Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas, Unless...

I heard an amusing version of "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" the other day in which the singers kept thinking of exceptions, such as "unless you are Jewish," followed by a verse for them wishing them Happy Hannukah, Happy Ramadan, Happy Kwanza, Happy Solstice, etc. The last verse was for atheists: "We wish you a happy....Monday."

Anyway, I probably won't be back blogging for a a few days. I'm off on vacation, and will be quite busy keeping up with the family activities. You all enjoy your...weekend...and may all your....mondays be bright. But if you want to have a Merry Christmas, that's perfectly all right with me.

Ciao!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Making A Historical Case

Orson Scott Card has another (long) essay about the future and the past, comparing the Roman Empire and the United States.

An interesting read.

Return of the Lip-Ferret

My wife has decided that she liked kissing me more before I shaved off the moustache. Since I like my wife kissing me, I am regrowing it. For myself, I was ambivalent about it. I don't think I looked any better or worse.

Emma lost her first tooth last night. It has been loose for the better part of a month, so she was quite excited. Even moreso about the tooth fairy coming. She woke us up at 4:00 am to let us know the tooth fairy came.

My Christmas shopping is done, though I spent three hours in six stores last night getting it done. Ho ho ho.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Mein Lipp-ferret Ist Kaput!

I got impulsive enough this morning to do the job. And my worst fears were realized. No one noticed. I always suspected it was a rather uninspiring thing, but this pretty much confirms it.

Once I called Terhi's attention to it she decided she liked it better the old way. I'll give her a few more days to be sure, but yes, it's probably coming back.

On the other hand, it's given me a little drive to do some other things that I've been putting off, like cleaning my desk at work. Things are slow at the moment, so I've got the time. Who knows what else this may inspire.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Let's Get Ready to Rummmmm-baaaaaaaaall!

Those weren't donut holes.

Beware of the unlabeled treats that show up in the office breakroom during the Christmas season.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Bald Faced Lies

I've been contemplating getting rid of my moustache. But I can't bring myself to do it. I tried this morning. I really did. But as hideous as my moustache is, it's been with me for a long time. It's almost like trying to cut off an earlobe or something. I usually deal with change fairly well. But I guess this is an exception.

Kyoto Accords?

According to this article, Europe isn't exactly leading the way in cutting greenhouse gasses. But it's still okay for them to lecture us.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Grading Made Easy

I'm not in college any more, but this is nonetheless funny:

A Guide to Grading Exams

I think I had this professor...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Little Ado About Nothing

Well, the Christmas season is in full swing around our place. We have the tree up now, and the house is decorated. The kids are increasingly bouncy. And our youngest has learned the phrase "That's mine!" Don't know where he picked that up. He only gets it shouted at him by his older siblings forty times a day.

On the cuter side, he also knows "Christmas lights!" He also knows the "E-I-E-I-O" part of Old McDonald very well. Though sometimes he very clearly changes it to "E-I-I-'elllo!"

We've been passing around various bugs lately. One that seems pretty common is the 24-hour fever. Fortunately its symptoms seem to stop at listlessness and fever, and the next day the kid is back to normal.

Anyway, life continues its march toward Christmas. I'll be taking some time off from work, so I'm eager, to say the least.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Orson Scott Card Speaks!

In an odd juxtaposition of what I thought were separate parts of my life, the Instapundit and Instawife do a podcast interview with Orson Scott Card over his new book, "Empire."

He's as sensible sounding in person as he sounds in his essays. Interesting stuff.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Non-Turkey Day

Had a good Thanksgiving, thank you. We all arose at various times, had breakfasts, etc., then I settled in with the kids to watch the Macy's Parade (otherwise known as NBC plugs and Broadway Musical bits for the first hour before the parade really begins) while Terhi fixed dinner. Walter was a bit under the weather, and before long we realized he was running a fever. Otherwise, though, he was fine.

Dinner was fabulous. Most people know that we're vegetarians, but quite frankly I didn't miss the turkey (okay, I do kinda miss leftover turkey sandwiches, though). Terhi outdid herself this year, with mashed potatoes and gravy, carrots, cauliflower, a wonderful cinnimon-apple-sweet-potato casserole, and stuffing. That's the kicker--it's not Thanksgiving without stuffing, and Terhi nailed it. Who cares about the bird?

I just realized we didn't have any cranberry sauce. Obviously I don't miss it. Does anyone have cranberry sauce for any reason other than tradition? That, and the cool way it sits there, holding its can shape, complete with the ridges around the sides?

Anyway, after the requisite stuffing of the participants, we watched the AKC Dog Show until time to head downtown. One of the local hospitals has a "Parade of Trees" fundraiser every year. This is our second year. There are lots of over-done trees interspersed with a few tasteful trees--all of the so expensive that they don't tell you how much they cost--but it's fun to see what different ideas people come up with.

They also have these performers that come out for about an hour and act out various fairy tails, etc., as if they were giant mechanical dolls. Some of them are quite good. Others not so, but they're fun to watch. We were down there for a couple hours, then headed back home, where we had pie for dinner; Pumpkin and Apple. Oh, so good! We ate slice after diminishing slice until we called it good after a sliver of pumpkin pie 1/2-inch wide.

I still hit the treadmill that evening. Aren't I a good boy?

Emma has been getting out of bed every night the past week to tell us she can't wait for Thanksgiving. She has now officially switched over to Christmas. It's going to be a looooooong month.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Japanimaniacs

Last time I visited home my brother loaned me a copy of "Howl's Moving Castle," a feature-length anime movie. I've heard Japanese animation is good, but I wasn't really prepared for this.

There were shots that were downright jaw-droppingly stunning. The attention to detail was masterful. The septh of imagination behind it all was incredible. The plot was a little choppy and hard to follow. There were many more questions than answers. The characters both complex and shallow simultaneously.

But the artwork was...well, artwork. It's as if their pallet included a hue called wonder, and had been on sale that week. There a backgrounds that exceed photographic quality, if that's possible. They manage to be both impressionistic and realistic at the same time. It's the first animated move I'd seen where the backgrounds received more attention and detail and--dare I say it, love--than the characters.

I think that's the difference between Japanime and American mass-market animation these days. When Disney or most any other studio cranks out a feature film everything is wrapped around the action figures. They're ultimately trying to sell toys, so they put all their effort into making the characters marketable.

In this movie, at least, they put their effort into making the characters...part of the world. Disney can't sell a background, so they most of the time don't put any more effort into that than necessary. In "Howl's Moving Castle" you get the feeling that if the characters never existed there would still be more to see and do in this world than you're likely to ever tire of. Hard to explain, perhaps, but nonetheless true.

It's as if the director built the world first, and then found a story to take place in it. You can tell he is in love with the world. Even the war machines and the scenes of destruction are crafted with an unrepentant enthusiasm and love that speaks volumes about not merely accepting the bad and good in life, but that the bad and good ARE life, and continually enhancing one another. Yes, war is a horrible thing, but even the horror and terror are things of beauty.

It's an amazing piece of work. I saw it on a small screen. I think seeing it on a large screen may have made me weep for the sheer, overpowering beauty of it all.

Jean Simmons does a fine bit of vocal acting. She sells her character, and endows it with a sincerity and depth not present in the script. She holds the character/plot aspects of the movie together. It's funny, too, that sexist Japan can create stronger female characters than "enlightened" America. Belle, Jasmine and the "Princess" gang may have Girrrrl Power, but Sophie has more strength and depth and personality in her little finger.

So am I a convert? I don't know. I don't remember if this movie is by the "grand master" my brother tells me about. If it is, I suspect that this movie is an exception rather than a rule. Perhaps more typical feature-length Japanime would disappoint.

But this did not.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Odds and Ends

Well, I didn't get the job I was hoping to get. I'm a little bummed, but recovering quickly. I've been discussing the future with my new boss (Did I mention that the company re-org finally hit my level and I'm being moved to a new team?), and it sounds like he'll be using me the way I like to be used; as an actual analyst/problem-solver rather than a live dictation device. So regardless of my disappointment over the other job, things are looking up.

It's been raining much of this week, so other than when one of my home teachers and his son came over to help me paint for a few hours on election night, I haven't made much progress on the fence. I have to wonder if this is as far as I'm going to get this year.

My take on the elections? I'm optimistic--not that the Democrats are going to improve things, just that people may finally realize that they really don't have any answers of their own besides blame Bush. After two years of them showing no leadership we should have a decent chance of putting a non-liberal in the White House and perhaps shifting power back in congress. That or at least one party reforming themselves to the point where people can feel good about voting for them again.

Oh, who am I fooling? I suspect the bottles of hand sanitizer and de-greaser will be standard issue in all voting booths for a good, long time. To actually feel good about my vote? That's just crazy talk!

Speaking of crazy talk, Terhi and I watched "The Terminal" for our date night last night. Interesting movie, but we agreed that Catherine Zeta Jones' role was completely unnecessary. Don't get me wrong. I'm in favor of the pleasing visage of Catherine Zeta Jones being in a movie for any reason, even gratuitously. But her role did nothing for the movie. She didn't change, she didn't change Viktor (Tom Hanks, who even though he is Tom Hanks, came across as not just Tom Hanks with an accent--that's acting!), and I didn't feel all that sad for her or Viktor when she left. She was there to play the love-interest and nothing more; to make a 90-minute movie a two-hour movie.

Not to say the movie isn't good. It's very good. But Viktor's relationship with every other character in the movie was at least if not more important.

Did I miss it, or did it ever explain why Viktor is such a whiz at carpentry?

Still, a fun movie worthy watching.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Oh, Those Goofy Mechanics

Friday night on the way home from work I noticed wisps of steam coming out from under my hood. I glanced at my temperature gauge. Buried on hot. I wish I had a warning light, instead. I never look at the temperature gauge anymore! It never reads anything but normal!

