June 30, 2006

Hygiene Dyslexia

Not sure what else to call this, but the dude I just encountered in the men’s bathroom here at work has to suffer from Hygiene Dyslexia. Let me explain.

Upon entering the men’s bathroom I notice Dude washing hands at the sink. I promptly go about my business at the far left urinal.

Dude finishes washing hands. Instead of leaving the bathroom, as I expect him to do, he steps up to a urinal (the far right one, leaving an open urinal between he and I – obeying basic urinal usage rules). After zipping up, Dude does a quick half-flush as he quickly turns to exit the bathroom.

No hand-washing after using the toilet.

So Dude washes his hands BEFORE he goes to the bathroom, not after? That’s weird.

I thought maybe he’s afraid of contaminating Mr. Winky with dirt from his own hands. But then I thought somebody so obsessed about dirt that they won’t touch their own body without cleaning it probably would scrub their Little Solider with a Brillo pad after using a public washroom.

So I guess the Dude suffers from Hygiene Dyslexia. Not sure how that manifests itself, but the poor Dude is probably eating off of dirty plates at home and wearing last month’s dirty underpants.

Poor Dude.

June 28, 2006

Superman and Super Girls

superman returns shieldAfter weeks and weeks of marketing build up, (Warner Brothers was projecting the S-shield on Niagra Falls for goodness sake), Superman Returns finally landed in theathers today.

I've read plenty of reviews and they are coming off fairly mixed. Some critics love the film, some pan it, most of them sit right in the middle. What I have been able to gather is that Superman Returns is not a bad movie. It's very good movie that could have been great but fails. Maybe it is carrying too much of the weight from Christopher Reeve to ever achieve greatness. Maybe Bryan Singer used up his comic book karma with the first two X-Men flicks. Maybe making the Man of Steel exciting in the modern age is bigger challenge than we all thoght.

Regardless, I am still looking forward to seeing the film. It's Superman. I've got to see it. For a while I had entertained taking Ian to watch it with me in the theater, but after reading the reviews and getting a feel for the story, I don't think he would enjoy it as much as he and I would want him to. Maybe a screening at home of Superman: The Movie and Superman II would be more Ian's speed.

It doesn't matter when I find the time to see it though, cause I have my own superheroes at home to keep me entertained. SuperEmma and SuperZoe dazzled me with their fantastic powers and acts of heroism the other night. Flying back and forth from the kitchen to the family room, they saved kitties, puppies, and a bunny for me. Then they swooped out to fetch my bag of candy that had been stolen by Dr. Evil.

Knowing that they are nearby makes me feel safer.

SuperEmma and SuperZoe


And after succesfully recovering my bag of candy, I got a great photo-op with my heroes.

Dad and His Girls

Flag-Burning Amendment Fails

I was relieved to see that the flag burning amendment failed to pass the Senate by one vote. I’ve always felt that adding a new amendment to the Constitution in the modern age is nearly impossible. There just doesn’t seem to be those galvanizing causes that will get the House, the Senate, and two thirds of the States to all agree on for a bill to become an actual amendment. That being said, it does get uncomfortable when the votes get that close.

Frankly I’ve never understood the push to have an amendment protecting the flag from being burned. I’m all for honoring the symbols of our country, but ultimately freedom of expression trumps a symbol. Just because you have attacked a symbol doesn’t mean you have harmed the ideal, belief, government or person the symbol represents. You have expressed you opinion of what that symbol stands for. The only real harm you have done is burn a piece of cloth.

Ed Stenger links to a short but interesting post about the amendment’s failure to pass. It highlights the inability of proponents of the amendment to understand that freedom of expression in America encompasses both the views you agree with and the ones you do not.
"Flag burning is a form of expression that is spiteful or vengeful," the five-term senator said. "It is designed to hurt. It is not designed to persuade." – Senator Arlen Specter
Great grasp of the Bill of Rights there Senator.

Do You Know The Way To Sanity?

burt bacharachI could be wrong on this, but I think one of the sure signs that you are starting to lose your grip on reality is when Burt Bacharach songs are continuously playing in your head.

All morning "Do You Know The Way To San Jose" has been running over and over and over and over in my head. And I can't remember the last time I even heard the song. It's just stuck there - and good!

HELP!

(Of course, looking up Burt's wikipedia entry to link to from my blog and reading through his discography and selected hits only served to stick more Bacharach tunes into my skull.)

June 27, 2006

Comic Book Goodness

Random comic book related news that has been bouncing around in my head that I've wanted to talk about.

A while back I talked about how DC just doesn't seem to have any respect for Nightwing when it comes to his solo title. True to my word, I dropped the title after trying it again following the One Year Later event. Horrible writing and abysmal art made it painful for me to flip through the pages. I had it booted from my pull list after only two issues.

The only plus with the changes DC made for Nightwing as getting former The Losers artist Jock to handle the covers. I think his covers are pretty good. Especially this upcoming one displayed at right.

Too bad the interiors of the comic didn't demonstrate half the drama and emotion on display in Jock's covers. I might have stayed with the title.

- - - - - - -

Justice League Unlimited may have been canceled, but that doesn't mean Warner Brothers is done with producing cartoons based on DC properties. I somehow missed this when it was originally announced back in April, but this fall on the KidsWB the Legion of Superheroes will debut as part of an expanded Saturday morning lineup.

