Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Randomly Funny (Kind Of Like The Simpsons Has Become)

* Wil Wheaton played the unrepentantly whiny Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation. As shudder-inducing as Wesley was however, Mr. Wheaton is a prolific writer and a funny guy, especially when reminiscing about his days on the Enterprise D. Even if you never saw the show, his plot synopses are worth the time to read while enjoying the twenty minute lunch hour you are allotted at your dead-end, internet-capable job.

* Unions are inherently funny once you learn to ignore the bloated costs to the consumer involved in union labor. Take this bit from an article describing an impending strike of BART workers in California:

"They point to rules requiring that two workers remove seat covers and backing for cleaning. A utility worker unsnaps the cushion. A journeyman mechanic is called in to remove two screws for the seat backing."

* If you haven't seen this video of Josh Womack doing that crazy bat swing, look at it now. The first time I saw it I thought it was a fake, but it appears to be the real deal.

* A year or so ago there was a lot of handwringing over the mysterious legless frogs. There were a lot of them turning up in Minnesota and ecologists and other scientists began investigating. Of course at the time global warming was blamed, along with evil corporations dumping chemical waste. It turns out that Occam's razor is still sharp. Bonus funny: I had to go to a U.K. news site to find a link to this story.

* Okay, I tried to keep politics out of this but I failed. It's just that I find this funny. Funny in the laugh-or-I-might-just-cry sort of way. In short, Barney Frank wants Fannie and Freddie to loosen their lending standards because currently they're too harsh and people might not buy in new developments. Now, for a dash of existentialism (pretension?): do I find this funny because I still have housing bubble residue on my clothes or because there are still people out there that, after reading the linked article, will still vote for this guy because he has a -(D) after his name?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sarah Came To Town, Some Things Happened, That's About All We Know

Sarah, an old friend and one-time roommate of Donna's, was in town this weekend to do some prep work for her coming nuptuals. Sarah lives in Alaska but most of her family and many, many members of the Sarah Fan Club live in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. For that reason, as well as the off-the-scale cool factor involved, she is getting married in Fargo next year.

We went out to dinner Saturday night at Juano's, and were treated to the typically excellent Mexican food they serve. We then retired to Duffy's, where inhibitions and moderate intake of alcohol go to die. Really, there's a mass grave out back.

Due to some storms coming through the area the power was out at the bar, which actually improved the decor immensely. Because of the power outage we all got carded. Since none of us are under thirty, out sense of self-worth and attractiveness rose considerably (and they were pretty high to begin with). By the time the power came on we were deep into our cups and were pleased to realize that we were indeed as cool and gorgeous as we suspected.

Duffy's has a seven drink minimum, so obviously we had a good time. The bar is only a few blocks from our house, so getting home was accomplished safely. Also, we made Sarah drive. You know the old saying, "friends don't let friends drive drunk unless they're visiting from Alaska". No seriously, Sarah was the responsible one and quite okay to drive. Donna certainly was not, and I had to cover Sarah's minimum. I'm just a gentleman that way.

Stupidly, I forgot my camera so there is no visual record of the festivities. That's probably just as well, but still. We are seeing Sarah again for dinner tonight (she is staying with different friends in town tonight) before she heads back to Anchorage. We'll miss her.

Confidential to KK: Sorry dude. Next time Sarah's in town we will totally get it right.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Pictures From A Bicycle Commute

I took up biking to work on occasion last summer and have kept it up this year. I try to do it at least once a week (though I should be doing it twice). It's a pretty cool ride through some neighborhoods as well as through some morning rush hour traffic, though of course, rush hour traffic in Fargo isn't the same thing as rush hour traffic in New York City. Here are a few snapshots I took on my Friday morning ride:

The bike path along 25th street.

Looking eastward above I-94.

That huge dirt field used to be several soccer fields, which were dug up
during the flood this spring. The dirt was used to build earthen dikes.

A view from beneath the frontage road crossing 40th avenue.

