Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Random Tuesday stuff

Yay a random notes post!
  • Ok, so just yesterday I said that I didn't need a private island. Today I read about this place on Bald Eagle Lake.
    At about 9,000 square-feet, the three-level home includes four bedrooms and seven bathrooms, three fireplaces, the racquetball court, an indoor hot tub and a media room, and multiple decks with views in every direction.
    I could deal with that. Hey Steve, this would give you in island in Minnesota. What more could you ask for?
  • My favorite athlete, KG, is gone. I don't follow the money side of basketball in any degree so I can't argue the good or bad of it, I just know that I'll miss watching him. I take the rules of fandom seriously, and I'd never jump from the Vikings or the White Sox because of a trade but...I'm more of a KG fan than a Wolves fan. So I wish the Wolves well, but I'll be cheering for the Celtics next year (if anyone).
  • I reviewed 'Snow Falling on Cedars' a while back. Really enjoyed it. Very beautiful. Picked up the book (used) and hoped to enjoy that. Nope. Didn't happen. One of those rare books that the movie surpassed. Or maybe it's one that you have to read before watching it.
  • Ingmar Bergman died this week. The only film of his that I saw was 'The Seventh Seal' in which a returning knight famously plays chess with death. Very interesting movie. Lots of glowing reviews around the internet.
  • The featured article on Wikipedia the other day was Kate Bush. She may be the most unusual singer in my CD collection. I find her almost impossible to communicate to other people even though her music touches me. The second half of 'Hounds of Love' is a set of tracks collectively titled 'The Ninth Wave'. It tells a story of a woman struggling to get out of the sea (well, maybe it does, it's hard to tell). It's haunting and unusual and beautiful. Probably my favorite set of songs on any CD.
  • That's it!

Monday, July 30, 2007

The World



If I'm going to mention big things in Dubai, I should mention The World, an artificial archipelago that's under construction just down the coast from the Burj al-Arab. Here's the official website, wikipedia entry here. Each island is between 5 and 20 acres in size with prices ranging from $15-$45 million. As you can see, there are plenty of islands still available.
I don't know that I would buy one (even if I was insanely rich enough to do so) as I don't really need the 'exclusivity' that this is really based on. Still, what a cool idea! The sheer amount of engineering here is quite impressive. Wonder how long it'll be before someone does something like this off the coast of California.
Given what's left...I think I'd take Sri Lanka.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Too hot

I hate to keep whining about the weather, I really do, but I'm so tired of hot sunny days. What I wouldn't give for some cool, wet, cloudy weather. Seriously, four or five days of nice drizzley weather would hit the spot. And I'm not even pregnant!
Of course in Minnesota when you complain about hot weather in July someone will tell you that you should appreciate it because the cold six months of winter is going to come around. Couple of obvious points, one extreme bit of weather doesn't really make up for another one. There is such a thing as a happy medium. It's perfectly fine to not like 90+ degrees or 10- degrees.
The second thing is that if I had to choose, I'd go with the cold winter day every time. Sure you have to bundle up and make sure you're dressed right outside. So what? These hot days really take it out of you. Just looking at that sweltering sky day after day is exhausting. Ugh.
Anyone know any rain dances?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Burj al Arab Hotel


If I were putting together a modern set of Wonders of the World, I'd probably nominate the Burj al Arab hotel in Dubai. Here's a good set of pictures both inside and out (hint, if you click on the link you can see more pictures). Construction on the hotel began in 1994 and they hope it will become a symbol of Dubai (think Sydney Opera House). Per Wikipedia:
Despite its size, the Burj al-Arab holds only 28 double-storey floors which accommodate 202 bedroom suites. The smallest suite occupies an area of 169 square meters (1,819 square feet), the largest covers 780 square meters (8,396 square feet). It is one of the most expensive hotels in the world. The cost of staying in a suite begins at $1,000 per night and increases to over $15,000 per night; the Royal Suite is the most expensive, at $28,000 per night.
So save your pennies, I guess.

Love Story - 1970

"Love means never having to say you're sorry." That's the tag line from this weeper. It's about a rich young blueblood man from New England who meets a smart-ass girl and falls in love. She challenges him and keeps him on his toes. She's different than any girl he's met before. She's catholic and has an Italian last name. The perfect girl to annoy his father. Did I mention that he has daddy issues? (Spoilers follow.)
So they fall in love and decide to get married. The son becomes disowned from his wealthy parents. But not really seriously because they don't want to be estranged. In many ways I felt sorry for them. They don't know why the distance is there and their son can only react with anger and resentment. Anyway, his wife gets sick and he goes back to his father to ask for money. They become reconciled but only after the sickness has run it's course and she's no longer a factor.
(Spoilers concluded.) Not a bad movie. I'm a sucker for love stories after all. It doesn't really age well but I can see why it was popular back when. The tag line is pure BS of course. Being in love should make you more willing to say you're sorry. The piano music from this movie was very popular (I think). Overall the score is quite strong and well put together. A good movie.

Escape from wedding island

So I tagged along with the FP Gal today to help film a wedding. She does this all the time but it was a first for me. She has about a dozen people that she would ask to man a camera before she got to me but all of them were busy today. I think she was also afraid of going into labor while I was miles away. Especially if she was borrowing my car.
Anyway, we got up early (think normal for weekday) and drove out to Stillwater. She filmed the bridge getting ready while I wandered around town and talked to Mom on my cell phone. When the bride was finally ready, she came down and 'met' the groom. We took some meeting pictures on the patio of the Inn. A very attractive couple. Think bridal magazine attractive. (For comparison, the FP Gal looked beautiful at our wedding while I looked like someone who escaped from 'Mr Toad's Wild Ride' in an ill fitting tux.)
The photographer for this wedding takes about sixty flash pictures a minute which makes filming challenging. She's also filled with energy in a way that makes you want to keep an eye on her, just in case. But she was very sweet and honestly seemed to care about the FP Gal's swollen belly.
Off to the church and eventually the ceremony. She had me set up audience-left and charged me with getting close ups on the groom. I think I got a good shot of the groom with his half of the wedding party (a.k.a. A Cast of Thousands). In fact the only problem was that the bride was about a step further downstage than the groom and covered him completely. Very frustrating to watch but there was nothing to be done. No one looks at the groom in these things anyway, right?
I'm not cut out for this work. It's too much like doing production for a play with too few rehearsals and an incompetent director. (Somewhere the FP Gal is reading this, and though she won't admit it, she's smiling.)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Random Friday afternoon stuff

