Saturday, April 28, 2001

From Baton Rouge to New Orleans

Greetings from New Orleans, where we arrived yesterday for Jazz Fest. Which, of course, meant we flew in to Baton Rouge. It's pretty expensive to stay in New Orleans during Jazz Fest -- almost as much as Mardi Gras. But fortunately, we're staying gratis. Unfortunately, it's also not cheap to fly into New Orleans this weekend either, so we had to go with Baton Rouge. Also, unfortunately, we were priced out of my preferred airline, so we ended up on Delta. That wasn't so bad...the miles will transfer, but it did mean sitting in the back row. On the plus side, this is the first "1-stop" flight I can remember being on where they didn't announce a plane change.

After navigating the under-construction Baton Rogue airport, I got the car (Oldsmobile Alero -- thank you Avis Preferred) and it was off to enjoy the great state of Louisiana. We were hungry, so we looked in the guidebook for places to eat in downtown Baton Rouge. Unfortunately, the Avis map had us taking exit 1C off I-110 to get to downtown, and as far as we could tell, that exit didn't exist. So we were on I-10 and looking for places to eat near LSU.

Unfortunately, the maps we had didn't help us locate the place the book recommended near LSU, so after driving around and around the LSU camps (I had forgotten how poorly college students drive -- maybe it's just college students in the South -- they also don't make great pedestrians), we headed to our original destination downtown.

That would be Poor Boy Lloyd's, where we had (what else?) po' boys. I had a catfish po' boy, which I believe duplicated my only other meal in Louisiana -- when Ben & I drove across the country in '93. The food was great, and the very friendly and vaguely inefficient service reminded me I was back in the South.

Driving to New Orleans provided the sort of lush scenery you don't get in the Mid-Atlantic, along with a general feeling of swampiness. A couple of miles out of Baton Rogue, the car started beeping at me and I noticed a "low tire pressure" light on. Uh-oh. The car wasn't pulling to either side, but it wouldn't if I had a flat on a rear tire. So we went to the next exit and pulled into a gas station to check the tires.

There was no gauge either at the gas station or in the car, but the tires looked and felt full of air. Close enough. Hey, it's a rental car; I'll go out this morning and see if there are any flats.

We arrived at our hosts' at around 3:30 in the afternoon, chatted with them for a while, and then I was ready for a nap. After the nap, it was time for dinner, which featured crawfish. I don't think I've ever learned how to eat crawfish, but if you know how to eat crabs...well, I guess it doesn't entirely help, except for the general experience of breaking open your food to eat it. I did not get into the full Louisiana spirit of sucking the crawfish head, but hey, one step at a time.

After that, I was a bit too tired to head out and do anything -- getting up at 5:30 after a long week will do that to me, so it was off to bed to conserve my energy for today's trip to Jazz Fest.

Thursday, April 19, 2001


I went to see the Orioles lose to the Indians last night. It was cold and pretty empty -- though there were 2-3 times more people than there were at the last Twins game I was at. Despite my recommendations, we ended up with upper box seats -- the seats themselves had a good view from the first row of the upper deck, along the 3rd base line. But go to a night game in April in Baltimore, and it's significantly colder than it is at ground level -- which is pretty cold to start with.

This is the first Orioles game I've ever been to, I believe, where Cal Ripken wasn't playing. I assumed he was hurt; it turned out he was benched.

Tuesday, April 10, 2001

Plane Truth

The headline on this story is "Near-miss preceded plane collision, Pentagon official says."

Further elaborating, "A Chinese fighter passed as close as 3 feet to a slow-moving U.S. spy plane before the two craft collided, sending the Chinese jet into the sea and the U.S. plane to an emergency landing in China, a senior Pentagon official said Tuesday." Well, duh. It also passed as close as 2 feet, then 1 feet...and then you had the collision.

This is what we mathematicians call the "Intermediate Value Theorem".

(Yes, I know if you read the bottom part, it explains that the "near-miss" refers to an approach prior to the one involving the collision, but you shouldn't have to read that far into the story to figure out what's going on. And don't get me started on whether a "near-miss" is the same thing as a "near-collision.")