Anyway, I pulled off the road to let the engine cool down, but I didn't get far before I heard a nasty-sounding whoosh and my car emitted a cloud of steam that would make a locomotive proud. I nursed it the rest of the way into a furniture store parking lot, and called home for a ride.

Later that night I got a friend to take me back over. We put some fluid in the radiator (and saw it immediately start to leak back out again) and he followed me to the mechanic's shop about a mile away. I left the car there (they were closed), vowing to contact them the next morning before we left town to visit my parents.

Fast forward to Monday. We're back in town, and I call the shop first thing in the morning to get the prognosis. It's a cracked radiator, and at least $450 to fix. Fine. Go ahead. I'll work from home.

I get a call a little after noon. They've got the radiator and thermostat replaced, but they need to replace the fluid level sensor. Or, if I can live with the light being on forever, they can skip that. I didn't even know I had a fluid level sensor. If so, it certainly wasn't working after my radiator cracked. I can live without it. They'll get the car cleaned up and it'll be ready for me in an hour.

I show up in an hour and pay the bill. When I get into the car and start it up I don't see any fluid level light. I do see the light for my rear window defogger, so I turn it off. Then I call the mechanic over to show me where the light was. He can't see it, either. I reach over and turn on the defogger. He looks extremely sheepish.

He'd spent an hour and a half trying to fix the fluid sensor (I still don't know if there is one) to get it to turn off, and it wasn't even the fluid indicator. Fortunately I didn't ask them to fix it. And fortunately they didn't bill me for the time they spent messing with it. Fortunately for them. I may still take my cars there, as it's very close to my house.

What Are We Voting On Today?

Orson Scott Card says today is all about one issue: The War On Terror. I'm somewhat inclined to agree. Even if you don't, there is still some interesting information in the article that would hopefully make anyone claiming an open mind think a little.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Can't Put A Finger On IT

The headline: Bus driver fired over flipping off Bush

The reality: Bus driver flips off someone in another car in front of a bus load of kids. The president was amused. The bus company was not. Justifiably so, I'd say. The target of the gesture is irrelevant.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Livin' "La Vida Polka"

So what's new around here these days? Not much. I've received my new assignment at work, which is good news. If nothing else, it means I still have a job. Not everyone got a seat on the bus, so to speak. But beyond that I'm not sure what is going on. I'm still on my current project until someone says I'm not. And I still have not heard one way or another on the job I interviewed for.

Though I did finally receive a rejection notice on a job I applied for back in May.

Last night I took the older two children trick or treating. They had a blast. I had frostbite. My son had the right idea. You can dress warmly and still be a "tractor man."

I also learned that I have a reputation in the neighborhood. One house we went to, after giving candy to the kids, the gentleman looked up to see who the parent was and immediately recognized me. "You're the guy with the fence." Yes indeed. The fence that still only has one coat of paint on it, and unless the weather warms up a bit, is likely to remain in its current state until Spring.

My children, being somewhat unique, had an interesting idea. A few weeks ago they did a craft project with their mother in which they made a slew of Halloween finger puppets. Since they had so many they decided it would be nice to give them out when we went trick or treating. So we did. That was my job. I carried around a box full of finger puppets to hand out.

At once house I wasn't quick enough with an explanation and ended up with a handful of candy in my box. I was finally able to explain what I was doing, so hopefully they don't think I'm the greediest dad ever. And for the record, I gave the candy to the kids.

I did invoke the parental "I froze my extremities so you could get free candy" tax, though. I reckon an hour and a half of sub-freezing weather is worth a "fun size" (as opposed to the "misery size") Kit Kat and Reese's.

Today the local interest group of which I'm the communications chair held a vendor expo and conference. I spent the afternoon running around helping get everything set up and all the little details that no one thought of dealt with. At one point I had to stop and laugh. The whole situation felt like I was living an episode of "The Apprentice."

When the hotel's Business Center's printer began running low on toner while I was printing registration signs I felt like finding a camera for an "aside" moment: "Well, I think the toner running out has pretty much clinched it. It's details like this that make or break a project. Gold Rush is going to kick our butts, and I'm going to the board room. But I'm not taking the cab ride, you hear me. Someone else is going down, not me."

Yes, I do need a life. How did you know?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Surely You Must Be Exploding, Mr. Feynman.

The latest O.S. Card essay, on Intellectual Groupthink is up. It makes me very afraid to send my children to college.

Considering I just recently finished a book by one of the best physicists of our time, who was well known for his willingness to cry foul of groupthink, I can only imagine what he would think of all this. I hope they buried him in a roomy coffin. He'll need the rolling-space.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Winter Comes In On Little Cat Feet

...Siberian Tiger, that is.

A strong, cold wind hit the valley like a bullet-train this week, and there's a skiff of snow on the foothills. I had really wanted to put this kind of weather off a little longer. I've still got 1/4 of a first coat left to put on the new fence and and entire second coat. Granted, it doesn't take a lot of manual dexterity to paint a fence, but I still prefer being able to feel my fingers.

This weather change seems to have made the children hyper.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Talking Head Appreciation Week

I have a job interview by video conference today. It was quite challenging. The room I was in had the video projected up on a large screen, with the camera at waist level below it. Fortunately I went a little early to make sure the system was set up and working, and get used to the setup.

I noticed right away that if I looked at the screen, which would be where I would see the people who were interviewing me, I'd appear to them like I was staring at the ceiling. The only way to look natural to them was to look straight at the camera--which of course meant I couldn't see them.

The camera was also set up facing a window along a long room, so if I wasn't more aware of these things I would have looked like a secret informant on a news show. I shut the blinds and adjusted the camera so that they'd basically see me from the waist up and taking up most of the picture.

And I talked to the camera. The two interviewers know what I look like, but I only had a peripheral glimpse of them. But since they're helping with the hiring, it only matters that I made a good impression on them. They complimented me on my ability to cope with the setup and felt that it really helped. Hopefully that will score me some points.

I really, really want the job. But more on that another day.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Cats vs. Dogs

Well, this article is pretty clear cut. The cat lights the house on fire. The dog saves the owner, then dies trying to save the aforementioned cat.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Back To Work...Whew!

Vacation is over, and all I've got is three brick planter boxes, an adjusted sprinkler system, and 160 feet of unpainted picket fence to show for it. That, and a much lighter wallet.

Special thanks goes out to:
- Terhi, who pitched in at the right times to keep me from bagging the whole mess
- Clark, the neighbor who helped me move two pallets of bricks
- Dan, my brother who showed up and helped put up 1/4 of my pickets on Saturday, making it possible for me to finish the job before vacation ended.
- Our ward's young men, who have scheduled a service project for this week to come help me paint the new perimeter defences.

It would be much more satisfying if I didn't have about a dozen more projects still waiting for me.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Making Progress

Well, my vacation isn't turning out to be the amazing burst of landscaping I'd hoped it would be, but I'm at least getting somewhere. I got the planterboxes all made, and the ones were removing partially emptied of dirt. The sprinkler guys got far enough today I can probably start on my fence tomorrow (I also had some dead spots the sprinklers aren't hitting, so my sprinkler work is more than just moving a line)

The fence will be the real challenge. I've never worked with concrete before--always preferred the abstract, personally. But an abstract fence just isn't going to cut it. And I'm afraid that three more days won't be enough. The kids are going to be very disappointed if I go back to work next week without at least starting on their playhouse. The pressure is on.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Downright Neighborly

The bricks finally arrived this afternoon. The kids were thrilled watching the Home Depot piggyback forklift in action. I, of course, was not in the least bit interested.

They blocked the sidewalk, which I knew would not go over well with the neighborhood association. Besides, I was just a little nervous leaving nearly $700 worth of brick out in the open in the blind spot along the dark side of the lot. Some thieves have amazing ingenuity and energy, and it would be just my luck to have that kind come along before I could get the time to finish the garden beds.

So this afternoon I started in attempting to move the blocks inside the back yard fence. I estimate they weigh at least 30 lbs each, and there were 112 per pallet. It took me over an hour to unload the first one before dinner time. I ate, rested up, and helped get the kids bathed and to bed before getting a start on the next pallet around 7:15 pm.

I was almost disappointed that thieves hadn't struck while I was eating.

But then the most amazing thing happened. Our neighbor over the back fence was on his way home, saw me working, and stopped to offer to help. I took him up on it. I should mention that we don't know him well. He introduced himself once, and I've seen him at a neighborhood association meeting once or twice. I didn't even remember his name. (It's little consolation he remember mine as Tim.)

He went home and changed quickly and came right over. Between the two of us we knocked out the rest of the two pallets in under an hour. It went faster, it seemed easier, and I enjoyed chatting with him. I'm also a little humbled about what a lousy neighbor I am. I need to work on that.

Like, A Ton Of Bricks

In my continuing saga of hurry-up-and-wait, I went out shopping for materials to make raised beds for our garden area yesterday. I ended up buying three pallets of bricks, to be delivered some time today. We emphasize "some time." Though I've been able to get some work done, this is basically two of my seven vacation days down the drain.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Fall Fencing Fiasco

I'm on vacation. No, really! Just because I have 160 linear feet of fence to build, three or four planter boxes to construct, and a playhouse to design and build in a week and a half doesn't mean I'm not on vacation. And I'm already stuck.

I can't put in the fence because the sprinkler line runs too close to where I want to put it. I thought I had more room, but the one sprinkler I measured a while ago to see if there was enough room just happens to be the only one that is far enough in from the sidewalk. So now we're having the sprinkler guys come and look things over, give us advice and an estimate. They'll come tomorrow.

