Saturday, May 31, 2008

Whew!

Ok, the storm I was asking for just blew through here. Good booming thunder and even a little hail. And by little I mean pea-size although there was a lot of it. Not quite this quantity. Sounds like the area just north of the cities got it the worst again but I haven't heard of any serious damage up there.
Now we're getting some of those biting wet breezes that seem to blow right out of the clouds. I love those. Makes me feel like I'm in the mountains or something.
Hope everyone else is ok too!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Overheard

"I don't know how much tinfoil the cat ate."

Biggest loser update

Our contest at work ended today and I was pretty happy with my final score. In the last four weeks I've lost eight pounds. This isn't a sustainable rate mostly because my dieting self will has reached an end. I've been dreaming about a bacon cheeseburger off and on for the last ten days or so.
Still, I've learned some stuff that will help. Some homemade sandwiches during the day and smaller portions at night, nothing very late at night. Some veggie-burgers, and frankly they're so convenient on our pizza maker, that I'd keep them up anyway.
The Wii should help, especially if we track down the Fit game. Even without it we're both doing Sports on a nightly basis and even keeping track of our 'fitness age'. Combined with our regular walks and this should make some kind of difference.
The trick to making a lifestyle change is to make yourself want to do it. That's the beauty of the Wii; you're playing games all the time. Right now the FP Gal is knocking the stuffing out of a series of boxing bags. This is something she probably would never do in real life. What a great thing!

Have a great Friday

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Feeling Cheated

I hesitate to complain after seeing how badly Hugo MN got hit so hard over the weekend. In fact, this seems like a situation where I'm really risking a personal lightning bolt.

{weighs the odds}

Yeah, I'll risk it. We were supposed to have a real live thunderstorm today and it didn't happen. There is still a few hours left but I'm betting this one slides past too. C'mon! I miss the flashes and booming. Where is it, huh? Bring it on!

Yes, I just doomed us to some kind of catastrophe. Power failure at least. My sincere apologies to everyone else in our area.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Hang in there

A: Five

Q: What is the number of pacifiers that I found under Relia's crib this morning.

This puts her one away from her old man's record.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"Find Out When You Should Die"

Via Lileks, who wonders if the site creators have lost their minds, comes this lovely and uplifting greenhouse calculator. Just plug in your numbers and it will tell you when you should get your unlovely carcass of the planet and stop hogging everyone else's resources.
The first time I took it I answered everything honestly and found out that I can live forever because my lifestyle is completely sustainable. All that without really making any kind of effort. I took it again and gave all the most 'sinful' answers except one; no air travel. Yep, still sustainable.
That's the dirty little secret that the highest profile eco-warriors never seem to talk about. Air travel is killing mother earth. Especially private air travel. If we were really serious about reducing green house gases this would be the obvious place to start.
A couple of weeks ago we watching some network (USA?) and they were promoting a 'Green Weekend' with helpful tips like "Don't print your receipt at an ATM". Never mind the deck chairs, this is like stirring your drink while on the Titanic.
I think that a lot of the global warming fears are overhyped. Quite a bit of it is simply fashion and posing. I'll know that the largest spokespeople (not meant as an Al Gore joke) are serious when they cut out the air travel. Until then they're just mouthing hot air.

Talk Talk


I've always enjoyed this video.

Exchange Day

Today all of our clients decided that they needed to change their flights to something else. Well, all is an overstatement. Probably only 90% of them or something like that. Seriously, by midday I wanted to just open the phone call by asking them what they needed to change.
This type of day is exhausting because each and every airline has become incredibly complicated about their rules. It used to be that if you were still staying over a Saturday night and you had similar availability then you could pay a simple $100 change fee and you'd be done. Now the fee has gone up to $150 on some airlines but stayed $100 on others. More fares are dependent on how many days you stay and even what time of day the flight was intended for. Even more difficult are the (growing number of) fares that require you to price everything brand new without any credit for the two weeks advance that you originally booked it for! That almost always adds another $400 or $500 to your price.
The ticketing game is rigged in the sense that the tickets are far too complicated for a layman to navigate without incurring extra charges. To make it worse, when the airlines start changing their policy they don't really tell anyone. We find out when they start charging us for making mistakes. I hope that some large travel agency (like mine) will take them to court some day for fraud or negligence.
If I had one piece of advice for a business trying to cut travel cost, it would be to try and eliminate or reduce this type of charge. The first place to start would be not to change meeting times. We run into this frequently where a meeting is moved up three hours and four people have to spend a couple grand to get there at the new time. I doubt there is ever a $2000 reason for the time change.
Second bit of advice? Go easy on those travel agents. They've got a tough job some days and being a jerk to them won't help you at all.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

