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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Vanity

This week I was asked to take a new picture of myself to accompany the column and replace the stylin' image we've been using for almost four years. Look at me all clean-cut and wearing a tie. That picture was taken shortly after I had visited London and noticed that everyone there was better dressed than me. So, for a while I took to dressing relatively nice and wearing a tie and remembering to shave more than once a week.

That didn't last four long, of course, due to the fact that I worked in a sort of cave behind a television studio, and I promptly grew out my hair.

When I first moved to Minnesota, I had my hair cut again in an attempt to make a good impression, and I kept it short well into last summer. But there's not really anyone up here upon which to make a good impression and things have degraded to the point where I occasionally fail to wear shoes at the headquarters of my benevolent employer.

So, I'm growing out my hair again. One of the reasons for growing out your hair, if you're male, is that you have given up on proper grooming. You are saying to the world: "I don't really care how I look."

But, see, I do care. I just can't be bothered at the present time to do anything about it. The end result of this attitude is that I am a big girl when it comes to pictures of myself -- I'm not happy with any of them. Attempting to take a new picture for the column put me in fits.

I took no less than 60 pictures of myself with my digital camera. I didn't count, actually, but I'm sure it was that many -- if not more. I held the camera at different angles, tried various poses and facial expressions. In one series of about six photos I kept the same facial expression and simply rolled my eyes 360 degrees. I started out taking pictures of myself with my hair back, but then took a shower and pushed my hair forward for my photos. That's how lame I am.

But, of course, the greatness of any photo is limited by the greatness of its subject. After a while I came to terms with the fact that no matter how many pictures I took, none of them would turn out well because of what I was taking a picture of.

Eventually, I narrowed it down to four photos:

I think I actually took more hair-pushed-back pictures than hair-forward, but this is the only one I kept. I am half trying to smile in this one, but not smiling because I don't want to show my teeth (it's a sign of aggression, in dogs, you know. I wouldn't want my canine readers to get the wrong impression). As a result, I have a stupid sly look on my face that I thought might match the "I'm in the mob" sly look that was employed in the old picture. In the end, however, I decided against it.


I thought that perhaps the picture below would make a good one for the column because it gives me a jovial perplexed look. But the problem here is that I look a little bit like a teenager. That's probably not the look I'm going for when I'm writing columns that reference my being married for 6½ years. People would read my columns and think: "Has this guy been married since he was 12? Does this column originate in Kentucky?"
I decided against the picture, but will keep that look in mind should I ever be keen on picking up a high school chick.


I actually considered for a long while my using the picture below. Something about it says "I'm the unknown member of Spacehog." I decided against it because it looks a little too serious.


I eventually settled on the picture below not because I like it, but because I dislike it less than the others. There are some things about the image I like, though. I like the fact that my hand is partially obscuring my face -- this picture could use more of that. Perhaps I should have done some sort of 80s-style jazz hands thing in which I am hiding behind my hand. But then I probably would have been a big girl about the way my hand looks.
I also like the way that it is blurry on the edges, making it look like an old-fashioned passport photo which, when added in with the guayavera I'm wearing, inexplicably to me gives it a Cuban feel. Things that are Cuban are, of course, good, because I'm going to be president of that country some day.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Damn, I always end up with backboard guy

  • This morning, as the London raids were taking place, MSNBC (my favorite cable news channel to hate) showed the same two or three minutes of video over and over and over again of a group of fellows dressed in all black, wearing helmets and gas masks, and armed to the teeth, gearing up around a blue BMW SUV.
    Sky News referred to them as SAS men, which is rather presumptuous. I doubt very much that SAS men go around announcing themselves as such (unless they are in the pub and trying to pull). But it probably helps recruiting to give off the image that joining special forces means driving around in luxury SUVs.
    What amused me about the video was the guy carrying the large shield that looks as if it could double as a backboard. That inevitably means that dude has to go in first, which makes him thoroughly wickass, but in action figure terms it's not very sexy, is it? What kind of accessory is a shield/backboard? He's like the green army guy that held a radio.

  • I have decided that I am going to be ridiculously Vikings aware this season. This blog will help me get that way, I'm sure.

  • For those who enjoy being creeped out by the powers of the U.S. government: Congress is working on changing time.

  • This shirt would have been funnier a week ago.

  • Wow. Statistics don't lie.
    I found that on Greg's virtual link-a-rama. He linked to this story Thursday, which makes me want to maim people.

  • Does anyone eat at Taco Bell anymore?
  • Friday, July 29, 2005

    100 Things: 21-25

    1-5 ~ 6-10 ~ 11-15 ~ 16-20

    21) There was a part of me that wanted to be an astronaut when I was a boy. Part of my childhood was spent in Houston in the days before Johnson Space Center got all Disneyfied and started charging admission, so we used to spend a lot of time there. One of my birthdays (I forget which one) was celebrated in the shadow of the Saturn 5 rocket they have on display. I quickly abandoned my astronaut aspirations because I was pretty sure they wouldn't send an asthmatic to space and I wasn't keen on having to do all that math.

    22) When I was a boy, because I lived in Texas I had to play football. For some reason, my team always ended up playing against the biggest, meanest kids that Houston had to offer (and Houston has a lot of big, mean kids). As a result, I became quite adept at faking injury.

    23) I tend to judge Italian restaurants by the quality of their fettuccini alfredo. A surprising number of "good" restaurants fail miserably by this standard.

    24) I once read a book that has since served as the foundation for both my understanding of how a relationship should work and my desire to be a writer. I do not remember the title of this book, nor its author. It's possible I made this book up in my head, which would be pretty nice, because then I could write it.

    25) If I could go back in time and meet my younger self, I would punch me in the face. I am sure most of my friends and ex-girlfriends wish very sincerely that I could do this. They probably also wish they could come along.

