Thursday, April 29, 2010

Quote of the Day

I was going to spend the morning digging a garden in my backyard, but it's raining, so let's blog!

* * *

Yesterday we had a very casual family dinner, just hot dogs and chips, and the experience was unusually enjoyable. All the kids were friendly and talkative, the polar opposite of the night before, and we all had some laughs.

At one point LuLu spilled ketchup on her white school uniform, and I sent her off to change her shirt. Smiley asked why she couldn't just sit through dinner without a top.

"Because she's a girl," I said, skirting the fact that I'd never allow anyone to come to my table shirtless.

Still, he couldn't understand why that was an issue.

"Because girls have boobies," I said. When in doubt, keep it simple and cut to the chase.

By this time LuLu had returned, and she rolled her eyes.

"Dad, ladies don't have 'boobies'. I'm not a little kid anymore, you should call them by their real name." she said. She took a bite of a chip, swallowed, and finished her thought.

"Smiley," she said,"they are called 'boobs'"

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo



I wasn't immune to the positive buzz surrounding The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson. Not only did the book receive wonderful reviews, it became a commercial success with a large and loyal audience. Fearing I had been missing one of the great mystery novels of our time, I bit the bullet and picked it up last week.

And now? Now I'm confused.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is the story of disgraced financial magazine publisher Mikael Blomkvist. Set up and convicted of libel, Blomkvist is hired by the elderly head of the once-mighty Vanger family to investigate the 40 year old disappearance of his teenage grandniece. Soon he is joined by the titular character, 24 year old researcher Lisbeth Salander. Salander is an odd character, even for a fictional world. Heavily tattooed but physically the size of a teenager, she is brilliant yet declared mentally incompetent by the courts. She is
prone to calculated violence and haunted by her past. Together they dig to learn the fate of the missing girl, while all the while a killer closes in on them.

Here's my take on the novel.

I thought the book started horribly slow and was quite tedious. Judging by this book Larsson was quite prone to distraction, and the prose wanders off on a tangent as often as not.

So for 200 pages I was bored - I told someone it was like watching paste dry - but committed. Then slowly, slowly, slowly, I actually started to *care* about the mystery. I think it is largely due to the sheer weight of all the background you're given on the characters, and the time you spend with them; you're damn near forced to care by default. And I'll admit that Salander is a dynamic and captivating character.

100 pages from the end I could admit to being legitimately spooked at the idea of heading into my dark basement to retrieve a load of laundry.

The mystery resolved with a bang, and then the book plodded on for another 50 pages or more! Yes, it allowed for the resolution of the magazine subplot, but honestly - who cared?

Honestly, while I wound up liking the book, all the hoopla and praise seems surreal. I dislike Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, but I could see why others would buy into the frenzy. I'm not sure why this wasn't left on the shelves gathering dust. Even if I'm wrong and the book is an all-time classic, it is not something I'd expect to entertain an American audience. Color me surprised.

I don't know. All those points against it and I'm still going to read the next one (I'm 70 page in, actually). So who knows - maybe the author made a pact with the devil to win fans. It worked for Stephanie Myers :)

1st half C-
2nd half B+ (A to A+ if you stop after the main plot is complete)
Overall B-

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Charles Nelson Reilly ate his own weight in coal and excreted diamonds everyday. True Fact.

My love of The Match Game is well documented; less so is my admiration for the man who entertained America from the top row/stage left for most of the show's run. I speak, of course, of Charles Nelson Reilly.


Well, it turns out that Weird Al Yankovic released a song paying tribute to The Match Game superstar. Here, in a parody of the White Stripes, is 'CNR'.




Charles Nelson Reilly was a mighty man
The kind of man you'd never disrespect
He stood eight feet tall, wore glasses, and had a third nipple on the back of his neck
He ate his own weight in coal, excreted diamonds everyday
He could throw you down a flight of stairs, but you still would love him anyway
Yeah, you know you'd love him anyway

Charles Nelson Reilly won the Tour de France with two flat tires and a missing chain
He trained a rattlesnake to do his laundry, I'm telling you the man was insane
He could rip out your beating heart, and show it to you before you died
Everyday he' make the host of Match Game give him a piggyback ride
Yeah, two hour piggyback ride, giddy up Gene

Ninja warrior, master of disguise
He could melt your brain with his laser-beam eyes, Oh yeah
Oh yeah
He had his own line at the DMV
He made sweet, sweet love to a manatee
Oh yeah
Oh yeah, that was something to see, I tell ya

Charles Nelson Reilly figured out cold fusion, but he never ever told a soul
I've seen the man unhinge his jaw, and swallow a Volkswagen whole
He'd bash your face in with a shovel if you didn't treat him like a star
You could spit at the wind, or tug at Superman's cape
But Lord knows you don't mess around with CNR
No, no, no
Talkin' about CNR