So now I'm off to buy stone for planter boxes. Whee!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Quiet House

I am alone in the house. It used to be a rare occurance, but now it's become commonplace. I come home before the rest of my family three days a week. My wife has started teaching a ballet class one afternoon a week, and with my daughter in school we've had to sign her up for late afternoon gymnastics classes. And so I have the place to myself. Except for the cats, but they don't count. They take advantage of the quiet to...sleep.

I don't quite know how I feel about this yet. It's somehow easier when I'm the one coming home to them. Half the time the kids don't even look up. But when the come home to me it's like an explosion hits the house as they all try and tell me about their day and get their hugs at once. I'm not sure what the difference is.

But mostly it's just...different.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Startling Children

Our oldest's room is right near the top of the stairs. The other night my wife and I were heading to bed, and she went upstairs just a little before me. As Terhi passed the door to our daughter's room Emma came out, half-asleep, headed for the bathroom. She saw Terhi, but she didn't see me coming up the stairs until I was right behind her.

Suddenly she realized I was there and jumped. Still half asleep, she got all confused and couldn't figure out which way to go, stumbling back and forth in the doorway like a spider suddenly trapped under a drinking glass. It was all Terhi and I could do to not bust up laughing, she looked so fuddled.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Terrorists Won

Okay, now that it's no longer Thefiveyearanniversaryof9/11, perhaps I have something to say. Everyone is making a big deal over the fact that we're still here, that there hasn't been another major attack, that Al-Qaeda is in retreat, etc. etc. Me? I think the terrorists won. Perhaps the never had to do anything at all, I don't know, but for now I'll blame what I see on them.

You see, the islamists are a very closed-minded group. They are right, and anyone who doesn't agree with them is evil, is the devil's pawn, is worthy of death. Everyone will either agree with them or face persecution, face torture, face death.

And what do we see in America since 9/11? Not one faction, but two. But the message is the same. You will agree with us or we will pull out every nasty trick at our disposal to smear you, to torment you, to drive you down to submission. So we're not lopping off heads--big deal. It's perfectly acceptable for people who supposedly eschew violence, and especially the violence we're instigating abroad, to wish on national television that someone would assassinate the president.

It's perfectly okay to threaten national networks with lawsuits and termination of their license for broadcasting programs that paint a former president in a bad light--even while raising money for their cause by showing a "documentary" showing the current president in a bad light.

What is not okay is trying to see the other side's perspective, let alone *gasp* agree with them (witness for the defense, Joe Lieberman). What is not okay is cooperation for the common good.

We've got some incredibly smart people running this country. If they'd devote even half the genius and energy to working up a real, workable alternative that they devote to spinning webs and lies to snare the other side (not of the war on terror, mind you, of the political fence), we'd have solved most of the major national problems by now. But doing the right thing is no longer as important as being seen opposing something.

What we have is two political parties who mirror each other in their loud screaming that "We are the NOT THEM party!" It's disgusting, it's petty, it's useless, and it's exactly what the terrorists want, even if it's not what they had planned. Why do they need to keep attacking us? Once was enough to get us to turn on ourselves. They don't WANT to attack us any more, lest we might actually wake up and see what is going on!

How many problems did Bush come into office determined to fix that were on the Democrats' list as well? Well, you'd probably have to do some digging, because they'll probably claim they never said any such thing today. But I'll bet there were at least a few. And did they solve them? No. No one was interested in working together to come up with something. They just didn't want the other side to win.

We don't have to mirror the islamists act for bloody act to become like them. And they don't need us to. In fact, they'd much rather see us too "civilized" to sink to their level. They'd rather we get used to fighting our battles on the senate floor and at political rallies. When they do finally hit us again we won't have a clue how to stand up to them. They'll laugh at us when we threaten to go on hunger strikes. They'll throw our clever protest signs in the shredder--followed by the protestor.

And while we seek to understand them and come to terms with our complicity in making them the way they are, they'll kick us in the teeth and show us how Abu Graib was little more than college hazing by comparison to what they can do--and they won't worry about what the does to our psyche or whether or not they might be breeding hatred on the American Street.

All because we stupidly convinced ourselves that the enemy was each other. All because a few more years of power was more important than actually protecting the very people gave them that power. In the end it won't matter who outed Valerie Plame or whether Bush lied about WMD.

When things really hit the fan those who are so cleverly convincing us it does matter will not stick around to admit they were wrong. They've got money and power, and will be able to convince their favorite world dictator to give them safe harbor. They won't lose a wink of sleep about leaving the rest of us to reap the whirlwind of their efforts. They'll convince themselves and everyone else that they had nothing to do with our downfall.

You know what would really make me want to vote for someone--anyone--this Fall? For someone to come forward and say "You know, I think Bush is doing the best he knows how, but we can do better. I'll bet that if I work with him instead of against him I can get him to listen to some of my ideas. Elect me and I'll work with him to see if we can't figure out a better path that still gets the job done. Because two smart people working together can accomplish just about anything."

I'd pay money to be able to vote for such a candidate. No matter which party he was in.

Monday, September 11, 2006

We Remember

Not that many years ago on this day my life was changed forever. Everything I thought I'd known up to that point was suddenly turned upside down. The world just wasn't the same anymore.

That's right, I got married. Not to make light of a terrible national tragedy, but we had 9/11 first. So pardon us if we don't sit in front of the television tonight. We've got better things to do.

Actually, we've already done it. Our regular date night was on Saturday, and that seemed like a better day to do our partying, even if it was eating Pier 49 pizza by candlelight in our downstairs living room and watching a Brit-com on PBS. We also did a lot of talking and reminiscing. It's been a pretty amazing seven years.

I thought my wife was wonderful then. That's nothing compared to now. Everything we've been through together just makes me love her all that much more. We joked a little about how we've changed--and how if just one of us had been the person we are now instead of the people we were then we might not have met. We had very few surface qualities in common even then, and we've both changed a lot in the time since.

Fortunately we've changed together. That's the key, I think. Life is going to change you. Rather than fight it, just make sure you change together. Make sure you're still building shared memories. Make sure you take time to remember all the things you like about each other, and hit the "clear" button on all the irritations from time to time.

I know, seven years doesn't make me any expert on marriage. But I'm pretty sure I'm right on this one. At least it's right for us. And we'll keep right on working at it. We've got to, lest the collapsing twin towers come to symbolize another 9/11 as well.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Still Waiting

We got the results of our older son's blood tests. He has no food allergies, either. So now we need to take him in for a biopsy in two weeks to see what else they can determine. The lack of food allergies means we're back to it maybe being Celiac's disease that hasn't progressed far enough to show up in the blood tests yet. Or it could be lactose intolerance, or some sort of carbohydrate imbalance. They didn't say what it means if this test comes back negative.

I guess that would make him a gaseous anomaly.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Crazy Daisy

I guess it's been awhile since I actually put up anything personal. A few events:

My oldest has begun school. She's been eagerly anticipating kindergarten most of the summer, especially riding the school bus. Well, as of Sunday afternoon we didn't know when or where her bus would be coming. Fortunately our church is near her school, so after choir practice on Sunday afternoon I stopped by the school to see if they had it posted anywhere visible. They did. Whew! No tears over that.

I went in to work late on Monday morning so I could help see her off. She was so excited to get on the bus. Hers is the second stop, so the bus was practically empty. As it pulled away we could see just her beaming face in one window. She seemed so small and alone. We got choked up. She was having the time of her life. No "First Day Fears" in that girl, no sir.

She's loving kindergarten, as we knew she would. I hope it stays interesting. Her first day school work was to cut paper. They gave her three papers, two with thick, slightly-curved lines and one with straight lines. She had to cut along the lines. This is the girl who cuts people out of the advertising fliers in the Sunday paper. Sharp angles and tight corners give her no trouble. She probably could have done that assignment with her eyes closed.

They're also starting the kids on learning their letters. She's already getting bored with Dick and Jane at home. I hope school keeps her engaged.

The other bit of excitement is our middle child. He's been complaining of stomach pains for awhile, but almost always at dinner time when he tries to get out of eating. Finally we decided we should probably be sure and took him to the doctor. She refered him to a gastroenterologist. They took one look at him there and pronounced it Celiac's Disease, though they had to take blood tests to be sure.

He handled the blood drawing with hardly a flinch. He probably thought it was fascinating stuff. Celiac's Disease, by the way, is essentially a bad reaction to gluten. You know, the stuff that is behind only sugar and fat in the American diet. Gluten-free food is available, but very expensive stuff.

Well, it's not Celiac's disease. They don't know what it is yet. They're waiting on the allergy tests to come back. And so we're waiting to see what it is, what they can do about it, and if we'll have a more cheerful boy when all is said and done.

And that's the news from Bubble-opolis.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Of Faith and War

An interesting article by Richard Fernandez on the differences between the religions currently at war.

"An Inconvenient Scientist"

I'm not ready to throw my hat in the ring against Global Warming, but I will against anyone who says we shouldn't question it. Isn't that what science is all about? If this article is correct, there is evidence against Global Warming, so don't we have a duty to question?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Spam Review

I can't say that they stand much chance of fooling me, but they're certainly amusing. Here's a sample of some of the more interesting spam subject lines I've received lately:

- Your future, milk drying (Hmmmm... is that something like making milk powder? Or is it more akin to watching paint dry? Either way, not a very appealing future. I think I'll pass.)

- Order status, onion maggot (Ah, flattery. I ain't buying, tofu brain!)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Deep Thoughts

A couple of maxims come to mind:

1 - Those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.
2 - History is written by the victors.

So does this mean that those who do not learn from history are destined to write it?

Bad Joke of the Day

When he set out to film the movie "Babe" several years ago the director originally debated whether or not he'd be able to get the full range of required actions and emotions from a real pig. Finally he decided to go another direction and hire a midget to wear a pig costume instead. They searched around and finally hired Richard Shapiro to play the part.

