Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holiday Classics

Ok, perhaps not classics at your house, but they are at mine.

image With Thanksgiving comes the annual watching of Joe Dirt. I'm not exactly sure how this tradition started, but it has persevered. For some reason we love the Joe Dirt (and we have to call it "the Joe Dirt" for further unknown reasons). I think it's because the movie is so quotable:

"Your talking to my friend all wrong."

"See that peanut? Dead giveaway"

"It rubs the lotion on it's skin or it gets the hose!"

"Home is where you make it"

"You are an underachievement nexus of the universe."

"You're gonna stand there, owning a fireworks stand, and tell me you don't have no whistling bungholes, no spleen splitters, whisker biscuits, honkey lighters, hoosker doos, hoosker don'ts, cherry bombs, nipsy daisers, with or without the scooter stick, or one single whistling kitty chaser?"

Joe Dirt teaches us to keep on keepin on, to make the best of bad situations, and appreciate what we have. Yes, it's a formulaic sophomoric stupid David Spade comedy. But I love it.

image Then we move on to "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" with Jim Carrey. This movie is highly underrated. Carrey is nothing short of brilliant as the Grinch. Some innuendo and jokes fly right over the kids heads, but the movie speaks to the heart of what Christmas should be about. Widely panned when released, this has become a DVD classic.

image Then we have to watch "A Christmas Story" at least twice. For Christmas this year I got both a Leg Lamp ornament AND stocking, so I'm set until the wife lets me get the real thing. This movie is so true to life and universal. It speaks to the boy in all of us grown men, taking us back to a time when the most important things were BB guns, bullys, and friends. There are days, even weeks, when I'd give anything to be back there. My new goal in life is to visit the museum in Cleveland where they've restored the house that this film's interiors were shot in.

image And lastly we have to watch "A Christmas Carol", probably the most remade of any holiday movie. Not just any version, it must be the one with Alastair Sim and NOT colorized, thank you. There has never been a better Scrooge than Sim, and never a better cast of supporting players. It's long been a family tradition to watch this late on Christmas Eve, with only the Christmas tree is providing light to the room. Scrooge's transformation from frump to caring human never fails to move me to tears.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Must-Have Shop Tools

This is the minimum tools needed for any  well equipped home Shop or Garage.  All of these are needed to do good job. 

SKILL SAW: A portable cutting tool used to make studs too short.
DRILL PRESS: A tall upright machine useful for suddenly snatching flat metal bar stock out of your hands so that it smacks you in the chest and flings your beer across the room, denting the freshly-painted part which you had carefully set in the corner where nothing could get to it.

WIRE WHEEL: Cleans paint off bolts and then throws them somewhere under the workbench with the speed of light. Also removes fingerprints and hard-earned calluses from fingers in about the time it takes you to say,
''What the...??''

ELECTRIC HAND DRILL: Normally used for spinning pop rivets in their holes until you die of old age.

PLIERS: Used to round off bolt heads. Sometimes used in the creation of blood-blisters.

BELT SANDER: An electric sanding tool commonly used to convert minor touch-up jobs into major refinishing jobs.

HACKSAW: One of a family of cutting tools built on the Ouija board principle. It transforms human energy into a crooked, unpredictable motion, and the more you attempt to influence its course, the more dismal your future becomes.

VISE-GRIPS: Generally used after pliers to completely round off bolt heads. If nothing else is available, they can also be used to transfer intense welding heat to the palm of your hand.

WELDING GLOVES: Heavy duty leather gloves used to prolong the conduction of intense welding heat to the palm of your hand.

OXYACETYLENE TORCH: Used almost entirely for lighting various flammable objects in your shop on fire. Also handy for igniting the grease inside the wheel hub you want the bearing race out of.

TABLE SAW: A large stationary power tool commonly used to launch wood projectiles with the speed of a ballistic missile for testing wall integrity.

HYDRAULIC FLOOR JACK: Used for lowering an automobile to the ground after you have installed your new brake shoes, trapping the jack handle firmly under the bumper.

EIGHT-FOOT LONG YELLOW PINE 2 X 4: Used for levering an automobile upward off of a trapped hydraulic jack handle.

E-Z OUT BOLT AND STUD EXTRACTOR: A tool ten times harder than any known drill bit that snaps neatly off in bolt holes thereby ending any possible future use.

BAND SAW: A large stationary power saw primarily used by most shops to cut good aluminum sheet into smaller pieces that more easily fit into the trash can after you cut on the inside of the line instead of the outside edge.

TWO-TON ENGINE HOIST: A tool for testing the maximum tensile strength of everything you forgot to disconnect.

CRAFTSMAN 1/2 x 24-INCH SCREWDRIVER: A very large pry bar that inexplicably has an accurately machined screwdriver tip on the end opposite the handle.

AVIATION METAL SNIPS: See hacksaw.

PHILLIPS SCREWDRIVER: Normally used to stab the vacuum seals under lids and for opening old-style paper-and-tin oil cans and splashing oil on your shirt; but can also be used, as the name implies, to strip out Phillips screw heads.

STRAIGHT SCREWDRIVER: A tool for opening paint cans. Sometimes used to convert common slotted screws into non-removable screws.

PRY BAR: A tool used to crumple the metal surrounding that clip or bracket you needed to remove in order to replace a 50 cent part.

HOSE CUTTER: A tool used to make hoses too short.

HAMMER: Originally employed as a weapon of war, the hammer nowadays is used as a kind of divining rod to locate the most expensive parts adjacent to the object we are trying to hit.

MECHANIC'S KNIFE: Used to open and slice through the contents of cardboard cartons delivered to your front door; works particularly well on contents such as seats, vinyl records, liquids in plastic bottles, collector magazines, refund checks, and rubber or plastic parts. Especially useful for slicing work clothes, but only while wearing them.

DAMMIT TOOL: Any handy tool that you grab and throw across the garage while yelling ''DAMMIT'' at the top of your lungs. It is also, most often, the next tool that you will need.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Our Gang on DVD

imageI  have fond memories of catching the "Little Rascals" on TV as a kid. Today I have a much deeper appreciation for the era they depict, and how difficult the early ones must have been to shoot.

image A DVD set has been released depicting the shorts that were produced by Hal Roach between 1929 - 1938, considered the best of the bunch.

imageThe "Little Rascals" shorts, on viewing them with my kids, are amazingly funny and brutally honest, and still as good today as they were thirty-five years ago when I say them first. This goes on my Christmas list.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why I Like Mike

I went back and forth on a title for this post. Dirty Jobs? Mike Rowe? Celebrating Dirt? But you've seen the show, or have heard of it. Dirty Jobs would not be what it is without Mike Rowe.

image Anyway, several months back I got to meet Mike Rowe at a PDS conference in Wisconsin (at some enormous resort in the Dells. Apparently if you build a ginourmous indoor waterpark in the middle of nowhere, people will come.) Mike was the guest closing speaker, and he just sat down and told some stories from the show, and how the show came to be, and took questions from the audience. He seemed like a regular guy, in his jeans and work boots and ball cap.

