Friday, March 31, 2006

shop talk

OK, so I did the personal shopper thing tonight after work, and I have to tell you, it's freaking me the hell out. Yes, I came away with a very nice suit, a very nice casual outfit, and a pair of sandals I'll wear until the next snowfall. But I spent a shitload of money.

I had actually budgeted this very amount for clothes shopping, but I guess I thought I'd get five or eight times the merchandise for that figure. I mean, I bought high-quality stuff today, and that's good, but I'm very, very unused to spending anything like that kind of dough on clothes I'm not going to get married in. (Maybe I shouldn't do all my shopping at Target?) I'm trying to tell myself I'm worth the good stuff, but right now, I'm just reminded of why I loathe clothes shopping so very, very much.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

listen up

Slow day at the office, so I'm catching up on some administrative details. And by that I mean I'm listening to Lost podcasts on Atlas while reading scintillating essays about health care.

Latest discovery: Video podcasts look a lot more videoy when I view them through the video podcast menu, not the regular (sound-only) podcast menu. D'OH!

Last night's Lost was had a little Easter egg in it for me: a character's driver's license was flashed on screen for a moment, and he's from a Twin Cities snoburb not far from mine. If you want to sound in-the-know, the city of Wayzata calls itself "Y-zetta," not "Way-zotta." There. Now you sound like a Minnesotan. Ya.

Because I am fashion-impaired, I have finally broken down and called Nordstrom's personal shopping service. I'll probably meet with a shopping assistant tomorrow after work and try to buy a work outfit or two for summer. Or maybe just one; Nordstrom ain't cheap.

But seriously. I need the help. I can't seem to find clothes anywhere between Junior Sluts and Janet Reno. Where do medium-sized, 30-something women shop for adult-but-not-dowdy clothes? This is not a rhetorical question.

Anybody out there use Skype? I'm thinking of trying this out, and trying to get my Mom to try it out, so we can talk long-distance for free. Worth it or not? All opinions welcome.

OK, time to concentrate. And by that I mean switch the iPod to NPR's Story of the Day series. Thank you, God, for technology.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

peach pie dreams

Today is my Dad’s birthday. He would have been 66 today, and we’d celebrate by eating warm peach pie with the best vanilla ice cream available. At least one of his friends would give him a bottle of Bailey’s. Mom would probably deliver a nice shirt or other item of clothing, in addition to baking the pie. My sister and I would probably resort to gift cards because we never knew what to get him. (This is the guy who always said that if you had toilet paper in the bathroom and ice cream in the freezer, you were doing all right. What do you get him, a gross of Charmin?) He would, hopefully, be retired by now, able to fish all he wanted and travel to all 50 state parks with Mom, with plenty of DQ stops along the way.

I miss Dad. I still save up cool or funny things to tell him. I know he’d be delighted with my iPod, and with the round Astroturf throw rug I just bought at Ikea. He’d laugh over me liking southern gospel. He’d be proud of me teaching. He’d love hanging out in Phoenix with his granddaughter (my Cutest Niece Ever) and her other grandparents, Roger and Phyllis, but he’d never, ever get on their Harley.

Thinking about Dad makes me happy, not sad. So today, have a cupcake, tell the best joke you know, and embellish your golf score. Tell them Bill sent you.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


It's a day of newness. The sun is bright, the breeze is mild, the snow is melting. The world looks decidedly grubby right now, but in a happy, hard-playing, fresh-from-making-mud-pies, gonna-sleep-like-a-baby-tonight way.

The sense of awakening is impossible to resist. I went out for a stroll today and put 10,000+ steps on my pedometer without even trying. Everywhere people are Outside!, sweeping garages, tuning engines, walking dogs, shooting hoops, anything that meant feeling genuine sunshine on their faces. When I got home I threw open the doors and windows of my home to invite some fresh air in, and I cleaned my house as Mother Nature is cleaning hers.

I took my iPod, Atlas, with me on that walk. Today is the first time I've ever done such a thing. I skipped the Walkman craze and have spent very little time using earphones — very little time listening to music anywhere but in the car, for that matter. But by the time the first a cappella tune finished playing as I ambled past the park, I was a convert for life.

