Addicted to T-Shirts

April 17, 2010

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I’m not a very fashion-oriented person.  Spend a short bit of time with me and you’ll quickly discover that comfort trumps style.  While I CAN dress up in a shirt and tie when the situation warrants, I strongly prefer jeans, a t-shirt, and a pair of my trust Adidas running shoes.  (Why Adidas?  Because they seems to be lighter than competing brands, and light = good).

My taste in jeans is Wrangler relaxed fit.  I’ve tried other brands, but they just don’t seem to fit as well.  Whenever I need a new pair or two, I pull up and order the requisite number in 30W X 34L size.  The size is odd enough that it’s darn near impossible to find in a brick and mortar store.

However, I digress.   While jeans and shoes are comfortable, they don’t exhibit the personality of t-shirts.  I have dozens and dozens of t-shirts.  I’ll share some of my favorites with you.

The Rockies Collection – I have a wide array of Rockies shirts.  There’s my Troy Tulowitzki jersey shirt, two identical Todd Helton jersey shirts (one much more worn than the others), the 2007 National League Champions shirts, and of course the one emblazoned with the slogan “Baseball With an Altitude” (which is often misread as “attitude”).  I see out interesting and unusual Rockies shirts.

The Non-Rockies Baseball Collection – Although I am a Rockies fan, I am first a fan of the sport of baseball.  I just ordered a brand new Matt Holliday Cardinals jersey shirt (though Holliday obviously has a Rockies connection).  I have a Greg Maddux t-shirt that is around 15 years old.  A favorite shirt of mine shows logos of all the minor league teams at the time (waiting for an update to this great shirt).  I also have a Hall of Fame shirt from my trip to Cooperstown in 2002.  My “Tools of the Trade” shirt has become so worn and faded that it had to be removed from the rotation.  Much sadness.

The Cyclone Collection – I’m a proud alum and fan of Iowa State University.  In addition to a sufficient number of football and basketball shirts, I also have an Iowa State Wrestling shirt.  The collection is rounded out with several shirts advertising the university itself.

The Vikings Collection (on temporary hold) – My Vikings shirts have been temporarily mothballed until Brett Favre goes away for good.  A couple of my favorite Vikings shirts are my Randy Moss jersey (technically not a t-shirt, I know).  I remain a big Moss fan, and actually purchased the jersey after he was traded to Oakland (at a very steep discount).  I also wear my Michael Bennett jersey t-shirt from time to time.

The Fun Collection – I also have some interesting and offbeat shirts.  There’s my “Work Sucks – I’m Going to the Mountains” shirt purchased on a trip toRocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.  There’s my USA Luge shirt, of course.  I also have a shirt from the St. Louis Arch showing the arch with a timeline hidden in the details of the graphic.  I’m not a big fan of Hard Rock Cafe, but my shirt from the Cafe in Niagara Falls Canada is pretty cool – it features the Falls on the back.

I really need to mend my shirt from Disney’s Animal Kingdom – it features Winnie the Pooh peering through a magnifying glass and mistaking actual tiger for his friend Tigger.  I’m a fan of Pooh, and tigers are my second favorite animal (dinosaurs being my favorite), so this is a natural fit.  Continuing with the animal theme are t-shirts from a couple of zoos (I love zoos).  My shirt from the Tulsa Zoo features pictures of a lot of big cats.  My shirt from the Niabi Zoo in the Quad Cities shows a couple of zebras using paint brushes to add stripes to other animals.  I also have a long sleeved penguin shirt – the penguin has his “hands” over his ears – with the caption “Not Listening”.

If I Had a Million Dollars, I’d Be Rich

March 24, 2010

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If I had a million dollars, I’d be rich.

Well, that’s what Barenaked Ladies would have you believe. In actuality, a million bucks doesn’t stretch as far as it once did.

If you were indeed rich, how would you spend the money?

First, I’ll set down a few rules.

First, let’s assume that you have already donated a sizeable chunk to charities and taken care of your family.

Second, let’s make these without any thought as to what your spouse or kids would think of the decision.

Yes, this is a nice, breezy little “we can always dream” article.

