The Highways and Byways of the Stratosphere
Sunday, February 29
Don Lapre's "Greatest Vitamin in the World" scam is just SO ridiculous. I can't believe it 1) even exists, and 2) is legal enough to be advertised on TV.
Speaking of ridiculousness, I'm thinking that maybe I should go see that The Passion of the Christ movie.
Saturday, February 28
How long has it been since I last got any worthwhile e-mail? All I usually get nowadays are about 8000 anti-virus update notifications, usually when I'm not even at my own computer. I guess I did get that survey from Colleen that I still haven't filled out.
I've heard that Camper Van Beethoven plans to re-release their old albums later this year, but with bonus tracks. There's a good chance I'll end up buying them, but I'd rather just have the bonus tracks without the old stuff.
Friday, February 27
I thought about volunteering at Longwood Gardens today, but instead I decided to sleep late, and I'll probably end up doing nothing all day. I'm so lazy. Hopefully I'll get around to practicing guitar, since I haven't done that in about a week or so. Maybe I'll also do some writing. I don't know.
Thursday, February 26
I got my copy of Andy Partridge's fourth Fuzzy Warbles volume in the mail today. It's cool to finally be able to hear songs I've heard about for a long time, like "Bumpercars" and "Blue Beret." The prices of these CDs just keep going up, though, which is pretty annoying. I paid for most of this last one with a gift certificate from my brother. I'm hoping the two volumes being released later this year won't be even MORE expensive. I also want there to be a REAL XTC album released soon. Andy and Colin Moulding have apparently been writing songs for one, but I've heard no news of an anticipated release date. Come on, it's been almost four years since Wasp Star!
Wednesday, February 25
The whole anti-gay-marriage thing is really getting on my nerves. President Bush identifed marriage as "one of the most fundamental, enduring institutions of our civilization." Putting aside the irony in a proud yahoo like Bush pretending to be an expert on "civilization," how is allowing gay marriage going to affect our esteemed leader and his ignorant followers in any way? I've said this before, but I just don't get homophobia. I guess it's just another case of people telling other people what not to do, even when they have no reason for doing so. I really don't think an anti-gay-marriage amendment has much chance of going through, though. I mean, look at how long they've been debating about an anti-flag-burning amendment, and there still isn't one. For what it's worth, while I think flag-burning is a largely pointless form of protest (sort of akin to going out in public and yelling, "AMERICA SUCKS!" without explaining HOW it sucks), I certainly don't think it should be banned.
On a lighter note, my favorites from last night's American Idol were LaToya London and the pen salesman. I liked Amy Adams and the Bulgarian girl as well, and I wouldn't mind seeing them get through, but the other two are my top choices.
Tuesday, February 24
Today's Mardi Gras, isn't it? Not being a Catholic or an alcoholic party animal, this is of absolutely no signficance to me, but I thought I'd point it out anyway.
I've caught up on the recent Simpsons and American Idol episodes, so here are a few comments:
Last week's Simpsons episode was pretty good. Milhouse becoming a bad kid before moving, and his new Capital City image, were worth some laughs. This week's episode was the better of the two, though. The plot was good, and there were a lot of jokes that I keep thinking back on, my favorites revolving around the cops at the museum. ("I see a vase, but Eddie sees two guys in profile!") I had wondered whether they were going to make everyone recognizing Maggie's intelligence (which numerous earlier episodes have proven that she has, even if she doesn't know what color red is), but they resolved this pretty well. And I liked Simon Cowell's guest appearance, probably largely because it was actually relevant to the plot, and wasn't as tacked on like so many celebrity appearances on the show.
Simon Cowell provides a good transition into my comments on last week's American Idol. Quite unimpressive overall, as just about everyone seems to agree. I have to wonder how Matt "I was in the Rose Bowl!" Rogers got so many votes. I guess the public likes former football players. I don't really have anything against the guy, but his performance was quite lacking (I decided he was fifth overall, coming out ahead of Kara and the Roman brothers, but worse than everyone else), and Lisa Leuschner really should have made it.
Sunday, February 22
I picked up a copy of what I think might be a French version of They Might Be Giants' Mink Car album. It has the same rearranged, abbreviated tracklist as the British version, and all the text on the actual CD case is in English, but there's a sticker on it with some writing in French. It was in what I believe is the "overstock" section at the store. Kind of weird.
I wonder if I should go ahead and get a new cell phone. It looks like that would end up being cheaper than buying a new charger.
Saturday, February 21
I'm annoyed at Verizon Wireless. I went to their cell phone store today to exchange the charger they gave me yesterday for one that actually fits my phone, and it turns out they don't carry them anymore. I showed my old charger to the technical support people, but they couldn't find anything wrong with it. I might end up having to get a new phone, if I can't either find a new charger or get my old one to work properly again.
