Random adventures through my life... in all their glory and splendor.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hey, you! Yeah, you with the fuzzy butt!

I can has name yet?

So this is, like, week 4 of having a cat tooling around the house without a name. He has a couple of working titles, but nothing official. We should probably just stick with War, because as it turns out, naming a cat through the process of elimination is not particularly efficient. It's kinda like American Idol and feels like it's going to take about as long to find a winner. Anyway, today we learned that his name is not Kyle; however, we added Heathrow, Chester, and Kubla to the list of possibilities. In true cat fashion though, he's been equally unresponsive to every name we've tried.

Stay tuned for more gripping details as this crisis unfolds!

Why I don't cook

Here's a little recipe I cooked up that's sure to make you popular at your next family gathering:

Prep time: About 3 hours
-1 pint of Ben and Jerry's
-1 serving of an alcoholic beverage, your choice
-2 high fiber granola bars
Directions: 3 hours prior to engagement, consume all ingredients. Add alcohol to taste. 'Brew' for 2+ hours or until you explode. Revel in your impending infamy.
Caution: Do NOT share this recipe with other family members! Do NOT share the glory.

Also great for family vacations or long road trips!

Now, I tried this out the day before all the festivities this year, but I can assure you that had I indulged in this concoction and then headed out for a full day with the extended family, the results would have been... legendary. Bon Apetite!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Turkey Ops

Mmmm, Turkey....

This Thanksgiving Day worked out kind of interestingly for us this year. My side meets tomorrow in Elgin, and we didn't get our act together soon enough to make it out to Michigan. So... what do you do when you don't have plans for Turkey Day? Well, for the last 2 years Chris and I have been hearing stories from a couple of our friends about how *wonderful* their Thanksgiving meals are, and how *exotic* the ingredients are, and how much time and energy the cook puts into it, and on and ON and ON... And knowing these folks pretty well, we knew it was certainly within the realm of possibility that all this stuff was true. So we thought, what better way to avoid the stress of the season, than to leech onto someone else's family for a holiday, right? Genius! So about mid-June we started conspiring on how we could get ourselves invited into somebody else's home. After some recon and a couple well placed, pathetic, and not-so-subtle hints, we did indeed get the invite. Our friends were even kind enough not to roll their eyes on our arrival. But I gotta tell you, they delivered. The food was amazing. I've forgotten how magical buttermilk, sour cream, and bacon are. They can make anything taste better, and these folks take no prisoners which is probably why we had to sign a medical waiver on the way in.
As a total side note, Chris and I discussed later how it seems that having a couple of stragglers/strays/freeloaders around for the holidays might help put the family on better behavior. Stories that are told over and over now have a fresh audience and I think people tend to think twice before flinging dirt when it's no longer 'just' the family.
Anyway, kudos to our hosts and thanks for letting us take the soup home. It was just as good the second time around. (And the 3rd! -chris)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Et tu, iPod?

I know people have various opinions about Apple and it's relationship with good and/or evil, but I'm here to tell you that my iPod nearly killed me this week. No, not because I had it too loud as I walked blissfully ignorant across railroad tracks, or because a sudden gust of wind just happened to try strangling me with the cord of the earbud. Oh, no... this was chillingly premeditated. Below I've reconstructed the steps and how it nearly got away with murder.

1) It lulled me into a false sense of security. Seriously, I didn't see it coming at all. It's been extremely reliable and 'the perfect companion' since it was purchased.
2) It gained my trust. No battery problems or accidental music library blow outs... it's been great. I pretty much exclusively listen on random, because whatever pattern it uses, I haven't figured it out (which my last 2 MP3 players were much more annoyingly predictable)
3) It tactically pinpointed my weaknesses. It learned that I'm most vulnerable to it's influence while driving or in the gym.
4) It waited for an opportune moment... at the bench press.
5) It went for the kill. After 2 sets, my iPod "Randomly" went from an upbeat Violent Femmes tune to "All out of Love" by AirSupply.