It will join The Batman and a new Scooby-Doo show. While I'm not so sure about the new Scooby-Doo show ("Scooby Snacks infused with a top-secret nano-technology allows our canine hero to fly, become a towering robot or even turn himself into a giant magnet" - oh-kay), Legion sounds like fun:
One thousand years from now, a group of teenage super heroes travel back in time to recruit the greatest hero of all, Superman, and enlist him their fight against evil in the 31st Century. While their intentions were good, their time travel skills were not, and Lightning Lad, Saturn Girl, Brainiac 5, Phantom Girl, Bouncing Boy and Timber Wolf end up going too far back into the past, accidentally retrieving the young Superboy instead. Together, this unlikely Legion of Super Heroes bands together to defend the rights of all free worlds and uphold the laws of the newly formed United Planets.
It sounds good. I hope it turns out to be a good show. I certainly enjoy my DC Comics-based cartoons.

- - - - - - -

The first Spiderman movie was good. Spiderman 2 was great. How will Spiderman 3 stack up?

We won't know for another year yet, but you can get sneak peak by viewing the teaser trailer that was just put up on the web today.

spiderman 3 screen shot

I don't put too much stock in trailers. But this one sure looks good. Especially when you consider how solid the first two flicks were. And how about the black symbiot Spiderman custom ala 80's Marvel "Secret Wars"? Pretty cool.

- - - - - - -

superman shazam first thunderFinished reading Superman / Shazam!: First Thunder, Judd Winick and Joshua Middleton's telling of Superman's and Captain Marvel's first meeting.

It was a faster read than I expected, but still quite good. Middleton's art is excellent, though a little too ethereal for superhero comics in my opinion. His storytelling is solid and his characters well realized, it just was all a little too "soft" for my tastes.

Winick's story is very good. He certainly takes some early steps in defining Captain Marvel as someone other than a Superman knock-off. Taking what he's done with Captain Marvel in First Thunder, I get a felling of where he is going to be taking The Big Red Cheese in the soon to be starting Trials of Shazam!.

I think he's going to remake Captain Marvel as a defender of this world from the evils of magic. Captain Marvel will be taking on the big, powerful stuff that needs a little brawn to solve the problem, not just magic trinkets and spells. Considering Superman's weakness to magic, it seems like the perfect place to put Capt. It gives him his own niche to work in, busting heads on a Superman-level but in a place Superman couldn't necessary compete in.

I was interested in Trials of Shazam! when I first read about it, and am more interested in it after reading Winick's First Thunder. Knowing that Trials is a limited 13-issue run, I plan on waiting for the collection on that one. Like I've said before, I can always use a little more Captain Marvel.

June 26, 2006

The Great McKillip Move - Week 13

Moving from one house to another. The physical act of moving is fairly simple, albeit back-breaking. Pack everything up. Load it all into a truck. Drive over to the new place. Take it all out and put it in the new house. Easy, if all you have to do are move things. Unfortunately when you are dealing with moving from one occupied house to another occupied house there are logistical considerations to that need to be addressed.

When do you have to be out of your current house so that new owners can move in? When will the owners of the house you are buying be completely out so you can move in.? How do you juggle to closing in the same day – one in the morning and one in the afternoon while coordinating moving your stuff from one house to another? When do you schedule the movers to show up for loading the truck? What happens if the owners of the new house aren’t out in time? Where does all the stuff on the truck go?

These are the questions Heather and I are grappling with right now. I think we have answers to a lot of them. But even with having some answers I don’t like the feeling of not being in control of things. It’s mostly the new house I’m thinking about. I can control, to a certain extent, getting out of our current house. What I don’t know and can’t influence is what the owners of the house we are buying are doing about getting out.

It’s quite maddening. To make the situation even more frustrating, our attorney is out of the office this week. Not that I am interested in running up my legal fees, but I would feel a little more comfortable if I could talk things through with him and get some sort of assurances – as limited as they may be.

We’ve got five weeks until the move. Heather has already started packing – doing at least one box a day – and has already made some good headway. The next step s to rent some storage space for two months (July and August) so we can start moving some stuff out now. We’ve decided to do this because 1) we have to have the basement fairly cleared out for the radon gas expulsion system to be installed in July and 2) the house is tightly packed enough as it is with five people and a cat. It’s going to get down right claustrophobic if we start filling up rooms with boxes in the middle of July. The rented storage space will give us the opportunity to keep the house from getting too clutter with packed items and cut down on the amount of things we have to pay movers to transport when the time comes.

The items I want to accomplish for the week is to secure some storage space, establish some sort of control over the moving day plan, schedule the other work that we have to do on the house, and pack up and clear out most of the basement. The last one has to be done this week. The radon gas system people come on July 6, which gives us the Independence Day weekend to make the space in the basement and garage that they say they need to do their work.

After which, we will be firmly in the month of July and the crunch to pack will dominate our life.

June 24, 2006

I Don't Understand This

I saw this story in the Friday New York Times: Doctors See Way to Cut Suffering in Executions - New York Times.

There are faster, less painfully ways to kill a person with a lethal injection of drugs, but they aren't being used. Prisons are still using the first protocol for killing a person devised back in 1977. However, opponents of the current lethal injection policy say that it can cause "severe suffering" for the person being executed.

What? Who cares? The person is being killed because they took the life of other people. This killer didn't go out of his way to ensure that people he killed would have a painless death. He just killed them in however fashion he chose.

Making an execution as painless as possible just doesn't make sense to me.

I believe the ultimate crime a person can commit is to steal the life of another person. Once this crime is committed, the killer has forfeited all rights and privileges they may have had. They have demonstrated that they have no regard for life, so in return the society they live in does not have to value the killer’s life. It is ridiculous that we should go out of our way to make sure a convicted killer’s death is as comfortable as possible.

