Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Man Against Plan

I've heard of the basic narratives in writing, things like Man vs Man, Man vs Nature and so on. While reading this charming little review of Heinlein's 'Space Cadet' I came across a wonderfully different set of narrative suggestions:

Man vs Man: people working against each other
Man vs Plan: story where people are working against a scheme of some sort
Man vs Canal: a story where technology is used to overcome obstacles
Man vs Panama: which the author concedes is a very small segment of stories

I love it!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Have a Nice Monday

This is apparently a private home in the Maldives. I think I'd be ok living there.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Filling a Need

Felix has given Relia what she really needed: an audience. She dances and jumps for him. He smiles. He's genuinely fascinated by her. She can get him to laugh. I'm not sure if any of the rest of us can.
She, on the other hand, can't wait to teach him how to walk and talk and run and dance. And play hide-and-seek (though she's a bit fuzzy on that as well). They are quiet a pair.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Overheard

From Relia while looking at a book at the doctor's waiting office:

"Look, it's PBS George!"

That's Curious George to the rest of us. Wonder which channel she sees his commercials for? Hope that doesn't make us bad parents!

Update: Apparently it's a 'bathing suit' and not a 'swim suit'. Noncompliance will be treated with much derision. Please take note.

NFL Rule Changes

Very interesting video here on the new rule changes for this upcoming season. There is a huge emphasis on not hitting defenseless players in the head or neck. Which is a good thing. The ongoing concussion research is incredibly scary. In some ways the NFL is lucky that they've never had an on-field death. They've certainly had their share of scary moments.
This video is the same one that the NFL prepared for the players themselves to see. It walks through various penalties with video explanations to walk through the various details. It is very well done.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Siblings

Everyone asks Relia how she likes her new brother. It's pretty obvious that she's crazy about him. And I think that the feeling is mutual. The two spend time each day smiling at each other. He especially likes to watch her dance and she isn't one to turn down an audience.
Tonight I was holding Felix when it was bedtime. She came over and gave us hugs and kisses. She told him, "I love you. We're going to be friends forever!". I bet they will.

I've been reminded lately how lucky I am with my family. Not lucky because they're all great people (though I think that's true). I'm lucky because we get along as well as we do. We don't have any pairings that can't stand to be together. Or anything backstabby and poisonous. And (surprisingly) this makes us fortunate.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Never Say Never Again

It's Sean Connery's 80th birthday and apparently he's all done acting. According to the article the most enjoyable film to make was 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade'. He'll be most remembered for the James Bond movies of course. Those were released before my time (my first Bond was Roger Moore) but he certainly was iconic in them.
Favorite Sean Connery movie? I'm tempted to go with 'Highlander' or 'Hunt for Red October'. Looking over the last couple of decades makes it look like he wasn't really all that choosy about scripts though.
I can't think of a single person in movies today that could step in and fill his shoes.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Forever War - Haldeman

Joe Haldeman wrote 'Forever War' after his service in Vietnam. It was published in the mid 70's and won the Hugo award for '76. Along with 'Starship Troopers', it is considered one of the cornerstones of military sci-fi. I'd heard about it for years but this was the first time I've read it.
The book is about a college student named William Mandella who has been drafted into an interplanetary war. The story starts about twenty years after the Vietnam war and the draft has changed to include both men and women and designed to get the brightest people out there. Military units are co-ed and highly promiscuous.
Travel between stars is now possible but only at certain gravitational places in space. As humanity sent colony ships out they have become enmeshed in a war with a race they've dubbed the Taurans. The battles are fought over the key gravitational points. Communication between the races is impossible (or at least so difficult that it doesn't happen). Mandella's first contact with the Taurans is something of a massacre, probably a fight against civilians.
Travel involves enormous relativistic changes so while a mission might take only a few weeks for the soldiers, years and years have passed back on Earth. This was the most effective part of the story to me. Mandella survives the incredibly high casualty rate and is promoted but literally hundreds have years have passed in the meantime bringing huge social changes back on Earth. The most significant change is a government sponsored move to homosexuality as a way to combat overpopulation.

There were impressive parts to this book but I was kind of underwhelmed. The military shown here is bumbling and unprofessional. Which is certainly a reflection of the Vietnam era experience but incredibly unlikely over a centuries long campaign. The economic effect of a long war was unconvincing. The idea of a government that could maintain hardcore policies like a war effort or population control for centuries is laughable.
A good but not great book.