I have no idea where that song came from. Actually... I know where it came from, I just don't know how it got on my iPod. It was put on a mixCD I got as a joke, but that's a lesser point. Anyway, by the grace of God I was able to wrestle the whole 18 pounds I was lifting back onto the bar rest before my will to live was completely sucked dry.

Curse you bad-bad iPod and your evil, back-stabbing ways.

For your bad behavior, you have to wear an ugly sweater until you can play nice.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

On the Drink of Disaster

True story.
The problem with doing karaoke in a bar, is that generally you're expected to order something. Now, contrary to popular belief, I'm not much of a drinker. Steady yourself. I know, gentle reader, the shocking truth is that most of the stupid stuff I do, I do completely sober. So when I do go to a bar, I try to surround myself with other light-weight girly men for camouflage. But eventually, like zebras pacing the watering hole, one of us has to go up and order something. Last time, there were only two of us and it was my turn to test the waters for crocodiles. My buddy says, "Get me a Miller Lite." Great. No hiding out on the savanna. So I go up to the bar and order a manly Miller Lite and an equally masculine Mike's HARD lemonade. Oh yeah, feel that testosterone pumping. The bartender has obviously been trained well and remains stoic, but my spindly legs are poised and ready to bolt at as soon as the glass hits the counter. That's when one of the local lions lifted his large head and groggily starts to shake off his stupor. His eyes scan the surroundings and his nose goes up. He smells fear nearby, but he hasn't honed in on it yet. The bartender comes around with my drinks which tell every predator around that I won't put up much of a fight, and just as he reaches me, the lion's pupils widen and snap into focus.

"Excuse me..." he says with lazy calm. "Don't take this the wrong way, but one of those drinks is for a girl, right?"
"No," I say, exposing myself as the prey that I am. It's not like I can run at this point anyway.
"Oh, Jeez dude, I'm sorry. I just read somewhere that Mike's is one of the most popular drinks among women." The lion recklessly and effectively swats his large paws in my direction.
"That's mine." I look back at my herd longingly as this guy verbally chews my limbs off.
"Really? No offense man, really. I just assumed that one of those HAD to be for a girl." His head goes back down. The kill complete. I drag my bloodied carcass back to our table and explain to my friend how it was his stupid Miller Lite that made me look like a lady.
We did get the last laugh though. The lion was really bad at karaoke, but we told him he was good. Take THAT! You may be King of the jungle, but your roar sounds like crap.

Meanwhile, from the 'Becoming what you detest' department:
Up until last Saturday, I had been in a Starbucks exactly once in my life. I was carpooling and was not the driver. I had no choice, I don't even remember if I ordered anything. But in the last week, I have gone to Starbucks *4* times. What's wrong with me? I feel dirty. And on top of it all, I liked it. That's right, you heard me. I LIKED IT! I'm a Chai tea chump and apparently will pay over 3 dollars for a 'tall.' I hate myself.

And as a total non-sequitor, let me tell you why I think this seemingly innocuous picture makes me laugh. It's a shot from our living room, and granted not one of the most flattering. Study it carefully. Note the pile of dirty dishes and half finished knitting project. This my friends, is exactly what my living room would look like if my wife were suddenly vaporized. Well, except the lid wouldn't be on the peanut butter, but otherwise it's dead on. Don't worry folks, it's just a simulation. Chris is JUST FINE.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Bright Lights, Big Idiot.

