September 30, 2005

I Wonder If Their Interested In Franchising?

MetroNaps - it's exactly what you think.

For a simple, and funny, overview of MetroNaps is all about, read what Leslie Harpold had to say about her experience there.

Need To Waste Five Minutes?

Google Maps strikes again. See an outline of your zip code. It's good for five minutes of distractions. Mildly interesting.

Quotable Kids

Heather has posted a great collection of some of the funny things Ian and Emma have said just in the last few days.

Warning: watch out for Ian's secret weapon

What Are We Doing Wrong?

Yesterday I spoke about some of the joys of parenting. Today, let's talk about the frustrations.

There is on in particular that drives me nutty. The apparent inability for a child to hear and understand things you tell them. Child asks you a question and you supply a thoughtful, clearly spoken answer. The child's response - to ask the question again. Or, even worse, child is doing something they shouldn't. You ask them to please stop doing that activity. They say okay, and then proceed to return to that activity you just prohibited. While Ian certainly struggles with the latter, Emma is far and away the biggest offender of the former. And it's the apparent inability of Emma to listen to the answers we provide her and evaluate them against her question that absolutely drives me up a wall.

Here's an example from the other night.

Scene: kids are already in bed - presumably sleeping. Heather and I are preparing to go to bed. Heather's in the bathroom brushing her teeth. I'm in our bedroom - reading, or on the computer, or something like that.

Emma: (yelling) Aaaah! Mommy! Mommy!

Brendan: (rushes into bedroom before Emma wakes up Ian and Zoe) What's wrong? What do you need?

Emma: I want Mommy.

Brendan: She's brushing her teeth right now. What do you need?

Emma: I want Mommy.

Brendan: Mommy is brushing her teeth right now. She'll come and see you when she's done.

Emma: I want Mommy.

Brendan: I said Mommy is brushing . . . never mind. Here's Mommy.

At this point Heather comes in the room because she could hear the circular discussion Emma and I were having. I leave and go back to reading / computer / whatever.

Heather enters our room and I ask her what Emma needed?

"Nothing. I scratched her back for a minute and she went back to sleep."

Do I not have fingers?! Do I not have fingernails?! Have I not scratched hundreds of backs in six short years of being a dad?! And why couldn't Emma say anything other than, "I want Mommy" to me?

Maddening I tell you. Simply maddening.

September 29, 2005

The New INXS

inxs pretty vegasI'm sitting here at work with WXRT streaming into my right ear. They're playing the new INXS tune, Pretty Vegas, that was recently recorded with newly anointed front man J.D. Fortune.

I never watched any of the INXS: Rock Star show when it was on this summer. As some of you know, I am a huge INXS fan. They're easily one of my favorite bands - if not the favorite. I really couldn't imagine INXS being lead by anyone other than Michael Hutchence after he passed. I thought it sacrilege that the Farriss brothers and co. even thought they could replace him, and in such a gaudy fashion as on a U.S. reality TV game show.

That being said, Pretty Vegas doesn't sound too bad. I can see why the mates in INXS went with Fortune; he certainly has shades of the late Hutchence in his voice. Certainly it will make for a smooth match when he starts singing the older material.

Will I support an INXS fronted by someone other than Hutchence? I don't know yet. I not interested in a Hutchence knock-off. I'll want to listen to Pretty Vegas a few more times - maybe even buy it when it comes to iTunes on October 4th. Then I'll give it some time and see what I think. I still have the entire INXS catalogue (or at least the good stuff from Listen Like Thieves forward) on my iPod - and that is good enough for me.

I Think We're Doing Something Right

Of all the different jobs I've had over the last (almost) 33 years, easily the most challenging one has been being a father and dad to my three kids. I know that statement isn't anything new or revelatory, but I think it's worth stating once and a while.

The task of being responsible for not only the health and welfare of another human, but also raising that person into a self-sufficient, educated, well-adjusted, contributing member of society is an awesome task. Hell, when I spend time gazing at my own navel I tend to think that despite the outstanding work of my parents, they were only able to kick out a guy who's got three of those four characteristics (I'll let you guess on which one I think I'm lacking).

Heather and I are constantly trying to figure out the best way to raise our kids. We're always re-evaluating our approaches - seeing what seems to be working, what seems to be failing. But even then, we might not know the results of our parenting until the children are much older. It's frustrating.

There is one thing, however, that Heather and I are seeing results on right now. From the time Ian was a little baby and following up to the present with Emma and Zoe, we always have made lots of time to read to our children. We have books everywhere - bedrooms, family room, the play area in the basement. There isn't a room that doesn't have some books in it. Part of the bedtime routine at our house is to sit down and read some books. When I take the kids with me to the comic book store, they get to pick out a comic to buy which we sit down and read together when we get home. Simply put - we made it a point from the very beginning to make reading an integral aspect of our children's lives.

It was our hope that they would share in the joy of reading that Heather and I both have. We both love reading. I can't imagine a life without me having two or three novels and graphic novels being read at the same time. It's what I do on the train every morning. It's what I prefer to do when I have some free time at home (if there isn't football on).

In the past nine months Ian's reading proficiency has simply exploded. With that explosion has come an even greater interest in all sorts of books. Ian's always been interested in looking at books. As a baby he was known to entertain himself for hours pulling all the books out of the cabinet in the family room and looking at every one. However, now that he can actually read what's going on in the books - learn things and be entertained by them, his appetite for the written word skyrocketed to another level. He takes books with him in the van to read in the morning on the ride to school, and if he doesn't finish it, he leaves it there to read on the ride home at night. I've watched him turn off his GameBoy and dig into a pile of books that Heather brought back from the library. I've seen him get excited about what he read and jump up to tell Heather or me about the things he's learning from reading a book about the human brain.

