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December 29, 2005

Blogging while everyone is on vacation...

Well, I think everyone is on vacation so I have decided not to spend a whole lotta time thinking about this here site for the next couple of days. That, and I can't think of anything to say right now. I feel a kind of malaise today about sharing any of my precious opinions. Sure I could share, but I don't want to put the effort in (especially if you are all on vacation).

So, if you haven't seen SNL's "Lazy Sunday" rap, do yourself a favor and watch it. It is the most hilarious thing I've seen from SNL in years:

Lazy Sunday

"The Chronic - what? - les of Narnia!!!" Funny, funny stuff...

Posted by snackeru at 8:38 AM | Comments (5)

December 28, 2005

Let's make this clear...

In the famous words of one of my favorite comic book characters growing up, "Big fat hairy deal." Let's spell it out in a mathematical equation type format:

$30 million increase in cost + "absolutely" no more money from the Twins + moronic legislators + "talk is cheap" governor = No New Twins Stadium

Whatever plan Pawlenty is going to put together will go absolutley nowhere. The sooner we come to this conclusion, the better.

This is my immediate reaction...

Posted by snackeru at 9:27 AM | Comments (2)

December 26, 2005

My family's trip to Disney World

Yep, we just came back from Disney World, and we had a blast. Man, I cannot express with enough detail or justice how much fun we had! If you've never been to Disney World it is the experience of a lifetime, and I'm glad I was able to provide it to my kids. Needless to say, I hope it doesn't take me another 20 years to make it back to this magical place.

Anyway, there are a couple of details about Disney World that I have to get down before I forget. One is that Disney World teaches you patience. When you first get there and you see that the line waits are upwards of 30-40 minutes you think to yourself, "No way am I waiting that long for a ride!" But by the 4th day you consider 30 minutes to be an absolute steal and you will run into the line before it gets any longer, regardless of the ride. I believe this is the only reason I rode "It's a Small World After All."

Secondly, if Disney could put together a ride that includes 3D, a boat cruise, and a simulation they would probably be as happy as clams. Almost every place we went had at least one of each, sometimes multiple versions of each. Especially 3D movies and simulation rides, though. Sometimes they were excellent and highly entertaining ("It's Tough to Be a Bug" starring Flik from Bug's Life) and sometimes they stunk ("Star Tours," the hyped Star Wars ride, was not very good. This ticked me off.). Anyway, I'm just thinking if they could combine all three of these Disney World staples into one ride they would probably be thrilled.

Finally, if you are planning on going to Disney World, I must recommend the Disney Meal Plan as a "must have" for your trip. The plan was about $150 a day for my family, but it was worth it. I swear we did not have a "sit down" meal at Disney World for less than $130. In addition, lunch usually cost upwards of $50 for the five of us. One meal we had at the Coral Reef restaurant cost $200. One meal. But because we were on the plan we saved oodles of money.

Anyway, if you are interested, click into the extended entry for more about my family's vacation to Disney World. But be warned! There are about 20 pictures on the next page so it may take some time to load for those of you on slow connections. On with the show!

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We took over 400 pictures while at Disney World. The pictures below are only the tip of the iceberg. I hope you enjoy them!

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The first ride we went on was Space Mountain. Unfortunately, this was the last time we rode it, too. We went back on our last night to ride it for the last time only to be told it was having the dreaded "technical difficulties." Oh well, better luck next time!

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My daughter had her picture taken with every princess we happened to come across. In the end she had her picture taken with every princess in the Disney catalog except for Ariel.

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This is Splash Mountain, not your typical floom ride by any means. I usually hate flooms, but this was a very, very good, and creative, ride. I would highly recommend it. Also, because it was a little "chilly" outside (by Florida standards) the lines were very short.

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We spent a lot of time at Epcot. Right after this picture was taken my kids and I went on the rocket blast simulation ride Mission Space. Wow. The ride simluates a rocket blast to outer space and then to Mars. This ride was so intense I actually got motion sickness. Fortunately I didn't blow chunks, but if we had actually taken the return trip back to Earth I may have. Yikes!

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One of the more interesting rides at Epcot was called "This is the Land" where they showed you a lot of the research going on a Epcot concerning more efficient ways to produce food. This tomato plant has been turned into a tomato tree, and it has already produced almost 20,000 tomatos. And it was only planted a year ago. Yes, this is a world record, and the tree provides many of the tomatos eaten at Disney World. I thought that was cool.

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While at Epcot we, of course, toured the World Showcase. This is my kids in front of the Japanese Shinto shrine. Cool stuff everywhere you looked...

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Here the princess Aurora suckers me into the picture shoot with my daughter. Not that I minded (wink, wink). Note my extreme tourist appearance.

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We also spent a day at Disney-MGM Studios. I must admit, we did not spend enough time here. We missed a couple of cool things, but truthfully the park may be more appropriate for adults than little kids. My kids were not as thrilled with this place as I was. Anyway, the ride above is the inside of the Rock and Roller Coaster. This ride, starring Aerosmith, starts off in this stalled postion and then blasts to 60 MPH in under 3 seconds. I don't think my oldest has forgiven me yet for putting him on this ride. It was intense. Loops, hills, and spirals. It had them all. And the ride featured the music of Aerosmith, but I couldn't hear anything over my kids' and my own screams.

