Thursday, June 30, 2011

What's happening

-I made it to my first knit night of the year. I think it's my first since last October. My absence is mostly due to having nothing I was knitting, although being busy in general and some Thursday night film series have kept me away too. (The latter will probably have me skipping knit night the next couple weeks as well.)

-I'm going back and forth whether to run in the 4th of July 5K road race. I've been exercising, but I haven't been running. The question is whether almost 75 miles a week on a stationary recumbent bicycle translates to running endurance. (OK, let's face it, what I would be doing is called jogging.) Part of me is really keen on the idea of going out there Monday morning and letting it rip. My legs do feel stronger. Another part of me says that this is a way to get an injury or paying to find out that I'm not up to the challenge, which is what I sort of suspect. Then again, I've run in this race before with less overall preparation. Decisions, decisions.

-I noticed last night that the air conditioning seemed to be running an awfully long time. A check of the thermostat showed that it wasn't moving, and looking at the unit revealed ice around the pipe coming out of it and going into the wall. This again, eh? Even when it was recharged a month or so ago, it seemed like it took an unusually long time to complete the job. It did get cooler in my place, but I couldn't help but feel as though the unit was having to work harder than is typical. Hopefully this takes care of the issues for good.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

New ears

I was listening to some albums that I haven't put on in quite some time and was reminded of the jangly pop pleasures in Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians' "So You Think You're in Love". The album it's from, Perspex Island, was released in August 1991, so I must have first heard it on the legendary alternative station 97X out of Oxford. So, temporary personal mystery solved: I heard it before heading off to college. (I was trying to figure out how I would have come across the song, as the college radio station wouldn't have been playing it and I didn't have cable in my dorm room.)

If you'll humor me, I'd like you to listen to the song now, if you haven't already, and then join me in the next paragraph once you're finished. I would have posted the video, but I couldn't find it online. For my purpose, it's actually better that it's just the song and some stills.

OK, good to go? Tell me: what is the song about? At face value it is about determining if you are in love and being honest about that feeling. Simple enough, right? Sure, it's the obvious interpretation, but it's a direct song.

Hearing it today for the first time in a long time, I wondered if the song has dual meanings. Is the character singing the song telling the person it's directed toward that he or she is probably gay and is just now realizing it? This reading seems very apparent--and equally valid--although such an interpretation hinges on how the songwriter is defining "straight". Hitchcock displays a wry sense of humor in his songs, so it certainly wouldn't surprise me if he intended it to be taken both ways. (I regret even putting a disclaimer here, but that was not intended as a pun.)

If we want to get into extra-textual evidence, this performance (with an error-riddled anchor intro) finds him altering "can you imagine what the people say?" to "can you imagine what the Pope would say?"

My point in writing about this isn't that I'm hung up on what the song means but how we--or in this case, I--hear and see things differently through the years. This secondary interpretation surely came to me at some point in the twenty years between when I first heard it and today, but I don't recall hearing it in this way when it was new. It seems blatantly obvious now. How could I have missed those less than subtle hints?

This relates to my amazement at the innuendo in older films. While this example is still newer in relative terms than I'd prefer to use, do a search for the yellow purse in Alfred Hitchcock's 1964 film Marnie and see what interpretations you turn up. (The linked YouTube clip's title is very forthcoming in what the handbag suggests. And it's not just some perv. I bet just about every academic paper on the film will point this out.)

Did the majority of people not see or hear such things as they were at the time? It seems incomprehensible to think so, yet with this song as an example, it would seem that I haven't always picked up on the full meaning either.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Inventive persistence

Imagine inventing things week after week, year after year, and not having any success to show for it. Finally, in your mid-80s, you find a buyer for one of your creations and have it honored as the best of the year.

So goes the story of an 84-year-old Brooklyn man. After decades and at least 80 rejected inventions, he came up with a board game that not only is being sold in stores but also was given a Game of the Year award.

I admire how he has plugged away doing something that brings him pleasure but has surely borne its share of frustration from rejection. He says, "I guess some people think I'm crazy for spending so much time down here, but this is what I enjoy doing." Sure, it's taken him a long time to receive some form of external validation, but if you're that dedicated to doing something, I have to believe that outside acknowledgment isn't the primary factor.

What I'm saying is this: cool story.

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Monday, June 27, 2011


The year's almost halfway done, so now is as good a time as any to check in on my resolutions and see how I'm doing.