This makes me feel good. It makes me feel a little more confident that Heather and I might be raising our children to become the sort of adults we hope they will be. I know it's just reading, but if we are getting the "teaching a love of reading" right, maybe we're getting the "respect for others right" or the "proper manners at the table" right too. I think it's the sort of encouragement a parent needs from time to time to let them know their on the right track.

Fever Pitch

Apparently Chewbacca is bothered at all with breaking up Han's and Leia's relationship. He took the former Mrs. Solo with him to Fenway Park last night to watch as he threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

wookie first pitch


The Red Sox lost 7 - 2 to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Subservient Stewie - Kinda Of

It's Stewie Live! You can try to tell him what to do, but he doesn't always listen.

stewie live

September 28, 2005

Companies On The Vanguard Of The New Era In Christian Marketing

Job's Mock-Trial Services

Immaculate Conception & Fertility Counseling Centers

Frankincense & Myrrh Gift Shops

eHomilies.com

Stable, Manger & Beyond

Pontius Pilates
Another funny list from McSweeney's

Ditka Finds His Grabowski

Da Coach is part owner of the Arena Football League team the Chicago Rush.

Yesterday he unveiled a new mascot that he has hired for the team - Grabowski, a hard hat-wearing regular joe with a lunch pail and Ditka's number 89 on his jersey.

ditka and grabowski


I actually really enjoy the AFL and usually watch some of the games in the spring and early summer. I find the speed of the game makes it a lot of fun. Plus, it's a nice way to ween myself off the NFL and transition into baseball and summer.

Looks Who's Renovated

I usually refrain from talking about work here on the blog, but this is a company I no longer work for so I think I can squeeze it in.

One of the last things I did before leaving my post as the product manager for Apartments.com was pull together the framework for a site redesign project that Apts.com wanted to get done before the fourth quarter. I don't recall the exact timeframe of the plan I put together - I've long since forgotten the details of the plan - but it looks like they got the newly designed site up under the closing bell of the third quarter.

apartments homepage

It certainly is a good looking homepage. In fact, after moving through the rest of the site a little last night it looks like the lion's share of time was dedicated to coming up with a new presentation for the homepage. Much brighter. More inviting. And certainly more current looking than what Apartments.com had in the past. Though, I can't help but notice the influence of the design of one of the competitor's sites on this new Apartments.com homepage.

Unfortunately, it looks like the interior of the site still suffers from the problems that have plagued Apartments.com for years - too many different interests competing for page space. Large banner ads pushing the main rental content farther and farther down the page, lots of text links in the left-hand navigation begging to be looked at, and a search result page with all sorts of icons, sections, text, and links that someone will have to take time to digest first in order to understand what it is they are looking at.

What I also think hurts the interiors are the muted colors that are used. All the side bars, buttons, and maps looked washed out - both at home last night on my Mac where I first noticed the newly designed site, and on my Windows machine here at work this morning. There's no structure to the page. Nothing tells me what to look at first on a page.

Overall though, it still is a marked improvement over what they had. The new design updates the site and makes it appear more contemporary. The site is certainly more inviting to the novice or casual visitor to the site. I'm sure they'll work out some of these design issues over time. More pressing would be working out all the runtime errors I got while going through the site. Last night when I got the errors I thought it was me hitting the site while they were still rolling things out (though at 11:15 at night, I hope for the tech department's sake this wasn't the case. then again), but when I was still getting them this morning - a lot of them - then maybe there is something wrong. And when I think about it now, they could have rolled this site out last week - I'm not checking Apartments.com daily, just thought of it after reading a former co-worker's blog - which would mean even worse things if these errors have been persistent on the site for a few days.

No worries though. One, I don't work there anymore, so I don't have to worry about it. Two, the Apartments.com tech team have some very intelligent and bright people on staff. They'll figure things out.

With this new site design out, I can officially cut the ties to Apartments.com in a business capacity. I still hope and plan on keeping in touch with some of the people I worked with there. It's just this redesign was a project I helped get started before I left and was mildly interested in seeing how it would turn out. Now that's it out there, my interest in Apartments.com as site and a business is pretty much through. I can close the door and move on.

September 27, 2005

Ten

ten screen shotTen is a short film by Scott Smith about a man who breaks all ten commandments before 10am. Very funny.

Scott also has an entertaining blog where he write about his life with his wife and two young kids.

I'm starting to like Scott.

Wookie Love

Moments after this photo was taken, Han left Leia forever, despite her pleas that the Wookie meant nothing to her.

wookie gets some lovin

Juan And A Lizard

juan and muleHeather talked about this a few weeks ago on her blog (I always like through a link to my wife's blog), but as part of Advertising Week in New York, the public was invited to vote on their favorite advertising icon and slogan. The winners were just announced, and it was a tie - twice.

For favorite icon, Juan Valdez and his little mule tied with the lizard from Geico. Don't know how the Geico lizard gets top billing over the Pillsbury Doughboy or Tony the Tiger, but that's the way things go I guess.

The winner of the less interesting category, favorite slogan, was also a tie. GE's “Imagination at work” and Hallmark’s “When you care enough to send the very best” split the vote.

It's not that I find this at all interesting - okay, I lied, I find it a mildly interesting - but the main reason I'm even putting together this post is because I remember Heather talked about it on her blog and I figured I could use this news to generate some more links to her blog.

She's a good writer. You should be visiting her site.

I love that girl.

Busy, Busy, Busy

That's how things are right now. Busy at home and busy at work. I'm finding it difficult to make time to sit down and write something at in the old blog.

There's plenty I want to write about; the painting I did this past weekend, yelling at the telemarketer who called me on Sunday, Bears and Notre Dame football, Ian's extraordinary reading ability, Princess Emma and Princess Zoe, and even Darth Ian. There just isn't time.

