Monday, July 31, 2006

Robot Problems

If anyone out there has a Roomba that has malfunctioned in the past and managed to fix it, please let me know. You see, my Roomba is sick. In the head. It has lost its mind. And I don't want to have to resort to using an actual vaccuum cleaner because, you know, that wouldn't be that much fun.

At first I thought Roomba might just be drunk because when I turned him on and told him to get his ass cleaning, instead of making the nice circles that he does until he runs into a wall, he started driving off in a straight line away from his charger. Maybe he saw a big dirtball he wanted to get. Who knows? But after he got about 4 feet away from his home, he turned in one direction, moved a little, turned in another direction and moved a little more.

He seemed confused. Maybe he was overwhelmed with the amount of dirt and cat hair on my floor. Yeah, that was probably it. He wasn't drunk, just stressed out! That stress must be what caused him to run into the wall and then jitter around for a bit before running into the wall again, jittering some more, and then, frustrated, took off away from the wall.

At this point my little guy must have blew a gasket because he stopped dead in the middle of the floor, made a sad beep, and decided to not work any more, but instead sit there with his power and clean lights pulsating. The poor guy. Maybe he just needed more juice.

After charging him up to full power I set him loose again. Unfortunately he must have been overcome with dread at seeing all he would have to vaccuum because he went crazy again. Right now he's in a catatonic state charging in my room because I'm too afraid to set him loose again. I wouldn't want him to hurt himself.

So what do I do about my poor Roomba? How do I fix him? Send him to a robot shrink? Please help.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Skin Melting Hot

Yes, you are reading that correctly. It is 100 degrees and feels like 109 outside... in Minnesota. For a state that is well known for its cold winters, I think a lot of people that don't live here fail to realize that it also gets hotter than the devil's armpit in summer here as well. All this week it's been hovering in the mid to upper 90's, today it hit 100, tomorrow it's supposed to be at least as hot, and the heat wave seems likely to continue next week.

Let's just say that mowing lawn was more of a bitch than usual and I think I may very well die of heat stroke when I go for my run in a few minutes, but I need to get out of this damn house. I feel like I'm trapped sitting in here all day avoiding the blistering heat of the outdoors. It's odd, isn't it, that we Minnesotans lock ourselves up in the winter because it is too cold out and then when summer rolls around we do the same thing claiming it is too warm. Aren't we just so picky?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sex Master!

So I was bored and decided to take this sex quiz. I really had no clue how I would do, but apparently I'm a freakin' sex genius! I scored 80% and according the results am an expert. Rock on! Actually, I just think I'm a pretty good guesser.

Interestingly, I stumbled upon this quiz when I was reading an article about the history of human sex. In the article it explores, to a modest degree, some of the questions I know we've all asked at some time like: Did cavemen do it more? Are we more sexually liberated than the seemingly prudish occupants of the 19th century? How do we differ from animals when it comes to sex?

I know I've often wondered these things. Our society today is so overrun with sexual imagery and sexual overtones that it's hard to imagine past generations being as sexually focused in their day to day lives. I look back at the traditions of people from less than a century ago and it seems like there was a definite lack of sexuality in everyday life.

Look at the concept of courting. It never happens any more. How often do kids go on dates with each other with the watchful eyes of their parents keeping a lookout? Hell, you don't even see that many honest to goodness dates any more. It's all about "hooking up" and then, if you are decently satisfied with the person you snagged before last call at the bar, you decide to see each other again. If not, you go your separate ways and repeat the process.

It amazes me how many couples I know who met up at a bar or party, hooked up, and then dated afterwards. I never understood that. I've always been the type of person who is so timid and shy when it comes to making a first move that I would never have been able to do something like that. Personally, I feel like I'm one of the few people that believes in the traditional concept of dating.

Another key difference I see between our generation and that of the many generations before ours is the amount of partners your average 20 something person has had. It's daunting, at times, to find out the number of people someone has been with. Has sex lost its meaning? Or has it just become something that is gotten to quicker in a relationship?

I'm afraid to see what the answers to some of these questions might be in 20-30 years when my kids are getting to be my age.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Summer Movies Suck

Watching movies is something I really enjoy. Being able to kick back for two hours, engross myself in something way more interesting than my mundane life, and either turn my brain on or off (depending upon the movie) does so much for me. Humans have always been story tellers and probably always will be and right now, outside of the devil-machine known as the television, movies are our main source of telling and hearing stories.

Summers are notorious for being the season of the year during which all of the studios put out their flagship titles, hoping to cash in on the more frequent movie attendings of people during the "relaxing" months of the year. Usually there is at least a movie or two to come out during the summer that doesn't suck, but this year I'm having a really hard time enjoying anything I've seen this summer. It seems like all of the blockbusters have been either bad or average.

What happened? Superman Returns was watchable, but pretty boring and riddled with plot holes. X-Men 3 was also watchable, but the whole thing felt cheesy and stupid and didn't have the cohesion of the second movie. Pirates of the Carribean succeeded in getting me to turn my brain off, but even so it didn't capture the spirit of adventure the first one possessed. I couldn't bring myself to watch Mission Impossible 3, The Da Vinci Code, or Poseidon because the previews made them look so "blah". I'm really feeling let down that there wasn't more to see.