It's been a long and family filled day. We started out by trekking down to Austin for the Memorial Day parade. The parade starts at 845a (sharp, and you don't want to blink), so we left the house at 0615 to pick up Mom. Actually, baby departures add ten minutes so it was more like 625a. That meant that the alarm went off somewhere around 530a. There was also a groggy discussion about snooze alarms but you can fill in the blanks on that one. In any case, it was very early.
The drive down was mostly uneventful. A cop pulled me over north of Blooming Prairie. He clocked me at 67 in a 55 (there's no way that's accurate). He gave a quick check to make sure we were all buckled up and then gave me a verbal warning. First time I've been pulled over in at least five years, maybe ten.
The parade was nice, if short. Our personal highlight was Aurelia, being held by Dad, looking back at us and waving a small little American flag. She couldn't have been cuter.
After the parade we went over to visit Steve Bremner and his family. His kids swarmed all over Relia. It was awfully sweet. As an added bonus, they kept her busy so we adults could chat. Before we left they let me try out the trampoline in the backyard. Talk about a workout!
Then it was over to David & Donna for lunch. Lots of family and grilled food. We spent time on the lawn bouncing back and forth between sunny and shady spots. Later I learned that I spent too much time in the sunny bits and I've got my first summer forehead sunburn.
Then it was back up to the Cities and dinner at the FP Gal's folks. This time it was grilled chicken and veggies (again yum). Relia walked and walked and walked all over their house.
Then it was back to the house with all parties exhausted. It was a pretty good day.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Fun with Mii


Last night the FP Gal and I got a little creative with the Wii. We googled around and found this site, where lots of people have posted their celebrity Miis. After playing around (and more googling) we made our own Tigger. Before the night was out we created some more:
This afternoon I used the three of them to complete my foursome in a round of golf. Groucho was very good. The FSM played well but had some putting issues. Buddha finished last but took it expected calmness.
Yeah, we're having fun.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Wii have joined

As the FP Gal mentioned, I got a very nice early Father's Day gift. We now have our very own Wii. I've wanted one ever since I first saw it. It truly is a different type of game system than anything else out there. Both of my parents have played it and actually enjoyed what they were doing! As a point of reference, my father thinks that hell is an eternity of game playing and I don't remember my mom ever joining us for a video game.
We convinced ourselves that there is enough of an exercise benefit to justify it. We've got Wii Fit on our radar. In the meantime, we'll play with the Sports. The FP Gal has become a good tennis player and I'm seriously enjoying the golf(!).
I'm sure we'll get some pictures up at some point. Probably once we're ready to put the controls down so it won't be soon!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Happy News

My sister finally let the cat out of the bag today. She's a few months pregnant, due in November. That means that Aurelia gets another cousin, this time one that she'll be older than. We're all excited!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Challenges of Parenting...

...That No One Ever Told Me About.

Putting pants (and now even diapers) on a toddler is very tough. Most times it's like to trying to dress a mechanical bull. At least I'm assuming so. I've never been near a mechanical bull, certainly not near enough to dress one.
The problem is that she desperately wants to flip over and crawl away. You spend the entire time trying to keep her from turning her shoulder (wrestling flashbacks) or hips. As a bonus, she becomes infuriated whenever you try and stop her motions.
There is a strap on the changing pad, placed so you could tie it around her middle. I have no idea what the designers think that would do for us. Maybe if she crawls off the edge she has a 50/50 chance of landing pad side down. It also gives me nightmarish visions of chasing a half naked toddler down the hall while she does a foam turtle impression. The FP Gal thinks we'd need the five point suspension that the car seat gives us. It would hold her down but also make any kind of pants/diaper removal impossible. Again, I think of tranquilizer darts but then I always do.
So how do we do it? Quickly, forcefully and with no tolerance for nonsense. Then afterwards you pick her up and try and stop her from crying. Not quite the Marines credo, but it will do.

