Friday, September 26, 2008

when love turns to hate...then back to love

When listing the greatest inventions of our modern age many list the microwave, the refrigerator, the garage door opener, the automatic car starter, the motion picture, with that comes the television, the radio....and the list is possibly endless. One mans crap is another mans greatest invention.

One of my favorites is the DVR. Others feel that this further promotes the boob tube. We do not have a satellite, TiVo or anything else used to capture my beloved shows...we have the cable companies DVR box. It is a fabulous invention but it is also the knockoff equivalent of the TiVo.
It is amazing that we can record two shows at once...all while still watching another DVR! How do they do that? I dont care just make sure its there when I want it!

I order the DVR to record approximately a million shows a week. Seriously, I dont know the true number but if I see a show I may be slightly interested in, I tape it. Why not. Its not as if it costs any more so I tape it all. Then randomly delete most of it wondering why I thought it would be fun to tape Air Bud. (delete) Where did this episode of Dynasty come from? (delete) Why is there an old Intervention on here? (delete) Didnt we watch this Paranormal State already? (delete)

I am generally happy with DVR. I order it to tape. It tapes. Job well done.

I have come to hate certain tv shows for feeling the need to end at 10:01 instead of 10:00. What did we gain from that extra minute? More commercials you say? No thank you!
But that extra minute fucks up my DVR night as I discovered last Fall tv season. There was two recordings going on from about 9:00pm to 10:00pm, then one starting from 10:00pm to 11:00pm. But it wasn't as simple as it seems because both of the 9:00pm shows decided to end each week at 10:02 or 10:03. So this causes my DVR to NOT record the 10:00pm show! Making me stay up until 10:02 just so I can hit the record button on my DVR. A job that I thought it was supposed to do on its own! Gah!

This would all be made much easier if the DVR had a setting where you could start to record a show 4 minutes into the show...or stop recording a show 4 minutes before the end.

The only problem with this is that I am either saying 'what happened in the beginning? Why are they in California? Where did they get that gun?' or 'what happened at the end of the show, did she die? Did they re-attach his arm? Is she still a drunk? Is Luca coming back ever?"
This opens up a world of questions. All of which would be much easier if shows ended on time and the DVR was more responsive to my requests.

But at least I can tape shows where boob jobs are standard, where ambulance crashes are the norm and where fat men marry beautiful, smart women.

In a world without the DVR I think we would all have to pay more attention to our jobs, families, chores and lives in general. (delete)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

why do they call them Spring Rolls?

Each year when my birthday rolls around I have these grand illusions of what the day will be like.
I envision the mice and birds from Cinderella waking me up with a plate of pancakes with freshly squeezed orange juice. I happily enjoy them in bed while they select the best 'no they don't make your butt look fat' pants with a great top that shows off my new hair color.

I didn't wake up with birds and mice, nor have I gotten my hair colored. There were no pancakes to be had.

After a certain age you don't expect your birthdays to be as splendid as your 6th birthday you had at McDonald's where they gave you an inflatable Ronald McDonald that stands at 3 feet tall that you and your brother used to marry off to Kid Sister to make My Buddy angry.
Or for your 7th, 8th and 9th birthdays when you took your entire class to Ohio Skate and attempted to show off your backwards skating skills and *hope* that someone would ask you to skate during the couples skate (nope).

You expect to do adult things on your birthday. Work. Make dinner. Change diapers. Run errands. There isn't a get out of work/life free card just because its your birthday. The milk doesn't buy it self because your mother gave birth to you.

My 27th birthday was already high on the list of worst birthdays ever, simply because I was getting older. This year started off decent. I got my car fixed, had 2 doctors appointments and my dear mother even offered to bring us Chinese food so I didn't have to cook. Score! Free Chinese - always great.
We enjoyed our dinner and after a birthday romp in the sheets I decided to splurge on another veggie spring roll. Worst Idea EVER. This spring roll splurge was the downfall of my weekend.

Food Poisoning.

