Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last Day = Try New Thing

Jr.Gopher#1 got a pair of ice skates for Christmas. He was thrilled. Today we finally got a chance to try them out. His buddy from St. Albert's had to cancel our visit on the 26th due to the soggy snow trashing the ice surface on their back yard's mini-ice rink. Well, Longfellow Park wasn't exactly the Xcel Center, but it was at least (mostly) fairly flat. Someone must have gone over it with a Zamboni between the 26th & today.

He was at least passingly interested in the pick-up hockey going on. A family (mom, dad + 2 small boys his age) were playing 2 on 2; a couple grown men were playing around at the other end of the rink). I had to explain that it was like soccer: hit the puck through the net, and no, it's not a ball, it's a "puck". Since it doesn't cost anything for tickets, and no reservation is required, I think I'll take him to a Gopher Women's game. National Champions can't be too bad for a starter. And, as it's free, if he loses interest 10 min. into the 1st period, I'm not out anything.

This is, after all, the land of Pond Hockey. A traditional requirement for manhood. There are at least a dozen lakes here within the city limits of Minneapolis, and several dozen, if not 100, within the Twin Cities. Really. The city, however, puts ice rinks in the parks without lakes/ponds. Lay down liner, flood, wait; repeat if necessary. Several of them have hockey rinks installed for city league or school games. One in St. Paul apparently even has the ice surfaced every day.

Jr.Gopher#1 managed to actually become self-propelled for a dozen meters/yards or so. He was thrilled with himself. So was I. I've never tried to teach anyone to skate; I'm barely proficient myself. I once managed to skate backwards. And, as they say, once only counts in horseshoes & hand grenades.

Or is that "close"? I'd probably recall better if I hadn't just sucked down quite a bit of the lovely Irish water of life in celebration of the blessed new year... :-) Although, considering I can type without error at about 45-50 wpm, I figure the alcohol isn't that much of an impediment to my faculty. Probably my Irish genes.

We were @ St. Albert's this evening. The annual New Year's Eve gaming night was on; no, not the gaming that I used to do with the Gaming Guys on Friday nights in my basement... These people brought out the ancient artillery; every possible board game known to Milton Bradley and man kind. Occasionally people would wander past the tables of games looking at things that we, middle aged people, haven't seen since we were kids. Just sitting around, chatting & playing games. And, since it's a Catholic church, I don't think anyone minded the fellow drinking Summit, rather than the pink lemonade. The boys had fun; I was subjected to the proficient maternal Catholic Guilt Trip when the Other Elizabeth asked me to join in a set of some game. Unfortunately she asked just as we were leaving...

We wish you & yours a peaceful and boring New Year.
(Boredom is highly underrated: it's always better to be able to seek Excitement, rather than have it seeking you!)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Partial techno-fix

So, apparently Jeff @ In the Loop is going to see this because they, like others, have a little search-o-matic thing-y that finds blog posts where people mention their show. Hi, Jeff!

This, however, is a follow up to my earlier post, with the link to the story about the 3 Wise Men bringing gifts to the Jr.Gophers. So, here you go, Mom. Still looking for the other interview. God, doesn't that sound so impressive? I'd have thought STFU&GBTW, with his award-winning oh-so-public profession would be getting interviewed on the TV/radio/on-line. Of course, that would be for his personal abilities, not his odd personal opinions.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

95 bottles of beer on the wall ...

I survived.

Came home.

Slept for 6 hours.

please, god, never again ...

Monday, December 28, 2009

98 bottles of beer on the wall

oops - forgot to post this

Nope - didn't watch a movie so far, was surfing the internet looking for information on the type of EEG I'm getting done. Sigh ...

I read so often about the persistent fear or stigma of epilepsy. Perhaps ... well, no not 'perhaps', definitely ... I am insanely lucky. The vast majority of my friends are well educated. My family is well educated. I hardly ever have seizures. I'm pretty sure I could count them without needing more than my fingers & toes. I got the seizures under control on the first drug. I've never had my driver's license revoked (issues, yes, revoked no); hell, I have a license to drive. One of my first cousins has epilepsy. Last year, I had a (hem, "real") laboratory course for the first time in years, no decades. The great impact of epilepsy? I told my teachers, who simply said "oh, okay, let me know if you need anything". See above about educated acquaintances.

