Tuesday, March 31, 2009

All He Needs Is A Trench Coat

I've heard my elderly neighbors say that the squirrels in my neighborhood are bold, but I think this one is getting a little bit out of hand. What's he trying to prove?



Click the picture for a larger version.
You know you want to.

Friday, March 27, 2009

You're My Fat, Heavy, Ugly, Smelly, Dumb Old Lover

For this week's video clip, we're going to time travel back to 1998 again to The Kitchen Sink Radio Program on WXAV. In this particular clip, I had written a song on the spot about a country bumpkin getting a mail order bride. Jim insisted that I somehow include the line "The sweat off your brow acts as weedkill for my field".

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Goodbye, South Side Irish Parade

Chicago's South Side Irish Parade, founded in 1979 by the Hendry and Coakley families as a celebration of Irish heritage, is no more. Parade planners cite the volume of spectators who flock to the Beverly area (in excess of 300,000 this past year) as well as the increasing amount of resources needed to launch the parade as the catalysts for the decision to end the parade. Parade planners insist that other, smaller events, more in-line with the original purpose of the parade, will be planned in the future. As it stands, though, the largest neighborhood run parade in the country will be no more.

I've spent a number of years going to the South Side Irish Parade, and I can tell you that City Hall has been frowning upon the parade for as long as I can remember. Some would say that the excessive displays of public intoxication were the reason. Others would vehemently argue that this particular parade frequently outshone the "official" Chicago parade, thus setting it up to be canceled in some sort of back room political shenanigans. All I have to go on are my own experiences and the experiences of the people I know who experienced the parade first hand.

It was my old friend Larry who first introduced me to the parade back in 1999. Previously, all I had heard about the parade was that moving around was akin to trying to swim through a human sea and that the whole experience was like a giant block party. I was in. Our friends Jason and Nicole (not to be confused with my current pals of the same names) were our guides and led us up the parade route. I met a number of extraordinary people that day, including a woman who made the best corned beef sandwich I have ever had before or since. She just had a bunch of them stuffed in her backpack and was giving them out to people who took the time to talk to her. She was gone before I even had the time to thank her or ask for the recipe.

Certainly, there was quite a bit of drinking involved. As we made our way up the parade route, we stopped in nearly every bar along the way and knocked a few back before continuing on. Although most of the people we encountered seemed to be on the drunker side of tipsy, we didn't, to my recollection, see anyone being unruly or even notice much of a police presence back then. Maybe we were just too caught up in watching the parade, celebrating and chatting up random revelers to notice. And, sure, not everybody there that day was of Irish decent, though it was said that everyone there was Irish for the day.

My most recent trip to the parade was in 2008 with my brother Chris and my fellow Pub Scout, Jason. I hadn't been to the parade in a number of years, and what we experienced was vastly different than what I had previously undergone. The police, while much more of a visible presence than they had been in previous years, didn't seem to be doing all that much. I've got a number of pictures of officers just standing around in a large group talking amongst themselves. Aside from forcing public drinkers to ditch their booze or busting up the occasional booze bus, the officers didn't seem to be at all concerned with preventing any of the debauchery that supposedly runs rampant at this event.

One officer actually took the time to berate a man for holding his daughter up on his shoulders so that she could see the parade better. The officer told the man that what he was doing was not only unsafe, but illegal. He protested calmly and she threatened him with arrest if he didn't comply. Perhaps holding one's young daughter on one's shoulders in a parade atmosphere is more dangerous that I'd tend to believe, but I can't help thinking that the officer's time would have been better served controlling the crowd. Still, I don't feel that a great deal of police intervention was actually needed. While there were a few incidents of public consumption and probably a number of underage drinkers, the overall drunken atmosphere seemed much more in control than it had been in previous years. Gone was the notion of hopping bar-to-bar along the route. The lines to get into the bars were so long that such an action was impossible. Had it not been for us catching the owner of a booze bus early, we'd have gone beerless for the parade. I can't help but feel that if the officers would spend a little less time nit picking offenses and put in a little more effort towards managing the parade, the whole issue of crowd control would be a moot one. That, of course, assumes that what the parade planners have been saying is completely free from spin.

