the further adventures of

Mike Pirnat

a leaf on the wind

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Wish It Was Sunday

Apparently, today is the single day of the year that is in most dire need of listening to the Bangles' "Manic Monday" until your head explodes with nostalgic, new-wave cheer. That's right, today is officially the most depressing day of the year.

To cheer you all up, here's a nice little follow-up to last time's Darth Tater link... One of the better Fark Photoshop contests of the last few weeks.

There, doesn't that feel better?

In other news, my copy of the one-volume 50th anniversary edition of The Lord of the Rings finally arrived today, along with the 2005 calendars that had been holding up my order. It's a really, really nice set, and well deserving of the high praise that has been heaped upon it (besides, of course, being Lord of the Rings, which rather goes without saying). And there was much rejoicing...

Similar amounts of celebration arose from my astoundingly productive work day, during which time I managed to catch up on the work I had planned to do on Saturday, and still polish off everything that was on today's to-do list. It just goes to show what I can do with a fully-charged iPod and no meetings to get in my way. w00t!

Taking a bold step into 1999 (or perhaps 2000), I finally got around to setting up a Photoshop droplet to automatically batch process photos to be uploaded/attached to entries in my wine notes wiki. This should give my iMac something to do while I tinker on other things, and it'll get me one step closer to computing nirvana (or something).

Finally, and thankfully, the kittens graced us with the easiest and least-fussy claw-trimming session so far. If only all "claw nights" could be so--what's the word I'm looking for? Injury-free!

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The Highly Belated Christmas Loot Post

Once upon a time (not quite a month ago), I was going to mention a few notable items from our Christmas loot, but then there was that whole tsunami thing, and I felt weird about bragging or something, and then I realized that it was silly to restrict myself like that, and then I got swamped at work, and, well, now it's almost February. So, I figure it's now or never. I'll be good and keep the loot list to a minimum...

My dearest Liz got me the signed, hardback, single-volume edition of Bone. Just as soon as I clear some bookshelf space (so that I can have the headboard room), I'll be tearing into it with glee.

I got Liz some fancy wine glasses--four-packs of the Riedel Bordeaux and Burgundy stemware. It's not just hype; they do make a rather astounding taste and smell difference.

Santa was also especially kind, topping off our stockings with a gift box of Tres Sabores Zinfandels--three distinctly different bottles, made by three distinctly different winemakers, from the same vineyard. This looks especially nummy.

Additionally, Santa dropped off a Harmony 688 remote control. I love, love, love this remote; it is, finally, everything I was looking for in a universal remote. Mostly, that means that it has fully programmable hard buttons for pretty much everything you would ever want, in a decent enough layout to be usable and comfortable, is shaped vaguely like the nigh-miraculous Tivo remote (which has the best remote ergonomics EVER), and can cope with an arbitrary collection of hardware without being pesky or capricious. Oh, and it's cross-platform too--it fully supports being programmed on MacOS X as well as Windows, and Linux software is on the way. In the few weeks since Christmas, it has allowed us to retire the seven remotes that were necessary to drive our family room, and it's delightfully easy to customize to our needs. Major kudos to Santa, this one gets five out of five!

Okay. Enough of that. I've got to get back to complaining about the snow, or something.

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A Small Note of Miscellaneous Things

Haven't posted in a while--been busy chasing after the kittens, taking photos, and trying to sleep while they play on us at all hours of the night. Oh, yes, and there's that silly work thing too. The good news is that I had a Day Without Meetings yesterday; coupled with an extreme case of Just-One-More-Thing-itis, it means that I got a lot of stuff done yesterday. So, hopefully there is time for new kitten photos to be posted today.

Gave myself a lovely great cut on the tip of my left middle finger last night whilst cleaning cheese leftovers off of a sharper-than-expected knife. Got the bleeding stopped within a couple minutes, and I can tell that, three bandages later, that it's starting to get a bit better, but it's still a bit scary looking. Hopefully there will be no need for stitches.

For those with iTunes and large music collections, you may find Smart Playlists.com to be of some not insignificant interest.

Liz and I slept horribly last night, but that is largely due to our own silliness. Kaufman's was running a huge sale on down comforters, and Liz has been wanting a down comforter for years, and both of us agree that, given the current kitten situation, a bed covering without any sentimental value is a Smart Idea... Thus, a down comforter and cover set was acquired for a ridiculously reasonable sum, prepped, and placed onto the bed to be used last night. Of course, neither of us paid a whit of attention to the unseasonably warm weather, so by three o'clock in the morning, when the house still hadn't cooled past 70 degrees, we in our flannel sheets and flannel PJ's were sweaty little piggies. I spent the next few hours being awake for 20 minutes, asleep for 30-45, awake for 20 minutes, asleep again, and so on. Miserable.

