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Archive for December, 2007

Last weekend of the year

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

I was happy to get home Friday, and not just ’cause it was the weekend. The Jewells had invited us and our friend Susan over to relive the cruise, and were doing one of their classic steak and martini nights to celebrate. Stuart had finished the DVDs of efo’s set, and had copies for each of us as gifts. It was a long fun night, ending with a Wii faceoff in bowling and tennis, and only a short walk home.

That was the most social we got, as Jill worked the next two nights. Saturday morning I was up a at a reasonable hour as we had a chimney cleaner out to clean the chimney and dryer vent. It went fine – however while we was here I slipped going down the stairs and fell on my ass. My back was wonky all day afterwards.

Jill was busy working on her research project, and I was reading the paper and watching some TV during the day. I made pizza and salad for dinner, then she headed out, and I did what any bachelor does – finish putting away my comics and get a pile ready to send out on eBay, then get farther into Super Mario Galaxy (sad, I know, but it hurt to move too much).

Today I started with a big walk for Illa, then finished watching Music and Lyrics, a cute Hugh Grant/Drew Barrymore rom-com. I helped Jill with some word processing issues, then took several hours to get my auctions, stopping to put together a quick dinners of veggies, pita & hummus and shrimp.

I didn’t start watching the big game until it was almost over – I love DVRs. Turned out the Redskins didn’t need to win with the Vikings and Saints both winning, but it’s better not to back into the playoffs. And the Cowboys were going all out the first half, but to no effect. Amazing but weird season, and now they’ll be in Seattle on Saturday battling for the big prize, with Dallas again if they win that.

Just finishing up here after I remembered to make my year end donations, now the dog wants to play, then maybe more Mario.

Coraline Sneak Preview

Friday, December 28th, 2007

If you’re not keeping up with Neil Gaiman’s blog (and didn’t see the trailer with the 3D version of Beowulf), you can catch a sneak preview of Coraline here.

Innovation of the year

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

You thought it was the iPhone, didn’t you? Nope (although it won best gadget). Popular Science has picked its winners, and while there are a number of intriguing items (check out www.midomi.com and lose a fun hour, if only I’d had that when I had a record store), the best of the best is a new solar panel from Nanosolar that could revolutionize power (if it’s finally cheaper than burning coal, there’s no reason not to switch).

Story courtesy of the Dilbert Blog

Happy Xmas

Tuesday, December 25th, 2007

Friday Jill got home early and we had leftover pasta for dinner, both went to bed early as we were wiped. Saturday was mostly spent inside, watching TV (including For Your Consideration, had its moments, but already my least favorite Christopher Guest film) and reading comics. We had leftovers for dinner before Jill worked a night shift and I wrapped presents while watching Battlestar Galactica: Razor (pretty well done, and I enjoyed seeing the old series hardware).

Sunday we both slept in, she a little bit longer. I’m trying to bag and box my comics, but I’m about eight months behind (the older ones were boxed). I thought I might catch up over the long weekend, but I’m about to run out of bags and I’m not even close to done. Sunday night we headed out to Jammin’ Java for Todd Wright‘s annual Christmas shindig (this year he called it the Santa Claus-ter-f@%). We got there before the early show (another band) had finished filtering out and were first in line, a good thing as there were no chairs on the floor, only the handful in the “balcony” (if that word applies when you’re only a foot higher than everyone else). We were able to get chairs for both us and a couple friends who arrived later, and had plenty of time for our usual (half sandwich with a cup of chili and a side salad). The show was great, more guest vocalists than ever, almost every Christmas song we could want, and marks the first time we’ve ever only just done Christmas shows in December (helps that we only went to two shows).

Monday was pretty light, only went out to buy groceries. Jill had a vision for dinner of prime rib and potatoes, I broiled the prime rib but she did everything else. She went to a church service in the evening, and we watched Happy Feet (very cute, and practically a musical). Today we slept in once again (nice to do it so much) and hung out until it was time to go to Mom’s. Unfortunately Jill’s car died about half a mile out, and even though it started again we elected to play it safe and go back and switch cars.

We’d brought Illa, and the second Mom’s dog, Tati, saw him, chaos ensued. They were jumping on each other, running around and getting dirty. We brought them in and cleaned them off (Sharon had arrived – with her cat) and waited for Dad. When he arrived, we got the dogs and went for a walk around the neighborhood (not a bad idea but maybe next year we’ll do it between dinner and dessert). Mom had quite a spread, ham, baked potatoes, salad and homemade applesauce. For dessert there was tiramisu, fudge and cookies. We opened gifts after everything was cleaned up, with animals released from their areas at various points (no dog/cat interaction). I made out well, a pile of books from my wishlist from my folks, some great movies from Jill (as well as an upcoming trip, more about that later) and the game I really wanted from my inlaws. After we got back, we took Jill’s car to the mechanic – I’ll be busing it tomorrow.

A very Merry Christmas to everyone!

