Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Long weekend

I took another trip to the Washington, D.C. area this past weekend, and went to see Jim Norton again. I went with a friend who's never seen Jim before, and isn't even very familiar with the Opie and Anthony show, where Jim Norton is a regular and of which I'm a huge fan. Jim's comedy show was at the State Theater in Falls Church, VA, and we certainly got off on the wrong foot.

We arrived at the theater a few minutes late due to mistiming trains on the Metro--the show was scheduled to start at 8 PM, and our cab from the Falls Church Metro station dropped us off at about 8:10. Fortunately, the show hadn't started and people were lined up outside. Unfortunately, that was because the show was badly oversold and the staff was telling people in the back half of the line that they'd have to come back to the just-added second show at 10:30--which of course did NOT make us happy. Eventually, they sang a different tune, and said that if we chose to stay for the originally scheduled show (for which I bought my tickets a week ahead of time), we'd have to take standing room, since we didn't have a table reserved. (Not that Ticketmaster gave me that option--though for $8 of "convenience fees", they should have given us dinner for free.)

Bottom line, we got into the show we wanted, got a good spot right in front of the sound mixer where we could see and hear everything perfectly and could lean on the partition in front of the sound pit if our feet got tired. And what a great show it was. The opener (whose name I've forgotten) was really funny, and Jimmy absolutely killed. I was a bit worried about going to another show so soon--figuring I've probably already seen it all once before. That was a groundless fear, as probably 60% or more was either new or freshly improvised material that wasn't in the show I saw in Baltimore. In fact, if I could have seen the Falls Church show at the Baltimore Improv venue, that would have been just about perfect--I think this show was even better than the (excellent) Baltimore show, in terms of content.

A special "F-you" to the bouncers who let people walk outside to smoke carrying bottles of water purchased inside, then won't let them back in with the same bottles.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


House votes to remove access to library and bookstore reading lists from Patriot Act

If you've read some of my political/news type posts on here before--especially those pertaining to the War on Terror™, you may be surprised to learn that I'm giving this move a big ol' thumbs up. I may be a registered Republican who not only voted for Bush but volunteered on his campaign last fall, but when it comes to personal and social liberties, I break from the party line about as often as I follow it.

On the whole, I support the Patriot Act. I support anything that helps keep me safe from being blown up by someone who hates me because I live in a free country. But in this case, there really is such a thing as a slippery slope. I like to read, and I read a lot. I read books about politics, and history, and war (and of those books cover all three). But even more than that, I read mysteries and thrillers--books about mad bombers and slashers, brutal murders committed by out-and-out psychopaths. Should I end up on a watch list?

And it's not like this change to the Act leaves the authorities resourceless. The Patriot Act gives broad, sweeping provisions for searches, seizures, wiretaps, computer taps, and surveillance in just about every shape and form. There's plenty of ways there for the authorities to monitor people who are actually doing naughty things, not just reading something that's not on the Approved List.

I'm not a lawyer, so correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't see anything in the language of the revised Patriot Act that keeps libraries and bookstores from turning over this information voluntarily if they see something amiss, or if the government requests it. Our laws keep the government from forcing people from turning over information they don't want to--it doesn't keep people from telling the government anything they want to. (The exception, of course, being certain professions where confidentiality is part of the job, such as doctors and lawyers. Somehow, I don't think a clerk at Borders or a librarian qualifies.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Michael Jackson

I guess it's big news, but I've tried to avoid watching the media overkill of the Michael Jackson trial and acquittal as much as possible. I was curious enough to watch the verdict reading when I came home from work yesterday and turned on Fox News, but really, I'm left with two main streams of thought.

1. He's probably guilty, but with all the hoopla, sensationalism, and surprise witnesses, the jury probably wasn't left with much choice. And after (in reverse chronological order) Jackson, Robert Blake, and O.J. Simpson, as Steven Hill would say, the L.A. County D.A.'s office "has a lot of egg on their faces". They'd better hope they can convict Phil Spector, or they're going to look very bad indeed.

