Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Well, the boys went to bed 2.5 hours later than normal. We were @ St. Albert's for New Year's Eve party. There were about 100+ games in the social hall, most of which were a bizarre trip down memory lane: Avalanche, Pit, Mystery Date, Othello, Mille Bourne, Memory, and quite a few others which elude me at the moment. Dozens no longer manufactured, often by companies no longer in existence ... quite a few obviously older than I am.

The boys generally had a blast. Avalanche was the top along wiht a little game involving barnstorming chickens (a little plastic plane zooming around knocking over little chicken tokens). It had moving parts and slamming the plane around was the goal - big hit.

Happy New Year to one and all from quiet Minnesota!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas 2008, part 2

We've survived Christmas.

The boys are very happy with their bounty from the Three Kings (die Drei Königen). Santa Claus doesn't come to our house. We needed to have some sort of explaination for why Santa comes to some children, St. Nicholas comes to others, and why Baby Jesus brings gifts to yet more (esp. in Germany). I was inspired by a friend about how to limit the presents her kids got, and decided that they only got 3 - if it's good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for you. We just took it a step further, and decided that the Three Kings were also the ones bringing the presents - we have yet to explain about Santa. We figured this side-steps any argument with their frinds about Santa being "real", since we're in effect not discounting anyone's gift-bringing totem.

Michael got his first bicycle from Oma & Opa Tobias. Wow! The other presents sort of paled in comparison. A video (Der Kleine Icebär), a model post truck (for the not-in-the USA family, the photo in the pictures is the logo for the U.S. Post).

Gregor got some Legos, a Brio train that is battery powered, goes forwards and backward, and has a headlight. The puzzle of the US States was interesting, but within 6 hours, was down to 46 states.

Peter & I had a pretty sedate Christmas. I spent most of Thursday cooking, a pleasant situation. Coffee cake, apple cake, and the ham and dinner. I haven't really had time to enjoy cooking something other than wham-bam-here's dinner. Of course, I could use my new/replacement cookbook.

Peter took the boys sledding yesterday; a treat that didn't last long, due to the cold (yes the temperature was in double digits, but the windchill wasn't). Today was much nicer, weather-wise, but it was a bit too warm: the snow was melting, and will probably be completely un-sledable icy tomorrow.

The boys are finally coming down off their 2 day sugar buzz. I haven't eating so much good-tasting fat in a long time (Cheetos are certainly high in fat, and while tasty, just don't match home-made cake).

We hope you have had a wonderful Christmas (or other holiday of your choice). There are pictures from ours at the other post today. I'll be posting some links to videos on You Tube sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Christmas 2008


Procession in for Christmas Eve Mass.



Children's Choir, Jr.Gopher#1 5th from left, @ St. Albert's






Christmas Eve, finally getting around to decorating the tree, after the plagues and academic crises were satisfactorily passed.

We decided to put the tree downstairs in our playroom/den. We figured it would provide an immediate forum for playing with the presents, rather impossible had the tree been upstairs in the front room (i.e., dining room)



Initial aftermath of Christmas presents. Jr.Gopher#2 got a box of Legos.




A while ago:
I want a car for Christmas.
What kind of car?
A car with eyes.
A car with eyes?
Yeah, like in Cars (i.e., the movie)

2 weeks ago:
What do you want for Christmas?
A car.
A car, like in the movie Cars, with eyes?
No, mama, (in a tone of voice that said ... jeez, mom, duh, of course not). A real car.
A real car? Here I'm thinking, wow, this is early, I wasn't expecting this request for another 10 years or so ....
Yeah, a real car, one with doors that open.



From Opa & Oma. Definitely the hit of the day.
















Yes, he really climbed on there all by himself.




















Well, the best 2 presents at the same time.
















Sledding today. Temperature 36 and balmy. I do mean this sincerely, it was really nice weather. Sledding yesterday was much shorter & colder. We were at Powderhorn Park, which is about 3 blocks from our house.


After the first couple of trips down the hill, Jr.Gopher#2 decided that he wanted to carry the sled up by himself.

Who am I to complain?



After wiping out at the bottom of the hill.
















Jr. Gopher #1 can be such a ham for the camera. He had a blast all afternoon. Although when he stopped having fun, it was a total melt down because he wanted to win, a status defined by going further than Mama or his brother.



First time down the hill, to get a feel for it. This was the only time #2 wanted company.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Sounds of Silence

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/about/mpr/central_corridor/

For those of you here in the Twin Cities, or just in Minnesota, or ... hell, anyone of you:

please write to the Light Rail authority and tell them that putting a train line 12 feet from a recording studio is stupid. The met council finally, after years of haggling, has approved extending the rail line into St. Paul. This will go 12 feet from the Minnesota Public Radio station's building, which also houses American Public Media (a.k.a., MPR). I think I'd be pretty annoyed if I was a parishioner at one of the churches in question - ooops, sorry, you can't pull the hearse up to the front steps of the church any more, there seems to be a train platform there.

If nothing else, please tell them that they need to perform the assessment required by the Fed. Transport Auth, which they haven't done.

Met Council
Chair Peter Bell

e-mail: peter.bell@metc.state.mn.us
phone: 651-602-1390
mail: 390 Robert St. N.
St. Paul, MN 55101

other addresses are in the link for Mayor Coleman & Gov. Pawlenty


Thank you, for any of you who can do this. I appreciate it.

MPR's suggested text: although I know all of you are intelligent enough to write your own ... since you likely don't even live here, it's a simple cut & paste job.
"Please listen to Minnesota Public Radio's concerns regarding the Central Corridor Line and consider all options, including an alignment change, to protect this vital institution!"

Monday, December 22, 2008

zipity do dah

95%

I'm done. Thank God.

in perspective

so, I really blew the first part of my final last night. Totally blew it. Great, so now I've got more pressure to study for this 2nd part, which is 20% of the grade. What to do?

Sit down w/ my grade & the class syllabus. What's my grade right now? How hard do I need to drive myself this morning & afternoon? Will I be able to get home to put up the Christmas tree, now that we have a functional tree stand?

Just to put things in perspective ... If I don't even take the exam, I'll get a C. This is not a passing grade, for grad school (B- is).

Just to put things in perspetive ... All I need to get a B- is 24%

By utter random chance, otherwise known as sheer dumb luck, I should be able to exceed this

ahhhh, the sound of stress departing

Saturday, December 20, 2008

here we go again ... and again ...

following Wednesday night's post, which was a break in studying for my epidemiology final exam ... life seemed to be going better.

Wednesday night: found my wallet, when emptying my bag in preparation for studying, the fairies must have returned it, because sure as hell's hot, I know I looked in that damn pocket. Studying seemed to be going well. I found new stuff to study in preparation and figured it was not hopeless.

