Wednesday, August 30, 2006

State Fair

Took the day off and went to the fair today. Highlights?
  • Learned that a male duck is a 'drake'. Always thought it was a mallard. Who knew? BTW, I'm always surpised by the number of ducks there. Are there that many duck farmers in Minnesota? Is there that much of a market for duck eggs? Or roast duck? Same question about geese.
  • The new birthing barn looks like a huge hit. Something from my ruralish upbringing enjoys watching city folk look at farm animals. It's fun to see people stretch their horizons.
  • Every year the fair features a sculpture made from debris pulled out of the Mississippi. This year it was a dragonfly. Quite impressive, and yes I don't like them either. This year's piece looked notably smaller than previous year's. I don't know if that's a good sign or just a more modest effort from the sculptor.
  • Tried out the 'it' food at the fair this year. Hotdish on a stick. Yum! Looks like a lumpy corndog. They take cooked tater-tots and sausage, roll it in corn batter, fry it up and serve it with a side of cream of mushroom. Very good.
  • Told the guys selling yardsticks that they should advertise them as 'numbers on a stick'. We'll see if they take my advice.
  • Every year I go with the FP Gal, I find an area of the fair that I never knew existed. This year was some kind of international bazar. Her dad got some Korean egg rolls. We listened to a band (South American?) that featured bass pan pipes. Never heard them before.
  • The technology building is entirely devoted to eco-technology. Some of it's interesting and all of it's good-hearted but a skeptic would have had a field day. Of special interest to me was a large section devoted to wind power. More and more farming communites are benefiting from this and that's a good thing.
  • The fine art building was very crowded. Which is a shame because that makes it almost impossible to enjoy the paintings/pictures. Also, my feet felt like they were about to fall off. Not a good combo.
  • On the way back to the car we did the Skyride. Very relaxing. A good day.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Greatest American Novel project

A couple months back I mentioned a poll regarding the greatest American novel. Since then I've read a few of them and am planning on tackling the rest over the next few years. Here's the list:
  • Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
  • Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin
  • James, Portrait of a Lady
  • Cather, My Antonia
  • Wharton, The Age of Innocence
  • Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
  • Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
  • Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury
  • Warren, All the King's Men
  • Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March
  • Ellison, Invisible Man
  • Chandler, The Long Goodbye
  • Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
  • Updike, Rabbit, Run
  • Barth, The Sot-Weed Factor
  • Heller, Catch-22
  • Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird
  • Nabokov, Pale Fire
  • Roth, The Great American Novel
  • Melville, Moby-Dick
  • Twain, Huckleberry Finn

And I want to add a couple of others.
  • Steinbeck, Grapes of Wrath
  • Mailer, Of a Fire on the Moon
Which makes 23. Any other suggestions? And is anyone else interested in joining in? I can give a few weeks heads up about which book is next if you'd like. What think?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Random Sunday Stuff

  • Boy, this blog really goes dark on the weeknd, doesn't it? No good reason why, since I'm home most of the time. The FP Gal's wedding jobs keep her busy (and she's usually got my car) so I get the place to myself.
  • Watched a good deal of baseball the past few days. As I write this, the Twins are 1/2 game up on the White Sox for the wildcard spot. My prediction as of late August: White Sox wrap up a postseason spot before they come to the dome to close out the season. The Twins are facing injury after injury to the pitching staff and I don't think they can keep up the winning. It's that simple.
  • Thought my personal preference curse had struck again today as I couldn't find the best chips known to man, Old Dutch Garlic & Parmesian Kettle Chips. I've killed an ice cream, a pizza and soft drink already. Just started eating blueberries lately. Sell any shares you have in blueberry futures.
  • I've searched for years for a good book on Simon Bolivar and I finally found one. It's called Liberators and it's a pretty good read. The best history books read like stories and this one is no exception.
  • This might be my most random post ever.
  • Some discussion between the FP Gal and I on the sexiest song ever. She's going with U2's 'All I Want is You'. I'm going with Adam Ant's 'Desperate but not Serious'.
  • It frightens the cats when I dance to Adam Ant.
  • That's it. You stay classy, readers.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

