Saturday, January 31, 2009

Game day


Had a few friends over today to play a game. This is the scene that the FP Gal walked in on after we'd been playing for about four hours. It's not a game for the faint of heart. Or more accurately, not for the impatient of instructions.
It's called 'Twilight Imperium' and it's probably the most complicated game I own. Teaching someone how to play takes about an hour. Setup takes a good half hour. Packing it up takes a half hour.
But it has it's good side. It's lots of fun to play! Each player is guiding an alien race towards galactic superiority. Many random actions are possible, giving everyone a chance to win. The game has a good deal of texture and that improves it as well.
The big drawback is that it's hard to find people dedicated enough to give up a Saturday afternoon. But that's a drawback with lots of good games. (Remember, it's easier for roleplayers, they don't need to juggle an outside life.) Relatedly, I regret that Hans isn't stateside to play with us.
I wonder how long it will be until Relia is old enough...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Random Friday Night Stuff

Yeah, I know, two nights in a row! How crazy is that?
  • Our office had a fundraising lunch today. Basically you could buy chili for $2 a bowl. It was very yummy and a great idea. Probably. I kept having thoughts of a certain scene from 'Blazing Saddles'.
  • In other office news, a new policy has come into effect that I'm not happy with. We recap at the end of each call to make certain that we have the right flight times and dates, etc. Now they want us to say the name of the state as well as the city. My last call tonight involved flights from San Francisco, California to Honolulu, Hawaii. Then onto Maui, Hawaii and back to San Francisco, California. It's a good thing that the traveler and I weren't confused about which San Fran or Honolulu they really wanted to fly to. Yeesh!
  • Driving home on Friday nights I often listen to a top ten list of movies that are 'from, about or otherwise pertaining to' some subject or theme. Tonight the list was movies involving...Minnesota! How is that for weird synchronicity? I couldn't write them down while I was driving. Three of them involved Jesse James and the top one overall was 'Fargo'.
  • We've decided that one of our acquaintances needs to invite us to a wedding. Not because we love them and want to share in their happiness or anything like that. Because we want to see Relia out on the dance floor. If anyone out there is close to tying the knot, hurry up please. She won't be this young and cute forever.
  • That's it!

Levar Burton on The Soup


We were literally crying at this.

Have a great Friday

Cats ♥ Waffle

Relia often eats a frozen waffle in the morning. Well, she eats part of one, you know how toddlers are. The thing is, if any of the waffle remains on her tray after she is done then the predators descend upon it. This morning a bit dropped on the dining room floor and it looked like a scene from the Serengeti.
Cats are weird.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tell me about it

Link.

Random Thursday stuff

Been awhile since I've done one of these...
  • A few notes on that 'films set in Minnesota thing'. Any complaints about movies left off of the list should be sent to the good people of Wikipedia. Heidi covered movies filmed in Minnesota here. Oddly, they missed 'Fellowship of the Rings'. I'm pretty sure that the Balrog scene was filmed at the Soudan mine.
  • Speaking of the mine, we visited it in 2004. Our choices were between the 'old mine' area and the physics section. We chose the physics. It's nearly half a mile down and they use the extreme depth to study neutrinos and other particles. Amusingly, down there they have a room designated as a tornado shelter.
  • The FP Gal will get a kick out of this. It's very possible that no one else will. (And yes, this list is horribly understocked too.)
  • Carrie recommended this series to me. It's about a group of Americans competing for a medal in role playing. I haven't had time to watch more than the trailer, but the subject is obviously ripe for attention.
  • For the record, I consider myself a boardgamer and therefore more socially acceptable than role players. We may need a ruling from Chris though.
  • That's it!

The Blind Assassin - Atwood

The book opens with a car driving off of a bridge. Witnesses claim it was suicide but the family pushes to claim it was an accident. A newspaper clipping makes it clear that the family is prominent and above reproach. Why would the driver commit suicide?
This book is actually three intertwined stories, an old woman named Iris tells about her current life. She also is writing her memoirs, focusing on her childhood and the events that led up to the car accident. We learn that Iris's life is solitary and that she's been abandoned by her family.
The third story is actually a different novel, based on an affair between a higher society woman a man on the run. The man is writing a pulp science fiction story to entertain her. This is by far the most interesting part of the book. Unfortunately, it's also the smallest.
This book won the Man Booker Prize in 2000 and Time named it one of the top 100 novels of the last 80 years (or whatever their gimmick was). Holy cats is it overrated! The story is dull, the characters are unlikeable, and the big secrets of the book aren't important enough that you'll care about them.
Iris as a child is unable to do anything but sneer at events around her. Iris as an adult can do nothing but sneer at the past. The 'bad guys' are made of cardboard. The 'good guys' are made of cotton candy. I kept reading and waiting to see what the big deal was and it never happened.
Most annoying for me, the book isn't even well written. About once a chapter you get a construction like this: "of course she knew it would happen. (paragraph break) It never happened." When you keep relying on this trick it quickly becomes dull and signals the reader not to trust the story.
This is the type of book that makes regular people think that book critics are full of it. Don't make the mistake I made. Never pick it up.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Commercials

