Saturday, January 31, 2009

Fun With Facial Hair

I told myself that when the weather forecast called for a 40 degree day, it was time to shave the beard. Today was that day. I've grown and shaved my facial hair many times over the years, and have sported several different styles. But I've never done one of those "let's play" shaves, where I started with a beard and ended up clean-shaven, with many different styles along the way. I finally did it.

Here's a link to the slide show.

Sorry they look so much like mug shots, but hey, they were self-portraits.

What's your favorite? Your least favorite?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

10 Love/Hates with "M"

This is a take-off from Sunny's post. If you're interested in how I ended up doing this post, check out her entry. Otherwise, read on...

1) Mrs. Evan - Nuf Sed.

2) My Motorcycle - Motorcycles in general are cool, but I've got an emotional bond with mine.

3) Mutts - I like dogs, and mutts make the best dogs.

4) M*A*S*H - Best TV series ever.

5) Music - Not all music. I'm a fan of rock, grunge, etc. I couldn't live without my music.

6) Malt Beverages (Translation: Beer!) - I think that was a clever way to work in my favorite libation.

7) May - That's the month that my friends and I take our annual boys' trip. This year will be the 15th year in a row.

8) Magazines - They're a far better fit than novels for my short attention span.

9) Marines - Once a Marine, always a Marine. Semper Fidelis, brothers.

10) Money - I don't really "love" money per se, but it's an easy way to fill the number 10 spot.

1) Moving - That's a result of having to relocate all the time while I was in the Marine Corps. But I've lived in the same spot for several years now.

2) Memes (internet memes only) - Memes show a tremendous lack of originality. Ironic that today's post probably qualifies as a meme.

3) MySpace - A god-awful web site to be avoided at all costs. It's like the worst blogs combined with the worst dating profiles, all in one puke-fest of a web site.

4) Marketing - Manipulative bastards trying to get me to buy more shit that I don't need.

5) Monday - Do I really need to explain this?

6) Money - Yeah, it's also on my love list. That's essentially my realization that it's a necessity in modern society. I'd much rather that money wasn't such a priority in our culture.

7) Mean People - They suck.

8) Marijuana Laws - Legalize it, already!

9) Mortality - It's not my own mortality that bugs me. It's the realization that I will outlive some of my friends and relatives.

10) Man-haters - Why is it that it's okay to bash on men, but not women, minorities, etc?

Here's the Pic

Here's the picture I promised in my last post...

See what I mean about the gray beard?

Getting Old

It's official... I'm getting old. Okay, I've really known this for quite a while. After all, every year when I grow my beard out, it's become progressively more gray. It's to the point now where almost my entire beard is as white as snow.

Over the last year or two though, I've noticed that I've had to hold reading material progressively farther from my face. At the rate I've been progressive, I'll have to hold stuff at arm's length in less than a year. I've been considering going to an optometrist for an eye exam, but I decided to get some reading glasses instead. I picked them up today. I was going to post a picture, but my older daughter has my camera, and my younger daughter's camera has a dead battery. I hope to put the picture up a little later.

Oh... speaking of pictures, let's go back to my aforementioned beard. I've been letting it grow since November. I like the way that the beard keeps my face warm in the winter. But with spring around the corner, I think it's about time to shave it off. That's where the pictures come in. I'm going to have a "Fun with facial hair" post. I'll start out with a picture of the full beard; then I'll shape it and take another pic; then I'll take pics as I shave it off a little at a time, with a different beard in each pic. Is there any specific beard type you'd like to see? Let me know and I'll try to fit it in.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Five Years Today

It certainly doesn't seem that long ago...

Five years ago today, I went to a wine tasting party. A close friend of mine accompanied me... partially because he'd never attended a wine tasting party, and partially to serve as my wingman.

When I got to the party, I figured there was no way I'd be getting any phone numbers. Everyone was either gay, already paired up, or both. I decided to make the best of it anyway. After all, there was a lot of good wine and food. The evening passed, I got acquainted with a few people, and we were having a good time.

