March 29, 2006

iPod Software Update

Apple released an update of the system software for their 5th generation iPods (iPod with video) and iPod Nanos. Besides a few bug fixes, the new software gives users the ability to set the maximum level their iPod can play.

An iPod can produce sounds up to 115 decibels - which will destroy your hearing, so having this setting is helpful. Having more control over the things you use is always a positive thing.

But before we get all warm and fuzzy on Apple for looking out for our hearing, you should know that they are doing this mainly in response to a lawsuit that was filed.

According to this AP story, a guy from Louisiana "filed a lawsuit against Apple, claiming that the iPod can cause hearing loss in people who use it."

And hitting a person in the head with a baseball bat can kill them. Maybe we should outlaw baseball bats?

Common sense would dictate that you take measures to protect yourself. But obviously in a culture where someone else is always to blame for our troubles, companies like Apple have to take steps to make sure fifteen years down the road they are inundated with lawsuits from long-time iPod users who can't hear a single word being said to them.

Would Apple have ever developed this feature if some guy hadn't sued? Not sure. Possibly not. It's nice that Apple did make the change, but does the guy who sued really think this is going to make a difference? To get people to protect their hearing it isn't about fancy settings on an iPod, it's about making people take responsibility for their health and well being and making smart, informed decisions.

March 28, 2006

Interesting News for the Day

old tortoiseSaw this news item on a comics blog I read regularly of all places and found it fascinating.

A giant Aldabra tortoise died last week when it became sick following a crack developing in the underside of its shell. The tortoise, who lived at a zoo in India, was believed to be 255 years old.

Wow. That's an old animal. As Heidi MacDonald points out, think of all the things that this tortoise is older than; The United States of America, harnessed electricity, Joan Rivers. That's pretty amazing.

Understandably there is some confusion as to exactly how old the tortoise actually is. The zoo plans to perform carbon dating on the animal to determine its exact age.

The Great McKillip Move - Week Zero

We’ve been in Week Zero for a number of weeks now. Generally speaking, we’ve been in Week Zero since sometime last fall when Heather and I made the decision that this spring would be the time to put our house on the market and find something new. (The general housing market be damned!) More specifically, I think Week Zero began roughly a month ago when we found a real estate agent and he consulted us on what work we need to do in the house to make it “sell-able.” Since then Heather and I have been working regularly to de-clutter, re-organize, and clear out the house. It’s only when we hit the comfort level with the readiness of the house Heather and I are looking for will we put the call into our agent to list the house. Then it will be Week One of the Great McKillip Move.

After everything we did this weekend (and Monday), I think we are just about there. I’d put house readiness at 85-90%. It might even be enough to put the call in for listing, with the expectation that the final items will be taken care of within the next 10 days.

I spent every waking minute over the last few days painting walls, painting trim, putting crap to save into boxes, put crap to donate into bags, making trips to Goodwill, making trips to my Dad’s house (our temporary off-site storage), and doing a major clean up of the basement. It has been an exhausting experience. It’s almost a relief to get up and go to work this morning – almost. I am happy with the net result however. The suspect areas of the house have been repainted and look nice, and the basement is almost in the best shape it has been in years. It’s remarkable how much space is actually down there.

cleaningIf anything, that is one of my frustrations with all this prepping Heather and I are doing to get the house ready for the market. We’re finally getting the house in the sort of shape I’d like it to be in all of the time. I am a neat-freak. I won’t deny it. The rest of the people that live in the house with me (i.e. my wife and kids) prefer to live more organically. It’s not that they like things dirty; they just don’t mind a little clutter in the house. If there was one thing our house has been all good on for the last five years, it’s been a healthy dose of clutter here and there. (and with three kids 6 and under, I think clutter is a fact of life)

However, I can’t stand clutter. It represents traits I find abhorrent: disorganization, laziness, indifference, lack of attention to detail. I can’t sit comfortably in a room that has its share of clutter in it - literally. The compulsion to get up and set it straight is too great. It’s how I’ll spend a portion of my evenings at home – searching out the little pockets of clutter and eradicating them. I even do it at other people’s house. After a family party at Heather’s parent’s house, you’ll see me walking through the family room picking up toys and gathering together cups before I can sit down on the couch to watch some TV with my father-in-law.

While removing the mess from the house allows me to finally relax, I still end up slightly annoyed when I’m done. I don’t like cleaning. It’s just something I fell like I have to do before I can sit down. Get your work done first, and there will be more time for leisure has always been one of the mantras I live by.

In order to get the house presentable for selling, it has meant getting rid of every little scrap of clutter. Sure I’ve gotten some enjoyment out of finally seeing tables, shelves, and dressers finally wiped clean, but a little disappointed that it’s taking an event like moving to finally get this work done. Maybe we can work better on keeping clutter to a minimum at the new place.

