Sunday, July 31, 2011

Working on Sundays

I have to work tonight and I think it's the first Sunday that I've worked in about 14 years.

Back in the day I worked Sundays quite a bit. I did closing shifts at McDonalds most Sundays. I worked at the bar most every Sunday; it was taco night. When I moved up to the Cities I worked Sunday nights at Pizza Hut. That's just the way it was.
Way back in '97 I moved out to Colorado Springs (fourteen years ago today!). After some hunting around got a job waiting tables at an Old Chicago. I don't remember why but I decided to draw a line and tell them I was unavailable for work on Sunday. Was up front and told them that was my day for watching football. They were fine with that and I spent every Sunday right back there watching games and playing trivia. (It was one of my favorite football seasons, in spite of the team but because of the place where I watched games.)
When I moved back to Minnesota I was done with restaurant work and actually did Monday through Friday work. Even when I went back to Barnes & Noble I only did Saturdays. Sunday was kept clear for other pursuits.

When they last did our shift bid they decided that it was only fair if everyone worked at least one weekend day. So . . . tonight I start back to working on Sunday.

Random Home Updates

Let's try this format:
  • Relia is home from her overnight with Grandma D. She is demanding her ballet outfit and asking questions at a rate of 5000 QPH. I don't know if we need a nanny but sometimes I wish we employed someone to simply answer her questions.
  • The DF is taking a good afternoon nap. He has a molar coming in so his overnight sleeping has been a bit iffy. (No big complaints there. We've been very lucky in this regard.)
  • The FP Gal is painting my childhood piano. The wood grain is the wrong tone for our house. It somehow clashes with our wooden floors, panels, etc. So she is painting it black.
  • I've had a bit of a nap myself. Necessary since I have to work tonight. But . . . that deserves a post of itself.
  • It is still hot here. Sunny, hot and humid. This is turning into my least favorite summer for weather ever. Follows my least favorite winter. Guh.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Overheard

Unconnected to any conversation in the car . . .

Relia: Why do giraffes eat leaves? Just tell me!

We believe that some animal eating habits are on a 'need to know' basis I guess. Then she went on to ask us about a time at the zoo that she thought 'might be a dream' when Grandma D fed a cracker to a giraffe. We assured her that it did in fact really happen. There is even video.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Blackout/All Clear - Willis

This is a 2011 Hugo Nominee

The basic idea here is that sometime in the next fifty years time travel is invented. A group of scholars in Oxford use this to travel back to earlier eras to witness events. These books focus on a set of said travelers that go to Britain in World War 2.
There is an important aspect of the time travel in that the process itself won't allow travelers to be seen coming or going. If a bystander is around then the 'jump' simply won't open. This means that crowded areas come with a strong challenge. This process also creates a bit of drift in arrival times, sometimes only minutes, sometimes days or weeks. Got all that?
The travelers in Blackout and All Clear soon find that the drift in their time period is very large. They also find that they can't find their way back. Try as they might, they're stuck in London during the Blitz. That means that every night they have to out guess the Nazi bombers. They have some knowledge of what areas get hit but that knowledge is imperfect. Even worse, they get stuck past the time that they studied and soon don't really know where to be.
This is far from a perfect book but the day by day description of what living in a bombing era was wildly compelling. Think of going to work and trying to make it home each day before the bombing started. Each morning you'd wake up and have to try and figure out what had happened to the transportation grid. You'd wonder if your job still existed or if it had been destroyed. You wouldn't know if any of your coworkers, family or friends had been killed. And this happened most every night.
I mentioned that the book has flaws. The biggest of them is the divide between the two volumes. 'All Clear' isn't so much a sequel as a continuation. If you picked it up on its own you'd have no idea whatsoever was happening. These must be read back to back or not at all.
The story that I've heard is that the publisher simply thought that it was too long so they whacked it in half. Willis should have spent more time smoothing out the edges of the halves. And it really is of questionable ethics to push readers to buy two books like this.
Having said that, if you do read it as one piece then it works and works well. The whole thing is something like 1200 pages (not sure of exact numbers since I read it on the Kindle). I read it in about 10 days. Given that all of those days involved two small children and work, well, you can tell that it was compelling. After it was done I wanted to read more. This is about the highest praise that you can give a book.
There have been some complaints about historical accuracy but they strike me as unimportant. The characters aren't the most interesting people but the time period they are in makes up for it. I've been told that Willis hasn't done much different in other books but this being my first reading of hers, I wasn't bothered at all.
The one criticism that I do have is that the nebulous process that governs time travel seemed both too mysterious and too powerful. In this case it let the author do whatever she wanted as she wanted it. This can be ok but it seemed a bit too heavy handed here. The solution wasn't as satisfying as I wanted.
Still, I read it and loved it. I would recommend it to others.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Color Pictures from the Blitz

