Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sunsets and chili

Well, that was a good weekend.

Yesterday was Christine's housewarming shindig at her gorgeous new pad, so I got to hang out on her deck during the sunset and chat with some fun people.

And today was the Great Lakes Regional Chili Cookoff in Plymouth, where friends Mike and Chris offered up their "Red Carpet chili" among dozens of other chili contestants. They were going for the popular-vote prize, and I hope they made it!

Tonight we watched some silly stuff I got from Netflix on a whim: a "Lost in Space" episode I remember from when I was about nine and decided I had to see again (it was surprisingly good!), and a couple of "Happy Days" episodes, because it's been years since I've seen one.

Now it's time for "David and Lisa" on TCM, which is pretty gut-wrenching, so it'll offset all that TV fluff! Then it's time to climb into bed with a book for a while. I'm glad I don't have a big stack of papers to grade. Poor Scott.

So -- a good weekend. And I even managed to do a giant laundromat run, too.

Very pleasing.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Nick Lowe!

Well, he was amazing: just Nick and an acoustic guitar, creating a perfect web of perfect pop and leading us all blindly and happily into it. The amazing thing about his songs is that they could have been written in any decade, from the Fifties to today: they seem unattached to any time or style or place. They just - float!

I loved the fact that he said, at the Ark: "This is the folk section of the concert, where I tell heartwarming stories about, oh, I don't know, my grandfather's hat."

I loved the fact that he played "Cruel to Be Kind" with gentlemanly enthusiasm, giving a deep bow at the end of the song, as though to say, yep, there it is: my hit.

And I loved his new songs. I'm definitely buying the new album.

A memorable Tuesday if ever there was one.

Here's the funny part.

When I was a freshman in college in 1988, I remember meeting "old" Ann Arborites who would wax nostalgic about concerts they'd seen: "Dude, I saw so-and-so twenty years ago." That would mean 1968, fer Chrissakes, and I would gaze back at them with wide-eyed freshman respect for their admirable ancientness. The point is, I saw Nick Lowe that year, and sailed back to the dorm on a cloud afterwards. And I was telling a coworker about that concert today, in 2007.

And I saw that look on his face. Unmistakable.

Come to Great-Aunt Maeve, little children, that she may reminisce about concerts from olden times!

Never mind. I've seen the Basher twice, in my teens and in my thirties, and all I can say is that his music ages like a fine vintage. Cheers!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"Switchboard Susan, won't you give me a line?"

Sometimes the Fates smile bountifully upon me. I can't believe my luck.

At the very last second, a coworker who had tickets to tonight's sold-out Nick Lowe show at the Ark couldn't go.

Guess who's going!

Me! Me!

Scary article from Conde Nast Traveler...

Creepy enough to blog.

Information deemed ‘suspicious’ can be catalogued, stored up to 15 years

By Stephan Wilkinson
Updated: 1:35 p.m. ET Sept. 24, 2007

I have a simple black T-shirt bearing the legend, in red, white and blue, "01.20.09 BUSH'S LAST DAY."

Note to self: Don't ever pack it on an airline or cruise trip, or on a drive through any border crossing where the Fedskis are liable to inspect my bags.

The Washington Post has just reported that the Department of Homeland Security is collecting information on travelers carrying anything, accent on anything, that might be deemed suspicious, to a far greater degree than was previously thought. This information will be stored for up to 15 years (which should be long enough to get the camps up and running) in order to identify the malcontents, terrorists, wrong-thinkers and various security threats among us.

Apparently there's something called the Automated Targeting System , which digests terabytes of data to pinpoint risky travelers trying to enter the country. Now when they swipe your passport through the reader, they're not just looking for your rap sheet but for evidence of ... well, who knows? San Francisco civil liberties activist John Gilmore recently discovered that the government was storing for a decade and a half the information that he once carried aboard a flight — a book titled “Drugs and Rights” and small flashlights bearing a stylized marijuana-leaf symbol.

What not to carry, ever: a biography of Lenin. The Quran. That copy of Juggs that you picked up at the airport newsstand. A Rasta hat. Anything that says Cuba. A Graydon Carter editorial. Your entire collection of Barbra Streisand photos. A Pete Seeger CD. The Whole Earth Catalog. Your favorite Che T-shirt.

Why do I think it's gonna get worse before it gets better?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Let the work week begin!

The tiny DJ in my Shuffle accompanied my walk from the bus stop to my workplace with the following eclectic collection of tunes:

Henry Purcell (The Purcell Quartet) -- Fantasia upon a ground, for 3 violins & continuo
Dolly Parton and Tommy James -- Crimson and Clover
Pete Townshend -- Let My Love Open the Door
Philip Glass (Uakti) -- Paru River
Kristy MacColl -- A New England

Once again, coming up the hill behind work to the jangly shimmer of Kristy MacColl! I feel ready for the work week.

