Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Goin' South

So yesterday I added another US state to my list, as I flew in to Tampa Bay, FL. I am here for a work project. I have never been to Florida before, and from the little I have seen so far, I can say that Tampa is everywhere else in America, but with palm trees. It is just strip malls and chain stores as far as the eye can see. Maybe the beach front isn't like that, but here in Brandon (a suburb, I guess) it is generic Americana writ large.

The flight in was interesting, though. I am used to always flying over land, but this time we actually flew over the Caribbean for a while, so I got to see actual water. Interestingly enough, the water changed color the closer we got to land, and in some parts it was pretty bright green, like a powdered sencha. Interesting. It's probably all natural, but I don't think I would want to swim in the green stuff. On top of that, the flight was only 10 minutes late leaving St. Louis and it arrived on time, so that was great, and I slept about 1/3 of the trip, which is also great. Sleeping always helps the trip go faster.

The only annoying thing about Tampa so far is the way their airport is laid out, which is really confusing. For example, they have 2 different luggage pickup areas, Red and Blue. I was in Red, and needed to go to Blue to meet a coworker coming in from Ohio. These areas are on the same level of the airport, but to get from one to the other requires going up a flight of stairs, crossing the central open area, going up an escalator, and then taking an escalator down two stories. Why can't I just walk across to the other area? Why must I go up 2 stories just to come back down 2 stories? Very strange.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Tales of my Teeth

One of the things that happened after the pain killer they gave me at the dentist office wore off was that my teeth that got the new fillings were quite sore, and very sensitive to cold and heat. This worried me quite a bit, as I know that such pain is a classic sign of an infected root, which would mean that my tooth was dying. So when I went to see X3 on Friday I was in pain, and when I went to the Greek festival on Saturday I was in pain, and really most of the weekend wasn't all that much fun. Busy, but not fun. The good news is that today I noticed that the pain and sensitivity wasn't as bad as Sunday, so hopefully it means that my teeth were just beat up in the operation (they cut 30% of the affected teeth off, so that's not surprising) and sore, but will recover over the next couple of weeks. Oh, and for the record, porcelain fillings taste weird. I haven't gotten used to that yet.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

New comic reviews

New comic reviews are up on my website.

Friday, May 26, 2006

More Adventures at the Dentist

My broken tooth is finally fixed. Unfortunately, it was an almost 3 hour long procedure, and was unpleasant. Not as bad as the infamous Omaha incident, but approaching that. The big difference is that instead of the generic, run-of-the-mill cheap stuff that they normally use, my new fillings are genuine porcelain. I know you're all jealous. Seriously, this was some crazy stuff. After an hour of drilling, I had to wait for an hour while the porcelain fillings solidified out of the mold they had made, and then it was 45 minutes to set them all, drill them to shape, and polish them out. The good part of all of this was that I got worked on by the pretty dental assistant lady, who was as pleasant as always. She is much better than the grumpy older lady I sometimes get assigned to.

And, in case you were wondering, getting the porcelain fillings is a lot more expensive than the cheap stuff. Like, 3 times as much. I only get that kind of special treatment because I grind my teeth hard enough, even with a mouthguard, to break out the cheap stuff, hence my need for today's treatment.

In good news, it's a long weekend!

I'm Tempted to Actually Watch This

So I was checking over the TV listings this morning to see when the Sabres/Hurricanes game starts, and I saw this listing for a History Channel show called How William Shatner Changed the World. Ummm... what? How who changed the what? I'm somewhat horrified at the concept (I am so not a William Shatner fan), but it could end up being unintentionally hilarious, so maybe I'll have to check it out during the intermissions.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Is This for Real?

So I was over at Seth Godin's blog a few minutes ago, and he linked to the site InBubbleWrap, which was giving away copies of his book Free Prize Inside for free. It turns out that this site has free giveaways every Monday through Friday. I can't personally vouch for its authenticity, but if Seth says it cool then odds are that it's cool. I signed up for their daily notifications, so if I wil something I'll let you know.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Easy Come, Easy Go

I had my car in the shop yesterday because it wouldn't start. It wouldn't even crank, it would just give me a whirring sound and the dome light would flash. Very odd. $1500 later it turns out that my alternator went bad and took out the battery in some sort of murder/suicide thing. Most likely unrelated to that, my coolant system had also been leaking (which may have been going on, intermittantly, for months), due to a bad lower gasket valve(?) or something like that. I would have thought that the service manager was making that one up except that while my car was gone I decided to sweep and mop the garage floor, and I noticed that I had a nice coolant stain which I had never noticed before. Anyway, yeah, cars are great, aren't they? The two good things about this story is that I was able to get my car towed to the shop for free, due to my AAA membership, and I had kept a coupon from the back of a SLU basketball game ticket which saved me 10% on the service cost. So I saved money! Yeah, that's it...