Found here. That level of damage is just beyond my thinking in today's world.

Strangeness

Last night I got a call from a very nice young woman who was looking at information for a possible change of flight plans for her boss. She didn't want to make a change yet, just needed to understand times and prices and that kind of thing. This is a very typical call, the type we get every day.
About a half hour later she called back to go ahead with the change. We talked through it to make certain we were both on the same page. Again, nothing unusual.
But then she said, "this is going to sound a little strange". Um, ok . . . She continued, "When we talked earlier I had you on speaker and another lady was with me. Now, I'm a Christian so don't take this the wrong way, but when she heard you, she got this sense that there was something wrong with your mother. Or maybe something wrong with your relationship with your mother."
Ok, that is not a typical part of our calls. I said, "Uh . . . I don't think there is anything wrong with her. I've talked to her recently. And my relationship with her is good."
She was clearly embarrassed, "I'm glad to hear that! I just thought when I got you again that it might have been some kind of sign and I decided I should tell you. I hope you don't mind!".
I assured her that I didn't mind. She said 'God bless you' and we ended the call. I've been doing this for eleven years now and this is the first time I've had someone detect psychic vibrations over my phone line. (Or at least the first that they've mentioned it!)
You never know what people will say next!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Happy Monday

Allergies

I think something is going through a flowering stage in our neck of the woods. Trees or something. In any case, my allergies are flaring. I've woken up with stuffy head and headache the last couple of mornings. My morning Claritin taken care of it but not today.
All day long I've been tired, fevery and had trouble thinking straight. Each of those are good reasons to dip into my sick time at work and tonight I'm doing so. They're better off without me tonight anyway.

Btw, for those who care, my schedule changes as of next week. I'll be working Sunday through Tuesday night.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

U2 Concert

I really should write something about the concert last night, for posterity if nothing else. I'm resistant because a review of something like a musical concert is difficult and unsatisfying at best. So I'll just do some general description stuff and see what else comes out. If you're interested, the set list is here.
We took advantage of our baby-sitting (thanks Nana!) and went out to eat before the show. Meigan offered us use of her driveway if need be so we parked at her place. We took our time to get there and missed the opening band, someone named Interpol.
When we got to the stadium they were getting the stage set for the band. The FP Gal took some before pictures and posted them here. You can't see it well but the screen on the claw showed us the time in various other cities (btw, Hilo is in Hawaii, and didn't fit the time they had on the screen). They also showed various global countdowns, including absurdly precise dates for when we 'run out' of oil and coal. And . . . if you're going to create the biggest arena concert in history, you should probably soft-pedal the Green stuff.
The claw itself is pretty amazing. It had numerous lights and speakers. Each arm had manned spot lights. The video screen there could be stretched to change shape. Very impressive.
The crowd started off strong but it was clear that we wanted something we could sing along with. The few times they played something new or obscure, the crowd got very quiet and still. When they played more well known songs, the place rocked. As we looked down at the crowd on the floor we could see dozens of video screens, people taking movies and pictures.
Some highlights:
  • The rain, of course. It was on and off at first and then became heavy and steady. U2 didn't shy away from it. Bono ad libbed several rain related song snippets, especially 'Singing in the Rain'. It didn't bother us or most of the crowd. Few people left.
  • We caught part of the Aquatennial fireworks just over the rim of the stadium. Spectacular. When else can you hear U2 and watch fireworks at the same time?
  • They faded 'Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' into 'Stand by Me'. The crowd all sang along and it was magical.
  • I think my personal favorite was 'Pride'.
Here is some video so you can see what the rain was like:



A great concert and we had a blast.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Overheard

Tonight while walking around one of our many fine lakes, a lady passed by walking her dog. Relia gave her a big wave and said, "Easy peasy!" The lady broke out laughing and so did we. Where in the world did that come from?