June 23, 2006

Confusing The Kids

Heather has got a very funny story about trying to partake in some word play with the kids - with disastrous results.

Maybe I find it so particularly funny because I can hear all of their little voices when I read the conversation, but regardless I think anyone with kids will appreciate the humor.

The Guillen and Marrioti Show

Earlier this week White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen used a derogatory term for a homosexual while talking (raging) about Chicago Sun-Time sports columnist Jay Mariotti. It’s been pretty big news here in Chicago, and I’m sure this story has gotten plenty of play across the country. (I know I heard the boys on Pardon the Interruption talking about it in yesterday’s podcast.)

ozzieThe news channels and sports shows are abuzz with how Guillen should be dealt with in response to his statement. Should he be fired or fined or sent to sensitivity training? (MLB opted for the fine and the training) What nobody is really mentioning, except in some local blogs, is how much of an asshole Jay Mariotti actually is.

Now this is in no way to condone or excuse what Ozzie said in front of two dozen reports, he certainly needs to show a little constraint and self-editing before going off at the mouth. But Mariotti is a real asshole. While I don’t agree with his choice of words, I certainly understand where Ozzie was coming from when he was laying into Mariotti the other day.

I have yet to meet or see anyone who likes Mariotti’s writing, let a lone agree with his opinions. He’s a pompous blowhard who likes to see his words printed in a newspaper. His columns don’t seem informed or well thought out. Instead it’s a thousand words of ego-stroking. And like I said, I’m not alone in thinking this way. There’s even a blog dedicated to how much of an ass he is.

rick morrisseyLuckily we have Rick Morrissey, a sports columnist for the Chicago Tribune (The Sun-Times main competitor), to step up and tactfully point out that Mariotti really doesn’t do his job very well. And that Mariotti gets what he deserves from the people he criticizes on a daily basis without taking the time to understand what is going on.

In particular I find Morrissey’s comments about blogging, accountability and Mariotti quite interesting. Not only does it give me another reason to not like Mariotti’s writing, but also something else for me to consider when I am writing my own commentary here in the blog.

June 19, 2006

The Great McKillip Move - Week 12

Even though you may have your house under contract, it doesn’t mean the negotiations are over. Last week was inspection week. The buyers of our house had our home inspected on Tuesday; we inspected the house we are buying on Wednesday. One inspection went very well, the other turned up a number of things that need to be addressed.

Unfortunately for Heather and me, it was the inspection of our current house where items showed up that the buyers are now asking to be fixed before the sale can be final. Going in Heather and I knew about two things: the wood damage around the front door and the busted seal on the patio door. From the beginning we had contemplated whether or not to just get those items fixed upfront before we put the house on the market. Ultimately we didn’t, deciding to wait and see if a potential buyer would ask for these repairs. Of course the buyers have, plus they came with additional items.

Some of the items the buyers came to us with we are dismissing because the items aren’t defects in the home. They are things that we (and our lawyer) believe fall under regular maintenance issues. While the work should probably be done, it really isn’t up to us as a seller to pay for the work before we sell the house.

One of the additional items came as a result of something breaking about a week or two before the inspection. The switch for our sewer sump pump broke so now the pump never shuts off. Heather and I have been plugging and un-plugging it periodically to make sure the water is being pumped out. It’s annoying that it broke when it did, because now we’re on the hook for it. If that pump hangs on for three more months, then we’re in the clear.

Two items caught us by surprise. One, the results of their inspection called for the replacement of the fascia boards on the east and west sides of the house. The boards are curling away from the house and may be rotting. We had kept the wood on the exterior of the house painted to protect against such things, but I guess the intense sun, wind, and rain that our house is subjected to took a harder toll than Heather and I thought. So now we need to get that wood up high replaced and painted.

Two, the buyers had a radon gas test performed. The results for the test were not so good. While the levels of radon gas above the crawlspace were very low, the levels in the main part of our basement were above the maximum allowable level. This means two things; one we’ve been letting our kids play down in a basement with potentially unhealthy levels of radon gas for the last two years and two, we have to pay to install an expensive radon expulsion system. Heather and I aren’t pleased with either one.

The good news is that the inspection of the house we are buying was very good. Nothing other than a few missing shingles and some ground cover too close to the siding. Even the radon test came back with a passing grade – though just barely. It will probably be something we have to test again ourselves in the next few years to properly monitor things.

So while Heather and I are pleased to know that we are getting a home in good condition, our excitement is tempered by the fact that our profits from the sale of our home are going down as we have to sink money into fixing things for the new buyers.

It is certainly a frustrating situation, especially having to haggle with the buyer over what is and isn’t a defect. We don’t want to jeopardize the sale of our home, but at the same time we aren’t going to sink $10,000 of work into it just to make a new buyer happy. They need to understand that they aren’t buying a new home. They liked what they saw enough to bid and sign a contract. We’ll take care of the serious problems of the house. They can handle the improvements on their own.

Besides all that, our attention needs to start focusing on packing and getting ready to move. Our closing and move date is the end of July - six very short weeks for us to pack up the entire house and figure out how we are going to move things. It’s going to be a wild, wild rest of June and July. Very stressful too. Quite possibly the most stressful time Heather and I have ever had in our 11 years of marriage. Luckily we both know this as we kick off this six-week dash, so I think that will help us to cope. Only time will tell for sure, but I’m confident we’ll come out on the other side okay.

Let the packing begin.

