Monday, December 04, 2006

On the Flipside

Hello, all! I've missed you so. I don't have much to say right now, but I wanted to congratulate myself for winning National Novel Writing Month for the second year in a row. Also I need to give a shout-out to my writing buddy and fellow two-time winner Dan, as well as my good friends Reski and Jen, both of whom won for the first time this year. My friends are a prolific bunch, aren't we?

As always, of course, my lovely wife Mandy was a pillar of support during the whole month.

It was a different experience this year. In '05 my only goal was the word count. This year, I already knew that I could write 50,000 words in a month because I'd done it before. The challenge then became, can I write 50,000 words and have them be any good? For any of you considering NaNoWriMo, let me just suggest that you avoid this way of thinking at all costs. It does nothing but slow you down. There was about a week and a half in there that was a real slog, hard to get anything moving because I doubted every other word I typed. Even as I was doing it I knew it was counter-intuitive, and completely against everything that NaNoWriMo stands for. I had to constantly remind myself to just get the words out and forget how good they are. Later, after the month is over, if I really like the story that much I can go back and replace the crappy words with better ones. Eventually I managed to push through the rut and crossed the 50,000 word mark with two days to spare. It's a good thing I had that vacation time to use.

In other news, Mandy's birthday is coming up, as is Christmas. I am looking forward to one of these things, although we will get to spend Christmas weekend up in Muskegon, Michigan, which is usually a good time.

Oh, and the Bears clinched their division yesterday, guaranteeing them a playoff berth. Now if only Sexy Rexy can get out of this slump in time, we're gonna RULE.

Bear Down!!!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

0.999... = 1

Does the title of this post make any sense to you? I just read it in Wikipedia, and now my mind is a little blown.

I've never pretended to be any good at math of any kind. I might have gotten more out of it had I ever done any homework in high school, but even if I had paid attention back then I would probably still get a headache trying to work out how much to leave for tips at restaurants. That being said, I do pride myself on a certain level of common sense. And few things satisfy my desire for common sense like an easy-to-follow algebraic formula. Which leads me to the topic at hand.

0.999... is intended to signify a number in which the nines extend an infinite amount of decimal places. Common sense tells me that no matter how many decimal places it extends, however, the number 0.999... is less than 1. That's the whole point of decimal places, right? They're another way to represent fractions, like this one:

1/3 = 0.333...

This makes sense. My calculator says so. But then check this shit out:

1/3 = 0.333...
1/3 x 3 = 1
0.333... x 3 = 0.999...
0.999... = 1

Who with the what now? That's half my mind blown right there. But then Wikipedia throws this bomb at me, and I am totally gobsmacked:

c = 0.999...
10c = 9.999...
10c - c = 9.999... - 0.999...
9c = 9
c = 1

It makes sense to me if I look at it, but please don't ask me to explain it. Part of me thinks it's cool. But it's a small part. The larger part believes that math is the language with which we will come to understand the universe, and something like this makes me think we may have screwed up some basic part of the grammar, and now we're translating it all wrong. Should I panic about this? Should I lose faith in my High Priests, the scientists, who hold the keys to the vast and arcane knowledge of the universe? Or is this just some annoying thing that high school AP math teachers whip out because they think it's funny to make fourteen-year-olds' heads explode?

Also, on the Wikipedia page it looked all cool 'cause the "=" signs all lined up in the little boxes. Someday I gotta figure out how to do that, but it's almost one o'clock in the morning. I gotta be up for work in like five hours. This is gonna keep me up all night.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Holy Crap! Did You See That?!?

Never in all my football-viewing years have I witnessed a game like the one that played out last night on ESPN's Monday Night Football. The still undefeated Chicago Bears paid a visit on the Arizona Cardinals in their fancy new stadium. Everybody from the "experts" to the fans to the players had written the game off as an easy win for the Bears. The Cardinals came into the game at 1-5 with a rookie quarterback in only his second start.