I am keeping my hopes up for Clerks 2 that I'm going to try to see tonight and I am really looking forward to eventually seeing A Scanner Darkly, but beyond these two movies, the summer has been a let down. However, as I browsed the Apple trailers site, I am frothing at the mouth in anticipation for a ton of movies that will be coming out this fall. Just look at some of the killer movies coming out soon:
  • Children of Men: A high concept film about a post-apocalyptic future where all of the world's women are barren. Clive Owen looks like he fits the part perfectly. The atmosphere looks appropriately dark and dismal.
  • The Fountain: Aronofsky is a genius and the previews make it look like he's attempting to take his odd style to a whole new level. Straying away from a real life scenario to a fantasy setting might prove to be both a visual and metal trip.
  • Renissance: Mostly the animation style of this movie interests me. The story seems to be well enough to hold the audience's attention, but it'll be interesting to see if this odd black and white animation style will make the movie hard to sit through or really interesting.
  • The Prestige: Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale in a period piece about magicians. How can you possibly go wrong? The serious tone in combination with the hinted at otherworldly tones are drawing me in.
  • The Illusionist: Ed Norton is drawing me into this one. The vibe of the movie seems to be very close that of The Prestige, but focusing more on love than oneupmanship. Should at least be good for Norton fans.
  • The Last Kiss: I don't know if it's the fact that Zack Braff is the star of this movie or what, but it seems to be in the same vein as Garden State, which was one of my favorite movies of the last few years. Braff seems tailor made for roles such as this.
  • Fearless: Martial arts fans, drool over this. Jet Li, in the couple of minutes in this trailer, looks to be in peak condition and the choreography seems like it'll be amazing. This is not one that you'll want to miss.
I'm sure there will be a few more good movies coming around this fall and winter beyond these, so it looks like we might have a much more crowded time this fall than this summer. Weird.

Monday, July 24, 2006

My Favorite STD

You know, I didn't even realize it until Ryan pointed it out, but I guess I have syphillis. Lucky me, huh? And to think that Ryan never gave me anything! I'll try and pass it on with care, buddy.

Why Business Travel Usually Sucks

This afternoon I'll be flying off to Chicago for work. I will work all day today, then leave work to go to the airport to fly out to Chicago, at which point I'll get in to town there with just enough time to maybe have dinner with a friend or sit and watch a couple of episodes of whatever TV show on DVD I bring along. The next day I'll work all day from Chicago and when I'm done will go back to the airport, fly home, and get back to my place just in time to throw my crap down, read a magazine, and then go to bed. The next day I wake up and start work again.

And that's the problem. Business trips are fun when you get to go places cool, like Mexico or New York, or get to go somewhere for an extended period of time, but most business trips are one or two day trips that monopolize the entire two days. I end up losing out on two evenings this week because I'm flying on both of them.

My time, especially my evenings, are important to me. I may not always have things planned to do. I know I really didn't for either today or tomorrow, but unlike some people work does not define me and I do not want work to be my life. Yes, we all have to work to get by and, yes, I will put in my time at work, but I do not want to be the type of person that has their life revolving around work.

Friends, family, pets, personal time, sports, and many other things outside of work are very important to me and I do not want to have to sacrifice them on the almighty altar of work. Because of this, I suppose it is lucky that I don't have to travel an ungodly amount like some people do, and I don't really mind the traveling as long as I get some "me time" while I'm doing it, but day trips tend to really get on my nerves.

To end on an up note, however, here are some flash animations of cats playing rock music. It's really, really bad, but I dare you to turn away. This one is my favorite.

Kids in the Way - Apparitions of Melody CD Review

No, I’m not really behind on reviewing this CD, but instead Flicker Records has decided to re-release Apparitions of Melody (which was previously released last year) in a new form with a re-ordered track listing and a couple of new songs. Oh, and a DVD with music videos and a small documentary with the band from the studio. I don’t know if these few small extras make this worth a purchase if you already own the original pressing, but for those of you who are new to the band, you could definitely do worse than picking up this release.

Playing a brand of nu-screamo blended with nu-emo, Kids in the Way have many shades of the more melodic moments of bands such as Alexisonfire and Dead Poetic, with their take on the genre being lighter than the former and more rock oriented than the latter. So is there really a need for another release, especially a re-release, in this already cramped genre? Truthfully, no, there isn’t much space at all. Ignoring the truth of the situation, however, you’ll find this to be a very competent and solid take on the worn hard rock with occasional scream genre.

Even though we have a very competent release, that doesn’t change the fact there are some really, really clunky songs on here. “This Could be the Song that will Change Your Heart” is way too heavy on the schmaltz and finds the band making a clichéd and painful ballad attempt. Then there’s “Breaking the Legs of Sheep” in which you find out what a horrible combination brit-rock influences, modern emo, and fifth grade poetry class can be.

It’s rough seeing a band turn out about 10 solid tracks and then have a couple which are totally out of place, as those few tracks ruin the flow and sound of an overall solid release. The other track that doesn’t quite fit, but isn’t all that terrible really, is the cover of Tears for Fears’ “Head Over Heels”. It’s competently done, but doesn’t capture enough of the feeling of the original or show off anything unique to the band making the cover.

This CD resoundingly comes through the reviewing ringer with a strong “blah” feeling, being not good enough to stand out, not bad enough to get noticed, and not unique enough to capture your ears’ attention. In some cases, this is almost worse than being bad. At least when a release is bad, it gets noticed instead of fading into the mass of other bands that are just plain “ok”.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Another Project Undertaking

Along with my caffeine purge that I underwent a couple of weeks ago, I have also been trying to be living healthier all around. About 2 weeks ago, the same time I was starting my purge, I also decided that in tandem with it, and after it, I would take better care of my diet, exercise schedule, and body as a whole.

What has resulted from the first two weeks has been a successful drop of nearly 10 pounds! As of yesterday I weigh 184 and two weeks ago I was right around 193. That's quite the accomplishment in my book. However, it isn't my goal. My goal would be to hit the magical 175, but I know that'll take more work. The first chunk of weight is always easiest to lose, but after that it takes a lot more work.

I've been watching my diet a lot more than I have in the past. Sure, I will still order pizza out with my housemates or toss in a hot pocket when I'm too lazy to cook, but instead of doing that for the majority of my meals, I've been making myself sandwiches, cooking pastas, and making non-microwave food. Additionally, my portion sizes have been under intense scrutiny. No longer am I satisfied to let myself gorge for supper or eat gigantic lunches in the hopes that I'll run it off later in the day. No, I actively manage my meal sizes to keep my stomach from becoming too stretched (thus leading to being continually hungry).

