2/28/2010

What a Fun-Filled Evening!

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 5:18 pm

I meant to post this yesterday, but I have been running a serious sleep deficit for the last week or so and only caught up Saturday by sleeping until two o’clock in the afternoon, by which point I was in no mood to do anything but watch TV and grunt.

For my birthday this year, Mat & Shannon bought us tickets to the Friday night Jonathan Coulton concert at The Moore Theater, which was an absolute blast. We took the train from the Tukwila Park-N-Ride into Westlake Center, which was an easy walk from both the theater and the Steelhead Diner, where we had a nosh before the concert. If you’ve never been (we hadn’t either), let me fervently recommend the Steelhead. They serve a wide variety of elevated diner grub, with lots of seafood and vegetarian choices in addition to classy upsells of old favorites. Margaret and I both had the Wagyu burger, Matt had the catfish and Shannon had potato latkes and a plate of roasted broccoli. Four people, appetizers, beer, entrees, one dessert and coffee for just over a hundred bucks, in downtown Seattle, canyoudigit. We’d go there again in a heartbeat, any time we were in the area.

And by gum, we plan to be in the area more often. I simply cannot describe for you how much of a rail whore I have become. I hate driving in downtown. Hate. HATE. Driving. In downtown. 1st Avenue South is like some sort of grim death march for much of the day. And while there are a multitude of highways, byways and myways one may use to get into the area, once you’re there you’re still….well, there. You still have to crawl along the clogged thoroughfares. You still have to deal with the throngs of tourists who treat the crosswalks as their own personal pedestrian footbridge. And you still, God help you, have to find a place to park. Instead, for about half the cost of parking downtown, Margaret and I were able to park for free at the Tukwila station and ride round-trip into the heart of downtown, well within walking distance of a dizzying array of shops, restaurants, museums, theaters (both movie and live), the Pike Place Market, and just about anything else we might care to pursue in the metropolitan area. And trains run until nearly one in the morning….which is way later than I’m running these days, lemmetellyou.

So after a leisurely dinner, we meandered up to the Moore and got there in plenty of time to see the opening band, Paul and Storm, who naturally opened with their song about being the opening band entitled “Opening Band“. They were hysterical, and the crowd ate them up like so many Pepperoni Hot Pockets.

Both of these bands represent a wonderful trend in indie music, namely the ascension of nerd rock. Sure, nerds have had their place in music since time immemorial, probably all the way back to the point where the rest of the tribe decided to feed the one guy who could knock old water buffalo skulls together in an esthetically pleasing way. But it seems as though the Information Age has been particularly kind to the musical nerd. From the advent of synthesizers and sequencers (allowing for the creation of the 256-piece one-man band) to the rapid evolution of the home recording studio and the rise of the Internet as the ultimate distribution channel, ghost white, pencil-necked AV wonks have profited from their appropriation of the means of production as much or more than any other musical genre. And since so many of us in that demographic long ago learned to shield ourselves behind a fecund and self-deprecating sense of humor, it’s not at all surprising that nerd rock tends to be hilarious.

Margaret and I were absolutely enchanted with the performance, and looked upon the audience of fellow travelers with something akin to affection. The overwhelming preponderance of suspenders, scruffy facial hair, and bellies overspilling waistbands was strangely charming….at least, it was strangely charming once we came to our senses and went up into the largely vacant balcony seats, away from the enormous sweaty man who sat next to us singing along off-tempo and out of key with every song. When Paul and Storm performed—no shit—a tribute song to the inventor of the chicken nugget, they suggested that it would not be inappropriate for folks to hold up their lighters—or, for those who had iPhones, to hold their phones aloft with the Virtual Zippo app running. And holy crap, you would not believe the number of iPhones that shot into the air. And those rarefied few who did not yet have the Zippo app feverishly scrambled to download it from Apple’s store before the chorus. Sometimes my fellow tribespeople can give me a minor case of the creeps; seriously, these were nerds whom I wanted to beat up and take lunch money from.

Jonathan Coulton played for about two hours, both by himself and with accompaniment from Paul and Storm, and local ukulele artist Molly Lewis, who also played a couple of her own songs. All of them seemed to have great fun performing (believe me, you have not heard “Mr. Fancy Pants” until you’ve heard it live, with Coulton pounding out crazy Gene Krupa riffs on a hand-held drum controller hooked to his laptop), and God knows they couldn’t have asked for a more enthusiastic audience. All in all, a wonderful, fun-filled evening.

