Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Today I wanted to buy some beer. My love of marionberries has led me to Sam Adam's Blackberry Witbier. I'm not a prolific drinker by any means but I wanted some for New Year's Eve. Especially because I expect horribly icy roads to lock us up at home over the weekend. I decided to pick some up after I picked up Relia from preschool.
We pulled up outside and she saw some Corona signs in the window. "The parrot store! Are we getting a parrot?" No honey, we're not.
I carefully explained that I was going to pick up some beer. (Let me pause for a moment and mention that we didn't have any alcohol in the house while I grew up. We weren't aggressively teetotalin', we just didn't have it. This means that I still feel a small bit of shame when I buy booze. It also means that I have absolutely no role models for adult buying with small child in tow.) Relia had no problem with this.
Unfortunately I couldn't find it. Also unfortunate, Relia decided to narrate our entire trip at high volume. She wanted to know what I wanted and I told her 'blueberry beer'. She went up to each and every beer that had blue on the label and told the store that she found it.
- As we walked past the bottles of vodka she loudly announced 'Water'!
- She was concerned that the St Pauli girl was 'spilling her beer'.
- Relia was very concerned that we would leave before she sampled the liquor store's candy. Of which I could find none.
- As we walked past the wine she told everyone about her Grandpa and tried to pick out his favorite type.
- She was thrilled with any type of beer that had berries or fruit on it. All of it was exciting. Very exciting.
I think that will be the pattern for the future . . .
Saturday, December 25, 2010
- The FP Gal is going to incredible forensic lengths to make certain that our daughter doesn't catch on that the 'Santa' gifts actually came from our hands. She has separate wrapping paper for the inter-family stuff and is being careful not to mix that up with the anything that came from the North Pole. Keep in mind that Relia is three years old and will be hopped up on candy tomorrow.
- So far it's been quiet upstairs. I told Relia to come into our room in the morning to try and keep her from coming downstairs and ripping everything open. Wish us luck!
- (Morning update.) And . . . the wake up went very well. Both the FP Gal and I were actually awake before Relia was. She came into our room and was very excited to go downstairs. The FP Gal got down first and I carried our big girl down the steps. She ran to the tree and found a big pile of presents! And then turned to the stockings and found that her's was stuffed! All very exciting.
- The plan is for us to take the under tree presents over to the FP Gal's parent's and open them there.
Friday, December 24, 2010
This is my favorite Christmas carol (though there are a good half dozen others that I love nearly as well). This version is pretty good. My favorite isn't available on streaming video, nor can it really be recreated. It involved the AHS choir singing in the hallway outside of the main auditorium. There really isn't anything like experiencing a rich song from the inside of a large group of singers. Add in my youth and general level of impressionability . . . and I don't expect that version to ever be topped.
Anyway . . . it was my turn to put her to bed tonight. We read 'The Night Before Christmas' and some random Raggedy Ann story. Then she ran to her bed and told me that she needed to fall asleep so Santa could come! We quickly ran through the rest of the routine (which recently has me telling her stories about Roxane and Calypso) and I left her there in the dark.
Then I came downstairs and smugly told the FP Gal that I'd never seen her that excited to fall asleep. Not two minutes later we heard her knocking on her bedroom door. She does this when she wants to get up to go potty but we'd already taken care of that. I went up and she said "there's a problem with my window". Yep, there sure was. She'd somehow pulled down her blackout curtain. She then told me that she was trying to see the neighbor's house. Uh-huh.
Let's hope that this isn't a long night.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
You probably heard there was a lunar eclipse on Monday. If you were in Minnesota, you didn't see it because we were busy having a snowstorm instead. Through the magic of the internet (now on computers!) you can still see it. (My understanding is that this music was only heard by a few people who had an unusual amount of dental work.)
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
Tonight we are going to my mother's Christmas party. It will be the first time I've been together with both my brother and sister and related in-laws since the FP Gal and I got hitched. It's been more than five years and we've added five kids between the three of us. Should be a good time!
Sunday, December 19, 2010
- We usually park in the Arizona lot, which is denoted with a cactus. Relia desperately wants us to park one floor down on the 'pineapple lot' but the entrance there isn't very stroller friendly. Someday, I tell her, she will be the driver and then she can park on the pineapple lot.
- We use the double stroller and recently we've moved Felix into the front seat. He loves it! He can see stuff and smile at everyone. Good stuff.
- Presented without further comment: Relia refers to Victoria's Secret as 'the boob store'.
- On most trips we go and visit the fish. Carrie recently wrote about her trip to Underwater Adventures and she does a pretty good sales job. I'm there with the kids often enough that most of the staff knows us by sight. I asked if we were one of their top ten visitors and was told that we were probably in the top five. My one criticism? They should have at least a token blog on their website. I've heard the history of the arapaima and the alligator snapping turtle and both are interesting.
- Relia's favorite? The Disney store of course. She lights up when she sees all of the characters she knows and loves. She could spend hours and hours there so each time before we go in I tell her that we have to leave when I say it's time. So far it's worked.
- In some ways I think that the whole exercise of going to a commercial area and repeatedly not buying things has been a good lesson for her. At least I hope so. She does take 'no' pretty well. So far.
- They (finally) got the Lego store up and running. It had been closed over the fall, if memory serves back in September. It wasn't open again until a week after Thanksgiving. This is commercial incompetence of a high order. I hope that some heads rolled. It should have been open throughout November.
- My guilty pleasure? I've discovered that I can skip pennies in the largest fountain. Even better than smooth rocks. It's tricky to get the angle right but the second skip is so long that it has to be seen to be believed.
- I'm now hoping that the MOA security aren't reading this!
- It will be nice for us in a few weeks when the crowds thin out.
- That's all!