See what eating your vegetables gets you? I was laid up darn near the entire weekend with stomach flu like symptoms. Happy freakin Birthday.

Luckily for me I like to splurge on myself to make myself feel better. Take my birthday for example...around every September 12th I find that it is perfectly acceptable to buy things for myself just because its my birthday.

Godiva chocolate? SURE, its my birthday....
New makeup at Sephora? SURE, its my birthday...
Yankee Candles? SURE, its my birthday...(and I totally had a buy 2 get 1 FREE coupon that would have expired, rendering it useless to me)
Nice bottle of Merlot? SURE, its my birthday...

Yeah...I get like this around Christmas too (okay, all of the holidays!).
Its Christmas, Ill buy all new decorations for the house. I
ts Thanksgiving, I want a new pie pan.
Its all the little things that make me happy I guess.

Either way...I will not be eating Chinese food for some time and I already have a small list of things to *look at* because Halloween is just around the corner!

Ah, at least my inflatable Ronald McDonald and Kid Sister have lasted for 12 years. It did break My Buddy's heart but true love conquers all.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

half read books

The following article was written for Chronicle of Higher Education. It is a great article that is engaging the whole way through, enjoy...

The Pleasure of Half-Read Books

I've stopped reading books all the way through.

This happened gradually, and I don't blame myself. I blame others.

First, I blame bookstores. The bookstore nearest to our house is named Books-A-Million, the country's third-largest retail bookseller. The intent of Books-A-Million is to overwhelm you. A million books. I become a book zombie, like Homer Simpson in a doughnut shop: I must have books. Give me books. More books. In addition, the store, like other book chains, has a cafe where you can relax with coffee and pastries that are a step up from doughnuts. You can page through books, although you can never actually sit for hours and read the whole book. I have been tempted to try, but there is only so much coffee one can consume at $3.50 a cup. In any case, I generally read enough so it doesn't seem worth spending $27.95 to read the final 259 pages.

Second, I blame the Internet. The modus operandi of most Web sites, whether online booksellers or research sites, is to tempt you with a chapter and then cut you off and demand payment. I find it difficult to whip out my credit card at those moments.

Third, I blame my wife, Barbara, who has the uncanny ability to fall asleep minutes into watching a film, wake up the second it is over, and then accurately critique it, pointing out nuances that I, who have remained awake, missed. I can't help thinking that if I fall asleep clutching a book to my chest, I will wake up knowing the book intuitively. I not only don't have to read the last half of it, I don't have to read any of it. However, it just doesn't work that way.

Fourth, I blame Books on Tape — actually, books on CD's. The nature of Books on Tape runs counter to actually reading an entire book. Books on Tape are usually abridged, which produces the psychological impression that the books should have been edited in the first place. On the other hand, is there anything in the world more daunting than a Book on Tape that hasn't been edited and runs for 27 and a half hours? Who's listening to that?

So there's lots of blame to go around.

But if you were to force me to accept responsibility for having given up on reading books to the end, I would trace my habit back to finishing my doctorate in contemporary literature years ago. I realized then that except for books that I might teach or write about, I never had to finish another book unless I wanted to. I wasn't going to be tested on any book for the rest of my life. I was no longer competing to finish self-imposed reading lists with fellow graduate students. And I already had read more books by the age of 29 than most people read in a lifetime.

But it took me a while to stop reading certain books completely. For example, colleagues had the annoying habit of publishing books that I felt obliged to finish. And when my novel, Sticks, was published (still available on Amazon, if you're interested in half a good novel), I expected them to reciprocate and finish my book.

Today I probably finish about half the books I start. Do I finish more nonfiction than fiction? More genre books, like science fiction, or more serious, literary books? How many books do I put down because I don't like them or they aren't very good? If I pay $27.95 for a book, am I more motivated to finish it than if a neighbor lends a copy to me?