Thursday morning: We get the kids off to their respective locales.
9:10 a.m. I blew my nose yeah, no shit, this is relevant
9:11 a.m. My ear over-pressurizes, as happens sometimes when one blows one's nose.
9:30 a.m. on the train (which everyone here calls the "light rail" -- it's a train, people), my ear starts annoying me even more
9:50 a.m. am sitting in the student lounge eating a late breakfast & reading the news, and my ear hurts, pretty badly
10:10 I ask myself, what the hell am I doing sitting in the basement of a building housing the medical school, when the student walk-in clinic is across the street?
10:15 standing in the clinic, I have tears runing down my face
10:30, after begging for someone to see me, I'm crying
keep crying through the doctor's exam, no doubt contributing to the prescription for heavy narcotics. Apparently I have an ear infection
11:10 on the phone to Mr.Gopher, have gone past crying to actually sobbing
11:15 write a note to my Epi prof informing her that I won't be taking the final, and ask for her to let me take it on Monday (I assumed this would mean getting an incomplete)
11:17 write a note to my academic advisor, letting her know that my internship term paper would not actually be arriving on her desk Friday morning, and asking for an incomplete.
12-ish - finally at home, in bed, desperately waiting for the Vicodin to kick in. Eventually stop crying and fall asleep out of sheer exahustion & good drugs

3-ish - briefly rise to consciousness. Realize that jr.Gopher#2 had at least 5 ear infections before he turned 18 mo. God help him, is this the crap he dealt with? No wonder he kept waking up in the middle of the night screaming! I'm surprised he ever stopped! He didn't get wonderful painkillers?! The things we do to our children. I'll never take pediatric ear infections as de rigeur again.

4-ish - Epi prof tells me that I will be allowed to take the exam on Monday. No incomplete. yea.
5-ish - advisor (who failed to respond to at least 3 e-mails in the semester asking what I was supposed to do for the course, tells me on Wednesday morning that I need to turn in a paper no later than Friday) ... tells me that she'll give me an incomplete. not-so-yea.

Friday (yesterday): Jr.Gopher#1 is next door with Jr.Gopher#2 as usual on Fridays. 1-1/2 hour after dropping him off (i.e., walking through the foyer), I get a call: he's still got diarrhea, he can't stay. Jesus, Mary & Joseph! Give me patience! Are you kidding? Of course, I was still pretty stoned on Vicodin & wouldn't have gotten any studying done. But, I would have gotten a whole lot of sleeping done. And, of course, Mr.Gopher works late on Fridays. Did the boys go to bed at a reasonable hour? Well, 8:30, rather than 8 seems pretty reasonable, after our now-traditional popcorn & cold veggie dinner in front of a movie. Did the boys go to sleep at a reasonable hour? uh ... no

Saturday: Study? Are you kidding? I planned on spending the day with my family, delighting in the satisfactory discharge of my academic obligations. I'll be damned if I'll pass that up.

Saturday night: Study? Yes. Package arrived in today's post for Mr.Gopher, is hastily removed from view. 5 minutes later, he comes out and says, well, the hell with surprise, I need help dealing with this. Lo, and behold, he had purchased something I really liked from my wish list. A nice little posey ring. A nice, rather squashed posey ring. I think someone put it in a punch press, based on the sheer force which would have been needed to accomplish this damage. Although, given the damage to the outer package, the inner (inadequate) packing, and the invoice, I am kind of surprised that the ring wasn't squished a lot flatter. Scathing letter demanding restitution in contrast to their retarded return policy ... Study? Well, there is tomorrow, right?

Technically Sunday (12:06 a.m.): Well, I suppose I'll go find the text I'm supposed to read as the lector at Mass tomorrow ... um this ... morning.



Limitations on freedom of press

The Faribault Daily News reported the school district shutting down the school (didn't mention which grades) paper due to the students refusing to give the superintendent prior review of an article about an investigation of a middle school teacher's potential inappropriate behavior.


No prior review? Are you kidding? What journalist for a commercial news outlet gets published/on-air without an editorial review? What if they were writing for the Star Tribune? The owners of the Strib are libel for irresponsible journalism. Who's libel for the school paper? The School a.k.a. The State. The students can’t legally claim sole responsibility for the paper. Editorial control rests with ownership. The students don't own it, the school board, and de facto the State of Minnesota does.

As with many other instances, a light touch is the best guidance. Shutting down the whole paper, rather than just one article getting pulled? That seems an unreasonable response.

If the article conforms to professional journalistic ethics/standards of practice - there is no reason it shouldn't be published. The cases cited by the Daily News are excellent examples of social bias censoring facts unpalatable to the local people.

First Amendment “rights” are not absolute. Slander/defamation is against the law - the unbridled freedom is only over that which is factually true. Pornography and profane language are protected under this amendment. Is that okay for high school students to publish? If your answer is no, you’re already limiting their freedom and possibly treading a slippery slope down to the Superintendent’s desk. There's no ethical difference between limitations. Whether it is disapproval about teenage sex or images of disembowled pigs in a slaughterhouse ... limitation is limitation.

Would the school district allow students to print content normally found in the City Pages or the Daily Minnesotan (U of M's student paper)? I'm pretty sure not - not due to the story content, per se, but rather due to the language choice and visual content. Sex might help distribution, but I wouldn't approve of my school board publishing it. God, you wouldn't believe the sex-advice column the U's paper runs.

My biggest question, in considering this: The Faribault paper didn't mention if this was a one-off problem - was this request for prior-approval unique to this story?

If the Superintendent realized there was going to be a story with potentially big ramifications (this sounds like it was) .. then I would expect him to want to review it prior to its publication, even if he didn't do so on a regular basis. Has anyone seen the article in question?

I can't get my knickers in a twist over this, without the School actually shooting down the article after seeing it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ich Will


while surfing illegally posted copywritten material on You Tube. Michael wanted to hear this.

well, just cool

Functional 2100 year old "calculator" rebuilt & operated.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tale of Dexpereaux (not a review)

"The Tale of Despereaux" is set in the the faraway kingdom of Dor. It's the story of an unlikely hero-- a tiny mouse with exceptionally large ears. That mouse, Despereaux, falls in love with a princess. His fate becomes intertwined with a rat trapped in a dungeon and a servant girl who dreams of becoming a princess.

Kate DiCamillo won the 2005 Newberry Medal for her book, "The Tale of Despereaux." DiCamillo talked with Morning Edition host Cathy Wurzer about the film adaptation. She had just returned from the movie's premiere in L.A.

If you ever wonder (i.e., you're anyone I know other than STUF&GBTW or Cinda) about the process of going from written word to visual story on the silver screen ... you'll find this interesting. It popped up on the local public radio station because DiCamillo is a local girl. Opening Friday. I guess, unlike Will Smith popping into Edina, we don't rate a 'premier' here. Yeah, no kidding - the Will Smith. No relation.

(Although on a totally unrelated note, about 'not related', the Security chief at my last regular job was also named Smith, was shorter than I am, and was certainly much blacker than I am - not that this is much of a challenge. Clyde would constantly introduce me as his sister, which always, always made the person do a complete double-take. I could always see curiosity struggling with what they perceived as good taste. After personally being shocked the first time he did it, I encouraged the social confusion by pointing out that he was always considered the black sheep of the family. At which point, the person was never really sure if he should laugh. Which, in effect, gave Clyde & I a good chuckle.)

here we go again ...

far too many of my friends will simply shake their heads and say, ‘well it sounds like her’

Yesterday: jr.Gopher #2 is diagnosed with Pink Eye. trans: no day-care. trans: mama doesn’t get to study for her impending final exam. I realize that I can’t find my wallet, last seen day before.

Today: There was an amazing biohazard clean up in the bathroom. Taking jr.Gopher #1 to pre-school/kinderstube results in his teacher telling me that diarrhea caused by potentially microbiological causes (rather than diet) means he can’t stay. So much for spending the day studying the difference between case-control and cross-sectional study design, trying to remember which one can calculate quantitative causation.

