Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Man in Tights

I am all by myself tonight. The girls are asleep and Tegan is fighting her sinus infection problems, so everyone is upstairs.

What am I doing to pass the time? You're reading it!
What else am I doing? Experiencing the glories of the original Superman movie, complements of the A&E network. Right now I am watching the Superman/Lois flying scene and she's about to start thinking in her head "Can you read my mind?" (Oddly, Lois thinks in rhyme. A signal of the regrettable madness that would later cripple Margot Kidder?) Remember that this scene comes right after Superman has started exposing himself as a superdude all around town and catching the bad guys. So, "Supes" thought it was best to use the Daily Planet's best reporter to present his heroic manifesto to His chosen city. Also recall that during her brief question and answer session on her penthouse balcony she asks him what color panties she is wearing (Dirty!). And he can't answer at first because she is standing behind a lead planter. But he later answers "pink" when she moves (Perv!).

Anyway . . . speaking of Superman. Did you know that "Superman Returns" opens in a movie theater near you next year. It's been in the news lately--on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. There are also lots of details on this informational website, or through my sometimes nemesis James Lileks, who mentioned this interesting video in this post.

Right now I have switched from Superman to FX to see what trouble Morgan Spurlock is stirring up on "30 Days." In this episode, a Christian from West Virginia is going to spend a month living with a Muslim family in Dearborn, Michigan. During this time he will pray 5 times a day, wear some Muslim clothes (at least while traveling through the airport from WVA to MI), grow a beard, study the Koran, etc.

The Christian (named Dave) has just found out that while his Muslim host is at work--he appears to be a doctor--he has to leave the house. He can't stay at home alone with the host's wife. So, he is shopping for proper Islamic clothes.

While watching the show I also checked my news feeds and found a story on an reality show that I have heard about, but just realized that it is similar in some ways to Spurlock's "30 Days." Strangely, it has received controversy but I don't think the FX show has.


Oh, another thing that I have been meaning to post, but didn't. I found this website a few days ago and found it rather interesting. I am not surprised that my ecological footprint is bigger than it should be. If everyone lived like me we would need almost FIVE earths! (And I even carpool almost every day and generally go everywhere with my wife.)


I should be working on my work project . . . doing some research of Mongols. But I can't get myself to care about it right now. I can't force myself to cut my mind off from everything else and sufficiently emerge it in that "work" mindset. It is so much more interesting and distracting to work of this post and contemplate the trials of Muslims in America. The drawback, of course, is that my laptop is heating up my thighs.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Stress, Lies, and Stomachaches

Today felt like one of those kind of days.

Last Friday when I got home there was a message from Ruth's pediatrician, reminding Tegan and I that Ruth had her two-year-old checkup on Monday. I noted it at the time and hoped that I would remember. I didn't do anything to make that happen except refrain from deleting the message from the answering machine.

This morning, in the daily grind of getting the kids ready for school and getting ourselves ready for work, I almost forgot. As we were exiting the house and getting in the car I remembered, but I didn't know what time the appointment was for. So, I ran back inside and listened to the message again (hooray for foresight!). It was for 1 pm.

Tegan had already started stressing about work, so I felt that it was my turn to take one for the team and take Ruth to her appointment. I knew that I had one meeting with my team at work, but that was in the morning. Other than that (and Tegan's softball game in the evening, I was golden . . . or so I thought.)

When I got to work, I discovered that an email sent on Friday (when I was out doing market research) was up in the air. Schedules had to start getting finalized on the massive project that I am overseeing this year and so the painful finalization was getting underway. I had already set up an informal meeting with the members of my team and this little meeting turned into a larger meeting with my manager and other people in the workflow. I got a bit stressed about it all, mostly because it was forcing me to confront what I had accomplished with this project and what has not been done. And in the process of getting these ducks in a row, I immediately began worrying about whether I was doing everything right. And since dates were finally being discussed and finalized . . well, it was all a bit disconcerting.

I am always on the edge of being worried about stuff, ready to worry about what I am doing wrong, ready to second-guess myself and assign blame (to me). So, when meetings get these sorts of decisions out in the open, I worry about it.

But . . . after all of that, I think things went fairly well. And the members of my team got a chance to hear some things discussed that I hope will let them see that what they are doing is important. It might sharpen their work habits a bit more.

And then, I had to take Ruth to the doctor. This involves picking her up from daycare, driving about 15 miles to our old residence in Hilliard to see our pediatrician. Even though we don't live there anymore, we haven't had reason to go to another doctor (except for days like today when I have to devote about two hours of my day to the trip down, the visit, and the trip back). And to make things even more exciting, I had to get back by 2:30 for another meeting that I had forgotten. And that was going to be tight. If I got stuck in the waiting room for any reason, I was seriously screwed.

Luckily that didn't happen and Ruth is in fine shape.

But, all the quick driving back and forth and the underlying stress of the entire affair, plus the extreme heat of a June afternoon brought back some bad memories.

Out of nowhere I started thinking of that very bad day three years ago when Tegan and I found out that she was having a miscarriage. She had not been feeling well all weekend and so we went to the doctor and heard the very bad news. After that, we had to schedule the grim procedure of completing the process that Tegan's body had already begun. And that meant some scrambling about.

Because Ariel was in daycare that day and this appointment was stretching into the afternoon, we had to figure out what to do about all of this. We had to go to the hospital and were able to contact our friends J & J. They graciously accepted the responsibility of looking after Ariel that night because I wasn't going to let Tegan go through this alone and I didn't want Ariel around for this. In order to make all this happen, T and I had to drive from the doctor main office to our house, throw some clothes together for Ariel, get her from school and take her to our friends house.

