Thursday, April 29, 2010

Overheard

Relia at the park, with no one nearby to talk to:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, [pause while she tries to think of something to say] I . . . am here!"

Shakespeare and Sci-Fi

Interesting interview with Patrick Stewart (via i09). He's asked why Shakespearean actors do well with sci-fi roles and he answers:
I think that the experience that we get in making a 400-year-old text work is exactly what you need for giving credibility and believability to fantasy, science fiction, and the like.
And I think that's exactly right. I did two Shakespeare plays down in Austin ('Midsummer Night's Dream' and 'Romeo & Juliet') and this is what I found as well.
Shakespeare told interesting stories and is well known for a good turn of phrase. But the writing is 400 years old and the style of the language has changed quite a bit. That means that the actors (and directors, etc.) have to work extra hard on communicating the story to the audience. You have to attack the script, figure out what you're trying to say and then convey that to modern ears. When it works, the story opens up and it's quite enjoyable. When it doesn't, everyone is confused and bored. There is almost no middle ground.
The interview is in connection to a Patrick Stewart/David Tennant performance of 'Hamlet' that aired on PBS last night. I had no idea otherwise I would have Tivo'd. Fortunately, PBS has it online in it's entirety here. Now I just need to carve out 3 hours of watching time . . .

Rebooting the Sky

Very cool video of air traffic over Europe restarting after the skies calmed down. You can really see what areas were effected quite well. Also note the test flights early on to try to tell how big of a problem the ash was. To my knowledge, all of those flights tested just fine.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Traveler Types

Nifty little article from Slate trying to catalog the different various people you might meet during a flight delay. Which is a useful thing in these ashy volcano threatened days. The first one is often on the other side of my phone at work:
Outside Flight Ninja
Responds to a delay by immediately calling his or her travel agent or assistant and plotting routes around the problem. Is there a train station near by? What's the drive time to the nearest airport, if I rent a car? These people walk away from other travelers so their solution won't be copied. They know the tricks of the major airports and departure times of alternate flights by heart.
Sadly, we travel agents don't have a lot of good info for them. In a fluid situation with flight cancellations (weather, closed airports, mechanical problems) our booking systems don't really keep up well. The airlines just don't update the schedules that quickly.
So what do we do? Go online. The FAA has a good site for airport delays. Google Maps is a godsend for finding hotels near a given location. Speaking of Google, a neat trick that we just recently learned for flight status is to type in the airline code and flight number and do a search. The first result is usually your flight.
We still can't do much about mechanical problems. The best bet there is to stay calm, listen to what the airline tells you and be nice to the gate agents. Remember, they can make or break your day. Act accordingly.

Lost Recap

This is the best 'Lost' recap I've ever read.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Congrats to Carrie and Steve

On their newest addition, August, born this morning. Carrie blogs here so you can drop by and congratulate her yourself.
The name August was on our list because the FP Gal really likes the name 'Gus'. If we have another boy someday we can always go with Gustav I guess. Am I wrong in thinking that it's the only month that is also a boy's name?

---

Now it's our turn, ok?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Off to Work

1937 Jaguar (and why don't they make cars as beautiful as this anymore?)

Overheard

While Relia was saying goodbye to the FP Gal:

Relia: Are you going to work?
FP Gal: Yes.
Relia: Why?

How Calvin & Hobbes is that?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Random Sunday Night Stuff

Been awhile since I've done one of these:
  • If Relia started a blog it would be called 'Big Pink Tap Shoes'. Which I think is still available. The girl could not be more in love with the color pink. She wants a pink birthday and a pink Christmas.
  • As far as I can tell, Christmas only comes in White, Green and Blue. But I'm open to correction.
  • I mentioned the Lost Booker contest a while back. Well, I read three of the six and happily cast my vote for 'Fire from Heaven' by Mary Renault. It's very fine historical fiction telling about the childhood of Alexander the Great. Which is a tough trick since the only sources available are quotes of quotes some time after he died. Very, very well done.
  • We've had a gloriously drizzly weekend. Very fine sleeping weather (once bedtime actually happens!). Don't know how much longer it'll go but I'm enjoying it for now.
  • That's all!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

No Baby Yet

And really no big news of other sorts either. Relia and I had a good day while the FP Gal was kicking her heels up at some kind of further educational thingie (actual technical term). We went to the MOA and met up with my Mom to walk around a bit and see the aquarium. Mom knew about 25 random people walking around out there and almost rushed the stage to tackle Eric Perkins. It was a good time.
Later my Dad stopped by and visited for a bit. Relia gave him an exam with her doctor stuff. She put the stethoscope on and put it to his chest. He started to make some kind of joke and she cut him off, "Take a deep breath!". I'd say she's about of a quarter way through med school right now.

