Thursday, July 30, 2009

It's late. Do you know where your kids are?

Well, my oldest is currently in tears on the floor, being talked down by Lynda.

You see, Sarah is currently undergoing another bout of intense self-criticism regarding her story writing. She was upstairs, working on a story, but she decided that she didn't like it and wanted to abandon it. To do so would add to the teetering pile of castoffs, dead ends, false starts, and non-starters. This is something that has frustrated Lynda, me, and Sarah to an increasing degree and so (as parents) Lynda and I are trying to teach her how to work her way out of this habit of defeating self-criticism.

Lynda's good idea was to get some short stories for Sarah to read. Since Sarah expects her stories to roll out of her brain in some non-ending stream of perfection, when she hits a snag, she stops. And then she sees something new that triggers the grand idea for a different story that she begins with great enthusiasm--only to be frustrated again a few days, hours, minutes later.

(And if you are sniggering about this, pointing to all of my various blogs that I don't write on or other digital off ramps that I don't know how to properly utilize . . . well, you're right, of course. Now shut up.)

ANYWAY . . .

Lynda's idea of the short story is to help Sarah realize that a shorter story, with a smaller cast of characters, a limited, clearly reigned in plot, will help her hold onto an idea long enough to bring something to completion. And that is a very good idea. But more than that, Sarah is struggling to see how to take one flash of insight through the grim work of the middle to a conclusion. And she doesn't often know what that conclusion IS.

Lynda found some short story writing tips on the Internet that said writers should begin their story as close to the end as they can, so they know where they are headed. And I like that idea as a writing strategy. Perhaps that will help her. But just as important, and more difficult to convince her of, is the grim need to organize, outline, plan, conceptualize BEFORE lots of words get written. I always like to use some examples from my store of J.K. Rowling anecdotes here to give Sarah direct details of a writer that she admires and deeply understands. Unfortunately, is a nine-year-old prepared to accept the fact that such stories involve many notebooks of ideas, thoughts, plans?

God help her if I ever decide to show her the many volumes of The History of Middle Earth that currently sit on my bookshelf and that I haven't even read through all the way. It would scare her away from writing forever.

In the end, she's got to give herself a massive break. She's a nine-year-old kid with great talents and skills (for her age). But she has heard many times (from us and others) that she is a good writer--and she is . . . FOR HER AGE! But she's not ready yet to write in a complete way. She has the assumption that she should be able to do this without breaking a sweat. And she won't accept that this isn't possible. I wish she would give herself the time to learn and develop without giving up or quitting writing because she thinks its too hard.

Does anybody know how to help here? Any personal connections to authors who can come over to the house and tell her to relax and keep plodding? Please?!!!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I need more power

No, not in the level of my influence. I'm pretty happy with how much influence I have in my home life. (Well, except for when Lynda takes over the story that I am in the middle of telling . . . but that's just 14+ years of marriage. You win some, you loose a lot more.) And I'm pretty content with the amount of influence I have at work. (Well, I'm sure there are design meetings that I'll be in on later in this project when I'll wish someone would pay attention to me, but I'll probably just be wondering what all the kerfuffle is about.)

So, generally, I'm content with my personal power levels. What I need, however, is more electric power. If you've been keeping up here on WWYG?! you already know that my laptop battery power is suspect. So suspect that it destroyed my ability to give Dazed and Confused and The King of Kong the proper DTM movie review that they so richly deserve. (I may never muster the energy--or power as it were--to go back to that place and rethink it all.)

But in addition to my computer's lack of powerful portability, I discovered today that the basement refrigerator wasn't working properly. How did I know this? Well, the large amounts of water droplets forming on the ceiling of the main refrigerated area (which is the floor of what--normally--is the frozen area) was a major tip off. But, that might have just been a result of the fact that the refrigerator unit is pretty old (we inherited it with the house), so you never know . . . or at least I never do--at first.

But there were other signs. First the other items in the unit (top or bottom) didn't feel very chilled. And the frozen pizza's cardboard box didn't have the satisfying rigidity that one expects. Then, Lynda found (this morning) that the box was absolutely no longer rigid as the pizza encased in the plastic sleeve had thawed, expelled some sort of mysterious factory gas and swollen up, ballooning the box. A clear sign that something was amiss.

