Wednesday, April 27, 2011

FB'ing the end of January

Jan 23rd - the Packers win the Halas trophy and advance to the Super Bowl:

I am so happy, so happy I requested off months ago for the Super Bowl!

Hey Brett - F*** U again. Sincerely, Ted Thompson

Jan 24th

I finished Robert Crais' "The Sentry", a Joe Pike/Elvis Cole novel centered around the suspected kidnapping of Pike's love interest. It's on par with Crais' other books, which is to say it's a strong story populated by great characters. I do wish, however, that he'd bring back some of the humor that was present in his early work.

Jan 25th

We just finished watching the first season of The Amazing Race. Minor discord there at the end, with me rooting on the eventual winners while Lisa, a fan of the runner ups, accused me of betraying my economic and social class with my decision. Either way, no losers on that show. Even if you're eliminated in week 1, you see more of the world than most people do in a lifetime.

[now] watching 'the notorious landlady' w/ Kim Novak, Jack Lemmon and Fred Astaire

6 pm. Saturday July 6th 1957. [the date/time when Lennon and McCartney first met]

Here's the cover YaYa made for her Expo project, a bio of a famous Wisconsinite. Her choice: Barbie who, yes indeed, is alleged to hail from these parts.

And some ad-libbed work by LuLu

According to an email I just received, a Packers column I wrote should be in Thursday's Journal-Sentinel. I'll let you know if it pans out.

Jan 28th

Thank you to the folks who bought GS cookies from my girls, esp those who went out of their way w/ their generosity

It's petty, but I am sore with a) the headline JS gave my piece B) a glaring typo they introduced into it (it is not in my submission) and c) an edit that took out a line that had a lot of humor and heart. But they paid me, so it's all sour grapes. so OFW.

I made tandoori chicken and rice pilaf for dinner last night, and it was a disaster. Awful. Sitcom awful. Smiley and I were the only ones who swallowed more than the mandatory one bite - Lisa included :( the ckn was undercooked, the rice was crunchy and the spices were too strong. Plus the yogurt tasted off. It bit a*s. Even the cats avoided the scraps.

‎25 yrs since the Challenger exploded. U'd think the anniversary would get more ink, but the nat'l tragedies of the last quarter century - waco, OK city, columbine, 9/11 - seem to make it less impactful on our collective memory.

Facts are for people who can't create their own truth - Get Fuzzy {1/27/11}

Jan 29th

watching the 2011 US.Figure Skating Championships on NBC

I found our old Baby Songs DVD and to my suprise Smiley was ecstatic. He and LuLu are watching it now, singing and laughing along. Good times :)

Zikes. Even the most sedate, productive, happy days can descend into chaos and drama before changing back just as quickly. Life is just a big helping of messy, unpredictable disorder I guess.

Jan 30th

(Pantera playing) LuLu: Dad, turn that off! Me: Why? LuLu: 'Cuz it's ugly music!

Pantera, btw, is loud, aggressive metal. She was in a critical mood, and later objected to my demonstration of the Humpty Dance. There's no pleasing some folks.

Jan 31st

who needs internet porn when u can watch Katy Perry's 'Teenage Dream' video? Well done Mrs.Brand, well done. In other news Cold War Kids were pretty darn good.

‎'RED' was ok, but in the end was little more than cookie cutter action/comedy. What comedic bright spots there were came largely courtesy of Mary Louise Parker.

I love this quote: It's always too early to quit - Norman Vincent Peale

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Gen-u-wine Wisconsin Potato

While prepping for our belated Easter feast today, YaYa was keen to show me this potato she discovered.

Hmmm. It looks strangely familiar . . .

Monday, April 25, 2011

My Favorite Things

I was a latecomer to the world of mobile phones, first getting one a few years into this century. Consider my reluctance a last gasp of loyalty to the beautiful pager I wore in the mid '90's. Or just rack it up to a lack of $ to spend on a phone. Either/or.

Nowadays, with more kids than zeros on my paycheck and obligations up the ying yang, a cell phone is a necessity. And while the Cricket MSGM8 II is not 'top of the line', and future readers will giggle at what they'll see as an antique, it is my darling, my honeyboo, my honeybunchesofoats.

It is truly one of My Favorite Things.

The party line: it is a bar phone with a QWERTY keypad, and weighs 3.74 oz while measuring 4.2" x 2.39" x .53". The screen has a 220 x 176 resolution and can display 260K colors. It has a 1000 contact capacity and a 1.3 megapixal digital camera.

I do wish the camera had better resolution and low light capabilities, but at the same time the camera is just about my favorite toy on the phone. I take pictures all the time, and sending them to email or my Facebook account is easy and intuitive. I don't just take pictures of the kids, either. I'll snap a quick pic of a book or CD cover as a reminder to research or purchase it later, and I find myself avoiding taking notes by simply photographing a memo or directions.

Speaking of directions, it does feature a link to Mapquest and an (optional) turn by turn GPS program. I've used the Mapquest link several times, and for frequent long distance destinations I've taken to putting the directions in the phone's permanent memo pad. Ditto recipes, list of recently viewed films for review, etc.