March 26, 2006

Superboy Prime by Jim Lee

More tastey Jim Lee goodness. This time it's the cover to the upcoming Infinite Crisis #6 featuring Superboy Prime.

INFCRI6

March 24, 2006

Dad, This is for You

podcast iconFound this on TUAW. Apple put together a great list of Podcast hints and tips for us in iTunes and on an iPod.

The list is both a great intro into how to find and listen to podcasts. But there are also some great advanced tips for podcast management in iTunes that were new to me.

Moose! It's a Moose!

murder by deathGuess what movie's on Turner Classic Movies tonight Heather?

There are a few movies that my brother and I seem to enjoy quoting over and over. The Tom Hanks / Shelley Long laugher Money Pit is one. The 1976 murder mystery parody Murder By Death is another.

Peter Sellers, Peter Falk, Alec Guinness, David Nevin, Maggie Smith, and even Truman Capote all star in this mediocre film that sends up every detective book or film every made. I think it's fantastic in its mild campiness and lame one-liners.

I made Heather sit through it once. And she never lets me forget that I made her sit through the movie.

Ian is almost old enough to grasp the humor that is attempted. I can't wait to try and convert him to my cause.

March 22, 2006

Soriano or Zitto

The Chicago Tribune's baseball guy, Phil Rogers, makes an excellent argument for how the Cubs should, and probably could, get second baseman Alfonso Soriano away from the Washingotn Nationals.

cubs logoSoriano is currently on the Nationals but not playing - refusing to play actually, because the team wants him to play in the outfield instead of at position he has been an All-Star in for the last seven seasons. He's understandably upset, management is understandable upset, and neither side seems ready to budge.

That's, argues Rogers, where the Cubs could sweep in and snatch a fantastic player. The Cubs have the money and they could use the bat. He makes some great points. I'd love to see a player of Soriano's caliber playing in a Cubs uniform. I just wonder if another bat is what the team really needs.

But with Mark Prior, Kerry Wood already hurting and the season hasn't even started yet, I can't help but think that pitching should be the order of the day. Barry Zito, 2003 Cy Young winnder and solid starter for the Oakland A's is on the trading block whether Oakland admits it or not. He's in the last year of his contract before free agency and Oakland doesn't pay for free agents.

That's who the Cubs should be pressing for. I think Prior and Woods are great. When they are healthy they are two of the best pitchers in the league. The problem is that over the last two seasons a healthy Prior or Woods has been hard to come by. Zambrano is great, Maddux will start slow but pitch well, Rusch and Williams are fine but nobody's aces. The Cubs need another ace. Another go-to guy that you know can win the game for you.

Soriano would be great, but I'd prefer to see some great pitching coming to Wrigley.

March 21, 2006

Gaijin Studios

Gaijin Studios is currently made up of only three comic artists: Cully Hamner, Brian Stelfreeze, and Karl Story, though plenty of other big names have hung their hats and sharpened their pencils under the Gaijin banner over the years.

I've been a fan of Stelfreeze since he was doing the covers for a number of different Batman titles back in the mid-90s. Cully Hamner I've paid a little attention to, but really haven't decided if I like his style or not. I am, however, very interested in the upcoming Blue Beetle series he is doing for DC Comics, so I am going to get a full dose of Hamner's art whether I like it or not.

In the meantime I have been checking out the recently redesigned Gaijin Studios website. They are celebrating 15 years as a studio and have loaded up the site with all sorts of great art. Like these piecee from Stelfreeze (Superman) and Hamner (Iron Man).

stelfreeze supermanHamner Iron Man

This Is Going To Be The Greatest Easter Ever!

star wars easter eggs

Reason to Get a Video iPod #87

The kids at the iPod Linux project have built an emmulator so you can run NES games on your iPod.

Not all the games run real well, but I'm sure their crack that nut.

Planning Ahead

This year Heather and I will celebrate 11 years of marriage. While impressive, eleven years isn't one of those "event" anniversaries that you go all out for. That's usually reserved for years divisable by 5 - 10 years, 15 years, 25 years, and so on.

For our ten anniversary we didn't do anything too special because I wasn't working at the time, but we did end up getting each other more elaborate gifts. Something special to mark 10 years together.

We're already talking about doing something big at the 15 year mark. We'd like to go to Ireland and are trying to plan to do just that.

I think though, that we should have a second option for celebrating 15 years incase we can't swing a trip to Ireland for some reason. Maybe we can re-affirm our vows and do it up kinda big with a semi-formal ceremony of sorts.

Heck, I even found a semi-formal dress Heather could wear for the ceremony.

heathers new dress

March 20, 2006

Karate + Krispy Kreme = Bliss

Almost a year ago Ian started taking karate lessons through our park district. I remember him being very excited about starting the classes and how he came home all jazzed up about everything after the first lesson. I wondered how long the excitement would last as the classes progressed and he discovered that this wasn’t Power Rangers at the community center. Eventually, I assumed, his interest would wane and his karate career would last about one eight-week session.

