Monthly Archives: February 2007

Personal Stories – Sledding and Brushes with Death

This weekend was fully of freaky weather. On Saturday it turned from rain to sleet to snow. For hours we could hear the little ice pellets bombarding our house. The scary part is the ice buildup on the trees and power lines. The snow stuck to the ice and frosted everything with a heavy wet and icy layer of potential doom. It sure does look pretty.

My wife and I took our little guy out for his third ever time sledding. The first time he went sledding, he was just as giddy as he could be, which is pretty giddy. The second time out he was a little less giddy. This time he started whining. Maybe I walked too fast?

Then I hopped in the sled with him and we slid down the front yard. He stopped whining but he wasn't quite overjoyed: just the regular amount of joy.

A few branches had fallen under the weight of the snow and we could hear branches cracking all afternoon. For fear of falling branches We generally stayed outside of the drip line.

Little did we know a huge tree branch was about to pummel us. Later we saw it right by our tracks. We were in the wrong place but fortunately not at the wrong time. I'm no dummy, a branch that size could kill a person and that goes double for babies. I count us lucky.

Boo to the branch of Damocles.

Huzaa to my wife for taking these pictures.

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Untimely Reviews – Crash

It is Oscar time again. Tonight we find out which movie was the best of 2006. Although I haven't seen any movies nominated this year, last night my wife and I did finally see last year's winner, "Crash". Was "Crash" the best picture of 2005? That's tough to for me to say because I have not seen all of the movies nominated. For reference, the nominees for best picture of 2005 were "Crash", "Brokeback Mountain", "Capote", "Good Night and Good Luck", and "Munich". I still haven't seen "Capote" and "Munich", but I assume they are at least O.K.

So, as tough as it is to judge "Crash", I can say that it is not the best movie of 2005. It is a great movie and watching is  definitely a good if not intense experience. The movie is about racism and the theme is implemented via multiple interconnected stories with many characters of different ethnicities and levels of racism. There is no pro-racism movie, but some movies about racism draw stronger reactions than others. Some of the scenes in "Crash" were shocking, others just plain made me angry, but many were ambiguous as to the message and left me with a lot to think about.  The best movies give me an experience that lasts well after the movie has ended. "Crash" is one of those rare movies that I think about for years to come.

But as I said, "Crash" is not the best movie of 2005. Why? Because it is just too Hollywood. First, "Crash" takes place in Los Angeles, California, home of over half of all movie locations. Second, one of the characters in "Crash" is a television director and we all know how underrepresented the media is in movies. Third, when a character in "Crash" shops, he or she shops at Whole Foods market, a store that is quite excellent but not the standard fare of the average person. Fourth, a character in "Crash" smells a jug of milk to check its freshness and then quickly draws back to indicate the milk is sour. How come no one in movies reads the expiration date? When the date is due I just toss the milk. No smelling is necessary. Also, sniffing expired milk isn't like sniffing ammonia; it won't give you a chemical burn. When a movie leaves me thinking more about expired milk than its message of racism and community, I cannot call it out as the best movie of the year.

Perhaps someday I will get around to seeing the remaining movies nominated for the best of 2005. Of course, it will be way to late for anyone care, as is any untimely review. Enjoy the Oscars. Maybe next year I'll see tonight's winner.

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Is it too early to pick a candidate?

You know you have a bad U.S. President when candidates start appearing two years before the next election. It is not like talking about candidates now will get us a new President anytime sooner, but it nice to know what are options are. It is sort of like when you have a crappy car (or computer or camera or house) and start looking for something new even though you aren't ready to buy. Maybe the moral of the story is to buy better products (and elect better presidents) the first time around. Nevertheless, political campaigns have begun, in my back yard no less.

I am an Iowan. This geographic descriptor means the following:

  • I like corn
  • I can withstand horrific weather
  • I have virtually unfettered access to every candidate for President, whether I like it or not

Before the last Presidential election in 2004, Iowa was drenched with candidates for president. I even had the opportunity to ride on the same airplane as Carol Mosley Braun after she bowed out of the race. (Coincidentally, Stephen Colbert was also on that plane, but that was back when I though he just that jerk on the Daily Show and not the superstar talent I know him to be now). It was both an exciting and annoying time to be an Iowan.

I went one step further in 2004; I volunteered with a campaign. Not just any campaign, the Howard Dean campaign. Thanks to extensive media coverage, we all know how that turned out. Burned by that experience, I have had little motivation to get involved again.

Though there is a huge number of decent candidates who are now running for president, I am still hesitant to get involved. Any candidate could be sunk over a misplaced word, surly veterans, or You Tube. Worse, what if a great looking candidate turns out to be a mere puppet full of rhetoric, bereft of leadership, and incapable of rational thought. This electing a President thing is pretty serious business. Who knows, maybe someone will dazzle me.

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Rants – Maybe computers aren’t so bad

Last week I ranted about how I think computers are not progressing much and are mainly limited to noisy self-obsolescing boxes. I was pretty negative but my antipathy for technology was due to my own aged noisy self-obsolescing box, the Dell beast. After trying to install newer on its older operating system, it went kaput. This is normal for the Dell best. Abnormal was my inability to fix it. My keyboard had died long ago and I was using the USB keyboard from my wife's old Power Macintosh and USB is apparently not supported without Windows. I had to borrow a keyboard from my office and then re-load the old drivers and software. All this just to play Doom, which thankfully did work because blasting zombies was just cathartic enough to keep me from smashing the Dell beast à la Office Space.

