September 20, 2010
Jean and I joined her friend Mina downtown yesterday to participate in the Race for the Cure. Due to my foot problems, I planned to walk it, and Mina agreed, but once the crowd thinned out, she took off. So I decided to give it a try, and ran maybe two-thirds of the route before my foot started telling me to walk again. I probably wouldn't have been able to keep up the pace in any case were it not for my weekend bike rides.
I strolled around before the race taking snaps with my P&S, so here are the fuzzy snaps.
August 08, 2010
Miles 'n' Miles
This morning it was cool, cloudy, even a little misty. But the roads were not slick, so I cleaned up my bike, inflated the tires, and went for a nice ride. As it turns out, it was a good thing I did, since I was destined to spend three hours sitting in a confined space.
Our daughter has passed her driver's training course this summer, and is now on track to log fifty hours of driving with her parents before she can apply for a real, live license. She's been driving Jean and I on various errands, such as yesterday taking us to Target and grocery shopping. She would also have taken us to Gamestop, except the game she wanted was not in stock (thank you Internet). However, she found that the game was in stock at the Gamestop store in Corvallis. So guess where I went today? Thanks again, Internet...
Sorry, no pictures. When we left in the morning I was not planning ahead, and we were out of town before I realized I'd left all my cameras at home.
Anyway, despite a couple of hiccups, her driving was pretty smooth. We arrived at Corvallis, picked up a copy of Persona 4, then had lunch at Nirvana Indian restaurant. Afterwards, we drove around the pretty idle university campus, then made our way back home.
After this trip, I'm trying to convince her that she should come with me to Alan and Pia's wedding, but that's still up in the air.
But three hours of driving today! Sheesh!
May 31, 2010
In the banner today, and in this post, are examples of just another hesitant step in learning my new camera. I've been playing around with the metering modes, exposure and focus settings just to get familiar with it. Also, while I don't recall the post where I read it, I have to agree with the author who said that the manual is crap.
Anyway, I decided to snap a few images of the new 'invasive species' squatting in our back garden, varying exposure and f/stop. Jean swears that she did not plant this! Without Googling or digging (heh) into a plant book, she thinks that it most resembles foxglove; the bell flowers in the banner photo bear this interrpretation out better than the 'macro' of the head flower in this post. Any friends willing to confess to horticultural expertise?
Just check out the last couple of pictures on Flickr and confirm or deny the essential nature of this plant. I didn't see any pedal (walking) or drum roots, so am currently ruling out Triffids...
May 09, 2010
This weekend Jean, Renee and I made a field trip to Voodoo Donuts, which is located downtown. Jean hatched the idea a while ago, and put it forward as something she wanted to do over the Mother's Day weekend. It was a small, almost hole-in-the-wall business, and as we entered, we had to pass by a couple of panhandlers asking for spare change. Inside, the atmosphere was loud, as the workers were playing a rather jangle-ey and aggressive punk music.
Jean got an apple fritter, and Renee took the plunge into experiment by buying one of their offbeat donuts, this one called Ole Dirty Bastard, which I assume was named after the rapper associated with the Wu Tang Clan. I succumbed to an impulse and bought a dozen, the 'unboxing' of which you can witness in this photoset.
The banner is a photo I took of Jean on the trip, which surprised me by turning out quite nice. She is a beautiful subject, but I am a crappy photographer, so I cherish the occasional success.
By the way, all photos taken on this trip constitute my first hesitant steps with my new camera, a Panasonic DMC-GF1, which I bought to explore the gap between point & shoot and DSLR. Needless to say, these first photos are mostly clumsy. Unlike the donuts, there will be no unboxing photos, as I was too impatient to actually get the darn thing out and start using it. It took me six or eight months of allowance saving to get it, after all!
April 05, 2010
I'm pinning this post to the top of the weblog for a few days until I have a chance to complete my photo kibutzing. The biggest delay to getting them online is that Jean wanted my most recent photo on Flickr! to be a clue in Renee's Easter Egg Hunt. Since my bundle of trip photos amounts to 221 photos (out of a total of 558 taken), that would have been quite the Easter Egg hunt!
Anyway, the banner photo commemorates our trip, with Jean and Renee posing at the entrance to Granville Island market. You can find the complete photo set labelled Spring Break 2010. I hope to create a number of subsets for the various attractions we visited. Given how long it took to get this set together, don't hold your breath...
P.S.:While not being much of a photographer, I still got a lot of pictures I really enjoyed. The aquarium was a real pleasure, so besides some neat images of Jean and Renee, is possibly my favorite photo of the trip (until I change my mind). You can click through to here for larger versions.
I'm gonna put a placeholder here for notes on our trip to Vancouver. When I get a bit more time I'll try to cull through some of our photos and get them up online.
We went for a whirlwind tour over Spring Break with Renee. We actually had to produce passports, though they don't stamp them for crossings to and from Canada. The border agent told me we could get a stamp in the visitor center. Went in and they said "they always say that!" Bastards!
Anyway, we had a lot of fun, and stopped by Seattle on the way home. Now it's back to work, so pictures will probably be awhile coming.
February 08, 2010
So I went to a Superbowl party this weekend. My friends Alan and Pia were showing off their new digs, which are huge (~3400 square feet) compared to my house, and used the Superbowl as the frame for their party. The food was quite good, the conversation was entertaining, and the television was background noise, for the most part.
Also got an invitation to a wedding! Now I have to figure out if I can fit into the only suit I own, which is twenty years old...
January 15, 2010
Tualatin Hills Recreation Park
Just remembered one other cool thing we did last weekend, and which I hope we can do again. We drove to Jean's workplace, the Portland Clinic, and walked from there to the Tualatin Hills Recreation Park. Even though it's in the middle of Beaverton/Hillsboro, it's a pretty sizable nature park, and you can walk around in it for forty minutes without hitting the other side. It was very fun. Renee was enthusiastic and pining for pre-industrial days...
September 21, 2009
It was a somewhat busy weekend, at least for Jean. Saturday, she helped set up and run an outreach table for the Portland Clinic at the Beaverton Farmer's Market. Sunday she ran in a 5K fundraiser for breast cancer. Add these to the usual weekend routine and it was fun...
Anyway, I drove and helped carry gear for the Farmer's Market adventure, and brought both my cameras along, intending to take a few photos of the setup, since Jean and I usually don't get to the market until it is well underway. As you can see from the photo set, we weren't the first folks there, but we were early enough to catch some people pitching their tents.
As it turned out, I took enough pictures to fill the memory card in my D70 (that 512MB card seemed big five years ago), something that I've never done before. I then spent most of the free hours of the weekend tweaking them and uploading them to Flickr. I know they're not that sharp, and neither are they that insightful. But I had fun taking them, so I figured I'd share anyway.
Sunday we were at Costco, and I picked up two 4GB cards for $25. So now I have eight times the space on top of my old card. Maybe I'll fill 'em up if we get to Europe...
P.S. - The pictures from the two cameras are not nicely interleaved in the order I took them because I accidentally set the clock on my D70 to PM instead of AM!
August 11, 2008
And a Two Crawfish Minimum
I forgot to mention that Renee and I walked downtown to do the Tualatin Crawfish Festival earlier Saturday, only to give up. We picked up her friend Jen, walked all the way to the Tualatin park, only to discover that there was a gate fee! It's admittedly been several years since I last took her to this event, but they didn't charge to get in before. You paid for food, including the ubiquitous and finger-damaging baggies of crawfish, but no door charge. I even went back to their web page later in the afternoon, and couldn't find any mention of an entry fee. Dummies.
Well, we turned around and instead spent 'our' money at Mashita Teriyaki, a little mom-and-pop restaurant that I've never been in before. It was clean, the kids seemed to enjoy the food, and the prices were prominently posted!