2/24/2010

I Did Not Just See That….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:55 am

Picked this up from Kotaku this morning (kinda not safe for work, in that way that only Japanese pop culture can seem to manage):

I’m generally not a fan of Kirsten Dunst; the last film I liked her in was Interview With The Vampire. However, the sheer moxie it took to prance around the Akihabara District in a Takashi Murakami-designed sailor suit singing The Vapors’ “Turning Japanese” is enough to make me reconsider. And the tiny skirt doesn’t hurt either.

One of the things I really love about this video is that it’s kind of hard to tell which people in it are actual paid extras and which are just—ahem—normal citizens going about their day.

Actually, anything that keeps The Vapors in the public gestalt is all right by me. Even if their fame derives chiefly from possibly the worst song in their repertoire. Give me “Bunkers”, “Trains”, “Isolated Case” or “Magnets” any day….

On a related topic, I’m glad I don’t use tags on my blog; I shudder to think what I would put this particular entry under. ๐Ÿ˜ฏ

EDIT: reworked the video so it shows. Up yours, YouTube! My version looks better anyway. ๐Ÿ˜ก

2/21/2010

Garden update!

MargaretMargaret
Filed under: @ 5:41 pm

It’s not even quite March, but I think it’s spring. Witness 60 degrees and sunny all weekend.

Witness my dumbass peonies popping their brainless little heads out of the ground

Spring or no, there’s just not a lot happening garden wise at this point. I can’t really plant anything besides shrubbery (all out of space) because it’ll freeze off. It may be nice and sunny during the day, but it’s still February at night. I’ve put cloches over the more delicate half of the clematis and over the dumbass peonies.
The remaining crocuses are in full bloom, though, so are the pieris japonica.

I’ve always loved pieris japonica. The scent is just one more of those signals that says “HEY! WINTER’S ALMOST OVER!”
And, on the subject of spring and gardening weather, for those who hadn’t heard yesterday February 20, 2010 was Northern Hemisphere Hoodie Hoo Day.

The clematis is just aching to pop into bloom. I really wish it wouldn’t yet. We’ve certainly got hummingbirds that would appreciate it, but it’s still too dang cold out for any sort of pollinator and if it’s going to bloom I’d prefer it if there were some purpose behind it.

There’s really not much other garden news to report at this point. My Nuccio’s pearl camelia is almost in bloom.

He seems to have settled into his new spot quite nicely.

Susan and I made an epic order from Territorial yesterday. In fits of optimism we ordered a whole bunch of peas, beans, and cucumbers, also three different varieties of melons that we have great hopes for because of this…..
Doesn’t seem like much now, but when I finish the painting and get all the pieces knocked together that is going to be (do NOT blame me for the name, Andrew came up with it) John Coldframe.
When we had our windows washed last fall the window washer saw that there was a good deal of dried paint on what he assumed was the glass panel that is covering the stained glass window above our front door.
Except it’s not a glass panel, it’s a plexiglass panel and when the window washer tried to scrape the paint off with steel wool it completely scarred up the surface of the plexi. It’s not so much use now for covering a decorative piece of stained glass, but it IS nice and translucent and so now that the window washer has paid to have the stained glass window covered over with a new transparent piece of plexi, there’s this translucent piece just sitting there and…….
Dad and I spent much of yesterday cutting out and putting the pieces together. I primed and painted the bits today and, as I said, all I need is one more sunny day when I can put on the second coat of paint then bang the pieces into a rhombus (more or less) and I’ll have a wonderful little mini-greenhouse in which to baby plants.
Having had some success with cantaloupes last year, I have great hopes for watermelons this year. WHEE! It’s spring!

2/17/2010

Okay, this did make me laugh…..

MargaretMargaret
Filed under: @ 6:11 pm

It starts out kinda slow, but…. Well, there’s some good geeky laughs involved.

I just had to share with my geeky friends.

2/12/2010

“Dear Organic Bouquet….”

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 11:36 am

There is a slight problem with order #XXXXXX, which was delivered to my wife’s office today.

The flowers that shipped were the correct ones, and they arrived in good condition. However, the card that accompanied them was supposed to read,

You are the best, the very best, the absolutely best thing that has ever happened or will ever happen to me. I love you with all my heart, my brain, plus my liver and most of both kidneys. My pancreas, I’m afraid, is a bust.

