April 30, 2004

Sage Credit Advice

I've never been in debt. Okay, that's not entirely true. Yes, I've been in the kind of debt where I had to make car payments, and I'm currently in the kind of debt that says I have to make house payments.

I've never been in credit card debt, however. Truth be told, I've never even owned a credit card. I don't trust them. I've been conditioned not to trust them thanks to many years of living with college roommates.

Most of my college roommates had this weird outlook on credit cards. Basically, they thought credit cards were magical pieces of plastic that just magically paid for things and that they were somehow immune from the the ensuing debt that came about due to excessive credit card spending.

I'll admit it: I was sort of jealous of my roommates and their magical credit cards. After all, they always seemed to have money and, if they didn't, they just whipped out their credit cards. Books? Put them on the credit card. Food? Put it on the credit card. Night out at a strip club? credit card.

And yet there I was writing checks and budgeting like a fool. I remember thinking that I was doing everything all wrong. I mean, there I would sit, meticulously lording over my finances, while my roommates went waltzing all over town swiping their credit cards with the careless glee of a six-year-old with a loaded pistol.

Then, one year, I was a roommate with a guy named Chad. Chad was actually a former high school classmate of mine. He was, and is, a tech-head. He's one of those guys who was born to know technology. Way back in elementary school, he taught me how to write simple programs for the Apple IIc, and he always just seemed to know everything about computers.

But he didn't know shit about personal finances. He whipped out any one of his many credit cards with the swiftness and ease of a Old West gunslinger. By the time we became roommates, he had already accrued over $10,000 in credit card debt.

I remember thinking what an incredibly large amount of money that seemed to be, especially when I factored in the understanding that he also received financial aid, and that he also worked. Granted, he worked at the local Brach's candy factory on the Gummi Bear line, which paid about as well as you might imagine, but it was still money, so I came to the conclusion that old Chad was a pretty carefree spender.

Well, one day, I popped into Chad's outrageously messy room where I noticed, tucked between two huge bags of pilfered defective Gummi Bears, a credit card notice that was slugged "Urgent!" and another that was slugged "Immediate Payment Required" and still another that read "We Break Fingers And Toes."

Then the calls started coming in, usually two or three a day. "Is Mr. Haugen available? We really need to speak with him." No, he's not here. "Are you sure you're not really Mr. Haugen?" Yes, I'm sure. "Well, when he comes in, have him call Mike at Discover immediately." *sound of shotgun cocking* Will do.

Chad was masterful when it came to avoiding creditors. He always seemed to leave the apartment just two or three minutes before a creditor called. It was like he had some sort of sixth sense. Which was all fine and dandy, except that I ended up being the intermediary between Chad and the creditors, so I got to absorb all the impatient anger and suspicion of basically every credit card company on the planet.

It was the day a creditor appeared, in person, at our doorstep that I realized Chad's debt situation was probably more dire than Chad cared to admit. There was a knock at the door, I answered, and a gentleman in a suit that looked both impressive and threatening stood before me. He asked to see a Mr. Chad Haugen, at which point I heard a little scuffling emanating from Chad's room as Chad scurried out the back entrance which, conveniently, was located at the far end of his bedroom.

We chatted together, the ominous creditor and me, for about an hour, waiting for Chad to get home, even though, of course, there was no way in holy hell Chad was going to make an appearance while that guy was in our apartment. I even had to produce my ID, so the creditor was satisfied that I wasn't, in fact, Chad Haugen.

After that, I believe, Chad ended up getting a loan from his parents, or somebody, so he could pay off his credit card debt at least enough to keep the creditors at bay. He eventually got a job working at IBM, which was a long-assed commute from Winona to Rochester, but paid a whole lot more than the Gummi Bear line.

As for me, Chad's experience with credit cards pretty much scared me away from plastic for good.

Posted by Ryan at 01:55 PM | Comments (2)

It Was All About The OIILLLLL!

Well, yeah.

Kickbacks? Bribery? Stonewalling? Conspiracy?

U.N. fever. Catch it!!

If all of this is news to you, there's probably a reason.

Posted by Ryan at 01:02 PM | Comments (0)

And Now I'm Sick Of Sanding

Earlier this week, I was burnt out on painting. Today, I'm burnt out on sanding. I have spent the last two evenings, and I mean evenings that ticked to 2 a.m., sanding down my hardwood floors to remove decades-old stains and assorted scuffs and scratches.

It's no minor league undertaking, this sanding of floors. Nay, it's a fairly involved process which includes both large and small machines. On the large end of things, I had to use an agressive floor attacking sander that ripped away my precious oak floors like a ravenous dog. And, if you let your guard down with that floor attacking menace, it would literally run away from you. That only happened once, thankfully, although it's kind of humbling to have to chase after a sanding machine that doesn't care which direction it's going.

After finishing with the sanding machine, I spent last night going along the perimeter of the floor where the big sander couldn't reach, meticulously going over the floor with a little hand sander that squealed loud enough to be heard in Utah. It took me from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. to get everything nice and sanded down and ready for today's application of stain and, eventually, varnish, which will all hopefully bring the floors back to their original brilliance. I'll just be happy if I can walk on them.

But, oh, the dust. So much dust. Dust everywhere. I woke up this morning and ran an exploratory finger up my right nostril, and what emerged was the biggest dust encrusted booger ever to form within a nose. It was gigant-huge! I bet you all wanted to know that.

Anyway, floor clean up and staining is on the agenda for tonight, and tomorrow I'm off to San Antonio to cover a tech convention there. I'll try to blog when I can from the great state of Texas. Last time I was in Texas, I was in Dallas, and it snowed. SNOWED! I bring Minnesota with me wherever I go.

Posted by Ryan at 10:22 AM | Comments (5)

April 28, 2004

Overdue Convo With Mandy

Mandy says: i lost 20 lbs. gained perfect bikinbody again.

Ryan says: WOO HOO!

Ryan says: Send pics.

Mandy says: the working & school schedule had me gaining weight

Ryan says: Naked ones.

Mandy says: ha

Ryan says: Hey, you've seen my ass. It seems only fair.

Mandy says: and i will be pullinf off another 4.0

Mandy says: so my cumulative gpa will be a 3.93

Ryan says: Way to go, brainiac. I always hated people like you in college.