I. Had. No. Idea.

Hearing some of those old, old favorites up close, in stereo, without interference was almost like hearing them for the first time. The music fills my head and pushes everything else out. Even in close blends, I can tell distinguish the parts, not only by sound, but also by location: bass in my medulla oblongata, high tenor right about where mystics say my third eye should be. There are also more layers to some of these recordings than I ever noticed before. Needless to say, there's much more walking and listening in my future.

OK, enough excitement for one afternoon. Now it's time to make some pasta with pesto for this week's lunches. Chow!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

new and not

Things that are not new:

  • experienced yet inept martial arts students who chap my hide
  • inexperienced yet quick-to-learn martial arts students who make my day
  • Partner-san rocks
  • Mother Media is cool
  • Sister-san is cool
  • CNE is cool
  • Chef Jeff is cool — and another year older. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JEFF!!
  • my cats are neurotic
  • I [heart] Jon Stewart

Things that are new:

  • my iPod, which I have named Atlas because it holds so much
  • DailyDancer.com, a blog on which some dorky guy posts videos of himself dancing, not especially well, to various tunes. This will make you smile no matter what.

Rockapella wish list:
full-band, heavy metal version of WITWICS


Friday, March 24, 2006

iAm a Pod Person

Oh my god, my new iPod is SO UNBEARABLY COOL! I'm about to wet my pants. Seriously.

I seem to drive the clickwheel left-thumbed.

30 GB
teh shizznit

I did not realize it could also function as a read-only contact/calendar/to-do list organizer. And it has a clock. Multiple clocks, actually; one is now set to Sister-san's time zone. And games! Ooh, the geekery!


Thursday, March 23, 2006

surly you jest

I won’t lie to you, I’m feeling a little surly this morning. Maybe it’s the grey, snow-spitting skies.

Or maybe it’s the fact that although I’m sitting in my office wearing an underneath shirt, a sweater, a scarf, and a North Face parka, my hands are still cold. I’d like to have a little chat with whoever it is around here who thinks that a chilly wind blowing through an indoor work area, in Minnesota, in March, could possibly be a good idea. I’m not talking about a slight draft, either. The leaves on my plant are aquiver in the constant breeze.

You know what would cheer me up, though? An iPod. Specifically, a black 30-gigabyte iPod that can play video. (I’d settle for white if I had to.) I’ve been considering spending this year’s tax refund on an iPod so I can download my favorite tunes and podcasts and take them walking/jogging/biking with me when it’s warm outside.

Other cheery thoughts: On Tuesday, I accompanied GrassMaster Amy to a performance of Annie at the grand, historic Orpheum Theatre. We met downtown at the Rock Bottom Brewery for a splendid meal and an overdue catch-up chat. Thanks to an early dinner, we also had time to do a little shopping at the store formerly known as Dayton’s. Then it was on with the show.

I had never seen or read Annie before and did not know what to expect. For instance, I thought the dog, Sandy, was a main character who would be onstage most of the time, but he was only on for a few seconds here and there. That’s much more realistic, I suppose. Such a good puppy! I noticed and approved of Annie slipping him plenty of treats.

I also expected Daddy Warbucks to articulate some actual reason for liking Annie, but he never does, even when he sings a whole detail-free song about why he’s adopting her. Maybe it was just this particular actor, but I never got the sense he cared about her. Since that caring thing is sort of the key point of the entire play, I thought it could use a little work.

But those are script issues, not production issues, and the production we saw was very, very good. The girl playing the title role, Marissa O’Donnell, definitely carried the show. She conveyed 11-year-old energy and cheer without ever being a stagy, saccharine-sweet, over-produced little ham. That’s a huge accomplishment on its own, but O’Donnell also delivered great acting and dancing, and dynamite singing. I was super impressed with this kid. The stage was dimmer when she wasn’t on it.

The rest of the cast bore up well, especially the other orphans and Grace Farrell. Miss Hannigan’s hair was delightfully menacing, and her villainous brother Rooster was easy to despise. Plus, there was an actor (he played Ickes, among others), who looked very much like Mr. Bean. But I found myself nostalgic for the good ol’ days when actors projected their voices rather than relying on microphones, because every time one of the actors stepped out of mic range, his or her dialogue was lost.

Note to casting director: Shemping* is dicey when you only have one or two people of color in the touring company. Any time my attention strayed from the plot, I amused myself playing “spot the African American cast member” with the ensemble.