-Andrew

As is shown in the confirmation email I received. Instead, the card shat shipped with my order read,

Happy Valentine’s Day! I love you, Pam!

-Andrew

You people are damn lucky my wife has a sense of humor, but not as lucky as I am. ๐Ÿ˜€

Andrew Lenzer

2/7/2010

Eeeeeyup!

MargaretMargaret
Filed under: @ 5:33 pm

I’m hardcore.
Portrait of Margaret’s weekend.

I took Friday off from work so I could go to the Flower and Garden Show. For — golly — ten or twelve years now I have spent at least one day each spring wandering around getting flower drunk (like punch drunk only smells better), purchasing plants and garden geegaws and talking gardening with EVERYONE.
So Susan and I had made a date to spend Friday indulging our garden fantasies. I was excited because we weren’t sure that there was going to be a flower and garden show this year, the previous owners of the franchise were planning on closing it up if they couldn’t sell the franchise by a certain date last year, and also because this year I WOULDN’T HAVE TO PARK.
I like downtown Seattle. I enjoy wandering around and people watching, and I love shopping at Pike Place. But, with a passion beyond reason, I loathe driving downtown. Crowded, congested, slow, expensive, lots and lots and lots of people that I’m terrified of running over. I make exceptions of course, and I do know many sneaky back routes and sneaky parking garages, but it’s still a nuisance. This year, however, there’s Central Link.
Andrew and I came back from our trip to Washington D.C. in the summer of 2000 as hard core light rail whores. For the last 3 or 4 years we’ve been drooling watching the light rail track get closer and closer and closer. The Tukwilla light rail station opened in July. The Sea Tac station opened in December. I hadn’t realized that the only parking that is associated with the Sea Tac Link station is actually airport parking so my plan for Friday was actually a little modified in that I had to drive to the Tukwilla station to get the train, but enh! It’s only another mile or so.
Hop in the car, drive to the station, get the ticket, plug in the i-Pod and whoosh! Train came, I plopped into a seat, pulled out my Territorial Seeds catalogue, dialed up The Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s 1812, and fifteen minutes later I was downtown. Two block walk and I was there. It was fast, quiet, and I didn’t have to park. It’s been at least 20 years since it’s been easy to get downtown.

Susan and I, and eventually Susan’s mother in law, spent eight hours futzing around, smelling, and trying really hard to not purchase absolutely everything we were enchanted with. Susan and I are really bad at restraining each other when we’re enchanted with plants.
I didn’t by a lot of plants. Really.
At least not a lot for me. I only ended up with two peony plants (which I didn’t need), three new lily sets (which I really didn’t need), and well, only seven new dahlia sets which, since a lot of my dahlias have frozen in the last couple of years I…. needed…. Yeah! I really needed them!

Like I said, Susan and I are bad at restraining ourselves and each other.

Another relatively surreal train trip, it’ll take a long time for me to get used to how EASY the train is, and I was home.
Home with plants that needed to be planted.
Home with plants that needed to be planted facing a weekend of mild temperatures and little daytime precipitation.
Heaven.

Saturday we got up and listened to our Saturday morning KUOW lineup which is so hardwired into our brains that it’s almost impossible for us to start a weekend without it. We didn’t really have anything planned for Saturday except that I knew I had to get laundry done and Andrew had to go out to Computer Sonics, a chore that I find as unappealing as Andrew finds garden work. We try to spend most of our weekend time together, especially now that I’m working 5 days a week, but where I find gardening to be a dreamily blissful task that I could do (and have done) for days at a time, Andrew dislikes it. Andrew, of course, is endlessly fascinated in most computer stores and since he does a lot of work with Computer Sonics, he knows most of their staff and can spend what I consider to be an extreme amount of time talking electronics with them. While we try to spend most of our weekend time together, we also try to avoid subjecting the other to our individual obsessive passions. So the fact that I wanted to garden and he had some computer chores to do worked out quite nicely.