A good day.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Have a Great Friday

Beef Cookies

About a month ago we were eating beef stir fry. Well, the FP Gal and I were, Relia was dawdling. She ate all of the veggies but wouldn't eat the beef. She proudly declared that she didn't like it.
The next day we went grocery shopping at a local supermarket. The store has been selling generic fudge sandwich cookies for a very good price/mass ratio. As I picked up a package, Relia saw me and wanted to know what it was. I'm very protective of my snack foods. I told her they were 'beef cookies'.
At first she didn't want any. But then there was a small sample and she discovered the truth. Or at least part of it. She knows that she likes them but doesn't know that it's fudge. She still wants the beef cookies.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

NFL Scheduling

The NFL released the 2010 schedule on Tuesday. The league has become so popular that this was actually something of an event. It was a talker for sports radio as people combed through each team's schedule to figure out who had advantages and who got screwed. Each year this discussion brings about one incredibly ignorant criticism: bad teams end up with harder schedules than good teams.
The first thing you need to understand is that the difficulty of a schedule is determined by adding up the wins and losses of the opponents from the previous year. For instance this year the Vikings will play teams that had a combined record of 129-127, which is a pretty average difficulty. The Lions, who were one of the worst teams in the league play teams that went 130-126. (Not much disparity there but in the AFC South, Houston's difficulty was 140-116 while Indianapolis was 132-124).
So how do they figure out who a team will play each year? Let me use the local division (NFC North) to illustrate this. Their final standings looked like this:

Minnesota 12-4
Green Bay 11-5
Chicago 7-9
Detroit 2-14


Each team plays every other team in the division twice (home and away). That means that the Vikings divisional difficulty of 40-56 while Detroit has a divisional difficulty of 60-36. That's a 20 game swing right there. (Green Bay is at 42-54 and Chicago is at 50-46.)
Every team in each division also plays four games against another division in the same conference. This year the NFC North plays against the NFC East. This rotates so that each pair comes up once every three years. They also play each team from an AFC division (this year the AFC East). This rotates so that each interdivision plays once per four years. All teams play each of these eight teams, combined difficulty 66-62.
All fourteen of these games are preset. Each team can count on them for every future year. Barring realignment, you can forecast all of these opponents for as far out as you want. This exact combo will take place again in 2022.
There are only two games that really float from year to year. Each team plays the same place team on each of the other two divisions. So the Vikings, having finished in first place will play the winners of the NFC South and West (Saints and Cardinals 23-9). The Lions will play the last place teams (Bucs and Rams 4-28). That gives up most of the 20 game swing that I mentioned earlier.
So why do the Lions have a harder schedule than the Vikings? It's simple really. The Vikings get to play against the miserable record of the Lions while the poor Lions have to play against the very good record of the Vikes.
It's really not that tough and anyone who hosts a sports talk show on the radio should know this.

Bird of Pardise

Relia asked to watch part of the wonderful 'Earth' series from BBC this morning. Part of what we watched was the Jungle episode which features this very nice bit:



This is very much like how I met the FP Gal. I remember more clicking and less hopping about but she can clear up the record.

Radio Silence

Sorry about missing posting yesterday. There is nothing new on the baby front. The FP Gal is having some pre-contractions but she had those for weeks before Relia so we're not anxious. And truth to tell, I'd rather not go today. It would only spoil the grandeur and pageantry that is Earth Day.
Yesterday I was mentally composing two fairly geeky posts. One on NFL scheduling and one on the new Doctor Who. The very geekiness made me hesitate. But I've remembered that a) this is a fairly geeky blog to begin with and 2) it works best when I write about things that interest me. So (Relia willing) those posts may be up later this morning.
Hope you're all doing well!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Things to Do in Boulder

Here's a list of 'hidden gems' in Boulder, CO. It's a bit foghornable, but probably fun. Of if you were looking for some hiking in the area, I hear that they have that. The Indian Peaks area sounds especially nice.
Down south near Colorado Springs are several nice things. Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods, of course, but also Cave of the Winds (I'd recommend the Lantern Tour). I'd skip the Royal Gorge as it's not worth the price.
I hear that Denver is a lot of fun but I never was able to spend time playing there...

