Monday, February 26, 2007

Live-blogging the Clearinghouse

Well, I suppose a traumatically-induced, frenzied search whose possible outcomes are a year of separation from my wife or a complete failure of one of the primary objectives of my professional life for the last eight months is the sort of thing that might make for some good comedy. This is a case where we would do well to heed to words of the great prophet, Jimmy Buffett, who taught us that if we couldn't laugh, we would all go insane. So, here I will live-blog my navigation through the Clearinghouse process.

The rules of the exercise:

  1. The places I will be applying to will be in the Clearinghouse for the same reason I am: they didn't match up. No matter how they try to spin it, I am picking from the leftovers.
  2. It's unlikely that there will be positions open in Chicago. A lot of big schools tend to be in the middle of nowhere, and people want to live in the big city. Chicago is likely sold out.
  3. At 10:00 am Central, a list goes out of all the programs that didn't match. Additionally, on an e-mail listserv, training directors can also post openings. This means that I will be a slave to my e-mail account.
  4. So, I need to find a psychology internship that deals with kids, one preferably in the Midwest that at least pays something (some places are "unfunded"... which translates into "slave labor."), and is APA-approved.
  5. Applications are basically done by e-mail, with my CV and my cover letter as my only materials. Places then might call me back for a quick interview. I'm told that positions are offered fairly quickly, to the point that some people start the day at 10:00 unmatched and have a job at 11:00.
  6. An internship is necessary to graduate from my program. So, failure to secure one means that I'll have to postpone graduation for another year (From June '08 to '09). Right now, it's not sounding like such a horrible thing, given the alternatives.
  7. Other than that, there are no rules.
As always, all times Central.

Sunday night -- I explained it to my father this way: "Remember when we had the fish tank and we would drop a couple of fish food flakes into the tank and all the fish would come zooming to the top to try to grab some food? It's like that. We're the fish. The programs are the fish-food flakes."

9:18 am -- I believe as a way to taunt those of us in the clearinghouse, APPIC just sent out their match statistics. 75% of those who applied matched. Of those, 45% matched to their first choice and roughly 80% to one of their top 3. There are now 296 positions unfilled at 150 programs, and 842 folks who are looking to fill them. That's about a 35% chance.

9:29 am -- Just got a call from my faculty advisor. She advises me to delete the tagline from my e-mail, "Ask me why I'm a Christian." This is non-negotiable. If you'd like to know the answer, click here.

9:51 am -- Tick tock, tick tock. At 10:00, the floodgates open.

10:10 am -- Florida, Texas, and California have the most openings. There's one in Atlanta that looks interesting. Free room, board, and Russian lessons sold separately.

11:34 am -- Sent out a flurry of e-mails. Got bites from two programs near Chicago (yay!), although one is strictly adult, the other is very psychodynamic (think Freud). Got nibbles from a place in NYC. May be asked to go to Allendale, Illinois for an interview at a site. At least someone is returning my phone calls.

11:55 am -- Prospects so far: Two sites in Chicago, as mentioned above. Two in California, one in Miami, one in Atlanta, one in NYC, one in upstate New York (Frederic Church country!), one in Providence (near Quahog), and one at Baylor in Houston. Unless others come through via e-mail, this might be the list.

11:59 am -- Already, the first e-mails are rolling in saying that positions have been filled. My, those fish sure swim fast.

12:24 pm -- Consulted with director of our mental health center. She gave me the scoop on Allendale, and said she'd make some phone calls. I've also been in almost constant contact with my research advisor. My poor cell phone. It's not gonna like me after today.

12:32 pm -- One possible option for folks out there is to do a military internship. You get 63K a year, but are then commissioned as a Captain in the Army and must serve 3 additional years. In other words, this is a sneaky way of recruiting.

12:39 pm -- Alright, a rundown of the places:

River Oak in Carmichael, CA. They work with kids, and their site is wonderfully non-helpful! Update from my advisor: "She sounded interested!" but "She had a few offers out."

Sharp Healthcare in San Diego. Seems to be mostly inpatient/hospital stuff. Not bad.

Marcus Institute in Atlanta. Mostly developmental disabilities (autism, MR), but it's in Atlanta...

Alexian Brothers Health Care in Chicago. Mostly adults. Talked to the DCT there, who said she wasn't ruling me out, but I'm not a really good fit...

Allendale Association in Chicago. My #1 choice. In Chicago (sorta, 50 mile commute each way...) Deals with kids. Big into Freud. Can't have everything in life.

North Bronx Healthcare Network in NYC. Hospital based. They at least e-mailed me back! Could be a lot like the time I spent at Cook County Hospital. ER fans in the room, the actual hospital looks nothing like that. And I didn't sleep with any of my co-workers.

Ulster County Mental Health in Kingston, NY. Seems fairly general. Anyone know where Kingston is?

Brown University Medical School in Providence, RI. Pediatric HIV Clinical Research. Not exactly my specialty, but then again, I am working as a stats consultant to such a project...

Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Adult and Adolescent Psych rotation. Well, at least I know how to do one of those two things.

1:00 pm -- Alexian Brothers is filled. Another one bites the dust.

1:19 pm -- After about 50 messages from the Clearinghouse e-mail server, I've gotten my first spam message of the day, exhorting me to buy stock in some Canadian mineral company. I never thought I'd be that happy to get spam!

1:29 pm -- My faculty advisor has been calling a lot. So, every ten minutes, I have the hope that it's a program calling me. It's her. However, it's because she's basically taken up a position on my wing to call everyone at all of these sites. Back in high school, I founded a small cult to the worship of zebras. The work that she has put into today on my behalf makes her a candidate for the cult's highest honor, the Order of the Emu.

1:32 pm -- Over the weekend, having nothing else to do, I finished up a manuscript and sent it out to American Psychologist. I doubt it will be published there, but I figured that it's worth a shot. I've also crossed into the time zone where I should be working at my real job.

1:41 pm -- A position pops up on the e-mail in Massachusetts. I'll bite.

1:50 pm -- We're now reaching the point where nothing is happening. If you've ever watched "Without a Trace", you know that this probably isn't a good thing. Well, since I'm in the neighborhood, enjoy this.

1:52 pm -- A nibble from River Oak, which I found out is in Sacramento. Imagine me moving to the C-state.

1:56 pm -- And now a note from Allendale that says that they are processing all the applications they've gotten. All? Oh dear...

