Thursday, January 27, 2005

Smokers Ousted - Fatties Next

I'm sure most of you have seen this story about a company who told their employees to stop smoking or lose their jobs. And by "stop smoking" he means period, not just at work. Employees are not allowed to smoke on their own time. For those who didn't see it, the reason was that the company wanted to drive their health care costs down. People were givien ample warning and offered help to quit. The company owner is going after overweight people next...

I still can't decide how to react to this story. Assuming that it is deemed legal, is this a good thing or a bad thing? It's easy to cheer, because smoking is bad not only for the smoker, but for people around them. But is it right? Where does a company's right to make demands on its employees end and personal civil liberty begin? The owner's argument, that the employees can choose not to work there, is to me, a slippery slope. That works when just one or two companies are doing this, but what happens if they are successful at implementing these changes? Other companies are going to want to get in on the cost cutting. Pretty soon, people may have no choice but to sign away personal privacy just to put food on the table. Yes, that's a huge leap from firing all smokers, but you know what they say. The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

So, on the one hand, it's laudable to want to attack the root causes of preventable death in this country. It is good for everyone. Healthcare costs go down. People become more physically capable. I suppose you could argue that it is not good for the companies profiting from these conditions. But, still.

Then there is the other hand, where we have civil liberties. It's not equally easy for everyone to get these particular issues under control. And many smokers relapse. What happens then? Are they immediately fired? And what about people with weight problems? How far over their recommended weight are they allowed to be? Are they going to be allowed paid exercise time? Easy access to nutritionally sound meals when they are forced to work long hours?

And then we start to get into other dangerous behaviors. Sexually promiscuos people are health risks when it comes to STDs. Clearly they would have to be let go. What about people who engage in risky sports, like sky diving or bungee jumping? Sure they may be out exercising, but they are too high of a risk of extra medical care. Sunbathers? Skin cancer. Chewing tobacco? Lip cancer.

So, what do you think? Legal? Illegal, but a good idea? Dangerous?

Read More......

Pumpkin, Mrs. Farnsworth

What does it mean? It's a song from an internet band called Interrobang Cartel. Their music is bizarre and eclectic. I discovered them through a friend who is a part of the band. They have mp3s of all the songs they recorded. Go look! I think that there's something for everyone who likes bizarre lyrics there...

"Pumpkin, Mrs. Farnsworth" is my current favorite, although I have by no means listened to them all. The one you want is the London Share House mix, by CB. You'll also want to read the background on the song as it makes the lyrics more enjoyable. However, it's a catchy Brit-rock type tune that you may find yourself unable to stop humming!

I also enjoyed a few other tunes there. My friend kerri has "The Sun, She Explode" and duets on "Love of Stones". Both are enjoyable albeit very different from each other. Not sure how to characterize "Sun", but "Stones" is a pretty straightforward rock tune. I also recommend "The Final Frontier", "Planting Geraniums", and "Staffordshire Bull Terrier Portraits" as recorded by Casey B. Other songs of note "F--- the Bees", a kind of beatnik stream of consciousness number, "Rewind" (Simonian Mix), a space geek oriented rock ballad, and "She's a Geek Freak" for the synthesized music set. I plan to download some of these MP3s and add them to my playlist!

Read More......

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

It's a new apple product!

The iProduct

You want it. You know you do.

Read More......

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

There's Something About Wal*Mart

We often hear how great Wal-Mart is to the communities in which it resides. We never really hear anything else in the mainstream media however. Turns out that this is because the networks won't air anti-WM advertisements for fear of retaliation from the retailing giant. Here's something they don't mention in their ads:

Today Wal-Mart uses over 3,000 Chinese factories to produce its goods—almost as many factories as it has stores in the U.S. (3,600). (Source: L.A. Times)

If you are interested in more information, check out: Purple Ocean. Their goal appears to be to spread the information out to as many people as possible. Thanks David for the link.

Read More......

Operation Thin Mint

Well, it's that time of year again in San Diego and Imperial counties. My daughter has informed me that it's time for Girl Scout cookies. However, out here the Girl Scout council does a twist on this that I think is really nice. It's called Operation Thin Mint, and the military sounding name should give you an idea as to who the beneficiaries are. That' right! Our Girl Scout Council has found a tangible way to support our troops...

In addition to cookies for themselves, purchasers also have the option of sending one or more boxes of cookies to the troops, and it is tax deductible. The girls also have notecards that people can fill out to just send pictures or notes of support to the troops as well. If you'd or your kids would like to send a note, these can be downloaded from the link above. The country may be divided on the war itself, but I think we all agree that our troops need to know that we appreciate the sacrifices they are making.

I was researching OTM on the web and saw that some of the information out there is out of date, so I wanted to post current and correct information. I went right to the Girl Scout Council for all the details.

First off, contrary to some articles I have seen, the cookies benefit service men and women from all over, not just San Diego. And the cookies are shipped into war zones. Witness this comment by one of the recipients:

“The expressions of gratitude and words of encouragement you sent with the cookies brought joy to the hearts of many soldiers in Afghanistan.”—Jason Endres, 209TH Military Police

Second, even though it is called Operation Thin Mint, they get a variety of flavors sent to them.

Third, this program is an initiative of the San Diego-Imperial Council. Other councils may be doing their own thing. I know of at least one troop that took the initiative. But OTM is just here. Your best bet to find out whether or not you have a local option is to go to the council finder page.

If your local council or troop doesn't offer an option for doing something nice for the troops, contact the San Diego-Imperial Council to see how you can get involved!

Read More......

