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February 23, 2003

31 Songs

Nick Hornby's new book, Songbook (known as 31 Songs in the UK), is a collection of essays in which Hornby identifies the 31 songs (end of the article) that make up the "soundtrack of his life."

Hmm. Maybe I should do it myself, make up the "soundtrack of my life," do one song a day for all of March, and try desperately hard not to be pretentious about it all. Let me see if I can make up a list.

It's very sunny in Seattle today. If it were about five degrees warmer it'd be spring. My cold is at the end of its control over me, but I still didn't get out and enjoy the famous "one weekend in February when it's sunny."

Reminds me of a Seattle joke: Two guys are standing in the rain waiting for a bus. One turns to the other and says, "Does it seem springlike to you?" The other guy lowers the hood on his jacket, looks up at the rain coming down on him in a long, inquisitive gaze. Finally, he says, "Yes it does. Feels like it's about two degrees above normal."

Posted by dylan at 05:24 PM

February 22, 2003

The ready.gov pictographs

Here's my one spoof.

Biological attacks can happen at any time and any place. The federal government has no idea where terrorists may strike next. No, we really don't. There's increased chatter, and our alert level is high, but we are unable to say where the next attack is.

Do you happen to live in Clinton, Missouri? How about Warrenton or New Madrid? Have you considered a long winter vacation? There's never been a better time to visit Hawaii! Consider -- Hawaii doesn't have the earthquake problems you have in New Madrid, and face it, wouldn't you rather be lying on the beach in Waikiki? Think about it. There's more excitement in a square block of Honolulu than there is in all of Clinton or Warrenton. And the Department of Homeland Security wants you to enjoy 30 glorious days in Hawaii -- on us! Our tour directors, dressed for Halloween as our brave men and women in uniform, will be by shortly to whisk you away on the trip of a lifetime. Just remain in your homes and they'll come knocking!

Posted by dylan at 03:55 PM

February 21, 2003

But there is good news

There will be a new Throwing Muses album out March 4, and everyone will make an appearance -- even Tanya Donnelly. Woo hoo!

I played The Real Ramona pretty much every day the last part of my freshman year of college, when I was living in Hallett with one Greg Mayer. He was pledging Chi Psi. I barely drank. We got along OK, but we were from different worlds. Meanwhile, I got accused of keying of one girl's car -- I didn't even know she HAD a car on campus -- and had a massive falling out with this clique that was sorta nice to me in the beginning but turned spiteful in the end. I ran into Brian Grantham in the library years later in college, but I didn't want to have anything to do with him. Ditto Margot Liggett. They're all probably enjoying making immense amounts of money and having their affairs with their lovers in the city.

Thing is, I probably remember more about those last two months of my freshman year than I do of the other 4.5 years of college, and I'm not exactly sure why. I think I met a lot of people that were interesting and unusual. This was also the time when I learned I have the social skills of a wad of steel wool. You grow up a social outcast in the Midwest, a nerd to end all nerds, then you get to university and you discover that the one skill you should have learned in high school was how to effectively communicate with other people. Thirteen years of constant, endless bullying left me cold, aloof, defensive, and completely unable to understand personal space. Oh, I forgot judgmental. Very judgmental. Everything was a personal affront. Thing is, there were a LOT of good people I was around back then, Ruthie, Caroline Linder, Rebecca Stroup, Jill Jefferies (I think she's Jill Bell now), Amanda Henry aka Elvis. They were all women, though. I just couldn't figure out how to communicate with guys, except Greg, but what helped was he was laid back and generally never there.

What held me together was my growing music collection, some 40 CDs and a box filled of tapes. (Sounds so small compared to the close to 700 CDs I have in the living room right now. Heck, I think I have more disks stacked up next to this computer than I did freshman year.) Being an Okie, my musical exposure was mostly to butt rock and really bad country. In Boulder, I came into contact with "the college scene," with the Boston groups like the Pixies and Lemonheads and the Throwing Muses. I also discovered the little Boulder scene we had, with Big Head Todd and the Samples. With all the crap going on around me, with all the struggles to fit in, music was all I had, just as it was when I was in high school, just as it is now. As Jeff Tweedy wrote, "Music is my savior, and I was maimed by rock and roll."

