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December 31, 2000

Geek Holiday

I woke up with a killer headache this morning. No apparent cause, and persistent as hell. I ate something healthy, then dumped two Alleve into my system. That did nothing to abate the throbbing, so I filled up a hot bath, drew a tumbler of R.C. Cola and soaked for a half hour. By then things were easing up enough for me to think, allowing me to review photos from Christmas, sampling a couple here for your viewing pleasure.

Now, aside from posting News Items to the Terebi weblog, what am I doing? Playing with functional programming languages, of course! I've been tinkering with Haskell for a couple of years, ever since I first had a class in functional programming at the Oregon Graduate Institute. It was taught by John Launchbury, a luminary in the functional programming arena. But there were key aspects of the language that I never could seem to wrap my head around.

I recently stumbled onto a paper written by Simon Peyton Jones, another luminary. It's titled Tackling the Awkward Squad: Monadic Input/Output, Concurrency, Exceptions, and Foreign-language Calls in Haskell. After fifteen pages, I found myself going, "Ooooohhhh! now I get it." This has sent me back to Hugs98, the interpreter I've got lodged on my laptop computer, and also drove me to download (at work only) a copy of the Glasgow Haskell Compiler (GHC), which contains extensions described in the paper.

I am logged into work right now through a SSH encrypted terminal, running simple test programs to learn the ropes of GHC. So that's how I spend my holidays!

Posted by dpwakefield at 04:16 PM

Will Work for Milk and Cookies

Presented entirely without commentary (okay, almost "qbullet.smiley"):

"Christmas Siesta"

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:14 AM

My Christmas Angel

On Christmas morning I had an angel in my house, though at the time I thought she was a maniac, running shrieking from present to present. The camera reveals what the eye cannot see. To the left is a cropped and reduced sample of the photo that nearly stopped my heart as I was reviewing the digital photos that I took this year on Christmas morning.

Many of the photos were blurry, some were too dark, most were uninteresting. I got a few nice ones of Jean, a couple good ones of Kelly intent on her presents, and one or two nice ones of Jean's parents. But this photo of Kelly captures her beauty in a way that I didn't even see when I was running around taking the pictures. The original will be printed and placed in a hallowed place in my office at work, to remind me of my visit from the Christmas Angel.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:34 AM

December 29, 2000

A Game By Any Other Name

When I was growing up, we had a board game that I distinctly remember was called O Wa Ri. It was a mass-produced product, with the form factor of a typical Milton Bradley game. When you lifted the lid of the box, you were confronted with an injection-molded plastic board, spotted with bowl-like depressions. In a cloth sack were smooth stones which could be placed in these pits. It's been several decades since I saw that game, so I don't remember the exact details of the layout or how one played.

Recently, I was browsing games available for my Palm Pilot, and came across a game called Awele. When I downloaded it the docs referred to it as a version of Mancala. This all seemed vaguely familiar! A search on the Internet confirmed that what I was seeing was the game I played as a child.

Here is yet another version of the game for the Palm Pilot, this time called Owari!

According to this site, the rules are simple, but the complexity of play is great. Certainly, playing against the computer, I get my butt whooped most of the time. I need to play against another human. Maybe Kelly would like to try? The beauty of the game is that it can be played with just about any equipment. Fourteen salad bowls and a bunch of dried beans would do just fine. Hmmmm.

Then again, if I just want to get my butt whooped on the Internet, there's this Web-based version. "qbullet.smiley"

Posted by dpwakefield at 01:33 PM

Top Gundam

A "name" (label) involves for a given individual a whole constellation or configuration of labeling, defining, evaluating, etc., unique for each individual, according to his socio-cultural, linguistic environment and his heredity, connected with his wishes, interests, needs, etc.

The Role of Language in the Perceptual Processes - Alfred Korzybski

When I first heard about Megami Kouhosei (The Candidate for Goddess), it was just a name, amongst a list of several anime coming out in the recent anime season. Some of the titles had capsule descriptions, others just a date and airtime. I don't really remember whether this series had a description or not, I only know that I made a note to try to see it in the future.

Time passed, and I forgot about it. Then Tom and Dan asked me if there were any anime I wanted to see (they each trade heavily in fansubs). The title The Candidate for Goddess sprang from my lips. But the image in my head was a cross between Card Captor Sakura and Ah, My Goddess.

You have to understand that I have a five-year old daughter, and much of my anime diet at home is of that genre lovingly nicknamed 'magical girl'. So the title took on a rather literal interpretation for me, and I had fuzzy notions of a young girl being given magical powers which made her a goddess.

Nothing, as it turns out, could be further from the truth...

Welcome to GOA, the Goddess Operator Academy. In the next three years, you and your four classmates will train in simulators (Cuarvals) and limited Automated Humanoid Weapons (AHW) known as PRO-INGs, to master the skills you will need if you are to become Pilots. Each cluster of students numbers five, which is the number of Ingrids fielded against the enemy. Each Ingrid is a full-capability battle robot, or AHW, piloted by one of the graduates of GOA.

Each Candidate Pilot is paired with a Candidate Repairer. Your success or failure depends on the success or failure of your Repairer, and vice versa. This pairing has been made for you. It is not negotiable. Life is not fair. This is war. Deal...

GOA orbits Zion, the last human-occupied planet (no Matrix jokes, please). It is the backdrop of this coming-of-age drama, and yet it remains an anonymous symbol throughout the series. We never see it's people, though it's possible we see the surface itself in some visionary dreams. This is the golden paradise for which the young men and women of GOA strive. So it is fit that they can only see it as a jewel suspended against the backdrop of stars.

Each Candidate is admitted because at a minimum they have the rare bloodtype EO, which sometimes indicates latent paranormal powers known as EX. Because of the demanding conditions of piloting the Goddesses against the enemy hordes, and the spiritual link which seems to exist between Pilot and Goddess, EX is a requirement. [As an aside, I find this EO-blood-factor especially amusing due to the Japanese propensity for treating blood type in the same league as eye color and zodiac sign (see Megumi Hayashibara's entry on Hitoshi Doi's Seiyuu pages for an example)]

Candidates are drawn from the slowly dwindling numbers of Colonies, space habitats preserving the terrain and lifeforms of old Earth. From one of these colonies comes Zero Enna, determined to become a Pilot at all costs. At a young age, his colony was nearly destroyed by the enemy, and anyone not in the shelters when the dome was shattered was sucked into space. Zero was one of these unfortunates, but he was saved by the White Goddess, Ernn Laties, and lived to see his colony dismantled, beyond repair. It is the sight of the noble Goddesses saving even a few which launches him on his quest to become Pilot.

So now he is at GOA, partnered with his Repairer, Kizna Towryk, a young woman with, inexplicably, cat ears! Given the discomfort she shows when they are mentioned, I at first assumed that they were some sort of genetic mutation. But Kizna also inexplicably wears dungarees with one leg cut off high on her thigh, while the other reaches regulation sneaker-top. So I guess she deserves to be taken about as seriously as anyone who wears one glove, or changes their name to an unpronounceable symbol.

Seeing his colony destroyed, witnessing the deaths of hundreds of people, have done nothing to dampen Zero's enthusiasm, or improve his tact. Within hours of entering GOA he has managed to send Kizna away in tears (quite unintentionally), make an enemy of his classmate Hiead Gnr, and nearly earn himself a demerit at the hands of his instructor, Azuma Hijikata.

Did I say this was a coming-of-age drama? Sorry, not for Zero. He is good-natured, but really shows no signs of maturing in the course of the series. I could fall back on Kizna, but she seemed quite mature from the start.

So humanity is at war, a war of survival, and it's best hope (as has always been the case when war beckons) is the cream of it's youth, a collection of emotionally immature, hyperactive, scheming hormone cases who, left to their own devices, would be hanging out the windows of their podracers shouting suggestively at young women as they buzz down the strip, flinging empty psychotropic beverage bulbs behind them while... Sorry. But it is a bit like Zion Hills: 90210.

Who is the enemy seemingly driving mankind to the edge of extinction? They are a mysterious assortment of CGI space creatures, owing their greatest resemblance to stingrays, jellyfish and squid, but of course spiffed up, armored and equipped with electron beam weapons. Nothing in the series suggests that they actually target human colonies, but if you are in the way, look out! To save the day, GOA quickly dispatches the Goddesses, and much splatting ensues.

For reasons not explained in the series, the alien enemy is called Victim (control panels in the show sometimes display the characters VKDM). For the longest time I thought this was intentional foreshadowing, and that by the end of the series it would be revealed that humankind had located most of its habitats on the migratory paths of Space Salmon, Space Geese, and dare I say, the venerable Space Moose?

So instead of being caught up in a war of extermination, it would turn out that we were a bunch of clueless nobblies building our stick hovels on those nice level patches of ground leading up to the watering hole, and we kept getting trampled by those damned evil pachyderms! Alas, it was not to be. At least not by the end of the series.