It was all this driving and stress and fear that brought these memories back today. I remember driving quickly (and probably angrily); I remember worrying that I was going to overheat the car (I think I did screw up the brakes that day). The whole experience was something I didn't want to remember very vividly . . . and some of it came back to me today. I wish it hadn't.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Sunday update

If you haven't read my post from earlier today, you really should read that one first. Otherwise, you'll simply be LOST.

So, after everyone rested, we gave Ruth her cupcake and let her open her presents. The main present was a LeapFrog item called a Word Whammer. It allows the child to spell three letter words by putting a magnetic letter in one of three slots. The machine can sound out each letter and if the word forms one of about 350+ words, it will pronounce it. Of course, there are limits to these words. Some three-letter words (such as ass) for example, have been blocked from pronunciation by the fine people at LeapFrog. It will still pronounce each letter, but won't go any further than that, so DON'T TRY IT!

(Oh, and by the way, that also goes for God. It wasn't spelled out as such in the instructions, but we experimented and found it to be the case.)

After all that was over, Tegan needed to do some work and so I took the girls to the mall to let them play. They had a pretty good time and I think that they are learning to play together more. They enjoy playing tag with each other more, even though Ruth refused to put down her other birthday present (some Dora the Explorer books) while she was running around. She looked kind of funny trying to run and climb amidst all of the other kids while carrying her little box of books.

I tried to get the books away from her, asking kindly mind you, but she didn't want to give them up. So, I just let her go about her business.

So, that's it for today. . . . Yeah, this post just sort of petered out into nothing.

Sunday Silences

Today is Ruth's second birthday. Tegan is trying to get her to take her afternoon nap right now and when she gets up (and when Tegan gets up from her own nap) and when Ariel and I are done "resting" then the four of us will gather to eat some special birthday cupcakes and open some birthday gifts. It should be an engaging afternoon.

My primary feeling right now is, I am tired! Ariel got me up at 7 am yesterday and 7:30 this morning. I was busy last night with Spec, getting my laptop and iTunes up to speed (thanks my friend). Tegan is just generally tired . . . she never gets enough sleep when she is trying to keep up with work. So, overall . . . tired is the emotion of the day around here.

We thought out going to Comfest yesterday (a community arts, music, whatever festival) but by the time Ruth was done with her nap it looked like it might storm a bit (it never really did). But it was awfully hot and humid. So we decided to go to the (indoor) pool instead. Our membership is about to expire there and we want to maximize whatever we can before we waste all that money we shelled out last summer. And, remember, we thought it might rain a bit.

We got there at 5 pm and found out that they close the pool between 5-6:30 . . . so, we managed to make the kids understand and then went and got some food to kill time. When we got back, approximately 6:15, we let the kids play a bit on the jungle gym in the lobby of the community center. And then we played in the pool for about an hour and a half. It was especially nice since Ruth got wet and played a bit in the pool this time. Maybe we'll make her feel comfortable in another month or so (and I'm only half kidding there).

So, that's where we are today. I hope whomever reads this is having a nice weekend.


One good bit of news, well actually two good bits of news.

Number one, thanks to hard work by Tegan and phone consultation with her dad, we have the internet all complete and everything is completely up to snuff. That means that we also have the laptop working wirelessly (I am writing this on the couch listening to Mulan sing). The other bit of good news is Blogger related. You may remember that I was a little disappointed that the Apple web browser (Safari) didn't display all of the buttons that I had grown accustomed to using when making my new blog posts. Well, I downloaded Mozilla Firefox and am using it to write my new blog posts. All of the buttons are there and everything is as I remember it. Which is good and will help me do things I had grown accustomed to without relearning stuff.

Also, Blogger has mentioned on its news page that they have upgraded your ability to post pictures. You can find pictures on your own computer and select and format them without having to use a different program (such as Hello) to get pictures on the web. So, that streamlines things even more. The picture that was put at the top of this post was added through this new picture button. It was done much quicker and I hope it encourages you all to add more images to your posts.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Tennis on the misty moors

Tonight, as I do just about every Thursday when the weather is fine, I gathered at a local park for the weekly tennis throwdown. The usual tennis complement includes SS, Spec, Jack Thunder, Raisinette, TP, Shirtless, and Dr. Actually. Tonight it was only SS, TP, Spec, Raisinette, and Jack.

Even though the temperature was in the upper 80s and the humidity was fairly high, we handled ourselves okay. But there was one strange bit of business. About an hour into the match what do you think we heard drifting across the play fields? No guess?

Normally you would say random 14 year old girls cheering like it was a football game (and sadly they are not cheering for, nor watching us play). For at the park that we frequent, there are always two softball games going on in the evening. And, for whatever reason, these girls cheer everything--especially doubles. Every time someone hits one they chant "_______ got a double and we've gotta shout it!" or something like that. All you have to remember is that it is distracting and annoying.

But tonight, in addition to that noise, we had the aforementioned new noise--something that I don't think you would guess if you tried for two hours--BAGPIPES!

It was a bit of a shock. The dude was just standing by himself under a picnic pavilion, pointed away from the tennis courts, the kids play area, the basketball courts, and the softball fields. Maybe he was conjuring up the misty moors of Scotland . . . I dunno, but he played off and on for about twenty-five minutes.

The repertoire included "Amazing Grace" (natch), something that sounded like "When the Saints Go Marching In" (but only played somewhere around three-quarter speed), and something else that I couldn't identify.