There was one woman there who piqued my interest. Running around, making sure that everyone else was having a good time, replacing the empty wine bottles, bringing out fresh courses of food, I thought that she may have been dating the hostess. Every now and then, she'd stop for a moment, and chat with someone. One of those chats was with me.

I don't specifically recall everything we discussed... after all, I'd had a few glasses of wine by then. And quite frankly, I was a bit enchanted with her presence. I did manage to slyly find out that she was not dating the hostess... or anyone else for that matter. (I probably wasn't as subtle as I'd like to think, but hey, it's my story.)

Still more time passed... my wingman had kind of gone his own way by this time, but that was okay. I decided to focus on the one who had enchanted me, and didn't need my wingman. I did, however, notice that one other guy was trying to swoop in on my prey. I even mentioned at one point during the evening. I don't remember exactly what she said, but by the end of the conversation I knew that she wasn't interested in that dude.

I dove in for the kill, and asked her if she'd have coffee with me. She responded by telling me that she wasn't looking for anything serious. My response? "Hey. I'm not asking you to marry me. It's just coffee." A few minutes after that, she said she had to leave, so she didn't turn into a pumpkin. Three days later, we had our first date. Six months after meeting, she moved in. At the next year's wine tasting party, I proposed. We've been together virtually every day for five years. It certainly doesn't seem that long.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

More Accurate than "Recession"

"We're certainly in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime set of economic conditions. The perspective I would bring is not one of recession. Rather, the economy is resetting to lower level of business and consumer spending based largely on the reduced leverage in economy,"
-Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO

I believe that Mr. Ballmer is more willing than our average economist to call a spade a spade.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Did You Know...

... that you can use your Rock Band microphone as a USB microphone on your computer? Yep. I tried it out today, and it works fairly well. How did this come about, you may ask?

Well, I've been recording some music I've composed. I've been using my RP350 to create the drum track, and as an amplifier for my guitar, and have dumped the music to the computer via my sound card and the free Audacity software. I penned some lyrics over the last few days, and today I figured out how to use Audacity and my Rock Band microphone to record that track as well.

Don't even bother to ask me to publish the song... it's not anywhere near ready for anyone's ears but mine. But this should give a couple of budding recording artists some ideas for how to record free music.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Rock Band Guitar Art

Those of you who know me understand that I like to tinker. Not content to let my girls play any old Rock Band guitar, I decided to throw my own spin on them. What do you think?

It Didn't Seem that Special...

... at first. I woke up as usual this morning, surfed the internet for a bit, and was quickly reminded that today is the day of Barack Obama's inauguration. I even noticed that today didn't seem that out-of-the-ordinary. Feeling that nonchalant seemed a little disquieting.

I turned on the TV to see the inauguration, and things changed pretty quickly. The first thing that struck me was the sea of people who went to witness history in the making. They stood in the cold for hours... some even took their children, who will undoubtedly not remember the event. People were moved to tears. That reminded me what today's about.

There's no doubt that it's a scary time in our society. People are losing money, jobs and homes in a manner that only the oldest of us could possibly remember. I think the only way to express this properly is to digress a bit...

I had to talk to the ex today... it's her day with the kids, but I'm taking them to the dentist. I called her to let her know that I'd be late with the kids because of the appointment. She said "I know you and I aren't friends or anything, but you've got to agree that what happened today was pretty fucking cool." Yeah, I do. I'm kind of scared of what the future's got in store for us, but I'm optimistic that we chose the right person to lead us through this.

Today is a very special day.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

In Appreciation of Beer - A Love Story

Today's a lazy day in the house of Evan. We're experiencing a bit of a cold snap with the weather (it's 50 degrees below zero with the wind chill) and the kids are having their second snow day in a row. Last night, they stayed up late reading, and each of them is currently crashed on a sofa, with a dog is curled up on the floor at each child's feet.