But shouldn't the end of the series be the definitive point when all is settled, once and for all? Of course not, you touchingly naive soul! This is anime! And the fact that The Candidate for Goddess was based on a manga which had not yet run it's course leaves this twelve-part series feeling more unfinished than some others I could name. Perhaps once Sugizaki Yukiru has finished her manga, they can get writer Okeya Akira to render another twelve episodes, and director Hongo Mitsuru will take the cast through another series of pimply angst and misplaced enthusiasm.

In the meantime, Victims are not the only strangely named participants in this drama. GOA's populace is divided into three classes, the 'cadets', the Pilots and the Staff. Among the cadets and their partners we have such shimmering monickers as Clay Cliff Fortran, Ikhny Allecto and (amonst the upperclassmen, next in line for Pilot) Force Wartlliam, Sure La Card, Erts Virny Cocteau, Una Kleik -- stop me if you're getting dizzy.

Let's skip the Pilots and go right to their vehicles, the Goddesses. We have the White Goddess, Ernn Laties, then Eeva Leena, Luhma Klein, Tellia Kalisto and Agui Keamiea. Is it just me, or does this begin to explain Kia and Corolla? As you can guess, it doesn't pay to watch this series without a character list. But does it pay at all? After twelve episodes and no strong resolution, do you just want to fling that tape against the wall?

I can only speak for myself. I'm not a big mecha-head. I actually enjoy the 'magical girl' shows I watch with my daughter. But when I discipline myself to sit down and watch a show like this, start to finish, I have to admit that the mecha are just window dressing, a substrate on which the body of the story is built.

This is really why Gundam works, though I've never been sucked into that 'endless waltz'. Another mecha show, Votoms, is heavier on the mecha eye-candy than Candidate, and in the Armor Hunter Mellowlink side-story, the repetitive deathblow kinda lowered the bar. But real stories do happen in mecha shows.

Sitting in this august company, The Candidate for Goddess is a typical ensemble piece, drawing strength from the interaction of the characters, while the focus centers on Zero Enna. So even though few of the characters can be said to grow, I wouldn't mind seeing them butt heads a few more times.

copyright (c) 2001 Donald P. Wakefield

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:24 AM

December 28, 2000

Hair Sucker

Kelly sucks her hair. Whenever it gets long enough to reach her mouth, she twirls it into a neat little loop and starts sucking, chewing. We began by keeping her hair short, but as she's gotten older, she's really taken an interest in growing her hair out. So we compromised by making a deal. Wear a barette to keep the hair out of your face and we'll let it grow, so long as it is neat.

Unfortunately, it got long enough that it whipped around anyway, and here we are again. So tonight Jean and Kelly had a confrontation, and out came the scissors. Just a nip, enough to get it away from her mouth again. But Kelly has clear notions of body space and ownership, and she was furious. Apparently she intends to skip daycare tomorrow, and isn't coming to our "New Year's Party" this weekend. That's where we stay up and bang pots and pans to scare away the bad spirits for another year "qbullet.smiley".

I got called in as judge, and I assured Kelly that her hair was not mangled by the trim. She isn't buying it, but she got cheerful enough when I started playing with her, so I expect she'll adjust.

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:58 PM

Jealous

In a sense anyway.

Jean's sister, Ann, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of Pennsylvania. She just got tenure! Congratulations, Ann!

Here's where I get jealous. Jean had what I believe is the perfect idea for a present for Ann. She just bought her a subscription to the Wine Advocate, which is the bi-monthly wine review magazine written by Robert Parker. On the one had, I wish I was getting it. On the other, I don't drink enough wine, or fancy enough wine, to really justify just buying it.

So instead, I'll just grump and be jealous. "qbullet.smiley"

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:40 PM

Atlantic Monthly Maybe

Recall how I've bought the last two issues of Atlantic Monthly? Remember how I gushed about the article on Robert Parker the wine critic? Well, I just looked at the table of contents for January online, and it is another winner. So I've made up my mind to subscribe.

But. I can't find the stinkin' subscription card I filled out against that day! It's nowhere. And it had a sweet price! And they said on the card that prices go up in January! Gah! I guess the fates don't want me to subscribe after all.

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:28 PM

The turducken stops here
(the complete longwinded rant!)

Hey, gang, who's up for turducken?

Whoah, '70s flashback! Truckin' in turduckens: Brushed suede, rubber soles, leather laces, sold alongside Wallabees and Earth Shoes. As in, "Bogus, dudes, who ralphed on my turduckens? Now what do I wear to the disco?"

No, it's that Atomic Age motto taught to schoolchildren: "Remember, kids, when The Bomb hits, Stop, turducken cover!"

It's a pesticide. A politically correct language taught in California public schools. A member of OPEC. Aerosol cheese!

Seriously, turducken is what every hip Hotpoint is sporting these days. The fondue of the new millennium.

I never heard of it either until my husband mentioned it casually in conversation the other day. He's one of those guys who mentions quarks, Captain Beefheart, gigabytes, bacteriophages, Judge Crater and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle casually in conversation. All in one conversation. According to him, turducken is a new haute dish, originated by Chef Paul Prudhomme, in which a turkey is stuffed with a duck is stuffed with a chicken and cooked for a long, long time. We're talkin' big turkey. Big oven. And people with nothing better to do than sit around for days waiting on supper.

My husband apparently thinks that having fossilized a turkey on Thanksgiving, I would be eager to commit mass poultricide. My response: "Gee, that's interesting. Why would anyone want to do that?" which he interpreted as "Please, I beg you, tell me everything there is to know about this fascinating dish." He inundated me with e-mails and web links about turducken. How to, when to, where to, who to ... leaving unanswered the essential question: "why?"

Who's kidding who? This kind of coupling does not occur in nature: A chicken and a duck, in fond embrace, fling themselves up the butt end of a turkey? The odds against it are astronomical. And no turkey worth its pinfeathers would participate in this sort of behavior without at least getting the money up front. When it comes to culinary pornography, these birds have been around the barnyard a few times.

This is what happens when good people go to William Sonoma. Domino's pizza used to suit them fine. Now they're hauling home baking stones and sundried tomatoes. Special knives, pneumatic drills, gadgets with wheels and straps. Ours is an experimental species: Given the means, motive and an Osterizer, Julia Child morphs into Dr. Frankenstein, committing unspeakable acts of performance art with lesser vertebrates. Turning onions into chrysanthemums, teasing geese into compromising positions. But it's one thing to doll up a hen with mandarin oranges. Start throwing Cointreau and frilly booties around -- well, now you're just showing off.

If you're making turducken because of a deep yearning for juxtaposed poultry, okay. That's between you and your Cuisinart. But let's get down to the brutal truth: Maybe turducken is what happens when the waiter is standing there tapping his pencil, and you just can't commit. Maybe what you really need isn't another extravagant gutbuster. Maybe you need to get real with your loved ones about this fine feathered fantasy you've kept secret all these years. There's probably a therapy group for 'pollo'philes like you. I'd be willing to make a few calls.

Here I thought Western society valued the individual, but I haven't heard one peep about Groucho, Chico or Harpo, the birds who made the ultimate sacrifice. Surely they had dreams, families and opinions on art. Give them a shot at a 3-D sculpture medium, I'd bet they'd go for celebrity garbage mobiles and mosaics in whole grains. Or something tasteful -- like graduates of LaParisienne on toast points.

Do we need such filthy excess? Turducken is something Caligula would serve to Imelda Marcos, with a centerpiece of dessicated pig spleen shaped like a swan, stuffed with alligator eggs and live doves: "Turducken for everybody! Save room for dessert: chocolate-covered slave boys on rose petals. Now, Imelda, no orgy 'til you finish your lark's tongues."

It's this pile-it-on mentality that got us the Edsel and Jerry Springer. There's a reason you never hear of Triple-stuff Oreos, thrice-baked potatoes or Kentucky Fried Chicken with 33 secret herbs and spices. Good taste only goes so far. Then you enter the realm of Furby Babies. Next stop: Rococco Puffs (We all know what comes in that box: Marie Antoinette Barbie. Pull her string, and she decrees, "Let them eat Croissan'wiches." Then her head falls off.) Wondering why sheep have been so edgy lately? They've caught wind of pigturducken and know what's coming next.

So, before we go whole hog for turducken, let's get some answers. Like: If it doesn't turn out, do you call it "turyucken"? If it's undercooked: "turcluckclucken"? Prepared by an incompetent chef: "turschmucken"? Pickled and dried: "gherkinturduckenjerky"? Does Kellogg's sell raspberry Toasturducken? Is the vegetarian version called "tofurcken" or "fauxturken," and do they sell it at Trader Joe's?

Okay, I'm a cretin wid' no taste for high art. A squaresville monogamist hung up on one finger-lickin fowl at a time. All that and immature, too. Feed me something with the word "turd" in it, I snicker 'til chocolate milk comes out my nose. You too? What's the number for Domino's?

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:52 PM

New Scientist Arrives

Finally, after a seemingly interminable wait, New Scientist magazines are arriving at our doorstep. In fact, we received two issues in quick succession. It is a weekly, but the issues were December 9th and December 15th, both arriving shortly after Christmas.

