Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

Here is to a great 2010 for everyone!

And as an aside, I agree with Jesse Walker here:
Please spare us from these ninnies who keep insisting that the aughts aren't ending tonight. If we were discussing "the 201st decade," they'd have a point. We're not, so shut up. If you insisted that 2000 was the last year of the 20th century, you were being pedantic. If you insisted it was the last year of the '90s, you were just being stupid.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hugo Project

Today I finally picked up the last books that I need for the Hugo project. At least until something else wins this coming August. I started with this many of them:

And now have this many:
This picture has them stacked by decade. The 40's and 50's are on the left stretching all the way over to the 00's on the right. For those scoring at home, I've read the first two books from the 70's.
The only problem is, what books should I start shopping for now?

Five Years

This blog turns five years old today. It has been a good five years. The FP Gal and I talked about our blogs earlier. She isn't sure if she would have started if not for me. Part of me thinks that I would've started one anyway but . . . I could have done so pretty easily as early as August of '03 and I didn't.
I'm glad it's here if for no other reason that it provides a pretty good record of the last five years. I picture Relia and Baby XY reading this years from now and learning about a time that otherwise would be unavailable to them. (Of course they'll have to fight through tons of dead links by then.)
Here is to (at least) another five.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2000 Retro-Not-Oscar Movies

And the nominations are closed. I was hoping for a large list that we could pare down to 10 dramas and 5 comedies. By my count we got 11 dramas and 6 comedies in the nominations. That's close enough so we'll go forward with that. My intention is to review these in alphabetical order and then we'll vote on a winner for each. The dramas will be first:

Almost Famous
Cast Away
Chocolat
Crouching Tiger...
Finding Forrester
Gladiator
Memento
Requiem for a Dream
Snatch
X-Men
Yi-Yi

And the comedies:
Best in Show
Bring it On
Charlie's Angels
High Fidelity
O Brother...

I'm open to swapping categories between comedy and drama if anyone wants to argue that I put something in the wrong place.

Monday, December 28, 2009

"It's Not Science Fiction"


So . . . it's not science fiction. Does that mean that the Air Force is actually performing rescue missions on some planet with two moons?

Off to Work

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas, Part Deux

Today we drove down to Austin. We had planned on yesterday but that didn't work out. The change of schedule worked out for us anyway.
We opened up with our usual Sunday morning walk through the MOA. Of note, Relia asked to wear Paratrooper Bear (aka child harness w/leash) and we let her. That always brings looks from others as they try to decide if it's cute or inhumane.
We left from there and went straight to Austin. The FP Gal predicted that she'd be fast asleep by Burnsville. She was. They were both asleep by Northfield. Which allowed me to spend some time with my music and my thoughts. The three of us don't spend enough time together.
We went to Uncle David and Aunt Donna's house for lunch. Amy made very yummy Chinese food. Then it was time for some Christmas themed readings. Relia picked a part that was represented by a crown, which she announced was a 'birthday cake'. She is in full on mimic stage which brought about a short memorable speech that went something like, "He was on the cross with birthday cake!". The FP Gal was in tears, she was crying so hard.
Relia helped with present time, opening packaging whether it belonged to her or not. She was also very insistent on knowing what was in each thing. She got some snack cakes and made a small (but cute) mess. This was followed by card playing and naps.
We took some time to visit the Bremners before they head east and then to parts unknown. Always a good time. Good talk for the adults and Relia gets swept into the whirlwind of their 14 children. Even though we only saw them a few times a year, we'll miss them.
Then back home with Relia sleeping most of the way (again). Her bedtime is all screwed up for the night but we'll make it through. Christmas is almost done for us (and will be as soon as we get things mailed out). We had a great time. This is a holiday that is always better with a toddler.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Challenge

I've challenged the FP Gal that we should name our upcoming son after the winner of the 2010 Men's Skeleton in Vancouver. She has declined...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

We're done with our Christmas travels and home for the night. How did the day go? Pretty well, all things considered. This Christmas will be widely remembered because of the weather. It hasn't been the snowiest weather that I can remember. Haven't heard actual totals but probably something like a foot. The strange thing has been how long it's snowed. Something like 48 hours (off and on). Went out and shoveled three times yesterday and still had to dig my car out this morning.
The other weird thing is how warm it was today. Temps were right around freezing, maybe a touch higher. That meant lots of slush. And heavy shoveling. Tonight we'll get down into the low 20's so the ice should be spectacular tomorrow.
But that isn't what Christmas is all about, family is. We started the morning by bringing Relia into our bed and explaining that she's having a little brother. She didn't get it. I'm not sure how much she'll understand before the end.
We went downstairs and opened our stockings. That meant that she got (unprecedented) candy at breakfast time. A very strong start to her day. She also got some small toys.
Then it was off to the FP Gal's family for waffles and such. And more presents of course. She was our little elf, handing out gifts once we pointed her towards the new owner. It was fun to watch her open gifts for herself, slowly at first and soon all business. These presents scored her more candy and toys. Personal highlight: got to talk to Hans on the phone for more than a half hour.
Next I dug the car out (and got some pushing) and we were off to my Mom's house. Relia fell asleep on the way over and we thought she might take a bit of a nap once we got there. No such luck. Rain and dripping trees woke her and she was ready to roll.
More presents and this time Relia really wanted to open all of them for herself. She opened a shirt from Hans and Rachel and said, "Oh, a cute shirt!". Pretty darn adorable.
Got all set to leave and my car decided to pull the ten minute wait nonsense. So we sat in the car, all bundled to go and counted down till we could start it. Mom came out to shovel and see what was wrong just as we started it. We rolled down the window and explained and then were off for home! Relia took another nap.
Now we're home and recovering. If the roads are ok, we'll drive down to Austin tomorrow.

Hope you all had wonderful days!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

And We're Having...

Actually, I can't tell you yet. The FP Gal has decided on a bit of privacy or something like that. In any case, when we got the ultrasound a few weeks back we asked them to write down the big answer and put it into an envelope for us. We planned on opening it tonight and (after a marathon putting to bed session) we have done so. With any luck we can share it soon.
I can tell you that we're both happy but we would've been either way so that doesn't answer much.

Some stories on a related subject while you wait? My cousin Andrea had two boys in quick succession. When the boys were a few years older (3 and 4?) she was pregnant again. She decided that it would best to find out the gender so she could prepare them. Found out she was having a girl.
The boys were horrified. A little sister is not what they wanted. After a few days of being upset they cheered up and came to talk to her. They told her that they decided to pray to God and ask for a change to a little brother instead. She told them it was unlikely.
Then they tried to be helpful by coming up with a name. After some discussion they decided on 'Zorro'. Andrea told them that, while a fine name, 'Zorro' wasn't really a girl's name. They put their heads together and found a solution. Their new sister should be named 'Zorro-Lynn'.

Update: And the FP Gal changed her mind. I can tell you that we're having a boy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Snowmegadden

At least that's what the FP Gal is calling it. Just wanted to get word out to the rest of the family that in spite of the dire warnings of snow on the way WE ARE ALL STILL ALIVE. Updates as warranted, of course.
It sounds like the worst of it will hit further south. I'll try to reach someone in Austin later to make sure they're still there. From news reports, I wouldn't bet on it.

Stay safe out there...

Straight No Chaser


I'm stealing this from Heidi's blog. Very good stuff, especially the Toto tribute.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Children Book Anachronisms

Tonight I read a short book to Relia before she went up to bed and something struck me. Many of the things that are commonplace in the kid's books that I grew up with are nearing the fossil stage.
Think about how much phones have changed in the last 30 years. We're almost a cell only household at this point. A 'wired' phone is more of a rarity. And a rotary phone is roughly as current as an 8-track.
Speaking of which, record playing is hard to do. When I was young I had a record library of some 30 albums or so, all children's music. She'll have CD's.
Newspapers? Will there be delivery newspapers five years from now? I wouldn't bet on any that she'd see on any kind of regular basis. (Will the next generation of children's books use blogs?)
The FP Gal has noted that Relia already lives in a world where we can pause TV and fast forward through commercials. She'll always have the internet and all of its wonders.

