Monday, January 30, 2006

Family Update

Here at home we're starting preparations for Parker's 1st birthday.

Granted, it's in March, but we tend to make the 1st birthday a blast - a Chuck E Cheese party for YaYa and a backyard picnic (complete with clown) for Middle Child.

Parker's party will be Jungle Safari theme, with the Mrs. displaying her artistic talents with elephant invites. When the time comes I'll post an example here.

I can't believe the little guy is almost one. Granted, he's not very small. Not fat mind you - none of my kids seem to have inherited my shape, at least not yet - but solid - tall and thick, with a peach fuzz dome and a charming little smile. By high school he should be the size of a small mountain, but so far he's played the role of the baby far longer than I thought. I think his Mommy wants him to stay an infant longer than with the girls.

He started crawling in the last month, the real deal, on his hands and knees. For a few months he was content to pull himself along by his arms. 90% of our place has hardwood floors, and that method was just too convient for him, allowing him to zip from one end of the place to another in record time.

Lazy boy.

By this time both the girls were already walking, but the best he's done is pull himself up on everything from our end table to the toilet (the boy has a facination with toilet water). He's still on soy formula, but samples table food routinely and is equally attracted to the cat's food dish.

He's the first of our kids to EVER have an ear infection, being cursed with a pair of them so far. Even so he holds the record for the friendliest, most personable baby in our family. Sometimes he wakes up and plays quietly in his crib for an hour before we realize he's awake. Short of a wet diaper (which leak through far more than the girls did) he almost never cries.

He and middle child are inseperable, and I predict that in a few years we'll regret letting that friendship grow. "Makers of trouble" is how Mrs. describes them, and it is a bit like having Ramona Quimby and Dennis the Menace grow up as siblings .

But Middle Child loves him, let me tell ya. She can't get enough of him, and loves him dearly.

YaYa . . well, let's just say so far it's two against one among the kids.

Speaking of middle child, here's a few of our resident Kewpie dolls favorite sayings:

"I won't! I won't"  - said whenever you warn her that she is balanced precariously on something about to tip over and break her arm. Often accompanied by a furious head shake and side-to-side hand movement, ala hand jive.

"Thank you your highness" said whenever she is granted something by YaYa. Said by royal decree of her older sister.

"What the heck!?" - a new one, said in a cute, endearing, and totally exaggerated way. Often said with a grin, knowing she is amusing us.

"Hide, zombie" - inspired by my hide-and-seek zombie game. Often said out of the blue and right before she dives under a blanket.

"ParkerandmeandDaddyandParkerandMommyandmeandParkerandme" - her convoluted, repetive attempts at identifying a group, be it at the dinner table or in a description of a car trip. Regardless of how many times she says it, she always ends on 'me'.

"Daddy's work!!!!" - said whenever she sees something resembling our company logo, whenever we pass the place, and whenever I pop onto our website.

There are more, but at 11:36 at night, I can't think of 'em. I'll update them later.

Just a neat quote

Sometimes glass glitters more than diamonds because it has more to prove.
— Terry Pratchett

Oopsie

CAMBRIDGE, England (Jan. 30) - A museum visitor shattered three Qing dynasty Chinese vases when he tripped on his shoelace, stumbled down a stairway and brought the vases crashing to the floor, officials said Monday.

The three vases, dating from the late 17th or early 18th century, had been donated to the Fitzwilliam Museum in the university city of Cambridge in 1948, and were among its best-known artifacts. They had been sitting proudly on the window sill beside the staircase for 40 years.

More here

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Ted Feguson, Bud Light Daredevil

Just a quick note to say that Ted Ferguson, Bud Light Daredevil, is too damn ugly to have a girlfriend that fine.

I'm just sayin' . . .



Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Challenger Anniversary

official NASA photo of the Challenger crew

Today is the twentieth anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger accident. You can follow this link for a timeline of the accident, which includes audio (with transcript), and multiple videos from that day.

I remember riding in my Dad's car when they said one of the initial launch dates had been scrapped, and hearing that Christa McAuliffe had gone bike riding to relax.