August 10, 2008
Yesterday was Tom's regular monthly gathering of the crew. It was different in a few ways. Firstly, Tom was laid up with a torn Achilles' tendon, garnered during a softball game. He says he's feeling a bit better, but spent the first week living in his basement, reluctant to climb the stairs. He seemed to be pretty mobile, but of course, crutches and medical boot put limits on his movement. I wish him a quick recovery.
Another difference was the presence of two new faces and one face I haven't seen for awhile. Alan introduced me to Pia, his girlfriend. I didn't really talk to her too much, as my usual shyness with new people kicked in, but I'll have to grill Alan about how they got together later. Dustin brought his girlfriend, whose name I did not catch. And finally, sitting quietly as if he was always there, was Jeremy. I haven't seen him for yonks! So I finally asked him what occasion brought him to Oregon. Turns out he is staying over for a little while until he can get organized for a move to Korea, where he hopes to get a job teaching English. Good on him. Enjoy the adventure, Jeremy!
James was back from his foreign travels for Intel. He brought back a film book for me, Red Cliff, recording scenes from John Woo's first film in his historical drama set in the Three Kingdoms period of China. Thanks, James!
Dan was back from the Oshkosh air show. He flew there in the plane he built with his dad (pictured here). More precisely, he and his dad each flew their own planes, nearly identical but one twenty years older than the other. I don't understand all the subtleties, but Dan got an award for craftmanship and artistry for his plane at the show. Really cool.
Lisa took charge of the comestibles since Tom was whining and moaning about not feeling up to grilling at the barbecue station She applied her years of experience preparing okonomiyaki, and fed everybody into a torpor.
Otherwise, there was much merriment, and the usual gang was there. This gathering is usually the high point of my month, and this time around was no exception. Keep it up, guys!
June 08, 2008
More Cats for the Internet!
Handyman ... or HandyCapable?
As long as we've owned our current house, the dining area has had this faux candelabra light fixture, with those little fake flame-shaped lightbulbs. The darn thing hung down well below head level, for me and Renee. If I had a nickel for every time I've bumped my head on that thing, I'd certainly be able to afford the bandaids that I had to buy because of it. I've cursed it, but until now, done nothing more about it.
This weekend, Jean determined that we were going to replace it. We went to Home Depot, Jean's idea of the Most Hellish Place On Earth, and bought a fluorescent fixture with a shiny beveled base. I bought a new light-switch, because the existing one was a dimmer, and dimmers on fluorescent fixtures are generally a no-no.
Now normally, I'd put the entire shebang on the shelf and wait until Jean's parents come to visit, since her dad has done a lot of landlordly repair work, and I, well, I have not. I try to avoid all forms of home improvement, as my experience has been uniformly dismal, and frustrating to boot. But I was feeling like I really wanted to get rid of the vampiric chandelier, so I resolved to give it a try.
Jean and Renee both dove in to help, and several breaker switches later, I'd proven I had no idea how to install the new switch-plate such that it would actually transmit current to the light. I put back the dimmer switch, and we moved on to the light fixture.
That turned out to be within our grasp, however sweaty and irritated that grasp was. Soon we were able to turn the new fluorescent fixture on. But not completely off. Turns out that our dimmer has never been installed such that it turns completely off. We just never really noticed, since the incandescent bulbs seemed to be dark.
Not the fluorescent one. It flickered with a ghostly light. Literally! In the middle of the night I got up and walked out into the dining room just for kicks, and it was like watching heat lightning on the distant horizon.
So today I was at Fry's for other reasons, and tried to get a light switch. They didn't have any. The local hardware store in Wilsonville had switches that seemed to have the same mysterious three terminals that had defeated me yesterday, so I moved on. The Tualatin hardware store was closed for Sunday. Finally, at Fred Meyers', I buckled and bought a light switch with three terminals. More breaker switching was had, and what do you know, the new switch worked! And no more ghostly flicker.
I feel the thing is probably installed incorrectly, but it seems to work, so I'm happy. No more bonked heads! At least not on a candelabra. I'm looking at you, oven hood!
On a walk today, Jean and I were discussing the whole affair. I mentioned how over the years I've avoided doing anything about it because home repair is so very, very frustrating for me. But again, over the years, I've gotten bonked on the head by pointy bits of metal pretending to be decorative vine leaves, and that had to accumulate until it eventually overbalanced my aversion to home repair. Jean said I'd reached my Fed-Up Index!
March 16, 2008
Just rather busy...
Anyway, I made time to go to Tom's this weekend, and had much fun as usual. He showed a HD (Blu-ray) screening of Appleseed Ex Machina. I'm not fanatical about the world, but have been following it casually since I first started reading the imported manga in Ohio some twenty-odd years ago, when it was published by Eclipse. So it's nice to know I'll be able to watch/read stories from this universe when I'm confined to a wheelchair.
December 25, 2007
Saturday at Tom's
I finally made it to Tom's for one of the gatherings with the gang. He usually tries to make his home available once a month so all us reprobates can get together and refresh our acquaintances. Two months ago, Lisa hosted at her home in Washington, which is just too far for me to go. Last month, I had a nasty throat infection. So since the last gathering I made was three months ago, I was quite looking forward to this one.
Alan was showing off his new coffee rig, which consisted of a precision filtered coffee 'plunger' to force hot water through fine ground coffee at a rate sufficient to prevent leaching nasty acids and bitter volatiles into his cup, and a burr grinder to get that fine grind necessary to such a setup. It turns out that he consumes around one cup of coffee a day, so this is just another example of young single engineers with disposable income.
He also has a handheld mobile PC which is his new 'cellphone', though I didn't get to see him make a call with it. It seems as if it would be awkward. Great as a portable mini-computer, but a cellphone? Dunno.
He showed off his 80GB Zune, which looked pretty cool, and his new laptop, one of the newer Thinkpads. Life must be good to him.
Tricia's daughter Heather was showing off the family's new camera, a Nikon D40. While that's a sort of entry level DSLR, if you put a 50mm lens on it, it would be a great walking around camera. Pretty neat.
Bo was showing off a bunch of videos on his PSP, including some fun goofy Japanese commercials with American celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Nicholas Cage.
Chris and Valeska gave me a nice Japanese model. I'll try to find a link to a catalog image, as I think that'll give a better idea than any snapshot I take.
A handful of us did gift exchange as well. I gave away a DVD of Bender's Big Score, which probably was more appreciated than last year's gift, but which I think Tricia was only so-so toward. I ended up with some Kinokuniya gift certificates, which I plan on passing on to Renee.
I'd asked Tom recently which of a handful of They Might Be Giants albums available on eMusic he thought were decent, since he's the closest thing to a TMBG expert I know. So at the gathering he gave me a stack of CDs to listen to. I'll be working through them for at least the next month. Thanks, Tom! Oh, and he also gave me a cute little lucky cat souvenir from his recent travels abroad. Thanks again!
The Saturday gathering was just not enough for me, so when Tom mentioned that he wanted to see Sweeney Todd, I suggested that we get together to see it. So he and Alan and I met at Bridgeport Village and watched it. I liked it a lot, though I agreed with Alan that the bloodiness was more than necessary. Alan seemed to feel that the music was too repetitive as well. I enjoy Sondheim, so it was fine for me.
Anyway, just wanted to dash this off while I still remembered it. Merry Christmas, all.
August 26, 2007
Thanks again to Tom, who arranged this most excellent outing. Yesterday, Renee and I met with Tom, his mom, and Adam Goetz (one of them Washington furriners from up North) outside of the Keller Auditorium, to watch Spamalot. And boy was it lots of fun! I'm afraid that the poor woman sitting in front of me in the balcony was made deaf by my bellowing laughter. Anyway, this week's banner photo is of Renee waiting patiently in her seat for the musical to begin.
Afterwards, we drove across the Willamette River to dine at the Widmer Gasthaus. Renee had the chicken pot pie, and I had the chili. Yummers!