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Thought for the Day

From the article "God With Us (and Them)" written by David Dark, in the May/June 2006 issue of Books & Culture:

"There are people, from time to time, who try to live, from time to time, as if Jesus is risen. There is a grace-informed consciousness at work in the world, and it infects the way people think about and talk about rednecks, racists, terrorists, primitives, liberals, and conservatives. This consciousness of the gospel of the coming kingdom is simultaneously no respecter of persons and perhaps the only respecter of persons. This gospel is never at our command, under our copyright, or effectively contained within an -ism, or ideology, or any well-intentioned human construction. Or, to put it another way, no one has successfuly gotten this Jesus. The question is always whether or not Jesus' rare ethos has gotten hold of us.

"Until I became familiar with the likes of the Jesuits and a sense of Christianity as a discernible movement, an alternative lifestyle, within history, I was tempted to view God-language as if it were capital at my disposal. I had yet to properly understand the call to confession, the call to number myself among the not-so-deeply-converted multitudes who can be helped only by forgiveness and more forgiveness. If we view ourselves as learners, rather than knowers or possessors, of the loving way of the Lord and as largely unwilling initiates of a kingdom coming (on Earth as it is in Heaven) to an often horribly hateful world of which we are a part, we might learn a habitual hopefulness concerning human flesh and blood and a redemptive skepticism concerning the systems, structures, and bad ideas that subtly excuse the loss of some human lives as somehow inevitable, necessary, or, as the saying goes, 'worth it.'"

You got questions, Ninja got answers

You know you have always wondered about what makes Ninjas so cool. Well, through the miracle of the internet there is now a Ninja who can answer all of your questions. Yes, you can ask a ninja any question you want, and he will answer it for you.

Seriously, this stuff is way funny. My favorite so far is question 12 about ninja colds. Pure comedy gold.

All the Tea in China

All the Tea in China by Kit Chow and Ione Kramer, 1990, China Books and Periodicals, Inc.

I have been drinking tea for many years. As a child I drunk instant tea and bagged tea, but as an adult I was introduced to loose tea, and then whole leaf tea. Over the last few years I have been seeking out different kinds of tea, and enjoying learning about the different areas that teas are grown and how the different ways of preparation create the different types of tea. There isn't a lot of useful literature on the subject in America, though, so I was happy when I found this book, and I even learned some things that were new to me.

As one could guess from the title, this book is focused on Chinese teas, but it still provides a good base of information on tea in general. Outside of a large discussion of the history of tea and China, there are discussions of the tea growing regions in India and the tea history of Japan, including a very useful overview of the famous Japanese tea ceremony. There are discussions of the purpoted health benefits of tea, information on historic tea tools, and other related bits. The book does not go into significant depth on most topics (a discussion of 50 famous Chinese teas being the exception), but it does provide a solid overview of tea for those who lack a basic understanding of its cultural importance in East Asia and how to prepare it.

My only issue with this book is the way it is written. It almost feels like each chapter was written separately, maybe as a magazine or journal article originally, and then stuck into the book without proper editing. For example, information late in one chapter will be repeated, almost verbatim, early in the next, as if the authors don't realize that they just told us that exact same thing 3 pages ago. Odd. Other than that, though, this book is a fine starting point for learning about the wonders of tea.

For more of my book reviews, visit my website.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Would everyone just shut up about The Da Vinci Code, already?

Nothing against Dan Brown, but I am sick and tired of hearing about The Da Vinci Code. I read the book when it came out. It was interesting enough as a detective thriller, but the fact that lots of people seemed to believe that it was true, even though it was sold in the FICTION section of the store just reinforced my belief that many Americans are morons. That being said, the evangelical furor over the forthcoming film is most likely going to end up being much ado about nothing, and threatens to make them look like morons, as well. The film doesn't need any free publicity, guys. Alan Boyle has some good thoughts about the whole phenomenon here.

You know it's true

Dean Esmay has postulated a theory that everyone has their own superpower. It reminds me of the old Space Ghost: Coast to Coast skit, where everyone is discussing their superpowers.