Meanwhile, near the end DF decided it was time to say 'hi!' to everyone. Not people so much as trees and passing cars. Still very cute though.

For those scoring at home, the FP Gal and I had no interesting interactions with any strangers.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Coral Room

I'm in a very Kate Bush place today. Had this song running through my head this morning when I woke:

An acquired taste to be sure but I love her music. I played some of her other videos on the TV this morning and Relia told me they were beautiful. Hope she still thinks so as she grows up more.
This particular song is off of Bush's latest album 'Ariel'. Lots of lush and gorgeous music there.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pretty Cars

(via Instapundit)

Here is an article on what makes the Jaguar E type so pretty. Pictures at the link and golly, that is a pretty car. Jags are high up on my someday rich wish list. Maybe not this model specifically but the company does make some very nice vehicles. I'm sure I could find something that I like.
I don't understand why current car companies don't use more vehicles from the past. There are only about half a dozen cars from the past twenty years that cause heads to turn where ever they go. Off the top of my head:
  • VW Beetle
  • Cooper Mini
  • Smart Car
  • Hummer
  • PT Cruiser
Three of those are notable based on their size. The Beetle and Cruiser however are lookers almost solely because they harken back to a different era. Both are based on proven looks and both of them had waiting lists of people waiting to buy them. Why doesn't this go on more often?
I'd especially like an updated copy of (not too updated) of a BMW from the 30's. The next time you watch 'Sound of Music' take a look at the cars that they have. Gorgeous, simply gorgeous.
I'm not convinced that you couldn't take that body and make it safe by today's standards. If you can fit all of the safety elements in side of, well, an Element, then you should be able to go with the larger bodies of the past. Car companies, you don't even have to be particularly bold with this! Please do it!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fire!

I enjoyed this book review from Mythbuster's Adam Savage. The book is called 'The Practical Pyromaniac'. Excerpt from the review:

"The Practical Pyromaniac" provides no-nonsense walkthroughs of a host of excellent, intriguing and magical experiments (with plenty of very sage safety talk and advice). Detailed and thoughtful instructions lead aspiring firebugs from creating an olive-oil lamp and one-candlepower engine to making an operating fire piston and a blindingly bright arc light. Some of the experiments contained in this book are simple; some are reasonably complex. Many are potentially dangerous, but Mr. Gurstelle carefully explains why they're dangerous. Knowing exactly why stuff is dangerous is 90% of safety.
I'm not lonely for fire today but I have very fond memories of playing around with flames. I remember back in the day (back in Austin) when we could pile up leaves in the driveway and burn them. Nothing evokes Autumn more for me then the smell of burning leaves.
Anyway, the books sounds like it is well worth checking out.

Happy Monday

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hot

It is very, very swampy here in our neck of the woods. High temps and high humidty and the dew point? Well, it is in a bad place. (I'm just going to go ahead and admit that I don't really understand the dew point. The higher it is, the more uncomfortable? Is that right?)
I've always thought that 100% humidity should mean that you are underwater. If there is still air around you then the humidity can't be the full 100, right? Well, we feel like it is very close to that here. Like just one more little nudge and it would be like being at the bottom of a very hot pool.
Earlier tonight we left Target and both the FP Gal and I were instantly blind as our glasses fogged over. I've run into that a few times in the winter but never in the summer. This morning we were at SeaLife (or what it's called now, the aquarium at the MOA) and the tanks there were sweating.
It should be like this through Wednesday. Work is going to be hell this week. I'll be packing ice packs and maybe a tub of water for my feet. Two fans going and we'll see what else.
Ugh.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Online Dating

Before you read this post, please read this. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Ready? Wasn't that sweet? Ok, so you may know that the FP Gal and I met online some seven years ago. (At least that is what the calendar says. Somehow it was both forever ago and last year.) I had been doing the online dating thing for about six months before we connected. We had both been active on Match.com and Yahoo personals but it took a while before we found each other.
I had made a decision that I would try one more batch of girls and if none of them worked out, I was going to pull up stakes and move out west. Sure enough, we clicked and if you've been reading this blog you know that it has all worked out very well. Still wish we could move out west though . . .