aka: Gomer goes to Town

And now for another episode of, "Why I hate traveling."
Pretty much, I have no travel skills. I can't blame it on my parents, they tried. I just got nuthin in the travel-intuition department and it makes me feel like the last 35 years have counted for absolutely nothing. If I can't even get from point A to point B, why worry about the shortest route, or how long it's going to take, or whether I packed enough snackies? Fortunately, I try to compensate by "Being Prepared." Unfortunately, that translates to "Carry a lot of cash in case something goes wrong" which admittedly isn't the most practical philosophy, but it's fairly effective as far as defense mechanisms go.
So this week I have to go into downtown Chicago for two days of training. And let me make this perfectly clear, I HAYAATE traveling to/in/from/through/around Chicago. Maybe if I was the only one there it would be better, but then I suspect I'd be running for my life from zombies or something...
Anyway, today was day one of this training. Class starts at 9am, so Chris and I are out the door at 6am, to get to the Elgin train station by 7. So far things are going smoothly, and I actually make it onto the train. Mind you, the station itself isn't open yet, so you just jump on the train and get your ticket later. It's not like they don't know where you're going. So I'm there with 9000 commuters and I'm the only one without a monthly pass. No worries though... I have CASH! So after we get through Bartlett, the conductor comes around. After quickly checking the passes for everyone in the front half of the car, he gets to me. I hold out a $20 (because that's what the ATM deemed me worthy of) and he squints. "Which stop?" he asks. Now you would think that a college grad wouldn't have any problem answering that. I stare. I have one choice. "Union Station" I say. His eyes roll. "No, which stop did you get on." Yeah... you see he doesn't know how much my ticket costs until he knows where I started. I stare...blankly. Where did I start? He wants Point A, not Point B. I can NOT remember the name of the station. Nothing. Time passes. People with actual tickets start to wonder what the hold up is. I've got nothing. Then my brain starts to trickle into my mouth... "Big, err Elgin, no, egh... TIMBER! Big Timber!" The conductor puts his head down. Punches a ticket, looks back at me and slowly says, "That'll be $5.15, sir." At least, that's what his mouth said. His eyes said, "Sigh... now I have to dig out $14.85 in change for this dope who can't remember where he was 15 minutes ago."
When we finally got to Union Station, I opted to walk 2 miles to class instead of trying to negotiate a cab or the busline by myself. Happy ending though, I did actually make it to class on time.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

All Saints Day

In my church's tradition, the first Sunday of November is All Saints Day. It's a time of reflection and remembrance for those who have died in the past year. Candles are lit and a powerpoint is shown as we're reminded to celebrate their earthly and eternal lives. I've always found it to be kind of a weird juxtaposition with modern day Halloween, but I suspect at one point it there was a more natural transition between the two holidays. Now, after a month of sugar and hype, I am challenged with trying to find joy in death. Real death, not movie death or funny or ironic death. Not the Halloween, costumed, candy-coated death. And it's difficult.

This year brought it's own unique frustration. About 20 people from my church died in the past year, and I didn't know any of them. I only even recognized one last name, but didn't recognize her face. Does that make this a good year? Am I lucky or am I a big jerk for not being involved enough? So while I'm stewing over that, my brain starts listing Christian death hymns. Amazing Grace. I've always been drawn to them. Partly because of my inner-goth-child, but also I think Bono (love him or hate him) summed up my feelings on the matter. Take My Hand, Precious Lord. He said that Christians generally don't like conflict, especially in their music, and yet most of the great songs revolve around some conflict. All My Tears Be Washed Away. You can't have a good song or story without a problem. I'll Fly Away. Throwing death in the mix inherently adds conflict.

And then the chorus of O Come and Mourn with Me Awhile poured into my head:

Oh love of God, Oh sin of man, in this dread act Your strength is tried.
And victory remains in Love. Jesus our Lord is crucified.

Talk about a rollercoaster. Love... sin... dread act...victory... crucified. From the chorus it's kinda hard to tell who's really winning. Sure, It's really a Good Friday/Easter hymn but I was struck by the parallel, though I couldn't verbalize it at the time. In six months I'll go through this again in reverse. Life to death, death to life. Celebration to mourning, mourning to celebration.

