Thursday, May 31, 2007

News That Only Interests Me

I normally only post things (with varying levels of success) that I think will interest you. This one's for me, but I'm hoping that you may find something of interest.

Sepp Blatter, probably most famous for suggesting that female soccer players should wear tighter shorts, has been retained as President of FIFA, the world soccer organization. In his defence, he could have suggested that they play Shirts and Skins. (Yes, of course there's a wikipedia page, and it contains a) a link to its rival wikipedia page, Shirts versus skins; b) a link to the wikipedia breast page, in case you have no idea what one is; and c) a link to a website called Shirtless Men World, in case you need a source of outside information on shirtless men... a whole world of information, apparently.)

The old coot seems obsessed with uniforms, penalizing Cameroon's national team twice: first for wearing sleeveless uniforms in 2002, and again two years later for wearing unitards (I saw pictures... heavy emphasis on the "tard") that did not conform to the laws of the game. (Yes, soccer has laws, not rules. They were deadly serious about this crap back in 1886.)

Also, thanks to Sepp, players can be now penalized for engaging in that most traditional of goal celebrations: whipping off your shirt and running across the field. Although he claimed otherwise, it was obvious that this decision resulted from poorly-designed Nike jerseys worn during the 2002 World Cup that were well nigh impossible to put back on once removed, resulting in delays in restarting play.

He ran unopposed. Really? Nobody else wanted this job? He's doing such a fine job that nobody else in the whole world would have a chance against him? Maybe I should have filed this under WTF.

Scottish Softdrink Sausage Saves Sots

This story has hangovers and food that sounds like the result of a drunken bet; of course it's from Scotland.

Two new sausages made with Irn Bru, a carcinogenically orange soft drink used as a hangover cure, have been introduced by a butcher in Scotland. The butcher claims that they are perfect for breakfast on the morning after a hard night of drinking. You have two choices for your aftertaste, the Original Pork and Iron Brew Banger or the more exotic Pork Sweet Chili and Iron Brew Banger.

Hoots mon! Finally, something new to throw up.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Man Bites Dog

Serial douchebag Mark McGowan ate a corgi with Yoko Ono on a BBC radio program.

Of course PETA approved... because eating animals is wrong, but that corgi was a little asshole.

I'll leave the doggie bag jokes to less responsible media outlets.

Deadspot: Now I'm going to ask you that question once more, and if you say 'no' I'm going to shoot you through the head. Now, do you have any fact checkers at all?

BBC: No.


As it happens, Yoko didn't actually eat the corgi and was not, in point of fact, even in London when it happened. The BBC has since completely rewritten the story that appears when you follow the link.

Mark McGowan is, however, a douchebag.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Nipples For Robots?

"Although robots are increasingly more important to our society and have more advanced technology, they cannot yet do certain tasks like those carried out by mammals," according to researcher Professor Eduardo Ros Vidal.

Ewwwwww... I so don't want to know what he's talking about.

And of course they're also working on artificial skin for robots... Why am I not surprised?

Friday, May 25, 2007

How Do You Say Cold War in Mandarin?

The US is worried that China is moving toward a preemptive defense policy and is modernizing their nuclear arsenal. Iraqis responded, "Really? How'd that work out for you?"


Apparently there are people who have never seen Star Wars. Who knew? One of them recently gave it up for the BBC and related a very British play by play of the movie during his first viewing. His conclusion: "I really quite enjoyed that."

You know what? So did I, and I think you will too.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Recapping Tonight's Top Stories

McDonald's, unsatisfied with its role as a purveyor of fried meat products, has taken the next step in trying to become an arbiter of the English language by circulating a petition. Next up: angry letters to the editor, wearing their pants up around their armpits, and pissing and moaning at the city council meetings about the kids cutting across their lawn.

His Royal Highness, the Second Lieutenant, will not be on IED patrol in Iraq after all because, as it turns out, Iraq is a dangerous place. He has graciously decided not to quit the Army. British soldiers across Iraq immediately began calculating their place in the line of succession.

Democrats have already forgotten why they were elected.

People in the deep south are worried about "stealth racism", which is nice, now that they've eliminated the regular old "overt, right out in the open racism".

And last, but not least...

Mad Monkey Mauls Mopeds (OK, so it's an ape, not a monkey, but I only got as far as "Angry Ape Assaults" before I got stuck.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Big Black Nemesis, Parthenogenesis

Scientists at the Henry Doorly Zoo have confirmed the second coming of Christ. This time, he's a shark.