Am I alone in this? Whenever I see a commercial that names a competing brand by name, I always assume that the sponsor of the commercial is inferior one. I mean, if they were really the best one out there they wouldn't need to try and bury someone else, right?
And while I'm mentioning the ads, a quick word to Wendys (again). This whole 'threeconomics' line of commercials? It makes your customers look like jerks. Why would you do this? Wise up, ok? I miss Dave Thomas.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Films set in Minnesota

The list on wikipedia is here.

I'm going with a top five (in particular order) of:

Juno
Grumpy Old Men
Drop Dead Gorgeous
Miracle
Fargo

Anyone want to challenge that?

Overheard

While watching 'Untamed Heart'

"Christian Slater was always one of those that I expected to die young. And now that he hasn't, I'm kind of disappointed."

The FP Gal, clearly not under the Slater spell.

(Caution, quote didn't sound this bad in context.)

January

According to the news, if we make it until Saturday without breaking 32, we will be enjoying only the fourth January in recorded Minnesota history to not get above freezing. Not that December was much better, though we did have five days where we peeked over the edge. This eternal cold weather means that the sidewalks aren't clear and the sides of the street are incredibly jagged and uneven. We've had fifteen days so far where the low was in the minuses. That is half of the month!
I don't think the general populace is holding up well with all of this cold. We're all becoming snarly and beaten down. And dried out! All of us have sections of skin that could be used to plane wood. Our cars look like they were rubbed all over a salt mine and then parked in the surf.
Would it be out of place to suggest that the state be declared a disaster area? Funds could be provided to send us in small groups to warmer locations for vacations. Ok, before you say no, you have to admit that this isn't the worst use of the bailout money that you've heard of.
Still, in three months it will be warm again. Warm enough to dress in smaller coats and hats. Ugh, just kill me now.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Rules

There are apparently some very strict rules as to what toys and furniture can be in what spots. These rules were completely unknown to us as of two years ago but now we live by them under pain of screaming and yelling. The rules don't have any rhyme or reason that we can detect. They just are.
Our only hope is that they aren't eternal or that someday we will be let in on their secrets. O what a lovely day that will be!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Best Picture Questions

The other day Kate mentioned that she hadn't seen of this year's Best Picture noms. She's in pretty good company, only one of the five films have made a dent as far as box office totals go. Numbers from Box Office Mojo as of 25jan:
Benjamin Button $111 million
Slumdog $56 million
Milk $21 million
Frost/Nixon $12 million
The Reader $9.6 million
The $100 million mark is a pretty common yardstick in Hollywood for movie success. I bet that the Best Picture nomination will boost interest in a movie but it's hard for me to see any of the bottom three movies crossing the century mark. There are at least two reasons for this, the movies were released only in arthouse theaters without a lot of coverage. Also, they won't interest any but a small segment of the population.
This hasn't always been the case with Best Picture films. Only one nominated film this decade has had the top annual box office (Return of the King). The 90's had three (Forrest Gump, Titanic, Saving Private Ryan) and so did the 80's (Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., Rain Man). Numbers going back to 1980 can be found here.
What's happened? I've got a few ideas:
  • More and more of the 'Oscar bait' movies are being wedged into the very last part of the year. None of this year's was out in wide release before Thanksgiving. This compresses the entire genre into a few weeks. It's tough for people to get out there and actually see many of these. For comparison, a movie that is definitely Best Picture quality, Wall-E, was released in the summer and it made $223 million. The downside is that the voters forgot about all of it's praise before they issued ballots.
  • There are more and more niche films. The '94 Oscar debate was widespread because lots of people saw Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction. (Shawshank Redemption gained speed on VHS because it has horrible marketing.) If Milk narrowly beats Frost/Nixon only a couple percent of the country will have any kind of informed opinion. If it doesn't interest many people, they'll look to different critics.
  • Message movies! If your movie is trying to make some narrow political point, you are almost certainly going to turn off anyone that doesn't already agree with it. This goes back to my theory that we get better movies when the president is a Democrat. Soon we'll be back to uplift and more traditional moral themes.
  • The Oscar voters are off. We know that the ratings for the award show keep declining. The last big one was when Titanic was up. People become invested in films and care about the sucess of the ones they love. If the Oscar become an arthouse only award, you'll see the numbers continue to decline. This will be noticed and I'm guessing that opinions will shift.
I hope that these are the five best films of the year, but I doubt it. I hope that the selections improve in the coming years and on that I'm fairly optimistic. There are still great movies out there and people will still find them somehow. I just hope that the Oscars can help that process.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Beatles Music