I know it is a British publication, but they have a subscription office in San Francisco. I expected that they ran a few thousand copies off locally on the West Coast. Apparently not, since when we received confirmation of the subscription, it came not from San Francisco, but 'par avion' from Great Britain. I just hope the delivery dates come closer to the publication dates now that the stream has begun.

I haven't had a chance to read either issue yet. Jean says she likes it better than Scientific American. Initially I had feared that that magazine had gone permanently downhill, but the last two issues have been quite good, so if Jean thinks New Scientist is even better, I look forward to reading it. I just have such a huge backlog of reading matter right now that I can't do justice to any of it.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:01 PM

Terror At Pet Town

Jean's sister Ann bought Kelly a plastic triceratops for Christmas. Not just any triceratops either. This one has twenty-seven articulation points, for endless posing fun!

Anyway, Jean tells me that she and Kelly were playing Pet Town with all of Kelly's animal toys last night (I was off at work doing self-study). Jean grabbed the new triceratops and began playing with it, when Kelly screamed "don't bring that triceratops into Pet Town! It'll eat the other animals!" Never mind that triceratops was a vegetarian. The drama of the moment overtook her.

Posted by dpwakefield at 03:25 PM

Billy Barty Dead

Is he Number Three? Actually number two, I guess, since he died the same day as Victor Borge. Jean and I were talking on today's walk, and we decided to hold out for a more significant personage. I'd already made my prediction for a political figure.

Jean speculated that maybe we are talking about a major figure, a major figure and two minor figures, sorta like:

Jason Robards died today. Jimmy Smits

"qbullet.smiley" http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/eo/20001226/en/a_mini-obit_actor_billy_barty_1.html

Posted by dpwakefield at 03:17 PM

December 27, 2000

Celebrity Trios

I posted the search for "The Rule of Threes" because I was looking to see if there was any reference to the game Jean and I play. We note whenever a well-regarded celebrity dies, and watch the news to see which two other celebrities follow them into the great beyond. Since people are dying all the time, you can stretch this to fit in any situation. But the variation is to try to name broad categories of expertise, i.e. an actor, a politician, a writer.

This month's trio starts with a musician/comedian and an actor:

Your turn, what category will contribute number three?

[and since my wife was wondering, yes, Red Skelton is dead, died September 17, 1997]

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:20 AM

The Rule of Threes

Presented for your enjoyment, just so you can cherish the fact that there isn't just one rendition, the Google search for The Rule Of Threes.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:11 AM

Napster's Fate

Just a really short note. While talking with Jean's father about Napster, I realized that I was truly anxious to hear the outcome of the deal between Napster and German media conglomerate Bertelsmann. I want to have the option of a subscription service that would allow me to legitimately download songs for a fee.

Things I would pay for:

Things I wouldn't pay for:

There you are, Mister Recording Industry Middleman, make my day! http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-4276794.html?tag=st.ne.1002.tgif.ni

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:42 AM

Dropped Article

I seem to be missing a News Item. I may have accidentally deleted it when doing some site maintenance, but I don't feel like typing it in again. So I'll just rehash some of it.

Jean's father seemed to be quite pleased about the CD of Jerry Lewis novelty tunes, and wanted to know how we had found it. I told him about Google, and Napster, and about doggedly searching for two nights before finding a collector who I sent email to. And I told him how the collector had selflessly sent me a copy of the song in MP3.

So then he set me to work searching for a novelty tune from World War II, and I haven't found it yet, but I'll keep trying. I finally did discover that it is available as one song on an three CD anthology set that is in print, so I sent him a link to that.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:26 AM

Duckpin Bowling

I was driving in to work this morning and listening to \"the comments of Frank Deford\" on NPR's Morning Edition. I don't like sports, but Deford has a whole trove of amusing anecdotes that don't always have to do with sports, and when they do, don't always have to do with football. This morning he was reminiscing about Duckpin Bowling as a child in his hometown of Baltimore.

This started a cascade of memories. My mother used to take me to the bowling alley where she bowled in a women's league. Sometimes after her game she'd play duckpins with me. When I mention it to most people, they seem never to have heard of this flavor of bowling.

Since Deford mentions that he grew up playing it in Baltimore, and I most likely played it in Maryland as well, growing up in Washington, D.C. as I did, I wondered if it was more of a regional thing. According to this site, "Duckpins is mostly bowled on the east coast, but due to a lack of media coverage, it's less seen than tenpins."

So there you go. Once more the Internet comes to my rescue to let me know I'm not insane "qbullet.smiley".

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:06 AM | Comments (2)

December 26, 2000

Vib-Ribbon

Yet another example of a cool game which doesn't involve fighting is Vib-Ribbon, which involves guiding Vibri the Rabbit over a jagged landscape to the accompaniment of music which reflects the terrain. It is really cute, featuring simple graphics and catchy tunes. In addition, once the game is loaded into a Playstation, you can put your own music CD into the game console, and Vibri's world will reflect the beat of that music.

This is actually quite a clever innovation, since the biggest shortcoming of the other dance games (so I've heard) is that after a while, the music on the games gets kind of stale, no matter how catchy and clever it was when you first started playing the game. Each game comes with a lot of music, but you can only fit a finite amount of music on a game CD-ROM. So Vib-Ribbon bypasses that shortcoming by enlisting your own music collection. Reviews say that this leads to a lot of replayability.

Unfortunately, it is currently only available in Japan, and soon in Europe. Sony hasn't indicated that it has any plans to bring it to America. Please, Sony!

Brought to you by the same designer who created PaRappa the Rapper "qbullet.smiley". http://www.scee.com/vibribbon/

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:23 AM

Is Santa Real?

Kelly has never asked me this question. I think this stems from our special relationship, whereby I spin humungous whoppers of fibs all the time, but always tell her the truth about important things, or when she asks "for real?" Since I think she wants Santa to exist, she doesn't ask me. Still, it is clear that she thinks about this sort of thing, and at five years old, is aware that super-powered beings are not all that common.

Jean was talking about this on Christmas Eve, after Kelly was asleep, and said that Kelly had asked her if Santa was for real. Jean hesitated, and Kelly said, "he's real the way cartoon characters are real." Which is really a fascinating characterization. Which is why we were so amused at her reaction to the traditional cookies-and-milk escapade. At that point, I think she was role-playing, more than believing in Santa whole-heartedly, but it was still amusing.

I think next year, Santa will be just a fun part of the Christmas trimmings, and clearly no longer a real possibility.

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:04 AM

The Christmas Drill

Christmas Eve, Jean and I sat up in our bedroom and talked until we were sure Kelly was asleep. Then we went into the living room and placed all the presents under the tree. Kelly had placed a plate with three homemade cookies and a cup of milk onto an endtable for Santa, so Jean ate one cookie, and dumped the Wuv Luv cookie Kelly had made into the freezer for posterity.

Christmas Day began with the ceremonial early reveille, courtesy of Kelly. It wasn't dawn when Kelly roused us, but it felt like it. She had found the big stuffed dog under the tree, and was shouting, "Santa was here! He's real, he ate my cookies, and there's a big dog under the tree!"

So we had the present opening which lasted well into the late morning hours. I've already sampled Kelly's presents, and who cares about the adults' presents "qbullet.smiley"?

After Kelly had had a while to play with all her presents, we went down to Mentor to feed the ducks. Jean picked up this tradition from one of her co-workers, who is British. She says if you feed the ducks on Christmas Day, it will bring a miracle in the coming year. We fed the ducks last year (at the Tualatin Commons), and Jean got her migraines under control for the first time in decades, so superstitious or no, she decided what the hey?

We ate more rich food than any reasonable person would on a normal day, and sat around feeling sluggish. I called my Dad and wished him a Merry Christmas, but was yawning the whole time. So I grabbed Jean and we went for a walk. After the evening meal, Jean's parents left to go to their hotel room at the airport, so they could leave in the morning with less rush.

When Jean's parents were leaving, they lingered in the doorway jabbering for the longest time. Cold air was pouring down the stairs into the downstairs family room, I was trying to get Jean to step outside so I could close the door! While the door was open, a big fat fly flew into the house.

Kelly came upstairs to watch cartoons, but saw the fly and freaked out. Recall that she was stung three times by yellowjackets this summer, so anything flying in the house is a cause for fear. She hid in our bedroom, and Jean and I had a hilarious time trying to nail the little sucker. It was fast! Eventually we gave up and went into the bedroom to hang with Kelly. I went back out, and after two tries, I killed the little intruder. Guess my Christmas Karma is gonna have to take a hit.

The final activity, after getting Kelly bathed, was to give Kelly two presents we had held back, to ease the let-down of Christmas ending, and to give Jean three presents that I had held back, since she thought certain kinds of gifts would weird out her parents.

Kelly's presents were a word-magnet set with words and pictures about pets. She and I spent some time before her bedtime making nonsense sentences about animals.