Hopefully I'll have a free lunch hour here later this week or get some time at home in the evening and can post some interesting things. Until then, things will be quite at BrendanMcKillip.com

September 23, 2005

Princess #2

Isn't she the cutest thing you've ever seen?

zoe in princess dress

Christmas Shopping Will Be Easy This Year

I've already found what I'm getting my sister for Christmas: My Little Pony - A Very Minty Christmas

Oh, the fun she and her husband will have curlying up on the coach to watch this future holiday classic.

pretty pony screen shot

September 22, 2005

It's Just Not Fair!

So I'm learning that at the company I work for now, the Thursday of the third week of every month is reserved for a little afternoon shindig to celebrate employee anniversaries. Last month they put out the makings for root beer floats. Today they went with the more traditional beer and wine (they even have Guinness).

Here's the kicker.

Both times I have been unable to partake in these afternoon festivities.

In August I was holed up with jury duty. Today, I'm not allowed any food or drink until after my physical this evening at 6:30pm. (I've bought some more term life insurance. Hadn't increased my coverage since I initially bought insurance four months after Ian was born. With two more kids and a bigger house, I was feeling a bit exposed.)

So while other put back some cold ones, I'm sitting sipping water out of a styrofoam cup.

Nothing better happen next month.

Thought This Was Funny

From The Onion: Bush Braces As Cindy Sheehan's Other Son Drowns Near New Orleans

My favorite parts of the article is how they trace Tyler's history:

Before Sheehan moved to New Orleans, he was a struggling coho-salmon fisherman in Oregon's Klamath Basin. However, when the Bush Administration relaxed federal protection of the endangered fish, Sheehan's catch became contaminated with mercury. He gave up fishing and moved to Oakland, CA, where he opened a free clinic, which lost its federal funding in 2002 for giving out oral contraceptives to poor women.

...

Sheehan moved to New Orleans in 2004 to take a year off from the University of California at Berkeley, where administrators had temporarily suspended the stem-cell research program in which he was enrolled in hopes of helping to combat his younger sister Ruth's spinal meningitis. Friends report that his public spirit continued in the Big Easy, as he delivered meals to elderly New Orleans residents affected by recent Medicare cuts, and doggedly petitioned the Justice Department for the release of his life partner, Amin Sagheer, who has been detained without charge at Guantanamo Bay for nearly three years.


Sheehan's third son? According to The Onion, he's "marooned on a 45-square-mile chunk of the shrinking Ross Ice Shelf that broke off Tuesday morning."

September 21, 2005

Shine On You Crazy Diamond

My sister let me know about this site the other day. Its fasinating and strange at the same time.

The company is LifeGem and they create a very special sort of artifical diamond.

The LifeGem® is a certified, high-quality diamond created from the carbon of your loved one as a memorial to their unique life.

The LifeGem diamond provides a way to embrace your loved one’s memory day by day. The LifeGem® is the most unique and timeless memorial available for creating a testimony to their unique life.

Your LifeGem memorial will offer comfort and support when and where you need it, and provide a lasting memory that endures just as a diamond does. Forever.
It certainly is an interesting concept, and when you stop and think about it, probably one of the more enduring ways of remembering a loved one who has passed on. Of course, in order to get one of these gems made, the person has to be cremated after death - something not everyone is comfortable with. I think Elizabeth sent it to me as a joke, but it is something to think.

We've Reached the End of the Internet

I think we've officially run out of things to create websites around.

September 20, 2005

Say It Ain't So

marshal fieldsAfter months of speculation, the corporate boobs at Federated Department Stores have decided to turn their backs on a hundred years of tradition, and announced today that all Marshall Field & Co. stores will be re-branded Macy's.

Terry J. Lundgren, Federated's chairman, president, chief executive, and top poopyhead said that Federated had "great respect for the legacy and traditions of Marshall Field's," and that the decision to punt on the Field's name was made after Federated "carefully researched customer preferences and studied alternatives."

And where were customers' preferences more in line with the name Macy's over that of Marshall Fields? Not in Chicago I'm sure.

The only good thing to come with this news of the destruction of a Chicago institution; Frango mint production will return to Chicago. No longer will it be outsourced to a company in Pennsylvania.

Other than that, there aren't a whole lot of good things to say here. If I wanted to shop at Macy's, I'd go to New York.

UPDATED: A petition to keep the name Marshal Fields has been started (when, I don't know, it could have been around since Federated bought Marshall Fields a year ago), but I'll give it a try if it keeps an original like Fields in Chicago. Thanks for the info Elizabeth.

I Take That Back

In an earlier post I talked about a number of new podcasts that I signed up for. One of the casts I was interested in was the one for The Family Guy, a silly but entertaining animated show on FOX and Cartoon Network.

I had assumed from previous experience that The Family Guy podcast would be the audio portion of the TV show. That's what the Ebert & Roper podcast did, that's what CBS is doing for a number of its soap operas (Heather loves the Guiding Light cast), it's what most of the news podcasts from the major news outlets do.

So imagine my surprise when The Family Guy cast turned out to be nothing more than some smug little man reading a synopsis of the show.

This is Family Guy! I don't care about what happened on the show. I don't tune in for the shows complex plotting and revealing character development. I watch for the obscure pop-culture references, potty humor, and killer musical numbers. What a disappointment.

Oh, and the NPR All Songs Considered podcast is also falling behind quickly in the race to stay on my iPod. They spent 25 minutes interviewing and playing a song from the Icelandic ambient rock band, Sigur Ros.

Riiight.

September 19, 2005

How They Got Engaged

Dave and Raina are both cartoonists, and how they got engaged is a fun and touching story.

how dave and raina got engaged

Christmas Cards - Done

Heather said I get to pick what Christmas card we'll send out this year. Didn't take long for me to find the one I want.

darth vader christmas card

iPods and Podcasts and Radio, Oh My!

