Thursday, May 31, 2007

Crack in Crisp Form

Warning! Stay away from this bag!

I opened a bag of Flat Earth Baked Veggie Crisps this evening. 30 minutes later, I realized I was working my way through the whole bag one chip at a time. I had to get the bag away from me.

So I took it upstairs, where Bernie was on the phone with her mom. I mouthed the word "Addictive" and dropped it on her desk.

An hour later, Bernie comes downstairs saying "What have you done to me? Are you trying to kill me with this stuff? I finished the whole bag!"

I'd advise a surgeon general's warning on this bag in the future.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

So How's That Anniversary Trip Going?

Today is Sunday, and we're done. It's been a nice trip, but mixed results.

We got up and had a free breakfast at the hotel, then went into town to endure our timeshare sales presentation to get our free tickets. My parents have a timeshare, and they made sure we were not going to say "yes" to anything before we went on this trip. We endured and kept our resolve and ended up with our free Busch Gardens tickets.

So we got into the park at 12:30. For those of you who don't know Busch Gardens, it is a theme park, and the theme is "The Old Country", or Europe. The park is divided into England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Italy, France, and "New France", which seems to be Canada although they won't admit it. We walked through the park until we ended up in Germany, where we had a late lunch at the FestHaus (various wursts and ribs and potato salad) and got our battle plan together. We went immediately to the newest attraction, the DarKastle, which is a 4-D ride in haunted castle based on Mad King Ludwig of Austria and Castle Von Schwanstein. This was the best ride of the day, believe it or not. 3-D ghosts and such menace you while the motion of the ride gives you the impression of flying and falling, etc. Very impressive.

We spent much of the day standing in line, and ended up only riding 3 more attractions. I didn't get Bernie onto the Loch Ness Monster or the Alpengeist, however, I did get her onto the Big Bad Wolf, a rollercoaster where your car is suspended underneath the tracks and flies around tight turns and makes a sheer drop toward the river. She loved it. Although she ABSOLUTELY DID NOT WANT to ride the new coaster, the Griffon, she had an unholy fascination with it all day and probably took more pictures and video of that ride than she did of anything else. Go figure.

One small disappointment - they no longer offer brewery tours. There is a little club where you can sample different beers, but you must make an appointment. This used to be the really cool interesting adult part of Busch Gardens, but now it is no more.

We finished our day at Busch Gardens at about 7pm. Neither of us felt like we could stand in line any more because our feet were so sore. Hot and tired, we went back to the hotel room and showered the grime off of ourselves. A bit later we recovered enough to seek dinner and ended up at some deli near the college of William and Mary, where we had two of the best sandwiches I've ever tasted. I had a hot Pastrami with knockwurst and provalone and Bernie had a Corned beef with salami and ham and swiss. This was a really fun day.

We got up and had a nice breakfast in the restaurant next door. We had tried the restaurant up the street, but it had a long line due to tables not being cleared fast enough. We looked and the bus-person was some old woman who was using the bus-cart as a walker. About 20 of the folks waiting in line all decided to leave en masse, and the old man who was running the place was tearing his hair out.

After breakfast, we went to Colonial Williamsburg and walked around a bit. We did a short bit of shopping, then went to the outlet mall and spent 2 hours. Bernie got a skirt and a sweater for her efforts. Then we went back into town and had lunch at Barret's Seafood, which is supposed to be one of Williamsburg's good restaurants. This was a total disappointment. Our waiter abandoned us after we were seated and we had to send another waitress to get him. Then we ordered, and I got crab cakes, mostly due to how good the one ordered by a person at the next table looked. It came and looked completely different, with smaller portions and the asparagus that was supposed to a side dish was mysteriously replaced with some limp broccoli. I called the waiter over and told him of the mistake and he brought me out the asparagus, which was in a tasteless hollandaise (not even a hint of lemon juice in it). Bernie had simply ordered soup and dessert, and the bread pudding she ordered was absent the chocolate sauce that was supposed to be on it. We looked at the same dessert that was ordered by our neighboring table, and theirs was larger portion, with a scoop of ice cream and had the correct chocolate sauce on it. We mentioned the missing sauce to our waiter and got "all the chefs do it a little differently" as an excuse. Well, this was a $35 lunch. What we order, we are supposed to get, and the standard should be set pretty high for that price. We left and didn't complain further, but we won't be going back there, nor will I be recommending that place again. This has not been a fun day.

