December 31, 2004

DSL Is The Shiznits!

Installed our DSL service this afternoon. As you might recall, Heather and I have been frustrated with our Internet connection speeds - we couldn't afford cable modem access and DSL access was all bought up in our area. Se we were suffering through dial-up even though our web usage habits demanded a faster connection.

Luckily this month more DSL nodes opened up or were added in our area and I signed us up for SBC DSL. Service was turned on yesterday and I installed everything today - even added extra firefall security this evening. Now we've got the smokin' fast connections we want and the "always on" service that parents of three kids 5-and-under demand.

This is a good thing.

December 30, 2004

Happy Birthday, Heather!

birthdayThe best wife and friend in the world is celebrating her birthday today. I got her a new bike. And as fate would have it, we are experiencing uneasonably warm weather - so she got to actually try it out briefly this afternoon.

Happy Birthday, Heather!

December 29, 2004

Jerry Orbach Dies at 69

It was reported this morning that Jerry Orbach had passed away due comlications from prostate cancer. When the television show Law & Order became repetitive and tired for me, Orbach's Detective Lennie Brisco always entertained me. He was always one of my favorite reasons - and sometimes the only reason - to watch the show.

I know he had a full and successful career before Law & Order, but for me he will always be Detective Briscoe - the hard-nosed NY cop who always had a sarcastic comment to close out a scene.

When he left the series last year, the rumors continued to swirl that he was going to head up another entry in the Law & Order franchise. Maybe the rumors were true, but now it looks like he walked away from work to tend to more pressing concerns.

I know I will miss him.

December 28, 2004

Tsunami Death Toll Soars Past 58,000

The more I read about the recent tsunami in Asia, the more I am amazed at what happened. This is a Biblical, end of the world type of event. 58,000 dead? And the number is expected to rise. I can't even imagine that type of devastation. The pictures, stories, and video don't seem to capture fully what I'm starting to believe it was like there. I don't know what to say. It's horror at a level that I don't think we ever have to worry about here in North America. We might get horrible hurricanes or tornadoes, but we never have a natural event wiping out 58,000 plus people. It's like a whole other world.

December 27, 2004

Christmas 2004 - With Photos

Another Christmas has come and gone, but I think this one went pretty well. Our celebrating started way back on the weekend of December 4-5, when we traveled to Findlay, Ohio to celebrate with Heater's side of the family. It was a very nice time for all of us, especially nice or Ian and Emma who got to spend some extended time with their cousins. Because neither my brother nor sister have any kids and because all of Heather's brothers and sister do - but all live in Michigan or Ohio, the only time Ian and Emma have to develop that type of relationship is when we visit Heather's parents for a holiday or special occasion.

We also got some great gifts, which I talked about before. Looking back at everything I received for Christmas, the Encyclopedia of DC Comics is till rating as one of my favorite gifts this season. It's really top notch.

zoe and emma open giftsThen dropped nicely halfway between the Stang Christmas and Christmas Eve was Ian's Christmas program at school. Read my entry from back then to see what a wonderful and happy occasion that was.

We spent Christmas Eve at my Dad's house, where as it is customary, he prepared an extremely lavish feast. Some sort of Tuscan Chicken or some sort. The guy never goes simple. He's always over the top. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but you can't fault the guy for trying. It's always an adventure.

Again, as is customary, my father presented us with gifts of books and calendars. This year it was monthly calendars as opposed to day-to-day ones - I think he was looking for something with a little more surface area to fill out the space under the tree. He surprised me by giving me the Complete FarSide Collection. It's two hardbound volumes collecting every FarSide comic every made. It's quite remarkable and a great joy to read. Of course, I think that by receiving this hefty volume, it should excuse me from ever receiving another FarSide calendar for the rest of my life. I mean, what would be the point?

Christmas morning got off to a very early start when I was woken by Ian crying next to our bed, "I can't wait any longer!"

It was 5:22 am.

emma butterflyIt wouldn't have been so bad if Heather and I hadn't been up till almost midnight preparing the way for Santa. But what was I gonna do? He's five years old and it's Christmas morning. I got him to wait for a little while. Let him check his stocking while his mother and sisters slept. Luckily they all got up around 6:30 so he didn't have to wait too long.

Santa was good to everyone at our house. Ian ad Emma seemed to really enjoy their gifts. So did Heather. Zoe, as usual, was just happy to be there. As I mentioned in my brief Christmas day post, I got some great DVDs. What I didn't mention was the really fun Lego mini Millennium Falcon Heather got me. The thing is very cool.

That afternoon my Mom, brother, and sister came over with guests in tow as we hosted Christmas dinner for the first time. Heather prepared a great meal that was augmented nicely by side dishes from my Mom and sister. And overall I think everyone had a nice time.

Our Care Bear collection continued to grow as Emma and Zoe opened their gifts. In total I think we're up to 10 Care Bears (including some of their cousins) now. It's frickin' crazy.

Kevin and ian are heroesEasily the highlight of the gift giving was what my brother gave Ian and Emma for Christmas. For Emma he got fairy wings, a tiara, and a wand. For Ian he got an Incredibles costume. Seeing them try them on Christmas night was absolutely hysterical. Emma immediately declared herself a butterfly and demanded everyone recognize how pretty she was. The funniest thing was to watch her run from room to room - her wings kept knocking things over.

Ian of course immediately started striking every superhero pose he could think of. The mask was a little tight, but that didn't stop him from hamming it up for everyone in the room. I've got photos of Ian and Emma dressed up, but that only captures half of the effect. It was something I will remember for a long time.

Finally, you can see a lot of photos of what went on over in the Photos section of my site. I wanted to leave you with a candid shot that Heather took at my Dad's house on Christmas Eve. I debated long and hard on whether or not to include this, but in the end I thought it was too funny not too.

Elizabeth Kevin and Mckinley

December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from the McKillips


Our Christmas is going wonderfully. We had a great time at my Dad's house on Christmas Eve with Elizabeth, Kevin, and Mckinley. I came home with the Complete FarSide hardbound collection - over 4,000 FarSide cartoons with commentary. It's like a DVD - but on paper. And speaking of DVDs, I've already gotten a bunch - Blade Runner, Ocean's Eleven, Some Like It Hot, and The Road to Bali starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour. Don't know when I'll get to watch any of them, but when I find the time, I will.

Santa was good to Ian and Emma - at least that's what their faces and voices told us this morning. More Bionicles for Ian, plus a new GameBoy game (this one with Pac-Man, Dig Dug, and Pole Position all on it), plus a slick Batman vs. Joker slot car racing set. He's already been tearing it up on the track.

Emma is already in love with her new Care Bear and the baby bed Santa brought her. Zoe is just happy to crawl around and play with whatever she finds, though she did give the toy pony Santa brought her a huge smile. Ian is very excited to start playing all the new board games he's gotten; Clue Jr. and Hungry, Hungry Hippos to name a few.

I think Heather really likes the Senseo coffe maker I got her. She enjoys drinking coffee, but doesn't make fresh-brewed at home because she doesn't what to make a whole pot. The Senseo makes one cup at a time, and from all the reviews and recommendations I found on the web, it's the single-brew machine to buy. I'm anxious to see how things turn out.

Won't take too much more time. Have to get back downstairs to start getting ready for everyone coming over to our house for Christmas dinner. (Oh boy!)

By the way, the reindeer at top was drawn by Ian.

Merry Christmas.

December 23, 2004

Happy Festivus

Before I forget, a happy Festivus to everyone out there.

At dinner tonight I plan to have the family partake in the tradition Airing of Grievances where we explain why the other members of the family have disappointed us over the past year.

After dinner will be the "Feats of Strength" and Emma will be participating this year. I haven't been pinned in 5 years, and I don't expect to start now.

Then will finish the night off by sitting around our new decoration-free Festivus pole.

A Festivus for the rest of us!

My Christmas Wish For You . . .

That you get to see what happens when someone video mashes Pulp Fiction with Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer: Pulp Christmas

Any Press Is Good Press - I Guess

martian manhunterPoor Martian Manhunter, he's been in the Justice League since its inception, yet he has never gotten the fame or the attention that the other members of the league have gotten, as this E! Online article points out.