Exercise wise, lazy days of not letting myself do anything are over. Assuming I don't have a concert to go to or something else to do after work, I make sure to put in at least my 3 mile run, if not a tiny bit more, just to push. On weekend days that I don't have anything going on, I've been trying to get at least one or two days of two-a-day runs in, where I put in a 3 miler in the morning and then do sprints or another 3 miler in the afternoon.

So... can I do it? Can I keep myself on this path? Can I keep myself under 185 and maybe even reach down to under 180? I know I want to. I hate looking in the mirror and feeling like I've let myself go. It's so good to be able to look in the mirror and like what you see and I'm determined to feel that way again.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Albino Rarity

I have a feeling that albino squirrels might not be as rare as this article makes them out to be. According to this article, "only 10 in every one million squirrels are born with albinism." That means only 0.001% of all squirrels are albino, which makes the picture to the right, which sparked the article I linked to, so newsworthy.

Guess what Donita Clausen, the photographer who snapped this picture, you aren't the only special one. Just a week and a half ago when I went out for a run with my housemate, Karl, we came across a tried and true albino squirrel ourselves.

At first Karl didn't notice it and I just thought it was a rabbit. That was until it moved. It didn't move like a bunny, all hoppy and cute. No, it scrambled along the grass towards a tree, much like a squirrel. That's what caught my attention and caused me to stop running to check out the animal that caught my eye.

We moved in closer, seeing that it was a squirrel, to find out that it wasn't just a white squirrel, but that it was a white squirrel with red eyes. It was definitely albino, it was definitely full grown, and it was definitely a yard and a half from my feet.

So in the span of two weeks, in two different parts of the US there have been albino squirrel sightings. This would mean that there are at least 199,998 other squirrels around that aren't albino that the combination of Donita and myself will have to see before we see another albino.

Sounds like a challenge to me. Albino squirrel #3, here I come.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Cool Cart Car Thing

SuperCartHow cool of a vehicle is this? My mom snapped a shot of this during the 4th of July parade in Blooming Prairie, Minnesota this year. It's quite the clever idea and it is definitely unique. As opposed to your standard floats, which aren't really anything more than a hay rack or track gussied up with some advertisements and information, this is unique and actually required whoever made it to actually craft something unique from scratch.

See, if parades had more cool stuff like this I might go. That, and if it was ok for me to beat up the little kids to get the candy they throw out. Why should only the little tykes gets free, sugary goodness? I like candy too! Why can't 25 year olds run out and get candy during parades? I don't get it.

OPM - California Poppy CD Review

Your eyes are not playing tricks on you. Yes, OPM are still around. The guys that brought the world the song “Heaven is a Halfpipe” have now released their third CD, California Poppy. What? You don't remember them releasing another CD after Menace to Sobriety? Don’t worry, neither does anyone else. With their return, you’ll be treated to 13 more reggae/ska/hip-hop tunes, with the majority of them sounding like Sublime b-sides from a Sublime b-sides album, only with a little more pop influence.

To be honest, there actually are a handful of songs on here that show some variety and are good listens once or twice through, but the majority aren’t. Instead of focusing on the negative, which would lead to a ridiculously long review, let’s look at what’s good on this release for now.

The song “Love Don’t” has a gentle mix of pop-reggae and some twangy country-rock guitars, which leads to an alternation of mellow, boring verses and uppity, bouncy choruses, which isn't terrible, but it could have been better. The first real song on the disc after the pointless intro, “For Tonight”, is a semi-sentimental, semi-tongue-in-cheek love song that actually has just the right vibe to make you not care about the incongruent lyrics and just nod along to the beat, wishing you were out sharing a joint with your boys, thinking about all those hood rats you boinked in high school.

The good majority of the rest of this disc, however, you’ll hear a group of guys that are content to sit around and put out some very mundane, blasé, and ultimately boring slowed down Sublime rip off songs with a little too much pop influence. I’m sure that the people that buy OPM CDs were so stoned out of their gourd when they picked this disc up, and when they're in their red-eyed state it may seem like the songs aren't all that bad, but if you’re not taking some massive hits from the bong, there is no excuse for buying this album.

However, and I suggest you do this at your own risk, if you want to listen to some of the most laughable pseudo-serious, horn tinged tripe to dirty your eardrums, go listen to the song “Voodoo Hex”. With a loungy, porn soundtrack style beat and lyrics like, “She’s got class for days, and ass for weeks / She makes me wait before I peak / Can’t figure out her moods like a Rubix Cube,” it is belly laugh funny… and then you get to listen to “Born Again Virgin” only a few songs later! I’d quote the lyrics, but they’re seriously out and out some of the worst ever written and no one should have to read them. I'm talking worse than Limp Bizkit and Staind bad. Try not to shudder at the thought. I dare you.

So I tried to be nice. I tried to come in with an open mind. I tried to give this disc a chance. I don’t know why I did, but I did. No matter how open of a mind you have, though, this is beyond bad and if this disc is sitting in your CD collection, go out and play in traffic. The world will be a better place for the rest of us.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Do You Use Pennies?

I don't know how many of you actually use pennies, but I know that I don't. They're beyond worthless in my eyes. First, I rarely use cash as it is, especially in coin form. Who likes listening to their pants jingle as they walk down the street? Who enjoys having a bunch of round metal cutouts in their pants rubbing up against cell phones, wallets, and other pocket accessories? I sure don't.

Because I hate pennies so much, Jim Kolbe is my hero of the moment. Today he is again continuing his crusade against the devious, poop colored, monetary atrocities. Why don't people want to round to the nearest nickel? When it costs about a buck to buy anything (that's basically what a can of cola costs in street machines), why do we need a tiny denomenation of coin, which isn't even accepted by vending machines, that would take 100 of them to buy a can of pop?!?!?!

