus with us at work) are holding a used book sale all this week. All of the books are donated by students and their families, and the proceeds go to some school in Brazil or something. I didn't get the full details actually, because technically it hasn't begun. Since I work there and was constantly walking to and fro, hither and yon, back and forth past where they set the thing up, I finally stopped to ask what exactly was going on (Not like it was obvious or anything... let's see, a boatload of books being setup on tables... must be having a bake sale.) Once they filled me in, I asked if I might get a headstart on the procurement process, lest something disastrous suddenly befall their computer network. They graciously agreed, and when all was said and done I spent $8.50 and walked away with a whopping THIRTEEN volumes. These Brits are nothing if not trendy. Every Robert B. Parker (Spenser series), Sue Grafton (W is for Worn-Out), Dean Koontz (Dark *insert foreboding noun here*) and John Grisham (This is how we practice law in Memphis) novel ever published was seemingly available for purchase. There were, however, some diamonds to be found in da ruff. Among my less embarrassing finds were The Reader by Bernhard Schlink, Songbook by Nick Hornby (one of my FAVORITE books - duh), and five different Curious George storybooks (Who doesn't like Curious George? And the Man in the Yellow Hat? Oh, glorious youth! He's right up there with the star-bellied Sneetches - if not higher.)

I didn't need all these books. I've already got a stack to read through that's about as large as I am (and no bookshelf space in which to put them.) But I just couldn't resist. All of these titles were at rock bottom prices - I think the most expensive book I bought was a $2.00 hardcover - and someone somewhere will benefit from my purchase, even if I don't know who it is. Still, I did manage to exercise some restraint. When I went back a second time, I calmly reminded myself that the City of Boston has a library downtown - a very good one, actually - and that I have a library card for it, which I use... often.


Still, it's not everyday that Buck-A-Book decides to camp out in your lobby, so being the opportunist that I am I took full advantage. Now, if they could only start rummaging through their old DVD's.....

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Gorirraz and Raptops

It's pissing rain here in Boston - has been for the last two or three days actually and will continue into tomorrow - but am I upset? NO! Why? Because... I've got rhythm, I've got music. I've got..... alright, alright - I'll stop. But I'm very happy today. As mentioned above, I'm swimming in new music today. Where to begin........

Headed out to Newbury Comics today to pickup the new Gorillaz disc, Demon Days. For those of you unfamiliar, the Gorillaz are, for lack of a better term, an animated band - literally. Couple years ago, Blur frontman Damon Albarn embarked on what I guess you would call a solo project but instead of showcasing the real musicians, he hooked up with animator Jamie Hewlett to create a cartoon band as a front. The whole thing took off and became hugely successful, largely because the music what a hell of a lot better than anyone expected it to be, and today marks the release of the bands second disc, when originally there weren't any plans to do more than one.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.. I'm still listening to the thing, and so far it's damn good. I'll probably post a review at some point in the future with a few tasty tracks for download but in the meantime check out the website. It's got some spectacular interactive flash animation and games and stuff. And, oh yes! If you happen to be in the Boston area and want to meet the musicians, head on down to the downtown Newbury Comics location (Newbury St.) and pick up the CD. When you pick it up there (and only at that location) they'll give you a wristband which gets you a spot in line for the signing which will occur later tonight - around 7:00 or so. Word is three out of the four musicians are going to be there (Damon Albarn included.) I'd do it but personally I don't feel like waiting for hours in a cold drizzle. I like the band, but not THAT much.

Surely one CD can't make me this happy, you say. True dat, yo. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I had 14 free iTunes credits to use or lose. Well - I used 'em. Stayed late at work to grab them all, actually. Here's the list. Read and weep... or laugh:

  • The Raveonettes - Love In A Trashcan
  • Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five - The Message
  • Bill Cosby & Quincy Jones - Jimmy's Theme (Mario Caldato Jr. Remix)
  • Joy Division - Disorder
  • Alana Davis - Wide Open
  • Autolux - Here Comes Everybody
  • Ry Cooder & Crossroads - Feelin' Bad Blues
  • UNKLE - Lonely Soul
  • Booker T and the MG's - Melting Pot
  • Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic
  • Fugazi - Margin Walker
  • A Girl Called Eddy - Tears All Over
  • Kaiser Chiefs - I Predict A Riot
  • Bill Laswell - Beyond The Zero
You can look forward to some of these gems appearing in the "listening" section on the right in the future. As for what's there now - Archie Shepp is badass. That song in particular. Take a listen and see if you can't figure out why I often think of it as "The Streets of San Francisco foot-chase theme."

One last thing about iTunes - I know you're sick of it - but they finally put the first two Garbage albums up there for purchase. PHENOMENAL stuff (although I'm clearly biased.) Pick 'em up, won't you?

Enough music jibber jabber.

I work at a Japanese women's university. Specifically, I do all the computer work for said Japanese women's university. Now gentlemen, before you start spouting off about what a lucky bastard I am and blah blah blah, I'll just mention that my first day here I had to sign a "non-fraternization clause" (don't ask) , and that all of the student computers I have to support are running Japanese versions of Windows. I don't speak a lick of Japanese - nor can I read it, obviously, so sometimes things can get a bit... difficult. The students however, are life savers. They are all hear to learn English, and many of them make the most of their opportunities to converse in it. They often function as excellent translators when I point to a Windows error message and ask them what the hell it says. Case in point - this morning I arrived at work to find a beat up old laptop on my desk with a yellow post it that said, "Hello Eric-sensei. Please make my computer fix. It go drop and broken." Translation: "I dropped my notebook. Please fix it." I chuckled heartily and toyed with the idea of writing my own post-it back which said, "Your computer are screwed. Eric-sensei can't make fix. Sorry." Thankfully, she just dislodged the battery and the machine was still functional - unbelievably (never drop your laptop folks... disastrous things occur.) It got me thinking about the English language and what a bitch it is to learn. This student's English needed a little work, but it was still understandable - which is a huge something when you consider the vast differences between English and Japanese. Takes a lot of guts to immerse yourself in a culture with which you're unfamiliar, and speak a language that's more foreign than even most other foreign languages.

