Saturday, December 31, 2011


If my math is right, this is the seventh anniversary since this blog here was created.

Update: And my math was not right. This is the eigth anniversary. Yeesh.

2011 Year in Review

It feels like it's been a busy year but I can't really account for much of it. The 'recently read' list on the side of my blog is about 15 months out of date (and I don't think I'll fill the gap). Time to restart it though, I think. We saw few movies of note this year and almost nothing 'must see'. At least nothing that I can remember.
I guess this year was spent just living with the kids. I worked part time all year, something I haven't done since leaving home. This meant that I got to spend simply a ton of time getting to know my children. Also got so spend more time with the FP Gal, which is clearly a plus. On the downside, I now feel very disconnected with the outside world.

Best book I read this year? That's a tough one. My Hugo reading fell off, or at least fell out of order. And the reviews dried up completely. The best one was probably 'The Vor Game' by Bujold, but the most enjoyable was probably 'Blackout/All Clear' by Willis. I also really enjoyed 'The Hunger Games' by Collins. For the first time in many years I didn't read any Booker prize books. Not sure why; it just didn't happen. There were two notable non-fiction books for me. The first I've mentioned already, 'How to Read a Book' by Adler but the second one caught my imagination more. It was 'The Long Way' by Bernard Moitessier, one of the sailors on the first round the world race. The book deserves it's own post and who knows, it may even get one. Suffice it to say, he was an interesting man.
I've looked through this list and as far as I can tell we only saw two movies in the theater this year. We saw 'The King's Speech' back in March and the last Harry Potter movie in July. That's it. Looking through the list there were at least three or four other movies that I wanted to see. In other words, what an awful year for movies!

So back to the kids. 2011 saw DF's first steps and a full blooming of his personality. He's talking quite a bit now, even singing from time to time. He has opinions and preferences and somehow has become a huge daddy's boy. I'm proud and a little awed by the responsibility!
Relia just keeps getting more and more adult. She still throws the occasional tantrum but you can sometimes see the wheels turning as she tries to keep control. She plans ahead, tries to find solutions and even develops schemes. Relia is becoming very, very smart. Both in terms of knowledge collection but also in how she puts things together. I could hardly be prouder.

Of course next year will bring new challenges and another bundle of joy. I think back to where I was ten years ago and it seems like I've come impossibly far in such a short period of time.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Austin Puzzle

Heidi gave me a puzzle of Austin. Yep, Austin MN, the town that knew me when. A pretty cool thing, the puzzle is centered on the house that I grew up in.
The other night the FP Gal and I put it together. A 400 piece puzzle, it took us about five hours to get it all done. The actual town area (shaded red) was fairly easy. The surrounding countryside was very difficult.
Despite the look of intense concentration, we had lots of fun doing this.

Have a Great Friday

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Sick sick sick sick sick. And it ruined a day off as Dad came up to watch the kids for us. Guh.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Sorry, didn't mean for the blog to go dark there. It just kind of slipped away from me. On Monday we went to Willernie to see some friends and family. We met at Aunt Liz's house so we could see how it's been refurbished. It was a great time. Afterwards Mom came over so we could exchange gifts.
And then I was done, done, done. That was three days in a row watching the kids at other houses. That's three away games in a row. Throw in new toys for the kids and the FP Gal and I were both exhausted. After we put them down for bed we slowed things down with a card game and had an easy night.
Yesterday was a good one. The FP Gal is off for winter break and she gave me an easy day. She took the kids to daycare and picked them up afterwards. Then she was off to her parents for dinner, leaving me with more blissful calm.

Ahhhhhhh . . .

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone

Lots of wonderful stuff going on but the image that is sticking with me right now is DF and his new yellow Tonka dump truck. He's been running around the downstairs with that most of the afternoon. He holds on to the back (the dumper?) and runs and runs. Sometimes he comes to a controlled stop but not always. He's taken about 40 or 50 pratfalls, anyone of which would have retired me to the couch for the rest of the afternoon.
Relia after him with a flashlight, also smiling. She's playing with various dolls other princess related things. Also very happy.
They say that Christmas is for kids and while that isn't quite true, it's easy to see what is meant.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Sky Lanterns

If you don't know what I was talking about in the previous post, you can see some lanterns here:

Of course we only launched two, not 11,000 but it was still thrilling.

Christmas Eve Day

It was a busy day so I'll just go with highlights:
  • Drove down to Austin this morning. The kids surprised us by not taking a nap. Yep, neither one took the nap that we expected. Well, not that surprising with Relia but DF regularly naps in the morning. This did not bode well.
  • Met up with Dad and spent some time at his place. It's always interesting to see what the kids will adopt there. For Relia it was a large bell. For DF it was a mechanical dog that we got for Grandma many years ago.
  • After lunch we drove for quite some time so we could get the kids to sleep. After they dropped off we went to Joann's so the FP Gal could get some things. (I may have caught a few winks too while listening to the game on the radio.)
  • Over to Aunt Donna's and Uncle David's. Able to watch some football and relax.
  • DF got to spend some time with an honest to God gog (dog). You may remember that he is on patrol for them out of several windows in our house. This time he had one right there. And it scared him. Whenever Jackson (the gog) moved quickly or got too close, DF retreated to daddy. By the end of the day he warmed up a bit but not very much. Apparently gogs are better in theory than in practice.
  • Went to the candle-light service at dad's church. We told her that she could hold a real lit candle and at the end of the service she was able to. The FP Gal and DF listened to things from the nursery which worked out very well.
  • Back to Donna and David's to spend time with the family. Had some excellent potato soup and some Christmas cookies. DF discovered how wonderful white chocolate is.
  • Way back last spring I got some sky lanterns for a project I had in mind. Unfortunately I haven't figured out any place in the cities that I can actually launch the durn things. So I took them down to Austin and we launched two of them from the edge of town. It was windy and we had trouble figuring out how to get them launched. One ended up in the trees but the second one went up and up and up and may have ended up in Wisconsin or Michigan. It was very cool and now I need to figure out where to launch the seven I have left.
  • Back home and with some effort got the kids into bed waaaaay after their normal bedtime. I wish that meant they would sleep in tomorrow but it probably won't work that way.

It was a fun day and my only regret is that we wanted more time with family.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Comet from Orbit

Incredible video from the ISS. The flashes in the opening is a thunderstorm seen from overhead. Then a comet comes over the horizon. It must be amazing up there.


The DF leads me to the front window.

DF: Gog! Gog!
Me: Is there a dog?
DF: (looking) No gog.
Me: Is there a bus?
DF: (looking again) No bus.
Me: Do you need a hug?
DF: No hug! All done! All done!

He got a hug anyway.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Noel Nouvelet

I put together a Christmas CD last week and wanted a version of 'Noel Nouvelet' on it. After some searching, I settled on this version and boy howdy, it's gorgeous.
We sang this back in high school. I can't remember if we did it as a full choir or just in Austinaires. It's a traditional French Christmas carol and it's both beautiful and haunting.


Tonight I told Relia about when I decided to cut my hair, oh so long ago.

Relia: You should grow it back.
Me: You think I should?
Relia: Yeah. Because right now you look like . . . you look like . . . a thumb.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


DF has discovered the moon in a big way. Through books first, 'Goodnight Moon' and others, of course. But he's also discovered it hanging up there in the sky.
This morning started early. Relia came into our room about 430a with a complaint. The FP Gal (bless her heart) went with her and fixed things. Unfortunately, both of us were then awake. After some time I crept downstairs and the FP Gal dozed off again.
DF woke just before 6a and I brought him downstairs. While we russeled up breakfast he did his normal search for dogs at the various windows. No 'gogs' were found but a sliver of the moon was hanging up to the south of us.
"Moon, moon, moon" he said, to make sure that I saw it too. I agreed it was there. We looked again several times until nearly two hours later I dropped him off at daycare.
The FP Gal told me that he asked where it was tonight too. I'm sure he'll be at the south window looking again in the morning. Hard to explain to him that the moon is 'inconstant' and can't be trusted to be in the same place.
One of those lessons of growing up, I guess.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy Monday

This pic has me breaking the tenth commandment in a big way . . .

