Friday, December 14, 2007

Reading is fundamental

So, Lopez! flew out of Austin early this morning on her way to Mexico City and the start of a week-long visit with family. The trip was a last-minute sort of thing so I wasn't able to go along, which if you know us is an almost unheard of splitting of the atom.

Everyone keeps telling me I'm "a bachelor for a week!" and basically saying I get to indulge in all my guilty pleasures without having to lobby for it or, at the least, getting the stink-eye for ordering the bacon burger. But honestly? When this sort of thing does happen, all I wind up doing is pouting like a kid because my best friend isn't around, and moping around the house talking to the cats waaaaay too much. And I watch TV and read a lot.

With that in mind, I made a trip to the library to pick up some supplies, including:

The Midnight Choir (an Irish crime novel)

Yojimbo (Kurosawa movie I've seen in bits and pieces, but never from start to finish)

The Kindaichi Case Files Vol. 5 (manga I keep hearing is good)

Stardust (illustrated prose I've never gotten around to reading)

Phonogram Vol. 1 (read the first issue, dropped it, and now I keep hearing how great it's supposed to be — we'll see)

I might just be doing what the pleasantly plump do when they show up to a buffet depressed, grabbing anything that looks half-interesting and cramming it in (my brain — honest!). Because I've already got a couple of library books I'm reading, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Imperial Life in the Emerald City.

Yikes. If I start getting all my meals delivered, I might be in trouble ... maybe I'll go to a buffet ...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Cutting the cheese: In which I make a completely sexist observation

Why can't most women cut it?

Wait — let me amend that. Why can't any of the women I know slice?

Specifically, I'm talking about cutting and slicing of the deli persuasion, and I'm basing this on these completely baseless observations: My mom is notorious for literally hacking at blocks of cheese as if she were really lactose intolerant; my wife, Lopez!, cuts at a slant no matter how hard she tries; and every time I go to get some meat and cheese at my office common area after a female co-worker, it looks like a murder scene.

Lemme 'splain that last part. The company I work for deals with a lot of outside vendors, independent companies and service providers that help produce our end product. So, during the holiday season they tend to send us stuff in appreciation of the working relationship we share.

In other words, we get sent a lot of free stuff, most of which you can eat.

I'm new to this department, but since it works most heavily with vendors its' end-of-year booty is legendary. Tins of cookies and popcorn, smoked sausages and cheeses, even smoked salmon and whole spiral-cut hams find their way to the office. It's like heaven, and God is the head manager at a really good Hickory Farms.

Today we received a couple of sausages and blocks of cheese, and that's when I noticed that — like my wife, mom, grandmother and sister — the women I work with apparently don't slice straight, either.

Whuh? Is it because the whole turkey-carving, a-dull-knife-is-more-dangerous, Jim-Bowie-died-fighting-with-a-knife-named-after-himself thing is one of those macho rites of passage passed down from father to son? This theory, of course, doesn't include women who are professional cutters like butchers, surgeons and that girl who tore my heart out in fifth grade. I'm talking about the average woman who seems to leave a ragged trail of destruction and mutilated foodstuffs at cutting boards everywhere.

Of course, I've seen plenty of men who wield a knife as if it were a broom they were using to put out a flaming mouse. But generally, I've noticed this more with women.

So answer me this — do the women you know stink at cutting the cheese?

(Hey guys — Nel here. Obviously, this is meant to be tongue-in-cheek. OK? OK! And ladies, seriously — what did that block of muenster ever do to you?!?)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Big Mac attack

Is Ronald McDonald gonna have ta slap a bitch?!?

(via Kyle!)

Friday, November 30, 2007

69 years of pure Evel

As a kid in the 70s, I grew up with a unique kind of hero. There were still the astronauts, the firemen and SWAT cops, but above all there were the stuntmen.

It may have been a golden age for these daredevils, with TV specials and movies bringing them out of the background and into the spotlight. I remember growing up watching men rocketing their motorcycles over cars and through flaming rings, and women blowing themselves up in crates packed with dynamite. My toy box included the Evel Knievel stunt cycle, which you'd crank until it shot out across the floor and, appropriately enough, would usually crash spectacularly and send its helmeted rider flying. Somewhere I still have a Hot Wheels version of the Skycycle he rode down to the bottom of Snake River Canyon.

Hard-drinkin', hard-lovin' and just plain hard-livin', these men and women were with me as I jumped my bicycle off curbs and down ditches filled with cattails. But none stood as tall as Knievel.

For me, and for a lot of people (I think it'd be safe to call him the Godfather of Extreme Sports), Knievel was King. And now, after almost 40 broken bones and countless feats of daring, the King is dead at 69, ongoing illness being the one crash-landing he couldn't bounce back from.

Here's to you, Evel Knievel — thanks for showing me that a life without risk isn't worth living, and death is nothing to fear. You might not have had a perfect life, but you sure lived the hell out of it.

I don't remember where I heard it, but here's a riddle for you.

Q: Why didn't Evel Knievel make it across Snake River Canyon?

A: He was weighed down by his enormous balls.

Speaking of Snake River, here's some video, too:

Evel Knievel's Caesar's Palace jump (and legendary wipeout)!

Big Mack attack!

Snake River Canyon!

And this is just awesome.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


A souvenir octopus swizzle stick, bought from a glassblower in Juarez and now taking up residence on my desk at work.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

No. 1 with a bullet list

You know what's the one thing I don't like about coming home after a trip out of town? The way air gets trapped in the water pipes. When I took a shower today it sounded like a bagpipe was strangling a cat.

