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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Bikes, Tornadoes, Becky, Davin

I did some shopping for bikes yesterday and today, test-riding at a few different places. Partly because they're the ones everyone seems to sell, and partly because they're the best no-unnecessary-frills fit for what I need, I'm primarily considering Treks. Specifically the 7.2 FX or 7.3 FX, about $380 and $460, respectively. Either would be a significant improvement in bike, though for at least 200-some dollars more than I could fix my current bike for. And then there's having to be more careful about where I leave it...though it was really nice to ride a decent bike on my test rides. I'm mulling it over until Monday, in any case.

In other news, Becky Anthony was unexpectedly in town this morning (she's here for a wedding). We went to the farmer's market and had brunch at Pete's Grill down the street. (Blueberry pancakes and hash browns, I need to find an excuse to go there more frequently.) I hadn't seen her in quite a while, so it was good to catch up.

We talked about what our siblings are up to. As for mine, I just got some pictures of what he's doing. Having finished his season as a whitewater rafting guide, Davin is rebuilding the deck on our uncle Lin and aunt Elaine's house in Moraga (Marin County), California. At least he's got a good view:

A free place to stay in Marin County isn't bad, either.

He's also repairing a water-damaged corner of the house. Lin was inspecting last week and stepped on a rotted part of the roof and fell through to the room below. Given that he's in his 60s, it's miraculous that he's mostly okay.

In more aunt and uncle house adventures, the first tornado to hit Maryland in four years managed to hit Helena and Michael's house in Severna Park last night. They have a hole in their roof and trees down, but everyone is fine.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Euthanizing my bike

My bike was skipping sprocket teeth when I tried to pedal hard, so I brought it in to Light Street Cycles for service. Unfortunately, they called me later in the day to tell me that it needed more than a tuneup, it would cost between $120 and $160, and that it might not be worth it to put that much money into it. I sheepishly admit that it felt like the vet was calling to tell me it was time to put my dog to sleep. After all, I've had the bike for more than 6 years, and have ridden it almost every day for the last three or so.

So they're holding off on the work while I think about it over the weekend. Looking around, it seems like I'd want to spend about $400. I ride enough that investing in a decent bike would be worth it, but worrying about a $400 piece of equipment getting stolen might be the deciding factor leading me to just get my Trek repaired.

I definitely need to act fast, either way. It was gorgeous outside today, and it just about killed me to take the Hopkins shuttle to work.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Newman's Own

I got a kick out of this:
Mr. Newman makes his own salad dressing at home, too, though he occasionally reaches for the stuff that started the Newman’s Own empire. To date, the food company has generated $220 million in charitable donations and has expanded to include popcorn and a line of fruit drinks and salsas, which he sometimes buys in jars at the grocery store. While the stunned checker grapples with the fact that Paul Newman is buying Newman’s Own salsa, he gets a kick out of saying, “It must be really good if I’m paying retail for it.”

Songs of the Moment (An occasional feature)

> TV on the Radio - Blues From Down Here[mp3]
> The Long Winters - (It's A) Departure[mp3]
> Dizzee Rascal - Fix Up Look Sharp[YouTube]
> LCD Soundsystem - Losing My Edge[Quicktime]
> M83 - Don't Save Us From the Flames[YouTube]

I just got the Long Winters and TV on the Radio albums recently, and they're both great. Especially TVotR -- it's been a while since I've been quite this excited about a new album.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


This is just weird:

"Wouldn't having Hillary as our Presidential candidate in '08 be great? Well, vote for me now, I'm awesome like her!" Right. Not only is that a dumb argument, but there are a lot of folks who don't even like her very much (myself included). So the fact that Allan Lichtman lost the US Senate primary shouldn't be too big a surprise.

At least he went out with an evocative metaphor:
From the start, a year ago, I described this campaign as a boulder, which if it got moving would roll over the state of Maryland and begin a new era in state and national politics. Ultimately, the boulder did not move, but it was not for lack of effort, ideas, or support from wonderful people like you.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Talking Heads

I've wandered into what I believe is the leading edge of a period of fascination with The Talking Heads. This has mostly happened via YouTube. Now I need to get some albums.