Friday, December 17, 2010
Is it simply a limitation of CGI as opposed to full animation? Or just the difference between good and bad writing? What is it?
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
Sunday, December 12, 2010
We spent a good deal of time this morning tracking down news and trying to figure out what was going to happen next. I've heard some wags say that it wasn't smart to have a snow vulnerable stadium in Minnesota but what they don't understand is that this was a very bad storm. A guy from MPR mentioned that this was in the top ten worst blizzards in Minnesota history. Not only was the snow amount very high but high winds also kept workers from clearing the top of the dome.
It is striking to have something this high profile happen mere blocks away from where the 35W bridge fell down. Not that one has anything to do with the other but at this rate downtown Minneapolis is going to develop a worldwide reputation.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
- The buses have stopped for the night. The light rail is running nearly an hour behind it's schedule.
- The Vikings play the Giants tomorrow but so far the New Yorkers haven't been able to get into town. They were diverted to Kansas City and the plan is to fly up tomorrow morning. Needless to say, the game time may be delayed.
- According to the Strib, I-94 in Wisconsin has been deemed 'impassable'. Which is pretty crazy.
- I-90 west of Albert Lea has been closed down. I don't remember that ever happening while I was growing up but I could be mistaken.
- The FP Gal's parents couldn't open either of their doors because the snow was too high. They actually had to go through their screen to move enough snow to get some motion. I could only open our front door about five inches, and it was shoveled clear this morning. (Our back door opened easily enough.)
- One of our cars is out front. The snow is up over the tires. If I'm reading the reports correctly we've gotten more than seventeen inches so far.
Needless to say, we won't be going out and doing much today.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
My office space is working well. It gets cold on the third floor but I go up early in the afternoon and start the space heater. The temp in the main space was as low as 45 last night (50 tonight) but warmer in the smaller enclosed room. My work uniform has the addition of slippers for my feet, a hooded sweatshirt, a snow cap and my new Viking snuggie. I think the FP Gal will slip upstairs some night and take a picture of it all but she hasn't yet.
By the time my paternity leave started I was pretty well burnt out from helping people. The time off helped a lot and I'm back to feeling useful again. The system I work with still has tons of annoying bugs, er features, but what can you do?
I get very few calls after 11p or so but I keep busy with ticketing tasks and the like. These hours have included more calls from the Far East than I'd had before but nothing that can't be handled. My co-workers and I stay in touch with an internal instant message program. I wouldn't say that we're close exactly, not as close as the ladies I worked shoulder to shoulder with in the office but we're still in touch.
So far I'm very happy with this shift and the home set up.
Monday, December 06, 2010
Last night our internet was out so we had to rely on some old school entertainment. Relia insisted that we sing Christmas music to the new tree. We tried some of her made up songs ('Christmas! Snowing! Reindeer!) and then the FP Gal got out a songbook so we could be more traditional. As we paged through we came across this gem here (which I have a vague memory of singing at Dorian one year). The FP Gal didn't know it so she asked me to sing it for her.
Confession time! My music reading skills are minimal at best and I have a bad habit of only remembering the tenor line, or worse the bass line. Anyway, I gave it a go.
But I can't really let it stand at that. This really is a gorgeous piece, especially with the harmonies. I hope she'll give it a listen and of course the rest of you are welcome to enjoy it too.
Sunday, December 05, 2010
The King's Speech
Black Swan (which looks terrible to me)
The Way Back
How Do You Know? (which looks pretty good)
Frankie & Alice
I'm not sure how many of them I'd see even if I had the time. They also mention six others that are either out for home viewing now or soon will be:
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
The Kids are All Right
I've seen the first three of those and I'd be happy with a win for either 'Social Network' or 'Inception'.
Saturday, December 04, 2010
Friday, December 03, 2010
Thursday, December 02, 2010
I've got two single use-ers that I use on a fairly regular basis. One is a toaster that also poaches eggs and prepares Canadian bacon. It's basically an Egg McMuffin machine and it makes yummy stuff. I only make the full sandwiches about once a month but the toaster is big enough to do a good job with bagels. This gets used daily.
The other one is the Pizzazz, the home pizza cooker. This one gets used three or four times a week, maybe more. Frozen pizzas of course but the FP Gal also makes quesadillas and I like to toast sandwiches on it. Sometimes I even bake cookies with it. We use it enough that we actually burned out the first one and had to buy a replacement.
I'm curious what items the rest of you folks have that you're slightly embarrassed about but still want to sing the praises of. Go ahead and share.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Um, that isn't how I would describe (nor the FP Gal) but it's nice that she sees the world in happy terms.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Sunday, November 28, 2010
It is, like Monopoly, a multiplayer real-estate development game, in this case set on an island rich in natural resources to which players have limited access. You need ore to build a city, and if you can't mine enough yourself, you can trade - but the wood you surrender in exchange may help your partner, or boost or thwart someone else. In Settlers, the trading - and the interconnected fates of the players - keeps everyone involved even when they aren't rolling the dice; there are multiple ways to win; and players are often neck-and-neck until the very end. The game has been constructed to last an hour, 90 minutes tops. And each time you play, the board, which is made up of 19 hexagons, is assembled anew.The article continues to suggest that it may suggest a good model of thought for current Americans:
Settlers teaches new ways of thinking and presents a different notion of winning: by a nose instead of by a mile. The game is won by earning 10 victory points, but points are earned by a combination of building settlements and cities, having the longest road or the largest army, or drawing cards. A Settlers win doubles as a lesson in a world where resources are finite and unevenly distributed. It's a game for a moment when no one - even Americans, happily playing board games - should expect a perpetual monopoly on power.Er, I don't know about that. I've taken two main things away from my times playing. One is that geography is destiny. The other is that random chance makes winners and losers. The first point is less true today than it maybe ever has been what with enhanced mobility and the rise of information and service as backbone industries. The other point is tendentious at the very least. While the randomness of dice rolling is necessary in game play, in the real world people can make their own way. Unpredictable events can obviously play a large role, but overall philosophy is much more important in the long run.