This marks Milestone One on the journey to the end of Renee's Summer Vacation. Milestone Two, the final milestone, will be next weekend, when we engage in the endurance competition of the full three-day Kumoricon. I'll try to get a snap or two at that shindig as well.
June 11, 2007
It's been something like two months for me since I last got together with the gang, so it was kinda neat that Tom threw a BBQ. I don't care that it was overcast, as I actually prefer rainy weather, and Tom has a nice canopy over his patio, so he's still able to do the cooking so long as the rain isn't horizontal.
There were burgers and hotdogs and skewers with shrimp, as well as lightly cooked bell peppers, yum! And, as I threatened, I ran over to the Beaverton Farmer's Market early that morning and found lots of fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic and cilantro. Other ingredients, like jalapenos, were not really growing locally yet, so I made do with grocery store imports for those.
Pretty much the whole Oregon crowd, and Bo and Lisa from further North, were there Saturday. I got the usual pop culture and gaming immersion, including hints from Alan on how to pick up the Japan-only demo of Eternal Sonata, an RPG featuring 'Frederic Chopin' and musical themes throughout.
I grabbed it yesterday evening, and played through the sample scenario with Renee. It seems like a lot of fun, and I continue to plan to get it. Renee was adamant that she wanted it, so I told her "start saving your money, and we'll split the cost."
She agreed, but said, "if I'm sharing the cost, I get to play equal time." I agreed, knowing of course that with all my other RPGs she's ended up playing more time than I have, even when I'm still interested in the games. So agreeing to half-and-half is a win for me!
May 27, 2007
Cock of the Walk
I left to take a walk this afternoon, and almost turned back to get my new P&S digicam. "Nah, it's just the neighborhood, don't be a putz," I thought to myself. Well, now I know better. I was turning the corner from Martinazzi to Blake and there on the hill above me were a chicken and a rooster, calmly pecking in loose dirt and grass, either for seeds or bugs. I looked further up the hill, saw a wood fence, and beyond that, a backyard that had what looked like a circular wire mesh enclosure. A chicken pen?
I walked back up Martinazzi and around the corner onto Talawa, then up to the front door of the house behind which I'd seen the birds. Rang the doorbell, waited. No answer. Oh, well. So I looped back around back and continued my walk. The chickens were still there, still pecking away. My guess is that they were able to flutter over the wire enclosure and either walked through a gap in the wood fence or jumped it.
I didn't try to pick them up and put them into the backyard, for two reasons:
- I'm not a farmboy, so I don't have any experience handling roosters, or even chickens. I had no desire to get scratched.
- They may not have lived in the backyard they were nearest.
The thought of that second point amuses me.
April 23, 2007
Just a quick note. Sunday we drove to Canby to look at kittens. Renee has asked for a kitten for her birthday, so we're trying to find one. The family in Canby has four, staying with the original mom and dad cat, so we thought that would be a good environment for healthy, happy kittens. They're still maybe three weeks from weaning off their mom, and pretty small. Renee was disappointed that they were not all immediately mobbing her.
We're tentatively going to visit again in three weeks, after the weaning, and I expect the kittens to be much more involved in the outside world then. But in the meantime, we'll keep looking elsewhere.
Posted by dpwakefield at 08:03 AM
December 10, 2006
Xmas Party 2006
Tom held a Christmas party at his house this weekend. The usual gang was there, and it was a lot of fun.
I'd been talking about how Renee wanted to put together a costume for the next Kumoricon, and Valeska offered an old Singer sewing machine she no longer uses for Renee and I to noodle on. I picked it up at the party, receiving a brief tutorial on loading thread, the bobbin and stitch patterns. I'm really grateful to Valeska and her husband for parting with it.
I think the food choice was Lisa's idea. We had fondue. Three actually. There was a cheese fondue for dipping vegetables and various breads in. Then we had a hot oil fondue for cooking bits of shrimp, pork and tiny sausages. Finally, there was a chocolate fondue with banana slices, marshmallows and apple slices. I sampled a bit of everything, too much, really. It was all quite good. I ate a lot of raw veggies, as they were good. I brought some raw veggies and a bottle of wine to go with the cheese.
Tom's idea of the gift pool worked out great. Great for me, anyway. I'm afraid my gift idea was a dud. My enthusiasm for a book I'd been reading lately, Mind Performance Hacks, was not shared by the gang. John Jackson got it, and though he is normally laconic, I think he was a bit more somber than usual. "I don't know what it is."
The way the gift pile worked was that we all piled our gifts in one area, then we drew lots to determine the order of drawing gifts. If you saw a gift that someone had already unwrapped that you knew you liked, you could 'steal' it from them, and give them your number. Well, I was second or third, and got the DVD box set for season one of Robot Chicken. I'd have been quite satisfied with that, but Alan 'stole' it and gave me his number. When I drew again, I got an art book for Disney's Fantasia. Can't remember who stole that, but I was back in play.
In the end, I got the last package, and it turned out to be a perfect fit: Akiba Biyori, a collection of cosplay photos interspersed with photos of Akihabara, by photographer Yoshimitsu Takano. This is a lovely little paperback book, and a perfect collection of ideas for Renee as she ponders costumes for Kumoricon.
As if that was not enough, I retrieved a book that John had brought for me the previous month at Tom's. I'd forgotten it, even though it was really cool, a gift from him after his trip to Anime Expo 2006. The book, Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne - A Tanemura Arina Illustration Collection. The artist illustrates one of the characters Renee and I have followed in the past, and has a very beautiful style.
After the gift unveiling, we went downstairs and Alan demonstrated his new game, Viva Piñata. He more or less accurately described it as the Xbox 360 version of Animal Crossing. He guessed that Renee would like it, and given the number of hours she's logged on Animal Crossing, I figured he was right. But she assures me that she has no interest. Go figure.
All told, it was a very nice evening, and I'm happy to have such cool friends.
[caught in the time trap... posting this a week late]
October 15, 2006
Last weekend it was a cooking party, this weekend it was time for the once-a-month-or-so gathering at Tom's. Used to be twice a month at NOVA, but the only people whom I care to see no longer go there, so it's down to Tom or Alan to throw a wing-ding.
This time, in addition to the much appreciated conversation and geeking out over videogames and anime, was a trip to a pretty nice strip-mall restaurant in Beaverton that Tom had discovered. I don't recall their name (Tom?) but they have a menu themed on Hawaiian cuisine. Lotsa pork and chicken dishes, some curried dishes. All in all, pretty tasty. I had the coconut milk curried tiger prawns, with sides of steamed Asian veggies, yakisoba and kim chee. Tom ordered another fave of mine, Taro Fries, and shared 'em with us. Reminds me, I owe Tom a couple of bucks there!
Later in the evening, Tom floated the idea of a Christmas party, with a gift exchange wherein the participants just get something nice-but-inexpensive, and there is random gifting amongst the individuals. That would work out great for me, as over the last few years, my gift list kept getting larger, and I got more and more angst driven trying to find something cool for everybody, until I finally just bailed on the whole gift giving thing. That would have relieved the stress, except that most everybody else just kept giving me gifts. This way is gonna be much less grievous, or so I hope.
June 18, 2006
For the first time in a few weeks I got to visit with my friends. Jean got off work early, so I even got to show up before 7pm. Tom hosted at his place, and Bo and Lisa, James, Alan and Dan were all there for the duration of the night. I had a great time, laughed myself hoarse (still am somewhat, the next day).
My only regret is that I didn't exercise better judgement when we went out to Red Robin for a late dinner. I got the fish fry (greasy breaded fish, yum!) and had a Dr. Pepper with the meal. Between the heavy food and the excess caffeine, I was up a good chunk of the night. As Jean said, "you could have gotten away with that when you were 20..."