And when you think about it, we keep making more and more pennies at a loss. It costs something like 1.3 cents to make a single penny that is worth one point zero cents! Who did the math on that one? I say melt down the pennies into a big, heaping vat and then use it to press dollar coins. I still don't know why there isn't more of a demand for dollar coins. Considering I only keep quarters in my pockets (to buy the aforementioned soda with), it would be nice to have some variety when I reach into my pocket for money.

A penny saved is not a penny earned. A penny saved is stupid. Let's make nickels the bitch of the US coin family.

Monday, July 17, 2006

New Babies!

new kittens

Of course with summer comes new babies and this year's kittens out on my parents' farm are as cute as ever. Above is a picture of two of them. The little gray guy on the bottom looks just like my baby Stitch, who is two years old now this summer. It's so eerie to think that it has been two years already since we rescued him when he was about this size.

I was talking to my dad about this on the phone the other day, about how it seems like just a little while ago that something, like finding Stitch, happened when in reality it has been quite the significant amount of time. Looking back, it's now been over two and a half years since I've been out of college. Where the hell did all that time go? It's been over a decade since I was in middle school, and two decades ago I was just starting school.

"Time goes on," my dad tells me. And it does. There is no slowing it down, no matter how hard we wish we could. Every day has only 24 hours in it. And there's only 60 minutes in each one of those hours. We let so much time slip away, slip through our fingers, and go unnoticed and unrealized until it is long past.

This weekend I have realized how quickly time has gone by and how I definitely should have done some things sooner, some things I kept pushing off because I wanted every last thing to be perfect, and now after looking back with a more introspective eye I know that I let time continue on its course without doing what I know I should have done.

"Time goes on," my dad tells me. And it does. It really does.

The Final Days

Hooray! I made it through my week long caffeine cleanse alive! I can't say that I enjoyed it, but it needed to be done. The last three days were relatively good to me, which is as it should be since there would be very trace amounts of caffeine still in my system, but there was still a difference between the caffeinated Rick and the non-caffeinated Rick.

Friday I actually didn't get much sleep at all the entire night through. I was up until about 5 dealing with some personal issues I'd rather not go into because A) it has nothing to do with my caffeine purge and B) I just don't care to talk about it. So I only got a few hours of restless sleep Friday night, completely without the aid of my favorite chemical, so that was good to see. I know that I can survive and force myself to stay up without my drug of choice to help me along.

Saturday was a long day as I didn't eat anything more than a small bowl of ice cream for breakfast, I hadn't had much sleep, and all afternoon I was helping one of my friends move into his new house in 100 degree weather. For being known as a cold state, Minnesota sure doesn't go easy on us when it decides it finally wants to lay into us with some baking weather. I made it through, however, but was ready for sleep at about 9:30 or so, and actually fell asleep at my friend Hank's place while we watched the movie Waiting.

Sunday I spent catching up on house chores, watching the Twins game, and playing some basketball outside against my housemate Karl. It was another scorcher so we were utterly pooped after our game and shortly after eating some food and showering, at about 9:45 I hit the hay and was asleep until my alarm woke me up at 6:45 am this morning. Nine solid hours of sleep! That's something I could never do without caffeine. Heck, before this last week's purge, I'd rarely sleep more than 7 hours a night.

So with my purge now complete, I lovingly sipped down my morning coffee today and heartily enjoyed my afternoon Diet Coke. Oh did it ever feel so good to pollute my body once again with my chemical friend, caffeine. A week is all I can take.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Day Four / Day Five

I wasn't totally out of the woods yet yesterday, as I'd hoped I would have been. The morning was fine. The day was fine. The early evening fine. But when my ultimate frisbee game rolled around at 6:45 pm, my caffeine depravity kicked in again.

Is caffeine really that much of a catalyst for energy levels in my body? I felt pretty lethargic the entire game through and only played a couple of points where I felt like I was actually moving with as much energy as I usually do. More often than not I'd run from one end to the field and I'd be done. My body would scream at me, "time to take a break," but I couldn't oblige unless I wanted to get scored on and reamed by my teammates.

It's as if my body couldn't produce energy quick enough to keep up with what it was doing without caffeine fueling the production. Towards the end of the game, and in a more pronounced fashion after the game, I developed a headache. I thought I'd have worked out of that territory by now, but apparently I was wrong.

Once I got home I was pretty much done. I had no energy whatsoever to even bother with showering once I got home. I just plopped down and fell asleep in my frisbee clothes. Without caffeine when my body tells me it's done, there is no arguing or attempting to sway its mind. I crash and crash hard.

This morning has been quite good and the afternoon has as well. The hour or so after noon was rough, as usual, but I made it through just fine. With the weekend moments away from starting, it'll be interesting to see if I spend the entire time napping or not, especially in the ridiculous heat that is supposed to envelop the area this weekend.

You Know What?

This creeps me the hell out:

Read more here.

Hammer Bros. - The Vitality CD Review

Hardcore is an easy genre to bash on. Most of the bands sound the same, the attitude is often annoying, and it rarely takes all that much talent to put together a capable hardcore band. With that in mind, the first full length from the Hammer Bros. on Crosscheck Records brings the pain, and brings it fast and heavy.

In around 23 minutes, these guys tear through 10 solid tracks, all blisteringly fast paced, with only a few mid tempo stomp sections. Setting the band’s pace is Jim Domenici’s rapid fire vocal approach. I would hate to have his throat because I can only imagine how much torture he puts it through in yelling out every last lyric. The rest of the band has no trouble keeping up either, with snappy drums and grinding guitars. Every track is punishing.