It's a non-work day, there's nothing to read on the internet, I can't watch TV or play on the Xbox because I don't want to wake the kids, and I don't want to start cleaning up the house for the same reason. What else is there to do? How about cracking a mid-morning beer, relaxing and blogging? Sounds like a great idea. That brings me to my topic for the day... beer.

I've been a consumer of alcohol for over half of my life... most of that time I've been able to drink legally. This doesn't include the times during my childhood where my dad would let me take baby sips of his beer, so I could feel like a big boy. When I started drinking, I didn't like beer. It was so bitter that I nearly wretched with each sip. But that's what you get when you start out on crappy American beers... Budweiser, Schlitz, Grain Belt, Pabst Blue Ribbon... they all taste like bitter water with carbonation. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I started out drinking fruity little girly drinks like wine coolers and hunch punch. I didn't learn to appreciate beer until a couple of years later.

The military is what really gave me an appreciation for all things beer. There were several reasons that I acquired the taste for this wonderful beverage. Drinking is part of the military culture; a high alcohol tolerance is a sign of masculinity, but consuming frilly, girly, fru-fru drinks like cosmopolitans is highly frowned upon. Combine this with the rediculously low pay of a junior enlisted man, and beer is the only real choice that remains. Besides, everyone knows that alcohol tolerence is something that's built over time. I know too many people that started out drinking hard liquor, got drunk too quickly, passed out, and ended up being the butt of many, many practical jokes. Learning from other people's mistakes, I chose to nurse a beer, thus avoiding the humiliation of being stripped naked and placed in a random bed in the women's barracks.

Over time, I got to a point where I could stomach beer without wretching... and then I went overseas. Once I left the states, I was introduced to a veritable cornucopia of "foreign" beers, each one better than the last. I encountered these beverages through my own natural inclination for new and exotic experiences -- my desire to savor the local flavor, if you will -- and because I saw the disdain the locals expressed when my military buddies would ask for an American beer while overseas. No matter where I went, people outside of the States universally agreed that American beer was crap. As I continued to explore the world, and the different beers available, I quickly came to agree with that position. My favorite beer at that time was Foster's. That era of my life gave me an appreciation of all things beer.

In those days though, I was young and stupid. Yes, I had learned the subtle variations of beer, but I drank mainly to get drunk. As a loose analogy, this period of my life also taught me the subtle variations of women, but I mainly looked at them as a way to get laid. At the end of the day, if you only care about one aspect of a beer (or a woman), you end up missing out on the things that makes each one unique. You're also willing to lower your standards in order to get what you want. As a result, I learned to appreciate good beer while I was overseas, but I went back to crappy American beer when I got back to the states.

Eventually, I settled down. I got out of the military and became a family man. This placed priorities on providing for the family, and removed my need to go out socializing so much. As a result, I drank a lot less. This allowed me to buy a few good beers, as opposed to buying a lot of crappy beer. I learned a bit about different kinds of beer, and began to sample a wider variety of designer brew. Over time, I discovered that my favorite beers were unfiltered wheat beers... my favorite to this day.

Wow! This certainly didn't take the direction I suspected that it would. When I started writing, I pictured a bunch of random quotes about the hoppy, malty goodness that is beer. Oh well, I've written far too much to turn back now...

But with that said, there is something awesome about beer. It's a great way to unwind at the end of the day, or for a break on a hot summer day, or to relax with a few friends. Beer is an ice-breaker and a stress-reliever. It's got enough alcohol to induce the relaxed feeling that booze provides, but the content is low enough, and beer is filling enough to help you pace yourself and make sure that you don't end up pissing your bed because you're so drunk that you don't wake up. Beer is our friend.