We didn't win

This was the winning costume here, a very creative one. He dressed as a wine bottle. There were other winners too. I guess the judges had something different in mind than the dragon.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Costume


Ok, so I don't know if I won or not. But I'll tell you what it was anyway. It's a Chinese Dragon! (Better pictures to follow.)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Costume time

Tomorrow will be an interesting day at work. We have a rep from a (non-local) major airline coming in with an intriguing contest. In an effort to highlight their destination route they are offering two international business class tickets to whomever wears the best international costume. Fun, huh?
We've had trouble figuring out what to put together. Last night I was too tired to go out and get stuff. I was leaning towards running out and getting a plaid skirt and playing the Scotsman. So I emailed the FP Gal today and told her that we would certainly go out tonight and find something. Two tickets! She emailed back telling me that she had some ideas.
Which was a lie. Or at least a half-truth. She had been working on something all day. Something pretty good. Something unexpected. I feel good about our chances.
What is it? I'll tell you tomorrow if we win.

Video tour

The FP Gal is becoming sick of YouTube and Google video, so I'll share these here.

Last week, I pulled up A-Ha's video of 'Take on Me'. The FP Gal thinks it's incredibly clever (and I agree). Few people remember that the story of the cartoon guy actually ends in 'The Sun Always Shines on TV'. My favorite A-Ha song is 'Stay on These Roads'. What can I say, I'm a sucker for dramatic synth-pop.
I've tried to keep this site politics free by moving all of that over here. I'm not sure what to make of this or even what the intended message from the movie maker was. I just know that it's creative and a little bit hypnotic. Here's George Bush singing 'Sunday, Bloody Sunday'.
My favorite animal is the Tiger and I sometimes google around looking for interesting news about them. I ran across this video of a tiger attacking an elephant. It impresses me how the tiger almost appears out of nowhere. (My feet go through something like this with Ozzie if my toes dangle out from under the sheet.)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Amazing pictures

of Northern Lights over at Jodi's blog. The most impressive display I've ever seen was just north of Austin in the winter of '93. Strong pulsing lights that covered half of the sky. Most recently saw them in Burnsville in Oct '04. Faint, but visible. Very beautiful.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Sot Weed Factor - John Barth

[Sot weed=tobacco, Factor=a seller or merchant] This is a book about a poet. Ebenezer Cooke is born in the late 1600's with a twin sister Anna. The twins are very close while growing up. A tutor has been employed to teach them and he's opened their minds up to history, philosophy and a love of learning. The effect on Eben is to put him on some kind of elevated plane where he has trouble dealing with the less than innocent state of the world.
In his late 20's Eben becomes ensnared in a wager where a group of friends are trying to outbid each other for the favors of a prostitue with whom they are friends. In a fit of anxiety he makes the highest bid but when it comes time to collect his noble feelings about his own virginity makes him decline. This sets in motion a set of events where he puts his own spiritual state on a pedastal and becomes banished to Maryland to his father's estate. Before he leaves he blusters his way into becoming poet laureate of that colony even though he's never written any verse.
The book is filled with mistaken identity, chance timing and more bawdiness than you can shake an unused stick at. It's got pirates and indians. Opium and drunkeness. False marriages and fraudulent contracts. It'd make a great mini-series.
I enjoyed it but it was long. My copy was 800 pages but it read more like 1600. More dialect but I find this period's speech to be easy to decipher. I'm glad to have read it.
Stephenson's Baroque Cycle books fall in about this same date range and locations. I enjoyed them more overall. Neither are very dense but they are an investment of time.