Now we just need a frickin laser, and we're all set.

Monday, May 21, 2007

A Man, A Flan, A Canal... Panama?

The lovely and talented Flannery Alden took a moment away from showing off her most excellent taste in hats and her mad Photobucket skills to ask me some questions. Unfortunately, all I've brought to the party are some smartass answers and this most bogus introduction.

1. You're new to the blogging jungle, how has your blog changed your life?

Great. Now I have Welcome To The Jungle stuck in my head. Thanks, Flan.

It may surprise you to find that witty banter makes up a vanishingly small part of my job. In fact, most people I work with would probably say that the less entertaining I am, the better. They're considerably older than I am and see me as a dangerously unpredictable live wire. When we had a meeting in the Netherlands, I was on the receiving end of not one, but two lectures skating around the idea that I shouldn’t scarper off to Amsterdam. They didn’t actually come right out and say that they suspected that I might spend the week in a blur of hookers, wooden shoes, and pot, but they were clearly not ready to rule out the possibility.

Where was I? Oh yes... my job is not funny. Blogging gives me an outlet for humor that doesn’t involve vivisecting my coworkers. (I know that doesn’t sound funny now, but I didn’t tell you the part about the monkey.)

The best part is that since I started blogging, I’ve been reading all of your blogs, and now I've got a whole new circle of friends that I talk to practically every day. Yay! It’s nice to communicate with other adults about things other than work, coaching, or children. Hey! Speaking of your blogs, shouldn’t you guys be writing something? Quick, entertain me!

2. Does anybody read books anymore? Do you? If so, what? If not, why not?

I was feeling cynical and grumpy when I wrote that. Errr... more cynical and grumpy than usual. Because my Local Independent Book Seller (TM) displays an unhealthy predilection for overpriced, large-format trade paperbacks, I’ve recently started going to the library again. Happily, we have a great library just a few blocks from our house, so I’ve been picking up a book or two almost every weekend. I read The Neil Gaiman Reader not too long ago. Some of it was, I thought, overly analytical, but the interviews were nice. I picked up the new Amy Sedaris book at the same time, and it was really funny. I ripped through You Suck, A Love Story in one lazy Sunday morning recently. Sue picked that one out; I thought it was really entertaining, she didn’t. However, this is my blog, so it's really only my opinion that counts. Booyah!

Lex and I both read Monster Blood Tattoo recently, and we’re looking forward to the sequel. I just picked up Book Crush (the young adult version of Book Lust) for the kids to find some summer reading, but I haven’t had a chance to look through it myself yet.

We’re looking at vacation plans now, so recently it’s been travel guides to the Midwestern states and the Project Censored 2006 report.

3. What annoys you the most in this world?

That’s a toughie. Where do I draw the line between things that annoy me and things that actually make me angry? I guess my biggest annoyance would have to be people who are inconsiderate of those around them, people who think that their convenience is more important than anyone or anything else. When Cafe Paradiso had to put up a little note at the cash register that you should please stop using your cell phone while you are ordering, I was stunned. Were these people raised by wolves?

People who jog in the street instead of on the sidewalk two feet away, people who abandon items in a store instead of taking them back to where they took them off the shelf, people who litter, people who insist upon driving under the speed limit just because they aren’t in a hurry, people who talk loudly during movies, people who obstruct traffic by riding bikes on major thoroughfares instead of taking a less busy street just a block away, people who think nothing of blathering on their cell phone in public places, all of you... what is your problem? Show a little couth. The world does not revolve around you.

It revolves around me.

4. You have a sharp mind in general, but you are especially insightful when it comes to politics; Do you think you'll ever run for office?

Thanks for the compliment. My interest in politics is a relic of my misspent youth. Coincidentally, since it was how I met Johnny, and since he talked me into blogging, it's the reason that I'm here. Hey, look who's there in the comments.

I was once president of an elementary school PTA, does that count? I think I’m unelectable for any office much higher than that, for which you should all be profoundly thankful.

I’ve thought a little about getting involved in the local Democratic machine, because I think it needs to return to a more grassroots mode. If I can’t afford to go to your fund raisers, then you’re probably not reaching the average voter. The big downside to that idea is that it would require a lot of time and effort, and they really don’t represent my views all that well. How much work do I really want to put into the lesser of two evils?