June 17, 2006

Aimesworth Amusements

Something I am going to be keeping an eye out for is what Aimesworth Amusements puts out over the next ten years. Formed as joint venture between writer / illustrator William Joyce and animation studio Reel RX, the group plans to "tell great stories with captivating characters that live in imaginative worlds.”

That's something to look forward to. Especially when one of the main creative forces behind the venture is someone like William Joyce. He is an exception talent. Someone who's work I always enjoy seeing more of.

Hopefully Aimesworth Amusements is able to achieve their goals (like the beginnings of a project called "The Gaurdians of Childhood" which they preview on the site) so that all of us can enjoy the fruits of their labor.

June 16, 2006

Keeping Things In Perspective

Yesterday afternoon a number of bags of stearic acid spilled on the railroad tracks that the Metra commuter train I ride to work and back uses. Apparently a freight train that uses the same railroad line spilled the material while traveling to downtown Chicago. Because stearic acid is considered a hazardous waste material (when released into the air, it can cause eye, skin or respiratory irritation), the fire department shut down the rail line because they didn’t want trains blowing through and kicking up the powder.

The Burlington Northern-Santa Fe train line is the busiest train line in the Chicago area. It transports something like a half a million riders a day. It’s crazy.

I think you can see where this is going.

Because of the shut down of the BNSF at roughly 4:30 pm yesterday, the evening commute became a wild scrum of an event. People who usually use that train to get home to the suburbs were running all around looking for new ways to get home.

I, like a number of people, walked a few blocks north to the other downtown train station and boarded a different Metra line that runs parallel to the BNSF, but about 10 miles north. It runs through Elmhurst, Lombard, Glen Ellyn, and Wheaton. I called Heather so that she and the kids could pick me up at a train station and bring me home.

No big deal. Roll with the punches is my usual approach. I didn’t get mad at Metra or yell at train conductors. I just took things as they were presented and made the best of the situation. For the most part it looked like most other people took the same approach. But apparently there are other people who are not so laid back.

On the train this morning there was this woman who couldn’t stop talking about how horrible the delay last night was. How bad she had it trying to get home. How after not getting home until 9pm (I got home at 7pm, don’t know what he problem was) she didn’t have an appetite. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Then she starts in about how the conductors better not come checking for tickets this morning. She certainly felt that because Metra had to shut down its business on the busiest line it operates because of an accident, that she should be compensated somehow. Namely, she should get a free ride (or two) on the train.

Thankfully they never did come around checking for tickets this morning, so I and the rest of the passengers on the train this morning were spared from hearing her tear a part some poor conductor who might have poked his head in our train car. I’m sure not collecting tickets was a good faith measure on Metra’s part because of the events from yesterday. But still, did people expect a free ride this morning? I know I didn’t.

Metra didn’t have any control over what transpired yesterday. A freight train dumped material on the tracks that made it dangerous to travel across. Metra had to make the best of a very bad situation. They recommended commuters find new ways to get out to the suburbs and they tried everything they could to get the people who were already on trains as far west as was possible.

When there is an accident on the expressway and traffic is backed up, people don’t expect to receive a check or free gas from IDOT or the Illinois State Highway Patrol. Why should it be any different on Metra? True, you pay Metra to transport you from point A to point B, and obviously Metra failed on their end of the contract to a certain extent yesterday evening. But it wasn’t from a lack of trying on their part.

I guess it just bugged me to hear this woman complaining so much and being so wrapped up in her little world of concerns and problems that she fails to see a bigger picture. She grabbed me as someone who’s more concerned about what the world is doing for her, not what she can do for the world. And I find that a little sad.

June 15, 2006

Wildstorm Brewing

Gene Ha Authority pin-upOver at the Sun of Gelatometti blog, which is maintained by a number of comic artists who work for Wildstorm (including Jim Lee), there was a quiet little post I saw yesterday that announced new titles coming from the publisher this fall.

WILDCATS - Grant Morrison and Jim Lee
WETWORKS - Mike Carey and Whilce Portacio
STORMWATCH - Christos Gage and Doug Mahnke
MIDNIGHTER - Garth Ennis and Chris Sprouse
GEN 13 - Gail Simone and Talent Caldwell
DEATHBLOW - Brian Azzarello and Carlos D'Anda
THE AUTHORITY - Grant Morrison and Gene Ha

I've known about the Wildcats relaunch with Morrison and Lee for some time. They have been promoting that book quite a bit over the last few months.

What is equally exciting is the Midnighter book by Ennis and Sprouse and a new The Authority title by Morrison and Gene Ha.

Morrison is a comic book rock star. I love everything he writes - even if I don't always understand what's going on. Morrison bends genres, warps plots, and in general blows your mind with his stories and concepts. I am looking forward to both the Wildcats and The Authority titles from him.

The Midnighter series also intrigues me. Garth Ennis can write some pretty wild stuff and Chris Sprouse is a favorite of mine back from his days handling the art on Tom Strong. While I'm a little concerned that a Midnighter solo title would devolve into some weak gay-Batman knock off, I'm willing to give Ennis a try.

Nothing much has been announced for these other titles, yet. I've only got the blog entry to go off of. There should be more information soon as the big comic conferences get started.

June 13, 2006

Robin and Superboy

Earlier I talked about Superman / Batman #26 and the power of comics to make my wife cry. That issue was worked on by a list of A-listers from the comic book industry. And you can't have a tru A-list of great comic book creators without getting something from Jim Lee.

Jim Lee's Art from Superman/Batman #26


Fantastic.

Save Marriage. Outlaw Divorce.

I can't say that I read Charlie Madigan very regularly - in fact, today might be the first time I ever actually read one of his columns in the Chicago Tribune. But the Trib showcased his column in today's Daywatch email and it sounded interesting.