Give Blood

I don't know about the supplies elsewhere in the world, but the San Diego blood supply is very low. I know that most of my readers know the importance of donating blood, but with all our hectic lifestyles, sometimes you just need a reminder. That's why I'm glad the company I work for has a social conscience. Cymer did a dollar for dollar match for donations to Tsunami relief that were reported to them by the middle of this month. We raised about $46k, byt the way. At any rate, we hosted the Bloodmobile today and I'm down a pint. Down a pint, but up a glass of OJ and a donut. :) Apparently, we do it quarterly, so I plan to make it a regular habit.

Read More......

Monday, January 24, 2005

Brain Teaser

I got this from a co-worker. It took me some time and several hints. Can any of you put it together?

A woman, while at the funeral of her own mother, met a man whom she did not know. She thought this man was amazing, the man of her dreams, so much so that she fell in love with him right there but never asked for his number and could not find him. A few days later she killed her sister.
Question: What is her motive in killing her sister?

Read More......

Amusing URL

Found this on line.

It's ok. You can click on it. It's safe for work. Odds that they didn't realize they had a domain name that porn filters would block? I'm guessing somewhere near zero.

Read More......

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Spong Bob is the new Tinky Winky

Ah, good. People are dying in Iraq, Afghanistan and all around the Indian Ocean. Fortunately, the far right Christians are on the same page as the rest of the world. NOT! So, if I have this right, nowhere in the song is homosexuality mentioned. There is only a veiled reference on the producers web site and that is about being tolerant. That makes this subversive? I tell you, I can't imagine how the Wiggles escaped their scorn. I mean, they have a pirate named Captain Feathersword who runs around tickling people with an oversize grouping of purple and pink feathers with a hilt.

Read More......

A Couple of Quick Movie Reviews

I recently saw a couple of movies that are semi-recent, making it remarkable that I saw them. I thought I'd share my observations in an attempt to help you make an informed decision as to whether or not to watch them. Both are remakes. The two movies in question were the Denzel Washington action pic Man on Fire and the Jackie Chan slapstick Around the World in 80 Days...
I never saw the original "Man on Fire", so I can't compare the remake. But I can tell you that it is two hours of my life that I cannot have back. That description may be a little harsh. I'm honestly not sure what I was expecting. I figured with Denzel in the lead, I'd be treated to a good acting performance. In the movie, Denzel plays ex-CIA agent John Creasy who is haunted by his past and has turned to the bottle to escape it. His old partner, Christopher Walken, gets him a job as bodyguard to the daughter of a wealthy Mexican/American couple who are living in kidnap central. She melts his gruff exterior causing him to stop his drinking and finally care about something again. It's pretty predictable from there. She gets kidnapped and he goes after the people responsible. I guess you are supposed to be surprised by the list of people involved in her disappearance, but none of it shocked me. The biggest surprise was that Walken did NOT play a psycho. Creasy basically works his way up the chain of the guilty punishing them in different ways.

One of the few things I liked about the movie happened after Creasy went on his rampage. Much of his questioning of suspects is done in Spanish with subtitles. The subtitling is not just done as straight text on the bottom of the screen. The animation of the subtitles artfully adds to what the characters are saying and how they say it. I don't think this is enough to warrant watching it, but it was pretty cool.

All in all, I give "Man on Fire" a mild papercut sprinkled with lemon juice. It's pretty irritating, but is not too hard to get over it.

Next we come to the Disney remake of "Around the World in 80 Days". This is a very loose adaptation of the book by Jules Verne. Many liberties were taken with the plot. For example, I do not recall any martial arts action in the book, but it is liberally used throughout the movie. The basic premise remains the same, however. Phileas Fogg must make it around the world in eighty days or suffer great personal loss. Additionally, Fogg's butler, Passepartout (Chan) is not really a butler at all. He is the person who robbed the Bank of London, not of money, but of an artifact stolen from his village.

That said, if you don't go in expecting the movie to be true to the book and you like physical comedy, you can have a very good time with this movie. Chan's stuntwork is very inventive and at times comically entertaining. Inspector Fix takes the brunt of many of the sight gags. Some you can see coming a mile away, but you can't help laughing anyway. The cameos are a mixed bag. Thew Governator falls flat as Prince Habih, but Rob Schneider does a good turn as a San Francisco beggar and John Cleese makes the most of his few lines as a British Bobby.

I give Jackie Chan and company a high quality serving of cotton candy. It's a light, guilty pleasure that will brighten your day leaving you satisfied even though you can't for the life of you understand why.

Read More......

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Sensible Party

James pointed out in the comments section of my last post that moderation is not a stance per se. The party does need to stand for something. And I think if I were looking for a way to describe my vision, I'd start with equality and equitability...

By that, I mean that we should focus on protecting the rights of all people, rich and poor. The extreme left sometimes takes the position that the solution to poverty is to take from the rich. The extreme right feels that the solution to poverty is to take away 'handouts' and make the poor develop 'good work ethics'. In my moderate philosophy, both of those arguments are flawed because each seeks a simple solution that primarily involves sacrifices from people outside their group in the name of 'the greater good'.

The Sensible party would try to look at the root causes and create a solution that demands equal sacrifice from all sides under the premise that, since ultimately, everyone will benefit, everyone should contribute.

Don't confuse this with Communism or Socialism. This is not the same as the from each tenet. But the wealthy need to understand that they are wealthy because of the system and need to pay back into it to perpetuate it. The poor need to understand that we want to put them in a position to succeed, but that success will ultimately be up to them.

That's just an example on the economic side. On the social side, we could talk about religion. The whole country needs to come to terms with a couple of things. First, we are not a Christian nation. We are a nation predominantly filled with Christians, but we are not a Christian nation. Similarly, we are not an agnostic or atheistic nation. One need only look at some of our intrinsic and government designated symbology to see that. People are sworn into office on a Bible. Our money says "In G-d We Trust". The Pledge of Allegiance calls us "One nation under G-d." Freedom OF religion does not equal freedom FROM religion. We need to differentiate between a government sponsored religion and people being allowed to practice their beliefs. It's always been a tricky gray area, but people tend to fall out on the far ends of the spectrum. On the one end we have people who want creationism taught in the schools. On the other, we have people who get angry when someone says Merry Christmas to a mixed group of people in a corporate setting.