Enter the planting. The pruning. The weeding, the raking, the watering….. it was a GREAT garden day.
If for no other reason than I found that I actually do have a few crocuses left.
I planted probably 200 crocus bulbs in the fall of 2008. What I didn’t realize was that squirrels love crocuses. I mean they LOVE crocuses. I spent much of last spring watching my crocuses poke up and then rapidly disappear in a chorus of teeny little squirrel crunches. Every time I’d have one that was JUST ABOUT to bloom one or another squirrel would find it and I’d be out another one.
This year I gave up and planted some of the umpty million grape hyacinth bulbs that have been multiplying in the back yard. Squirrels DON’T like hyacinth bulbs and they are pretty, but I miss the crocuses. There’s something very spring about crocus. So digging around in the mulch, raking up dead leaves and tidying in general, I was tickled to find these secret crocuses. *I* didn’t plant them there, behind a rock and at the base of a very large rhododendron. I assume that the squirrels must have transplanted them for me, but they also seem to have forgotten where the bulbs are. I may end up with a few after all.

And I meant to do this last year, but never got around to it. I’ll try to take weekly photos of the front garden and post them as the garden develops throughout the spring and summer. I am so effin’ SMUG about that garden.

I admit, it’s not so much to look at right now, but I’m creating an information base here. The bulbs are coming up and the Pieris japonica is in bloom. Most everything else has leaf buds, but the clematis, enthusiast that it is, has flower buds already.

I had to post this photo too, even though it’s not technically in the garden. This is the Nuccio’s Pearl Camelia which is filling a spot along the east side of the driveway that was created when one of the rhododendron bushes died. He’s just a baby as yet (obviously), but he’s covered with buds.

And when he’s in bloom, he’ll look like this:

Yup.
I’m hardcore.
Come on over. In a couple of weeks the hyacinths will be in bloom and we can get flower drunk together.

2/3/2010

Bwaaa, Ha Ha Ha….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:56 am

My friend Mike sent me a link to this, which is just hysterical: a parody piece of columnist Walt Mossberg interviewing Steve Jobs about the iPad. Includes NSFW language.

I have not been a true Mac fanboy for many years, despite my having worked with and on their products since 1988. My philosophy goes something like this: if you are new to computing, if you are afraid of viruses and spyware and what to do about them, if you are not a rabid gamer and/or do not play all your games on a console, you’d do well to get a Mac. The more or less seamless user experience and piss-elegant hardware design is a winning combination. Alternatively, anyone who has a more-than-basic knowledge of the workings of computers and operating systems, who knows how to bring up the Task Manager and Google any processes that look fishy, who wants to play the widest possible range of computer games, and/or would rather shell out half the clams for a top-of-the-line workstation, is probably better off with a PC. There it is, in a nutshell. Somewhere in between these polar extremes lies the realm of Linux, CP/M, the BeOS and the venerable propeller-heads who cook their own operating systems.

All that having been said, the iPad looks to me like the most ridiculous waste of time, money and R&D Apple has undertaken since—geez, the eMate? Actually, I take that back: for its time, the eMate was far more revolutionary than the iPad, which at its heart is just a crippled iPhone with a thyroid condition. It’s a proprietary e-book reader with a double-amputee Web browser tacked onto it. For 500 bucks.

I’ll admit, I like the idea of Apple getting into the electronic book market. Any competition in this arena is going to be good for the consumer. And maybe Apple will do a better job of representing the interests of both authors/publishers and the public than has often been the case with other companies. Probably not, but just the fact that there’s another hat in the ring can’t hurt. And there’s that aforementioned elegance of piss they’re known for; in terms of human engineering, the iPad comes pretty close to the state of the art in this sort of e-reader, with color, WiFi and Internet capability. It just needs to either get a lot cheaper or a lot more capable before I’d do anything but laugh at the prospect of plonking down 500 bucks for this thing. This coming from the guy who spent 450 dollars on a GPS-enabled Windows Mobile PDA about a year before the GPS-enabled WM smartphones came into their own. Let’s just say I’ve learned my lesson….hopefully.

So someone give me a nudge when the iPad comes down to $299, and I’ll take another look.

2/1/2010

How I Stack Up To Imaginary People

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 10:49 pm

We spent a good chunk of this weekend re-watching the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy on DVD. The theatrical cuts won’t be available on Blu-Ray until later this year, and according to a well-placed source (our friend Ed who is somehow wired into the movie scene by any number of invisible-yet-Trans-Alaskan-Pipeline-thick conduits of pure informational flow), the extended cuts won’t be out until after Parat 1 of The Hobbit hits the silver screen sometime in 2011. So it seemed like a good time to give our new TV a chance to really stretch its legs and steep ourselves in fantasy for a weekend.