A row of bikes on the Microsoft Fargo campus.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

It Came From The Kitchen Drawer

It finally happened. Our small kitchen, with its undersized, overstuffed drawers, finally said, "no more". We couldn't convince it to let us jam one more untensil into its bloated belly. For a couple of weeks, the solution was to leave the newly purchased rubberized whisk (for to minimize the scratchin' to the metal pans) on the countertop next to the knife block.

Tonight we finally came up with the boring but eminently more practical idea of getting something from the plastic-box-with-a-top family in which to store the extraneous detritus.

There was a diverse collection of things in those drawers, some strange, some... I'm not really sure:

I'm not sure why you can only use this with eggs and
pancakes but not cookies. The only thing I'm sure of
is that it's a boy.

Dress up your stemware! Or, you know, buy nice stemware.

After its dismal failure in the otherwise-lucrative
2001: A Space Odyssey bottle opener product tie-in
market, Tupperware decided to stick to overpriced
bowls. Note the instructions indicating the presence of
a second arrow. I don't know either.

This is the spoon Wonder Woman uses
while eating yogurt in her invisible jet.

The obligatory plastic ice cubes. I believe these are made
of equal parts plastic, lead, bisphenol A and hobo parts.

Why, yes, I am worried that Donna keeps dental instruments
in her kitchen. Thanks so much for asking!

Ladies and gentleman, the amazing spork fetus!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Camping Is Fun

We went camping at Breeze, a resort about ten miles south of Itasca State Park. I had stayed there a couple of times many years ago. It used to be run by a guy who would come around and check you in while riding a golf cart with his hound dog and a bottle of Jim Beam. Things are different now. The place is a lot nicer, as you can probably guess from the link above.

We rolled in about 5:30 on Friday. As I unloaded the gear and coolers from the back of Donna's Jeep, I saw Macy start running, frantically waving her arms and screaming. Apparently she looked down and noticed a big spider on her leg. No, it wasn't Shelob. It turned out to be a grandaddy longlegs. Now, Macy has inherited her father's philosophy when it comes to spiders. That philosophy can be summed up thusly: spiders on things that aren't me: fine. Spiders on me: that dog won't hunt, monsignor.

After a little "there, there" mixed with a little "come on, it's just a spider" (hey, it wasn't on me), Macy realized that daddy longlegs are harmless and that she isn't afraid of them. Heck, she picks them up all the time. After that I was treated to that rarest of sights: a child crying like the devil is chasing her while she laughs uncontrollably.

We had been camping for 36 seconds.

The weather had threatened rain since we left Fargo, but it looked like we had caught a break when the sun came out following the spider attack. This was fortunate since we were breaking in a new tent. Of course, as soon as the base was firmly staked in the ground, the heavens opened up and and rain pelted down in fat, hard droplets. It's like I pissed off Poseidon, Indra, Baal and Aquaman all at the same time. I expected to get mauled by seahorses any second. Lots of flailing and cursing and inserting-this-into-that later, I looked like this:

However, the tent was now fully armed and operational. Some swabbing of the decks and our new bug hotel was ready for business. The whole of the plot was a bit angled, so we slid down the hill at night. Good times.

We were spending the weekend with Donna's sister Jodi, her husband Chris and their three kids. We spent the rest of the weekend swimming, eating, playing volleyball and not getting rained on.

I took the kids out on a bug hunt Saturday night and we found some cool stuff:

Sunday morning we borrowed one of the resort's canoes and hit the lake, chasing some loons and enjoying the water.

This was a trial run for a camping trip we're taking to the same resort at the end of July. All in all it was a great experience (spider attacks and vengeful water gods notwithstanding), and I kind of wish we had a couple more days out there. Sitting around a campfire with a beer in one hand and a hot dog in the other, the scent of deet in the air; there's nothing like it.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Anniversary

I am in the woods right now, hopefully having a good time camping and not getting rained on, but I wanted to say "happy 52nd anniversary" to my mom and dad.

Yep. 52 years.

And yes, I'll call them when I have cell reception.

Friday, June 19, 2009

When Aborted Fetuses And 80's Prog Rock Collide

I'm off today and heading to the great outdoors. While I was looking for Cartman doing his na-na-na-na-naaa-na thing the other day, I found this video. It still makes me laugh and I've seen it a hundred times. Sorry, no embedding was available.