The Bears got greedy early, sending wide receiver Bernard Berrian on a long route on the first play of the game. Had quarterback Rex Grossman connected the play likely would have ended in a touchdown, or at least fantastic field position for the rest of the drive. Instead Berrian missed getting a finger on the ball by a matter of inches, and the drive stalled with a three-and-out. Then the Cardinals took over and pretty much ran roughshod over the Bears for the remainder of the first half. Their first two drives resulted in touchdowns. Over the course of the game Grossman was responsible for no less than six turnovers--he fumbled twice and threw four interceptions. He was completely unable to get his offense into any sort of rhythm. The Bears offense was responsible for only three points the whole game. The first half ended with the Cardinals ahead 20-3.

The second half was equally anemic for the Bears from an offensive standpoint, but the defense managed to bear down (hah) and hold the Cardinals to only three more points. More importantly, however, they forced two fumbles. Rookie defensive end Mark Anderson caused the first by hitting Cardinals QB Matt Leinart from the blind side. Bears safety Mike Brown scooped up the loose ball and trotted five yards into the end zone. Later in the fourth quarter as the Cardinals tried to run down the clock Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher stripped the ball from Arizona running back Edgerrin James. Charles "Peanut" Tillman recovered the fumble and ran it back for the second Bears touchdown of the night.

With three minutes left in the game the Bears defense forced a three-and-out. On the punt return rookie Devin Hester ran almost untouched for eighty-three yards to put the Bears ahead 24-23.

On the following possession Arizona drove the ball to within field goal range. The Bears defense had to be exhausted by this point; they'd spent over twice as much time on the field as their counterparts on the other side of the ball. With less than a minute to go the Cardinals set up for forty-two yard field goal attempt. The kick missed the mark by about a foot. It was second time in two weeks that Arizona kicker Neil Rackers had missed a game-saving kick. I had to feel a little sorry for the guy.

I'm glad the Bears won. I'm thrilled to still be undefeated. I am very happy to be the only 6-0 team in the NFL, at least until the Indianapolis Colts come back from their bye week. But last night was one of the ugliest, ugliest wins I've ever witnessed. I can't for sure say we even deserved to win, but I guess that's what good teams do.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I Am An Awful Person

The month of September was a rough one for me, cognitavely speaking. Three of my four parents have birthdays in September, and I managed to forget every freakin' one of them. To each of them--Michael (9/16), Mom (9/21) and Dad (9/28)--I offer my sincerest apologies. I don't know what I was thinking, except that it was about something other than your birthdays.

Also, and perhaps more importantly, Happy Birthday, you guys.

Not that any of them read, or are even aware of, this blog. I should probably make some phone calls.

So I'm feeling a little guilty about that. On top of that, my good friend Clayton announced that he is moving to Philadelphia. I'm thrilled for him, of course. He's starting a new job out there that sounds, for lack of a better description, totally sweet. He has grand plans for a kind of complete life-overhaul that I find inspiring. I can't help but notice that I am still in the job I've been complaining about since I started this blog, and agents and publishers are not exactly pounding at my door. I think I need to get a little of that Clayton mojo, and get off my ass and start, you know, working, or something.

Then again, right now I am at work, but does it look like I'm actually working?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Man Laws and Laser Rocket Arms

Ah, autumn. It spent the last week pissing down rain here in Chicago, and I must say I enjoyed every minute of it. The weather made an abrupt change today, however, and the sun is now shining and the thermometer has crept back up into the lower 70s. That isn't bad either. I wish that I had not busted out my leather jacket this morning, though. It was a sweaty bus ride home this afternoon.

More important than the weather (in spite of anything Al Gore might tell you) is the return of pro football. Huzzah! And also college football. Huzzah!! But mostly pro. Huzzah!!!

Yes indeed, the mighty Chicago Bears took the field last Sunday against their hated rivals, the lowly Green Bay Packers. The Bears freakin' destroyed 'em. The final score was 26-0. It was the first time the Packers had been shut out in over two hundred thirty games, and the first time Brett Favre had been shut out in his entire career. I would gloat more about that last bit, except it's really kinda sad. I mean, at his peak Brett Favre was not only the best quarterback playing, but possibly the best quarterback ever to play the game. And even on his bad days he could still beat the shit out of the Bears. His record against us is 21-8. Now, sadly, Favre's best days are behind him. When you add the fact that the rest of Green Bay's line-up is either inexperienced or a contusion away from retirement, and it is shaping up to be a sad end to an extraordinary career.