I rather liked the unexpectedness of it all, but I think it bothered some of my courtmates. Oh well. These things makes life worth living; well, that and a reliable forehand.

In other news, I found out today (via Stretch) that my blog has been featured on a different site. You can see the link here and then scroll down about a third of the way to the bottom. The website picked up a description of our travels this past Christmas. Stretch was looking for my site, Googled "Why Won't You Grow" and found this link. I didn't know anything about this until today. I am excited and perplexed about the whole thing. As to what is going on at this site, I couldn't begin to tell you. It almost has the feel of an automated search engine that just pulls random stuff together if it fits pre-selected criteria.

But, that's okay, because that is how I write this stuff anyway.

Geek Chic?

I was searching for some pictures of a Newsweek Spiderman story on the magazine's website this morning (and YES, it was work-related) when I ran across this interesting little toss-off piece of web journalism.

I don't really disagree with the thrust of the article, but it feels like it should have been written last year or something. There is a dated feel about it.

But, will the geek really inherit the earth? Somehow, I doubt it. I mean, if you put it in national terms, who are people going to vote for . . . Napoleon Dynamite or Tom Cruise?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Metro Parkin'

Tonight one of Ariel's friends had his fifth birthday party. It was at Highbanks Metro Park.

Ariel, Ruth, Tegan, and I joined Jacob and probably fifteen of his closest friends and relations (and all of the accompanying parents) deep in the northwest corner of the park to roast hotdogs, eat fruit salad and chips, drink lemonade, make smores, play baseball, throw a frisbee, run around, and eventually take a walk through one of the wood trails to skip rocks on the bank of the Olentangy River.

It was loads of fun and a great night to be outdoors.

I would write more, but I am pretty tired right now. It's a shame that I am out of steam, because I so rarely get to do stuff like this (or I so rarely TAKE the time to do stuff like this) that I should spend more time describing it. I am sure that Sven Golly for example, could really make this night come alive . . . but I just end up slapping together something that sounds like an itinerary.

(Sorry for the self-criticism and the self-pity, but I really am tired.)

Lileks must die so that I can live

I know that I live a very ordinary and typical life.

Frankly, I have intentionally taken steps throughout my life to achieve that very end.

But, it is damaging when you are confronted with the exact scope of your ordinariness and the carbon-copyness of who you are and what you do.

Let me explain.

In one of my recent posts I mentioned that I had bought a Macintosh and that I was a Mac fan from way back. Heck, I even referenced the 1984 "Big Brother" Super Bowl commercial. So, right there I was establishing my bona fides for being a non-conformist, right?

But . . . see, that's wrong. I'm (apparently) a blue, button-down, khaki pants wearing member of the freakin' establishment. Want proof? Well, look no further than the website of the esteemed James Lileks, or as I might start calling him, Darth Burb (or maybe Bizarro Burb or anti-Burb or something of that nature).

If you visit his site--which I know some of you already have--you might see that Mr. Lileks and I share similarities.

I write about the banalities of my day and the activities of my kids (even with "aliases" to protect the innocent . . . and so does he.
I have recently written about Star Wars . . . and so has he.
I have published books on pop culture in the early decades of the twentieth century . . . no, wait, only he has done that . . . so far as YOU know.

I mean, this guy would PROBABLY spend several days complaining about his faulty air conditioning--assuming that anything ever goes wrong in his idyllic world of familiar/internet perfection!

I worry that I am going to be heading down a rabbit hole of endless comparisons. Just last night I spent a small amount of time scanning some of his archived posts and (because I'm in a receptive mood, thanks to this post theme, I saw some interesting comparisons.)

To wit:
1. He is a Star Wars and Star Trek fan.
2. He loves Apple products and I am a recent (re)convert.
3. His child was born in 2000. Ariel was also born in 2000.
4. He constantly peppers his observations with media references, music, etc.

Does he have a codependent relationship with his friends? I wonder.

What am I saying here? As much as I hesitate to do it, and shudder to contemplate the possibility, I feel that Mr. Lileks (no matter how well intentioned he might be) must be "dealt with."

Only then can Burb flourish and watch his blogging empire grow!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Playing catch up

There have been many things going on with me lately, and I haven't been discussing them much on the blog. Most of it has involved changes around the house and dealing with service technicians. We finally got the air conditioning resolved last Friday and the house has been a lot more bearable since.

Most of the other changes have been computer-related. I finally bought a laptop--an Apple iBook. I like it a lot and am enjoying the portability that it affords both me and Tegan. And I am excited with the idea of actually blogging on something in real time, a prospect that I have wanted to do but have never been able to do before. Of course, I can't take the computer with me to the movie theater unless it is a WiFi hotspot. But, I really don't plan to do that. I would like to do some things during the next big presidential election or during the Academy Awards. Anyway . . . some day.

Because the laptop is an Apple product I am having to relearn a lot of things that I forgot in the previous ten years that I have been using Microsoft--or what I now refer to as "The Lost Decade." For, you see, I grew up a Mac fan. I remember the iconic 1984 Macintosh commercial that started it all for the company and set the standard for all Super Bowl advertising for years afterwards. I always preferred Apple to IBM or other Microsoft machines. The first computer I ever bought in college was a Macintosh Color Classic. It had the original boxy design of the first Macintoshes, the small built in screen (but in color!), a whopping 8 MB (!!!) of memory on the hard drive. Suffice it to say that it was obsolete even before I left the store with it that day. But, it was mine and I wrote many school papers on it and valiantly tried to get it to run a Star Trek: The Next Generation screen saver.

