Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A simple one...

It's Fat Tuesday. I don't have to work anymore today or tonight. I will be going out and having fun. It will be beadtastic. If I was still in California, it would likely be breastastic too, but this is Wisconsin and we're into good, clean fun - like drinking a lot of beer.

While I'm out there having my fun, there are people being held in abhorrent conditions. Some have been, or are being, tortured. Some might be terrorists. Others are not guilty of anything but having a Muslim name. My country is responsible for this bullshit. And, make no mistake, it is bullshit.

This is a different kind of war... What kind of crap is that? I'm tired of hearing it. Yes, there are terrorists. Yes, they have attacked the United States. Yes, it was horrific. But guess what? It's nothing new. It's been a fact of life in many places for quite a long time. It's also not an excuse to abandon the values we so haughtily tout. If we give away the moral high ground, we're nothing more than the animals we claim to be fighting.

That's it. I've got nothing else. Click here if you feel like squeezing in a bit of human decency in before settling down for a night by the telly, or a blowout at the bars.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Where have all the bloggers gone?

Not quite a year has trickled by since the first tapping of keys created a semi-coherent post here on Cheeseismoldymilk. Like a lot of people who started doing this, I never really thought anyone would actually read this - except for a couple of friends of course. Imagine my surprise when I started getting comments.

One thing I've noticed about this blogging thing - at least among those who use Blogger - is that there's a lot of desire to read other blogs. I love finding new people who have interesting things to say. Sometimes, it's nice to see there are others with like opinions. Sometimes, it's just fun to be a voyeur. And many times, it's just amazing to see that there are so many people who write well and have a need to express themselves.

Who knows, maybe this all fills a need that's been created by our transient, insular society. Maybe, people do need to interact and form relationships that are deeper than a simple wave to the neighbor as we hop in our cars to commute to work. I like to think that people need other people. I hope I'm right, because an inherent need like that would be a strong force for peaceful coexistance.

Anyway, in the last eleven months, I've seen a lot of blogs and bloggers fall by the wayside. It makes me sad. Maybe more sad than it should, but I've grown attached to some of the virtual people that I share this electronic realm with. It's hard to read a person's thoughts and hopes and not feel an attachment.

I still forlornly check the old blog of one American girl who was living in London. She was in her mid- or late-twenties and wrote with some of the best clarity I've ever seen. It was like reading the real Bridget Jones' diary. There were ups and downs. And, there was growth. I found it sort of odd - and sad - that although she had been chronicling her life for over two years, there were no comments at all on her blog. Unfortunately, I found her blog near the end of it's run and my few comments remain the only ones.

She just stopped writing. Who knows, maybe she finally found that someone she hoped for. Maybe she just got tired of writing for herself. Or maybe something terrible happened to her. There's no way to know. So, I keep on checking back from time to time in hopes that maybe there will be something there. Sadly, I know there probably won't.

I'm not really sure what I'm on about here, but I think it's sort of left me with two goals. One is to promise to not just disappear without a trace. I won't ever just stop completely without warning...I promise. I hope none of you ever just hang it up and disappear.

Second, I'm going to make it a point to find more blogs and leave some comments. If nothing else, maybe it will make someone else feel less alone. I think we should all make that a goal.

So, go out and leave a comment somewhere. Make someone feel good.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Going for the gold...

Olympic gold...that's all well and good, but I've won better. That's right, I am standing atop the podium of Eileen's guess what the hell song these crazy ass lyrics are from contest - sometimes called the who-wants-free-song post.

I want to thank my parents and my coaches. They've always believed in me. Also, Google...you are my friend.

Seriously, Eileen threw down with Elvis Costello lyrics. Good choice, but Elvis and I grew up together. Well, one of us grew up...the other one of us has too much time on his hands and just happened to know the lyrics and Googled the rest. It was fun though.

Mostly, I'm just sort of excited to skew Eileen's iTunes new suggestions thing. Now there will be random suggestions to buy tunes from uber-pop, super-hot princesses when she logs into iTunes. Sometimes it's not only about just winning. Sometimes messing with others is equally important!