5. Death is not an option; which do you choose and why? 1. Lunch with Britney Spears at an open air cafe. 2. Golf outing with W., The Donald, and O.J. or 3. One year in Guantanamo in a cell between John McCain and Rosie O'Donnell.

When you say death is not an option, do you mean mine or theirs? If it’s just mine that’s off the table, then let me at the golf outing and start a pool taking bets on who takes the first booze-fueled driver to the noggin and how long it takes before Secret Service wrestles me to the ground.

Actually, that would probably be a two-fer. I’m guessing that engaging in berserk hijinks near the Resident would probably get me that stay in Guantanamo. I’m sure it wouldn’t be all bad; if I could spend the year heckling McCain, then having a cell next to Rosie would probably be tolerable. And I’ve always wanted to visit Cuba, so that’d be nice.

However, I think I’ll go to lunch with Britney. She’s got that "crazy chick" thing going for her, so it would probably be entertaining, and I’d get a meal out of it, which is always a plus. I’ll just have to keep an eye on any cutlery that’s within her reach.

Friday, May 18, 2007

More Posts About Buildings and Food

The insidious restaurant meme got me thinking about places to eat that I used to love and can no longer go to because they no longer exist. As much as that meme was about recommending good places to eat, I think it was so successful because it was also about sharing stories about the places we eat. Even though you can't go back to these places, I'm going to share them anyway.

The Nighthawk, Charleston, IL
The loss of the Nighthawk is the most painful of these five, because it had the one thing that none of the others could ever have matched... a direct connection to the Uptowner, the only bar in Charleston worth hanging out in. You could enter through the front door of the Nighthawk, place your order, and go through the side door into the Uptowner. By the time you got your drinks and found a booth, someone from the Nighthawk would find you in the bar with your order. At the end of the night, you could place an order at last call, go back and finish your drinks, and then pick up your late-night munchies on your way out. It was a stroke of total genius.

The Nighthawk was a victim of bar expansion. They knocked out the connecting wall and added a few extra tables to the Uptowner. Looking back, it was the beginning of the end of the scene. The final nail in the coffin was the addition of the pool tables when they expanded into the space next door. Once the pool tables came in, the Cellar was always closed, the lights got a little brighter, the crowd started to change, and things were never quite the same. The last time I stopped by the Uptowner, it was just a little bit dismal. It made me sad.

Go back in time and try: A basket of sliders and a good import from the bar.

Sandwich Boy, Urbana, IL
Life without good sandwiches is not worth living. I'm sorry, Johnny, but you live a sad, pale sham of an existence. I weep for you. Because I once upon a time worked for the low-life scumbag who started Jimmy John's, I can't bear to spend money there. Imagine my unbounded joy when Sandwich Boy opened in downtown Urbana. Fabulous sandwiches; great sodas in the cooler; a cool old building; a funny, cool owner; ...and hours that made no sense at all. It was great for lunch, impossible to get to at any other time, and gone long before its time.

It's Siam Terrace now, and it's on my list of top 5 places to eat in Urbana. You win some, you lose some.

Go back in time and try: The Italian sub (the heart and soul of any good sandwich shop), some sea salt and vinegar kettle chips, and an ice-cold Sprecher. Pickle on the side, thanks.

Seoul Carryout, Champaign, IL
This dingy little hole-in-the-wall was in the basement of building on campus, right next to a bar that I never went to, and can't remember the name of. Right in the heart of campustown and below street level, it was flooded at least once a year when the Boneyard rose and it looked like they finally stopped trying to clean up afterward. Everything in the place had seen better days, including the two tiny tables, the mismatched dinette chairs, and the owner. There was absolutely nowhere to legally park anywhere around it, but I would regularly risk tickets and towing to stop in for his amazing food... and then take it someplace sanitary to eat it.

I have no idea what's there now. Because the U of I entrance requirements are not high enough to filter out students who are not smart enough to look both ways before crossing a street, the cities of Champaign and Urbana spent a lot of money to make the campustown streets as impassible as humanly possible, so I never go there anymore, and now that Seoul Carryout is gone, I don't really have a reason.

Go back in time and try: The intensely spicy Beef Bulgogi or the Bibimbab.