I don't know if there are any board games that really serve as a good model for the real world actions of people. In board games there are clear winners and losers and the world is something of a zero sum affair. In order for me to win, you must lose and every action contributes one way or the other. In real life there are constant additions of value. If I succeed at my job it isn't because my co-workers did badly. Not even because my business competitors did so. Game play doesn't reflect that. (Also, 'Monopoly' doesn't reflect any real kind of economics.)
Board games do teach life skills and they're useful at that. But it's silly to make too much of that. If we're looking for a world where not only our country succeeds (and I think we are) then we have to put down the dice and look elsewhere.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Got all that? Good. As we were talking through her options she asked me, "If I miss the flight, how far of a drive is it to Boise?".
"Um, about two days." She had trouble believing this. I went on to tell her that it might be a shorter drive from Hartford to Chicago. What does Google say?
Hartford to Chicago: 892 miles, 14 hours and 13 min.
Chicago to Boise: 1691 miles, 1 day and 2 hours (and I'm calling 26 hours worth of driving at least two days)
I don't mean this as a sneer at anyone's lack of spatial awareness. People that live on the east coast don't have a good feel for just how big the plains states are. On the other hand we folks in the middle have a tough time figuring out just how close together it all is out there. Last month Hans drove from Virginia to Rhode Island, Google says that would take about 10 hours. That's seven different states in only 10 hours. (Well, a shorter time when Hans is driving.)
You know how far you'd need to drive to get seven states away from Minnesota? Quite a bit.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
The FP Gal and I really should have talked about it before now and gotten on the same page. Whoops! She seemed ok with this when I told her and I'm not sure if we would have been better off trying to defuse it anyway. The idea of Santa, the gift-bringer, is fairly prominent in the things she sees and the music that she hears. If she was the one kid at her preschool who knew the truth, then she'd just become a pain to other kids (and by extension) their parents.
Besides (I tell myself) this isn't a harmful myth. I figured it out long before my parents fessed up. I've talked with co-workers who said the same thing. I have no doubt that in a couple of years she'll be lying to Felix about Santa, just to protect him. That's how this all works out.
And there are benefits! She really wants to see the reindeer, that's the most interesting part for her. Well, we told her that they won't come here if she's asleep. But that doesn't mean she can't leave food out for them. Or that they can't leave some tracks in the backyard (snow permitting). How cute will that be?
She'll soon find out that the world is sometimes a cruel place. Let her keep some innocence for awhile.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
- My brother and sister have similar birth dates with their spouses too. Not as close as we do, but pretty close all the same. Either it is some kind of weird coincidence or some kind of strange astrology is at work.
- Two gifts really stand out. I got the first three seasons of 'Moonlighting' and a Lego Beach House. I have very fond memories of Maddie and David fighting and let's face it, this is probably the only beach house I'll ever have.
- The FP Gal was going to give me a football day without kids. The idea was that I'd go out someplace else and watch the game. Well, we had freezing rain overnight and I'm much afeared of the icy roads so that didn't quite work. But she kept them out of my hair anyway. Thanks, hon!
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
We've got the Christmas CD in the car and Relia is struggling to understand this song. Santa isn't a baby. Felix is a baby! Anyway, this was from this morning's go round.
Relia: What is she singing about?
Me: She's trying to be nice to Santa so she can get some presents.
Relia: (after some thought) From his bags?
Relia: All of the toys?
Me: Well, kind of.
Relia: (very quickly) And then she can get them all and put them in a garage sale so that I can get them and play with them!
Me: Uh . . .
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
Felix has now moved from the bucket style car seat to a more traditional one. (There are probably technical names and the FP Gal and all the ladies on her chat sites would probably laugh at my terminology. So be it.) The bucket was great because we would strap him into it while inside the house and then carry him to the car. Then it would lock into a base and be all set to go. On the other end of the trip you simply undo the bucket and you can carry his colossal bulk around.
Not anymore! Now we carry him out to the car and fight with him over the straps. Then we get somewhere else and tote him around manually. Usually this only means transferring him into a stroller or shopping cart (with even more straps!). But this isn't fun at all.
And the worst part is the timing. Relia was born in August and was in her bucket seat until after she could walk around. Felix, of course, was a spring baby and we've made this switch just in time for winter. So all that lugging of our chunk of baby is done with ice, snow and cold weather. Ugh.
It's the right time to change him and I'm not complaining about that. Only, the timing really is bad and I'm not looking forward the next six months of winter.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Instead they continued to start slowly and sputter along, still losing close games. Never really out of it, but never in control either. They looked like they were playing the third game of preseason. Every week, they looked like they were playing the third game of preseason.
At the same time it seemed like every tipped ball was ending up in the hands of the other team. Penalties would happen at the worst time. Never did they look like the smartest or best prepared team on the field.
And now after today's loss to Chicago, they're pretty much out of it. They could theoretically win their last seven games to finish 10-6 and have a shot at the playoffs. But there is no reason to think that the team that has played so far would actually do so. If anything they look ready to quit on the coach and let the bottom fall out. A 5-11 season is looking more and more likely. I don't know about the rest of you but I've officially given up hope for them. I want one more win next week and after that . . . it really won't matter.
So what's next? For the 2011 Vikings I want two changes at the top. Head coach of course, first and most importantly. Childress has grown wearisome here and it's time for a change. The top of my wish list is a veteran, established coach. Someone who has a history of taking talented teams and doing something with them. Bill Cowher would be my first choice. (True fact, of the two teams that I follow the most closely, Vikings and White Sox, both have always had first time coaches while I followed them. Every single one spent time getting his feet wet.)
