Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Davy Jones, RIP

Lots of good Monkees stuff to go with but this one gets lots of attention at our house right now:

February 30th?

Here's an interesting article on calendar history and the only February 30th in recorded history. As a bonus, it mentions how Numa Pompilius and Julius Ceasar (both covered in the March reading over here) had a hand in creating the modern calendar.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Tuesday is usually Nana day for Relia. I pick the kids up at preschool and immediately drip her off at the FP Gal's folks. Then DF and I spend a couple of hours at home before the FP Gal arrives to whisk him off to dinner. Then I have a little time to myself, some supper and go up to work.
That wasn't the plan today. At breakfast, Relia was told that Nana had a meeting to go to and Nana day wouldn't happen. She was pretty upset. When I picked her up today at preschool she quizzed me on what she could do to cancel Nana's meeting. I told her there was nothing she could do and that she'd have to figure out a way to handle it. (And then we went home and I made some kool-aid as a treat.)
Then the FP Gal, bless her heart, came home and announced that they would indeed be eating over there tonight. Very selfishly, I am so happy to get my quiet time. Thank you, hon. Thank you thank you!

Sunday, February 26, 2012


DF and I saw this commercial for Resse's peanut butter cups on TV this morning. He kept saying, 'what is that? what is that?'. After it was done I asked him what it was. He thought for a moment and then simply said 'Cake'.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Theme For Great Cities

Sorry, this is a bit of a cop out, not writing anything. But it is late and you can enjoy some great techno pop!

Friday, February 24, 2012

How to Fix the Oscars

An interesting article from Virginia Postrel. I like her first two suggestions, but not the third one. I bet that all three would be too radical to actually implement though . . .

Have a Great Friday

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Just to catch people up, here are things that DF is now saying:

Hold you = hug or sometimes 'pick me up'
Shoulders = when he wants up high on my shoulders
Night night = sleep
All done = something is finished (i.e. 'night night all done' means sleep is finished)
Ozzie = any and all cats
Roar! = what the majority of animals say, even ones like sheep
Moo = what cows and pigs say

He also repeats words and fragments, though it's sometimes hard to tell what he really understands and what he doesn't. But sometimes this includes 'love you' and that's pretty darn nice.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Top Five August Movies

And now we have the rest of the summer films. Per usual, comments and suggestions are welcome.

Stand By Me - Probably the best end of summer movie of all time. It perfectly captures that childhood feeling of wanting one more adventure before the school year starts. Touching, funny and moments of tense drama. What more could you ask for?

Rear Window - More drama here. And add in some serious heat in the days before everyone had air conditioning. Easily my favorite Hitchcock film.

On Golden Pond - Another classic end of summer movie. Only this one isn't with schoolkids, it's with the old and senile. A great movie about dealing with the golden years.

Almost Famous - Traveling with a rock band so you can write about them? That's a pretty good way to spend a summer. Another great movie.

Meatballs - And to cap off summer, we have the greatest summer camp movie ever made. Somehow this movie is thirty years old but I refuse to believe that.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

'More Magic'

DF has a favorite song. Maybe his very first. He has fallen for the Police, 'Every Little Thing She Does is Magic'.
The first he heard it was from a Sting concert video that I keep on the DVR for daddy's happy place time. The crowd sings along with the E-O part and he decided he would too. Then near the end, when the song repeats the word 'magic' he got into that too.
With my latest mix disc for the car I broke a rule and put both the Police version and a cover of it by Shawn Colvin. They're separated by about six songs and I was curious who would comment about the repetition first. It was the FP Gal, of course, but not long after was Relia. This morning she said, "Hey, these are the same words as that one song!". I agreed that it was and I explained that the lady liked the song so much that she sang it too. She was confused by the gender swap as Colvin sings it 'every little thing he does'. Relia then surprised me by referring to the concert version on the TV. She pointed out that a woman accompanies Sting there.
When the song ended DF loudly said, "more magic!" and has repeated that every time the song has ended since. He has found a favorite.


Today while driving from daycare to Nana's house we saw a van painted like an American flag. It prompted this conversation with Relia:

Relia: Look! That van! It's America! It's like a flag!
Me: Yes, I see it!
Relia: Why do they decorate vans?
Me: Um, because some people like to.
Relia: Why don't we decorate ours?
Me: (passing the buck) You'll have to talk to mama about that. What would you want to put on it?
Relia: Flowers!
Me: Uh . . .
Relia: And dinosaurs!
Me: Ok. Flowers and dinosaurs.
Relia: And giant lips!