It's good to be golden...

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Don't bug me

I've been pretty good so far; I haven't uttered a peep about the Olympics. It's been a good games too.

There have been some excellent stories unfolding. Like the reigning gold medalist who fell near the start of the cross country ski race and scraped his way to the front again from dead last. C'mon, that's an Olympic moment. I love that stuff.

I've kept my Olympic fever in check for the first week. Tonight though...it's twirling girls on ice. All I can say is don't bug me. No really, call if you want but I won't be answering the phone.

I might like bobsled, downhill skiing, cross country and snowboarding, but I adore figure skating.

Last night, I watched the American duo take silver in ice dancing. It was a surprisingly good competition too. The new scoring system is doing wonders for ice dance anyway. I was too tired to really get into the pair competition last week, so I latched on to the ice dancing. I loved how honestly joyful the American team was. They were so happy to be there. And, they skated well too - not as good as their previous round (which they smoked), but pretty darn good.

Tonight is the start of the women's competition. I'll be tuned in and cheering for my favorite, Sasha Cohen. I'm hoping that she can get past being the queen of international silver and grab the gold. I've been cheering for her for a long time.

Mostly though, I'm just looking forward to being taken away for a little while. A few hours away from the real world...that's all I'm asking.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

ITunes...you're killin' me

Been loading up the iPod, who is now known as Boris the Black (Boris to his friends). It's been both fun and frustratingly slow.

ITunes is actually a pretty tight little program that is much better a year and a half after I first tried it. So, no complaints there. It's just a bit of process since I've been combining ripping some unripped CDs and transferring tunes to a new directory and the iPod.

The big problem is the temptation of the at your fingertips iTunes Music Store. This could cost me serious coin since it's been a long time since I've really bought much music.

Here's a look at what's been tapping my wallet in the last couple of weeks: Arctic Monkeys, Belle and Sebastian, The Buzzcocks, Acid House Kings, Nouvelle Vague (thanks for that one Eileen...I blame you for this purchase...in a good way), Wilco, Hard-Fi, and Willie Nelson.

I think I need and intervention.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Snow day...

Some days are just meant for staying inside and sipping hot chocolate. Too bad I would have to go to the store to get some... I could really go for some of that warm, chocolatey goodness right now.

This is supposed to be our big winter storm. We'll see. So far it hasn't been too bad, but the road crews have been pretty lame. I went out to the store last night when we got our first three or four inches and the roads weren't too great. The second round of snow is here now and the roads are going to be a lot worse than they would have been if the plows had been working it hard last night. I mean, c'mon guys, this is Wisconsin...snow isn't a big surprise.

That said, I love/hate the snow.

I'm glad it's coming down. It makes for a nice change. It also makes the Winter Olympics seem more fun. It's a bit easier to get into the whole winter scene when there's snow outside.

It also gives our crazy cool neighbor a chance to fire up his snow blower and blow the snow caked sidewalks of neighborehood. How nice is that?

He's about 180 years old and is one of the last old school Wisconsin-style homeowners that I remember from my yute. He's out there every day doing something in the yard or around the house. And he's always picking up any trash - big or small - that blows his way.

That's how the Milwaukee area used to be. Everyone kept their places up and there was never an uncut lawn on the block. That ethic seems to have disappeared with the first- and second-generation Germans, Poles and Greeks that made up the fabric of this area.

I really miss that cool cultural mix. Nobody's Grandma speaks German anymore. And not many people's Grandpas are out blowing the snow off the neighbor's sidewalks.

And in a weird weather update...there was just a flash of lightning and some thunder. What the heck! Will someone please man the controls up there? There's not supposed to be thunder and lightning in a snow storm.

If frogs start falling from the sky, I'm going to run and repent. Thank goodness the Catlick church is only a block away.

Anyway, I think I'll brew some coffee, just sit around, and maybe bust open a book. Oh yeah...and do my best to resist the urge to make 400 blog entries...

Monday, February 13, 2006

Press release...