“Thus Consumption” is easily The Vitality’s standout track. At almost 4 minutes in length it is nearly a sixth of the album’s length, but every minute is crushing. From the opening minute of slow paced, chugging guitars to the thrash oriented mid section to the well placed guitar solo ¾ of the way through to the final mosh-tastic, gang vocal laden 20 seconds, this track drop-kicks the competition out of the way.

Playing in the style of music pioneered by Bad Brains, Madball, Slapshot, and Cro-Mags and doing it well is something to be proud of, and the Hammer Bros. should be overflowing with pride. The final track of The Vitality is a cover of Cro-Mags’ “Don’t Tread on Me” and the band does a stellar job of doing it justice. All in all this is a fine hardcore release that brings about a sense of righteous anger that you don’t feel coming from many of today’s trendy hardcore bands.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Making Progress

Yesterday evening was definitely better. I didn't have too much of a headache at all. My run brought it about a little bit at first, but it didn't stick with for nearly as long. I, unfortunately, cramped up again. I thought I'd drank enough liquids during the day, but the two cans of Fresca and one glass of water didn't do. The cramping wasn't quite as bad this time, so progress is definitely coming along.

One thing that I did notice more throughout yesterday and also today here at work is that I am actually less focused. I find myself losing my train of thought and spacing out much more than I used to. I thought for sure that with my blood pumping along a little bit slower that I'd be able to stick with stuff a lot more rigidly, but the opposite is happening.

The tiredness throughout today hasn't been as bad as yesterday. The noon to 2 slump was a little more easily conquered today. Last night, however, I still ran out of juice by about 9:45 pm. Most people need 8 hours of sleep, supposedly, but my non-juiced body seems to need about 9, which kind of sucks. As time goes on and my body adjusts a little more, I'll hopefully be able to stay up longer without having to feel like I'm forcing myself to.

The only other thing that I've noticed, which may or may not stem from my caffeine-less state, is that I'm slightly more irritable and prone to snapping off snarky responses to things instead of patiently thinking things through and holding my tongue. Maybe caffeine pacifies me! Who knows? That would make an interesting study--seeing if you can makes assholes into nice guys by injecting them with doses of caffeine. I doubt it would actually have the results that I'm experiencing, but it'd be fun to read about nonetheless.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Little Better

The second day of my no caffeine challenge went a little bit better than my first. No migraine, thank goodness, although I did have a headache throughout most of the afternoon and early evening. It wasn't nearly as bad as the day previous, but it still felt like there was something on the inside of my head trying to push its way out through my forehead.

I did take a nap when I got home from work, just to try to clear my headache out, but it was stubbornly going to stay with me so I forced myself to go out for a run, hoping that if I got some exercise I'd maybe get enough blood flowing through my head to loosen things up. It didn't work out exactly as planned, however.

The first 3/4 of a mile of my run was pretty terrible. I kept it to a moderate pace because the added blood flow made my headache a lot sharper and throbbing. Fortunately after the first 3/4 of a mile it started to subside. With its subsiding also came a loss of energy and some hefty calf cramps.

With no need to use coffee and soda as caffeine ingestion methods, I don't find myself drinking nearly as many fluids throughout the day, which I'm sure led to the cramping of my calves. In my 3 mile run I had to stop 3 different times to stretch out my calves. It was ridiculous, but at least my headache was gone.

Upon returning home, I took a shower, ordered some Papa Murphys, and sat down to watch some Wonder Showzen and play some College Hoops '06 on the 360 with Karl. The evening was pretty enjoyable and the caffeine withdrawal effects weren't very noticeable. The only thing that was present was a continual feeling of not being as awake as usual.

My usual bed time is around 11 or 12 so it was weird feeling ready to go to sleep at about 9:30. I pushed on for a bit doing some reading and once 10 rolled around I found that I was just awake enough to carry on to 11, but after that my eyelids were as heavy as anvils and it was time to hit the hay.

This morning I awoke feeling a little less tired than yesterday, but still groggy. The remnants of a headache were slightly there (and are still slightly present), but it wasn't terrible. I can only hope that it won't get worse as the afternoon goes on as it did the past two days. Thankfully I have a remedy for it in going for a run, even if it does suck pretty hard for the first part of the run. So when am I going to start feeling fully normal?

Fall of Serenity - Bloodred Salvation CD Review

Gloss and polish aren’t solely slathered onto no-talent pop-punk releases. There are more than enough death metal CDs to have the same amount of glimmer on the surface of their releases, with Fall of Serenity’s latest being one of them. Yes, production values do go hand in hand with bands such as Soilwork and In Flames and it has led to some wonderful releases, but at times don’t you wish their CDs had a much more raw sound than the polished smooth version that is on disc?

The production values on Bloodred Salvation are phenomenal in that every song feels like weeks were spent in the studio making sure every level was just right, every instrument perfectly in sync with the others, and the vocals put to just the right tone to convey the maximum amount of perfection. There are even tiny keyboard overdubs and flourishes that normally wouldn’t be present in today’s modern melodic death metal scene, or at least wouldn't come across as polished and well mixed.

Now it’s not a terribly bad thing that the production was as glistening as it was, but at times you’ll wish that the band would have been able to come across a little more raw. Sometimes parts of the songs sound a bit neutered because of the polish, such as on “Dead Eyes”. Throughout the entire song, you’ll get a sense that it comes off so much heavier when performed live. The blast beats are there, but they aren’t as punchy as they should be and the guitars crunch, but aren’t as thick as they should be.

On top of the neutering of their sound, Fall of Serenity also play it pretty safe on this release, playing to the lately popular style of melodic death metal with some metalcore elements thrown into the mix. “Raise Your Remorse” is a perfect example. The choruses are rife with melody and a modern metalcore approach while the verses stick very stringently to a straight ahead death metal approach, complete with pummeling drums and repetitive angular guitars.

