Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Case of the Missing Checks



One of my New Year's Resolutions was to get my finances in order, and as I figured the best way to do that was to track every transaction through Mint.com. However, my podunk bank from up in Wausau doesn't allow information from my account to be brought into Mint. Ugh. So I went about changing my direct deposit to my USBank account. But when I went to find my checkbook for that account I couldn't find it. Anywhere. Panic quickly set it. Did I lose it somewhere when we moved? And then my mind queued up a flashback, black and white, of me saying "Boy Greg, I don't think I'll EVER need all these checks. I think I'll just cut them up!" Sometimes I can be pretty stupid. But would I really cut up perfectly good checks? Man, I hoped it wasn't so, but it was a better alternative to losing them. So I went to USBank and explained my situation. She recommended closing down my account and opening a new one, but I told her I didn't think they were stolen (it was more that one book of checks, I thought...probably 5 or 6 books). So she said she would hook me up with new checks, and put an alert out on any checks starting before the number on the current check.

I got back to my desk when the phone rang. "Hi, this is Jessica from USBank. Looking at our records we don't think you ever received checks from us." Umm...ok? On one hand, that's good news. I didn't lose the checks, because I never actually had any. But on the other, it just means I fabricated the memory of gleefully chopping up books of checks sometime in the past. Both are rather disturbing.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Garage Band

It starts out like everyone else's story. Two friends decide to get together after school and jam in a basement. One with his beat up Stratocaster that be bought at the local music store, then other with his hand-me-down drum set that his dad used to play. As time goes on, some friends come over to listen to the guys practice while playing Halo. After some razzing, one of them steps up to the mic, and believe it or not, being in choir for 3 years actually turned him into a decent singer. And piano lessons as a kid left him with an old keyboard that was still usable. After picking out a handful of songs that everyone can play decently well, Singer informs the band that he has a cousin that can play bass. And thus the 4-Some is created.

They come together 3 days a week to practice, and after practicing a full setlist 5 weeks in a row they decide it's time. There's a house party coming up, and they inform the host that they'll play an hour long set if they can drink for free. He's a bit leery at first, but owes the Guitarist a favor. The boys are nervous, sure, but they've been practicing hard, and now there's girls to impress. They start off with a bit shaky with "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey, but after the second verse the crowd starts singing along and the boys get in a groove. Led Zeppelin, Harvey Danger, Blink 182, Survivor, they keep the crowd in a good mood while playing beer pong and flip cup. At school the next week everyone mentions to the guys how good of a job they did, which gives them incentive to keep practicing and learning new songs.

Flash forward a few years. All the guys are in college, scattered around the state. But during the school year they continue to practice their craft, and when they're back home for the summer they bring everything they've learned back to the band. Parties give way to bars and weddings, and they start to make a name for themselves in the town.

College is graduated by all, and they find real jobs all in the same big city. But by now they're playing shows nearly every Friday and Saturday night, from May until October. They know they'll never make it big: you don't get famous for playing cover songs (unless you're Badfish). That's not the point. The point is that there's no other feeling like getting up on stage and singing songs that everyone knows, from all sorts of genres, and generally just having a great time.

So what band am I talking about? Every local band, like The Toys, the Sweet Tarts, and the Pink Flamingoes. Bands you see at Summerfest. And the State Fair. And local bars throughout the state. They might not ever make it far, but that doesn't mean they haven't made it big.



To me, anyways.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Return of the Underdog

Well thank my stars and garters, but it looks like Whitefish Bay native Craig Counsell will be returning to Brewers for the '09 season. And from one goofy white boy to another, I say "welcome back, Craig." Counsell is one of those characters that fill in the cracks between the super stars on professional sports. They don't have big egos, and they don't have big contracts, but without them things just wouldn't be the same.


And I have a propensity for cheering for these underdogs. Sure he only hit 1 home run last year, but I was there to see it! And I think his Wikipedia article puts it best when it says "He is not known for hitting far with his stance but he can run fast."

Plus he can play an position in the infield, and filled in well when Bill Hall was busy sucking it up this past summer at 3rd base.

And last but not least, anybody that has "All Along the Watchtower" by Jimi Hendrix as their at-bat music is ok with me. I can't wait to listen to it again this summer.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Don't Click This!

Due to the graphic nature of this post reader discretion is advised.

It's seems that internet advertising tends to go in streaks. There will be one ad that you'll see EVERYWHERE for a while (you remember the crazy dancing girls, yes?) Well this next one has been all over the place lately, and it's rather gross.