Jean's presents from me were two Jerry Lewis movies, Artists and Models and Hollywood or Bust, and a book, A Low-Cost Approach to Pcr: Appropriate Transfer of Biomolecular Techniques. Don't ask me why Jerry Lewis movies would freak her parents, especially since her dad seemed to really like the CD with the two Jerry Lewis novelty tunes I had made for him. The PCR book might certainly freak them, since in addition to discussing a fundamental technique for DNA replication and testing, it can involve forensics and other icky topics.

What is PCR? It is the Polymerase Chain Reaction, a laboratory technique related to sequencing DNA, which is used in a number of scientific fields, but germane to Jean's interests, is used in forensics. Since Jean has been reading alot about forensic anthropology, and is studying now in related classes such as anthropology and chemistry, I thought she might enjoy this peek into the technical side of the field.

The book is especially appropriate since it is targetted toward municipalities (and third-world countries) where resources are limited, so that home-grown labs need to be thrown together out of common items. An example is their suggestion of using an old phonograph for a centrifuge. Therefore, if Jean ever gets the urge to actually try some of this stuff, she doesn't have to drop a thousand dollars on lab equipment first.

Anyway, the book was a big gamble, since I didn't know how deep her interest in the technical side would go. I didn't want to ask explicitly, since I wanted to surprise her, so I took the chance. She acknowledged that she didn't know if she'd ever do the experiments, but that she thought the book was really cool, and a very good gift. Frankly, I think I'll be browsing it myself in the next few months.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:31 AM

Christmas Is Over

Yesterday was the big day. Kelly got deluged with presents again this year. Having well-to-do grandparents yields at least half of those toys she gets, then Jean generally gets carried away as well. Some highlights of Kelly's Christmas cavalcade:

There were many more toys after those, but I can't possibly remember them all.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:31 AM

December 24, 2000

Bring Us Some Figgy Pudding!

"Nothing says it's the Yuletide like caroling terrorists." What he said, yeah. <snicker>

Holiday Cheer from An Entirely Other Day, the coo' website by Greg Knauss. http://www.eod.com/archive/date.html?DATE=20001221

Posted by dpwakefield at 05:20 PM

Momentary Lull

I have a momentary respite to put together these posts because Jean, her parents and Kelly have gone to afternoon Christmas services with communion at some local Lutheran church. I make no pretense about religion, so I didn't attend.

I'm sure this makes Jean's parents uncomfortable, but I don't want to pretend in front of Kelly. I've tried to be honest with her, and tell her that she and her mom should feel free to do the god thing. I don't know what effect this will have on her as she grows up, but I think it's better than lying to her or putting up a big front about being a religious pillar.

When everybody gets back, it will be time to eat leftovers(tm) from today's lunch. We had baked chicken, cranberry sauce, dressing, the usual junk food. We bought it all prepared at the local grocery store. Quite nice not to have everybody running around the kitchen like crazy folk.

Posted by dpwakefield at 05:02 PM

Package Tours

I've lived in Oregon for going on twelve years now, and I had never gone to the 'End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center' even once. Deep in my bones, I knew it would be disappointing. Actually, since I already had limited expectations for it, I suppose it would not have been disappointing at all. But I knew instinctively that it would be as thrilling as the wait in line for Pirates of the Carribean.

I'm not a big fan of travel for travel's sake. When I took the GMAT prior to entering graduate school, the paperwork required two photo IDs. Well, I only had my driver's license, so for chuckles, I got a passport. Five years have elapsed on that passport, and no stamps. I've taken to joking that I'm going to fly to Tokyo, walk around the city for 24 hours and then fly home, just so I can get my passport stamped before it expires.

But overall, I don't have the urge. Yesterday's field trip helps to crystallize some of the motivation for that. I'm not a history buff, so visiting historical sites just for the sake of touching the soil doesn't float my boat. Historicity (the imbuing of a thing or place with weight due to historical associations) makes me yawn.

I was trying to get this across to Jean's dad in a conversation last night, and he obliviously regaled me with the charm of several locations in Europe due to their historical significance! Outwardly, I'm nodding politely. Inwardly, I'm screaming "I'm bored, I'm bored, I'm bored!"

So the most likely venue for me to travel in, the package tour, is anathema to me, exactly because of it's concentration on the historical significance of various landmarks. When we went to Philadelphia, I gave all the standard landmarks a miss. Instead, I went to see the Mutter Museum, not because of it's historical significance, but because the topical matter itself was interesting. Flailing about in Europe on my own, I would be unable to find such gems. In a package tour, I'd be protected from myself, but bored out of my skull.

So now Jean has decided that she'd really like to go to Italy. I would too, but I'm very uneasy about the notion of a tour package. What I want is to do two simple things:

Anything else is just a side-trip to me. The one glimmer of hope here is that Jean's sister, a professor, has spent several years in Italy, and is fluent in Italian. We hope to convince her to come along as our guide (at our expense) so we can bypass all the standard tourist traps.

This is a two-edged sword though. Ann (Jean's sister), is apparently a strong advocate of dressing you so you are not mistaken for Germans (hated in Italy to this day, I am told). What that entails is at least not wearing sneakers. Since I wear them for my back, pronation control and arch support, this may present a problem. All this is academic as yet, since we don't have the money saved for a proper trip. Jean's parents say a tour can cost around $2900 per person, so with Kelly, that's approaching $10,000. Hubba, hubba!

Who said travelling should be easy? I think I'll crawl back in my cave now "qbullet.smiley".

Posted by dpwakefield at 04:50 PM

End of the Oregon Trail

Yesterday, Jean, Kelly, Jean's parents and I all piled into the rental car and made the pilgrimage to The End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. This is three buildings made to look like three gigantic covered wagons. Inside the 'greeting' building is a gift shop, and some limited displays. The other two buildings are the location of a tour.

We took the 'tour', which consisted of a simple lecture and a bunch of canned slides, film, voice-overs and music. The whole shebang lasted about an hour, and cost $5.50 per adult. Jean and I talked about it on our walk later that day, and we both agree. If you want to learn about the Oregon Trail, buy a book. http://endoftheoregontrail.org/

Posted by dpwakefield at 04:30 PM

December 22, 2000

The Moyers Are Here

Pity the timing. Yesterday I began to display some of the symptoms of the stomach flu which Jean had recently. Thankfully, my symptoms seem milder, but it is a drag being sick and having outsiders in your home at the same time.

Kelly in any case is having a grand time. She knows she can push the limits with grandparents, and she does. Jean and I spend a lot of time roping her in and calming her down.

Right now I'm just unwinding enough to go to bed. The long weekend stretches ahead of me. On the bright side, I got my code checked in before code freeze "qbullet.smiley".

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:49 PM

Jerry Redux

After I had cut the CD for Jean containing "I'm a Little Busybody", I told her how to send a copy to her brother, with an idea of protecting the file by replicating it in geographically distinct regions. It now lives on three hard drives in our home, on a couple of CD-R's, and presumably on a hard drive in Tennessee.

So last night Jean is checking her email when what should appear, but a reply from her brother, containing an attachment. The attachment is the flip-side to the original 78rpm recording of "I'm a Little Busybody". That's right, we now have "Sunday Driving" in MP3 format as well.

So I replicated it to the same hard disks, and then I fired up the CD-R drive and made my own high-tech 78, cotaining both songs. Actually I made two, one for Jean, and one for her Dad. Christmas morning will discover whether he is dazzled or merely amused by this gift.

As to where Jean's brother Tom got the "Sunday Driving" MP3, the story is not finished yet. I'll report that here when I find out. Ain't the Internet grand?

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:46 AM

Easier to Give

"It is better to give than to receive" is the old saw pronounced around Christmas. But when you've got friends, aquaintances, relatives, ex-relatives, and on and on, where do you draw the line? I got presents this year from two of my "NOVA" friends, and I didn't get them anything. We've never exchanged gifts before. How was I to know?

The gifts were given in the best holiday spirit. John gave me a fun gift, probably didn't cost too much. It was a South Park television DVD. Tom spent a little more, probably, and got me Tai Chi II on DVD. Both of them shrugged it off when I protested that I hadn't gotten them anything, and clearly meant it. They just enjoyed giving something nice to a friend.

I enjoyed getting the gifts too. I'll be watching them sometime over the holiday season, and thinking of the generous dudes what gave them. But I'll also be making a silent note that I ought to get them something next year, because I feel bad I didn't have that telepathic moment that I should be getting them something. That's why I think the phrase should read: "It is easier to give than to receive."

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:04 AM

Selective Holiday Coverage

I've noted holidays in this web log which are celebrated in our family, or at least ones we are aware of. For instance, while we are aware of Labor Day due to it's being a 'national' holiday, I don't think you could say we celebrate it. But Halloween and Thanksgivings Day have been covered here, and I think I'll have a few things to say about Christmas.

The reason I mention this is that there will be a number of holidays which I remain silent about. Hannukah is one of them. The reason in this case is that I was not brought up Jewish, and it really doesn't impinge on my life. There is no insult intended. So if you don't see your favorite holiday mentioned here, please assume it is due to my lack of experience of said holiday, not some exclusionary agenda.