So now, we're back at the hotel, and we're pretty much done with Williamsburg. I'm giving some thought to checking out early and heading home tonight so we can have a nice relaxing day at home to end the holiday. Bernie is taking a nap and we'll decide when she wakes up. We've really enjoyed being together and adventuring in a strange place, but home is where the heart is, I guess.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Final Idol Blog of 07

I don't think it was much of a contest tonight. Jordin was much better than Blake. The songwriting contest winner was unfairly skewed towards her, but even if you throw that out, she outperformed Blake in the previous two rounds.

To start off, he reprised his previous triumph of "You Give Love a Bad Name" and I think he did it even better than his first performance. However, Jordin chose to do her new song first, and she chose a recent Christina Agulera song, "Fighter", and the combination of her performance, and the subsequent erasure of the only knock on her style, namely, that she can't do modern songs, scored more points in my book.

The second round was Blake's "She Will Be Loved" from Maroon 5 versus Jordin's reprise of "Broken Wing" by Martina McBride from country week. Blake was flat flat flat off pitch for the entire song. The judges failed to notice, so I'm beginning to wonder if the fix is in. Then Jordin did her song and she took a previous "10" performance, and topped it, bringing the house down. Second round to Jordin as well.

The third round wasn't even fair. The two of them had to perform the same song, the winner of the songwriting competition, which was supposed to spare us from the god-forsaken inspirational insipid honey-sweet mediocre ballad that Idol tortures us with every season. What a difference! We got a slightly more hip god-forsaken inspirational insipid honey-sweet mediocre ballad named "This Is My Now". Blake struggled from the first note and by the end he was just coasting to get through it. The judges were inclined to give him a mulligan, but should they? Jordin took it and, as predicted, ripped down the roof with it. She choked back tears on the last line, and darned if it didn't fit perfectly. The judges quickly reverse course and pretty much handed her the trophy right then and there.

Now for some criticism about Idol that I've been holding back all season.

Idol needs to fire the sound crew and director. The sound has stunk all season. Microphones cutting out, improper volume mix, incompetent mixing board, feedback, backup vocals's all happened far too often for the #1 show on television. I've felt that on many occasions, one performer has had a good performance turned mediocre by a bad volume mix between the band, the backup vocals, and the lead vocals. In the "Idol Gives Back" show, the group performance was a train wreck where the person singing lead almost never had their microphone active. On that same show, even Ryan had his microphone cut out in the middle of introducing a performer.

I don't understand why the stars that perform on results night are allowed to have monitor earphones while the actual Idol contestants don't get them. Pitch problems have been prevalent all season, and that one common (and for pros, it's essential) piece of equipment can prevent it. (Have you ever tried to sing on pitch with accompaniment when you can't hear the music or yourself?) It's crazy not to do it.

Tonight, I felt that Blake was drowned out on the last song by the background vocals, while Jordin had the opposite problem during her turn.

I've also been vastly underwhelmed by the band this season. Tonight was their worst performance all season. I heard at least twice a horn player (a trombone, I think) playing a stray note during a rest (sacrilege!!) in the middle of a song. The acoustic guitar was grossly out of tune during both versions of "This Is My Now", which contributed to Blake's out-of-tune-ness, and nearly threw Jordin off in the middle of her version. The background singers were as sharp as Blake was flat during his turn, and I don't think they all knew the words, because the chorus sounded quite 'mush-mouthed' in places.

This is supposed to be a group of professionals? I really wish I could watch the show once with my friends Ed and Jeff, because I'm sure they'd notice a lot more problems than I did.

I've also mentioned this before, but the recap clips shown at the end of the show were quite obviously not the same performances we saw live, as Jordin's tearful break in her voice was not present, and Blake's pitch was better.