Score!

Last night was even rougher than the bug/frog incident. Relia was up every other hour until we finally threw in the towel (blanket?) and brought her into bed with us. Then we got a blessed 2.5 hours of sleep.
The FP Gal emailed me this evening. Her parents have taken pity on our poor sleep deprived selves and are taking her for the night. We. Have. A. Night. Off!
Even better, I have a random day off tomorrow. There is a serious chance that I could sleep in until 7a or so. Oh, I'm so stoked!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bug in the Bed

Last night around 3a, Relia burst into our room screaming about a bug in her bed. It was the FP Gal's turn for overnight duty so she moved to settle her down. I'm fuzzy on what happened from then on. At one point Relia was in bed with us. She was also on the floor next to the bed. And the FP Gal put her back in bed during a particularly noisy period. As I dozed on and off, my brain somehow turned this into a movie called 'Bug in the Bed'.
I told the FP Gal about this movie this morning. She told me that she didn't want to spoil the ending but it turned out to be a frog. Relia sadly said, "Lots of frogs".

Before putting her to bed tonight we assured her that the bed was clear of all frogs, cows and any other animal that might wander through. We also assured her even if there were some animals, they would want her to sleep calmly. I've got no idea if she bought it or not. She already had some kind of nightmare about 930p. Here's hoping that there are no more!

---

Oh, and this is only kind of related but I wanted to share anyway. The kitties caught a mouse last night. Our euphemism for this is 'celebrating the feast of St Muridae'. (Ask the FP Gal.) I removed the evidence before any young questioning eyes could see.

Off to Work

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Not Waiting . . . Yet

We've crossed the magic 38 week barrier. When Felix arrives he'll be full term. In theory he could come at any moment. We've got the bag packed and could be out the door pretty darn fast if we needed to. But we're not really expecting anything yet.
You may recall that last time we went 49 weeks. Ok, 42 weeks but after the due date passes you start counting in dog days. So it felt like 49 weeks. And truth to tell that's about what I'm expecting this time around too.
In fact, it's worse than that. We had a scheduled induction before. We have literally no experience with sudden water-breaking. Or fighting traffic to get into the hospital. All of this will be new for us. Except that I'm pretty certain we'll have to schedule for this again.
Which will be ok. Everything really worked out well for us last time. It was low pressure. Things happened in a comfortable fashion. And it would give us time to easily figure out who will watch Relia.

So . . . anytime, I guess.

Time Lapse Ash Cloud

(Via Instapundit)
Here's a time lapse video of the Icelandic ash cloud as it spreads over Europe. Pretty efficient coverage . . .

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Ash

Anyone hear about some kind of problem with a volcano this week? Oh yeah, here it is:

London, England (CNN) -- A cloud of ash from an Icelandic volcano stymied European air traffic and choked international travel on Saturday as airlines cut flights, left stranded passengers, and watched their daily revenue nosedive.

Thousands of flights have been canceled. European air traffic officials said 5,000 flights took place instead of the customary number of 22,000 on Saturday. About 10,400 flights took place in Europe on Friday, compared with the normal 28,000.

You may remember the clip I posted last week about the global air traffic (here's a link to the YouTube page so you can see the whole wide shot). Watch it again and note how much travel goes near Iceland. Ash is pretty much cutting off that whole corridor. It's also drifting over Northern Europe as a whole and causing lots of trouble.
I was out of work on Wed and Thur of this week so I only got involved yesterday. Most of my calls were from people scheduled to fly over this weekend. The airlines keep trying to roll passengers back a few days but no one really knows when the schedule will open back up again. At least with a hurricane or a blizzard you know that after a few days of bad weather, things will open back up. Volcanoes don't keep such tidy schedules. This could be an ongoing problem for weeks or months.
To give a window into the travel agent world, the talk yesterday was comparing Europe's sudden no fly conditions to 9/11. We'd talk about how planes were wildly out of position and people were scrambling to get back home somehow. (And then sheepishly we'd add that there was at least the difference that thousands hadn't been killed and the world hadn't really changed.)
One other thing, Americans could usually drive home somehow. One of the people I talked to after 9/11 rented a car and drove from San Diego to Philly to make it home for his son's birthday. Driving from Paris to Pittsburgh isn't really an option. Still, if you're going to get stranded someplace, there are worse spots . . .