I know there are some serious Beatles fans that read this blog. One enterprising fan listened to all 185 of their songs and ranked them worst to best. The worst song was no surprise, 'Revolution 9'.
Shortly after recording “Revolution 9”, John Lennon allegedly went around telling friends that his new song was the music of the future. Well, here we are, 40 years later, and I don’t see the pop charts filled with experimental song collages featuring recording engineers, chanting football crowds, mangled orchestras, and bizarre non-sequiturs.
The top ten:
10. Eleanor Rigby
9. Something
8. Strawberry Fields Forever
7. In My Life
6. All You Need is Love
5. Hey Jude (I personally can't stand this song)
4. Golden Slumbers/Carry that Weight/The End
3. She's Leaving Home
2. I Am the Walrus
1. A Day in the Life

The FP Gal agreed with two of these. I'm curious what you others think.

Getting together

We hosted a small party today. Several of the girls I went to high school with both live in the area and have young children. We decided to throw a little party and have them over. The benefits were twofold, I got to see them and our children got to meet each other and play together. I almost never get the chance to see Relia with other young children so this was a real treat.
Arrangements were made for a brunch type get together. I secretly invited Kate to join us. She lives in South Dakota so I didn't have much hope that she could attend but she was very excited by the idea. She was our big surprise and everyone was very happy to see her. I don't think I'd seen her since she graduated nearly 18 years ago. (The math just can't be right on that, btw.)
Here we are, the six of us. Back row, Kate (the tall one), me (the bald one) and Laurie. In front is Carrie, Holly and Meigan.
These are our seven daughters. Assuming that every pregnancy is a 50/50 chance between a boy and a girl, do you know what the odds of all seven being girls is? 1 in 128. That is actually a smaller set of odds than the chances of getting several toddlers to sit nicely on a couch for a picture. This was the best one we got.
Relia here pondering Laurie's daughter Elizabeth.
We didn't take too many shots of the adults (and I'm regretting that). Here is one of us brunching. The glowing thing is a box of cupcakes.
Late in the party there was a crawling train through the kitchen. I like this shot because you can see Carrie smiling at them from over the sink. Smiles all around and there was lots of laughing and fun.
The FP Gal posted about this here. It has been a blast reconnecting with lots of people through their blogs and on Facebook. Even better was seeing people in meatspace. We hope to do this again sometime when it's warm. That would be even better.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Best Picture Nominees

They've announced the 2009 Oscar noms. Up for Best Picture is:
Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Frost/Nixon
Milk
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire
I've only seen 'Slumdog' and I thought it was great. My dad saw 'Benjamin Button' and loved it. Anyone seen any of the rest?
'Wall-E' is up for Best Animated film. Last summer many people thought that it might compete for best picture, so I think it's in good shape there. It looks like 'Gran Torino' was shut out and that's a shame because it really was an outstanding movie.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Smuggler

Relia had her bear this morning while I changed her clothes. She carried him downstairs then and we got ready to go. She wouldn't put him down or let me take him. Fine, so be it. I put her parka on over her head and finished getting my own self ready.
Then we were all ready to go out of the door. I gave her a quick frisk so I could take bear but he wasn't there. Good, no problem. Out we went and to the car.
I started strapping her in and you guessed it, there was bear! I still don't know where she hid him or how I missed him. I took him from her and let him sit up front with me. Let her take him into daycare with her...? No, the risk of losing him was too great. So he sat in my car while I worked. He's a good bear and didn't complain when I finally got back out there tonight to drive home.
She's a tricksy one, that Relia...

'Lost Suggestion'

For anyone wanting to watch from, say, Germany. ABC.com puts each episode on it's website a day after the initial broadcast.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration

Worked today so I didn't watch any of it live. Large numbers of my office (or at least my company) must have been streaming it though because our servers crashed. (We actually had to refrain from surfing for a few hours. The network we book travel on was down for the same reason and it apparently got our phones for a short time.)
It's a great day for the country. The striking image of the week for me was watching Obama speak at the Lincoln memorial. I wish him and his family well.
If I could have picked a place to watch today's events, I would have gone down to the FP Gal's classroom. It sounds like they were very excited. This is living proof to many of them that they can accomplish great things in life. I hope that lesson really sticks with them.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Special delivery!

This afternoon Relia brought a grocery bag over to me. She was struggling with it, so I could tell that there was something heavy inside of it. Yesterday we got bags from a couple of different people so I didn't know if it was computer speakers or pudding cups. She worked with it and worked with it and finally got it to me.
I looked inside and...it was Ozzie! He looked up with pleading eyes. She set it down and started reaching in for him. I told him that he was on his own. After a few minutes he got out and left.
Still, she was very pleased. She brought a kitty to daddy!

