Monday, February 28, 2011

Oscar Review

Overall I thought that it was one of the worst Oscar broadcasts that I can remember. It was drab and uninspired. The hosting was dreadful. Well, Anne Hathaway was cute and enthusiastic but James Franco seemed like he was only there because he lost a bet. The only memorable speech was memorable because Kirk Douglas upstaged it.
Ok, so the presentation lacked, what about the layout of the evening? Very few montages (and I like montages!). In past years we've learned about all of the Best Picture nominees but not this year. I know 'Winter's Bone' was nominated but I still don't know anything about why I should go see it.
The highlight of my evening was discovering the song behind a great Diet Coke commercial:

It is amazing to me that an industry that is built on creating theater can fail so hard on their biggest night.

Happy Monday

Hope this warms you up.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Amazing Race Review

And another episode is in the books. Spoilers! Last week ended with a cliff hanger as the racers were told that they hadn't gotten to the end yet. Instead all of them had to figure out an obscure clue that led them to a spot in Sydney. Everyone that stopped for help from the internet did well, the others . . . not so much.
But it didn't matter too much. The teams were split into two planes, one a half hour after the other. They went to a smallish town in the outback called Broken Hill (wikipedia says population of 18k) and had to run around doing things. That half hour quickly disappeared.
Then it was back into town as all of the teams had to change into kangaroo costumes and decipher the elemental codes Hg and Bi. I loved the costumes. I want one, I seriously do.
Anyway, this was kind of a workmanlike episode. Nothing too special or extraordinary.

One Small Step for a Little Boy

Well, actually three or four steps. Yep, Dragonfire is on the loose. He has been ambling around with the help of our hands for weeks now. Today I braced him up a few feet from the FP Gal but wouldn't let him hold onto my fingers. She beckoned to him and he shuffled those few steps all on his own. We did this a few times just to check that it wasn't a fluke. For those scoring at home, he still hasn't learned to crawl.
I think that the FP Gal got some video. Of interest, here is the video of Relia's first steps. DF didn't look quite as comfortable walking as she did. I'm sure that'll change. In the words of Mark Twain "Here come the baby gates!*"
Relia's biggest experience with shuffling infants is her cousin Will from when we visited back in October. She keeps talking about how he's 'just like Will!'. It's all pretty cute. Until she rushes over to hug him and knocks him over, then, well, not so cute.

*I may have this quotation wrong.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Old Photos

The FP Gal was kind enough to scan some old photos for me.

This guy looks a little like our dear DF, doesn't he?

A young Hans and a very young Heidi.

I loved this sweatshirt!

Just before an Austinaires concert. I think I look like Paul McCartney.

A vocal jazz concert. Man, I miss that hair.

How to Help the Oscars

Here is an interesting article from Virginia Postrel on how to improve the Oscar telecast.

The audience wants to revel in the fantasy of being recognized as special, but social convention dictates that winners act humble and thank everyone else involved. It's fine to thank your mother, your husband, your high-school drama teacher—to recognize the kinds of relationships everybody has—but thanking your agent, publicist and half the cast and crew breaks the spell. Outside Los Angeles, audiences don't sit through movie credits.

So the cure for boring Oscar speeches isn't to shorten them—Julia Roberts's overtime gushing makes great TV—but to alter their content. Tell winners to celebrate their moment and save the industry thank-yous for ads in Variety.

This makes sense to me. All of the inside showbiz stuff leaves the movie fan cold (or at least it does for me). When we think of great Oscar acceptance speeches it's all about actors and actresses that are overwhelmed with emotion, not long lists of everyone that has ever helped them. What else would I suggest?
  • Move all of the technical awards to a different night. That means sound editing and sound effects. You could talk me into ditching the costuming and make up awards too.
  • Make the short films available online. This would give people some idea of what they're rooting for and create some interest in them.
  • Combine Art Direction, Visual Effects and Cinematography. Aren't they all pretty much the same thing? Last year all three were won by 'Avatar'. There have only been two years in the last ten when they went to three different movies.
  • Stay away from flavor of the month host choices. Hosting is a difficult skill and one that is entirely separate from traditional acting or stand up.
There is always a call to make the program shorter. I'm not really bothered by the length if it keeps moving. Which it certainly can. Overall, it could use some tweaks though.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