Security Tiger

We call him 'Stampy'.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sad News

The FP Gal's Grandmother died today.

Programming Note

There's a 95% chance that we'll be down in Austin on Monday (leaving our tiger on the loose to eat any intruders). If any of you other readers are going to be there too, leave a comment and maybe we can try and meet up.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Morning

She's playing happily in the play room when I walk towards the kitchen. I pause to catch her eye and see if she's ok. She looks over and there's recognition, then a big smile spreads across her face. For just a moment, seeing Daddy makes her very happy.
Yeah, this baby thing is pretty good.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Iron Man - 2008

We went to see this on Thursday and it was fantastic. The story line is simple, Robert Downey Jr plays Tony Stark, a world class genius and weapon maker. He is captured in Afghanistan and is forced to see how easily his weapons can be used for bad purposes. He constructs a metal suit and uses it to escape from his captors. When he gets back home he decides to create the best suit he can and to use that to investigate arms shipments.
But really the plot isn't that important. Downey absolutely makes this movie. He's a bad boy who becomes a hero. He's stylish and self-deprecating. Overall, he's very, very funny. His entire delivery sounds ad-libbed because he's in the character so well. A great acting performance.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Interleague Play

The baseball calendar has returned to interleague play this weekend as AL and NL teams square off. This sets off an annual tradition as sports columnists around the country write columns complaining about it. The complaints are tiresome but I don't see much fighting back, so without further ado...

  • Unexciting matchups. Every year we're treated to thoughts about games between the Royals and Marlins and how no one cares about them. Fair enough. On Oct 5th, the Buffalo Bills will play at the Arizona Cardinals, combining two of the smallest fan bases in the NFL. Obviously that means that inter-conference play in football sucks and should be ended, right? Any sports schedule is going to include games between bad teams. Get over it.
  • Bad for non-rivals. For some areas, interleague games are a no-brainer (Cubs/White Sox, Yankees/Mets, etc.). Others don't have a natural rival so it's not as good. The solution is obvious, keep the ones that work and rotate the others. Yes, that means that some regions get a better experience than others. In the scope of life, this is pretty tiny so get over it.
Yes, it could be tweaked to make it better. Flip the DH rule so that it's used in NL parks and vice versa so that home fans can see life on the other side. Give the league with the better record home field advantage. These are small changes and would only improve the system.
One huge thing that the critics often overlook is something unique to baseball. There is no other sport in which the stadium plays such a huge role in the game. NBA, NHL and NFL games are played on fields that are rigidly the same by rule. Each baseball field is different, especially with the boom of new parks. Tonight I'm watching the White Sox play at the beautiful gem in San Fran. I've stood outside the place but rarely watch games taking place there. Now I can see my team try to hit a ball into the bay.
I bet that Twins fans were excited to see their team playing in Colorado this weekend. That's because the state is notorious for homerun hitting (although that's been countered to some extent). The Twins only visit there once every six years or so and that makes it special.
To the lemon-suckers, get over it and just sit back and enjoy.

Here it is...

Yep. Just yesterday the FP Gal said that it probably wouldn't happen soon. Guess she was out to prove her wrong.

Have a great Friday

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sign of the times

Just gassed up the car and the person at the pump before me had spent $3. That bought them 8/10 of a gallon of gas.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Smooches and Ice

Here's my review of 'Titanic' from a few years back. I loved it and thought it was a great movie. Still think so. We watched it again this winter and it's still great.

Yes, I'll watch 'A Night to Remember'.

You Can Close Your Eyes

After teasing the FP Gal yesterday about her musical past, I thought I'd make up for it by sharing one of her favorite singers (and dreamscape boyfriend). This song is the lead in for our lullaby CD, though with a different singer.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Random fun fact

The FP Gal knows all of the New Kids on the Block singers. Not only their full names but which ones had siblings that made it big or not. She explains that this happened out of 'social self defense' and not a deep, heartfelt love of their music.