OK, I've run out of gas. All in all, I think the best singer is going to win. We'll see if I get shocked tomorrow.

Monday, May 21, 2007


Heroes, season one, is the best show ever! I'm not going to give anything away, since my father-in-law is watching it a few weeks behind in Malaysia, but the season finale was absolutely GREAT! And we get continuity going into next season, to boot!

We had a pretty good weekend. I got a new cell phone, hopefully one that won't shut itself off whenever I'm not looking, which my old one did. I helped my dad powerwash my grandfather's house, and we tried a new recipe from the Weber Grill Cookbook, which I recommend to everyone. This time we tried a marinated pork chop which was so good even my nephew who won't eat anything complimented it.

We're going to Busch Gardens this coming weekend for our anniversary. We got a deal where in exchange for enduring the timeshare sales pitch, we get 3 nights in a hotel and two entry tickets for $129. Bernie tells me she doesn't want to ride the Griffon, which is an intense rollercoaster. I agree, but she's going to come with me on the Loch Ness Monster if I have anything to say about it. I think I liked BG better than Disney (sorry, Elizabeth!) as a child. We are already 2 years married (legal papers signed on the 18th of 2005), but we treat our official anniversary as the 28th, since that was the wedding date. These have been the best two years of my life, and I don't mind letting everyone know that. I picked the right girl and I'm proud of myself for not letting trivialities like thousands of miles and a 18 months of long-distance relationship prevent me from making her my wife.

I have to tell this story before I finish tonight. My wife was talking to her dad on the phone this morning. He told her that he had been remembering the cabinet in our garage all day yesterday, which I had to re-attach to the wall while he was visiting us. He told her that it had been bothering him all day yesterday, and to please remind me to take a look at the other cabinet in our garage to make sure it didn't fall. 5 minutes after she hung up with him, I came home for lunch, opened the garage door, and the cabinet was on the floor, leaning up against Bernie's car. Luckily, it didn't do any damage to her car, and the stuff in the cabinet was all over the floor, but nothing had broken. I guess it's been attached to the wall for a year despite the screws being a bit too short to anchor properly into the wall studs. Papa apparently tapped into his psychic powers and forsaw it. He's a real-life "Hero", I guess! Too bad he couldn't call us a day earlier and say "Replace the screws, save the cabinet!".

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Who's in the Finals?

Bernie and I had to watch the Idol results show upstairs tonight since we won't get the downstairs receiver replaced until Friday. I didn't realize how nice Bernie has it that she can surf and watch TV all at the same time in her office. I don't have TV in my office, now do I? Hmmmm.

Anyway, we got to see Elliott Yamin perform again. The dude has gotten a total makeover! Curly, shaggy hair and good teeth! I think if he had looked like this last season, he might have been the big winner. Anyway, his song from his new CD sounded great.

Later on, we got to hear Maroon 5, and I think I may have to buy their new CD when it hits stores. I already knew I liked their song "This Love", which Blake covered last night. Now I've heard two songs from them, and I like them both. This merits some further listening on my part.

So, by now you probably know that Melinda got sent home. It's too bad, because she's one of the best - just not in a genre that gets enough votes. Melinda and Jordin are splitting a lot of the same votes, I think, and Lakisha was splitting that group even further before she was eliminated. I guess Blake is getting the teenage girl votes, plus the "vote for the worst" votes, plus the Seattle demographic. He and Jordin are the finalists. I'm fairly certain this means Jordin is a landslide winner, as she will certainly pick up Melinda's voters. We'll see next week.

No Idol Analysis Tonight

Sorry, guys. I had my HD satellite box die on me at exactly 8pm tonight and I was on the phone with tech support for most of Idol. I wasn't paying enough attention to analyze.

I do think that all 3 singers were in top form tonight, and I wouldn't be able to rank them, as I consider tonight's performances a dead heat.