Where to Live

I’d definitely want two homes. I’d want a summer home in the Florida Keys. I like the laid back atmosphere in the Keys, love being surrounded by water (which is odd, considering that I can’t swim), and most importantly, I intensely dislike cold weather. Lay under a palm tree reading a book and listening to Jimmy Buffett. Yeah, that’s the life.

Summers would be spent in the mountains of Colorado. Sadly, I’ve only been to the mountains once, but I absolutely love them. I’d spend lots of time hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park and shooting the wildlife and scenery with my digital camera.

Oh, and Colorado has one distinct advantage over other locations – it also happens to be the home of my favorite baseball team. I’d plunk down the cash for season tickets right behind home plate. None of those fancy skyboxes for me – I want to be able to hear that batter arguing with the umpire.

The House

There is one aspect to my dream home that has never wavered over the years – the presence of a large library. When I say large, I mean something that would rival the libraries in some small towns. Not only do I love to read, but I’d happily lend tomes to visitors. The library would have a media center with a couple of high end Power Macs.

I’d definitely want to grounds to be landscaped with synthetic turf in order to minimize the maintenance. They make some very realistic synthetic turfs these days. Grass is overrated.

The rest of the details are relatively unimportant.

The Cars

Lamborgini? Porsche? Mercedes Benz? Nah, just keep a Ford Taurus in the garage and I’ll be happy. My first car was a Taurus (had 96,000 miles when I bought it), as is every car I have bought since.

Could I spend lots more on a fancier car? Sure. But I see a car as a way to get from point A to point B. If I’m going to waste a lot of money, it’s certain not going to be on a luxury car.


What would I do with my spare time? Well, as mentioned above, I would read, hike, watch baseball, and listen to Jimmy Buffett. But I’d do other things, too, right?

I’d definitely try to make the cut for Jeopardy. I don’t watch a lot of TV – and even fewer game shows – but Jeopardy has been a longtime favorite of mine. I wouldn’t necessarily have to win – competing would be enough fun.

On there is one other thing. I want to go into space. Not just as a tourist, mind you. I want to take a space walk – tethered to civilization by just a thing line. I can only imagine the thrill this must give astronauts. The only downside is that I’m not much of a handyman, and most spacewalks involve fixing some sort of equipment.

Maybe I could hold the ladder for the other guy.

What would you do if YOU were suddenly rich?

How Blogging is Like Being in a Band

March 12, 2010

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Sometimes you start by jamming in someone else’s garage

In this case, The Soap Boxers first got its start in the Google garage, on BlogSpot.  Then Lazy Man offered one of the stalls of his garage and allowed us to customize our address.  Lazy Man also lends us tools and offers suggestions on how to improve the sound of the band.

Some bloggers rocket to fame American Idol style, some pay their dues for years

Baker of ManVsDebt became an overnight sensation in just a few months (although, to his credit, he had been an active commenter on other people’s blogs for years and poured a ton of effort into his blog once it was launched).  Other bloggers (such as your dear old kosmo) slog away month after month with just a small fraction of the audience the superstars attract.  Sometimes, like in music, this is simply a matter of paying your dues, and fame will be just around the corner.

Being an opening act can open doors

Many of the hottest acts in music started out as the opening act for other musicians.  This gave them exposure to larger audience and allowed them to attract a larger fan base.  The blogospheric equivalent of this is writing guest articles for bigger blogs.  I’ve been pitching my ideas to other bloggers in an attempt to get an opening act.  I’ve gotten some great opportunities on some blogs (Lazy Man and Money, 40Tech, Life, Laughs, and Lemmings, World’s Strongest Librarian) and continue to pursue other gigs.

Fitting into a genre is the surest way to gain fans

There are many different genres (niches) for bloggers to fit into.  Writing content that easily fits into one niche allows a blogger to interact with other bloggers who write on similar content.  There tends to be a community of readers who follow blogs of a particular niche, and interacting with other bloggers in those niches gets someone noticed.  Nonetheless, some blogs (such as your beloved Casual Observer) rebel, refusing to simply scratch a niche.