But we had to go to work. So, when I got home, I checked in the basement and sure enough, there was the distinct smell of chicken breast in a definite state of unfrozeness. So, the effort to throw stuff out commenced. Luckily, we didn't have lots to throw away. (Thanks recession!) The hot dog buns and bratwurst buns we had bought for this weekend's cookout were okay, but the brats and the hot dogs were goners. As was the aforementioned chicken and pizza, plus some other stuff in the freezer that was either thawed or had been sitting in the expressed chicken juices. (NOT good eats!)

But the random beer bottles were saved and relocated to the main refrigerator upstairs.

After I tossed stuff, I went back down and tested a theory. I unplugged the refrigerator from the outlet it was plugged into and tried an outlet on a power strip connected to a different plug in the basement. Sure enough, the refrigerator fans started whirring. The unit itself works well enough, it was the outlet that is faulty. I don't know why, but I think I'd better put a sign on the spot telling me not to use this one in the future. I then sopped up all the dirty water and scrubbed down all the affected surfaces with soapy water. And then I wiped everything dry with more paper towels. Later tonight, I went and bought some air fresheners to combat the lingering smell of things gone wrong and reality run amok.

It will all be a distant memory by the weekend. So, perhaps I do have power? The power to forget.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Garden update

I haven't given the clamoring masses an update on our garden lately--so here it comes.

We have harvested three family-sized servings of green beans so far. And thanks toy mothers suggestion we've hit a simple and tasty way to cook them tender-crisp with basil. Then we augment that with a quick toss in melted butter and diced onions. If it is up to me, I'll also toss in some garlic. And both Lynda and I like the addition of slivered almonds if we want to go extra fancy.

We have also harvested three or four zucchini. So far we've converted these into baked goods and some tasty fried fritters enjoyed with sour cream.

Somehow our tomato plants acquired a leaf blight that has withered the leaves and is retarding the ripening of the fruit/vegetable. And that is too bad. But it was the same over at our neighbors place as well, so it's not all our fault.

The lettuce and the carrots never grew well because the bigger leaves of the other plants cast too much shade and messed them up from the start. But, live and learn for the next attempt. I don't know if we will plant in the fall or not, but I am confident that we will be more successful next spring.

-- Posted From My iPhone (so, I apologize in advance for any typos I missed)

I think I need to take my laptop to the shop for service

I started writing the following last night:

Another Comic Con has come and gone and I didn't visit. (For those of you new to this space . . . anyone . . . hello? . . . well, I've never been to Comic Con.) I think that I might enjoy it a lot if I could find the time and money to go to San Diego. I've been lucky enough to be in that city before--even in the very same convention center where the Con is held each year. But, it (lamentably) was only for work-related purposes. While I don't anticipate ever wearing any costumes--and while I might have missed all the years of LOST panels--I could still see interesting stuff on upcoming movies and TV shows. It would certainly give me something to blog about.

And I have been in need of something to blog about lately. I appear to have landed back into one of those doldrum patches where I don't feel like I have anything interesting to write about--regardless of all the many artificial methods I have used to guarantee something to write about (such as the Clothing Project). But . . . try as I might, I haven't been engaged with the blog lately. And then I feel distressed that I have so visibly failed in my attempts to write a post every day this year. Even though that ended a while ago, I feel that I haven't made a good, honest effort at it lately.

So . . . moving on with tonight's reason for getting back in front of the keyboard. I've seen two movies in the last several days and I thought I should throw out some ideas on them.

First, Dazed and Confused. You've probably heard of this movie, written and directed by Richard Linkletter. It is set in the summer of 1976 and follows a handful of high school kids in an (undetermined?) American town.

And then my computer suddenly and completely switched off. Due to the malaise I was describing above, I stopped trying to write and fell asleep.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Afternoon delight? HAH!

It wasn't a good afternoon for me, let's just start there. (And I'll probably keep this a brief list of grievances as no one wants to read my bitching for too long.

BUT . . .