Tom is trying to talk Alan into going to a Saturday matinee of Wicked in September. I envy them. I love the musicals, and I'm tickled with this revisionist story of the Wicked Witch of the West. But Jean works Saturdays, so I'll have to be content with a trip report.
February 05, 2006
I Grow Senile
Jean's parents visited this weekend.It was the usual round of catching up, with her dad showing me his new camera, me demonstrating to him how to do maintainance on his Mac, Jean's mom baking an apple pie with Renee, that sort of thing. Unfortunately, I think my stock has fallen with them.
Sundays I usually follow a fairly predictable routine, which includes household chores, taking Renee to Sunday school, and driving down to work to take my gym bag and the week's lunches down. I usually stay for an hour or two to set up work for the week. On weekends when Jean is working, I haul Renee along with me.
On this weekend, Jean had to work a nursing shift on Sunday, and the grandparents took Renee to Sunday school, as she was going to be singing in a church service afterwards. They left for church, and Jean and I sat around until she had to leave for her shift. I mentioned that I was going to take my stuff down to work, without really elaborating. It's all routine, after all.
Jean went to work, I did some of my chores, then I drove down to work. I had troubles setting up a build, so I fussed over it for awhile, then I headed back home. I had this vague feeling that something was wrong, but didn't know what. When I got home, there was a message on our answering machine. Jean's parents had tried to get into the house, but no one was there!
Well, I feel stupid now, and of course I feel awful for letting them stand out there. They took off to do some shopping, and I was able to reach Jean's dad on his cellphone after several tries, so we hooked up, but it was a really stupid lapse.
I've been through a nasty cold recently, this last week has been stressful and low on sleep. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I must have assumed that Jean was going to give them her housekeys, since she was going to work, but I can't offer that as an excuse. So in addition to the apologies I offered them, this is my public mea culpa.
January 15, 2006
Happy Birthday Max
I didn't go to NOVA last weekend as Jean had nursing shifts overlapping the usual meeting day. I won't be going next weekend for the same reason. As a result, I was looking at over a month without being able to visit my friends. Adam Goetz, from up Olympia-way, told me over the IRC that the Washington gang was coming down to visit this weekend at Tom's and that I should come. I confirmed with Tom that it would be okay, and then made sure that Jean was good with it as well. Jean's only stipulation was that I get home by 9pm, so that she could get to bed without Renee bouncing around waiting up for me.
Then Saturday morning came, and I had a runny nose. But I still wanted to go! So I called Tom around lunchtime and had him take a poll of his guests. They seemed okay with it. I took some Dayquil to suppress any sniffles and whatnot, and went over around 3pm. Brian and Max were there with their kid Ethan (three years old, and almost making sense when he talks). Eric Ho was there, and Jen and a fellow named Jovan whom I have not met before. James was buried in his PSP much of the evening, and Alan joined us in time to go to Gustav's for dinner. If you like meat, you'll like Gustav's!
Afterwards, we returned to Tom's place and played a movie trivia game. I took my leave before cake was served, but if you're reading this, Max, I hope you had a happy birthday! It was great to see you guys from up North again.
December 18, 2005
Ugh. Make it stop.
On the positive side, the NOVA Christmas party was fun. We finished the second season of Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex, and it was fully as satisfying as I had hoped. Major Motoko Kusanagi became a lot more human in the final episode. I remember after the first season wondering if they'd be able to sustain the complex, challenging narrative in a second, prolonged story arc, but they did it somehow. Now I'm wondering if they'll be able to do it again. I don't know if they plan to try a third season, but after the emotional trauma inflicted on Major Kusanagi, and the loss (again) of the Tachikoma, I'm once again wondering if it would be a good idea to continue. But they've got a good track record, so I'll watch once again if they do.
Bob, our programmer, chose also to show two episodes of Noein, a series that I've become somewhat taken by (I'm up to episode four). I hope it catches on enough that he's tempted to show more episodes. Elliot, the club pariah, thought it was boring, so that's a good sign.
Then there were the presents. I'd assured all my friends that due to my penury I'd be skipping the present exchange this year, and to please feel free to leave me out of it. No such luck. Or my own good fortune, anyway. Tom got me Aeon Flux - The Complete Animated Collection. Apparently he'd been listening when I'd told Chris and Valeska at the last meeting that the live action version (visible in this trailer) out recently was tone-deaf and wooden in it's attempts to mimic the original. Thanks Tom!
Alan got me a game, Trapt, which I'll give due attention on the holiday week. The mechanic of the game is that you must build traps and lure your enemies into them. I look forward to mixing it up with this and Magna Carta on Christmas morn. Thanks Alan!
John brought a passel of DVDs and gave everyone a chance to choose their own. I grabbed a copy of The Incredibles, as I'd not gotten around to buying it. Thanks, John.
Bo and Lisa were handing out home made baked goodies, and I got a sizable pile of cookies. Thanks guys.
Finally, Chris and Valeska gave me a present for Renee. Valeska did all the work, really. She's a very generous and skilled crafts woman. She tells me she's been knitting and crocheting since at least Renee's age. So she, never having met Renee, only seeing my photos of her, hand knit a doll. A very nice doll, very cute. I'll try to get a picture up soon. Thanks very much, Chris and Valeska.
Oh, and Tom, in case you see Valeska before the next meeting I'm at, you can tell her that Renee loved it, and began crocheting it a vest this very morning. She's nicknamed the doll Git-san.
So happy holidays to all, even you cantankerous sorts who assault folk for not saying "Merry Xmas"!
December 11, 2005
'Tis the Season
Yes, once again it's time for Renee's Sunday School Christmas Play. As pictured in the banner, Renee portrayed an ordinary girl trying to remember what's really special about Christmas (hence the ribbon on her finger, barely visible in this picture). Of course, what's really special about Christmas is that it's about two months after Halloween.
Jean had to pull a nursing shift today, so she was unable to attend. So I took a few photos for her, and you can find the stream at Flickr, starting about here, if you really care. Introvert that I am, I was more comfortable skulking around with my camera than joining in the festivities. Example, at one point the pastor invited everyone in the congregation to stand up and mill about hugging each other, "sharing the peace and joy." Shiver!
November 13, 2005
Friday the Thirteenth Come on a Sunday This Month!
I managed to get to the very end of the day without realizing that it was the thirteenth. The title is a reference to Pogo, the classic Walt Kelly comic strip, which I read as a kid in the Sunday funnies. His character Churchy La Femme would fearfully exclaim that it was Friday the Thirteenth, just appearing on the wrong day. So this should have been a day of bad luck, especially after the week's bad vibes at work, right? Well, apparently not.
Jean is still fighting a cold, and is probably on the early side of the curve, if she's following my pattern at all. I'm still hacking up random guck, but feeling much more energy. So we pushed Renee to set up a play date on her own, and I ended up taking her and her friend Emily to see Chicken Little, in 3-D, no less. The 3-D registration was generally pretty good, though there were the occasional fuzzy moments I've come to expect even from modern efforts. Not really headache inducing, so I feel I'm ahead of the game. The movie itself was inconsequential, and I expect to have forgotten all about it in about three ... two ... one ... what was I talking about?
This evening Renee and I worked together to make our first ever lasagna. We started with a recipe from the America's Test Kitchen folk, but modified it to suit our tastes. We used two kinds of cheese and pork. We would have used three kinds of cheese, but in the hustle and the bustle, I clean forgot about the tub of ricotta in the refrigerator. So I guess that's my bit of bad luck from the thirteenth!
What's the verdict? It is quite delicious. Now if I can just remember what the actual cheeses we used were. Romano and something else. Renee sort of shredded the wrappers when she was shredding the cheese.
October 30, 2005
I got a lot done this weekend, but I still feel like I missed doing more, since I've been feeling run down with some respiratory infection. Call it a cold, but no sniffles or sneezes, just coughing and rough lungs and sore throat. I'm hoping it's short-lived, especially as tomorrow evening is Halloween, my favorite holiday.