The sleep experience was not helped by the fact that I had one of my trademark Red Wine Dreams, and this one was just as bizarre as most. Liz and I were visiting Canada, and working on a farm to help pay for the fancy dinner we were going to later that night. I was going to watch my Star Wars DVD's, and the generous farmer let me use his DVD player to preview them. I was aghast to find this beloved film 100% replaced by CG animation, and the cast were all Lego minifigs. At chapter breaks, the movie was interrupted by dumb Spongebob Squarepants games that were not skippable, and there was voiceover narration throughout. This upset me greatly, and we immediately left the farm, swearing about how Lucas had completely raped my childhood. We were on our way into town when I realized that I had left some things back at the farm; when I returned to the farm and was unable to locate my lost items, the farmer consoled me by taking me inside to visit his well-stocked comic book store.

I'm still not sure what it all means, but I'm bloody glad that I woke up at that point.

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Post-Thanksgiving

Got some good play time in on LotR: The Third Age yesterday afternoon. Having just finished the Helm's Deep chapter, I am apparently (according to the game), 56% complete. It's not a tremendously wonderful game, but as RPG's go, one could do worse. Running around various Middle Earth locales, mindlessly whomping on the various minions of darkness, and not really worrying too much about the plot is kind of fun. It's kind of like a cheap but drinkable sparkling wine; it's quite enjoyable, if not terribly deep.

Thursday we got downtown earlier than expected, so we spent half an hour or so wandering through the new Millennium Park. Highlights of the park include Cloud Gate, a giant, reflective bean-shaped sculpture that manages to capture most of the Chicago skyline; the Crown Fountain, two pillars of glass block that constantly shift colors; and the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, an outdoor ampitheatre that's probably my favorite of Frank Gehry's designs. The park is lovely, and dynamic, and worth repeat visits throughout the day and throughout the year.

Thanksgiving dinner at Bin 36 was, unsurprisingly, and quite satisfyingly, marvelous. Had a round of various sparklers for starters, then the prix fixe menu with wine pairings. I had the chestnut soup with wild rice and prosciutto, which matched perfectly with the somewhat oaky chardonnay. We all had the turkey as our main course, with a very, very nice pinot noir. This course included their nummy family-style extras: chorizo cornbread (my favorite!), green beans almondine, butter mashed potatoes, wild rice, marshmallow yams, and roasted veggies (parsnips, brussels sprouts, and carrots prepared with apple cider). For dessert, I chose the apple crisp, which was served with a dollop of vanilla ice cream, and paired with a beerenauslese reisling, which is almost but not quite ice wine, and super-fabulously tasty.

Visited some of Liz's family after dinner.

Slept late today, drove out to Oakbrook to help Liz kill off some gift certificates at Marshall Field, and had a nice lunch at a seafood grille sort of place whose name eludes me... The aromas of the wood-fired grille bewitched us from the parking lot as we approached.

Had a bit of a rest back at Anne's, then we were out again to help her with some Christmas shopping, which can be summarized in two simple words--abject hell. Do not, under any circumstances, visit either Best Buy or Toys R Us on Black Friday. *shudder*

Of particular annoyance, and unrelated to the crowds of people, is the fact that the record companies seem to have learned from the DVD folks, and I am now faced with the prospect of double-dipping on CD's. My brief foray through the music section turned up three potential double-dips: a two-disc version of the Norah Jones Home, featuring some extra tracks and DVD material; a two-disc version of Franz Ferdinand's self-titled album, again featuring extra tracks; and a two-disc "10 year anniversary" edition of Nine Inch Nails' The Downward Spiral, which features the original album remastered as a hybrid CD/SACD on disc one, and which collects a bunch of B-sides, demos, and previously unreleased material on the second disc. Grumble, grumble, grumble!

We followed up our sojourn in retail hell with dinner at Chi Tung, whose Thai red curry took my taste buds to a very happy place. (I have had the most incredible curry cravings lately, so this was quite welcome.)

Back to Anne's for a little tech support. Jiggled some settings on her wireless router, got Liz's Powerbook happily chatting with it, and took notes so that the next tech support victim has a reference point.