    I heart Radio Cymru

  • As mentioned no less than 25,000 times before, I was featured in a Welsh-language radio program earlier this month. Wednesday, just two weeks after the program aired, I received a CD copy of the program in the mail. The CD was in a package bursting with Radio Cymru paraphernalia. Some of the stuff was kind of cool, like the full-sized Welsh flag, or the two pens, or the hat. Other stuff is a little odder -- I was sent 4x6 color photos of just about every on-air presenter. I am trying to think of something funny and artistic to do with these. If you are funny and artistic maybe you could help me out.
    Here's a picture of everything they sent me (except for the hat). For those of you who read this blog in the UK, I thank you for paying your license fees so that I can get pictures of Welsh presenters and a funny bucket hat.

  • It looks as if my brother may have found me a car. Rachel and I have been a one-car family for about a year now, leaving me to either bike to work or bum rides from either my wife or my dad. But earlier this week, Jon, who works at an auto body shop, called me up and said he had come across a car for $250 (£143).
    "Does it run?" I asked.
    "Uhm. Dunno. I'll have to check it out."
    "What kind of car is it?"
    "Don't know that either. You interested?"
    "Well, check it out for me and call me back."
    He called me back today.
    "Is it alright?" I asked.
    There was a long pause.
    "It runs," he said.
    "It's fucked?"
    "Nah. Well, yeah. I mean, there's not too much rust, but it's got its fair share of dents. Needs new front brakes, I think, but we can put those on (hooray!). It'll hold up through the winter."
    I'm going to pick up the car next week. It's a 1983 Oldsmobile Delta 88. Hell yeah. Here's a picture of one. Odds are mine won't look half as good. I can't wait.

  • This is kind of big. I didn't get the sense that it received much attention here in the U.S.

  • News stories with literary themes:
    -- Irony
    -- Poetic justice
    -- Tragedy

  • Charlotte says she's been depressed lately. Maybe she should follow this guy's lead. He seems to know how to have fun.

  • Hey, you can see how much it sucks without having to go there -- here's a walk down Fargo's Broadway. If you go down the street far enough, you'll get to the place where Esther and I used to drink.
  • Thursday, July 28, 2005

    Billay!

    Cheryl today has a post about her favorite phrases, and in my comment I digressed into the topic of phrases that I am trying to work into my standard lexicon.

    In addition to using "love a duck" as an exclamatory phrase ("Love a duck! The car won't start), I want to add a few other catchphrases from my grandfather. He calls me "stud duck" or "hoss." I'm halfway there -- I tend to call my nephews "stud," but that's nowhere near as cool as "stud duck."

    A friend of my parents used to call every child "Jake." I want to teach myself to call everybody "Jake." It wouldn't be that hard, I just need a co-conspirator. In junior high school, my friend Gerry Norell and I used to call everybody "Billy" (pronounced "Billay").

    What words or phrases would you like to work into your regular vocabulary?

    Wednesday, July 27, 2005

    It's not cold

  • This morning I walked up to the front desk at the headquarters of my benevolent employer wrapped in a heavy flannel shirt.
    "Is it just a little too cold in here today, do you think?" I asked our about-to-drop pregnant receptionist (note my being sure to phrase my complaint in the form of a question, as any good Minnesotan would).
    "It's not cold," she said politely.
    "Uhm. OK."
    And I walked back to my desk with my hands up under my arms. Better to freeze than argue with the pregnant lady*.

  • I watched the last hour of "Mainstream" Tuesday night, a documentary thingy that involves Roy "I look like Randy Newman" Blount Jr. traveling the whole of the Mississippi River. This is a good show if you ever get the chance to see it.
    He was visiting the Delta when I tuned in, which is, in my opinion, one of the most depressing regions of the United States. Actually, much of the Deep South is like that for me. Entrenched poverty, ignorance, and racism will does not my ideal locale make. In one scene, Blount is talking to a guy who teaches kids how to play the blues. Somewhat randomly, Blount asks the guy how one of the kids can avoid being ripped off once they try to take their talents to bigger cities. Without missing a beat, and in true bluesman style, the man said: "You come from the Delta, you already been ripped off."
    I don't think I've ever encountered a blogger from Mississippi, but apparently there are a few.

  • One of the most important aspects of journalism is staying up to date. It's important that you keep your finger on the pulse of what's happening and address issues that are unfolding as we speak. For example, it's a good idea to explore the possible dangers of cutting-edge technology like escalators.

  • John O'Hurley was robbed.

    *Hey, that story went nowhere.
  • Page view slaves whores

  • My benevolent employer has started doing something that I think is sort-of interesting. We are now listing the most popular items on our sites. It's a real-time top ten list of what's garnering the most interest among readers.
    I'm not entirely sure what our official reasoning is for this (perhaps Adam, who occasionally reads this blog and understands our benevolent employer far better than I, could explain), but for me it is the perfect answer to all the grumpy old dudes who used to call and complain in the years that I was a producer/assignment editor/news writer/web editor -- in other words, when I was more directly linked to the day-to-day operation of things and had to take phone calls from the public.
    I heard regularly from people who would drag out the "you only care about blood and gore" line, and I would foolishly try to explain to them that no, it's not me who cares about the dark or salacious stories, it's you. More specifically, it's everyone around you. I and we at the station are not the ones who don't give a damn about the Lakeside, Calif. Little League Championships, it's the something-million other people in the San Diego news market -- who don't live in Lakeside, don't know anyone in Lakeside, and think that everyone who does live in Lakeside is a white trash hick -- who don't give a damn.
    If you want to know the "why" of the foibles of American journalism, your answer is right there on the "most popular" page. American journalism is consumer-driven (a "free and independent press" as they like to say), so when four of the top ten most popular stories (at 11 a.m. CST) involve death, and the others involve celebrity drug overdose, freak accidents and kidnappings, it's a good bet that the end result will be more of the same.
    Unfortunately, only the "why" of what's wrong is there, and it is only a snapshot of the problem. The answer of how to fix it is far more complex. I suggest that one positive step would be to ensure that my column start showing up on those most popular pages. Forward it to all your friends and encourage them to click "refresh" on the story no less than 10 times. Be a part of the revolution!