In speaking to a number of current and former Beverly residents, I was told tales of things that happened over the years in the aftermath of the parade. One shouldn't have to deal with drunken strangers pissing on your lawn, barfing on your driveway, randomly entering your house or shoving empty liquor bottles into your shrubbery. One former resident described having to keep the kids inside the house and in the upstairs bedroom lest they be exposed to seeing some drunken reveler attempting to shoot bottle rockets out of his ass on the street outside. With each one of these tales, however, came the general sense that, even though it sucks to have to deal with the closed roads, the traffic, and the host of issues that come in the wake of excessive drunkenness, the parade itself was a much loved tradition that they are sorry to see coming to an end. There is, however, a vocal minority of current residents who are happy to be rid of the parade. They challenge any protestor to hold the parade in his/her own neighborhood and deal with the onslaught of revelers. To them, I say that the size of the violin I play for you is inversely proportional to the amount of revenue the Beverly area receives from hosting this parade.

In the end, maybe Daley finally cracked and ordered a halt to the parade. Maybe Alderman Rugai took leave of her senses once again (having learned nothing from her attempt to ban pit bulls within the city limits). Maybe the various hassles finally became too much for the current organizers to handle. And maybe we need to step back a little and re-evaluate the whole thing. Still, I'll tell you this much: They may be able to cancel the parade, but they can't stop me from walking the parade route on the Sunday before St. Patty's. It may even be a little easier to stop in some bars along the way for a few celebratory brews while chanting "Go hifreann leat! Ta me are meisce!" to those unseen poopers of the parade party.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

McGross!

I had planned to stop in a McDonald's this morning for a McMuffin and a coffee. Just as I was about to enter, I noticed a mouse trap prominently displayed by the entrance. Certainly, pest problems are an unfortunate reality of the restaurant industry, and the outside is clearly the first line of defense, but, did they have to put the trap so close to the door? Couldn't they have hidden it behind one of those bushes?

I'd rather not be reminded of what might potentially be lurking around the kitchen I am eating from.

The McMouse Trap at McDonald's
Click on the image for a closer look

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Monopoly iPhone App

Since Monopoly is easily considered an iconic board game, it should come as no surprise that a version has been created for the iPhone. Electronic Arts is behind this app which I bought for a mere $7.99 off from Apple's App Store. Note To Electronic Arts: Yes, E.A., we're all very proud of you for making such a visually pleasing, fun to play version of Monopoly. Feel free to give yourself a pat on the back or a round of applause. But, do we really have to stare at the EA logo for 5 seconds each time we run the app? It's a drag on the overall playing experience. I just want to get in and play the freaking game.

I realize that there are a number of different versions of Monopoly out there. I, myself, have both the Chicago and Star Wars versions of the board game. What I cannot seem to wrap my mind around, however, is that this particular version of the game, known as Monopoly: Here and Now, is such a complete bastardization of the original. Gone are the original tokens such as the dog, the thimble and the race car. They have been replaced by a penguin, an Easter Island head, a taxi cab, etc. They're beautifully animated, sure, and the AI for the computer opponents works well, but something is missing.

Overall, the game plays well and is a lot fun. The graphics are beautiful, the option to set certain "house rules" is a welcome one, and the ability to play over WiFi is awesome. The game difficulty levels are interesting in that, it seems that the harder the difficulty level, the more bad luck I have while playing. On the hardest difficulty setting, I find that I am getting the "Go To Jail!" card more often and end up having to do payouts through the Chance and Community Chest cards more often.

While I really do enjoy playing the game, I find that I keep asking myself "Where is the LOVE"? Even though I've gotten used to the changes in tokens, currency and property names, I still long for the original. While it may be outdated by today's standards, there's just something about it that makes it special. That being said, I do have a few suggestions for the fine folks at EA to improve this game.