I spent the first two years of college (on top of all of high school) pretty well depressed, but Kristin Hersh was a fellow traveller in these strange times I was living in. I can't remember a single line from any of the songs, but my right-brain memory connects it The Real Ramona with the pain and longing to belong I felt back then. Now, I still feel that same sense of disconnection, thanks to never really figuring out how to socially interact with people in any way that neither offends people nor makes me want to vomit uncontrollably. However, most of my despair is channeled through old-time country as much as through those "CDs of nostalgia." Where I was humming "Counting Backwards" while Brian Grantham was accusing me of keying Tanja Marion's car -- and not only did I not know she had a car on campus, I didn't even know what keying was -- in 1991, I'm going through my hard times at work with Uncle Tupelo's "Looking For A Way Out" running through my head.

I'm not sure I'll ever be able to fit in or carry on a conversation that doesn't result in me sticking my foot in my mouth. But the "soundtrack of my life" gives me a vocabulary to put it all into a context, gives me the ability to think that someone else has the same problem as me and has done a far better job of putting it into words. As for the new Throwing Muses CD, I'll just watch to see when it drops below $10 on half.com....

Posted by dylan at 02:20 PM

I hate being sick

Every part of my head feels achey or scratchy.

Homeland Security has their new ready.gov site up now, with these airline safety card pictographs telling you what you should do in the event of a terrorist incident or a water landing. The pictographs are, unfortunately for the DHS, so vague they are very easy to spoof.

Posted by dylan at 12:18 PM

February 20, 2003

My weekend agenda

1. Wbo Frnepu. V arrq bhg bs urer, naq fbba.

2. Try out Church of the Redeemer in Kenmore with Susan. Since we got back from England, we've both wanted to find something more Anglican than what we had here, i.e. more liturgical (bells 'n' smells, if you know what that means) and yet actually still believing this Jesus guy was the Son of God (something certain Episcopalians openly deny -- big book sales ensue).

3. Build Craig and Lori's wedding website, and get them a cheap cheap ad free server.

4. Redesign this site. Needs a new look. It's been a year since the last changes.

Posted by dylan at 09:06 AM

February 19, 2003

Justified

I haven't been posting much lately because my job sucks. Justify Your Existence turned into a big honking mess. I still have a job, but life is not fun.

To distract you from my despair, I offer an article about why nerds are unpopular. I once flirted with a cute arty sort of woman in a Capitol Hill coffeehouse, the subject being how I could never watch Welcome to the Dollhouse because it'd hit too close to home for me. Strange thing is, she understood. There was this moment, right there, when I realized there was this connection between us, like some energy trace from a quark in a supercollider. I let it go, though. Should I have? Yeah.

Posted by dylan at 04:58 PM

February 14, 2003

V-Day sucks

So, for today, the red is gone from the title. It's all a conspiracy by Hallmark, American Greetings, FTD, De Beers, See's Candies, and the Trilateral Commission to drive sales and consolidate global power. I'm sure the Clintons and the Illuminati are in there somewhere. Did you know Vince Foster didn't celebrate Valentine's Day? Neither did Chandra Levy!

Posted by dylan at 11:53 AM

February 11, 2003

The Oscars

Best Picture is an odd assortment of political machinations disguised as the "best motion picture of the year." Why are these movies nominated?

The Pianist: Let's see, a film about the Holocaust, with the added bonus of being directed by one of Hollywood's favorite sons in exile. Does it matter that said son is accused of pedophilia? Nah -- it's a movie about the Holocaust!

Chicago: It would have been surprising if it had not been nominated. It's a musical with some of Hollywood's favorite women in it, and it's distributed by Miramax. Suddenly, what was a wide-open nomination race has turned into a one horse race.

Gangs of New York: Scorsese. Miramax. Duh. Question is, which movie do the Weinsteins like more, Gangs or Chicago?