  • I like the phrasing in this sentence: "Discovery drifted away from the large orange container."
    I like the use of the word "drifted" -- drifted at 17,000 mph, while the hull of the ship was buffeted by blue atmospheric flame.

  • MNSpeak encouraged readers to just write any old thing they felt in the comments section today. It's a bit fun and random.
  • Tuesday, July 26, 2005

    The Wise Old Boy Of Summer

    My latest column is out. It reads a bit like one of those old Country Time Lemonade ads (that's a dated reference, isn't it?), but I suppose that's the perfect thing to go with one's breakfast. Please forward it along to all your friends, relatives and elected representatives.

    Monday, July 25, 2005

    Astrid is to blame for marital strife

  • Last night I had a dream that included a fellow blogger. I dreamt that Astrid -- her hair dyed red like that girl in " Fifth Element" -- offered me a stack of pancakes to marry her.
    "I'm already married," I told her
    I must have said this aloud in my sleep, because my wife had a dream in which I walked in and told her that all these six and some-odd years I had already been married to another woman, so our marriage was null and void. When she woke up, she was angry at me.
    "I was so mad, I was going to smash all the coffee mugs," my wife said.
    That's pretty mad, I guess.
    If Freud's assertion that dreams are repressed wishes is true it means that my wife is hoping that our marriage is a sham and I am hoping for some pancakes.

  • Evil is threatening my neighborhood.

  • Apparently having fun is against the law in Florida. Killjoys.

  • Who names their child Rad?

  • A rafting trip for terrorists seems like a disconnect. It's as if terrorist camps are run like those corporate motivational getaways. One wonders if they also had to do trust falls and egg-and-spoon races.

  • My favorite headline this week.

  • Gwen Stefani's new song sounds as if she is trying to initiate a The Cars revival. All hail the return of Ric Ocasek!

  • Good name for a band: Color-Coded Fear
  • An open letter to The Game

    Dear The Game,

    I am writing to inform you that, quite frankly, I am not all that impressed by you. I question your authenticity, sir. This is a serious problem, I should think, as you are presenting yourself as a hip-hop stereotype and I am an easily duped white guy who grew up in the suburbs.

    I have previously questioned your choice of moniker. Professional wrestler Paul Michael Levesque has used "The Game" name since 2002. Admittedly, it would be worse if you called yourself the Iron Sheik, but I would suggest in future that you do a quick Google search before choosing your hip-hop pseudonym.

    In addition, I recently found this picture online, which would indicate that you were once made a fool of on a half-assed game show. Again, sir, I question your authenticity.

    But my main problem is with your lyrics. They're pretty weak. Take for instance this simile used in your track "Dreams":

    "My world turned black, like I was staring out of Stevie Wonder's glasses."

    What? Have you had this line just sort of lying around in a notebook since you were in third grade? You appear to possess the same lyrical ability as Las Vegas staple impressionist Rich Little. Why not throw in a reference to Charo while you're at it? Cuchi-cuchi, The Game, you suck.

    Secondly, the line doesn't even make sense. The problem is not with Stevie Wonder's glasses, it's his eyes what gone all wonky, mate. His choice of eyewear has nothing to do with his blindness. So, if you were indeed staring out Stevie Wonder's glasses, your world would not go black but instead a bit darkish and your eyes would be protected from dangerous UV rays.

    Friday, July 22, 2005

    Don't worry, they're mine

    Jenny's mention of being scared shitless for 25 seconds made me think of this story:

    When I first moved to England, my Midwestern mind full of mush had been filled with irrational fears over the IRA.

    "Bombs go off there all the time," wide-eyed big-haired farm girls had told me in hushed tones.

    And while I didn't believe them... I did. On some irrational, emotional level I envisioned this strange perpetually gray and sooty land where buildings and trains randomly exploded. Angry Irish guys, I imagined, would stomp up to me, ask my religion, and punch me in the face if I answered incorrectly*.

    In Portsmouth.

    I had every article of clothing that I owned bundled with me into two backpacks and an Army duffle bag when I got on the train from Gatwick to Portsmouth. Because I had to that point in my life only ridden on novelty trains, I had boarded a train that stopped at pretty much every station along the route. Normally, the trip would take about an hour; this train took, oh, I don't know, three months. I stuffed all my things into the overhead racks, unwilling to put them in the luggage area at the front or rear of the car because I had also filled my head with crazy "Let's Go!"-inspired fears of theft, and sat down to dwell in trepidation of my new environment.

    I hadn't bothered to look at a map, nor the estimated time for the journey, so I had no idea when to expect the train would arrive at my station. As a result, every time the train slowed I sat up and readied myself to dart out onto the platform, fearing that the train would take off before I could get out and then I would be arrested for being on past my stop and thrown into some Eastern European gulag and strapped to a chair and forced to confess to crimes against the state while they released earwigs down my shorts.

    After a bit of this, I found myself looking at some of the other bags on the overhead racks; much smaller than my three bags, but, you know, big enough to hold a bomb. Anything is big enough to hold a bomb, right? And of course, all bombs -- regardless of size or type -- produce massive Hollywood-style explosions. When I couldn't immediately determine the owner of said bag, I would get nervous and sit so that I was sort of ducking behind the seats in front of me.

    At one point, a woman got on the train and stood for a second, holding her purse, looking at me and then at my bags. She furrowed her brow slightly. I was occupying four seats (two each facing each other), with my feet up on the opposite seats. My bags, which should have been in the luggage area, were taking up way too much overhead rack space. I had a mouth full of chocolate bar and a can of soda in my hand.

    "Oh, don't worry," I said in my broad American accent, pointing to my bags. "They're mine."

    "Yes," she said tersely. "What lovely white socks you have."

    "Oh, thanks," I said.

    I thought I was making a friend. Obviously, in addition to understanding nothing about Ireland and having no comprehension of acceptable social behavior on trains, I had yet to learn the subtlety of English sarcasm.