Gran Torino - 2008

Not everyone is good at change. This movie focuses on just such a man, and why that resistance to change isn't always a bad thing. I'm going to skip a full review but let me just say that this was a fantastic movie, and I'd highly recommend it. Eastwood is great and the story is always interesting. This review from Althouse really sold me on it, it makes for a good read.
And I'll let her do more of the heavy lifting, in her comment section she is asked what lessons it offers. Her response:
"the various lessons"

1. A man should get a real job, a man's job -- build things, use tools.

2. Violence is terrible. It's not some game.

3. A man should be close to his sons.

4. Even a bad man can get the best woman in the world to marry him if he works at it hard enough, and even if he hates just about everything else, he can see the real value of that.

5. A young man should perceive when a girl likes him and he needs to ask her out to dinner and a movie before somebody else does.

6. A boy needs a man to teach him how to be a man.

7. Don't smoke.

8. Kids should show respect.

9. You should take care of your property -- your house and lawn.

10. You should collect a full set of tools, and hang them up on the wall in good order. And teach your sons how to use them.

11. There's phony, candyass religion that soothes some women, but there's serious religion too, the kind that suits a man.

12. Get a nice car and take care of it and some day you will own a "vintage" car.

I'd add the lesson that you must be able to rely on yourself and sometimes that means improving yourself until you are reliable enough.
Just a fantastic movie.

60 in 60

This seems like a project that's up my alley.
Those Amazon readers who have followed my prior posts on the subject know that I've started in on what has been called by at least one friend "foolish" and by another "the endeavor of a madman": reading the 60 books in Penguin's Great Ideas series, one a day, and writing about each on my personal blog. Penguin's own blog questioned my sanity.
Maybe without the time limit I'd try this, but I don't have anywhere near enough time to try this in 60 days. Maybe my father should though...

Playoff picks

Remember, there is still a couple of hours left to bet against these!

Nevermind analysis, this week I'm going with the underdogs. That means Cards and Ravens. The coin is going with the Eagles and Steelers (bandwagon-jumper!). Our record after two weeks:

Me 3-5
Coin 5-3

It's a good thing I'm not getting paid for this, right?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Roller skating

Today we celebrated the FP Gal's brother's birthday party (Happy Birthday, Ryan!). It was at a roller skating rink here in the Cities. I haven't been roller skating in at least twenty years. The FP Gal has inline skates and rolls around like a demon. Her brother moreso.
Me? I started slowly and got the feel of the motion. You need to push a little to the sides. And if you stand up to straight it hurts in those muscles right below your shins. A little bend at the knee helps. As the day went on I was able to build up some of the old speed.
I have memories of being a roller skating speed demon. Flying around at the old Terp at warp speed. And best of all, the rink in Brownsdale where you could swing around the pole at the far end. Hair flying in the wind... Ah, memories.
Today wasn't quite like that. It was more about dodging schools of six year old girls. And not falling. That's what I was most proud about, not falling. It was a good trip.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Fire in Austin

(Hat tip to my mom.) There was a pretty big fire in downtown Austin yesterday. It looks like about half a block of buildings were gutted. Pictures are from the linked Herald article:





Have a great Friday

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Mule - Asimov (1946)

Isaac Asimov wrote the Foundation trilogy in the late 40's. He was inspired by Gibbon's 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire' to write a history of a galactic empire set from the perspective of it's aftermath. This was done as a series of short stories and novellas that concentrated on 'the Foundation'.
Near the end of the Fall, one man used a mathematical science called 'psychohistory' to predict not only the actual fall, but also to chart a way to shorten the resulting dark age. He did this by choosing a planet on the edge of the galaxy and setting up a group called the Foundation. Their position would enable them to survive the collapse and form the basis for the next empire. They would face a series of crises in which they would always be on the right side of history. Each story deals with one of these events.
'The Mule' is the oldest Hugo winner (and the first on my list). It tells of a single man with a mutation that let him act in a way that the Plan couldn't predict. That made him a singular threat to the Foundation. Could he derail the forces of history itself?
The story unfolds (like most of Asimov's work) as a puzzle. Our view of the Mule is only from other, unreliable people. His powers are mysterious and shadowy. It works as a story but it's not my favorite type of work. I like the scope and the cleverness but the characters aren't all that compelling.
This was awarded as a 'retro-Hugo' award fifty years after it was first published. The entire trilogy was awarded a Hugo for best ever series in the mid sixties. Asimov himself thought that Lord of the Rings would win that award, but they chose his instead. I think this Hugo was more to award that award than for actual recognition of this particular story.
The whole series is worth reading but not any kind of must read for sci-fi fans. I first read it in my teen years and didn't think to go back to it for nearly twenty years. Make of that what you will.