Monday, August 23, 2010

General Housekeeping Post

Don't have much to write about today. I had been getting used to putting up a 'going to work' picture on Mondays and now that I'm not I've quit doing so. I'm wondering if those pictures are missed or not. Please feel free to leave answers in the comments.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Pink Umbrella Birthday

The one thing that Relia asked for ahead of her birthday party was a pink umbrella. Yep, that's what she wanted. One pink umbrella. Can you believe that?

We decided to celebrate Relia's birthday today, using a weekend day so that the family could more easily come to her party. Didn't tell Relia ahead of time, wanted it to be something of a surprise. Or at least didn't want her to fuss too much people and presents.
We got her down for a nap a little after noon. This meant that we had a window to get some last minute shopping together, ice and crepe paper and whatnot. The FP Gal strung the paper in our dining room. When she woke from the party she walked in there and turned to me and said, "It's my birthday!". It sure is, sweetheart!
Guests started arriving soon after and soon the house was filled to capacity. Every chair in the house was occupied. Snacks were distributed and being eaten. Relia was running around with her cousin Marshall. Soon we had tacos and opened presents.
(And I should mention the presents. I think the FP Gal will post pictures. Let me just say that there were pink clothes, pink shoes and, of course, a pink umbrella. This was very princessey themed. I said that this was the most girly part I'd ever been to. The FP Gal said it was the girliest one she'd been to too.)
Then there was cake and playing in the yard. More good times. More running around. And finally people started drifting away and going home. When it was down to a few we set off a couple of fireworks and sparklers. Then the last guests left.
And what did Relia pull out of her pile of gifts so she could play with it? Why, the pink umbrella, of course.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Lake Creature...

Last Sunday we went for a walk near Lake Harriet. It was nice and cool and very windy. The strangest part was that someone had put a monster in the lake! Yep, a classic looking Nessie like thing floating a hundred feet from shore. What fun!
A little googling led me to this site which tells the history of the project. I've noticed that the monster (or it's relative?) have moved to Lake Nokomis as well. Keep an eye out . . .

Light Posting

Sorry about the underwhelming blogging this week. It's been busy with family and driving and my creative time has been pretty low. I'll try to blog up a storm this weekend. And I'm also hopeful that next week will be more routine and back on track.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Perseids Meteor Shower

Joshua Tree Under the Milky Way from Henry Jun Wah Lee on Vimeo.


Simply gorgeous video here, a collection of shots from the Joshua Tree National Park. (No idea why they didn't go with 'In God's Country'.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Duluth

Today was a vacation day for us. Which seems strange to say since we've had joint days off during the summer. But today was one of the last days where we were free enough to head out of town. So we went to Duluth.
I like trips to Duluth but it seems just a bit further away then I want it to be. On the ride up it seems just a little bit too long. On the way home it seems eternal.
We left early so we could make it up there before lunch. We met the FP Gal's folks near Canal Park. My FIL brought some bread so we fed the poor malnourished seagulls. Then we met Carrie for lunch at Grandma's. Which was very fun (despite the attempts of the younglings).
After eating we walked out to the lighthouse. Relia showed me that one side was warm and the other was very cool. We also threw rocks in the lake. I got a couple of six skippers.
We parted ways with the in-laws and drove up to French River, which is a special spot for the FP Gal. Relia napped on the way there and was pretty unbearable for a bit. But we promised her ice cream at the nearby Scenic Cafe. We'd gotten a tip on their blueberry pie (which was wonderful). The FP Gal had some cherry pie and she pronounced it the best she'd ever had. Relia had something with gummi worms and chocolate ice cream. At one point she had an ice cream goatee.
Now that she was cheerful we stopped back at French River and threw more rocks in the lake. Then we made a break for home. Nearly half of Duluth's roads are under construction so the route was a little slow. This ruined Relia's mood again. We (finally!) made it back to I35 and drove through the set of tunnels there. I said we had to hold our breath and the FP Gal dutifully joined me. Relia would have none of it. She told us "I'm not underwater!", which cracked us up.
The ride home took a mere 15 hours. In fact, I'm not entirely certain that this is still Tuesday. We left the interstate about a half dozen times for potty breaks, food, gas and disciplinary reasons. Both kids fell asleep sometime after dark and the rest of the trip was uneventful.
A fun day and I'm glad that we went. I just wish we could simply teleport back when we're done. I think the kids do too.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Job News

Just heard today, I'll still be working part time. Night time hours, three days a week, probably starting back in October. I've got mixed feelings but mostly I'm happy to have an answer.

