Film Review: The Big Lebowski

The Big Lebowski is currently my favorite movie. A story about a middle-aged slacker, the film paints a picture of Jeffrey Lebowski, aka “The Dude”, a man who wants nothing more than to bowl and drink White Russians.

The Big Lebowski

His peaceful existence is shattered when his house is broken into and his rug urinated upon. This leads him through a series of fantastic adventures that see him drugged, beaten and visited by God at the bowling alley bar.

It’s an A+ flick best enjoyed with a White Russian in hand.

Book Review: Morbo

I don’t have as much time as I’d like to read books. Otherwise, I would have finished Phil Ball’s Morbo in a day. Fortunately, I started doing a bit of cycling on the stationary bike, and so I was able to consume the history of Spanish football while getting a workout at the same time.

Morbo painting

The word “morbo” refers to the antipathy between rival teams in Spain, as much a cultural phenomenon as a sporting one. That’s where the real story lies. In addition to interesting facts about the history of Spanish soccer, the book delves deep into the beliefs, languages, politics and interactions between various nations within Spain. Such regionalism is fascinating, as the unique segments of the country alternately clash and collaborate in a number of ways, perhaps none more so than in football

Ball seems to have a happy knack for starting up conversations with regular guys, all of whom have an opinion on the local side and how they reflect the superior character of the region’s inhabitants. The book is filled with nuggets of fun facts, such as Pope John Paul II being registered in Barcelona’s supporters club. Though the focus is the rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona, there’s still plenty of discussion about the teams from Galicia, Andalucia, and the Basque Country. The book’s got more flavor than paella, so check it out!

Rook: A Good Ol’ Game

Rook has become a lunchtime staple around the office. There are a lot of reasons for this, including the fact that it supports anywhere from two to five players, we’re able to get several hands in during the hour, four people can play with partners, and there’s a different winner almost every time.

Rook bird

The history of the game is pretty interesting, too. A trick-taking card game, it was created in 1906 for Puritan Christian types, who viewed the traditional playing card deck as evil on account of its roots in tarot. A fearsome bird-themed deck is much better, of course, and it grew wings to become Parker Brothers’ best-selling game until Monopoly hit the market.

Rook is easy to learn and a good thing to have on hand to while away the hours while sipping a cold drink on the porch with friends. Check it out.

Thumbs Down to Microsoft Expressions

I’ve been fiddling around for a couple of hours with Microsoft Expressions, the design application for Silverlight’s BETA flavor. It earned a resounding thumbs-down. I’m not completely thick, and I couldn’t follow the instructions to make a simple rollover button.

MS Expressions: Crap

Now which Edit Template did I want again?

Besides boasting instructions obviously written by a programmer, the controls were unintuitive and something common like selecting a background color for the button required about 13 steps. That’s my guess, anyway, since I couldn’t figure out how to do that either.

Furthermore, Expressions Blend only accepts image files from its sister program, Expressions Design, which appears to be a bad Photoshop clone. So in order to bring a GIF file into the hot navigation you’re making in Blend, you must first open it in Design, then copy and paste it into Blend. Are you kidding me!?

Maybe I’ll try it again later, if this truly is the future of the web. But this is a very discouraging start to Microsoft’s attempts to catch Adobe in the world of multimedia.

A Top 50 Bands Announcement

Lists, lists, lists. This one contains the 50 best music artists I could think of in 10 minutes, plus one song from each that best defines them. I’m an optimistic move, I’ve tried to arrange them so that similar artists are grouped together. I hope that if you see something you know and like, the adjacent items will also be up your alley. Of course, these songs are for promotional purposes only, and if you own them and would like them withdrawn, please leave a comment and they will be removed within 24 hours. Support these great bands and buy their music.

Top 50 Music Artists

1 The Postal Service – Such Great Heights
2 Ratatat – El Pico
3 Brobecks – March 1

4 Grandaddy – Nature Anthem
5 Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Part I
6 Fiery Furnaces – Inca Rag
7 Radiohead – Everything in Its Right Place
8 Pink Floyd – Pigs on the Wing
9 Beirut – Mount Wroclai(Idle Days)

10 Man Man – Feathers
11 Devotchka – I Cried Like a Silly Boy
12 Sufjan Stevens – Chicago
13 The Shins – New Slang
14 Badly Drawn Boy – A Minor Incident
15 Wilco – I Am Trying to Break Your Heart

16 Simon & Garfunkel – 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)
17 Belle & Sebastian – The Boy With the Arab Strap
18 Mason Jennings – Ulysses
19 Johnny Cash – Ring of Fire

20 Elliott Smith – In the Lost and Found
21 Death Cab for Cutie – A Lack of Color
22 Decemberists – Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect
23 Emily Loizeau – Je Ne Sais Pas Choisir
24 Regina Spektor – Poor Little Rich Boy
25 Final Fantasy – The CN Tower Belongs to the Dead

26 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Piano Concerto in E Flat, 3rd movement
27 Mark Mothersbaugh – Hardest Geometry Problem In The World
28 Andrew Bird – Scythian Empire
29 Islands – Bucky Little Wing
30 Eels – Novocaine for the Soul
31 Cold War Kids – Hospital Beds

