Saturday, December 28, 2013

Saying Goodbye to the Dome

Tomorrow is the last game at the Metrodome.  In a month or so, they're going to tear the whole thing down and build a new stadium (which looks pretty nice).  I wanted to see it one more time so I took the older kids down there for a semi-pro football game today.  (For the record, it was some kind of all star game and I have no clue whatsoever what league was being represented.)
We got there in time for kickoff, just the three of us and about 200 other people.
We were in time for the national anthems of Canada and America.  I got them to stand still with their hands on their hearts.  Then we watched the football.  They were amazed that the yellow and blue lines from TV weren't actually there on the field.  What impressed them the most?  The kicking and punting. 
After some time we got in some bathroom breaks and started to move around a bit.  We met a nice lady from Green Bay who was filming the game for her boyfriend who was one of the players.  She complimented them on their binoculars and was generally nice to them.
Then they moved down to the sideline and talked to some of the players.
They'd run down and talk to them and then run back up to me.  Sample dialogue: 
Relia: I got to see a football helmet!
DF: They didn't know who Leo is!
And then it was time to go.  I had them say goodbye to the ol' dome and and I joined in with them.  To my surprise, I was touched.  The place is kind of a dump but it has housed a huge amount of my sports memories for the past thirty years.  
I'll miss it.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy, er, Tuesday

DF picked this out.  I think he wishes he was an elephant. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Top Metrodome Moments

The days of the Metrodome are winding down.  IIRC, they're scheduled to deflate it on Jan 18th and then tear it down.  I don't have many memories of the Vikings before they moved inside.  I know that we had them on the TV but I just don't remember them playing outdoors.  The same is true of the Twins, but I'm not sure that they we ever watched any of their games at all.
My first memory of the dome was going to a Twins game as part of a reward for being a patrol at Sumner.  They played the Tigers and they lost in the tenth inning.  I can't tell you with any certainty what year that was but I would guess it was 1985.  I did also go to a Vikings game sometime around then but I barely remember that at all. 
For the past few days, KFAN has been listing the top 25 moments of the dome.  Part one is here.  Part two here and the final five are here.  I was actually in attendance for a couple of them, most notably the 1998 Championship game that utterly broke my heart. 
I'll miss the place, I guess.  It worked fine for football but was awful for baseball.  I'm not a huge fan of using tax money to fund stadiums, but I'm looking forward to seeing the new place. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Door Sensor

Our icy door adventure continues.  Every day this week we've ventured out to try and figure out which doors will open.  It's a game that I've come to call 'Kia Roulette'. 
You see, there is some risk involved.  If you try the door and it opens, you can get the kids in the easy way.  If it won't open, then you have to load them in the front and then climb through and buckle them up.  As you're picturing this, make sure to include all of the bulky winter clothes needed to get through this ridiculous cold snap that we're having.  Loading them in the front had been something of the default.
So what's the risk?  Well, if the door opens just a bit, then you have the door sensor go 'bong, bong, bong' for your entire drive.  Pounding on the door might get it to reclose and turn it off but there is no guarantee.  (Pound anyway.  You'll need the outlet.)
Worst of all is that the door might open but then not close again.  That would be especially bad if I had the boys with me and super-duper terrible if it happened while we were away from home.  I can deal with driving short distances with an open hatch, like some crazy Huey pilot.  I don't think DF would be nearly as ok with it.

I'd like to disable the door sensor if I could.  I wonder if I asked the good folks at Kia if they could somehow turn it off.  I believe the car would be safer without it.  I ask you, what's more dangerous, a door that is closed but less than completely latched?  Or a constant bonging noise that makes me want to drive the whole thing off of a bridge? 

(It's not even the middle of December yet!)

Monday, December 09, 2013

Icy Doors

We are only nine days into December and I'm already done with winter.  Until last week, temps were around freezing or so.  We'd had snow, but not a terrible amount.  Then it changed.  We got some significant snow on Tuesday and Wednesday but it wasn't that cold.  That meant lots of moisture on the cars and roads.
By Thursday morning the temperature had fallen to just above zero.  I decided to take the boys out to the mall so they could run (or at least walk) around.  We got all bundled up and went out to the porch.  I had the boys wait there while I turned on the car and cleared off the snow.  I did my scrapping duty but there was a problem.  The side doors to the van were frozen shut.  So we stayed home.
When the FP Gal got home I told her what happened and she told me that I should have gotten them in through the front door and then buckled them up.  On Friday I decided to do just that.  It was a pain, especially because LL had no clue what I was doing and fought the whole time.  Poor guy didn't understand the plan.  To make matters worse, after we got moving, one of the side doors must have been just open enough to bother the sensors.  We had the 'bong, bong, bong' thing going the whole trip. 
Got to the mall and it was already busy.  I parked the car and went to the back to get the stroller.  Frozen shut.  I spent a minute or so trying to figure out how to move it all the way through the car past the boys.  Or should I get them out first so I didn't bash them with it?  Then what, have them stand near the car in the parking lot?  No.  Try it without the stroller?  When it was already busy?  Not a chance.  I got back in and told them that the plan was changing and I'd get them happy meals on the way home.
That afternoon when the FP Gal got home, I went to work on opening them up.  I read that a mix of warm (not hot!) water and anti-freeze can be poured on the door to open them.  We didn't have extra anti-freeze but I reckoned that if I poured and then quickly wiped away any water, I would be ok.  This worked well with the door on LL's side.  It opened right up. 
Not so with the other one.  It opened but then it wouldn't shut again.  I worked on it, chipping away any ice I could see.  Rubbing alcohol on the seals.  The FP Gal ran a hair dryer out to me and I melted away any ice that I could see.  Still didn't work.  We bungeed the door shut and took a break. 
Later I called Kia.  They said to spray some de-icer on the latches.  I made the short drive to the nearest auto place but they were sold out of de-icer.  Then I tried another one but the bungee wouldn't hold.  Which meant that I was going down Portland avenue about 30 mph with the side door wide open.  Not good.
Fortunately, the FP Gal's father helped me out.  I stopped at his place and we took his car out and got some stuff.  We sprayed generously, including the actual door handle and that seems to have done the trick.
Until Sunday morning, at which point both of the doors were stuck again.  We needed to go out, so we herded the kids in through the front and went to Ikea.  Again one of the doors was bonging and it was very tense.
We may just have to face this on and off this winter.  I told the FP Gal that I would volunteer to drive the car someplace warm (like Arizona) and bring it back in April.  She demurred, but I think I can convince her.   So far, this winter has been awful.

This morning, the passenger side sliding door opened and closed without problem.  So maybe there is hope. 

Friday, December 06, 2013

Have a Great Friday

On this cold, cold day, I think this should be my next house.  (Which reminds me, I need to buy a Powerball ticket today...)

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Forecasting 2024 Olympic Site

An interesting article on Toronto's decision to bid on the 2024 Olympic games.  It's widely believed that the U.S. will have a leg up on the bidding simply because we haven't hosted an Olympics since Salt Lake City in 2002.  The United States is the biggest sponsor of the games and brings in the biggest audience dollars.  We haven't been shut out from hosting for more than 20 years since 1960.  Many people think that we're simply due.
But not everyone:
“The way IOC does it, the games go to Europe, the Americas and then somewhere else,” Paul Henderson, former International Olympic Committee member and the Toronto 1996 bid chief, told the Toronto Sun. “And what most people don’t realize is that the IOC considers North and South America the same continent. Now there are always funny things once in a while that change that, but normally that’s the thought process.”
So Mr Henderson believes that the pattern is a) Europe, b) Americas and c) somewhere else.  Does that hold up?  Here are the Olympic sites from 1980 - 2020 (A = Europe, B = Americas, C = somewhere else). 


That doesn't line up as nicely as Mr Henderson suggests but there are some patterns there.  Europe usually gets two or three hosting duties in a row and then other regions get a few.  After the European cycle, the Americas have often hosted next but Beijing broke that cycle in 2008.  If these patterns are correct, then 2022 or 2024 will feature a European host city and so will 2024 or 2026. 
One big caveat here is that this isn't a natural pattern but one generated by a committee that hears bids.  They won't be held by a tradition that Europe hosts multiple times in a row.  My guess is that the U.S. should still be considered the front runner for 2024 but now I'm less certain. 

