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September 30, 2004

New Music

Forgot to mention this, over a week ago:

These are mostly purchases for Jean, for a mix CD she wanted for long drives. But I enjoy nearly all of these, probably even more than Jean.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:51 PM

September 27, 2004

Declare

It took me nearly three full library loan intervals, but I finished Declare, by Tim Powers. I've always liked his work, though I haven't followed it compulsively. He and James P. Blaylock both met Philip K. Dick and were each scarred in their own unique way.

Declare is some five hundred pages long, and I just don't read books with the same obsessive passion I used to lo these many years ago. I still read compulsively, but include magazines and tons of Internet reading as well as work material in the mix. Declare is a marvellous mix of history with a fantasy story that fits neatly in the cracks. Powers manages to tell a complex and convincing supernatural tale surrounding the life of double agent Kim Philby without altering any of the historical reality. Really quite neat.

More disappointing is another novel I've had in my 'current reading' stack for some time now, False Memory, by Dean Koontz. I've really enjoyed Koontz over the years, but this book just rubbed me the wrong way, and eventually I had to decide to let it go. Koontz has always had a tendency to build characters who are just so gosh darn likable, and quirky, individual heroes, that you can't help but want to kick them in the teeth. But usually I've been sufficiently enthralled by the myterious evil he throws in, that I can deal with that wholesome, lovable hero shtick.

This time he went over the top, and his criminal mastermind, while posessed of strange powers, is too close to an earthly evil to be tolerable. I like my villains cartoony and implausible, I guess. This guy seemed more serial killer/rapist than spooky poltergeist, and it just made me a little queasy. So bye bye, False Memory.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:54 PM

September 26, 2004

Sandman

It seems that every year I have my physical exam, then I have two or three follow-on visits to other doctors. Not because I'm ill in any noticable way, but because my doctor is thorough. The result is that my physical, which typically happens in June or July, stretches out into these other visits. I've always gotten a clean bill of health, but I end up waiting for closure.

This year, I made a trip to Dr. Rudoff, the cardiologist, to evaluate my blood pressure, and got five gold stars. No really. He said "don't stop whatever you're doing. Your LDL cholesterol is 75, and when you were born you probably had an LDL of 50." No blood pressure medication, high marks all round.

I also made a trip to see Dr. Marilyn Rudin. She is a pulmonary specialist, and I was there because I made the mistake of telling my family doctor that I sometimes started myself out of sleep just after bedtime, as if I'd forgotten to breath. He said "that could be apnea, which can be dangerous, so let's get you checked out."

Dr. Rudin asked that Jean come along, and she asked Jean questions about my sleeping behavior. Nothing I said made her want to do anything to me, but Jean told her about flailing arms, snoring and such stuff. "Classic apnea," exclaimed Dr. Rudin. So I got scheduled for a sleep study. Friday night was my night.

I didn't write this up on Saturday, because I was sort of a zombie. Sleep study is sort of a misnomer. I suppose there are folk who sleep soundly enough that they could doze through this thing, but I am not one of them. The sleep technician, a friendly young guy named Anthony, hooked up several electrodes to my scalp, behind my ears, beside my jaw and my eyes, my chest and my legs. He attached two bands around my chest to measure breathing, and most annoying, stuck a sensor consisting of two insulated wires up my nose!

Around ten, not my normal bedtime, it was lights out. First we went through a calibration drill, opening and closing eyes, flexing leg muscles, thrusting belly in and out, breathing only through the nose, breathing only through the mouth, for a few minutes. Then silence. The room was nice and dark, and most of the time quiet. I could hear doors opening and closing, and interns chatting, so of course I couldn't go to sleep until they shut up.

What's more, every time I turned around there were these wires dragging on me. I forgot to mention that I had a oxygen sensor attached to one finger, and whenever I reached to rub my nose (full of wires) the light on the sensor would shine bright red in my eye. Turning on my side drove the nose sensors deeper into my nose, precipitating a round of snorting and eye-watering.

Eventually I managed to get to sleep, I don't know when. Around 4am I woke with the need to visit the restroom. You have to speak out, and the microphone in the room picks up your request. In comes Anthony, to detach the central switchbox from my droud of wires, so I can walk to the bathroom. Afterwards, I got back into bed, hooked up and struggling to get to sleep again.