(Thank God none of the very few people who read this blog are likely to excommunicate me for having a Philip Glass piece on my iPod. Shhhh... the purists among my classical colleagues need never know...!)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A poem from District Court Judge Dr. Seuss

A judge in New Hampshire recently received a hard-boiled egg in a manila file from an angry prison inmate, as part of a lawsuit filed by the inmate protesting his prison-fare diet. The judge responded as follows:

"I do not like eggs in the file.
I do not like them any style.
I will not take them fried or boiled.
I will not take them poached or broiled.
I will not take them soft or scrambled
Despite an argument well-rambled.
No fan I am
Of the egg at hand.
Destroy that egg! Today! Today!
Today, I say! Without delay!"



I was amused.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Never mind the ice cream, it's all about the chocolate

My mother knows how to make the best of a situation. That second-to-last sentence makes me prouder than ever to be her daughter! :-)

From today's e-mail message:

I don't think I have told you about the ice cream truck, have I? We are both intrigued by it because the ice cream wagon seems like something out of long-ago days. I'm still surprised that it works here, where one can find a 711 within a few blocks of anywhere and nip in for an ice cream at any hour of the day or night. But our ice cream wagon is active; it drives along our street toward the harbor clanging its bell, then turns and drives back, clanging its bell. It then parks just on the other side of the school, (which is practically next door to us) and waits for customers to show up. I had gone to it once, out of curiosity, even bought some ice cream. A few days ago, we received an ad saying that the ice cream wagon would have a new product, the Swiss luxury ice cream Mövenpick, and they had a caramel flavor. Dad likes caramel ice cream, and it's not easy to find, so last night when I heard the bell clanging, I rushed out. Because my dumb house slippers fall off at the slightest provocation, I took them off in order to negotiate the stairs faster, then ran in my stocking feet along the wet sidewalk to the ice cream wagon. There I bought the caramel ice cream for Dad and vanilla with dark chocolate bits for me. Today I tried my luxury Swiss ice cream. What a disappointment! The ice cream itself had an almost sour taste. In the end, I dumped the whole thing out in a sieve, ran water over it to melt the ice cream, and ate the dark chocolate bits. How's that for pragmatism?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Weekend getaway

Well, it was a hyggelig weekend, as they say in Denmark. I'm glad we did it. It was nice and chilly out, too, which made for a bracing boat ride and a pleasant stomp around the lake.

The funny thing about going somewhere for a day is that it feels as though I've actually "been on vacation," even though it was really just part of a weekend. There were some pretty views to be seen on the ride there and back, too. Although we were mostly just obsessed with the five million channels on Christine's XM radio on the way back...!

Anyway. Here's to weekend getaways.

Couple of photos:


Preparing the taco bar

Something is on fire!

Kitchen chat

Contrasts in hair color on the deck

Parting shot

Fun times!

In other news, I solved the Case of the Black Rectangle this morning. I had the 'Caption' setting on 'Text1,' whatever that is, when I thought I had turned it to 'Off.' So there you go. End of mystery!

I start the week refreshed by having been up north and with my television viewing unobscured by black rectangles.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Off I go...

Heading off early tomorrow morning for book-club getaway weekend in Evart. Should be good and cold up there, too - I bet I'll be able to see my breath in the morning.

We always each bring something to eat for book club, and this time I'm bringing Mexican black bean salsa salad, for which I spent almost two hours cutting up vegetables this evening. I am v-e-r-y s-l-o-w at cutting up vegetables, especially if the recipe says "diced," which always makes me think, "Hmm, maybe I'd better see if I can get these tiny bits even tinier..."

I've never made anything like this before, mixing up the "vinaigrette" and everything. We'll see how it goes. I'm not even sure I'd know if it was any good. I haven't eaten much in the way of black bean salsa salads. But the book we read was set in Arizona, and we're doing a taco bar, so I thought I'd try it.

In other news, I found a way to dampen down the din of the two blaring televisions at the laundromat this evening. Simply load Beethoven's seventh symphony to your iPod and blast it at top volume into your ears while your clothes are doing their thing. This glorious plan even blocked out the sitcom laugh tracks... that's the noise that usually sets my teeth on edge when I do laundry. Just try not to conduct during the exciting parts! You'll look like an idiot.

Actually, the wildly creative French DJ group Birdy Nam Nam has excellent TV noise-blocking properties, too. I tried them last week at the laundromat and they passed with flying colors.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Rectangles and slippers

The mystery thickens around the case of the black rectangle. Scott noticed that it comes up more frequently when there's a scrolling text banner at the bottom of the screen of the channel you're watching, so we think it means the TV thinks it's being communicated to. Basically, the black rectangle is its way of saying, "V-ger requires the information!"

However, things are further complicated by the fact that it came up while we were watching a DVD with the subtitles on: suddenly, there was the rectangle, and the subtitles were appearing inside it!

I did find something online suggesting that we accidentally punched the right buttons on the remote for the TV to go into programming mode, and the way around that is to unplug it for four hours to let it reset.

We'll try that.

Now let me exult about the weather for a moment. I woke up cold! Not just chilly! It feels like late October. I may have to extract the goosedown dyne from the back of the closet. Visions of jack-o'-lanterns dance in my head. I find myself dreaming of hearty CrockPot roasts and bowls of chunky stew. I dug out my toasty slippers when I got up and popped my icy feet happily into them. The cat was peeping pathetically in a very particular "Hey, it's cold!" kind of way when I got downstairs, too. Fall! Glorious fall.