I've had my iPod for a little over two months now. I really enjoy how simple it is to use, the sound it produces, and being able to carry my entire music collection around with me all the time. Got a hankerin' for some Aerosmith? Fire it up. Want to listen to every INXS song ever recorded? I can listen to them right now. Feeling like going back to the mid-80s and what was on the radio then? Launch my intelligent playlist to play the songs in my collection released between 1985 and 1990. It's fantastic. In fact, by going through an ripping a majority of my CD collection, I've rediscovered some bands that I'd forgotten how much I enjoy.

Still, the one major flaw I find with the player is that there is no FM tuner for the iPod. Plenty of other MP3 players have them. In fact, a number of them allow you to record from the radio right onto your player. It's what I enjoyed about my CD / FM tuner combo. I could put in a CD of something I really liked, or I could switch over to catch the Steve Dahl show in the afternoon.

As much as I love the music on my iPod, I would like to be able to switch over and listen to a "playlist" of sorts from someone else or catch a little talk radio. Sure, I can shuffle up 1,000 plus songs (which my iPod currently has on it), but I know all those songs. There really won't be any surprises for me. On the radio, however, I never know what might be coming next. It might be a song I just heard yesterday, or it might be one that I haven't heard in three years. It might be one that I love, or it could be one that I just can't stand. I like that about radio - or at least with WXRT, who still make it a point to let their DJs program their own show. So you really never know what you're going to get. It keeps things fresh and exposes me to new songs and new bands all the time.

There are a number of companies that make FM tuner attachments for the iPod, but they run about $70. That seems like a lot just to tune in some FM stations. I thought I had found a solution of sorts when I cashed in some of American Express points to get a small radio from Coby Electronics. I figured I could easily carry that and the iPod in my work bag and then choose either device depending on my listening mood. That idea fizzled and died when the Coby radio, despite the positive reviews I found, had horrible reception where ever I went. I don't know if the little radio is just a piece of junk or whether there are just too many radio frequencies being used in the Chicago area that any radio without a digital tuner (the Coby just has a little thumb wheel) is going to make it almost impossible for someone to stick with a station and get listenable reception. Luckily the Coby radio only cost me a few points (about $5) - and maybe that was the problem. It's just a cheap radio.

I haven't found another solution that I like. I've started carrying my old CD / FM tuner player. But I really don't want to be doing that too much. It just makes my bag a mess.

In my quest to do more than just listen to music on my iPod, and in the shadow of the Coby radio failure, I'm expanding my podcast listening. When I first got my iPod back in July I immediately signed up for the feeds on a number of podcasts. I only ended up sticking with one - the Ebert and Roper At The Movies podcast that is essentially the audio recording of their weekly syndicated television show. I've really enjoyed that, but dropped the other casts I had signed up for. The other ones were all newscasts, and really didn't fit with what I wanted to listen to on the iPod. This time I've added the Family Guy podcast, which like the Ebert and Roper one, is just the audio recording from the cartoon show, a podcast from an online columnist who I enjoy reading, and the NPR New Music podcast.

I chose all of these because they are weekly podcasts, and I only get to sync up my iPod with iTunes about once a week consistently. When I was doing the newscasts I was getting stuff that was pretty old and out of date. With these weekly updated casts, I won't feel any pressure to get and listen to anything in a timely manner.

I'm particularly interested in the NPR New Music podcast because I'm hoping it will offer something that the iPod does not - exposure to new music. (Of course, if the NPR music show turns out to be about highlighting a bunch of tree-hugging hippies strumming guitars in their sandals while singing about the evils of G8, then I'll have to take a pass.) The iPod, in my opinion, can easily put someone on an island musically. Think about it. Person gets an iPod. Loads it up with all the music they already own and love. They listen to the iPod all the time. The iPod has no radio built in. Where is this person going to learn about new music, new songs, and new bands? The iTunes store? Maybe. But I don't see a lot of people plopping down a whole lot of change for songs after just listening to a 30-second clip. I believe most people have to hear a song a few times before they decide to buy it. Radio is the place for that. Therefore, if you've completely given yourself over to the iPod, where are you going to hear new songs that you might like? You're not. You'll be out on a music island with only your own collection to listen to.

So that's where things stand. I love my iPod, but not unconditionally. While I enjoy having a huge collection of my favorite music at my fingertips at a moments notice, I don't want to shut myself off completely from all the other music that is yet to come. I continue to find a place to fit live radio into my listening schedule, and I hope I can find a balance that works well soon.

Ahoy, Me Grog Lass!

Not only is today Talk Like A Pirate Day, but Oktoberfest recently started in Munich, Germany.

beer servers in Germany


Pirates and Grog Lasss. Aye, it's a good day!

Avast, Me Hearties!

It's International Talk Like A Pirate Day!

Celebrate it any way you can, just make aye you have fun talkin' like a pirate today, you dirty bilge rats.

talk like a pirate image

September 17, 2005

Fab Adam

This might have been created a number of years ago, but I just found it today.

Hilarious video remix of Prince Adam from the 80's Masters of the Universe cartoon singing a 4-Non-Blondes song.

Wait for the chef at the end.

prince adam

September 16, 2005

Gross-Out Story For the Day

bug tongueTongue Eating Bug Found In Fish

A gross creature which gobbles up a fish's tongue and then replaces it with its own body has been found in Britain for the first time.

The bug - which has the scientific name cymothoa exigua - was discovered inside the mouth of a red snapper bought from a London fishmonger.

The 3.5cm creature had grabbed onto the fish's tongue and slowly ate away at it until only a stub was left.

It then latched onto the stub and became the fish's "replacement tongue".
Scientists say that the bug only eats fish tongues, so we're all safe. None the less, I don't care how fasinating scientists find this discovery, I think it's gross.

