April 2006 Archives

Looking to finish off my organic lemonade, I searched Drinksmixer.com for that ingredient. Many of them were pretty awful sounding, but a couple appealed to me, and I ended up making on of them:

    Electric Lemonade

  • 1 1/4 oz. citron vodka (I used Three Olives)
  • 1/2 oz orange curaçao (my Curaçao of Curaçao, of course)
  • 4 oz. lemonade
  • 1 tbsp. pureed strawberries

Blend with ice until smooth. Serve in a hurricane glass and garnish with a lemon wheel.

I got to use my hand blender again, this time the little food processing attachment. And once again, it worked like a charm! As Rhiannon is absolutely wild about strawberries, we always have them in the house. And this made a very nice, refreshing cocktail. I could really see mixing up a big vat of this and sipping it out on the veranda. Well, if we had a veranda, that is. In our case, the deck will just have to do.

    Patterons's Curse

  • 2 oz Scotch whisky (Dewars White Label)
  • 1/2 oz creme de cassis (Gabriel Boudier)
  • 4 dashes orange bitters

Shake well with cracked ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Not a bad cocktail. It had a very interesting effect on the palette. At first taste, the cassis was pretty overwhelming. But as it went down, you could begin to tastes the Dewars and, even more strongly, smell it for some reason. I liked it, although I might cut back a tad on the cassis next time.

Then we played three more levels of Serious Sam 2. Yup, three whole levels! Only like 19 (!) more to go - ouch! At three levels a night, we still have 2 months of playing this. Again, no time for movie watching - we're Serious now!

Dear Dogs and Cats

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The latest joke to come over the email transom:

Dear Dogs and Cats,

The dishes with the paw print are yours and contain your food. The other dishes are mine and contain my food. Please note, placing a paw print in the middle of my plate and food does not stake a claim for it becoming your food and dish, nor do I find that aesthetically pleasing in the slightest.

The stairway was not designed by NASCAR and is not a racetrack. Beating me to the bottom is not the object. Tripping me doesn't help because I fall faster than you can run.

I cannot buy anything bigger than a king sized bed. I am very sorry about this. Do not think I will continue sleeping on the couch to ensure your comfort. Dogs and cats can actually curl up in a ball when they sleep. It is not necessary to sleep perpendicular to each other stretched out to the fullest extent possible. I also know that sticking tails straight out and having tongues hanging out the other end to maximize space is nothing but sarcasm.

For the last time, there is not a secret exit from the bathroom. If by some miracle I beat you there and manage to get the door shut, it is not necessary to claw, whine, meow, try to turn the knob or get your paw under the edge and try to pull the door open. I must exit through the same door I entered. Also, I have been using the bathroom for years -- canine or feline attendance is not mandatory.

The proper order is kiss me, then go smell the other dog or cat's butt. I cannot stress this enough!

To pacify you, my dear pets, I have posted the following message on our front door:

All Non-Pet Owners Who Visit & Like to Complain About Our Pets

  1. They live here. You don't.
  2. If you don't want their hair on your clothes, stay off the furniture. (That's why they call it "fur"niture.)
  3. I like my pets a lot better than I like most people.
  4. To you, it's an animal. To me, he/she is an adopted son/daughter who is short, hairy, walks on all fours and doesn't speak clearly.

Dogs and cats are better than kids because they:

  1. Eat less
  2. Don't ask for money all the time
  3. Are easier to train
  4. Usually come when called
  5. Never drive your car
  6. Don't hang out with drug-using friends
  7. Don't smoke or drink
  8. Don't worry about having to buy the latest fashions
  9. Don't wear your clothes
  10. Don't need a gazillion dollars for college, and
  11. If they get pregnant, you can sell their children

Quote-alicious

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Continuing on the tradition from yesterday, here's some more one liners and quotes. This time, they are even formatted for easy insertion into your own fortune file. Many thanks to Quotations of the Day for nearly all of these.

Rita Rudner
I got kicked out of ballet class because I pulled a groin muscle. It
wasn't mine.
%
Barbara Tober
Traditions are group efforts to keep the unexpected from happening.
%
William Shakespeare
I dote on his very absence.
%
Doug Larson
Instead of giving a politician the keys to the city, it might be
better to change the locks.
%
Salvador Dali
There is only one difference between a madman and me. I am not mad.
%
Russell Baker
The goal of all inanimate objects is to resist man and ultimately
defeat him.
%
Abraham Lincoln
When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad, and that is
my religion.
%
Henry Ward Beecher
Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?
%
J. R. R. Tolkien
I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like
less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
%
George Burns
I can remember when the air was clean and sex was dirty.
%
Thomas Jefferson
Advertisements... contain the only truths to be relied on in a
newspaper.
%
Solomon Short
Any great truth can -- and eventually will -- be expressed as a
cliche -- a cliche is a sure and certain way to dilute an idea. For
instance, my grandmother used to say, 'The black cat is always the
last one off the fence.' I have no idea what she meant, but at one
time, it was undoubtedly true.
%
Edward R. Murrow
When the politicians complain that TV turns the proceedings into a
circus, it should be made clear that the circus was already there, and
that TV has merely demonstrated that not all the performers are well
trained.
%
Franklin P. Jones
The trouble with being punctual is that nobody's there to appreciate
it.
%
Daniel Webster
A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many
bad measures.
%
Laurence J. Peter
The incompetent with nothing to do can still make a mess of it.
%
Bill Vaughan
If there is anything the nonconformist hates worse than a conformist,
it's another nonconformist who doesn't conform to the prevailing
standard of nonconformity.
%
Sir Julian Huxley
Operationally, God is beginning to resemble not a ruler but the last
fading smile of a cosmic Cheshire cat.
%
Ronnie Shakes
My doctor gave me two weeks to live. I hope they're in August.
%
Tom Stoppard
We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us,
with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of
smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.
%
Umberto Eco
I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless
enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as
though it had an underlying truth.
%
John Wilmot
Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children;
now I have six children and no theories.
%
New York City detective
I've gone into hundreds of [fortune-teller's parlors], and have been
told thousands of things, but nobody ever told me I was a policewoman
getting ready to arrest her.
%
W. C. Fields
Reminds me of my safari in Africa. Somebody forgot the corkscrew and
for several days we had to live on nothing but food and water.
%
Calvin Trillin
The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years
she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has
never been found.
%
Herman Melville
A man thinks that by mouthing hard words he understands hard things.
%
Ronald Reagan
The government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few
short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate
it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.
%
Galileo Galilei
I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us
with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.
%
Aldous Huxley
Maybe this world is another planet's hell.
%
Pablo Picasso
There is no abstract art. You must always start with
something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.
%
Sir Thomas Beecham
Brass bands are all very well in their place - outdoors and several
miles away.
%
Joey Adams
A psychiatrist is a fellow who asks you a lot of expensive questions
your wife asks for nothing.
%
J. Paul Getty
If you can count your money, you don't have a billion dollars.
%
Sidney J. Harris
Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret
for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.
%
Kurt Herbert Alder
Tradition is what you resort to when you don't have the time or the
money to do it right.
%
Mitch Hedberg
I'm sick of following my dreams. I'm just going to ask them where
they're going and hook up with them later.
%
Friedrich von Schiller
With stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.
%
Hunter S. Thompson
The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long
plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die
like dogs. There's also a negative side.
%
Steven Pearl
I phoned my dad to tell him I had stopped smoking. He called me a
quitter.
%
Bob Edwards
Now I know what a statesman is; he's a dead politician. We need more
statesmen.
%
Paul Beatty
If all the world's a stage, I want to operate the trap door.
%
Jimmy Demaret
Golf and sex are about the only things you can enjoy without being
good at.
%
John J. Plomp
You know that children are growing up when they start asking
questions that have answers.
%
Harper's Index
Estimated amount of glucose used by an adult human brain each day,
expressed in M&Ms: 250
%
Steven Weinberg
With or without religion, you would have good people doing good
things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do
evil things, that takes religion.
%
Nikita Khrushchev
Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge
even where there is no river.
%
Beryl Pfizer
I write down everything I want to remember. That way, instead of
spending a lot of time trying to remember what it is I wrote down, I
spend the time looking for the paper I wrote it down on.
%
Robert X. Cringely
If the automobile had followed the same development cycle as the
computer, a Rolls-Royce would today cost $100, get a million miles per
gallon, and explode once a year, killing everyone inside.
%
Robert E. Lee
It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it.
%
Benjamin Stolberg
An expert is a person who avoids small error as he sweeps on to the
grand fallacy.
%
J. W. Schopf
For four-fifths of our history, our planet was populated by pond
scum.
%
Patrick Young
The trouble with weather forecasting is that it's right too often for
us to ignore it and wrong too often for us to rely on it.
%
Robert W. Sarnoff
Finance is the art of passing money from hand to hand until it
finally disappears.
%
Warren Beatty
You've achieved success in your field when you don't know whether
what you're doing is work or play.
%
George Aiken
If we were to wake up some morning and find that everyone was the
same race, creed and color, we would find some other cause for
prejudice by noon.
%
John Adams
In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man 
is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.
%