I can't believe that dude is only thirty-six. I am disconcerted by the fact that professional athletes approaching my age are considering retirement.

Anyway, next week the Bears play the Detroit Lions, who looked sharp on defense against the Seattle Seahawks in their season opener last week. If last week was any indication then our offense is in better shape than last year, but it should still be a challenge. The Lions' offense only managed six points last week, though, so I think our defense shouldn't have too much trouble keeping them in line. Plus, Detroit receiver Roy Williams had the balls to "guarantee" the Lions would win, and that never turns out well.

In other news, my brother Jonathan gets married tomorrow, so congrats to him and Cassandra. That should be a fun time.

Also, we are about six weeks out of the next National Novel Writing Month (see left side column). I have been getting up at 5:30 every morning just to get into the habit. Actually, I started getting up that early because I wanted to get in the habit of writing every morning anyway, but that extra time will come in handy when November rolls around.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Warning: Nerd Alert

If you will indulge me for a moment, this blog is about to live up to its name.

As some of you might be aware, one of my absolute favoritest movies of 2005 was Batman Begins. If you've seen the movie, you know that it ends with a little tease about what might be coming next in this new series of films. Since then, the nerdverse has been aflame with speculation regarding the Big Question of the new era:

Who will play the Joker?

Many names were floated around with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Names like Paul Bettany, Crispin Glover and Lachy Hulme appeared in almost every post on the subject. Sam Rockwell showed up occasionally, as did Adrian Brody. My personal favorite suggestion was Christopher Eccleston, although that idea never seemed to catch on. Not that it matters. Christopher Nolan, the director of both Begins and the upcoming, untitled sequel, seems to have hit all of us nerds with a surprise jab by casting a well-known actor whose name was somehow left out of all the speculation.

It appears that the Joker will be played by Heath Ledger.

My first reaction upon learning this news was (and I quote), "Huh." Note that I did not say, "Huh?" It wasn't a question. I was just a little surprised, is all. The reaction from other fans across the internet seem to range from puzzled to appalled. After some consideration, however, I have decided to treat this casting choice as good news. Here's why.

First of all, Mr. Ledger is a pretty good actor. I haven't seen Brokeback Mountain, but whether people liked it or not everyone seems to agree that his performance is quite good. I didn't know much about Ledger before I saw him in Monster's Ball. Before I saw that movie I had written Ledger off as another one of those teen heartthrob types who would disappear after he could no longer believeably play a high school student. His turn as Billy Bob Thornton's son in Monster's Ball made me think there was more to him.

Second, if Nolan had cast anyone on the fans' short list, we would have known without ever seeing the movie what the Joker was going to be like. I can honestly say now that I have no idea what to expect from the next movie. And that makes me more excited to see it. I mean, Nolan gambled a little on the first film, casting Gary Oldman as Gordon. Not that Oldman is a bad actor ('cause he sure as hell ain't), but he was definitely a left-field choice. And it worked out great.

In conclusion, I enjoy having things like upcoming Batman movies to distract me from current events. Now I'm gonna go spend twenty minutes wondering who would win in a fight, Christian Bale or Brandon Routh? I'm gonna go with Christian, I think. But that Brandon is pretty damn tall.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

And I Call Myself a Writer

Jeez. Would you look at this crap? My last post was last freakin' February, for christ's sake. Have I really had nothing of interest to say in all that time? Has nothing of note occurred? Haven't I at least seen a movie to blog about, which seems to be the thing to do when you have nothing else to say? It's been so long I wonder if anyone is even going to bother to check here anymore.

Sadly, the truth is that I have no life. It's true. Nothing has happened. I don't even have anything to write about right now, except for the fact that I haven't written anything. Pathetic.