In Praise of Old Second Hand VHS Movies

A few years ago when our DVD player gave up the ghost we bought a new one that also had VHS capability. We did this in part so that we could transfer some old stuff (plays, high school stuff, movies) onto DVD. We dutifully moved some stuff over and then mostly forgot about it. Fortunately, we've discovered a wonderful reason to still have VHS capability: secondhand Disney stuff.
You may know (if you're a parent you certainly do!) that Disney only makes titles available for short periods. Once the time is up they go back into some kind of vault and you can only get them for mucho bucks, if at all. This is especially hard on people who didn't buy things before they had kids. How did I know to buy 'Peter Pan' some five or six years ago, well before I knew that I'd have a girl that was in love with Tinkerbell? As a marketing plan it's genius but it's not easy on we poor parenting folk.
Anyway, we've found a loophole. Old Disney movies on VHS. You can find them at all the secondhand stores for a buck or two a piece. Tonight we picked up '101 Dalmatians' and (she couldn't have been happier) 'Peter Pan'.

Had an interesting discussion with my brother a couple of weeks back. He asked if we had a Blu-Ray player and I told him that I don't think we ever will. We watch most of our movies through Netflix streaming options. We may not even buy too many more DVDs. If we do they'll be ones that are otherwise unavailable or liable to disappear from Netflix.
In the space of about ten years we've gone from VHS dominance to DVDs and then Blu-Ray. I don't know how long it will be until streaming video on demand is the most common way of getting movies but I won't be surprised when it arrives.
Fast times, man. Fast times.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

DF Update

The FP Gal mentioned that we taught DF to sign 'more' while eating. It really is adorable and I'm sure at some point we'll get some video. He couldn't be more pleased with himself or maybe just pleased because we're pleased. Not sure. And seriously, no one does 'happy' better than a nine month old.
Still lots of walking around with him. He moves at a good clip if you hold one of his hands. If he gets another hand he puts on the turbo and cruises. Also does lots of moving around from chair to wall to table to chair to etc. If you leave him for a moment he will move a surprising distance when you get back.
What else? He recognizes his name now. Not 'DF', of course. Not sure how long that will stick around or how he'll feel about it. That's just one of the hazards of growing up in casa de FP.

We're anxiously waiting for warmer weather. I'm ready to get him outside so he can amble on the grass. I saw some pics of a very young Relia on a swing today and I'm betting that he'll be all smiley and cute too.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Monday, February 21, 2011

Snow Update

We've had more than a foot of snow so far and it's still falling. The wind was pretty high last night but it has settled down since. It hasn't been that cold, lows in the 20's I think. The news just called this the biggest snow storm in February history so we've got that going for us.

If I see that groundhog I'm going to punch him right in the face.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Amazing Race Review

Yay! Amazing Race is back! This is easily my favorite show and it feels good to be able to relax on a Sunday night and watch it. (I'd love to go on it, but the FP Gal doesn't want to go with me. So I need a volunteer . . .) Spoilers ahead, you've been warned.
The idea behind this season is to bring back teams from past years that were competitive but fell short. That means we can watch two of our favorites again, the cowboys and the globe-trotters. It also means that we don't spend the first four weeks saying 'who was that again?' over and over. This is a good idea as long as they don't do it too often.
They started out with a brief competition that would shuffle the eleven teams. The first eight to find the correct flag would go on the first plane to Sydney. The last three would be on a second flight that would be 90 minutes behind. They've done similar things in the past but the timing has been too long. 90 minutes is short enough where teams can conceivably make up ground. As chance would have it, the first flight was diverted to Honolulu and they came up just late of the second flight.
The teams had to dive into a shark tank that looked very similar to the Underwater Adventures. The show made a big deal of the scary sharks and rays but really, they overfed the beasties and they couldn't be more docile.
Next up they had to translate some naval flags and bring a phrase to a guy some distance away. This seemed amazingly difficult for the teams especially since many of them decided that they could just translate the first part and bluff their way to the end. Nope. There was much sharing of information and you could see more teamwork than is usual.
There was a twist at the end, well, not the end. This is a two parter and everyone is still on the move. I hope that the tail end guys start to take it more seriously . . .