Killing time while waiting for the store to open, where I had last seen my wallet, is no longer a matter of sitting in a coffee shop, due to the limited patience of my recently acquired companion. Ah, I think, I’ll just go to the McD’s on Hiawatha, since it has a play area, and I can still have a cup of joe.

Approaching the intersection of 54th and Chicago, a monster-sized gray mechanical object zooms into my peripheral vision, with just enough sub-conscious brain processing to realize it’s a car. I screamed. Subsequently, I had a salient personal experience to demonstrate the efficacy and purpose of seat belts to jr.Gopher. I also now have a bashed-in rear quarter panel. When did I call my insurance company and down-grade my insurance? Ummm, that would be last week. So much for the $400 savings this billing period.

I got lost en route to McD’s (I didn’t realize the Minnehaha Parkway went under Hiawatha). There was no longer really any reason to kill time, but as I had told jr.Gopher he could play there, we continue on. After all, what else did I have to do?

Did I mention that I have a final tomorrow? Did I mention that I haven’t had much time to study for it?

Of course, neither store which could have had my wallet has it. After a more thorough excavation of my room, I’ve concluded it isn’t at home, either.

Sure, I can go to the DMV and get a new license - at least I can get a piece of paper stating that I have one, pending its arrival. I can call the bank & credit card company to cancel the cards. I can get Mr.Gopher to get me cash. My bus pass is only valid until the 31st anyway. But .... my student ID? I need it to get into the student lounge, where I planed to spend all day today & tomorrow studying for my epidemiology final exam. And spend tomorrow evening actually taking the 3 hour exam.

Did I mention that I have a final tomorrow?

I need the ID card to get into my laboratory to actually do the research, too. That, however, is far less important. Do I think it is remotely feasible to replace my ID card in an hour or so today? ummm ... to put it bluntly ... no.

Tomorrow: Say a prayer I do well on this jinxed final. If I do well, I’ll get an A in the class, which should do wonders to balance the crappy grade I’m getting in one of my other classes. Sigh ... time to make lunch.

Fahrenheit = Celcius

from Monday
There is a point at which the Fahrenheit and Celcius temperature systems cross: -40

The weather is a constant topic of interest to most Midwesterners. It's the guaranteed safe-topic in any social function. Did you hear how cold it was up in Duluth this morning? [today's answer: -30) And, of course, if they don't sound like they're from here, you can extend the meterological discussion: "Did you grow up here? No? Was it this cold where you used to live?"

After experiencing the bitter cold this morning (today's high was minus 3 F) ... the weather man on MPR said we failed to break the record low temp by a few degrees this morning. So, of course, out of curiosity, I wondered what sort of record lows the Twin Cities get:

December 25, 1879: -39F
so, yes, this is basically -39C

of course, balanced by
December 25, 1922: +52F


Today's frigid expedition was to a sporting goods store for the Jr. Gophers' new & improved Winter apparel. And 2 sleds. New hat, balaklava, thermal socks, and super-warm mittens. The snow boots & snow pants were last week.

As long as the temperature is above 20, we'll be hitting the slopes: well, the hill at Powderhorn Park, 4 blocks from home.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Old Math

1 = 2.2
100 = 62
1 = 39

The European Commission acknowledged last year that persuading the UK to embrace litres and kilometres over pints and miles was
a lost cause. Minister for Europe Caroline Flint said it was a "victory for common sense .... In the current difficult economic climate, it will also mean that British companies do not face extra labeling costs in order to do business in the United States."

Now, this sounds suspiciously like something one would find here, in dear old NOT METRIC USA:

"Metric martyrs" lost the battle to trade only in pounds and ounces. One was convicted in 2001 of selling bananas only by the pound. His offence: failure to provide customers with the metric equivalent, as required under EU law. I guess he should have moved here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

price of christmas cheer

1 partridge: $20
1 pear tree: $200
2 turtle doves: $55
3 French hens: $30
4 calling birds: $60
5 golden rings: $350
6 geese laying: $240
7 swans swimming: $5,600
8 maids milking: $52
9 ladies dancing: $4,759
10 lords leaping: $4,414
11 pipers piping: $2,285
12 drummers drumming: $2,475

grand total 2008: $86,609

last year: $78,100

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The man behind the scenes

well, if you're not from Minnesota, this probably is irrelevant to you ... but the on-going fascination with the state's senatorial recount is finally dying. No doubt due to the fact that Election Day was 5 weeks ago.

Yesterday, Sec. State Mark Ritchie was on MPR's Midday. The program was a discussion on the state's history with prior recounts. Which, unbeknownst to me, occur fairly routinely - just for less notable offices. Does anyone really care who won the County Commissioner election for Kandiyohi County?

Ritchie's speech/commentary was fascinating. As was the blatantly obvious passion & frustration in his voice. I could see him shaking, vibrating with barely restrained rage, while discussing some of the stupidity currently masquerading as political objectivity. He also included some suggestions for improving voting rules. Fascinating. I didn't vote for him, but I probably will, if he runs again.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Death, sooner or later -- Taxes now

good god, this is great... you have got to see this

Death & Taxes: a visual guide to where your tax dollars go

A poster of the 2009 federal budget, in gross detail. (really detailed, really gross) You'll need to zoom in a bit, before the click-and-drag function works. This has a list of all the major projects of all the executive departments. Wow.

A statistics paper I was required to read was titled: How to Present Data Badly, Wainer, American Statistician, 1984(?). It's not the calculations of statistics, just how to display data - badly. If you could find a copy and want to see how the media and government are dis-informing you, I recommend it. One of Wainer's recommendations for how to display your data poorly is a metric of 'data density'. Measuring how many data points are presented per square inch. A couple of points of real data swimming in a huge graph with other pretty non-data is a great distraction. This budget picture has a huge data density.


p.s. if you want to read the Wainer article, I'll send you a copy. It's fascinating

Monday, December 8, 2008

Like mother, like son?

I go into the boys' room to get Jr.Gopher #2 out of bed. He's lying in his crib, head on a pillow, blanket pulled up to his arm pits, reading a book. I greet him, say good morning, and lift the blanket.

Chaos.

"Do you want to read?" He nods.

So, I put the blanket back on him, he settles down into his covers again, and lifts the book up to read. A new copy of Grimm's tales (in German). With no pictures. He was lying there holding it propped up, just like ... oh, just like I do when lounging in bed reading.


So, please say a prayer, if you read this on Tuesday before 5:30 p.m. Central Time. My final project presentation is due. I've only got 18 hours to figure out how to elegantly explain something I don't really understand.

Hades Erupts

God, the world is just going to hell in a hand basket. Peter & I spent our honeymoon in Greece. The beginning and end of the trip was in Athens. I must be out of touch with the world, since the news was "Day 3 of rioting in Athens". Video here is in German, here is in English, or of course, in Greek (this is the best footage).
















We were staying in a little blue-collar neighborhood in downtown Athens, which looks a bit like some of the footage seen. This is what it looked like 5 years ago. The real "city center" is behind the photographer. The only marches we saw was upon the victory of the Greek national soccer team in the prelude to winning the European Championship.
























And, just in case you're thinking that 'all hell has broken loose' ... the Gates of Hades are actually located about 4 hours south of Athens, here:

Ban the Bulb

So much for the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act: the European Union is banning incandescent lightbulbs.

