Stuff I Love: Nook eReader

Stuff I Love: My favorite products, music, movies, geek obsessions and more. I think these things are awesome and you should too!

I’ve always been a reader. One of my favorite stories about me as a kid is from my first day of Kindergarten. When I got home my mom asked me how I liked it. I told her it was terrible. When she asked why I said it was because I didn’t learn to read. I’d been told by my parents and my sister that when I went to Kindergarten I’d learn to read and after a whole day I hadn’t learned yet. They started teaching me to read at home that night and I’ve never stopped. My entire life I’d estimate that there have maybe been 100 nights or so, if that, that I didn’t read for at least a little while before bed.

When eReaders became popular I was skeptical. There’s just something about an actual book after all. Then I got a Nook Wi-Fi. I was sold!

I still buy books I really love and want to own in paper version, as well as books by people I know or am a big fan of. But the ease and convenience and savings of the Nook have me reading more than I have in years. One of the features of the Nook that made me choose it over Amazon’s Kindle was the support for non-DRM epub files and especially the support for the Overdrive library lending system. I live in Hennepin County and we have an amazing public library here. HCL was quick to move with current trend and joined up with Overdrive to offer ebooks for borrowing. They had less than 1000 titles when I got my Nook in November 2010. Now, they have over 30,000! I never run out of books to read, and I can put requests in for the more popular book that are always checked out.

My Nook has the traditional e-ink screen rather than the newer touch e-ink screen or an LCD screen. It really is just like reading ink on paper. No eye-strain, I can read it in the sunlight, and the battery charges last forever.

I’ll never give up on paper books, but I’m also completely addicted to my Nook!

My Space Shuttle Launch Story – To Be Continued

D’oh! As I was copying my old posts about attending the May 2010 launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis I realized that I had never posted a final blog post about the actual launch itself! Even though it would have been much better to write it while it was still fresh in my mind, late is still better than never. I’ll work on that and post it soon!

My Space Shuttle launch story.

Once upon a time I started a travel blog as I was trying to win a trip to Antarctica. I didn’t win the trip, and the barely updated blog petered out. I never had all the great adventures I was hoping for, but there was one pretty cool one. I went to a space shuttle launch! Because it was such a cool experience I’m going to repost the shuttle posts here. Originally posted Saturday, June 5, 2010: NASA Tweetup, part 2

Now we’re on to the second half of day 1.

After lunch we boarded buses for a tour of KSC.

We stopped & spent about an hour & a half at the Apollo Saturn V Center. It was really cool. They showed a short movie on the history of the Apollo program, and then moved us into the control room. It wasn’t a reproduction either. They had taken the entire control room that was actually used for the launches and reassembled it at the Apollo Saturn V Center. Then, as part of the tour, they went through a simulation of the launch from there, with details right down to rattling the windows.

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When you left the theater from that simulation the very first thing you saw was the rocket end of a Saturn V rocket. It’s a real full size one that was built, but then was never used. It is MASSIVE. They have all the parts of it hanging from the ceiling end to end and it goes the entire length of the building. All that rocket power just to get a little capsule that 3 men barely fit into up to the moon.

Saturn V Rocket

And here’s a picture with me in it to give an idea of the scale:

Saturn V Rocket

They had some other cool stuff at the center too. They have a piece of moon rock that you can reach in and actually touch. There is an “Apollo Hall of Treasures” where they have things like the Apollo 14 capsule and Alan Shepherd’s spacesuit that he wore on the moon’s surface.

Moon rock Apollo 14

After the Apollo Saturn V Center we went to the International Space Station Center. This is the building where they assemble and load the modules used to take stuff to the ISS. Not as much stuff to look at as at the Apollo Saturn V Center, but it is an actual working facility. You look down through glass windows at the people working in the clean room environments. While we were there one of the modules they were working on was being reinforced because it’s going to become a permanent part of the ISS.

International Space Station Center International Space Station Center

As we drove to the different stops we also got to see a lot of parts of the base. We drove by the Orbiter Processing Facility, Mobile Launcher Platforms, the Crawler-Transporter, and, of course, the Vehicle Assembly Building. You can’t go anywhere at Kennedy without seeing the VAB!

This is the Crawler-Transporter which moves the shuttle around.

Shuttle Crawler

The gravel to the right of the road is the Crawler’s track.

Crawler Track

And the track leads, of course, to the Vehicle Assembly Building.

VAB

One of the buildings we drove past on our tour was the hangar used for the Columbia Reconstruction Project after she was lost on re-entry.

Columbia

After the tour we took a short break and then boarded the buses again for the highlight of Thursday – the retraction of the Rotating Service Structure!

