Sunday, June 24, 2007

My Trip Home

On June 8th I headed to Minnesota for a week of vacation. It was a great week, and I saw a bunch of folks, both family and friends, that I haven't gotten to see in far too long. We had my sister's graduation party, I went to a wedding of two good friends, and overall had an amazing week. There's probably more stories from the trip, but I'm just gonna tell the story the one about how I got back.

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The Trip There:

National Airport is just one stop away from us on the metro, so of course I ended up with a flight out of Dulles, the airport I try to avoid if at all possible (long story short, it was like $300 cheaper out of Dulles)(I guess we now know how something about the marginal value that a flight out of National holds for me).

For folks without a car, like myself, there are buses that run to Dulles. I got myself up very early in the morning, grabbed my rather large, somewhat-heavy suitcase, and caught the metro to the station where the bus picks up. When the bus showed up I paid my three dollars, and lugged my rather large, somewhat-heavy suitcase up the steps of the bus, through aisle, bumping my way past the people who'd already filled in most of the seats, all the way to the back bench, where I had a clear shot, down the aisle, out the front of the bus. My rather large, somewhat-heavy suitcase sat in the aisle in front of me. It was early, I was tired, and about the time we got on the Dulles toll-road, I decided to catch a quick nap.

The next thing I new, I was jolted from my nap when the bus driver suddenly slammed on the brakes! I went tumbling off the seat, into my rather large, somewhat-heavy suitcase, which itself had gone flying down the aisle. I looked up, straight out the front window, to see why the driver had slammed on the brakes. Apparently she had decided to get off the toll-road, possibly without paying the toll. All I know is that the arm-gate-thingy was down, blocking the exit. The bus driver must have realized that slowing down wasn't an immediate solution to this problem, and so she stepped on the gas. I got myself back into my seat as we approached ramming speed, and had a perfect view as the bus driver, I kid you not, rammed straight through the gate, shattering it into pieces. As the driver continued on, as if nothing had happened, the lady sitting next to me, turned to ask, "we just drove through that, didn't we?" To which I responded, "Oh, most definitely."

It was like that movie with the bus that can't stop. You know, Animal House.

After that everything went smoothly, until I got onto the plane. I was seated in the very last row of the plane, in the left aisle seat. After they had closed the door of the plane there was a small commotion somewhere in the middle of the cabin, but I couldn't see what exactly was going on. It didn't take me long to figure it out, as the commotion kept coming near and near to the rear of the plane. Apparently a mother, her two young children, and their grandmother had misread their seat assignments. Guess where they were really sitting? Yup, next to me. Well, grandma was next to me. Mom and the two kids were up one row, and across the aisle.

This was apparently a family of African immigrants, and Grandmother, who clearly didn't speak much English, had a different view on personal space than your typical American. Because she certainly didn't have a single problem spreading out as far as she could the minute she sat down. She was actually a very thin woman, but she still had herself almost halfway into my seat. I actually leaned as far into the aisle as I possibly could, just to keep her from continuing to elbow me.

To complicate matters, Grandma had kept all of the snacks they were planning on giving the little kids, and so kept reaching all the way across me, and through the aisle to pass candy to the two little 'uns. I offered to switch spots, but she either didn't understand me, or just decided she'd rather continue to reach across a complete stranger.

After the flight attendants asked us to put our trays up, one of the little girls wanted her "juice." By "juice" she apparently meant "Coca Cola" because that's what she got. If there was one thing these loud, bouncy, irritable children did not need, it was sugar. They were horribly behaved when we got on the plane, and about 2 hours into the flight there was nothing that could be done to settle them down. Plus, their mother seemed to have absolutely no idea why they would be acting so poorly, and clearly she didn't believe in any sort of discipline. The children kept shouting, and demanding things, and the mother in turn was rude and demanding to the flight attendants. It was a disaster. Anyways, as grandmother prepared to pour the Coke for her grandchild, she reached across my lap again, to grab the sippy-cup from the kid. Then, instead of using the tray on the back of the seat, since those had to be up, she proceeded to use my lap as a tray. Both of her elbows were resting on my legs, and she unscrewed the top of the cup, poured in the Coke, and put the lid back on, all while using my lap for her personal convenience. I sat there, completely unsure of how to react. My eyes grew wide, my arms spread out in a gigantic shrug that said, "WTF?!?" I think I mustered a baffled, "Excuse me?" but she certainly didn't respond.

The first chance I got, I switched seats. Unfortunately, I was moved to the only open seat, one row in front of the poorly behaved children. Half the flight had turbulence and crying, the other had crying and seat-kicking. Good stuff.

