Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The end of Harry Potter?

Via JustOneMinute, I found some tidbits about the seventh and final Harry Potter book. I'd heard before that she'd written the final chapter long ago. What's interesting is that she's given a number to the deaths of major characters: two. Well, at least two. And she's changed the fate of at least one that she thought would die.
Also interesting is Tom's speculation on the publishing date, 7/7/07.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

More sports stuff?

  • When I reviewed the Great American Novel the other day I meant to offer a better baseball novel. The Natural by Bernard Malamud is that book. It details the life of a diamond in the rough baseball player, Roy Hobbs. One who comes out of nowhere to be the best pitcher in the league. His baseball career is violently sidetracked but later in life he comes back to be a top hitter. He's offered a wrenching choice and, well, you should read it yourself. Very good book (and a fine movie adaptation.)
  • The American league is just killing the National league this year. How bad has it been? The two leagues have been playing each other for the past nine games. The only NL team with a winning record over their last ten is Florida at 7-3. The only AL team with a losing record is Cleveland at 3-7. Also amazing, the Tigers, Twins and White Sox are all 9-1 in their last ten (written before Sunday night's game.
  • World Cup? (Sorry Hans.) I love to see people get crazy with national costumes and flags. I love situations where teams play objective games (ones without judges) and follow some sort of standings. I love how crazy much of the world is over their teams. I love that there is a live sporting event that I can watch at 9am.
  • What don't I love about the World Cup? Let's start with the lecture we Americans get every four years on how we really should care more about soccer. I get that people find it 'beautiful'. We find it dull. I understand that it's the most popular game in the world. What that has to do with whether we should like it or not I don't know. Football (NFL) is the most popular sport in the US. Are the people who don't like it wrong? (Well, maybe and let's just forget that I asked.)
  • Both the NHL and the NBA wrapped up their playoffs last week. The new seasons for each start next month.

Calypso update

Took her into the vet on Friday. They found that she was running a couple degrees of fever and a little dehydrated but nothing obviously wrong with her. They wanted to keep her overnight, give her some fluids and see if they could bring the fever down. Saturday morning they called and had me pick her up.
The fever broke and she ate a little bit of food. They gave us some medicine for her. The vet said that these things happen from time to time and that we shouldn't worry about it. Her activity is a little bit more like normal. And she's eating a little bit of food.
We're relieved.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Sports stuff

Ran across a couple of interesting sports geek posts this week. The first has to do with MLB's blackout policy. Baseball has awarded territories to each team. Within those territories the teams have blackout rights. This comes into play with nationwide baseball broadcasts. When someone subscribes to Extra Innings or MLBTV.com they are limited by the whims of the local teams. In Minneapolis, that only means that I can't get Twins broadcasts through it. Through regular cable, no problem. But some of these territories are vast. For instance, Iowa is a shared territory of six different teams. I can only imagine how frustrating that must be. MLB needs to update it's methods and understand that fan bases are truly mobile.
The second article (actually a series of them), are based on answering the question 'how often does the best team win it all?'. The author simulated 10,000 seasons of football. Well 40,000 actually, but groups of 10,000. He preset the team strength so that he knew what team was the strongest and then let loose. What's the answer? Roughly 24% of the time. The top three teams together win almost 50%. I find that very interesting.
BTW, that doesn't mean that the other teams aren't worthy champions. The Colts were probably the best team of this past year. The Steelers beat them fair and square. They also beat the Seahawks. They (mostly) earned their Superbowl title.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Wednesday Random stuff

  • Been training again this week. Teaching adults is tricky. Sometimes they're not at all sure that they want to be trained. It's been fun though. The days I get to do this never feel like work.
  • Calypso is sick. My mind goes to the worst places right away. But it's probably nothing. She's listless and not moving around. Well, moreso. Vet appointment on Friday.
  • The Twins had an 8 game winning streak snapped tonight. They're 8-2 over their last ten games. Pretty good. Over that span, they've picked up exactly zero games over the White Sox and Tigers. Pretty good division.
  • Ozzie is still a terror. Maybe the cutest one ever. And the fastest. The constant biting isn't as constant anymore. We're hoping he's mellowing some. (And after I wrote that he crawled onto my lap and is fast asleep.)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Three carriers

My brother sent me the picture below (click on it to make it larger). This was his Sunday morning. His suggested caption was
'Check Us Out! We Can Show Up At Your Doorstep Anytime We Want With Three Carrier Strike Groups, B*****s!'