Toddler stuff

It's been a busy day here on Walton mountain.
  • For all of those recent parents that read this, how do you childproof your garbage can? She's in the scavenging stage. On Tuesday she kept bring garbage to the FP Gal as if it was a prize of some sort. We've put it in our fenced off pantry with the cat food and water but it's incredibly inconvenient.
  • Relia drew first blood today and I felt terrible about it. She opened up one of the drawers in the kitchen and fished around in there until she found the scissors. She wandered in to the living room and started crying. And blood was coming out of her lip! Not a big wound, but it was obviously one of those awful parent moments. And yes, we're fixing it.
  • It never ceases to amaze me how far she can reach. And how persistent she is when she finds a target. This morning she climbed onto my chair at the computer. Then she got my phone and called the FP Gal's cell phone. I only hope that she never randomly calls the police.
  • To keep her away from the computers, we usually pull the chairs away and tip them over. Yesterday morning she climbed up on the tipped over chair so that she could still reach the keyboard. She wants to see the kitties.
  • Relatedly, did you know that the space bar acts as a 'page down' while reading blogs? Also, a google search for '////////111111.4' doesn't bring up anything. (Until now that is.)
  • She is bound and determined to put her own shoes on. She usually doesn't get the right/left thing correct. And sometimes it's backwards. And there is often yelling and frustration. But she is determined.
  • Another question for parents: what is she going to get into next? Any hints on what we need to prepare for?
  • I don't want this to sound frustrated because we're not. Actually, we're very happy with her. Sometimes exasperated and tired, but very happy.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

RIP Ricardo Montalban

Khan!

Old Relia Pictures

The FP Gal got a bunch of pictures today from a photographer that used our daughter for some modeling last July. Very cute stuff.

Just saying

The temperature with windchill right now is -35. It's the coldest weather we've seen in five years (per the news). Current temp in Juneau, AK? 39 degrees. Positive degrees. I won't even look at Honolulu.
Had some car trouble today. Pagoda's (my car) starter doesn't always like to play in the cold weather. At least I think that's what it is. My typical response is to wait ten minutes and then it cranks right up. On Saturday it took a half hour's wait. Same thing this morning. That shot my schedule to bits and I ended up missing work.
On the plus side, the electric blanket on the bed is working just fine. So are the flannel sheets. Hope everyone out there reading this is staying warm somehow.

How cold is it?

We just discovered that the cat's water dish, in our pantry had frozen over. Poor kittys.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Favorite vacations

Kate is asking about favorite vacations. Since my mind is desperate to get out of Minnesota, I'd like to indulge. Top five? I'll go in chronological order since I don't feel like ranking them.
  • Scotland - For four weeks in the summer of '91 my dad and I were in Scotland. He was working, I wasn't. We got to know some of the locals in Buckie. We spent a week in the granery of a castle at Culloden. I often walked around in the foggy midnight hours. Very nice.
  • West Coast - Back in September of '99, Jodi and I drove all the way from Seattle to San Diego. Went to Mt Ranier for the first time. Fell in love with the Oregon coast. Gawked at redwoods. Saw San Fran. Got very sunburned in San Diego. Learned that it's too big of a drive for one trip.
  • Hawaii - April of '00, again with Jodi. Kauai is just about the prettiest spot on the planet. And it has random chickens running all over it. I'd move there in a heartbeat. Got very sunburned on this trip too.
  • Mexico - Ah, Zihua... This was April of '05 and I proposed to the FP Gal. Saw gorgeous sunsets and had the best orange juice of my life. Helped cats get fed at a restaurant. Ate plenty of room service. Wish I was there tomorrow.
  • Paris - May of '05, man that was a busy year. What a wonderful city and I'll probably never go on as lavish a tour as that again. Must go back when I have more time (and the FP Gal).
Ok, back to reality. Ick.

More snow

So the weather just keeps on wintering on. We got roughly half a foot of snow here today (at least that's what my shoveling eye thought). Again, the snow doesn't bother me. It's the very low temps. We probably won't see the positive side of zero again until Friday or so. Ick.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Open question

When did actors/directors/other movie people start including agents in the long line of people that they thank? And did the movie biz become hopelessly out of touch at exactly that moment or some other time?

White Tiger Blues

A few years back the FP Gal found a stuffed animal white tiger and bought it for me. It's about three times the size of a house cat and has a somewhat serious look on it's face. It has lived up on the third floor, away from baby and other cats. On Thursday I brought it down for Relia.
She so wants to hug the cats and (not surprisingly) they won't let her. I thought that she could happily hug the tiger and everyone would be happy. Well...not so much. She sometimes wants to pet it and kiss it but mostly just wants it to be in the right place.
Which means that it should not be in the tent. And not on mommy's chair. And definitely not in the baby carriage. This also means that sometimes a new place is added and a tearful Relia carries this tiger (roughly as big as herself) to you and demands that you do something about it.
She makes these rules of course. I just wish they were easier for the rest of us to understand.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Oscar Recalls?