Unfortunately, though Shapiro spend many hours studying the movements of pigs and the best in Hollywood costumers and creature make-up artists were put on the task of making him look like a pig, it all came to naught when they started filming. The other animals in the movie, all of them real, were quite disturbed by the fake pig and refused to perform as trained. After about a week's wasted time and money, they scrapped the idea and started looking for a trained pig to take over the lead role.

It was an expensive lesson, but the director learned it well: Never cast Shapiros before swine.

Let the virtual thwacking begin...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Mine.

Terhi and I rented "Finding Nemo" over the weekend for our date night and to preview it before we let the kids watch it (they won't be watching it any time soon--too intense for them). It's a fairly good movie. Okay, I cried at the end when Nemo runs (swims) back from the bus to tell his dad he loves him. It's an enlightened age. Get over it.

But the best part of the movie for Terhi and I both is the seagulls. If you haven't seen it, they're a pack of food-seeking machines. Any food they see they each declare "Mine" until it's a full cacaphony of "Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!" Kinda like dealing with a flock of small children. Any time they showed up in the movie (which is several times) we ended up rolling on the floor laughing. It's still our private joke.

Anyway, cute movie. But if you have kids who scare easily, this is not the movie for them.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Badgers on a Hovercraft!

For a small chuckle, here's an article making fun of all the buzz surrounding the upcoming "Snakes on a Plane" movie. It's not so much making fun of the movie as Hollywood in general and what we can expect to see if this movie is a hit. I probably won't see "Snakes on a Plane", but "Badgers on a Hovercraft"? "Meerkats on a Boat"? I'm so there!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Not Sure What This Means...

I took one of those "What are you" quizzes and ended up with this:

You scored as Cultural Creative. Cultural Creatives are probably the newest group to enter this realm. You are a modern thinker who tends to shy away from organized religion but still feels as if there is something greater than ourselves. You are very spiritual, even if you are not religious. Life has a meaning outside of the rational.


What is Your World View?
created with QuizFarm.com

I'm betting it just means I'm a Mormon.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Darn You, Card!

Orson Scott Card has a new book coming out soon. The first couple chapters are up for your entrapment on his website. It's called "Empire," and it may be one of his most important works, if I may be so bold. From what I've seen so far it's a near-future novel that investigates the notion that America as a democracy has already failed and we're about to follow the Roman Empire--not the falling part, but the turning from republic to empire.

It could just be because so much of this is already on my mind, but I haven't had a book tingle my spine in a long time. It may be the first book I've bought in several years.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Tender Hearts and Rubber Bones

Our youngest is in the process of learning how to walk, but so far is making more process in learning how to climb. We have a set of stairs leading to our upstairs area that he's especially interested in. He's become fairly good at clambering to the top, and making process in learning to slide back down.

Last night during our Family Home Evening we were all playing balloon volleyball when he decided to mount another expedition. Unfortunately the excitement below must have distracted him and he tumbled over backward down the stairs. Terhi saw more of it--I only saw him rolling down the last two.

Terhi immediately scooped him up to comfort and examine him, and Emma stepped in to hold him, too. Still somewhat panicked, Terhi snapped at Emma to get back. Pretty soon Emma was in tears--and Richard was fine. He bounces back quicker than just about anyone in our house.

Emma, on the other hand, took quite awhile to calm down. We thought perhaps Terhi had hurt her feelings in telling her to stay back, but the image of Richard tumbling down the stairs really scared her. Richard was playing and giggling with a balloon, and she was still a basket case.

That's just how she is. Later that night she knocked on her door to tell me that she'd been thinking about "The Piglet Movie" and was sad over the part where Piglet's journal gets stuck on a branch log over a waterfall. As I recall, that movie traumatized her the first few times she saw it (she insisted on seeing it again, mind you, we didn't force it on her).

I suspect there were some other motivations behind her nocturnal ruminations of sadness, but it was there nonetheless. I just can't wait for her to become a teenager. Does salt water harm laminate flooring? I'm anticipating buckets of tears.

Monday, August 07, 2006

But I Don't Listen To The Words

A new study suggests a correlation between raunchy music and teen sex. No surprises there. Nor is the response from The Industry:

The Recording Industry Association of America, which represents the U.S. recording industry, declined to comment on the findings.

Benjamin Chavis, chief executive officer of the Hip-Hip Summit Action Network, a coalition of hip-hop musicians and recording industry executives, said explicit music lyrics are a cultural expression that reflect “social and economic realities.”

“We caution rushing to judgment that music more than any other factor is a causative factor” for teens initiating sex, Chavis said.


The researchers disagree.
Martino said the researchers tried to account for other factors that could affect teens’ sexual behavior, including parental permissiveness, and still found explicit lyrics had a strong influence.


So what is the solution? Not to regulate the industry. Of course not.
Martino said parents, educators and teens themselves need to think more critically about messages in music lyrics.

Fulbright agreed.

“A healthy home atmosphere is one that allows a child to investigate what pop culture has to offer and at the same time say ‘I know this is a fun song but you know that it’s not right to treat women this way or this isn’t a good person to have as a role model,”’ she said.

Shovel one more thing on the plates of parents and teachers. Not that it shouldn't have already been there. But notice they don't advocate not listening to the crap. Oh no! We just need to think critically about it.

I wonder what these people would say if someone came into their house and defecated in the middle of the living room every day. "This person seems to be having fun, but so long as he knows that this is smelly and causing stains to the rug, I suppose it's okay to let him continue investigating what barbaric behavior has to offer."

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Latest Update

For those who care (and have the password), there's an update on our family site.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

National Night Out

Our neighborhood participated somewhat in the National Night Out last night. I represented our family, as the kids were either in bed or getting ready for bed during the festivities. It was a nice evening, and it was interesting to get hear what other people in the subdivision have on their minds. The turnout wasn't great, but it was a decent crowd.

I was getting ready to head home when a local policeman and a city council member showed up. It was interesting chatting with them about the city in general, crime rates, and so on. I don't know how many other council members went out like that, but this one scored a few points in my book.

I've also become aware of an off propensity I have for volunteering. By the end of the evening I had volunteered to be part of the homeowners association architectural committee, the neighborhood watch, and the planning committee for next year's National Night Out. I don't know if I really want to make a difference or I just want people to like me. I guess I just hate to see good things struggle or die from lack of support.

Besides, if I'm on the architectural committee I can set the rules so I can make our planned picket fence taller than the CCR's currently allow. Mwah ha ha ha....! The POWER! THE ABSOLUTE POWER!!!!

Okay, I'm calm now.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Mad Max: Beyond Blunderdome

Okay, let's start by making clear that I do not condone racism, alcoholism, or driving drunk.

That said, I can't help but think that the only difference between Mel Gibson and the rest of Hollywood is that he yelled his sentiments at cops while drunk at the side of the road, while the rest of Hollywood yells their sentiments cold sober from award show podiums. That, and the rest of Hollywood are clever (or sober) enough to wrap their anti-semitism in a more palatable shroud of anti-Israel sentiment.

Because of course the drunk driving, resisting arrest, insulting cops...well, that's no big deal. Opinions are more dangerous than actions.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Strange Dreams

This morning I had a weird dream. It was one of those where I start out watching the dream like a movie, then at some point actually become the main character. In this case he/I was going on a cruise. Just before I got on the ship I got a call from my "handler." Unknown to me, I was a specially trained assassin. I had been conditioned to forget that entire aspect of my existence and just go about my life until receiving the proper code words from my handler, at which point the assassin would take over. Once I was done with a mission they'd reinstate the conditioning and I'd go along none the wiser.

Evidently they wanted me to kill someone on this cruise. I spent a long time wandering around the ship just enjoying myself. At some point I found the person and killed them, though my subconscious mercifully fast-forwarded through that part. Then the cruise ended, and I decided I'd had with this existence. I was going to kill my handlers before they could stick the genie back in the bottle, so to speak. Not only was I doing the dirty work for an unknown organization/person, but I didn't even have any memory of it. It wasn't to protect me, really. I could still get caught and convicted of my murders, but I wouldn't be able to implicate my handler.

Unfortunately they must have gotten to me before I could get to them, as I soon forgot all about that. Right before I woke up I met my older brother. We talked for a little bit, then he had to go. He hopped on a motorcycle (rather nice bike, as I recall) and roared off, recklessly cutting off a woman on a motorcycle, then zipping off with great skill to keep her from following him.

Why am I telling you this? I don't know. Probably because my dreams are more exciting than my reality right now. And because I was thinking it would make a great plot for a novel or something--until now. I just remembered that the same idea was used in a Babylon 5 episode. Some may recall Talia Winters.

Oh well. Back to the drawing board.

Signs of Hezbollah Respectability

Hezbollah has been taking some criticism for hiding their forces among, around, and behind civilians. So to show they're trying to turn over a new leaf they've evidently changed their tactics. They're now hiding behind unarmed U.N. peacekeepers.

Oh wait. They haven't stopped hiding among civilians. They're just branching out. They remind me of the joke about the two hikers out in the woods when they're confronted by a large, angry grizzly bear. One hiker immediately takes a pair of tennis shoes from his pack and starts putting them on instead of his hiking boots. His partner says "You won't be able to outrun that bear, even with those shoes." The hiker just shakes his head. "I don't have to outrun the bear, just you."

Unfortunately, the biggest joke is that anyone actually thinks Hezbollah are the good guys in this fight.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Little Yard of Horrors

I survived the weekend. My solo went well enough, though invariably my voice works better in rehearsal than in the performance. And I was nervous. Mind you, I spent seven years as a music major, and yet I was less nervous giving a Sunday School lesson to a bunch of adults.

That went well, too, though the material-to-time ratio was out of balance in favor of material. The last half was rushed. I hate to say this, lest someone get ideas, but I need more practice teaching. Just because the manual says to cover all of the material doesn't mean that's what you need to do.