It’s nice to see Ian prove me wrong.

This past weekend, as Ian is ready to wrap up his third session and preparing for his fourth, Ian went to his first karate tournament to compete against other six and seven year-olds who are at the same belt degree he is at (orange). The karate organization Ian takes his classes through – Kids Karate Club – holds a tournament like this about every three months or so. Heather and I had hesitated in having Ian attend a tournament up to this point for a number of reasons. One, Ian hadn’t shown an interest – which is as good a reason as any. Two, Heather and I didn’t want to push Ian into the competitive aspect of karate when he was having plenty of fun just learning the form and techniques. Three, why pay the $45 to get him into the tournament when he wasn’t interested in it.

That changed when Ian got about halfway through the third session of his karate classes. He started talking about going to a tournament more and more, about sparring with other kids his size there, and trying to earn himself a trophy. When the next tournament was announced, we learned that it would be ten short minutes away from our house – a perfect “first-try” for taking Ian and the girls to something like this. Ian would get a taste of what a tournament would be like – to see if it is something that he wants to continue with - and Heather and I wouldn’t have to suffer through driving an hour or so all over the suburbs to sit in a gym with two wiggly girls. The trip would be short and close to home, so everyone would be focused on the experience of the event. Not the journey getting there. We signed him up and he began preparing for his first tournament.

Ready to Spar!I wasn’t sure how Ian would handle the tournament. In school he has proven to be quite the perfectionist. If he can’t get it done correctly the first time, if he doesn’t win and accomplish what he wants on the first go around, he frequently becomes upset. We try to teach him that some things take time to learn or that it is rare to experience success the first time you try something hard, but those lessons don’t seem to have sunk in yet. Never the less, I hoped that he would have fun at the tournament and that even if he didn’t do it with school work and the like, that he might keep things in perspective with his karate skills and not expect too much in his first competition.

My fears were lessened to a degree in the days immediately leading up to the tournament. Ian was talking more and more about how he hoped he would do go enough to win a trophy. I know part of this was because of Heather’s coaching and setting expectations for him, but it felt like he was listening this time. He really wasn’t expecting too much from the tournament. He sincerely wanted to go and try his best and see what he could do. Ian appeared to have grasped, at least where karate was concerned, the concept of being content with trying your hardest. As long as you know you’ve done everything you could, then you shouldn’t be disappointed with the results.

So early Sunday morning we loaded everyone into the van and headed over to the tournament. Check-in was a bit of a hassle, but we made it through. We helped Ian get his sparring gear on and then sat down where we could get a good view of the ring Ian would be competing in. Because Ian’s group had an odd number of participants, the kids took turns picking a number between 1 and 7. Pick the number and receive a first round bye.

As luck would have it, Ian picked the right number and was rewarded with immediately advancing to the second round. Good for Ian, but it made it a little more anxious for Heather and I. Now we had to wait even longer to see how Ian would do in his first match. But it was a fun wait. We got to watch the other 6 and 7 year-olds fight each other. Seeing small kids like that, all decked out in their sparring gear, trying their best to land karate blows to their opponent is a scream. (to quote my mother) So may different styles to the kids. Some defensive, some hesitant, and others very aggressive. There was one pair I termed Fred and Ginger for how they both danced around the ring. I wondered if either of them was going to even attempt a blow, let alone land one.

Eventually the second round began and Ian got his chance. His first opponent was “Ginger” of round one, who was not a very aggressive fighter. Ian was able to quickly score three points and move up to the final round. When he and I have practiced at home, he has always impressed me with his blocking techniques. When he got in the ring on Sunday, he suddenly was doing a much better job with his punches. While I’d like to think it’s because of my coaching. More to the truth is that he probably felt more comfortable going against someone his own size.

As result of his first-round bye and his second-round victory, Ian was playing for the championship in the third round. The boy he was going up against had a few patches already on his uniform, so obviously he has been to a few tournaments in his short karate career. The boy fought with more confidence and landed a quick blow on Ian to score his first point. Ian fought back but then received an obviously accidental kick to the groin.

(Welcome to being a boy playing sports, son! Some day I’ll tell you about how I thought I was going to die after blocking a kick while playing indoor soccer in high school.)

Ian was visibly upset by what happened and there were tears. The judge pulled him aside and they talked for awhile. I was anxious to see how Ian would handle this. Would he recover and continue fighting? Would he want to walk away? Would this be the end of his short tournament career?

Sure enough though, just like Ralph Macchio after he got his leg swiped in Karate Kid, Ian stepped back up to the line, wiped his eyes, and was ready to spar. He came out strong and scored a point for himself, locking the score at 1-1. Unfortunately, his opponent was just more experienced than Ian and rattled off two more points to win the match 3-1.