Fortunes

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One liners from my fortune today:

1. Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I
may not follow. Do not walk beside me, either. Just leave me the hell alone.
2. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and a leaky
tire. 
3. It's always darkest before dawn. So if you're going to steal the
neighbor's newspaper, that's the time to do it. 
4. Sex is like air; it's not important unless you aren't getting any. 
5. We are born naked, wet, and hungry. Then things get worse. 
6. No one is listening until you make a mistake. 
7. Always remember you're unique, just like everyone else. 
8. Never test the depth of the water with both feet. 
9. It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning
to others. 
10. It is far more impressive when others discover your good qualities
without your help. 
11. If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car
payments. 
12. If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything. 
13. If you lend someone $20, and never see that person again; it was
probably worth it. 
14. Never mess up an apology with an excuse. 
15. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and
he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day. 
16. Some days you are the bug, some days you are the windshield. 
17. Don't worry, it only seems kinky the first time. 
18. If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you. 
19. Good judgment comes from bad experience and a lot of that comes from bad
judgment. 
20. The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it
back in your pocket. 
21. Timing has an awful lot to do with the outcome of a raindance. 
22. A closed mouth gathers no foot. 
23. Duct tape is like the force, it has a light side and a dark side and it
holds the universe together. 
24. Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines. 
25. Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes.
That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their
shoes. 
26. Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it. 
27. Don't be irreplaceable; if you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted.

Talking About Cars

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So we've had the Mazda3 for about a week now, and it's quirks and personality are beginning to jell. Here's what I think so far:

    Cool

  • Giddyup : What a fun little car to drive! Especially when you use the quasi-manual shifting, where you tell it when to up and down shift. Those 160 ponies really move it. The first Explorer we owned had barely more horsepower and weighed probably twice what the Mazda weighs. It's not the fastest car I've owned, by a long shot, but it must have the best "dollars to fun" ratio of all time.
  • Room : there's more room than I thought. With just one of the 60/40 rear seats folded down, it fits my goalie bag and everything.
  • Light show : The dashboard has quite the light show going on. It is bathed in red, and when you adjust the sound system, you get visual effects. It might get tiring after a while, but so far it is cute. Also, the interior lights phase on and off as you get into the car, and there are plenty of lights when you first open the door, for things like the ignition spot.

    Not Cool

  • Speedometer : The speedometer goes to a ridiculous 140mph, leaving very little room for the more useful range from 0-65. As it only goes about 2/3 the way around anyway, there's a scant 2 inches or so left for the legal speeds. I would have stretched it out further around the circle, and only gone to 120 at the most. It's very hard to judge at a glance whether you are going 40 or 50.
  • Seats : I haven't yet found the perfect seating position. There are plenty of adjustments, so the sweet spot must be there somewhere.
  • Color : While it is a nice blue, our previous two cars were blue, so I'm a little bored with it. As I wanted a car in the lot, my color choices were limited, and I wasn't particularly keen on the regular red, but still...
  • Rear windows : The rear windows go all the way down, which isn't really a good thing with two little kids. But the girls fit okay in the back, especially if I have Adrienne behind me, rather than the taller Rhiannon.
  • No cassette player:-( Thus, no books on tape. While you can get books on CD, I only have a in-dash 6 disc player. The minivan has a separate 6 disc changer, and a single CD in dash player, so it is possible to mix music with books and not lose your place. But that can't happen with just the changer.
  • The headlights have a very sharp horizontal cutoff line. It was mentioned in the Consumer Reports review of the Mazda5 as well, so it isn't just me. They light up just fine, but if you are going up or down a hill, it can be hard to see far enough ahead under low beams.

No word yet on the gas mileage. Given the nearly US$3 per gallon cost, I have high hopes! But I suppose if I can get 25-30mpg, I'll be pretty happy, given the short around town trips I usually do.