Mandy says: a 4.0 with a 15 hour load and full-time job

Mandy says: yea, i ruin curves

Ryan says: Curve killers.

Mandy says: but i am alos 27 and still in school

Mandy says: cause i had too much fun at 18

Mandy says: and i still haven't learned to type

Ryan says: You're only 27? For some reason I was thinking you were 31 or something.

Mandy says: that class would kill my average

Ryan says: Hell, I took typing in high school and I still suck at it.

Mandy says: 31????

Mandy says: what the hell?

Mandy says: do not lump me in the over 30 category

Ryan says: Sorry. I just always thought you were older than me.

Mandy says: why????

Mandy says: i will be 28 in may

Ryan says: I don't know. You always seem more mature than me. Then again, so do most 13 year olds.

Mandy says: ha

Posted by Ryan at 12:44 PM | Comments (2)

April 27, 2004

Teen Girl Squad!!

Seriously, this right here is some gut-busting funny shit. You'll laugh until you stop.

Posted by Ryan at 05:34 PM | Comments (1)

I'm Well Un-Read

Mitch Berg pointed me to this list of books I have and have not yet read. Time to hit the books, methinks.

Achebe, Chinua - Things Fall Apart (Okonkwo RULEZ!)
Agee, James - A Death in the Family
Austen, Jane - Pride and Prejudice
Baldwin, James - Go Tell It on the Mountain
Beckett, Samuel - Waiting for Godot
Bellow, Saul - The Adventures of Augie March
Brontë, Charlotte - Jane Eyre
Brontë, Emily - Wuthering Heights (I saw the movie. Does that count?)
Camus, Albert - The Stranger
Cather, Willa - Death Comes for the Archbishop
Chaucer, Geoffrey - The Canterbury Tales
Chekhov, Anton - The Cherry Orchard (I can't read any more Chekhov. Too bleak.)
Chopin, Kate - The Awakening
Conrad, Joseph - Heart of Darkness
Cooper, James Fenimore - The Last of the Mohicans
Crane, Stephen - The Red Badge of Courage
Dante - Inferno
de Cervantes, Miguel - Don Quixote
Defoe, Daniel - Robinson Crusoe
Dickens, Charles - A Tale of Two Cities
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - Crime and Punishment
Douglass, Frederick - Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Dreiser, Theodore - An American Tragedy
Dumas, Alexandre - The Three Musketeers
Eliot, George - The Mill on the Floss
Ellison, Ralph - Invisible Man
Emerson, Ralph Waldo - Selected Essays
Faulkner, William - As I Lay Dying
Faulkner, William - The Sound and the Fury
Fielding, Henry - Tom Jones
Fitzgerald, F. Scott - The Great Gatsby
Flaubert, Gustave - Madame Bovary
Ford, Ford Madox - The Good Soldier
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von - Faust
Golding, William - Lord of the Flies
Hardy, Thomas - Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - The Scarlet Letter
Heller, Joseph - Catch 22 (Best work of dark humor EVER! My fave book!)
Hemingway, Ernest - A Farewell to Arms
Homer - The Iliad
Homer - The Odyssey
Hugo, Victor - The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Hurston, Zora Neale - Their Eyes Were Watching God
Huxley, Aldous - Brave New World
Ibsen, Henrik - A Doll's House
James, Henry - The Portrait of a Lady
James, Henry - The Turn of the Screw
Joyce, James - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Kafka, Franz - The Metamorphosis
Kingston, Maxine Hong - The Woman Warrior
Lee, Harper - To Kill a Mockingbird
Lewis, Sinclair - Babbitt
London, Jack - The Call of the Wild
Mann, Thomas - The Magic Mountain
Marquez, Gabriel GarcĂ­a - One Hundred Years of Solitude
Melville, Herman - Bartleby the Scrivener
Melville, Herman - Moby Dick (I don't care if it is a classic. I'm never reading this fucker again!)
Miller, Arthur - The Crucible
Morrison, Toni - Beloved
O'Connor, Flannery - A Good Man is Hard to Find
O'Neill, Eugene - Long Day's Journey into Night
Orwell, George - Animal Farm (What? No 1984?)
Pasternak, Boris - Doctor Zhivago
Plath, Sylvia - The Bell Jar
Poe, Edgar Allan - Selected Tales (Not this title per se. The one I read was "The Works of Poe, or something like that)
Proust, Marcel - Swann's Way
Pynchon, Thomas - The Crying of Lot 49
Remarque, Erich Maria - All Quiet on the Western Front
Rostand, Edmond - Cyrano de Bergerac
Roth, Henry - Call It Sleep
Salinger, J.D. - The Catcher in the Rye
Shakespeare, William - Hamlet
Shakespeare, William - Macbeth
Shakespeare, William - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Shakespeare, William - Romeo and Juliet (Who hasn't read this?)
Shaw, George Bernard - Pygmalion (See also: My Fair Lady, sort of)
Shelley, Mary - Frankenstein
Silko, Leslie Marmon - Ceremony
Solzhenitsyn, Alexander - One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Sophocles - Antigone
Sophocles - Oedipus Rex
Steinbeck, John - The Grapes of Wrath
Stevenson, Robert Louis - Treasure Island
Stowe, Harriet Beecher - Uncle Tom's Cabin
Swift, Jonathan - Gulliver's Travels
Thackeray, William - Vanity Fair
Thoreau, Henry David - Walden
Tolstoy, Leo - War and Peace
Turgenev, Ivan - Fathers and Sons
Twain, Mark - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (again, who hasn't read this?)
Voltaire - Candide
Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. - Slaughterhouse-Five
Walker, Alice - The Color Purple
Wharton, Edith - The House of Mirth
Welty, Eudora - Collected Stories
Whitman, Walt - Leaves of Grass
Wilde, Oscar - The Picture of Dorian Gray
Williams, Tennessee - The Glass Menagerie
Woolf, Virginia - To the Lighthouse
Wright, Richard - Native Son

Posted by Ryan at 02:27 PM | Comments (0)

April 26, 2004

New Kerry Medal Controversy Erupts

WASHINGTON D.C. (Rhodes Media Services) -- Amid controversy over whether Sen. and Democratic Presidential hopeful John Forbes Kerry threw several of his Vietnam War decorations--whether they were ribbons or medals, over a fence in 1971 in protest over America's involvement in the war, a new controversy has erupted that has sent his campaign advisors scrambling for answers.

