PLA, Minneapolis, and Back

Posted in baseball, rambling, Uncategorized on 7 April 08 by mikevc

I have not posted in quite a while. I am not sure why. I was in Minneapolis at the Public Library Association annual conference for much of the time. It was fun as conferences usually are. I was a little disappointed in the sessions I opted to attend and just didn’t seem to have enough time hanging out in the exhibit hall. Much of this had to do with the hotel I was staying in. It was in the middle of nowhere, which meant severely limited mobility. Although it did have a shuttle to the conference, it was far from dependable. I think I spent more time waiting for that damn bus than I did at the conference. Not only that but I couldn;’t really explore the city like I usually do at conferences since I either had to return to the hotel on the shuttle’s early schedule or pay for numerous costly cab rides. And, once at the hotel, the only places within walking distance were a Wendy’s and a gas station. This is the last time I try to save cash on a hotel during a conference by using Priceline.

I did get to experience some serious snow, the like of which I haven’t seen in fifteen years or so. I stuck around a few days after the conference for the express purpose of crossing another stadium off of my life’s goal to see a game in every team’s stadium. It was very strange for me to be attending a baseball game in the midst of a snowstorm. The game was fine since it was in the Metrodome, which has to rate as the worst stadium for baseball I have ever been in. Luckily, the Twins are only two seasons away from a new stadium. I did enjoy the game and the excitement of Opening Day.
I also took in a Timberwolves game at the Target Center. I don’t know why it is but I just can’t get excited about basketball like I used to be able to when in my teens and twenties. I was bored out of my mind and found myself pulling out the silly but portable (I miss the pocket paperback) James Patterson paperback–one of several free books I nabbed at PLA (one of the best aspects of library conferences)–I had shoved in my pocket when leaving the hotel and needing something to pass the time while waiting for busses, cabs, and trains. I seriously debated leaving before the game was over. Oh well, as I said, the excitement of Opening Day the next night did make me quite happy.

The truth is the trip was too long at a week. I know it sounds corny but I really missed my family; I missed the boys coming in to wake me up; I missed having my wife to talk to; I also–surprisingly–missed strumming my ukulele, which has become the best and most soothing way of unwinding from the day I have found.

So, having said all that, I am more than happy to be back home to my job, family, and uke.

Ten Days and Counting

Posted in Astros, baseball, travel on 21 March 08 by mikevc

mlb.jpgIt’s almost here. Opening Day is a short week and a few days away. Though my beloved Astros (or a group of players wearing Astros’ uniforms) start this season away from home, things work out quote well for me. I will be at a library conference when the season begins and would have missed game one were it at Minute Maid. So, I will behouston_astros2.jpg ringing in the season in Minneapolis at the Metrodome as the Twins take on the Angels. And, I will be back from my sojourn north in time to see the ‘Stros take on the Cards in their first 2007 home game on April 7. I couldn’t be more excited.

Egg Roll Nostalgia

Posted in food, nostalgia, rambling on 20 March 08 by mikevc

Today, out of nowhere at all, I suddenly got this unbelievable urge for egg rolls.  Not just any egg rolls, mind you.  But, the vegetarian egg rolls and sauce that used to be sold by a vendor on the Drag in Austin.  There was a cart set up in front of the Co-Op (before it moved down the Drag, or it might have been something else), right next to the pedestrian crossing to the Texas Union, and every time I was down there in the late ’80s and very early ’90s, we would grab two egg rolls for lunch.  They were huge, flaky, greasy, and delicious.  I have never had their equal.  Unfortunately, the stands (were there two?) were gone by the time I started at UT in ’93.  So, that means I probably haven’t had one–or even thought about them–in somewhere between 16 and 18 years.

Why the sudden urge?  Who knows?  But, damn, those were good egg rolls.

Cheap Glasses – In Color

Posted in glasses on 17 March 08 by mikevc

Here are pictures of the glasses I got. I could take shots of me wearing them but I figure no one wants to see my fat mug.

8 Dollars!

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These cost $8. I got them with dark blue on the inside. So they look almost completely black. I like these for their sheer nerdiness.

Hingeless!

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These cost 12.95. I got these in black and I love them. The cool thing about them is that they are hingeless. They are also 138mm across, which fits my fat head nicely.

Oops!

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Another 12.95 pair. These are potentially quite cool. However, I opted for the black outside/white inside look and the white shows up much more clearly than I thought it would. The result: disturbingly Elton Johnesque. These have been designated my emergency/sports (playing outside with the boys and when I get around to exercising) glasses.

Keep in mind, these are merely glasses that I like. I am far from fashion conscious so don’t let my selections keep you from checking out some of these resources.

Oh, and I am still quite happy with all of them.