My Scatalogical Life

It's amazing how much of my life now centers around going potty. Who needs to go potty. Who already has gone potty. Where they've gone potty. This is now a huge part of my schedule.
Just yesterday we went to Target and bought a new package of panties. When we got them home we were surprised that they were day of the week themed. (Also with princess pictures.) Well, let's just say that it's been a wet week since yesterday. Monday through Saturday are in the washer currently and we're hoping that the seventh day will remain dry.

The cloth diaper experiment is going strongly. Very strongly on my part since the FP Gal is doing all of the laundry on that part. Hey, don't look at me! This is what she put forth when she suggested that we try them.
They are easy enough. I can't speak to the comfort but he seems fine with them. We haven't used any disposable ones in weeks. I'm a little dubious that they'll age well with him but I'm open minded.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Travel Blog

I should mention that the travel blog that my company has started is up and running right here. It features a blend of posts from several different authors, including yours truly. My post was published on August 12th. Each of us has differing experience in the travel industry and you may find some of the advice very useful.

Things to Avoid

(Via Andrew) Here is a delightful little site devoted to some of the more difficult and annoying spots in the Cities. This is example #68:
What would happen if the city of Richfield commissioned David Lynch to design a parking lot based on the works of M.C. Escher? Shhh! Listen to the well-dressed midget beside the curtain. “The Hub,” says he.
It truly is a spectacularly bizarre parking lot with lots of angles and unexpected merges. Only some of the exits are useful in certain directions. As I've been here long enough to experience a bunch of these, I could only laugh and nod my head.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Memory

Remember the game 'Memory'? Cards with printed pictures laid out in rows? You pick out two of them on your turn and if you get a match you keep it in your pile? Well, we found it at a garage sale today for a buck. Decided it was a great game for Relia and picked it up.
This afternoon she trounced us. It took a bit for her to figure out what the point was but once she did we couldn't compete. She simply has a much better memory than her parents. The FP Gal says that she doesn't have as many other things on her mind. Fair enough.

I just know that she played very well.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Felix

I don't have much tonight. Today has been all about Felix. He's been clingy or at least uneasy. The longest nap he took during the day was about 30 min. From about 1p until 8p he would only be calm if he was on somebody.
This happens and it isn't a big deal. A bit limiting of course, especially if you're trying to pay attention to his older sibling but so be it. I've had worse days with an infant.
Care for some Felix fun facts?
  • The FP Gal is convinced that he'll be left handed. He does favor it quite a bit when he takes that soothing pacifier out of his mouth so he can yell. Lefties can pitch forever in the majors so I'm fine with this.
  • He is the most generous baby with his smiles that I've ever seen. Just lights up when he makes eye contact.
  • Everyone says that he looks just like me. Which is flattering of course. I'm going to give him permission right now to grow his hair long in high school. That may be his only chance . . .
That's all!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Zoo or Bust

On Monday I decided that our first outing as a SAHD (or WWJLD) would be to the zoo. I wanted to time it for the opening bell so there would be fewer crowds and lunch at home would time correctly. Got everything packed up (milk, snacks, diapers, extra clothes) and ready to go. And then Felix decided that he might want something to eat first. Tried to feed him but he wouldn't go for it. So into the car and away we went.
He cried most of the way and I reassured him that I'd try and feed him again as soon as we got there. Of course the milk didn't get repacked. We had to turn around and go home. About forty minutes of round trip crying and we missed our window for the zoo. (Relia took this very well and we ended up having a nice time that afternoon in the backyard.)
This morning I decided that we would make it this time. I packed up the bag, double checked on the milk and away we went. As we arrived Relia asked me what kind of valley we were going to. After some thought I answered an Apple Valley but we couldn't find any apples. Again some crying but not too much. It sounded more like an anti-carseat cry than a hungry one.
Pulled into the parking lot and started to unpack. The bag was here this time but there was a different obstacle. I wasn't familiar with the stroller in the back. Had no idea how to unfold it. None whatsoever. No obvious latches or switches. Couldn't find anything to unhook or bend or anything. Finally I just pulled really hard on it and (voila!) it opened. No clue why but I didn't question.
We had fun (dolphins, otters, bears and tigers) and then it was time to go. Back to the parking lot and I got the kids strapped in. For the full picture remember that it was a mere 110 degrees today. I couldn't close the darn thing! Again, there was nothing to pull or switch or anything. (That's almost true. I found that if I pulled on the front tray it would come off in my hands. Which wasn't useful.) I tried to jam it in the back while unfolded. It wouldn't fit. There was nothing to strap it to the roof with. I called the FP Gal but she couldn't answer. Was I going to have to abandon it in the parking lot?
And then (cue the angelic choir) I noticed that there was a kind of rolly thing on the handlebar. One quick twist and it let me close it. I stowed it and we finally left the parking lot.