Okay, wait. So, Mandy and I found a groovy new apartment, and we're moving at the beginning of next month. That's cool. Also, work on the novel I started for National Novel Writing Month last November progresses, albeit very, very slowly. I still haven't reached the end, although I think I know how it's gonna end. Part of the problem is I've got this other story idea that I want to get started on, and it's distracting the shit out of me. Also, I'm feeling pretty lazy.

I did recently discover the wonder that is the SciFi Network's updated version of Battlestar Galactica. God bless Netflix for bringing this gem to my door. This show is like crack, seriously. That's all I'm gonna say about it.

Oh, also, I finally saw Garden State, written and starring Zach Braff. I was curious about this movie because there are these two guys I know, one of whom wants to marry Natalie Portman, and the other wants to kill her, both based on her performance in this movie. Also, I heard the soundtrack was the bomb. Well, now that I have seen it, I can safely say... Meh. The movie was okay. Not awesome, not crappy. It probably would have been groundbreaking in 1989. Today it's just... meh. I'm glad I saw it. Don't need to see it again. Don't really even need to think about it. As for Natalie Portman, I thought she was completely... adequate. Not awful, not brilliant. I liked her better in V for Vendetta. Actually I liked that movie better than Garden State all the way around, but the movies are so different that you can't really compare them.

I am still looking for a new job, as well, although that has currently stalled. I have had exactly no success so far, and it's getting pretty discouraging. I've sent out probably a hundred resumes by now, and have heard back on exactly two of them--one of which was actually sent to a placement service, so it almost doesn't count. Anyway, I'm starting to think that going back and finishing college is really the only way I'm gonna get out of my current position. Yikes.

All right, enough complaining. It's summer. The windows are open, the sun is shining. the cats are yelling at the pigeons. I'm gonna go for a nice long bike ride today, and drop off the first month's rent for our awesome new apartment. Y'all should come visit some time!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Al Franken Hurt My Feelings

Al Franken is a douchebag.

I like to think of myself as a fairly smart guy. I don't claim to be the genius my parents always say I am (which is a subject for a whole other therapy sess--I mean, blog entry). But I believe I can say without fear of perjuring myself that I am not a complete idiot. It distresses me, therefore, when my intellectual shortcomings are pointed out by people whose opinions I respect.

Like most of the people I know, I am a good and devout liberal. I am less afraid of terrorists than I am of the Bush administration. I think it is funny if a sitting President gets caught receiving a hummer in the Oval Office, but I find it distressing to have a President with a cocaine addiction and DWI convictions, along with a First Lady who killed a guy with her car (swear to god! Look it up!), and a VP who not only has DWI convictions of his own, but recently MISTOOK A MAN FOR A SMALL BIRD AND THEN SHOT HIM IN THE FACE. Furthermore, as a good liberal, I believe that rich people should pay more in taxes than poor people because the Reaganesque "trickle-down" analogy is fundamentally flawed--money is not water; it is the cream that floats to the top. I believe it is the government's job to give the jar a stir and keep things as even as possible, not skim the cream from the top and give it to Halliburton in exchange for building "detention camps." (Again, not kidding. Check it out.)

I could go on. Perhaps I will, later. But to the subject at hand.

As a person of the liberal persuasion, I read Al Franken's best-seller Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, and it brought me great joy. I knew in advance, of course, that Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh were all full of shit, but now I had it explained in concise terms. The book even had empirical facts, like dates and names and charts and graphs, and lots and lots of dollar amounts. I remember none of them, but I sure was impressed when I read them. And, as an added bonus, Mr. Franken included many funny, funny jokes. Oh, the times we had! The handful of bus rides I spent reading that book just flew by. When I finished, I felt invigorated, justified in my liberal beliefs. I even donated fifty dollars to General Wesley Clark to help him in his campaign for President. Alas, the good General dropped out of the race before the Illinois primary, depriving me of the opportunity to actually register a vote for the man. I want my fifty bucks back.

Like many of you, I was disappointed, although not actually surprised, when John Kerry lost the election in 2004. To be honest, I wasn't completely distraught; I was on my honeymoon, and didn't think too hard about the election until we got home. But eventually I had time to register the fact that a handful more than half the population of the United States had bought into the idea that George W. Bush is actually making us safe by invading random countries for made-up reasons while chipping away at the civil liberties--the actual reasons for which this country was founded--we enjoy here at home. But I had to be honest: The election was the Democrats' to lose, and they did a bang-up job.