The Final StandingsHeather and I were extremely proud of Ian’s achievement, even if he didn’t really understand what he had done in his first tournament. I don’t think Ian realized that he had taken second place and was getting a big trophy (not the small participation trophies they give to the kids who don’t finish in the top four places) with a patch for his uniform. When he got up on the stage and figured out what he had done, the smile on his face got about a mile wide.

When he met us back on the floor he could barely contain his excitement. Not only had he gotten to spar in a real tournament and test the skills he has been working on for the last nine months, but he earned a second place trophy for his efforts. The kid was just giddy.

Even though he was eating up the congratulations and praises for trying his best that he was getting from his Mom and Dad, I decided a celebratory donut was in order. (Hey, it was only 10am in the morning and Krispy Kreme was literally four blocks away.)

It made me excessively happy to see Ian sitting at the table in Krispy Kreme sucking down some of the free donuts they were handing out and basking in the glory of his second place finish. I could tell by just looking at him that he was completely proud of what he had accomplished. He was flying a mile high. The kid couldn’t have been any happier than he was at that moment. Everything was right in Ian’s world all because of second place trophy. As strange as it might sound, I didn’t want the moment at Krispy Kreme to end for Ian.

It was then, in the middle of a Krispy Kreme in Naperville, that I understood another one of the joys of being a parent. The pride and excitement in seeing your son or daughter accomplish things on their own and sharing in that excitement. I hadn’t done anything to win that second place trophy, but I was almost as giddy as Ian was. It was a remarkable feeling. I can’t wait for Ian and me to have more of those Krispy Kreme moments in the future.

Showing Off the Trophy

Hello? Spring? Where the Hell are You?

Today is the first day of spring. Technically, it starts at 12:25 Central Standard Time - about 10 minutes from now.

What's the temperature here in Chicago right now? It's 33 degrees. I was decked out in full winter coat, hat, gloves, etc. this morning. It will be in the low 20s tonight.

Yeah, that's one hell of a spring , isn't it?

March 19, 2006

Sometimes I Just Don't Ask Questions . . .

. . . I just enjoy the photos Heather gets of the girls playing at home during the day. They seem to be always be having so much fun. I wish I was at home more during the day to enjoy their company.

Licking the Window

Emma and Zoe in Hats

March 17, 2006

They've Figured Out How To Make Garfield Funny

Take out all the word ballons for Garfield, then laugh at how pathetic John is.

(As opposed to just laughing at how pathetic this comic is usually.)

garfield made funny

See more here and here.

McKillip Sighting

I not so crazy as to watch the live video feeds of the NCAA tournament while at work, but I am following the games using Yahoo's Game Channel. It allows me to quickly check on what's happening, without chewing up a lot of CPU time handling video or audio. It also better for more stealth monitoring of the games.

Anyway, I just flipped over to it now to see how the games are progressing and saw that Ohio State (who I've picked going all the way to the championship game) is currently losing to 15th seeded Davidson. As I'm watching the the play by play go by, I notice a familiar name pop up - Matt McKillop.

McKillop is a variation of McKillip. Though I guess McKillip could be a variation on McKillop, not really sure on the history there.

Any way. I thought it was fun to see a fellow McKillip, or McKillop, out there. It's the closest I've seen of any professional or almost professional (as some of the guys in the NCAA are) athlete with the family name.

This Green Jersey I Like

cubs green jerseyA while back I made fun of the NBA for picking this weekend to have some of the teams wear special green jerseys to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. What about the NBA, I argued, has anything to do with being Irish?

Of course, whatever I said about the NBA and St. Patrick's Day means nothing when dealing with a sport I really like. Say, Major League Baseball for example. The Cubs and the Sox will don a green jersey from time to time, or at least MLB will sell the greeen jerseys the teams could wear. This, I think, is a great idea. Why? I like the Cubs and think a green jersey would be near to have.

All things considered, it comes down to this. Chicago Bulls wearing green jerseys - dumb. Chicago Cubs wearing green jerseys - cool! I want one.

March 16, 2006

Batman in the Rain

Jim Lee is finding time to put some more art on his blog. For that, we all benefit.

My Kind of Social Network

Now this is a social networking site that I could get into.

isolatr

Happy Birthday Elizabeth

It's just the month for birthday's in my family. First Zoe, then Kevin, now my little sister Elizabeth celebrates her . . . um . . . 27th birthday.

Interesting. When I turned 27, Ian was four-months old. If you want your kids through college and out the door before you're spending your days knitting scarfs for the stray cats in the neighborhood and arguing with Patrick over who's turn it is to read the large-print version of Reader's Digest, I suggest you start gettin' busy - if you catch my meaning.

Back to the matter at hand, my sister's birthday. If I failed to mention it here, it would mean at least 12 months, if not 24 of continual pain directed at me for the oversight. So in order to ensure I will avoid that stress in my life . . .