2:18 pm -- The silence is deafening.

2:24 pm -- San Diego and Houston are both out.

2:26 pm -- So is upstate New York.

2:36 pm -- There goes Atlanta. That one hurts, because I would have at least had some connection back to my wife. I could have lived in her old bedroom. Is that weird?

2:38 pm -- Friend Steve points out that there could have been multiple "Stay Classy San Diego" jokes... To that, I can only say, "Lou, how's the weather gonna be?" (Nice.)

2:46 pm -- RIP River Oak. No California sunshine for the Pizza Cutter.

2:57 pm -- I have the websites for each of the sites that are still in the running up on this computer. There are, sadly, only four little Windows left (Allendale, North Bronx, Brown University... please no jokes about friend Omar..., and somewhere in Massachusetts.)

3:05 pm -- Goodbye Boston... although I'll be there in a few weeks.

3:16 pm -- You know that point in the party where it's just time to go home? I think I've finally hit that point.

3:26 pm -- Another period of eerie silence. Most of what I'm getting is e-mail from friends telling me to keep my head up. Thanks much, to all of you.

3:28 pm -- Brown Medical School has decided not to fill their position at all. Only Allendale and NYC remain.

3:33 pm -- Last night, I did my usual Sunday night grocery run and call to my parents. I got to the store and as I was walking to the car, I noticed that something was awry. If you're the sort of person who takes the same things in your pocket each day, you know what I mean. I'd forgotten my wallet at home. Thankfully, this wasn't in the check out line.

3:48 pm -- Nothing.

3:56 pm -- A metaphor, if you will.

3:58 pm -- News out of New York. They've filled their spot. One place remains.

4:22 pm -- No word from Allendale. I called them and they are reviewing things. So, I'm now holding my breath to see what happens there.

5:09 pm -- Well, I'd love to post something here, but there are only so many ways to describe waiting in limbo. I've got no more bullets to fire. There's nothing left to do but sit and wait.

8:00 pm -- Resignation. It's not gonna happen this year. Looks like I start again here.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

In the Clearinghouse

I don't often do full on diary-blog entries, but this one is a big one. I might be moving to a random U.S. city in June, sans mon femme. It's not a matter of any relationship problem: We're doing fine, and in fact, that's what makes this such a heart-breaker. Yesterday, I received news from the organization that matches psychology graduate students with psychology internships. An internship is the final piece of a Ph.D. in my field, and the application process has been going on for the last eight months or so.

I didn't match. My biggest problem is that I applied exclusively in Chicago, primarily so that I could be near my wife. That was both for the fact that she's my wife and that after a hard day on the job (and in my field, I have plenty of them... calling in allegations of child abuse is a thrill a minute), she's amazing at calming me down. The Chicago internship market, on the other hand, is brutal. There are only a few internship programs (or at least, fewer than might be expected), and a lot of people are drawn to them because they want to live in a big city after spending five years at a university in the middle of nowhere. Plus, many of them are hyper-specialized, and I'm not a specialist by nature.

Those who don't match go into what is euphemistically called "The Clearinghouse." What it means is that Monday morning, a free-for-all starts among those applicants who didn't match and those programs who still need to fill spots. Signs point to none of those spots being in Chicago. It forces me into a position of either waiting another year and doing this all again next year, or trying to find something in another city. The latter means a new city in June, for a year long posting. The former basically means a year of a holding pattern (I refrain from using the phrase "a year wasted") professionally.

This was not part of the master plan. But, the Good Lord has sent me many blessings dressed in ridiculous packaging before.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Back for a quick check in

I've been struggling with an ethical issue: Should I talk about the Britney Spears case or not? As something of a pop-culture connoisseur and this being the biggest pop-culture/celebrity meltdown since Michael Jackson, maybe I should say something. It's odd because she's actually made Kevin Federline look like a fine, responsible, upstanding member of the community.

On to the news:

Meetings actually make things run worse
(Note to all bosses out there)

Next time someone wants to give you a hug, mace them
(Or something like that)

Man robs building next door to police dog training facility
(Could this be your future cellmate?)

Bright, shiny objects:

What Jim Henson really sounds like
(The Muppet Guy)

Jedi house party gets out of hand
(Alcohol and light sabers... not a good combo)

And now a word from our sponsors:

And finally:

Because I can: Eiffel 65.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Love Lobster? Beatboxing flute player?

A few observations on life:

Yesterday was Forgiveness Sunday in the Orthodox Church, which marks the beginning of Great Lent. On this day, everyone in the church bows down before everyone else and asks forgiveness. It is the most powerful thing in which I have ever been involved. My hamstrings hurt, but to humble myself and ask even the 3-year-olds if they will forgive me what wrong I have done is something that I should do more often.

In other news, the Walgreens theory of the apocalypse is still alive and well. My wife and I went to buy a few supplies this weekend and saw this, a "Love Lobster", which seems to be a three-foot tall plush stuffed lobster in a questionable state of chemical enhancement (i.e., it looks drunk...) And it was half-off because Valentine's Day is over!

Because I can: Craig Ehlo.

And to make yourself feel out of breath and less than adequate, check out the beatboxing flute player.

Friday, February 16, 2007

From my dad.

This week's theme:
Frederic Edwin Church

To finish off this week's theme, may I present Church's tribute to the American flag, produced around the time of the Civil War.

Our Banner in the Sky

On to the news:

Today's award for the oddest thing to steal
(And how to get caught...)

Today's award for the oddest animal story
("An Australian man who caught a 4ft shark with his bare hands says he only did it because he was drunk." Really?)

Today's award for people who need a cranial-rectal extraction
(This is brilliant stuff)

And finally:

After your weekly check of Is It Friday dot net, a bit of bad news. The blog will probably be scaled back or MIA for the next few weeks. I am an Orthodox Christian, and we are entering the season of Great Lent. I've decided to cut down on internet usage, which would include FIF. Not sure if it'll go away completely or not, but expect to see less of me for the next few weeks.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

High Holy Days

No blog today on account of it being one of the holiest days on the calendar. Today, I can say the four sacred words that I have longed to hear since the end of October. "Pitchers and catchers report."

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Angst Day!

