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.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Books to Read in your 20's

I'm a bit past the expiration date on this one, but I found the list interesting, none the less.  Here you go, enjoy.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Ahvenisto Swimming Pool

Yesterday I posted about some past Olympic sites.  Heidi asked about the swimming pool that was used in Helsinki.  I did some digging and found something interesting.  The article (on this point at least) is wrong.  I searched images for the Helsinki Olympics and found a different looking pool.  This site has pictures from the Olympics (scroll down a bit). 
Look at the diving structure.  Three levels, off set.  Now look at the picture from the article:
That's a different platform.  The one has a hill behind and the other doesn't.  And the stands look further away.  If you look at the Wikipedia article on the 1952 Olympic venues, you get here
Which matches the first picture exactly.  In other words, it's still in use and looks great. 

I'm not sure exactly what happened here but it looks like someone took some pictures of Ahvenisto Swimming Pool back in 2008 and said that it was the abandoned Olympic site.  At least four different articles reference it, most likely all based on each other. 
A comment in this one, says "This Lake Ahvenisto was the venue of Modern Pentathlon and athletics swam the swimming part in this pool. As you can see from picture is rather bad condition, and there has been discussion of repairing it, but who's gonna pay the renovation."  So maybe I've been looking in the wrong place!
Back to Wikipedia, it says that the Mod Pent for 1952 was held in a Finnish city called Hameenlinna.  Google maps puts Ahvenisto right outside of Hameenlinna so that could very well be right.  A close zoom on the map here shows what certainly looks like the abandoned pool. 
Instead of a grand sweeping conclusion about how Finland allowed their Olympic sites to decay, I think we can conclude that one piece of a satellite competition is abandoned and going back to nature.  That blunts the impact, at the very least. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

After the Olympics

Here are some fascinating photos of Olympic sites, after the games.  You'd expect some of them to fall into disrepair after some time but it happens surprisingly quickly.  Many of the sites are single use only and after the games stop, that use goes away.  The kayak section in Beijing is a perfect example. 
Any cities that bid on the games should keep pictures like this firmly in mind.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

The Great Gatsby (Again)

Careful: Spoilers!

I read 'The Great Gatsby' a few years back, when I was doing my Great American Novel reading.  It was the first time reading it and the review is here.  I said that the story is 'slight' and, truth be told, so was my review.  One of the reading groups that I follow chose it for the month of May so I reread it last week.  I've been thinking about it quite a bit since then.
As I was getting ready for the reread I realized that I couldn't remember very much about it.  All I could recall was a) I'd had a favorable impression, b) the story took place on Long Island and New York City of the 1920's and c) the story was told by Gatsby's neighbor.  That was it.  My previous review was from early 2007 so in six years, almost all of it had fallen out of my head.
I wanted this time to be different.  I took my time reading.  Pausing and rereading paragraphs a few times if needed until I felt comfortable that I got the message.  I did no more than two chapters a day.  The story is short and you could easily knock it out on a medium length airplane ride.  But I didn't want to do that.  I wanted to dig in and really 'get it'.  I even decided to bug the FP Gal and keep talking about it with her so that I could bounce things off of her.
There were reviews out there for me to read, but I very consciously waited until I was done before I read them.  This review, from my reading group leader, Sam Jordison, stresses the difference between youth and mortality.  This review, from a different Guardian writer, dwells on how the false promise of the American dream.  She talks about how Gatsby's money would have protected him today.
A review from a different ideological quarter, comes from Reason magazine.  This one argues that 'Gatsby' is still relevant today because the 20's were the beginning of what we recognize as modern America.  This was when city life became the dominant feature and (most recently) when the melting pot was in full blast.  Gatsby is new money and self made but really, anyone else could be self made too.
All three reviews are worth reading.  Here are my thoughts:
  • 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.
  • I tend to think that if the title character of a story dies, it's probably a tragedy.  Did Gatsby deserve to die?  No.  He didn't do anything that warranted death.  He was no saint, of course, but what were his sins?  He lied and invented a new life.  He was involved in some kind of crime but it was most likely smuggling.  That's far different than thoroughly immoral things like prostitution or murder.  
  • Gatsby is New Money and Tom Buchannan is Old Money, right?  So Old Money murders New Money out of a combination of jealously and contempt.  Tom is of course upset about the affair with Daisy, but he's also upset (more so?) over Gatsby's past.  He's not of the same social circles and Tom makes it clear that this is a problem.  If the theme is the unreachable American Dream, is there a suggestion that Old Money won't let New Money have that dream?  Possibly, but doesn't that make it seem like a much smaller book?
  • When I read this book before I was struck by how empty the rich people were.  Same thing this time.  Before he learns about the affair, the only thing that riles up Tom is some high concept book that he has read about other races.  He's having an affair of his own but it almost seems like a habit for him, more than something he is passionate about.  Daisy and Jordan present shallow facades as if depth would be too low class.  
  • Gatsby himself is presented as fairly empty, but I wonder if that's fair.  It's easy for me to picture a man consumed by an earlier love who just doesn't have the energy to discuss other things.  He's obsessed with Daisy, or at least he's obsessed with their earlier encounters, to the point that almost everything else is secondary.  That rings completely true for me.  Nick wants more from him, but that's because Nick doesn't feel that same obsession.  It's easy to become bored while watching someone else's love affair.
I'm very curious what I'll think of this story five years down the road from now.  