At the heart of the new issue is not whether the decorations were thrown, but how they were thrown. Although the Kerry campaign insists they were thrown with a hefty over-the-shoulder throw brimming with vitality and confidence, some eyewitnesses to the event say it was a more of an underhand toss with a limp wrist, while still others say it was more of a "granny" throw using both hands sweeping up from between the knees skyward in what one witness said made him look like a "total fairy."

"I was there, man," said Bradley Langston, 53, of Pittsburgh. "Kerry was totally half-assed when he threw those medals, or ribbons, or whatever the hell they were, over that fence. I mean, he barely even cleared the fence, for crying out loud. But, yeah, it was a totally wimpy toss, like he was throwing confetti or something. It was weak."

Media orgainizations, sensing a story that may have legs, have been poring over old taped archives and have enlisted the critical eyes of both professional pitchers and schoolyard pansy girly-boys in an attempt to ascertain just how manly or wussy Sen. Kerry's ribbon/medal throwing actually was.

Early uncomfirmed reports say that people can clearly be heard in the in the footage yelling such undignified chants as "we want a medal chucker, not a mother-f**ker," and "we'll give you one last chance, to clear the f**king fence," in apparent response to the senator's throwing prowess.

This story is developing.

UPDATE: Hey, turns out this was actually more than satire. Well, sort of:

With that, he didn't really throw his handful toward the statue of John Marshall, America's first chief justice. Nor did he drop the decorations. He sort of lobbed them, and then walked off the stage.

Posted by Ryan at 01:17 PM | Comments (9)

Sick Of Painting

I'm sick of painting. I can't stand the sight and smell of latex or oil-based paint any more. I can't stand brushes. I can't stand rollers. I can't stand Sherwin-Williams. I can't stand taping. I can't stand taking tape down. People do this for a living? How? Why?

With roughly one week remaining before I'm due to move in, most of the painting is complete, although there are rumblings that, if the girlfriend gets her way, we'll be repainting all the trim in the house all over again, which makes me want to bleed from the ears.

Amanda Beard . Amanda Beard nude. Amanda Beard . Amanda Beard . Amanda Beard . Amanda Beard . Amanda Beard nude. Amanda Beard . Amanda Beard . Amanda Beard .Amanda Beard . Amanda Beard nude. Amanda Beard . Amanda Beard . Amanda Beard .Amanda Beard .

I finally got all the carpet torn up, and all the carpet tacks yanked, and all the carpet strips crowbarred up and out of there. Now I have to sand the floors, and stain them, and seal them, and I have no idea where to even start doing any of that, and I'm sure I'll mess it all up ten or eleven times during the process, because that's the way things seem to be going.

And the lawn is getting long, and here I sit without a mower. And I'm travelling to San Antonio for work this weekend, which means a lot of stuff that should be done won't be done.

I want to be sleeping.

Posted by Ryan at 11:00 AM | Comments (5)

April 22, 2004

Coffin Talk

There's a lot of news today about a woman being fired for taking pictures of coffins bearing American dead coming home from Iraq.

Personally, I don't really want to see pictures of coffins.

Except for maybe this one.

Or this one.

Ah, this one, too.

Ooh, can't forget to mention this one.

Oh, one more.

Asia Carrera hawking coffins? This world is too cool. Asia Carrera.

Posted by Ryan at 03:46 PM | Comments (4)

Lileks On Fire

James Lileks, in his latest Newhouse column, just had me both laughing out loud and thinking "Hell, YEAH!" But, that's my usual reaction to Lileks' stuff. Read it if you're interested, don't if you're not.

Great paragraph:

One suspects that the number of undecided Americans may be fewer this week than the last -- at least if they heard about the U.N. reaction to Israel's ballistic dismissal of Abdel Aziz Rantisi, Hamas' leader-of-the-week. What a loathsome man he was. A architect of death and terror. Religious bigot, child-killer, slaughterer of fellow Arabs. Israel finally takes him out. The United Nations springs into action -- to consider a resolution to condemn the attack.


Nations have no friends. Nations have interests.

That has to be true; a Frenchman said it.

UPDATE: Basically unrelated, but still damned funny.

UPDATE AGAIN: An interesting take on Iraq/Sout Africa.

Posted by Ryan at 11:50 AM | Comments (17)

April 20, 2004

The House That Hates Me

Many of you no doubt already know that I bought a house last week, and for those of you who don't know, well, you know now.

Here's what I've learned about home ownership so far: my house doesn't like me all that much. I can say this based on two early incidents that do not bode well for the future.

The day I closed on the house, I waited around for my girlfriend to come down from the Twin Cities because she wanted to be with me during my first in-depth tour of my new house. Girls are weird creatures like that. I could buy a can of athlete's foot spray, and my girfriend would want to be with me for the initial application. Okay, I'm kidding. . . somewhat.

So, anyway, my girlfriend and I arrive at my new house, at which time I discover I don't have the key to get in. Now, I was 99.9 percent certain I had the key before leaving to go to the house. I mean, I was POSITIVE I had it. So, the fact I suddenly didn't have it bothered me to no end. We retraced our steps. We went back to the point of origin. We went EVERYWHERE. Nothing. No key.

There I stood outside of the house I just paid an amazing amount of money for, lacking any means of entry. Okay, let me rephrase that last part: lacking any TRADITIONAL means of entry. I started an in-depth security patrol of my new house, probing for potential weaknesses I could exploit. I found a weakness, in the form of a basement window, which I popped out of place and slithered my way into the darkest basement EVER.

Now, keep in mind, I didn't know my house all that well, so I wasn't all that sure what room I had just dropped into, and it was so amazingly dark, I could just as well as been in a cave. What transpired was a lot of clumsy bumping around as I walked into several walls and grabbed at many loose wires, which frankly spooked the hell out of me.

I'll tell you what: there are few things more disorienting than being caught in pitch darkness in a basement you're not at all familiar with. I think you could make a pretty creepy movie based entirely on that concept alone. I hadn't believed in monsters and ghosts for at least a couple of years but, as I fumbled my way aimlessly around that darkened basement, I found myself once again entertaining the possibility they existed, and they no doubt existed about five inches from my face, taunthing me from a safe distance.

