Spam Email Of The Day

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Italy knocked out of Euro 2008

Opponents of gay marriage stay quiet

I love the idea that these two 'news items' are connected.

My Food Is Problematic

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Taken by Krissa

Kurt Vonnegut's 'Mother Night'

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Mother Night on Amazon.com
I read this for the first time about ten years ago and, I'll be honest, lost track of what was going on. With a lot more Vonnegut under my belt I can say this is both one of the saddest and most penetratingly insightful of his books. Some of his other works are strongly flavoured by the horror of humanity's actions in World War 2, but this book largely eschews the normal satirical Vonnegutian flippancy when dealing with such grave and outrageous issues, and instead pores over the devastating personal effects of war, politics, art, love, patriotism and the mutability of human values.


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

My Goodreads Profile

So Yeah I Ran 3.5 Miles

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And it felt rather good, actually.
At the end.

I'm Off Then

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Kick off is at 7pm.
Remember, I'll be the eye-catching number 30,713.
Wish me luck.

Albums in Order: A to B

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I just finished A. This is going to take FOREVER.
A was sort of interesting.
The bulk of it was stuff I'd normally leave on if it came up on shuffle, like Gomez, Counting Crows, Yo La Tengo, and listening to the albums through was really, really good.
A surprise for me was that the Radiohead album 'Amnesiac' was REALLY hard to get through. I thought I'd go into 'New Radiohead Album' mode, but no. It kept leaping out and breaking my concentration with a huge clamour of noise - literal noise, not necessarily anything musical, and then it skulked off with something unremarkable until I was sufficiently off my guard that as the music changed I slowly began to grit my teeth and not realize why. I think a lot of people have a two-to-three listens threshold before Radiohead albums begin to kick in and work for them, and I would put myself among them, but I'm not sure I will manage it.

Cast: All Change was a bit annoying. There are only a couple of songs on there that don't sound like typical nasal 90s guitar band, and I still like those - 'Sandstorm' and 'History'. The rest was a bit of an exercise in endurance.

Green Day: American Idiot. Why are there two NINE MINUTE SONGS on a punk album? I'm not saying they're not good, but holy crap.

Big shock - I enjoyed listening to Annie: Annimal, and I love the Atlantic Soul compilation anyway, and compilations might be cheating the goal of the project a little.

I'm getting cracking on B, which is HUGE:

Bach's Brandenburg Concertos #4 and #5: Leppard / English Chamber Orchestra
Back to Black: Amy Winehouse
Bad: Michael Jackson (I think this might be corrupted)
Band A'Part: Nouvelle Vague
Barry White's Greatest Hits: Barry White
Be: Common
Beauty & Crime: Suzanne Vega
Becoming X: Sneaker Pimps
Beethoven: The Complete String Quartets Vol. 3: Juillard String Quartet
Beethoven: Violin Sonatas Kreutzer, Spring : Perlman & Ashkenazy
Begin to Hope: Regina Spektor
Beginner's Guide To World Music: Various Artists
Ben Folds Five: Ben Folds Five
Bends (The): Radiohead
Best of Blur: Blur
Best of Buddy Holly: Buddy Holly
Best of Ella Fitzgerald: Ella Fitzgerald
Best of Glenn Miller: Glenn Miller
Best of James: James
Best of Led Zeppelin, Vol. 1: Led Zeppelin
Best of The Grateful Dead (Skeletons In The Closet): The Grateful Dead
Best of The King: Elvis Presley
Beyond The Neighbourhood: Athlete
Big Calm: Morcheeba
Birth Of Soul Vols. 1, 2 and 3: Ray Charles
Blonde on Blonde: Bob Dylan
Blues Brothers Soundtrack: Various Artists
Born On A Pirate Ship: Bare Naked Ladies
Bossanova: Pixies
Boulevard: St. Germain
Boxer: The National
Boy With The Arab Strap: Belle and Sebastian
Bricolage: Amon Tobin
The Bridge: Billy Joel
Bridges To Babylon: The Rolling Stones
Bring It On: Gomez
Bringing It All Back Home: Bob Dylan
Buena Vista Social Club/Buena Vista Social Club Presents Ibrahim Ferrer
Bully (Original Score): Shawn Lee
That's one long stretch of Beethoven at the start there, and cor blimey,  three albums of Ray Charles in a row.
Should I even be including 'Best Of' compilations for a project where the entire aim is to appreciate albums as albums?

