Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year

We're having people over for the second time in a week, this time to celebrate New Years. There is some question as to exactly how many people are showing up as we had a bunch of last minute "I might be coming", "We're coming later, can we bring 2 extra people", "We're thinking about coming", and some people who never bothered to reply.

Hopefully we'll have enough of everything, but regardless it should be fun. See you next year.

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Saturday, December 30, 2006


Linzy is what you might call an enthusiastic present opener. This can, depending on her mood, involve lots of arm motions, paper ripping and goofing around while opening presents.

I've gotten some good pictures of her in action over there years, but they are mostly one-off individual pictures. This year I got a sequence that shows almost the whole package opening.

I thought it was pretty funny, though it would have been better if I had gotten a movie of it.

The initial tear. Note how the arm is splayed out to the side from the ripping motion.

Taking off the rest of the paper.

And a little Heisman move to finish things off.

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Friday, December 29, 2006


I was disgusted to discover recently that Windows Media Player 11 is still incapable of handling the tags for AC/DC songs.

Slashes must be what are used internally to split multiple artists in an ID3 tag, because WMP insists on changing them to AC ; DC or DC ; AC whenever the whim strikes. Sometimes it gets really saucy and starts appending additional sets of AC ; DC onto the tags until eventually the artist list looks like "AC ; DC ; DC ; AC ; AC-DC" or something similar.

What I can't understand is why this problem still exists. I mean, Back in Black is the best selling album by a band ever. So I can't possibly be the only person having this problem.

I've tried everything I can think of to get it to leave the tags alone. Trying AC-DC, trying AC / DC, trying to escape the slash. Nothing seems to work.

Even more frustrating is the fact that Windows Media Player won't stop updating the tags. Even when I got back and edit the tag and apply the media changes, or use the built-in "Find Album Info" option to let WMP update the tag. It still insists on going out to find missing information for the tracks and says "Oh my gosh! He doesn't credit 'DC' as an artist on this song. Better add it".

In a previous version of WMP I had to turn off retrieval of media information from the Internet to get it to stop. I'm afraid I might have to take that drastic step again. Which is just inconceivably stupid.

[ Update: I should note that changing the library settings to "Overwrite all media information" instead of "Only add media information" appears to fix the problem. It might cause some other problems if WMP ends up overwriting information you wanted with its version of the truth. But it does seem to fix the AC/DC -> AC;DC;AC problem once you change the setting, force all media changes to be written out, and update the artist information one more time. ]

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Junior High Art

On Christmas Eve when I was over at my parents, I was in the downstairs bathroom and I noticed that my parents are still displaying junior high art crafted by me and my sister. Now that's love.

Specifically, in 7th or 8th grade we made boxes out of clay, featuring faces on the corners. The rest of the decorating was left up to our imaginations (or lack there of, in my case). Read on for pictures...

Here are the boxes on their shelf in the bathroom:

The one of the left is mine, slightly worse for wear after all these years, as part of the mustache appears to have fallen off.

I think Sarah's looks nicer. I'm sure that's due to advances in clay-box-technology rather then her just being more artistic then me. :)

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas Day: Pictures

After a full day of fun with the family on Christmas Eve, on Christmas Day Linzy and I held festivities at our house. Linzy's parents made the trip down from Duluth, my parents, sister and brother-in-law came over, and our friends Paul, Laura and their son Evan joined us for dinner.

But before any of that could take place, Linzy and I exchange our gifts for each other...

Linzy, being the loving wife that she is, shattered the 'blatant-disregard-for-the-spending-limit' record previously held by me. She pulled off the double-switcheroo: after we had opened the stocking gifts pulling out a box that was obviously the size and weight of a next-gen console system. Thus making me think I was getting what I had been joking about for weeks. But, upon opening the wrapping paper, I saw nothing but my old XBox box. Thus making me think that in fact she had just wrapped up something random to get my hopes up.

Except inside the XBox box was actually an Xbox 360. Next Gen Starts Now. Gametag: soeck, by the way.

Linzy's parents brought tubs full of presents, all very clean after having been in the bed of the truck when Larry took it through the car wash. There was a bed cover over them, but it turns out to be somewhat less then water proof.

Sandy, Larry, Pippen and Linzy opening presents.

Larry films Sandy opening a gift.

Once we finished opening all the presents, there was just barely enough time to clean up and start working on preparing the food for when people would arrive.

Here John torments Pippen with one of her new toys.

Me relaxing with Pippen.

