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Monday, October 30, 2006

As much fun as a...

...root canal. Much to my chagrin, I got to set that baseline for non-fun yesterday.

The mood wasn't exactly upbeat when I had to wait half an hour while a recalcitrant little girl screamed and the dentist tried to work. But the hour I spent in the chair wasn't as bad as you might think. I found it helped not to think about what the dentist was doing with all those implements in there -- instead, I pictured him making tiny woodblock carvings of forest creatures (why he was doing that inside my mouth was unclear).

The most painful part was writing the check, actually. It was $400, and it will be more than a thousand dollars in total once I have my two additional visits -- my dental insurance doesn't cover it. My advice is go to the dentist frequently and not eat as much candy as I do.

In much happier money-spending news, I booked a trip to Peru today! We have more or less all of January off, and my classmate Karen is from Peru, so Femi and I will be joining her down there from December 30 through January 12. Plans are still fuzzy, but we'll be staying at her house in Lima part of the time, going to Cusco/Machu Picchu, and possibly spending New Years at her family's beach house.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Tilly and the Wall

I saw Tilly and the Wall in DC on Wednesday night. Susie is from Omaha originally, and she knows a member of the band, so we got in free on the guest list, which was great.

They put on a very good show. Their music is relentlessly upbeat, with multiple vocalists, keyboards, and a tap dancer instead of drums. The crowd was into it, which always makes a show better. It was actually the second time I had seen them live; they had opened for Bright Eyes at the 400 Bar in Minneapolis. They're actually on Letterman tonight, if you want to check them out. I'm not sure Middle America is ready for a band with a tap dancing rhythm section, but I sure hope they are.

Also, the second opener at the show was really good, Love Is All. I bought their CD.

I'm off to see The Last King of Scotland.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Most interesting tidbit in this article: There's an NPR Labs?

I'm picturing Dr. Benson Honeydew blowing up a speaker, the cone of which somehow gets lodged in Beaker's hair. I took a tour of NPR headquarters over the summer and saw nothing of the sort, but we didn't go to the basement...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Songs of the Moment (An occasional feature)

> Love-Cars - Let's Start a Band
> TV on the Radio - Dry Drunk Emporer [mp3 - TVotR's post-Katrina protest song]
> Dosh - I Think I'm Getting Married
> Hockey Night - Battlestar Scholastica
> RJD2 - Cut Out to FL
> Built to Spill - Still Flat [Epitonic BtS page, w/ mp3]
> Mates of State - Fraud In the 80s [YouTube]

Saturday, October 21, 2006

TV on the Radio

I saw TV on the Radio last night at Sonar. Shane and Stephen (both significant others of classmates) went along, too, and we had a good time. The album is so spectacular -- and well-produced -- that I think Stephen was right when he said that they have trouble reproducing the full experience live. But the show was great nonetheless. I think the song that gained the most from the live performance was "Dirtywhirl," with its slow crescendo. Here's TVotR playing it at a show in Seattle, which gives you an idea:

I also particularly enjoyed hearing "Staring at the Sun" live.

I bought their first LP, Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsy Babes at the show. We went to Club Charles afterward for a while -- a satisfying evening.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Farewell, April

April is officially moved out as of today. She had been sticking around briefly after graduating last spring, continuing to work for the Casey foundation in Baltimore. But now she's gotten a job in Tanzania. Yes, Tanzania.

(This is one of those hold-the-camera-at-arms'-length pictures.)

She will be working on development and external relations for an orphanage. I'm embarrassed to say I can't remember the name of the town, but it's the jumping-off point for most excursions to Kilimanjaro, so there are a fair number of westerners there. (Maybe the town is Arusha.) Tanzania is actually rather stable as sub-Saharan countries go, so relocating there is not as crazy as it might sound -- though it still qualifies as a major life decision, I would say.

In any case, we will miss April. Now we are only five, and the plan is to remain that way. It does mean, however, that we have a guest room (with futon) if you would like to pay a visit.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Hot Air

This is so frickin' awesome:

It's the 2006 Balloon Race in Reno, NV. Funny how computer-animated it looks.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

New Bike!

I've had it for a few weeks, but permit me to post about my new bike anyhow (your eyes might glaze over now):

There it is. As I had said earlier, I had mostly been considering Treks. But the last place I looked was Light Street Cycles, which is where I had taken my bike to be repaired. They don't really do Treks, but they did have a Gary Fisher that was $40 cheaper than the cheapest Trek I was considering. It also had a front shock, which the Treks did not -- a consideration given the extremely rough pavement in B-more. It didn't feel quite as nice on the test ride in terms of shifting and other niceties, but between the lower price and front shock, it was a good deal. Plus, the wheel rims are slightly thicker, which decreases the chances of me throwing them out of true on potholes. And part of what made me take the plunge with this particular bike is that Light Street Cycles is a friendly local shop that's a hub for bike activists and other community folks.

So it's a Gary Fisher Tiburon (no, not a Hyundai Tiburon). A mid-to-low-range bike, but a huge improvement over my poor old green Trek. And I'm really enjoying the front shock -- the little "pfft" sound it makes when I hit the unavoidable bumps is more satifying than having it rattle the whole bike (and my whole body). There's one of those slightly dorky shocks in the seatpost, too.

