Monthly Archives: December 2006

Personal Stories – My happy holidays 2006

This year was my wife's and my first Christmas holiday with a baby. On Saturday, the 23rd, we started strong. Both my wife and I had finished our major Christmas shopping and we hosted my parents and brother for an all day baby adoration extravaganza. Little guy had his favorite book read to him about fifty times. My bombastic brother does a great elephant imitation, including the use of his forearm as the trunk. Everyone ate heartily of Papa Murphy's pizza and after little went to sleep, we called it a night. Then the toilet broke.

The toilet had been running constantly for a little over a month. It would fill to the "fill" line and then keep filling with a tiny but audible stream of water. It never overflowed so we deemed it less important than the gaping holes in our walls. Then, on the night of the 23rd of December, I heard a the tell-tale rustling of a massive water flow. The toilet was filling right into the overflow pipe in the rate of gallons per minute. Relying on my innate knowledge of plumbing, I located the shut off valve and turned it clock wise (righty-tighty). Toilet water ran out of the bottom of the tank and all over the floor. I hastily flushed the tank again and again as I tried to close the shut-off valve. It was a losing battle. Fortunately my dad, already a hero to me, has the same innate knowledge of plumbing, located the shut-off valve for the house, and turned it clockwise. The water flow stopped to the toilet and the rest of the house.

I knew that water was an important part of the holiday. Aside of drinking, we would at some point need to use the toilet again. The time was 9:20pm. I leapt into action. I had to save my family. I had to save Christmas. I had to go to the bathroom. Having a house in a constant state of remodel, my basement is full of hardware items. I grabbed one of three extra shut-off valves from our plumbing section and tossed it at my dad. He said he needed a crescent wrench. I could not find our. (I am sure it will turn up eventually.). My dad removed the bad toilet parts and and I drove over to Lowe's as fast as the law would allow. Big box Lowe's is open until 10:00 Monday through Saturday. I arrived at Lowe's at 15 'til 10:00. I found a helpful guy in the plumbing section and displayed unto him the ersatz toilet parts. He handed me shiny new replacements. I told him that I would shake his hand but mine were covered in toilet water. Lowe's had a crescent wrench two pack for the price of one. I left Lowe's with the parts and wrenches at five 'til 10:00. This was definitely a squeaker.
 
Meanwhile, my dad had installed the new shut-off valve. The prior owner of my house had used compression fittings for every single plumbing fixture. Welded pipes are better because they cannot leak. Compression fittings, on the other hand, are very easily removed. Necessity is the bastard father of low standards. My dad connected all the parts and voila, a working toilet. It was a Christmas miracle!

The remainder of the holiday was on par with what Christmas should be like. I made cookies with some help from my family. There was a last minute run to Costco for steaks and prawns. We broke bread with my parents and brother on Christmas Eve, opened presents, and watched little guy crack up at his fun new toys. On Christmas Day we broke bread with my wife's parents and sister, opened presents, and watched little cracked up at his fun new toys. I ate about 100,000 calories, 50,000 of which were from the cookies I made. Today I bought a belt and a pie plate at an after-Christmas sale. Too bad Christmas only comes once a year.

Happy Boxing Day!

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Happy Holidays

This is my favorite time of year. So there may not always be snow but these few days after the Winter Solstice are always magical. I share with you my family's holiday card:

Lovingly designed by my wonderful wife, you can see our little elf as he nears his first birthday. He has already torn through one of his presents and one of ours. Pretty much all day today was spent watching little guy as he laughed for us, his grandparents, and his uncle. A good friend said to me "Christmas is for children" but maybe it is best said "Christmas is for parents of small children." My wife and I look forward to telling him about Santa Claus and watching his excitement on Christmas morning. Until then we will settle for his hysterical laughter as we say "oo, oo, oo!" like a happy chimp.

The holidays, though, are wonderful even without children. Spread the cheer. Say hello to friends you know and everyone you meet. Be glad that the days are getting longer.

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Untimely Reviews – Underwold Evolution

Some sequels are there own movies. Take the "Police Academy" series; each "Police Academy" movie was a distinctly bad movie. Some sequels are literally sequels that directly follow the story of the first movie. Take "Return of the Jedi", the ill-executed "The Matrix: Revolutions" or the "Lord of Rings" twelve hour orc slaying festival.  "Underworld Evolution" takes the literal sequel on step further, the main character wears the same outfit throughout two entire movies.

Underworld - Evolution (Widescreen Special Edition)
Underworld (Widescreen Special Edition)

Aside of the lack of clean clothes, "Underworld Evolution" also continues a complicated and impossible to follow story with an even more complicated and impossible to follow story. For those who haven't seen the original "Underworld", there is no way in heck on earth that you can follow "Underworld Evolution". I'll sum up both movies with one long run on sentence: vampires and werewolves fight an underground war and the main character, Selene, is a vampire who hunts werewolves and falls in love with a descendant of the first werewolf but Selene is double crossed by another vampire who has has a secret alliance with the werewolves so Selene wakes up an elder vampire and transfers her memories through her blood and then keeps the werewolf descendant alive while everyone tries to kill him . . . aw the heck with it. A lot of stuff happens in the first film and more stuff happens in the sequel. There are a lot of sepia tone flashbacks. Oh, and in between all of the "masterful" storytelling, Selene fires a lot of bullets.