If I were to do it again I'd focus on one central theme and the verses that build on it. Instead I had two; building the temple and Solomon's (Kiiiiing Solomonnnnnn!) downfall. One or the other would have been just about right. Oh well, live and learn.

Over the weekend we stopped in for some birdseed at a wild bird specialty store near our house. Great shop, if you like birds, squirrels--or at least looking like you do. They had a collection of plush birds modeled after specific species, complete with bird call when you pressed their chest. I wonder if they sell well. It's one of those concepts where if you buy one you have to buy them all, unless you're really, really into, say...the California Condor. So we bought none.

But we did buy a 40 lb. bag of bird seed and a 50 lb. bag of sunflower seeds for the squirrels (we have three who visit regularly, and one who used to live in our tree before it blew down). We also picked up a book on landscaping to attract wildlife. Go figure. My brother would probably love a book on landscaping to repel wildlife.

I'm not sure we'll go so far as to become certified by the National Wildlife Federation as a wildlife sanctuary, but we're seriously considering going in for more native plants and landscaping with wildlife in mind. While I can't get into zero-scaping (or whatever they call the "I hate lawn care" style), I guess I'm liberal enough to think that getting plants that are used to surviving in this dry climate could be a good thing. Especially considering the trouble I seem to have with growing grass.

We did some research for our date night. We found a website with a fairly comprehensive list of native plants, searchable by region and other criteria. I was a little concerned, however, whenever I'd see a plant listed as aggressively invasive.

"Honey, have you seen the kids lately?"

"No, but how long have we had carniflora tyrannus growing in the kitchen? I thought we planted it by the back fence!"

Too many of them looked like weeds, which I'm sure the homeowners association would just LOVE. But there were a few options that were quite pretty. I'm sure we have plenty of research still ahead of us, but I'm kinda excited about it. Especially since I'll have some more construction projects come from this--which of course means new tools! Uhh uhh uhh!

Our plans are pretty major. We're probably talking in years rather than weeks or months. But that's a good thing. It's something we'll do as a team, if not exactly together, and I believe it's healthy for a marriage to have some common short-term goals/projects (raising kids is too long-term to believe you're making much progress). So we'll see how it goes. Who knows, maybe the NWF certification isn't too far out there after all.

But if I wake up one morning to find a bunch of new age hippie wannabees camped out in our yard I reserve the right to bash them over the head with our official NWF habitat sign. They're scaring the birds.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Seven Days Makes One Weak

Well, maybe not, but I'm sure ready for a weekend, even if it will be a bit of a tense one. One of the drawbacks of being in the Sunday School presidency in my church is that part of your job is filling in for teachers. So this weekend I'm teaching the Gospel Doctrine class, usually attended by around 60-plus adults each week.

I'll also be singing a solo in our main worship meeting. I'm not sure how these things always happen, but invariably if I have one such commitment I usually have two or three.

Anyone have some great insights into 1 Kings 3-11? It's on the rise and fall of King Solomon. Short version: Off to a great start, but then he started to believe his own press. And just what does anyone need with that many wives? This guy was obviously a collector.

Thanks to my parents, I'll never be able to hear Solomon mentioned without hearing the song they sometimes played on the stereo when I was a kid: "Kiiiiiiiing Solomonnnn didn't pray for riches...Kiiiiiiing Solomonnnn didn't pray for fame, oh no!...Kiiiiiiing Solomonnnnnn only prayed for wisdom....but it brought him fame and fortune just the same!"

Ah, the things we keep from childhood.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

That Felt Good

I had a phone interview today, and it went well. The interviewer even said I sounded like a good fit for the position. I asked a lot of questions that hopefully sounded like I knew what I was talking about. I could say "I've done that," "I'm doing that," or "I'm used to that" to everything she asked.

What really felt good is that when I some asked questions I could sense a little concern in the answers, as if she was afraid she would give an answer I wouldn't like. How cool is that?! I even got a salary range out of her (more of a guess, though, as she was not the hiring manager), and I don't see any problems there, either.

The company sounds like it's a cross between the last place I worked and where I work now, and from what she told me, it sounds like it combines the best of both worlds. I find myself really, really hoping they'll hire me. I would love to be excited to go to work in the morning. I would love to work for a company where it matters if we get it right the first time because we don't have tons of cash to throw around trying to fix stupid decisions.

Oh, I'm sure this place has their problems, too, but so far it sounds like they have at least a different set, and perhaps even some of the right problems.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Heat Is On

Well, that's it. The summer is pretty much over as far as we're concerned. Terhi's parents have gone home, and there is nothing more to look forward to--other than the end of summer itself. This unrelenting, oppressive heat may appeal to some people, but not me. It just wears me out.

Of course there are landscaping projects starting to materialize. Little did we know that losing our shade tree would inspire us to redo the entire yard. Actually, I think we've been building up to it anyway, and this was just the catalyst. But we're now in full planning mode, which means we may soon be into full renovation mode. Perhaps I shouldn't be looking for a new job until after I've used up a bunch of my vacation from this one in landscaping projects.

Anyway, we'll keep you posted, I'm sure. But personally, I'm going to stall for awhile at least until the weather starts cooling down a little.

Monday, July 17, 2006

With Liberty and Justice for Vulcans!

This story bothers me, but not for the reasons I originally thought.

HONOLULU - Junior Stowers raised his hands and exclaimed, "Thank you, Jesus!" in court last month when he was acquitted by a jury of abusing his son. But his joy was short-lived when Circuit Judge Patrick Border held him in contempt of court for the "outburst" and threw him in jail. Stowers, 47, sat in the courtroom and a cellblock for about six hours until the judge granted him a hearing on the contempt charge and released him.

Sounds like someone is taking separation of church and state too far, especially considering that most states still swear in witnesses with "...so help me god." But, it turns out, there was an even stranger reason behind it.

Court minutes said Border later dropped the charge because he realized Stowers' trial lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Carmel Kwock, did not have time to tell Stowers the judge had ordered both sides not to show emotion when the verdict was announced.

Say what?! The court can order people not to show emotion over verdicts?! They can hold a person's life in their hands, but expect that person not to show any emotions? I'm having a little trouble understanding that one.

Friday, July 14, 2006

There's A Bright Golden Haze In The Danger Room...

I've never seen any of the X-Men movies. Too bad this one will never be made. The latest movie trailer remix: X-Men III - The Last Standing Ovation! (video)

Something Is Different...

I received a call today from another company I applied to. That brings my callback rate on my applications to 40%, which probably represents a 100% increase over my response rate when I was unemployed. This is encouraging. I'm not holding my breath by any means, but I'm at least enjoying a bit of a smile.

The first place did indeed want to get as much as they could for as little as they could. I'm not sure how they get people of any caliber to fill their positions. It would have been a fun job, but not at that price.

Another weekend is here. Terhi's folks leave on Sunday, so tomorrow will be filled with last-hurrahs. Since we'll probably be doing something with them, Terhi and I had our date night last night. We camped out at Barnes & Noble and perused their landscaping books for ideas. The loss of our tree has prompted us to get dramatic. I suspect once we get a plan we'll be looking at several years worth of work. It could be a lot of fun. Or a lot of grief.

Probably both.

Entering The Digital Age

I've been using Wikipedia for awhile now, and love it. And for a long time I've been wishing I could find a file card type system for organizing and cross-referencing notes on things. Today I decided to do a little poking around, and discovered PmWiki. In hardly any time at all I've been able to set up a standalone wiki (an editable website generator that allows quick cross-referencing) on my computer. If I can figure out how to add in pictures I'll be in heaven.

What this may mean is that some day I'll be able to create a web server on my website, set up a wiki, and create an interactive family portal. It could be a real blast! Or it could be a big dud. On the other hand, I KNOW it could make things much easier for my younger brother and I to collaborate on the odd projects we occasionally create. I just have to figure out how to work it all out.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Card And The Critick-Priest

I just took another trip to Hatrack River, Orson Scott Card's online forum. While there I visited The Library and found his essay "Fantasy and the Believing Reader." It's very long, but very good.

In it he sets up the notion that there are three ways (really two ways) to read or believe a story: Mythickly, Epickly, or Critickly (misspellings intentional to separate them from the original words and their inherent shadings). Mytick is the belief that a story is true of all human beings. Epick is the belief that a story is true of a particular group. Critick is the belief that a story must be viewed as external and unattached to the reader, and not believed.

Critickal reading is what he is decrying. Criticks, he explains, choose not to believe the stories they read, but instead create their own stories about those stories. In essence, Criticks write their own stories, to be read mythickly, about stories by others that are not to be believed at all. While mythick or epick readers choose to participate in the story, critick readers keep themselves outside it in order to instead write their own story about what they read.

It's a powerful essay, but one passage particularly leapt out at me:

You see why the critic-priests must shun participatory reading, must deny it, must refuse it. Participatory reading puts your very self at risk. It will and must change who you are. This may be much of the reason why most people never read stories at all after they leave adolescence. Consciously or not, they do not wish to change, and so they avoid an experience that will unavoidably change them. The critic-priest, with his detached reading, does precisely the same thing. He avoids the experience of reading a story, in exchange for the experience of affirming the story that he is a superior, elevated, fit and above all non-bourgeois reader. It is a story that is not dissimilar to the story of the divine right of kings or the infallibility of popes: It bestows power and privilege, provided that enough other people believe it.


I've long suspected that I'm a mythick or epick reader. It is a poor story that cannot engage me. My wife teases me about getting caught up in commercials on TV, and she's right. If the commercial is telling a story, I have to know that story. I may quickly decide afterward (or even during) that the story is not true, but seldom will I fail to finish the story.