I think I'll find the time to post over the Christmas weekend, regardless of the in-laws visit, but if I don't, Merry Christmas to anybody who cares!

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:20 AM

December 21, 2000

Justice Is Blind

I was pointed to this news article by an entry on Metafilter. Apparently, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor expressed dismay on election night when she heard Gore had been declared the winner in the state of Florida. It seems she wanted to retire, but not if a Democrat could appoint her successor.

When I told my wife about it, she told me a 'joke' she'd heard today:

Of course one vote counts, if you're on the Supreme Court!
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20001217/ts/election_oconnor_dc_1.html

Posted by dpwakefield at 04:32 PM

Best Buffy Line

Anya the former demon and now Xander's girlfriend, is peeved that he is taking Willow's side in an argument.

[Anya (to Xander)]: Is this how you treat me after I love you, feed you, bathe you --

[Willow (I think)]: She bathes you?

[Xander]: Well, in a sexual, Penthousey sort of way, not a sponge-bathey geriatric sort of way...

Posted by dpwakefield at 03:44 PM

Kellyisms, Part Two

Last night, Jean tells it, she was run down, and starting to get hungry. Remember she has had the stomach flu, and her body is just starting to be interested in solid food again. So Jean was focussed on getting that meal ready.

Kelly was in a different state of mind. As Jean walked down the hallway, Kelly called to her from the bathroom. "Mom, can I use the foot massager?" The 'foot massager' is a vibrating foot bath, that must be hauled out, placed on a towel, filled with water, emptied when done, in other words, a lot of work. In point of fact, alot of work that Kelly can't do yet.

So Jean says, "I don't know, Kelly, I just want to eat right now."

To which Kelly replies:

I'll take that as a yes.

Posted by dpwakefield at 03:39 PM

Kellyisms, Part One

Jean and I were just out for a walk around the Mentor nature trail, and we were talking about Kelly. Apparently, last night while I was at work doing my self-study routine, Jean and Kelly had a confrontation which escalated until Kelly began crying. Jean told Kelly that she should go to her room, and Kelly refused. Jean then threatened to "send a toy to Toy Jail."

It seems that Kelly decided to call Mom's bluff. "That's never going to happen!" she said. Jean did not follow through, which I think is a fatal mistake. I told her that Kelly would be minus one toy right now if I had been there. We'll see how that plays out in the near future.

In any case, it got me to remembering some of Kelly's recent growth. An example. Sometimes she doesn't like what I have to say, like "pick up your toys or I'll throw them out." For the longest time she would say things like "if you don't stop that, I'll never talk to you again." But I had the perfect rejoinder. I'd say "promise?"

So now she has refined her routine. Now she says:

If you don't stop that, I'll never talk to you again... But I'll still bug you.

Posted by dpwakefield at 03:25 PM

Presents to Myself

I usually ask for cash for Christmas, since I can guess better what I want than Jean, and the things I want to buy are usually more expensive than the cumulative spending Jean engages in. So I take my Christmas money and combine it with my allowance savings to buy my toys.

I just bought my first Christmas treat. Computer memory is at an all-time low, so I bought 256 MB of memory for the iBook. This'll bring it up to a total of 320 MB, allowing me to experiment with Mac OS X (Client) when it comes out next year.

And of course, sometime in the Spring, I'll be getting the Sony Playstation 2. "qbullet.smiley"

Posted by dpwakefield at 11:05 AM

December 20, 2000

The Pinnacle of Christmas

After much work, the grace of an anonymous benefactor, and the advances of technology, I've topped out my Christmas giving. I succeeded in making a CD 'single' of Jerry Lewis' "I'm a Little Busybody" so that Jean can listen to it on a conventional CD player, rather than having to be near one of our computers to play the MP3. Quoth Jean: "This is the single best Christmas gift you could have given me."

Ain't love strange?

Yes, I know any preteen with a PC could have done it in five minutes, but give me a break, I've never had the urge to cut a CD before!

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:39 AM

Nader Responds

Here is a nice measured response by Ralph Nader to all the hysterical character assassination that's been going on in the press during the election fracas. I don't have any illusions that Nader is a saint, or even particularly free of self-interest. But he continues to demonstrate both by his rhetoric and his actions that he is far superior to either of the old-party candidates we were expected to 'obviously' vote for.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:13 AM

December 19, 2000

Unbreakable

Jean and I went to see this movie today. I took a long lunch and will work late to cover the gap. This is the sort of movie about which a lot of reviews get written: big-name actors, writer/director with a reputation, genuinely good story. So I won't write a full-fledged review of it. What follows are my brief comments, and they are spoilers.

All told, anybody who has read a lot of comics, but has an introspective mind, will appreciate this moody postmodern take on the superhero.

Posted by dpwakefield at 04:14 PM

December 17, 2000

Not-so-crowed Movie Weekend

In the end, the "NOVA" crowd bagged on D&D, because it was gettting universally panned. Then CTHD isn't even showing until January, at Cinema 21 Friday, January 12 - Thursday, January 18. I don't know when I'll see that, since it isn't showing on a "NOVA" weekend, but I am going to see it. Maybe I'll use one of my 'self-study' nights (also known to Jean and I as faux-class night).

So in the end, I saw just one movie last week, Vertical Limit. Sunday is a new week in my book. But I saw The Emperor's New Groove today, and I might see Unbreakable with Jean this week since Kelly is in daycare all day a couple of days this week. That'd be very nice.

Posted by dpwakefield at 05:04 PM

The Emperor's New Groove

What a movie! This is easily as good as Hercules, Disney's other recent film with truly original energy. Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed Mulan immensely, but I think Hercules was the start of their branch of animation to explore irreverent humor and just plain wacky fun along with their more traditional fare of fairy tale romance, adventure and music.

So I went to see this today with Jean, Kelly, Kelly's friend Ashley (and her grandma, Carol Holman, who also works at Mentor). I have to say that I laughed pretty much nonstop, and Jean seems to agree that it was the funniest, cleverest Disney movie she's seen in a long time. I sure hope that they let the creative team responsible do another one.

Many good choices for actors. John Goodman plays a major role, as do David Spade (the Emperor/Llama), Eartha Kitt (the Villain) and a guest appearance by Tom Jones, doing the main theme music. I was very amused by the role of Kronk, played by Patrick Warburton. Jean told me he played Elaine's boyfriend on Seinfeld, which clicked immediately for me. Tom mentioned that he does the voice of Space Ghost on Space Ghost Coast to Coast on Comedy Central. I didn't recognize him from that...

Kelly's favorite line: "Oh, I've been so bad. Bad llama!". "qbullet.smiley" http://www.disney.go.com/disneypictures/emperorsnewgroove/

Posted by dpwakefield at 04:38 PM

Keeping Us Honest

I forgot to relate an incident with Kelly that happened last week. Moreover, I don't remember if I recorded here a still earlier incident, when Kelly and I were walking, so I'll relate them in order:

A couple of months ago I was walking around the block with Kelly, and I decided to see how familiar with her neighborhood she was. I told her, with about one side of the block left, that I wanted her to try to get home by herself. "Don't worry, I'll be right beside you, and if you need help deciding, I'll give it to you." So we walked onwards, with her making hesitant decisions to go forward at every court and circle.

Finally we are nearing home, when Kelly spots 'the neighbor lady' from next door, whom Jean does not get along with. Kelly calls out "are you are neighbor lady?" The neighbor replies "yes I am, Kelly." Whereupon Kelly pipes up and volunteers in a very cheerful voice, "my Mommy hates you!" I got to sit through the ensuing conversation, acting polite and cheerful, and when we got home I told Jean about it. Her reaction was not sympathetic. She simply said, "well, I do hate her!"

Flash forward to last weekend. Jean and Kelly and I are driving home from the grocery store. Some fool swerves in front of us oblivious to any danger he is causing. Jean says under her breath "asshole." Now, Kelly, bless her heart, has the sharp hearing of a five-year old, not yet damaged by years of rock music. Sitting in her car seat in the back of the car, she immediately begins to yell, in her best sing-song voice:

"Asshole-smasshole! Asshole-smasshole! Asseysmassy-basshole!"

Jean leans forward covering her face, laughing and saying "what have I done?" I laugh heartily, and think justice is done.

Epilogue: This Saturday, on our way back from the grocery store, Jean and I are talking about Vertical Limit, Wages of Fear and emotionless characters, when she mentions the female lead in WoF, about whom she mouthes the word bitch to me, apparently remembering our little recorder in the back seat. I turned to her and mouthed/singsonged asshole-smasshole, and she immediately cracked up. I laughed so hard that Kelly decided we were having a laughing contest, and she and I laughed most of the way home. Boy, are my ribs sore! "qbullet.smiley"

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:02 AM

December 16, 2000

Wages of Fear

Jean and I were talking once again about Vertical Limit and it's shortcomings, when I remembered another film about characters transporting unstable nitroglycerin across wild terrain. The movie was made in 1953 by French directory Henri-Georges Clouzot, starring Yves Montand and Charles Vanel. It's American title was Wages of Fear. I won't review it here, especially since it's been years since we saw it in an art theater. Just read the review linked to above.

