Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Winter Soulstice

[Preface: this post stems from a good bit of offline discussion; please bear with us and feel welcome to participate.]

Okay, folks. The time has come for The Great Holiday Mix-CD Swap, Ought-Six. If you're interested in participating, please deliver six unmarked CDs to Ryan's house on or before Christmas Day, 2006. If you do not know where Ryan lives, contact him via wryandstanley*atsign*gmail*dot*com.

The Rules:

  1. No packaging aside from a simple conveyance device (suggested: sandwich bag, grocery-store bag, manila envelope).
  2. No writing or other identifying marks on the CDs or the conveyance device. We're striving for anonymity here, people.
  3. Six-CD minimum. Additional CDs will also be created and numbered (at-random) if the pool expands beyond six people.
  4. Audio may be of any variety and is explicitly not limited to, but certainly includes, holiday music.
  5. Further rules may be added based on the ensuing discussion and the whims of this blog's authors.

Ready, break!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Learning Curve

I learned a couple of things today. For example, The Morrill Act was a really interesting piece of legislation:
Ever since colonial times, basic education had been a central tenet of American democratic thought. By the 1860s, higher education was becoming more accessible, and many politicians and educators wanted to make it possible for all young Americans to receive some sort of advanced education.
Why wikipedia has no article on this important piece of legislation is beyond me. Oh, right. 'Cause we're over here wankin' off while wikipedia nerds are typing away about other shit. God damn you, interwebs.

UPDATE: Pwned in comments by the inimitable Waldo J.. My faith in the Information Age is restored!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

These Turkeys are Burgers

Well, I promised StLWorkingMom* I'd report back, so here you go: Stanley Hosts Thanksgiving, a photo set.

A success, if measured. Not everything was perfect, but we had a good time. And my dad talked about the future of porn on cell phones, which, yeah.

*By the by, StLWorkingMom is not, as many inquired, Stanley's mom, though Stanley's mom did inquire a lot about this blog, which raised a Stanley eyebrow.

Friday, November 24, 2006

yo dormo il sueno de las manzanas

Last night I had a dream that Lady and I were in a convenience store just barely on the southern side of the Mexico/U.S. border. We had passports in hand, we had just crossed the border. For some reason we needed to shop. Lady wanted to buy maps and candy and cell phone ring tones that came in little plastic packages. I spent the whole time trying to figure out how to translate the prices to the American dollar.
If something cost 345 pesos, for instance, I knew that you either dropped the 3, to make it $45, or you dropped the 5, to make it $34. But I couldn't figure out which one.
Also, last night, as I played poker with my family, my sister wanted some change for her $0.25 chips. I couldn't figure out how many $0.05 chips to give her.
I think I am stupid.
Also, at the Mexican convenience store in my dream, they had bags of Bugles that were as tall as I am, and I thought, man, this would make a wonderful Christmas present.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I didn't think golf could get any dumber

I'm all for neat, science-y stuff. But this is just just stupid.
A Russian cosmonaut will strike a lightweight golf ball from outside the international space station in a promotional stunt _ but he'll swing one-handed and with one foot wedged in between the hand rails of a ladder.

Cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin will use a special 6-iron for the tricky shot _ though a 3-wood might be a better suited club for the 242-mile distance to the nearest green.

A lot of people consider the International Space Station a joke. Clearly, this kind of stunt can't be helping.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"Come join the [something, something] Brigade"

I've been in a pretty lousy mood for several weeks (notwithstanding the recent Azurat recording session, wherein we wrote a new song, tentatively titled "Dragonmummy"—hate it; love it; do what you will).

It's dark when I leave work, even when I leave at 5:30pm. It's even darker by the time I get home. I'm not chalking it all up to the time change, but I've definitely responded by being rather sedentary and mopey.

Solution (partial, at least)! I propose the Bike Ride Brigade. I will henceforth make an effort to go on a bike ride—be it twenty minutes or two hours—after work. You're invited.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Chocolate New York

Lady and I drove to Manhattan this past weekend. I certainly got honked at, a lot, by a lot of people. They have signs up that say DON'T HONK / $350 FINE.

We ate at an Italian restaurant. We saw the guy who gave people hugs in that Dave Matthews Band video do stand up comedy. In Times Square I bought a pair of brand new, absolutely 100% real Oakley sunglasses from a really nice man who also sold me roasted almonds.

We ate pizza late at night when drunk. We heard people speaking in neat languages. We took a cab and cabs are fun.

We spent maybe 5 hours at the Museum of Modern Art. We went to Toy's R Us and bought Mousetrap, set it up in a hotel room, and filmed the plastic boardgame machine catching red and blue plastic mice, which was sweet, and I think you should go to Toy's R Us and buy Mousetrap, too.

On the way home we listened to music I got from my Dad's iTunes and read to each other from a book about the history of punk rock.

We went to a Chocolate Festival thing. I don't remember what it was called, but we had to leave before we'd tasted all the chocolate, because we'd already eaten so much chocolate. We bought chocolate. I bought a book about chocolate.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


What I really like about The Sandbox is the first-hand perspective. The mix of reflective personal anecdote with accounts of the atrocities that are so hard to comprehend. This post was particularly good. It's somehow comforting (while at the same time troubling) to know that even the soldiers on-the-ground have trouble making sense of things:

I think for a second of the people who didn't live to see this sunset; people out playing with their kids on a balcony, or stepping out of the door to grab something from the store down the street. One second they were here, and the next they weren't. I think of fresh bread and an arm lying in the street, and I am glad for the company of my soldiers, next to me in the tight metal womb of our truck. We ride back to the FOB, smoking and joking, and it is good to still be alive.