Lopez! and Quile have a problem with those media darlings, Perverted Justice — mostly with its poor word usage:

Lopez!: Perverted Justice? I don't even know what that means!

Quile: It should be "Justice for Perverts."

Hey, we've got friends who sell stuff — don't you want to celebrate the Savior's birthday by buying some of it? Jesus would want you to. So go check out Lisa's stuff, and then take a look at Lindy's.

So Blogger asked me if I wanted to update this template and I said sure and now everything looks goofy. And that's why all the text looks so ginormous now. Which means we'll be tinkering with it, so bear with us while things are being moved around, added or dropped.

Wow. This is possibly the most random post yet.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The problem with journalism today

"I don't know what that has to do
with the product."

— UT Austin journalism student at a Jim Lehrer lecture last night, regarding what the student considered a professor's overemphasis on interviewing skills.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Why I love my wife, Reason #3,782

As I was walking into the kitchen this morning, Lopez and I started a conversation like this:

Me: Hey, you wanna hear something gross?

Lopez: Yes.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Geek check: I should've had a d8

While I was moving my notebooks, camera and other stuff from one bag to another last night, I started looking at my gaming bag as a possible candidate.

(I'm looking for The Perfect Bag, and even though I know I don't own it I keep hoping one of them will surprise me some day; it's a search second only to my quest for The Perfect Pen.)

If you game, you know what a gaming bag is; in my case, it's a backpack I use to carry my scratch paper and pencils and player's guides and whatever else I need when I'm gaming. Of course, this also means that most of my dice are in this bag. And of course, this means I ended up spending a good half-hour or so reorganizing my dice.


Hey man, I needed to make sure I had plenty of d6. And then I read this entry on Wil Wheaton's blog today and was reminded that not only is he a fantastic writer and seemingly all-around good-guy, but he understands. A Yahtzee cup? C'mon.

I know most of my friends are geeks, nerds and dorks in one way or another, so let me hear it - what geeky thing have you done lately?

I told you I was looking for six-siders

Friday, October 05, 2007

Thank you, Satan!

And also thanks to E, because with the exception of the clock radio this morning I literally haven't listened to anything but Dethklok since yesterday. What I need is a dethklok radio.

If you've got any metal in your soul (and a sense of humor about it), YOU NEED THIS. It's seriously one of the best metal albums I've heard in a long time, which is pretty good for a fictional band with real talent. Go get it, and pick up the Season 1 DVD while you're at it!

Also, I may now be guilty of this.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Dear Brazil: Bite me

It sounds greedy, considering that the U.S. Women's team was in position to possibly win its third World Cup title, but dammit, Brazil, are you going to dominate women's soccer, too?

Isn't it enough that you've got Ronaldhino? Now we've got to contend with Marta as well? Look at her over there - she's a machine! And beating the U.S. 4-0? That's just overkill, man. C'mon.

And yeah, I know this is the first time Brazil will be competing for the title, but I know how it goes. You get a little taste of victory and suddenly you don't want to share any more. I've seen how you operate, Brazil, and I'm afraid this is only the beginning.

Just look at the kinds of stories I'm having to read now:

USA Falls, 4-0, Brazil in 2007 FIFA World Cup Semifinals

HANGZHOU, China (Sept. 27, 2007) – The U.S. Women’s National Team endured a nightmare first half in which it scored an own goal and saw midfielder Shannon Boxx ejected. The U.S. was forced to chase the rest of the game against the dynamic and talent
ed Brazilians who scored twice in both halves to defeat the USA, 4-0.

The first 20 minutes of the game saw clattering fouls from both teams, leading to free kicks in dangerous spots. Brazil forced some early pressure as well, hitting a free kick in the seventh minute that was deflected by U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry, off a Brazilian player and out of bounds.

The USA gifted Brazil its first goal in the 20th minute, coming off a corner kick that was spun to the near post. With no Brazilian players close to getting a touch on it, it skidded off the turf as midfielder Leslie Osborne dove to clear it, but instead inadvertently headed the ball into her own net from close range.

The second Brazil goal came seven minutes later on a piece of magical dribbling from Brazilian star Marta, who won a ball from defender Stephanie Lopez down the right flank. She dribbled inside and darted free, shooting between closing U.S. defenders Kate Markgraf and Cat Whitehill. Scurry got a hand on the ball, but couldn’t turn it outside the right post.

Then disaster struck in stoppage time of the first half.

Boxx had received an early yellow card in the 15th minute for upending a Brazilian player and was caught chasing a Brazilian counter attack in the 46th minute. Brazilian forward Cristiane bumped Boxx from behind, got tangled in her legs and both went down in a heap. In a harsh decision by referee Nicole Petignat, she whistled the foul, pulled out a second yellow, then red and sent Boxx to the locker room.

U.S. head coach Greg Ryan inserted Carli Lloyd for Lopez at halftime as the USA went to a 3-4-2 formation, but against the talented Brazilians and playing a woman down, the Americans faced a daunting task to get back in the game.

The end of the game belonged to Marta, who put on a dazzling display of dribbling and scored the capper in the 80th minute. She took a chipped pass from Renata Costa in the left side of the penalty box with her back to the goal, flicked the bouncing ball around substitute Tina Ellertson to the inside, ran around her to the outside, then cut inside to evade Whitehill before hitting her shot into the lower left corner. Once again Scurry got a glove to it, but couldn’t turn it away. The two goals gave Marta a tournament-leading seven in the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

It was the first loss in regulation time for the U.S. women in the past 51 games and first-ever loss under Ryan. The four-goal deficit also marked the biggest margin of defeat in U.S. history.