  • Add a "Skip Animation" option. No matter how cute the penguin token sliding on its belly to the next place on the board is, I don't want to see it each time it takes it turn. I just want to play the game.
  • The house rules options should include a provision disallowing business transactions while a player is in jail
  • The physics for the animated dice rolling is atrocious. Something needs to be done about it.
  • How about an option to play the original version of the game?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Oh Yeah, We Went To The Taste Last Year!

Virtual Sink archaeologists recently unearthed some footage that dates back to June of 2008 where Jason and I attended both the Taste of Chicago and the 2008 Body Art Expo. Have a look at the footage that has been dug up (in glorious Widescreen).

Jason and I sampling African cuisine from Bolat


Jason Flirts With A "Save The Children" Spokeswoman


The "Miss Body Art Expo 2008" Contest - This starts off a little slow, except for the portly gentleman who thought it would be funny to participate in a "woman only" contest. Perhaps he believed he was striking a blow against reverse discrimination. Or maybe he was just on something.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Sony Cybershot DSC-T500

In my continuing effort to keep stimulating the economy, I decided to purchase a new digital camera. I settled on the Sony Cybershot DSC-T500 while picking at the bones of a Circuit City.


This is a good looking camera. The T-500 is ultra compact and features a slide-down lens cover as well as a touch screen interface. It fits easily in your pocket and it lightweight enough that it won't slowly wear a hole in it. Looks aren't everything, though, right?

The T-500 takes amazing photos as well as HD video (1,280 by 720 pixels at 30 frames per second). It seems, however, that when I'm shooting a video without the help of a tripod, the image stabilization tends to drop the occasional frame. The placement of the lens in the upper corner of the camera has taken some getting used to and has resulted in a number of photos that included part of my index finger in them.

I have two major gripes with the T-500. First off, the battery life is terrible. It's rated at 180 shots, but, in my experience, the rating is closer to 100 shots. If you're going to spend the day taking pictures and video, you're going to want to carry an extra battery with you for sure. Second, and this is more a failure of Sony than it is of the camera itself, the T-500 of course employs Sony's proprietary Memory Stick storage solution. I have found that, unless you are using a memory stick specifically made by Sony, the T-500 will not be able to store movies on it. The Sandisk memory stick I originally purchased for the camera would not record movies and I kept getting an error message telling me that there is not enough free space.

Otherwise, as evidenced by the number of movies already on this site, I've been very happy with the camera. It's benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Terrifying Secret Of Daylight Savings Time

Millions of Americans across the country lost an hour of sleep this past weekend as they were forced to set their clocks an hour forward in order to switch over to Daylight Savings Time (DST). The folks in charge would like you to believe that there are perfectly logical reasons for the switch; it helps out the farmers, conserves energy and keeps school children from having to walk to school in the dark. It's a nice story, but it's nowhere near the truth. The truth is, farmers generally oppose DST because farmers wake with the sun no matter what time it rises and it pisses them off to have to change their schedule so that they can conduct business (selling crops, buying materials, etc) at the appropriate time. A number of recent studies have also concluded that the demand for energy may actually increase by 1 - 4 percent while also slightly increasing the U.S. demand for gasoline. Some studies have shown a small decrease in traffic fatalities and violent crime due to the use of DST, but those decreases are so small as to be statistically insignificant.

Did you know that the annual "Spring Forward" event actually increases the risk of suicide? A recent study in Australia shows an increase in the suicide rate in the weeks following the shift to daylight savings time. This may be due to the disruption of sleep patterns. Also, changes in actual daylight may lead to increased depression. Why is this significant? Because those in control want to use DST to smite their enemies and make it look like suicide.