  • We're at two weeks and counting and everything is going well so far. We found out yesterday that the baby is head down (a big plus). I think the baby is dropping (or has dropped), which puts our delivery date sometime in the next couple weeks, three at the outside. There's talk of a pool at work to guess the gender. They can put me down for a boy.
  • Most of the reaction to the names has been positive. A little hesitation on 'Felix', I guess. Just remember that the name will become more attached to our little boy than to any previous characters that had the name. This would be true of any name (I think). If we'd gone with Attila (never seriously considered) it would have been more the name of our sweet son than the 'Scourge of God'. Trust me on this.
  • Speaking of names we're coming up on the football season and I'm starting to get the Pick 'Em League set up and I'd like some name suggestions. Usually I pick something demeaning to our brethren of cheese to the east but I'm trying to be kinder and gentler. Give me something to name the pool, please.
  • Big storm rolled quickly through the cities yesterday afternoon. This led to a breathless news report of capsized boats and people pitched into the lake. Everyone had life jackets and it didn't really sound like a dangerous situation. In St Paul however, there were sewer workers caught by surprise. They've been searching for bodies all day long. What a gruesome way to go.
  • Speaking of death, Mom linked to a story about a cat who is cuddling people to death (or something like that. We've explained to Ozzie and Sana that they are not allowed to steal the baby's breath. They had serious expressions on their faces so I think they understood we meant business.

The Age of Innocence - Wharton

It's New York City in the 1870's. A member of one of the leading families is on the verge of announcing his engagement with a young lady from another leading family when he meets someone new. He meets the cousin of his fiance, a woman who is under a cloud of disgrace because of a broken marriage. No matter how much he tries to deny it, he has fallen for her.
The rules of his tribe are certain and strict. His soon to be beloved and his actual love must be treated in certain ways and no matter what he does, society gets in the way. What should he do and what use will it be? That's what this book was about.
This was the Pulitzer winner of 1921. It's interesting as a look at pre-electricity New York. Wharton turns a nice phrase now and again and the book poses interesting questions about marriage and love and what happens when they almost intersect. But, man, I found this book dull. If you get bored hearing about the latest pairings and break-ups in Hollywood, skip this book. Not a bad book, but not nearly a great one either.
I couldn't stop comparing it to 'Gone With the Wind' which won the Pulitzer in 1937 and was a superior book to this in many ways. You still had the conflict of love and marriage but Scarlett O'Hara is a much more interesting protagonist than Newland Archer. Plus you have the more colorful southern society instead of the embalmed New York one. Even at twice the length, it was a more enjoyable ride. If I'd made the original list, I'd swapped these two.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Mystery revealed

On the same level as Hoffa's vault, the final resting place of Ameila Earhart and the waters of Loch Ness we can finally offer an answer to a great unanswered question. What are we going to name this kid once they arrive. Answers here. Also pictures and the story of how we decided on them.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

One more class

We had our last baby class last night. (At least the FP Gal hasn't told me about any more.) This was a class all about breastfeeding and some last minute schedule shifting allowed me to attend. I'd been lukewarm (well, lukecold really) about going but she played the 'I'm pregnant' card again. Apparently there is no higher trump.
After we got there she assured me that women would think me sexy for going to this kind of class. I told her that I really wasn't looking to pick up any more women as I was still dealing with the last one. Just then a single man sat down next to her. She didn't seem to find him attractive at all. Minutes later he was joined by another pregnant woman so I'm glad the FP Gal didn't make a pass at him.
We sat there waiting for the class to begin and watched the pregame slide show. It involved cute pictures of babies suckling interspersed with 'fun facts' about breast fed babies. Apparently they have a higher incidence of finding a cure for cancer. Since we've already decided to go that route, I found this encouraging.
On to the class. We learned some good holding techniques. One of them is called a football hold. The instructors didn't stress keeping your body between the baby and the defender to avoid a fumble. Best advice? Take the baby's head and stick it on there. This was followed by a very clinical bit about the science behind breastfeeding. The FP Gal thought it was interesting. I thought it was too clinical.
This was followed by a video where a British lady talks endlessly about how to create a good 'latch' while an obviously hungry baby squirms inches away from a breast. She tells us to 'wind' the baby before switching sides. Now we have to get a British pregnancy book to figure out what she was telling us. The takeaway here was that the mouth angle should be more than 90 degrees so that the baby gets more than the nipple.
Hour two: I enter male menopause.
We start to tackle some of the trouble spots that sometimes pop up during breastfeeding. About 3-4 weeks in a baby often goes to 'cluster-feeding' which (strangely) doesn't involve grapes. There is also the problem of 'engorging' where breasts become so full and firm that strange men proposition your wife. The baby doesn't like that either so they must be 'degorged', a process that (also strangely) involves cabbage leaves.
About this time, the FP Gal hit the wall and we had to leave. We felt good that we'd learned some techniques and reassured that other people have trouble, so we will too. Money well spent, I guess. What I want to know is how did they do this in the dark ages before adult classes?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Evil Overlord List

(Via Instapundit). A list of do's and don'ts for anyone planning on taking over the world. You know who you are.

Lucky

Part One here. Part Two here.
They’d told us a delay of an hour, and that’s when they got us on the plane. I knew I’d be cutting it close with the drugs but I also knew it’d be tough to back out now. I kept doing the math in my head and decided that there was still time. And then we sat on the runway for another hour before we took off. I’m sure that made all the difference.
But what could I do at that point? I couldn’t think of anything that would get me off the plane that wouldn’t involve being examined by a doctor. A quick examination would show that I wasn’t with child, but with duck. I couldn’t see any good outcome from there. I’d just have to see it through and hope for the best. I gave Lucky a rub and hoped that some of his name would rub off on me.
My seatmate wanted to chat, but I froze him with a look and stuck my nose in that book. Surprisingly, the book kept my attention and I started to forget all about my situation. That is until a little webbed foot fluttered against my belly. I quickly reached down to feel it. My seatmate took that for baby motion and cooed. I could tell she wanted to reach over and feel it for myself. She seemed to be getting ready to ask. I quickly got up and headed for the lavatory.
Once I got in there I could check on Lucky. Maybe give him another pill. Or would that be too dangerous? Was I just panicking? That foot movement didn’t have to mean that he was waking up did it? Maybe he was dreaming or something. Another motion quickly put that thought out of my mind.
There was a short line for the bathroom and that’s where I was defeated. My place in line put me right next to a woman who was clearly interested in my situation. She put her hand right on my belly and started to ask how much longer I had. I was too flustered to push her hand away. She looked thoughtful and said she thought she was feeling a knee or an elbow and then gave a little squeeze.
It wasn’t a knee of course. Or an elbow. It was poor Lucky’s head. This must have woken him up. From under my shirt came an indignant quack. This surprised the woman who drew her hand back quickly. It also drew the attention of everyone sitting around us and in line for the bathroom.
I tried to defuse the situation. “Well, that’s a new sound.” Just then Lucky decided that he didn’t want to be trapped in a harness under anyone’s shirt. He nipped me. I grabbed for my side and screamed.
You can guess where it went from there. A flight attendant was quickly summoned. A doctor was found. I tried to protest that I was fine. Lucky nipped me again and there was no convincing anyone. They had me lay down so the doctor could inspect what was going on. Between that motion and Lucky’s wriggling I could tell that he was getting loose. My shirt came up and everyone could see my shame.
Just then the damned duck kicked loose of the last strap. I tried to grab him so I could calm him down. He was quacking loudly and I’m sure the entire plane was trying to figure out if I was a terrorist.
Lucky took off and made one glorious flight down the length of the cabin. I can still picture him, his all white body and wings fluttering madly looking for an escape route. Of course there was none and he ended up hitting the first class curtain. This was probably best for everyone as he got all wrapped up in it.
I broke free and rushed forward. I quickly balled the curtain around him so that he couldn’t escape again. Out of nowhere an Air Marshall showed up. He was worried about bombs and weapons. As soon as he realized that I had a duck and that the duck would be no help in taking over a plane he was all right. I think saw me as the scared girl that I was. He moved me into a seat by myself and I sat there with the squirming bundle on my lap.
When we landed they took me off first. Airport security was at the gate and they escorted me to some private place deep in the airport. It started to sink in that I was in big trouble. I didn’t know what laws I’d broken but at the very least this was clearly against airline regulations. In between sobs I explained the situation as best I could.
What happened? Well, there’s one airline that I’m never allowed to fly again. They gave me a fine that wiped out my payment for escorting the duck. I begged the airline to keep it all quiet and they mostly did. A plane full of people witnessed Lucky’s big flight but it never became one of those weird news stories that everyone hears about. For about a week I dreaded the late night talk shows.
In the end, a spoiled boy got his duck. And I learned a lesson, never let sleeping ducks fly.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Harry Potter