At this point, Chris looked over at me in the pew and whispered, "Do you need a Kleenex?" Needless to say, I'm all like, "No, I can handle it." Later in the car I fessed up that apparently I'm dealing with some stuff that's bubbling through to the surface. "It's ok, deal with it as it comes. At least you're feeling something," she said. And she's right... again.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Karaoke Evangelist

Slowly but surely I'm figuring out what makes for a good night of karaoke, and what makes for an agonizing and humiliating one. Basically, if you end up feeling like this guy when you're singing, you're doing right. So here are my observations:

-Find a good karaoke place. I would define "good" as somewhere that's encouraging and welcoming, not necessarily a hub of high quality singers. For instance, my favorite place has this fantastic KJ (I think that's what Karaoke DJ's are called) who remembers your name, tells you that you are picking excellent songs, and who will even sing with you if you need that extra support. I also appreciate the fact that he cares what you sound like. He adjusts your volume, reverb, etc so you sound 'right' even if you don't sound 'good.' Jeti Entertainment rocks. I took all this for granted until a couple weeks ago when we went to some other joint assuming that all KJ's were equal. Suffice it to say, they're not.

-Pick songs you've listened to in the past 10 years. This may sound obvious, but it's really easy to get all nostalgic about some song that's aged well in your imagination. When you're up there singing, you want to be focusing on the music and the moment, not "Gee, I thought this song was much cooler" or "Huh, this song really is about homosexuality" or even worse, "Man, this is a LOT higher than I remember it."

-Don't pick long songs. If you've followed the above rule, this should help you find music you like in the 3 to 5 minute range. Believe me, the difference between a 5 minute song and a 7 minute song is staggering. Just because "Paradise by the Dashboard Lights" is in the songbook, doesn't mean you should sing it.

-Go with a Buddy. It doesn't have to be someone who's going to objectively critique your singing, in fact it's probably better if they aren't. Matt (my friend in the picture) is the best Karaoke buddy ever. He's like the person riding shotgun who calls everyone driving slower than you an idiot, and everyone going faster a lunatic. In Karaoke that translates to rolling his eyes at someone who sings really well, and a slight head shake and knowing smile when someone sings like poo.

-Bring your own fan club. I just learned the value of this last night. Hearing applause from strangers is rewarding, but if you bring friends, you'll be sure to have an attentive audience. It also helps time go by quicker in between songs when you have more folks to chat with.

-Allow yourself to suck. Laugh off whatever goes wrong. Part of the fun of Karaoke is learning what works and what doesn't. You'll find these things out quicker and have more fun doing it if you take risks. This of course, is where a good buddly/fan club comes in.
I've had several conversations like this:
"So, How'd I do?"
"Dude, you rocked. I'm totally inspired. Now I'm going to try a song by Journey?"

Or the opposite:
"So, did it sound as bad out here as it did up there?"
"Man, Let's just say that I don't think this is really a crowd that appreciates the Spice Girls like you do. But at least now you've inspired me to try 'Faithfully.' At this point, what do we have to lose? "
And the cycle continues...

Lastly, Matt and I have had a couple discussions about this. Matt is much more careful about picking songs that he thinks the crowd will enjoy, even if he's not a 100% comfortable singing them. I was under the impression that a song, of any style, done well would be appreciated. Experience is showing that choosing songs the crowd wants to hear is generally received well regardless of how good you sing it, and that singing a song with technical accuracy isn't particularly valued. Maybe that's a no brainer given that we aren't competing for cash or anything, but it took me a while to figure it out.

So in conclusion. Don't stop... belieeevin'. Hold on to that feeeeeeelin'.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Meeting Leeroy Jenkins

Yesterday I found out who Leeroy Jenkins is. Apparently he's an older (by internet standards) meme that I totally missed out on. But it meets my personal criteria for comedy-gold which is, when you watch the video that started it all, it just isn't that funny. You ask yourself, "What is the big deal here?" Your inner voice gives you about 30 reasons why it isn't amusing and what would have really made it funny. But then suddenly that same voice turns on you and you can't get it out of your head. I've been belting out, "LEEEROY JEEENKINS" all day with the full knowledge that nobody I blurted to would get it... and yet I couldn't stop.

Comedy Gold.