Europe's Prettiest Cities

An interesting list from a reader poll.  The slideshow is here and the pictures are purty.  The top ten:

1. Riga,
2. Bergen,
3. Innsbruck
4. Dubrovnik
5. Chester
6. Prague
7. Budapest
8. Santorini
9. Venice
10. Bruges

In the commentary, many cities are compared to Paris but Paris itself didn't make the list.  It does make the list of runners up, but you'll have to click through to see those.  The list is very heavy on medieval cities and nicely colored waterfronts.  Makes sense to me.
I have been to a grand total of zero of these cities.  They all look very nice!  I'd gladly be in Santorini Greece today, especially with 3 to 7 inches of the white stuff due to hit us. 

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Sagrada Familia

DF looked at our fun world map today and asked about one of the buildings on there.  (The map has a bunch of world landmarks on it, in case they get lost.)  I told him he had pointed at Spain and the building was the Sagrada Familia.  I told him that the FP Gal has been there and then we went online to look for pictures. 
I found this fun little video of what it will look like when construction is done in 2026.  They've been building for more than 130 years so another 13 isn't a big deal I guess.  It's on my 'someday' list and with any luck it will be on DF's as well.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Again

The FP Gal covered our trip to Austin well here.  Today we celebrated with our family in the Cities.  We hosted, which is often easier with our children.  It was low key, but that's a nice thing when it comes to traditional foods like stuffing and corn. 
In the past few days I've gotten to see tons of cousins, both parents and my lovely wife's family.  All that I've missed are my brother and sister and their families.  (And I have missed them!)  It's been very nice.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Comet ISON Revisited

Check out this video:

Late last night word came out that comet ISON was snuffed out by the sun.  Word this morning was that the comet may have survived.  You can see it approach in this video and then, it there's a big poof!  Watch the top and you see it reappear.
This comet is the most hyped that I can remember.  It would be an enormous shame if it just disappeared.  I don't know what this means in terms of future visibility but I hope that it's still spectacular. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013


It may be trite to say, but this year I'm most thankful for my family.  The kids sometimes drive me crazy but they also make me laugh and laugh and laugh. 

Relia has a book of Christmas carols and this morning she is walking around singing 'Deck the halls with broads of holly'.  I love that!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Comet ISON

Tomorrow, Comet ISON is due to swing around the sun.  This is the first trip the comet has made to the inner solar system and no one knows how well formed it is.  It could break up into pieces or it could come through unfazed.  Or even something in between.
Comets have been doing this for literally millions of years but we've got some new things in line that make this one special.  The big thing is that we have satellites that do nothing but look at the sun all day to monitor the solar weather.  They can see the comet approaching and will be able to tell how it comes through.  You can go to the SOHO site tomorrow to follow along.
If it passes without too much damage, we could be in for some special sights over the next few weeks!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Winter Storm Names

One of the few good things to come out of last year's awful winter was the decision from the Weather Channel to name the various storms.  At first, I was against it, but it turned out to be useful to have a name that travelers and airlines could use when talking about the horrid things.  Well, I'm late to this, but here is the list that the Weather Channel has picked for this year. 


The list was developed by a high school Latin class.  I've got some favorites.  It will almost be a joy to 'rocked' by Falco in a few weeks.  I have hopes that Ion will be a very small storm.  And let's all hope that Pax isn't too powerful of a storm, right?  


The past few days have been very cold up here in the north woods.  The wind is mostly to blame.  It's been strong and cutting.  We don't have any snow on the ground.  The few dustings we've had have not lasted very long. 
But oh, this cold!  Makes me want to move elsewhere.  Tomorrow.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


I decided that after I've turned 40, I'm going to try and live a little bit better.  The first step is trading out coffee for pop.  This morning I bought a coffee maker and made my very own first cup.  It worked and nothing broke.
I looked at various flavors and decided that I'm just going to go with something regular for now.  I'm not a cream and/or sugar guy so black works for me.  It will take some time to get used to the idea of planning a drink instead of going to the fridge and opening one, but that's not that big of a deal.  And now we can offer guests coffee!
Now I just need to figure out how to order something else when I go out to eat...


(Well, crap, I missed a day yesterday!  I'll do two posts tonight and we'll call it even.)

The FP Gal and I finally got around to celebrating our birthdays yesterday.  On her birthday, my work schedule got in the way and on my birthday, her work schedule got in the way.  Both of us ended up having supper alone with the kids.  Oh well!
So we gathered the whole gang and met up at Fridays for lunch.  We've been going out there for years and it's kind of 'our' place.  It was the site of our second date so it has some nostalgia for us.  And the kids like their menu so it all works out.
Or almost works out.  By the time we were done eating, the kids were showing signs of rioting so we fled to the FP Gal's parents house and opened up gifts there.  I got a matchbox car from DF and a lego motorcycle from Relia.  Both of those gifts have been taken over by the kids, of course.  The FP Gal got me an automatic car starter so that I'll be saved on cold mornings for the next six months.  Yay!
It was a very nice time.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Today I turn 40 years old.  I'm moving into a new decade.  I want to look back at how much has changed since I turned 30. 
Back then I was living in Burnsville in a one bedroom apartment.  I lived with Roxane and Calypso.  I spent some weekends all alone. 
Now I'm in a big house with a wonderful wife and three wonderful children.  I've got two different cats and my weekends are very full.  (Sometimes I wish I could vacation back in that apartment for a day or two!)  I've created a family.  And that's a pretty good way to spend a decade.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Happy Birthday

Happy birthday to the FP Gal!  I hope that your 39th year is a wonderful one!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Skills of Our Grandparents

I can do five of these.  I'll make sure that my kids can do #6.  (The FP Gal will teach #5.)  I don't know about the other nine though...

Unusual Towers

I love this list.  I only wish we had something comparable here in Minnesota.  The last couple in Japan, look very cool.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Books You 'Must' Read in Your Life

Last week I linked to a list of suggested books that you really should read because they're life changing.  The idea has actually been flitting around in my head for some time now.  There are plenty of books that I want my children to read as they grow up.  Some of them are books that were important to me, some are books that I wish I'd read earlier in life.  Some are just books that I'll want them to read so I can discuss them with someone.  The following is an incomplete list:
  • 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World - All three of these books tackle similar themes and I think there's some benefit in reading them together.  Each one gave predictions about a bad future, but they diverged in how they thought we'd get there.  Probably the best book to follow these up with is 'Anthem'.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird - To teach them that you must try to have compassion and put yourself in the other person's shoes.  Also to show them how awfully unfair it is to judge people by color.  (Yes, they'll get this in school too.)
  • Various Heinlein - Oh, I'm sure they'll get heavy doses of the great man, but especially 'Starship Troopers' and 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress'.  I'll leave 'Stranger in a Strange Land' up to them, but I'll be ready to discuss it with them if they'd like.
  • Sailing Alone Around the World - I very much wish I'd read this when I was younger.  The story is entrancing and so is the idea of finding grand adventure.  If they're interested, I'll follow up with 'A Voyage for Madmen'.  
  • Historical Fiction - Especially historical fiction set in United States.  I'm thinking about some of the great stories like 'Gone With the Wind' but I'd be flexible.  There is no better way to immerse a reader into a different world than with good fiction.  In theory, you could teach all of American history this way but I'm not sure what that list would look like.
  • Meditations, Analects, Proverbs - There is great benefit in dealing with bite sized philosophy.  Sometimes it comes out trite, but some well grounded bits of wisdom will always come in handy.  
  • Poetics - The book from Aristotle.  There may be no better way to understand how stories are told than through the words of the Scholar.  
Oh, and many more, I'm sure.