Still - the results can be funny as hell. I give you Engrish.com - a fantastic website which shows what can often happen when people attempt to translate from one language to the other. Careful - many of these will have you on the floor. Lest we forget how difficult this process can be however, and what a pain in the ass English is to learn, we have this little nugget to remind you. Enjoy.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Murky Words World Tour

Yikes. I've suddenly become quite a popular cat, it would seem. Since it's inception, this humble blog has been getting hit somewhere between 45-60 times a day with an average of 35 or so of those being unique. Those numbers are about what you would expect, when you consider how many people there are that actually know this blog even exists, and subtract from that the number of those people I know would never read it. The numbers are even lower on weekends and although I haven't conducted a thorough market survey, I can only assume it's because I rarely update it on those days and most of my loyal readers don't want to waste their free time reading new posts... no no, you wait until you're at work to do something like that. Anyway, you can imagine my surprise this morning when checking the stats on the page, to find that both Saturday and Sunday the site averaged around 180 hits per day with about 160 being unique. Holy Shit. Further, the hits were coming from all over the place. Canada, the U.K., New Zealand, Austria, Switzerland. What the hell? Clearly I must have pissed someone off. Not the case, thankfully, for after doing a little further digging I discovered that I have those damn Hapland games to thank for all this mess. Seems those little stick-figure puzzles have become all the rage and because I (and Tim) posted spoilers to both games on Thursday, and Google for whatever reason picked up on it, this site was is/was one of the first listed when one conducts a Google search for their solutions. Heh.

So, seeing as I'm now truly appealing to a worldwide audience, allow me say to utter a hearty: Guten Tag, Hello, Hola, Bonjour, Ciao, Oui and so on and so forth. So you don't have to go searching frantically through all the text, here are links to your walkthroughs:

I now consider this matter closed. Enjoy and Gracias.

Great weekend. Yesterday, as previously mentioned, my buddy Greg and I braved the consistent drizzle to take in some Minor League Baseball. Sadly the team I was rooting for, the Reading Phillies, lost on the road to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (based out of Manchester.) The Cats sprung for 5 runs in the 6th to break it open. Prior to that, the Phillies pitcher was throwing a one-hitter. C'est la vie. Still an enjoyable time and believe it or not, I ate my very first corn dog. Despite their popularity, I'd never seen them for sale at any previous sporting event and to be honest, I didn't really know what the hell they were until I bought one. I'd always assumed they had something to do with the corn the vegetable, not corn the bread. Anyway, there'll be more minor league ball to come too, as later this summer I'll be hitting a Lowell Spinners game. Oh, and for those who care and know what I'm talking about - the Lansing Lugnuts have switched from being a Class-AA affiliate of the Chicago Cubs to a Class-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Lastly, for those of you who still have free tunes to download on iTunes from the Pepsi cap giveaway, today is your last day to do it. After that, they go boom. I've got 14 free tunes to download between now and the end of the day. Oh, the horror.... I'll probably list them in tomorrow's post where you can knowingly admire and nod your head, or boo heartily and spit at your monitor.

That's it. Hope you all are feeling dandy. Lates.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Stop Repeating Yourself Repeating Yourself

Guten Tag und gl├╝cklicher Freitag.

Well - Episode III is upon us and I, for one, could not be less excited. I know, I know, I mentioned this in an earlier post so I won't rant again (although do check out the previously mentioned Darth Vader blog if you haven't yet - 'tis a gem.) I'm definitely going to see it as some point once the gathering masses stop gathering and the lines die down. If any of you have seen it already and care to share your thoughts and opinions, I'd appreciate it. Also, Tim has a recent post on the subject in which you'll find a link to a fantastic "review" in the New Yorker.

What else......

I hate to keep harping on this Google Maps bit, but you KNEW this thing was going to be hacked and exploited to death - or new life, as the case may be. Never underestimate the creativity of the geek community. Some ingenious fellow has taken the content from Gasbuddy and Google Maps and combined the two. The result? Cheap Gas - a nifty little website in which you select your city and are then shown maps to all the gas stations in your area AND their prices from lowest to highest. You can even select between regular and deisel fuels. Just remarkable. I feel like this guy deserves an award of some sort - especially given the price of gizzoline these days.

Not to be outdone, someone else has done a traffic hack (combining Google maps and Traffic.com) Select your city - it will show you all the construction in the general area. I'm half tempted to call bull kaka on this one though, if only because it doesn't seem very comprehensive. I looked up Boston and got only four different construction areas marked off. Anyone who drives in this city knows that figure is a little.. shall we say, incomplete. Still - I don't blame the developers... they're only using the information they get from another site. And it's still neat as all hell.

What else......

In honor of Doves performance at Avalon tonight which I will not be attending, I've posted not one, but TWO tracks from their fantastic debut album, Lost Souls, in the listening section on the right. The first track, Catch the Sun, is a great little ditty that makes you want to jump around in a field and be happy. The Bonus track, Rise, is decidely more somber.... I think. I've owned the album for five years and I still have no idea what the hell the lead singer is saying - such are the problems with remixing these days - so I can't really tell you what the song is about. It's a great sounding tune though - sad, but hopeful is the best description I can think of - and almost anyone I've ever made a mix for in recent years will recognize it. One of my favorites.

What else......

Oh, yes! There will be baseball this weekend! I'll be in attendance as the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (AA-Toronto) take on the Reading Phillies (AA-Duh) this Sunday (provided the rain stays away.) I'm torn. Do I root for geography here or the Papa team they represent? If I root for geographical location, clearly I side with New Hampshire - but given that they're a farm club for the Toronto Blue Jays, who inhabit the American League East with my beloved Red Sox - well, I feel like cheering them on would be sacrilege. Plus, I have roots in Reading, PA - sort of. My father is from there and my uncle still lives in the area. I think I may have to jump on the Reading train this time, folks. Sorry. On the plus side though, I do get to see Toronto catcher Gregg Zaun, who'll be rehabbing with the Fisher Cats this weekend whilst trying to recover from a concussion.

What else......

Nothing. That's all I got. Have a good weekend, amigos.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Foul Mood Thursday

Blah.

I've been a grump all day. Not entirely sure why either, although the constant headache may have something to do with it. I will allow myself a pat on the back however, in that I haven't taken it out on anybody else. In fact, I've probably been a little more nice to people than normal in an effort to thoroughly convince myself I'm not being a dick - in spite of how I feel. This is strange territory for me, indeed. Normally, when I'm in this kind of mood and someone does something to irritate me (like say 'Hello') I'll respond with a sneer and a grunt. *sigh* Well, nothing a quick nap and some good music won't take care of.

So - did you all figure Hapland out? Did you even bother to play it? Well -whatever... if you're stuck the solution is right here. Don't get too comfortable however, Hapland 2 has already been released. Unbeknownst to me at the time, it was actually released yesterday, the day I posted the link to #1 on this here blog. Figured this one out too, although I cheated with one particularly tricky part. Big help with most of these games? Keep hitting the tab key and it should highlight in yellow all the various places on the screen where you can click.