So, I've been a Macolyte for a long time (and as anyone who knows me can attest, I LOVE style over substance). And, when I got the iBook, I also got that gadget of gadgets--the iPod! It is sooooo cool, you just don't understand. (Right now I am writing this post and storing all of my CDs into the laptop for eventual transfer to my iPod. That way I can carry ALL of my music with me. One strong reason for getting the iPod is that when we are driving in the car, I can select a custom-made playlist that alternates a Sesame Street song with something from the Shins, then Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, and then Radiohead. Go ahead, call me shallow if you want, but I'll do just about anything to avoid the 856th repetition of "The Best of Elmo."

But, adding a Macintosh to my life does have its challenges. I am having to relearn the keyboard shortcuts and key combinations that are so critical to proper operation on a Mac--especially since the laptop doesn't have a mouse. I am so used to right clicking for this and that and this laptop doesn't have that capability. So, I have to remember which buttons to hold down to accomplish the same tasks.

And the steps that have become so second nature to creating a blog post or inserting a picture or other things are now done differently. Its all a little bit disorienting right now, but eventually I'll get used to it.

Solar Sailing

Originally uploaded by PRPL33.
I found this image on a web site today.

It looks pretty cool and I am a bit surprised that Dr. Actually hasn't already alerted me and Perk to this upcoming event.

We space nerds have to stick together, after all. Click on the post title to read the original article.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Musings for Father's Day

Today is Father's Day. I think that for a very long time I wanted to be a father. And the reason for that has to be (in part) because of my own dad.

I have lots of memories of him. People that don't know him well might think he is really stern. He sometimes comes across of quiet and my friends always felt that he was kind of scary. But I think he intentionally cultivated that persona.

I think of my dad as a very sensitive man, sometimes prone to emotion. I know that I have seen him cry (but the times definitely warranted it). He is anything but mean. Determined, yes. Full of conviction, yes. But never an angry man.

But that all sounds bad, doesn't it? (Sorry dad!) I can think of a time in college when we were working in the corn fields on a very hot August day, harvesting dried up corn for further research. He was several rows ahead of me, picking the good ears and leaving them at the end of each row. I would come along behind him and tag each row and close the bag. One one particular row, I found a red tag with no ears. Dad had left me a note that read "No ears. Love, Dad." I am sure it doesn't sound this way to you, but I found it extremely funny on that very hot August day, just the two of us along in a dry field of corn. I kept that tag and put it in my scrapbook. I still have it today.

I remember Dad teaching me to swim in a hotel pool (probably in the Atlanta area, while on the way to Kentucky). I remember his madras swim trunks and his pronounced farmer's tan.

I remember Dad always working in the yard, cultivating plants, mowing, watering. We have always had great looking yards.

I remember helping Dad create a trellis a few years ago during a visit home. I helped a bit, but I remember how he planned, measured, cut, nailed. I enjoyed being there with him.

My Dad is a great man and I am blessed to be one of his sons. If I am a good father, you can thank him for his influence and his constant example.

Look at what my family made me for Father's Day!
A chocolate cake shaped like a remote control!
It tastes as great as it looks!

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Batman Begins

(As usual, I should take a notebook with me into the theater, but I don't' get paid to look like a dork.)


First of all, I must emphasize that I am eminently qualified to give my measured and experienced review of Batman Begins. When I was 17, I was thrilled by the original Tim Burton movie. I was a junior in high school that summer (was it released in the summer?). I owned a pair of Converse-brand specially made Batman canvas high top sneakers that I wore to the opening night premiere in my home town. They were black with the gold Bat Signal all over them. I enjoyed Batman Returns,tolerated Batman and Robin, and charitable loathed Batman Forever. To go even further, I own several Batman graphic novels, ranging from "Batman: Year One" which the screen play to this movie owes several obvious debts, to "The Killing Joke," "The Dark Knight Returns," and "D2K."

Was I pleased with Batman Begins? You bet I was. It was equal to the excellent movie first made by Tim Burton, if intentionally made very differently. Christopher Nolan goes about his filmmaking VERY differently than Burton, and their vision of the Bruce Wayne/Batman dynamic are very different, so the two films are very different. But Nolan did a great job of showing us a very human and very real Batman. Which is appropriate since this movie is of beginnings and learning how to be the best Batman you can be. So reality is what is needed. Of course, some criticize that we don't want our superheroes to be real--that's not the point and its kind of lame to do so. But that doesn't bother me.

Of course, there were things that did bother me:

  1. Katie Holmes was not necessarily something that bothered me. She as least was mercifully scream free, so I was spared the flashbacks to Kim Basinger. But, she was no Kirsten Dunst!
  2. Every time they did the cloud of bats thing, the theater speakers melted my ears--TOO LOUD!
  3. I wondered how Alfred and Bruce could begin constructing the Batcave without attracting undue attention from outsiders. Luckily they put in a scene where they set up a system to shunt their orders for batmasks, cape materials, and other paraphenalia through a dummy Wayne Enterprises account. Otherwise they would have to kill every Fed Ex truck driver and furniture contractor that brought stuff to Wayne Manor.
  4. There weren't any bat poles, just dissonant piano chords.
  5. They kept mispronouncing Ra's Al Ghul. They said Ra's like "raise" when it should be more like "rasche."
  6. The ending/foiling of the villain's plan just sort of . . . stopped. I didn't feel it was resolved.
  7. There are other things that I thought of, but I didn't write them down.