After I picked up the kids from Girls Scout camp and daycare, we were fine for a while. They watched some TV and I gathered the mail, noted that the grass (still) needs cutting, saw that they dishes from breakfast were still sitting out, and other stuff like that.

I knew Lynda was coming home later with some fast food (yeah, sue me), but I was going to cook some of our garden fresh green beans according to my mom's suggested recipe. I judged the timing of when Lynda was expected and prepared the beans, washed them, and got out the ingredients. I started boiling them and got the kids off the TV and onto other stuff. Hannah was wandering around here and there and not being extremely needy, so that was good.

All was pretty fine until the beans were pretty much completed and I just had them in the warming stage. Then I heard a shriek from the other room and looked around the wall to see that Grace was preventing Hannah from chewing on her glasses.

A good maneuver, but sadly too late. Hannah had (AGAIN, for the love of God . . . AGAIN!!!!!!!!) chewed not one--which is typical--but now BOTH of her nosepads off of the glasses. This has happened around six times now and each event results in our needing to take the glasses somewhere the next day for repair, delaying the amount of time she is actually using them and generally causing us major pains in the ass. I wasn't happy and (unfortunately) I showed it.

This naturally upset Hannah. Sarah and Grace (being good big sisters) removed Hannah to calm her down and to let me calm down. Then I got a phone call to inform me that the basement repair pre-inspection (that was supposed to have happened YESTERDAY) is going to be further delayed into this evening because the foreman is still on a different job and can he call me back later tonight to push the arrival time until sometime long past what would have been dinner/bath hours and more into kids asleep/parent hours.

But I've go to say, "Sure," don't I?

And soon after that, the doorbell rang. That is never a good sign around dinner time and especially since we aren't very popular and no one bothers to visit it.

So, I figured (correctly) that it was someone trying to sell me something. I opened the door to hear him out and politely decline, but he flummoxed me a bit by mumbling something about how he was reading some educational (I think) thing (what now? speak up?) to the other parents on the street (who?) and would I like to see the list of people he'd talked to already (huh?) and don't I recognize them (flattering me as a good parent who is concerned with my kids education and all I do is talk to the other parents on the street about my kids educations, right? but seriously, young man, what are you selling?). And so can I spend five minutes and hear him read this thing from this notebook (whaaa? NOW?), but . . .

And I interrupt and say, "Look, I've got kids running around, starting to cry, with partial dinner cooking on the stove and I simply can't stop right now and hear you read the mysterious manifesto . . . or whatever it is you've got right now? Can't you see that?"

Well, I thought that but didn't put it in exactly those words. But no worries, I think he'll be back tomorrow around 5ish to finally reveal what he wants me to buy . . . and I'm sure it is still some sort of sales pitch that I can do without. I've just got to find a polite way to tell him to leave me alone.

Still, I wonder what it is . . .

After shutting the door, I went back to the crying kids who were growing more hungry because Lynda was later than expected. When she got home, she had her own story of woe about how the people serving her at the food joint had no people skills, ignored her for the longest time, and finally got around to providing the food in the most perfunctory and non-engaged way possible. And while I should have been sympathetic, I was too harried from my own problems to give her much time to vent.

BUT . . .

things got better in the end. We celebrated Sarah's birthday (she's NINE now!) and ate some yummy cake. And I decided to let Grace and Sarah stay up a bit later to watch Night at the Museum. And the kids enjoyed it and Lynda and I watched it with them and laughed and got to relax and the basement guy eventually did come as the movie was just ending and all the measurements were taken and now things are pretty okay I guess.

(I won't bore you with how Hannah just woke up and coughed up some food chunks due to congestion and how it got on Lynda's shirt and how I had to rinse that smelly stuff off the shirt and the pajamas and run an emergency load of laundry to combat the stain and smell.)

sigh . . .

Nine years ago today was when it all started and when it all changed.

We never had night like tonight before that day.

Of course, we never had night like this before then either.

So . . . it's good. It's bad. It's yin. It's yang. It's hot. It's cold.

There is a reason we cried the day after Sarah was born, nine years ago today. We were dog tired and we realized that we'd committed ourselves to something intense and demanding.

