Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Then Again, So Is Two...

Speaking of things being shared between man and beast, and since I've been pilfering Boing Boing for all my posts recently anyway...

It seems a customer at a German bank was a little taken aback by the horse that was in line in front of him. From the Associated Press:

"...the horse's owner, identified only as Wolfgang H., had a bit too much to drink the night before and decided to sleep it off inside the bank's heated foyer, police said Tuesday.

The 40-year-old machinist told Bild newspaper he had had "a few beers" with a friend in Wiesenburg, southwest of Berlin, and decided to hit the hay in the bank on his way home.

"It was late, it was already dark and cold," he was quoted as saying.

Confronted with the lack of a hitching-post, he brought the 6-year-old horse, named Sammy, in along with him.

When a customer came across the horse and sleeping rider in the bank at 4:15 a.m. Monday, he called police, who then came and woke the owner up and sent him on his way.

No charges were filed, but there might be some cleanup needed: Apparently Sammy made his own after-hours deposit on the carpet."

That last line just slays me.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Eight Is, Most Certainly, Enough

File this one under 'What the Hell?'

Dick Van Patten of 'Eight Is Enough', 'The Love Boat', and 'The Shaggy D.A.' fame (as well as countless other programs - especially 70's Disney films - Freaky Friday anyone?) is now marketing a line of pet foods, the canned versions of which, apparently, are of such high quality that they can be consumed by both man and beast. Call me skeptical, but very much amused.

Below are the can designs for 'Hobo Chili' and 'Chinese Take Out with Sauce' varieties:

I love the hats. You can also get it in Southern Style Dumplin's With Gravy and Irish Stew varieties (with Spaghetti with Beef and Meat Sauce coming soon. I can't imagine what kind of hat he'll wear on that can.) I also wonder if any of his dog foods were subject to the same recalls that some other dog foods had to undergo. Has Dick been poisoning our pets?!? Who knows and who cares?? I had no idea Tom Bradford was so versatile!

P.S. Check out his IMDB page at some point. This guy must be the most well traveled actor on the planet. Plus, some of his project titles are gems. The Hoboken Chicken Emergency?

(credit must be given to Boing Boing on this one, who found it from Ape Lad)

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Friday, April 20, 2007

This American Post

Among my guilty pleasures these days is listening to 'This American Life' on the local public radio station. I'm not a regular listener by any means. In fact, I'm not even sure what time the program airs, but if I'm listening to the radio (certainly not an unusual hobby in Eric's World) and the show comes on, I will, most times, pay attention - which is not something that can be said with regard to a lot of the other stuff I hear on the radio. I find 'This American Life' to be an interesting, and often times, enjoyable show. I can even do a passable Ira Glass impersonation (speak in a lightly feminine air, with just a touch of monotone staccato rhythm, and sound like you're mildly bored with whatever it is you're discussing. Ex. "Chapter One... Eric Writes A Blog Post... Sara Leventhal travels to Boston where she endeavors to discover... what exactly it is that makes a bad blog entry. She finds out, however... that things in the competitive world of blogging... aren't exactly... what they might seem...")

"But wait" you say, "guilty pleasure?" Well... yes, and I don't know that I can adequately explain why. You see, whenever I listen I get this sense that I'm trying to be something I'm not. It's as if, by tuning in, I'm then saying to myself, "I, too, can be an early 30's hipster who wears glasses with thick dark frames and makes half-hearted attempts at being outraged over a lack of social justice. I CARE, dammit, and I listen to this program to open my mind and find my affirmation!"

I don't, of course, say any of these things, but I kind of feel like I should in order to listen to the program and truly get it - as if being a socially conscious, city dwelling hipster is a necessary prerequisite. I'm not any of those things (well, OK - I'm a city dweller, and I'm ever so slightly socially conscious. But, I'm not a hipster. I don't wear Che Guevarra t-shirts, or surplus German army jackets with long red scarves. In other words, I don't look/act like a character in 'Rent.' For the most part, I conform to societal pressures and norms with regard to dress and political thought, thank you very much.) Hence, the guilt. It's an imposter thing.

