Friday, August 25, 2006

Minkie Blankie

Mommy snuggling up with a new quilt from Mommy (Robin) Brand. AKA: Minkie Blankie.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Extreme Makeover: Brand Edition!

Well, well, well! And I thought there was something special about repainting a dresser! My parents came to town for the weekend and no sooner did I get them settled into their hotel room that I found some stuff for them to help me with. Now no one knows as well as I do that the last thing I want to do on vacation is have the people I'm visiting put me to work, but my mom and dad were such excellent sports about it that they dove right into it and helped me fix a ton of little household problems.

First up was a pesky ceiling fixture in our hallway that had not been functional in about a year. My dad hauled his electrical-repair bucket all the way from NY to help me with this little project. He tested the fixtures with his tester and found the wires to all be functional.

Switching out the switch didn't help anything, nor did taking apart the fixture, shortening it (Yay for tall ceiling fixtures!), and rewiring the whole thing. My dad correctly diagnosed the problem as being in the second bedroom ceiling fan, where his son (who is not nearly as handy with electrical wiring) had miswired the fan by capping off the neutral wire that ran back from the hallway fixture.

Next, dad taught me the Zen of Gorilla Glue. This is a rock-solid wood adhesive that bonds on a molecular level with the wood fibers. Why does this matter? Well, because the wood fibers we're talking about were on the armpiece of one of our dining room chairs that had been broken since I moved in. Twenty minutes of chiseling the joint and gluing it and a quick trip to the hardware store and it was fixed permanently. Thanks Dad!

Not to be outdone, Mom brought not one, not two, but THREE gorgeous hand-made quilts that she had been laboring on for months. The first was a baby nursing blanket made out of a delightful pink material called "Minky Blanky" that feels like the fur on kittens' bellies.

The second, a quilt for the actual baby made of patterned flannel with lettering on the cornerstones.

Finally, a stunning Irish Chain quilt that's probably going straight up on the wall in Baby Brand's room.

It's the housewares equivalent of wearable art.

Finally, Dad and I had a wrestling match with the storm windows of our frontroom. As with many things, Mark the Younger had completely overlooked the fact that his outside windows had no storms on them this winter. "Why is it so cold in here in the winter?" young Mark asked himself? It took my father the hero all of about five minutes walking around the house to discover that the storm windows were missing from half the windows on the condo.

"That would help," young Mark said, sheepishly.

So we found and installed a number of the storms right on the spot, including a particularly tricky one that didn't want to go into the frame at first. With a little jimmying, a little intimidation, and a little luck, your humble narrator was even able to get in on the fun and make something positive happen! Here you see in the photo below me weilding a screwdriver victoriously after shimmying in a particularly tough fit window.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Diabolical Sabotage

One of my favorite episodes of the old Loony Tunes cartoon was when Bugs Bunny is reading a book called "Victory Through Hare Power" during WWII and he reads a passage that says "Gremlins are responsible for wrecking planes with their die-a-bow-LICK-al, sa-bow-TAY-gee. I googled "Diabolical Sabotage" and sure enough, the third hit was a link that took me right to the episode. These five minutes will bring you back to a day when cartoons were made to be timelessly funny. I still laugh my ass off at these. Now more than ever, in fact, do I appreciate the pre-1950 snarky Bugs Bunny attitude.

Click to play.

Reading: Nothing.
Listening: The Beatles - "Happiness is a Warm Gun", Fergie - "London Bridge"
Watching: Nothing.
Working: Getting Wi-fi hotspot up and running for the house. Cleaning up the house and getting the baby's room ready. Writing the final segment of "Human Resources" for Silverthought.
Fetus is Craving: White New York cheddar cheese.

My parents brought us five pounds of the best NY white cheddar I've had in years this past weekend. I cut it up tonight and I could scarcely stop eating it. Hopefully it will retain its flavor when frozen.

I took a brief hiatus from Silverthought to allow for my parents' visit, which was very fun and meaningful. I don't get to see them nearly enough, and I miss them the minute they leave. Just the same, heroes that they are, they helped Beth and I enormously with house moving. Not to mention taking us on a three-day food/shopping/sight-seeing binge the likes of which neither of us have seen in a while. Thanks Mom and Dad! I'm putting together a pictoral of Extreme Makeover Home: Brand Edition! for the site that will hopefully be up later this week.