    *I got this idea from Brad Pitt, who claimed in an interview to have been punched in the face for stopping to look in the window of a Protestant book store whilst researching his IRA character for "The Devil's Own."

    Thursday, July 21, 2005

    My name is Nigel Holt and I am great

  • My new favorite TV program is "So You Think You Can Dance?" This is utterly useless television at its finest.
    Last night's was the requisite throwaway auditions episode, but it contained my new role model, Nigel Holt. He was your basic break-dancer with a massive ego, but everything he said was spoken in a matter-of-fact way. Here's a Quicktime video of Nigel dancing.

  • I can't even be bothered to work up some gall over today's explosions in London. It was too half-assed for comment.
    Remember that Florida teenager who slammed a single prop plane into an unoccupied office building on a Saturday?
    No? My point exactly.

  • Of course, that doesn't stop Americans from spinning themselves into fits. What the hell is an "Orange Plus Alert?" It sounds like some sort of product sold on television:
    "New Orange Plus!! Now with added readiness!!"

  • Here's a reason to move to Iowa (possibly the only reason).

  • I need to become wealthy. Now that my wife has finished with her internship, there is a tiny lull until she starts work in September. In the interim, she is putting her amazing cooking skills to use and I have been the beneficiary of ridiculously good and creative meals. Tonight she is making something that involves Guinness. I don't know what it will be, but who cares? It has Guinness! It's being made by Rachel. You can't go wrong there.
    This is a good way to live, methinks. I need to become wealthy so my wife won't have to work. Then I can continue to eat better than celebrities. Of course, that would be a waste of Rachel's talent, for her to stay home all the time.
  • Wednesday, July 20, 2005

    Whiny baby me

  • I'm suffering my second day of an unstoppable torrent of electric pain that may or may not be a migraine headache. I have only had one other massive headache like this in my life and I have always attributed that one to the stressors that caused me to walk out of my place of employment the day after said headache occurred.
    There are certain stressors weighing heavy on my shoulders these days, but not of the same sort, nor do I expect to be leaving the happy service of my benevolent employer any time soon (unless they find that dead hooker behind the soda machine). Nonetheless, this headache is increasingly difficult to ignore and I blame it for my poor blogging today*.
    Yes, I know. I'm being a pansy. At least I didn't almost kill myself attempting to mop the floor.

  • Jihad Amir Ramadan. With a name like that I'll bet he'd have a ball trying to get through airport security.

  • I always get nervous when good things come from evil people, so I'm not sure what to think about this.

  • How cool is it that there is a White House scandal involving a guy named Scooter?

  • I'm flying to London via Northwest. That's discomforting.

    *Tomorrow I will need to think up a different excuse for my poor blogging. And another one for the day after that; and the day after that; and the day after that...
  • I'm moving in with Chris and Jenny!

    I bought tickets to London last night. I'm flying out in October. I'm stupid excited for the trip.

    I'm not sure if Chris knows this, but his freshly waxed betrothed has already offered to let me sleep on their couch. As such, I have decided that I will spend a week at their house, raiding their fridge and underwear drawers while they are at work. At night I will sneak into their bedroom and give Chris the earwig treatment. I hope they have satellite TV.

    I'm kidding, but the offer of couch lodging has probably been rescinded, anyway.

    Actually, most of my time will be spent in Cymru, attempting to ingratiate myself with the locals -- specifically those at Cardiff University's School of Welsh. I will also be getting a chance to hear my friend Shiona sing and perhaps watching Wales lose to Azerbaijan (hey, I'm a realist).

    Tuesday, July 19, 2005

    The benevolent employer cute girl explosion

  • Every day at the headquarters of my benevolent employer I spot some new cute girl milling through our hallowed halls. I have worked in the building for two years and all these women are completely new to me. Most of the women I never see again. I have therefore decided that we must be making a side profit manufacturing these women. We have some sort of cute-girl cloning operation under way downstairs.
    We probably ship them off to college campuses to walk around during the first and last few weeks of the year.
    Where the hot girls came from and where they went was one of the persistent mysteries of college life for me. In the first weeks of the fall semester, campus would be swimming in heavenly perfectly curved girl flesh and perfume and gaits that could drive a man to madness. But then, once the leaves changed, it was almost all gone. There were just the two or three cute ones with whom you had no chance to stare at through the winter. God only knows where all the other ones went.
    Then, mysteriously, they would return in the final weeks of the spring semester. It's as if they were on some kind of migration pattern. I was never sure if the ones seen in the fall were the same as the ones seen in the spring. I picture these girls being placed on massive cargo ships and transported to the Southern Hemisphere during the colder months -- just thousands of them out there floating in the sea.
    Oh, to be captain of that ship.

  • Ever have one of those days when you really, really want to see an over-the-top production of "HMS Pinafore?" That's the sort of day I'm having. I'm not sure what's wrong with me. I got a fever, and the only prescription is more Josephine.

  • Semi-related to that, there is such a thing as the International Shanty and Seasong Association.

  • Oh, hooray. That's comforting.

  • Why is the media so obsessed with panda sex?

  • Thomas has come up with the idea of turning his blog into a movie and has decided to cast Will Farrell as me. I heartily approve of this casting and I am already writing all his scenes in my head. At some point I want me to jump into a car and scream at the driver: "Drive, man! But safely. And in accordance to all the motor vehicle laws of this particular municipality."

  • Curly has posed a very good question on his blog: "How many 5-year-olds do you think it would take to 'take you out' in a fight?"

  • Behold: AIMFight. I pit myself against Meaghan today (because hers is the only screen name I know*) and smoked her.
    My score: 137,501
    Meaghan's score: 12,330
    In your face, Baron!

  • Good name for a band: The Italian Suppositories

  • Currently my favorite rap lyric: "Shoulda left it/ Feelin' sharp pains in my left tit."

    *Of those people whose blogs are listed to the right.
  • 100 Things: 16-20

    1-5 ~ 6-10 ~ 11-15

    16) The city of Victoria, Texas, does not have any sort of tribute to one of its more famous native sons, Stone Cold Steve Austin. I know this because I once drove 100 miles out of my way to check.