If you have suggestions, leave them in the comments.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Romeo & Juliet & Relia

The other night the kids found me listening to Tchaikovsky's 'Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture', my favorite bit of classical music.  Relia was trying to use the music to figure out what the story was doing ("now someone is running").  I told her that it had to do with 'Romeo and Juliet', not sure if she was familiar with that story or not.  As it turns out, she has seen 'Gnomeo and Juliet', a loose retelling of the story using lawn ornaments.  Close enough.
This morning in the car, I told her the actual story of R&J, or at least the high points.  As I got to the end, she laughed and laughed and laughed.  Apparently the idea of dying for love is hilarious to her.  (She also worked hard to avoid the 'S-Word'.  Which in her case is 'stupid'.)
As of right now, I'm glad that she thinks that letting romantic love overwhelm you is a bad idea.  I wouldn't be sad if she could keep that perspective a while, especially when she's a teenager.  I doubt that will happen.  The drama and tragedy of R&J is well established and universal.  She'll agree with that at some point.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Flirty Boy

This morning Relia asked if we could take the light rail.  We agreed and took the kids downtown.  The ride there was uneventful.  Relia and DF took turns pointing out landmarks and they were excited when we got to Nicollet Mall.  We got out and they enjoyed the tall buildings.  It was nice and cloudy and the top of the IDS tower was dramatically covered up.  I pointed it out and we made our way there.
When we arrived, they looked at the water fall in the lobby.  DF was especially enthralled.  He got loudly enthusiastic, so much so that we had to leave.  We went over a block to Panera to get some cookies and then back home.
When we got back to the train, I ended up sitting with LL.  Two girls in their twenties(?) sat behind us.  LL turned on the charm and if I hadn't been holding him back, he would have gotten their phone numbers.  They suggested that I get him a 'Lock Up Your Daughters' t-shirt.  I may have to, as a fair warning to other parents.
I think they enjoyed the trip.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013


I just realized that with our crazy schedules, Thursday and Saturday nights are almost the only time that we all eat together.  Guess we'll have to make the most of them.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Great Gatsby - 2013

Continuing on with movies from my Netflix queue!

Back in May I reread 'The Great Gatsby' and reviewed it.  This was somewhat in anticipation of seeing the movie.  Well, now I've seen it and I have a few things to say.  SPOILERS.  Back in May, I thought:
The most winning element of 'Gatsby' is the narration.  I'd read Nick Carraway's thoughts on just about anything.  He's writing here about the Jazz Age, but I'd read his thoughts on the Depression just as readily.  He is compelling and authoritative and always, always interesting.  If the narration wasn't as good, the book would have failed.  If narration of this quality was moved to a different book, that one would have excelled.
And that's really the big problem with filming this.  So much of it hinges on the great internal thoughts Nick, the narrartor.  When I was reading I would stop and rework my way through a paragraph, sometimes just savoring a turn of phrase.  That doesn't work with a movie.
They tried though.  It looks like Baz Luhrmann, the director, tried.  The novel is written after Nick flees the big city back to the small town midwest.  The movie is written from an asylum as a form of therapy.  Nick Carraway is writing down the events so that he can clear his head and stop drinking.  It's a noble effort but it falls short.
The one thing that really does work is when the film focuses on the great parties at the Gatsby mansion.  This isn't surprising as Luhrmann did similar great work in 'Moulin Rouge'.  He can just flat out create a party spectacle.  The music had its moments but didn't do much for me.  Guess I'm not a Jay-Z fan.  The one stand out song was Lana Del Ray's 'Young and Beautiful'.  Gorgeous piece.
I watched this with the FP Gal and she was struck by how much Leo DiCaprio resembled Robert Redford, especially as he played Gatsby back in the 70's.  I haven't seen that version but I could see the resemblence.  For me, I was distracted by a theory I heard that this was a sequel role of sorts, from 'Titanic'.  I guess Jack does survive after all, only to surface on Long Island with heaps of mystery money.  Once I had that in my head, it was tough to shake.
I had high hopes and I was disappointed.  This was just an ok movie.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

35 Books You Must Read In Your Lifetime

(Well, that's what the link says.  I'd replace 'must' with 'should'.  Or even the more Minnesotan 'We Kindly Think that Reading These Books Might Do You a Benefit, You Betcha'.)  A pretty good list here.  It sounds like the original list was created from Reddit.  As you may know, book lists are like catnip for me, so I thought I'd go through it. I'll remark if I have it, if I've read it and maybe a brief comment.

  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - I have it but haven't read it.
  • Watership Down - Have it but haven't read it.
  • The Last Lecture - I've never heard of this but it sounds good.
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything - Not familiar with this either.
  • Man's Search for Meaning - Another one that is new to me.  Sounds good.
  • The Forever War - I've read this and it's a good read though not life changing for me.
  • Cosmos - I've read other Carl Sagan, but not this one.
  • Bartleby the Scrivener - Excellent short story.  I have it and have read it.
  • Maus: A Survivor's Tale - I've never read this but I really should someday.
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls - Haven't read it but will someday.
  • Kafka on the Shore - Sounds really good but I haven't read it.
  • The Little Prince - Have it, have read it and I would highly recommend it.
  • The Road - Very good book, though incredibly dark.
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude - I have it but haven't read it. I thought 'Love in the Time of Cholera was very overrated.  
  • East of Eden - Haven't read it.
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People - I'd like to read it but I haven't done so.
  • Crime and Punishment - Have it but haven't read it.  
  • Brothers Karamazov - Have it but haven't read it.  It's on the Great Books list.
  • The Stranger - Have it but haven't read it yet.  High on my 'get to it' list.
  • Dune - Have it and read it.  Not my style but I get why so many people love it.
  • The Handmaid's Tale - Have it but haven't read it. I'm leery after hating 'The Blind Assassin'.
  • Anne of Green Gables - Haven't read it and never had much interest.
  • Fahrenheit 451 - Read it many times.
  • The Giving Tree - I've read it several times.  I go back and forth on whether I like it or not.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird - One of my all time favorite books.
  • Animal Farm - Very good book.  
  • All Quiet on the Western Front - Have it but haven't read it.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo - I have it but haven't read it.
  • Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep - Don't have it, haven't read it. 
  • Catch 22 - Have it, have read it.  I liked it but I didn't love it.
  • Slaughterhouse Five - I've never read this but I hear good things.
  • Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Have it and read it many times. Maybe the funniest book of all time.
  • Brave New World - Have it and read it. Very thought provoking.
  • Flowers for Algernon - Read it in high school but not since.
  • 1984 - Have it and have read it many times. There's a dissertation to be written comparing this and 'Brave New World'.
I've only read 13 though I own at least twice that many.  There was a time when this would have inspired me to read the rest in some methodical manner but I'm pretty busy these days.  Maybe I'll just peck around the edges.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

Football Magic Numbers

When we talk about magic numbers in sports, we're usually talking about how close a baseball team is to clinching their division.  But of course, the idea is easily translatable to other sports too.  The process is easy.  You start with the number of games in the regular season and add 1.  Then you compare that number to the number of wins a team has and the number of losses for the next closest team.  You can just reverse the wins and losses to figure out the elimination number.  Sadly, that's more important for this year's Viking team.
There are 16 games in the NFL regular season.  Add 1 and you get the starting number of 17.  Right now the Vikings are 2-7 and the lead team in the division is the Lions at 6-3.  So we add the Viking losses (7) and the Lion wins (6).  That gives us 13.  17-13=4.  That means that any combination of four Viking losses or Lion wins and the Vikings cannot win the division.  Since that number can only move two spots in a week, that means the Vikings could be eliminated in just two weeks.  And yeah, that sucks.
How close are other divisional winners to clinching?

