Wednesday, July 29, 2009


(Phone conversation)

Tony: All this construction in the parking lot is really loud and distracting.

Lisa: Why don't you take the laptop and go over to Caribou or Starbucks to work?

Tony: But then I can't watch the Cubs game....

Friday, July 24, 2009

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Yesterday I finished a book I've been wanting to read since I first heard about it: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Here's the review I wrote:

There's no denying that zombies are trendy right now. With video games like the Resident Evil series and movies such as Dawn of the Dead, animated corpses feasting on the brains and flesh of the living have some sort of unexplainable mass appeal. Like many other readers though, the last place I expected the undead to appear was in a literary classic. But that didn't stop Seth Grahame-Smith (either a genius or seriously deranged writer) from rewriting Jane Austen's masterpiece Pride and Prejudice as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, declaring it "The classic regency romance--now with ultraviolent zombie mayhem".

If the title alone doesn't bring a wry smile to your face or elicit a slight giggle, don't bother picking up this book. Many readers will declare the work ridiculous and scoff at the apparent destruction of one of the most beloved romance stories of all time. However, I was on the right side of the fence to appreciate Grahame-Smith's bizarre humor and although I wouldn't by any means declare the work an improvement on the original, it was certainly a fun book.

Much of the text and plot are preserved from Austen's writing - with the obvious addition of zombies. Instead of country ladies, Grahame-Smith's Bennet sisters are warriors trained in the arts of combat, sworn to defend the crown from the hordes of "unmentionables" that plague England's roads and countrysides. The reader still finds Elizabeth fighting her prejudices (and zombies) to fall in love with the proud (zombie-fighter) Mr. Darcy but amusement is added (along with ninjas) by altering some of the well-known plot points such as the classic encounter between Lady Catherine and the sharp-tongued Lizzy.

Already assured to be a cult-classic, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a great book for those that love the original but are willing not to take their literature too seriously. It could also succeed in bringing fans of the horror genre to an appreciation of classic literature, but the book is likely more enjoyable for those familiar with the primary text as long as they are ready to laugh at it.

Now it's just a matter of waiting for the September release of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Where To Begin

The world of scientific research can be a tricky place to be sometimes. I've often joked, "If we knew how things would turn out, it wouldn't be called an experiment." There's two ways to go about research too: one can either seek out something that someone else has done and apply it to one's own field of study or one can embark on new uncharted territory in hopes of developing a technique that nobody else has done but that others will likely seek out and apply to their own fields of study in the future. The former has the obvious advantage in that it's simpler, more elegant, and generally produces research that gets funded. The latter though is where science can be much more interesting. And much more frustrating.

You can probably guess where my work is currently leading me.

I don't mind that the work itself is frustrating. What I find more painful is when I'm told that certain things are "impossible". I must say, I loathe that word. Yes, the tasks before me are difficult. Yes, they will take a lot of thought, a lot of rethinking, and a lot of collaboration and advice from others. Yes, I will have to synthesize a protocol out of various bits and pieces from people that are working on things far outside of my intended targets. But that doesn't in any way equate "impossible" at this stage in the game and thus, "impossible" seems like entirely the wrong place to begin.

Right now, I have options. Another word for options is possibilities. Only after every single one of them is exhausted will I succumb to declaring the path before me "impossible". That might be where I end, but there's no way that's where I plan to begin.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Fielder Wins, But Pujols Shines... or at least his head does...

What would Blogger Arrow be without my annual tribute to the Home Run Derby? Let me start with some quick flashbacks to 2008, 2007, and 2006. Ah yes. Those were the days where it took far more than eleven home runs to really impress the crowds. *sigh* This year's competition was severely lacking in the "He hit HOW many???" category that brought jaw drops to greats such as Josh Hamilton and Bobby Abreyu. But as always, I offer a tip of my hat to this year's champion Prince Fielder, first baseman of the Milwaukee Brewers.