You need original music to hit it big

You’re not going to sell gold records doing covers of Hotel California.  Likewise, you can’t get to the top just by repeating the same topics that everyone else is talking about in their blogs – you have to strike out on your own with some truly original content.

The Best Comics Ever

February 10, 2010

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Before we started subscribing to the Sunday paper several years ago, my wife asked my if I’d read the paper if we got it.

“Sure,” I replied.

Within a few weeks, she noticed that I was only reading the sports section and the comics and asked why I wasn’t reading the paper.

“But I AM reading the paper,” I insisted.  Well, the only parts that are worth reading …

I am a person who has a pretty broad sense of humor and loves a good joke.  On occasion, I have been known to laugh so hard that I eventually started crying.  Other times, I’ll crack up just thinking about a story or joke I heard hours earlier.  Truly, laughter is the second-best medicine (baseball being the best).

We’ve covered sports aplenty in The Soap Boxers.  So, today we shift the focus to comics.  I’ll break down my 5 all time favorite comics.

5.  Wow.  This is a tough call. I could go a lot of directions here – Blondie, Family Circus, The Far Side, Dennis the Menace, Retail, a few others.  But I’ll settle on Beetle Bailey.  The military theme differentiates the strip from its competitors, and Beetle and Sarge have a good dynamic going.  The secondary characters also have quite a bit of definition to them (gotta love Zero).

4.  Dilbert – A few years ago, Dilbert would have been top 2.  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.  It’s possible that the strip has simply gotten less funny over the years – or it may simply be that a dozen years living in a cubicle have taken some of the humor out of cubicle life.  I do remain a devoted member of Dogbert’s New Ruling Class (DNRC), so I’ll be on board when we run roughshod over the InDUHdividuals.

3.  Get Fuzzy.  Huh, what’s this?  Haven’t heard of it?  By my estimation, this is the most underrated comic strip on the market today.  It’s a bit of a Bizarro Garfield (whoa, double points for back-to-back comic references) with a man, a cat, and a dog.  The dog (Satchel) never seems to get a fair shake (like Odie) but that’s where the similarity end.  Rob has a bit more control over the Get Fuzzy household than Jim does (although we’re talking in relative terms), and the cat (Bucky) is bent on world domination (or, barring that, weasel domination).  There’s also quite a lot of sports content (Rob’s a Sox fan; Bucky is a Yankees fan), which is always good for extra credit in my book.

2.  Peanuts – Perhaps the most beloved comic strip of all time.  The strip has a lot of baseball content, which gives it a huge boost.  It also has a dog who thinks his doghouse is a Sopwith Camel, which is slightly odd (in a good way).  The hockey battles between Snoopy and Woodstock on the frozen bird bath, Linus and his blanket, Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown, Schroeder eluding the romantic overtures from Lucy – and, of course, the completely unintelligible adult voices (yeah, that’s exactly how we sound to our kids – blah, blah, blah).  I have Peanuts books, I love the TV specials, but my favorite comic strip of all time is …

1.  Calvin and Hobbes.  Has there ever been a greater tribute to the sheer power of imagination?  Not only does Calvin possess it in spades (the transmogrifier, Calvinball with its crazy and never-the-same-twice rules, and of course the fact that Calvin thinks his stuffed tiger is actually alive), but his dad chips in with some wonderful answers to Calvin’s questions.  The strip was short lived (just 10 years) and Bill Watterson resisted the temptation to license it (if you see Calvin and Hobbes merchandise, it’s certainly bootleg – Calving urinating on a Ford logo is not a licensed use of the character) to preserve the integrity of the comic strip.  And who can forget that final strip, with Calvin and Hobbes sailing off in their wagon to go exploring?


That’s my top 5 – what are yours?

Bold Predictions for 2010

January 24, 2010

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What’s ahead in the year ahead?  Kosmo takes his best guess.