The Bermuda Onion, Champaign, IL
When I first moved to town, this was a cool little restaurant, right on the corner next to the Great Impasta (which was tiny then, it hadn't moved down the block to its spacious, up-scale new digs) and the Art theater. Everything was good, but the onion rings were to die for: inch-thick slices of Bermuda onion with a light, crispy batter. The booths were cozy, the service was good, and the food was excellent.

It's Nitaya Thai now, and it still has the same funky blue neon waves along the bottom of the windows facing Church Street, but they covered the Bermuda Onion logo painted on the building's west wall with a funky mural of their own.

Go back in time and try: catching a good movie at the Art and then stopping in for the Bermuda onion rings... and a tic tac.

The Falcon, Bloomington-Normal, IL
This one I don't really miss for the food. Or the service. Or the ambiance. But this was our hangover spot of choice at ISU, and I miss it. After a long, hard night and a couple of hours of sleep, we would drag ourselves to the Falcon to refuel and try to start another day. The ritual always started the same way: Ice water, big bottle of tylenol, silverware check. The last step was the most important. If you had the dirtiest silverware, everybody else at the table chipped in and covered your tab. It was just one of our rules.

The Falcon burned down in a grease fire. Twice.

Set the Wayback Machine and try: to find clean silverware. Just try. Then order the biscuits and gravy.

(More interviewy goodness on Monday...)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Joy Division Movie

Hey, has anyone heard anything about Control, the movie about Ian Curtis? ...aside from this, I mean.

The fact that it's apparently getting good critical reviews is encouraging. Less encouraging is the fact that Momentum Pictures is also making, I kid you not, a Bratz movie.

(In other news, I'll have a real post tomorrow, promise!)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

It's All About Me, Baby!

It's contagious. I've been bitten by the interview meme. When I mentioned what hard work it all seemed, two of my favorite bloggers actually asked for the chance to interview me. Because I'm such an accommodating person (Stop that! I am so.) I said yes. Here is the first of those interviews. Dale managed to squeeze in nine questions and a bonus, despite using only 5 numbers. I think he used some kind of Canadian math. Because I never know when to stop writing, or at least when to stop equivocating, I reciprocated by squeezing in multiple answers to his questions. The veil of secrecy will never be the same again.

1. As it turns out, Johnny Yen was right, he encouraged you to blog on the basis that you're smart and funny and we saw that it was so. Flannery Alden was also right: you don't seem to be annoying. These are admirable traits in a blogger. What's your reaction to our reaction to you? Are you enjoying the experience or do you find it tough coming up with 'material'?

Thanks. Johnny sets the blogging bar pretty high, so I usually have to treat it like a limbo stick... it’s so much easier than trying to go over it.

I feel pretty lucky that I found kindred spirits so quickly. If I didn’t have such great readers, this wouldn’t be nearly so much fun. Awwww... group hug!

I don’t usually have a problem coming up with material. On any given day, somebody somewhere has probably done or said something dumb. What I usually have trouble with is coming up with material that will interest someone besides me. I think I need to start putting some of my half-formed (half-baked?) ideas into my edit space. I have several ideas that I’ve been kicking around for a while, but I never seem to remember them until after I’ve posted about something else.

2. Your affinity is showing Deadspot. If you could appear as a character on one of your favourite British shows, which show would it be and what form would you take? Are you good at accents?

I’d like to appear in an episode of the Avengers in a bit part as Diana Rigg’s leather catsuit. However, because of the technical issues involved in getting me back to 1965, I think I’m slightly more likely to be cast as Jeffrey’s cousin on Coupling (The British version, of course, not the wretched American one). I’m torn. My inner geek wants me to pick Doctor Who, not only because I love the show, but also because Catherine Tate is so great. However, as much as I love the new incarnation of the series, I think I might have to take a role on Spaced if they were both offered.

I’d like to think that I’m good at accents. We read a lot of the Harry Potter books on family vacations, and I did most of the reading aloud on long car trips, in part because I could do different voices for all of the characters. Once the movies came out, it was a little odd because we suddenly had a frame of reference, but I do a pretty good Snape, if I do say so myself. ...and I just did.

3. Like the children of some of my favourite bloggers, yours seem to be funny, smart and so not ready for the sweatshop. Would you care to share any special moments that have made you so proud you could burst?