Speaking of video games, I've been reading an awful lot about the various game consoles Sony, Microsoft, and others will be releasing at the end of this year and early next. Guess the industry had their big old video game convention where they revealed the new consoles, and as a result all the major media outlets are reporting about the new "gaming console wars" that are about to take place. Now, I stopped playing video games back in college. Back then, I had an original Sony Playstation which I played nonstop for about a one month period before my interests started leaning back towards women and beer. Plus, my friend who owned the console took it back when he returned to school after summer vacation. I've shown little interest in them since, but with everyone screaming about them anew, I figured I'd take a look and see what people were talking about. Bad idea. Now I'm almost ready to count the days before Playstation 3 hits the shelves - and they haven't even announced a release date. This is NOT news I needed to read. I already spend too much time in front of my damn TV as it is without these little devil-boxes washing up on our shores in a few months. There are some damn impressive videos and screen shots out there too if you have the time to search for them. I just don't have the wherewithal today to go searching and posting. As impressive as it is, it's all so complicating. Makes me pine for the days when all you had was a small little 2-bit game console and some guys named Mario and Luigi jumping on peoples heads. Remember those days? Heh - well relive them here. Virtually every old school Nintendo game ever invented for your boredom-killing pleasure.

Alright - I'm done. Feel like too much of a geek, and all this typing has made me thirsty for some pomegranate juice. Have fun playing Mike Tyson's Punch Out. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to growl at someone.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Damned Skippy

Whoops - skipped a day there, didn't I? Sorry boys and girls. Things got a little hectic yesterday and there were a few fires at work that needed putting out. Unfortunate, and we know who suffers as a result. Oh yes, now we see who is forced to do without! Yes, that's right. You, my friends. You - the little man. It's not easy, jazzcats - not easy.

Alright, what the hell am I going on about... and what's with my sudden affinity for the word jazzcats? No idea... moving on.

We have this little 10:00 AM staff break here at work where the cafeteria guys put buckets of coffee and some frozen pastries in the break room... the general idea being that the faculty and staff will then flock to said break room (or the sunroom, as it's known - the walls and ceiling are made entirely of glass) scarf down whatever goodies are made available and mingle. Today however, instead of the frozen pastries they had donuts! Yes indeed - and what variety do you think I chose? Don't laugh - this says a lot about a person, believe it or not. PLAIN! Plain donuts are the flavor for my fare... or whatever the expression is. I didn't mingle though - I generally don't (I'm both shy and curmudgeonly.) I just took the goods and ran, justifying it to myself by saying I had to whip up a blog entry for my loyal fans. Regardless, I'm very content as I type this. Black coffee and a plain donut. I, it would seem, am a very easy man to please.

So.... do you all want to hear about the mini ant infestation in my apartment? Good! And by 'mini ant infestation' I meant the size of the infestation was small, not the size of the ants. As is typical in the change of season from winter to spring, the critters come a-crawlin' with their usual ferocity - and in their non-prejudicial quest to eat up and procreate, they generally try to find favorable conditions in which to do both. It would seem that this spring they settled on my third floor bachelor pad.

I first noticed them a few weeks ago. Their presence was very sporadic - I'd see one every couple of days - and I just chalked it up to the change in season. I mean, everyone gets a few ants around springtime, do they not? I didn't just notice them and let them stay, but I didn't have the heart to kill them either. Maybe it was the inner Buddha in me, or maybe it was my roommates copy of PETA's Animal Times magazine on the counter, but I was hesitant to stomp on the little things - particularly because I've always thought of ants as "good" bugs. They play a valuable role in the ecosystem, and they're generally more human-friendly and less harmful than other bugs - like roaches (disgusting, foul creatures that should be eradicated at all costs.) So seeing little other use for it, I would use the copy of PETA's Animal Times magazine to pick up the ants when I came across them and then dump them outside on the deck, where hopefully poor weather conditions would kill them and I could remain guilt-free. That was about two or three weeks ago.

Turns out that was pest control mistake #372. Not only did they not die (I'm assuming) but they came back into the apartment with a vengeance - and brought lots of friends. When I woke up this past Sunday I was immediately greeted by three ants on the floor when I entered the kitchen. Picked 'em up - put 'em outside. Then I went over to the coffeepot to prepare a pot... ant on the counter. Picked him up - put him outside. On my way back in, I saw another one on the floor, this time over by the stove. STOMP!! Killed the sucker, wiped him up and threw him in the trash can. I was tired of being a kind and benevolent deity to these nuisances. Now, they would bear my wrath. So much so, that over the course of the next hour and a half, I killed around 15-20 ants - and I wasn't even looking for them - they just happened to be in my way.

This, regrettably at the time because I didn't feel like doing a thing, called for drastic measures. I spent the next several hours cleaning the apartment from top to bottom. Sweep, mop, dust, disinfect - the works. I then got online and did some research on pest removal - specifically ants - and, lo and behold, there's "ant specific" stuff you can use to rid your house of the things. So, I made my way to the hardware store, picked up a bottle of ant killer and a bunch of bait traps (ants bring the food back to the colony and kill the Queen!! or so it says on the package), drove back home and went to town on the place. I sprayed the ant killer along the edge of every wall in the apartment, where it supposedly will work it's magic for up to four weeks and then proceeded to lay the ant traps in strategic places like under the stove, dishwasher and refrigerator.

Well - it's now Wednesday and I'm happy to say I haven't seen an ant in two days. Due to the chemicals, my eyes are red and I had an acne breakout that would make a thirteen year old blush (alright - a bit of an overstatement) but I'm happy to say that they've either died or vacated the premises (probably to the poor saps in the apartment below.) This is quite a relief - now I can have people over again and not worry about the embarrassment when the little buggers go crawling across the floor, because there won't be any!! (I hope.) In fact, what are you up to this weekend? I was going to watch a movie... maybe take in a baseball game. Why don't you come over and watch as well? I've got a kick-ass widescreen TV and surround sound setup. C'mon, it'll be fun!! We can toss back a few pops and share a bowl of raisins.




(Oh, and since I hate leaving you without something to click on.... here - play Hapland. This is an infuriating, trial and error type-game which someitmes follows the rules of logic, but often doesn't. I spent way to much time last night figuring it out. For further help click on the question mark at the bottom right. If I'm feeling nice, maybe I'll offer some hints or a walkthrough tomorrow.)