Done. And I really enjoyed it. No idea how they'll make a movie out of this one though.

Lucky

Part One here.

I guess the story starts a few years earlier. When I finished high school I didn’t really know what I was going to do for a job. I stumbled across a help wanted ad to be a nanny. Watch someone’s kids and get good money for it? That sounded easy enough to me.

A couple of interviews and I found a family. Or they found me. I guess we found each other. We were a perfect fit. Two children, a girl aged nine and a boy aged six. I’d rather not use their names. The mom and dad both worked as attorneys so their schedule kept them away from home quite a bit. Oh, they also had a pet duck named Lucky.

You hear horror stories about awful kids or abusive parents but none of that happened to me. The kids were nice enough. Their Mom and Dad were nice enough to me, if distant with each other. I’d take care of the kids during the day and when one of them would come home in the evening, I’d be done. After a few months, they cleared out a room over the garage and I became live in help.

It took all my time but the money was fabulous! I was saving plenty for school and not having to work very hard at it. I’ve always gotten along well with kids. We’d read together and I’d make sure they weren’t watching too much TV. We did activities together and I’d take them to the park. We’d feed the ducks there, just like we did the pet one back home.

I should tell you a bit about their duck. The boy won him at a school contest. The parents weren’t thrilled but they didn’t know how to tell him he couldn’t have it. He promised to care for it and he did (with help from me). He loved Lucky.

That probably helped when his folks split. Yes, that distance between them grew into dislike and contempt. That grew into court proceedings and a full divorce. She won custody and decided to move back out west and take them with her. He’d have them for six weeks in the summer and other weekends and holidays.

The important thing for our story is that she refused to bring the duck along. She wouldn’t have it. She maintained that she’d been against it from the beginning and that it wouldn’t live under her roof. The father saw an opening for his son’s love and declared that the duck would always be welcome with him and he’d take care of it so his son could see it when he came back. Just another one of those stupid things that people fight over when their children become weapons.

I think the father regretted taking care of the duck just as soon as it fell to him. Or maybe he just wanted to use it as leverage with his son. At least I don’t think it was an accident that he started sending duck themed things to the boy. Or that a recording of the musical ‘Pippin’ made it’s way to the boy. You remember that musical? It has a song called ‘Prayer for a Duck’ in which the lead tries to comfort a young boy about his sick duck. A nice little tune that had the effect of completely convincing his son that his duck could drop off at any minute.

This prompted frantic calls from mother to father. The duck would have to go out west to reassure the boy. Father was helpfully unhelpful in all of this. He couldn’t bring the duck, no. Someone else would have to. Yep, that someone was me.

I couldn’t drive it out there because I didn’t have a car. I couldn’t rent a car because I was underage. The train was out because they wouldn’t allow a duck. Flying wouldn’t work for the same reason. Or would it? I don’t remember if it was the father or mother who thought of smuggling it on a plane. What I do remember was that the price kept going up as I kept saying no. Finally, they hit a price I couldn’t refuse.

And that’s how I ended up with an aquatic waterfowl under my shirt. We’d talked to the vet and gotten some sleeping pills for the flight. We rigged a harness with plastic and canvas so that the metal detector wouldn’t go off. We planned the timing so that I could be dropped off at the airport with Lucky knocked out. If things went well, he wouldn’t wake until we arrived.

We worked on my appearance to make it look just right. One of my friends was studying stage costuming and make up and she loved the challenge of making me look pregnant. In my opinion, she did a great job. Maybe too good since I looked about ten gone. Everyone reassured me that it was tough to tell how pregnant a woman was. We forged the note to make it look like I had doctor’s permission. The planning went as good as you could ask for and it looked simple enough.

Until the flight became delayed.

Harry Potter update - No spoilers

More than half way through and enjoying it.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Lucky

Part one of a Future Poltergeist short story.