"Scored an own-goal" for God's sake! "Biggest margin of defeat in U.S. history!" And I can't say columns with headlines like "Brazil overwhelms U.S. with its talent" don't sting. Oh - they sting alright. I blame you for my pain, Brazil, you and your bionic soccer-monster.

I can only hope Germany is ready for what it must face.

Marta: "Raagh!! I'll swallow your soul!!!"

Friday, September 07, 2007

'A straight line is not the shortest distance between two points ...'

I was sad to read today that Madeleine L'Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time and many other novels, died yesterday at the age of 88.

L'Engles' Wrinkle was probably the first full-on science fiction book I ever read, or at least it's the earliest I can specifically remember (A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court might have barely beaten it). And man, did it have an impact.

I must have been around 10 or so, and here was my first introduction to concepts like the space/time continuum, wormholes (though they weren't called that in the book) and planes of existence occupying different dimensions than our own. I must have read A Wrinkle in Time two or three times in a row, and then several more times over the years.

On top of the heavy dose of scientific theory, there was the compellingly creepy theme on the evils of conformity. Even now, there are two things that have stuck with me most from the book; Mrs Whatsit folding her apron to explain a space/time wormhole (the title's "wrinkle in time") and the frighteningly soulless and ordered planet where the kid's father is being held. When the heroes of Wrinkle first get there, the come upon a street lined with gray houses that's empty until, suddenly and with perfect precision, every door opens and a child comes out. Here's a taste of what weirded me out:

"As the skipping rope hit the pavement, so did the ball. As the rope curved over the head of the jumping child, the child with the ball caught the ball. Down came the ropes. Down came the balls. Over and over again. Up. Down. All in rhythm. All identical. Like the houses. Like the paths. Like the flowers."

Guh - it still gives me the creeps.

While looking for a link for background on A Wrinkle in Time, I realized I had completely forgotten about the religious overtones of the story. I'd have to re-read it (and its follow-ups, which are also good), but I remember it being kind of innocuous for the most part. It's definitely there, but it doesn't get in the way of a great story about free-thinking, relativity and the power of love. If you haven't read it, give it a try - you won't be sorry.

Thanks, Madeleine L'Engle - you introduced me to things I still think about today; and whenever I'm explaining a wormhole to someone, I still use your apron as an example.

Friday, August 31, 2007

The tide is high (but he's holding on)

Is it just me, or does it seem as if the once-tightly packed foundation of the Bush sandcastle (and by extension, the GOP) has been taking some wear-and-tear from the waves of scandal and increasing public dissatisfaction?

Just today Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho announced that he plans to resign after all the noise made since being busted for soliciting sex in an airport men's room. I still want to know what kind of "hand gestures" he made that were apparently obvious cue to the cops Is it like flashing gang signs? I don't want to get accidentally blown away, in any sense of the word.

And then, Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino was bumped up to the top spot after Tony Snow resigned. I'm willing to give Snow a pass since he's trying to beat cancer for the second time, but I can't help but think that he might've thought it was a good idea to git while the gittin' was good. He's been a consistent cheerleader for the White House, so you know the image-conscious Administration can't be happy, especially since it comes so soon after Rove announced he was leaving.

And that was just today!

I want to believe the American public and its supposed elected representatives have finally - finally - had enough. But thanks to the actions of this administration ... I'm not sure I do. I almost feel as if Bush has stolen my wallet, and now periodically comes around to smack me in the head with it while the crowd nods and tells him, yes, he's doing the right thing.

I can only hope that the crowd is checking its pockets and will realize they've been ripped off, too.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Like a phoenix rising from Arizona

Yeah, I know - it's been a while since we've put anything up here, but a combination of a busy time at work, a week's vacation and other excuses that I hope sound good have kept us from posting as regularly as we'd like. But that doesn't mean we haven't been thinking about the poor little blog, so here are some of the things that have caught out attention lately.

We'll kick things off with - what else - the latest in pickle news! Actually, this is a few weeks old, but that's OK - we all know pickles keep forever. I'm not sure what's with the apparent upswing in pickle popularity lately, but I'm beginning to get a little suspicious, especially since this time it's local!

Apparently it's not enough to soak them in Kool-Aid; now they're freezing the juice and calling it ... a picklesickle. According to the Austin-American Statesman:

John Howard of Seguin is the creator of the Picklesickle, 2 ounces of dill pickle juice frozen in a Vienna sausage-sized plastic bag. Howard retired from the plumbing trade last year and now runs a Seguin roller rink, where he has sold thousands of the neon green frozen treats.

Frozen pickle juice pops have been popular treats for kids at fairs, drive-in movies and other events for years. Howard's Picklesickles had a similar genesis, as pickle juice frozen in small plastic cups and sold for 75 cents under the roller rink's multicolored disco lights in the city about 50 miles south of Austin. That first batch, made in May, sold out the first weekend and used up all of the pickle juice Howard had on hand. Now, he buys pickles in 5-gallon jars and uses a "proprietary method" to turn them into pure pickle juice.