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Survivor Thoughts

(Warning, spoilers ahead!)

So the season started with me writing this about 'Survivor' and the return of Coach and Ozzie. As the whole thing has now ended I thought it would be nice to bookend the season. Got it? Yes, there will be bullet points . . .
  • I was worried that Coach and Ozzie would over shadow the season. And they did. And I didn't really care for it. It was nice to see Coach continue his character arc as he really does seem to have learned some things. Ozzie on the other hand seemed to become more true to his nature. Interesting, but overall not worth it. All new contestants for next season please.
  • Not that either of them won. The winner was kind of quiet and behind the scenes all season. Interesting choice on the part of the producers. And yes, I think there were some societal double standards in play.
  • I was sooooo glad that the jury called the remaining people on the cult like quality of their tribe. It felt like several people were badgered into huge displays of religiosity by their peers. This didn't feel sincere organic. If anything, it felt like an open play to keep crazy Brandon at bay.
  • Speaking of Brandon, I can't think of a worse ambassador for Christianity over the past few months. He never seemed to really care about other people, certainly not in the universal sense that the best Christians display. He also sought cheap redemption on an almost daily basis. It takes more than just saying 'sorry', bro.
  • Of course, the flip side with Brandon is that he was obviously haunted by demons. It might be interesting to check back with him in ten years and see if he has stabilized somewhat. (Please Survivor producers, no sooner than that!)
  • In contrast to Brandon there was Dawn. What a wonderful person she seems to be! She could be in a pro-Mormon commercial tomorrow.

Game stuff, ok, let that be the end of returning players for a while. And if you simply have to bring them back, let me suggest a few things here.

  • Stop bringing back the over dogs. Bring back some people who showed potential but were sidetracked. Like the guy who was stuck on Redemption back on season 22. Or some of the people who were voted out first. Otherwise the game is overshadowed too much.
  • And mix up the tribes more! This season would have been much improved if the tribes had been scrambled when there was 16 or 14 players. The show is always better when the last group is split in more than two directions.
  • Get a few hardcore strategy board gamers out there. Seriously, find some veteran Diplomacy players. You'll end up with a better show.

I loved the scenery. I loved the challenges. I wish there would have been more likeable people to root for . . . but sometimes that's just how it is.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dog Patrol

DF is getting more and more wordy. Specifically, he's using more and more phrases. The most used one is "No dog" although he actually says 'no gog'. This is used when he looks out the back window for the neighbor's boxer or out the front across the street. He is constantly on the lookout for 'gogs'. Constantly.
Today at Target we were in the freezer section and he spotted a display. It has the Target dog and a Kemps cow together. He broke up into laughter! "Gog! Gog! Gog!" "Yes, buddy, I see the dog." And so on.
He also has a couple of picture books and he can hardly wait for the dog pages to come up. One of them has a potty on the other page. Because he spends so much time with the dog, he also knows the word 'potty'.

I'm trying to remember where Relia was at this stage and frankly I can't. Not without checking back at the blog history at least. I think he's farther along but I'm not sure. We were afraid that Relia's talkativeness would stunt him somehow. The theory being that she would talk so much that he wouldn't have to. That hasn't been the case at all.
In fact, I probably was wrong about his favorite word. If you totaled them all up his most used would easily be 'Relia'. When she's not around he looks for her. He talks about her. He misses her. The FP Gal said that he thinks Relia 'hung the moon'. I can't say it any better than that.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Little Colds

Poor DF has a slight cold. Some coughing and runny nose. Obviously tired more easily. We're slightly afraid it will be the croup but if it is at least we know how to treat that.
And . . . I think I might have a little something going on with my system too. I've just been so tired all week. Maybe it's the early darkness or something.
Actually, I have no complaints about the weather at all this week. The temps have been in the 30's and we've had mists and rain. Reminds me of the week I spent in Oregon and Washington eight years ago in December. Ah.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

12 Days of Christmas

Yesterday I put together a new CD of Christmas songs. I included this one and played it for Relia in the car. She was upset that they kept 'messing up the song'. I told her that they were doing it for fun but I'm not sure she really believed me. Sweetheart, here it is, you can see it for yourself.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Have a Great Monday

Computer Woes

You might remember that I got a new computer right around Thanksgiving. I don't think that I shared the fact that it's disc drive didn't work. It would open up and close just fine, but then it would make a rattling noise and (worst of all) the computer had no idea that you'd given it something to read.
Yesterday I took it back and exchanged it for a different computer. The sale price on the new computer was a little better so I even got a little money back. All good.
Brought it home and set it up. Got all the things on the back plugged in. Went through the start up. Connected to the internet and (bam!) got hit with some kind of virus. I was seriously on for about three minutes and then a near constant stream of virus warnings shut it down. The computer wouldn't let me do anything. Even things like Free Cell were messed up.
So. I packed it back up and took it back this morning. Told them my woes and again they exchanged it. I've set it up too and it appears to be working. I'm connected and the disc drive is working. With any luck everything else will keep working too.

We hate these damn things when they break but man, do we rely on them.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Classics for Children

I've been thinking about introducing the kids to some better lit recently. This urge becomes especially strong when she wants to watch some kind of tween show. With this in mind, I ran across this post from Stan where he talks about the things he has read to his kids. (Don't miss his first five suggestions.)
With this in mind I started reading 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' to Relia. She seems to like it but her attention span needs some work. We'll see if that improves with time. I also like the idea of reading some poetry to her. Everyone should have some appreciation of a good turn of phrase.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Kindle Note Making Powers

I recently finished Adler's 'How to Read a Book'. Very good book and I'd recommend it to anyone who is interested in some serious analytical reading techniques. One of the first suggestions is to go heavy on the note taking. Underline, highlight and write stuff in the margins. They even suggest using the flyleaf!
This all makes some sense but I find the idea of actually marking up a book to be a near sacrilege. In my thirty some years of reading I have never written in a book guilt free. I don't bend the pages. I even feel bad when the spine on a paperback breaks. Taking notes in the actual book is a step too far.
Enter the Kindle. I've started doing the reading for the Great Books list (feel free to join in, should be fun!). To take a note you simply start typing with the key pad. It opens up a window for you to put your thought in. You can simply save this or 'save and share' and the window closes. A number appears in the text and you can move on.
Highlighting is even easier. You simply click on the text and move to the end of the thought that you want to highlight. Click again and (viola!) you've got it. As a bonus, you can see passages that lots of other people have highlighted too. This is interesting, if nothing else.
Push the menu button and you can access your notes and highlights. You can also see the most popular highlights of others. All as easy as can be.

Now I can mark up my readings!

Kitchen Gift Guide

Megan McArdle has her annual Holiday Kitchen Gift Guide up and, as always, it's a fun read. If you have someone who likes to cook in your life, this is worth a read.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Left Handedness

Interesting article in the WSJ on left handers (I want to say southpaws but that makes my dad upset). The FP Gal and I both have a left handed parent so our kids have a 1 in 4 chance of being lefties. Relia is clearly right handed and it's too soon to tell if DF tends towards the sinister. Only time will tell.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Happy Monday

I'm thinking of moving the home office to here.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Saturday, December 03, 2011

DF in a Hat

This is DF's favorite hat. He likes to put it on and wander around the house. I'm more of a Fox in socks guy, but he really is adorable.

