Monday, November 28, 2005

My Personal Quote of the Day

My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four, unless there are three other people.

- Orson Wells, as quoted on The Mad Perseid

Friday, November 25, 2005

Useless Web Nonsense

Sure, it's pointless - but it's fun.

 


My blog is worth $12,984.42.
How much is your blog worth?

YaYa's 4th Birthday

I know it seems like I talk a lot about my oldest here, and I do - but in fairness, the baby's pretty darn boring and Middle Child's only now producing good copy .. . I'll update on those two soon :)

Last month was YaYa's 4th birthday. It was a bit of a bust, as of the nine kids invited the only two who showed up were my own. Everyone else came down with a cold, got scooped up by their father for the weekend, or had a death in the family. So at the last minute (literally with an hour to spare) we called some kids from her class, and darned if some didn't show - and during a Packer game no less!

Neatest of all was the fact that my brother in law drove his girls 5 hours to Milwaukee to surprise their cousin on her birthday. That goes above and beyond the call of duty.

Anywho, the main reason for this post is to show off the grand cake my wife baked for her:

My wife also conducted a treasure hunt (a well written quest courtesy of my brother in law) . .

and read the Princess and the Pea ('twas a Princess party, don't ya know).

She followed that up by playing a game where the kids reenacted the story, with the winner being the one who felt the prize beneath the pillow they were sitting on.

Wouldn't you know it though, midway through the party my birthday girl sucummbed to the flu, getting sick midway through dinner. Didn't stop her from enjoying her gifts though.

As I said, more on the other munchkins soon. Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

On Banner Ads and Other Schtuff

I've kept mum on the whole banner-ad controversy because I didn't want to offend anyone involved. Like the saying goes - as far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with everyone. Still, since everyone else has sounded off . . .

For those of you not on AOL, here's the problem:  the powers-that-be have decided to add banner ads across the top of AOL Journals. This has caused a major upheal in J-Land, as journal after journal has defected to other services or screamed bloody murder over the deed.

My opinion? Really, I could care less.

If you hate the ads and feel it violates your personal 'space', I sympathize.

But I don't notice the ads any more than I notice those littering a hundred pages more interesting and well-known than mine across the web. I certainly don't assume the writer condones or promotes the advertisers. And while I think AOL could have come up with something prettier, it conveniently blends into the color scheme of my journal.

Let me hedge my bets by saying this: I am a bit of a writing whore, which is, I believe, the whole point of writing. What did Mark Twain say? Something about how only a fool writes for free. . .

Or maybe that was my wife . . .

Put it this way: If the Democratic National Committee - for me, a mere step below the Chicago Bears/Minnestota Vikings on the 'hate 'em' meter for this Wisconsinite - wants to throw me a thin dime in exchange for an ad on my page, I'll be happy to send them my paypal address.

To sum it up, I don't really feel offended/hurt/violated/annoyed/betrayed/happy/sad about this issue. I'll keep reading those folks who've migrated off to other lands, not because they're banner-free, but because they're worth reading.

Which is, I would assume, the main reason advertisers thought it was worth their $ to slap an ad on their page in the first place.

******

BTW - here's a shout out to Vortexgirl, who put together a nice little ditty that mentioned me back on the 14th. I'd like to add more url's to my favorites here, but it appears I've plum run out of room . . . maybe AOL can use some of that ad money to buy some more space for my favorite places :)

 

 

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Random goo

Kind of a random post today . . .

Tonight was my parent's 35th wedding anniversary, a shinding my sister Katie put together pretty much on her lonesome. It was held at the Safehouse/Milwaukee Press Club. Despite a very crowded venue, and the fact that my wife had three kids under 5 to keep quiet for three hours, it was a lot of fun.

I say 'my wife' had to keep them quiet because more and more it seems I'm either busy with work or trying to unwind. It's become a sore spot between us. Be careful what you wish for I guess . . .

The food was great, and for the first time in memory, my Dad's side of the family joined the festivites. I've never been quite sure of the reason for the attendance gulf between my Mom and Dad's families, but it was nice to get reaquainted.