Overall this is going well. I'm still working out the particulars.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Overheard

From the bottom picture here:

Relia: Why is that kitty wearing nipples?

Song of the Cebu



Relia's review: "I like this song. It makes me quite happy!"

Monday, August 09, 2010

Overheard

Me: (to the FP Gal) Relia told me she wants another brother.
FP Gal: You did?
Me: Yep. Tell her what his name should be.
Relia: Soleil.
FP Gal: Well, that's a pretty name.
Relia: (pause) Or Bunny Rabbit.

We, uh, will probably not let Relia choose the names of any future children.

Day One

Relia has insisted on wearing all black today. She looks like she's preparing for a role in 'Hamlet' or 'Cats'. Not quite a goth look or at least not attitude. The entire time she was putting on the clothes that she picked out she was saying, "I just like black!".
I expect we'll be back in pink-land before lunch.

Update: She just looked down, then looked at me in horror and said, "But I want to wear pink!".

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Stay At Home Advice

Tomorrow starts my new adventure. I think I'm ready. Famous last words, yes, but so be it. I don't feel unprepared. But I could still use some advice. A significant number of the people who regularly read this blog are stay at home parents. And I want to know what non-obvious things help you do it.
I know the obvious ones already:
  • Have things for the kids to do.
  • Try to get out of the house.
  • No more than one cocktail before lunch.
But what other things have you learned? What surprising technique helps get you through the day? Which drink helps the most?
Please fill up the comment section and help me out here.

Swimming

We've been taking Relia to pools almost every day lately. We talk about swimming but of course none of the pools she goes in are deeper than two feet (if that). This afternoon I happened upon some kind of swimming meet and called her in to look at it.
Absolutely enraptured. Pretty much demanded that we take her to an Olympic sized pool. I told her that it was kind of deep and would be over her head. She heatedly told me that she would get bigger and be able to touch. Fair enough.
-
This made me miss the Olympics. I love that random sport feel of the broadcasts as if they're pulling events out of a hat. You never know if you'll end up watching swimming, running or maybe the discus. (Well, you can always cheat and check the listings but I think you know what I mean.)
The next summer Olympics are in 2012 in London. Frankly, I don't want them any sooner. Once very four years is about right. And I don't expect to be searching out more swimming on TV.
But today . . . today, it's just right.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

'Lost' Epilogue

The DVD set for the last season of 'Lost' has a twelve minute epilogue that attempts to answer some questions that are leftover from the season. The video has escaped onto the internet (natch) but is being pulled down as soon as the producers find it.
Here is a summary for those who can't wait to buy the set. SPOILERS of course.

Maybe they always needed an epilogue, both because some of the things couldn't be answered until after the dramatic conclusion and also because they needed a hook to sell the last season. I do wish they had worked harder at doing some of this during the last season though.

Something Deep is Going On Here

But I don't know what it is.

Relia is holding a mirror up to our mouths and demanding that we say 'psychology'. Well, actually it sounds like 'college-y' but still . . .

Sometimes toddlers are weird.

An Octopus Named Loki

One of the reasons I follow sports is for the little goofy one offs like this:

Octopus Predicts Favre will Retire
Loki the Octopus predicts Brett Favre will retire.

The octopus made its prediction late Thursday morning by choosing between two types of food in its aquarium at Underwater Adventures at the Mall of America.

I suppose this is as good a way as any to figure out what the Hamlet of Hattiesburg will do. And an excellent way for the Aquarium to get a little bit of publicity.
Two things interest me about this, first I've tried to see this octopus in the past. They had Loki on display for a couple of months but she (I think it's a she) would always hide. And it was impressive how well an octopus of her size could hide. Eventually they swapped out her exhibit with something that could be seen.
And the secondly, does anyone else think it's funny to trust predictions from something named Loki? He is probably the best known of the 'trickster' type of gods. It would be like getting tips on humility from a lobster named 'Tyra Banks'.