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ELIZABETH! YOU ARE THE BEST LITTLE SISTER AN OLDER BROTHER COULD WISH FOR.


And now a picture to close the post off.

How most of her brother's (all two of them) remember her:

elizabeth as an angry young girl


The bossy little sister who always demands her way (and usually gets it from our Mom and Dad).

Happy Birthday.

Interesting Fact for the Day

This was part of the Word of the Day feature on my Google homepage this morning.

Ides: the fifteenth day of March, May, July, and October, and the thirteenth day of the other months.
I never realized that the "Ides" of some months was actually the 13th day of that month. I always thought the Ides of any month was always the 15th.

Learned something new. I wonder if I can go home now.

March 14, 2006

Happy Birthday Kevin

Happy Birthday, Kevin. I really hope you had a good one.

I'm sorry this is the best I can do on your birthday. I planned on giving you a call today, but when I don't think things can get any busier they still seem to find a way to. Crammed in a full day at work. When I walked in the door at home around 6:30pm, the guys who came to install the new kitchen/entry way floor were still there finishing. They wrapped up all their pounding and putting things back in place just as our Realtor showed up at 7:30 to talk about putting our house on the market. That was an hour long conversation. So then it was 8:45 and still had to get the kids to bed and put the house back into some sort of livable order.

I will give you a call today. I want to hear how things are going up in Milwaukee with the latest show. I want to hear the interesting stories you always have to tell. I just want to talk to my brother for a little bit and let him know that even though I didn't call, I was thinking about him on his birthday.

Funny Irish Joke

My father-in-law, who's German, sent this too me and I wanted to share.

John O'Reilly hoisted his beer and said, "Here's to spending the rest of me life, between the legs of me wife!"

That won him the top prize at the pub for the best toast of the night!

He went home and told his wife, Mary, "I won the prize for the Best toast of the night"

She said, "Aye, did ye now. And what was your toast?"

John said, "Here's to spending the rest of me life, sitting in church beside me wife."

"Oh, that is very nice indeed, John!" Mary said.

The next day, Mary ran into one of John's drinking buddies on the street corner. The man chuckled leeringly and said, "John won the prize the other night at the pub with a toast about you, Mary."

She said, "Aye, he told me, and I was a bit surprised myself. You know, he's only been there twice in the last four years. Once he fell asleep, and the other time I had to pull him by the ears to make him come."

March 13, 2006

Zoe Turned 2!

Zoe celebrated her second birthday over the weekend. We had a party for her on Saturday which she really seemed to enjoy. Plenty of good food and company, plus some wonderful presents. The downside? The ratio of humans to Dora the Explorer dolls was thrown horribly out of balance. Not sure what to do about that, but I'm sure we'll figure something out.

The First GiftSinging Zoe Happy Birthday


Check out the whole photo set.

March 10, 2006

In Case We Run Out of Beer

green martiniIn case we run short of Guinness on St. Patrick's Day (Because that's the brew I'll drink. No green beer for me.), I'm going to keep these recipes on hand.

Grasshopper Martini
1/2 oz. creme de menthe
1/2 oz. creme de cacao
3/4 oz. vodka
Shake with ice. Strain into cocktail glass.

Irish in Manhattan
1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
1 1/4 oz. Irish whiskey
Stir with ice. Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with a green maraschino cherry.

Thanks to Chicagoist for the recipies.

Superman: Brainiac Attacks

superman artworkNot sure how I missed this one until now, but learned today that this summer Warner Brothers will be releasing a brand new animated Superman movie directly to DVD. Titled Superman: Brainiac Attacks, the animated film will feature both Brainiac and Lex Luthor as villains, and will focus on the relationship between Superman and Lois.

What's also noteworthy about this new Superman feature is that Tim Daly and Dana Delany are coming back to re-create the roles of Superman/Clark Kent and Lois Lane. When these characters have appeared in the Justice League animated series, the voices have been handled by different actors.

As much of a fan of the Superman: The Animated Series as I am, I can't say I'm going to run out and get this one. As mentioned earlier, the third volume of Superman: The Animated Series is slotted to come out the same day as this movie - June 20th. With my packed schedule, I hardly have time to watch the DVDs that I already have. So if I'm adding more to the collection I'll be going for the biggest bang. Getting the third volume of the Superman series with twenty-plus half hour shows I love trumps a sixty minute new movie starring the same character. (Though I would probably enjoy getting the film at some time in the future.)

March 09, 2006

Personal Responsibility

There is an article in today's Chicago Tribune about a family that is suing a man who purchased beer that was later consumed by their under-aged daughter. Their daughter ended up driving home drunk, getting in an accident, and dying from injuries sustained in the accident.

The article states that an Illinois state law that took effect Jan. 1, 2004 "allows the family of a minor who is injured or killed in an alcohol-related incident to seek civil damages from people who provide alcohol or allow underage drinkers to consume it."