The most interesting thing, though, was the story of how he's come to see his show as a celebration of the working man, the blue collar worker sloughing through the trenches (literally and metaphorically) every day. We've nearly demonized dirty work in this country, and look down on skilled trades people who we could not live without. Mike sees that, and while he may not be able to make it right he certainly points it out every chance he gets.

What I like best about the show is that he always has fun with his 'guest hosts', the workers, and pokes a little fun at them. But he never tries to do anything funny at their expense. You can tell he has genuine respect for these folks, respect that likely comes from being raised by working class parents and grandparents.

So here's to Mike Rowe, just a regular guy going around finding out how regular people get dirty.

Mike operates an irregularly updated blog over on Discovery, where he mainly answers questions. What prompted this post was his answer to a father who was looking for some motivation and encouragement for his son to finish his Eagle Scout badge. You can read the whole thing here, but this is what Mike has to say:

Kelby,
Your Dad asked me to drop you a line and say something inspirational that might persuade you to dig down deep and find the determination to make the rank of Eagle Scout. It's a reasonable request, from a father who obviously wants to see his son succeed. But here’s the thing - The Eagle Award is not really meant for people who need to be dragged across the finish line. It’s meant for a select few, and I have no idea if you have the guts to see it through.
Statistically, I suspect you do not. Only one out of a hundred Scouts make Eagle, so if you fail, there will be lots of other people with whom you can share excuses. Quitting now might disappoint your Dad, but I doubt that he or anyone else will be overly surprised. Anytime 99 out of 100 people do the same thing, it’s not exactly a shock.

He goes on from there, you should read the entire thing.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

'The Name of the Wind'

Iimage just finished Patrick Rothfuss' 'The Name of the Wind'. I've read many, many fantasy novels. Some of them are just bad. Most are middle of the road : not great, but not a complete waste of my time. I started reading Rothfuss' blog some time ago. I'm not sure how I ended up there; linked from some blog that I found from some other blog that I found... you get the idea. His blog is refreshing. Here's this fairly regular guy who has struggled along writing this novel for years, and suddenly it's picked up and published and people like it. Really like it. And all of the notoriety and recognition and promotion and accolades are new to him, and his reaction is great to read. Very unassuming, very low-key.

And he hasn't forgotten from whence he came. He's currently giving away a slew of stuff if you'll donate to charity.

And to top it off he lives in Wisconsin, which is like my second home now (soon maybe my first!) and I ran across some signed copies of the book when the paperback came out at the giant Barnes and Nobles in Madison. Which was very cool for a book nerd like myself.

imageSo it was with some amount of hope and a great amount of trepidation that I finally approached "The Name of the Wind". I needn't have worried. This thing is _great_. It is the reason we read, to discover new and wondrous things, to be transported to worlds we know not and behold their magic. To say "I could not put it down" would be an understatement. It is quite simply the best fantasy novel I've read in years and years, and I'll be recommending it to everyone I know that reads. I'll let Kvothe tell you about it:

My name is Kvothe, pronounced nearly the same as "quothe." Names are important as they tell you a great deal about a person. I've had more names than anyone has a right to. The Adem call me Maedre. Which, depending on how it's spoken, can mean The Flame, The Thunder, or The Broken Tree.
"The Flame" is obvious if you've ever seen me. I have red hair, bright. If I had been born a couple of hundred years ago I would probably have been burned as a demon. I keep it short but it's unruly. When left to its own devices, it sticks up and makes me look as if I have been set afire.
"The Thunder" I attribute to a strong baritone and a great deal of stage training at an early age.
I've never thought of "The Broken Tree" as very significant. Although in retrospect, I suppose it could be considered at least partially prophetic.
My first mentor called me E'lir because I was clever and I knew it. My first real lover called me Dulator because she liked the sound of it. I have been called Shadicar, Lightfinger, and Six-String. I have been called Kvothe the Bloodless, Kvothe the Arcane, and Kvothe Kingkiller. I have earned those names. Bought and paid for them.
But I was brought up as Kvothe. My father once told me it meant "to know."
I have, of course, been called many other things. Most of them uncouth, although very few were unearned.
I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.
You may have heard of me.
So begins the tale of Kvothe—from his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-riddled city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a difficult and dangerous school of magic. In these pages you will come to know Kvothe as a notorious magician, an accomplished thief, a masterful musician, and an infamous assassin. But The Name of the Wind is so much more—for the story it tells reveals the truth behind Kvothe's legend.

Rothfuss displays a love for music, a high regard for craftsmanship, and places the female on a high, high pedestal. He also makes us completely empathize with Kvothe through his trials. It's clear Rothfuss knows what it is to pinch pennies. Kvothe is constantly concerned with money. He's terribly under informed about women.  He is both a genius and a fish entirely out of water at school. I kept wondering how much of Kvothe was Rothfuss, and how much was projection of his dreams and desires. All of us at one time have wanted to win the battle of wits, make a fortune, slay the dragon, rescue the maiden, win the fair damsel. Kvothe does them all, and ends up nearly where he started.

If you read, you must read "The Name of the Wind". If you stopped reading fantasy because of where it's gone over the last dozen or so years, this is the book that will bring you back. The best thing that I can say is that, for the first time in a long time, I can't wait for the next one in the series.

Go get it now.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I didn't vote for Obama today

One of my favorite blogs had the following post this evening:

Written by eastside93

I did not vote for Barack Obama today.

I’ve openly supported Obama since March.  But I didn’t vote for him today.

I wanted to vote for Ronald Woods.  He was my algebra teacher at Clark Junior High in East St. Louis, IL.  He died 15 years ago when his truck skidded head-first into a utility pole.  He spent many a day teaching us many things besides the Pythagorean Theorem.  He taught us about Medgar Evers, Ralph Abernathy, John Lewis and many other civil rights figures who get lost in the shadow cast by Martin Luther King, Jr.

But I didn’t vote for Mr. Woods.