-Lose weight/get in shape again.

I've lost some weight, although I have no idea how much. With some backsliding on what I eat, more could have been lost than has been, I'm sure. Certainly I'm in better shape than I was at the start of the year. I pedaled almost 24 miles in an hour on a recumbent bike today and burned 752 calories. (I also overdid it a little. Ouch.) I've had setbacks here and there, but I've exercised regularly. Tough midterm grade: B-

-Read The Bible all the way through.

Uh, I fell off pace in February and haven't resumed since. For shame. Midterm grade: D

-Read more.

I read four books in the span of three weeks from Memorial Day weekend on, which vaults my inattention to this resolution up to a respectable performance. I have the reading bug again. Right now it's simply a matter of picking what's next. Midterm grade: C

-Give more to charity.

I'm ahead more than I was at this point last year, so that alone should qualify my work here as a success. It's not something I've thought of lately, so reminding myself of this resolution now is a good idea. Charitable (?) midterm grade: B

-When it comes to media consumption, aim for more depth among the breadth.

Kind of a tough one to judge, but I'm going to say I've not put sufficient thought into this. I'm still not spending enough time with new albums, for instance, or exploring deeper into what I have. Midterm grade: C-

So, it seems that I'm doing a middling job overall. Averaging out the grades puts me somewhere around a C for the year's resolutions. I'd like to be doing better. Acknowledging that fact should refocus my efforts, or at least that's the idea behind monitoring my progress. Considering how harried this half of the year has felt, I suppose average success is a positive achievement. But onward and upward!

How are you doing on your resolutions?

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Sunday, June 26, 2011


If you're reading daily--and bless you if you keep up with this folly--you noticed that I posted a bunch of nonsense recently. I put it there context-free and would have been perfectly happy to leave it that way, but here I am again in a similar position: stuck.

Here's the thing: when it comes to writing, whether here or with other things, I'm unsure what to write and usually not pleased with the results. I'm banging out words in a coherent order, but something is missing in them. Call it a block, if you will. You might disagree. "You're writing something," you say. I would counter by saying that it's something uninteresting, uninspired, and purely utilitarian. It fills the blank space and nothing more. I'd not be surprised if an accounting of the tags for this year's entries turns up "filler" as the most used.

Maybe I need to write earlier in the day. Maybe I need to do some more knitting. Maybe I need a break.

This blog is in its own way a public acknowledgment of process. Deconstruction was always something I enjoyed about Late Night with David Letterman, and in my own way I'm imitating that here. Imagine me sitting on the futon with the laptop in my lap and the TV most likely on in the background. And I'm looking at the big empty space in the Blogger client and wondering what in the world to put there to fill it. That's been the case far too often here or when I'm trying to write something for work.

So, I'm stuck, this is me coming clean about it, and here's my likely empty promise to waste your time with this kind of thing again in the near future. Ultimately, when the question of what I should write about rolls around, it shouldn't be this hard.

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Saturday, June 25, 2011


Since July is almost here, I suppose I should get around to figuring out some vacation plans for the summer. While I'm scheduled to go to Toronto for a few days in September, I'd like some other time that's not structured around film festival attending.

Maybe the plans will end up being centered around family moves. My parents have relocated to the same Indiana city where two of my brothers live, so checking out their new house is surely something to do. And, um, I haven't seen them since Christmas. In fact, the only family member I've seen this year was the brother I visited when he was in the greater New York City area. He's back home for the time being, but with him looking for other jobs, he may somewhere else in a month or so.

Even though I'll lack the free accommodations, I'm tempted to go back to NYC. Now that I'm at least passingly familiar with its public transit, perhaps staying in New Jersey and riding the train into town is a way to cut some costs traveling out there.

I've thought about going to Washington, D.C. to see the Reds play a series against the Nationals in August. Or I could head back to Cincinnati for another series there, especially if I can get my dad to join me. Of course, I'm already going to be in Cincy one more day, as I decided that the chance to see Paul McCartney in concert was something I couldn't pass up.

Or maybe something else will jump to the fore. What a problem, right?