That being said, I think Blake is outta here tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The New World Dictionary

Being Offended (verb):
A state of being when:

  • If it happens to you - justice, punishment and reparations are required in order to make it right.
  • If it happens to someone else - they just need to lighten up and learn to take a joke.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Nice Relaxing Weekend

'Twas a good weekend. Here are the highlights:

  • Bernie went with Mom and Sis to her favorite nursery, Roots to Go. She bought one plant, while mom and Sis bought lots.
  • Meanwhile, Dad and I kept the nephews and we made them walk with us (3 blocks) to the playground, where they played on the swingset, then they wanted to go on the walking trail in the woods. We walked on the trail, then we walked back to the house in the hot sun. By the time we got there, the boys were completely manageable. We fed them a popsicle and put the Superman DVD in the player and before you knew it, their mommy was back. If you use strategy, the kids aren't hard to handle at all.
  • After a lazy afternoon, we called Brian and Sophie and took them out to dinner at Souper Salad to thank them for their wonderful affidavits for Bernie's PR. One-year-old Elise ate two slices of pizza, some assorted olives and cheese, and an ice-cream cone (sans ice cream). No wonder she's building those muscles for walking so quickly. She really loved the crunch of that cone, too.
  • Brian helped me with installing Bernie's new ceiling fan in her office. I had it done right, it seems, but the breaker switch had turned off when I wasn't looking. We took it down and double-checked everything anyway, and it works and looks great.
  • On Sunday, we went to my Sister's country club to celebrate Mother's Day at their brunch. Pretty swanky, and the buffet was pretty nice, topped off with the chocolate fondue fountain. I stuck to the breakfast stuff, and Bernie pigged out on salmon (both smoked and steamed on the whole fish) and dessert.
  • A nice long nap on Sunday afternoon.
  • Dinner and ice cream at the parents' place on the brand-new deck.
  • Quick grocery stop, then TV here at home to finish off the evening.
Only two more weeks until our second anniversary. We're going to Busch Gardens for the 3-day Memorial Day weekend. (Isn't it cool that we will always have a long weekend on our anniversary?)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Only Moderately Nerdy

I'm definitely less nerdy than I was when I was younger.

I am nerdier than 77% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to find out!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Tuesday Night Fever

Tonight's Idol was Barry Gibb, who sounds a lot like Sean Connery when he talks. (It's the "swish-swash-swish-swash" sound he makes.) Anyway, since I was born in 1969, I grew up with the BeeGees, and their songs are more part of my subconscious than my conscious mind, so I may not remember the titles or words, but I know the songs. I'll try to make my analysis make sense despite that.

Tonight, they each sang two songs from the Gibb family catalog. I'm not going to even mention individual judges comments for each song because between the time crunch and their normal incoherence, they were more irrelevant than ever. Suffice it to say that none of the judges liked anything they heard tonight.

First up, Melinda. She sang "Love You Inside and Out". She had the range of the song, and interpreted it really well. I felt this was something she could go into a studio and record today. I could close my eyes and imagine this was on the radio. All three judges said it wasn't exciting enough. Maybe they don't understand disco. Disco isn't exciting. It's simply a good beat and rock steady from beginning to end. Philistines.

Second was Blake, doing "You Should Be Dancing". This wasn't a great night for Blake. He tried to do the falsetto and was consistently flat-pitched. He did some beat-boxing at the end of the choruses that wasn't very impressive. He dragged the tempo and it really stunk up the place. The judges agree with me.

Third was Lakisha, wearing a black-on white outfit that looks like a Ben & Jerry's carton. Overweight women should NEVER wear something that resembles a cow, folks. She did "Staying Alive". Honestly, this really wasn't terrible. She did the warbling during the bridge really well, and the verses weren't bad. She let the backup singers do most of the high stuff and filled in during the choruses. Not great, but not bad. Judges: Hated it.

Batting cleanup today was Jordin. She sang "To Love Somebody". I don't know this song well, but Bernie does, and she loved the way Jordin sang it. I liked it as well, though I don't remember this performance much just a 1/2 hour later. The judges said it was the best so far, but weren't enthusiastic. I guess I have to agree.

The second time around, the trends continued.

Melinda did "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart". Again, this was quite recordable and would work as a single on the radio today. She nails the last note and makes the crowd give her an ovation. Judges are still only lukewarm. Judge Judy is in the audience and I think they should sign her up, because Moe, Larry, and Curly aren't doing much to earn their paychecks tonight.