I have to admit that I've never been much of a fan of the character. He's always come off as a low-rent Superman. John Ostrander did a solo series starring the Martian Manhunter back in the late 90s that I read for a while, but never really got into. I just didn't find the character compelling - even in Ostrander's capable hands. Hell, even the excellent Justice League cartoon series on Cartoon Network, which has used J'Onn J'Onzz extensively in their stories, couldn't really make the guy a standout character.

It's Beginning to Look Like An 8-Bit Christmas

The 8bitpeoples is "a collective of artists sharing a common love for classic videogames and an approach to music which reflected this obsession." I kid you not. They have over 30 albums available on their website.

What I was listening to this morning was their Christmas album, The 8bits of Christmas.

8bits of christmas cover art

This very special holiday release from 8bitpeoples features an allstar cross-platform lineup that is sure to make yours a truly chippy christmas indeed. Brought together from all corners of the globe, these 8 amazing tunes were composed by 8 dedicated chiptune maniacs on 8 different videogame consoles and homecomputers! Featuring the sounds of Yerzmyey on the Spectrum, Nullsleep on the NES, Vim on the VIC20, Paul Slocum on the Atari 2600, Bit Shifter on the GameBoy, Goto80 on the C64, Dma-Sc on the Atari ST, and Hally on the X68000, there is only one way to celebrate the holidays right this year, and this is it.

I recommend Bit Shifter's take on "Let It Snow." It's pretty good.

Pencils Versus Inks

Here's another excellent example of why I enjoy the original pencil artwork over the inked artwork. Jim Lee posted the original pencil artwork for the DC Comics holiday card on his blog. I posted a copy of the art here on my site a few days ago.

Now we can look at them together and see how inking changes the picture.

dc comics holiday card pencils

dc comics holiday card

I know Jim Lee has said he prefers the inked artwork because it gives the piece a finished look and that good inkers will bring new dimensions to the art, but I always enjoy seeing the pencils. The art seems more alive. For me the inking on this piece in particular flattens the art. It seems to strip it of some of the depth and texture that the original pencils possessed.

Funny Stuff

Fark is running a Photoshop thread where the attention of their humor is directed at LOTR: The Return of the King. While there is some of the usual dumb frat house stuff, there are some very and creative entries. One of my favorites:

watership down promo poster

Wear A Damn Hat

weather conditions snap shotIt never ceases to amaze me the number of men who seemly refuse to wear a hat or scarf or even sometimes gloves when it cold out. Now I'm not talking 30 or 40 degrees. Hell, I'm not even talking 20 degrees. This morning the temperature is around 4 degrees, and it's expected to get up in the lower teens this afternoon. Wind chills will keep the "feel like" temperature in the sub-zero range.

Yet at the train station this morning I counted at least a dozen men who didn't have any covering on their heads. Their faces and ears were all bright red and you could tell they were miserable. So why no hat or scarf? It's not like this cold weather snuck up on us. It's frickin' Chicago. Yet here are grown men standing on train platform in gusting winds dressed like it's forty degrees. These guys have money for a hat. Why not buy one?

Are the worried about not looking cool? That their hair will look funny when they get to work? (Plenty of the guys didn't have enough hair to get messed up, incidentally. So that should be a deterrent to wearing a hat.)

I know it's none of my business and if they want to subject themselves to that misery it's their decision. I just can't understand why anyone would voluntarily do that to themselves.

December 22, 2004

Grant Morrison is an All-Star

Newsrama interviewed Grant Morrison about his upcoming gig on All-Star Superman with artist Frank Quitely. Morrison is one of the true super-star comic book creators working today. His imagination is seemingly boundless and he never fails to deliver a story that is completely fresh and mind-blowing in its concepts.

Dammit if DC isn't going to keep me buying a Superman book. First it was the Jim Lee / Brian Azzarello run on Superman, then it will be Morrison and Quitely on All-Star Superman. Though maybe I'll wait for the eventual collection of Morrison's 12-issue run on All-Star.

More Halo and Sprocket

halo and sprocketUntil Kerry Callen can put out more of his entertaining Halo and Sprocket series, fans of Halo, Sprocket, and Katie will have to make do with a limited run of comic H&S strips that ran in the Kansas City Star newspaper back in November.

If you haven't read any Halo and Sprocket you reall should. The premise is simple: girl, angel, and robot live together and try to make sense of the world. Don't worry about why they live together. It doesn't matter. Instead enjoy Callen's keen observations about the strange and funny things that happen in daily life and his clean and engaging artwork.

Calvin on Ritalin

This Calvin & Hobbes remix is funny and poignant. And probably a little sad too.

Christmas Flash

Two short flash animations that are sure to put a holiday spring into your step:

I'm a "See It and Take It"

Response Insurance conducted a survey which helped them define four kinds of mall parkers: "search and destroyers," "lay and wait," "stalkers" and "see it and take it."

I think you can figure out how each one is defined.

I've always been a "see it and take it" sort of guy, though with kids I will search a little bit for a closer spot. But mainly I don't mind walking. Figure it's good exercise and allows me to avoid the stress of searching and possibly fighting for a parking spot.

Emma the Comedian

Emma's always had a slightly more developed sense of humor than Ian. I get the feeling the Emma will grow up to be a very funny person. She'll make a lot of people laugh. Up to this point her repertoire has been mostly confined to acting silly and making funny faces for hysterical effects. However, earlier this week she's been writing some of her own material. She's starting out small with knock-knock jokes, but I know she'll expand out soon.

A typical Emma-composed knock-knock joke:

Knock, knock

Who's there?


Monkeys who?

Monkeys in your underpants!

Trust me on this - she kills with that joke. Her delivery is spot on. You can't not laugh when she tell one.

December 21, 2004

Sin City Trailer

Sin city coverA little over a month ago I linked to the Sin City promo video from the San Diego Comic Con. Now the official Sin City trailer is online.

Take a view. It looks pretty cool.

Make me want to re-read all my Sin City books.

Explain This To Me

An attack on U.S. base in Iraq leaves 24 dead when an explosion rips through a mess tent minutes after soldiers had sat down to eat.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the violence in Iraq was a "battle between democracy and terror."

Blowing up a bomb inside a mess hall tent doesn't sound like a battle to me. That sounds like a slaughter.

Jim Lee Back on Batman

It's just been a Jim Lee sort of last few weeks.

Today Jim Lee and Brian Azzarello, the creators on the current Superman "For Tomorrow" story arc, published the first of a series of monthly interviewers they are doing with randomly chosen fans. The first fan up is a guy named Kilgore Trout, who I've learned has been very critical of Lee's and Azzarello's story in Superman. Personally I've loved reading "For Tomorrow." As much for Lee's stunning artwork as Azzarello's new take on Superman and themes he is exploring in the story. But enough of that.

You can read the interview if you like, but if you haven't read any of "For Tomorrow" it really won't appeal to you much.

Besides their talk about the story, what I found interesting was a section of the interview where the three of them get into talking about what Lee and Azzarello would change about Superman if they had complete control. Jim Lee talks about going back in time to prevent Clark Kent and Lois Lane from getting married, or even better, not having Lois learn of Superman's secret identity. The point being, and this is a theory I've read elsewhere, that the love triangle between Clark, Lois, and Superman was one of the underlying plots that made the Superman books interesting. Clark loved Lois, Lois loved Superman, and Superman loved Clark (Maybe more envy than love. Clark could have the normal life Superman can never have). It's a fascinating idea actually, and one that I can see providing tension and complexity into these character's lives. Tension and complexity is a great jumping point for storytelling.

The other exciting tidbit from the interview is Jim Lee's comments that he and Azzarello have two Batman stories lined up. This is great news. We all know how much I love Jim Lee's artwork, especially when he's working on my favorite character - Batman. As a writer Azzarello isn't anyone to shake a stick at. He penned a 6-part Batman story run about a year ago that I enjoyed and he's a stellar crime fiction writer - so he's a natural fit for scripting more tales of the Dark Knight.