My kids set a pretty high standard for themselves. They’re smart, compassionate, funny lefties. I think they’re going to turn out to be pretty good people. Against that background level of greatness, it's hard to pick out individual favorite moments, but here are two: I think I was the most proud when my teenage daughter decided that I was the less-embarrassing parent. Frankly, nobody was more surprised than I was. A close second would be when my son asked if he might grow up to be like me and my friend Justin. He asked with enthusiasm, rather than the horror and dread I would have expected to accompany that question.

4. William S. Burroughs said it, Laurie Anderson sang it and you typed it: Language is a virus. Because you hate talking on the phone, do you ever find yourself just phoning it in? Have you ever had to give a speech to a large group and how did it go?

I much prefer phoning it in to actually phoning, given the option.

I think the biggest group before which I've spoken was at an anti-nuke concert/rally on the south quad at EIU. It was a pretty big deal. We had bands playing sets all day with speakers in between, and there were hundreds of people on the quad. One of our speakers failed to show up at the appointed hour, and as the band started their last song, I was tapped to fill in for the missing speaker. I had to come up with something on the spot to kill 5 or 10 minutes while the bands swapped equipment. Luckily, we’d started drinking early. I think it went fairly well, all things considered. The headlining speaker had just been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize; so speaking on the same stage was pretty cool... for me. Less so for him, I’m guessing.

5. Who would you want to play you in the film of your blog? And who would they cast despite your protestations?

After I suggest a Tim Burton/Danny Elfman claymation feature, they’ll come back with Don Bluth/Randy Newman. When I’m done recoiling in horror, we’ll remember my language and subject matter, and abandon the idea of animation altogether.

I’ll lobby hard for John Cusack. I’ve liked everything I’ve ever seen him in, and I approve of his liberal politics and his excellent taste in music. Also, if I were to shave and maybe comb my hair, I would look a little bit like him in the same way that your friends who think they look like a movie star sort of vaguely resemble them if it’s dark enough and you squint just the right way. The studio will thank me for my input and cast Tobey Macguire because they want a big opening weekend. Whores.

Bonus question:

You seem to like to advocate for worthy causes such as doubling Saturdays and banning Mondays, ensuring we all know James Cameron is a loon, highlighting the ridiculousness of life on many fronts and yet you've still found time to blame me twice for things. Are there plans for any additional blaming? I am available for a broad range of blaming topics.

The blame tag is merely on hiatus; it hasn’t been retired. I’m sure it will show up when you least expect it. After all, blame is a dish best dumped in the lap of the completely unsuspecting. Of course, now that you’ve mentioned it, I can’t use it for this post. Curses! Foiled again!

Requiescat In Pace, Jerry

He's with the vicious, small-minded, homophobic angels now.

Monday, May 14, 2007

It's A Small Web After All

I was going to do a quick little post about that terrible DiSaronno ad. You know the one. The one that looks like it was shot for about $20 with a handful of people that the director rounded up at a bus stop. They're certainly not actors.

Faithful readers will have noticed that I like to make fun of people. Really, all I wanted to do was make fun of the guy who plays the bartender. He's just terrible. He should concentrate on actual bartending, because frankly, the acting thing isn't going to go anywhere for him.

What I really wanted to make fun of was the look he gives the girl sucking on the ice cube at the end of the commercial. I can't help but laugh at this point in the commercial, because all I can think is that the director told him "It should look a little bit like you're horny, and a lot like you just peed yourself."

I thought that I should put in an illustration of "the look", for my Brazilian pals and anyone else who may not have seen the ad, so I went to the always dependable GIS to see what I could find. Lo and behold, there at the top of the very first page was exactly what I was looking for. A picture of the DiSaronno guy looking like a dork. But what's this? The picture was on Shakespeare's Sister, which is only two degrees of blogger separation away. I can't swipe an image from someone that close. It's not like we're from Kentucky.

Friday, May 11, 2007

No, I Still Won't Support Those Assholes

A study that the Army completed last fall, but didn't release until last week found the following:

- 1 in 10 of our troops in Iraq admitted to mistreating civilians or unnecessarily destroying their property.

- More than 1 in 3 believed torture is acceptable.

- More than 1 in 2 would not report a fellow soldier for illegal acts including torture and abuse or murder of civilians.

As if that's not bad enough:

- Troops suffering from anxiety, depression, or stress were more prone to act illegally.

- Troops on repeat or extended tours of duty were more likely to suffer from mental health problems, which one can assume includes anxiety, depression, and stress.