Weirdly, though I have always hated the Beatles, I somehow have become hooked on the White Album. My morning trip to work will find me cranking "Happiness is a Warm Gun" as loud as it will go on the Sentra's stereo. Which isn't that lound, but you get the idea. You can see I've even changed the header to reflect my newfound obsession. Either I'm late to the Beatles party, or I'm early. Somehow when they were huge in the mid-90's around the 30th anniversary of Abbey Road and so forth, I just plugged my ears with Nirvana and ignored them.

Wireless internet is the shit. I'm always impressed at how neatly it un-clutters things. Now if I can just get an internal bluetooth or something for the stupid mouse and keyboard...

Ground control to Major Dad

My father, standing in front of the Apollo 8 space capsule.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Political Violence 5

This is a photo of Ernesto "Che" Guevera sometime around 1957, while waging a guerilla war in the Sierra Maestra mountains. He would have been roughly 29 at the time, which is about a year older than me. There is an unbelievable challenge in this photo, and I feel like he is looking at me as if to say: "By the time I was your age, I had already fought wars all over Latin America and my current big project is to help lead an army that will take over Cuba. A country that will spend the next 50 years as one of the only hold-outs against Western capitalism in the world. And I'm not going to be a pussy and assassinate Batista, leaving a vacuum for the rest of the military junta scum to fill. I'm going to form my own army and wage real war on the government. What have you done? Written some silly books and learned how to massage people?" There's no violence in this photo, but this is the best picture I have ever seen of a revolutionary. You can almost hear him breathing.

Again, this photo speaks to me in the same way that the Sadat and Patti Hearst ones did. You can see someone who is clearly just another schmoe like you or I, who has decided that they've had enough of changing their minds or their goals and dreams. For these people, for Che, it is plainly visible in their eyes that they've made up their minds and it's the WORLD that's going to change, not them. Where are the people like this for the 21st Century? If ever we needed them, now is the time.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Reading: Demian by Hermann Hesse. It's every bit as good as I remember it.

Listening: Kanye West - "Gold Digger" (this was one of those songs that I just didn't get at all until I heard it played very loud with lots of bass. Then suddenly it all made sense) Elton John - "Someone Saved my Life Tonight" Beth and I watched an old SNL the other night with Elton John as the musical guest when he was in his late 20's. Sir Elton is such a caricature these days, almost a living joke like Madonna or Michael Jackson. But it's easy to forget why he's famous. When he was younger, Elton John was THE SHIT. That re-run of some awful 80's SNL episode was literally the best SNL live show I had ever seen, and it was two songs that I never even heard before.

Watching: The finale of Hell's Kitchen. Glad Heather won. Not glad I have to wait an entire year for more Gordon Ramsay. He reminds me of what my conscience sounds like inside my own head.

Working: On a whole lot, thanks to my wireless little buddy here.

Fetus is craving: Meat before bedtime.

If I had known how lovely it would be to take my daily hours of computing away from my desk, I would have bought a laptop a LONG time ago. Right now, it's about midnight. My wife is sleeping soundly in the bedroom and I'm sitting on my back porch in a leather glider-chair and listening to the sound of the nighttime crickets through an open window. Tuesday morning being my morning to sleep in, I have the luxury of staying up till midnight.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Week in Pictures (or, still more random crap that Mark took pictures of.)

Well, our first picture for this week is one that I took in the Intimate Apparel aisle of the Maternity section of Target this past weekend. We went on a little shopping spree to celebrate her birthday. The composition of this image struck me as peculiar. See if you don't agree:

So, basically, the image that the ad-people who created the packaging for this bra are trying to get across is: 1) Women should not be aftaid to run around in only their bras. 2) If anyone gives you any shit about it, you can pretty much just give them a scowly face and look at them intensely, and 3) If that doesn't work RAISE YOUR FIST and threaten to punch them in the snotbox.

Or, you know, it's not clearly a Big Sister upraised-fist image. It could be just a lady running... right? Right? You be the judge.

Next up from my funny photos archive is a picture of the booth that was directly across from mine during the Chicago Distance Classic. These guys (there were two) sat at their little booth all day long with several dozen bottles of some generic lotion and shouted at passersby "Relieve any pain in five seconds naturally for FREE! Hey sir, do you have body pain? Want to get rid of it in five seconds for free?"