After that, I went to a music store, and a bought a used copy of the 6ths' Wasps' Nests, and $2 Rheostatics and Matthew Good Band CDs. I'm going to be giving the latter two to Beth, but I'll probably listen to them first, as is my wont.
My computer keeps crashing for no apparent reason. I wish I knew what I could do about it. It doesn't seem to be doing any permanent damage, but it's very annoying to have to keep restarting it. Maybe I should call tech support, although I hate doing that.
Here's my score on this:
43% (Yankee). Barely into the Yankee category.
Friday, February 20
I volunteered at Longwood Gardens today, and then did some shopping. I went to Sears to find some slip-on shoes just like my old ones, and they had some, but not in my size. They said they was a seasonal item and the season was ending, so I'm probably check a few more Sears stores, and maybe order them if I can't find the shoes in any of them. I also went to buy a new charger for my cell phone, and I did, but it turned out to be the wrong kind, so I'll have to bring it in and exchange it tomorrow.
Thursday, February 19
From Davey, erika, and Beth:
The Rules are:
Step 1: Open your Winamp or other MP3 player.
Step 2: Put all of your music on random.
Step 3: Write down the first ten songs it plays, no matter how embarrassing.
1. The Flashing Lights: Gone Are The Good Times
2. Laura Cantrell: The Whiskey Makes You Sweeter
3. Fastbacks: In The Winter
4. Pavement: Date With Ikea
5. Belle and Sebastian: Dog On Wheels
6. Belle and Sebastian: There's Too Much Love
7. The Posies: Paint Me
8. Pavement: Shady Lane
9. Free Kitten: Teenie Weenie Boppie
10. Lisa Lisa: Head To Toe
And then there's this:
Check out my Morality! 71% liberal, 29% conservative
Wednesday, February 18
1. I spilled some liquid paper on my suit pants the other day. I guess I should take them to a dry cleaner. I'm hoping they'll be able to get it out. I should probably have my other suit dry cleaned too, while I'm at it. I wonder how much that will cost.
2. My throat has been kind of sore as of late. That sucks.
3. I need to get some new shoes.
4. I wish I could write more than a little tiny bit at a time on my Oz manuscript. I think it's getting near the end, and while I have some idea how I want to wrap it up, I'm not entirely sure how to go about it. I suck at writing endings, really. This is just a rough draft, though, so I should try to get it finished soon.
Tuesday, February 17
I had an interview for a part-time position at a public library this morning. I guess it went all right.
Sean Hannity is going to be at Borders in the King of Prussia Mall this Saturday, promoting a book called something like "Defeating Liberalism." Anyone in the area can stop by and thank him for doing his part to keep ignorance and intolerance alive.
Monday, February 16
I tried to install the new Sims expansion pack last night, and it wouldn't work. It kept freezing during the installation process. I was worried that it wasn't compatible with my operating system, but, fortunately, I was able to install it today, so it must have just been a temporary problem with my computer. Windows Me seems to crash a lot, though, so I should probably upgrade once I have enough money (yeah, that THAT will ever happen). I've heard XP doesn't freeze up as much.
Anyway, the game itself seems pretty cool. I tried bringing one of my families to Magic Town, and mixing ingredients for a few spells, but I didn't really feel like playing all that much today, so I didn't actually try casting any of the spells. There are apparently also magic duels, which might be fun. According to the instruction book, Sims who practice magic in front of non-magical Sims will be fined. Sounds kind of like a Harry Potter rip-off idea to me, but maybe not.
I should probably practice my guitar a little later this evening.
Sunday, February 15
I haven't been on the computer all that much recently, so I haven't been writing here. Now, however, I'm at work without much else to do, so I might as well write something.
Last Thursday, Beth and I spent the night in Atlantic City. She'd done that before, but I hadn't. I put $10 into the nickel slots, and ended up winning another $10. Not much money, to be sure, but more than I've ever won before.
Saturday was Valentine's Day, so Beth and I exchanged gifts. I gave her a plush Chococat (a Sanrio character), the third season Mr. Show DVD, and a heart-shaped box of Hershey's Kisses. She gave me the newest Sims expansion pack, a DVD of L. Frank Baum's silent movie His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz, and a box of chocolates. At night, we went out to eat with Mark and his girlfriend Katie. We were going to go to Bennigan's, but they kept adding on to how long our wait was supposed to be, so we gave up at went to Friendly's instead.
Also on Saturday, Beth let me set up a town on her Animal Crossing game, so I played that for a while. The game is fun overall, but I'm not particularly good at fishing, which is probably the best way to make money. I think I'm getting better at it, though. I'm not sure what I think of the game's real-time aspect. It's an interesting concept, but it means you have to be able to play at pretty much any time of day, or you'll miss out on stuff. If you can only play at night, for instance, then you're usually not able to go shopping.