When I was younger I wondered about how much had changed in my great Grandma's lifetime. She went from horse and buggy to men on the moon. In my 30+ years I've seen the rise of the personal computer, the internet and the cell revolution. What kind of changes will Relia see in hers?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Best Movies of the 00's

Yes, another list. Actually a bunch of lists. Slate has set up an interactive guide that aggregates various 'best of the decade' lists. Each movie is on a scale from 50-1 with best movies getting a full 50 points and the 50th best getting only 1. The results are kind of interesting.
Best overall movie? 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'. The FP Gal and I both like it a bunch. The story is good and well told. The questions it raises are worthwhile. The cinematic technique is outstanding. Probably wouldn't be my choice but it's a strong one.
It was one of only two movies that made all six lists (the other was '4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days'). That says something about how few movies towered over the rest. Only two movies were on five lists and 12 made it on four of them. More than half of them were only on one list. This is a very diffuse list.
The various number 1's:
  • 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'
  • 'Eloge de l’amour (In Praise of Love)' (haven't even heard of this one)
  • 'Mulholland Dr'
  • 'Hidden (Cache)' (haven't heard of this one either)
  • 'Fahrenheit 911'
  • 'City of God'

Back to Work

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Noon

The older I get the more I more certain I am that Viking games should start at noon on Sunday. The occasional Monday night game is fine and (of course) playoff games are fine at noon, 3p or 7p, Saturday or Sunday. But during the regular season I want the games to start at noon. Any other game throws off my rhythm.
Even worse than the rhythm is that CBS keeps putting my television shows on Sunday nights. Two weeks ago it was the Amazing Race finale on opposite a Viking game. Tonight is the Survivor finale (and reunion show) opposite the game. That's six hours of programming that doesn't start until 7p. Grrr.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Have a Great Friday

Beatles 3000


Historians from the year 3000 look back at the Beatles influence.

Oak St Cinema moving to St Anthony Main

Story here. Oak St Cinema is a small, one screen theater near the U campus that shows classic and foreign films. It's where I first saw movies like 'Casablanca', 'The Third Man' and 'A Clockwork Orange'. I would have been sad to see it go.
Meanwhile, the St Anthony Main theater used to be a literal six block walk from our apartment. I saw a bunch of stuff there from '95 until '00 or so. Lots of memories there too. I hope that this arrangement will let both locations thrive a bit.
The article mentions that college students are more likely to watch movies via Netflix and the rise of the good home theater means that the at-home movie experience is always getting better than it was. Still, there is something to watching a film with a group of people. That may be especially true for the older films. I'm glad that the opportunity will still be there.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Speaking of Christmas Carols...

Mental Floss has a list of the six most controversial Christmas carols of all time. Fun stuff (and I think #2 might be a favorite of my mother) but I'm mostly linking to this for one reason. I think my brother owned the album for #6.

Undefeated

With both the Saints and the Colts opening their seasons 13-0 and threatening to go undefeated there has been quite a discussion as to whether the teams should go for every win or pull back their players and just focus on being healthy for the playoffs. Add to this, the annual discussion of whether resting players for the last few weeks of the year leads to sloppy playoff performances and you get quite the range of opinion.
My take? If you can have a perfect season I think you have to go for it. Not to the point of risking players who really aren't healthy enough to play or anything like that but absent extreme health risks, you play hard throughout. You simply owe it to your players to be a part of history.
You probably owe it to the fans, too. Imagine being a Saints fan. Your team has had some small success at times but never a break out year. This year they have a chance at being historic. They will always remember a 16-0 team, 13-3 or 14-2, not so much. With everything that the New Orleans has been through and all the doubt on the future of the team, they need to be as special as they can be.
The Colts are in a different boat but I think it leads to the same place. They've been the winningest team of the 00's and won the Super Bowl just a couple of years back. It's been a good time for them. If you were a Colts fan wouldn't you want them to go for 19-0? Man, I would.

(Note, I'm a fantasy football player and this is playoff time for us but it's unlikely that either teams decisions would effect me very much.)

European Vacation Suggestions

Unfortunately, my brother and sister-in-law (and three wonderful kids) are going to be in Germany for another year. This is unfortunate because, well, we miss them over here. Our (with) family situation pretty much makes it impossible to go and visit them. Unlikely anyway.
The one plus is that this gives them another year to scoot around Europe and see the place. In that spirit, I offer some vacation suggestions.
Some more personal suggestions for me:
  • Castle Hill in Budapest. Looks like a fun place, fun for the family too. It reminds me of my old Lego castle sets.
  • Take a short cruise! Royal Caribbean has their hot deals page here. Scroll down to the Europe section and you'll find plenty of four and five night cruises in Scandinavia for very affordable prices.
  • Neuschwanstein Castle, the inspiration for Disney.
  • Loch Ness and the Inverness area. Monster watching for the kids, gorgeous scenery for everyone. And while you're at it, you could try and get there using the Chunnel.
I hope this helps!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Overheard at Macys

Today while walking through the crowded stacks of stuff at Macys, with Relia on my shoulders:

"Don't want to smash them over."

(While I think the actual desire to smash them over is probably questionable, I appreciate the self restraint.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

One Word Answers

Where is your cell phone? table

Significant other? tired

Your hair? missing

Your mother? baking

Your father? cat-owning

Your favorite thing? reading
Your dream last night? scary
Your favorite drink?
cokezero
What room are you in? living
Your hobby? reading
Your fear? alzheimers

Where do you want to be in 6 years? westcoast
Where were you last night? home

Something that you aren't? athletic

Muffins? blueberry
Wish list item?
books

Last thing you did? cuddled

What are you wearing? sweatshirt

TV? seventhheaven

Your pets? sleepy
Friends? solid

Your life? transition
Your mood? tired
Missing someone? yes

Drinking? soon

Your car? cold

Something you're not wearing? thong
Your favorite store? mcd's

Your favorite color? blue

When is the last time you cried? movie
Who will repost this?
mom
Where do you go to over and over? work

My favorite place to eat? hawaii

Favorite place I'd like to be at right now? tropics

Up All Night

Just had a very vivid dream that I had some been named the new manager for the (hated) Cubs. Woke up before it became too intense but I think it's safe to say that it wouldn't have worked out well for anyone.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Off to Work

Why don't we have ice skating races here?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Family Traditions

Before I got married, I never once thought about my in-law's family. Too focused on the bride, probably. One of the things that I never thought of is that we adopt each other's traditions. That means that each December I get chocolate dipped stuff.
This year I was more of a bystander than a participant, after all the Vikings were on. In the past I've tried dipping ginger snaps (with dark chocolate, very yummy). One year I tried Nutter Butters. This was very exciting for me until I found out that they taste just like Little Debbie's Nutty Bars. Tasty, but I was hoping for something new.
This year the FP Gal made me some chocolate dipped banana slices. And of course the chocolate pretzels are very yummy. She and Relia can split the strawberries and marshmallows.
This is always a good day and this year was no exception.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Baby, It's Cold Outside


The FP Gal made a Christmas CD that gets heavy rotation in my car this time each year. This is really the first time that Relia has been old enough to interact with Christmas music. One of the songs, as you probably gathered from the above video and title of the blog post, is 'Baby, It's Cold Outside'. Relia calls it the 'it's cold, baby' song and loves it when it comes on. It's one of the FP Gal's favorites too, and she really wishes that I'd learn the male lyrics so we can sing it together.
What is it about Christmas that brings out the gimmicky songs? If I had to pick a holiday that would be the king of jokey songs it would probably be Halloween but Christmas probably beats it 10 to 1. No idea why, but that does seem to be the case.
We probably all have our favorites and least favorites. The FP Gal loves, 'I Wanna Hippopotamus for Christmas' and can't stand 'Blue Christmas'. I still get a kick out of 'Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer' but will be happy to never hear 'All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth' again. Go ahead and share your faves and dislikes if you want.