Saturday, April 07, 2001

Brush with Greatness/Brush with Stupidity

Last Saturday night, five of us went to a taping for an HBO comedy special, thanks to a friend in the business. I was really confused about what was going on, but we showed up, milled around for a while munching on free food until they called out for "guests of the production company." Woo hoo, that was us. We must be in the front row. In fact, we were (though they later moved us back a little bit). Still wasn't sure what was going on -- there was a sign on stage saying "Welcome [Something] High Class of 1981". Huh.

Fortunately, we ran into the parents of aforementioned friend, who clued us in. This was going to be a series of sketches by a number of different comedy troupes. Most of them I hadn't heard of, although I had heard of the Groundlings. Many of the sketches were less than inspiring, but some -- such as Australia's Umbilical Brothers -- were downright entertaining. Hopefully the less entertaining ones will end up on the cutting room floor.

But then it was time for the final sketch with The Kids in the Hall. Out wanders Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald. Not to take anything away from Kevin McDonald, but I found Dave Foley 20 times funnier than anyone else in the room. He was joking around before and after the sketches in a genuinely funny manner that few people have.

After some forced laughter for the laugh track, we were on our way. We decided to head to Fado for a drink. As we rounded the corner of the building the taping was in, I heard Martin say, "It's Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald of Kids in the Hall!" Sure enough, there they were. I don't know what came over me, but I started to do my best "Teenage Girls See the Beatles" shrieking. I figured a) I would never see these guys again and b) I was far enough away to be non-threatening. Everybody was somewhat amused/vaguely embarassed.

So we wandered over to Fado, which was fairly packed with people watching the Maryland/Duke basketball game/debacle. Fortunately, there were seats available as long as we were OK with not being able to see the TV. In fact, there were two tables tucked into the corner. So we claimed one, sat down and ordered our drinks. A couple minutes later, who sits down at the table next to us than -- the Kids in the Hall. So I did see them again, and I was not nearly far enough away to avoid feeling pretty darn awkward.

You can also read another take on the evening's events that's slightly less Jon-centric.


Went to Arundel Mills last night for the first time. It's this huge "outlet" mall at Rtes. 295 and 100 in Maryland. I got a good deal on a ski jacket at Sun & Ski Sports -- all their ski stuff was on end-of-season clearance. They had a treadmill-like thing that you could "ski" on, but I declined their offer of 15 minutes for $7. Somehow, it just didn't seem the same.

Then we went to Chevy's for dinner. The fact that they didn't have a table ready was annoying until we went into the bar and discovered that they had trivia. I ended up playing a pretty decent game of Spotlight, and getting to #1 on the bar's high scores at the game. Then again, after only being in for 3 questions (out of 15) of the previous game (Triviaoke), I was #9. So it's not a trivia hot spot.

By then it was almost time for the movie. We went to see it at the Muvico Egyptian 24. First of all, Muvico is a pretty silly name for a movie theater chain. It's a Florida company that builds these mega-stadium theaters. Ever since I've started going to theaters with stadium seating, I've gotten to be a bit of a snob about them and am willing to drive further to see movies there as opposed to anywhere else. Somehow I became under the mistaken impression that O, Brother Where Art Thou? was playing there. When we went to buy tickets, we were disabused of that notion. So, we got tickets for Down to Earth, a movie starring Sam Neill about the Apollo moon landings and the attempt to get an Australian satellite dish to help televise it.

At this point, you may be saying, "Jon, don't you mean The Dish? Isn't Down to Earth that lame Chris Rock remake of Heaven Can Wait?" Well, smarty-pants, you're a step ahead of me, as we discovered when the opening credits started to roll. Oops. Not wanting to subject ourselves to what we were fairly sure was going to be a not-so-thrilling movie, we slunk out.

And changed theaters to Chocolat, which was just starting. Thank goodness. All in all an enjoyable movie about a woman who opens a chocolate store in a small village in France in 1960 and upsets the town's existing social order. I guess the one thing that bothered me about the film is that it seemed to be proselytizing the transformative power of chocolate -- which is really silly, if you stop and think too long. (So don't.) The movie grasps for profoundness, but in the end is really just...sweet. Which is fine with me.

Thursday, April 05, 2001

Why I Don't Watch Baseball Much Anymore

"There's no sense in rooting for a total loser, so let's cross the Twins right off the list. If you already are a Twins fan, well, that's your cross to bear, and you can't expect the rest of us to join your lonely crusade."
--Hugo Lindgren, "The Free-Agent Fan", Slate.