 

Dear Diary

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Yesterday I went to look at my hole. It is quite big, and they will be blasting bedrock for a few weeks now. Washington's Reagan Airport looks like it was put together with meccano: yellow girder trees FTL.
Although I have completely failed to find a picture online that doesn't make them look awesome.

Rehearsals for 'Much Ado About Nothing' have begun, although I missed yesterday's because of going to look at my hole. I have learned two of my lines which is not many but I have been thinking really hard about my motivation. (Seriously. I googled a Keanu interview to make fun, but he's talking sense about doing Shakespeare for a modern audience)

I like the new Weezer album. I have never acquainted myself with any of their albums, really. I know Pinkerton is meant to be the best, but all that coolness just passed me by.
I was reading.
This is separate to the ABC Project, which I'm doing at work, but due to The Busy, and a role which now involves getting up from my desk and talking to people quite a lot, I am still on the letter A.
'Here Comes Alice' from the The Jesus And Mary Chain album 'Automatic' is playing as I type.

I am quite happy with my new site design, but I am wondering if the blue is a little bland.
I am serious about the zeppelins.

Yesterday on the plane I did the NY Times crossword (before takeoff, no less) and a Delta Airlines in-flight magazine Sudoku puzzle. I am only proud of one of these.

Krissa is awesome and Nano is a cheeky little bugger.
Or have I got that backwards?

Puttin' On The Ritz

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New design is now live!
It's not perfect (hello Safari and IE users) but it's certainly different and I like it a lot.
I expect a zeppelin to moor to it any day now.

Much kudos and many thanks to Adrian, without whose marvellous ftp and MT style rejigging, this wouldn't have been possible, and to Pete, who helped me un-squish the 'Recent Comments' box.

homecoming.jpgBernard Schlink's characters feel unique in so many ways, adding to the visceral and at times biting reality of this book. Characters do not act with clear or indeed any motivation at times; there is logic, emotion, confusion and apathy in equal measure. I couldn't come across a new person without having an emotional response to them within a few pages.

The theme of homecoming is inventively explored, with twists and turns, literary parallels and heartbreaking discoveries. The backdrop is of post-war Germany and all of its peoples' homecoming tales, and later, the nation's divided self reuniting. The book touches on evil, justice, ethics and morals and the place of each in both the psyche and the modern world.

I related to the protagonist quite strongly; his ultimate decision reflects my own approach to dealing with my father's behaviour, and for many of the same reasons.

My only criticism is that the female characters, with the exception of the protagonist's mother, while believable and real, seemed a little two-dimensional, a little too straightforward in their complex world.

I can't wait for more of his work to be translated into English.

5 stars out of 5

My Goodreads

Assassin's Creed 2: England

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If you've played Assassin's Creed, this is one of the funniest parodies out there...if not, well...you'll get the picture. One thing - in the game, you 'blend' into a crowd by walking like the monks whose cassocks look conveniently like Assassin's robes...and you can escape the attentions of pursuers if you get out of sight for a moment and then nonchalantly sit on a bench between people.
This of course would not go down very well at an English car boot sale.



"He's creepin me ooooouuuut."

I appreciate that this might look like bad humorous cosplay inflicted on nice people having a quiet day out, but trust me THIS IS FUNNY.

Hot Hot Heat

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I am wearing a suit today.

Suit jacket = extra layer of clothing
Today = hot

...so from what Krissa tells me, this means I have to wear another layer to hide any sweat.

To me, the concept of wearing more clothes to hide the fact that your clothes make you hot is INSANE.
You hear me?
INSANE.

Surely if the day is hot enough, one undershirt would not be enough?
At 80°F (or 27°C if you've any sense), you're outside, undershirted, feeling fucking uncomfortable but looking cool.
Job done.

What if at 110°F (or 43°C), you're outside and properly hydrated, and your sweat charges gleefully through your undershirt and your shirt and erupts in large blooming damp patches on your chest and back, causing excruciating, unbearable social awkwardness?
The only logical step is a thicker undershirt, or possibly two undershirts.
And if that doesn't work, even thicker, more absorbent ones.
As you slide up this scale of thicker and thicker undershirts, you're getting hotter and hotter, feeling more and more uncomfortable and sweating more and more profusely.
It all works perfectly until your clients just have to ask, "Who is this cool, composed, strangely bloated and unconscious man?"

