Sunday, August 31, 2008

Football pool(s)

Speaking of the football season, it's time to sign up for the annual football pool. The first one was set up by Heidi, please click this link here and then for Group number enter '38898'. The password is 'RUready08'.
Each week you'll simply pick who you think will win each game. There is no money involved. The only thing you need is a Yahoo account, which is free. It even works if you live in Germany.
The other pool is a Survivor league. For this one, click this link, for group number enter '20121' and password 'RUlucky08'. A Survivor league can be lots of fun. The rules are simple, each week you'll pick one team to win a game. If your team wins then you keep playing. If they lose then you're eliminated. The tricky part is that you can only pick a team once per year.
So come on in, the pools are warm. They can be lots of fun and don't require much work. Enjoy!

Football predictions

The season is coming right up (starts Thursday) and I haven't really written about it yet! Am I excited? You betcha! This year's Vikings could be very, very good. They could be the top team in the NFC. Or they could be like last year.
The defense should be improved in exactly the place it needed to be, pass rush. Add in some quarterback pressure and it should make the secondary that much better. The run defense should remain strong, possibly still elite. Injuries will tell the tale, of course but if they can avoid an unusual amount or concentration of injuries than they should be fine.
The offense is still the concern. The receivers should be better but they'll need to prove it. The O-line has better depth but they'll miss out their left guard for the first four games. That could be very bad. And of course, there is Tarvaris Jackson at QB. Last year he looked raw. Teams dared him to beat them and he couldn't. This preseason he looked good in very limited action. No one on the team needed to play against real live competition than he did. Was the good stuff real or a mirage? If it was actually good, will missing the last few weeks make him rusty to start the season? If he can provide above average passing then this team is possibly a Super Bowl level one.

Every year I predict the eight division winners and frankly I'm terrible at it. That won't stop me from trying again!

AFC East - Pats
AFC South - Colts (almost a coin flip with the Jaguars though)
AFC North - Ravens
AFC West - Chargers
NFC East - Eagles
NFC South - Saints
NFC North - Vikings
NFC West - Seahawks

That's only four new division winners and doesn't feel nearly brave enough to me. It's just tough for me to see anyone overtaking the Pats, Chargers or Seahawks. All three of them are clearly better than the rest of their competition. I'll check back in a few months and see what I screwed up.

Baseball

The White Sox and Twins have 27/26 games left entering today's games. The Sox have a 1/2 game lead and that's been the story for much of the last month. Since July 27th, only one of them have had more than a game and a half lead, and the White Sox only had that for one day.
There are two AL teams that really look to have a lock on a playoff spot. The Angels have a full 18 game lead and should clinch their division sometime in the next couple of weeks. The Tampa Bay Rays are the biggest story of the season. They've already set a franchise record for most wins in a season. They have a 4 1/2 game lead right now and the only thing that would keep them from post-season baseball would be an absolute collapse.
The Red Sox have the easiest route to the wild card. They're currently leading it by 3 1/2 and they play most of September at home. They would really have to stink it up to lose out.
That leaves the White Sox and Twins battling for that last spot. Both teams have played much better at home than on the road, but they have about equal games of each left (the White Sox have one more game on the road). The White Sox have seven games (including today's Red Sox game) left against contending teams and eight games against teams above .500. The Twins also have seven left against contenders but only three against other teams above .500. That gives the Twins a slight schedule edge but certainly not a dominant one.
The decider will almost certainly be a three game set in Minnesota Sep 23-25. The Metrodome has been a horrible spot for the Sox in recent years so they've got to be a bit worried about this. They need to have a greater than two game lead going in there to feel comfortable.
Should be a fun last month!

Random baby fact

If you feed an infant blueberries, they will produce something in their diaper that is amazingly like toner. Honestly. We might have stumbled on the solution to all of your office problems.

80's videos

VH1 Classic is showing an enormous block of 80's videos this weekend. They appear to be showing them in alphabetical order and they're right in the middle of the Elton John set. Do you think this:

And this:

Were directed by the same person? Or was it just the way that 1982 was?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Adventures of Augie March - Bellow

Couldn't get into this one either. The story is about a boy in a poor family that makes his way through the world in an interesting manner. The problem is that the plot jumped constantly and it was tough to keep any story in mind. Not for me.

Teething

To Whom it May Concern,
We have a request regarding any future children. Please allow more time between cutting teeth periods. Back to back teeth (well, side by side) has ruined every night for the last two weeks, not only for us but it's also put more strain on our poor child. We feel that a couple of weeks of rest would be good for everyone involved.
An alternative would be to all the teeth come in at one time. Or maybe he/she could just arrive with a full set. Either way would be fine.
Thank you for your attention to this matter,

-Bleary & Bloodshot

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Movie Reviews

Ok, my movie project hasn't survived fatherhood all that well. I've seen very little movies from the 70's and a few that I had on Netflix sat around for a few weeks and then went back unwatched. Guess I'm giving up on it for now. I'll get to some of the rest, certainly the well known ones, in time but the smaller forgotten ones are off my radar. There are some that I've seen and not written reviews for, so I'll just post some mini ones.