We were out by Launch Pad 39A just a few hundred yards & one fence away from the shuttle! The RSS is the structure surrounding the shuttle during the time she’s on the pad up until just less than a day from the scheduled launch time. It is how the crews access the shuttle to check systems, load it, etc.

Of course, we couldn’t actually see the shuttle herself yet, just the tops of the big orange external tank and the solid rocket boosters. This was the first place I hauled out The Monster, my 400 mm 2.8 lens. We were TOO CLOSE for me to really use it! I could get some super close-ups, but it was too close to get any kind of good composition. This is a problem I can live with!

RSS retraction

Taken with the big lens:

At Launchpad 39a

OK, so the RSS retraction? Happens slow enough that you really don’t see the structure move. We were taking pictures & talking and then all of a sudden, “Hey! I can see Atlantis!”

At Launchpad 39a At Launchpad 39a At Launchpad 39a

Once the structure was fully retracted we were all getting pictures of ourselves in front of it.

At Launchpad 39a

We got a picture of all 4 of us Minnesotans in front of it too. The girls from Minneapolis: me, Liz (@LizStrand), Melissa (@melissagerman) & Mauria (@MoBea) At Launchpad 39a

Then we did a big group shot of the entire Tweetup group in front of Atlantis.

GroupAtLaunchpad Photo Credit: (NASA/Paul E. Alers) Licensed Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 We were herded back onto the buses after that. Our view of the launchpad from our little area was a side view of the shuttle. As our buses drove off we pulled around her and got a beautiful full on view. These pictures are taken through the bus windows.

At Launchpad 39a At Launchpad 39a

After getting dropped off at the press site, we were done with scheduled events for the day. Melissa, Matthew & I took advantage of that time to get our required “I’m by the countdown clock!” pictures.

Cheesy self portrait.

Cheesy self portrait Countdown clock

After hanging out for a little while longer I was going to meet up with my friends Mark & Sarah for dinner but decided I was just too wiped out. I went back to my resort with the intention of napping, but I learned that the pool & hot tub were open until 11:00. Since the flight my husband Rick & my dad were on was landing at 11:12 I figured it was a sign. A nice relaxing soak in the hot tub felt so good. After running to the airport to get Rick & Dad, it was the end of a wonderful day.

Hot tub (This picture’s not blurry because of the water, it’s because the phone is in a nice watertight plastic bag!)

Next: Launch day!

My Space Shuttle launch story.

Once upon a time I started a travel blog as I was trying to win a trip to Antarctica. I didn’t win the trip, and the barely updated blog petered out. I never had all the great adventures I was hoping for, but there was one pretty cool one. I went to a space shuttle launch! Because it was such a cool experience I’m going to repost the shuttle posts here. Originally posted Saturday, June 5, 2010: NASA Tweetup, part 1

I’ve already posted about how I got to go to the launch through @nasatweetup. Now I’ve finally got time to tell you about the Tweetup itself!

Wednesday To minimize time taken off work, since I don’t get paid time off, I ended up going right from work to the airport on Wednesday, and then on Monday going right from the airport back to work. So, Wednesday night Rick picked me up at work and we headed to uptown to pick up Melissa (@melissagerman), another woman from Minneapolis who was also selected for the Tweetup. Actually, out of only 150 people, 4 of us were girls from Minneapolis! Anyway, I had been tweeting with the other girls and it turned out that Melissa and I were taking the same flight down. She didn’t have a way to the airport yet so I said we’d be able to pick her up. Luckily she turned out to be really nice and we got along well.

The flight down was on Delta, formerly Northworst. Ugh. New name, no improvement. The lack of legroom on their flights can get to be downright painful for my 5’10” self! I’m actually typing this out right now while sitting on another flight, a US Airways one. MUCH more comfortable and more than enough leg room. But I digress. Delta flight. We were supposed to take off at 7pm to get to Orlando at 11pm local time. We loaded up and backed on out of the gate. And sat. We sat just there for a freaking hour without moving! After 45 minutes they announced that it was some indicator light that had come on but that they didn’t need to fix anything, they just had to wait for someone to sign off on paperwork. When we finally took off we ended up landing in Orlando an hour late at midnight local time.

I wasn’t checked into my hotel until after 2am because I had to get my luggage, get my rental car, and run to a different hotel to pick up my tripod rental before getting to mine to check in. I couldn’t even just go to bed because I had to rearrange all my bags from travel packing configuration to hotel + tweetup organization. Put all the clothes in the suitcase & carryon, put computer & cords in one shoulder bag that had been packed empty in the suitcase, and put camera gear in my beloved Tom Bihn bag. I have never in my life traveled with so much camera & computer equipment.

