Monday, April 28, 2008


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.


There's really no other word for this. Shows you why Sid Ceasar is remembered as a genius.

And this is something you'd never see on TV today. They'd never let it go on as long as it does. Combine that with the fact that it is live TV, no edits or retakes, and you've got a masterpeice of comedy. Watch it through to the end.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

We're off to see the Wizard

Ok, we already went to see the wizard. Several months ago I piled the entire family into Old Blue and made the trek across the frozen tundra of East-Central Illinois to the Virginia Theater in Champaign. We were surprising the kids with a trip to see The Wizard Of Oz on the big screen.

Or so we thought. We were there on the wrong day.

The kids didn't care so much. They've seen it a hundred times or so. They enjoyed McDonald's playland as usual. But I was disappointed. Movies are meant to be seen on the big screen with other people in the audience while eating popcorn flavored with a light yellow grease that vaguely resembles butter.

I did not enjoy the McDonald's playland.

Lucky for me six months later The Virginia was again showing the classic movie. We piled everyone into Old Blue one more time and this time arrived on the correct day, even at the correct time.

The Virginia is a brilliant old theatre. VirginiaIn need of some restoration work, it is largely serviceable and comfortable. It still has the old chairs (without cupholders!). The art-deco trimmings are all there and wonderful, and once the place is restored I'm sure they'll be glorious.

The movie opened to general applause. I was immediately struck by the crispness of the print. I've only ever seen the videotape / tv version (we haven't purchased the new restored DVD yet) and this was much sharper and clearer.

There was more applause when the film switches to color in Munchkindland. It really was a bit breathtaking on the big screen when Dorothy opens the door and the Technicolor (tm) comes flooding in.

The added clarity of the print allowed me to see several things I've never noticed before. In the version I've seen, the scarecrow's face looks to be a uniform brown, even in closeups. On the big screen it's clear that the makeup is somehow made to look like burlap in patches across the face. It's a really striking effect.

In the scene where they meet the Tin Man for the first time, you can clearly see the exotic birds around the set, On the tv screen they are blurry lumps at best, which led to other rumors about what they might have been

When the lion sings his "King of the Forest" song, you can clearly see the fishing line being used to swish his tail around.

When the Tin Man comes out of the 'cleaning' seen (scrub scrub here, scrub scrub there...) he is not merely clean but gleaming. It's clear they even lightened the makeup for those scenes immediately after.

The wicked which is not only a delightfully mottled green, but she has a lovely wart on her chin which we can see the hairs poking out of. That was my favorite thing, I think, those hairs sticking straight out. It showed to me an attention to detail that has likely rarely been noticed.

Almost needless to say, the kids loved the movie. The fine staff at the Virginia kept things interesting during the half-hour wait for the show to start by giving away a slew of prizes that were kid - friendly. They sat rapt for most of the movie (one bathroom break, I think) even though they've seen it multiple times each. Number Four Son, who is destined for the entertainment business in some form, sat rapt through the entire thing. I'm not sure he moved until the Wicked Witch finally bought it, when everyone in the theatre applauded.

It was just a great family time, well worth the $5.00 each and the gas to Champaign. If you get a chance to see something in the Virginia, don't pass it up. My next goal is to see something when they unroll the full 50ft of their Cinemascope screen, one of the few downstate.

080510_lawrence-of-arabia Lawrence of Arabia, anyone?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


After my trip to the various stores that make up Budget Bikes, I ended up at Chin's Asia Fresh, one of my favorite Chinese places around the office here in Madison. Their Hot & Sour soup is different than what I'm used to, and I much prefer the soup at Daisy's (Green Island). The rest of the meal is great.

So I'm enjoying my meal (chicken vegetable stir fry, hunan style) when a father comes in with his daughter and son. The daughter was in her early teens, the son ten or eleven. Give or take.

They both immediately sat down. She put on her headphones and plugged them into her iPod. He pulled out his Sony PSP and started gaming. Neither of them said a word to each other, or to their father, for the entire time they were there. The boy occasionally spoke to his PSP, the girl sometimes hummed along with her iPod.