This was part of the largest naval exercise in the Pacific since the Vietnam war. His ship is two back from the center carrier. He said if you squint real hard you can maybe see him in one of the windows. He was impressed by the B-2 in the picture. Said they reminded him of Senator Amidala's craft in Episode 2.
I'm glad he's out there showing the bad guys that there are real consequences to being bad guys. Thank you very much!

Off of Guam

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Great American Novel - Roth

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was going to tackle some of the best American novels. Well, one down I guess. This book is written from the point of view of an old sportswriter. He's very very angry because history has been rewritten to deny the existence of a third major league, the Patriot league. It was on par with the American and National leagues but destroyed and erased from history.
The book follows the last couple of seasons of the league and explains the events that destroyed them. Mostly by following one of their teams, the Ruppert Mundys. The Mundys were forced out of their stadium during WWII so that it could be used as a staging area for troop transports. This forced them to play their entire schedule on the road, a grave injustice. The team is filled with misfits and men who are really too young or too old to play. Their second baseman is 14, the third baseman in his 50s.
This book is quite vulgar and it took a bit to get past that. The images of the baseball players are mostly cartoonish. In fact, baseball is just used as a stand in for the USA. Still, it's got some laughs and some outlandish situations that are well put together. But this is far from a great novel.

A Passage to India - 1984

This movie is basically 'To Kill a Mockingbird' set in India. Set in the '20's, a young woman and her future mother-in-law travel to India. The future husband/present son is a British official there. When they arrive they are shocked at the treatment of the Indian natives by the British that are already there. They seek more authentic meetings with the Indians than the others think wise.
One of these meetings is with a Dr Aziz. He's a muslim doctor who has a complicated desire to be more like the English while also disliking their prominence. He's quite a sympathetic man. He agrees to take the ladies on a tour of the Malabar caves, a system that is reknowned for their echoing quality. While touring the caves the younger lady becomes seperated and hysterical. She runs down from the mountain and Dr Aziz is accused of raping her.
What follows is a trial and a look at the possibility of justice in a system where race is more important than mere right or wrong. (I was reminded of the Duke Lacrosse scandal.) The verdict and the aftermath are very interesting.
This movie sets a slow pace. It features some beautiful scenery as a taste of India. The story is interesting, if long. A very good movie.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Strange architecture


Lest anyone think that I only appreciate conventional buildings, I want to share a building that I just heard about a few weeks ago. It's the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. The architecht had a very unique style. It's quite arresting. I liked this bit:

Gaudí worked on the project for over 40 years, devoting the last 15 years of his life entirely to this endeavour; on the subject of the extremely long construction, Gaudí is said to have joked, "My client is not in a hurry."

Weekend?

It was fine. We had a little anniversary dinner with my mom that she covered here (with pictures). And we stayed at a hotel that the FP Gal covered here (again, with pictures). Interesting note on the hotel, dad stayed there once before the property changed hands. I remember picking him up there before a Jamaica trip.
Other than that? Watched some baseball. And got some reading done. And the latest movie on the list. A nice weekend.