And for my obligatory American Idol rant, what did people see in that Diane girl who always wears pink and black? For that matter, was that "I got the music in me" thing she sang even a real song? I didn't think much of that guy who made third place, either. In fact, those two were my least favorites out of everyone that week, but apparently a lot of people (or at least a few people who don't mind calling over and over again) disagree.
Thursday, February 12
If you watch American Idol and haven't done so, you should read the Jaded Journalist's recaps. They're pretty funny. Last night, I was trying (and not succeeding) to avoid laughing out loud at work over something he wrote (although I don't remember exactly what). In one of the recaps, he actually mentions They Might Be Giants, although he does get their lyrics wrong:
"The singing starts and Eric Yoder immediately proves my theory that somebody will write an incredibly literal song. It’s like I’m listening to They Might Be Giants all of a sudden. 'Now you’re older than you’ve ever been. And now you’re a little older.'"
Wednesday, February 11
I'm sorry I haven't written in a while (as if anyone cares). I guess I've gotten lazy as far as blogging is concerned.
Beth taped last Wednesday's and yesterday's episodes of American Idol, so we watched them today. I'm glad Scooter Girl and the square-faced flirtatious guy didn't make it to the Top 32, because they both kind of bothered me for some reason. Probably the fact that they got so much exposure didn't help much. They were always on camera, as if the cameramen/editors/whatever were saying, "Hey, look! It's Scooter Girl! She's being wacky and energetic! And here's that square-faced guy, hitting on another chick!" Anyway, this week, I liked Fantasia, the girl with the afro, and that blonde girl who sang the jazz song. (In case you couldn't tell, I don't remember most of their names.)
I get somewhat annoyed at the judges (mostly Simon, but the others to a lesser extent) telling people they look and sound too old. This is partially because I sometimes can't see it at all, but also because I don't really see how it's a problem. I guess there's a stereotype in our society (and maybe most societies) that pop stars should be (or at least appear to be) young, but I don't really know that it's necessary.
I also think it's worth mentioning that They Might Be Giants (who I guess are pretty old by pop-star standards, although I certainly wouldn't call them old in general) are releasing a new EP in April. You can read about it here. I think it's cool that we'll be getting official versions of "Am I Awake?" and "Au Contraire." I'm less thrilled about "Caroline, No," and I kind of wonder why they're re-releasing "Ant." I do think the version they've been playing at the Other Thing shows is better than the one from the "Istanbul" EP, though, so hopefully that's the one they'll be including. I like the bit of "Hail To The Chief" that shows up after the line about the ant growing up to be President.
Monday, February 9
The Simpsons writers really seem to enjoy doing the "let's retell an old story with Simpsons characters" thing as of late. Last night's episode was pretty good, although maybe not as much so as the Bible story or tall tale ones. I liked Dr. Nick's appearances. This was probably his biggest part in an episode in some time.
I had a weird Sims-related dream last night, in which the school bus burned in a fire. Kind of disturbing, really.
I really should start practicing guitar again. My dad gave it to me for my eighteenth birthday, and I practiced every day for a short while, but then pretty much gave up on it. If I really want to learn how to play, I guess I should get lessons, but I'm not sure I can afford them at this point, so I should at least stay in practice until I can.
Sunday, February 8
Last night, there was apparently a leak in the gas main, or something of the sort. Some firemen came in to check our basement for gas, but, fortunately, there wasn't any there, and our house didn't blow up. It was eventually discovered that the main under the street was the problem, so there were workers breaking up the street all night.
Saturday, February 7
The printer at this library keeps jamming. They apparently put in a service request for it, but I guess no one has gotten around to fixing it. I think it would make more sense to just not let people use it until it's fixed, but that's not what we're doing, unfortunately.
I wonder if any buildings other than the bookstore one (which is apparently closed today) have vending machines. Probably not, which means I won't be able to buy a drink for lunch today. I guess I should start stocking up on drinks, so I won't have this problem anymore.
Friday, February 6
I finished the last story in the most recent Oziana, "Dr. Byz Zaar in Oz," last night. It was about a mesmerizer who came to the Emerald City allegedly to put on a show, but who really had more sinister motives. Not the most original idea, perhaps, but I found it to be implemented quite well. I liked Dr. Zaar's hypnotism of Cap'n Bill and Jack Pumpkinhead, and the characterization of the Wizard of Oz. (I suppose it sometimes takes one con-artist to spot another.)
Thursday, February 5
You're an Indie Pop Kid. You like songs about
relationships and the prettiness of nature.