We could also try to hit one of Steve's hot buttons, abortion. Well, that and family planning in general. Again, we have two prevailing extremes in this country. The far right refuses to allow any abortion under any circumstance or any acknowledgement of birth control. The far left want women to be proud of exercising this right, going so far as to create an "I had an abortion" t-shirt. This is an even trickier issue than religion. The Sensible party would stand up for a woman's right to safe, legal abortions. However, this would not be in a vacuum, and abortion would only be one tool in the family planning toolbelt. Some unbiased analysis would be done to determine how far along in a pregnancy abortions are done and for what reason. Strategies would be put in place to try to reduce the number of abortions. Abstinence education would be the first line of defense in preventing pregnancy and STDs. Abstinence would be emphasized. But people would be educated of their other options if they did not choose to practice abstinence.

I hope that gives a clearer picture of what I'd like to see moderates in this country stand for and stand up for. Let the left and the right be the left and the right. But let's also carve out a space for people who are willing to try to see the truths at the heart of both sides positions. The extremes are often just decent ideas taken to absolutes.

Read More......

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Fixing the electoral system - Part IV - The Two Party System

Here's yet another area for reform that would give Sisyphus pause. This is the last one. I promise. For now. Currently, our government is predominantly controlled by two parties. There are other parties like the Libertarians, Greens, and the Reform party. However, their effects are more often felt at the local level. To say that they are viable options on the federal government level is naive...

Where does one start in talking about the problems in this system? I guess the first problem is that all the modern rules governing political parties have been created by the two parties in question. And while we can argue about whether or not these two parties like each other, I don't think there is any dispute about the fact that they like power. This is evidenced by the rules governing the division of power in Congress. The majority party controls everything and holds the minority party down in a pretty tyrannical way. I know it wasn't always this way, but we are talking about our current situation. So, regardless of the tyranny of those in power, they wouldn't change a thing. For one thing, they know their turn will swing around again and they can dish out equally vindictive payback. For another, by opening the system up, they'd be forced to share the power with other groups. It's bad enough sharing power with the enemy right now.

So, if we want to change the system in any meaningful way, we have to do it against the will and wishes of the people holding the power. They hold all the offices, appoint all the judges, and largely control the media.

The second problem is money. I've already covered that in an earlier post, but it is relevant here as well. The system is set up to make it easier for those in power to raise money and use resources to keep that power. The Presidency is a great example of this. He has many opportunities to schedule "news" moments during the campaign which are really just taxpayer funded PR. And while he is campaigning for re-election, he still flies about in Air Force One and Marine helicopters. Politicians also get financial support from the party coffers in addition to their own funds. So, a new political party rising up to fight against that is like a little mom and pop store rising up to fight Microsoft. Odds are, it's going to be contained or consumed before it can do much good.

So, what do we do about it? I firmly believe that most people are generally moderate in this country. You don't hear about them much because, as moderates, they don't get as rabid or fired up as the extremes on the left or the right. I also believe that most of them are not happy with their choices. The conservative moderates feel they have to go with Dubya because he is closer to their stance than the left. Vice-versa for the left. Kerry may not have been the ideal candidate for the left leaning moderate, but he was a hell of a lot better than Bush.

Now, the likelihood of a moderate Presidential candidate with broad based support not throwing in with one party or the other seems remote at best, so I think we need to start with Congress. Do you think we could find 35 moderates in the Senate? If we could, and we could come up with compromise positions on social and economic issues, perhaps we could slice a new party out of the middle. Even if we found just 20, that's enough to prevent either side from having a majority. They'd be forced to compromise or have gridlock.

I realize this is probably pie in the sky thinking, but once upon a time, lawmakers reached across the aisle to try to work with the opposition party. So, let's create a new party dedicated to the ideal that there are no absolutes and that will compromise or gridlock. We could take a page from Monty Python and call it the Sensible Party. Anyone think this idea has merit? And if so, how do we do it?

Read More......

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Lying is ok if it's done patriotically

What do you do if you are a country music star who hasn't lived up to the potential the industry saw in you? If you're Chely Wright, the answer is simple. Write a cloying and condescending song about patriotism. Sing it for the troops. Then get your fan club to lie in order to get it air time. Now, I dom't know whether the 'incident' that inspired the song is true or not. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and assume it is. And I think it is admirable that she went overseas to entertain our armed forces. I'm sorry, though. If your song can't climb the charts on its own merits, please don't capitalize on our people who are making great sacrifices to line your pockets. I realize she claims no knowledge of what her fan club was up to. I'm skeptical that nobody associated with her was aware. And I also refuse to buy into the rhetoric of "how important" the song is. To me, this does no more to support the troops than those stupid yellow ribbon magnets. You want to support the troops? Demand some accountability for what is going on over there.

Read More......

Not sure why I'm blogging about this

But I have to admit, the Smart Spin Storage System looks pretty cool. Normally, I view the "As Seen On TV" stuff as crap. My friend Kerri bought one. Kerri? Care to weigh in as to the quality of this item?

Read More......

Friday, January 14, 2005

Mmmmmmm. Salsa.

Today was Fiesta Friday at work. The lunch special was corn or flour soft tacos with a couple of sides and a drink for $5. Good quality stuff, too. They also had a company in to demo their products, to go along with the theme. The company is called Maria's. I should have asked if they had a web site. A google search on the terms maria's, salsa, san diego didn't give any useful results. At any rate, they were demo-ing their tortilla chips, salsas, and guacamole as well as their spicy carrots. For those back east, spicy carrots is a popular side dish out here. It's steamed carrots and onions marinated in a medium spicy sauce.