I'm an Emulator

When I leave work, heading home, the closest grocery store is a convenient place to stop for milk or bread (or, yes, chips and salsa). At this particular grocery store, the checkout folks will inevitably ask you, "Did you find everything all right?"

I used to kind of bristle at this question, thinking no, of course I didn't find everything. Then I found out that they're required to ask you this question, and I felt bad for thinking of a snarky reply. Customers can be real assholes, and I almost joined the lot.

Now, when they ask if I found everything, I smile and say, "Well, I found these things…", which usually draws a surprised laugh. I always wonder if they think I'm being obtuse, or if they genuinely enjoy the departure from the routine. I hope it's the latter (or at least both).

My dad's really good at these sorts of interactions, dropping corny lines that still manage to come off as genuine (an exuberant "working hard or hardly working?"). And I think I've inadvertently picked up on the habit, though he's much better at it. He's got this everyman, working-stiff appeal to him. He can talk to anybody and seem at-ease. It's really great to watch.

Anyway, the old boy turned 51 yesterday. Good on him.

Friday, November 10, 2006


I was pleasantly surprised to read that Mexico City had legalized civil unions over staunch conservative opposition. Perhaps more cities here in the US (hint, hint People's Republic of Charlottesville) should employ similar tactics, rather than waiting for the state or national government to get with the times.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Buzz Of Love

Does Love Buzz?
Because That's What
It Does.

The Grinch

We call my mom's mom "Grinchy" instead of "Grandma." She goes by "the Grinch" for short. She chose the nickname after my older brother was born, I suppose to distinguish herself from my other grandma. The Grinch turned 66 yesterday.

On most days, my brother and I left elementary school with Grinchy, who would watch us until my mom got done teaching for the day. Grinchy kind of spoiled us, but just enough, per the Great Grandmother Guidebook. She's the grandparent I'm closest to.

When we were really young, and my mom was waitressing at some snazzy restaurant by night and getting her Master's by day, Grinchy worked as a bartender at the same restaurant. Sometimes I got to sit at the bar and drink Shirley Temples.

Later, Grinchy started a business, selling these painted plaques, many of them Irish-themed. She goes around to craft fairs and Irish fests for much of the year. Example: this plaque I stole from my mom, about 10" x 14", featuring shamrocks and calligraphy-like text:

Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.

It's a Yeats quotation, I think, though I've seen it attributed to others, too.

Grinchy harbors no illusions about this art. She studied at Chicago's Art Institute for awhile. She'll tell you it's kitschy, and she wouldn't do it were she a millionaire. But it pays the bills. And at least she gets to paint.

Recently, she's gotten back into doing oils. Mostly of the Irish countryside, based on photos she's taken in her many trips to Ireland. She often says she'd like to take me with her on one of her trips. It hasn't happened yet, but there's still time.

Grinchy drinks a lot of coffee. At home, she uses a percolator and swears by it. The secret? She shakes a bit of salt in with the grounds right before brewing. Go figure.

She also insists on Scrabble at every family gathering. Last time, I won. She declared, "Fuck." (Grinchy rules.)

Once, about two years ago, she and I sat at a diner in Richmond, drinking coffee while she told me all these amazing stories about our family going back years and years. My favorite was one about some great-great-etc.-grandmother who had an affair with an Irish racecar driver. She ended up having a child with the racecar driver (the husband was away for more than a year), and then later covered it up, claiming adoption. I like these stories because Grinchy tells them without judgment. She just laughs and keeps on narrating. It's really, really great.

After that afternoon, I promised I'd get a voice recorder and record anecdotes from all four of my grandparents. I really should get on this one.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Nice Knowing You

I had the morning off, so I strolled into my polling place around 10:30am. Even for late morning, there was a pretty robust turnout, which was encouraging.

Having the morning off can be helpful for exactly this sort of occasion. But apparently, it's killing me. So there's that.

Friday, November 03, 2006

In Which I Contain Sulfites

Since Ryan has declined to oenologist-blog about the news stories on which the masses demand he opine, I offer you my own sub-par wine story:

Tonight in the checkout line, I noticed that the woman in front of me was buying a bottle of this wine. I commented that Barefoot wines were surprisingly good.

"And cheap" she said.

We talked about wine for a moment, and she mentioned working at a nice local restaurant where my old landlord's (landlady's?) husband used to work, and that despite her access to free gourmet food, she was buying some macaroni-and-cheese thing. We agreed that the husband was a really cool guy and a great cook and hmph, what a small town. Then she checked out and went on her way.

I really should make it a point of talking to strangers more often. I hesitated tonight, not wanting to come off as some skeazy dude who ogles peoples' groceries. But I convinced myself that my comment was benign enough not to be weird, and it resulted in a brief blip of interestingness in an otherwise routine situation.

Also: at the grocery store I bought this:

It kind of reminded me of the BŌKŪ juiceboxes of my childhood.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Cat Power

Sparks the Cat is pretty fantastic. He does funny, weird stuff, and sometimes you can get him to stand up on his back legs for much longer than you'd expect. Oh, and when he's about to attack(!), he gets this crazy look in his eyes, but don't worry, he probably won't hurt you.

Tonight, however, when I came home from work, Spark-a-tron really blew my mind. As I came down the hill towards our house, I saw two yellow eyes glowing in the dark off to the left, about a half-block from our house. I slowed down, and as I got close, Sparks stood up knowingly and crossed calmly in front of my car, moving to other side of the street, and headed towards our house. I continued down the hill and parked in front of the house. Sparks came trotting up with a look that said, "Feed me you infidel, or you will die."

A cat that recognizes cars? I mean, I guess it's not a big leap. It just struck me as another indication that he's pretty smart.

Then I let him inside and fed him. (He was getting that look in his eyes.)