In his column, Madigan channels his inner Jonathan Swift while addressing how America can further protect the institution of marriage.
First we get a constitutional amendment making divorce as unpatriotic as flag burning. Then we get the government into a big "Marriage Security and Enhancement" program that would be run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, because those people are so astute at handling disasters.

We could have the Marriage Police who would show up at a moment's notice, fully armed with federal authority to dictate solutions to problems. You would have to do what they say or face felony charges that would land you in prison along with all the divorced felons already serving time.
While Madigan isn't nearly as clever or funny in his delivery as Swift, the intent is clear. Just as it would be foolish to claim divorce is a threat to marriage and should therefore be outlawed, so is it foolish to say same-sex unions are a threat to marriage and should therefore be outlawed by the constitution.

I like how Madigan closes his column, stating that outlawing divorce is as "stupid as the thought that government should step between two people who love one another and want to stand as a couple. We are obliged to recognize and honor love where we find it."

A Comic Made My Wife Cry

I have always made fun of Heather’s ability to be sucked into emotionally charged movies and TV shows. She is a total sucker for a tear-jerk story. So complete is her emotional surrender to the sentimental manipulations of the writers, actors, and directors that she can tune in for the last 15 minutes of an hour long show and will still be reduced to sobs by minute fifty nine.

It’s quite a talent, actually. Something everyone should see.

Heather took this skill to a whole new level this past week after picking up one of my comics, and cemented in my mind that she is the Sentimental Queen

superman batman 26 cover artworkA few weeks back DC Comics published Superman / Batman #26. It was plotted by Sam Loeb, son of regular writer Jeph Loeb. A little over a year ago Sam passed away at the age of 17 after a three-year battle with bone cancer. Sam was suppose to write the issue, but obviously could not complete his work because of his illness. In stepped the biggest and best talent in comics to finish the single-issue story and have it published as a tribute to Sam.

Sam’s story is a fairly straight forward team up of Superboy and Robin – i.e. the junior version of the Superman and Batman, the stars of the comic. Jeph Loeb wrote a framing story to lead into and close out Sam’s tale, which gave the story resonance and relevance considering the recent events in Infinite Crisis and also gave the story more emotional punch as a tribute to Sam.

Jeph also wrote a short story staring Superman that was included in the comic which proves to be a touching and loving goodbye letter from a father to his son. Both stories are very good, and while the shifts in the different artwork can break the flow of the main story, overall things work. At least on the short story at the end we have the consistency of Jeph Loeb's story and the artwork of Tim Sale through out. This is where Heather comes in.

I had finished readying that comic when Heather came into the room and asked me about what I was reading. I told her more about the back story to the comic than the story itself, and it got her interested. She flipped open the comic to the short story at the end of the comic and started reading about two pages in. (So she didn’t even start at the beginning of the short story.) By the time she was hitting the last few pages the water works were flowing.

Even though I had seen Heather do this a million times while watching movies or television, I was still a little shocked to see her respond like that to the comic. Thinking back, though, I really shouldn’t have been. In my little space here on the web I am always praising the storytelling powers of the comic book form. Talking about how today’s creators have elevated the complexity and depth of comics from what you might remember from as a kid. Here was proof to my claims. A story starring a big, super strong guy in blue tights and a cape was making my wife cry.

June 12, 2006

Benderoff Is Off

photo from Chicago Tribune of Wrigley ScoreboardEric Benderoff writes in today's Chicago Tribune that the Chicago Cubs (who are owned by the Tribune), should dump the old hand-manipulated scoreboard that was put up in 1937 by the legendary baseball showman Bill Veck. Mr. Benderoff wants the Cubs to pull down the current scoreboard and replace it with a massive jumbotron screen with stats, graphics, and video replay.

Even though Mr. Benderoff has put together a rather lengthy commentary arguing for a new big screen TV in Wrigley, his argument is really summarized in the fifth paragraph of his column:
It is time for a scoreboard where you don't have to add up the runs to figure out the score, where the score of every major-league game can be displayed, and where you don't need to buy a scorecard to know who's pitching in an out-of-town game. And it certainly would be nice to see a replay of a great play, just once, without straining to catch a glimpse of the TV screen in some bigwig's luxury suite.
Basically, Mr. Benderoff doesn't want to participate in the baseball game he is attending, he wants his information spoon feed to him. In fact he goes on to mention a few more times how he doesn't want to have to do any math in order to figure out what's going on in a game. I guess adding up 6 zeros and a 3 can be rather challenging for someone who's more interested in seeing how they can get noticed by the "Fan Cam."

Really, there are bigger fish to fry when it comes to the Chicago Cubs. A pitching staff that stays off the disabled list. A lineup that doesn't fall a part when one guy gets hurt. Until a team of merit is fielded, the charm and historic significance of Wrigley Field is all a Cub fan has. If doing a little math is going to hinder your ability to watch a baseball game, maybe you switch to something a little less taxing on your brain - like NASCAR.

Ian Branches Out

Showing Off the TrophyIan has been going pretty strong with the karate for the better part of a year now. In fact, today he tested and earned his blue belt. Ian really enjoys karate and has had fun taking the classes, but he decided that he wanted to take the summer off. Considering how well he has done, Heather and I didn't see any problem with that.

So this summer Ian will be taking on some new activities while school is out. As usual, he will be enrolled in a couple sessions of swimming lessons. Last summer he made some great improvement in his swimming skills, so much that we signed him up for a winter session at the park district indoor pool to keep him from getting rusty. Despite how well he does this year, until he shows a real proficiency in swimming on his own, swim lessons will be a regular staple of summer vacation activities.

