Thursday, October 31, 2002
I played Grand Theft Auto for the first time today. It took me all of fifteen seconds before I turned it off. Way way way too much gratuitous violence. I guess I just don't see the entertainment value in it. The way I see it, if you have more than half a brain, it takes more than a whole lot of unnecessary violence to make something interesting. At the risk of sounding like an old churchy lady, it was just gross and horrifying.

Strange and interesting fact: If you do a search for "plane crash" on Corbis, you get lots of beautiful photos of the World Trade Center and the New York skyline taken prior to September 2001.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002
The house I live in was built in 1890. As far as I know, it's the oldest house I've ever lived in. I like old houses for various reasons, most of them the common reasons why most people like old houses. The architecture, Queen Anne in my case, is classic, there are lots of floor-to-ceiling windows, the place has a certain charm that you don't get in newer houses, the hardwood floors go with everything, etc. It just has character.

My least favorite part of living in an old house? Winter. And even worse: winter in Michigan, which lasts until May. For all of the charm that old houses like mine have, what they sorely lack is insulation. And storm windows. And tight seals around doors. My house doesn't really heat up much more than 66 degrees on a cold winter day, even when I've sealed the hell out of it. I put up finger caulk around the window edges, put plastic over the windows, put gust blockers on the bottoms of all the doors, weatherstrip doors that don't get used in the winter, and wear lots of flannel. It's still cold.

So tonight I started sealing the windows. My fingers are sticky from the caulk, but there is a noticeable difference in the air temperature. It's almost like the wind has stopped blowing inside the house. Unfortunately, this difference is only noticeable for a day or two after I've winterized. By the weekend, it'll feel cold again. But by then I'll have done all I can to warm the place up. So...I'm really looking forward to spring. Which in Michigan happens around the middle of June.

Monday, October 28, 2002
I was at the local mega-super-food-store picking up a few things earlier today, and when it was time to go through the checkout, I decided to try one of the do-it-yourself lanes. There's no cashier there, just a machine, and you scan the items one by one and then put them in the bag. The machine knows if you've scanned something or if you're trying to steal something by the weight of your bag, and it actually won't let you scan an item until the previous item is in your bag. Overall, it was considerably faster than waiting for the usually dim cashiers, but at the same time it felt strange that I was able to buy milk and a small box of sushi without talking to anyone.

If you're really bored and want to read a restaurant review written by yours ever so very truly, you can do so here.

Sunday, October 27, 2002
So the other night a few of us were sitting around when I noticed a fish tank with a Beta in it. "Hey, look," I said, "a Beta." One of the guys sitting there pointed out that Betas have to be in tanks by themselves. Otherwise, one Beta eats the other Betas. That one Beta, I pointed out, would be the alpha Beta. I thought that was a pretty good joke, especially considering it came right off the top of my head, but only one person laughed.

William Safire's On Language column in today's New York Times Magazine is on one of my favorite words: Sprezzatura.

Thursday, October 24, 2002
There's an access television conference going on in the building where I work. It's interesting, but man, access people are some of the weirdest people you'll ever meet. They're usually people who have very strong opinions and have tired out the ears of everyone they've ever met, and having no one else to talk at, they make access programs. But for the most part, they're nice, except for this one loser I met today who kept staring at my chest. Jerk. I'm teaching a conference seminar tomorrow in Final Cut Pro. Should be quite an experience.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002
As much as I hate to admit it, I'm becoming a bit of a bottled water snob. It all started over the summer when I bought some ripe strawberries. I kept them in the fridge, and they made the water in my Brita pitcher taste kind of funny. All those ripening gasses, I guess. But I like to drink a lot of water and eat strawberries, so I figured that bottled water would be best, since you can cap off bottles and the Brita pitcher isn't really sealed. So I got some Aquafina on sale. And somehow it tasted better than the Brita water. The next time I went to the store, I bought the brand of water that was on sale that week, but the Aquafina was better. I tried all kinds of brands of bottled water, including the cheaper store brands of spring water, but somehow they just didn't taste as good as the Aquafina. So I started buying Aquafina exclusively, even if it was twice as much as another brand. That was four months ago and like a hundred of those 16.9 ounce Aquafina bottles later. (I've recycled every one.) Now I can't go back to the Brita. It tastes charcoal-y and strangely tangy, whereas the Aquafina tastes clean.

So one way, I feel kind of dumb for buying all this water, let alone all this brand-specific water, even though it's really only adding up to three or four dollars a week at the absolute most on my thirstiest weeks. But on the other hand, I look at all the people in the supermarket who buy case upon case upon sugar-loaded case of Mountain Dew Code Red and Diet Coke and Vernors and Orange Slice and drink that all day, and suddenly I feel okay about buying a six pack of water.