You probably already knew this, but David Byrne's blog is great. I like this rundown of "Recent Doublespeak:"
War in Iraq used to refer to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Unlawful combatants — a meaningless phrase intended to allow trial without due process, which turns back the legal clock in a developed country by at least 100 years.
Rendition has been substituted for kidnapping.
Freedom has been substituted for economic exploitation and corruption.
Globalization has been substituted for corporate rule.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


I'm excited to go see The Long Winters, TV on the Radio and Broken Social Scene in the near future after a period of thin concertgoing. Made me want to make a list of bands I've seen live, seen here in the order they come to me (with some alphabetical ones toward the end, as I scrolled through iTunes). This includes some that I saw as opening bands, and a few I saw at festivals:

Modest Mouse (x2)
Ugly Casanova
Built to Spill (x3)
Jason Collette
The Weakerthans
My Morning Jacket (x 2)
Broken Social Scene (x 3)
Ted Leo & Pharmacists (x 3)
Matt Pond PA
The Eels
The Flaming Lips
Sigur Ros (x2 -- best concerts I've been to)
The Album Leaf
The Long Winters (x2)
The Decemberists (x2)
Bright Eyes
Xiu Xiu
Hail Social
Spoon (x2)
Super Furry Animals (x2)
Belle and Sebastian
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Dan Bern (x2...or is it 3?)
De La Soul (x2)
Wilco (x3)
Mark Mallman (a number of times)
Kid Dakota
The Olympic Hopefuls
Hockey Night
Cat Power
Death Cab for Cutie (x3)
The Delusions
The Shins (x2)
The Dismemberment Plan (x3)
The Faint
Fountains of Wayne (I got a guitar pick!)
French Kicks
Guided By Voices
Har Mar Superstar
Interpol (x2)
Jim Yoshii Pileup
John Vanderslice
Les Savy Fav
The Hold Steady
Love-Cars (x2)
Mike Doughty
Orenda Fink
Pedro the Lion (x2)
Q and Not U
The Reputation
Rogue Wave
They Might Be Giants
Oranges Band
Urban Hillbilly Quartet
The Walkmen
The Wrens (x2)
Yo La Tengo

That's 67 bands I've seen live (not including the ones I've seen live and didn't like). Off the top of my head, my favorite shows were probably Sigur Ros, Ugly Casanova, Les Savy Fav, Blur, The Faint, My Morning Jacket and Spoon.

Alright, that's enough self-indulgent posting for now...

Sunday, September 17, 2006


Here's the antidote to my previous post -- TV on the Radio playing Letterman last week:

Holy crap is that awesome! They're in Baltimore on October 20, and I am so there.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Kidz Bop Must Stop

I already thought Kidz Bop was an extremely annoying cultural phenomenon (a chorus of children sings crappified versions of pop songs). But it has come to my attention that they covered Float On by Modest Mouse, which I find extremely dismaying. Here, someone has set the Kidz Bop version against video of a Modest Mouse performance:

I'm not sure I've ever heard anything more unpleasant, I'm never watching that again. So painful. (Yet, like a car wreck, I could not avert my attention.) And it's really weird to hear a bunch of kids sing "I backed my car into a cop car the other day."

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Bagged villain

I realize that the suspected E. coli outbreak is actually quite serious, but this is such a hilarious sentence for an official to utter at a press conference:

“At this point, there is nothing to implicate bagged salad.”

My mental picture is bagged salad sweating under the interrogation lights. "You look nervous...you made those people sick, didn't you?" "No, no, I swear I'm innocent! This sweat...it's just condensation, I've been in the fridge!"

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five years on

It's pretty hard to avoid the fifth anniversary of September 11th, 2001 -- it's wall-to-wall. I feel myself recoiling from the commemorations slightly, as they sometimes seem to veer toward wallowing in a feeling of victimization and a sense that anything we might have done wrong since then is cancelled out by the evil unleashed on us.

Of course, it's a major national tragedy, so I'm not exactly sure how we could commemorate it in a way that would soothe my discomfort. Perhaps if we all gathered 'round for a fireside chat with President Gore about how we have won a victory against the terrorists by refusing to bite the bait for the clash of civilizations that they clearly want, opting instead for a plan to address the petro-political roots of terror backed up by more aggressive security and policing. But there's not too much point in indulging counterfactuals, we are where we are.