That was the extent of the attention I paid to the flight.

So it wasn't a surprise that I didn't watch the launch live, but when word of the explosion spread my sixth grade teacher wheeled a television into our classroom. We spent the rest of the day watching  network coverage.

I remember being a little put off that Christa McAuliffe received so much attention. Six others died that day, but how many people knew their names at the time - or now? It didn't seem fair.

I strongly believe in the value of manned space flight, and look with regret at the two-plus decades wasted on the costly and limited shuttle program. I'm glad to hear that, with a little luck, American's will walk on Mars in my lifetime.

In the words of Commander Dick Scobee's widow "Without risk, there's no discovery, there's no new knowledge, there's no bold adventure," 

"The greatest risk is to take no risk."

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Thanks Joe

Much obliged to Journals Editor Joe for his quick and correct solution to the problem of the day - namely, the fact that my hit counter reset to zero.

Friday, January 27, 2006

A question . .

A year ago I asked for some info on a movie I saw twenty years ago.

Nothing so obscure with this request, but it is rather lame.

In grade school I had a science teacher who made us memorize what various parts of a word mean. That's a lame definition, but you'll see what I mean below.

 Most have slipped my mind over the years, but a few have stuck with me.

auto = self  

graph = write

ology = study of

morph = change

bio = life

tele = far, distant

astro = star

The theory being this: if you didn't know what 'autobiography" meant, you could decipher its meaning just by consulting the list.

If anyone knows where I can find a comprehensive list, drop me a line.

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Two more books

I finished two more books recently, Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman and The Pale Horseman by Bernard Cornwell.

Anansi Boys is the story of Fat Charlie, a simple, boring Englishman who just happens to be the son of a god. After his father's funeral he discovers a long lost brother who  inherited all the supernatural gifts in the family.

Embezzlement, murder, and general chaos ensue.

Gaiman is a natural, one of those guys you despise because God gave him more than his fair share of writing talent. A bit too much Douglas Adams in him though, and I feel he could lay off the dry British humor a tad.

Pale Horseman is the continuing tale of Uhtred, a Saxon with Danish leanings, who plays a pivotal (and fictional) role in Alfred the Great's defense of Wessex from invasion.

Sure, it sounds lame, but Cornwell is a master of historical fiction who's adept at elaborate and stunning battle scenes. He is, after all, the author of the famed Sharpe series (popularized by Sean Bean's TV portrayal).

A great second work in what looks to be a trilogy.

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Another Lost post

An overtly religious episode, one that certainly doesn't refute my purgatory theory.

Not a whole lot to discuss, frankly. I think Claire turned on Charlie awfully quick in the last few weeks, given that he's been her go-to guy from the time of the crash.

Charlies actions in this episode seem to validate Claire's mistrust - if that is, the viewers didn't know that the dreams and sleep walking were real.

Locke continues to be an obnoxious a**, and I'm probably reading too much into his role as the guy preventing the baptism.  In the teaser for next week, Locke is again on his high horse and in opposition to Jack; the guy makes me ill.

Kate and Sawyer: He can have her. I fail to comprehend where her newfound attaction to him comes from.

Hurley and Libby: she gave me the creeps. She quickly deflected his "Do I know you?" question, and I'm eager to learn her crooked past.

She is cute though.

Was there any significance to the burning bush, especially in light of the whole Aaron/Moses theme running through the episode?

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My spooktacular school

I came across a link to this on myufo.com. According to a list of WI locales, my old grade school features some bonafide ghosts and ghouls. 

The school building used to be the church. Rumor has it that a boy fell to his death from the balcony. The balcony has since been walled over and converted to a room. Former teachers and students at the school attest to a strange feeling in the former balcony area. There is also a rocking chair in the attic that keeps rocking with no one around and no breeze. A strange man has been seen by staff and children in the church basement. Neighbors report that a former building on the site had a light that never went out even when the electricity was cut. Teachers also report feeling uneasy in the basement bathroom and hearing a strange ?wooooooing? sound.