By the way, I have once again turned to crappy American beer for my day-to-day consumption. This is a nod to the economic realities of my life. But I still treat myself to a good brew every now and again... just to remind myself that they're still out there.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Couple of Random Items

-There's been a lot of snow here the last couple of days. The snow has accumulated enough that the dogs have to bounce around in the back yard. It's kind of funny to see.

-As a result of the heavy snowfall, Mrs. Evan and I have been carpooling to work together on the days that I don't work from home. It also saves on gas, and we get to spend more time together.

-My experiment didn't seem to work.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

An Experiment of Sorts

I feel like doing something a little different this morning, so I'm going to do a double experiment. I'm going to start by writing several short phrases. Part one of the experiment is to see what you, dear readers, do with the phrases. You can write them up in a comment, or you can use them as fodder for your own blog post. Heck, you can even ask me to expand on something. Part two of the experiment is to use phrases that I know will drive traffic to this blog, in an attempt to see how much traffic gets thrown here, and how quickly it happens. Here we go...

... I asked him if Enzyte really works. Next thing I knew, he whipped it out and said "Here, see for yourself"...

... I'm not one of those puritans who thinks pornography is bad. In fact, I'd love to see Alyssa Milano do an episode of Charmed where they all get naked and have forbidden sister sex...

... he said "Dude, I can't believe you voted for Obama. Bush is a much better candidate." That shows how much he knew about this election...

... it wasn't just a google bomb. He really was a miserable failure...'s not just racial hatred. It's a roundabout form of population control. Whether it's the gang-bangers, the Arabs, whoever, I say we quit stepping in and let them kill each other. We can step in after they're all dead...

... screw unemployment. I hear the Army is always hiring...

... okay, I may have lost some money, but look at how much the super-rich lost. Poor little rich kids...

... Metallica's new album is the greatest thing since...

... Microsoft's new game. The motto is "If you want to sing, you've got to have lips." Does that mean that only women can sing?...

... that wasn't exactly age-appropriate...

... somehow I ended up at Let me tell you, that site had NOTHING to do with the Federal Government...

... met Robert Pattinson... you know, the guy who played Edward in Twilight. We got to chat for about 30 minutes. He was really surprised by the sudden fame brought to him by this role. He seemed genuinely relieved that I didn't know immediately who he was...

... tell me THAT phrase isn't going to get a lot of hits from the teenie-bopper crowd...

... most sexy, voluptuous, wonderful woman I had ever met. The ad was true. Beats the hell out of and their endless survey, only to hear that I didn't match with anyone...

... told me the funniest joke in the world. I guess it was just me. I thought the joke was lame, but lo and behold, Google said it was the funniest joke in the world, so it must be true...

... would have never thought that Jack Nicholson's Joker could be topped. Heath Ledger kicked his ass though. They say that drove him over the edge... he looked into the abyss of the Joker's mind and never quite came back...

... I can understand how people overdose. I see the attraction brought on by the instant gratification of drug use. I did a lot of drugs. Fortunately, I listened to the little voice in my head that told me to stop before it was too late. I know too many people who didn't listen...

... but who cares. Yeah, heaven may be eternal bliss, but no matter how you slice it, eternal salvation looks absolutely boring. Hell looks like a far greater adventure, and I get to have fun here and now while I seal my fate...

... you too can find out which keywords drive the most traffic to your web site...

... but you've got to act now. Operators are standing by...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Consequences of Growing Up

... an excerpt of a conversation I had with my older daughter yesterday...

"Dad, do you want to hear a funny story?"

"Funny-strange or funny-ha-ha?" That part didn't really matter much to me; I was just engaging her in the conversation.


"Okay, shoot."

"I've decided that [boyfriend] and I can't make out anymore." AWESOME, I thought.

"Okay. Where's the funny part?"

"We were making out in [boyfriend's] car after school, and this lady knocked on the window." I was mildly amused. "So [boyfriend] rolls down the window, and the lady says 'I suppose you know why I'm knocking on the window.' [Boyfriend] says 'Yeah.' The lady says 'If I catch you here again, I'm going to report you.' So I just decided that we can't make out anymore. We just keep getting trouble when we do." I had to admit... it was a funny story.