Is there a day on the calendar that promotes more angst than Valentine's Day? (Every year, J. Geils Band's "Love Stinks" enjoys a renaissance every year around this time.) I'm not a fan of the way that the day has evolved. There's a myth that the only love that "counts" is romantic love. Romantic love is wonderful, and I recommend it, but there's so much more to life than that. May I suggest C.S. Lewis's The Four Loves.

Today, may I suggest you appreciate exactly how many people love you. And tell them you love them. It doesn't have to be romantic. Just real.

This week's theme:
Frederic Edwin Church

West Rock, New Haven
(Absolutely gorgeous)

On to the news:

Austrian kids get a lesson in swearing
(From their teacher)

Greenpeace sends Valentine's in Japan
("Be our valentine and resign!")

Batman shuts down school

And finally:

Short one today. Probably no blog tomorrow. My schedule's a little busy. However, until then, enjoy my new obsession song.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

"Not if they're negative numbers!"

It's time for our Tuesday look around the world to see what's happening!
  1. U.S. subtly prepares for war with a country in the Euphrates valley based on shaky evidence.
  2. Somewhere out there, someone is preparing to use a cheesy song tomorrow.
  3. Marty Schottenheimer got fired for losing a playoff game.
  4. Al-Qaeda deputy releases a grainy video-taped message and... calls for unity and understanding?
In other words, nothing new is going on.

This week's theme:
Frederic Edwin Church

There's been a traveling exhibit of Church paintings going around the country, but not stopping off anywhere in the Midwest. :-( It's one of those things that I would actually travel out somewhere to see these things, if I had time. They're currently in Princeton, NJ. Some day, I'd like to go to Olana, Church's home in the Hudson Valley. I've even kicked around the idea of writing a screenplay/novel based on Church, and I suppose I could write off the trip as a work-related expense.

In any case, here's a few more paintings to gawk at.

Cotopaxi, from Church's travels in South America.
Chimborazo, from the same series.

On to the news:

Entire nation responds to accusations of fictional character
(High five!)

College finally points out the obvious
(As a professor, I suppose we only have ourselves to blame on this one)

Chocolate baths for Valentine's Day?
(That actually sounds rather disgusting)

Bright, shiny objects:

How do I recycle this?
(Into recycling? Got something you have no idea what do with?)

Another in the "Choose Your Own Adventure" vein
(I know, I did one yesterday...)

Today's random "next blog":

Pro Photo Learning Center
(Seems to be a collaborative blog about professional photography. This is the fun of the "next blog" button)

Today's strange anniversary:

February 13, 1959 -- Barbie doll goes on sale.

Fun fact of the day:

The Pentagon, in Arlington, Virginia, has twice as many bathrooms as is necessary. When it was built in the 1940s, the state of Virginia still had segregation laws requiring separate toilet facilities for blacks and whites.

And finally:

Last night, as my wife and I were going to bed, my wife teasingly told me that I should get out because she got to the bed first. I replied using my standard comeback that "I was here second and two is a higher number than one." I've been using that for ten years (in all honesty, I stole it from here), and I'd never had anyone mount a comeback to it. Her response: "Not if they're negative numbers." I love my wife.

Monday, February 12, 2007

More on Iceland--Lithuania relations

Sifting through the news today, I found that there were a few stories that were related to my actual professional job as a child psychologist. I know I toyed around with the idea of doing a baseball blog, but I want to do a psychology blog too. Today, we find out that adoptive parents are actually better parents than biological parents, and that there's a renewed focus on academic burnout in fourth grade. That, combined with the news that autism rates are on the rise, means that there's a lot of child psychology news.

This is the problem with blogging. It's addictive.

This week's theme:
Frederic Edwin Church

FIF goes high-brau this week, featuring one of my favorite painters, Frederic Edwin Church. Church was a member of the first truly American school of painting, the Hudson River School, which focused on painting the American landscape in the mid-to-late 19th century.

My personal favorite painting by the man is "Twilight in the Wilderness" from the collection of the Cleveland Art Museum.

On to the news:

Hunter shoots washing machine
(Hunting at home... maybe not such a good idea)

Restaurant offers free meals to the hungry
(So to speak)

Looking for a Valentine's Day date?
(Maybe these aren't the best prospects)

Bright, shiny objects: just made a great soccer joke, but no one would get it
(If you have to ask the question, you wouldn't understand the answer)

Choose your own adventure, the online video Valentine's Day edition
(Remember these from grade school?)

Today's random "next blog":

Random thoughts and associations
(You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but you can judge a blog by its title)

The Monday playlist feature:

Well, it's Valentine's week. So, I should probably pick a memorable Valentine's Day to recall on this week's playlist. Around my house, there's a framed poem that I wrote for my wife back when we were dating on Valentine's Day 2002. I actually wrote to her parents and asked if they would send me a particular picture of my wife so that I could incoporate it in. They did, and that's when I knew that they liked me. Anyway, here's what we were listening to back then.

5) The Calling -- Wherever You Will Go

4) Usher -- U Got It Bad

3) Linkin Park -- In the End

2) No Doubt -- Hey Baby

1) Pink -- Get This Party Started

Today's strange anniversary:

February 12, 1991 -- Iceland recognizes Lithuania's independence. Apparently, this was a big enough event that someone felt the need to write it down.

Fun fact of the day:

Many northern parishes (counties) of Louisiana did not agree with the Confederate movement. To show their disapproval, they changed their names. That's why there is a Union Parish, Jefferson Parish, etc.

And finally:

I don't get the point of dog shows in general, but MSNBC has a whole section of their website devoted to the Westminster Kennel Club show. Rent Best in Show and you'll never be able to think of a dog show the same way.

Friday, February 09, 2007

How my wife made chicken fillets using zen

Last night at dinner, my wife and I were recounting the time when we were at a friend's house trying to make fried chicken. My wife is a vegetarian. There were four other people in the kitchen, yet none of us could figure out how to fillet the chicken in front of us. My wife, the vegetarian, took over and did a fantastic job. We were laughing about that story last night when she said, "Yeah, it was all thanks to the Chinese Religions class I took in college." I stopped and pondered what exactly people were studying over in the religious studies department (my wife was a religion minor... we both went to the same college) She continued, "The professor told a story of a man to explain the concept of zen. He was a butcher and he was so good that it was said that his knife never dulled. When asked, the butcher said that he was just in a zen state that he was able to just follow the bone with no problems." My wife reasoned then that she should just follow the bones. So, next time you're about to disparage someone for picking such a useless major at a liberal arts college, remember: you actually learn valuable life skills.