It comes in two varieties, lucky you! Here's the skinnier sidebar one.

Most internet ads offer unrealistic things; how else are they going to entice our grandma's into signing up for things they don't need. But this one is just comical. Say you lost two pounds of stomach fat per week. Stretch marks don't go away, and your skin doesn't retract that quickly either, so you're gonna look kind of odd with you loose skin stomach hanging around (oh hai thar Tara Reid). And is it 2 rules? Or 1 Golden Rule? So confused!

And the icing on the cake? (obey)

Nice try internet, you're not fooling me today! Now I'm off to claim my prize, I'm the 1,000,000th visitor!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Catching Up with Lost


Much like I did with Heroes, I decided that I wanted to catch up with the TV show Lost. I had watched the first two seasons when they first premiered, but stopped watching right when season 3 started up again. The boredom of winter (and frequent talk from BLaZE and Ross) has inspired me to start watching again. I set upon this task a few weeks ago, when I decided to watch all of Season 3 and 4 in order to catch up for Season 5. And then I realized that Season 3 had 22 freaking episodes. 22 HOUR LONG episodes. Umm.....yeah, not enough hours in the day for me to accomplish that, so I did the only reasonable thing: read the synopsis for each episode on Wikipedia. Sure not as exciting as actually watching the episodes, but desperate times yadda yadda yadda. I also resolved myself to watch the Lost recap that aired at 7:00 pm (before the 2 hour season premiere), and that helped greatly also. Lost may be seen as some arcanely intricate plot-based show, but mostly it's about the characters, and I feel relatively up to speed now. I'm thinking of going back to watch the older episodes just to feel more caught up, but all in all I'm ready for Season 5 of Lost. Anyone else out there a Lost fan?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Who?

No, it's The Who. And in my humble opinion they are the most underrated classic rock band around. When most people think "classic rock" they think of Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, and the Beatles. But considering how revolutionary and influential The Who were they definitely need to be included in this list. Some excerpts from Wikipedia claim say they were the "Godfathers of Punk," created the idea of a rock opera with "Tommy", and pioneered the use of synthesizers in rock music. You want one of the most energetic front man in music, with a voice to die for? You can't get better than their lead singer Roger Daltrey. What about face melting solos and riffs that make you smile because they're that damn good. Pete Townsend has those in spades. How about one of the finest bass solos ever heard? Well John Entwistle on "My Generation" has something he'd like to show you. And because the world's craziest, best drummer (Animal from The Muppets was based on him)? Well hello there Keith Moon.

Just like a lot of other bands, my interest in The Who was re-invigorated with "Won't Get Fooled Again" being included on the first Rock Band. And then Rock Band 2 had "Pinball Wizard." And then a whole downloadable album (including the always classy "Behind Blue Eyes.") Kate borrowed their movie "Tommy" from the library and few months ago, and while it probably would have been better if we were tripping on mushrooms or something, it was still pretty neat. And then last night I began watching the VH1 Rock Honors The Who, and it's a great loving tribute to the band, with some great covers of classic Who songs by Foo Fighters, Incubus, Pearl Jam and Tenacious D.

(As a sidenote: I didn't realize it at the time, but when we saw the Foo Fighters play this summer they did a cover of "Young Man Blues" during the show. Must have liked playing it so much at the big show they added it to their setlist.)

The two surviving original members, Daltrey and Townshend, recording a new album in 2006 which was pretty good, and they were cool enough to play for the makers of Rock Band at a special concert in 2008. Want to know more about The Who? Check 'em out here, Youtube their videos, and download some of their songs on Rock Band. I bet you'll like them.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Closing Time

Sometimes I feel like one of the 4 Horsemen (no, not them): everywhere I go locally-owned stores are closing shop. First it was Shag Custom T-Shirts, off of Farwell near North Ave. After talking about it for months, literally, I finally decided to stop in to check it out.....and found out that it had quietly closed up shop a few weeks prior. OnMilwaukee.com ran an article the Tuesday after that saying that Shag was closed, but would be re-opening in the future.

Then, with word that I would be returning to the East Side of Milwaukee I was excited to be able to shop at Atomic Records again. A local independent record store on Locust and Oakland, I had purchased a handful of CDs there a few years back, and wanted to buy all of Foo Fighters discography this year. But there then there was this. Ugh.

And finally I saw this today. There's a Harry W Schwartz bookstore a few blocks from my house on Oakland, and even though I don't purchase many books I do have two nieces that love books, so it was inevitable that I'd be purchasing some items there in the future. Alas, the Shorewood store will not be one of those that is being purchased by someone else.