Now, it looks like it's time to drink some pinot. Tomorrow we drive to Dayton, and Sunday we pick up the kittens! (Sorry, no 11-week photos to share today...)

G'night!

[Edit@2004-10-27 21:03: fixed menu listing, added Millennium Park bits]

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Three Cheers For Wanton Consumerist Behavior

I must have been stressing a lot lately, because the last couple of weeks seem awfully irresponsible of me, from a converting-the-equity-of-my-labor-into-useless-economy-fueling-crap sort of perspective. I think I've also been in withdrawal ever since my favorite record store here closed... I need my fix, man!

Looking back over the past couple of weeks, the following essentially useless but entertaining crap has entered my life:

Trip to Stratford, Ontario

  • "MacStew" apron (complete with recipe for "toil and trouble"--it's a Shakespeare thing, you see) for [info]aquamindy
  • Rasputina's Lost & Found on CD
  • BeatleJazz volumes one and two on CD (a pleasant accompaniment to a bottle of wine)
  • A CD for my father for Christmas
  • Assorted very cool children's books

Between Vacations
I was having an incredibly shit work week between returning from Stratford and leaving for California...

  • The Cure's new The Cure on CD (the US version; I'll probably acquire the UK or Japanese edition later on)
  • Concrete Blonde's new album, Mojave (which is satisfyingly excellent)
  • Three pairs of socks! (Brown ones!)
  • Two relatively nice-yet-casual button-down shirts (I am becoming a (well-dressed) whore for The Gap, please kill me NOW!)
  • Casual grey zip-uppy thing also from Gap; [info]aquamindy says it looks cute on me, and it was on sale too, so... yeah, that's justified, right?

Berkeley/San Francisco/Monterey

  • Part of an anniversary gift for [info]aquamindy from the Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • VNV Nation's Pastperfect, a 3-disc DVD set of concert video, interviews, shenanagins, and various wicked-cool stuff. I don't feel guilty in the slightest about buying this, because it's just too fucking cool.
  • A used copy of Morrowind for the X-Box--a "game of the year" for just $12!
  • Two (formerly?) out-of-print Criterion DVD's (that seem to be back in print again, so much for feeling like I found some treasures), M. Hulot's Holiday and Mon Oncle
  • Cheapass Games! I got:

    The Despair of Being Alone In Cleveland For A Week
    I had to run to the grocery store for food, and to Bed, Bath & Beyond for replacement razor blade parts (electric weasels ripped my flesh), so I just HAD to go to Borders to console myself in my loneliness...

    • Isaac Asimov's Foundation's Edge, as I had just finished the first three Foundation books
    • Dan Simmons' Ilium, which I have been dying to read for some time

    But the pièce de résistance arrived in this week's mail...

    Ladies and gents, I give you... the world's best Linux shirt! With the mighty powers of this 100% cotton marvel, I can be two different kinds of geek at the same time! Will wonders never cease??

    Please keep Fight Club references to yourselves; I am just fine with being owned by my posessions, thank you ever so much.

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Missing My Generation

So My Generation (my favorite local music store) is officially dead, and it turns out that now I need them more than ever. Why?

Well...

  • ...there's a new Cure album (with many different international versions)
  • ...there's the new Cure single
  • ...there's a new Cranes album in about a week
  • ...there's a new Skinny Puppy album
  • ...there's a new Ministry album (which sounds absolutely amazing from the iTMS samples, reminds me a lot of Psalm 69, one of my favorite albums)
  • ...there's a new Concrete Blonde album (which also sounds awesome from iTMS samples)
  • ...there's a new Faithless album
  • ...and a new Wilco album

I'd rather buy stuff at My Gen, but they're dead... And ordering online sucks, because I hate waiting for things. What's my alternative for instant gratification? I don't like the prices at Borders, but I might have to stoop to that level in order to get my fix.

Damn...

This sucks, Beavis.

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Return of the Brain-Melting Friday Afternoons

Somewhere, someone has flipped the switch, and Cleveland has suddenly lurched out of its long, dreary season into one of sunshine, flowers, and warming temperatures. Of course, there's always a day or two of delay before the climate control in the office adjusts to the change, so it's currently just shy of fifty million degrees in my cube, and what's left of my motivation has thoroughly evaporated. I can't even say that "all I can think about" is getting out of here to go enjoy the weekend, because I apparently can't even be bothered to form such a thing into a single, coherent thought.

Yup, it's definitely spring. Hard-core.

In other news... Um. Let's see.