Sie frisst zu viel Strom und wird deshalb abgeschafft: Die klassische Glühlampe soll bis 2012 aus allen Geschäften verschwinden - so haben es jetzt Experten aus 27 EU-Staaten beschlossen. Besonders leistungsstarke Modelle werden sogar schon früher aus dem Handel verbannt. - Der Spiegel, 12/8/08

They consume too much electricity and will therefore be discontinued: the classical lightbulb should be removed from all stores by 2012, decided experts from 27 European states. Especially, the high-intensity models will be banned even earlier.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Driving the Zamboni

Zamboni: originally developed by Frank Zamboni in '49, registered as an international trademark, it is nonetheless used as a generic colloquialism for ice resurfacing vehicles in ice hockey arenas. Think of a giant ride-on lawn mower that melts the ice and then squeegees it smooth, using an internal combustion engine for power both to move & melt.

They can slice your fingers off. [well, duh] They can scare the bejeepers out of small children by leaving a bloody trail of crimson transmission fluid on the ice. They can become runaway weapons of vehicular mayhem if controlled by a vodka-swilling driver. When will society wise up to the inherent dangers of the seemingly innocent Zamboni?

From our polite neighbors to the frigid north, comes more Zamboni baloney:
Public health officials in Quebec City are alerting people who attended a weekend hockey tournament in Portneuf to be vigilant about any breathing problems, after a Zamboni used at the event emitted toxic fumes.

Seven people were sent to hospital with chest pains and breathing problems after playing hockey at the St. Ubalde arena rink on Sunday.

Two of them are still in intensive care, while another is suffering from a build-up of liquid in the lungs. Health officials suspect the patients inhaled nitrogen-oxide emitted by a Zamboni machine with an improperly calibrated motor, operating in an arena that wasn't very well ventilated.

Other problems in hockey rinks involved spewing microscopic particles. I ran into an unexpected international/cultural barrier - with another English speaking country: Canada. We in the U.S. often use grams per cubic meter when measuring pollution. With particulate problems, we use parts per million (ppm). Not the folks up north~
"What's more, 14 per cent also tested higher than 100,000 particles of pollution per cubic centimetre, roughly the equivalent of the air quality that might be experienced standing next to Toronto's Highway 401, the busiest road in the country." ~~ parts pollution per cubic centimeter? What is that? pppcc? I've never heard of that as a unit. wierd. Although, I suppose someone I know will promptly inform me that it's something like a barn in nuclear physics. :)
  • At a Pittsburgh Penguins' game: looks like the zamboni ran over a wayward penguin (way cool pic)
  • Choping off kid's fingers with a zamboni is apparently as easy as with a tractor PTO shaft
  • ZUI: zamboni under the influence

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

still not Florida

St. Paul, Minn. — Recount officials in Ramsey County found about 200 ballots today that weren't counted on election night.

as of 12/1, 8:02 p.m. Franken is ahead by 4,108. As impressive as this sounds, Coleman was ahead by more than 1,000 on the last day's count. And, of course in the stupidity of politics, Coleman's campaign has been much louder about how many ballots Franken is challenging. The total of "challenged" ballots is up to 5,943 . 2/3 of which are from Coleman.

The Secretary of State has released images of 1,000 of them, which range from WTF (voter)? to WTF (counter)? i.e., Why can't they read the damn directions? to How could anyone possibly doubt what the voter meant?

The last Monster Recount held here was in 1962, inspiring a ditty to the tune of I'm Looking Over a 4 Leaf Clover, which included:
What causes these switches is sons of bitches,
Who can't hardly count to ten.
So, we're counting over the votes from Dover,
And counting them once again.

revised: 12/2 8:02 p.m. vote count: Franken up by 2,535 , challenged ballots over 6,000 Sec. State asking candidates to cut the crap. Gelbmann says previous canvassing boards have average three minutes a ballot. At that rate, even if they worked nonstop, eight hours a day, it would take more than a month to analyze 6,000 ballots.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Holy Senatorial Cow

Wow. I am truly dumbfounded. The U.S. Senate may wind up deciding who wins our senate seat. A summary of what the Senate is allowed to do is here.

Basically, the Senate is the final arbiter of who gets to join their club. Normally, this is simply accepting the results of the state's election. But it doesn't have to be. Smith said the Senate last weighed in on a serious election contest in 1974. So, despite all the hanky-panky here with "objected" ballots, or who's counting what ... Coleman & Franken can get their other club members to weigh in. Considering that Sen. Reid is already opining on our election, it seems to be a much more interesting Constitutional issue than Florida.

According to Smith the Constitution allows the Senate to be the final arbiter of its membership. Smith said the Senate does so by determining the qualifications of each member. On most occasions, Smith said the Senate simply accepts a state's election certificate, but it has diverted course a few times.

"There is a motion under Senate rules and precedents that allows any Senator to make a motion to refer the credentials to a committee, presumably the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over election matters, in order to delay action on it," explained Smith.


In 1974: The contest involved a dispute between two New Hampshire candidates. After several recounts, the Senate moved to seat the Democrat. The motion was brushed back several times by Republicans who filibustered the issue. After months of wrangling, the Senate declared the seat vacant and ordered another election, which the Democrat won. Wow.

Sure, the senate probably won't get involved. But, wow ... how badly do they want it? and are they willing to set enough prescedent to screw themselves with the next election?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Fire Safety?

December 1, 2008

St. Paul, Minn. — Starting today, all cigarettes sold in Minnesota will be "fire safe".

The new cigarettes no longer contain a chemical that allows them to continue burning when left unattended.

Unattended cigarettes are the leading cause of home fire deaths in the U.S.

Tom Brace, director of the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association, said the new cigarettes should significantly reduce the number of cigarette related fires.

"Now imagine that cigarette falling into someone sitting in an upholstered chair or falling on the floor on a piece of carpet. The ability of that cigarette to cause an ignition would be reduced with the new technology that is now in play in this type of low propensity fire cigarette," Brace said.

Brace said the new state law requiring fire-safe cigarettes is the most important fire-prevention law passed in more than 30 years.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

[def.] Coccidioidomycosis

a.k.a. San Joachin Valley fever

No wonder they came up with a longer name ... that one looks like some of the keys on my keyboard got stuck while typing.

Hell if I know what it actually is, but in 2005, there were 15 cases of it in Minnesota, 2,885 in California, 2 in Maryland, and 0 in New Jersey.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fraternal Interpreter

Micha: "mama, mama, Gregor wants you to hang the pictures."

Mama (while lying in bed reading): "In 10 minutes, when I'm done."

But Gregor want you to do it now!

No.

Please!

No, I'll do it in 10 minutes when I'm done.

But Gregor wants it now!

Gregor is going to have to wait, then.

Gregor wants to have both of his pictures hung up.

Not right now. In a few minutes.

Micha leaves the room and walks back into the boys' room, where they were having the afternoon 'quiet time'. I then hear him explaining to Gregor:

"Gregor, mama says not right now. You need to wait. She'll come in a few minutes to hang them up. All of them."

So, despite all evidence to the contrary, it is now adequately demonstrated that yes, indeed, he is listening when I say 'no'. And, yes, the pictures are now hung in the boys' bedroom. Since their favorite stuff toys are a giraffe, llama, and ferret, I got copies of pictures of these animals for decoration. They're thrilled.