This week's theme:
Trekkie music videos

I'm saddened that the I love the 90s theme had to go. I actually checked last night, and the videos are all gone. I guess I'll have to wait until it comes back on VH-1 (which will no doubt be within the next 24 hours).

Anyway, a musical tribute to the greatest tradition in Star Trek, the guy in the red shirt getting killed. Music by Queen.

On to the news:

Today's least justifiable excuse for a divorce
(Pumpkin pie?)

Psychic museum closes down
(Due to unforeseen circumstances!)

Truck driver spills 40 tons of cow intestines all over Wisconsin

Bright, shiny objects:

Where to hide your money from burglars
(Advice from a former burglar)

The Luke Johnson phone experiment
(Give this guy a call. Tell him that he's on FIF.)

Today's random "next blog":

Grain of Sand
(Kirby Plays World Game... I don't know what that means either)

And now a word from our sponsors:

And finally:

It's time for our weekly check of Is It Friday Dot Net!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The hoohaa monologues

Yeah, it's legitimate.

This week's theme:
Trekkie music videos

A man in Star Trek uniform shirt sings about being a nerd... Imagine that
(Nerd Pride!)

On to the news:

Need a good way to waste time?
(Watch cheddar age!)

Vagina Monologues has to change its name in Florida
(This is worth a cheap laugh)

Urine-town: the musical
(Sponsored by the Omaha Urology Institute!)

Malaysian colleges offer courses on how to clean toilets
(Wife, don't say it)

Quote of the day:

"Get ready... for the violence... of the lambs."

Bright, shiny objects:

Nintendo humor, live on stage
(And you kno you'll catch all the references)

Mice on drugs
(All in the name of science. Interesting for about 30 seconds, but a good 30 seconds)

Today's random "next blog":

4th Avenue Blues
(A man with schizophrenia blogs about his life. As a clinical psychologist, I encourage you to read this one and gain a little more understanding about schizophrenia)

Today's strange anniversary:

February 8, 1992 -- "I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred peaks at #1. America, go hang your collective heads in shame.

Fun fact of the day:

A-1 Steak Sauce contains both orange peel and raisins.

T-shirt of the week:

Salute your shorts!
(Here's to failed Nickelodeon shows)

And finally:

I can already feel the sunshine.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Pimp My Bathroom

It's Valentine's Day next week, so without fail, all of the jewelry stores are out with their commercials. One of them, Kay Jewelers has their increasingly-annoying "every kiss begins with Kay" slogan. (Not since, "Oooooooooooh, that's Jared!" has a jewelry store been so annoying) My wife pointed out that every kick begins (and ends!) with Kay as well. Food for thought, guys, if you're out shopping.

"Here's a diamond, sweetie." (Doubles over in pain.) "Here's another one..."

This week's theme:
Trekkie music videos

Star Trek... meet Rocky Horror Picture Show

On to the news:

More about mini-pigs
(A wedding?)

Man deposits marijuana at a bank
(Must have been good stuff)

Quote of the day:

"The average person spends 11,862 hours in the bathroom, which equals one year, four months and five days in a lifetime... a toilet should be the most wonderful location in your home." -- Steven Pollyea, vice president of marketing for Roto-Rooter plumbing on the company's new "pimped out" john.

America, we've finally gotten to "Pimp My Bathroom."

Bright, shiny objects:

Selling dental health using the world's oldest advertising technique
(Think of it as an ode to a certain pearly white substance)

Learn Dutch, the easy way
(Part Five!)

Today's random "next blog":

Usually, I don't post political blogs
(But it's Canadian politics, so it doesn't count)

Today's strange anniversary:

February 7, 1936 -- A flag is authorized for the Vice President. You didn't know that D-Chains had his own flag, eh?

Fun fact of the day:

How do gun silencers work?
(Straight dope knows everything!)

And finally:

NASA today said that in light of the recent diaper-clad astronaut stalker woman story, they'll be re-vamping their psychological assessments to try to screen these folks out and they'll be looking into her past to see if there were any warning signs which they should have noticed. I teach classes in psychology, and one of my favorite activities to do with the class is to have them imagine that they've all just been arrested on national television for double murder or some other big crime. Then, I encourage them to take a look into their own lives and come up with all the "reasons that we should have known." Everyone has things in their past that qualify as "warning signs." This kind of post hoc ergo propter hoc thinking will end up with a bunch of wild theories that people will believe completely, and then I will no doubt have to explain why they aren't true. Here's to job security!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

See can anyone matters really nothing

It's time for our Tuesday look around the world to see what's happening!

  1. Congress is going to tax terrorism. That'll show Osama!
  2. The moron count in America is apparently going up
  3. Well what do you know? Letting kids play with the oven isn't a good idea
  4. Teenagers feel bad after sex
In other words, nothing new is happening.

This week's theme:
Trekkie music videos!

Another in our "I watched entirely too much Star Trek: The Next Generation" series. The entire episode catalog of the show, set to music. If you're a hardcore fan of the show, you have got to see this.

On to the news:

If you thought Paris Hilton's miniature chihuahua was annoying, wait until you see this.

Today's least justified grand theft auto
(Of a police car, no less)

Quote of the day:

O. J. Simpson on why he hopes that his If I Did It never comes out: "It made it look too much like an admission of guilt,” Simpson said to the Palm Beach Post. “I wasn’t happy with the hypothetical paragraphs. A ghostwriter wrote the whole thing, and I OK’d it. But there were a lot of inaccuracies about the case and about how I would have done things. But I figure I’d let it go since I didn’t kill anyone."

O. J., are you listening to me? No.

Bright, shiny objects:

If the robots win, we'll have to listen to techno
(Lite Brite music video?)

And the award for most creative waste of time
(Counting numbers in 5000 languages... you know you're curious)

Today's random "next blog":

Deep Navy Blue
(Someone's diary blog. Seems like she puts a lot of effort into it.)

Today's strange anniversary:

February 6, 1990 -- Steve Briers of Wales recited the entire lyrics of Queen's album "A Night At The Opera" in 9 minutes & 58.44 seconds backwards! And Mimi Marquez, clad only in bubble wrap will perform her famous lawn chair/handcuff dance to the sounds of iced tea being stirred.