Dodge Charger 2.2
Dodge Charger 2.2

    Cars I've Owned

  1. '67 Mustang Convertible (blue): Bought by my father for a song, we hoped to get it fixed up. I drove it for a bit, until we tried to get it inspected and found that the frame itself was pretty much rotted through. We had fun using it in the fields after that, anyway.
  2. Toyota Corolla (blue): Picked this up pretty cheap and it was barely worth that. My dad tried to warn me off it, noticing the excessive dark smoke coming from the tailpipe, but I was too entranced with the fancy metallic blue paint job and the top end car stereo. By the end of the summer, I was pouring 50 weight oil into it every week.
  3. Plymouth Fury III (blue): One of the few cars I ever made money on. Bought it for US$300 in the spring and sold it for US$600 before heading off for college. Huge car - I could stretch out in the back seat. Had a nice little 308 V8 that ran like a charm, got 25mpg and was the perfect summer car.
  4. 3/4 ton Chevy pickup truck (blue): Pretty new pickup truck. Once I banged up the side, it became the perfect car for driving into Boston. Nothing scarier than a 20 year old at the wheel of a big, heavily dented, pickup truck barreling into a rotary!
  5. Dodge Charger 2.2 (red): My first new car, an early part of the Chrysler/Dodge recovery. I always said it was one of the best engineered and worst manufactured cars I owed. The engine, when it was running right, was beaut and it handled well. But I started having problems with it at 250 miles and it never stopped being a lemon.
  6. Mazda GLC (tornado silver): Finally got rid of the Charger by trading it in on the GLC. A Great Little Car indeed, with good gas mileage, sharp metallic silver/gray paint job and just a solid car all around. A refreshing change from the trouble-prone Charger.
  7. Mitsubishi Starion (white): turbocharged heaven. An absolute blast to drive - tight handling and incredibly fast. It didn't last long enough to give me the kinds of trouble my friend had with his, as I slammed it into a guardrail and totaled it with, luckily, no lasting physical damage to any of the occupants. The oddest thing about the accident was just after it happened, on a winding country road, some neighbors ran out to see what happened. First thing they asked me was if I was drinking. When I said no, they yelled over to call the police! How considerate. I think.
  8. Due to getting screwed by the insurance company, I owned a couple of junkers for a couple of years, getting by mostly on my Honda CB900F motorcycle.
  9. Mitsubishi Montero (red): Probably the car that elicited the most comments. An early SUV, boxy and fun to drive. I used to cruise around looking for people to help out on snowy roads. People would be walking by it in a crosswalk and would stop and ask us about it. Not sure why it was so interesting.
  10. Suzuki Sprint (blue): The most economical car I ever owned, by far. Paid less that US$5,000 for it, and it got nearly 50 mpg. The 1 liter, 3(!) cylinder engine was barely bigger, with one less cylinder, than my CB900F! I drove it into the ground, until I was rear-ended on Rte. 128 by an out of control Explorer (ironic, given our future car purchases). I actually drove home after it, albeit with a broken seat back, while the Explorer had to be towed.
  11. Acura Integra GSR (green): I'd have to say this was the best car I've owned so far. A beautiful metallic green, with the most horsepower of any non-turbocharged 4 cylinder engine. A silky smooth 6 gear manual shift mated with an engine the red-lined at over 10,000 rpm made for one heck of a fun driving experience. It also made for a very good car to teach Gabrielle how to drive a stick, as you could do 0-60 in pretty much any gear. An absolute blast to drive.
  12. Ford Explorer (green): But we needed more room, so we picked up an Explorer. Our big Labrador just wouldn't fit in the back of the slim hatch of the GSR, and Gabrielle's Chevy Blazer was dying a slow, ugly death. The Explorer is a great car to have with a dog. Plenty of room, flat folding rear seats, and Homer just loved to sit up between us.
  13. Ford Explorer (blue): Yup, for awhile there we were a two Explorer family. I was resisting the move to a minivan and, after checking out all the cars at the local auto show, found that the Explorer was still the only one offering things like flat folding seats, opening rear window, etc. And Ford made some nice improvements - full time all wheel drive, better gas mileage, as well as beefing up the horsepower (my main complaint with our first Explorer). A very nice car.
  14. Honda Odyssey (blue): Finally broke down and got a minivan and we don't regret it for a moment. Much easier getting kids in and out of the car, cavernous storage area with the fold flat third seat and just a better family car all around. We've been very happy with this car. Good power. My biggest complaint has been the poor gas mileage; less than 20 mpg. Very reliable as well. I only wish the power points would work with the key off.
  15. Mazda3 (blue): Hmmm, no wonder I'm a little bored with blue! My first four cars were blue and the last three cars have been blue.
coke_blak.jpg

So I got a note a couple of weeks ago from a reader of this blog (yup, there are a couple - hi Peggy!), who asked if I had checked out the new Coca-Cola product, Coca-Cola Blak yet. Funny she should mention it, as I had just noticed it on my local grocer's shelf. My main question then was how to pronounce it. See, there's that little bar over the A, indicating a long 'a' sound, but maybe it's just a fancy typographic thing.

The package itself gives you very little to go on, calling it merely a "Carbonated Fusion Beverage". The list of ingredients gives a little bit more of a hint of what it might taste like, listing the usual Coca-Cola stuff, plus coffee extract and aspartame. Not sure why they felt the need to add both high fructose corn syrup and aspartame; maybe some people crave the icky aftertaste of aspartame? Not me. So I guess this "fusion" is between a Coke and a coffee-flavored drink.

I'm surprised that I haven't seen any ads for it. I suppose I should count my blessings; given the colossal Coke ad budget, I'm probably going to get inundated with the ads. My last attempt at a new beverage was some strange clear brew from Pepsi, and it had to be the most horrid thing I had ever pass over my tongue. So I wasn't counting on much, but I thought what the heck.

First I tried it by itself. It comes in a package of 4 tiny (8oz) glass(!) bottles, looking a little like the old fashioned Coke bottles. And it both tastes and smells like the ingredient list had warned - slightly Coke flavored, laced with coffee, with an artificial sweetener chaser. Not particularly wonderful, especially given the US$1.50 per bottle cost.

But Peggy said it really came into its own when paired with Kahlua, so I suckered Michael into trying a Kahlua and Blak for our first cocktail Wednesday evening. Kahlua and Coke is a not unheard of drink, although I'm not a huge Kahlua fan and thus it had so far escaped my table. But Kahlua and Blak worked out okay, I guess. The Kahlua was strong enough to pretty much overcome the aspartame aftertaste, and it really brought out the coffee flavoring. It also seems like Blak is a tad more fizzy than Classic Coke. So the drink was good enough to finish but not, I don't think, worth spending that kind of money on a "fusion beverage".

Our second cocktail was another variation on a rum and coke, the previously mentioned First The Money. But this time I tried a slight twist to this recipe, by using Tattoo, the spiced dark rum from Captain Morgan. I really like this in a straight R&C, but I think it really screwed this drink up. The dark spiced rum didn't work very well with the creme de menthe. And I still need to find the particular brand of coffee liqueur the book calls for, but I haven't yet found a purveyor of Toussaint's.

Then we went on to have a hard, long session at Serious Sam 2. We finished one level and came remarkably close to finishing a second, tough level. In typical Serious Sam fashion, the first time we played the level, we did very well, only falling short at the lava jumping puzzle. And then we proceeded to over-think the level, and struggled for about an hour. But then we got better and came within a whisker of finishing it, we think. Sometimes it can be hard to tell in Serious Sam if it is done throwing massive numbers of enemies at you, as wave after wave of impossible odds sweep down on you. But I'm pretty sure we were ooooooh so very close, but we never did pull it off. With any luck, another common Serious Sam happenstance will occur, whereby the first time back at a hard level, we finish it.

As it was (relatively) late, there was no time for any video watching. Michael lucked out, as I had forgotten to return the Nowhere Man DVD, so I was going to make him watch the last episode on this DVD. But I finally dropped it in the mail Friday, so we're done with that series. We'll go back to the Sopranos, then maybe watch Lost. Micheal likes that show, and I've been meaning to watch it once it came on DVD. I like to watch TV shows on my schedule, without reruns, thank you very much!

LivingInOblivionV5.jpg

I was listening to my Rhapsody radio station one day and heard a song I really liked. I think it was probably the Alternative History station, which plays new wave from the 80s, which I just can't resist. I'm not sure now even what song it was, but one thing lead to another and I discovered the existence of a series of CDs called Living in Oblivion, The 80's Greatest Hits volumes 1 through 5. They concentrate on alternative bands and songs and I found them quite fascinating. Then I saw that volume five even had one of my all time favorite songs, I Wanna Be A Cowboy by the immortal Boys Don't Cry, of course. And then I was hooked and had to get them.