I disagree with undershirts on principle.
It's like lying.
Lying with your whole body.

Now I Know My ABC

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I have been inspired by Craige to listen to all of my music in alphabetical order.
My work library, that is.
All 15.2 days of it.
Just recently I've started listening to my library with shuffle turned off, to get the feeling and impact of albums as the tracks were meant to be ordered, rather than hopping around schizophrenically. The main reason for this has been the new Nada Surf album, 'Lucky', which functions beautifully as a whole album; plus there's a song that mentions Sopwith Camels.

I'm usually happy to let the shuffle drive my listening...I would say 95% of the time. Krissa picks up her iPod and knows just what she wants to listen to, but I can't think ahead in that way. I put each and every song on that iPod, and I either like the song, want to check it out or want to keep it around for inexplicable sentimental reasons (hello Daphne and Celeste)...so why wouldn't I want to listen to them all?

I remember listening to albums on CD and tape on shuffle-less loop, spotting and slowly understanding themes and transitions, contrasting styles and emotional progression, and I miss it. I miss getting to know an album, knowing it so well that I could put it on and know each break and breath, miss reaching the point where I'm so into an album that the next tune automatically suggests itself when a pause, particularly flavoured by the preceding song, attracts my attention.

Another reason I want to do it is because albums make better memory banks than individual songs. You might remember a certain time - a night out or a day with friends - when one particular song was playing, but some albums I love can unearth and bear aloft the memories and feelings of entire seasons, even years.

So all due credit to the music makers. You arranged your work the way you wanted, and so I'll embark on 15.2 days' worth of listening to it as you intended.
I'm skipping the gaps between hidden tracks though.
I hope that's all right, music makers.

So here's the top of the pack (single tracks and incomplete albums omitted):

Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline: Gomez
Across A Wire: Live In New York City: Counting Crows
Adventures In Foam: Cujo (Amon Tobin)
All Change: Cast
Atlantic Soul: Various Artists (Soul Compilation)
American Idiot: Green Day
Amnesiac: Radiohead (I've never listened to more than 1 track at a time)
And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out: Yo La Tengo
Anniemal: Annie (erm...how'd that get in there?)
Arular: M.I.A
August & Everything After: Counting Crows
Automatic: The Jesus and Mary Chain

...and then we're into the Bs.
I'm looking forward to seeing how this feels and how it affects my working day, and also worried about albums of which I am already less than fond (Hi, Amnesiac and Anniemal).



Blunderbuss Chipmunk

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I wasn't a big fan, but my review of Metal Gear Solid, the 1998 PlayStation game, is up.

It's possible I wasn't attuned to the blend of cinema and videogame, that, having missed this sort of game my whole life meant that I didn't have the patience to sit through so many cutscenes, or to have the game interrupted by calls from base to repeat my mission objectives to me over again, or to state the obvious...

...or it could be that I was grumpy because I had to stop playing GTA4 in order to review a ten year old PS1 game and couldn't get past the bitterness.

NOT REALLY

I'm proud of a few lines, if you'll allow me to quote and/or spare you the joy of reading the review:

Another slight peeve I have is the ‘translated’ feel to a lot of the dialog and character names. [Revolver Ocelot is one] Do you know what an Ocelot is? It’s the jaguar’s cute effeminate cousin. I have difficulty facing off against a bad guy named after something cute enough to make my wife want to take it home.

I will be playing the next two in the series, the PS2 games Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater with slightly higher expectations, and more patience.

My First LEED Plaque

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My First LEED Plaque

 It was put up this week.

My company's office is now rated as LEED Silver, for its daylight-sensitive lighting controls, reuse of existing building features, energy-efficient AC design, low VOC paints, recycling points, local bike parking scheme, wind power subsidization and a whole host of other environmentally sensitive improvements. I worked on the project team from its earliest days when we were choosing a new office, through to the engineering design and then later the LEED accreditation, so a full concept-to-completion cycle over two and a bit years.

The award is for 'Commercial interiors' where we've moved into two floors in a large building, but I have two more projects in the pipeline that are much, much bigger, and where the energy efficiency and environmentally sensitive design will make a really big difference. And I'm just getting started, honest.

More about LEED.

Ring a-ring o' roses

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I'm aiming to take part in the 'JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge' in Central Park on the 19th. It's a 3.5 mile course, where approximately 15,000 people will run, jog or walk (according to taste) in aid of the Central Park Conservancy. I have set myself the personal goal of Not Walking.

