23 August 2007

Cows and Chess

What’s a road trip without counting cows? A heck of a lot more fun. Even though I enjoy the inconsequential banter over herd estimates, it’s nice to take a nap without missing anything more than a Colorado license plate.

But it’s not like we didn’t see any cows. The first herd we saw had formed a line. A cow queue! And then there was one that was black on the front and back thirds, and had a big white stripe around the middle. And then, when I was waking up from a nap and didn’t have my glasses on, according to my dad, there was a llama.

We were planning on going to a minor league baseball game in South Bend, IL. The South Bend Silverhawks vs. the (I’m not joking) Lansing Lugnuts. Due to a ridiculous amount of rain and the fact that we tooled around Madison for half an hour looking for a grocery store, we got behind schedule and ate dinner at Cracker Barrel instead.

Of the many interesting conversations of the day, perhaps the best was about chess. We got to the subject of chess from me talking about working at the Dome (one of the women I met teaches chess) and the Civil War came into the picture when my brother was listing off Ken Burns films. My dad remembered this Civil War chess set that used to show up in magazine ads all the time. This comedian, Tim Cavanagh, used to do a bit about how to win at Civil War chess. Step one: Be the North. This got me thinking.

So, I would guess population wise, the North was whiter than the South, so the black must be the South. Technically, what with Fort Sumter and all, black (not white) moves first. It’d be a little out of order, but the South should get sick of the North and try to quit the game at some point. And then, the North should threaten to free the South’s pawns, which they do, and some of them start helping out the white pieces. When the game's over and black has lost, some of the black bishops and rooks act like they've won and fly their little flags over their elementary schools. The white pieces look on these individuals with great disdain.

I feel like this could be fleshed out. If I was better at chess, I would be really cool and make up an annotated game log.

Oh, and we stopped at a few rest stops, which brought some awesome graffiti to my attention. Thanks to this guy for the photo.

13 August 2007

Birthday, etc.

I can't remember what I was going to write about, so I'll tell you about a couple of other things and hope it comes back to me.

So I turned 20 yesterday, and it was a great day. What made it so fabulous, you ask? Why, several things.
1. My dad and I cowrote this song about Micah 6:8 (What does the Lord require of you? Do justice, show kindness, walk humbly with God) and played it in church. The pickup for my acoustic guitar had a broken connector, so I ended up playing it on my Telecaster, which doesn't get much attention from me. (If it were a child, it would have been removed from my custody years ago.) We sounded awesome. I'll post an mp3 of it when I get the chance.
2. I cleaned my room. Though the process isn't a pile of giggles, the end result sure is neat. (Pun intended. I'm sorry.)
3. I had a party with my family. My family usually gets Dairy Queen cakes for birthdays, and I had one with dinosaurs on it! When we ordered it, the employee, upon hearing our choice of design, thought it was a cake for a small boy. My mother is probably still shaking her head at me wanting dinos on my cake, since that was the theme of my birthday party when I turned five. (I remember decorating t-shirts with dinosaur sponges dipped in paint. We probably played pin the tail on the brontosaurus, too. My mom is brilliant when it comes to throwing birthday parties for kids.)
4. My dad and I finished the NY Times Sunday crossword.
5. Among the gifts I received were 3 Barnes & Noble giftcards (the gift of textbooks! They will make the end of August much less financially painful) and the soundtrack to the movie 'Music and Lyrics'. This movie is so awesome, I must tell you about it, which I will do momentarily.

First, I must add this short blurb to indicate the end of the Awesome Things About Yesterday List, to clarify that I'm changing the subject.