In 2005 we liberals got to enjoy a certain schadenfreude as the Bush administration traipsed from one fuck-up to the next. Iraq just kept getting worse, Osama still hasn't been found, Bush learned that they won't let just ANYBODY sit on the Supreme Court, and, lest we forget, we basically misplaced New Orleans and a number of other Gulf Coast communities for about six months. Oops.

And then I learned that Al Franken had a new book out: The Truth (with jokes). Yes! I thought. Kick 'em while they're down! Put 'em out of our misery! Little did I know that among the list of targets Mr. Franken had selected for his book I would find none other than myself. To be sure, at no point does Mr. Franken mention me by name, but I cannot help but take his comments as anything less than a personal attack.

In spite of all the fun I had reading Lies, I had one complaint. I did not think it was major, but it stuck with me enough that I would mention it when people asked my opinion of the book. My complaint was this: I didn't get all of the jokes. Mr. Franken's medium is humor, which is fine. He's a funny guy. But some of his jokes confused me. You see, occasionally he would make a statement, site a fact, or present a quote which turned out to be completely made up because Mr. Franken thought it was funny. Maybe it was. The point is, I could not always tell when it was a joke and when it was real. It annoyed me a little, but I still enjoyed the book overall and recommended it to friends. Furthermore, I expected more of the same in Truth, and I was fine with that. What I did not expect, after one of these jokes, was this:

"After my last book, some of my younger and/or less bright readers complained that they couldn't tell when I was joking and when I was merely reporting true things in a comedic manner."

Ouch. Burn. As I will be turning 32 this year, I don't think I qualify as one of Mr. Franken's "younger" readers. I must, therefore, fall into the "less bright" category. I will not lie; that stings a little.

In response to this unwarranted attack on a loyal reader, I shall now discharge my mind in regard to certain observations I have until now kept to myself regarding the role Mr. Franklin and others like him play in the American political landscape. I submit to you that the Presidential election of 2004 was lost by the Democrats, with the help of Al Franken, Michael Moore, Robert Greenwald and others of their ilk. Their smug, smarter-than-thou pseudo-journalism became the face of the liberal movement in America, and the all-important swing voters took one look and said, "They may be right, but do they have to be such assholes about it?" And in this image-obsessed culture of ours, that was all it took.

I will admit that the right wing has its own media dickheads--the afore-mentioned Coulters, O'Reillys, Limbaughs, etc. But the Republicans have somehow managed to use these idiots to spread the message without directly associating the party or the movement with them. It helps, too, that the administration has a cast of characters we all know like we know everyone in Star Wars. Unfortunately for us liberals, all we've got are these comedians. The roles that should be filled by star-quality powerhouses--the Democratic Presidential candidates--are being filled with B-list character actors. And sure, the play you go see in a thirty-seat house in the middle of nowhere on the North Side of Chicago might have ten times as much passion and truth as the show playing at the Cadillac Palace downtown, but who the hell is gonna go see it?

I think I've lost track of my metaphors in there somewhere. All I really wanted to say is: Al Franken is a dick. I was going to put his book down and never pick it up again, but that would be stupid, because while he may be a total jag-off, he's still usually right.

But I'm not going to buy his next book. Mr. Franken won't get another penny from me. Instead, I'm going to find someone else who has it ... and I'm going to borrow it.

That'll show him.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Fart-Around Time

What genius came up with the idea that days should have but four-and-twenty hours? And furthermore, was it the same fellow who thought that I should be overcome with the need to sleep for almost a third of those hours? What a twit that guy was.

I lament my lack of time not because I have so much to do and so little time to do it, but rather because I have so little time in which I get to do nothing important whatsoever. My fart-around time, if you will. I have this thing on my computer (or rather, Mandy's computer, because it works on hers but not mine - but the thing itself is mine) called GarageBand. You Mac users out there have probably heard of this. You use it to make songs. I have an electric guitar. With GarageBand I can plug my guitar into the computer and record it. And then I can use the computer to make drums, or a piano, or whatever the hell I want. I can write and record songs that I make up. I have, in fact, recorded a couple already. I think they sound sort of Pixies-ish, but that may be because I'd been listening to the Pixies a lot when I made them.