So I’m standing in the security line trying hard not to look nervous. Trying to blend in. Not easy when you’re all swelled up and look like you’re hiding a watermelon under your shirt. I remember being about three people away from having my itinerary checked and trying to figure out how to handle the security guy.
Actually I was glad it was a guy. I kept an eye out for a wedding ring and didn’t see one. My luck was working for me! An unmarried guy would be the least eager to give a pregnant woman a hard time. The worst possible thing I could have run into was a suspicious woman with five kids at home. I took this lucky combo as a sign of good luck. Maybe this crazy thing would work after all.
My turn. We exchanged greetings and I could see him sizing me up to figure out if I would go into labor at any minute.
I caught his eye and tried to sound playful, “Don’t worry, the doctor says I’m good to fly for another couple of weeks. I’ve got a note…”
“Don’t worry about it.” He gave a small sigh of relief, looked at my itinerary and ID and passed me through. I figured that would be my toughest hurdle and I was past it!
Too bad about the note though. I really did have it with me. It had taken me some good time and sweat to write it up and make the letterhead look convincing. The doctor’s name had come from a clinic directory and I just had to hope that I didn’t run into his neighbor or something like that. I guess I felt a little irked that all that I went through all that effort and didn’t need to use it.
A quick shake of the head and I threw that thought right out. The less complications the better. My goal was not to have to rely on fake papers, remember? With any luck I’d make it through the whole flight without any trouble.
Actually, it looked like trouble up ahead at the metal detector. One of the security people was a matronly type who was starting to eye me. That’s the trouble with looking this pregnant. You look like a bomb to some people. At least I didn’t wear a shirt that said “Tick, tick, tick…”.
“Oh my,” she said. “You look like you could go at any minute!” At least she had a kindly grandmother look in her eyes.
“Nope, still a few months to go. I just look really big.”
“Yes, you do!”
“I’ve got a note…”. Looks like I might have to use it after all. I started to dig for it.
“No, that’s fine. Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl?”
“We’re waiting to find out.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful! Too many of you young ones spoil the surprise.”
“Yes, we want the surprise.” That was the second time I said ‘we’. She started looking for the father. “I’m meeting him when the plane lands.”
“I see. Do you need a wheelchair to the terminal?” She reached for my boarding pass.
“Thank you, no. I’ve got plenty of time before the flight leaves and thought I might grab some food first.”
She finally let me go. I got my bag from the conveyor and took a few steps away. Noticed a sign for a ladies room and went that way. Found a stall and sat down. Once I was away from prying eyes I could let my guard down for a second and have the shakes. I must have been crazy when I agreed to do this!
After a few minutes I was back under control. I gave my belly a quick rub, stood up and went back out into the terminal. On the way there, I picked up a book at the airport bookstore. If I could bury my nose in a book, maybe no one would bother me. The less contact I had with anyone the better.
Got to the gate and looked at the clock. Plenty of time. It had been tough trying to figure out when to arrive. There have been so many horror stories in the news about people missing their flights that I didn’t want to show up late. On the other hand, if I got there too early the drugs would have time to wear off. It had taken less time than I feared so I was in good shape.
Maybe I would get some food. As if on cue my belly rumbled. Well, that’s two votes I thought and went to find something. The only stores nearby were fast food, but that suited me. A quick burger and fries and I’d be all set.
Should I have mentioned strange cravings? Or ordered some weird combo on my sandwich? I figured that was taking it too far. I just got some food and quickly ate it.
Back to the gate just in time to hear an announcement. The woman at the gate was saying something about my flight number. Something about storms. And a delay! That really could be a problem.
I turned to someone next to me, “Excuse me, what did she just say?”
“Storms out east and the plane is late. They hope we’ll only be an hour late.”
I thanked him and found someplace to sit. An hour late? I was trying to do the math in my head and see if that would still work. I know it was only an hour but the timing was a little critical. Other passengers started grumbling but they didn’t have the problems I did.
You see, despite my appearance, I wasn’t pregnant.

This and that



  • We took a little trip out to the MOA today so that the FP Gal could do some stuff and I could buy a book. You may have heard about it coming out. There's been some publicity, I think. Posting may be light over the next few days as I work my way through it.
  • To fill the space I'm going to post another short story I've written. Feel free to skip it if you don't like amateur writing. I'm going to post in three parts to make it easier to read. It may help to know that it's written from the vantage point of a young woman.
  • What's that behind me in the picture? It's a castle made out of Spam cans (of course).

Friday, July 20, 2007

Taj Mahal

The last one of the new list is the one I'd most enjoy visiting, the Taj Mahal. Just look at the picture there. The graceful arches and that enormous dome. Beautiful, no?
An emperor built it in the 1600's as a mausoleum for his favorite wife. He must have really loved her. FP Gal, don't expect such extravagance when your time comes, ok?
The building is surrounded by gardens which are divided by raised walkways. The plan of the garden is based on the geographic idea of Jannah (Eden or Paradise). Sounds very beautiful.

Mighty Hunter

So I'm sitting here at the computer, reading my morning blogs and I feel someone brush against my foot. Thinking that Ozzie wants to play (or Sana wants love) I look down. It's Ozzie and he's brought me something. A twist-tie (the best toy ever)? No. A dead moth.
I quickly pushed the healthy fear one has when confronted with pure evil and reached for a kleenex. Reached down to get rid of the critter...and the wings fluttered a little bit. Very quickly picked it up and threw it away. In a garbage can where the lid seals. Now I only need to worry that it brought friends.
Ozzie, next time you want to bring me a trophy kill, finish it off first. Thanks.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China was probably the biggest no-brainer on the list. I haven't seen vote totals but I'd be shocked if this wasn't the top vote getter. (The Pyramids would be in the same category if they weren't on the old list.)
The oldest parts of the wall date back to the 3rd century BC. It was made with wood and stone and rammed earth. The brickwork wall that forms our modern idea of the wall was started in the 1400's.
It's the longest man made structure, roughly 4000 miles long. That's longer than the drive from New York to LA.
Contrary to popular myth, it can't be seen from the moon. Even Astronauts in the shuttle can't see it. It's plenty long enough, but far to skinny, only 30 feet across at it's widest. It's also a similar color as the surrounding area.
My cousins visit was captured here:

Waiting lists

We went to Barnes & Noble at Har-Mar tonight to look for music for labor. The FP Gal wants something like this. There was Harry Potter stuff all over the store because of the upcoming release. They've even put tape arrows on the floor of the music section to guide the buyers.
We're both fans of the series, but not fans enough to go to a midnight selling. In fact we're not even fans enough to have pre-ordered the thing. We started to talk about whether or not we should get our name on the order list or not. After reassuring her that we wouldn't have to pay until we picked up the book she okd it. She decided to look for baby books so I went to the info desk.
Me: I'd like to order the new Harry Potter book.
Bookseller: Sorry, we closed the list at 3p this afternoon. We should have plenty of copies though.
Me: Ok. We can wait. Say, out of curiosity, how many copies did the store order?
Bookseller: 6000.
Me: Really?!? Wow. How many do you have on the list?
Bookseller: Over 4000.
Me: That's amazing. Good luck tomorrow night.
We'll pick it up sometime soon I'm sure. I'd like to time it for the FP Gal's last class. Give her something to read between work and labor. I'm a little afraid of running into spoilers between now and then. Wish us luck!

Alaskan Cruise

We've finally put together a blog for the cruise info. Information is there for dates, times, etc. The cruise is a friends and family thing. If you qualify under either of those headings, you're invited! The more the merrier, in fact. So check out the info, see if you can clear your calendar and sign up already!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Glad we're not having this baby in Zimbabwe

For reasons like this:
A pregnant woman in inflation-ridden Zimbabwe gave birth in a queue for groceries rather than surrender her place to other shoppers, Zimbabwe's state newspaper the Herald has reported.
Although, and just go with me on this for a moment, if we were to give birth at Cub and refuse to leave because we 'love their great deals' or something like that, don't you think they'd give us some pretty good discounts? Or maybe Target would be better...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Chichen Itza revisited (or simply visited)

I'd forgotten that Carrie visited Chichen Itza just two years ago.
We climbed the high pyramid – El Castillo or the Temple of Kucklakan. It was amazing. It is SO steep. Pictures do not do it justice. While climbing up the pyramid you can practically remain standing and put your hands out in front of you on the steps going up. Once you get up there, your heart kind of falls into your stomach as it is high up there and there is no railing or safety features to be found! You can walk around the top of the temple and see an amazing view of the surrounding jungle, and small town and of course of the other ruins. The way back down was the scariest part. I went down on my butt as the thought of my foot slipping and me tumbling into those climbing up sent shivers down my spine and turned my legs into rubber. Whew! Scary. Scary. Scary. No wonder they keep an ambulance in the woods behind the pyramid!
It does sound amazing.