AFC East - Patriots magic number is 6
AFC North - Bengals 6
AFC South - Colts 6
AFC West - Chiefs 7
NFC East - Cowboys/Eagles 7
NFC North - Lions 7
NFC South - Saints 7
NFC West - Seahawks 5

It's interesting that no team is all that close to clinching yet.  The Seahawks are the closest and it would take three weeks of everything going their way to do it.  Meanwhile, no team has been eliminated yet either.  Three teams could theoretically be knocked out next week (Raiders, Buccaneers and Rams).  But, mathematically at least, each team in the NFL could still qualify for the Playoffs.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


We raked up the yard today.  We really couldn't do it earlier than now because the trees around us were still full of leaves.  It's been an odd fall as far as leaves go.  They really didn't come down until about Wednesday.  I'm not sure why. 
Seriously, the weather has been pretty normal for the past couple of months.  Maybe a little cooler than normal but not drastically.  And yet the leaves were late turning color and then late falling down.  Is that because we had such a late spring?  Dunno.
Anyway, we had snow on Tuesday.  A real snow, though not the winter storm that we were warned about.  Come Wednesday, they started coming down as if there were people in the trees with leaf blowers.  I don't remember ever seeing that before. 
Anyway, we've raked and we're ready for winter.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

My Little Hams

Today we got together with my sister Heidi, her husband Chad and their wonderful (Star Wars obsessed) boy, Marshall.  He turns five next week so this was a birthday party.  We first got together at a play place called 'the Giggle Factory'.  Basically a playset like you'd find at a big McDonalds or Burger King combined with a coffee bar where adults can sit and watch their monsters angels play.  These spots are a godsend after the weather turns cold up here and the kids had a great time.
Then it was off to Chad's parents house which was filled with family, about half of whom I knew.  The boys decided to put on a show.  Right after Marshall blew out the candle, DF took advantage of the quiet room to loudly announce, "Time for cake!".  While the cake was being passed around, LL took the the floor and held court there.  He simply walked in circles and lit up all smiley to anyone that would smile back at him.
Later on, when the crowds thinned, DF decided that it was time to put on an actual show.  He quickly organized the players and told Relia that she would be the dancer.  Then he pulled up members of the audience to accompany him.  With some prompting, he finally got to his song, an impromptu number about fire.  Chad and the FP Gal did a kickline while LL and Relia spun in their own ways. 
DF just cracks me up lately.  He's at that wonderful stage where he has no artifice.  Everything that comes out of him is genuine and surprising.  He needs his own radio show.
Relia is at an interesting stage.  She's growing past that stage where she tries too hard and laughs at all of her own jokes.  At the same time, she's become more clever and is beginning to play with words.  She has a shyness now, that she didn't when she was younger but I have a feeling that it won't last.  She's finding herself and I'm not sure where she'll end up.  We're encouraging her to be outgoing but this is a place where pushing backfires. 
And LL is still adorable.  As in, you see him and want to pick him up and adore him. 

Great kids.

From May 2013

(You may remember this series, where I store some of the things that were over on Facebook.)

It's snowing and they're testing the sirens in Minneapolis. The despair is palpable.

Last year, when we had a very mild winter, I distinctly remember a woman (friend of a friend) who was upset that her poor 2nd grader would 'never see snow again'. I've thought of her often over the last two months. The next time someone utters such an absurdity at a Minnesotan we should be allowed to smack them.

I predict that by the year 2025, we will officially change the name of clownfish to 'Nemo-fish'.

Car outside our house has been parked there with the bass ALL THE WAY UP for about fifteen minutes. I can't hear the song, but I assume it's something like seismic activity or magma movement.

Relia to me: Oops, I forgot you're a human.
That's kind of the slogan of my mornings.

Free idea for writers of children's movies: Make the villain be a corporation or a land developer. That way your story will stand out for originality.

Fwiw, I reserve the right to be grumpy at Minnesota temps that are too cold *and* too hot. If we're really in the 90's on Wednesday, I won't be happy about it.

Sarah just asked Relia where the 'summer shoes' go. She answered 'not in the living room'.

Watching some Veggie Tales with the kids for the first time in ever. After a good ten minutes, Felix had an epiphany and realized that Bob is a tomato.

Hating the hot weather already

Well, we can't say that a baby has never pooped on our Wii balance board anymore.

Dealing with tired kids is like reading a Choose Your Own Adventure book where you die on all of the pages.

Leo is methodically beating a little doll to death with a toy boat. He's like a cute little King Kong.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Not Giving Up

I've been meaning to tell more stories about LL.  He does one thing that I've never seen before.  If you take a bite of some food that he wants (his/yours/whatever) he will try to go into your mouth after it.  Sometimes this happens well after you've eaten. 
It's very cute and endearing (unless he won't give up...).

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Movie Idea

This one goes out to any low budget movie studio that would like to make a small film that would rake in the big bucks.  Ready?  The very first chapter of Victor Hugo's 'Les Miserables' is about a bishop in a small French town.  The bishop lives through several episodes that show him becoming as Christ-like as he can.  Going forth to his flock, trading houses with the hospital, things like that.  The entire section is beautiful and is possibly the best portrayal of Christian charity in all of literature.
The film would focus on this man.  The book includes his small back story and how a chance meeting with Napoleon gave him a church office.  It would continue through the various episodes.  In the last third or fourth of the movie, Jean Valjean would appear and their interaction would happen.  Then the bishop gives him the rest of the silver and bids him go.  Wrap it up and roll credits.
If this was done with a deft touch and some sensitivity, it would be a hit.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013


Our dear LL is something of a daredevil.  He just has no sense that his actions can hurt him.  His preferred method of coming down the slide in our front room (known as the 'office') is to take one step and then dive the rest of the way.  We have a mattress at the bottom so he comes through fine.  Mostly.
This morning I found that he'd pushed the coffee table up near the couch.  He would then climb on the table (keeping him off of tables is a major chore), and jump over to the couch cushions.  He has about a two inch horizontal leap so he does this mostly on faith.
We should probably start setting aside emergency room funds already...

Monday, November 04, 2013

Wii, Again

We've shifted things around in the house again and the Wii is again available for the kids to play with.  They seem to finally be at the age to really, really get it.  Well, Relia's been there for a while, but she now has access.  As recently as last spring, Relia was unable to really play Mariokart but now she can.  This morning she was playing and absolutely thrilled to be getting third and fifth places. 
Meanwhile, DF was teaching her a lesson in patience.  He can't help but steer into walls and has trouble going the right direction.  This is maddening to watch.  You want to jump in and take over so that he can be competitive.  But of course, he won't learn a thing that way.  So she gets to watch and bite her tongue.  (If she doesn't, then she gets scolded by daddy.)  I'm sure he'll pick it up in short time.
After we played for a bit, I decided to update the Miis and create a Mii for LL.  Here is is, 18 months old and the Wii doesn't know a thing about him!  So we worked at it and worked at it, with Relia offering helpful advice on the shape of his head and (hardest of all) which eyes were closest to correct.  Sorry, LL, it really isn't set up for babies. 
Next step?  Keeping an eye on Craigslist for extra controllers.  The day isn't far off when we'll need to have two more of them and a couple more steering wheels.  Don't worry, though, I'll find them.

Sunday, November 03, 2013


While driving DF to preschool this week, he asked me where LL got his name.  I tried to tell him that the FP Gal and I picked it out but he wanted a credit in there too.  I was almost to the point where I throw up my hands and tell him, fine, he helped pick it out, when he said this:

DF: When Leo dies and we get a new baby, I'll name that one.

Um, not quite, buddy.  To add a little context, it might be helpful to know that our neighbors recently had to put down their beautiful boxer dog.  They had a new puppy a few days later.  Anyway, DF is figuring out both mortality and the cycle of life. 

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Life of Pi - 2012

I remember the first time I saw the book 'Life of Pi'.  It was in a Barnes and Noble, and the cover featured a boy in a lifeboat with a tiger.  I quickly judged that cover and was hooked.  It looked like some sort of fantasy.  What I didn't know is that the story would play it straight.  (I have a brief review of the book here if you're interested.  Short story, I highly recommend it.)
A few years later I heard that there was interest in turning it into a movie.  The story largely takes place as a narrative of a boy in a lifeboat with a tiger so it was hard to see how they could possibly make a movie work.  And boy howdy, the record of books to movies is not very good.  But the reviews were positive, so I thought I'd give it a chance.  (Which I did last March when I found that a) I had a day off and b) it was in the theater some five months after it was released.)
I came away impressed and wanted the FP Gal to see it.  I thought she might miss out from the big screen but what can you do?  (I've been told that it used 3D very well, but, being a cyclops, that wasn't an option for me anyway.)  This was the second movie that I put on the Netflix queue.