Uh-huh.

Top Movies of the 90's

I mentioned Goodfellas yesterday and commented to Rachel that it's one of the top five films of the 90's. Well, since I spent a whole year studying the darn movies, I thought I'd whip up a quick list of the top ten. First the runners up, in no particular order:
LA Confidential
Good Will Hunting
Forrest Gump
Pulp Fiction
The Sixth Sense
English Patient
Toy Story
Princess Mononoke
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Shakespeare in Love

And then the top ten:

10. Braveheart (brought back the epic film, great battle scenes)
9. Silence of the Lambs (very scary, launched a new shift in crime drama where the villain is cool)
8. Life is Beautiful (incredible blend of comedy and tragedy, No Spiders or Visigoths Allowed)
7. Titanic (great love story, great disaster film)
6. Apollo 13 (maybe the top engineer film of all time)
5. Saving Private Ryan (heart wrenching portrayal of D-Day)
4. Unforgiven (relaunched the Western, Eastwood is brilliant)
3. Goodfellas (best mob movie of all time, popularized public swearing)
2. Shawshank Redemption (maybe the best written of the decade, powerful)
1. Schindler's List (just heartbreaking, top director at the top of his game)

Sleep

Everyone warned us that new parents don't get much sleep. We nodded along and agreed but thought that the price was well worth it. Then Relia came and she surprised us by sleeping through the night. Well, most nights anyway. We had the occasional week or so when she was fussy but we chalked it up to growth spurts.
Now that the teeth are starting to come in it's not going so easily. She's up several times between midnight and 430a, when we finally give in and bring her to bed with us. Bonus fact, not only can I now sleep through crying baby but repeated blows to the back of the head don't faze me in the slightest. As long as I sleep with my back turned to her we're fine. Otherwise she can poke me in the eyes and I can't ignore that.

And I'm back after settling her. Heard her crying on the speaker and went to check on her. By the time I got there she had fallen back to sleep, laying on her belly with her legs folded and her butt in the air. That's our little cutie pie.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Lightning!

The Godfather - 1972

If you're a film buff, you've probably seen this film. If you're a student of popular culture then you've seen enough spoofs, parodies and nods to this movie that each scene will be familiar to you even before it's done. In short, I'm thirty some years late in reviewing this film. I won't break down the story for you, I'll just give some observations including **Spoilers**.
This is probably the movie that brought the mob into American life. Well, that's not quite true. It's the one that made people into fans of the mob. I've read discussions of that, the most interesting one being here, where it's argued that the enjoyment stems from watching a strict moral code at work, even if it's one that the audience themselves would refuse. I'm sure that's true but it bothers me to be asked to root for a monster.
I loved 'Goodfellas' but it never really asked that same compromise. You could find the life fascinating without ever wishing you were a part of it. The final scenes where Ray Liotta is trying to outwit the Feds, never make you hope he somehow escapes. The Godfather is different in that it asks you to sympathize with the Corleone family.
Putting that aside, there are some wonderful elements to the film. Each scene is well put together and there is amazing texture throughout. There is a richness to the culture on display, and it's vibrant even when it's cruel. One strange complaint I have about it is that the audio is terrible, moving from hard to hear to overpowering. Maybe that's very lifelike but it's one of those places where art should overcome reality and they should just level it.
Is it great? As I said, it's nearly impossible to tell coming to it this late in life. I preferred 'Goodfellas', and think it's a clearly superior film. Other high-falutin' critics disagree but what do they know? I don't think it's a top ten all time film. Best Picture nominee? Absolutely, and deserving of it's Oscar too.

Overheard

"Hey, there's your neck. I never get to see your neck." - The FP Gal to Relia. It made me think of this.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

British History Movies

Thanks to Andrew, here's the recommended list. One that didn't make his list, and is about a rather minor event in Brit History, is Lady Jane, the Nine Days Queen. It's a movie that shows the rough and tumble of 16th century throne politics, especially as the Catholic/Protestant divide went. The movie starts Helena Bonham Carter and a young Cary Elwes, before he hit stardom in the Princess Bride. Very well done and an excellent choice if you're in the mood for a Brit costume drama.