Have a good weekend. I'll have lots of camping pictures assuming we don't get rained out.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Random Stuff

* The word "Facsism" has gotten thrown around a lot in this country the last several years, usually applied to actions by Bush, but increasingly aimed at Obama's forays into nationalization. You want to know when America has really become a fascist state? The day her armed forces "reorient[s] its mission from meeting external threats to suppressing internal threats". We're a long way from fascism and have not been close under either Bush or Obama...

* ...Although it is tough to watch major news networks tripping over themselves to pay tribute to a favored public figure.

* How many times does this sort of thing have to happen before people realize that more taxes doesn't always mean more revenue? Heck, it usually means less (via Say Anything).

* If you didn't see this story about the Minnesota softball coach who threw sportsmanship out the window when I posted it on Facebook, here it is again.

* To paraphrase Eric Cartman: ha ha ha ha haaa ha -- I'm going cammmping and you're naa-ott.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

British Soccer Camp

Macy is taking part in a soccer camp run by some good blokes from the U.K this week. It's a travelling group that roams the United States to teach soccer skills to kids from kindergarten on up. She's been looking forward to it since finding out she missed last year's camp. As part of the deal she got a new jersey, shorts and a ball, along with picking up some new skills on the pitch.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

One Last Birthday Hurrah

I finally got to make good on a promise to Macy to take her to Thunder Road, a go-kart/mini-golf/bumper car place. Our friend Sally came along with us so we had a full golf foursome. It didn't make difference in the final score though, as you'll see. Behold:

How do you drive this crazy thinnnnnnnggggg??!?!?

Donna's cold eyes focused laser-like on her prey. It would be over in seconds.

Macy sinking a putt.

54 < 59, 61, 67

Monday, June 15, 2009

No Thanks, I Don't Need Saving From Myself

When I was a kid, my dad used to make a big deal out of the Fourth of July. He's cross over into Phenix City, Alabama and buy about $40,000 worth of explosives (fireworks were illegal in Georgia) and we'd have fun making the rest of the neighborhood think the goddamned Russkies had finally started the Big One.

Now, kids get weird ideas when (1) they are largely left to their own devices, as we were during summer vacation, and (2) there are large amounts of fireworks laying around and no one is guarding them.

I don't remember whose idea it was, but one day we got into the stash and grabbed handfuls of bottle rockets. My dad installed satellite dishes back then; the big ten-foot aluminum jobs, not those little dinner plates they have now. Back in those days having satellite television meant your house looked like a cog in the DEW line. Being in that business meant burying a lot of cabling, and cabling meant PVC pipe. Here's a math lesson for you:

PVC + Bottle Rocket = Bazooka

This can be shortened to PVC + BR = !!!.

A four-foot length of PVC pipe greatly increased the accuracy with which we could assault each other with bottle rockets. There still weren't that many hits, but there were a couple. And they hurt like a rejection letter. Assuming the rejection letter is wrapped around a bottle rocket which is exploding in close proximity to your body.

You can question our sanity, our intelligence and our parent's fitness to raise children. But keep in mind that while we were stupid, these are the pertinent facts:

* Our parents were blissfully unaware of what we were doing, and would not have approved had they known.

* We were using the fireworks in a way not encouraged in any way by their manufacturer.

* No one was actually hurt.

* Had one of us lost an eye, our parents' reaction would have been, "you idiots, what did you think would happen?" Their reaction would not have been, "these things are dangerous and should be outlawed."

That last however, is the reaction of something called the United States Eye Injury Registry. By their numbers, many, many eye injuries are caused by bottle rockets. And since people should never be held responisble for their own stupidity, and nothing is ever really an accident, bottle rockets need to be banned.

That's exactly what has happened, as bottle rockets can no longer be sold in North Dakota after August 1st. That's right; I can buy m-80s, roman candles (a smaller version of the PVC bazooka), frogbusters, fishbombs, catchasers and those big volcano things that spew fire twenty feet in the air. But no bottle rockets. Because we need to be protected for ourselves.