Children of a Lesser God - 1986

William Hurt plays a teacher who is newly arriving at a deaf school. His approach to teaching is not traditional. Think Robin Williams in 'Dead Poet Society'. He's hip and modern. One of the first things he does is to start his students singing along with rock music.
He soon meets an angry young woman (Marlee Matlin) who works at the school. She was one of the students since the age of five. Completely deaf and unwilling to learn how to read lips or speak. Hurt falls in love with her.
She rebuffs his efforts to help her and we learn that she was taken advantage of when she was younger. He eventually breaks through with his vulnerablity. The movie shows their continuing relationship as he works to gain her trust.
There is a very interesting tension in this story. Matlin wants to be accepted only on her own terms. She seems to think that lip-reading or speaking will harm her self image. Make her less her own self. Hurt tries to respect that but he can't help but see how she's limiting herself. She has been very angry with the world ever since she was young. He wants to show her that anger is hurting her. The movie doesn't resolve this tension is all the better for it. A very good movie.

1985 in review

The Color Purple
Witness
Prizzi's Honor
Out of Africa
Kiss of the Spider Woman

(It took too long for me to get this roundup together. I guess these are the dog days of the movie project. I still feel bad that I couldn't get to all five movies.)
This is a real mix of movies. 'Witness' is a straight crime movie. 'Prizzi' is a twisted plot driven movie. 'Purple' is a story about abuse and retribution while 'Africa' is an epic of freedom and security on the frontier. Good movies but the only one I thought was great was 'Witness'. 'Africa' won the Best Picture and I think that's reasonable. If you showed this set of movies to 100 people I doubt any movie would top 30% as a favorite.
My favorite music from this set is the barn-raising piece from 'Witness'. The overall score of 'Africa' was wonderful.

One Lonely Rose

Last night we went over to the FP Gal's brother's apartment to celebrate his fiance's birthday. (Is the wife of my brother-in-law my sister-in-law? How far do those ripples spread?) We played Apples to Apples and then some Trivial Pursuit. We got home about 1a. Had to park about three houses down because of where cars were already parked and my refusal to parallel park.
Round noon I left the house to hit Wendy's. I found a single rose under my windshield wiper. No note. And none on other cars. Curiouser and curiouser.
While getting lunch, I thought over my options. I could give the rose to the FP Gal and tell her that I went out of my way to get it. That gets me good credit. Or I could tell her the truth and sell it as a good story. Hmmmm.
Well, since I'm sharing it here I obviously went with the second option. She did ask if it was from my girlfriend. Not a chance. Any girlfriend of mine would know not to leave me flowers. Much better off with peanut-butter cups. We can't help but wonder what the story is. A case of mistaken auto-identity? A random act of kindness? A warning of a hortoculturist hit?
The world may never know.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Back to the Architechture stuff

First things first, yuck.
Suddenly, Minneapolis is the most exciting architectural hub in America, with brand-new buildings by the likes of Jean Nouvel and Cesar Pelli—and world-class restaurants to go with them.
It'd be nice if someone would explain to the author the difference between 'exciting' and 'good'.


Monday, August 14, 2006

If you think the flying insect thing is bad, this is my moth protection gear.

Kitty pics



Box Elder Bugs

Yesterday morning's breakfast started badly. I'd split my bagel in half and was ready to toast it when I noticed a BOX ELDER BUG sitting on the toaster. The FP Gal tried to help remove him but it looked like he went into one of the slots. Not cool. She then shook out the toaster over the garbarge while I helpfully supervised from the other side of the kitchen. After that we couldn't see it in the toaster. So...we did a test run to smoke it out. Nothing. After careful inspection I finally toasted my bagel. Carefully checked it for embedded insect. Found it clean and ate it. Whew!
This morning I sliced my bagel. And found another Box Elder bug on the toaster. The FP Gal was still asleep so I had to take care of it myself. Kleenex over mouth, eyes barely open and a quick paper towel latter it was gone.
Seriously, if I find another one tomorrow we have to sell the house.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Random Sunday Stuff