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Here we are after we conquered the Rock and Roller Coaster. My older son didn't talk to me for at least an hour after this ride.

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My daughter walked by this sign, looked up, and said, "Hey! That looks like my god-father!" Sorry Curt. We thought that was hilarious!

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Another thing that is common in Disney World besides 3D, simulations, and boat tours, are the "shows." We saw so many shows it was incredible. We saw the Indiana Jones show, a great bird show (twice), Beauty and the Beast, the Little Mermaid, the Lion King, Tarzan Rocks, and this fantastic stunt spectacular, among others. The show above featured high speed car chases and stunts that I can't adequately describe. It was a very good show.

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Unfortunately, my two sons also got a recurrence of strep throat while they were at Disney World. So, we had to make a pit stop at the doctor. Bummer.

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We got to have breakfast with Disney characters during our visit to the Animal Kingdom. We got pictures with Goofy, Pluto, Donald, and Mickey. The kids had a blast.

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This is the outside of the Dinosaur ride at Animal Kingdom. This ride was a lot of fun and again, very intense. Not because of a bunch of loops, but because of the realistic dinosaurs screaming in your face. Wow! My daughter was freaked out! But she still went on it two more times. I swear, nothing fazed this girl. She didn't refuse to go on one ride. I couldn't believe how brave she was (she is only 5).

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While at Animal Kingdom we also went on the Kilamanjaro Safari. Obviously, on the safari we saw some giraffes, but also some crocodiles, hippos, elephants, lions, flamingos, gazelles, and bunch of other animals. The ride was also wrapped up into an elaborate "poaching" story where we had to stop some poachers from making off with some ivory. I was amazed. I mean the ride would have been enough with just the animals, but then they spiced it up with stopping poachers. It was very cool.

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Back to Epcot for the night (Animal Kingdom closes at 5:00). Here is the Stave Church at Norway. Interestingly enough, Norway is the only country that has any wooden churches left from the middle ages. Over 1,000 of them were built in Norway and 28 survive today. I found that very interesting.

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This is a picture of probably our favorite ride at Epcot, the Test Track. In this ride you go through a series of "tests" that GM would usually put a car through including bumpy roads, brake tests, extreme conditions (like hot and cold), climbing, and, of course, speed. The outside of the ride includes a speed track that has riders zip around a velodrome type track. It was very, very cool. We must have ridden this ride at least 4 times. I even video taped the entire ride.

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Back at Magic Kingdom we tried to get on as many rides as possible, including this kid favorite, the Indy Speedway.

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Not the best picture, I know. Please forgive me. The last night we were there we watched the firework show at Cinderella's castle. This was an emotional moment for me knowing that I was leaving the next day, but also because my family was all together enjoying this moment. I was holding my daughter as we watched the impressive display and I was seriously consumed by love. I know it sounds sappy, but I can't help it. It is a memory I will always cherish.

So, that is my trip to Disney World. I hope to get back there someday. We had a blast!

Posted by snackeru at 8:56 PM | Comments (4)

December 23, 2005

Disney vacation winding down

Well, my Disney vacation is winding down. One thing I hope I got a chance to see is the Star Wars "ride" at Disney-MGM studios. That should be fun for both me and my boys.

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Maybe I'll get to see George and Mickey got at it! Cool!

Posted by snackeru at 8:00 AM

December 22, 2005

More Kokology!

Take this little test and read the extended entry to reveal something about yourself. Or not. Up to you. And if you do give this a try, really play along. It is pretty interesting.

Deep in the Mountains

The mountains and the sea—nature has a power that draws us to her. After all we are all nature’s children, born into her world and fed on her bounty. No matter what marvels technology may develop, getting back to nature lets us feel truly alive. Medical science may make advances, but the best medicine will always be nature’s own healing power.

Your next journey will take you back to that green world, and what better setting for you to rediscover your natural self?

1. You have set off to climb a mountain, in search of a fabulously rare stone. What is your impression of the mountain as you stand at its foot?

2. After a hard search, you still haven’t found the stone, and now the sun has fallen. What will you do next?

3. You have finally discovered the stone you were seeking. What kind of stone is it? Describe its size, weight, and value.

4. Now it is time to come down from the mountain and return home. What parting words do you have for the mountain, and what is its reply?

Ready for what your answers reveal about you? Read on...

Key to Deep in the Mountains

The mountain that looms before you represents your father, or a father figure in your life. In psychological terms, it is a manifestation of the archetype of the “wise old man.? The stone you seek symbolizes abilities and strengths you must discover within yourself on your own journey to adult independence.

1. Your impression of the mountain show the image you have of your father. Was it difficult and unforgiving? Gentle and easily conquered? Or did you have an idealized image of a magnificent peak that somehow seemed to welcome you and encourage you in your quest?

2. The stone you are searching for represents your as yet undiscovered talent or strength. Your response to this question shows whether you will ever realize that untapped potential.

People who say they’d keep searching for the stone no matter what tend to show the same persistence and determination in their own lives, never giving up even when efforts seem fruitless.