Identity crisis aside, I've never really articulated any of this until now, and I'm finding it strangely cathartic. What brought this on? Onions. Or rather, THE Onion. If you're a fan of 'This American Life', or at least have a reasonable familiarity with it, then you should read this "article." As is so often the case, they have a knack for peeling away the different layers (pun intended - onion? peeling layers? get it? ha?) and facades of a subject and - I don't want to say "expose", but take shots at something while cutting to its core. They kinda did that with this article. Comedy gold.

Although they probably won't, I wouldn't be totally surprised to see 'This American Life' address The Onion article in some way in a future show - either through its own "chapter" or in Ira's closing comments. Credibility through either self-deprecation or acknowledgement of shortcomings - both obvious and not so - and ensuing exploration of such, is a somewhat familiar recurrence in the show's stories and monologues. However, I'll keep listening to the show, regardless. Whatever it is or is not, and whatever I am or am not, it's still enjoyable and I still - most times, anyway - learn something new and interesting from it. If in the course of listening, I start noticing the absence of guilt, that means I'll have either joined 'La revolución' or simply stopped worrying about it. Either one would be a somewhat momentous occasion, and I'll be sure to let you know. Maybe I'll get my own chapter. "Chapter 3... Eric Hears A Who... We follow a man on his search for meaning..."

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Click Schtick

A bunch of posts ago I told you about this new Clicky service which acts as both a super site meter and web analytical tool. So far, I've been very very impressed. The service, even in the free version, provides a wealth of information (how many visits, by whom, what they searched for that led them to your site, what they did once they got there, etc...) It is SO much better than the stats feature my web host provides, that I'm am definitely going to stick with it for now. The only issue I have with it (and it's a minor one, given that the service is free) is that sometimes it gets the site visitor's city wrong. For example, if I surf to this site from a location in Natick, MA, Clicky will often say that visitor was coming from Tyngsboro, MA - a city further north near the New Hampshire border. Such small discrepancies are common.

That's about the only issue, though, and if we assume that Clicky at least gets the general area of the visitor correct, that means I don't know who half of you crazies are - yeah, including you regular readers. However, I shan't let that dissuade me from throwin' out a few shout outs to all my peeps in da hizzouse. New Orleans, where you at? Awww yeah, they you at! Represent! Somerville, you up in here?!? Hell yeah, hell yeah. Who else? Errybody in San Jose gettin' tips... Alright, sorry. This juvie slang is gettin' old. But mad props go to my homies across the pond in Luton & Newcastle upon Tyne, anyway.

The list goes on and the locales are too numerous to list here. However, as I promised in that earlier post, I'll steal a page out of Sean's book and provide you with some of the more amusing search terms people have used to get to here. By far, the most popular search terms are "tattoo" (ironic, because I don't have one, but I wrote a post about 'em way back when), "ying yang", "mnah mnah" and "toppins" (lot of Mary Poppins fans out there I guess.) But popular search terms are boring. Here are the strange, funny and scary ones:
and my personal favorite....
I'll leave it up to you to figure out my target demographic. But for now, I'd like to utter a hearty welcome to everyone, regardless of search term! You keep coming, I'll keep posting. Unless you're looking for more bathroom cleaner.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Oh, I Am SO There!!!

Been a crazy week with precious little time to post, but I just thought I'd check in with this small, chuckle-worthy link. I especially like step #9.

Plane? Pshaw! If I'd known it was this easy I'd have gone yesterday. Only 29 days! Although, I wonder how on earth they calculated the time. Were they assuming you'd go 55 mph, or do they know how fast the average person swims? Anyway, the only thing keeping me here is that the directions have you go by way of France and through the chunnel. Surely, there must be an easier way than that...

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Hoppin' Along To My Easter Song

Because I hold a good deal of somewhat interesting but ultimately useless information in my noggin, I tend to get asked a lot of odd questions. Why is the sky blue? (A phenomena called 'Rayleigh scattering' in which short wavelength light is absorbed by gas molecules, whereupon the absorbed blue light is radiated in all directions and scattered around the sky.) What does this button do? (Nothing good. Leave it alone.) How do you solve a problem like Maria? (Very good question. I'm not entirely sure, but I think the first step involves catching a cloud and pinning it down. You don't want that sucker going ANYWHERE...)