I wanted to vote for Willie Mae Cross.  She owned and operated Crossroads Preparatory Academy for almost 30 years, educating and empowering thousands of kids before her death in 2003.  I was her first student.  She gave me my first job, teaching chess and math

concepts to kids in grades K-4 in her summer program.  She was always there for advice, cheer and consolation.  Ms. Cross, in her own way, taught me more about walking in faith than anyone else I ever knew.

Click Here for the entire post. If this doesn't choke you up just a bit, you're the Tin Man, searching for a heart.

More YouTubery

Ok, you may say I've been posting far too many of these things, and you're likely right.

At least this one does not have Muppets.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

History

image Dr. King said it best. "We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land"

Monday, November 03, 2008

Fall

08PIC-0318 There is a moment, a brief shining slice of time, when fall comes to Illinois. It's the day you can smell the smell of burning leaves far away. It's the day that you can go outside without your jacket even though there was a hard freeze the week before. It's the day when you suddenly realize how red the trees are, how brilliant the yellow of the maples, how bright the silver of the silver maples along Route 150.

08PIC-0321The fields are almost done being harvested. The land lays brown and bare, like a new buzz cut on a five-year old.  Grain trucks and combines and pickups crawl the countryside like worker ants laying in winter stores. The kids delight in walking in the leaves, shuffling their feet along to make a path that the wind immediately erases. Black cats and witches and hobgoblins decorate the city.

The sassafras roots lie just under the loam, ripe and ready to make gallons of amazing sassafras tea. Squirrels work furiously and without ceasing, hunting nuts and acorns, sometimes burying them and sometimes storing them. They play, chasing each other between and around and up the giant oak trees in Lincoln park.

08PIC-0327 You won't miss that day if you blink. But it sneaks in unannounced, suddenly and brilliantly just there. Get outside, get into the woods, get to a park. Get to a place where traffic is a memory and city is noise an old dream. Don't let it pass by.

There are folks that fly south for the winter, folks that look for skiing weather in the summer. Give me the fall. Give me beautiful trees and falling leaves and cold nights and warm days all year long.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thriller : 64 parts, once voice

I don't know if this is incredible or incredibly stupid, but it's certainly fascinating.

In my family we have a love for Thriller that transcends generations. Us old folks remember it from when Michael Jackson was still black. Our kids know it from it being a big part of 13 Going On 30, an inexplicably popular video in the house.

Regardless, this video is clearly a labor of love, perhaps obsession, and certainly far too much free time.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sad Kermit

Apparently Kermit did not take the death of Jim Henson well.

I have no idea how I missed this for so long. Hilarious. Go to http://www.sadkermit.com for more.

Perseverance

A couple of weeks ago we were at the local Fall Festival. It's a yearly trip for us, mostly because Grandma likes looking at the crafts (my take: more crap we don't need or have room for) and the kids like the inflatable things that they get to play on. Some company brings in the big slide, obstacle course, giant worm, mountain rock wall, and other things.
So this year #4 son decided that he was big enough to climb the rock wall. They found the smallest harness they had and got him strapped in. They showed him how the rope will not let him fall. He did a practice climb up about three feet and back down. He was ready.
And up he went. He was fine at first, but the higher he got the less sure of himself he was. We ended up calling out instructions: "Put your knee on the red one! Grab the Green one! Pull up!"
Eventually he made it to the top. By that time we had attracted a crowd, and everyone cheered.
Then he wouldn't come down. Wouldn't trust the rope. I was hoping he would slip, so the rope would slowly lower him down. But he hung on, getting increasingly scared. increasingly upset.
Finally one of the workers donned a harness and went up the rock wall and helped him down, mostly just showing him that the rope would hold. He came slowly down, hanging on the rope, not sure if he should be proud or slightly ashamed. We made sure that he knew that we were very proud of him for completing the monumental quest. And we apologized to everyone for him taking so long, but no one cared.
Weeks later we were at one of the 'cushy' play areas that are starting to show up in some malls. This one was sponsored by a hospital, so there were medical - themed items strewn throughout. One was a big black doctor's bag. The cool thing appeared to be to climb to the top of the bag and hang out. Most of the bigger kids were doing it. Number Four son had to give it a try.
He made multiple attempts, running up and grabbing on to the top and trying to get his way up, but it wasn't working. He kept slipping, falling back to hanging from his hands, and letting go. Finally he sat down and looked at the insurmountable obstacle. And then he'd tried again.
And again.
Finally he took of his socks, put them in his teeth, and gave it one more shot. The bare feet made the difference. He worked his way to the top and proudly put his socks back on. (I'm a stickler for them keeping socks on in places like those.) He looked at me and I gave him a wave and a smile, letting him know that I had seen him. And was proud of him. And I was glad he kept his socks on.
I note these things not because I am proud of my son (which of course I am), but because I saw the far reaching effects of what he was doing, of what he was learning. He was teaching himself the value of perseverance, the value and reward of hard work. He relied on himself, with a little encouragement, to accomplish his goals. He relied on his brain and his muscles. He learned that thinking before acting generally gets you to your goal faster.
And he'll remember it, because he didn't read it from a book or on a blackboard on hear it from a teacher. He lived it.
Now we could have said "No rock wall today", because he really was too little to make the climb. He spent a long time getting up there, and more time being scared up there. We could have sent someone after him much sooner than we did. And I could have told him not to climb on the doctor bag, because that's really not what it was meant for (there is a tunnel running through it). And I thought about both those things. But I chose to let him be a kid.
My best childhood memories are of being outside in unscheduled, unsupervised play. Being out in the woods for hours and hours. Just being in the neighborhood with friends all day and most of the night. Being a kid.
We tell ourselves we can't do that today, that there are too many risks, that the costs are too high. Then we wonder about childhood obesity and autism and time spent online and gaming. What is the cost of NOT letting you kids be kids?
Many kids today are so micro-managed, so sheltered, so scheduled. Let them go, let them play, let them learn. Let them get dirty. Sometimes they'll fail, and cry, and be devastated. Sometimes they won't. And every time, they'll learn.

Friday, October 03, 2008

I still remember Steve Garvey...

and still hate the Dodgers.

Ok, Garvey wasn't a Dodger then, but they gave him to the Padres, and he'll always be a Dodger, and I don't have it in my heart to hate the Padres.

image Go Cubs.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Tipping point...

Please note the Electoral-Vote.com plug-in to the right that indicates Florida, Ohio, and Nevada turning "Barely Democrat".

Yes, there's much campaigning and debating left to do. But if Obama wins in a landslide, today is the day we first really knew it could happen.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Obama in the rain

We've had eight years of Republican rule, and here we are. Yes, there is plenty of blame to go around. The crisis we're in is not only Republican made, but they're in charge so they get the blame.