One way to answer those questions is to look at the books that I have read and half-read lately.
The books that I half-read: Vineland, by Thomas Pynchon; Boom!, by Tom Brokaw; China Road, by Rob Gifford; The Plot Against America, by Philip Roth; and The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova.

The books that I finished: Against the Day, by Thomas Pynchon; Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, by Mark Haddon; The Thief at the End of the World, by Joe Jackson; and Protect and Defend, by Vince Flynn.
Obviously the odd author in this mix is Pynchon. Reading all 1,085 pages of his 2006 novel Against the Day became a quest and an obsession. Every day for months I read a few pages. No wonder that after I finished it and picked up Pynchon's 1990 novel, Vineland, which is much shorter and easier, I couldn't finish it. I had had enough of Pynchon — perhaps forever.
The other books are more conventional. Many were best sellers or recommended by friends. Some were impulse purchases. One, The Thief at the End of the World, which is about the 19th-century discovery of rubber, was written by a friend.

The two lists show some peculiarities that are not just my own. For example, I cannot read Roth. I've tried most of his books, but I can't get through them. This is obviously my problem and not the author's. But over the years, I've found that most readers have at least one author whom they simply cannot read. Bellow. Morrison. Irving. Who knows why?

Another peculiarity is book length. One might assume that long books often become half-read books. But for me, length doesn't matter. In fact, three of the four longest books on my two lists — Against the Day, Team of Rivals, and The Thief at the End of the World — are all in my finished category. The long book that I didn't finish was The Historian. I think I left a young couple in the grips of Dracula, but I didn't care.

One book in my finished category is a genre book: Vince Flynn's political thriller, Protect and Defend. The assumption is that heavily plotted novels are more likely to be finished, since readers want to know what happens next. I do occasionally finish a book to find out the ending. I am amazed by people, including my wife, who read the ending and then go back and read the whole book anyway. When I asked her about this quirk, she explained that she reads the conclusion to determine if it is worth her time to finish the book. If the ending turns out to be something that she had already figured out, she quits reading. But if it is something that she hadn't expected, she keeps reading.

Two nonfiction books are on both my half-read and finished lists. I found Goodwin's massive tome about Lincoln's cabinet unexpectedly fascinating. However, I was indifferent to Brokaw's paean to the baby boomers, despite being a boomer myself.

Finally, I hate it when someone gives me a book and tells me I'll love it. That often leads to a half-read book, such as China Road.

Nevertheless, half-read books can be pleasurable. I almost never feel that I've wasted my time or intellect just because I don't make it all the way through a book. I can still meet an interesting character or visit an unusual locale. I might discover a topic I knew nothing about. Maybe I figure out that the subject matter or plot is worth only 150 pages instead of 300. Besides, half-read books have helped me chip away at that million-book inventory at Books-A-Million.

So don't despair if you have a half-read book taking up space on your desk. Don't feel guilty about not finishing it just because you are a professor. No one cares, and you shouldn't, either. Just move it over to the bottom shelf of your bookcase and find something new. You'll feel liberated, trust me.

William McMillen is chief of staff in the office of the president at the University of Toledo.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

point. click.


I would like to introduce you to my new friend.

It is the Nikon Coolpix L18.

It isnt some fancy over $150 camera.
It doesnt bake bread.
No. It didnt even come with some super cool camera bag.

It did, however, come with batteries. Oh yes my friend. Batteries.
Batteries that lasted about 23 minutes while playing with my new friend right after its purchase.
Bastard batteries.

Thankfully there are children in the house so that means we have an endless supply of batteries. People think that money makes the world go 'round.
Its batteries.

So I have taken a my new friend for a few photo ops and it is amazing.
For such a small, non-expensive, super cute camera it actually takes great pics.

Of course I had to test out the 'anti-shake' feature by taking a picture while moving the camera at the speed of light.
It worked. The picture was of the wall as it turns out (its hard to steer at the speed of light) but the wall wasnt blurred at all.

This little beauty will be my new friend for many years to come.
Or untilI drop her and break her.
Either way it was a match made in Japan.