When compared to their peers, Fall of Serenity need to add a little more maturity and variety to their repertoire before they can start to adequately be in the same league as Behemoth or Heaven Shall Burn. Until that time comes, you can at least enjoy the glimmer of hope that is the best song on this disc, “As I Watch”.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Utter Meltdown

Yesterday was pretty atrociously horrible for my body. The caffeine withdrawal set in full force late afternoon. I started getting the headache I knew I would at about 4:00 pm. Once I finished work, I laid down for a nap hoping that it would go away, but it wouldn't let go.

For the remainder of the night I didn't do much more than move between my bed and the bathroom. My headache pushed itself, seeing how much damage it could do, and successfully entered into migraine territory. Not only did my eyeballs feel like they were three sizes too big for my sockets, but my entire brain felt like it might push its way out through the front of my face. I didn't realize how loose caffeine kept my veins and arteries. In all of the literature I've read on the topic, it says that caffeine allows your veins and arteries to be more pliable, but I didn't imagine that every vein and every artery and every last capillary would constrict as tight as could be once I gave up on the juice.

Once the migraine set in, I also had to deal with the nausea that comes along with the throbbing head. Needless to say my stomach was both growling because it was empty but I couldn't feel it because I didn't want to end up leaning over my toilet bowing to the porcelain god. I did eventually cram a bunch of tums into my belly so that I could choke down a microwave pizza (I was too lazy to put together a supper that couldn't be microwaved).

This morning I woke up still a little tired, even though I didn't really do much of anything other than sleep, watch some TV, and do a little reading all yesterday evening before going to bed at around 9:45 pm. At least my headache was gone... for the most part. There were still some remnants left, however.

So far the only good thing that has come from the voluntary caffeine embargo I've imposed on my body is that I don't have to go to the bathroom as much. Although, when I think about it, that might just have to do with me drinking less liquids since I don't have my normal three mugs of coffee in the morning, along with my afternoon mug and my evening diet soda. Right now it's all water, Fresca, and the afternoon hot chocolate for me.

Can anyone remind me again why I chose to do this? It pretty much sucks.

Monday, July 10, 2006

As Withdrawal Starts

It's already been a bad start. As I went to the bathroom a few minutes ago, the button on my brand new pair of dress pants broke. It didn't just come off where you could sew it back on. No, it snapped in half. Part is still attached to my pants and part of it is now in my waste basket. I guess I don't know my own strength once I stop taking the go juice.

That's right, I figured it was about time I did my annual self torturing--my week long purge of caffeine. To this day I still don't know why I choose to do it, but usually once a year I get the urge to "cleanse" my body of caffeine. I really don't know what this does for my body other than make me tired, grouchy, lazy, and sore.

I'm not even through my first morning and I already am craving a big ol' mug of coffee. Instead I'm drinking Fresca. Freakin' Fresca! That's the depths I sink to in order to show caffeine that I'm the boss of it and not the other way around.

My head feels like it's shrinking. I don't have a headache yet, although I know it'll be coming, but instead my face and scalp feel like they're scrunching up in an attempt to make my skull implode. I also feel somewhat achy in my calves, but that I chalk up to not running in a few days. Usually my legs cramp when I don't stretch them out or exercise with them for a span of more than a day or two.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to stare at the coffee machine in a cold sweat before I return to my office to curl up into the fetal position for the afternoon.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Tom Petty and Pearl Jam - Worth the Money?

At first glance, the pairing of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with Pearl Jam for a stadium tour might induce some head scratching. Hell, it’ll probably induce a lot of head scratching, and for good reason. Pearl Jam was a grunge staple in the 90’s and a hard rock powerhouse for the last half decade, even if they did get off track with some of their more recent offerings. Tom Petty has been cranking out blues rock for 30 years now. You hear him more on your parents’ cassette decks than on any radio stations playing Pearl Jam. Yet, here they are on the road together.

With two very different bands on the same bill, there was a definite split in the types of people in the crowd. About half of the crowd was made up of 20-somethings that had plenty of extra cash sitting around, since tickets were on average about $90 before Ticketrapist fees, while the other half were people the age of the 20-somethings’ parents.

When Pearl Jam came on stage, there were still more than a few open seats throughout the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN (which were later filled when Tom Petty came on). You couldn’t tell, though, as the crowd leapt to their feet and screamed out at the top of their collective lungs. Stadium tours are much, much different than club tours in that it is possible for the crowd noise to actually become very noticeable and rival the sound of the band at times. In a club this would never happen, but it lends to the atmosphere of everyone there knowing the band and coming to see the band, whereas some club shows people are just there to be there. There’s camaraderie when you’re at a stadium tour, probably because you have to be a fan to be there in light of the cost of tickets.

Pearl Jam played for a little over an hour and 20 minutes, all the time keeping their set tight and sticking to playing music as opposed to wasting time with meaningless banter. Vedder and company were all in top shape when it came to their performance. Tight is the name of the game for the PJ boys which, I’m sure, stems from the massive amount of playing and touring they’ve done in the last decade.

The mix of songs was a pretty healthy does of their hits from all of their albums, although Vitalogy was the most underrepresented with Pearl Jam only playing one song from the effort – “Better Man”. The disc wasn’t exactly hit-laden, but neither were some of their later albums (Yield and No Code come to mind). Regardless, their early hits went over the best with the crowd.

“Even Flow”, “Alive”, and “Daughter” had some of the largest crowd responses and sing-a-longs. Not once did the band look like they weren’t enjoying playing these songs for what was probably the 8,000th time. The only problem with some of the older material is that it seems to have lost a little of the edge that it used to have. With Pearl Jam’s evolution as a band into a more rock oriented unit as opposed to their early grunge, this was to be expected.