Fun fact of the day:

Hang On Sloopy is the official rock song of Ohio.

And finally:

Today, I booked more stops on my American tour. We're going to Atlanta to see the world's cutest nieces at the end of the month, and then I'm going to spend four days in Boston for a conference. Nyah nyah, I get to see Fenway Park.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Da Bears, Chewbacca, Europe, floating porcupines, and diapers

Chicago is going through its post-mortems around the Bears' loss. No word on if the city will have a "second place" parade. If they have one, no one will go. It's so cold that I don't think anyone would show up if they had won the thing. It's so cold that within 15 seconds this morning, my nose hairs were frozen (I know, that's much more than you ever wanted to know about me).

But, in good news...

This week's theme:
Trekkie Music Videos?

Nerd Pride! Here's "Starfleet Rhapsody". You'll only get the jokes if you followed the Next Generation.

On to the news:

Chewbacca arrested
(Today's been a weird one)

Woman wins big jackpot at casino
(A baby)

Cat gets credit card
(Dead people vote all the time in Chicago... what's the big deal?)

Police chief gives himself a ticket
(Finally, an honest cop!)

Quote of the day:

A feature I just dreamed up... let's see if it becomes regular.

Upon running into a deer while out skiing, a doctor remarked: "My first thought was, 'What hit me?...a (snow) boarder? drunk skier? linebacker?'"


Bright, shiny objects: is getting a little forward with us
(I'll be sure to call you.)

Take a bad song to try to cover. Do a bad job.
(Unintentional comedy rating: high)

Today's random "next blog":

Romanian poetry
(In translation... I told you these things were random)

The Monday playlist feature:

I actually checked and the I Love the 90s videos were still up. In theory, today would have been 1994. But, in case I revive the 90s theme for next week, I'll put that off. Nah, I'm in the mood for something 80s. So, let's see what America was listening to around this time in 1987.

5) Samantha Fox -- Touch Me (I Want Your Body)

4) Billy Vera and the Beaters -- At This Moment (YouTube's only sorta heard of it... Here's a cover)

3) Bon Jovi -- Livin' on a Prayer (It's OK... it would be the first thing I click on too.)

2) Cyndi Lauper -- Change of Heart

1) Madonna (why is she in every single countdown I do?) -- Open Your Heart

So, we have two one-hit wonders of whom I've never even heard, Bon Jovi, Cyndi Lauper (when did she ever put that song out?) and Madonna. I love the 80s... or was it 90s. Hard to tell any more.

Today's strange anniversary:

February 5, 1783 -- Sweden recognizes US independence. Thanks guys. 7 years late. And ABBA sucks.

Fun fact of the day:

All porcupines float in water. (I'm so gonna get sued for this one.)

And finally:

I saw this one as I was completing the blog as a late-breaking news story on MSNBC.

Headline: Astronaut arrested in alleged kidnap attempt.
ORLANDO, Fla. - An astronaut drove from Houston to Florida, donned a disguise and confronted a woman she believed was romantically involved with a space shuttle pilot she was in love with, police said. She was charged with attempted kidnapping and other counts.

OK, so far it's just a normal average everyday story.

U.S. Navy Capt. Lisa Nowak, 43, who flew last July on a shuttle mission to the international space station, was also charged with attempted vehicle burglary with battery, destruction of evidence and battery. She was denied bail.

So these are the people that get to go into space?

Police said Nowak drove from her home in Houston to the Orlando International Airport — wearing diapers so she wouldn't have to stop to urinate — to confront Colleen Shipman.

So... she drove to an airport 900 miles away... when she could have just flown. In a diaper. I think we're seeing a pattern starting to form.
Nowak believed Shipman was romantically involved with Navy Cmdr. William Oefelein, a pilot during space shuttle Discovery's trip to the space station last December, police said.

My brother's response: Gives new meaning to the term "mile high club."

Nowak told police that her relationship with Oefelein was "more than a working relationship but less than a romantic relationship," according to an arrest affidavit. Police officers recovered a love letter to Oefelein in her car.

If you've seen Wedding Crashers... start thinking about Isla Fisher's character.

NASA spokesman James Hartsfield in Houston said that, as of Monday, Nowak's status with the astronaut corps remained unchanged. "What will happen beyond that, I will not speculate," he said. Hartsfield said he couldn't recall the last time an astronaut was arrested and said there were no rules against fraternizing among astronauts.

Well, that answers all the "Why does NASA have so many problems?" questions. Isn't James Hartsfield the lead singer of Metallica?

When she found out that Shipman was flying to Orlando from Houston, Nowak decided to confront her, according to the arrest affidavit. Nowak drove the 900-mile trip from Houston to Orlando wearing diapers, police said.

Astronauts wear diapers during launch and re-entry.

Yeah, that was too much information.
Dressed in a wig and a trench coat, Nowak boarded an airport bus that Shipman took to her car in an airport parking lot. Shipman told police she noticed someone following her, hurried inside the car and locked the doors, according to the arrest affidavit. Nowak rapped on the window, tried to open the car door and asked for a ride. Shipman refused but rolled down the car window a few inches when Nowak started crying. Nowak then sprayed a chemical into Shipman's car, the affidavit said. Shipman drove to the parking lot booth, and the police were called.

I think we have a visual... I think we have a visual. Wig. Trench coat. Diaper. Now, let's play a game of "Good Idea, Bad Idea." If you saw that rapping on your window, would you roll the window down?
During a check of the parking lot, an officer followed Nowak and watched her throw away a bag containing the wig and BB gun. They also found a steel mallet, a 4-inch folding knife, rubber tubing, $600 and garbage bags inside a bag Nowak was carrying when she was arrested, authorities said.

She blamed it on MacGyver.
Inside Nowak's vehicle, which was parked at a nearby motel, authorities uncovered a pepper spray package, an unused BB-gun cartridge, latex gloves and e-mails between Shipman and Oefelein. They also found a letter "that indicated how much Mrs. Nowak loved Mr. Oefelein," an opened package for a buck knife, Shipman's home address and hand written directions to the address, the arrest affidavit said.

Police said Nowak told them that she only wanted to scare Shipman into talking to her about her relationship with Oefelein and didn't want to harm her physically.

