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September 30, 2003

Not Very "Braveheart"

Tonight, after Will was put to bed, I drove to Chapel Hill with flyers in hand for Thursday night's Seven Nations show. (Expect an entry sometime soon about this commonplace but somewhat odd concept of "street teaming" for a band.) Seven Nations is, as regular readers know, a Scottish/Celtic-influenced rock band for which I drank the Kool-Aid a long time ago.

As I stepped out of Pepper's Pizza, I saw an oddly-shaped red blur out of the corner of my eye.

Swoosh! It was a college kid, legs and arms pumping furiously, tearing down the sidewalk as though his landlord was chasing him with a grenade launcher. And he was wearing a red and black belted plaid -- the ancestor of the Scottish kilt, as anachronistically worn by Mel Gibson in Braveheart. This not being the time for the annual Franklin Street Halloween revelry, he seemed a tad out of place. (And he didn't look capable of cleaving Englishmen in two, either -- he was built for running, not Gibson-esque heroism.)

As he vanished in the distance, a small group of his apparent friends followed casually, calling after him to come back. None of them were dressed like ancient Highland warriors. When they walked past, I handed one of them a Seven Nations flyer: "I, uh, think your friend might like this band."

September 27, 2003

Miscellaneous Notes

Hi, Alex!
Had my first Blog Surprise the other night -- a friend of mine I see at Seven Nations concerts found my blog. Gasp! Someone outside my close circle of friends reads my deepest, darkest secrets! So much for writing about my hidden scandals -- who would ever have thought that just anyone could find your personal journal on the global Internet!

Belated Review Coming
It's taken me forever to finish the damn book, but I'll be posting a (mixed) review of Al Franken's latest book soon. The words "pot," "kettle," and "black" are likely to be used in some fashion -- but the book has some very redeeming qualities as well.

The Ineffective Bachelor
My in-laws took my wife and son away from me this weekend (to that ants' paradise, Beaufort, NC) and left me all alone. I have not written the Great American Novel. I have not (yet) had any palliative effect on our messy home. I have not had hundreds of scantily clad dancing girls visiting.

Instead I've attended an aikido seminar (managing to get whacked in the head by a guy's elbow, which was attached to an arm roughly as thick as a telephone pole), played computer games, and generally moped about missing my son, who I am convinced will have forgotten his father by the time they return Sunday.

Yet Another Web Personality Quiz

ENFP - "Journalist". Uncanny sense of the motivations of others. Life is an exciting drama. 5% of the total population.
Take Free Myers-Briggs Personality Test

Interesting. I need to retake this, but I remember in high school and college being a diehard INFP -- much more introverted. This change resonates, though. Around the time I met Shannon I split the difference between introversion and extroversion. And now, although I'm still sometimes the King of Social Awkwardness, I find myself talking to strangers more easily, getting lonely more easily, and wanting to be part of a large community.

September 17, 2003

Another Random Quiz

The Fifth Doctor
You are the Fifth Doctor: Your youthful exterior
belies your centuries of experience, and even
you have a bit of difficulty rectifying these
two aspects of your personality. You are
compassionate, introspective, and deeply
troubled by injustice. If you occasionally seem
to display more vulnerability than your
predecessors, it's probably because you're more
openly human than they were. Are your
companions finally rubbing off on you?

Which Incarnation of the Doctor Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

She Makes Me Sad

I should not pick on her on her birthday. But my dearest wife is using our wonderful iBook almost exclusively as a terminal for her Windows machine at home.

(Microsoft makes Remote Desktop Connection software for Macs and PCs that let you log in to a Windows XP machine and have its desktop appear on your screen. Great when you're on the road or watching the baby in one room when you need to check on your computer in another.)

Here I've gone expounding on the glories of the Mac, and here she's using it as just another way to get on a Windows PC. I can only stand, silent, like Iron Eyes Cody in those old '70s anti-littering commercials, with a single tear running down my cheek.

September 14, 2003

Unsurprising But Sad

A new poll of the Carolinas finds that by a 3-1 margin North and South Carolinians are opposed to gay unions. Nationwide, 39 percent of Americans said that the law should recognize marriage between homosexuals, while 55 percent said the law should not.

September 9, 2003

Opus... Is Back!

Breathed's returning to newspaper pages with another Opus the Penguin strip!

Ten out of ten points for good news, but minus one point for my fear that this will be more like the last year of Bloom County or Outland, and minus ten kajillion style points for the WaPo quoting has-been Harry Knowles (of aintitcoolnews).

September 8, 2003

Jonathan Alter Nails It...

in a Newsweek column about the current state of patriotism.

Perhaps most important, is it patriotic to define patriotism the old-fashioned way—as a kind of narrow nationalism? That jingoistic definition is carrying a price for the president, who must now go on bended knee to allies he so recently scorned. When you’re spending $1 billion a week in Iraq, dissing our friends, as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld have done consistently, seems to be a tad ... counter-productive. Those “freedom fries” in the House cafeteria are burning us now; those gibes that John Kerry “looks French” don’t look so clever.