On a busy weekend, Howard sells more than 300 Picklesickles, most of them to kids, he said. Flavored versions — including cherry-dill pickle, lime-dill pickle and kosher dill pickle — are in development. And Howard has sold about 30 boxes through his Picklesickle Web site,, to pickle lovers from Waco to Anchorage, Alaska. They go for $18 to $30, depending on the quantity.

Instead of stopping myself the next time I have a crazy idea, I'm going to come up with a catchy name and slap a price tag on it, 'cause people will buy anything.

Y'know, today's a special day, so instead of downing another picklesickle, why don't you do something a little less icky? Like, say, summon an Outer God and fall into the endless madness that is the emptiness of a cold and uncaring universe?!?!

Yes, happy 117th birthday H.P. Lovecraft, in whatever dark dimension you may be haunting nowadays. Why, you and the Cthulhu Mythos that slithered out of your inspired imagination even has the power to make the Family Circus funny.

I have this panel taped to my office door - the look on people's faces as they read it cracks me up every time.

Speaking of strange goings-on, me and Lopez! spent about a week in Taos recently, where she took a class and I walked a pair of tennis shoes to death. It was the first time Lopez had been to the area, and it was nice to be around mountains and real Mexican food again. Yay mountains! Screw you, tex-mex!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Worst Soup in the World

I didn't have much for lunch today, but you know what? That's OK, because the alternative would have been to eat the entire container of Dr. McDougall's Vegan Minestrone and Pasta soup, which is so bad I can't even think of a simile for it.

The face of evilVegan food can be good, but maybe that's just the freshly made stuff because I can tell you that this cup of instant soup is so bad that I would not be surprised if you told me the Devil himself squatted over cardboard containers all day just to put this product on the shelves. Is this why you vegans tend to be grumpy? I would be too if this was the kind of crap I had to eat.

And don't get me wrong - this isn't an anti-vegan rant. I eat everything and I've put some truly foul things in my mouth. But this ... good God ... I didn't even pay for it and I feel ripped off.

Lopez and I forgot lunch today, so we borrowed these cups of caca from a coworker (who claims they're "good," by the way). Our first hint of things to come? When Lopez had her first spoonful and said, "Tastes fishy."


It was all downhill from there. The beans and vegetables never rehydrated, and instead became little dried-out bombs of ick. The "flavor mix" tended to hide in the pasta shells, waiting to unleash the full force of the soups' strangely chemical taste. There was something in there that could have been barley, or just as easily could have have been Styrofoam. No, wait - I've tasted Styrofoam, and it wasn't this bad.

In the end I could only eat the broth, and even then it was a struggle. With every bite I became more pissed, as if this soup had personally committed an affront to me and my entire family, and then smacked me in the back of the head with a dead 'possum. Lopez didn't eat much more, and she loves soup.

We shared a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and a Coke with "lunch." We later both had a handful of Reese's Pieces.


This soup was so bad I felt compelled to warn everyone about it, like it was Attila's horde or an impromptu Yanni concert. If you have the opportunity to eat this soup, I'd recommend you catch a squirrel and then use it to scrape up some unidentifiable roadkill in a toxic swamp instead. It would be better than Dr. Death's Vegan Minestrone and Evil soup.

It would have to be better.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Things I Hate: 1st in a series

  • People who habitually use British slang
Attention individuals who "casually" drop lingo from the U.K. on a regular basis - including "bloody," "wanker," "arse" and "bollocks" - but are not connected to the U.K. in any way:


(Anyone from the United Kingdom, please ignore this message.)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Hey, good-lookin'

Look who took a whirl at making an avatar - yay Lopez!!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Los Siiiimp-soooooons!

So, an accurate depiction of yours truly in Springfield? You make the call!

By the way, this was done by using the avatar creator at the movie home page and then taking a screen shot (I didn't feel like registering for something I'd use once). If you feel like joining in on the fun, that'd be swell.

Now who's got the squishees?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Hell of a commute

I give up.

How do you even fight such blatant corruption and cronyism? How do you stand up against someone who is essentially a retarded bully who not only doesn't care what's right or wrong or what the people he obstensibly serves want, but instead serves only his own malformed concept of loyalty and duty to self.

High five! C'mon, don't leave me hangin'I hope it's obvious that I've been talking about George Bush.

Congratulations, you evil, empty shell of a man - I feel broken. By commuting the sentence of Lewis Libby on felony charges, and leaving the door opent to a possible future pardon, you've practically destroyed what little faith I had left in America and what it's supposed to represent. The law means nothing to you, except as something to be bent and twisted to your needs.

I don't care that he's on probation - that's meaningless. I don't care that he has to pay a fine of $250,000 - he's got the money, and if he doesn't have it now he's still got those buddies of his who raised million ... MILLIONS ... to support his case and push for that full pardon. And I especially don't care that his reputation is supposedly "irreparably damaged" or that his career as a lawyer could be over - that is the least someone convicted of lying in court and obstruction of justice should suffer.

I'm not surprised, really. And that's what bothers me: I've come to expect the worst from the president of my country, and little better from my government. And it bothers me that whatever I think - or whatever any other citizen or activist group says, or whatever empty rhetoric any politician coughs up - doesn't mean anything.

Not a damn thing.

Image: Associated Press

Monday, June 25, 2007

Lo siento, Mexico

The final game of the CONCACAF tournament was yesterday, and let's just say that as a native of Mexico ... Lopez! is pissed!

It might be because I keep dancing around the apartment chanting, "U-S-A! U-S-A!"