Last year, just after the switch over weekend, 911 dispatchers fielded a call by Heather Locklear's psychologist over concerns that she might try to take an overdose of depression medication. Don't worry, she's okay, and now she has something to talk about the next time she's on Larry King promoting an autobiography. Besides, Locklear wasn't the target last year. It was Britney Spears. You see, Ms. Spears is privy to the truth about DST. She knows why it is REALLY happening and the people in charge want her out of the way. Those custody issues and the legal entanglements and the scuffles with the paporazzi have been orchestrated by the folks in charge to both discredit Ms. Spears and push her over the edge. Their plan failed, and it will soon be revealed that DST is actually a front for a shocking scientific discovery.

Back in 1911, the experiments of Ernest Rutherford led to the splitting of the atom. This was the first occasion on which an atomic nucleus of one element had been successfully changed to a different nucleus via artificial means. This small event caused a micro black hole to open up. Black holes are known for their time distortion effects, and, by the time World War I started, Rutherford's black hole had grown large enough to slightly distort time within our solar system. The general population was on the verge of discovering this phenomena, so, to cover it up, the United States government instituted Daylight Savings Time. Just after World War I, the black hole collapsed upon itself and everything went back to normal. However, experiments with bombarding alpha particles against uranium, which would eventually lead to the invention of the atomic bomb, once again opened a black hole. This one was much more stable than Rutherford's. Once again, time was being distorted and the populace had to change their clocks twice a year in order to account for the disruptions in the space/time continuum.

This micro-sized black hole holds the potential for more sinister applications, which is why they are trying to keep it a secret from everyone. Last year alone, the black hole was responsible for 3,476 spontaneous disappearances of random individuals, 14,591 instances of inanimate objects trasnported from one place to another (ever put an object in one room and then found it in another? That's the black hole!) and 24 unexplained pregnancies. Britney Spears, as a high ranking member of the Illuminati (she answers only to Paris Hilton), has been at the forefront of the fight to reveal this secret to the world. Her career as a vapid, talentless pop star has only been a cover. And, thankfully, she dodged a bullet this year, so she will live to fight on and reveal this terrifying secret to the world.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Much Ado About Applesauce

While moving through airport security at McCarran Airport, I was stopped by a baggage checker. A TSA officer stepped over and told me he needed to search my bag. I thought he might want to inspect the various connection wires and chargers I had in the bag. Instead, he gave my lunch a look over. I had bought some granola bars and applesauce cups and had tucked them in my carry on.

While studying the applesauce, the officer asked me "Is this your lunch?". I indicated that it was.

"You can't bring that in here," he told me.

I was fairly sure that applesauce would not be considered a liquid, so I was at a loss to think of what the problem might be. "But.....but it's rich in apple-goodness," was the best I could offer.

The officer laughed and went to talk to the baggage inspector. Moments later, the officer waved me through, warning me not to bring it to the airport again, apple-goodness or not.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Bar Flair Fail

While at Toby Keith's "I Love This Bar" in Harrah's Casino, we noticed what seemed to be a bartender flair artist in training. During the course of the night, he dropped several bottles of alcohol during his act, including five beers at once. In this particular video, watch closely when, at 12 seconds in, he drops the cocktail shaker behind his back and quickly picks up another one to cover it up.

Now THAT Is Using Your Head

One of the bartenders at the Carnival Court bar outside of Harrah's in Las Vegas shows off his dynamite bartending flair by balancing several bottles of booze on his forehead.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Pilgrim In An Unholy Land

It would seem that Las Vegas would be an opportune place for the faithful to come to evangelize. This particular street preacher's choice to offer his sermons to a bunch of folks handing out advertisements for Vegas escort services may have been falling on deaf ears, assuming those ears even understood English.

UPDATE: March 11, 2010: I have removed the video at the request of the person featured in the video.

Breakfast Of Champions

There are a lot of awesome meal options in Las Vegas including a number of huge buffets. This morning, however, I am not in the mood for anything fancy. A Sausage McMuffin and coffee will do.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Bellagio Water Show

Set in a nine acre man made lake in front of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, water shows are put on every 30 minutes or every 15 minutes depending on the time. Here's once that I caught a bit of.