The New Guthrie

Great Bleat from Lileks today regarding the new Guthrie theater. In short, he doesn't like it. IMO, it's not the worst bit or architecture in Minneapolis. But easily top ten. Look at the thing.
His analysis is better than mine will be. But just look at what a mess it is. I can only imagine a group of architects getting together and saying 'you'll never believe what they let me get away with!'. It looks like a building that has no idea what it wants to be and no desire to figure it out either.
If the FP Gal and I ever hit the powerball, it'd be awfully tempting to gift the city with something like this

just to embarrass the awful things that have built here in the name of art.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Housekeeping

Just wanted to note some of the changes around here at Future Poltergeist. I've finally added links to other blogs. I'm stupid when it comes to HTML and blogger doesn't have an easy way to do this. So it took awhile. Actually it took some derision from Jodi and some guidance from the FP Gal. Anyway, the links are there. Click at your own risk.
The other change is that I've started a seperate blog to discuss political things. It can be found here. Why a second blog? Two reasons, the first one being more important. In my own blog wanderings I've noticed a phenomenon where I read a blog about some specific topic and then I get fried when they switch to politics. (Usually happens with baseball blogs.) It feels like a kick in the teeth to have someone generally knowledgable about something give an absolutely stupid analysis about something political. The tone of this blog has mostly been about personal things, cat pictures and of course the movie project. I want to keep it that way.
The second reason is that I want to get into the political stuff a bit more. I've got a series of posts on left/right arguments concerning gay marriage up already. Anyone who wants to head over there and correct my ignorance is welcome to do so.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

1983 in review

The Big Chill
The Dresser
The Right Stuff
Tender Mercies
Terms of Endearment

This was a year with some very good movies and some that time has covered over and forgotten. 'Dresser' and 'Mercies' are the forgotten ones and probably deservedly. Both of them are nice movies without a hint of greatness in them. The other three are all very good. 'Terms' won the Best Picture and that's probably right. The 'Big Chill's' soundtrack was very good, but the best score was in 'Terms'.

Terms of Endearment - 1983

This review just won't come easy. Apologies, and if you haven't seen this one, you should. It's a very good movie. It features some of Shirley MacLaine's best work. And some very good stuff from Debra Winger. And Jack Nicholson playing almost exactly the same character as he did in 'As Good as it Gets'.
It's a movie about a small family, mother and daughter. The Mom is overprotective, the daughter naive. The daughter marries unwisely and the mother is pulled into a relationship that she's not sure of. Throw in some infidelity and lots of long distance phone calls to give the story more texture. And then a fatal illness to bring out the hankies.
A very good movie. (And I'm well aware that this review doesn't do it justice.)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Actual Sleeping Positions



Well...why not?

I've got a few ideas that the FP Gal thinks are either crazy or unworkable. Or she just nods and smiles and doesn't expect anything will ever be done with them. Thought I'd share them here.

1) A cat museum. This would be a gallery with cat paintings and sculpture. And a few resident cats. It'd be simple and elegant. The natural crossover between artistic types and cat lovers would make this a hit. (I'm surprised that this isn't already here in Mpls.)
2) An icicle maker. This would be a freestanding yard sculpture that would collect snow and then encourage the resulting melt into forming icicles. You could add wind chimes for the warmer seasons.
3) A six story tower for the backyard. Made of brick with ivy trailing down it. Maybe a garden on top. Or an observatory. This might be against zoning laws. And the neighbors might not like it. And we can't currently fund six stories of construction. But, boy, it'd look cool.
4) A unified theory that depends on strange similarities between garbanzo beans and marsupials. This is somewhat dependent on my belief that 'dark matter' theories are just scientific filler until a new theory bridges the gap and explains the 'missing' mass of the universe.

Monday, June 12, 2006

My healthy diet

Eating pizza 'cuts cancer risk'. And a good thing too. (h/t Hugh Hewitt)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Anniversary