Newer material, which to the crowd was pretty much anything post-Vitalogy, was not received quite as well. “Do the Evolution” sounded just as awkward live as it does on disc. The song has never felt like it belonged in the band’s catalog and it’s really a shame that it ended up receiving as much attention as it did when it went to radio. “Given to Fly”, however, was quite well received, almost as well as their older material.

At the end of it all the band traversed their entire catalog quite well and will surely please fans of any of their eras. If you’re a long time Pearl Jam fan and come to the show expecting a lot of bravado and some of the band’s early 90’s antics, you will walk away sorely disappointed. They’ve grown up, and thank goodness they have.

After an inordinately long setup time for Tom Petty of more than an hour, the lights finally dimmed before Petty and his merry band of Heartbreakers took to the stage. The place was now packed. With the crowd going ridiculously crazy, Petty kicked off his nearly two hours in length set.

In stark opposition to Pearl Jam’s somewhat humble set, Tom Petty ate up everything the crowd gave him and reveled in the attention. At times he would come off as a little arrogant in that upon completion of a song he would do the WWE wrester antics of waving for more and more applause. It would have been ok after one or two of his ultra-big hits, but for a period of a few songs he did it after each one, which bordered on just plain annoying.

Arrogance aside, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers broke out just about every hit song you could imagine. “Running Down a Dream” and “I Won’t Back Down” had two of the largest responses from the crowd. Oddly, one of Petty’s biggest hits from the 90’s, “Mary Jane’s Last Dance”, had a relatively tame response. It was odd because this was probably one of the more well known songs by Petty with the 20 something crowd that were seating about half the venue.

Petty did break out one new song from his new album. It was, without a doubt, the weakest song of the set. There was just not the same timeless vibe that the rest of his songs possessed. It seemed like they had run out of ideas when writing their latest album and were stuck just throwing together some techniques they’d never tried before. Maybe it’ll grow on people, but it was very weak live.

After an intensely long and drawn out jam session and a duet with Eddie Vedder, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers called it a night. It was a very solid show, if sometimes somewhat unnoteworthy. For $90 a ticket people might expect a little more, especially since I got the feeling that people were there only to see either one band or the other, not both. Then again, when you want to see bands that have reached this level of fame, it’s expected that it’ll cost at least an arm and maybe a leg too. Regardless, if you go, you’ll hear plenty of hits from both bands.

Why I WIll Never Buy an iPod

As I was visiting the Apple store with my roommate because his iPod died, I found out two very disturbing things (at least from a geek standpoint) that will keep me from ever buying an iPod. Well, on top of having to use iTunes (which sucks something fierce) and dealing with the inability to use the iPod as a direct drive, but anyways.

My roommate's battery wouldn't hold a charge any more so he went in to have it replaced. Turns out that it's actually a software problem. The firmware can very easily be corrupted by things as simple as unplugging your iPod before a transfer finishes, a power fluctuation, or uploading corrupt files. Why would any of those things affect the firmware? Because it's in main memory! It's not stored on a separate, protected chip like every other portable device uses!

On top of that, I found out that the shuffle function keeps the hard drive constantly spinning. Why? Because it doesn't use the 20 MB buffer when in shuffle mode. Talk about lazy programming. It's simple to have the shuffle algorithm pick out the current song and then the next few in line and shuttle them to the buffer and continue to refill the buffer with the next new song once the current one is done playing.

iPods are definitely ridiculous and will never buy one. I'll stick by my RCA Lyra 40 GB until it dies and then I'll probably get one of the upcoming Microsoft MP3 players or something else non-Apple.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Flambé Ebay!

Ebay was cool when it first came out because it allowed you to sell your old crap to people across the US, and even the world, as opposed to the people in your neighborhood or at a garage sale. It was a genius idea. After a while, however, Ebay got greedy. They were constantly raising their listing prices and fees, screwing over sellers, and then bought out Paypal (which also led to Paypal fee increases) to get even more money from sellers. It got to the point that it was impossible for me to sell anything on Ebay because I'd make no money after all of the fees.

We can now add one more bullet point to the list of things that Ebay has done to destroy its relationship with sellers -- they've banned Google Checkout as a payment option. Finally someone comes along to challenge the stranglehold that Paypal has had on the online payment market, and one of the main sources that would benefit outlaws the one source of solid competition.

I don't know if they'll be able to keep this ban up long, but it sure is creating some bad press for Ebay. Combine that with the announced leaving of Paypal's president and you have Ebay looking at some shaky ground in its future. The company's stock is already starting to reflect the uneasiness that's surrounding the company.

With Google Checkout coming into play and gaining press, along with the negative image slowly encompassing Ebay, someone needs to come in for the coup de grâce by starting an actual, viable alternative to Ebay. Sure there's Yahoo auctions (which I use) and some other auction sites, but none of them have the exposure that Ebay does. Google would seem to be a natural fit to offer up an Ebay alternative, but I could see any well standing company doing well if they really put a lot of effort behind making a great Ebay alternative.

At the end of the day, I feel a little bit better each time I see Ebay knocked down a peg. They've become way too greedy for their own good and it should only be a matter of time before they fall or before they realize they're pricing a lot of potential sellers out of being able to use their service.

Deciding Tonight - The Delusionist CD Review

I’m sure a good amount of you went to check out the Warped Tour this summer, or plan to when it gets to your city. If not, maybe you picked up the Warped Tour 2006 compilation CD, which is a good mix of what you’ll find attending the Warped Tour, as well as also giving you a good rundown of what is currently popular in the “punk scene”. Now if you could distill down all of the bands on the Warped Tour to their common, most base elements, you’d no doubt come up with a band that sounds strikingly similar to Deciding Tonight.

Sounding very similar to a blend of Scary Kids Scaring Kids, Emery, and Just Surrender, The Delusionist runs the gamut of emo-core clichés. It’s hard to find much that is original within the 11 tracks that comprise this effort, but that’s not to say there aren’t some decent songs. “When It Was a Game” has a great mix of sing-a-long choruses, peppy tempos, and keyboard overtones to supplement the very standard song structure holding it down. Another above average song is “The Science of Dowsing”, which sports a more classic rock oriented feel and a quick pace that keeps the song fresh for the full three minutes of its existence.