Now I appreciate the intent of this law, and understand the need to have something like this on the books here in Illinois. We want to make sure that people are held accountable for their actions, particularly if they are helping others to break the law.

That being said, I can't help but wonder if laws like this one in particular contribute to the ever growing notion in this country that other people are always the source of our problems. People seem to be having a harder and harder time taking responsibility for their actions and decisions. They do things, they claim, because of their upbringing, or their teacher, or their economic situation. It's almost as if people forget that we have free will. You can choose to shut off TV and study. You can choose not to steal the car. You don't have to drink that beer. Or if you do, know enough to call for a ride from someone sober.

Certainly it's horrible that this young girl died and the gentlemen in the suit shouldn't have bought under-aged kids beer, but some of the fault of what happened has to be put on the shoulders of the young girl who chose to drink and then drive. I wonder if anyone is considering that while they are busy pointing fingers and looking for a cause to this tragic accident. And my concern is that being able to bring this sort of suit against the man who bought the beer will prevent them from considering that fact.

Where's The Love?

Now my wife is making fun on my interest in comics and superheroes. It's getting to a point that I can't even take solace in my hobbies at home.

Now I know why some guys spend all their time out in the garage. They can enjoy their interests in peace. Of course the garage works as a sanctuary because they're into working on cars or re-gripping their golf clubs every two months. I don't think sitting on the hood of the Neon reading Superman conjures the same manly swagger as say, rebuilding a carburetor.

Like I Need a Good Excuse - It's the Cubs!

Enter early and often to 4 tickets to the Cubs Opening Day on Friday, April 7th. You don't actually have to come up with an excuse, it's just more fun if you do. My first entry includes an excuse about caring for a dying dog.

cubs opening day contest

March 08, 2006

Random Thoughts - March 8th

Patrick Welsh makes a compelling argument that before we throw more money at schools or point fingers at teachers / administrators in regards to the overall decline in academics in America, we should start lighting a fire under the kids.

In his Opinion piece for USA Today, Welsh references a new study by University of Pennsylvania researchers Angela Duckworth and Martin Seligman which indicates that the reason American students aren't living up to expectations is because they are, in a word, lazy.

Welsh argues that there was a time where schools and teachers wielded the power in education, but students have managed to wrestle things over to their side. So now when Johnny gets a C or D in Math, he complains to his parents, who complain to the school, who respond by lowering standards to prevent egos from being bruised.

I can't fault Welsh's position, though I still believe that the teach unions in this country keep bad teachers in the system and are overly adverse to any change; thereby contributing to the erosion of the quality of education being delivered to students in this country. Still, I think Welsh makes some interesting comments and observations about the study habits of American students.

***********************

Survey: 1 in 5 Workers Lie

Now I really shouldn't comment on this, just in case anyone from where I work reads my blog, but this article made me laugh. Of course people lie at work. How would anything ever get done? Personally I think it is impossible to tell the truth all the time. It's the only way to smooth things over and keep things moving.

***********************

While I'm not as adamant in my distaste of the security measures at airports that some of the guys commenting on this site are, I'd still think it would be fun to get me some 4th Amendment Shipping Tape.

From the description:
The printed shipping tape has the text slant so that as the pattern repeats, the 4th amendment appears as a long continuous string, as well as a block.

Thanks Ed, for the link.

March 07, 2006

Random Thoughts - March 7th

These types of stream of consciousness posts were something I used to do in the past when my days were particularly busy and I didn't have time to dedicate to writing up a full post. Decided to dust off the practice and try out doing it again today.

********************

Do you think Gatorade sales have a seasonality ebb and flow?

This is what I'm thinking. More people are outside running around, playing, and working when it's hot and sunny out during May through September, therefore demand for something like Gatorade would go up. I'm sure people who work out year-round or all highly physically active during the winter months probably continue to buy Gatorade year-round, but does that even out the bell curve of sales that I am imagining?

We buy Gatorade to have at home, but only during the summer months. Heather and I aren't super-athletes, but we both like taking a swig of the ole Gatorade after cutting the grass in the yard. The backyard can be particularly brutal on a sunny day. I find Gatorade really helps after shoving the lawn mower around for an hour. But other than for the summer, we never buy Gatorade.

********************

Google might really be out to take over the world. A rumor was given some weight earlier this week when Google inadvertently published a PowerPoint presentation that talked about their plans for a service called GDrive. There had been plenty of speculation that Google was going to offer online storage that would be a literal mirror image of all data on a user's hard drive, but the notes in the Power Point presentation seemed to indicate that it wasn't just a rumor. Google pulled down the ppt file and replaced it with an Adobe Acrobat file that didn't have any of the speaker's notes in it.

One of the notes from Chief Executive Eric Schmidt in the presentation commented that one goal of Google was to "store 100 percent" of consumer information.