I had forgotten how much of a workout those films can be. In addition to the fact that the extended DVD versions of each film weigh in at somewhere between three and five geological epochs’ duration, they can also be more than a little wearing emotionally. Unless you are the type of person who is immune to manipulation of one’s feelings through the medium of the moving picture, The Lord of The Rings is something of a roller-coaster ride, at times leaving the viewer awash in alternating waves of exhilaration, sadness and joy.

But this time through, I became aware of another feeling imparted by the trilogy; a sense of my own essential banality.

This should hardly come as a shock, seeing as how a good five percent of my waking life is spent looking at the people around me and finding myself wanting by comparison. I don’t make as much money as her; I have nowhere near the coding skills as him; I don’t have his acumen with languages or her talent with a paintbrush; I weigh three times what he does, yet my boobs aren’t nearly as shapely as hers. There’s basically no end to it. So why should it surprise me that I also compare myself to characters in fiction, wholly artificial beings crafted on practically a mitochondrial level to be inhumanly strong, courageous and noble, and find myself envying them for the very qualities that put them out of just about anyone’s reach?

In case you’re wondering, of course I understand the pure folly of this. Beyond the simple waste of energy represented by such musings, there’s the fact that these people represent a totally idealized distillation of their less distinguished historical analogues. (I’m speaking here primarily of the icon of the Knight or the Soldier, rather than, say, wizards or wood elves; I may while away some unseemly portion of my existence wishing I possessed qualities I do not, but those qualities at least graze the surface of that which might possibly be achieved. I don’t count my inability to ward off Balrogs or teach trees to speak among my many failings. Instead of pining for those particular skills, I left my parents’ house, married someone and have regular sexual intercourse.)

The idea of comparing oneself to “the knights of yore” has any number of pitfalls. First of all, it’s like comparing a horse-drawn cart with a loaded Ford F-250 Super Duty Crew Cab. Neither exists in a vacuum, and both have their advantages and their drawbacks. A pickup truck owner might long for the simplicity represented by the horse and cart, free of the infrastructure of petrochemicals, mechanics, spare parts and insurance bills. On the other hand, a farmer living in any century save the last might cheerfully trade his eldest son for the chance to hook his plow to the tow hitch on that Ford for a planting season or two….particularly if it came with on-command 4WD. The point being, things—including human things—tend to work best in their own environment, and my environment happens to include Asynchronous DSL and hot and cold running lattes.

Secondly, romanticizing the past is a sucker’s game. In addition to overlooking the “romance” of pestilence, starvation, primeval medicine and a life span less than half that ofย  modern First World humans, the concept of “ye parfait and genteel knight” was probably as much a product of fiction then as it is now. I don’t really have the knowledge of history to back this up, but I rather suspect that the warrior class of just about any civilization of bygone eras was built on as much a foundation of oppression, rape and wanton cruelty as any other factor….as cosmically distant from the mythos of Aragorn or Eomer as a Harlequin Romance is from a porn film.

The more I think about it, the more I think that looking back on the days of the Knight Errant through rose-tinted spectacles is like one of those conservative types who look back fondly on the 1950’s while forgetting things like polio and lynchings.

So my unhelpful tendency to compare myself to these “people” and find myself wanting is tempered by my very real understanding that I would in all likelihood not trade places with them—if indeed such a place existed—for love, money or fair-trade coffee. All of which I have in sufficient quantities right now anyway. I’m sure also that at least some of the flaccid envy I feel regarding many of the characters in these films is due to a case of action-movie-surplus disorder. Author Neal Stephenson hit the nail right on the head in his novel Snow Crash:

“Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world. If I moved to a martial-arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, and devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad.”

Now in my 40’s, I’m old enough to know better. Sadly, I don’t yet appear to be old enough to actually start acting my age. Or rather, I probably am acting my age. In fact, by some accounts I could be said to be acting supremely mature for my age….given that, emotionally, I’m probably about twelve years old. ๐Ÿ˜›

So I spent the weekend watching these films on my big-screen TV in my comfortable living room, basking in the company of my wife and my cats and my cushy upper-middle-class life, with a mixture of excitement and a sort of wistful longing. And when I was done, I set both back on the shelf, alongside the DVDs, and got back into the groove of my comfortable, humdrum existence. Or perhaps it’s a rut. Either way, the sides are smooth, which makes it tough to climb out of….not that I want to. ๐Ÿ˜‰


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