Thursday, February 26, 2004

<em>Maaaybe</em> a Five Year Old...

I've taken to hiding my shampoo whenever Kelly takes a shower. She uses it as body soap, and has on one occasion gone through half a bottle of Prell in one session. So I leave her shampoo in there, and a bar of soap, for if she's feeling adventurous.

So tonight she's showering, taking her sweet time and pouring all the hot water down the drain (Jean is somehow puzzled at how high our gas bills are), but otherwise doing her business. I in the meantime am in the den reading Slashdot . Eventually, she climbs out of the tub, and I go in to check on her. The tub is full of water. Soapy, murky, kinda cloudy water.

Kelly saw me looking at this mess and asked me "why isn't the water going down?"

"I don't know. Something must be clogging it. I guess I'll have to use the plunger." I speculated that it'd just reached it's threshold of Kelly hair and needed loosening. Then I noticed that the soap tray was empty. "Kelly, what happened to the new bar of Ivory soap I had there?"

"I used it to wash myself."

"All of it?"

"Yes. Some of it I used to wash my hair, and then I washed my body, and under my nails..."

By this time I'd reached for the plunger and given a few good yanks on the handle. Many pea-sized fragments of soap came shooting out. Ugh. She'd basically destroyed an entire bar of soap, and most of it was lodged in the drain. I was thinking back to when this sort of thing was more common, when Kelly could take care of herself a little, and that was when she was five!

So I gave her a lecture in a calm voice while trying to get chunks of soap out of the tub, but I was thinking to myself, 'where did that come from?' Jean has a theory that whenever Kelly is about to undergo a cognitive 'spurt', she first regresses a little, acting more immature for a few days or a week, then bam!, one morning she wakes up and we get a girl who's a year older. Well, I'm looking forward to this next leap!

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Expanding Music Front

I don't know if the deal Apple cut with CDBaby is responsible for this, but nearly eight months after I bought Supermodifed from Amazon, it's available on the iTunes Music Store, along with several other Amon Tobin albums. They've also added Death Cab for Cutie and Dntel, though these might be more of a followup on the inclusion of The Postal Service, which is a side-work band for the leaders of Death Cab and Dntel.

Anyway, I'll be trying a few more probes to see how large my miss rate is now. Used to be 70-80%, without even trying. Now? I'll let you know.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Movies Galore

Jean rented a couple of movies this weekend, one of which she watched alone as I'd seen it in the theatre. This was Lost In Translation, which I liked quite a bit. Jean wasn't so impressed, liking Bill Murray's role, but saying "I'm glad I rented it instead of seeing it in the theatre."

Jean and I both watched Bowling for Columbine, Michael Moore's movie about the Columbine High School shootings and what might have led to them. My verdict, the movie is about 30% documentary, and 70% editorial. Moore can be funny, but his attempt to play deadpan comic to people he is harrassing just annoys me. Still in all, I found the movie interesting and was surprised in a couple of places.

Finally, I managed to squeeze in Returner, watching it in chunks over the course of Sunday on my computer. I can see how some say it's a mixed bag, and it is surely inspired by a raft of other sci-fi movies, a large number of them Hollywood blockbusters. But I still think it is it's own movie, and for me it was definitely worth watching. I want my buds to watch it too, but they weren't all that impressed with Versus, another movie I liked quite a lot, while acknowledging that it too had flaws.

So Kylanath, I agree this is a fun movie, but I need you to push Tom to watch it, or he won't believe me!

Saturday, February 21, 2004


Yesterday evening was Family Fun Night at Bridgeport School, and Kelly wanted me to take her. We played checkers, and I beat her, so we decided to go play Bingo. I played along gamely, but couldn't help but comment on the blatant innumeracy displayed.

Several times they called numbers which could not exist, such as N-57, or B-32. Really. Later, they had a game of Four Corners, where you only need to fill the four squares in the corners to win. They doggedly announced every number, including those in the I, N and G columns.

They also had a Capital H game, where the cross bar ran across the middle of the Bingo sheet. They announced all the N numbers. Kinda strange, as the middle square is the only N square you need, and it's the 'free' square, with no number.

Okay, they were kids, but older than Kelly. When Kelly gets to that age, if she makes those kind of mistakes, I'm sending her to cram school!

Yeah, since you ask, we had fun!

Subdefectives Strike Back

Got a new chore this weekend. Figure out how to replace a mangled mailbox. Some idjit blew ours up in the middle of the night. The force was enough to mangle the mounting bracket below the box as well, so it's not as simple as screwing in another. Hope the idjit blows a hand off. Not really, but bleh...


Wait a minute, this happened just a couple of days after I 'cancelled' that Xbox magazine subscription! Coincidence? I think not!

Thursday, February 19, 2004

<em>Somebody's</em> Evil...