Saturday, February 19, 2011

MESSENGER's Family Portrait

There is a space probe named MESSENGER and about a month from now it will go into orbit around Mercury. Its mission controllers asked it to take a look back from the sun and take pictures of the other planets. You can see the pictures here. The shot of the Earth and Moon is most interesting to me. As the linked post says, sometimes we do some cool stuff.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Minneapolis Institute of Art

My dad came up today so we could go to the Minneapolis Institute of Art. A few weeks ago Relia mentioned going to a museum. Specifically she wanted to go the 'castle museum' but despite a concerted effort, I couldn't discover what she was talking about. But I've been curious if she was ready for some art so I decided to give it a shot.
The first thing she noticed there was the large hanging glass art near the entrance. I thought it looked like the sun. She thought it was an anemone (and I love that she knows what an anemone is). We then proceeded upstairs and by chance started out in the Asian rooms. I think that ancient Chinese work is beautiful. So did dad. Relia . . . thought it was funny that someone would make a stone horse.
Frankly, we had trouble finding something interesting for her. She couldn't touch things and didn't understand what we saw in them. She wanted to test each room for its echo by loudly hooting. In short, it was kind of a strain for a three year old. Until she saw the panda. Then she decided that art could be very cool.
We had a brief moment in the impressionistic area. I picked her up and brought her in nice and tight so she could see that the painting was all little spots of color. Then moved her back so she could see the whole picture. Maybe not a big deal, but it felt good to me. Right after that we saw a sculpture of a nude man, without a head. I explained that it wasn't broken, they just didn't do that part. She told me she could see his feet and legs and then, while pointing at his 'manhood', "And there is his brain". That's it, no more daytime television for her!
She was awfully well behaved. This was especially impressive considering that it was coming up on nap-time. Her review? "It was kind of boring." But when I asked if she wanted to go back again sometime, she said yes.

Have a Great Friday


I suspect that every house cat believes that they are really a lion.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Foggy Day


We had some wonderful fog this morning and it kind of saved my day. To explain, I worked the last three nights and have been on very short sleep. Last night was especially bad since I didn't even get into bed until nearly 2a and Relia came in at what seemed like 430a but was probably 630a. Per usual, as soon as I was out of bed I was busy doing this and that for her and Felix. I was very grumpy but trying to keep it all under wraps.
And then we got outside, in that wonderful wet fog. A bird was singing, everything looked melty and it was simply delicious. I got Felix into his car seat and went back for Relia. I had her stop on the top step and told her what I was enjoying. She calmed and really paused and for a minute seemed to really get it.
And frankly, that saved my entire day.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

TV Reminders

The new season of Survivor starts tonight. Frankly I'll be glad when Boston Rob and Russell are eliminated. Time for new blood, folks!
Also, the new Amazing Race starts on Sunday. If you guys ask me very nicely, I'll do episode reviews again.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Minnesota Climate

This is today's featured article at Wikipedia today: Climate of Minnesota. Ok, I'm a geek but I did learn some interesting things there. Did you know that the ten coldest counties in the continental U.S. are all in Minnesota? Or that we have a named mountain range on the North Shore? I didn't. Apparently we've also had actual snowfalls in every month of the calendar except July. We're also the driest state in the Midwest.
You learn something new everyday.

Dating Anniversary

I first met the FP Gal in person seven years ago today. Looking at our two kids and everything we've built together that seems too short of a time. It doesn't seem possible that we only met that long ago.
Love you, hon!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Overheard

(While in the car riding home from Target.)

FP Gal: Did I tell you that when Relia and I were looking for her new socks she said to me "Look, they have nipple covers for me!".
Me: Bras?
FP Gal: Yes, and I told her that she couldn't get them until she's bigger.
Relia: And when I get older like Annika, I'll have bigger nipples.
FP Gal: No, older than that. Older like your cousin Morgan.
Relia: Or like you! Or Grandma D! Or Nana!
Me: (leaning over towards the FP Gal while feeling my cheeks) I think I'm going to spontaneously combust.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Little Bit Warm

We were up over freezing today and tomorrow we could reach 40 degrees. We might have to get out the kiddie pool and umbrella drinks. At the very least, open some windows and clear the air. When I'm up on the third floor I'm breathing air from October. Time for a change.
There is a downside to all of this. If we have a fast melt it'll lead to flooded basements and exploding ice dams. (Actually, I'm not sure exactly what ice dams do. I have no doubt that I'll learn in the next few weeks.)
On the other hand it would be sooooo nice to have our roads back. Minneapolis has done as good a job as they can at plowing but the snow banks are at least a couple of feet into the street. The parking restrictions (only on one side) are getting hard to work with. All of the space on our block has been taken up. And I can't imagine how bad things are over by Uptown where parking is always at a premium! Restrictions last until April 1st, unless conditions improve enough to lift them earlier.
Bring on Spring!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Travel Blog