So basically she wants a cross between flower power and the Rolling Stones. And dinosaurs. (Those last two may be redundant.) I don't see this happening.
Not that I don't like the idea of a 'decorated' van at some point. We have a few art cars in our neighborhood and I'm sometimes jealous. There is a part of me that would love to redo a van in Viking style. All purple with white and yellow highlights. Maybe some wooden shields along the side to make it look like a longboat. Wouldn't that be cool?

Monday, February 20, 2012


I'm a little curious about this. I've been near some of the big windmills down in southern Minnesota and they seem quiet as can be. I wonder how people down there feel about them.

Happy Monday

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Studio Ghibli and the Power of Calm

We went to see 'The Secret World of Arriety' today and enjoyed it. It was my first experience going to a movie in a theater with Relia. She did a great job. The only antsy behavior had to do with standing up and since we sat in the back row that was not a problem.
After the movie the FP Gal talked about how calm a movie this was for a children's movie and I certainly agree. If you haven't seen 'Arriety' (here is the trailer), then you should know that this is a movie adaptation of the children series, 'The Borrowers'. Basically it is about a family of very tiny people, three or four inches tall, who live underneath a house. At night, they creep into the house so they can 'borrow' things that won't be missed. Like a cube of sugar, a tissue, or a pin. They live in constant fear that the big humans will discover them and do who-knows-what.
There is a sequence near the beginning of the movie where the main character Borrower, Arriety, is being shown by her father how to go up and do some borrowing. It's a long sequence with very little talking. It establishes how they move around in the house and how much precaution they take. Other films would play up and it would involve a constant battle of wits with the housecat. Not this one. We see and understand, without being presented with false drama.
And this is typical of Studio Ghibli. Not that this and other movies don't have drama and action, but in that it is never presented cheaply. It never feels like the story is merely marking time between chase scenes or fights. Instead it follows its own logical path.
There are other things too, that Ghibli gives you once you know to look for it. In almost all of the movies there is a scene of people settling down to make food and eat. This is a homey touch and it serves to ground the characters. A family simply makes more sense as a group when you watch them create a dinner space.
Almost every movie also makes use of rain too. In 'Arriety' there is a rainy day and the entire atmosphere changes. The tone of the movie becomes muted. They capture the rainy day experience in a way that few other movies do and they do it consistently.
The most surprising thing to me is that Studio Ghibli does all of this while making movies for children. Every film is intelligent and interesting but not because of flash or cloying characters. We watch a fair bunch of their movies regularly here at home and the kids genuinely enjoy them. And remember, this a four and a (not quite) two year old that I'm talking about. I wish that other studios would take some notes.

Friday, February 17, 2012

How to Win 'Survivor'

An outstanding article here, outlining ten strategies to remember while playing 'Survivor'. Some of this mirrors my understanding as well. The FP Gal can confirm that I talk about some of these constantly. The one that bugs me most is #4 on the list:
Tolerate risk appropriately. (The Rule Of Gregg With Three G's.) One of the best strategic moves in Survivor history happened during the Palau season (the show's tenth), when the powerful pair of Ian and Tom realized that a plan had been set in motion from within their alliance for their buddy Gregg to double-cross them. Without getting into the fine points, which involve math, they had to try a risky strategy that still left them a significant chance of being burned, but that was better than waiting around like gazelles on the savanna. They carried it out, and it worked.

But what they did that Survivor contestants often don't was this: they correctly counted the risk of doing nothing. Very often, if people see the reality-show equivalent of a truck coming and they have a choice of standing still in the road or jumping into a ditch that might or might not contain poisonous snakes, they stand in the road and hope the truck swerves, because it sometimes does, and because who is going to jump into a potential pit of poisonous snakes? But if the chances that the truck will swerve are lower than the prevalence of snakes, you must jump, even though people tend to overestimate the risk of acting and underestimate the risk of not acting. Sometimes, a move is required.

Yes, for Probst's sake, yes! Don't be afraid to make a move!

Have a Great Friday

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Top 100 Books for Kids

According to 'Parent & Child' magazine. Their top ten?

Frog and Toad are Friends
The Giving Tree
Diary of a Young Girl
Green Eggs and Ham
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Where the Wild Things Are
The Snowy Day
A Wrinkle in Time
Goodnight Moon
Charlotte's Web

As you can see, the age range is all over the place. Kind of a fun list!

Top Five July Movies

Ah, July. The second easiest month of the whole project, after December. There are two main categories here, blockbusters and patriotic movies. I could probably do a top five of both. I could probably do a top five of patriotic blockbusters! In any case, these are the five I've gone with. As always, comments and suggestions are appreciated.