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bike Wear

Most days I drive near the Minnehaha creek on the parkway. Nice weather brings out the bicyclists. And they are hardcore. That means lots of professional looking biking outfits. And wow, are they horrible looking!
Seriously, each one looks like they lost badly at paintball. Loud colors and splotchy patterns. Primary shapes and who knows what. Who decided that form fitting sports wear had to look so awful?

This question led me to do some google searching which led me to this number here. A bit of formal wear kind of spruces up a look, doesn't it? Why isn't this more popular?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Kraft Dinner

One of the things I love about the baseball package is seeing the other market's TV commercials. The White Sox are in Toronto and we're seeing their feed. They had a commercial for a show that breaks down every hockey game and I mentioned to the FP Gal that it was pretty obvious whose broadcast we had. Then they followed with this beauty:

Ok, show of hands, has anyone here even thought of putting ketchup on their Macaroni & Cheese before?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Birthing classes

The FP Gal is having trouble remembering our birthing classes. I blogged them way back when:
And as a bonus, the breastfeeding nightmare class.

Balloons

You may remember that when we got the new car we negotiated some Mylar balloons into the deal. One red and one white. At the birthday party this weekend Relia made off with the Happy Birthday! balloon, also Mylar. By some chance of circumstance all of them have a similar amount of helium left, i.e. very little. Right now they're hovering around our house like little Mylar jellyfish.
Relia is thrilled because now they come down and she can reach the strings. I hope she's still happy when they can't clear the floor...

Monday, April 12, 2010

New Twins Stadium


As the Twins open a new stadium today (which seems to have gone well), an enterprising blogger happened upon an article from when they opened up their last outdoor place, Met Stadium. There was interest then as to how much of a homerun park it would be, same as with the new place. Included is a picture of how it looked back then. I love the green-space right on the other side of the parking lot. Is that now the airport?
Looks like it was a fun place.

Off to Work

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Castles

Took Relia over to Hudson today for a birthday party. As we were driving through St Paul she saw the cathedral and said, "That's my castle!". I thought it was pretty cute. Ten minutes later we passed a mattress store in Woodbury. Again, "That's my castle!". This time even more excitedly.

--

Minutes later there was some yelling from in back. I asked what was wrong. "Nothing. I'm just screaming at the buildings."

Space Pictures

Inspired by Kate's comment on the Friday picture, I found these artistic representations of views from around the solar system. Make sure to scroll through all eight of them. I think the picture of Triton is my favorite.

Convoy!

Yesterday during a slow moment at work I happened to look up the history of the Interstate system on Wikipedia. (Yes, I know this is geekery of an entirely unthought of depth. But stay with me anyway.) You may know that Eisenhower was influential in the creation of the system. What you might not know is that a previous cross country trip convinced him of its need.
In 1919, right after the Great War, the military decided to test how well they could move troops in the US from coast to coast. A convoy of 81 vehicles left Washington DC on July 7 and arrived in San Fran on September 6. A mere 62 days.
Along the way they lost nine vehicles. 273 men started the trip. 21 were injured during the trip and were left behind. Seriously, that sounds like something from Oregon Trail. The next year they did it again, this time going to San Diego. This trip took a more southerly route and took 111 days.
Google maps suggests that the same trip today can be done in 46 hours. (No mention is made of the caffeine needed for such a trip.) The trip to San Diego is a bit shorter, 43 hours.
Times sure have changed.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

24 Hours of Air Traffic


Very cool video. I've watched it about a dozen times now. A few notes of interest to me:
  • Watch the air traffic over the Atlantic. All one direction and then the other. Same thing over the Pacific but it's not as dramatic.
  • Keep an eye on the flights over the US at night. Red eye flights are almost exclusively west to east. Movies and TV shows screw this up all the time.
  • Note the huge difference in volume of air travel between night and day. It makes plenty of sense but the look of it is bigger than you'd expect.
  • The exception to that is India. There is some difference but the rate of travel is nearly constant all day. I don't know why this is but it jibes with my booking experiences.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Baseball and Family

Very sweet bit from the NYT regarding a father and daughter bonding over the White Sox. Don't worry Twins fans, it's probably possible to bond over other teams . . .