Friday, November 21, 2008

North Star State Makes the Big Time: the Daily Show

Minnesota: Crazier than You Think

2 Jews battle it out for power in ... the Land of Lutherans ?

(Link for funny clip won't load here)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Images of Idiocy

The Calculation of Failure:

Under the arch there ... that's the remains of a 4-lane interstate sitting in the Mississippi River. NTSB finally decided what actually happened on that fateful morning we were watching this on CNN-Germany in the Munich International Airport.

Some of the 35W bridge's gusset plates were too small for the weight of the bridge. Where they should have been an inch thick, they were half an inch.
In 1962, when the bridge was designed, the size of the gusset plates likely weren't calculated.
1977: MnDOT added two inches of pavement to the bridge deck.
1998: added a de-icing system and barriers.
Summer 2007: re-decking the bridge began
August 1, 2007, 3:30 p.m.: Nearly 300 tons of equipment and rock and concrete were placed on the bridge deck, weighing as much as a 747 aircraft.
August 1, 2007, 6:00 p.m.: whole damn thing falls into the Mississippi River during evening rush hour.

"Somebody missed the whole idea that we're going to put 287 tons of weight on the bridge and maybe somebody should look at that,"
Chealander said.

Every year the American Society of Civil Engineers create a report card for and a cost estimate of fixing the country's infrastructure.

In 2008? $1.6 trillion strike you?

Put it in perspective, Ballarini says. "We have a $700 billion (financial) bailout and we have a $700, $800 billion war, so it's not that we can't generate that money," he says.
A growing number of federal and state lawmakers appear to favor spending more in infrastructure both to address years of deferred maintenance and putting people back to work.

Ballarini's advice?

Don't bank on the leaders following through.

"I'm convinced through education and grass roots movements that we could get these things done. One of the things I'll talk about is that we can't rely on people at the very top to lead us.

click on little picture at top of story for bigger version of photo @ top

New Math

2.9 Million + 87 = 1

The recount has begun. Both candidates have lost votes. ... wtf ...?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Health = Luxury

Marshall, W.Va., 1950:
Obesity was not a worry then. Workplace injuries were.

Marshall, W.Va., 2008:
no other metro area in the United States comes close to Huntington's adult obesity rate (from CDC), an astonishing 50%

... nearly half the people age 65 and older have lost all their natural teeth
... getting heart attacks in their 30s
... highest rates in the country of heart attacks and diabetes

The psychological problem behind it all is described by one person: The economy needs to pick up "so people can afford to get healthy,"

many people think of exercise and healthy eating as luxuries.
200 pizza joints
149 health gyms

What about little lovely Big Isaac?
Some doctors, on hearing the statistics, noted the Huntington area is not in such bad shape by West Virginia standards. A recent state study found that health problems are significantly worse in the more rural coal counties to the south. But those places didn't show up in the CDC report, because they were too small.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Plan A

I'm sitting in the student lounge (public health has our own). It's 10:14 p.m. CST. No one else is here (at least in this part of the place). The Plan for the next 15 minutes

play computer games
read the news on-line
eat Cheetos

then ...

take my epidemiology exam. sigh ...

Friday, November 14, 2008

[movie review] TBA

Movies I want to review:

Still out there in the T.C.
Appaloosa
City of Ember
Body of Lies

Coming Soon to a Theater Near Me:
Quantum of Solace (dorky name for a Bond flick)
The Road
Inkheart
Australia
Frost/Nixon
Defiance
Revolutionary Road
Tale of Despereaux
The Betrayal
Milk
Cadillac Records

Already gone, but not forgotten - this is why DVDs exist
Burn Before Reading
The Lucky Ones
Pride & Glory
Fear of the Dark

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sheep dip

It’s good to be Catholic.

Tonight our parish held a dinner/fund-raiser. The $12,000 remaining on the new air-conditioning bill was the goal for the auction. Dinner was nice. The auction was successful (with no help from the Tobias house hold, despite the temptation).

A few jokes were made about Fr. Joe & the sheep dip. By the end of the evening, after he ‘went to go get the sheep dip’, we realized it was a brand name for a blended whiskey.

ooooh. smoooooth.

I got home in a pleasant mood. Good food; good wine; good company; great scotch. Peter drove the sitter home. I put on my pyjamas and crawled into bed to read the next chapter in a book that has nothing to do with public health or industrial hygiene. I then remember: oh, yeah, I wanted to come home early so that I could finish my epidemiology homework, which is due before 11:59 p.m.

Sigh ...

ethanol might be of interest to epidemiology in the study of the distribution and prevalence of diseases ... but it does zilch for one’s grade point average.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Δvote = 206

1,211,565 vs. 1,211,359

The Never Ending Saga of our state's senate race: Franken(DFL) is trying to get Hennepin County (where Minneapolis is) to re-assess absentee ballots. County says "it's not our problem, it's the state's problem". Coleman(R) is claiming:
Matt Haapoja, an attorney with the Minnesota Republican Party, accused the Democrats of trying to create votes. "This was clearly an example of the Franken campaign trying to find more votes where there aren't votes," Haapoja said.

Let me guess - the Republicans will graciously decline any 'made-up' votes for Coleman?

Where are those 207 votes Franken hopes to find? There is no state standard for storing votes, so he'll have to look:

St.Louis County: "They've (Rep.) had representatives [in front of the elections office] since Election Day," Tynjala said. "There's three of them. Apparently, they had them out in the car over the weekend." 400 ballots are locked in a safe in Hibbing ... The rest of the ballots are all up in our attic"

Douglas County: "They're locked in a secure room in the courthouse. There are only two keys to the room, and I'm not going to tell you where that room is."

McLeod County: "... in effect, incarcerated her ballots in the county jail. "They're in a cell, and the jail correctional officers have given me both of the keys to the cell, so no one can go in there...".

Chisago County: locked in next door office

Polk County: locked in county jail

Other popular locations: closets, secure safes, vaults

I must admit this seems much less of a C.F. than Florida 8 years ago. Although the accusations of voter fraud and legal charges are already making lawyers rich.

There are other opinions, of course. "I have no reason to think at all that the four judges and the Secretary of State who sit on the canvassing board are going to be affected by all of this bitching and moaning that the two campaigns are engaged in right now," Smith said.

My favorite suggestion, so far is:

The MN Statutes website is down, so I can't make a direct citation. But what I remember is that in the event of a tie, the election is to be decided by "chance", not necessarily a coin flip. For example, some ties have been decided by drawing cards and the high card wins.

I propose that the "chance" be the purchase of 10 Powerball tickets for every drawing (2 per week) until one of them wins the jackpot. That way, we can draw out the suspense AND keep either of these Bozos from occupying the Senate for quite some time.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

[movie review] The Mummy

and sometimes I was unreasonably pleased. There is a little immaturity stuck away in the crannies of even the most judicious of us, and we should treasure it. (Roger Ebert)

If so, I treasured every moment of this. It's up there with Army of Darkness & Tremors. And sooooo much better than Bubba Ho-Tep. It's Indiana Jones on a "we can't afford Harrison Ford's salary so we spent it on CGI" budget. This wasn't Fraser's first foray into B-grade movies, and I haven't seen Journey to the Center of the Earth yet, but he seems to have turned into a character actor. Not an inherently bad thing, but I wish he'd try something different, to see if he really can do something different. I write this only to discover there's a G.I.Joe movie w/ him coming out next year.

1920's archaeologist messes around with ancient mummy, unleashes plagues and living dead mummy, gets girl, nearly gets girl killed, kills ancient mummy, rescues the damsel, saves the world, lives happily ever after.