As you can see in this photo, I got a new rack for it, because it turned out I had cracked the frame on my old rack by carrying too many groceries. (Plus, the screws were so rusted that no amount of effort or Tri-Flow could get them off.)

Anyway, I'm trying to take better care of my bike now that I have one that's in decent shape. I'm keeping it in the parking garage at work, and I've pimped the pantry to hold it, along with Dana's bike:

It's more effort to keep it inside, but it's worth it to keep it from the weather and the risk of theft. Anway, I'm excited about my new means of transport.

Monday, October 16, 2006

I'm on YouTube

My YouTube profile says that I have watched a staggering 1,679 videos since joining in June. I don't remember exactly when I joined, but it works out to around 14 videos per day. Yipes! That must count repeat watchings...I've probably watched that OK Go treadmill video 20 times. (My favorites list is a running tally of my favorite music videos on YouTube.)

Anyway, yesterday I actually posted some videos myself. You can watch them through the magic of the internet. I haven't made anything lately, so they're all from a while ago:
  • An angry montage of the Target/Cub Foods development in Northfield. It was built while I was in college, and I was mad about it because it made downtown Northfield more like a tourist attraction and less of a real town. I took the pictures for this at 3am, and I wrote about getting pulled over on the way back.

  • A weird piece that shows how to make molasses cookies with the assistance of DJ Shadow. Moves a little slow at times.

  • The movie we made for DVD Fest junior year at Carleton, a musical number of sorts surrounding "Ooh Child" by the Five Stairsteps. (A number of readers of this blog helped make it.)

Other things I made in college were just too embarrassing to watch now. Not like I hate them now, but I'm just not sure I want other people to see them. I would have posted our spoof Library Patrol, but a bunch of the clips were missing on my hard drive. I've got it on tape somewhere, so perhaps I'll get around to posting it at some point (perhaps I should ask Peter first).

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Mouse solution

Perhaps we won't be able to completely solve our mouse problem until we resort to extreme measures like these:

I really like this video a lot -- the animation is great, it syncs well with the sounds and dynamics of the track, and there's an impressive amount of narrative for a short little music video. The song (by Margot & the Nuclear So and So's) is pretty good, too, first time in a while I've found myself liking traditional, smooth vocals.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Nesting Instinct

Perhaps it's winter setting in, or perhaps it's that I'm 26, but I have lately had the urge to make the house more home-like. Mind you, this is only in relative terms, since I spend less time on this stuff than many others, but still noticeable.

Anyway, this manifests itself in the form of things like me sweeping the leaves and berries off the back walk, and buying items for the house. I went to Ikea yesterday and got a pot lid rack for the kitchen, and an end table and lampshade (to rehabilitate a lamp) for the living room. It was a little worrying how pleasing it was to spiff up that dull corner of the room.

I've also ordered some bike hooks to put my bike and Dana's bike in the former pantry (abandoned because of extreme rodent vulnerability). Actually, I got a new bike last week, but I haven't remembered to take a picture of it while it's light outside. I'll post about it later...

On a completely different note, here are some things you can learn by reading the Transportation Research Board's 50 Years of Interstate Structures: Past, Present and Future:
  • "It is clear that concrete has played a major role in the construction of interstate bridges."

  • "During the 50 years of the Interstate system, the culverts have matured right along with bridges."

  • "It is impossible to separate the history of steel bridges from history in general."

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Rich State, Poor State, Red State, Blue State

A study by that title noted (last item) in the October Atlantic Monthly makes a very intriguing observation.

Historically, Democrats were the party of the lower class, Republicans the party of the rich. But in the last couple decades, the richest states have tended to be the ones that vote for Dems, and our popular conception of Democratic voters has shifted to someone with a latte in their hand. The authors of the study point out, however, that the strong correlation between class and voting habits (in the traditional direction) still exists on a nationwide level. Looking at class voting patterns state-by-state, they find that while class remains a potent predictor of party preference in poor states, it has recently disappeared as a factor in rich states -- the rich and poor in "blue" states are extremely similar in their partisan makeup.

The study is subtitled "What's the Matter with Connecticut?", a play on the book "What's the Matter with Kansas?", which looked at the political realignment of rural America. The realignment of places like Connecticut is just as striking, though it hasn't gotten as much attention, and the authors point out that the subtleties they explore in state-by-state trends have led to confused analyses by journalists and pundits.

Since we don't actually know what's causing this trend, it doesn't serve as punditry fodder as easily as "latte liberal"-type stuff. It seems to me, though, that in the poor Southern states where the retention of class-based politics is most pronounced, there is a much more oppositional stance between the classes, and a lot of it stems from race. It looks like the researchers controlled for race statistically, but I think it's also pretty obvious that the effect of race is not the same from state to state.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Spoken music

I think this is clever/amusing enough to merit a look.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Portland trip pictures

I posted a few crappy pictures of my trip to Portland and Washington state back at the end of August, but ReeD now has his very handsome pictures posted on his site. You can look at our walk in Ape Cave, a St. Helens-scoured landscape, the smoking crater, or just look at the whole collection.

Also, I'd like to note how much this picture seems like a scene from the computer game Myst.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Check out this map thing I got that plots where the visits to my blog come from. A thumbnail version of it is now perched a the bottom of my righthand navigation links. The map on Raja's blog (where I found out about this) is a lot more impressive. He's got readers on multiple obscure Pacific Islands...