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Friday, June 24, 2011


File under "is this how it should be?":

-Last weekend I got some ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery because I wanted some and they were the only place I could find it where I was. There are too many good local places near where I live to give this chain a second thought, but in this instance they would do. What I didn't realize before entering the shop is that at Cold Stone the ice cream is really just a base for whatever you want to mix in. (Yes, I was aware that adding stuff to ice cream is this place's thing.) It's kind of like the ice cream itself is an afterthought. I wanted mint chocolate chip, which meant I ordered the mint ice cream and then had to ask for chocolate chips to be mixed in. Something just seemed wrong about this whole method.

-As noted yesterday, my original birth certificate was not in good enough condition to be accepted with a passport application. I went to the Vital Statistics office today to get a new one. I didn't have any trouble and was pleasantly surprised how little I had to wait. What struck me as odd is that it would seem anyone with enough basic information about me could have gone in and got my birth certificate if they wanted. I presented no identification. While I put my name, address, phone number, and e-mail on the form where it wanted to know who was requesting the information, there's nothing to say that I was that person. Could anyone who knows my full name, the city and county where I was born, the date of my birth, and my parents' full names pony up $21.50 and get my (or anyone's) birth certificate? Something about that just feels wrong.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011


I'm planning to go north of the border for part of a major international film festival in September, which means I need a passport. No problem. I'm taking care of this plenty in advance. I even was able to find my birth certificate without any difficulty.

After having a bad passport photo taken at a drug store--can't we try again?--I headed to the post office to file the appropriate paperwork. That's as far as I got. My original birth certificate was denied because of smudges on it.

I understand that they don't want to hand out identification for international travel when there might be the potential for a bad source document, but it doesn't mean it irked me any less. Luckily I live in the state of my birth and can head to the vital statistics office tomorrow to get a new birth certificate and be done with all of this. Ordering one in person can put the document in my hand the same day. Ordering online takes weeks!

Plus, while I still have time, I don't need to mess around and get this passport application filed too late.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah. Blah. Blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Not the tremblin' kind

If you were to look at my CD collection, you'd find rock and pop dominating the shelves. Here and there, though, I've found some country artists I really enjoy. I hit a stretch when I read No Depression regularly and kept some tabs on the scene. My interests leaned--and still do, I suppose--toward contemporary artists working in traditional country music territory. I appreciate the simple craft and directness in the music and lyrics, and these things appeal to me because they conform to my idea of authenticity. (That subject is a whole other ball of wax to tackle some other time.)

I bring this up because I didn't have anything else to write about on a day that welcomes the release of a new album from Laura Cantrell. It's been six years since her last one, and I stumbled upon the news that this one was coming out. After a day packed full with work, I'm settling back to listen to it as I type this up.

Up top I've embedded a live performance of one of the songs from Kitty Wells Dresses: Songs of the Queen of Country Music. What you get there is pretty much what Cantrell does. The songwriting, the singing, and the musicianship shine through. It's nothing fancy, and it doesn't need to be. In fact, that's a great deal of the appeal.

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Monday, June 20, 2011


Apparently International Yarn Bombing Day came and went unnoticed by me...but not by the press.

Here are a couple stories about those who celebrated the day.

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

A full plate

It would be fitting to write about my dad, what with it being Father's Day and all, and I might have done so if things had gone according to plan. I made the trip to Cincinnati to spend the weekend watching the Reds as a way to unwind from the end of the school year. I also intended for it to be a time to spend with my dad, as he lives far enough away that getting to the games isn't easy if you just want to go for the day. Since he and my mom are getting ready to close on a house and move, he couldn't join me. Assuming the Reds don't go in the tank over the next month, I've floated the idea of doing this in July.

Before the game I went to breakfast and ordered the bacon pancakes. I assumed it was more like bacon bits sprinkled into the batter rather than the sizable pieces you can see pictured above. They were good, although somehow the bacon's taste didn't quite come through as much being in the pancakes. But not to fear, I also got a side order of bacon, which was fantastic. (Hey, I'm exercising regularly, so I can sort of justify eating this.)

Plus, I walked all the way from Kentucky to Ohio. (OK, it was probably only a mile.) Of the things that I love, not paying much for parking is on the list. Three bucks to park for a professional sporting event? That's a win.

The Reds still didn't have much offense in them, but they managed to win and send me home on a high note. Although rain fell before the game, it held off until the top of the ninth. All in all, the weather was pretty good for mid-June.

The weekend was much more of a whirlwind than I'd hoped, but it was a pleasant 48 hours out of town. Let's do it again soon.