The other day while driving the boys home, DF saw a motorcycle with a passenger. 

DF: Two of them!  I didn't know you could have two of them on a motorcycle!
Me: Yep.  You have to be very careful though. 
DF: Careful?
Me: Yeah, so you don't crash.  (pause)  Could you be careful?
DF: (after thinking) If I was on a motorcycle, I'd be careful.  I wouldn't push the fast button!

Wednesday, May 08, 2013


I love, love, love this wonderful fan made video celebrating Mythbusters.  Fine stuff!

Remembering Heinlein

My favorite author, Robert Heinlein, died twenty-five years ago today.  In May of 1988 I was just finishing up eighth grade.  One of my friends at school came up to me the day after his death and told me he was sorry about what had happened.  I don't think I'd heard about it yet (the news being what it was in the dark days before the internet).  I was always carrying a book with me at school and I'd been steadily working my way through all of the Heinlein I could buy in Austin.
I read and reread (and reread) all of his books that I could get my hands on.  They were a very important part of my teenage years.  I'll be passing them on to my kids when they're old enough.  The world would be better off with more of his common sense. 
He was instrumental in bringing about the rocket age of the United States.  He was one of the foundational figures in science fiction.  He was loved by both the military folks of the 50's and 60's and was one of the key figures of the new age movement.  Not a lot of people can say that!

RIP, RAH.  You're sorely missed.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Derby Day!

You know the drill, pick a horse and cheer it on:

Oxbow 23-1
Revolutionary 5-1
Golden Sould 31-1
Normandy Invasion 7-1
Mylute 13-1
Giant Finish 39-1
Goldencents 6-1
Overanalyze 14-1
Palace Malice 24-1
Lines of Battle 33-1
Itsmyluckyday 9-1 (wears pink)
Falling Sky 39-1
Verrazano 9-1
Charming Kitten 29-1
Orb 7-1
Will Take Charge 29-1
Frac Daddy 23-1
Java's War 22-1
Vyjack 36-1

Friday, May 03, 2013

Have a Great Friday


I had a little chat with DF yesterday:

Me: Love you!  (pause) Do you love daddy?
DF: Course!
Me: And mommy?
DF: Course!
Me: What about Grandma D?
DF: (big smile on his face) No!  She's too famous!
Me: Too famous?  What about Nana?
DF: She's too famous too!
Me: What about Grandpa?
DF: Course!
Me: And Pop-pop?
DF (another big smile) He's too strange!

He's still trying to figure out language.  A little bit later he said 'course' he loves his other grandparents too.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Life Hacks

Click here for some handy suggestions on ways to make your life easier.  Caution, the list is long and you'll keep finding clever things!

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Happy Birthday DF!

There are lots of things that I love about my dear DF, but lately I've loved how he is playing with language.  Yesterday in the car we listened to the Jellybug song again and when it was done he told me that it wasn't a slow song.  He then struggled to find the right way to describe it, eventually landing on the word 'loud'.  That, by the way, is a word that suits him to a T right now. 
It's been a good first three years and I'm looking forward to many, many more.