knox snooze

Succotash my Balzac, dipshiitake.

MP's Best

Thursday, April 28
The annual Metro Pulse "Best of Knoxville" issue is out again, so now the appropriate businesses et al can let their breath out and think, "They like me; they really like me."

It's a little disappointing to see the BoK coffee house listings. Time was, dual Cup-a-Joe locations, the Homberg incarnation of Java, and the occasional Market Square foray (read: Brazo) ruled the caffeinated roost. Now, the finalists read like:
Coffee House
11th Street Expresso House
Old City Java is the last of the greats, and that after a stint as 195 degrees or some other boy-band sounding name. Could it be that such ubiquitous nationwide entities as $tarbuck$ and Panera Bread now offer the best coffee around? I refuse to accept it.
The old dives were dark havens of smoke-filled inspiration and shady conversation. My finest and longest lasting friendships were forged in the second floor of Java Homberg and in front of the tap at Cup-a-Joe on Cumberland. Where could I go now to recreate anything like that experience? Where can I have a finely crafted cup of coffee, a cigarette and a beer? Those places are all gone now, maybe for the best (seems I am a little better at breathing nowadays).
Old City Java permits smoking still, and maybe that's why they topped the list. 11th Street has several sheltered outdoor tables for smokers. The Golden Roast has no provisions for smokers, though they have the finest coffee and atmosphere around, and perhaps that's why they did not crack the top four. All the better. Let everyone else flock to the big chains and leave the last of the dives for me.

Belly up to the office fridge

Wednesday, April 27
I am continuing to look for additional and more glamorous ways to save money. I've stuck to the plan I laid out a week ago (6 days, whoo), and I've worked on a few more. I have not gone out to lunch at all this week. I came close today, but I was able to force myself into the Fresh Market to get some pimento cheese and a loaf of bread. I also called my insurance agent about getting my auto coverage through him since he also carries my homeowners. Ha. I was hoping for the big discount I would get for having both policies through the same agent, but that apparently does not apply to those whose driving record is of the 'Bandit' ilk. Me, for instance. Or more surprisingly, my wife, who will wait a full 18 months longer than me for her most recent...ahem...transgression to come off the record.

I did back into a cop car, though. Totally sober. In a parking lot. Maybe her MVR record is technically worse than mine, but she's going to have to mow down a school bus before her reuptation is as sorry as mine.

So, additional money savers:
1) Pimento cheese, etc - $60 per month savings.
2) Keeping current auto insurance - $Meh.

Merlin's Email Magic

Noted mindhacker, O'Reilly contributor, and Mac fanboy Merlin D. Mann (what a great name) has a bit in Macworld about getting your email inbox organized, streamlined, and altogether sexified. The memorable tidbit:
Whenever you’re in doubt about where to file something, ask yourself whether you can just respond or act immediately. Like a short-order cook, you want to stay focused on making sandwiches, not on putting the orders into pretty piles.
I actually answer and redirect copious amounts of email as part of my job, so I may have a harder time than most with seeing email as a toll, rather than an end itself, as Mann warns. I've never managed to get my personal inbox under a dozen or so folders, though some of those folders tend to have short lifespans, and I am pretty good about trashing them when they are done. I do, however, manage to sort through everything pretty quickly, and answer or act upon emails quickly.

The late Lenny?

Tuesday, April 26
Jayson Stark has a touching defense of Lenny Dykstra's record when it comes to gambling amidst recent allegations that Nails bet on baseball. I'm confused, though. Is Dykstra dead? I don't remember hearing anything about his passing, but Stark makes him sound pretty dern past tense:
All his accelerator pedals hit the floor. That's the way he played. That's the way he drove. That's the way he lived.
I can't say I ever really loved the guy when he was a player. I knew he was good, though. Here's hoping he's still kicking.

Wait, is it Monday already?

Monday, April 25
I am not sure how it happened, but I really didn't get much (anything) done this weekend. I didn't even watch the NFL draft. I made the bed and did a load of laundry. Oh yeah, and I decided that I was going to wash all of my laundry in cold water now. You know, for the environment and whatnot. And my hypothetical checking account.

I watched Stranger Than Paradise by Jim Jarmusch as well. Meh. Nothing to see here.

Mirth Day

Friday, April 22
Huzzah, it's Earth Day. There are so many things I could do to celebrate, but with my limited time and resources, I am somewhat restricted. Currently, my plan is to preserve the natural butterfly and bunny rabbit habitat in my yard my making a concerted effort not to mow the grass this weekend.

I'm such a freakin treehugger.