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

View from the catbird seat

Various observations from two days at the ballpark in Cincinnati:

-I saw a baby with pierced ears. OK, I can't vouch that they were pierced, but she had earrings. If the child can't yet walk, isn't this way too young for such a thing?

-With a lot of patience, I ended up getting a very good seat for Friday night's game through the online secondary market. (I wonder if it might have fallen a little more in price if I hadn't had to buy it before driving down here.) I figured that someone with a scattered single might get desperate to unload it, especially since most tickets were usually listed at face value or more. Considering I had to pay $10.20 in fees, a ticket even $10 less than face is no bargain when tickets are available at the box office.

-Ticket fees, whether from outlets or the resale market, are outrageously high. Maybe those in charge consider it transparency. It's more like highway robbery.

-I'm sad to see that many of the beggars that line the path on the way from the stadium to the parking lots and garages are familiar, in part because they're in the same spots they were a year ago.

-Old fashioned hand slapped burger? Isn't these handcrafted/artisanal descriptions getting just a little out of hand?

-Although tonight's game wasn't anything to write home about--the Reds lost again in less-than-thrilling fashion--I'm beginning to think that the outfield seats are not the way to go. Last night's seat had me much more involved than my right center perch. Good thing tomorrow's spot is along the first base side.

-I hate paying much for parking if I can help it. My usual spot appears to have gone up from $5 to $8 this year. Today I drove just across the river to Newport, KY to see a movie--two, in fact. The garage there charges $3 but refunded $1.75 for theater ticket validation. Since it was pay upon entry, I spent most of the day south of the Ohio border, went to the game by walking over the river and back on the bridge, and spent a grand total of $1.25 parking for what was around twelve hours. Victory!

-Seriously, though, even if I had to pay $5--rates there went up closer to game time--it's probably the same distance as where I've usually parked on Pete Rose Way. The upsides: the walk to the stadium and back is mostly uninterrupted by traffic lights or cars. I got out of there and on the highway as fast, if not faster, than my previous preferred spot. The downside: You can't always walk around people who may be taking their time.

-Can't complain about the weather so far this weekend. Friday night was a little sticky but gradually became more comfortable. Tonight brought some sprinkles for a few innings but was otherwise a very nice night in a month when it can be very hot and humid. More nice weather Sunday, please. (A win would be good too.)

-I may dare to begin my Sunday morning with bacon pancakes.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

To the ballgame

I'd like to write about the night at the ballpark, but I feel like I'm already behind the eight ball when it comes to figuring out what I will be doing tomorrow before the game. The tentative plan is to catch a movie at Newport on the Levee and then spend the remainder of the time leading up to the game on the Kentucky side of the Ohio, but there are details to iron out before I go to bed.

It was a lovely night to take in a game, albeit a bit sticky early on. Thanks to a seller on the online secondary market who kept dropping the price of the ticket, I snagged a seat probably in the best spot I've sat in the stadium.

The game was a pretty good one, save for the Reds losing. Fireworks capped the night at the ol' ball yard. Hopefully I'll see more of those the next two days, as they're shot off when the home team homers and, more importantly, wins.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Prep work

I'm headed to Cincinnati for a weekend of baseball viewing and whatever else I end up doing. Any recommendations while I'm down there?

In preparation for the trip I was going to update the maps on my nearing two-years-old GPS. I spent at least a half hour looking for its USB cable, which I'd never used but vaguely recalled coming in the package with the product. I'm going to guess there wasn't one because I couldn't find it and don't know how it would have been misplaced since I hadn't needed it before now. So that was fun.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Craft work

From The Guardian's list of key events in dance music's history:
"The germinating moment for British dance music occurred, strangely, in a 1975 edition of Tomorrow's World, which featured four young Germans dressed like geography teachers, apparently playing camping stoves with wired-up knitting needles."
Kraftwerk is one of the seminal bands I know more by name than by their music, so I was surprised to learn of the importance of knitting needles in their art. You can see a little of what's been written about here.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011


It's been something of a strange week. Between being one of the few people in the office and spending time on my balcony at home, this has been an unusually quiet stretch. That's not a complaint. At a point in time when it seems like most people are more comfortable filling the background with persistent noise than dare inhabit a hushed space, this is a rare thing.

