Monday, October 31, 2005

We'll leave the light on for you.

I figured this day would come at some point. It was only a matter of time really.

I've been asked for a "serious meeting" with the boss, which will undoubtedly address my poor time-management skills.

(I must confess that this sounds uncomfortably familiar.)

As such, I'm gonna need to buckle down and up my production. This means, of course, less time online.

I'll type up my account of the U2 show and drop that on you sometime this week. Other than that, consider this my temporary goodbye. I'm gonna have to go offline for a while, until I can either get back to good here at work, or get internet at home. And with money issues the way they are, count on the former as more likely.

Please believe me when I say that this will hurt me more than it hurts you. This blog is my window into a community that I have grown to love. To unplug, even if only for a few weeks, will be like moving into a cave and living as a hermit. No, this is not exaggeration. Fact is, I need you guys, in some way, in my life. So it's gonna be tough.

I'll still email...whenever i get back to emailing. But blogging will cease for a time.

So that's it. Peace and grace to you. And if you could, pray for me on Wednesday, when I meet with The Man and discuss my fate.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Thursday, October 27, 2005

First Thought After Hearing Kelly Clarkson's latest single "Because of You" for the first time

Wait a minute--they play Bonnie Tyler on this station?

(I'm really working, I swear.)

Embarrassing Confession (other than my Utter Inability to focus on the work at hand)

How incredibly annoyed I am that the discussion board at the Smallville fansite I frequent is having server problems--the first time i've ever been online right after an episode.

Things that make you happy when you're forced to come back and work through the night

A song by your second favorite band is played on the local "mix" station's 90's "flashback" program. Hearing songs you love on the radio is one of life's most underappreciated joys.

Brief Observation on the Nomination Process of the Supreme Court of the U.S., While Trying Desperately to Get Work Done in Time to Watch "Smallville"

For some reason, reading/hearing the acronym "SCOTUS" makes me feel dirty.

Isn't it funny...

...that on the days you need to tie up your loose ends, a big freakin truckload of work falls in your lap?

Sorry, not funny. The word I was looking for is FREAKING INCONVENIENT.

Anyway, no more posts. Gone tomorrow. I'll try to audioblog from the U2 show. Otherwise, talk to you all on Monday.

Make sure to keep making suggestions in the post below.


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

No, really, this time I mean it...

I'm gonna do NaNoWriMo. I swear.

I've decided I'm going to use it as a way of breaking my fear of "[crappy] first drafts."

It's going to be complete brainsludge, utter nonsense, a completely spontaneous mess. I'm going to write as close to every day as I can, and each day will likely be something completely new and unrelated to what's gone on before.

I'm tempted to start each entry with the same sentence. Example: "I was working bar one night, when..."

You know? That could be kinda fun.

SO: Here's your assignment, faithful PBB readers--What should my intro line for each entry be? Keep it open-ended enough that I could actually write 30 different stories from it. Or don't, and make my job more difficult.

It doesn't have to be a whole sentence either. Maybe a phrase, or a theme. Get creative.

And I promise I'll use one of them (or one I come up with).

I'll choose the winner on Monday.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

(For Kins)

she likes maps.
as the tour bus travels,
she traces the roads they take,
creates a picture more Rorshach
than Rembrandt. the boys tease,
mainly because boys are cruel, but
also because she lets them. she
doesn't like it when they do, but she
is too tired to shield herself from scorn.
she talks to her father, who tells her of
death soon expected. she calls her mother,
who informs her of death just past. she thinks about
burials she'll miss and burials she'll see.
she isn't sure how she should respond
to this. she is bemused by it.
the bus drives past history and scenery,
but she can't stop to smell the country
roses, no, she has to keep a schedule.
her time is not her own. this bothers her.
(gone are the green dress days.)
it's been a month. she's tired and misses life.
she takes small comfort in the lines she traces
from Michigan to Ohio.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Divine Deal-making

I thought this joke* was funny:

It was his first Christmas as a married man, but Pete had put off buying a Christmas present for his wife until the last possible minute--Christmas Eve, in fact. He was in a frenzy to find one for her, but only could go shopping on his one-hour lunch break. He sped over to the local mall, which was (of course) packed with shoppers. As he sped up and down the full parking lot rows, dodging slow people carrying more bags than they could handle, he began to pray, "God, I know I haven't been your most obedient servant, but I'm really in a bind here, so I'll make you a deal. If you can help me get a close parking spot, I will not only go to church tomorrow, but I'll go every week from now on, I'll start giving to the church and the poor out of every paycheck, and I'll even stop partying every weekend and devote myself to serving others."

Just then, the heavens opened, the sun shone down onto the parking lot, and a wide, empty space appeared at the very front of the row Pete was driving up.

As Pete pulled into the space, he said, "Nevermind, God, I found one."


*Actually, to be honest, I shamelessly stole this joke and embellished it. I found it here.