Maybe I'll post pics of the event later. Maybe not.

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I'm surprised my Pearl Harbor post didn't garner more comments. Guess I did lose my audience over the summer. Sh**ty.

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Also over the summer, some of the links on my favorites fell prey to the temporary nature of the net. The 'No One's Child' link now jumps to a dumpy little sex site, and Tom's Astronomy Blog  - one of my everyday reads - has experienced hosting problems and will be moving on to another site.

***********************************************

Speaking of unintended side effects, I'm woefully behind on my reading. Part of it is the time crunch, part is because of a nasty $35 fine I owe the library for some children's books that were overdue. Nazi's.

Anyhow, here's a list of what I'd like to read, if/when I get the chance. Oh, and some big ticket items I'd like to own sometime before I'm fifty:

*********************************

Laptop

telescope

Electric Guitar

one of them fancy memory sticks that carry info from computer to computer

Amazon.com: School Days (Spenser): Books: Robert B. Parker  

 Amazon.com: Knife of Dreams (The Wheel of Time, Book 11): Books: Robert Jordan  

 Amazon.com: Fiddlers : A Novel of the 87th Precinct (87th Precinct Mysteries (Hardcover)): Books  

 Amazon.com: The Closers: Books  

 Amazon.com: Drive to the East (Settling Accounts Trilogy, Book 2): Books  

Amazon.com: Return Engagement (Settling Accounts Trilogy, Book 1): Books: Harry Turtledove

  Click here: Amazon.com: I Am Legend: Books  

Click here: Amazon.com: Private Wars: Books: Greg Rucka .

 Amazon.com: Creepers: Books: David Morrell  

 Amazon.com: The Pale Horseman: Books

Amazon.com: The Planets: Books  

Amazon.com: Sea Change (Jesse Stone Novels (Hardcover)): Books: Robert B. Parker

Amazon.com: Sharpe's Escape: Books: Bernard Cornwell

Amazon.com: The Fallen Angels: Books: Bernard Cornwell

Amazon.com: Never Have Your Dog Stuffed : And Other Things I've Learned: Books: Alan Alda

  Click here: Amazon.com: Here's Johnny! : My Memories of Johnny Carson, The Tonight Show, and 46 Years of Friendship: Books  

 Click here: Amazon.com: The Historian: Books: Elizabeth Kostova   Click here: Amazon.com: Broken Prey (Lucas Davenport Mysteries): Books

   Click here: Amazon.com: Crusader's Cross : A Dave Robicheaux Novel (Dave Robicheaux Mysteries (Hardcover)): Books: James Lee B  

 Click here: Amazon.com: One Shot (Jack Reacher Novels (Hardcover)): Books  

Friday, November 11, 2005

An Interview with a Pearl Harbor Survivor

My family has a strong military tradition - no career soldiers (except for my brother-in-law), but vets of Guadacannal, D-Day, Korea, Vietnam,WWI, etc. On this Veteran's Day, I extend a thank-you to all the members of our military, past and present.

When I was 17 I interviewed my Great Uncle Leo, a Navy vet that was present at Pearl Harbor. I was a shy, nervous kid, and if I had a time machine I'd go back and ask a hundred different questions. Still, at least his memories are on record. The complete transcript is on file with the local historical society.

                                                       *   *     *    *   *

My Uncle Leo was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1920. A Machinist’s Mate 1st Class in the Navy, he was a survivor of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and served his country for five years aboard the USS Vestal - a vessel moored alongside the Arizona that fateful morning. His 49 year marriage to  produced three daughters and an equal number of grandchildren. A retired employee of General Electric Medical Systems, he died in 1999 from complications of a stroke.

At the time of this interview he was 70 years old, and the interviewer 17.

A: [I was a] machinist I would run lathes, mills, repaired, went and repaired ships that were sunk or brought up. If we had to repair ships we had to go on ships and repair them.. . .

Q What was wrong with the Arizona, that you were moored alongside?