I ended up finally going to bed at 3am with two alarms set to make sure I got up at 6am.

Thursday It’s here! The first day of the tweetup! I had enough adrenaline in me that it didn’t even matter that I’d only had 3 hours sleep. I loaded the SUV and headed over to Melissa’s hotel to pick her up. We were on our way! The drive out to Kennedy was nice. We had enough to chat about the whole time, and I might have possibly maybe seen the eyes & snout of an alligator in the water in the ditch. We did definitely see a cow in a swamp. Yup, one cow, all by itself, standing knee deep in water. We’d recently passed a field with a herd so our theory was that this one cow had gone on walkabout.

Because the route to Kennedy was so well marked, in our excitement we didn’t read the email w/directions close enough. At one point we weren’t supposed to take the highway veering to the left to Kennedy, we were supposed to stay on the one we were already on. But we didn’t. We got to Kennedy and then spent over ½ hour trying to find the press registration area. Turns out that had we followed the directions we would have been approaching the base from the south side rather than the west. We figured it out eventually & got where we needed to be. We got our tweetup & access badges, our swag bags, a vehicle permit, and a map with directions to the press site.

Moose is ready to register

Woo hoo! We went just a little ways up the road and hit a secure gate. After showing our IDs (I’ve finally used my passport!) we got to go through and we were officially in NASA restricted space. And hey, look up there. It’s the Vehicle Assembly Building right in front of us.

Driving towards the VAB

That’s where we’re headed, turning just a couple roads in front of it. FIVE MINUTES LATER, we’re still approaching it, and have finally gotten close. The VAB is one freaking HUGE building. When it looks like you’re maybe ½ mile or a mile from it, you are really still 5 miles away. It’s just so unbelievably big that it throws your sense of perspective off. A quick turn where we’re supposed to go, another checkin at the gate to the press area, and we’re parking.

We were so excited. There were the permanent press buildings on our right – CBS, Floriday Today, some unmarked ones. On our left – the freaking countdown clock! You know what I’m talking about. The one you always see on news coverage of the launch. And it was right there!

Countdown clock

There was water behind it. And across that water, pretty tiny to the naked eye, the launch platform. The only identifiable part of the shuttle was the very tip of the big orange external tank. But still, there she was, “our” shuttle, Atlantis. And past the press buildings ahead on the right, a big white tent. That was our home base, the NASA Tweetup Tent.

The Tweetup Twent

Big enough to hold 150 people, air conditioned, big flat panels up front to air NASA tv, powerstrips for every table and wi-fi. They had hooked up a dedicated fiber for us to have wi-fi. It was so cool. They had everything a techno-addict needed.

Tweetup tent

This is the first tweetup I’d ever been to. I’d never even been to any local ones. There’s a weird thing about tweetups. Everyone introduces themselves with two names. It’s either “Hi, I’m HellZiggy. My real name is Sharon.” or “Hi, I’m Sharon. My Twitter name is HellZiggy.” Thanks to the STS-132 Tweetup list that @NASATweetup had put together of all the confirmed attendees, there were already some familiar faces and familiar names. Melissa and I met our fellow Minnesotans, and we also found Twitter friend@MatthewJLB. Our tweetup badges all had both our Twitter name and our real name, so sometimes you’d just catch a name as someone walked past.

Oddly enough, there were two other people at the tweetup that I was just 2 degrees of separation from. A guy named @Oblivion is friends w/one of my local geeks, Kami, and @AndyKilgore from Madison is friends with Sunspot’s drummer Wendy & knows the rest of the band. Out of 150 people from 30 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Netherlands, New Zealand and England, what are the freaking odds of that? Also, there was one person that wasn’t quite a friend of a friend. More like a nemesis. Twitter user @ErikHess was there, and his user name caught my eye because I know an Erik Hess on twitter, but his Twitter name is@fivesixzero. When I told “my” Erik he said to tell the one at the tweetup that he stole his name.

So, while everyone was setting up their equipment, we were all also chatting and getting to know each other. For a large group who didn’t know each other for the most part, it was really easy to just start conversations with people and get to know them. Of course, we were all used to talking to strangers via Twitter.

At shortly after 10am we were greeted by @NASA team members John Yembrick and Stephanie Schierholz. We had a bunch of really great speakers before breaking for lunch: Robert D. Braun, NASA chief technologist, NASA Headquarters Astronaut Janice Voss Jon Cowart(@Rocky_Sci ), Kennedy Space Center Stephanie Stilson, space shuttle Discovery Flow Director, Shuttle Processing Office, Kennedy Space Center Ron Woods, equipment specialist, who has been a space suit designer from Mercury to now

I could write up all the cool stuff they told us, but I have a crap memory for the details, so I’m going to just point you toward the Ustream video they shot! :)

Oh hey, that saved me a lot of writing!