Monday Afternoon Linky-dinky

I've decided that "linky-love" should be reserved for people, instead of pages. So, no "linky-love" per say. But fun stuff, to be sure.
  • Time's book critics list their choices for the 100 best novels "of all time" (actually, of the last 82 years, and only those written in English). I've read only 12 of them all the way through, and read part or half of four more (The Crying of Lot 49, Things Fall Apart, Wide Sargasso Sea, and On the Road; i'm still going to finish the first and last of those, sometime). Discuss, argue, submit your own choices.
  • Time also listed their picks for the top ten graphic novels of all time (originally in English). I've read parts of a few of them. Thoughts? [H-t for both: Hip Clicks]
  • Say Anything asks, "Did you ever wonder what it would be like to pop a water balloon in space?" Well, now we know.
  • Distressing news for a city that I have recently grown quite fond of.
  • David Edelstein takes a crowbar to Steve Martin's upcoming film "Shopgirl." Well, I was looking forward to seeing it. (But then again, "they" were wrong about "Elizabethtown," weren't they?)
  • Oooh, writer-fight. (So I bet Ben Marcus is pissed that Franzen made the Time list, huh?)
  • Leigh Nash (formerly of Sixpence None the Richer) has a MySpace blog with songs--at least that's what I'm told. The network here at work has decided to block the site, thinking it's a dating/personals site. So, I guess, lemme know if the songs are any good.
  • Everyone keeps talking about this John Vanderslice guy. I heard a track of his recently--good stuff. Just found out that he has MP3's to share. Go nuts. (Disclaimer: haven't checked them out yet. So, downloader beware.) [H-t: Hip Clicks]

C.S. Lewis, on the reading of religious books

From his "Introduction to Athanasius on the Incarnation":
...Now the layman or amateur needs to be instructed as well as to be exhorted. In this age his need for knowledge is particularly pressing. Nor would I admit any sharp division between the two kinds of book. For my own part I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may await many others. I believe that many who find that "nothing happens" when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand.
It begins as a discussion on reading old books versus reading only contemporary books, and ends with comments on the translations of ancient languages. A short essay definitely worth reading.

(Hat-tip: Jollyblogger, an even more die-hard Lewis fan)

Feels like something's missing... oh yeah...

PBB Cool Ten (10/23-10/29)

10. Good news: Astros are in the World Series. Bad News: They've blown two games already.
9. I've started out my Cubs season at 5-1. (Not that you care, but I'm pleased.)
8. I like Cocoa Pebbles.
7. I'm doing a series on the book of Colossians in SunSco. Going well.
6. The weather is BEAUTIFUL. Hallelujah, fall is here.
5. Spent the beautiful afternoon Saturday with my two sisters in Hermann Park and an impromptu trip to the Zoo. (We saw orangutans making kissy noises at us.)
4. Two-thirds of the way through The Brothers Karamazov--worried about Mitya's fate.
3. Finally picked up Bird by Bird. Two chapters in. And, as I had hoped, it's starting to provoke the writing itch again.
2. I've made up my mind that next summer, I'm taking a two-week road trip through Middle America. I'm excited about this.
1. "Hello, hello..." The U2 show is THIS FRIDAY!!!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

On Assignment

Manders laid down the challenge: a Thursday Thirteen scavenger hunt. Go there for the list, and give it a whirl.

Here are my entries:

1. CCCS: "Fusing Faith and Learning" (so what's that--"flairning"?)
2. The author of "Ghostwritten."
3. The view from my balcony (sort of).
4. "And if God would send His angels..."
5. Had no idea how big of a dork Manders is.
6. *clap clap clap clap*
7. A timeout, to know, some advice (and arms, apparently), Firefox and BugMeNot, and plywood (how'd they know?).
8. I hate to pick favorites, but when asked about my favorite blog post ever, this one came to mind first.
9. In lovely Santa Cruz, CA. (Try the BLT!)
10. Celebrity doing something it.
11. Most. Annoying Song. Ever.
12. "You look like you're going to a funeral." "Maybe I am."
13. As much as I hate "Christian versions" of already cool things, I can't help but point you toward a news-parody site (like "The Onion") that's made for church folks. Good for a few laughs.

If you want to take part, consider yourself "tagged."

Proof that I'm Tired

Sometimes things are so random or bizarre that you can't help but laugh out loud.

Example: I was chatting with Ginge and made a really obscure mid-90's pop culture reference (the word "jawsome," from the crappy "Street Sharks" cartoon and toy line). Of course, being the colossal geek I am, I googled the word to find online documentation.

In Urban Dictionary, I found the following definition for "jawsome":

Adjective; Extremely great or awe-inspiring; awesome for the set of beings with large jaws.

The Street Sharks think bloody hunks of fresh tuna are jawsome.

The example sentence just KILLS me. Imagine hearing that in a documentary-type voice-over. Particularly voiced by a older British man. Like John Cleese.