What did I think?  It's really quite fantastic.  The cinematography is fantastic in both senses of the word.  The script did an excellent job of conveying the story, both the internal dialogue and the action.  Pi seemed like he was in constant danger from the tiger.  This is quite a feat since we rarely honestly fear for the protagonist.
One thing that really strikes me upon rewatching, is how deft a job 'Life of Pi' does with traditional religion.  Early in the story, Pi becomes enraptured with Hinduism, Christianity and Islam.  The story treats all of them with genuine respect.  (Note to non-religious: the movie doesn't hit you over the head, so don't be put off by this.) 
I haven't seen many of the Best Picture nominees from last year but I can easily say that 'Life of Pi' deserved its nomination.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Les Miserables - 2012

I used to go out to the movies all the time, but now that I have young kids, it's really tough to do so.  This has been more of an annoyance than a problem for the past few years because frankly, there haven't been that many movies I've wanted to see.  Last year was different.  There were a bunch that actually looked good, especially late in the year but I missed them.  Anyway, this is a long way of saying that I finally upgraded the Netflix account to have them send me DVD's.  Which means that movie reviews are a'coming.

For years I wondered why it was taking so long to make a movie musical version of 'Les Mis'.  It's been popular forever.  It's epic in a way that translates well to the big screen.  And my guess has been that various rights have kept from being produced.  (And that might even be true!)
I was excited when I saw the first trailers last fall.  Then the reviews came out and they were lack-luster.  I chalked some of that up to that perverse human desire to trash popular things.  In any case, I missed it in the theater and was excited to finally watch it.  This was literally the first thing that went into my Netflix queue. 
And wow, was I disappointed. 
The singing is awful.  Not all of it, but some of the key parts are just wildly miscast.  Russell Crowe (who has been great in just about everything else I've seen him in) is simply terrible.  He looks good and can't sing a lick.  I've got to believe that there are at least 1000 actors out there who would have made a better Javert. 
Hugh Jackman is better, but still fails on some pretty important levels.  He can sing, and his singing doesn't offend the way that Crowe does.  The problem is that he's all anguish and very little beauty.  In fact, that's the problem with most of this movie. 
In most musicals, we accept that people break into song to express themselves.  We accept that the singers are above average so that they can make the most of the music that they've been given.  Not so here.  In this movie, if there was any kind of choice between showing anguish and showing musical talent, the talent lost big time. 
This works in places.  Anne Hathaway is quite good as Fantine.  The Thenardiers don't call for beauty, they call for character and their parts worked.  But just about everywhere else it failed. 
Just a huge disappointment. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Yesterday I was looking at the maps on the wall with Relia and DF.  I asked her where she'd like to take a trip, and while she had many wonderful answers, the one that stuck with me was her desire to take a train to Kansas. 

Me: Why Kansas?
Relia: I want to go there and stay at an inn!
Me: An inn?
Relia: (tilts her head) Yes.  The one spelled I-N-N-N. 

Um, ok, sweetie.  I'll see if I can make that happen. 

In related news, DF got upset with her about Georgia.  I told them that they grow peaches there (it's on the map) and Relia said she loves them so much she'd eat them all.  This prompted DF to stamp his foot and yell, "Not all of them, Relia!".  Don't worry buddy, I'll make sure she leaves some peaches for you.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

100 Days Until the Olympics

A typically thoughtful article on anticipation for the Olympics here.  The whole article is worth reading.  Don't miss the things that Joe is looking forward to in Sochi.
This morning, the kids and I were looking at the maps on the wall.  This lead to some image searches at Google and that led me to take a look at Sochi.  Looks like a nice place.  I can now find it on a map, and with a little practice I'm sure Relia can too.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Have a Great Friday

Yes, it's a new post.  I'm going to see if I can revive this blog.  Next month, in addition to doing NaNoWriMo, I'm going to do NaBloPoMo (National Blog Post Month).  The idea is to simply blog at least once per day, every day for a month.  I used to do that regularly but obviously I've fallen away from it.  I'll see if a good month can bring that back in line.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Traveling to a Different Star

One of the most irritating scientific claims, for my money, is the idea that travel to a different star is impossible.  Or at least so economically difficult that it will never happen.  I was pleased to see this article that talks about how current or near-current technology could do it. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Joys of Parenting

One of the purest joys that I get from parenting is teaching things to my kids.  Relia especially right now, because she's at that age where she wants to know everything and can actually understand a great deal.  The other morning she asked me about New Jersey.  I explained to her that when Europeans moved there, they were reminded of the island of Jersey.  We then looked around for other 'New' states and cities (New York, New Orleans, etc.).
She surprised me by saying that Minnesota doesn't have any of the 'new' cities.  I told her that we have New London and New Ulm, but her point was well taken.  Somehow she got the idea that Minnesota is far enough inland that it wasn't part of that tradition where regions were renamed for the European counterparts.
I was a proud papa.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Over on my Great Books blog, I've branched off a bit and have been blogging my way through a book called 'The 100 Best Poems of All Time'.  They're collected here.  Every week (or so) I blog my way through one of them in an attempt to broaden my understanding of poetry.  Anyway, I thought that since this blog is not very busy anymore, my few remaining readers might be interested in having me share them over here too. 
Drop a comment and let me. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013


DF is convinced that he will someday (soon) be a baby again. He'll go back in Mommy's tummy and 'go to work' with here and all that. I told him that I wasn't sure that would happen. He asked why and I said that it had never happened to me. He . . . didn't want to talk about it anymore.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The White Whale

Interesting pics of an albino humpback whale that lives near Australia.  No idea how it feels about revenge though.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11 and the Power of Storytelling

This is the twelfth anniversary of one of the worst days in our country's history.  Of course, I don't need to tell you that.  Everyone reading this blog is old enough to know what happened and I doubt there is a mental adult in the country that doesn't know what happened.
Everyone remembers where they were on that day.  All of us have stories about where we were when we found out and what we did next.  That doesn't make it unique.  Just about everyone of the right age remembers where they were when the Challenger blew up or when JFK was shot.  Big events make a big emotional impact.  They're easier to remember.
I was thinking about this today and I was struck by how September 11th stands out, maybe especially for my generation.  With the rise of social media and the relative ease of reconnecting on the internet in the middle 00's, I reestablished ties with most of the important people of my high school years.  With many of them, we talked about lives and families and such but also included stories of where we were when it all happened.
It's like it was all such a big thing for us that we had to share it so it wouldn't overpower us.  Nothing else has been like that for me in my life.  The loss of the Challenger was big news and a big surprise but it didn't feel like this.  It didn't feel like the world changed.  My life has had a long pre-9/11 period and then a post-9/11 period.  Same with almost everyone else.  There is nothing else like that.
At least not for my generation.  Talk to my parents generation and (without too much prodding) you can hear about where they were when they heard that JFK was shot.  It was so traumatic that it stamped itself indelibly on their memories too.  The young idealist President was suddenly gone and their world would never be the same again.
That made me wonder about the news of Pearl Harbor.  I know it was a shock, but did people of the 'greatest' generation tell everyone where they were when the news came over?  Sadly, I don't have anyone old enough in my circles anymore to ask.
And that was a different time as far as media was concerned.  There were radio reports and newspaper coverage the next day, but they didn't have replays and replays.  As far as I know, there was no widespread hunt for amateur film or camerawork to provide more angles.  If so many of us hadn't gone home to watch several days of news coverage, would we still feel like this?
I don't know.
None of this is meant as criticism.  Grief is something that must be dealt with and this was obviously a shared grief.  I know that when I've shared my (not very unique or interesting) story, I've felt better afterwards.  I can only imagine that's true for everyone else too.  We say that we'll always remember, that we'll never forget.  That's very true.  We couldn't if we wanted to.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Olympic Thoughts