On another topic, grades for the first quarter of high school are due in a few days, so it's that time of the year when kids who have done less than nothing since school started ask stupid questions like, "How come I'm failing?" Ummm...because you haven't turned anything in, dumbass.

Monday, October 21, 2002
As seen on Tech TV: No more AOL cds. You can use them as coasters or frisbees, but that doesn't make as big a statement as sending one million AOL cds back to AOL, which is the goal of this site's creators. You know, I have a few boxes of my old band's cds in my basement, and there are only a few hundred cds in them. I can't even imagine how many boxes it would take to store one million cds. And the shipping costs! Or will they only send back the CDs and not the cases?

I guess AOL cds don't bother me as much as they bother some people. Besides, if you get them in one of those DVD-type cases, a few squirts of Goo Gone will remove all the sticky labels, and you've got a perfectly good free DVD case. It is annoying to get excess mail, but sometimes I think all these AOL cds are the only thing keeping the USPS in business.

Sunday, October 20, 2002
Had my neighbor and her two little daughters over for dinner tonight and confirmed what I already thought to be true: I am not ready for kids. They run all over the house and want to play with everything, and they get into every room even if the door's closed, and they don't sit very still for dinner, and I made cornbread but they want white bread, but then they eat cornbread anyway and drop it on the carpet that I just vacuumed, and they ask for rootbeer so I open a bottle of really delicious and hard to find Sprecher's rootbeer but they don't drink it, etc. etc. etc. I must say that I did an excellent job of keeping calm, but now I am tired (probably from cleaning up).

Usually if the Mets aren't in the World Series, I don't much care who wins, but I find myself really wanting the Angels to win. But what's the deal with that monkey?

Apple is giving a free copy of OS X Jaguar to all K-12 teachers. Quick: teach a kid something and sign up.

Thursday, October 17, 2002
When I'm home at 9 in the morning on a weekday, I am compelled to turn on Dr. Phil. Not that I think he's any great shakes or anything like that, but because I find it amazing that he can sustain a professional carrer as a television shrink by simply telling men to do what their wives want. And the men on his show tell Dr. Phil that yes, they will, in fact, do what their wives want from now on. Fascinating.

Nothing very exciting has happened in the last day or two.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002
The new Dave Eggers book was kept so quiet that I had to find out about it from Newsweek. You can't order it on Amazon or buy it at any chain bookstore; it's strictly indie shops and online at McSweeney's. I really liked A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (have you read this? you should read this), so I ordered my copy You Shall Know Our Velocity as soon as I got back to my computer.

Poetic justice: When the cop behind you sees the guy who cuts you off and pulls him over immediately. Sucka!

Monday, October 14, 2002
I've never liked flying, and I never will, but my flight from Florida to Detroit today was particularly bad. It was bumpy, for starters, and the pilot kept coming over the PA system to tell us to stay in our seats. Not that anyone was getting up or anything. The plane was old, which is always unsettling, and it was ungodly loud. I know, jet engines are loud, and there are a few right outside the window, but it just seemed louder than other planes. Maybe that's because I was sitting right above one of the engines. Whatever the case, I had a major panic attack and am now exhausted because of it.

I also have to admit to feeling some jealousy toward the Jet Blue passengers at the next gate in Ft. Lauderdale. Jet Blue names their planes, and the one these people were about to board was called Bada Bing Bada Blue. The woman at the gate microphone made a point of telling everyone the name of the plane. My plane didn't have a name, or if it did, I never learned it. A minor detail, I know, but when I know someone or something's name, it somehow feels more familiar and less likely to let me down. And their plane was a brand new A320, whereas I was getting on a rickety DC9. (Did I mention it was old and loud?) And Jet Blue planes have cushy leather seats with lots of legroom (so I hear) and a DirecTV screen for everyone! They made a point of talking about all the channels the passengers could watch on the plane, and they did it loud enough so that the people in the ten surrounding gates could hear and wonder why the airline they chose didn't offer such perks. And everyone got a pair of headphones as they got on Le Bada Bing so they could hear their satellite tv. We didn't even have a frickin' movie, but it's just as well, because we probably wouldn't have been able to hear the audio over the roaring engines, which I think the pilot revved unnecessarily every five minutes, just to scare me. Oh, and we didn't get lunch either. Just some crummy pretzels. I'll bet the Jet Blue people got turkey sandwiches on croissants, but I really don't know. In my mind, they did.

The feeling I'm left with? Northwest blows, and it's no wonder that Jet Blue was the most successful IPO in recent memory. Next time, I'm going for named planes that are hooked up. Gah.