American Graffiti (1973) - The movies follow a bunch of teens at the close of the 50's on their last night in town. A great, great movie.
Touch of Class (1973) - A movie about a man who has an affair and falls in love and then struggles to decide what to do. Utterly forgettable, almost embarrasing compared to the other movies from this year.
The Sting - Probably the greatest caper movie ever. Brought back ragtime music for a time. A definite must-see. Great movie and a deserving Best Picture winner.
The Exorcist (1973)- I know this movie scares a bunch of people but it never got to me. It's well put together and certainly creepy. Eh, it's good but not great.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Rainy morning

We woke this morning to thunder. (Well, actually we woke to baby yelling at 5a, but let's pretend that didn't happen, ok?) A thunderstorm rolled through about 6a and it was wonderful. Now we've got a nice soft drizzle happening outside. The perfect remedy to the ten days of hot sunshine we've had since coming back.
Wonder if I could convince Relia to curl up me and a book...?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Essential Movies of the 80's

More from here. Here are the 80's, a decade I remember fondly.

Indiana Jones, Raiders or the Lost Ark - A slam dunk of a pic. One of the finest adventure movies ever.
Raging Bull - A very impressive movie...but I wouldn't call it essential. In fact I'd be surprised if I saw this on someone's shelf. It really isn't a take it down and watch it each year type of film.
The Breakfast Club - Maybe the top teenage movie of the decade. A strong choice.
Do The Right Thing - Never saw it but I've heard good stuff.
Batman - Eh. I know it was a big deal back then but it's really faded since.
Glory - A very good film.
Blade Runner - The strongest of the arty sci-fi films. Now it comes in 14 different versions.
Tootsie - One of my faves from the decade.
Sex, Lies and Videotape - Haven't seen it. Never heard this strong of a recommendation for it.
Das Boot - Seriously? This movie lasted for an entire tour of service.

Ok, my list would be a bit different. In no particular order:

Raiders of the Lost Ark
ET
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Say Anything
Die Hard
Dead Poet's Society
Bull Durham
Back to the Future
Witness
On Golden Pond

What did I miss? (Upon rereading this, I've only got five of my own 'essential' movies. Time to update the wish list...)

Cruise wrapup

Ok, last post (probably) on our trip. To answer a few questions, the weather was consistently in the 50's and 60's. We had rain at least part of each day but the last. Couldn't see any stars, shooting or otherwise. Video from the karaoke is here (scroll to the bottom).
You can read the FP Gal's recaps here. Mom's are here. Aunt Janet posted a ton of pictures here (keep scrolling and hit 'older posts' to get to more). Thematically related, Jodi just got back from her own trip to Alaska and is posting here. I think that's all, if I missed any others, please let me know.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Day Nine and Ten



Really, once you leave the ship you should just end the vacation. Unfortunately, our flight out wasn't until the next day so we had to keep on keepin' on. I'm just going to jam the two days together if you don't mind.
After we got off of the ship, we went to Heidi's place. It looked like a filming of 'Day of the Living Dead' as everyone needed a nap. We also needed to get online. Seriously, it had been more than a week and the jones was pretty potent.
Eventually, the FP Gal and I went downtown with her folks. We picked up a bag that we'd forgotten at the port. Then we headed further downtown and ran into Pioneer Square, home of the famous Underground Tour. I took this back in...2000? Really enjoyed it and talked everyone into taking it with me. It was interesting and humorous. I think the Twin Cities needs one of these somewhere.
Back down south and (after a heartbreaking episode when we thought Relia was going to sleep) back to our hotel. We zombily unpacked for the night and fell into bed. On an odd note the hotel lobby sign said 'Seattle Sentencing Guidlines', so we had that covered.
The next morning we were up bright and early and Chad picked us up to take us to Vancouver. Holy cats, that was nice of him! We stopped on the way out to see the famous Fremont Troll. Then it was wheels up and heading north. On the way we stopped at a Jack in the Box to have lunch.
The border was much faster this time and we made it to the airport with time to spare. Lots of time because we found out that our flight had been delayed by about forty minutes. This gave us more time to chase Relia around the airport, the highlight was when she discovered the moving walkways. Think of combining a treadmill with plexiglass walls and you'll see the beauty of this.
Onto the flight and we made our way home. No special problems here but we were lucky in that the lady seated next to us took to Relia right away and was a great help. No problem until we were about ready to land, that is. The pilot informed us that the only thunderstorm in the upper midwest was parked over MSP and they wanted us to circle for an hour or reroute. He mentioned that the hour would never happen because we didn't have enough fuel. He must have talked nicely to control because we were only up about twenty minutes longer than planned. For those scoring at home that meant an extra hour added to the flight home. Add in the time for luggage and the drive to our place and we spent just over nine hours of travel on that last day.
Home! The kitties were happy to see us and we got over that fear that all homeowners have that they'll come home and find that a tree has knocked over your house. That night we slept in our own beds. We couldn't see any more whales but if you closed your eyes and layed down you could still feel the waves. It was heaven.