Pippen was very relaxed.

Table for eleven, please.

Evan discovered two new tricks at our house: how to chew tabacco and how to swear. Who says we are bad influences?

Seriously though, he learned how to turn around and back down the stairs as well as wave to himself. He was really having fun going up and down the stairs.

Dad, John, Mom and Sarah model their fleece-vest style.

Christmas was terrific, as always. It just went by much too quickly.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Eve: Pictures

As expected, our various Christmas festivities were a lot of this year, although very busy. We got to spend lots of time with family and even a couple of friends. All in all, a very good time.

We spent Christmas Eve at my parent's house along with my sister and brother-in-law. Read on for some more pictures of Christmas Eve.

No white Christmas here, not even a hint of snow.

We had quite the selection of cookies to choose from.

Sarah made some unbelievably good truffles.

Sarah and John cuddling on the couch.

Stockings for the kids.

Dad and John trying out the traditional stocking brain-teasers.

Linzy's puzzle was pretty much impossible. >300,000 incorrect ways to put it together, only one 'right' way. Which we didn't find.

Steaks! The butcher's idea of an inch-and-a-half thick steak was more like 2.5 inch thick steaks (check out fatty on the right end).

The tray of twice baked potatoes.

Dad, ready for grilling.

Sarah lighting the dining room table candles.

Dad and Mom looking for a game of Red Rover.

Sarah and John checking out their new ornament.

Sarah, stetching for that perfect shot.

Pippen watches for an opportunity to 'help'.

Linzy and I all dolled up for church.

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

We're off to my parent's house to celebrate Christmas. Tomorrow Linzy's parents will be coming into town and we'll be celebrating at our house. Should be fun.

Merry Christmas!

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Learning to Fly

I was browsing Wikipedia tonight, adding cover art to my music library (which I might add is stupid-slow in WMP 11) and ended up on the Pink Floyd discography page. There, in the 'song samples' section was this entry:

Learning to Fly
Inspired by Gilmour and Mason's love of flying small aircraft. From A Momentary Lapse of Reason.

That brought back a memory of high school, when in Honors Mythic Patterns one day we were listening to the song and were then supposed to discuss it's meaning. One of the other students in the class said something like "It's about drugs, I think". And for some reason I scoffed and went "Well, all Pink Floyd songs are about drugs".

Which they are, when they aren't about war. Anyway, the teacher put me on the spot after that and forced me to come up with some alternative explanation for what the song was about. After momentarily struggling to come up with some other explanation for what the song was about, I eventually just made up some rather vague claim of how "it is about drugs but more specifically...blah blah blah".

At the time, I couldn't really think up another explanation for what the song meant. Clearly, I was trying to be too deep, since the song is literally about 'learning to fly'.

Listening to it again tonight, it still sounds an awful lot like it's about drugs...

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Let's All go to Mexico

When I was out walking through the skyways today, there was a large crowd of people clustered on one side of the entrance to the IDS center. Being nosy, I of course had to go over and check it out.

It turned out that there was a big cargo truck parked on the side of the road beneath the skyway. The truck had glass walls enclosing it's backend and was being used to advertise Mexico of all things.

I can hear you asking, but how do you advertise 'Mexico'?

By making the inside of the truck look like a tropical beach. Complete with sand, palm trees and some fake-Mayan ruins. Oh, and dancers, of course. Two bikini-clad women and one shirtless guy. I assume there was some music playing too, but I couldn't hear it up in the skyway.

Unfortunately, I didn't have a camera on me but luckily flickr is good for this kind of thing and I found this picture of the Mexico truck.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Icicles - Or Not

In honor of my first bus ride home in crappy winter weather, I was going to post a picture tonight of a spider web strand that became an icicle. It was covered in ice, dangling by our back patio door and swinging around in the wind.

But unfortunately Blogger apparently managed to break picture uploading when enacting a change to require you to agree to terms of service for Picasa web albums just to upload a picture.

That switch is probably a bad sign for the unlimited picture hosting I've currently been enjoying for the last several years.

[ Update 12/22: I got the picture to upload, but I've since forgotten what I was originally going to say about it. ]

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Tale of Two Quarterbacks

This week my fantasy football team, The Arena Football All-Stars, will be battling it out with Brenden's team in the championship for our league. It's been a long, not so impressive road for the AFAS, as they've been ravaged by injuries and mis-management.

The injuries took their toll over the course of the season, as I was forced to drop injured-but-good-players in order to be able to field a full squad each week. Usually someone would then pounce and pick up the better-but-temporarily dropped player and stash them on their roster.