I finally half-discovered, half-fell-up, the basement staircase and I was monumentally relieved to find a light switch at the top of the stairs. Oh, light! Beautiful light! Chaser awayer of all imagined ghosts and demons!

My girlfriend was waiting patiently for me at the front door, and she wasn't surprised in the least that I materialized inside the house because, she explained, she had heard me banging around in the basement for the last five minutes or so. Girlfriends can be so helpful like that.

We walked through the house for the first time with me as the proud owner and, proud owner that I was, I was most proud to find a spare set of keys so I wouldn't have to crawl through the basement every time I wanted to visit my home.

The next day, we arrived triumphantly, ready to get to work on updating my purchase, and within the first few minutes, I found the missing key sitting squarely in the center of the driveway. Stupid key.

One of our first tasks was to go around the house and remove all the light switch and outlet covers. It was during this exercise that my house tried to kill me.

One outlet cover, in particular, apparently took offense at me trying to remove it, and it reacted in such a way as to spark and buzz loudly, while sending a considerable electrical jolt cascading through my body. The resulting power surge blew a fuse which, once I had sufficiently recovered from the shock, required me to go back into the darkened and unfamiliar basement to replace the blown fuse.

All in all, however, so far home ownership has been an enjoyable experience. And, if all goes well, the house will kill me sometime next week.

Amanda Beard . Amanda Beard . Amanda Beard . Amanda Beard nude. Amanda Beard . Amanda Beard . Amanda Beard .Amanda Beard . Amanda Beard nude. Amanda Beard .

Posted by Ryan at 10:26 AM | Comments (6)

April 19, 2004

A Place To Call Home - Part Deux

I closed on my house on Friday, so, obviously, I've been working on my house all weekend. All pictures here are thumbnails, just in case you want to look more closely at a house built and not updated since 1958.


This is the living room, where, apparently, I'll do most of my living. You'll notice a considerable amount of painting supplies in the picture, owing primarily to the holy God-awful color scheme prevalent, oh, throughout the entire room. By the time this picture was taken, my girlfriend had painted most of the trim around the crown moulding and door and window trim. The sheer size of the living room ensures I'll be on great terms with Sherwin-Williams for the foreseeable future.

Oh, and speaking of color schemes, check out the dining room/or extended kitchen.


Be sure to check out the chandelier which, I'm sure, was entirely hip in 1958, when the house was built. I don't know about you, but the prevalent color of urine yellow has prompted me to have to pee.

So, let's instead go into the kitchen.


The most recent appliance? I'm not sure. It's either the refrigerator or the microwave. It's certainly not the range, or the stove. The range features a push button console that, I think, Capt. Kirk used to fire on the Klingons. We continue with the frightening color scheme, now featuring a hideous some sort of dark green in golf pant stripe pattern.

We continue on to the bedroom, which was apparently painted to resemble a pack of Wrigley's Spearmint gum.


I should note here, and note here emphatically, that the carpets featured throughout the house WILL. NOT. STAND. That's the beauty of the house. There are gorgeous hardwood floors just below the circa 1958 carpet. Granted, the floors will have to be sanded, and stained, and sealed, but oh boy will they be freakin' unreal!!! As for the bedroom here: as of tonight's insane amount of work, it's largely not Doublemint Fresh. It's a wonderful color picked out by my girlfriend.

That's not to say there aren't color scheme nightmares yet to address. I give, oh my God, the pink room. THE PINK ROOM!!


By the way, keep in mind, the ceilings of both the bedroom AND the pink room were the same colors as the wall, so I of course had to slather three layers of white ceiling paint on the, er, ceilings. I keep meaning to do more with the pink room, but I just can't do it, because. . .


So. Much. Pink. I keep thinking of panthers. Pink panthers. And Barbie. And then I want to puke. Thankfully, the bathroom is right next door, where I'm confronted with. . .

toilet.JPG"><a href=toilet.JPG" src="http://ramblingrhodes.mu.nu/archives/toilet-thumb.JPG" width="225" height="300" border="0" />


Oh, by the way, you may be wondering about the huge porch. It's still a huge porch, but right now I'm using it to store all the trash I'll get rid of eventually.


There are other pictures, but it's getting late. I'll show you the basement (haunted basement, I think) and some outside pics as well.

Posted by Ryan at 01:08 AM | Comments (9)

April 16, 2004

A Dark Day In The Blogosphere

Whether it will be a lasting thing or not, Michele, over at A Small Victory, is hanging up her blogging hat. Let me tell you, this is a tough pill for me to swaller. Michele is one of my daily reads, for more reasons than I can list, and I'll miss her blog terribly.

Yet, I also know what she means when she explains her reasons for quitting. I don't mean the medication issues, either. I mean when it comes to spouting off about politics and marinating in news feeds 24/7/365.

It starts to take a toll and plays with the mind something fierce. You start to feel overloaded and obligated to vent at the same time, and you start feeling mad at the world because not everyone has the common sense to see things your way, and the people who really don't see things your way drop you pathetic e-mails that amount to literary diarrhea and, if you don't have a relatively strong self-esteem, those petty name-callers can really tear at you.

Not me, of course. My self-esteem has achieved near-legendary status. I can laugh off most everything short of a knife in my gut. But, I'm not everybody. Michele isn't everybody, either. She hit her boiling point and decided to step back, and that's too bad. Necessary, but too bad.

Her accomplishments will always be amazing to me. She was nearing 10,000 page views a day. 10,000!! I can't even imagine. Some newspapers and magazines would KILL for a subscription rate like that.

Amanda Beard . Amanda Beard .Amanda Beard .

Although, earlier this week, I had over 300 page views, which was definitely a record for me. Michele, send some of your blogging mojo my way. I'll take your fame and fortune if you're not using it.

UPDATE: Never mind. She's back.

Posted by Ryan at 02:15 PM | Comments (6)

I'm Confused

Okay, so, let me see if I understand this. The media has been saying that Iraq had no WMDs or nuclear capabilities, but now they're saying that Iraq's nuclear plants are being pilfered? There was no yellowcake, but now there's yellowcake? Up was down, but now down is up?

Actually, MSNBC.com had the story up on their site briefly, too, but then they took it down, apparently realizing that this didn't fit coherently into their tight world view.

