A locus for eccentrics (hopefully)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Field Research

Larry Craig, Republican of Idaho, claimed that what an undercover cop thought was an offer for man-on-man restroom action was merely the result of an unusually wide stance on the throne. (Copy of the original complaint).

On my way to take a dump at work this morning, I went ahead and tried that out.

The first thing I noticed is that, my pants around my ankles, I only had so far to move my feet in the first place. I could only get them maybe 6 inches further apart than shoulder-width.

If you hike your pants back up -- dangerous ground to be sure, but hey, this is science -- you do get a little more clearance. I still couldn't get my left foot anywhere close to the stall divider, though. To do that, you really do have to torque around on the toilet, and then move both feet toward the divider.

Gentlemen, I submit to you that Larry Craig is a total faggot.

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This is harder than it looks

So I'm at work yesterday, bagging groceries just like I do every day, and my supervisor comes over and starts criticizing how I bag the groceries. Customer after customer, he's got a comment.

Finally, I said, I'd like to see you do better!

Then he pushes me out of the way and starts bagging groceries: He puts frozen foods with other frozen foods, cans with other cans, bottles of cleaning products in a separate bag, doesn't overfill bags, and places fragile items like bread and eggs on top. In short, a much better bagging job than I was doing.

I guess he showed me.

The new school

Check this site out: you can stream most of the new indie releases on it. Pretty sweet.

Monday, August 27, 2007

A Day in the Life, Pt 1

5:30 AM CDT, Chicago, IL> After downing perhaps a few too many margaritas -- and definitely a few too many cognacs -- for a co-worker's going-away dinner, wake up to start packing. Also on the list: shower, eat breakfast and feed the cat.

7:00 AM> Stand outside my apartment building to wait for the bus.

7:35 AM> No bus. Hire a cab.

7:45 AM> Get on the Blue Line at Belmont Ave.

8:45 AM> Get off the Blue Line at O'Hare.

9:10 AM> Through security; on plane. It turns out that I mistakenly reserved the seat in front of the emergency exit row, rather than the exit row itself. Not only do I not have extra leg room, but my seat is prevented from reclining at all.

12:00 PM EDT, LaGuardia Airport, Queens NY> Landfall. Viewed from the air, there is a surprisingly large number of baseball diamonds in the NY metro area.

12:20 PM> Grab a shuttle bus to Manhattan. The driver argues with a tourist over whether or not he's legally compelled to accept credit cards. For the record: he isn't.

12:50 PM> Arrive in "The City." Grand Central Station, unlike Chicago's Union Station, actually looks like a place that you could use in order to travel to other places. This intrigues me.

12:57 PM> I'm also intrigued by the subway system -- they actually have 1) Multiple routes on the same lines, so that you're not stuck making every single stop over a long distance, and 2) More than two tracks on many lines.

1:30 PM> Exit the subway, make it to the girlfriend's friend's apartment, where we'll be crashing.

2:00 PM> Lunch at a cafe on Central Park. My omelette is dry and uninspired. Disappointing.

3:00 PM> Quick walking tour through Central Park. My hopes of stumbling upon a dead jogger under a bridge and calling Detective Briscoe fall short. Of three simultaneous explanations, I'm not sure if it's more relevant that:
  1. New York, contrary to popular belief, is less crime-ridden than many other parts of the country.
  2. Law and Order is a TV show.
  3. Detective Briscoe is a fictional character on that tv show.
  4. The actor who played Briscoe is dead.
It's also exceedingly hot -- over 90 -- and excessively humid. This will become more important later.

4:00 PM> Pit stop at a Walgreens on the way back to the apartment to pick up some contact lens solution and other sundries. Thanks to the Gestapo Dept. of Homeland Security, the solution will not be able to travel back to Chicago with me or with my girlfriend to Ann Arbor. Best 9 bucks I ever spent.

P.S., bomb the president.

4:20 PM> A quick 20 minute nap at the apartment. This, along with the fact that I put a pair of jeans on afterward, will also become more important later.

5:10 PM> Good-byes are said to the girlfriend's friend (our hostess) and dinner plans made with our friend Dr. Greg. We're to meet him and the rest of our team at a Cuban restaurant on near the Columbia campus.

5:40 PM> After changing trains at Times Square, we're hurtling toward the Upper West Side on the #1 Subway. I didn't realize--though to be fair, I should have suspected--that there was public ferry service in New York. If you'd like to get on a ferry, make absolutely sure that you're on one of the first three cars on your red line train. I trust the poster on this.

6:10 PM> I, for one, am a little miffed to find that the rest of our group has already ordered by the time the girlfriend and I make it to the restaurant. Trying to not just show up in a Cuban restaurant, I order a fried cod sandwich. It immediately becomes less tasty sounding as soon as I order it, and will continue to do so until I give up, 3/4 of my way through the sandwich, 40 minutes later.