Space Ghost: I can spot an unflossed tooth from 2 miles away! It's not a good power, but it's still a power.

My neighbor is better than your neighbor

One of the greatest things about my current home isn't the building itself, but my neighbor, Greg. I travel a lot with my job, so my lawn can suffer during the summer when I'm not around to water it. On top of that, I don't enjoy yard work at all (which is why I live in an area where the homeowner's association hires someone to mow all of our lawns), so I'm pretty bad about basic maintenance like seeding and fertilizing the lawn, weeding, and other stuff like that. Greg, however, loves yard work, and has taken it upon himself to take care of my lawn as well as his own. He seeds and fertilizes it, he puts down new soil when necessary, he trims my tree, and other stuff. Heck, whenever he buys plants for his yeard, he always buys too many, and I'll come home one day and find new flowers on my property. Greg even waters those flowers for me. This all pretty much guarantees that I will be living here as long as Greg is my neighbor, because I get a much nicer property than I would ever have if I had to take care of it all myself.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

It was a good run, anyway

After watching Arsenal flop around the first half of this season, I really didn't expect anything out of them. Then they suddenly decide they would like to actually win matches and not worry about relegation. The totally kick ass in the UEFA Champions Cup series, only to break our hearts in the final against Barcelona. What was up with that ridiculous call on Jens Lehmann, anyway?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

New comic reviews

Some more recent comic reviews are up at my website. Some very high quality stuff this time, so check it out.

My Tooth is Broken

I didn't just break it today, it's been broken for almost 1 1/2 months now, I think. I went to the dentist around a month ago because I thought I had broken a filling. So I went in to the dentist thinking that they would fix my filling. Well, the first visit the nice, pretty dental hygeinist looked at the tooth and confirmed that I had indeed broken a filling. They didn't fix the filling, but they scheduled me for a second appointment to get my filling fixed.

OK, that's fair. So 2 weeks ago I went back to the dentist to get the filling fixed, and the nice, pretty dental hygeinist took some x-rays, and I complained to her that the tooth had started hurting sometimes when I bite down on it. This somehow turned into a decision that I needed a root canal. They wouldn't do that then, of course. I had to schedule another appointment to get that done.

So I was at the dentist this afternoon for my root canal, except that I didn't get a root canal. Instead, I talked to one of the dentists, and we looked at x-rays taken on my previous visit. He pointed out where I had some decay behind one of my fillings on the adjoining tooth, and you could see the broken part. He didn't think that I needed a root canal, just to have the old filling removed, the decay cleaned out, and a new filling put in. I wanted to say something snide, but I didn't. He also put an ice cube on my tooth to see if I needed a root canal or not. He said that it if it hurt, I needed the root canal. It didn't hurt, so they didn't do anything. I now have appointment number 4 next Friday to work on my tooth.

6 weeks later and my tooth is still broken. I wonder how much money the dentist is billing my insurance company for?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Keeping Up

I'm still trying to get used to this blogging thing, where you are supposed to post all the time, and not just once a week or whenever I feel like it. Blagh.

Anyway, this past Thursday was the awards dinner for the St. Louis chapter of the Institute of Internal Auditors. The past couple years I have been in charge of the chapter newsletter, and for my heroic service I was given an "MVP" award. This means that I got a pen with my name engraved on it. Whooh! I also got a snazzy business card holder, and I got a picture book commemorating the old Busch Stadium (not to be confused with the new Busch Stadium). All told, it was a good night, actually.

Last night I went to a Cardinals game. It was my first time going to the new Busch Stadium, and I have to say that I like it. It is noticeably smaller than the old stadium, but since it was built as a dedicated baseball park, it looks much better and has a better feel to it. The Cards destroyed the Diamondbacks, and Pujols hit another home run. Good times.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

No fun for me, please, I have to work

I turned down a ticket to the Cardinals/Rockies game today. The game was at Noon, I got asked at 11:40 A.M., and I had to get something done by 1 P.M., and it wasn't done yet. So I turned down the ticket. Am I committed, or what?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Looking at the past to understand the future

I have actually been enjoying the ongoing immigration debates. For years I have been wondering when the millions of illegal immigrants would decide that they didn't want to live in limbo for forever and take a shot at legality without jumping through the standard hoops. I am actualy undecided, personally, on the whole amnesty thing, and I can see the benefits and problems on both sides. However, when conservative politicians foam at the mouth and try to pass obviously useless legislation to "kick out" all illegal immigrants, you start to wonder if they know anything about history and the way that immigration has worked in America in the past.