The rumor is that the Lee/Azzaello combo will be used to kick off a new All-Stars Batman & Robin comic title to go along with some other All-Star titles from DC Comics that will feature high-profile writers and artists telling their own stories with DC's big guns. We'll have to wait and see.

Dean Martin Update

wttw logoNow that's what I call customer service!

Yesterday I noticed that the Dean Martin Christmas Show had disappeared from WTTW's listings, even though it was promoted in their newsletter. So I sent an email to WTTW to ask what happened.

I didn't necessarily expect a response, at best I figured on an email. So imagine my surprise when someone from WTTW called me this morning to explain what had happened. Let me repeat: They called me!

Apparently, WTTW had been negotiating the rights to televise this special from the late 60s with Dean Martin's management and thought it was going to happen, so they started promoting it. Turns out that things didn't get finalized and there will be no Dean Martin Christmas Show this year. The gentleman from WTTW told me that they really want to air the show and that they are continuing to work with Martin's management. So maybe next year we can see Deano smoozing with Bob Newhart and Orson Wells in front of a Christmas tree.

So the fact that they couldn't get one show on the air and a number of us WTTW watches wrote in asking what had happened, the management over at WTTW thought a phone call to me - even though they had my email address - would be the most appropriate response to my inquiry. That just floors me. That is above and beyond customer service.

Maybe I should become a member . . .

Favorite Christmas Shows

santa clausChristmas is quickly approaching, so to keep that yuletide spirit alive, this morning I present my favorite Christmas movies/shows.

  • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer - Classic Rankin/Bass stop-animation

  • White Christmas - Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen singing and dancing. How can you go wrong?

  • The Year Without A Santa Claus - Two reasons: Heat Miser and Cold Miser

  • It's A Wonderful Life - It wouldn't be Christmas without this film

  • The Bishop's Wife - I'm a sucker for Cary Grant movie

  • Rudolph's Shiny New Year - More Rankin/Bass goodness. This time featuring Red Skelton as Father Time and Morey Amseterdam (of 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' fame) as a cave man

  • A Christmas Story - Flick? Flick who?

  • Santa Claus Is Coming To Town - Fred Astaire is the narrator in this Rankin/Bass stop-animation classic

  • The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade - Technically not Christmas, but essentially officially kicks the season off. And I never miss watching it.

  • A Christmas Carol coverTwas the Night Before Christmas - A lesser know Rankin/Bass production that is straight illustrated animation and features the voice and singing of Joel Grey

  • A Christmas Carol - There are a lot of versions out there, but I'm partial to a recent retelling starring Patrick Stewart

  • Scrooged - A humorous retelling of 'A Christmas Carol' starring Bill Murray and the always lovely Karen Allen

  • Christmas Vacation - SQUIRREL!

    I can't add it to my list of favorites quite yet, but one that is has a good chance of making it is Elf, starring Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart, and Ed Asner as Santa. Heather and I just watched it over Thanksgiving weekend and I found it to be very funny. Director Jon Favreau did a wonderful job of taking David Berenbaum's script and perfectly balancing the humor with the human elements. The result is funny but touching Christmas film in very much the same vein as A Christmas Story. Not too sappy, but not too silly.
  • December 20, 2004

    Christmas News From Our Friends In New Zealand

    Brawling Santas arrested
    Drunken Santas brawl in car park in Auckland city- police made two arrests; had been drinking all day

    Police in Auckland had to deal with a group of drunken Santas last night.

    A large group of people, dressed in Santa suits, began fighting in the Victoria Street car park in the central city.

    About 30 of them, both men and women, were involved, and police say they were heavily intoxicated.

    A Father Christmas and a Mother Christmas have been arrested and charged with disorderly behaviour, and the Father Christmas has also been charged with resisting arrest and threatening behaviour.

    Police believe the Santas had been drinking since early morning.

    Me thinks there are a few Santa-wannabes that will be getting coal in their stockings this year.

    We Need A Dog

    For all of you men there trying to convince your wife/girlfriend/whoever that you need a dog, I think Dave Barry can help you in today's column.

    I'm trying to convince my wife that we need a dog. I grew up with dogs, and am comfortable with their ways. If we're visiting someone's home, and I suddenly experience a sensation of humid warmth, and I look down and see that my right arm has disappeared up to the elbow inside the mouth of a dog the size of a medium horse, I am not alarmed. I know that this is simply how a large, friendly dog says: "Greetings! You have a pleasing salty taste!"

    This Is Disturbing

    I guy took a still-born horse and turned it into a rocking horse. Now he's selling it on eBay

    One Area I Won't Be An Earlier Adopter In

    Desktop search is the hot item within the tech community, but I've been wary of these newly emerging apps that search both the web and your computer at the same time. Mainly because some of the companies jumping in aren't particularly know for building secure software (i.e. Microsoft and AOL) and the last thing I want is some piece of software sitting on my computer that is indexing every file I have and then making the available to an application that is open to the Internet.

    So I was a bit surprised that the first company out with a desktop search app to be singled out for a security flaw was Google. Two students found a flaw within Google's desktop app that would allow hackers to hijack a user's network connections for their own nefarious intentions.

    Microsoft recently released their desktop app as well, and I imagine it's just a matter of time before some security hole is discovered there as well.

    I think I'll just play it safe and stay away from the whole desktop niche until I see how things shake out.

    Last Minute Letters

    Just in case you haven't gotten your letter off to Santa yet, this little site will help you quickly compose something to send to jolly old Saint Nick.

    Dear Santa Letter Generator

    Thanks to Ed for this great site.

    Happy Holidays - DC Comics Style

    As you might be able to tell, I am really digging the Jim Lee-lead blog over at Gelatometti. What can I say? I'm a huge Jim Lee fan.

    Over the weekend he posted a pencil/ink version of the picture he did for this year's DC Comics holiday card.

    jim lee dc comic holiday card

    For the uninformed, that's the Batmobile being used in the upcoming Batman Begins movie that premieres June 2005.

    Where's Dean Martin?

    A couple of days ago I pulled out some programming highlights from the WTTW email newsletter. One of the shows I was most excited about seeing was the Dean Martin Christmas Show. This was the highlight from the email:

    Friday, December 24
    -- Dean Martin Christmas Show (9 pm) Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra are joined by their families, Bob Newhart, Jonathon Winters, Dom DeLuise and Orson Welles. Broadcast for the first time since 1967.

    When I double-checked in the TV Week the Chicago Tribune inserts in its Sunday edition of the paper, I noticed that the show didn't appear within the listings. So I checked WTTW's website. The Dean Martin Christmas Show is on the monthly highlights page, but doesn't show in their listings for December 24th. I even tried simply searching the site for Dean Martin and came up bubkis. Instead WTTW lists some Andrea Bocelli special in the 9pm slot.

    There's no way Andrea Bocelli beats out Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Bob Newhart, and Orson Wells. No way, no way, no way.

    I've sent an email to WTTW demanding to know what happened to Dean and hope to get a response.

    What Happened?

    bears logoSunday was a busy day, so I didn't get to watch the Bears game. I only checked in from time to time. The last time I checked it was the beginning of the fourth quarter, and the Bears were losing 7-5.

    When I saw the score crawling across the screen later in the afternoon when I checked on the Packer's game, I saw that the Bears had ended up losing 24-5. Holy crap! What happened?

    Checking the box score this morning I see a whole lot of nothing for the Bears is what happened.

    The NFL's worst offense could only muster 203 total yards against the NFL's third worst defense. Hutchinson doesn't look like the savior people were describing him as after the Minnesota game. Not like the offensive line was giving him much of a chance to make a play.

    The most shocking fact from this weekend's games is that at 5-9, the Bears still have a shot at the playoffs - mathematically speaking. But who are we fooling. Would any of us actually want to see this Bears team in the playoffs? I know I wouldn't.

    December 19, 2004

    Let's Go Swimming!

    It was 5 degrees today, with wind chills in the negative degrees. So what did we do? We went swimming of course.