The day after the first debate Obama was in Virginia and gave this speech. My favorite line : '..John McCain had plenty to say about me, but nothing to say about you."

In my next president I want inspiration, not division. I want calm and measured response, not jumping like a tick in a skillet. I want a president who reads and thinks for himself, not one who acts on "gut feelings". I want a president who's been poor, who has had to sweat the rent payment or the mortgage, who's had to use or watch their parents use foodstamps.

I want Barack Obama.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saturdays in the fall...

Will always mean this.

imageFor just over 20 years I participated in or taught color guard, in some form or another, in some school or another. To this day a sunny fall day brings memories flooding back of competition, practice, bus rides, staff meetings. Tearful girls (both joy and sorrow), dealing with rivals and infighting and catfighting and friendships and breakups.

In High School I loved the performance, marching in front of crowds in the big stadiums, trying to get them on their feet, trying to improve my own performance each week. In teaching I fell in love with finding those students who were on the edge - the ones who really didn't 'fit in' with any crowd, but had some small measure of talent and could be molded into a 'guard girl'. Or guy.

My greatest joys were rarely on the field, they were in rehearsal. Watching someone finally catch a triple (or finally catch it FLAT). Watching someone who at the beginning of the season struggled with drop spins now casually do double-time or even peggy spins. Watching that kick-ass section of the flag feature go from a horrendous mess to a thing of beauty over the course of the season.

I miss it.

In marching band there are no superstars. You succeed and fail on the strength of your weakest member. Coach can't sound the buzzer and send in a replacement for a weak second clarinet. Coach can't give a rousing halftime speech to bring everyone back to life for the rest of the show. There's no time-out to give your starters a breather and discuss strategy. It's just you and the music and your instrument (or flag or rifle or body), doing the absolute best you can, trying to do better than last performance, trying to reach perfection.

I love the activity because it forces each member to understand these things, to believe in themselves, to work hard at achieving something that they could not achieve alone. It forces them to strive for something esoteric; not a "win", but to better themselves each time out. Yeah they keep score, but for the best band scores are secondary, something oddly separated from the performance. Your score is important, but it's not most important.

So I sit here today on this amazing fall afternoon, watching my kids run around the yard, and listening to part of me that wants to be in the stands, watching a show, or better yet on the sidelines telling each girl to break a leg as they step on the field. And then holding my breath for the entire performance, waiting to see what wonders they work with the show.

Good luck to everyone out there between the lines today. Break a leg.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sept. 25th, 2008 - The Day McCain lost the election

image I've felt sorry for McCain for awhile now. Really since he clinched the nomination and handed his campaign over to Rovian surrogates and lobbyists. And supposedly "former" lobbyists.

They've taken a man who really WAS a maverick and unafraid to buck party for principle and turned him into a far-right clone, a mouthpiece for the party.

Then he picks Palin because the party wouldn't accept Joe Leiberman or Tom Ridge. The party loves it, the rest of the country goes "WTF?".

Then he suspends campaigning to go to Washington and fix the bailout bill, even though he's not on that committee and none of the other senators want him there. In fact, his presence helps stall the bill. He tries to postpone the debates, including (inexplicably) the Vice-Presidential steamroll smack-down debate. He disses Dave Letterman, then goes on TV with Katie. And visits with Bill Clinton's Global Intiative the next day.

Goodbye, Senator McCain. Enjoy your remaining time in the Senate, your nine houses, thirteen cars, and trophy wife. You've not only let the party sink your chances to be President, you've likely expended all of your political capital in doing so. I don't know how you salvage it at this point, or why you'd want to.

I'm sure some major multi-national corporation will pay you to lobby for them when your term is up.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Stephen King's "N."

Now this looks cool. I haven't watched the entire thing yet. I'm waiting for some uninterrupted time.
I'm not sure how to describe the look - comic book animation with depth is about the best I can think of. It's really moody and well done, what I've seen so far.

The story "N." is apparently going to be in King's next anthology, "Just After Sunset", and some editions will include a DVD with this video on it.
The video is free on the web at the link.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Slander! Outrage!

From Slashdot:

"Eoin Colfer, the Irish author of a number of books (including the popular children's book series 'Artemis Fowl'), has been directly approached by Douglas Adam's widow, Jane Belson, to write a sixth book to continue the (even more) increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy."

image

Is nothing sacred? Surely they can't need the money that would come from this farce. First it was Gone With The Wind, then The Godfather, then the Wheel of Time series, now this?

The Hitchhiker's books are sacrosanct. Unique works of glee and genius, they can't be duplicated. Anyone who tries is on a fool's errand. Adams unique brand of whimsy and farce is not something that can be "continued".

The man is gone. Let the books stand alone.

In other news, Tad Williams has been asked to write the next book in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, and John Irving is reportedly working on "A Christmas Carol: Continued."

Friday, September 12, 2008

Unique 9/11 Remembrance

I give you a link to a unique remembrance of 9/11, from someone who was in the tower. I make no claims as to it's truthfulness, but it's chock full of little details that lead me to believe it completely. Plus, it's from one of my favorite blogs. So there.

Warning: Graphic descriptions, curse words, and racial epithets abound.

Here's the link.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Damn Nickelodeon!

image Now that they've started re-running Family Matters at night, I get to listen to my five and six-year-olds running around snorting, hee-heeing, and saying "Did I do that?" in a nasal voice.

I'd had enough of that on first run of the series.

Family Matters is proof of the death of the sitcom. Stephan Urk'el? Robotic Steves? Horrible.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Boy, does this bring back memories

I loved Shazam! growing up. Never forgot when they showed the 'flying' effect on a special: they had Captain Marvel rigged on the front of a moving truck, his upper body hanging over the edge of a board. A little close crop, and Shazam! Instant low-level flying.

And who can forget the great Space : 1999?

See, effects were so bad that we still had to use our imaginations, even though we were watching TV.

I'll spare you the Buck Rogers, Land of the Lost, SpiderMan, and Flash intros.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Best. Cat. Ever.

Depending on who you ask, this is either Binks, Kitty, Thousand-Dollar Cat, Damn Cat, or Gray Cat. Most of the time to me he's Gray Cat, and he's the best cat ever.

Gray Cat is happy to spend his days alternating between pillow, suitcase, and shoulder attire for the kids. Well, perhaps not happy. Resigned might be a better term. He just goes limp and hangs there, bearing whatever indignity the kids have planned for him today (which has included, but is not limited to: trimmed whiskers, trimmed hair here and there, stuck in a box, a drawer, under the TV, a cupboard... the list goes on).