Last night we carved the pumpkin. Renee did all the carving, after I did 90% of the scraping and scooping. I was going to take a picture, but slacker that I am, I had let the battery of my camera go flat. I'm recharging it, and will try to get a picture up in the next day or so.
Renee has her costume, custom-built by her. It's all black, tight pants, dark shirt, furry boots, cat ears and a crimson cape. She initially thought she'd be a 'super cat', but now she's thinking she might be 'Darth Kitty'. If I can just hold out, I know it will be fun. Wish me luck!
September 18, 2005
Biking Field Trip
Renee and I went to Champoeg Park today, with our bicycles on the rack. We rode the bike trail there for around ninety minutes. The curves, slopes and pathside drop-offs kinda got to Renee, I think. There was also a lot of bike traffic in both directions, and she had to get used to sharing the road, something she didn't have to do down at my workplace. As a result, ninety minutes was enough for her.
I'm not going back there the very next week, but we'll consider it for an occasional biking treat. My friend at work, Burr, also recommends Willamette Mission park, though it's maybe twice as far to drive. We'll see if that one's in the cards, before the rains come...
At Long Last
Five whole weeks have elapsed since I last attended a NOVA meeting, my usual outlet for socializing. Well, this Saturday was not a NOVA weekend, but it was the weekend of the Tom Jansen soiree. For all I know, it's still going on. Folk from up North came down to visit with Tom for the whole weekend, and I was invited. I'd been looking forward to it for weeks. I'd also been crossing my fingers, as I had no idea when Jean was going to get a job, and if she did, what her shifts would be. But luck was with me, and I was able to go.
I took my fourth effort at producing creme brulee, four ramekins of creamy custard. I also took a couple batches of my favorite homemade salsa. Both were appreciated. In fact, I've now got independent feedback that my creme brulee is actually pretty good. I feel vindicated, and I can now stop making it.
Adam, Max and Brian (and their offspring Ethan) were the Northern Contingent. Alan was the other local. Thanks to Max, I now have a loaner copy of 2046, over which I'm tickled, as I'm a big Wong Kar Wai fan. I also bought a copy of Bayside Shakedown on Max's recommendation. I added two that were on my list to the order: Magic Kitchen and Breaking News. These were both on my AX2005 shopping list, but I had to pass due to budget constraints. Now I got 'em! And they arrived the day of Tom's shindig, so I could give Max her copy of Bayside Shakedown. How's that for timing?
Anyway, next weekend is the NOVA weekend, and is elections for club officers to boot. And I most likely won't be able to attend, as Jean is starting her first weekend shift then. So for this weekend I am very grateful.
September 13, 2005
Renee and I both rode our bikes this Sunday. We started at the parking lot where I work, but I soon took her on a greenway that circles a farm field across the street. The loop measures around 1.5 miles, and she did great. When we were done, she wanted to keep biking, so we peddled around campus at work. Jean came down to visit us, but has no bike, so she kind of got left out in the cold. When all was said and done, Renee and I biked (casually, at a meandering pace) for nearly two hours. And she wasn't ready to quit when I called time, either.
If rainy season wasn't so near, I'd run up to Performance Bike and buy Jean a bike as well. But then I'd need a better bike rack for my car, too, and it all adds up too quickly! So for now it'll be just me and Renee.
September 03, 2005
Ride, Renee, Ride!
Weekend Two in the bike riding training camp. In addition to continuing our success in launching Renee by holding the bike up for her and pushing until she got up to speed, we also walked the length of the soccer field twice while Renee practiced propelling her bike scooter style, and doing my 'jumpstart mount'. The former is Jean's way of getting Renee used to the bike's balance, and working her way toward mounting the bike without help.
Renee crabbed, complained, and came close to tears on one occasion. I played 'bad cop' and told her that she could have a cry if she needed it, but that afterwards she was getting back on the bike. She had a few scrapes from knocking herself with the pedals when 'scooting', but nothing serious. She kept asking me how long we'd been doing this, and when we could go home. But over time, she showed gradual improvement at keeping the bike level while coasting. Finally, she put together Jean's scoot maneuver with my jumpstart mount and got onto the seat and pedalling without any help from either of us. And she just tore down the field without a pause! Man that felt good!
Just to prove it wasn't a fluke, we did it again (she did it again), and then she lay on the grass panting and cheering. I was hooting and clapping. Felt like I was at Kittyhawk, what with all the wheeling hardware around getting ready, followed after long hard work with a 100 yard 'flight'. So I'm very proud of Renee, and now she's not so down on the whole bike riding idea. Funny how her attitude turned around after that successful mount.
August 28, 2005
I Want to Ride My Bicycle...
Renee never graduated from the trike to a full blown bicycle. We had a tiny bike with training wheels, but she convinced us not to take them off, then winter came, and by the following summer, she was too big for the darn thing. Now she's ten, and we decided the time had come. Yesterday I bought her a bike from Target, and took her down to work to take her first falls on the soccer field.
We practiced for around a half hour with just the tiniest halting starts. She's now too grown for me to support her when her balance falters, and I wrenched my right knee trying. So we kept working on the 'jump start' of getting that foot on the pedal, then the butt on the seat. On the whole, she was not very satisfied with the progress. I had to pull the dad card: "you will learn to ride this bike, no matter how long it takes." Of course, the plan is a half an hour to an hour each Saturday and Sunday.
Jean accompanied us down today. With her help, we were able to steady Renee until she had enough forward momentum to balance (more or less). Eventually, it was more a matter of me being brave enough to let go of the seat and let her pedal or fall. When I did, she managed to cover 45 yards unassisted! The very next try, she hit the brakes in a panic after fifteen feet. But by fits and starts, she kept trying, until she was able to bike the length of the soccer field.
I haven't done any kind of running for several years, since wrecking my ankle pretty good. So I was huffing and puffing to keep up with her. At the end, I was soaking wet, but I felt really proud of Renee. Now my plantar fascitis is bothering me, and my ankle is burning, but I'm thinking it was worth it.
August 21, 2005
Back From Seattle
Friday morning we hit the road, and drove up to Seattle. Jean's in charge of the next Moyer Family Reunion, and she wanted to see if there was enough stuff of the sort that appeals to her clan in the city center. We stayed at the Red Lion Inn on Fifth Avenue, which put us central to many of our goals. We walked to Pioneer Square, and from there to the International District. Kelly and I spent awhile in Kinokuniya looking at stuff, and then we both bought some treats. I got the first Zatoichi movie, and watched it that same night on my laptop in the hotel.
Saturday afternoon we walked to the Westlake Center Mall, where we ate lunch and then rode the Monorail to Seattle Center, home of the Space Needle and the Experience Music Project. When we got back, we took time to tour Pike Place Market. We ate at a few neat places over the weekend, including Elephant & Castle and the Rock Bottom Brewery. One restaurant we didn't try that I want to hit next summer is the Pike Pub and Brewery, which Jean tells me won some sort of award. More importantly, they brew all their own beer on site.
All in all, while a whirlwind trip, it was quite satisfying. I love Seattle and only wish I could find more excuses to come visit.
July 24, 2005
Saturday was Kelly's first overnight stay with a friend. She's been to 'away' summer camp before, and she's done an overnight stay at the YMCA, but this is her first stay with a select friend, Emily. She left with Emily and her mom around 3pm, and I left for NOVA around 4:30.
Now normally, I'd stay out after the meeting, either taking in a movie or going out for a snack with my friends. This particular evening, I had to take a pass on that, as Jean was having mother pangs. "What if they call?" she asked. "Then they'll call," I said. "Call me on my cellphone if you want me to go pick her up." But no, Jean was too nervous, so I came home after the meeting. To make up for my short evening, I stayed up til midnight watching anime. So there!