UPDATE: This, too, is a must read. (via Instapundit)

Posted by Ryan at 12:29 PM | Comments (13)

Most Favorite Picture

Winona Road.jpg

I love this pic. Not sure why. Probably nostalgic.

UPDATE: Sorry about that, all. I was half asleep when I posted this pic and didn't tell you anything about it. This is a road that winds itself down into Winona, MN, where I went to college. I took this picture twice, actually. The first time, I was becoming familiar with my camera because I was taking a photography class. It was pretty much the most super awesome picture on a roll of 36 pictures. The second time I took this picture was about four years ago (the picture you see here) when I was trying to figure out my new digital camera. Still one of my favorite pics that I ever took.

Posted by Ryan at 12:35 AM | Comments (1)

April 14, 2004

Air American't

Hello, I'm Al Franken, and this is Air America, your liberal alternative to. . . zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Posted by Ryan at 03:21 PM | Comments (2)

House Of Dreams

Considering that I'm closing on my house Friday afternoon, I guess I really shouldn't be surprised that the stress of the whole deal is now snaking its way into my unconcious mind and is affecting my dreams.

Ponder this little bit of nocturnal imagery from last night:

I'm now officially moved into my house, except it looks nothing at all like the real house. And, for some reason, I decided to put my bed in the unfinished basement and make the entire basement my bedroom. I also discovered, much to my surprise, that the acreage that came with the house also features an abandoned trailer home and a dilapidated house, both of which will have to be torn down, and I find myself worrying about what the cost will be to dispose of all that trash.

Suddenly, the dream plops me in my bed (in the basement), and I'm laying there listening to footsteps upstairs, and I end up thinking something along the lines of "Oh, well, I suppose I should have expected ghosts to be hanging around."

There's a knock at the door. I emerge from my bed, naked, and before I can even throw on some boxer shorts, the person at the door just comes in and doesn't find it at all odd that I'm standing there in the nude. She's part of a neighborhood housewarming troupe!

One by one, people keep filing through the door, giving me housewarming gifts and offering to help me tear down the trailer home and dilapidated shack, because they've always thought of them both as neighborhood eye sores. Although still naked, I'm grateful for the gifts and offers. Everyone is commenting about the ghostly noises coming from upstairs and they offer up advice for how best to get rid such residual apparitions. They all seemed to agree that I should call Dr. Peter Venkman and Egon

Then, Roger Ebert enters the house, and his gift to me is some sort of suped-up GameBoy, which is about the size of a laptop computer, and it has the most recent release of Gauntlet playing on the screen. It's the coolest housewarming gift EVER, and it's made even cooler because it came from Roger Ebert, who didn't seem at all nonplussed about my perpetual nudity.

I then woke up.

You may commence with your dream analysis. . . now.

Posted by Ryan at 12:51 PM | Comments (1)

April 13, 2004

The Cruel Passage Of Time


Picture on the bottom? Taken in August of 1993. Picture on the top? My most recent license photo. I have no way of expressing how monumentally depressing this is.

Posted by Ryan at 05:29 PM | Comments (17)

Iraq Today Gets Me To Remembering

I'm watching the crap boiling over in Iraq, today, and I find that it sucks to have my convictions tested like this. I mean, it really, really sucks.

I don't profess to understand everything and everything about Islamic culture in general and Iraqi culture specifically. But, here's what I do know: during the year I lived in Tokyo, going to school at St. Mary's International School, I was friends with several Islamic students. I studied with them. I wrestled with and against them. I went to class with them. I joked with them.

And, I'll tell you what; whether they were from Saudi Arabia, or Bangladesh, or Iran, or Pakistan, or wherever (no Iraqis, now that I think about it), they were all great people, great friends. They were friendly, they were frightfully intelligent, and they were all just super-nice people.

We never talked politics. Hell, we were 17 and 18 years old, living in an industrial nation that featured vending machines on every corner, including vending machines filled with hardcore porn and used women's underwear (no, I'm not kidding). Politics and world events seemed forever and a day removed from the daily grind of trying to graduate from a truly challenging school system. The buffers of a moden industrial society kind of shielded us from the harsh glare of world events and politics.

One thing keeps crawling back into my brain, every time I see pictures of al Sadr, or Sistani, or even Osama bin Laden, and it's something that actually bothered me when it happened and continues to bother me every time I open the pages of my St. Mary's yearbook.

There were, perhaps, 40+ nations represented in my graduating class alone in 1993, with every possible combination of religions and ethnic backgrounds you can possibly imagine, right down to a Japanese Jew named Carl Shapiro. You want a real melting pot? Go to St. Marys.

Anyway, on the day that my senior class was photographed together on the roof of the school, one of the students, a charismatic (if somewhat unstable) borderline neo-Nazi named Aleksi, convinced almost 90 percent of the class to do a Nazi salute to the camera. I found the suggestion to be in incredibly bad taste, and I refused, opting instead to stand with my arms crossed in front of me.

And yet, today, every time I open the pages of that damned yearbook, I'm confronted with that freakin' picture of 90+ students, representing 40+ nations and every major world religion and countless cultures, giving a Nazi salute. A NAZI SALUTE! And, there I stand, my arms crossed in front of me, with a wide-eyed look of disbelief as my fellow students, apparently oblivious to the twisted symbolism of it all, happily flash a sieg heil to the camera.

I'm not sure why I'm writing this. Perhaps it's to point out what a little ignorance mixed with a little persuasion can do to convince people to do stupid, even destructive things. And it's scary to think that almost no one is immune from it.

I really should scan that picture and post it here, if only to underscore the surreal shock value of it all. I'll have to remember to do that the next time I go back to my hometown.

Posted by Ryan at 10:54 AM | Comments (2)

April 12, 2004

Groggy Monday Morning

Having just completed an early-morning 1.5 hour commute from the Twin Cities back down to Rochester today, I'm sitting at work right now wishing the caffeine in Diet Pepsi had more of a kick to it.

I thought about driving back to Rochester last night, but I think the Easter feasting had a debilitating effect on me, kind of like a pride of lions lounging around drunk on meat after bringing down a gazelle. I just plain didn't have the energy.

Melissa met much of my more extended family yesterday, a flurry of introductions of cousins, and aunt and uncle, and cousins' fiances, and children, followed by the probing investigative questions that have been percolating in everyone's mind since Mel and I started dating just over 1.5 years ago.