Blake needs to improve on the second song, and he does, a bit, with "This Is Where I Came In". I can understand why he chose this one. It's a blank page for improvisation, since no one knows it. Unfortunately, it comes out pretty bland and while he spares us the falsetto this time, he beat-boxes again when it isn't needed and it comes off as pretty amateur. He's also flat again. Not good.

Lakisha comes out in a better looking dress. Black sides with kelly green midstripe. The only fashion mistake she makes (and she does it consistently) is to go with a high waistline. She performs "Run To Me". Unfortunately, this song exposes her weakness - she can't sing soft and sweet at all. She tries, and her voice just won't do it. It completely fails her on the last note of the song, which is akin to losing your bathing suit in the pool. There's no hiding it and no way to save face after it happens. Also not good.

Jordin comes out and tries to hit the home run of the night with "Woman In Love". She almost succeeds. She's a bit off-pitch in the beginning and alllllllllmost off pitch on the high notes. She bends those notes up into where they ought to be, but you can tell she's having to work at it. I'm starting to wonder if voices are beginning to show the strain of a long season and having to perform twice in one night. This was still my favorite of the nght, however. I want her to do this one in the finals and nail it.

So, after double the value tonight, I put them in this order

1. Melinda
1. Jordin
3. Blake
3. Lakisha

Either Blake or Lakisha is taking the gas pipe this week. It all depends on if Blake gets the white male vote from Phil and Chris's departures last week, or if those votes go elsewhere.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

A Long Distance Dedication to Elizabeth

A bicycle can't stand alone; it is two tired.

A Will is a dead giveaway.

Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.

A dyslexic poet writes inverse.

In a democracy, it's your vote that counts; in feudalism, it's your Count that votes.

A chicken crossing the road: poultry in motion.

If you don't pay your exorcist, you may be repossessed.

With her marriage she got a new name and a dress.

Show me a piano falling down a mineshaft and I'll show you A-flat

When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.

The guy who fell into the upholstery machine is now fully recovered.

You are stuck with your debt if you can't budge it.

Local Area Network in Australia: The LAN down under.

He broke into song because he couldn't find the key.

A calendar's days are numbered.

A lot of money is tainted: 'Taint yours, and it 'taint mine.

A boiled egg is hard to beat.

I have a photographic memory, but I never bothered to develop it.

A plateau is a high form of flattery.

The short fortune teller who escaped from prison: a small medium at large.

Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end.

When you've seen one shopping center, you've seen a mall.

If you jump off a Paris bridge, you are in Seine.

When she saw her first strands of grey hair, she thought she'd dye.

Bakers trade bread recipes only on a knead to know basis.

Santa's helpers are subordinate clauses.

Acupuncture: a jab well done.

(Note: I found these on a message board, but I've 'improved' a couple of them)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


Tonight, I get a call from my old friend Ed. Ed is the friend who is head fly man for Blue Man Group at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. He got Bernie and me some comp tickets to the show when we were in Vegas last year. Ed has diabetes and was about as reckless about his condition as a human being could be back when we were all growing up together. I think he was voted "least likely to survive to age 25" in high school. Back then, the group would go on hikes or bike rides and Ed would usually end up passed out in shock with one of us shoving crackers down his throat to get his blood sugar back up. Ed is an outdoors kind of guy and has the Grizzly Adams beard (flaming red, of course) that goes with his persona. He managed to land one of the nicest girls I've ever met despite this, and convinced her to marry him, and they have a little girl who looks like a living doll. They moved to Las Vegas when Ed got the job with Blue Man Group a couple of years ago. I think most of my old group of friends has been out there to visit at least once since then.

Well, Ed is visiting Raleigh with his wife and little girl this weekend and called me to see if we could try to get together on Sunday. Of course, this would be one Sunday where I have to go to work for one tiny little hour in order to test a new software code deployment my department is doing this weekend. I can't leave town.

These things can only happen to me. Grrrrr!