People say they fear to reveal they have epilepsy due to the response of ignorant proles. Even if divine/demonic possession isn't the common diagnosis any more.

I was reading these stories (the Epilepsy Foundation has a great website - give them money if you can't think of what to do with that excess in your 401k). How could I possibly compete with such tales of courage & perseverance against such obstacles?

When I was pregnant with Jr.Gopher#2, I heard about a program the Epilepsy Foundation has: since one cannot perform clinical trials on pregnant women, there's no way to do a prospective study of anticonvulsant drugs during pregnancy. They solicit women to submit their pregnancy related medical records to a study group. They can at least get data retrospectively. I had both sets of records forwarded to them. Especially since I was on different medications for the 2 boys. I figure I should do my part to contribute to the available knowledge.

But, how to eliminate society's residual ignorance?

I figure, since it has a relatively minor impact on my life, my battle standard is to refuse to refer to epilepsy by sissy euphemisms; to be completely open about having epilepsy (albeit not one of those people who gets in your face about it). I always check the box "handicapped" (or whatever it's called today) on demographic questionnaires. This has gotten me some really strange looks during job interviews.

I'm soooooooooooooooooooooooooo tired ...

Boogie Kids (96 bottles of beer on the wall)

JrGopher#2 loves to dance. Last night both of the boys were shakin' their booties.

We ran across a rendition of The Lion Sleeps Tonight: I started my hand moving in rhythm to the music - as one of the animated characters was. Jr.#2 promptly started doing the same thing. Not just mindlessly copying, like babys, but an enthusiastic joy. Jr.Gopher#1 was having much more fun mimicking the dog at about 0:24 min. Both boys were singing along as well.

Ah, yes, our camera is broken... otherwise I would have posted it to YouTube myself.

97 bottles of beer on the wall

It's 2:46 a.m. Only 3:14 to go before I need to leave the house.

99 bottles of beer on the wall

It's 12:06 a.m. Only 7 more hours to go. I am scheduled to have a sleep-deprived EEG this morning @ 7. I'm not allowed to sleep tonight. I've been so under the weather recently, that this is going to be a significant challenge. I'm going to write/start a review for Up, and then watch something amusing on video with the hope I can stay up. They were pretty adamant that no artificial means of alertness is allowed. Admittedly, given how icky I feel, the idea of drinking coffee is repellent right now. I might try to write the Annual Family Report.

Pursuing a 2nd opinion about some recent complications from my epilepsy, I figured I should take advantage of my proximity to the 2nd largest research hospital in the state - 2 buildings away from my lab. The referring doctor (3 floors up from my lab) said this fellow was the go-to person for seizures. Cool, eh?

I alwasy feel like I have to apologize for going to the doctor's and try to assure her/him that I'm really not a hypocondriac. This time - the first time I've ever sought a 2nd opinion - I felt compelled to tell him that I realize "I don't know" is sometimes the best answer anyone can offer. I guess I didn't want to come across as dissing my regular neurologist. (Whom, it turns out, was trained by him.)

I looked over his shoulder while he reviewed the MRI scans of my brain from this Summer. This is just the coolest. The regular stuff that I expected: cross sections of my brain. Then there was the 3-D images of the blood vessels in my head. Just the blood vessels. In 3D. Whether you attribute this to the Divine or the Random, by God it is utterly beautiful.

After having me do totally mundane things: walk on my toes, on my heels, touch my nose, etc. and collecting a medical history, he pops out with a diagnosis which is more specific than just 'epilepsy'. Then he gets an oh-so-faint twitch of the lips reminiscent of a smile, and says "this is interesting". Just what one wants to hear.

1:20 a.m. god, I am soooooooooooooooooooo tired ...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

[review] Virgin Spring

why ... ?