    17) The first full beer I ever had in my life was given to me by John Carroll Lynch.

    18) I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

    19) I hate my teeth. They are crooked and make me embarrassed to talk to people. But I am equally embarrassed to admit that I am this vain. I am trapped in a vicious cycle of wanting my teeth straightened while wanting to pretend that I am comfortable with my looks. Sometimes I hope that I will take a terrific spill on my bike and that reconstructive surgery will be required. If I am really lucky, the accident will also break my crooked nose, with which I am equally unhappy.

    20) I spent most of my childhood lamenting the fact that I am not black.

    Monday, July 18, 2005

    Drunken auto repair

    I replaced the front and rear brakes on my truck this weekend. By "I" I mean "we," and by "we" I mean "my brother Jon and his friend Mike." My job was ensuring that everyone was properly supplied with beer.

    I did my job so well that it ended up taking several hours for Jon and Mike to finish the brakes. In retrospect, since regulation of alcohol is clearly out of the question, we should have done the rear brakes first, as they are drum brakes.

    Manly man guy-types like Dave and myself know this already, but there are two types of brakes -- disc and rotor. My truck has both; disc in front, drum in rear. Actually, I'm pretty sure that's the standard set-up for all cars, but I wouldn't know because I'm such a manly man guy-type that I only drive pickup trucks (and it has nothing to do with the fact that I used to be that idiot who forks over $700 for new brakes).

    Disc brakes are similar in principal to the brakes on your bicycle. The wheel is slowed when something clamps down on it. In terms of a basic brake job, there are only three things per wheel to be concerned about -- a rotor and two pads (the spinny-wheel-thing and the two soft things that clamp onto it). It took us (Jon and Mike) about 30 minutes to get the front brakes done.

    Drum brakes, on the other hand, are a crazy collection of wires and springs, a setup clearly devised by men who hated their wives and wanted to ensure that replacing the brakes would take all afternoon. The phrase "drum brakes suck" brings up 361 results in Google.

    This is a picture of the hardware kit for a Jeep Wagoneer (my parts looked a little different). There are actually several more parts involved, these are just the ones you are supposed to replace -- in addition to the actual pads. This is a diagram for drum brake assembly. Doesn't it look like fun? Now cover everything in grease and get drunk.

    Needless to say, it took us (Mike -- Jon had given up) considerably longer to replace the rear brakes. Despite the invaluable assistance of five other guys standing around drinking beer, Mike was forced to spend several minutes staring at the assembly, drinking beer, swearing at the assembly, drinking more beer, and telling us stories that had a habit of ending with the phrase "so, I got a DUI for that."

    After about two hours, the brakes were finished and we decided to test them out by driving to the bar. I bought Mike lunch in thanks for the hundreds of dollars he saved me. In gross -- beer, parts, lunch -- my brake work cost me $150. I challenge you to call any auto shop anywhere in America, you will not find one that would do all that work for even as low as double my cost.

    However, whether I saved any money on the day is arguable. I got home at 4 p.m. and my wife decided to use my drunkenness to her advantage. I woke up the next morning with a wallet full of receipts from various stores. I sat there, staring at the receipts and nursing my tea, and my wife came in and kissed my forehead.

    "I'm going to get you drunk and take you shopping more often," she said. "You wanted to buy me everything."

    Sunday, July 17, 2005

    Hooray! Jesus is put to death every day

    Hey. What could be more fun than this?

    According to the website there is a daily passion play. And it's a musical!

    Friday, July 15, 2005

    Thank God you're OK, Captain Lucky

  • Suckiest day I've had in a long while at the headquarters of my benevolent employer was today (check out my rockin' Welsh sentence structure). I can't say I much feel like bloggin'.

  • Is it just me, or does all opera sung in English sound dumb?

  • A nation once gripped in fear and anxiety can rest again -- Captain Lucky is safe.

  • There's something very evil about this (takes about a minute to load).

  • "Event organizers... said they want to have a robot team that can beat the World Cup champs by 2050." -- You could probably beat them now if you mounted guns to the robots' heads.

  • OK, so he drove his golf cart into a creek to retrieve a ball? Dumb. Ass.

  • George Applin is the happiest criminal in all of Ohio.

  • Goddamned gentrification.
  • Thursday, July 14, 2005

    Their impure blood should water our fields

  • Happy Bastille Day, Frenchies. Shame about the Olympics. You get points for having a gratuitously violent national anthem, though.

  • Gah. Remember Des'ree, with all her crazy hand movements when she sang? She always reminded me of my second grade teacher, Mrs. Parker. For reasons that I cannot explain, I have that one song by her swimming in my head --"You gotta be hard, you gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger..." Stop! Get out of my head!

  • How could you possibly enjoy going to a church with a congregation of 16,000? We have these massive churches in Minnesota*, too. I do not understand the mega-church mentality. I have to try very hard to not let it scare me. I know that an erstwhile Christian missionary and a soon-to-be pastor read this blog -- I'd be interested to hear what they think of mega-churches.

  • Minneapolis-St. Paul comes in second among the top beer-drinking areas in the United States. I'm so proud.

    *For the people living outside of the United States who read this blog and are concerned that my country has completely lost the plot, this article will confirm that belief.
  • Wednesday, July 13, 2005

    Big in Belgium

  • My interview on Radio Cymru aired Wednesday. Unfortunately, I didn't hear it because I was asleep, and you can't hear it because their radio player is all messed up. The interview will air again Sunday (at 7 a.m. CST), and I am being sent a copy of the program, but I'm not able to direct any of you, my beloved readers, to the Radio Cymru site to listen to it.
    Ever have one of those days when one tiny little thing sparks your being a pissy bastard for the rest of the day? Finding out that the radio player wasn't set properly put me in that mood. Which was stupid, because as a result of said unheard interview, something good happened. I am going to be featured in a magazine soon.
    Clywch Clywch ("Hear Hear") is the radio magazine for Radio Cymru and they're doing a small feature on me for their next issue, which should be out in time for Eisteddfod (it's a bit like an arts-focused state fair).