I'll confess to being fried here at the end of the academic year and feeling perpetually distracted. I think that's part of the reason why I've turned to reading and sitting on the balcony. (Or, per tonight's activity, I sat outside in the cool evening and began a knitting project.) The wind blowing through the trees and the birds singing provide a subdued, calming soundtrack. Yes, that relative silence can be interrupted by the pulsing of someone's subwoofer, but those low frequency beats can be ignored a little more with some of nature's white noise.

Outer silence makes it easier to find inner silence. For as pushed and pulled in every direction that I've felt for some time, this break in the sonic landscape seems to be letting me regain some peace. It's a nice transition to the upcoming weekend, which will find me out of town going to a weekend series of baseball games. I don't currently have any other plans. Maybe I'll find something else to do, maybe I'll pick something to read and find a quiet spot to become immersed in it. I could surely stand a little more of that tranquility.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday night

This cool spell we're enjoying in these parts is exceptional. I promise I won't be posting bird photos every day now, but I was pleased with this shot of what I think is a Carolina chickadee that I took tonight and had to share.

While I was out I finished reading Mockingjay, the third book in The Hunger Games series. It's a marked improvement over Catching Fire, the repetitious second novel. All three books are pretty quick reads. I suppose they ought to be since they are young adult novels, but I also mean that they hold one's interest fairly well in spite of my quibbles with them.

My criticisms? Collins is better at building scenarios than characters. While all three books are first person accounts, none of the other characters are fleshed out all that well. (For that matter, I don't think the protagonist is deeply drawn.) The series is derivative of dystopian/post-apocalyptic stories, especially films. Those complaints aside, the series wraps with an unexpected toughness that should provide good discussion starters for younger readers.

And then I made a strawberry rhubarb pie. Just because.

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Sunday, June 12, 2011


It was a good weekend for sitting on the balcony, reading, and birdwatching. I can't say that I've previously paid much attention to the birds around me, but it was peaceful keeping an eye out for what flew into view. Although I didn't always know what birds were in the neighborhood, this striking male cardinal was unmistakable.

I think this little one is a kind of sparrow.

The female cardinal isn't as impressively colored as the male, but at least I can identify what it is.

I guess what I'm saying is all of a sudden I'm considering getting some kind of field guide so I can determine what birds are hanging out.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

One more night

One of the benefits of having favorite singers who aren't terribly well-known is the ability to see them in exceedingly small venues. One of the drawbacks of having favorite singers who aren't terribly well-known is the inability to see them frequently. I've been a fan of Kelly Willis since 1995, and I've seen her and her husband Bruce Robison in concert--solo or as a duet--several times. I've almost always had to drive a couple hours minimum to enjoy them live, though. To my knowledge she's never played Columbus. (One of the shortest drives to see Kelly play was Newport, Kentucky four years ago.) Bruce was here two years ago almost to the day.

When the announcement of their Columbus concert arrived in my inbox, I had a check in the mail a day or two later. My haste was probably unnecessary, but this was not something I was going to miss. I've been waiting ages for her to book a Columbus show, and the two of them don't perform together a lot. Plus, I wanted to send a message to the independent promoter: thanks for booking them and let my quick order indicate I'd like for you to bring them back, individually or together, again. I surely sound silly in the scenario, but know that I was even agitated with anticipation today waiting for showtime.

If that sounds like I'm laying burdensome expectations on the performers, I suspect they would have had to crash and burn on a spectacular level for me to be disappointed. Never fear. It was kind of remarkable how deeply felt the old songs were, like becoming reacquainted with friends who have been out of touch for a long time. I haven't been listening to Bruce or Kelly much of late, so returning to these songs was to be reminded of how much I love them and where I was in life when I first heard them. I don't mean that it was a nostalgic experience--just the opposite in some instances--but that it brought into the light the history these songs have for me.

They're preparing a joint album, which is part of the reason why they're doing a few brief stints on the road. Much to my excitement, this meant new songs, and more than I would have expected. In many respects, certainly in this one, the concert couldn't have been any better. New material, old favorites, and both of them on stage together!

The venue seems like the unlikeliest place and the most appropriate one for a country music concert. It was held in a German social club's concert hall, with American and German flags straddling the stage. (Considering Robison's German heritage, it is strangely fitting.) The unpretentious room made it seem more like a private party than a performance for which tickets were sold, yet for country music in particular, this casual gathering wherever it could be arranged seemed right. There was less physical and mental distance between those on stage and those in the audience. It seemed like a music hall that a whole Texas town might pile into on a Saturday night.