One of Ingmar Bergman's pieces. It won the 1961 Oscar for Best Foreign Film. I guess that makes it a "classic". (A term I find annoying in the film context.) Mr.Gopher enjoyed listening to the euphonious language of his beloved 2nd home (which is not here). I - of course - read the subtitles. It is an omnipresent curiosity when watching foreign films, how well translated the subtitles are. One would think, given this production of the film is only a few years old, and the almost universal knowledge of English in Sweden, that one could rely absolutely on the translation. Well ... the title page states it is based upon a myth/ballad/song from the 14th Century. Or is that the 13th Century? Mr.Gopher told me the English & Swedish had the same number (13), but the counting wasn't the same. Sigh ... now, if only my befuddlement stopped there.

I am not one who bemoans the confusion of foreign films, wringing my hands in embarrassment, wanting to seem chic or cosmopolitan by opining on the "meaning" of the work. There is an introduction to the film by Ang Lee. He stated (for some reason, I thought this person was a woman?) that this was one of the most influential films he saw as a younger man. He went on to discuss the film's content in terms of the basic elements of human life. That the film delved into what makes us human. An interview with the two main actresses revealed similar views.

Set in 13th/14th Century Sweden, this is the explanatory myth of the creation of the Virgin Spring. (A well-spring, that is, not the season) A young spoiled girl (virgin) is sent to bring a bunch of candles to the distant church; a young serf pregnant girl (not-virgin) goes with her. Not-virgin is jealous and despises the virgin. For some utterly inexplicable reason, she abruptly claims to be afraid of the forest, and stays behind at a small hut. Running away from the owner's lecherous advances, she runs after the virgin. The (idiotically) naive virgin meets up with 3 really decrepit goat herders. They induce (seduce?) her to stop on her travels, and have lunch with them. She realizes the goats belong to her neighbors. They attack, rape, kill her and then steal her expensive clothing. All of which occurs within the sight of the not-virgin, who can't bring herself to either run away or defend the other girl. The villains stop for the night to seek shelter at - of course - the dead girl's family's home. Offering her dress as payment for the generosity, they are revealed, and killed by the enraged father.

After finding the daughter, the parents & the rest of the still-living cast mourn. The father swears to God that, to atone for something, he will raise a church on this very spot. Moving the virgin's corpse, a clear fresh spring flows forth from the ground. This is definitely the sort of tale one expects to explain the presence of some small spring in the middle of a church.

I was so hung up on the inexplicable behavior of the pregnant not-virgin, that it really interfered with the rest of the movie. Did she just refuse to go forward out of real fear? Out of sloth, to avoid working/traveling? Did she passively watch the violence because she hated the virgin & wanted to see her get 'taken down a notch'? After doing all of this, why did she return to the farmstead, and then fess up to the father, rather than lying about her indirect complicity? Why did the father just pat her on the head and send her off to help him prepare for battle (i.e., killing the villains)?

Yes, there were interpersonal conflicts: the mother (spoiling the daughter, their only remaining child) vs. the father (who argues she should be trained properly, yet seems to pointedly exclude the mother from his own relationship with the daughter). The staff vs. the not-virgin about her amoral pregnancy-generating behavior. The bizarre little boy (the 3rd goat herder), who is unclearly attached to the older two: is he their brother?

I found the choice of B&W to be particularly interesting for two reasons, one rather mundane and the other not. There is an appealing stark simplicity to shooting in B&W outdoors, which avoids any 'noir' overtones. Ansel Adams in motion pictures. Yet, due to the B/W, the characters' appearance seemed overly stereotypical. The father is visually the utter archetype of a viking hero; the nationalistic artists from the 30s would have loved him as the Aryan uber-mench. (picture #1 here, a strikingly young Max von Sydow). The daughter is a stereotype of what Americans see as the Young Swedish Girl. Yet the not-virgin and the villains were so much antitheses, that it seemed ridiculous. Dark, heavy features, shot in shadows, what I assumed was an overly heavy-handed effort for the director to say "These are the Bad People". Given what I've heard of Bergman, it is difficult to believe that such an obvious choice was accidental. Yet, if it wasn't, I don't understand what its purpose is.