"If you were just going to talk to someone, I don't know that you would need a wig, a trench coat, an air cartridge BB gun and pepper spray," said Sgt. Barbara Jones, a spokeswoman for the Orlando Police Department. "It's just really a very sad case. ... Now she ends up finding herself on the other side of the law with some very serious charges."

Thanks for clearing that one up for us, Barbara.
If convicted of attempted kidnapping, Nowak could face a maximum of life in prison. It was not immediately known whether Nowak had an attorney.

According to NASA's official biography, Nowak is married with three children. During her 13-day mission in July she operated the robotic arm during three spacewalks. Oefelein piloted the space shuttle Discovery in December. He has two children, according to a NASA biography.

Do you ever look around you and wonder how it is that our species survives?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Live-blogging the Super Bowl

Well, it's America's cultural icon and as a male, I have to watch, despite the fact that I don't really like football. Welcome to the Foreign Intelligence Files (FIF for short!) liveblog of Super Bowl XLI. Mostly because of the commercials. I suppose that since I'm in Chicago, I have to cheer for the Bears. All times Central.

5:27 pm -- Well now, that was quick. I sat down to watch the game and Devin Hester returns the opening kick for a TD. Bears 7-0. However, this has some precedent and that doesn't look good for the Bears.

5:31 pm -- The Bears are wearing their classic blue unis. And the announcers are saying that it's a mostly Chicago crowd. How can you tell the difference between Chicago and Indianapolis? There's people in Chicago.

5:34 pm -- My wife is watching this game with me. She is more confused than I. After about two near interceptions, the Bears intercept a pass. First commercial break coming up.

5:35 pm -- Bud Light's Rock, Paper, Scissors commercial leads it off and that's brilliant (8 out of 10). The Doritos commercial made no sense (3 out of 10). The Blockbuster commercial (clicking on the mouse) was catchy and caused some laughter (7 out of 10). Back to the game.

5:38 pm -- What's with CBS trying to be all funky with their player introductions? Heavy bass-line. Rex almost gets picked off. Bad Rex. Bears punt.

5:39 pm -- Wife has the following thought on watching the game: "It's like watching Univision. I know that they're saying something and that it's all relevant, but I don't understand it." I love my wife.

5:40 pm -- The Sierra Mist commercials... with Michael Ian Black. They... just... don't... work. Go back to I Love the 90s, Michael. (3 out of 10)

5:43 pm -- I don't pretend to know what's going on football-wise. I've played some Madden, but I'm no expert. However, the announcers are making a point that Peyton Manning's thumb, despite being really beaten up, is not affecting his game. I suppose he just naturally sucks that much. For grits and shiggles, check out, including his personal journal.

5:45 pm -- It's raining in Miami. Must be rough.

5:46 pm -- TD Indy. Peyton throws the ball really far and for some reason, the Bears left the wide receiver wide open by about 15 yards.

5:47 pm -- I'll be, I make a joke about the rain, and it causes a fumble on the extra point. Bears 7-6.

5:49 pm -- Ford's got John Goodman doing their voice overs. Solid. (5 out of 10). Bud Light's auctioneer wedding was fantastic. (8 out of 10 for 30 seconds of fun.)

5:51 pm -- And again, weather causes a fumble on the kickoff. Update: and on the next play! Maybe they should call a rain delay.

5:52 pm -- The Bears running back guy (sad that I don't know my own team) just ran for 50 yards. Bear down Chicago Bears! Sounds like they're giving birth.

5:54 pm -- TD Bears! It was some sort of pass play. Bears 14-6.

5:55 pm -- Snickers "accidental kiss". Good pemise, but the ripping chest hair off was kinda rough. "Quick! Do something manly!" (7.5 out of 10). Wife laghed, though. The rest of the commercials were eminently forgetable.

5:58 pm -- Chevy's commercial featuring all the songs that have ever mentioned Chevy went on entirely too long (4 out of 10... 3 when you figure that I bought a Toyota). Bud Light's "no speak English" commercial was good up until the end, when it was excellent. (8 out of 10. My wife wants to give it an extra half point because she's an immigrant. Yes, dear.)

6:01 pm -- There's apparently a Chicago Bear named "Danielle Manning." Peyton, Danielle. What's with all the Mannings with girls' names? The Colts just punted.

6:04 pm -- Apparently there are "force outs" in football. I soooooo miss baseball right now. Also, I was trolling through YouTube and found this. Not really related to anything, but it's funny.

6:05 pm -- No one wants to hold on to the football. Colts have the ball after a fumble.

6:08 pm -- My wife and I just had another one of our crazy synchronous moments. She and I were both wondering why they were using the Chemical Brother's "Galvanize" She also added that the guys jumping into each other's arms was purely heterosexual, just like the Snickers commercial. I love my wife.

6:12 pm -- And now a Cleveland reference. The Bears just tried Metcalf-up-the-Middle on 3rd and 7.

6:15 pm -- End of the 1st Quarter, 14-6 Bears. More commercials! Go wants me to buy a domain name by showing me semi-clad women (4 out of 10. Try again. Wife's review: "eh.") Coke is running a commercial in which the guy from Grand Theft Auto goes around doing good deeds (5.5 out of 10).

6:18 pm -- My wife is ordering pizza. We figure we'll order now, because we'll be hungry in 2 hours.

6:22 pm -- Apparenty, the announcers failed Kindegarden. "Marvin Harrison is out on the right side of the offense." Problem was that he was on the left side. Colts kick an FG. Bears 14, Colts 9.

6:23 pm -- My wife and I just exchanged "What the hell?" glances after Budweiser did their "dalmation" ad (5 out of 10). The navigation system one where they basically tried to take the Beastie Boys video for Intergalactic and make it an ad didn't work (4 out of 10).

6:27 pm -- Wife continues to sit there and knit. It's entirely possible that she's made me a sweater since this game began. Update: no sweater. :(

6:28 pm -- What was that about? (4.5 out of 10 for extreme confusion) The Doritos commercial was just... creepy (4 out of 10). The Chevy commercial with all the naked guys washing down the car was just... well... considering that a car is often considered an extension of a man's... uh... how to put this... well, was that perhaps vaguely... how to say this? (5.5 out of 10)

6:32 pm -- Announcer: "I get issues, and I guess I have to talk about it all the time." Where's Tim McCarver when you need him? I think the Colts are driving.

6:34 pm -- The Bears are losing. My city will no doubt be burning within the next hour. It'll warm things up. Colts 16, Bears 14.