On the web browser I often check JSOnline and my Gmail accounts, and I can't begin to express how much happiness I've gotten from the quick link to Facebook that's built into the top screen. I love mobile Facebook.

As far as widgets/apps, I've downloaded PopEater (a pop culture news/gossip site), This Day in History, a personalized sports score app, IMDB news (movie news), Reuters Science News, Quote of the Day, Weather, and plain ol' news.

Texting is fast and easy with the QWERTY keboard and a quck navigation menu. Texting, heaven help us, has now replaced voice calls as my prefered means of phone communication.

Last but not least, the alarm clock is nice and loud and allows three different times to be set - just what this oversleeper needs.

All that for one flat monthly cost, with no overages, free 411, no contract, and great service :)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Egg Dyeing, 2011

It is a longstanding tradition in the Slapinions household, dating back long before we had kids of our own, that we dye Easter eggs on Good Friday with all the kids in our life.

Well, we missed that deadline because I worked. Frankly, this is a pretty messed up Easter weekend. I work straight through, Lisa and the two oldest are up North at a friend's house for a bday party, and . . well, as I said. It's a bit of a mess.

So with the two youngin's in my care this afternoon I boiled eggs and sat down to dye them. I coudln't find any of the supplies I know we had, so I'm afraid it was a ho-hum food coloring Easter, leading to a largely sedate color palate.



It went pretty smoothly, save for one hissy fit where Lump tossed a bottle of food coloring at the window.



I let the kids eat a few eggs that cracked, but they refused to eat the yolk, because as Smiley said "it were a chicken come from". That led to me giving a platonic, short birds-and-bees speech that fell on deaf ears. "Ya, but yellow part still were chicken come from if there a boy chicken, right? I not eat that."




We saved a dozen plain eggs for the girls to dye when they return. Happy Easter everyone!

The Ladybugs Have Arrived!

The title of this post is probably a mystery to you unless you saw my Facebook post on Smiley's birthday. For the big guy's 6th Birthday we bought him a ladybug farm and sent away for the little critters. Just as we were giving up hope of them ever arriving, they showed up in the mailbox today!


First we took apart the terrarium and added water to the feeding station. "You strong," Smiley said as I pulled a wire loose. Darn tootin', kid.




We then unpacked the ladybugs from the mailing tube.



When it came time to open the tube that included the live ladybug larvae (?) and feeding gel, Smiley got squeamish. So I added the little guys myself.






He seems to love the setup, especially the magnifying lens built into the top of the dome. Here's hoping they give him lots of joy this summer!


An odd place to store a toothbrush . . .

What is this, you may ask? A few weeks ago the kids got new toothbrushes that had a suction cup bottom, presumably so they'd stay upright on a counter without needing a toothbrush holder. Whatever. Anyhow, the kids began to attach them to the vanity mirror. After a few days of this Lisa laid down the the law - they were never to put the toothbrushes on the mirror again.

So they didn't. They started using the bathroom window instead.

Friday, April 22, 2011

JFK, Ottomans (the empire, not the furniture), Joseph Goebbels, and French Indochina

A year or two ago I read the bulk of a late '40's edition of Joseph Goebbels' diaries. I did not finish the volume. Over time, reading the words of the Third Reich's Propaganda Minister made me feel tarnished and (I can put it no other way) creeped out. I had to put it down.

Even so I thoroughly enjoyed The Goebbels Experiment, a documentary which has Kenneth Branagh recite passages of that diary accompanied by rarely seen film of Goebbels life.

Joseph Goebbels remains a persistent enigma to me. He was an articulate, intelligent man capable of great emotion, and he seems to have genuinely loved his children. But - and it is the 'buts' that define our life - he was in awe of Hitler, poisoned by irrational hatred of Jews, and condoned the murder of his own precious children.

How do you explain that dichotomy? Can you even try?

Nazi Medicine is an adequately done film about the role the worldwide eugenics movement played in providing a rationale for the work of the Nazi machine. It was too heavy handed in parceling out the blame, almost to the point where the filmmaker ventured too close to giving the Nazi's a historical 'out'.

I enjoyed the documentary Gallipoli for a few reasons: one, it was simply a well done treatment of the chaotic 1915 contest between the British and Ottoman Empires. Secondly, it actually *taught* me something. While I knew the barest of facts about the battle going in, 95% of the film was new information for me. I love that.

A sidenote: I found the practice of personalizing the gravestones on Gallipoli to be a great way of humanizing those buried there. It is one thing to read a name and a date on a stone, quite another to see it includes a mesage from his family or something unique to the man, like the [inconsequential] last words he spoke.

The Battle for Dien Bien Phu is a tolerable British documentary on the infamous French defeat in Indochina. Very little of the information was new to me (nearly none), and it is so History Lite I think it would only enlighten someone brand new to the history of the conflict.