We broke for lunch then, and I joined the herd that was heading toward the cafeteria. You know that crappy cafeteria food service you have at most companies? Yeah, NASA may have brilliant scientists, but they get the same average food as everyone else. It was AWESOME though since I hadn’t eaten ANYTHING that day, because I was too excited and too dumb to stop at a convenience store even. When got back from lunch it was pretty much time to get on the buses for our tour.

And that was the first half of the first day.

 

Space, the Final Frontier

Once upon a time I started a travel blog as I was trying to win a trip to Antarctica. I didn’t win the trip, and the barely updated blog petered out. I never had all the great adventures I was hoping for, but there was one pretty cool one. I went to a space shuttle launch! Because it was such a cool experience I’m going to repost the shuttle posts here. Originally posted Sunday, April 25, 2010: Even colder than Antarctica… Space!

No, I’m not going into space (although, how freaking awesome would that be?).

I’ll be doing the next closest thing – watching Space Shuttle Atlantis on her final launch into space.

And I’m going to have an AWESOME view of it! The closest place the public can view a launch from is about 6 miles away on NASA property from a Causeway if you purchase tickets from Kennedy Space Center.

I’ll be watching her take off from only about 3 miles away! Yep, yours truly will be seeing her first ever Space Shuttle launch from the Press/VIP/Family area. And of course, the Moose will be there with me too.

The only way to see a launch closer than I’m going to is to be strapped into a seat on the shuttle herself.

Now, I know you all realize I’m awesome, but I’m sure you’re still wondering how I managed too pull off something THIS cool. Twitter. I’ll be there because of Twitter. That wonderful little site that I’ve been using for over 3 years. The one many of my friends pick on me for, saying it’s useless and who cares about what everyone had for breakfast that day.

You see, I follow a HUGE range of people on Twitter. I started out following mostly podcasters. Some local geeks started using it. I found more interesting people by seeing who my friends were chatting with. Then the celebrities & businesses discovered it. Oprah & Ashton? Whatever. I had little to no interest in them before Twitter, I certainly don’t care that they’re on it. I follow the cool and interesting celebrities like Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) and Wil Wheaton (@wilw) and Adam Savage (@donttrythis). I also follow lots of geeky businesses & info sources – Wired Magazine (@wired), Think Geek (@ThinkGeek), Phil Plait (@BadAstronomer) and NASA (@NASA). There are also a bunch of astronauts on Twitter.

Almost exactly one year ago to the date that I’ll be watching Atlantis launch, I saw this Tweet in my Twitter stream: “From orbit: Launch was awesome!! I am feeling great, working hard, & enjoying the magnificent views, the adventure of a lifetime has begun!” 3:33 PM May 12th, 2009 via web. It was Mike Massimino (@Astro_Mike) sending the first ever Tweet from space. How can you not be enamored with the awesome geekiness  of Twitter at that point?

Flash forward to earlier this spring. My sister & her husband made plans to go down to Florida with their 5 year old twins in May to see one of the final Space Shuttle launches. They said they wished we could go too. My husband said he’d dreamed of seeing a live shuttle launch since he watched Columbia lift off on April 12, 1981. Well, we played with the finances and made it happen. A short trip to Florida with a small window to catch the launch. Fly down Thursday night, watch the launch on Friday, fly home on Monday morning. We’ve got two extra days if the launch is only delayed one or two because of weather.

I was already psyched about this trip. I’m planning the best way to photograph it. We decide to try to get Causeway tickets because it is the best opportunity for me to get a great photo of the launch. Then, on Twitter last week I saw that @NASA was going to have a Tweetup (Twitter speak for a gathering of Twitter users.) You just had to sign up, and they would choose 150 people at random.

At 11 pm last Wednesday I received this in my inbox:

Dear Sharon Snyder, Congratulations, your registration to attend the STS-132 Tweetup on May 13-14 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida has been selected! The two-day event will provide you with the opportunity to speak with shuttle technicians, engineers, astronauts, and managers and to view the launch of space shuttle Atlantis to the International Space Station that is targeted for 2:19 p.m. EDT, May 14. The Tweetup will also include a “meet and greet” session for participants to mingle with fellow Tweeps and the team behind the tweets from @NASA.