For every good song, however, there are definitely some misfires. “The Orensburg Reception” sports some gratuitously unneeded screams that sound way out of place, along with some opening guitar tones that are just outright painful. “The Downside of Weightlessness” has one of the cheesiest keyboard loops to be put to tape since, well, the last edition of your local grocery store’s $0.99 Halloween sound effects gimmick CD. And then there’s the rest of the disc which feels, simply put, non-threatening. The songs are so standard and so safe that you could interchange this band with about 60% of the bands in today’s popular emo / punk / screamo scene.

Average is the name of the game when it comes to listening to Deciding Tonight. You’re not going to get anything above and beyond what’s currently out there, but The Delusionist also isn’t completely cringe worthy, like some recent releases (cough* CuteIsWhatWeAimFor *cough). It’s up to you to gauge how sick you are of the current screamo scene, and by implication, Deciding Tonight.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Could You Survive a Wood Chipping?

Amazingly, a cat that fell asleep inside a wood chipper survived after it was turned on. Let me repeat... a freakin' wood chipper. Those things chop up wood branches that are thicker than my arm into tiny pieces used for mulch or whatnot. I don't even want to think about what it would possibly do to a person, but somehow a cat survived it. From reading the article, you'll see the cat isn't in tip top health, but it's going to live and that's amazing enough.

StitchReading this reminds me about how I found Stitch, my cat pictured over to the right. I re-read what I wrote about that encounter way back when and remembered just how lucky Stitch was. He had three other siblings that didn't survive because the dogs ate them... or more appropriately played with them as toys until they died, and then played with them some more.

Our dogs weren't exactly vicious, but were playful. It seemed as if they thought kittens were simply furrier and mobile versions of the play toys that we were always giving them. Seeing the dogs playing with the corpse of a kitten is very troubling, unless you are a cat hater, in which case it should still be troubling, you sick weirdo!

More than two years later Stitch is doing great. His hind left leg, which was pretty beat up and appeared broken from the dog throttling, healed up and you would never know that it experienced any type of trauma, especially watching him fight with his housemate, Pooh.

I guess it just amazes me what animals can survive sometimes--a dog's chewing or a wood chipper couldn't slow down the above cats.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

So Much Good News Today!

I'm going on awesome news information overload this morning. There are so many hilarious things that have happened... well, mainly just two, but they both are hilarious.

The first comes from right here in Minnesota. Our Timberwolves beloved Eddie Griffin crashed his suburban while drunk, watching porn, and playing a little too rough with his stick shift. It's amazing how the Timberwolves manage to attract so many morons to our team. Sprewell was such a bad choice to have on our team. Alien Head... err, I mean Sam Cassell was also an idiotic acquisition. Laettner back in the day was the king of dumbass-ville. Why can't we just sign decent players that don't have so much baggage and so little in the brain department?

On top of this, we also see the king of cons, Ken Lay, die. No details have been released as of yet, but I'm sure the slimy bastard made himself a sleeping pill & vodka tonic that would kill a gang of horses. Good riddance. He would have ended up with a posh life in jail anyways, not nearly as nice as how he's been living since stealing millions of dollars from honest (or at least more honest than him) Americans. They should chop off his head, put it on a pike, and mount it on Wall Street.

And to top it off, I will provide to you the choicest quote I've heard in ages and it comes from none other than my wonderful Kristin:
What're you talking about? I don't poop. I lay chocolate eggs.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Summer's Over

red leaves blow in the wind
leaving home and everything it's known behind
barren branches wave goodbye
as the red leaves slowly die
every flower stares and watches
as the wind takes me away
before the sun shone upon me
now the wind takes me away
red leaves falling
through the branches
making their way to the ground
blowing by the flowers sleeping
no one knows the leaves are leaving

Haste the Day

The weekend of the fourth of July is already here. The year is half over. Summer is on its way out. Autumn is well on its way in. Summer is usually a time of year that flies by quickly, but every year it slips by a little quicker. In a few more blinks of the eye there will be leaves falling from the trees, farmers harvesting their fields, and kids heading back to school, which is still the hardest part of fall for me to take.

I may finally be coming to grips with the fact that I'm not in college now that I've been out for over three years, but there is still always a small sting when the middle of August appears on my calendar. College was a time that I'll never forget and a time that I still fondly look back upon, but my feet are starting to know how to walk to paths of the world that comes after your diploma is handed to you.

With summer half over, reflecting back I see that I did a lot, but also didn't do anything at all. The transition from my old job to my new one, the move from Rochester to Minneapolis, and the easing into my new surroundings has taken up a good chunk of my free time. Also learning how to be completely on my own has taken some adjustment. Beyond those things and getting back onto an ultimate frisbee team, I haven't really done too much with my summer and it's a little depressing.

Not knowing a ton of people in the area, and knowing that some of the people you do know you don't know well enough to just "hang out" whenever, has led to many nights where I'd sit at home with myself after going for a run not doing much of anything, or I'd hang out with my roommate, who has thankfully been around to do things with, passing the evening away.

I do get to a lot of concerts and such, but not having that bustling social life that was present in college (which is one of the main things I miss), I find myself longing for more than what I have. It's too bad because there is nothing worse than that sense of longing and wanting to hold you down and dampen your spirits.

It's not all bad, though. In fact it's been pretty good, but it's not nearly as fun to complain about what's good! My trip to Mexico was fun. My travels to Chicago and New York were great. Getting to see the world, my first broadway play, eat at some wonderful restaurants, and do other things that some people can't experience helps me to remember that I do have it good... but I still want more, you know?