Problem is, they are out of print, so I went searching. I found several of them on eBay, but they were going for too much money - US$20 or more each. A quick check on Half.com struck gold - someone was selling three of them (including the desired volume five) for only US$4 each! So I got all three shipped to me for less than US$20! Excellent!

So I've been listening to them over the past week. The selection is pretty hit or miss. Many of the songs are forgettable electronica like Perfect Way by Scritti Politti and others I barely remember. But on each of them there are three or four great songs, so thanks to the wonders of ripping, I should be able to create my own Living In Oblivion volume six. Here's what I'll put on it:

    Volume 3

  • Bananarama - "Cruel Summer" : According to Rhapsody, the "most successful British female act of all time". I wonder if that includes the Spice Girls?
  • The Dream Academy - "Life In A Northern Town" : A fun little epic song, hearkening back to 60s psychedelia. I can picture the video even today.
  • Timbuk 3 - "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades" : What a fun tune! Listen to this once and the song rattles around your brain all day. In fact, I'll bet just reading this is going to infect your brain right now!
  • Pole Cats - "Make A Circuit With Me" : Another incredibly infectious ditty, even faster and bouncier than Timbuk 3's song. A perfect song for cranking up loud and driving through a summer's night.
  • Stray Cats - "Rock This Town" : The three man band that popularized the swing craze. Brian Setzer went out to form his own swing orchestra. I love swing music, and so do the girls.
  • Talk Talk - "It's My Life" : I recently wrote about Talk Talk, and here they are again, this time with their one big "hit". I have this on the original CD too, somewhere.

    Volume 4

  • Wang Chung - "Dance Hall Days" : The archetypal "alternative dance hit". A pretty solid CD, really, and their scoring of the Friedkin To Live And Die In LA is brilliant.
  • Dexy's Midnight Runners - "Come On Eileen" : If you're gonna have an 80s hits CD, you have to have this song on it, right?
  • Tones On Tail - "Go" : I liked the follow up band Love And Rockets better, but this is a pretty good song.
  • Wall of Voodoo - "Mexican Radio" : Another all time favorite. I have the EP (vinyl!) with a nice long version of this song on it.

There's also an off beat song by The Motels (who I really like) and some other true 80s hits that I'm not crazy about ("True" by Spandau Ballet and anything by The Fixx).

    Volume 5

  • Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - "Enola Gay" : OMD was one of my favorite groups through the 80s and this is one of their most popular songs. I'm always glad to add another OMD song to my collection.
  • China Crisis - "King In A Catholic Style (Wake Up)" : A real pleasant surprise! I have several of their albums and never expected to see a song by them on an 80s collection, but this is a very typical jumpy song. We went and saw Simple Minds, oh so many years ago, and China Crisis opened for them. I came away from the concert much more impressed by China Crisis, as my collection can attest - three China Crisis CDs to zero Simple Minds CDs.
  • The Fun Boy Three - "Our Lips Are Sealed" : A very different version of the Go-Gos hit, as it was co-written by one of the FB3 members and Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Gos. A much slower, darker version of the song. What a blast from the past this one was!
  • Rubber Rodeo - "Souvenir" : A local group gone national, Rubber Rodeo was a quiet fav of mine during the 80s. I still have both their albums on vinyl. I wonder if either ever made it to CD? I need to take the time and turn some of my vinyl into CDs, especially ones like Rubber Rodeo's "Scenic Views" and, even more importantly, Private Lightning's only album, which I know isn't on CD.
  • Divinyls - "Pleasure And Pain" : Another spectacular Aussie band, the Divinyls rock big time on this hit song.
  • The Icicle Works - "Birds Fly (Whisper To A Scream)" : You'll recognize this song from the "whisper to a scream" part - not sure I even knew this was actually called "Birds Fly"!
  • Boy's Don't Cry - "I Wanna Be A Cowboy" : A song I remember fondly from my alternative radio days during the 80s, but that I never owned. This was the song that pushed these CDs into must have territory, I have to admit. A true one hit wonder, but man, what a fun song.

So number five is the best one, but they are all fun slices of 80s alternative hits. They also come with some great liner notes, written with a cynical voice, a paragraph or so for each song. Like I said, many of them are forgettable stuff, but there's just enough great songs to make me want to go grab volumes one and two.

April Reading List

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I'm having some trouble finishing fiction books these days. I have been doing pretty well on the non-fiction, but not so well on the fiction. Looking back on it, three of the books I finished were on baseball - must be Opening Day still in the air! Still adding about as fast as I can subtract, though.

    Update from last month

  • The Long Season by Jim Brosnan. Wow, what a fun book! It was a fascinating insight into the life of a major league ballplayers, especially a pitcher. And my guess, life still hasn't changed all that much for the overgrown adolescents since it was written nearly 40 years ago. Still playing juvenile games in the bullpen, ragging on each other about salaries, calling guys who actually read books "Professor", etc. Definite thumbs up!
  • The Last Best League by Jim Collins. A very good book on the Cape Cod League, which is a summer amateur baseball league down on the Cape. Notable for being one of the few amateur leagues that still use wooden bats (only the pros don't use metal bats), so it gives scouts a good feel for how both hitters and pitchers will fare in the pros. It must be so hard to adjust to "real life", being a sports star in high school, if you just aren't good enough (or healthy enough) to move on. Lucky for me, I was good enough to play a few sports in high school, but never good enough to have any illusions of going anywhere with my "talent". Very well written indeed.
  • Cypress Grove by James Sallis. Another winner by the author of Drive which I had read earlier. In fact, I think I liked this one even better. The story of an ex-cop, ex-con who is living a life of seclusion in the south, and who gets drawn into a murder mystery. Very interesting characters and some real sharp writing. My only complaint is the presentation is identical to Drive, with interwoven chapters alternating between the present and retelling his past. Felt a little overused by now even.
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Tony Massarotti and John Harper. Not bad, but I'm still looking for the perfect 2004 storybook retelling. Like pretty much all the other books on the season written by sportswriters, it dwells far too much on the personalities, and press relationships for my liking. Don't care, exactly, who treats the sportswriters with respect and who doesn't. Don't care, really, who is a "nice" guy and who isn't. But it was fun reading the NY/Boston interplay between the writers.
  • I started but didn't finish:
    • Captain Alatriste by Arturo Pérez-Reverte - just never clicked with this historical novel of mideval Spain.
    • Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott - this historical novel set in 1800s India looked real good, but I just never found the time for it. I will get back to it, though.
    • Why Black People Tend To Shout : Cold Facts And Wry Views From A Black Man's World by Ralph Wiley. Race relations are not my strong suit. Nor are books of collected columns.
    • 1776 by David McCullough. I wanted to finish this fascinating book of a pivotal year in US history, but our new car doesn't have a tape player, so now I don't know what I'm going to do for books on tape!