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A few words from Lisa about our Smiley

Thinking about change after this email exchange, I asked him this morning to get together all his coins...from all his secret hiding places. He came up with $2.14. Thinking about change after this email exchange, I asked him this morning to get together all his coins...from all his secret hiding places. He came up with $2.14. Impressive considering there were only 2 quarters in the mix!
I was just cleaning out my email-box when I came across a copy of an email exchange between Lisa and Smiley's teacher (Mrs. Heidi) on Jan 22nd of this year. I thought it was cute enough to warrant being recorded here. Lisa wrote:


I took him to the dollar store to buy 2 things with his OWN (we use this term lightly) money. He was so happy and cute getting his money out, and I'm sure the cashier and line behind me were thrilled as well, lol. He picked a grab bag (always a wise choice) and another grow animal cage thing. His obsession with those has pretty much come to a close so that pick was a surprise. The dollar store treasures that didn't make the cut? Dinosaur wallpaper cut outs for his room, a reed diffuser to make his "ooom mell niiiice", and glow sword.

Kicker cute moment was when a little girl in a cart on our way out said "caaaandy!" to her mom, and Smiely pulled a piece of his own newly acquired stash out and handed it over to the cutie. She smiled big, but I think Smiley smiled bigger. He's just such a good boy!!!! I can say that to you, cause you know, lol....others would think I was just bragging, lol...

Later, have a good extended weekend! Lisa


Later that week I recorded a few of Smiley's words in an email of my own. After seeing either Washington or Lincoln on the TV, he turned to me and said "He on money, weal money."

This past Friday was our last parent-teacher conference of the year for him, and the reports were glowing. He's made real progress on his speech, and while they pointed out a few areas he's behind academically because of the problem, Mrs. Heidi also said he was a very sharp, intelligent boy. What I noticed during that meeting was the carefree and ever-present smile on his face. His nickname truly is spot-on, and Mrs. Nancy, one of the assistant teachers, agreed with my assessment and added that his 'deep dimples' only added to his charm :)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Easter 2010

On Easter morning I was surprised at how much of our training stuck with the kids. Not only did they not venture downstairs until Lisa and I were awake, they made sure they were reasonably attired - knowing full well I'd be snapping photos. :)

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Much of their Easter baskets were filled courtesy of a great clearance sale at a craft store. We went there for ?? and instead bumped into a score of $.50 and $1.00 items that were perfect for the kids.

Here's Smiley's

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Why scotch tape? Because the kid LOVES tape. Lisa often says he'd marry the stuff if it was legal.

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Here's LuLu's:

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Ginger's:

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And YaYa's basket, and her PopRocks coated tongue:

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We then got gussied up and headed out to church, where Ginger was less than perfect (but also less than awful) and then returned home to visit with Lisa's Dad, who dropped off extra baskets for the kids.

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Later we all went to my Mom's for dinner, where my kids behaved horrifically. That's what I get for juicing the kids up with sugar and candy and then skipping naptime. Live and learn.

Even so, overall it was a very nice, very sedate Easter. I hope yours went just as well, if not better.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Dream

For no reason worth noting, here's a dream I had last night. Make of it what you will.

It began with me observing a classroom taught by Samuel L Jackson. He was a marvelous teacher, and praise was rightly heaped on his shoulders. But then, I heard him tell his students that "America Isn't #1. America is nothing." His students nodded in agreement, and I was furious. His students were all on one or more government programs, and while that didn't bother me, the idea of them taking bread with one hand and slapping the baker with the other infuriated me.

Then I was in YaYa and LuLu's room, only the Ginger's crib was back in place. I moved it and there was the usual mess and piles of junk on the floor. Then it began to storm outside, and I went into Smiley's room. His sky light was leaking and I tossed a towel on the floor, but the drip turned into a steady poor as I added more towels. I went to Ginger's room and rain was pouring from a vent in the ceiling.

Then I was downstairs, and it was my house but not my house. It was a huge open space - think a cathedral, minus pews - and running the length of one wall were the stairs to our bedrooms. They were made of stone and ran straight, without landings or turns.

As I walked up the stairs they were wood again, and one of the risers came off in my hands. Now there was a gap, and through that gap I could see far down to the floor below. The staircase shifted, and I noticed it was no longer flush with the wall to my right. There were inches or more of space between the wall and the stairs, and a yard or more between the missing riser and the next stair.

I got it into my head that I could shift the entire staircase to the right and slam it up against the wall, fixing the problem. I did so - it moved like a rolling staircase you see employees use at Home Depot - but the gap at the top grew larger.

Now I was worried. There was no way we could jump that gap, and our bedrooms and the second floor were useless to us.