Monday, May 16, 2005

Tattoo You

Got a tattoo? Me either, but I've always toyed with the idea of getting one - especially in recent years. I haven't done so for a couple of reasons. Among the most obvious was that until about five years ago, the practice was illegal in Massachusetts. I didn't mind the idea of breaking the law - I just felt that by going to any underground tattoo artist I was likely to find, I was running the risk of "getting inked" by a hack job who would give me both a bad tattoo and a blood-borne disease. I know a guy who actually had this happen to him (well - the bad tattoo part anyway), but it was partly his own fault. Talking to him once, I couldn't help but notice he had the words "SALTY FOREVER" tattooed on his forearm. When I asked him what the hell it meant and why he had it tattooed on his arm, he informed me that many years ago when the practice was still illegal, he made an appointment with an underground artist he found through a "friend of a friend." When the fateful day came, he got all liquored up (also a no-no - many artists will not tattoo anyone who's been drinking because it thins the blood and causes excessive bleeding during the process) and told the man the words he'd like tattooed on his arm. Easy enough, right? Not exactly... you see the guy had had just a little too much to drink, and his Boston accent was so horrifically bad that when he said he wanted the words "Southie Forever" (meaning South Boston for all you non MA residents), the artist misinterpreted "Southie" (pronounce SOUT-hee by those who are from there) as "Salty" and actually tattooed that on his arm, where it still remains. Why he never attempted to get it repaired is beyond me. Thankfully though, the law banning tattooing, in place since the 1960's, was repealed in 2000 and as a result, a strict set of health codes and standards were put in place for any parlors who decided to open up shop within the state's borders.

So, now that the law is repealed I have no excuse, right? Eh... I don't know. I still have some misgivings, mostly related to design. Two of my friends, Nic & P.J., run their own tattoo shop called Energy Tattoo out in Santa Barbara, CA (by the by, those two are the best tattoo artists in Santa Barbara - bar none. If you're in the area, check them out. You'll be thoroughly impressed with their designs and will probably want to roll up your sleeve right then and there.) When Nic & I were casually discussing the art of tattooing one day, and I asked her about the various methods of removal, she pretty much scoffed. Basically, she told me that there are no sure-fire methods to remove a tattoo, and that the one method most people seem to cite as safe and effective - laser removal surgery - is not only very expensive, but also very painful (often times more so than getting the actual tattoo.) Even worse, the results are far from guaranteed - something to think about when you're about to get your girlfriends name drawn inside a heart on your arm. Countless dumbells the world over have done this (Johnny Depp having Winona Ryder's name tattooed comes to mind) as a way of professing their love for their significant other. Shame no one told them they were just professing their idiocy. In other words, if you're getting a tattoo you'd better be damn sure you like what you're getting and are prepared to have it permanently - as in the rest of your life.

And that folks, is my problem. There's only one design I've ever seen that I'd get tattooed (on the side of my leg incidentally, midway down the calf muscle - were I to ever get it.) Unfortunately, I can't remember where I saw it and I've been unable to find it since, despite some pretty thorough searches. The design was that of a Celtic triad which supposedly symbolized rebirth and renewal. You'd think that would be a pretty easy thing to find, but alas - I've come up with nothing but various maze-like drawings. This is the closest thing I've found, but even that's a bit wrong as the design I saw had more going on at the bottom point of the triangle and wasn't so despicably trendy. This is typical me though, and I suppose it's what I get for not being able to pick anything simple. My roommate? He's got the right idea. Tattoos on both arms - the ying/yang symbol on one and the Mercedes-Benz logo on the other - these are simple, good-looking designs that get the point across. I have to pick something deliberately complicated and obscure enough to ensure that the chances of my actually finding it, much less getting it tattooed are pretty slim. And maybe that's not such a bad thing. I mean, have you seen them needles on those tattoo guns? Friggin' things must hurt.


***Oh- and because this is my blog I'd like to throw a plug in for Nic & PJ's newly opened online business. The Traditions Collection features clothing, lighters, wine bottles (with what I'm sure is superb wine inside contained therein), and prints of original tattoo art done by some phenomenal tattoo artists. I picked up a print and a couple of t-shirts just the other day. Give 'em a looksee and place an order, won't you?***

Friday, May 13, 2005

Linky Dink

Buenas tardes, amigos. Happy Friday. If yours are anything like mine, you spend the day toiling at work - sweat oozing out your pores while the phone ceaselessly rings. Higher-ups lurk around every corner waiting to pounce and demand your tasks be finished yesterday.

(
By the way, is there a more annoying language than office speak? Words like "quota", "budget (not in the)", "power lunch", and "C.E.O" are among the most annoying in our vocabulary. It's all become so predictable and foolish. A couple of years ago at a former employers, we had one of those ridiculous all-day department meetings focusing on what could be done to improve employee morale. In the middle of it, each person was asked to write down their own suggestion on a piece of paper which would then be handed in and read aloud in front of everyone else. Almost all of them had to do with more money and benefits, but about midway through, the department head picked up a the next slip and read aloud this little nugget:

"Flush. Twice if necessary."

Now THAT'S what I call a positive step forward.)

So, in light of all the hard work that's taking place on this most trying of weekdays I thought I'd provide you with a few links of merriment for you to view at your leisure (meaning off-hours, on your own free time, when you have finished all your work, of course. Wouldn't have it any other way.) Basically, these are all links which I had planned to throw out there at some point but couldn't figure out how to work into a post. So - without further ado:

Bug Me Not - I can't say enough about what a wonderful little piece of programming this is for the average Internet surfer. It seems these days that almost every web site wants you to register with it before it will actually provide you with the content enclosed within. Bug Me Not skirts this little issue rather nicely. All you do is type in the URL of the website that wants you to register, and Bug Me Not will spit back a fake username and password that will work in it's place. Just be aware that all of these fake accounts are created and submitted by individuals - some with sick senses of humor. Often the username and/or password will be something rather nasty or profane (Think "Jacque Strap" but worse) so if your that faint of heart, just register. Also, the vast majority of them work on the sites they're supposed to but some have expired. If that's the case simply click the "This login didn't work" button and it will provide you with another one. If your a Firefox user, it also provides you with a nifty little extension whereby you right-click in the field and select "Bug Me Not" and it provides the information for you. Which brings me to my next link....