The music behind this particular water show is from Aaron Copeland's "Rodeo". For some reason, after hearing the music accompanying the show, I wanted to run out and get a thick, juicy steak.

Mmmmm Donuts....and WiFi

Found a free WiFi connection at the Krispy Kreme in the Excalibur.

I Have Arrived In Vegas

After a four hour flight and a quick check-in to the Excalibur Hotel, I have arrived safe and sound in Vegas. I recorded my thoughts on the matter. Have a look.

Up, Up And Away

Did I mention that I hate to fly? Take-offs are the main problem, as they make me feel like one of those crash test dummies strapped to the seat of a speeding car headed towards a steel wall. Now that I'm in the air, I must say that this plane feels like a '73 Chevy Impala blasting down a pot hole filled highway with a few of its lug nuts missing.

Five dollars for an in flight snack box? Screw you, U.S. Airways. I brought my own. Next thing you know, they'll start charging you to take a piss. Oh, wait.....

The one good thing about this flight is that it was underbooked, so there is a seat between me and the guy sitting in the aisle seat. I'm so glad that I don't have to sit next to some old lady who smells like cured ham.

Ready To Fly, Unable To Connect

I made it through airport security rather quickly and am waiting at the gate all prepared to board. There is a commercial Wi- Fi service here that charges $7.95 per day. Screw that.

There are also a number of spots broadcasting as "Free Internet" or something similar. I don't know if these belong to the coffee shops or if there is a more sinister purpose involved .

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

My "Hudson Bay" Start

I've completed the first leg of my trip to Las Vegas. After a two-and-a-half hour car trip, I'm currently staying with my parents about an hour away from the airport. It certainly would have been easier to fly out from an airport closer to my home, however, a trip like this truly needs to have a "Hudson Bay" start.

Beginning in the late 17th Century, the Hudson Bay Company outfitted fur traders for expeditions out of the Hudson Bay in Canada. An expedition team would take out the necessary provisions and then make camp a short distance from their headquarters. This first night, commonly referred to as a "Hudson Bay Start" was merely a test run. It was a very necessary procedure so that before finally launching into the unknown, one could see that nothing has been forgotten, or that if one had taken too much, being so near to the base, the mistake could be easily corrected. This minimized the likelihood of an expedition turning into a party of the Donner variety.

So, here I am in the middle of my own "Hudson Bay Start". So far, nothing seems to be missing. The computer is working, the cell phone is charging and the iPod is connecting. I can only hope that, after taking out my components to make sure they were there, that I also remember to put everything back before heading out to the airport tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Taking Flight

Here are a few thoughts on booking my flight to Vegas this week. I shot this particular video blog entirely on my brand new Sony Cybershot DSC T-500.


Added To The iPod For The Trip:

  • Queen: Greatest Hits
  • Miles Hunt: Interloper
  • Iron Man
  • I Am Legend

Monday, March 2, 2009

We're Taking This Show On The Road

There was always something I liked about the "road shows" I did on The Virtual Sink back in 1999 with Ward. Back then, the shows were recorded on our adventures around E-Town using my digital voice recorder. Although they followed a general plan, those shows had a wonderful spontanaiety that I was quite fond of.

This week, I'm busily packing up my sequin jumpsuit, practicing my poker face and polishing my coins, for I am heading to Las Vegas. I'll be spending four nights in Sin City at the Excalibur. In preparing for the trip, I've already come to a few conclusions:

  • I refuse, on principal, to pay $15 a day for an Internet connection in my hotel room, so I've been mapping out free wireless hotspots on and near the Strip.
  • Daylight savings time ends this weekend, which means that I'll be losing an hour of time in Vegas. I have no doubt that they will still manage to charge me for it, though.
  • I'm going to try my best to take only a carry on bag with me on the flight.
  • One of my goals is to update this blog as much as possible over the course of the trip, and, although I will be recording a lot of video, I don't have a lot of confidence that the vids will get posted while I'm actually in Vegas. We'll see.
Keep watching the site for updates, I'll make them as time and network connectivity allow.