Look, I don't particularly want my little girls kissing boys... not until they're, I don't know, 40? But I'm realistic enough to understand that they're going to do it. With this in mind, I've had all of the talks with them... told them that I'd prefer that they abstain but realize they may not take my advice, and insist that if they do have sex that they practice safe sex. We've had the talk many times, and as a result, my kids come to me with these stories... the ones that make me cringe inside, yet pleased that they feel they can come to me with anything. Fast-forward to today, when my phone rings...

"Hello, Evan?"


"This is [the principal] at [the kid's high school]. I'm calling about an incident from yesterday that was reported to me. Apparently [boyfriend] and your daughter were caught making out by several parents. They were doing some heavy petting and several parents were upset enough to contact me about the incident."

"Did this happen during school hours, or on school property?" At this point, I learned a couple of things that my daughter neglected to mention in her funny story. You see, there's a church across the road from the high school. The church allows the school to use that parking lot for student parking, which helps ease a severe shortage of parking at the school. Additionally, there's an elementary school on the other side of this church parking lot. Yep, you guessed it... my daughter and her boyfriend were busted for making out on 'school property,' which is actually a church parking lot, in front of a bunch of elementary school students! Several irate parents complained to school administrators.

After hearing about this, I agreed that the principal was justified in stepping in, and for calling me. He said that [boyfriend's] parking privileges would be suspended "at least for a while," possibly for the rest of the year. He further stated that he and other administrators would discuss whether or not further action would be taken against my daughter.

My reply? I recommended that he gives her a warning this time, with the understanding that there would be concrete consequences if it happens again. I specifically recommended a brief period of detention or short in-school suspension, and said that if they went this route that I would fully support the school if she got busted again.

What a riot! My kid got busted for making out in a church/elementary school parking lot. If only they'd have been able to contain themselves long enough to drive a couple of blocks, none of this would have happened. Well, maybe it will cool their jets for a little while.

Endless Set List

Rock Band 2 has a couple of set lists dubbed "endless set lists." The first one is 58 songs and takes over four hours to complete. I saw that and decided to avoid it, knowing that our band would crap out before finishing the set. There's a second set list with 84 songs, which would theoretically take over six hours to complete. Realizing that our band couldn't make the "short" endless set list, I thought there would be no way in hell to make the second one. I was right.

My brother-in-law was in town for a few days. He likes playing on the Xbox, and we (meaning the whole family) spent a good chunk of time playing Rock Band 2. (Good thing we bought that second wireless guitar for Christmas!) On the last day of his visit, my older daughter says "Let's do the endless set list." I guestimated that it would take us 5 hours to finish and tried to discourage her.

"Look kid, you're going to get us started and then go to your boyfriend's house and leave us all hanging."

"That's okay dad, [Mrs. Evan] can join in when I leave."

"Okay, but then nobody can switch out. We'll all have to play full time." They talked me into it. Wouldn't you know? I was right. An hour in to the game, the older kid said "The boyfriend is here. Bye." Three more grueling hours later, my shoulder was sore and Mrs. Evan said "We've got to quit. Time to take [brother-in-law] to the airport."

I figured I'd just pause the game and we'd play later. A couple of hours into the pause, I remembered something. I had configured the Xbox console to automatically power down after six hours of sitting idle... and the only way to change that configuration was to exit the game. That was when I kind of knew that we wouldn't be finishing the set, but wasn't quite ready to give up.

The game was paused. All I knew was that if I quickly unpaused and re-paused the game, that would count as activity, and the console wouldn't shut down. This also meant that I couldn't play any other games until finishing the endless set list. I couldn't believe what my fucking kid had gotten me in to.