    Heather's sister and her family were in Lisle to attend a wedding for Heather's brother-in-law's family. Lisle is about a 20-minute ride from where we are in Aurora, and because the hotel Leeann and family were staying at had an in-door pool, we bundled the kids out and jumped on the East-West tollway.

    Ian jumped right in (okay, walked in) and started having fun right away. The pool was 3 feet deep at the shallow end, so our lanky boy had no problem standing up and moving around. Ian took swimming lessons last summer, but they hadn't really taught him many swimming skills yet. Mostly the swim lessons for pre-schoolers were more about getting comfortable in the water and learning basic pool safety. So when it came to playing in the pool today, Ian either needed my help to get out into the deep water or he had to borrow a floating ring from one of his cousins. He did really well with the floating ring actually. With it around his waist, he was able to paddle with his arms and kick with his legs the entire length of the pool (with me swimming right next to him). It really gave him a sense of accomplishment.

    Emma was off to a slower start. She's always been a little afraid of pools. Not sure why, but she had an accident today that I thought would scare here off even more. While walking around the side of the pool, she slipped and completely fell over - cracking the back of her head strongly against the tile and stone around the pool. Luckily it turned out she was more scared than hurt. The girl's got a strong noggin. After a while she was willing to try getting into the pool (probably because she saw how much fun her cousins and Ian were having) and by the end of our stay she was out floating with a ring like the best of them. Hopefully we can build on this and she will start having fun at the pool right from the start on future visits.

    Zoe loved being in the pool. She was smiling and shrieking with glee the entire time she was in the water with Heather and I. She'd kick her feet and wiggle about, and when she got water in her mouth or on her face it didn't seem to bother her at all. I wish I could have videotaped her. It really was a gas seeing her so excited to be swimming.

    After swimming we had a little lunch and all three kids slept on the drive back home. Then Emma and Zoe extended their naps in the house for quite some time. The swimming really tired them out.

    Besides the swimming, it was also a great to spend some time with Leeann and her family and also give Ian and Emma the opportunity to play with some of their cousins who the see very rarely. I know Heather wishes we could live closer to some of her family, if for no other reason so that Ian, Emma, and eventually Zoe, could get to know their cousins. As our own kids get older, traveling back to Ohio will be easier, so hopefully we can plan more consistent trips back and allow the cousins to get to know each other better.

    December 17, 2004

    Don't Mess With Perfection

    I've mentioned a number of times here that I am a huge Jim Lee fan. I think his comic book artwork is simply fantastic.

    Recently I discovered his blog where he and others from his studio post all sort of things. Currently Jim is running a challenge for all aspiring artists who want to be inkers in the comic book industry. (For those of you who don't know, inking is when one artist takes a page another artist has drawn in pencil and ads ink to the picture - usually for giving the artwork more definition or depth) He's posted a full size version of one of his fully penciled high resolution pages from Superman #208 for download. Anyone wanting to give it a shot can download the file, print it out, do their best inking job, and then send it back to Jim for evaluation.

    When I see Jim Lee's pencil work all I can think is, "Why mess with perfection?"

    jim lee pencils for Superman 208

    I love the rawness of un-inked artwork.

    Be Cool

    be cool movie posterTen years after Get Shorty, Chili Palmer is back and wants to get into the music business. Be Cool is set to premiere in March 2005 and the trailer is now online. I enjoyed the movie version of Get Shorty, but as usual, I enjoy Elmore Leonard's writing much more than the movies based on his novels. None the less, Be Cool looks to be a movie I'd like to see. If for no other reason: Uma Thurman

    Besides the stunning and talented Ms. Thurman, the film's also got John Travolta, Vince Vaughn, Harvey Keitel, Cedric the Entertainer, and Andre Benjamin (Andre3000) in what I think is his first film role. (I'll try and ignore Danny DeVito's presence. I've never liked that guy's acting.) The movie looks plenty funny. Vince Vaughn and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in particular. I'm sure I won't get to it when it's in the theaters, but I'll be sure to add it to the rental list for later next year.

    The Bottom of the Barrell Has Been Reached

    Fox has announced that they will be running a show called 'Who's Your Daddy?' where a young women given up for adoption will try to pick her long-lost biological father and win $100,000 in the process. If the girl guesses incorrectly, the jackpot goes to the imposter who fooled the girl.

    It's set to ait January 3rd.

    I plan to be as far away from Fox, or any television for that matter, during the airing of that show. Maybe I'll read a book and some comics while the show is on. How else can I express my disgust at this type of programming?

    Everyone Wants A Bite of the Apple

    apple computers logoThe iPod has made Apple Computers back into a powerhouse for computer and gadgets. So eventually, when you've got something that everyone seems to want, it's inevitable that others will try and tap into that energy. Take the these two recent examples:

    Motorola and Apple are rumored to be working on a mobile phone that can play music just like an iPod and purchase songs straight from iTunes. It's all just rumor and speculation right now, but it would make for an interesting combo. The speculation is that the phone was designed n part by the same folks who have worked on the iPod to help build continuity between the phone and MP3 player. But this isn't to say that the rumored iPhone would compete with the iPod. Instead, Steve Jobs has gone on record as saying that if a phone were developed, it would be done so as an accessory to the iPod. That it would only hold 20 or so songs at a time.

    iBodIf a new phone is in the works, then more than likely it will be announced at the MacWorld Expo in San Francisco this January 2005. I guess we just wait for the Jobs' keynote speech to learn what the truth is.

    The other current cashing in on the iPod's popularity comes from a less likely company. Playboy has released a one-off collection of photos designed for viewing on the iPod Photo called 'iBod.' Not special. Just a bunch of low-res photos of girls with heavy airbrushing. It really isn't anything special and actually pails in comparison to the potential Apple - Motorola deal, but it gives me the opportunity to run the image over at the right.

    Thanks to Steve for letting me know about the iBod. What kind of searches are you running during your lunch hour?

    eBay Buys

    Found out this morning that eBay has purchased for $415 million dollars.

    I don't talk about it much here (in fact I don't think I mention it at all), but I'm the Product Manager for a major online apartment rental site. So this is big news for me and the rest of the people here in the office today. In the last two years has emerged as a strong competitor to our business. We've been able to maintain an upper hand because of two main reasons; 1) we've got better distribution through a number of large national newspaper web sites. 2) our cost per lease, which the rental industry uses to gauge advertising effectiveness, is the lowest in the market. has been able to build its business and market share quickly by offering an alternative to paying for leads: they only make rental advertisers pay if they actually sign a lease from a lead sent from The same business model that offline apartment locator services use and which has a certain negative stigma associated to it within the industry. I doubt that eBay will have abandon it's business model of paying per lease signed, not lead generated, but having eBay flex its muscles in the classified real estate market will provide a much bigger threat than alone. eBay has established itself as the premiere online marketplace for selling merchandise. Essentially the newspaper's old business of print classified ads. People think of eBay and the millions of visitors it has each day when they want to get their product in front of people to get noticed. The deal does raise the bar.

    This won't cripple us though. We're a very strong company with a growing market share and a very popular website. (Don't believe what the article says about being the most popular website - they just took that position last month. Up until then it was all our site. They're just burning a bunch of marketing money during the industry's down period. It's not going to help them. Nobody rents apartments in December) And at the end of the day our site offers property management companies and property managers the most cost effective way to find highly qualified renters and sign leases. You keep providing a premiere product for the most cost effective price, and you'll end up on top of the pile. That's where we are right now, and that's where I expect us to remain. eBay doesn't scare me.

    Favorite Christmas Songs

    santa clausAnother in a series of posts to help you all get in the Christmas spirit; today I present my favorite Christmas songs.