Mozilla Firefox - You should all be using this browser. It is FAR AND AWAY better than any version of Microsoft Internet Explorer that's out there. The reasons I could list are numerous - but not wanting to bore you I'll provide you with just a few:
  • It dramatically decreases both spyware and popups. That alone is worth the price of admission (which happens to be free) It has a built in pop-up blocker which gets pretty much everything but is also easily shut off for those websites that require popups. Further, much of the spyware (nasty little programs that track your computer usage and web surfing and then report back to the mothership - not to mention screw your computer up no end due to poor code writing and malicious code writers) you get these days is written to exploit Internet Explorer - not Firefox.
  • It has lots of neat built in features like search bars for Google, Yahoo, Amazon, Dictionary.com, and eBay. These are also highly customizable and you can add virtually any major site that has a search capability. I've added Merriam-Webster, IMDB, the All-Music Guide, and CNN on mine.
  • Extensions - I hate to keep repeating this - but again - highly customizable. Extensions are basically programs you can add-in with great ease (double-clicking in most cases) which make the web surfing experience more enjoyable. They range from anything like the aforementioned Bug Me Not to having the ability to view web pages in "Swedish Chef" language (I wish I were kidding)
  • Tabbed Browsing - New windows appear as tabs at the top - not as windows in your taskbar down below (can be switched off if you like it the other way)
As someone who works in computers, I'm always getting asked by people what they should do to avoid virii and spyware. Installing this browser is always my step #1. Somewhere down the line I'm going to write a post which includes Steps 2 through 'whatever', but in the meantime do yourself a favor and install this browser.

Time to switch gears entirely....

Enfield, Massachusetts - Were you aware that the Quabbin reservoir was not a natural phenomenon and was actually man made? Oh - I guess you were. Well, I on the other hand wasn't. Apparently four towns had to be leveled in order to make room for the reservoir. Enfield was one of them as you'll find out. Click on the "Quabbin Page" link at the bottom to find out more about the other unfortunate locales. I love websites - or even photos - like this which show old pictures of places either no longer in existence or that were simply forgotten. Even better if a history is included. Along those lines we have....

Abandoned Subway Tunnels - I've always wanted to go exploring in the old abandoned MBTA subway tunnels and stations many of which are still around and you can see from some of the existing platforms. I don't want to be placed under arrest however, or devoured by rats - so I figure this is the next best thing - black & white photography (much of it dour) of the tunnels. Some boring, some not. The photographer also took photos of various other abandoned places in Boston. Among them, the now no longer abandoned Amory St. brewery right near my house.

Vertigo: Then & Now - Sean posted this link a while ago but I liked it so much I thought I'd repost it. I've never spent any meaningful time in San Francisco. However, I'm a HUGE fan of Alfred Hitchcock's films - particularly this one. Even though I don't recognize any of the locations it's still cool to see how the areas have changed and how things have progressed. Like I said, I'm a sucker for these sorts of things.

Airfare deals - I'm trying to plan a vacation right now, and I'm not independently wealthy. I find the following two pages very helpful in finding cheap deals. The first one - Travel Guy Air Fares - I read about in the Boston Herald. Apparently, he's just a regular old blogger like many of us but he wants to make this his full time job. More power to him. His site provides a great up to date listing of some fantastic deals... as does the Boston.com airfare deals page. This one you'll need Bug Me Not for if you're not a registered user... Basically some poor sap, probably an intern, gets to peruse all the major airline website and write down their lowest fares and deals out of Boston, Manchester & Providence. Sucks to be him, but we're thankful regardless.

Trillian - For you people who use more than one Instant Messenger service (I use both MSN and AOL.) Trillian will combine them for you into one program so you don't have to load both up and get all confused. Just dandy.

2save247 - A website for all you web shoppers out there which compiles all the available major retailer coupons out there and posts them on the site - complete with instructions and expiration dates.

Teen Girl Squad - This is absurd. Flash animation at it's most bizarre. I still can't help laughing every time I see it, however. Very infantile and stupid. Comes from the Homestar Runner website which is just as infantile and stupid. Teen Girl Squad is the comic book one of the characters draws every so often.

That's it for me today folks. Have a nifty weekend. Try to avoid the impending rain showers (once again.) Talk to you soon. For realz yo.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Speedy Delivery!

Everyone dreams - or so the sleep scientists say - but not everyone remembers their dreams. I fall into that category most of the time. I'm good for about one a month and that one usually ends up being a doozy - which is probably why I remember them.

Last night I had one such dream. Was it profound and thought provoking, causing me to unveil all the scars of my inner psyche and thenceforth let the healing process begin? Actually no, it was completely ridiculous... so much so that I thought I'd share it with you in the absence of anything else to write about today...

It started out with me entering Trader Joe's to go shopping... but it wasn't any Trader Joe's... no, no - this was a Super Trader Joe's. The aisles were straight, instead of that infuriating diagonal they are in real life, and it was much darker. The lights were more dim and the wood that you see all around you normally was of a much darker shade - like cherry or oak. How do I know I was in a Trader Joe's at all then? Well - it's
MY dream. It is what I say it is. So, I grab a shopping carriage and do what I normally would do - shop. I throw, I don't know, about 10 to 15 items in the carriage and as I'm sauntering over from one aisle to the next I take a look down the one I'm about to enter. About 1/4 of the way down, wearing one of his trademark bright 80's sweaters (this one was green with lots of colored dots - kind of a Christmas theme) was a nervous looking Bill Cosby. My first thought was, "Holy shit! It's Bill Cosby!" and I was about to go up and say something right there and then, but I thought two things. The first was that the nervous look on his face was probably there because he was afraid of being recognized, and the second was that everything I'd heard about him seemed to suggest that while he played a good guy on TV, he was a jerk in real life.

(***Incidentally, that last part's not true at all - must have been one of those weird dream things. A brief side story if I may..... Thank you. When I was in college I worked as a switchboard operator for the Sheraton hotel and it was not at all uncommon to have famous celebrities and athletes stay there. There were enough that I could write a tell-all book filled with their indiscretions, actually. I wouldn't, but I'll just say that many celebrities do indeed let their status go to their head. Bill Cosby is not one of them. Staying in one of the suites one week, he would often call down for various requests or whatever, and we would always know it was him because whenever someone called the switchboard, the phone would display both the name and the room number. We were then supposed to answer with, "Can I help you,
Mr or Mrs. So & So?" Anyway, Bill Cosby was as nice a guy as could be - always cheerful and cracking jokes, and politely making his requests, etc.... but the first night he was there many of us were still a little star struck. So when he called down in the evening and got the girl sitting next to me, she screamed with delight upon seeing who it was, answered the phone and (completely serious and by mistake) said, "Can I help you, Dr. Huxtable?"