That is pretty much expected, but the worse hit was the complete lack on my part of being able to determine who to play on a given week. Particularly at quarterback:

7 20.66Roethlisberger-

The first week my backup was Aaron Brooks, who I dropped like a bad habit in favor of Alex Smith after the first week. In week 7, both Bulger and Smith were on a bye, so I filled in with a same-week-pickup Roethlisberger for a game.

As you can see, both Bulger and Smith were inconsistent to the extreme, and I was even worse at judging which of the two would have the hot hand in a given week. Only 6 out of 15 times (40%) was I able to pick the right quarterback to start, or 47% if you give me credit for Roethlisberger.

Those are hideous percentages. There were a number of games that I lost, which I would have won if I had only been able to prognosticate better. I nearly would have lost to Bill last week in the playoff semi-finals, except that Indy stomped all over Cincinnati in the Monday Night game.

The moral of the story is, of course, don't believe me if I claim to have any secret knowledge of how a football player is going to do in a given week. I'm probably just guessing, and I'll likely be wrong.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Game Drought

The last year Linzy and I exchanged Christmas presents rather then spending-limited stockings was a doozy. At the time, we were both working and although I won't bore you with details, suffice to say the present pile just for the two of us looked vaguely like the pile that we now get for other people.

That year happened to be the year of the release of the XBox and Gamecube. Now, Linzy knew better then to get me a $300 Xbox or PS2, but she did spoil me with the less expensive Gamecube.

The trouble with buying a game console at or near to launch is always game selection. Typically launch games are sub-par (with a few notable exceptions) and then there is usually a significant gap before the next round of games come out (as everyone either crunched to make the launch or needs extra time to acclimate to the new console).

Anyway, the Gamecube happened to have a particularly poor launch selection. I got Rogue Squadron with the console, which would have been an awesome game if it wasn't so incredibly difficult. After that, nothing. There was hardly even another game released for months, and certainly nothing I wanted to play.

It made me feel bad, because here was this fancy present and I wasn't even able to use it because there was nothing to play on it. I didn't get another game for it until late the following summer when Super Mario Sunshine finally came out (which, although a sub-par Mario game was good relative to anything else available for the GC at the time). Then it was another long wait until Zelda came out the following year.

Eventually, of course, games started flowing for the Gamecube, and I enjoyed the system. But, after that experience, I was highly amused today to see all the consternation over the announcement that it is likely that there will be significant drought of new high-profile first-party games for the Wii until late next year.

After all, the only reason there was a Zelda game at launch was because the game was intended for the GameCube but ended up so ridiculously late that they just delayed it a bit more and shipped it at the same time as the Wii.

And it certainly isn't the first time this has happened to a freshly launched console. The same thing happened to the Xbox 360, the PSP, the DS, and likely will happen to the PS3.

Not having many games to play on it for a while is part of the wonder of buying a console right out of the gate. Along with having them eventually replace the original hardware with cooler looking, slimmer hardware.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Willy the Fern

Many years ago, when I was living with Brenden and Linzy was still going to school up in Duluth she came down to visit one weekend and bought herself a fern.

In theory, this fern was going to be making the trek back to Duluth with her, but she 'forgot' it that weekend. Since I had explicitly said that I wanted nothing to do with a plant, I was tempted to protest this transparent attempt to saddle me with a plant and let the thing die.

Eventually though, I felt bad for the little fern shivering near the window and bought a stand and watered the plant. At that point I was still intending to give the plant back to Linzy the next time she came down to visit. When she 'forgot' the plant a second time in a row, I admitted defeat and accepted the fact that I was now the not-so-proud owner of a fern.

Somewhere along the line, the fern was nicknamed 'Willy'. Don't ask me why, but the name stuck. So, for the last 6-7 years, I've been tending to Willy the fern. He's had a few close calls (including being knocked off the refrigerator during an apartment move) but for the most part he doesn't require much attention.

He is a temperamental plant though.

He particularly doesn't like it when the house gets dry (which unfortunately for him happens both during the winter when we run the heat and the summer when we run the air conditioning). Whenever we have a long stretch of needing to run the air, and for most of the winter, Willy 'sheds'. All his old leaves on the bottom wilt and fall off slowly over time.