Holy Crap!

Something for the "Wild But True" archives.

Power-dressing man leaves trail of destruction

SYDNEY (Reuters) - An Australian man built up a 40,000-volt charge of static electricity in his clothes as he walked, leaving a trail of scorched carpet and molten plastic and forcing firefighters to evacuate a building.

Frank Clewer, who was wearing a woolen shirt and a synthetic nylon jacket, was oblivious to the growing electrical current that was building up as his clothes rubbed together.

When he walked into a building in the country town of Warrnambool in the southern state of Victoria Thursday, the electrical charge ignited the carpet.


Read through the article and you learn that a 40,000-volt charge is just short of spontaneous combustion. If this guy had walked around a bit longer his clothes might have ignited.

September 15, 2005

New Blog Search

Google continues to expand it's reach. They launched their beta blog searching site today.

google blog search


Technically, you're suppose to use it to find blogs on the topics you like, but of course if you're a slightly vain blogger like myself you can search your own name.

A search on Heather McKillip does not get quite the flood of returns that my name generates (in fact most of the results on the first page are for my blog), but give her blog some time and it will get there.

All Shook Up I Am, Hmmmmmmm

It's Elvis Yoda on black velvet.

elvis yoda


Found at Boing Boing and Ed's site

What Was That?

Hey, did you see this: Britney Spears had her baby. She had a boy. It was a C-section. I kinda lost interest in the story after I got that far. I really don't care too much about Britney.

But than I saw this: French Quarter May Reopen Monday, and thought, "Wow, that seems kinda fast when the talk was no one was going back to New Orleans for months." However, if you're gonna rebuild the city you gotta bring money back to the region, and nothing brings in the money for New Orleans like tourists. When you consider that it makes a lot of sense.

I didn't make it too far into that story when my mind began to wander a bit. I've read a lot on the aftermath of Katrina and it's all starting to blur together and seem a bit repetitive. That's when this caught my eye: Study: Adult Use of ADHD Medicines Doubles, but then I kinda got bored with it and went to go check my email.

September 14, 2005

GENIUS!

Found on Boing Boing. A guy created a "work blind" that makes it look like he's hard at work at his desk.

work blindI had buttercup666 stand in my neighbor's cubicle and take a picture of me hard at work. Then I straightened the photo, undistorted it, and cropped it to the area in the doorway. I took it to Kinko's where they printed it onto vinyl, and grommeted the top with a kit that [info]matrushkaka bought me. The result: The Work Blind. Think of it as the modern version of Jughead drawing eyes on his eyelids so that everyone thinks he's awake and paying attention all day, or Wile E. Coyote painting a tunnel entrance on the side of a cliff.

That's pure genius. I want one for at the office and at home. I could hide out and watch movies while Heather and the kids think I'm doing some sort of work.

Going To The Zoo

kids at zooLast weekend we went to the Brookfield Zoo. It was hot (around 90 degress), but we still had fun. Heather and I always try to get in at least one visit to the zoo every year for the kids. They enjoy it so much, and frankly, Heather and I like it too. In fact, this time we bought the yearly family pass with definite plans to re-visit Brookfield in December when they decorate the zoo for Christmas.

I haven't had a chance to post any photos in a while, but Heather has. So shuffle over to her site and check out the collection of photos from our trip to the Brookfield Zoo (taken with our new Z740 Kodak digital camera).

September 13, 2005

Ye Scurvy Dogs Better Be Ready!

piratesInternational Talk Like
a Pirate Day
is getting closer and closer. The boys behind this international sensation have provided some hints to help you get in the mood this year as you prepare to celebrate.

* Aaarr! – Intersperse it into your conversation to add a patina of pirattitude! But remember – A little Aarrr! goes a long way.

* Me hearties – When all else fails, throw "me hearties" into any conversation. "Fill it with unleaded, me hearties!" "The doctor will see you now, me hearties!" "I'll have a pepperoni pizza with anchovies, me hearties!" See? You sound just like a freebooter fillin' his tank, or visitin' the doctor or whatever!

* At work – Don't answer the phone, "Hello? This is marketing ...." or whatever department ye work in. Scrunch up yer face and bellow into the blower, "Ahoy ye scurvy dog! How can I scuttle ye today!"

* At school – yer teacher is cap'n, yer principal is Admiral Wobblebottom, the class is yer crew and lunch is prepared in the galley.

* At parties and buccaneer bashes all weekend long – Make yer entrance to the cry, "Boarders away!" and make sure that any lubbers there know exactly who has the pirattitude and who doesn't.

* Where ever you are – Start the day by sending everyone you know a hearty "Aarrr!" in their e-mail or by phone. Ye'll feel better for it.

Pay Attention People

I know and understand that there are many ways to do things. Whether it's doing dishes, driving a car, or painting a wall, there is everyone else's way of doing things, my way, and the wrong way. Of course, my way is usually the quickest or most efficient, with the biggest benefit on the other end for everyone. But that's because my solution always has that ingredient of benevolence that is lacking in many other solutions. I'm always thinking of the greater good. It's a gift.

Of course, there is always a wrong way to do something. Nowhere is this more evident than out in public when large numbers of people are trying to move from one place to another. It never fails to baffle me how oblivious some people are when they are walking in a crowd. They demonstrate no ability to pay attention to where they are in relationship to the group and how would be the best way to navigate through it.

Take, for example, getting off a busy escalator at the top or bottom. More people screw this up for the larger group by not paying attention to the traffic flow, factor in where they need to go when they got off the escalator, and plan accordingly. Every morning I have to fight my way throw a horribly crowded and busy Union Station in downtown Chicago. There are usually two or three trains hitting the station at any given time, dumping over 1,000 people into the halls of Union Station. The majority of us make our way to a bank of three escalators, all of which are going the same way.