Sometimes it's hard to realize the economic downturn when you're not faced with it everyday. But it's hard to ignore when small businesses are closing all around you. And now for my bleg of the day: Give some of the locally owned small businesses in your area a chance with your money. Chances are they will work harder for your dollar money than the local Walgreens or Wal-Mart, because they need to in order to survive these days. One of my unspoken resolutions this year was to try and be a localvore, eating and shopping at local places rather than nationwide chains. And I haven't been disappointed yet.

Friday, January 16, 2009

www.name.com


It's interesting to me to see what goes into the domain name of a specific website. The ones the interest me the most are the ones that are the simplest. Do they actually pertain to what they're supposed to? Let's have a look.
  • www.news.com. This one points you to Cnet's main site, which deals in technology news. Considering Cnet is owned by CBS you would think they would claim news.com for their CBS News site.
  • http://sports.com. "The first word in bettting since 1996," this one is kind of surprising. But, if they managed to snag the sports.com url back in 1996 (when the internet was still a baby) then it makes sense they'd still have a hold on it.
  • http://humor.com. Hey, this one is still open to be purchased! I bet they're asking a ridiculous price for it, though.
  • www.movies.com. A nice all-encompassing site with movie reviews, top box office, and upcoming DVD releases.
  • www.beer.com. This one is surprising, too. At first glance it appears to be a generic Maxim rip-off site. But their Beer section is actually pretty well done.
  • www.search.com. Another one owned by CBS, this seems to be a site for people that haven't heard of Google or Yahoo, I suppose.
  • http://www.work.com/. A pleasent surprise, this site seems to be all encompassing for someone looking to run their own business.
  • www.videogames.com. This one re-directs you to GameSpot, a video game news and review site. Same idea as Cnet, having a generic name go to your specific site.
So look over that list again? Anything kind of stick out to you? How about the fact that of those 8, you probably only know 2 of them, if any. So what's that tell you? It doesn't matter what the name of your site is, all the matters is the content. Plus, we all know that the best domain name is already taken, right?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Drugs are Bad, Mmmk?


On a whim today I started re-reading Kevin Smith's 9 part tale of "Me and My Shadow," detailing Jason Mewe's (better known as Jay of Jay and Silent Bob fame) drug problems. You can find Part 1 here, and then dig through the March and April 2006 archives for the rest. I hadn't read it for a long time, but it immediately reminded me of Scar Tissue, the autobiography of Anthony Kiedis. Lead singer of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kiedis had a huge problem with drugs throughout much of his life, and has been in and out of rehab many times. I've only known one person (that I know of) that ever had a drug problem, and that was a few years after she had recovered, but hearing stories about it from her was enough to make my skin crawl. Skipping out of class to snort cocaine, the nosebleeds, and worst of all: going clean.

I'd like to think of myself as a strong person, with resolve enough to know that drugs fuck up your system and in many cases your life, but would I be able to pull myself away from them? The girl I mentioned before (let's call her Darla) went clean with the help of her boyfriend at the time, but he literally had to keep her occupied for 3 days straight, while she cried and screamed at him, and clawed at her own arms until she drew blood. Kiedis' stories have the same heartbreak, with living in abandoned apartment buildings with other junkies.

My day's of looking down on people with drug issues have come to a head, but there is no "I know how you feel" for this instance. I don't know how it feels to have a craving for anything so much that I'd lie, cheat, steal, or screw to get it. So for any of my readers out there who had a drug problem, or know someone who has over come theirs, I tip my cap to you today.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

By the Numbers

21 - Number of stoplights between my house and work.
31 - States I've visited.

1 - places I've lived from the age of 1 until I was 17 years old.
9 - places I've lived since then.
6 - Game systems I've owned (Gameboy, SNES, Playstation, Dreamcast, Xbox, Wii)
7 - Number of concerts I've paid to get in to (Reel Big Fish (x2), Foo Fighters (x2), Hoobastank, Stone Temple Pilots, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) All the other concerts were part of Summerfest.
4701 - Songs on my computer at home
2 - Plants that I've named. Peter the Peace plant is at home, and Dave Grow-l is an ivy that's here at work. (Get it? Grow-l? Grohl? I crack me up).
1 - Number of times Peter has flowered in the 4 years I've had him.

10 - Brewers home games I want to go to this year
5 - Brewers home games I'll actually go to this year.
37 - Classes I took in college.
19 - Classes where I learned something useful.
2 - Classes where I learned something useful for my occupation.
2 - Much metal for 1 hand.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

With That Gun in Your Hand...