...Wait, why am I the only one laughing?

Anybody wanna go to see Ben Folds with me on 11/18?

Cuz I don't wanna go by myself.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A Trend I've Noticed Among Christians... the idea that one cannot simply read what the Bible says (with minimal understanding of literary forms like hyperbole and metaphor) and let that be enough.

What I'm discovering is that more and more people in the Church have decided that one must have read certain books by certain authors to make a more informed decision about the Bible. That the text itself is not enough to point one toward the truth of God. That one must filter the text through several layers of theopolitical and literary theory to have the closest understanding of what God actually meant. (And even then, we can't be sure he meant this for everyone.)

In short, traditional reading and interpretation of the sacred text is not nuanced enough.

When I started hearing this system explained, what first occured to my mind is that we are taking a step back toward medievalist church politics vis a vis Biblical reading/interpretation. In those benighted days, only the priests could read the Bible, because the people were not educated enough to understand it. (Only allowing the Bible in Latin helped with this.)

Now, it seems that those "properly educated" among the church are, in a sense, dismissing the bulk of the common man's understanding of God. If the theo-academics are to be believed, then the rest of us must either trust them for the "true" insight, or jump through the requisite flaming hoops to achieve such knowledge ourselves. Any view, other than the multi-filtered view, is just too simplistic. Too provincial.

This reminds me of another movement, further back into the mists of time. The Greek Gnostics in the 2nd century taught, among many other things, that the way to God and salvation lies in acquiring knowledge that is hidden to most.

In Sunday School, we've started a study of the book of Colossians, one of Paul's letters to the churches he helped plant. Paul never actually went to the city of Colosse--one of his converts, Epaphras, started that church. Paul wrote the letter when Epaphras informed him that certain heresies were spreading in the church: mainly, ceremonial legalism and false philosophical ideas. One of these philosophical ideas was very similar to what the Gnostics later taught concerning hidden knowledge.

In Colossians 1, Paul writes:
"I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (v. 25-27)
Here Paul talks about the mystery of God being disclosed. But it still sounds like it's only to a few. At the beginning of chapter 2, he writes:
"I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments." (v. 1-4)
I'm most struck by the phrase, "...all who have not met me personally." Does this include those who have come after--namely, us?

I want to point out one more section. In Chapter 4, Paul writes:
"And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should." (v. 3-4)
This seems to indicate that the "mystery" of Christ and the Gospel can and should be proclaimed clearly.

So what does this have to do with what I talked about earlier? Simply this: there is a vast difference between striving for proper interpretation and exegesis, and adding "lenses" to discover the "real meaning," so that the Bible is more digestible and more easily accomodating.

What I fear, based on what I've heard and read, is that the highly-educated among the Church are drifting further and further toward the latter.

But then again, I'm a lay person. I've never gone to seminary, as many respected and educated men and woman have. I'd imagine that if such folk read this post, they would let me know that I've misinterpreted Paul here.

And that's possible, certainly. I've made peace with the fact that I don't know everything about God or his revealed Word.

But I also believe that He's not going to hide from me, either. If I seek Him, I will find Him, if I seek Him with my whole heart.

Up, up, down, down, left, right, left right...

B, A, Start.

If you smiled/nodded/laughed in recognition, read on.

Today is the 20th anniversary of the original Nintendo Entertainment System reaching American soil.


I remember getting it when I was young, a few years after it came out. I remember playing it like crazy. I remember when my MOM beat Super Mario Bros. before I did. I remember playing Duck Hunt and getting close enough to the screen that my mom yelled at me for hitting the TV with the barrel of the gun. *tink, tink*

I remember being a subscriber to Nintendo Power Magazine for YEARS. Many years. And I saved almost all of them. I think they're all still in my parents' attic.

I remember vividly the day I got Super Mario 3. An overcast day. Riding home from 4th grade in my parent's old 1980 Plymouth Champ. My dad says, "Reach under your seat," with that half-smile he wears when he has a surprise. I reach under the beige vinyl seat and feel a plastic back, and through it, the familiar rectangular shape of a video game box. I start freaking out a little, but had no idea what it was. I pulled it out, pulled off the plastic to reveal the bright yellow box and Mario's smiling face. And I went NUTS. (My dad told me later that it cost him $65. Unbelievable, that. Even now, with $300-500 game systems, the games never seem to go past $50.) I played the game until dinner. And then after dinner.

I remember one Friday night, staying up with my mom (who was the other quasi-gamer in the house) until 5:30 in the morning, fueled by Pepsi (Mountain Dew for her), playing straight through, and only getting to World 6 (the Ice World, remember?).

I remember beating SM3 the first time. A Friday night. My parents were already asleep. I woke them. They were mildly irritated, but congratulatory.

I remember birthday parties that included Contra marathons. It took us all night, and we couldn't finish. Now, it takes mere minutes (as Trev can attest).