Those who said they’d call it quits for the day but come back again to continue the search are the type who pace themselves, spreading their efforts over a long period of time. There are probably more than a few late bloomers in this group.

People who gave up looking for the stone altogether are in danger of never fulfilling their true potential.

3. The way you described the stone shows your feeling of self-worth. How big and heavy was it, and what did you think of its value?

“Oh, about twenty dollars or so.? Hmmm, that’s not much of an appraisal, is it?

“It turned out to be a huge diamond worth millions!? Hold on now, let’s not get carried away with ourselves.

4. Your parting words to the mountain reveal what you have always wanted, but never been able, to say to your father. Do you recognize any of these patters?

You: Thanks for everything.
Mountain: You take care of yourself.

Did you have that kind of ideal exchange? Or did it go more like this:

You: Well, it looks like I’m finally through with you.
Mountain: You can say that again!

Maybe it’s time you and your father sat down for a talk.

Posted by snackeru at 8:55 AM | Comments (2)

December 21, 2005

Still at Disney World

Hey everyone! I'm still at Disney World! And again, I'm not typing these out in my hotel room. I wrote these posts out before I even left.

One of my favorite rides as a child was Thunder Mountain. We'll see if I still like it...

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Posted by snackeru at 8:51 AM | Comments (1)

December 20, 2005

Links of the day

Here is a special "Shane's on vacation" edition of Links of the day! Yep, I'm still in Disney World! No doubt I'm having a good time!

Have a good day everyone! See you soon! It is off to Space Mountain for me...

Posted by snackeru at 8:31 AM | Comments (1)

December 19, 2005

In Disney World!

By the time you read this, I will have been in Disney World for two days. In fact, I am in Disney World! As a Christmas gift my wife and I are taking our three kids to Disney World. I haven't announced it here yet because it was done as a surprise. We woke our kids up on Saturday early in the morning and told them to get in the car because we are going to Florida! I'll tell you all about it when I get back.

I'm actually writing this on Friday (December 16) and I'm using the new scheduling function of Movable Type to publish this post in the future. So, you can expect something from me tomorrow too!

Until then, so long! I'm off to visit Cinderella's castle!

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And don't tell me how the Pittsburgh game came out. I'm taping it so I can watch it when I get home.

(just kidding).

By the way, Criag, your gas can for your snow blower is in my garage. Just in case you were looking for it.

Posted by snackeru at 8:00 AM | Comments (1)

December 16, 2005

Best Movies Viewed in 2005

Like before, these are the best movies I've watched in 2005. These movies didn't necessarily come out in 2005, although in this case most of them did. And this is only a fraction of my movie viewing. According to Netflix I have returned well over 60 discs this year (some of them TV shows). Hard to believe. But these are the movies I enjoyed the most. So, without further ado...

  1. Finding Neverland
    Without a doubt my favorite of the year. I was really blown away by it from the acting, to the story, to the ending. A triumph all the way around. I think I am getting sappier and sappier in my old age.
  2. Batman Begins
    Yes ... this is the way Batman is supposed to be. One of the few movies that I actually saw twice in the theatres (although one time was at the discount theater). Can't wait for the next one.
  3. Napoleon Dynamite
    Oh my goodness do I love this movie. I will probably buy it to own (when I can find it for $10). I have found, though, that you either love this movie or you hate it. I am definitely in the "love" camp.
  4. Fight Club
    One of the few times where the film adaptation is just as good and may even surpass the original book. This movie just blows me away. It doesn't matter how many times I watch it, I always sit there riveted to the screen. Tyler Durden ... I will never forget that name.
  5. Mr. and Mrs. Smith
    I have a confession to make: I really like Brad Pitt movies. Like I said yesterday, with a wife and three kids I have nothing to prove to anyone. I'll like what I want, and there is nothing you can do about it! Angelina Jolie didn't hurt either. I must have been in a weird mood while I was watching this one, because I really enjoyed it.
  6. The 40 Year Old Virgin
    How can you not like a movie where the overall premise is of a guy waiting until marriage to have sex? Then again, it is pretty raunchy. Oh well, I watched this one with two good friends, and we laughed until we cried. It is hilarious, if you can overlook a certain amount of shocking crudity.
  7. Kingdom of Heaven
    Yep, I'm one of the few that liked this one. In fact, I liked it a lot. Good battle scenes, and it prompted me to do some research into the crusades and the background of this story. Fascinating stuff, really.
  8. Matchstick Men
    I waited a long time before I watched this one, and for no good reason because it is really quite entertaining. Nicolas Cage usually bothers me, but he did a bang up job. The movie features a nice twist at the end, too. Good stuff.
  9. March of the Penguins
    If you haven't seen this one, you are missing out. I cannot believe what those male penguins have to go through to protect those eggs. Absolutely amazing.
  10. Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
    I was surprised with how much I liked this one. Jim Carrey does his usual good work, and the sets are very appropriate. My kids liked it too.
  11. War of the Worlds
    This one is ranked a little lower because I expected a lot more out of a Spielberg film. It was still good, don't get me wrong, but it was missing something, and at times I found it a little boring. Good ending though.
  12. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
    The best of the prequels, hands down. If not for the crappy love story, this film would have been ranked a lot higher. As it is, the opening scenes with the space battle, and Obi Wan's pursuit of General Grievous (not to mention a pit stop on the Wookie planet) all make this film pretty good. The love story between Anakin and Padme is just horrendous though.
  13. Kill Bill Vol. 1
    A little gruesome, but still one of the most creatively filmed movies I saw all year. I didn't like Pulp Fiction at all, but I think Tarantino deserves some credit for this effort.
  14. SuperSize Me
    Funny, surprising, and educational movie, yet after watching it I have still been to McDonalds a few times. And I ask you, who else has had to throw up after eating a super-sized meal? What a pansy.
  15. Contact
    Fantastic movie about the battle between faith and reason. I can't say enough good things about it, so I won't even try.
  16. Cold Mountain
    I held off on watching this movie for a long, long time. My "boredom meter" was on high alert. But I actually enjoyed it. Not enough to watch it again, but it was good. I must have been in the right mood.
  17. Million Dollar Baby
    Sad, sad, sad. Enjoyable, but sad.