Gray Cat is deathly afraid of the vacuum. For reasons we don't know the cause of, he disappears in a hurry when someone turns it on. We've got one of those cyclonic things where you watch the dirt spin around, and he's never liked it.

So one day the kids decided that they were going to vacuum Gray Cat. Perhaps it was tough love, an attempt to cure him of his fears. They were pretty sly about it, and waited until only Grandma was watching them. Grandma tries but is no match.

Two of them held down Gray Cat while the third ran the vacuum. Gray Cat got so terrified that he crapped a pretty nice pile there on the carpet in the living room. At this point the kids knew they were in for it and let the cat go. Whoever was holding the vacuum (and I have my suspicions but no proof) took one look at the crap and one look at the implement in their hand, made a cognitive leap, and decided to get rid of the evidence. The vacuum worked faithfully and picked up the poo without a problem.

So when my wife got home there was only a beshitted vacuum (crap all over the see-through portion of the "Cyclonic Chamber") and three looks of blank denial. Fortunately I was not at home to witness the Vesuvian explosion that took place. I was, in fact, out of town. The cell call went something like this:

Me: "Hey dear, what's up?"

Her (very loud): "Kids... damn cat... vacuum... SHIT!"

Me: <hangs up quietly>

When I got home days later none of them would admit the deed, or having seen the cat that day, or that we even owned a cat. I did eventually extract what will likely be the only confession from our three-year old daughter : "I see the poop go 'roun and 'roun, daddy."

Monday, August 11, 2008

Ah! GMail is down!

What to do? Who to turn to?

Gmail by GoogleGMail has been down for ten minutes or so. I'm not freaking out yet, but it causes me to think about how much I rely on GMail, Google Reader, Google Apps, and other things in the cloud.

These tasty treats are FREE, but the price is no support. No guarantees. Gmail could turn everything off tomorrow and there's not a thing I, or you, could do.

Not that they will. But still, the thought is there, lurking. What if I were waiting on a very important email, one that a consulting job or client depended on? Who to call?

No one.

For a time I thought it would be cool to find I client start-up, say a small law office, that I could put completely in the cloud. Use Salesforce.com or Google apps and have the only supported app locally be a browser and maybe Google Gears. Now I'm not so sure.

Still down.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Blog List Updatery

So as of right now my Google Reader list stands at 122, which I know is far too many. I check my reader at least daily, and at least skim over each new posts brief update view. That’s a lot of info to take in, but I enjoy being up to date.

Few blogs are going better right now than Bill Martel’s “Sex In A Submarine”, my favorite script writing blog. Not updated often enough, Bill’s posts are a fascinating window into the realm of an actual working script writer making it in the Hollywood movie biz.image

Lately he’s been doing a series of “Friday with Hitchcock” posts, where he takes one Hitchcock film per week and dissects it; where it works, where it doesn’t, what is groundbreaking, etc. Bill’s perspective on these films, how they relate to what he does, and how they relate to movies today, is a must for any movie fan and a definite must for Hitchcock fans.

His take on current movies is always interesting as well. His screenwriter’s perspective often gives a slant to a movie that I haven’t thought about before. And some of the insight he gives into film making is fascinating. Who knew that sometimes scripts are written around the availability of locations? Or that sometimes B-Movies come in behind other movies and use the same sets for a completely different movie, and that often these movies didn’t exist until the set became available? Or that producers and directors seem to exist mainly to ruin good scripts and insert stupid ideas – like a sex scene in a submarine war movie.

Bill Martel’s http:\\sex-in-a-sub.blogspot.com : recommended!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

From Bad to Worse

Given : The Economy Stinks.

How bad is it going to get?

image

From FireDogLake:

Reduced employment, reduced business investment, reduced consumer credit in all its forms.

These things have a cascading effect—they all reduce spending, whether business or individual spending. Each time spending is reduced, another business reaches the red line and goes out of business, or it has to lay off unproductive staff, or it orders less goods from its suppliers who do one of the two. As all those people are laid off they cause a reduction in tax revenues (payroll, property, income) and they start spending a lot less. That leads to businesses being under even more pressure and the logical thing for them to do is to... cut more staff. I'm sure you see where this is going.

It's a self-reinforcing vicious spiral. It is, actually, a huge part of what made the Great Depression as bad as it was. Now, the correct response to this is twofold—you clear the private books, and you maintain demand. As Keynes noted over 70 years ago, what that means is that when private actors can't spend, the government should.

This doesn't mean boondoggles, the Roosevelt administration had almost no fraud, literally magnitudes less than that which takes place routinely these days. It doesn't mean not slashing programs—in fact slashing programs which don't either provide relief or significant demand is very important so that money can be freed up to do other things. And it doesn't necessarily mean running huge deficits, in fact, at least at the Federal level, it is entirely possible to balance the budget with a series of cuts and tax raises on corporations and the rich (it certainly makes little sense to allow oil companies to reap all the benefits of oil prices increases, since they are not caused by management—unless of course, oil executives want to argue that they were responsible in front of Congress? Hmmmm?)

I don’t know about you all, but this scares the bejeebus out of me. You know things are in the tank when not even a government job is safe. Buy inflation-indexed bonds, and stuff your mattresses.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Letter

To Judith Claire Mitchell:

I normally don't do this kind of thing.
I mean, I read a lot. I'm a reader, y'know? It's not what I do, it's part of who I am. Non-readers don't get it, never will.
But write letters to authors? I think I wrote Stephen King once, when I was seventeen or so.
So I picked up "Scribner's BEST of the Fiction Workshops 1998" at the library book sale on a whim. Didn't even look at the contents, and frankly thought it was going to be a treasury of how-to and advice for writers. I am glad I was wrong.image
I read "A Man of Few Words" on the way in to work, on the bus, today. Just this morning. I started at the bus stop, I finished just before my stop.
I stepped off the bus with tears in my eyes and a hitch in my throat. I couldn't tell the bus driver to "Have a good day". I was afraid I would burst into tears, and that would look completely foolish. She already thinks I'm half baked.
Stories about fathers and sons get me every time, to some degree. Stories of love and loss. But this, this little gem that you crafted, this marvelous little diamond - it's the kind of story that could change things. Change people.
The first sentence grabs, the last sentence elevates. In between is home run after home run. The way Ike views his son's plastic surgery :

"How could he think the face belonged to him only?" : Priceless.


"By the color of fingernails."

My father's nails are crushed and mangled from decades of dirty work. What I tried to say in an entire blog post you said better in five words.


"If Ike had made a mistake, it was not in his failure to shout his love. It was his failure to teach the boy how to say "Boy, oh boy, that sun sure feels good on the back, doesn't it?"