My opinion? The school was spooky, sure, but mainly due to my classmates. .

In all seriousness, I remember the balcony, which overlooks the current (?) gym. It was kind of creepy, but only in a 'never used/dark and dusty' kind of a way.

Although, come to think of it, reading the paragraph brought back a dim memory of a teacher cracking a joke about a/the? ghost when I went with her to get some paint jars off the balcony.  

I never heard of any rocking chair, though, and in nine years there (K-8) I never  saw a 'strange man' in the basement. If anyone had I'm sure the police would have been called - the '80's were hardly a time of naive, blind trust.

As far as the other building, when I started there in the late seventies an old school building still stood on part of the lot. It was torn down when I was in Kindergarten or 1st grade. Like any abandoned building it sometimes gave you goosebumps, but I never saw the perpetual lightbulb they refer to in the paragraph.

Maybe I'll stop by again, just to check it out.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Warning: Lost Spoilers

I came across this article on last week's episode of Lost. I hope the link still works 1000 years from now when the only remnant of civilization is a copy of Slapinions, because it's far too much text for me to reproduce. Read it or this won't make much sense.

I agree with the gist of the statements about Jack in this episode. He seems to be nearing the breaking point, as evidenced in part by the depressing flashbacks to his past. The marriage certainly seemed doomed from the start, and life never seems to have been very enjoyable for him.

BTW, I think he had to take Locke (their tracker) along on the quest, but Sawyer ???

I don't know what his true, subconscious rational was for pursuing Michael, but I'm willing to take it on face value: Michael was on a suicidal mission, and Jack wanted to find him and bring him home so he could screw his head on straight.

I'm a little sick of Locke's holier-than-thou laizzes faire attitude. Not only is it ridiculous, it's hypocritical: he sure sticks his nose into things when he has an interest in the outcome. His obsession with the island has brought a lot of grief, and he does view the place as a 'holy land' of sorts - hence his look when scolded by Zeke for opening the hatch.

As to Kate - well, you have to doubt her worth (even if you overlook all the bank robbing and murder in her past) if she can be attracted to a loser like Sawyer . er, James. She'd have come in handy on the quest, though, and I imagine Jack left her behind because a) he's annoyed with her b) he still cares for her and that could have - and did - interfere with the search.

As for the Others: sure it was a pompous speech, and instinct is to yell "well, then help us off the da** island then!" but in real life, the survivors would mention the Others to the outside world, and someone would be compelled to return to the island and look for them (if for no other reason then to find the kidnap victims). I doubt that's what Zeke wants.

I too, think the torches were a trick, an automated sleight of hand meant to disguise their true numbers. I didn't see anyone else in the jungle, tho' in fairness I also didn't see whoever fired the shot at Sawyer.

I think they very well could have quizzed Kate on the way home; it just wasn't shown. And I too would have approached Sayid, but he's not exactly stable at the moment . .

I think this theory is fascinating:

"It's a schizophrenic delusion of Hurley's. Hurley is really still in a mental hospital, and Libby is his doctor. She's trying a new treatment to bring him out of it, hence her appearence.It's a schizophrenic delusion of Hurley's. Hurley is really still in a mental hospital, and Libby is his doctor. She's trying a new treatment to bring him out of it, hence her appearence."

But . .

I hold fast to my belief that no one survived the crash. The island is purgatory, where the sinners onboard who were unable to reach Heaven - but still capable of redemption -have gone to be tested.

No matter how the series ends, a part of me will always believe that's what the writers intended. I just fear they may be forced along a different route because of Lost's popularity (and the fact ratings will stretch the length of the series).

My evidence, in Cliff Notes fashion:

* No survivor seems to be without a messy, often violent past. Not a one seems to be able to show us a 'normal' life in flashbacks. Even when not a criminal, their lives are full of anger and pain.

* The children, presumably innocents, were the first to be taken. Their presence at all was troubling, but I believe it was to simply magnify the pain of folks like Michael and Anna. Michael's sins seem to have been in his relationship with his son. Anna still holds a secret, but latched on tight to the kids. Her flaws might lie along the same path.