I got home from work last night to find a mail from Official Xbox Magazine. I registered my Xbox, so I thought, "okay, here comes the spam." But when I opened it, it was a bill! Not a subscription offer, but an unambiguous bill. "Thank you for your subscription to the Official Xbox Magazine. Your first issue is in the mail. Please render payment to..."

Well, this stinks. I know I didn't subscribe. I deliberately threw that blow-in card into the trash, and it didn't have my name or address on it. So I look in the mail and find the website, go there, and find no way to cancel the subscription. I do find a nice, prominent link to pay after I enter the serial number in the letter. No way, Jose.

So I look again, and find a phone number. I call it, get a recording. The gist is, "if you are calling about problems with our subscription, please go to our website and use the convenient links." I know already how convenient these are, so I wait. After this dismissive message, the phone begins to play Muzak. I'm supposed to think there's nothing more and hang up. I don't.

After ten or fifteen seconds of this nobody's-home-I'm-in-the-shower dodge, another recorded voice comes on: "if you do not have access to the Internet and would like to blah blah blah, press 1." So I do, and almost immediately I get a real live person. "May I have your area code please?"

After all the preliminaries, she asks "how may I help you?"

"I received a bill for your magazine, but I didn't subscribe."

A pause, almost imperceptible, but there. Then, "I'm sorry for the mixup sir, I'll cancel your subscription. The April issue is already mailed, you may keep that, and ignore any further billings." That last part about further billings sounds ominous, but I'll deal with that if they get nasty later. I hung up.

Point is, she was expecting callers who wanted to cancel subscriptions they didn't ask for! This damn magazine is autosubscribing anyone who registers their Xbox and assuming that some folks will just shrug and pay up. That's damned unethical, and slimy to boot! Almost makes me regret buying the Xbox (if not for Baldur's Gate ).

Monday, February 16, 2004

Kelly Day

Jean had classes all day today, and my workplace was closed for Presidents' Day, so I stayed home with Kelly. Or rather, I ran around with Kelly. We started the morning by making waffles together. Kelly wanted to try the yeasted waffle recipe in Cook's Illustrated, but I felt we lacked the preparations, so we did the simple kind.

Later we went shopping for some stuff we forgot this weekend. Kelly brought a bunch of dollar coins, and dropped $4 on the claw machine, trying to get a toy. In the end, she spent another $5 buying herself a stuffed dog from the toy department. Then she tried to shame me into buying her some more stuff. "Pay me back the money you owe me and we'll talk." She didn't like that.

We came home and played a little Baldur's Gate, then we went off to see Triplets of Belleville. Man that is one fun movie. I think the creator is from Quebec, but it had a real European feel to it. I learned a lesson with this one. I tried last night to describe the premise of the film to Kelly, so she'd come with me and I could see it. She was turned off and wanted nothing to do with it. Then I found a trailer on the web, and she watched it and decided that she really wanted to see the movie.

It was touch and go if she'd be able to sit through all the slower and unconventional stuff, but there were enough cute spots that she sat through it, and she said she liked it. I'm just glad I got a chance to see it, since usually the chain here doesn't bring foreign or indie stuff to the burbs.

We came home for a snack, then we took off for my workplace to use the gym. Kelly and I both got a good workout. Then we went to Fry's so I could pick up a copy of the U.S. release of Returner, and headed home. More Baldur's Gate, and finally Jean got home.

Kelly and I treated Jean by making a recipe for pork chops we got out of Cook's Illustrated, which turned out loverly, thanks. The evening wound down to a routine finish, and as I put Kelly to bed a little while ago, she said "this was a really good day." I told her I thought so too.

Movie Weekend

Presidents' Day is good for one thing, and that's renting movies. Jean rented two, which we watched on Friday and Saturday. In order:

The Whale Rider. This is an inside look at the lives of modern descendants of the Maori, and their quest for tribal pride and identity. Keisha Castle-Hughes is a striking child actress, both in features and presence. She plays the granddaughter of a Maori chief who was expecting a grandson to carry on the unbroken line. He is hard on her for this, but she persists in quiet and courageous way, until she wins her grandfather and her tribe. This movie reminds me in a sideways sort of way of The Fast Runner, another movie Jean picked up. It's great, rent it.

American Splendor. It's been so long since I read any Harvey Pekar, that I had to ask Jean if I'd gotten her into his stuff, or if she'd gotten me into it. She says I did it, back when I was still collecting comics. In any case, this movie stars Paul Giamatti as Harvey Pekar, a file clerk in a V.A. hospital in Cleveland, who writes stories about is ordinary life and becomes (somewhat) famous when they are illustrated in comic book form. I really enjoyed this one, and liked how they'd cut between the actors and interviews with their real-life counterparts. Very nice.

I feel like I'm missing one, but that's all for now.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Grey Album

What do you get when you mix black and white? You get The Grey Album. Seems a rapper by the name of Jay-Z created an album he called The Black Album, and released all the tracks separately as vocals only. Why? So that enterprising artists could do mixes using his voice. One such artist is DJ Danger Mouse, who painstakingly separated out musical segments of the Beatles' White Album, and mixed them with the vocal tracks from The Black Album.