The second change will obviously be at the quarterback position. This won't be a hard one to face up to because Favre looks like they playing desire is being beaten out of him. I have no clue what direction they'll go here. Jackson doesn't seem to be any kind of long term answer. Probably a veteran QB in the short term while some better option is drafted and groomed. While we're at it, get some depth on the offensive line, for crissake! And some players in the secondary who can cover would also be a plus.
It's a strange year in the NFL and very few teams have looked dominant. That should make the playoff race especially interesting. It would be better if the Vikes were part of that . . . but that just doesn't seem to be in the cards this year.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Here is an interesting list of recent books. The list is made in an effort to suggest a common canon, books that most everyone would have read. Sound good? Here it is:
The Road - McCarthy
Fight Club - Palahniuk
Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao - Diaz
The Beach - Garland
White Teeth - Smith
Infinite Jest - Wallace
New York Trilogy - Auster
Million Little Pieces - Frey
Ender's Game - Card
Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius - Eggers
How many of them have you read? I've read two of them ('Ender's Game' and 'Oscar Wao') though there are three others of them on my shelf waiting. I've at least heard of them (except the 'New York Trilogy'). But does that mean that this list represents books that most people would have read? No, of course not.
Because we live in a fractured culture. We don't listen to the same music, watch the same TV, go to the same movies or read the same books anymore. That's just how it is.
By the way, they also included a list of additional books that almost made the cut:
The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993)
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (2002)
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (2003)
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss (2005)
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (1997)
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (2001)
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (1997 – 2007)
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (2000)
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer (2003)
Aha! Take a look! The Harry Potter books by Rowling are probably the closest that we come to something that most everyone would have read. That's it. (And now that I think of it, the 'Twilight' books might have taken their place.)
One other thing of note, how many of the twenty books here have you heard of solely from the movie adaptation? That's probably the other route to a shared culture. The book has to be good enough, get enough attention and then be turned into something shared.
(Or . . . you can get some promotion on Oprah . . .)
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Tuesday, November 09, 2010
On a related note, the FP Gal was thrilled with the Totoro appearance in 'Toy Story 3'. That's one of the reasons why I love her!
The curtain opens on a young healer named Snake, a young woman who uses actual altered snakes to heal people. She is helping a young boy with a tumor, by spurring one of her snakes to attack it, poison the cancerous bit and save his life. While this happens the boy's tribe kills one of her other medicinal snakes out of fear. This is terrible news for Snake since her helpers are rare and difficult to breed.
The curtain opens wider and we see that this is a post nuclear war world, probably Earth. There are still small tribes and towns and levels of technology vary greatly. Snake is afraid that she won't be allowed back with the other healers after losing her snake. She sets off on a quest of sorts, picking up new obligations and directions as she goes.
This won both the Hugo and the Nebula (British sci-fi award) so it must have been well thought of. From this vantage point it's hard to see why. Not that it's a bad book by any means, it just isn't all that good. The world building is interesting but not spectacular. The ideas don't really 'wow' and the writing isn't all that special. McCafferey's 'White Dragon' was nominated for the same award and it's a much better book in many ways.
Monday, November 08, 2010
Once we got there she ran off to make new friends and left Felix and I with the stroller. The park we went to is right underneath the flight path and we had several jets go over. Every time one did, Felix would become entranced and follow it along until it was out of view. I think he was in awe.
Relia made new best friends. She does every time we go. They're best friends for an hour or so and then she never sees them again. (I meant that to sound poetic but it came out really pathetic. She seems ok with this arrangement. I'm sure that regular school will bring about some life long mates.)
It was a very pleasant time.
Sunday, November 07, 2010
Saturday, November 06, 2010
The entire thing, all of it in it's bizarre entirety started with a strange waitress asking me about a drink that I never ordered.
"So how did that Colorado Bulldog treat you? I was right, wasn't I?"
Well, she was cute enough. Enough that I didn't want to just tell her that she had the wrong guy and give her a cold shoulder. Besides I was on the road and when you're out of town you can use all of the friends that you can get, right? So I looked her straight in the eye, focused on her, gave a winning smile and said, "Huh?". Women usually remember me for my wit.
I got a smile in return. "The Bulldog. I told you it was tasty." Her smile fell a bit. "You didn't like it?"
No place to turn now but honesty, "Miss, I'm afraid that you have someone else in mind. I'm a beer drinker. Sorry."
The smile came back. "That's what you said earlier and then I told you to at least try this one out." Some uncertainty in her eyes. Then she glanced down at my suit and then back to my face. "It was you wasn't it?"
"I'm sure if you offered it to me I'd have drunk it. But it wasn't me. Sorry."
This surprised her. "Well, I must have the wrong guy. But boy, you really do look like him. You don't have a brother here do you?"
"Nope. I'm an only child."
"Well, sorry to have bothered you."
My new friend made to leave. "Wait, it wasn't a bother. Not at all." I had to think quickly. "In fact, you've sold me on the drink. I'm sitting over there," as I pointed back to one corner of the bar, "with my work friends. You can bring one of those pit bulls over if you'd like."
The smile came back, "Not a pit bull, a bulldog!" A quick chuckle. "I'll get one for you." Off she went and I discovered that she was a pleasant sight coming or going.
I made my way to the men's room, finished my business there and got back to the table in hopes of arriving before she did. Not to worry, she was nowhere to be seen. I scanned the bar and couldn't spot her at all. Bad luck on my part. There is almost nothing better than a pretty woman who starts a conversation with you unprompted. Sadly, I returned to my lone beer.