A: Well, we were doing a routine…a routine overhaul on it. Supposed to. That day we pulled alongside of them.

Q: You pulled alongside on the seventh?

A: No, the sixth.

Q And that was supposed to start Monday or something?

A: Yeah. We pulled over Saturday. So we pulled over Saturday night over to the Arizona, ‘cause I was gonna see a bunch of buddies of mine aboard the Arizona that I went through training with.

Q: Did they make it through?

A: I didn’t see….[sad]

Q: Now that morning [12-7-41] you were heading to church right?

A: Yeah, we were going to church. There was, well all together there was about 13 of us. And..

Q: Were you already on land?

A: Oh yeah. We were going to church and then they started their bombing..that’s when these two airplanes started dive-bombing us and shooting machine gun bullets at us. The guy next to me got killed, from my department. His name was Kerrigan. He was, I think, the first guy that died.

Q: Did you know what was going on right away?

A: No, no. We thought, I looked up there and I saw them and I said "Jesus, [unintelligible; perhaps ‘mock warfare’] dressed as Japanese". ‘Til they turned around and started machine gunning. We were going [into the] church, we tried to get into the church. Now they had a round concrete thing [gesturing] that went over like that. It went from one end open to the other. Well this guy would shoot these machine gun bullets through there and we . ..but we were running to get out of the way when he got killed, when he got killed we were alongside of a fence. And . . the bullets went all in between, you could see the cars behind us all had holes in ‘em, and out of thirteen guys he was the only one killed. One guy out of thirteen of us. And we were all close, one alongside of each other. How them bullets got between us and hit him only, I don’t know. Because the cars in the back with all holes [in] ‘em.

Q: What’d you do after that?

A: Well, then we ran. They told us to get back to the ships.

Q: Did you make it back to the ship?

A: No. Couldn’t get it. We couldn’t get..they wouldn’t let ya, they were gunning, machine gunning. So then I had … we went to the dock, and we were supposed to go aboard [a] submarine, ‘cause they didn’t have enough crewmen. Then somebody said to us to go man a machine gun on a beach, so that’s where I went. And then about half of the day, at night I delivered camels, these big wooden squares they call it. They put between ships so they don’t collide [with] each other. I delivered them between these ships, at night, so they could maneuver around, the ships. So, we had that duty at night, and after we got back we machine gun…the ship got sunk, our ship. We rammed it into the beach. Then I went back there and we manned machine guns, the whole ship.

Q: Is that how you spent the day, just at a machine gun?

A: Yeah, spent the whole day. It only took a few minutes. I mean the attack was [laughs] aboard the Vestal and there it didn’t take long. [The Japanese] dropped two bombs aboard our ship, one was in the back and it didn’t explode. One was forward, it hit the deck, went through the mez deck [sp?], killed I don’t know, 3 or 4 people aboard there, the mez deck . . . and then went into what they call a metal locker, where we kept billets for machining like for, and material for machining, like brass, copper, menal [sp?], stainless steel for repairing ships. Well, the bomb hit that and exploded see, otherwise maybe it would have gone right through the ship too.

Q: Shrapnel everywhere, eh?

A: Oh God, yeah.

Q: Is there anything else you remember about that, about Pearl Harbor?

A: No, just that [laughs] I was scared like hell.[laughs] We all were running, you know, trying to get away from him. And there were two of ‘em, and they coming, one would come this way and the other one would come this way. Everybody was running around. Then we, they sent us to eat. And then we got into the line then they stopped all the lines and said all the food was poisoned, nobody could eat. Yeah, we didn’t have nothin’ to eat. I didn’t have anything to eat from Sunday morning ‘til Monday morning. I went aboard my ship, on deck, and we had the cook made eggs.

Q: So there were rumors going around …

A: Yeah. Blood was splattered all over the mez deck. But that was the first meal I had in say, 24 hours.

Q: Were you worried, like, there were rumors, like, Hawaii was going [to be invaded]. . .