Ideas for Jodi

Link.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Volcano in Chile

Biggest loser

A few weeks back they asked me at work to participate in a 'biggest loser' contest. I felt very qualified and agreed. Then I found out that it had nothing to do with my Star Trek knowledge and everything to do with that spare tire around my middle.
So I told the FP Gal and she was supportive. Our groceries are now a bit healthier and I'm cutting out french fries for the month of May. I can tell you that veggie burgers aren't that bad. They don't taste like beef but as long as you take them for what they are, you'll be fine.
The second weigh in was yesterday and I lost four pounds in the first week. I've tinkered with diets before and know that the first part is always very easy. Three weeks from now I'll be dreaming about bacon cheeseburgers and chocolate shakes. Will power, will power...

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Very funny

Link.

Random Thursday night stuff

  • The FP Gal and I trade off nights taking responsibility for Relia's overnight bouts. She's slept through the night each of the last three for me. Not so for the poor FP Gal. I keep telling her that a little nip of brandy does wonders but she won't believe me.
  • 'Survivor' tonight? Un-be-lieveable. This season has had more than its fair share of twists. Only four players left and somehow mine is still playing. C'mon Amanda, just three more victories!
  • How did today go? If a band of gypsies had come by around two, they could have had Relia for cheap. I'm sure it's teething but she has this persistent whine going. Not fun at all.
  • Everything you ever wanted to know about gypsies (official name, Roma People) and more. Did you know that they have their own official flag even though they don't have a homeland? Currently there are about a million of them in the U.S. and they don't really buy children. Not even naughty ones.
  • Speaking of buying and selling things, here's a site for any Powerball winners. Um, I'll take this one.
  • That's it!

Twins/WhiteSox

I've long thought that an excellent ad campaign for baseball would be to highlight an ordinary game of baseball that unexpectedly turns out to be amazing. The reverse is more common where a game between two big name pitchers or two heated rivals going at it. Both of those can be wonderful and I'll admit that it's fun to watch the Yankees go into Fenway but the real reward is something else.
On Tuesday night the Twins played the White Sox down in Chicago. The Sox starter was a pitcher that had pretty much been given up for useless before they traded for him as a reclamation project. He started the game by walking some batters and looked a little out of control. Round about the fourth inning people started realizing that he hadn't given up a hit yet. On and on he went and even though the score (7-1) wasn't close there was the tension of whether or not he could complete the no-hitter. He lost it in the ninth but everyone there got a very unexpected thrill.
Wednesday night the Twins new centerfielder opened up the game with a homerun. The kid has excellent skills but is very raw. He could be a star if he puts it all together or he could never develop and flame out. Last night he was on fire and batted for the cycle (homer, triple, double and single). Only the eighth time a Twins player has done that. Again, no one bought their ticket, or tuned in the TV thinking they might see history happen.
Two nights, two incredible games.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Tulip fields

Overheard

As Relia tries to push her new cart over a couch cushion:

Go cushion, go! You have a green light!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Kitties Call the Police (Again)

Got home a little early today and it's a good thing I did. After I fed the cats they got all rambunctious and started chasing each other around. They went over and around and through whatever obstacles they could find (as kitties do). Somewhere in the over and around (or possibly through) they knocked over one of our new baby gates that we haven't placed yet.

BANG

And then our alarm went off. It has a glass break detector which basically listens for loud noises. This one qualified. Suddenly there were no kitties anywhere to be seen.
I got to the alarm and canceled it out. About twenty minutes later a policeman came to the door to make sure everything was ok. He didn't need to look around or anything, just took my word that everything was fine. No harm no foul I guess.

Best Line of the Primaries

goes to Megan McArdle:
"So there's no chance she's going to drop out tonight, is there?" asked one of my companions, plaintively. The consensus of the room is no. I see this contest carrying on past June--like, June 2082. Our great-grandchildren will battle in a post-apocalyptic America desiccated by global warming and littered with the corpses of uninsured union members whose textile jobs were outsourced to Alpha Centauri.