Christ the Redeemer


Staying in South America, we cross the continent and find a very large statue, Christ the Redeemer, overlooking Rio de Janeiro. Completed in 1931, it's the newest of the Seven Wonders. It's also the only one with a chapel at it's base that allows Catholics to have weddings and baptisms there. (Hon, if you get a request to film a wedding there, I'll volunteer to man the second camera.)
It's not the world's largest statue but it may have the most beautiful setting. It's within Tijuca Forest National Park, the largest urban forest in the world. It's become a symbol of Brazil.
This was one of my votes for the new Seven and I think the setting is what carries the entire thing. Rio has been described as the most beautiful harbor in the world. If it isn't right at the top, it's on the shortlist.
Interestingly, there is confusion between this statue and the Christ of the Andes. I guess geography isn't everyone's strong suit.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Random Monday Night Stuff

  • How hard up for good TV was I last night? I started digging through old videotapes to find an old Vikings game. Stumbled across the second preseason game from 2004 and watched the first quarter and a half. Why not more? That's all that you need from the second game of preseason. After that they play the backups.
  • I don't feel at all good about the previous point.
  • I've actually been here before. I never proclaimed myself the emperor though. Probably a wise choice. You can walk around up in the dome. They have arrows that point to various mountain peaks. Kinda cool.
  • Speaking of cool places to go, I picked up a book last week called '1000 Places to See Before You Die'. It lists cool places to see all over the world. Obvious things like world famous monuments and museums. But also regional restaurants and festivals and other things that you've never heard of before you go somewhere. The list of places in Minnesota: The Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
  • Speaking of cool places, I've decided to put up posts for all Seven of the New Wonders. I'd thought of doing something on the best modern equivalents of the ancient list. That may still happen if anyone's interested (or if I get bored enough to go ahead with it anyway). Hope people enjoy them.
  • There are some (small) differences between the Colosseum and the Superdome. Only one has a bad color scheme. The Lions played better at the older one. (This link condemned by the good people of New Orleans.)
  • That's it!

Machu Picchu

Sometimes known as the 'Lost City of the Incas', Machu Picchu is located almost 8000 feet up on a mountain ridge in the Andes. There is some debate as to whether or not it was really a city at all or if it was a royal estate. It escaped destruction from the Spanish, one of the few Incan settlements that did.
It was brought to the attention of the outside world in 1911 when a lecturer from Yale, Hiram Bingham found it and published a book detailing it's charms. He took many artifacts and the government of Peru is trying to get them back. ("These should be in a museum!")
There's some concern over the number of tourists that go to visit there (some 400,000) each year. It's remote location makes it difficult to get such large numbers in and out without harming the site and the area around it. Balanced against that is the huge tourist dollars that it brings in.
Jodi's pictures from earlier this year are here. Her thoughts on this are appreciated.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Colosseum

The Colosseum was constructed around 70 AD by emperor Vespasian. It was improved by several later emperors and went through periods of destruction and fire. In the Medieval period it was used as a cemetery and also used as housing for some period(!). In the late 16th century Pope Sixtus V planned to use it as a wool factory to provide alternate employment for prostitutes. I'm guessing it's the only world wonder that can make that claim.
The place really is an engineering marvel. It was used for fights and races (think Gladiator and Ben Hur). Chambers were built underneath it for animals and slaves. They could actually flood the place to reenact naval battles. Try that at the Metrodome! The sight lines are clear and it's only 302 feet down the right field line providing for historic drama, especially during opening day of 1946 (not actually true, might refer to Fenway park).
Didn't know this, but in recent times it's become a symbol for anti-capital punishment groups. Since 2000, Roman officials celebrate the commutation of a death sentence by changing the nighttime lighting from white to gold.

Five Easy Pieces - 1970

Jack Nicholson plays a son of a well to do, musically inclined family. He has run away into a series of disappointments and ended up working as an oilman, living with a woman that he can hardly stand. The only reason he can stand her is that she'll put up with his abuse.
He 'slips around' on her (with a topless Sally Struthers of all people). He belittles her. He lies to her in the most obvious style. The one thing that he can't do is leave her.
I think this movie is remembered because Nicholson's character caught a popular wave of rebellion. His character is unhappy with the everyday idea of family. He's constantly searching for some kind of happiness that he never finds. The most famous scene from this movie involves a waitress who won't allow substitutions and his difficulty getting some toast. A petty rule that he can't get around. It's telling of his character that he ruins the sensible suggestion with rudeness and then violence.
One other notable part of the movie involves him picking up the most boring woman in movie history. She's picked up after her car is wrecked and she's heading to Alaska because it's clean. She's trying to get away from all the 'filth' that man has brought. And she won't shut up about it. Just the possibility of ending up sharing a car with this woman will keep me from ever picking up a hitchhiker.
A good movie? It's a period piece and you have to judge it on that basis. I didn't think it aged well. Nicholson plays a character that he reprises in roughly 78 future movies and if that doesn't excite you...well it didn't me either. It's not bad but it's not great either.

MLB Extra Innings

This is the first year since 2002 that I didn't purchase the baseball package from our cable. The package (for those who don't know) lets you watch out of market games. As a non-local baseball fan, this is heaven for me. I probably averaged over 100 White Sox games in the years that I had access to them.
Not so this year (and with a record of 40-50) that may be a blessing. But I've found out how much I missed watching the other games. During a pennant chase, I enjoy keeping an eye on the teams involved. Many is the late night that I've tuned in to West Coast game and watched two innings of a meaningless NL game in a pretty ballpark. Or tuned in to see the Mariners play the A's even though I didn't care who won.
One reason I watch is because they use the local TV feeds so you get commercials from all over the country. Whether it's for the various teams or local real estate agents, it's fun to see different perspectives. And of course, there is the Jack In The Box commercials, which are worth it all on their own.
They currently have a preview of the system going on right now (I'm guessing through Wednesday). That means I've gotten to watch some horrifying bullpen work from my Sox. It also means that I've gotten to watch some Mariners/Tigers games. Right now I'm watching the Red Sox try to come back against the Blue Jays. Good times!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Harry Potter and Order of the Phoenix - 2007

This was easily my least favorite of the books so I didn't have high hopes going in to the movie. I thought the book was bloated and wandering. In bad need of an editor. Given the tendency for long movies in the series I didn't know how they could keep this one interesting. Simple answer: get out a red pen and cut the story down to what the book should have been.
It's a dark movie. If you catch part of the first one on cable sometime you'll see that it's almost childlike in it's wonder. Not so here as this is clearly intended for teens. It's been long observed that this series is unique in that it's matured along with it's audience. The later books are much more mature than the earlier ones. This is the point of the story where that takes place.
I won't sum up the plot because you've either read the books and know the story or haven't and don't want anything spoiled. I'll just say that it was a very good adaptation. In a summer of bad sequels, that's nothing to be ashamed of.