Anyway, we has also both been on eharmony.com at an earlier point. I always giggle when I hear their commercials. They promise some huge level of satisfaction but that wasn't the way for me. In four months I had a grand total of three matches. Only one of those made it to the dating stage and (obviously) it didn't work out.
If I had some extra money on hand I would love to do an experiment. I'd invite ten happily married couples to all enter their info and see they get matched up. Would be interesting to see how they do, no?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hundred Thousand Kingdoms - Jemisin

This is a 2011 Hugo Nominee.

'The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms' is placed firmly in the fantasy genre. The titular world has recovered from a literal war of the gods. The aftermath of this war frames the entire set up of the book. To wit, this world originally had two gods, one of day and one of night. Eventually the two somehow created a third to represent the twilight period. War broke out and the day god was victorious. The twilight goddess was killed and the night god was imprisoned in a mortal body and, along with some lesser gods, left in the power of those who were loyal to the winning side. With this power they became rulers of all of the 100,000 kingdoms of their world. Got it?
Our story opens with a young girl named Yeine who has been summoned from a backwater kingdom to the very ruling city. She has been asked to compete for the honor of being the next ruler. Her mother had been next in line but she fled in some unnamed horror and married far beneath her.
Yeine is immediately out of her depth with the ruling class, the Arameri. She is in constant danger, moreso since she doesn't really understand what is happening. Her only benefit is that she has been treated favorably by some of the lesser imprisoned gods. Can she help them in their plight? What would her mother have wanted her to do? And really, what secret caused her mother to flee in the first place?
I really enjoyed this book. Fantasy isn't really my thing but this one works well. The politics are interesting, the actions are believable and it's well written. Especially the various descriptions of the night god. He is unpredictable and dangerous but also attractive and powerful. He has more depth than nearly anyone else in the whole book and yet each new phase was surprising.
I'm doubtful that it would get my first place vote but it wouldn't be a bad Hugo winner.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Computers and Games

Interesting article at i09 on how researchers use the game 'Civilization' to test computer intelligence and adaptability. It seems that it really helps to actually read the manual or something. Will have to try that in the future.
Geek that I am, I'd like to see a breakdown of different ways that they won (i.e. Military, Cultural, Science) and if that percentage changed over time.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Moon Sailing

My work office is up on the third floor. The desk faces a south window. The view is of the top of our neighbor's house and their tree and a bit of sky. The last couple of nights the moon has sailed into view, wandered through the branches of the tree and then off to wherever it goes.


Quite lovely!





Oh, and I should mention that I used a thunderstorm to put Relia to bed the other night. She was having trouble sleeping on Sunday. The FP Gal and I had both been up to her room several times. Then we heard thunder and our house let out it's goose call that means strong winds. I went up to her room and suggested that she pull her curtain back and watch the lightning. That was the last we heard from her that night.


I can remember many a night back in Austin when I had trouble sleeping and watched big storms roll through. Waiting for the flashes of light is hypnotic (or something). Anyway, it worked.


Now if only we could have those storms more often . . .

Monday, July 11, 2011

Overheard

While feeding DF lunch:

Me: Are you ok? Do you need more? Should I take the rice off of your neck?

Happy Monday

Friday's picture was from China. Any guesses on this one?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Books

About time I do another reading update, methinks.

I've been working my way through this year's Hugo novels but I think I'm about at an end for that. I was very excited for last year's six novels but not so much this time around. Five novels this year and I only finished two of them. Gave up on two and the third one is both a) the twentieth in a series and b) not available for the Kindle. I'm not willing to plunk down $18+ for a hardcover copy of a book that would is already so far downstream of its own beginning.
I'll review the two that I finished (promise!) but I should probably do at least small reviews of the two that I gave up on. Ready?