However, sometime shortly thereafter a hideous shrieking hiss filled the room. Along with other noises, I was able to figure out that another sleep study subject had arisen and was taking a shower. This went on for so long that only a half hour or so after it stopped, Anthony spoke over the loudspeaker. "Well, you haven't really gone back to sleep, but we got some good measurements. It's six am, time to get up!"

I'd optimistically say I got six hours, probably more like five, of sleep in this 'sleep study'. But of course, they don't need you to sleep for the whole night, only long enough to observe your full sleep cycle (light sleep, dreaming, deep sleep) and breathing. According to Anthony, I have a mild manifestation of apnea, but it wasn't enough that he would have entered the room to try a C-PAP on me. This is basically a breathing mask which forces air past an obstructed throat to ensure proper breathing all night. It's just as well, since I generally don't get back to sleep when someone else wakes me, much less when someone else straps a blower onto my nose with a weird yarmulka to hold it on my face.

I took a shower in the adjacent bathroom, working gingerly to remove the six larger sensor patches, which were heavy adhesive squares on my legs and chest (just where the hair is heaviest). When I left the hospital, I saw only one person as Anthony had gone home. I got to peek into the control room, sort of a mini NASA. Then I drove home, had some breakfast, and stumbled through the day.

Last night I went to bed at ten, got up once during the night, and slept in to 7:45am. I felt really rested.

Now I wait three weeks, then have a follow-up visit with Dr. Rudin. Assuming she doesn't try to burden me with one of those C-PAP machines, or otherwise meddle with my physiology, I will finally be able to pronounce my yearly physical over, in mid-October!

Posted by dpwakefield at 05:42 PM

September 19, 2004

Is It A Cookie?

Last weekend, Kelly and I burned through the better part of five hours (spread over Saturday and Sunday) working on a poster project for her 4th grade homework. This was on top of the work Jean had done with Kelly conceptualizing and gathering materials. So Kelly did a lot of work, even with our help. This week we got the result: 5+!

But what does that mean? Kelly's teacher, Miss Tilney, doesn't seem to believe in grades, and also says she slides the scale as the term progresses. So a 5+ today, will be a 4 next month, and so on. But on to the scale. It's defined in terms of Oreo cookies, and I was very entertained when she explained it during a recent parents' night.

  1. Is it a cookie? Here we are shown a bag full of Oreo crumbs. There's no organization, no structure of any kind, just a bunch of ideas.
  2. Parts are missing. We've got the complete bottom part of the cookies, but no filling, no tops. Some of the work is missing, though there is some sense of structure.
  3. Not Quite There. All the parts are there to make a cookie, but they're kinda loose in the bag. We've got all the parts we need for our project, but they're in a random jumble.
  4. This is a cookie. We have complete Oreos. The requirements of our project have been fulfilled, just.
  5. Double-stuffed! You did something extra, something creative and beyond what was required. I like it!
  6. Hardly ever is there a six. This represents the "knocked my socks off" category, and is symbolized by a fudge-covered Oreo. Any kid who gets a six, also gets a fudge-covered Oreo, for real!

So there you have it. Work hard on a poster, and get taunted with an unattainable fudgey Oreo!

Posted by dpwakefield at 11:00 AM

Sky Captain

Yesterday evening was NOVA. It was also time for the annual election of officers. I ran for Veep, just to give Chris Arneson some competition. I didn't seriously think I'd win, since Chris is younger, personable, and invested with more energy than I. Nevertheless, I got elected, by a narrow margin. This makes the second time I've been an officer. I was Veep for a couple of years when the founder of the club, Jeff Milburn, was Prexy. I don't expect the office will require any real work, but I'll help where I can.

Afterwards we all flocked to Tigard Cinema to see Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. This movie, like Lucas' Star Wars films and Spielberg's Indiana Jones epics, was inspired by the adventure serials of the 40's. It successfully aped the genre, the period and even made a nod to black and white film with it's sepia toned color scheme.

There's a danger in aping the original too closely, though, as this film proves. The beginning imagery is very muddy, and somebody put the interns in charge of vaselining the lens, 'cause it's pretty blurry there for the first half hour or so. The pace is not so much rapid as telegraphic, as the creators try to cram the first five chapters of Saturday Morning Serial Adventure into twenty minutes.