Wow. 100%. That's a pretty lofty goal. Regardless of how many warm and fuzzies Google gives me as a company, I don't know if I would ever be comfortable with some third-party storing 100% of my computer data. Every day Heather and I are using our computer to do more and more. As altruistic as Google's intentions might be, I still want to feel like I'm in control of my data to a certain extent. Having Google store it all for me really doesn't give me a safe feeling. Buying a 160 Gig hard drive and backing things up does.

********************

While waling through O'Hare airport early Monday morning, I overheard two women talking. I only actually caught one comment, but it made me cringe.

"I went to bed at 9pm last night."

Now I don't know if that was late (or so help me) or early for her, but all I could think was, "9pm?! My evening was just getting started at 9pm and you were headed to bed?"

How do people manage to go to bed that early? She can't possibly have kids. Or if she does, they have to be older - like in their late teens. Boggles the mind.

********************
dude from classmates
I think I've seen this dude so many times in those annoying Classmates.com banner ads that I'm starting to think that I actually went to school with the guy. Maybe I did?

********************

When I think about St. Patrick's Day, I think about a lot of things. One thing that doesn't come to mind is the NBA. None the less, the Bulls, Celtics and Knicks will try and create a festive St. Paddy's Day mood by wearing green uniforms in home games beginning March 12.

I have no idea why someone thought this was a good idea, expect for the guys who sell jerseys. Is the NBA going to start celebrating other holidays in this fashion as well? Maybe wear little trees on their jerseys for Arbor Day or big decorated egg skull caps for Easter.

green bulls jersey

March 06, 2006

Things to do in Richmond When Stuck in the Airport

poor jimmyCheck out what diseases the Presidents of the United States suffered from.

I feel bad for Jimmy Carter. Though of the modern Presidents, it looks like Clinton had things pretty bad too (rectal bleeding - ouch!)

**********

Read some horrible, horrible, fan-made comics starring David Bowie, Ozzie Osbourne, and Mick Jagger. You have to see it, to believe it.

**********

hellboy animatedGetting caught up with the excellent Hellboy Animated blog.

This is a fantastic blog that has been chronicling the development of a new Hellboy Animated series. Besides giving us great views of the art, it provides a wonder view into what it takes to put together a new cartoon.

**********

Starting to run out of things to do. There aren't enough people here to get in any good "people watching" and there aren't any outlets that I can find to recharge my dying laptop battery. Looks like it's time to power down.

This Is Why I am STILL in Richmond, Virgina

flight delay
Chicago Tribune | O'Hare delays caused by telephone problem

I hate travel.

Some of Chicago's finest union workers severed the telephone link used by the air-traffic controllers. Net-net - I'm stuck in the Richmond airport, which other than its free wi-fi service offers a travel absolutely nothing. Hell, all the stores and restaurants (which there aren't any of inside of the secuirty area) close at frickin' 7pm. The airport might look pretty when it's done being re-built, but they better put something in here to keep people distracted while they wait for their planes to take off.

Crap! Did I mention how much I hate traveling?

I'm In Richmond, Virginia

richmond airport logoIsn't technology great. Today I am in Richmond, VA to visit a client. Like most of my travel has been with this new company, it's fly in / fly out - all in one day. It makes for long days, but at least I'm not stuck staying in hotels all over the place. At the end of the day I get to sleep in my own bed.

The meetings are over and I'm already at the airport. It's an interesting airport. They're in the middle of a huge renovation. From the pictures and models that are on display, things are going to look real nice when they are done. Right now it's a little rough, but that's okay.

The nice thing is that they have a free wireless network you can tap into. I fired up the computer to do some off-line stuff, but then decided to check to see if there was a network nearby. Sure enough, the RIC popped up (I assume it stands for Richmond International Computer network) and I immediately connected. Got to check some email (both work and personal) and read some news. My final activity - this post.

What has surprised me the most about the airport is how dead it is here. There isn't anybody here. I mean nobody. It's like there is an epidemic or something and everyone is at the hospital. The place is deserted. They've got piped in music and it just echoes and echoes and echoes. It's almost creepy.

Oh well, in about twenty minutes I'll be back on a plane headed for Chicago. My seat on the return flight - 1A. That's right - the very first seat on the whole damn plane.

Yes, I am that special.

March 03, 2006

XRT is Podcasting

WRXT, easily my favorite radio station in the whole wide world and one of two reasons that I wanted to get a Griffin iFM for my iPod (the other being Steve Dahl on WCKG), has started making some podcasts available.

They have been webcasting their radio broadcasts for two years now, which I used to listen to until I started working at my current job. The company I work for blocks streaming audio from getting through the network. I never expected that they would generate any podcasts. What would a music radio station have to push out through a podcast anyway?