The mummy was great (the character). O'Connell, the hero, was exactly what I would expect, excessively well armed with panache. The flesh-eating scarab, when it got an on-camera close-up was really cute. The cat was pretty pathetic, and I think the first one was fake. The slimy assistant evil-doer was waaaay to much of a stereotype. The undead mummy's undead priests were so pathetically 1930s quality. The heroine looked elegantly helpless while waiting to be cannibalized for parts. And of course, the kiss at the end is romantically lit by a setting sun.

This was just fun.

3 - Buy your own on video.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Under-age Voting Results

Kids Vote! held elections concurrent with ours. The results came in - apparently they were even more impressed with Obama, which says a great deal about name recognition for the younger children. (I'm pretty sure Jr.Gopher 1 doesn't actually know who he is.)

Love their logo: Vote Young! Vote Forever!

and the winner is ...?

1,211,556
v
1,211,335

we're down to 211 vote difference. Needless to say, both sides are screaming. Great Screaming Shades of Florida, Batman!

Sec.State is anticipating they'll come up with a winner by December 18. And, to balance my fair opinion of my new home-state's political system,

Six years ago, an election judge in Austin, Minn., burned a handful of ballots in her fireplace at home after an apparent misunderstanding on election night.-MPR Now that is an amazing amount of stupidity accumulating in one place.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

[def.] Conservative

con·ser·va·tive adj
1. in favor of preserving the status quo and traditional values and customs, and against abrupt change
con·ser·va·tive n
1. somebody who is reluctant to consider new ideas or accept change
2. somebody who supports the doctrine or beliefs of conservatism
con·ser·va·tive - synonyms
traditional, conventional, unadventurous, old-fashioned
con·ser·va·tive ≠ conservation
One might have thought (incorrectly) that 'conservative' had something to do with conservation. Nope, unless one counts the conservation of the status-quo.

Afterall, what do the Conservatives want to conserve?

the environment? sure, as long as it doesn't require acknowledging the possibility that the crap dumped from my factory could possibly hurt anything outdoors

our natural resources? as long as I can go deer hunting with an AK-47, who the hell cares about barn owls?

the global environment? as long as it doesn't involve requiring operators of coal-fired power plants to do anything about their greenhouse gas emissions

our limited domestic petroleum resources? drill, baby, just fuckin' drill!

our individual liberties? sure, except if you ...
criticize my government, in which case, you deserve to have your phone wire-tapped

our ability to provide enough scientists to fuel our technology industry? as long as I don't have to actually pay for any federal research budget ... or a world-class education system. Hell, even a half-baked education system is too damn much.

our national reputation as a decent place to live? as long as you aren't queer, Muslim, from some god-awful country no one's ever heard of, or can't afford health care, you're welcome to stay

our GDP? hey, Joe, out-source that to India.

our national productivity? sure, as long as I don't have to pay for my employees to be healthy

our fiscal future? as long as my mega-business doesn't have to pay taxes in the U.S.

our ability to "spend our way out of a recession"? as long as I won't have to pay a living wage to all of them damned wetbacks doing shit-labor, and never need to learn the definition of usury.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

[movie review] Shoot 'Em Up

Mom said this was awesome. Well, it's staring Clive Owen, which means her opinion is rather suspect. After watching the preview, I hesitated to suggest watching it with Mr.Gopher, who doesn't care for really violent movies. I took the chance. After putting it on pause for something, he went on to other things, commenting in a nice way that 'I don't really need to see the end of it, it will be just as over the top as the first part has been'. He liked it, which quite surprised me.

This was awesome. This was over the top. This was so over the top, it makes James Bond look like 8mm home movies. Holy Cow. If they'd been using real ammuntion, they would have needed to file an Environmental Impact Statement before discharging that much lead into the atmosphere from the sheer volume of bullets. Holy Cow.

What can I say that isn't equally over the top? Paul Giamatti was amazing as the hen-pecked cell-phone wielding hit man; Clive Owen was amazing as the messed up special ops vet who's too dangerous to let loose. Well, they let him loose, and see what happened? Chasing each other around the town over a new-born hours old baby. Two weeks after watching the movie, all I can recall are the action scenes, not why there was a baby.

This will definitely keep you on the edge - action non-stop through 90% of the movie. The 1st and last 5% were sedate. Well, relatively. Well, sort of. Am torn, since I didn't see this in the theater, I'm not sure if some of the chase seens would be better if bigger. A compromise:

4 - Definitely see it on video. (on a big screen/HD TV)

and the winner is .....

1,211,542
v.
1,211,306

We're having an automatic re-count. Required if the difference is less than 0.5% We're currently at 0.05%. Stay tuned for more adventures of the Minnesota Senate election.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

#231

Was at Powderhorn Park at 8:45 a.m. There are 2 different wards(?) voting in the same building. The line was gone by 9:10 when I left.

25 minutes for no line?

Jr.Gopher#1 was with me; I wanted him to see the election experience. I figured I could show him my ballot & what I do with it.

Much to my surprise, there was a "Kids Vote!" sign, complete with ballots and a miniature voting booth. This is the coooooolest thing. The kids could get a kiddie ballot with the choices for the president and federal senate/house. It also had the 3 ballot options (for Mpls/state) and it had the choices for the Minneapolis school board. The candidates all had pictures next to their name. After turning in his ballot, he got his own "I voted" sticker which looks different than mine. The ballots are on bubble paper, and I was informed that, yes, they really are going to be counted. The results will get posted on-line & (they hope) published in the newspaper.

I didn't tell him who to vote for, but apparently he recognized Barak Obama and decided that the Constitution Party candidate ought to be elected to the senate and the DFL candidate for the house.

Minnesota the Voting Capital: I just can't get over the huge number of people who turn out here.

Minnesota uses optical scanners: fill out the paper ballot, put it in the machine, and it gets instantly counted. I was voter #231, according to the machine.

Already messed up ...

... and we haven't really started yet.

What's already wrong?

long lines & stupid bureaucratic activity don't surprise me, or even get much beyond raised eyebrows. Malfeasance, however:

# Common Cause of Colorado and two other groups sued Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman after he purged 20,000 voters from the state's registration list within 90 days of the general election. After the two parties reached an agreement last Wednesday, Coffman purged 146 more names from the list—a violation of federal law.

# The Americans for Limited Government Foundation, a group committed to "rolling back government" at the national, state, and local levels, sent a threatening letter to approximately 11,000 donors to left-wing causes. (Thanks to James Horwitz for the tip.) The letter reads, in part: "Your name has been put in our database. We are monitoring reports of a wide variety of leftist organizations. … Should any of these organizations be found to be engaged in illegal or questionable activity, it is our intent to publicize your involvement."

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween

Our first Halloween on 16th Avenue has been a success. Both boys came home with quite a haul. They went trick-or-treating with the neighbors' kids and a few of the grown up men. The women stayed at home as the Trick-or-Treater-Greeters.

Next year we're going to install a sign like those as amusement parks: "You must be this tall to get on this ride", and make it a bracket 48" tall and 24" low. Anyone that old should have their own job and buy their own cheap candy. Besides, they tended to be the really scary costumes terrifying the little kids (at least Gregor). And anyone young enough that they can't really walk up the sidewalk under their own power shouldn't be eating that much sugar & artificial food colorings.