Let's be clear: even as a high school student I thought the French were idiotic to set up shop in a remote jungle valley, by default surrendering the high ground to their enemy. Equally puzzling: the distant location meant all aid had to be flown in from Hanoi, practically ensuring a loss before the fight began. Yowsers.

Still, enough about how this was a 'given' for the Viet Minh, an omen for future American involvement, and about how events X and Y and Z and W were writ in stone after the French defeat. For a documentarian, it isn't enough for hindsight to be 20/20. No, they must also seek to convince you that all parties were fools for not sharing the wisdom of the filmmaker, and sell you on the idea that everything after falls in place like - dare I say it? - blocks of dominoes.

It's lazy history.

In theory, the French could have pulled off a win. They probably wouldn't have deserved it, but stranger things have happened. And an infinite number of changes to, well, just about anything could have remolded our own involvement in Southeast Asia. History is only concrete when its done and committed to ink. Nothing is simple.

You want a waste of time? Try watching The Search for Kennedy's PT 109. I'm not knocking JFK here, but right off the bat I wondered about the necessity of finding a plywood boat that was cut in half and sank seventy years ago. The boat itself isn't essential to the story, as is the case with Titanic or the Edmund Fitzgerald; nope, the tale hinges on the heroism in the aftermath of the sinking. And let's be honest. Much of the story's value comes from the
historical heights JFK achieved later. Take him out of the picture and we have a moving anecdote, nothing more.

Robert Ballard, the holier-than-thou discoverer of the Titanic wreck, goes over the top to slather man-love on JFK, bringing in his nephew (!) to console a crying, elderly native who has set up a shrine to the fallen President.

The worst part? There's no payoff. They find a single torpedo tube on the ocean floor, have an amateur historian look at the screen and announce "That's her!", then explain away the lack of anything else (such as an identifying item) by claiming the ship is buried by silt and, oh, uh, yeah I consider it a war grave so we won't investigate further.

Blech. Mr. Ballard, I want my hour back.

The 2011 Passion Play

This is, of course, Easter week, and to celebrate Christ's sacrifice the kids school put on an extensive Passion play/Stations of the Cross on the final day before Easter break. I worked until the time it started and arrived late, getting a seat too far back to warrant picture taking. Thankfully my mother-in-law took photographs. Unfortunately . . . well, she's no Annie Lebowitz. But as Smiley would say, the pics are "betta than nuttin".

Here's YaYa joining her class for a song and then reciting a portion of text for the first station of the cross. She read clearly, loudly, and with emotion. She inherited her Mother's speaking skills, that's for sure.

LuLu's class did the 5th Station, and she was a reader as well. She was loud and clear, but was nervous and sped through the text. Odd that my most socially adept kid is the one with the most stage fright (which isn't saying much; they are all limelight hogs).

The Smiley played Jesus for the 12th Station. Lisa crafted the costume from an old sheet, and made the crown of thorns by purchasing a twig wreath, deconstructing it, and then wiring the crown together. Naturally, the next day we found a ready made wreath at the dollar store! It figures, eh?

He did swell. It's a shame Lisa wasn't there to see it, but as a Lutheran she's always been genuinely disturbed at the notion of a congregation yelling "Crucify him!" during Easter week. It has never bothered me, as I grew up with Passion plays, but I also think its important to remind us that we - as a species - were the cause of Christ's death, not a group of random Jews and Romans 2000 years ago.

Easter Week is here! Enjoy the holiday everyone!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

LuLu's 1st Communion Retreat

Last Saturday, on an otherwise wet and miserable April morning, we had the honor of accompanying LuLu on her 1st Communion Retreat.

It began with the kids giving a brief presentation on things they valued in the world. Lu chose the world itself, using 'Earth' as her theme.



The parents were then pulled aside into the school cafeteria to meet with Fr. Spitz. He gave a very nice speech that had two main points. First, that the celebration of 1st Communion often threatens to overshadow the even itself, much as a wedding reception is better attended than the ceremony it celebrates. Secondly, that it is the father that is the most important example in a child's life. Right or wrong a mother is *expected* to "do the right thing", and so is often ignored, whereas society views a father as more of a wild card. Therefore, the child is more impressed when a father walks the line and provides a good example. A double standard, but none-the-less true.

From there it was back to the church. We practiced escorting her down the aisle before returning to the cafeteria to craft a candle for the ceremony. Having been tipped off about this practice from our experience with YaYa's Communion, we thought ahead and bought some religious stickers to decorate it.

Sometimes, it comes in handy to have a pseudo Martha Stewart as a Mom :)


I did not, alas, contribute much to the design, although I did call attention to a flaw in the ribbon. And I did pick out and buy the stickers, so there. But I was sick of never being in photos, so I asked Lu to snap one of me.

Purty, no?

Here's Lu and the finished product:

Then it was on to a slide show featuring the 1st Communicants, which sadly only included one shot of Lu (as she attends only as a religious ed student and the shots were taken during the school day). That upset her, but after a joke or two she lightened up. We sat down to a pot luck lunch and then headed out.

I can't wait to see LuLu on her First Communion day! I'm already so proud!