(Via Althouse) Entertainment Weekly has done something very interesting. They've polled a number of Hollywood types in order to revote for the acting, directing and Best Pictures from 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 years ago. The results (in any annoying gallery which has no purpose beyond page views) can be found here.
Included with the results are the percentage of voting totals. I've long wished that they would release the actual Oscar totals, so we could see how close some of the votes actually were. This isn't as good, but it's still interesting. I won't mention all of them, but a few are noteworthy.
Best Picture for 2003
LOTR: THE RETURN OF THE KING: 46%
Mystic River: 27%
Lost in Translation: 13%
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World: 10%
Seabiscuit: 4%
I'm sure this Oscar was a nod to the entire trilogy but it's a shame that it went to the worst one of the three. Five years later and the one I still watch is 'Lost in Translation'. If I ever do the 00's I'll come back to this.
Best Picture for 1998
SAVING PRIVATE RYAN: 46%
Shakespeare in Love: 22%
Life is Beautiful: 13%
The Thin Red Line: 10%
Elizabeth: 9%
One of the most controversial in Oscar history and yes, I'll agree with it. But I still think it's a shame that SIL has suffered the backlash. It's a very good movie and frankly much more rewatchable. It's hard for me to believe that TRL got 10% of the vote here.
They also decided that Roberto Benigni should've lost to Edward Norton Jr. I haven't seen American History X but Benigni played an incredibly difficult role. I can't think of another actor that could have pulled off 'Life is Beautiful'. That should count for something.
I hope they keep doing this. It should be fascinating to see how they vote for the wonderful movies of 1994.

Playoff picks

Ok, so last weekend didn't go so well for me. I only went 1-3 while a flipped coin went 2-2. My only consolation is that I picked the closest game to a blowout correctly. Still, 8-3 is possible, right? (Per usual, the easiest way to make money is to go the opposite of these picks. Maybe next year I should see if I can pick 0-11. That doesn't seem outside the realm of possibility...)

Ravens (+3) at Titans
Home teams traditionally win 75% of the games in this round. They just had a week off and they also have the benefit of usually being the better team. The Titans aren't obviously the better team here. In fact, if the two teams played ten times at a neutral site, I'd be surprised if it didn't end up 6-4 or 5-5. Given the week off and home field advantage, I have to go with the Titans.

Cardinals (+10) at Panthers
Remember when the Cards were given up for dead a few weeks ago? Their appearance at NE was one of the single worst games I've ever seen a team play. They've been abysmal on the east coast this year. But on the other hand, I don't really trust the Panthers either. They've had poor games this year and for some reason I can see them being overconfident here. And that 10 points is a big number. I'll go with the Cards to cover but not necessarily win.

Eagles (+4) at Giants
Here are the two teams that the Vikes last faced so I do have some feel for them. Both of these are sexy playoff picks. The Eagles have been wildly inconsistent and the Giants seem to have peaked a month ago. Uh, I'll go with the Eagles, I guess but this really is a coin flip.

Chargers (+6) at Steelers
I realized something this year that didn't know before. I don't like the Steelers. No idea why and I can't give a good reason. Maybe this is just the prolonged sucess thing, I don't know. Anyway, I think it has driven me to irrationaly underrate them. That stops here and I'll pick the Steelers to blow out San Diego.

The coin:
Ravens
Cards
Eagles
Chargers

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Long Now

I reviewed Stephenson's Anathem last month. After I read the book I looked at some other reviews and related material. That led me to the Long Now Foundation (wikipedia page here). They are an organization that is afraid that our modern culture is causing us to treat the future with too short of an attention span. They are dedicated to change that. Especially interesting is the clock they are designing, which is supposed to run for 10,000 years.
The FP Gal and I were talking about this the other day. When I was growing up there were plenty of articles and talk about life in the future, usually settled on the year 2000. That type of talk seems to have stopped. About the only time you hear mention of the year 2100 is in regard to climate change. We don't even talk much about more recent dates like 2050 or even 2020. I was reading discussion of the economy in 2010 and it seemed hoplessly far off (in the sense that no one has a firm grip on what it will actually be like).
We seem to be more and more of a nostalgia culture, constantly revisiting past fashions. Seriously, when was the last new clothes fashion? Modern cars look much the same way that they did 15 years ago (and they don't look nearly as good as they did 50 or 60 years ago). Musical theater has stopped doing anything new. Art (both sculpture and paintings) is only interesting in the sense of how irritating the artist can be.
Movies are being made at a greater pace than ever before but the big studios are becoming increasingly reliant on other mediums to give them stories. If it's not a sequel, it's almost certainly based on a novel, TV show, comic book or theme park ride. New stories are few and far between. Novels are a lone exception, with plenty of brand new writing coming out each year.
I don't know what this all adds up to but I don't think it's a good sign as a culture.