This make a mess, but most frustratingly, it so gradual that there is no way you can really clean up the dead leaves. Every day Willy throws a few more on the ground in protest that I don't love him enough to mist him. As payback whenever I clean the house I haul Willy out to the middle of the living room and give his leaves a good shaking, resulting in the mess you see in the picture. It's probably a bit stressful for the plant, but it does a good job of limiting the number of leaves that get dropped for the next several days.

Amusingly, even after Linzy moved in with me, she still didn't really take care of Willy. Making it even more clear that she never had any intention of making the plant 'hers'.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Productive Day

Yesterday was a pretty productive day for me.

You know it was productive when I was taking the dog for a walk over to the local copy-shop so that I could fax something and I turned out to be there a full hour before they even opened. I did eventually get my fax sent, did my running, cleaned the whole house up, and still managed to get out and enjoy what was probably our last 50+ degree day outside.

It was pleasantly warm when Paul and I were playing catch with the aerobie, but once we stopped and the sun had gone down a bit more, there was definitely a chill to the air. Of course December is half over and I do live in Minnesota, so I'll take what I can get.

My evening was somewhat less productive, unless you count getting 5-stars on another 10 songs or so on Hard in Guitar Hero 2. But still, all in all I got a lot done. Which frees me up to watch football and generally be unproductive today.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Nielsen Ratings

I got a phone call tonight, and on a whim, didn't politely refuse to talk with who I thought was a telemarketer. It turned out to be a lady from Nielsen Media Research.

Sometime in early January, Linzy and I will be one of the families tracking our TV viewing, for use by Nielsen in producing television ratings. In the back of my mind, I was kind of hoping we would get one of the crazy metering systems, mainly because I wanted to see how it would deal with the DVR, multiple TV sets, etc. But instead we'll be using decidedly low-tech diaries.

There will be one diary for each TV, and then we are supposed to write down anything we use that TV for and who was doing it. That apparently includes movies and video games, in addition to TV shows. She did however say that nothing on the computer counted.

Then I totally confused her when I started asking about shows being streamed to the TV from a computer. Eventually she punted and said "If you are viewing it on the TV, write it down." I'm still not sure how I'm going to record "Episode 12 of last year's 24 season" in the diary.

They also don't care if it is an HDTV version of a show, which I thought was interesting.

Regardless, now if your favorite show loses big in the January sweeps (which I didn't even know existed), you can blame me.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Dying Hats

Remember a few Halloweens ago when Linzy and I dressed up like Mario and Princess Peach? Linzy did a good job getting those costumes together, but until tonight I had totally forgotten about the first, failed attempt at Mario's hat.

The theory was that we would take a cheap painters cap and use Rit Dye to dye it nice and red. I had never used dye, but the concept seemed reasonable. So a few nights before Halloween, we were down in the laundry room filling the sink down there up with water and brilliant red dye.

After waiting the alloted period of time, we took out the hat and it had hardly changed colors at all. So we put it back in and waited some more. And then waited some more, and then...eventually decided that it was as good as it was going to get. We took the hat out and let it dry overnight. This is what we ended up with:

If it looks like a strange pale orange color, that's about what it really looked like. For extra fun, consider the fact that even though the hat was dry, it was rejecting the dye so much that it was coming off on my head when I tried the hat on. But at the same time, my laundry tub is still faintly pink, even to this day.

We eventually concluded there was no way the hat was going to work, and we were going to have to pony up for the 'expensive' legitimately red hat at Target. Which turned out very well, obviously, but it still seemed like we should have been competent enough to be able to dye a hat red. Apparently not.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I heard today that Goldman Sachs announced that they are reserving 16.5 billion dollars for bonuses and salaries. Yes, that's a b.

The article I read said it works out to be over 600,000 per employee though of course executives and the big-shot investment bankers will probably be getting the bulk of the money. Still, that's a lot of money no matter how they split it up. I can't imagine getting a check for hundreds of thousands of dollars, let alone the 8-figure checks the top people will be getting.

Apparently this is all due to the fact that GS increased profits by 93% last year, to 9.34 billion. Erasing, I would hope, any doubt as to who exactly is making all the money on Wall Street.

I'll give you a hint, it isn't the average investor.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Keeping it Boring

The holiday season always brings ample opportunity for me to end up in a conversation with a rarely seen relative about "What exactly it is I do, again".

I used to have a variety of fairly simple examples of the kinds of stuff I do, ready for use in those types of situations. But, since I've switched jobs some of those examples don't really apply any more.

Today I decided that henceforth, my job will be described to people as "I'm in charge of keeping things boring". The fewer surprises the better. If I take an interesting chart, and eventually turn it into the dullest, flattest line, I'm doing good.