Another tiger


For Rachel.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Day Eight





Another early starting day. This one was the Inner Passage, an area that's famous for whale (and other marine animal) sightings. So we were up early to see what we could see. Up to the deck and Relia got another walk around. Shortly after we got up there, we sailed into fog and didn't come out until noonish.
We had morning plans anyway. We competed in 'Friends' trivia. Tied for the lead and lost on the tiebreaker of what date did the original episode air on.
Then we went to Relia's onboard birthday party. This was a surprise to us and to some of the other guests of our group. The giftbags were composed of things like soap and mints. There were some great gifts, though and Relia was very pleased. The cake was made out of a stack of yogurt cups and she really wanted to play with the candles. Disaster averted and no fingers were burned.
In the afternoon, the fog burned off, the sun came out and we decided to whale watch from the stern. Actually, right next to the wall climbing. The FP Gal got her Mom to come up and climb. Then we did so ourselves. That was the highpoint of our physical exertion on the trip. (Actually, lugging the suitcases, carefully not weighing more than 49 lbs, was probably more exerting.)
The water from the wake was fascinating. It formed a long trail behind us and looked almost like a melted bit of glass. Waves would come up to it but not enter it's boundary. I could have stared at it for hours. Do Navy ships do the same thing?
We spent some time laying out on deck, with the FP Gal falling asleep in the sun. Every cruise should have some time like this, right? I even got a little bit sunburned on the top of my head.
That night was the finale for the karoke contest. They wanted us to sing the same song that we qualified with so I did 'Sea of Love' again (video here). I went sixth of nine and felt very good about it. Didn't win, though. A guy from Utah did 'Fight for Your Right to Party' and was incredible. The song doesn't call for a good singing voice but he was very entertaining and I don't feel the least bit bad about his winning.
Afterward we took a last look at the moon over the water. A gorgeous end to a beautiful cruise.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

For laughs

Click here and keep scrolling.

Day Seven

We woke up in Prince Rupert, Canada and it was easily my least favorite spot on our itinerary. The day featured a steady rain and strong winds. I'd read beforehand that the town was fairly new as a cruise destination and there was some pushback from the locals. The only thing that looked interesting on the map was a sunken garden a couple of blocks from the ship.
We spent the morning on the ship doing something or other. I had a book from the ship's library and was starting to feel some time pressure to finish the durn thing. There was a nap involved. I mentioned our cabin was completely dark, right? That makes for very good napping.
In the afternoon, Relia stayed with Grandpa while the FP Gal and her mom and I went into town. Actually we went our separate ways. I asked the nice lady at the info booth if there were any bookstores in town. She gave me a map and circled two spots for me. Off I walked. Prince Rupert didn't feel like a tourist place and there is a definite charm to that. Once I got to downtown (six or eight blocks of walking) it could have been any small town. The first bookstore was small but nice. The second was kind of an addition to a magazine store. I didn't buy anything at either.
Later I heard that there was a McDonald's somewhere in town but I didn't see it. My two signposts for civilization are used books and good burgers. Prince Rupert met both qualifications.
Back to the ship and...I don't remember. In fact, I don't remember anything else that happened that whole day. I think Relia and I went to bed early and the FP Gal went out and got crazy but that could all just be a dream.

Day Six





(Yeah, this is late. Fridays are tough.)

This was the first day that we set the wake up call. We'd heard that a prime whale spotting place would pass by around 545a. We almost ran up to the balcony but no luck. At least not with whales, lots of luck in watching beautiful scenery roll past.
This day we sailed up the Endicott Arm, a beautiful fjord. You can see how close the valley walls were on each side. This type of destination is what makes an Alaskan cruise special. You can just get so close to natural beauty. The only tropical destinations that really compare are the Panama canal, Napali coast in Hawaii and the Great Barrier Reef. At the end of the arm, we got about a mile away from the glacier. All the while sailing up here we passed incredibly blue chunks of ice that had already fallen off and were floating away.
Then the ship pivoted and sailed back out. As soon as we cleared the arm, the clouds rolled in and the weather took a turn. We went up the Viking lounge to try and get a clear view for whales. The place was pretty full but we found a place on the port side and began to search. Some vibration from the ship was interacting with a light somewhere and it gave off a rhythmic tone. It felt like the soundtrack had become tense, as if something was going to happen soon.
The tension was amazing. It felt like a call of 'whale!' would shift everyone on the boat and capsize us. This was the other time I saw one. It spouted and flipped a tail and then was gone. The call went up and people rushed over and that was it.
Mom offered to watch Relia for awhile and we took advantage of it. I'd been wanting to hot tub out on the deck while watching Alaska sail past us. We changed and went on up. The temp was just above 50 and it the rain was spitting. The wind was somewhere around 25 knots (for conversion to mph, add 32 and divide by 1.8). Yeah, not so pleasant. Actually, it wasn't that bad if you could get down in there past your shoulders.
After about twenty minutes we gave up and went into the solarium. This is a glassed in area with a pool and two hot tubs. They fill the pool with seawater so they can drain and refill it more easily. It wasn't cold. It was very active. The ship had a very definite forward/backward motion and you could see the wave setting up in the pool. Quite cool.
That night we hit some very active water, someone said it was the worst the ship had encountered all season. I think the number I heard was 15-18 foot waves. Anytime you could see a long distance, down the hall or in a big room, you could see it move way up and then way back down. There was plenty of motion sickness. I put the FP Gal to bed early. I didn't get sick but I did feel almost drunk. You'd walk and have to pause every few seconds. Then you lurch to one side until gravity returns to normal. Everyone did this and it was kind of amusing to watch.
This was the second night for karoke so I did that again. I'd met up with Heidi and Chad and we all met the bulk of our group coming out of the main dining room. Most of them joined us for the singing. This time I made certain to delay putting my song in so I'd be closer to the back. I was trying to choose between 'Sea of Love' and 'Walk Away Renee'. The later is one of my favorite songs to sing but I thought the former would be an easier sell. This time I was chosen as a finalist.

