Hi, My Name is Peter and I Am a Sun Sneezer.

August 23rd, 2006

Sun sneezing

Do you have a tendancy of sneezing when you walk out of your front door into the sunlight? Do you sneeze when you look up towards the sky? Not everybody does but apparently up to about 1 in 4 of us sneeze as a result of bright light - usually the sun. Have you ever wondered why? Read on to find out...

What is sun sneezing?

Sun sneezing or photic sneezing is a genetic condition (sometimes called 'ACHOO Syndrome') in which the signals from your eye to your brain are somehow also received by the part of your brain which deals with the sneeze reflex. This means that when your brain is being told to contract your iris in response to increased light it also thinks that it is being told to produce a sneeze. - DanKarran.com

Other resource:

August 23rd, 2006
One of the lessons of history is that nothing is often a good thing to do and always a clever thing to say.
- Will Durant

East Coast Road Trip Part I - A Day in the Car and a Night in Philadelphia

August 22nd, 2006

For as much time as we spent talking about our road trip, Josh and I really did not plan it in any detail. We knew what days we would be gone because other commitments and lack of vacation time set aside a block of days by the process of elimination. We knew what cities we wanted to visit and roughly who we hoped to see in each. Beyond that, we had no plans. We did not know how many nights we would spend in each city, nor what we would do while we were there.

There are always changes that can be made for the next trip, should it ever occur, but as the inaugural voyage it was perfect. I had an awesome time spending a few days outside of Michigan, seeing old friends, making new friends, eating way too much and doing it all in a span of 6 days and just over 1700 miles.

I do not vacation often, but I am at least familiar with the sense of elation that overpowers all semi-rational thinking once the trip is officially underway. Josh and I really had to temper our excitement to avoid a moment like the one in the movie Swingers when Trent and Mikey scream with excitement about their trip to Vegas only then to have to endure the majority of their long drive in an uncomfortable, anti-climactic silence.

Anyway, 14 of us set out on the roughly 600 mile stint from Detroit to Philadelphia: Josh, myself, and 12 crispy strips from KFC. Yes, they were all for me. He ate, so don't concern yourself with that detail. Excuse Explanation: It's just my road-trip snack. When I have a drive that will last that long, I don't like to stop for food...and I have a crazy fixation with chicken fingers (more on that later).

I loaded up my iPod with a few extra albums that definitely came in handy. Only once did we have to revert to an east coast/west coast showdown battling 2PAC and Biggie. I am sorry to report that, like the proverbial 100 coin flips, the battle still ended without decision. We had hoped to return home with the issue settled once and for all. Alas, the debate rages on...

Our first stop was actually in West Chester, PA and not Philly. My buddy Sean was kind enough to host us for the night, and he calls West Chester home. We stopped by his place to drop off our stuff and get him (and the other Sean) before we headed into Philly. We had serious business to attend to once in the city. I was a man on a mission. It had been two years since my last Pat's cheese steak. That streak must end before my night continued. And end it did (Wednesday saw one streak start and another come to an end) I had my "cheese witout" with my cheese fries and birch beer. There ain't nothin' finer.

The next stop for the night (after picking up Moyer) was Finnigan's Wake. Finnigan's is a bar I went to a few times when I lived in Philly that was closest to the atmosphere we were after. We just wanted something low key where we could hang out and catch up. Oh, it was also a chance for Sean Delaney AKA "The Verbal Assassin" AKA "Silk Spinner" AKA "I spit hot fire" to show Josh how my college friends bust my chops (let's hope he didn't pick up any pointers). It was karaoke night at the bar, which was an interesting backdrop for our night out and didn't actually come to the forefront until Josh thought it would be a good idea to tell the (rather unattractive) girls he was hitting on that I was going to sing my favorite song, which he reported correctly or incorrectly to them as It's Raining Men. Maybe he could have just gone with "Would you like a fish sandwich?" Perhaps if I were a better friend I would have helped the kid out and karaoked the song for him...

Unfortunately, Mark (joined the night by meeting up with us at Pat's) had to leave early because apparently some people work for a living. Shortly thereafter we headed out. We took Moyer home, allegedly because of the same lame excuse, before we headed back to... Pat's(!) for round two.

Cheese steak.
Cheese steak.

Life is good.

We talked briefly about seeing a few things in Philadelphia before moving on to the next road-trip destination, but ended up seeing nothing of the city on Thursday after we got up. In the end I think it was more beneficial for us to rest a little and hang out at Sean's since he had the day off rather than go downtown and try to drive around a bit. The excuse I used at the time was that Josh seemed to be chomping at the bit to get to our next destination (New York City) and since it was his birthday (more on that in Part II) I wanted to cater more to him. The excuse I use now is that it just means we have to do it all over again...

Stay tuned for East Coast Road Trip Part II - More Friends and Two Nights in NYC.

Number of consecutive days eating chicken fingers: 1.

Movie of the Month - September, 2006

August 20th, 2006

The Squid and the Whale

The Squid and the WhaleIn his third feature, director Noah Baumbach scores a triumph with an autobiographical coming-of-age story about a teenager whose writer-parents are divorcing. The father (Jeff Daniels) and mother (Laura Linney) duke it out in half-civilized, half-savage fashion, while their two sons adapt in different ways, shifting allegiances between parents. The film is squirmy-funny and nakedly honest about the rationalizations and compensatory snobbisms of artistic failure as well as the conflicted desires of adolescents for sex and status. In detailing bohemian-bourgeois life in brownstone Brooklyn, Baumbach is spot on. Everyone proceeds from good intentions and acts rather badly, in spite or because of their manifest intelligence. Fulfilling the best traditions of the American independent film, this quirky, wisely written feature explores the gulf between sexes, generations, art and commerce, Brooklyn and Manhattan.