Responsible adult

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

Yesterday I came home early (not that getting up at 5:30 to do that was easy) to meet the roofing guy. I’d seen light in a weird place in the attic, and wanted a pro to take a look. He found that the roof was ok, but some carpenter bees had found a home. Nothing that needed work right then, thank goodness.

I could have rested with that, but I also spent some time on the phone converting my IRA to a Roth IRA. I could only do it this year or next due to Jill being a student right now, and a future tax free fund (as opposed to an IRA or 401k that are created with tax free dollars, then you pay taxes when you take out the money) will help with retirement.

Other than cooking, wrapping gifts and walking the dog, that marks the end of responsible behavior this weekend. Now a heavy diet of movies, comics, TV and papers.

And I thought eating at McDonald’s was tough before this…

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

Idiocracy

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

I watched Idiocracy recently. It’s the latest film from Mike Judge (responsible for Office Space, Beavis and Butt-head and King of the Hill) and set 500 years in the future where the human race has bred itself for stupidity and is on the fast track to extinction. Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph are ordinary people from 2005 who awaken from stasis and are our windows into the future.

It’s a broad social satire on our culture, and I can see why it wasn’t given a wide release – heavy criticism of corporations is not welcomed these days. It’s not as great as Office Space, but it does have some pretty funny moments (mostly in a Jackass way), and Maya Rudolph is the best thing about it. The possible destiny of the human race is disturbing, and you’re left with the urge to do something, kinda like An Inconvenient Truth. It’s the only movie where when I finished it, I wanted to read a book, any book, just to prove I could.

If you’ve already seen the flick, you might enjoy getting your hands on a can of the thirst mutilator.

Tori doesn’t take crap

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

Go about 2:28 in to see her kick out the folks in the front row who kept going in and out during the middle of her songs.

Late weekend report

Monday, December 17th, 2007

Late because… ah, you’ll figure it out, faithful reader. Friday we had a quick dinner of frozen shrimp scampi with added broccoli, then Jill went to bed and I stayed up finishing getting the CDs ready and starting the cleaning. Saturday we were up somewhat early to take Illa to the vet and give him the second dose of the lyme vaccine, then I made breakfast before going outside and raking leaves. When I was done outside, I started on the interior, Jill did bathrooms while I did floors. I was determined to get the shower floor clean, and had to use both mildew and soap scum cleaners on it. Unfortunately I breathed a little much of the vapors while doing that and taking a shower – my ears were bright red and I didn’t feel that great as the party started, but that faded as the night went on (although the bathroom still has some chemical leftovers).

The party itself went well. Not as many people showed up as had indicated they would, but the continuous rain we got during the night wasn’t all rain to our west. We had lots of food and lots of beer, and went through a good portion of it. The food we had was mostly store bought, although I did make prohibition peanuts and a jello cheesecake that vanished quickly. Illa was the star of the night, getting attention from everyone (and some food, though he knows better).

I don’t know if it was the aftereffects of the cleaning products or just being tired, but I slept in past 1 on Sunday. I didn’t get much time to do much beside walk Illa, as we headed out to DC around 3:30. We had reservations at Zola, the restaurant above the Spy Museum. I was hungry, and it was good as we had a lot of food. We both started with soup, Jill had chickpea and I had a corn and mussel chowder that were both creamy and flavorful. We both had cocktails, I had The Jade (Grappa with Grand Marnier and juice) while she had The Cardinal (brandy, Cointreau and lime juice). We both chose seared seafood entrees, a Bronzino (a Mediterranean white fish with a similar taste to the overfished Chilean sea bass) with spaetzle for her and a skate wing with crab and Virginia ham for me. For dessert Jill had the banana mousse cake which I tried a little of (not a huge fan of much besides banana bread).

After dinner we wandered through the outside downtown market on F Street, and I bought Jill a pair of gloves because she didn’t have any, then headed over to the Verizon Center to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. We’d skipped their show last year after seeing them the previous four years running because we were just getting back from Ireland and didn’t want a commitment, which was good as I was under the weather. They were their usual spectacle, playing the first album through before choosing different Christmas songs in the second half (and it was an odd week to hear the Ike and Tina version of “Proud Mary”). We left early as Jill had a long day ahead of her today as she had an early rise for a 12 hour shift.

I started watching the Redskins game around 11:30, and managed to finish by 1, skipping commercials and commentary. I hit the bed, but was rudely awakened around 4:30 by the power going out and Illa trying to get in the bedroom – he’s got a noise phobia about beeping, and the UPSes weren’t helping matters. I turned them off, called Dominion Power (who’ve switched to an incredibly annoying voice command system for reporting outages that takes three times as long), and tried to get back to sleep, but wasn’t successful until Jill left for work. Got in late for work, got home late, what a fun way to start the week – now I’m really looking forward to my four day weekend next week.