I was on cloud nine until I realized that I was indeed flying in to Florida on May 13th, but not until 11pm. And you had to check in and participate all day on May 13th or you’d forfeit your Tweetup registration for the remainder of the event (i.e. the launch on the 14th). My mood crashed because I wasn’t sure it would be remotely affordable to change my plane ticket to the 12th. Then I learned where we would be watching the launch from and I resolved to try. Rick agreed that it was the chance of a lifetime and if possible I had to do it. Then I found out even though buying a one way ticket to Orlando on the 12th was only about $100, it would be $230 to change my existing ticket. I wasn’t sure we should spend that much. But in the end it was decided that we had to. The opportunity was just too amazing. So, after a roller coaster day of “yay!” “argh!” “yay!” “argh!” it ended with very much a gigantic “YAY!!!”.

So, thanks to NASA, Twitter and my awesome husband, I will be having the experience of a lifetime on May 13-14th. Two days of geeky fun.

This doesn’t, however, mean I’m not going to keep trying to travel. Maybe not to space, but I still want to get out of North America! Until then, I’ll just keep enjoying the ride.

This Geek Girl needs an iPad!

The website collegeinfogeek.com is giving away both a Kindle Touch and a 2012 iPad! This Mac loving geek girl would love to get her hands on an iPad. The Kindle Touch would be cool too because I’ve already got a Nook, but some things just aren’t available on anything but Kindle.

The requirement for entering to win the iPad? Build your own personal website. Hey, I just started this site about 2 weeks ago. It’s like fate wants me to have an iPad.

And, I’ve also got my Photoshop site that I just started in February. I wonder if I can enter twice?

Yes, I have standards

It’s a well known fact to my friends and fans that I love traveling and that I am a celebrity whore. I get to travel more than Sharon because I fit in carry-on luggage and she doesn’t! I also love getting to meet new people, especially celebrities, and get my picture taken with them.

When Sharon & Rick went to Chicago for a long weekend they bought tickets to see The Blue Man Group, and they brought me with them. The show was really good and I was super psyched to see that some of the Blue Men came out to the lobby afterwards. They didn’t talk much, but they did pose for pictures.

Blue Moose Group?

I’ve been to Las Vegas several times and it’s always fun. One time when we went Sharon & Rick were finally able to go see the Penn & Teller show at the Rio. Guess who snuck in with them?! After the show we were able to meet & have our pictures taken with both Penn & Teller.

These photos of me are kind of rare, because they’ve got Sharon in them too. She usually doesn’t like having her picture taken.

Sharon, me, and the charming Mr. Teller

Me, the amazing Penn Jillette, and Sharon

I must have made an impression on Penn, because when Sharon’s friend Melissa took me to Vegas for The Amaz!ng Meeting he got a little fresh when we posed for the picture.

How you doin'?

These are the kinds of celebrities I love meeting. They are friendly, honest, sincere, and care about their fans. Penn is a competitor on this season’s Celebrity Apprentice which, I admit, me & Sharon haven’t watched at all. Not even Penn is enough to draw us into the world of Donald Trump.

Today, this column by Mr. Jillette was posted on http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.

Vissa D’arte Even on The Celebrity Apprentice

I first saw The Who on TV. I was watching with my parents, and when Pete, Roger, and Keith started smashing their instruments, my family was appalled. We were just barely middle class. My dad was a jail guard and we lived in a nice neat little house that my parents had built with their own hands. I loved music and I had a newspaper route, and I mowed lawns. I was taking drum lessons using a practice pad, and all my money was being saved to buy a used drum set so I could join a rock and roll band. At my rate of earning, it would take me decades to afford Keith Moon’s drum set and I didn’t understand its destruction on TV. How could Keith do that? How could he have such little respect for music, for the TV show he was fortunate enough to be on, and for me and my family?

 

My parents didn’t like the music or the act, but they still tried to console me. These rich rock stars just didn’t understand what money meant to us common folk. Then in a flash everything changed. I started to cry. Right then something happened and I understood The Who. I understood that passion and art could be more important than money. I went from sad and disgusted to exuberant. It was the first time I had ever understood real beauty. I loved The Who. I loved rock and roll. I loved life. It was at that moment I became an artist.

I use Teller’s broad definition of art — “Whatever we do after the chores are done.” There’s one show business and Bach, Dylan, Ron Jeremy, and the guy at the mall in the Santa suit are all in it. By that definition The Celebrity Apprentice is art, and, for my sins, I am on it.