And there will be more reasons why we cry some time years from now when Sarah, Grace, and Hannah no longer live here. Because we are still dog tired and all that work has paid off and there they go.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Kurt Cobain is Rickrolling in His Grave

I asked Facebook for suggestions on what to write about.

They demanded that I write about this.

No, I'm not going to write anything more until you watch the link, okay?

Seriously, go watch it. I'll wait . . .

. . .



1. The fact that this was done disturbs me. The fact that it melds together so seemless disturbs me more. Are two items more incongruous? Does this make Cobain and Nirvana hacks, building their chord structures and whatnot on such a simple, common platform that it can be welded upon anything. And, as you can see, I do mean ANYTHING?

What does that say? How would Einstein work this video mashup into his theory of general relativity?

I'm shaken.

2. I was not the most knowledgeable Nirvana fan and I don't appreciate all of their songs. In fact, other than "Smells Like Teen Spirit" I guess I like "All Apologies" and "Heart-Shaped Box" the most. There may be a few others, but I'm not going to rack my brains to figure it all out right now. And truth be told, I liked the Unplugged Nirvana more than the grungy version. But I liked to headbang to "Teen Spirit" as much as the next guy back in college.

3. Does Mr. Astley have any chance in hell in enticing the cheerleader in the video? Of course not! It is much more likely that the janitor with the mop and bucket will go home with Team Anarchy. Astley is much more likely to be mobbed by the frenzied crowd in the gym and have his spotless white trench ripped off his pasty body. And if Astley himself only managed to escape with a few bangs on the head from Cobain's guitar . . . he should consider himself lucky.

4. Why did I like Nirvana? They were a bit too intense to match up with the majority of my musical history. But there was an undeniably visceral appeal to them that spoke to a bit of the college me. Maybe it was because I was letting my emotions free from the pent-up, more repressed me of my previous High School life. Certainly Lynda helped me relax a bit in many internal ways and gave me outward confidence that I had not had before--but don't misunderstand. She can tell you that I was still uptight in a lot of ways.

Maybe I was simply more open to this music more then.

Anyway, that's my entry for tonight. Thanks for the suggestion Friendly Stranger!

I'll have to try this method again. It certainly adds an interesting element of randomness to my sputtering blogging patterns.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Movie Review: Harry Potter & the Half-blood Prince


Harry Potter and the Half-blood Price is a very quietly atmospheric movie. It seems like there is less dialogue through stretches of this film, making it feel different than the five that came before it. I think this is because: 1. The tone of this book/movie is set up toward the end. Everything in this movie points toward the final chapter. As I said in my initial book review a few years ago, this is a placeholder story. 2. Director David Yates is now on his second film and is comfortable with the universe within which he is operating. He knows the audience is also comfortably on their 6th film. Less needs explaining. 3. The actors know their roles. They performed their parts in a mature, assured way.

All of this added up to a very atmospheric movie in which the characters are moving toward their final destinations, even though those moves were not completed at this film's end. As such, there is an unfinished quality to how the movie ends, similar to the way I felt at the end of The Two Towers. You know there is more to come so there is slightly less investment in the completion of this story.

This was also the case because they left out things in this movie that I really liked from the books. As usual, they did this for time reasons (unlike Deathly Hallows pts. 1 and 2 this film was not broken into two halves). But I question some of what they omitted, wondering why they saw fit to edit Rowling's story path in ways that make it so much harder going into the final film.

For instance--

What I disliked:

1.) While Dumbledore explained to Harry what a Horcrux was (vital to the final film and the completion of the seven-year story), and he hinted that there were seven horcruxes to be found, he did NOT give any research information about what the remaining horcruxes were. So, going into the horcrux hunt of year seven, movie Harry has no idea that he must look for a Hufflepuff cup, something of Ravenclaw's, or something of Gryffindor's. He doesn't know to think about Nagini. He is woefully unprepared. Book Harry knew these things because Dumbledore shared his research with him, through a series of Riddle memories that outlined the way Tom Riddle thought and why he did as he did. This was not covered in the movie.