Whooooo! In spite of all the naysayers, the US was the better team (ha!) and beat Mexico 2-1 to take home the Gold Cup, leaving Mexico to sob into the tricolores and plan the lynching of their coach, Hugo Sanchez.

Oh man, does Lopez! hate that dude. He talked a lot of smack before he was named coach, and since then has managed to create a team of primadonnas who seem disinterested in scoring on the field. Not to mention he looks like a pudgy Tom Jones, so he's got that against him, too. Plus, he's got that annoying tendency Mexican fans have of making excuses and being unwilling to admit they lost. This is what Sanchez said after the game:

"When you lose doing what we did, you can't be sad," Mexico coach Hugo Sanchez said. "It bothers me, sure. But when you look at how we did in the tournament, we got a lot better and we deserved a better result. Sometimes the team that plays better doesn't always win."


And I have to admit - I used to hate Landon Donovan. He was pretty full of himself, but didn't follow-through enough to earn it. But lately he seems to have matured, focused and become a real team leader, which is what the US team needs. On top of that, Mexico despises Donovan, so you know that's gotta be satisfying.

Don't get me wrong - I love the Mexican team, and when I'm not rooting for the US I'm all about Mexico. But for now, well ... I think it's time for another victory dance.

U-S-A! U-S-A!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Hey, Pickle!!

Have you ever seen Idiocracy? It's not as good as Office Space, but it's a solid offering from Mike Judge that runs with the premise that society is virtually in ruins in the future because, well, stupid people tend to breed more. And they tend to eat more junk food and energy drinks.

Don't sweat it, stupid people! It's really a statement on our American society in general, since the world basically operates as if everyone is living in a reality show.

Ow. I just hurt my brain.

Anyway, this is all a long way to say this: Earlier, Lopez and I were talking about this, and she said it just supports her argument that Idiocracy might not be that far-fetched.

Ladies and gentlemen, in our continuing quest to bring you the latest in pickle news, I give you what some call:


Oh yeah!

Because everyone knows that dill pickles have been crying out for an intensive Kool-Aid injection. And yes, small child, I will try Hot Cheetos and ice cream. At this point, why the hell not?

I just hope I don't go into sugar-shock while eating my Koolickle. Being found with one in my grip - or God forbid, my mouth - might be embarrassing.

Shit. Now I can't stop saying "Koolickle."

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Ny ... Nyarlathotep?

I think I might be reading too much Lovecraft.

I was sitting in a meeting and eating some chocolate someone brought. The wrappers had playful little messages in them like, "You look good in red," and, "Take a bubble-bath." I opened one up and it said:

And the first thing I thought of was forest cabins and brains in metallic cylinders.

Yeah ... it might be time to re-read a Harry Potter book or something.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Like a rocket

One of the many things I love about Austin is its tendency to bolt wacky sculptures to its buildings. There's the Mangia dinosaur (now stalking the roof of the Wheatsville Co-op), the Blue Genie, the pumped-up arm of that gym on Guadalupe, the tentaskull on Burnet, and a ton more.

There's even water heater rockets, blasting off to parts unknown, looking for the next adventure. And that, really, kind of sums up what it's like living in this town.

(Seen on St. John's Avenue, near North Lamar and 183)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Brace yourself

Guess who got her braces off this Wednesday?

Yay for Lopez! Let's go get some roasted corn and candy apples!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The scene in Virginia

It's human nature to try to find meaning in seemingly random, horrific situations. We don't understand why a young man felt he had to walk across the Virginia Tech campus and open fire, killing 32 people and then himself. We probably will never know.

That's not going to stop us from asking questions, of course. But we have to remember something: 32 people are dead. The rampant speculation - much of it generated by the media in its rush to "get the story" - is creating a large amount of heat while shedding precious little light.

Let's stop guessing. Stop trying to place blame, and figure out how to fix things for the future. Realize that sometimes you can't plan for the unthinkable and the irrational. Yes, there were clues and warning signs throughout the past years - extremely disturbing clues - but these things often don't have meaning in and of themselves until you're given a horrible reason to add them all together.

We do need insight into what led to the tragic murders at Virginia Tech. We do need to understand why the lives of 32 people were suddenly, needlessly ended. But stop pawing blindly at any stray mote, and don't try to add meaning where there is none.

Carrasco is right: Trying to now blame movies, and in the process showing your own cultural ignorance, is lazy, it's foolish, and it's beside the point. Movies - or video games, Web sites, books or whatever will be picked up on next - aren't to blame for the deaths of 32 people on a college campus; that lies with a single, sociopathic gunman, and we shouldn't lose sight of that.

This teacup ride is making me sick

Keep an ear out and listen for this latest bit of rhetoric to come out of the Bush administration. I'll bet my "dirty liberal" membership card that they will begin beating this drum hard, telling Iraq - and by extension, the American people - that we never promised to send more troops or to actually clean up the mess we made.

Instead, the administration will first make it seem as if Iraqis are responsible for the problems in Iraq, and then will try to say the idea of not sending more troops was their idea in the first place.

This is how the spin begins, with distraction and misinformation.

And call me paranoid, but do you think there was any coincidence that this happened the same day Alberto Gonzalez began testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee?

Gates in Iraq to spur reconciliation

By Lolita C. Baldor
Associated Press

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Defense Secretary Robert Gates slipped into Iraq Thursday to warn Iraqi leaders that the U.S. commitment to a military buildup there is not open-ended.

Gates said the political tumult in Washington over financing the military presence in Iraq shows that both the American public and the Bush administration are running out of patience with the war. He was speaking to reporters in Israel just before his quick flight to Baghdad.