I’ve done a lot of TV, but one of my proudest moments in my career was shown this week on The Celebrity Apprentice. I didn’t watch it, but I was in it. I don’t know how it was edited, but I was there and it was beautiful. The Celebrity Apprentice is all about watching people argue and lie while they covet money and success. Those are the artistic ideas. Donald Trump scowls and passes judgment and we all suck up and rat out to win more time on TV and get money for our charities. The theme song is the O’Jay’s “For the Love of Money,” used as awkwardly as “Born in the USA” at a political rally. It’s not the most likely show to have something beautiful happen, but the Blue Man Group can make beautiful anywhere.

Some of the “tasks” on the show are measured by money, so if you bring in a rich famous person to buy a sandwich for 10 grand, you have a better chance of winning. I’ve have been a fan and friends with Blue Man Group, since we were all working in NYC. They make my heart soar. They make me proud to work in the arts. They are the best of us. They’ve also got some money, so I called them, told them I was doing this TV show and did they want to donate some money to charity? They said yes before finding out what charity or how much I wanted because Blue Man Group is like that. They do charity all the time. They really deeply care about people and they do a lot for many charities. They are the best of us.

BMG asked if I wanted them to show up and do something. Oh yes, please. After weeks of sitting on “boardroom” sets pretending to do business, I really wanted something beautiful.

“Can you deliver the money in a fun way?” I asked them.

That was the problem. In the Blue Man world, money doesn’t exist. For then Blue Man money means nothing. The values that they’ve established in their art don’t include avarice. The Blue Men donate tons of money out of the blue make-up, but in it, well, they’re not above money, but they’re beside it. It doesn’t exist. They asked me to give them some time to think of something beautiful. A couple days later they sent me a video of them filling a balloon with tens of thousands of dollars in tens and blowing it up with a leaf blower. It was beautiful and it delivered money, without the Blue Men having to respect it. It was so beautiful.

I really wanted to save their appearance and money for “my task” and my charity (Opportunity Village for people with intellectual disabilities, a charity that BMG helps a lot), but I was on Dee Snyder’s team and he asked me to help with more money on his watch. I ran the idea by all our team members, the production company, and NBC. Everyone signed off. Blue Man Group would march up, with a loud parade and giant puppets and they would blow up a balloon full of money with leaf blowers and fill the air with 10-dollar bills that the Blue Man wouldn’t care about. Whatever our team could gather out of the wind, we would have to score for out team. Teller would join BMG and add 30 grand of his own money, not blown around, but handed politely to our cashier, American Idol, Clay Aiken. Clay takes The Celebrity Apprentice very seriously and plays the game for all it’s worth.

We were outside selling our bullshit little jive guide books (the sandwich of this week). I gave the signal, and from blocks away, we could hear the parade. BMG with their giant drums, and confetti canons were changing traffic patterns in NYC. They arrived at the park where we were set up to sell our guidebooks. My business partner for my entire adult life, Teller, was in the parade, firing streamers into the air and dancing. Teller had the eyes of Keith Moon in the Who. I had been sequestered on The Celebrity Apprentice with all the complaining, backstabbing, and phony heart to heart talks, and down the street came joy. Pure joy. Honest human joy personified by Teller and Blue Man Group. I started to cry.

They got to our stand, they exploded the balloon full of money, and suddenly the air over the park in NYC was filled with money. Blue Man Group stayed in character and just enjoyed blowing the money around. Their joy was more important than the money or us winning our game. They were there for art and to help the cause, in that order. We all scrambled to pick up as much money as we could. Paul Sr., and Lou Ferrigno held people back, while Dee, Arsenio, Clay, and I tried to grab all we could. Everyone was ready for the money to explode, but, somehow Clay was surprised and disgusted by the chaos. I was still crying with joy and Clay was crying with pure hate and anger towards me and my blue buddies.

Some of the camera people, the producers, the sound people, and crew ran up after the Blue Men had gone and said they had never been prouder of anything they worked on. Some of them were crying with me with joy. They had remembered why they had gotten into the arts. We had been just a few feet from The Who, while they smashed their instruments for America. They proved that art meant more than money. I’m pretty proud of “Penn & Teller,” we’ve done some pretty groovy stuff, but I was exploding with pride at the beauty of my friends, Blue Man Group.

When we had the first break from the cameras, Clay was gathering evidence to take me down for this in the boardroom. He was angry and detailing the humiliation and the injuries he endured in all the beautiful chaos. When I asked him if he needed medical attention, making sure the cameras weren’t on, he screamed, “I need you to shut the fuck up!” It was so easy to shut the fuck up right then. Teller and Blue Man Group work without words and they had said more than I could ever say in defense of art. I drifted away in the NBC van, to my childhood and the moment with The Who when I understood that I needed my life to mean more than “Money, Money, Money, Money.”