Thankfully it's only a 2 and a half hour flight to Minneapolis. I don't think I've even been so happy to land in my home state.

Never made it up to Minnesota

Friday, June 15, 2007

Question:

Greatest cover song of all time?
Greatest cover song of all time that you don't think other people realize is a cover?
Greatest cover song of all time that other people don't even know exists?

Answer any or all.

I suggest The Kingsmens' Louie Louie, They Might Be Giant's Istanbul (Not Constantinople), and Chumbawumba's New York Mining Disaster 1941.

People just liked it better that way

Thursday, June 07, 2007

A List of Spoilers for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I present for you now a list of key events that will happen in the forthcoming, final, Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Certain facts have been revealed to us by the author, J.K. Rowling (for example, that two people will die in this book.). She's also discussed killing off Harry, so that she won't have to write about him again. As an expert* in Potterology, I've taken all of these little hints, analyzed patterns and probabilities, read all the early reports, and I've compiled this list, for your benefit and enjoyment.

A disclaimer:

All of these spoilers will be in the book, even the spoilers that are founded on completely false facts, and especially the spoilers that contradict the other spoilers. Because remember: this is a world of magic. Nothing is impossible. Read at your own risk.

*My expert qualifications on Harry Potter consist of reading part of one page of the 3rd book over the shoulder of some dude on the metro.


  • Harry dies.
  • Harry lives.
  • Harry loses his position of seeker when he tests positive for synthetic testosterone.
  • Through the power of magic, all of the characters who have died come back to life.
  • They all die again.
  • Ms. McGonagall is diagnosed with ALS. Every Tuesday for the rest of her life she meets with a former student to share her insights into life.
  • Snape turns out to be a bad guy. Looks like Harry was right all along about that one.
  • Harry graduates from Hogwarts and accepts a full-ride scholarship to Wizard U. While there he joins a frat, drinks too much, puts on an unflattering 25 pounds, and is convicted of date raping a muggle.
  • After years of handling dangerous monsters, Hagrid is accidentally killed when a relatively harmless beast sticks a poisonous barb into his chest.
  • While using his cloak of invisibility, Harry is nearly discovered when the person he is spying on suddenly feels like there might be someone else in the room, and walks very near to where Harry is standing, but stops short a few inches from crashing into Harry himself.
  • An internet service provider finally runs cable out to Hogwarts, and e-mail replaces owl-mail.
  • Harry and Voldemort engage in an epic battle, in which Harry loses a hand. While Harry clings for his life above an abyss, Voldemort finally reveals that he is Harry's father. Harry screams a tortured "Noooooooooo!" and then leaps into the abyss, which is actually some sort of exhaust port that leads to the underside of Cloud City, where Harry hangs on until he is rescued by his friends in the Millennium Falcon.
  • Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger finally seal the deal. Hermione becomes pregnant with Ron's child. They give birth, and name the child Harry, after their good friend. Then, Voldemort kills the both of them, and attempts to kill their child, but instead only wounds the infant, leaving him with a lightning bolt scar on his forehead. This child grows up to be Harry Potter, who befriends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Remember, this is a magical world; anything is possible.
  • The book literally ends in mid-sentence. This is considered to be the biggest cliff-hanger in literary history, and clearly indicates J.K. Rowling's intent to write an 8th, and "final" Harry Potter novel.
I'm hairy high and low

Monday, June 04, 2007

Phickle Thoughts

If Yogi Berra weren't still alive, I'd think he might have been reincarnated as one of my clients, who, last week said, "I didn't even know I was in a coma until I woke up two weeks later."

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We got interns at work. It's awesome. The intern who I work most closely with is actually 6 years older than I am, which makes for an interesting dynamic. He's a great guy so far, and seems extremely eager to learn. I'm still in that process myself, so I'm more inclined to see myself as a partner in figuring things out, rather than a teacher/boss. But I do get to give him work, which is really nice. I've been having him do research, which gives me a lot more time to actually deal directly with clients/adverse parties. It's been a very productive first week with the intern, and it should be an awesome summer.

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Don't you hate it when you wake up before the plot of your dream reaches its resolution?

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If you haven't heard about it, there's a new, terrifying, museum that just opened up: The Creation Museum. From the sounds of it, it's a mix between Bible stories, propaganda "debunking" evolution, scientific observations that "prove" creationism, and a bunch of cool animatronics and special effects.