Most Popular Christmas Toy by Year

According to the internet here (and if we can't trust the internet, what can we really trust?). Any errors come from me trying to decipher pictures. Or just simple internet mistakes. The list (with my commentary in parenthesis):

1960 - Barbie
1961 - Etch a Sketch
1962 - Troll doll
1963 - Easy bake oven
1964 - GI Joe
1965 - Operation
1966 - Action man (an action figure)
1967 - Battleship
1968 - Lite-Brite
1969 - Hot wheels
1970 - Nerf balls
1971 - Wheebles
1972 - Uno (much earlier than I thought)
1973 - Playmobile
1974 - Dungeons and Dragons (again, much earlier and more popular than I would have guessed)
1975 - Pong
1976 - Connect Four
1977 - Star Wars figures
1978 - Speak and Spell
1979 - Strawberry Shortcake (1979? really?)
1980 - Rubik's Cube
1981 - Legos (I'd guess this was always a high seller)
1982 - Bicycle
1983 - My Little Pony
1984 - Care bears
1985 - Cabbage Patch Kids (biggest fad toy ever?)
1986 - Transformers (last year that I was in tune with what was being bought I guess)
1987 - Pictionary
1988 - Stay Puft Marshmallow man (and I have trouble believing this)
1989 - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
1990 - Super soaker water gun (not the biggest seller in Minnesota, I can guarantee that)
1991 - Nintendo game boy
1992 - Barney
1993 - Mortal Kombat game
1994 - Power Rangers
1995 - Pogs (am I really seeing that right?)
1996 - Tickle me Elmo (another big sensation)
1997 - Beanie babies
1998 - Furbies
1999 - Pokemon

I could maybe have guessed about five of those, all in that period of time between the age of 7 and 15.

Thursday, December 01, 2011


I've been doing some in depth research into some schooling (I'll talk more about this at some point maybe). Anyway, I'm looking at a technical college here in the Cities and today I played with a tuition calculator. I was telling the FP Gal about this.
After inputting various factors it came up with a figure of over $12k. The FP Gal said this was less than she paid for her masters degree. I told her that it included $5k for room and board. She was relieved and told me that we could cover that here at home.
I told her that I'd always felt a little left out that I'd missed my chance at living in a dorm. She said something like 'you bet you have!'. Fair enough. Though I can't help but think of the shock on some 18 year old kid's face as he opens the door and a nearly 40 year old graybeard is sitting on the other bunk.
I wonder how long it would take him to ask me to get him some beer?
The FP Gal said that they'd probably pair me up with some 70 year old guy who was just trying to stay active. She's probably right. And I'm sure we'd get along just fine. Especially once we got that sock on the doorknob thing figured out.

Man, I wish that I'd just tackled this stuff when I was 18.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


To help you understand this one, I need to tell the story of some book buying. Last year I took Relia to B&N Har Mar and let her pick out two kids books from the used section. One of them was a book about Hanukkah, detailing the lighting of the various candles. Just one more sign from the universe that our family should really be Jewish.
Anyway, this conversation took place yesterday on the ride from daycare:

Relia: (pointing at the house next to the place, yard covered with various Christmas decorations) Look, she has her Hanukkah candle up!
Me: Yep. It's called a 'candelabra'.
Relia: 'Candle-agra'. I hope that Nana puts hers candle-agra up soon.
Me: Does she have one?
Relia: Oh yes. And soon she'll put it up. (pause) And then she'll make angel food cake like she always does. (pause) And then Grandpa will sit and watch the stupid old TV.
Me: Um, is that a Hanukkah tradition too?
Relia: Yes, he does that every year.

For the record, the FP Gal's family isn't Jewish and I don't know if they have a candelabra or not. And as far as I know Grandpa doesn't really 'watch the stupid old TV' that much.
Where does she get this stuff?

Update: And now I find out that she was talking about a 'menorah' and I have no clue what I'm telling her.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


It's not even December yet (not quite) and I'm already having trouble dealing with the weather. We've only dipped into the 20s and it still feels . . . unfair somehow. I think Meigan said we deserve extra credit for living through Minnesota winters and that is certainly true. Unfortunately, I don't know what we're storing that credit up for. Maybe life on the upper plains makes it easier to get into heaven.
I feel this way especially in the morning. Our downstairs is very tricky in terms of gauging just how warm it is outside. As a result, I rarely feel confident that I got the kids dressed right. Once we get into true winter this won't matter as much because then you simply load on the clothes and go. During the transition periods it's harder.
I keep wishing we had a steam room in our house. Doesn't that sound nice? Not really a sauna as I want something wetter. Maybe like those big Russian baths. Today I actually ran the water in the shower for about twenty minutes while I sat in the bathroom and read.

Oh, this could be a long next few months.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Back to Status Quo

Now that Thanksgiving is done, I'm hoping that things calm down here on Walton mountain. We're finally all healthy again. Probably. DF may still have some lingering thing. But he's no longer running a fever. (And yes, I knocked on wood after typing that out.)

I have a new computer up and running. Much to the FP Gal's consternation, I went with another HP. What can I say? I also bought another Kia after the last one dern near killed me. Guess having a product crash doesn't permanently chase me away as a customer.

Our house is becoming more and more Christmasy. Relia is incredibly aware of what's going on. She asked us today where Santa lives and wasn't satisfied with just 'at the north pole'. She wanted specifics. And then she tried to figure out where he puts all of his food. I suggested that he use the flying reindeer and she told me that 'he is magic and can go a week without food'. Then she got upset when I mentioned that Santa is pretty fat and would like to eat more often.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Dragon Nest

DF's sleeping set up is kind of screwy. Instead of a pillow he has folded up blanket and for a blanket he uses a towel. Last night I told the FP Gal that we just need to get a pillow to dry him with post-bath and the cycle would be complete.
I'm sure every family has some kind of idiosyncrasy like this. I can even explain exactly how ours got this way. As an infant DF didn't use a pillow of course. At some point I thought he'd be more comfortable with one so I grabbed what was handy, a blanket, and improvised. When the weather turned colder this fall I needed something to put over him. The towel was handy.
The tricky part is that Relia has kind of a special pillow. The FP Gal has long had a sea turtle stuffed animal with a broad flat shell. At some point it went to Relia and has become her special thing. When she's crying it becomes her comfort talisman. And it puts some pressure on us to get something good for DF.
Which is maybe silly, but it's a nut we're trying to crack.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Have a Great Friday

I suppose this should be fall or winter looking but, honestly, look at that trail of blue. Isn't that cool?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Anne McCaffery, RIP

I just found out that Anne McCaffery, author of the Dragons of Pern books has died. I was first handed one of her books sometime around fifth or sixth grade. It was 'Dragonsong', a lovely story of a young girl who had serious musical talent that she wasn't allowed to explore. The girl, Menolly, was driven from her village and took refuge out in the wilds. While there she impressed (befriended but stronger) some small dragons. I read that book to shreds.
This led me to the other dragon books and I read them pretty heavily too. McCaffery was the first author that I read who built a serious and detailed imaginary world. (I'd count CS Lewis but Narnia loses focus as soon as you get away from the stories. Pern seemed substantial enough to go on its own.) I'll always treasure that.
A couple of years ago I gave them to the FP Gal to read. She devoured them, so they must still hold up. If you're looking for some good young adult reading, this is an excellent series.
All authors die. The most that they can ask for is for their works to live on beyond them.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


If anyone is curious, here is where things stand now:

  • My computer is dead, dead, dead. Or at least the amount of money that I would need to spend on fixing it is close enough to the price of a new one that this is the route that I'll go. Hope to get that done this week.

  • I've been using the FP Gal's laptop off and on this week. She has been very good to share it with me. But I'm soooooo ready to be back with my piece of hardware. My own bookmarks and music and so on and so forth. Yep.

  • Everyone in the house feels good right now (knocks on wood). We had a rolling bout of something but it seems to have rolled away.

  • One casualty of both sickness and dead computer is my Nanowrimo attempt this year. Between the two of them I found myself about 7000 words behind. And that's even before the busy stuff of birthdays and Thanksgiving. I don't feel bad about this. There were truly events that I just couldn't overcome.

  • The FP Gal is still posting so you can go to her blog for updates.

  • I'll try to blog up a storm once I'm back in business.

Happy Birthday!

To the FP Gal!