So the longer we stay, the worse it's going to get. Fabulous.

Pollyanna Petraeus thinks sending the boys a note will fix everything, after all, he wrote a whole page.

Havana Affair

So, let me get this straight...

If you're a convicted terrorist living illegally in the United States, and you've bombed airliners and hotels, and you've served time for attempting to assassinate a foreign head of state, and you are currently on the run after escaping from a foreign prison, the U.S. government will refuse to go after you.

If you're an award-winning filmmaker who goes to Cuba while working on a documentary about health care, they will.

How's that war on terror working out for us?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Répondez S'il Vous Plaît

Well, if Liz thinks I'll be her back-up date now, she can just forget it. She should have invited me first.

No, I Won't Support Those Assholes

"I know it was a bad thing what I've done, but I done it because I was angry TJ was dead and I pissed on one Iraqi's head."

Sgt Sanick Dela Cruz, you inbred simpleton, fuck you.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Post About Buildings And Food

Johnny tagged me with the restaurant meme. Because I rambled so much, I'm going to tell you right now that I tagged Flan, Becks, Vikki, and two players to be named later. If you play along, be sure to let Nicole know so she can keep track of her insidious viral meme.

The rules:

1. Add a direct link to your post below the name of the person who tagged you. Include the city/state and country you're in.

Nicole (Sydney, Australia)
velverse (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
LB (San Giovanni in Marignano, Italy)
Selba (Jakarta, Indonesia)
Olivia (London, England)
ML (Utah, USA)
Lotus (Toronto, Canada)
tanabata (Saitama, Japan)
Andi (Dallas [ish], Texas, United States)
Lulu (Chicago, Illinois, United States)
Chris (Boyne City, Michigan, United States)
AB (Cave Creek, Arizona, United States)
Johnny Yen (Chicago, Illinois, USA)
(Cheaters! Nobody since LB way up in the third spot bothered to link to their post. Let's get this back on track.)
Deadspot (Urbana, Illinois, USA)

2. List out your top 5 favorite places to eat at your location.

3. Tag 5 other people (preferably from other countries/states) and let them know they've been tagged.

I was just talking with my daughter about our favorite restaurant the other day. We love Siam Terrace, but we really miss the place that was there before Siam Terrace moved in. I want Sandwich Boy and Siam Terrace. When Johnny tagged me, I thought about that conversation and considered indulging my penchant for jackassery and putting together a list of my 5 favorite restaurants that no longer exist. Just for you guys, I'll reign it in and make that a post for another day.

Now, without further delay, the restaurants:

Siam Terrace
This is probably my favorite restaurant in Urbana. I love curry, but everything I've tried has been great. The Nuau Namtok is what I usually get if I'm not doing curry, but the Pad Prig Khing is also great. I like the way they always smile and go "Oh!" when they ask "How spicy?" and I answer "Number 4". They always sound surprised and happy. On the menu, the description of level 4 spicy is "You have become a Thai."

I usually get a Singha with my curry. I'd like to try the Phuket, but I'd rather have a Singha and avoid the awkward moment where I try to figure out how it's actually pronounced and the waitress tries not to laugh at me. Quick aside: If I were in charge of their marketing campaign, their slogan would be "Sometimes you just have to say Phuket." This is just one of the many reasons I am not in charge of their marketing campaign.

If you manage to make it through appetizers and a meal with room for dessert, they make their own ice cream in small batches, and you should not die without trying it. You never know exactly what flavor they'll have until you get there, but the Mango and Coconut are great.

You can't see it in the pictures on their site, but the building has amazingly high ceilings, and the dining area has pressed tin ceilings, because that's what they did back when it was built. There's also a neon sign way up on the side of the building outside advertising the Knights of Pythias, who meet upstairs. I haven't seen any knights, Pythian or otherwise, but the sign says they exist and I choose to believe.

Crane Alley
Don't bother following the link if you actually want information about Crane Alley. They used to have a site with information about beer and food and wine and things that people might be interested in. I only linked to it because what they have up now is so astonishingly lame.