A: Yes! Well, that’s why we were manning the machine guns on the beach, to, for an attack. And I don’t know how many of our planes, they wouldn’t even let our own planes come in to Hawaii, they were knocking them down. Because they didn’t know…

Q: Everyone was jumpy and everything. . .

A: Yeah. And we, they killed dogs, and cows. Yeah! Anything that moved they shot at, I mean everybody was afraid, you know?

Q: Afterwards what did you do?

A: Well, we would…after Pearl Harbor?

Q: Yeah.

A: Then we were all sent out to repair ships.

Q: I mean right after Pearl Harbor. In the book it said you went to the Oklahoma and cut it open, or you went and repaired your own ship . . .

A: Yeah.

Q: What did you do? Did you go to another ship, or. ..

A: No. I was aboard my ship, making parts for the ships, like the ones that needed repair, especially the Enterprise, carriers or that, that had to go out. And we worked like that for two weeks, then we went into dry-dock. And repaired ourselves. They had a big hole in our rear end. So what we did, they made a wooden box and he took a big piece of canvas, put it underneath the hole, brought the cranes up, pulled the box up, and we poured concrete for a whole…I think it was fifteen hours they poured concrete down in that hole to plug that hole up. Then they kept air in it, as they were pouring, then we took it and pumped out all the water right?

Q Yeah.

A: Then we got the ship [to] come up. We righted the ship up. Then we went and repaired all these other ships. We sent crews here, and crews there. Well I was in the machine shop, so we needed parts, so I was working on lathes and stuff. And, after we got done repairing as much of these ships as we could, ones that were so bad that they had just patch ‘em up so they could go to a repair base where they could put ‘em in a big dry-dock and repair them. Because you had to cut big holes in it. That’s what we had to do. We had to go into a dry-dock. But we repaired our own ship. We cut the plate out and we welded a new one up in there, and fixed our ship so it could go on the way.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2005

One Year of Blogging Under my Belt November 9th

Well, a year and a week, as I really started on November 3rd of '04, but who's counting.

No big brouhaha for the anniversary, just wanted to thank everyone who's tuned in to this site over the past 12 months. I appreciate it.

Here's a rehash of the first half of the year, and a link to my nephew's site. It gets mighty lonely here in blogdom; why don't you stop by and shout hello to encourage the guy. :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Halloween 2005 November 8th, 2005

I don't remember Halloween being all that big of a deal when I was a kid, but as a parent it's morphed into a marathon of festivities.   First there was the Halloween party at work, which I'll pass on describing due to my "you don't  . . where you eat rule"

 

Then came a dance at YaYa's school that the Mrs. described as "better than most of the college parties I went to" (which, I might add, is saying a lot j/k).

 

YaYa went as Dorothy, as the Wizard of Oz remains one of her favorite movies year after year. She almost won for best costume, but someone not nearly as smart/pretty/cool got the prize. Meanwhile Middle Child and I sat home and watched Hocus Pocus - a movie, in retrospect, that's a wee harsh for a two year old to see.

.  

Next on the list was nighttime Trick or Treat. Long illegal in Milwaukee, there's a few neighborhoods that close off the streets and (for a per child fee) allow you to trick or treat after dark.   We've gone for three years now, and it's great - a far cry from the feeble daytime trick or treat I grew up with. YaYa had to ditch Dorothy in favor of the warmer Barney costume, but she didn't seem to mind.  Middle Child was a pro, chugging along house after house and only pooping out after 4 or 5 blocks - and garnering comments on her "Toto" costume at every stop!

        

 Next up: the standard daytime trick or treating.   I went against my nature and took the kids up and down a whole stretch of the neighborhood. We encountered ghosts, Grimace from McDonalds, and a host of other ghouls and goblins . .         Afterwards we just stayed home and passed out candy.     It was, of course, Parker's first Halloween. He outgrew two - TWO - costumes, but thankfully our neigbor came through with a Dalmation suit at the last minute.

  

Gandhi moment of the day: when we ran out of  candy with an hour left to go,YaYa volunteered to give away her own stock rather than just close up shop.  