So instead of karate, Ian chose two other sports to try this season. One, he will be taking a gymnastics class. It surprised me that he was as interested in gymnastics as he was. Not sure where that came from. Maybe from seeing his sister in her tumbling class this spring. He really wants to give it a whirl, so Heather and I are letting him. We tried to make it clear that there might only be one or two other boys in the class and that it might be mostly girls, but he said he didn't mind. If he's good with it, I'm good with. In fact, I remember taking a gymnastics class as a kid about Ian's age and a had a great time. I'm sure his experience will be the same.

baseball mittThe other sport Ian is participating in this summer is t-ball. He's had a lot of fun playing it at school with his friends, so he jumped at it when Heather suggested signing him up. He already had a glove, so it was just a matter of getting him suited up this morning for his first practice.

The program run by the park district is a little different then what I've seen before. The kids have two practices a week at around 10am in the morning for the first four weeks, and then they do two weeks of playing games instead of practices. (Or something like that. Heather can tell you how they divide things up.) Regardless, the schedules really don't work well for Moms and Dads who work during the week. Seems a little odd to me. I'm thinking I might have to take a morning off when he starts his games so I can come see him play.

Strange scheduling aside, the rest of the program looks like it is perfect for Ian. Those first few weeks of practices focus heavily on the basics of catching, throwing, and running. From what Heather told me the coaches are pushing the fundamentals of the game and finding a fun way to present them to the kids. For someone like Ian, who has had very limited exposure to organized ball, I think this is going to be a great introduction to the game. He came home excited about his first practice today and I can't wait to see what the next few weeks bring.

The Great McKillip Move - Week 11

It’s amazing how much difference a week can make. Last week we were clearing frustrated with the steady stream of buyer traffic through the house that wasn’t generating any offers. Then Wednesday we finally received a sold, substantial offer from a serious buyer which we accepted and the first half of our house swap was done. Sunday the owners of a home we saw over the weekend accepted our bid to buy, thus completing the circle. Heather and I had sold our home and purchased a new one all within five days.

It was frantic at times, but very exciting too. Our agent has been very good about giving us advice but allowing us to make the final decisions. He has also done a very nice job of keeping on the other parties to make sure they were responding in a timely fashion, less the negotiations drag on too long and kill the deal.

I’ve already talked about the details surrounding selling our house, so I won’t repeat myself here. The hunt for a new house started late Wednesday night with our agent re-sending the list of houses available on the market in our price range sitting in the school districts that we wanted. That list was reviewed and 6 houses were selected for Heather to go out with our agent on Friday to take a look at. While the kids hung out at friend’s house, Heather walked through some great houses and some house that left a lot lacking.

the new houseFrom that initial six, a few were selected as ones that I need to go see on the weekend. We were able to find some time in an over-scheduled weekend to go out for showings on Saturday – with the kids in tow. Not the most ideal situation for quickly making your way through seven to eight house, but Heather and I figured it had to be done. We didn’t have a whole lot babysitting options. We ended up putting the dual-screen DVD player in the van (the one we only use on the six-hour trips to Ohio) and loaded up on a number of books, coloring books, and bags of crayons. So armed with this and a promise that if they were extra, extra good we might go somewhere fun for lunch, we headed out Saturday morning.

This time we visited a mix of houses that Heather had already seen and liked and some new houses that neither of us had seen. The more houses we visited, the clearer it became to Heather and I that the second home we had walked through really seemed to have almost everything we were looking for. Four bedrooms, two and half bathrooms (including master bathroom), a large kitchen, a basement, space for a large table in the eat-in kitchen, and a good size backyard all situated on a nice quite street. Some of the added perks to the home that we weren’t necessarily looking for, but helped make the house more appealing: a brick fireplace, large deck, hardwood floors in foyer and kitchen, a partially finished basement, a covered entryway (one of my favorites).

We were standing in the driveway of the last house on the list for the day (a gorgeous home that simply didn’t have enough room for the five of us) talking about that second home of the day. Heather and I both felt like it was one that we would want to offer on, but before I would say "yes" I needed to see the home again.

Up until this house, only Zoe would ever come into the house with us. Ian and Emma would sit in the back of the van watching Scooby-Doo, coloring, or reading. However, when I told them that this house might be the one Mommy and Daddy bought, Ian finally stirred from his chair and came in.

The second time through only secured my resolve that this would be a fine house to settle in to. The house looked to be in excellent condition, the colors f the rooms were neutral enough that we wouldn’t feel pressure to rush in and redecorate, and the rooms that had carpeting were still in excellent condition. Ian verbalized what I was thinking when remarked "this house looks like it is ready for us to move right in."

Of course, Ian also thought most of the furniture would be staying if we moved into this house, but that didn’t matter. He was right. The house was ready for us to move right in without having to do any major renovation. We will want to do something with the basement eventually and paint a number of rooms, but there wouldn’t be a rush to do either of those things. Heather and I would feel comfortable moving in a living there right away.

So an offer was written up on the back of our agent’s car and left in the owner’s home. There was a little haggling and back-and-forth Saturday night and Sunday morning, but by mid-day Sunday we had reached a price and agreement that worked for Heather and me. We initialed the contract changes Sunday night and felt more comfortable now that we have a place to move into after we leave the home we are in now.

Now we gotta pack everything. Oy!