I remember Rob the Robot. The Power Glove. The NES Advantage that I wanted for YEARS and never got. The Power Pad.

I remember Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Trojan, two of the most frustrating games ever.

I remember Blades of Steel. Double Dribble. Super Spike V-ball. Major League Baseball. Tecmo Bowl. Tecmo Super Bowl (HUT HUT HUT HUT HUT HUT). Paperboy. Metroid. Maniac Mansion. The Goonies II. (Whatever happened to Goonies I? just kidding.) Ninja Gaiden. Double Dragon. Castlevania. Excite Bike. Marble Madness. Final Fantasy. StarTropics. Countless crappy movie tie-ins. Bases Loaded. Tetris. Dr Mario. Yoshi. Smash TV. Rampage. Rolling Thunder. Code Name:Viper. Metal Gear!!! The Guardian Legend. Mega Man!!!!! THE LEGEND OF FREAKING ZELDA!!!!!

And then, of course, I remember the day the SNES appeared. I was already an avid gamer. Then, I became an ADDICT.

I still have my original grey NES that i got when i was six or so. And it still works.

So thank you, Mr. Miyamoto, and Happy Birthday, NES! Though I ultimately made the transition to Playstation, after YEARS of Nintendo brand loyalty (including that bizarre but cool 3-D system), I still reserve a special place for you.


So, PBB Readers: What was your favorite old-school Nintendo game, and why?


[On a mildly related (though rather sacreligous, considering the context) note, I picked up my first PSP game yesterday. MLB. Oh yes. Pretty.]

Monday, October 17, 2005

Nothing You Need to Know, Particularly

I brought a small dish of lasagna (my mother's--lasagna is a skill i have yet to master) for lunch today, which was not enough food. I had hoped it would be. At four this afternoon, my flurry of inactivity and unproductivity was brought to a screeching halt by hunger pangs [should it be "pangs" or "pains"? I've heard it both ways. Though "pains" is the more common usage, I find "pangs" to be more appropriate both to the feeling itself and to the desired effect in communicating it verbally. Thus, "pangs."], so I immediately went to the nearest cafe area in the building complex to find sustenance.**

I procured a "beef wrap" that looked vaguely appealing through the display case plexiglass, a bag of kettle-cooked bbq chips, and a Coke. Returned to office. Unwrapped the wrap, so to speak.

What the... Tomato. On the beef wrap. Now, I should point out that, in the last building I worked in (a few months ago), the downstairs cafe had "beef wraps" that consisted of fajita beef and grilled peppers and onions. Not...roast beef, lettuce, cheese, TOMATO, and some sort of dressing. I don't usually like tomato, but I have tolerated it as of late, as long as the taste is covered up by whatever is in proximity to it. I wasn't sure if the case would be the same here.

Nevertheless, I soldiered on, and took a few bites.

And discovered the immediately recognizable taste of cucumber. I opened up the sandwich to find what appeared to be strands of shredded cucumber.

Who the hell shreds cucumber? Cucumber should ALWAYS come in its standard, quarter-inch-thick, easily-removable "wheel" shape. Not diced, and mixed in with shredded lettuce and cheese and the weird dressing.

Since cucumber is the Most Detestable Vegetable Ever (TM), I decided to dig in and remove the offending pieces from the rest of the wrap. Of course, having no utensils, I used my fingers.

For good measure, I removed the tomato pieces also. I've been entirely too lax on my "no tomato" policy. Things need to be tightened up around here.

As I sit and eat the rest of my treacherous "beef [TOMATO AND FRIGGIN SHREDDED CUCUMBER] wrap," I wonder if I'm just a bit too particular about such things.

And I'm still not sure that the wrap was worth the cost or the trouble of proper consumption.

**[At this point, I am excising a minor anecdote about having to go to two places before finding someplace open with food that I can buy with my bank card. This element of the story would be interesting to no one and would most certainly drag down the narrative...such as it is. Thus *snip*.]


I was just talking to Ginge about an episode of Simpsons, when Bart switched out the church organist's music for Iron Butterfly's "Innagottadavida"--and how the little old lady burned through the really long solo, then collapsed. That was funny.

By the way, here's a list of the made-up terms that have been coined on The Simpsons.


Ach. I can still taste them. Friggin cucumbers.


It's the very definition of "non-event", but since I've mentioned the situation to y'all before, I might as well drop this in. I saw NewGirl again. She stopped coming to SunSco a few months ago, and I figured that was that. Well, she showed up to our class lunch yesterday (she still reads the weekly email I send out, it seems).

She's still attractive, but I didn't find myself being as embarrassed and verbally clumsy as I sometimes get with girls I'm attracted to. And I noticed after the fact that, on some level, I really tried not to focus on her. In fact, the only time I really spoke to her "one-on-one" (as much as one can at an open table setting, was to let her know that I am cheering for her Astros to win the World Series. This pleased her. Not that I cared.