Once you get to the top of the escalators, there are essentially two ways to go: forward towards Jackson Blvd (which is where I am headed) or to the left for the hallway that takes you over to the Adams St entrance.

Now remember, we've got close to a thousand people funneling into three escalators which are moving these people eager to get where they are going at a fairly brisk pace up to the second floor. This isn't a group you want to get in front of. None the less, a majority of people looking to go to the left get on the escalator to the farthest right-hand side, and once they are deposited at the top of the escalator immediately turn to the left and start walking. People on the other two escalators who are reaching the top have to come to a complete stop - at the top of the escalator as more people are coming up behind them - and wait for these fools to make their way across. It's maddening and a horribly inefficient way to move people.

The escalators are packed, so people are standing two-by-two, and I've had people who were standing immediately to my left try to cut across me the second we step off the escalator. Craziness I tell you.

I'm sure you think I'm crazy for writing this. Or that this is a joke. It's not. This type of behavior drives me nuts. Don't get me wrong. I'm not some lone loony ranting and raving as I ride up the escalator, shooting at anyone who will listen that, "YOU'RE ALL DOING THIS WRONG!" But I do think it. I just shake my head and wonder how much more smoothly things would go, and I'm talking about more than rush hour escalator usage here folks, if people thought of how to work with or at least consider the group instead of acting in their own interests only.

For those of you taking notes at home, the rule is simple. If you going up/down a bank of escalators or in/out a bank of doors and you need to immediately go to the left or right, set yourself up for the easy turn before getting o the escalator or going through the door. It's easier to maneuver within the chaos of entry than the systematic and orderly fashion of exit.

September 12, 2005

Congrats to Genndy Tartakovsky and Company

Star Wars: Clone Wars Volume 2 won the Creative Arts Primetime Emmy for OUTSTANDING ANIMATED PROGRAM (FOR PROGRAMMING ONE HOUR OR MORE).

I was just watching Volume 1 (which also won an Emmy) Sunday night while folding laundry and was dazzled again by the superb skill and artistry in every aspect of these cartoons. Writing, animation, voice direction - it's all top notch. I look forward to owning the second award winning volume when it comes out on DVD.

New Cameras Are Cool

Kodak z740Three things drove Heather and I to buy a new digital camera last week:

1) Our current digital camera was suffering from an unreliable flash

2) We were growing frustrated with the limited zoom capabilities of the camera, especially when attending Ian's school performances and functions

3) We recently received some money from Heather's parents as part of a inheritance-pass-through so to speak.
Now, even though we have had problems with the flash on our current Kodak digital camera for about the last year and a half, we still ended up with another Kodak - the Z740.

We had always been very pleased with the picture quality with the Kodak DX4330 camera we had. The camera was very easy to use, and felt comfortable in our hands - not like some other digital cameras I've tried, which tend to feel blocky and clunky with their controls. Plus, all the reviews we read of the Z740 were very good.

(I won't buy any electronic without extensive research. I'm always trying to get the best product for our money. I won't just buy something because Best Buy has it on sale or because it's cheap at Costco.)

We ended up getting the camera through Buy.com. While their price wasn't the lowest price we found online (though it was lower than all the brick-and-mortar stores), Buy.com did offer free shipping and had the cheapest price on memory cards. Heather and I went out to the local Best Buy to play with the camera first - wanted to make sure it felt as comfortable and steady in our hands as the DX4330 did. (Heck, we even tried to haggle with the sales guys. They said that they wouldn’t price match with online stores. Their loss) When the camera passed the hands-on test, we went home and ordered online. Not only did we get the camera and the 512mb memory card for less than what Best Buy was asking, the free shipping got it to us in a matter of days - plenty of time before our trip to the zoo this past Saturday.

Heather and I spent plenty of time playing with the camera Thursday night. The thing handles wonderfully. Most exceptionally is the new zoom feature. We get 10x optical zoom and 5x digital zoom. It's amazing. Now we can get the close up shots of the kids while still staying far enough away that they might forget that we're there.

The Z740 takes photos up to 5.0 MP in size, so we are getting plenty of high quality images that we can crop or scale down however we want and not lose resolution. Plus, the 512 MP means we can take up to 319 photos at 5.0 MP before we have to upload them to the computer. 319!! That's frickin' amazing. This camera is so cool.

We plan to hold on to the DX4330. It still takes great photos, if the flash goes off or if you are outside. We thought we could let the kids use it when they get a little older. They can have some fun shooting photos at the zoo or picnics.

Meanwhile, Heather and I are going to be fighting over who gets to use the new cool camera. (Did I mention we can get up 30 minutes of video on it?) Yeah, that's cool.

Brilliant

A promotional item from a vasectomy doctor (via boing boing)

snip snip

September 09, 2005

Winning MacMods

MacMod, a site dedicated to those people who like to make crazy modifications to Apple products, announced the winners in their 2005 MacMod Challenge.

The winning entry went to the guy who re-made his iPod out of real wood. The thing is pretty wild looking. Even the click wheel is made of wood. In fact, if you read through how he modified the iPod, you'll see he's tripped out all his electronics in wood-mods.

The first runner-up though is my favorite. He took a Mac Mini and a toy Millennium Falcon and brought them together to create one wicked television-top device. That's the mod I'd want to own.

BOS Distilling Company

bos distillingI never made it to the Bucket O' Suds in Chicago before it closed in 1998, but from what I've read about it and its owner, Joe Danno, it was one the "it" places to drink in the city. Danno had to close the bar in '98 because of his declining health and he passed away in 2002. While this might have been the end of Danno and his fantastic drink creations, in comes his grandson, Scott Schiller to keep the legacy alive.

Possessing all his grandfather's drink recipes, Scott founded the BOS Distilling Company and looked to continue his Joe Danno's liquor legacy.

