Monday, March 31, 2008

Channeling Mr. Wizard to save us from the Secret

Last week, I received perhaps the coolest email I have every received from the University list serve, when I was informed that the physics students would be shoving random stuff in a microwave to show people what happens. The items include a CD, incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs, a grape, a candle, Ivory soap, and an egg. The flier describes these actions as “unwise, marginally safe demonstrations.” This reminded me of Mr. Wizard, who was awesome. I wish they would bring that show back.


A recent article in the New York Times’ Sunday Book Review, titled “It’s Not You, It’s Your Books,” looks at relationships ending because of differing tastes in literature. Personally, I can’t think of any type of media that would be a deal-breaker for me, except maybe “The Secret,” which may be the most misguided ethos I’ve ever encountered. I really want Mr. Wizard to come back and debunk the whole Secret thing. Maybe he could drop Rhonda Byrne from a crane to demonstrate gravity or put her in a giant microwave and then watch her try to will herself out of it.

Anyway, the Times’ article is a pretty good read and does make some interesting points. Anyone out there ever ended a relationship because of different tastes in books?

Monday, March 24, 2008

I have returned from the desert, unscathed but slightly more tan

The trip south to visit family was somewhat predictable. We played games, chatted, ate, and drank to our hearts' content, and occasionally my stomach's discontent. The trip was not nearly long enough, though.

I had a great time just being there. We somewhat limited our touristy inclinations, but here is what transpired, in the usual disjointed, less-than-profound fashion:

Two days of Irishy goodness. We didn't go out on St. Paddy's day, instead opting to drink MGD Light dyed green, Guinness, and Jameson in the house. I then made a shepherd's pie using leftover pulled pork from a previous meal. That may sound strange, but it was great. However, my lack of a sense of smell (which, a friend once informed me, is one of the common traits of serial killers) led me to nearly over-garlic the potatoes, though I am now vampire-proof for the near future.

The next night, we went to the Skeptical Chymist. Some advice: if you get to an Irish restaurant, order the boxty. It's like an Irish quesadilla, with fillings snuggled (yes, snuggled) between a folded potato pancake.

Lack of new age energy. Sedona, AZ, is supposedly an energy vortex, and is, as one writer states, "The world's most popular invisible tourist attraction." The forces here are so strong that they have even "twisted the laws of grammar in the entire region. What would in other parts of the English-speaking world be called 'vortices' gets twisted into 'vortexes' in the local parlance." I did not feel the power, but the iron in the dirt give the place a magical reddish hue, and by "magical," I mean "mildly intriguing." Because I think like a normal person, not a new-age weirdo.

Castles in the desert are indeed mysterious. We visited the Mystery Castle, on the south side of Phoenix. A man once promised to build his daughter a castle. After contracting tuberculosis, he abandoned his family to go die alone in the desert. He defeated the disease in the dry desert air, but then succumbed to cancer. In his mildly healthy interim, though, he did build a castle. The place was quite interesting. Throughout the tour, Rowan pointed at stuff while saying, "That's a great idea! I like that!" In conjunction with other conversations, I have now promised to build her a house with a tower, fireplace, waterfall, moat, secret passages, furniture that disappears into the walls, and numerous little niches for hiding knick-knacks. In exchange for this, I get to have one room that has bare walls and a place to sit, and nothing else in the room.

Tombstone, AZ. In preparation for this trip, we subjected Rowan to the movie (the good one, not the crappy Kevin Costner version, though I may be the only Kevin Costner fan in existence). I'm sure she loved me and my brother quoting all the good lines along with the movie. The town itself was disappointing. I think I expected a cultural artifact, but the place was more of a tourist trap. For example, in the former saloon where Morgan Earp was shot and then collapsed on the pool table, the current owners have a pool table in that spot, but it being used to display T-shirts.

Arena Football. We watched an Arizona Rattlers game. Their owner guaranteed the playoffs and will refund all season tickets if the team doesn't make it. This is an almost $3 million proposition. Too bad his team sucks. Poor guy. But the cheerleaders were hot.

Eventually, we had to head home. Hugs were given, tears were shed, events were later recounted in the passive voice.

Upon our return to Fairbanks, we attended more arena football, this time the Fairbanks Grizzlies of the Intense Football League. They won their first game ever. The atmosphere was definitely intense, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. While their cheerleaders are not bad looking (with a few exceptions), they are the worst dancers ever. And I am not exaggerating. This article from the local paper is the standard features section fluff piece, but check out the comments at the bottom for the real story.

And now, life has returned to normal. Which suits me fine, I suppose. A guy can only handle so much excitement.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Mmmmm. Beer.

Tomorrow I will board the great silver eagle to leave the frigid wastelands for the north Phoenix desert, where my brother lives in the delightfully named town of Surprise.

I have a nice little Saturday planned. I will put in my 13th straight day of work, but then I have a massage appointment. And then it's vacation for twelve days.