So Music and Lyrics is a romantic comedy starring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore. Hugh Grant plays Alex Fletcher, who is a washed up 80s pop star, who was in a band called Pop!. (Basically he's the guy from Wham! that isn't George Michael.) He's picked to work on a song for a modern Britney/Christina-like pop star, but he was the half of a broken up songwriting pair that wrote the music, and can't write lyrics to save his life, most of the time. (I feel like Paul McCartney may have gone through phases like that.) He hires a lyricist who is very like Jack Black, but less funny, and ends up finding out that Barrymore, who's filling in for his plant-waterer, is really good a writing lyrics. Humor, awkwardness, romance and foolish mistakes ensue. The music in this movie is FANTASTIC. The Pop! song and video are spot-on with 80s style, and three of the other songs were written by Adam Schlesinger, the genius behind Fountains of Wayne (if you haven't yet heard 'Traffic and Weather', the album FoW released this spring, your summer has been lacking). It's awesome.

In less joyous news, the concert I was planning to attend tomorrow (Wilco was playing somewhere in Duluth) has been postponed. Most unfortunately, it has been rescheduled for September 4th. I'll have been in Ohio for a week and a half at that point. So for me, it's not so much postponed as canceled. I was feeling for a while this afternoon that this summer was becoming the Summer of Things Not Panning Out. But out of concern for my happiness and the fact that this post is already incredibly long, I shouldn't dwell on that long enough to make another list.

Happy Monday the 13th!

Oh, I was going to mention a dream I had this morning. My dad and I were robbed, along with several other patrons of a convenience store. It was kind of lame. But I was kind of glad I hadn't replaced my dead iPod yet. I woke up halfway through it, so the police might have ended up getting involved. I did notice that the two young criminals didn't really have their hearts in it. They seemed kind of bored, like they were doing something mundane.

09 August 2007

Oh Yeah!

Several days ago, I had a great dream.

I actually don't remember much of it at all, and I think it might have been kind of bad, like the dream where my parents got divorced, as in so-bad-that-I-have-to-go-back-to-sleep-and-dream-something-better-before- I-start-my-day bad. However, there was one thing that truly amazed me; it has never happened before:

The dream took place in my house, and it was architecturally structured exactly like my house! Whenever I dream about places I know, there's always rooms in different places, and rooms that don't exist in real life. But this house in my dream ACTUALLY looked like the place my family lives! Maybe even down to the furniture!

...I know, you were probably expecting something much more exciting, but this is the best I've got.


After two trips to the Apple Store in Roseville, I have to face it: it looks like my iPod mini is dead. After only two years! About a week ago, I plugged it in to let it charge, and it didn't respond. I tried to reboot it, and it didn't react.

As it turns out, Apple doesn't really stand behind its products. They don't really do much as far as repairs go. The folks at the Genius Bar, with all their training from HQ in CA, know how to run all the troubleshooting tips they give you in the user's guide. Other than that, I guess they've been trained to tell people about how Apple doesn't repair damaged products, and prefers to replace them, but it's not worth it unless it's under warranty. I wonder how long it took them to pick up the 'you can use our iPod recycling program and get 10% off of a new one!' sales pitch. Heck, I could work for Apple and fix iPods if that's all that's required.

Perhaps they train them in grief counseling, so that when customers get upset, they can make them feel better enough to be willing to buy another Apple product.

Or perhaps I just tend to exaggerate when I vent like this.

Anyway, I'm kind of skeptical about sending my iPod to an online retailer to be fixed, as the second Genius I spoke to suggested. It's a trust issue, you know? Not that there'd be any incentive to run off with a small, dead, green electronic device. But still.

All I can say is, even though it costs more - GET THE WARRANTY. BUY APPLECARE. I don't think it was even offered to me when we bought my mini, but seek it out. It's worth it.

02 August 2007

Another Harry Potter dream!

So I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows a week and a half ago. Sunday night this week I had some pretty vivid dreams.

The first one was really bad. In it, my parents were getting divorced. It was bizarre, because in real life my parents have the most incredibly stable relationship that I know. In the dream, it wasn't even that they were fighting. They were just getting a divorce. It had this diplomatic tone to it, but it was horrible. So of course, when I woke up around 9:00, I thought 'I can't get up after a dream like that! I must go back to sleep and dream about something else.' So I went back to sleep and dreamed about something else.

My second dream was crazy! It was an alternate ending to the seventh Harry Potter book, and it was really believable at the time. I'll do my best to relate it.