There was some good. The sensawunder was occasionally able to rise above the conventions, and while the dialogue was usually by-the-numbers, there were a couple of laugh-out-loud moments. I'm happy I saw it, but I'm glad I didn't sneak in a Friday lunchtime viewing before the Saturday outing, as sitting through it twice in quick succession would have been tedious.

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:48 AM

Happy Birthday, Leonard

Leonard Cohen has [...] given pleasure and even laughter to the million or so people who buy his records.
He will be 70 on Tuesday, the first of the 1960s singer-songwriters to reach 70. He was born in 1934, shortly before Elvis Presley.


Tim de Lisle

Because, yes, Leonard Cohen is the prophet.

Posted by dpwakefield at 10:33 AM

September 12, 2004

GameGlut

Why is there always a glut of games just when the new television season is starting? Maybe that's why the networks are watching their viewer numbers take a nosedive. All I know is, Tuesday I'll probably get a call from Gamestop telling me my reserve copy of Fable is in. While I'm there, if I'm not very self-controlled, I'll probably see if they're doing the same offer as their website for Shadow Hearts: Covenant (reserve one, get the original Shadow Hearts free). If so, I'm in. Not that I have time to play these things through from start to finish. Me just likee pretty pictures!

Saturday, I joined Tom and the gang over at his place, and among the strange nonsense such as the 1978 live-action Japanese Spiderman episode we watched (complete with Giant Robot named Marveller), there was a demo of Burnout 3: Takedown. It's a racing game, but with a twist. The creators have acknowledged something that every guy secretly knows. We like to crash stuff. So you can actually get points for stylish crashes. There's even a mode where you just drive your car into an interesection with the goal of maximizing damage in multi-car pileup style.

Remembering how much Kelly enjoyed Simpsons Road Rage, I got to thinking that this would be a swell game to kill a few Sunday afternoons with. Now I'll be honest. Even given that there is an emphasis on crashing, I don't think I can play this game well. No, I'd generally run off the road and then watch while the other cars buzz by. I'm really that bad. But I'd get a lift out of watching Kelly wreak havoc, so it's still a candidate. I'm just hoping I can wait for this one to come down in price.

So you see my dilemma. I haven't really even made a complete list here. These are just the ones available in the next 30 days that I want. Where am I gonna get the money? Where am I gonna get the time?

Yeah, I can hear those tiny violins already.

Yay.

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:50 PM

September 08, 2004

iTunes Music Store

New Purchase:

The Michelle Branch song was a Kelly request, and the Ivy song was one Jean heard on a television show and asked for, though for the record, I like it too. Going down the list otherwise...

Trail of Dead is an interesting band, I heard about them on a weblog, so I grabbed a single to wet my appetite. Gato Barbieri and I go way back, in fact all the way to high school, so make that thirty years, gosh! The Coasters are probably my dad's influence, but Kelly likes Yakety Yak, so now we can play it whenever the urge hits.

Leonard Cohen. Leonard. My wife and daughter both think I'm nuts, but Leonard is the prophet. I'll be buying more of his songs, mark my words. I recommend him to anyone, even folk who can't figure out why I like him.

Nat King Cole was Kelly's idea, but I took the initiative to hunt down the song, since I like it too. Devo goes back to my early college days, and it's about time I had some on my computer. Dido just sounded nice.

Echo & the Bunnyment and New Order are both the result of a posting of Blue Monday on Jason Kottke's weblog. His post of that sampled song, and the ensuing discussion in the group comments, spurred me to get off my keyster and buy a best-of album for NO. Echo & the Bunnymen was just a happy bonus. So now I'm wallowing in 80s New Wave. It helps that NO were the spin-off of Joy Division, another personal favorite.

They Might Be Giants are icons, so I grabbed one I could harass Kelly with. I'll be getting more in due time. The Pokemon movie song is for, wait for it, Kelly.

That leaves ... Leave It. I first heard this song on MTV, on April Fools day, the year it came out. Yes were promoting the album, and as a bit of clever silliness, they'd filmed over a dozen videos dubbing this song. In each one, the members of the band appeared, but in each successive video, they altered some bit of the scenery, or changed the order of the band, or shot upside down. Lots of silliness, and MTV played the same song for several hours, or so it seemed. I was at a friend's house playing videogames on his TRS-80 at the time. A dungeon crawl with vector graphics if I recall. So fun memories...

Posted by dpwakefield at 09:12 PM | Comments (1)