In a surprising turnabout, SHAWN, a division of THE WORLD INC., early Monday morning announced plans to cut production of Bad Karma. SHAWN has been producing both Good and Bad Karma since the mid 1960s. The move indicates a new direction for the company, one that insiders say could open up many new possibilities.

"Recently, the marketplace has just been flooded with Bad Karma," said SHAWN chairman, Shawn. "There's just too much competition, especially for a small company like this. It was obvious that changes had to made to deal with the realities of the new marketplace. So, SHAWN will begin to cut back on production of Bad Karma immediately and will start the process of switching over to Good Karma production."

The move bucks the current trend toward increased Bad Karma production, but isn't without precedent.

"There have been quite a few success stories out there already," said Shawn. "Look at Ghandi Ltd., Jesus Co., and Dalai Lama Inc. Of course, we're a lot smaller than any of them, but we think that their successes in Good Karma production will translate on our scale. Look at it this way, if we can see a fraction of their successes, we'll be ahead of the game. That's good for our stockholders and, ultimately, the entire marketplace."

Asked if he was worried about competition, Shawn answered that SHAWN looked forward to any moves by other companies into the Good Karma market.

"This is a whole different business model," he said. "The old rules don't apply. Oddly enough, we believe that the more companies that get into this area the stronger we all become. We're just going to do what we already know how to do and try and do it better."

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Quick question...

Okay...forgetting any Spy vs. Spy aspects, what kind of pussy would deliberately try and ruin the career of a rival's wife? I propose that it takes a particularly weak person to something like that.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the whole thing go like this:

  • Belief that Iraq is buying uranium from an African country is expressed.

  • Someone in CIA sends a guy who was a U.S. Ambassador in the area and has uranium mining knowledge to check it out.

  • That guy comes back and says nothing is going on.

  • Administration ignores his report.

  • Guy writes an opinion piece for a newspaper saying nothing is going on and administration knows it.

  • Dick Cheney gets pissed and has his Chief of Staff leak information about the guy's wife who happens to work for the CIA.

  • Dick Cheney sits back and lets everyone else take the heat for him.

Is it really surprising that Cheney started his political career as an aide in the Nixon administration?

If you are odious enough to go after the wife of someone who disagrees with your pet argument, at least don't try and hide behind your Chief of Staff while he possibly gets sent to prison. It's bad enough he has to live with the name Scooter, he doesn't need to get sent out to pull an Ollie North.

What part of any of this is in any way something a real man would do?

Dick Cheney...you are a pussy.

Friday, February 10, 2006

What can I say...

I used to have a big crush on Lisa Loeb - my first indie-pop infatuation as it were. Her song 'Stay' made me go all gooey. Yeah, I know...not too macho...but whatcha gonna do?

Now she's got a show on E! and I have a reason to turn on the television on Sundays now that football's done. All I can say is - I'm out here in Wisconsin Lisa.

Anyway, I guess I've still got a crush on Lisa Loeb. Watch her show...I want to keep seeing her.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Just giving you a heads up...er...fair notice

Since I get tired of discovering - or rather, recognizing - the next, hot, new starlets, and then no one believing that I spotted them way back when...I am going public with this one.

You're going to see more of Camilla Belle.

That's it. I don't have much more to say than that. She's the star of the newest reincarnation of the high-tension movie, 'When a Stranger Calls.' It probably didn't have to be made, but that's Hollywood for ya. I'm guessing it's making some good bank for the studio too...that's the American movie-going public for ya.

Anyway, I first saw her in a smallish role in a smallish movie called, 'The Invisible Circus.' She didn't register much then though. How could she when she was playing the young version of Jordana Brewster's character? Ah Jordana Brewster...but that's a whole other post. The point is, she can act, she's cute and there's something appealing about her that goes beyond the good looks.

Good...bad...whatever...I just want to get it paper - or screen - this time. You'll be seeing more of Camilla Belle.


Monday, February 06, 2006

Hmmm...isn't it a bit odd?

Does anyone else think it's a bit funny that the Blogger spellcheck doesn't include the word 'blog' in it? Seriously...try it.