I hope that you have a wonderful next year with many blessings.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Computer Down

Yesterday morning when I went to wake up my computer it wouldn't wake up. It still hasn't. I'm looking into fixing it but nothing yet. Not sure if it's easy enough to fix on our own or if I'll need experts.
So I've been on internet withdrawl for the past couple of days and it's not pretty. Obviously, posting may be light to non-existent until I get this all fixed.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Prarie - Opening Ceremonies Vancouver

Joni Mitchell popped up on my iTunes tonight (yes it did, don't judge) and brought to mind my on and off search for a part of the Vancouver Olympics opening ceremony. For some reason the bit where they celebrate the prairie is simply hard to find. It featured an acrobat from Montreal doing big wire sailing movements above movies of fields of grain. All of this set to 'Both Sides Now'. Very beautiful stuff.
Anyway, here it is. They won't let me embed so you'll have to click through. Not the best, I'm afraid. I wish I could get the actual feed from NBC but that seems to be beyond my google-fu. This is the best I can do.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Books They Gave Me

This is the most interesting thing I've read today.

I think early in our relationship I gave the FP Gal Rand's 'Anthem' to read. She gave me Lowry's 'The Giver'. Interesting that we exchanged small dystopian novels. Since then I've pushed some other books on her because, well, I'm a book pusher.

Have a Great Friday

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Adventures of Knifey Boy

(Thought I posted this yesterday but I must not have. Ah well, there goes NaBloPoMo!)

On Sunday the FP Gal went out with her mom while I watched the kids and some football. At one point this exchange happened:

Relia: DF is poking me with a knife!
Me: Well, move away from him then.

After the play was over, I walked over to see what was happening. DF had gotten a steak knife from the counter and was now gently stabbing a door with it. I bravely wrestled it away from him and put it in the dishwasher.
Later that day he dragged one of the forty chairs we have in the downstairs area into the kitchen. He then opened up the silverware drawer and got out another knife, this one only for butter. We gave him the 'no no no no' treatment and got it away from him.
So we have an 18 month old who wants to search the drawers and seems to like knives. Nothing unheard of but a bit of a surprise for us since Relia never went through this. Live and learn, I guess. We've moved all of the dangerous knives to places he can't get to (yet). And if the problem continues we'll get child safe whatevers for the drawers.
I'm torn on how to deal with this. All of the great fencers started young and I don't want to stiffle his ambitions. On the other hand, we can't really accept a high casualty count while he learns his trade.
Is it too late to check into Jedi school?

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The Final 20

I've posted about this list before, the top 200 songs that reached #1 on the charts. Each week I'd have the FP Gal try and guess the song from the teaser lyric that they would provide. She is a) pretty good at this and b) sad that the list is finally done. Because it is and they've revealed the final selection. I thought I'd share the final 20.

20. Stayin' Alive - The Bee Gees
19. Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) - Eurythmics
18. Sounds of Silence - Simon & Garfunkel
17. American Pie - Don Maclean
16. SexyBack - Justin Timberlake
15. Don't Be Cruel - Elvis
14. I Love Rock n Roll - Joan Jett & the Heartbreakers
13. Hey Ya! - Outkast
12. Sweet Child o Mine - Guns n Roses
11. Heard it Through the Grapevine - Marvin Gaye

Some solid songs and a few ridiculous ones. Both Timberlake and Outkast, well, ugh. I would have preferred a list that only went up to 2000. Would give us a chance to look back at least ten years to see how songs age. (Apparently they have such a list somewhere but I don't know where it is.) Anyway, continuing on:

10. Gold Digger - Kanye West
9. I Get Around - Beach Boys
8. Lose Yourself - Eminem
7. That'll Be the Day - The Crickets
6. Every Breath You Take - The Police
5. Hound Dog - Elvis
4. Satisfaction - Rolling Stones
3. Billie Jean - Michael Jackson
2. Respect - Aretha Franklin
1. I Want to Hold Your Hand - Beatles

Kanye West one is interesting but not even kind of historic. The rest I can live with, even Eminem. The only one of the top five that I guessed ahead of time was 'Billie Jean'. Hard to argue with the Beatles though.

Each post on the list included a link to the video. I watched them all, even the newer hip hop and rap ones. Found a few catchy tunes there that I otherwise wouldn't have missed so it was worth it. I had some disagreements but my personal list would have had about 100 songs from 1980 - 1987 and huge pushback from everyone else. I can step back and recognize that other songs are worthy or respect, even if I don't care for them.
One joy from this was hearing a whole slew of stuff from the 50's and 60's that the FP Gal loves. We'll probably make a disc of them for the car at some point. As I said before, it was a lot of fun and I'm sad to see it be over.

Sunday, November 06, 2011


We took Mom's advice and went swimming today at the Edinborough Park pool. The kids loved it and it wasn't bad for us either. We spent at least an hour in the pool and Relia only touched the side for a few minutes of that. The rest was spent floating and kicking or being dragged through the water by mom and dad. I asked her later if she enjoyed it and she said, "didn't you see me smiling?".
There were no family locker rooms so I took DF into the men's locker room. He did not care for the heavy plastic mat on the floor there. It was ouchy on the feet. He did like all of the locker doors (of course) and thought it was fun to shower with daddy.
After we were done we left for home and he took a very long nap. The pool tuckered him out! I wonder if they have a four bedroom apartment there for the cost of our mortgage?

Saturday, November 05, 2011


Yesterday I took Relia to a swim lesson. This will be the new routine on Friday mornings and it might be a bit hectic. The timing of the lesson and some other Friday things is very tight and we'll have to move a little fast to meet them. Which meant that for some period of time yesterday I had to act a bit like a mule driver ("Go, go! Put on your pants! Put on your shirt! We have to go!"). None of this had any effect on her.
As we were putting her into the car I said exasperatedly, "Someday I will teach you the meaning of urgency."
She simply said, "Not today!"

I was laughing too hard at her to be upset.

I only saw a bit of the lesson as I was chasing DF the whole time in an adjoining room. We watched briefly through the window though. Relia was happy as could be in the pool. She's really taking to these lessons and I wish I could figure out a pool our family could go to this weekend.
DF thought that the Y was wonderful. Mostly because he found the storage lockers and spent most of her lesson opening and closing doors. I hadn't realized this before but at the prime age of one year old he would make a great doorman.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Have a Great Friday

Actual photo taken from our bathroom this morning.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Red Shoes - Kate Bush

This is Relia's current favorite song. At first I thought it was the upbeat timing of it that she really liked but it's also the whistle. She says that she likes the 'aaah-aaaah' part too. Not sure what she means but I won't question it.
This all came about because only last week did I learn that Kate Bush put out a new album earlier this year. I knew that she has one coming out in a few weeks, but this one came as a surprise. It's called 'Director's Cut' and features reworks of several of her songs from 'The Sensual World' and 'The Red Shoes'.
I picked it up on iTunes and I'm digesting it (as we speak!). Any good? Some yes, some ok. The whole album is slower and more atmospheric, save for 'The Red Shoes' which sounds much like the original except for more speaking instead of singing. The only ones that really catch my ear so far are 'Deeper Understanding' which is improved and 'This Woman's Work' which becomes a different song. It sounds much sadder and remorseful. Reminds me of the sad low point of the hero in a thoughtful movie (if that makes sense). Here it is from YouTube if you're curious.
Part of me loves turning Relia on to Kate Bush. Not all of it will work for her, and so much of it can't be even kind of understood until she's older. But still, well, someday she'll thank me.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

To Reread?

Interesting article from the New Yorker on the virtue of rereading a book.
Few would question looking at a great painting twice, or watching a favorite movie again and again. But, perhaps because rereading requires more of a commitment than giving something a second look, it is undertaken, as Spacks puts it, “in the face of guilt-inducing awareness of all the other books that you should have read at least once but haven’t.” It engages, she fears in her darker moments, a “sinful self-indulgence.” Never mind Nabokov, or Flaubert, who marvelled at “what a scholar one might be if one knew well only five or six books.”
I've wrestled with that exact issue. Should I reread something or tackle something new. In the last five years or so I've very consciously tried to keep grabbing new stuff. After a while I fall into a rut and go back to something that I already know. Maybe I need to drop the guilt.