The salsas are hand made, as opposed to machine made, and don't contain things like sugars, corn syrups, or preservatives. The chips were even low carb! And the sauces all tasted very good. In addition to the carrots and guac, you had a choice between Mild, Medium, Chipotle, Salsa Asada, Salsa Verde, and Habanero Salsa. You read that last one right. While most salsas are made spicy with chili peppers and or jalapenos, this one uses the scotch bonnet! It's not as spicy as you would think given that it has habaneros in it, but it is spicier that people who eat mild or medium would go for. What makes it good is the uniqueness of taste that the habanero adds to the salsa. If I find out where to get them, I'll let you folks know. I doubt it would ship well, though. You may have to come here to enjoy it. :)

Read More......

My first migraine

Sounds like a Fisher Price toy, doesn't it? However, it was anything but. I don't have medical confirmation that it is a migraine, but my wife has been diagnosed with them and told me that was what I had. It started after basketball on Wednesday. Turnout was very light, so I ended up playing one-on-one. I started feeling a little shaky, so we called it early. I thought my blood sugar was just a little low. So, I had something to eat. I showered and got back to work. As I was sitting at my desk, the vision in my left eye went funny. You know how sometimes you see spots. Well, I was seeing them with only one eye. And closing it and pressing on my forehead only made it worse. Then my left eye could only see blurry things. I was a bit freaked out, but I felt fine otherwise, so I didn't worry. I called my wife to see what she thought. She told me it would probably clear in about an hour. She didn't tell me how she knew...

The hour went by and it cleared. Then the headache started in. It wasn't my usual sinus headache and it wasn't one of those tension headaches that radiate from the back. It was focused primarily on the right side and felt as though someone were boring a hole in my right temple with a power drill. The intensity was manageable until shortly after dinner. After dinner, I went to try to read to Josh. As I sat there, I found myself getting nauseous from the pain. Never had a headache do that before. That's when the wife informed me it was a migraine. She gave me some excedrin, turned off the lights and told me to rest. Then she took Josh out to read to him.

Josh came back shortly thereafter because he wanted to snuggle with me. Mommy agreed that it would be ok as long as he didn't horse around or bother me. He was concerned about my head, so he gave it very gentle kisses and rubs. He also laid reasonably still and was asleep before long. I left so as not to disturb him. That and I wanted sympathy.

I ended up doing more to annoy the wife than to elicit sympathy from her. So, she left me with my head firmly embedded in the beanbag chair the dog uses for a bed and went to other rooms in the house to get things done. She gave me a Unisom and told me that the headache would soon be gone and the Unisom would help counteract the caffeine in the Excedrin. She was right on both accounts. I managed to move to the couch and withstand the brightness of the TV. I stayed there until she woke me and sent me to bed. In the morning, I was a little foggy, but otherwise ok.

So, that's a migraine. I don't want another one. Ever. But at least I know how to deal with it. Maybe I can head off the nausea if I lie down and take the drugs as soon as the blurriness starts. Regardless. If it happens again, I intend to consult a doctor. I don't know what brought it on, so all I can do is wait and see.

Read More......

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Best. Thanksgiving. Evah. (a *LONG* post)

Ok, that may be a bit of an exaggeration. I'm sure that various people throughout history have had better Thanksgivings than we did. However, this one was the most enjoyable of my independent, adult life. This is not meant to suggest that I haven't enjoyed Thanksgivings past with either side of the family. This was just a new and very enjoyable experience. It's one we plan to make a tradition...

Not even a nasty head cold could prevent me from enjoying our Thanksgiving. Not even a group deciding that family skit night was a good time for proselytizing dampened my mood. For those who don't know, we went on a YMCA family camp out for Thanksgiving. We stayed at Camp Marston in Julian, California. Arrival time was slated for between 5 and 7 pm on Wednesday. Activities ended at 11 am on Friday. After we cleared out of our cabin, we'd have the rest of the day in Julian to hang around.

We arrived at camp shortly after 7 with only minor difficulties. The road out was unfamiliar. It was very dark. As we were heading to the mountains, the road twisted and wound a lot. I just made it a point to take it slow so we would get there safely, if a bit late. This really didn't present any problems for us. We were fed and in good spirits. The long line of cars behind me may have felt differently. The truck immediately to my rear expressed his displeasure by tailgating and then flashing his high beams. A sign we passed explained the etiquette in this situation. "Slower cars use turnouts". That seemed fair and reasonable.Only one problem. I couldn't see the turnouts until I was right on top of them. So, I endured the frustrated mob and shed my unwilling convoy at my first opportunity. We made the rest of the drive in relative peace. We pulled in to camp and I went in to the office to check in. This was the other difficulty. It wasn't actually the office. It was the lodging of on of the camp staff. We apologized profusely and he insisted it happened a lot, so we needn't worry. He directed us to the actual office. It was a larger building with the word OFFICE on it in large letters.

We checked in and got our cabin assignment. We were in the section of camp called "Old South Village". The woman at the counter told us that it really wasn't as far as it looked. We drove down to the cabin to see where it was. Then we drove back up for the 7:30 sing-along in the lodge over the dining hall. We sang some fun songs that the kids are still singing. And I was the co-champion of Simon says. Both winners refused to stop playing until 'Simon' said "Simon says the game is over". We were stuck in the last command, "Simon says touch your toes", for about five minutes. Finally, the staff took pity on us. The sing-along wasn't too long because they also had a night hike around the lake planned.