    Heather and I are Christmas music freaks. We have a ton of Christmas albums and eagerly anticipate the day after Thanksgiving so we can start playing them. Of all the songs (and different versions of songs) that we own, here are 10 or so of my favorites in no particular order:

  • Home For the Holidays - Perry Como
  • Blue Christmas - Elvis
  • White Christmas - Bing Crosby
  • Christmas (Baby Please Come Back) - U2
  • I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas - Captain Kangaroo
  • Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow - Lena Horne
  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Lou Rawls
  • Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth - Bing Crosby and David Bowie
  • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer - Gene Autry or Dean Martin
  • Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me - Elvis
  • It's Christmas Time - Band-Aid
  • Christmas Time is Here - Vince Guaraldi Trio
  • December 16, 2004

    Ian's First Christmas Pageant

    I don't think that was the official title for tonight's show at Ian's school, but I do think it fits. The kindergarten and first through third grades put on a Christmas musical show this evening in the gym that was as heartwarming as any Christmas show I've seen. But I could be biased, I was the father of one of the kids in the show.

    Ian on stageI remember being a part of these types of shows when I was a little kid at Peter Hoy Elementary School in Lombard, IL. The music teacher, Mrs. Morgan, used to whip K through 6 into performance shape and put on two shows in one day featuring the entire school. There was special lighting, props, and special instruments. It truly was a pageant.

    Ian's production wasn't as ambitious, but no less entertaining. The first through third graders took turns going first singing their three song sets. Each grade's musical selections were more complex, and delivered with more gusto, then the previous grade. Then the kindergarteners came on last. Unlike the upper grades, which simply dressed formally and stood arranged on the risers, the kindergarteners took the stage in full costume - recreating the scene of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem.

    What was so special about tonight's performance was that Ian had been chosen to portray one of the three kings who brought Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. In the weeks leading up to the show Ian would proudly announce that he was going to be the king who brought the gold. (He also would announce, but not as often, that the teachers had to make him a special crown. Apparently the standard issue crown that the kindergarten uses year after year was not large enough to fit Ian's melon.) He was very excited to have such an important part in the show.

    So in came Ian dressed as a king, carrying his gold, and bashfully singing along with the class. After his over-the-top performance at his pre-school graduation last spring, where he impressed everyone in attendance with his vocal range, I was expecting bigger things from Ian. Of course then it was only the pre-school parents. Tonight the gym was full with close to a hundred people. Probably a bit more intimidating to a 5-year old. No problem. Stop by the house and Ian will belt out the tunes for you as many times as want.

    Zoe loved the entire show. She stood up on Heather's lap for most the show, watching the performances intently and clapping along with the songs. Emma was a little more lost by the show. She kept asking where Ian and Baby Jesus were, and despite our constant assurances that Ian was coming up later on, she just kept asking. Then when Ian and the rest of the kindergarteners came on stage Emma wanted to know why the angels couldn't fly. None of Heather's answers would satisfy Emma until Heather told her, "Because that's how God made them." Then after Ian and his class were done performing, Emma began lamenting that she hadn't see Ian - despite our constant effortst to point him out to her while he was on stage. That girl confuses me at times.

    Ian and the other two kingsNot all the photos we took turned out. It was too dark and the kids were too far away for our digital camera to get much of any quality, but I'm still posting one photo that you can see Ian in his king regalia pretty well. I also videotaped it. If we still weren't using analog tape, I'd be uploading a short snippet of the show here. As it is, if you want to see Ian in action you have to stop by the house so you can watch it on our VCR.

    It was a lot of fun to be a parent at one of these shows. Not just to watch Ian's portion of the show, but also to see all the kids get up there and perform. Of course, the biggest thrill is to see your little guy up there on stage singing with his classmates. Seeing him up there made me proud to be his dad. Ian really is a super kid.

    More Good Reasons To Stick With Heather

    If her winning smile, cooking, and wonderful companionship weren't enough, here's another reason being married to Heather is good for me:

    WASHINGTON - Confirming what many couples already knew, a government study concludes it's healthy to be married. Sure, the majority of husbands pack on some extra pounds. But overall, married people are sick less often and more active. They smoke and drink less and in general feel better than single, divorced, never married or even folks just living together.

    The National Center for Health Statistics report didn't name the reasons why married people are healthier. But health statistician Charlotte Schoenborn in an interview described two major theories.

    One is that marriage may be protective of health. For example married couples may have advantages in terms of economic resources, social and psychological support and encouragement of healthy lifestyles.

    A second possibility, she said, is marital selection — "the theory that healthy people get married and stay married, whereas less healthy people either do not marry or are more likely to become separated, divorced or widowed."

    Read the whole article:Marriage Keeps You Healthy, Study Shows

    Truly Horrific

    If you want a glimpse into humankind's heart of darkness, read this article.

    Very disturbing.

    Christmas Programs of Note on WTTW-PBS

    Just read through the WTTW (the Chicago PBS station) email newsletter in which they highlight their Christmas programming. The shows of note that I noticed and hope to watch a little of are:

    Saturday, December 18
    Chris Isaak Christmas, a Soundstage Special Event (10 pm) Featuring 11 Christmas favorites and five original songs.

    Chris Isaak is very entertaining performer with a great voice. I missed this the first time WTTW aired it, I think with the 10pm showing time on a Saturday I should be able to catch it.

    Sunday, December 19
    Chicago Stories: The Marshall Field's Christmas Windows (6 pm) For over a century, Marshall Field's has been delighting children at Christmas time. The biggest attraction of all is the Christmas windows. See how these fantasies behind glass have come to mean so much to Chicago and visiting families.

    I'm a sucker for documentaries like this, especially when dealing with Chicago, and the Marshall Field's windows have a rich history in this town. I almost consider it a failure of mine that I haven't gotten Ian and Emma downtown to see any of the windows yet. I'm not too worried though, I know it will happen.

    Friday, December 24
    -- Dean Martin Christmas Show (9 pm) Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra are joined by their families, Bob Newhart, Jonathon Winters, Dom DeLuise and Orson Welles. Broadcast for the first time since 1967.

    Holy crap, how could anyone pass this up. We'll be at my Dad's house on Christmas Eve, but I'll lobby to have this on in the other room and maybe I can sneak away a few times to catch some of the Rat Pack with Bob Newhart, Jonathon Winters, and Orson Wells (?!).

    Batman Begins Trailer - Watched It Again

    batman logoI just watched the Batman Begins trailer again - this time with my headphones on and the sound turned up so I could hear everything.

    The trailer makes this movie look absolutely wild. Liam Neeson's voice over about how when dedicating yourself to an ideal you become something else perfectly sets the tone for what this movie is going to be about (or at least I hope will be about). The psychological aspects of what it takes to be Batman. It isn't all using cool gadgets and beating up bad guys. Mentally and emotionally what does it take for a man to don a costume like that and go out every night to battle in a war that seems impossible to win? That's what I think director Christopher Nolan and writer David Goyer are going after here. A much more cerebral take on the Dark Knight and a full 180 degree turn from where Joel Schumacher left the franchise in the late 90s.

    Hell, even the one sheet movie poster for the film echoes this with a brooding silhouette of Batman against the Gotham sky.

    batman begins one sheet

    I'm really looking forward to June 17th.

    Emma Pushes the Avant-Garde

    santa clausThanks to Emma and Zoe (my 2-year old and 9-month old daughters), the art of Christmas tree re-decoration has been elevated to new levels. Every day when I return home from work I notice ornaments and lights have been moved about the tree, forming new clusters of decorations and variations on design themes. It quite fascinating, really. Each evening presents a whole new Christmas tree viewing experience. If possible, I recommend you take in a viewing for yourself. Though, because this is really a work in process art form, you'll really need to schedule multiple viewing over a number of days to appreciate the full effect.

    Emma, in fact, has taken steps to ensure she remains in the avant-garde of tree re-decorating by introducing decorations not traditionally associated with Christmas tree into her art.

    [noises coming from the living room - where the Christmas tree is]

    Clunk! Thunk! Clunk!

    Heather (breast feeding Zoe in the family room): "Emma! What are you doing?"

    Emma: "Putting the guys in the tree!"

    Heather: ????

    Emma: "You want to see?"

    Heather: "Emma, just wait. I'm feeding Zoe."

    A few minutes pass. More clunks and thunks can be heard.

    Emma: "Mommy!! You want to see the guys now?"

    Heather: "Yes, here I come."