Interestingly, I don't think that I have a feel for an album until I've listened to it a good half dozen times. Songs that were simply aural wallpaper turn out to be beautiful once they stand out. Upbeat songs that grab attention right away sometimes become annoying.
Hmmmm . . .

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Where Did the Harry Potter Readers Go?

Here is an interesting article. AbeBooks tracked Harry Potter readers to see what they read after the Potter books. Any guesses? Well, they went practically everywhere.
Top ten:
  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Covey
  • Unbearable Lightness of Being - de Rossi
  • The Bluest Eye - Morrison
  • The Dukan Diet Recipe Book - Dukan
  • The Postmistress - Blake
  • Beloved - Morrison
  • How to Stop Worrying and Start Living - Carnegie
  • The Soloist - Lopez
  • Cather in the Rye - Salinger
  • Land of Painted Caves - Auel
What I'd be more interested in is some idea of whether they bought more or less books than the average reader.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Monday

Update: actually I like this one more . . .

Friday, October 28, 2011


Relia and I sitting at the dining room table as she continues her quest to understand how knock-knock jokes really work.

Relia: Knock-knock.
Me: (wearily) Who's there?
Relia: Um, um, (long pause as she thinks up a joke) -
DF: (running from the other side of the house) KNOCK! KNOCK! (collides with my leg while looking supremely pleased with himself)
Me: Hey buddy, who's there?

We're trying hard to figure out humor over here.

Have a Great Friday

This is from today's Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Candidate's Fav Movies

(Note, this post contains some politics but is meant in a light tone. Please take it as such.)

An interesting post at NRO about what each of the candidates favorite movies are. The list is as follows:

Herman Cain: The Godfather

Michele Bachmann: Braveheart, “or maybe Saving Private Ryan

Newt Gingrich: “Probably” Casablanca

Rick Santorum: Field of Dreams

Ron Paul: “I don’t watch many movies”

Gary Johnson: Dr. Zhivago

Mitt Romney: O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Rick Perry: Immortal Beloved

Barack Obama: Casablanca, The Godfather, Lawrence of Arabia, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

If someone handed you this list and asked you to match it to the candidates it would be pretty tough to do so. As it probably should be. Both Obama and Gingrich like 'Casablanca' (as do I) but it almost certainly has to do with the witty writing and the love story more than any possible political reference.
It made me think about what I'd answer if I was a candidate (don't worry hon, only hypothetical!). Off the top of my head, some of my favorite movies of the last ten years, 'Amelie', 'Moulin Rouge', 'Lost in Translation' would probably all lose me votes. 'Firefly' would be a wash (no pun intended). 'Inception' would probably be well respected. Maybe.
Choosing classics leaves you on more firm ground. Who didn't like 'Rear Window'? Same goes for 'West Side Story' or 'Star Wars'.

('Field of Dreams' over 'Bull Durham'? Seriously?)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Goal of the Day

I'd like the kids to learn that when I open the refrigerator door to get them something it is not an invitation for them to jam their way in or open the door to it's widest possible angle. Not sure how to teach them this but as God as my witness; they will learn.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Great Books Read Through

A couple of months back I had a conversation with my dad about our various e-readers. I made a point to him that old, classic books were usually free. To illustrate this I used the example of the Great Books of the Western World series. All of this, I proudly told him, was now free through my Kindle. Well, almost all of it.
If you're not familiar with the series, back in the 50's a collection of the important books of Western civilization was put together by Encyclopedia Britannica. It stretches back to the ancient Greeks and is as far forward as the 19th century, ending with Freud. We had it while growing up and dad gave it to me about ten years ago or so. Here is wikipedia on it.
The only thing not out there for free was the introductory book, called 'The Great Conversation' and two volumes that index the set by ideas. After talking to dad I cracked open the Conversation just to see what it gave me. To my great surprise it had a suggested reading plan.
The set is simply too big to really get your arms around. Literally in this case, it probably takes up five feet on the shelf. But all told it is some many thousands of pages. How is a lay person supposed to know what to read and what can be skipped? Well, the editors offered a way through. Here is what they laid out:
  • A ten year plan
  • Each year has 18 pieces
  • The editors argue that a normal person can get through it if they can read for fifteen minutes a day
  • Each author is touched on
  • The plan is coherent in content and theme, just like you'd want from a well thought out teaching plan
  • At the end you will be a better person for having done this
Well, you know how reading lists get to me! I decided that I would simply have to do this. I'll be starting in January and I'm inviting anyone and everyone to join along with me. Don't have the books or an e-reader? No problem, I'm providing links to online versions. Don't have time for every book? Again, no problem. Skip in and out as you want. No one will hold it against you.
And just to avoid clogging up this blog with posts on dead Greeks and Romans (and English, French and German, etc.) I've set up a new blog for it. You can find that one here.


A few months back I ran across this concert on TV and DVR'd it. What a gorgeous and lush version of 'Roxane' here! Simply wonderful.

This is my 'Calgon, take me away' video. For when the the kids are driving me a bit nuts. All you other at home parents have these types of things too, right?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Viking Stuff

I was able to watch most of today's game. The first half pretty closely, the second half had a lot of family stuff and then work. From what I saw I was very happy with the play of Ponder. The Vikes are not on the same level as the Packers but they certainly gave them a game. They obviously have some building blocks in place.
After this loss they are 1-6 and certainly not a playoff contender. This has some fans dreaming of draft position for next year and I can't say that it hasn't crossed my mind too. At this point last year there were only five teams with either zero or one win. There were also five teams with two wins. Here is the list and their eventual draft position:

Buffalo 0-6, drafted third
San Fran 1-6, seventh
Carolina 1-5, first
Dallas 1-5, ninth
Detroit 1-5, thirteenth
Denver 2-5, second
Cleveland 2-5, sixth
San Diego 2-5, eighteenth
Cincinnati 2-4, fourth
Minnesota 2-4, twelfth

After this week there will be six teams with either zero or one wins. There will also be four teams with two wins. That means that there are about ten teams in the same neighborhood as the Vikings.
The Vikes have nine games left and frankly I don't see a lot of wins in them. Next week they play at Carolina (2-5). They host both Denver and Oakland and could win either of them. Maybe. Add in a road game at Washington and that's about it. Otherwise they're playing clearly better teams like Green Bay, Detroit and New Orleans. My guess is somewhere between two and five wins.
That would give them a top ten draft pick. If the other bad teams improve they could possibly get down towards the first one. I don't see it happening though. Too many other bad ones in the mix.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

More Conversation

DF is picking up more and more words and the pace is accelerating. This means more conversation, some of it very funny. The best part is when you ask him a question and he very confidently says 'Noooo'. Occasionally he gives you a 'yeah' but not that often.
If he bumps heads he pulls back and says 'sorry' (more like 'sah-ee' but you can tell what he means). He is also very clear about wanting 'up' or 'down' or 'outside'. Very, very clear.
With this you can also do some basic bargaining. Things like offering food or reading a book instead of going right to bed. It also lets us reassure him that, yes, he too will be getting a snack when Relia does. My favorite bit is that he sometimes sings along with the music. Not often and he still has a lot to learn, but it's pretty sweet.
We were kind of afraid that with Relia being so aggressively verbal, DF would be kind of quiet. If he didn't have to talk, why would he? Instead it seems to have gone the other way. The poor guy has to start early if he wants to get a word in edgewise.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Ton of Track

I remember we used to lay out the track when we'd have a snow day from school. Nothing like this though.

Have a Great Friday

Thursday, October 20, 2011

In Honor of Tonight's Dinner

(We had tacos, not Ritz crackers. And DF learned how to say 'taco'.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What is Literature?