"I would like to see faster progress," he said, adding that momentum by the Iraqi government on political reconciliation as well as legislation on sharing oil revenue would "begin the process to send a message that the leaders are beginning to work together."

He said that, in turn, would create an environment in which violence could be reduced.

Underscoring the urgency in controlling the violence, police said a suicide car bomber rammed into a fuel truck in central Baghdad only hours before Gates' arrival, killing at least 11 people. The attack came a day after one of the bloodiest days in Baghdad since the U.S. troop increase began nine weeks ago, with four strikes killing more than 180 people.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

'Hi. I'm Kurt Vonnegut'

It's always sad when we lose one of the good ones.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., was a renowned author, a dedicated humanist and, by all accounts, just generally a really nice guy with something important he had to share with you. His death yesterday - due apparently to complications from recent brain injuries sustained in a fall - leaves an empty space no one will ever really be able to fill.

For all the important ideas he produced and seeded in our psyches, it seems silly that the thing that most endeared Vonnegut to me was his cameo appearance in Back to School. At one point, rich-guy-gone-back-to-college Thornton Melon (Rodney Dangerfield) has hired Vonnegut to write a report on himself for a class. Vonnegut shows up to drop off the report, and in a later scene the teacher gives Thornton an "F" and tells him:

Diane: Whoever did write this doesn't know the first thing about Kurt Vonnegut!

[cut to Thornton's dorm suite]
Thornton: [on the phone] ... and another thing, Vonnegut! I'm gonna stop payment on the check!

[Kurt, unheard, responds]
Thornton: Fuck me? Hey, Kurt, can you read lips? Fuck you! Next time I'll call Robert Ludlum!

[hangs up]

For some reason, I think Vonnegut must've gotten a kick out of that.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

'Which order are we talking about?'

I've got to admit, I like Barack Obama and it's almost completely for superficial reasons. He comes off as a hip, smart, relaxed and confident guy who says all the right things - basically, the kind of guy you'd want your daughter to date. Or hell, the sort of dude you'd want to date yourself.

But his recent comments on The Late Show with David Letterman just shot him up another 25 points on my personal Candidatetometer. You, Mr. Obama, have Evel Knievel-sized balls. You don't have the track-record some of the other candidates do, but you've got balls.

Here's a breakdown from the New York Times:

The Obama-Clinton Ticket?

By Jeff Zeleny

It’s not uncommon, at least in some Democratic circles, to ponder the possibilities of a joint presidential ticket of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. And in most conversations, the names are listed in precisely that order.

But when that question is raised on tonight’s Late Show with David Letterman, Senator Obama asks for a bit of clarity.

“That would be a powerful ticket,” Mr. Letterman says of the two senators. “Undeniably that would be a powerful ticket.”

Mr. Obama replies: “Which order are we talking about?”

You just know that ended with a bad night for Bill.

Image cropped from a MSNBC illustration

Friday, March 30, 2007

Weird science v.2

Yeah, I know we haven't posted anything in a while - sorry 'bout that. It's a lame excuse, but things really have been busy lately. Regular posting will begin again soon, but for now, put the needle on the record for ... SCIENCE!!!

France opens secret UFO files covering 50 years

by Marlowe Hood PARIS (AFP) - France became the first country to open its files on UFOs Thursday when the national space agency unveiled a website documenting more than 1,600 sightings spanning five decades.

The online archives, which will be updated as new cases are reported, catalogues in minute detail cases ranging from the easily dismissed to a handful that continue to perplex even hard-nosed scientists.


"Cases such as the lady who reported seeing an object that looked like a flying roll of toilet paper" are clearly not worth investigating, said Patenet.

But many others involving multiple sightings -- in at least one case involving thousands of people across France -- and evidence such as burn marks and radar trackings showing flight patterns or accelerations that defy the laws of physics are taken very seriously.

I saw an object that looked like a flying roll of toilet paper once, but it was after eating some bad Thai (thank you - tip your waitresses, folks!)

Conclusive proof: Vampires do not exist

The Huffington Post

Apparently some smarty-pants scientists have proven conclusively that vampires conclusively do not exist. Here's why: Each time a vampire bites someone to feed, they turn that person into a vampire, creating a cycle that doubles and doubles and doubles again, like that famous "and they told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on and so on and so on" Faberge Organics commercial from the 80's, and also like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and mitosis, kind of.

It's explained more smarter here:

If a single vampire fed on a single human in the first month, this would create two vampires -- and decrease the human population by one, leaving it at 536,870,911 - 1 = 536,870,910. In the second month, those two vampires would each feed, transforming two people into vampires -- so you get four vampires and a human population of 536,870,911 - 3 = 536,870,908. So you can see where this is headed. The vampire population is increasing in a geometric progression, and the population of humans is similarly decreasing -- and at that rate, the authors calculate, the entire human population would be transformed into vampires in only 30 months. QED!

So it isn't wooden stakes, sunlight or even Slayers that kill vampires - it's math. And Latin.

Bizarre hexagon spotted in Saturn’s clouds

One of the most bizarre weather patterns in the solar system has been photographed at Saturn, where astronomers have spotted a huge, six-sided feature circling the north pole.

Rather than the normally sinuous cloud structures seen on all planets that have atmospheres, this thing is a hexagon.


The hexagon is nearly 15,000 miles (25,000 kilometers) across. Nearly four Earths could fit inside it. The thermal imagery shows that the hexagon extends about 60 miles (100 kilometers) down into the clouds.