Likewise I will often ignore or avoid certain stories. Sometimes it is because I know the story will ask more of me than I am willing to give. It could be that I see the enthusiasm of the person recommending it to me and do not wish to disappoint them by not sharing their enthusiasm. Or it could be that I simply do not wish to become like that person by allowing the same story that has shaped them shape me.

Card also discusses the idea that writers will write specifically to please the Critickal crowd, hoping to gain their acceptance by providing them something designed to be read critickly. That concept went "click" in my head the moment I read it.

I didn't mind critickal reading in high school and college. It was fun sometimes. It was like putting together a puzzle. But it became a real chore if I liked the piece. I remember reading "Huckleberry Finn," knowing full well there would be a major essay test on it. I loved the book, and I was still only 2/3 the way through by the time the test was given.

It wasn't that I'd been lazy. I read the book every chance I got. I devoured it. The experience of the book was more important to me than the grade I would get. (I still managed a B+ via some quick analysis and extrapolation of the essay we were assigned to read and argue for or against.)

Similarly, a particular poem in college caught my fancy. I got a poor grade on my paper evaluating it because I didn't catch all the poetic techniques employed. I went the rounds with my professor (Doggone it! He cared about me!) until he finally convinced me that the poet had intentionally used those techniques, and that they added to the poem.

But I maintained (to myself) then, and I still do now, "so what?!" Perhaps the means by which the poet delivered her message made the message more polished, but it is still the message that counts. The poem made me feel something, experience something. Why can't that be enough?

That is why I, like Card, will always consider myself "only" a storyteller. My goal in writing will never be to please the criticks, but to help the reader feel and experience and remember and think.

That's not to say that I don't sometimes consciously try to help my reader/listener feel and experience and think a certain way. I will occasionally make up bedtime stories specifically to teach my daughter some point or another. Because consciously or unconsciously I've known for awhile that a truth wrapped in an experience will sink deeper and stay longer than a truth by itself.

Unless, of course, the recipient receives the story critickly. If my daughter ever fires back with "Nice story, Dad, but I can't help but notice that your having the flower change her ways is really just a pale attempt to reinforce Judeo-Christian values by invoking a Dickensian model of being able to view the outcome of choices in time to avoid them, which would seem to contradict the Faustian paradigm" she'll never get another bedtime story again. Ever.

Because it's as obvious as the nose on my face that I was really referencing Milton while invoking Wordsworthian imagery. So nyeah!

An End To Shadows

I've completed reading two Orson Scott Card novels; "Ender's Shadow," and "Shadow of the Hegemon." A friend of mine has mentioned them as evidence that Card has become bitter. I don't see it, frankly. Yes, the stories are somewhat dark, but Card has always been a little dark. None of his books have painted an overly rosy image of mankind. If you're looking for an author who espouses the idea that mankind gets it right more often than it gets it wrong, don't look to Card.

More interesting to me was the Author's Note at the end of "Shadow of the Hegemon." I don't know if it was part of the book, as I listened to this one. In any case, he explains that a lot of the Shadow series, and this book in particular, had its roots in playing Risk with his brothers as a child, and going from using the game board provided to creating their own from real maps of the world. It makes me wonder if someday I'll be pulling book ideas from the RPGs I used to play with my sister and brother.

There are several more books in the series, and I plan to get to them. But I need a rest. I've plowed through both books simultaneously in about two weeks. I've got Beans for brains, and they're Petra-fied. Much more and I'll develop Achilles' tendencies. Oh, I crack myself up!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Willows Keep Fallin' On My Head

In hindsight, that was fast. It's not yet a week since the tree blew over, but it's now a pile of logs. The play gym is a pile of boards, and there's a a big dirty spot where the stump used to be. Our back yard is now bathed (or is it baked?) in sun from morning until late afternoon. About all that remains is to see how much the insurance will cover, and decide what will go in its place.

It's been an entertaining week for the kids, for sure. Lots of nifty trucks, saws, and machinery coming and going. The coolest--at least that I saw--was the stump grinder. It's like a circular saw on steroids. The gentleman brought it around and in a couple hours had chewed up the stump and all the major roots. We now have a large pile of saw-chips, suitable for mulching. Great fun!

From the sounds of things, I'd better be studying up on pergolas (the brother of Legolas?). I suspect I'll be building one before long.

In Tolerance We Trust

Callimachus (substitute blogger) has some interesting thoughts on religious tolerance over at Michael Totten's Middle East Journal.

It is, if nothing else, a reminder that the concept of "separation of Church and State" was once intended to protect the former from the latter, not the other way around.

Friday, July 07, 2006

None Dare Call It Tree-son

The tree is no laying in smaller chunks on the lawn. The mangled play gym teeters near the patio. Other than the poor gym (that's what I get for declaring "This is the last time I'm building one of these" when I completed it this Spring), a few fence boards were broken. There appears to be no damage to our house or the neighbors. The claims adjustor will be out tomorrow, and then we'll get the final verdict. On the whole, though, we came out pretty well, considering.

still, it's been a loaded week, and I'm exhausted. I've got to psyche myself up quick, though, as I have a phone interview after work today. I suspect it'll come to nothing. The salary range they advertise can't possibly draw the level of talent they're asking for. Still, they called me, so who knows? Perhaps this will be a case where they're so impressed that they'll pay me more just to get me.

I'm not smoking anything. Why do you ask?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Big Wind Blows...

We had a big thunderstorm front rip through the area last night, and our 40 ft. shade tree is now laying against our and our neighbors' houses. We won't know for sure until we remove the tree, but it appears the damage was minimal. Except for the kids' play gym, which bore the brunt of the trunk, and is now little more than expensive kindling.

We are determined to provide lots of excitement for my in-laws while they're here.

I must say it's a surreal experience watching as a big chunk of lawn around the base of the tree starts to bulge, then rip open, then gape wider and wider with each gust. You're just waiting breathlessly for the last big gust that will finish it off, praying it won't come, and knowing there is nothing you can do about it. You can see it coming, and all you can do is wait to see what the result is.

We were quite fortunate. Two more feet to one side would have put several branches through our bedroom window. A few more feet the other way may have destroyed our fence and done significant damage to our neighbor's house. Only one direction would have been any more fortuitous, and that would have been at a 90-degree angle to the wind, aka Not Happening!

It looks like all that money we've been paying into homeowners insurance may finally bring a return. The tree removal service is providing entertainment for my kids as I write this.

Monday, July 03, 2006

I Have A New (Old) Hero

Orson Scott Card has written the best non-religious defense of traditional marriage I've ever read. It's long, but it is very, very good. A few highlights:

Since the politically correct are loudly unwilling to fight or die for their version of America, and they are actively trying to destroy the version of America that traditional Americans are willing to fight or die to defend, just how long will "America" last, once they've driven out the traditional culture?

Oh, it will still be called America.

But out of the old American mantras of "democracy" and "freedom" and "home" and "family," of "motherhood" and "apple pie," only the pie will be left.

And even if few people care enough to defend the old family values against the screaming hate speech of the Left -- which is what they're counting on, of course -- the end will be the same. Because with marriage finally killed, America will no longer be able to raise up children with any trust in or loyalty to or willingness to sacrifice for that society.

So either civilized people will succeed in establishing a government that protects the family; or civilized people will withdraw their allegiance from the government that won't protect it; or the politically correct barbarians will have complete victory over the family -- and, lacking the strong family structure on which civilization depends, our civilization will collapse or fade away.

Read the whole thing. Please.

Friday, June 30, 2006

We Must Be Veeeeeewy Qwiet!

Wew're hunting empwoyment! Fortunately it's from the cozy position of still being employed. I've just decided I don't like where I am, and I'm not seeing any signs that the powers that be are going to help me get where I'd like to be. Yes, the company is going through changes, but they can't offer me any guarantees that there will be better opportunities along the way. Maybe there will be, but I don't intend to hang around to find out.

That said, I hate job hunting. There are lots of promising jobs around (okay, four that I'm qualified for in the last month), and I'm applying for them, but then comes the whole agonizing wait afterward. Did that little typo in my cover letter turn them off? Are there twenty other overqualified candidates willing to work for half my salary? Did I not emphasize the right experiences? The second-guessing can be killer. So can the getting up of the hopes.

I know there is a better way, but I lack the time to engage in it. That's the downside of job hunting while employed. There's not much time for networking. Oh well. My problems are rather small.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Whew! I've Got Faith!

According to Barak Obama, if you ain't got rhythm, you ain't got faith.

Of course, as usual, this will be overblown, and hence obscure the importance of what he was really trying to say: Democrats should stop discounting people of religion. Good for him.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

"Heat-Seeking Sheep"

A company in Scotland can use roads and driveways as solar collectors.

With this and other advancements lately, I wonder if I should be looking into taking my house techno. We certainly do not lack for sunlight at present. It would be nice if at least some of that heat could be used to generate the electricity needed to remove it from our house.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The name's Al...Al Kaida.

Did anyone else catch the little detail in the story about the terrorist group in Chicago that got arrested recently? The news story I read said that they tried to make contact with Al Qaeda, but instead made contact with a unspecified "agent of a friendly foreign nation," who basically strung them along until we had enough evidence to hang 'em.

Now granted, there are probably agents in Britain, Germany, Mexico or Israel that could pass themselves off as muslims or maybe even agents for those countries who are muslims. But maybe, just maybe, we have a friend in the middle east who is helping us.

I don't know about you, but I'm sure hoping for the latter. That would be just too cool.

At any rate, the right message is being sent from this: you can't be totally sure your Al Qaeda contact is really Al Qaeda. You could be getting set up. (If you ask me, fake or real, you're being set up either way--they'll have you do the messy martyrdom thing while they reap the rewards. If a quick trip to paradise and seventy virgins is such a wonderful, guaranteed thing, why isn't Bin Ladin first in line?)

Anyway, kudos to someone out there! We thank you for your service!

Friday, June 23, 2006

When You're Finished, Trim the Hedges!