Any I missed? Let me know...

Posted by snackeru at 10:55 AM | Comments (7)

December 15, 2005

Best books read for 2005

The trouble with coming up with my favorite books read for the year 2005 is actually remembering what books I have read. I read between 20 - 30 books a year, but for the life of me I can't remember all of them. So, last night I spent about an hour sifting through every nook and cranny I could find that would jog my memory. I think, though, that the books I do remember should be considered my favorites of the year. I mean, if I can't remember a book it must not have been very good, right?

Like yesterday, these are my favorite books of the year; some of them came out in 2005 and some of them didn't. As always, if you have read any good books this year, let me know in the comments below. I am always on the lookout for a good read.

  1. Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
    Hands down the best of the year. I cried at the end. I'll admit it. I am not ashamed! I'm married with three kids! I've got nothing to prove to anyone! Anyway, this really is a beautiful book.
  2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
    Man can Rowling write a good story. I love these crazy books. The finale should be spectacular.
  3. Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen
    Wow. This is the kind of book I wish I could write. Loewen brings out a side of history rarely seen in America and explains why it is important to teach it. Fascinating.
  4. Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis
    Short, sweet, and concise, this Pulitzer Prize winner is worth the read. I even wrote a review for it.
  5. Watership Down by Richard Adams
    If you haven't read this classic, it is definitely worth it. I definitely have a new appreciation for rabbits, and as a result of reading this book you all must now refer to me as Shane-rah.
  6. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
    Here is what I like about this book: it is so subtle. If Lindbergh had won the presidency in the 40s, would Jews really have been in trouble? This book makes it a very plausible scenario.
  7. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
    Every man should read Fight Club. It doesn't just remind you to think about your lot in life, in nails you in the head with a 2x4.
  8. Blink : The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
    Fascinating book. Should we trust our first instinct more often? How can we tap into and hone our sub-conscious methods of making snap judgements? How often are they correct? Read this book to learn more.
  9. Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
    This book in on most peoples' top 10 list and deservedly so. Ever wonder what a sumo wrestler and a high school teacher have in common? Or why crack dealers still live with their moms? Or if African-American names hinder them from getting good jobs? Or why the crime rate dropped so drastically in the late 90s? Very interesting ideas in this book.
  10. God's Politics : Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It by Jim Wallis
    I can't say enough good things about this book. Not particularly liberal and definitely not conservative, Wallis examines what Jesus really tried to accomplish here on earth and presents a roadmap for social justice and peace in light of Christ's message. A wonderful piece of work.
  11. Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon
    The best description of what it is like to be autistic I have ever read. Puts Rainman to shame. Told from the perspective of an autistic boy trying to get to the bottom of a dog's supposed murder, this one is hard to put down.
  12. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
    Ever wonder what happened to all the Old World gods that no one believes in anymore? Well, they are still around and some of them are attempting to regain power. A little gruesome in sections, but also quite an imaginative story.
  13. Magic Street by Orson Scott Card
    I kid you not, this is a story about faries, specifically faries from Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream and their dealings with African-American humans in a suburb of Los Angeles. I didn't think Card could pull it off, but he did.
  14. A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin
    I just finished this one and all I could think about was, "Where is Tyrion!?!?" Next year's A Dance With Dragons should be better.
  15. Omega by Jack McDevitt
    Fascinating story about first contact that kept you reading because you just knew something really cool would happen. Well, unfortunately nothing cool ever really did happen. Disappointing at the end. It did give me an idea for one of my better posts this year, though.
  16. Olympos by Dan Simmons
    Argh! After the wonder that was Ilium I expected so much more from this book. I mean, its a science fiction book about the Trojan War and Greek gods, tied in with a far-future earth where the humans are battling for their survival! So many unanswered questions...
  17. The Beach by Alex Garland
    Decent read, but a horrible movie. Sadly, my viewing of the movie even tainted what I thought of the book. Leonardo DiCaprio should be ashamed of himself.
  18. Hallowed Hunt by Lois McMaster Bujold
    Lois, please, more Miles Vorkosigan! Enough with this fantasy stuff. The Curse of Chalion was good, really good in fact, but I need to know what is happening with Miles! Please!