This is simultaneously the most disconcerting and the most awesome thing I've ever seen. I don't know what's going on with Saturn, but between this and the Eye, I think it might be a good idea to watch the skies.

Smaller Inflatable Exoskeleton

- This tiny girl is wearing what's called a "Power Jacket," which is an inflatable exokeleton that weighs only four pounds.

Japanese electronics giant Matsushita Electric Industrial unveils the prototype model for a "power jacket" to help patients recover from partial paralysis during rehabilitation, at the Home Care and Rehabilitation Exhibition in Tokyo.

This is cool on so, so many levels.

Scientists discover 'shadow person'

by Erica Harrison Cosmos Online

SYDNEY: Ever feel as though you're being followed? As if someone is behind you, shadowing your every move? It might be your ‘shadow person,' created by unusual activity in a specific brain region, a new study shows.

The paper, published in the British journal Nature, describes the case of a 22-year-old woman with no history of psychiatric problems who was being evaluated for treatment of epilepsy. When a region of her brain called the left temporoparietal junction was electrically stimulated, the woman described encounters with a ‘shadow person' who mimicked her bodily movements.

When the patient was lying down, stimulation of this brain region caused her to feel that someone was behind her. … When the patient sat up, leaned forward and clasped her knees, she felt that the figure was also sitting, embracing her in its arms - a feeling she described as "unpleasant."

Do you ever get the feeling scientists just dig the idea of poking people in the brain? Just to see what happens?

Class dismissed!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


We got this text message last night, which automatically became the best text message ever:

From: Tom

Baby Amelie is 8 lb 10 oz!! All ok.

9:08P Tue Mar13

Congratulations, Tom and Nina! We're so happy for you both, and we can't wait to meet the little piece of heaven. We love you guys, and we already love your daughter.

Hooray for Tom and Nina! Yay for Amelie!!

Friday, March 02, 2007

El Paso agents - activate!

It was during a visit with some friends from El Paso that we heard the news: People's Emporium had shut down.

Apparently this happened a while ago, but it was news to me. I think it was also more of a shock to me than to Lopez! because it had been one of my El Paso touchstones, one of those things that was so "El Paso," but at the same time almost out of step with the city just out of its sheer weirdness.

Imagine being a young kid, living in a part of the city that makes trips to the Downtown area seem like a rare treat. For me, this is where the action was: the main library branch, which for me always had the same spiritual vibe as a Gothic church; my aunt's bookstore; the medical building where Mom worked; the bars my dad frequented and where my sister and I would pretend to play shuffleboard and pool. And of course, People's Emporium.

It wasn't until later that I was really aware of A-1 Costumes on the second floor, with its wonderfully creaky wooden stairway and musty, heigh-ceilinged area crammed with spirit gum, latex masks and cheap bald-caps. For me, it was all about the enormous first floor, an odd cramming together of a used bookstore, a novelty shop and an occult back-room.

My parents practically had to drag me out of there every single time.

It didn't hurt that the building itself was unique. Square in the heart of the Five Points neighborhood, People's Emporium occupied a large wedge of brick painted a red that bordered on lurid, at least in my imagination.

Maybe that's what I loved so much about the place; it was somewhere my imagination could run wild, snatching up sci-fi paperbacks with one hand and fingering smoothly polished gemstones with the other, magic crackling in the grip of both. If I could steal a peek at a half-dressed woman preserved forever at the bottom of a glass ashtray, my trip could be considered a complete success.

When I heard that the Emporium had closed down, I have to admit my heart broke a little. It was one of those things a person just assumed, naively, would always be there. I still made periodic trips as an adult, either to prowl the aisles of the bookstore or to pick up some face-paint for that year's Halloween costume. It never occured to me that my last trip there would also be my final trip ever to what I considered a local landmark.

I can't help feeling as if we - me and El Paso - have lost something. Maybe not something particularly important, but certainly something special.

So here's a special request to my pals in El Paso: Does anyone have any information about the closing? Did it make the paper? Is there any chance anybody out there has a photo of the building? And while you're at it, do you have any memories you'd like to share?

For myself, I know I'll be taking a lot of pictures around town the next time I'm in El Paso - just in case.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Be a dude

Hello, Public-at-Large - I've got a favor to ask. I know it's awkward, and it seems silly to even bring it up, but if you notice that I've got something hanging out of my nose can you please tell me?

Yes, it can be a little uncomfortable. But believe me, the ripple of embarrassment you feel is nothing compared to the groaning chagrin that comes from catching a reflection of yourself and noticing a righteous nose-goblin gripping the rim of your nostril.

Come on - I'd do it for you.

I've never understood this attitude of it somehow being better if everyone just pretends somthing's not there. Dont' be a jerk about it, but wouldn't it be better to have a moment of polite discomfort rather than look into a mirror and wonder, "How long has THAT been there?"

So I'm asking you - as a fellow member of society, as someone who's been there, as a friend - let me know if you see bats in the cave. Lopez! can't be on boogie-duty all the time.

By the way ... I came down with a cold this morning, so someone's going to have to pull a double-shift.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Happy birthday, Abe!

I've always said Lincoln kicked ass, what with preserving the Union, freeing the slaves and being an icon of honor and justice in desperate times. And now here's more proof!

Rock on, Abe ... rock on.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


Every year I'm overwhelmed by the generosity and warm fuzzies I get from people who mean a lot to me.