6:36 pm -- Budweiser wants us to slap people as a way of saying, "Way to go!" (6 out of 10. They need to go back to the Bud Bowl. I miss the animated beer cans playing football.) I don't recall any of the other commercials. They were that good.

6:38 pm -- An out-of-work, suicidal laid off... robot. With "All by Myself" as the theme. All this to tell us that everyone at GM is obsessed with quality.

No. (5.5 out of 10)

6:42 pm -- Prince is apparently doing the halftime show. Lewis Black's theory of if you want to see where American pop culture is at any moment, look at the Super Bowl halftime show is officially dead.

6:45 pm -- My wife just re-pierced her own ear. I realize it's been 20 minutes since I wrote something about the game. 2:00 warning!

6:46 pm -- Tim Allen and John Travolta are in a movie together... oh dear. Sprint just did their "Connectile Dysfunction" ad. Now that's a (9 out of 10). It was so perfectly parodied. Beautiful. I laughed. I cried. I want wireless broadband.

6:49 pm -- Another fumble. Bears have it. Update: Another fumble. Colts have it.

6:51 pm -- OK, a thought to all the Madden players out there: Do you feel like you should have your joystick in your hand calling these plays?

6:53 pm -- I hate to be "that guy", but we get it. Both coaches are African-American. Coke has run a Black History commerical, so has Lays. The thing I like about the Super Bowl is that we no longer have to hear that story line again.

6:55 pm -- Now, we're at the end of the half and the teams are exchanging time outs. Colts are lining up for a field goal. No good! Wide left. Scott Norwood would be proud. Halftime approaches. Colts 16, Bears 14.

6:59 pm -- KFC just ran an add with no special effects, music, narration, or point. Just a bucket of chicken and an understated commercial. (6.5 out of 10). At least it didn't fall flat.

7:01 pm -- At halftime, grown men are talking about "ball security."

7:06 pm -- Now, the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince. The stage is set up in the shape of his "symbol" and now the fans are on the field. What exactly is the man wearing on his head? When was the last time that he was relevant? 1999? (Wife's comment: "He looks like Aunt Jemima with that thing on his head.")

7:09 pm -- Was Britney Spears not available this year? Wife wants to know if Prince will have a wardrobe malfunction.

7:10 pm -- Prince is covering a medley of James Brown and Tina Turner. I don't get what the funky marching band is doing there. In fact, I just don't quite get it. It's a good energetic performance, but when you're at the Super Bowl and you're Prince, you sing Raspberry Beret.

7:14 pm -- Pizza's here! My wife just gave the delivery guy a $7 tip for being out when it's -3 degrees before the wind chill.

7:25 pm -- Time for the sideline reports. Both coaches told their teams to work hard, believe in themselves, give 110%, and every other cliche in the book. During the post-game, I'll be doing a cliche count.

7:28 pm -- One of the Chicago Bears just asked Oprah Winfrey to marry him on the air. Sorta. (Not quite as good as this one, but still...) One more reminder that the Super Bowl has nothing to do with football.

7:34 pm -- Like most of America, I'm not really all that interested in the game any more. That'll happen again in about half an hour. Have the Colts run every single play to this Joseph Addai guy? Also, the rain is starting to get ridiculous. Everyone's running around soaked.

7:39 pm -- Field goal Colts. 19-14. Disney is putting out a movie called Meet the Robinsons. E*Trade's bank robbery commercial was pretty funny. (7.5 out of 10) They needed to start it off ala Pulp Fiction with "Everybody hold up! This is a robbery!" Coke's parade commercial got a "WTF" from my wife. That about sums it up. (5 out of 10)

7:43 pm -- Bud Light (apparently all they do is Super Bowl commercials) checks in with two gorillas trying to get Bud Light (6 out of 10, maybe 6.5 for comedy factor). Then, Sheryl Crow, who now apparently writes all of her songs to become jingles for commercials advertises for Revlon color with her song "Not Fade Away." Wife looked at me and said, "She just won a William Shatner Award, didn't she?" Yeah, she did.

7:47 pm -- The Chicago Bears have apparently forgotten which way they are supposed to be going.

7:48 pm -- checks in with more people pretending they are on "Lost" with office supplies (6 out of 10). Two lions try to pronounce "carrrrrrrrrne" for Taco Bell. What do lions have to do with Taco Bell? (5.5 out of 10).

7:55 pm -- Toyota did a truck commercial that I think was exactly the same as one that Ford ran in the first quarter. Update: It was the same commercial. Shows you how well I pay attention. Emerald Nuts (whom I've never heard of) ran a commercial with Robert Goulet. My wife asked who's Robert Goulet. Well now, thanks for wasting $1.5 million, Emerald Nuts. Oh yeah, the Colts kicked a FG. 22-14 Colts.

7:57 pm -- The Colts have been kicking away from Devin Hester and some guy named Gilmore keeps picking up the kickoffs. My wife keeps thinking of Gilmore Girls, longingly. I have to admit, I'd rather be watching that too. Is that un-manly? Quick, I should rip out some chest hair.

7:59 pm -- KEVIN FEDERLINE!!! "Federline! Fries!" (11 out of 10.)

8:00 pm -- "Should we pick him up? He has Bud Light." "He has an axe!" "Yeah, but he had Bud Light." Want to know what car rides with my wife are like? Just watch that commercial over and over. (9 out of 10.)

8:04 pm -- The Bears actually scored! 22-17 on a field goal. This might actually end up being a close game.

8:10 pm -- Turning point of the game. Marvin Harrison's catch that was almost ruled a non-catch. Unless of course, I look back on this and say "What was I thinking?"

8:12 pm -- Cargill (who?) just ran a commercial saying that they were proud of developing an ice cream truck, but for animal feed... in Poland. (pi out of ten).

8:15 pm -- Budweiser. Crabs. Huh? (7 out of 10). (Wife's review: drink Bud, get crabs. There's a great message.) The Honda CRV tried to make itself look... hip... fly... uh, dope... what do you kids say now?

8:19 pm -- Friend Omar sent me this, that was apparently on in some markets. Well now, time to get political in the middle of the Super Bowl.

8:21 pm -- The dagger just went into the heart of the city of Chicago. Indy just returned an interception for a TD. Bad Rex.