The latest Booker Prize winner was awarded yesterday. Congratulations to 'The Sense of an Ending' by Julian Barnes. I haven't read it nor any of the others this year so I have no opinion on its quality. From what I understand the author is very well regarded. I also take it that this years shortlist was widely panned.
This has prompted quite a bit of soul searching as to what the Booker Prize should actually be looking for. Here's an intriguing answer from Jeanette Winterson.
There are plenty of entertaining reads that are part of the enjoyment of life. That doesn't make them literature. There is a simple test: "Does this writer's capacity for language expand my capacity to think and to feel?"
As I said, it's intriguing. Under this definition two of my favorite authors, Heinlein and Stephenson, would certainly qualify since they fit that exact quality. Each of them has expanded my 'capacity to think and feel'. I think Stephen King would qualify too.
In fact, the problem here is that I'm not sure this really sets any kind of real limit. Now, if you think that the debate as to whether something is 'literature' or not is meaningless, then so be it. But if you think there should be some meaningful distinction, even one between high and low art, this is the argument that needs to be had.
So back to the definition. I can't think of any of my favorite bits of work that wouldn't qualify. This isn't because I've got such great taste that every thing I like must be of the highest order. It's more that I like things because they 'expand my capacity to think and feel'. Isn't that obvious?


I should have mentioned that Nano starts in a couple of weeks. I'll keep the sales pitch brief and just send you to their site here. If you've ever been tempted, well, give it a try.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Travel Bucket List

I just wrote out a post for CWT's travel blog regarding my bucket list of future travels. Don't remember when it will be published but I'll flag it when the time comes. It's a little embarassing because the whole thing reads like I've been watching too many of those retirement commercials where people have vineyards and backpack the silk road. Yeah, without winning the lottery, my list will go pretty unfulfilled.
While I was mentally composing the list it struck me how different this list would have been just five years ago, before the kids started arriving. Back then I could dream of longer trips and riskier venues. If I was gone for six months the FP Gal would miss me. If I left her with three kids for six months, she'd probably kill me.
Not that I'm complaining. There are compensations. The cross country road trip and the stay at Yellowstone will be different and better. Even the trip to DC will be better because I'll get to tap into their youthful wonder.

Changes, changes, changes.

Monday, October 17, 2011


After I picked up Relia today she quizzed me on her lunch.

Relia: Guess what I ate today?
Me: What?
Relia: Peaches and pizza. Wanna know what was on the pizza?
Me: Sure.
Relia: Goop [our family word for sauce and cheese] and meat.
Me: What kind of meat was it?
Relia: Pizza meat!

Blue Letter Day

Today, willfully and happily, Relia wore jeans to preschool.

Happy Monday

Gorgeous shot from Vienna.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

At the MOA

This morning I took Relia to the MOA while the FP Gal stayed home with DF. The one on one dynamic is an unusual thing for us now and in some ways much easier. We had more freedom of movement and fewer demands. Here are some of the things that happened:

We stopped so I could get some coffee. They had a chalk board where people could write about their dreams. I asked her what she dreamed about, fully expecting her to say something about princesses or something. Nope, she simply said 'the sun'. I dutifully wrote that down.

There was an older lady using two of those ski pole thingees as she walked. We met her as we were getting on an elevator.
Relia: Why does she have those sticks?
Me: Uh, it helps her.
Nice lady: Do you like these? They help me walk.
Relia: (pause while she tries to keep the conversation going) My Grandma D is still alive!
Nice lady: Oh . . . !
Me: (shakes head and struggles for words while the door closes)
Relia: I wish we could have talked with her longer.
Me: (still shaking head)

While on the fourth floor we walked past the Mexican place with stuff outside including a plane. Another family walked past us and the kids said, 'Look a helicopter'. Relia corrected them, 'It's an airplane'. The father said to me, 'Your kid is smarter than mine, I guess.' I didn't know what to say about that but it was true.

I pointed out a picture of Van Gogh's 'Starry Night' in a shop window. I'm putting a puzzle of it together and have been studying it minutely. She couldn't care less. There are limits to culture even at the mall.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Reamde - Stephenson

Quick review and then some detail, ok?

Neal Stephenson's latest is a kind of computer culture thriller. It reads like a cross between Clancy and a hacker magazine. With a little bump for the quality digressions that Stephenson is so well known for. It's a big book (1000+ pages) but reads quickly enough. It features not one, but two different action sequences that are at least 150 pages long. 'Reamde' isn't as mind stretchy as some of his recent stuff but it was well worthwhile.
Now for some of the things that struck me (possible spoilers):
  • The main family features three brothers that grew up in the farm country of Iowa. The family is extremely into gun culture. The opening scene features a Thanksgiving family reunion shooting range. Given where I grew up (and especially my in-laws!) I felt pretty at home with all of this.
  • Lots and lots and lots of guns in this book. They are treated respectfully throughout. Both in terms of people being taught to use them properly and in showing how useful they can be.
  • One of the brothers has become very wealthy by creating a World of Warcraft style computer game. The insights here are genuinely fascinating, both in gaming culture and in innovative entrepreneurialship.
  • A large portion of this takes place on and near the US/Canada border in the area between British Columbia and Idaho. It sounds like gorgeous territory. Made me want to go hiking. More importantly, made me want to be qualified to really go out and do some serious hiking.
  • Numerous comparisons between different US cultures, all illuminating rather than derogatory. Specifically the midwest rural types, the blue state coastals and the survivalists of the mountains. It's rare to find sympathetic treatment of all three in the same book.
I enjoyed it but I didn't love it. In fact, once I was done I had a strong urge to read either 'The Cryptonomican' or 'Anathem' again. If you enjoy Stephenson, you should read it. But you don't have to rush out and do so.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Rainy Afternoon

We had a nice and rumbly thunderstorm roll through here around lunch time today. Very nice. I was hoping it would stay through the afternoon but it didn't. Or at least it's done now and hasn't come back.

The last few weeks have featured oddly warm weather. Especially for October. Some nights were legitimately hot. I confided to the FP Gal that I was ready for something cooler and it may have arrived. I could go for a nice killing frost actually. Get rid of the wasps (a real problem for me this year!) and stop the fall allergy season.
On the other hand, I don't want the really cold stuff that will be here in a few weeks either.


Monday, October 10, 2011


Relia brought a bunch of crayon pictures home from preschool today. The top one on the pile was labeled 'American Robin' so I asked her what it was.

Relia: It's a robin.
Me: What color is its tummy?
Relia: Its tummy is red.
Me: And what color is your tummy?
Relia: Golden!

Happy Monday

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Bad Songs from Good Bands

Inspired by the comments from this post, I'd like to write about when good bands go bad. These are some of my favorite bands/singers and some of their music that I just can't stand.

  • Tears for Fears, 'Shout' - I don't like the rhythm or the message. And this song just got played into the ground. In the pre-cassette days I'd fast forward through it.
  • Naked Eyes, 'Always Something There (to Remind Me)' - Liked this song just fine when it first came out. Then it got overplayed. Even later it became one of the most popular song on retro '80s radio. Gah.
  • Sting, 'Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot' - This isn't one of his biggies, true. It came from his 'Mercury Falling' album which was mostly very strong. Only two bad songs and Sting went ahead and released one as a single. I'd scratch this one right off of the disk.
  • REM, 'Happy Shiny People' - Maybe a stretch to call them a favorite band but I liked a lot of what they did. But not this one. Later on they did 'Everybody Cries' which is probably even worse. It doesn't bother me as much because by then I didn't respect them anymore.
  • Duran Duran, 'Notorious' - The song itself is blah but it marked a pretty clear line. Everything before this: good. Everything from then on: bad.
I tried to think of an example with U2 but it's hard to do so. They went through such a forgettable era in the '90s that it's hard to pick just one. If pressed, I'd go with 'If God Will Send His Angels' but this is a target rich area. You could pick most anything off of 'Zooropa' or 'Pop' and I wouldn't argue with you.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Friday, October 07, 2011

Worst of the 80's

Rolling Stone conducted a poll of its readers to find out what the worst songs of the 80's were. Ready?