And that's it - I woke up.

Facebooking the tail end of February

Crowded house. All the kids are home now, plus Lisa's watching Jess & Jason's newborn and a 3 yr old while they move. My my. Good thing (for me) that I'm leaving for work soon. ;)

* Apparently I can't count. There was an extra six year old, 3 year old, and newborn in the house - 7 kids total.

Good Riddance - Man gets 80 years for shooting 2 Milwaukee police officers

* AI was dull & unimpressive, and I'm really not liking the dynamic between the judges. Kara remains an awkward fit; too ADD, too much makeup, too unable to define her role on the panel. Although he was bad, they were waaaay too hard on Tim Urban, especially when they let equally sucky peformers off the hook. Kudos to E...llen for (gently) calling Kara and Randy out for how they acted during Casey James' perfromance. Who goes home? The Asian singer (sorry, I really don't remember his name) and just about any one of 6 or 7 of the others. Yikes - not a good start to the live shows.

* A great surprise on our DVR tonight: On Rupaul's Drag Race they (gasp! applause) did a full-out recreation of The Match Game, cleverly re-titled "The S*atch Game". Sure everyone was in drag and impersonating a celebrity, and they had too many people on each tier for a traditionalist like myself - but Gene Rayburn & Co.... would've had a blast. Plus Tatianna won, so it was a great hour of TV all around.

Lisa wrote: I just couldn't believe my eyes, it was an episode just for you!

Feb 26th:

* My niece's 2nd grd teacher (she's in 3rd now) was fired today. She'd begun to show signs of mental illness, writing things like "20+20+10" on the board and saying it equaled 30. Other teachers started to shun her. On the way to a staff outing she went back to her rm for her purse & returned to find everyone had left w/...out her. I guess there's so little pain in the world they felt they had to add to it. A*holes.

* I was a little suprised at the AI eliminations. Janell deserved her fate ( but she was hot, wasn't she?) but Ashley Rodriguez should have been safe (even if she is overanimated on stage). Guys; America obviously flipped the judges the bird for their bashing of Tim Urban. 4 all the talk about how good he was was I co...uldn't understand 1/2 of Joe Muñoz's song - so no qualms about him leaving. Tyler was a shock tho'.

* The secret ingredient . . . is phone.

* Sentry (at least the one in Bay View) no longer accepts Internet coupons, rendering many popular sites useless. I'm told they were burned on a Velvetta forgery (snort). So, for the sake of a lost 40 cents here and there, they have turned the clock back to 1963 and pushed more biz to the Evil Empire that is Pic 'n Save. Nice.

*"Democrats quietly vote to reauthorize legislation [Patriot Act] many decried under Bush.". No new privacy provisions were added and all the tenets of Dubya's policies were renewed. Kudos -it's the right thing to do. That said, its yet another example of how Dems preach one thing on the campagin trail and do another while in office

* Gwen Moore, our (hopefully) soon to be ex-Congresswoman, earns a 1 on the liberal scale based on roll-call votes on economic, social and foreign-policy. Her conservative score was 423. 'Liberal' Russ Feingold, OTOH, earned a relatively balanced 55 liberal and 44 conservative score.

* RE Carly Simon disclosing the origin of "You're So Vain": And the winner is . . . David Geffen.

* (on a Milwaukee Pot dealer getting 6 years in prison) To put this in perspective, we just saw that a killer got a cushy *12* year sentence for stangling a guy with a garrotte and ditching the body. Of course, if he'd killed him with a joint in his pocket he might have got life. What a world.

Feb 27th:

Got off work at 11 to find my friend Erv was in town. As a surprise he brought us a DVD player to replace the one that went on the fritz the last time he visited (thanks!). We hung out until half an hour ago. Pretty damn tired at this point, since I've been up since 7, so later folks. 'Night

* Payday + a new DVD player = the purchase of "Coming Home", NKOTB's new DVD of their 2008/2009 tour.

* I'm reading Shutter Island, in lieu of having the $ or babysitters to see the film. It's very good so far, although I'm worred that I've guessed the ending. Also read so far this year: Horns by Joe Hill, The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton, The 1st Rule by Robert Crais, and Final Target by Steve Gore.

* [on the suicide of Marie Osmond's son] Oh man, that's awful news. My thoughts are with their family.

We just finished watching "Couples Retreat". C+ seems to be the consensus grade here.

Feb 28th:

? for everyone: strictly for $ reasons, we're looking to switch from cable to Dish (not Direct TV), but I don't want to sacrifice reliability or quality. For anyone in the know: how reliable is the signal? Is the system easy to use? Is the DVR up to snuff and easy to navigate? How good is the company itself? Your thoughts on the matter?