I am NOT making this up. I blurred out the guy's face and the name of the lotion, but you can clearly see the signage reads "Have You Got Body Pain?" So, unable to resist, I snapped a photo of this living infomercial, confident that I had snapped a picture of a human being that was quite literally yelling the subject line of a SPAM email into a health fair. Some of you, probably those not more medically inclined, will not understand why this is funny. But I bet you do. If you have half an ounce of common sense, you do. If you're a medical person, you're probably laughing your ass off right now.

I was thinking right about then that I would have more respect for someone who pulled a wooden gypsy covered-wagon full of little brown bottles right in the middle of the walkway and started shouting "Snake Oil! This will NOT HELP YOU! Snake Oil here!" At least a comical caricature snake oil salesman wouldn't sound like someone was literally marketing you the tagline of a junk email. I failed to walk around the rest of convention for fear that I might encounter the "INCREASE YOUR PENIS SIZE IN JUST 3 DAYS!" booth.

Finally, and this is the real cake-taker of the week:

What's that say? If you guessed "Mark Slaughter", lead singer of the 80's hair band of the same name, you're absolutely RIGHT! One of my co-workers apparently is a personal friend of his, and when she bragged about "hanging out with the band" over the weekend, I must have seemed skeptical. Just so there's no doubt left in my mind, I got my own personal Mark Slaughter autograph.

And since it's tough to follow that for sheer randomness, that's all for THE WEEK IN PICTURES!

Tune in next week when our guest will be: more photographs of things that Mark finds inadvertantly hilarious.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Mobile Computing makes Mungo Angry

Reading: Silverthought submissions.
Listening: Mary J. Blige - "Be Without You" (this is just a terrific song), "Queen and I" - Gym Class Heroes
Watching: Nothing.
Working: Silverthought, ebay, new story, getting groceries and getting ready to go back to work tomorrow.
Fetus is Craving: Restaurant food. Gio last night, Dominick's panini for lunch, and probably Bluestone rubens tonight. Good stuff.

I decided this morning that I couldn't live one more day without having wireless internet in my home for my new laptop.

Well, $70 and several hours later, I finally got my wireless Linksys router working. Not only didn't the little bastard work right away, but I had to install it in a daisy-chain with the OLD Linksys router just so I could get a connection to my desktop, Beth's Mac Mini, and my new laptop. For some reason, the speedstream DSL modem we have doesn't care much for the login attempts of my new wireless router. So I said to hell with the modem, just log onto the old router. And finally it worked. Also, inexplicably, the new router didn't want to accept manually-configured settings through the IP address settings window. Note for those of you out in internet land: if you want to royally screw up your computer's internet connection, type in and fiddle around with your router settings. Of course, the three glasses of wine that I drank wile I installed it probably didn't speed things along too much.

On the bright side, I'm writing this right now from my front porch.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Reading: Silverthought submissions
Listening: U2 - "Beautiful Day", Beck - "SexxLawz"
Watching: Project Runway, oh wait, no I'm not because my FUCKING TIVO DIDN'T RECORD IT. WHAT IS YOUR FUCKING PROBLEM, TIVO?
Working: Homesteading, setting up shop, nesting, all that. Cleaning house, showing those I work with how versatile I can be so they can turn my job into the inevitible jack-of-all-trades-hey-can-you-fix-my-printer unpaid tech-support guy position.
Fetus is Craving: Strawberry pie and potatoes (yes, really).

Round 2 of Mark's New Job Selling Other People's Stuff on Ebay:

Waterford Crystal, Hummel figurines, and Duncan Miller glassware. Hey, did you know that the little figurine of "Girl in Apple Tree" sells for $50? I bet you didn't! I bet you didn't even care!

Political Violence 4

We've all seen that incredible photo of the Tiananmen Square massacre of the man standing in front of the line of tanks. It inspired us, and called into question our ideas about what constitutes courage and dignity. I found this other photo, seemingly from a different angle and a different moment of that same day. All you can see here are crushed detritus and black tanks receding into the background. To me, this photo has a darker, less inspiring message for us: Everyone will sympathize with the man in front of the tank, but no one wants to be him when this photo is taken.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Baby Brand's Dresser Epilogue, or The Project That Would Never Die

Some time later, Mommy decided that the dresser also needed some paper to line the drawers with.