It's a lot heavier than I thought it would be. I have to adjust my posture to keep it level. "So make sure you keep the butt of it tight in your shoulder. And then lead it by a little bit." Ok, I can do this. I yell out "PULL!" with as much gusto as my 11 year old self can muster, and a clay pigeon takes flight. I swing the shotgun, wildly trying to keep up with the flight of the bird, and with it relatively close to my sights I pull the trigger. KA-POW!! I flight back on to my hindparts from blast, and I can feel the tears start to creep out from the corners of eyes. My eyes stop ringing for a second, and I hear my older brothers laughter in the background. I turn around to see them doubled over with glee, while my dad stands there smiling at me, about as proud as I've ever seen him. "Not bad, but next time make sure you lean into it a bit. That way you don't end up on the ground." Sure enough, I give it another try, and even though I miss the clay again I don't end up eating dust this time.

And that's my first experience shooting a real gun. Sure, I'd practiced with a BB gun before, and had probably shot a .22 rifle sometime before that, but a 12 gauge shotgun was the first real weapon I had ever fired. And I liked it. Unlike my brothers, I wasn't big into hunting when I was younger. Sure, I'd go with them most of the time, for squirrels and ducks and pheasants. But the part I enjoyed was the actual shooting. And real hunting has very little shooting.


Anyways, I was reminded of this when MrB and myself went trap shooting this past Saturday. Some of his co-workers invited us to brave the cold and shoot clay pigeons with shotguns, just like how I started. And it was a blast! Sure, neither of us did as well as the other guys, but it was the first time I had shot a shotgun in 3 years, and the first time he had ever. Just goes to show you, video game skillz are applicable to real life.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Monday Randomings

Usually I do these on Fridays, but I think it's going to be one of those Mondays today, so let's break up the monotony, shall we?

*Shuffle*

It's basketball season, and since most NBA games are boring as hell you should check out this video, which proves to the world that Bango, the Bucks mascot, is clinically insane.

*Shuffle*

I'm not sure why, but an alarming number of women at work bring their lunches in Victoria Secret bags. To this I ask, "why?" Don't you have a little cooler to put stuff in? Or one of those lunch coozies. Or do you just like alerting the whole office that you are probably wearing a lacy g-string with matching bra at this very moment?

*Shuffle*

It's amazing what two guys can accomplish. Much like World of Goo, Auditorium is a physics based game where you have to accomplish a simple goal. Here, you have to get the "flow" into the sound box. Simple as that. Give it a try, the free demo goes all the way up to 3:6.

*Shuffle*

Remember one year ago? Brew Town Beat sure does. Man, that seems like 5 years ago now. Favre throwing snow balls at people, the Packers tearing it up. Hopefully they'll still be in the hunt next year at this time.

*Shuffle*

For anyone owning a small business (or hell, anyone that has a job), reading Jud Meyers Retales should be required. Start with the first one, and then move through them chronologically. Jud relates being a shop owner to that of a bartender, in that he's there to get to know people, and boy does he ever. The story "Funny Books" had me tearing up at work.

Friday, January 9, 2009

My Dream Job....When I was 6.


All of my best ideas were used up when I was a tot, and this is the best example I have. I was riding in to Wausau on a snowy Wisconsin night when I proclaimed to my parents, "I know what I wanna be when I grow up." I then dove into the details. There seem to be plenty of people to clean off snowy roads, but what about snowy road signs. Signs get dirty and dusty, covered with snow, yet you never really see anyone going around cleaning them off. So when the plow trucks go out into the night to keep the roads clear I would load up my pick-up truck with a sign scraper and a brush, and go around cleaning off the "Hwy 43" and "Exit 342, 1 Mile" signs, for all the travelers. They would slow down, roll down there window and shout out "Thanks Gregor! What would we do without you!" And I would reply, "Don't thank me, ma'am, just doin' my job!"