Retro-Not-Oscar Reminder

Still accepting nominations for the 2000 Retro-Not-Oscar. Rules (and general description) found here. Don't worry, you won't be judged harshly.
The more nominations the better, so please participate if you haven't already.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Random Thursday Night thoughts

Been awhile since one of these...
  • Very cold here in Minnesota. We went from record cold October to record warm November. December started off normally and now we are in the deep freeze portion. We should get to somewhere around -5 tonight. I could happily go a whole winter without temps below zero.
  • McDonalds rolled out something new, the Mac Snack Wrap. Basically, it's a tortilla with the ingredients of the Big Mac. Tried one out yesterday and wasn't impressed. If you want a Big Mac, stay with the original.
  • I enjoyed these different doorknobs. The last one is my favorite.
  • The latest word on the 'Life of Pi' movie is that Ang Lee will direct and it will be released sometime in 2011. I'm very curious how that will work out.
  • I'm thinking of checking this out. We have been seriously dreaming of a warm vacation (although it's seriously unlikely). Today Relia said, "wanna go to the beach". The FP Gal and I couldn't agree more.
  • It's currently 81 in Honolulu (sigh).
That's it!

Ultrasound

We just got back from the ultrasound. Everything looks good, normal, healthy and all of that. We don't know the gender yet, but we will find out eventually. Relia was thoroughly unimpressed with the whole deal but was somewhat fascinated with the mirror in the room. I'm sure the FP Gal will post with more (and better) details later.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Happy Afternoons

With my recent complaining about Relia's tantrums, I should mention that she's still a blast most of the day. The FP Gal brought her home from daycare this afternoon and she was very happy. We ran around, played with her stuff and even sang into the microphone. She keeps singing "baby and the bomb" over and over. We have no idea what that means or where it came from.
Then the sun went down and it all went to pieces. The FP Gal has pointed out that I keep trying to reason with her and that isn't a two year old strong suit. I just wish I could explain to her why fighting us isn't helping her. No such luck.
Still, the good times are really good. Really, really good.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Tantrums

Ok, my post from last night wasn't clear enough. The problem isn't clothing, per se, it's tantrum throwing. Clothes are a focal point but even if she gets her way it only delays the fight. Probably delay it until it's time to go to daycare. (And it's not that she doesn't like daycare.)
Tonight was another rough one, with a very long tantrum as the FP Gal put her down for the night. Yelling, of course, and kicking and hitting. A new one tonight featured an attempt to dismantle a chair that was in there. That's our little carpenter!
It's probably just terrible two stuff and we just need to be patient. That is the tack that we're trying. This means plenty of time-outs and time alone in her room. The really tough time is when we don't really have time to deal with her. The morning daycare fight is a prime example. It's just wearing on us.
Ugh.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Parenting advice

We could use some advice from some experienced parents. We're currently wrapped up in a power struggle with Relia over . . . clothes. Yep, every morning is a huge fight to try and get her to wear such awful things like pants and socks and the like. There is yelling and screaming and hitting and kicking. Tears also. Many, many tears.
There is also a problem getting her dressed for daycare. It started by having to playfully chase her to put on shoes and coat, all the while risking being late. Then it became more tears and yelling. I'm beginning to dread the whole thing.
I know this is some kind of power game. Part of the whole terrible twos thing. We're working through it by outwaiting her but it isn't easy. My question, is there anything we can do to speed up the process? Any ideas out there?

Off to Work

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Rereading Heinlein

A couple of interesting posts regarding my favorite author, Robert Heinlein. The first one has to do with rereading 'Citizen of the Galaxy' as an adult.
Others have mentioned how seamless Heinlein's worlds are but I'm always gobsmacked by them, even now. You know that the writer was only showing the iceberg's tip of what he knew about any of his imagined outposts -- like Jubbulpore or the Free Traders' Sisu -- but what he chose to show was exactly what you needed to know. All of the needful stuff is condensed into the man's clear prose, which is never enamored with its own cleverness. In other hands, such concision could be a dull read but this reportorial approach works in Heinlein's hands.
The Hugo project has led me to read lots of books and authors that are new to me. I haven't found any authors who quite hit the same balance that Heinlein consistently does with the narrative. Add in the enjoyable conversation and consistently interesting moral observations and that explains much of my love for the man.
The second post deals with a different juvenile that I also still enjoy, 'The Star Beast'.
While The Star Beast is ostensibly a coming of age story, it is more about the use of diplomacy. Mr Kiku* and his cohort Sergei Greenberg spend most of the book negotiating with the rest of Lummox's race in order to keep the Earth from being blown up by them. The passages about the Beast and John Thomas are interesting -- but it feels like Heinlein really goes off on one of his giddy didactic tears when he gets into the gritty details of status, power and gesture.
My opinion differs. I've read it probably eight or ten times and never was bothered by the 'gritty details' and whatnot. To each their own, I guess. The author here is also bothered that 'Star Beast' focuses on boys relationships but I think that simply fails to account for the conditions under which it was written. Heinlein wrote his juveniles specifically for young boys. It's not fair to take him to task here, especially since one of the strongest characters in the book is his girlfriend Betty.
I've read plenty of adults take Heinlein to task for his female characters. Interestingly, many of these critics enjoyed him as young girls, grew up as fully empowered women and only now find these faults. I think that his lessons of self reliance are easily and transparently applicable to both boys and girls. Any youngling can read his books and learn how to be a better person.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Deep Water - 2006

Earlier in the year I read 'Sailing Alone Around the World', a story of the first solo circumnavigation of the globe. It was a great book, one of the best I've read this year. Reading about the subject led me to a race in the 60's sponsored by a British newspaper, a competition to be the first person to sail solo around the world without stopping at any port. I mentally filed it away as interesting, wondering if there was a book about it. Last night, while looking at Netflix, I discovered that a documentary had been made and released in 2006.
The film mostly follows a man named Donald Crowhurst. Most of the sailors who entered the race were quite experienced, but not Crowhurst. He thought that he could use the most advanced equipment and win fame and fortune for his family. In the process he mortgaged everything. A quick failure would mean he would lose his house and his family would be destitute.
Things do not go well for Crowhurst. He sails (slowly) through the Atlantic but as he goes, the ship develops problems. It becomes clear that it won't weather the Southern Ocean and his life would be in real danger. But if he stops, he'll ruin his family. He is trapped.
His solution is somewhat novel. He starts lying about his position in hopes that he can eventually figure a way through. Soon he is out of place and in serious trouble. He can't just sail into port and be thousands of miles out place. He'd be humiliated.
Add to his mountain of problems that he is all alone. His entire world consists of a small boat and water in all directions. Even the radio won't help as any transmission would give away his location. Crowhurst's sanity slips.
The movie is quite good. Sometimes it gets a bit too arty in presentation but the story is a good one and it tells it well. If you find a romantic element of sailing (which I do) then you'll really enjoy it.