A few minutes later she showed up with our original waitress and set a drink in front of me. I started to thank them and then noticed that they were both staring at me. She said, "I just don't believe it!" I don't get that response from women very often. In fact, this was a little embarrassing.
The original waitress shook her head too. "I don't believe it either. You really don't have a brother here?"
By this time my whole table was trying to figure out what was going on. Their conversation had completely stopped and they were looking at me. I muttered something like, "Really I don't have one. I'm an only child."
The waitresses looked at each other and then the newer one said, "Well, you'll have to come with us and check this out. Your identical twin is here."
I glanced around at the table and saw some grins. This felt like a set up for something but I couldn't guess what it was. My coworkers weren't above some kind of practical joke. On the other hand, here were two pretty girls asking me to go somewhere with them. What choice did I have?
So I stood back up, let the table know that I'd be back and asked the girls to lead the way. It was one of those kinds of places where the wait staff didn't wear tags and I didn't know either of their names. I started looking for a chance to find out.
We made our way to the opposite corner of the place. Our seats had been near the window and in the early evening was pretty bright. They led me back where the lights were all artificial and a bit dim. Faces were still visible but looked altered by neon.
We stopped at a table and everyone there looked up expectantly. I scanned the faces and the back of my mind tried to get my attention. The girls looked down at someone and then back at me. Everyone there then stared at me for a second. And then at one of the guys sitting there, someone who looked familiar.
Then it clicked. That was my own face.
Friday, November 05, 2010
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
Relia: What would they say if I was in their area?
Me: Little girl, get out of there!
Relia: And what would they say if you were in there?
Me: Big daddy, get out of there!
Me: And what would they say if mama was in there?
Relia: (thinks) How did you get in there?
Me: (laughing) And what would they say if Pop Pop was in there?
Relia: You can stay in there Pop Pop.
Me: And Nana?
Relia: (thinking) You can give them flowers.
Me: And Grandpa?
Relia: You can give them toys!
Me: And Grandma D?
Relia: (thinking very hard) You can give them something to eat!
Me: (laughing again) And what do they eat?
Relia: (immediately) Apple crisp!
Tuesday, November 02, 2010
Now I'll settle in for a nap (hopefully) and the parade of people ringing the doorbell to get us to the polls.
'Gateway' is a book about voyages into the unknown. Not the warm fuzzy places of the 'Star Trek' universe, but a frighteningly dangerous place with a known (and high) mortality rate. How much can be risked to win riches? Especially when the risks are beyond your control?
The story is about a man names Robinette, and his work to come to grips after one of these voyages. The chapters alternate between his description of the past and his current time sessions with a computer psychiatrist. The juxtaposition works quite well. You know that something terrible has happened but not what it was.
Robinette has won the lottery on Earth and used the money to go to a hollowed out asteroid called 'Gateway'. This asteroid was a found artifact from an alien race. It features nearly a thousand small starships. Humanity has figured out how to start the ships, but not how to steer them. Volunteers go into them and out to the stars. If they come back with something scientifically interesting, they can become very, very rich. If they come back at all. The mortality rate is high and everyone knows it.
Living on Gateway is expensive. The only way a volunteer can afford to stay there is to keep taking trips. If their nerve fails then they are quickly ruined. Despite the dangers, they have to keep going out. But if they score well . . . they are set for life.
I'd never heard of this book before and that's a shame. It's a great one. The ideas are interesting, the characters are compelling and the growing sense of danger is outstanding.
Monday, November 01, 2010
In this story, an adult man is out of town on business when he runs into another guy who looks just like him. The dig in to find out what's happening and discover that even though they were both raised as only children, they are in fact identical twins. Both of them check with their parents, who swear up and down that nothing untoward happened.
What follows is something of a voyage of discovery as they try to figure out what it all means. This becomes especially difficult when they find another matching guy. And another. And so on.
I'll have some kind of excerpt up from the beginning later in the week.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Anyway, I put one of them up each day. They are out in the world and free for anyone to take. (If you do use them, use your own judgment on what you owe.) I wanted to consolidate them in one place. So here they are!
1) A story about a vampire hunter. Or actually a story about someone who hunts authors who are writing about vampires.
2) A story about a long distance bicycle rider who has suffered a tragedy. While out on the road, the rider becomes haunted by other biking ghosts.
3) A story about two cats, each of which is plotting to get the other one thrown out of the house.
4) A story about a giant red dog and his struggles with arthritis while sending his family into debt to feed him.
5) A story about hikers in the woods who follow some strange runes and end up kidnapped by trolls who derail online discussions.
6) A story about guys who kidnap a fictional character and try to extort a small town to ransom her.
7) A story about an older couple who accidentally rob a bank and are chased across the country.
8) A story featuring oddly placed stone monuments placed throughout the US. Clue to something or hoax?
9) Story about a woman who gets a wrong phone number call and believes that she's won the lottery.
10) A man sets up a book club, set up specifically as a front to get certain singles together. The books derail everything.
11) Sci-fi. An interstellar ship's computer gets crossed with a psychology textbook and tortures the crew.
12) A couple finds a beachcomber who is actually God. Become enlightened. Turns out he's actually a beachcomber.
13) Out of towners are stranded just north of Duluth during an unusual June blizzard. Locals help out.
14) A computer error legally reassigns all of the houses on one block. Neighbors must meet and fix everything.
15) A travel agent uses their insider knowledge to travel to a distant city and commit the perfect murder.
16) A pair of teenagers and their senile grandfather get stuck on a yacht in the ocean without a radio.
17) A conspiracy of forest rangers is uncovered, leaving a search for hidden millions in a huge state park.
18) Time travelers are unexpectedly sent to 1485 in the Denver area. They must try to meet up with Columbus.
19) Two brothers and a buddy are flipping a house when they discover a secret about their childhood that threatens everything.