The arrangement of the room led to an amusing moment near the show's conclusion. Bruce and Kelly returned for an encore without their upright bass player and steel pedal/electric guitarist. They then called for their band members to come on stage. The bassist made his way to the stage with no sign of the guitarist. Eventually he emerged from the bathroom directly stage right within view of everyone. That got a good laugh from the crowd.

Sadly, this was the next to last concert that this promoter will be putting on at the German social club. The property was sold, thus necessitating for shows like this one to find a new home. So, chances are that this was my third and final time in the space. Here's to finding a good replacement for when these fine singer-songwriters hopefully return.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

The other neighbors

True to my pledge to do some reading outdoors, I spent the better part of the afternoon on my western balcony enjoying the weather and completing Catching Fire, the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy. (Short review: reads an awful lot like a cynical cash-in to turn this into a trilogy. Not bad, just inessential.) It was a fantastic day to be able to sit outside and take it easy. The morning's rain had cooled things off significantly, and when the sun did emerge, there was a nice, soft breeze that kept the temperature comfortable.

The side of the apartment that I was on is relatively isolated. A culvert borders the grassy area and separates the green space from the back of a shopping center. I was able to kick back and listen to the birds chirping away and practically imagine that I was out in the countryside. I even stole a short nap with my head resting against the wall.

From time to time I'd look up to see what I could see. I spotted an ibis or a heron in the culvert getting a drink, so I was inspired to grab my camera and see if there were any shots I might be able to get of my non-leasing neighbors. I didn't have much luck snapping any photos of birds aside from the picture at the top of this post.

I had more success with the pair of squirrels you see perched in the tree. They stuck around for quite awhile. One of them explored some of the patio furniture below. The other was hassled by a particularly aggressive little bird for a bit. Eventually they took a break on a branch.

As the afternoon wore on, the heat picked up to the point that I moved inside. Still, I'm going to have to make sitting on the balcony a regular part of my routine, as long as the weather permits. It was nice to discover a new space in my apartment and observe what's running and flying around the neighborhood.

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Thursday, June 09, 2011

Meow mix

With a lack of blogging inspiration, I decided I'd find a video of a cat playing with a ball of yarn and embed it for a cheap but effective entry. There seems to be a bottomless supply of cat videos on the internet, so how hard can it be to find a good one with this parameter?

Harder than expected, it turns out. For all of the popular cat videos online, there are a lot of really uninteresting ones.

Now I won't claim to have spent a lot of time sifting through what's out there, but of the cat + yarn videos I did skim, none really did the trick. Consider this a call for one.


Wednesday, June 08, 2011


-Last week I was at a place that had The Travel Channel on, and every show seemed to be about eating enormous amounts of food. Is making a 15-pound hamburger for challengers to eat really necessary? Doesn't it--and all food eating competitions, for that matter--seem obscene? (Sorry. I guess I'm humorless on this topic.)

-The campus gym had closed for the day, so I tried out the stationary recumbent bike at the apartment complex today. Strangely, trying to work out at approximately the same level on it was showing that I was only burning about a third of the calories than I do on the machine I've been using. Please tell me that this machine isn't properly calibrated. I'm inclined to think so, if only because I was really having to work for not a lot of results. (They were different brands and not quite set up the same, but I wouldn't expect there to be a huge difference.)

-I really need to turn in that passport application before it's too late. I still have plenty of time until I'll need it, but I meant to submit the forms about a month ago.


Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Out of the past

Pretty much wiped out--23.65 miles on the stationary bicycle will do that--and feeling a touch nostalgic today, which is why you get the embedded music video. While driving around at lunchtime I landed on a radio station playing "the next generation of classic rock". (Translation: the music that was on AOR stations during my formative years.) I haven't heard these songs in a long time and own next to none of it, so I was sent on a bit of mental time traveling at the sound of Guns N' Roses, Tesla, and Def Leppard.

To add to that, seeing the new movie Super 8, opening Friday at a theater near you, pressed all the right buttons for me, not the least of which is it being set in a fictional town that's virtually where I grew up. Brookville, which is five miles from my hometown, is name dropped. Greenville, which is twenty miles away, hosts some scenes, although it's at a fictional Air Force base. I suppose they avoided having the characters go to Wright-Patterson because that's more urban.