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Book of the Month - September, 2006

August 20th, 2006

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark HaddonChristopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, Christopher is autistic. Everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning to him. Routine, order, and predictability shelter him from the messy wider world. Then, at fifteen, Christopher's carefully constructed world falls apart when he finds his neighbor's dog, Wellington, impaled on a garden fork, and he is initially blamed for the killing.

Christopher decides that he will track down the real killer and turns to his favorite fictional character, the impeccably logical Sherlock Holmes, for inspiration. But the investigation leads him down some unexpected paths and ultimately brings him face to face with the dissolution of his parents' marriage. As he tries to deal with the crisis within his own family, we are drawn into the workings of Christopher's mind.

And herein lies the key to the brilliance of Mark Haddon's choice of narrator: The most wrenching of emotional moments are chronicled by a boy who cannot fathom emotion. The effect is dazzling, making for a novel that is deeply funny, poignant, and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing are a mind that perceives the world literally.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is one of the freshest debuts in years: a comedy, a heartbreaker, a mystery story, a novel of exceptional literary merit that is fun to read.

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Difference between bake and roast.

August 18th, 2006

Q. What is the difference between baking and roasting in an oven?

A. There is no difference. If you want to be finicky or traditional, you can't actually roast food in an oven — to roast traditionally meant to cook food (meat) with an open flame, as on a spit in front of a fire (as opposed to grilling on a grate over a fire). But the fire and its radiant heat were the essential components of roasting. Nowadays, roast is bake and bake is roast. -Ochef


August 17th, 2006

As Kristen was so kind to point out, there is a "cool service" available for readers (and non-readers I guess) who have too much free time. I figure that such a description fits me like a glove, and thus I signed up at LibraryThing.com. A free account gives you limited ability to add books to your virtual library, but the limit is not a constricting one.

I have created my profile and currently maintain my library for the purposes of books I have read from which to gain recommendations and suggestions. As I know a few of you have profiles and libraries of your own, I took the liberty of creating a LibraryThing group for us to fit into together. This can be used simply as a way to see the libraries of a small peer group.

I have created a second profile that consists of the books in my "collection." The catalog is located here.

August 16th, 2006
Billy MadisonBilly Madison: Sometimes I feel like an idiot. But I am an idiot, so it kinda works out.

The 2006 Man Booker Prize (Nominees)

August 15th, 2006

The Man Booker Prize for Fiction represents the very best in contemporary fiction (from the UK, Ireland, and the Commonwealth). One of the world’s most prestigious awards, and one of incomparable influence, it continues to be the pinnacle of ambition for every fiction writer. It has the power to transform the fortunes of authors, and even publishers. In 2004, not only did Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty reach the bestseller lists, but previous winners The Life of Pi (2002) and Vernon God Little (2003) were also amongst the bestselling books of the year. Congratulations to last year's winner John Banville for his novel The Sea.

Theft: A Love Story by Peter Carey Theft: A Love Story by Peter Carey
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
Gathering the Water by Robert Edric Gathering the Water by Robert Edric
Get a Life by Nadine Gordimer Get a Life by Nadine Gordimer
The Secret River by Kate Grenville The Secret River by Kate Grenville
Carry Me Down by M.J. Hyland Carry Me Down by M.J. Hyland
Kalooki Nights by Howard Jacobson Kalooki Nights by Howard Jacobson
Seven Lies by James Lasdun Seven Lies by James Lasdun
The Other Side of the Bridge Mary Lawson The Other Side of the Bridge Mary Lawson
So Many Ways to Begin by Jon McGregor
In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar
The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud
Black Swan Green by David Mitchell Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
The Perfect Man by Naeem Murr The Perfect Man by Naeem Murr
Be Near Me by Andrew O'Hagan
The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson
Mother's Milk by Edward St Aubyn Mother's Milk by Edward St Aubyn
The Ruby in her Navel by Barry Unsworth The Ruby in her Navel by Barry Unsworth
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
The 2005 Nominee List

Me and You and Everyone We Know

August 14th, 2006

Link: http://imdb.com/title/tt0415978/

Me and You and Everyone We KnowJohn Hawkes is Richard Swersey, a recently separated shoe salesman and father of two boys, in this story of just a few of life's most basic, yet complicated relationships. Richard struggles with the separation from his wife until he meets Christine, an eccentric artist who doesn't starve only because she chauffeurs the elderly. Richard's sons find love, one conversationally on the internet, and the other physically from the neighborhood girls who want to experiment with him. The movie was written and directed by Miranda July who also starred in the film as Christine.

I thought it was good, but not great. I loved the incorporation of the name of the movie into the theme of the story. I thought that was great. I enjoyed the well-written dialogue. It was certainly an interesting film, just not the most entertaining. Some parts of the movie seemed to move too slowly, though I can appreciate that, to an extent, it was done on purpose (see also: artistically). The movie received some pretty harsh reviews from family and friends, but I am happy I still took the time to see it. I had hoped to catch it in the theater, but was glad to finally see it once and for all on DVD.

More available at meandyoumovie.com and mirandajuly.com.

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