The other night I trimmed the bushes outside our front door, turning our unruly masses of leaves into tidy, rounded topiary delights. My father-in-law, a hydraulics scientist, helped me. I'm glad I didn't have to pay our combined wages to get the job done. I'm also glad I don't pay else to do it. It was actually rather fun.

If nothing else, there is something satisfying about hacking away with the clippers, watching the spray of green as the leaves go flying. I can see why people start sculpting their bushes into various shapes. Such brute artistry is addictive. It's probably the same impulse that drives people to make all those chainsaw sculptures.

Pruning the gnarled evergreen bush wasn't quite as fun, but it sure looks better now. I'm tempted to get rid of it, but the wife like the juxtaposition of the wild, unruly evergreen amid the trim, orderly bushes. And so it stays, for now.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

SLC and DSL

I just came back from vacation. My in-laws wanted to meet some friends in Salt Lake City, and we decided that sending them there on the bus was too expensive. Instead I took some time off work and we all headed down there for four days. We booked a two-bedroom suite we thought was near Temple Square. The suite was a life saver. The distance--well, wasn't so close when pushing three kids in a stroller.

It was a good trip, even if it was hot most of the time. It must be more humid there, as it really felt oppressive.

The highlight for me was Sunday morning when we attended the Mormon Tabernacle Choir "Music and the Spoken Word" broadcast. As a practicing (meaning I've yet to get it right) "Mormon" I'm familiar with both the choir and the Conference Center they broadcast from while the Tabernacle is under renovation.

We arrived at the Conference Center a little before 9:00 am. As we headed in through the lobby I could hear a recording of the choir playing over the sound system inside the hall itself. When we entered the hall I realized I was mistaken. The choir and the orchestra were rehearsing--it was live.

I had a By-Golly-It's-Real moment right there in the entryway. Everyone else was focused on finding a seat, while I wandered about, trying to shove tears back in and feeling foolish. Of course I knew there was a Conference Center and a Mo-Tab Choir. But something about standing in the very place, listening to the very choir was overwhelming. That was the place where a prophet and apostles have given counsel and commentary that have been very dear and personal to me. That was the choir who even over the aural limitations of my television have been able to create music to bring me to tears.

I consider myself a man who lives by faith. I found my reaction to it all just a little distressing. I mean, the choir and building they sing in should not require much faith to believe in. If my faith is so weak that seeing a physical confirmation of such obvious and evident things surprised me, then my faith must be especially weak about the important matters of religion, the stuff that really matters.

But after further contemplation I decided there was nothing wrong with me. My reaction was not one of surprise, but of joy. I don't get misty-eyed over everything, after all. I didn't break into tears at being on the Las Vegas Strip the first time. I didn't get choked up when I first set foot in Finland. And while I did get emotional at times in Washington D.C., it was not over confirmation of its mere existence, but what it stood for.

What I was experiencing was the rewards of faith, the joy that comes from the confirmation of something meaningful, the sensation of cascading reinforcement of an elaborate and powerful system of beliefs--of hundreds of if-this-then-thats clicking into place.

I will be a little more sympathetic toward scriptural accounts of people being overwhelmed by spiritual experiences to the point of collapse from now on.

The broadcast was fascinating. The former stage manager in me marveled at all the individual pieces that went together to create a half-hour broadcast of a fairly static event. From the stagehands moving microphones between a narrow window of camera shots to the conductor moving off to rest just a few moments on a stool before returning to the podium just in time for the next piece, it was almost dizzying to comprehend.

But the tears were not all done. Their final number was "Thou Lovely Source of True Delight," a Mack Wilberg resetting of a hymn by Anne Steel. Few things get to me like a Mack Wilberg arrangement. A live performance of a Mack Wilberg arrangement with full choir and orchestra is an invitation for a face-washing. I'm grateful I had the foresight to put a few tissues in my pocket before leaving the hotel.

The trip really raised my appreciation of my children. We dragged those poor kids all over downtown Salt Lake in stifling heat, and they handled it pretty well. We spent over thirteen hours in the van just driving there and back, and they were amazingly good.

They were three little kids on an adult vacation, so I'm surprised they didn't whine more than they did--which wasn't much. Walter would have been happy to sit and watch the trams come and go. Emma could have spent all day exploring the fountains. Richard...well, he never would have left the hotel.

We were all grateful to see home, though. We packed quite a lot into four days, and we all slept like rocks last night. There's no place like home.

And now home has DSL! When we got home I had a package from Qwest waiting for me on the front doorstep. Once we got the kids to bed I settled in to spend a night of installing and configuring. Fortunately it required far less time than that. In fact, it may have been the easiest hardware installation to date.

The modem we were sent is capable of being used for a wireless network. My wife and I both have laptops now, and both have wireless cards, so it's tempting. However, if we use it in wireless mode our main computer won't be able to connect to the internet. Decisions, decisions...

Friday, June 16, 2006

Homesick

My in-laws brought me a coffee table book about their home town. Reading through it I found myself longing to go there again. Perhaps it's just the fact that aside from my hometown and my current town, I've spent more time there than anyplace else. Perhaps it's just that our vacations there have been so relaxing. Or perhaps it's from the heightened sense of being that comes from living in a foreign country when you can't understand very much of the language.

Whatever the reason, Tampere has become another home to me, and I miss it. It's a beautiful town, and I do have many fond memories from there. I look forward to going back there again.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Incoming!

My in-laws are flying in this afternoon for a five week stay. This will be the first time they've visited us together. They'll be using our place as a base of operations for a few other trips to visit friends they have over here, and we'll be accompanying them on one of the trips. It should be an interesting month.

Meanwhile, I've decided it's time to start looking for a job elsewhere. I'm not worried about the company's stability or the future job situation here by any means. I just don't like my job. It's a feast-or-famine kind of position, and I use perhaps 20% of the skillset I'm being paid for. I'm little more than a glorified news reporter, really. It's frustrating, un-challenging, and rubbing off on my home life. I've got to get into something different before my self-esteem collapses completely. I don't think things will be changing fast enough where I am to provide any opportunities soon enough to help.

I hated being a contractor, but the work I was doing then was much more satisfying and challenging than what I'm doing now. They say it's easier to find work when you already have a job. I guess it's time to test that theory.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Guardedly Pleased

It looks like we finally got al-Zarqawi. I'm glad. He needed removing. I am not going to view this as vindication of anything, nor a significant step in the war on terror. It just proves that we are making progress. If they get his replacement significantly more quickly, then I'll get excited.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Digital Killed the Celluloid Star

What happens when virtual film making becomes cheaper? Futurismic's latest fiction explores one possibility.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Yeah, I'm Still Alive

I guess it's been awhile since I posted. I'm still here. Work's been very busy. Our company was officially sold just after midnight this morning, and there's been a flurry of last-minute stuff to get ready. Rock. We also convert a major chunk of our employees over to the new HR system in two weeks. Hard Place.

RockMeHardPlace

Any questions?

In fact the only reason I have time to blog now is because I'm working late and waiting for someone to read and approve a draft I just sent out. Ooh! Ooh! I just got an email!

Splendid! The word is given, admiral. Now I just need to hand this off to the developers and I'm ghost like Swayze.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

This Sounds Good...



I'm a Jimmy Stewart movie! Woohoo!




This is interesting. I especially like the "save/destroy the world" part.

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

And no, that's not a joke. Neither is their playing Nirvana songs. I've never heard the original, but I've heard the Weird Al parody. This...is, well, not bad!

Video Clip

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Finland Wins Eurovision 2006

There's a really big song contest that takes place in Europe every year (ABBA, Celine Dion, Katrina and the Waves have been past winners, Olivia Newton-John got fourth). Finland has never won, until this year, when the group Lordi scored a record-high win. Interestingly enough, they did it with a hard rock song. The contest has largely been more pop oriented.

I've seen the video. I can't say I care much for the song or the video, really. I've never been a hard rock kind of guy. Demon costumes don't do much for me. Sorry. But hey, good for them. If nothing else they get to host next year's contest, which can't be a bad thing.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Potpourri De Jour

If I've said it before I'll say it again. If I ain't, I shoulda. I like Michael Totten. Today he's got a post about spending some time in the Palestinian West Bank. You won't get this sort of stuff anywhere else. Well, except for Michael Yon, but he's got a different take on things, and goes different places. They're both good. I wish I could pay them what they deserve.

*****

I spent some time outside last night sanding a shelf for my wife to paint and talking to my mother on the phone (no, not at the same time). In spite of temperatures in the 90's, the evening was pleasant. It had that sigh-of-relief quality about it that come almost like an apology for having tried to melt you earlier in the day.

A red winged blackbird paid me a brief visit, and a trio of ducks did a flyby. I didn't get a single mosquito bite. Did I mention I love our neighborhood?

*****

Speaking of which, I've come to realize I feel a little more connected to this neighborhood than I did the last one. I can think of only one real reason for it, though: a two-story house. Our last one was a single-story, and we could never really see over the fences in the back. Yeah, we knew there were neighbors over there, but they weren't really that real to us. Even the ones who helped us rebuild the bad section of fence fell off the radar once the fence was back up.

Here I can see into most of the other yards in the area. We are in the middle of a subdivision. I don't know most of the people, but I know they are there. I get a reminder every time I look out my window. We are not alone.

And yet we have 25% fewer contiguous neighbors in this neighborhood.

*****

"Hello, and thanking you for calling! My name is Rahjiv! Which country would you like us to be attacking for you today?"

Is it just me, or does the thought of the world's outsourcing capital and robotic armies sound just a little scary?

*****

Have a good weekend, y'all. I know I'll sure try!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

XP-aladocious

I spent the evening last night upgrading my Win98 computer to WinXP. And I do mean the evening. Their "estimated time remaining" indicator really is an estimate--nigh unto guesstimate. At one point I watched it take eight minutes for four minutes to elapse. On the bright side, I also got the dry spots in my front lawn watered.

