Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cell Phones To Get Bigger, Stupider

The National Association of Broadcasters has struck upon a novel way to try and keep themselved relevant in a world of digital music, internet ads, and well, it being the 21st century. No, they aren't working on a business model that would promote internet broadcasting. They've decided to go the lobby-Congress route and push for a mandate that future cellphones support FM radio broadcasts.
Behold!  The cellphone of tomorrow!
There may be an FM radio in your next cell phone whether you want it or not. The National Association of Broadcasters is lobbying Congress to stipulate that FM radio technology be included in future cell phones.
In exchange, the NAB has agreed that member stations would pay about $100 million in so-called performance fees to music labels and artists. Radio stations would be required to pay performance royalties on a tiered schedule with larger commercial stations paying more than smaller and non-profit stations.
The agreement is part of a compromise between the NAB and the Recording Industry Association of America, which will take the deal to legislators mulling changes to the laws that govern the music and radio industries.
Does anyone listen to the radio any more when they aren't in their cars?  And as soon as USB ports come standard in cars I'm taking my mp3 player with me wherever I go.  If this catches on, expect other failing technologies to latch on to this idea.  Cell phones can evolve into the Swiss Army knife of failed tech.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Scenes From The Ballyard

Tuesday night was Microsoft Night at the Redhawks.  Fargo-Moorhead hosts an independent Northern League team that is in the running for the championship pretty much every year.  Former Braves reliever Kerry Ligtenberg pitched in the Northern League before Atlanta signed him.  Legend has it he was once traded for a bag of baseballs and some bats (seriously).

Anyway, it had been awhile since I saw them play so I snagged three tickets and took my best girls out for a night of baseball.  It had rained on and off during the day, but by the time the game started things were looking pretty good.  This was the scene as we walked from the parking lot:

A sign of things to come for the Redhawks
We had some pretty awesome seats (though there aren't any bad ones; even the $1 bleacher seats are right on the field) right behind home plate.  First things first, though.  To the concession stand!

This is one way to enjoy a ballpark dog.

This is a better way.
There now.  All I need is a good beer and, oh right.  Independent league baseball.  Leinenkugel's it is!  Anyway, the weather held off for us and it cooled off considerably after the early rains.  The Redhawks would win the game 13-3 though we didn't see the end; it was almost 10:00 and some people had to work in the morning.  We did manage to squeeze in one last purchase from the stadium vendors before we left though.

Hope all your baby teeth have already come out.
Macy wants to take in another game, so I am going to try to accomodate her, though there are only about three weeks left in the season.  I think I can make it work though.  After all, how can you say no to this?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

All I Wanted For My Birthday Was Awesomeness Part II: And A Good Morrow To You As Well, My Good Man

As I recounted earlier, Friday night was the time to celebrate my birthday.  My lovely girlfriend Donna treated me to a movie, Inception, which turned out to be good but not great.  That would become a theme for the evening as we moved on to our final destination, the hoity-toity Silver Moon Supper Club.  This is the one fancy-pants place in the area I had not dined at.  It had gotten good reviews from people I know who had eaten there, and as it was the one place I hadn't tried, I said why not.

It is right in the heart of downtown Fargo, which is kinda cool.  The downtown area is in year four of Fargo's 900-year revitalization plan and things are going well so far.  There's still the threat of hobo attack down by the old train station, but that's become pretty rare.  All in all, they're trying so I have to extend some credit where it's due.  But back to the Silver Moon.

This restaurant is billed as "simply the finest dining experience in the world" (or something similar) in its ads.  Needless to say, my expectations were high.  The Silver Moon uses a Chinese restaurant approach to its menu, allowing you to choose one from columns A,B and C for one price, two from each column for another price, or simply pick anything you want from anywhere all willy-nilly at ala carte rates.  Interesting approach and it works fine, I think.

Donna and I like to order different things so we can each try the others' dishes and this was mostly no exception.  I had one fancy kind of salad and she had another; hers was clearly better, and quite good.  I have no idea what it was called.  Mine was a strawberry and lettuce concoction which was fine but nothing too exciting.  So if you go there and want a good salad, ask for the one that isn't the strawberry one.  That will give you a 33% chance of getting the good one, as there were four to choose from.  You could try asking for the one that Donna had that one time, but I don't think we made that much of an impression on the staff during our visit, so, you know, it may not work.