Health update

Just so you know, we're all feeling much better. Relia is still a little bit on the tired side but nothing big. Thanks for all of your well wishes!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Comet McNaught Slideshow


Read an article recently on comet hunting. It had very good tips for how to chart them and photograph (digital cameras are wonderful for amateur astronomers). Of course the hardest part is actually finding one!
Back in early 2007 the beauty featured up there in the video appeared but was almost solely visible in the southern hemisphere. I've had a picture of it as my computer background for the past couple of years. Uh, this one:

If I recall, it was the brightest since the 70's. The curved tail is especially impressive.
How long until the next one? It's really tough to say. While some comets make regular appearances, it's tough to tell how good they'll look ahead of time. You might remember that Halley failed the hype back in '86. We usually get a good one every decade or so though even that is somewhat randomized.
There are smaller ones on a very regular basis. If you live near a dark sky area you can google around for a star-party. Most of them are open to the public and they'd love to show any comets that are out there.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Croup!

We just got back from the pediatrician from our 845p(!) appointment. Daycare thought that her breathing was a little ragged. They were right, she sounded a little like Darth Vader. So we got the next opening we could and found ourselves up waaaay past bedtime in the fine city of Edina, where our pediatricians work.
She was wonderful and patient the whole time. She told the doctor that she felt 'pretty good' even though her breathing didn't agree. The doc listened for about ten seconds and said, "She sounds croupy". Some quick work with that lighted stethoscopey thing confirmed the diagnosis. Yep, she has the croup.
'Croup' doesn't even sound like a real thing to me. Too much like a Dickens plot point. It's like 'diphtheria' and 'whooping crane' or one of those other 19th century diseases that we no longer worry about. Wikipedia confirms that it exists but they also think King Friday is part of the Lancastrian line so who knows if it's true.
So, here are the bullet points:
  • It shouldn't be dangerous, so don't worry. We've got the medicine and the will to use it. The doc warned us that she probably wouldn't like it but she slurped down a full dose without complaint.
  • Of course, she was more than half asleep at the time and may have just been placating us. Tomorrow's dose will be the test. Ugh.
  • Croup (if that is your real name) is contagious but she might be past that point already. Sorry, other daycare kids! Friday is the big test and we'll have to play it by ear.
  • Part of the treatment is having her breathe cold air and steamy air and back and forth. Yep, she's sick and I'll be taking her out in December weather. On purpose. This better be a real thing.
  • It looks like I'm finally past the stomach bug I've been battling. Which isn't really croup related but this seemed like a good place to mention this. Think of this as an omnibus health post.
And done with the bullet points. Don't worry too much, she seems in good spirits. Just tired and labored breathing. By the weekend, this should all be done.

Stand on Zanzibar - Brunner

Winning the 1969 Hugo award is this novel of dystopia, racial politics and overpopulation. Brunner used several innovative techniques including running interlaced chapters that serve as background information. In many ways it reads like a screenplay.
Frankly, I hated it. Found it unreadable. Gave up after 200 excruciating pages. There may have been an interesting story in there but Brunner made it too much work to get there. The other problem is that the story feels incredibly dated. It's like the entire future is 1968 and only the worst parts of 1968.
I would not recommend.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

2000 Retro-Not-the-Oscar

One of my beliefs in regard to the quality of movies is that it takes some time to really tell what was good and what wasn't. Some movies give a quick 'wow' but they don't age well. Others bug you on the first viewing, but keep gnawing at you to rewatch.
Ten years should be enough time to really have the handle on a year's worth of films. With your help, I'm going to try and figure out what movie was the best of the year 2000. Here is what I want, please nominate some of the best movies from that year. I'm aiming to create a list of ten dramas and five comedies.
Please leave a comment with up to five contenders. I'll compile a list and we'll narrow it down to the finalists so we can start reviewing in January. The list will be open so you can watch along. The more nominations the better so don't be shy!
I'm going to put a few rules in place to keep it from being crazy. The movie must be out on DVD. I'm hoping that won't be too large of a penalty. And I ask the jokesters (Hans) to give some serious answers along with the jokes.
Don't remember what came out then? No problem! Wikipedia has a list here. A list of the movies that actually won Oscars is here.

I'll post some reminders later in the month. Remember, I need your nominations to make this work!

Off to Work

Maybe I need a job as a forest ranger.

Monday, November 30, 2009

My Turn

Yep, the sickness fairy is visiting me now. The FP Gal is a little bit fearful that she'll feel the power of a fully operational bug too. Relia has been very sympathetic, which is wonderful.
Hopeful for a better night...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Napless

We've had some trouble over the past couple of days getting Relia a nap at the right time. Some of this has been sickness and some of it family scheduling. In any case, she's been off the right time. That has meant tough bedtimes.
We went grocery shopping late this morning and Relia fell asleep during the ten minute car ride. The FP Gal told me that she fell asleep while she was running errands a little bit after that. So we expected that she'd go down easily for a nap this afternoon.
Not even a little bit. Screams of bloody murder and pounding on the door. So we decided to let her just stay up and fight with me about watching football. We got the TV viewing figured out but it became clear that she was fighting tiredness.
After dinner she bounced back and forth between us in her usual fashion. She wanted graham crackers and medicine (child vitamin). Then she climbed up on me and settled down. She rested her head and a minute later she didn't respond to any of my questions. The poor thing was out.
I don't remember the last time she fell asleep on me on the couch. I don't think she has since she started walking. It was very sweet.

(Don't know if it was worth the fighting this afternoon...)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

NaNoWriMo, well, no...

Nope, it didn't happen this year. I got to about 13,000 words before giving up. Just had too much trouble finding a rhythm and routine. Or a story that I liked. And a healthy enough patch early in the month. Let's just say that there were too many obstacles.
I feel kind of bad about this. I'm now 3 for 4, which isn't too bad. But once you break the string on something like this it's much harder to jump back on the horse and actually finish. I'm sure that next year, with an additional child will be easier somehow. Ha!
There are a few other ideas kicking around in my head. Maybe something else to kind of make up for this...

Thanksgiving, part 2

Today we had Thanksgiving dinner with the FP Gal's family. That meant that my lovely wife left our house at around 8a to help prepare the afternoon meal. Relia and I dealt with her absence with aplomb. I tried to get her a late morning nap as dinner was scheduled for the exact time of her usual afternoon one. Limited success.
The meal was very good. Due to continued overcoming of colds on Thursday, it was our first actual sit down Thanksgiving style dinner. During the planning process, the FP Gal and I requested extra stuffing. It's our favorite. Relia's favorite (without question) was the cranberries. She had to be bribed with it to eat other foods.
Now we're both stuffed. Relia still has room for cheese and crackers, of course. The ladies are sitting drowsily on the couch watching 'Toy Story' and barely staying awake. Life is good.

Another Pixar Question

Years from now when my children are older and stumble upon an episode of cheers, who will they associate with Cliff the mailman?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving

I'm thankful for (the obvious stuff)...
  • My wonderful wife and child(ren)
  • The rest of my family. I wish I could spend more time with you.
  • My circle of friends.
  • The new technologies that make keeping in touch with all of the above easier.
  • House, job, health and all of the other things that I take for granted on a day by day basis.
Also thankful for
  • Cheap second-hand books.
  • Easy access to movies.
  • Football and baseball for nearly the whole calendar year.
  • The patience of my wife who is understanding about the above point.
  • My daughter's sense of humor and growing vocabulary.
  • Bedtime.
  • Yummy cheeseburgers.
  • Two lovely kitties.
Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

We're Feeling Better

Just an update from last night's post. Illness seems to have passed quickly and we're on the way!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sick baby

Nothing too serious, just some throwing up. Still, it might cause us to cancel our trip to Austin tomorrow. Which would be a huge bummer.
There is a particular helplessness to having a sick child. She really can't communicate what's wrong. Just kind of holds her stomach and puts her hand near her mouth. If I remember my childhood, she's probably scared too. Poor thing.
We're hoping it's nice and short term. That would be very nice.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Monday Picture

Flin Flon

Anyone have any idea what Flin Flon is? Is it...
  • the most popular candy in Spain?
  • the next hot wedding dress style?
  • a hero to children everywhere who teaches teamwork and politeness?
  • an obscure Chinese martial art whose time has finally come?
Actually no, it's none of those things. Flin Flon is a small Canadian town on the border between Manitoba and Saskatchewan. I mention this only because I ticketed some travel to there today. When I first saw the reservation, airport code YFO, I wondered if it was some weird joke destination. (True story, a few years back I ran across an airline created Test City code, FSG. For just a moment it felt like I could see the Matrix.)
And who, you may ask, flies to Flin Flon? Who else, Calm Air. Isn't that a peaceful airline name? (Much better than Fiery Plummet Air.) Speaking of airlines, there really is only one good choice for first time fliers. And speaking of small Canadian airlines with fun names, I've been told at work that I can't call Bearskin Airlines and ask if they have clothing optional flights.