* Why hasn't the baby been taken? According to the psychic in Claire's past, the baby is evil . .

*Remember that the mole among the tailies mentioned that the kidnap victims were taken in order of 'goodness', or some similar phrase . .

*And recall that Ecko was near the top of that list, but fought off his attackers. Among the islanders, his sins were the greatest - but his redemption was also the most sincere.

*Once Shannon proved her worth as a person, she was 'killed'. Boone too, seemed to have grown and matured.

*Charlie, who had made great strides, was nearly taken from the island (via death) but brought back - and his change of heart now seems to have temporary. I also attach some significance to his 'death by hanging in the garden' - some aspect of my parochial education recalls that Judas met a similar fate. Is he to betray the group at some point?

*Too many kooky coincidences. Ecko's plane is on the island? What about Jack's dad disappearing from the coffin? Slave ships, Dharma projects, polar bears, Others, and smoky monsters? What kind of 'island' is this?

Sadly, I'll miss tonights episode due to a big event at work. Damn our capitalist system! I will tape it of course, and I'm intrigued about the fate of Aaron. The teaser seemed to hint at the baby being tonights focus . .

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Monday, January 23, 2006

If you're bored, check this out . .

The following site advertised on a baseball forum I visit online, so I clicked to be generous. Turns out it's kinda interesting. Nothing all that wonderful, but it intrigued me for a minute or two.

How's that for an endorsement?

Check it out  - it's a site allegedly written by a guy searching for the artist who created a strange painting he found hidden in his house. The artist, an otherwise normal farmer, then disappeared without a trace.

Who is Benjamin Stove?

My Superbowl XL picks

Yeah, my picks were dead on.

Sure,  the SuperBowl is up for grabs, but forget that the Steelers are early 3.5 pt favorites - I firmly believe/hope/expect Mike Holmgren to walk away with the honor of being the first coach to win a ring with two different teams.

Sure, the 'Hawks had a decently easy post-season, and Pittsburgh had to walk through fire . .

But did they?

The Bengals lost their QB minutes into the game and (IMHO) were overrated anywho. Indy's defeat was a masterpiece, and I loved watching it, but let's face facts here: Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning are master choke artists. What a waste of talent.

And while you have to marvel at their domination of Denver, but did you ever really think Jake Plummer was going all the way?

I think Seattle will take it in relatively easy fashion, but give up part of their cushion as the clock runs down - just enough to make me sweat.

Seattle 27 - Pittsburgh 20

Sunday, January 22, 2006

AFC/NFC Picks

As the National Anthem plays in Denver, I wanted to get my picks out there in cyberspace:

Superbowl Extra-Large will feature: Pittsburgh and Seattle - and I sincerely hope Holmgren earns another ring.

Let's play boys!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Quote of the Day

I've been meaning to post this one for awhile now . . a week or so ago, we let YaYa take a princess video into her school to watch at 'rest time'. I asked her about it on the ride home from school.

Me: So how did your class like the video?

YaYa: They liked it a lot.

Me: They were impressed, huh?

after a moment . .

YaYa: No . . they were Kayla and Catrina.

Yet another book review . .

No, as a matter of fact I don't sit around with a book in my hands and my feet up at work  . . well, not often :) 

Okay, humor aside, that happens not at all, despite the tongue in cheek comment Alphawoman left on my last post. Let me tell you though, for years that was the best part of working 3rd shift. There were hours were you had nothing to do but read.

Heck, at my interview the woman that hired me told me to bring a book along on my first day.

That being said, I have read a whole bunch lately. Once my library card was clear, all bets were off. I've taken to reading at night before bed, in my favorite room of the house (the bathroom), and on break at work.

It helps that I read fast (duh), but this also follows my usual m.o. of binge and purge. With books I'll go over the top and read everything an author has done, or everything on a single subject - then toss it away in disgust and not approach that author/subject for years.