The column is good enough that I'll forgive him for opening with a Britney Spears quote.

September 6, 2003

Steven Burns, auteur

Joining Wil-Wheaton-Dot-Net as another Former Child Actor Becoming His Own Man (*), the former Blue's Clues host has a quirky web site that includes dates his band is playing and assorted weird little iMovies such as HOWTOBEONKIDSTV. That's weird in a good, self-deprecating, amusing way.

(*) Okay, I know, he's not a Former Child Actor, he's a Former Actor for Children. (**)

(**) It's 2 AM! Why am I up so late?

E. J. Jones, Brother in Asheville

These concerts I don't think Shannon and I will make, because there's only so much time in the month, and if we go to any more concerts before we know it we will have missed Will's adolescent years.

Anyway, E.J. Jones, bagpiper par excellence late of Clandestine, will be at Jack of the Wood in Asheville with his Willow Band on Saturday, September 20. God willing, his former bandmate and current Asheville resident, Jen Hamel, will stop in.

Then, if Pollstar can be believed (and it tends to jump the gun), Brother will be there on Friday, October 10. Brother is another band that, like Seven Nations, was a rock and roll band in infancy before finding its niche with Celtic rock on the festival circuit then feeling a little constrained by the genre. Dunno how the self-described "Australian Mongrel Rock" band's current experiment, the newly-released Urban Cave, will work out. On the one hand, self-descriptions such as "stepping out into the light with a middle digit to the idea of musical categorization" strike me as trying just a bit too hard.

On the other hand, River, a full track I found at their website, moves. Bagpipes in the background, didgeridoo in the foreground, with layers of drum loops and Edge-like guitar work -- this is tasty stuff. Hopefully I'll have the chance to sample Urban Cave soon.

September 5, 2003

How could I ever have left?

Today at work a batch of new upgrades for my aging PowerMac G4 arrived.

Bliss. 400 MHz of aging 1999-era processor replaced with a 1.2 GHz G4 from Powerlogix. 512 MB of memory, a DVD burner and a small video card upgrade. Suddenly I've got a machine that boots almost as soon as you turn it on, as opposed to making a quick coffee run in between the two events.

Let's hear it for the Mac architecture, which not only makes a Mac last longer than a comparable PC but -- in this case, anyway -- allows a comparatively cheap upgrade process to bring an old machine almost up to par with recent new computers. Sorry, Mr. Jobs, but we just couldn't afford a whole brand new computer. Public payroll, dontchaknow.

I was a Mac person through and out of college, my first machine being the underpowered, overpriced Performa 600 (a slightly crippled Macintosh IIvx for the home market). Even back then, I waffled between a Mac and PC -- because I wanted to play computer games AND wanted the software I was familiar with. And Macs Simply Worked.

After I finished grad school, however, the Performa 600 had long overstayed its usefulness. I STILL wanted to play computer games -- even worse than before, because PC gaming technology had just turned a serious corner. So I began my love-hate relationship with the PC. Pound for pound, PCs are more computer than Macs. Because they're commodity hardware, they're much cheaper. And because they're ubiquitous, there are a lot more software and hardware options. Obviously, there's no comparison in the gaming realm.

But even in 2003 Windows PCs still don't play all that well with odd configurations of hardware and software, while Macs Just Work. The OS is more elegant, and (in general) the software that I use on both machines seems to work better on the Mac.

We "needed" and could briefly afford a laptop early this year, so I chose an iBook. Despite the small screen and single button trackpad, it almost felt like home again.

Now that my office Mac has new life in it, I suddenly think I'll be spending more working hours on it than the comparably-sped IBM ThinkPad I've been using as my primary machine. Suddenly, I'm using Mac OS X without any compromises. No slow processor. No laptop screen.

During a lull at a going away party for one of my dearest friends, she did a quick poll of the room: Mac or PC? After a little while, I had to admit that I was "bi." This got a good laugh from the room. I have to admit, though: my orientation is shifting a bit again.

Shannon willing, next time we have to replace a home machine, there'll be an Apple in the den. 'Cause once you've had Mac, you never go back.

Massed Coo

That was the sound I heard when I visited The Daily Tar Heel Wednesday with my too-sick-for-day-care son in tow. I had to take a couple of half-days so Shannon wouldn't burn all her sick days (as a part-time teacher) during the first month of classes, so I figured I'd take Will on an errand in the process. As my old friend Lisa Reichle led me through the newsroom on a brief tour, Will apparently made an impression on the ladies. A toddler on a college campus is as much a babe magnet as a puppy, except for the small detail that bearing a toddler tends to imply that you are either (a) married, (b) old or (c) all of the above.

If reincarnation were part of my faith, this incident would have had me leaving notes wherever my future self could find them: "In college, get a puppy."

Pushing the stroller, stopping for air conditioning breaks and giving him sips of water, introducing him to Lisa -- for the first time during a UNC campus visit, I felt like a different person than the one who graduated in '92.