Braveheart - This would be one of the movies that is both patriotic and a blockbuster. Not only that, it is a Best Picture winner too. Some classic Mel Gibson, before he became so unlikeable. It brought back the epic movie. I watched it recently and it still holds up well.

Forrest Gump - Another one that could fit each category. A blockbuster, because it was a movie that virtually everyone had to see. And patriotic because, although not always flattering, it really is the story of a big chunk of American history. Along with that is an incredible performance from Tom Hanks and one of the most underrated love stories in recent history.

Star Wars - Pure blockbuster here. Few movies have had the impact that Star Wars did. It changed movie special effects and the way that science fiction stories would be told. It is so popular that 35 years later, it will still have a huge showing of Halloween costumes!

Raiders of the Lost Ark - In my opinion this is the most perfect action movie ever. Every beat and scene is perfect. It also works both as blockbuster and as a patriotic film.

Independence Day - Ok, this movie has its share of cheese. Maybe more than its share. But it really was a big deal back when it came out. So big that at least some of that cheese is thinly built backlash. Some of the greatest destruction scenes of all time.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dating Anniversary

Eight years ago the FP Gal and I finally met. We had been talking back and forth through emails and then on the phone. (One of the emails included an Incredible Hulk joke that impressed her. You can ask her about it.) After some deliberation we decided to meet at the Como Observatory. She told me that we couldn't actually meet on Valentine's day because that would be too much pressure. No problem for me, the next day would work just as well.
So we met on a nice February Sunday afternoon. We walked around the Observatory, which is basically a giant greenhouse. Let me tell you, a greenhouse is a nice place to be during a snowy winter. We enjoyed each others company enough that we extended the date to the zoo area. When we looked at the spider monkeys I told her that they were named after the spider plant. She thought that joke was great then but has now forgotten it seven consecutive years. While there we also found out that our birthdays were only one day apart. (Well, 364 days, but you know what I mean.)

Things have worked out well so far. Love you hon!

Update: I've been told that I have Clue on the brain and mixed up 'Observatory' and 'Conservatory'. In other news, I won't tell you what was done in the Study . . .

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Art Of Shaving



Before Christmas I mentioned to the FP Gal that I'd never had a real barbering. She gave me a gift certificate for a place at the MOA called 'Art of Shaving'. It is located on the ground floor near the kiosks and features big windows so people can watch the action. The certificate was for both a traditional shave and a head shave.
Well, it was time for the winter beard to come off this weekend. And due to scheduling conflicts and other stuff, I went about ten days without shaving the ol' scalp. (If you're curious, it normally gets shaved every three or four days.) My hair was the longest it has been in about a decade. It was driving me crazy.
Enter the Art of Shaving and my barber, Moustache Jim. I explained what I needed and he did his job. While he was shaving my scalp I could see mall-goers stop and watch. They seemed to enjoy it.
It was an interesting experience but not one that I think I'll repeat any time soon. Maybe it's my own issues but I don't care to be pampered. But if you don't share that kind of issue, go ahead and try it.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


We saw this on the TV:

and I suggested to the FP Gal that we should raise DF with a Scottish brogue so we could push his cuteness to ridiculous levels. She wearily eye rolled and said, "that's up to you".
I turned to DF and said, "say 'Aye, daddy'".
Without missing a beat he said, "aye, daddy".
And yes it was incredibly cute.

Btw, I'm very much looking forward to seeing 'Brave'. So far I've been excited by about twice as many movies this year as all of last year. I hope it all pans out!


A four year old comments on pregnancy . . .

The FP Gal: (while laying on the couch) There is so much I want to do today. I should get up and starting doing things.
Relia: But if you get up, you'll have to go potty!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Matchbox with Relia

Today Relia and I went down to Austin so we could see a play. When I first thought of this trip I thought of it as a Daddy/Daughter thing and that's what we did. We simply left the FP Gal and DF to fend for themselves.
When we got down there we met up with my dad and went out for lunch. We went to the Chinese buffet. I told her that one of the nice things about a buffet is that you can try new things without much risk. She told me that another nice thing is that you don't have to wait for the food. How smart is that?
We had some time to kill before the play so we went to the Oak Park mall. How empty is it? Let me put it this way, not only do you have to fight through tumbleweeds, the building is actually starting to crumble away. It's all very sad.
Then to the theater. We got some seats and waited for the show to start. She was as patient as she could be. Being able to study daddy's watch seemed to help.
The show was good. It involved some quiet kids and a large magic fish. She was good but an hour is a long time to sit still. Especially when the seats are so fun. Afterward we got a tour of the very tiny dressing rooms and backstage.
Then back home. She slept a bit on the way up. We got home in time for dinner and then bath and time for bed.