The Sahaydaks (the neighbors) had a concurrent party for the grown-ups, to which we were invited. Over half of the attendees were from Michigan. I finally got to try a mojito. Yummm ... gotta get me some of them. A fizzy Caribbean version of a mint julep.

From the Halloween party @ Michael's preschool/Kinderstube:














Quite surprisingly, we discovered at the neighbor's party that this boy's father works with our landlord.















Michael & buddies














Olivia & Lisa (in pink) - Lisa & Michael are inseparable @ school.














Michael (clothes dryer) & Gregor (washing machine). Gregor only managed to wear his costume around the yard, and as far as the corner (we're the 2nd house from it). Peter said that the dryer was a smash hit with all of the adults. They're both front-loaders so that the doors open and the candy went inside. This constitutes my entire creativity allotment for the year. I think next year with go with a toaster & microwave oven. Then a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer. Stove & dishwasher. I've got it made for cardboard box costumes for the next 3 years. :)


















Neighbor kids Justice (Farmer Girl), Jarod (Mad Scientist) & Michael (Clothes Dryer)















rear view of washing machine, just cute

From the BBC World News

Hello, this is Claire Bolderson with the BBC World Service ...

The BBC's Claire Bolderson and Minnesotta Public Radio's Kerri Miller co-hosted a debate on the challengest ahead for America's next president. The debate took place in front of a live audience.

Yes, that live audience would include Peter & Elizabeth - both of whom can be heard on the broadcast.

It was a fairly interesting event. We got to see the upper level of the Gutherie, which I'd not seen before. A stunning view over the Mississippi. There was socialization time before & after the show. The refreshment option was moved to after the show; since it was a co-production with the BBC, high tea was offered. One of the fellows we chatted with is an election official, and was quite informative of the inner workings of the Minnesota election system.

One of the panelists was my US congressman. It was interesting to hear him speak. It was far more interesting to watch his non-verbal response to the questions and other panelists' answers (particularly the rabid mindless businessman). His facial expressions and body language were a very clear commentary on the other speaker's words.

I got a chance to speak with him afterwards. I also got a chance to speak to both Kerri Miller (whose show I listened to practically every day until I started grad school) and Claire Bolderson (whose show I listen to whenever I'm in the car late enough in the day to catch the BBC World Service News Hour). It's odd seeing someone one normally only hears. I often wonder if the radio personalities at somewhere more professional (like the BBC) show up at work in their cut-offs and t-shirts (e.g. Mr. STFU) or in the professional attire they wore today.

One of the BBC producers said the show here was fairly similar to the other stops in their cross-country tour of the US. We're the last one before D.C. on Monday. He did mention ours was the first group which didn't mention Sarah Palin. He sounded sort of relieved.

When I said "sure, that sounds great, I'll come" to the invitation from MPR, I didn't realize it was going to be a live broadcast over the BBC. Taped for MPR or PRI, sure but the BBC?.= Wow - Kenya to Kalamazoo got to hear how offended I am.

World Record

U. Minnesota decided to break the Guinness Book of World Records for ... the number of flu shots given out in one day, that being more than 3,721 as a goal. I just got mine (3:45 p.m.), and was informed that they passed their goal at noon.

After getting the flu in March, and having forgotten how sick you could be and still live ... I couldn't pass up a free one. Jr.Gopher#2 is the only remaining member who needs his. And since he got the flu last year, and didn't wind up in the hospital (as quite a few little kids were, with post-flu pneumonia) - his pediatrician ascribed his relatively short recovery time to having gotten vaccinated.

Update:
The U did, indeed, pass the previous record, reaching 11,538.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

New Pictures

Well, of course, here comes Autumn. The Halloween pictures will get put up sometime after tomorrow night.

We went out to an apple orchard somewhere east of here (not quite into Wisconsin) for a family day in the country. We wanted to ensure the boys understood that food comes from somewhere other than Cub Foods or Aldi.

It was a completely idyllic day. Blue skies, white clouds, pleasant temperature, not too crowded (at least when we showed up it wasn't). There was a taste-testing table at the front of the orchard, to determine which of their varieties you wanted.

And, of course, what Autumnal harvesting would be complete without pumpkins?

Jack o' Lanterns for Halloween & one for MamaGopher to for a completely-from-scratch pumpkin pie.







Well, rather than quicksand, they had a quick-hay pile. Just sucked the kids right up.






















It was a wee bit long for some of the wee ones. Jr.Gopher2 was draggin' his wagon by lunch time.















If you're tired enough, any pillow is soft.












Those are Regent apples in the bag.
















Wandering around the orchard having a late-morning snack.












Not quite the Garden of Eden, but thankfully no snakes.












The boys










Well, both boys are beginning to develop a sense of style. Of Fashion. Of Savoir Faire. well, of something.























check out both pairs of shoes.











Sing us a song, Mr. Piano Man





That little red thing is a stuffed lobster. Courtesy of a Maine-based scientific instrument company that makes ventilation equipment.

Seriously, talk about photogenic.


Jr.Gopher #1 has developed camera shyness. Try to take his picture, and he turns his back to you. Well, hopefully, he'll get over it and there will be more in the future.




We've got Jr.Gopher #1 Halloween costume made, ready for his pre-school party in the day, and the Trick-or-Treating in the evening. #2 costume, made to go with #1, is partially made. I ran out of spray paint, and need to hit the hardware store tomorrow.

Peter is going to make a foray on his first-ever trick-or-treating with our neighbors. The neighbor's adult "guys" are going out with their favorite potable Beverage in an Unobtrusive Container to escort the kiddies. Mrs. Neighbor & I will man the fortress walls against incoming hoards of children. .. well, we've no idea, but I'm looking forward to meeting some of the neighbors.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

[movie review] In the Name of the King

This one is STFU’s fault. He stated Jason Statham was the most underrated action hero in Hollywood today. I respect his opinion. While searching for something relatively undemanding on the video store, I noticed In the Name of the King. Starring Jason Stratham & John Rhys-Davies. Sure, looked like a B-grade fantasy film. But, hey, I loved Tremors & still think Army of Darkness is epic. Rhys-Davies is good, but not particularly consistent. Indiana Jones #1 (there should only have been 1) - he was great; LotR, he was good. Most of his other stuff is hit & miss. And, looking like an action-flick, I thought, hey that Stratham guy, I'll check him out. Hmmm ... not one of my brighter ideas.

The scenery was not really off-putting, but it was obviously post-Lord of the Rings: ooooh, look, that’s Osgiliath ... and Helms’ Deep ... oh, and the pretty magic tree in Minas Tirith ... oh, and I think that’s the burning of the Westfold, done in much greater gory detail with uglier orc-y looking things. And, heaven help us, that’s Burt Reynolds.

Right off the top - any movie that starts with a sword-swinging, boomerang-wielding turnip farmer who can kick-ass with a minor hoard of orc-things .... come on, no matter who the actor is ... this just sets the tone for the movie, or else you’re tone-deaf. I’m okay with this, I wasn’t expecting great art. And, hey, Stratham is supposed to be an action-hero, he ought to be kicking orc-y ass. I only got to 39:42. I quit. I'm sure Stratham is probably an underrated action hero. And, if this is the material he produces, it's easy to understand that no one wants to watch him long enough to appreciate him.

If I’d seen the longer cast list, I wouldn’t have borrowed it. Ray Liotta would be enough to get me to rent anything else. I’ve never seen him in anything that I liked, and never liked him in anything I've seen.