Some random Olympics stuff:
  • On Saturday, the IOC announced that Tokyo would host the 2020 Olympics.  This will be their second as they also hosted the 1964 summer games.  I have little doubt that they'll do a wonderful job.  
  • In two years, they will announce the host of the 2022 winter games.  You can see the list of cities that are preparing bids here.   The list of potential bids is heavily European, which isn't surprising.  In 2022 it will have been 10 years since a European city hosted.  (Yes, Sochi is 'European' but it's far on the fringe of Europe.)
  • The US will bid for, and almost certainly win, the 2024 summer games.  We haven't hosted since the 2002 winter games in Salt Lake City and that twenty plus year gap is a big one.  A huge amount of funding and commercial support comes from the US so it is only fair that we get to host every so often.
  • Not everyone is happy with the idea of a US city hosting the Olympics, in large part because the financial record of host cities is pretty grim.  Here is an article proposing a permanent 'Olympic Island' that could be set up to handle the infrastructure for every event.  (Well, for summer.  I'm sure a different facility would be needed for winter.)  I'd need some convincing on this, as there is some value in the cultural showcase that each Olympics brings.
  • But how much value should we attach to that?  I don't know.  Certainly not enough to bankrupt cities.  And the intrinsic value of hosting is offset by some pretty negative things that happen during the game.  Ousting the poor and the homeless so that rich people don't have to see them is pretty awful.  So is the full on censorship that comes along with Olympic sponsors.  
  • Having said all of that, what would be more useful now would be sets of ideas on how to bring the cost of hosting down.  On how to make what should be a beneficial experience really be beneficial.  From what I've read, the Los Angeles games of '84 and the Atlanta games of '96 were both wildly profitable.  What did they do differently that a place like London couldn't?  
That last is a big question and it deserves some big time thinking.

Monday, September 02, 2013


While in the car today, a song from Moulin Rouge came up on my iPod.  Relia asked if it was from a movie and then insisted she wanted to see it.  I told her she would have to wait until she was older.  Until she was a teenager. 

Relia: Next year I'll be seven.  (pause)  Technically, that's a teenager. 

Good grief, they grow up fast. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Me: Do you know what Leo's name means?
Felix: No.
Me: It means 'lion'. (pause) Do you know what Felix means?
Felix: Yes.
Me: What?
Felix: (nothing)
Me: It means 'lucky'.
Felix: No! It means 'elephant'. It means 'elephant that scares baby lions'!

Life With Leo

I'm watching Leo explore our house (again) as he does every day.  I just got hit with a wave of preemptive nostalgia for the days when he won't need to explore again.  You see, he goes from commonplace object to commonplace object trying to figure out a) what it is for and more importantly b) what fun thing he can do with it.  We also run into c) is it light enough to move around on his own.  Everything gets inspected closely until he is distracted into inspecting something else.
The something else is usually Ozzie.  He loves that cat.  Whenever he sees Ozzie he lights up.  Goes over to him and tries to interact.  This means that Leo tips his head to one side to be adorable and holding out a finger for sniffing.  Well, waving a finger.  He knows to do that but he doesn't have the speed right yet.  Ozzie then gets some pats and fawning and shortly thereafter escapes.  (I should mention that Ozzie is better with kids than any other cat that I've ever met.)
The other thing that will derail Leo's explorations is his blanket.  He is completely attached to his blanket and will search it out.  Yesterday it was on the other side of a baby gate and that fact drove him bonkers.  Drove me bonkers too until I figured out what he was trying to get. 
Leo is our explorer baby.  He climbs and climbs.  He's the first child to figure a way past the baby gate at the stairs.  We've found him on the dining room table and the stove.  Soon we'll find him on the refrigerator, no doubt.
I love the guy.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Yesterday I washed the van while the kids were in it.  I was doing my part to encourage it to rain.  Alas, no luck.  Before the wash, I gassed up and while I was doing that, I heard shouting from inside.  Someone was yelling something like 'daddy'.  I peered through the very dirty windows and put a finger over my lips to DF, in the 'quiet' sign.  Then I noticed LL's smiling face and gave him a smile in return and a wave. 
After the pump was done I went inside and paid for the car wash.  When I got back to the van, both Relia and DF told me that it was LL who was shouting 'Da-da!'.  He did so again, just to convince me that it wasn't a fluke. 
We're tough judgers of words here.  Before we credit a new word to one of our kids, we need it to be clear and in context.  No accidental ones for us!  This time he passed the test.  Da-da indeed.

(Of course I could have done without the honor the middle of last night when he woke up and screamed it until I came to settle him...)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Leonard's Rules for Writing

Some absolutely great stuff in here.  My favorite is:
If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.
Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can't allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. It's my attempt to remain invisible, not distract the reader from the story with obvious writing.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Our Baseball Weekend

I was going to write up our weekend out but the FP Gal did a great job so I'm just going to link.  There were many highlights, but getting a baseball was right up there. 


Watched a bit of a Felix the Cat cartoon this morning. A while later our DF quietly asked me "when was I a cat?".

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Third Core

Fascinating story from the last days of WW II.  I can't believe they weren't more careful with this stuff.

Saturday, August 10, 2013


On Friday night we went to Frontenac State Park.  ('Frontenac' is French for 'daddy long legs', of which we saw at least a million.)  We got to the camp site just after lunch and we were lucky that the previous tenants had already checked out.  We could go right in. 
We set up the new tent and another small tent that the FP Gal bought for the kids to play in.  We handed out whistles to the older kids in case they got lost in the woods.  Eventually we had take them back because they wouldn't stop 'practicing'.  LL got some jingle bells which we attached to his pants.  We were afraid that he'd hate them but he surprised us and loved them. 
Right connected to the back of our site was a path to In Yan Teopa rock. This led us down to the a couple of spots overlooking Lake Peppin.  I took the bigger kids down there and within minutes we saw two different bald eagles soar past!  We saw the rock from above.  It wasn't very impressive.  There was a path leading down but I said we had to wait for the FP Gal before we hogged all of the discoveries. 
We returned with her after the camp was all set up.  The path was long and difficult.  To be fair, there is a sign at the top that says so.  The FP Gal had LL on her back which made it even harder.  We made it some long ways (2/3rds?) down before we turned around and hiked back up. 
It was hot dogs for supper and then we explored the surrounding area.  We set a small fence up around the fire pit so we didn't have to wach LL every minute.  Not many small children in our area unfortunately.  Several camps had bicyclists who met up there and took off again in the morning.  We found the biffy and a very rough sandbox.  According to DF, the biffy was 'full of dead flies'.  And live ones, and other bugs including one live rock moth which scared the hell out of me!
A little before 7p, I took LL for a ride to see if he'd fall asleep.  He did and afterwards I transferred him to the pack and play in the tent.  The rest of us had s'mores.  Finally it was dark enough to get the other kids down.  We hoped to see some starts but clouds rolled in and we really didn't see any.
LL woke up some time in the middle of the night and the party was on!  The FP Gal finally took him to the car so the rest of us could sleep.  About 530a, Relia woke me so I could walk her down the bathroom.  When we got back, the FP Gal rejoined us in the tent and DF was awake.  Not the best night of sleep ever. 
This morning we broke camp and decided that everyone was too tired to stay there anymore.  We took the scenic route back through Wisconsin and now we're back. 

Thursday, August 08, 2013

This One Weird Trick (for putting kids to sleep)

I don't remember when I stumbled upon this, but it's been something of a lifesaver.  A couple of years ago I came across a copy of Kipling's 'Just So Stories'.  You know, the one about how the camel got its humps and so on.  The kids enjoy them, but they have trouble staying awake through them.
The stories are straight-forward but they have certain elements that bring on the drowsy.  Kipling has long phrases that he repeats several times.  For example, in the wonderful story about the Elephant's Child, he writes about 'the great grey-green greasy Limpopo river all set about with fever trees', again and again.  The phrase is wonderful but it has a certain lulling quality. 
Anyway, it works.  Usually one story will do it.  On hard nights (like tonight) I pull out the big guns.  I just gave Relia twenty minutes of the wonderful story, 'Kim'.  We read about poor orphaned Kim and his meeting with the Tibetan lama.  We read about the Lama and his journey to find a holy river.  Well, I read it.  I think she was out cold by then. 
Seriously, try it.  Get the unedited, full length version of some Kipling.  (It was written more than a hundred years ago, so you may need to do some editing of your own...)  But go out and get it.  You won't be disappointed. 