Happy Birthday, Aurelia!

(For pictures and a video tribute, visit the FP Gal.)

Oh, Baby! I can't believe it's been a year already. I can still picture that small little girl who looked so fragile and uncertain. Little did I know how fiercely you'd attack the world, without care or precaution. Also didn't know just how much I'd come to love you.
You might just have the most addictive smile in the history of the planet. You definitely know how to steal hearts from passersby. But it's not just looks, I'm continually amazed at how smart you are (even though that makes childproofing the house much more difficult). Should also mention your incredible sweetness and sharing nature.
Happy birthday!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thursday, August 21, 2008

State Fair

As the FP Gal noted, we went to the State Fair today. I would have skipped but we had a small errand that we needed to run. She has the pictures, so I'll just hit the highlights:
  • We watched a piglet being born in the 'Miracle of Birth' building. They showed it on an overhead screen. It was all messy, of course. I pointed it out to the FP Gal and said, "Look, they even start out covered in barbecue sauce."
  • There are something like five million people in Minnesota. Most of them were there today. Holy cats, I was claustrophobic! I tried to be cool about it but I'm sure I was a little difficult.
  • We normally stop at the political booths but decided to skip them this year. We were tempted to stop by the Franken booth and sign someone up for a lawn sign...
  • I tried the 'Pizza on a stick'. Eh. The hotdish was better.
  • Someday I'll get the FP Gal to try 'Dippin' Dots'. As God is my witness, I will.
  • Relia thought there was far, far too much sitting in a stroller today. Poor thing. It was too crowded to let her run around too much. We found one lengthy opportunity but that was all.
It was a fun day but we were all very exhausted.

Day Five




This time we woke up in Skagway, Alaska, the northernmost point of our trip. Skagway is about 60 degrees north, compared to 45 for Minneapolis. That means we were a third closer to the north pole than usual. The weather forecast for Juneau had been partly cloudy or something like that with a 30% chance of rain. Well, it 30%-ed most of that day. For Skagway, the forecast was 90% rain. Of course it was beautiful and sunny most of the day.
The town is a small one, nestled at the end of a bay. This had been a gold rush town and they're still proud of their history. During the winter their population is just under 900 people. There were three cruise ships in town on our day, each one with over 2000 passengers.
We left the ship a short walk from the town. There was a very popular train tour available here, but we didn't take it. We'd thought of renting a car and driving to Whitehorse but decided to walk around the town instead.
It's a quaint town. There is certainly a tourist district but you could see the local areas very easily. And the locals themselves, including an old car (from the 30's?) driving down the street. We walked around, letting Relia choose the direction. That led us into various shops where she was magnetically drawn to any stuffed animals.
Back to the ship for lunch and then Relia and I decided to nap. The FP Gal went back into town and came back a few hours later to wake us. We dropped off baby and played Liar's Dice with Heidi and Chad.
After dinner, I went up on deck by myself. The ship had pulled out already and was just starting to make it's way back down the channel. The weather was very windy and it had started to rain. I had the place mostly to myself (some joggers are insane). I walked and walked and walked, looking at the scenery around me and thinking. It was stark but not sad. This will always be a cherished memory for me.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Day Four






We awoke to find that land was back in view. The ship was passing by tall islands, covered in pines with the tops shrouded in clouds. The whole thing had almost a mystic feel to it. All eyes were still peeled for whales. In fact, this morning gave us our first real glimpse of one. He surfaced in front of the ship and we could see the back and blowhole. He submerged and the ship probably passed right over him.
I'd planned on taking a helicopter tour in Juneau with Chad and mom but when we got to the spot they told us that the tour was canceled because the clouds were too low. Not a big deal. I caught up with the FP Gal and her folks and we headed into town. The area is well set up for people right off of a cruise ship. There were rows of tours offering to take us hither and yon. (The others took a whale tour, you can see my Mom's description and amazing pictures here. Seriously, that's just a pile of whales.) We decided on a tour that would send us to the local glacier and a tram up the mountain side.
Our driver for the glacier was a lifelong Juneau native and an excellent tour guide. He reminded me of an Alaskan Garisson Keillor (with the humor not the extreme hatred of Republicans). The glacier itself was tough to see because of the rain. The area around it had a stark beauty. There are pictures here, both in clear daylight and in winter.
The tram was my favorite part of Juneau and one of the highlights of the trip. As we went up, we passed through bands of clouds so at times you could see the harbor and at other times nothing but fog. The station at the top had that moist cold bite that you only get with mountain tops. The gift shop was fairly standard but had something I hadn't seen before. Actually, two somethings, as they had two recipe books dedicated to blueberries. I was tempted to buy one but online recipes are easy enough to find. Here's one that caught my eye.
Then it was back to the ship. Relia gave signs of sleepiness well before dinner so we ate early and I stayed in the cabin with her. Fell asleep early and the ship moved on.