This is a restaurant/bar. They have great food; a beer list that rivals their wine list (both are extensive); a long line of taps with good imports and domestic microbrews; pool tables that haven't been wrecked by stupid frat boys; and when the weather is nice, you can eat at the tables outside in the actual Crane Alley. Downtown Urbana has these groovy old ironwork arches over the entrances to their alleys with the names in gilt lettering, and the alleys have mostly been cleaned up and turned into cool outdoor eateries and stuff. Champaign marks the entrance to their alleys with pools of vomit and rats the size of chihuahuas, and the alleys have mostly been converted into open air urinals.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Crane Alley... Their chef is great and they take their beer as seriously as their wine, which I love. (I say chef instead of cook because he's actually a chef. As restaurant/bars go, the food is really quite impressive.) They sometimes have beer-tasting nights where the chef works with the staff of one of the microbreweries they carry, creates a menu, and pairs a beer with each course. I haven't been to one yet, but they sound really cool. I was disappointed when I found that I'd missed the Three Floyds Night.

One caveat: the intelligence of the staff varies greatly. Once, when Johnny came to visit, we walked downtown to visit Record Swap... (again, don't bother with the link, but it's a great shop. The owner is totally cool, his daughter is a sweetheart, and his neighbors are dicks. (They're lawyers. They're assholes. Go figure.) If you're in town, stop in and drop a few bucks there, 'kay?) ...and we stopped in at Crane Alley to sit outside and have a beer. They had Bell's Oberon on tap. The waitress brought them with an orange slice tucked onto the rim of each glass because, as she said, that's really the best way to serve it. And you know what? She was right. They really do know their beers, after all. When we went back that night for some serious drinking, the waitress from the afternoon had gone home. Johnny confidently ordered a "Bell's Oberon with an orange slice". The bartender brought him a glass of beer and an orange soda. She thought he wanted a "Bell's Oberon with an Orange Slice".

It's in a cool old building in downtown Urbana that used to house a Mongolian barbecue place. It probably had other stuff there before that, because it's an old building and I doubt they had Mongolian barbecue places in Urbana in the 19th century. I could be wrong.

When they first announced plans to turn this into a bar, they said they were going to install a crane system that ran on tracks in the ceiling to deliver drinks from the bar to your table. I suspect that they may have been bullshitting the reporter, because I can't imagine that would actually work in any kind of an affordable, reliable way. It sounds a lot like an automated drink-spilling machine to me.

Courier Cafe
Yadda yadda yadda... great breakfasts, something something something... good burgers, blather blather blather... amazing milkshakes. You can take it as a given that the food is great or it wouldn't be on my top 5 list, so I'm going to talk about buildings again...

The Courier Cafe is the Courier Cafe because it is in the old Courier building. The liberal nemesis of the News Kazoo used to be published out of this building before it folded in 1979. (Ha! An unintentional pun. Newspaper... folded... it was so easy it wrote itself.) Like most of the buildings in downtown Urbana, it's a cool old brick building made back when people built buildings and expected them to still be around in a hundred years. They've decorated the Courier with antiques, but not country-kitchen, arts-and-craps-fair antiques. The cool kind: salvaged stained glass windows, the only existing copy of an architectural concept plan for the 1896 Columbian Exposition, a funky ceiling fan that's a big tin aeroplane, Pullman lamps in the booths, a carnival steam shovel you can play for gum balls while you wait to pay your check at the ornate 1914 brass cash register, and an assortment of old clocks.

Did I mention that their milkshakes are amazing? I understand that they bring all the boys to the yard. I like the Tropical. Your mileage may vary.

Restaurant Miko
This is a little upscale, but now that Seoul Carryout is gone, it's one of the few places in town I can go to satisfy my Bul Go Kee and Gob-Dol jones (joneses, jonesii?). It's kind of the polar opposite of Seoul Carryout, much more "date restaurant" and much less "filthy hole in the wall". I really miss Seoul Carryout.

If you trust sushi this far from the ocean, they have decent sushi here. Mmmm... Maguro Nigiri. I loves me some raw fish and rice. However, my family gets squeamish about the whole "eating raw fish" thing, so I don't indulge too often when I'm with them.

Cafe Paradiso
They have free Wi-Fi, but no web site. Crazy.

It's everything a coffee shop should be. Work by local artists lining the walls? Check. Requisite mix of coeds, hipsters, and townies? Check. Good coffee? Check, Intelligentsia: direct trade and reasonably locally ground. It's not as close as Columbia Street, but Chicago is pretty close.