It's too bad, too. Saturday was the night that Tom was hosting a showing of Leadfinger. This movie was made by a highschool friend of Heather Hewlett, who is the daughter of Tricia, who is the sister of my friend Dan Baxter.
Heather offered to lend me a copy, but I told her that I only wanted to see it with some of the gang. She was annoyed, I think. She is proud of her friend and his film, and her role in it ("starring ... Heather Hewlett"), and wants everyone to get a chance to enjoy it. But I don't think I would if I was sitting in the family room alone watching it. These things take the synergy of a friendly crowd to really gel.
I did get to see Yakitate, my second favorite anime right now, and of course my fave, Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex, Second Gig. In addition, John Jackson loaned me his copies of Onmyouji, I & II. I look forward to watching those soon. Alan returned a bunch of DVDs I'd loaned him, and I promptly lent out A Touch of Zen to John!
So back to the sleepover. Emily's mom returned Kelly to us around 10am, a little the worse for wear, but happy. I asked if Kelly had behaved and she said "pretty much." "Pretty much?" I repeated. "Expectations were pretty low with these two together." So I don't have any details, but apparently they were bad, but not too bad. And in the tradition of sleepovers, I'm told they didn't really sleep an awful lot.
So now Kelly is resting in the living room, and I'll be scooping her up and taking her out for a promised viewing of Madagascar in fifteen minutes or so. Later in the day I'll be trying my hand at pot stickers, though nearly half the ingredients vary from the recipe, so I'm crossing my fingers mightily. Wish me luck!
The pot stickers were a big success, to my palate and Jean's. This even though I used different ingredients, wrong ingredients, too much of one and not enough of another. Seems potstickers are a pretty robust foodstuff.
July 23, 2005
Return to Routine
I picked up Jean and Kelly at the airport yesterday. Kelly and I are back to giving each other bruises . Jean and I discussed the weekend this morning, and I have a full dance ticket again! Feels good.
Posted by dpwakefield at 08:48 AM
June 05, 2005
Saturday was the 'grand opening' of a new Apple Store in Bridgeport Village, which itself has been doing a staged 'grand opening' for the last few weeks. Since I've needed to haul one of our machines to the Apple Store at the mall on two separate occasions in the last couple of months, this is a good thing. Bridgeport Village is maybe five minutes away, versus fifteen to twenty to the mall, depending on traffic. For their grand opening, the Apple Store was giving away T-shirts to the first 1000 visitors.
So I tooled over to Bridgeport Village, and got into the queue around 9:45am. It took around half an hour to actually reach the door! But I got my T-shirt, and wore it today. They had the good grace to make the hand-out an Xtra Large, so no pain. More amusing was the pep rally atmosphere they cultivated. A few minutes before they opened their doors, the entire crew of employees went running past shouting and clapping and shaking hands. Whenever a new batch of people were allowed to enter the store, you could hear cheering from within. I muttered "oh please" on more than one occasion, but I got my T-shirt!
Once done there I moved my car from one end of 'the village' to the other, so I could enter the new Wild Oats organic grocery store. They have cleverly been mailing out coupons for free goods staged to be available every week. One week it was for free vitamin C. This week it was for four pounds of free strawberries. So I went over to claim my 'prize'. While there, I invested in a few bottles of Honest Tea, about which I'll write more later.
On the whole, standing in line or driving around the complex, this feels a lot like Downtown Disney. This is, I suspect, no accident. The last two times I was in Anaheim, once for a Kelly birthday, and once for Anime Expo, I've spent a fair amount of time there. It's homogenized, but convenient and reasonably stress free for a high-traffic pedestrian plaza, and I think the builders of Bridgeport Plaza are making a very deliberate effort to emulate the layout and atmosphere of the place. I'm sure I'll go there again, if only to use the new movie theatre that will be opening there soon.
Sunday I made Chicken Enchiladas for the second time, and they turned out even better than last time. One change I made was to dice the pickled jalapenos finer than they came in the can, which distributed their spiciness more thoroughly. I'd been reading some cooking websites, and I've concluded that I need a new knife. Dicing went fairly fast, but I kept bumping my knuckles on the cutting board, which was not painful, but slowed me down. So I'm gonna go looking for a Santoku, though hoping I can find one for less than the J. A. Henckels model linked to. I guess a Chef's knife would fill the bill as well. Curiously, the J. A. Henckels knives we got as a present do not include one with an offset handle like a santoku or chef's knife. I wonder why.
[update: One santoku recommended by America's Test Kitchen: MAC Knives Superior Series SK-65 - Superior Santoku - 6 1/2 inch ($60, ouch!); one chef's knife by same: RH Forschner / Victorinox Black Fibrox 8" Chef's Knife
($20-$30, more like it)]
[Double update: I *do* have a chef's knife, I just don't have a brain. The J. A. Henckel set has a chef's knife but it was up by the knife sharpener and I didn't notice it. So while I am still interested in a santoku, I doubt I'll be getting one anytime soon...]
Finally, in the afternoon I took Kelly with me for a walk. We walked for 45 minutes, and I heard nothing but complaints. "My feet hurt... My hip hurts... Can we rest for a few minutes?" Frankly, I lost patience with her. "Kelly, I'm nearly five times older than you, and I have a rotten ankle that often hurts, but I can do this walk without complaint."
Awhile ago, she was taking swimming lessons, but she's completed the entire curriculum. Then she was studying Irish dance, but recently dropped out because she felt that the class was weighted toward serious dancers who ignored her, and she felt embarrassed whenever she had to do the steps. Jean agreed that she could drop out if she found other forms of exercise. Kelly agreed to take up running, but this lasted about two days before the "my feet hurt" complaints began.
So I told Jean about the incident, and we've agreed that Kelly has to go for walks with me every evening until she finds some other activity that has suitable levels of exercise for her age. I'm fine with her pursuing interests such as crochet so long as she doesn't let her body atrophy. Cross your fingers. I know how well a kid can wear down my resolve.
Posted by dpwakefield at 10:00 PM
May 31, 2005
I engaged in no special holiday activities. In fact, I had another back sprain, and spent most of the weekend being a big weenie. Jean was helpful and patient, for which I'm thankful.
I used SkypeOut to talk to my Dad again, then my sister, Brenda. Dad told her about SkypeOut and she was curious. We talked a bit, and it turns out she has a dial-up connection. I'm thinking that rules out Skype for her, since compressed voice data needs a bit more bandwidth than that, typically. But just in case, she can test her bandwidth by going to a site like this one and filling out the test parameters.
Sunday was Jean's birthday. We went to the mall, in search of a 'sound machine' for masking barking neighborhood dogs at night. After checking out a few models, we ended up getting one from Sharper Image. It has way more settings than we'll ever use, some of which are just absurd, like Cityscape and Steam Train. But the Ocean Breakers is pretty neat. And it's much better than another version I've heard, which included seagulls, and ran in a perceptible loop. After a short while, you just kept anticipating those idiosyncratic screeches, and it was not relaxing at all.
Monday I made a batch of chicken curry. Yum! I don't think Jean will be able to enjoy it, as she's concerned the garlic will make her unapproachable in class. Sorry, Jean.
That's the update!
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:49 PM
February 06, 2005
So yesterday was a NOVA night, but I did not go. For the next several weeks, Jean is in clinicals for her nursing program, and is feeling a little bit overwhelmed. So I am skipping NOVA to help out with Kelly on those Saturday evenings. I'll miss Tenjo Tenge, but thanks to John Jackson, I have all the Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex - 2nd Gig that I need to fill the gap. I've been grabbing Yakitate myself, so that covers all the shows I regularly watch at meetings. All that is left is the friendship and fun. I miss you guys already! See you in a couple of months!