Budget Crunch

Thursday, April 21
Well, after spending a nice long weekend in Chicago for my birthday, and having many miles of Indiana highway upon which to think about the greater things in life, my wife and I have decided that she is going to go back to school full-time. This was brought on by doing a few calculations that had been staring us in the face for some time, but which we were unwilling to acknowledge; chiefly, that she would finish school, given her current pace, sometime in 2010.

So we're throwing her to the wolves, tightening our belts, and seeing if we can make it. Since she won't be working more than 12-15 hours a week, beginning in June, income is going to be tricky. We're tapped on financial aid of the grant and loan sort until September, and we don't really have Scrooge McDuck-like pools of gold dubloons anywhere (though, if we did, you can bet your ass I wouldn't go swimming them), so we're trying to figure out ways to save more money. It's not easy. She's made more money than me for the last four years, so we're basically trying to replace 50% of our income by spending less. Not easy. Here's what I've come up with thus far:
1. Get rid of broadband. It cost me nearly $50 a month, and I have access to a very wired university and a town full of free hot spots. In a pinch, I can always use my mobile and a data cable to get online.
2. Get rid of storage unit. I have an attic with plenty of room, and I donated the old clothes dryer I was holding onto. That's $45 a month.
3. Pay off personal loan. It's from a family member, and it's about $100 a month.
4. Ditch the gym. Again, the university has facilities that are as good or better, though they're not open 24 hours. Like I was lifting at 3 a.m. That saves $43 a month.
5. Compromise on principles and shop at Kroger more often than the local food co-op and Earth Fare. Much as I hate to admit it, going a year without organic pizza isn't going to kill me, and Totino's is a ton cheaper.

So, that's what I've got so far. You have any brilliant money-saving tricks you want to share? I'm in the market.


Thursday, April 14
Today's unfortunately named agricultural technology: The EZ-Steer

I don't see how this would help you cut off a bull's....Oh, that kind of steer.


Wednesday, April 13
My wife took me to see David Sedaris at the Tennessee Theatre last night. It was excellent. The theatre looked great, the show was hilarious, and I didn't spend any money. A complete success, I'd say.

I tried recording the show, but my mic was too close to my body and oriented from side-to-side to pick up the show very well. I've got two hours of the guy next to me cracking up, though.

When the blind lead the apathetic

Tuesday, April 12
I'm not too proud to tell you that I am currently taking a freshman-level geography class. It's one of those things you do when you're trying to finish an undergraduate degree after years of flipping through the course timetable and going, "Cinema Studies? You watch movies for class? Hell yeah, I'm signing up for that."

This geography class is a special kind of frustrating, though. I've been *back* in school for four years now, taking my sweet time finishing (I've got the marriage and full-time employment things going on as well), and I have had plenty of time to get over the initial shock of graduate students who are my age or younger teaching classes that I still have to pass to halfway to where they are now.

I don't expect a lot of linguistic wizardry out of the TA who is teaching my geography. But she's made some pretty heinous mistakes thus far. For instance, she has referred to, in her typed overhead lecture notes: "Damned" rivers, historical "sights," and she called Southeast Asia a "biographical" transition zone.

While it is hard not to laugh out loud in class at these, they are nothing when compared to the following line from the instructions she handed out for our next assignment.
Spelling and grammar counts in this assignment.
For those of you who may not be English majors, think noun-verb agreement.

This was brought to my attention by my buddy Homer, who is clearly reading the directions to assignments way more closely than I am.

Maximum velocity

Monday, April 11
Norm Scheiber has an intersting piece in Slate about why MLB pitchers don't seem to be throwing any harder relative to those pitching 50 years ago. Physical feats in other sports have seen significant improvement in that time (sprinting, swimming, etc), but no one seems to be able to throw a baseball over 100 mph.

Scheiber fails to answer the burning question I always had as a little leaguer: Who cares how much harder they're pitching, why are they throwing it at me?


Yes, there is an Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest, and the finals were last week. America got spanked. The University of Illinois placed the highest of any american team - 17th place. The competition was won by a Chinese student.

Where have all the mathletes gone?

Everything is better in cartoon

If you have ever spent the weekend with a new video game (FIFA '98, anyone?) you know that it can be a little difficult to bring yourself back to full reality mode.

Well, now there's a service that allows you to watch *live* baseball games on your mobile device as animated video-game-style simulations. This should help with the crappy 15fps lag of MobiTV as well as the whole "what do you mean I don't have 1up?" connundrum of dealing with reality.