Next we both tried a lobster and crab bisque which some lady in the bar called the chef out from the kitchen to rave about.  I'm not kidding.  When we heard this, Donna and I were all, "we've got to try summa that" and we were poised to get all orgasmy when it hit our pallettes right in the G- and A-spots, respectively.  It was not to be, sadly.  While it was really very good (honestly!) it also more closely resembled a pretty good tomato soup, albeit one with actual fresh basil as a garnish, with a few chunks of seafood for show.  Really good, just not "I simply must extend my personal compliments to the chef" good.  And I've called a chef out of the kitchen to rave about a chili dog before.

Next up were some fish tacos (for Donna) and blackened scallops (for me).  My portion was pretty small, but I can't lie; the scallops were really good and cooked just right.  I have it on good authority from Donna that the fish tacos were good, though I can't personally attest; they were gone before I could ask to sample them.  Happy birthday to me!

Our last course was beef.  I hesitated to order this, but my earlier courses were so seafood heavy I did it any way.  I kind of wish I hadn't.  This is not a knock on the Silver Moon, but I have officially learned my lesson: if you want to eat beef (and pay obscene amounts of money for it) just go to Norman's and be done with it.  There is no slab of beef of which I am aware that can hold a candle to Norman's ribeye.  I've eaten beef everywhere in the area, I've eaten it in the Twin Cities, I've eaten it in South Dakota and I've eaten it in Boston and none of them are as good.  It sounds strange to say that the best steak I can find anywhere is in Fargo, but there it is.

However, with all this said, I haven't spoken of the staff.  We had a couple cocktails at the bar beforehand, and let me tell you that the barkeep there knows how to make a mutha-truckin' old fashioned.  Just really excellent.  Tip-the-bartender-like-money-doesn't-mean-anything-to-you good.  I had a couple more (hey, I wasn't driving) and wow.  Just really excellent.  Go there now and have one.  Then go to Norman's and get a steak.

What took the cake though was our waiter.  Donna described him best, saying he looked like when he leaves work he goes home to the renaissance fairs.  It wasn't the pony tail or the dark eyes, though these things certainly added to the vibe.  It was the way he kept slipping antiquated verbiage into our conversation that cemented the image.  He used words like "mayhap" and "perchance".  He kept calling me "my good sir" and Donna "milady" and "gentle madam".  I briefly contemplated the possibility that those drinks had opened up a wormhole right there in the restaurant and I had been transported to 1629, but discarded it.  They didn't have vinyl seats back then.

All in all, I'd say the the Silver Moon ranks somewhere below the upper echelon of Fargo restaurants, and I'd (sadly) have to rank them below the second tier when you factor in costs.  The food was good -- in some instances very good -- but I can't say the entire meal was worth the price.

All this downerism and negativity may lead you to think I'm crapping all over Donna's efforts to show me a good time on my birthday, but nothing could be further from the truth.  The movie may not have been great, but I really wanted to see it.  The food may not have lived up to expectations, but I absolutely love trying new restaurants, especially when they offer something I haven't seen before.  And really, it's the only place in town where you can 1.) get a first-rate old fashioned and, 2.) get waited on by an actual pre-Enlightenment commoner.

It was a birthday where I got to get dressed up, do what I wanted, experience new things, drink as much as I could and not drive myself home.  It was an incredible evening and I have Donna to thank for it.

All I Wanted For My Birthday Was Awesomeness Part I: For God's Sake, Pick An Ending Christopher Nolan

So Friday night was my night to go and do whatever I wanted.  Since I could stay at home, cook a great meal and drink myself into a stupor while watching a movie, I thought, "why not do all those things somewhere else?"  God, I'm brilliant.  I like getting dressed up.  I don't mean in period costumes -- what I do in the privacy of my bedroom is my own busines; don't judge me -- but rather by putting on a coat and a dress shirt and some good shoes.  I don't have to dress like that for work, very few people like me enough to invite me to weddings, and Death has so far spared pretty much everyone I know.  So once in a while I like to put on some fancy threads and go out on the town.

This explains why Donna and I were dressed to the nines while standing in line to get popcorn at the West Acres cineplex next to the mall at 4:40 pm on an 85-degree afternoon.  We were there to see Inception which radiated all kinds of awesomeness through the TV screen during each and every one of the fourteen million iterations of the trailer.  Everything I read about it was positive.  Everything I heard about it was positive.  And for 2:25 of its 2:30 running time everything I had seen, read and heard was mostly correct.  Then Christopher Nolan went all Captain Ambiguous on me.

Nolan directed and wrote the screenplay for Memento which is a totally awesome mindbending movie that everyone on earth should see.  Inception is a mostly awesome mindbending movie that nearly everyone will enjoy until the ending.