    At this point Heather enters into the living room and discovers that the "guys" Emma has been talking about it the full cast of the children's Nativity scene that we put out at Christmas for Ian and Emma to play with. Joseph, Mary, little baby Jesus, the wise men, the shepards, everybody - they've been thrown into the Christmas tree. Mary and baby Jesus actually made it pretty far to the top.

    An innovative and visually stunning use of non-tradition materials to re-decorate a tree. Emma is a visionary.

    December 15, 2004

    Batman Begins Trailer

    batman logoThe first full Batman Begins trailer is now up online at the movie's website.

    I've only had time to watch it once, but there's plenty more to see than was shown in the teaser trailer that came out this past summer. Hopefully I can view it again tomorrow and get a better look at everything going on.

    Christmas Memories

    santa clausAs we approach Christmas I thought I'd throw in some fun Christmas themed entries to get everyone in the spirit.

    Today's entry is a cautionary tale for all husbands and boyfriends on why it is a good idea to not talk to your wife\girlfriend too much around the holidays.

    This exchange actually took place (with some artistic license) between my Mom and Dad in the weeks preceding Christmas many, many years ago.

    Dad: "I ran into Ross today. He says 'Hi'."

    Mom: "Really, where'd you see him?"

    Dad: "Oh, I bumped into him when I was at Marshal Fields picking up the watch I'm getting you for Christmas."

    Mom: "You're getting me a watch?"

    December 14, 2004

    Took Almost As Long To Write This As It Did To Read The Books

    I do most of my big blog entries while at work. I usually save them up to write during my lunch hour. However, between increasingly busy workdays and an increase in business travel, I haven’t been able to dedicate many lunch hours to writing as much as I’ve been accustomed to. It’s been either a lot of quick little hits while I eat during a truncated lunch period or working on an extended Odds & Ends entry at five-minute intervals through out the day and then publishing late in the afternoon. What this means is that I haven’t been able to write at length about some of the longer comics and prose novels that I have read lately.

    tommysaurus rex coverFor instance, back in November when I was sick, I got to read Doug TenNapel’s Tommysaurus Rex. TenNapel is famous for creating the quirky Earthworm Jim character and countless offbeat comics. About two years ago I read and thoroughly enjoyed his Creature Tech graphic novel. I’m pretty sure it was one of my topped rated books the year I read it. So when I saw the solicitations for Tommysaurus Rex, I put in an advance order for the book through my comic shop.

    Tommysaurus Rex is a coming of age story featuring a young boy who finds and befriends a live Tyrannosaurus Rex dinosaur. It’s a fairy straight forward tale with the usual cast of characters in such a story; the overly-protective mom, the father who is gruff on the exterior but has a soft, nurturing soul, the hooky grandfather who teaches the boy more about life than anyone else can, and the misunderstood bully. Of course we have our star, Ely, the gentle boy who is faced to understand what it takes to be a man when faced with horrible tragedies.

    The story is good enough and the art is fantastic as usual but Rex didn’t resonant with me like Creature Tech did. The story felt flat - void of the layers that Creature Tech displayed. Creature Tech was such a wonderful multi-layered tale that was on one level a sci-fi action story, another a story of father and son discovering each other, and another a study of religion and sciences place in the world. I guess I went into Rex expecting another multi-layered story, or at least something that challenged or entertained the reader on different levels. Tommysaurus Rex just seemed to be missing that.

    Don’t get me wrong, I still recommend the book. Tommysaurus Rex is an entertaining story that shows more craft for comic book story telling than most of what is out there. Maybe TenNapel just set my expectations so high with Creature Tech that any next book was destined to disappoint me.

    all false moves coverOne of the other graphic novels I’ve been able to read is Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips Sleeper: All False Moves, the second 6 issues of the inaugural year of the Sleeper comic book series from Image Comic. Earlier this year I caved in to the mountain of positive press and word of mouth reviews that Sleeper has received and read Out In the Cold and was completely floored by this expertly plotted and written series from Brubaker that was complimented perfectly by Phillips’ style of art. I was so impressed by what I read in the first Sleeper trade paperback, that like another comic book series (Fables), I made it a point to pick up the series in collected form as it came out.

    All False Moves doesn’t disappoint, perfectly maintaining the feel and flow of the first half of the series. The basic premise is that Holden Carver plays a deep undercover agent in an international terrorist ring. He’s so deep undercover that only one man knows Carver’s true motives, and unfortunately that man is in a coma. Sleeper concerns itself with Holden’s struggle to remain alive while trying to get himself out of the situation he is in.

    Brubaker keeps pushing Carver through the ringer in All False Moves with plenty of plot twists and turns that he expertly hides right up to the reveal. The undercover spy thriller might be a common story, but there’s nothing clich├ęd about Brubaker’s writing. He keeps the story and events honest to the characters and their situations. That’s half of what makes it such a wonderfully enjoyable book to read.

    The other half is Sean Phillips’ moody artwork which skillfully captures the world that this story takes place in. I can’t imagine any other artist, or art style, being used in Sleeper and working. That has to be a compliment.
    Sleeper has gone into a second 12-issue run, title Sleeper: Season Two it picks up where the cliffhanger of all cliffhangers ended the first 12 issues of Sleeper. The first trade paperback for season two will be published in March 2005, and I’ll be right there to pick it up when it does.

    I’ve also begun to take advantage of the Aurora Public Library by checking out books I’m interested in reading instead of buying them. It’s kinda silly that it took me this long to start using the library again. When I was a kid I checked books out all the time. In fact, my mom used to leave my brother and I at the Glen Ellyn public library for hours during the summer while she took our baby sister and went grocery shopping, or ran some errands, or picked up her monthly supply of LSD. He and I would read all sorts of things while we were there and always went home with five or six books under our arms.

    leonard novel coverThe first novel I checked out and read was Tishomingo Blues by Elmore Leonard. I’ve been a fan of Leonard’s since picking up Freaky Deaky in the Las Vegas airport about four years ago. I just love the rhythm of his writing. It’s pop writing with bite.

    In typical Leonard fashion, Tishomingo Blues is quirky mix of characters dropped in a plot full of twists. There are double crosses on top of double crosses and it’s easy to lose track of who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.

    However, as in any good Elmore Leonard novel, in the end the protagonist has a happy ending. He might have taken a slightly shady path to get there, but he gets there nonetheless and the reader is happy to see where things ended up. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Now I’m looking forward to checking out more books from the library. Not only will it relieve the strain on the pocketbook, but I’m also running out places to put all these books. So it’s either buy more bookcases or “rent” the books that I want to read. I’m sure that I’ll get a book or two a Christmas, or at least a gift certificate to Borders or Barnes & Noble, but I’m planning on spending a lot of time at the library in 2005.

    DC Countdown and Other DC Comics Coming in March

    I just talked about this the other day, and now DC Comics has the full solicitation for DC Countdown

    Written by Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka and Judd Winick; Art by Rags Morales, Ed Benes, Phil Jimenez, Ivan Reis, Jesus Saiz, and various; Cover by Jim Lee and Alex Ross

    Three of the most acclaimed and popular writers in comics - Geoff Johns (TEEN TITANS, JSA), Greg Rucka (ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, WONDER WOMAN) and Judd Winick (BATMAN, OUTSIDERS) - join an all-star roster of artists for DC COUNTDOWN, an 80-page Spectacular with the incredibly low cover price of $1.00!

    Artists Rags Morales (IDENTITY CRISIS), Ed Benes (BIRDS OF PREY), Ivan Reis (ACTION COMICS), Phil Jimenez (WONDER WOMAN, New X-Men), and Jesus Saiz (MANHUNTER) each pencil chapters of a story that follows a member of the JLA through a mystery that touches on nearly every character in the DCU!

    Topped with a cover pencilled by Jim Lee (SUPERMAN, BATMAN) and painted by Alex Ross (KINGDOM COME, JLA: LIBERTY AND JUSTICE), DC COUNTDOWN is an essential project that features nearly every major character operating in the DC Universe. It's a project that will resonate for months to come and is a perfect jumping-on point for readers who've been wondering where the people who helped deliver IDENTITY CRISIS could possibly be going next. You won't want to miss it! And the clock is ticking...