    Currently Reading

  • The Tyranny of the Night by Glen Cook. The first book in a new fantasy series called Instrumentalities of the Night, by the author of the Black Company series of fantasy books. I really like the first 1.5 books of the Black Company series, and have been meaning to restart it, as I have the sci-fi book club edition that comes with the first three. He's an interesting writer, in that he doesn't seem to explain much straight off, not even what the narrator knows. It is sort of assumed you know what is going on, and it gradually begins to make more sense as the pieces fall into place. An interesting way of writing, but one that requires more concentration than I am usually capable of, given my 30 minute reading chunks. But it is a rewarding effort, so I want to try again. So I thought I'd try this new one by him when I saw it on the new books shelf of the library. So far, very reminiscent of his prior style of writing. Through the first chapter, a very intricate portrayal of a world in upheaval, both spiritually and physically, and I'm not really clear on what is happening.

    In the Queue

  • Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestier. A fantasy book highly recommended by sci-fi author John Scalzi over at Whatever. I read too many sci-fi/fantasy blogs, or blogs by folks who like sci-fi and fantasy, and keep trying out these kinds of books, although they don't tend to be my cup o' java. But I'm always game to try another. Oh, and Scalzi even pointed out a lukewarm review of his Old Man's War, which actually mirrors my feelings about the book exactly. You can read it here. To be honest, that same ssite also has a pretty warm review of it here!
  • Dreaming the bull by Manda Scott. The other thing I keep picking up is historical novels. This series is on Boudicca, the warrior queen of England who fought the Roman armies to a standstill for two years in AD 61. I think there are four books currently in the series, and I saw the latest on the new book shelf at the library. So after checking it out, I notice the library also happened to have the first three, so I grabbed this first one to check it out.

And I really have to get back to my Lifetime Reading Plan and read some more classics. There's nothing quite like a book having stood the test of time - the writing is usually stupendous and the ideas mind blowing. Maybe DH Lawrence or even get back to my Arabian Nights.

More Gaming

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Modern Art cover

I got in some more gaming last night. I went up to my friend Marta's house and Mark, Marta, Dave and I played some games. The fact that I got to drive the new Mazda didn't hurt! It was a very nice ride up to New Hampshire, and there's a winding, twisty road to get across from Rte. 93 that is quite fun to drive. It actually has been my downfall in the past - I totaled my Mitsubishi Starion driving along there one night:-( But they have since fixed my troublesome corner and I had a very enjoyable ride on a very warm spring evening. The only way to make it better would have been to be riding a motorcycle.

We played two games of Modern Art, and one game each of Victory & Honor and Katzenjammer Blues. Only the last one had been played before.

Modern Art is a true gaming classic in every sense of the word. #19 on the Boardgamegeek Rankings, it is a game of auctions. Each painting has a different kind of auction - blind, once around, open, etc. The more paintings sold by a particular painter, the more each is likely to be worth at the end of the "season". After four "seasons", the player with the most money wins. A very "pure" game, with only the card draw involving luck, and even then you have plenty of choices so no draw is a bad one. I really enjoyed playing this, as I haven't played it in quite some time. I won the first game, and came in a close second in the second one.

Victory & Honor is a trick taking game, albeit with very convoluted mechanics. You end up with three cards on your battleboard, and each card you play points to who plays next. There's a few special cards and in the end, you are trying to take cards. "Regiment" cards are worth the number of "general" cards of the same suit you end up capturing, so if you don't capture a matching general card, the regiment cards are worthless. We only played one of the four rounds, as it was getting late and seemed to be a little too complicated for the hour. I've had this game for awhile but haven't had a chance to play it, as you need exactly four players. But it seems worth trying again, even though we misplayed at least one important rule - "sacrificed" (or face down) cards don't count as being captured at all.

Finally we ended the evening with one game of Katzenjammer Blues, the second Reiner Knizia game of the night (Modern Art was the first). A pretty straight forward card game, where you are bidding for a set of one or more face up cards. The twist is that you use your cards to bid for other cards, and you also need to use your cards to "meld" four of a kind in order to get victory points. So you're bidding with what you need to use to win, which is a great mechanic. I ended up pulling this one out at the end, as the player with the most "mice" tokens also had played the most jokers, which means he had to lose 5 tokens, giving me the last minute victory.

A good time was had by all, although I didn't quite realize the time - I didn't get home until 3am. And then Adrienne needed a bathroom break at 3:30am. And Rhiannon needed one at 4:00am (I think they were very wound up, awaiting the Easter Bunny visit). And then Rhiannon told me that Spenser needed one, at 4:30am (Spenser hasn't been feeling all that well). And then everyone was up and tearing at the Easter "baskets" (actually suitcases this year!) at 7am. So sleep deprivation was in order.

Winterpills

These are some songs that I've heard from various sources and wish I actually owned them. Most of them I've heard via the Comcast Rhapsody player, so I can play selected songs 25 times a month. I hear them at first listening to the various "radio" stations, like Downtempo, Ambient and Indie Rock. Too cheap to spring for the "Premier" version, where I could play them as much as I wanted. Hopefully, I'll get around to buying the CD they are on, if at all possible!

Still getting used to my new MP3 player. I have to find some tool that will shrink my 256kb MP3s down to something like a 128 or even smaller, as I think the quality is lost via my $10 headphones anyway, and I could get a few more songs on it. I'm still awaiting my 512mb SD card for it. I picked one up from CompUSA for US$9.99, but it wasn't in stock, so I got a raincheck. Here it is, about two weeks later, and still no word. Sigh...

  • Winterpills - "Laughing" (Winterpills [2005]) : A song I've been listening to over and over, via the Utne Media Player, and it's really great. UMP is a multimedia presentation from Utne magazine, which is an "alternative" magazine that I like quite a bit, and they review lots of offbeat bands and this offers a sampler of the songs from the reviews. Winterpills plays a sort of jangly folk rock (think Innocence Mission or Nick Drake) and hail from Northampton MA, so now here's another quasi-local group I'll have to keep an eye out for. This song has some great guitar rhythms.
  • Hurdy Gurdy - "Tok Jons" (Prototyp [2005]) : Another UMP song, this one is pretty wild. It is a Swedish duo who are playing nothing but hurdy gurdy machines! You know, those cranked fiddles, often pictured with dancing monkeys. Too weird, but this song is really neat. Sounds vaguely like an electronica score or something, with a touch of bagpipes.
  • The National - "Karen" (Alligator [2006]) : Nice, relentless drums and base guitar song, with some startingly explicit lyrics:
    Karen, I'm not taking sides
    I don't think I'll ever do that again
    I'll end up winning and I won't know why
    I'm really trying to shine here, I'm really trying
    You're changing clothes and closing windows on me all the time

    Well, whatever you do
    Listen, you better wait for me
    No, I wouldn't go out alone into America
    Whatever you do
    Listen, you better wait for me
    No, I wouldn't go out alone
  • Uncle Kracker - "Drift Away" (No Stranger To Shame [2002]) : Uncle Kracker does a bang up job with one of my all time favorite pop songs. And yes, Dobie Gray does pitch in and help out.
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - "Shuffle Your Feet" (Howl [2005]) : stompin' sing along song here. One music site compared them to Winterpills, so I guess I'm not surprised I like this song.
  • Beck - "Nobody's Fault But My Own" (Mutations [1998]) : Never really was much of a indie rock idol Beck fan, but this song is pretty good. Nice sitar work, and I love the chorus.
  • Tegan and Sara - "Speak Slow" (So Jealous [2004]) : A very cute punk folk(!) Canadian sister duo, with high, almost squeaky voices. This song really rocks.
  • Air - Talkie WalkieTindersticks - "My Sister" (Tindersticks (2nd) [1995]) : Interesting, quiet, spoken word "song", sort of like Leonard Cohen, with a little bit more music. An 8+ minute story.
  • Mazzy Star - "I've Been Let Down" (Among My Swan [1996]) : Sort of country/folk song, very nice guitar strumming and the female lead singer has a wonderful voice.
  • Air - "Alone in Kyoto" (Talkie Walkie [2004]) : I really enjoy Air, a French duo. Not danceable electronica, exactly, but ethereal synths combined with female vocals made for a pretty good debut CD, Moon Safari, which I have. This song is from their latest album and continues the electronica/trance/ambient pop music. It was originally a piece used in the movie Lost In Translation.