Saturday, August 03, 2013

More Olympic Opening Ceremonies

Well, well, well.  Seek and ye shall find.  Yesterday I wondered if other full opening ceremonies were online.  I then found a bunch of them listed under 'Olympic Ceremony Database'.  Obviously, I haven't had a chance to look through all of them yet, but the more recent ones are complete. 
Included is some footage from the very first modern Olympics, Athens 1896.  There is less than a minute of footage.  It looks verrrry 1896.  My guess is that the old ones are all just small clips. 
Internet, you have delivered again!

Friday, August 02, 2013

Vancouver Olympics

I've taken to YouTube in the mornings to find things to show the kids.  Lately that's been Olympics heavy for various reasons.  The other day I ran across this:

That's the full opening ceremony to the Vancouver Olympics.  In fact, it's the video that was given to various broadcasts.  Some three hours of it that the talking heads of NBC, Sky or whomever, would provide commentary for.  Which means that you, the viewer, can simply watch this on its own merits. 
I know that the full thing is some three hours long, but do take a minute to watch the first couple of minutes.  There is a long establishing shot over the Vancouver harbor.  Eventually it comes to the BC Place, which looks like an exact clone of the Metrodome.  (Let's see, BC Place was built from '81-'83.  The Dome was built from '79 to '82.  Different architects but obviously the same design.)
There are two musical highlights for me, the first about the 2:01:00 mark and the other about 2:36:00. 

This clip led me to an Olympic channel on YouTube.  I'm going to look for other full ceremony clips.  I don't know why they wouldn't put them up.  There is no possible protection issue, since the actual events are long over.  I'll let you know what else I find. 

Have a Great Friday

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Twins Game

(I thought about blogging in the past week about, well, a bunch of stuff, but I noticed that I had four posts for July and that seemed nice somehow.  Anyway, I think regular blogging will resume now.)

We took the older kids to a Twins game today. 

Relia has been excited for this, literally counting the days.  When she heard that it was in August, she quickly connected it to her birthday.  She's been talking about fields and baseball for weeks now.  That excitement continued as we went into the park.  I think she was a little overwhelmed by the people and the noise.  DF, on the other hand was hungry, tired and cranky.  Some hot dogs fixed that problem.
By the end of the second inning, the kids were completely ready to go home.  They didn't like sitting down.  They couldn't really follow what was going on.  And, worst of all, TC Bear was gone and there were no more mascots to watch.  We alternated going for walks with them.  And both of them can be brought around with some judicious tickling and attention.  They perked up.
DF conked out about the sixth inning.  I think the FP Gal did too.  We decided to leave after the seventh.  I carried DF for a bit and then the FP Gal took over.  He woke up and seemed fairly cheerful.  I think they both had lots of fun and will want to go again.
Well, we'll see.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


While we were camping this weekend (which I'll get around to writing about), the older kids played relentlessly with another couple of girls that were of similar ages.  During a quiet moment I got walk with DF.  We had a conversation that went something like this.

DF: Those pretty girls were fun to play with.
Me: You looked like you were having fun. (pause) They're pretty girls?
DF: Some of them.  Not all of them.

This is like a little peek at DF as a teenager, isn't it?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


I just put a Hawaiian shirt on DF.  It has something of a tropical scene, with a beachside city and some palm trees.  I asked him if he liked it and he said, "It says 'See, Atlantis is gone'. 
Where the heck did that come from?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Light Blogging

Today the FP Gal said she was amazed at how this blog had become.  I hadn't realized it, but it has been a couple of weeks since I last posted.  Which, wow.  I used to pride myself on a post a day.  I guess that isn't true anymore.
I'm going to look at some old entries and see if I can recapture the mojo or not.

Sunday, June 30, 2013


Today while in the car, DF said "We still haven't had any hippos at our house."  Which is completely true.  I got a mental image of a sign outside the door that says something like '1076 days without a hippo'.  Each day we could dutifully add one more to the number. 
And then we, the parents, could hope that the number never goes to zero.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Back from the Woods

I'm back from Pacem in Terris and I had a very peaceful time.  You can click through to their website if you'd like to see pictures (and it might make it easier for you to understand the place as I write about it). 
As I said, it was peaceful.  There was one big problem and I'll write about that up front.  The problem?  Bugs.  The weather for the past six weeks has been very wet and for the past couple of weeks mostly hot.  It's been the best possible breeding weather for insects and boy howdy, they've taken advantage of it!  This meant mosquitoes, spiders and even some cockroaches.  I have rather a large fear of bugs and it took me at least a full day to get over a panicky feeling that they were coming for me.  (Going to sleep the first night was rough.)  By the second morning, they were more a part of the environment for me.  If I'd been there a week, I probably would have named the roaches.
As to the place itself, the people could not be nicer and the cabins are quite nice.  I was greeted at the main building and had a short interview with a staff member.  She had suggestions on how to find peace and was very clear that hermits were on their own and weren't being judged.  Then I was driven to my cabin (maybe half a mile from the main building) and shown around it. 
You may want to consult a picture from the website now.  The cabin I was in was named for Catherine of Siena.  Each one has the same layout, one room with a bed and rocking chair and a large picture window.  On one side is a screen porch with another chair.  The cabins are private from each other and hermits are urged to be quiet and not disturb the others.  My window looked right out at a forest.  There were constant birds and on the last morning there were three deer between my cabin and the biffy!
The cabins are without electricity and running water.  I was given three gallons of clean water and I could have asked for more if needed.  There was a propane heater and a propane lamp.  I also lit candles.  The staff gave me a basket of bread, cheese and fruit (and I brought some stuff of my own to eat).  The main building is open from 8a to 8p every day.  You can hike down there for a private shower or to use the exercise room.  (Or to benefit from the a/c!)
Each day at 530p, guests can attend a dinner at the main building.  I did both days and they were some of the highlights of my trip.  On Wednesday night I met a young seminarian who is studying at the Vatican.  If they let me study at the Vatican, I'd strongly consider becoming Catholic myself!  I also got to know a couple of priests.  I enjoyed hearing them talk shop and they were patient with my questions about Catholic hierarchy.  I also met a married couple who were retreating together.  After dinner, they kissed each other goodbye until supper the next night and went back to their separate cabins. 
Pacem in Terris is a Catholic place but I never felt particularly pressured there.  They mentioned that a large number of hermits come from Bethel college.  I couldn't recite along with the prayers before and after the meal but that wasn't really a problem.  In fact, it was inspiring to be with genuine believers. 
I may go back, but if I do, it will probably be in a less buggy season.  They said that October is their busiest time.  The pictures in the winter look stunning.  If it sounds interesting, then I'd highly recommend it to you. 
I went looking for peace and quiet and I got two full days of it. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Off to the Woods

For the next two days I'll be here, by my self.  Very, very much looking forward to it.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Great Power Outage

We lost power Friday night.  A storm rolled in about 8p.  I'd just gotten the kids down to sleep when the first winds told us that something big was coming.  We just had time for a quick round up of open windows.  I put my phone on the charger 'just in case'.  Then the lights flickered and the power went out.
It was still plenty light out so we could watch the winds and rain.  We noticed some leaking from the seam where the porch joins the house so we quickly moved things out of the way.  We found the emergency radio (thanks Heidi!) and cranked it up.  Strong, strong winds outside.  I think I heard something about 70 mph winds.  The FP Gal said that it looked like a hurricane.  We set up candles and broke out some cards.
The whole storm passed through very quickly.  It was all done in less than half an hour.
We opened the window and could hear sirens going and going.  Police cars and firetrucks, but the sounds of it.  They went on for at least another half hour.  The FP Gal said that it was strange that they were close enough that we could hear them but they never seemed to get wherever they were going.
After a bit we ventured out to see the damage.  We could see a large branch down across the street, down into the street itself.  We took a short walk and saw some big trees down about a block from us.  We also found some shingles in the back yard but, lucky for us, they came from the neighboring house.
No power meant no fans or a/c in the house and it was a warm night.  It also meant no lights or clocks for the kids.  They woke up about 430a and I tried to gentle them down.  About 6a, the FP Gal took them out in the van to get some donuts for breakfast.  A little while later she picked up LL and myself and we went out to the MOA, where they had power.
Back home later in the morning.  We picked up some ice so that we could try and keep the fridge and freezer cold.  Fortunately, our power came back on about 1p.  Unfortunately, the internet was still down.  (Yes, I'm fully addicted.)
Overall, we were very lucky.  The weekend kind of sucked but it could have been much worse.  Our power was out for less than a day.  Some places have been out for days.  We could easily have had a damaged car or house and we didn't. 
We'll take those blessings, thank you very much.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Make Your Own Museum