The “boardroom” didn’t matter. Clay low-balled how much money we were able to gather, but I didn’t argue. Clay said that the Blue Man Group’s money that Clay wanted to go to our TV charity had ended up going to some homeless people. Trump joined him, disgusted by the idea that some of the Blue Man Group’s money might have gone to people who needed it instead of the people Donald Trump would get credit for giving it to who needed it. Trying to explain to Donald Trump that beauty and art can be more important than money is like trying to explain to Donald Trump that beauty and art can be more important than money. The “contest” was revealed to be very close (in terms of money, beauty wasn’t discussed) and Donald Trump tried to make me say that I regretted what the Blue Man Group had done. Clay tried to get me to say that I should have gotten the Blue Man Group to be more responsible, and by that he meant, give us more money so he could win his game.

It was this episode where Donald Trump understood that he didn’t understand me, and feeling misunderstood by Donald Trump and Clay Aiken is it’s own kind of joy.

I thought about some family at home in a small town watching the Blue Man Group on The Celebrity Apprentice like I watched The Who. I thought about many children being disgusted by all that money being “wasted” on the homeless. And I thought about maybe one child, all of a sudden understanding what art can mean and crying with joy.

As The Who sang, “why don’t you all just f-f-f-fade away. Don’t try to d-d-d-dig what we all say.”

Vissa d’arte.

 

I am very proud to have posed for pictures with a Blue Man, Penn Jillette, and Mr. Teller. I’m very glad Sharon and Rick felt these artists were worth the cost of the ticket. I’m also very glad that I’ve never had to pose for a picture with Clay Aiken. I’ll take Penn’s tongue up my butt over that annoying little schmuck any day!

Happy Birthday!

It looks like Sharon forgot to post it so I’m going to have to.

Happy Birthday Lump! Our Lump cat is 12 years old today!

Unfortunately we couldn’t give her the birthday present she wanted because what she wanted was for us to get rid of the dog…

Two wonderful evenings at the Varsity Theater

I got to spend the last two evenings at one of my favorite entertainment venues in Minneapolis, the gorgeous Varsity Theater.

Thursday night was John Hodgman’s Minneapolis show. His opening act on this tour is the delightful Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy of MST3K and Rifftrax fame. A few of the show highlights: Bill & Kevin singing a song about sparkly vampires. Bill & Kevin singing the Love Theme from Game of Thrones. A pretty sweet film on patriotism starring Bob Crane, with riffing by Bill & Kevin. Hodgman doing George RR Martin cosplay when he joins Bill & Kevin to riff a bizarre short film about safety & alien abduction. Hodgman’s subjects covered on stage included naked parties, sperm whale sperm, Doug Henning, Ragnarok and other such absurdities.

When no one was on stage, I was busy behind the merchandise table.  The Other Sharon’s (Birdchick’s) husband Bill and I had received comp admission in exchange for pledging servitude to a Deranged Millionaire for the evening.

John Hodgman's merchandise table.

Getting into the show at no charge would have been payment enough for me, but the Hodgman is a benevolent master. Shortly after intermission he sent the theater manager, Shayna, back to us with drink tickets and a menu and a meal voucher.

After the show Mr. Hodgman settled into a comfortable leather chair in front of the merch table to greet his fans, sign for them and  pose for photos..

The Deranged Millionaire relaxing in comfort as he signs for fans.

All in all, it was a very nice way to spend an evening. Mr. Hodgman was charming and thanked us many times for helping out. He even hugged me when I said goodnight.

Friday night was Nerdist night! Rick & I had tickets to go to both the shows. A full night of Chris Hardwick, Jonah Ray, and Matt Mira! The evening started when I left work. I drove to the Light Rail Station and picked up Rick, who had just flown in from Boston after  being gone all week. He was hungry, and Chris Hardwick had tweeted that he was going to do a pre-show Tweetup at Burrito Loco at 6pm so we just headed there. Traffic delayed Chris and while Rick & I were busy Enjoying Our Burritos who walked past our table but Doug Benson! I’d known he was in town to do shows at Acme but hadn’t paid much attention. I tweeted about it:

About 20 minutes later I got a Direct Message on Twitter from Doug!

Chris and Matt Mira eventually showed up at Burrito Loco and when Chris saw me he recognized me and smiled and said hi. When their group was sitting I went and introduced myself to Matt and gave him a little gift I’d printed up at work: two photos of Space Shuttle Atlantis. I’d gone to the 5-14-10 launch of Atlantis (STS-132) as a part of the official NASA Tweetup, and Matt was at the 7-21-11 launch of Atlantis (STS-135) Tweetup. One of the pictures I gave him was from a close-up I shot of her on the launch pad the evening before launch right after the RSS retraction. The other one was from the actual launch. He seemed to genuinely appreciate them and gave me a hug.