Our main reaction upon this recollection though, was that here was another movie which attempted to portray a nail-bitingly tense ride, and though Clouzot takes the entire first hour of the movie to develop characters and build background, it succeeds many more times over than Vertical Limit. In boiling away all the essence of humanity, limiting characters to convenient cutouts, Vertical Limit removes any reason to care what happens to the characters. Wages of Fear contains characters who are rarely if ever sympathetic, yet you are drawn into their plight and believe their desperation implicitly.

I also saw the 1977 remake of Wages of Fear, Sorcerer, directed by William Friedkin and starring, among others, Roy Scheider. As an American film, made 24 years later, it is much more focused on the action than the original, with a lot of that pesky 'character development' trimmed to allow more scenes with sweaty, fearful men pushing tottering trucks out of ruts while cases of nitroglycerin tinkle ominously.

But even though it is a lesser film to it's inspiration, Sorcerer makes Vertical Limit seem flat. http://movie-reviews.colossus.net/movies/w/wages_fear.html

Posted by dpwakefield at 02:51 PM

December 15, 2000

Atlantic Monthly

I'm still in the midst of my experiment with the magazine The Atlantic Monthly. I bought my second issue at the grocery store last week and I've just started to work my way through it.

One thing I like about the magazine is that they don't take their feature article and slice it up into a half-dozen segments scattered throughout the pages. I've never liked that about magazines, where they cluster the first two or three pages of an article near the front of the magazine then banish the bulk to the back with all the other orphaned end-stories. I guess I like each story in the magazine to be contiguous like a chapter in a book.

I'm currently in the middle of an article by William Langewiesche, about the wine critic, Robert Parker, Jr (The Million Dollar Nose). I'll write more about that in a later essay or news item, but suffice it to say that it is fascinating. I'm beginning to think that maybe a subscription is not out of the question. And the two-year subscription rate works out to less than 75 cents an issue. Such a deal "qbullet.smiley".

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:11 PM

Ten Days to Christmas

Kelly is keeping the watch for the arrival of Christmas. This will intensify soon, because today was the last day of Kindergarten until after Christmas. She won't be at home that whole time, because Jean works and takes classes. So she'll be going to Kid Connection (daycare) part of the day for Monday through Thursday of next week.

Friday of next week, Jean's parents are arriving. They asked if they could come spend Christmas with us. Me, I prefer just Jean, Kelly and me. A nice quiet intimate Christmas. I don't like crowds, irregularity, schedule blowups. In short, I'm an extreme introvert who values his privacy deeply. But I bit my lip, because they are Jean's parents, and because Kelly loves visiting with them.

So since Kelly's schedule is changing significantly on Monday, she'll be receiving the signal that the season of jolliness is nearing. We'll begin to hear "is it Christmas?" not every few days, but every day. Finally, we'll hear it two or three times a day, until Christmas Eve, when I'll finally be able to say, "tomorrow, Kelly, tomorrow."

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:55 PM

Spiffy Checkout

I forgot to mention that while at Fred Meyer buying my sushi, I was able to use their new checkout stations. These are 'self-scan'. You scan and pack your own food, then pay with cash, debit card or credit card at a 'automated cashier'. There are only four of these, and they are next to the express checkouts.

The four self-scan stations are arranged two to each side of an information booth with a cashier standing by to help (or arrest shoplifters "qbullet.smiley"). On the whole it was quite easy, though I don't think you'd be able to use it for a regular 'full cart' shopping trip. The space allocated seems dedicated to the '10 item or less' crowd.

Posted by dpwakefield at 06:38 PM

Pac Rim White Trash

Oregon sports a largish local chain of combo grocery/household goods stores called Fred Meyer. There is one very near where we live (less than five minutes by car). Think K-Mart (which we also have nearby) and you won't be far off.

So I was feeling in need of a treat today after work, and had just gotten my allowance, making a quick food treat possible. What, I thought to myself, can I get to eat for about $5, for fun? McDonald's and Burger King are sometimes expedient, but they ain't fun. If I was an Arkie, maybe I'd get some deep-fried catfish wrapped in newspaper. But this is Oregon; Portland is sister city to Sapporo in Japan. So I went to Fred Meyer and bought sushi in a plastic tray.

When I told my wife what I had bought, she said, "Ughh! that's disgusting." After a pause, she went on, in the way that makes me love her so dearly. "But I understand why you did it. I don't give you sushi at home, so you get it somewhere else. Just don't start bringing it home at all hours of the morning."

I cracked up and promised to practice 'safe sushi'. "qbullet.smiley"

Posted by dpwakefield at 06:24 PM

Movie Collapse

As I suspected, the "four movie" week is shrinking. We saw Vertical Limit, ugh. Jean isn't feeling well today, so no Unbreakable. And the listings for this week were out in the morning paper, and they are not releasing Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in the Portland market this week! The bastards! So the post-"NOVA" movie will not be a double feature. C'est la vie.

On the bright side, though not strictly this week, Kelly and I will probably set Sunday aside to see The Emperor's New Groove.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:31 AM

December 14, 2000

The Internet and People

What makes the Internet so powerful? Is it the distributed computing power, the robustness of interlinked networks, the speed of information transfer? I think what makes it really worthy is the people. In fact, Robert Metcalfe, designer of the Ethernet protocol for networked computers, formulated Metcalfe's Law: the usefulness, or utility, of a network equals the square of the number of users.

I had an experience of this last night. First some background. Jean is slowly building a collection of the works of Jerry Lewis, as well as books about him. She grew up watching his movies, hearing his songs and is now revisiting those memories. Apparently, her father had an album of Jerry Lewis' comic songs, and this album included a song called "I'm a Little Busybody". As a child she and her brother Tom used to listen to it and loved it. Unfortunately they broke it one day, and she has felt sad about that to this day.

So recently she began hunting for a replacement. She found that it was rereleased on a CD: "The Capitol Collector's Series - Jerry Lewis". So she thought she'd just order it. But it was published in 1990, and was now out of print. I told her I'd try to find it.

I searched Napster, no luck. Since the music in their search engines is dependent on who is logged on, I tried several times, but still no luck. Then I started searching various music sites such as CDNow and Virgin Megastores. Each acknowledged the existence of the CD, each denied it's availability. Then I tried looking for used CD stores on the net. Again no luck.

Finally I tried using Google to search for the specific song. I found a number of references to people's private collections. I sent mail to one gentleman who said he'd be selling his collection, I haven't heard from him yet. I also sent email to another man asking him if he knew where I could get a copy, since he had not indicated he would sell his. Last night I was checking my email, when what should appear but a reply from this gentleman. He was sending me an attachment of the MP3 of "I'm a Little Busybody"!

Due to the vagaries of law, I won't name him. It is stupid, but the copyright holder can get nasty even if they won't rerelease the CD, and even if we'd be willing to buy it in a heartbeat (which we would be). So just let me express here, as I did in an email, that I am very grateful that there are folks on the Internet who work to make others happy. Thanks a bunch for making the Internet the powerful tool it is. The Internet is community, it is people.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:46 AM | Comments (1)

December 13, 2000

Geocaching and Mischief

Geocaching is the game of hiding something at a location of your choosing, then posting the GPS coordinates on the Internet, and inviting others to find it. Typically, the object is a bucket with some trinkets and a logbook. When you find it, you are supposed to write in the logbook, take one of the trinkets, and leave your own.

My initial reaction to all this was pessimistic. I thought, "has anyone else thought of the sinister implications of this?" After a few Google searches, combining the word 'geocache' with words like 'kill', 'harm', 'danger', 'stalk', and so on, I began to think not. Then I read this article on Salon (pointers from Follow Me Here):

The cynic in me thinks that it's just a matter of time before some malicious malcontent uses the system to plant a booby trap, or stuffs a cache with a dead animal or leaves behind a stink bomb. Imagine a serial killer using the geocaching game to toy with unsuspecting hikers.
Janelle Brown

So I guess I'm not so cynical after all.

Posted by dpwakefield at 07:12 PM

Pretender in Chief

I don't know how long this MSNBC editorial will be up, so I'll quote the opening paragraph here:

Let's not mince words: George W. Bush, aided by a narrow conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court willing to invent new legal theory out of whole cloth specifically for these purposes, has stolen the 2000 election. Al Gore indisputably won the popular vote. He almost certainly would have won the tally in the Electoral College had Florida's vote ever been subjected to a full and fair manual count as mandated by Florida law.
Eric Alterman

In the course of the last 36 days, there has been so much spin, false logic and rhetoric on both sides, and so much wrong application of the law (as I understand it, not being a lawyer), that I think it is just pathetic.

