Sunday, October 31, 2010

Story ideas

For those who are friends with me on Facebook or have been following me on Twitter, you know that I've been listing rejected story ideas before Nanowrimo starts tomorrow. I got this idea last year after I failed to get my story done. I kept thinking that I'm so much better at coming up with story ideas than I am with actually writing something that I'm happy with. It made me want to challenge myself to see if I could actually come up with one good story idea every day for an entire month. (You might quibble with how good some of these are and I'll admit that some of them are joke entries.)
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.

Elephants on Parade!

Months ago we asked Relia what she wanted to be for Halloween. She told us she wanted to be an elephant. She wanted Felix to be an elephant too. We asked again and again and she told us the same thing. Elephants.
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

Have a Great Friday

Twenty Nine Degrees

That's all of the degrees that the thermometer could find this morning. I am seriously not ready for winter this year.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Come Dancing - Kinks


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

Where Late the Sweet Bird Sang - Wilhelm

This was the winner of the 1976 Hugo Award.

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.

50 States, 50 Movies

Very cool map here with each US state represented by a movie. I'd make some different choices, as the movies chosen are a bit too current (seriously, 'Jesus Camp' for two different movies?). But I love the idea behind it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Airplane Potties

One of my other fears with the flights was the bathroom situation. You know, strange settings and periods of time when we can't get up. Seemed like a recipe for disaster, or at least changes of clothes. But not to worry, she did fine there too. Used the 'loo' on three of the four flights. Not sure if it had more to do with an opportunity to get up and move than it was bladder pressure.
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

Autumn Morning

This morning we went out into a damp, cool atmosphere. There were touches of fog still in the air. The streets and sidewalks were still wet with rain. Most of the trees still have some leaves, mostly in the classic fall colors of red, brown and yellow. Temps were in the 50s.

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.

Flying with a Toddler

The most challenging part of our trip, or at least the one I was most afraid of, was taking Relia on the planes. And when I say 'planes', please focus on the plural form as we had connections each way. Yep, we had to get out of one plane, cross an airport and get in a different one. With all of the potential problems that entails.
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

Too Tired

To tired to really post tonight. Just know that we're home, safe and sound. It was great to see the family, especially Relia playing with her cousins.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

This Speaks to Me

Usually I go with beautiful, if subdued, landscapes. Sometimes with ornate and gothic buildings. But this black and white of the staircase has a beauty that's easy to appreciate.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Updates from the road

I didn't think that I'd check in but I've got a few minutes, so what the heck.
  • 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!

And really . . .

You have to appreciate this here. It's in Brazil, by the way.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

Happy Monday

Ok, we need a pretty picture to look at.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Signing Off

For a week or so. Tomorrow, Relia and I are heading off to see Hans and Rachel and their kids. I won't be blogging from the road.

Take care of yourselves!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Overheard

While brushing teeth this morning,
Relia: And then the tooth paste just fell out of the pantry and said 'I want to brush little teeth'!

Sometimes she's so cute that I suspect it's all a put on.

Have a Great Friday

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Overheard

Relia: I promise, I promise, I promise! Didn't you hear? I said lots of 'promises'?!

Update: And this rings a bell too. Especially when 'snacks' come into her head.

32 Greatest Sports Calls

If you're a sports fan, clear some time in your schedule, click over here and enjoy. Goose bump city.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wild Horses


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

Bouncing Baby Boy

For various reasons, most of them having to do with watching Relia at the same time, we normally change Felix on the downstairs couch. It works out pretty well, being wide and plush and at normal sitting height. Of course we take steps to protect the couch from diaper messes. And that's what brought this post about.
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.

Cold, Day Three

Sorry for the very light posting yesterday. This cold is really kicking my butt. And being the sole parent for working hours yesterday was kind of rough. When you're working full time for someone else and you get sick then you call in and get a day off. When it's you and your kids . . . not so much.
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.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Colds

Our entire household has a cold. Well, maybe not the cats. But the rest of us are in bad shape. Well, even that's not quite true. Relia has a bit of a runny nose and Felix seems a little out of sorts. The FP Gal and I seem like death warmed over. And not that warm at that.
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

Bike Helmets?

Interesting article in WSJ from Virginia Postrel about the effect of bike helmet laws:

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.

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.
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.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Every Dr Who Opening

There is a huge chunk of nostalgia trapped in here:


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

Baseball Postseason

Just some quick thoughts on how I'll be rooting. (Not necessarily how I think they'll do, however. In fact, a lot of smart baseball people think that the small number of games makes it nearly impossible to project playoff success. Not that I subscribe to that theory either, but strange enough stuff does happen that I won't try and predict it.)

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.

Commercial Questions

Have you seen this one?

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

Overheard

While driving to preschool this morning.

Relia: I'm talking to myself.
Me:
Relia: I said that I'm talking to myself.
Me:
Relia: Daddy!
Me: What?
Relia: I'm talking to myself!
Me: Oh. Very good sweetheart. Keep it up.

Preschool

Today was Relia's first day of preschool. (I dutifully took some pictures this morning and I'm assuming that the FP Gal can work her magic and insert them in here.) This wasn't really a bittersweet moment. For one, she's been going to this same spot for three years. Which doesn't seem possible but she really started there in October of 2007(!).
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

Amazing Race thought

Tonight's episode featured coffins in Ghana that were specially designed to say something about their future occupant. There were fish and lobsters and objects like pianos and cameras. The FP Gal asked if I would go for a tiger or a book. Either one would be fine but let's think about it for a moment . . .
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

Seasons

We just finished the wettest recorded September in Minnesota history. It was also on the cool side though I don't know if it was historic in any way. Last year we had a cool September and the coldest October we'd ever had. I'm hopeful that we avoid the same pattern.

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?