After finishing eating Chris had gone upstairs to join Doug, and left Matt sitting at the table by himself. Rick & I went over and joined him and had a very pleasant time chatting for a while. Matt confirmed my suspicion that Doug was there at Burrito Loco because he was the surprise guest for the 8:00 show, but said the surprise guest for the 11:00 show would be someone different.

Rick and I left Burrito Loco and got into the line for the Varsity. It was crazy long! They normally have one line for will call and one for people who already have tickets. We lucked out and got there right as they decided that ticketed people could also join the will call line. Woot! The other line was already around the block so we were quite happy with where we ended up. As the Varsity staff was going down the line to check IDs & apply wrist bands the theater manager Shayna recognized me and said hi. Once the line started moving we got in pretty quick and got decent seats near the front. Romeo and Shaya eventually made it there and joined us. When I ran back to the bar to get a drink it was the same bartender who had been working the Hodgman show the previous night. When I asked if the leftover drink tickets I still had were good he said yes.

The show started with all three guys doing stand-up sets, and they were all super funny. We were super impressed with Matt’s set and would never have guessed that he’s such a newbie to doing stand-up. The dude’s seriously funny. After the stand-up they did their usual podcast chatter, brought out Doug Benson, and then did live Quemments. If the evening had ended there it would have been awesome. But it wasn’t done! There was a second show that we had tickets for. Between the two shows Rick ran home to take care of Rex and drop off his suitcase. I was going to be responsible for making sure I got seats for the two of us and our friend Tom.

This is where I got to reap even more additional benefits from my previous night’s servitude to the Hodgman. I asked the bartender if he thought it would be possible for me to just stay in the theater out of the way rather than going out & getting in line just to come back in again. He said to go ask Shayna. She rocks! She didn’t even hesitate & said “yeah, you’re one of us. Go show Katie at the door your ticket and get a wrist band. Tell her Shayna says it’s ok.” Hooray! No standing in line for me! I sat in the lobby reading Twitter while the Nerdist crew posed for pictures and signed stuff. About half of the line had been moved up into the balcony so that they could get the doors open for the second show. As they finished the last of the line downstairs and were headed upstairs to continue I stopped Doug, introduced myself, and got the required picture of him with Moose. Then, right before the doors opened I headed up and grabbed a seat in the second row right on the aisle.

I'm pretty sure Moose got a contact high while posing for this picture with Doug Benson.

Rick & Tom found me and we settled in for another several hours of laughs. Matt & Jonah both had some stuff in their stand-up that was repeated from the first act, but for the most part they brought new stuff because there were a fair number of us attending both shows. Someone saw the surprise guest for the second show slipping backstage & put it on Twitter, so it wasn’t a surprise for some of us. Without that I never would have guessed though. It was Tim Meadows, of Saturday Night Live fame. Tim was in town to be the guest at Minnesota Public Radio’s Wits show that night. It wasn’t planned for him to do Nerdist but fate put him on the same plane to Minneapolis as Chris and Chris asked if he could come do the show. The timing worked so that after Wits he could come do the second Nerdist show! He couldn’t stay for the whole thing since he’d been up at 3:30am in LA that day and was just exhausted so we didn’t meet him afterwards.

Tom left right after the show, but Rick & I hopped in the meet & greet line. I got a hug from Chris and I told him we were going to take up twice as much of their time because we hadn’t gotten in line after the first show. He laughed and said sure. I got to gush a little to him about how much I really liked his Nerdist Way book and how I was trying to apply it to my life. One of the things his book has you do is make what Chris calls a “Character Tome.” I’ve got one started and I had Chris sign the front where I’d sketched the Nerdist Logo. I also had him write some inspiration for me:

Just. Fucking. Do It.

After that I had Chris sign the picture of him with Moose from his last time in town. Rick & I then had our picture taken with the whole crew:

Doug Benson, Matt Mira, Jonah Ray, Sharon, Chris Hardwick, and Rick.

(Yes, Rick is Tebowing. No, I’m not sure why.)

And one last picture before we headed out for the night. I had to get one with the three NASA Tweetup alums together, Matt, me, and Moose.

Matt Mira, Moose & Sharon

I had so much fun both nights. Thank you to John Hodgman for letting me work for you  and thank you to the Varsity Theater staff for making a couple great nights into a couple fucking amazing nights and thank you to the entire Nerdist crew for coming to Minneapolis and doing two phenomenal shows!