20) A serial killer seems to be effected by football results. Detectives work against the clock to improve the local team.
21) Something about a rock band that is horrified to find out that young kids are actually listening to their lyrics.
22) Real life man tries to become super villain, cops confused by bizarre plans.
23) Historical fiction. Edwardian era light house keeper becomes paranoid delusional. Believes ships are enemies.
24) A vampire writer and his skeptical wife are beset by an aggressive poltergeist.
25) Woman gains power to grant wishes. Word gets out. She comes to hate everyone.
26) Boyfriend tries to impress girl with a grand stunt. Accidentally becomes mob target and must run.
27) Average guy wakes up in the past and tries to figure out how to use his knowledge of the future to get rich.
28) An entire class of English majors is suddenly transported into a fantasy world battleground.
29) Rival movie execs compete to see who can create the most insultingly bad movie. A typical summer season ensues.
30) Story about a paranormal zoo, told from the POV of the poltergeist keeper.
31) A just married couple drive into an Alice in Wonderland type world and must figure a way back to real life.
So that's what we did. We went to the zoo yesterday and the FP Gal put up photos here. Both of them are adorable (natch) but I'd like to talk about Felix. He could hardly have looked more like Dumbo. I don't know if it's the innocent smile but I suspect that it is. And the outsize ears. I wanted to booze him up and see if he could fly but the FP Gal said no.
Relia has been cute in her own way. She has enjoyed trumpteting. Not the big shrill elephant size noises. More like little girl hooting. She did it at the zoo yesterday and we could keep track of her easily.
I don't know what they'll dress as next year but they'll have to work awfully hard to beat the cuteness of 2010.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
This is today's earworm. After I dropped Relia off at pre-school, I took Felix off to the grocery store so we could restock and get ready for tonight's hot dish. He was his usual pleasant self while I shopped. He smiled at the nice lady who rang up the stuff.
While I was bagging I could hear the overhead music and this is what they were playing. The lady at the next register noticed Felix and told me that he had a great smile. Then she complimented me on my singing. Whoops! Didn't realize that I was . . .
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
One of the themes of 70's entertainment was that the apocalypse was nigh and we were all doomed. This was especially true in science fiction, where doomsday movies were all the rage until 'Star Wars' arrived in '77. The book side didn't escape it either.
The book starts out in a secluded West Virginia valley where a well off extended family is trying to make some kind of preparation for the coming end of the world. They're scientifically inclined and their efforts go into an extensive cloning operation. Sure enough, some kind of disease arrives and sterilizes all vertebrates. In a last ditch effort, the family begins to clone humans in hopes that they can survive long enough to regain mating.
The second part of the book takes place a few generations of clones later. Each clone group has a near telepathic affinity with each other, to the point where physical separation is difficult for them. Breeding is done through careful selection, not through the choice of the individuals. One woman breaks the rules and hides away to birth a child by herself. He is raised alone with her for a few years and then she is taken away and they try to assimilate him.
The valley is beginning to run out of key materials and they have to send out a foraging party to the ruined cities of the east coast. They're severely limited by separation and the sheer amount of nature scares the dickens out of them. Except for the one lonely boy. Only he is ok out in the trees. They have to trust him somehow, but he stands against so many of their important principles.
This book started slowly. The buildup seemed fairly generic and the characters were far from interesting. But once Wilhelm got to the valley of clones, it all clicked and really worked well. There is some hand waving, especially about the near psychic bond that the clones share, but it wasn't really that bothersome. This is a good book.
Monday, October 25, 2010
Anyway, the first time we went back I hung around outside the door. As she went in I said, "Let me know if you need help, ok?"
She said, "You let me know if you need help, ok daddy?" I solemnly agreed that I would.
After she was done she opened up the door. I helped her wash her hands and asked her if she flushed. She told me she didn't know how to, which is totally understandable. I looked around for the button, finally found it and pushed. It made that strange whooshing noise that airplane toilets do. Then she said, "Well that's new."
How Minnesotan is that?
Sunday, October 24, 2010
And I loved it. Seriously, you could give me another month of this exact combo and I'd be happy with it. Two months. Six months.
So how did it go? (Let's break out the bullet points!)
- Relia wasn't scared by at all by the flights. Which probably makes sense as the motion isn't that much different than a car. Except for the thrusting and taking off part. (That's only similar to Hans's car.)
- No motion sickness. We've been lucky here as she really doesn't seem that prone to it.
- We used the kit the FP Gal made to lug the car seat through the airports. It worked very well. I understand that future models will feature beefed up D-rings. Our luggage content was six items (three suitcases, two backpacks and the car seat) so being able to strap some of them together and simply pull was mucho helpful.
- Not sure how I could have done the airports without Dad's help. Yes, I would have just bulled my way through it somehow but, holy cats, it would have been pure hell. To all those who have taken multiple children, alone and through international circumstances, you have my utmost respect.
- Snacks? Yes. Also water and sips from my tomato juice.
- My second biggest fear was strapping the darn car seat into the airplane. This wasn't all that hard but getting it out of the seat in Norfolk was a nightmare. It took several minutes of straining before I could get my arm in the right position to undo the buckle. They almost left as on the tarmac.
- Hardest connection? Philadelphia. It was crowded and we had to take a bus to switch terminals. So we had to herd six bits of luggage and an unhappy toddler through a bus with no seats. Gah.
- Only one meltdown from her and it was during takeoff on the last flight. Too little sleep from her and she didn't want to be strapped in for even one more minute. It pretty much sucked.
- But she was happy to be home. She is now a veteran flyer.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
- Got in late Monday night. The flights were fine, Relia was an angel and the FP Gal's wonderous contraption worked fine.
- Did have some trouble getting the car seat unhooked on the last flight. They nearly turned the lights off and left us on the runway.