When she heard the rest of us roar and cackle, she realized her error and quickly tried to both correct herself and apologize profusely. For a good 30 seconds or so he pretended to be furious with her mistake saying things like, "How dare you?" and "Who is your manager?" Then he started laughing heartily and told her that was the funniest thing he'd heard in awhile. Later that night, he sent all the operators a free room service meal and had flowers sent to the girl who'd made the mistake. True story.***)

Back to the dream... So, thinking Bill was a bit of a jerk I skipped that aisle entirely and went down the next one. When I went back however, not only did I see him still there, but he was also having a jovial little chat with none other than Mr. Rogers (of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood fame. He too, was wearing his trademark outfit - a grayish sweater with white shirt and slacks.) Now... seeing Bill Cosby is one thing, but seeing Mr. Rogers is something else entirely. I decided I had to move my way down the aisle and sort of position myself so that when he turned around I would be in the perfect position to introduce myself. I pushed my carriage down a little and left it to the side in front of Mr. Rogers, so that he would then have to walk around it and therefore run straight into me who was standing next to the carriage and blocking the other side of the aisle. He did exactly that and upon almost running into me exclaimed with a smile, "Oh!! My goodness.. I am sorry. We seem to be in each others way. Excuse me." When I told him how big a fan I was and how much I admired the show he said, "Oh, well that's very kind! Thank you. Thank you very much." We shook hands, said our goodbye's, grabbed our shopping carriages and headed in the opposite direction to continue shopping. Bill Cosby had disappeared, by the way. Didn't see him in the dream again and although it seems odd now, it didn't seem at all so when I was dreaming.

Anyway, I continued to shop, going through about two more aisles when I looked down into the carriage and realized that I didn't recognize any of the items in it. Puzzled for a second, it then quickly dawned on me that after we had exchanged pleasantries, Mr Rogers & I must have mistakenly walked off with the other persons carriage. I had his and he had mine. His was filled with all sorts of things you would expect Mr. Rogers to buy too - like peanut brittle, and a large gift basket filled with individually wrapped assorted cheese. Not wanting these things, I started to look around the store for him so we could swap carriages again, but to no avail. He was nowhere to be found. I started to panic a little bit before I then glanced out the front window and saw Mr. Rogers outside, and wheeling his.. er my groceries to his car (a silver Ford Taurus station wagon.) At this point in the dream, I distinctly remember thinking that Mr. Rogers was a bit of an idiot. Not only did he not realize he had the wrong shopping carriage, but he then went through checkout and proceeded to pay for all the wrong items. Nevertheless, I started running with the carriage, through the checkout line (I didn't pay for anything - I just ran through it, and somehow this was OK), out the door and into the parking lot screaming, "Mr. Rogers! Mr. Rogers! You have the wrong groceries!!!" It was only when I was within five feet of him that he actually heard me and turned around. Startled once again he said, "Oh! It's you again. I guess we had a bit of a mixup then, didn't we? Well, we better get this straightened out. Shall we?" We then started handing each other groceries back and forth, one for one. I had a scowl on my face the entire time, while he smiled throughout, and everytime he handed over a new item he would say things like, "Heeeere!", "Here you go", "O.K.", "Very Good" and chuckle after each exclamation. When it was done, he continued smiling and said, "Well, I'm glad we got that fixed."

At this point, the dream took a completely different turn. All of a sudden I'm no longer standing in the Super Trader Joe's parking lot, but in an office where I work. I'm working on one of the servers which is sitting on a shelf on a rack in this office (the office exists in real life - there are no servers or racks in it though) and at the far end of the office Mr. Rogers is sitting at a desk with his back turned, grading papers or something. Rather abruptly, one of the women I work with comes barging into the office, turns to Mr. Rogers and says, "Fred!! (his real first name) Someone stole ALL of your oat bran!!" Mr. Rogers slowly turns around in his swivel chair, puts his hands to his head and says, "Oh dear! All of it?!" I then begin to chuckle and slowly we fade to black...

What does any of this mean? I have NO idea. I was afraid to look any of this up on some hack dream analysis website for fear it would tell me something that would damage me forever. I have often heard it said however, that dreams are the ticket to ones subconscious. Well....If that's so then I should expect the nice men with the white jacket to come visiting any day now.

Sweet dreams. Until tomorrow, jazzcats.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Let's Move The Whole Operation Outside.

Alright - I've calmed down a bit since yesterday's movie rant. I probably won't figure out that which is elite cinema anytime soon so for now, I'll look for the good stuff here. I'm not a big fan of rabbits, but these little guys are Oscar-caliber. Check out both The Shining & Titanic. They had me on the floor.

I am in a fantastic mood today. Gorgeous, gorgeous day already and it looks as if that will continue throughout. It is a "driving with the window down" day if ever there was one. So much so that it's even made an impression on today's music selection. You see, I got tired of Pink Floyd in a hurry, so this morning I thought I'd come in and lay the funk down (HA!!!! Can't believe I just wrote that.) That will have to wait for another day however, because whenever the weather is as nice as it is now - particulary when it's one of the first few nice days we've had after a brutal winter - I invariably think of Southern California. They have weather like this all the time.... insufferable jerks. Anyway - to carry this through... when I think of Southern California, I often think of the drive I made down the coast from Santa Barbara to San Diego a couple of years back. Believe it or not, I actually had the pleasure of making the trip for work..... just a beautiful drive all around. And when I think of that trip, I often think of the CD I'm listening to now which I had first heard in Boston, picked up in SBA and had in the CD player for much of the drive down the coast. Some very good electronic music indeed, and the track I posted to the right is perfect for a lazy warm spring or summer day. Incidentally, I saw these guys when they played in Boston a little over three years ago.... I was one of about ten people there. Shame, that.

Why else am I in a good mood? Probably the carryover effect from last night. A couple of friends and I attended a rather fun-filled event filled with exceptional highs, frustrating lows and lots of drama all around. A very satisfying ending, however. Here - I don't think I'll be giving too much away if I share some of it with you. Click here (and be patient. It seems to be taking a long time to load.)

Enjoy your Wednesday folks, and remember once it's through you only have two more days to go until the weekend. Well.... really only one because no one does any work on Friday.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

At The Movies

I am a music connoisseur. I research it, read about it, write about it, critique it, love it, slam it and above all listen to it. I cannot say the same for film. In fact, I'm somewhat of a movie idiot. All those phenomenal movies you've seen - you know, the ones that really etch themselves indelibly into the fabric of society and leave marks on your soul? Haven't seen 'em - er, actually maybe I have, but chances are their importance and magnitude escaped me. It's pathetic.

This was never more apparent then when I was in college. I went to Emerson, a small school in downtown Boston with majors that focus towards media, mass communication and "the arts." I often look back on those halcyon days with a certain wistfulness - I had a great time there and learned a ton to boot. But the school definitely attracted a certain kind of student - and the vast majority of them majored in film. You know the type - bleached skin, black wardrobe, clove cigarette smoking, sullen individuals who'd been wronged - all carrying themselves with the imprimatur of arthouse film knowledge. I, on the other hand, was a lowly radio major with a minor in creative writing (although you'd never know), who had long hair, dressed like a grunge icon, smoked Camel Lights, and coughed and spat a lot. But many of the previously mentioned film majors were my friends and they would often gasp (literally) at my lack of knowledge.