 Anti-Gandhi's of the day: any number of folks from 'other' neighborhoods who drove their kids - sans costume, makeup, and in most cases EVEN A BAG - to plunder other areas of town.

Trick or Treat where you like, but if the parents can afford a car, they could show they care  - or pretend to - by spending a few dollars on their kids.  

 Argh, I sound like Scrooge. But it gets old after a few years, ya know?  

 Anyhow, another Happy Halloween is in the books. Next up: Thanksgiving.   Comment on this Post  (non AOL)                   View Comments

Broadband! Broadband! November 8th

Today, on the eve of the one year anniversary of this blog, my family and I finally - FINALLY - purchased AOL Broadband via the local cable provider.

Considering that we've been online as a couple since ~'96 (and the mrs. online since the DOS version of AOL), this is, to quote Henry Kissinger, a "Big Big Wup".

Really, for technological glee this ranks right up there with my first computer and our  DVD player. I've already hit MLB.com, ITunes, and the Kurt Cobain site on the favorite section to the right . . .

Be prepared for mucho pics in the days ahead . . .

Thursday, November 3, 2005

The Post about the 2005 MLB Season, or why my summer didn't suck Nov 3rd

Knowing that I’m a huge Yankees fan, a lot of sarcastic folks have been asking how I felt about the White Sox winning the World Series.

My answer: I love it. If someone other than the Yanks had to win, at least it was someone in pinstripes.

[Their win also meant Boston sat home this year. All true Americans have to love that.]

And in truth, I’ve always been a bit of a White Sox fan. I even took my father down to a game in Chicago a few years ago. I like their park, their history, and the way they never tolerated failure, or used a ‘curse’ as an excuse for it.

As an added bonus, they also aren’t the lousy, much hated Cubs.

Still, this affection met with the strong disapproval of my brother-in-law. “Milwaukee used to be in the American League Danny. The White Sox were our sworn enemies!”

[To which I replied: “We once fought a war with Japan, but the last time I checked you drive a Nissan.”]

Chicago’s victory was a pleasant end to a great season of baseball.

True to my word I boycotted my hometown Brewers after ‘04’s ‘last straw’ heartbreak, save for that one trip to see the Yankees. They flipped me the bird in the best way possible, ending a consecutive streak of losing seasons that stretched over a decade.

J.J. Hardy and Rickie Weeks looked pretty good in their first year in the bigs. my team favorite Bill Hall had a breakout year, and the pitching staff continues to perform above expectations.

In the AL East, despite a disastrous start and pitching injuries that would have buried a lesser club, the Yankees fought back and took the division crown. Sure, they bowed out in the first round of the playoffs, but I’ll tell ya what: I cried when they took the division.

I didn’t cry when my kids were born, for Pete’s sake.

It meant more to me than the championship years at the turn of the century. Everyone had written them off for dead, but they’d scratched and clawed their way to the top on the backs of guys like Shawn Chacon and rookie Robinson Cano. That’s my team, baby. I didn’t think their pitching was strong enough to survive October, and it wasn’t, but I loved ‘em anyways.

In the AL Central Minnesota finally took it on the chin, and good riddance. Cleveland shocked me though; they just might be back to mid-90’s form.

The NL West was a joke, though thankfully Steroid Barry sat out most of the year.

Like most people, I was surprised to see the Braves take the NL East.

Like most people, I wasn’t surprised to see the Braves lose in the playoffs.

I’m ecstatic that the Astros made it to the big show, primarily because of manager Phil Garner. He deserved better talent than what Milwaukee gave him to work with, and I’m glad to see him doing well.

All the better that they got to the Series by wiping out the detested Cardinals and their incredibly overrated manager.

For AL MVP, it has to be A-Rod. Not because he’s a Yankee, but because his numbers, when combined with stellar defense at third base, put him heads and shoulders above David Ortiz.

In the NL, the MVP should go to Andruw Jones. Pujos deserved it in past years, but take away Jones and the Braves go nowhere.

Cy Young? I’d go with Roy Oswalt and just about anybody from Chicago’s staff.