Would have to stop throwing stones...

But these houses would be worth it. The second one, located near Karuizawa would be my choice. The one near Copenhagen also looks very cool.

Last August

One of the nice things about these blogs is that they serve really well as diaries. I've been rereading the posts from last August. Remember back then? We spent 22 days thinking that each one would be 'the day'.
And then finally came this day. And the waiting was over and our life was completely changed. (It's good to remember these things after a night like last night, right?)

Teething

Guess who was up most of last night? I'll give you three guesses and all three are probably correct. I finally drifted off sometime around 3a. Not sure about the FP Gal. Also not sure about Relia.
She'd better need some looong naps today...

Picture of the day

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Day Three




Welcome to life on the high seas! Or at least higher than we expected. IIRC, they were somewhere in the vicinity of 3-5 feet. Not bad or crashing but enough to give the ship some very definite movement. (Side to side movement, which I think is a 'roll' as opposed to front to back which may be a 'pitch'. Real sailors are invited to weigh in.) This didn't keep me from eating hearty but a few members of our crew had sea sickness.
The day started early as Relia (still on Minnesota time) decided that 430a was time to wake up. If you're sharing a small space with an infant, you get up when she does. Well, kind of. We put her in bed between us and she happily played (and beat and poked and tugged) for some time. Eventually we had to get up so we took her to the deck to play. She was a real trooper, walked forever and even kept her hood on (mostly).
That morning we ambushed Heidi with a baby shower. Mom pressed me into the duty of having her and Chad into a specific spot (the 'Champagne Lounge') at 1030a. Do you know how difficult it is to have someone at a specific spot on a ship at a certain time without their help? Well, we were a bit late but better than never, right? This was the first baby shower that any of the men in our group had ever attended. I feel confident in saying that if we could have escaped from the ship, we'd all have perfect records to this day.
The ship had a Wii Tennis tournament. About forty of us showed up when they'd only planned for 16. They held a drawing and I was lucky enough to be chosen. Won the first game and got killed in the second. Lots of fun. We thought that the Wii was a good idea but they seemed unprepared for the interest. It's probably new to them and I hope that they get it figured out in the future.
This whole day was at sea and those days tend to be lazy. The next thing I can remember was dinner that evening (at the Windjammer) trying to spot whales. Each one turned out to be sticks or clumps of kelp. We did see some dolphins! And a beautiful sunset.
The FP Gal's parents offered to take Relia overnight so we became footloose and fancy free! That meant karoke, of course. They did a contest with two nights of qualifying and the top four going on to a final night show. I pulled out the big gun, 'Jump, Jive and Wail', and felt pretty good about it. Unfortunately, I sang second and the closer you are to the end, the better. They didn't choose me. Oh well, there was always the other qualifying night.
Then we went up the Viking lounge, the highest part of the ship. They were playing 80's music, which as we all know, is the best for dancing. We danced and danced. Did you know that the FP Gal knows 'The Electric Slide'? Then off to bed at what must have been 4a for us. It was a good day.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Day Two




Day two dawned with us still at the hotel. We quickly got packed up and went over to Heidi's place. A large chunk of my family was there and we spent the morning with them. There was a line for the laptop as all of us knew that this could be our last opportunity to be online for a full week.
Late morning, Heidi and I dropped the rental car back at the airport. Now take a minute and visualize a plate of spaghetti. Got it? Ok, now imagine that you're driving a very tiny meat-ball on one noodle. It dives under other noodles and climbs over some. At the end you're somewhere deep in the pasta. This is something like the Seattle rental car return route.
I finally got the meatball in place at National, only to find that it hadn't been 'activated' in Vancouver. This seems odd as I drove it out of their with their permission and key. She called up there and it was obvious that she was soon put on hold. She didn't say anything to me, and as a line formed up behind me I let other people past to ask quick questions. Eventually (five minutes?) I asked her what else she needed from me. Oh, nothing. I could go. Grrrr. Sometimes I think they do a reverse intelligence test for customer service spots.
Back to Heidi's and everything was a whirl of activity. The shuttle van showed up and we quickly made certain that everything was tagged and loaded. Then it was off to the port!
Customs (or immigration) was a breeze and we were quickly walking up the long gangway to the ship. A young man at an intersection urged us towards a Holland ship and then told us we'd chosen wrong and were doomed. He was being funny and I'd probably make the same remark but I can't help but wonder what he'd have done if we'd taken him seriously. ("It's doomed? Is it a problem with the phalanges?")
We got our cards and had our pictures taken and then we set off to find our rooms. One nice thing about going in a group is that we had a tidy cluster of rooms on deck 2. That meant it was easy to find and then we were off to lunch at the buffet. The buffet is up in a forward space on deck 9 called the 'Windjammer'. We ate their most of our meals because of the view and the selection.
Soon it was time for the ship to leave. The FP Gal's parents had a balcony and we watched the city slide by. Then we took Relia up on deck. It was either a parade or a coronation, I'm not sure which. She walked around showing no fear. Marched right up to people on their deck chairs and demanded to play with their purses or necklaces. Sometimes she'd wave at them or start to clap. She was little Miss Rhapsody and holy cats was she cute! Everybody loved her.
Dinner that night was in the main dining room. We had the late seating, 830p, or almost eleven o'clock for our personal time. Relia only made it until 930p at which point I whisked her downstairs and to bed. One other thing about the main dining room, our table was next to an enormous round window. We were treated to the beautiful scenery of Puget Sound, the Olympic Peninsula and sunset. Simply gorgeous and I'm trying to figure out how we can put that window scene into our dining room.