Other things I like about it? The baristas almost always comp me an extra shot when I order my large cap, extra shot. They are inevitably playing something that I've never heard before, but kind of dig. They have their own debit card, and they give you a drink every time you add $20 to it. I carry three cards in my wallet. I carry one credit card that gives money back to a local school, one ATM card that I never use because I can't ever remember my pin number, and my Cafe Paradiso debit card. I can practically go through life with no cash except for tip money, which is convenient, because I do practically go through life with no cash except for tip money.

Things I don't like so much? There is never enough parking out front, they only have about 5 parking spaces and if I get the end spot, some clown always parks me in 'cause they're "only going to be a minute". If Scruffy Barista Girl serves me one more underfilled cappuccino, I'm going to have to seriously reconsider my generous tipping policy. Still, I'd rather walk there than drive unless I'm on my way to work, and who decided what jobs were tipworthy anyway? SBG, beware!

I should probably mention the food right? They have great food. They have really good sandwiches and they have soups and pasta salads, but usually later in the day than I'm there. They get all their pastries and bread from a local artisan bakery and they make their own flavored cream cheese every morning. If they have it, you have to try the hot pepper cream cheese. It's amazing, chock full of tiny bits of, I think, three different peppers. Their veggie cream cheese is a work of art. Red and yellow bell pepper, purple bermuda onion, tiny green broccoli florets... it's as beautiful as it is tasty. The last time I ordered it, I found myself wishing for a digital camera so I could share a picture with you. It looks that good. It tastes even better.

Who hasn't been tagged yet? I think this hit all of the bloggers I read at about the same time, so I'd better act fast.

Flannery, where should I eat in Ohio? The only place I can think of that I really like is the Winking Lizard in Cleveland, but I'm sure there are other places that people eat, right?

Becks? Indulge me? I know you hate to be tagged, but I am going to be in New York soon. I may even have an expense account... Feed me!

I bet Vikki knows a place or two out on the west coast with good food... Share?

There must be two other people that read my blog and haven't been tagged yet... although it seems a bit unlikely. Nominate yourselves, bitte.

Phew. This was one long ass post. Is anybody still reading this? Check... check... microphone check... Is this thing on?

Things That Make You Go Hmmmm

First thing you should do if you want to convince people you aren't a racist? Stop doing that thing with your arm.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Stop Me If You Think That You've Heard This One Before

About 400 prisoners have been released from Guantanamo. How many have you seen on TV? How many of their stories have you heard in any media?

The Habeas Schmabeas episode of This American Life recently won a Peabody Award for telling two of the detainees' stories.

If you haven't heard it, go right now and get the podcast of the updated version from their site. Do it quick before they change to the new episode.

Dooooo eeeeeeeet.

If the stuff in this episode doesn't make your head explode, then you need to listen again.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

M.C. Who?

Well, it's official. Zoe's torn her MCL. According to Dr. Z, it's a grade two tear, but her meniscus is probably OK, and she definitely didn't do anything to her ACL, so that's good. We'll cancel the MRI we had scheduled for next week with those clowns over at that other hospital, and see if we can't get Zoe off her crutches and down to just wearing her new brace, which is a Mad Max sort of affair with 8 straps, 4 hinges, and some sort of jelly filling.

Her season's over, but we knew that much back almost two weeks ago when it happened.

The other good news: it looks like there won't be any surgery involved, so we dodged all the big bullets. A little rehab, a little physical therapy, maybe some new exercises... she'll be right as rain before next season.

Worth A Shot


Small WMD. Answers to the name "Rowdy".

If found, please call...

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Taking the "Intellectual" Out of the Intellectual Property Debate

Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that Microsoft, a U.S. corporation, could violate a U.S. patent held by AT&T, another U.S. corporation, without penalty as long they do it on computers manufactured outside the borders of the United States.

Today, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative issued their annual report complaining that other countries are not doing enough to protect copyrights held by U.S. corporations.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said, "We must defend ideas, inventions and creativity from rip-off artists and thieves."

Someone alert Alanis Morissette.

Trivia for the Day: It took the United States more than a century to join the Berne Convention, which governs the artist's rights to their own work in most of the world. Quelle surprise.

One of the main differences that led to our delay? The United States supported the right to steal an artist's work unless the artist registered their copyright with the government and notified potential thieves that they held a registered copyright to their own work. The Berne Convention holds that the act of creation confers copyright to the artist unless the artist signs their rights away.

Punxsutawney Fidel

Fidel didn't appear at the start of the May Day parade.

Damn. Six more weeks of winter.