What a great year for baseball. And best of all?

Only four more months before Spring Training . . .

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Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Short Movie Reviews Nov 2nd

We rented Dominion last night, the prequel to Exorcist. Oh, we'd seen the version that appeared in theaters, but I was estatic to see this one released in full. (once upon a time, the producers believed Dominion to be too arty and intellectual and reshot the entire movie with a new director - the ok Exorcist the Begining).

I  believe it was a solid, well-crafted prequel to the king of horror movies. Subtle and morose, most of the horror was internalized in the characters - Merrin's loss of faith, Rachael's guilt, etc. It was much better than the version that was in theaters and a nice addition to the Exorcist collection.

I do wish the exorcism itself had been more dramatic; it was, after all, Father Merrin's first battle with Lucifer, but it's worth your time.

Over recent weeks I also rented Gus Van Sant's Last Days, a movie based loosely on the last hours of Kurt Cobain's life. Despite being a huge Cobain fan - check out Slivers, the new collection that was released on CD yesterday, btw - it was disgustingly boring and tedious. Skip it.

Kingdom of Heaven had my vote despite being having characters that were horribly agnostic and PC for crusaders a thousand years ago in Jerusalem. Then I caught some of the true story of the characters background , realized the movie was 99% drivel even by Hollywood standards, and said the hell with it.

Just my opinions.

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

The Post about K4 Soccer November 1st

Let’s get one thing straight: no matter what you may read below, I still hate soccer.

And not just because the French like it, although that’s reason enough. There are many rationales, in fact, but if you need just one: I have to believe that if God had intended feet to be the preferred tool of athletes, his foresight would have squashed the need for Odor Eaters in the world.

That being said, the only sport open at the K4 level is soccer, so we signed YaYa up.

I wasn’t too enamored by it. The uniform was acres too large, her enthusiasm at practice was limited to snack time, and the debate over shin guards (under the socks or over?) wasn’t exactly Lincoln-Douglass quality.

The first game was a downer too. It was a miserable affair in which YaYa laid down on the job. That’s not a figure of speech; she actually laid down on the field in the middle of the game.

Ugh.

When the second game came around she’d listened to a solid week of pep-talks and Successories quotes. I wandered the sideline shouting encouragement - loudly - , and midway through the game she made contact with the ball and gave it a short kick.

Huzzah!

I gave her a huge grin and a thumbs up. From then on any contact with the ball was met with a mutual ‘thumbs up’, and her enthusiasm for the sport began to grow.

As in all scholastic efforts, YaYa’s the youngest on the team. She’s just now four on a team of K4 and K5 kids, and while she’s not the shortest in height she’s dwarfed by some of the kids.

At this level they all run in a giant pack, back and forth in search of the ball. The sight of my little munchkin relentlessly following at the back of the group is burned into my mind.

Week 3 brought disaster. With my wife’s father in the ’stands’ the team was beaten down by a larger, more experienced team .

The next week brought redemption. Not only did the team win, but YaYa had her moment in the sun.

With a slight lead in the 2nd half the coach decided to make her goalie.

“NO!,” I screamed. “Don’t make her goalie, there goes the game!”

I make no apology. I thought the lead was too slim to risk the win on some wishy-washy feel-good “let’s all take turns” philosophy.

So sue me.

Naturally, she did me proud. Not only did she save two goals, she fearlessly threw herself face-first into a melee of kicking feet to pounce on the ball. Before she got up I half feared she was going to need stitches.

Brings a tear to the eye, it does.

The next and final week wasn’t destined to be a repetition of glory. The game itself was extraordinarily well played, with defenders advancing on the ball and kids moving it to and fro - even a head shot from one kid. What a difference a month makes.

YaYa did alright in front of the goal. No shots got past her, and she diligently went after the ball (past the appropriate line, too, drawing a foul) but there were no highlight reel saves.

Next year, next year.

I’m not a convert, you understand. But I did go and purchase two books on teaching soccer, and I’m looking forward to next year.

‘Long as it doesn’t conflict with the little league schedule . . .

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