Ugh

Apparently, all of the allergens in the greater Minnesota area decided to gang up on me as soon as we got back. I'm in day two of stuffy head/runny nose/sneezing/no voice land. It's loads of fun, let me tell ya! At least they let me come home early today so I didn't have to inflict this situation on any of our callers.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Hardly Cricket

Well, actually it is. We live in the heart of the city and there is an honest to Bog cricket, somewhere outside of our window. It's out there chirping away, telling everyone the temp (or something like that). Very strange.

Flying with Children

Wisdom from Ken Jennings.

Hats

Relia always finds hats on people's heads funny. She laughs and points. But if a hat ends up on her head, it is tragic. Discuss.

Day One




At least I think this was all only one day, it could have been more. Looking back on it, I don't see how it could have only been one. It all started much too early (430a?) when the FP Gal left the house to take her parents to the airport. Relia woke about a half hour later, much too early, and that meant that I couldn't go back to bed.
Then the FP Gal called and told me that her parent's flight had been canceled and they needed to figure out the best way to continue. I used my travel agent experience to give them advice (which didn't help). Eventually they were bumped to a later flight.
Meanwhile, our ride showed up and we were off. We were ticked on a late flight (9p-ish) but were trying to fly standby on a much earlier one. At midnight, we'd logged onto NWA and made the change. Or tried to. Ended up calling and confirming but somehow that didn't go through. So when we got to the airport, we had to get that all sorted out and get checked in.
Off to the gate where Relia promptly made friends with everyone on the plane. This was part one of our flying strategy. Part two was to see if she'd sleep through the majority of it. On to the plane and everything looked well timed. And then we were delayed. A mechanical problem that kept us on the runway for an hour. She winked out just as the flight took off. She slept for an hour and was very good for the next two hours. A bit of struggling near the end but nowhere near the nightmare I was prepared for. The only minus was that the lady in the aisle seat never left her seat so we didn't have a good chance to get up and move around at all.
Into the airport, and immigration (or customs, I get them confused) went smoothly. Got out baggage and found some space for Relia to run around in. Also found a free SmartCarte, at least we couldn't figure out a way to pay for it. The FP Gal thinks it was subsidized by the Canadian gov't. If so, thanks Canadian taxpayers! Picked up the car with no trouble and left for Seattle.
Did you know that the use something called 'kilometers' up there? No seriously. Apparently they are composed of 1000 'meters'. A 'meter' is some undefined measure of length. Each 'kilometer' is something like 3/5 of a mile. The system is designed to trick Americans into speeding. To add to the confusion, our car only had miles listed so we had to convert. Or just drive the speed of the other cars.
Which we did until we got to the border. Well, actually we did then too. Unfortunately, that speed was something like 1/2 of a mile per hour (roughly 8 kph or something like that). The border features a lovely grassy area where passengers can get out and have a leisurely picnic and a nap while the driver moves forward at a glacial pace. It's very pretty and I'm guessing the that the Peace Arch is one of the most photographed border crossings in the country. Seriously, what else are you going to do there?
Finally got through (our border agent was from northern Minnesota) and kept going south. Stopped in Bellingham for lunch. This is a lovely town about 20 miles (72 km) from Canada. It's a prime spot on my wish list when I someday convince the FP Gal to move so we had to check it out. I think she was impressed.
Then down to Seattle. Traffic was going the other direction so we had a smooth time. Checked into the hotel, met with Heidi to get the pack and play (crib). We checked in about 7p local time. That means that we were on the go for about 14 hours. Then we all collapsed.

Yes, we're home

We got in last night about 9p and we're exhausted. And the house is gently swaying from side to side, which is very odd as it was quite stable before we left. If it doesn't settle down in a few days we may have to call in a contractor.
The FP Gal and I are both going to break this down day by day and see how well our stories match. I thought that I'd put up a general post first.
  • We had a great trip. If you've been thinking about taking an Alaskan cruise, do it. It was beautiful.
  • If we do this (a cruise) again, it won't be with an infant. We had plenty of help and it was still very limiting. We couldn't go out together most nights. There is babysitting available, if the baby is over a year old (Relia isn't) and if you can afford it (we couldn't).
  • I also wish we'd flown out right after the cruise. Every bit after you leave the ship is a bit of an anticlimax. Have to remember this for next time.
  • Traveling with a group was great. It was fun to see other people at the stops and at meal times. The extra baby-watching was also very nice. If we do a group again, I'm going to work harder to get even more people.
More posts to follow...