Feed by Mira Grant - Placed some time in the near future comes the most annoying book I've run across in some time. At some point in the past a zombie outbreak has occurred. The MSM didn't cover it well and this allowed bloggers to become prominent. 'Feed' is told in first person by an overly precious teen blogger. She and her brother and best friend have been chosen to be 'the first bloggers to every cover a Presidential campaign'. My eyes couldn't have rolled any harder at that last sentence.
A truly dreadful book and I can only guess that it was liked by people who thought that it was about people just like them. In other words, it flattered the right number of fans. Ugh.

Dervish House by Ian Mcdonald - This will probably win the Best Novel award and I can't say that it won't be deserved. I just couldn't get into it. Set (again) in the near future, this time we get the tableau of Istanbul. The book follows a half dozen or so people that all live in an old house. Each has their own separate but intertwining stories. And I ended up not caring about any of them.
There was one very interesting subplot, that of the Mellified Man. Based on (possible) historical practice, an old man would consume nothing but honey over the last few weeks of his life. Soon he would die of malnutrition. At this point his body would be sealed in a lead coffin filled with honey and it would be stamped with an open by date some couple of hundred years in the future. The body would then be sold bit by bit as a type of medicine.
What a fascinating and poetic death! Think, to literally turn your body to honey.
Anyway, maybe I'll come back to this sometime.

Other reviews to come!

Saturday, July 09, 2011

You Know You're a Parent When . . .

It doesn't even register when you walk across plastic refrigerator letters.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Garage Saling

Today was a good day. We left the house late in the morning and did some heavy garage sale work. These are good days for the family. Relia is learning some lessons about having and spending money. This time it involved a small bear.
No, let me back up a bit. The first place we went to today was overpriced. They wanted to sell kids books for half price or so. Um, no. Not at a garage sale. Everything there was at least two bucks. That includes the toy cell phone that DF picked up.
He loves to work with phones and remote controls. Not a surprise, or at least I guess that most kids do. He has quickly learned that if mommy or daddy are on the phone that it is fun for him to talk too. His sister feels the same but moreso. It makes phone calls at our house interesting.
Anyway, DF found a toy cell phone there. It has brightly colored buttons. It talks about shapes. It plays little songs. He loves it.
And so does Relia. She was immediately jealous and wanted to play with it. In the car she would ask him nicely if she could use it. He gave his very sincere "noooo". We all cracked up. After some time he relented and they got into a routine where he would play for a bit and then she would make a request. He'd hand it over and soon have a regret. Then he'd fuss until she handed it back. The full cycle usually lasted about 45 seconds. (I'm not kidding about that.)
At the second sale Relia was very determined to find something to buy. Unfortunately this one was also a bit overpriced and the kid selection wasn't all that high. She picked out a small bear and made the most of loving it.
As soon as we got into the car she tried to trade it with DF. He didn't want to. And she was very upset. She quickly had buyer's remorse. Fortunately the next place had 'free' boxes. Problem solved. At this sale she picked out a small bouquet of flowers and got a basket for free. They both looked miserable to me but she was happy as could be.
Now it was time for DF to be disappointed. The batteries in his new phone started to fade. The ringing and singing became more faded and tinny. And then they stopped all together. We made promises that we could fix it later but of course he didn't understand that. Or maybe he did as he got over it and stopped crying.
The next sale was a win for me. We didn't know about this one; just stumbled upon it. (Here is a tip for modern garage sale throwers. Put your sale on Craigslist. Trust me on this.) Anyway, this sale wasn't big but it had the right geeky stuff. I bought a game called Shuttles (online version here) and a copy of Capote's 'True Blood'. All for a buck.
Relia got a small doll for a quarter.
When we got back in the car, DF decided that he was D-U-N, done. Lots of crying and wailing. It was almost time for his weekly visit with Nana so we shuffled things up and went over to the FP Gal's folks on our own. (Reports are that they had a good time.)
We got back in the car and decided we would do something a bit special. Relia suggested Davanni's and off we went. It is shocking how much easier it is to eat at a restaurant without a toddler. No crying, no cutting up food, no picking everything up off of the floor. Relia was a delight. I got some Coke Zero on tap.
After we were done the FP Gal sheepishly noted that we were close to Savers. We went and I scored big time. I got two games from the old 3M (yes, that 3M) bookshelf series. One game called 'Twixt' and one called 'Acquire'. Both are rather famous in the gaming world and now I have them.
Relia also scored a bit too. She got both 'Pocahontas' and 'Bambi'. She was very excited for the 'Thumper' movie. Somehow she knows about Thumper, but not about Bambi. Before we started it I warned her that there is a sad part in the movie. Then she badgered me to tell her what it was. I wouldn't spoil it for her. When it happened, she took it all in stride. Sometimes kids are stronger than we give them credit for.