Okay, I did care, a little. I may have mentioned this before, but there aren't a lot of women around that I'm attracted to, these days. (Yes, Dr. Cloud, I know I can fix that, but I just haven't felt the need to.) So, when this one briefly re-enters my orbit, I notice.

I've never been one to play it totally cool. I never learned that skill.

Not that eating lunch with (a group that included) her matters. Like I said--non-event. But still.

I can't decide if I'm more irritated that it felt like it mattered, or that I wanted it to.


I'm going home, to play video games for two hours instead of doing housework and balancing my checkbook. Because I can.

(Odds are, I probably won't. But it's nice to imagine, isn't it?)

Real post coming later, but...

Here's a quick update.

  • Birthday weekend was great. Many thanks to all of you for your kind words and warm wishes.
  • I pulled a muscle while bowling. But I can blame age now, right?
  • I finally got my PSP in the mail. It is very choice.
  • I got some awesome DVD sets from the family: Muppets Season 1, Batman (TAS) Volume 3, and Smallville Season 1. I'm not lame, I'm UNIQUE AND BEAUTIFUL.
  • Went to see Elizabethtown opening night. It's a gorgeous and hilarious film that has been unjustly maligned by the bitter, soulless industry critics. GO SEE THIS FILM.
  • Go Astros!

Friday, October 14, 2005

"Na na na na NA NA..."

"...they say it's my birthday."

C'mon, I had to.

For those new to the PBB, I turn 25 today. Great big 2-5. As the kids say, "Woot."

Thanks to all for the warm wishes and emails and all that. You guys are cool.

Cooler than my extended family (grandparents and aunts and uncles and such) who, as of last night, hadn't sent me a single email or card.

Meh. So it is.

Well, kids, I'm off shortly, to go eat dinner with the folks, open some presents, and later on, take in a showing of "Elizabethtown" (critics be damned!).

Doing stuff with the SunSco friends tomorrow. Looking forward to that.

Also looking forward to FINALLY getting my PSP in the mail from the contest I won. That's supposedly coming sometime Saturday.

I'm teaching again this Sunday, after 3 weeks of not. I'm really looking forward to that. We're starting a series on Colossians. Should be groovy.

Have a great weekend, then. I'll fill you in on the comings and goings when I return.

Peace and Grace to you.

Random Observation about the Fickleness of Artistic Criticism throughout the career of a Musical Group...

I actually really like the music of The Monkees. I even enjoyed some of their weirder drug-influenced later work.

But their music from the late 80's and early 90's?



Thursday, October 13, 2005

Important Question for Debate that occurs to me as I'm vainly attempting to get some work done on the day before my birthday

Why aren't there any fat guys on "The Daily Show"?

Why aren't the guardians of Equality and Social Justice campaigning for a porker to be featured as a correspondent on the world's most popular fake-news show (not counting "60 Minutes"--just kidding)???

Where are the protesters, demanding more beef in the reporter line-up?

Why must the obese be excluded and erased from pop culture memory YET AGAIN?


Update: No, Lewis Black doesn't count.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Steeltown Blog #4: Five Loaves and Two Beef Franks

On my way back from my trek to Mellon Arena (which I'll mention later), I was on my way to find a basement bookshop. The shop was on 5th street, and I, being on 6th, logically thought "one street over." I walked over to the next street, and turned down it.

Have I mentioned already how much I loved being in Downtown Pittsburgh? Because I did. Several reasons:

1) People walking everywhere. Full sidewalks. Not quite "NYC" full, but definitely fuller than the walks in Midtown Houston.

2) Visually interesting. The architecture is a mishmash of old and new. Skyscrapers nextdoor to two-story brownstones next to two-hundred year old stone cathedrals. The courthouse building was a castle. No, seriously. With towers and turrets and everything. I didn't see a drawbridge, but i wouldn't have been surprised.

3) Oddly enough, I loved the fact that Pittsburgh is practically a city of smokers. [Kids, I'm supposed to tell you that smoking is a nasty habit with many serious and life-threatening consequences. So there. You've been told.] I don't smoke (asthma, don't ya know), and smoking makes kissing yucky. (Okay, slightly yucky.) But I loved the fact that almost everyone in town seemed to give a big one-fingered-salute to the PC police who have succeeded in various smoking bans across the country. It reminded me of Denis Leary's awesome speech in the otherwise forgettable movie "Demolition Man."

Anyway. I'm walking along what I thought was 5th street. As I'm passing this building made of what appears to be black (or at least slate-grey) stones, I see a sign on the sidewalk, about the size of a road hazard sign. The two-foot-tall kind, with the two horizontal bars. Anyway. This sign said, "Hot Dogma!" and had an arrow pointing toward the scary dark stone building. Below the first words, it said, "For some Spiritual Refreshment, try our services." And listed the times for mass and communion and things like that.