The songs are terrible. I know that. And I didn't make them for other people to hear anyway. It's not something I take seriously. I just find it relaxing. And it gives me a small thrill when I'm using the Shuffle Songs option on my iPod and one of them pops up. I just think it's kinda cool.

The problem is that recording a song, even a simple one with just a couple of chords and changes, takes a long-ass time. I mean like weeks. At least, it takes ME weeks. I find that I need to record the same riff a couple dozen times before I get a take that doesn't sound like I accidentally bumped my guitar with a garden tool. And then I need to create a drum track, which is meticulous work, and usually I create a bass track as well, which is almost as meticulous. If I owned a bass guitar as well it would make things a little easier, but I don't, and I don't take it seriously enough to actually save up several hundred dollars to buy one. Hell, the electric guitar I've got now is borrowed.

This is such a lame thing to write about. I don't know why I'm even bothering, except that I haven't posted anything up here in a few weeks. I wish I had something more interesting to comment on. Sorry.

Anyway, my point is, if days were longer, or if I didn't feel the need to sleep as much, I'd have more spare time. Would I do anything of value with this spare time? Hell, no! I'd spend it plugged into GarageBand. Not very productive, I know. But I think I would be a much more relaxed person, and therefore more capable of handling the various tasks and challenges that make up the rest of my day.

Or, maybe I'd just starting posting blogs that whine about how twenty-six-hour days aren't long enough, why can't they be twenty-eight? Or thirty? I find that my fart-around time grows more and more precious to me as I get older.

If only I could teleport to and from work. That would free up at least an hour and a half per day right there.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Call Me 'Rev'

So, Happy New Year, everybody. I hope you all had an exciting evening of drunken debauchery. (I know some of you had a little more drunken debauchery than others. Hah? Hah? Am I right? Am I right? Hah?)

I debauched nothing, and I was only a little drunk. I was too busy being puffed up by my own self-importance whilst officiating my friends Dan and Vicky's wedding. It went off without a hitch. Or rather, one hitch, that being Dan and Vicky. Getting hitched. Get it? Oh, never mind.

Really, though, the ceremony was awesome, an only partly because I rule. It took place at Live Bait Theatre, which is a small, intimate theater space. The bride and groom had three attendants each, and all six of them gave small readings that they each wrote themselves. There was an equal amount of laughing and crying. The best man, Dan's brother Robb, brought the house down with a poem about Legos. You had to be there. I was proud of my own work -- I managed to work in references to seventh-century Druidic pagans, Shakespeare, and Vanilla Ice. Again, you had to be there, or at least know Dan and Vicky to understand how appropriate this was.

The reception was a good time, also. The happy couple picked every song that was played, so we were not forced to suffer through the Macarena, or anything that might be defined as "Country Western," or "Adult Contemporary." The food was awesome, and yet was perhaps my only complaint as well, because it took an immense amount of willpower to get off my fat ass and dance after eating. I really felt like I should just unbutton my pants and find a couch and a TV with a football game on it.

But dance I did. Mandy and I cut a rug like nobody's business. I was quite thoroughly sweaty and disgusting by the time the party ended. We had a lovely champagne toast at midnight, which was immediately followed by Me First & the Gimme Gimmes' rendition of "Auld Lang Syne," which, if you are at all familiar with that band, pretty much sums up the night.

The trek home was something of an adventure. The reception took place way the hell out by Midway Airport, which is basically the opposite end of the city from where Mandy and I live. We'd asked the staff at the reception hall to call a cab for us, but being New Year's Eve, available cabs were thin on the ground. In the end, one of the staff ended up driving Mandy and myself, along with another couple, over to Midway, where we snagged a cab out of the arrivals line. We spent the ride back discussing the Bears' playoff prospects, which means that a good time was had by all.