In the movies, Selene, played by Kate Beckinsale, wears a shiny black skintight full bodysuit and what looks like a leather corset and high heel boots. This outfit isn't reserved for a special dance club scene or another kind of special scene, if know what I mean, wink, wink. Beckinsale wears this same outfit during the entirety of both movies. The outfit reminds me of Catwoman's costume in "Batman Returns", but unlike Catwoman's costume, Selene's suit never seems worse for wear.

When I saw the previews for "Underworld" I thought that the outfit was a straight out rip-off of Trinity's outfit in "The Matrix". After the seeing the sequel, I think that the outfit is a straight out rip-off of "The Matrix" and a blatant attempt to make guys horny. When I say attempt I mean success. Beckinsale is just one one step away from being naked, which is her other look in the movies. As a bit of parity, Selene's love interest, Scott Speedman, spends a lot of time shirtless.

I am troubled by the motivation for the character to wear a shiny black skintight bodysuit and corset? All of the other vampires and werewolves dress in normal albeit extravagant clothing. These guys have to walk around town "blending in" with humans. Wouldn't anyone in the werewolf hunting club say, "Hey, Selene, why do you dress like Catwoman? Do you know that people keep turning around to stair at you ass? Don't you think you'll blow our cover as vampires who hunt werewolves? And have you ever seen 'The Matrix'? Just askin' is all." I imagine that in one deleted scene the vampire coven holds a fashion intervention and gives Selene a gift card to the Gap.

Never been to the GapMatrix, more like Chafe-trixThese guys are copycats no pun intended

I think this fair use comparison says it all.
 

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Untimely Reviews – The Break Up

This untimely review might actually be timely. Many months after the movie "The Break Up" has left theaters, the two stars, chubby Vince Vaughn and endearing Jennifer Aniston, themselves broke up their real life relationship. See, in the movie, the two thespians play a couple that breaks up at the beginning of the movie and then spar until the unsatisfying end.

I worry though, that the real life break up of Vaughiston could bias this review. Providing unbiased reviews is about the only redeeming thing that I hope to accomplish with this blog. Once the hype of a movie has quieted to a hushed whisper and no one is saying, "you have to see this movie", I believe that a movie can then be measured on its merits. Yet, the real life break up is not the only potential bias in this review.  There is also my misconception that "The Break Up" was a romantic comedy the constant interruption by our little baby.

I recollect that this movie was advertised as a romantic comedy. Romantic comedies are mostly enjoyable, especially for folks in love as my wife and I contentedly are. There is something about a former couple cursing at each other and alienating each other's friends that lacks both romance and comedy. Schadenfreude-ists despair. "The Break Up" is no "War of the Roses", Vaughniston are sympathetic.

Aside of being a downer, the big problem with the break up is the mundane reason for the break up.  At first the problem seems to be the divide between the clean and aesthetically savvy Aniston and her oafish video game playing boyfriend. One can imagine that during the film Aniston "chills out" while Vaughn grows up. As the move proceeds, however, Aniston is quite pleasant as Vince sinks lower and lower into oafishness and egotism. Eventually, they really break up after he truly neglects her. The sentiment in this movie doesn't quite warm the heart.

Meanwhile, my wife and I had our own problems. Somehow sensing that his parents happy without him, our little man refused to sleep during the entire movie.  In over and hour of watching the movie, we saw about 12 minutes of actual footage. Every fifteen minutes we heard cries from the baby monitor and the thump-thump of our little guy crawling around upstairs. All in all, it took us four hours to watch the entire movie.

Perhaps in all the pausing and unpausing we missed the subtle humor and even handed treatment of the characters. Of course, maybe the movie is not supposed to be romantic, funny, or even handed. There are so many dead on perfect scenes that mirror real break ups. The lines echo the common arguments of every couple: women caring about household upkeep and men caring about about sports and video games. This definitely is not first date movie or even a twentieth date; it just hits way to close to home. My wife and I felt compelled to reaffirm our devotion to each other.

There is one very bright spot in the movie for my wife and I. Well, mostly it was bright for my wife but I enjoyed her enthusiasm. The Old 97s appear in the break up. My wife is a devoted Old 97s fan. in fact, it was because of their appearance that we saw this movie over something more uplifting, like "The Shawshank Redemption." Although the Old 97s appear for a few minutes, with some rewinding they can appear for a half hour. I think my wife would have been happier if Vincifer had instead made a cameo in an Old 97s movie.

The moral of the story is, Jeniffer Aniston really needs to find someone worth staying with. 

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Untimely Reviews – “Howl’s Moving Castle”

I like Japanese animated films. Not enough to rush out to the theater when they hit the U.S., but enough to spend one of my little boy's naps with a modern anime classic. This movie, though, begs the question, is it anime? The style of Hayao Miyazaki is unlike any genre, except that of Hayao Miyzaki films.