In the SCA, there are genres of story telling. One of them is the kind which is told by Fighters about their exploits on the Field of Battle, where one is required to start the tale: "No shit, there we were ..." There is also the type of tale, which need not be personal, and often is a re-telling of an historical epic/saga/poem. Around the Dark Ages, these tales were rather morbid. These are referred to as "Every One Dies". Virgin Spring is not quite an 'everyone dies' tale, but it has the distinct feel of one. I expected the mother to throw herself into the river to drown herself in sorrow (Admittedly, as an excessively devout Catholic who's really into self-penance, she likely wouldn't have committed the unforgivable sin of suicide.), and then have the father build the church and die with the last stone being laid, while the tenants looked on in servile acceptance.

I would mention that I really enjoyed the appearance of the movie. It would definitely entice me to visit Sweden for that sort of views. The costuming, et al., was really good, and pretty accurate for the time/place. I then discovered it was nominated for Best Costuming (B&W).

So, yes, there's plenty to discuss in an artsy "ain't I cosmopolitan" way ... but I still didn't like the movie.

Gopher Rating:
See it if someone else is paying.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Your 15 minutes are up

I just got my 15 minutes of fame. If you want to call it that ...

Minnesota Public Radio contacted me twice last week. Once for In the Loop, a small, slightly odd-ball look at pop culture that's only available on-line. Second by the main News Room. Both of them interviewed me & then decided to use the interviews.

MPR's Christmas Stories
Story of when our house burned down 5 days before Christmas. Aired at 7:20 Christmas Eve morning. Needless to say, I didn't listen to it. Which is sad, because I thought the boys would get a kick out of Mom's voice coming out of the radio.
I was told they'd post the audio on-line. When they do, I'll add it. Here, however, is the text of what I wrote them. Note: the date is wrong, it should have been 1979. C'est la vie.

MPR's In the Loop
Holiday podcast. Skip to about 30:00 min. I'm the first person in the "Santa Alternatives" section. I explained how our Christmas presents are brought by the 3 Wise Men. Our kids believe in Santa, they just know that Santa brings other kids presents (their American cousins), or the Christkind (their German cousins).

technical glitch: the link I put here goes to the most recent podcast, not the specific one I want. Will try to fix. ... and ... I still can't find the link to the 1st interview. Oh, well, you'll just have to believe that it happened (a friend heard it on the radio - I didn't, & I'm curious to hear how they edited it.)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Cooking Tip: burns

When you're standing with oven mits on,
to protect your hands from the metal handles of the roasting pan ...
and you've been doing it for a couple minutes, because you're basting the ham (other piece of meat) ...
and you think "I need to handle something with dexterity",
and want to take the oven mit off,
but the other hand is still holding the roasting pan,

don't tuck it under your armpit while wearing a short sleeved shirt.

just don't.


What to do when you realize the pan with the acorn squash halves won't fit in the oven along with the ham ...? One, if one is over 35, likely looks at the microwave oven and thinks "appliance only valued for heating left-overs or defrosting frozen peas in 2.5 min."

Cut acorn squash in half
remove seeds
place squash half in a bowl.
Microwave on high (for an 800 W oven) for 3 min.
Wait 5 min.
Microwave on high for 3 min.
Add pinch of rosemary.
Add pat of butter.
Repeat for the other half.

Let it sit covered until dinner. Serve as a half to each adult, if it's going to be a larg(er) part of the meal.

Or, just divvy it up as desired. Can slice the half into slices, like a melon, and serve that way.
Or, scoop it out of the shell, try to remove some of the rosemary. Serve like mashed potatoes (made with a masher, not a food processor).

Cheers & Merry Christmas from the Minnesota branch of the Tobias Family.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Golden Kilometer

The title is actually The Golden Mile, but Russia uses metric. Martin Cruz Smith has a new Arkady Renko novel coming out in March. As with any serial author, I cross my fingers & hope that the pressure to create excellence survives the pressure to simply write another novel. The thorough enjoyment of these works is not increased with frequency. I'm #72 on the library's waiting list. Which means I'll be able to read it about 1-2 months after it comes out.