Well, it's been a year since the FP Gal and I tied the knot. The year has had some ups and some downs but on balance it's been pretty good. I wrote about the wedding briefly last year but since we've been remembering the whole experience I thought I'd write something more complete. FP Gal, you can correct me if I've got any of the details wrong.
You may recall an engagement in April 05. What followed was a discussion of wedding details. I've long loved the idea of a Hawaii wedding. To be married while barefoot in the surf and throw leis in the ocean afterword. The idea is nice but not always practical. We couldn't be certain that family would be able to afford to go. The timing was tricky too. My brother was due to ship off to Japan in August.
So what to do? Well, an October wedding could be nice. There are nice parks around that could be used. It'd mean that my brother and his family would miss out. Which would suck. I threw an idea off (mostly) in jest, let's piggyback my sister's reception and do it that weekend. After brief discussion we decided that we didn't want to steal her thunder. Soon after, I talked with her and told her that we'd thought about that weekend but decided against. She said it would have been ok but we assured her that we'd figure something else out.
But there really wasn't another good option. So how could we use that weekend and not take the spotlight? Well...what if we didn't tell people ahead of time? What if we surprised them that morning? Could we pull it off? More importantly, could we plan a wedding in less than two months? The FP Gal thought she could. And we were off. (Details of dress, food, flowers, etc. can be found here.)
On Friday June 10th (T minus 48hrs), I called in late to work. This was so we could pick up my tuxedo. Houseguests would get in the way of picking it up any later. It was spirited off to my friend Maureen's house. Later that same night (midnightish?) I picked up my brother at the airport. His wife and son had arrived in MN earlier in the week.
The next day we went off to Hudson for Heidi's reception. The weather alternated between beautiful and stormy with the occasional tornado warning (seriously). All of my family was there. We were absolutely peppered with questions about the wedding. We tried to be vague and talked about maybe in October. During the reception, my brother casually dropped his own bombshell. They were expecting again. Needless to say, my parents were both thrilled. Their kids all together and another loved one on the way.
On the ride home, the FP Gal and I joked that we could top that excitement. But we got some bad news too. Her brother called to say that he didn't think he could make it to the brunch we had planned for the next morning. We had to break cover and tell him the surprise. Tragedy would be averted.
The next morning we got up early. Around 8a we said that we were going out for groceries. She drove me to my car and we went our separate ways. My way led to Maureen's where I got all gussied up. After dressing, it was off to the park to help set up. By the time I got there it was mostly ready. It became just a matter of waiting for people to show up. And ignoring my cell phone as people back at the house wondered where we'd gotten to.
My friend Jodi showed up at our house with the invitations. They told everyone directions to the park and prompted them to hurry on down. I can only imagine the scene that took place. Soon, the cars started showing up at the park. Everyone except my dear Father. He'd decided to try out a new church that morning. Not realizing it wouldn't be done in time. He got back to the house to find his phone (and invitation) hanging on the door. I called him just about the time that he arrived and gave him directions. He didn't have time to read the invitation. He didn't realize he was going to a wedding until he showed up and saw us in dress and tux.
Everything else went off without a hitch. The weather was perfect. The ceremony was brief, but meaningful. We walked to the river and threw flowers in. (We'd since learned that this wasn't a Polynesian tradition. I'd made that part up apparently. Anyway, it was nice and I recommend it.) Pictures followed and that went smoothly too. Then on to brunch and a life together.
FP Gal, it's been great and I couldn't be happier that we did it!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Tigers!

A couple of very good Tiger/White Sox games the last couple of nights. Tuesday night was especially sweet with an unexpected late homerun to win the game. Pretty good recap of that game from Jayson Stark of ESPN found here. Last night's game wasn't as dramatic but just as close with another 4-3 victory. The two teams are just a 1/2 game apart as the Sox go for the sweep tonight.
On a personal note, my magic 8-ball predicted a sweep back on Tuesday afternoon. Not that I trust the thing completely, but it's pretty good. One quirk, if I ask it if I should shop at Target it always says 'Yes'.
I'd love to see the Tigers and the White Sox make the playoffs this year. It'd be nice to see the Yankees and Red Sox battle it out without the wildcard to fall back on. And some nice faces would look pretty good.

Bit of good news from Iraq

Al-Zarqawi is dead.