Make no mistake, I would have been unhappy with Gore as a President too. I'm not spouting sour grapes here because 'my' candidate lost. My candidate didn't even get 5% of the vote. What I'm mad about is what seems to me a subversion of the democratic system. Add to that that this wouldn't have even been possible without the pig-headed Electoral College system, and I'm truly miffed. http://www.msnbc.com/news/501779.asp

Posted by dpwakefield at 06:27 PM

Furi Kuri Review Completed

Finally the Furi Kuri review is completed. It took so long because so much has been going on lately, and also I was struggling to find a way to express my reactions to this anime without wallowing in spoilers. So, without further ado, "FLCL S LTS F FN" "qbullet.smiley".

Posted by dpwakefield at 05:21 PM | Comments (2)

Vertical Idiots

Jean was feeling well enough to come to the Mentor Movie Day with me, and it was a hoot. We went to see Vertical Limit and man was it bad. They piled cliche upon cliche until they had enough to climb "qbullet.smiley".

Jean seemed to enjoy the notion of seeing a really bad movie together, and as a bonus we got to go for a walk together (in the rain!) afterwards. Much of the conversation on the walk concerned picking apart the flaws and ludicrous moments in this movie.

Sad to say, I don't think this movie is of lastingly bad value, so I doubt I'll bother to write a review of it. Sorry.

Posted by dpwakefield at 01:59 PM

Flu News

Jean doesn't have this year's most nasty flu! She does have a stomach flu, but one that passes in one to four days, not four to six weeks. So that's livable.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:11 AM

December 12, 2000

Winter Is Here

Two sure signs of winter. Snow in Oregon. Flu in wife.

I came home early last night because I couldn't gauge the severity of the road conditions. Stacy got called home to Newberg by his wife, which is when I noticed that it was snowing. Now granted that the snow is always worse in Newberg than Portland Metro, but I didn't want to take the chance, having neither snow tires nor chains. So off I skidaddled.

When I arrived home, I found out that my wife had been trying to call me, to come home early. Seems she started throwing up around 4pm, and got worse from there. So I took care of Kelly last night, and did all the Kelly-get-ready-for-school chores this morning. I made an appointment with Dr. Selby for Jean. She said she was feeling well enough to drive the short distance to his office, so I dropped Kelly off and came to work. I'll cut out for a long lunch so that I can take Kelly from kindergarten to daycare, and then check on Jean.

Whether I come back to work in the afternoon depends on weather and health (Jean's if she needs supervision, mine if I'm only a few hours behind Jean in getting whatever-it-is). I'll post Dr. Selby's verdict when I know it.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:57 AM

December 11, 2000

Populous

"SNES Populous Screenshot"

This image shows the main play screen of Peter Molyneux's first game, Populous. I bought the SNES cartridge for this game at a used gamestore, sans manual, for about $7. Now imagine trying to determine what constitutes gameplay looking at the above image, by pushing random buttons. Good luck!

I spent around an hour poking at it before I admitted that I'd have to find help. Fortunately, a little work with Google turned up this text-only hand-typed manual. Now all I need is the time to read it and correspond as many of the icons on the screen with the text descriptions as possible. Still sketchy, as not all icons are described (from my first quick read), but much improved over guessing.

Why did I buy the thing in the first place? I didn't know it would be so cryptic! I thought there'd be menus with descriptions. Silly me. Designers, GUI's (graphical user interfaces) are not automatically intuitive! They are at best intuitable.

Posted by dpwakefield at 05:42 PM

Movie Glut

I'm sitting here waiting for a long build, and maybe a little inspiration, when it dawns on me that I have the potential to see four movies this week! Movies and the event precipitating them are:

Frankly, I doubt events will all come together in a way to permit seeing all four, but I thought it was funny that the potential was there...

Posted by dpwakefield at 05:20 PM

December 10, 2000

Christmas Shopping Done

I finished my Christmas shopping today, and wrapped everything up. This year I only bought presents for my dad, my wife and my daughter. Apologies to others whom I've bought things for in the past. Of course don't get anything for me. Those of you who know whom I'm talking about, I still love you. And I hope your Christmas season is a happy one, even if you don't celebrate Christmas.

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:00 PM

Lawyer Joke on Angel

Nursing a vascular headache, I nevertheless had the energy to watch Angel on the Replay tonight. On the show, there is a law firm whose clientele includes demons, vampires and other evil entities. They brought back the vampire who originally made Angel a vampire, his sire. His sire is of course, a woman (named Darla), so they can play all sorts of romantic head games on the show. In this episode, she finds out that since they brought her back as a mortal, she is going to die of terminal syphillis in a couple of months. Angel doesn't want to believe the medical reports, thinking it is some sick mind game of the law firm.

[Darla, looking at Angel]: We know something about mind games. We played them, you and I.
[Cordelia, Angel's friend]: Yes, but you were just bloodsucking soulless demons. They're lawyers.
[Angel, looking at Darla]: She's right, compared to them, we were amateurs.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:56 PM

December 09, 2000

It's Coming, Ooooh!

Remember my little intro to "Turducken"? Remember my wife's reaction to the whole concept? If you read that, you also remember that I encouraged her to write an essay on this topic. I think she's drifting closer to the undertow, because she told me last night that she has a mangled version of the dish floating around in her head. She calls it Fauxturken "qbullet.smiley".

I may not be able to publish it here after all though, as I think she is going to try to publish it at her newspaper, and later syndicate it. But I'll work on her, since I think everybody would enjoy it. And you thought Halloween was over, Ooooh!

Posted by dpwakefield at 03:22 PM

Red Lobster, White Trash, and the Blue Lagoon

I just finished reading this book by Joe Queenan, who makes his living reviewing movies, but clearly feels free to roam farther afield. The thrust of the book is an overview of all that is low-culture in America, from, of course, Red Lobster to Michael Bolton, Kenny G, and their ilk. Queenan claims (for comic affect, to be sure), that in his quest to explore all that is cheesy, all that sucks, in American Culture, he became addicted to it, and had to fight his way out of the morass of trash culture which had trapped him.

I feel a certain resonance with that experience, since I started reading this book expecting a lightly humorous look at all that is cheesy (being addicted to several cheesy cultural phenomena myself, such as anime and 'flying people' movies). As I progressed into the book, I came to realize that one or two such essays were funny, but the more I read, the more mean-spirited it seemed. Yet I could not put the book down. In the end I finished it thankful that it was only 188 pages long.

Do yourself a favor and just pass this book by, unless you too have a rather mean-spirited attitude towards the trashier elements of pop-culture.

Posted by dpwakefield at 03:10 PM

December 08, 2000

Nomic

In "Boys, Girls and Rules" I talked about (some) boys' fascination with rules. I can't believe I didn't mention Nomic as an example. If I've mentioned this game in other News Items, I apologize for the repetition, but it is just too perfect an example of rules for the sake of rules to pass over.

From an entry in Memepool, I've got a bunch of related games:

Posted by dpwakefield at 01:00 PM

Blankie

Jean has been complaining that no matter how hot she makes the house, her feet are still cold at night when she sleeps. So I finally broke down and went to Fred Meyer's last night after work and bought her an electric blanket. We used it to preheat the bed last night and she said it was really nice. She was practically giggly. So good purchase.

Before I hit Fred Meyer's, I hit Fry's. I knew exactly what I wanted: a magnet set I had seen on a previous visit. It is like those refrigerator poetry magnets, only the words are related to farm animals, and there are pictures of farm animals on some of the magnets. I plan to give them to Kelly on Christmas night, to soften the let-down of the holiday ending.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:47 AM

December 07, 2000

Lunch Treat

My boss, Ernie, treated our group to lunch at the Chart House today, to celebrate a successful release of two of our product lines. I had the Broiled Salmon, along with Cheesecake. Yum. Gonna have to work out tomorrow!

Posted by dpwakefield at 04:55 PM

December 06, 2000

Family Meeting

We had our little family meeting with Kelly last night. I laid down the rules for behavior at home, and described the toy jail. Kelly was given the opportunity to ask questions, state her feelings and generally participate. She seems to get the concept. Now all that remains is to execute on it. This sort of thing seems to work out over a period of a couple of weeks, so while I'll update reports as they come in, success or failure is a little farther off.

Jean and I were also sure to let Kelly know that we were both quite proud of her improvement in behavior at school. I emphasized that this was probably at least partially a result of the enforced breakfasts and bedtimes. She was very happy with the praise.

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:05 AM

Bust a Game Title

Since yesterday I referred to Bust A Groove as one of the games I wanted on PS2, I thought I'd better mention that there is a nearly-identically-named game, which is nothing like Bust A Groove. It's called Bust A Move and is a puzzle game involving popping bubbles. Doesn't really sound like my cup of tea.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:56 AM

December 05, 2000

Games, Games, Games!

I've pretty much decided that I'll be buying a Playstation 2 (PS2) when they become more readily available (Spring 2001, I'm told). This'll be the first game console I've bought since the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). Already the gap between the SNES and current systems like the Playstation (PS1) are massive. Granted we are talking a six or eight year gap here. When I get a PS2, the gap will be more like ten or twelve years.