Hmm. An Episcopal church. But what does "Hot Dogma" mean? I peek in the windows, about a foot above the sidewalk.

It's a hot dog shop. In the basement of a church.

Compelled, I entered.

Great place, playing good music. Not big. Not busy. In fact, I was the only one there, besides the guy behind the counter, who looked about mid-twenties and had a shaggy, hipster haircut. I walk up and ask him what the story was.

He tells me (and I'm doing this from memory, so I may get it wrong) that a friend of his was looking for ideas to help fund a church plant, and decided he wanted to open a restaurant. He asked this guy (whose name is Tim) for ideas, and Tim said that his love of hot dogs drove him to come up with this.

The shop sold all sorts of specialty dogs with all sorts of toppings. (I chose the New Yorker but without the sauerkraut. The all-beef frank came on a bun that was more like a three-inch-think slice of homemade bread with a slit in the middle. Mmmm. Sweet onion relish and mustard.)

They also serve kettle chips. He said that Pitt is a city that runs on French fries (so much that the fries are a point of pride), but that it would have cost too much to get a proper ventilation system in the basement of the cathedral for a deep fryer. Thus, kettle chips. But they were good. I kept the leftovers for later.

It's a cool place. Quirky decorating motif. Diner tables and chairs. Pictures and newspaper clippings on the walls. I dug it much. (Did I mention it has free WiFi?)

Also that he was playing Five Iron Frenzy on the CD player. Good choice.

We talked a bit about where I was from, and other stuff. I told him that if I was ever in Pitt again, I'd make a point of coming back. And that I'd spread the word online. (Ta-da.) He said thanks.

He also told me that they will be featured on the Food Network in early November.

So, here's the advert: If you're ever in downtown Pittsburgh (i'm looking at you, Steph), go to Hot Dogma on 325 Oliver St. and show them some love. They good guys doing good work and serving up some good dogs.

More "Hot Dogma" links (pun intended):

A Post-Gazette article
Legal Trouble Regarding their name?
An interesting analysis of the trademark issue above
AOL Citysearch Page
I include this because the pic is funny

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Steeltown Blog #3: "I see a red door and I want to paint it black..."

So here's the whole story.

I went down to the lobby to meet my co-worker the first evening. She comes over to me, sits down, and freaks out.


Yeah. Then, a few minutes later, a small group of people rush in through the lobby and into the posh restaurant in the back. I thought it was this guy; Co-worker swears it was this one.

She freaks out more; I'm less excited. (I mean, it's not like they' know.)

Co-worker buys me a Guinness. I take one sip and hand it back. Beer is yucky.

Evening #2. Co-worker says, "Come have a drink with me at the hotel bar." I agree. We walk in. Grab drinks. (I have a weak "Cape Cod," and then Coke the rest of the night. Or rather, since we were in PA, "pop." But it really was Coke, so it counts to call it that. Anywho.) Then, out of the blue, in strolls two of the band members (or one original member and one member of the tour band). At least one was the drummer. He was quiet. Not sure who the other one was, exactly, but he was drunk, loud, and funny. I tried to be cool and secretly snap pictures. Didn't want to get thrown out, don't ya know.

Finally we mosey over to the end of the bar, and there are two bar stools in between me and the drummer. I think this is cool, even if I'm not a huge fan. Because he's been around the world and played for millions of people. That's neat.

The guy from the lobby comes in, says something to the two of them and leaves. Ten or fifteen minutes go by. The plasma screen TVs above the bar are playing the Pirates game (baseball, for you uninitiated). Then, all of the sudden, the TV camera pans the stadium "suites" and there he is--the guy from the lobby. Waving and grinning like an idiot.

It's surreal to see someone on TV mere minutes after seeing them in person.

The two celebrities sit and drink, the quiet one quietly, the loud one loudly. The quiet one kept to himself, smoking and occasionally looking up at the TV or over at his friend. The loud one is sittnig next to a woman who appeared to be in her late 40's to early 50's. I think she was one of their wives. He kept telling loud stories, laughing heartily, and talking to people nearby (but never us).

Finally, they both had to leave. Then we left, since the show was over, so to speak.

They were gone by the next night. Turns out they had another gig.

There it is. Not very exciting. But something.

New Music Alert

Listen to Jamie Cullum's new album "Catching Tales" here.

Go ahead. Thank me.

Monday, October 10, 2005

I should be working, but instead i'm pondering things like this.

A frequent advert on my Yahoo Mail page is for "Mystery Shoppers" for grocery stores. The reason I remember it (and appreciate it) is because it features (what I believe to be) a STUNNINGLY attractive redhead.

While certainly enticing (eliciting mental questions like "Do the other mystery shoppers look like her?" and "If I sign up, is there any chance of going to group meetings?"), it's hardly practical.

Mystery shoppers are supposed to blend in. They are used (at least in the grocery business) to check for proper customer service and item pricing.