Massive head of pharaoh unearthed in Egypt

Till death did them part, only death did not A great story. Although he had a lot to work with here, Jim Stingl is consistently one of the best reads in the Journal.

* [Olympic figure skater]Johnny Weir can dress and act however he likes. It's his right and it doesn't bother me. But his quote "I think masculinity is what you believe it to be." is goofy. Acutally, it's uh, pretty much a definable characteristic there bub. And wearing a pink see-through ensemble is *not* masculine.

* The book this blog post references (God's Battalions by Rodney Stark) is a great read. I finished it in the fall of '09. It's a historically accurate retort to the common fallacies people toss around about the Crusades (aka everything the modern world ever utters about them). I recommend the book for anyone more interested in historical truth than anti-Western, anti-Chritian myth.

* [on the NFL's plans to rework OT rules] Good, I think the NFL's OT rules are beyond dumb. That said, they often work to reveal to Favre as a choker, so I'd miss that . . .

* [watching US-Canada vie for Gold in Olympic hockey] Whoo-hoo! A tying goal with 24.4 seconds left! Did you see the heartbreak on the faces of that Canadian crowd? The quiet in that arena was priceless! On to OT . . .

Well damn, the wrong anthem will be playing in Vancouver. Still, a helluva game and one for the ages.

Special congrats to Joe Pavelski, Phil Kessel, Danny Heatly, Ryan Suter, and Brian Rafalski... all members of the Men's US Hockey team that were either born in, or have ties to Wisconsin.

* The great coffee experiment is over. I came home to find my coffe pot shattered on the floor and coffee grounds all over the wall, courtesy of Ginger. I am soooo . . . not in a good place today.

Lisa wrote: You didn't "find" it, like I left it for you...it happened 10 seconds before you walked in the door while your mom phoned simultaneously. I'm sorry it happened. I do however think it's funny you describe how you are today as "not in a good place", I'd describe it as on a warpath, lol.

* I'm four "chapters" into 'Inglorious Basterds' and I'm bored to point of anger. Yak Yak and f*ing yak some more. That bar scene went on for HOURS. Indulgent crap from Tarantino, IMO. Let's see if the rest of the film rescues this turkey. Nope, it didn't.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Easter Egg Dyeing - 2010

On Good Friday, as has been our tradition since 1998 (a full three years before YaYa was born) we dyed Easter eggs with the children in our life. We try to do this between noon and 3, as during those hours we prohibit the use of TV, radio, computers, and the like.

This year it was (only!) my four kids and my niece, a low turnout but one that was perfect on what felt like a very busy, very hectic day.

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No, it isn't red-eye. That's just Ginger in a bad mood.

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Smiley made some elaborate and quite beautiful eggs, one's that really caught my eye.

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Here's YaYa's example of choice:

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LuLu's:

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And their cousin's beautiful egg:

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Back to Ginger for a moment.

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Lisa was surprised by something quirky Ginger did. Time after time she recreated the same pattern on her eggs until we had a small collection of assembly line creations. Most were then snatched up and re-dyed by the other kids, but Lisa saved a few to show the camera:

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Final tally: some six dozen eggs. Not a bad haul for twenty minutes of work, and the tradition was kept alive for another year. The Easter weekend had begun!

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Quote of the Day - March 31st.

I took the family out to Taco Bell for dinner yesterday. I don't care for the place, but the kids do and after all, the whole point was to celebrate LuLu and YaYa's report cards. I was worried on the way there; they'd been getting on my nerves in the 24 hrs prior. But the kids were well behaved so afterwards, on the spur of the moment, we took them to the lakefront. Sheridan Park, to be precise, the spot where I proposed to Lisa many moons ago.

It's a long, steep walk down the paved trail and there was some mild grumbling, but once we were on the beach the kids loved it. Oh, I wish I'd had a camera with me. It was one of those rare - very rare - ten minute periods when the family is together, no one is acting up, and we're all happy to be together. We collected rocks on the beach, took a few steps in the (frigid) surf, and sat on the concrete pier overlooking the water. Grand. Even better: for whatever reason, the walk back up was easier than the trip down.

Once we were back in the park proper the kids played on a playset, until YaYa announced she had to use the restroom. I few minutes later, with her swearing she was about to wet her pants, I gathered up the troops. LuLu was sitting atop part of the playset.

"C'mon," I said. "Let's go"

"Why?" LuLu said.

"'Cuz your sister has to pee."

"So take her over there [to the pavilion]"

"I did," I said. "It's locked."

Lu sighed and rolled her eyes. "Then uhhhhh, why doesn't she just go behind the bush and pee? It's what I would do."

It was my turn to roll my eyes. I helped her down.

"You're a classy chick Lu," I said. "Pure class."