I suspect that the movie gave an "out" to this problem. When movie Harry touched the horcrux ring in Dumbledore's office, it reacted to Harry's presence, standing up on its side and spinning. Harry got memory flashes. At the time, I thought this was the hint to Dumbledore that Harry's scar was also a horcrux, but they might choose to provide movie Harry with this "horcrux Sixth Sense" which allows him to feel when one is nearby. I'm sure Hermione's library research will be asked to fill in the remaining holes in the movie-created plot.

But WHY did they have to alter it?

2.) For the most part, I was ok with the burgeoning relationship between Harry and Ginny, which was one of the most important subplots of this book/movie. Still, they made changes, which led to other changes. Rather than keep his feelings completely hidden, he and Hermione confide their relationship problems to each other. And rather than expose his feelings in a post-Quidditch celebration, he and Ginny kiss in the Room of Requirement while they share the task of hiding the Half-blood Prince's potions book.

Why was Ginny required to be with Harry to hide the book? Why is Harry (apparently) unable to get any snogging action unless he is hanging out in the Room of Requirement? And then why does Ginny get all coy with Harry hiding among the stacks of hidden stuff? [Doesn't she KNOW how hard this scene is going to be for me to explain to my lunchtime friends? Doesn't she KNOW that her actions weaken my arguments about book Ginny's future actions in Deathly Hallows?]

3.) Why didn't they have the battle at the aftermath of the events in the Astronomy Tower? Why didn't they show Harry convincing his D.A. friends that Malfoy was invading tonight? Why didn't you get to feel the tension of Harry's fear for Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Neville, Luna, and the others? Why was there that payoff for all of the secret work in the previous year, arming the students with the skills and desire to fight Voldemort's forces of evil?

4.) Why instead, did they choose to show the attacking Death Eaters stroll unmolested out of the castle and across the grounds with only Harry following? Why wasn't there a series of tense confrontations between Harry and Snape as everyone tried to escape? Why didn't you get the ambiguity of Snape fending off Harry's spells while simultaneously teaching him to guard his mind? Why was it so simple and less effective?

5.) Why didn't they show Dumbledore's funeral? Why miss that opportunity for Harry to resolve his future plans? Why miss the chance for his to forsake his love for Ginny in favor of his quest for revenge on Voldemort and Snape? Why not show Hermione and Ron begin their public relationship while viewing the memorial? Why, instead, show the Trio at the top of a castle turret speaking nonsense dialogue that isn't even from the books?

What I liked:

1. The opening moment of the movie, recalling the aftermath of Sirius' death in the Ministry of Magic. It was a small, but oh so crucial moment when Dumbledore reached out and held Harry's shoulder. That gesture went a LONG way towards convincing me that he and Dumbledore were friends, confidants, and more like the book relationship than the Gambon movies had ever done before.

2. Even though it was an invented scene, I did like the Death Eater attack on the Burrow. I believe the scene was created to solidify the Harry/Ginny relationship (he runs after Bellatrix and Ginny w/o hesitation runs after Harry; he protects her from the attack). It was suspenseful and dramatic.

3. Tom Felton's portrayal of Draco's struggle was very nicely done. He (and most of the complementary actors) has had precious little to do over the years and given the chance, he handled things nicely.

4. Jessie Cave's "Lavendar Brown" was very funny and, in general, all of the lovelorn relationship humor was done excellently. In fact, the relationship plot was written more strongly and translated more truthfully from book to movie than any other component in this book. The only minor quibble I have here is that I think Emma Watson should have shouted her upugno curse at Ron, rather that the matter-of-fact pronunciation she went with in the film.


I'll think of more likes and dislikes, especially if I end up going to see the movie again. But while I had a stronger reaction for what I disliked, my overall feeling throughout watching the movie was satisfaction. I was caught up in it and only found things to dislike once I began mulling it over at a later time.

What did you think? Leave you opinions in the comments section.

Monday, July 13, 2009

GA Aquarium

In case you haven't been following my efforts on Twitter (cross-posted on Facebook), you might not know that today the family headed down to Atlanta (pretty near the headquarters of Adult Swim, if that means anything to you) for a trip to the Georgia Aquarium.