  • The Big 10 finally expands to 12 teams, allowing it to have a conference title game.  The new school, Sarah Lawrence College, is the trendy pick to claim the conference’s automatic BCS bid.
  • The Cubs will fail to win the World Series.
  • Notre Dame will fail to win the BCS National Championship.
  • USC will be penalized by the NCAA because of athletes receiving improper benefits.
  • The St. Louis Rams will double their win total from 2009.
  • Brett Favre retires.  And then unretires.  And then retires again.  Lather, rinse, repeat.
  • John Madden will blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah and if you can score more points than the other team, you have a good chance of winning the game.
  • Jimmie Johnson’s run at a fifth consecutive NASCAR title comes to an abrupt end when pranksters release a “little bit” of air from his tires before the season ending race at Homestead.  Jeff Burton denies all responsibility.
  • Joe Buck will be fired for incompetence when he repeatedly refers to Matt Holliday as “Pat Hentgen”.


  • The tobacco industry fights for approval to have their warning label changed.  The new label reads: “Cigarette smoking is hazardous to your health – but not nearly as bad for you as drop-rail cribs.”
  • People finally stop buying stock in the old GM when Smokey Bear echoes the words of the US Government and the SEC by proclaiming that the stock will be completely worthless.
  • AIG pays back all the money they owe the government.
  • Google buys Twitter, Microsoft, Disney, Apple, Wikipedia, Dole, Berkshire Hathaway – and in a move that stuns everyone, attempts to buy itself via a hostile takeover.  The hostile takeover is foiled by renegade executives who launch a denial of service attack against the buyers.
  • The postal services will raise postal rates.

News & Politics

  • In November, California voters pass a ballot initiative that legalizes gay marriage.
  • On the same November ballot, California voters pass a ballot initiative that reaffirms the current ban on gay marriage.
  • In mid-December, California slides into the Pacific Ocean.
  • A celebrity will die at a very young age.  The world will be shocked.
  • Sarah Palin mobilizes a run for president.  Palin/Palin 2010 gains immediate support from the conservative base.  When Palin is informed that there is not a presidential election is 2010, she replies “I can see death panels from my front porch!”

Art, Entertainment, & Literature

  • Danielle Steele releases eight new books.
  • The art world is excited about a mysterious new piece of art.  Many art experts are unemployed eight days later when the “organic brown pigment on white paper” is discovered to be a coffee stain left on a napkin by a visitor.
  • Michael Jackson’s estate earns eleventy trillion dollars from album sales, movie royalties, t-shirts, coasters, and revenue from the Neverland Hotel and Casino.
  • On March 18, the Mickey Mouse gang is stunned to discover that the Mystery Mousketool will not fix the problem.  Much sadness.
  • Conan O’Brien, blackballed by the major networks, lands a deal with PBS.  O’Brien hosts a children’s show that focuses on literacy.  The show, Conan the Librarian, is a complete flop.

Write Your Own Adventure

August 15, 2009

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OK, today we’re going to kick off a brand new type of article on The Soap Boxers.  I will begin to write a story, and then stop after a couple hundred words.  I am asking all of you, the readers, to continue the story by adding a comment.  Take over the story from where I left off and write a hundred or so words.  Each successive writer should build upon the previous comment.  I do ask that you not finish the story if you are one of the first commenters – the goal is to have a lot of people play along.  If the progress stalls out, I will go ahead and write a conclusion to the story.

(Note to Evan @ 40Tech – your stuff is still getting caught in the spam filter, so if you want to play along, use a different address.  Otherwise, the sequence will get messed up a bit.)

If you have  never left a comment before, go ahead and take the plunge today!

Without further ado …


After thirty seven minutes in the air,  Lindsey turned the plane sharply to the east, deviating from the flight plan she had filed earlier.  She was beginning to sweat.  It was uncomfortably warm in the cabin of the plane, and the stress of what lie ahead for her only served to intensify the perspiration.  Lindsey pushed her auburn hair away from her eyes and wiped the sweat off her brow with a filty blue hankerchief.  She forced herself to avoiding thinking about what would happen on the ground, and instead focus on the task of flying the plane.

Shortly after she had passed over the mountains, Lindsey saw the runway in the distance.  It was rudimentary, but it would serve serve the purpose.  Lindsey had landed on aircraft carriers in the Navy; she could handle landing on a poorly maintained landing strip in the middle of nowhere.