If you're interested, I've got a post up on the CWT travel blog right now.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Walking with Dragons

We've been spending quite a bit of time over the last week or so walking with little DF. If you let him hold a finger with each of his hands he will walk so fast that he's almost running. Over the weekend he became confident enough with just one finger that he can walk slowly but steadily. It's both exciting and worrisome! Relia keeps saying that he's almost like cousin Will.
He's also using the furniture to wander and explore the house with. He'll start at the coffee table, work his way to the couch and my desk and then along the wall and into the dining room. The other night he was doing (slow) laps around the dining room table. DF is also very good at showing us which parts of the house we've done a bad job at baby-proofing!
My guess is that he really is going to skip crawling and sometime in the next few days he'll take his very own solo steps.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Super Bowl Half-time Shows

This question came up at Poltergeist manor and I thought that the answer was interesting enough to share. What did they used to do for Super Bowl half-time shows? Well, according to Wikipedia . . .
  • From the first Super Bowl in 1967 until 1975 the shows were mostly college marching bands. Ella Fitzgerald did perform with Carol Channing and USMC drill team in 1972 but that doesn't sound too different to me.
  • In 1976 the group 'Up With People' started appearing (sometimes with marching bands), with four shows in eleven years. The other years were again marching bands and their military brethren.
  • 1987 gave us the fresh stylings of George Burns, Mickey Rooney and . . . more marching bands. 1988 stayed current with Chubby Checker and the Rockettes. In 1989 they pulled out all of the stops and gave us Elvis Presto (man, myth, legend) and in 1990 we got the immortals Pete Fountain, Doug Kershaw and Irma Thomas.
  • 1991 really starts the big time star phase of the Super Bowl. Any guesses who kicked that off? New Kids On the Block (a big favorite of my sister).
  • After that was Gloria Estafan, Michael Jackson, Clint Black and so on and so on. All recognizable names. All something of an event all in themselves. (I'm rather generously including Tom Petty in the 'event' category.)
I thought last night was fine, if you ignore the sound problems. My personal favorites were easily U2 following the 2001 season and Prince in the rain for the 2007 Super Bowl.
The half-time stuff really isn't meant for me to enjoy and mostly I don't. I don't really have any good ideas on how to improve it or who else should be invited. Well, maybe the Mythbusters guys. I bet they could do a pretty bang up job . . .

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Kia



The tagline should have been, "Kia, worth a blood sacrifice!".

Super Bowl Pick

It's that time of year again, where sports fan all over the country spend four hours hoping for good commercials. A good competitive game is a plus but hardly necessary. This year's match up is very interesting. It pits the smallest market team in all of professional sports (Green Bay) against the third smallest market in the NFL (Pittsburgh). Despite all of the smallness, I've heard that this is expected to be the highest rated game ever, which would put it in the highest broadcast ratings ever range. The reasons are simple to understand. These are two old teams with nationwide established fan bases.
So who wins? Both of them are among the best teams in the NFL this season. Most years we get at least one team that simply got hot at the right time. These two teams were good the whole time. There are interesting match ups of course. The Packers offense can be unstoppable. The Steelers defense can be immovable. This really could be an excellent game.
Frankly, I can't stand either of these teams. Their well established fan bases are among the most annoying in fandom and I'm not looking forward to either one of them with another championship under their belt. In my case in particular, I know more Packers fans so that helps my cheering interest. While some of them are very nice, others are simply insufferable. So while I'll cheer against the Packers I expect them to win.

In all honesty, I may have to cheer for the referees...

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Velux Five Oceans Race

Every four years a group of sailors compete in the longest individual race held in any race. The race has had different names and is currently sponsored by a Danish window company called Velux. The sailors race around the world in stages, with time between each of them to refit the ship. The first leg of this year's course started in France and went to the Capetown, South Africa. Stage two was from Capetown to Wellington, New Zealand.
Later today, about 730p our time, the third leg will start. This one will have them leave Wellington and sail across the south Pacific (into what they call the Southern Ocean), around Cape Horn and up to Punta del Este, Argentina. This means sailing through the most remote area in the world.
Their main website is here and through it you can track daily progress. They have a cool feature that let's you replay past stages on a map. You can watch the ships crawl and zig-zag across the map as they make their way. The sailors also offer blog and video posts along the way. You can get a feeling for some of the extreme elements that they face.
They will also sail near Point Nemo, a spot in the Pacific that is further away from any land than anywhere else on the planet. It's the loneliest spot on the globe. The only people that have been further away from the general mass of humanity were the lunar astronauts.
Anyway, good luck racers!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Dreams