(Big time thanks to Lynda's parents for coming along, purchasing tickets, and generally helping corral the kids through the crowds.)

It was pretty nice, though--I have to admit--not as spectacular as I wanted it to be. (You can read more about the Aquarium here.) Don't get me wrong, it was pretty dog-gone cool and is a nice addition to the downtown tourist area. But I wanted it to be EVEN MORE cool. You got to walk through a tunnel with millions of gallons of water above you, fish of every type, size, and shape swimming above you. And yet, I wanted the tunnel to be longer. I wanted the crushing weight of the water to be higher.

I'm hard to satisfy, I suppose.

But I think the kids really enjoyed themselves. They oohed and aahed in all the right places. They were appreciative of the size of the whale sharks and manta rays and beluga whales. They enjoyed the touch pools. And the 4-D movie that fairly beat you over the head with environmentalism not seen since Disney's Pocahontas? Well, even I have to admit that the 3-D effects were very effective and the additional sensory layer of blowing soap bubbles, jets of unexpected air, and occasional mists of water made for an enjoyable movie. (But "Deepo" had better watch his back. Nemo's gonna sneak up on him and crack some dorsal fins pretty soon.)

In the end, we all survived a tourist outing. And even though lunch was shocking expensive and didn't offer lots of variety, we had a good time.

The most dastardly part of the entire aquatic affair was that we had to pass through the Gift Show to exit the complex. Truly an evil layout. (And I guess I shouldn't complain, as we didn't end up buy any stuffed animals on the way out. The kids must have either been tired or delirious from something.)

But I did manage to see this gem of a shirt on the way out.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Trip twittering

I must admit, it makes a journey on the Interstate a heck of a lot more interesting when you are also tweeting as you go. If I'm not driving, I'm thinking of amusing things to say and observe. I'm looking for likely photos to snap and then fling out onto my Twitter page. I'm simply more engaged in things and not at all a lump in a seat.

And if I am driving, as long as I have a willing travel partner who can take my Tweet dictation (or Tweetation as I coined the word yesterday evening), then I can still make my thoughts and observations come to life.

But as is the case with WWYG?!, the question is always . . . is anyone listening/reading? Or am I simply using yet another digital medium to scream out into the uncaring darkness? I'm quite certain the answer is the one that I don't want to hear. But I'll keep screaming until my throat is sore and my vocal cords protest.


Because, why not?

I'll keep asking you to follow along from my Twitter page ( or from the Twitter sidebar on the right side of this blog page. I'm trying to make it interesting and if you join in, you can send me back your reactions, retorts, and recriminations.


In other news, Party Month is effectively at a close for another year.

For the new WWYG?! readers (and I know there are a scant few new ones), I call the stretch from late June to late July Party Month because it begins with Grace's birthday, quickly followed by Lynda's birthday, our wedding anniversary, a brief interlude, and then Sarah's birthday.

As I said, Party Months 2009 was foreshortened and truncated because last year's kid birthday parties yielded so few attending kids, leading us to move both Grace's and Sarah's party to late June/early July before kids disappeared for vacations. This definitely yielded more kids at Grace's party and it ensured that Sarah's sleepover captured the few kids she knew she wanted to come.

Grace's party theme was "Summertime Fun" and we held it at a nearby park. I grilled hotdogs on one of the park grills and about twelve of her kindergarten and/0r daycare classmates had those with chips and juice. They played on the playground equipment and then Lynda set up a costume changing/relay race game that they enjoyed. The cake was nice and simple this year as well, with loaf-sized pound caked decorated with Cool Whip and licorice to resemble flip flops.

How did Grace like it all? Well, I don't think she's yet to open all of the presents she received and I know she was happy with the strong turnout. And it wasn't stressful (that much) on Lynda or myself. So, successful? You bet! And now she's six.

Sarah's party was her second or third sleepover (at our house) and she invited three other friends to join in. My most intelligent contribution to the entire two day affair was convincing Sarah to locate most of her fun/sleeping to the basement. It confined the mess and helped localize the girlish shrieking that always accompanies these types of affairs. This party was definitely less work and prep that the two Harry Potter parties Sarah has had in the past. And when it was over the next day--after the late night fun, and the local restaurant lunch, and the additional fun at the swimming pool--she said "Best birthday party EVER!"