"Howl's Moving Castle" is crisply and richly animated. Everything is detailed, colorful, and moving. Poorer animations will throw out some still frames with moving lips or an object, such as an airplane, inanimately  "moving" across the screen. My wife's major complaint about animation is that all of the sounds are too unreal and often do not correspond with the illustrated scene. "Howl's" film shows none of the limitations of animation, every scene looks and sounds as real as our own world. Actually, many scenes in "Howl's" are more involved than in real life. When was the last time you say blob men popping out of walls or a sea of fire flow down a city street?  "Howl's" is a panacea of stunning images that shows us the power of animation over film.

Sometimes an Asian film can be baffling. There are just some cultural differences that are best explored in esoteric foreign studies classes. I have never take one, so let's just say that I probably missed the meaning and importance of some of the plot points in "Howl's". Nevertheless, even the baffling parts were interesting. In fact, Mr. Miyazaki is such a good storyteller that even this complicated story can be fully enjoyed at face value. I refuse to spoil the surprises in this movie; just take my word for it that this movie is fantastic. 

I have more fun mocking a film than promoting it. And I am sure that reading a mocking review is much more fun than skimming through a glowing review. Who want to hear about someone else's good time watching a movie that you've never seen? Not me. That is why I hate to hear about how wonderful a special pre-release screening was of the latest Miramax Oscar contender. My reaction is always, "wow, someone had a good time watching a movie that I can't see yet. Sucks to be me I guess." Take heart, "Howl's Moving Castle" is already widely available. Thus is the gratification that comes from an untimely review. 

Warning: This movie is subtitled.  However, if you have read this review then I guess you will be O.K. with the reading part.  Peace out.

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Rants – Door Knocking

The FedEx guy came today with a repaired canon camera. The FedEx guy left a tag on the door that says he knocked and informed us that he or she will return. The thing is, my wife and I were home at the time.  I think the FedEx guy just tapped lightly and ran away like a school age prankster. "Hee hee" he cackled as he sprinted back to his FedEx mobile with my camera in tow.  Then FedEx guy gets together with the other FedExies where they talk about all the people they "burned" with their limp wristed door slapping.

My wife called FedEx to complain. She was calling partly on my behalf, but really she doesn't like to take any sh*t (as she might put it) from these guys. Customer service assured her that the FedEx guy knocked. They say that the FedEx may have knocked on the glass of the storm door, and not the door to the house.  For the sake of all that is good, the storm door is just for storms, not for knocking. Knocking on glass doesn't make any sense either. Couldn't the glass brake and deliver a fatal cut to the FedEx guy, or worse, my package? 

This isn't the first time that my wife and I have dealt with poor knocking. The meter reader used to constantly stop by and leave a note while we were home. You would think the cars in the drive way would be a clue. After several calls, my wife, a consumer advocate hero, convinced the meter reader to knock very loudly.

We know it isn't the door. Our friends and family have no problem alerting us via knocking at any time. You'd better believe the pizza guy lays down some heavy knuckle slamming. Which begs the question, is it so hard to knock on a door?  Some folks might not have hands, but I bet they make do with kicks or head butts or something. Someone with brittle bone disorder may have a tougher time, and I could understand that. 

Maybe the art of proper knock began to fall out of favor after the invention of the doorbell. Perhaps at the beginning of the 21st century our hands may be too delicate to violently strike against wood. Brittle bone disorder FedExies beware, I have no door bell and my wife has your customer service on speed dial.

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Personal Stories – fleshing out the kitchen

At the beginning of October of last year, a friend and I destroyed my kitchen.  My wife was safely away as we swung our hammers and chopped up the cabinetry into removable pieces.  After about six hour or so, there was nothing left but bare walls and some pipes.  My wife and I, with the help of family and friends, were able to install all new cabinetry, a counter top, new outlets, and a sink by Christmas. 

Destroying the Old KitchenThis was once a crappy kitchenInstalling Cabinets

Then we had a baby.

It is hard to renovate a house with a baby.  Babies are absolutely no help when it comes to any type of construction.  Someone needs to hold the baby almost all the time and apparently that person should not be holding power tools at the time.  It is bad enough that babies don't contribute but they actually takes a good working person off the job.  Worst of all loud noises like hammering wake up babies.  So, when the baby is asleep, no one can work.  That is why after many, many months, our kitchen has remained usable but unfinished.

My parents helped bring our kitchen a little bit closer to finished this last week.  They are already Godsends with their watching the baby for us, giving us rides, and general construction help.  But they keep on helping.  With my Mom's help, my Dad installed a door to our basement and a new light above the sink.  Doors are much swankier than gaping holes.  The light is also a huge upgrade from the $5 glue on fixture we were using temporarily for the last two years.  As an added bonus, the new light fixture is a wall switch.  Fancy. 

The light is from Ikea, home of all things modern and Nordic.  The door is from Menards, home of all things off-brand.   Now all we need is a door knob and some trim.  That should only take another year, unless my wife and I have another baby 😉

Huzaa again to Mom and Dad, and huzaa to doors!

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