Today, I finished The Closers by Michael Connelly, another in his famous Harry Bosch series. Connelly, in most people's opinion, is a master of the mystery genre. I more or less agree. My criticisms however, has always been that he does make you suspend your disbelief like no one else - which means that afterwards you stare at a hole in the plot and wonder how you enjoyed the book at all. . .

I didn't get that feeling with The Closers. It had a tight(er) plot, realistic action, and the fine writing style that is Connelly's trademark. Worth a look, and a nice book to start off your addiction to Harry Bosch.

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Friday, January 20, 2006

Update and another book review

Howdy folks -  it looks like my wife's cousin DeLaura was the 30,000th visitor. Sadly, she doesn't have a blog to promote, but a hearty thanks to her anyway . .

I just knocked off two more books in the last few days, both prose sequels to the Tom Hanks movie Road to Peridition, which began life as a graphic novel.

Both Road to Purgatory and Road to Paradise take up the story of Michael O'Sullivan Jr, the boy who accompanied his father on a bloody path of revenge against the Capone era mob. Whereas in the movie the boy forsakes all violence and boasts that he never held a gun again (which I thought odd at the time, given that WWII was right around the corner), in the books he follows his father's path into the mob, albeit with a hitch I won't give away.

Like his father, Michael is a s**t kicker, a man who can be perfectly calm one second and an unstoppable killing machine the next. There's no doubt he's the son of the man once called "The Angel of Death" - heck, in the Pacific he earns the Medal of Honor for single-handedly killing 50 Japanese soldiers in a cold-blooded frenzy.

Purgatory follows him from the war to his apprenticeship in the Frank Nitti mob through Nitti's 'suicide', while Paradise picks up the tale in the '70's, when the 50ish Michael has to account for his past while in the witness protection program.

Max Allan Collins is an underated author who's totally at ease with the printed page. Both books, like his Nathan Heller series, are worth reading. As a slight note of caution, it goes without saying that if violence puts you off, this might not be the ideal reading material for you.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

All Right, who was it?

Someone wasn't paying attention, 'cuz the site went over 30,000 in the last 24 hours and it went unheralded.

If you have the screenshot - or even if you don't - drop me a line at slapinions@aol.com and let me give you the credit you deserve.

 

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Hey, watch this will ya?

By the way, a new Tom Selleck movie based on a book by Robert B Parker premieres tonight on CBS. Take a look and support my favorite author.

Book Reviews

Last week, courtesy of a tidy little commission I earned at work, I paid off the fines on my library card.

The results for that fine institution? Imagine keeping Babe Ruth on the bench for a year - then handing him a bat with a 50 year old scrub on the mound.

I have single-handedly raised their stats to the point where the mayor can’t touch their budget next year.

Happily, this all occurred when the planets were aligned: I’d just decided I needed to force myself to unwind at night, and my wife - normally only a voracious magazine and web reader - decided to binge on a bunch of books herself.

I have two stacks of books in my bedroom, each one 8 or 9 high, featuring most of the books I listed in a previous post. (one good thing about not having a library card for awhile; all the books I’ve been dying to read are now old news and sitting on the shelf).

I’m itching to get to Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan, but because it’s a three-week rental, I’ve been busy polishing off the 7-day items.

Because I value my audience, as I know you value every single letter I type, I thought I’d give ya a short little review of the books I’ve finished.

Consider this Amazon-lite.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova - overall, an impressive debut. A young girl finds an old book in her father’s library. Otherwise blank, it’s pages feature a dramatic woodcut of a dragon - and the word “Drakulya”.

From this point, three storylines emerge: the tragic 1930 adventures of her father’s mentor as he hunted the apparently very much (un)alive Vlad the Impaler, her father’s tale as he followed in his footsteps, and the daughter’s quest to locate her now-missing father.

It’s a long book at more than 600 pages, and I walked away from it with mixed feelings. The author has talent, and except for brief periods it held my attention until the end, but there are three glaring faults.

At times it read like a travel guide to Eastern Europe, as the characters followed a meandering, tedious quest to locate Drakula’s tomb. You could have cut half the travel out and it still would have been over the top.