Not a Good Night for Cowboys

I was slightly wrong, but Jordin survived her bad week after all.

Phil and Chris are gone. Phil was victim of the "ironic song" rule ("Goin' Down In A Blaze Of Glory"), and Chris went on his coattails with another cowboy-themed song ("Dead Or Alive").

Hint to future Idols: Don't sing songs containing lyrics about "going home" or "going down" or "going out". Fate loves irony.

So, your final four are Jordin, Melinda, Lakisha, and Blake.

I think Blake outlasts Lakisha, but the finalists are Jordin and Melinda. We need to see how Jordin recovers from her scare, though. Remember, Kellie Pickler survived a bad week last season only to follow it up with a worse week and elimination.

By the way, I have a higher opinion of Bon Jovi after this week. I think he's the first pro on the show this season that actually is a musician instead of just a front man, and it showed.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Shot Through The Heart

Oh, my heart. I'm afraid Jordin is going to go home. This was a bad week to have a bad week, since two go home. It's Bon Jovi week, and the girls were all going to have problems that only clever song selections were going to solve.

Scores from this week are added to last week's scores and the bottom two go home tomorrow.

Rock songs like Jon Bon Jovi's don't require a great voice, however, they do require exceptional musicality and, most importantly, the ability to 'lose yourself' in the song. JBJ also has a funny range, so unless the performers transpose the songs to a better key, they could be in trouble. And, indeed, none of them changed the key from the original.

Phil went first and did a very nice rendition of "Blaze of Glory". If the Idol Irony Rule is in effect, that would doom him to being sent home, just because of the appropriateness of having to sing "Going down in a blaze of glory" for his final performance. Somehow, I think he's staying.

Jordin was next and tried to do the iconic Bon Jovi song, "Livin' on a Prayer". It was too low for her, even in rehearsals and she didn't heed the warnings that Jon Bon Jovi gave her. She did a fine job of saving the song in her performance, but you just couldn't hide what was going wrong. The judges gave her credit for doing her best in a bad situation, but this was the worst performance of the night. I really hope her last week's performance saves her.

Lakisha came on and blasted out "This Ain't a Love Song". There just aren't many Bon Jovi songs that are going to work for a woman, and she chose wisely. Not the best of the night, but definitely in the top half. She's only got one volume, and it goes to eleven. This song is big enough to hold it, though. I think she actually had an advantage in not knowing Bon Jovi songs. That meant she actually had to listen to the discography and pick one that sounded right. Jordin obviously thought "Oh! Bon Jovi! I've gotta do Livin' on a Prayer!"

Blake did "Shot Through the Heart (You Give Love a Bad Name)". Just from hearing that, you'd think he doesn't have the voice to carry it off. Blake took a huge risk and deconstructed the song, making it fit a techno-beat, and did a beat-box duel with a percussionist in the middle. It worked. Man did it work. He brought the song home by changing it to the classic version at the end. I'd give this a 9.5 out of 10. Best of the night.

Chris sang "Dead or Alive". I thought that he might be able to do a passable Bon Jovi imitation, as long as he avoided certain songs where JBJ's voice is much bigger than his. This one fit my theory. He did a pretty good job and the judges liked it. Not original, though.

Then there was Melinda. I couldn't imagine what she'd pick. I had thought that "Never Say Goodbye" was one of the few songs a woman could pull off, but she instead chose "Have a Nice Day", which is one of JBJ's more recent hits. She channelled Tina Turner and made it work.

Update: Oh, and I forgot to add that I'm ticked off that no one sang "Never Say Goodbye", which would have saved Jordin or Chris's butts tonight if they had thought of it.

So, for tonight:
1. Blake
2. Melinda
3. Phil
4. Lakisha
5. Chris
6. Jordin

And last week:
1. Jordin
2. Melinda
3. Phil
4. Blake
5. Chris
6. Lakisha

Which leaves me to calculate this order for elimination:
1. Melinda
2. Phil
3. Blake
4. Jordin
5. Lakisha
6. Chris

If I'm even slightly wrong, Jordin is going home. We'll see how right I am tomorrow.

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