Snow Falling on Cedars - 1999

This movie is a muder mystery set in the San Juan de Fuca islands circa 1950. These islands are just off of the Olympic peninsula which might be the most beautiful place in the world. When I showed the FP Gal these pictures, it triggered her memory about this movie. When she found out that I hadn't seen it, we put it on our personal list to watch.
As I said, a murder mystery with the usual questions of guilt. This one is complicated by a couple of novel things. The defendant is Japanese. He served in WWII against the Nazis. Back home his entire community was interned in concentration camps. The internment created a dispute about failure to pay off a piece of land and that in turn created a possible motive.
The other complication is that the journalist who is covering the trial was in love with the defendants's wife. Their relationship is shown through a series of flashbacks, including a secluded meeting spot in a hole under a giant cedar tree. Their love story was tragic in an everyday manner.
The movie is filled with beautiful scenery. Great mossy forests. Boats in thick thick fog. And a snow storm that helps fill out the title of the story. The filming gets a bit artsy, but not overly so. I'd never seen this movie, but it certainly could have been in the mix of Oscar nominated movies for 1999. A very good movie.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Gay Marriage Amendment

Inspired by this post at Captain's Quarters, I'd like to chime some agreement. In brief, I don't support this amendment and would support legislation allowing gay marriage (about that more later, maybe). What I would like to talk about is the motive behind using the amendment process to ban gay marriage.
The reason behind it is simple, Roe v Wade. When the Supreme Court made a blanket decision for the entire country about a divided and passionate issue it set the stage for this type of showdown. The message given was that legislatures don't matter. What matters is some private definition of justice to as few as five people. If they don't think a law is a good one, they can toss it out. The standard they should have judged from shouldn't have been good or bad, but constitutional or unconstitutional. The game became very simple, find a friendly judge and change a law.
What are you supposed to do if you support an issue that is vulnerable to judges? Place it beyond their reach. That's what a constitutional amendment would do. If this was simply a case of voting in a majority to pass a law, we'd be covered by DOMA.
Large majorities have voted against gay marriage whenever it's gone to a ballot. I disagree with them but I have to respect that they feel that way. Why? Because that's the way the process works. And the process is important. I honestly feel that it's more important than the issue at stake.
What should supporters of gay marriage do? The answer is so simple that it's hard to see. Convince enough people to agree with you that you gain the majority. Explain why gay marriage won't damage existing marriage. Explain how it'll help current families with a gay parent or parents. Stress how much it'll help with things like inheritance, visitation, etc, that are clearly important to gay couples. The U.S. is not a nation of bigots. If you can convince people that you're right, they'll support you. I firmly believe this.
BTW, if I was writing this amendment it'd be something along the lines of 'The Courts have no powers over how states define marriage.' That should solve the activist judge problem without creating an equally bad federalism problem.

We call the little one 'Bitey'

Actually, we still call him Ozzie. But 'Bitey' would apply too. The routine is something like: pet, pet, purr, purr, bite bite bite. So what are we going to do? Well, the internet (it's on computers now) says that he may have been taken from his mother early and missed out on some important socialization. We were told that he'd been found on the street so that makes sense. It has now become our job to do the socializing. We're going to pursue three strategies.

1) Ignore the biting and walk away/remove him from the area. This is to let him know that you're not going to play like that. It also penalizes him when he wants to play.

2) Say 'OUCH' and make him stop. When he plays nice, praise him with 'Good kitty' or somesuch. Cues him in that he's causing pain/doing something wrong. These are cues he missed out on being away from the litter.

3) Never play cards with someone who was named after a city. (Exceptions include anyone named after Reykjavik. Because, what are the odds of that ever happening?)

Wish us luck!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Tender Mercies - 1983

This movie starts with a drunken Mac Sledge (Robert Duvall) waking up in a small motel in Texas. He's been abandoned by his friends and has no money to pay for the room. The hotel owner (Tess Harper) agrees to let him work it off but won't allow him to drink while working. Time passes and Mac has sobered up and fallen in love. He marries the owner and becomes a stepdad to her son.
More time passes and we discover that Mac used to be a country singer of some aclaim. He also has an ex-wife and daughter. His attempt to contact them with a new song he's written ends with lots of shouting. He's not welcome.
Meanwhile, a small town band has discovered that he's there and they become friends. He lets them use his new songs. They want him to record a record with him. His daughter reestablishes contact with him. She marries poorly and has a tragic ending.
This movie plays some interesting themes. The most interesting to me was that of a performer who missed what he did but didn't know how to go back doing it. The acting is good in an understated way. Overall, this movie is nothing special. Good, but largely forgotten.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Saturday evening

Imagine, if you will, a fluffy cat lying down to expose a large mound of white belly fur. Add to your mental picture a kitten with legs splayed out jumping on that mound as if it's a pile of leaves. For context, imagine that the larger cat had no idea any of this was going to happen. Got it? Now picture a bald man laughing out loud.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Ozzie emerges...