7:45 PM> Our large group arrives at Riverside Park, on the Hudson River at 110th St or so. The reason we're here, not just at the park but in New York, is for Midnight Madness, an annual scavenger hunt in the city.

But Midnight Madness, whose relatives in the Bay Area were known simply as "The Game," isn't really a scavenger hunt. Each checkpoint in the race is hidden in a puzzle; the starting point is itself the answer to a puzzle, with the solution only handed out the day it begins.

The riddles are pretty difficult. The earlier versions of the Game, which were designed by high-level nerds at Stanford, involved quite complicated mathematics and pick-up physics. More general versions, like this one, are closer to brainteasers, and include pop culture and at least some reward to those of us who go outside once in a while.

I'd been on two of these in Michigan with my girlfriend, Dr. Greg, and other friends from UM. We won the most recent one, handily wiping the floor with the assorted middle aged folks and their families who were our competition. Of course, driving around the Detroit suburbs is a different animal than running around Manhattan on foot.

It was humid, hot, and the mosquitos were out in full force. I was still wearing jeans, sweating profusely and warily keeping an eye on New Jersey to the west. Detective Briscoe doesn't have any jurisdiction over there; Jersey is only an invitation for a meddling district judge to screw up your case, or to be executed altogether.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

But Hey, at Least Franco's Still Dead

Nawaz Sharif, last seen ramming through constitutional amendments to put him in charge of the country for life, is returning to Pakistan in what he hails as a "victory for democracy." Benazir Bhutto, prime minister for almost two years in the late 1980s before being run into exile for embezzling a few hundred million dollars -- her and her husband have had Interpol warrants for such issued for them -- is also set to return.

I can only imagine how much living standards will improve in that part of the world once they've gotten rid of that mean old general and replaced it with civilian government.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Getting economical with your words

Alright, fellas. They say Hemingway did it in six words: For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.

It's what he called an "iceberg story": Showing just the tip, the rest, a fuller, rich and unseen story.

I propose a nanofiction contest. 10 words or less. Game on, bitches.


I swear: realtors are the scummiest, most incompetent group of people I've ever worked with.

On a completely unrelated note, I found this video the other day. I likeyed.

Current medical advances

If you think about it, correcting vision with eyeglasses is a very primitive concept: It’s just two lenses held in place by a solid rock frame.

Technology, are you listening?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A tale of two gritties

July in the city is like no other month. At noontime, cars on streets bake where it’s all opened up and raw like a sunburn.

Uptown, sweaty people stand in doorways smoking cigarettes while downtown negroes with frayed pants push shopping carts filled with crushed cans.

In the city, the rich eat prescription drugs and snort good cocaine while the poor breathe spray paint from paper bags and shoot dirty heroin.

And the people in the office buildings talk into telephones about money, and at night out in the suburbs they fight with their husbands and wives.

In Fremont Park, nervous joggers listen to hip hop while scarecrow men crawl under benches for lost change.

On the dark hill under a gentle oak tree, the queers give blowjobs under the countenance of a pewter Civil War general and his horse.

And then the sun comes up again, the last public swimming day of the year.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Seven Dwarfs

I don't have an apartment related fiasco to share. I mean, the power went out in my lilly white neighborhood for about twenty minutes last weekend, and sure, there was panicking on my part, but it was brief and muted. Within a relatively short period of time, order was restored. I also have a hedgehog that has seen fit to park in front of my porch and stand guard. What's worse is that this hedgehog is morbidly obese. There is nothing worse than a fat hedgehog engaged in a game of chicken with you to see who will give first. As of now, I am standing my ground.

Anyway, it is way too early to say anything definitive (which is why this is probably the first post here to broach the subject), but I can't hold out any longer, despite the insanity of the saturated media coverage. I know by giving in and talking about it, I am only serving to feed the beast and perpetuate this ridiculously early prognosticating, but I can't help it. August is a slow fucking news month.

It is becoming clearer and clearer that one of the following seven individuals will be the next leader of the free world. Each has a few chinks in their armor. Each a few skeletons in the closet. And not a single person is running anything close to an inspired early campaign (and given the box that you are forced into when running for President, it is hardly surprising--in this YouTube age, your every move, every word is broken down and distributed and analyzed to death). Despite all being nominally qualified for the job, not a single one is setting the world on fire. I fear this particular clusterfuck to the White House (tm The Daily Show) will be the longest, most drawn out, most expensive and emotionally exhausting in modern history.