The answer is on their site. They are making podcasts of morning host Lin Brehmer's daily Lin's Bin segment available, plus the popular movie review segment Goin' to the Show with A Regular Guy that airs on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

I've always enjoyed both spots, but because of my daily schedule I rarely get to hear them. This will be a great way for me to get a little more of XRT in my iPod.

Hayao Miyazaki Comes to Cartoon Network

I was reading through the press release from the upfront presentation put on by Cartoon Network. There were some announcements that I know Ian will like - like new seasons of Camp Lazlo, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, and The Kids Next Door, plus a full-length movies for Foster's and Teen Titans.

princess mononokeWhat grabbed my attention (though I was glad to see more Foster's - that show is superb) was the announcement that CN had purchased broadcast rights for a number of Miyazaki films and plan to air them in March.

I got turned on to grand master animator supreme Hayao Miyazaki when Turner Classic Movies highighted him in January - even if I still can't pronounce his name correctly. If you get a chance, and I know I'll be making time, try and catch one of these masterpieces in hand-drawn animation. I gaurantee you will be blown away by what Miyazaki is able to bring to the screen with both his animation and storytelling skills.

- Spirited Away: The Oscar winning animated film by director Hayao Miyazaki will air on March 18 at 7:30 p.m. (ET, PT). The Academy Award winning feature follows the Chihiro's fanciful adventures in a secret world ruled by witches and creatures. Chihiro must adapt with the help of her new friends to survive her strange adventure.

- Princess Mononoke: From director Hayao Miyazaki, Princess Mononoke will air on Cartoon Network on March 25 at 7:30 p.m. (ET, PT). A prince is infected with an incurable disease and travels to the Far East for a cure. There he finds himself in the midst of a battle between the forest animals, led by Princess Mononoke, and an iron-mining town.

- Castle in the Sky: In the animated film Castle in the Sky, directed by Hayao Miyazaki, a young boy named Pazu meets a mysterious girl named Sheet who floats down from the sky. After saving Sheet's life, Pazu and Sheet embark on search for Sheet's identity in a floating castle of a lost civilization. Castle in the Sky will air on April 1 at 7:30 p.m. (ET, PT).

March 02, 2006

Superman; The Animated Series, Volume 3

Thanks to DVDToons.com, I learned today that the third volume of Superman: The Animated Series will be coming out on DVD this summer. June 20th to be exact.

I've always been a huge fan of this series, and feel that it doesn't get the same adoration that the Batman series that came before it enjoys. Sure, there probably wouldn't have been a Superman series if the Timm/Dini/Burnett Batman series hadn't been such a commercial and critical success, but Superman: The Animated Series is a well written, well acted, tight animated series that entertains.

I haven't been able to find a list of the episodes that will be included in the third volume, but I expect it should complete the entire run of the series. I'm looking forward to the episodes that feature characters from jack Kirby's Fourth Word characters, "Apokolips...Now!" and "Legacy". Those are some fantastic stories with some really stunning animation and storytelling. I can't wait to pick this DVD set up.

superman volumne three

March 01, 2006

St. Patrick's Day Buzz(cut)

It's March, which means two things - college basketball and for the next 16 days everyone will start gradually becoming more and more Irish until half the country claims to trace their family tree back to a branch in Ireland while they guzzle cheap American watered-down swill-beer dyed green on March 17th.

st baldricks logoMe? I'm thinking of doing something different this year. With a name like Brendan McKillip I don't have to wear a stupid hat and scream through a chorus of Danny Boy in the middle of Bennigan's to prove what part of Europe my ancestors came from. Instead I'm considering taking part in St. Baldrick's Day.

Started back in 1999 as a simple way to raise some money to help kids with cancer, St Baldrick's Day is now an annual event that has raised $7 million in five years. The premise is simple: volunteers agree to have their head shaved bald to raise funds for childhood cancer research.

I've always wanted to shave all my hair off. Mostly just to see what it would look like. What better catalyst, I thought, for finally doing it then as part of a drive to help kids struggling with cancer. I'm a little nervous about shaving my head bald - I am afraid of what I would look like. (Ask me about the dent in my skull sometime when I'm drunk.) I might still need some convincing and support to sign up and get all my hair taken off.

I Think Heather's Invite Got Lost

I'm sure they meant to send her one

Sudoku Wizards to Gather in Italy for World Championships
Sudoku enthusiasts from 13 countries will flock to Italy next week for the gripping number puzzle's first world championship, the organisers said.

...

Players will face off on Friday March 10 in the Tuscan town of Lucca for a session lasting three hours and 45 minutes for long, short and varied Sudoku challenges. The 16 survivors will play off in the final the following day.
Heather is Sudoku crazy. She may complain that we currently subscribe to two different newspapers (Chicago Tribune and Daily Herald), but I think she likes it 'cause it means more Sudoku for her.

Oh, That's Creative

dude at mardi gras

I'm sure he got lots of takers.