Contrary to Popular Opinion

Or at least contrary to popular reality TV shows, creative people don't have to have crazy looking hair. For Pete's sake, it makes you look stupid.

Bribes

Last night I asked the FP Gal if there was anything I could bribe Relia with to have her sleep until 730a. We couldn't think of anything. Cold medicine was mentioned but not seriously. Anyway, as you can tell from the time on this post she got up around 6a per usual. Still, she's in a good mood and that counts for a lot.
I was planning on taking her for a walk around the block today but the forecast high is something like 14 degrees (grrrr). We've taken her out to the MOA the last few Sundays but that is no longer a one person job. It takes at least two and maybe a half dozen.
Probably we'll stay in and play with her tent and the kitties. And I've got some Powerpuff girls on the DVR. Don't know how much she'll enjoy them but I sure will.
We'll get by somehow.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Why do Canadian Airport Codes Begin with Y

I've got some training coming up this week dealing with Canadian travelers and as part of it I was brushing up on Canadian airport codes. There is a serious oddity in them in that they all start with the letter 'Y'. (Well, not all but the exceptions are only trivia. The major ones all do.) I've always wondered why the uniform letter but have never read a good explanation.
My Google-fu was weak and I could find no good reason. The best I can get is that when the codes were being decided by IATA, the Canadian government requested that they all begin with 'Y'. No particular reason for it, they just did. And no, I don't think that's a satisfying answer either. So...I've come up with some of my own.
  • As a tribute to Yul Brenner.
  • Thought that A (eh) was too 'on the nose', you hoser.
  • Didn't want to risk a showdown with Cowboy X.
  • Use of Q would only encourage Quebecois seperatists.
  • Too many 'end of the world' jokes for Z.
  • As a tribute to Yellowknife, the only territorial capital in the world named for a colored weapon.
  • Enjoy tricky status of sometimes being a vowel, sometimes a consonant.
  • Because they are inscrutable Canadians.
Yeah, I have no idea.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

10 Best American Movies

(H/t the Corner)

On his NYT blog, Stanley Fish lists the top ten American movies of all time:

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
Sunset Blvd (1950)
Double Indemnity (1944)
Shane (1953)
Red River (1948)
Raging Bull (1980)
Vertigo (1958)
Groundhog Day (1993)
Meet Me in St Louis (1944)
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945)

Got that? Only two movies since 1958 are able to crack the top ten. Yeesh. Look, I'm attached to movies I grew up with too, but at least I have the wit to try and spread it around so that I don't look shallow.
No, I don't have my own list here. Some obvious candidates would be:

Gone with the Wind
Casablanca
Rear Window
West Side Story
Star Wars
ET
Dead Poet Society
Goodfellas
Schindler's List

and literally thousands of others.

Overheard

The FP Gal (watching lobster on a commercial): Next time we think about going to Olive Garden, let's go to Red Lobster instead.
Me: Ok. Fuddrucker's it is.
FP Gal: Fuddruckers is not in the same league.
(Pause)
Me: But it is in the same zip code.

Finding Neverland - 2004

Where do authors get their inspiration from? What do they use for their muse? More to the point, where do beloved children's fantasies come from? It's an interesting question, I think.
This movie opens up with the failure of a play. J.M. Barrie (Johnny Depp) has written a flop. He takes his daily walk with his dog and ends up in the middle of a game between four young boys. Little do they know that he has an even more active imagination than they do. He quickly 'adopts' them and their widowed mother. The time they spend together ends up in his journal and then his mind and eventually on stage.
But not all is happy. The boys aren't all dealing with their father's death well. Barrie's wife doesn't like the time he's spending with a new family. And the new play is not exactly typical of London's most popular stuff.
The story is very charming and well acted. It cuts back and forth between real life and fantasy in a very entertaining way. The music is very good. Overall, it's a good but not great movie. It was nominated for Best Picture in 2004, more for tone I think than anything else. Worth seeing.

Warmer weather

Ok, so after complaining about the absurdly cold weather of the weekend, I should mention that the last couple of days were actually very pleasant. It got into the 20's or so each afternoon. (At least it looked like it in the parking lot from my window at work. And no, that's not a depressing sentence at all.) This morning I didn't even have to scrape the windows. At least I think that's true, it was quite a while ago.

Also, for those trying to keep track of me, the post below was a scheduled post. I wasn't actually blogging mid-afternoon. I ran across the picture on Sunday but wanted to wait a few days to put it up. Isn't it pretty? I'm guessing northern France because of the chalk deposits but that's just a guess.

France

Monday, January 05, 2009

Mr Rock and Roll


Could this sound more like 10,000 Maniacs?