The father never blinked. Tapped his son on the shoulder as he walked out with the take out. Son never looked up.

Recently a co-worker grounded her son from his cell phone. Seems he sent and received over 12,000 text messages last month. You do the math. She said she may just keep it away a while longer, because they actually communicate with each other when the kid doesn't have the cell phone stuck in his face all day.

What are we doing here? Cell phones and iPods and mobile internet and mobile email and chat and myspace and facebook and forums and... you get the idea. We're in danger of raising a bunch of kids that have forgotten how to communicate face to face, that are losing the art of conversation.

It's time for parents to declare electronics - free weekends, internet free zones. Declare the dinner table off limits to anything that plugs in or runs on batteries, wether that table is in the home or out. And FORCE them to eat dinner at home. At least once a week. Make the time. What do you have to do that is more important?

Declare an electricity free day. Every other Sunday, or one day a month. No TV, no electronic games, no iPod, no cell phone. Nothing. Sit down with your kids and talk, or play Monopoly, or Life, or a card game. Some of my fondest memories are of sitting around the table with the extended family playing that game with marbles on a board that I can't remember the name of. Aggrevation? Something like that. My mom would delight in sending me back to the start. I'd get to listen to adult talk, interact with adults. Have a conversation.

Unplug your kids. Unplug yourself. Get back in touch.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Budget Bikes


I know, it sounds like a low-rent bike shop, something you'd find in a back alley off of a dark street.

Vintage Bikes at the Used store In reality Budget Bikes is one of the largest stores in the nation, and it claims that it's used store is the largest. It encompasses five buildings over three blocks, with a building devoted to used bikes, one to new mountain bikes, one to new road and recumbent bikes, one to accessories and repair, etc. It's certainly bike nirvana if you ride at all, and should not be missed if you're running through Madison.

I took some shots of the used store and the mountain bike store. You cannot appreciate the vast number and variety of bikes from a photograph, but you get an idea.img164

In all of the stores, there are as many bikes hanging from the ceiling as there are on the floor. Bikes range in prices from FREE (ugly red bikes) to the thousands. I saw my first all-carbon Giant and it was the most beautiful bike I've ever seen. Also the lightest.


img165 The mountain bike store.

I was mainly looking to ride a recumbent, but the selection didn't suit me. They had a few really nice trikes, and a variety of recumbents, but not what I'm looking for.

Looks like my plans to build my own long wheelbase, underseat steer, low rider recumbent this summer. If I actually do it I'll post pics of the process.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


geni No, not as in "I Dream of...". Geni is a web site that allows you to create your family tree online.

Well, that's too simple.

Geni is a social networking site that allows you to create your family tree online, inviting family members along the way to help fill in the blanks. You can upload pictures, have your own forums, etc. In short, Geni is what I've been looking for over the last five years.

I come from a small family, just having one sibling. But my Grandma (on mom's side) had twelve kids. And I have an aunt that had that many. So there is no way I could keep track of all of the kids and marriages and grandkids and divorces. Now I don't have to. I can invite in Cousin Danny and he can take care of filling in the sections of the family tree that he is aware of. And he can invite relatives in. And so on.

I'm hooked. I'm hoping this thing helps me get a family reunion together. Back when Grandma was alive, we would at least get together every couple of years for her birthday. Since she died we haven't all gotten together at all. Granted, that may say more about family dynamics than it does anything else, but that's another story. I'm just tired of only seeing relatives only at funerals and wakes.

Built with Ajax, the tree is rendered in 'real time', and you can associate pictures with people in the tree. Adding a relative is as simple as clicking on the arrow geni_logo for the direction in which they are related: up, down, or sidewise. Very simple and extremely intuitive. I have yet to find a relative I could not define. For instance, it handles the whole 'married once - had one kid married again had some more' issue with ease. And you can even define 'partners' and 'ex-partners' for when the whole "kid" thing happened without the cumbersome marriage part.

For anyone trying to get their family tree together, I wholeheartedly recommend Geni.


It's suddenly February and I have a cast. All of them are people I know or have seen onstage, none of them are the people I thought wou...