When my group has been there, done that, and already written a whitepaper describing the exact steps, all the better. That's my job; keeping things boring.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Present Pile

When Linzy's parent's called last week to say they were going to be coming down for the weekend, we had a little problem. You see, the guest bedroom was currently housing the plethora of presents we had bought for people. Since I don't think Larry wanted to sleep nestled amongst the books, DVDs, kid's toys and other assorted gifts, that meant we had to get everything out of the room.

Linzy enjoys wrapping presents, but I'm not so sure she likes wrapping all the presents in a day-and-a-half. In the end they all got wrapped and stored as close to under as our tree allows.

The resultant display was the perfect example of exactly why Linzy and I only exchange stockings with each other. We get presents for all kind of people, and also receive all kinds of presents. Tacking on big exchanges between the two of us seems excessive.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006


Normally, I'm a pretty punctual guy. In fact, probably overly punctual. But yesterday I ended up showing up a full hour late to Evan's first birthday party.

It's been a hectic week, work has been crazy, Linzy's parents decided to come down for the weekend to go car shopping, and then we had a couple of activities already on the calendar for the weekend. Anyway, yesterday I ended up working most of the morning and into the afternoon getting a performance problem resolved at work. Meanwhile Linzy left with her parents to do the car shopping.

While I tried to wrap everything up for work, get my running in, shower etc, I lost track of time. Eventually around 2:40 I called Linzy as I was taking the dog for a walk. The conversation went like this:

Me: Hey, how's it going?
Linzy: Where are you?
Me: Walking the dog, why?
Linzy: Why aren't you at Evan's party?
Me: <silence>
Linzy: It started at 2:00.
Me: Uh. What time is it now?
Linzy: Almost 3:00.
Me: Shoot.

So I ended up arriving an hour late, after cutting the dog walk short and rushing over there. I was pretty embarrassed, since that almost never happens to me. The last time I can remember something even remotely similar was when we forgot it was a time-change weekend and so were leisurely getting ready for something, only to realize we actually only had 10 minutes to get there. But even then we still made it only a few minutes late.

Hopefully this doesn't become a pattern. I don't want to be the guy no one can trust to be there on time.

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Spel Chek

The other night when Linzy and I were over at Shawn and Andrea's, Shawn mentioned that YouTube had won some award for 'Best invention of 2006'. We talked for a bit about how it wasn't exactly an invention, but rather just a few good twists (using flash for video delivery, lax copyright checking) on existing ideas (uploading video). At the time, I couldn't really think of another 'invention' that would have been a better pick.

I thought about it a bit that night, and eventually concluded that there aren't really any new inventions this year that impact me on a daily basis. But I did think of one innovation that has does: the automatic, background spell-checker built into Firefox 2.0.

Obviously not really an invention, but it is unbelievably handy to have. Particularly since I do all my posting right from Firefox, not in an external post writer. The built-in Blogger spell-checker is somewhat suspect anyway, and having it built into the browser lets it work even in places where there wouldn't have been a spell checker provided.

Now if only they would add in a background grammar and contextual spell-checker, my posts might start trending towards comprehensible.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Video Games: Guitar Hero 2

Last night, one month to-the-day after I got the game, I beat Guitar Hero 2 on expert mode. It was much more of an accomplishment then I was initially thinking it would be, as the game is pretty tough on the higher levels.

As I expected, I really enjoyed the game, though perhaps not quite as much as I liked the first one. Overall the game is a lot more polished then its predecessor. The song selection is a bit of a mixed bag. There are lots of songs that I really enjoy playing, but also a surprising amount that I strongly dislike and some I outright refuse to ever play again ("Yes We Can" and "Freya" come to mind).

There is still more to unlock in the game, if I spend the time to get 5-stars on all songs on Hard or, less likely, if I get really crazy and attempt it on Expert. And of course there are other guitars if I waste several hours of my life playing through in Easy mode.

In general I had a lot of fun learning the new songs, and I was pretty surprised at how quickly they ramped up the difficulty this time around. The only saving grace is that they finally have a practice mode which makes learning the difficult parts much, much, much easier then in GH1 where you had to play through an entire song only to find out that, nope, you still can't play the final Bark at the Moon solo.