Based on a comic book? Nope. A short story? No. A fairy tale? Someone's 13-year old D&D adventure? No? ... oh, a video game. Of course.

You know how I can tell the CGI is pathetic? Because even I can tell it’s bad.

As long as the camera doesn’t get close, the brother-in-law bears a striking resemblance to my landlord. Very Strange.

Rating: 6 - Go get your teeth cleaned.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

[def.] Mixed Precipitation

You know what 'mixed precipitation' means? It means it's snowing.

Holy Mary, Mother of God. It's only October 26th. It's snowing. More and more snow, as I watch, and less of that "thick rain".

Saturday, October 25, 2008

News from The Land of 10,000 Lakes*

* according to AAA, there are actually over 12,000

Again, a reason to have a camera: there is this fellow who comes into the local cafe who is the absolute spitting image of Richard Gere. So help me, a total shocking double take. Down to the same glasses, salt&pepper hair, it took staring (covertly) for a while to think, 'no, that's no him'. Of course, had it been him, it would just have become an interesting 'guess who I saw @ MayDay'. Besides, seeing Richard Gere (or anyone else reasonably famous) is far less remarkable in Minneapolis than, say, Big Isaac, West Virginia. Or even Lansing, Michigan. Rather like last year sitting in a restaurant and thinking, god, that looks like Al Franken. After a (much longer) covert stare, I finally realized, yes it is him. Of course, I hadn't realized StLP was his home town.

The Big Brother Factor is in full-swing with the boys. Jr.Gopher #2 sits & watches #1 in a very analytical manner, taking everything in. A few seconds later, the identical behavior appears. Unfortunately, this applies to playing Wild Boy at the dinner table, as well as joyful running around screaming in the maternally approved great outdoors.

Gregor is finally beginning to talk. Not much, but occasionally real, understandable words emerge. So, Müll is no longer his only word. There is little incentive for him to speak, since he comes equipped with a personal translator.

Me (to both boys): Do you want corn chex?
Michael: Do you want corn chex, Gregor?
Gregor: nods
Michael: Gregor wants corn chex, mama.

Boys running full tilt around the wheelchair ramp outside Kinderstube. Gregor falls down, gets back up.
Michael: Gregor, are you okay?
Gregor nods
Michael (to me): Gregor fell down. He says he's okay!

Michael wants a puppy. He doesn't want a dog, only a puppy. I don't want a dog. Dogs slobber. That's why I wanted a cat. Cats don't slobber. Except mine. Mine drools. A lot. So I'm confronted with 'would it be so bad, since I'm getting slobbered anyway?' Oh, there's that little "gotta let the dog out" every 6 hours or so. And that little euphemistic "walking the dog". Walking's ok. But, I'm really looking forward to the collection and disposal of fecal matter ending soon, not starting. Canine additions to the HealthyGopher family will wait until the children are old enough to comprehend "You will take care of the dog". And then I'll probably get the a bunny. Something that can play with the next cat. Cats eat bunnies? Oops. Maybe a guinea pig - Raven hasn't eaten the neighbors' yet.

I am officially done with my ethics class. Interesting reading. Totally useless course, if we're meant to learn anything about ethics. Useful, if we're simply meant to brush up on our composition and writing abilities. Oh, well. C'est la vie.

Autumnal fun

Jr.Gopher 2 & Josie
from his daycare
Yesterday was "rake the leaves" day.

Even cuter was me coming home. Gregor was still sitting at the same tree, leaning against it, reading a book sitting in the leave pile. I sooo wished I had a camera.

Leaves are changing. Today required not just a jacket for the boys, but hats & mittens before the bike ride with Mr.Gopher.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dysfunctionality, USA

I have never seen any production by Arthur Miller. The Crucible, Death of a Salesman, All My Sons, nope. Haven't even seen the movies made of of all 3 of these.

Friday I corrected this literary deficiency and went to see A View From the Bridge, courtesy of a friend's extra ticket. We managed to miss the first scene courtesy of my bad directions. Set in early 19-something Brooklyn, this is the story of an Italian-American family (uncle-aunt-niece) who take in a couple of illegal immigrant cousins (married & single brothers) from the Old Country and the ensuing drama.

If this is what Miller's work is like, I'm surprised no one has done research to determine if there's an association between watching his work and an increased suicide rate. I guess the fact I was just morose, rather than seeking oblivion from the misery and futility of life, is due to the acting quality one normally finds at the Gutherie Theater.

Perhaps it was the initial "I wandered into the set of All In The Family" feeling, but I spent the first act wondering what god-awful thing was going to happen. The blatantly obvious foreshadowing in Scene 1 of some neighborhood guy ratting out illegal workers to the INS was so blatant that perhaps it was intended to leave me wondering 'when is he going to rat out these fellows' throughout the next 90 minutes? (BTW "submarines" must be an archaic antecedent to "wet backs").

Another surprise was the realization that the initial production date was 1955. I'm subsequently left unsurprised that the House Committee of UnAmerican Activities thought he was an undesirable character. The attitudes of the main character, Eddie, were unsurprising and perfectly acceptable for the 50s. Gays weren't exactly a widely embraced sector of American society; suspicion of illegal workers marrying just for their citizenship papers persists today. But, the final confrontation with his feelings for his neice, and his method for demonstrating the unworthiness of another man's affections for her was shocking. I just can't come to grips with that having been done in 1955. I suppose if it managed to shock me in 2008, it is a credit to the playwright's ability to draw me in to the play's setting, rather than my own.

The Actor playing Eddie was the picture perfect image of a 40s blue-collar archetype. I can see where Archie Bunker came from. The woman playing the 18 year old niece was an annoying version of the all-too-often-seen character which must be advertised as 'bouncy enthusiastic dotting daughter who is required to bouncily skip around the stage at all times'. Good lord, almighty - who in their right mind wants an actress to behave like this? Have you actually seen anyone over the age of 6 walk around the house like this? Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road ain't got nothing on this chick. If this was supposed to underscore her non-adult behavior towards her uncle, being his 'little girl', it failed and simply annoyed me. There must be other ways to convey this.

Acting aside - I find I'm generally not great at assessing the merits of actors in any meaningful way beyond 'I like it' - the framework within which the action occurs was really nice. The theater is big enough to allow a complex set to be built. This provided plenty of space without needing to have a huge footprint. The little details, especially how the secondary sets were moved in/out were nice. E.g. a group of longshoremen bring in a huge crate, open it, and voila! the desk for an office scene is left on the stage's skirt. The primary set of the family's house remained intact, while the other scenes were set around the skirts of the stage, allowing the home life of the typical dysfunctional American family to remain the center point of the story, keeping it in view the whole time.

Right after the set design, as the best part of the show was Rudolpho, the single brother who - of course - falls madly in love with the family's niece at first sight. Perhaps he was remarkable simply by dint of not being some stereotype. He flung himself into the part with the same enthusiastic un-self-consciousness that one expects from the character himself.

I have no set recommendation scale for plays, as I do for movies. So, "would I recommend it?" Yes, I would. Although it's not a 'drop everything and go see it if you can'.


Hmmm... I suppose I need a scale for theater ...

Worth the price of tickets & babysitter: go see it!
If there's an afternoon matinee ...
Well, if someone else has an extra ticket ...
You need to balance your checkbook, don't you?