Melissa took it all in her cool stride, maintaining her impenetrable aura of "cute" through the entire holiday. Of course, I always expected that she would. I could have left her alone for two hours alone with my family, and they'd want to exchange me with her. She has eerie power like that.

My family is fun, if I do say so myself, and they always have been. When we get together, it's like some comedian convention in Las Vegas or something. Everyone tosses jibes at everyone else, and we're all fast and loose with the puns and groaningly bad humor from time to time. And time always flies. The clock twirled away from 1 p.m. to 6. p.m. in what seemed like just a few minutes.

It was a Greek type of Easter, in that my aunt prepared a Greek salad, leg of lamb, some sort of Greek bread, Greek wine (I think) and a variety of other Easter offerings that left me feeling more full than probably was wise. I couldn't help myself. I mean, the lamb, oh my God, the LAMB. Could it have BEEN any tastier. This gourmet says "no."

Next weekend, unfortunately, will be Easter with Melissa's family. I don't want to say they're not fun, but. . . well. . . they're not fun. It's hard to explain, but I think the disparity stems from a difference in rural and city mentality. Whereas much of my family has always lived and worked in cities, most of Mel's family (at least on her mother's side, and to a large degree her father's side, too) are all hardcore farm families. The people who make up her family are stoic, hard working, decent, loyal, yet incredibly boring folk. Conversation topics usually center around the weather, last year's crops, this upcoming year's crops, with some good old reminiscing thrown into the mix. To them, I'm sure the conversations are scintilating. For me, they're blood from the ears boring.

But, on the other hand, I close on my house on Friday, so Friday night and Saturday will no doubt be spent trying to paint the master bedroom so I can actually start thinking about moving my stuff in by the end of the month. I can't. . . I won't. . . sleep in a bedroom that is entirely pink. That has to be changed immediately.

Welcomg to Monday all. Enjoy the ride.

Posted by Ryan at 09:53 AM | Comments (5)

April 09, 2004

Chewing Crushed Ice

There's this comic strip my managing editor gave me awhile back, and she did so to taunt me about my noisy officemate. It's a Dilbert strip, and it features the bald guy with glasses chewing crushed ice, just so the woman in the cubicle next to him would be annoyed through the roof. The final panel show the woman, fists clenched, shaking in rage, saying "Must. . . destroy all refridgeration facilities. . . on earth!"

Right now, my officemate is sitting over in her bizarre little world, loudly chewing her beloved baby carrots. I've talked about this before, and I'm doing it again because, right now, I'm so irritated and annoyed by the popping and crunching of those accursed baby carrots, I want to pound my fists through something. ANYTHING!

There's really no way to explain how irritating it is to hear her masticating over there. And the worst part is that she eats, nonstop, from around 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Every. Day. And everything she eats is just as loud and annoying as everything else she eats. From carrots, to peaches, to apples, to the gargantuan salads, to the Healthy Choice TV dinners she nukes across the hall and brings into the office to assail the nostrils.

I mean, she says she's on a diet, which is fine. But, seriously, I don't care if you limit your diet to fruits and vegetables: if you eat nonstop, pretty much all day freakin' long, you're kind of defeating the point, right?! RIGHT!? So, you only eat apples and carrots and oranges? Good for you. So, you say you eat 8 apples, 8 oranges and roughly 100 million carrots a day? What the hell is wrong with you?!

Oh, and when she breaks out the peaches, that's always such a treat, and I notice there's one on her extensive menu for today, so I just can't wait for that. First, there's the open mouth death bite into the pulpy flesh of the peach, followed by the most God-awful slurping sound you've ever heard as she sucks the juice from the fruity wound. AGH! It makes me want to scream. Scream I tell you!!

And then there's the fruit cups. Oh, let me tell you about those fruit cups. The fruit cups are quiet for awhile, but then she gets down to the end, and what ensues is the most frantic scraping of spoon on plastic container, which goes on for about five minutes or so. "Must. . . get. . . at. . . last bit of. . .fruit paste!"

I'm dying here. Dying!

Oh, and she just blew her nose three times, which must signal the next course or something. I totally hate having an officemate, particularly THIS officemate.


Posted by Ryan at 11:28 AM | Comments (10)

April 08, 2004


James Lileks, in his Newhouse column, regarding the 9/11 commission:

If. If. Maybe. If. If George W. Bush had phoned the Saudis on the first day of his administration and told them any act of Islamist terror would result in a mushroom cloud over Mecca, and that he would consider it "what we call in bowling a practice frame," it might have been different. It might have been different if B-52s had taken out the Taliban in February 2001 -- and we all know how Ted Kennedy et al. would have exploded in a rain of bile had Bush kicked off his term with a pre-emptive war. The articles of impeachment would have been drawn up before the first wave of bombers returned to base.

Posted by Ryan at 02:14 PM | Comments (1)


I got into a familiar argument with a friend of mine last night. I tend to generally believe I'm right about all things, and generally I think that's proven correct about 88 percent of the time, so arguments with me lean toward the "don't be stupid" end of the spectrum.


The argument in question was about the duration of relationships, and what a decent stretch of time should pass before such massive steps as living together or marriage should enter the fray. I was more than a little surprised at how my friend, Marc, reacted. He actually got angry which, in turn, got me angry.

I come from the old school of relationships, I guess. I've been on, maybe, 30 or so dates in my life, most of them in college, with the word "dates" being a relative term here that also includes random bar pick-ups that end up being aimless groping in the backseat of a car.

Of that 30 or so number, perhaps 15 of those actually morphed into something longer, like, maybe a week or month or three of phone calls or dates or whatever.

Of that 15, only really four amounted to anything resembling a long term relationship in which I was actually interested enough in them to sniff around and find out more.

And only two of those lasted longer than a year. I'm in one of those right now with Melissa.

With that background in place, here's the heart of the argument I had last night: I basically believe that, before a relationship can move into the living together or marriage stage, an earth-shattering amount of time should pass. I'm talking, like, three years or more. Maybe two years.

I thought Marc was about to fly out of his chair when I said that, which surprised me just a little bit. I'm not sure why he had such a bizarre reaction, but whatever.

The reason I think two or three or more years should elapse is simple: it takes that long to discover all the issues lurking in the mind of the significant other and to decide whether you're okay with them. In turn, that amount of time gives the significant other a window to do the same.