Anniversary

On this very day three years ago, the FP Gal and I were on the upper deck of a large ship sailing slowly into Key West. A very lovely memory. One odd part of it was a conversation with a man from the south (Georgia) who sympathized with our winter conditions. At one point he went so far as to tut tut that awful freezing rain that we get occasionally.
Little did he know that only three years previously (six years now) I'd had a bit of an experience with that. Well, the scars are mostly faded now and I don't think about it every day anymore. I'm sure it'll fade more and more with time.
Listen, go out and live today very fully. Ok? Do something nice for someone else. Then do something nice for yourself. Give your loved ones a kiss and wish them well. Just live, ok?

-2

I'm sooooo tired of this cold weather. It seems like every morning for the last month I've had to get Relia ready to go in sub-zero weather. Enough already!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Vikes, eh

I hoped for a win (of course) but it wasn't to be. They played well, mostly. The offense just couldn't get anything together in the second half. And the defense broke on only one play. Well, the Jackson pick-six didn't help either.
Now is the off season and all of the usual questions. I think Childress comes back and I wish I could be positive about that. His coaching was better this year but you still never finish watching a game and think about how the Vikes played smarter than the other team. That goes against him in a big way.
They need, need, need to improve at the quarterback spot next year. If Jackson is still with the team he can't be the anointed QB without a good plan behind him. In fact I'd rather a decent veteran came in and pushed him into the backup spot.
They made the playoffs and they should absolutely treat this season as a success. I loved the defense and hope that it plays that well next year. You can see the pieces on the offense but that needs serious improvement. (Special teams killed them too but a large part of that was injuries and hopefully will improve without much tinkering.) They played seventeen games and won the division for the first time in eight years. I'll take that.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

"Hot"

(I won't blog every new word, just the interesting ones. Hope you find these interesting.)

Relia has also conquered the word 'hot'. Only it has to be said in a specific way. She whispers "Hot, hot, hot". While the FP Gal was making her a grilled cheese sandwich she seemed quite concerned about the pan and kept cautioning that it was "hot, hot, hot". I don't know if she has picked up the caution to go with it, I expect a few lessons and unhappiness.
This whole thing is fascinating.

Kitty picture

Playoff picks

It's time for my annual playoff picks (non-sports fans, feel free to skip). My record at this isn't that spectacular, but some year I'll go a perfect 11-0 and be very proud of myself. As always, if you're going to risk money on this, go find someone more reputable.
First a word on the possible blackout of the Vikings game. Does anyone think that a blackout would be a possibility if the team hadn't fumbled seven times against the Falcons? If they'd won then, people would trust them (and they would have had another week of guaranteed playoffs to buy tickets in). I can't blame other fans for not buying tickets. I can't afford $60 to spend on a football game right now and my situation hasn't changed for the worse in the last few months. Anyway, it looks close to a sellout and my fingers are certainly crossed. On to the games:

All four games have very close spreads this week. That means that you should only pick a team if you really think it'll win. All four road games are favored, which is odd to say the least. There is only one of them that I feel good about...

Falcons (-1.5) at Cardinals
This one is purely based on how the two teams played over the last month or so. The Cards looked absolutely dreadful, especially in New England. They apparently wrapped up the division and decided to stop playing. Meanwhile the Falcons played in the toughest division in the NFL and played quite well to the end. The only thing that the Cards have going for them is home field advantage. I don't think that will be enough and I'm picking the Falcons to win.

Colts (-1) at Chargers
I'm surprised that the line isn't larger here. The Colts played a harder schedule and finished well. They are a complete team that is healthier now than at any previous time this year. The Chargers rallied from the dead to finish 8-8 and knock out the Broncos. I think last week was their emotional high point and they'll come out flat tonight. The Colts win going away.

Ravens (-3) at Miami
I've had a crush on the Ravens all year long. Their defense is very good and their offense has shown signs of life over the last month or so. The Dolphins are one of the best stories of the year and they seem to be grinding out wins. It wouldn't surprise me if this is the game that gets out of hand and the Ravens win by four touchdowns.

Eagles (-3) at Vikings
These are both Jekyll and Hyde teams. The Eagles can't win a close game and have played some really awful games like week 16 at Washington where they only scored 3 points in a must have game. The Vikings have played wildly undisciplined games, like fumbling seven times against Atlanta. Both teams have good defense, Philly has a better offense. If my heart wasn't in this, I'd go with the Eagles but I can't. I'll pick the Vikings.
I can see how the Vikes would win pretty handily. A turnover here or there, an injury to Westbrook or McNabb (not wishing for but wouldn't be surprised), a missed tackle leading to Peterson running wild. Any of those things could easily happen and give the Vikes momentum at home. They've grabbed that a few times, most recently with the Bears and it lead to dominating wins.

And for good measure, a flipping coin chooses:
Cards
Chargers
Dolphins
Vikings

Thursday, January 01, 2009

A dubious milepost

Tonight Relia clearly and in context said 'no'. Hopefully it'll just be this once, right? Right???

Happy New Year!


I hope it's a great one for all of you!