I hesitate to jump on the bandwagon that bears the rightwing buzzwords nanny state, but it kinds fits, doesn't it? We can't have bottle rockets because some of us are too stupid to use them. We won't stop eating junk food and drinking non-diet cola, so we need to be coerced into doing it for our own good. We like SUVs, but what's really best is if we all drive hybrids. Maybe your child doesn't eat books, bicycle frames or sippy cups. But don't you see? What if they did? Then you'll be glad for an otherwise seemingly asinine law like the CPSIA.

Some people probably do need someone to tell them what to eat, wear, drive and think. Some people do need to be told how to raise their children. I don't happen to believe I'm one of them. I am almost convinced that shooting bottle rockets at your brother through a piece of PVC is a bad idea, after all.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Social Butterfly

This week has been crazy with the going out and the drinking and the eating of the expensive food and the being with friends. Tuesday we got in half of the planned celebration of Macy's birthday with the dinner at Kobe's.

Wednesday we had dinner at a John Alexander's, where I overpaid for a steak but finally got to meet Kate, long-time acquaintance-of-acquaintances. She lives in L.A. and does all kinds of exciting stuff with movie star types. By reading this you are cooler for having known that I met her. You're welcome. Donna and I have a Christmastime date with her to get good and plastered. Send me your Hollywood-related questions now and I'll try and get them answered.

Tonight was the third meeting of the Microsoft Fargo Beer-Thirty Club, a group I made up in the spirit of liking to leave work early on Fridays to drink. We patronized The Winery, a small bistro-type joint owned and operated by an ex-Microsoft employee. We had a great time and I got to sample a few fine wines. You may find this hard to believe, but I've discovered that leaving work at 4:00 on a Friday to drink wine is way more fun that staying at work until 5:00. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Macy's Birthday Dinner

Donna and I took Macy to Kobe's for her birthday. You may remember Kobe's from my earlier experience there. As I expected, Macy loved it. Lots of big fire, pieces of rice thrown around, flipping knives, and I got some free sake squirted into my mouth by an Indonesian man. It was a lot of fun.

The promised trip to Thunder Road for go-karts, bumper cars and mini-golf had to be postponed due to the constant threat of rain. We'll make that up next Monday. In the meantime, here are a few pictures:

The chef prepares to make art.

Nothing to see here. Everything is under control.

Now we discover the secret to cooking Japanese cuisine.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Random rnd = new Random();

  • I went from having no camping trips lined up this summer to cementing plans for two trips in one day (one in two weeks and one at the end July). I've been wanting to try out the new tent we bought last fall (on clearance). It's roughly the size of the first Death Star, so that'll be good.

  • President Obama isn't crazy enough to plan something like this, is he?

  • As someone who hoped as a child that I could buy a corellian freighter when I grew up, I think this a bad idea.

  • We're celebrating Macy's birthday tonight with our annual dinner and trip to Thunder Road (for mini-golf, go-kart racing and bumper cars). Pics tomorrow.

  • I'm really glad I don't have a job where I'm required to reassure the Chinese about America's commitment to reducing deficits. I only like to hear laughter when I'm trying to be funny.

  • It's weird (in a good way): I hate yard work, but now that we've completed two big projects, I can't wait to get out there and finish the job.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Weekend In Harding

We spent the weekend in Harding, Minnesota, celebrating Donna's grandmother's birthday. Lots of bratwurst and burgers and the attendant intestinal drama that over indulgence can bring. We followed up the meat orgy with the traditional walk down to the river and then headed back to Fargo. When we got back we discovered everything as we had left it, right down to the dark gray skies that refuse to release any rain. It's June, and we're still having a hard time cracking 60 degrees. Thanks, Al Gore!

Blowing out the candles in the Marshall family is a collective effort.

Macy and Donna's nieces Carly (l) and Emily at play.

Macy and I skipping stones at the river.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Taking Back The Land

We finished part two of our renovation of the backyard last night. It turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself:

Before: my backyard or a deleted scene from Life After People?

After: my backyard or a clever Photoshop?

That's no Photoshop.

A bird bath... classy!