10. Rick Astley - 'Never Gonna Give You Up'
No real argument here, it's not a good song. However, it really isn't any worse than most of the awfulness that was popular around '88 and '89. My guess is it stands out now because of the rick-rolling craze.
9. Taco - 'Puttin' On the Ritz'
This wouldn't have gotten my vote. It's certainly not a great song but it isn't bad. In fact, it has some good ol' nostalgia going for it.
8. Toni Basil - 'Mickey'
I'll disagree here too. This song still has wonderful pep and energy. Would not have gotten my vote.
7. Bobby McFerin 'Don't Worry Be Happy'
I have dim memories of this song being overplayed back in the day but it doesn't bother me now. Sorry, not on my list.
6. Falco - 'Rock Me Amadeus'
This song has been in heavy rotation on the '80s channel that I listen to lately. Not once has it bothered me.
5. Men Without Hats - 'Safety Dance'
C'mon, this is a great song! Well, maybe not great but certainly fun and listenable.
4. Wham! - 'Wake Me Up (Before You Go Go)'
Another fun and upbeat number. I've got it on my iPod as we speak. Jitterbug.
3. Chris de Burgh - 'Lady in Red'
Um, not a great song but certainly not that objectionable. The first slow song on the list. Wouldn't have even been on my radar as far as bad songs go.
2. Europe - 'The Final Countdown'
Ok, this is a bad song. If it came on the radio while I was driving I'd change the channel. Now it really only works as a punchline from 'Arrested Development'.

and . . .
1. Starship - 'We Built this City'
A truly dreadful song and a worthy choice for worst. Ick. No disagreement here. What makes it worse is that somehow this held the number one spot on the charts. So what did they miss? Even just sticking with other number ones, well, the most obvious:

New Kids on the Block - 'Hangin' Tough'
Milli Vanilli - 'Blame it on the Rain'
Cheap Trick - 'The Flame'
Dionne Warwick - 'That's What Friends are For'
Peter Cetera - 'Glory of Love'
Bon Jovi - 'You Give Love a Bad Name' (can't stand this one)
REO Speedwagon - 'Can't Fight this Feeling Anymore'
Tears for Fears - 'Shout' (and this is a band that I like quite a bit)
Tina Turner - 'What's Love Got to Do with It'

There are probably more earlier in the decade but nothing that stands out as truly bad. My list for the 70's would be much, much longer . . .

Have a Great Friday

I think this is how Ozzie sees himself.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011


We're still working on alphabet stuff with Relia. She's more and more interested in what letters go with what words. We often will say 'what sound does it start with' and then matching that up with the correct letter. So the other day we were talking and whales came up.
It went something like this:

Me: What sound does 'whale' start with?
Relia: Wuh.
Me: And what letter says 'wuh'?
Relia: (pause) Um . . . I don't know.
Me: It's a 'W'. That's a tough one. It doesn't say its own name.
Relia: (pause) That's because it doesn't have a face.

True that, little girl. True that.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

At the Park

Tuesday is Nana day so after I picked up the kids I dropped Relia off at the FP Gal's parents house. DF hates this (he wants to stay too) so I tried to cheer him up by taking him to a park. We had the park all to our lonesomes, which was odd since it was a nice day. Not that big of a deal since he really isn't dependend on finding new friends yet. And in some ways it was nice since I didn't have to dodge someone else's little darling while keeping him from tipping off of a platform.
We did the slides and the swings and (his favorite!) the steering wheel. We walked around for a bit. This park is right next to a large playing field, currently striped for football. No one was there so we walked out there.
After some time he got tired and wanted to be carried. So up on my shoulders and we took a long route back to the car. Nuh-uh! When I tried to put him in he tried to shut the door. DF was not done at the park!
So we walked back to the equipment and I let him lead me to where he wanted to go. To my surprise it was simply to a bench. I sat down and helped him up. We spent about five minutes simply watching the jets fly overhead. Watching the leaves falling and blowing around. For the moment he was content and happy to just sit there with his daddy.

Time passed and we got up. Did a slide or two and then went home. But that part where we sat there was special to me. High point of the day.


Relia: Dad, can we got to West Virginia?
Me: Probably some day.
Relia: Good. I really want to go their so I can make some cousins.
Me: (pause) 'Make some cousins'?
Relia: Yes, I want to go their and make some cousins.

I asked her how you 'make' cousins. She told me that you talk to them and be nice to them and then come back a few days later and do it again.

Monday, October 03, 2011

The Big Things

An interesting article from Neal Stephenson on our society's inability to do 'the big things' as well as we used to.
My lifespan encompasses the era when the United States of America was capable of launching human beings into space. Some of my earliest memories are of sitting on a braided rug before a hulking black-and-white television, watching the early Gemini missions. This summer, at the age of 51—not even old—I watched on a flatscreen as the last Space Shuttle lifted off the pad. I have followed the dwindling of the space program with sadness, even bitterness. Where’s my donut-shaped space station? Where’s my ticket to Mars? Until recently, though, I have kept my feelings to myself. Space exploration has always had its detractors. To complain about its demise is to expose oneself to attack from those who have no sympathy that an affluent, middle-aged white American has not lived to see his boyhood fantasies fulfilled.
He talks about the various ways that we've let risk aversion hold us back. One of the things he highlights is how our copyright system allows people to block the path of anyone who would follow in their way and yes, that's a serious problem. He doesn't mention this but we've also set up a large net of environmental law that makes construction difficult. This is a value choice, and may be the correct one but we should honestly acknowledge the trade off.
I think it goes a bit deeper than this though. It seems that we've lost the desire to think big thoughts. In about 70 years, we went from horseback to a visit to the moon. Our communications made a similar jump from pony express to instant intercontinental phone contact. We've made similar jumps in industry and medical innovation.
But what's next? When was the last time you heard about the wonders of 2050 or 2100? There is some speculation about the next generation of various computers and whatnot but it's all short range. This could be because things are moving so fast that everyone is afraid of how their predictions would play out. Or maybe we've somehow lost our nerve and the future scares us too much.
I don't like either of those ideas, but the second one scares me most.

Happy Monday

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Watching the Runners

Today was the Twin Cities marathon and our little family went down to the creek to cheer on the runners. I took Relia last year and she enjoyed it (I think the FP Gal and DF stayed home). This year we all went and it went pretty well.
We parked and walked down to the course where we found a curb to sit on. The FP Gal and I cheered on the marathoners but the kids were quiet at first. I fully expected DF to get into it but he seemed more baffled than anything else. After a bit Relia got into it. Especially once we started pointing out names on shirts so we could make some cheers personal.
DF finally warmed up and wanted to rush onto the street. We steered him away and let him run around near some trees. Eventually the trees got Relia's attention too and we were pretty much done with the runners.

I'm sure the runners appreciate the cheering. They certainly seem to. But I can't help feel strange to sit there and watch ordinary people making huge effort. They run past and we cheer them. Then we go home and eat lunch.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

New Car

We put a deposit down on a new car today. Well, new for us; technically a used car. The FP Gal wrote about it here. Not a fancy car, but one that will serve our needs and give us the space needed for a third car seat.
The most astonishing thing about it and what made us move so quickly is that it is a used car with only 2000 miles on it. As far as we can figure it was only driven to church on Sundays by a family of seven. The inside looks very nice and the thing is functional as all get out.
It's red, like the car in the picture in the link. I suggested that we name it Cherry Baby, but the FP Gal has protested.

Quick Kid Story

Tonight while the FP Gal and I were finishing up dinner, Relia came up to DF and and loudly 'whispered' in his ear to distract us for a minute. He of course had no idea what she was talking about so he ran off. She then decided that it was up to her to do the distracting so she put on an impromptu dance.
We never did figure out what she was up to.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Baseball Playoffs

I checked out this friendly map and I'm still having trouble figuring out who to root for in the playoffs.

I'll give it a shot though:

8. Yankees. Ugh.
7. Phillies. Double ugh.
6. Brewers. Yeah, it's been awhile since they've been good. But we get enough smugness from Packers fans without them suddenly finding out about baseball.
5. Cards. Actually, this is about the point where I don't care if they do or they don't.
4. Tigers. See point four.
3. Diamondbacks. Again, see point four.
2. Rangers. In the same category as the previous three.
1. Rays. Because it might help them out of the ugliest stadium in baseball.