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Book Projects

I briefly mentioned some book lists in the previous post but I really didn't explain them. First of all, the 2010 Hugo nominees came out this weekend. The Best Novel list is of interest to me:

  • Boneshaker, Cherie Priest (Tor)
  • The City & The City, China MiĆ©ville (Del Rey; Macmillan UK)
  • Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America, Robert Charles Wilson (Tor)
  • Palimpsest, Catherynne M. Valente (Bantam Spectra)
  • Wake, Robert J. Sawyer (Ace; Penguin; Gollancz; Analog)
  • The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade)
I've heard very good things about 'The City & The City' and 'The Windup Girl'. With any luck I'll make it through the majority of these by the time the award is handed out in August.
The other list is a bit more unique. Every year the Booker prize is awarded to the best Commonwealth (and Ireland) novel. In 1971 they changed the eligibility dates and a huge group of books fell through the gap. To make up for this, they've decided to go back and find the best book in that time period. Their version of the story is here.
They put together a list of 22 worthies and then trimmed that down to six for the shortlist. This list is open for public voting, lasting until April 23rd. Good descriptions of each book can be found here. I almost certainly won't get through the whole list but I've picked up three of them and will work to knock those out.
Today I finished Renault's 'Fire from Heaven', which is an historical novel about the childhood of Alexander the Great. It's a very good novel and it would be a deserving winner. Next up is 'The Birds on the Trees'.

Housekeeping

The blogging has been a bit on the weak side lately. Sorry about that. That may continue for a bit. I've got a couple of short term reading lists to work through and I'm still fighting this darn cold. Plus various parenting and work stuff is taking up bunches of time.
About the cold, I went to the doctor today. They think that it might be a combination of allergies and a touch of asthma that is propelling a regular cold into a lengthy affair. It hasn't been severe the whole time, mostly just a tickle and a cough (though it's been a real doozy at times). I've got some maintenance type medication that will hopefully help out.
The parenting stuff is just the same old, same old. Relia has gotten much better at calming herself overnight since we installed the lights. It feels weird to tell her to stay in bed until the lights turn off but it seems to work. Sunday night was a notable exception. I was up with her three separate times. The awful thing was that in-between times I dreamed that I was up with her. Needless to say, Monday was not so happy.
Work? Well, still the 10 hour days. That takes up a bunch of time. And we're still pretty busy so it really wears. But it's a living. And there are much harder jobs out there.
Anyway, that's what is going on.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Off to Work

(This means we're going to win.)

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Baseball is almost here...

And I'm about to watch 'Bull Durham' with the FP Gal. If you haven't seen this before, treat yourself.

Update: Just a few thoughts after watching it again more freshly
  • This movie is now 22 years old, which is shocking and depressing on a number of levels.
  • Tim Robbins, pretty-boy athletic stud. Yep. Sure. We can buy that. If they remade this (and I'm not for a second suggesting that they do) this mistake would be at the top of the list to fix.
  • Susan Sarandon, on the other hand, could not be sexier than in this movie.
  • What sells this film is the combination of gritty minor league baseball and the stylish sophistication of Annie Savoy. It also has a good beat and you can dance to it.
  • In fact, the soundtrack deserves mention. Plenty of great 50's music that serves to both date Durham and highlight the appeal of a more relaxed small town life.
  • Still a great movie.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Have a Great Friday

Nickname

Last night, Relia popped out of her 'office' (her playroom on the porch) and called me Papa Bear. We're not sure where the name came from. Neither of us have read her Goldilocks or Bernstein Bears lately. In return I called her Relia Bear.
Not sure if this will stick or not. She hasn't remembered it so far this morning. But I can't help but be utterly charmed.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Atlas Shrugged Sequel

Hmmm,
Today the estate of Ayn Rand announced that they had authorized science fiction writers Charles Stross and Cory Doctorow to write an official sequel to Rand's bestselling novel Atlas Shrugged.

"Given that the original novel features an amazing new metal alloy, a secret valley protected by force field, and an unlimited new energy source, we felt that a science fiction perspective was key to carrying forward Ayn Rand's ideas," said Rand estate spokesman Perry Leikoff. "And what better science fiction writers to chose than two collaborators who were also past winners of the Prometheus Award given out by the Libertarian Futurist Society?"

Stross, author of the Prometheus Award-winning novel Glasshouse, said that he and Doctorow (author of the Prometheus Award-winning novel Little Brother) were hesitant at first. "But then we realized that both of us shared one important trait with Ayn Rand: all three of us really, really like money. That made it much easier for Cory and I to cash the seven figure check."
(Yes, yes, I know that it's an April Fools joke. I just love the whole idea behind it. And this is probably includes too many inside jokes for some of you readers out there. Apologies. Just know that if you understood all three authors, you'd find it very funny.)