"You haven't seen Reservoir Dogs? Jesus, man... where have you been?"


"'Hey - so I was watching the new film from Kryszlwsykfghghdsyfsv Grghlikjsdmirtsky the other day and..'

'I'm sorry... who?'

'Don't tell me you've never heard of Grghlikjsdmirtsky! The man DEFINED existentialist minimalism through his work with camera angles, lighting and waterfowl. Haven't you ever seen 'Dot'?"

Most of the conversations were like that - and I had to plead ignorance every time. Not so anymore, however. Now I have Netflix.... a phenomenal online movie rental service which I'm sure you've all heard of, and would do well to join if you like movies. Over the past year, I've been making it a point to rent the movies that everyone else has seen and I haven't, but should have. They don't necessarily have to have been artsy-fartsy or Oscar winners... just well-known films that people often talk about. I figure this way I'll at least have a point of reference at party discussions and don't have to lie about having seen them. (Incidentally - the current Netflix movie I'm watching (or will soon watch) is on the sidebar to the right - and no, I don't count Harry Potter as a 'must see' film. It IS fun however, and that particular one down there is pretty dark.) So - when I get the time I'll throw a new one in: Casablanca, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Godfather, The Godfather II, Top Gun, Apocalypse Now, Blazing Saddles, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The Music Man (There's gonna be trouble.... right here in River City!!), Seven Samurai, etc...

You know what? They all suck.

Alright - I'm kidding, but I've come to the conclusion that much of what makes great films great escapes me. Not to say that I'm above it all - in fact, exactly the opposite. I'm probably too stupid to get it. My friend Joseph isn't. A fellow Emersonian, and film major (but not at all like I described above - very much the exception) he tries his best to help me understand when I ask. Often his answer is something like, "You have to look at the film in the time that it was released. It was truly revolutionary. The director had done things no one else had ever done before." Well - fine... except that I don't watch films looking for an appreciative history lesson. I like a good story - and knowing that a director in 1958 was one of the first to use a particular camera angle isn't going to make me enjoy the story any more. You could say the same thing for music. Elvis Presley & Chuck Berry paved the way for much of today's Rock n' Roll... they were absolutely pioneers. MUST I like them for that reason, though? Hell no. In fact, I would argue a great many people who claim to love Elvis and Chuck Berry do so because they're afraid NOT to. Don't want to look like a fool in the eyes of your peers, you know. I happen not to like Elvis all that much. Some of his songs are OK and I understand that without him there would be no U2, Beatles, Led Zeppelin, etc... but just because he's first doesn't mean he's best. Other people took what he did and did it better. **Any holes you want to rip in this clearly flawed argument can begin right here ------------> **

Example? (Forgive me, Joseph. I'm about to commit blasphemy - as if I hadn't already with the Elvis comments.) Citizen Kane. What on Earth is it about this film that makes it so critics won't stop putting it at the top of their all time movie lists? Most people saw a film that was completely revolutionary. I saw a muddled, overly-long story about some guy who won't shutup about a sled. Still - realizing that I was the problem here, and not the film, I tried to find some help via the Internet. I found this from a reviewer on the Netflix site:

"It might be helpful for one to find some primer material on film appreciation so one can be a better interpreter and analyzer of a movie's themes, style, and intentions, so one would not likely reject a film simply because it is unfamiliar. A great film is usually the work of a master who trusted the intelligence of the viewers, who must do their part in seeing the movie the way it is intended to be seen. After watching CITIZEN KANE, ask yourself this: why is the story told completely out of sequence? It is to show the disorderly, checkered nature of a man's life. Why is the pace so quick early in the film? To show the man's meteoric rise to power. Why is it slower later? To show his long, languishing fall from grace. Why does the photography often juxtapose bright light and dark shadows? It is to allude to the duality of optimism and goodness versus despair and darkness that is the nature of the story. Why does Charlie applaud all by himself during Susan's opera? Because, in a way, he is congratulating himself. But later why does he pan Susan's performance? Because deep inside he has a bit of self-loathing. Again, duality. My point is, this is why some viewers are such film lovers, and some are not. Because putting your thoughts into what is behind every shot, every line, every cut, every nuance, every subtext, every overtone, undertone, insinuation, implication...is what movie-watching is all about. Those who are willing to invest the effort will be rewarded (while watching good movies, that is) and those who aren't will not."

I understand this - really, I do. But I just don't 'get it.' I've never been able to. Everytime I try to put my thoughts into what's behind "every shot, every line, every cut" I can never trust my own judgment. Usually I miss it because it's too subtle or I'm just numb to what's going on. Besides when I do think "I've gotten it", I usually find out I was wrong 99% of the time anyway.

*sigh*

Does any of this matter? I don't know. We all watch films for different reasons. I happen to like it when the director lets his story be a story and any metaphor used is simple enough for my undeveloped mind to appreciate. Books? Music? I'm golden. With film, I just happen to be riding the short bus. I won't avoid films for this reason however... I will keep renting the classics and the 'influentials' and try to develop my mind and tastes toward an appreciation of all good works. Will I succeed? I guess you guys can be the judge when you read my future reviews. In the meantime, however I'm thankful for Roger Ebert.

Oh yeah - my favorite film of all-time? Trainspotting. You know one of the main reasons why? Because it had a KICK-ASS soundtrack. Toodles.