If there is a lesson I long for my kids to learn from my life and example, it is this. Not wealth or power or fame, but small pleasures and simple things will you remember and cherish.


"I want to see her face," Ike says. "I want to see how pretty she looks."


I have never been so blown away so many times within one short little story. As a 41 year-old son and a father of sons and a daughter it spoke to me on so many levels I was literally dizzy.
This book will remain by my bedside on the "re-read" shelves for a long, long time. Even if every other story stinks - - which I doubt - - yours was more than worth the price of admission.
Of course at the library sale it was $.025, but it would have been worth full price had I paid it.
I will remember this story for the rest of my life.
Thank you.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bookworm Nirvana

Last weekend marked the Library Book Sale.

(Cue harps, trumpets, and heavenly choir)

The sale is always an exorcize in restraint for me. All children's books $.25! Adult Hardbacks $1.00! Paperbacks $.25!

It staggers the imagination.

I purposely go in with $10 or less. The key here is to take a big sack or box and pick up everything you even think you might want on the first pass. The room is crammed with people and if you don't grab it someone else will. These are not all library cast-offs. In fact the majority of the books are donated by patrons to be auctioned. There were many books by King, Grisham, Clancy, most of the popular authors. Surprisingly there was NO Tolkien to be found, and no Koontz that I saw either.

For the record, I apologize for moving all of the Scientology books from "Religion" to "Fiction". I do, however, reserve the right to do it again.

I worked the tables slowly, not wanting to miss anything. The Children's section was a little light this year. Science fiction had lots of good stuff, most donated and in good condition.

My haul this sale:

"All Too Human," George Stephanopoulos

Already finished this and it's a fascinating look inside the scheming, plotting, deal-making and promise breaking that was the Clinton White House. A great read for a political junkie like myself, and it gave me a new found respect for both the author AND Clinton. This is not whitewash. Clinton is portrayed warts and all. But if this book is to be believed then his motives and goals in running the country were pure and sincere, and did not involve increased chances at getting laid. That we know of.

handy Handy As I Wanna Be: A Novel With Tools (Hardcover), Vince Rause

Finished this one too. Meh.

Part handy guide, part fictional view into the life of a man obsessed with his "handyman" habit. It's a nice try but doesn't hit the mark. If you want something like this go find John Marchese's "Renovations", a much better book which I'll have to re-read and blog about someday.renovations

Robinson Crusoe, Leatherbound edition. (SCORE!)

Misc. books on writing and short story collections.

What appears to be the entire "Novels on the Change" series by S.M. Stirling, in amazing condition.dies_cv I didn't even know this series existed before seeing it here.

Includes "Dies the Fire", "The Protector's War", "A Meeting at Corvalis", all in hardback, $3.00. Score of the day.

jonathan_strange Last, I scored a paperback copy of "Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: A Novel", Susanna Clarke for the above mentioned $.25, a bargain in anyone's book. This is perhaps the book I'm most looking forward to and most dreading at the same time. Widely hailed and awarded, I've seen mixed reviews among the regular folk. We'll see how it fares.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Not sure why I like this…

But it’s stop motion animation with GI Joe figures, and it essentially re-enacts John Carpenter’s The Thing, so that’s enough for me. The Thing may be my all time favorite scary / alien / sci-fi movie. If they could have snuck the “Big Jim” figure in there somewhere, it would be nirvana.

Riding the RAGBRAI

If you’ve ever wanted to ride the RAGBRAI, here’s a blog from a pretty regular guy that’s sloughing it out. Not one of those skinny twenty-somethings you see zip by on their carbon-framed wonders, but a regular Joe struggling to make each day. His slightly twisted sense of humor makes the read especially worthwhile.

You may know Ray as the purveyor of another fine Internet establishment. Not that I’ve ever been there or anything.

Keeping up with his blog has almost made me feel like I was there. Well, that and pictures like this from his iPhone:

bikenuns

I say good for him, and I wish I was there.

What? Don’t know what RAGBRAI is?

photo-777050

Monday, July 21, 2008

Funniest YouTube video ever.

My wife thinks I’m nuts. Most of my kids like it, but one thinks it’s stupid. All I know for sure is that the first three times I watched it I laughed so hard I cried.

Of course, followers of this site will be well aware of my love of all things Muppet – related and will fully understand.

As an aside, I just had to add the words “Muppet” and “YouTube” to my Windows Live Writer dictionary. C’mon! That ain’t right.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Wall-E


Let's make this simple.
Wall-E is brilliant. If you haven't seen it, stop reading this and go. Now.

Wall-E reminds us that there are two great important things : life and love. Yes, it's a story about robots, but as is typical with Pixar the larger themes shine through without beating us over the head.
It is Keaton-esque in it's nearly silent comedy.
This is a classic. It's the kind of movie that Disney wishes it was making. Pixar is truly at the top of their game.
The kids will sit still through it. Trust me. Get thee to the biggest movie screen in your area. Now.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Rockets and Reminiscence

112855219_img_4041Leading up to Saturday we were watching the weather forecasts closely. This year's GARLO event was Saturday and we missed it last year and I wanted to make sure we were there this year.

We were big rocketeers when I was growing up. We lived close enough to enough wide - open spaces that we could walk over and launch anytime, which for a period of five years or so is what we did. We'd save up or pool money for engines and igniters and recovery wadding and head out to the field with whatever collection of rockets we hadn't lost yet. We flew A-engine through D-engine rockets, two stagers and three stagers. We duct taped rocket engines to model cars ( didn't work so well), sent action figures and eggs into orbit and had contests over duration and landing zones and anything else we could think of. We flew Estes rockets because that's what the local hobby shop had. It was years before I knew that anything else existed.

We'd get a rocket kit and be so anxious to fly it that Estes USS Enterprisepaint was an unneeded extravagance. Paint was reserved for rockets that had survived a first launch and recovery. Often the glue could have used a bit more drying time as well. I recall my Starship Enterprise coming apart on landing, largely due to a lack of drying time.

Another memorable launch was the three stage Comanche rocket. This was one of the last rockets I remember building. I took much more care and patience with this kit. It cost more, as I recall, and with three stages that meant paying for three motors for each flight. I had each stage perfectly mated with the stage above, each fin perfectly sanded and filleted - it was a thing of beauty. Only on close inspection could you tell that it was three stages.