There's a divorce epidemic in America today, due in no small part to a culture that hails romance over common sense. Everybody wants a relationship that leaves them tingly into perpetuity. But, here's the deal: that tingly feeling only really truly lasts about six months or so, maybe a year if you're lucky, or your significant other is actually gay and is overcompensating. But, people want to capitalize on the tingly feeling and try to trap it, like a butterfly, and so they move on to the next relationship stage way before it's time.

So, I'm of the opinion, and I think rightly so, that a relationship of two or three years before taking the next big step is alarmingly smart. A relationship should be a gradual investment, not a lump sum gamble on Red 36, let the wheel spin.

I love Melissa, and she's probably the only woman (family not included) I've actually truly loved. But, I'm sure as hell not ready to live with her, even after a year-and-a-half of dating. I mean, during her spring break, when she and I were around each other constantly for over a week, I wanted to scream. And so did she. But, it's gradual. Eventually, provided we stick together that long, we'll feel out each other's personal boundaries and be able to be around each other for longer and longer stretches. If, however, we were to jump in right now and start living together, it would only be a matter of time before we explode. To me, this is all just common sense thinking.

Like I said, I didn't expect Marc to get as bent out of shape as he did, which makes me wonder if there's something going on in his mind that he's not saying. Or, maybe the concept of waiting two to three years, for Marc, like most Americans, just seems like too long a time.

Not me. If forever is going to be forever, I'm damned well going to make sure my relationship has longevity first, and three years just doesn't seem that unreasonable of a trial period.

UPDATE: Oh, and there was also this, which still bothers me to this day.

UPDATE 2.0: Jennifer noted that there are some exceptions, and of course there are. I posted a comment on her site that I feel is relevant to this post:

There are, of course, exceptions to everything. I think I may just be adhering to a genetic propensity towards waiting: my mom and dad dated for almost seven years or so before getting married (so long, in fact, that my mother's sister said "it's time to shit or get off the pot."

My girlfriend's parents got married after six months, were married for almost 20 years, and then her dad announced he was gay and moved out, leaving three children to wonder how THAT happened.

I guess I'm just more comfortable with waiting. Cuts out a lot of the "well, shit, I didn't know THAT" moments once you're married or living together.

Posted by Ryan at 10:38 AM | Comments (13)

April 07, 2004

The Hobby Of blogging

I used to collect coins. I mean, I used to be really into collecting coins. My years between 12 and 17 years of age were largely devoted to my coin collection. I would sometimes stay up until 3 a.m., meticulously documenting my collection, calculating the quality of my coins, protecting them, learning about them.

And, I became aware of a lot of other people who collected coins. Numismatists we're called. I went to coin shows, and I read a newspaper called Numismatic News, and I thought coin collecting was the shit.

And I guess it probably was. After all, locked in a bank security box in my hometown lies probably over $10,000 worth of coins, and their value basically goes up a bit every day. I really don't know how much they're worth right now, because I haven't actively collected coins since I lived in Tokyo and then went on to college, and then went on to life. Oh, sure, I'll peruse the change I'm given each day to see if I recognize any rarities in the mix, but I haven't stepped foot inside a coin shop or coin show for over a decade.

This blogging thing, I think, is a lot like coin collecting, or any hobby for that matter, in that it seems a lot more important to people who actually have blogs. blogging has all the earmarks of a hobby.

I started blogging at the insistence of my officemate at the time, Jen. I acquiesced partly to shut her up, but also because I figured blogging would be a great way to strengthen my writing skills and, because I'm a writer by profession (even if it is journalism, with is, like, writing lite), it made sense that I wanted to become better at it. And I think I have.

But, then I started to notice something. I started visiting other blogs, and I realized there are a lot of bloggers out there who have an inflated view of their importance in the world, kind of like the coin collecters I used to run into who believed their influence in the hobby should be recognized by all. "I have a mint condition 1948 Ben Franklin 50 cent piece! Bow before me!!"

It's not that I think blogging is a marginal pursuit or anything. It isn't. I think blogging is an incredibly useful tool for a myriad of reasons. It's just that, right now, I think some bloggers really think more highly of themselves than is probably warranted.

Back in my coin collecting days, I came to recognize some big names in the realm, and I'd recognize some Numismatic News writers at coin shows and I'd be left in a mild state of awe. The same thing, I think, would happen today if I bumped into, say, Glenn Reynolds, or James Lileks, or Andrew Sullivan, or Tammy (okay, I just threw Tammy in because she e-mailed me today).

But, those are the exceptions. The big name bloggers have transcended blogging into something else. They actually make money doing it, and their writing and links can actually occastionally influence the more established mass media (think Jayson Blair). Other bloggers, myself included, are just basically background noise, cogs in the machine that is blogging.

I'm not sure why I'm pondering all of this. I think it comes down to the whole flap about Kos, and the Jello fight between Michele and Wonkette, and numerous other blogging phenomenons as of late. The thing is, that stuff only really matters to bloggers, and maybe those people who don't have blogs but read them instead of doing actual work.

I used to get frustrated with people during my coin collecting days. I couldn't understand when people didn't know about coin collecting. How could they not know? Coin collecting was the biggest and bestest thing ever to happen in the world.

Some bloggers, I think, suffer from the same dillusion, letting their site meter fool them into thinking that they're so influential that they simply must be recognized by the world. A lot of political blogs have almost a desperate air about them, as if their every word is being scrutinized by the New York Times, just in case they're being scooped.

I'm not trying to poop on the importance of blogging. I mean, it's important, to be sure, and in its most valuable form it encourages rational discussion between rational people and I, for one, have gained immense insight into a range of issues.

But, generally, I don't take blogging that seriously. I mean, hell, I was on Blogger for over two years and didn't really care until someone actually had to drag me to a more funtional format. Still, I watch stuff like the big Kos explosion, and I'm left thinking, "get a life, people." And yet, there's a part of me that thinks Kos totally deserved to be run over the coals for saying something so incredibly stupid.

I don't know what the point of this post it. Just getting some stuff out of my head and in print before it disappears into my neural wasteland.

Which, again, I suppose may be the most valuable aspect of the hobby of blogging.