New Car!

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Mazda3 side

W00t! We got a new car yesterday. I've been agitating for a new car for a couple of years now, maybe even ever since we got the Honda Odyssey minivan, which made our Ford Explorer not quite as necessary, given the minivan's utility. And with the gradually decreasing reliability of the Explorer, I was looking to downsize.

The Explorer has a lot of good things going for it, despite the bad rap put on it by SUV-haters. In fact, Dora the Explorer was our second straight Explorer. It's main attraction is that it is an excellent dog car. The back seats fold down flat, allowing the dog to be in the back, but sitting up between the front seats. Our previous dog, Homer, just loved to travel this way. Spenser isn't quite so keen on traveling.

It also had a number of other features which are remarkably lacking in many other cars, besides the easy to fold flat back seats. The back window opened separately from the gate, which is a nice little feature you only notice if you don't have it. My brother-in-law poo-pooed this feature, but he grew to miss it in his Jeep Cherokee. This new one finally had some "oomph", which was sorely missed in our first one. With AWD, and switchable 4 wheel drive, it was very useful in our New England winters, and yet it still got nearly 20 mpg, or about what we get in our much less maligned minivan.

But, at six years old and 57,000+ miles, it had gotten to that point where the repairs were beginning to cost as much as paying for a new car. It had been paid off for three years, so it had more than paid for itself. My guardrail accident in the winter was almost the last straw. I shopped it around, all dinged up, and almost pulled the trigger on a Ford Focus. But in the end, my wife convinced me that we didn't need another payment, and I felt the Focus was too small, so we bit the bullet and got it fixed up.

And Fantasia did a fantastic job on it. It came back looking much better than it had before the accident, as they also fixed a previously dinged up rear bumper. It was clean, polished and felt like a new car. So I was very happy. For about a month...

Then, this past weekend, all of a sudden the brakes went on it. You know the sound of metal on metal, as dollar signs fly out from your wheels? That's what was going on here - boom! So I'm thinking it might even be the huge caliper problem I had with it at about 35,000 miles, where the calipers froze and it was a nearly US$2000 job. And then, while it was sitting in the driveway as the minivan was in the body shop (a story for another day), I began to notice small puddles of oil showing up too. That was the last straw.

Mazda3 Front

So even Gabrielle's resistance began to fade. Not disappear, mind you, but ease a little bit. And it was a good fear, too, because a car that is paid for can carry a lot of problems before it outweighs the heavy cost of even a cheap new car. But the idea of putting in US$1000 or more on the Explorer right now was just so off-putting, I started to look in earnest before I took it in for the next round of repairs. And I had been enamored with the Mazda3 ever since it first came out - good looking, gas efficient and a blast to drive, all for under US$20,000.

So I went up to 128 Mazda and said if you give me US$5,000 for my Explorer, I'll buy a Mazda3. As the NADA was around $6,000 or so, they jumped at the chance. They even gave me the car yesterday afternoon, while they looked at the Explorer. My guess, they never even bother to look, figuring $5,000 for the Explorer was a bargain, while I was figuring $5,000 was a steal. Good deal all around! So we closed out the deal last night, and now I get to spend today running around dotting the I's and crossing the T's. But at least I'll be doing it in a new car!

Still finding recipes where I can use my fancy Curaçao of Curaçao blue curaçao. It is usually pretty easy to find them - flip through the book and find a blue cocktail, or look up in the back under "Blue...".

    Blue Monday

  • 1 oz tequila (nothing fancy here, just Jose Cuervo)
  • 1 oz Drambuie
  • 1 oz blue curaçao
  • 3 oz lemonade

Shake the liquors over cracked ice, then strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with lemonade.

A disappointing effort. Plenty of different tastes, but nothing really worked together and it ended up tasting mostly like a weak lemonade, oddly enough. Can't say as we'll revisit this one.

    Whiskey Sour

  • 1.5 oz Scotch whiskey (we used Jack Daniels, actually)
  • 1 oz lemon juice (almost done with my frozen Meyer lemon juice:-()
  • .5 oz sugar syrup

Shake together over cracked ice. Pour into a tumbler with ice.

Whiskey SOur

This is one of those "classic" drinks with a million different recipes. My little black book, with a gazillion recipes made for the bar, has it simply 1 oz whiskey with sour mix - yech! Michael has a recipe with both lemons and limes. Even what glass to serve it in is controversial, from tumbler to chilled cocktail glass! This particular recipe worked okay, but I can't say as I was wild about it. I guess just not being wild about whiskey in general would explain a lot of that!

We did do a taste test on a couple of whiskeys I have here. Forced to pick a whiskey, I would go with Dewars White Label. That's what I use in my Rusty Nails, and it makes a great one. So we tasted it "neat", side by side with the Jack Daniels. The Dewars was definitely "smoother", but the JD would stand up better in a mixed drink, like the Sour.

Michael was going to make one for his girlfriend, who isn't much of a drinker. I told him they should watch Days of Wine and Roses before embarking down that trail! In the movie, executive Jack Lemon introduces secretary Lee Remick to booze via a Brandy Alexander. Things eventually turn into an alcoholic haze for them both, and only Lemon finally, and barely, pulls out of it. A dark tale of drink, but an excellent movie.

Jack Lemon: You remember how it really was? You and me and booze - a threesome. You and I were a couple of drunks on the sea of booze, and the boat sank. I got hold of something that kept me from going under, and I'm not going to let go of it. Not for you. Not for anyone. If you want to grab on, grab on. But there's just room for you and me - no threesome.

Then we finally got through the level we were playing on Serious Sam 2. It was a tough one, and Michael is a tough game master. He made us do it, and do it, and do it again until we got through it with only 2 lives, at the hardest level. We quit for the night after making it to the next level and watched another episode if Nowhere Man. Sorry to say, but it seems to be going nowhere for us. I'm not sure we'll even try another episode. This one had an interesting twist, where he was kidnapped to a city hidden away, populated by other "Disenfranchised" people like himself. But there was a dark secret that he uncovered. Weird, and ultimately unsatisfying.

More Getting Things Done

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I was pointed to a new posting on LifeHacker.com, called List your life in .txt (hat tip to Michael!). It is an interesting article on how to have a straight text file be your ToDo project file. In this case, it is an even simpler way than PyGTD that I talk about here. You type in a line (using a simple markup scheme) and use grep to search it and sort to sort it, via the command line and pipes (once again, thank Zeus for Cygwin).