Now, I'm not nearly as anti-creationism as some, but this still scares me. Yes, I accept that there may be some spiritual truth to the Bible's creation stories. I accept that God intended for human kind to exist as we do, and that humans in some ways reflect God's "image". But we're not talking about the "light" version of creationism, that sees a way that God's Divine Will can coexist with the scientific truth of evolution. We're talking about full-out Creationism, that rejects the theory of evolution, and that takes as a starting point a literal interpretation of the Bible. In my mind, that's an extremely flawed view, both scientifically and theologically.

And, I think that is the view that so many atheistic authors have been railing against lately. Folks like Dawkins with his book The God Delusion, have an extremely easy target in literal interpretation-ers. When some Christians believe ridiculous things because of their faith, that makes it easy to point to the faith as the source of problems, which causes difficulties for Christians more generally, and not just for those who accept this particular, limited flawed view. Things like this Creation museum scream the folly that some have fallen into. Despite what are probably noble (though severely misguided) intentions on the part of the museum's supporters, I fear this will do significantly more damage to Christianity than good.

Hopefully, if nothing else, this post shows that not all Christians found their scientific beliefs on the Bible. It's an obvious fact, but one that's easily overlooked by critics of religion. I think it's important for those who criticize Christianity from the outside to know that we Christians can truly be some of our own biggest critics.

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I'll be back in Minny starting Friday, for a little over a week. I'm free most of the time, with the exception of that first Friday/Saturday and the second Saturday. If you want to get together, drop me a line.

Come on shake your monkey hips
My pretty little creationist

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Movie Review: Knocked Up

Knocked Up, the latest comedy from writer/director Judd Apatow is hilarious. The team that brought you 2005's funniest film, The 40-year-old Virgin have probably repeated that feat.

Seth Rogen - the fat hairy guy who would never be mistaken for a leading man - plays Ben Stone, the leading man in this picture. Rogen is perhaps the most likable loser to ever grace the screen, and the way he plays Stone feels so natural, you're left wondering if there's a distinction between the two. Katherine Heigl plays Allison Scott, an up-and-coming reporter for the E! network, the type who you'd expect to share the shallow, fickle nature of the Hollywood crowd. Wonderfully, she doesn't. Despite her aspirations to move up the show-biz ladder, Scott is a down-to-earth type, and equally as lovable as Stone. Helping accomplish this feat are cameos from a number of celebs willing to poke fun at themselves, and Kirstin Wiig playing (to hilarious perfection) the counterpoint Hollywood executive that you pray Scott never becomes.

Throughout the film you want so much for Stone and Scott to work out as a couple; she's exactly the kind of girl a guy like him could never get, but she seems like exactly the kind of girl who can see past that fact.

The premise of the film is rather simple, and, as with Virgin you can probably figure it out from the title: Stone and Scott hook up, she ends up pregnant, they're having a baby. Neither of them is prepared for parenthood, and the examples they have in their life are far from ideal. Scott lives with her sister Debbie (Leslie Mann) and brother-in-law Pete (the perfect regular guy Paul Rudd) and their two daughters. Debbie and Pete are struggling with their marriage, their children the only thing they seem to have in common. Stone is surrounded by friends who smoke pot and catalogue porn for an internet site. Harold Ramis plays his father, a grown-up version of Stone, who, it is apparent, never really grew up.

It's up to the two of them to figure out how to become parents, and, if they can muster it, work out some sort of relationship, despite their drastically different worlds.

The comedy is impeccable, with laugh after laugh. This movie was possibly even funnier than Virgin. And, also like Virgin, it had a deep heart, juxtopositioning the sometimes-crass humor with a depth of emotion rarely found in any movie, much less comedy. Apatow writes such realistic characters that you honestly care about them. There's a moral depth to his writing that escapes most of Hollywood. This movie might have even more of that than did it's 2005 counterpart.

Yes, that's right, I've just said that this movie might be more funny, and have more heart, than The 40-year-old Virgin. And yet, this movie wasn't an overall better film. I'm exactly 0% Hollywood insider, but here's how it seemed to me:

The movie needed another rewrite. Virgin was tight and crisp, with every piece and scene falling exactly into place, even though it kept is loose, improv style. Knocked Up instead felt at times more in need of some tailoring. Not much mind you, but it felt like it could be, oh, I don't know, "tightened up" (hat tip, Allen Tudyk). Just a little fine-tuning, and it would have surpassed its predecessor. But who knows, maybe I'll feel differently when I have children of my own. I'd be willing to bet that this is a movie that would speak more deeply to those who have had children.

Either way, I'm hoping for more from this crowd. They're funny, funny, people, with a whole lotta heart.

I give it an A-.

What have I done?
What have I done?