UPDATE: I meant to wrap this up with a tie-in to coin collecting, but work intervened. Anyway, I asked my brother once to name a well-known coin collecter, and of course I just got a blank stare. Now, I ask myself, if I were to approach somebody on the street and ask them to name a well-known blogger, I'm willing to bet I'd get the same blank stare. I guess I'm just questioning the overall influence of the blogosphere, such as it is.

Posted by Ryan at 11:04 AM | Comments (13)

April 06, 2004

Obligatory Pain Pic


So, I'm fascinated by crap like this. I'm a sicko. Sue me.

Posted by Ryan at 03:41 PM | Comments (7)

April 05, 2004

Home Ownership Is 11 Days Away

This weekend was spent driving by my house to be, followed by rollerblading past my house to be. I think I could tell you everything about the outside of the house, right down to the number of trees, right down to the types of bushes, right down to the insane landscaping that will be a gargantuan bitch to mow.

The inevitability of financial brokeness that will ensue come the closing day April 16 has pretty much sunk in. I've been pinching pennies so hard, copper wire practically spews from my butt like Dairy Queen soft serve. More than anything, I want to be able to afford, at least, the paint required to bring the inside of the house out of the 1950s.

I find myself toggling between emotional extremes. On the one hand, I'm so excited about moving in, I can barely contain myself. On the other hand, I have so many nightmare scenarios jostling in my mind, Freddy Krueger seems like Mickey Mouse. I can just imagine, come a few strong spring rains, that my basement will become a swimming pool, and large mutant rats will be drifting along on some rat-made Ark.

But, no, I'm mostly excited. Especially given the realization over the weekend that my house is about a block away from Rochester's newest man-made lake, which is slated to have a sprawling park and trail system built around it. Melissa was totally adorable about everything, getting all excited when she found out about the big sledding hill located about a half block away. Somehow, the thought of two almost-30-year-olds dragging sleds up a hill to go sledding seemed goofy to me, but she thought it was among the coolest things EVER.

Actually, there are all sorts of little and bigger-than-little projects springing up all over my soon-to-be neighborhood, which should make for an exciting few months coming up. Everywhere I look, it seems, there are indications that my property value is going to go nowhere but up, up and up, and the general consensus from everyone I talk to is that I got a steal at $125,000. I hope they're right.

Posted by Ryan at 09:58 AM | Comments (2)

April 02, 2004



Posted by Ryan at 03:47 PM | Comments (2)

I Got Nuthin'

I don't think this is writer's block so much as it is writer's depletion. This week has drained me of everything. Putting up with one of the more monumental A-holes within IBM will do that to you.

I am always aware, at least just a little bit, that there are plenty of assholes in the world, but this week was a jarring reminder of just how close those assholes actually are.

Dealing with assholes is one of the most draining exercises in the world. They think they're right, about everything, even when they're wrong, about everything, and they're not afraid to be extreme jerks about everything. There's a part of them that actually takes glee in being social pricks.

As such, I have nothing to offer. I'm drained. I got nuthin'.

Maybe something will come to me later, but I doubt it.

UPDATE: Yes, I'm aware that I fit many of my own criteria about what an asshole is. However, I like to think of myself as a minor asshole. Carry on.

Posted by Ryan at 11:36 AM | Comments (4)

April 01, 2004

MTV's Influence On The Political Process, Or Lack Thereof

I don't think much of MTV. Honestly, I tend to think MTV has been dead for the last five years or so and nobody bothered to bury the corpse, opting instead to walk by it once in awhile to see how the decomposition is coming along.

Oh, I suppose it may have some spasms left in it, whenever it discovers that the 13-22 year-old deomographic wants to see a little more nudity or some guy hitting another guy in the nuts with a baseball bat, or they want to see how the fossilized remains of Ozzy Osbourne are doddering along. But, when it comes to the great music video revolution it sparked in the early 80s, well, those days are just a distant memory.

Therefore, whenever I hear of another MTV "get out the vote" campaign, I can't help but feel that the message is largely falling on deaf ears. When your typical sexually frustrated 15 year old tunes into MTV hoping for a little masturbation while watching Aguilera or Spears in their latest softcore porn music video, they're just not going to be swayed by a "Choose or Lose" voting campaign. They'll switch channels, simple as that.

Clinton was lucky. He was able to appear on MTV towards the tail end of MTV's relevance. A presidential candidate? On MTV. That's soooo cool! Compare that with John Kerry's recent MTV appearance, where the senator looked about as immobile as Andrew Jackson on a $20. It just didn't work. Although, to be fair, I'm basing all this entirely on the clips I saw last night on "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" so what the hell do I know?

The questions asked of Kerry were some of the most pathetic probings I think I've ever heard, and Kerry simply had to feel like he was being interviewed by a turnip. But, still, pandering is pandering, and it has to be done. You know what, though? When that one kid called in and asked the burning question "Have you ever been cool, and are you cool now?" I could scarcely believe my ears.

Anyway, that's all I really have to say on it. One of my daily reads, Lileks, however, conducted a thorough dissection of the appearance, and I encourage everyone to drop by and see what he has to say on the matter. It's great. An excerpt:

We stopped pretending we would ratify Kyoto. We only spent $15 billion on AIDS in Africa. We did not take dictation from Paris. If we had done these things, it would minimize the world’s anger.

Is the world angry at Russia, which spends nothing on AIDS and rebuffed Kyoto? Is the world angry at China, which got a pass on Kyoto and spends nothing on AIDS for other countries?

Is the world angry at North Korea for killings its people? Angry at Iran for smothering that vibrant nation with corrupt and thuggish mullocracy? Angry at Syria for occupying Lebanon? Angry at Saudi Arabia for its denial of women’s rights? Angry at Russia for corrupt elections? Is the world angry at China for threatening Taiwan, or angry at France for joining the Chinese in joint military exercises that threatened the island on the eve of an election? Is the world angry at Zimbabwe for stealing land and starving people? Is the world angry at Pakistan for selling nuclear secrets? Is the world angry at Libya for having an NBC program?

Is the world angry at the thugs of Fallujah?

Is the world angry at anyone besides America and Israel?

UPDATE: Whoops. I just realized I pulled the exact same quote that Instapundit did. Oh well, great minds thinking alike and all that, I guess.

Posted by Ryan at 12:47 PM | Comments (13)
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