Of course, there are a couple of major slip-ups, not that anyone is going to notice or care about them. (These are nitpicks for me to make because I know where they're talking about.) Belmont County is referenced, which is on the other side of the state rather than being adjacent to Montgomery County. Much of the film was shot in West Virginia, so maybe it's a nod to the area where production took place. The hilly landscape is not at all like the flat part of Ohio that I'm from.

The houses, inside and outside, all felt very familiar, though. The main characters are about twice as old as I would have been in 1979, but I confess to watching hungrily for props, production design, and anything else that I'd recognize. But there I go, getting all sentimental.

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Monday, June 06, 2011

Let the games begin

With the Harry Potter films coming to an end this summer and the Twilight movies down to the last two, studios have been on the lookout for the next hot young adult series to adapt. Apparently the lucky winner is The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. For the last month or so it seems like each new day has brought another casting announcement for the first film. I liked the Harry Potter books, was looking for something easy to read, and was interested enough/worn down by all the news generated about this series that I decided to dive into the first novel.

The Hunger Games takes place in a post-apocalyptic North America in which the Capitol holds an annual lottery to select two children--one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 to 18--from each of the twelve districts for a televised battle to the death. The spectacle is a means of controlling the population and quelling all notions of rebellion. When 12-year-old Prim's name is drawn, her 16-year-old sister Katniss volunteers to take her place. The majority of the book details Katniss' trip from what was once Appalachia to the Capitol and eventually the arena where she must outlive her 23 competitors.

Even with that concept, the book is more violent than I was expecting, especially considering the age group this is surely intended for (and will appeal to). It'll be interesting to see if the film, which I'll guarantee gets a PG-13, ends up being as controversial as Battle Royale, a Japanese novel and film adaptation that never received theatrical distribution in the United States. (I seem to remember reading that the sticking point was the large sum the producers wanted for North American rights and not the kids killing kids content, but I could be wrong.)

As page turners go, it's a mostly compelling read, even if I could more or less guess what the ending would be from the outset. If this were a film, Collins would be criticized for too often telling us rather than showing us what is happening. In other words, the author can be overly direct in explaining the plot mechanics and the protagonist's emotions. The writing tends toward the schematic, but the premise is solid enough that such an issue isn't fatal. The book also suffers from a few lulls and fails to develop any of the other child warriors beyond Katniss' fellow home district selectee/love interest.

This book isn't as deep or imaginative as the Harry Potter series, but then again, I remember those books mostly getting better as they went along. I should stress that I enjoyed reading The Hunger Games. Life in the arena comprises nearly two-thirds of the novel and contains sufficient thrills and questions about how to behave morally or honorably in a war-like situation to keep one engaged. Plus, the foundation has been set for the heroine to become more than one-dimensional. Katniss is so task-oriented here--rightfully so--that removing her from under the thumb of the Gamemakers should add some shading to her, but I'll find out as I get through the next two books.

Hey, how about that? I've read two books in less than a week and a half. It's been a long time since that happened.

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Sunday, June 05, 2011


Televised baseball games and weekend work have encroached upon something I've intended to do yesterday and today. I bought a cheap lawn chair--or whatever you want to call this thing, as in my mind a lawn chair has an aluminum frame and woven straps--so I could sit on one of my balconies and read. (Aside: do they even make those anymore?)

I got the idea after reading outdoors while out and about on Friday and Saturday. It was nice to be outside, especially at the times I was, and let everything else melt away. No artificial light, which is practically all I get for the better part of the week at work. No booming bass next door, which isn't as bad as it was last fall but can still be irksome. No distraction. Just being in the moment.

For whatever reason, sitting outside and reading strikes me as such a luxury. It's a way to go elsewhere, even if it's only moving ten feet from where I'm plopped in the living room right now. It's a way to be meditative. It's a place for losing distractions.

Of course, I've not followed through since purchasing the chair yesterday afternoon. My writing plans got interrupted, and then the ballgame went long. Some necessary viewing and intermittently successful attempts at writing gobbled hours, not to mention another lengthy baseball game.

Yet here at dusk that small balcony beckons. Tomorrow, I tell myself, after I've wrapped another show and got all the stuff for it cleared from my head. Just as long as tomorrow doesn't keep getting pushed.


Saturday, June 04, 2011


It was a hot, sunny day. Then the sky darkened, winds increased greatly, and rain and hail came down in a torrent.