    DC Universe | 80pg. | Color | $1.00 US

    On Sale March 30, 2005

    80 pages for 1 buck! In today's comic book market that's a deal and a half regardless of who's writing and what the stories about. I'll definitely be picking this up.

    There's plenty of other interesting things coming from DC Comics this March.

    The third Sleeper trade paperback, A Crooked Line, will be published this March. Very excited about this. Loved the first two collections in the series. Look for review of the second book, All False Moves shortly.

    Grant Morrison's huge Seven Soldiers series kicks into high gear in March as well. Seven Soldiers is a 30-issue series made up a bunch of short 4-issue series arcs (and two single issue bookends) that can be read separately or all together. I've already asked for this to be added to my pull list. Morrison is an absolutely mad writer. Completely tripped out in his ideas. His comics are unlike anything else on the market. Definitely not something to be missed.

    The Batman Cover to Cover book showcases over 250 of the best Batman covers ever produced. It might just be a bunch of pictures, but for a Batman fan like myself, this would be a great book to own. Plus, it being an over-sized coffee-table book, it would look great with the DC Encyclopedia I just got for Christmas.

    Good stuff.

    Second Cutes Kid in the World

    I don't have a picture to show you, but take my word on this; after my own kids, Rick and Liisa have the cutest kid in the world.

    Rick, got the Christmas card yesterday with Margo's picture on it. I hope Daddy is treating her like the princess that she is.

    December 13, 2004

    Only In Japan

    would they come up with something like this . . .

    lap pillow

    The Lap Pillow

    Let the Weight Gain Begin

    This weekend our Christmas baking really started to get warmed up. Heather spent Saturday afternoon making spritzer cookies. Ian and Emma helped a little - mostly the pre-baking decorating with candy sprinkles and sugar. It's easy to pick out the cookies Emma worked on, the sugar was layered on so thick than when the cookies baked a fine sugary glaze formed over the top of the cookie. Hmmmm.

    On Sunday I made our first batch of fudge. (I already know we'll make another batch. Heather and I love the fudge recipe too much to only make it once at Christmas.) The recipe we use is one my Mom gave me that she's made for years and I absolutely love. I don't know where she got it, but it uses a pound of powdered sugar and two boxes of Kosto chocolate pudding. It is pure heaven. Especially when cut it up into small pieces and let the outside dry out just a little bit. Hmmmm.

    While Heather and I were busy finding ways to push our calorie intake count through the roof, Zoe was mastering climbing up the stairs all by herself. She toyed with the prospects of going upstairs all last week, but this weekend she started successfully (and frequently) scaling the stairs with great abandon. It's time to haul up the child gate.

    We also learned that the Morton Arboretum serves up a mighty fine lunch in their cafeteria. One Heather and I enjoyed to full effect. My Mom and stepfather treated us and the kids to lunch at the arboretum after Ian and Emma built some neat Christmas ornaments and got to see some fascinating Christmas train displays. Ian and Emma loved the trains, especially any of the trains that had Santa on them. Zoe had more fun with the empty water bottle from lunch. Everyone enjoyed the wonderful lunch.

    I hadn't been to the Morton Arboretum in years and was astounded by the changes they have made there. Even in early winter the place looks wonderful, and much more professionally put together than it has in the past. It really was a nice treat. Thank you Mom and John for inviting us and getting us out of the house on a cold and blustery Saturday morning.

    And somehow through all this activity we managed to finish up all of our Christmas shopping. So now we can focus on more Christmas baking.

    I Just Don't See This Happening

    TiVo is seeking to protect it's brand name from becoming a generic reference for recording a show with a digital recorder. Basically, they don't want to turn into Kleenex or Xerox.

    It's a valiant effort, but you can't stop the masses. If it's going to become a slang term, it's gonna become a slang term. They just need to let go and worry about how they're going to keep market share as more DVRs enter the market and TiVo loses one of it's biggest distribution deals when DirectTV drops them in favor of an in-house DVR product next year.

    December 12, 2004

    This Better Work

    nd logoSo the same group of 7 men who thought Willingham had to go have now decided on a new man to lead the Fighting Irish on the football field. It is expected that on Monday Notre Dame will introduce Charlie Weis as the new ND football head coach.

    Weis is the current offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots and is expected to finish out the season with the Pats as they make another run at the Super Bowl - which I think they'll probably win - before assuming full head coach duties with the Irish.

    Though Weis has plenty of success as a position coach and coordinator, and he raduated from ND, he has no head coach experience or recruiting experience. Something I thought the ND search committee considered essential in any candidates. But what do I know? I'm just a guy blogging on the web.

    I sure hope Weis does works out. Because if he doesn't, and the Irish are suffering through losing seasons right away, then the ND athletic administrators - specifically the members of the seach committee - are going to look even worse than they do right now and they'll have a full football booster revolt on their hands.

    As a ND football fan I don't ask for much. Give me a team that is competitve and gives me a reason to watch every week. Willingham was giving us that, in my opinoin. Sure they were up and down - but that's what made it fun to watch in a sort of twisted way.

    December 10, 2004

    This Is One Trippy Trailer

    willy wonkaHere's the trailer for the new version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as envisioned by Tim Burton with Johnny Depp in the role of the eccentric Willy Wonka.

    Willy Wonka Trailer

    I'm not sure if I'm to be impressed or scared. It's a very odd trailer.

    Countdown for What?

    Jim Lee has posted the cover for the January 2005 edition of Previews (the magazine put out by Diamond Comic Distributors to show what is coming down the pipe for comics) that he did with Alex Ross and it's a doozy.

    previews cover

    There is plenty of speculation on who Batman is holding. My first thought was that it was Nightwing - just by the look of the guy in Batman's arms and the fact that it's Batman who holding the person, I naturally assume that the character is connected to Bats. There have plenty of things happening with Nightwing over the last year that could be setting him up for a fall like this. But it would be horrible if it was him. I hate to see anything really bad happen to that character. Of course I'm assuming the guy in Batman's arms is dead.

    But then there's Superman's reaction. You can see him being held back by Wonder Woman. So maybe the character in Batman's arm is more connected to Superman. Lex Luthor maybe? I've read that. But would Superman be jumping up like that if it was Lex who was dead/injured?

    I guess I'll just have to wait an see. The image has definitely got me interested in what DC is doing, and the writers attached to this project - Greg Rucka, Judd Winick, and Geoff Johns - only increase my anticipation.

    Odds and Ends

  • 8 months and 9 months have to be the best age for babies. They are just happy-go-lucky goofballs who are smiling all the time and love to play, play, play. They're old enough to not just be crying for the sake of crying, but not so old that they're talking back to you yet. I love having a 9-month old baby in the house. It really brightens my day.

    Oh, in case you weren't keeping count, Zoe turns 9-months old today.

  • What should you be watching tonight? Turner Classic Movies is showing the 1944 classic Going My Way starring Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald tonight at 7 pm CST. And this weekend TCM has got some other great movies on that I hope to catch a little bit of: Road to Utopia starring Bing Crosby and Bob Hope as two song-and-dance men pretending to be killers up in Alaska (Sat. 3:15pm), A Christmas Story the modern holiday classic starring Peter Billingsly (Sat. 5pm), the classic Citizen Kane (Sat. 7pm), Alfred Hitchcock's Suspicion starring Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, and Nigel Grant (Sun. 7am), holiday favorite of mine The Bishop's Wife with Cary Grant and Loretta Young (Sun. 11am),and finally Monkey Business with more Cary Grant (Sun. 1pm).

  • godfather returnsI meant to write about this a few weeks ago when the book came out, but I didn't get the chance and then moved on to other things (blogging stops for no one!). The Godfather Returns was published a few weeks ago as the much anticipated sequel to Mario Puzo's original Godfather novel which inspired Francis Ford Coppola's superb trilogy of films. The handpicked author to write the sequel is Mark Weingardner.