You can't get better than that, huh?

With the kid's parties out of the way, it was down to Lynda and I. Her birthday was on the first and I got her the large picnic blanket she's been wanting. She quickly used it July 4th weekend when she took S & G to see the Westerville fireworks.

For our 14th wedding anniversary, we did a few things. I got her some hanging picture frames that I want to put up in the bedroom, replacing a shelf that has hung lopsided up there for several years. (I'll get to it when we return from our Georgia vacation.) We also got some babysitting help from our neighbors who watched the kids midweek, allowing us to pursue the rare Dinner and a Movie combo.

Unfortunately, the dinner choice (mine) wasn't the best. But the evening got significantly better after that. We couldn't decide what movie seemed worth our time and money that night, so we decided instead to drive around the city to Grandview and visit Stauf's coffee shop, where we used to go when we were new to Ohio, kidless, and living in the southwest side of town. As we travelled down the interstate, circling the city, we were almost circling backwards in time, tracing back the eleven years we've lived in Ohio, moving back toward the areas we used to live when I was in grad school and Lynda commuted from our first apartment to McGraw-Hill every day.

As we walked up the sidewalk to Staufs, what did we happen to encounter? Nothing else but the fabled Jeni's Ice Cream that my lunch friends had been pestering me to experience for the last several months! Because there isn't a branch in Westerville, and because I never go anywhere, I had failed again and again. But here was the Grandview branch swimming in front of me! And I'd forgotten all about it!

Lynda and I saw it at the same time and started to laugh. (You may remember that when Sarah was honored at the State House, I alluded to our first attempt to eat at Jeni's in the Short North. It was a disaster bourne out of it being a busy weekend, there being no parking, having a family of kids in dress shoes, and us being suburbanites. So, given that most of those things don't usually change, I thought we'd rarely get another chance.

But here it was. I sat down on a bench, fake miming the need to faint. Once inside, we sampled a few of the seasonal flavors (if you're around, I do recommend the sweet corn and black raspberry). But then we settled on a sundae that consisted of 1.) Goat Cheese with Roasted Red Cherries and 2.) Thai Chili.

It was great.

After our surprise ice cream experience, we moved down to Staufs and had coffee and relaxed.

But our anniversary wasn't over yet. (In fact, it wouldn't actually occur until the next day.) We were lucky enough to throw together a quick, informal spaghetti dinner for our old friend Lulu, who was away from Missouri, visiting family. She and her boys gathered at our house with some friends from work. It felt like old times, sitting around and talking. Lulu's kids are growing up into fine, nice kids and I was glad to have the chance to see them and talk to Lulu face-to-face for a change.

(Now if I can only find time to get over to Missouri and see them all in their own natural habitat.)


And now we've embarked on our vacation. Work is an afterthought and currently we are enjoying the hospitality of Lynda's parents in north Georgia. Tomorrow is church, a pot-luck lunch and relaxation. On Monday we're all going down to Atlanta to experience the Georgia Aquarium. Then, we're down to Tifton for the balance of the week and (you KNOW) we'll be seeing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on Wednesday night.

So, that's a pretty lengthy wrap up of what's been going on lately. I promise I won't let the time between posts stretch so long again, but--as you can read--it's been a busy month.

Come back again soon to see what comes next (or visit

And THANKS for the patronage.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Going South again

You need to be following me on Twitter to get all the reactions, photos, and awesome commentary of my trip down to Georgia.

I' m southward bound all week long.

Join the fun at

-- Posted From My iPhone (so, I apologize in advance for any typos I missed)

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Sunday tweets

My Twitter feed is the best place to keep up with what I'm doing today. You can follow along with the list published in the right hand sidebar or you can visit

I've been doing it in extra-pretentious haiku form since yesterday and find that it easily let's me get my point across in half the characters as before. (The Japanese excelled at miniaturization long before transistors.)

I've typed about sprinklers, gardens, Andy Roddick, and even thrown in an audio bit as well. What more can you ask for?