It's an interesting idea, and I could definitely do this if I wanted to, as I live at the command line (bash, via Cygwin for Windows), but it still suffers from requiring a weird, messy markup, albeit a simpler one than PyGTD. It also requires some manual work to move around and remove tasks that might make it harder than necessary to work with. I still think I can get PyGTD to work if I can ever find the time to tweak the program and streamline the markup.

That page also led me to a couple of other interesting pages extolling the virtues of plain text files, and of using text editors. I liked the 43Folders wiki page on Plain Text. It delineates many of the exact reasons I want to use a plain text file - ease of use, portability, flexibility, etc. But there are no "cons" listed on this page - it ain't perfect by any means!

I also read the Word Processors: Stupid and Inefficient article linked to at the bottom. I can't say as I agree with all of what Cottrell is saying, although I agree with his main thesis, whereby the creative process of writing should be separated from the typesetting of it. I don't think that the wildly ugly TeX markup, smack dab in the middle of my text files, is the correct approach either, though! While there is some small benefit to marking text as "Header" as opposed to thinking "I should bold this and make it 24 points", it still makes the writer deal with the presentation aspect of the writing, pulling me out of working on the important stuff, which is the content. And it has the added drawback of mucking with my content in a very obvious way, while the word processor at least hides the mark up when I want to look at just the content, ignoring the layout.

All of this talk about text-based GTD is getting me fired up to jump back into the fray. It obviously isn't going to happen without a little elbow grease, no matter how much I whine and complain!

Playing Games

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So last night was game night at my friend David's house. He's been hosting a game night since we both worked at Interleaf oh so many years ago (in the early 90s, which is like 15 years ago - zoiks!). We play what is often called "Euros", which are games that are generally short (about an hour), with clever mechanisms that require some serious thought. Back then, they were almost exclusively imported from Europe, hence the name, as the American game industry was (and, for the most part, still is) mired in a land of Monopoly clones and brainless kid games. They usually have great components and are often multiplayer games.

I used to go every week, but I don't make it nearly as often as I'd like these days. I'm not even sure I can completely blame having kids, either. Working from home, it can be hard to motivate yourself to head out in the early evening to go somewhere. After I first left Interleaf and started working from home, I used to meet Gabrielle on her way home from work for sushi, and then continue on to David's. Now, there isn't even that encouragement to drag me from my chair. But if we get the girls to bed at approximately the regularly scheduled time (around 7:30pm), I try to head on over.

Last night, I was supposed to be there at the regular starting time, which is 7pm, as there was a poker tournament being played, in honor of another long time player who is leaving for Florida. Nothing too big, mind you - $1 buy in, Texas Hold'em (of course). But I once again completely forgot about it, until I was tucking Rhiannon in and it struck me I was supposed to be somewhere. Once again, my complete lack of organization strikes. It is terrible when the top item on your "Getting Things Done" list is to set up a system to "Get Things Done" and even that never "Gets Done" - sigh. I still haven't made any progress on setting up any kind of system that I talked about earlier. I have to find the time!

Anyway, I did finally make it over there around 8pm and thankfully they had kept me in the game with the "blinds". So my chip stack was down quite a bit, and I never really was involved in any hands. I did bet in one hand, but bailed out when the second ace turned up. Good thing, as another players had both other aces! I was soon out of that game, and so I went to find something else to play. It was a pretty big group, as befits a night in honor of a very nice "regular", so I had high hopes of getting into something fun. When you finish up a game, you ask around to see what else you might be able to set up. David has a very large collection of games, and with this hard core game playing group, there's often other games brought in. So you ask around and try and get another one set up and playing.

High Society game

Paul and I tried to get a game of Formula De up and running. Greg, the guy leaving, is a big fan of the game, but it isn't really that big a favorite among the hard core players, relying as it does on lots of dice rolling, even if they are cool dice (each gear uses a bigger die, from 4 to a 30 sided die). We twisted a few arms, but Greg was still in the poker tournament, so we gave up trying to get that one going. I have a copy of it, and I like it well enough, but se la vive.

So we moved on. There were three of us ready to play, which is generally a tough number to find a good match. So we ended up playing High Society, one of my all time favorite games. Two more players joined in once we started playing (it's always easy to get new High Society players), so a chaotic game with maximum five players ensued. One was a newcomer to the game, which is usually the death knell for that player, as the "gotcha" for the victory conditions (most points wins) is that whichever player (or players) spend the most money immediately lose. So new players tend to bid too much too soon and it is a battle for first place after that, and that's how it played out last night. I tied with Mark at 10 points, but he had a few more dollars at the end, so he was the official winner. It could be the first time I've ever played and had a tie in points.

We then started a game of Vegas Showdown, a new game from the new Avalon Hill company. Once a bastion of the hardcore "wargamer", it was bought by Wizards of the Coast and morphed into an American "Euro" company. In this game, you buy tiles to build your own hotel/casino complex, and try to get the most "fame" points. I found it interesting, but I never did figure out any sort of strategy to try. And it was also lacking something I find to be vitally important for a game to reach the high end on my scale - hidden information. Like other very popular Euros that don't grab me (Puerto Rico and Settlers of Catan immediately come to mind), everything is pretty much out there for all players to examine and consider (and to chime in with the "perfect" strategy:-). I really enjoy games with some pieces of hidden information. High Society keeps the amount you have left a secret. While you could conceivably keep track of all spent monies, it generally isn't done and plays great for it. Despite this, Vegas Showdown was fun enough, even though I came in a distant fifth out of five. I'd give it another try if it shows up on the table again.

I'll be sorry to see Greg move on, though. He was a good person to have around at game night - a solid, competitive game player, but one who didn't take it too seriously. He will be sorely missed, and I'm glad to have donated (well, I will donate!) to his going away present, a nice crokinole board. It is, I believe, the first ever Tuesday Game Night going away present, which should give you some idea of the esteem we all hold for Greg. May he survive the Gainseville gators!

Word Of The Day - transgressive

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The word for today is : transgressive. I was skimming an article on the new ICA and they described a new exhibition as "balancing high-end beauty with more lowbrow and transgressive work." I had no idea what that meant, so I looked it up. It means

Exceeding a limit or boundary, especially of social acceptability.

So I guess that is a good thing, for a "contemporary" art exhibit to be transgressive, don't you?