10 Newish Books I am Dying To Read

Posted in books, reading on 17 March 08 by mikevc

A long while ago, I used to do these types of lists on Amazon and some folks really liked them (or so I convinced myself). I have recently been inspired to do these again if for no other reason than to keep myself aware of what new books are coming out–something I absorbed easily when my job involved ordering books.

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Now, the interesting thing is to check on GoodReads or facebook a few months from now and see if I actually get around to reading any of these.

Hey, It Works for Movies. Why not books?

Posted in books, rambling on 17 March 08 by mikevc

I had read articles a while back about trailers and commercials for books. My thought at the time was that it was a great idea. I had seen a commercial or two but they were brief and for popular authors like James Patterson. I think a well done commercial could really inspire interest in both readers and non-readers. So, all of this because a friend I haven’t heard from in a long time (a fellow librarian and literary fiction fanatic from way back) sent me the following trailer for Peter Carey’s new book, an author we went to see read together when we were at UT.

A few questions: Does this trailer pique your interest in Carey’s new book? Would a video teaser (shown on TV, at the movies, or via e-mail/facebook/etc.) for a book inspire you to read it? Does anyone know of any other trailers for quality books–nonfiction and/or fiction?

BTW, here are some of the articles I remember reading:

Seeking Readers via ‘Book Trailer”. San Francisco Chronicle. 9/18/2006.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/09/18/BUG7FL4TTE1.DTL

Seen Any Good Books Lately. Newsweek. 5/22/2006
http://www.newsweek.com/id/47714

There were a bunch others from roughly the same period (mostly in library journals or blogs I think). Anyway, I find the idea fascinating.

Glasses for $8? So Far, So Good

Posted in glasses, money saving, web fun on 13 March 08 by mikevc

Through friends and several blog posts, I recently discovered Glassy Eyes, a blog run by a guy named Ira dedicated to the premise that the eyeglass business is a huge rip-off. He started the blog after buying glasses online for a fraction of the $500 a chain store wanted to charge him. As he investigated, he discovered that glasses were being sold at ridiculous profits. As an example, a pair of $199 glasses actually cost $35 to make leaving $165 in pure profit. So, he decided to do something about it. His web site now helps consumers navigate the world of online discount optical stores. In fact, he has become such a force in the industry the suppliers provide his readers’ a discount and he can–and will–get them to address and fix concerns his readers have with their orders.

Needing new glasses and not wanting to shell out $300, I decided to give it a whirl. Using Zenni Optical, one of the cheapest sites Ira points to, I placed an order for three pairs of glasses for a grand total of $38.49. I went with Zinni (3 stars) over the slightly more expensive 4 and 5 star sites (where complete glasses run from $19.99 to $50), figuring if it was a bust I wouldn’t be out too much. I ordered two pairs of $12.99 glasses and one pair of $8, both complete with basic lenses. Since I only need single vision, I didn’t have to add upgrades, which are equally as cheap. I wanted to add the polychromatic (clear indoors transforming to sunglasses outside) lenses for $29 (as opposes to several hundred anywhere I else I have checked) to one of the pairs but figured I would do that on a later order. Just the basics for me on this initial order.

So, today, all three pairs arrive. It took nine business days for them to arrive. So far, I am quite impressed. The prescription is spot on, comparable to my $300 glasses. As I would expect with a new prescription, I can see more clearly with all three pairs than with my two year old prescription glasses. The quality and durability appear to be quite good, though admittedly not as high as some of my old more expensive pairs. But I am willing to sacrifice that if I am paying less than 5% of what I normally paid for glasses. I am really happy with two pairs and love the $8 pair the most. One pair has slightly different coloring than I though but are still serviceable. And, for the first time since I started wearing glasses, I have backup glasses (2) that are not an old prescription. Initially, I am quite impressed. If each of these glasses hold up for six months, I will have saved a huge amount of money. I plan on investigating some of the other sites Ira points to in the future. And, I can get new glasses every year, instead of waiting two or three years because I can’t bring myself to lay down hundreds of dollars for new glasses when I really should get them.

For now, I am fairly certain that I will not be paying $300 for glasses ever again. And, I like thousands of other readers of Glassy Eyes say thank you and urge others to check it out.

Samantha Power: Committed Advocate for Human Rights vs. Hillary Clinton: Committed Advocate for…Hillary Clinton

Posted in books, politics on 8 March 08 by mikevc

As everyone knows, Samantha Power recently resigned from her role as foreign policy adviser to Obama after calling Hillary a “monster”. What folks may not (but definitely should) know is that Ms. Power is a very well respected expert on human rights and a Pulitzer Prize-winner who wrote one of the most important books of the past decade: A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide.
While she did the noble thing (for the campaign) in resigning, I think–given her intellectual and academic background–it is worthwhile to look at her comment not as an attack but as an honest assessment (read non-political) of the Clinton campaign that slipped out in an unguarded moment. It just really upsets me that most folks will just read her name in passing and not probe deeper to discover the amazing humanitarian work she has done.