DJ Danger Mouse did this as a personal labor of love, and had 3000 CDs created so he could give them out to friends, family, and presumably clubs. Someone decided to put the CD up on the Internet, and now EMI is trying to track all the sites down and C&D 'em. I don't really have an opinion on this one, both sides have valid points. But I did download the first three songs, and I have to say, EMI really has nothing to worry about.

An interesting experiment it may be, but I couldn't bring myself to listen to all three, as the first was bland and aimless. And you know I like a wide variety of 'experimental' music, so I'm not just some old fuddy duddy cursing them newfangled toons from them dagnabbed kids either. I'm sure some folks love it, but I think more love the idea of mixing the White Album with the Black Album to get grey. Too bad it sounds grey too.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Death of Death and Life...

I finally returned The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. I never read it cover to cover, skimming through sections that tended to drone on, but I'm glad I finally gave it a try. It's kinda neat to see where some of today's more idealistic urban planning memes come from. I recognized many of her ideas as today's rules of thumb for what make good neighborhoods, from active sidewalks to mixed use neighborhoods. Worth browsing at least.

Now I'm wading through Robert Wright's Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny. His main thesis is that, with a few hiccups, civilization has been moving toward ever greater connectedness and interdependency, a grand non-Zero Sum game. Lots of the book comes across as special pleading, but it is a fascinating survey of various social organizational structures. I suppose you'd call it Cultural Anthropology, but he makes it fun, the way James Burke plays with the connections in history.

I knew I'd like the book when I found him citing Teilhard de Chardin, whose book on the Omega Point I've read, and Henri Bergson, both of whom wrote about their visions of Man's ascent to higher orders of being.

Taking the Plunge

Now I know how Dirk the Daring felt. Last night I was playing Baldur's Gate when I reached the Thieves' Guild level. There I was confronted with a chasm, and the only way to cross was to leap across a series of floating stones. Only the stones had the disturbing tendency to drop (like a rock!) into the chasm, taking me with them. It was already too late, so while I was analyzing the stones for patterns of collapse, and trying to move faster, slower, and what not, I overlooked the obvious, that the stones would flicker before they began to fall.

Today after lunch I took another stab, after reading the above clue on GameFAQs, and made it across in only a few tries. Then the suckers confront me with another chasm, more than twice as wide. That one took longer, but not as long as the previous night. Now I'm merrily trolling along whacking thieves and spiders (and bugbears, oh my!) while trying to preserve my strength for the boss 'monster' of this level, the Thieves' Guild leader.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Oliver Sacks

Another link for someone else, this time my wife:

Oliver Sacks has a web site. Too bad it has the annoying trait of resizing your web browser...

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Transformer Instruction Archive

Because I know James would dig this site, here it is. Tom, please forward?

Thursday, February 5, 2004


As if playing dungeon crawls until bedtime wasn't enough, I had to get up early this morning to take Kelly to her first of five once-a-week sessions of the Chess Club. Reports are that she enjoyed it, and when I suggested we play chess using the chess program on Mac OS X, she was pretty enthusiastic.

Now I play a rather weak game of chess, it's been maybe thirty years since I played with any seriousness, after all. My main strategy is to capture as many pieces as I can. Well, against Kelly, a rank beginner, this works fine. I beat her in the first game, then relented against her in the second, after her repeated playful pleas of "please don't kill me!"

I actually had a hard time not checkmating her, and had to take back several moves before I managed to give her my final bishop, leading to a draw. I told her that I didn't want to let her win deliberately, because I felt that soon enough she'd learn how to beat me on her own, and then it would feel that much sweeter. I sure hope I'm right.

Tar Pit

Now this is why I generally don't play dungeon crawls after 9pm. I put the family to bed, watched Enterprise, and decided to see if I could get past the particular part of the sewers where I was killed last time I played Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance. After a short while, I looked up and realized I'd been playing for ninety minutes! I swear I was only going to spend a half hour doing this then go upstairs and do some reading. Now it's pretty much bedtime.

BG:DA is as much fun as Diablo II. Maybe even as much as Dungeon Siege, I haven't made up my mind yet. Damn. Now I want to play Diablo II for awhile!

Sunday, February 1, 2004

Innate Geek

This morning I noted that the MyDoom.A virus is scheduled to go active today. I started to explain to Kelly how the virus would take over people's computers and send requests to SCO, flooding their website and preventing genuine requests. Kelly jumped in before I finished and gave a pretty damn good definition of a DDOS. As far as I know, no one had taught her this, unless grade school is a lot different than I remember!

Excuse me a minute, I think I'm gonna tear up here.

New Banner

The banner is a scan (from the photo, not the negative, I'm too lazy today) from our trip last summer to Florence, Oregon-not-Italy. Click on the image to see another pose. I edited both to remove some generous ice cream smears on Kelly's face, but it's otherwise genuine.