It's the attention to detail that really matters.

Aint life grand?!?

I got a homework assignment...in a bar

I was down at my local pub the other night and instead of picking up a delightful, young trollop, I picked up a homework assignment. What kind of crap is that?

I blame Gregg for this - and I mean that literally. He's the one who gave me the assignment to blog about something kind of controversial.

"I want you to blog about school vouchers," he said.


Before I even get going, let me tell you that I really did start doing some catching up and I learned a bit. But I also have to admit that I find myself really not caring that much. Bad attitude? What can I say - I'm a victim of my own public school education.

Wisconsin has been a pioneer - as it were - in the area of school vouchers. The Milwaukee Public School District was one of the first cities to try out a voucher pilot program. There have been several precedent-making court decisions to come out of challenges to Wisconsin law and the MPS program.

The voucher program - to simplify the concept - is returning tax money paid for education to parents so that they can use it to pay for private school tuition rather than sending their kids to public schools. There are really two main flavors of this - one for the poor and one for the wealthy (or, at least, well off).

The Milwaukee pilot program - started in the 1990s - is geared toward lower income families. The idea was that city public schools were failing many children and parents shouldn't have to sit by without a choice. The results have been mixed.

Parents of students that took advantage of the program thought it was great and their participation increased. That's great in my book. Parents should be more involved in the education of their kids. Interestingly though, test scores have not followed suit. There hasn't been an increase in test scores or any other measures of learning.

Also, after the first couple of years, there is a pretty high rate of students leaving the program. It's hard to track because many left because of moves from the area. Reasons for leaving among those who were contacted fell into three main categories - time factors (like travel time to and from), unhappiness that the private schools were still to secular, and disappointment in the lack of variety in extracurricular activities.

More recently, the program was expanded to include private religious schools. For some, it has meant being able to stay open. There was even one new school opened as a direct result of the program. The results have apparently been the same as with the smaller initial program.

One unexpected problem with the program is that it isn't based on a tuition cost formula. That means private schools have been able to include the value of their buildings to the equation and in many cases double the amount the state has given them per student.

Anyway, that's the local background. Around here, it's a big issue.

What's my opinion? Well, mostly I don't like the idea of vouchers. That's not to say that I don't think that public education is deeply flawed, but I don't really see why some parents believe that they should get a tax break for sending their kids to private schools. Under that kind of reasoning, I should get the same amount of money back because I don't have any kids.

Maybe a lot of it has to do with the two flavors. For parents with kids in big city schools where there are many problems, I can understand the frustration they must feel. There just seem to be many options and they just want the best for their kids.

I would also include parents with special needs kids in this group. In a lot of cases, their kids just won't get the extra attention needed in a public school. Let's face it, there aren't many teachers gifted enough to deal with special needs students. These parents and kids deserve to have other options.

My problem is more with the parents that have the means to send their kids to private schools, but don't want to feel the tightening of the belt it would require. You own a house? Have a decent car? Have a job that pays good money? Screw you. Pay the tuition then. I grew up with a father who worked hard and mom who chose to give up working to raise my brother and myself. They were both active in my education. Mom volunteered down at school and my Dad got elected to the school board. They didn't moan about how little time they had - they just dealt.

At one point, my parents considered sending me to private school. If they had, they would have paid. It would have been a sacrifice, but they would have paid.

When we moved to California, they actually did send my brother to a private school because the elementary schools were so bad. My brother had broken his arm at recess and the teacher wouldn't believe that he was hurt and needed to see the nurse - so they were naturally skeptical about the quality of education he might be getting. And guess what? They paid for his schooling.

Anyhow...I don't mind paying tax dollars for public education. I took advantage of it and it made me a better person who can read, write and figure the tip at a restaurant. I certainly want the next generation to be able to do at least the same.

Don't ask me to fund your kids' private education though. Get a job and do it yourself unless you're going to help me fund a sweet new car because I don't think it's right to be limited in my car buying options and I can't be expected to pay taxes for schools I don't have any kids at and buy a hot ride too.

Hmmm...maybe I do care a bit.