On the brighter side, Sunday's dish du jour was Chinese Lemon Chicken, and it turned out great. Jean said she liked it, but that it was still not as good as Kung Pao Chicken. Of course! When I go to a Chinese restaurant with my work buddies, I don't even bother looking at the menu. I just get Kung Pao Chicken. Still, it is the hardest recipe to prepare of the ones I've done so far, so it will just have to wait in the rotation.
Posted by dpwakefield at 12:51 PM
December 11, 2004
Breakfast with Santa
I took Kelly to the Sherwood YMCA this morning for breakfast with Santa. I snapped a few pictures, and the banner is my favorite.
If that's not enough for ya, I uploaded a few to my Flickr page. They're all public, so enjoy. Season's Greetings!
Posted by dpwakefield at 02:10 PM
October 31, 2004
Halloween was fun again this year. I don't know why I enjoy it so, but I do. Kelly was dressed up as a cat (photo banner to follow when I get some time). As usual, she alternated between racing from house to house in an attempt to maximize candy collection, and engaging in lengthy conversations with homeowners about her costume, or cute pets greeting her at the door. Speaking of cute pets, I visited with at least three cats wandering the neighborhoods this evening. I'm surprised folks let their cats out on Halloween night, especially that one black cat I petted.
We started at 6pm, and around 6:45, I let Kelly know that we should wrap things up by 7:30 so she could get her shower and what-not. She groaned, but agreed. 7:30 came and went and we were far enough away from home that I moved the deadline to 8pm. By this time Kelly was starting to tire out and get cold, so I received no argument. When you see the picture of her costume, keep in mind that she wore no jacket or hat with that outfit, as she didn't want to hide the costume. I on the other had, had my winter jacket, muffler and sock hat on.
My timing on the second deadline worked out almost to the minute. We got home with two buckets full of candy, only to discover that Jean had candy left over from our own bowl of treats. She said that we only got about twenty-five kids visiting our house. Funny, I'm certain Kelly and I visited at least twenty-five houses tonight.
So Kelly's teacher strikes again. I was warming up, fixing Kelly a snack, and she was in the living room counting and sorting her candy. She does this every year, but this year she was writing it all down. I finally realized that her teacher had given her a handout assignment to count all the kinds of candy she got, chocolate, hard, soft, etc. Then she had to write the total. "What do you do if something is soft and chocolate? Do you count it twice?" I asked. Jean caught my eye and shook her head. Oops. Still, I couldn't help but smile.
So now Kelly's had her shower, tooth brushing and good night kisses, and is snuggled under a record number of blankets and comforters, trying to fall asleep. Jean's already abed, and I'm winding down. Score one for another fine Halloween.
Posted by dpwakefield at 09:31 PM
Kelly and I did a 'reconnaissance' walk around the block, and no one is TnT-ing yet. No one really outside except for a scary guy with a chainsaw stumbling around cutting wood inside a big trailer. I just know I'm gonna see him on late night news this evening...
Anyway, waiting to go out and freeze my tuckus, and saw this cartoon on Penny Arcade. Too neat, if you play videogames.
I may give a report after the TnT quest, but I'll probably be too beat. Later.
Posted by dpwakefield at 05:37 PM
What's This, What's This?
I spent a large part of this morning riffing through my iTunes music collection playing Halloween appropriate music for Kelly. It started when I was at the music store and saw they had a Halloween playlist, and visited it. Nightmare Before Christmas was prominently displayed, so I played a number of samples for Kelly. She liked it, so I went hunting for my Danny Elfman stuff, playing some of his soundtrack music (Beetlejuice, Tales From the Crypt) and his work from Oingo Boingo (Dead Man's Party, Weird Science).
I played Glass Tubular Bells, explaining it's origin in The Exorcist, and what that was all about. Sifting for words like ghost, witch and monster yielded still more goodies, though I stretched the point and played Ghost Riders in the Sky (instrumental version by The Mermen). Finally we went back to the thirty second sample land of the iTunes Music Store, and Kelly played Jack's Obsession about a hundred times. So now I'm at work, and Kelly is at home in the den listening to the entire soundtrack to Nightmare Before Christmas, since I had to buy it after the hundredth repeat of Jack's Obsession. Welcome to Halloween!
Posted by dpwakefield at 11:27 AM
October 17, 2004
Conspiracy Done Right
I always maintained that the one thing I never liked about the X-Files was the -- interminable -- government conspiracy plot. I loved the weaving of Fortean phenomena into an otherwise pedestrian police procedural plot. I vastly enjoyed the episodes where they placed tongue firmly in cheek and took themselves not one whit seriously (Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose with Peter Boyle being a marvellously understated example, Bad Blood a less understated, hilarious one). I'll even admit to enjoying the appearances of William B. Davis, the 'cigarette smoking man', who was otherwise unnamed throughout most of the series.
But the constant side stories of government projects, Area 51, alien-human hybrids and super soldiers undermined the fun of the show. I'm pretty sure Chris Carter, the creator, intended this thread all along, but as it came to dominate more and more episodes, I lost more and more interest, until I was watching mainly out of inertia. The suggestion that the sinister cigarette smoking man shot Kennedy, and then that he might be Mulder's father ("Luke, I am your father!), left me shaking my head. I'm still planning to see the second movie if it ever gets made, but I think the series died a deserved death.
So it comes as a bit of a surprise that I'm not really averse to government conspiracy stories. Last night was a NOVA meeting (and also our Halloween party, as this is the second and last meeting of October), and Bob, our show coordinator, showed the last two episodes of season one of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. The entire season has been one long story arc, though it wasn't always apparent, especially in the beginning.
Players such as The Laughing Man, an uber-hacker who quotes J. D. Salinger, a host of sentient tanks called tachikoma and a diplomat infatuated with an android seem unrelated. But all come to play a part in the larger story.
I'm not reviewing GitSAC or handing out spoilers. I just wanted to note that this season is how a conspiracy story should be done. It is intricate, consistent, does not talk down to the audience, and manages to contain a surprise or two. Moreover, by the end of the story, the players have not so much won as they have held back the tide for one more day. Much more satisfying than simply sweeping the slate clean.
Also notable from this weekend's meeting, my friend Tom managed to find DVD images of the original editions of the first three Star Wars movies (V, VI and VII) from the Laserdisc releases. So now I can show Kelly the DVD boxed set edition where Greedo-shoots-first-but-Han-is-quick-enough-to-duck-and-shoot-back, ridiculous as it is, then I can show her the original, where Han simply shoots Greedo sucker-punch style. It makes for a much different character, believe me.
After the meeting, there was talk of seeing a movie or going out to get some food. I'd eaten freely of the Halloween junk food, so when they decided to go to the Raccoon Lodge for afters, I took a pass and went home early. I'd been there once before, and it's farther away from home than the meeting place, so I decided to just get my rest. Maybe we'll get to see something next meeting, in November.
Posted by dpwakefield at 08:24 AM
March 16, 2003
I ended up getting the fever and what not too. Now I'm just cleaning gunk out of my lungs. Yesterday was mostly tutoring and being lazy. Today I'm doing long overdo chores, and more tutoring. Kelly is concerned that there's not enough fun in her life. She had the flu, classes have been a drag, her cat and her fishes died (yes, the third and final fish died this morning). We told her that this winter has just been a bad one, but that things will look up again.
Next weekend we plan to treat ourselves by going out shopping, and maybe taking Kelly to a movie. Cross your fingers that no one comes down with anything else in the meantime!
Posted by dpwakefield at 10:38 AM
February 09, 2003
I was reading Pascale's weblog, and decided I better post a short note. After all, she's found the time to do this even though she's learning how to be a top-flight waitress and is seeing blisters.
So simply, I've been off the weblog because I've been sick. I still think it is due to Lorazepam withdrawal, but I spoke to Dr. Winans on the phone yesterday (he's the guy who prescribed the stuff in the first place), and he says he's never heard of a dependence response after only 2-3 months.