  • Oh, Camilla. You're winning friends in Wales with quotes like this: "This is the village where it happens although I can't pronounce it."

  • Here's the thing I always wonder when they scrub a shuttle launch because of something like a faulty fuel sensor: Why didn't they check on this yesterday?
    I mean, hell, man, if you're going to space, maybe you should warm up the shuttle the day before rather than finding this stuff out on the launch pad. It's a bit like failing to check out the car before taking a trip: "Oops. Sorry, kids -- vacation's scrapped. I forgot to change the oil. Oh well, Disney World isn't all that great."

  • If TV stations had station-branded space shuttles:
    "Let's turn now to Your Local 12's Eye In The Cosmos, with Captain Mike. So, what's the traffic like for Local 12 viewers' commute home*?"
    "No, clue, John. I'm several miles above the Earth's surface. I can tell you there's a rather large weather system moving across Asia."

  • I have been wanting to write about work as of late. I shouldn't, obviously, because that's a really great way to get oneself fired. I mention this only as explanation for the fact that my posts have been shorter than usual (for which you are no doubt grateful)

    *TV stations actually report shit like this, ignoring the fact that almost no one is watching the news at work.
  • Tuesday, July 12, 2005

    Feed me

  • So hungry. When I got home from work on Monday I decided to go for a run in the 90-degree heat (37 percent humidity; 60-degree dew point) and just about managed to kill myself in the process. I felt drunk and stupid (more drunk and stupid than usual, I mean) and couldn't cool off. As a side effect, I couldn't eat dinner. Water and Gatorade were all I could stomach.
    "You're going to be really hungry," my wife said to me, encouraging me to try to eat.
    "Nah. I'll be fine," I said.
    I'm hungry.

  • Beth's granddad is hilarious. There is no way in hell that I would be able to get either of my grandfathers to wear a hat backward. One of them accused me of looking like a member of al-Qaida when I used to wear a goatee.

  • Have you ever read Alton Brown's Rants & Raves page? It's half-amusing if you are an Alton Brown fan (which you might be if, like me, you are married to a dietitian -- we watch a lot of Food Network).

  • Greg drew attention to lists of the 100 Greatest and Worst Britons in my comments today. I think I remember when that list first came out and I remember mentally discrediting it because David Lloyd George ranked so low.

  • Uhm, yes. We are pansies. Why do you ask?
  • Katie Holmes Has The Right Idea

    Woo-ha! My latest column is out and I'm pretty sure Thomas will approve, as will these guys. And if Astrid continues her trend of reading my column over breakfast, I suggest French toast sticks to go with this one.

    Monday, July 11, 2005

    Why, Ms. Paltrow, are you trying to seduce me?

  • Ouch. I hate it when that happens.

  • I had a dream last night that Gwyneth Paltrow had the hots for me. This was much better than the dream in which Oscar Wilde was hitting on me. I have a lot of dreams about celebrities, now that I think about it. Most of the time, though, the celebrities are a major disappointment.
    I have had a number of dreams in which I am trying to help a celebrity accomplish a simple task (make their plane on time, change a tire on their car, etc.) and they turn out to be woefully incompetent. I wonder what this means.

  • I want a T-shirt with this picture on it.
    (Found here)

  • Good question: "I have a very important question. How high is South Fork River supposed to get tonight?" Mays asked the 911 operator.

  • "A truck hauling hay caught on fire... The driver tried to put out the fire by using the wind and swerving going down the freeway."

  • Mash-up songo. I just like it.

  • Afe from Australia commented on my blog over the weekend. This marks the first time (I think) that I have heard from someone in Australia.
  • Friday, July 8, 2005

    Al-Qaida in Albuquerque?! Terrorists in Toledo?! Osama in Omaha?!

  • One of the standards of American local-market journalism is the "Could It Happen Here?" story. Any time anything of interest happens anywhere in the world, underpaid assignment editors (who are almost always alcoholics or incompetents, but that is another story*) send out reporters to create a news story that will allow the viewer to wrap themselves in a warm blanket of paranoia.
    When the Dec. 26 tsunami hit, every station within 100 miles of coastline charged off to ask some poor university professor whether the same thing could happen in their market. When a plane crashes, reporters are dispatched to the nearest airport to ask about safety procedures. And you bet your ass that every time terrorism occurs anywhere, stations everywhere drag out some grumpy old colonel or self-appointed terrorism expert (if we have so many goddamn terrorism experts in this country, why is there still terrorism?) to admit that yes, within the realm of possibility, it is possible -- just as it is possible that your mother is actually a robot -- that terrorists will attack Omaha, Nebraska. Possible. Not probable.
    So, within hours after the attacks in London, American news crews were rolling to interview people on local public transportation systems. They returned triumphantly to their newsrooms with stories in which they claimed, without even a hint of irony, that local commuters were continuing to use buses and trains because they "see it as a way to defy terrorism" (and perhaps also because they needed to get to work).
    Of course, local-market journalists are fonts of knowledge, especially when it comes to things that were not on E! Entertainment Television last night, like foreign countries. As such, in my happy function as a proofreader who had to read dozens of tenuously London-linked stories, I have learned:
    -- People who live in Britain are "Britishers."
    -- Americans are expressing their condolences at their local "London consulates."
    -- The University of Sussex is in London.
    -- Hundreds, if not thousands, of American students narrowly avoided disaster, having been on the Underground sometime in the last week.

  • I love the sentiment in an article that Jenny linked to Friday: "We're better than you. Everyone is better than you... We're going down the pub."

  • One of the better aspects of American life are cheesy local commercials. Here's one from northeast Ohio.

  • "You adore him." I need one of these people to follow my wife around.

  • Son of a bitch. Whorehouse Days has been cancelled.

  • On Wednesday I threatened bodily harm upon headline writers using the phrase "Dennis the Menace." It looks like I'm going to be very busy delivering a whole lot of hurt.