This morning's dream featured a flight for me for some reason or other. You know how dreams are. It was a flight on a real live jet, just me and not the rest of the family. We were flying along fine and then we suddenly weren't. There wasn't a big sense of plunging but we were suddenly low over 35W. And then cars were frantically trying to get out of our way as we came down behind another jet that had also made an emergency landing. All of this with lots of skidding and cars flying all over the place in the jet-wash. Not fun at all.

But . . . in the dream . . . it was summer . . . and I guess that makes it all ok.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Stranded on the Road

Here are some accounts from people who were stranded on Chicago's Lake Shore Drive last night. They talked to one woman who was stranded from 4p until 4a. Which is beyond crazy. There were policemen on snowmobiles taking drivers to warming stations. Cars couldn't be unburied and towed out until this morning. Just a huge mess.
I make it a point to always have my cell phone with me in the car in part because of fear of situations like this. It didn't seem to have helped these folks though. And I can't help but think of what I would have done if I'd had the kids with me. Just muddled through, I guess. (I'm picturing DF zipped up against me in my jacket while I hold Relia on the back of a snowmobile.)
This has been such a crazy winter both for damage and poor handling of conditions. Which isn't meant as a complaint about Minneapolis snow people. They've about as good a job as they can with snow emergencies and parking problems. But New York City had streets that went unplowed for days and Chicago has car stranded overnight on their main drag.
This has not been a gentle winter.

The Sweep of Time

Interesting column by Bob Berman in this month's 'Astronomy' magazine. Well, all of his columns are well done but this one got me thinking. The column is here but you have to be a subscriber to see the whole thing. He talks about certain periodic night time events and how some of them are only a few to a life time. Excerpt:

Great comets are in this category, too. In the past 40 years, the only ones that stood out over cities were Bennett in 1970, West in 1976, Hyakutake and Hale-Bopp in 1996 and 1997, respectively, and McNaught in 2007, though this latter comet was largely seen by Aussies and penguins. From the United States, most people saw only Hale-Bopp. Halley’s Comet had its worst showing since the Roman Empire when it came by in 1985. It will atone 50 years from now, in 2061. Eat those veggies.
Halley's Comet has a special place in astronomical lore. It's one of the few things up there that a) most people know about and b) isn't a planet or the sun. It was the first comet that we realized appeared on a regular basis. Way back in 1705 Edmond Halley figured out that past great comets were all the same big snowball and predicted another return in 1758. He was (mostly) right and another big chunk of understanding was added to the human total. This list of past appearances is pretty interesting.
The thing about Halley's Comet is that it's 75/76 year period is close to the expected human lifespan. Most people will only get a chance to see it once. The next appearance is due 50 years from now. That would put me at 87 years old. Not impossible but far from certain.
What struck me is that this will probably be Relia and DF's only chance of seeing it. They'll both be in their young 50's. I'm somewhat hopeful that their father's enthusiasm for astronomy will translate for the two of them; certainly enough that they'll find some time to trudge out to some dark sky field and look at an historic event.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Morning Update

I'm sure Felix slept at some point last night, though I'm not sure when that was. He was in our bed and thrashing around when I came down from work at 130a. I think that the FP Gal moved him back to his crib so he could simply cry it out at some time, though I don't know when that was. I know he wasn't crying anymore at 630a.
Relia woke on schedule and since then I've:
  • Helped her get dressed. Had to be a dress and she wanted short sleeves so a shirt underneath was key. Still looking for the tights that will go under it.
  • Got Felix (pardon me, Dragonfire) some milk. He woke up while Relia was dressing and is clearly very tired.
  • Got Relia her breakfast.
  • Got myself dressed.
  • Pushed the FP Gal's car out of the snow so she could go to work.
Now I have to get everyone ready for the drive to preschool, which will also mean pushing another car out (please Rav-4, give me power!). Then it will be the drop-off dance where I have get DF out of his car seat, take them in and put him back in. Next will be home and breakfast for me.
There ought to be lots of naps today . . .