So, that's about it. Please let me know what your favorite books read in 2005 are! I'm going on vacation soon and I need something to read!

Posted by snackeru at 7:31 AM | Comments (15)

December 14, 2005

It's not Christmas until ...

larrytree.jpg

It's not Christmas until Larry goes on the tree.

Posted by snackeru at 9:58 PM | Comments (5)

Top Albums for 2005

Greetings everyone. As the end of the year approaches, I thought I would start listing out what were my favorite things about the year including favorite music, movies, books, TV shows, etc. Today I'll start with my favorite albums. And just to be clear, these aren't always albums that were released in 2005. These are albums that I listened to heavily and enjoyed the most throughout the year of 2005. Of course, I would love to hear what your favorite albums were in the comments below. I love to find out about new music.

  1. Illinois -- Sufjan Stevens
    I know what you are thinking, "I don't care about Illinois. I don't even like that state. How can this be the top album of the year for Shane?" Who cares about the subject matter, this album is hands down the best of the year. It is so phenomenal, so perfect, so beautiful ... if you haven't heard it yet you are missing out. I can't say enough good things about this one. And it doesn't matter if you have ever even been to Illinois. The state is just a vehicle for Stevens' muse. The highlight of the album is without a doubt "Chicago," but that is hardly where the goodness ends. Man! I will be listening to this one for a long while.
  2. American III: Solitary Man -- Johnny Cash
    Most people consider this to be the weakest of Cash's American Recordings work, but it is without a doubt my favorite of the four. The first two songs, a cover of Petty's "I Won't Back Down" and a cover of Diamond's "Solitary Man," set the tone for the album as it flows from one standard classic to the next. Other highlights include "I See a Darkness" and "Field of Diamonds" (a duet with his wife June). Just a wonderful piece of work that I thouroughly enjoyed this year. Thanks again to freealonzo for introducing me to this masterpiece.
  3. American Idiot -- Green Day
    Believe the hype people. Green Day nailed it with this one. I've talked a little about this before, but this is one of the finest rock operas ever produced. The story is thought provoking, yes, but the music is out of this world. Truthfully, if the album only contained "Jesus of Suburbia" it would probably be enough, but the good times don't end there. This is their Sgt. Pepper's, their Tommy, their Led Zeppelin IV. I doubt they will ever create anything quite as good as this.
  4. How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb -- U2
    What can I possibly say about this album that hasn't already been said? It is a fine piece of work and a great follow up to All That You Can't Leave Behind. Beautiful music and beautiful imagery abound in this effort from the boys from Dublin. Of course, one of the main reasons I love this album so much is that it was the backdrop for my first U2 concert, which I attended in September. The best concert I have ever attended, and I think my concert mate Curt will agree.
  5. American IV: The Man Comes Around -- Johnny Cash
    Not quite the same impact as American III for me, but the strength of the album comes from the song "The Man Comes Around" about the return of Jesus. Just an eye popping good song that I seriously think they should sing in my church some time. Quite frankly its honesty just blows me away. The rest of the album falls into line nicely after that one.
  6. The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan -- Bob Dylan
    Wow. I can't believe it took me this long to discover this masterpiece. After viewing Scorcese's biopic of Dylan on PBS I decided to listen to more of his music and this album is, for me, his absolute crowning achievement. "A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall" ... can this song be topped? Beautiful, absolutely beautiful. If you've never listened to Dylan before, start with this one, and be prepared to enter a very reflective mood. In other words, don't listen to this one to get hyped up for a football game.
  7. X and Y -- Coldplay
    I certainly don't think they are ready for the passing of the torch for best band from U2, but this is a great album nonetheless. My favorite off the album is by far "Fix You" but I am also partial to "The Message." Good stuff. I look forward to more from these guys in the future. (One of the funnier parts of The 40 Year Old Virgin was when two of the characters were suggesting reasons why the other one was "gay" when one of them said, "Know how I know you're gay? You like Coldplay." Funny stuff.)
  8. Now Here is Nowhere -- The Secret Machines
    This band has a lot of potential. The album is awesome, but there are some inevitable stinkers which knock this album down a little bit for me. Having said that, however, this band could be the second coming of Led Zeppelin. Their sound rocks, but what puts it over the top for me is the drumming ... yes the drumming. Powerful stuff. Their crowning achievement may be "The Road Leads Where it is Led." Are they trying to sound like Zeppelin? Maybe ...
  9. The Blue Album -- Weezer
    Still their best and again, I can't believe it took me so long to listen to this one as a whole. Just a phenomenally good piece of work. The highlight of this album is without a doubt "Undone (The Sweater Song)." In fact, this song is just pure genius. It may even rank on my list of songs to take with me to a desert island. It is that good. The rest of the album is also great, of course.

So there you have it, my top albums for the year 2005. If I've forgotten any please let me know. Tomorrow I'll probably tackle books (or movies). TTFN.

