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 The 'recently read' list on the side of my blog is about 15 months out of date (and I don't think I'll fill the gap).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.