Friday, February 10, 2012

I Do It!

DF is deep into that toddler phase where he wants to do every possible thing. On one hand I'm glad that he's learning things. On the other hand I just want to Open. The. Refrigerator. On. My. Own. It's a pretty broad line between cute and exasperating, but he makes that journey pretty often.
Minutes ago I was trying to change his diaper while Relia was changing a DVD. He threw a fit, because he wanted to DO IT. I won't describe the type of fit, but you can connect the dots pretty easily.

Oh, I know this is just a step in development (and a positive one!) but I am soooo ready for it ease off a bit.

Update: On Facebook I said:
Being at home with a toddler in the 'I do it!' phase is liking working with the most eager and incompetent employee ever.

And then later:

Make that incompetent, eager and belligerent . . .

Have a Great Friday

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Chinese Translation

Very good stuff. If you normally skip over my music suggestions, make an exception here and listen to this.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Top Five June Movies

And into summer we go! As always, comments and suggestions are welcome.

Four Weddings and a Funeral - June of course is known for weddings and I humbly submit that this is the best wedding movie of all time. Charming and witty. Poignant and heartfelt. And able to overcome the casting of Andie McDowell.

Say Anything - Another end of year movie, and a personal romantic favorite. I can't watch John Cusack without thinking of the scene. You know the one. Yep, this one right here.

National Lampoon's Vacation - And on to summer vacation. This is one of the best family road trip movies out there. Remember back when Chevy Chase was funny?

Field of Dreams - More baseball. Not as good as 'Bull Durham' but then, what is, right? This movie captures the magic that bonding over sports can create.

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World - Another road trip film, this one is possibly the zaniest movie in my collection. A great collection of actors. A great snapshot of its era. The quasi remake 'Rat Race' is also pretty good.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Minnesota Caucus

I went and did the caucus thing tonight. I posted about it over on the political blog if you're interested.


Unfortunately I don't have anything new from the kids here. I simply wanted to mention that all of the past 'overheard' posts can be viewed here. There are well over a hundred so it takes some time to get through all of them. Going back through them has been worth a chuckle or two for me. I hope Relia appreciates all of this when she's older. (And of course once her siblings start to talk more, they'll join the act!)
Anyway, look if you'd like and have fun.

Monday, February 06, 2012


The temps here were in the 40s today. Warm enough that I took a good sized walk near the U today without a coat on. (In related news, parking near there is horrendous!) After I picked the kids up from preschool we tried for a walk around the block but DF remembered that we had food in our house and refused to go any further.
All in all this has been the mildest winter that I can ever remember here in Minnesota. We haven't been buried in snow and I don't think we've dipped below zero yet. We've had a few cold days and we'll almost certainly have some more. Tomorrow they're talking about a low temperature of 3 degrees. But we have certainly been spared the weeks and weeks of freezing weather that we're used to.

Happy Monday

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Super Bowl

Ok, so I'm not that excited for the game but it is still the Super Bowl. One thing that the game has in its favor is that it's something of a toss up. Often we go into the Super Bowl with someone very heavily favored. Not today!
The Patriots are only favored by 2.5. That means either team would be favored if they were playing at home. And from what I understand, the crowd at the game will be mostly Giants and Colts fans. In other words, it will be a hostile bunch to the Pats.
So who will I pick? Out of 32 teams these two are possibly my second and third least favorites. The Cowboys and Steelers would be in that mix too. But if it comes right down to it, I think that I'd rather see another Patriots win than the Giants. So that's what I'll pick.

Sometimes I'd simply say that I root for a well officiated game and some entertaining commercials. Well, yes, I want good commercials tonight but for some reason I'm in the mood for a game where the refs come out looking just terrible.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

"Never Let Go" A defense of Titanic

Last weekend while we were at the movie we saw the trailer for the upcoming 3D update of 'Titanic' (of which I'll say more in a bit). As the trailer flashed through familiar scenes it showed Kate Winslet telling Leo Di Caprio that she'll never let go. Some woman sitting further back in the theater hissed "liar!". This post is for her.