Chichen Itza

Since Mom mentioned that she and Heidi visited Chichen Itza I'll do a write up. This is the remains of the dominant city of the Yucatan peninsula. The Yucatan has no major rivers so all of the water sources came from sinkholes (cenotes). The name Chichen Itza means 'At the mouth of the well of the Itza'. The city had declined before the Spanish arrived. Recent research shows that parts of the city were burned, suggesting that it was violently overthrown.
The land that the monuments are on is privately owned. I'm pretty sure this makes it unique amongst the Seven Wonders. I'm sure it also leads the Seven in hung over college kids visiting since Cancun is the nearby jumping off point.
Every year at the equinox, the sun lines up along the side of the Temple of Kukulcan to show the serpent crawling down the steps (if you use lots of imagination). Video shown here:

Baby update

I'd like to officially change my guess on the baby's arrival. I'm going to continue guessing that it's a girl. One of the strange things about waiting to find out if it's a boy or a girl is that you constantly lean one way or the other. It's difficult (impossible?) to think of someone that you love as being an it. We've fixed that partially by giving the baby the nickname 'Godot', but you still can't help thinking 'girl' or 'boy'.
I was convinced early on that we were having a girl because I've long thought that a boy would be easier to raise. (I still think that and the idea of raising a teenage girl scares me more than any other part of this parenting thing.) A few months back something changed and I started thinking it was probably a boy. The FP Gal is carrying low and we all know that it's been scientifically proved that that means a boy, right?
So now I've changed back to thinking it's a girl. Why? Because of the names we've picked out. We haven't shared the names (you can ask the FP Gal why) but we actually settled on names pretty early. We found out we were pregnant in December and had names picked out by New Years. Or so we thought. While we love the girl's name, the boy's name didn't quite work. She was never completely happy with it and the middle name didn't work for me. So a few weeks ago we switched gears and started trying out new names for a boy.
No, Beowulf didn't make the cut. But we stumbled upon a really good one. One we're both excited about. One that's new and fresh and we hope we can use. So of course we'll have a girl and that one will have to wait for later. (I know, Hostile Universe theory and all that but I'm still superstitious!)
Oh! I didn't mention why I'm changing my arrival guess. It's simple really. I've caught football fever and am waiting for it to come back. The Vikings first preseason game is on Aug 10th. If the FP Gal goes into labor that evening I'll miss the game entirely. Give some time for labor and voila!, right on her due date. Mark it down.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Sounds like...

Someone's going to lose their job over this. I know that we never hear about the good service times (that's the nature of complaints) but this really is ridiculous. She should be fired and blacklisted.

Petra


I was wrong yesterday, my Aunt Donna emailed this morning:
I just wanted to let you know that your Uncle David and I have been to PETRA two times. We were blown away by it’s size and beauty. It is a fascinating place. Maybe you and the FP gal can get there some time. We did it both times as a side trip from Israel.
It does sound pretty cool. There are pictures and history here. They used the site for the last bit of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The city was vital and an important part of the region in antiquity. A change in trade routes (mostly seafaring) brought about a decline. An earthquake in the 4th century damaged the waterworks and it became deserted.
Here's the part that interests me. It wasn't discovered by Europeans until 1812. Most discoveries of this sort took place in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. The exceptions were mostly lost in jungles or defended by disease. This spot wasn't that far off the beaten path. It was in an area that Europeans had contact with for centuries. The only special precaution needed was water and camels. (Well, it interests me.)
So, that's all Seven Wonders. If anyone else wants to email me about their trip to one of them, I'll be glad to write that up too.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Mark Buehrle Interview

This one has a little bit for several members of my family (from SouthSideSox, best WSox site on the web). For Hans:
14a. You seem unflappable on the mound – does anything flap you out in the world?

People driving in the fast lane and not driving fast. They’re holding up traffic. That [upsets] me more than anything. I’ve always wished I could ride with a cop – some of the [off-duty] security guards here, guys could say, ‘Hey, wanna ride along for a while?’ I’ve always wanted to do it, just cruise up and down [Interstate] 55, or whatever, and pull people over and give them a ticket no matter what because I cannot stand it. Even if they’re going the speed limit. Get the [heck] out of the fast lane and leave the fast lane open for guys like me that like to drive fast.
For my lovely wife:
10. If you were pregnant instead of Jamie [his wife], how many months along could you be and still pitch?

[Laughs]. As big as she is ... obviously, any pregnant woman gets big. Probably only a couple, because once that belly gets in your way, it’s not going to be too easy.
And a quote about a kindred spirit of mine:
The worst one would be [Jon] Garland, because I’ve golfed with them a couple times and the cicadas have gotten on him and he kind of freaked out about a cicada being on him. He’s a California guy; he’s not really into having bugs around him.


Seven Wonders

A few months back I mentioned that a group is trying to select a newer Seven Wonders of the world. The deadline is up and they've announced the new list.
The Great Wall of China
Petra, Jordan
Christ the Redeemer, Brazil
Machu Picchu, Peru
Chichen Itza, Mexico
The Roman Colosseum, Italy
Taj Mahal, India

Members of my family (including Stitchface) have visited each of these except Petra. Only three of the ones that I voted for. Not that it means much because this selection was gamed in the same way that any internet vote is. Not that it matters either, because there is no official list and the other sites hardly suffered from the increased exposure.
Of course not everyone is happy about it. UNESCO (literally French for one snob) is unhappy because their list is 851 locations long (including 31 in France).
The UNESCO stressed in a press release that it has “a very broad vision of heritage”, in which it does not include monuments alone, as in the case of the Seven Wonders contest.
The UN concept covers broader areas such as urban centres, man made landscapes or natural environments.
Noted. No mention in the article if UNESCO employees have their joie de vivre removed when they join up or if they're hired specifically for that reason.