The night hike was pretty fun, too. Within the first five minutes of the hike, Maya met another seven year old girl named Maya. Five minutes after that, they were holding hands. The goal of the hike was to demonstrate a few things about night vision. We had to guess the color of a marker they wrote on us with. Then we learned about why pirates REALLY wore eye patches. Turns out it was to heighten their night vision in their dominant eye. Try this at home. Go outside at night, preferably somewhere with minimal light pollution. Cover over one eye with a cupped hand for a minute. Stare into a lit candle with the uncovered eye for a few seconds until you are adjusted to the light. Then blow out the candle. Now close the open eye and uncover the other. Close that eye after a few seconds and open the other. You should have noticeably better vision with the covered eye. It didn't work as well for the kids because they couldn't grasp the concept of "leave your eye covered" and kept peeking out as though they expected to miss something. We wrapped up the first hike with the old wintergreen lifesavers trick. The counselors told the kids that they were moon rocks that had been soaked in mint mouthwash. Josh refused to eat the rocks. Maya told him that they weren't REALLY rocks. They were mints. He still was having none of it.

The hike continued for those who were interested. Maya and Maya were, and we were all having fun, so we pressed on. This part of the hike was less gimmicky and more nature oriented. We saw a lean-to that had been constructed by some previous campers. We learned a bit about pine bark beetles and how destructive they can be. We ended the hike with Old Dead Fred. Some of the kids were leery about this part of the hike. They were thinking we were going to encounter a dead body or something similar. They needn't have feared. Old Dead Fred is a tree. He died some time back but hadn't fallen. Then, last summer, they had wildfires in the same forest in which we were camping. Fred got scorched from trunk to top, but didn't fall over. He is now an incredibly tall charred hunk of wood.

From there we retired to our cabin for the night. Our cabin was definitely one of the older style in the camp. I'm told we were the last reservation. It was a one story A-frame with bunks at two levels on either side. The bunks had those thin, foam-filled, green, vinyl covered camp mattresses. There was a gas heater in the middle of the room and a single light bulb on the ceiling. The heater was flanked by two benches on one side and a table on the other. Our bathroom had plumbing, but we had to walk outside and down a hill to get there. So, we weren't completely roughing it, but we were a bit. Before we could settle in for the night, Josh insisted I check outside for "lion mountains". Seeing none, I let him know it was safe to sleep.

Breakfast was scheduled from 8 to 8:30 with the morning activities starting at 9:00, so we couldn't sleep in. Breakfast was buffet style, but was pretty good. There were several varieties of egg casserole, four types of coffee cake, fresh fruit, yogurt, and an assortment of cereals. Beverages included multiple juices, coffee, water, and warm chocolate. It might have been hot chocolate, but so many people wanted the hot water that it never really heated up all the way. At breakfast, we hooked up with other Maya and her friends, the triplets, Bryce, Tegan, and Skylar. After breakfast, we had an hour to kill before the organized activities started, so we went out to the soccer field and kicked the ball around. Three of the girls, Maya, Maya, and Tegan, decided they would all be goalie. In the same net. This made Joshua unhappy. He didn't want anyone to block his shot. So, whenever he dribbled in, everyone had to get out of the way. I also had a brief stint as goalie. This ended when I swung out my foot to block a shot and the ball ricocheted dead center into my Maya's face. Tears and apologies ensued. I promised not to be goalie again and, after a few minutes, she felt better.

Activity time finally arrived. We had quite an array to choose from and knew we couldn't get them all in. We started at the climbing wall as the kids were most interested in that. Our new friends conveniently headed that way, too. We all cheered each other on as the kids tackled the wall. Bryce climbed like a spider monkey. Skylar and Tegan made it to the top at a steadier pace. Both Mayas turned in good efforts, but decided that they didn't need to reach the top. Did I mention that the top was 45 feet up? Joshua never quite grasped the concept of using his feet and hands to climb the wall. He thought it was more like a ride. He went as far as I could push him while he was being hoisted. Then he decided it was time to come down. The line was so long tha. My wife and I decided we would climb later.

We were going to go to archery next, but Maya's friends wanted to go to the air rifle range. So, we went there instead. After an extensive safety lecture, we were allowed to hang targets and commence firing. Look! My 3 year old has a gun. See, I could be a red-stater. ;-) I helped Maya and my wife helped Josh. Maya's left-right sighting was pretty good, but her elevation needed some help. She hit a few cans and hit her target twice. She got an 8 and a 9! A bulls eye is worth 10. Josh managed to hit the target once. I got to fire solo in the next round. Everyone else headed off to archery. I hate to admit it, but I had a pretty good time firing the BB guns. I hit my target pretty well and managed to hit the farthest can every time I tried for it. Then I tried to get fancy. I shot at the clothespins holding the cans. Went 0-for-5.

My wife left Maya at the archery and took Josh back to the climbing wall. It was pretty clear that he wasn't going to be able to do archery, even with help. The two Mayas were assisted by their Dads and did pretty well. The bows and arrows were of pretty low quality. We had to exchange one of Maya's arrows because it only had two of the three fletching arrows on it. She hit the target once, on her last shot, but showed steady improvement throughout. Then the Dads were given a turn. My first shot was only about six feet OVER the target. I recalibrated and hit the target with increasing accuracy over the next five. There were 10 rings. I got a 1, 2, 4, 6, and 8. So, between my rifle skills and my archery, perhaps I could survive in the wild. While we did this, my wife made her attempt at the wall. She got part way up, but her back has been bothering her and she couldn't get all the way. Joshua had another hoisting and found that he kind of liked it.

After that, we hooked back up with our friends to wait for lunch. Lunch was in two shifts. One at noon and one at 1:30. So, we played on the ball fields for a bit and threw the football around some as well. My wife has been hiding her quarterbacking skills. She threw several perfect spirals with a slightly undersized ball. It was easier to grip than the full size. After that, we retired to the common room of the lodge Maya and the triplets were staying in so we could see how the other half lives. This was one of the newer lodges. It had a common room with couches, chairs, a ceiling fan, and a wood stove. Each family had their own bunk room. There was a men's bathroom and a women's bathroom off the hall. They even had HOT water. We decided we would like to reserve one of these for next year. The kids played Jenga, Spoons, and the Shrek version of Operation while the grownups talked a bit.