Yesterday, Goof asked me about the origins of the Easter Bunny. She was asking on behalf of a classmate of hers who, being from China and thus not familiar with the bizarre ways in which we Westerners celebrate our holidays, didn't understand the link between the bunny and the event. She thought, perhaps, that a rabbit might have played a key role in the resurrection of Christ, and his ascension into heaven, which, were it the case, would have made things a lot more interesting. Imagine attending the Easter Vigil and, midway through, hearing the celebrant bellow, "Peter Cottontail, pray for us! Brer Rabbit, pray for us! Bugs Bunny, pray for us!"

Oddly enough, however, I didn't know the answer to this one, and at the time, had no real desire to find out (I was both cooking my dinner and watching a documentary on 90's Britpop), so I told Goof to go look it up. She was not impressed (and told me so), and after grumbling her disapproval, we moved on to other topics of discussion. However, since she's also reminding me - fairly regularly - to post, I figured I'd do a little research and take this opportunity to kill two birds with one stone (don't know where that expression came from, either. Look it up.)

The places where I would normally go to find this information - animated holiday TV specials - were of no help this time around. There are precious few of them dealing with Easter (I seem to remember a "Family Circus" Easter special, of all things, from my childhood, but little else) and those that do are too weird to consider using as reputable sources of information. Instead, I turned to Wikipedia,, various pieces of literature.

As any good reader of The DaVinci Code knows, early Christian bigwigs, well aware that people would give up their gods before their holidays, did a good job of incorporating pagan practices into Christian festivals, and Easter is no exception. The primary spring festival back in pagan days was one which honored the Saxon Goddess Eastre, whose sacred animal was a hare (it being a symbol of fertility, along with eggs, and rabbits. The idea of an egg laying rabbit, however, seems to be something that we have botched over time by incorporating the two separate symbols.) The colored eggs associated with the bunny come from an even more ancient traditions, the origins of which are unknown, however Greeks to this day typically dye their Easter Eggs red, the color of blood, in recognition of the renewal of life in springtime (and, later, the blood of the sacrificed Christ). Some also use the color green, in honor of the new foliage emerging after the long "dead" time of winter. Other colors, including the pastels popular in the United States and elsewhere (possibly symbolizing the rainbow), seem to have come along later (those last three sentences blatantly copied from Wikipedia - I'm running out of time, here.)

Quickly now, we move along 1500 years to Germany, where children awaited the arrival of "Osterhase" (hase meaning "hare", not rabbit. We seem to have taken a few liberties, here) who would leave for them - only if they were good, mind you - gifts of colored eggs in the nests that the children would make for him in their bonnets and caps. This practice was continued by the German settlers who arrived in the Pennsylvania Dutch country in the 1700's, and from there spread throughout the country, thus ensuring the legend of the Easter Bunny was known far and wide. He's a fertile one, indeed.

So, there you have it. The abridged version of how the Easter Bunny is merely nothing more than a symbol of coercion used by early Christians to cutely convert their non-believing neighbors. Or, if you prefer, he's a swell little rabbit who does his part in promoting tooth decay. Either way, he's kind of enjoyable, and I, for one, am glad to know him. Happy Easter, everybody!

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Hope Springs... Uh... Well...

It’s 41 degrees and raining in Boston. Know what that means, don’t you?

Baseball season is upon us!!!!!! Baseball (That's béisbol for all you Spanish speakers!!!!!!) Ring the bells and sound the alarms, my beloved Boston Red Sox (that's Calcetines Rojos for all you Spanish speakers) have returned from their thrilling third place finish in the A.L. East last year to try and reclaim their th… er… surpass last years mark.

They're off to a very poor start, are my Boston Nine, having lost the opener today to the lowly Royals of Kansas City (in Kansas City - oh, and that's Los Reales de Kansas City for all you Spanish speakers) and their brand new ace... Gil Meche? Yes, Gil Meche, he of the woefully undeserved $55 million dollar contract. Although, after today's performance perhaps it was money well spent. The Red Sox only managed one run, while their ace, Curt Schilling, gave up five of them - in what I can only hope was an off game.

Still - it's early, and I have every reason to be hopeful. The boys look mighty good this year with a revamped squad featuring some outstanding pitching (Konichiwa Matsuzaka-san!!!!) and decent bats. Most pundits and educated fans think they'll be right up there with their truly loathsome rivals, the New York Yankees (that's Arrogant Assholes for all you Spanish speakers) for top spot in the A.L. East, if they don't win the division outright (although I won't get my hopes up there - the Spankees have taken the division every year since '95, including 2004 when the Red Sox won the World Series. By the way, the Red Sox lost their opener that year too.)