Monday, May 09, 2005

I Ain't Got Nuthin'

Forgive the late post today folks. Crazy busy day which started very early and didn't particularly let up. Didn't particularly matter anyway though because I didn't have anything to write about. I still don't actually so I figure I'll take this time to go random and jot down whatever comes into my head. Call it a stream of consciousness blog entry.. enjoy, or not:
  • I love my television. I also love my satellite dish. But why the hell is NESN unavailable in high definition for satellite TV subscribers? Only cable gets the HD feed. Talk about Bass-ackwards. On the plus side though I do get all the Sirius satellite music stations... hooray for Sirius Chill 64
  • Instant Messenger is a wonderful invention but it can get annoying... particularly when people don't leave you alone. What's a polite way to tell people to shut up?
  • Holy Crap. Manny Ramirez just got hit in the head with a breaking ball that didn't break. That's one way to find out you're not having a good day....
  • The knot in my slippers keeps coming undone... on both feet. They have those weird thick leather laces you often see on doxiders. I need to learn how to tie some stronger knots. But why do my slippers have laces?
  • This is much more difficult than you would think. I'm trying not to think of anything nasty or profane. I don't want to have to write it down. My parents may read it.
  • New tires rule.
  • I have three stuffed animal thingies. Two of them - Beaker (from the Muppets) and Mr. Peabody (from Sherman and Mr. Peabody on the old Bullwinkle cartoons - you remember them, don't you? 'Sherman, set the wayback machine to 1492.') They are both sitting on top of one of my speakers and staring at me. Beaker's mouth is agape, as it often is. Mr. Peabody is looking rather shrewd and sly. I think he's up to something and I think Beaker knows what it is but is too scared to say anything. Plus he can only make 'Meep Meep' sounds. I think the mastermind behind this evil plot is Sleepytime Grover who sits in the armchair in my bedroom. Innocent monster, indeed. It's all a ruse. There's something sinister behind that happy-go-lucky exterior. What lies underneath that nightcap of his?
  • Currently on the stereo: The Land of Green Ginger by The Orb. Might explain my bizarre mood.
  • I love Netflix. Kept me sane during my months of unemployment back in '01 & '02. I hate Blockbuster for completely driving them into the ground. Actually hate is a very strong term. I shouldn't use it. If I hate someone or something I'm giving them too much of my time already. So I'll just say I extremely dislike Blockbuster.
  • The plants in this apartment are in desperate need of watering.
  • One thing about living in the barrio is the smell. It's really good. People in this area must really know how to cook. It's also very loud and the people are generally too lazy to get out of their cars and ring the doorbell as I'm finding out for the umpteenth time tonight. They lean on their horn until whomever it is they're trying to get in touch with comes out. I want to throw something at them that will hurt. Someone should teach them how to use some other communication device..... like maybe a phone.
  • I wish the Sneaker Pimps had released one more quality album. Becoming X is fantastic... and then that lead singer lady left the band. Buh-LAH!
  • I haven't smoked in 3+ years but I still miss cigarettes from time to time. Now is one of those times. But to indulge would be foolishness. Plus I'm already in my hospital scrubs - which I use as pajamas. I don't know why I didn't just write "I'm in my pajamas."
  • Antiques Roadshow has made me afraid to throw anything out.
  • Back to the Red Sox... they've scored four runs so far and not one of them has been scored on a hit. Crazy.
  • Trot Nixon still has Bob Seger like facial hair. When he shaved his head during the playoffs two years ago he looked like a member of the Aryan Nation. That said, he just hit a two run double so who's to argue with his grooming techniques. Go Trot.
  • I desperately need a vacation. I'm thinking Europe again... or maybe Montana. Seriously. Any other suggestions out there?
  • I'm thirsty... think it's time for an herbal tea.
  • Did you hear about the psychic midget that escaped from prison? Police said they were looking for a small medium at large.
  • That last comment is almost certainly a surefire indication it's time to call "finished" on today's post.
  • Finished. Talk to you folks tomorrow where I hope to (mercifully) have something good to write.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Super Fast Googs Dude

Google is nuts.

But they are nothing if not innovative - which is why I'm devoting another post to them. (Incidentally, did you notice how in that last sentence I referred to Google in the plural, but in the first sentence I used the singular form? THAT my friends, is an example of bad grammar and composition.) You're well aware of the Google Satellite Maps by now, I would assume? Well, not one to rest on their laurels they've introduced two new "scratch your head" technologies - both still in beta mode.

The first new thing-a-ding they've introduced is the Google Ride Finder. Ever feel like knowing where all the cabs in a particular fleet are and why it's taking them so long to show up after you've placed a call? Well - now you have you're answer - assuming, that is, you live in one of the twelve major metropolitan areas the service covers (sadly Boston isn't among them.. yet.) The basic gist of this is that you click on your city and it will show you an overhead map with markers designating the fleet movements of any number of taxi companies that have signed up for the service. You can zoom in and out to get a general overview or an exact location. Click on the cab company's name and you get redirected to their website. Does it serve much use other than to tell you where their cabs are located? Nope, not yet - but stay tuned. As mentioned before, this thing is still in beta mode so they will probably be adding all sorts of neat new features - hopefully the ability to request a taxi to your location, and fare information among them. Pretty neat. Will they be adding Boston? Who knows, but I think it would be a tough sell for the unions here. You think they want their taxis tracked at all times? I think not. It would mean they'd actually have to do some work.

The next new thing-a-ding, just introduced in the last couple of days, is the Google Web Accelerator. What does this do? Take a look at what it's called, dumb dumb. Exactly what it says. It supposed to make broadband (it is NOT recommended for dialup) Internet surfing quicker, thereby saving time when surfing to my blog (or others - but none are as good as mine - just so we're clear.) Basically, when you install this little gadget your page requests will be sent through Google and Google will, when available, respond back with pages from its own cache. Further, it will try to determine what has changed on a web page and send only the updates. But wait - there's more! It also keeps track of your more frequently surfed websites so that it can refresh them behind the scenes while your browser is idle.

One of the big things critics always scream about with regards to Google is their total lack of regard for personal privacy for those who use their services. No doubt a few people will be up in arms over this latest innovation as well. What specifically do users of this service need to be aware of? Couple 'o things. Because you're essentially surfing through Google you're basically passing a bunch of information onto them when you do so. Google logs every request made for a page (except secure sites (https)) so any personal information entered on an unsecure page will get sent along with the request (basically, if you're using the web accelerator you may not want to enter your credit card information unless you're on a secure page - but that's a good rule to follow anyway.) Also, in order to speed things up a bit, the accelerator may retrieve pages you didn't even request and store them in your local computers cache. Personally, I don't mind so much. While the technology is a bit invasive, yes - I'm not surfing anywhere that I wouldn't want anyone else to know about (except for banking and credit card stuff and that's all secure anyway.) Big Brother has probably been watching me since my birth anyway so there's not a whole hell of a lot I can do about it now.... those people who are screaming about it are probably those who have something to hide. Whatever - call me naive, as I'm sure some of you will. ;)

So there are the two newest additions to the Google family. And don't forget about Gmail either - Google's free e-mail service (which is incredibly STILL in beta) with ridiculously large storage capacity. In all likelihood, anyone reading this either has a Gmail address or has had the opportunity to get one - but if for whatever reason you don't and would like one just leave a comment. I and every other Gmail user out there have 50 free accounts to give away... seriously. So much for exclusivity.

Have a great weekend, folks. Try to stay dry. I'll talk to you a little later on.