You're sentimental, but not certainly not emo.
Oh, and if you aren't an English Major, you
You Know Yer Indie. Let's Sub-Categorize.
brought to you by Quizilla
I guess that's not TOO inaccurate. I don't think anybody should be an English major, though.
I stupidly didn't think to back up my Sims data when uninstalling and reinstalling the game. Fortunately, my old families and houses were still in the Export folders, so I was able to get them back. I think I accidentally deleted one of my houses, though, and nobody has any friends anymore. It's not a big deal, especially since most of my families are rich enough that they don't really need to get any more promotions, but making friends is one of the more tedious aspects to the game, especially since Hot Date. I think friend-making would be more fun if you had more direct control over it--letting YOU decide what to talk about, for instance, and how your Sim reacts to what other Sims do to them. There are a lot of improvements I think could be made, though, many of which are probably impossible due to programming restrictions. Maybe I'll write about them sometime, but not right now.
I might actually want to rebuild some of my richer Sim families' houses from scratch. I'm not really very good with design, and most of the houses I made don't really have very nice layouts. I was purposely trying to be tacky and/or nonsensical with some of them, but others just didn't work out as well as they might have. My best house might be the "castle" one, which really doesn't look much like a castle (that's pretty much impossible without turrets and such), but does have a fairly logical layout.
In non-Sims news, I got the 2003 issue of Oziana, the International Wizard of Oz Club's fiction magzine, in the mail. So far, I've read the first two stories, "The Bashful Baker of Oz" and "Tik-Tok's Transformation." The former was very good, I thought. I remember the author, Kieran Miller, mentioning it on Nonestica, and being interested in reading it. Since it focuses on fairly ordinary Ozites rather than established celebrities, it provides a somewhat different perspective on Oz and the Emerald City. The latter story was okay, although I don't think its premise (Tik-Tok coming to life) was explored that fully, and it didn't really work the way I would have expected it to, either. It's interesting to know that Ozma apparently still carries a grudge against Eureka many years after Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, however.
Wednesday, February 4
So I'm apparently unable to send mail to AOL users. Does anyone have any idea what the problem might be?
Thanks to the sandwich people at Wawa taking a long time to get around to making my lunch, bad traffic, and then the parking lot being really crowded, I ended up being late for work. (To be honest, I think only the middle reason really had that much effect; the other two just added to my general annoyance.) It's not such a big deal, I guess, but I obviously prefer being on time.
I still need to decide how to spend the Amazon gift certificate my brother gave me.
Tuesday, February 3
I had a weird Oz-related dream last night, which actually relates somewhat to the name of my blog and livejournal. To provide background to those of you who aren't familiar with the Oz books, Ruth Plumly Thompson's Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz had several characters visiting Stratovania, a kingdom in the stratosphere above Oz. The Tin Woodman claimed the country for Oz, and its ruler King Strutoovious VII (or "Strut of the Strat" for short) took offense at this, and tried to conquer the Emerald City. In my dream, I was reading a book where the Wizard of Oz returned to Stratovania in the company of a boy (possibly his assistant Number Nine), a woman with a short name beginning with the letter A (maybe Ana?), two small animals (one, I believe, being Dorothy's cat Eureka, but I'm not sure about the other one), and some other Ozites. They somehow got into a fight with Strut, and he had his blowmen apparently kill the two animals, although they were later revived. Number Nine then used the Magic Belt to banish Strut and his assistant Ice (who did not appear in Ozoplaning) to the inside of a fiery mountain, and Ana revealed that she was the twin sister of Strut's wife, Queen Kabebe. I believe the story changed as I read it. Strut's soldiers had initially attacked the animals with ordinary bullets, but then I remembered they actually used horns that blew things away (although I apparently didn't remember how the horns actually worked, or the fact that Ozma had removed all power from them at the end of Ozoplaning). I also think that, when I realized that there was nothing in the story about what happened to the government of Stratovania after Strut was banished, something about that appeared. It was pretty interesting, although maybe not that much like a traditional Oz story. I might want to incorporate some of it into something I write, though. I remember dreaming many years ago about seeing the book title The Royal Crab of Oz, and wanting to do something with that, but so far I haven't. If I ever do, I might change the Royal Crab to a Crab Emperor, as a play on Crab Imperial.
Monday, February 2
I didn't watch any Super Bowl last night (not that this is anything unusual for me; I never watch football), but I DID hear a (non-Pixies) Frank Black song on the radio for what might have been the first time. They played "The Snake" on a classic rock station. It was part of some "underground" show or something, but since the other songs they played were by bands like the Byrds and the Turtles, I'm not sure how Frank got in there, but I'm not complaining.
I should probably stop blogging about hearing songs by artists I really like on the radio, but it IS a rarity.