I found an article in today's Washington Post that I thought was pretty good. You can also find the article at MSNBC, if you don't want to register at the Post's website. It is always good to check and see if you are just trying to repeat the past, rather than actually work towards a better future. Not that congress pays attention to any of that.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

New comic reviews

I have some new comic reviews up on my website.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

It's pledge time again

I have been a member of KDHX, a local independent radio station, for about 6 months now. They are currently running their spring pledge drive, and I decided to help out by volunteering to answer the phones for from 8AM to Noon today. The station's studio is off of South Grand in St. Louis city, and is in an old storefront in the middle of a quiet residential neighborhood, one of those nice, old brick districts that we seem to have a lot of around here. They took pretty good care of us volunteers, as I got to order up a real omelette for breakfast and a local restaurant provided fried chicken and potato salad for lunch. It was a pretty good experience, overall, so I'll probably help out again during the fall pledge drive.

For those of you who aren't from the Lou, you can actually listen to the station in a live audio stream from the website. I know it works, because I had a pledge from California today.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


The last time I was in my comic book store, I picked up a pretty new title by Marvel, nextwave. It's kind of a superhero book, but it really involves a team of people who used to be superheros, but now they are part of an anti-terrorism force, led by an insane guy, but it turns out that their anti-terrorism company was actually bought by terrorists in a hostile takeover on the stock market. It then proceeds to get stranger. That said, it is by far the best new comic I have read in a long time. Granted, the first issue has the tag line "healing America by beating people up," so you knew it was gonna rock.

Just to let you know that this isn't a standard comic story, here is some of the initial dialogue:
girl "So what made you want to be a super hero? Was it the clothes?"
guy "The mask, I guess."
girl "Why?"
guy "So I could hit people in the face really hard and run away and no one would know it was me."
girl "What was your super hero name?"
guy "Captain ****"
girl "You're kidding me."
guy "Nope. I was Captain ****."
girl "Why, for God's sake?"
guy "Hey, I'm from Brooklyn. I'm going to call myself Mr. Friendly? Hell, no. Captain ****. I met Captain America once. He asked me what my name was."
girl "And you said Captain ****."
guy "Man, he beat seven shades of it out of me. Left me in a dumpster with a bar of soap shoved in my mouth."

That, my friends, is a great way to start your comic book making fun of comic books. Brilliant stuff.

And because I can't leave well enough alone, here is more brilliant dialogue:

different girl "Shouldn't we be using codenames? Maybe I should be calling you--"
different guy "Machine Man? My name's Aaron Stack. Aaron is fine."
different girl "In the Avengers, we all had codenames. Maybe we should keep them."
different guy "What's the point? Besides, do you really want to keep your super hero name? "Photon" doesn't strike fear into the hearts of men, surely. 'Hello, I am a tiny insignificant particle. Put down your guns or I'll bounce off of you undetectably.'"

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Financial news makes you crazy

One of my bad habits is an uncontrollable urge to check business news and stock indecis multiple times per day. Usually we rely on news to inform us, but the business press is mostly just insane. For evidence, I submit this article headline I saw on MSNBC today: "Strong economic data pull stocks lower." Does that make any sense to you? Shouldn't strong economic performance raise stocks? Ah, but this is the bizarro world of American finance, where strong performance means the Fed might raise interest rates, which is bad, so stocks go down. Conversely, if economic performance was weak stocks would rise, because that means that the Fed might not raise interest rates any more. It's all counter intuitive, but that's the stock market for you.

The obvious answer to my problem would be to ignore the business press entirely, but I derive too much pleasure from reading bad news about companies I don't like for me to give it up. It's just making me crazy.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Back in Columbia

I am back in Columbia again, for probably the last time this year. I am finishing up a project for the University to help them improve their financial reporting process. The great thing about these University projects is that they never have the time pressures that my other projects have. You are actually given enough time to complete your work within the normal work week, which is a nice change of pace. Columbia is actually a pretty cool town; I've always liked the downtown area (which they call "the district," which is pretty funny for someone who used to live in the D.C. area, which gives "district" a totally different meaning), and when the weather is nice I like to walk around the campus and see how things have changed in the 8 years since I graduated. Good times.