If you use an amazingly attractive woman as a mystery shopper, your check of canned corn prices may be useful, but I guarantee you will get a skewed sample regarding customer service.

Why? Because every male employee in the store will not only bend over backwards to help her in any way imaginable (if only for the chance that she will say three words to them), but they will also call up friends in other departments to tell them about her, so that they will try to get a look and perhaps "help her" as well.

Sad fact of human nature (and male attitudes).

That said, if mystery shoppers DID start looking like this particular example, I may just return to the grocery business.

PBB Cool Ten (10/9-10/15) "Best...Ever" Edition (With Parenthetical Commentary)

10. Best. Seasonal Breakfast Cereal. Ever. (That's how you know it's October.)
9. Best. Reason to Stop Watching Pro Football. Ever. (They make me weep.)
8. Best. Internet Comic Site involving Homicidal Bunnies. Ever. (They make me laugh.)
7. Best. Upcoming Cameron Crowe Movie. Ever. (I'm seeing it opening night, around ten-ish.)
6. Best. Combination Star Wars/Astros Reference. Ever. (Zapped the Braves with his finger-lightning.)
5. Best. Movie about a Wanna-be Rock Star that Stars Marky Mark. Ever. (purchased for five bucks at Wal-mart)
4. Best. Book Written By a Russian. Ever. (Half-way through, Manders--I may finish it by Christmas!)
3. Best. Playoff Game. Ever. (Holy freaking crap, that was a good game.)
2. Best. Friday. Ever? (Send good stuff, please.)
1. Best. Deity. Ever. (Amen.)

Friday, October 07, 2005

Sorry, kids...

Such a busy day, no more Steeltown blogging. More Monday, including my trek to the Penguins' arena, and my almost run-ins with rock royalty. And a little bit about religious frankfurters. Not to be missed, believe you me.

Paz. Good weekend.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Steeltown Blog #2: "Convenience doesn't begin to describe it."

At the corner of Sixth Street, a super short walk from the hotel, was a corner 7-11.

Now, I was born in Michigan, I spent the first four years of my life there, and i've gone back several times. So I'm not unfamiliar with the 7-11 franchise. But we don't have them in Houston. This means that for most of my life, I have somehow managed to live without the indescribable goodness that is... The Slurpee.

Allow me to say in all seriousness, if my soul wasn't already mortgaged to Target, I'd seriously make an offer to the 7-11 folks, simply on the merit of the Slurpee.

You can keep your ICEE's and your Slushee's. They're cheap knockoffs. Cheap floozies and whores in the frozen beverage world. They cannot compare to the Beatrice of the slushy drinks, the Venus of the corner store.

Needless to say, I had three.

But the utility of the 7-11 didn't stop there. I woke up late on Saturday and almost missed my class. As I was power walking down the street, I realized that I had to eat SOMETHING, so I stopped in and got the breakfast of champions (chocolate milk, Starbucks Double shot, little chocolate donuts, and Diet Pepsi). Without 7-11, I couldn't have concentrated on plain language in medical documents for 10 minutes, let alone 3 hours.

The final boon of having the oh so convenient store so close by was something I took home with me.

Growing up, I'd watch the Bozo show, on WGN. If you remember, and i'm sure you do, there would be a game involving pingpong balls and buckets. The prize for the last bucket was always a Schwinn bicycle and a "crisp, clean, ONE hundred dollar BILL!" But what was the prize for the first bucket? Archway Cookies. A year's supply, I think. I always thought that was kind of a crap prize.

Couldn't. Have. Been. More. Wrong.

I ate one package of the chocolate ones during my four days, and took another home with me. That alone was almost worth the trip.

So thank you, 7-11. You rock.

And by the way, happy 40th birthday, Slurpee! Baby, you look mahvelous.

"Steeltown is clean/Steeltown's a real town..."

"...we don't need a union in Steeeeeeltooooowwwwn..."

Here it is, back by no demand whatsoever, the blog summary of the Pittsburgh trip:

1) Leaving on a Jet Plane/Settling In.

Got to the airport around 9:30 on Thursday morning. Said goodbye to the madre, checked in, checked the duffel bag, did the Security Dance ("We can frisk if we want to/We can feel up your behind..."). Grabbed some grub and hit the newsstand where I picked up LAST MONTH's Spin Magazine (thank you, Kelly). I don't usually read the mag, but i saw the mix CD included. I was not disappointed, as I noted.

I was flying up on a Continental ExpressJet. If you've never ridden on one before, believe me, they're small. Disconcertingly so, at first. The engines are on the back of the plane instead of on the wings. You have to walk out onto the tarmac and board the plane via a small metal staircase. The rows inside are split: one seat on one side, two on the other. I was assigned to the single seats for both trips. Here's the problem: the arms of these seats don't lift up or move. So it's uncomfortable, to say the least, for bears of considerable hip, such as myself.