Friday Random 10

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More Friday Random Ten

I got my Spider CD in the mail last week, and I'm still bumming that I missed her at The Lily Pad. So let's start with a Spider song:

  • Spider - "Midnight on the Nile" (This Way To Bitter Lake [2005]) : Another great folk song from this CD. She's got a nice, soft voice and the lyrics are clever and touching, with just enough other instrumentation besides guitar to really put it over the top.
  • The Beatles - "When I'm Sixty Four" (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band [1967]) : As one of the most beloved albums in rock history, obviously there's plenty to like here. The boys have finally branched out from singing Silly Little Love Songs of various kinds and start singing about life. This bouncy tune is a favorite, although I find it hard to shake the image of the bouncing baby from the Garp movie.
  • Kate Bush - "Cloudbusting" (Hounds of Love [1985]) : Her US breakthrough album, with a few hits and an amazing video of this song starring Donald Southerland. I was already a big fan by the time this CD came out, thanks to a couple of krazy Kate fans where I worked at the time.
  • The Jam - "That's Entertainment" (Compact Snap [1983]) : Kings of the UK 3 minute pop/punk song (think Replacements with a British accent), The Jam were wildly popular over there, but barely made a dent here. This is one of the CDs where I've almost never listened to the whole thing, concentrating on my two favorite Jam songs, this one and "A Town Called Malice". Compact Snap! is an early compilation of "hit" songs, so I suppose I should take a listen to the rest of this CD some day.
  • Christopher Hogwood; Academy of Ancient Music - "Vivaldi's Four Seasons" (Antonio Vivaldi 12 concerts, Op. 8 [1983]) : I've always felt like a bit of a classical music dilettante when I say that Four Seasons is my favorite piece of classical music. I get the feeling it is too "popular" to be "serious", but this is really good. The Academy of Ancient Music plays on "contemporary" instruments and this CD sounds great. Hogwood was musical director for the local Handel and Haydn society, although I don't believe he is that active any more. And I've yet to go see a performance. Some day soon, thing to do #235,583,550... Hard not to conduct while this is playing!
  • Love and Rockets - "Haunted When The Minutes Drag" (Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven [1985]) : My first introduction to the Bauhaus/Tones On Tail artists, I can still remember how exciting this CD was when it came out. Really different sound for me and I loved every track. This is a particularly epic song, clocking in at over 8 minutes, but a really great one even still. I also did try some of the earlier groups, but this CD pretty much was the peak, as even later efforts by L&R paled in comparison for me.
  • Karacter - Guesthouse (MP3 from On The Download). As they mention in their article on the song, it hearkens back to the days of 80s electronica (think Flock of Seagulls, Gary Neuman, etc), but in a good way! It's a big (10mb), long song but pretty good nonetheless.
  • The La's - "There She Goes" (Children of Nuggets, Vol. 2 2005) : What a great song! And what a musical ear Adrienne has! We were in the car and this song was playing, then the next song started. After a minute or so, she asked if I could put "back on the song before this one" - smart kid! My favorite from this volume of the four volume set, by far. Only ripped 3 other songs, and none of them approach this jangly, bouncy goodness.

Didn't quite have time for a full ten songs. Man, have I been busy! I have to go downstairs now and clean up a little. Our annual rotisserie baseball draft is here tomorrow, so I have to get setup.

Makers Mark bottle

The pictures are so nice in my Fantastic Cocktails and Mixed Drinks magazine, that my daughter Rhiannon likes to look at them. So she picked out some cocktails to try, based upon the pictures and some input from me. And these are the ones she picked.

    Classic Bourbon

  • 1 1/2 oz bourbon (Maker's Mark used here)
  • 1/2 oz lemon (some of my frozen Meyer Lemon Juice)
  • 1/2 oz white curaçao
  • Dash Benedictine
  • Dash bitters

Shake it over cracked ice, and pour it into a chilled cocktail glass.

I found out while reading one of my other new books, that "white curaçao" is actually triple sec or, in this case, Cointreau. I guess any orange-y tasting sweet liquor can be called a "curaçao". And Cointreau is my favorite in this group, so that's what I used. And it made an excellent, and very interesting cocktail. Lots of different flavors in here, but not something that clashed horribly, as can also sometimes happen. No, this was really good and smooth, and one we'll revisit some day, I'm sure.

    Blue Lagoon

  • 1 oz vodka (Stoli of course)
  • 1/2 oz blue curaçao (of course, it is Curaçao of curaçao, not a bottom shelf brand, please!)
  • lemonade

Pour the vodka and curaçao over ice in a nice tall glass. Top with lemonade.

I've been using an organic lemonade from Wild Oats, which tastes really good. I also like the Newman's lemonade. This will make an excellent summertime drink. But be sure to add plenty of vodka and curaçao. My first attempt tasted mostly like lemonade, so on the second attempt, I added a touch more curaçao and it came out even better. I'd probably even up the amount more next time. It will make a great sipper while sitting out on the back deck during a hot summer evening. ("Would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses?" - sorry, bit of a Meatloaf flashback there:-)

Then Michael and I went back to Serious Sam 2, and didn't finish a single level in over two hours of playing. Yikes, this is a tough level. Of course, maybe the extra cocktail didn't help! And we watched another episode of Nowhere Man. As Michael said, it seems like each episode was written by a completely new set of writers, with almost no continuity. It was a more interesting episode, stand alone, than the previous ones. I guess we'll give it two more shots.

Joke Email

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Another email joke:

Some days, it's not even worth chewing through the restraints

Coldplay Concert

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Coldplay

So I had a good time at the Coldplay concert last night. I talked David into not leaving until about an hour before concert time, not taking into account rainy, weekday evening traffic :-( So we arrived about 15 minutes after Richard Ashcroft got started.

Ashcroft put on a pretty good show. I thought the rendition of Bittersweet Symphony was a rousing success. He dedicated it to "all the fawkers who aren't paying me money", harkening back to my post from the Freedom of Expression book. I would have played the small sampled sound in question isolated and loud. Although that might be too painful! He was on for about 45 minutes.

Coldplay was fun, and the light show was really really nice. I wasn't too familiar with too many of the songs, but the one I really did know ("Clocks") was really rocking. The lead singer sound like Bono, maybe a little too much. A very earnest group, but it was quite fun. Coldplay came on about 9pm, after about a 45 minute wait, and played for about an hour and a half. What is the history behind encores anyway? Why not just play the extra couple of songs and leave? Don't the groups always come out for another couple more?

Sound was a little mushy. Couldn't really understand too much of what was said. Getting out of the Verizon Wireless Center was a mess, taking a good half hour or more, although we could have saved ourselves some headache by moving over a lane and going north before going south. And I think had I been just a tad more familiar with where it was in Manchester, I could have directed David to some side roads, keeping us out of the mess entirely. But it has been awhile since I've been there, so I didn't feel comfortable trying out new directions.

Opening Day, 2006

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Schilling.jpg

Ahh, Opening Day... Of course, it isn't quite the same as Opening Day at Fenway Park, but still, to hear the crack of the bat and the snap of leather. The first pitch is within minutes, so I thought I would share a few nuggest gleamed from the Daily Game Notes:

  • Jason Varitek's 7th straight Opening Day start is a Red Sox record for a catcher. No one else even has 7 Opening Day starts, non-consecutive. Gedman & Sammy White had 6 Opening Day starts.
  • They have a 5 game Opening Day losing streak going, one short of the team record.
  • Mark Loretta is the 12th different 2nd baseman in the last 13 years. Only Bellhorn repeated in that
  • Every player on the 25 man roster has appeared in a major league game, and all but Papelbon has been on an Opening Day roster. Papelbon is the only rookie on the roster. Oldest player: Wells (42); youngest players: Wily Mo (24), Beckett (25) and Papelbon (25).
  • Yaz has the Red Sox record with 22 Opening Day appearances, 5 more than Dewey.
  • Wily Mo was originally signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Yankees in 1998. I guess scouting still isn't that perfect, eh?

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