Posted by snackeru at 8:21 AM | Comments (13)

December 13, 2005

Daunte could throw for 146 yards

In the midst of all the praise and genuflection for Brad Johnson, I think there is an unwritten truth that needs to be ... well ... written: Daunte could throw for 146 yards too. Does anyone in their right mind doubt this? Don't get me wrong, I love Brad Johnson and all that he has brought to the team this year. He maybe has even shown Daunte a thing or two about taking what a defense gives, or how to lead a team in the huddle (that is if Daunte was ever at the game). Big Bad Brad is awesome, phenomenal, grizzled, crafty, yadda, yadda, yadda. I love him. But I don't think he is the main reason the Vikings are playing better. Here are the reasons:

  1. Improved defense. Actually a vastly improved defense. In years past we have all cringed at 3rd and long because we knew 9 out of 10 times the other team would convert. No more. Combine this with Planet Williams stuffing the run and you've got respectability. Not top defense in the NFL, mind you, but respectability.
  2. Special teams. Special team play has been awesome as of late. One only need to look at the Giants game to see how important special teams can be to the success of a football team. Which brings me to ...
  3. Koren Robinson. This guy is phenomenal all the way around. He can do it all: run, return, catch ... we have yet to see him pass, but I bet he could do that too. All of his spectacular play has left me wondering, "Randy who?" (just kidding!)
  4. Turnovers. Along with a vastly improved (and now jelling) defense the Vikings have suddenly turned into interception fiends. I believe they are 2nd in the NFL in interceptions this year. That is a big, big deal. Let's hope the trend continues during the Pittsburgh game.
  5. Brad Johnson. Of course, Big Bad brad is a reason for the Vikings newfound success, but I ask again, could Duante throw for 146 yards and a TD? Yes he could.

Combine Daunte with all these other reasons the Vikings are playing better and I think the record would be the same. If you think otherwise then you are smoking crack. And if you think the 37 year old Brad Johnson should replace Daunte next year, you are addicted to heroin. Peace out.

Posted by snackeru at 11:12 AM | Comments (16)

December 12, 2005

Happy birthday to my wife!

Well, I just wrote a long entry that was eaten by the ether so this will have to be short and sweet. It was my wife's birthday yesterday and my son made her a card. Pretty special, right? Here is what my son's card said:

Happy Birthday Mom! Tomorrow it will be just another day, you working 12 hours a day, cleaning up after us, and you yelling at us. From Alex.

Wow! What a sentimental fool! I think he's got a future at Hallmark!

Posted by snackeru at 1:00 PM | Comments (1)

December 9, 2005

Links of the day

That's all I got for now.

Posted by snackeru at 8:19 AM | Comments (1)

December 8, 2005

My favorite free thrower

sikma.jpg Jack Sikma's free throw ritual puts all others to shame (except maybe Adrian Dantley's).









Posted by snackeru at 4:06 PM

Say it with me: Zamboni

zamboni.jpg
“There are three things in life that people like to stare at: a flowing stream, a crackling fire, and a Zamboni clearing the ice.?

Charles Schulz (through the voice of Charlie Brown)








Posted by snackeru at 1:20 PM | Comments (3)

The Pride of North Dakota

jepsen.jpg Les Jepsen, we mourn your departure. Since your retirement, bounce passes have decreased league-wide by 90%.










Posted by snackeru at 10:57 AM | Comments (2)

Where have you gone?

mokeski.jpgWhere have you gone Paul Mokeski? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you ...












Posted by snackeru at 8:13 AM | Comments (3)

December 7, 2005

I can't believe what I'm reading

WARNING! Religious rant follows. You have been warned.

I don't know about you, but I am really, really excited to see the The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when it comes out this Friday. Well, I might not see it this Friday, but I'm pretty sure I'll see it in the theater. And since this movie is coming out soon we of course can read various reviews on what people think about the film adaptation of this beloved childrens' classic. Some reviews think it is good, some reviews think it is bad or mediocre, but most reviews discuss whether or not the movie sticks to the original story and it's overtly Christian message. Most feel it does a pretty good job of this, but at least one review I've read wishes it hadn't. And I am stunned with this.

A couple of days ago the Guardian published a piece of tripe called Narnia represents everything that is most hateful about religion. Obviously, this got my attention. A children's book represents everything that is most hateful about religion? So, I decided to take a look. The author begins by discussing how Disney is reaching out to Christian churches ala The Passion of the Christ in order to drum up business. I'm not sure what is wrong with this, in my mind that is just a smart thing to do. The author then goes on to discuss how this will backfire in Great Britain where a recent poll suggests that 43% of Britons don't know why they celebrate Easter. OK, fine. That isn't so much sad or tragic. That is just plain stupid.

But what really gets my goat about this article is the author's discussion of why exactly the Narnia books are so "hateful." Check out this masterpiece of a paragraph:

Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls. Did we ask him to? Poor child Edmund, to blame for everything, must bear the full weight of a guilt only Christians know how to inflict, with a twisted knife to the heart. ... So the resurrected Aslan gives Edmund a long, life-changing talking-to high up on the rocks out of our earshot. When the poor boy comes back down with the sacred lion's breath upon him he is transformed unrecognisably into a Stepford brother, well and truly purged.