(I'm not sure what the point of this post was. I had one when it started but . . . I seem to have lost it somehow. Anyway, you learned a new town name, isn't that exciting?)

Overheard

Relia: "Triangle, triangle, little star. I . . . wonder what you are. Triangle, triangle, little star."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Vikes 9-1

Back in September, I didn't know what to expect from the Vikings. I thought that Favre's bad karma would probably sink the team. Shows what I know, right? They have been very good, at times a great team.
The improvement has been mainly from the offense, especially the quarterbacking. This is a team that is very good at both running and throwing the ball. If they have a weakness, it's in run blocking. But they also have the best 1-2 running combo in the league with Peterson and Taylor. Neither back needs a gaping hole to run through. In fact, their biggest plays have been on cutbacks after what would have been a short loss.
The defense hasn't been as stout as it was the past couple of years. This year's team has an incredible pass rush and (without Winfield at least) average pass defense. The run stopping hasn't been quite as reliable but it's still good.
Of note, this year's special teams is wildly better than last years. They've enjoyed one of the better turn arounds in NFL history. Getting healthy and adding Harvin have helped tremendously.
Here's the fun part, the team is good enough that we can start talking about playoff position. The current NFC standings:

New Orleans 10-0
Minnesota 9-1
Dallas 7-3
Arizona 7-3 (barring a 4th quarter collapse today)

And a bunch of teams at 6-4. This means that the Vikes are in great shape to claim one of the top two spots in the conference, get a first round bye and host a game. If they make it to the NFC championship game it will almost certainly be in a dome, either in New Orleans or at home. This team is almost certainly better indoors than out so that's pretty big.
The Vikings could hardly have scripted this season any better. Let's hope that the ending is as good as the beginning.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pirate Radio - 2009

Back in the 60's the British government did not play rock and roll on the radio. The state controlled BBC didn't want it, so it didn't happen. This was, of course, a high moment in British rock with the Beatles, Stones, Who and many others making new music. Pirate radio stations sprang up, broadcasting from off the coast. The movie suggests that half of the British populace tuned in on a regular basis. All of this is based on true history.
The movie focuses on one particular station called simply enough Radio Rock. On it we meet a crazy group of DJs and radio folk. This is a fun ensemble and the movie does well by them. We get to know their quirks and personalities as they face challenges from the state and fend off boredom.
In many ways, this is a pitch perfect movie. The cast is great, the music is well done and the story is very good. The FP Gal told me that she already wants the soundtrack. In fact, I only had one problem with it:

An open letter to Kenneth Branagh
I loved your work back in the 90's. Not just the Shakespeare, which was wonderful, but also 'Dead Again' and that Frankenstein movie. Great, great stuff. You're an incredible actor. So stop screwing around with these awful villain roles that you've been playing for the last decade. Yes, the bad guy can be fun and I don't begrudge any actor the chance to play something tasty. But you aren't even playing memorable stuff. Just a bunch of bureaucratic jerks. Stop, just stop. Play something challenging. Maybe even something likable. And soon, please. Turn it around soon.

More Birthday

Should probably put a post up for my birthday too. Last night, the FP Gal gave me an Ipod and I've been trying to get up to speed with it today. I've wanted one for a few years at least so it's much appreciated!
Today we dropped Relia off at my Mom's place (thanks Mom!). The rest of the day was spent buying U2 tickets, picking up bed stuff and (believe it or not) yard work. Oh, and some naps. Now we're getting ready to go out for a movie.
The last year was a good one and I'm looking forward to the next. More adventures with Relia. New adventures with her new brother or sister. And of course, new adventures with the lovely FP Gal.
Should be great!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Happy Birthday!

To the FP Gal, who adds another calendar and still looks as beautiful as ever. Here is to another wonderful year!

Have a Great Friday

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Roar!

This morning we enjoyed a light rain and temps in the mid 40's. The rain tapered off so I decided that we'd go to the zoo. Como zoo, of course. And we picked a good time and day to do so. The weather chased a bunch of folks off. We got there about a half hour after opening and there were only about a dozen cars in the lot. We just about had the place to ourselves.
First off is the primate house. The way it's set-up, you go from smaller monkeys to bigger monkeys. orangutans and then gorillas. She wasn't impressed until we got to the gorillas. She thought they were big. I said they were even bigger than daddy. She told me bigger than two daddies.
Next up was the big cats. The tiger was very regally sitting outside, just staring off into space, perhaps thinking about lifeboats. The cougar was pacing very visibly, which was nice. And a female lion was sitting inside. We continued outside and saw the male lion. The walkway is elevated by a good 20 feet so we looked down at him. Then, and this was very cool, he started to roar.
Ever hear a lion roar? They are tremendously loud. Jungle shakingly so, probably. We watched him for a moment. Then the tiger came over to his side of the pen and told him to knock it off. Relia tried in vain to get more roaring but he was all done.
Next up was the giraffes and zebras. We watched them eat for a moment. There was a zoo worker there fielding questions but I couldn't think of any until later. My question: are zebras different than horses other than coloring? I've got no idea.
The aquatic house was next and we got to watch both the seals and the sea lions get fed. One of them (sea lions?) kept making the 'ark, ark, ark' noises. Relia would turn to me and say, "I heard something,". Yes you did, honey. The penguins stood stoically, as is their wont. Don't know if I've seen them in the water. The polar bears are vacationing in Detroit of all places while they remodel their home.
We completed the circuit and saw the tortoise statue. There is a door near it with a sign that says 'staff only'. Relia wanted to go in but I told her it was for zoo workers only. She thought a moment and then told me that she wanted to work at the zoo. If someday she does, I hope that she lets me watch the tiger feeding.
We did a quick spin of the conservatory. There was a class full of kids that seemed to be from a Muslim school. Their teachers herded them past the naked statues with great speed. I told Relia that Hans and Rachel were married there and she took that in stride. Hey, that anniversary is coming up!
Then home with her falling asleep on the ride. I doubt she'll remember the lions roaring. But her daddy sure will.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Over the Border - Big Country



Not sure why, but I've had this one bouncing around in my head for the past couple of days.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Top Grossing Films of the 00's

(Via Big Hollywood) Interesting post here regarding the top grossing films of the decade and their origin.
Wikipedia has a list of the highest grossing films of this decade so far, and kottke noticed that of the top 20 films at the box office, only one movie was not based on a past film or tv show (remake/sequel), or an adaptation of an established property (be it a comic, book, play, toy…etc).
That movie? 'Finding Nemo'. In fact, there are only two of the top 30 that are new works, the other being 'Kung Fu Panda' at #30. At the link they list the top 50 of the decade and only nine aren't based on some previous something. Seven of the nine are animated, five of those being Pixar. Any guesses on the other two?
Is that unusual? For comparison I decided to look at the Wikipedia list for the 90's. My quick count suggests that nearly half of them, 22, are new stories. Four of those are in the top 10, including the #1 overall grosser, Titanic.
Yep, the industry has changed.