Lunch was wonderful. It was a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings. The mashed potatoes were fresh and homemade. The bird was plentiful and juicy. There was ham for those interested. And there was also the usual stuffing, salads, yams, breads, and cranberry sauces. For dessert, there was an assortment of homemade pies and handmade ice creams! I had a sliver of apple pie, a bite of my wife's cheesecake, and a scoop of homemade vanilla. Joshua opted for two scoops of vanilla, a scoop of chocolate, and my pie. Maya ate about a third of a cheesecake. And her friend Maya, after throwing up, declared that she was going to have a scoop of each of the eight flavors! In spite of the plentiful delicious food, this is the least stuffed I felt at a Thanksgiving in years. I did not gorge myself. I ate until sated and was content to go back out and play.

Afternoon activities were from 3:30 until 5. We panned for 'gold' and then went canoeing. They would only allow a maximum of two kids and one adult per canoe. So, I took Maya and Skylar and my wife took Josh. The rest of the friends split up with various grownups and we took to the high seas. Ok, it was really a little lake that was pretty much deep enough and wide enough for canoeing, but little else. Maya, Skylar, and I chose to have a pirate boat. We searched the lake for treasure and fired broadsides at passersby. Eventually we got tired of this and decided to make one more stab at the climbing wall before dinner. Maya climbed a bit higher and Josh was hoisted as high as my wife would allow. He wanted to go higher, but no dice. My wife didn't want to go again, so I got one of the last turns before dark. It was tough, but I made it up all 45 feet! Roar!

We went on a little hike before dinner and then reported to the dining hall for leftovers. Josh fell asleep on top of my head just before we finished hiking. I wasn't all that hungry, so I sat and watched the sleeping Josh while my wife and Maya joined the chow line. At dinner we made some new and interesting friends including a guy with a very cool name, Wolfgang Sebastian Wagner. The only way it could have been any cooler was if he was a musician. He's not. He's a noncom in the Navy. He and his wife have an 8 year old named Justice. Our kids clicked and so did we. We decided to hang together through dinner and then go to skit night. During dinner, the staff told people to they could sign up for skit night if it so moved them. My wife talked me into telling a story, even though I hadn't practiced any in a while. Maya wanted to be in skit night as well, but she couldn't think of anything to do. So, the staff said she could be in one of their skits! The talent level was pretty good all around. The skits and songs the staff put up were excellent. Maya got to be in one about a patient in a waiting room who took on the illness of each other patient to pass through. She played "sneezing girl". Other highlights included a guy playing a Cuban percussion instrument that looked like a box but produced all manner of percussion sounds. There was also a cute little girl doing a song about a variety of sea creatures. At the end of each verse, the creature she sang about got eaten by a larger creature. Then she sang about that one. No punch line. She just said "Mommy, I'm all done." at one point. I told a story called Tortoise's Dream, complete with animal miming. It was very well received and I got compliments from the staff and several parents. An evangelical group did a skit about peer pressure in which the way to stop people from offering you drugs was to whip out your bible and quote the bit about Jesus dying for your sins. All the druggies then got down on their knees and prayed. Then they danced to some Christian rap music.

After the show, we went back to the nice lodge and played some cribbage with Laura and Wolf while the kids played with Justice and her Incredibles toys. I should note that Maya and Josh have not yet seen the movie. They are going to, but so far, they have only seen the previews. In spite of that, they were very keen on the toys. My wife learned cribbage, and a good time was had by all. Whoever got to breakfast first the next morning was going to save seats for the others.

Friday morning dawned similar to Thursday, except that we overslept a bit and had to rush around to get to breakfast while there still was some. Laura and Wolf had a table already and hot tea waiting for Maya. We let the kids sit off by themselves and had grown-up conversation over breakfast. We decided that since activities ended at 11, we'd all go into Julian together.

For the morning activities, we had time for the climbing wall yet again and some more canoeing. My wife and Maya went on the inspirational hike, first. An inspirational hike is apparently the nature oriented, non-denominational version of church. They hiked and someone told inspiring stories. I missed it, but it sounded good. I took the opportunity to see how high up the climbing wall we could hoist Josh. He was pretty keen on the idea. He stopped about half way up and I though he must be done. He was stopped, holding on loosely, and looking down. "What is it Josh?" I asked. "Daddy! Take my picture." Ok. Maybe he wasn't scared. He made it to about two-thirds when a voice rang out from outside the enclosure. "What are you doing?!? Get him down at once!!!" Uh-oh. My wife was back from the hike. "Ignore her," I said, "I don't even know her." Josh was helpful. "Mommy! I'm up high." The staff convinced her it was safe and he went to the top.

Canoeing was pretty fun the second time around as well, although I would have preferred the rifle range. Josh wanted the boats and we thought it best to pick something they would both like. Justice and Skylar came along for the ride. With four kids, Mommy had to row again. This time, I got Josh and Justice. We went with a pirate boat again. Maya and Skylar went with Mommy and they opted to be Native Americans from the 1600s. They spent their time practicing their rowing in unison. We searched for buried treasure and fired cannons at people. I should have realized what they were up to when they challenged us to a race. We lost. Badly. By half the length of the lake. We retailiated by blowing up their boat with our cannons. And honestly, which battle would you rather win?

After we got our cabin cleaned and packed, we met the Wagners in Julian where we put our name in at the restaraunt for a nice two hour wait! Apparently, the day after Thanksgiving is big in the small town of Julian. It was impossible to find parking, and the line of cars extended for a mile outside the town center. We visited a craft show and looked around a bit, but still had time to kill. We decided to let the kids play in the park while we played some cribbage to kill the time.