Kostova also isn’t the best at dialogue. Who meets a stranger and decides to dump their entire life story on them within minutes? Even if there is such a person, Kostova isn’t skilled enough to pull off constructing pages of oral reminisces that recall details as small as the color of a shirt, seen for a moment forty years back . . .

The last flaw? A tepid, foppish Drakula with all the menace of the Hamburgler.

 

One Shot by Lee Child - The latest Reacher novel. As usual, Child permanently hooks the reader within only a few paragraphs. Child’s mastered that as well, if not better, than anyone.

There’s always the danger that a character like Reacher will grow stale and predictable. I don’t think that’s happened yet, but I did find the resolution of the mystery a little over the top. It’s hard to elaborate without spoiling the book, but maybe it was a bit too elaborate for it’s own good.

Highly recommended if you’re a Reacher fan, but if this is your introduction to the series, close the book and pick up some of the older ones (but not The Enemy).

School Days by Robert B Parker - a great addition to the Spenser library.

Once upon a time, Parker was mailing the novels in, pasting together clich├ęs and calling them books. And while the plots got thinner, the font size got larger, as if Parker himself didn’t have enough left in the tank to finish the job.

That’s changed.

School Days was great. Not only was the ever-annoying love of his life Susan absent (please, please keep her out of town forever) the plot was interesting enough to keep me turning the page.

Not only was the theme of the book strong - the aftermath of a Columbine-like school shooting- it went beyond the mere ‘facts’ of the case to address the gray nature of good/evil, guilt/innocence.

Spenser is at his best when his cases involve a philosophical examination of his world, and he hit’s a bulls-eye with this one.

Plus, the wise-ass Spenser is laugh-out-loud funny at times. J

 

Broken Prey by John Sandford - This was another series that I once thought was losing steam.

I felt the book started slow, but quickly picked up the pace and restored my faith in the Prey novels.

Lucas Davenport is investigating a Minnesota serial killer, who, influenced by the ‘Big Three” (three depraved and infamous killers under lock and key at a phyciatric hospital) ravages his victims in a disgusting fashion.

I didn’t see the identity of the murderer coming, and I certainly bought much of the smokescreen Sandford created hook, line, and sinker. Twists and turns abound, and the intelligence of the killer is frightening in and of itself . .

Recommended.

 

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30,000? Hard to Believe

It is hard to believe, but very soon - possibly even today - this site will reach 30,000 visitors.

(full disclosure: more like 29,600 as I've viewed the site at least 400 times. Whoopdeedoo - I'm not going to celebrate 30,400, for Pete's sake)

Should you be the happy visitor to tip the scales, send me a screen capture and I'll promote your blog and praise your name to the high heavens :)

I'll update later today, with some luck.

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Longhorns Win! Longhorns Win!

Oh man, what a great National Championship game, a classic people will talk about forever!. Vince Young is awesome, a one man wrecking crew!

Despite what I said in the previous post, 1/2 way through the 1st quarter I resented the cocky, too-sure Trojans and became a Texas fan.

I was sooo into the game my hands were shaking like a leaf when Texas was facing a 4th down with ~30 seconds left . .

Congrats to the players and fans of the Longhorns!

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Norman Chad vs USC

Hey, maybe it's just because I don't follow college football much outside the Big Ten, but I really don't have anything against the Trojans of Southern Cal. So I'm not sure what all the fuss is about in Norman Chad's new column.

Who cares? On a weak day he's one of the funniest writers I follow, and with a burr under his saddle  he's over the top . . .maybe a little too over the top to be the 'ideal' column to introduce you to him, but what the heck . .

A guy in a bar leans over to the guy next to him and asks, "Wanna hear a USC joke?"

The guy next to him replies, "Well, before you tell that joke, you should know something. I'm 6 feet tall, 200 pounds and I'm a USC graduate. The guy sitting next to me is 6-2, 225 and he's a USC graduate. The fella next to him is 6-5, 250 and he went to USC. Now, you still wanna tell that joke?"

The first guy replies, "Naw, not if I'm gonna have to explain it three times."