I recall that just after the attacks, I was spending a lot of time listening to Beulah's When Your Heartstrings Break, which I had borrowed from Matt. A line in "The Ballad of the Lonely Argonaut" about how "their poker face/cannot hide the fever of the children's crusades" stuck in my head and seemed foreboding. The country's anger was so intense that -- coupled with leadership in Washington all too willing to embrace a guns-blazing response -- I was more scared of what feverish actions we would take than how the terrorists would strike next.

Those fears have come to pass, in large part. But I hope we wise up soon and start trying to address root causes instead of maintaining our permanent war footing. (See Declaring Victory by James Fallows, in last month's Atlantic Monthly, for a sketch of an alternative way to confront the terrorists, though without the addressing root causes part.)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Truth

Syncing my cell phone with my computer got a little heavier than I anticipated. I was presented with these options:

"Merge data with the truth"
"Push the truth on the device"
"Pull the truth from the device"

I chose to merge the data with the truth. I figure any distortion of the true truth is probably worth the added convenience of having my phone remind me of appointments.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Hold the Mayo

What would you say if someone who comes from China asked you what mayonnaise is?

"What is this?"

"Is it spicy?"
"Uh, no."

"Is it salty?"

"Is it sweet?"
"Uh, not really"

"I wouldn't really recommend it."

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Songs of the Moment (An occasional feature)

> Bjork - Unison
> Sleater-Kinney - O2
> Dosh - India India
> Fountains of Wayne - Bright Future In Sales
> Tom Waits - The Day After Tomorrow
>Built to Spill - Three Years Ago Today

Also, Built to Spill go to knight school in this somewhat inscrutable video for "Conventional Wisdom."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Summer over, NYC

I finished up my summer internship successfully last week. As I left after my last day, it was storming pretty well as what was left of Ernesto came through. This sums up the weather pretty well:

It continued like that on my way up to NYC later that evening. My Amtrak train was leaking, though thankfully not on me. It stayed pretty nasty on Saturday, but Alex and I got out and around anyway. (Including to Doughnut Plant...I ate three of their doughnuts and did not regret it.)

Alex's new place in Queens is nice, enormous by NYC standards, only a couple blocks from the elevated subway station. And I liked his neighborhood, which is nice in a pre-gentrification kind of way...it's heavily Greek, and there's a corner grocery store and most other things you'd want within easy walking distance. The subway ride to Manhattan is easy.

We had a number of very New York experiences:

  • Sitting in a bagel shop, a man ushered in a four-piece brass band that was for some reason walking down the street and cajoled them to play. They were about to start when he said, by the way, he's not paying them or anything. The band stalked out.

  • We went to see a movie that was only out in NYC and LA, and the director just happened to be doing a Q&A in the theater after the show. (Mutual Appreciation, it was absolutely fantastic, like an Alexander Payne film from my generation, stripped of the slight goofiness and not afraid to be awkward. See it if you can.)

  • While eating gyros, a man sat down at our table. He was difficult to understand due to his poor English and the fact that he was presumably very high on something; he proceeded to stare at us and scold our gyro-eating technique.

  • We went to the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum next to Central Park, housed in the old Carnegie mansion, and saw, among other things, a very extensive exhibit on silverware design throughout the centuries.

  • When we attended a stand-up comedy club, we were seated in the front row and became part of the routines of three different comics. They only said nice things, of course.

  • After Alex had to leave for a grad school orientation event, I went to Coney Island and got a chili-cheese dog from the original Nathan's Famous hot dog stand. (Decided the $6 for one ride on the Cyclone wasn't worth it.)

A very good trip. Here are some blurry cell phone pictures:

The view from the subway platform near Alex's apartment.

This gator occupies a place in the roof garden of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; he evidently incurred the wrath of some restaurant patrons.

This bit of categorization at the Duane Reade next to Penn Station struck me as unorthodox.

I got home late last night, and this morning was hectic because my car had been parked at a city meter all weekend with its key broken off in the ignition (I'll spare you the story). I cleared things up with some help from Jaclyn shuttling me around, Andrew feeding the meter, the Saab dealership in Hunt Valley, the title to the car, and a pair of tweezers.

But it also turns out that classes don't start until next week, I just have my public health ones this week. An unexpected respite, since I apparently can't read a calendar...