But, putting aside my ridiculous biases for a second... fewer things are more enjoyable than baseball in summer - regardless of team. Lounging around at dusk on a lazy summer night with a cold beverage, the windows open, the sounds of the city in the background, and a baseball game on the TV - or, even better, the radio... *shiver* I'm giddy just thinking about it.

I'll be attending at least one game this year too. For Christmas, the Goof Monster got me what can only be described as an incredibly thoughtful, generous, and kick-ass Christmas gift - namely a ticket for a game against the Oakland A's in the pavilion boxes. Just tremendous. She's even getting caught up in it all herself, having recently watched "Still, We Believe" - the Red Sox movie released after the absolutely heartbreaking 2003 season, and which had no business being released (I'm afraid to watch it. That night in October '03 was just too painful, and I don't really want to relive it.) Although, I have a sneaking suspicion her interest in baseball is more to try and understand why I'm such an emotional train wreck during the season, as opposed to any real interest in the game - a suspicion that was even further reinforced this week. When I told her the Red Sox opened the season today she said, "Go Nomar!!!!!" When I then told her that he hasn't played for the Red Sox in two and half years she replied, "Forget you, Nomar!!!! Nobody wanted you anyway! Ooh, but I just found out that he's married to Mia Hamm!!!" Can't fault her for her passion.

Oh, and lest I forget (and since we're on the subject of movies), allow me to put a rather large plug in for Ken Burns' Baseball documentary. Originally aired on PBS in the early 90's (I think), it still holds up incredibly well. I can't stress enough how good a documentary series this is - even for those who aren't really fans of the game. It follows the sport from its inception in the 1800's until the 1990's and features some amazing footage and interviews with all sorts of characters. For God's sake, they even manage to include Walt Whitman & Garrison Keillor. You can't go wrong. It's expensive to buy, but from what I've seen lots of video stores have it, as do a good deal of libraries. Well worth the viewing.

*contended sigh*

Alright, I've said enough. Time to let the games do the talking, I suppose. I'm just (as if you couldn't tell) happy it's baseball season again. True, every year seems to start earlier than the previous, and it might as well still be winter in Boston (yeah, I know March 21st marked the beginning of spring... whatever - tell that to Mr. Snowmiser), but like so many other things it's a sign of warmer weather and pleasant days ahead. Here's to your and your favorite team (unless, of course, it's the Yankees.)

I'll leave you with this... Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS - Red Sox & Yankees. The Red Sox
are down 3 games to 1 in a best of 7 series (they were down 3 games to none the night before, and barely won that game in extra innings - starting the greatest comeback in the history of sports.) David Ortiz is batting in the bottom of the 14th. Some brilliant son of a bitch had the good sense to film it with his cell phone.

This still brings a tear to my eye, and this is why I love baseball. Every fan should be able to go through this at least once.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Grumpy Time Disorder

Maybe it's just the types of web sites I tend to read these days but everywhere I surf, I see things referencing GTD.

This is annoying. Firstly, I loathe the practice of using a phrase's initials when it's wholly unnecessary, largely because I never have a clue as to what's being referenced (this generally causes me much grief when I start a new job, where this initialing process is commonplace. Workplaces suck for this sort of thing.) GTD was no exception. I couldn't figure out why so many folks were spending so much time writing about a floral delivery service. Were they THAT exceptional? Free tap dance with your bouquet? Turns out I was a letter off (as I discovered when I tried to place an order.) GTD, in fact, stands for Getting Things Done.

Oh, well that makes perfect sense. Rather intuitive, don't you think? Whatever. The point isn't so much what it stands for, as much as what it actually is. GTD is an action, and, to a lesser extent, time management technique, which (on the surface at least, which is about the extent to which I've researched it) is remarkably simple, yet, by many people's accounts, very effective. It involves keeping a repository, or "bucket", whether that be a personal Inbox, an e-mail Inbox, a tape recorder, etc... as a place to store things which you need to keep track, remember, or (altogether now), get done. The implementer than follows some very specific, simple yet strict processes to do these things and thereby increases productivity and efficiency, making them a model worker bee at both work and home.