So, every few months, I resolve to to a Power Ranking of all seven individuals. The spot each one earns at any given moment will be based on a multitude of factors--poll numbers, money raised, fewest campaign screwups, discipline and coherence of message, ect. Of course, these spots only reflect a snapshot in time, and I always reserve the right to change my mind. Ultimately, what each ranking represents in my mind is if the election were held today, who ultimately has the best chance of being President. At this point in time, I am dismissing the Bidens and Brownback, ie the Second Tier candidates who haven't done anything at this point to shake up perceptions. This list is strictly for the Big Time. After the Iowa Straw poll this weekend and into the Fall as new finds are raised and the caucusing in Iowa and NH begin anew, things will come into better focus. But for now......

1. Mitt Romney-- Candidacy slowly catching fire; most money raised amongst GOP contenders. Done an impressive job wooing social conservatives and is most adept at walking that fine line between praising Bush and distancing himself from the President's shitty and disastrous policies.
He makes a ton of ridiculous gaffes, but has charisma. Loved in the business community. Proved he can govern in a politically divided atmosphere (got universal health care done in Massachussetts). He is the one candidate who has surged from relatively unknown cultlike religious freak to bona fide contender. Only in America.

2. Rudolph Giuliani-- Huge hurdles to overcome in GOP Primary season, particularly among social conservatives, but he has kept pace in the money chase, and national poll numbers are unbelievably strong. His moderate social policies combined with tough talk on terror and record of relative success in NYC (even though he basically ran a feckless police state) should help him a ton in the general election--he is a consensus candidate; I just don't believe the GOP will give him their seal of approval.

3. Fred Thompson-- Huge hype surrounds him, but his stealth campaign to be the white knight riding in to save his party from turmoil seems to have hit a few snags. He keeps delaying his announcement, and his fund raising numbers are sort of anemic. Still, his socially conservative policies and military tough talk make the grassroots' hearts go pitter-pat.
They see him as Reagan Redux, which is a bit overblown, but is the only non-Obama candiate who marginally excites people. At this point, he is poised to win big in southern states, and that might start a stampede.

4. Hillary Clinton-- Tough, disciplined campaigner who will cut your balls off in order to win. She has tons of money and the support of the Democratic Party establishment, which propelled John Kerry to the nomination over Howard Dean in 2004. She has the old Clintonistas backing her, and whatever strand of big business that supports the Democratic Party is solidly backing her. She is the toughest, most organized, most single minded son of a bitch running. National poll numbers are strong as hell and no major gaffes so far, but watch out for the state polls, where Edwards and Obama have made things interesting. As great a campaigner as she is, I don't think I am the only one who senses a fundamental lack of passion or the ability to stir same in people. Her success is bloodless, emotionless. She stands for nothing except the promulgation of herself, and as competent an administrator as she would be, I think that lack of innate passion will hurt her. She has so far been technically correct, almost flawless. But their is some type of emotional/charismatic chip missing. Watching her campaign is like watching Matt Baumgart play the piano. Efficient, but bloodless. I think this may catch up to her at some point, but most likely in the general election.

5. Barack Obama--He hasn't necessarily done anything wrong; fund raising numbers are huge as hell, keeping pace with Clinton. Policy positions are well articulated, particularly for a national political neophyte. His poll numbers are solid and he stands to take advantage of any Clinton slip up. Many, however, (including myself?) speculate that perhaps his support is a mile wide and an inch deep, a la Howard Dean. Most of the people contributing money to his campaign are 19 year old college students...will they be organized and disciplined enough to turn out the vote for him during the Iowa Caucases or the New Hampshire Primary? Plus, I can't shake the feeling that his otherworldly oratorical gifts that have brought so many disaffected people into the political sphere are getting severely neutered by the bruising straitjacket that is Presidential campaigning. He can't orate and make your heart soar anymore because he has to project a sort of understated, pragmatic sobriety that these campaigns require. He is still very much in the game, but to beat the establishment candidate, to beat the Democratic infrastructure, I don't think he can play her game. She is too good.

6. John McCain-- Right now, a fucking disaster. One time consensus candidate of a majority of Americans has seen his credibility battered over his insane support of the Bush foreign policy doctrine and his pandering to religious bigots. He has fired top campaign staff and he is hemorraging money. But don't count him out. I can totally see him using this opportunity with his back against the wall to go back to his Straight Talk shtick and pound Giuliani, Thompson and Romney for their ties to lobbyists and their status quo symbolism. If casualties start to slow down in Iraq (I'm not holding my breath) and Petraeus, Bush and The Surge end up looking like a good idea, McCain will be the beneficiary. He is still too well regarded to go down without a fight. Right now, he sucks. But he, more than anyone else in contention right now, has the ability to get back into the game with one swing.