Lunch at the Rong Branch was great, but we were too stuffed for dessert. Julian is famous for it's Apple and Apple variant pies. They have an Apple-Peach that is heavenly! We decided to wander some more until we were hungry enough for dessert. Then we'd snack and call it a day. There wasn't much else to do, so we went back to the park where the kids played games and we played more cribbage. Eventually, Josh had to be redirected as he was playing a liitle rough with the girls. So, I let him take the digital camera. We now have some great pictures of the camera strap, my hand, his shoe, and a really nice grouping of rocks. The Julian Pie Company was, sadly, closed. So, we went back to Rong Branch for dessert. The wait was only 10 minutes this time and it turned out they had Julian Pie Company pies. Score! They even heat the pie for you and serve it a la mode. Even though it was only three o'clock, we called that dinner. We also called it a day. We exchanged numbers and made tentative plans with the Wagner Three before hitting the road. We managed to keep everyone awake for the drive home and got unpacked. Teh we all collapsed, exhausted but very happy.

Read More......

Joshua's Poetry

Joshua has written his first poem. He performed it in a somewhat free flowing manner, but my wife laid it out to make it more clear to those with less skill at poetry appreciation.

By the way, for those wondering why I keep typing "my wife" while naming anyone else I talk about by name, the reason is simple. She is still stinging from identity theft and does not want her name anywhere. So, there you go.

At any rate, here is Josh's poem:

Daddy have you seen my bum?
It's the bum
That is from
The inside of my pants

Read More......

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

A Star is Born

Ok, maybe not a STAR. But we are all pretty excited here at BriWise. If you look here you might see why. I'm not sure how long the cast list will stay up, but as of today it is there. Maya had her first real audition for a play and got a part! Shis is going to be Little Rabbit in the musical version of "Winnie the Pooh". During the audition, she had to sing a song solo and read from the script. She sang "For a Moment" from "Little Mermaid II". The show was supposed to be for ages 8-16, and there were more kids in that range than there were roles, so they didn't NEED to cast her. I'm pretty sure her role won't include a solo, but the audition notice said that they were looking for experienced performers and first timers should not be disappointed if they don't get cast. Woo-hoo Maya!

Read More......

Eyebrows under siege

That's right. My eyebrows are in danger. No, there's nothing you can do about it, thanks for asking. My wife has decided that my eyebrows are too bushy. Actually, she decided it long ago and has been lobbying me in an attempt to do something about it. I allowed her to trim them with scissors and comb on one occasion. She was pleased with the results ann would now like to make it a part of my regular grooming routine...

So, why don't I just let her do her thing and be done with it? It can't be worth fending her off on a regular basis, can it? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. Part of the problem is that she wants to use the new trimmers that I have for my hair to do it. They have an attachment that seems like it would work well on eyebrows. She helps with the cutting of my hair with those trimmers, but that's different. I'm taking off everything as low as the trimmers will go. I'm not keen to do that with my eyebrows. She also has a bit of history with electric clippers.

We get our dog shaved down for the summer. She's a miniature collie and she feels better without all that fur in the summer. Last summer, we went to Petco to get it done and they told us there was a new policy. The dog had to have a kennel cough shot for them to take her. The shot was around $20 and I'm not sure how often it had to be obtained, but this would have made the grooming a $50 prospect instead of a $30 one. My wife balked at this and we discussed it. At first, she wanted to use my hair trimmers for the dog. NFW. My point of view was that we should just pay the money for the shot and be done with it. After all, we didn't know anything about dog grooming. I tried to explain that it wasn't the same as shaving my head. I held still and was somewhat less likely to bite her if I didn't like what she was doing. I also don't have the same aversion to being held down as our dog does. Reluctantly , she agreed with me.

That evening, before I left work, I got a phone call. "Honey. You're going to be mad at me." Generally, I don't like conversations that start this way. No good can come of them. "Ok, I'll bite," I said. "What did you do?" It seems she couldn't bring herself to spend the money on the shot, so she bought a dog grooming kit instead. Cost? Around $30. And why would I be mad? Because the dog wouldn't stay still and now looks all patchy. Ok, fine. Lesson learned. So, now the grooming would cost $80 instead of $50. I wasn't happy, but at least I had I-told-you-so rights. Or so I thought.

That weekend, Chuck stopped over for a visit. He took pity on blotchy dog and ended up getting roped into helping with a second go at shaving her. We were more successful this time and got her coat even across most of her body. We had no idea what to do around her face, paws, and tail. This made her less splotchy but more freakish. Both my wife and I claimed victory.

The second electric clippers story is probably more directly relevant. It was back in the early days of Lynnea cutting my hair. She had been doing it for a few months and was getting to be pretty good at it. However, on the night in question, she made a bit of an error. A compounding series of errors actually. The first error was that she had forgotten to put the piece on the trimmers that determines how much hair you want to leave. This would not have been insurmountable had she not decided that the place to start was right down the middle of the top of my head. I knew right away that something was wrong. She blurted out "Oooooo!" and stopped abruptly. "Oooooo? What oooo? Ooooo is not a good sound." She stepped back and said, "I think I have to go." It was a drastic departure from my hairstyle at the time, so the white stripe down the middle was very noticeable. There was not much we could do at that point. She had to finish what she started. Thus my current hair style, short and fuzzy, was born.

I tried to use these stories in defense of my apprehension. She pointed to both as successes. "You like your hairstyle now. It looks good." I had to agree with her there. I am happy with my hair as it is and trim it down about once a month. My concern, however, was that my eyebrows could not withstand an "Oooooo!". She was ready for that. "Eyebrows grow back." Again, I had to agree, but here was the sticking point. Many people walk around with bad haircuts and people generally don't care. However, walking around with no eyebrows tends to freak people out.