Other observations:

  • You wouldn't know that Christopher Nolan had directed Memento, except that the title and the credits came at the very end of the film.
  • The movie had a great cast of good people. Christian Bale did a good job, though at the beginning when he was jailed in the oriental prison camp, I flashed back to Empire of the Sun. Gary Oldman was very understated as a very ordinary James Gordon. Not the typical Oldman, but good anyway.
  • There were interesting oppositions between this movie and last year's Spiderman 2. In S2, Peter saves the people on the subway train and gets knocked out. The grateful New Yorkers lift him above their heads and gently put him on the ground. But,while Batman is trying to save the day down in the Narrows, he is overcome by fear-crazed Gothamites.
  • At the end of S1, Peter tells Mary Jane that he can't love her (in order to protect her from enemies). At the end of BB, Rachel (Katie Holmes) tells Bruce that she isn't interested in loving a vigilante and will wait until Gotham no longer needs Batman. A nice bit of role reversals.

I feel that I am forgetting things that should be said. But, I'll end by saying that it was a very good movie, well done by everyone involved. Was it better than the Spiderman movies . . . as Flipper asserted? I don't think so. Was it good? Absolutely.


In other movie news . . . the most surprising and unexpected event of the night at the movies was the trailer for Serenity. I never saw that coming I can tell you. I was a big fan of the show before Fox cancelled it after twelve episodes. There was always rumor of Joss Whedon making a movie, but I didn't keep track of it all. So, I was really surprised when the trailer started spooling out in front of me. Consider yourself warned . . . buy the DVD, and get ready to see the movie!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The online community

There has been a lot of discussion in some media lately about the communal power of the internet.

The cover story in this week's BusinessWeek, for example goes into this in great detail.

In that article there is mention of wikis. Community-built websites in which everyone can have a say. Probably the most famous example of a wiki is, the constantly updated, edited, questioned online encyclopedia.

Well, I found another wiki that seems attractive to me and one that demonstrates the "power" behind this notion of internet community.

WikiHow aims to make the largest "how-to manual" in the world. If you know to replace a carburetor, go on this site to explain it. If someone got there before you, make sure they got it right and edit it if they made a mistake. Do you need to know how to carve a coconut? No problem.

The argument make by BusinessWeek is kind of compelling and subversively threatening to the status quo. By giving individuals a voice, what happens to authority? And what happens if you follow someone else's advice on how to change your carburetor and then your engine blows up? Who do you sue?

The magazine article is long, but worth it. And let me know what you think.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Ariel's HOT artwork

Today wasn't too bad, AC wise.

The humidity fell a bit and the drizzle of rain (throughout most of the day) kept the temperatures lower.

I had been worried about being in the house a lot with the windows closed (to keep what cool air we have inside), but the fans were running and we also turned on the AC fan to keep the air circulating.

In short, we are managing.

So, what am I doing now? Well, there's nothing to watch on TV and if I try to read a book, I'll just fall asleep. So, I am wasting time on the internet, vainly looking for new websites to read stuff on LOST, trying to think of something to post about. (As I type this, the LOST website I am on--via another window--keeps loading and sounds of Lostzilla trumpeting and smashing trees, along with people screaming, is serving as the backdrop to this typing.)
I do have some new scanned pictures from Ariel. A few days ago I picked her up at daycare and noticed she had several pages all with a new style running throughout them. I'll post them below so you can see what I mean.

First there is this one, which I think shows the Easter bunny. But it might be something else. What is going on here that you will see throughout most of these is a division of the page into segments . . . sometimes related, sometimes not.

Now take this one, for instance. I asked Ariel what this one was and she replied, "It's a cherry game. You match the letters (in the circular cherries) with the other letters." Here again, you see dividing the page into groups and a strong element of letters. Writing uppercase and lowercase letters is one of Ariel's newest drawing passions. Hardly any drawing goes by without a group of letters, her name, and the name of some of her friends being placed on the page somewhere.

This one is my favorite in this group. It is (according to Ariel) full of recipes for cake, chocolate cookies, etc. If you look carefully, you can see the squiggly lines that, I think, represent the instructions for the recipe along with drawings of either each ingredient or a picture of the final product. And Tegan pointed out to me later that the letters drawn also have an important purpose.

And then, of course, there is this picture. I thought I knew what this was (Godzilla rampaging) and was wondering how she knew about this particular cultural reference that I have never shared with her. But I was wrong. It is a "Shrek video game," she assured me. It appears that Shrek is the unfortunate soul being torched by the dragon (a girl dragon, if you remember the movie). Donkey is the blockish figure that is seemingly walking a tightrope above, but I think my scanner cut that part of the image off a bit. I found this picture odd because we haven't seen Shrek or discussed it in quite a long time. I am thinking that one of her friends must have mentioned it that day.


One last item, in this most random of posts.

On Friday, while trying to work, I got a bit hungry and bought a candy bar from the vending machine. I decided to go with the Snickers bar with almonds.

It was good, and I ate it while wondering why this was created to replace one of my other favorite candybars--the Mars bar. If you think about it, this is the Mars bar, adjusted a bit to make it a Snickers. But the wrapper color is identical to the old Mars bar wrapper. (And by the way, what marketing genius signified that all items with almond gets this color?)

Anyway, I'm eating the Snickers when I catch a look at the ingredients list.

Do you see it? Down at the bottom of the ingredients list, in nice bold letters. MAY CONTAIN PEANUTS.

Excuse me? Reread that list of ingredients. Are peanuts listed? No, they are not!

