May 14th, 2012

Shake & Fold

Recently I talked about my handwashing process. This is a process I’ve been working on for years, but I’m always open to suggestion.  Well, in the comments on that entry, Brian linked to a TED talk on the subject that has me reevaluating again.

Here’s the video.

Shake and fold. Simple, right? I figured I might as well give it a try. The first few times didn’t go so well, frankly. The tricky part is getting the right amount of paper towel. The dispenser at work is a roll-your-own, so it has taken me a few tries, but I think I’m getting it.  It does work, it’s just taking some getting used to. I like using less than half the paper toweling I used to.

The worst part? The shaking. I’m trying to figure out how to shake the excess water off my hands without flinging it all over.  I’ve been working on more of a “flinging” method, and I’ve had some success.

Give it a try, see how you like it.

May 11th, 2012

Ranking Alapalooza

As most of you know, I attended a Christian college.  There were very strict rules in place about a lot of things, and breaking those rules would earn you demerits and/or trouble.  I lived at home during my college years, so I wasn’t bound by some of the dorm-specific rules, but I was still bound by most of them.  It’s basically the “if you want to attend/be a member here, you agree to live by these rules” kind of thing. No big deal. You don’t necessarily agree with all the rules, but you agree to live by them while you’re there.

I heard often from my friends that lived in the dorms about “music checks.” On random days, a music check would be announced and those living in the dorms had to leave their music cassettes and CDs  out on their beds when they left their rooms for the day so that dorm supervisors could make sure everything they had was on the approved list.  (I know this sounds barbaric and whatever, but that’s not the point here, so bear with me.) Basically you could have certain types of Christian music (no Stryper, thanks!) and classical and some soundtracks (which were limited by rating of the movie and some other factors).  College kids being college kids, of course, there were plenty of stories of people hiding music here and there, not putting it out on music check days, that kind of thing.

I don’t remember what year it was, or even if this particular album was included, but I loaned some of my Weird Al CDs to my friend Rhonda.  She had a similar sense of humor to mine, and I knew she would enjoy them. Weird Al certainly wouldn’t pass check because he parodies mostly pop music, and uses the pop music while doing so.  I said when I gave them to her, “Don’t get them taken away!” with a laugh.  It was a few days later when she informed me that she had gotten in trouble for having them and they were taken away. Not only that, but my name had been mentioned, so I was probably going to get hauled in now, too.  Sure enough, the Dean summoned me to his office.  I don’t remember his exact words, but it was along the lines of, “I understand why a person such as yourself would have these, just… don’t loan them to anyone on campus again, okay?”  and he handed them back – probably the only time in his history that he did that.

TWIST: A couple of years later, I worked at the college as the Director of Student Activities… and that same dean was my immediate supervisor.

And now, the album. Alapalooza was released in October of 1993.

11. Talk Soup – Song about daytime talk shows.  I’m not a huge fan of daytime talk shows, and I’m not a huge fan of this song.

10. Achy Breaky Song – A direct spoof of the song “Achy Breaky Heart,” about how Al would rather listen to pretty much anything other than that song. I like this song, but I can’t listen to it, for one reason: one of the things Al says he’d rather hear is “fingernails on a chalkboard,” and the mental image is something I can’t deal with.

9. Traffic Jam – Any time I listen to this song I get kind of anxious, the same way I feel when driving through Chicago.

8. Waffle King – I love the idea that someone would “run this whole town” because he’s got a great waffle recipe. Brilliant.

7. Frank’s 2000″ TV – Al’s poke at consumerism, but still using his love of TV.  “I can watch The Simspons from 30 blocks away!” sounds both indicting and exultant.  Plus, the song is super catchy.

6. Young, Dumb & Ugly – Apparently this is a style spoof of AC/DC. I had no idea. The song is about punk kids who do all manner of rebellious things, like keeping their library books til they’re way overdue. I love stuff like this that sounds tough but isn’t. (Note: the “MadMup” moniker reflects my love of just that sort of thing. Nobody’ afraid of an angry pile of felt.)

5. Bohemian Polka – My appreciation for this song has grown in direct proportion to my appreciation for the original. Instead of doing a polka medley on this album, Al made a polka version of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and it’s pretty much brilliant.  Wayne’s World had come out the year before and the Queen song was experiencing a renewed heyday.

4. Harvey the Wonder Hamster – This song is only 21 seconds long, but it never fails to make me feel happy. Harvey the Wonder Hamster was a character that showed up on Al’s MTV specials originally, and then was a regular on his Saturday morning show, where this song got used as Harvey’s entrance/theme song.

3. Jurassic Park – Another movie-in-song-form that is just wonderful. It features some most excellent screaming in the middle, and also the line “I admit it’s kind of eerie, but this proves my chaos theory,” a line you wouldn’t hear anywhere else, I don’t think.

2. Bedrock Anthem – A spoof of two Red Hot Chili Peppers songs mashed together about TV’s favorite prehistoric group. More yabba-dabba-doos than you can shake a stick at, and a super-fun song to sing along with.

1. Livin’ in the Fridge –  I couldn’t even tell you why I like this song so much. It’s about food that’s been left too long in the fridge and has spoiled, a topic I would generally find repulsive. However, the Aerosmith song it’s based on has a grand, epic feel to it, and it lends this parody more weight. It also features a wonderful mid-song scream that I always want to emulate when singing along, but am always a little afraid to try.

In case you’re wondering: Rhonda finished out the rest of her schooling without further incidents and went on to marry a nice man with whom she’s had a couple of kids. She still appreciates good humor and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if she lets/makes her kids listen to some Weird Al here and there.

May 6th, 2012

Geordi, Geordi, Look Who’s 40

Bloom County, by Berkeley Breathed


I honestly never thought this day would come. But here we are, in spite of all the Twinkies, root beer, and sitting around. 40 years old.  Well, “we” meaning “me,” unless you also happen to be 40, in the which case I offer you the same grim nod I expect from you.

I told myself that I wouldn’t engage in all the normal introspection that seems to happen when people turn 40. “Too cliché!” I said. Turns out, there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s a thing put into the very strands of your being – everything that has a beginning has an end, and anyone who knows they had a beginning can see the end coming.

Yes, yes, I know – 40 is no big deal. Some people live another 60 years after 40! Forty today is like… I don’t know, thirteen 300 years ago. That’s not really the point, I guess. I don’t feel like I’m on Death’s door, but I do feel older, certainly. Forty seems like a good spot to look around, take stock, and figure out what to do from here. I think it’s probably okay to do some introspection at 40, just like it’s okay to do it at 80, 25, or 13.  Dolly Parton said it this way: “”Find out who you are and do it on purpose!””

So I had one goal this year. Remember it? Well, I didn’t quite make it. I did have 29 posts, which works out to an average of one post every 1.7 weeks. that’s better than the previous years’ averages, and even more importantly, I’ve gotten the taste for it again and look forward to writing. I’m going to shoot for One Post A Week again this coming year, and have been considering project posts like my Weird Al series. Maybe Schwarzenegger movies? An in-depth look at licorice? How about signing up for experimental drug tests? Maybe all of those things!  The sky, as they say, is the limit.

Thanks for sticking around – some of you I’ve known all 40 of those years (hi, family!), some I’ve only known a couple, but I’m glad you’re in my life. Thanks for a pretty good first 40. Here’s to the next 40!