And yet there was a kind of ethereal beauty to it too.

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Friday, June 03, 2011

Summer syllabus

The calendar may not officially declare summer here, but going by the academic calendar at my place of employment, it's less than a week away. My job doesn't necessarily change, but matters on the whole should be less urgent than they can be in the midst of the terms. There's no question that I live the year according to the rhythms of the university, and I like it that way. Perhaps it's what I'm used to, but it provides a seasonal structure to work that I don't know other jobs have. If you're working in an office, is any week drastically different from another based on where you are in the year?

So, with the summertime mindset taking over, I'm considering what to do as "projects" to fulfill myself during these months. I'm not necessarily talking about what to knit, although that can be entered into the mix, but what I want to read and watch. Now's the time for catching up on things I haven't had time for or never gotten around to.

Approaching television shows as something worthy of study isn't unusual among many I know, but I realize it might sound ridiculous to some. In other words, I won't apologize for what I intend to do. TV has been incredibly rich over the past decade--yes, in spite of plenty of garbage--but there's a fair amount I haven't seen, especially the HBO series. (I've never seen an episode of The Sopranos, for instance.) For starters, I've decided to plow my way through all three seasons of Deadwood, if for no better reason than I found a great deal on the complete series on Blu-ray.

I've been feeling the itch to rewatch Veronica Mars, and The A.V. Club's summer-long revisiting of the first season seems like a good enough reason to return to it. I've had a love of mysteries for quite some time, but somewhere along the line I sort of lost that stuff to read or watch. Veronica Mars hits a sweet spot for me, and I'm curious to revisit the high school noir. It took me until the first season came out on DVD to catch onto the show, but it quickly became a favorite that I wish had lasted more than its three seasons.

I was a big fan of Alias when it was on the air. Since it's getting The A.V. Club treatment too, I might try to take another look at it if time permits.

As for books, I've decided to dive into the young adult The Hunger Games trilogy. Maybe the choice is due to sheer bombardment of information on the upcoming films' casting. I'm a chapter into the first book and am interested enough that this seems like something worth reading.

I've had my eye on The Complete Calvin and Hobbes for years and finally picked it up when spotting a deep discount on the hefty set's price. And I'm not joking about hefty. The three-volume set is heavy. The comic strip is one of my all-time favorites, if not the favorite, so it will be fun to flip through these pages.

I made it about halfway through the graphic novel Bone last summer and then got distracted, so I'd like to finish it. There are recent books (or two) by favorite authors that I bought but haven't read. Such is my inconsistency as a reader. In keeping with my love of mysteries and childhood fondness for Agatha Christie books, maybe I should re-read some of them. I probably haven't picked them up since junior high or high school.

Obviously I could go on and on, but it will be ambitious to get through everything I've listed here. What do you want to read and watch this summer? Or am I just weird for planning these like assignments?

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Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Protestant work ethic

One of my brothers sent an interesting e-mail to the family earlier this week. Essentially it was to indicate agreement that in the rare instances when he purchases a lottery ticket--super-huge jackpots only--that we are already in a partnership with him for a certain percentage of the winnings. The idea behind it is that if he won and wanted to give each of us some money, the gift tax would limit how much he could give without half of that going to the government.

As I read more through it, at heart is him wanting to provide enough money that we could all live off the interest alone and not need to work if we chose to. (My parents are retired, although still working in some capacity.)

I agreed --it's really a can't lose proposition--but it got me thinking. If I had enough financial security that I did not need to work, would I stop working? I have no doubt that this particular brother would. He's talked about it before, and I don't necessarily think it's related to being unhappy in his current job.

While it sounds tempting to ditch the job and spend every hour of the day as I see fit, I'm not so sure I'd want to do that. Maybe that indicates I like what I do and, for all of the nonsense that's cropped up this year and in the past, am basically happy in the job. Maybe it means I don't have anything else or fear that I don't.

As great as an extended break sounds right now, I don't know that I'd want a permanent one. I'd be glad to have money not be a concern--who wouldn't?--but the work ethic ingrained in me feels like I'd still need to be doing something beside indulging my every whim. What a pleasant problem that would be to have, right?

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Wednesday, June 01, 2011


I'm just not feeling the blogging today. Tired and ready to go to bed. In my stead, enjoy this fine track from My Morning Jacket's discography. (And their new album Circuital is worth a listen too.)

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