Friday, August 15, 2008

On Dry Land

We're back in Seattle and everything is fine. I'll have more to share later in the weekend. The FP Gal has plenty of pictures and video and we'll both share our stories.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

We're outta here

We'll be back after the trip. The security tiger will be on the job. Take care of the place while we're gone. If I get a chance I'll post something from the road, and definitely post a bunch after we're back.

Early morning

Relia woke up early this morning and wouldn't go back to sleep. I tried to soothe her and tell her that at long last our national nightmare is over. That didn't work so we're trying a bottle.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Refreshing

Moving objects

This morning I couldn't find a sandal. This isn't that unusual as they've become some of Relia's favorite wandering objects. Some good heft and one really good strap to hang onto make them just about perfect for toting everywhere. (I'm sure that's what the good people that made them intended.)
Usually I can find both of them. Relia can only go so far and she never really tries to hide them. This morning was a different story. One of them was obviously in the right spot, near the door. The other one was nowhere to be seen.
I searched and searched. Looked high and low (well, mostly low). Couldn't really ask her if she knew where it was. Also, the cats were no help. Even started to think about putting on socks (ugh) and shoes.
And then, suddenly, the other sandal appeared! The FP Gal had been doing some pre-trip tidying and it ended up on the shoe shelf, theoretically where it actually belonged! Yay! We could actually go out and do something (out to the MOA, to look at fish and dodge the dreaded Sharkey).
I've got a feeling that I'll be playing this game again. Probably several times and possibly for many years.

(While I'm writing this, she's taken one of the sandals again and is trying to use it as a step to get at the FP Gal's desk. Very clever. If only she could use her powers for good rather than evil.)

Most overrated movies

Yay! More movie lists!

(Via Dirty Harry) Here's an MSN writer's list of overrated movies (comments on movies I've seen).

History of Violence
A Beautiful Mind
Castaway - still love this movie, catch it every time it's on TNT
Crash - I did like this movie, surprised that it's got it's own backlash so soon.
The Departed - A terrible movie.
Insomnia - A pretty good movie, certainly the best Pacino in years.
Minority Report - Liked this one. Not world shaking but good for what it is.
Monster
Mystic River - Eh. Some good acting and an interesting story. Fell apart at the end.
Ocean's 12 - Terrible movie. Especially the part where everyone pretends that the skeleton of Julia Roberts is sexy.
Ocean's 13
School of Rock

'Little Miss Sunshine' would be high on my list of overrated movies. So would 'Chicago'.

Random Sea Trivia - Answers

I'd almost forgotten!

1) What four seas are named after colors? Black, Red, Yellow, White.
2) What other sea shares the name of a color, named after a feature of the sea? The Coral Sea (sorry, Andrew).
3) What sea has no land boundaries? The Sargasso Sea.
4) What U.S. sea was created in 1905? The Salton Sea.
5) What sea is furthest south? The Ross Sea.

Random Wednesday morning thoughts

  • Relia seems to be much more aware of music than she used to be. Several times this morning she stopped and 'danced' along with the TV. Not the flamenco stuff this time, just a rhythmic squatting and bobbing. Which sounds ugly but is very cute.
  • Every day her arms grow another three inches. Not only can she reach more and more shelves and further back onto tables but soon she'll be able to dunk a basketball. We'll try and get video.
  • Haven't written much about the Wii Fit lately. That's because we've been too busy to really use it. The FP Gal has been swamped in homework and my daily schedule makes any regular nighttime activity difficult. I'm still using the 'balance board' for some simple step aerobics in front of the TV but that's about it.
  • The Olympics start on Friday and I'm a little bummed to miss out on the opening ceremony. Yes, the whole thing is rife with corruption and the soft focus features are more than a little annoying, I'll grant that. But if you look at it in the spirit intended, you can still enjoy it. I'm talking about the pure competition part.
  • Speaking of which, I was looking through the list of events yesterday and I realized that I really wanted to watch some bobsledding. No, I'm not sure what to do with that either.
  • Of course the real sports action of the moment is baseball. Haven't written much about it this year because it's tough to get a handle on the White Sox or the Twins. At times both teams look unstoppable or incapable. Sometimes in back to back games. I do know that I wouldn't have written anything like this (from my favorite Twins writer). How many times do Minnesota teams have to rip your heart out before you learn not to be cocky?
  • Sorry, I still find this fascinating. More for the bizzare actions of both the Packers and Favre than anything else. I can only assume this will be all wrapped up by December or so.
  • That's it!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Mobility

Tonight we were discussing whether or not it was time to feed Relia. She gave us a clear signal all on her own. The FP Gal had hung the diaper bag on a doorknob. Relia decided to go ahead and dig in there and came out with a handful of graham crackers. Experienced parents know that this is a sign of hunger. (Actually on reflection, maybe it's just a sign that she could reach the bag.)
We held a quick conference and decided that the bag needs to live on a higher perch. Up on the shoe shelf it went. Relia watched all of this happen. She immediately asked to be picked up. And then she motioned for the bag.
Guess she didn't quite understand what we were doing.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Pictures

From Meigan's trip to Alaska. If you have any questions, I'm sure she'd be glad to answer them.

(Link fixed.)