After some time to cool off, I think it is pretty cool that after 6 years my Dell beast is still usable. In fact, when I bought the beast I thought that computer technology had hit an important turning point: computers were more than powerful enough to meet most people's needs. For word processing, editing photos, surfing the net, watching DVDs, and other mundane tasks, computers were plenty powerful. To this day the beast can comfortably accomplish most any task I need. The only problem I run up against is when newer software is necessary, such as for instance, running I-Tunes or games. But I re-affirm my prediction from 6 years ago, any of those 6 year old computers is plenty powerful for everyday tasks.

Computers are not only more satisfactory than ever, they are also cheaper than ever. A system capable of handling day-to-day tasks can be had for a few hundred dollars. Things such as monitors and printers are also cheap. Considering inflation, computers are affordable enough for anybody. Computers are also getting smaller. My PDA fits in my pocket and is great for catching up on work e-mail at home. The best part is that computers keep getting cheaper, smaller, and more accessible. Some computers are even very good looking.

So despite my prior computer gloom, Huzaa to computers!


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Personal Stories – love and the love of walking

At our house, Valentine's day was a very busy day. I had a another fake tooth rejected for bad color, our cork floor installers finally nailed in the last threshold, my wife and I exchanged cakes, and little guy started walking.

Yes, after six months of cruising and several trepidacious steps, he has finally discovered the joy of free movement. My wife and I are so proud and elated.

Perhaps not the most romantic Valentine's day, but one of  the most memorable.

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Personal Stories – Baby proofing

Before my wife and I had our little guy over 13 months ago, other parents told us to do all of the baby proofing before he arrived. Why? Because we would have no time afterwards. Well, we were too busy remodeling a kitchen to do any baby proofing. Now we have no time and little guy is in constant danger from our house. Worse, our house is in constant danger from little guy.

To keep little guy from potentially hurting himself with the contents of a kitchen drawer (and to protect the contents of the drawer from being thrown to the floor) I have started to install drawer locks. We needed an assortment of drawer locks to accommodate the various shapes and sizes of drawers. (Trying saying that five times as an upstate New Yorker!). Fortunately, drawer locks are sold for a few bucks a dozen, so accommodating every type of drawer is no biggie.

The locks sure seem simple enough: just screw the hook thingy on the cabinet and then line up the other hook thingy on the drawer. These locks came with little sticky tabs so I could stick them on the drawer before pre-drilling the holes for the screws.

I tested a lock on one of our drawers for a week to be sure that little man could not defeat it. Try as he did, he could not open the drawer. Successful, I moved on to the rest of the drawers. On the third drawer, disaster struck; the hook thingy split the wood on the cabinet. 

Maple is a hard and expensive wood, but apparently not hard and expensive enough. The hook thingy came out with a piece of the cabinet. To fix the cabinet, I shoved some toothpicks and wood glue into the screw holes and then rubbed wood glue all over for good measure. I clamped the wood overnight. Huzaa to my wife for buying me clamps last Christmas.

Now I just need to figure out how to get the drawer lock back on. The drawer in question is our utensil drawer and I do not fancy the baby grabbing knives out of it. He could, for instance, scratch our cork floor. Maybe I can Gorilla Glue the hook thingy onto the cabinet. I tend to use Gorilla Glue for almost everything, even if something does not need to be glued. It drives my wife crazy.

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Rants – Why do computers suck so much?

My computer is six years old. It's coolings fans are loud and squeeky. The operating system, Windows ME, has not been supported for years. I have not been able to run new software on it for well over a year. It is one big old noisy black and silver box. I call it the "Dell beast".

For most of the things I do on a computer, the Dell beast is alright. I can look at web pages, edit documents for work, blog, listen to mp3s, and even play games. Yet technology seems to be passing over my Dell beast. I couldn't install drivers for a wireless keyboard and mouse. I couldn't play my brother's old copy of "Pirates". I can't share files with my wife's fancy iMac. There is no syncing with my PDA. Most enraging, I can't boot up without seeing the blue screen of death.

Fed up, I decided to look into upgrading. Including upgrading the OS and the Ram in order to accommodate the OS, I estimate about $250 to upgrade. I figured that I could get a slightly newer computer for less. In fact, I could get a brand new computer for a little bit more. Hmmm, I though, what has happened to the PC in the last 6 years? Not much.

Six years ago most PCs were big beige self obsolescing boxes. Then some computer makers came out with black and silver boxes, like my Dell beast. Six years later, most PCs are still big self obsolescing boxes but they come in all sorts of colors. Dell's computers are now silver and black. Imagine if cars looked this.

Computers are more powerful than they were six years ago. But really, lets be honest, most of the computer power of the average PC is dedicated to playing games. At least it was until Microsoft came out with Windows Vista. Dell, for example, recommends a Windows Vista computer with a dual core CPU, 2 gigabyte's of Ram, and cutting edge video  card that has 256 megabytes of its own Ram. All that adds up to a very expensive computer and way more than I need to play "Pirates". Yet, six years from now, I don't want to be stuck running Windows XP in a Windows Vista world. Is this what the world has come to? A super computer on every desk to see folders sideways?

Already bumming about the complicated nature of buying a new computer, my brother ecstatically informs me that he just custom built a super awesome computer form parts he ordered over the internet. Hooray for him. Actually, hooray for me. He's giving me his old Dell laptop. (Dell beast jr.?) It's only 3 years old which is a huge step forward for me. Most importantly, I can do all of those things I've wanted to with my old computer and word processing. Pretty suite.

So, boo to the computer industry, but huzaa to my brother. Now I just need to hold out until he buys another computer.

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