  • Instead of finishing KoTOR last night, Liz and I went furniture shopping. We didn't have any luck with what we had been looking to purchase (an armoire suitable for holding a TV and associated stuff that would match, or at least get along with, the pine furniture in our bedroom)... But true to form, we ended up finding a dining room set that will go fabulously with the kitchen once the new cabinets are in. Of course, a dining room set is approximately an order of magnitude (or so) more expensive than a single piece of furniture, because life just wouldn't work any other way. I really like the dining room set, though; the chairs are really comfortable, and they look beautiful.
  • Remember when I saw One Man Star Wars? Well! Liz informs me that the same guy will soon be doing One Man Lord of the Rings! Rock!!
  • Looking forward to a weekend of fun as part of Brent's bachelor party... Thankfully the paintball plans were scrapped (not only could I not make it at the time, I am still hurting from my own bachelor party paintball session back in 2000!).
  • Only two and a half days until our kitchen goes buh-bye! I plan on posting pictures daily, so stay tuned...
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Taking the Good With the Bad

Bad: Being partly responsible for a disaster in our production server farm on Monday. (Remember, kids, if the other guy writes something with a horrible memory leak, don't call it every time a page gets loaded!)

Good: Coming home after my utterly horrid Monday, lightsabering the shit out of some bad guys, and having pizza and wine with [info]aquamindy and snuggling while watching Toy Story. (Sigh... She's so good to me!)

Bad: Wrestling with stupid bureaucracy and unrealistic project schedules at work.

Good: The ability to leave work at the office.

Bad: My nigh-uncontrollable addiction to KoTOR, and the time necessary to calm down after particularly intense battles.

Good: Almost done! Almost done! So close to having my life back!! Gaaaahh!!!!!

Bad: My Generation, the best record store in my immediate vicinity (really one of the best record stores of my life), is closing on April 25. The messages on their official mailing list are quite depressing; the most recent ones detail what all you would get if you bought the place (cash registers, neon sign, etc. etc.). And in the store this evening, the live James Brown CD that was on had hit a long track that was all about "you're leaving, you're throwing me away, it's all over." I suddenly had a vision of myself and my fellow customers as a murder of crows, picking through the carrion of a once-great beast for some tender morsels, and it sickened me.

Good: Their CD's and DVD's have extra discounts now, to help them clean out inventory. It's a good excuse to pick up things that I'd been holding off on (Jackie Brown and Real Genius on DVD) and discover some new things (On!Air!Library!, The Martinis, and Franz Ferdinand on CD).

Good: Kill Bill 2 arrives on Friday; picked up the CD today; woo-hoo!!

Bad: Don't think I can see it on Friday; determined to wait and not listen to the soundtrack until after I see the movie. Stupid waiting!

Bad: Starting Monday, our kitchen is GONE. We'll have to either grill outside, go out, or mooch off of, well, anyone that will let us.

Good: The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth! (That's for you Evangelion fans out there...)

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The Ring's the Thing

Egads, but it's been far too long since I've posted anything here. I guess I'd better write about this weekend while it's still fresh.

Sometime last fall, I bouncily reported to my wife that the Columbus Orchestra would be performing Howard Shore's Lord of the Rings Symphony: Six Movements for Orchestra and Chorus in March, and would she at all be interested in possibly maybe going. At the time, she shrugged and said sure, and I ordered tickets online just as lickety-split quick as I could.

Fast forward to this weekend. It turned out that Columbus would have the honor of hosting the US premiere of the symphony. Oh, excitement!

We both took Friday off from work so that we could sleep in, pack some overnight things, and have a leisurely drive down to Columbus. Stopped briefly along the way to feed my addiction for Mephisto shoes (damn comfy, and a good outlet for a portion of my bonus), then got settled in at the Capitol Square Hyatt for a brief rest.

We got appropriately spiffed-up and embarked on our journey.

Dinner was a handful of blocks away at Mitchell's Steakhouse, which is located in a former bank. An enormous space, with huge, ornately decorated ceilings, it still manages to feel intimate. The food was delicious, the wine we selected Langtry's 1998 Meritage) was a fabulous match, and the service was great (I was amazed by the fact that our waitress took the vastly over-charred creme brulee off of our bill even though we'd eaten almost all of it, and hadn't asked for it to be sent back or anything).