The sets were pretty cool, especially for a touring production. The New York City street was especially vibrant. I don’t know what was going on in the Hooverville scene because I was too busy trying to figure out how the intricate bridge overpass was created. I also enjoyed noticing that the paintings hanging on the walls of the Oval Office and Warbucks Acres appeared to be computer-generated reproductions of the originals — and it occurs to me that maybe the overpass was, too.

Perhaps the best performance of the evening was given by my friend the GrassMaster. She had played Grace in a middle-school production of Annie and loves the show, but she showed great restraint in not singing along out loud. Thanks for the ticket, Amy!

So there you have it. Thinking about a few of my favorite things — oops, wrong musical — has definitely warmed my heart, if not my hands. Now: time for lunch.

* Shemping is a term popularized by actor and writer Bruce Campbell to describe the cost-cutting measure of having one actor play several roles. It’s named after Shemp, one of the Three Stooges, who often had to double or triple up on parts in their movies. Campbell and his friends did the same in their own low-budget flicks, and Mike Myers is famous for playing half the cast in the Austin Powers movies.


Sunday, March 19, 2006

amen to that

The Signature Sound Quartet show this afternoon was terrific, as expected. It comprised great singing, good choreography, decent banter, interesting hair, sharp suits, and better shoes than the average quartet-plus-rhythm ensemble's. I could have done without the flag-waving singalong and mini-church service there toward the end, but that's just me. As such things go, ringmaster Ernie Haase handled them well.

Points of interest:

  • This was a karaoke concert. SSQ travels light on tour; their backup band consisted of 6'3" pianist Roy Webb (tan suit) hunched Schroeder-like over a keyboard that, at the touch of a button, supplied full orchestration in addition to tinkling ivories.
  • Ernie Haase's (not pictured) voice is as nearly high as Scott Leonard's, and it's sweeter.
  • Ryan Seaton (black suit), the second tenor, always surprises me. His full, powerful sound seems to belong to a much older man.
  • Suspicion confirmed: Doug Anderson (grey suit/blue tie) is the cutest (and second-smiliest) baritone in the history of music. Glad I took the time to get that makeup consultation at the mall. Doug and I made eye contact twice. I think that means we're going steady.
  • Tim Duncan (shown in profile) in person is teh shizznit! Southern gospel attracts some of the best basses around, and Tim is probably the current leader of the pack. Sometimes it's good to be the lowest of the low. The concert was held in a high school auditorium, and the sound system was hi-end enough to rise — or is that sink? — to the challenge of supporting his subsonic low notes. And he doesn't just moo, he enunciates.
  • As mandated in the Quartet Constitution, the singers lined up with high tenor at stage right anad bass at stage left. I've commented on them in the proper order as well.
  • SSQ work their own merch table during intermission. That's the only time I got any photos, as I didn't stick around for long after the show. Since Ernie didn't come out, I've got no shots of him.

Anyway, it was a fine fine day. I'm glad these guys are fairly young so I can enjoy them for a good long while.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

pretty, though

Wow. Eau Claire sure is . . . er . . . boring.

I'm neither shocked nor dismayed, as I knew this coming in. I came prepared.

I did think getting a decent breakfast would be easier, though. Unimpressed with last night's in-hotel bistro dinner, I set out this morning in search of a diner. You know the type: smells like hash brown grease, fake maple syrup, mature coffee, and the slush knocked off the patrons' boots. Every town has a diner, right?

In search of this diner, I walked all the way down Barstow St., which passes as downtown's main drag, and all the way back up, and found precisely one shop open. It was not a diner but a jewelry store. The proprietor, a lady of a certain age wearing enough silver conchos to hunch her into a question mark, recommended a place called Ricky D's. On a warmer day, it would have been within walking distance, but with temps just under 30 degrees and a sharp wind blowing in off the river, I decided to drive.

Ricky's was right where it was supposed to be. The sign out front promised "Southern cooking in a northern atmosphere." The inside was log cabiny, complete with a fireplace, and it smelled right, so I went in. My patience was rewarded by the best biscuits and gravy since the last time went to an out-of-state concert alone (RP last April, also in WI). I'll go back tomorrow and try something from the other side of the menu.