I plan on kicking back and relaxing and drinking much beer. In honor of the beer drinking, I hereby offer a list of my favorite brews, in no particular order:

Guinness. I have packed my Guinness T-shirt for the trip, which overlaps St. Paddy's day. But I enjoy the brew all year long, especially in the form of Irish Car Bombs or baked into a chocolate cake.

Dos Equis. Back in Wisconsin in my college days, we were about to go on a beer run. A friend told us we should get a case of "that double-X stuff." It took us awhile to figure out what he was talking about. He was kind of dumb. Once we got into a discussion about economics. He described his solution for fixing things, saying that it was "simple Reaganomics." I informed him that most economic suggestions are merely theories, but Reaganomics WAS PROVEN NOT TO WORK! We actually tried it and it DIDN'T WORK! I actually spoke in capital letters. But back to the beer, this is one of the brews that my parents always kept at our lake cottage, along with Leinenkugel's Berry Weiss.

Redhook ESB. This Extra Special Bitter is delicious, partially because it is not bitter. I have no idea why it's categorized like that. It's also about 6% alcohol, making it very sledgehammer-esque. I drank a lot of this stuff the year I holed up in my cabin with no running water and spent a lot of time watching Scrubs and Lost on DVD and being depressed.

Shiner Bock. If it's a bock, I'll drink it and like it. But this is a very good one. And it reminds me of a former roommate of mine who liked it. I think it reminded her of Texas. I've never been there, but my brother has, which means my DNA has, sort of, which means I have, if you make broad leaps of inference and usefulness from the concept that information can be teleported between identical particles vibrating in unison.

Blue Moon. This Belgian-style white ale is brewed in Colorado. However, they have it on tap at nearly every bar in Wisconsin. It is traditionally served with an orange wedge. Once, I was at a Famous Dave's in Appleton, WI, and they forgot the orange. I mentioned this to the waitress, and she showed unusual honesty by admitting that she hadn't felt like cutting up another orange and was waiting to see if we noticed. Then she went and cut up an orange, and possibly spit in our food.

Midnight Sun Arctic Rhino Coffee Porter. This Alaskan brew isn't available in the outside world, but the brewing company makes a lot of fantastic brews, including Oosik Amber, which is named after the penile bone of a walrus, which can reach over two feet in length. I am not making this up. The Arctic Rhino is dark and frothy and, unlike most "coffee" beers which just reference a coffee-like flavor, is acutally infused with coffee.

Jubelale. This Deschutes offering is a winter ale, and, from what I can determine, tastes different every year. It's one of those brews where you question how good it is after the first sip, since it is strikingly bold, but after about a third of the bottle or a fourth of a pint (4 oz. seems to be the tipping point) it tastes good, damn good, and you end up drinking six of them. Or a dozen.

La Fin du Monde. French for "the end of the world," this brew weighs in at about 9% alcohol, which can definitely make you forget parts of the night. However, it doesn't taste that strong. And it has a cork held in place by wire and foil. Opening it is like opening a present. And I like presents.

Hamm's Special Light. We used to buy this stuff for $5.25 for a 24-can case. And, as the name informs us, it is "Special."

My next dispatch will likely be from the desert. To quote Homer from some indeterminate Simpsons episode, "So long, SuckTown!"

Sunday, March 2, 2008

To relieve my boredom, not yours

I am currently at work. It is Sunday. I am working extra to prepare for my flight next Saturday to visit my brother in the desert; this preparation is leading me to work thirteen straight days. Such an endeavor would not be possible without coffee, which has become one of my dearest friends.

The sleep deprivation continues, though I haven't driven the Jeep into any more snow banks. And before you think that my insomnia is coffee related, please note that I stop drinking caffeine about nine hours before I go to sleep.

The interesting thing about being tired is that it makes you aware of how little attention you actually need to pay to the actions that make up your day-to-day life. You look around and realize you've driven five miles without thinking. You say stuff to people that they'll bring up later when you've totally forgotten about it, but it doesn't matter because you never really say anything important anyways.

But it also blurs the lines between dreams and reality. You can't tell if you said something to someone or carried out a task, or if you lucidly imagined the event.

Then again, if I believe it happened, on some level hasn't it actually happened? I know lots of people who re-imagine life's actual events to fit their perspective of how things should be.

But I like reality because it is akin to truth. And, as we've discussed earlier, truth sometimes pays.


Once upon a time, I voted for Ralph Nader. I had my reasons, which I won't discuss here.

Now, Nader is running for President again. Joel Stein examines what Nader needs to do to repair his image from the fallout of his previous attempts. While Stein is not an advocate for Nader, he admits,
But even if he can't do it right, I'm still glad he's running. It's important for people who feel they're not being heard to have the option to vote for insane, incapable candidates. Only new parties can break us out of dangerous paradigms.


Fortunately, some of my sanity was saved this week by not having to undertake the petsitting gig for the two dogs and five cats. However, less hilarity therefore ensued. Which leads to an interesting question: Would you prefer a life of annoyances but with much wackiness, or an easy life of predictability?

If only either could help me sleep, the choice would be easy.