Here is a story of a guy who is making art reproductions with a 3D printer.  What an amazing idea!  The future sure is an interesting place.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Happy Monday

A collection for you this time:
This one is from Relia.
The giant sequoia is from DF.
And, of course, an architectural fragment is my pick.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Monday, June 03, 2013

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

For the first time in many years, we're not heading down to Austin for the parade today.  I worked late last night and will work late tonight too.  That's just too much driving in too small of a space.  (Instead, I took the older ones down on Saturday.)
I want to take a minute to think of all of those who sacrificed and risked their lives for us.  The world would be immeasurably poorer without your valor.  Thank you.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tools for Kids

(via Instapundit)  Here is a list of suggestions for familiarizing your children with various tools.  Just last week we were talking about soldering irons!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

From April 2013, Part 2

Had a most enjoyable conversation with Felix on the ride home today. He's trying to wrap his head around his upcoming birthday and he was worried that he'd become 'too big'. He said that big Felixs don't eat and he didn't like that. When I pressed him he was worried that he would become too big to eat cupcakes. I told him not to worry about that anytime soon.

The kids were trying to pick a show to watch on the Netflix and they decided on 'Little Tyke's Land', a show based on the toy cars that kids can 'drive' around the yard. Sarah asked me if I'd watched it before. (Yes, this morning and it sucked in the way that gentle children's programming does.) I tried to steer her away from saying yes.
Me: Yeah, it's hyper-violent. Uses bad language.
Sarah: What??? Really?
Felix: Hyper-violent! Hyper-violent! I want hyper-violent!
Little pitchers, man, little pitchers have big ears. (We let them watch it.)

Q: What is the difference between Minnesota weather and an abusive relationship?
A: (pause) Well, there must be some difference surely . . .

New theory, maybe winter is going through some kind of Groundhog Day type event. If so we need to help it kiss Andie McDowell and break the cycle!

Did a little poking around online. Our highest temp of the year so far is 52, which we've hit twice in the last three weeks. The last time we had temps higher than 60? November 21. The next day (Thanksgiving) we had snow, and we've basically had it ever since. That means that as of Sunday, we'll have been in winter for the past *five* months.

Apparently Neil Diamond flew to Boston and went to Fenway Park to ask them if he could sing today. None of it was planned ahead of time.

Will it make any difference if we beat up a weatherman? And if so, who should we choose? [This proved to be a popular idea.]

Watching thick snow gather on the neighbor's roof. Kinda hating this winter. [April 22nd]

Me: Relia, time to get ready. Put some socks on.
Relia: Oh, I hate the word socks!
Me: (pause) Ok, put some cloth tubes on your feet.
Relia: (without missing a beat) Oh, I hate cloth tubes!

For the first time in (too many) months, I have the windows open at home. [April 25th]

I just realized how similar The Amazing Race is to a James Bond movie. Intersting locations and tasks. Thwarting roadblocks and u-turns. The only thing missing is Phil Keoghan congratulating the hero as he shacks up with the girl.

Monday, May 20, 2013

From April 2013, Part 1

Yay, Opening Day!

Watching 'The Imposters' on Netflix. The rest of you probably should be too.

The kids have discovered 'Samurai Jack'. I'm pretty sure that Felix is going to be sword fighting all day now.

Felix wanted to challenge Relia to a rolling pin fight. I choose to step in and say 'no'.

Inspired by Laurie, I'm trying to think of the last good love story movie that I've seen. Can't think of anything more recent than 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'. Has the last decade really been that lousy for love stories?

Oh no! Margaret Thatcher, RIP.

Need a suggestion. The wife has never seen a James Bond movie. There are a bunch of them on the Netflix this month. Which one should I start her off on?

All things being equal, I'd rather be done with the snow now, thank you. [From April 10th]

Just think, we're only seven weeks away from Memorial day and the start of summer.

I recently introduced the kids to the Powerpuff Girls. Love the show and they do too. The only problem is that it inspires them to run around the house pretending to fight bad guys. This drives me crazy.
So this morning, before I started an episode, I told them that if they started running around and fighting, I would turn it off. This prompted Felix to think a moment and say "Relia, we can just walk around and fight".
Oh, my clever kids!

Ah man, RIP Jonathan Winters.

Just introduced Pee Wee's Playhouse to the kids. This may not have been the best judgment...

The kids dumped their legos all over the playroom floor and I was forced to become the Sword of Parental Righteousness. I don't think anyone enjoyed it.

Man, today isn't a day to reaffirm faith in humanity. Thoughts and prayers to those in Boston.

Happy Birthday Pat! For your birthday, you can have one of our children, your choice!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

From March 2013

(May as well start bringing this up to date.)

PSA: If you ask them nicely, McDonalds will make you a half shamrock, half chocolate shake. And they're yummy.

This winter has been so active, that for the first time ever, the Weather Channel is up to the letter 'S' when naming winter storms.

Felix nap etiquette update: The little stuffed Wolverine doll should be tucked in and completely under the blanket. Otherwise it won't sleep.

Am I the only one, who, when watching Downton Abbey, is reminded more and more of Gone with the Wind?

After I explained what 'contrary' means, Relia decided that she is contrary. Maybe I did it wrong.

Can one of my Catholic friends help me out here? While there is no Pope, are all of the commandments still in force?

As you look at the snow outside, just remember, the Twins play their first home game in only 18 days.

Cee-Lo is kind of like the Liberace of modern pop music, isn't he?

We need an It Gets Better video for people who live in Minnesota in March.

I don't remember if March came in like a lamb or a lion. But it's currently acting like an arctic skunk.

On the car ride home with the boys, Felix was very quiet. When we stopped, I asked him if the cat got his tongue. He laughed and said no. Then he showed it to me and said, "I keep it in my mouth so the monsters don't get it!".

Relia just asked me where they speak pig latin. Despite my nature, I told her the truth.

Felix just learned a lesson about reaching in the back of Leo's diaper.
Relia's watching the 'X-Men' cartoon series. She just asked why they all wear belts. I decided that she's too young to learn about the awful comic book fashions of the 90's.

Sir Toppham Hat: Thomas, this time you've gone too far. You'll need to have a lobotomy. In fact, lobotomies for all of the trains!

Felix is playing with the doctor toys. He just walked up to me and said, "Daddy, I need to look in your pants". Before I could say anything, he put an otoscope in my pocket, peered in and told me I was fine.

As much as I love my children, I could really use about 48 hours when I don't hear the word 'daddy'.

Wait, Alex Trebek is retiring???

Friday, May 17, 2013

Have a Great Friday

From Naples, I believe.

More seriously, why is it that just about any city of size in Italy has worldwide recognizable landmarks while even fairly big modern US cities just look like, well, each other?  Think about it, in the US we have:
  • New York - several landmarks, most notably the Statue of Liberty and Empire State building.  
  • Washington DC - Washington Monument and several classical buildings like the White House and Capitol.
  • Chicago - with the, well, whatever they're calling the Sears Tower now.
  • St Louis - with the Gateway Arch
  • San Francisco - with the Golden Gate bridge
  • Seattle - with the Space Needle

You'd think that we would have more than that.  In fact, it's kind of crazy that Texas, where everything is BIGGER, doesn't have anything on the list.  (With the possible exception of the Alamo.  But I'm not sure that the Alamo stands out on the world stage.)  Surely some oil tycoon would fund something at some point.
Is it because the US isn't very old yet?  Or because we were founded after the era when landmarks were big and beautiful churches?  Do we not go in for this because they're not money makers?  Possibly we have nothing because the last century of art has failed us on some level.
I don't know the reason, but I find it kind of sad.