So far, I've circumnavigated town twice and walked every aisle of the Oakwood Mall. It's 2:30 and I'm back in my room reading, watching TV, surfing, and listening to podcasts, pretty much all at the same time. Life is wicked good. It would be wicked better, however, if I could get a snack of some kind, so that's where I'm off to next. Not sure what I want or what's available nearby. But I don't want to spoil my appetite for dinner; there's a promising-looking pizza joint across the street.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


D'OH! Sometimes, even Mother Nature settles for reruns. It snowed again last night, and it's still coming down this morning. Guess I'll have to gas up the snowblower again after work (if I can find my car in the parking lot). And that's fine. I don't mind the snow as long as I have clear roads for my weekend trip to Eau Claire to see Signature Sound Quartet.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

this is news

I can now download The Daily Show, Comedy Central's satiric news program starring Jon Stewart, via iTunes.

I love this century.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006


New favorite podcast: The Word Nerds, who talk about words, word usage, word origins, words as windows into society, and . . . everything. Subscribe via iTunes or visit their website, The Word Nerds. LOVE IT!

demand Rockapella


Monday, March 13, 2006

time to get plowed

The good news: The city snowplow cleared the street in front of Sensational Acres while I was at work.

The bad news: The plow left a 2-ft. drift at the foot of my driveway. OY! Not even the Subarushi's all-wheel drive and extra-high clearance were enough to make it through that dense, packed barrier.

The hero of the hour: My valiant 3.25-horsepower Toro snowblower. Little Red excavated most of the driveway, but could not handle the huge clods at the end.

I shoveled the heavy stuff by hand. I scattered the excess into the street because it was too heavy to lift and toss to the side. Whew!

winter storm

Views from the upstairs deck at Sensational Acres.

Yesterday's cute little Dippin' Dots snow turned into a major winter storm over night. Numerous schools are closed and freeway traffic is delayed by more than an hour. Only one runway is operating at the airport.

Whiteout conditions mean that while driving the 2 miles to work, I couldn't see oncoming traffic until it was less than half a block away. Traffic lights and stop signs are so crusted with snow as to be invisible against the backdrop of white.

I had to walk backward from my car to the office building because the 30-mph wind was blowing snow into my face, blinding me.

This can mean only one thing: it's basketball and hockey tournament season in the Midwest.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

in the mood for food

For a few minutes this afternoon, it appeared to be snowing Dippin' Dots, the Ice Cream of the Future. I've tasted Dippin' Dots. They're not bad as ice cream goes, but not great, either. The novelty is in the packaging.

This is what "meal in a bag" means, right?

Friday, March 10, 2006


You know how I hate fads, right? Well, I have to swallow my pride and admit I just jumped on the Matisyahu bandwagon. You have to download the whole Youth album to get the "Old City Beatbox" video, but you really should. Two reasons among many:

1. impressive unamplified vocal percussion
2. his hands

I haven't even listened to the rest of the tracks yet. But I'm keenly interested. I just read about Matisyahu in Rolling Stone, and he's fascinating.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

RIP, Kirby

My coworker Nicole is wearing these excellent shoes in honor of recently deceased baseball Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett, late of the Minnesota Twins.

I’ve only seen one live Twins game in my life, and I don’t know if Puckett was playing that day or not. My only specific memory of him dates back to the 1980s. When Sister-san was in junior high, a friend of hers became very ill and spent some time at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Puckett visited while she was there, and the girl was delighted to have met him. So that’s how I remember Kirby Puckett: as a man who made a sick child happy.

Monday, March 06, 2006

copy cat

I am at this moment having strong plagiaristic urges to write and podcast sci-fi short stories a la Cory Doctorow.

I have two story ideas bobbing around in my mental crockpot, and I promised myself an early birthday present of the podcast-friendly iLife upgrade with my tax refund. All I have to do now is write the stories and learn to podcast. Easy.

Every once in a while I think about taking 6-8 weeks off from T'ai Chi and dedicating my after-work time to writing. Then I hark back to that month I had free last fall and how little of that time I spent writing and wonder if I'd be similarly unproductive with this arrangement.

Alternatively, I think about putting WRITE FICTION on my calendar in three-hour blocks on Wednesdays, Fridays, and weekends. I think about rewarding myself with gold stars on days I keep the appointment, and a dozen stars means I get a prize.