I liked the movie 'Titanic' but a lot of people didn't. That's fine, to everyone their own opinion. The movie was as popular as can be and that brings about its own backlash. Haters gotta hate, right? The criticisms are many but the one that drives me crazy is when some snide someone sneers about the 'never let go' moment. It's usually something along the lines of pointing out that Winslet said she wouldn't let go but she did, the coward! The problem is that the snide people simply weren't listening.
After the boat sinks and the lovers find some flotsam, Leo tells Kate not to start saying her goodbyes. He assures her that there will be a rescue. And then this dialogue takes place:

Jack: You must do this honor. You most promise me that you'll survive. And that you won't give up no matter what happens. No matter how hopeless. Promise me now, Rose. And never let go of that promise.
Rose: I promise.
Jack: Never let go.
Rose: Never let go, Jack. I'll never let go.

He makes her promise to survive and continue on. Which she does of course. When the boats come back she discovers that he has died. She remembers her promise and finds a way to live. In order to do this she must let go of his hand and then he sinks. In other words lives up to a verbal promise to not let go by physically doing so.
I think there is a literary term for that.
Of course the oh so wise, sneery people couldn't be bothered to pay attention to a little bit of dialogue. Shame that. Makes me wonder what else they've been missing.

Ok, back to the trailer. 'Titanic' came out when I was living by myself in Colorado. I had no TV and no friends outside of people from work. It blew me away and I saw it six times in the theater. Yes, I was one of the people that made it a box office phenomenon.
The FP Gal never saw it on the big screen. With it making a return, I'd love to fix that problem. But the timing could simply not be worse. The movie comes out again right about the time that the Oncoming Baby is due. Even if we tried to see it before baby comes there is no way that she could possibly sit through a three hour movie right now. And it will be very tough to find time for it right after baby has arrived. In short, the only way we'll actually be able to get out and do so is if 'Titanic' stays in theaters for a couple of months. And what are the odds of that happening?

Friday, February 03, 2012

This Cheese

In the same grand tradition of 'beef cookies', we have another strangely named food in our house. We have several types of cheese but if the kids are snacking they either have stick cheese or cheese slices. Apparently as I would offer these to DF I must have been saying "do you want this cheese or that cheese?".
So now sliced singles are known as 'this cheese'.

Btw, the beef cookies thing shows no sign of going away. We kind of expected that other kids would correct her out of this by now. Not that we were hoping but you know how kids are.

Have a Great Friday

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Top Five May Movies

And we go to May! Per usual, comments and suggestions are welcome.

Shawshank Redemption - A wonderful movie and really not limited to just one time of year. But they tarred the roof of the shed and [Morgan Freeman voice] "May is one damn fine month to be working outdoors."

Ferris Bueller's Day Off - It's tricky to place this movie but it feels like a May movie to me. In many ways it is summer but school is still going on. It must be near the end of the school year, not the beginning. Anyway, another great movie.

Sound of Music - Another one that was on TV every year. My mind has it in May. It's certainly not un-May like, right?

American Pie - Very much an end of school movie. Also much raunchier than anything previous. But still pretty darn good.

Saving Private Ryan - A tough call with this one since its central event, D-Day takes place in June. But there is no better Memorial Day movie than this one.


Yesterday at Target we entered past half a dozen kids in various wheelchairs. Relia noticed them and loudly asked me why they had them. I told her that it wasn't polite to point at people in wheelchairs. Then I tried to explain to her that they might find it embarrassing but she really didn't understand me.
Later we passed one of them while we were grocery shopping. Just as soon as we were past she stage whispered "See! I didn't say anything about the wheelchair!". And when I say stage whispered, believe me, they would have heard her in the back of the house without any problem.
We turned a corner and when I thought about how my advice backfired I couldn't help but chuckle. Relia thought I was laughing at her and I couldn't really explain it well to her. Oh dear, you'll learn. You'll learn.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Lileks on Costa Concordia

This is from James Lileks twitter feed:

Amex sent me a brochure for a cruise line - great rates on a ship called the Costa Concordia. Tempted to call them up, see what they'd say.

Amex brochure: "When you choose Costa, you don't just see Europe - you live it." Well, most of you.

"Meet dedicated staff with distinctively Continental perspectives."

"Barriers dissolve in the hijinx of theme nights on board."

Sorry, I forgot the best part about the AMEX brochure for the Costa Concordia: "Immerse yourself in truly European experience."


While driving home from preschool:

Me: So tell me what you learned about today.
Relia: Oh, just some more letters.
Me: Which ones.
Relia: (pause) If I tell you, you won't believe me.

I assured her that I would. I love the idea of preschool teaching her some secret forbidden letters. It turns out that it was E and F. And I'm willing to take her word on that.