Sounds good, don't it? I can think of any number of areas in my life where application of GTD would be ideal - this blog being a perfect example. This post which you are reading now was started on Saturday March 30th, 2007 at around 10:30 AM EST. However, I wrote that last sentence more than 24 hour later, at 2:16 PM on Sunday April 1st (Happy April Fools Day, all. No jokes here. I couldn't figure out how to incorporate them into a GTD philosophy.) The irony is not lost on me - at all. Taking a ridiculous amount of time to write a post about Getting Things Done might be indicative of a problem. Further, I started writing because it had been over a week since the last post and, quite frankly, it was time for a new one.

So, GTD seemed like a good idea. In went the slip of paper reminding me to type up a post. In went the second slip of paper reminding me to update the sidebar. In went the third slip of paper reminding me to finish the book that's in the sidebar so that I could, then, update the sidebar. Get it all down, out of my head, and into my Inbox. Be a picture of efficiency, and the envy of every other blogger out there.

Or, so it should have gone. Only problem is, I ended up using a paper shredder as my "bucket." Ooops. But, who knows? Perhaps that's more appropriate for me. I have no doubts that GTD is a very effective technique for those who apply it consistently. But, like anything, individual results may vary. When I apply it to my own life, a few things jump out. The first is that memory (or remembering to do things), is rarely an issue for me. I remember lots of stuff, and I've never gotten much use out of PDA's, Outlook tasks, pocket notebooks, or index cards. I've just never really needed them. Lack of posts on this blog is not a result of my forgetting to post. On the contrary, I always know exactly how long it's been since I've posted. Further, daily reminders to myself that I need to post are not going to make me any more likely to do it. They'll just make me more anxious about the fact that too much time has gone by without an update.

No, it's motivation that's always been my biggest issue, and it's not a lack of motivation, either. It's an excess of it. I'm motivated to write a blog post, but I'm also motivated to play World of Warcraft, or finish that database table analysis for work, or watch a movie from Netflix, or (heh) read a book. What I end up doing is often what I'm most motivated to do at that particular time (and too often, World of Warcraft or a movie wins out, although I've gotten much better about prioritization lately. Yay me.) But that sort of leads into my next point...

Nowhere in the GTD manifesto is process mentioned (er... sorry, it might actually be, but it didn't say anything about it on the GTD Wikipedia page I read right before starting this post. In any event, I'm not gonna look for it now, because it would ruin my upcoming argument if it were actually there. Perhaps I should go into politics.) GTD seems to focus on the remembrance and completion of tasks, whereupon you move onto the next one. Always strive to finish, be productive, get as much done as possible. To me, that sucks all the life out of whatever it is you're doing. Take, for example, the book in the sidebar. Depending on when you're reading this post, the book up there is Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Regular readers of this blog will note that I have seemingly been "reading" it for several months. In fact, I only started it about three weeks ago (little white lie there), but I'm thoroughly enjoying it. I enjoy the process of reading a good book, and the more I do so, the more efficient I become with regards to it's completion. If I were reading it simply because I had a constant reminder that I needed to finish it - and, in fact, my goal was nothing more than to finish it and move on to something else which I could then also finish, I wouldn't get half the enjoyment out of it that I do now. Simply crossing something off as done is not enough reason for me to do it, in other words. I don't necessarily have to enjoy the task (and in fact, I won't - I can think of several undesirable tasks I do for work and home - but I desire both a paycheck and a clean bathroom, so they're motivation enough), but even then, their completion will create a desirable end product, so that helps boost my enjoyment of the process there, too. (There's no shortage of mind tricks you can do with this, either. Can't stand to write those TPS reports? Think how easy they'll become after you do them regularly, and how they'll help you in the long run. Easy money. Um... I think.) In short, the joy is in the journey, as some of my friends say, and if, in fact, it isn't, then hopefully you have the wherewithal to start on a new journey and find some joy in that, rather than it's completion.

See? I'm even convincing myself. Who knew I could have so much fun writing about so boring a topic. Process, man. Process. I like writing posts. In fact, I think I'll write another one tomorrow. Toodles until then, jazzcats. I'm crossin' this one off.

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