Well we got a clean bill of health from the vet yesterday. Which means that Ozzie's isolation can now end. Which means that Calypso and Sana's nightmare has just gotten worse...



Out!



Confrontation...





The beast sleeps.

So far lots of hissing and a fairly active fight at 6am. The main point of contention is that Ozzie really doesn't understand when to back off. He corners the older cats, they panic and the fun ensues. I'm sure it'll get better with time.

Best American Novel?

Recently Powerline ran a poll of it's readers to determine the best American Novel. This was the result:



It's an interesting list. My vote was for 'To Kill a Mockingbird'. My sad confession is to how few of these books I've read. Which I'm going to try and change. Not in a formal way like the movie project but I'm going to read some and put up some book reviews.
The poll would have caught mainly conservative readers reactions. The FP Gal is curious what a more liberal audience would have picked. I'm guessing that a few different books would have been picked but I really don't know what would have changed in position. Any thoughts from the crowd?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Celebrity lookalike

Ok, so in response to this post from Jodi, my dear wife put up this post. It seems that myheritage.com has a feature that will allow you to match your pictured face with that of a celebrity. I'm pleased with the FP Gal's matches. That Chava Alberstein is quite a catch!
My results? Well, I used a number of pictures to find my match. The first one gave me Henry Fonda. I don't see it. The most common match was Kevin Smith aka Silent Bob. The second most common? Michelle Rodriguez from Lost (pictured below). I'm the one on the left.

Blame America First

This is often used as a way of describing a certain branch of the left that can't see the beams in other countries eyes because of the speck in America's. That description (rightly) makes some very angry because they see it as a blanket description of everyone on the left. I don't want to make the same mistake. Most everyone in this country recognizes the wonderful things about the U.S.
Having said that, the STrib provides an excellent example of 'blame America first' with this editorial about nuclear proliferation. After writing about what a wonderful world this would be if no one had nukes, the editorial says this:

It's hard to see what salutary purpose the bomb now serves -- other than to incite more and more countries to acquire it. The global Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons has proved a pathetic failure -- largely because of U.S. inconsistency toward nuclear-club aspirants.
The author doesn't account for other aspirations like becoming a world (or regional) power, creating a sphere of influence or making oneself invulnerable to invasion. Those three reasons account for nuclear creation far more than 'U.S. inconsistency'. How arrogant is it to place all the blame on U.S. inability?
The next paragraph deserves some study too:

America smiles placidly on Israel's undeclared status as a nuclear state, has tolerated bomb-building by both India and Pakistan -- and yet now seems resolved to stop at nothing to thwart Iran's nuclear hopes.
Not sure what the U.S. can really do about Israel's status. Being undeclared makes it hard to put sanctions on them. Some people seem to have this idea that Israel can be made to dance to whatever tune the U.S. wants them to. This is incredibly shallow thinking. Even under the threat of removing aid to Israel it's hard imagine them giving up their nukes. They live in constant threat of neighboring countries that have tried to destroy them before. They take their security pretty seriously.
India and Pakistan? How could we do anything but tolerate? Should we have invaded? One notable aspect of the nuclear club is that once you join, it's very hard to kick you out. And that's why the time to worry about Iran is now before it's got it's own nukes.
I'd also note that Iran deserves a different category than Israel, India or even Pakistan. They've spoken openly about destroying Israel. Probably better that we take that seriously than wake up some morning to the news that they've gone ahead and done it.
Curious that North Korea isn't mentioned here. You might remember it as the country that suckered us into helping with their nuclear program. I suppose you could fit that under the 'inconsistent' heading if you'd like.