With Prince taking the title and Albert Pujols (first baseman of the St. Louis Cardinals) as the obvious favorite, I have to take note of the fact that these two talents both hail from the National League Central division - also the home of first base greats Lance Berkman of the Astros and the supremely awesome Derrek Lee of the Chicago Cubs. There's no doubting the phenomenal quality of baseball played by all four of these men (their numbers speak for themselves) but it leads me to question why the NLC is routinely criticized as the worst division around. Granted, the division typically produces a close race in which many of the teams boast mediocre records at best, but I have to argue that those stats are due more to evenly matched rivalries than overall lack of talented teams, as the media tends to imply.

Before I distract myself too far with topics such as East Coast Bias, let me return to the subject of Albert Pujols. I'm anything but a Cardinals fan, however I have great respect for Mr. P. He's the epitome of a classy player and despite his astounding numbers in the game, he constantly comes across as humble - giving equal praise to both teammates and rivals - and professes his faith in God when attributing a source to his talent. There is one thing, though, that I always seem to forget about Pujols, that I was reminded of at the Home Run Derby: he is bald.

(Not that there is anything wrong with that. I have long been an admirer of the follicly challenged.)

Something about his shiny head, though always seems to surprise me. Perhaps the oddest spectacle of the Home Run Derby was seeing both Pujols and Fielder taking the plate with exposed heads - a rare safe opportunity to do so since there is little to no risk that a batting practice pitcher of their choosing would throw a fastball up and in. Since baseball players are so rarely seen without their caps or batting helmets on, their hairstyles (or lack thereof) can be a bit shocking. Hence my surprise at Mr. P's sparkling pate. For another example, look to White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski. With his catcher's gear, ballcap or batting helmet on he looks like a perfectly normal individual. And yet, when he removes his head-ware, one is confronted with a bizarre shock of bleach-blond hair leaving one to speculate on his passion for surfing in the off-season.

The baseball cap is more than just a uniform piece. It is a fashion statement that these talented men seem to incorporate into their personas. With their team loyally identified across their foreheads, it's no surprise that many of them look like entirely different individuals when seen with exposed craniums. It was actually something of an image hunt to find a photo of Albert without his trademark red top. But it just goes to show that despite their feats on the field, these heroes really are everyday people too.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Look Alikes

I wouldn't by any means call myself a HUGE sports fan, but summer brings out the best (or maybe the worst) in me with two of my favorite things to watch - baseball and tennis. The former won't surprise many who know me to be quite the Cubbie fan, but not many people are aware of just how much I love to watch professional tennis. Specifically, Wimbledon.

No joke. I. Love. Wimbledon.

It started somewhere in the vicinity of my high school years (perhaps when all my siblings had summer jobs but I was a bit too young) that my mom and I would spend our late June, early July mornings watching the beautiful British competition. I can't pinpoint what exactly I love about Wimbledon - I don't get nearly as excited about the US or French Opens - but something about the high-class traditional atmosphere greatly appealed to my middle-class young American self.

Anyway, this year a bad reaction to poison ivy kept me out of work for a few days last week and the highlight of being "sick" was definitely rejoining my beloved Wimbledon competition as part of the live-television audience. The men's quarter- and semi-finals were especially riveting and I found myself rooting, unexpectedly, not for Roger Federer but for the American underdog, Andy Roddick (picture at right). And he almost pulled it off. Truthfully, I think he deserved it for the simple fact the Federer never succeeded in breaking his serve through the first four sets - and at 130+ mph it's a pretty tough serve to break.

But watching him play, there was a small voice nagging in my head that kept saying, "Who does he remind me of?" Somewhere around set three it hit me. If they ever make a Family Channel movie of The Andy Roddick Story, actor Sean William Scott (picture at left) would be a perfect choice to play the young tennis pro.

Am I right or am I right?

I don't know why my brain always makes these strange connections, but it's my own bizarre world of sports commentary. I've also recently commented that Sam Fuld - a rising star in the Cubs organization - bears something of a resemblance to former SNL odd man Chris Kattan... but I suppose that's a story for another time.