I wish I had some divine ability to have IM from the publishing gods about my favorite authors. Amazon used to do that, but doesn't anymore (or if they do, I'd appreciate a note about where the function went). I don't mind waiting a while to read something. (A statement predicated upon an assumption I'll have the time to devote to a longer, more enjoyable read which shouldn't be interrupted by data analysis or public health courses ...) However, if I do know - I can jump the line at the library.

For example, the Hennepin County Library only has 4 copies of The Incredibles (I'm #20); given that it's not even vaguely new, I'm surprised at the demand. I'm even more surprised that the library system serving the most populated county in the state has 4 copies of a popular kid's movie. All 4 of us having to stave off the 1,140,984 of the rest of them for it.
-- from 10/30

[review] Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Only Ian Fleming would write a story wherein the heroine is named Simply Scrumptious, with a car that can fly and float. 'Nuff said.

Krankenhaus Tobias

Saturday (10 days ago): I started feeling icky
Wednesday (last week): I lost my voice, thankfully after my big presentation
Wednesday evening: Jr.Gopher#1 started puking
Thursday morning: see above, Jr. Gopher & I spent the day in bed; watched Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.
Friday: I was still sick, after school Jr.Gopher came home & threw up again.
Saturday: I was still sick, spent the entire day - quite literally - in bed.
Sunday: I was still sick, spent most of the day in bed.
Sunday night: Mr.Gopher started throwing up.
Monday early a.m.: Jr.Gopher#2 started throwing up
Monday morning: Mr. & Jr.#2 still pukin'
Monday evening: I'm feeling better enough that I don't think a trip to the dr. is in order

A repeat executive decision from 3 years ago: No One Is Allowed to Get Sick for the Rest of the Year!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

hello, world

there will likely be several posts over the next couple of days. I keep starting them, and then get distracted by school. or cooking dinner. Or flossing my teeth....

I've been soooo sick - the low-grade-guilt-inducing kind of sick - for a week. I (almost) wish it was the flu - at least then I would know it would be gone in a couple more days. This is just weary.

At least there's only one paper left, and it's 1/2 done. then comes the awesome task of clearing out the living room to make room for the tree that's now in the yard.

more sooner or later ...

bumper sticker of the month



Evil, pure evil

People Are Stupid ... People are Trained to be Stupid ...

HSBC ad on
go to Moscow using your HSBC credit card ... check in to hotel with HSBC credit card ... go to room ... turn on tv ... everything is in Russian ... read book instead.

As a bibliophile, i'm all for reading rather than watching TV. But, seriously ... spend all the money to go to Russia, and then hide out in a Western-service hotel and totally insulate yourself from the fact you're in a foreign country. HSBC, btw, is totally friggin' evil.

Friday, December 18, 2009

mental floss * com

Cool t-shirts because I know you either a) already get it, or b) will go ask someone why it's funny. My favorite is the math shirt, perhaps for Mr.Gopher:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Doesn't work for me, either

I laughed until I cried and my sides hurt ...

Monday, December 14, 2009

food for thought

... i just can't get my kids to eat broccoli ...

Jr.Gopher#1 was about 2 when a woman expressed her amazement upon watching him devour some broccoli. I will admit, I kept some foods away from him (& Jr.Gopher#2): peanuts, honey, and a few things recommended by the baby food book I had. But, otherwise, once they were old enough to eat solid foods ... if it was on the table, they got it.

My philosophy was "don't tell them they may not like it". This was followed by food-management skills:

Jr. "I don't like chicken"
Me "Well, maybe you'll like it tomorrow"

At the age of 5.5, this is still my response.

Children have different tastes for food. At the age of 1-1/2, Jr.#2 was sitting on my lap at a Greek restaurant chowing down on capers, tomatoes, feta cheese, and olives. Red onions were apparently too much for him. When Jr.#1 was younger, I remember being @ El Azteco and watching, with my friends, in astonishment as he kept eating the not-mild salsa.