Eat it, Chicago

Friday, April 8
I know it's childish of me, but I was so happy yesterday, watching the White Sox implode as the Tribe decided to wake up in the ninth inning. I hate the White Sox almost as much as I love the Indians, and nothing makes me happier than watching a game like yesterday's.

Van Wilder Redux

Thursday, April 7
I can't deny that I have some admiration for this guy. Nor can I deny the comparison.

(via Michael Silence)


Though bourbon is still my whiskey of choice, I've recently been trying on some single-malt scotch. It took me a while to start. Scotch is one of those drinks that is consumed by the well-to-do in movies, and there's a part of you that thinks you ought to like it, regardless of what your first impression of it is. This impulse is probably the only reason I perservered after my first drink, which was Dewars, which is a careful blend of whiskey and kerosene for those of you who don't know.

Single-malt is altogether different. I discovered this when one of my writing instructors insisted I try the one he was drinking - Lagavulin. It was like drinking a magic marker, only delicious. It's very hard to explain, which I won't try.

Anyhow, I tried Oban at the DG&B last night. While I probably won't pair it with a pizza again, it's my new favorite. I had it with a little water, but I'm getting it neat next time.

I'm trying to think of more of a reason for mentioning this, but it just occurred to me that good whiskey is usually it's own best reason, so we'll leave it at that.

Music Cubed

Wednesday, April 6
Mark Cuban thinks the demise of the CD is near and inevitable. He even lays out a little business plan for taking if anyone has the initiative. And he's coined a new *pod* phrase:
Once that first label, or the first organized group of indies goes purely digital at retail, then the countdown for the extinction of the CD begins. T-minus 5 years from that first day, and your CDs will be sitting right next to the LPs your dad and mom collected when they were kids.

Until then, if Im a band selling on my own, I’m carrying a laptop to every show, and charging 5 bucks to drop a show on an IPod. Call it concertpodding.
That's a great idea. Now, if only I had a band.

(via Michael Silence)

The future is blue-green

Treehugger is pretty confident that new, habitable planets in nearby space are not too far-fatched, or that they're even in the very distant future.

Of course, this is some of the most appealing pipe-dream stuff available today. We certainly have the need for more world, and there is no shortage of unadulterated, Ray-Bradbury-loving ambition with which to get it done.

I don't know if I would be the first to sign up for an off-planet colony or anything (the commute would kill), but if you move there, I'll come visit.

Laundry day

My wife and I have different views about what constitutes a matching set of sheets and pillowcases for our bed. For the most part, her definition involves sheets that look similar to one another, perhaps with matching or accented colors. Mine is more along the lines of making sure there are not two fitted sheets - if I have that kind of time.

Lifehacker has a pretty nifty solution. Why didn't I think of this?

I think I should be depressed over finding this so exciting.

Fun Guy

Tuesday, April 5

Fun Guy
Originally uploaded by ashby.

I don't know if it's athlete's foot (is there such thing as apathetic jackass foot?) or just dry skin, but my dogs are coming apart. They itch like nasty, and the skin is yawning open.

Mmm...they're all burny. And they smell good too.


Monday, April 4
43folders has a helpful assortment of power hacks to help us through the month of April. My personal favorites are:
8. If you’re having trouble getting inspired about something, it’s probably because you’re temporarily lacking inspiration. That’s what you need. You need inspiration.
9. If you keep forgetting your house keys when you go out, you shouldn’t do that any more, or you’ll eventually lock yourself out.
I'm sure this was some sort of AFD joke, but I'm seriously considering passing this out to people in my office, upon whom the humor will be lost entirely.

My personal addition would be something like
21. If you are unsure whether a certain task is something that you know how to do, like tiling your bathroom, chances are you do not know how.
You know, I think my wife actually said something like this. In January.

Sweet Cherry Goodness

Friday, April 1
My friend Chris has officially become an Open Source contributor. Granted, it was a week ago, but I catch on slowly.

Very slowly.


I'm not sure if it's a stupid AFD joke or not, but I've seen a few articles today that mention gmail storage increasing to 2 GB in the near future. I haven't heard anything from gmail about my account, but I think I do have increased storage now:
You are currently using 7 MB (0%) of your 1495 MB.
Maybe that is it. That seems to be how gmail works. New features just sort of show up and make you feel bad about yourself - make you wonder if you even have 50 friends, let alone 50 friends who want invitations to gmail.

Also, don't forget: it's the first Friday, so there will be a show at the Three Flights Up Gallery on Gay Street - and prolly some free wine.

Update: The Kashar News is all the verification I need: "Gmail Will Goes To 2 GB or More"