32 Tap Tap – 100,000 Thoughts
33 Oh No! Oh My! – Farewell to All My Friends
34 Spoon – Everything Hits at Once (At the Disco)
35 Built to Spill – Liar
36 Bishop Allen – Eve of Destruction
37 Boy Least Likely To – Be Gentle With Me

38 Beulah – Score From Agusta
39 Neutral Milk Hotel – King of Carrot Flowers Part I
40 Modest Mouse – Bukowski
41 Walkmen – The Rat
42 White Stripes – We Are Going to Be Friends
43 Arcade Fire – Rebellion (Lies)

44 New Pornographers – My Slow Descent Into Alcoholism
45 Bloc Party – Banquet
46 Phoenix – Napoleon Says
47 Wolf Parade – Modern World
48 Fountains of Wayne – Mexican Wine
49 The Strokes – Ask Me Anything
50 Rilo Kiley – A Better Son/Daughter

Lionel Messi: Maradona’s Heir

Shortly after earning a place in my Contemporary XI, Leo Messi popped up and scored the best goal of the 21st century thus far.

Leo Messi

There’s a great column by my favorite soccer writer, Phil Ball, over at Soccernet. Ball writes about the Spanish league, and captures the culture around the game in Spain brilliantly. I particularly like his view of Messi as “a funny little chap with a child’s face and an attractively modest manner.” That modesty is evident in his interviews, and means that no one feels guilty about celebrating his tremendous goal, as they probably would if it had been scored by someone like Marco Materazzi.

Messi first caught my eye in 2005, while playing for the Argentina U-18 in the Youth World Cup. He dominated the tournament with his close control, blazing pace and pinpoint shooting, despite looking like one of the youngest kids there. Shortly after, he broke into Barcelona’s first team, and only a few months later was tormenting Chelsea’s expensively assembled squad in the Champions League. He exposed left back Asier Del Horno to such a degree that he was shipped out after only one season.

With less physical presence and tricks than Christiano Ronaldo, he is nevertheless younger, and equally hard to contain. He should set the football world alight for years to come.

In-N-Out Burger’s Secret Menu

I may only have had In-N-Out burger once, when I went with my girlfriend and her mother before a flight back to the East coast, but rest assured I’ll be stopping by on my next trip to California. And this time, I’ll be armed with the secret menu. Which is what, you ask? Which is more than just their regular menu, which looks like this:

In-N-Out Burger Menu

There’s nothing wrong with the normal menu. They make a few things and make them well. But while the “secret” menu is the worst kept secret in the business, it can still make you feel like an “in”sider. Eh? Ehh?

X x Y
X is the number of meat patties and Y is the number of slices of cheese (so 3 x 3 is 3 meat patties and 3 slices of cheese, while 1 x 4 is 1 meat patty and 4 slices of cheese)

Double Meat
Two meat patties with no cheese.

Triple Meat
Three meat patties with no cheese.

Animal Style
The beef patty is fried with mustard and served with tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, extra spread and grilled onions. You can get any burger (like the veggie or grilled cheeses) made this way.

Flying Dutchman

Two beef patties, two slices of melted cheese. Nothing else.

Protein Style
The burger is wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun. You can get any burger (like the veggie and grilled cheeses) made this way.

Veggie Burger (aka Wish Burger)
A burger with no meat or cheese.

Grilled Cheese
Two slices of melted cheese, lettuce, tomato and spread on a bun, with no meat.

Extra Everything
Extra spread, extra tomato, extra lettuce, and extra onions.

Fries “Light”
Nearly raw fries that are cooked for less time.

Fries “Well”
Fries that are cooked extra long so as to be extra crisp.

Cheese Fries
French fries with two slices of melted cheese on top.

Animal Style Fries
French fries with cheese, spread, and grilled onions.

Neapolitan Shake
Strawberry, vanilla and chocolate shake flavors combined in one shake.

Half-and-half combo of pink lemonade and 7-Up.

Not too bad, right? I’ve got to say the Protein Style sounds best to me. And it’s lettuce instead of bread, so you know it’s healthy.

Reminiscences of the Intracoastal Waterway

In the spring of 2004, my brother and I bought a sailboat, which we christened Audentes. We spent several weeks patching fiberglass on the hull, laying on gallons of hyper-expensive paint, and doing our grocery shopping at Walmart while we lived in a squalid, dusty boatyard. After launching, we took a short shakeout sail to the Bahamas with our parents, then we sailed north through the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway.

Intracoastal Waterway

Though we were forced to motor slowly for much of the time, the ICW proved to be thoroughly enjoyable. We crept up the coast through protected channels, passing through towns like Belhaven, Norfolk and Elizabeth City while listening to the music of Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan on the ship’s speakers. Locals waved lazily from the shore as they enjoyed the warm evenings, and we’d drop anchor right in the river, grilling up burgers or cooking baked beans before settling in for the night. There were deer and rabbits on the shore, dolphins and fish in the river, birds and mosquitoes in the sky.

There were obvious drawbacks like the vicious insects buzzing around our heads, the floating logs in the Dismal Swamp Canal, and running out of gas in the Chesapeake Bay, but it was a wonderful leg of the trip. I’d like to go back sometime, and I’d recommend the same to anyone else.

A place for projects