Our destination for the performance was the Ohio Theatre, conveniently located right next to the Hyatt. It's truly a beautiful location, absolutely lovely at every square inch. I was somewhat alarmed as we were shown to our seats; I remembered I had purchased loge tickets all those months and months ago, but I'd never actually bothered to work out where we'd be sitting. Well. Surprise! We were in the very first row of the loge, just a few seats to the right of center. I honestly could not have asked for a better location. Wow! And, hey, I asked, what might be the deal with the three screens with the tengwar glyphs on them? I hadn't heard about any kind of video accompaniment. Double wow! As the musicians (three choirs and a full orchestra!) started to file in and warm up, I started to really geek out with anticipation.

I can't even begin to describe how much I loved the performance. Shore's Rings music has a way of completely captivating me. And, I'll be honest, there are certain places in the score so achingly beautiful that I can't help but get quite teary-eyed. All the while, music was matched with projected video of sketches by artist John Howe, which in themselves were stunning. The video was fairly straightforward, with lots of "Ken Burns Effect," but quite powerful with the music, really tapping directly into the imagination. The balrog and the destruction of Mordor were particularly powerful sequences when paired with the video. It was really a tremendous, amazing honor to be present; the audience's standing ovation at the end went on and on and on and on... Shore seemed quite overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and appreciation. (I half expected him to good-naturedly shoo us out as I've seen John Williams do, but it didn't happen; I don't think he's quite so used to this kind of "rock star" treatment yet.)

Okay, so there were a couple of nits that I'll pick. The soloist from the children's choir was decent, but not quite up to snuff, and certainly no Edward Ross, so the vocal portion of "The Breaking of the Fellowship" was not quite as exquisite as I would have liked it. On the other hand, I was impressed by the female soloist who sang in the movements from The Two Towers and The Return of the King--she had a LOT of different material to cover, and acquitted herself quite well. (She had to sing the Emiliana Torrini "Gollum's Song," had to try to fill Annie Lennox's shoes for "Into the West," had all of Ben Del Maestro's material from both Towers and King... Impressive!)

My only other nit is just from the perspective of wishing certain things hadn't been cut in order to fit the symphony into a comfortable length of time. For the most part, I had no problems with what was omitted, or how transitions were constructed, but I really wanted to hear the "Shelob's Lair" music, because I love how much of a tripped-out Bernard Herrman homage it is, all kinds of creepy and wild and tumultuous and perfect for Shelob.

But, like I said, it was a tremendous evening, and I loved it.

In case you were really curious, here's what makes up the symphony:

  • The Fellowship of the Ring
    Movement One

    • The Prophecy
    • Concerning Hobbits
    • The Shadow of the Past
    • A Short Cut to Mushrooms
    • The Old Forest
    • A Knife in the Dark
  • Movement Two

    • Many Meetings
    • The Ring Goes South
    • A Journey in the Dark
    • The Bridge of Khazad-dûm
    • Lothlórien
    • Gandalf's Lament
    • Farewell to Lórien
    • The Great River
    • The Breaking of the Fellowship
  • Intermission
  • The Two Towers
    Movement Three

    • Foundations of Stone
    • The Taming of Smeagol
    • The Riders of Rohan
    • The Black Gate is Closed
    • Evenstar
    • The White Rider
    • Treebeard
    • The Forbidden Pool
  • Movement Four

    • The Hornburg
    • Forth Eorlingas
    • Isengard Unleashed
    • Gollum's Song
  • The Return of the King
    Movement Five

    • Hope and Memory
    • The White Tree
    • The Steward of Gondor
    • Cirith Ungol
    • Anduril
  • Movement Six

    • The End of All Things
    • The Return of the King
    • The Grey Havens
    • Into the West

Today we had some quickie errands to take care of in Columbus, had lunch at The Ocean Club, another of Cameron Mitchell's restaurants. The food was delightful and I must now publicly declare my passionate love for the decor! Every inch is organic, elegant, underwater, cool! I will definitely be back, and you should check it out too.

Along the way back home, we also stopped at Grandpa's Cheese Barn, because, well, with a name like "Cheese Barn," it has to be worth checking out. It made a nice excuse to get out of the car for a bit, and didn't disappoint. The cheese and other things out for sampling were quite tasty. Grandpa's also features a deli, various meats and smoked dead things, über-quaint kitchy gifts, home made ice cream, and fudge. We escaped with minimal damages, only a block of cranberry cheese, the best seventy-five-cent chocolate chip cookie in the universe, and a bottle of water. (The whiskey cheese was also tempting, but I was able to resist it.)

And thus we are returned, grateful for the journey, but glad to be home.

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