  • Sports that may be added or dropped by the 2012 Olympics.

    *When I was an assignment editor is San Diego I was the latter.
  • 100 Things: 11-15

    1-5 ~ 6-10

    11) I miss playing the trombone.

    12) When I was a boy, like all boys, I decided I was going to run away from home. My mother helped me pack. As she did this, she wore down my desire to run away by discussing logistics. She did this all in a very matter-of-fact way, as if she fully expected me to leave and was just offering some basic advice.
    It was one of the more cunningly brilliant things my mother has ever done and memories of this always lead me to question my perception when I think she is being stupid.

    13) At around that same time in my life, I stole a cinnamon-flavored Jolly Rancher from 7-Eleven. I was paralyzed with fear that I would get caught and kept it hidden under my bed for several weeks. Occasionally I would sneak into my room, close the door, unwrap the candy and put it in my mouth for a few seconds. Then I would re-wrap the candy and hide it again under my bed. Each time I heard a police siren I was sure they were coming for me.

    14) Biking into work this morning, I could not stop singing the Huey Lewis & The News hit "If This Is It." If ever there were a sure sign of madness, this is it (doo-wop).

    15) I have had my tonsils removed twice.

    Thursday, July 7, 2005

    Fuck you, terrorists

  • I spent most of Thursday morning constantly checking to see if Chris or Jenny had updated, and thinking things like: "It's New Cross, right? Not King's Cross. Shit. I can't remember. But that's OK, because she was saying just the other day that she takes early trains, so she was almost certainly safe and sound in a room full of noisy young hooligans. But, ah fuck, what about the boy?"
    I spent some time figuring out where Chris' office may be, based on MacUser contact info, and where I think he and Jenny live, based on previous mentions, and then what route one might take, based on my staring at a Tube map, and then Jenny sent me an e-mail to let me know that they are OK. I'm such a dork.

  • I am fighting the urge to write at length my feelings about Thursday's attacks. I worry that it would come out all wrong -- sappy and dumb; the written equivalent of a teddy bear wearing a "Support Our Troops" ribbon, complete with ridiculous "We are all British" sentiment. That feeling is there, of course -- very strongly -- and my extreme Britophilia almost makes me feel that I would be vindicated in writing it. By the end of the day, my jaw hurt from clenching it so tight to keep from tearing up at work.
    I'm frustrated and upset, but it doesn't affect my desire to live in Britain. To that end, then, I will simply say this: Blowing up trains and buses does nothing. You can't break Britain. Almost 1,000 years of internal squabbling, facing off against the greatest militaries in history, economic and religious turmoil -- buses and trains aren't shit. Britain does not break.

  • I like this picture of Tony Blair. He looks about as angry as I feel.

  • I also like this picture of people escaping the Tube, which looks to have been taken on someone's camera phone. It's eerie and claustrophobic and they are having to avoid getting electrocuted by the third rail, but there they are -- in queue -- incredibly calm and patiently wandering to safety. It's beautiful.
    On one bit of news footage I saw Thursday, there was a man with a briefcase moving through the scenes of chaos in that traditional indefatigable Londoner shuffle. He was clearly still headed to work. London doesn't stop for bombs.
  • Britons never never never will be slaves

    Wednesday, July 6, 2005

    Oh look, cute kids in a boat

  • With the 2012 Olympics secured I think we need to start thinking about the opening ceremony extravaganza.
    Based on previous opening ceremonies, it would seem that a cute child or two are basic requirements. I'm pretty sure they'll be in a boat at some point, to celebrate Britain's nautical history, and most likely one of them will need to be of Indian descent (India the country, not American Indian -- that wouldn't make sense). I'm picturing a boy and a girl, and the girl would wear traditional Scottish dress because that would be really cute.
    Another opening ceremony requirement is multi-culturalism. Obviously individuals of Asian (i.e., South East Asian) descent will play a big role, but I'm thinking the ancient and native cultures/languages of Britain should also be featured. My new goal is to get myself into the opening ceremony on the basis of my speaking Welsh.
    Also, I think that as each country's delegation comes into the stadium, a little sound should indicate those countries with which Britain has engaged in some sort of military conflict. It would have to be a pleasant sound, of course, because you would hear it a lot.
    Can you think of other things that should be featured in London's opening ceremony?

  • Hey wow, if you want to listen to a dude self-destruct in front of a worldwide audience, listen to Josh Homme yammer on Zane Lowe's Wednesday show.

  • Speaking of making a fool of oneself on the radio, it looks as if my interview with Beti George will be broadcast some time around 12:15 p.m. BST next Wednesday on Radio Cymru. That's 6:15 a.m. for me, so I'm hoping that it will be put on the Radio Player, so I can listen to it later.

  • The first headline writer who refers to this storm as "Dennis the Menace" gets kicked right in the Norm Coleman.

  • Every time there is a shark attack story, there is some bonehead there to say something like, "They're more afraid us than you are of them."
    Bollocks. When something scares me, I run away. I don't attack it and attempt to eat it.

  • You know, I'm certainly a fan of the ladies -- but not so much that I'm willing to hang out at the bottom of an outhouse to see them.
  • In your face, you French bastards!

    Huzzah! In seven years they'll be playing beach volleyball at the Horse Guards Parade -- London won its bid to host the 2012 Olympics.

    It's a bit sad that the marathon will finish inside the as-yet-built Olympic Stadium. I think it would have been appropriate (although, perhaps not visually exciting) to have it end in White City. The marathon gets its current 26.2-mile standard length from the 1908 Olympics when it was extended so as to end in front of the royal family's box at White City stadium*. There's a BBC building there now, which I think would also be appropriate -- the BBC is the new British Empire.

    Nonetheless, I am looking forward to it. I think the choices of venue are particularly inventive. One of my favorite elements: "The Serpentine boating lake (in Hyde Park) will undergo a major clean-up so it can be used for the swimming part of the (triathlon)."