The Hours: Just as American Beauty reminded you every 30 seconds that Colonel Fitts is GAY and IN THE CLOSET, The Hours has to make sure you know that it's an Oscar-worthy movie, just as sure as Colonel Fitts is a CLOSETED HOMOSEXUAL. Yes, Nicole Kidman is A SHOO-IN FOR BEST ACTRESS, as the sun rises and Colonel Fitts is GAY -- AND WON'T ADMIT IT! I mean, every Oscar cliche is in there -- death by scourge of humanity (AIDS this time, not cancer), overcoming horrible disfigurement (Kidman's prosthetic nose), and the gay thing (just as Colonel Fitts himself was into the gay thing but could not accept it). There's even some Judaism tossed in there somewhere. This puppy panders to the Oscar folks just as much as American Beauty did, which had to remind you about Colonel Fitts' issues that you should know about by now.

Two Towers: Because every geek in Hollywood would have quit and left the studios without any CGI-driven blockbusters this summer had they not given them the usual consolation prize. And Two Towers didn't get a nod for cinematography, which just baffles me. Maybe there is a limit to the amount of New Zealand Tourism Infomercial the average person can absorb.

Chicago will win -- it's been a generation since a musical has won, and unlike Grease (I know, it wasn't nominated) and Moulin Rouge, a man could sit through without feeling his testosterone levels fall like Enron's stock. If not, the Miramax folks will pull the upset (by beating a movie they distributed) with Gangs of New York, but I have a feeling that The Hours is the wild card since it could pull voters from either Gangs or Chicago -- it's just a question of which it'll pull more votes from.

As for acting, it's Nicholson and Kidman, though Jack will win for NOT playing himself, a real change. Supporting actor and actress is where the horse races are. Assuming Queen Latifeh and Catherine Zeta-Jones cancel out, we have Bates, Streep, and Julianne Moore. Bates has an Oscar; Streep has one for every bathroom in her house. So, Moore should win out, maybe. Oscar loves Ms. Streep (maybe a little too much). Supporting actor is three Oscar winners (Harris, Newman, Walken), John C. Reilly (from Chicago) and Chris Cooper (from Adaptation -- he was, that's right -- he was Colonel Fitts!). Assuming it's not Newman or Walken, we're left with the Pollack sympathy vote for Harris, the Chicago momentum with Reilly, and Cooper's dark horse chance with a movie that is this the one "weird" movie Oscar gives sympathy to every year (c.f. Being John Malkovich, Ed Wood, Gods and Monsters....) I'd like to see Cooper win, but it's probably between The Hours and Chicago. Did you know that Colonel Fitts is a raging homosexual in denial?

Posted by dylan at 02:17 PM

74th Street

George and Becky are in town visiting family (and, before Becky accepted a position in the Bay Area, interviewing for the health care side of my employer). So, we took them to 74th Street Ale House, the closest thing we have to a pub in our end of Seattle.

For today's work potluck, it was macerated strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. Egg slicers are most effective at slicing strawberries; I turned two pounds of California berries into even red slices in 15 minutes. Overdid the balsamic and sugar, but the berries were hard and pretty flavorless to begin with. (Only bought them because they were $2/pound at Larry's).

Posted by dylan at 09:35 AM

February 09, 2003

Other things

I'm making a CD for Kat.

Pitchers and catchers reported today for the M's. This is a good thing.

Posted by dylan at 09:09 PM

Tonight's dinner is chili

This came about because I was in Larry's and there it was, right there in the meet cooler -- "beef for chili, 23% fat." Beef for chili is a coarse grind of some random cow bits mixed with some random cow fat parts. It's a much better material to start chili with than standard ground beef because the bits are bigger and don't turn into that crumb-like consistency you get from ground round.

I added too much liquid tonight, meaning that the spices were diluted, even after two hours on the stove. Also, I messed up and added some white wine. Ick. Happily, it cooked out, and the diluted nature of the liquid allowed the wine to be a "background" note rather than foreground.

I believe that no chili should ever, EVER contain any of the following: tomatoes, tomato products, cinnamon, cocoa, sugar, bell pepper, or any soy product (including soy sauce, tamari, or tofu). It can be served on rice (or my favorite, Fritos), but it should NEVER, EVER, EVER be mounded over spaghetti. This is not a frikkin bolognaise, this is CHILI.