  • The vacation is over. You guys got the highlights. I didn't share the day that we took back the lawn. Or the two weddings that the FP Gal worked with. She covered more of the work stuff here. She looks cute in grout.
  • I'm ready for football to be back (first Viking game is tomorrow!). One interesting change this year is that NBC is back in the game. And I'm pleased as could be with the broadcast team. Putting Al Michaels back together with Bob Costas again is very good. They've already made one Baseketball reference.
  • A few weeks ago I ran across something called the 'Advanced Civilization: The Expansion Project'. Civilization is my second favorite board game and I was pleased as punch to see some improvements. The map is expanded. There are more calamaties (and good ones!). And more Civ advances. I've been tinkering with it and it looks pretty solid. In theory you can play it with 18 players. I'm sure that will never happen though.
  • My wonderful sister recently sent me video from her skydiving trip. It looked like lots of fun. The FP Gal told me that she won't become a skydiving camerawoman. Which is a shame.
  • We watched two movies this weekend. 'Shopgirl', based on a Steve Martin novella, was ok. Very much a tone movie. Claire Danes looks old. When did that happen. The other movie was 'The Producers'. This is the movie version of the Broadway version of one of the funniest movies ever made. (I'm hoping that this movie inspires a book version and that ends up being put on tape.) Some advice? Skip this one and rent the original. There was only one memorable song (If You've Got It, Flaunt It) and you'll be better off watching Gene Wilder play Leo Bloom than watching Matthew Broderick play Gene Wilder.

Kiss of the Spider Woman - 1985

I've run into a problem with this movie and I don't know how to solve it. Simply put, I can't find it anywhere. Netflix doesn't have it (it's not out on DVD). The rental stores don't have it. The Minneapolis Public Library doesn't have it. Frankly, I'd doubt that it ever really existed. So I'm going to move on to the next film. I've put this post up here in case any of the few people that read this blog have seen it and can comment on it.
Note: I could probably find it on Amazon but I'm not willing to go to that much trouble.

Out of Africa - 1985

"I had a farm once, in Africa." Thus opens this sweeping epic of a movie. It's based on the writings of a Danish Baroness (Meryl Streep). She has quick marriage of convenience that takes her to Africa where she runs a coffee plantation. While there she takes an interest in educating a tribe that lives on her property. This ruffles some feathers amongst the English that make up her neighbors.
She also makes an acquaintance with a pair of ivory traders, one of whom is played by Robert Reford. They discover that she has a great talent for storytelling. This launches a friendship that gradually becomes a love affair. This becomes an odd situation as her legal husband has taken to living in town to persue an open bachelorhood. The relationship is doomed as his need for independence clashes with her need for security.
I've never been a big Streep fan. I've thought of her as a fine actress but haven't seen anything special from her. This movie changed my mind as she turns in a great performance (Oscar nominated). I found myself thinking about 'The English Patient' while watching this. The similarities are striking. This is a very good movie.

Friday, August 11, 2006

How to Kiss

This is an old favorite of mine. My first kiss with the FP Gal was quite a bit like the one shown here.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Stillwater

The vacation continues. Today we drove over to Stillwater to look at antiques and eat by the river. The last time we were in Stillwater was to pick out our rings. A very good friend of the FP Gal designs and creates jewelry. He sat us down and we talked about what he's done in the past and what types of things he can do. He then advised us to go around the corner, have lunch and discuss what we wanted. We kicked it around some and finally settled on the wonderfully unique set that we have.
So back we went. We stopped by the studio but Jim was gone. So off to the stores. We ran across a print of this Maxfield Parish for a mere $600 dollars. And, no, the frame was nothing special. We also had some lunch with a riverview. Of interest was a mother and grandmother trying to explain a large (and creepy) statue of Elvis to a young boy. They were trying to explain that Elvis was popular a long time ago but now he's dead and up in heaven. The boy looked at the figure and said emphatically, "But now he's back!". Millions of tabloid readers couldn't agree more.