As per tradition it was as yet unpainted. The day for the first launch was glorious (in my memory, anyway, all of those summer days are) and I of course chose the largest, most powerful motor for each stage. There was a slight northerly wind so I tilted the launch just a degree or two off vertical. The rocket flew straight and true, the first stage popped and the second kicked in. It picked up speed and altitude and the second stage popped. I got caught watching the second stage tumble down, trying to mark it's location for recovery. When I looked back up the top stage of the rocket was out of sight. I heard the parachute charge pop, but never saw the parachute. I never saw the rocket again. I assume it landed somewhere in the woods, far to the north, after reaching about 1200 ft or so.

So on Saturday I was really looking forward to taking the boys out and watching the rockets fly. I haven't launched a rocket in something like ten years. The older boys were interested, but never really patient enough to complete a kit.

Once we circled around Dodd's Park and found the launch site we were able to park close enough to see everything from the van. Daughter was interested for about three or four launches, but then the grass and the flowers were calling. The boys, however, were enthralled. They wanted to look at every rocket lined up waiting for launch, they wanted to sit closer to the launch pads. Number Four son wanted to know exactly how they worked : from engine to wadding to parachute. When one particularly gnarly F-motor launched, Number Five son could be heard above the roar of the motor exclaiming "Wow! Did you see that? Fire came out of it! Did you see that?"

They watched each rocket from launch to recovery, and were particularly interested in R2-D2's short but successful flight. We kept saying "one more rack, we'll stay for one more round of launches and then we have to go", and someone would bring up another gloriously large rocket for the next round and we'd have to stay to see that one.

83862262_img_2818 These rocketeers were good, bordering on professional. Most flights were straight and true. There were the requisite separations (nose cone disconnects from tube body on parachute deployment) and the more spectacular complete failure of the ejection charge or "prang" (rocket dives into the ground twenty feet from spectators). There were some young kids flying kit rockets that day as well, so anyone was welcome. Everyone was great, letting the kids gaze and even finger some of their rockets. There was a vendor on hand selling kits and parts (selling at least one parachute to a youngster that had forgotten to put in his recovery wadding). He didn't have any beginner or starter kits, however, so I tried to steer the boys clear of him lest they get there eye on a rocket Dad didn't want to pony up for.

Of course I had ulterior motives this day. I wanted to expose the kids to an activity that they could enjoy, and hopefully learn to love and use to branch off into other interests like space exploration or astronomy.

Wife is no fool. She asked if my Rocket Box was still out in the garage, and if I would be restocking it now. I had to correct her and say it was a "Range Box", and that it had been re-purposed as a tackle box years ago. So I'll have to get a NEW range box, and stock it up with spare recovery wadding and parachutes and engines and swivels and igniters. Right after I build that launch controller I've always wanted to make. The stock ones are just not geeky enough (or beefy enough) for me anymore.

I also need to let enough time pass so that the memory of those giant F-motor rockets has faded from memory, so that when the boys press the launch button on their first A-motor rocket they'll be just as enthralled as I was.73166792_kevin'stwostage_takeoff

The Central Illinois Aerospace club holds launches twice monthly, weather permitting. They also do demonstrations and workshops on various aspects and hobby rocketry. Newbies and spectators are welcome at all events.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Clarinet Players Beware

You've been replaced by machines. The robot player below one a competition, but it clearly has issues. Like most players, it is more comfortable in the lower registers and has a tendency to squeek a bit in the upper range. I'd have been more impressed if they'd worked out the air pressure / embouchure issues over getting it to press the keys really fast.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

It never gets easier

You would think that the older you get the more you get used to friends your age passing away.

Not so much.

I heard today that my good friend George Cherry passed away. I haven't seen George in years, but the news hit me like a punch to the gut. I was lucky enough to work side by side with George for about two and a half years teaching color guard. They were without a doubt my best years in the activity. George's creativity, enthusiasm and rapport with the kids was something to behold. From the moment he arrived he elevated everyone to a different level - and challenged me to do the same.

George was passionate about the activity and he "got it" : the pursuit of excellence, the push to drive kids to reach for things just beyond their grasp and then reach a little more. His joy for life and boundless energy was an epidemic that ran rampant through our organization while we were privileged to have him with us. The guard was never better.

George touched countless lives - here in our backwater little town, as a founding staff member of Jersey Surf, as a performer and a person. I'd lost touch with George over the last several years, but I'd always here from someone who'd heard from someone about how he was doing. Even though I hadn't seen him in forever I thought of him often - of his passion for excellence, his love of the activity, and just his approach to life every day. Even when he was privately down about something, when the kids came around the game face was on and he was ready to go.

I've yet to work with a better motivator and educator in the color guard world. The kids all loved George, even when he was telling them like it was. George had a profound effect on my career in the color guard world, coming along just at the right time to give me new enthusiasm and challenge and push. His love of the activity and the kids was unequaled.

One of my favorite George memories is seeing The Pride of Cincinnati's "First Circle" show for the first time at a regional performance in Ohio. Before they finished I leapt to my feet, tears streaming down my face because it was so damn _good_ and _right_ and I had taught kids in that show early in their careers. I looked over at George, who was a couple of seats down, and caught him looking at me with the same tears on his face. We both burst out laughing, tearing up and clapping, caught up in the joy of the moment.

And that was George - caught up in the joy of the moment.

He touched hundreds, if not thousands of lives, and will missed by many and forgotten by none.

For a time he was "my best good friend" and I will cherish his memory forever.

Update: Obituray info here from Jersey Surf

Monday, June 02, 2008

Chasing Rainbows

Last night as we drove up to evening church service there was a rainbow arcing over the church. It was quite brilliant and visible for about two thirds of the way up. My thought process went something like this:

Wow, look at that. Light from the sun is hitting that falling rain at the precise angle to refract it into the visible spectrum, reflect it off the back of the drop of water, and refract it again on the way to me eyeball. Cool. If I was in an airplane I might see a rain-ring, which is something I've always wanted to see.

Then I turned to my wife, who had tears in her eyes.

"That's God's promise," she said.

Years ago, when we knew only that she likely had cancer and not much else, we returned from a trip to Champaign that featured a day filled with poking and probing and the drawing of blood and testing. We were uptight, scared and unsure. We sought comfort from our pastor and his wife. Somewhere along the line my wife and the pastor's wife saw a rainbow. The pastor's wife said something like this:

See that? That's God's Promise. In the bible it tells us that God made rainbows to remind us of his promise never to flood the earth again. I see it and am reminded that God is still in control, that he still has a plan, and he's still watching over me.

My wife hadn't forgotten that, since she's the one that had the cancer. I hadn't forgotten it either, but then it didn't mean as much to me. It meant a lot in that it helped her deal with what was going on, and still helps her deal with things today.