I thought of this last year when I was traveling around downtown looking for Joey Buono's Restaurant. There was a storm the night before, and all the street signs facing North were covered in a thick clot of ice and snow. I had no idea where I was going! And so I remembered Little Gregor, 16 years ago, and his proclamation to fill an untapped niche. I'm currently writing up a proposal to have "Sign Plower" added to county jobs state-wide. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Flashback to 1949

With the adventure of moving comes the inevitable period of time when we don't have cable TV or internet. For this latest move it was approximately 4 days, but it might as well have been 4 weeks. Unlike my comrade (who spent his evenings curled up in the corner muttering "internets...needs thems.....my preciousssss") I kind of enjoyed not having TV or the internet to waste my time on. Until I needed to see what the weather was going to be like for the day. Or was expecting an important email. Or the hundreds of other things that are only a few clicks away that I had started taking for granted. I needed to find a hardware store to get some keys made, but without the internet I had no idea where to look. So I did the only sensible thing: drove around until I found one. It only took 20 minutes, and it one the bright side it gave me a better idea how the surrounding area is laid out, but even then, it's amazing how helpless one can feel without the access to technology.
I had plenty of things to do around the house, putting things away, cleaning, laundry, etc. And when I wasn't that I used my time to read a how-to manual, but yesterday was the big one. I went home around 11 AM to wait for the cable guy to come. And I waited. Made myself some lunch, read for a bit. And waited again. I'm starting to go crazy. He finally showed up around 1, right when I was about to lay down for a nap. Eric was around too, so with someone there I took off to run some errands, and had the bright idea to pick up a video game as well. God of War was on plenty of lists for one of the best PS2 games of all time, so I picked up a used copy from Gamestop and hooked up MrB's PS2 in my room. Even after playing that for hours I'm STILL restless. What the frak did people do during their free time back in the 1940s, before TV and video games? 6 hours later the Time Warner guy was finally finished (he had to run lines to everyone else's rooms, so now we have 6 TVs in the house that are cable ready. Yes, I also shook my head at this thought.) Oh sweet internet, how I've missed viewing you in the comfort of my own home! I check my email, the weather, some usual links, and within 20 minutes I'm done.

Now, I used to be able to piss away hours on the internet, never accomplishing anything. And it helps that I spend a lot of my work time on it, but I really don't see myself sitting on it for hours on end at home anymore. It helps that my computer is in the basement, instead of being readily accessible in my bedroom, but I still want to cull my usage of the internet at home down to vital things. No one has ever been on their deathbed and said "man, I wish I had looked at more memes and viral videos."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Early Morning

My alarm was set for 6:00 AM, but her phone alarm goes off first. We curl up under the covers, waiting out the minutes until the radio alarm kicks in. With a grumble I stagger out of bed and shut it off. Back in bed for a bit, but daylight always wins the fight. The first morning of getting up for work in the new house is now upon me. I get up and put on a t-shirt, some sweatpants, and my slippers, and head into the kitchen for some breakfast. After that, a shower, throw on some work clothes, and out the door by 6:50. It's a brisk Wisconsin morning, and my hand fumbles with the keys while trying to lock the door behind me. Most of sidewalk was clear, but some treacherous patches of ice remain. As I gingerly walk over them I breath in the sharp air and let out a blast of fog from my lungs and smile; I like these early mornings. The sun isn't yet up, and there's barely a car in the street. As I cross the road I see an animal walking it's way towards me down the sidewalk. I squint through the dawn, thinking it's a dog that had gotten loose from it's master's home. But the bushy tail is unmistakable. A fox! Just trotting right towards me, like it was walking down a forest path . I stop for a second to see what he does, but he continues coming until he's about 10 feet away. He stops and looks at me for a second, then carries on his way across the street and away to the neighborhood to the south. Well that's not something that happens very often.

I'll take this as a good omen for the new house, for the new year, and for the new experiences that will surely come.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Things I Love #8: Grape-Nuts


I have many aspects of an old man, but the most pronounced is my love for this odd cereal. After buying a few cheaper bags of Malt-O-Meal yesterday I decided to "treat" myself with a box of Grape-Nuts. How many other people under the age of 81 have ever said that? Anyways, as a food lover I realize that food is not only about taste, it's also about texture. And boy howdy do Grape-Nuts have a unique texture. It's like little pieces of granite, but if you let the milk soak in the correct about of time they've got an amazingly loud crunch when the flavor comes alive in your mouth. And it makes a wonderful warm breakfast on a cold winter morning...all you have to do is pop it in the microwave for 15 seconds. Or, if you're an old soul like myself and enjoy putting fruit in your cereal, then I highly recommend putting grapes in with your Grape-Nuts. The sweetness of the grapes compliments the cereal perfectly. Honey works well too, apparently.

So if you've never tried Grape-Nuts, or haven't had it in a while, please give it a go, for my sake. And if you don't like it I'll buy the rest of the box from you. Seriously. I'll just stock up on all the boxes you guys send me. David up there says it never goes bad, and I believe him.