This past week, I was cooking and contemplated putting jalapeno peppers in the dish. We have a jar of 'mild' sliced jalapenos. Jr.Gopher#2 pops up to help me cook. Seeing the peppers, he then demands a piece of them.

Jr.#2 "I want some of them"
Me "Are you sure?"
Jr.#2 I want some of them.

despite the jar being labeled 'mild', I took one out and tasted it to check my spicy-meter. He of course got cranky that I was eating it and not giving him any. I took one out, took the seeds out of it, and handed him half.

Jr.#2 I want the whole one!
Me Taste this. If you like it, you can have more.

chomp chomp chomp

Jr.#2 I want more!

About 4 slices later, Jr.Gopher#1 shows up and - of course - demands some of whatever #2 is eating.

They chowed down on at least 5 or 6 slices each.

Last night we had fish fillets (the up-scale version of fish-sticks) and schnitzel. Due to technical problems, I needed to get rid of a couple of onions pronto, so I sauteed them to serve with the schnitzel. (btw: yum, yum) Jr.#2, the more adventuresome eater, wanted them. And then more of them.

Who needs broccoli?


Friday, December 11, 2009

Bumper Sticker of the Month

God, protect me
from your followers.

8' x 10' = 20' ??

St. Johns Abbey & University is just a bit north of here in Collegeville. The main chapel there is rather pretty. We stopped to see it on the way home from the Gopher Family Annual Independence Day Camp-Out. This is a video of them trying to get their 20 foot tree through the front door, which is 8 x 10 feet. Sideways? Of course. But, a 20' tree is going to have a diameter larger than the door. Hmmmmmm......

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Possibility of Winter Amusement

Well, our first real snow came last night. 7" at the airport. Supposed to be more today. Jr.Gopher#1 is already asking to go sledding. The boys pulled out the sleds this past weekend.

MPR's Bob Collins is creating yet another fun little sport: the Golden Snowball. The meteorologist who most closely predicts the actual snow fall wins. Wins what? Who knows. Bragging rights.

Just another way for Midwesterners to jaw about the weather, a favorite topic after one picks sides in the "F-'em, get out of town" or "God, Western Civilization will fall" in the battle of which national sports team is whining about the State paying for a new stadium while the State is trying to figure out how to cope with a $1.2 Billion deficit. I'll leave you to guess which side Mr.Gopher & I are on ...


Monday, December 7, 2009

A Day that Will Live in Infamy

... well, until we forget it ...

Below is the U.S.S. West Virginia, one of the few battleships that survived Pearl Harbor; well, 'survived' in the sense that it went back into service.

I was at a WVU-Navy game a few years (oh, god, quite a few years) ago w/ my fellow WVU-grad relatives. Now, normally, of course, any sailors in attendance would be rooting for the US Naval Academy (a.k.a. Annapolis). The current West Virginia, an Ohio Class nuclear submarine, was in port. Part of the crew was in attendance, and rooting for - yup - West Virginia U. I assume their CO perhaps gave ... well, not quite orders ... about loyalty in attendance.

No doubt the crew of the West Virginia in 1940 would be rather astonished to see her current incarnation:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

30 Second Bunny Theater

What's your favorite movie? Re-enacted in 30 seconds by Bunnies? Season 3 has 38 episodes. You'll just have to suck up watching the same f'in 0:15 intro to a 1:00 show. Every time.
(you need a Netflix subscription, $, though I'm sure you can find it elsewhere, too)

I particularly liked:
Die Hard
March of the Penguins
and Harry Potter, #1-5 (yes, all 5 movies in 30-ish seconds)

hee hee hee hee

Christmas Klingon

Come to Mpls. See a production of the original
Christmas Carol
in its original Klingon.

The speed limit is ...

35. 30. 40. 55.

Whatever it is, I get an announcement from the back seat as we drive, now that Jr.Gopher#1 has figured out which signs are the speed limits. This, then, is followed by, "why are you driving 40? The speed limit is 30." (He can read the speedometer over my shoulder.)