Have a Great Friday

Today's happy place.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Tonight Mom complained that Facebook has changed the way we communicate. She misses the blog posts and emails. And frankly, if she was on Twitter, she'd feel it even moreso. Well, I don't miss the email as much but I do miss the blogging.
I'm not sure what to do about it though. Other forms seem to offer better methods of getting info out. This is how I see it:
  • Blogging: long form entries and things with a permanent record. Pictures (which would include personal pictures if we had a camera set up that I could work).
  • Facebook: Shorter entries. Heavier emphasis on humor, especially funny kid stories. Links to articles and the occasional video.
  • Twitter: Retweets and very short messages. Heavier political and sports content.
Frankly the later two are easier. The quick hit form is more fun and better suited to my parenting duties. I worry that I'll miss having the record of those memories though. Would it bug you folks if I simply cross posted things on both Facebook and the blog?

I'm still trying to figure all of this out. Any feedback would be appreciated.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Banned Books

There might be some crankiness here; probably will be. You've been warned.

This is Banned Book Week. You may have heard about this somewhere or other. For me it's been from the Half Price Books twitter feed, where they've been promoting it like it's going out of style. Which is kind of ironic because the actual practice of banning books has gone out of style. What do I mean? Well, if you look at the list starting here, you'll see what I mean. Is there anything here that you can't buy on Amazon today? No? Well how can that be, seeing as how they are banned books?
The reason is simple, these are all cases of things that were banned in the past, most of them more than a generation ago. At least one was 'banned' because a single Barnes & Noble store didn't want to stock it. That reflects bad judgment on on the part of that single store but it's far from a book being 'banned'. (By the way, if I go to the feminist bookstore at Chicago and 48th and find that they have nothing by Glen Beck can I claim that he's been banned?)
The worst part of this whole week is that they spotlight 'challenged' books. These are books that a parent (somewhere) has decided is too mature for their child. Now I'm guessing that I'd disagree with the parent in the vast majority of these cases but I don't think their actions are outrageous. Lord knows that I read things my folks wouldn't have approved of. I can only imagine that my kids will do the same.
A couple of years ago we had a local case where an older African American man didn't want Huck Finn taught because he thought it set back the anti N-word efforts. I think that on balance this is an over-reaction. What I don't think is that this man's efforts were so morally suspect that we should call him a book-banner. And yet that's what he is according to the Banned Books Week folks.
It's akin to saying that supporting under age drinking laws makes one a prohibitionist.

This gets under my skin for another reason. Salman Rushdie joined twitter this week and it reminded me of the saga that surrounded 'The Satanic Verses'. If you don't remember much of it, here's a pretty good recap. Rushdie wrote a book that mocked Islam and had a fatwa put on him. He lived in constant fear for his life for many years. Now that is a banned book.
As a thought experiment, what would happen if a high school teacher had his students read the Satanic Verses? Think there would be some parental push back? Think some school officials would question the choice? I do. And I don't think that would necessarily be bad.
But it wouldn't be book banning.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


A couple of weeks ago when we went garage saling, I bought a 1000 piece puzzle. I'm not a huge puzzle fan but occasionally they scratch a particular itch like nothing else will. This one was a 'mizrah', which is an ornamental Jewish wall hanging. (If you're curious, it looks similar but different than the one at the link.) Traditionally it should be hung on the eastern wall to remind prayers which way Jerusalem is. This will be useful when I someday convert to Judaism.
Anyway, I've been pecking away at it up in my third floor abode for the past week or so and this morning I finished it. Or at least came as close to finishing as I will. The durn thing only has 999 pieces.

I remember the house we got it from and I'm tempted to write to them and see if they still have the lone piece rattling around somewhere in their house.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Happy Monday

From what I can tell, this is in Marseilles. (Quick story, I just booked a flight there last night. The airport code is MRS, which makes no sense given French abbreviations. They should have MME but that's being used by a regional airport in the UK.)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Assigned Seating

DF has a new phrase. He tells us to 'sit down' while pointing at our various chairs. This works especially well in the dining room where we do have seats that we always take. However he has also established that I should sit at my computer in the living room. Established it quite emphatically.

He's learning and learning and learning. Every day he seems to understand more things. He can understand much more than he can speak, that's for certain. All very fascinating stuff.

Amazing Race Recap

Um, well, actually not so much. My new work schedule has me working Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights. The FP Gal and I aren't even sure when we can actually watch the show together. Which is kind of a bummer. So I don't know what happened tonight and I won't for some few days.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Songs for a Future Generation - B52's

Not sure why I didn't stumble across this song earlier in my life. Heard it yesterday and found myself captivated. The 'story' part of it where people meet to create a life together is interesting and of course the 'have a baby now' bit catches my ear right now. But I also dig the under-music. Even an acapella version of this would be pretty darn listenable.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Crime and Punishment

Just put DF down for a nap and came downstairs to find Relia finishing an ice cream sandwich she had taken from the freezer. She actually used this as a defense: "I didn't think you'd come down so fast".

I think it's safe to say that she has some work to do before she embarks on her legal career.

Tumbling Class

Last night I got to take Relia to her tumbling class. There were six or seven of the little moppets, just playing along with the teacher, Miss Amber. This involved the teacher asking them to act like various animals and whatnot. Walk like a dog, roll like a log, that kind of thing.
It really couldn't have been cuter.
Near the end Miss Amber brought out some things to help her. A small trampoline, two balance beams and some big soft triangles meant for tumbling. The kids went around and around in a circle from item to item, happily playing. Then she brought out a parachute and they shook it up and down.

She had a blast.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


While in the car with the whole family:

Relia: Guess what movie we watched at preschool?
FP Gal: I don't know. Which one?
Relia: I'll give you a hint. (long pause) It had a duck in it!

Lots of laughter and we pretty much agreed that this was the best hint ever. A few minutes later:

Relia: Guess what we had for lunch!
Me: Give me a hint.
Relia: I had water with it.
Me: Uh, how about more of a hint.
Relia: (long pause) It had a sloppy joe in it.

The FP Gal declared that this was in fact an even better hint than the duck one.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Riding the ISS

This is video from the International Space Station (or possibly a series of photos stitched together). I think I can tell where I'm looking at but it's tough to tell.

The Secret of Sucess

A very interesting (and long) article from the NYT regarding the success of students.

For the headmaster of an intensely competitive school, Randolph, who is 49, is surprisingly skeptical about many of the basic elements of a contemporary high-stakes American education. He did away with Advanced Placement classes in the high school soon after he arrived at Riverdale; he encourages his teachers to limit the homework they assign; and he says that the standardized tests that Riverdale and other private schools require for admission to kindergarten and to middle school are “a patently unfair system” because they evaluate students almost entirely by I.Q. “This push on tests,” he told me, “is missing out on some serious parts of what it means to be a successful human.”

The most critical missing piece, Randolph explained as we sat in his office last fall, is character — those essential traits of mind and habit that were drilled into him at boarding school in England and that also have deep roots in American history. “Whether it’s the pioneer in the Conestoga wagon or someone coming here in the 1920s from southern Italy, there was this idea in America that if you worked hard and you showed real grit, that you could be successful,” he said. “Strangely, we’ve now forgotten that. People who have an easy time of things, who get 800s on their SAT’s, I worry that those people get feedback that everything they’re doing is great. And I think as a result, we are actually setting them up for long-term failure. When that person suddenly has to face up to a difficult moment, then I think they’re screwed, to be honest. I don’t think they’ve grown the capacities to be able to handle that.”

The article goes on to describe some ways of quantifying what the term 'character traits' such as tenacity and optimism. This seems like a very interesting approach although it is of course early days in the attempt. I discussed this with the FP Gal and she pointed out that private schools and top tier public schools have both resources and parental buy in that lets them do some things like this. A school such as hers couldn't possibly do so.
Still . . . in line with books like 'The Diamond Age' I can't help but think about this too. Are we teaching our kids the right ways to take risks? Or how to deal with failure? I'm skeptical. We've worked hard to avoid the whole 'winner' and 'loser' dynamic. I'm doubtful that this is a long term good.
I want to keep an eye on this, especially now that I have kids of my own.