I took my SNES to "NOVA" this weekend in hopes of comparing it with Alan's PS2. I showed the classic Streetfighter II, and as luck would have it, someone else brought a Playstation, so we could see the difference. Flat 2-D characters with blocky rendering and jerky movement were what you saw on the SNES. On the Playstation, you saw coarsely rendered human caricatures, but blocky on the polygon level, rather than pixel. And the characters were viewed in the round. You'd be able to see them from any angle, not just viewing the 'stage' where the 2-D fighters meet on SNES.

So I'm fighting Tom on Streetfighter II, and Tom claims to be a casual gameplayer at best. Still, he's beating my hiney every round. He finally lowered the 'agressiveness' setting in the options screen, and I managed to beat him once. Does this really seem like the description of the person who should be buying a PS2? Not if I'm expecting to beat folks in hand-to-hand gameplay. But consider the three games I plan to buy:

As you can see, less emphasis on shooters and fisticuffs, though there is some of that with Oni. The real test won't happen until I actually have the gear in hand, by which time it will be too late. But my experiments with myself on the SNES are at least pointing the way to some success if (when) I get a PS2.

Posted by dpwakefield at 04:40 PM

Anime Music

This week's album is FLCL Addict: Original Soundtrack. Folks in the anime subculture also call it Furi Kuri. This is the soundtrack to the anime I'm supposed to be writing a review of. I'm kinda behind schedule, since I'm at a loss for what to say. I've been pondering this as I consider what I want to write, and I think it devolves to two issues.

First, my review style is somewhat sarcastic, and a little bit absurdist. But Furi Kuri is all that and more. It in effect is stealing my thunder "qbullet.smiley". Second, most of what I want to say about this story hinges on events in the story, and thus, any review I currently feel I can write would be riddled with spoilers. I'm working right now on how to get around these problems (problems with me, not Furi Kuri).

Getting back to the CD: this is a mixed bag. All the songs which I know and love from watching the first three episodes of the OVA five or six times (Dan is reimplementing the subtitles to be more readable, so we get to see each revision) are there. Also all the incidental music that I recognize. The album is pretty much reliable guitar rock. However, it is very repetitive, which is okay as background music to an OVA, and I suppose okay as background to serious coding, but for deep listening it soon falls down.

"FLCL Original Soundtrack"

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:22 AM

Musical Interlude

In my office is an HP Visualize PL-Class PC, running Redhat Linux 6.0 (soon to be upgraded to 7.0?). Attached to the CD audio port is a Benwin BW2000 speaker set. When in need of music, I fire up the Linux CD player and fill my office with sound. Last week's album, repeated numerous times, was Kid A by Radiohead.

I have eclectic musical tastes, ranging from opera, crossing over Rogers and Hammerstein, into typical Rock. But the world of music is huge, and I've been spending most of my allowance on computer geegaws and anime for the last several years. Thus it is that I am able to hear this album without having heard anything by this group before. This despite their being the critical darlings who have 'reinvented' themselves with each album, radically altering their style each time, as per the review of Kid A above.

All I can say is that I enjoyed Kid A, that it reminded me of a fusion of Brian Eno's Ambient Music, Bauhaus/Love And Rockets and the Moody Blues. When one reviewer made a reference to Joy Division:

Radiohead render creeping unease and desolation incandescent. I'm reminded of Joy Division, another band that alchemized gloomy, banal alienation into crepuscular beauty. "Kid A" is one of the loneliest records I've heard in ages. Perhaps because of that, it's also one of most comforting.
Michelle Goldberg

I shouted "Yes!". Interestingly enough, when I searched for links to Joy Division, the one above includes a quote by a reviewer in Melody Maker, stating that Joy Division inspired "U2, Depeche Mode, Nirvana, Radiohead and countless others." So I am not alone in my intuitions.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:09 AM

DSL == Delayed Somewhat Longer

Here's a missive launched by my ISP's sysadmin/owner just yesterday:

From support Sat Dec 2 10:32:04 PST 2000
Subject: DSL Service

I just got the following message from my DSL wholesaler. The words I
have for the short notice are unprintable. I've sent individual mail
to the current DSL subscribers, and I've contacted another wholesaler,
but for now, I've no way to offer DSL service. FYI...

"As you probably know by now, IWBC's network is down due to financial problems. Like many Internet companies, we are dependent on investor funding and are currently experiencing difficulty receiving capital that was previously committed to us.

"Our frame and DSL service is expected to shut down next week. Please take immediate steps to transfer your frame and DSL customers to another provider. All hosting accounts must also be moved.

"We apologize for the inconvenience."

I have yet to write to the sysadmin to ask what I should do with the DSL modem sent to me by the collapsing wholesaler...

Posted by dpwakefield at 12:38 AM

Teacher Conference

We had our conference this morning with Mrs. Wentzell, Kelly's kindergarten teacher. There were no problems to report. Kelly is not the shining star of the class, outpacing all of her classmates, but she is doing well in all the categories that the teacher tracks. In the parlance of my workplace's review forms, she 'meets expectations', but does not 'consistently exceed expectations'.

We got to see samples of her 'writing' from the start of the school year and from now. It is amazing how much she has already progressed. She still gets some characters reversed, and they are spindly, but still recognizable.

Mrs. Wentzell assures me that the trouble I'm taking with Kelly in the morning over her breakfast is making a tremendous difference in her behavior in class. I suspect that the earlier bedtime is helping also.

Now we need to begin fine-tuning Kelly's priviledges at home to suit her behavior. She hasn't been giving me any problems, but Jean says she is getting sassy and won't even go to her room when she's told to. So when I get home tonight, the plan is to feed her, let her blood sugar get to a respectable level, then lay down new ground rules for home behavior.

As I told her when this school misbehavior business started, she is allowed to make a lot of choices for herself so long as she shows that she can behave in a pleasant manner. But when she lost control of herself, she lost the priviledge of choosing her own breakfast and how much to eat. The same will go for home now. She will be told when and how much and what to eat. She will be expected to go to her room when told. If not, then we will begin selecting from her favorite toys and placing them into a 'toy jail'. From there, she can bail them out with good behavior. Failure to behave will result in the toys in 'toy jail' being sent away for good to new homes (Goodwill).

We'll see how that works. Wish me luck!

Posted by dpwakefield at 12:25 AM

December 03, 2000

Two Steps Forward...

Sunday night is here, and I find myself looking back at a weekend of failure. In terms of my dietary good behavior, anyway. On Saturday afternoon, after taking Kelly to see a rather good Santa Claus (and there were no lines), we went to Yeatsy's Mexican Cafe, where I ate all the corn chips and salsa set before me, then had a chicken enchilada with rice and beans. Ate it all I'm afraid. But I didn't order dessert!

Saturday evening was "NOVA", and as is often the case, Tom, Alan, James and I went out to eat. But instead of grabbing a quick byte at Wendy's, James blurted out that he wanted to eat at Busch Soba, located in Uwajimaya Asian Grocery. We went, and I had a bowl of soba and a plate of sushi. Ate it all again. Ughh.

Then we went to a movie after "NOVA", The Sixth Day, a typical after-NOVA movie. I had popcorn, pop and candy. Talk about backsliding.

Today I ate a small and healthy breakfast, but ate a lunch bought at McDonald's when I took Kelly there to play in the playland. Now with dinner looking me in the face, I'm planning to have a small amount of Dover Sole, some veggies and maybe a V8 juice. Wish me luck "qbullet.smiley".

Posted by dpwakefield at 05:42 PM

December 01, 2000

Seamus Heaney

Several years ago I stumbled across the poetry of Seamus Heaney. He is an Irish poet, who has won the Nobel Prize. I currently own Selected Poems 1966-1987 and his translation of Beowulf.

Since Weblogs.com offers the ability to store binary files, I took it upon myself to read one of my favorite poems by Seamus Heaney, Personal Helicon. I don't claim to be a fancy orator, but you should be able to recognize my voice after listening to this MP3. But be warned if you have a slower connection, the file is 668 KB! http://static.userland.com/weblogsCom/gems/terebiweblogscom/Heaney.mp3

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:33 PM

Death Sentence

Yesterday evening at 6:30 pm PDT, a friend came over to our house to watch Kelly. Jean and I took a small carrier containing our visitor, the stray cat, and drove to the Emergency Veterinary Clinic of Tualatin. They inserted a catheter into the cat's leg, then brought him to an examination room where we waited.

In the examination room, the vet inserted a hypodermic into the catheter, and injected a concentrated solution of sedative into the cat. In the space of time it took to depress the plunger fully, the cat departed from this world. Rest in peace.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:57 AM

I Am Mortal

Back pain persists. Probably no walkies today (thank you Barbara Woodhouse for the word walkies, though it isn't in any of the online dictionaries I frequent).

Tomorrow night is "NOVA" night, and I am one of the keepers of the distributed archive. I won't be carrying my crate of videos due to the back. This proves my point, though, about making it distributed in the first place. If one member of the "team" doesn't make it or can't carry his/her portion, the entire archive isn't shut down.

I think instead I'll take the SNES and game carts with me to show the contrast in older versus new consoles and games. Might be worth a laugh or two.

Posted by dpwakefield at 08:28 AM