Now, I know why that boldfaced phrase is there. Some people have severe peanut allergies. But this bar is not supposed to have peanuts. And while I also know that this particular candy bar is a relatively new addition to the Snickers line and is likely manufactured alongside the regular Snickers (which prominently feature peanuts), placing this warning is tantamount to saying: "We aren't confident that we maintain proper ingredient separation and our quality control department isn't the most reliable either. We might have gotten some stuff mixed up while heading down the assembly line. But, we've dutifully warned you here on the back of the wrapper, so consider yourself warned."

Isn't this WRONG?!

(I'm just wondering.)

Educate Me

I put a new post over on the Omnimedia page.

It is a review of Morgan Spurlock's new documentary series, starting this Wednesday @ 10 pm on FX.

Read the review.

Check out the website.

Watch the show.

Friday, June 10, 2005

The Upfronts, Part B

Let's focus for a few minutes on NBC. Part of the reason is because those hardworking people did here. Another reason is because no one else has fallen so far, so fast this past year.
NBC used to be the uber-network, as we all know. Now? Outside of The Apprentice (which many accounts claim is fading fast) and Fear Factor (which people know of only for the purpose of public castigation), is anything going on at the Peacock? I used to commit myself to Friends, Seinfeld, and some other stuff, but now I don't think I watch the network at all. (I'm not a West Wing fan, sorry.)
So, what's going on there? I really don't know if I can adequately explain the anger that I have over the news that Scrubs isn't on the Fall lineup and is (presumably) being held in reserve when one of NBC's pitiful new shows dies a public, humiliating death. Who did Zach Braff piss off so badly around NBC . . . was it Katie Couric? That show is so much better than NBC treat it.
I . . . I just don't know what to say anymore. I've bemoaned this type of anti-Scrubs activity before and I just can't describe my disappointment anymore. Plus, no one at NBC cares . . . sniff.
E-Ring sounds like an attempt to recapture the glory of the best West Wing years. And while the idea of Dennis Hopper (hopefully) storming around the situation room like George C. Scott in Dr. Zhivago sounds like it could be fun--like preparing to watch a train wreck--I just don't see it working. The very fact that it seems like a West Wing spinoff makes me think of when ABC played Who Wants to Be a Millionaire on three nights of primetime. Too much of something . . . is too much of something.
Fathom is NBCs answer to Lost, but it is predicated on weird things happening in the sea. Didn't Waterworld and Sea Quest DSV teach anyone anything? You can have stuff on islands (Survivor, Lost) but you can have stuff in the water . . . it won't work. (And that is only the least likely reason this show will stink.)


(Attempts at bilingualism is, perhaps, the final refuge of the creatively challenged.)

This is part iv of the ongoing air conditioner drama. You can, if you like, read part i and then read part ii and maybe even part iii before continuing.

. . . I'll wait.
. . . All caught up? Okay then.

We got a call last night, approximately 9 pm. And there is good news and there is bad news.

The good? Our home warranty people have agreed to replace the entire outside unit. So, that is very nice. Hopefully we'll see improved cooling efficiency.

The bad? They can't do this replacement until the 17th.

So, we've got another week of hotness coming our way.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The Upfronts, Part A

As I mentioned a few posts back, I will be providing impressions on the early description of the new TV shows and returning schedules for the Fall Season.

The network presentations where these decisions are provided to the media are called upfronts.
The good people at have spent some time actually covering these events like real journalists, while I sit at home and read magazines. So, decency demands that I acknowledge their importance in what I am going to be telling you.

I will be getting my information from other sources as well, such as Entertainment Weekly, but on rare occasion, I might provide my own opinions, since this is my website and all.
Part A:
First I will give some overview of the upfronts, based on this Teevee article.

The first thing that you have to know and expect is that television is created by smart, manipulative people who can't do anything without a focus group, but the is designed for a passive, average audience. So that means the smart people are going to see what has worked recently and give that back to you in four different guises. This is why a) ABC was once the "I Want to Be a Millionaire" channel--until it flogged that horse to death and b) we now accept 85 variations and spinoffs of the first "reality" show, "Survivor."

[As a brief aside, I have strong memories of when I first heard about the "Survivor" concept and I thought it was a sort of gutsy idea but would NEVER work. Shows what I know and provides ample proof that you should stop reading this right now and go play basketball.]

Anyway, what does all the above mean? It means that you will get plenty of "supernatural" shows next season thanks to the incredible success and buzzworthiness of LOST. I find this a reasonably good thing, as I am a big fan of LOST and also enjoy a fair bit of "supernatural" or "fantasy" type shows.

Onto my impressions of the upfronts:
  • I already knew that ST: Enterprise was a goner. I never fully bought into the show's original premise, worried that a prequel would be awkward. The show had its moments, but the franchise has needed to lie fallow for a while now. Give it some time and new creative blood and Star Trek will return. Besides, obscure, large-breasted actresses need work!
  • I am skeptical about all of these LOST spinoffs. LOST itself could go careening off the deep end of farce next year. Just like that shining show of my high school youth, Twin Peaks, which had maybe the most outstandingly bizarre and buzzworthy first season in TV history . . . only to go insane in a dismal season 2. So, if everyone is waiting to catch LOST's lightning in a bottle . . . well, let's just see what's in the hatch first, shall we?
  • I am glad and surprised that Smallville survived this past, fairly abysmal season. I guess the WB really doesn't have a better option. Not that I am complaining. I like the show and hope that Miller and Gough can right their footing next season. Besides, they still have to think of twenty more ways to humiliate Chloe and celebrate the wonder of Lana!!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Fun with small wieners

I remember eating Vienna sausages as a kid. For a brief time in my life, I thought they were tasty . . . I don't now remember why I ever thought that.