Next morning, the console was still on, but I was losing patience over not being able to play other games. We managed to keep the console on throughout the day, but I told myself that if we didn't at least play some of the endless set list and whittle ourselves toward the finish line that I'd let the console power off. The kids got home from school and I asked if they wanted to play. They did in theory, but nobody moved. The older kid -- the one who got us here in the first place -- was most excited. "Yeah! Let's play Rock Band 2." Shortly after that, she was heard saying "Ooooooo, something shiny," and that was the last we heard of her. As far as I know, she's still missing in action.

The Xbox shut itself down sometime last night. It too had given up on the dream of conquoring the Endless Set List... the Mount Everest of Rock Band 2. What were we thinking? We hadn't trained. We were mere amateurs attempting to accomplish the impossible. But we learned our limits. And I can now play other games.

Monday, January 5, 2009

My Dad's Retired

As of today, my dad is retired. Pretty cool, eh?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Mis-Adventures are the Best

Last night was my company's Christmas party. The boss called it a holiday party, but dammit, I'm Christian so it's a Christmas party. Oh shit, it's way to early to be digressing that much.

Before I get way into this, I need to clarify something. I work for a very small company. One employee didn't show, and the employee attendance rate fell by almost 20%. But the boss likes to throw a big party... this time it came with a stretch limousine, spouses and kids were invited, and a huge family-style meal at a local Mexican restaurant. In all, there were about 15 people at the party, including the limo driver and his wife.

The limo picked us up around 6:30 P.M. and drove us to the restaurant. We were the last group to get picked up, so by the time we hopped into the limo, the rest of the folks were already a little tipsy. My little imps children did their best to encourage me to drink as much as possible, as quickly as possible, in order to catch up to everyone else. Being a little older and wiser though, I held out for the food.

After the meal, the kids wanted to head home immediately, but they were troopers and patiently waited for the adults to finish eating, drinking and feeling merry. Somewhere around this time, we found out that an ice storm was hitting us. The limo driver wanted to split, but dutifully waited for us to finish. We were the first -- and last -- people dropped off. The limousine got stuck around the corner from our house.

About two blocks away from our house, there is an incline on the road. The limo had a hard time making it up that incline. We offered to get out and walk, but the driver kept going... even after we offered a second time to walk the last two blocks. He didn't make the final turn and said "Well, we're here until at least 6:00 A.M."

To shorten the story quite a bit, almost everyone stayed at our house last night. The kids were once again little troopers. The little one gave up her room, the older one shared her room with the younger one, and they were both bored to tears at the grown-up merrymaking.

The limo driver and his wife chose to stay with their ship... despite repeated offerings to come in from the cold.

One couple called their parents, who drove almost 60 miles in treacherous conditions to pick up their stranded children. Now, when I say 'children,' please realize that these 'kids' are my age. They just didn't like being stranded. I swear I heard Mrs. Stranded saying "As God is my witness, I'll never be stranded again." It was just like "Gone With the Wind."

The other four stayed in the house, where we drank a few more beers, watched Blazing Saddles and laughed as a couple of other cars struggled -- and ultimately failed -- to get up the hill in front of my house.

Have you ever noticed that the best stories always come from mis-adventures?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

You Know You're Old When...

-Your parents call early to wish you a Happy New Year, because they'll be in bed long before midnight. Funny thing is, you're glad they called, because you'll be in bed before midnight as well.

-You know that you've had many fun, exciting New Years Eve parties, but you can't recall any of them. (Of course that could be a result of alcohol, not old age.)

-You ceased staying up to ring in the new year yourself. Now, you do it because you're supervising your children.

-But you give up anyway and go to bed early. After all, they'll scream if something goes wrong.

-Silly string is no longer a fun toy, it's a nuisance that smells like ass and takes too much work to clean up.

-Tinsel is no longer a wonderful decoration, it's a bitch to clean up off of the floors.

-You don't really wish your friends and co-workers Happy New Year, because you realize that January 1 is an arbitrary day.