The company currently puts out two liqueurs called Alumni and Auburn. You can read about them at the site or see The Chicagoist's review of them. Either way, they sound good.

What also sounds good is the many mixed drink recopies posted at BOS Distilling using these two liqueurs. All in all, that looks like some good drinking.

September 08, 2005

Special 'Tang' Indeed

This certainly is one way to get around the law.

SHANGHAI, China - A restaurant in northeastern China that advertised illegal tiger meat dishes was found instead to be selling donkey flesh — marinated in tiger urine, a newspaper reported Thursday.
Favorite line from the story:
The sale of tiger parts is illegal in China and officers shut down the restaurant, only to be told by owner, Ma Shikun, that the meat was actually that of donkeys, flavored with tiger urine to give the dish a "special" tang, the newspaper said.

September 07, 2005

Talk Like A Pirate Day

It's just around the corner (September 19th). Let's start celebrating now by checking out a great Flickr gallery full of classic pirate artwork from Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates, printed in 1903.

pirate picture

iPod Nano

I knew that Apple was planning on announcing a cellphone with iTunes access today, but I didn't know about this: the new iPod Nano.

ipod nano
Replacing the iPod Mini in the product line, the Nano comes in 2GB and 4GB flavors, both with color screens, and is priced at $199 and $249 respectively. There are also two colors two choose from - back or white.

It certainly looks cool, and its small size with big storage will definitely make it popular. I have to wonder though, how much smaller can Apple go with the size of the iPods. Soon they'll be the as thin as a slice of paper which you roll up an stick in your ear to listen to.

The Art of Conversation

Heather gives fantastic accounts of two conversations (for lack of a better term) that we've had with the kids in the last few days. You'd do yourself well to read them.

What Color Head Will You Have When You Are A Duck?

Conversation On The Way Up To Bed

Fight The Man

I've been on the Web a long time. My first job out of college in 1995 was working for a small start-up web company. I used Netscape 1.0 (hell, I think I used Netscape 0.9), remember when HTML tables and animated GIFs were the hottest thing going, and was there when Yahoo! and Amazon were born (I've had a my.yahoo page since they launched the feature in 1997). In fact I tease my Dad that where ever he goes on the web, except AOL, he will never be able to get the username bmckillip - because I'll already have it.

What has always excited me about the web, and why I love it so much, is that it is a wonder place for sharing of knowledge and opinions. As much as I enjoy being able to buy whatever I want from Amazon, I also hate them for bring commercialization to the web. Before Jeff Bezos got the idea to start selling books on the Web, marketers and advertisers pretty much ignored the Web. While I'm sure if it hadn't been Jeff it would have been someone else, eventually the marketers and corporations swooped in and started co-opting what I had come to see as a near utopia of free thought and exchange of ideas unencumbered by the drive for money.

In the last few years we have seen some new Web technology emerge that is putting the power of the Web back in the hands of the people and out of the hands of the boardrooms. Most notably blogging and wikis have allowed thoughts and opinions to freely travel the around the world.

The power of blogs has only increased in the last two years as they have become more influential in political campaigns and news gathering/fact checking. The lesser know technology, wikis, might finally being seeing their day in the mainstream sunlight now too.

CNN reports today that WikiPedia is already the most popular reference site on the web, and is quickly overtaking the major news sites for the place to go to learn about new world events.

While the structure of the wiki, the content of the site is collaboratively edited by visitors to the site, might make you think that the information is less sound. In actuality, with all the fact checking and reviewing that goes on by the community, the content is more factually correct and deep than anything you'll find at a major news site.

Best thing about Wikipedia? The operators of the site, the non-profit Wikipedia Foundation, have no intention of accepting advertising and continue to operate their business solely on donations they bring in. Wikipedia will remain a corporate/political interest free zone where people can share their knowledge and learn.

That's how you fight the Man to take back the Web.

September 06, 2005

The Aftermath of Katrina . . .

. . . is full of comments from people you have to wonder if they would take them back if they could.

First up is from former First Lady Barbara Bush. She, former President Bush and former President Clinton were visiting the Houston Astrodome over the weekend to see the situation for themselves and talk about their new Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund. When talking about the situation for many of the 25,000 refugees now living in the Astrodome, Mrs. Bush said,

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them."


Ow. Right, I'm sure plenty of the underprivileged wanted to get out of their homes (as meager as they may have been) and go live in the shell of an old baseball stadium in Texas. I think I understand the intent of Mrs. Bush's comment, but do you really want to say something like this while giving an interview?

The other example of some of the strange things being said post-Katrina comes from Rev. Bill Shanks, pastor of New Covenant Fellowship of New Orleans.

"New Orleans now is abortion free. New Orleans now is Mardi Gras free. New Orleans now is free of Southern Decadence and the sodomites, the witchcraft workers, false religion -- it's free of all of those things now. "God simply, I believe, in His mercy purged all of that stuff out of there -- and now we're going to start over again."


Yeah. Actually Heather and I were just talking about this the other day. Wondering when someone would step up and make a connection between Katrina / New Orleans and what happened in Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible. I told Heather that I expected comments along this line from a religious leader at a local or regional level. Nobody at the national level (i.e. Pat Roberts) would touch something like this, in my opinion. Sure enough, old Rev. Shanks stepped up to the plate and said God sent the category 5 hurricane to wipe the evil-doers from New Orleans.

It's comments like these that make me think about how arbitrary and imaginary religion can be. Like in the case of Mrs. Bush, I think I understand the intent of Rev. Shanks' comments, but in no way can I understand why something like this would be said nor can I let it go without calling Rev. Shanks' comments disgusting and backwards.

The Beginning of Autumn

There have always been two holidays that I've never really given much thought to: Memorial Day and Labor Day. For me they are two three-day weekends that bookend the summer. I only look forward to them in a sense that they provide me a long weekend and a shortened work week on the other side.