- It was foggy on the drive to Hans and Rachel's house. Relia said, "Maybe somebody is taking a shower and left the window open."
- By the way, she is loving playing with her cousins. There is lots of running around the spacious backyard and jumping on the trampoline. It makes my heart happy to see them have so much fun.
- Last night Josiah was quizzing Rachel on which countries she'd been to. He has a whole list of them and she was putting a star next to her appropriate ones. She asked where Bermuda was and he looked at her and simply said, "Look under 'United Kingdom'." He also drew a freehand map of the world. Very talented kid.
- Will is running around (well, shambling) and Relia is frustrated by the baby gates. I told her that Felix would need them too. She's still digesting that.
- Saw 'Social Network' last night with Dad and Hans. It's a great movie and I'm sure it will richly deserve the Oscar nomination it gets in a few months.
- We're all doing well and having a great time!
Monday, October 18, 2010
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Friday, October 15, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
I recently realized that almost all of my recent music buys were inspired from commercials. Back in the olden days, this meant buying the entire album because you liked thirty seconds of music. And that's only if you could figure out what the song was and who was singing it. Now in our modern times you can simply jump on Google and find the artist. A quick search on YouTube and you can hear the whole thing. Then you simply bring up ITunes and spend a dollar. Et, viola, you have a new song to love.
I think this was the first song to really get me. It was featured in a beer commercial, simply a slow motion shot of clydesdales in snow. (I'll let you guess the brand.) This was pre-internet so I don't remember how I found that it was The Sundays, but I did. Then it was a simple task to find the album at a used CD store. Fortunately, the whole thing is good. It was $5.99 well spent.
Only later did I find out that 'Wild Horses' was originally a Rolling Stones song. (Don't blame me, I lived a sheltered life.) I've got a theory that all Stones tunes sound better when performed by someone else. This is a great example. Well, this song proves it too.
'Wild horses . . . couldn't drag me away . . .'
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
The normal procedure is to lay him down on his back and slide a small blanket underneath him. That means that you start it under his legs and kind of bounce him while you slide. He loves it. Gets his normal great big grin on his face. Just totally gets into it.
He really is a happy guy.
Not that the kids were bad. Every time I told Relia that I wasn't feeling well and I needed her to simply help out, she did. Which meant that nap time went well. And lunch. And so on. Felix isn't quite as helpful but he also doesn't get into stuff so it worked out ok.
Today is preschool for Relia so it's just Felix and I. I've got a list of stuff to do as long as my arm but I'm not all that confident that much will get done.
I guess we'll see.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Heinlein said about sea-sickness "The victim won't die from it, they'll just wish they could." That's how I feel about my nose right now.
Saturday, October 09, 2010
I must admit that I almost never see a younger kid on a bike in our neighborhood. And when I do they aren't wearing a bike helmet.
The result: A new helmet law reduces bicycle deaths among the affected age group by about 19%. It doesn't affect older riders. Since serious bicycle accidents are rare, however, the absolute numbers are still small, about eight fewer deaths a year among kids 5 to 15 than would otherwise occur in the states with helmet laws. "It's not a ton of lives when you compare it to something like wearing your seat belt," says Prof. Stehr.
One reason for the drop is, of course, that more kids wear helmets when they get into accidents. But another is that many give up cycling altogether. Using surveys of parents, the professors find that about 650,000 fewer children ride bikes each year after helmet laws go into effect. That's about 81,000 fewer riders for every life saved. Helmets may save lives, but the dork factor also takes its toll.
When I was young (and yes that phrase makes me feel just as old as you'd think) I rode my bike all over the place. In the summer months I'd be on it from eight in the morning until forced home by mom. And I don't think I would have done nearly as much with a dorky looking helmet on. In fact, I'm certain of it.
But at the same time, I can't imagine what I'd do if my kid was one of those severely injured ones.
Friday, October 08, 2010
Thursday, October 07, 2010
There is something about the very first theme music that appeals to me. The opening guitar, in particular. Unfortunately, they've gotten away from it. And it hasn't improved.
The graphics have improved greatly but you can see the point of diminished returns in the 80's. The newer series has been fine but . . . they'll never recapture the stuff I fell in love with.
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
1: Tampa Bay - I still think it would be great for them to win it all. They've been so good for three years now that it's easy to forget how long they were absolutely terrible.
2: San Fran Giants - Beautiful ballpark and I love to watch games there. Two prominent White Sox from 2005 in Uribe and Rowand.
3: Texas Rangers - Long, long suffering fan base. Another fun park to watch games from.
4: Cincinnati Reds - Back from the dead and the first playoff appearance since 1995.
5: Philadelphia Phillies - If they win it this year then we need to think of them as a dynasty. And then we can start hating them.
6: Atlanta - Them again? And still with the Chop? Ugh.
7: Twins - Would feel differently if they weren't my teams big rival.
8: Yankees - Ugh. Double ugh.
The ad opens with a deer limping away from an auto accident. The front part of the car is completely mashed and the deer, a fawn really, looks like he could just walk off the injury. What the hell is that deer made of? That would be some tough, tough venison.
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
Getting her all packed up took about 45 minutes this morning. I had to make certain that she had enough clothes and various other sundries. As it was I still forgot her contact information sheet. Well, it'll get there tomorrow.
Relia has been anticipating this day for some weeks now. She has a dress that she's been calling her 'preschool dress' since sometime in August. Got her in it and insisted that she wear pants underneath. She wanted to accessorize with a separate skirt; I told her maybe tomorrow.
Got to preschool and discovered that she has a different cubby now. But she still sits in the same spot in the morning. Gets the same cereal from them. And right about now her Nana is picking her up for the rest of the day. I'm sure she'll have stories to tell us.