7. John Edwards-- Adopted the Dick Gephardt fiery populist platform. Focused on unions, poverty, health care. Did this because he realized that the only way to remain viable in a Democratic field that contains rock stars Clinton and Obama is to assume the mantle of the champion of the lower class. So far, he is still polling decently, and I've seen figures where he actually leads in Iowa. Fund raising is mediocre, but this is nonsuprising because the other two suck up all the political oxygen. If he pulls out a 2nd place finish in Iowa or even a victory (not a stretch given his numbers and his populist appeal), he leapfrogs Obama as the #1 alternative to a Clinton Democratic coronation. He is still the best natural campaigner of all the Democrats. The downside? No one featuring a platform like him has ever won over the party faithful.

This is where I see all 7 viable contenders as Mid August approaches...what do you think?


Is there anything worst than knowing your relatively quiet downstairs neighbors are moving out and knowing that in just a few days you have to face the result of the Russian Roulette that took place for new downstairs neighbors? Did I mention our floors are relatively thin?

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Another PSA

A scenario!

1) You come home from a long day's workin' and commutin' to find about a twelve (12) by six (6) foot section of your carpet soaked through.

2) You have the bad fortune that the surly maintenance man, not the nice maintenance man, is on duty. He's extra surly because yours is not the only apartment to suffer this fate during the day.

3) Surly makes a couple of passes over the area with a shop vac and calls it a day.

Now, no matter --

A) How antsy you get about the mold possibilities,
B) How much your cat starts hassling you about the whole "wet, inside" angle,
C) How frustrated you get with the service around here,

Do NOT, under any circumstances:

i) Dump a bunch of kitty litter on the area. The clumping action that makes it so easy to clean out the litter box will make the carpet that much, much worse.

ii) Freak out at 11 pm about i) and decide to try to vacuum up the litter with the vacuum you just fucking bought 6 weeks ago. That's only going to gum up the works.

iii) Do anything to change your situation. Sit tight and wait. Owning these circumstances will only incite the Fear. And then you will put in 2 1/2 hours of cleaning the next morning, which will leave you with...

Again, this is after the hours of cleaning up. Godspeed to the professionals that my landlord claims are coming today.


Saturday, August 04, 2007

Garfield Hijinx

Garfield Randomizer

Ok, so this is hilarious (and found on another forum I read). It takes 3 random garfield panels and puts them together--I strongly suggest you try it.

Also, another garfield thing is called "de-garfing." You take out Garfield's dialogue in any given garfield strip. You are left with just what Jon is saying--often surprisingly funny since Jon is the most depressing person in the world and he is talking to a cat. The pictures are from degarfing.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Quick Movie Reviews

The Simpsons--C

It had a few funny moments, but it was like a recent year Simpsons episode that was way too long. I'm not that huge a Simpsons fanatic in the first place, so that plays some role. Many of the jokes were just really lame, it was hanging halfway into the "is clever and appeals to adults" stuff but a lot of it was still shitty slapstick humour without much behind it. Not written well enough to make me enjoy it much.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix--B- for Harry Potter reader, C for non-Harry Potter reader

This is reviewed as someone who reads the books. This cut out a lot of the character of the book it is based on and left some of the wrong parts in. Lots of things were woefully unexplained, I can't even imagine seeing it without reading the book. It is my least favorite book in the first place and on top of that it wasn't a great translation for the screen. Way too much downtime in the middle, I can't tell if it was the book that was poorly paced (this one is) or the movie.

Bourne Ultimatum--A-

I must confess, I think the Bourne series is one of the finest action movie series being produced right now. Why? No bullshit. People who know me know that this is the type of thing that makes me love movies--movies like The Road Warrior, Die Hard, etc, really straight ahead not trying to do too much and keeping you in the action and the characters. No forced sort of directors winking at me moments that take me out of a lot of action movies. It's a spy movie and unlike most big action movies it doesn't try to stray away from what it does right, spy stuff, car chases, some slightly intriguing twists and a relatively interesting main character who isn't completely belabored during the movies. This (final) episode in the Bourne series is way, way better than the second, which was definitely the weakest of the series but probably not as good as the first. Still very entertaining. The first movie had a perfect balance of action and interesting characterizations and dialogue that didn't try to do too much, something that I am beginning to appreciate more and more in movies. The other part about these series that is great is that the romantic bits, when they are there, are subdued just as they should be during these frantic situations. It's never suggested that there's going to be some forever love happening in such a crazy situation. The second one was a bit of a mess. This one leans too heavily on frantic pace and too many fight/car scenes without the characters of the first one but is still very entertaining.

Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney

Not only did I lose the parking ticket hearing that brought me to the City of Chicago Central Hearing Facility this morning, I managed to lose my keycard for my office building on the way over there.

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