    Of course, all this London Olympics stuff has an emotional connection for me because I have loosely tied my personal ambition to the city's Olympic bid. When I first read about London's bid a few years ago, I thought: "Man, wouldn't it be cool to be there for that?

    "Obviously, though, it would be impossible to find a hotel amid all that, and London is expensive enough already without adding inflated Olympics prices. No, one would have to be living in Britain already. Hey, there's a good idea. I hereby pledge that if the Olympics are in London in 2012, I will be living in Britain."

    I modified that pledge when it looked like Paris was going to win the bid (you'll notice that it was a shock to CNN and MSNBC, who stationed reporters in Paris). I made a simple promise to myself to be living in Britain by 2012. But my emotional attachment remained and London's success makes me now feel that I will be successful, too (that's very sappy, I know).

    That's right, Frenchy! Weep at your wounded national pride!I am delighted by the fact that London won out over Paris specifically. The final IOC voting had the two cities head to head, and the immediate speculation in French papers (according to BBC reporters) is that Chirac's comments earlier this week about British food are what put the nail in Paris' coffin. I would like to think the IOC realized that while Paris had put forward the best bid, it is unfortunately populated by French people and therefore totally ill-suited to host an international event.

    I am stupidly excited.

    One thing I don't quite understand, though -- why was David Beckham involved? Apparently he is just The UK Man of Sport.

    *This seems to be the consensus story from several websites, but the official website of the royal family says that it was the starting line that was extended, not the finish line.

    R. Metallikelly

    Strangely, I had not been drinking when I thought this up.

    Tuesday, July 5, 2005

    Dydd annibyniaeth

  • Oof. I'm sure it's physically possible for me to have consumed more grilled meat over the holiday weekend, but it would have been a challenge.
    That said, though, most of my weekend was Welsh-focused. I had an interview for Radio Cymru Monday morning and had spent the weekend attempting to cram in preparation.
    I think the interview went OK. The Beti George is a consummate pro and she was able to lob softball questions at me with ease. I only bunted on one of the questions, to continue the metaphor. I had made a joke before the interview was being recorded and she was trying to lead me into saying it again. Unfortunately, I am dumber the wet piece of wood, so I stumbled through my response. I almost take pride in my ability to screw up her trying so hard to make me look good.
    It looks as if the interview will be broadcast on July 13. I doubt any English speakers will be interested, but I'll be sure to draw attention to it once I know the exact time the interview will be broadcast (BBC schedules only come out a few days before).

  • The IOC is set to announce who will the 2012 Olympics Wednesday morning. It's sort of almost exciting. I mean, we all know Paris will win, because I can't stand those Frenchies*, and the universe thinks it's funny when I'm angry. But still, one can hope.

  • If you look at the top picture of this story, the guy who is about to shoot Chief Constable Michael Todd with a Taser gun is taking far too much pleasure in his job.

  • There appears to be some disagreement on my choice for a profile picture. As such, I may be willing to let you persuade me to use a different picture. Your choices are:
    - Sit-On-Roof Chris (current picture)
    - Drinking-Guinness Chris
    - Bored Chris
    - Jovial Chris
    - Stuffed-Mouth Chris
    - Dissolute James the Frightful Cain-Raising Highwayman
    Because this is a blogacracy, I reserve the right to ignore your opinion.

    *I think it's important to note that I have always disliked the French -- it has nothing to do with the whole brouhaha leading up to the Iraq Debacle. Indeed, one of the things that angers me so much about the Bush administration is that their stupidity led to the French being right about something.
  • Monday, July 4, 2005

    No better way

    What could be more patriotic than celebrating Independence Day at an Irish pub? My wife and I went to The Liffey for lunch Monday, which made me a very happy boy.

    The Liffey has a new outdoor seating area (relatively new -- it wasn't there in March) and it is fantastic. You're right in the heart of St. Paul and you get an unadulterated view of the cathedral.

    While I was there, I had Rachel take a few pictures of me so that I can finally put up a new photo in my profile.

    We took this one:



    And this one:



    I decided to go with the first one as my profile picture, although there's a strong argument for the second because the pint glass obscures part of my face. Both of these pictures are better than the ones I attempted to take the other day when I was sweaty hot and had foolishly chosen to push my hair back.

    I am very sad that I am so self-conscious of my appearance. Perhaps this would make sense if I were a male model, like Gene, but I'm just some ugly bastard who really should come to terms with the fact that regardless of the lighting or angle or hairstyle or facial expression I will still not look good.

    I took several sweaty-hot-hair-pushed-back pictures and they all turned out horribly:

  • Here I am attempting the bored look.

  • Here I am attempting the jovial look.

  • In this picture I am blatantly stealing technique from Linus in taking a picture of myself with something in my mouth. This is actually a good technique, as it obscures part of my face (see picture with pint glass above). But I decided not to go with it because I'm pretty sure Linus would have sent his people after me.

  • This last picture is just wrong. You know those movies in which the lecherous, abusive and drunken uncle chases after the young heroine and usually ends up getting himself rightfully killed on the English moors? That's what I look like in this picture. I have no idea what the hell went wrong with there but it's just downright scary: "Come here, Eliza. Bring your uncle Chris a bottle of gin. I said, gin, dammit! Not whiskey. You need to be taught a lesson..."
  • The importance of being Chris

    I had a dream last night that Oscar Wilde kept hitting on me. I was very polite in my rejection because who wouldn't want to have Oscar Wilde as a pal? He kept imploring me to "imagine the possibilities."

    Friday, July 1, 2005

    Minnesota Blogger Not Really Trying

  • If the government is shut down, while the hell were there politicos yammering on last night when EastEnders was supposed to be on? Bastards. Don't they know what's important?

  • I love these pictures of lightning from last week's storms in Britain. My question is this: How does one capture a picture of lightning? I can't imagine ever getting the timing right.

  • Cavemen would have enjoyed rap music.

  • Quick, describe your daily life in the form of a newspaper headline:
    St. Paul Man Corrects English, Drinks Heavily
  •