But I was blessed, and a guy with no one next to him agreed to switch with me on the way up. The flight up was easy. I listened to the mix CD and the new Audio Adrenaline album (which is really good) alternatingly, finished reading the magazine, and went back to The Brothers Karamazov (I am currently almost halfway through it).

As we swooped down over Pittsburgh (I'm calling it Pitt from now on, because i'm tired of having to remember how to spell it), I was struck by two things right away.

First: it was a lot more mountainous than I expected. (At this point, I'll beg the indulgence of my Rocky Mountain readers, who would scoff at the large hills that I'm calling mountains. Please understand, I'm from Houston. On a clear day, you could stand on the bed of my truck and see Dallas.) I guess it's the upper arms of the Appalachians, but it's incredibly hilly/mountainous in western Pennsylvania. I thought that was wicked cool.

Second: as we flew over some of the suburban areas and small towns surrounding Pitt, I couldn't help but be reminded of the "establishing shots" of Mister Roger's Neighborhood (which was filmed there). Seriously. All the little houses, all different colors and shapes. That's exactly how it looked, as we flew it. That was rad.

Airport was big, but pretty standard. Took a shuttle from the airport to the hotel. Down the highway, over hill and dale, until we came to the tunnel. This tunnel is cut through one of the mountains surrounding downtown Pitt, and was more than a half-mile long. Finally we come out the other side and rocket over Fort Pitt Bridge, one of the many mustard-yellow bridges, and into the Golden Triangle. We passed by Heinz Field and PNC Park.

Finally the shuttle stopped at my hotel. In a word: posh.

After getting settled, I walked around and explored the town. Very cool. Lots of pedestrians. Ate dinner at Max and Erma's. Good tortilla soup. So-so Cajun Shrimp pasta. (It occured to me later that there was an M&E's in St. Louis, and we ate there during my last business trip.)

After a good meal, I went back to the hotel and settled in to watch the season premiere of my favorite show on television.

Which reminds me--it's on in 95 minutes (7p). Heck yes.

So that's Day 1. Mostly.

[From this point on, the entries will be more topical and less-detailed. Maybe.]

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Brief Update and Linky Love

The Pittsburgh series of posts will come Thursday, I'm thinking. Expect four or five.

In the meantime, I have a big meeting tomorrow (the "Big Ugly") that will prevent substantive posting. Hopefully, I can keep you entertained until then.

[Note: I love the word "substantive" for some reason. I use it often, as you can tell. I actually saw it on one of your blogs a while back--jane's, maybe--and it made me smile. Even if I didn't really cause that, I'm still taking credit for it.]

So here's some stuff to keep you crazy kids busy.


If you have a chance, I highly recommend picking up the latest issue of Spin Magazine (the one with Death Cab 4 Cutie on the cover), and only incidentally for the issue itself, which includes an article about Elijah Wood and his new film, as well as several other interesting pieces. The MAIN reason to pick up the issue is the AMAZING sampler CD that comes with it. No, seriously--AMAZING. DC4C, Nada Surf, Bloc Party, John Vanderslice, and others. Go, today. Drop the four bucks, and pick up the CD. I'm totally serious about this.


Speaking of music, here's some links for rad online music streaming:

The "Elizabethtown" soundtrack, as I've mentioned
The new Franz Ferdinand album
Alicia Keys' upcoming "Unplugged" album


Speaking of soundtracks, here's an essay by Cameron Crowe about the creation of a good movie soundtrack.


This story made me laugh, and made me proud. Soldiers kick ass.


Totally shaking my head about this one. I mean, I got love for the mythology, too, but...really?!?


Want to send a "shout-out", as the kids say, to two amazing cool people I used to have the honor of hanging out with. If you've never met the Joneses, well, that's your misfortune. (By the way, Chris--I finally tried Guinness. I didn't like it, honestly--but then again, I hate beer of all kinds, so this shouldn't surprise you.)


I may shock and infuriate some people with this decision, but I feel I must make it:

I'm jumping on the Astros' bandwagon, and cheering for them through the playoffs.

I know, I know, I may be betraying everything that I believe in by doing this, but think of it this way: the enemy of my Enemy is my friend.

So, yeah, I'm picking the 'Stros to win the Big Show. And apparently, I'm not alone.

So, all of you fellow longsuffering Cubbie fans, forgive me for not immediately plunging with you into another long offseason of despair and bitterness. I swear, by early November, I'll be back to my Astro-hating ways. But I'd like to try to enjoy the post-season again, if only for a little while.


By the way, the Texans make my heart sad.

Monday, October 03, 2005

I've got a job, people.

Otherwise, I'd be drowning you in posts about my kick-butt trip. And the good food. And the cool city. And how the Rolling Stones stayed at my hotel.

That's right. Be jealous.

I was less than ten feet from Charlie Watts.

More posts coming in the next few days.