Sorry for being a bit lengthy on the one hand and way too brief on the other. Maybe there are some other opinions out there. If so, feel free to jump in with them.

Friday, February 03, 2006

I didn't know Jack...

How is it that I never knew Jack? No really, I should have known. I feel ashamed that I didn't have a clue before.

What am I on about? What, you don't read minds? I'm talking about Jack Johnson of course. And it's not even like nobody ever told me.

What transpires to turn us on to new things? Sometimes it's a concerted effort. Sometimes it's more of an accident. This is probably what you would call something in between.

For those who don't know, Jack Johnson is a singer/songwriter type - essentially a guy with a guitar. Yes girls, a good looking guy with a guitar. Anyway, he does songs that you can imagine him singing around a campfire when he's out camping with friends. He's that kind of musician. Nothing fancy, just a guitar and some heartfelt music.

I had heard him more than once and thought that he was alright. Nothing really sank in though.

Then I heard about him on Jax's blog. She's a huge fan. Okay...maybe even a number one fan. Anyway, she sings his praises - in prose, not literally that I know of. Still it never clicked for me.

The other night, I was out at my favorite pub and was talking to my friend Becca. She was filling the jukebox with hard-earned coin and started talking about how much she likes this Jack guy.

"You've gotta listen to this song," she said. She stopped short of pulling a Natalie Portman in Garden State because she never said it would change my life.

"Oh yeah, I know this song..."

We both decided that he would be a guy you might want to hang out with, but I was still pretty indifferent.

Then, a couple of days ago I got the iPod (which still remains un-named by the way) and had to download a couple of podcasts. I downloaded some good ones like the German one I've been listening to for a while, Schlaflos in Munchen, and a few new ones like, Tiki Bar TV.

Along with these was a surfing one called - In the Lineup. Mostly I wanted to hear the segment with Daize Shayne, a hot longboarder and one of the original Roxie girls, but that's another story. Anyway, it turns out that Daize has a budding music career and did a couple of songs. She also talked about other surfer songsters and mentioned Jack Johnson.

That was the final prompt. I went online and found out that Jack is one of those musicians who's cool with taping live performances. There are a ton of live shows to be downloaded from the Archive. I did. It was awesome. And now I can't believe it took so long for me to find this guy's music.

Now I just want it to be summer again...

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Musical milestones...

I finally joined the iPod nation and picked up a new pod for myself. I was looking at Nanos since before the holidays and had thought that's what I was going to get. I even knew my new Nano's name...Neil. But when crunch time came (I'm allowed to use the phrase 'crunch time' because I used to be a sports editor), I couldn't bring myself to go that little.

So, Neil is still on the shelf somewhere. I hope he doesn't end up having to play endless Christina Aquilara songs or, worse yet, endless Christian music...but his fate is out of my hands.

That leaves me in a quandary though. What do I name my sleek black-and-silver, video-playing piece of musical wonder? I'm now looking for ideas. Help a brother out, will ya?

Already, I feel the same way I did when I finally broke down and got my first CD player (which was portable and came with a tape adaptor and cigarette lighter plug for the car, in case you were wonderin). Yeah, I was stubborn then too. It was such an odd feeling to walk into Tower Records in Beaverton, Oregon and realize that the whole store was mine...not just the ever dwindling tape and record sections. It was like going for a stroll and discovering the Grand Canyon.

Don't get me wrong, I haven't been completely oblivious to the march of technology. I've got about 30 gigs of music loaded on my computer and still haven't ripped all my CDs. I've also been through two cheap MP3 players already.

This is different though. If getting my first MP3 player was like moving to a new neighborhood, then getting my first iPod is like finding out that my apartment is in the same building as a modeling agency. The world just seems full of potential and possibilities.

I've already found the joy of iTunes' one-click shopping. That in itself is a piece of blissful wonder. Then there's the podcast subscription possibilities. In seconds, I found several that podcasts that I would have never known about, much less downloaded. I mean...'Ask A Ninja'...get outta here! Awesome.

Believe me, this new toy is already making my life a wee bit happier.