Anyway:
Chili (as I understand it)
2 lbs coarse ground beef for chili
EITHER:
2 1/2 tbsps chili powder
OR THE FOLLOWING FIVE INGREDIENTS:
1 1/2 tbsps chile powder (that is, powdered pepper)
1/2 tbsp ground black pepper
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp onion powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tbsps ground cumin
1 can pinto beans (if you're a bean person)
1 bottle beer (preferably an amber or alt or Shiner Bock or Lone Star -- I use Alaska Amber)
1/2 cup water
1/2 medium onion, minced

Add beef to a 5 qt stewpot on medium-high heat. Cook beef until it's browned, removing fat as you go from the pan (as much as you want out -- I usually aim for half; the fat's there to keep the meat from turning to rubber at this point). Add the onions and sweat them a little. Turn heat to low. Add either chili powder or the four spices. Now pour in the beer and water and toss in the cumin and beans. Stir. Simmer for two hours or so, checking every 30 minutes. Add water if it's getting too dry. Serve over Fritos, top with shredded cheese, and drink beer with it. You did buy a six pack, right?

Posted by dylan at 08:21 PM

February 07, 2003

Friday

I have a new favorite comic.

JYE was delayed until Monday. Gives me a weekend to put my 3" binder of "how wonderful Dylan is" e-mails together for the meeting.

Posted by dylan at 12:42 PM

February 06, 2003

Today, it's JYE

It's Justify Your Existence Day! Here's the clause in the rulebook that governs this little exercise in futility.

And shin splints suck, esp. when your soccer team gives up four goals in the final five minutes of your game.

Posted by dylan at 09:38 AM

February 05, 2003

Brain Gorp

Here's a few things rattling around my brain.

Columbia
It was sad and horrible, but I think I'm suffering from disaster fatigue. So many big, bad things have happened on the Dubya watch that I think I'm starting to get burned out on them all. That seems like a bad thing, but I'm not sure why. I still feel compassion, but I feel indifferent to disaster now. Maybe it's just a question of scale. I mean, more people died in the first 60 seconds of the World Trade Center attack than died over Texas.

But what I don't get is this debate about whether we should even go into space at all. I mean, how stupid, honestly. I can see these idiots standing around King Charles after Magellan's expedition came back...

Charles: I commend you, sirs, on your achievement of circumnavigating the globe. Pray, where is Magellan?
Sailor: Dear sir, he hath perished, killed in battle upon an island in the Pacific.
Skeptics: SEE? SAILING IS DANGEROUS!!! WE SHOULDN"T RISK OUR LIVES WHEN WE COULD SEND ROBOTIC SHIPS TO TAKE PICTURES OF FAUNA, SEARCH FOR GOLD, AND CONVERT THE HEATHEN TO CHRIST!!!

Humans want to know what's over the next hill. Sending a robot with a camera to take some nice pictures and conduct some nice experiments is the death of science itself. Computers can do deductive science, but they are terrible at inductive and intuitive reasoning. I'd like to suggest to the writers of these editorials that, perhaps, their columns and screeds can be written by machine. I mean, what's so hard about inputing an idea and letting the algorhitim spit out an article? It'd save a lot of money, and it means fewer risks of getting sued for libel because your columnist, in a burst of creative energy, called someone an ass.

Music math
Ben Folds = Dave Matthews + Billy Joel.
Ben Kweller = Ben Folds + Beck.
Dave Matthews = Grateful Dead + James Taylor.
Ben Harper = (Bob Marley / Jimi Hendrix) + James Taylor.

Nectarines
Kat wants a fresh nectarine. So do I. Heck, I'd even take a fresh peach that didn't taste like it was picked green two weeks ago.

Posted by dylan at 05:48 PM

February 03, 2003

Reading at a Slug's Pace

As noted earlier, I received Body of Secrets for Christmas. I'm now on page 550, meaning I'm still over a hundred pages from the end.

Quick math: I started reading this book at Christmas, so six days in December + 31 in January + 2 in Feb = 39 days of reading time. 550 pgs / 39 days = 14.1 pages/day.

I'm not illiterate or aliterate. I just don't make time to read. My ADHD messes with my ability to concentrate, so I sometimes have to re-read passages because I can't pay attention long enough to absorb the content. Things that interest me I do fine with, but I'm finally starting to understand why I always did so terribly on reading comprehension tests in elementary school despite reading at an 8th grade reading level when I was in 1st grade. I just didn't read the passage, even though I understood it and what was going on.

Next book for me will be Crypto by Steven Levy.

Posted by dylan at 10:05 AM