Bring it on, I say.

May summer and its sweaty misery die an early death this year.

Update: I am updating this post several months later because I'm seeing several people hitting my blog via a Google search for what to do about the black rectangle on their TV screens. Answer: Your caption setting is on Text1 or Text2! Grab your remote, hit Menu, deselect the Text1 or Text2 caption setting, and you'll be rectangle-free. At least I was. Good luck!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Curse of the Black Rectangle

My beautiful and beloved flat-screen TV doesn't love me any more. Not always, anyway.

Last night was fine. Watched three solid hours of 9/11 programming without a hitch - I got sucked in when I saw all that familiar footage, marveling that those events actually happened and changed the world the way they did.

But this morning, forget about waking up with coffee and morning television! (All for the best, really, but that's not the point.)

So what's happening? Well, recently, a huge black rectangle will sometimes appear across the entire lower part of the screen, essentially making the channel impossible to watch. Changing the channel helps, but eventually it appears there, too (sometimes). Changing volume continuously up and down works, but it's exhausting on the ol' thumb!

What is it? Why is it there? What does it want?

Must scour Google today to see what I can find out.

Update: I am updating this post several months later because I'm seeing several people hitting my blog via a Google search for what to do about the black rectangle on their TV screens. Answer: Your caption setting is on Text1 or Text2! Grab your remote, hit Menu, deselect the Text1 or Text2 caption setting, and you'll be rectangle-free. At least I was. Good luck!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I have a new mouse!

A couple of weeks ago, I started noticing increased pain in my right index finger. It hurt to bend it, and there seemed to be actual swelling at the lower finger joint. I was really worried, but luckily the worst of the pain was on a Friday and the swelling and pain had dissipated by Monday.

But the pain's creeping back now, and I find that I'm substituting my left index finger for tasks like pushing down on a hairspray bottle, where I need a certain amount of force. This is not good. Worse, I find that at the end of a day of very focused work at my mouse and computer, the finger stiffens up again.

I asked my dad about it. His e-mailed advice: It's no big deal - it's called "click-happy finger" from punching keyboards and clicking on the mouse for about a million times a day (no kidding!). Go to your doctor and all he has to do is make a little incision on a tendon, and you'll be O.K. again.

Ack! No incisions, please!!

I asked my mother-in-law. Her advice: "It's arthritis. Take Advil."

Ack! Arthritis?! Surely not! And why would it only be on the one finger?

But now, I believe my troubles are at an end.


Because I have requested and received a VerticalMouse at work!

It took me less than five minutes to get used to using it. It's so comfortable to use. My hand is in its usual mousing position, just sideways, in a sort of handshake position. The fingers barely move, and my arm (not my wrist!) does all the work.

I'm loving it.

We'll see how the finger situation goes.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Not a bad walk after all

Well, this morning I got off at the new bus stop at Ellsworth and State and walked to work from there. Yeah, I arrived all sweaty, but the walk itself really wasn't bad, especially with my iPod Shuffle to keep me company. Here's what it picked for me:

Fiamma Fumana - Balla!
Sleeper - Statuesque
The Cottars - Pat Works on the Railway
Janelle Monae - Lettin' Go

I applaud the infinitessimally tiny DJ inside my Shuffle. Plus it was just starting in on Kristy MacColl's On the Beach when I came up the hill behind work, and to my astonishment I almost wished I had a little longer to go.

Of course, let's see what I say when my nose gets frostbite on that walk in a couple of months.

But by then, of course, I'll be driving a car.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Hey! A blog makeover!

Well, looky that - I picked out a new template and added a couple of things.

I find Twitter amazingly silly, but I am absentminded and I thought it might be a good reminder system... so ignore any messages like "Remember cat food" or something that may appear under Twitter Updates! We'll see how it goes. Maybe it won't work. Or maybe I'll really just start reporting on the minutiae of my life. "Eating a bowl of cereal." "Those Geico commercials are a hoot." "Where's the cat?" "Oh, no! Out of toilet paper!"

Plus I like having links to my beloved Pandora stations and my new Funtrivia game in one convenient spot.

And who knows, maybe I'll blog more often after all this fancy renovation. :-)

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Mmmm! Delectable!

Last night, I made the easiest, most delicious thing in the CrockPot.

Just get out there and invest in some Emeril's Chicken Rub (it's got basil, oregano, paprika, crushed red pepper, and a few other spices).

Buy three or four pounds of chicken parts with bone and skin still on. Wash and dry it all. Coat it with the chicken rub. Roll up two or largish three balls of aluminum foil and stick 'em in the bottom of the CrockPot. Put the chicken parts on top of 'em. Leave it on "Low" for eight hours.

The chicken basically just sits on the aluminum foil balls and roasts all day.

I am telling you, it comes all all moist and flavorful and fabulous beyond measure. All the fat collects around the aluminum foil balls and all the good stuff stays put.

We had rice and steamed vegetables with it and I felt as though I was living the life of Riley.

Plus it makes for an amazing chicken sandwich the next day. I just had one for lunch. :-)