Ever since I read her book I have had tremendous respect for Power and how she fearlessly and passionately speaks her mind and argues for what is right. I think this comment, though admittedly ill-advised, speaks to that aspect of her character. It must be hard for someone who feels passionately about what is right to play the political game. Politics requires saying what people want to hear, which quite often is in conflict with what needs to be said. It was not a “personal attack”, it was instead an “off the record?” and honest assessment of a calculating politician who has placed her desire for a political office before all else–and, as Ms. Clinton herself and others have shown, honesty has very little place in a political campaign.

Though this may be a setback in her political career, I am sure Ms. Power will continue to fight and advocate for human rights and will continue to make the world a better place. It is a shame she has left the Obama team, the nation and the world could have used someone with her passion for basic human rights in a high cabinet position. The very fact that someone of her character was a part of the Obama team is just one more reason for me to support Obama.

Oh, and read her new book on Sergio Vierra de Mello . I have it on hold and can’t wait until the library gets it in.

My First Baseball Weekend in ’08? Almost

Posted in Astros, baseball, family, illness on 3 March 08 by mikevc

I have been looking forward to this weekend for quite a while. This weekend was to be the first weekend of that most wonderful time of the year: baseball season. Now, I know that the pros don’t actually get underway until the end of the month, but last week was the start of spring training games and this weekend was the always fun College Classic at Minute Maid Park, including my alma mater (UT Longhorns) and my childhood favorites/school I wish I had gone to (Rice Owls). This is a 3 day event w/ 3 games each day. My plan was to catch five games: all the games the Owls and UT played, especially the Saturday night game when they played each other. Well, fate had other plans.

On Thursday (actually Wednesday night), I was hit with the flu. I left work early on Thursday and haven’t been back. The really sad thing is I took Friday off to catch some baseball and then take my wife out to dinner for her birthday. Needless to say, none of this happened. Not only was I sick but I had one kid recovering from and one just coming down with the flu. Friday and Saturday were both complete washes. I was miserable both days. But there is some good news:

For the wife: Even though we haven’t gone to her birthday dinner at Cafe Montrose yet, her friends did manage to finagle (btw, in a completely unrelated comment other than the word “finagle” made me think of it, I love the name Finagle-a-Bagel, which was a bagel shop all over Boston) her some tickets for the Livestock Show and Rodeo Annual BBQ Cookoff, which she has been wanting to go to for the past ten years. It sounds like she had fun but the inevitable happened. As the only one of the four in our house who had been free of the illness, she returned from the event sniffling and miserably ill.

For me: I did make it to the College Classic today. My wonderful wife allowed me to go even though she was sick and the boys seemed to recover. I had hoped to catch the Rice-Texas Tech game and the UT-UHouston game. I made it through the first one before I realized I wasn’t fully recovered yet. Exhausted, I headed home after one game. On the bright side, the Owls won all their games and I got a parking space on Texas Avenue right outside the park.

One last plea to the folks at Minute Maid or Drayton McLain or someone: Next year please keep the Astros FanFest and the College Classic on the same weekend. It just feels like more of an event that way and allows us ‘Stros fans to get into that baseball mode early in the year. I really don’t like that they separated the two this year. Plus, I am going to be in Minneapolis when the FanFest is held this year. I shouldn’t complain I will get to spend Opening Day with the Twins and Angels: my first AL Opening Day.

Texas Two-Step: Not Hillary’s Dance?

Posted in politics on 2 March 08 by mikevc

So, by now, everyone knows about Texas’ bizzare two-step primary process. In essence, Texas’s nominating process starts with a primary where 126 delegate votes are at stake, and continues that same day with local caucuses that eventually will allocate an additional 67 delegates. These caucuses convene 15 minutes after the polls close and are open to anyone who voted in the Dem primary. In the past, this system has received little press. Now, however, with our state bound to play an integral role in selecting the Dem candidate, all the news outlets are covering this.

Now the interesting thing about this process is that everyone within politics knows about it. However, the increasingly desperate Clinton campaign is challenging the process. Keep in mind this process was in place in ’92 and ’96 when Bill C. was running. Not only this, apparently Hilary is talking about seeking to seat the delegates from Florida and Michigan; this despite the fact she signed a pledge with the DNC and all Democractic candidates to not campaign there–and as a result her name was the only name on the Michigan ballot. Funny how both of these were non-issues until it looks like she won’t win the nomination.

Don’t even get me started on the superdelegates. If she legitimately wins the nomination because the people of the party select her, I may vote for her. However, if she resorts to underhanded procedures to circumvent the will of the people, I doubt I could bring myself to vote for her. Even these tactics and the challenges in Nevada lead me to believe she and her campaign could give a damn about what the people want–unless it is to elect her.

Never in my life did I think I would say this but it seems that the Republicans have a far  fairer process for selecting their nominee than do the Dems.