I've been frelling away a lot of my free time lately, waiting for inspiration, or at least common sense, to strike. Do you suppose it just did?


Sunday, March 05, 2006

*yawn* Sunday

Major pet peeve: misquotations. I have a better-than-average memory for jokes — meaning I retain about 11% as compared to most people's 10% — so it really chaps my ass when somebody repeats one I've heard (or told!) and gets it wrong. I was in my late teens before I learned to stop correcting them.

Whew. Just had to get that off my chest.

Until last night, I hadn't gone to Partner-san's house for a fight night party in quite a while, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, cigar smoke aside. Most of my friends are very smart, very funny people. I passed up an evening at MarsCon to be there, a fact I did not even realize until . . . right now. Oops. So I guess I didn't miss the con much.

I baked chocolate chip cookie bars and fudge brownies for my contribution to the munchie feast. They were very well received, and I only had to bring home about half a dozen. I'll have some of them for dinner with some of the fine Bell's beer I bought. Mmm.

Being the huge geek that I am, I'm currently downloading a couple of stand-up comedy specials from iTunes. At $1.99 for 22 minutes, it's a bargain. They take forever to download. But Dat Phan in particular is worth it. What is it with me and cute, funny Asian guys?

And that's about the extent of my weekend excitement. I put away clean clothes, a chore long overdue, and did some cleaning. Just can't bring myself to iron, though.


Friday, March 03, 2006


Sorry I didn't post these wonderful photos before. This is the People-Powered Vehicle belonging to Tania & Jamie. The PPV was the Segway of the late 60s or early 70s. Looks and pedals like a paddleboat, handles like a three-wheeled bike, which it is. Chef Jeff, whom I saw at T&J's last weekend, gave me a ride up and down the street. It's hard to pedal when you're laughing your heinie off. Super fun!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

highlights of the day

Notice anything new about the sudden gold glints in my hair? Please check one.

[ ] Yes. How nice.

[ ] No, there's no color. The salon ripped you off.

[ ] Hey, now you have both gold and silver hair! Classy.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Don't miss this great offer!!!!!

This morning I received one of those enticing adverts in my email: “Fill out this survey and receive a $500 Target gift card!”

Now, I wasn’t born yesterday. I know that no matter what I do, I will not receive a $500 Target gift card. The world just doesn’t work that way. Major retailers do not go out of their way to give me money. However, since I had some free time, I decided to see how long I could persevere with the survey before something forced me to quit.

Answer: 20 minutes.

First of all, it wasn’t really a survey. It was “About which of these terrific offers would you like to receive more information, i.e. endless e-mail and telephonic spam?” I clicked on two or three out of about 25 and dutifully filled in my name, address, and e-mail address. For the ones that required a phone number, I gave my cell number, because I never turn that phone on. So far, so good.

When that was finished, I hit “continue.” But did I move on to a new step in the process? No! Instead, I was taken to a screen where I was asked to choose among another set of offers — and there were all the ones I’d just passed up. I clicked “no” to all of them, then “continue.” But I could not continue. The program required that I check “yes” to at least one of these fantastic opportunities, or I could not continue toward completion and get my $500 gift card.

Hey there, genius. It’s not a survey if you tell me what my answers are supposed to be.

So I repeated the yes/no selection process about four times. Finally there seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel. All I had to do was sign up for two more splendid deals and I’d be in the winner’s circle. And here’s where it got ugly: it started asking for my credit card number. Well, I do not give out my credit card number online (or anywhere else) unless I’m dealing with a vendor I trust for a product I really want. So I attempted to bypass these incredible bargains to proceed to the finish.

Could not do it. I could not complete the “survey” without giving out my credit card number. So I closed all 35 pop-up ad windows — no exaggeration — and exited the loop. No $500 gift card for me since I’m such a big quitter, I guess.

But in the 30 minutes since bailing out, I have already gotten two calls on my cell phone and two spam e-mails (each of which wanted me to re-enter all the information I’d already supplied, for some asinine reason). So the magnificent offers are already pouring in.

And before anyone decides to chide me for taking the bait, remember two things: (1) I did this intentionally just to see what would happen — mission accomplished; and (2) I know most of your names and addresses, too. Give me too much lip and some fantastic opportunities could find their way to you very soon. ;-)