Rainbow

Essential Movies of the 90's

From the same spot as the last one, here comes an essential list of movies from the 90's. From the author:

We can already hear the outrage: "How can you leave out The Shawshank Redemption? What about Schindler's List? Where is Titanic?!?" In 50 years, those great films may be considered the true classics of the 1990s. But the movies on this list--some widely acclaimed, some beloved by a passionate few--had an influence more significant than popularity alone can indicate. Some had dozens of imitators; others spawned entire genres.

* "Essential" is not the same as "best," so these are not top 10 lists, but more a library-building guide that samples the significant DVDs from a genre, a decade, or a career.

Got that? So not necessarily the best but important nonetheless. I think it's about cultural literacy or something like that. How'd the do?

Toy Story - No complaints with this one, it mainstreamed animation, especially computer animation. It put Pixar on the map as one of the giants of the movie biz. And it told a durn good story.
Pulp Fiction - Great dialogue. Very cool. I think it's star has faded with time but it really was a must see film of the 90's.
Rushmore - Man, I love this movie. The FP Gal and I watched it a few months back and I still love it. I'm not sure if I'd call it 'essential' but anything that brings it more attention is fine by me. Actually, maybe this movie represents the rise of the quirky independent film.
The Silence of the Lambs - Another great movie. Wonderful acting and suspense. An excellent movie. (So far, I'm right with this list.)
Fargo - Eh. Overrated. Doesn't give you anything that you're not getting from 'Pulp Fiction' and 'Silence of the Lambs'.
My Own Private Idaho - Watched the first half of this many years ago. Wasn't impressed.
Before Sunrise - I think I saw this in the theater but I'm not sure. If it's the one I'm thinking of then I'm not impressed here either. If we needed a romantic comedy for the decade then I would have gone with 'Sleepless in Seattle', 'French Kiss' or 'Forget Paris'.
Out of Sight - Another cool movie but not one that I'd think of as 'essential'. This one showed the world that George Clooney could really act. I don't think of that as genre defining though.
Goodfellas - A great movie, one of the top ones of the decade.
The Matrix - No problem with this one either. It invented a genre of action/sci-fi movies with a new blend of computer graphics and innovative camera work. Somehow it even overcame the reanimated corpse of Keanu Reeves.

I posted a top movies of the 90's list a few months back. This list is trying to do something a bit different and should be judged by a different standard. If I was trying to find ten movies to show the flavor of the 90's, I'd probably include 'Braveheart', 'The Crow' and at least one more of the Tom Hanks' list.

Cruise stuff

  • Weather reports for next week have us in the 60's and 70's and I'm sure we'll have rain. Pack accordingly. My sense is that the temp drops quite a bit at night while at sea (any comments, Hans?) so if you plan on doing any star gazing make sure you're prepared.
  • The 11th (next Monday night) is the peak of the Perseids. This is one of the better meteor showers of the year. If we have clear weather we should have a good view. Not sure how much of a factor the moon will be and of course full dark will be later than we're used to.
  • The FP Gal found a pretty good set of lists for what to pack on the trip. My rule of thumb is to underpack and then cope once I've got there. Your rules may vary.
  • Here's a set of webcams for Juneau. It looks awfully beautiful up there. In the same vein, here's the Juneau newspaper online. If you want a feel for what's going on up there, this is probably your best window.
  • Remember to relax and breathe deeply. This will be tons of fun!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Congrats on your 39th. (Strangely, you're only about 13 months away from being the same age as Hans.) Anyway, here's to another good year for you.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Essential Movies of the 00's

(Via Instapundit) Here's one person's attempt at creating a top 10 essential movie list for the 2000's. I've wondered about what movies from this decade will really stand the test of time and there are very few definitive choices. It's a difficult task and this isn't a bad try. I want to look at each movie with the idea of it being 'essential'. In other words, if you haven't seen it are you behind the culture in the same way that you would be if you hadn't seen 'Star Wars' or 'ET'. Here it is:

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy - It's best to treat this as a single unit rather than three movies and it's pretty much the most obvious choice for the decade.
Shrek - Another great movie and a worthy choice. Well, if you're only going to give one slot to an animated film I'd probably go with 'Finding Nemo' or 'Monsters Inc'.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - Enjoyed this in the theater but haven't had an urge to watch it again since. Am I alone in this? Will people in 2020 talk about what a great movie this was?
March of the Penguins - This will sound like heresy but I thought this movie was really only ok. It's a very well put together documentary but that's about it. I know that it got a lot of mention at the watercooler so maybe it is essential.
Memento - This was really an underground hit and I'm surprised that it made this list. Not unhappy with it here, it really is a great one.
Fahrenheit 9/11 - Seriously?
Brokeback Mountain - I liked this movie and it certainly was something of a cultural milestone. It might get too much credit and the groundbreaking theme talk was certainly over the top but only time will tell how it's remembered.
The Passion of the Christ - A very important movie to lots of people. It'll be loved by millions and hated by others. One of the defining movies of the decade. (Haven't seen it so I'm making no judgment as to quality.)
Moulin Rouge - The best musical of the decade and not really close. One of the best love stories, too. I'd put it on my list.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding - The biggest chick flick of the decade, probably longer lasting than 'Sex in the City'. Didn't care for it personally but it's a defensible choice.

Not a bad list. Mine would look a bit different. What think?