My loving and lovely wife is the greatest gift I could have asked for, and she makes every day seem like a birthday. Every. Single. Day. I could never express how fortunate and how complete she makes me feel.

My family is wonderful, and I just wish we could spend more of these moments together. I've also been lucky enough to find the greatest gang of friends a guy could ask for - whether they know it or not, they're as good as family to me.

Which all means - you suckers are never getting rid of me. I'm greedy that way.

Thanks, everybody!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Iran (not so) far away

If you're a critic of the Bush administration, it's easy to fall into the thinking that there couldn't possibly be anything more that could be done to surprise you. And then, incredibly, you're proven wrong.

Every reliable poll has Bush's approval ratings in the basement. The American people are fed up with the course of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan (remember that place?), the ineffectual lip service that passes for national security (those cartoon boxes had been in Boston for two weeks before anyone even noticed) and the outright corruption and arrogance that has been a hallmark of this presidency.

But none of this has really managed to pierce the bubble that keeps Bush warm and safely distant from reality. The administration may be showing off a newfound chumminess with the Democratic party, but nothing has really changed. If it had, we wouldn't be gearing up for war with Iran.

This shouldn't be a surpise to anyone, but somehow it's still a shock. One of the commentators on this weeks' McLaughlin Group said, almost off-handedly, that the United States would be at war with Iran by this summer. The sudden sinking feeling in your stomach was enough to make you queasy.

If you don't think it could happen, if you don't think the administration could possibly be so senseless that it would stretch non-existent resources to cover yet another misguided fight on yet another front, take a look at this:

Analysis: Bush's Iran stance echoes Iraq

By Tom Raum, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - President Bush's tough new stance on Iran and his military buildup in the Persian Gulf recall some of the drumbeats that preceded the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

As then, the Bush administration is making allegations about Iran without providing proof.

It is suggesting Iran is sending weapons to Iraq, yet offering no evidence the supplies can be traced to Tehran. There are whispers, too, that Iranian intelligence agents were behind the recent abduction and execution of five U.S. soldiers.

Iran is the "axis of evil" country whose nuclear ambitions must be stopped. Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is now Bush's primary Mideast nemesis, replacing the late Saddam Hussein.

Bush's efforts to rally public support behind his harder line on Iran have many lawmakers and some from the intelligence and defense world wondering if it is a prelude to military activity.

Try not to be surprised when we hear the bombs are falling in Iran.

And then try not to be ashamed.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Mordida! Mordida!

Who had a birthday?

This guy had a birthday!

Hooray! Happy birthday, Tom!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Todos quieren y aman el futbol

OK, Lopez! - let the smack-talk begin!

MLS, Mexican First Division clubs to compete in SuperLiga

LOS ANGELES (TICKER) -- The commissioners of Major League Soccer and the Mexican First Division on Saturday announced the formation of SuperLiga, a tournament involving four clubs from each league that will compete this summer for a $1 million first prize.

Modeled after the widely popular UEFA Champions League, the SuperLiga will include a group phase and knockout phase, with all games being held in U.S. venues from July 24-August 29.

Group A will consist of MLS clubs FC Dallas and the Los Angeles Galaxy and Mexican teams CD Guadalajara and CF Pachuca. Group B will contain D.C. United and the Houston Dynamo of MLS and Club America and Monarcas Morelia of the Mexican league.

"Given the great soccer rivalry between the two countries, we strongly believe SuperLiga will be a great international soccer tournament," Mexican commissioner Decio de Maria said. "Featuring the top teams in both leagues, SuperLiga will become an instant favorite among the millions of soccer fans in Mexico and U.S."

All I know is that, considering the teams chosen for the tournament, it's obvious everyone's afraid of my Tecos.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Frozen treat

It looks like our three-day vacation ends tomorrow with higher temperatures, but it was fun while it lasted. Of course it wasn't fun for everyone, but for me and Lopez! it meant lots of snacking, TV and lounging around in pajamas. And no work - yay!

For a place that seems to have 364 days of summer heat, this much ice outside of a beer cooler is freaky.

While I was taking pictures from our apartment balcony (I could only stand in one corner - the rest was slick and I couldn't be bothered to change out of my no-weather slippers), I noticed this light, tinkling sound. It turned out to be the iced-over branches of a tree clacking together in the breeze, and I stood out there a little longer just to listen to it.

Then I got my frozen ass back inside.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Can you feel the love?

Behold! Praised be Electric Jesus!

(Seen at a booth in the Rio Grande Mall in Ciudad Juarez over the holidays)

Monday, January 08, 2007

Fun with conspiracy

I really doubt one thing has to do with the other, but isn't it a weird coincidence that Austin's Congress Avenue is covered with about 60 dead birds on the same morning that an unexplained smell of gas blankets most of New York City?

I'm sure glad we got that "War on Terror" thing knocked out we don't have to worry about this sort of thing anymore.

In the meantime, has anyone checked Area 51?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Thanks a pantsload, Santa

Well, that's just great!

The entire time we were in El Paso the weathermen kept saying, "It's gonna snow, it's gonna snow." It got cold as hell (the desert can be a special kind of brisk at night, especially during winter), but no snow. Nothin'.

So of course it snows the day after we leave. According to my mom, it's big-ass flakes like she hasn't seen in 30 friggin' years. And yes, that's a quote.

Kids are making snowmen, for God's sake. If I see anyone here in Austin wearing shorts, I'm gonna punch 'em right in the snowballs.