The Kitties and the Door

The other morning the kitties opened Relia's door again. As you know, this has been the source of many too early mornings. We've convinced Relia that she should come in and get us rather than going downstairs and wrangling breakfast on her own. Much better.
But the other morning they opened her door again. And she got out of bed . . . and closed it!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Lord of Light - Zelazny

Quick review part, I loved this book and thought it was great. The idea behind it is clever. The main character is fun. Before the Hugo project, I'd never heard of this book and I'm very glad that I read it.
Now that I've said that, SPOILERS follow, ok? It takes a bit to unpack what's happening in 'Lord of Light'. The story resembles a series of legendary encounters involving a conflict between various Hindu gods and the Buddha. Only later do we find out that this is a planet that was settled by a colony ship. The original crew had a process whereby they could transplant their consciousness into a new body after death, much like reincarnation. They also developed technology to mirror their chosen god personas.
But not everyone was happy. In order to keep their god-like position, the pantheon needed to keep the populace at a low tech. If a region tried to develop, they would declare a holy war and reduce them. This approach offended a crew member named Sam. He decided to combat them by positioning himself as the Buddha.
The great thing about Sam is that he's a rogue. Each chapter deals with him balancing between his assumed persona and his need for cleverness. All of this is told in an heroic style which would be too heavy if it wasn't so much fun.
A great book.

Overheard

While Relia was helping to mix the waffle batter:

Me: Are your arms getting tired?
Relia: No. They're getting happy!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Movies that Defined the 00's

Interesting list in the Telegraph, regarding the '100 movies that defined the noughties'. I expect that we'll see a bunch of this type of thing in the next couple of months. List making has absolutely exploded in the internet age. And movies are by far the most universal shared culture that we have.
This particular list is aimed at 'defining' movies which isn't necessarily the same thing as the best movies (I think). So there is more arty and experimental fare than a straight 'best of' list might have had. Certainly wouldn't be my list but the whole thing is worth reading.
The top ten:

10. Slumdog Millionaire
9. The Passion of the Christ
8. Amores Perros
7. Borat
6. Memento
5. LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring
4. There Will Be Blood
3. The Incredibles
2. Brokeback Mountain
1. Fahrenheit 9/11

(Each movie has a brief description and the one for 'Fahrenheit' doesn't disappoint. It suggests that whether Moore 'played fast and loose with the facts misses the point'. This is almost the perfect summation of the rise of the political documentary in this decade.)

I've got a movie project in mind regarding the past decade of film. Probably something that will start around the beginning of December. In the meantime, I'll probably be looking for more of these lists. Don't know about the rest of you, but I can't get enough of them.

The Store

After Relia finished her morning bagel, she asked for some croutons. She got the last bit of those and I showed her the empty bag so that she'd believe me. I was (very helpfully) informed that we needed to go to the store and get more of them.

Btw, bagels and croutons were a very common breakfast while I was growing up.

Update: Since I'm talking about Relia/morning/food I should mention how she woke up this morning. Just before 6a there was some murmuring, then loudly and clearly she said, "That's a big orange!"

Have a Great Friday

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Random Thursday Thoughts: Kids Movies Edition

And yes, this list is proof that I'm a bad parent.
  • When you watch 'Little Mermaid' and 'Finding Nemo' in close order, it's really amazing how far animation came in so short of a time. 'Mermaid's' music still holds up well though.
  • Does any movie in the history of cinema have a higher percentage of sidekicks than 'Aladdin'? Each of the top four characters have their own cute companion (monkey, tiger, parrot and flying carpet). If the Sultan had a talking cat they could have maxed themselves out.
  • 'Monsters Inc' is known in our house as the 'salad movie'. We think that Sully = salad or something like that. 'Fish movie' makes so much more sense.
  • Overall, the Pixar movies are more popular with Relia than the Disney ones. She watches the Miyazaki movies, just stares at them entranced, but I don't know if she really enjoys them as much.
  • Disney had a well known policy of pulling their movies from sale and only releasing them for limited periods. This never bugged me before but now that I'm a parent it irks me. They have the right of course, I just wish I could buy the Toy Story movies more easily.
  • That's it!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

HIMYM Shame Index

For fans of 'How I Met Your Mother', Slate does a review of each episode on Tuesdays. The entire index can be found here.

Go Ahead, Reflect

Monsters Inc Question

How did Mike get back from Nepal?

This didn't bother me until the movie entered heavy rotation at our place. Now I don't know. And I don't think that the movie ever explains it.

Anyone?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Random Sunday Night Thoughts

To pass the time by while the FP Gal valiantly tries to put our little angel to bed:
  • I spend a fair amount of time criticizing bad commercials. Not that surprising given how bad some of it is. Bud Light (for instance) should fire their entire ad division. Possibly they should fire them out of an airlock while in low earth orbit. The FP Gal reminds me every Sunday that I'm not their target market.
  • Well, I'm not a Dos Equis guy either, but the set of ads with 'the most interesting man in the world' is nothing short of brilliant. The whole set with video can be found here. And yes, it tempts me to try some Mexican beer.
  • Switching gears to rum, it seems that the next Pirates of the Caribbean movie is going to be based on the Tim Powers book, 'On Stranger Tides'. It's a fun book and I'm very pleased.
  • Of course, I'm still waiting for the movie versions of 'War for the Oaks' and the long rumored mini series of 'The Diamond Age'. C'mon movie people! Steal some of my favorite stories and put them on the screen!
  • This seems to be a media heavy random post. Guess I'll roll with it. Did everyone hear that Steve Martin is co-hosting the Oscars next year? Yay! They're also changing the format for Best Picture to include ten nominees. Should be interesting.
  • That's it!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

So Tired

We're a week into November and my novel is really not going well this year. I loved the concept. Really, really loved it. Right up until I started writing it.
Part of my problem is that I read this article about how various great authors do their thing. It made me feel very bad about my prep and technique. And especially my characterization.
And then I realized that this novel is suffering from all of the things that I didn't like about the others. I'm not at all happy with how I write people. Even worse, I seem to keep falling into stories where there is next to no interaction between said people.
So what was my concept this time? Well, I still don't want to say in case I somehow salvage the darn thing, but let's just say that it precludes even the possibility of interaction. Which isn't an easy feat, believe me.
To top it all off, this first week has been an absolute wreck for writing. The first started off wonderfully. On the second I got sick and spent most of two days falling behind. Somehow, I caught up by day five but then failed utterly on six and now seven.
The first few years were pretty easy with this. I'll be shocked if I somehow finish this one.

Ugh.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Airport Code Game

As you doubtlessly know, airports are known by a unique three letter code. Traditional initials also have three letters. I propose a game. Go here, to an airport code website and enter your initials. Then come back and leave a comment regarding which city you are connected to. The person with the largest city wins!
I'll start (and create examples).

PGD (me) - Punta Gorda, FL (per Wikipedia the population is 16,762)
ARD (Relia) - Alor Island, Indonesia (Wikipedia puts the population at 168,000)
FPG (FP Gal) - no known airport (Wikipedia thinks that lots of people don't live at airports but for the purpose of this game she gets a score of 0)

So go ahead and give it a try. Leave your answers in the comments. Wikipedia look up available upon request. I honestly have no idea who will win this but I'm curious.

I Would Totally Do This

Man shows up at own funeral.

I'm very serious. When my time comes you might want to double check the corpse. Because if I can make it...

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Lessons from Movies

We've been taught from 'Finding Nemo' and now 'Little Mermaid' that sharks swimming underwater can break through just about any material. Except anchors and torpedo tubes. Swimmers take note.
The other day we also learned from the first twenty minutes of West Side Story that spinning in a dress is fun. And may cause the scene to shift from a dress shop to a dance hall. (This was a fun lesson.)