As I said, it was a good day.

Have a Great Friday

Two points to the first commenter who correctly identifies the country this is from.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Sky Lanterns

The War on Bedtime

We've entered a new phase in DF's childhood. He is now old enough to start fighting against bed time. Good Lord, I hate this phase. We've had exactly one easy night this week in putting him down for the night. That was on Monday when we kept him up extra late while we waited for fireworks.
Meanwhile, Relia hasn't been any easier. Her crisis has been in the afternoon though. There comes a time when she desperately needs a nap and we go through some hard decisions as to whether or not to let her take one or not.
If she doesn't take it then she becomes very difficult to be around. If she does take it then bedtime is horrendous. As a bonus she wakes up with the disposition of a nightmare. Seriously, I'm convinced that 'the Exorcist' was inspired by a three year old girl who needed a nap.

Ugh. Looking forward to being past this.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Ponies!

This is one of those posts that will horrify Relia in her teen years. Sorry hon, I just found it to be too cute!

My regular break from work at night happens about 8p. This works well since that is also when Relia is in the midst of the bedtime process. We usually trade hugs and kisses, the exception being when she has conked out earlier and given the FP Gal an easy night.
Tonight she met me in the hall all scrubbed clean and told me that she got new panties and 'guess what? They have PONIES!'. She nearly vibrated with excitement. Good for her.

Once you grow up they stop letting you buy underwear with things on them and you no longer get excited.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Sunday, July 03, 2011

New Words

DF has added one big new word: Noooooooo . . . !

The tone is more playful than negative. And he really doesn't have a feel for what it means. For instance, he uses it when he actually does want bread. It is awfully fun.
I don't know if I've mentioned it but he also is very generous with 'Hi!' when confronting strangers. Just like his sister. They are quite the tandem.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Saturday Night Trivia

Try to answer without resorting to search engines or other resources, please. In what summer were these songs the #1 hits?
  • Everything She Wants - Wham
  • Everybody Wants to Rule the World - Tears for Fears
  • Heaven - Bryan Adams
  • Sussudio - Phil Collins
  • A View to a Kill - Duran Duran
  • Everytime You Go Away - Paul Young
  • Shout - Tears for Fears
  • The Power of Love - Huey Lewis and the News
Leave answers in the comments.

Crossword Wizrardy

This is pretty cool.

Half of a Cookbook

Last week the FP Gal got wind of a garage sale all the way up in Mahtomedi, one that was at least partially run by my cousin Pat. She was gone when we got there so I tried to 'put an offer down' on the Patty wagon. No sale, of course. Eventually she did show up and we got to spend some very nice time together.
I only made one purchase at the garage sale, a cookbook. I'm on the search for recipes that I can make and these were all single page endeavors so I thought I'd give it a look. And it was only 50 cents. A deal!
The book is set up like a three ring binder, each page is a single recipe and each page is removable. As we drove home I thumbed through it. There was a section on sauces and condiments and it only had two pages in it. I mentioned this to the FP Gal and wondered why they bothered making a whole section for two pages. She asked me if some of the pages were missing.
Yeah, yeah they were. I only had recipes #4 and #19. That means (at least) seventeen recipes were missing. From that section alone. Perusing the rest of the book, half to two thirds of it is not there.
The FP Gal asked me if we needed to go back and get my 50 cents back. With gas prices as they are, it didn't make sense. Now I'll never know how to make the Creative Cooking version of 'Chicken and Broccoli Casserole'.

Boy, the ladies of Mahtomedi sure saw me coming . . .