Thursday, October 10, 2002
Yesterday, for the first time, I had a massage from a massage therapist. I figured I'd splurge, but now I have to figure out how I can get the money together to get one on a regular basis. My back didn't hurt today for the first time in I don't know when. I mean, I've had all kinds of people rub my back for me, but this was infinitely better. It's amazing how a little poking at muscles can feel so good. I don't feel nearly as good after, say, a round of Nautilis. Anyway, the official word from here is that professional massages rock, and I highly recommend one if you have the means.

Off to Florida for a long weekend of family fun. Back Tuesdayish.

Tuesday, October 8, 2002
I was heading to pick up a falafel with my coworkers today when we spotted the campaign van of Jennifer Granholm, the democrat candidate for governor of Michigan (and in all likelihood, the next governor). She was walking across the street to the local paper, but we thought we should invite her to check out our lab, since it's one of the best Mac labs in the midwest and since her competition wants to cut funding for arts education programs such as ours and since she's so big on educating our kids (the royal "our"). So we talked to her scheduling guy, explained how we'd love to have her visit, we're all supporters, go Granholm, etc. etc. He gave us an I'll-see-what-I-can-do answer, so we didn't expect much, but she actually stopped by.

Granholm is, like many politicians, very smooth. She carries herself extremely well, so there was a bit of a wow factor in being around someone like that. I should also mention that in addition to being poised, she's quite attractive and dresses well. Because of this, the two guys I work with have enormous crushes on her, and it was fun to watch them trip over themselves to show her things. She took a photo with the three of us, and both of them look like they're having their picture taken with the playmate of the month or something. Thankfully, there was minimal "she wanted me" talk after Ms. Granholm left.

We showed the photo of us with Granholm to our boss when he came by later in the afternoon. It took us a while for us to convince him that yes, she actually was in the lab, and that no, we didn't Photoshop the picture to make it look that way. Turns out he has a thing for her too. Yeesh.

Monday, October 7, 2002
Now that I have a laptop, I find that I'm watching a lot more movies, simply because I can pop in a DVD and watch it anywhere. So yesterday I watched Zoolander. I thought it was very good. Not great, like I've heard from a few people, but very good and actually funny. I especially liked the 2001-esque scene in the office as Derek and Hansel are trying to figure out how to turn on the iMac. Favorite line: "Two words, baby! Zip disk!" Yeah, umm...I guess you'll have to see it.

Sunday, October 6, 2002
The wedding was kind of fun. It was up in Alpena, Michigan, which is like fifty miles past the middle of nowhere. The town was more or less empty, but the local Holiday Inn, where we were all staying, was hoppin'. I spent about 11 hours in a car this weekend, but it was worth it just to see my boss -- the man has no rhythm -- try to do the Macarena.

I had some hopes for that new Jimmy Fallon CD, since he's so funny on SNL and cute and all, but aside from one or two amusing bits, it's actually very bad. (Unless you really like Weird Al. Then you might think it's okay.)

Saturday, October 5, 2002
Driving up north for a wedding. "But I thought you already live up north?" Yeah, I do, but the people getting married live even more north.

Thursday, October 3, 2002
It's unavoidable: When you work with high school students, you're going to catch all kinds of colds, flus, viruses, and anything else they carry around. I was doing a bang-up job of fighting this first cold of the school year, but today my sinuses started aching, and I'm kind of sleepy, and of all the foods I could have right now, Jell-o sounds really good. All bad signs.

Wednesday, October 2, 2002
Very cool: Commercials from the old I heart NY tourism campaign (via TV Land). The only spot I remember is the one with the Broadway/nightlife theme; I guess they mostly know...not in New York. But if I live to be three hundred years old, I'll never forget that jingle. Apologies if it now becomes stuck in your head.

Tuesday, October 1, 2002
Upon the recommendation of several people at once, I watched Koyaanisqatsi. You could call it an experimental documentary on the balance of nature and technology. The film is almost 20 years old, but even before it was made, the theme had already been more or less exhausted. (In Billy Collins's poem "Marginailia, he writes, "If you have managed to graduate from college without ever having written 'man vs. nature' in the margin of a page, perhaps now is the time to take one step forward.") Still, it was nice to watch, with lots of long shots of clouds moving over mountains and rocks in the desert, and then sped-up shots of people and cars moving through New York and Los Angeles, and this one beautiful sequence of a United 747 rolling down the runway during a heatwave.

Anyway, it's probably not for everyone -- need narrative? Then don't bother -- and the score by Phillip Glass can get a little annoying, but I think I enjoyed it. It's not rated, so Blockbuster won't have it; check your local independently-owned video store.

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