June 09, 2006

To Be A Kid Again

I'd love to be a kid again when an afternoon can be wasted away splashing in a pool and eating popsicles. Read Heather's post to see how much fun Ian, Emma, and Zoe are already having at the beginning of summer vacation.

ian emma zoe in pool

Weekend Activities

If you find yourself completely naked sitting next to your bike Saturday night with nothing to do, may I make a suggestion: The World Naked Bike Ride

The event, being held in at least 25 cities across the globe, is a peaceful protest against international oil consumption. Participants don't have to be completely naked to join in, but it certainly makes it more intersting.

Maybe I can convince Heather that instead of celebrating our 11th wedding anniversary Satruday night at some swanky restaurant, we should load up the bikes, take off our clothes, and ride through downtown Chicago.

Yeah, I don't think it will happen.

June 08, 2006

The Great McKillip Move - Week 10.5

Earlier this week I said I wanted an offer. A real offer. Not that half-ass one we were begrudgingly entertaining from the same guy who had been pussy-footin’ around with us for the last month.

Well yesterday we finally got that real offer, and it was a good one. It’s a full $4,000 over what the other guy was offering, and without all the little hang-ups.

sold houseNeedless to say, Heather and I were able to come to a quick agreement on a final price and contract with this second party and signed the papers last night. We have sold our house.

Aaaaaah.

But the Great McKillip Move doesn’t stop there. Now we have to find a new place to live. We’ve been keeping track of what is available in our price range and size so we have a head start on our searching. In fact, Heather will be going out with our agent this Friday to look at homes to preview them before she and I go out together to look at the serious contenders this weekend.

The tentative closing date for the sale of our old house is set for July 30, so we have a little less than seven weeks to find a place, make a bid, and get a contract. It might be tight, but I think it can be done.

As for the sale of our current home, I am happy with things so far. After lowering our asking price and re-adjusting our expectations, we are getting the amount of money for our home that Heather and I hoped for. So no problems there. My only reservation is that the party purchasing our home is doing so through a VA loan. I don’t think it should really matter for our sale. It’s just that I thought I remember hearing or reading in the past that selling to someone with a VA or FHA loan can be difficult for the seller. I don’t know. I hope I am wrong.

So Heather is excited that the house is under contract, I’m reserving the right to be excited until after we’ve got a new house under contract, and we don’t have to vacuum the house every other day any more. One stressor agent down, five more to go.

June 07, 2006

A Trip to Cosley

During the past school year, Heather has started giving more and more of her time to Ian’s school – a small Catholic grade school in Aurora. She’s volunteered to help out at school events, she’d donated food for teacher luncheons and bake sales, she even worked as the Room Parent Coordinator, organizing all the Room Mothers and Fathers and reminding them that it isn’t okay to take up a collection from student’s parents so an inflatable castle can be rented for the Valentine’s Day classroom party.

Considering the difficult financial situation the school is in and the strain on all of its resources, the school really can use all the help it can get. Consequently, Heather has been very busy during the last nine months attending meetings, composing flyers, baking, and making phone calls. Basically doing what she can to make sure the school is getting what it needs. This past Saturday was her final job of the school year, organizing and running the annual used uniform sale in the school’s gymnasium.

One of upsides to Heather’s volunteerism, besides building a strong bond with the school, is that I have enjoyed plenty of Daddy-Kid time while Heather has been out working at the school. While it can be a little stressful wrangling our terrible threesome, it is also a lot of fun having them all to yourself for a few hours to immerse yourself completely in their world. Consequently, while Heather was busy tagging and selling used boy’s uniform pants and folding old sweatshirts this past Saturday, I get the best Daddy-Kid time that I’ve had in a long, long time.

We had the whole morning to ourselves (Heather wouldn’t be done with the uniform sale until after 1pm) but we also had to be out of the house between 10:30am and noon because we had a few house showings scheduled. The weather this past Saturday was so wonderful that I thought a trip to the Cosley Animal Farm in Wheaton would be perfect. The kids and I could get outside and enjoy the great day, we wouldn’t just be hanging out at another park (a popular time killer when the house is being shown), and we could have a picnic at Cosley too, thus taking care of being out at lunchtime.

So after Heather was out the door at 8am to go set up for the uniform sale, I went to work getting the house ready to be shown, the kids ready to leave, and pack a picnic for all four of us. Any one of those can be a challenge when the equation includes a 6, 3, and 2-year old, even for a seasoned parenting pro like me. Overcoming some minor setbacks, I was able to knock down all three tasks and have the kids in the van at 10:25am and ready to leave.

The one problem was that in all my rushing around that morning I never ate any breakfast and my stomach was now roaring at me for some food. No time to eat something at home, so I decided to up the fun level for the kids (who were already super excited about going to Cosley) and make a stop at Dunkin’ Donuts to pick up a little traveling snack. So a round of sprinkled donuts for the folks in the booster seats, a chocolate covered cake for the driver, and we were off for our grand morning adventure.

Even with the gorgeous weather, Cosley wasn’t crowded. I think it was because last weekend was also the Cream of Wheaton, a popular local festival held in downtown Wheaton. People were flocking there instead of the Cosley zoo. Regardless, it was nice to not have to worry about trying to keep track of three active kids in a crowd. I could let them run a little bit more because it was easy to keep an eye on them.

And run they did - from one animal exhibit to another. Cosley Animal Farm is a unique sort of zoo. It is very small and made up of animals you would typically find on a farm or natively in the Wheaton / western suburbs area of Chicago. There are horses, cows, pigs, sheep; but there are also some deer, red foxes, a raccoon, and turkey vultures (which I’m pretty sure aren’t native to Illinois). The zoo is kept in immaculate shape and is really designed with little kids in mind. Hence, Ian, Emma, and Zoe were excitedly in constant motion to see each and every animal.