The potholes, small bushes, and a lone misplaced goat made the landing a bit more rough than usual, but Lindsey was a pro and easily taxied the plane to a stop.  As soon as the vehicle had come to a complete stop, Lindsey popped open the door, grabbed her Nevy duffel bag, and hopped out of the plane.

OK, readers – what happens next?  What the heck is Lindsey up to?  Honestly, I have no idea … you tell me.

Do you know other people who want to join in on the fun?  Send them a link, or simply hit the “Tweet this” button.

Giveaway – Dinosaur Books

July 23, 2009

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Now that we have a complete writing staff on board, we’re going to make a push to increase the popularity of The Soap Boxers over the course of the next month.

To reward our loyal readers for spreading positive word of mouth, we are happy to announce a giveaway.

We will give away one copy of Eric Garcia’s Anonymous Rex (read once, nice condition) and four copies of the Pockets Full of Knowlege reference book, Dinosaurs (brand new, with a remainder mark).  Small prizes?  Yep.  Fun reads?  Certainly.  Free = good?  Oh, yeah!  Mini-reviews of the books can be found in this morning’s main article.

The giveaway winners will be announced on August 24.

How do you enter?  Here are the ways (you may enter via multiple methods, but you can only win a maximum of one book).  Staff members of The Soap Boxers are not eligible to win.

  • Two books will be awarded to people who write comments in response to articles.  As long as you enter your email address in the requested spot (note: other readers will NOT see your address) I will be able to contact you if you win.

Anonymous Rex will be awarded to the person who posts the best comment during this period.  This is purely a subjective judgment on my part.

The writer of one random comment will be chosen to receive a copy of the Pockets Dinosaurs book.  You will receive an entry for each comment you write, up to a maximum of one entry per day.

  • One random RSS subscriber will be chosen to receive a copy of the Pockets Dinosaurs book.  I don’t have a way to identify my RSS subscribers, so you’ll need to send me an email to enter.  As “proof of RSS”, copy/paste the copyright notice from the RSS feed (it is at the bottom of each feed item).  If you’re not an RSS subscriber, consider subscribing (it’s completely free, of course).
  • One random Twitter retweeter will be chosen to receive a copy of the Pockets Dinosaurs book.  If you retweet one of our tweets, send a tweet to @CasObserver to let me know.
  • Mention The Soap Boxers on your blog, and you’ll be entered into yet another drawing for a copy of the Pockets Dinosaurs book.  Send me an email to the blog post that references The Soap Boxers.

Don’t worry – I will NOT spam you if you send me an email.  I will only use your email address to let you know that you have won a prize.

Want the books, but don’t want to wait to see if you win?  Check out the Amazon widget on the right side of the screen.

Haven’t had your fix of dinosaurs yet?  Tune in tomorrow to find out what really killed the dinosaurs (fiction story).  We’ll take a break from dinosaurs after that.

Cedar Point review

May 16, 2009

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People are often surprised when they find out that I am a roller coaster addict.  The image of an thrill seeking adrenaline junkie seems to be at odds with the mild mannered bookworm they see in front of them.  In fact, I grew up in fear of coasters.  Then, one time I was at an amusement park with my cousin, who is two years younger than me.  He was going to ride a roller coaster.  I didn’t want to show fear, so I mustered up the courage to ride.  The ride up the hill was incredibly harrowing … but a few seconds later I was hooked on coasters.

If you are a roller coaster addict, you must visit Cedar Point.  Cedar Point is located on a peninsula in Lake Erie, in Sandusky, Ohio. The Lake provides an absolutely incredible backdrop for many of the rides. Cedar Point features 17 roller coasters (more than any other park in the world) and a variety of other thrill rides. They have a wide variety of coasters. Whether you like wood, steel, standing, suspended, inverted, or even kiddie coasters, there is something you’ll like. I made my initial pilgrammage to Cedar Point in 2002, and returned there with my wife in 2005. I’m anxiously awaiting the day when my daughter is 48 inches tall. She’s halfway there, so it should just be a couple more years, right? Let’s jump right in and I’ll take you on a tour of some of my favorite rides at Cedar Point.
There are two Cedar Point coasters that I have not yet been able to ride.