Maybe I thought they were from the small of Vienna, Georgia (pronounced Vy-inna) and being a Georgian myself, I felt some sort of regional pride? I doubt it but I am grasping at possible reasons that I liked these things.

But now I realize that these small sausages are much more versatile that I ever imagined.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Feelin' Hot, Hot, Hot

(I am going to run out of titles if this keeps up for much longer.)

Met with another (insurance-approved) HVAC service technician this afternoon about the ailing AC unit.

He agrees that the compressor isn't working properly, but he recommends that we replace the entire outside heat pump unit. Given that the previous unit is at least 20 years old, it has "served its time." And considering the first service guy that met with Tegan on Monday said that he saw replacement parts in the existing compressor, well . . .

Now, today's technician felt that the home warranty company might not consent to footing the bill on replacing the entire unit and insist they only pay for the compressor replacement. If that is the case then T. and I have to decide what to do. I like the idea of replacing the entire unit, because we might get some increased energy efficiency with new technology . . . but the cost might be fairly steep.

Dr. Actually helped me look up internet prices on heat pump units and it seems that most of your nationally-known dealers sell units that range between $2,500 and $3,000. But many of them also offer $1,000 rebates.

Nothing is set in stone yet and we have to wait and see how the home warranty people respond to the technicians recommendation to replace the entire unit.

I, of course, will keep you posted.

(And I promise to get onto more interesting topics while this story plays out.)

Hot times ahead

Well, it appears that it isn't simply a matter of freon.

A technician told Tegan yesterday afternoon that the problem with our air conditioner appears to be a compressor problem, which means a lot more money.

We need to go through our home warranty to try and reduce the overall costs, which means we need to use a separate company and it also means that no repairs will occur until Monday.

So, last night we ate dinner and took the kids to the community center pool for about an hour while the evening temperatures moderated a bit. Ariel had lots of fun, but apparently Ruth has developed an extreme fear of water since we last went to the pool. Over the weekend, she didn't want to go in our wading pool in the back yard, but I assumed that had more to do with it cold temperatures. But the rec center pool wasn't that cold.

We've got fans blowing around in the house and once the temperature drops a bit and the humidity goes down at night, the house fan helps circulate cooler air from outside. It was actually pleasant yesterday evening--much different from this past Saturday and Sunday.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

The REALLY long, hot summer

I chose my post title a bit premature the other day, as it turns out.

Why, you ask?

Well, this weekend in Ohio, the temperature rose into (at least) the mid-80s and the humidity spiked.

(Pause here while my family and friends in Georgia snicker and guffaw.)

That wouldn't be so bad, except that we discover on Saturday that our air conditioner is not exactly ready for the summer season. I guess it is low on freon or something because it surely isn't cooling the house.

So, we've got the windows open and the house fan running hard. But, it isn't doing a whole lot to cool us down--especially me, who is usually on the verge of sweating at any moment.

But, now worries. We've got a big kiddie inflatable pool that we can blow up and put really cold water in and enjoy the bright sunshine, right?


I got ready to inflate the pool after church today when I discovered that the plugs that hold the air in have vanished. I don't have any idea where they are. So, that is out. I will set up the Elmo sprinkler in the back yard in a bit to give Ariel some cooling down time, but Ruth doesn't seem to like playing in the sprinkler.

We did get a bit creative, however, and ate a "picnic lunch" on the basement floor. The basement is very pleasant, so maybe we'll wait out the rest of the day down there and fold clothes.

If only I believed that the evening would bring cooler breezes. It didn't seem to last night.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Do you know the answer to these word puzzles?
Clink on the image to see a larger version of the picture.
You can then probably print out the picture to get a careful look.
If you know the answers, provide the answers via the Comment link below.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Revenge of the Stiffed

Last night Tegan and I joined Lulu, Spec, Flip, Dr. Actually, Shirtless, Jack Thunder, Raisinette, and Brie in the long-organized viewing of Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Perk was going to come, but was felled at the last minute by sever sore throat--I think? I didn't take a notebook to scrawl impressions as I let Lucas' latest attempt at film-making wash over me last night. (Sorry, but I probably would have written impenetrable scrawl in the darkness of the theater. You should have seen the notes that I make when I am taking notes for the political debates . . . and that was in a fully lighted room.)

But I jotted down some thoughts as they occurred to me during the day and I am presenting them to you now. It's not so much a review as a screed of frustration. For a more coherent, but no less disappointed review, see Lulu's post on WWYG?! Omnimedia.