Wait a minute. The central tenet of the Christian faith, the death and resurrection of Christ, is also its most "repugnant?" In order to take away the sins of the world Jesus laid down his life to save us all. This is repugnant? And I'm not asking you if you believe it or not, I'm asking you if you think it is repugnant. Well? When someone lays down his or her life for another we usually call that person a hero. And how does the author follow this up? What is her overwhelming comeback to the sacrifice of Jesus? "Did we ask him too?" Touche, madam! Touche! Gah! Whether you believe it or not, the gift is yours. Accept it or don't. That is called "free will." How is any of this "repugnant"?

In this paragraph the author also suggests that the guilt of Edmund is too much for a child to bear, and I'll agree that the burden of the death of Aslan would be hard to get over. Obviously, in this story the child Edmund represents Judas. But then she skirts over the more important point Lewis was trying to make concerning the grace of God. Aslan forgives Edmund! Aslan forgives the very person that betrayed him! What does this teach children, besides its religious message? How about the honor and beauty of forgiveness in general? Is this a bad message to teach our children? In viewing this scene, would your average child maybe think to him or herself, "Boy, my faults are nothing compared to getting Aslan killed, and yet Aslan still forgave him. Maybe I should be more understanding of my siblings and friends and try to forgive them when they wrong me." This might be too deep for a five year old, but the idea is still there. The author of this piece, I guess, would see this as repugnant and hateful.

The author goes on to write:

Over the years, others have had uneasy doubts about the Narnian brand of Christianity. Christ should surely be no lion (let alone with the orotund voice of Liam Neeson). He was the lamb, representing the meek of the earth, weak, poor and refusing to fight.

First of all, the Chronicles of Narnia are a story, an allegory, and they are not meant to be a complete mirror of the story of the New Testament. Lewis was also a big fan of fairy tales and other forms of mythology which he includes heavily in these stories. Secondly, the Lion in the Chronicles of Narnia did in fact humble himself, he did in fact become the "lamb" this article's author seems to crave, in laying down his life to save another. Again, I am just stunned with the stupidity of this article. Stunned but certainly not speechless.

The author ends her diatribe with this thought provoking sentiment:

Children are supposed to fall in love with the hypnotic Aslan, though he is not a character: he is pure, raw, awesome power. He is an emblem for everything an atheist objects to in religion. His divine presence is a way to avoid humans taking responsibility for everything here and now on earth, where no one is watching, no one is guiding, no one is judging and there is no other place yet to come.

Holy guacamole. It is just a children's novel with some magic, a couple of dilemmas to get through, a climax, and a hero. A powerful hero, to be sure, but I seriously doubt that anyone would suddenly come away from the book or the movie with the idea that we can now "avoid taking responsibility" in our daily lives. If that is your idea of Christianity then I can't help that, but it certainly isn't the idea the Chronicles of Narnia are trying to get across. Lewis often said that these stories were intended to introduce some aspects of Christianity to children. Quite frankly, they are just a very simple introduction. If this article's author would look past her own sterotypes of Christianity and actually look deeper than her shallow misunderstandings she would find a powerful hero that humbled himself, was born in a manger, lived a life as a carpenter first, then as a minister to the sick, poor, and helpless, teaching us all to love the Lord God with all our hearts, and love our neighbors as ourselves, before sacrificing himself for the sins of the world. Did we ask him to? No. But I don't really see how that is important.

Finally, it is very clear to me that this author dislikes the Chronicles of Narnia mainly because they are Christian. It reminds me of Christians who dislike Harry Potter books because they are about witches and wizards. If anything, this kind of article should be a powerful lesson for Christians that seek to ban books like Harry Potter because they don't agree with them. If this article's author can find so much "wrong" with one of our own classics, how far away are discussions to ban the Chronicles of Narnia? Freedom of speech, baby! It really is worth fighting for. Let's all keep in mind that these are childrens' books with heroes and villains, magic, guilt, redemption, sacrifice, and rip-roaring good stories. If you try to make them into something they are not, that is your own problem.

Posted by snackeru at 8:31 AM | Comments (19)

December 6, 2005

Modicum of sports knowledge

• So I was watching the Gopher - Sun Devil game last night and it was a good one. The Gophers pulled out a victory in overtime, but that isn't the reason I enjoyed watching it. I enjoyed this college basketball game so much because the student section at Wells Fargo Arena in Arizona was so loud. I couldn't see them, but I could hear them chanting and that just put this game over the top for me. That and the ASU band. Wow! I could have just closed my eyes and enjoyed this game if just for the sounds coming out of my TV. Adam Boone's senior leadership and clutch play, the Gopher's excellent patience and ball movement down the stretch, the three pointers raining down from both teams ... all of that had nothing to do with why I enjoyed this college basketball game so much. It was all about the "atmosphere." That makes a lot of sense.

• So here is a typical argument between me and Cheesehead Craig:

Me: I like college basketball more than the NBA. Here are some ways I would improve the NBA.

CC: College basketball is all about atmosphere. That's it. And here is why all your new ways to make the NBA better are all retarded.

Me: I will concede that atomosphere does make a difference, but that isn't why I prefer to watch the college game over the NBA in the comfort of my own living room. Plus, I still think some of my rule changes would make a difference.