More shops and one bookstore (of course). Stillwater has postitioned itself as a Mecca for the Red Hat Ladies. The merchandise just screams 'sassy grandma'. We did see two signs that we liked. One for Ozzie: Panic, Chaos, Disorder. My job here is done. And one that the FP Gal really liked: Grandma had it. Mom threw it. I just bought it.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Downtown

We continued our home vacation yesterday with a trip downtown to gawk at the tall buildings. This is kind of a reunion for me since my favorite job locations have all been down there. I just love the hustle and bustle.
We decided to take advantage of some free passes and used the light-rail. It's not that easy to drive somewhere to park and use the train. The farther you are from downtown the easier it is to park. Which means longer train rides. We drove to Fort Snelling to use their park and ride. It's located a convenient half mile or so from the station. It must be a joy in winter or other bad weather. (Too be clear, I'm not against mass transit. It's just that the light-rail line here is a string of really bad choices. It's made traffic worse. It does nothing to help commuters. Other than that, it's fine. The proposed route along University Ave will be just as bad. Run the damn thing along the interstates! [end of rant])
We got downtown just in time for lunch. L. Phillips is one of my favorites and is regularly voted best burgers in town. The FP Gal hadn't tried it before so we gave that a shot. Our reviews were positive. After that we walked the skyways a bit. It's amazing to me how much the skyway system has blossomed. It might be the most vibrant shopping system in the metro area.
We took a break at Peavy Plaza (pictured above). The FP Gal told me that he dear father broke his leg there once. Seems they used to have ice-skating before he filed a class action suit and closed it down. The Plaza is one of the things I miss about downtown. They have live bands down there in the summer. Very nice.
And then we walked down Nicollet Mall. Sarah wanted to pick up something at Target. I tried going to their corporate office but she insisted that we go to their retail location. I let her win. We picked up some candy at Candyland and then back to the train. A short vacation day but I'm still getting over sunburn.
On the drive home, the FP Gal was trying to compliment my lack of passive/aggresive behavior. I told her that it's just very subtle. She countered by telling me that she's 'living in her own bubble-worm'. I don't know what that is but it doesn't sound comfortable.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

KG in the Far East

This is kind of interesting. It looks like Kevin Garnett is doing a little traveling. I love the shot of him with Taj Mahal.

Monday, August 07, 2006

A Day at the Zoo

It's vacation week in the FP household. Instead of jetting off somewhere we decided to keep it local and do touristy things in MN. Yesterday was Canturbury. Today was an old favorite, Como Park and Zoo. No pictures, we forgot the camera at home. A few notes:
  • The lakes in Mpls are prettier to walk around, but I've got a soft spot for Lake Como. I hear it's namesake in Italy is kind of pretty, too. At the coffee shop (the Black Bear?) they sell a blue raspberry soda that we enjoyed. We sat at the pavillion and watched the swallows. Very nice.
  • They put a bridge over Lexington Ave (aka Lex) a few years back. It looks like soviet era construction, raw concrete and black railings. Very ugly. I suggest they offer the St Paul highschool art classes an oppurtunity to paint the thing. Cover it with murals or something.
  • Near the west end of the bridge is a large concrete circle. Once you get to it, you find a strange pattern worked into the top. It's part of the St Paul/Nagasaki sister city program. It's some kind of 'Labyrinth of Peace'. And no, that doesn't make sense to me either.
  • The Japanese gardens are quite lovely. Someday if we're wealthy, I'd love to have one. With big fat koi. And dozens of sculpted bonzai. Quite lovely.
  • There were four billion mothers w/children at the zoo. Together they had 2.5 billion strollers (all numbers estimated). That's not a good combo.
  • The big cats (my favorites) were all asleep. It's always striking how similar the big ones are to the housecats. We saw a snow leopard and a lion both sleeping on their backs, legs splayed everywhere. This matches a common view in our house. The only tiger we saw was sleeping on his side. I thought he needed his belly rubbed while the FP Gal thought his chin needed scratching.
  • Somewhere in all of this my head got nice and burned. Not cherry tomato, but a good deep color. We've applied aloe and all will be well.
A good day.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Prizzi's Honor - 1985