I'm so proud of her!
Sunday, October 03, 2010
In a Ghanaian zombie movie, wouldn't the undead look better exiting a coffin shaped like a book?
Feel free to share your coffin shape in the comments.
Saturday, October 02, 2010
A couple of weeks ago we had the official end of summer. Don't remember where but I read an argument somewhere to ignore the 'official' seasons and judge the times by when they make the most sense. The article pointed out that the solstices and equinoxes used to be regarded as the half way points. That's why Midsummer night is on June 21 even though that's the official beginning.
I think here we generally regard the beginning of Autumn as somewhere near the start of September and the end around mid November. That would start winter about five weeks earlier than it does 'officially'. Winter doesn't end here until sometime around the end of March or about a week after equinox. Spring is the shortest season, starting in April and going until the end of May.
Doesn't that sound about right?
Friday, October 01, 2010
Thursday, September 30, 2010
It took me about four minutes to figure out where I knew the music from. Now I think that it's my favorite version of this song.
(Love the music but the video is only so-so.)
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Orbiting a nearby red dwarf star called Gliese 581 are 6 planets. One of them is a rocky ball, bigger than Earth, in the "habitable zone" where water is liquid and temperatures are human-friendly. It's possible we could live there.This is only about 20 light years away. (Well 'only' is quite the word here. If we could travel at the speed of light it would still take a 20 year journey to get there. Moving at 1/100 the speed of light, which is much faster than we can currently go, it would take a mere 2000 years. Which is a lot. Still, in stellar terms this is pretty close.)
Unlike Earth, this planet called Gliese 581g, is "tidally locked" to its star. That means one side of the planet always faces the sun, and the other faces darkness. Temperatures on the two sides would be dramatically different, with the livable area in the "terminator" between day and night. Living on Gliese 581g would put you in an eternal twilight, which doesn't sound bad at all. Temperatures in the terminator area might be between -24 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-31 to -12 degrees Celsius), which is the average temperature of the planet's surface. So things would be a bit chilly, but if you could always visit the perma-sun on dayside if you needed a dose of red dwarf radiation.
Ok, as I was saying this is only 20 light years away and it's interesting as it suggests that Earth-like planets might be plentiful. And every time we find one of these nearby planets we should devote some resources to studying for signals of population. This means radio, but it also means detecting methane and CO2.
This article does contain two of my pet peeves when it comes to exoplanet reporting. First of all, we have no idea if this planet is tidally locked. It was widely believed that Mercury was tidally locked with one side constantly staring into the sun while the other was believed to be the coldest spot in the solar system. Back in '65 we were finally able to train a radar on it and we discovered that it was indeed rotating.
The other thing that bugs me is the idea that we have some solid idea what the true temperature range is. All that we know so far is the distance from its sun and its mass. We don't know the atmospheric composition and that's a very important piece of the puzzle. We haven't been taking a global temperature of our own planet for very long and somehow we think that the process is mastered enough to give us absurdly precise estimates. Maybe we'll have instruments soon that can give us these figures but we don't have them yet.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
- We're about three months away from Christmas so please update your Amazon wish lists. They make it so much easier when looking for gifts. Thanks!
- And also, we're only about a month away from the start of NaNoWriMo. I'm looking to make up for my failure last year. The story is cooking away in my head and ready to come out! If you have ever wondered about ability to meet a hefty task, this is your chance! If, no when you finish, you'll be immensely proud.
Monday, September 27, 2010
The weather started cool this morning. At least in our house. It lacks windows to the east and the southern exposures are pretty well covered so it stays very cool in the morning. Unfortunately this causes me to assume that it's about twenty degrees cooler than it is. So I dressed the kids for sleet and we went somewhere indoors.
I don't want to name the location. I'm afraid someone from there will see this on Google. Which wouldn't be good. Anyway, we went to a mall that has an honest to God play area. It's not a place I'd been to before but I'd heard of it. So we went and walked around and finally found the area. Felix had fallen asleep so I got out the Kindle and let Relia play with the other little girls that were there.
After about an hour she said that she might need to poop. Every experienced parent knows that the distance between 'might' and 'will' is very short. I hustled her out of there to the very near restroom. On the way I asked her if she already had and she assured me that she hadn't.
Into the bathroom and she shut herself in the lone stall. We were the only ones in there. I asked her how it was going and she said, "it's kind of a mess". My spirits sank and I asked if she'd already gone. "A little," she said. I mentally wrote the panties off and wondered just how bad this would be. Then she told me she needed help and I had to talk her off the potty so she could unlock the door for me.
Holy. Cats. I didn't know that one little girl could hold so much poop inside of her. And it was all over. The panties were a huge mess. As was her pants. And the front of the toilet. And her legs. It was the Poop-apocalypse. My mind raced and I realized that all of this poop was now my responsibility.
That really is the true definition of this period of parenthood. 'The time when you are responsible for all of someone else's poop and pee.' You can't run from it. You can't hide from it. The best you can hope for is to coax it into the proper receptacle.
Which obviously hadn't worked this time.
I had her stand still and I cleaned her as best I could with the half-ply paper that was on offer. I fished clean panties and pants out of the diaper bag and set them aside. And then found a different pair of backup panties that could be used to actually do the wiping.
Just as I started there was a knock at the door from a mall employee who wanted to clean up in there. I asked her to come back and sent the biggest mental 'I'm sorry!' that I could. Eventually I got her as clean as I could and into the other clothes. There would be a bath at home and both sets of clothes would need to be washed. But she was at least presentable while we made an absolute beeline to the car.
While I wouldn't have wished for this (and dearly hope that it isn't repeated) it felt good afterwards. Life handed me a tough situation and I was able to parent my way through it.
But please, no more tests like this for a very long time, ok?