The dream begins during the final battle. However, it was happening at a place that was a cross between the Burrow and Hogwarts - there were several students living there, but it was a house. Oddly enough, it was laid out pretty much exactly like my house, except that my brother's room was a little bigger.

I was Harry. Many witches and wizards were near the garage, where Voldemort was dueling with various people. Ron and I were in the house. The ring was the only Horcrux left to destroy, and we'd known where it was the whole time. I think we were supposed to leave the ring for the end. Dumbledore had told us it was in the house, in this green suitcase (which looks exactly like the one I bought at the United Methodist Resale in Oberlin last fall, hm) in the bedroom that Ron, Neville and I lived in (Seamus and Dean may have lived there, too, I forget). Ron and I ran into the house to get the ring, but it wasn't in the suitcase.

Some more setup:
This bedroom (my brother's) was on the back corner of the house. On the wall there had always been this big rectangular mark; it looked like a large chunk of drywall had been replaced. On the floor along the other outside wall, underneath a window, there were wooden boxes connected to one another, numbered from ten to one. In each box was a different prank from Weasley's Wizard Wheezes (there were ten of one item in box 10, nine of another in 9, and so on).

I stared at the mark on the wall and realized for the first time that it matched up with the location of a window on the outside of the house. Judging by the outside walls, there should have been two windows in the room instead of one. So Ron and I walked over to the mark, and pushed it in. It fell away from the rest of the wall, and exposed a closet-sized space filled with things that clearly belonged to James and his friends when they lived there many years before. It became obvious that the missing ring was somewhere in the closet. I began to look for it, any tried not to get too distracted by my dad's various old belongings and robes.

While I searched, the witches and wizards in the garage needed Ron's help in fending off Voldemort. He proceeded to take pranks from a box, and go use them against Voldemort. In the number 8 box, there were eight little disembodied hands, about the size of maybe an eight year-old's hands. When you threw them at someone, they'd crawl all over that person's body and tickle them.

I really wish I'd been able to see Voldemort being tickled. I don't think he could handle it. I doubt he's ever been tickled in his life. Unfortunately, I was looking for the ring. Also unfortunately, I don't think the dream ended while I was still looking for the ring and Ron was still lobbing Fred and George's creations at the Dark Lord. I'm assuming that we won, somehow.

Then I woke up and it was 12:55 P.M. (story of my life).

- - - Beware: Minor Spoiler Ahead - - -

On a similar note (similar to Voldemort being tickled), while I was reading about the final battle, I thought it would be really funny if Voldemort had been killed because someone chucked a Mandrake at him. I guess it would have been kind of anti-climactic, though.

I also kind of wanted to check in with the Dursleys one last time, but oh well. Other than that it was AWESOME!

35W Collapse - (also posted on FTFDB!)

If you've had access to news coverage, then you probably heard about the collapse of the 35W bridge in Minneapolis at around 6:05 last night, where Intersate 35W crosses the Mississippi River. 35W is one of the main freeways in the Twin Cities; about 50% of the time when I drive, I'm on the chunk of that road that's in the northern suburbs.

I'm okay, as is my family. To the best of my knowledge, everyone I know is safe. I was working at the Metrodome (base/football stadium) during the collapse, and my carpool to work drove over the bridge about 2 hours before it went down. The Metrodome was really close to the site of the collapse, and it sounds like the only reason the game was played at all was to keep the 20-25,000 people off the roads for a few hours.

Fortunately, my parents both work in the suburbs, so they won't have to deal with the extra traffic (there's tons of road construction going on everywhere), but getting to the Metrodome to work at the games in the next few weeks is going to be interesting.

I hope it doesn't take too long to find and identify the people who are still missing. I can't imagine how it would feel to not be able to contact someone who's often on that stretch of road. Also, it appears that this might be drawing the needed attention to older and weaker infrastructure across the country that needs repair. Despite the inconvenience of huge construction projects, this is definitely worse.

It's kind of scary. My dad, brother and I went to the Twins game on Monday night, and we crossed that bridge at around 6:05. If it had been two days earlier, it might have happened to us.