Holidays = mixes

Saturday, December 15th, 2007

If it’s the night of our annual holiday party, it’s also time for my Artists To Watch mix, featuring the music I think you should keep an eye out for in 2008 (guests of the Freys receive a complimentary copy).

Band Song Next area appearance Why them
01. Blackfield Once Steven Wilson’s side project from his regular band, an early choice for best song and remained unsurpassed.
02. Mika Lollipop 1/31/08 Electric Factory So many choices off his debut to choose from, but this is the catchiest (and shows off his range).
03. The Feeling Love It When You Call My fave new Britpop act.
04. Kay Hanley It Hurts Former lead singer of Letters To Cleo, currently doing backup on the Hannah Montana tour (is that why it hurts, Kay?).
05. Jeremy Fisher Scar That Never Heals Maybe I was in a Paul Simon mood this year, first of two to call him to mind.
06. Jenny Owen Youngs Drinking Song 1/9/08 Kennedy Center Millennium Stage A potty mouth reminiscent of Liz Phair, she puts on a fun show.
07. The Sketches Dizzy 1/4/08 Black Cat Local group with a talent for a melody.
08. Regina Spektor Better Kind of a cross between Tori Amos and Norah Jones.
09. Dan Wilson All Kinds The former Semisonic frontman releases his first solo album a year after winning a Grammy for cowriting the Dixie Chicks’ “Not Ready to Make Nice”.
10. The Frames Falling Slowly The movie “Once” features Glen Hansard (of The Frames) & Marketa Irglova, and this is the original version of one of the songs.
11. Dick Prall The Cornflakes Song Catchiest song I found through Paste this year.
12. Little Big Town Vapor 2/28/08 Richmond Coliseum A little bit country, a little bit rock and roll (can you tell they’re mostly influenced by Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles?).
13. Ben’s Brother Time Another British group, softer sound like Keane.
14. Antje Duvekot Pearls Jill’s fave new artist.
15. Mark Olson Poor Michael’s Boat Former Jayhawks bandmate Gary Louris co-wrote and sang on this.
16. Brett Dennen Darlin’ Do Not Fear The other one with the Paul Simon vibe.
17. The Strangelings Johnny Come Down To Hilo Three folk duos form a band.
18. Matt Nathanson Car Crash 1/31/08 Recher Theatre Singer/songwriter going for a grandiose moment.
19. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On) Ok, you’ve heard of them, but never heard them together. It’s not Zep or Union Station, but it’s good.
20. Stephen Kellogg Why Are You Talking To Me 12/31/07 Jammin’ Java One of the best live acts around.

Leftovers (in no particular order):
Feist1234
The Last Town ChorusModern Love
Queen + Paul RodgersSay It’s Not True
Georgie JamesCake Parade
Orba SquaraPerfect Timing (This Morning)
The PietastersDon’t Wanna Know
Ari HestRight Of Way
EllisHurricane
Gin BlossomsLong Time Gone
Lucy KaplanskyManhattan Moon
Luke BrindleyDon’t Want To Lose You
Miranda LambertGunpowder And Lead
Pat McGee BandMaybe It’s Time
Paula ColeComin’ Down
Thea GilmoreTeacher, Teacher
Vienna TengHarbor
Porcupine TreeFear Of A Blank Planet
Pepper’s GhostHow ‘Bout It Now
Sick PuppiesMy World
SpoonThe Underdog
Dream TheaterForsaken
The FrustrationsNerdy Little Secret
Eric HutchinsonRock And Roll
Ingrid MichaelsonKeep Breathing
Priscilla AhnRain

And I made a third Christmas mix CD. I ultimately decided not to use any songs that I’ve had on the other two (even though I’ve got two other great versions of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”) as I had an abundance of choices without them. I also limited myself to one artist per CD (that means years of fun to come from BNL). And there’s still a number of classic tunes that haven’t been represented yet – haven’t found versions that really spoke to me. Maybe next year!

  1. Snow Song (It’s Coming Down) – Groovelily
  2. Let It Snow – Dar Williams
  3. Christmas – Blues Traveler
  4. Donde Esta Santa Claus – Guster
  5. Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Marah
  6. Oi To The World – No Doubt
  7. Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree – Ronette Spector and Darlene Love
  8. Mary XMess – Sun 60
  9. Jingle Bell Rock – Katie Mac
  10. Merry Christmas Baby – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
  11. All I Want For Christmas Is You – My Chemical Romance
  12. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings – Barenaked Ladies with Sarah McLachlan
  13. Fairytale Of New York – Stars
  14. Chiron Beta Prime – Jonathan Coulton
  15. Santa Baby – Michelle Malone
  16. Christmas Wrapping – The Waitresses
  17. On Christmas Day – Pete Droge
  18. Away In A Manger – Mindy Smith with Alison Krauss
  19. I’ll Be Home For Christmas – Aimee Mann
  20. Angels We Have Heard On High – Sufjan Stevens
  21. Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming – Feist
  22. Christmas Canon – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
  23. ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas – Various artists