Thunderstorms

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Lion in Winter - 1968

The year is 1183 and the kingdom of England is coming to a crossroads. The King (Edward II) must choose an heir from his three sons. He has summoned the Queen (Eleanor of Aquitane) from the castle that he's keeping her in and the fight is on.
His favorite is a simp. The Queen's favorite is a brute. The middle child is a first class schemer but neither of his parents think much of him. Add the King of France to the mix and the knives are out and ready to party!
Seriously, this movie is even more conniving than 'Dangerous Liasons'. Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn play the lead royalty and they're both fantastic. Anthony Hopkins had his first movie role here and he's very good. Timothy Dalton, also first movie role, is the young French king and he's also very good. The writing is sharp and the wordplay is dazzling. This was simply a great movie.
There's a certain value to historical fiction. I'd love to see a list of movies chronicling, say, Britain's history from someone (ahem). Would be fascinating.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Beautiful weather

Very nice weather today; clear skies, sunny and a high of 67. Not a scorcher by any means, but enough to make you believe that warm weather is possible again. The last ten days or so had put kind of a dent in that belief.
Speaking of which, didn't the groundhog tell us that winter would be done around mid-March? Can we sue for malpractice? (The FP Gal says no, but I wonder what a class-action suit against Punxatawney would do?)
Anyway, today was very nice out. We even took Relia out into the backyard and sat in the sun for awhile. Everytime she crawled off of the blanket and put her hands down on a patch of grass she got this uncertain look on her face. I guess that grass feels quite a bit different than our hard wood floors.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Derby update

The FP Gal's horse was in the very last place about half way through the race. Somehow he came back and took third place. The second place horse, 'Eight Belles', was injured and was euthanized right on the track. (I'm guessing that's a tradition that NASCAR won't swipe.)

Derby Day

Today is the Kentucky Derby, held every year on the first Saturday of May. It's known as 'The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports' and that's not a bad nickname. If you've never watched it, do yourself a favor and find yourself near a TV at 5p (central) and tune it to NBC. To add to the fun, pick a horse to cheer for. Here's a list (in order of where they will start in the gates, numbers listed after the name are odds to win):
1 Cool Coal Man 20-1
2 Tale of Ekati 15-1
3 Anak Nakal 30-1
4 Court Vision 20-1
5 Eight Belles 20-1
6 Z Fortune 15-1
7 Big Truck 50-1
8 Visionaire 20-1
9 Pyro 6-1
10 Colonel John 4-1
11 Z Humor 30-1
12 Smooth Air 20-1
13 Bob Black Jack 20-1
14 Monba 15-1
15 Adriano 30-1
16 Denis of Cork 20-1
17 Cowboy Cal 20-1
18 Recapturetheglory 20-1
19 Gayego 15-1
20 Big Brown 3-1
The FP Gal has chosen 'Denis of Cork'. I'm going with 'Pyro'.

Good luck!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Overheard

Me: See, I used the cats as bait and she came right over. Who says you can't use bribes for affection.
The FP Gal: The Beatles.
(pause)
Me: Well, the also said that she can drive their car.
The FP Gal: Beep beep, beep beep, yeah.

Ozzie and Relia


Ozzie has figured out a big benefit to having Relia around. Feeding her is messy and there's a great chance he'll get some oatmeal. (Never have I heard of a cat that was as oat-crazy as this one is.)
Even during non-feeding times he likes to hang out near her. He has a pretty good feel for how long her arm reach is and he stays just outside of it. He has to keep an eye on her, but isn't terribly worried.
Last week while we were laying on the couch he decided to come up and join us. She surprised him by lunging. He turned and put his teeth on her but didn't bite down. That's pretty much his MO when playing with us, too and we're glad to see that this extends to baby.
Sana? True to her nature she's a little more cautious. Relia is a wee bit too unpredictable for her taste. Not sure when (or if) that will change.

More sleep

Right now Relia is conked out on the couch. She's sleeping on top of Grampa (my Dad). It's all very sweet.

And she slept

After last night's pitiful post, I have the pleasure of telling you that last night she slept right through. We gave her a little children's Tylenol and that might have done the trick. Ah, blessed sleep!