Daddy said: "I have no ability to resist the perfectionism of this piece of furniture. What the hell, let's DO IT!"

So Mommy went to the nifty paper store and picked out some paper with pictures of little monkeys wearing T-Shirts on it to line the dresser with. Daddy cut them super-expertly with his X-acto knife and laid them in the drawers.

"Oooh!" said Mommy, "I like that, and Baby does too! He told me by drop-kicking my spleen!"

Daddy said: "Well, that settles it, then."

The End (for real this time)
Reading: Demian by Hermann Hesse
Listening: "Beautiful Day" by U2.
Watching: House of Flying Daggers
Working: Reviews, Silverthought administration, Ebay stuff, day-job projects, RIA marketing, new story.
Fetus is Craving: Time away from Daddy, who has a bitchy summer cold.

NEWSFLASH: I am officially a home-owner! Woo-hoo! Beth and I purchased our condo earlier this week and signed the mortgage papers on Friday. One of those weird moments where nothing and everything changes. I have to say it's good to put my name on a piece of property finally. Hell, I'm almost 28! My parents had owned a couple of places by the time they were that old. Thus completes the new House/Baby/Job Trifecta. They say that when you're waiting for a baby to be born you should resist the temptation to make other life changes. I personally think I had no chance of avoiding any of this. It was just the right time to move on all three of these things and they had to happen in tandem with each other. Fortunately, our new purchase is getting a new lid this weekend too. The roofers have been at work for about three days tearing enough debris off the top of our condo to fill one of those huge room-sized dumpsters.

My wife's family, for whom I have been doing some work lately selling things on eBay, gave me a terrific hand-me-down this weekend: an Acer TravelMate 4020 laptop.

I've never had a laptop before, so this is quite a treat for me. There was an older Gateway Solo 1450 that I was trying to get up and running, and it worked after a fashion: the battery was permanently dead and it needed an add-in wireless card and a new AC adapter. That, and the old one was heavier than a cinder block, it seemed like.

Anyway, this is the new hotness. This way I can do Silverthought work on my lunch breaks without having to worry about work-computer issues. Thanks, O'Malleys!

The Week in Pictures (Or: More Random Photos from Mark's cell-phone)

Some nifty little pics I snapped out the window of one of the enormous financial/corporate office buildings on Wacker. Talk about a corporate canyon: each of these buildings represents about the same amount of commercial floor-space that you'd find in the entire city of Watertown, NY. Each floor is the size of a department store and each builiding has 60-70 stories.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Starbucks is Evil

So I'm configuring my Frankenstein laptop to try and access the internet from Wi-Fi hotspots. I plug the damn thing in (the battery is dead and will never again hold a charge), insert the Wireless card (whoa, old school), and when the old 1.2 ghz processor finally gets done coughing on the boot of XP professional, what do I see?

At Starbucks, you have to pay for Wi-Fi access.

What the hell sort of bullshit is this? Fifty yards down the street there are four more storefronts that advertise free Wi-Fi.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Political Violence 3

This photo was snapped as students fled from a hail of gunfire let loose by the National Guard at Kent State University on Monday, May 4 1970. The fellow lying dead, facedown in the left foreground is Jeffrey Miller. Also killed that day were Allison Krause, William Shroeder, and Sandra Scheuer. Evidently a bad day for college kids with German last names. This photo would have been taken seconds before the famous Pulitzer-winning photo by John Flio of Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over his body in the street. The Flio photograph has lasting power, to be sure, but this feature isn't about the big-money, big-fame photos. I want to show you the ones that got away. The pictures that didn't make the front page. This one, to me, is just incredible. The terror almost leaps out of the photo, and you can feel their hearts beating in your throat. If I look at this picture too long, I start looking over my shoulder.

Inexplicably, I read on Wikipedia that someone was actually bayonetted during these protests. I cannot imagine the state of mind of a National Guardsman who has just made the decision that bayonetting is an acceptable use of force. Bayonetting is what Revolutionary War soldiers used to do to each other when the gunpowder ran out.