Monthly Archives: March 2014

1500 Thread Count Sheets, Where Have You Been All My Life?

Groupon recently sent me a Groupon Goods offer for 1500 thread count sheets and I was all like, “Hey, I need a new set of sheets!”, so I checked it out.  They were offering a full set of sheets for somewhere around $80 which seemed reasonable, but not really knowing what 1500 thread count sheets are going for, I did what just about every shopper does and checked Amazon to see what they were selling comparable sheets for.  I found a nice set of chocolate colored, Italian (whatever that means) 1500 count, 100% Egyptian sheets for $26.  Sold American!

Two days later (Amazon Prime, for those people who absolutely can not wait four days), my sheets arrived.  I pick up the box and it is incredibly light.  My first thought is they sent me a single sheet instead of the full set.  Upon opening the box, however, it is indeed a full set of sheets.  The whole set feels like it weighs like one of my normal fitted sheets.

Eager to try the sheets out, I put them on my bed immediately.  The feeling is difficult to describe.  It’s more like a lack of feeling.  Sleeping on top of the fitted sheet gives the impression of sleeping on air with only the resistance of the mattress to realize you are on a solid surface.  With the flat sheet and comforter above, it is more like an invisible weight placed on top of you and you can wrap yourself up as tightly in this cocoon as you desire.  My only complaint are the pillow covers which are slightly too large for my pillows which causes them to bunch up some, so I have to be sure to arrange the pillow so the extra material is in the back of the pillow lest a flap of downy softness tickle my nose in the middle of the night.

It remains to be seen how well the sheets hold up in the wash.  I have a feeling it will not be very well given their daintiness.  Those with experience in these things, are all 1500 thread count sheets like this?  If so, I consider you a horrible friend for not informing me of such earlier.

Book Review: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 2/5 stars

Wherever your life’s travels take you, never share a vehicle with anyone named Gulliver for doom is sure to visit you.  I am pretty sure this advise will serve you well.

Earth: the final frontier.  These are the voyages of Lemuel Gulliver.  His on and off again mission: to satire English life in the 18th century, to use imaginary beings to point out the faults of mankind, to baldly criticise those in power except for royalty which either Jonathan Swift was totally fine with or they were too prickly of a target for his barbs.

As you can probably tell, reading “Gulliver’s Travels” reminded me of “Star Trek”.  And, as you can probably tell from my rating, we’re talking season one of TNG.  Ugh.  Through a series of voyages, Gulliver finds himself on a variety of uncharted islands inhabited by previously undiscovered intelligent species.  The only thing missing is him making funtime with the native women.

My guess would be that the biggest problem with this book is time.  While some of the material covered is timeless, the time Gulliver spends with the Liliputians and the Brobdingnags comes across as very stale because of the temporality of the topics.  Add to that the fact that writing about really short humans (the Liliputians) and really tall humans (the Brobdingnags) is no longer terribly original and you find yourself with some tedious reading to get through.  This part is not all bad though.  Swift’s description of the Brobdingnags especially really makes you reflect on the concepts of beauty as he attempts to convey the hideousness of massive pores and freckles or the repulsive nature of a 72 foot tall woman’s breast.

Gulliver’s travels do get slightly more interesting from there.  His next stop is the flying island of Laputa which is inhabited by people who pursue science purely for science sake and the preposterousness that can come from that.  It isn’t exactly good satire, but it’s at least entertaining to read Gulliver describing all the ridiculous experiments that Laputans dedicate themselves to the detriment of their daily responsibilities to society.  The only other interesting part in this adventure is Gulliver’s reflections on immortality as he meets the immortals of Glubbdrubdrib who live forever but still age normally.

Gulliver’s final travels find him on the island inhabited by Yahoos (primitive men) and Houyhnhnms (intelligent horses).  This adventure was actually enjoyable to read.  The Houyhnhnmns are the only non-human in appearance race and he uses them to portray Swift’s ideal lifestyle for humanity.  That he uses a non-human race reflects Swift’s belief of the unlikelihood of humans to ever reach that idea.

Oh, I should also mention my love of the paragraph.  Paragraphs break up stories nicely and provide bite sized chunks of information to digest.  Swift hates paragraphs.  They go on for pages in this book.  This may or may not be on purpose.  There is a fake foreword from the editor who spends some length describing how Gulliver uses meticulous detail in describing even the most non-interesting events and how he had to force Gulliver to pare down his descriptions of things.  At the onset of the book, I found the caveat that Gulliver is a horrible storyteller amusing.  After finishing the book, I think Swift may just have been an asshole.

