Monday, October 30, 2006

Hot Wheels



Last night I awoke with a pretty excruciating pain in my back. After tossing and turning to try and make it go away, I felt around and pulled out a Hot Wheels toy car from under the sheets. It wasn't Speed Racer like the one pictured, but it was shaped the same.
My first instinct was to wake and throttle the children until one confessed, and then force the interloper to sleep with the toy car under HIS back for the rest of the night.
That feeling passed. It was 3 a.m., after all, and I'd just have to struggle getting them all back to bed and up again for school.
Then for some reason I thought that, one day, there will be no more Hot Wheels under the sheets. No more Potato Head parts to pick up from the floor. No more Barney / Wiggles / Caillou movies playing endlessly on the TV. No more wiped tears and kissed owies and heads patted. No more major everyday triumphs, like celebrating the first flush, the first step, the first word. (And, if you've never done the pee-pee in the potty dance, can you really say you're a parent?)
Granted, people think we're crazy. When they ask 'How many kids?" I just cringe. No matter how quietly I mumble "Six" the response is always "Six! Six?" like they've never heard the number before, like it's the word in Zimbabwe for the digit between five and seven.
I've always like what Stephen King says about his kids - "They came when they came, and we were glad to have them."
Amen to that.
We had two early, one in the middle, and three late. Not quite cheaper by the dozen. And yes, we know what causes that.
And by the way, I've learned that with three kids aged four and under, you have to play zone. Man - on - man is no longer effective.
Some friends of ours just had twins, which brought them up to six kids. We're going to start getting together and going to the buffet, where they charge kids under twelve so much per year. Between us, that's 9 kids under twelve. It'll be fun to watch the managers run screaming for the exits.
So I told my wife my little story, and I got appropraitely misty in the right places. She said something about grandkids, but I was too busy with my fingers in my ears yelling "La la la la la la la" to hear the rest.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Vote Predictor


Back in the 2004 election (which did not go my way, in case you haven't figured that out by now), I was addicted to the web site www.electoral-vote.com. This site took data from nearly every poll that ran for that race and put the results in spreadsheets and on maps, trying to predict the outcome of the race.
They got it wrong.
But the story of how they got it wrong is fascinating. Anyone with any political leanings at all should check it out.
The site is still going this year, trying to predict the outcome of many close House and Senate races. Veiwing all of that data over time somehow satisifies my inner geek in a way that little else can.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Rocky Mountain High


I find myself back on a plane, headed for scenic Denver. Not something I thought I would be doing, but here I am.

The best feature about my flight is the video display on the back of the seat in front of me. For free I get to watch a graphic of the plane superimposed over a mapquest map, showing altitude, air speed, and location. Way cool in a geeky sort of fashion. Now I know what city I'm looking at out the window, whether the pilot tells me or not. For $5 I could watch a Direct TV feed of various channels, but who needs it?

I also showed #3 son how to go online and track my flight, which I hope will ease some of the issues he been having lately. Between that and the excellent video conferencing capabilities of Skype, he should be OK.

The Denver airport is gargantuan. It's also about thirty miles from anywhere I need to be. With all of that room and the traffic flow, you think there would be something to DO there when you're stuck there. But unless you want to spend way too much for the usual airport touristy crap, there's not. Especially if you don't drink.

Last time here I spent an afternoon driving up Lookout Mountain, and going to the very touristy Buffalo Bill museum. I wish I'd had more time to get off the tourist track. But the view was spectacular, and I bought the usual useless trinkets for the kids.

The thing I could not get used to was seeing open land with nothing cultivated on it. Back home if there's an acre or two of open field, someone is growing corn or soybeans or wheat on it. Out here, hardly anything grows, even when the land is left to Mother Nature to plant. It really makes me wonder why folks originally settled the area to begin with.

Perhaps I'll have time to find out on this trip, but I'm not holding my breath. There's a train ride I'd like to take, if I get the time. But chances are I'll end up barely having the time to accomplish what I'm really going there to do.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

BookMooch


While updating my catalog of books on LibraryThing the other day, I discovered Bookmooch, a website for cheap book lovers everywhere. (Ok, that was poorly worded. Not inexpensive books, but miserly readers.)
The concept is simple. You get points for listing books that you want to get rid of. Other people list books they want, and if there's a match they can mooch them off of you. You ship them at the amazingly cheap Media Mail rate, and you get more points. You then use those acquired points to mooch books off of others.
The service is fairly new, in internet terms. They are just at 10,000 members. So at the moment there are lots of books on wish lists, but none of the books I put on my list were immediately available for mooching. Besides, I didn't have the points yet.
The hard part for me is going to be continually selecting books I'm willing to give away. Obviously, there are some I'll never get rid of. In fact, I rarely give away a book. Invariably I miss it somewhere down the road. I haven't read The Tommyknockers in years, but I just know that someday I'm going to have time to kill, and the desire to re-enter works from King's 'addicted' stage will come over me. (That's what that book is really about, by the way. It might be full of alien artifacts and strange mind powers, but it's really about all the crap King was shiving into his system (mostly through his nose) at the time.) But I've found five or six in my pile so far that I'm willing to be seperated from.
The fun part for me is going through the local Borders, seeing a book I like, firing up Bookmooch on my PDA and entering the ISBN into my wish list. Somewhere I gave away my copy of Wicked, and there's no way I'm going to by another. But I'll gladly mooch it from someone!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

John Varley


I recently picked up Red Thunder at the airport, Varley's omage to Heinlien. It was such a great read, and what a pleasure it was to be back in VarleyLand once again. Thunder is about a group of kids and an drunk ex-astronaut who build a rocket ship, fly it to Mars, and rescue a Nasa crew along the way. Pure camp, pure entertainment, pure fun.
The best thing the book did for me was remind me how much I loved Varley's work. I went back and bought Titan, Wizard, and Demon, which make up his Gaean trilogy and just finished those. While the books certainly remind of Ringworld, that quickly goes away as Varley introduces wild ideas, creatures, characters, and situations. These are three books where literally anything can happen (biological creatures that run kerosene ramjets and drop bio-bombs!) and generally does. The characters pull us through the mayhem, in that we genuinly care what happens to them, and where they're going. Even the odd ones.
Let's just say I never expect to be saddened by the death of a blimp again.
Ultimately, one of the best things about the series is Varley's decision to put the women front and center. Yes they are flawed, and sometimes overly needy, and overly vulnerable. But they are in charge and good at it, and manage to maintain their sexuality. Perhaps not thier sanity.
Re-reading made me hope that Mr. Varley still has something up his sleave for Cirroco and Gaby. Gaea is a huge world, and there are millenia yet to fill. How about a repair mission?

Time

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