This is a mob movie with a nice twisty plot. It's directed by John Huston which surprised me as I think of him as doing western's like 'Treasure of the Sierra Madre'. There's a very nice early shot of the Prizzi mob boss, William Hickey (the father from 'Forget Paris'). The plot revolves around a mob hitman (Jack Nicholson) who falls in love with the wrong woman (Kathleen Turner). There is betrayal, surprise and a nice bit of conflict between love and family.
But...Nicholson is terrible in this movie. His Italian accent is Joey-esqe. His character is supposed to be high up in the family's orginization but he comes across as a slow witted oaf. His transition into being in love is utterly unconvincing. I'm generally a fan of Nicholson, but this movie would have greatly improved with someone else. It's good and you can see where it could have been great but that sinks it.

A Day at the Races


So we had an interesting day. For quite some time I've wanted to go out to Canturbury Downs with the FP Gal and play the ponies. She's been very good at picking Derby winners so...why not? So we planned on going out there today. My Mom lives nearby so we decided to have lunch with her beforehand.
Out we went to Bloomington. Met her at her place and off to Culver's for eats. As we were driving she mentioned that the restaurant was right across the street from Canturbury. I told her we were headed there after lunch. Turns out that she'd long wanted to go there too. So off we went.
Arrived a little too late for the first race but no problem, they race every half hour or so. We sat down and puzzled out our programs. Each of us had a different kind of system for picking horses. The FP Gal looks at the names and waits for one to jump out. I looked for combinations of numbers and colors (failing which I bet the longest shot). Mom was the most scientific, trying to puzzle out all of the different stats they gave out. We sheepishly approached the betting window and were guided through the process. After that we found a nice spot outside in the shade and waited for our first race.
I won't give the blow by blow. I will say that we had a good time. We each won with some horses and ended the day down a small amount. For the three of us it was much cheaper than a movie would have been. Would we do it again? Absolutely.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Wild, wild, wild


That's the verdict. The FP Gal found out the truth behind our crazy little guy.

Youtube for Mom

Ok, let's see how this goes...

  • You might like to do this and take a gander at this. And since you were there, you could take a sidetrip here.
  • I think one of these would suit your house well. Be careful of this, though.
  • I know you get a bunch of this already. Maybe someday you'll get this, too. (Be thankful you don't get this.)
  • Please don't drive like this.
  • One of your fuzzy grandkids also watches birds.
  • I hope your Birthday felt a little like this.
Happy, um, 39th.

New ballpark stuff

It sounds like the Twins are going about designing a ballpark the right way. Steve Bert:
I had joined Bell and other Twins officials, along with architects and contractors working on Minnesota's new ballpark, at the tail end of a six-city tour. Their aim was to study every inch of a half-dozen new open-air ballparks, analyzing successes and failures and imagining the feel and function they want in the structure soon to rise in Minneapolis' Warehouse District.
One thing that they should do is look for a unique hook to the ballpark. One of the joys of watching baseball is looking at the different parks. If I were the Twins I'd try hard to incorporate the 10,000 lakes. Free advice to them, drop Barney rip-off T.C. Bear and go with half a dozen fish as your indiviual mascots.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Wednesday Random stuff

  • So our heat wave broke yesterday. It was cloudy and drizzly all day. Temps in the 70's. Wonderful. Forecast is for more rain today and I'm happy as a clam.
  • Are clams really happy? They don't seem to have the capacity. And how would you test for it?
  • Had a job interview yesterday. It went well but I don't know how interested I am. The hours would be better and that's a real issue. I don't know that the actual work would be better. And they haven't offered me a job yet.
  • Ozzie learned a lesson this weekend about eating plastic. Hans, remember Calypso and the twine? I won't go into detail. (Well, maybe he learned a lesson. It's tough to tell with cats.) Anyway, he's fine and zoomy as ever.
  • This is a site I hit daily. Kinda purty, no?
  • And that's about it.