I won't recap the whole thing, as you can read about it here.  Basically, it comes down to Leonardo DiCaprio making it back home to his kids and Michael Caine.  When he walks in the door, he spins his top to see if it falls (long story short, if it falls, he's in the real world.  If it doesn't he's dreaming).  A sense of dread settled about me as the camera panned away from the spinning top to follow Leo to the back door where his kids were entering.  The extended shot was meant to build tension -- would the camera pan back to show a spinning top or one laying gloriously on its side, proving that he was in the real world?  Either one would have been fine.  Despite my penchance for human misery I actually would have preferred that Leo made it back to his kids.  The happy ending here would have seemed right somehow, unlike in most movies where "happily ever after" feels wholly unearned.

I would, however, have accepted the "Leo's dreaming" ending, even if it would have been a bit hackneyed and completely expected.  Instead the dread I felt solidified when the camera moved back to the image of a spinning top that wavered ever so slightly (the top had always spun smoothly in all the dream sequences) once, twice, then... cut to black.  Goddammit.  This was obviously meant to be ambiguous, a chance to let the viewer decide if it was real or not.  I don't know the answer to that, but I do know this: next time pick an ending Nolan.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I Didn't Come Here To Destroy The Forest

Donna, Macy and I went camping this past weekendat a little resort just south of Itasca State Park called Breeze Campground (past adventures here and here).  If you read the previous posts that I just linked in the parenthetical, you'll quickly realize that something weird always happens -- spider attack, acts of wrath from Greek gods, stabbings -- within the first few minutes of the trip.  This time was no different.  This time it involved death, I'm afraid.

Did anyone feel a bump?
I swear I looked before backing up.  Another sumac was near it, so I assume I got them confused.  Long story short, I killed the tree.  The Jeep was fine; our bicycles cushioned the impact.  Oddly, while the other bikes were unharmed, Macy's, which was farthest from the impact, ended up with a bent rim.  Luckily, Chris (Donna's brother-in-law) always camps with a complete set of tools, so we got it back in working order.

Meanwhile, I completed the chalk outline and informed the office about the arborcide.  One of the office people came down and said she'd have the owners come by, which they did about ten minutes later.  They  noted that sumacs are evil anyway, being a symbol for Satanism in some parts of the Pacific Rim, and thanked me for removing the unholy relic from their campground.  They bade me burn it in everlasting fire but I demurred, not wanting to raise foul shades.

Anyway, tents erected, vehicles unpacked, beers de-capped, we set about building a fire with the world's most flame-retardant wood.  Thirty minutes and an entire bottle of Kingsford lighter fluid later (I'm not kidding) we succeeded.

The next day we (that is, the womenfolk) got to making breakfast.  Our choices were pancakes, doughnuts, fruit, or cereal.  Donna's nephew Cole chose the obvious: hot dogs.

This could have been me about 30 years ago.
I heartily applauded his breakfast acumen and followed suit.  Really, there is no better food on a camping trip than a hot dog.  Although Cole eats his with enough ketchup to cover a sumac, which I cannot do.  Oh well, he will learn.  Especially if he keeps camping with me.

We loaded up the bikes and headed up to Itasca State Park to make use of the biking trails which criss cross the preserve.  It's a beautiful ride with all sorts of interesting stops like log cabins from 1852 and pioneer graves.  There's also a nice balance between sun and shade, which really helped on a day that hit 80 before eleven.  Afterwards we headed back and jumped in the pool which was somehow ice cold.

Carly, Macy and Emily straddling the mighty Mississippi.

That night we cooked steaks which I managed to consume without bloodshed.  After another beer we headed down to the volleyball pit and played our customary game in which the kids get to randomly switch sides and go play on the merry-go-round as their whim dictates.

Sunday Donna, Macy, niece Emily and I headed back to Itasca to go canoeing.  The younder girls expressed their desire to go kayaking next year.  Apparently they don't like the way we drive.  During our trip we were regaled with Christian hymns from a nearby church, watched a procession of apparently high (or maybe jsut stupid) hikers and wondered at the acoustic properties of the lake as a young child, from the safety of his kayak, screamed to his father repeatedly, "Dad! I have to go to the baaaattthhhhrrroooooommm!"

If your dad loved you he would have rented the kayak with the port-a-potty.
All in all it was another great trip, albeit too short.  We are talking about making it a three or four day weekend next year.  I wonder what first-minute catastrophe will befall us in 2011... fire?  Locust plague?  Sudden blindness?  I can't wait to find out!

Would it be camping without chocolate chip pancakes?