I want to say that she got more out of the experience than I did, but further thought revealed that we were both missing something in the process. By ignoring the spiritual, I was limiting the impact of a simple rainbow on my psyche that day. And by ignoring the scientific, my wife missed a chance to appreciate the fundamental laws of physics and nature in action. Who missed more? For me, it is hard to say. But I'm certain my wife would say that i was missing the point entirely.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

StayCation

With the price of gas soaring, someone coined the term staycation to indicate time taken off from work without actually going anywhere. What's the news? I've been staycating for years. What they're really doing is trying to make us all feel a little better about the fact that we can't afford to drive anymore.image

Driving is becoming a significant activity, requiring forethought and budgeting. We used to pile in the van and tear off somewhere on no notice, driving an hour or two each way without thought to reach some destination. Now we have to really think about whether or not it's worth it to drive to Hoopeston or Champaign to see a movie like we used to.

Leisure driving is now an activity for the rich and well - off. Back in the day we'd all pool together the change we had in our packets and end up with enough for a night of cruising the streets. Those days are long gone and never coming back. My guess is that we'll see alternative fuels in wide distribution before we see $3.00 a gallon gas again.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Phoenix has landed

image I admit freely to being glued to the Nasa Channel (on the internet - no Nasa on Comcast last night) as the Phoenix landed and started to send back pictures from the surface of Mars. I cheered along with Mission Control when "Touchdown" was announced, cheered again when the first pictures cam back. What an amazing achievement.

I think America has a kind of "been there, done that" attitude towards space travel. I'm guessing the majority of people have no idea how much Nasa research contributes back to society. I used to know a figure that was the return on every dollar we funded Nasa with. Wikipedia says an investment in the Apollo program earns 33%. Not bad for government work.image

The space program needs America to get excited again. Does this mean manned missions? Discovery of Life? I don't know. A nice start would be for Congress to stop cutting funding. The Nasa budget is less than 2% of the total budget, and it pales in comparison to the war in Iraq. They can continue by retiring the shuttle fleet. It's served it's purpose, and it is time to move on to a real 'space truck', something that is completely reusable and doesn't need to be completely rebuilt after every launch.

I subscribe to many, many blogs in my Google Reader. Okay, 122 to be exact. Many of them are blogs by and for Fiction writers, most of those being Science Fiction. Very little mention of the landing across the Blogsphere. There was some mention in Slashdot and IO9 and Wired, but little else. Where's the excitement? We just did the equivalent of throwing a pebble from California to New York, landed it in a basketball hoop in the exact location where we meant it to land, and had it send back pictures. That's amazing! That's awesome! Let's shout it to the world!

Fifty percent of Mars missions and in disaster. We slam dunk another one, and the world gives us a big ho-hum.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

20 Essential Movies for Kids



Over at EW they've listed 21 essential movies for kids. I can't tell you how glad I am to see "The Iron Giant" in the list. It is one of my all time favorite movies. Not "Animated" movies, but movies period. It is undoubtedly one of the best American made animated movies ever made, and is high on my list of favorite movies. It's one of the movies you can pull off of the shelf anytime and get involved in all over again.
There are only three directors with more than one movie on the list: Brad Bird (Iron Giant, The Incredibles), Rob Reiner (The Princess Bride, Stand by Me) and Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings I-III). Not bad company for Mr. Bird to find himself in.
With a stellar cast the includes Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr., Vin Diesel, James Gammon, Cloris Leachman, Christopher McDonald, and John Mahoney I don't understand how the movie wasn't an instant classic in the theatres. Somehow it came and went and was never really appreciated as much as I thought it should be.
If you've never seen the Iron Giant, get thee to the video store post haste. You won't be sorry.
And if you have children that haven't seen it, for shame. The Iron Giant teaches us essential lessons about life and death, love and loss. war and peace. It's timeless and priceless.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hillary - The Next Supreme?

hillary_wv_0513 Yikes! Right-wingers everywhere are wailing and gnashing their teeth, donning sackcloth and ashes.

From the great FireDogLake:

Why is Hillary still in the race? According to Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor (and Obama supporter):

She wants the best possible deal she can strike with Obama. She wants Obama to agree to pay her campaign debts, to seat the Michigan and Florida delegations (so she can claim a moral victory), and – the quietest deal of all – a personal commitment from him to appoint her to the Supreme Court when the next vacancy occurs. (h/t Jim M.)

I'm not too sure even I like that idea, and I'm all for pushing the court just a bit back towards the center.

And just as an aside, despite my post earlier in the year, I'm all about Obama '08. Yes We Can!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Little Jonnie Cougar

Years and years ago, a young unknown by the name of John Cougar came touring through my scenic hometown, playing our gargantuan 6,000 seat arena. I was in the audience.

He's grown a little since then. Physically, artistically. I think he's my generation's Bob Dylan. (Of course, there are those that argue with me that Bob Dylan can be my generation's Bob Dylan, but they're wrong. The tunes that define your teenage years stay with you forever, and for me that was John Cougar).

Many of his videos are out there on the Internets for the viewing. Here's one of my favorites.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

It can't be far off...

They've invented the Flux Capacitor.

Ok, so they call it a Memristor, but read what it does:

225px-MemristorThe memristor is formally defined as a two-terminal element in which the magnetic flux Φm between the terminals is a function of the amount of electric charge q that has passed through the device. Each memristor is characterized by its memristance function describing the charge-dependent rate of change of flux with charge.

That, to me, is a flux capacitor. And others think so as well.uncledoc

Flying Deloreans and Mr. Fusions can't be far behind.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Geek Flowchart

I knew it all started with D&D. If I had seen this at the age of thirteen, who knows where I'd be today?

The chart is sadly accurate. About the only thing missing is the entire BBS era. And there should be a progression of modem speeds in there, from 300 baud pulse to 56k.

Click the picture for more detail.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Empire Strikes Barack

In this long Democratic Primary this is perhaps the funniest thing I've seen, all the more so because so much of it rings true.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Man-Pri

I have seen my first set of Man-Pris, and it was not pretty. They are not pretty.

Be a man, go get some baggy shorts. Spare me the metro-sexual man-pri attire.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Lessons Learned from my Daughter


Today Daddy and daughter got to spend a little time without the hooligans (boys) and run some errands. Lessons learned:

Anyplace worth walking to is worth RUNNING to.
Dandelions are flowers, too, and therefor are not to be killed.
Curbs are for jumping from.
You can play hide and seek anywhere.
Boys are loud. Particularly brothers.
Car seats suck.

Time

There’s never enough. Particularly when you are trying to put together the best show possible, with actors and tech folks (and a director) t...