Surprise shower

When I got to work yesterday there were streamers and balloons over my desk. There was also a sign that read 'Congratulations on your upcoming arrival'. Since we're not expecting any company I could only assume that it was about the baby.
The timing was a little funny because there was also an employee appreciation thing going on. They set up three chocolate fountains (white, dark and milk) and there was plenty of stuff for dipping. (I understand they got the idea for the fountains from the Navy.) The timing meant that we got chocolate dipped stuff in the morning and shower cake in the afternoon. Not a place for the faint of blood sugar.
They'd organized the shower last week. All done through email so I never had an idea that it was going on. We got a bath towel with a hood that has a duck embroidered on it. We got a baby medical kit. And...another car seat! Which is kind of a shame since we're pretty well set for the ones we have but the store credit will spend very easily.
My manager wanted to know why the seat was still on the registry. I spent gobs of time reassuring her that it was fine and would all work out just fine. I got home with the stuff (and about six pieces of cake for the FP Gal) and asked what happened with the registry. Apparently Babys R Us doesn't have a smooth update feature for their registers. (More time was spent reassuring the FP Gal that everything was fine.)
A very nice surprise and a good day. I work with some nice people!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Hero?


My brother emailed to ask if this man is a hero or not. He just might be as he's figured out a way past the security lines, poor foods and long delays that are becoming more commonplace for a domestic flight. Seriously, all this trouble for a trip to Idaho.
My favorite part from the article:
Couch is the latest American to emulate Larry Walters — who in 1982 rose three miles above Los Angeles in a lawn chair lifted by balloons. Walters had surprised an airline pilot, who radioed the control tower that he had just passed a guy in a lawn chair. Walters paid a $1,500 penalty for violating air traffic rules.
Would love to have heard that radio call. Heidi, do they train you on how to handle this type of thing? Just look at that picture there. Gorgeous, isn't it? I'd prefer to do it in a hot air balloon but to each their own I guess.
Hero? He will be to some people and I can't really blame them. His crazy dream put a smile on faces all over the country.

Monday, July 09, 2007

And speaking of articles...

...about people I went to high school and sang with. Carrie got profiled up in Duluth. It must be nice having a job doing something creative.

Jason Gerhardt

Local boy does well. One of my high school classmates (and fellow quartet member) got a write up in the Pioneer Press this weekend. My favorite part has to do with getting to the Daytime Emmys:
"We had some comments like, 'You guys are a little overdressed for the Metro,' " he said. "And I was, like, 'Yep, OK, moving on to the next car.' But it was so nice to be able to do that. The traffic out here is absolutely horrendous."
I can picture him in the tux he wore to the hundreds and hundreds of Christmas appearances we did each year while in Austinaires. Good for him. It's nice to see nice things happen to nice guys and Jason certainly qualifies.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Where did the cinnamon go?

I've noticed a possible crisis that I haven't seen (or read) anything about anywhere. It's becoming harder and harder to find cinnamon anywhere in the candy aisle. Even the old reliable cinnamon tic-tacs are nowhere to be found. Their website is silent.
Off to google news to see what I can find...
  • This is good news. And doesn't banana pudding with cinnamon sprinkled on top sound good?
  • Heresy! They're actually quite good.
  • Hmmm, a history of toast. Didn't know I'd be reading that today. Also a good excuse to link to this. Turn the volume up! Yeah, toast!
  • Why do I care? Because inability to smell cinnamon can be a sign of Alzheimers! Any input you'd like to add, Mom?
  • They've gone through a 25% price increase. Though that seems to have been cleared up. Stupid EU.
Well, no answers tonight. Guess I'll have to dig deeper.

Stormy weather

We had a great big ol' fashioned thunderstorm roll through this afternoon. It was more violent that either the FP Gal or I could remember in a storm. The lightning seemed low and the thunder was particularly concussive. So much so that the car across the street kept getting it's alarm tripped. (I think the owner was sitting on their porch because it would beep once and the be turned off.)
When the rain arrived it came in sheets. Anyone know why rain does that? It quickly settled down to a heavy rain and then drizzled on and off for the next few hours. The whole thing was wonderful and much needed!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Heinlein at 100

100 years ago, my favorite author Robert A Heinlein was born. He served in the Navy until he was forced to retire due to TB. He worked at a number of different things including mining and politics until discovering writing in the late 1930's. His work brought a full knowledge of hard sci-fi staples such as engineering and physics. What he also brought to the table was an interest in 'softer' subjects like sociology and linguistics.
In the 50's he wrote a series of books aimed at young boys. These stressed self reliance and learning as being critical in living in any unknown situation. They also captured the thrill of science and many of the scientists and engineers during NASA's heyday credit these books for sparking their career paths.
One of the smaller but still important themes Heinlein wrote of was the importance of common decency in everyday society. In the early 80's he wrote that a key sign of a culture on the skids was a drop in manners and politeness. I thought of that today when I ran across this post celebrating Heinlein. It includes a short radio piece that he did in the 50's from the 'This I Believe' series.

Our Noble, Essential Decency

by Robert A. Heinlein

I am not going to talk about religious beliefs but about matters so obvious that it has gone out of style to mention them. I believe in my neighbors. I know their faults, and I know that their virtues far outweigh their faults.

Take Father Michael down our road a piece. I'm not of his creed, but I know that his goodness and charity and loving kindness shine in his daily actions. I believe in Father Mike. If I'm in trouble, I'll go to him. My next-door neighbor's a veterinary doctor. Doc will get out of bed after a hard day to help a stray cat—no fee, no prospect of a fee. I believe in Doc.

I believe in my townspeople. You can knock on any door in our town, say, "I'm hungry," and you'll be fed. Our town is no exception. I've found the same ready charity everywhere. For the one who says, "The heck with you, I've got mine," there are a hundred, a thousand, who will say, "Sure, pal, sit down." I know that despite all warnings against hitchhikers, I can step to the highway, thumb for a ride, and in a few minutes a car or a truck will stop and someone will say, "Climb in, Mack. How far you going?"

I believe in my fellow citizens. Our headlines are splashed with crime. Yet for every criminal, there are ten thousand honest, decent, kindly men. If it were not so. no child would live to grow up. Business could not go on from day to day. Decency is not news. It is buried in the obituaries, but it is a force stronger than crime.

I believe in the patient gallantry of nurses, in the tedious sacrifices of teachers. I believe in the unseen and unending fight against desperate odds that goes on quietly in almost every home in the land. I believe in the honest craft of workmen. Take a look around you. There never were enough bosses to check up on all that work. From Independence Hall to the Grand Coulee Dam, these things were built level and square by craftsmen who were honest in their bones.

I believe that almost all politicians are honest. For every bribed alderman, there are hundreds of politicians—low paid or not paid at all—doing their level best without thanks or glory to make our system work. If this were not true, we would never have gotten past the thirteen colonies.

I believe in Roger Young. You and I are free today because of endless unnamed heroes from Valley Forge to the Yalu River. I believe in—I am proud to belong to—the United States. Despite shortcomings—from lynchings, to bad faith in high places—our nation has had the most decent and kindly internal practices and foreign policies to be found anywhere in history.