Update: I know one little girl and two cats that simply must switch over to the time change. This is like living on the Indiana border.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Powder on the Hands

We have finally found a reasonably good way to quiet a restless toddler on the changing table: corn starch. Yep, baby powder. Most people think that it's meant to be applied to the bottom. We certainly did. Relia has taught us differently. A few spots on each hand and she becomes quietly fascinated.
Babies are weird.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Bullying? Beheading???

This Yahoo news article caught my eye. Under the headline 'Tower of London Beefeaters Suspended for Bullying' is this lede:

LONDON – Women faced their share of trouble at the Tower of London, including three queens who were beheaded there. But treachery has long been considered a thing of the past at the notorious 11th century fortress. At least until now.

Um, are they really comparing 'bullying' with 'beheading'? There is a pretty steep difference between the two, no?
If charges made Monday are true, the Tower — a popular tourist attraction and home to Britain's Crown Jewels — will add bullying to the list of foul deeds committed there. The victim: the first woman selected to join the all-male ranks of the Tower's yeoman warders, popularly known as "Beefeaters."
Ah. Ok then. I'm certainly not in favor of bullying and I hope that the woman from the article, Moira Cameron, is able to work there without problems. Having said that, I don't think you can really hold executing Queens against the current lot. Orders and all that.
But. . . I guess it got my attention. So the writers have that going for them.

(Suspended how? The Tower has some gristly history of that sort of thing too...)

Off to Work

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Amazing Race

Enough of the desert, this week they went to the Netherlands! (Mom, if there was ever an episode for you to watch, this was it.) The show opened with everyone catching the same flight to Amsterdam. Why? Because flights from Dubai to Europe are limited.
(Side note, if you will. I think there is a reason that they don't have travel agents on this show. Once you start booking international flights for a while, you get a serious feel for the, uh, flow of travel. You know when to look for flights from here to there. And most importantly, you get a feel for how to get in and out of different continents. For instance, Skyteam has a 7p connection through Moscow that looks like it would have beaten the flight they picked. I bet with some time I could find even better.)
The first thing the teams did this week was drive to a certain statue on the bridge of a dike. Well, the first test for one team was putting the car in Drive, but I'm pretty sure that the producers didn't expect that to be a challenge. After the statue, they had to go to a nearby town and find the bell tower. One member would climb the steps and count all of the bells. Pretty straight forward and the first five teams did it without much problem. The last team had mucho trouble. I'm curious if she could have simply counted the keys on the players keyboard, but I didn't pause the screen and find out.
Next it was off to another nearby village to find a windmill. Then they had to change into authentic Dutch garb and choose between challenges. Each team had both a male and a female outfit and that was good for some cross dressing fun. Especially with the Globetrotters.
They got to choose between two sets of tasks. One consisted of a strength test with a hammer and a bell, a traditional dance and some salted herring. The other had them strip down to long underwear, swim a creek and then play golf with weird clubs and balls (and a strong wind).
This proved to be too much for the team of poker playing ladies. They couldn't ring the bell and they couldn't drive the ball far enough. This let the perpetually troubled team catch up and endure a penalty that they suffered from accidentally walking when they should have saved time by riding a bike. The poker players eventually quit.
I liked the scenery this week and watching the Globetrotters do an authentic Dutch dance was possibly the high point of the season. But . . . it's a real shame when a team quits because they couldn't actually complete a task. The High Striker, in particular was apparently too hard for a team of women. The golf probably would have been easier on a different day but was obviously beyond them if it was windy. Still, this was a team just waiting to be eliminated and if it wasn't this week it would have been the next. There are four strong teams left and the weaker ones are almost all gone.

NaNo New

Here is the beginning of this year's effort:
There was an intense, sudden flash of light and a shocking roar. Both were cut off and faded without echo or warning. Then a split second of free fall and without warning, a hard impact. Abner was knocked to the floor. There was surge back up and then a lighter impact and he could feel it start to roll.
Abner grabbed an arm hold and hauled himself upright. The windows had shown nothing but night and lights. Now it was full day time. The rain was gone. So was the airport. And they were definitely moving.
He was back of the wing and could see some kind of prairie or big field in front of him. A herd of … something was running away. Or at least that was what the cloud of dust made him think.
He turned to the other side to see if that view helped him but it didn’t. More grass but also trees. A forest worth, at least. The trees helped him figure the speed of the plane, fast but not alarmingly so. For the first time he noticed how rough the ride was. A thought flashed through his head that he was not on any kind of runway.
Also, the trees were starting to get closer. If the plane didn’t swerve or the forest curve back, there would be some kind of collision. He started to make his way up the aisle toward the cockpit. The crash happened when he was about half way there. At least the first crash did. Again he looked out the port windows and he could see that the wing was starting to connect with the edge of the forest.
Abner took one more step towards the cockpit and then the jet spun suddenly toward the left and pitched him off balance. He stumbled and hit his face on a seat back. For a moment he was woozy, and then he blinked a few times and passed out. His last thought was, ‘Damn Pete, what the hell did you get me into?”

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trick or Treat!

We finally got Relia out in her costume and did a little trick-or-treatin'. She is a kitty this year, with a delightful outfit that the FP Gal got second hand. We had to lean heavily on the grandparents/candy levers to get her dressed. We also added make up whiskers. I joined in on the whiskers, call it a throwback to my theater days. (I'm sure the FP Gal will add a picture.)
(yes, she did)
We chose the FP Gal's parent's neighborhood, in part so we could take her over there in costume. I'm sure the whole experience is just surreal for her. We walk up to strange houses, ring their doorbells and then they fawn over her cuteness and give her candy. I'm curious what she'll ask to go back to those houses and see if it works again.
We don't give her a lot of candy so this was a special treat for her. We'll try to ration the haul to keep her from getting sick. And . . . we just might thin the bounty ourselves. These are the lengths we're willing to go to for our daughter.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Overheard

Relia, singing in the tub:

"A-B-C-D . . . next time won't you sing with . . . elephants!"

More movies

In an attempt to broaden or movie menu for Relia, I tried some Miyazaki today, 'Spirited Away'. Don't know if I've ever blogged about the movie, let's just say that it is something like a Japanese version of Alice in Wonderland. Very beautiful, great score . . . and maybe a little too scary.
At least that's what I was afraid of. Movie scariness is a tricky thing with toddlers. For dramatic purposes there must be some conflict and it's not always clear what will be too much. 'Nemo' is basically about a kidnapping and she doesn't seem to have any issues with it. We've also been watching 'The Jungle Book' which is about a tiger that wants to eat a boy. Not only is she ok with it, she roots for the tiger!
'Spirited Away' opens with a small girl whose parents suddenly turn into pigs. She must find her way through a magical and unpredictably dangerous world in order to try and save them. Relia seemed to be fine with it. She's happily watching it again right now.
I'm finding the whole age appropriate question a little difficult. Modern children's shows are insipid. She can watch them but they are uniformly timid. When do you increase the risk factor? I'm not sure. She seems to be ok with what we've picked so far but I'm still not sure. Maybe we never will be.

Slumber Party!

Or maybe more accurate would be non-slumber party. Relia has decided that sleep is totally overrated and she's not going to play that game tonight. As a direct result she is now eating breakfast and we are watching Movie Fish (i.e. 'Finding Nemo'). She also demanded to wear regular clothes instead of her pjs and I fully expect her to throw a tantrum if I don't drive her to daycare at 3am.