I felt a little bad for Zoe. Simply because they are older, Ian and Emma are faster than Zoe. They would run up to take a look at the donkey, or horse, or bull frog, and then quickly move on to the next animal. Many times Zoe was just catching up to them when they were ready to move on to the next animal. Considering that many times Zoe just wants to do what her older brother and sister are doing, she would just keep running from animal to animal, never getting a chance to really look at them less she fall too far behind her older siblings. I had to start reining in Ian and Emma to slow them down so that Zoe could enjoy the horse for a few minutes and so I could listen to her tell me all about the animals when she saw them.

After a good forty-five minutes running around the zoo, we were plenty hungry. So we found a space to sit, pulled out the cooler, and had our picnic. It was great fun getting to sit around the table with our Capri Suns and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and listen to them tell me about everything.

After lunch we played some tag and help some races in the old field next to the picnic area. Ian’s race courses were simple and straightforward. Down to the big tree and back. Over to the garbage can and back. Emma, on the other hand, would have us run a marathon whose course was changing constantly. Frequently we would run to one landmark thinking it was time to turn around and run back to the start, only to learn that we now had to run someone where else first. Now could we go back to the start? Nope, now we had to run over to that tree.

I found Emma’s fluid race courses funny. Ian became clearly frustrated with his sister’s lack of planning.

Eventually it was time to head home so we loaded ourselves back into the van and headed out. Emma and Zoe slept on the ride home; Ian sat quietly most of the time. I saw this as evidence that we had had a good time. The kids were too tired to talk or make a fuss. Everyone just sat back and relaxed. Our Daddy-Kid time was a success.

June 06, 2006

World's Finest

The MTV Movie Awards were taped last Saturday. I'm not particularly interested in the show at all, but I couldn't help but notice this photo from the event:

batman and superman
It's Batman (Christian Bale), Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) and Superman (Brandon Routh). A regular comic book team-up.

Brian McKillip: Celebrity Judge

Who knew my Dad was busy throwing the book at local TV news personalities.

From the Chicago Tribune:
GLEN ELLYN -- Marcella Raymond, a WGN-TV reporter, was convicted Monday of one count of misdemeanor battery and acquitted of another stemming from a 2005 altercation with a Wheaton woman over a parking space.

Raymond, upset at the woman for parking diagonally on April 9 at a Glen Ellyn gas station and taking up two spots, was convicted of grabbing the woman's left middle finger for several seconds as the woman made obscene gestures with both hands.

DuPage Judge Brian McKillip, who presided over a two-day bench trial, acquitted Raymond of battery involving the broken left ring finger of the 61-year-old woman.

McKillip said the finger was most likely broken during a confrontation, in which Raymond claimed self-defense.

Raymond faces up to a year in jail when sentenced on July 17.

06-06-06

It's June 6, 2006 - 06/06/06

Happy Number of the Beast Day!

It only comes around once a millennium, so make the most of it.

June 05, 2006

The Great McKillip Move - Week Ten

Week ten is beginning and Heather and I are frustrated with our housing situation.

Since lowering the listing price for the house, we have seen a steady stream of traffic from potential buyers. However, while buyers continue to express interest in our home, nobody is making solid offers. This is probably the most frustrating aspect of selling. People come through the house, say they are interested it, request the disclosure statements (a first step in making an offer), but then we don’t hear anything more from them. What is going on? I am completely baffled as to what it takes to get us over that last hump so we can see an offer on the table. Are we doing something wrong? Is there something horrible about our house that buyers are telling us about?

I want to know.

I want an offer.

Actually, to be completely honest, we do have an offer. It’s been on the table for weeks. However, it is still below what we think the house is worth. The other party has come up in their offer amount, but it has been slow and painful. Up until this weekend, Heather and I had simply dismissed the offer as too low. Now we are wondering if his offer wouldn’t be acceptable if we could avoid additional costs / allowances for fixing some of the items certain to show up during the inspection. The current offer from this party and Heather and my minimum price aren’t really that far apart. Roughly the amount you might expect from having to deal with those typical inspection–related items.

But can we make that sort of agreement? Tell this party that they can buy the house “as-is?” I would think the buyer would want so assurances that they aren’t getting trapped into purchasing a money pit. The sort of thing a home inspection reveals and is used for as part of final negotiations.

To make matters worse, Heather finally said out loud what I had been thinking for the last three weeks. While it will be great to finally sell our house, we haven’t seen new homes coming on the market that fit within the range of homes we will be looking to buy. The three bedroom / two bath people are staying out of the market. There are still the homes we saw at the end of April and beginning of May that look good. But since mid-May nothing new in our search criteria has been listed.

This concerns both Heather and I that buying might not be the easy slam dunk we expected two months ago. The slowly housing market had us thinking that while it would be difficult to sell our current home, once that was done we could walk out and have the pick of the litter for a new house. Lots of inventory, dropping prices – finding the new McKillip Castle would be a snap.

Now, I still think there are plenty of houses out there to choose from and I’m sure one of them will fit us nicely, but I can’t help but feel a little unsettled that new listings aren’t showing up in my inbox. I don’t want to settle on a new home. I want to find one that will be perfect (or near-perfect) for us for the next 15 to 20 years. No new inventory means the selection pool isn’t as large as it could be.

This is all turning out to be a lot more stressful than I anticipated when we decided to start the Great McKillip move back in February. We’ve held up fairly well so far. I just hope we can make it the rest of the way okay.