Since this post I've completed that 1.41 mile course and upped my distance on the gym treadmill to 2 miles, and only stopped then because of the time limit on the machines. Treadmills are easier than real-world courses, though, and 2 miles is still a long way short of the actual event's 3.5 miles, which will be up and down the sculpted knolls of Central Park.

With this in mind I've just laid out this run in my neighbourhood. I've always thought that running on the streets of New York can't be that hard - every so often you get to stop and wait for the lights to change. Fortunately for training purposes there's a large loop of road near my house with only a few roads crossing the perimeter...and it's only a little over 3.5 miles around:



It's not green on the map because it's not a park; it's the beautiful Greenwood Cemetery - graveyard for New York City's bigwigs for 170 years. There's some fabulous memorials, stelae and crypts in there.
 
Anyway, I'm going to aim to do this route by the middle, or if worst comes to worst, the end of next week. I've hit the gym twice already this week, plan to go again tonight, and hells, maybe I'll go again on the weekend.

On Tuesday night I picked up two 14lb dumbbells and instantly felt the weight on my feet. I looked into the mirror (where isn't there a mirror in a gym) and thought, 'Shit. I used to walk around carrying this ALL THE TIME'. I have trouble remembering that sometimes, mostly because losing that weight took quite a while.

This photo from Sarah's christmas party was one of the photos that made me start thinking 'Uh, maybe I ought to cut back on the huge piles of food'...and then there's this shot, taken by Jason at Steph and Mark's marvellous wedding in Chicago two weeks ago, which is one of my all-time favourite pictures of myself... (WELCOME TO THE EGO ZONE).

Yes, I feel much better and I'm happier with the way I look, but I'm not done yet. I think I could comfortably lose another 28lbs, and past that point it'll be up to me to quibble with my doctor over the last pounds between me and the "ideal" BMI, but at this casual rate, I'll only be having that conversation in, oh, September.
But then maybe the gymming will help speed things up a bit.

Two Ways To Surf The Internet

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A. Drystyle

B. Wetstyle (advanced technique)
Surfing with a mouthful of coffee, soda, or other fluid, waiting to see something funny enough to provide that special moment when you can spray it all over the monitor and keyboard and tell everyone what just happened.

Krissa and I went to auditions for 'Much Ado About Nothing' yesterday. If there's one thing I love about auditioning for the Communicable Arts summer Shakespeare production, it's the chance to play lots of different characters and generally muck about. Unfortunately, most of the guys had time constraints and left early, so by the end there were just two of us playing Benedick to five or six would-be Beatrices, and there were two Benedick-Beatrice scenes to do with each.

I wouldn't be anyone's first choice to play the sarcastic Benedick, but after doing the same scenes ten times with different female auditioners, I think I got part of it over pretty well. When Krissa and I tried the scene where Beatrice and Benedick are having a duel of wits I think we managed to get some genuine, real-life-couple snark into the roles. Even though Shakespeare wrote the script 400 years ago, the tiff ended as usual, with Krissa winning the actual argument and me backing away saying I've had enough and I'm off to do something else.
It was uncanny.

Anyway, if the director taking time to give detailed directorial advice during an audition is any indication of who she's lining me up to be (and it might not be, let's be honest, I might just have needed it that badly), I might be playing Don John, the bastard brother of head honcho Don Pedro, and villain of the piece. Which means I'd be following in the footsteps of many an English Bad Guy, and playing the same role as Keanu Reeves in the 1993 Kenneth Branagh film.
I shall of course rewatch for tips.

Hanging around with theatrical artsy types when I have a science education can sometimes lead to embarrassing confessions of ignorance, but yesterday's is up there with the best:

Barrie (director): This bit of plot went on to be developed into Othello. You know who this part is? He's the forerunner for Iago.
Me: Oh right.
Barrie: He's a big character, very big, very forceful, machiavellian.
Me: Oh, right, okay. I thought,  "Iago? That's the parrot in Aladdin, isn't it?"
(scattered laughter from stalls)
Barrie: Okay, well another reference then...he's like Scar, from The Lion King.
Krissa: He hasn't seen it. Just go for Jeremy Irons, honey.
Me: Right, so; homework: read Othello, watch Lion King. Got it.

We're still not sure who's playing who, but we'll find out soon.

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