2. He's probably guilty, and the victim should never be blamed for crimes of this nature, but what about his parents? It's not like this is the first time "Jack-o" has been accused of molesting children...what the hell were they thinking, letting him sleep over unsupervised? (Hint: it starts with "M" and ends with "oney".) If Jackson had been convicted, I would have loved to have seen the parents brought up on accessory charges.

Monday, June 13, 2005


I went back to my home town of Reading, PA this weekend to go to the 2005 Great Eastern Invitational Microbrewery Festival at Stoudt's Brewery in nearby Adamstown. Altogether, ten of us went and sampled sixty different kinds of beer from about 20 different breweries that came from up and down the East coast, from Portland, Maine to New Orleans. I'm something of a dark beer aficionado, so my favorites list from this year's fest would have to be the Rogue Chocolate Stout, the DuClaw "Naked Fish" Chocolate Raspberry Stout, the Hop Hog IPA and Milk Stout from Lancaster Brewing Co., and the Weyerbacher Heresy oak barrel-aged bourbon porter. This year was my third trip to the June festival, and this year, instead of a beveled mini-pilsner glass, they gave everyone a miniature pint glass. Unfortunately, the mini-pint had a fill line marked off at three ounces this year, and most of the suds-slingers followed that instruction, necessitating more walking around for beer this year than in years prior. But at $25 for four hours of Q.D.T. (that's Quality Drinkin' Time), it's still a bargain and a helluvalotta fun. And I've got pictures up on my Flickr photo site to prove it!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

It's Rainin' Men

Immigrant's body parts, severed by landing gear, fall into Long Island home

This story ties in nicely to the one I posted two weeks ago. Maybe I'm a horrible person for putting a joke headline on this story, but remember: he's only dead because he was breaking a federal law. He knew the risks, but chose to gamble anyway. Snake eyes, buddy.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Weekend surprises

You win some, you lose some. My car was making some odd noises and was about due for an oil change, so I took it over to my local mechanic, hoping to get it back quickly and cheaply. Four hours and $500 later, I got my car back with new front brake pads and rotors, "adjusted" rear brakes, a leaky valve cover replaced (that accounted for $150 of the bill all by itself), the engine degreased where the leak had built up, and my oil changed. The upside is that I won't have to worry about it over the summer, and this was the most I've spent on the car in the 5+ years I've owned it.

Last night, I went out back to take out my trash, and look what I discovered growing out of a crack in the concrete of my rear steps:


It's a bit difficult to tell from the picture (I took several, but couldn't seem to get one that didn't come out at least a bit blurry), but those are wild strawberries. I looked around my yard some more, and found a couple of other ones that are either flowering or coming into fruit. I'm probably going to pick them tonight--the only question is what to do with them. There aren't enough for a strawberry pie, a strawberry daquiri, or even enough to top a bowl of Mini-Wheats, but I'll find something to do with 'em.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Separated at birth?

Jennifer Wilbanks


Susan Sarandon

It's the eyes--these are the things nightmares are made of!

Droppin' bombs

One more reason for everyone on America's roadways to hate truckers.

OK, OK, it's not only truckers who do this...but they're by far the worst offenders. That said, it may tell you something about me to know that I was giggling like a pre-teen while I read this article (which I found thanks to the Sage RSS Reader plugin for Firefox). There's just something funny in the mental picture of a lawn mower blowing up a plastic milk jug full of piss. And doesn't this picture just say it all?

It sure isn't.

Gone Fishin'

I spent my Memorial Day weekend relaxing at my family's cabin in Potter County, Pennsylvania. It's not exactly roughing it--the cabin has three bedrooms, electricity, propane heating and cooking, and even satellite TV. I can't believe how much I sleep I caught up on--probably ten hours a night for the first couple of nights, and a solid 8 1/2 hours on Sunday night. (Compare that to my usual 6-7 hours max a night.) I also got a little bit of fishing in--I caught four or five small brookies using minnows as bait. They weren't too big--7 to 8 inches max. Of course, the ones I missed had to be dang near two foot long!