She better take some good naps tomorrow...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

An Open Letter

I loved this in the Strib:

Dear Mr. 8C:

I'm sorry your Silver Elite status on Northwest Airlines didn't qualify you for a first-class upgrade on your recent flight from New York to Minneapolis. All of us, your fellow passengers, shared in the incredulity you expressed so vocally to the gate agent when informed that you would be flying coach.

The subsequent announcement that our departure would be delayed clearly inconvenienced you alone. Your expletive-laden denouncement of the airlines, while unsettling to many of those standing near to you, was an opinion that you obviously deemed necessary to share with all within earshot. It is shocking that the airlines would let a little thing like a mechanical problem with the plane interfere with your very important schedule. Trust me, we all heard you when you said how (expletive omitted) upset you were.

The whole thing is worth reading. Now most seasoned travelers are nice, of course. They understand the vagaries of air travel when it comes to things like delays and sold out upgraded class seating. But the bad ones? Holy cats, they're awful! There is something about assumed privilege that turns full grown adults into the worst possible children.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Held Hostage

The kitties are holding us hostage.

Really, they are. It goes something like this. They want to be fed first thing in the morning (and afternoon, evening, holidays, etc.). If they can wake one of us up then they get fed. The FP Gal is good at sleeping through their nonsense but I must sleep more lightly. For awhile their strategy was to howl in the hallway. I'd be afraid that they'd wake Relia and get up to feed them. Because waking Relia is what it's all about.
We can ignore them but we can't really ignore baby screams. When she wakes up, we're up. At some point that will change but for now it's true. So if they can wake her by howling then we have to get up and they get fed.
For a while I tried locking Ozzie in a different room but he has to have litter box access or things go badly. Then we started closing our bedroom door but that brought two problems. We like having the kitties sleep on us. And Sana can sometimes open the door all on her own. Smart kitties aren't necessarily a good thing.
This weekend they added a wrinkle. They opened up Relia's door. Saturday morning the FP Gal woke to hear Relia talking to the cats. She caught up with her trying to feed them downstairs. Very clever, no?
This morning they tried something a bit different. Relia whimpered a bit and called out for me around 5a. I sat up and started to dress. She quieted and I got back into bed. The kitties asked me to get up but I ignored them. So they went to work on her door again. She must have thought that one of us was coming in and soon enough Relia was trying to open the door on her end. Mission accomplished and I had to get up.
At some point she'll be able to get up, get her own breakfast and find an episode of Sesame St on the Tivo. Until then the kitties have us at their mercy. Ugh.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Amazing Race

Spoilers? Yes.

Remember last week when I thought that the teams were going to the Atlantis hotel in the Bahamas? Well, guess what, apparently there is an Atlantis hotel in Dubai too! Learn something new everyday. Yep, for this episode they all stay put in Dubai.
First off each team had to choose a briefcase and go to a yacht club. Then one member would row a small rubber boat out to one of the yachts and receive a 'treasure' and then row back to shore. This 'treasure' would give them a clue to help open the briefcase. What they got was a watch and they had to enter the time in as the combination. Unfortunately our favorite team, the Globetrotters, had trouble translating this and they let several teams pass them.
Next up was a choice of tasks. Each team could either put together 12 different hookah pipes or they could go to a money exchange and weigh out exactly $500,000 worth of gold. The hookah pipes took a great deal of detail work. Each team that went there became frustrated.
I would have chosen the gold without any hesitation. You simply divide 500,000 by the current price and put that on the scale. The trick was that the exchange rate changes every minute. This shouldn't have been a huge problem because the fluctuations are small and you wouldn't have to make big changes.
This section was very frustrating for me to watch. One team went there and couldn't figure out the math. So they went off to the hookahs where they could screw up in a different way. One team was smart enough to bring a calculator. A different team, the poker players, breezed through this and took another team along under their wing.
The last task was to go down a long waterslide at the Atlantis. The slide is steep and it passes through a tube that goes through shark filled water. The entire ride might last five seconds and it's completely and utterly safe. Unfortunately for one of this week's teams, it was too scary. The sixth team of the seven remaining featured a girl who just wouldn't go down. Her boyfriend didn't help. He tried to force her down, using actual force. He yelled at her and made her fears even worse. This opened the door for the trailing Globetrotters and they used it to move past them and take the last spot.
I'm trying to have some sympathy for the eliminated team but I really don't. Of all the fears that people have had to overcome on this show, 'waterslides' is by far the wussiest. If you can't close your eyes and spend five seconds on a public attraction you simply don't deserve to win the money.

NFL Ticket?

The NFL has been running commercials where they talk about big games from last season that people may have missed because they lived in the wrong place. Things like big running or passing games, big comebacks and the like. They talk about how you could improve things by buying the NFL ticket which allows you to watch live games from around the country.
I've purchased the MLB equivalent for many years because my favorite team plays in a different market. Never really tempted to buy the football one because a) it's really expensive and b) I can still watch a huge (virtually unhealthy) amount of football on local TV and cable.
Unfortunately, the local affiliates are working hard to change my mind. Right now there are two games on both right around the end of the third quarter. One is 38-3 and the other is 31-0. For the love of Goodell, switch to a different game! Last week they stuck with the Patriots 59-0 game all the way to the bitter end. Apparently there is no point at which they just declare a random out of town game as a blowout and move on.
Maybe I need a good sports bar.

Update: The FP Gal has solved the problem by turning the channel to a home design show.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Overheard

Last night the FP Gal and Relia came home to find me watching 'The Perfect Storm'. After watching for a few minutes, Relia yelled at the tv: "Get the rain off the boat! Get the rain off!". We quickly decided this wasn't good pre-bedtime viewing.
--
My dad and Relia:
Dad: How are you?
Relia: Pretty good.
(later) Dad: How old are you?
Relia: Pretty old.
--
FP Gal calls to me, Relia repeats it.
Me: Are you in a repeating phase?
Relia: (pause) I'm Relia!

Nook bad for B&N?

Interesting article on how Barnes and Nobel's new e-reader, the Nook, could be very bad for them in the long run. Basically, B&N's brick and mortar stores have been losing them money. The company is poorly positioned to compete with Amazon because they haven't followed the internet model nearly as well. The Nook will try and combat that as B&N is offering special in-store services for Nook users. The article suggests that the Nook will have to be crazy successful for that to work.
I used to be a B&N nut. I've worked between four and five years worth at various stores and it would be top of my list if I ever needed to dip my foot back in the part time pool. But over the last year I've almost stopped shopping there completely. Amazon is much more convenient. Their interface of recommendations and reviews is more user friendly. And it's easy enough to avoid shipping costs. B&N's prices on music and movies are generally much too high.
If my shopping experience is typical then the store is in big, big trouble.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Essetial Third Act Twists

This made me smile. And giggle a couple of times.

Update: This one too, but probably only funny for comic book fans.

Austin and Back

Yesterday was my father's birthday so today Relia and I decided to drive down and see him. I did most of the driving. Frankly, she's a little erratic on the road. In her defense, it is hard for her to reach the pedals and impossible to see over the wheel.
Anyway . . . we drove down to see him. We got there and Relia ran around his house, chasing his cat Missy. She got some cookies (we're too mean to give her any) and played with Grandma's stuffed toys. We took a quick spin through town and saw Aunt Donna (hi!).
Off to lunch and we had Chinese buffet. Relia liked the lo mein noodles, the raisins and the ice cream. Oh, and the dumplings. She didn't care for the beans or the constant requests to sit down.
Next was Oak Park Mall. It's a ghost town, but ghost towns have their advantages. In this case I was hoping for a place where she could run around without cold or crowds. Problem solved! Speaking of empty spaces, I had an idea for the mall. I think they should open it on Saturday nights for roller skating. Think of the speed you could build up on the long straight-a-ways. Whee!
Back to the cities. She slept the whole way, I wished I could. It was a very fun day.