And finally, I believe in my whole race—yellow, white, black, red, brown—in the honesty, courage, intelligence, durability, and goodness of the overwhelming majority of my brothers and sisters everywhere on this planet. I am proud to be a human being. I believe that we have come this far by the skin of our teeth—that we always make it just by the skin of our teeth—but that we will always make it, survive, endure.

I believe that this hairless embryo with the aching oversized braincase and the opposable thumb—this animal barely up from the apes—will endure, will endure longer than his home planet, will spread out to the other planets—to the stars and beyond—carrying with him his honesty, his insatiable curiosity, his unlimited courage, and his noble essential decency. This I believe with all my heart.

I owe an immense debt to his writings as he introduced me to many of the fundamental concepts that I define myself by today. From his libertarian classic 'Moon is a Harsh Mistress' to his unapologetic praise of the military in 'Starship Troopers', his controversial look at religion and human customs in 'Stranger in a Strange Land' and (my favorite) a look at what love is in 'Time Enough for Love' his works are still important and worthwhile. A great man and a great writer.

20-14, 12-0

So...anything interesting happen in baseball yesterday? Seriously, that would have been much more painful last year. Over the last five years (excepting golden 2005), when the White Sox have faded it's been in August or September. Most of those years have had the team in contention and a bad stretch of games dashed their chances and broke my heart.
This year they did me the favor of getting that out of the way in May going 3-41 during on period of games (or something like that). Any chance of being a playoff team was over at that time. Recently they played well against the very bottom teams of the AL, maybe enough to make fans think that a hot streak could turn things around. Yesterday's games promptly took care of that. This team won't challenge for third place and will probably need to work to stay ahead of the Royals. So be it.
I was able to follow yesterday's game at work. It was one of the strangest displays of offense I've ever followed. With 34 total runs scored there was plenty of scoring. The strange thing was how regular it was. Each team scored in seven of the nine available innings. I don't remember ever seeing one team do that much less both in the same game. The runs just kept coming. I can tell you that the Twins fans at work didn't feel secure until the final out.
The season is still shaping up to be entertaining even with my personal rooting interests out of it. With any luck the Yankees will continue to fail. The Mariners are playing well, which is good to see. The Tigers are doing well, making Roxane happy. And you never know what turns and twists are up ahead.
And...the Vikings season starts in 64 days!

Top 10 Best Military Movies

That AFI missed (via Althouse). A pretty good list:

10. A Bridge Too Far (1977)
9. The Dirty Dozen (1967)
8. The Great Escape (1963)
7. Top Gun (1986)
6. Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)
5. The Caine Mutiny (1954)
4. Glory (1989)
3. Black Hawk Down (2001)
2. Patton (1970)
1. Full Metal Jacket (1987)


The author of the list (don't miss his description at the bottom) includes reasons for his choices and also makes distinctions between what was put on the 400 movie ballot and what wasn't. I'd quibble with including 'Top Gun' and would probably put 'Tora Tora Tora' on here somewhere. I know 'Midway' is one of my Dad's favorites, but it didn't make it either.
How about it from the war movie fans (Hans)? What did they miss and what did they do well with?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Vertigo - 1958

The movie opens with Jimmy Stewart chasing a criminal across the rooftops of San Francisco. He misses a jump and ends up dangling by his fingertips. This gives him a severe fear of heights that causes vertigo and incapacitates him. He has to quit the police force.
An old college friend hears that he's retired and asks him to tail his wife. Not because he's afraid she's playing around but because he's afraid she has been possessed from beyond the grave. Stewart reluctantly consents. He follows her to a graveside, a portrait and old hotel. He begins to become convinced.
I'm afraid to say anything more because there are some surprises to be sure. The storytelling in this film is very interesting as there are long periods of time without dialogue. As Stewart is tailing her, for instance, we're treated to his viewpoint from the car and little else. This is challenging and rewarding. Hitchcock compliments his audience's ability to pay attention. Also of note, this is the least sympathetic of Stewart's characters that I can ever remember. It also features a top notch score.
So is it a great movie? Ninth best American movie of all time? I don't think so. There's probably half a dozen Hitchcock films that I liked more than this. The story is more interesting than compelling. It features a very lame nightmare sequence. Overall, it's good but not great. I can only guess that it gets such high marks because of the camera work and cinematography. It's worth watching but if you've got a Hitchcock itch, you can do better.

Wii make contact


As the FP Gal related over here, we went over to her brother's yesterday and got to play with their Wii. The first thing we did was to create a Mii which is your personalised character. It involves choosing the correct facial shape, eyes, nose and hair (or lack thereof). That's mine over there and you can see the resemblance. Although I have ears, honestly, I do.
The picture is from bowling (obviously) and in my defense I did much better in the second game. We also played a shooting game (think Duck Hunt) and raced cows. We also watched them play some golf which looked like fun.
What did I think? I'd get one. It was fun and instantly created a family setting. I think the creators have really tried to make it child friendly and it shows with soft graphics and gentle reminders to take a break every once in a while. The thing is well put together and I hope it does very well.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Monday, July 02, 2007

Good news for Northwest

Sounds like NW is back in good shape after cutting some flights and recalling some pilots. Let's hope so. What do the experts say?
"Would I fly Northwest the last week of July now? Yes, I would," Trippler said.

Ask for rain and it rains. Can't hurt to ask again.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Random Sunday Night Thoughts

  • We've had a good weekend of getting baby stuff. You can read the FP Gal's account over here. Of interest to me has been the car seats. Two of them, of course, for our two cars. The logistics of a baby are daunting to new time parents. I can't imagine what it must be like for my friends the Bremners with their five.
  • Do you remember what life was like before car seats? I have early memories of fighting over whose turn it was to sit in the front seat. We'd crawl all over the back seats, especially when we had the van. It says something that those actions have gone from commonplace to child abuse in one generation. A year ago, I would have condemned our over-protective society. Now? Let's just say that I've gained some perspective on keeping a child safe.
  • Speaking of babies, a new study suggests that they're already lying by the age of six months. They do this by fake crying for attention and all sorts of other tricks. Is it wrong that I hope our little tyke can beat the curve and start lying by the four month mark?
  • Sunny and dry again all weekend. At least it was just hot and not unbearable. Boy, oh boy, I wish it would rain. A good four or five days of cloudy skies and rain would be a blessing. The yard thinks so too.
  • Now that the calendar has officially turned to July it's time to admit something. I'm ready for football. In fact the Vikings preseason schedule has convinced me that our little Godot will come right on the due date. The game is on the 10th of August, leaving just enough time for labor to bring our bundle of joy on the 11th.
  • One more baby thing. It's been quite a relief to follow Holly's baby Claire over at their blog. Holly was about a week ahead of us and went early. Seeing how well Claire is doing makes us feel like an early birth wouldn't be a catastrophe. Thanks Holly!