I Totally Voted For Myself

One of the judicial vacancies (Reyes if you’re interested) had two people running who both had a few “not recommended” decisions by various bar associations and, for some reason, had a write in spot, so of course I wrote myself in!  Many of the other vacancy spots didn’t have a write in so I’m not sure why this one was special.  The vagaries of the voting ballot.

If I were a little more forward thinking, I could have had all of my friends vote for me as well.  Given that I was the 47th person to vote for my precinct today, I don’t think it would have taken that many votes to put me in contention.  Yep, that’s right, I was 47th in a pool of around 1000.  The workers joked to me that they bet that they can hit 50 before the night is done.  Ah, democracy.

Movie Review: The LEGO Movie

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 5/5 stars

Bottom Line: Everything IS awesome.  A perfect kids movie with good comedy and an honest to goodness moral to the story.

“The LEGO Movie” is one of those movies that you can watch again and again.  And if you have kids, you WILL be watching it again and again.  The only down side to this is not being able to get the “Everything is Awesome” song out of your head.  But that only requires one viewing.

And speaking of the “Everything is Awesome” song, I have never experienced a situation where I went from disliking a song to really liking it after hearing it in the movie.  It is an incredibly stupid pop song, but it snaps in perfectly inside the movie.  This is a welcome change to the inorganic nature that often comes with original songs in movies.

Yes, this is basically an hour and a half long LEGO commercial, but the artistry and imagery in the movie are so perfect you can believe they were ripped straight from a child’s imagination and the LEGOs are just the medium the child had chosen.  And really, LEGOs are a unique medium perfect for the fertile imagination of a child.  The idea of that imagination is used as fuel for the plot of the movie which pits those who want to always follow the directions against those who want to build as they wish.

The movie also teaches an important lesson which is rare for a children’s movie.  That lesson is there is no wrong way to play with LEGOs.  Yes, really.  Like I said, it’s a LEGO commercial.  But that can be applied to life in general.  Sometimes you need to play by the rules and follow the directions and sometimes you shouldn’t and see where it takes you.  Words to live by.

This Is Why I Hate St. Patrick’s Day

Stupid people are stupid.  The link goes to a blog that follows crime reports in Boystown.  It’s a special St. Patrick’s edition of all the crime from the Saturday into Sunday that is St. Patrick’s Day Weekend.  It is both comedic and sad.

There is no better way to see the true character of a person than to see that person drunk.  “In vino veritas” as the Italians say.  If a person acts like an asshole when they are drunk, you can be pretty sure that person is an asshole when they are sober but better able to hide it.  And, boy, do the assholes come out of the woodwork this weekend.  There’s nothing wrong with getting drunk.  There’s plenty wrong with using your drunkeness as an excuse to act stupid.

St. Patrick’s Day weekend must be one of the worst to work as a first responder.  Every dispatch message reads like this: Disturbance in progress, white male, 20s, wearing green.  Fun.

Vote For Judges!

It’s that time again where I harangue my measly Chicago audience and remind them to get out there on Tuesday, March 18th and perform one of the most critical civil duties.  Voting.  Yes, this primary has selections for Governor and Attorney General and Treasurer and blah blah blah, but they are far from the most important offices on the ballot.  The most important would be judges.

Judges are the one elected officials you are most likely to run into in a professional capacity in your everyday lives.  And it likely won’t be for a fun reason.  Rarely is it said, “Yay, I get to go before a judge today!”  For this reason, it is vitally important that we get good judges on the bench and even more important to remove the bad ones.

You are ill-equipped to decide which judges are good and which are trash.  Thus you must trust the opinions of those who interact with judges on a daily basis; lawyers.  Lucky for us, the Alliance of Bar Associations for judicial Screening (ABAJS?) produces a pdf document that you can print out and take with you to your polling station.  The document is a conglomeration of various bar associations’ recommendations on whether a judge is qualified or not.  If you have your favorite bar association (and who doesn’t?), you can follow their recommendations.  I tend to look for even one unqualified rating by any of the bar associations and vote down that judge if one exists.

Now go do your duty on Tuesday.

Walking In A Winter Wonderland. .. In March

Yay, more snow! We had a few more inches of snow overnight and it was the wet, sticky kind driven by strong winds. The result is magnificently beautiful.


Now go away winter!

Movie Review: 300: Rise Of An Empire

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 1/5 stars

Bottom Line: Look, it’s gratuitous,over the top blood and long-winded soliloquies with excessive use of slow motion.  Where have I seen this before?  Oh yeah, it was called “300”.