  • The opening battle sequence? It felt overly long and pointless, other than allowing the Jedi to rescue Palpatine, which, as we know orchestrated the entire thing anyway. So maybe that helped promote the feeling of being pointless.
  • But this did introduce us to General Grievous--an alien cyborg trained in the Jedi arts. If you have seen any of the animated Clone Wars cartoons you were familiar with the look of Grievous, but you didn't know a whole lot about him because he didn't talk too much. (As a general aside, maybe that is why the Clone Wars cartoons feel so superior to the movies . . . a marked lack of dialogue and they are confined to only a few minutes each. So, no "Hold me like you did by the lake on Naboo" or "Wesa gonna die." and more lightsaber fights.) BUT, back to grievous . . . you might have though he was gonna be cool, right? A four-armed lightsaber wielding machine with no remorse or human feeling, right? A nightmarish precursor to Vader, right? WRONG!! He came off as a bad Russian comedian with a severe case of pneumonia. Seriously, the cough? I don't understand it for the life of me. sigh
  • Tegan HATED the dialogue, and I mean hated it. We've already hinted at that one horrible line of Padme's "Hold me like you did . . ." Forget the awfulness of that sappy sentiment, but think that she is asking Darth Freakin' Vader to do that and it just makes it worse, I think. Now, I am not going to try and say that the dialogue is exponentially worse in eps. I-III as compared to SW: Original (eps. IV-VI). There were plenty of clunker lines in those movies too. Luke whining about going to Tashi Station to get the power converters for one, many of the Han and Leia exchanges, any dialogue aimed at an Ewok. So, why do we hate these movies more? I don't really know that. We live in an age now where movies are even MORE spectacle driven and even less focused on character. So, we are very used to bad dialogue (I mean Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwartzenegger, Jean Claude Van Damme, and Vin Diesel have all made millions SINCE Lucas became famous for Star Wars.) So, why do we attack Lucas so much? Is it because we have fond childhood memories that are being destroyed? Maybe . . .
  • More on dialogue. When Natalie Portman dies, she will be featured on one of those Oscar night montage moments. IF she remains a Hollywood fixture and is beloved even enough by the people, she might get some clips from her famous movies shown with some dialogue spoken. Do you think she has it in her will right now that she refuses to allow any Star Wars footage to be used in the death clip? But won't Harrison Ford hve a Han Solo moment in his (along with Indiana Jones shooting the sword guy and something from American Graffiti. Mark Hamill will have precious little besides Luke Skywalker (probably the shot of him taking off the stormtrooper helmet when she comes to rescue Leia and the swing across the gap in the Death Star). These are fun games I am playing to amuse myself right now.
  • But back to the movie . . . Continuing a much-welcomed trend, Jar Jar Binks was virtually invisible in Revenge of the Sith, and good riddance too. That character's entire existence was a sign of all things wrong with how Lucas made these films--technology triumphs over story and character. Jar Jar was pointless, grating, not even as funny as Threepio (and he isn't funny). Jar Jar is really the anti-Boba Fett. Boba Fett was the bounty hunter with ten words of dialogue that was strangely embraced by the fans and turned into a cult figure. Jar Jar has vilified by the fans for having far more dialogue than was ever necessary or asked for.
  • R2D2 drove me NUTS in RotS. As many others have mentioned, there are continuity issues from episode III to episode IV. We all know this relates to movie technology advancing from 1977 to 2005, but given that, why must they show R2 doing all sorts of neat, nimble things that he never had any cause to perform when serving Master Luke 30 years later? He never found it necessary to fly using his jets? He could leap/catapult out of Anakin's fighter but had to be hoisted from Luke's X-Wing. Was the Rebellion so strapped for cash that they couldn't keep the droids in fighting shape?

    And while I know that the first movies were the Jedi in their full flower of power and grace, Obi Wan was struck with a horrible case of arthritis. The fight between Kenobi and Vader in ep. IV is so slow and stiff it is awful. I guess not using the Force for twenty years and talking to the dead Qui-Gon Jinn really takes a lot out of a guy. Either that or the heat of Tattoine did a real number on ole Ben.
  • Does anyone know what is the point of the lava planet Mustafar? What valuable commodity is available there? Brimstone? Yes, it looked cool but why in the world would anyone settle there or build structures there? And if you are going to build structures, shouldn't they be squat and thick rather than spindly? That goes back to something else that I mentioned earlier. Digital technology allows you to do all sorts of wonderful things, but the movie-making technology should be used in service of the story, not the other way around. That is what Peter Jackson did so well in LotR. He never, (I think) allowed his options become more important than the story he was visualizing.
  • Speaking of story, how is it that Lucas can make an 11th hour introduction of midichlorians in episode I as a farcical explanation of the Force, constantly tell us that Anakin has more midichlorians (and therefore more power) than any other Jedi, and THEN make him unable to jump higher than Obi Wan's lightsaber on Mustafar. Is "high ground" that critical? Didn't Luke, Anakin's pitiful son--who wasn't even trained long enough or properly--able to leap higher in Cloud City? When Obi Wan was warning Anakin about "high ground" all I could think about was Day 2 at Gettysburg and the Battle of Little Round Top. Not exactly what Lucas was going for there, I don't think.
  • Yoda's syntax is constantly mixed up. Did he ALWAYS talk this way? Didn't he get it right even one time in any of the five movies he is featured in? I just don't think it was constant.
  • The wookies . . . what was the point exactly? Another example of the opportunity to do something taking the place of actually needing to do it or doing anything of any real value. The wookies didn't do much, couldn't say much, and existed only to sell Lego toys. Seriously, judging by the Star Wars Lego catalog I received in the mail months ago, you'd think thirty minutes was spent on the Wookie planet and the battle there was critical in some fashion. But, not so much, really.
  • Obi Wan Kenobi. Would you trust him? He comes across in most of the first three movies as overbearing, a poor teacher, unreliable, a poor judge of character. He loses his lightsaber while chasing Grievous and is constantly riding ridiculous animal creatures when everyone else is cruising around on machines with throbbing engines and whirling blades. Is he a envirofreak or something? But then he tells Anakin that he saw him as a "brother?" Really? I never got that . . . must have been me.

I could go on and on, but the first episode of Lost is on right now and I should watch it for more evidence of Lostzilla wreaking havoc before we "knew" what it was. Hmmm.

[NOTE: this post was edited on 6/2/05 by me to fix some typos that slipped in while I was letting the venom flow.]