    When I went to John Carroll University in Cleveland, OH, Mark Weingardner was my faculty advisor. I took a number of classes from him, including a fiction-writing course. (Which I reluctantly dropped because I couldn't balance the writing assignments with my other course work and needed to maintain a high grade point to retain some scholarship money. It's one of the things I regret to this day.) I even drank with him at a bar. He was a fun guy, though I thought he was a bit snobbish at times.

    Since then I've read some of Weingardner's short stories, and for Father's Day a number of years ago she got me one of Mark's novels, Crooked River Burning, which is set in Cleveland. I enjoyed reading his work, but don't remember anything particularly remarkable about his stories.

    Why mention all this? It's a brush with celebrity. No other reason.

  • Every day I am reminded that a majority of the human population are actually lemmings in people suits. I don't care if you've sat on the second floor of Metra train car every morning for the last 2 years, if we're essentially filled up and their are open seats down below go sit there. Holy crap!

  • care bearsWe have been invaded by Care Bears. Emma already has 2. Zoe got one for Christmas at Heather's parent's place last weekend. And Saint Nicholas left Ian and Emma each a Care Bear Cousin in the shoes last week. And I know for a fact that Santa is bringing Emma a Care Bear on Christmas day. I've never had to share living space with so many day-glo bears with happy pictures on their belly in my life. Even at the height of the Care Bear craze in the 80's, my sister only ever had 2. We've got 5, and the number is sure to swell.
  • Could Have Been Worse, The Guy Could Have Ordered Soup

    HOUSTON - A 34-year-old man apparently angry that his $6 steak and cheese sandwich was too cold was arrested on a charge of threatening to kill the restaurant manager Wednesday.

    Police said the manager offered to reheat Devlin B. Nelson's sandwich or make him a new one when he complained. Authorities allege he instead demanded a refund, threw the sandwich at the manager, then threatened to kill her and blow up the restaurant.

    Nelson, a Houston public works employee, has been relieved of his duties pending the outcome of the investigation. He remained in custody Thursday.

    Star Wars: Clone Wars on DVD

    The DVD release collecting all 20 episodes of Cartoon Network's Star Wars: Clone Wars anmated series will be released on DVD March 22, 2005.

    star wars clone wars dvd box

    Star Wars: Clone Wars Volume 2 premieres on March 21st.

    How cool it that!

    December 09, 2004

    Things Keep Looking Bad For Notre Dame

    irish logoI get the feeling the firing of Tyrone Willingham is going to haunt Notre Dame for many years to come.

    Yesterday University President Rev. Edward Malloy slammed the school for firing Willingham. "In my 18 years, there have been only two days that I have been embarrassed to be president of Notre Dame: Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, because I felt we had not abided by our precedent … which was a five-year window for a coach to display the capacity to be successful within our system."

    That's pretty harsh.

    Not only is the President of Notre Dame protesting the firing, his assistant is doing it also. Chandra Johnson shaved her head after hearing that Willingham had been let go, and says she will continue to shave her head until the Irish win a national championship. "Because when we do, that will be justification for some people of why we fired Tyrone Willingham."

    I think she's going to be bald for a long time.

    This One's For Tre

    Bill Lumbergh Soundboard

    Bill Lumbergh is Gary Cole's character from the very funny cult hit, Office Space, and a character Tre did a great job of impersonating when he worked with me. I hated to see you have to leave the company.

    The link for the Bill Lumbergh Soundboard is more frothy silliness provided to me by Ed's website.

    The New Republican Party

    I found this on my friend Ed's site and thought I'd like to run it here also. I think the comic does a good job of capturing the confused direction of the Republican party.

    editorial cartoon


    At least I know I won't have to piss away more money into a dying system. Yesterday W said that there will be no payroll tax hike for Social Security.

    I might not believe most of the things W says, but I believe him when he talks about taxes.

    I Knew Soccer Was Religion for The Redcoats, But This . . .

    Madame Tussauds London has created a controversy by putting together a nativity scene using famous people. Understandably, church leaders from all the Christian denominations condemned the display and declared it a sign of how modern society glorifies its celebrities and political figures.

    You've got soccer star David Beckham and his wife Victoria "Posh Spice" as Joseph and Mary, Samuel L. Jackson, Hugh Grant and Irish comedian Graham Norton as the shepherds, Kylie Minogue as the angel, and in a wonderfully ironic casting move, Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Duke of Edinburgh and President Bush as the three wise men.

    While I appreciate and understand the Christian community's objections to this tableau, I don't think it is proof of the fall of Western civilization that some would make it out to be. It's just goofy fun.

    The Show Will Go On

    The news this morning is that con Dick Clark suffered a mild stroke last week. He's already recovering and plans to still host his 33rd "New Year's Rockin' Eve" on television this December 31st.

    I can't imagine a world without Dick Clark. Personally, I don't think the man will ever die.

    December 08, 2004

    Satisfying My Inner Comic Geek

    dc comics encyclopedia coverThis past weekend Heather's family got together to celebrate Christmas. With everyone stretched out across three states and busy with their own families, it just worked out that this past weekend was the best time to get everyone together. The up-side was that we all get to enjoy some Christmas cheer early on in December and get some great gifts too.

    One of the great things I got was the recently published DC Comic Encyclopedia . Covering over 1,000 characters, this 330 plus page tome covers nearly everything in the DC Universe. Everyone from Superman to the Shining Knight, Genius Jones to Green Lantern. The book even touches on some of the major storylines and events that have occured during DC Comics over 60 years of publishing. Most characters get about 50 words, minor characters a half-page spread or sometimes a full-page, and the big guns (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.) get two-page spreads for themselves. For a huge DC Comics fan like myself it a book that I can spend hours and hours reading and looking at and always find something new. I love it.

    My only complaint is that that the art isn't always very good. Instead of having people draw entries specifically for this book, the editors went to the comic archives and pulled artwork to include. This means sometimes the art can be a little scratchy and not as finished as some other pieces. But this is a minor complaint and doesn't diminish the fun I am having pouring over the pages.

    Thanks Mark and Leanne.

    My Second Chance

    American Express will be offering up 3 BMW z4 Roadsters for $5,000 again on Monday, December 13th at 11am CST, 3pm CST, and at 8pm CST.

    I will have button clicking finger ready.

    bmw z4

    They Had to Ask?

    BERLIN (Reuters) - Germans prefer money to sex, a new survey for Playboy magazine shows.

    Asked whether next year they would prefer more money, more regular sex or extra free time, 62 percent of the 1,000 Germans polled opted for cash, compared with just six percent choosing sex. Twenty-six percent plumped for free time.

    The full survey results will be published Wednesday in the German edition of Playboy for January.

    Everybody knows that with more money you can buy all the sex and free time you could want.

    Poor Notre Dame

    notre dame logoFirst, Florida steals away the one guy they really wanted as their new head coach. Then Dave Wannstedt is actually mentioned as a possible candidate. Now, they have to start considering Buffalo Bill assistant coaches.

    There's no luck for the Irish in the seach for a coach so far.

    Still think firing Willingham was a huge mistake. What was the harm in letting him work out his contract? We're only talking 2 more years. Notre Dame AD Kevin White admited that Willingham and his overall winning record was huge success within the program - he just didn't win enough for some people.

    I think those people are wrong. If Notre Dame is now going to dismiss a head coach for running a disciplined team with a high graduation rate that was competitive and had a winning record over the first three years, then Willingham is better off not working for Notre Dame and that school needs to take another look at what they stand for.

    This Is A Good Thing

    cubs logoThe Cubs announced today that they had resigned Nomar Garciaparra to a one-year contract. So we get Nomar for at least one more year. What's even better is Nomar's expressed interest in staying in Chicago after that. Hell, he turned down a two-year offer from the Anaheim Angels to go play in Southern California and play a lot closer to home than Sheffield and Addison.

    The Cubs also resigned Todd Walker. So the Cubs should remain tough defensively up the middle.

    I always thought the resigning Nomar would be key to the Cubs to remain a competitive team in the future. The pitching is solid and the offense is strong, but getting old. Unload Moises and Sammy and continue to build around Nomar, an all-star caliber player who has a strong bat and is great defensively. That's how the Cubs will contend for the pennant next year.