CC: You are a moron! Atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere! And did I mention atmosphere? Plus here are some more reasons why your NBA changes stink. In addition, I will not offer any of my own suggestions. I will just offer feeble attempts at disputing your changes and I will call them "garbage."

Me: You have angered me, CC. However, I will again attempt to discuss my reasoning in an adult and dignified manner.

CC: Ha! I will now unleash a cheap shot on Shane's reading choices, and I will suggest that he doesn't even have a "modicum of sports knowlege." Plus, I will again harp on about "atmosphere" even though I know it is only part of the story.

So, there you have it. Name calling, cheap shots, and nothing new added to the discussion. That is today's lesson on cheesehead debate tactics. Now you'll know how to spot it when it rears its ugly head again.

• That's all I got time for right now. I think it was time well spent though.

Posted by snackeru at 8:21 AM | Comments (3)

December 5, 2005

Random thoughts

• With the Vikings win yesterday everyone seems to be talking about Daunte vs. Brad Johnson. Who should be the starter next season? Would the Vikings be this good with Duante still at the helm? First of all let me say I think Brad Johnson is just what the Vikings needed this year. He has played phenomenally well, and he deserves all the accolades he is receiving. However, he is 37 years old. History will tell us that substituting a young, talented QB with an older QB that has had one good year is just a huge mistake. Remember when we replaced Brad Johnson with Randall Cunningham? No, next year put Daunte back under center. I love Brad Johnson and all that he is doing for us, but Daunte is still the future.

• Stupid Packers. Can't even beat their so-called "arch rivals." Show some pride, Favre! I can't believe how putrid the Packers are right now. There is still a way to salvage the season (by beating Chicago at home), but I doubt this team has the backbone to pull that one off. Thanks for nothing!

• I worked on my family's Christmas letter last night. Does anyone else find the yearly Christmas letter absolutely painful to write? Every year I go through the same thing with my wife: me "putting my foot down" and refusing to write the letter, and her begging me to "just do it" (with her of course) until we finish it. It usually turns out pretty good too. But I just can't stand writing the stupid thing. I don't know why.

• I watched the T-Wolves last night and was impressed with the team effort. KG only scores 11 points and they still pull out a seemingly easy victory. The key to this team obviously isn't KG dominating night in and night out. It is Wally and someone else scoring at least 15 and the team playing some solid defense. But especially Wally ... whenever he plays well the team does better as a whole. At least that is what I'm seeing this year. Maybe SBG can do some analysis of it.

• Watching the game last night got me to thinking about how I would improve it. There is no doubt in anyone's mind (I don't think) that the college game is vastly superior to the NBA. Quite frankly, besides the playoffs, the NBA can sometimes be excrutiatingly boring. So, if I was comissioner, what would I do differently? Hmmm...

  1. First of all I would decrease the number of games played in a season. 84 games means way too many games are meaningless. I would probably drop the number of games to 60 at the most.
  2. Secondly, I would decrease the number of teams that make it into the playoffs. I would institute a playoff system ala the NFL and MLB where only the division champions make it in plus a couple of wild cards. Again, this will have the effect of increasing the importance of regular season games, and it will also make the division races a little more meaningful. Right now, who cares about the divisions?
  3. I would allow any kind of zone defense. If a team wants to play the 2-3 then so be it. No more delaying the game with these stupid illegal defense calls. It would also force teams to value pure shooters a little more rather than players that can just back a defender down to the basket. Man! I would get rid of that stupid defensive three second rule so fast it would make your head spin.
  4. I would definitely increase the shot clock to 35 seconds. Increasing the shot clock will bring back the fundamentals of basketball (offensive ball movement anyone?) we obviously enjoy while watching the college game.
  5. I would institute international rules like referee-less sideline inbounds passes. That would make it a little more interesting. The trapezoid shaped key is just stupid though.
  6. I would also get rid of that stupid rule where an offensive foul can't be called if a player is inside the half circle under the basket. Huh? Who was the genius that came up with that? Let the players actually play defense! You know, the defense that they learned throughout their whole lives playing basketball? If you are planted and a player comes into the lane out of control and knocks you over, I don't care where you are, it is an offensive foul!
  7. Finally I would fire any NBA television director that switches a fast break shot or impending dunk camera angle from the half court view to the baseline view. You know what I'm talking about. You are watching a fast break unfold, you are excited that it will probably be a dunk, when at the last second the camera view switches to the baseline. Your TV is suddenly filled with just a shot of the basket and a player dunking the ball and maybe a defender's hand. Man I hate this angle! Show me the half court view! I want to see the whole play unfold! I want to see the trailing options, I want to see the defenders try to set up, I want to see the angle of attack! Sheesh this makes me angry!

That's about it. With these changes the NBA is bound to be better. If Stern needs any more advice he knows where to find me.

Posted by snackeru at 8:17 AM | Comments (20)

December 1, 2005

Stuff and Links of the day

Hey everyone. Sorry for my lack of posts, but I have just been swamped with work and life in general. This UThink upgrade has been a little more painful than I would have liked, but hopefully with time the pain will go away. Here are some random thoughts that I've had recently:

And to top it off, here are some "Links of the Day" for your enjoyment. See you later!

Posted by snackeru at 9:16 PM | Comments (4)

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