So there was this empire and it, like, rose or some junk?  The title of the film may be “Rise of an Empire”, but it’s not at all clear which empire is rising or how it is rising.  The movie ends very abruptly in the middle of a pitched battle which I’m assuming you are supposed to believe that the Greeks were going to win, but it’s not really clear.

A lot of “Rise of an Empire” plays exactly like the original “300” movie did.  Almost every scene is very stylistic and shot in high contrast so every ab and muscle and piercing and gush of blood shows in great detail.  It is kind of beautiful, but it’s also empty.  I enjoyed the original “300” for its stylistic elements, but a sequel just shows how shallow those stylistic elements are.  “300” was a one-trick pony and “Rise of an Empire” is the exact same pony performing the exact same trick only with a change of costume and a different script and on a boat.

I got suckered into watching this movie after seeing a preview featuring a pretty neat origin story of Xerxes.  I had assumed that we would see a more in-depth look at Xerxes the man-god in the movie itself.  Expecting depth from this movie, however, is like expecting a mosquito not to bite.  The preview turned out to contain 90% of all of Xerxes’ involvement in the movie.  The rest is just him standing around and looking big and beating up a girl.  This movie may hold the title for making the lamest man-god ever filmed.  What’s even more amazing is this movie was “based” off of the Frank Miller comic titled “Xerxes” and barely featured the dude.

The only interesting thought I had about the movie coming out of it was a chicken or the egg thought.  The final naval battle between Greece and Persia features a plan that is eerily similar to the Battle of Blackwater from “Game of Thrones” where all the boats perform a 40 car pileup and people start jumping on the boats from land and fighting.  I wonder if this movie ripped off George R. R. Martin or if George R. R. Martin ripped off Frank Miller or if there was actually a Greek battle that featured such an outrageous tactic and everyone ripped that off.

The Guacocalypse Is Nigh!

Chipotle caused quite a stir recently when they filed their annual report with the Securities and Exchange Commission.  Part of every filing is where the company lists a series of possible issues that may affect the company’s ability to provide their expected services.  For the most part, it’s pretty boilerplate stuff.  So when a company deviates from that boilerplate material you can bet someone’s going to notice.  And that’s just what Chipotle did.

As part of the risks that Chipotle may face, they stated that “increasing weather volatility or other long-term changes in global weather patterns, including any changes associated with global climate change” may lead them to “choose to temporarily suspend serving menu items, such as guacamole or one or more of our salsas, rather than paying the increased cost for the ingredients.”

It’s a guacocalypse!

After much media attention, Chipotle claimed that they don’t know what the big deal is about and it was just another general “what if” and there is no danger of their guacamole going anywhere any time soon.  It’s still a big deal, though.  Chipotle is not some fly by night operation.  They’re a well recognized and insanely popular national food chain.  And they filed a report that they are concerned about global climate change and it’s effects on their business model.  That’s news.

Book Review: Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 2/5 stars

It is the near future and copyright laws have gone from insanely restrictive to ludicrously restrictive.  It is a world where the Internet is not a luxury but a necessity.  Family’s lives are ruined because their children illegally download copyrighted materials which causes them to lose their Internet connectivity.  Teenager Trent McCauley’s obsession with remixing the works of a famous writer/director/actor into new art gets his family kicked off the Internet for a year.  Guilt-ridden for destroying his family’s livelihood, Trent runs away to London where he meets like-minded kids as he learns to survive on the mean streets of the city.

It is an interesting premise for a book and about the first half or so is lots of fun as we follow Trent’s adventures in London, learning the science of begging and finding the best dumpster food in the city and navigating the finer points of squatting in abandoned buildings.  That’s all pretext for the main story which is, unfortunately, Trent and company’s attempts to overturn the egregious copyright law which caused Trent’s family to lose their Internet in the first place.

Copyright law and a free and open Internet are topics that are often covered by Cory Doctorow and what he has to say about the topics is well worth reading.  They should not be the subject of a young adult fiction book, however.  The thing is, all the copyright stuff is incredibly boring.  You can try to hide your copyright talk in the various misadventures of teenagers all you want, it doesn’t make it any more interesting to read about.

Aside from the copyright stuff, there are some interesting topics covered from what art is to what ownership means to living on the streets of London to the hosting of pirate cinemas in the sewers to the prevalence of the surveillance state.  The problem is the rest of it is just kind of thrown in there and nothing really ties together.  Even the ending seems kind of just thrown together.  When your bright idea is showing a pirate remix on the side of Parliament to help sway the vote of a law meant to make copyright law less egregious, you may not have thought your ending through enough.