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?