-- Posted From My iPhone (so, I apologize in advance for any typos I missed)

Saturday, July 04, 2009


It's been a while since I did a Clothing Project post and it has also been a while since I wore this hat. So, combining the two seems a good idea.

I picked this hat for obvious reasons today--as it is red, white, and blue and features a letter A. Happy birthday America! But, I also like this hat a lot because of its groovy 1974 font styles.

It is, of course, an Atlanta Braves hat for the design years when Hank Aaron was finishing his march on Babe Ruth's record of 714 career home runs. I purchased this hat a few years back when my previous Braves hat disappeared.

I honestly don't remember where it went, but it probably snuck away and met up with the six or seven other Braves hats that I have lost in Atlanta-area restaurants during my childhood. I used to have several of the lighter blue caps from the early 1980s and every summer that we went to a game, (being a polite young Southern boy) I'd take my hat off and place it beside me on the booth seat while we ate at Shoney's. (I almost guarantee that it was a Shoney's.) And when the meal was over, my mind sluggish with the satiation from the endless salad bar and the Italian Feast, and (if I was lucky) the Hot Fudge Cake, I'd leave the restaurant and forget to grab my new Braves hat with the not-broken-in brim.

And now, since the Braves aren't lighting up the division (though the division as a whole isn't all that impressive) I repurpose the hat to celebrate America on the 4th of July.

After all, as TBS always (used to?) say, "The Atlanta Braves: America's Team!"

R. I. F.

The bad news is that Newsweek has written a cover story on What (I Should) Read Now. Click here:

The further bad news is that I haven't read most of these books and it gives me a complex.

I guess the good new, however, is that I know what to read next?

-- Posted From My iPhone (so, I apologize in advance for any typos I missed)

Friday, July 03, 2009

Movie review: "Dan in Real Life"

Yeah, I know this is old. But we rarely go to a theater and we only get one Netflix movie at a time, so my queue rolls along slowly.

"Dan in Real Life" stars Steve Carrell as a newspaper columnist, giving parental advice. He is the father of three girls (17, 14ish, and 9) and has been a widower for four years.

So, what does Dan have in common with me? Well, first name Ds, check. Three daughters, check (and striking similar age differentials as well). Widower . . . um, nope. But, he definitely was in love with his wife (check!) and hasn't been able to get on with things since her death.

The movie began with me watching his interaction with his daughters and I really was struck with how similar it might (?) be for me in a few more years--minus, again, the dead wife bit. His middle daughter is the passionate one, full of angry yells, rapid fire justifications, and constant worry. I laughed wryly through much of the first thirty minutes.

But the movie is about how he takes his girls to the yearly family get together in Rhode Island. And what a family! Imagine the upper middle class Kennedy clan, thrown in with movie magic and a dash of the Big Chill and you've got it. This is the sort of family that switches from charades to dueling crossword puzzles to family talent show night to touch football on the lawn with hardly a blink. Activity, good cheer, laughter, and getting up in everyone else's business (with love!) is required.

Only in a movie, right?

Well, the crisis of the movie is what happens when Dan's chance encounter in a book store confuses the whole weekend and results in madcap romance that hasn't been seen since, I think, A Mid-Summer Night's Dream. (Shakespeare nerds, read the play, see the movie and then tell me if I got that reference right.)

I wanted to say that the movie's conflict was simply drawer #45 of the chest of drawers of movie contrivances. And, I'm right. But the actors and the fun and the simpleness of the movie won me over in the end. Sure, all is wrapped up in a nice, tight bow (another Only In A Movie moment, to be sure), but it is a happy journey to get to the bow. At first I lamented the opportunity to see a movie about a man struggling to live with three challenging girls and see what that might be. I resented the movie-generated coincidences and reconciliations that made it more artificial. But then, as I said, I let its charm work on me.

If I didn't want a bit of escapism, I'm sure Jack T. could recommend several grim documentaries about much less cheerful things.

I recommend it. Carrell did a very good job being ordinary and not at all slapstick. Rent it.

Best line in movie (to me) delivered from youngest daughter to Dan--"You're a really good Father but sometimes you're a really bad Dad."