Read More......

Sunday, January 09, 2005

A Christmas song you may have missed

Verry funny, but definitely NSFW!

The 12 STIs Of Christmas

Read More......

A life of plenty, of simple pleasures...

Just read an article from early December showing that right wing racism is alive and well. The short form is that a North Carolina Christian school is pursuing a curriculum on slavery that states that slavery was not as bad as we are led to believe...

Apparently, the book they are using, called "Southern Slavery, As It Was" is seen as

"a counterpoint to "Uncle Tom's Cabin," which he said portrayed all Southern whites as treating their slaves badly".
And, how does one justify using this Orwellian titled book? There are a number of rationalizations made by the authors.

"As a classical Christian school, we think it's important for our students to be able to think and not be slanted to a particular position," Stephenson said. "We want them to think for themselves."
So, apparently, we should be letting our children make up their minds about all sorts of issues of morality. Murder, for example. We shouldn't slant them to a particular position. Quick, somebody order up some pro-murder textbooks!

This point of view is further supported by one of the parents:

"They really do get both sides of the story," Kennedy said. "In public schools, all they get is one side of the story. That's not education. That's indoctrination."
So, they have to balance of Lincoln's speeches here by suggesting that slavery was ok? They claim that the students are told slavery is wrong while reading the book. They need it, however, because it's the only book out there about the Civil war that is pro-South and explore the Biblical view. And don't even get me started on the 'indoctrination' bit. Or are we supposed to believe that there is no indoctrination at religious school Christian, Jewish, or otherwise.

From the excerpts I read, it's an interesting view point. Interesting in that it seems to be based more on delusional fantasy than history. After all, how many historians do you think you could get to support the following statement:

"Slavery as it existed in the South was not an adversarial relationship with pervasive racial animosity. Because of its dominantly patriarchal character, it was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence."
So, now you know the truth. The slaves loved their masters. I guess we can conclude that the plight of the minorities in this country is a direct result of Abe Lincoln's meddling and not racist whites after all.

Read More......

Thursday, January 06, 2005

A Wave of Emotions

I have lots of things I want to post about. I know. You've all heard that before. As B.O.B. pointed out in the comments of my last post "Now you listed a dozen or so things you were gonna blog about a couple of months ago and you've written Step it up man." And I will. That's not a resolution or anything. I leave it to you all as to whether or not I live up to it.

At any rate, I disappeared after Thanksgiving for a bit. Had a busy holiday season. Both sets of parents came to Cali to visit us and I had some serious crunch time at work. My initial procrastination was that we had such a good Thanksgiving, that I wanted to post about that before anything after that. That post is done except for the pictures by the way. It's huge. I'd finally decided that chronolgical order is overrated and was going to just post the damn thing. Then there was the Tsunami...

I've spent a lot of time absorbing that one. And I decided that it deserved my attention more than my Thanksgiving. I was struck by the way the death toll seemed to double nightly during the first week. Lynnea was affected more than I was. Talking about it helped some, but there was this overwhelming feeling that we had to do something. Donate money? Sure. We did that, but there is still a feeling that we should do something else.

Lynnea felt the need to talk to Maya about the events. To her credit, she handled the information well. She didn't get overly scared or obsessed with the dead. She, too, just got the feeling that she wanted to do something. She has suggested lemonade stands and selling hot chocolate and such. Then Lynnea suggested Maya design a T-Shirt and we make and sell them. All profits to benefit the relief efforts. Now, I don't want to derail her efforts, but I can't decide whether or not this is a good idea. I mean, if someone would pay $10 for a shirt and the it costs us $5 to get the shirt, that's a 50% overhead. Granted, they get something back, but why should they have to? On the flip side, if the shirts caught on, would it also be a powerful unifiying force. Large numbers of people wearing shirts in support of helping those in need. Might move even more people to help. Can't reconcile it.

I suppose there are worse things in the world than trying to decide what the best way to help is. At least those close to me want to help and that feels good. Even my office has gotten into the spirit. HR sent around something saying that donations made through Cymer will be matched dollar for dollar for the next couple of weeks. They'll even match donations you made before the announcement. All you need to do is bring by the receipt.

Meanwhile, if you look over on Bil's blog, there is a story about a group that has been strangely unhelpful. Short version is that the wingnuts feel the brown people are getting what they deserve. It's a little more complicated than that and it is jaded by my own disgust with the wingnuts, but there you have it. If you follow all the links in the article, you'll eventually come to a story about how some of the more vocal right wing religious organizations don't have any mention of the tragedy on their front page. They have lots of calls to action, but none for the tsunami victims. They are more concerned about what two adults do in their own bedroom than the 150,000+ that died and the innumerable more that have to carry on in the wake. I was curious about the truth of the assertion, so I sampled the links. Sadly, it was true. As of January 5, there was very little mention on the five or six sites I sampled. The information I did find was buried far down on the page and talked about the tragedy as an opportunity to evangelize.

An opportunity?!? WTF! These people have lost faith in their beliefs because of the devestation around them. So, these jerks are going in and telling them that the problem is they were worshipping the wrong way. If only they had followed the gourd!

Sorry. You can see why this is called wave of emotions. Sadness. Hope. Doubt. Disgust. Anger. I'm sure this train of thought is largely incomplete. But maybe it ought to be.

Read More......

Monday, January 03, 2005

Gotta start the new year somewhere...

Found this on a web page. Didn't like the first few answers I got for resolutions. I was looking for something amusing to make this entry a 'grabber' :) Stopped at this one.

In the year 2005 I resolve to:
Stop refreshing this page until I get the answer I want.

Get your resolution here

Read More......