Speaking of solos, that got ramped up in the new game as well. Hangar 18 features 9 solos, and the final song in the game is Freebird has guitar solos lettered A-S. All back-to-back, starting about 5 minutes into the song. Some of them are pretty tough, even with practice mode I still only managed to hit 44% of the notes in the devilish guitar solo 'I':

Overall I really enjoyed the game, and since the game is jam-packed with so many songs there are lots that I will probably still keep playing and trying to improve (or even complete, in the case of several of the bonus songs on expert). If you own a PS2 and don't have Guitar Hero 2, you're missing out.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Death-Metal Voice: Follow-up

My post yesterday about all the mail I got during my first trip to summer camp generated a bit of conversation offline. I thought I mention the more salient points here:

First off, the story came to mind a few days ago when I was driving home from the bus lot and "Born in the USA" came on the radio. Hearing it reminded me of the embarrassment of having to sing it in front of a mess hall full of my peers.

One person actually accused me of making the story up because they had never heard it before, but it is, unfortunately, a true story.

Amusingly, my parents didn't remember the incident at all. They remember sending me stuff and questioning when exactly things needed to be put in the mail, but they don't recall the aftermath.

The whole mail debacle is actually my only distinct memory of that particular year at summer camp. I remember plenty about the camp, but only things about the camp in general and specific things about other years (like when friends came with, or the year I got the flu there, etc).

I'm not bitter about the event at all, but I do find it hilarious. My parents were only trying to be good to me, it just backfired. A lot.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Death-Metal Voice

A long time ago, when I was a really young kid (say about 6-7) I was set to go to my first summer camp. Being the oldest child, this was a first-time experience for both me and my parents.

Now, this was a very respectable summer camp. It wasn't like we were going to be living in tents in the still-frozen arctic circle. Despite it's respectability, either I, my parents, or perhaps all of us were a little nervous nervous about how being away for entire week would go.

There was apparently a plan hatched to send an abundant quantity of mail and packages to their first-born at camp. However, since I was only going to be there for a week, there was a narrow window for when to send that mail and have it arrive while I was actually at camp. Apparently my parents decided to err on the side of caution and allow ample time for delivery.

As a result, all these cards and packages arrived at camp before I did. And not just a single package, or a card and package, but more cards and packages then there were days I was going to be at camp.

All of this was, of course, unknown to me until the first day of camp when they did a mail call after lunch. As in, we had just arrived at camp. I don't even think we had gone to the cabins yet, but had been herded in to eat. After going through the various kids who had gotten mail, they paused and held up a gigantic fistful of mail. Then they proceeded to tell the story of how this pile of mail was for just a single person, and even worse had all arrived before he was even at camp. Much laughing ensued.

At this point I had a sinking feeling in my stomach about just who this object of ridicule was going to be. Sure enough, they called me up to the front to get all my mail.

To further add insult to injury, they had some system where you had to do 'something' to get your mail. Somehow I ended up being told to sing 'Born in the USA' by Bruce Springsteen. Except I had never heard the song before, so they told me a bit of the chorus and handed me the mike.

I dutifully sang a few lines, and hoped the humiliation would end there. Unfortunately for me, the holder-of-the-mail decided that I hadn't sung 'low enough' and said that I had to try again, this time singing lower.

By this point, all I wanted to do was crawl in a hole. But, trying to be a good sport I said I would try again.

Good sport or not, I damn well was going to be sure that I wasn't going to have to sing it again due to not having a deep enough voice. So I sang the couple lines in what might best be described as a death-metal voice.

My thoughts were something along the lines of "You wanted low, I'll give you low, now give me my mail and let me go die of shame." Thankfully, They managed to stop laughing just long enough to give me mail and release me from my public humiliation.

When I got back home a week later, I have to admit I wasn't all that gracious about my parent's efforts to remind me I was loved. While I certainly appreciated the mail, it was overshadowed significantly by the debacle that was receiving it.

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Monday, December 04, 2006


Tonight we spent a while putting up all the Christmas decorations and the tree. I had already put up the outside lights this weekend, and so all that was left was to throw on a little John Denver and the Muppets, and put out all the decorations.

As usual, I ended up spending 5 minutes trying to get our advent/nativity ring together. We got the advent centerpiece for Christmas from one of Linzy's Aunts a few years back. I think it looks nice on our living room coffee table, so I always insist that we put it out. Unfortunately, I can never remember exactly how it is supposed to go together.

It seems like it should be easy, there are only four pieces and it makes a circle. But for whatever reason all of the pieces are slightly different sizes, shapes and angles, so it can only go together one way. So each year I sit there like an idiot trying to get the thing together.

It's tradition, I guess.

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