The weekend while I was taking care of some of the small projects I tend to save up for these long weekends (repairing the cord for the Malibu lights that the chipmunks had chewed through and painting the exterior of our front door which had a number of pieces of rotten wood replaced on it) I realized that I kinda look forward to Labor Day, but not for the reasons you might think.

Admittedly, the reason for Labor Day is less than compelling for me. How do you celebrate "the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country"? Grilling hot dogs? Maybe. And sure it's nice to have a three-day weekend to get things done around the house or hang out with the family. But this weekend I think I discovered why I really look forward to the first Monday in September. Labor Day has traditionally signaled the unofficial end to summer.

I've always been an autumn/winter type of guy. I prefer days when it's clear, sunny, and about 40 degrees. With Labor Day here, I know those types of days are just around the corner. Cooler days and cold nights. And with the fall comes football - college and pro. As Heather will tell you, I love the football season. Whether it's sit down for a Notre Dame game on Saturday or tracking all my fantasy players in the NFL on Sunday, football is the sport for me.

Autumn and winter also brings the holidays and occasions that I really enjoy. My birthday is at the beginning of November, followed quickly by Thanksgiving and the Christmas season. Things wrap up nicely at the end of the year with Heather's birthday. Heck, I'm even starting to enjoy Halloween a little more now that I get to celebrate it with my kids. And there is so much to enjoy with the holidays in November and December: big meals, football, Thanksgiving day parades, kringle, lots of time with the family, decorating for Christmas, Christmas music, Christmas movies, getting to help Santa take care of Ian, Emma, and Zoe, buying things for Heather. . . It's all good.

So I guess while a lot of people see Labor Day as winding down or closing of a season, I see it as the gateway to the time of the year that I love the best. Autumn and winter, I can't wait for them to arrive in earnest.

September 05, 2005

Star Wars: Clone Wars Volume 2 on DVD

I've been waiting for this to be announced. The second animated Clone Wars series on Cartoon Network can really be considered Star Wars Episode 2.5 because of how it fits in with the stories told in the movies. In fact, I read an interview with Clone Wars director Genndy Tartakovsky once where he said he wished Clone Wars Volume 2 would be shown to audiences in theaters right before they watched Episode III. He felt it would give them an even greater appreciation for what unfolds in Episode III.

The DVD will hit stores December 6.

clone wars 2 dvd

September 04, 2005

Peter de Seve

Heather and I both spent some time clicking through this fabulous illustrator's website. He really is talented.

pater de seve

September 02, 2005

Escape from New Orleans

I had lunch with a friend yesterday, and we got to talking about Hurricane Katrina and the situation down in New Orleans specifically. We both agreed that the stories we had read and the images we had seen led us to imagine that the Big Easy has turned into a version of Escape from New York. Riots. Hordes of people. Guns. It is pure anarchy.

I watched some coverage on television last night, and it both saddened and angered me. I felt horrible that there were so many people stranded in New Orleans and couldn't get out. It's hot; there is water and death everywhere. It looks like a hell on Earth. I don't even want to imagine what it must be like to be stuck there with small children, infants even, with no food or water. And your home, and probably your job, is gone. Where do you go now? It has to be terrifying beyond belief.

But it also angered me to read and hear the reports of people shooting at helicopters, threatening rescue workers with death unless they saved them first, rapes, and beatings. People being interviewed for the television news I was watching wanted to know why there weren't more police or military there to keep the peace. My thought was; why do we have to rely on them to do this? Where is the sense of community, of helping each other, that is supposed to be a hallmark of the human (and also American) condition? Maybe I'm just hearing about and focusing on the negative, but it sounds like most of the people still in New Orleans are taking an "every man for himself" mentality. What's maddening to me is that this mindset actually prevents help from getting into the area. It's thinking of only yourself that leads you to shoot at helicopters or rescue workers, which subsequently scares these sources of relief away. Thinking of only yourself leads to fighting, which only causes the general mood to deteriorate. You fight to get yourself saved first, and in the end prevent the entire group from getting help.

I guess what I'm saying is that as horrible as it is right now in New Orleans, the behavior of many of those there are only making it worse for the entire group. And I just don't understand this mentality. But maybe that is to be expected in age, as Newton Minow wrote, were "We've gotten to the point where everybody's got a right and nobody's got a responsibility."

I hope I'm wrong. I hope that the television media has only focused on the horrific stories this week and that this has tainted my view of what's going on in Louisiana and my view of humanity. Hopefully there are more people who understand the responsibility of being part of a community and understand what that entails. What is rightfully yours will come, but only if you act responsibly within the function of the community.

The military arrived in force today with relief supplies and the guns to push back those who push themselves to the front of the line. Hopefully things can progress from here the last refugees can escape from New Orleans.

But where are they going to go? The Astrodome is already filled, and officials are rushing to find more places to put the people coming out of New Orleans. Even then, how long can you live in the Astrodome? This can't go forever. Where do you put a city of people when the city is destroyed?

My fear is that things are only going to get worse.

Art? Waste of Time?

I don't know, but it's fun.

Dots

Gouging?

oil prices


I know gas prices are going up because the hurricane has knocked out U.S. oil production, but $6 a gallon in Georgia? (That's where this photo comes from) That sounds like somone is trying to make some money off of some refugees from Louisana and Mississippi.

September 01, 2005

HA! Good Laugh To Start The Day

From The Onion:

I know you've been attending a lot of parties recently. And while you may think your dad is clueless, I'm clued-in enough to realize that pretty soon you're going to start experimenting with sex. Nothing much I can do about it, I realize. But I do want to tell you one thing: No matter how old you get, or how many partners you have, you will always remember your first time. Why? Because I'm going to film it.
Read the whole article.