8:26 pm -- Izod just celebrated the fact that they are the world's preppiest clothing company. I think it's an old commercial. I didn't understand the Jay-Z Budweiser commercial. Update: Friend Omar explained the commercial to me. Beyonce will blow for Jay-Z. Use your clean mind.

8:31 pm -- Another Rex Grossman interception. Well, that about wraps it up.

8:33 pm -- Time for a Flomax commercial! I've never heard so many euphemisms for urination (wife corrects me: micturation). Peeing!

Things you can do with one finger from E*Trade! Best commercial of the night not involving Kevin Federline. (9.5 out of 10).

8:41 pm -- Time for Rex Grossman to pull a Joe Montana. I even kept a straight face while I typed that.

8:44 pm -- Or maybe not. Chicago goes out on downs and now it's just formality of running out the clock.

8:48 pm -- My wife just made the most astute football observation of the night: "Has Chicago had the ball in... a while?" This from the woman who's been asking me all night what happens if the receiver doesn't catch the ball and how the system of downs works.

8:51 pm -- Two minute warning. They're repeating commercials. Peyton Manning will finally get the "can't win the big game" monkey off his back. Alex Rodriguez, take heart.

8:56 pm -- Under a minute left. Bears look like a beaten team.

8:58 pm -- Your 2007 NFL Champions, the Indianapolis Colts (-7). Start the cliche counter.

9:00 pm -- Pitchers and catchers report in 10 days! Next year will be the Browns' year. Are they any good? Is it baseball season yet?

9:04 pm -- Can I just say the old guy in the heart costume walking around and getting beat up is just... odd.

9:11 pm -- Winning the Super Bowl is the greatest achievement in team sports? What happened to Paul Tagliabue? Is he dead?

9:12 pm -- You just won the Super Bowl, let's start off with thinking about a tragedy. And thank God. Because God really cares who wins the Super Bowl.

9:13 pm -- Jesus for MVP! I was watching the Super Bowl and a tent revival broke out. Rob Irsay thanks God for providing such good moving vans out of Baltimore 25 years ago.

9:15 pm -- Peyton Manning: Six cliches in 20 seconds! Did we mention that Tony Dungee is black? Is this the most lacksadaisical celebration of a major sports championship that anyone's ever seen?

9:21 pm -- Well, Chicago will be depressed for the next week, but life will continue. I suppose it's time to close up here. Until next time because this time was indeed better than last time, I am and will continue to be the Pizza Cutter. This has been the Foreign Intelligence Files. Say good night, DJ Chia Pet.

9:26 pm -- P.S., now I'm watching coverage in the aftermath. I can't shake memories of this.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Happy St. Groundhog's Day

Apparently, a woodland creature poked his head up somewhere in central Pennsylvania and predicted that we will have six more months of basketball.

Speak of, it's only two more weeks until pitchers and catchers report.

This week's theme:

Here's the last of 1993. Well, that was the second last. Here is the last of 1993.

The scary thing is that I sent my first e-mail in 1993, at the age of 13. We had a 486 PS/2 (top of the line!), a 2400 bps modem and Prodigy. I don't even know if Prodigy still exists...

Update: MSNBC just posted this story, in which Viacom, who owns VH-1, is suing YouTube to have all their material taken down. This means that the I Love the 90s episodes are probably toast. This means that next week, I have to find an actual theme.

On to the news:

You put what in your hair?
(Not for the faint of heart)

62-year-old retiree whacks 17-year-old thief with frying pan

And finally:

The entirety of the city of Chicago is a giant ball of nerves in anticipation of one question that can only be answered on Sunday: Will Kevin Federline's commercial be the best of the bunch? Find out with me as I live-blog the Su... the... major championship football game... can't say that either?... the "Country Music Awards" (I guess I'll have to call it that because I can't say Super Bowl.)

Update: Maybe not. I may be going elsewhere for a Super Bowl party.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Make a sound like a dying giraffe

I've decided to write a book this summer. Not entirely sure what book I'll write, but the whole point is that by the summer, I'll be done with my dissertation! I've toyed around with the idea of writing a book on teaching psychology (or research methods) through baseball or perhaps digging deeply into my Sabermetric side and write something along those lines. I've also thought about writing the novel that I've had kicking around in my head for a while. An odd thought: With the disser done, I'll actually have time to take on something like that. Crazy thought.

Also, Sunday, since the Bears are in the Sup... uh, the large championship football game held this Sunday, which will be super, I suppose I have to watch. Since I have to watch and because it's a cultural event, I will attempt to live-blog the experience. Stay tuned.

This week's theme:

The year in music, where thankfully, I can now post the year in review from Chicago's Q101, instead of the overly poppy Rock on the Net. Compare the two and laugh. Also, the year in movies. Unlike some other years, there aren't any real moaners at the top of the list... except Free Willy, which has become a campy icon. And it marked the exact end of Michael Jackson's "normal" phase. (You know you want to click on the song and sing along... don't hide on that one.) Lori Petty ("Tank Girl") was in this movie? So was Bubba from Forrest Gump!

On to the news:

And the award for dumbest criminal of the day goes to...
(At least he wasn't the usual one who left a picture of himself)

Search is on for Miss Nuclear Russia 2007
(Russian women are hot! ;-)

Mary Poppins can't spell supercalafra... ah you know what I mean
(Apparently, I can't either)

Four in five people state the obvious
(Something that I do every day)

Bright, shiny objects:

And now, more people randomly breaking into the Thriller dance
(I should have made Thriller this week's theme)

How to give a "man hug"
(Required viewing for men)

Today's random "next blog":

For some reason, the next blog button isn't working, so I guess I'll just link the blog of a high school classmate of mine who popped onto FIF and said hello. It was the first thing I'd heard from him since 1998.

Jason's Blog
(Hail to the green and gold!)

Today's strange anniversary:

February 1, 1959 -- Swiss males vote against voting rights for women.

Fun fact of the day:

Giraffes have no vocal cords.

T-shirt of the week:

The Hungry Hungry Hippos finally speak
(Anyone else think this game was a pre-school training groung for Binge Eating Disorder?)

And finally:

Another sign of the Apocalypse, thanks to your good friends at Walgreens. Every month, my wife and I try to take advantage of the specials advertised in their monthly circular. On an ad hawking their knock-off brand shampoo: "Stock up! Limit 2." Yeah, we sure can stock up.