Friday, August 06, 2010

This is Your Life

(Via Hit & Run) In commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing comes this strange story.
On May 11, 1955, before an audience of millions of viewers, a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing was shocked to receive a handshake from the co-pilot who flew the mission to destroy his city. This Is Your Life, the show that engineered this stunt, was an enormously popular “testimonial” program, but one that was frequently criticized for its tendency to go overboard in exploiting the emotional responses of its usually unwitting subjects. The Hiroshima episode is so far off the charts in this regard that—even today—it is unsettling to watch the one clip that is available online.
My only recollection of the show was the Sesame St inspired parody. Apparently they invited (well tricked) a Hiroshima survivor onto the show and gave him quite the surprise. I can't imagine being in his shoes. Or the pilots for that matter. The whole story is well worth reading.

Have a Great Friday

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Work Thing

Tomorrow is my last day in the office. Starting next Monday I'll be a stay at home dad. There is a chance that my company will ask me to do some part time work from home but even if they do, it will be at least a few weeks until that would happen.
How do I feel? Pretty good, actually. I think I'm up to handling both kids on a daily basis. Even the lack of adult contact doesn't scare me too much. And the lack of corporate nonsense is a definite plus! And even the part time stuff would be fine, if that's what happens.

In many ways this feels like a new page of adventure. Bring it on!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Moving Some Music

You might remember that I bought a new computer last fall. One difficulty that I ran into is that my iTunes library of music was hard to move. There was probably an easier way to do this but the FP Gal (probably tired of hearing me complain) finally burned all of the purchased tunes onto discs so that I could simply re-import them.
I can move the songs without a problem. Well, one small problem I guess. Each one simply comes over with the track number of the transfer disc. No song, artist or album information. So what am I doing? Playing each track and trying to figure out what it is so I can label them.
And I'm having a blast!
This tests my memory for song titles and bands. It tests my goggle-fu in finding the exact song. And holy cats(!), I've got great taste in music.

Barnes & Noble For Sale

Barnes & Noble put themselves up for sale yesterday. This is sad news but not really a big surprise. Ten years ago all of the news surrounding B&N had to do with them eliminating smaller independent bookstores. Now the market has turned against them.
It has all of the advantages of scale. The retailer even began flirting with e-books with its Nook, though the Amazon Kindle and Apple iPad provide fierce competition in that sphere. The company that once put small bookstores out of business through its novelty of scale might fall pretty to other innovations by failing to stay at the cusp of what's next.
When I was trying to decide on buying an e-reader, one of the things that moved me away from the Nook was my lack of confidence in B&N. I'm pretty sure that Amazon will still be around ten years ago. I'm not even a little bit confident that B&N will be.
Part of this is that people are simply more confident in online shopping than they used to be. Amazon has taken almost all of my money that B&N might otherwise have had. Some of this is convenience, but a big part of it is price. Even when I worked there, it seemed like too many items were simply overpriced. It seemed like they wanted to charge more even if that meant fewer items sold. They often seemed just on the wrong side of the demand curve.
I'll be sad if they go but nowadays I get my bookstore fix at the used bookstores. I think this is probably true of lots of people.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Northern Lights

We could be in for a treat tonight and tomorrow night. There may be some northern lights action going on. The solar conditions are right for a good light show, it'll just depend on whether the magnetic fields on our own planet cooperate or not. Dark skies are helpful, of course. And a clear view to the north is pretty much essential.
The last time I saw the northern lights was in 2004 while I was living in Burnsville. They were faint, not surprisingly. I was looking through the glare of the entire metro area, after all. The best viewing I've ever had was from just north of Austin.
Good luck to us for a nice lightshow!

Monday, August 02, 2010

Off to Work

This will be the last one of these for some time.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Football Pools

The calendar has moved on to August and that means it's time to start getting ready for the football season! I've set up the pick pools again. The more players the better so do join in. There is no charge to play.
The first pool is a simple pick 'em league. Simply go here and choose to join a group. The group ID number is 4750 and the password is 'finally'. Each week you'll pick the winner of each game and assign confidence points. (The most confident pick gets the most points.)
Also doing a survival pool again. For that you go here and join a group. The group ID for this one is 1895 and the password is 'football!'. Survival football is played by choosing one team each week. If your team loses you are eliminated. You can only pick a team once per season. This can be a lot of fun if you can make it into midseason or further.

So sign up and play!