  • Top Thrill Dragster is tops on my “most wanted” list.  It opened in 2003.  In theory, we should have been able to ride it when we were at Cedar Point in 2005.  Unfortunately, it was closed both days, which really sucked.  The ride launches you 450 feet in the air and you reach a speed of 120 mph.  It looks absolutely awesome.
  • Maverick opened in 2007.  It is “only” 105 feet tall, but it does have a 95 degree drop angle, the sharpest drop of any coaster in the park.  I don’t really have a good feel for how Maverick would ride.

Now I’ll take you on a tour of some of my favorite rides at Cedar Point.  These are in order of preference.

  • Mean Streak – This is a mile long wooden coaster.  I am personally a big fan of wooden coasters, although my wife is not.  As the wood in the coaster has aged over the years, Mean Streak has gotten even more mean.  It’s definitely a bone jarring ride.  I happen to love a rough ride on the rails, so it’s definitely my cup of tea.  Also, the ride is 3 minutes long, and the lines are often short, because many people fear the Mean Streak!
  • Wicked Twister – The best way to describe Wicked Twister is that it is shaped like a U.  You start at the bottom of the U.  You are launched 200 feet in the air – with a couple of nice twists toward the top.  Then you back down and get launched 200 feet up the other side.  Half the time, you’re going to be backward.
  • Millenium Force –  The key element is the raw height, as the ride takes you 310 feet in the air and immediately drops you 300 feet.  You are carried up the hill – not launched – so it is a nice slow ride up the hill, and you have a great view from the top.  When you get to the top, you’re a football field (end zone to end zone) from the ground.  Pretty cool.
  • Gemini – Gemini is 30 years old, tops out at 60 mph, is only 125 feet tall, has a meek 55% drop angle.  Why is it on my list of favorite, beating out rides such as Mantis and Raptor?  Because you race.  There are two tracks.  One track has the blue train and the other has the red train.  You race side by side, and you can never be sure which train is going to win the race back to the station.

I’ve only scratched the surface.  Check out Cedar Point’s web site for more details.  There’s also a water park (Soak City), but I have never set foot inside Soak City – simply because it would mean taking time away from coasters.

Are you looking for a place to stay while you’re at Cedar Point?  There are some nice on site options, but if you’re looking for a nice, quiet place, I would suggest  McKenna’s Inn, a bed and breakfast on nearby Catawba Island.  It appears that their web site needs a bit of work, but don’t let this fool you – this place is first class.  Not only are the facilities nice, but the location is great.  It is located on a private lane that ends at Lake Erie.  You are with very easy walking distance from the lake.

Wonderful wastes of time

March 7, 2009

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There are so many ways to waste time on the internet, but I’ll focus on just a few.

OK, this can actually be pretty useful. Snopes is a leader in the industry of myth debunking. Snopes currently lists 43 different myth topics, ranging from Disney to politics. There’s even a category devoted to debunking dozens of myths about the 911 attacks, including:

Osama Bin Laden owns Snapple – false

Bert (from Sesame Street) appears on posters carried by Bin Laden Supporters – true!

It can be interesting simply to browse the Snopes archives. Many of the myths are mind boggling, and they make for very entertaining reads. Snopes can also come in handy when your friend forwards you the latest email about an outrage that is occurring in congress. You can search on key words and get the information you need to tell your friend that someone is yanking his chain.

The articles on Snopes are well researched, and the sources of their information are clearly noted at the end of the articles.

Says-it allows you to create add your own text to signs – church signs, bank signs, danger signs, and more. Here is an image I created.

On a forum that I subscribe to, one member uses a custom church sign as his signature – with custom messages that poke (good natured) fun at other members.

Says-it was also used to design the logo for this blog.

GraphJam allows you to quickly create custom charts. Pie charts are my favorite, mostly because I like pie.

You can easily waste a lot of time looking at all the cool graphs that other people have designed. Here’s a quick graph that I came up with.

Note that GraphJam is a part of the ICanHasCheezburger family of sites (probably best known for LolCats) – so if you haven’t wasted enough time on GraphJam, you can always jump over to some of its sister sites.