Once it was completed I eagerly rebooted and awaited computing nirvana. No, I did not take flight. I was quite bummed about that. But it does boot up faster as promised, which is pretty darn close to computing nirvana in my book. A few other notable points:

- I despise the XP windows scheme. Fluffy rounded windows in primary colors, with puffy buttons. It's a kinder, gentler Windows. Ick. I notice they don't have that in XP Professional, which I use at work. The good news is they anticipated my curmudgeonly reaction and included an option to use the old windows look. And I do.

- They don't seem to think I'd ever want to disconnect my dial-up internet connection. Hey genuises, if I could afford another phone line I'd just get DSL! They do give you the option to add the monitor icon to your task bar, but it seems to forget that setting when you reboot.

- On the other hand, my dial-up internet connection seems to have lost its case of bit-constipation. It would tend to download just fine for about five minutes, then just hang for about two minutes. Then, like an old codger who drifted off in the middle of a sentence it'd wake up and resume downloading. Annoying as all get-out. Also, hasn't happened since I finishing installation last night. And here I was blaming my phone line, my ISP, and the Bush Administration.

- We take a lot of digital photos, so the photo viewer they built in is well worth the price of the upgrade in my book. It'll save us skads of time.

- All my desktop icons (of which there are far too many) got randomly rearranged. Would it have been too much to ask that they remember where they all were and put them back when they're done?!

- I can access my mp3 player now. But I still can't find the files I put on it while I was at work when I first bought it. The memory manager can tell that they're there, but they won't show up in Explorer or any other tool I've tried to use. And since that time my work computer crashed and had to be rebuilt. Now IT can't find those files again, either! Evidently the only one who can see my files is my friend, whose computer I used last weekend just to test my theory. And silly me, I didn't delete the darn things when I had the chance! I thought that maybe, just maybe, when my XP upgrade came it would fix the problem.

- Even though the computer is not connected to a network, XP is convinced it should be. I'll have a useless icon on my task bar forever! Hey geniuses, see point two! If I can't afford DSL, I can't afford a second computer and networking gear, either!

- This darn thing is going to nag me every day that I don't have virus protection. I did once, but it took over my computer and made it so I couldn't use certain things--just like a virus!

- I need a new monitor. This one is dark, and the picture I've had on the desktop for the last year and a half has been burned permanently into the screen. I've known about the former, but I didn't notice the latter until the install forced me to use a new picture.

- The CD jacket is oversized. Way oversized. Turkeys.

So, my overall impression? I'm a moderate geek. What do you think? I LOVE IT!

Moderately, of course.

Take That, Michael Moore

Ray Bradbury has written a poem about America. While probably not a direct response to Michael Moore's pirating of Bradbury's work, it's certainly a strong statement against Michael Moore's beliefs.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Slow Bike To China

Heinz Stücke has been biking around the world for over 44 years and 335,000 miles, only to have his bicycle stolen in England. He lives on $4,000 a year. It's not, perhaps, the type of life I'd like to lead, but I can't help but admire him and envy his freedom just a little.

On the other hand, he describes being shot, hit by a truck, arrested, stung by bees, and being so hungry after a long ride that he was glad to get a banan leaf. I think I'll pass.

For The Strength Of Youth

This post from The Anchoress gives me hope that perhaps our kids will be smarter than us:

“We had a substitute the other day who seemed to think it was a teacher’s job to ‘mold’ us into ‘good citizens,’ and that this can only be accomplished by embracing dissent. One of the guys in the class told her, ‘you and I have a very different idea of what constitutes good citizenship; dissent for the sake of dissent is called being a teenager - that’s not citizenship.’

When the teacher got annoyed by that, Buster couldn’t help but chime in, “C’mon, you should have loved that answer - he was dissenting from what you pronounced. That makes him a good citizen, right?”

Monday, May 08, 2006

Dirt Cheap

I have found a store that makes Home Depot feel wimpy. It's our local farm and ranch supply store. I spent an hour there with my son on Saturday and absorbed so much second-hand testosterone that by the time we left I felt like I could go carve a hundred-acre farm from the untamed western desert armed with little more than my bare hands and the t-bone from last night's steak.

To put it another way, Home Depot is grilled salmon--yeah, grilling is manly and all, but it's still salmon, and there's an air of domestication about it. This store is a five-pound, inch thick sirloin. Home Depot displays their bar clamps in neat pegboard rows. This place hangs them around the edge of a barrel full of yet more bar clamps, sat next to wooden crates of bolt cutters--as if to imply that you're the type of person that buys tools by the barrel and crate, so large is your spread. There are leather saddles, chemicals in bulk quantities, and warmed tubs full of chicks of breeds I've never even heard of, let alone appreciate the differences.

Why was I there? To buy dirt. Fifteen cubic feet of it. For a flower garden. Yeah, kinda makes the burly shoulders sag a little, doesn't it. I could have salvaged the situation had I had a pickup truck and had them front-loader a scoop or two of dirt in the back (they do that), but no. Fifteen bags. In the back of my minivan.

In my defense, my minivan is buff. There's very little it can't haul. I've taken home loads in that baby that no SUV short of a Suburban could handle. On the testosterone scale a truck may be beef, and a minivan grilled salmon, but SUVs are grilled eggplant. So there.

Incidentally, don't let them fool you. Dirt isn't cheap. On the other hand, it sure feels good to run your hands through it. My son had the right idea. While I was pouring the bags into the flower bed he got his toy backhoe and front loader and started moving dirt around. When I finished I stopped and joined him for awhile. There's nothing like fresh, black dirt.

I wonder what the homeowners association would say if I put up a barbed wire fence.

The Code War

Robert Bidinotto at the Bidinotto Blog offers up evidence that the lessons learned from the Mohammed Cartoon controversy were probably the wrong ones.

Speaking Truth to Power

I know, I hate that phrase, but quite frankly, I think this might actually apply more than many of the cases where that phrase is employed:

Andrew Klavan has written an editorial for the LA Times insisting that Hollywood should make pro-war movies. Let the backlash begin.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Clueless

Last night the children had difficulty getting to sleep. At one point my youngest son started crying. As he sometimes will get turned sideways in his crib and gets cramped, I thought I should check on him. He was not sideway, just crying. At first he wouldn't stop crying, and I was starting to wonder if he was still half asleep when suddenly his eyes popped open and he started smiling.

Seeing that he was okay, I tried to cover him with his blanket again before leaving the room. I pulled the blanket down over his feet. He grabbed the blanket and pulled it up over his face (uncovering his feet again). I pulled the blanket down again. He pulled it up again. I pulled it down. He gave me a very dirty look and pulled it up.

It was finally at that point that I remembered my wife mentioning that he'd learned to play peak-a-boo with the blanket. He was trying to play with me, and I just wasn't getting it. No wonder he was getting upset.

Unfortunately it was bedtime. He wanted to play, but I wanted him to sleep. Though his smiling eyes nearly sapped my will, I finally left the room. He cried some more, but went to sleep soon after.

Fortunately children at that age have short memories. This morning all was forgiven.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Bogpipes

Our house came with a deck, but it wasn't original equipment. When they built the deck they covered over the faucet from the house. To make up for it, they attached PVC pipe to the faucet and ran it under the deck out to the yard. Then someone else (our house has had at least two other owners)removed the second faucet and extended the pipe along the deck rail over to the garden area.

I suspect the second pipe extension (and the garden, for that matter) were recent additions by the previous owners, as they also installed the raised bed garden along one side of the deck. This meant filling in one deck exit, as exiting there would put you in the carrot patch.

I also suspect the second pipe extension is recent because it started leaking this Spring. You see, the line under the deck is parallel to the ground, but the addition runs up to the top rail of the deck, then parallel to the rail over to the corner. This means that the pipe does not drain well. Water collects in the elbow joint connected to the vertical section.

And while I shut the water off before the weather got below freezing last Fall, I didn't beat it by much. I suspect the water had not evaporated out of the line (I left the faucet open) by the time it started to freeze, and that one elbow joint is the place most likely to still be full of water. Not coincidentally, I think, it's that section that leaks.

Or leaked. Last night I fixed it. I cut off the vertical section (that's just asking for more leaks) and installed a new faucet at the end of the line under the deck. I'm hoping that will not only fix the leak (it should, as the leaky part got cut off), but make the line drain better.

In the process I got to do a little archaeology, which is partly why I think I know the history of the deck and the pipe extensions. The deck was originally gray. Now it is white. Right below where the original line comes out from under the deck there is a concrete slab with children's handprints and signatures, dated 2000. Before the deck was built it would have been in the middle of the yard (bad place for a concrete slab), so I suspect it was placed there when the deck was built.

I also suspect the slab was placed there to catch the faucet run-off, so I think I've clearly established that the deck and the main faucet line were built at the same time. What is more, the water line has gray paint on it, but only as far as the vertical joint that I removed.

When I removed the vertical and deck-rail sections of pipe, the paint under the mounting brackets was also gray. The only reason to even run the faucet to the far corner of the deck is to water the garden, which didn't exist until the raised beds were installed. So I'm betting the second extension to the garden corner, the filling-in of the south-side exit from the deck, and the white paint were all part of the same project.

I know the raised beds had to have been used for at least one year, as they were full of garden when we moved in. The names on the slab do not go with the family we bought the house from. The deck was built in 2000, but the extension and gardens had to have happened sometime between 2001 and 2005. I don't know a lot about PVC, but I suspect if it were added in 2001 it would have cracked before last winter, considering the design. I'm placing the extension at circa 2003-2004.

Okay, okay, I'll stop. Just remember where to come back to if you ever suffer from insomnia. Bookmark this post!