All glory to the Hypno-toad!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Songs In The Key Of Parnanoia

Those Geico commericals really piss me off. The ones with the stacks of cash with eyeballs that stare implacably at some helpess diner or dry cleaner patron. Some third party steps in to say, "that's the money you could be saving with Geico!"

Well, it's a pile of cash. It may have eyes but there sure aren't any legs on that monstrosity. Just grab it and put it in the bank. Or buy shoes. Or hey, go for ironic and use it to pay your State Farm premium.

The worst part is the crappy '80's song that plays in the background. Somebody's Watching Me sucks. Always has, always will. So Geico, if you want to fix this broken heap of an ad campaign, take it in new, bizarre directions. Have the money stalk a specific actor-working-for-scale rather than a random bunch of saps.

Show the money following a victim to the bank, the health club, the grocery store. Show him or her in the shower, then pan over to where the money creature is silently staring from the slightly-parted doors of a cabinet. Show those grotesque eyes patiently watching from the foot of the bed while he or she sleeps. Go Alfred Hitchcock with that mother.

And for Jeebus' sake, pick a better song. Here are a couple off the top of my head (both of which could easily suggest plot points in the campaign's paranoia-soaked story arc:

Or, if you're worried about pissing off the fringe right with the devil music:

One Last Spring Soccer Post

Here's a couple of action shots of Macy from her spring soccer season. Don't forget to check out video of her soccer and T-Ball careers at my YouTube channel.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

My Bed May Be Trying To Kill Me

I sleep in a giant bed. Seriously. It's so big I sublet sections of it to migrant families and we don't run into each other at night. It's so big it has a maximum occupancy sign from the fire marshall. It's so big it's getting its own bailout. My bed is too big to fail.

I got this bed years ago. It retailed for about $2500 but it only cost me about $500. I tell you this not to brag; if I wasn't getting the bed so cheaply I never would have bought it. I tell you this because of why the bed was so cheap: the bed had been filmed and by law (apparently), a bed can't be sold as new if it's been filmed. Huh. What kind of production would require filming a bed? That's right: a furniture store commerical. If you were thinking porn, congratulations. You intrigue me and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter. We should party sometime.

But, even though the bed is great (despite a lack of porn star patronage), every once in a while I wake up with shooting pains in my back. There are several possible causes: my girlfriend could be secretly taking Ambien and instead of driving or eating cigarette butts in her sleep she is jabbing me with pointy objects all night long; it could have something to do with the pit bull we share a bed with; maybe it's strain and pain involved with my secret crime fighting activities.

Forget that last part.

At any rate it might be time to look for a replacement.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Pet Star

We attended the Moorhead Library's pet show last night. It's a chance to show off your pet and walk in a big circle around the building (a.k.a. "the parade"). There's a virtual Star Wars cantina of creatures wandering around, from dogs and cats to ferrets and hedgehogs to hobos and Democrats.

This was not Macy's first time at the event; you may remember her hamster Bibble's stunning upset win in the "Smallest Pet" category. Variety did a cover story on it, as I recall.

Well, now Macy is two-for-two as an owner. Tonight her mouse Hershey won the obscure but buzzworthy "Smallest Pet With The Longest Tail" category. She has a real flair for this competition. The general consensus is that she could enter a charcoal drawing of a rabid centipede and walk out with a sticker and a Dilly Bar coupon.

Sizing up the competition is but one of the winner moves Macy employed.

This was a sad scene. I overheard the ferrret say, "I just don't
think we can make this work. It's not you, it's me.
I still want to be friends."

Donna, Macy and Hershey (inside ball) pose with the
coveted "Smallest Pet With The Longest Tail" award.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Soccer Swan Song

Macy played her last Spring soccer game on Saturday and she made it a memorable one. She scored on a breakaway and made some tough saves when in goal. She's sad that soccer is over (and so am I). This summer she's going to do a couple of soccer camps though, so she will keep busy until the fall, when she can don the majestic orange and black again.

Here are a couple of videos, and as usual, if you want to see more go here.

If you look closely you can see a dashing young coach in orange and black on the sideline. Who is that obviously virile man-among-men?

Macy takes one away from Kennedy, who was a teammate of Macy's for a couple of years before this one (and whom I coached for just as long).