So it's been a week, I've been averaging 4-5 hours of sleep a night -- with the help of Ambien tablets, prescribed by my real doctor, Dr. Selby. On Tuesday I saw him to try to determine if what I was undergoing was Lorazepam withdrawal. He seemed surprised that Dr. Winans had prescribed it, and proposed the Ambien. The pharmacist said it would give me 5-6 hours of sleep, but I guess she wasn't factoring in Lorazepam withdrawal, if that's what this is.
Basic symptoms: anxiety, shivering in a 70 degree room, insomnia, loss of appetite, messed up digestion (resulting in a loss of five pounds in one week), sound like withdrawal to you yet? But Dr. Winans says it doesn't happen, so...
At this point, I'm hoping to get to work tomorrow. But as I've waited a week to feel stable enough to post just one article, I'm prepared to change my mind. Wish me luck!
February 02, 2003
Yesterday was a NOVA weekend. After taking Kelly to her
swim class, helping Jean with 'shift functions' and compound interest, and going for a walk with Kelly, it was time to go. I didn't know if I'd be able to last beyond the meeting due to the limited sleep I've been getting, but I gave it a try.
The meeting had one of our periodic brouhahas. A couple of members had had a party at a sci-fi convention, and a reporter had assumed they were official NOVA reps. Since these two are severely geeky fellows, he formed a bad impression and wrote that the club was doing socially frowned upon things, such as having public showings of bootlegged anime. The officers have decided to write a letter to his editor demanding a retraction. Some folks were mad at the two fellows, but as Dan pointed out, they didn't misrepresent themselves, and they did nothing wrong other than spout opinions and be annoying.
I got to see the next installment of Cheeky Angel, which I believe is just getting better and better. Then one of the anime companies (Bandai?) had sent us a couple samplers of new DVDs they are planning on releasing soon, in exchange for us filling out questionaires. The first was Argent Soma, which was okay, but certainly not worth buying on DVD. The second show was some new Gundam show, so since I'm not a member of the Gundam army, I gave it a pass. James and I shared a questionaire, since he didn't watch Argent Soma.
After the meeting a bunch of us adjourned to Tom's apartment. I got to see demos of a few games the guys are playing on the Xbox, though I was spacey enough by that time that I can only swear to two. The first was Tom's: Jet Set Radio Future. It's a very neat looking game, with cel-rendering style visuals. It's sorta skate-punk anarchy Tony Hawk mega-pro adventure, though I only got a short demo and am probably short-changing it.
Then Alan brought out Panzer Dragoon, essentially a 3-D scrolling shooter. Boy have things come a long way since I played Xaxxon as a youth! I'm afraid I don't have the excess adrenaline to play this game without collapsing.
At this point I could swear there was another game, but I can't for the life of me remember it. Maybe Tom will read this and jolt my memory. So after the game demoes, we put in Eighteen Bronze Men, a wonderfully cheesy HK martial arts flick by Carter Wong, from the mid-70's. It's a ninety minute movie, so by this time I was only able to make it through about an hour before I had to go home and conk out.
Sunday is still playing out, I'll post a new article if anything interesting happens.
January 26, 2003
Saturday was more packed than today, but all told, it was pretty busy. Nothing exciting, per se, just the usual chores. I got some breaks yesterday, but after taking Kelly swimming, I came home, did a few quick chores, then settled in to help Jean with her math. By the time we finished, it was approaching six o'clock. Kelly had been patiently waiting (playing her Gameboy, watching television, reading her books, etc.), so I offered to take her for a walk.
Judging by the way she jumped on the offer, she'd been dying for attention, and the walk simply confirmed it. We went around the block, but played 'store' at every street grate, fire hydrant and telephone conduit box we encountered. It took us forty minutes to loop back home. After getting her fed and having a snack on my own, it was time for Kelly's bath, and shepherding her around the house to pick things up that she'd scattered about during the day. She actually had a few tearful moments because 'Dad gave me too much to do.' We reminded her that she'd had pretty much all day to take care of this stuff, but you know kids.
I finished her up with a chapter from The Witches by Roald Dahl, and finally got her to bed. When I went downstairs to relax before bed I noticed it was 9pm. This was the first block of time on Saturday that I'd felt I had truly to myself. Oh well, it's all for a good cause.
Today was more straightforward, with my usual chores, a quick trip down to work to drop off the week's food, and then some exercise on the 'bikler'. Once I'd had my shower, I dived into helping Jean with chemistry, which I'm not quite as adroit at as math. We ended up having a 'study group' where we taught each other. I guess I'll find out if we got it right over the coming week.
After a quick lunch snack, we went to the store so Jean could pick up some things she needed, and I bought myself a treat (two actually). I got Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits, 'cause I wanted Kelly to hear the original "It Ain't Me Babe", since she didn't like my version. And since it was on sale, I also bought a copy of Onimusha - Warlords, which I have only just begun playing, following my usual technique of playing without reading the directions for the first few hours.
Posted by dpwakefield at 07:26 PM
January 21, 2003
It's late, I know, so sue me. The highlight of the weekend happened during (and after) NOVA. I was visiting with Alan at the meeting when Tom arrived. But he had some folks in tow. With him were Eric, Max and Brian, whom I'd met at Anime Expo 2001. These folks are good friends of Tom, and involved in running Sakura Con up in Washington.
Since Max worked at Sakura Con, she was able to 'network' the convention organizers at Expo and get us into some events I wanted to attend that are hard to get tickets for. But that's not why I like her .
Max is a very energetic, cheerful and funny young woman, and totally extroverted. I'm an introvert, but respond well to friendly (but not bubbly, bouncy or cheerleaderly) extroverts. So we hit it off. Her husband Brian is more of a quiet sort, like me when I'm among people I don't know well, so I liked him even if I didn't get as verbal with him. Anyway, they're a cool couple.
Eric was working for some anime company at the time (Gainax?) and is a young 'hip' dude with a great sense of humor. We had dinner with him while we were there and he told a lot of goofy anecdotes.
So anyway, there they were at NOVA! And Max and Brian had brought the little addition to their family, a 3 month-old boy. Wow. So we talked for awhile and then they headed out with Tom to fix dinner.
After NOVA, Alan and John and I headed over to Tom's place, and we all visited. It was great seeing these folks again, and I realized I'd actually missed them, after only getting to know them for four days at a convention! Brian is still the quiet sort, but I did notice a glint in his eye a few times, so maybe he's opening up a bit around me.
So that was the highlight of the weekend. Jean and I spent some time on math, me tutoring her on logarithms, trying my best to get out of my rut and be a better teacher, but I'm not really good at that, so I tend to say the same things over and over. Still, Jean is getting better, perhaps in spite of me. We're going to do more during the week after I return home from work nights.
Sunday we went to Borders for a break from chores and study (and to get Kelly out of the house). I went specifically looking for two things:
- Photography (7th Edition) by Barbara London, et. al.
- Any album by Cake, who are compared to Camper Van Beethoven
I looked for the book, didn't see it, and tried their online help system. It said 'in stock', and gave a specific shelf. I checked, and no such luck.
I looked in their music section, found a slot labelled 'Cake', empty of course. So I tried to use their online music help system, but the 'a' key on the keyboard wouldn't work, and searches for 'Cke' turned up nothing.
I was able to look it up on a terminal at the front of the store, and it said 'in stock'. I've of course had clerks tell me that the inventory system is not able to tell if a book has been sold in the last few hours/days, but come on, how hard is it to link the database for your inventory system to your POS system? Fix it, folks.
So, long story short, I went to Fry's yesterday, and they had a Cake album, Prolonging the Magic. I bought it, and I'm listening to it now. I'll let you know what I think after a few listens.
Posted by dpwakefield at 06:13 PM